Modern Tribes

  • SWANGLA        It is a scheduled tribe exclusively living in the Pattan valley tract along the Chandra Bhaga in Lahaul-Spiti district. Like some other tribes, Swangla is a generic term, which includes both Brahmin and Rajputs. Different versions have been given about the origin of the Swanglas. According to the legend, when Taimur invaded this part of the country he drove the Buddhist out and occupied the territory and the people came to be known as Swangla from ‘Swanl’, the earlier name of the area. Another version says that they were mostly immigrants from Chamba, displaying Mediterranean features. This conjecture can be a possible justification in the light of Chamba being adjacent district to Lahaul-Spiti. According to yet another theory, these people have originally migrated from Sangla valley in Kinnaur, which was subjected to Tibetan subjugation. Swanglas are presently living wholly in this tract of the Lahaul-Spiti. Swanglas occupy the remote and inaccessible tract along the banks of the Chandra Bhaga.
  • GADDIS  The word ‘Gaddi’ is a generic name and under it are included Brahmins, Rajputs, Khatris, Thakurs and Rathis. Gaddis are inhabited in Bharmaur tehsil of Chamba district and parts of Kangra district. Some Gaddis are also found in Nurpur tehsil. Gaddis are very simple and honest. They are god fearing and crimes like murder, abduction and theft are very uncommon among them. The girls are bashful and boys are very strong in character. The dialect used by Gaddis is ‘Western Pahari’ language of the Sanskrit Aryan families of Northern group. The religion of Gaddis is ‘Hinduism’. They are ‘Shaiv’ and Lord Shiva is the principal God of the Gaddis. Marriages are celebrated in Gaddi community with great enthusiasm like other communities in Himachal Pradesh. The pre marriage and marriage ceremonies among Gaddis are very interesting, fascinating, elaborate and peculiar.
  • KHAMPA           They are not original habitants of Himachal Pradesh but are believed to have migrated from Tibet. ‘Kham’ is the name of a state in Tibet and the people of that state are known as ‘Khampa’. The Khampas constitute only microscopic minority of the population of the state. It is believed that they came to India about 100 years ago as itinerant traders from Tibet and moved in the upper part of the Himalayas, which they include in their annual nomadic beat. Their families are scattered in Kullu, Chamba, Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti districts. Their population is approximately 1850.
  • PANGWAL        The Pangwals are the residents of Pangi valley of Chamba district. It is a generic name used for all the residents of Pangi valley, which include Brahmin, Rajput, Lohar, Hali, Badi and Chanal, but the Rajput population outnumbers all the rest. During the days of Muslim domination in India, certain Rajput nobles fearing persecution at the hands of Mughals, decided to send their families to a safer place, which was beyond the reach of marauding army of Mughal empire. Pangi was selected as the best place for this purpose. The families were dispatched with security soldiers. In the meantime most of the Rajputs who remined back, died in battles and many were seriously injured and could not join their families at Pangi. When the hopes of their warriors returning , vanished, the Rajput women ultimately married servants and soldiers. The Pangwals today are said to be their descendants. Pangwals have been declared scheduled tribes as per the government notification. The Brahmin and Rajput constitute the bulk of the scheduled tribe population of the Pangwals. There population is about 21000.
  • KINNER OR KINNAURA        The inhabitants of Kinnaur district are known as Kinnaura, Kinara, Kanawara, Kannaura. There are many tribes and castes in India which claim their origin from divine sources and the ‘Kinners’ are one such tribe. In mythological and legendary accounts Kinners are described are a distinct race of demigods, somewhere between human being and gods. They are described in various forms. Some mention them halfman and halfbird. Still other descriptions depict them with a human body and a horse’s head. The Kinnaura are a scheduled tribe. The community occupies valley which has mountainous topography, cold climate, dense forests, heavy snowfall and low rainfall.
