Himalayan VOICES High Himalaya FORUM Himalayan Heritage  
 
Search
 
 > Society & Culture
 
View more Readings:
MOUNTAIN ISSUES
Environmental Issues
Welfare & Infrastructure Issues
Social Issues, Gender & Indigenous Rights Issues
Poverty & Resource Issues Issues
Geopolitics
Others
SOCIETY AND CULTURE
Articles in this section are a window to the peoples and great cultural diversity of the Himalayan region
People: Although a tremendously difficult terrain, the Himalayas are inhabited by a sizeable population- nearly 50 million; another 450 million people of the densely populated plains at the base of these mountains, a significant proportion of the world's population, is supported by the resource flows from the Himalayas. The inhabitants of the northern slopes and the higher altitudes on the southern side are Mongoloids and have remained ethnically pure because of relatively lower contact with outsiders; the southern slopes, especially the lower and middle ranges, have had waves of invasions and conquests and migrations through history, and are today inhabited by diverse and mixed ethnic groups, with Mongoloid, Negroid and Aryan strains. It is believed that settlement in the Himalayas began with a warrior like Aryan tribe called Khas that migrated to the western Himalayas in 1500 BC; the Tibeto Burman people of South east Asia (called the Kiratas and reputed for their musical skills) moved into the central and eastern Himalayas in the early millennia.

Lifestyle and nature:A majority of the people residing in the valleys and plateaus of the southern slopes are sedentary. The foothills and the lower hills, by virtue of their rich, fertile soils, brought down by the Himalayan rivers, are relatively densely populated, and the predominant religion is Hinduism. The Greater and Trans Himalayas are by far more severe in terrain and climate. Populations in this region are therefore very sparse living in small communities widely dispersed across a vast, harsh terrain. Depending on the precise location and agro-climatic conditions, they are either sedentary, subsistence farmers or nomadic tent-dwelling pastoralists.

Since fording the high mountain ranges that separated the Himalayan valleys was possible only at great risk to life, each valley and each distinct community developed its own socio-cultural solutions to the challenges of life, virtually cut-off from the rest of the world. Yet, the common geographical factors helped shape cultures that were highly akin one to another. One and all, the people of the Himalayas worship the mountains as their preserver and protector and life-giver. All communities are strongly religious, nature-dependent and clannish; except for inhabitants of the arid wilderness on the northern flanks and the dense forests of the eastern ranges, where the people are fierce and warrior-like - they successfully rebuffed the British armies during the Raj era - the Himalayan people are essentially peace-loving. The Himalayas also boast of a rich tapestry of traditional knowledge, spanning domains, such as architecture, medicine and agro-forestry that reflect the particular ecological conditions of the region. One positive result of the physical isolation of the region has been the near intact preservation of centuries old knowledge base. Society in the higher altitudes is quite liberal albeit male dominated; lower Himalayas has a more conservative society. Mountain women carry out all sedentary activities including farming, gathering fodder and fuelwood, etc., while men manage herds and carry out trading activities.
Title: A Matter of Quality: A Study of People's Perceptions and Expectations from Schooling in Rural and Urban Areas of Uttarakhand
Author: Anonymous
Source: Sansodhan, Research & Advocacy wing of Society for Integrated Development of Himalayas (SIDH)
Year: 2002
Publisher: Society for Integrated Development of Himalayas (SIDH)
Abstracts:  The study shows a gap between what parents expected the school to teach their children in terms of values, ethics, behavior, character building etc and what the schools were actually teaching in rural and urban areas of Uttarakhand. The research, originally designed only to explore people’s perception about the current system of education and how it varied due to literacy, income, gender, age and urbanization, went well beyond the original objectives. It observes that the present system was not attuned to people’s requirements and there is a need to evolve a system relevant to the needs and aspirations of the people.
View Article
Download
 
Title: A Note on Some Typical Architectural Designs of Western Nepal
Author: Sharma, D.R.
Source: Contribution to Nepalese Studies, Vol. 27, No.2
Year: 2000
Publisher: Centre for Nepal and Asian Studies (CNAS), Tribhuvan University
Abstracts:  The historical and socio-religious influences on material arts and crafts of the western Nepal region can be easily illustrated as various art forms depict the religious and cultural integration. This paper deals with the secular architectural design of western Nepal that is exhibited in the constructions of water reservoirs, conduits and pillared pavilions and traces the cultural history behind them.
View Article
Download
 
Title: Cultural diversity in the mountains: Issues of integration and marginality in sustainable development
Author: Mehta, M.
Source: Mountain Forum
Year: 1995
Publisher: Mountain Forum
Abstracts:  Apart from their rich biodiversity, mountain regions also exhibit a diversity of cultures resulting from niche-specificity of steep mountainous topographies, their relative isolation and the necessity to maximize production while minimizing risk and conserving resources. The paper explores the convergence of mountain cultural diversity with issues of sustainable and equitable development in highland areas, and the innumerable ways in which the local culture can help to implement sustainable development programmes.
View Article
Download
 
Title: Demons & Deities – Masks of the Himalayas
Author: Murray, T.
Source: Asian Arts, HALI Annual No. 2
Year: 1995
Publisher: HALI, London
Abstracts:  Surviving in isolated valleys, the Himalayan communities share a common love of masquerade. The powerful imagery of the Himalayan mask tradition is drawn from the diverse traditions of shamanism, village myths and the classical traditions of Buddhism and Hinduism. In this essay the author probes the 'greater context' of Himalayan masks covering a period extending from the upper Paleolithic era to the present.
View Article
Download
 
Title: Embodied Ancestors: Territory and the Body in Thangmi Funerary Rites
Author: Shneiderman (Cornell), S.
Source: Department of Anthropology, Cornell University
Year: 2002
Publisher: PIATS: 2000, International Association of Tibetan Studies
Abstracts:  Little is known about the ritual practices of Thangmi, the Himalayan ethnic group or the specific view that they define, although there has been a continued interest in the topic. In an effort to anchor discussions in concrete ethnographic data, the author describes the Thangmi rituals and the ritual actors with detailed account of Thangmi funeral ritual.
View Article
Download