Kumaon and Kumaoni
Two Regions of Uttarakhand. From the administrative and linguistic point of view, Uttarakhand broadly consists of two regions – Garhwal in the west and Kumaon in the east. Geographically, Kumaon region is bounded by Nepal from east, Tibet from north, Garhwal from west and Bareilly, Rampur and Moradabad districts of Uttar Pradesh from south. Administratively, it comprises six districts viz. – Almora, Nainital, Udhamsinghnagar, Champawat, Bageshwar and Pithoragarh with 19 tehsils and 41 blocks. Situated in the south of central Himalayas between 28o 14‘N to 30o 50’ N latitude and 17o 6’ E to 80o 58’ E longitudes, it is spread over 21,035 kms and the population is 35, 65,383. The altitude is from 900 meters to 1800 meters.
The Term Kumaon : In Legends and Scriptures. According to Pt. B.D. Pandey (Kumaun ka Itihas), a hearsay is prevalent among the people of Kumaun that Koorm (tortoise), the second incarnation of Lord Vishnu, stood for three years on the Koorm in Kumu (Kanadeva, Kranteshwar) mountain in the east of Champawat. Marks of feet of tortoise are said to exist there still now. The root word for Kumaon is, therefore, ‘Koorm’(tortoise) or ‘Kumu’,( the area around Champawat as known in past). Accordingly, the derivation of Kumaon is said to be – Koorm/Kurmu > Kummu > kumu > Kuma > Kumayun > Kumaon. George A. Grierson, (Linguistic Survey of India, IX. IV. P 108) has corroborated the postulation of the legendary Koorm incarnation. The famous historian Dr. Madan Chandra Bhatt, however, connects Koorm, not to the legendary incarnation of Vishnu, but to Rishi Kashyap who had established his ashram there near mountain Kumu, later became a deity and then a tortoise = Kahyap > Kachhap (kachhap is another name of tortoise) an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. However, most of historians do not seem to be in agreement with this view.
Other popular derivation of the word ‘koorm’ is - Koorm + Anchal (anchal = tract) > Koormanchal. The earliest written record of the term Koormanchal is available in the Nagmandir inscription near Champawat. In the Manaskhand of Skandpuran, Koormanchal is included among the five Khandas of the Himalayas. Here it has also been stated that the Manaskhand extends from Nandaparvat to Kalagiri (Kauwalekh in Nepal). Its boundaries have been determined as Mansarovar in the north, Moteshwar (Kashipur) in the south, Chhatreshwar (Doti- Nepal) in the east and Nandgiri (Nandaparvat) in the west.
Shri Y.D. Vaishnav however, opines that the term ‘Kumu’ is of Assyrian origin. According to him Asurs were of Assyrian origin and their ruler Asur-Ban-Pal (768-726 B.C.), when forced to quit Babylon, came to India by sea route and founded many principalities in northern India including the one near Kali Kumaun (Champawat). Satpath Brahman of the Yajurved also gives an indication to this version. Lohavati (river of blood) and Lohaghat (valley of blood) town around Kali Kumaun assert that Kumu should have been the colony of one of those Assyrian immigrants. Some of place-names adjoining Kali Kumaun, such as Sor, Sira, Elam are also found in the ancient geography of Assyria. This view has also not found much acceptability and, therefore, needs further research.
Historical Nomenclatures of Kumaon. Historical evidence shows that this region, in parts, was known by various names in different periods in the past. At one time it was known as ‘Parvatakar Rajya’. The Allahabad pillar inscription of Skandgupta includes ‘Kartrirpur’, said to be the capital of the Katuri kings which was initially established at Joshimath (near Badrinath) and later shifted to Bageshwar in Almora district of Kumaon. In the Shakti-Sangam-Tantra this area is named ‘Kurmaprasth’. During the early medieval period it was called ‘Kamadesh’. Historically, the word ‘Kumaun’ is not older than the beginning of the second millennium of the Christian era. The first occurrence of this name is found in the ‘Prithwiraj Raso’ of Poet Laureate Chandvardai who calls this region as ‘Kumaongarh’. While describing the campaign of Mohammaad Tughlaq to Tibet, Dr. Ishwari Prasad, the doyen among medieval historians, says that the word ‘Karachal’ occurring en route to Tibet is none other than the present Kumaon region. The term ‘Kumaun’ or ‘Kumayun’ for this hilly kingdom is perhaps available for the first time in the authentic work ‘Tarikh-e Daudi’ of Abdulla while referring to rebel Khawas Khan, who had taken shelter in the court of Raja Kalyan chand (1542-1552 A.D.). It may be remembered that earlier till 16th century, Kumaon region was confined only to Champawat and its adjacent area then known as ‘Kali Kumaun’. It was named Kumaun only after the Chand rulers shifted the capital the capital of Kali Kumaun to Almora and extended its domain to the whole region presently known as Kumaon.
