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Nepal ethnic groups.png
Selected ethnic groups of Nepal: Bhotiya, Sherpa, Thakali, Gurung, Kirati, Rai, Limbu, Newari, Pahari, Tamang
Total population
27,230 (Nepal 2001)[1][nb 1]
Regions with significant populations
Ladakhi, Sherpa, Standard Tibetan and other Tibetic languages,[2] also Nepali and Hindi
Hinduism, Buddhism, Bon
Related ethnic groups
Bhutia, Tibetan, Uttarakhand Bhotiya, Ngalop
A senior official in Sikkim, ethnic Bhotiya, 1938

Bhotiya or Bot (Nepali: भोटिया, Bhotiyā) are groups of ethno-linguistically Tibetan people living in the Transhimalayan region that divides India from Tibet. Their name, Bhotiya, derives from the Classical Tibetan name for Tibet, Bod. The Bhotiya speak Ladakhi, a Tibetic language.

The Bhotiya people are closely related to the Bhutia, the main ethnolinguistic group of Northern Sikkim. They are also closely related to the Uttarakhand Bhotiya, several groups in the upper Himalayan valleys of the Kumaon and Garhwal divisions of Uttarakhand. These include the Shaukas of Kumaon and Tolchhas and Marchhas of Garhwal. The Bhotiyas are also related to the Ngalop people, the majority ethnolinguistic group of Bhutan who speak Dzongkha, as well as several dispersed groups in Nepal and adjacent areas of India including Tibetans proper, Sherpas and many others.

Language of the Bhotiya people[edit]

The language of the Bhotiya people is Ladkahi and it is generally written in the Tibetan alphabet.[3] Bhoti language is spoken in Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet, and parts of Pakistan and West Bengal. Bhoti is not included as an official language in India, but recently the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Leh, passed a resolution for its inclusion in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution without any opposition, on 27 February 2011.[citation needed]


The Bhotiyas live in much of the northern and eastern regions of Nepal, where they and other Tibetan people are region's autochthonous inhabitants.[4]

The Bhotiya people are also spread over the Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura. They have Mongoloid Feature and those living in Uttarakhand are generally referred to as Uttarakhand Bhotiya, Bhutia and Bhotiya are all same meaning of different terminology as bhot, more commonly Bhutia means the related people of Sikkim. In Uttar Pradesh, Bhotiyas are found in the Bahraich, Gonda, Lakhimpur, Lucknow, Barabanki, Kanpur,and Kheri districts. The Bhotiyas are divided into six sub-groups, the Bhot, Bhotiya, Bhutia, Tibbati (Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh) Bhut, Gyakar Khampa (From Khimling and Bhidang of Uttarakhand), Bhutola.

In Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh Bhotiyas have Scheduled Tribe status, unlike other states of India. In Uttarakhand, Bhotiyas are Scheduled Tribe under {Schedule caste order 1950, the constitutional Scheduled tribe (Uttar Pradesh)1967 SC/ST}. As Uttarakhand was part of Uttar Pradesh.

The Indian constitution recognizes them as Bhotiya, It is believed that Bhotiya people are "Raghuvanshi Rajput. As they prefer to be called as Thakurs or Rajvanshi. It's said that Bhotiyas emigrated into north Oudh in the period of Nawab Asaf-Ud-Dowlah (1775–1797).[5]



Most Bhotiya marriages are celebrated similar to Hindu weddings. When the bride's palanquin arrives at her husband's house, gods are worshipped before she is admitted into the house. Rice, silver or gold is put in the hands of bridegroom, which he passes on to the bride. She places them in a winnowing fan, and hands them over as a present to the wife of the barber. This ceremony is known as Karj Bharna. A man may have not more than three wives. The first wife is the head wife, and she receives an additional one tenth of the inheritance compared to that given to the other wives.


The Bhotiyas have distinctive funerary traditions. Young children, those who die of cholera, and of snakebites are buried. Others are cremated. There is no fixed burial ground, and no ceremonies are performed at the time of burial. Richer people keep the ashes for lowal to several streams, while others bury them. After the cremation, a stalk of kusha (grass) is fixed in the ground near a tank of water and sesamum is poured on it for ten days. This makes it a refuge for the deceased's spirit until the rides are completed.


Almost all the Bhotiyas employ Brahmins or Lamas as priests. Most of the Bhotiyas practice a combination of Tibetan Buddhism and Hinduism. In fact, the word Bhotiya was derived from the word Bhot, meaning Buddha in Tibetan. Ancestor worship is prevalent.

Hindu Bhotiyas[edit]

The Hindu Bhotiyas employ Brahmin priests to perform all birth, marriage and death ceremonies. The dead are cremated and the ashes immersed in a river, preferably the Ganges River, which is considered holy. Both birth and death result in ritual uncleanliness for specific periods. Their chief object of worship is Devi, to whom worshippers sacrifice goats and, occasionally, young pigs. After the sacrifice, worshippers consume the meat themselves.

