Kumaoni language

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Native toIndia
RegionKumaon, Uttarakhand, Darchula district and Baitadi District
EthnicityKumauni people
Native speakers
2.0 million (2011 census)[1][2]
Official census results conflate some speakers with Hindi.
Devanagari script
Śāradā script (historical)
Takri alphabet (historical)
Language codes
ISO 639-3kfy

The Kumaoni language is a Central Pahari language.

Kumaoni was spoken by over 4,948,519 (2011) people but it decreased to 3,948,519 (2011) in Uttarakhand, primarily in districts Almora, Nainital, Pithoragarh, Bageshwar, Champawat, Udham Singh Nagar as well as in areas of Himachal Pradesh and Nepal. It is also spoken by Kumaonis resident in other Indian states; Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh.[4]

The Central Pahari languages include Kumaoni and Garhwali (spoken in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand). Kumaoni, like Garhwali, has many regional dialects spoken in different places in Uttarakhand. Amongst its dialects, the Central Kumauni is spoken in Almora and northern Nainital, Northeastern Kumauni is in Pithoragarh, Southeastern Kumauni is in Southeastern Nainital, Western Kumauni is west of Almora and Nainital.[5]

Almost all people who can speak and understand Kumaoni can also speak and understand Hindi[citation needed], one of the official languages of India. Due to a number of reasons (including the predominance of Hindi), the use of Kumaoni is shrinking very rapidly. UNESCO’s Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger designates Kumaoni as language in the unsafe category and which requires consistent conservation efforts.[6]

Dialects of the Kumaoni language[edit]

Although dialects of Kumaoni do not vary as greatly as neighboring Garhwali dialects, there are several dialects spoken in the Kumaon region. There is not single accepted method of dividing up the dialects of Kumaoni. Broadly speaking, Kali (or Central) Kumaoni is spoken in Almora and northern Nainital. North-eastern Kumaoni is spoken in Pithoragarh. South-eastern Kumaoni is spoken in South-eastern Nainital. Western Kumaoni is spoken west of Almora and Nainital.

More specifically:

Scholars believe that Kumaoni has heavily influenced the Palpa language of Nepal. There are also several unrelated Tibeto-Burman languages spoken in the Kumaon region which have had some influence from Kumaoni.

These languages are typically spoken in Upper Reaches of Kumaon Himalayas.


Being part of the Indo-Aryan dialect continuum Kumauni shares its grammar with other Indo-Aryan languages, especially Nepali, Hindi, Rajasthani languages, Kashmiri and Gujarati. It shares much of its grammar with the other languages of the Central Pahari like Garhwali and Jaunsari. The peculiarities of grammar in Kumaoni and other Central Pahari languages exist due to the influence of the now extinct language of the Khasas, the first inhabitants of the region. In Kumauni the verb substantive is formed from the root ach, as in both Rajasthani and Kashmiri. In Rajasthani its present tense, being derived from the Sanskrit present rcchami, I go, does not change for gender. But in Pahari and Kashmiri it must be derived from the rare Sanskrit particle *rcchitas, gone, for in these languages it is a participial tense and does change according to the gender of the subject. Thus, in the singular we have: - Here we have a relic of the old Khasa language, which, as has been said, seems to have been related to Kashmiri. Other relics of Khasa, again agreeing with north-western India, are the tendency to shorten long vowels, the practice of epenthesis, or the modification of a vowel by the one which follows in the next syllable, and the frequent occurrence of disaspiration. Thus, Khas siknu, Kumauni sikhno, but Hindi sikhna, to learn; Kumauni yeso, plural yasa, of this kind.

Language Comparison
  Khas-kura Kumauni Kashmiri
  Masc Fem Masc Fem Masc Fem
I am chu chu chic chu thus ches
You are chas ches chai chi chukh chekh
He is cha che ch chi chuh cheh

Verb conjugation[edit]

Conjugation of the verb Lekh (लेख) to write, in all three tenses in Kumaoni.

Present tense[edit]

  • Singular
Kumaoni Transliteration English
मैं लेखनू main lekhnu I write
तू लेख छे tu lekh chhe you write
उ लिखनो U likhno he writes
  • Plural
Kumaoni Transliteration English
हम लेखनु hum lekhnu we write
तुम लेख छो tum lekh chho you write
ऊँ लेखन छन un lekhan chhan they write

Past tense[edit]

  • Singular
Kumaoni Transliteration English
मेल लिखौ maile lekho I wrote
त्वील लिखौ tveel lekho you wrote
वील लिखौ veel lekho he wrote
  • Plural
Kumaoni Transliteration English
हमुल लेखौ humul lekho we wrote
तुमुल लेखौ tumule lekho you wrote
उनुले लेखौ unule lekho they wrote

