(Last Updated on : 09/04/2015)
Garhwalis are an Indo-Aryan linguistic
group who primarily inhabit the Garhwal Himalayas
. Any person who has ancestral Garhwali roots or lives in Garhwal and has a Garhwali heritage is called a Garhwali. Garhwali people are divided into three castes - Garhwali Brahmin, Garhwali Rajput and Shilpkaar.
History of Garhwali People
The history of Garhwal is older than that of Ramayana
. It is a land of popular myths like Lord Shiva
appearing as Karat the Urvashi, the Shakuntala
and the Kauravas
. The people of this of Garhwal region mainly worship Lord Shiva. The first recorded name of this region was Kartripur. Since it was surrounded on all sides by mountains, it came to be known us "Giri-avil" which, after some time was transformed into Garhwal. Bhanupratap was the first known king and later on his son-in-law, Kanakpal took over. Their kingdom was known as Chandpur-Garhi. King Kanakpal came to Garhwal from Rajasthan
from the region Bagerh. He brought with him the Bagerhi language. Therefore, Garhwali
and Bagerhi languages are very similar to each other.
Culture of Garhwali People
The culture of Garhwal is an amalgamation of influences from the indigenous population coupled with traditions superimposed by various immigrants who settled in the region from time to time. The unique tribesmen of Garhwal are the Bhotias who are considered to be the mountain climbers. Majority of the people are involved in the agriculture, tourism and the defence industry. Bhotias are different from Tibetans and the resident Hindus; they are worshippers of the peaks of Nanda Devi
etc. Those who are inclined towards Hinduism
worships the Gabla God. Other Gods Runiya and Sonia protect their animals from diseases, Sichuan and Bighead gods help them to find their lost animals.
Jaunsari people of Garhwal still practice polyandry (one women married to many brothers). The other tribes are the Doms, Khasias, Nagas
, Kinners, Khaikers, Jads, Tangans, Partangans, Bhils, Ban Rajis, Marchyas and Tolchas. Most of these tribes have the youth clubs called 'Rang-bangs' where younger people meet and find their well-suited marital partners. After meals, which mainly consist of rice curries, they have tea specially prepared in a bamboo container shaken with a mixture of ground barley and gram, topped with butter. These tribes take alcoholic drinks made from rice. Their main occupation of Garhwal people has been sheep rearing, cultivation and trading, herb collection and hunting.
Marriage Customs of Garhwal
The groom bears the cost of Ganesh Puja followed by a feast. If the groom cannot afford to pay, he either remains unmarried or has to work for his father-in-law. While women do most of the household chores men normally rest. Most of the Garhwali Brahmins and Rajputs are of Khas origin and practice the Khas traditions like Sautiya baant, Gharjamain, Dewar-Bhabhi Vivaah etc. They are closely related to each other.
The Garhwal Rifles
During the Gurkha War
of 1814-1815 AD the Garhwalis were first employed as soldiers in the army. Between 1815 and 1837 AD the Garhwal peoples were employed mainly in the1/5 Regiment of the Gurkhas
of Indian Army. In 1880 the first proposal to raise a separate regiment of Garhwalis originated through the Punjab
Government and a more tangible recommendation was made in 1886 AD by the Commandeering-Chief in India who wrote that the 'Garhwalis would be an excellent fighting class'. The Proposal took its concluding profile on 5th May 1887, when the first regiment was raised. In 1880, this unit took part in Chin-Hill journey and later between 1897 and 1898 saw service in NWFP with the Malakand Field Force and Tirah Expeditionary Force. The present 5th Gurkha regiment had many Garhwalis in its ranks that have continuously proved themselves in times of war.
Art & Painting of Garhwal
The silvery mountains, the gleaming streams, vibrant green valleys and the cool climate have attracted many people to the hills of Garhwal for peace, harmony and meditation
. It is this beautiful land, which had encouraged the great writers like Maharishi Valmiki
. All this laid the vital foundation for the literary treasures in Garhwal including paintings and art. The art of stone carving slowly died but woodcarving continued. Woodcarving could be seen on every door of the house till only half a century ago. In addition, woodcarving can be seen in hundreds of temple all over Garhwal. The remains of architectural work have been found at the glowing places in Garhwal. Chandpur fort, Temples of Srinagar
, Pandukeshwar near Badrinath
, Devi Mandir near Joshimath, Deval Garh Temple, all in Garhwal and Chamoli district