Major Ethnic Groups
history of peopling of Jammu and Kashmir State is a record of constant impulses
of immigration from the north-west, west, south and east directions. The alien
races, ethnic groups and various religions have influenced the cultural ethos
and mode of life of the people of this region.
Ethnic group, in the
opinion of Jordon is a group of people possessing a common ancestry and cultural
tradition with a feeling of belonging and cohesiveness, living as a minority in
a larger society. Each social group is the keeper of distinctive cultural
traditions and the nucleus of various kinds of social interactions. An ethnic
group provides not only group identity, but also friendship, marriage patterns,
business success, and the political power base.
The mosaic of ethnic group
in Jammu and Kashmir State is complex and the race structure cannot be explained
without understanding the pre-historic movements of people. In the process of
peopling of the region, the Dards in the north-west, the Ladakhis in the east,
the Gujjars and Rajputs in the south and Paharis in the south-east have closely
influenced the existing ethnicity of the people. The racial composition of the
State was also influenced by the immigrants from the territories of Turkmenia,
Tadzkistan, Uzbaikistan, Kazakistan, Georgia, Azerbaijan (U.S.S.R.) Turkey,
Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan.
The various ethnic groups
of the Jammu and Kashmir State though intermingled have their areas of high
concentration. For example, Kashmiris are mainly concentrated in the Valley
bottom; Dards occupy the valley of Gurez; Hanjis are confined to water bodies of
Kashmir; Gujjars and Bakarwals are living and oscillating in the Kandi areas;
Dogras ocoupy the outskirts of the Punjab plain, while Chibhalis and Paharis
live between Chenab and Jhelum rivers. Moreover, there are numerous small ethnic
g}oups like Rhotas, Gaddis and Sikhs which have significant concentration in
isolated pockets of the State.
Kashmiris are well spread
in various parts of the State but their major concentration lies in the Valley
of Kashmir, Kishtwar, Bhadarwah, Doda and Ramban tehsils of the Jammu Division.
'Kashmiri' is a wide term
which has loosely been applied for several streams of immigrated mainly from
Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Afghanistan, and settled in the valley. There is
a close bearing of the Indo-Aryans on the racials composition of the Kashmiris.
In fact, the Indo-Aryan religions and languages have substantially affected the
mode of life of the Kashmiris. The influence of Sanskrit on Kashmiri language is
strong and cogent to this day. Moreover, Kashmir has also received racial
impulses from Indo-Greeks which have influenced the race structure of the people
considerably. The influence of Dards, Ladakhis and Punjabis has also moulded the
ethos of Kashmiri culture.
A Kashmiri woman carrying
a samavar of tea to the fields.
Kashmiri Muslim women at
work in a village of Kashmir.
A Kashmiri Pandit Family -
a style in itself.
Kashmiris are broad
shouldered and usually of medium to tall stature. They are much dolichocephic,
have a well developed forehead, a long narrow face, regular features and a
prominent straight and finely cut nose. They wear short pyjamas, a long loose
large sleeved gown locally known as Pharan, and a skull cap. In intellect they
are superior to their neighbours and efficient in business. In disposition they
are talkative, cheerful and humerous.
Most of the Kashmiris live
in villages and are dependent on agriculture. Paddy, orchards, saffron are the
main crops grown by them while the urban Kashmiris are engaged in business,
tourism, hotel-management, carpet making, silk industry, shawl-making, wood
work, pieper-mache and several other handicrafts.
Dards have a long history.
Ptolemy in his book 'Almagast' has used the word Daradrai for Dards of the
western Himalayas. Before embracing Islam, they were the followers of Budhism
and Hinduism. At present their major concentration lies in Dardistan (Derdesa),
the area to the north of Kashmir Valley, especially in the catchment of
Kishanganga north of Sardi, Gurez and Tilel.
A Dard inhabitant of Ladakh.
In the opinion of Leitner,
Dards belong to Aryan stock. This opinion is also endorsed by Ray who states
that the Dardic Aryans parted from the main Aryan mass just after their
enterence into India. Dardic Aryans then colonised the Pamir region from where
they spread to Chitral and Gilgit.
