|Regions with significant populations|
|Hinduism, traditional beliefs|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Tharu people · Bhotiya · Pokhariya · Ban Rawats|
Bhoksa, also known as Buksa, are indigenous peoples living mainly in the Indian states of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. They are mostly concentrated in Dehradun and Nainital districts in the Kumaon foothills of the outer Himalayas. They are also found in the Bijnor district of Uttar Pradesh, where they are known as Mehra. Both communities have been granted Scheduled Tribe status.
The language is spoken in Uttarakhand, mainly in southwestern Nainital district, along a diagonal from Ramnagar to Keneshpur. It is spoken around 130 villages in Kichha and Kashipur tahsils, some in Bijnor and Garhwal Districts.
There are various traditions as to why the community acquired the name Bhoksa. According to some experts, the name is a corruption of the word buqra, which is root found in the Terai, and was the staple diet of the Bhoksa. Other traditions state that they acquired the name on account of the fact that their appearance was unkempt, and their neighbours gave the name boksa, which means a mountain goat in the local Pahari language. In Dehradun and Bijnor districts, they are known as Mehra, which is said to be a corruption of the Hindi word mehram, which means a knowledgeable person. They are said to have acquired this name on the account of the fact that they were the only community that was employed as guides by travelers in the Terai. According to the community's own traditions, they are Rajputs from the Deccan Plateau that fled to the hills to escape the Muslim conquerors of India. This is said to be reflected in their sub-division, the Rajvanshi, Suryavanshi, Chandravanshi and Dujvanshi, all well known Rajput sub-groups. The Bhoksa are found along the slopes of the lower Himalayas, in a forested region known as the Terai. In Uttar Pradesh, they are found in Pilibhit and Bijnor districts, while in Uttarakhand, they are found in Udham Singh Nagar and Dehradun districts.
The Bhoksa are now Hindu, having abandoned earlier animist traditions, and this is seen by their use of Brahmin priests. However, they maintain a tribal deity, Shakumbari Devi, to which they place a special relevance. The Bhoksa now speak Hindi, and have customs similar to other neighbouring Hindu communities. The Bhoksa still occupy distinct settlements, which they do not share with any tribal or caste grouping.They are now cultivators, with many maintaining their secondary occupation as mountain guides.
The Bhoksa are strictly endogamous, and practice clan exogamy. Their main clans are the Chauhan, Pundir, Tonwar, Chambaval, Kutiyala, Panwar, Phalsane, Katheriya, Tumbewar, Banwarbatti, Lakkiwal, Malanhas, Khasam, Kotwal and Chad. All these clans are of equal status, and intermarry.
As of 2001[update], the Bhoksa of Uttarakhand were classified as a Scheduled Tribe under the Indian government's reservation program of affirmative action. As Buksa, they are similarly classified in Uttar Pradesh.
- "Uttaranchal, DATA HIGHLIGHTS: THE SCHEDULED TRIBES, Census of India 2001" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-03-16.
- "Uttar Pradesh, DATA HIGHLIGHTS: THE SCHEDULED TRIBES, Census of India 2001" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-03-16.
- "Buksa". ethnologie.com. Retrieved 31 August 2012.
- People of India Uttar Pradesh Volume XLII Part One edited by A Hasan & J C Das pages 289 to 293 Manohar Publications
- "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.
- "State wise Scheduled Tribes — Uttar Pradesh" (PDF). Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India. Retrieved 2017-02-04.