Kinnaur is one of twelve administrative districts in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, India. The district is divided into three administrative areas – Pooh, Kalpa, and Nichar – and has five tehsils (counties). The administrative headquarters of Kinnaur district is at Reckong Peo. From hereSangla valley, and district headquarters Recong Peo, Kalpa, Kinnaur Kailash, considered to be the abode of Lord Shiva, can be viewed. As of 2011 it is the second least populous district of Himachal Pradesh (out of 12), after Lahaul and Spiti. As the region was inaccessible, there was very little interaction with people from the plains and, therefore, the ancient Hindu texts considered mystical Kinnars as halfway between humans and gods.
Kinnaur, surrounded by the Tibet to the east, is in the northeast corner of Himachal Pradesh, about 235 km (146 mi) from the state capital, Shimla. It has three high mountains ranges, namely, Zanskar, Himalayas and Dhauldhar that enclose valleys of Sutlej, Spiti, Baspa and their tributaries. The slopes are covered with thick wood, orchards, fields and picturesque hamlets. The much religious Shivling lies at the peak of Kinnaur Kailash mountain. The district was opened for the outsiders in 1989. The old Hindustan-Tibet Road passes through the Kinnaur valley along the bank of river Sutlej and finally enters Tibet at Shipki La pass. It is not only the scenic beauty which appeals to the young and old alike but also the life styles of the people, their culture, heritage, customs and traditions. The people have strong culture and beliefs, generally follow Buddhism and Hinduism, believing the Pandavas came and resided in the land while in the exile. Thousands-year-old monasteries still exist in the area. Buddhists and Hindus live in harmony symbolising the traditional brotherhood and friendship of the people of both the faiths. Apples, chilgoza (chestnut) and other dry fruits are grown here. The high terrain here facilitates adventures and sports. Trekking routes include the 'Parikarma of Kinnaur Kailash'.
A mountainous area, ranging in altitude from 2,320 to 6,816 metres (7,610 to 22,362 ft), Kinnaur is one of the smallest districts in India by population. It is famous for the Kinnaur Kailash, a mountain sacred to Hindus, close to the Tibetan border..
Most of Kinnaur enjoys a temperate climate due to its high elevation, with long winters from October to May, and short summers from June to September. The lower parts of the Sutlej Valley and the Baspa Valley receive monsoon rains. The upper areas of the valleys fall mainly in the rain-shadow area. These areas are considered to be arid regions, similar to the climate of Tibet. Central Asian landscape are common.
The present day Kinnauras do not constitute a homogeneous group and display significant territorial and ethnic diversity. For a better understanding of ethnic and cultural distribution, Kinnaur district may be classified into three territorial units.
Lower Kinnaur comprise area between Chora at the boundary of the Kinnaur district with Rampur Bushahr and Kalpa including Nichar and Sangla valleys. The people of Lower Kinnaur are primarily of the Mediterranean physical type. It is difficult to distinguish them from the people residing in the adjoining Shimla district with whom they have some affinity. The people of lower Kinnaur are mostly Hindus though the ethno-historical factors have resulted in some Buddhist influence. The middle Kinnaur is the area between Kalpa and Kanam including Moorang tehsil.
The people of middle Kinnaur are of mixed racial strain. Some have marked Mongoloid and others marked Mediterranean features. In some cases there is an admixture of the above two in varying degrees. The inhabitants are Buddhist as well as Hindus. Many people have faith in both the religions. The upper Kinnaur comprises remaining north-eastern part of the district i.e. the area between Poo (town) and Hangrang valley extending up to international border with Tibet. The predominant physical type of upper Kinnaur is the Mongoloid though a few persons with Mediterranean features are also seen in the area around Poo. Some persons show the blending of Mediterrean and Mongoloid elements in varying degrees. However the people of Hangrang valley are almost universally Mongoloids. They mostly follow Mahayana Buddhist religion. The Kinnaur society is divided into two broad occupational groups- peasants and the artisans possibly of diverse ethnic origin. These groups are represented by Gujjars and Kanet Rajputs and Scheduled Castes. The Kanets comprise the main cultivating community of the area and use honorific surname Negi. Among the Kanets there are three grades. In the first grade Kanets there are as many as fifty sub-castes, in the second grades there are seventeen sub-castes and in the third grade who work as potter have three sub-castes. Waza Kanets belong to the third grade and are considered inferior among Kanets. The Scheduled castes include Chamangs and Domangs. Chamangs traditionally make and wove clothes. The Domangs are primarily blacksmiths. There is a third caste called ores. The main profession of Ores is carpentry. In social status the Ores are equal to Domangs. Among the scheduled castes blacksmiths (Domangs) and carpenters (Ores) considered themselves superior to Kolis or Chamangs which in actual circumstances are not. Two different languages can be found to be spoken in the same village by upper caste and lower caste people, since the upper caste language was not allowed to be spoken by lower caste people. The Kannaurs are very fond of music, dance and singing.
