Ancient and Modern Tribes of Himachal Pradesh

By | November 6, 2016

Ancient tribes of Himachal Pradesh:

Dasas (Dasyu) – Inhabitant of Shivalik Hills during the Pre-Vedic period. Chamuri, Dhuni, Pipru and Sushna were powerful chiefs of Dasas. Dasas were accepted into the Aryan fold due to the constant efforts of Rishi Vishwamitra and Rishi Bhardwaj.

Khasas – Inhabitant of Shimla, Sirmaur, parts of Kullu and Kinnaur District of Himachal Pradesh and Tehri, Kumaon and Garhwal area of Uttrakhand.  In ‘Brihat Samhita‘ of Varahamihira. the Khasas were mentioned with Kuluta, Tanganas, and Kashniras.  In Kinnaur, they call themselves Khashiya and associate themselves with Rajputs. Khasas at present represent both the Brahmin and Kshatriya part of the population. Khasas have Khoond (warrior group). Khood has two sub-groups.

  1. Shatha – sixty i.e. Kaurva group
  2. Pasha – five i.e. Pandava group

Their common interest is Thoda (Martial-bow and arrow game).

Kinners – Kinner originated from the two Sanskrit words; Kim + Nara, means what kind of person are they?  The look of the Kinner is that of a ‘half man and half horse’ means the people with ‘Ashwamukha’. They are believed to have inhabited the inner Himalayan terrain right from the River Ganges up to the River Chandra Bhaga till Gupta Period.

  • According to Bhagwata Purana, Kinner traces their origin from the shadow of Lord Brahma.
  • Kalidasa has mentioned them in his book Kumarsambhava.
  • Rig Veda has no mention of Kinners.
  • It is believed that Vir Bhadra, former CM of Himachal Pradesh, is 131st descendant of Kinners.

Kiratas – In the history of Kashmir, ‘Chandalas’ and ‘Kaivaratas’ have been mentioned as the low caste people. Later on, Kiratas came to be known as ‘Mavies’ or ‘Mavanas’ in the region across the River Satluj and Yamuna. The Kirata’s King Sambhar fought against the Aryan King ‘Divodasa’ and the war lasted for forty years, discussed in the Rig Veda by Rishi Vashista and Vamdeva. In this war, Kiratas had to suffer. ‘Sambhar’ and his ally Verchi were killed at a place namedUdubraj. Rishi Bhardwaj was the advisor of Aryan King Divodas.

Nagas – They were the worshiper of Nagas (Serpents) and believed to have inhabited the Himalayan region. Their famous Kings were Vasuki, Kali, and Takshaka.

  • Mansa Devi is said to be the goddess of snakes.
  • In Kangra some places such as Shibu-ka-than near Nurpur, Saloh near Palampur and Tripal (Kangra) where Naga Shrines known for curing snake bite are situated.
  • In Bharmaur (Chamba), there is a temple of Kelang Naga near the village Kugti.

Pishachas – This tribe is known as ‘Rakshsas’ in Vedic times. They were the consumer of raw flesh and believed to have inhabited North Frontier and the adjoining Himalayan tract.

Yakshas – In Mahabharata, there is a reference to the encounter between Yudhishtra and his brothers with a Yaksha. They were known as the tree gods, endowed with mysterious superhuman powers.

Modern Tribes of Himachal Pradesh:

Swangla – The Swangla is a Schedule Tribe living in the Pattan valley tract along the River Chandra Bhaga in District Lahaul – Spiti. They are Rajput and Brahmins. The languages spoken by them are Manchhad (mixture of Tibetan and Hindi), Chinnali (spoken by the Sipi and the Lohar), Bhoti (spoken by Bodhs), and Tinan or Tinent (spoken by people of Sisu area).

Swangla resembles the Munda speaking tribe of Bengal, Bihar and Central India.

Local drink consumed by men is called Chhang.

Marriage System of Swangla:

  • Rusta-te-Byah: Marriage by elopement (where a girl and boy fall in love with each other and marry).
  • Kua-Byah: Marriage by capture by boy
  • Mazmi Byah: Boy sends his sister to bring the girl as he is unable to bear marriage expenses.

Divorce System: 

  • Tsud-Thvagchi: Divorced couple hold the thread that symbioses the breaking of matrimonial bond.

Khampa – They are believed to have migrated from Tibet. They settled in Kullu, Chamba, Kinnaur, and Lahaul – Spiti Districts. In Kullu valley, they are known as ‘Bauddh’ and in some other parts, they are known as Tibtees. In Spiti division they are known as ‘Piti Khampa’; in Kinnaur as ‘Kunnu Khampa; in Kullu as ‘Neondi Khampa’; in ChambaThava Khampa’; in Lahaul as ‘Gharja Khampa’. They have been included in the Schedule Tribe category. The Dialect spoken by them is known as ‘Khampa’.

In Uttrakhand, they are known as Shah Khampa.

Marriage and divorce system:

  • Their marriages are generally fixed by negotiator known as Phakhtum.
  • Divorce in Khampas is known as Jatsari-Jha-Dal-Va or Jha-Cho-Che.

