Linguistic Survey of India - Himachal Pradesh


The Linguistic Survey of India (LSI) is an ongoing project of the Government of India that aims to document and study how languages have changed in the country over the years. It considers shifts in society, administrative regions and the reorganisation of states based on linguistic identity. This project has been undertaken by the Language Division, Office of the Registrar General, Government of India.

Part of this project is the ‘Linguistic Survey of India – Himachal Pradesh’ which studies five languages and 12 mother tongues spoken in Himachal Pradesh. The survey was carried out between 1995 and 2008.

The survey works on the census framework according to which ‘language’ and ‘mother tongue’ are ‘co-terminus’ or mean the same. The volume lists Hindi as the official language of the state. Other languages and mother tongues explored in the document are: Bharmauri/Gaddi, Churahi, Chambeali, Kangri, Keonthali, Kulvi, Mandeali, Pangwali, Sanori and Sirmauri (Hindi group); Bhateali and Bilaspuri/Kahluri (Punjabi group); Dogri and Nepali; Kinnauri, Lahauli and Bhotia (Tibeto-Burman group).

The present-day LSI is an extension of the survey first proposed by George Abraham Grierson, an Irish linguist who documented Indian languages during the pre-Independence era. This project ‘supplements and complements’ Grierson’s work conducted when the present state of Himachal Pradesh consisted of the surrounding princely states and parts of Punjab.

The document is divided into six main chapters: Introduction (Chapter 1); Indo-Aryan Language (Hindi Languages/Mother Tongues) (Chapter 2); Indo-Aryan Language (Punjabi Languages/Mother Tongues) (Chapter 3); Indo-Aryan Languages (Dogri, Nepali) (Chapter 4); Tibeto-Burman Languages (Kinnauri, Lahauli and Bhotia) (Chapter 5); and Comparative Lexicon of 17 Languages/Mother Tongues. The first chapter discusses the history, culture, demography and administrative units of the state. Chapter 2-4 contains linguistic descriptions of the languages and mother tongues from the Indo-Aryan family. Three languages from the Tibeto-Burman family are discussed in the fifth chapter whereas the last chapter presents a comparative lexicon of 500 terms in all the languages.


  1. Citing research from 1996, the survey states that 90 per cent of people in Himachal Pradesh speak western Pahari dialects. While the Tankari or Thakuri script was earlier used to write Pahari, the script prevalent now is Devanagari.

  2. Out of a total population of 6.86 million in Himachal Pradesh (Census 2011), 18.1 per cent are bilingual. Hindi, the official language of the state, is spoken by around 85 per cent the population.

  3. Bharmauri or Gaddi is a Pahari dialect from the Indo-aryan family of languages. There are about 153,171 speakers in the state who name this language their mother tongue. Highest number of speakers of this language – 113,143 – reside in the Chamba district, followed by some in Kangra and Mandi.

  4. The Churahi dialect is spoken mostly in the Churah section of the states’s Chamba district. Total speakers of this language in the state number 75,502 of which 74,772 reside in Chamba. According to the survey, speakers use this language mostly in domestic spaces and Hindi otherwise.

  5. Chambeali, which is spoken mostly in Chamba district’s Sadar section has a total of around 124,385 speakers in the state of which 120,601 reside in the district. The language is spoken by all generations but in children it is often mixed with Hindi and English, the survey notes. Though Hindi dominates in the formal sphere, Chambeali is often used in oral communication within the educational, administrative and judicial levels.

  6. In addition to Himachal Pradesh, Kangri is also spoken in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and Haryana. Within the state it has 1,115,383 speakers. Of these, 1,070,365 live in Kangra district. Generally known as Pahari by the locals in the district, the dialect is more closely related to standard Punjabi than to Hindi or Hindustani.

  7. Keonthali speakers are concentrated in and around Shimla district of Himachal Pradesh. The 2001 and 2011 censuses recorded less than 10,000 speakers of this language but by the 1961 census, Keonthali was spoken by around 45,000 people.

  8. Kulvi or Kulubi is spoken majorly in the Kullu district of central Himachal Pradesh. Of the overall 196,000 lakh speakers in Himachal Pradesh, Kullu has 194,049, as per Census 2011. Kulvi is not used as a medium of instruction but there exist folksongs and devotional songs composed in the language.

  9. Mandeali is spoken majorly in the Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh. It is a dialect of Pahari and its overall speakers number 621,400 in the entire state. Of these 590,974 live in Mandi district, 14,160 live in Kullu and 6,587 are in Shimla, notes the 2011 Census. The survey states that people who speak Mandeali are generally bilingual with Hindi as their second language. Madeali does not have its own separate script and uses Devanagari.

  10. Pangwali is a critically endangered language according to the UNESCO. It is mostly spoken in the Pangi tehsil of Chamba district and has 18,640 speakers in Himachal Pradesh. Dialects of Pangwali include Pangwali Killer, Pangwali Purthi, Pangwali Sach and Pangwali Dharwasi. The 2011 Census also recorded 27 speakers in Nagaland and one in Manipur.

  11. Sanori also belongs to the Indo-Aryan family of languages is spoken in Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh. It has mostly been superseded by Hindi in all official affairs.

  12. Sirmauri is mainly spoken in the Sirmaur district which has 105,516 of the 107,322 Sirmauri speakers in the state. The native script is a version of the Takri script although these days use of Devanagari has become more prominent. The language also has a rich oral literature, the survey notes.

  13. The Bhateali mother tongue falls under Punjabi according to Census classification. Bhateali speakers are found mostly in Chamba district and number 15,347 across the state. Outside Himachal Pradesh, speakers of this language have also been recorded in Assam and West Bengal. The survey records Devanagari as the preferred script.

  14. Bilaspuri/Kahluri is widely spoken in the Bilaspur district of Himachal Pradesh. Of the overall 295,762 speakers of this language in the state, 291,715 are from this district. The survey notes that the language is restricted to communication within homes.

  15. Dogri is spoken in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. In Himachal Pradesh, speakers of the language are mostly found in Kangra district. Although originally written in the Dogri script, it is now written in Devanagari.

  16. In Himachal Pradesh, there are 89,508 speakers of Nepali. Districts with highest population of Nepali speakers are Shimla (37,693), Solan (13,629) and Kullu (10,877). They survey states that a few schools in the state use Nepali, informally, as a medium of instruction.

  17. Kinnauri, Lahauli and Bothia are part of the Tibeto-Himalayan branch of the Tibeto-Burman sub family, which belongs to the larger Tibeto-Chinese family of languages. Kinnauri (82,712 speakers) is mainly spoken in the Kinnaur district and Lahauli (89,508 speakers) is spoken mainly in Kullu within Himachal Pradesh. Bhotia has very few speakers in the state by comparison (2,012) and is spoken in Lahaul and Spiti, Kullu and Kinnaur districts.

    Focus and Factoids by Urja Kaushik.


Language Division, Office of the Registrar General, Government of India


Language Division, Office of the Registrar General, Government of India


13 Jul, 2023