Tourism in Uttarakhand > Tourism Places Of Uttarakhand - उत्तराखण्ड के पर्यटन स्थलों से सम्बन्धित जानकारी

Darchula- A Cultural Confluence

(1/9) > >>

Dharchula, located on the banks of River Kali that forms a natural border between India and Nepal, was an ancient trading town on the trans-Himalayan route. When this Indo-Tibetan trading route was closed in 1962, many of the Bhotia traders chose to settle in Dharchula instead of using it as their summer home. Today, Dharchula is a rich cultural mix of the Bhotia, Kumaoni and Nepalese tradition and people. It is also the base camp for one of the holiest journeys known to the Bhotias, Hindus and Jains – the Kailash-Mansarovar yatra.

Dharchula, because of its geographical location (the Nepal border on one side and the Tibet-China border on the other), was an ancient trading town. Bhotias, the principal traders with skills to cross the high mountain passes from Tibet to India, brought wool, sheep/goat, borax and salt to the Dharchula market to sell; and took coarse cloth, sugar (especially gur), spices and tobacco from here to sell in Tibet. The thriving town was the centre of several small industries based around the wool trade. Trade fairs such as the Jauljibi were held here to encourage commerce. This commercial activity came to an abrupt end with the Indo-China war of 1962 as a result of which trade between the two countries was halted – and Dharchula’s importance as a commercial town declined.
Dharchula’s remote location has precluded its active participation in the historical events of the area. However, its history is tied to that of Kumaon. In common with the rest of Kumaon, Dharchula too was ruled by several princely dynasties before India attained independence. Before the 6th century AD, the Kunindas ruled here. They were followed by the Khasas, the Nands and the Mauryas. It is believed that the Khasas revolted during the reign of Bindusar (the Mauryan emperor) and the revolt was suppressed by Ashok the Great, his successor. At this point in time, several small chieftains and kings held sway over Kumaon. It is believed that at this time Dharchula Kot (fort) was ruled by a local king called Mandip.

It was only between the 6th to 12th centuries AD that a single dynasty became powerful: the Katyuris ruled over entire Kumaon during this period. However, they became confined to small areas when, between 1191 and 1223, the Mallas of Western Nepal invaded Kumaon.

The Chands came into prominence in the12th century AD and ruled Kumaon till 1790. They subdued several principalities and went to war with neighbouring kingdoms to consolidate their position. This dynasty saw only one break during this period when the Panwar king of Garhwal – Pradyuman Shah – also became king of Kumaon and was known as Pradyuman Chand. The last Chand ruler was Mahendra Singh Chand, who ruled from Rajbunga (Champawat). In 1790, the Gorkhas – locally known as Gorkhiyol – over-ran Kumaon and the Chand dynasty came to an end.

The oppressive Gorkha rule lasted till 1815, when the East India Company defeated them and took over the reigns of Kumaon. Towards the end of British rule, local action groups and press played an important role in creating mass awareness about the obnoxious begar tradition as well about the forest rights of people. These movements merged with the struggle for India’s independence – which was achieved in 1947. Kumaon then became a part of Uttar Pradesh and in 2000 of the new state of Uttarakhand.


Dharchula is considered the gateway for the holy Kailash-Mansarovar yatra and the area has always been thought of as blessed by the gods. Many ancient sages and saints chose this as their tapasthali (place of meditation), the most well-known of whom was Byas Muni. In fact, the town derives its name from a legend about the Muni. Dharchula is composed of two words: dhar or edge/mountain and chula or chulah or stove. It is said that when Byas Muni cooked his meals, he used the area between the three mountain ranges surrounding Dharchula to light his stove, so the name.
It is also said that the Pandavs, during their 12-year exile, visited this area.

Another popular myth here is associated with the Kangdali festival, celebrated by the Shauka or Rang Bhotia people, whose largest settlement is based in Dharchula. The myth tells of a boy who died upon applying the paste of the root from a shrub known as Kang-Dali on his boil. Enraged, his widowed mother cursed the shrub and ordered the Shauka women to pull up the root of the Kang-Dali plant out of the ground when it reached full bloom, which happens once in 12 years.


Dharchula’s culture is a mixed one. And each community that has made this town its home has contributed to the places’ unique culture. For centuries, Dharchula has played host to a vast floating population – the devotees, sages and saints making their way to the sacred Kailash-Mansarovar or the semi-nomadic Bhotias.
Dharchula was a traditional trading town, and when trade with Tibet was at its zenith, this town saw a large number of Bhotias sell their wares here and buy necessities to take back to Tibet. The Bhotia tribes also used this as their summer base when their homes higher in the mountains were snowed under. The Indo-Chinese war in1962, however, put an end to commercial activity, and many Bhotias have since chosen to settle down in Dharchula and the surrounding areas. Apart from the Rang Bhotia tribes, Dharchula is also home to a substantial population of Kumaoni Brahmins and Rajputs.

Major festivals such as Dhhyoula and Kangdali are celebrated as well as minor ones such as Syangthangapujan, Syeemithhumo (atma pujan), Maati (soil) puja, and Nabu Samo and the annual Kanda-Utsav.

