Uttarakhand, nestled in the lap of the Himalayas, is not only renowned for its breathtaking landscapes and spirituality but also for its rich cultural heritage. The state is inhabited by a diverse array of tribes, each with its distinct customs, traditions, and lifestyle. These tribes have played a significant role in shaping the history and culture of Uttarakhand. In this blog post, we will explore the 10 major tribes of Uttarakhand, delving into their fascinating origins, unique practices, and their contributions to the vibrant tapestry of the state’s identity.
1. Jaunsari Tribe: The Guardians of the Hills
The Jaunsari tribe, primarily residing in the Jaunsar-Bawar region of Uttarakhand, is known for their indomitable spirit and close association with the hills. Traditionally, they have been agriculturists and have an intimate knowledge of the region’s flora and fauna. Even today, the Jaunsaris maintain their distinctive way of dressing, adorned in colorful traditional attire. Their dance form, “Jhumelo,” is a visual treat and reflects their joyous and vivacious nature.
2. Bhotiya Tribe: The Mountain Warriors
The Bhotiya tribe, residing in the border areas of Uttarakhand, has a fascinating lineage dating back to Tibet. Known for their courage and resilience, the Bhotiyas have traditionally been traders, serving as the lifeline of connectivity between India and Tibet. Their vibrant festivals, such as ‘Holi’, celebrated with great zeal, attract visitors from far and wide. The Bhotiyas are also known for their exceptional woolen craftsmanship, especially in the form of shawls and carpets.
3. Tharu Tribe: The Nature’s Children
The Tharu tribe, primarily inhabiting the Terai region of Uttarakhand, shares a close affinity with the lush jungles and wildlife. Historically, they have been skilled hunters and gatherers. The Tharu community is known for their expertise in traditional medicine and herbal remedies, passed down through generations. Their rich folklore and dance forms captivate audiences and provide a glimpse into their harmonious coexistence with nature.
4. Raji Tribe: The Forest Dwellers
The Raji tribe, residing in the Pithoragarh and Champawat districts of Uttarakhand, are deeply connected to the forests and rivers of the region. They have been practicing shifting cultivation and gathering forest produce as their primary means of livelihood. The Rajis have a distinct art form called ‘Chaufula,’ which involves intricate wood carvings and reflects their close association with nature.
5. Van Rawat Tribe: The Custodians of Jungles
The Van Rawat tribe, residing in the Bageshwar and Almora districts of Uttarakhand, have been the custodians of the dense jungles of the region for centuries. They have an extraordinary knowledge of herbs and plants and are renowned healers. The Van Rawats pay homage to their deities through the ‘Bagwal’ festival, a unique event where people engage in a lively stone-throwing ritual.
6. Jaunpuri Tribe: The Mountain Shepherds
The Jaunpuri tribe, primarily residing in the hills of Uttarakhand, has a rich cultural heritage closely tied to their occupation as shepherds. They are known for their skill in sheep rearing and wool spinning. The Jaunpuris have a traditional music form called ‘Dhol Damau,’ accompanied by soul-stirring dance performances.
7. Buksa Tribe: The Guardians of Kumaon
The Buksa tribe, mainly residing in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, has a deep-rooted connection with forests and mountains. Historically, they have been involved in agriculture and allied activities. The Buksa community celebrates their vibrant culture through an annual fair called ‘Dhurva Mela.’ This fair showcases their distinctive arts, crafts, and culinary traditions.
8. Munda Tribe: The Mighty Warriors
The Munda tribe, residing in the Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand, has a strong warrior lineage. They have been brave defenders of their land, known for their unparalleled combat skills. The Mundas have several unique rituals and festivals, such as ‘Magh Mela,’ which involve offerings to their ancestors and seek their blessings for prosperity and protection.
9. Marchi Tribe: The Brave Hunters
The Marchi tribe, primarily residing in the Mandakini valley region of Uttarakhand, have a rich hunting heritage. They possess exceptional knowledge of wildlife and hunting techniques, often using intricate traps to catch their prey. The Marchi people celebrate ‘Hudki,’ a festival dedicated to Goddess Hudki, to seek divine blessings for a successful hunting season.
10. Gujjar Tribe: The Nomadic Herders
The Gujjar tribe, residing in the hills and valleys of Uttarakhand, has a nomadic lifestyle centered around the herding of livestock. They migrate along with their herds, seeking favorable pastures. The Gujjars are known for their expert dairying skills and are famous for producing high-quality dairy products such as ghee and cheese. Their distinctive folk dances and music reflect their vibrant culture and customs.
Uttarakhand is a melting pot of diverse tribes, each contributing to the state’s cultural heritage in their unique way. From the courageous Bhotiyas to the nature-loving Tharus, each tribe has a captivating story to tell. Exploring the culture, customs, and traditions of these tribes provides a deep understanding of Uttarakhand’s rich heritage. We hope this blog post has ignited your curiosity, encouraging you to delve further into the enchanting world of Uttarakhand’s tribes and their magnificent tapestry of history and culture. So, pack your bags, and embark on a journey to witness the splendor of Uttarakhand’s tribes firsthand!