Bhotiyas of Uttarakhand


Bhotiyas are people of presumed Tibetan heritage that live along the Indo-Tibetan border in the upper reaches of the Great Himalayas, at elevations ranging from 6,500 feet (2,000 m) to 13,000 feet (4,000 m). In Uttarakhand, they inhabit seven river valleys, three in the Garhwal division (Jadh, Mana and Niti) and four in the Kumaon division (Johar, Darma, Byans and Chaudans). Their main traditional occupation is Indo-Tibetan trade, with limited amounts of agriculture and pastoralism.[1] They follow Hinduism and Buddhism and traditionally speak West Himalayish languages, which are slowly getting replaced by the predominant Indo-Aryan languages of the region.[2]

[Interactive fullscreen map]
Bhot Pradesh of Garhwal
[Interactive fullscreen map]
Bhot Pradesh of Kumaon


The name, Bhotiya (also spelt "Bhotia"), derives from the word Bod (བོད་), which is the Classical Tibetan name for Tibet.[3] It was the term used by the British to refer to the borderland people, due to a presumed resemblance to the Tibetans. The Government of India continues to use the term.[4]

Bhotiyas themselves self-describe themselves as Rung. Possible etymologies of the term include the Byangko word for mountain and the Tibetan term for valley (Rang-skad = valley language).[5]

The Kumaonis refer to them as Shauka which means 'money' or 'rich'.[5]

Ethnic groupsEdit

The Bhotiyas of Uttarakhand are scattered over the seven main river valleys in the three border districts of Pithoragarh, Chamoli and Uttarkashi. The seven major Bhotiya groups in Uttarakhand are the Johari, Darmiya, Chaudansi, Byansi, Marchha (Mana Valley), Tolchha (Niti Valley) and Jadh.


The isolated Rangkas (Rang, Rung) tribe has a population of 600 and is found in the outskirts of the Mahakali valley. According to Ethnologue, the Rangkas are ethnically related or are of the Johar tribe.[6]


The religion practised by the Byansis leans towards Bön-Animism, with influences from Tibetan Buddhism and Hinduism.[7]


The Jad people are Bhotiyas who lived in Nelang and Jadung valley, some were relocated to the Bhagorathi valley area after the 1960s Indo-China political conflict.

Social statusEdit

As of 2001, the Uttarakhandi Bhotiyas were classified as a Scheduled Tribe under the Indian government's reservation program of positive discrimination.[8]


As per the 2011 Census, there were a total of 39,106 Bhotia in Uttarakhand with ST status. Of them, 37,873 were Hindu and 1,100 were Buddhist. The most popular languages among the Bhotia are Kumauni (13,150 speakers), Garhwali (5,765), Hindi (5,809), Bhotia (7,592), Halam (5,300) and Rongpa (481).

There were a total of 510 births in 2010, corresponding to a birth rate of 13.04 per 1,000.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Chatterjee, The Bhotias of Uttarakhand (1976), p. 3.
  2. ^ Van Driem, George. "Trans-Himalayan", Trans-Himalayan Linguistics 266 (2014): 11-40.
  3. ^ J. Murray (1851). The Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London. Royal Geographical Society. p. 84.
  4. ^ Oko, A Grammar of Darma (2019), pp. 7–8.
  5. ^ a b Oko, A Grammar of Darma (2019), p. 7.
  6. ^ Ethnologue profile - Rangkas
  7. ^ Heiko Schrader (1988). Trading Patterns in the Nepal Himalayas. Breitenbach. p. 108. ISBN 3-88156-405-5.
  8. ^ "List of Scheduled Tribes". Census of India: Government of India. 7 March 2007. Archived from the original on 5 June 2010. Retrieved 27 November 2012.

Further readingEdit

  • Bergmann, Christoph (2016). "Confluent territories and overlapping sovereignties: Britain's nineteenth-century Indian empire in the Kumaon Himalaya". Journal of Historical Geography. 51: 88–98. doi:10.1016/j.jhg.2015.06.015. ISSN 0305-7488.
  • Chatterjee, Bishwa B. (January 1976), "The Bhotias of Uttarakhand", India International Centre Quarterly, 3 (1): 3–16, JSTOR 23001864
  • Dash, Chittaranjan (2006), Social Ecology and Demographic Structure of Bhotias: Narratives & Discourses, Concept Publishing Company, ISBN 978-81-8069-227-7
  • Farooquee, Nehal A. (December 1998), "Changes in Pastoralism in the Indian Himalaya", Cultural Survival, 22 (4)
  • Jha, Makhan (1996), The Himalayas: An Anthropological Perspective, M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd., ISBN 978-81-7533-020-7
  • Hoon, Vineeta (1996), Living on the Move: Bhotiyas of the Kumaon Himalaya, Sage Publications, ISBN 978-0-8039-9325-9
  • Negi, R. S.; Singh, J.; Das, J. C. (1996), "Trade and Trade-Routes in the Cis and Trans Himalayas: Pattern of Traditional Entrepreneurship Among the Indian Highlanders", in Makhan Jha (ed.), The Himalayas: An Anthropological Perspective, M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd., pp. 53–66, ISBN 978-81-7533-020-7
  • Oko, Christina Willis (2019), A Grammar of Darma, BRILL, ISBN 978-90-04-40949-1
  • Walton, H. G., ed. (1911), Almora: A Gazetteer, District Gazetteers of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, vol. 35, Government Press, United Provinces – via

External linksEdit

  • Rongpas of niti-mana ghati