Future tense[edit]

  • Singular
Kumaoni Transliteration English
मैं लिखूंलो main lekhulo I will write
तू लेखले tum lekhle you will write
उ लेखल u lekhal he will write
  • Plural
Kumaoni Transliteration English
हम लेखुंला hum lekhula we will write
तुम लेखला tum lekhla you will write
ऊँ लेखल un lekhal they will write

Example short phrases[edit]

Words/phrases Transliteration Meaning
जै देव Jai Dev Hello (lit. praise the lord) Formal.
नमस्कार Namaskar. Hi/Hello
कस हेरे छे? Kas hare chhe? How are you? Informal
कस हेरो छा? Kas haro cha How are you? Formal
भल हेरो Bhal hero I am fine
काँ जाण छा? kaa jaan chha? Where are you going
होए Hoye. Yes.
ना Nā. No.
कतु? Kadu? How much?/How many?
काँ? Kaa? Where?
कसिक? Kasik? How?
कैक? Kaik? Whose?
को? Ko? Who?
किला Kila? Why?
के? Ke? What?
के हेगो? Ke hego. What happened?
तुमऱ नौ के छ? Tumar nau ke che? What is your name?
जल्दी घर (ध्याव ) अजया Jaldi ghyav ajayaa YOU come home early
आपूं कां बटे आछा? Aapoun kan bate aachcha? From where do you come?
को जाल बजार? Ko jal Baazar Who will go to market?

Kumaoni literature[edit]

Kumaoni language has had many noteworthy writers, prominent among them are

Media and art[edit]


  • Megha Aa, (First Kumaoni Film).[8] Director Kaka Sharma, Produced S S Bisht, 1987[9]
  • Teri Saun, (First film both in Kumaoni and Garhwali),[10] written, produced, and directed by Anuj Joshi,[11] 2003.
  • Aapun Biraan (Apne Paraye) by Shri Kartikey Cine Productions. Written by Rajendra Bora (Tribhuvan Giri). Produced by Bhaskar Singh Rawat. 2007.
  • Madhuli by Anamika Film, 2008.[12]
  • Aapke Liye, a 1985 TV show aired in Doordarshan Directed by sharbat sanzarr and presented by Mohan Manral showcases the kumaoni mela "kauteek".


Kumaoni theatre which developed through its 'Ramleela' plays,[13] later evolved into a modern theatre form with the efforts of theatre stalwarts like Mohan Upreti, Naima Khan Upreti and Dinesh Pandey, and groups like 'Parvatiya Kala Kendra' (started by Mohan Upreti) and 'Parvatiya Lok Kala Manch'. "Ankhar" of Lucknow did a very good work in the field of kumaoni theater. Ankhar played a number of kumauni plays like "mee yo gayun, mee yo satkyun" writer Nand Kumar Upreti, "Punturi" by Charu Chandra Pandey, "Motor Road" by Govind Ballabh Pant, "Labh Ribhadi" writer Nand Kumar Upreti, "Kagare Aag" and "Tumhare Liye" by Himanshu Joshi, Kumauni translation Naveeen Joshi and कुमाउनी नाटक-जैल थै, वील पै @ https://web.archive.org/web/20151007071047/https://navinjoshi1.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/jail-thai-weel-pai.pdf etc.

Folk music[edit]

Folk song genres include ceremonial mandals, martial panwaras and melancholy khuded, thadya and jhoda.

Musical instruments used in Kumaon music include the dhol, damoun, turri, ransingha, dholki, daur, thali, bhankora and masakbhaja. Tabla and harmonium are also used, but to a lesser extent.

The Music and its development have seen various phases of growth and have undergone lots of transformation during the course of time.[citation needed]

Some prominent singers are:

  • Mohan Upreti, the most famous personality associated with Kumaoni folk music, who is known for his Nanda Devi Jagar & Rajula Malu Shahi Ballad. He is famous for the great Kumaoni song Bedu Pako Baro Masa which for many years the identity of the hills of Uttarakahand. It is said this song was also a favourite of Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru who heard it in a band march as this song is also apopular marching song.
  • Naima Khan Upreti - She was the wife of Mohan Upreti and was a prominent folk singer. Mohan Upreti and Naima Upreti used to sing folk songs as a duet and they also made the first HMV recording of songs like Bedu Pako and O Lali, O Lali Haushiya. Naima Upreti had collected a large number of songs of the Kumaon and Garhwal region and she rendered them on several occasions.
  • Shri Gopal Babu Goswami who is considered to be a legend in Kumaon for his melodious voice. His songs on the life of the members of the armed forces and their families like Kaile baje muruli, Ghughuti na basa (Hirda cassettes) and many others are legendary, it is said that when these songs were transmitted on All India Radio women could not help but weep when they heard the soul touching voice of Gopal Da as he was lovingly called.
  • Heera Singh Rana is identified as a contemporary poet and singer who touched upon various shades of hill life, particularly the plight of women. Besides beauty, love, and romance, his poetry illustrates pains and sufferings and are sharp in satire on the political class.

