The people of Himachal Pradesh have a rich culture which is very much apparent in their day to day lives. The colourful dresses of Himachal will strike you instantly as you make your way through the state. However, more than the dresses or even the notable physical features of the people, it is their warm and friendly nature that will draw you towards them. Interacting with them can be extremely fruitful as you will get to know more about their religious and cultural life as it is.
Watch the various art forms of the people on metal, wood, leather and wool and collect some of these items as memory of your visit. Rejoice in their folk dance and music and even pick up a few notes and steps from the artists. The cuisine of Himachal is not as rich as some other states of the country yet there are quiet a few dishes that you must try out during your visit.
People & Lifestyle
The population of Himachal Pradesh is a mixed one though Hindus are definitely in majority. The Hindu communities residing in Himachal include the Brahmins, Rajputs, Kannets, Rathis and Kolis. There are also tribal population in the state which mainly comprise Gaddis, Kinnars, Gujjars, Pangawals and Lahaulis. In some area, like Lahaul & Spiti, there is a majority of Buddhist population. A percentage of people are also Tibetans. Muslim, Christian and Sikhs are in relatively small numbers. The physical feature of most of the people resemble the Aryans however, there are still many with prominent Mongoloid feature.
Though Hindi is the state language, many people speak Pahari. Pahari itself has many dialects and all of them trace their origin to the Sanskrit language. A majority of the population is engaged in agricultural work, however the more educated of them are now moving towards farming and other newer profession.
Traditional dress of the Brahmin male includes dhoti, kurta, coat, waistcoat, turban and a hand towel while that of the Rajput male consists of tight fitting churidar pyjamas, a long coat and a starched turban. The female of these two caste have kurtas, salwars, long skirts (ghaghri), embroidered tops (choli) and red head scarves (rahide) as their traditional attire. The dress up of the people has now become a mixed one with traditional blending gracefully with the modern.
The typical house in Himachal Pradesh is constructed of clay bricks and the roofs are of slate. The hilly areas have their own kind of house which is made of stone. The slate roof is replaced by timber. The houses are pucca and cattle shed is nearby. The tribals usually have two storied houses wherein the cattle house occupies the ground floor while the first floor is meant for personal use. Labourers have thatched roofs house for themselves.
Art & Craft
The people of Himachal Pradesh are extremely hard working and talented and this reflects in their art and craft. The extremely beautiful handicraft that come out of this state is really worth appreciating. Carpets, leather works, shawls, paintings, metalware, woodwork and paintings are just some of the craft forms of the people here. The much in demand Pashmina shawl is the product of this state. Colourful Himachali caps are yet another famous art work of the people. A tribe by the name of Dom is expert in manufacturing bamboo items like boxes, sofas, chairs, baskets and rack. Clay pots and statuettes are also famous and make for a good buy. Metalware of the state include utensils, ritualistic vessels, idols, gold and silver jewelleries.
Music and Dance
Music and dance in Himachal Pradesh revolves around religion. Through their dance and music, people entreat gods during festivals and other special occasions. There are also dances that are specific to certain regions and are best performed by the people of that area.
Some of the dance forms of Himachal are Losar Shona Chuksam (Kinnaur), Dangi (Chamba), Gee Dance and Burah dance, (Sirmour), Naati, Kharait, Ujagjama and Chadhgebrikar (Kullu) and Shunto (Lahaul & Spiti).
As for the music of Himachal Pradesh is concerned, there is no classical form though there plenty of folk music to listen to. The folk stories of mountainous regions often find a mention in these music. The stories range from romance, chivalry and changing seasons. Musical instruments that are quiet frequently used by the artists here Ranasingha, Karna, Turhi, Flute, Ektara, Kindari, Jhanjh, Manjara, Chimta, Ghariyal, and Ghunghru.
Fairs & Festivals
Apart from the festivals that are celebrated on an all India basis, there are numerous other fairs and festivals that are the high point of Himachal Pradesh. These festivals are time when the religious and cultural faith of the people can be seen and felt clearly. These festivals are also the time for them to adorn colourful dress and accessories and mingle with the rest of their kins freely. Amongst these fairs and festivals are the Kullu Dussehra, Shivratri Fair (Mandi), Minjar Fair (Chamba), Mani Mahesh Chhari Yatra (Chamba), Renuka fair (Sirmaur), Lavi Trade Fair (Rampur), Vrajeshwari fair (Kangra), Jwalamukhi Fair (Jwalamukhi), Holi Fair (Sujanpur), Shivratri Fair (Mandi) and Naina Devi Fair (Bilaspur).
The day to day dishes of the people of Himachal Pradesh is very similar to the rest of north India in the sense that they too have dal-chawal-subzi-roti (lentil broth, rice, dish of vegetables and bread). However, one difference is that non vegetarian items are more in famous here than other north Indian states. Till recently, all that Himachal knew of vegetables were potatoes and turnips. However, now gradually, green vegetables are making their importance felt more and more. Some of the dishes that are unique to Himachal include Pateer, Chouck, Bhagjery and chutney of Til. Apart from these Nasasta is a sweetmeat of the Kangra region, Indra is dish prepared of Urad dal and Bada/Poldu is cooked in the Shimla region.