  • LAHAULAS       The dwellers of Lahaul area are known as Lahaulas. The people of Lahaul are mixed race. They are mainly Buddhists and their dialect resembles Tibetan. At some point of history, Tibetan settlers came into the head of Bhaga valley and Spiti and poured into head of Chandra valley. Aryans and Semi-Aryans of different stock also came from West to South to the valley and started living there. Therefore, it seems that the present Lahaulas are the ultimate product of the amalgamation of these different races. But unlike the Lahaul valley, the Spitians are purely of Tibetan stock and no race of Hindu or Aryan blood is found here.
  • GUJJARS          The Gujjars are identified by General Cunningham with the Kushan or Yachi or Tochari, a tribe of the Eastern Tartars. About a centuries before Christ, their chief conquered Kabul and Peshawar, while his son Hema Kadbhises extended his sway over the whole of upper Punjab and the banks of the Yamuna as far down as Mathura and the Vindhayas. His successor, King Kanihska, the first Buddhist Indo-Seythian prince, annexed Kashmir to the Kingdom of Tochari. The probability of Gujjars being the descendants of the ancient ‘Yachi’ or ‘Kushan’ is suggested by the fact that besides Jat, they are the only numerous race of foreign origin in the North-Western part of the Indian subcontinent who are known to have been powerful during the early centuries of Christian era. The Hindu Gujjars of Himachal trace their origin from Yashoda, mother of lord Krishna. The Hindu Gujjars are found mostly in the district of Mandi, Kangra, Sirmaur, Solan and Bilaspur, whereas Muslim Gujjars are dispersed in the districts of Chamba, Mandi, Bilaspur, Solan and Sirmaur.
  • JADS      The Jads are Buddhist. They have occupied the area of Pangi and Chamba. Like Pangwals, they are a polyandrous and patrilineal tribe. Being dwellers of cold region they always prefer woolen clothes. They earn their income from agriculture are woolen trade. Like other tribal groups, Jad women are also more hard-working than men. Marriage and Divorce with some variation from civil society is recognized among Jads. Unmarried girls in the region are known as ‘Jomo’. The place of Lama (priest) is very high in the routine matters of the family.
  • KOLI       Broadly the word Koli means the remote inhabitants of Kolarian region, but the term indicates some different meaning, when it is also used in practically the same sense as Dagi or Sippi in the hills. Many theories are prevalent regarding the origin of the Kolis. According to one popular version, they are believed to have sprung from abandoned Kanets who volunteered to remove carcasses in the absence of Chamar when disease claimed the lives of large number of cattle. They are widely distributed throughout the state. In some Shivalik hills, the Kolis call themselves Kshatriya or new Rajput. They are scheduled caste.
  • BARD      The name Bard is variously pronounced as Barad, Barar, Burar or Berar but its etymology is not clear. The origin and migration history of the community is not known, though this community is distributed in various districts viz, Bilaspur, Hamirpur, Kangra, Shimla, Solan and Kullu. There population is about 5000. Their villages were used to be located on rough and rugged hilly terrain of the Shivaliks. They speak local dialects of western Pahari or Himachali like Kehluri (or Bilaspuri), Kangri and Kulvi. The script used is Devanagari in communicating both within and outside the community. They share the local dress and ornaments etc. A great deal of change has taken place in their habitats now. The community is classified as Scheduled caste.
  • CHAMAR           It is a widely spread community of the traditional leather workers. They have been included in the category of scheduled caste. Chamars trace their origin from a legendary ancestor named Chano, who dragged and skinned the dead cow and so was excommunicated by his brother bano. Chano (Chanoor) a great Tantric and Wrestler in the court of Kanda was defeated and killed by Lord Krishna. The Chamars worship Siddh Chano as their community deity in the name of ‘Garha Devta’. Chamars are spread all over the state and named by various names as Mochi, Ravidasi and Ramdasis.
