The people from the mountains are also known as strong and sturdy Paharis!

Culture and traditions

By: M S Nazki

They are strong, sturdy, dynamic and superbly gifted with magnificent attributes and one of them happens to be innocence!

-‘The true blessing of the mountains is not that they provide a challenge or a contest, something to be overcome and dominated (although this is how many people have approached them). It is that they offer something gentler and infinitely more powerful: they make us ready to credit marvels – whether it is the dark swirl which water makes beneath a plate of ice, or the feel of the soft pelts of moss which form on the lee sides of boulders and trees. Who better than the Paharis knows that’. But each and everyone of us should be knowing that!

=‘Indian Military Academy (IMA) is a great place to be in as that is a beginning to a great career to get into the Indian Army, so is the Officers Training Academy (OTA) and so is the National Defense Academy for those who want to get the taste of the uniform very early in life. Coming straight to the point I will say that there are several lighter moments in the tough day to day tough and rigorous routine and one of them is socializing in every term of six months. Amongst many is a ‘Pahari social’ ! It once was quite an event once upon a time and as traditions in these great institutions the same may have continued till date’!

-‘In one of the final third term socials we all had gathered for the social in which we had the great group ofPaharis from Gharwal, Kumaon, Himachal, J&K, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh as we sat to talk, interact and share the experiences that evening and I still remember a coursemate of mine Padam Prakash Barakotti telling me, ‘ people should climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn. I do not think he was wrong in any way! He was never as we always called him Uncle Podger as he always smiled and was one person who always did wrong things at the right time and right ones at wrong times! Most of the night time routine and seniors’ wrath always befell on the others because of him, I mean the various orders, the worst one being the ‘Bajri order’! Anyway he was one live wire and a true spirited Pahari who got mechanized infantry!’

-‘ Honestly speaking, thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity. And it is true because life is different, culture is different and so is the lifestyle where the thematic undercurrent is simplicity. Many who visit places such as Rajouri, Poonch, Doda, Nhaderwah, Kishtwar in Kashmir are often heard saying that we are losing precious days. We are degenerating into machines for making money. We are learning nothing in this trivial world of men. We must break away and get out into the mountains to learn what life is really about. Adventure with nature is a necessity and that is an everyday affair as far as the Paharis go!’

-‘Pahaṛī, also called Parbat, people constitute about three-fifths the population of Nepal and a majority of the population of neighbouring Himalayan India (in Himachal Pradesh and northern Uttar Pradesh). They speak languages belonging to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European family. The people are historically ancient, having been mentioned by the authors Pliny and Herodotus and figuring in India’s epic poem, the Mahabharata. Their numbers were estimated to be about 20,000,000 in the early 21st century.’

-‘People living along the upper reaches of the Indus—e.g., Tibetans, Ladakhi, and Balti—show affinities with Central rather than South Asia. They speak Tibetan languages and practice Buddhism, although the Balti have adopted Islam. Pastoralism is important in the local economy. In the main Himalayan ranges, areas drained by the headwaters of the major Indus tributaries form a transitional zone where Tibetan cultural features mingle with those of the Indian pahari (hill) region.’

-‘Elsewhere in the Indus valley the inhabitants speak Indo-European languages and are Muslims, reflecting repeated incursions of peoples entering the Indian subcontinent from the west over several millennia. The rugged mountains of the western Kashmir region are inhabited by Dardic-speaking groups (Kafir, Kohistanis, Shinas, and Kashmiri Gujar), whose languages, like most in the region, are Indo-European in origin. In the Hunza River valley, the long-lived Burusho speak a language (Burushaski) that has no known ties to any other language. Those groups combine herding with irrigation-based cultivation.’

=‘The Pahari people or Pahari-speaking people constitute a linguistic group that forms a heterogeneous society consisting of a number of communities inhabiting the Indian union territory of Jammu and Kashmir and adjoining states. The other group predominantly speaks Lahnda (Western Punjabi) dialects including Pahari–Pothwari in Poonch and Rajouri Districts and Hindko in Baramulla and Kaupwara Districts of Jammu and Kashmir but refer to themselves as Pahari Speaking People.

-‘Pahari was listed as a regional language in the sixth schedule of Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir-(the erstwhile state), and its Lahnda part has been promoted by the Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages since 1978. A Western Pahari Corridor from majorly Shimla to Murree has also been proposed under the Aman ki Asha initiative to link the similar Western Pahari language-based areas of Himachal Pradesh to Jammu Kashmir and beyond.’

