“HIMACHAL PRADESH” A Land of Rich Culture

They say, a piece of your heart is always left behind when you visit the mountains. Is this true? It certainly is. The moment you step foot on the slopes of the Rockies, you’re swept away by the beauty of the mountains. Enjoy the wind in the hills, float down a mountain stream, or take in the views from the tops of the cool peaks.

Himachal Pradesh might be known for its snow-capped mountains and sprawling forests, but it’s also a land of cultures and tradition. The towns are lined up with an array of old architecture, narrow lanes, and beautiful fields. And the people, ahh!!! They are too friendly, welcoming every visitor with a broad smile.

Simplicity is the key to its beauty!

Himachal Pradesh’s people pride themselves on their rich cultural heritage and they are proud of their age-old traditions. Meanwhile, they have embraced new influences to keep up with the times. Those colorful dresses and amazing celebrations clearly reflect their zest for life. Himachal Pradesh is a land of diverse religions and languages, and that’s exactly what reflects unity in diversity.

We were born and raised in Himachal Pradesh, so ya consider us lucky!

Well, speaking of its rich culture, Himachal has a lot in its pocket. So, let’s peek into it and know all of it. 

To begin with, Himachal is an amalgamation of varying groups of people, languages, cuisines, music. The diverse culture of Himachal is so vast and dynamic that it varies within every 10 kms. In this blog, we’ll be discussing Pahari culture (through an eye of a millennial) that has been deep rooted since ancient times. Keeping it short and simple, we categorized it into four parts, each holding an equal importance.

But before starting, here are some quick facts about Himachal.

  • The name of the state refers to its setting: Himachal’s name is derived from two Sanskrit words, Hema and Anchal — meaning “snow” and “lap” respectively.
  • The majority of locals work in agriculture. Nearly 65% of the state’s working population is employed in agriculture.
  • This culturally rich state is home to distinct customs and Gods that are unique in each village.
  • It is the first Indian state to implement the paperless e-government system called eVidhan.
  • In Malana, a small village in Himachal, they are one of the oldest democracies in the world with its own sets of customs and beliefs resembling those of the Greeks. In fact, they consider themselves direct descendants of Alexander the Great.

So, here are the awaited components:

1. Himachali Lifestyle

“A day in a village of Himachal: A bright morning in a village. As the birds chirp, the sun shines through the trees, lighting up the paths. The villagers are up and about, starting their day. Where some people are working in their fields, the others are taking a stroll through the village. And there comes the noise of children from the only school the village has, they are repeating the lesson in sync after their headmaster (the whole village knows the headmaster of the school)”.

There’s a power cut for 5-6 hours if not days. No online taxi services, food delivery services, grocery stores, fuel stations, or medical facilities.

Living in Himachal isn’t easy unless you’re willing to give up many of the modern facilities and comforts you’re used to. Count this as an advantage for people who want to spend their twilight years at a tranquil spot.

But when it comes to the Culture and tradition, it is deeply ingrained in their roots. They are renowned for their dance, songs, and plays. These traditions are the source of some of our most famous dance forms and songs today. Our villages might lack modern infrastructure, but they are the places where you can find the true spirit of Himachal.

2. Himachali Music

Almost all the districts of Himachal Pradesh have their own songs composed of many old tales and tunes. There are many famous songs which are constant throughout the state such as ‘Pani ri tanki’ and ‘Khinnua’ from Kangra, ‘Rohru Jaana Meri Amiye’ from Shimla, ‘Chitta Tera Chola’ from Chamba. These are the songs without which every wedding or a celebration is incomplete in Himachal. We definitely love to dance on Khinnua. A fan favorite, really!

Recently there has been a surge in Pahari mashups and covers. YouTube has brought a lot of young and talented pahari musicians who are not only composing original pahari music but are bringing back old folk songs as well. A band like LAMAN has reintroduced many folk songs, including ‘Kaali Ghagri,’ to a younger audience. Then there are great pahari mash-ups and covers made by Lalit Singh. And we must say it is a great way to promote and preserve our songs. Between all this, how can we forget a name worth mentioning ‘Baba Hansraj Raghuvanshi’ that got famous nationwide from his song ‘Mera Bhola Hai Bhandari’ with a whopping 1.8 million subscribers on his Youtube channel. His popularity soars with the fact that the younger generation of the state has a special greeting ‘Jai Shankar’ especially for him.

Another tradition is ‘Jhamakda’, a traditional song sung in himachali-kangri weddings by women where they dress as the maternal grandfather of the bride or the groom and put on a comedic fun filled music performance.