  • CHANAL           Chanal is a scheduled caste community spread all over the state. But their major concentration is in Kinnaur, Shimla, Kullu, Kangra and Chamba. The word Chanal seems to be derived from the Chandala whom all Sanskrit scholars describe as a begotten by a Sudra and a Brahmin. The Chanals correspond regarding their occupation, rituals and customs closely to the Hali of the Chamba and Dagi and Koli of Kullu and Shimla. In district Kangra, Chanals are treated somewhat lower to the Kolis. They occupy a position almost parallel to that of the Hali so much so that their identity is being merged with the latter. Socially , they occupy the position equivalent to that of the communities such as Koli, Dagi, Bansi, Sanhai, Doom and the like.
  • BUJRU    This is broadly regarded as a community of the Dakaut Brahmans who traditionally survived on the alms offered to propitiate inauspicious stars in Hindu astrology, the Shani (Saturn), Rahu and Ketu. The name Bujru is sometimes not liked especially by the educated members of the community, who considers themselves of the Agnihotri clan. In Mandi they are known by the name Giani. A respectable title as Panditji is often given to them. Some use Sharma or Agnihotri as surnames.
  • HALI       The word Hali, means a person who earns his livelihood by hal (plough). They are believed to have come as servants in along with the princess of Delhi in marriage to Chamba, sometimes in the past. The Hali, Arya or Dhingra is mainly employed in field labour, either as farm servants or as tenants. Halis are predominantly found in district Chamba and the areas adjoining to Punjab. They have been classed as scheduled caste. Halis share their homestead with their communities, but in a separate locality, which is usually occupied by them. They converse among themselves in a Chambiali dialect whereas with others they converse in Hindustani.
  • HESI       The Hesis are the traditional vagrant minstrels, who used to subsist by playing a pipe (shehnai) and beating dholak or tamborium, and singing wedding greetings and folk songs. In district Kangra, they are called ‘Hensi’. The Hesis are considered an eighteenth caste on an odd caste. The Sanhai community also plays shehnai, but it is observed that the people consider the Hesi and the Sanhai belonging to same community. Hesis have been given the inauspicious month of Chaitra of the Hindu calendar, which falls during March-April, called ‘Hesion Ka Mahina’ (Hesis month) for begging. They are classified among the scheduled castes in the state. They speak the regional dialects of the Western Pahari e.g. Kangri in Kangra, Bilaspuri in Bilaspur District, and write in Devnagari script within and outside the community. They claim their descent from the Rajputs, but their claims have never been established and are placed among Sudras at par with the Chamar, Dumna and Julaha in the regional social hierarchy.
  • SIPPI       The Sippis are scheduled caste and one of the indigenous communities of the hills, found chiefly in Chamba and Lahaul-Spiti districts of Himachal Pradesh. They are neither aware of ‘Varna Vyavastha’ nor do they place themselves in it. They are described as a ‘weaver of the Gaddi tribe’, found in Bharmaur Wizarat of the Chamba state and virtually the same as Hali. The Sippis live at high altitude in hilly terrain, where the climate is extremely cold and winter months are prolonged with heavy snowfall. They live in homogeneous nucleated villages. The community occupies the lowest place in social hierarchy and this fact is admitted by all.
  • RIHARA  Known variously as Rihara, Rehar or Ruhara, are a scheduled caste. Ofter Rihara and Rehar are confused as one but they are two different communities. The Riharas inhabit the hill terrain of Bharmaur of Chamba district. They speak the Gadiali dialect among themselves and with locals, but with outsiders converse in Hindustani. Their dress resembles that of the Gaddi.
  • TURI       Turis also known as ‘Dhakis’ or ‘Bajgi’ are agriculturists, but their main occupation is music and dancing. They are also known as ‘Dayal’ in the Kiran area of Chaupal tehsil of Shimla district, where their women are famous for the black magic they perform. They speak the language of the area they inhabit. Sirmauri is the commonly spoken language among themselves, whereas with others, Hindustani is spoken.
