Sanskritic Impact on the Speech of Ladakhi
by: P. N. Pushp and K. Warikoo
and Cultural Foundation
- by Malvika Bandyopadhaya
Samskrita as the name suggests, means "put together,
constructed", "well formed", "perfected" (sam + s -
krta or samskrta). (The formation of samskr in place of samkr is
on the analogy of pariskara and upaskara). Presumably "well
formed" suggests two factors:
(i) Some speech was existent before that was well formed (samskrta).
Attention may be invited to some sutras from the Astaddhyai of Panini:
Panini in his Astadhyayi mentions some of his predecessors like Yaska,
Sakatayana and Varsyayani, who might have been predecessors in endeavouring the
systematization of the language spoken by the locals in evidence. Probably
Panini appeared 400 years before the Christian era. He belonged to Kashmir, when
it was the gateway from Central Asia to India. Panini ventured to compose his
Sutra a Samskrta bhasa in eight chapters to establish Arianization in the area
to which he belonged. He had a wide vision and close association with the then
Aryavarta. In this respect some studies have already been made by the scholars
of India and abroad. An attempt prevails in Western linguistics to hunt the
intellectual ancestor of Panini, what is known as the ancestor hunt. In this
regard Adam Makkai and William M. Christie have discussed in detail in their
article "whose Intellectual Ancestor was Panini - Really?" (See S.K.
Chatterjee Commemoration volume, Ed. by Bhakti P. Mallik. The University of
Burdwan, 1981 pp. 134-144).
Mayura vamsakayasca (2.1.72)
mundascasau kambajas'ceti-kambaja-munda. Similarly, may yavanamunda
be referred to. Panini also took care of peculiar forms which had been in
usage. For example: Kumarah sramanadibhih is compounded as Kumarasra-mana
(ii) The language after being refined becomes well-formed. For instance,
Panini (in 4.3.127-28) refers to the formation of the Sakala in forming
alternative words in adjective. For instance:
samgha - 'nka - laksanesva -
an -yan, inam an. (4.3.127)
Regarding the advent of the Aryans it is linguistically accepted that they
came through Iran. It is needless to enter into the discussion about the
homeland of Aryans in the context of the present study of the Garkhuns. Garkhuns
reside in the western-most part of Ladakh in Kashmir on the bank of the river
Indus at an altitude of about six thousand feet. To reach the area one should
cross stiff, barren hill tracks towards the North Western Ladwags.
The word Garkhun appears to be Tibetan word dgar khun. Here dgar
suggests separated out of the word dgar ba. Here dagar ba means to
separate, confine, fold up (Jaske Dic. p. 83) in respect of men, cattle, goods.
The final part of the word khun is probably built up 'khun, which
means a note of groaning, to groan like animals. They themselves, however,
interpret as agar khun, which suggests a resident of tent, like Brog pa
nomads. Agar means camp and khung means hollow cavity.
Unfortunately Garkhuns of the above mentioned area fail to recollect their
origin now. As regards their physique and features of the body of men and women,
a Garkhun does not belong to Mongoloid group.
Mongoloids have the following distinction in physical features:-
|Eyes and hair
||Dark brown, black (epicanthitic fold)
(Mouth and Jaw)
The Garkhuns, however, have different physical structure with bright skin,
tipped nose, black hair, white eyes and so on. Moreover in food habits and other
material needs, the Garkhuns maintain their special characteristics. It is a
wonder that a pocket of small non-Mongoloid group living among the Mongoloids
may be found in the remote area. It is striking to note that their speech does
not belong to the Bhotia group of languages as spoken by the Mongoloids in
Ladakh and adjacent areas.
Before we discuss the language traits of the Garkhuns, some peculiarities of
Ladakhi speech may not be irrelevant. In Ladakh the language is called Bodhi,
sometimes Bhoti. Bodhi is a corrupt form of Tibetan Compound Bod-yi in
which the Buddhist literature is preserved. Bhoti refers to the language by the
Bhot people. In general Bodhi or Bhoti is monosyllabic, but it betrays a
tendency towards bysyllabic or polysyllabic too. It is to be noted that the
Bodhi speech does not always observe sound sintrification as is found in the
central Tibetan speech which is regarded as the standard Tibetan speech. As a
result, the preceding letter is prefixed and conjoined letters retain their
sound in pronunciation. For example - Skardu, Jangskar, Spituk, Kharkhel (Kargil)
may be cited. In spite of the spread of the Arabic language the Bodhi influence
In contrast to that, the Garkhun speech is sometimes inflectional and
polysyllabic like Sanskrit. A comparative chart of counting of numbers as found
in the Garkhun and Bhoti speeches is shown below:
||Bhoti of Ladakh
||Central Tibetan with sound simplification
||rgu / gu
The above comparison clearly shows that the Garkhunpas follow the counting in
Sanskrit though the Ladakhis recount the numerals in Tibetan. The pronunciation
of the later speech varies from that of the standard Tibetan.