Kumaun, Kumayun or Kumaon? There has also been a controversy as to which of these two terms are appropriate to refer to this region. Turner, in his famous ‘Nepali-English dictionary’ had long back spelled this word as KUMAON. The KUMAON REGIMENT (with these spellings), was established at Ranikhet on 23 Oct. 1927. Notwithstanding this, it is not known why and when the spelling KUMAYUN started. Probably it was done on the basis of phonological similarity with words like “Humayun”, “Badayun” etc. Some well known writers such as E. T. Atkinson, M.L. Apte, George Grierson, Pt. Ganga Datt Upreti, Pt. Badri Datt Pandey, D.D. Sharma etc. have been using this word as Kumaun or Kumayun. Accordingly, the language of this region was also written as Kumauni or Kumayuni. Now, however, the previous spelling KUMAON has come in vogue.
The Term Kumaoni. The term Kumaoni is constructed by suffixing the morpheme - ‘I’ to the stem ‘Kumaon’, meaning ‘the language of the land’. It may be mentioned that in addition to Kumauni, Kumayuni and Kumaoni, the terms Koormanchali, Kumaiyya and Kumayee have also been used in ancient literature and the folk lore of this area. Besides the major part of Kumaon region, Kumaoni is also spoken by the people who were originally from this area but have moved outside and settled all over the country or abroad. The languages spoken around the Kumaoni speaking area are - Tibetan in the north, Nepali in the east, Garhwali in the west and Hindi in the south.
Origin and Developement of Kumaoni Language. The sociological and anthropological evidence shows that in the hoary past the present Kumaon region was inhabited by the Negrito-Austroloid, Dasyus, Mangoloid-Burmese and Dravidian ethnic groups. According to Dr. D. N. Majumdar the Doms of Munda ethnic group, whose descendants are the present day Shilpkars of Kumaon-Garhwal were the original inhabitants of this region. Gradually these groups were conquered by non-Vedic Aryan groups of Kirats, Tanganas or Patanganas, Kulindas or Kunidas, Nagas, Kinnars, Gandhavas, Yakshas, Shakas, Pishachas and Darads, coming generally from the north west. Last to arrive were the most powerful tribe of the non-Vedic Aryans - the Khashas. Whatever language these tribes were using must have influenced the vocabulary and initial formation of Kumaoni. Nevertheless, the impact of the Khshas was more prominent. Dr. Grierson, Dr. S.K. Chatterjee and Prof. D. D. Sharma however, hold the opinion that Kumaoni originated from Darad-Khas. In this context there is another postulation which maintains that in view of a large number of Sanskrit words in Kumaoni, Sanskrit is its main source of origin.
Kumaoni language in oral form has been coming down from generations to generations as folk lore and legends of ancient heroes, fairy tales, stories of ghosts and demons, maxims, idioms, witty sayings, ballads, jagars and folk songs. It is replete with various genres of folk literature – some of which has now been published. But the earliest examples and elementary form of written Kumaoni is found in rock and copper inscriptions, vansavalis, danpatras and sanads (gift deeds) only from eleventh century onward. Dr. M. P. Joshi refers to a tamra patras which dates back to 1105 A.D. during the Katyuri kingdom. The authentic form of Kumaoni is however, found in the copper plates of the Chand kings of Kumaon who ruled this area from the latter half of thirteenth century. The ancient specimens of Kumaoni in these copper plates show the tendency of short vowel sounds at the end, the use of corrupted Sanskrit words and some influence of Nepali. By the eighteenth century, Kumaoni in its present form started evolving. The first documented proof of the present day Kumaoni is the commentary on Vriddha Chanakya written by Ram Bhadra Tripathi in 1728. Dr. Dhirendra Verma is of the opinion that based on its similarity and commonality in the phonology, morphology and vocabulary with corrupted Shaurseni, Kumaoni should have evolved from the Shaurseni prakrit. Dr. Udainarayan Tiwari and Dr. Keshav Datt Ruwali also corroborate this above view.
Vocabulary of Kumaoni. During the medieval period, many groups from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh came and settled in Kumaon. Accordingly, the languages of these places enriched the Kumaoni vocabulary. Besides, Arabic, Persian, Turkish, some European languages like Portuguese, and mainly English, also contributed in making it wealthier. Above all, Hindi being the medium of instruction since long influenced Kumaoni not only in augmenting the vocabulary but also in shaping its syntax and grammar. The prefixes and suffixes of Hindi, Arabic and Persian are therefore found in Kumaoni. Conversely, some idioms, maxims and words of Kumaoni have also been used in Hindi fiction, especially by the writers, such as ‘Shivani’, Shailesh Matiyani etc. hailing from Kumaon region.