In physical appearance the
Dards are broad shouldered, moderately stout-built and have well proportionate
bodies. In face they are not handsome, their hairs are usually black but
sometime brown, in complexion they are moderately fair. Their eyes are either
black or hazel. They are known for their ferocity. In the social hierarchy they
are divisible into: (i) Renue (ruling class), (ii) Shins (religious sect), (iii)
Yashkun (cultivators) and (iv) Dum (menial class). Dards are dependent on
agriculture, pastoralism, cottage industries and trade.
Ladakhis have been named
as the people of snow-living in an arid plateau, surrounded by mountains, where
cultivation of crops is hampered by severe cold and non- availability of water
for irrigation. Ladakhis are a mixture of Mongoloid and Aryan races. The Aryans
who settled originally in the sub-continent's northern parts were the early
Budhist people from Kashmir and the Dards from Gilgit. The Mongolian stock is
traced to Tibet, from where the shephereds and nomads came to the valleys of
Ladakh to graze their flocks. The present day population of Ladakh is the result
of blending together of Dards and the Mongolians.
Dancers from Kargil.
The recent papulation data
reveals that Ladakh is inhabited by the Budhists, the Muslims, the Hindus and
the Christians. The Budhists are mostly the decendents of the Mongolians and
bear a close affinity in features with the Tibetans. They are reputed for
religious tolerance, honesty and hard work. There are some families even now,
members of which follow different religions and yet live in peace. Where the
husband wife profess different faiths, the male child is regarded as a member of
the community to which the father belongs while the female child is admitted to
the religion of her mother.
Budhism does not recognise
any caste or racial distinction, but some differentiation is made on the basis
of social and occupational considerations. In any case the Budhists may be
classified among three principal categories, namely, Rigzang, Mangriks, and
Rignu. Rigzang is the upper class. Mangriks who constitute the middle class
consist of Lamas, Unpos, Nungsu, Lorjo, and Thakshos. The lowest class which is
known as Pignu includes Beda, Mou, Garra, Shinkhan and Lamkhun etc.
Ladakhis are truthful,
good natured, cheerful, friendly, industrious and honest. They are seldom angry
and soon ready to become friends. In conversation they are very polite. Ladakhis
are well built and have developed sufficient resistence to work even when the
temperature is as low as -25ĄC.
The population of Ladakhis
is not increasing steadily, probably owing to the prevalence of polyandry and
partly on account of climatic and economic conditions which have been operating
against the development of population and its increase in number.
On the outskirt of the
Siwaliks facing the plain of Punjab is the habitat of Dogras a distinctive
ethnic group of Jammu Division. There is controversy among the social
anthropologists about their origin. The major concentration of Dogras however,
occurs between the two holy lakes i. e. Saroinsar and Mansar. Lake Saroinsar is
at a distance of 38 kms. to the east and Mansar 64 kms to the west of Jammu
In the opinion of some
social anthropologists 'Dogra' is a corruption of the Rajasthani word 'Dungra'
means 'hill' and when the people of Rajasthan migrated in the hilly tracks under
drought conditions the Rajputs gave this name to the people of hilly country,
Stein opines that the name 'Durgara' is probably a tribal designation like 'Gurjara'
- original of the modern Gujjar, and similarly the word 'Durgara' has been
derived from Durgara' through Prakrit Dogra.
Whatsoever the controversy
about the origin of the word Dogra may be they belong to the Aryan race and
speak the Dogri language. Most of them have Brahmini path and have the sects of
Varnashram. A substantial section of the Dogras embraced Islam during the 16th
and 17th centuries. At the time of partition of the Sub-continent most of the
Muslim Dogras migrated to Pakistan.
In appearance Dogras are
short statured, slim and have high shoulders. Their complexion is wheatish,
silghtly hooked nose, brown eyes and jet-black hairs. The lower castes of Dogras
in general have blackish complexion.
