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Jaunsar-Bawar is located in Uttarakhand
Location in Uttarakhand, India
Coordinates: 30°45′N 77°50′E / 30.75°N 77.83°E / 30.75; 77.83Coordinates: 30°45′N 77°50′E / 30.75°N 77.83°E / 30.75; 77.83
Country  India
State Uttarakhand
District Dehradun
Founded by rana's
Elevation 2,118 m (6,949 ft)
Population (2001)
 • Total 90,000
 • Official Hindi
Time zone IST (UTC+5:30)

Jaunsar-Bawar is a hilly region, 85 km from Mussoorie, in Chakrata tehsil, in Dehradun district, it represents the geographical region inhabited by the Jaunsari tribe, which traces its origin from the Pandavas of Mahabharata.[1][2]

Ethnically, Jaunsar-Bawar comprises two regions, inhabited by the two predominant tribes: Jaunsar, the lower half, while the snow-clad upper region is called Bawar, which includes, the 'Kharamba peak' (3,084 metres (10,118 ft)).[3] Geographically adjacent, they are not very different from each other. The Bawar lies in the upper regions of the area. They are a unique tribal community because they have remained cut off from the external world for centuries, leading to the retention of their unique culture and traditions, which have attracted historians, anthropologist and studies in ethnopharmacology to this region for over a century.[when?] There is a significant cultural shift from other people of Garhwal, living close by.[4]

Jaunsar-Bawar region[edit]

The Jaunsar-Bawar region, is a tribal valley, spread over 1002 km² and 400 villages,[5] between 77.45' and 78.7'20" East to 30.31' and 31.3'3" North.[3] It is defined in the east, by the river Yamuna and by river Tons in the west, the northern part comprises Uttarkashi district, and some parts of Himachal Pradesh, the Dehradun tehsil forms its southern periphery.[3]

Modes of livelihood in this region are agriculture and animal husbandry, which in the upper region is mostly for self-sustenance, as merely 10 percent of cultivated area is irrigated. Milk, wool and meat are an integral part of the local economy.[4]


In 1829, Jaunsar-Bawar was incorporated in Chakrata tehsil, prior to which it had been a part of Punjab state of Sirmur, till the British conquered it along with Dehradun after the 1814 war with the Gurkhas.[6]

Before the establishment of British Indian Army cantonment in 1866, the entire area was known as Jaunsar-Bawar, and the name continued to be in popular use for the region, till the early 20th century.[7] While western Hindi was popular in most of the neighbouring hill areas, Jaunsari language, part of the Central Pahari languages was spoken by most of the people of the region.[8]


Traditionally, Jaunsar-Bawar region is known for its rich reserves of forested areas, in the high hills region, with trees of Deodar, Pine, and spruce, made for it becoming an important destination for the timber even during the British period, when the logs were rolled down the slopes and floated on Yamuna river to Delhi.[9] Gate system, time table based traffic diversion on one way hilly roads, which was there since the time of British, is now removed.


The Jaunsari population mainly consists of Khasas comprising Rajputs (mainly Rai, Rana, Chauhans, Tomars, Rawats, Negis, Rathores, jhinkwan etc) and Brahmins (mainly Sharmas, Joshis, Nautiyals etc.) as high caste, Luhar, Bajgi as the middle caste and the Dom comprising Dalit, Kolta as the low caste.[citation needed] The Rajput and Brahmins are the landowners. The Luhars are the artisans working as ironsmiths as well as the goldsmith. Tha Bajgi offers drum music at all the religious, social and cultural functions. The Kollandless labourer and he works in the field and house of the Khasa people. The Koltas are taken as untouchables by the higher caste people because they work as menials. Khasas play the dominant and leading role in the social, economic and political life of all sections of people.[10] The culture of the local Jaunsari tribe is distinct from other hill tribes in Garhwal, Kumaon and Himachal Pradesh,[11] its culture matches with the Trans Sirmaur region i.e. area lying in western side of Giri river, comprises Rajgarh and Shillai tehsils. These people are also known as Hatti, and has similar culture like Jaunsari people.[citation needed] A fact demonstrated by the presence of polygamy and polyandry in the local traditions, with richer tribesmen practicing polygamy, while their poor counterparts, choose to share a wife (polyandry), though the husbands should be brothers,[12] a fact which is often connected to, the five Pandava brothers in the Mahabharata, marrying Draupadi, from whom Jaunsaries trace their ethnic origin.[4][13][14] Though, anthropology studies in the 1990s revealed that these practises were fast phasing out, and is being replaced by monogamy and these practices do not exist now [15]