It is important to note that considerable numbers of Sanskrit loan words are very prominent in Kumaoni. Nevertheless, it should be kept in mind that about one third of its vocabulary is of native origin. A few examples of such local words are as follows: ijaa (mother), chyal (son), cheli (daughter), bubuu (grandfather), khor (head), TaaD (away), khaap (mouth), nako (not good), gaTo (bad), khuT (feet), khushyaNi (chillies), DaaR (Stomach), bhiner (fire), boT (tree), dhinaali (milk and milk products), baig (male/man), syaÞiÞNi (woman) etc. It may also be borne in mind that there are many typical words in Kumaoni which denote special odour or smell and sound. Such words are difficult to find in other languages. Some examples of these words are - suusaaT gaugaat (the sound of fast flow of water), hantraini (the smell of burning cloth), kiRãĩni (the smell of burning hair), Churaini (the smell of urine) etc. etc.
Linguistic Characteristics. It is pertinent to mention that in Kumaoni vowel system, there is a short front unrounded low vowel appearing in between the short a and long a; and short o and long o. These phonemes are also given the name of ‘long a’ or ‘short aa’ and ‘long o’ and ‘short oo’ respectively and have an independent phonetic status and a different semantic value in Kumaoni. Different meanings, but identical spellings of such two words are required to be indicated by a suitable symbol. Some examples of such identical words with semantic variations, are as follows: aag- (with symbol) = fire, Aag = jealousy; aam(with symbol) = grandmother, aam = mango fruit; kaat(with symbol) = slander), kaat = he buffalo; raat (with smbol) = red; raat- night; gol (with symbol) = coconut, gol = round. A proper symbol for indicating this peculiarity by a suitable phonetic transcription has however, not yet been unanimously adopted and followed. Dr.Gunanand Juyal (Madhya Pahari Bhasha:Garhwali-Kumaoni, 1967), Dr. Trilochan Pandeya (Kumaoni Bhasha aur Uska Sahitya, 1977), Dr. Sher Singh Bisht (Kumaoni Bhasha aur Sahitya ka Udbhav evam Vikash 2006) and a number of other litterateurs of Kumaon have used different symbols for indicating these variations. Some have used a small circle above the affected word’s last line; some have made the last line half whereas others have preferred to show the semantic difference by putting a hal (plough) symbol under the last line of the affected word. It seems a consensus is now evolving to adopt hal symbol to differentiate this vexed situation.
It is also to be kept in mind that Kumaoni is predominated by short vowels. Other important characteristic is the tendency of using voiced unaspirated consonants in place of voiced aspirated consonants. The use of voiceless unaspirated consonants in place of voiceless aspirated consonants is also prevalent, e.g.duud in place of duudh (milk) and haat in place of haath (hand). In some variations of Kumaoni, va is used in place of la, e.g., baav for baal (hair) and kaav for kaal (tense relating to time). Also, there is interchaeability in N and n, e.g. paaNii in place of paanii (water), syaNii in place of sayanii (smart).
In Kumaoni, some special prepositions, affixes and suffixes are used to denote relations. More prominent of these are -- la, le, kaNi, keÞ,ka, sa, theÞ,liji, huNi, bai, baTi, huÞ, huNi, ka, ki, ra, ri, meÞ, muNi, maji,and ma. It is to be noted that cha is used as auxiliary verbs, for example uu jaach (he goes), tvill kaÞaÞ jaaNachuÞ (where have you to go?). la, li, laa etc. are used as future tense markers. There is a vast regional difference in the verb form e.g., ‘He is going’ is expressed in different forms, like uu jaaNauch, uu jaaNau, uu jaanarau, uu jaNaaryo, uu jaanaryoch, uu jaanarchya, uu jaanamarthya etc.It may be noted that in Kumaoni there are a number of vocative denoting syllables such as halaa, halii, laa, lii, haÞve,haÞho, haÞiÞ are expressed by the use of syallables like bal, pai, haÞDi, da etc.