-‘ In Jammu and Kashmir, Pahari, also known under various local names such as Poonchi or Chibhali, is spoken by approximately one million people concentrated in the region between the Jhelum and Chenab rivers: most significantly in the districts of Poonch and Rajouri, to a lesser extent in neighboring Baramulla and Kupwara, as a result of the influx of refugees during the Partition of 1947 – scattered throughout the rest of Jammu and Kashmir.’! Language can remove many barriers and this lingo has had a significant impact as far as the people from the mountains go!



I will rewind you back to the beginning of 1980’s and I was on a visit by default to Rawalpora where we once lived. This was after the great trek across the Mughal route (now Mughal Road) a NCC affair those days. After the trek was over we were given a day’s break as we were put up in Pampore. Since I had studied in Kashmir for a couple of years in Kashmir I did not want to get into those lovely gardens but preferred to pay a visit to my old home where my friend Romela Darbari (now a doctor) lived. I never knew that was going to be the most wonderful afternoons of my life! The great embrace into the nostalgic past which was just five years apart from that day, the great lunch and an elongated and elaborate sermon as I opened up the topic as to I was there and this is what I came to know about the mountains and the people as her father an Engineer and that too a very reputed one said:

‘Hey boy! Those who travel to mountain-tops are half in love with themselves, and half in love with oblivion. You are of the second kind. Mountains seem to answer an increasingly imaginative need in young people like you. More and more people are discovering a desire for them, and a powerful solace in them. At bottom, mountains, like all wildernesses, challenge our complacent conviction – so easy to lapse into – that the world has been made for humans by humans. Most of us exist for most of the time in worlds which are humanly arranged, themed and controlled. One forgets that there are environments which do not respond to the flick of a switch or the twist of a dial, and which have their own rhythms and orders of existence. Mountains correct this amnesia. By speaking of greater forces than we can possibly invoke, and by confronting us with greater spans of time than we can possibly envisage, mountains refute our excessive trust in the man-made. For sure I was impressed!

He continued:

Centrally administered Jammu and Kashmir has been inhabited for centuries by a tribe which has its own unique linguistic, cultural and ethnic characteristics. In addition to its distinctive cultural heritage, way of life and mother tongue, the tribe includes people of different castes and religions, including Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, known as the hill tribes ۔ According to historians, the tribe is thousands of years old and has undergone many ups and downs. At first the people of this tribe were Buddhists, then converted to Hinduism and later Musharraf converted to Islam.’

It was towards the end that he came out with these facts:

*The mountain is used as a term, it does not mean that everyone who lives in the mountains is part of the mountain tribe. Yes, but not at all.

*The term Pahari is used in Pakistan, Nepal, India for various groups belonging to the Indo-Aryan race, including a hill tribe. Its people live in the area extending to the region of Pir Panjal, Shams Bari, Mount Murree, who have endured the historical ups and downs, the ups and downs of the situation, the irony. *There are many other languages in the Indo-Aryan lineage which have accepted the local influence but the people of this tribe who have been living here for thousands of years have kept their language and culture in their original identity.

* In addition, many non-natives settled here centuries ago and forgot everything and merged in the mountain civilization and civilization, they are also a part of it. The various Indo-Aryan languages accepted local influences including Nepali, Mandali, Kangri, Dogri, Bhagati etc. but the language spoken by the hill tribes in Jammu and Kashmir has retained its original identity.

*First it was written in Sharda script, then Sharda’s degraded form ‘Takri’, then for some time ‘Landa’ and later after accepting the influence of Persian it was written in ‘Shah Mukhi’ script.

*The Sharda Peeth University, which was one of the most important academic universities in Buddhism, has a very important hill language. According to historians, four major conferences of Buddhist monks have been held, one of which was held in Kashmir, with a special focus on the promotion and development of the hill language. People used to come to study, some of whom settled here. These people are also of Dravidian descent.

*People of the hill tribes who have their own culture, civilization, way of life, manners, dress, language, customs and traditions, border districts of Poonch and Rajouri as well as Karnah, Tangdar, Uri, Karen, Tatwal, Kupwara of Kashmir Valley. Apart from Baramulla, Anantnag, Shopian, Ganderbal, Bandipora districts are inhabited in a few villages.

*Their marriages, social events, sports, music, folk heritage are unique. These people have been living together for centuries without any fear or division.

I was simply amazed by the knowledge that the man had and I knew that I had gained something big which would be subsequently useful to me in my life. For sure it was going to be but at that time I never knew! But now I do! Mountains return to us priceless capacity for wonder which can so insensibly be leached away by modern existence, and they urge us to apply that wonder to our own everyday lives. That afternoon at Rawalpora I had learnt that!

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