In the early 90's songs on the turning life style mainly on the one who are heading towards town being made in which meri kumau ki gaadi, hit meri punjaban billo uttarakhand pahara, bwaari tamaaku pija etc. criticize the changing attitude in kumaoni society, the songs of mohan manral straight away criticize of the changing mindset of metropolitan kumaoni society running away from their roots.

However, in an attempt to revive the love for these songs, especially among the youth, unplugged or reprise covers of folk songs like, "Haaye Teri Rumaala", "Chhaana Bilauri", "Hit Dagadi Kamla", "Gughuti na Baasa" by several young artists like Suraj Verma, Gaurav Pandey, Priyanka Meher, etc have been produced. These videos have been well received by the viewers on YouTube, with the number of views as high as 737k.


  • In 1962, a new programme was introduced from Akashwani Lucknow- "Utterayana". this programme was specially for the Chinese border area. Jay dev sharma "kamal" Banshidhar Pathak Jigyasu and Jeet Singh Jardhari started this programme. Najeebabad Akashwani kendra relayed this programme .
  • With the aim to create a common platform for local communities of Supi in Uttarakhand, TERI launched 'Kumaon vani', a community radio service on 11 March 2010. Uttarakhand Governor Margaret Alva inaugurated the community radio station, the first in the state. The 'Kumaon Vani' aims to air programmes on environment, agriculture, culture, weather and education in the local language and with the active participation of the communities. The radio station covers a radius of 10 km reaching out to almost 2000 locals around Mukhteshwar[14]
  • In order to create a folk genome tank of Uttarakhand where one can find each genre and occasions in the form of folk music, and to bring the melodious folk from the heart of Himalaya on global screen, the very first internet radio of Kumaon/Garhwal/Jaunsar was launched in year 2008 by a group of non resident Uttarakhandi from New York, which has been gaining significant popularity among inhabitants and migrants since its beta version was launched in year 2010. This was named after a very famous melody of hills of Himalaya, Bedupako Baramasa O Narain Kafal Pako Chaita Bedupako[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Simons, Gary F; Fennig, Charles D, eds. (2018). Ethnologue: Languages of the World (21st ed.). Dallas, Texas: SIL International.
  2. ^ "Kumaoni". ethnologue.
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Kumaoni". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ "Nepal Language". Southasianmedia.net. Archived from the original on 26 June 2010. Retrieved 3 September 2010.
  5. ^ "Kumaoni. A language of India". Ethnologue. Retrieved 3 September 2010.
  6. ^ "UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger". UNESCO. Retrieved 3 September 2010.
  7. ^ "Uttaranchal Dialects and Languages - Uttarakhand Worldwide - Kumaoni and Garhwali - Kumaon and Garhwal Dialects". Uttaranchal.org.uk. Archived from the original on 5 March 2012. Retrieved 12 July 2012.
  8. ^ Kumaoni Cinema Archived 11 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine Pahari Shabdkosh.
  9. ^ First Kumaoni Film[permanent dead link] Bollywood Sargam.
  10. ^ The Times of India Teri Saun, 10 May 2003.
  11. ^ Film set in 1994 Uttarakhand Movement Archived 3 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine Nandadevi Campaign.
  12. ^ Maduhli[permanent dead link] Kumaoni Films at uttarakhandandbeyond.
  13. ^ Indian Traditions Theatre at iloveindia.
  14. ^ "Teri launches Kumaon Vani community radio service". One India. Retrieved 3 September 2010.
  15. ^ Dr. Shailesh Upreti (23 February 2011). "First e Radio of Uttarakhand". official. bedupako. Retrieved 28 June 2008.

Further reading[edit]

  • Upreti, Ganga Dutt (1894). Proverbs & folklore of Kumaun and Garhwal. Lodiana Mission Press.
  • Dr. Shashi Pandey, Ramesh Ch Pandey, Rama Pandey: Uttarakhandi Lokoktiyan (Published 2014, Kumaoni and Garhwali Editions)
  • Devidatta Sarma; Linguistic geography of Kumaun Himalayas: A descriptive areal distribution of Kumauni language (Studies in Tibeto-Himalayan languages). Mittal Publications; 1994. ISBN 81-7099-529-9.
  • Devidatta Sarma; The formation of Kumauni language (SILL : series in Indian languages and linguistics). Bahri Publications; 1985. ISBN 81-7034-005-5.

External links[edit]