The Dialects of Kumaoni. Like most major languages of the world including Hindi, Kumaoni is also an assimilation of various dialects and sub- dialects. Pt. Ganga Datt Upreti was the first person who embarked on the delineating the dialects of Kumaon. His pioneering work ‘The Dialects of Kumaon Divison’ contained thirteen dialects which included the dialects of the then British Garhwal. It may be remembered that for administrative purposes ‘Kumaon Division’ of that period, after 1815 A.D. included British Garhwal also which comprised from east of the Alaknanda river, leaving the region west of Alaknanda river to the Raja of Tehri. Thereafter, George Grierson took over the monumental ‘Linguistic Survey of India’. Grierson records that Kumaon is “........a mountainous country where intercommunication is difficult (which) have led to a multiplicity of dialects – not less than twelve...” For providing the examples of each dialect with a view to further analysis , Grierson selected a small portion from the story of ‘The Prodigal Son’ of the Bible, gave it to his subordinate local revenue official and asked them to furnish translation of that portion in their respective dialect. The 12 dialects of Kumaoni as enumerated in the ‘survey’ of Grierson are as follows: Khasparjia, Phaldakotiya, Pachhai, Kumauni of Nainital, Bhabari of Ramppur, Kumaiya, Chaugarkhiya, Gangli, Danpuria, Soryali, Asskoti, and Sirali.
‘Kumaon Himalaya ki Bolion ka Sarvekshan’ (2005), by Dr. Sher Singh Bisht, strenuously carried out by the author, under the aegis of U.G.C., is a praiseworthy contribution in this field. After due analysis, he has grouped the Kumaoni dialects in two parts viz. Eastern and Western. Under Eastern, four dialects are grouped i.e. 1. Kumayya, 2. Sauryali, 3. Sirali, 4. Askoti. Under western group six dialects are enumerated i.e. 1. Khasparjia, 2. Chaugarkhiya, 3. Gangoli, 4. Danpuriya, 5. Pachhaii, and 6.Rau-Chaubainsii. Besides, he further mentions four tribal dialects spoken in the hilly area. These are: Raji, Shauka, Buksha, and Tharu.
Literature. (Early Writers 1800-1900) The credit of earliest composition in Kumaoni goes to the scholar-poet Lok-Ratna Pant, popularly known as ‘Gumani’ Pant (1790-1846). He is considered to be the first poet of Kumaoni, who is credited to have authored 18 literary works, mostly in Sanskrit, Kumaoni, Nepali and Hindi. Some of his prominent and popular poetic creations in Kumaoni are compiled in ‘Gumani Niti’, ‘Gumani Kavya Sangrah’ etc. After Gumani, a few other well known poets and writers who carried forward the rich literary tradition of Kumaoni are: Krishnna Pandey (‘Muluk Kumaon’ and ‘Kalyug Varnan’), Nayan Sukh Pandey, Gauri Datt Pandey etc.
From about 1900 onward, the number of writers in Kumaoni increased. More prominent among them are: Shivdutt Sati (‘Gopi Geet’, ‘Buddhi Pravesh’, ‘Bhavar ka Geet’, ‘Ghasiyari Natak’ , ‘Rukmani Vivah’); Diwan Singh (‘Divani Vinod); Gauri Dutt Pandey ‘Gaurda’ (‘Gauri Gutka’,’Pratham Vatika’, ‘Gaurda ka Kavya Darshan’, ‘Chhoro Gulami Khitab’); Shiromani Pathak (‘Shri Ram Sahasrawali’), Lalmani Upreti; Sumitranandan Pant (‘Burunsh’); Shyamacharan Pant (‘Datulai Dhar’); Ramdutt Pant ‘Kaviraj’ (‘Geet Mala’, ‘ Gandhi Geet’, ‘Geetvad’, ‘Kweer Kain’); Chandralal Verma Chaudhary (‘Pyas’, ‘Dhar Main Ko Pou’, ‘Soul’) etc. Other well known Kumaoni writers of this period are: Jeevan Chandra Joshi, Jayanti Devi Pant, Bhola Datt Bhola, Pitambar Pandey, Taradutt Pandey , Chintamani Paliwal, Nar Singh Bisht, Khimnand Sharma, Tara Ram Arya, Ram Kunwar Rautela, Bache Singh Patwal, Kulanand Bhartiya, Charuchandra Pandey, Damodhar Upadhyaya etc..
