The Anthropological Survey of India (ASI) launched the People of India project on 2 October 1985 to generate an anthropological profile of all the communities of India, the impact of change and the development process on them, and the factors that bring them together.
As part of this all-India project the first ever ethnographic survey of Himachal Pradesh was undertaken by the ASI in collaboration with local scholars. One hundred and sixteen communities have been studied, in addition to eight communities surveyed later, covering dimensions such as language, culture and human biology.
Himachal Pradesh emerged as a distinct political entity after independence. However, it has always been part of Indian history and culture and some of its peoples and regions have figured in our myths, epics, Puranas and history. While there are many communities which are unique to Himachal Pradesh, there are many others who have settled there later and become part of the Himachali identity. Linguistically, Himachal Pradesh is known for its heterogeneity and the dominance of the languages of the Pahari subgroup. Bio-anthropologically, the communities belong to different ethnic stocks, with a substantial admixture of populations.
The state is marked by a high incidence of non-vegetarianism, stratification, junior levirate and sororate; the institution of polyandry and the relative freedom of women, including the freedom to remarry; stronger linkages, vibrant folkore and widespread folk cults. Himachal Pradesh is a dynamic state forging ahead in many areas of development. However, its depleting natural resources are a cause for concern.
K.S. Singh is Former Director General of the Anthropological Survey of india
Himachal Pradesh emerged as a distinct territorial identity, after independence on 15 April 1948. The state was enlarged with the addition of Bilaspur state in 1954 and some areas from Punjab after the organisation of Punjab in 1966. However, various parts of the present-day Himachal Pradesh are recalled in folkore and history and have been associated with numerous episodes in the epics and the puranas. The Trigarta played a glorious role in the Mahabharata war. Both the Kaurvas and Pandavas are identified with the local gods, and Krishna became a dominant influence. The lower parts of Himachal Pradesh which consist of the plains became part of the kingdoms that rose and fell in the Punjab.
The Nag figure both as myth and as a people in the folkore of Himachal Pradesh from the very early times. The Nag rulers were transformed into local gods. The Nag are worshipped as the guardians of hills and streams, as village deities, as protector of crops and the symbol of fertility and sexuality. The peoples who have Nag totem are said to have descended from Nag and they are the Brahman and Rajput who have Kashyap gotra: they also have Nag as their title and the local variants of Nag such as Khadpa, Goslu and Pundrik as their gotras.
The state has three well defined eco-cultural zones which are intrinsic to the understanding of various ethnic identities. For instance, the upper niches of the Himalayas are dominated by the communities following the Mahayan tradition of Buddhuism or Lamaism, speaking languages belonging to the Tibeto-Burman family and practising pastoralism (9.48 per cent as against national average of 1.90 per cent), horticulture (15.52 per cent against 4.27 per cent), animal husbandry (40.52 per cent against 21.55 per cent), etc. The middle belt is dominated by the communities following terrace cultivation (25.86 per cent against 4. 75 per cent) and horticulture and some elements of pastoralism, following Hinduism (78.45 per cent against 76.35 per cent) and folk religions. Ethnically they belong to Khas, Kuninda and Kol, speaking the languages belonging to the Indo-Aryan family. The lower belt consists of the sub-mountainous ranges and plains peopled by the communities such as the immigrants (61.21 per cent against 59.98 per cent) with an exposure to the larger world practising settled cultivation (21.55 per cent against 35.12 per cent), business and trade (43.97 percent against 33.59 percent), speaking Pahari languages.
Himachal Pradesh has always evoked a sense of wonder and mystery. It is known for some of its communities, which are somewhat unique and have no parrallel elsewhere in the country. The Khas (kanet) and Kinnaura are an autochthonous community. The Mawi a traditional warrior segment a Kanet community are noted for 'Dheeng'-war strategy. The Pangwal and Swangla are agriculturists and pastoralists, besides being bee-keepers. The Seok is an isolated Kanet group of Bhangal area of Mandi and Kangra districts, practising pastoralism and animal husbandry. The Malaneese are the most isolated people residing at an altitude of 2633 metres in Kullu. They are noted for their democratic village organisation which has been romanticised a great deal. The Malaneese as the first republic in the world, with i. own executive and judicial system and bicameral legislature representing people and households, subject to the will of ultimate arbiter, the local god, as interpreted by gur are also noted for collecting and selling honey and wild medicinal plants. The Nar and the Beda are noted for the Narmedha ceremonies known as the kahika and the Bhunda, respectively. The Sipi is a musician community a the lower social order speaking a language that retains Sanskrit characters. Many or the communities trace their descent to the Puranic and historical characters. The state has unique ethnographic trai. such as widespread propitiation of village deities particularly the female deities, culminating in the unique Dussehara in Kullu.
Many communities of the present-day Himachal Pradesh particularly in the lower region were studied as part of the general ethnographic survey conducted in the north-western provinces including Punjab. However, it is for the first time that all the communities of Himachal Pradesh have been ethnographically studied in a compreshensive format by the scholars from the Anthropological Survey of India, Himachal Academy of Arts, Culture and Languages and other institutions as well as by independent scholars. The materials were discussed at a workshop held in Shimla in October 1989.