  • ACHARAJ         The Acharaj are the Brahmin who seek offerings in the name of dead by performing death-rites-Kirya-Karam for various Hindu communities. The Acharya while performing ancestor worship make links with the departed soul through chanting Sanskrit shlokas and the methods of worship of the preta (spirit of the dead). The Acharaj live in small numbers in almost all the districts of Himachal Pradesh. They speak local dialects, as per their areas. They are vegetarian in their food habits.
  • BHAT      Traditionally the Bhats were genealogists and while rulers moved from one place to the other or when they marched towards battle-fields, they followed the troops narrating family histories and heroic deeds of the rulers. The community is identified locally as well as at the regional level. The historical accounts show that they migrated to their present habitat. In Sirmaur, they are found distributed in the trans-giri and cis-giri tracts. They are scattered in the other parts of the state also.
  • BATTARHA       In Punjabi etymology the word battarha is derived from batta, meaning stone, as occupationally they are the stone-workers or dressers/breakers. They are commonly known as ‘Mistri’ and in the profession of stonework they are similar to the ‘Thawins’ of the hills. This community chiefly lives in Kangra, Mandi and Chamba district.
  • KHATIK   The Khatik, a scheduled caste is spread all over the State, except the high altitude areas like Bharmaur, Pangi, Kinnaur, Kullu and Lahaul-Spiti. The Khatiks are believed to be migrated from Punjab and also from Uttar Pradesh, who came to the hills in search of livelihood and started selling meat and acting as butchers. The total population is 1000 in the state.
  • LOHARS (Blacksmith)          The Lohar is one of the village menials, receiving customary dues in the form of a share of the produce, in return for which he makes and mends all the iron implements of agriculture, the materials being provided by the husbandman. The state list has included the Lohar among the scheduled castes. They speak local dialect of Pahari and write in Devnagari script.
  • SUNAR (Goldsmith)   Sunar is the jeweler of the village. He is also, to a great extent, a moneylender, taking ornaments in pawns and making cash advances upon them. ‘Soni’ and ‘Kapila’ are also synonyms for this community. They are distributed all over the state. The community is identified by its occupation. They usually distinguish themselves into gotras like Saul, Kaplash, Handa, Varma, Mehta, Son etc. which serves to regulate marriages and denote ancestry/ descent. In the regional social hierarchy, the Sunar rank at par with the Khatri.
  • THATHERA (Metal Worker)   Thathera is the man who makes the vessels of brass, copper and other mixed metals. The word seems to be merely the name of an occupation. They trace their origin from the hundred-armed Arjuna Sahastraarjuna among the Kshatriyas.
  • JULAHA  They are weavers. The word is literally derived from the Persian ‘Julati’ meaning a ball of thread. A similar etymology of the name is suggested from Hindi Jala or Jali, which means a network of threads. Common synonyms for the community are Julaha and Kabirpanthi or Kabirvanshi as they often associate themselves with and follow the preachings of a well known Hindu saint, Kabir. According to traditional belief Kabir was an abandoned child of a Brahman widow and was brought up by a Julaha couple having no child. The community has been categorized among the Scheduled Castes.
  • KUMHAR           They are the traditional potters of the country who make earthen pots. The name Kumhar is derived from the Sanskrit word Kumbhakar meaning earthen pot or pitcher maker. They are variously pronounced as Ghumahar, Ghamiar, etc.They are widely distributed in the state in almost all districts in the hills and dales in different climates, but prefer warm and temperate climate suitable for their work relating to making earthen pots. The community is identified mainly from its traditional occupation.
  • NAI (Barber)     The Nai is well-known community of barbers. They are also known as Hajam among Muslims. The Nai is honoured on ceremonial occasions of marriage and death as Raja (a king) and his wife (Nain) as Rani (queen). He plays an important role in negotiating marriages for his patrons, acts their messenger to invite people to assemble on ceremonies.
