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State of regional literature: himachali

And words waft through hills

India is a multi-lingual society.

And words waft through hills

Vakte di Gall by Pratyush Guleri

Chander Rekha Dhadwal

India is a multi-lingual society. One can say that Hindi gives it an identity and has the potential of becoming a bridge between various states of India. However, the onus of becoming the bearer of folk cultures falls on the myriad languages of India, the many mother tongues of the Indians. Literatures written in the Indian languages make those languages mainstream. That makes it essential for the literature to internalise and, subsequently, understand the sensitivities of common people. For this, the full potential of creative personality has to be realised, and the ‘form’ of the literature, too, has to be developed. Instead of Pahari, it seems more appropriate to call the language of Himachal, Himachali, as Pahari seems more generically related to mountains.

On the basic differences of location, pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar, the dialects of Himachali language are classified as Sirmauri, Mahasvi, Kyonthli, Kullavi, Mandiali, Kangri, Bilaspuri, Chambiyali and others. As literatures written in dialects of Hindi such as Awadhi, Braj, Rajasthani, Magahi, Maithili, etc. have been absorbed in Hindi literature and enriched it, similarly one would hope that, over a period of time, the same would happen  with Himachali literature too. MR Thakur has talked on this aspect at length. Therefore, it appears needlessly polemical to argue over the definition and the linguistic and geographic boundaries of the ‘Himachaliness’ of Himachali literature. The ‘quality’ of the literary output is of far greater importance. This literary quality will improve when writers engage with contemporary thought and the problems of the common people with greater vigour.

The flagbearers

The  writers who laid the foundation of Himachali literature are Rani Vikram, Rudra Dutt, Baba Kanshi Ram aka Pahari Gandhi, Lal Chand Prarthi, Som Nath Singh Som among others. A new generation is taking this forward. Among them are Bhawani Dutt Shastri, Chandrashekhar Suman, Piyush Guleri, Sagar Palampuri, Sham Lal Dogra, Thakur Ravi Singh Mandotra, Sudarshan Dogra, Kamla Verma Kamal, Baldev Singh Thakur, Khushi Ram Sharma, Mangat Ram Musafir, Shesh Awasthi, Des Raj Dogra, Gautam Sharma Vyathit, Pratyush Guleri, Chandramani Pahari Mrinal, Sansar Chand Prabhakar, Shammi Sharma, Onkar Phalak, Priya Sharma, Harikishan Murari, Ramesh Mastana, Ashok Dard, Narendra Arun, Madan Himachali, Prabhat Sharma, Hari Priya, Kushal Katoch, Suresh Bharadwaj, Kartar Chand Kanwar and others.

In fact, there are many writers in Himachali, who have not published much, but show great talent and promise. Ghazal writer Prem Bhardwaj brought many writers together in his seminal work Seeran. The poetry is written largely in lyrical and metrical form. There are others doing commendable work in the field of Himachali ghazal, including Dwijendra Dwij, Pawanendra Pawan, Navneet Sharma, Vinod Bhavuk, Nandan Sharma, Pritam Chand Pritam among others. 

The literary output of Himachali writers reflects the social, cultural and linguistic ethos of the people of the state. Human relations, issues and problems faced by the common man are dealt with in detail and sensitivity. The genres that have not seen much output are essays and drama. The genre most favoured by the Himachali writers is short story. A number of critically acclaimed short stories have come out over the years. Kirni Fullan Dee, an anthology edited by Piyush Guleri, is a delectable collection of short stories by Himachali writers.

Market marquee

Publishing and marketing literary works is not easy, even though the script used is Devanagari. In this electronic age where hardly anyone buys books, the question of selling books is a little outdated. While the Language and Culture Department and the State Academy support the writers by funding publication and purchase of their books for library, the writers themselves distribute their books for better readership. 

The State Language, Art and Culture Academy of Himachal Pradesh and Department of Language and Culture have many schemes to promote Himachali literature. They give liberal grants for publications in Himachali. These organisations encourage writers and give them recognition by giving out a manuscript award, Pahari Shikhar Samman, and an annual literary award for Himachali books. These awards bring them visibility and readership. Pahari Diwas and Pahari Gandhi Baba Kashi Ram Jayanti, celebrated by these bodies, focus on Himachali language and literature.

The challenge

It is well-established that languages that are essential in the job market get promoted and adopted by the education system. This outlook tends to overlook and undermine the languages that do not enjoy the status of languages of power. Himachali languages also suffer relative neglect in this aspect. If the state government wants to preserve Himachali language and culture, it should take steps to make the language more relevant in the job market. Otherwise Himachali will be no more than a language dying on the lips of rural women, with no future. The State Academy has taken a unique initiative to promote Himachali language in schools by organising competitions in slogan writing, poetic symposium, essay writing, etc. in Himachali languages. More such initiatives are required to preserve the unique language and culture of Himachal Pradesh.

The writer is former HoD Hindi from Post-graduate College, Dharamsala (Translated by Prof Rajeev Sharma, associate professor in English at DAV College, Kangra)

All that’s gained in translation

Translation is a window into the world of literature produced in other languages. Himachali writers have endeavoured to bring the best literature from across the country and world through translation. Bhawani Dutt Shastri translated the Bhagwada Gita into Mandyali. Sansar Chand Prabhakar translated Dhammpad from Bhoti language. Tagore’s Geetanjali was translated by Vidyanand Saraik, Dinkar’s Rashmirathi was translated as Punyarathi by Narendra Arun, Nikolai Ostrovsky’s How the Steel Was Tempered was translated as Agi re Tapira, Maxim Gorky’s Mother was also translated as Amma. Eminent writer Parmanand Sharma translated Mirza Ghalib in his work Kicch Ghalib Kichh Main. Pratyush Guleri edited a book of translations of poems in Himachali titled Pratinidhi Himachali Kavya Sankalan. Stories of Pawanendra Pawan and this writer were translated into English by Anita Chambiyal and anthologised in Missing Links. 

Reaching out

Realising the importance of internet and social media, Himachali writers, too, have started using these mediums to reach out to young readers. Pahari Dayar is a blog that brings translations of world literature to Himachali readership, as also debates on current issues. Anup Sethi, Dwijendra Dwij, Navneet, Kushal Kumar and Naveen Haldoonvi are active on this blog. Kushal Kumar runs a WhatsApp group names Pahari Panchhi. Sandeep Parmar of Gunjan community radio also provides a platform to Himachali writers. Karam Singh Thakur, secretary State Language, Art and Culture Academy also runs a literary group on WhatsApp called ‘Himachal Academy’. The State Language, Art and Culture Academy publishes a magazine, Him Bharati, and Department of Information & Public Relations, Giriraj. Divya Himachal and Himachal Focus also publish regular columns in Himachali. Rakesh Sharma and Virender Sharma organise events to promote Himachali language and literature through their NGO.

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