Enriching my mother tongue Kahluri (a Western Pahari language) would be a lifelong endeavour for me. If you are a Pahari speaker like me, one of the things that we have in common is the dearth of good, chaste and ‘ठेठ’ (typical) vocabulary. With our communities opening up more to the dominant ones as a result of globalization, we have actually reduced ‘Pahari’ from our daily lives. Our Pahari has been confined to simple chats with our parents, grandparents, relatives, local friends, etc., whether it is academics throughout the developing stage or formal employment later.

It’s always a pleasure to converse with my Nani, not because we have something entertaining to talk about, but because of the Pahari that pours out of her almost monolingual tongue. The flow of her language, as well of my Dadi, is/was like a ‛मगरू’ (water spring), crystal clear, and invites interest and tranquillity if one pays attention to it. They speak so naturally that I’ve never noticed them being repetitive. So, what’s the best way for me to get up to them? Indeed, how can one maintain proficiency as bilingualism grows and the status of local Pahari lects declines?

Perhaps this ‛shabdkosh’ (dictionary) is exactly what we need! Published in 1989 by Himachal Pradesh Academy of Arts, Culture & Languages, it has roughly 45000 words in Pahari languages of Himachal and over 11000 in Tibetic lects of its Kinnaur and Lahul-Spiti districts, so, one can consider it a good reference.

Have you ever found yourself immersed in the lyrics of a naati song? And then knowing that if you only knew the meanings of a few lyrical words, you might have figured out the full essence! What’s the best way to go about it, though? Perhaps take the help of your family members? But, let’s face it, that’s a difficult chore, and with the number of monolinguals, such as our grandparents, dwindling, we don’t have many people to turn to. And what if the naati song isn’t in the Pahari lect you speak? This is where the dictionary comes in handy.

Consider the following lyric, for example:

“माह्णू नहीं मिला कोई रेका ए ढ़ौंगो रा,
याद आए आशिको पुराने हो”

I had never heard of ‘रेका’ before. However, thanks to the dictionary, which defines the word as ‘other’.

Let’s take another example from a Kotgarhi song:

“फिरै मेरिए नाळौ री बागरे हिलै धारौ री च़िलै,
कोइ दुसौ रे बिछ़ड़े हामे आज़ कोउटे मिलै
गौंऊ बोलिले जुब्बलौ माउंआ छौंऊ बोलिले रोहड़ू
तू बी बोदवे बाठणा आपू खी ताखू बाठणा लोडु”

बागर? गौंऊ? लोडु? बाठणा?

From the dictionary:

  • बागर – wind (similar to Kahluri’s बौगर)
  • गौंऊ wasn’t there, but गौऊडढा for front (आगे) is mentioned, which makes गौंऊ-छौंऊ same as गांह-पछांह (आगे-पीछे).
  • हामे – to us हमको
  • ताखू – to you तुझे
  • लोडना – to find ढूंढ़ना
  • बांठणा – good looking खूबसूरत
  • दुसो – day दिन

We can see how this dictionary might be useful in understanding new words that we come across now and then, like in those naati songs.

However, this is not to say that the dictionary is without any shortcomings. It is missing not only a number of rare words, but some fairly common ones too. Another flaw is that the words are defined by district rather than language/dialect. This is especially troublesome in cases like Chamba district, where the Churahi-Pangwali and Chambeali-Bhateali groups have vastly different vocabulary. It is impossible to tell which language/dialect category a word really belongs to in such instances.

One of the most surprising features of this dictionary is a list of words from the Kinnaur and Lahul-Spiti districts in the appendix. So, if you’re intrigued, you can always look into it.

But, hey! Learning is never ending. So combine your Pahari knowledge with this dictionary and marvel at the results!

The Pahari-Hindi Shabdakosh is available on the Internet Archive.


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