During the ‘Modern Period’ from 1950 A.D. onward, a sharp change for betterment in the purification and embellishment in language and style of Kumaoni is observed. There is distinct improvement in the quality of contents and subject matter in literature also which started flourishing in many directions. Some of the prominent writers of this period are: Charuchandra Pandey (‘Angwal’, ‘Says Gumani’, ‘Echoes From The Hills’, ‘Chhoro Gulami Khitab’); Brajendra Lal Shah (‘Shail Suta’, ‘Ashta Vakra’, ‘Ganganath’); Nand Kumar Joshi (‘Ram Thakur Ki Jeevani’); KIshan Singh Bisht ‘Katyuri’ (‘Panyar’); Sher Singh ‘Sherda’ Bisht ‘Anpadh’(‘Meri Lati Pati’, ‘Janthik Ghungur’, ‘Phachaik’); Vanshidhar Pathak (‘Sisaun’); Ramesh Chandra Shah (‘Ukar Hular’); Devki Mahra (‘Swati’, ‘Sapno Ki Radha’, ‘Nishas’); Gopal Dutt Bhatt (‘Vakt Ki Pukar’, ‘Gokul Apna Ganw Re’, ‘Dhartik Pir’); Girish Tiwari ‘Girda’ (‘Uttarakhand Kavya’, ‘Nagare Khamosh Hain’); Mahendra Matiyani (‘Hiya Re Udas Kilai’); Mathura Dutt Mathpal; Rajendra Bora; Sher Singh Bisht (‘Bharat Mata’, ‘Mankhi’, ‘Parkhe Hue Log’, ‘Ija’ ); Hiraballabh Gahtori (‘Bharat Mata’); Dev Singh Pokhariya (‘Kasak’); Navin Bisht; Jagdish Joshi; Dipak Karki and some others.
Among the noteworthy magazines which are also doing a yeomen service to the native language by publishing articles, compositions and other material in Kumaoni are: Achal, Aankhar, Dudboli, Pehru etc. Some regional Hindi newspapers such as Almora Akhbar, Shakti, Kumaon Kumud, Samta and Almora Times also frequently publish encouraging articles and other material for the progress of Kumaoni.
Notwithstanding these efforts it must however, be conceded that Kumaoni, like its neighbouring sister Garhwali, is still in its infancy,
The Challenges Ahead: It is important to note that Kumaoni language is older than Hindi. Used by most of the inhabitants of this region for informal conversation, a number of litterateurs from Kumaon also adopt this language for their literary compositions. But it is also a fact that since Hindi has been the medium of instruction and for formal communication in Kumaon region for a long time; its dominant role cannot easily be erased. Moreover, English is now overshadowing other languages everywhere, including the hill regions. Nevertheless, there appears a silver lining. During the recent past, there has been an upsurge in the awakening for the native language and ancestral culture in Uttarakhand. Efforts are being made for retention, preservation and fostering of Kumaoni language and to make it more acceptable and popular. Although Kumaoni is still not taught at the primary level, it is now being studied in higher classes. In addition, a number of scholars are also engaged in research work pertaining to Kumaoni language and literature. Dr. Sher Singh Bisht and a number of other eminent literary figures of Kumaoni are endeavouring hard in the direction of ‘standardisation’ of Kumaoni language and its spellings. In addition, there is a persistent demand inclusion of Kumaoni in the eighth schedule of the constitution by raising this issue in various forums and political circles.
Notwithstanding the above efforts, it is also a frightening fact that the number of people speaking Kumoni is on the wane. The stark reality cannot be overlooked that this language, like many other languages of Uttarakhand, is incapable of providing suitable and remunerative employment to its users. With the awakening of globalisation, Information Technology and the influence of rapid modernisation, the job opportunities with lucrative pay, perks and facilities have increased manifold. A majority of the present youth therefore, is now running away from the land and profession of their ancestors and taking jobs in plains, big cities and anywhere outside in the expectation of greener pastures leaving behind everything. The language and culture of the hills is accordingly vanishing slowly. The spectre of emigration is looming large all over the hilly areas of Uttarakhand. Most of the villages are deserted and fields look barren. The populace, while leaving the land of their birth, also forget their mother tongue and traditions. There is a widespread fear that the language and ancient culture of Kumaon may sustain and remain alive only till the life time of present generation. UNESCO’s ‘Atlas of world languages in danger’ designates Kumaoni as ‘language in the unsafe category.
But there is another angle to this migration syndrome which may not be overlooked. Will it not be improper and cruel to deny the fruits of comfort, progress and advancement to the youth? No prudent and well meaning person will think so. A middle path is therefore, required to be found out and adopted to let the youth enjoy the advantages of modernisation but simultaneously emplacing on nourishing the language and culture of the land of our forefathers.
Although Dr. Hardeo Bahari and some other academicians have categorised Kumaoni as a sub-language of Hindi, it should not be forgotten that Kumaoni is older than Hindi. It has the privilege of being the language of administration of the Chand kings till seventeenth century A.D. Its vocabulary is very rich and so is the literature which requires persistent and constant efforts for its protection, conservation and fostering,.
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