There is so much more to cover in terms of himachali music and this is just an introduction to the varied and diverse music scenery of the state. ’Naati’ is a whole new topic of its own. Here we’ve only discussed the music through a millennial’s introspective in a more contemporary light.

3. Himachali Dialect 

Though the official language spoken In Himachal is Hindi, majority of people speak Pahari language. Boli(Language) here varies within every 10 kms. Majorly spoken languages are Kangri, Dogri, Kinnauri, Kulluvi, Chambyali, Pangwali, and Miahasvi etc. It’s a fairly similar set of languages with little variation.

‘Kuthu – Ethu’ is used for ‘where and here’ in Kangra. Similarly ‘Kokhe – Okhe’ is used for the same in the kullu region. Since Boli is such a broad topic in Himachal, we outlined the highlights to get the gist.

Sweet talkers with charming accents, Himachali will make you grin like a Cheshire cat. Many youngsters will say ‘arra bhaiji’ before they say anything to their friends or brothers. Some say ‘badkaji’ to someone older than them. ’Merko terko’ is used for ‘i and you’.

The fact that Lord Shiva resides in himalayas and Himachal Pradesh is the part of those massive peaks, Himachalis, especially the young kiddos, have a huge belief in his existence. And youngsters don’t miss a chance to get creative. They’ll say BOOM SHANKAR or JAI SHANKAR when they meet and greet. ‘Khapp ho gyi’ is another such word when something weird happens.

No matter how insignificant it may seem, you can’t make yourself at home without understanding the nitty gritty of a locale’s culture. Getting to know the local language is quite important for the ones who wish to live comfortably in Himachal. As a matter of fact, it may be the first step that will help you fit in with Himachali culture.

4. Himachali Food

Speaking of Himachali food, it wouldn’t be fair enough if we don’t begin with  ‘Kangri Dham’, one of the most famous Dham of Himachal. ‘Dham’ is a local term used for lunch/traditional feast. The ethnic food consists of multiple dishes including Chawal, Madra, Khata, Kale maah, Rajmaah, Curry, sepu badi and the delicious Dessert ‘Meetha Bhath’. Food is cooked without onion, ginger or garlic.  It is served during ceremonies, religious events, family functions and other social gatherings. The best part? It is served in pattals, leaf plates (taur leaves stitched together with very thin pins made from bamboo).

There was a time when pattals were replaced by steel plates, which wore out after a while, then paper plates, then finally ‘Fantastic’ plastics, which overwhelmed everybody with their fervor. But we’re Himachalis after all, everything fails when it comes to our traditions. ‘Pattals’ were back with a bang and till date they are used to eating DHAM. This not only promotes eco-friendly practices, but it also promotes local culture and revitalizes the native products and culture. #voaclforlocal.

Moving a little upwards in the state ‘Siddu’ is the finest dish one could ever have. ‘Siddu ‘is basically a bread, stuffed with a filling of poppy seeds and mostly walnuts (can be any dry fruit). Adding to the zing, there’s ghee or chutney. Overall it’s appetizing! Another dish we have in our cuisine is Bali (pronounced as Baadi), which is typically eaten with butter and is made in upper Himachal. There are many dishes in Himachal that are locally famous and are grown organically as well as are from wild forests.

Keeping it simple with a touch of tradition is what we do!

5. Himachali Attire

The people here dress very colorful and have their own unique style. The attire is weather-resistant throughout the year. The best part? Almost everything is woven by hand, from the caps to the dresses to the footwear. People from other parts of the country and world visit the state for their hand woven dresses, which are warm and cozy. Himachal Pradesh owes its cultural identity to its handlooms.

Himachalis feel honor and pride in protecting their cultures. Dressing in Himachal Pradesh depends upon the geographical area of the region, in colder places like in Upper Himachal men wear Himachali topi along with shawls and women wear Rejtas or Pattus (dress made out of shawls) whereas in Lower Himachal People wear regular suits and Kurta Pyjamas. In Tribal areas people carry so many traditional ornaments, chunky silver jewelry along with their attire. Also ‘Nathni’ is the main attraction for women in the state. Different communities in each place of Himachal have their own set of designed costumes and attires for both Men and Women.

Himachalis believe in preserving their roots through their culture and traditions, which we’re sure every individual belonging to a certain community does and should do.

P.S- A trove of knowledge/tradition handed down to us by our ancestors should be respected as well as preserved.

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