While counting the twelve months, the Garkhunpas follow the Ladakhi
It is evident from the instances detailed in the appendix, which were
collected during field work in the area, that Sanskritic impact is still at work
in the spoken language among the Garkhun Community in the Western Himalayas.
That the community did not spread in other regions of India, may be explained
by the following conjectures:
1. Garkhunpa, as the name implies, is the settler in the remote area, which is
almost inaccesible even today. Pony is the means of communication in those
In India Sanskrit is still a live language. Garkhuns of Ladakh and the Lohars of
Punjab speak a potois of Sanskrit, obviously non-Paninian, sometimes broken. In
the case of Garkhuns some broken forms of Sanskrit are still in vogue. In the
cultural history of Westerm.Himalayas the spoken language of the Garkhuns is the
living specimen of the residue of Old-Indo Aryan speech. In spite of the
upheavals of social and political conditions of the Western Himalayas, the
Garkhuns have preserved their identity distinct from the Mongoloids by secluding
themselves within their kins and descendants. The inhabitants of that remote
corner of India still retain the legacy of the Sanskrit speaking Aryans.
2. The speech used by them obviously remains concerned in a small area.
Although they are accustomed to communicate in Bodhi (the general spoken
language of Leh area) for their general communication in market, they do not
preserve Kanjur or Tanjur as their sacred books in spite of
their religious nomenclature being Buddhist.
3. They are not Mongoloid. Obviously they express their rigidity in
preservation of blood purity or racial solidarity. No inter-marriage with the
Mongoloids generally occurs. The kins and descents are limited within
4. Economically they are pastoral with small attempts to cultivate barley and
other cereal crops for their own use. They exchange mostly animal hides and
animal products. The recent endeavours by the government to introduce
horticulture has not been successful due to harsh climatic condition.
|1. kim naman cheda
||- May I know your name please?
|2. anda namam Bhagatram
||- My name is Bhagatrama.
|3. kim ham demmanoc
||- Where do you come from?
|4. ga colin ca baka
||- I am a Bhutanese.
|5. ki ca lun kiti an
||- Do you like tea or beer?
|6. ha ga mai anka ho la se
||- I have already taken tea?
|7. ki tha kaman sa baha vadaen
||- What is your engagement?
|8. ga dakavanom
||- I go to the post office.
|9. to to khasa lisa madu
||- Thank you sir.
|10. Kila kimo to ate bhaya du
||- How many brothers have you at home?
|11. ma anda ate bhya maica
||- None, I have no brother.
|12. kina loca (a)
||- Have you any sister?
|13. han igakta gato rinda tom
||- Yes, I have only younger sister.
|14. kim bapu tha kaman lanca
||- What is your father?
|15. anda bapu jamidari kaman lanca
||- He is an agriculturist (Cultivator).
|16. kina ama cho lano nica
||- What does your mother do?
|1. kin kimn je ladga toca
||- Have you cattle at home?
|2. anda kimo nis dama
||- Yes, we have a pair of Oxen, three cows, five pigs and
twenty five sheep.
|3. kin rimo halam lanca
||- Can you plough a field?
|4. ma, anda vapu halan lanca
||- No, my father can.
|5. ki kina vapu pan hala madata radaca toi
||- How do you help your father?
|6. ga vian mecatoka, chao lavaja toka
||- I sow seeds, plant paddy, and reap harvest.
|7. no lin sese phasala hala duye
||- Don't you look after cattle?
|8. khas dam ma duye
||- No, my mother does.
|9. Lekin vajato mamta dam duve
||- What does your sister do?
|10. kin danda to ca
||- She cuts grass for her pet.
|11. Caraio khuden bhimn vyaca
||- Did you yield oranges last year?
|12. kin kim rago pansidtova
||- Yes, we did.
|13. anda kim bhino para sidanto, chapati-dino tan
|14. khas li ninonus ma baca
||- Have you a stable?
|15. ki porno hasal punanca
||- Do you ride a pony?
|16. chumagada yumu piya
||- Certainly, for upward journey a pony is essential.