The total number of communities studied in Himachal Pradesh is 116. To these have been added 8 more communities later (see Appendix A). The analysis of the data presented in the format is based on the study of 116 communities only because the data for the communities reported later have not been included in the data set for Himachal Pradesh. Many of the identities are in a state of fluidity, and even overlap.
Populations a Himachal Pradesh have been extensively studied for different biological traits owing to their unique position. The All India Anthropometric Survey suggets. that the hill people are generally short to below medium in stature (162.33 cms), have long (53.48 per cent) to round (25.76 ,r cent) head, narrow to below medium (48.17 per cent) nose and round (32.36 per cent) to long (33.11 per cent) face. However, the scheduled tribes have broad to medium facial profile. Dermatoglyphic studies indicate that loops (49-60 per cent) preponderate over whorls (36-49 per cent) in other communities, but show equal range in the tribal groups of loops (38-57 per cent) and whorls (37-60 per cent) except Mongoloid tribes where whorls (53 per cent) show relatively high frequency than loops (44 per cent). Pattern intensity index varies from 11 to 15 per cent in other communities, and from 13 to 15 per cent in tribal groups. Colour blindness has low incidence (0-6 per cent).
Geography and Ecology
`Himachal', or the land of the snow as it is called, lies in the lap of the Himalayas. It is bounded on the north by Jammu and Kashmir, on the south-east by Uttar Pradesh, Haryana on the south, and Punjab on the west. On the eat it forms India's border with Tibet. It is located between 32° 22'40" to 39 12'40" north latitude and 79 47'55" to 79° 04'22" cast longitude. The territory is totally mountainous with an altitude in the State varying from 350 metres to 7000 metres above sea level. It covers an area of 55,673 square kilometres and accounts for nearly 1.7 per cent of the total geographical area of the country. However, it has only 0.62 per cent of its population, at the rate of 77 persons per square kilometre as against the national population density of 208 persons per square kilometre according to the 1981 Census figures.
Physiographically Himachal Pradesh can be divided into four well-marked parallel zones differing from one another in orographical, hydrographical as well as vegetational features. These zones are:
1. Outer Himalaya or the sub-Himalaya or the Shivalik range;
2. Middle or Lesser Himalaya;
3. Inner or Great Himalaya; and
4. Trans-Himalaya or Tibetan Himalaya.
Outer Himalaya: It forms a continuous chain, parallel to the principal Himalaya and forms the southern part of the State, with height ranging from 600 metres to 1,200 metres. In ancient times the Shivalik ranges were known as Mainak Parbat. The word 'Shivalik' literally means the 'hairlocks of Shiva'. These ranges arc somewhat steep and have cliff-like slopes in the south whereas they have gentle slopes towards the northern valley called dun or door. Between the Ravi and the Yamuna rivers, the Shivaliks maintain a regular and conspicuous form. Asa result of high deforestation the Shivaliks have been badly eroded. This enormous erosion has given birth to numerous tiro which are torrential and seasonal streams and can be seen in abundance in the Una district.
Middle Himalaya: Between the Greater Himalaya and Shivalik ranges are found the middle or lesser Himalaya with an elevation of 2,000 metres to 3,300 metres. The series of parallel ranges are divided by longitudinal valleys (the only exception being the Kull valley which runs at a right angle). The Kangra valley is a longitudinal trough or depression at the foot of the Dhauladhar range.
Going from east one finds a topography consisting of low, tangled and scrub jungles covering the hills. The Beas valley is quite wide near Mandi. Beyond Mandi, Beas has cut awe-inspiring gorges in Dhauladhar at Laiji and Aut. Above the sulphur springs of Vashishta the valley shows signs of glaciation.
Inner Himalaya: This is the highest range of the Himalayas and forms a single mountainous range generally distinguishable by its many peaks. These mountain ranges attain an altitude of 5,000 metres to 6,500 metres above sea level. The great Himalayan range in Himachal Pradesh is the eastern extension of the mighty Great Himalayas starting from Nanga Parbat in the west. The Pir-Panjal range also joins the Great Himalayan range near Deo Tibba in Himachal Pradesh. Between these two ranges is situated the valley of Lahaul. The range is cut across by a gorge of the Satluj river which works as a water divide between the Spiti and Beas drainage systems. The range crosses the Satluj valley near Chini and Kalpa, where Kinnar kailash is the highest peak (6,473 metres). In the east a high-level dissected plateau is centered at Pooh. Many remnants of past glaciation in this valley are found.
Trans-Himalaya: It lies behind the Inner Himalaya with a width of approximately 40 kilometres, and at places is cut by the rivers flowing in a southernly direction with their basins at an altitude varying from 3,000 to 4,300 metres above sea level.
Vegetation types: The zonal distribution of forest vegetation from the outer foothills through the middle Himalaya to the central ranges is determined primarily by the altitude, though geology, soil and other biotic factors exert a considerable influence. The altitude determines sub-tropical, temperate and alpine vegetation from the sub-mountainous tracts to the snowy ranges. The effect of the altitude varies with relative elevation and is further modified by other factors. In general, a site of 270 metres in the hills corresponds to a fall of one degree centigrade in the mean temperature up to about 1500 metres, above which the temperature fall is more rapid.
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