The following were the earliest inhabitants of the Himalayan region :
- DASAS The Shivalik hills are believed to have been inhabited during the pre-vedic period by the Dasas. ‘Dasas’, along with ‘Panies’, ‘Asuras’ and ‘Vratyas’ are supposed to be authors of the Indus valley civilization. Chamuri, Dhuni, Pipru and Sushna were their powerful chiefs, who put up strong resistance to the Aryan advancement. Later on, due to the constant efforts of Rishi Vishwamitra and Rishi Vashishta, Dasas were accepted into Aryan fold.
- KINNERS The word Kinner originated from the two Sanskrit words : Kim + Nara means what kind of strange person are they ? This question was raised on account of the fact that Kinner male do not have beard and moustache as abundantly grown in the case of male of other races. There are references about them in ‘the Mahabharta’ and in the immortal epics of Kalidas. According to the legend, Pradumna, son of Lord Krishna was the earliest king of the Kinner.
It is believed that the 131st descendant of this dynasty is Raja Vir Bhadra Singh, six time chief minister of Himachal Pradesh. The Kinners are believed to have inhabited the inner Himalayan terrain right from the Ganges upto the Chandra Bhaga till Gupta period. Presently, the Kinner population is confined to Kinnaur district only.
- KIRATAS ‘Kaivartas’ and ‘Chandalas’ have been mentioned as the low caste people in the history of Kashmir. The Bhairvi classic, ‘Kiratarjuniya’ is woven around the historical battle that took place between the Kirata King and Arjuna. Later on, Kiratas came to be known as ‘Mavanas’ or ‘Mavies’ in the region across the Jamuna and Satluj. The Kirata’s powerful king was Shambar, who fought against the Aryan King ‘Divodas’. The Kiratas were a well ‘organized’ society with a law and order system. They lived in towns and built forts.
The Aryans who came to Himachal sometime around 3000-2500 B.C., crossed the ‘Ravi’ and reached the ‘Beas valley’, where they came face to face with the Kiratas, whose king ruled in the Lower Shivaliks from his stronghold near Baijnath. Rishi Bhardwaj was the advisor of the Aryan king Divodas. The war between Divodas and Shambar lasted for forty years and has been discussed in the Rig Veda by Rishi Vashishta and Vamdeva. In the end Kiratas had to suffer and face the defeat with the destruction of their Ninety nine forts. Shambar and his ally, Verchi were killed at a place named ‘Udubraj’. The Aryans also defeated some minor kings, named Kirang, Parnya and Chumri. Divodas was succeeded by his son ‘Sudas’ and Bhardwaj by another illustrious leader Vashisht.
- NAGAS They inhabited the Himalayan region at one time in the history. They were worshippers of Nagas (serpents). Their famous kings were Vasuki, Kali and Takshaka. Today also, in Himachal Pradesh there are many Naga temples. In the Hindu mythology there are eight nagas viz. Shesh, Takshaka, Vasuki, Vajara, Danshan, Kar Kotik, Kemmali, Sankhu and Kali. Of these Shesh Naga is the most significant and is believed to support the earth on his head.
There are number of shrines dedicated to the Nagas. Some famous ones are : ‘Nagchala’ near Mandi town, ‘Rewalsar lake’ and ‘Kamru Naga’. The most popular festival connected with the worship of the Naga devta is ‘Naga Panchami’ falling in the month of July. ‘Mansa Devi’ is said to be the goddess of Snakes.
- KHASAS The term Khasa is found in Puranic and epic Literature. Khasira of Nepal, Kasya of Kumaon and Gharwal, Khasa of Bhagvata Purana and Vayu Purana are people of the same ethnic stock. The ancient ‘Khasdesh’ was their homeland, situated between the North Western provinces and Nepal. In ‘Brihat Samhita’ of Varahmihira, the Khasas were mentioned with Kulutas (inhabitants of Kullu region), Tanganas and Kashniras.
Today Khasas are distributed in Shimla, Sirmaur, parts of Kullu and Kinnaur districts of Himachal Pradesh and Tehri, Kumaon and Gharwal area of Uttrakhand. In Kinnaur, they call themselves Khashiya and associate themselves with the Rajputs.
- PISHACHAS Pishachas, consumer of raw flesh, inhabited the North frontier and the adjoining Himalayan tract. The tribe known as ‘Rakshas’ in Vedic times were also akin to the Pishachas.
- YAKSHAS In Mahabharta, there is a reference to the encounter between Yudhisthira and his brothers with a Yaksha. They were also known as the tree gods, endowned with mysterious super human powers. However, to ascribe a particular region to such a type of tribe is difficult. Every part of the Himalayan tract, has been providing shelter to almost every kind of tribe.