The Hindu Bhotiyas observe the traditional Hindu festivals. On the Barsiti at the fifteenth of Jeth, women worship a banyan tree by walking round it and tying a thread round the trunk. This is done in hope of longevity for their husbands. Women fast on the third day of Bhadon.

At the Godiya on the fifth of Kattik, they worship the Nag Devta, and girls other to Devi and Mahadeva. Worshippers may consume the meat of the goat, sheep, hare, water bird, and fish. Eating the meat of the monkey, cow, owl, crocodile, lizard, rat, or other vermin is forbidden, as is alcohol consumption. However, Bhang and Ganja are used occasionally during the festivities.

Buddhist Bhotiyas[edit]

Buddhist Bhotiyas employ the services of a Lama for all their rites and celebrations. Buddhist Bhotiyas believe that right thinking, ritual sacrifices, and self-denial will enable the soul break the cycle of reincarnation to reach Nirvana (a state of eternal bliss) at death. Moreover, only those who follow the Buddhist principles of the “middle way” and the “noble eight-fold path” can achieve that state. The Bhotiya are Lamaistic Buddhists who follow the teachings of the Dalai Lama.

In Uttarakhand, the Bhotiyas have various beliefs, including superstitions, amulets for good luck, curses, ghosts and witchcraft. Believers typically fear their gods and constantly strive to appease them with religious chants, rituals, and sacrifices.

The Buddhist Bhotiyas celebrate Losar, a festival when people offer incense to appease the local spirits and deities. This festival takes place during the flowering of the apricot trees in autumn.[6]


Bhotiya people belong to the Kashyap Gotra, Unlike other Thakur communities, the Bhotiyas did not practice child marriage. English Lieutenant Arthur recognized them as a Raghuvanshi Thakurs


The Bhotiya people of Uttarakhand used to stay at the borders of India and Tibet which was former UP (United Province) during British Raj, which was not a country but a border land. These people are the border staying people whose main occupation was nomadic pastoralism and apart from this some used to trade Wool and Salt, etc. between Tibet and India. Today, some of them have settled as farmers and a few others are involved in selling or trading stones, gems and herbs in and around Uttarkhand.[4]

In Uttarakhand, the Bhotiya community mainly lives in districts - Chamoli, Pithoragarh and Uttarkashi. They possess a fair knowledge on the use of medicinal plants.[7] They make two type of beverages such as Jan (local beer), and Daru (alcoholic drink) and also prepare fermented food locally called as Sez. The traditional catalyzing agent used in the preparation of fermented foods and beverages is called Balam in Kumaon and Balma in Garhwal region of Uttarakhand.[8]

The woolen cottage industry is still one of the main occupations of Bhotiya community, which is based on personnel interactions and keen observations of their environment. They collect plant biomass for making natural dye, which they use for wool dyeing.[9] The dependency of Bhotiyas of Uttarakhand on natural resources has been intensively studied by C.P. Kala for over several years.


The education standards of Bhotiya people are very low in rural as well as urban areas in comparison to other population of people in those areas. Most Bhotiyas do not believe in studying, as they prefer family business or plan to work in agriculture.[citation needed] It would be wrong to say that standards are low but with no institution of learning and life very hard, there was no scope of learning among majority but Bhotiya from chamoli district had good respect for literate among them and especially those with mastery of Sanskrit. They called that man a Shastri. They have good flair for language and good command in Tibetan, Garhwali, Kumaoni, Nepali and Hindi. They have good knowledge of medicinal plants. They depend on plant and animal for intake and have rich culinary heritage, beside woolen craft for daily sartorial needs.


  1. ^ Includes Bhote (19,261) and Bote (7,969).


  1. ^ Singh, R. S. N. (2010). The Unmaking of Nepal. Lancer. pp. 145–146. ISBN 1-935501-28-3. 
  2. ^ Lewis, M. Paul, ed. (2009). "Sikkimese". Ethnologue: Languages of the World (16 ed.). Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Archived from the original on 14 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-16. , identifying several language communities as "Bhotiya" and similarly
  3. ^ Gohain, Swargajyoti (2012). "Mobilising language, imagining region:Use of Bhoti in West Arunachal Pradesh". Contributions to Indian Sociology 46 (3): 337–363. doi:10.1177/006996671204600304. Retrieved October 6, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Shrestha, Nanda R. (2002). Nepal and Bangladesh: a global studies handbook. Global Studies Handbooks. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1-57607-285-1. 
  5. ^ Crooke, William (1896). The Tribes and Castes of the North-western Provinces and Oudh 3. Office of the superintendent of government printing. pp. 134, 255–257. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ Kala, C.P. (2007). "Local preferences of ethnobotanical species in the Indian Himalaya: Implications for environmental conservation". Current Science 93 (12): 1828–1834. 
  8. ^ Kala, C.P. (2012). Biodiversity, Communities and Climate Change. New Delhi: TERI Publications. p. 358. 
  9. ^ Kala, C.P. (2002). "Indigenous knowledge of Bhotiya tribal community on wool dyeing and its present status in the Garhwal Himalaya, India". Current Science 83 (7): 814–817.