An important aspect of their culture are festive sports and dances like the folk dance named 'Barada Nati'/Harul/Raso/ during all festive occasions,[16] like 'Magh Mela' which is the most important festival of the Jaunsaries. It is marked by an animal sacrifice ritual, which celebrates the killing of 'Maroj', an ogre, which according to local legends, stalked the valleys for years.[5]

According to local village lore, the Pandavas and Kauravas figure in the anthropology of the Tons valley and some families claim to be direct descendents of the two clans. The Jaunsaris claim to be descendants of the Pandavas, while the Bawaris are from the Kauravas or Duryodhana’s clan.[citation needed] The two cultures usually do not mix, and it is a rare occurrence to see the two cultures mix in terms of marriage or social custom.

The claim to being a pure bred Aryan race and descendants from Pandavas doesn’t stop only in name. The people of the Jaunsar Bawar region used to practice polyandry/polygamy as the custom owes its origins to the Pandavas who shared Draupadi amongst the 5 brothers.

Another unique custom which is followed here is the concept of bride price. The custom owes its origin to some strong logic. The parents spend a substantial amount on raising, educating and making the life of the girl as good as they can make it. In return the girl is an asset to the family as she cooks, cleans, works on the farms etc. When a boy wants to marry the girl, he is taking away an asset of the family and must pay the fair price of the asset known as the bride price.[citation needed]

Divorce is not taboo in the culture, and divorced women are not ostracized from society. However, if the woman comes back to the parent’s home after a divorce, the family must pay back the bride price to the man’s family. If the woman divorces her husband to marry another man, the second man must pay bride price to the first man’s family.[citation needed]

During festivals, people wear the Thalka or Lohiya, which is a long coat. The dancers – both boys and girls – wear colorful traditional


Jaunsar Bawar follows the Vernacular architecture components. Houses are usually built in stone and timber and roofed with slate tiles. It is usually a two or three storey structure with a linear arrangement of one to four rooms on each floor and is typically sited on a terraced piece of land along the contours of the hill. In many villages in Uttarakhand, due to low temperature range, the housing and other buildings of socio-cultural values are generally shaped like pagodas or have sloping roofs.

The common building material used under construction includes wood (generally deodar, due to its abundance and durability), plain stones and other locally available materials like mud and stone slates. One of the important aspects of architecture in the area is the wooden carvings and the slate laden gabled roofs.

As temple architecture commonly develops from the form of folk houses, the figure of a small temple is not so different from that of a folk house. Therefore, the oldest and simplest temple type in this region is a single storied structure covered with a gabled roof.

Since the local deity is Lord Mahasu, most of the temples are dedicated to him. Famous temples include Mahasu Devta Temple at Hanol, Mahasu Temple at Thaina, Mahasu Temple at Lakhwar, Mahasu Temple at Lakhsiyar and newly constructed Mahasu Temple in Bisoi, under the supervision of Ar. Naresh Chauhan who is also a local resident there.


The Jaunsari tribe of the region has been using over 100 plants for the treatment of various ailments, which have remained a subject for many Ethnobotanical and Ethnopharamcological studies.[17][18]

Bonded labour[edit]

Traditionally, due to abject poverty, arising from infertile land and adverse climatic conditions in the region, bonded labour has been a fact of life, but the situation improved after the implementation of the 'Bonded Labour Abolition Act, 1976', when over 20,000 bonded labours were reported from the region.

