11th September 2016

People of the Himalayas

“Individually we are one drop, Together we are an ocean.”

The Himalayas is one wonder of nature that has intrigued us since time immemorial. Its high snow-clad mountains, rich flora and fauna, and scenic beauty have enchanted one and all. But in all this, we have somehow missed another wonderful aspect of it – its people. So, read on and find out more about the people living in the Himalayas, their history, faith, occupations and living conditions. Today, the Himalayan population can be classified into three ethnic types, namely Aryans, Mongoloids and Negroids. But the truth about its original inhabitants is still a point of debate. There is a belief that the first settlement in the Himalayas began in 1500 BC when a warrior tribe called Khasa migrated to its western range. This was followed by the migration of Tibeto-Burman people from Southeast Asia to the eastern and central Himalayas in the early part of the millennia. These people were called the Kiratas. However, if one takes into account the Hindu epics and Puranas, then it is deduced that the native inhabitants of the Himalayan region were the Kinnars, Kiratas, Kulinds and Kilinds, with later migration of the Darads and Khasas.

History tells us that the original inhabitants of the Himalayas were the Kinnars, Kilinds, and Kiratas. Our Hindu epics and Puranas give reference of their existence in the Himalayan regions. History also mentions the names of Khasas and the Darads. But today only three different ethnic groups form the Himalayan population. They are the Negroids, Mongoloids and the Aryans. The population, settlement in the Himalayan region is greatly influenced by the topography, economic pattern and the climatic condition. There is a complex blend of racial patterns in the people of Nepal. The dominant castes of Hindus, namely Chetri, Brahmin and Thakur, along with others, speak Nepali. The Tamangs, Limbus, Magars and Gurungs of Mongoloid strains dominate the middle hills and form the organized groups of tribal hill farmers. The Sherpas from the Solo Khumbu region of the northeast are among the many groups of Bhutiyas that speak in Tibetan dialects.

The climate condition is one of the main factors for the population settlements since extreme climatic condition imposes a restriction on the living conditions and tends to restrict movement and communication. But the ethnic groups living in remote valleys of the Himalayan region have generally conserved their traditional cultural identities. But improvements in communication and transportation system have improved the lifestyle of the people living in those regions. The modernization is affecting the traditional cultural and social system of the areas. The population in the Himalayan region is nearly about 40 million. The Hindus of the Indian origin mainly dominate the Sub Himalayan and the Middle Himalayan valleys. In central Nepal, both Indian and Tibetan cultures have blend together, producing a mixed culture of Indian and Tibetan traits.

Another aspect that holds true for all those dwelling in the Himalayas and its foothills is that they worship mountain as their life-giver, preserver and protector. All the communities living in the Himalayan region are nature-dependent, and strongly ethnic and religious. However, this may not be exactly true for those residing in the arid wilderness of the dense forests of the eastern slopes and northern flanks; here people are quite fierce and warrior-like. However, in general sense, the people dwelling in the Himalayas are basically peace-loving. And this can be totally experienced when exploring the various Himalayan destinations. Their warm hospitality makes one realize that they are totally respectful towards the environment they live in, and that their harsh living conditions do not hamper their spirits or way of enjoying life.

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