Hanjis - the dwellers of
water, constitute a significant ethnic group in the valley of Kashmir. They are
mainly confined to the Dal, Wular, Anchar lakes and the Jhelum river, especially
between Khanabal (Ananatnag District) and Chattabal (Srinagar District).
The boat people of Kashmir
oar across Dal Lake on a winter morning.
A shikara-wallah grocery.
There is not unanimity of
opinion amongst the scholars about their arrival in the valley of Kashmir. They,
however agree in saying that 'Hanjis' belong to one of the ancient racial groups
who were essentially Nishads (boatmen). Some of the Hanjis claim themselves as
the descendents of Prophet Noah. There are historical evidences showing that
Raja Pratap Sen introduced boatmen from Sangaldip (Sri Lanka). It is believed
that before their conversion to Islam, they were Kashtriyas.
Hanjis are sturdy, hard
working active people with great imagination. On the basis of occupation and
social status Hanjis are divisible into: (i) Demb- Hanz (vegetable growers),
(ii) Gari-Hanz (water-nuts gatherers), (iii) Gad-Hanz (fishermen), (iv) Mata-Hanz
(who deal in wood), (v) Dunga-Hanz (owners of passenger boats), (vi) Haka-Hanz
(collectors of wood from water bodies), (vii) Bahatchi-Hanz (who live in Bahatch
boats), (viii) Shikara-Hanz (who ply Shikara boats), and (ix) House- boat Hanz.
The various Hanji groups use boats of different types, shapes and sizes, e. g.
Bahatch, Khoch, Demba-Nav, Kara Nav, War, Tchakawar, Parinda and Houseboat. The
type of boat which a Hanji owns and uses for earning his livelihood or the
product he deals with to a great extent, denotes his class and social status.
The sex-ratio of Hanjis is
about 892 as against 936 the national level and 899 the state average. The low
sex ratio shows that the males are better cared and well fed than females. In
fact, the females are still a neglected lot and are not properly cared like the
underdeveloped patriarchal societies.
A field study conducted
reveals that the literacy rate in Hanji's is only 12 per cent. The proportion uf
literate males and females being 20.5 and 3.7 per cent respectively. Nearly 34
per cent of the total population of Hanjis is engaged in various type of
productive activities, while the remaining 66 per cent is dependent population,
belonging to juvenile, Senile and household female population.
Hanjis in general do not
have fixed incomes. Their income varies from month to month and season to
season. It is more true of those who are engaged in hotal management and
houseboat industry. In fact, tourism is an imporlant activity on which many of
the Hanjis are dependent. Tourism in itself depends on many other factors like
the number and pattern of tourist inflow, the weather conditions and the
political situation of the State.
Hanjis, a peculiar ethnic
group attached to water in general is not developing at the desired rate. The
living conditions of Gad- Hanjs and Demb-Hanjs are poor and unhygienic, while
those who are houseboat owners have better income and social status. Some
pragmatic planning is to be made for the socio-economic upheaval of the Hanjis
of the State.
Gujjars and Bakarwals
Gujjars and Bakarwals
constitute a significant proportion of the population of the State. In general,
they have nomadic character and largely depend on flocks and cattle keeping for
The early history of
Gujjars and Bakarwals is obscure. There are several theories about their origin.
According to one school of thought, before their arrival in the sub-continent
they were the inhabitants of Georgia (Gurjia) a territory situated between the
Black sea and the Caspian Sea in the Soviet Union. Under certain push and pull
factors they left their abode and through central Asia, Iraq, Iran and
Afghanistan crossed the Khyber Pass to enter the Subcontinent of India. In the
Sub-continent making a southward march through Baluchistan- they reached Gujrat.
