Garhwal is the northwestern region and administrative division of the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand which is home to the Garhwali people. Lying in the Himalayas, it is bounded on the north by Tibet, on the east by Kumaon region, on the south by Uttar Pradesh state, and on the northwest by Himachal Pradesh state. It includes the districts of Chamoli, Dehradun, Haridwar, Pauri Garhwal, Rudraprayag, Tehri Garhwal, and Uttarkashi. The people of Garhwal are known as Garhwali and speak the Garhwali language. The administrative center for Garhwal division is the town of Pauri.
Garhwal is the land of many ‘garh’ or forts. This region was made up of many small forts which were ruled by chieftains. Therefore, the history of Garhwal before the dynastic rule of the ‘Panwar’ rulers is very obscure. Kanak Pal was the first ruler of the state of Garhwal in 823 AD.
The earliest reference regarding Garhwal and its pride spots are cited in the Skanda Purana and the Mahabharata in the Van Parva. Skanda Purana defines the boundaries and extend of this holy land. It also finds mention in the 7th-century travelogue of Huen Tsang. However, it is with Adi Shankaracharya that the name of Garhwal will always be linked, for the great 8th-century spiritual reformer visited the remote, snow-laden heights of Garhwal, established a Joshimath and restored some of the most sacred shrines, including Badrinath and Kedarnath.
Garhwalis are an Indo-Aryan ethno-linguistic group who primarily inhabit the Garhwal Himalayas. Any person who has ancestral Garhwali roots or lives in Garhwal and has a Garhwali heritage is called a Garhwali. They include all those who speak the Garhwali language or any of its dialects.
The culture of the present Garhwal is an amalgamation of influences from the indigenous population coupled with traditions superimposed by immigrants who settled in the region. A majority of the people are involved in the agriculture, tourism and the defense industry.
The Garhwali language is a Central Pahari language belonging to the Northern Zone of Indo-Aryan and is native to Garhwal.
Garhwali is one of the 325 recognized languages of India, spoken by over 2,267,314 people in Tehri Garhwal, Pauri Garhwal, Uttarkashi, Chamoli, Dehradun and Rudraprayag districts of Uttarakhand. Garhwali is also spoken by people in other parts of India including Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.