Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand are the three Indian states that occupy the Himalayan region of northern India. The predominate ethnic group is the Pahari. There are believed to be around 30 million Pahari: 10 million in Himachel Pradesh and Kashmir; 11 million in Uttra Pradesh; and 9 million in Nepal. The languages they speak—identified as Western Pahari, Central Pahari and Eastern Pahari (Nepalese)—are noticeably different than the languages spoken in the plains. Dadic languages include Kashmiri. Tibeto-Burman languages are spoken as one approaches Tibet.

Himachal Pradesh is a state that rises from the Indian plains into the Himalayan foothills and the Himalayas themselves. Known for its clean air, stunning Alpine scenery and sparking rivers, it embraces the famous hill station of Simla and the area occupied by the Dalai Lama and Tibetans who have fled from Tibet. Caravan routes in the area played a role in spreading Buddhism to China and elsewhere in Asia. The western part of the Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh is characterized by high alpine peaks, alpine meadows and riverine forest. Upper mountain glacial and snow meltwater sources of several rivers, and the catchments of water supplies are vital to millions of downstream users. The region is quite popular with tourists.

Uttarakhand, formerly Uttaranchal, is a state in the northern India. It is often referred to as the Devbhumi (literally "Land of the Gods") due to the many Hindu temples and pilgrimage centers found throughout the state. Known for its natural beauty of the Himalayas, the Bhabhar and the Terai, Uttarakhand became the 27th state of India in 9 November 2000. It was created from the Himalayan and adjoining northwestern districts of Uttar Pradesh. The state is divided into two divisions, Garhwal and Kumaon, with a total of 13 districts. The provisional capital of Uttarakhand is Dehradun, the largest city in the region, which is a railhead.

The term Uttarakhand , meaning "northern tract" or "higher tract," formally refered to the Himalayan districts of Uttar Pradesh, between the state of Himachal Pradesh to the west and Nepal to the east. It contains the eight districts of the Kumaon and Garhwal divisions. The main local languages are Kumaoni,Garhwali, and Pahari ("mountain"), a language of the Indo-Aryan family. The language of the elite, business, and administration is Hindi. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Before Uttarakhand was created the residents of hill districts of Uttar Pradesh felt themselves lost in the large state of Uttar Pradesh and their needs ignored by the politicians more concerned with wider regional issues. There has been almost no development of industry or higher education, although the 1962 border war with China resulted in some infrastructure development, particularly roads, which also were extended to make the more remote pilgrimage sites more accessible. Men of the region are forced to leave their families in the hills and seek employment in the plains, where they mostly find menial positions as domestic servants, which they consider undignified and inappropriate to their caste. Students must also go to the plains for higher education. All find the heat of the lowlands very oppressive. The major potential in Uttarakhand for hydroelectric power from the Ganga and Yamuna rivers and for tourism has not been developed, locals feel. Springs, which are essential for drinking and irrigation water, have been allowed to dry up. The particular needs of hill agriculture have been ignored. The plains produce grain primarily, whereas fruit growing is more promising in the hills. *

On the other hand, adjacent Himachal Pradesh, which consists of Himalayan districts formerly in Punjab or in associated princely states, became a state in 1948. Himachal Pradesh is geographically and culturally quite similar to Uttarakhand and has enjoyed satisfying progress in power generation, tourism, and cultivation. Some administrators observe that small states such as Himachal Pradesh can make more rapid progress just by virtue of being smaller, so that the problems are less overwhelming and local needs are not lost. *

Some tribes in the Simla Hills use lichens as bedding material and stuff their cushions with wolf moss.

Kashmir and Kashmiris

Kashmir is one of the beautiful parts of South Asia, if not the world. When there is no trouble or violence there, it a popular tourist destination, attracting up to 700,000 people during the summer season. Ordinary people in Pakistan and India, especially those who live in the sweltering plains, look upon Kashmir as a kind of cool, green, water-filled paradise surrounded by snow-capped mountains of the Pir Panjal and Himalayan ranges. It has provided a backdrop for many musical scenes in popular Bollywood movies.

The total area of Kashmir, including Jammu and Kashmir in India and the Northern Areas in Pakistan, is 222,738 square kilometers (86,000 square miles) — twice the size of Virginia and embracing two of the world’s largest peaks: 28,250-foot-high K2 and 26,660-foot-high Nanga Parbat. India controls 101,338 square kilometers (39,127 square miles) of the disputed territory, Pakistan controls 85,846 square kilometers (33,145 square miles), and the People's Republic of China controls the remaining 37,555 square kilometers (14,500 square miles).

Kashmiris are the Hindu and Muslim inhabitants of Jammu and Kashmir and the Pakistan-controlled areas called Azad Kashmir (Gilgit, Baltistan, and four other districts, all thinly populated). Although the Kashmiri population is divided by religion they are united by a common language and history and until recently had a reputation for being easy-going, tolerant and business minded. The term "Kashmiri" is applied particularly to those who inhabit the Vale of Kashmir, which is the most populous area, and includes over two dozen Muslim and Hindu castes.