The staple food is wheat, ogla, phafra and barley which are local produce. Besides these kankani, cheena, maize, chollair and bathu are also taken. The principal pulses consumed are peas, black peas, mash and rajmash. The vegetables usually consumed are cabbage, turnips, peas, beans, pumpkin, potato, okra and tomato besides some locally available wild green vegetables leaves. They relish rice too which is imported from the plains. Taking a salted tea called cha in the morning and evening is very popular among the Kannauras which is usually taken along with sattu made of parched barley flour. They are non-vegetarian and relish goat and ram's meat. Taking of alcoholic drinks in their day to day life and also on the ceremonial or festive occasions is quite common among them. Alcohol is distilled at the household level. It is made out of fruits like grapes, apple, pear etc. grown locally and of barley.
The people of lower Kinnaur are largely Hindu. Their most important gods and goddess are Durga (Chandi), Bhairon, Usha (Ukha), Narayan, Vishnu, Badrinath and Bhimakali. The Chamang and Domang have their favorite deities such as Nag Devta. In addition, each village has its presiding deity. The inhabitants of middle Kinnaur are Buddhist as well as Hindu. The important Hindu deities of middle Kinnaur include Chandi, Gauri Shankar, Kansa and Narayanjee. Dabla, the local god of Kanam village, has certain features traditionally associated with the Bon religion. The image of Dabla is installed along with those of Buddha and Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) in one of the monasteries at Kanam.
The religion of upper Kinnaur is mostly Tibetan Buddhist. Almost every village has a monastery with monks recruited from amongst the (Kanet). Hinduism is the main religions in the district followed by Tibetan Buddhism, although Bön is also practised. These three religions have undergone religious mixing, along with some indigenous shamanistic practices. One can see some Buddhist influences on the Hindu religion in Lower Kinnaur, the mixing of Buddhist and Hindu beliefs in varying degrees in Middle Kinnaur, and even the influence of Hinduism on Buddhism in Pooh of Upper Kinnaur. However, Buddhist Hangrang remains largely untouched by Hindu influence. One can see Hindu gods being worshipped side by side with Buddhist deities in Buddhist and Hindu temples, especially in Middle Kinnaur. Dabla, one of the major Bön deities, is greatly revered by the Kinners in the area. Folk Hindu gods are also worshipped in Middle and Lower Kinnaur. These include theDurga (locally known as Chandi, Narayan, Vishnu) and many other folk Hindu–animist gods. Folk deities play a major role in the daily life of the Kinners. Superstitions concerning animist ghosts such as Banchir, Rakshas, and Khunkch also play an important role in the belief system of the Kinners. Pujas and horns of domestic animals are used to ward off the evil spirits, in order to bring good luck.
Buddhist lamas play an important role in the daily life of the Kinners, and young monks of Upper and Middle Kinnaur are trained from a young age in conducting religious ceremonies, devoting their lives to Lamaism and learning to read Tibetan scriptures and Buddhist doctrines. When they become Lamas (male monks) and Chomos (female nuns), they are given religious duties, which include presiding over the religious and secular affairs of the Kinners. They are generally divided into two groups, namely, the celibate Gyolang, who shave their heads, and the non-celibate Durpu, who do not shave their heads. The Kinnaur Kailash is the most sacred mountain for most Kinners. Every year it is visited by thousands of locals on religious pilgrimages known as Yatra, Hindu and Buddhist alike.
Flora and fauna
Portions of Kinnaur are situated high in the Himalaya, where vegetation is sparse and consists primarily of hardy grasses. Alpine species such as juniper, pine, fir, cypress, and rhododendrop can be found at elevations between 3,500 and 5,000 metres, primarily in Middle Kinnaur. At lower altitudes, temperate-climate trees are found, including oak, chestnut, maple, birch, alder, magnolia,apple, and apricot. Yaks and dzos are reared by local farmers in the higher areas. Scattered populations of the Himalayan black bear and small ponies may also be found.
