The Rich Ethnic Diversity of Jammu and Kashmir

The Rich Ethnic Diversity of Jammu and Kashmir

Jammu and Kashmir, the northernmost state of India, is a melting pot of different ethnic groups and communities. In this blog post, Kashmiri life introduces you to the rich ethnic diversity of Jammu and Kashmir.

The state comprises of three regions- Ladakh, Jammu and the Kashmir valley, marked with their religious and ethnic differences. While Ladakh, situated along the Himalayan range, marks the residentship of 2,90,490 residents, Jammu and Kashmir valley have 53,50,311 million and 69,07,622 residents respectively, as per 2011 census.

With a population of 12.5 million people, Jammu and Kashmir is formed out of multiple ethnic groups like Dogras, Gujjars, Ladakhis and Hanjis other than Kashmiris; divided on the basis of their cultural inheritance.

Kashmiris

The Rich Ethnic Diversity of Jammu and Kashmir

Kashmiris, the term generally used by outsiders to refer to all the people of Kashmir, is actually a term used to refer to people living within the Valley of Kashmir, Neelam Valley, LeepaValley, Kishtwar, Bhadarwah, Doda and Ramban tehsils of Jammu Division. People living elsewhere and outside of these premises in the state belong to other ethnic groups of Jammu and Kashmir.
“Kashmiris” can either be Muslim (Sunni) or Hindu (Pandit) who immigrated to the valley from ancient Iran, Turkey, Central Asia and Afghanistan. Common surnames among Kashmiris can be Malik, Lone, Bhat, Dar, Tikoo, Wani, etc.
Most of the Kashmiris are either involved in agriculture or business. The ones in agriculture produce crops of paddy, saffron and orchards; of which both fruits and saffron are world famous.
The others (generally from urban Kashmir) are involved in businesses like carpet making, papier mache, wood carving, embroidery, tourism, hotel management and other handicrafts.
Next time when you visit the valley, find out who made the pashmina you bought for your loved one. Your greetings will be a blessing for people.

Ladakhis

The Rich Ethnic Diversity of Jammu and Kashmir

Ladakh, also known as the “land of high passes”, is every traveller’s roadtrip dream destination. It is, however, difficult to understand how Ladakhi’s maintain their lifestyle in the arms of cold mountains that extend from the Siachen Glacier in the Karakoram range to the Great Himalayas to the south.
Ladakhis, the hard- working, tolerant and honest lot, are a mixture of Indo-Aryan race and Tibetan descent. Ladakh is therefore a blend of “Dards”- the Aryans and Mangolians, who can be traced back to Tibet. Unfortunately, due to extreme climate and economical boundations, the population of Ladakhis is not increasing. Despite difficult situations, they have built high resistance to work even in temperatures as low as 23 degrees Celsius.
One thing you will enjoy the most with Ladakhis is playing ice hockey. For Ladakhi kids, ice hockey is what cricket is to the kids on plains. Infact, the all Women Ice Hockey Team of India comes entirely from Ladakh. Yes Indeed!

Hanjis

The Rich Ethnic Diversity of Jammu and Kashmir

The Hanjis of Jammu and Kashmir are the water dwellers who are confined to Jhelum River, Dal, Anchar, and Wular lakes situated especially between Chattabal, Srinagar and Khanabal, Anantnag. Though the descent of Hanjis is not confirmed, they are said to belong to the ancient racial group called “Nishads”, meaning boatmen.
For Hanjis, your visit to the beautiful land of Kashmir plays an important part for their income. As they are boatmen, they are widely engaged in hotel management and houseboat industry. The type of boats that Hanjis use to make a living define their social status and class. These boats can be differentiated on the basis of their shapes and sizes and are named as Khoch, Bahatch, Kara Nav, Demba-Nav, War, Parinda, Tchakawar and Houseboat.
As the saying goes, the customer is really god for Hanjis of Jammu and Kashmir.

Dogras

The Rich Ethnic Diversity of Jammu and Kashmir

The ethnic group Dogra belongs to the Jammu Division of the state. Traditionally, Dogras were the inhabitants of the area between Shivalik mountain range, Saroiensar and Mannsar lakes who later shifted to the entire Jammu region. Dogras’ belong to the Indo-Aryan race and are Brahmins with the sects of Varnashrama.
Before the independence of India, Dogra Dynasty was the last to rule Jammu and Kashmir and reigned for an entire century from 1846 to 1947.

Gujjars and Bakarwals

The Rich Ethnic Diversity of Jammu and Kashmir

Gujjars and Bakarwals of Jammu and Kashmir form a significant part of the population of the state. They live the life of nomads and their livelihood simply depends upon flocks and cattle keeping. The Gujjars and Bakarwals have no written language or history beyond what is in the folklore, word of mouth tales and traditions. While a school of thought says they were the inhabitants of Georgia, a territory situated between the Black sea and the Caspian Sea in the Soviet Union, other tales say their forefathers migrated from Gujarat and Rajasthan.
However, Gujjars and Bakarwals are an important part of Jammu and Kashmir. With changing times, Gujjars have developed land connections, even though the Bakarwal community in Gujjars keeps on oscillating from one place to another. The main concentration of Gujjars and Bakarwals can be found in Jammu, Rajouri, Udhampur, Poonch, Uri, Ganderbal, Anantnag, Daksum, Narang and the Kandi areas of the Jammu and Kashmir Divisions.
Gujjars can be further classified on the basis of their occupation & settlement as Cultivators, Transhumance, Dodhi-Gujjars and Bakarwal-Gujjars.

Indeed, diversity is the beauty and strength of Jammu and Kashmir! As Catherine Pulsifer rightly said, “We are all different, which is great because we are all unique. Without diversity, life would be very boring.”