Kashmiris have traditionally been an independent people separated from the rest of India. Originating from Persia and Central Asia, they have light eyes, fair skin, and hair. They also have their own culture, arts, poetry, architecture, food and style of dressing. The Kashmiri language is an Indo-Aryan tongue, written with a form of the Perso-Arabic script. It is the major language of the Dardic Subgroup, and it has a Literature reaching back to the fourteenth-century poetess Lal Ded.

According to the “Encyclopedia of World Cultures”: “Although the culture is predominantly Muslim today, prior to the Turkic incursions of the eleventh and twelfth centuries Kashmir was an important Buddhist territory, as some of its temple ruins testify. Later, under the Mughals, music, poetry, architecture, and garden design flourished there. The Hindus, though not very numerous, have been quite influential in the state, especially as landowners.” [Source: “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 3: South Asia,” edited by Paul Hockings, 1992]

See Separate Article on Kashmir and Kashmiris


Pahari is a term that is used to refer to mountain dwelling people and is generally used to describe Indo-European-speaking peoples of the Himalayas in north India and Nepal. Among the groups that fall into this category are (from west to east): 1) the Churachi, Gaddi. Kinnaura and Sirmuri (all in Himachal Pradesh); and 2) Jaunsari, Garhwali and Kumauni (all in Uttar Pradesh). [Source: Encyclopedia of World Cultures: South Asia, edited by Paul Hockings, C.K. Hall & Company, 1992]

There are believed to be around 30 million Pahari: 10 million in Himachel Pradesh and Kashmir; 11 million in Uttra Pradesh; and 9 million in Nepal. The languages they speak—identified as Western Pahari, Central Pahari and Eastern Pahari (Nepalese)—are noticeably different than the languages spoken in the plains.

The Pahari people are generally believed to have originated from people that migrated from the plains to the mountains during the past 3000 years, presumably to escape population pressure, famines, droughts, disease and military and civil conflict. Great numbers are believed to have migrated after the Muslim invasions. Some of these people lived in fortresses villages, of which ruins can be seen throughout the region.

See Separate Article GROUPS IN THE HIMALAYAN REGION NORTH INDIA factsanddetails.com


The Lepchas are a Buddhist people that live around the Himalaya mountains around Mount Kangchenjunga in Sikkim and Darjeeling. There are about 30,000 of them in Sikkim, 1,500 in Nepal, 30,000 in Bhutan and 30,000 in India. It is believed they originated in Mongolia or Tibet. Their name, meaning “nonsense talkers,” was given to them, by their Nepali neighbors. [Source: Encyclopedia of World Cultures: South Asia, edited by Paul Hockings, C.K. Hall & Company, 1992]

The Lepchas have a history of being subjected by other people: namely the Nepalis, Bhutanese and Tibetans. They have been assimilated, in many cases, with the people that live around them. They have intermarried expensively with Nepalis.

The Lepchas live simply and in Spartan conditions and have a reputation among other peoples as being backwards. They practice Tibetan Buddhist, and the Min religion, an ancient belief, which incorporate animal sacrifices to ward off evil sprits. In their collection of legends and myths are many stories about the Yeti, the Abominable Snowman. He is worshiped as the god of hunting.

See Separate Article GROUPS IN THE HIMALAYAN REGION NORTH INDIA factsanddetails.com


The Ladakhis are a Tibetan Buddhist people that inhabit Ladakh, which is part of Jammu and Kashmir state but shares a 1,500 mile border with Tibet. Tibet and Ladakh share a similar culture and climate, and vie for the honor of having the highest roads and villages in the world. The region of Ladakh is isolated in the Himalayas and differs radically from the rest of Jammu-Kashmir state in that the majority of the population is culturally, ethnically, religiously, and linguistically close to Tibet not Muslim Kashmir. There also is a Muslim minority. The region has no interest in the separatist and Islamicist sentiments of the Vale of Kashmir.

Ladakhis that live above 18,000 feet suffer discomfort when the descend to Ladakh capital of Leh at 11,550 feet. The temperatures in Ladakh frequently drop below minus 30 degrees F in the winter time and sometimes there is not enough dung, firewood or fuel to heat their mud and stone homes. It is no surprise then that many Ladakhi Buddhists believe that hell is a bitterly cold place and they rarely take baths. On the positive side Ladakh is so cold that few germs can survive and the most common illnesses are eye and respiratory problems caused by smoke and dust in their sealed homes. In the summer the temperatures often rise above 100 degrees , and the extremes of hot and cold are enough to break up the granite mountains and produce a lot dust

Ladakhis have been described as "extraordinarily warm, open, cheerful, pleasure-loving people." The like playing polo, doing archery, drinking barely beer, doing slow ritualistic dances, and partying at weddings. Crime is not a problem. Nobody can remember when a murder was committed and theft is unheard of.

See Separate Article LADAHKIS factsanddetails.com

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Nepal Tourism Board (ntb.gov.np), Nepal Government National Portal (nepal.gov.np), The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Wikipedia and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated February 2022

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