According to myth, the Kinners are descendants of the Pandavas: beings halfway between men and gods that possess supernatural powers. They also claim descent from the Rajput, Khosias, and Beru castes. The Kinners speak a dialect of the Tibeto-Burman family known as Kinnauri or Kanauri. The distinctive feature of Kinnarui dialect is the use of Hindi elements. The Tibetan Jangram dialect is spoken by the Kinners living in Pooh and Sangla. Two thousand speakers of the old Zhang Zhung dialect in the Sutlej valley still remain today. Another theory is that Kinnars are not the Indo Aryans but the extension of Darads who were spread on the high mountains of western Himalayas, who belong to the Iranian stock. Darads speak a language which is related to Persian language. Speculation is that in ancient times the Kinnars may have spoken a language close to the language of the Darads. later when Tibet annexed the Himalayan region and captured the areas of Kinnour, Spiti and Ladakh, they may have had to adopt the language of the new rulers and abandon the their old language. Otherwise why would an ethnically Indo European tribe speak a language from the Tibeto-Burman family?
Generally, Kinner houses have storerooms for keeping grain and dried fruits, and separate wooden grain-storage structures, called kathar. Pakpa, a piece of sheepskin or yakskin, is often placed on the khayarcha mat. Traditionally Kinners use utensils made of brass and bronze. Modern influences have included the introduction of Chinese crockery, and utensils made of stainless steel and aluminium. Clothes are mainly of wool. The thepang, a grey woollen cap, is worn with a white velvet band. The Tibetan chhuba, a long woollen coat which resembles an achkan, is worn as well, with a sleeveless woollen jacket. While men wear woollen churidhar pajamas, and tailored woollen shirts such as the chamn kurti, the women wrap themselves up in a dohru. The first wrap of the dohru is based on the back, with embroidered borders displayed throughout its length, which stretches to the heels. Darker shades of colours are preferred for the Dohru, although other beautifully coloured shawls may be worn, usually draped over the shoulders. A choli, another type of full sleeved blouse worn by women, may serve as a decorative lining as well. The Kinners are classified mainly into two castes: lower and upper caste. Again both of these categories are divided into sub classes. The caste system is more prevalent in the Lower and Middle Kinnaur regions.
Little is known about the history of Kinnaur, except for the fact that it was once known as Kanaurra or Kinnaura. There are, however, legends and myths among the inhabitants. It is known that the area was placed under the control of the Magadha kingdom, followed by the Mauryan Empire during the 6th century BCE, which was then inhabited mainly by the Kirata,Kamboja, Panasika, and Valhika. Kinnaur also came under the influence of the Guge kingdom of Tibet between the 9th and 12th centuries.
Kinnaur was later divided into seven parts, known as Sat Khund. Conflicts in the region eventually gave rise to the formation of many small chiefdoms, which fought amongst one another for power. These struggles also included the neighbouring Bhotes. Several forts from this time, including Labrang, Moorang, and Kamru, serve as evidence of the region's history of conflict, which lasted until Emperor Akbar conquered the area. Akbar's conquest resulted in the incorporation of the Kinnaur valley into the Mughal Empire. After the collapse of the Mughal Empire, the Kinnaur valley, then known as Chini Tehsil, played an influential role. When its dominant rôle in the region lapsed, it was merged to form part of the then Mahasu district. By 1960, political, ethnic, and cultural considerations led to the area being reorganised, forming the present Kinnaur district. In 1975 an earthquake struck the region. Culture of Kinnaur is Tribal and fraternal polyandry is still present. This practice of polyandry was introduced in old times to balance survival as cultivated land is less and family planning was unheard. But with change of time and impact of education, now it is found it traces.
According to the 2011 census Kinnaur district has a population of 84,298, roughly equal to the nation of Andorra. This gives it a ranking of 620th in India (out of a total of 640). The district has a population density of 13 inhabitants per square kilometre (34 /sq mi) . Its population growth rate over the decade 2001-2011 was 7.61%. Kinnaur has a sex ratio of 818 females for every 1000 males, and a literacy rate of 80.77%.