DNA study to observe vivacity of Uttarakhand’s Bhotiya tribe

Bhotiya Tribe UttarakhandDehra Dun: In perhaps the first ever study of its kind, there is going to be a DNA study conducted on the Bhotiya tribals of Uttarakhand, as to what makes them so dynamic as to take the lead in studies and adorn top administrative and other positions as compared to the other tribes in this small mountain state.

It has been found that despite the topography constraints and also the non priority status given to education by the successive governments of Uttarakhand and earlier the neglect shown to the region by the Uttar Pradesh government, of which it was a part, the Bhotiyas, despite having a count of 36,438 only in this small mountain state have 80 per cent literacy.

The Bhotiyas, said to be ethno-linguistically Tibetan people, living in the trans-Himalayan region that divides India from China, made their presence in this part of the country almost centuries back, when they led a nomadic life traveling with their large flock of pack goats, sheep and ponies from the trade posts of Garotk and Gyanima in Tibet to the Gangetic plains.

The annual migration of their caravans took place along established trade routes, for the Bhotiyas were legendary traders and trans-Himalayan trade partnerships with nomadic Tibetan Khampas and Dokpas were formed and nurtured over generations until Chinese occupation of Tibet and subsequent 1962 Sino-Indian War, after which the trade stopped completely.

The Bhotiyas have made a number of success stories in this small mountain state and carved a niche for themselves in top administrative positions. The DNA test will start from the members of the scheduled tribe living in Pithoragarh district and will also cover those living in Chamoli and Uttarkashi districts. There are about 13 sub-sects among the Bhotiyas.

Other things that will also be studies are that despite having high intake of salt why do they not suffer from blood pressure and has the change from their old traditional nomadic way of living to high profile jobs brought any change in them.

Incidentally of the scheduled tribes found in Uttarakhand, while the Bhotiyas have an 80 per cent rate of literacy, the Tharus have 67 per cent, Jaunsaris 58.9 per cent, Bokshas 49.9 per cent and rajis 35.8 per cent. The literacy rate of the Bhotiyas happens to be six per cent more than the national literacy average.

Image: WikiCommons

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

Tags from the story

8 Comments

  • The Bhotiyas are one of the most enterprising people in the hills. It is good to see them get the well-deserved limelight.

  • Britishers & more so Atkinson, by one stroke of pen had grouped all ethnic tribes on the Northern fringes of Uttarkashi, Chamoli & Pithoragarh Districts as Bhotias.These natives spoke TIbetan & exhibited a close affinity with Tibetans.Castes like Marchhas,Tolchas & Shaukas(Rawats) were the majors.They traded with the Tibetans & were affluent in their own way.Natives found in Jud-Ganga Valley too were also Tibetan lineage Bhotias.So, in one sweep, the Brirish defined all residing in the border belts of fringes of Northen districts as mentioned above as Bhotias. Exactly 25 years ago, in Pithoragarh,Late HS Phakliyal,Principal of one of the Inter CollegeHigh School in remote area of Gunji ( Hopefully I remember it right!) spoke of “Rang Jan-Jati” & its exclusive script’ Rang Language’.Disdainfully, he lambasted the British Historians for clubbing every one as Bhotia.He also told me that Rang Jan Jati had its roots in Mynamar.Possibly he was right because during my stay in forlorn & desolate frontiers of Mizoram, I had seen the Riangs.They spoke differently & wrote differently while Mizos spoke Lushai & wrote using English alphabets.
    Be that as it may,all tribes along the border belts including other reserved categories of people staying in the far flung areas & others having SC/ST status have had reserved quotas in competitive examinations like IAS,PCS,Allied Services, Medical,Engineering,Management ,Hotel Management etc,etc.So, this affords a competitive edge.Another observation is that today, most of the border belt people have shifted permanently to Mussoorie, Dehradun,Haldwani in Uttarakhand & quite an impressionable number to metros where adequate educational/training/coaching facilities exist.One thing is for sure that they have maintained exclusive identity & group dynamics.Both these qualities have given them an edge from other ethnic groups/residents of Uttarakhand.This aspect needs to be emulated by others in the Hill State.
    So, the definition of Bhotia needs to be ascertained first as to who all can be grouped under this ethnic category.Real Time Research needs to be done on this aspect.Let us not bank upon what Atkinson had written many years ago.The Britishers has their own agendas.

  • wow …was totally unaware about the whole story…feeling so proud …really.. facts n figures hav broaden my chest …m so gratefull … i need more such studies plz keep udating 🙂

  • I agree with Dr Mohan Bhandari that Britishers has coined a wrong term i.e Bhotias to the natives of Chamoli, Pithoragarh and Utterkashi mearly on the account of the facial feature resembling to the Bhoriyas of North east…..But credit must goes to E.T. Atkinson who had given us
    a compendium of historical account of this region in his famous Himalayan
    Gazetteer.It was a monumental work. His work was followed by Powell Price, Prayag Dayal, Gairola, ,Bhandari through their valuable articles. Then there were other scholars like Rahul Sankrityayan, and S.P. Dabral, who also produced valuable historical works of the region… especially the burial findings at Malari which is a main village of Bhotias in chamoli district..The site was later excavated by HNBGU and a animal burial was earthed. The burial pattern was very much akin to Gandhara Grave culture which was in existence in 2000-1500 B.C in central asia…….but the link up of these grave findings with Gandhara grave culture was a little bit controversial…..to have a clearer picture of the lifestyle of these ancient people…. a through archaeological exploration in the region inhabited by the bhotias is the need of the hour… I’m an archaeologist serving in Archaeological Survey of India and belongs to this community……im trying to gather the data related to this community for further field surveys…..if you have any information regarding this..please share….your contribution will be duly acknowledged……further the DNA study conducted on the Bhotiyas to access there positions in govt jobs and in other academic institutions as compared to the other tribes is not sufficient and important……i guess the DNA mapping of thees people may be done to trace the history/origin of these hardy race…

  • This is to Dr Mohan Bhandari…..Sir, i’m a rung(rung jan jati as you said) from dharchula and i can assure you that we, the rungs do not have our roots from Myanmar. You have confused us with the riangs who are an ethnic group from mainly Tripura but some also live in mizoram, and they speak kokboro and have their roots from myanmar. And as for us, where we came from is still a mystery, we can only speculate some answers like tibet or i don’t know exactly as there is no written text available telling where we came from…also we have no script, it got lost in time..there was one man who tried making a new one though some time back but not many people learned that,so ours is what you would call a dialect……as for religion we follow what you would call a mixture of bon-animism and hinduism.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.