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Himachal Guide - Culture

Culture of Himachal Pradesh

The culture of Himachal Pradesh is extremely rich, which is reflected in the day-to-day lives of the local people. Noted for their colorful dresses and distinguished physical characters, the people of Himachal Pradesh exhibit a very warm and friendly nature and the 'untouched' simplicity which constitute an integral part of the beautiful Culture of Himachal Pradesh.

About 90% of the population of Himachal Pradesh is Hindus. There main communities are Brahmins, Rajputs, Kannets, Rathis and Kolis. The tribal population of the state comprise of the Gaddis, Kinnars, Gujjars, Pangawals and Lahaulis.

Most of the people in Himachal depend on agriculture for livelihood. Ninety percent of the people live in villages and small towns. Villages usually have terraced fileds and small two storey houses with sloping roof. The villages are mostly self-contained with a few shops to take care of basic necessities of life. Most villages have a temple, where people congregate for worship. In many parts of the Himachal the village Gods are carried on palanquins to village fairs. On Dussehra the largest congregation of village Gods takes place at Kullu.
The folk songs of Himachal Pradesh are full of charm. They are usually based on religious or a romantic theme. People gather in a circle in village fairs and dance to the tune of these songs. The dancing is usually spontaneous during a village fair and is symbolic of the peace and joy of the people. In general people of Himachal Pradesh are honest, truthful, gentle, and good humored.

Most of the people in Himachal are Hindus. There is a sizable number of Buddhists who live in Himachal. Hinduism practiced in the areas of Himachal that are closer to the northern plains is very similar to the Hinduism practiced in the plains.
Upper hill areas have their own distinct flavor of Hinduism. Their practice of religion combines the local legends and beliefs with the larger Hindu beliefs. The temple architecture has also been influenced by local constraints such as availability or lack of availability of certain construction materials. Most of the upper hill temples are made of wood and more similar to Pagodas in design.
Most of the people of Himachal who live in the areas that border with China are Buddhist. There are many beautiful Buddhist temples and pagodas in Himachal.

Arts and Craft
Thapada is a large embroidered shawl, which is a specialty of the handicraft of Himachal Pradesh. Other items of craft include the Kohana, a kind of a wall hanging, pillow covers, blouses and caps adorned with fine embroidery. The embroidered caps of the Kulu, Sirmair, Kinnaur and Lahaul regions are also very famous. The shawls from Kulu, woolen rugs and carpets from Lahaul, depicting the traditional Pahadi designs. Beautiful patchwork quilts, rag dolls and elephants are also made in the area and comprise a necessary parts of bride's trousseau. The wool products are made in either the Byangi wool. Dyeing and printing of fabrics has been a traditional craft in the area. The Farahada and the Chhiba people do this work traditionally. Weaving of wool is a major cottage industry in itself. The highlanders of Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur weave dresses from it for special occasions such as festivals and weddings.

The Dom tribe is well known for producing fine household articles made of bamboo. They are later painted in bright colors. They manufacture boxes, sofas, chairs, baskets, racks and several articles used in daily life. Leather craft is extremely developed and the slippers and shoes made in Chamba are in large demand. The Himachalis are adept at the art of making pots and statuettes with clay in many shapes and sizes. These include pitchers, bowls, platters, cups, lamps and small and large pots. These are decorated with white patterns drawn with Golu clay. Toys and figures of gods and goddesses are made during festivals. The metal ware of Himachal Pradesh includes attractive utensils, ritualistic vessels, idols and silver jewellery. The local goldsmiths also craft fine gold ornaments. The jewellery by the woman of Kulu, Sirmaur, Kinnaur, Pangwati and Bharmor region is very attractive.

Dance and Music
The dance and music of the state is mainly religion-oriented where gods are invoked during the festivals by singing and dancing. This practice has continued since ancient times. The major dance of the state are the Rakshasa (dem0on) dance, the Kayang Dance, the Bakayang dance, the Bnayangchu dance, the Jataru Kayang dance, Chohara dance, Shand and Shabu dances, Lang-dar-ma dance, Nati dance, Jhanjhar dance, Jhoor dance, Gi dance and Rasa dance.
Musical instruments like Ranasingha, Karna, Turhi, Flute, Ektara, Kindari, Jhanjh, Manjara, Chimta, Ghariyal, and Ghunghru are played to provide music for the songs and the dances.

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.

With the diversity in cultural heritage, the use of language in Himachal Pradesh generally differs from district to district. Some of the commonly spoken languages are Hindi, Pahari, Kangri, Kinnauri, Punjabi, Dogri and Gojri. This multiplicity has been a very fine example of unity in diversity.