Khampas believe in four sects of Lamaistic Buddhism. They are:

  1. Galuka
  2. Ningama-pa
  3. Sakya-pa
  4. Kharguda-pa

Major Fairs: 

  • Losar (New Year): 24th or 25th of February
  • Galde Gamche: May
  • In Spiti and Kinnaur, Goetr and Ladarcha fair are held in which Khunnu and Piti Khampa take part.

Other info:

  • The most popular design of Khampas is Dragon.
  • Khampas brought Pashmina wool to India.
  • Traditional council of Khampas is known as Shuzam Chungi headed by Gova.

Pangwal – The Pangwals are the residents of Pangi Valley of District Chamba. According to Census of India, 1961 village monograph on Kupha, Pasams, Tamoh and Malet (Singh 1961) because of the difficult terrain of the area, the authorities considered it the best place to send those criminals who were condemned to life long sentences. The criminals supposed to have been settled here permanently.

Every household possesses a Choori that is a cross between yak and cow.

Marriage system of Pangwals:

  • Pith Chuk or Chori: Marriage by capture
  • Doghri: Marriage by exchange
  • Topi Lana: Widow remarriage

Divorce system: Divorce is known as Charde.

Important festivals:

  • Tyane: Celebrated in August
  • Dikhrain: Celebrated in the month of Savan
  • Parvach: Celebrated in the month of Bhadon
  • Hishoo: New year day
  • Miniach

Inheritance and customary law:

  • Pagwand: All male offspring of a wife share the property equally.
  • Chundavand: Property in the first instance is divided among the number of wives and then their respective share is divided equally among their male children.

Kinner or Kannaura – The inhabitants of District Kinnaur are known as Kinnaura, Kinara or Kannuaura. Kinner originated from the two Sanskrit words; Kim + Nara, means what kind of person are they?  The look of the Kinner is that of a ‘half man and half house’ means the people with ‘Ashwamukha’. The Kinners speak the Kinnauri dialect, which, according to G.A. Grierson comes under the Himalayan group of Tibet – Burman family of language. Besides, Bhoti is also spoken in upper Kinnaur. Kinnaur is called ‘Khunu’ by the Tibetans. Janetang or Janekang is a most common, legal and widely practiced marriage system by the Kinnauras.

Kinners finds mention in the followings scriptures:

  • In Mahabharata, they have been grouped with the Gandharvas.
  • In Matsya Purana, their kinship is with Kirata and the Yakshas.
  • In Vayu Purana, they are said to be the inhabitants of Mahand Mountains.
  • Jain and Buddhist scripts have mentioned about Kinners.

Kinnauras have two broad categories:

  1. Khasia or Rajputs (further divided into Orang, Morang, and Waza).
  2. Beru (further divided into Domang and Chamang).

Marriage and Divorce system of Kinners:

  • Dam Chalshish/Damtang Shish/Benang Hachhis/Jushish: Love marriage
  • Darosh/Dubur/Nyamsha Lemo/Nyamsha Depang/Ashish/ Huchis: Marriage by force
  • Janekang/Janetang: Common marriage
  • Nyotang Merang: A form of marriage in which only two persons go in marriage because of poor financial conditions.

Divorce: Husband and wife hold a dry long twig of Shur tree in their right hand and break it with a jerk. Broken pieces are thrown backway. This ritual is known as Shing Tag Tag or Shingtickashimig or thag Chocha. 

Death rituals:

  • Dubant: Drowning
  • Phukant: Burning
  • Bhakhant: Eating by vultures and birds.

Other info:

  • In Hangrang valley, the lama recites Phoa which is a narration whispered in the ear of the dead body.

Lahaulas – The dwellers of Lahaul area are known as Lahaulas. Lahaulas have evolved from corss bredding of Aryan and Mangolian racial types. They are mainly Buddhist and their dialect resembles Tibetan. Spitians are purely of Tibetan stock and no race of Hindu or Aryan blood is found there.

Marriage and Divorce system of Lahaulas:

Arrange marriage in Lahaulas called ‘Tabhagston’ and Love marriage is called ‘Kumai Bhagston’. Their famous local drink is ‘Lugri’.

Divorce: A divorce is completed by performing Kudpa Chadche in which the pair makes a thin thread of wool and hold it by the little finger and pull it apart.

Gujjars – The Gujjars are identified by General Cunningham with the ‘Kushan’ or ‘Tochari’ or ‘Yachi’, a tribe of the Eastern Tartars. The Gujjars are supposed to be the descendants of ‘Huns’ of Gurjaras.

Hindu Gujjars of Himachal Pradesh trace their origin from Yashoda, mother of Lord Krishna and mostly found in Mandi, Sirmaur, Solan, Chamba, and Kangra. Hindu Gujjar leads a settled life and agriculture. They keep a cow and the milk is only for self-consumption and not for sale.

Muslim Gujjars are found in Chamba, Mandi, Solan, Bilaspur, and Sirmaur. Muslim Gujjars speak Gujjari dialect, which is a mixture of Gujarati, Dogri, and Urdu. Their script is Perso-Arabic. Muslims Gujjars have two sub-groups: Bhatariye and Bhanariye. They are pastorals and they sell milk and milk products. They keep migrating from low to high and high to low altitudes according to climatic conditions.

Jads – Jads are mainly Buddhist.  They have occupied the area of Pangi and Chamba. They earn their income from agriculture and wool trade. Unmarried girls in the region are known asJomo.

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