Most probably in the 5th and 6th century A.D. at the occurrence of some serious
droughts they moved out of Gujarat and crossing Rajasthan and Punjab entered the
green pastures of the Siwaliks and the Himalayas. Having their place of origin
as Georgia and moving towards the Sub- continent of India they named several
settlements after their name, e.g. Gujar (Central Asia), Juzrs (Gurjara),
Gujrabad, Gujru, Gujristan, Gujrabas, Gujdar-Kotta, Gujar-Garh, Gujarkhan,
Gujranwala in Iran, Afghanistan, Turkmenia, Pakistan and India. Cunningham
(1970) is however, of the opinion that the Gujjars are the descendent of Kusham
and Yachi Tribes which are considered to be the tribes of Eastern Tartars (U.S.S.R.).
The diffusion and spread
of Gujjars in the State of Jammu and Kashmir is not known with certainty. When
the Gujjars of Jammu and Kashmir are asked about their place of origin, they
simply say that their forefathers had migrated from Gujarat and Rajputana (Rajasthan).
The arrival of Gujjars in Jammu and Kashmir is attributed to the outbreak of
devastating droughts and famines in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Kathiawad. There are
archaeological evidences to prove that there was a spell of dryness in the 6th
and 7th centuries in Rajasthan and Gujarat which led to the outmigration of
these people (Gujjars), who alongwith their cattle entered the pastures of the
Siwaliks and the Sub-Himalayas. The 'Gujri' language is now recognised to be a
form of Rajasthani language, which supports the hypothesis that Gujjars have
outmigrated from Rajputana (Rajasthan).
The major concentration of
Gujjars lies in Jammu, Rajouri, Udhampur, Poonch, Uri, Ganderbal, Anantnag,
Daksum, Narang and the Kandi areas of the Jammu and Kashmir Divisions. Although
some of them have started developing land connections, they are essentially
cattle rearers and a section of them - Bakarwals regularly oscillates between
the southern slopes of the Siwaliks and the Margs (Alpine-pastures) of the
Jn the State of Jammu and
Kashmir the Gujjars, on the basis of their occupations and settlements are
classified as (i) cultivators who have sedentrized themselves in the sidevalleys,
and (ii) the Gujjars who practice transhumance. The second category is further
sub-divided into Dodhi-Gujjars (milk-man) and Bakarwals Gujjars (who rear sheep
The houses of the Gujjars
and Bakarwals are locally known as Kothas and Bandis. It is generally a
mud-house against the slope of a hillock. The walls are devoid of any
ventilation except a small entry door. In one of the walls there is a small hole
which is the only outlet for all types of bad gasses and smoke. The shelter
though unhygienic protects them and their cattle from severe colds of December,
January and February.
The Gujjars and Bakarwals
in the State are the followers of Islam, excepting a few who are settled io
Bimber, Mirpur and Rajouri. The Gujjars, because of their strict re]igious
adherence, have emerged as the most outstanding tribe who are trusted for their
So far as the dress is
concerned, the males wear a long shirt and a trouscr as per the tenets of Islam.
Besides, they wear a turban of a peculiar style. The ladies usually wear a long
shirt and Shalwar with a cap or Dupatta on their head. Though Purdah system
among ladies is not observed, they avoid to face the strangers.
Gujjars are known for
their hard work and gentle nature. Rearing of cattle horses, goats and sheep is
their main occupation. They have simple food habits. Maize, milk and milk
products are the main ingredients of their diet. They usually start their day
with a glass of milk and Chapatis (bread) of maize. The same food is being
repeated at lunch and dinner. They do not use any type of toxic drinks as taking
liquor is prohibited in Islam. Even tea is not consumed by all the Gujjars.
The Gujjars and Bakarwals
have no written language and no history beyond word-of-mouth tales and
traditions. They have no art beyond traditional tribal songs and the simple
tribal patterns they weave into their clothes. Although they live on products of
their flocks yet some of them cultivate little maize on the slopes in the narrow
valleys with spade and hoe. They donot use vehicular transport instead they use
draught animals. The assets and resources vital to them are pasture lands,
migration routes and water-resources. These resources and assets are owned
commonly by the tribes and maintained collectively. They have a subsistence type
of economy and try to produce everything they need in their daily need.
Geography of Jammu &
by Majid Husain
Rajesh Publications, New