By no means complete, the following list of contemporary cultural artists gives a taste of the rich diversity of the performing arts from the Uttarakhand region.

First and foremost, a huge debt is owed to Mohan Upreti (1928-1997), who more than anyone pioneered efforts to rescue and revitalize Uttarakhandi Kumaoni balladeering and folkloric traditions. As a revolutionary playwright and composer of national repute, the Almora-born Upreti established the Parvatiya Kala Kendra in Delhi to promote hill arts and culture. Their latest plays, Kagaar Ki Aag and Prahari Hain Hum Jungal Ki, have continued this proud contribution to Uttarakhandi culture, as have their traditional Kumaoni Ram Lilas. Upreti is further profiled here.

Thakur Bir Singh is also another notable patron of Uttarakhandi culture who has passed on, founding the Akhil Garhwal Sabha in the 1950s, and sponsoring the first Uttarakhand Mahotsavs that raised the profile of Uttarakhandi music and theatre across the state. In recent years, the AGS has also hosted the Uttarakhand Lok Natya Mahotsav in the off years between Uttarakhand Mahotsavs.

Jeet Singh Negi is considered to be the father of modern Garhwali folk music. He was the first to give voice to Garhwali language and sentiments as far back as the 1940s and became a Garhwali institution in Dehradun in the post-independence period. His music and plays maintained the Garhwali culture during a time of rapid change. Gopal Babu Goswami, Chandra Singh Rahi, and Heera Singh Rana are three other folk singers from Kumaon and Garhwal who made their mark, bridging traditional jagaars with the contemporary folk sounds that dominate today’s regional music industry.
‘Girda’ Girish Tiwari and Narender Singh Negi, pictured here together in a Jugalbandhi, are fitting companions that unite Kumaon and Garhwal within a revolutionary Uttarakhand. Negi is the most popular Garhwali folk singer of all time with his enormous yearly output of quality songs, while Girda has only grown in stature as the people’s poet and troubadour of the authentic political and cultural sentiments of all Uttarakhand.
Rajendra Dhasmana was an integral part of the cultural awakening of the 70s, penning several plays such as Arddh Grameshwar, before becoming one of Uttarakhand’s senior journalists and human rights activists. He served as chief editor of the Collected Works of Gandhi, a desk editor for Doordarshan, and most recently is currently active as president of Uttarakhand’s branch of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties.
This snapshot brings together three key figures in the contemporary Uttarakhandi cultural scene — Alok Malasi, music composer extraordinaire, Anil Bisht, director of some of the most popular Uttarakhandi videos, and Gananand, Uttarakhand’s best known and funniest comedian-actor.
In this still from the upcoming feature, Yaad Ali Tehri, we have Uma and Madan Duklan, contemplating their lost years against the backdrop of old Tehri, now submerged by a dam reservoir. Madan Duklan has appeared in many recent films and television specials and continues to be a cultural force in Dehradun, where he works with the Akhil Garhwal Sabha and publishes Chitthi-Patri, a long-running Garhwali-language publication, samples of which are archived here.
Dr. D.R. Purohit is Director of the newly constituted Centre for Folk Performing Arts and Culture at the H.N.B. Garhwal University and perhaps the foremost folklorist scholar in Uttarakhand. Purohit has written several of his own plays, as well as translated local variants of the Mahabharata. He has also recently produced Burdheva, a mask drama on the travails of the common man, and written about the Garhwali Ram Lila tradition.
Led by Zahoor Alam, Yugmanch Nainital has been at the forefront of the Uttarakhand cultural renaissance, giving voice to the diverse cultural traditions of the Kumaon hills for at least two decades. They have recently completed a documentary on Uttarakhand folk dances, a trailer for which can be viewed here.
Creative Uttarakhand is a new and vibrant group of young professionals who are dedicated to preserving and celebrating the authentic art forms of Uttarakhand hills. Based primarily in Delhi, the group is also savvy in the use of new technologies to “spread culture to the next generation.”

– Rajiv Rawat
June 21, 2008