Is Haryanvi a Language?:E Joseph's contribution to Haryanavi Dialect.

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E JOSEPH is to Haryanavi what Hermann Gundert is to Malayalam and William Carey to Bengali. They all wrote the first dictionaries in these languages. The question would naturally crop up: Is Haryanavi a language? If you read Joseph’s Haryanavi-English, English-Haryanavi Dictionary* which begins with the author’s ‘grammatical notes’, you will realise that Haryanavi has all the characteristics of a language.

Joseph was an extraordinary polyglot, proficient in many European and Indian languages. When he was posted as Deputy Commissioner of Rohtak district (1910-1912), he found great difficulty in understanding the language spoken by the people. He set about compiling Haryanavi words and giving their meaning in English. He also chose some commonly used English words and gave their meaning in Haryanavi. His attempt was to make the life of his successors at Rohtak easier.

Wherever he found difficulty in translating certain words which independently did not make sense but as part of a proverb made great sense, he gave a translation of the proverb itself. Angi (breast covering or bodies worn by married women) figures in the saying angi gail peti, man gail beti (A girl favours her mother as her bodice fits her bust).

Altogether, he compiled 200 proverbs many of which have gone out of vogue. The reader will, therefore, find the book a great treat. The dictionary is, as the subtitle mentions, A Lexical Presentation of Language, Lore and Life of Haryana.

Joseph’s labour had nearly gone waste as the manuscript had been gathering dust in the district records room of Rohtak when Prof K.C. Yadav, a friend of many years, stumbled upon it, edited and got it published last year under the aegis of the Haryana Institute of Public Administration, Gurgaon. It was released at the World Hindi Conference in New York last November. In Joseph’s time it was published as an article in the journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal.

Though a century has passed since the ICS officer compiled the dictionary, it remains the only one of its kind in Haryanavi literature. Such is the author’s command of the language that it is difficult to believe that he spent only two years in Rohtak, which at that time comprised Jhajjar, Sonepat and parts of Rewari.

His was not an easy task as Haryanavi differed from village to village. As Joseph says in his introduction: “The language spoken by the Rohtak Jats is called by themselves Jatu. One and the same language, with dialectical differences, almost imperceptible from village to village, is spoken throughout the Bangar or highlands lying between the Khadir of the Jamuna on the east and the Hisar-Sirsa tract on the west. The language is variously known in different parts as Bangaru, Jatu or Haryanavi. In Haryana it is called, appropriately enough, Deswali or Desari…”

Prof Yadav who edited the book has identified six variants of Hindi used in Haryana. They are Bangru, also called Jatu or Haryanavi. “It is a form of Western Hindi, influenced in its vocabulary by Khari Hindi, Urdu and at places even Punjabi. The other dialects are Ambalavi, spoken in the districts of Ambala and Panchkula; Braja, spoken in a limited area of Palwal tehsil in Faridabad district; Ahirwati, spoken in the districts of Rewari, Mahendragarh, a part of Gurgaon and a small part of Bhiwani; Mewati, spoken in the district of Mewat and some parts of Faridabad and Gurgaon; and Bagri, a form of Rajasthani, spoken in some parts of Hisar and Sirsa adjoining Rajasthan and some parts of Loharu and Dadri tehsils of Bhiwani district.

One reason why the officers of the period, English, Hindu or Muslim, found Haryanavi difficult to understand was, in Joseph’s words, “because of the neglect of Sanskrit and Hindi that is nowadays so prevalent. We are nurtured on the Persianised Urdu of the Munshi, and the language of the Higher Standard Hindustani is the polished language of Delhi city. Nothing is more useless for an understanding of the thought and wants of the villagers”.

For present-day Haryanvis, some of the words in the dictionary would sound Greek. Many of the listings had something to do with the modes of cultivation used those days. For instance, atkadshi (eleventh day of either half of the lunar month) signifies the arrival of famine as this proverb says, “Sawan badi atkadshi gan garje adhi rat. Piya tun ja so Mave, ham jan san Gujrai” (If the clouds thunder at midnight on the 11th day of the dark half of Sawan, my husband you go Malwa, I’m off to Gujra).

Some of the proverbs may appear Biblical like this one: “Auron ke updesh par, sabhi guru bharpur. Apne apne much par, sabhi ke dul” (In exhorting others, all men are full-blown saints. But every man has dust upon his own face.) This reminds the reader of the verse, “All men can see the mote in their brothers’ eyes, but not the beam in their own”

The proverbs are all down to earth like this one, “Byahi hod daga dede, par baayhe hod daga na de” (Your wife may fail you, but your ploughing won’t, i.e., well-ploughed land is sure to give you return).

A language is never static. Shakespeare wrote all his works using a total of 29,066 words. Now, English, the most cheerfully democratic language, has 616,500 entries in the Oxford English Dictionary. Yet, there are not more than half a dozen words to describe different types of rain in English – drizzle, downpour, shower, mizzle, heavy rain, light rain. In comparison, Joseph lists 13 Haryanavi words for rain like Bundha-Bandhi (a few drops), chaderbheej (light rain) and musladhar (drenching, straight rain).

It is in this context that the Father of Indian Nationalism, Michael Madhusudan Dutt’s (1824-1873) poem quoted in the book makes immense sense:

Studded with invaluable gems

Is my own language

Yet discarding them

I roamed from land to land

Like a merchant ship

From port to port

Then in dream one night

The goddess appeared to tell me

Your own language is full of wealth

Why then have you turned yourself into a beggar?

Why are you bereft of all the joy?

Because of the growing and overpowering influence of Hindi and English on the people of Haryana, more and more Haryanavi words, proverbs and sayings are bound to be consigned to the dustbins of linguistic history. But this does not mean that Haryanavi is not a complete language as this book gently reminds the reader.

  • Haryanavi-English, English-Haryanavi dictionary :A lexical presentation of language, lore, and life.

Contributions: Joseph, E., ICS., Yadav, Kripal Chandra., ; Foreword by Bhupinder Singh Hooda.,Haryana Institute of Public Administration. ISBN 10: 8186856021 ; LCCN: 2008331736

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