people of himachal

People of Kinnaur – The Caste System

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To understand the cultural diversity of the Kinnaur District, we have to study it as three different territorial units: Lower Kinnaur, Middle Kinnaur and Lower Kinnaur.

The Lower Kinnaur spans between Chora at the boundary of the Kinnaur District with Rampur Bushahr and Kalpa including Nichar and Sangla valleys. The people residing in the Lower Kinnaur primarily exhibit Mediterranean physical type. You may not be able to distinguish them from the inhabitants of the adjoining Shimla District as they share the same affinity. Lower Kinnaur is predominantly a Hindu region; however, the ethno-historical factors have added some Buddhist influence too.

The Kanets, who use honorific surname Negi, are the cultivating community of the area.

The middle Kinnaur comprises the area between Kalpa and Kanam including Moorang tehsil. The inhabitants of middle Kinnaur display mixed racial strain. While some are characterized by Mongolian features, others depict Mediterranean features. You can also see some with an admixture of the above two features in varying degrees. The residents belong to Buddhist and Hindu religion. The remaining north-eastern part of the district form the upper Kinnaur, which comprises the area between Pooh and Hangrang valley, stretching up to international border with Tibet.

The Kinnaur society has two segregations, based on the two broad occupational groups – Peasants and the Artisans, represented by Kanets (Rajputs) and Scheduled Castes respectively. The Kanets, who use honorific surname Negi, are the cultivating community of the area. The Kanets further have three grades. The first grade of Kanets comprises fifty sub-castes, the second grades have seventeen sub-castes and the third grade who works as potter are divided into three sub-castes. Waza, the third grade Kanets, are considered inferior among Kanets.

The Scheduled castes comprise Domangs and Chamangs. Chamangs are traditionally involved in making and weaving clothes while the Domangs are predominantly blacksmiths. The Ores, the third caste, work are engaged is carpentry. The Ores hold the equal status as Domangs. The Scheduled castes including blacksmiths and carpenters (i.e. Domangs and Ores) rate themselves higher than Kolis or Chamangs.


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