The legend behind the Kangdali festival tells of a boy who died upon applying the paste of the root from a shrub known as Kangdali on his boil. Enraged, his widowed mother cursed the shrub and ordered the Rang women to pull out the root of the Kangdali plant when it reached full bloom, which happens once in 12 years. According to another story, the Kangdali festival commemorates the brave women who repelled Zorawar’s army that attacked from Ladhakh in 1841. The women destroyed the Kangdali bushes in which the enemy was hidden, who retreated.

The festival begins with the worship of a Shivling made of barley and buck wheat flour mixture. Every household performs this puja, which eventually culminates in a community feast. Women and men, dressed in traditional attire, assemble around a designated tree in every village and raise a flag.

A procession is formed behind the flag bearer and the crowd heads towards the Kangdali plants. The women lead the procession, each armed with a ril, a tool used in carpet making, attack the blooming plant viciously. Children and men armed with swords and shields follow closely. After the victory dance and the extermination of the shrub, the festival concludes with a feast.

The last year that the Kangdali bloomed was in 1999 and the next festival will be held in 2011.

Music and Dance
The remoteness of the mountains in which they live has ensured that the people of the area have preserved their distinctive culture traditions through dance and music. Most songs and dances are religious or pertain to the people’s traditional lifestyle.

Folk songs and dances are performed on every ceremony. Devotional songs or Jagars are sung to invite various gods to be present on the occasion. Apart from this, both men and women take part in recreational dances such as the Chanchari which are group songs and dances.

The Hurkiya Bol is associated with agriculture, mainly with the collective planting and weeding of paddy fields. A Hurkiya plays the Hurka and sings devotional songs in praise of local gods and seeks blessings for a good harvest, while the women working in the fields join in the singing.

The Choliya is a martial art form of dance which is performed on the occasion of marriages and fairs. Two or more persons holdings a shield in one hand and a sword in the other performs various attack and defence tactics and acrobatics to the tune of Dhol, Damau, Ransingh and Turahi.

The area has a very rich tradition of folk literature, which deals with local/national myths, heroes, heroines, deeds of bravery and various aspects of nature. The songs deal with the creation of earth, the deeds of gods-goddesses, especially Nanda Devi, and local dynasties/heroes as well as characters from the Ramayan and the Mahabharat. Usually, these songs are based on events from local history and the bharau (ballads) are usually sung during collective agricultural activities (Hurkiya Bol) and other songs in different social and cultural festivals. Similarly, Bhotia tribes also have their own folk songs and dances. These are used mainly during festivals and social cultural ceremonies.

Languages spoken
Indo-Nepalese (Kumaoni-Nepalese) and Hindi. The Rang Bhotias have their own language which is distinct from Tibetan languages and is an oral dialect with no written script.

The older homes in Dharchula – a few of which have survived -- are two-storey structures, not much taller than a single-storey house in the plains. Made of 10 to 25 mm thick stone walls and slate roofs, their living areas are accessed by a narrow wooden ladder-type staircase. The lower rooms once housed cattle, but now are mostly used for storage. Very few of these traditional houses remain as brick-and-cement structures with marble floors and indoor toilet replace them.


Dharchula is the business and population centre along this particular stretch of the Kali River. Apart from the Rang Bhotias and Kumaonis, Dharchula's population includes Indian army and paramilitary units stationed to protect the international borders and scores of workers, including a handful of Europeans and Koreans, employed at the hydroelectric dam being built at the base of the Darma Valley.

Traditionally, however, Dharchula was the summer home of the Rang Bhotia people and a centre of trans-Himalayan trade. The practise of winter migration has been a traditional phenomenon for all Bhotia communities of this region. They came in close contact with each other during this period and matrimonial alliances were formed. They also come in contact with the people living in the villages along the traditional migration routes. Influenced by and practicing Tibetan Buddhist, Bön and Hindu religions together, the Rangs rely on Lamas to conduct ceremonies and rituals in the Buddhist Gompas. They celebrate Tibetan festivals such as Losar, and worship Hindu and animist gods such as Gabladev. Buddhist prayer flags, locally known as Dharchyo, are hung outside houses.

Traditionally, the Rangs practiced sheep rearing and trading – they were a part and parcel of the brisk trade that took place between India and Tibet before the Indo-Chinese war of 1962. At that time, Dharchula was a centre for spinning, weaving and natural dying of wool and manufacture of traditional dress. Many families – segregated along the lines of their skills such as dying – were involved in this business. Women engaged themselves in the fine and painstaking task of weaving intricate patterns on the Chyungbala –the traditional dress for women – and the Ranga, the dress for men. Skills and knowledge of these patterns were passed down orally from generation to generation.

Since the 1962 Indo-China conflict, life in the region has undergone complete change. Earlier, almost all of the local community depended upon trading with the Tibetans and related activities, and sheep rearing. After 1962, they had to look for other means to make a living. Literacy picked up and as people became educated, they looked for better jobs elsewhere in the plains. They began to give up the traditional way of living for a modern and relatively easier and physically less demanding lifestyle. This changed the demography of the area completely. Local inhabitants now come to their villages only to perform traditional pujas -- such as Pitrapuja (prayers for the ancestors), Navratras and Shivpatri -- and for customary celebrations, thus keeping the link with their roots intact.

The people of Dharchula are warm and friendly, adept in the practice of the Rang social code called nocksum, that is, treating most strangers as guests and guests as family.


[0] Message Index

[#] Next page

Sitemap 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 
Go to full version