Jammu and Kashmir is known for the presence of numerous tribal communities that are scattered throughout the valley and form an inherent part of culture and tradition of this unique state. The traditional art, craft and customs that these tribes in Jammu and Kashmir carry with them, make this state distinguished from all other states of India. The research of anthropologists has predicted their origin from Aryans who settled in North India.
The rich and varied Culture which the tribesmen display is a source of attraction for the tourist. Jammu and Kashmir, apart from its natural splendor, is also known for the diversity of tribes that dots the ethnicity of the state. The tribal life carries with itself the age-old traditions and customs of prehistoric time. Most of them are still untouched with the influence of the outside world. Their simple and rustic lives arouse curiosity and interest of the visitors as well as are part of extensive research works.
Language and Livelihood :
Most of the tribes in Jammu and Kashmir speak Dogri language which is a beautiful blend of languages like Sanskrit, Persian, and Punjabi. Their clothing consists of a hanging shirt and pajamas which are strikingly simple. Males wear a "kamarband" at their waists and a turban on their head. These are accompanied with tight sweaters and tops. Most of the tribesmen are agrarian; their main professions include cattle rearing, cultivation, fruit collecting etc. Some of them are known to become priests who supervise the rites and rituals of the tribal community. Each tribe has its own set of customs, beliefs, traditions and religious faiths that are peculiar to them. Their umpteen castes and sects, varied lifestyles, and rich cultural heritage make them stand out and get noticed by others.
This migratory tribe is known for their frequent visits to high altitudes along with their cattle. These Kashmiri shepherds rear buffaloes and spent most of their times in driving their animals to high valleys of Sindh and Liddar. These tribes in Jammu and Kashmir earn money by selling buffalo milk to the local people. Earlier inhabiting Himalayan foothills, Gujjars were forced to shift their base on higher altitudes owing to unavailability of pastures in the low-lying areas. State government has introduced many schemes for the permanent settlement of these tribes. Some of them have settled in Pahalgam. Bakharvals, who are the goat herders, resemble Gujjars in many ways. The goat wool prepared by them is sold at enormous prices in several parts of India and outside. It is due to the strenuous efforts of these Gujjars that massive bridges are formed over the streams.
Balti Tribe :
Descendents of the Celtic communities, Balti tribes form the ethnic Tibetan group that are scattered in Baltistan region of Pakistan and Ladakh of Jammu Kashmir. These tribesmen were forced to leave their native land owing to floods in Baltic Sea. Animal husbandry and cattle rearing are the major occupations of Baltis. Sheep, goats and other diary animals are reared for wool, meat, and milk. Some of them are skilled in trade and semi skilled labors. As far as their religious sentiments are concerned, they are known to be the staunch supporter of Shia sect. They are led by "Aghas", their religious leaders. They are very particular about cleanliness and would never use any item that has been touched by non-Muslims. Mourning for martyrs is an important social practice that is imbibed in their culture. The extremely rigid attitude of these people is changing slowly and gradually over time. Their matrimonial alliances are not permanent and they are free to change their partners over a period of time.
Brokpa Tribe :
Spread over several parts of India, these tribes in Jammu and Kashmir are considered the descendants of Dards of Gilgit region. Famous for their exquisite ornaments, unique dresses, and cultural festivals, Brokpa tribesmen have rich history of culture and origin. Males wear woolen top and pants, women adore themselves with gowns. They speak Shinna language, while some of them also use Balti language in their conversation. Like other tribal, they earn their livelihood by animal husbandry and agriculture. Apart from Islam, some Brokpa people also follow Buddhism.
Changpa Tribe :
Like Brokpa, Changpa tribe is also a scheduled tribe of India. Major part of this nomadic community is known to exist in Ladakh and nearby areas. Their cultural heritage is rich in music, dance, and festivals. They are known to live in the hand-made tents of hair of goat and yak. They have an inclination towards spiritualism and religious customs. Like other tribes, Changpa people excel in cattle rearing and cultivation activities. They are migratory in nature and wander from pasture to pasture in search of food and shelter. Some of the members of this community engage themselves in salt collection on the shores of Tsokar Lake. This salt is then distributed in regions of Ladakh and Kashmir Valley.
Tribes in Jammu and Kashmir form an inseparable part of the cultural heritage of Jammu and Kashmir.