Khuded Geet of Garhwal

Women in Uttarakhand perform labor-intensive work throughout their lives. They collect fodder for cattle, take them out for grazing, and collect firewood and drinking water. Along with other household chores and child care duties, they are responsible for farming and cattle rearing. Their accounts are not recorded in any written documents. While the British colonizers did the extensive recording of physical features, and modern period historians provided information about the lives of men living in the hills, the accounts of women are glaringly missing.

We will not find their stories in written documents, but a rich record of their struggles and lives is present in the Garhwal region’s folk songs. Folk songs can be divided into three groups, ‘Mangal geet,’ –  auspicious songs sung during a wedding, ‘Bhajuband,’-   a dialogue between man and woman, and ‘Khuded geet,’ –  songs sung in longing for someone or something. The term is derived from the term “khud,” meaning longing in Garhwali. 

Khuded songs are oral records kept and sung by married women. While the younger generation learns them from their elders, there is no strict or socially followed learning process. Young women learn them from their mothers who often sing them during weddings and while working in the fields. The songs tell of longings and remembering of their parental homes while being in their in-law’s house. Some Khuded songs are sung for a husband who has migrated to a faraway land for employment. The songs are sung while collecting fodder in the forest and working in the fields. They are sung in the absence of the in-laws. Women sing about their “mait”, their natal village, address their parents and siblings in the songs, or sing complaints about their in-laws’ house being far away from their natal villages. They express their longing for their natal village and often compare their husbands’ villages.

Young women are often married to men from faraway villages making it difficult to visit their native villages as much as they might like. Even married women who are closer to their home villages might only visit sometimes due to the responsibility of their in-laws’ homes, farming, and cattle. Girls are taught chores at a very young age, and trained at the farms and at home. No harsh sun, monsoon, or time can give her an excuse, she has to tend to the cattle before sunrise, collect all the fodder and water, and reach the farm as soon as the sun rises. In the evening she is again responsible for taking all the cattle inside their home to provide them fodder; at night she has to make flour. 

The anxiety of going too far away is seen in Vidai songs where brides ask their father 

“How will I go beyond dark mountains?” 

After her wedding her longing to see her natal village is strong; she requests the mountains to bend a little and trees to spread out a bit so that she can see her father’s village. 

During the months of spring and monsoon her longing for her natal village increases.  In the folk songs, we see women interacting with birds and flowers. The season of spring is culturally associated with the singing of Ghughuti (Spotted Dove) and the blooming of Phyoli (Yellow Flax). Traditionally during these times, daughters-in-law visit their villages. They are invited by their parents and brothers.

In the songs, women ask the Ghughuti to sing in their natal villages so their parents realize spring has arrived and it’s time to invite their daughters home. Similarly, they request the Phyoli to bloom and remind their parents of their married daughters. The same birds and flowers are also asked not to sing or bloom in the in-law’s village. 

Women document their lives in these songs, with words that sing of both longing and complaints. In some songs they are complaining about the way they are being treated, they talk about ruthless behavior in their inlaw house. “Oh sister I live in “Nirdai Nagar” a Ruthless Town, people here speak a bitter language,” “How do I bear their swear when I am unable to understand their language” “How do I devote myself to their feet when I am unable to walk on their path” While in other songs they talk about the difficulties of collecting fodder. “Mother, I have to go deep in the forest each day to collect fodder, this dry country has no good fodder, I have come so far from the house that the natal village’s green mountains are visible,” Some ask their mothers to convince their fathers to visit them and see how they are treated by their inlaws. 

In some songs, we hear women pointing out social evils. They accuse their mothers of getting new jewelry made with the money received after marrying her to an old man. They question their father’s failure to notice the age of the groom and the phlegm behind the chulha. The songs serve as instruction as well,  women are being taught what not to do, and while their pain is being recognized they are being advised. 

“Month of Magh has come, its spreading greenery at each doorstep, 

One who has a family is with her family 

One who doesn’t have a family is crying alone 

Don’t cry in front of uncles, don’t lose your own color”

With changes in lifestyle and migration to urban spaces, many women may no longer face these difficulties; however, they continue to sing these songs in gatherings. Many leading Garhwali singers have sung these Khuded geet for music cassettes and YouTube for entertainment, and to keep the memory of these songs alive. Bringing into question the need for written record, women continue singing the Khuded geet to remember their lives, and those of the generations before them. 



Capila, Anjali. Images of Women in the Folk Songs of Garhwal Himalayas: A Participatory Research. Delhi: Concept Publishing House, 2002. 

Chatak, Govind. Garhwali Lokgeet: Laghu Geet – Khand Ek [Garhwali Folk Songs:Short Songs – Part One]. Dehradun: Sahitya Sadan, 1956. 

Sharma, Mamta. “Khuded Geet: Nostalgic Songs of Garhwali Married Women.” In Media Technology and Cultures of Memory, pp. 39-50. Routledge India.


Reading Options

Subscribe for more


Sign up to our monthly newsletter for new features, calls for submissions, recommendations, writer spotlights and more