The Uttarakhand of today brims with the lively hum of life with people from various communities and religions contributing to make it into a wonderful profusion of the festival called life. The original natives of the land of Uttarakhand belong to different tribes having their distinct and plentiful culture. Major tribes of Uttarakhand include Bhotias (or Shaukas), TribalsRangs, Tharus, Buxas, Jaunsaris, Rajis (or Banrawats) apart from indigenous groups like Mahigeers and Vangujjars.
The Bhotia is a generic name that includes the Shaukas of Munsyari (Pithoragarh), Rangs of Dharchula(Pithoragarh), Tolchhas and Marchhas of Niti and Mana valleys (Chamoli) and Jads of harsil (uttarkashi). Most of these semi-nomadic pastoral groups are however brought under one anthropological term – Shauka.
The Tharus were once the largest scheduled tribes in the erstwhile state of U.P. and are now concentrated in the Khatima and Sitarganj tehsils of Udham Singh Nagar district. They claim their ancestry from Kirata. Some researchers regard them as descendants are of the Rajputs, while some others trace their origin from the Mongols of Central Asia. Their language is heavily influenced by Hindi and Nepali.
The joint family system is very inherent here. The Biradari Panchayat is the political organization of the Tharus. The Tharus also believe in 36 deities, as well as in witchcraft, sorcery and sacrifices. They offer sacrifices to all their deities except Jagannathi Devta, who is offered milk only. They are an agricultural community who are also fishing experts. Women do not eat the fish touched by men and so the men and women fish separately.
The Buxas are from Mongoloid stock and claim rajput origin. Closely resembling in their habits and customs to Tharus, they are said to be the original inhabitants of the Terai belt and live in Udham Singh Nagar, Dehradun and Pauri Garhwal. They are the followers of Lord Rama and Krishna and worship Hindu deities.
The term ‘Jaunsar’ represents a number of tribal groups namely the Khasas, artisan classes Koltas and baigis who inhabit the Jaunsar area of the Dehradun district.
Rajis, Mahigeers and Vangujjars are other socio-tribal groups whose distinct lifestyles add more colours to the vibrant tribal life of Uttarakhand.