In 2005, presence of bonded labour was reported again in the Jaunsar-Bawar region,[19] especially amongst the poorest of the tribal communities, like Koltas, Das and Bajgi communities, who are entrapped in the bonded labour for generations, by their rich counterparts in the tribal belt. They are bonded mostly to the upper castes consisting of Rajputs and Brahmins who control the land and practice money-lending.,[20] This is despite the fact that, due to non availability of local land records, the government had made a separate legislation for this area, 'The Jaunsar Bawar Zamindar Abolition of Land Reform Act 1956 (U.P. Act XI of 1956)', which came into effect in July 1961.[21]

In Media[edit]

Raaste Band Hain Sab, a film based on the work of Dr. Jayoti Gupta, Dept. of Sociology, Delhi University, on Jaunsar-Bawar, and made by Manjira Dutta, won the National Film Award for Best Anthropological/Ethnographic Film in 1988.[22]

Further reading[edit]

  • Himalayan Polyandry: Structure, Functioning and Culture Change. A Field-Study of Jaunsar-Bawar by D. N. Majumdar. New York, Asian Publishing House. 1962.[23]
  • The Abode of Mahashiva: Cults and Symbology in Jaunsar-Bawar in the Mid Himalayas by Madhu Jain. 1995, Indus Publishing Company, ISBN 81-7387-030-6.[24]
  • Ritual complex and social structure in Jaunsar-Bawar (Census of India, 1971, series 1, India), Office of the Registrar General, India 1974.


  1. ^ Jaunsar-Bawar
  2. ^ Jaunsaris
  3. ^ a b c The Region
  4. ^ a b c Jaunsaris
  5. ^ a b Maroj The Tribune, January 15, 2005.
  6. ^ Dehra Dun District The Imperial Gazetteer of India, 1909, v. 11, p. 213-214.
  7. ^ Chakrata Tahsil & Town The Imperial Gazetteer of India, 1909, v. 10, p. 125.
  8. ^ Agriculture The Imperial Gazetteer of India, 1909, v. 11, p. 215.
  9. ^ Forests The Imperial Gazetteer of India, 1909, v. 24, p. 196.
  10. ^ Tribal Women: On the Threshold of Twenty-first Century By K. Man
  11. ^ Jaunsaries www.garhwalhimalayas.com.
  12. ^ United Provinces The Imperial Gazetteer of India, 1909, v. 24, p. 168.
  13. ^ Anthropology Pahari Polyandry: A Comparison American Anthropologist by Gerald D. Berreman, 1962, Vol.64(1):60 –74., www.publicanthropology.org.
  14. ^ Jaunsar-Bawar People’s Union for Civil Liberties, PUCL Bulletin, September 1982.
  15. ^ Role of Culture in... ENVIS Bulletin vol 7 no. 1., G.B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, Almora.
  16. ^ Barada Nati
  17. ^ Ethno medicinal plants of Jaunsar-Bawar hills, Uttar Pradesh, India, by S.P. Jain, and H.S. Puri Journal of Ethno Pharmacology. Limerick : Elsevier Scientific Publishers. Nov 1984. v. 12 (2) p. 213-222. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website.
  18. ^ Ethnobotanical observation among Jaunsaris of Jaunsar-Bawar, Dehra Dun, TS Rana, B. Datt 1997, International Journal Pharmacology. 35. 371-374.
  19. ^ Villages sold out to drudgery The Tribune, June 27, 2005.
  20. ^ 6.4, Wrong classification Policies for Tribal Development, Prime Minister of India Official website.
  21. ^ Implementation of Land Reforms Planning Commission of India, August, 1966, #14, pp 143.
  22. ^ Department of Sociology, DElhi School of Economics Delhi University.
  23. ^ Himalayan Polyandry From 1932 to 1960, Professor D. N. Majumdar, of Lucknow University worked extensively in this region, along with his student, studying the local tribes.
  24. ^ Cults and Symbology in Jaunsar-Bawar in the Mid Himalayas

External links[edit]