Culture in Munsiari

Culture in Munsiari

Munsiari, located in the Johar Valley of Goriganga River, has been home to different nomadic tribes since time immemorial. Among them, the Shauakas and the Barpatias are the two most significant groups that claim to be living here since prehistoric days and the culture of this region has been greatly influenced by the culture of these tribes.

Barpatias of Munsiari

The Barpatias claim to be the original settlers of this valley. In all probability, they are of Khasha origin and may have come here in distant past from Central Asia. They earned their living by trading with Tibet. Later they were marginalized by the Shaukas and reduced to the status of backwards. 

Barpatias of Munsiyari

At present, there are around 6000 Barpatias living in Munsiari Sub Division. Many of them also live in Munsiarai town; but majority of them are found in Namik, Tomik, Ringu, Chulkot, Bunthi, Barniagaon, Josha, Imla, Papri, Quiri Jimia, Harkot and Kotal villages of this subdivision. The tribe was given Schedule Tribe status in 1967.

Shauka Tribe of Munsiari

However, the majority population of Munsiarai and its adjoining area belong to the Shauka tribe. Officially, they belong to the larger ethno linguistic group called Uttarakhand Bhotia and is often referred as Bhotias by outsiders. However, the tribe prefers to be known as Johari Shaukas or simply the Shukas. It is possible that they had migrated from Tibet in distance past. It is to be remembered that the name Bhotiya has been derived from Bot, which is the classical name for Tibet. Nonetheless, once they migrated to the valley, they took over the trade with Tibet from Barpatiyas and became the dominant group in the area.

Shauka Language of Munsiari

The Shaukas mostly speak in Byangshi language, which is of Tibeto Burman origin. However, because of outside exposure, the language has been highly Sanskritized and is written in Devnagari script. Because it is spoken mostly by Shauka people, it is also known as Shauka language. Hindi is the official language here and so most people have adapted it.

Religion in Munsiari

Religion in Munsiari

The Shuakas follow Hindu religion. Just as in many parts of Uttarakhand, Goddess Nanda Devi is the patron deity here. She is believed to be the consort of Lord Shiva and bestow happiness on her devotees. It is also believed that the Goddess lives on the 25,645 feet tall Nanda Devi Mountain, which is the highest peak in Uttarakhand and is located not far away from this town. Temples dedicated to Nana Devi are located in different corners of Johar Valley. One such temple is located just outskirts of Munsiari town. One can also find such temples in far flung areas such as Milam, Martoli, Darkot etc.

Shaukas follow strict caste system and are divided into many sub castes known as Garkha. The customs and laws are mostly governed by Hindu customs and law. Their ceremonies are always conducted by Brahmin priests. However, in some cases Tibetan influences can also be observed.

Festivals in Munsiari

Festival in Munsiari

Culture in MunsiariNandashtami, dedicated to the patron goddess Nanda Devi, is the main festival of this region. It is celebrated with great enthusiasm in the middle of September. Even in those days, when Shaukas led a nomadic life, travelling between Tibet and Varanashi, they would come home for this festival every year. However, unlike other places in Uttarakhand, there is no tradition of Nanda Devi Raj Jat anywhere in the Johar Valley. Here the devotees offer puja to the deity and try to please her by dancing and singing. Collecting Bramhakamal (locally called Kaul Kamphu) is also part of the ritual.

Hurkiyas of Munsiari

Hurkiyas is a small endogamous community found in Uttarkhand. While some in the community are Muslims, those who live in Munsiari are mostly Hindu. They are mostly entertainers and are generally employed by more affluent Shaukas during different ceremonies. Their name has been derived from ‘hurka’, a drum like musical instrument. The Hurkiya men play this instrument while the women dance. However, many Hurkiyas have now taken up other occupations.

Folk Dances of Munsiari

Shaukas of Munsiari have now established themselves in different fields. In spite of modernization, they have held on to their traditional customs and values. Jhora, Cholia and Chhapelli ate some of the folk dances popular even today.

Handicrafts in Munsiari

Handicrafts in Munsiyari

For ages, carpet making has been a cottage industry among the Shauka women of Johar Valley.  Although women usually stayed at home some of them also accompanied their men on their trip to Tibet. There they learnt the art of carpet making and very soon becme expert in this field. The art almost died once the border was sealed and good quality Tibetan wool was no more available. Fortunately, it has revived once again thanks to Government initiative and opening of trade route with Tibet.

Today, Munsiari is famous for its hand woven woolen carpets, pashmina shawls, blankets made out of sheep wool and different types of wooden artifacts.

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