  • SANHAI   The word Sanhai means the one who plays a piped instrument shehnai during ceremonies, religious festivals and in temples. Regarding the migration and history of the community nothing concrete is available. They have been inhabiting the region since time immemorial. The Sanhai is a scheduled caste.
  • SAINI      The Sainis are ‘the market gardener caste of the Hindus in the eastern districts, corresponding to the Mali of Jamuna zone and Arains or Baghwan of the rest of the provinces’. The community is distributed principally in the districts of Hamirpur, Bilaspur, Kangra, Shimla and Sirmaur. They are scheduled caste.  
  • DUMNA   They are found in Chamba, Kangra and Shimla hills. In Chamba, they are called by the name of Dum. Their working material is bamboo. They make sieves, winnowing pans, fans, matting, baskets, screens, grass rope and string, furniture and other articles made of bamboo.
  • TELI        The Teli is an occupational group, consisting of both Hindus and Muslims. Muslims Telis are larger in number. They are listed as the scheduled caste. Combined population of two groups in Himachal is 7000. The history relating to their origin and migration is not known.
  • GHIRATH          They come next to the Brahmin and Rajput as a predominant Hindu community in the North-Western part of state i.e. Kangra, Hamirpur, Una and Bilaspur districts. They are said to be the most tireless people and very industrious and successful cultivators.

KHASHAS ELEMENT IN HIMACHAL

The second and most important element of the population in Himachal Pradesh is their ‘Khashas’ complex. The Khashas originally are from Aryan tribe of central Asia which entered Western Himalayas through the North-West even before the hymns of Rig Veda were composed. Khashas were without caste and class distinction. But with the passage of time and influence from outside, a numbers of castes and sub-castes and clans were developed.

  • BRAHMIN          The Brahmin form one of the largest social groups in India. The original place of the Brahmins was the upper Gangetic region from where they migrated to all parts of the country. In Himachal, Brahmins are spread all over the state except Kinnaur and Spiti. Among various groups of Brahmin in Himachal Pradesh Gaddi, Purohit, Nagarkotia, Bhateru and Bhojki have been mentioned as the leading ones by some scholars.
  • RAJPUT  They are the principal warrior and ruling communities of Himachal Pradesh. They form the largest part of the population of the state. The main clans of Rajput are Katoch, Rathore, Sen, Parmar or Panwar, Chandel, Bhatti, Gehlote or Sisodia, Chauhan, Tanwar or Tomar etc. Rajputs in the hills are descendants from the ruling families founded centuries ago by the adventurers princes from the Indian plains. They speak the dialect of the area which they inhabit, but with the outsiders they speak in Hindustani. The community is non-vegetarian. Their staple diet consists of wheat, makki, rice, pulses of mah, moong, rajmah and vegetables.
  • RATHI     The word ‘Rathi’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘rashtra’ but according to the people, it is derived from ‘Rathor’ as they are believed to have fled from ‘Rajputana’ during the time of Aurangzeb. They are mainly agricultural class and are distributed throughout the Chamba, Shimla, Sirmaur and Kangra.
  • MAHAJAN         The Mahajan literally means ‘the great folk’ are also known as Shah or Shahukar, because of their involvement in the money lending practices. Three main castes from the Mahajan Community are Baniya, Kayashtha and Khatri. Mahajans in Himachal are mainly concentrated in Kangra, Hamirpur, Bilaspur, Chamba and urban centres like Mandi, Kullu, Solan and Shimla. The community is mainly confined to the towns and is engaged in business activities. They are one of the prosperous communities of the state.
  • SOOD     They constitute an important group of the traditional traders and shop keepers like the Bania, Khatri and Mahajan. They are also called a community of traders and clerks. Their main concentration is in district Kangra followed by Hamirpur, Una, Bilaspur, Shimla, Chamba, Mandi, Kullu, Sirmaur and Solan districts.

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