Kinnaur is one of twelve administrative districts in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, India. The district is divided into three administrative areas – Pooh, Kalpa, and Nichar – and has five tehsils (counties). The administrative headquarters of Kinnaur district is at Reckong Peo. From here Kinnaur Kailash, considered to be the abode of Lord Shiva, can be viewed. As of 2011 it is the second least populous district of Himachal Pradesh (out of 12), after Lahaul and Spiti.
Both regional as well as social difference have influence on the linguistic climate of the region. A typical village is a mixture of Rajput, Blacksmiths and Carpenters, and all three speaks separate languages. The regional difference in language is spectacular - out of the total nine languages spoken in the district, six are regional differences and two are social varieties. Seven out of nine languages belong to Tibeto-Burman language family whereas the two caste languages belong to Indo-Aryan language family.
All of these languages are predominantly used in the communication at home. It is quite common to hear the people speaking in their own language even in Reckong Peo, the district headquarters.
Following table lists the Dialects, villages where it is spoken.
Morang Tehsil,Jangi,Lippa and Asrang villages
Chauhra to Sangla and north along Satluj river to Morang
Morang tehsil, upper Kinnauri, Morang tahsil, Nesang village, Puh tehsil.
Nichar subdivision, Sangla valley, Baspa river area,Chitkul and Rakchham villages.Throughout Kinnaur district.
Throughout Kinnaur district.
Puh tehsil, Kanam, Labrang, Spilo, Shyaso, Taling, and Rushkaling village.
Puh tahsil, Sunam vilage.
Nesang, Charang, and Kunnu villages.
The staple food is wheat, ogla, phafra and barley which are local produce. Besides these kankani, cheena, maize, chollair and bathu are also used. The principal pulses consumed are peas, black peas, mash and rajmash. The vegetables usually consumed are cabbage, turnips, peas, beans, pumpkin, potato, okra and tomato besides some locally available wild green vegetables leaves.
They relish rice too which is imported from the plains. Drinking a salted tea called cha in the morning and evening is very popular among the Kannauras, usually drunk along with sattu made of parched barley flour. They are non-vegetarian and relish goat and ram's meat. Drinking of alcoholic beverages in both their day-to-day life and on the ceremonial or festive occasions is quite common. Alcohol is distilled at the household level, made out barley and of fruits like grapes, apple, pear etc. grown locally.
The people of lower Kinnaur are largely Hindu. Their most important gods and goddess are Durga (Chandi), Bhairon, Usha (Ukha), Narayan, Vishnu, Badrinath and Bhimakali. The Blacksmiths and Carpenters have their favorite deities such as Nag Devta. In addition, each village has its presiding deity.
The inhabitants of middle Kinnaur are Buddhist as well as Hindu. The important Hindu deities of middle Kinnaur include Chandi, Gauri Shankar, Kansa and Narayanjee. Dabla, the local god of Kanam village, has certain features traditionally associated with the Bon religion. The image of Dabla is installed along with those of Buddha and Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) in one of the monasteries at Kanam.
The religion of upper Kinnaur is mostly Tibetan Buddhist. Almost every village has a monastery with monks recruited from amongst the (Kanet).
Hinduism is the main religions in the district followed by Tibetan Buddhism, although Bön is also practised. These three religions have undergone religious mixing, along with some indigenous shamanistic practices. One can see some Buddhist influences on the Hindu religion in Lower Kinnaur, the mixing of Buddhist and Hindu beliefs in varying degrees in Middle Kinnaur, and even the influence of Hinduism on Buddhism in Pooh of Upper Kinnaur. However, Buddhist Hangrang remains largely untouched by Hindu influence.
One can see Hindu gods being worshipped side by side with Buddhist deities in Buddhist and Hindu temples, especially in Middle Kinnaur. Dabla, one of the major Bön deities, is greatly revered by the Kinners in the area. Folk Hindu gods are also worshipped in Middle and Lower Kinnaur. These include the Durga (locally known as Chandi, Narayan, Vishnu) and many other folk Hindu–animist gods. Folk deities play a major role in the daily life of the Kinners.
Superstitions concerning animist ghosts such as Banchir, Rakshas, and Khunkch also play an important role in the belief system of the Kinners. Pujas and horns of domestic animals are used to ward off the evil spirits, in order to bring good luck.
Buddhist lamas play an important role in the daily life of the Kinners, and young monks of Upper and Middle Kinnaur are trained from a young age in conducting religious ceremonies, devoting their lives to Lamaism and learning to read Tibetan scriptures and Buddhist doctrines. When they become Lamas (male monks) and Chomos (female nuns), they are given religious duties, which include presiding over the religious and secular affairs of the Kinners. They are generally divided into two groups, namely, the celibate Gyolang, who shave their heads, and the non-celibate Durpu, who do not shave their heads.
The Kinnaur Kailash is the most sacred mountain for most Kinners. Every year it is visited by thousands of locals on religious pilgrimages known as Yatra, Hindu and Buddhist alike.
Generally, Kinner houses have storerooms for keeping grain and dried fruits, and separate wooden grain-storage structures, called kathar. Pakpa, a piece of sheepskin or yakskin, is often placed on the khayarcha mat.
Traditionally Kinners use utensils made of brass and bronze. Modern influences have included the introduction of Chinese crockery, and utensils made of stainless steel and aluminium.
Clothes are mainly of wool. The thepang, a grey woollen cap, is worn with a white velvet band. The Tibetan chhuba, a long woollen coat which resembles an achkan, is worn as well, with a sleeveless woollen jacket. While men wear woollen churidhar pajamas, and tailored woollen shirts such as the chamn kurti, the women wrap themselves up in a dohru. The first wrap of the dohru is based on the back, with embroidered borders displayed throughout its length, which stretches to the heels.
Darker shades of colours are preferred for the Dohru, although other beautifully coloured shawls may be worn, usually draped over the shoulders. A choli, another type of full sleeved blouse worn by women, may serve as a decorative lining as well.
The Kinners are classified mainly into two castes: lower and upper caste. Again both of these categories are divided into sub classes. The caste system is more prevalent in the Lower and Middle Kinnaur regions.