The People of Kumaon…

Kumaoni People


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Women of kumaon

  • The inhabitants of the Kumaon hills are commonly known as the Kumouni. The social structure is based on the extended family system, the eldest male member being the head of the family. Women are respected in society but they usually confine themselves to household activities. No religious ceremony is considered complete without the wife joining the husband. Women also work in the fields and forests alongside the men.









Kumaon Regiment
Kumaon Regiment (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kumaoni Community

Despite Kumaon being an integral part of the Indian mainstream, it has often experienced sociological and historical phenomena which are at variance with those in the rest of the country. This may be because of the distinctive geographical features of the region. In the last 4000 years, Kumaon has given shelter to and is, consequently, an amalgamation of various people who have migrated here from all places.
Kumaon is derived from the word Kurmanchal. – It means the Land of the Kurmavatar, the tortoise incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu is referred to as the preserver of the Hindu Trinity.

As Adi Kailash (also known as Chotta Kailash) is situated in Kumaon Hills, the region has immense importance in Hindu mythology.This is more so since Adi Kailash is one of the three residences of Lord Kailash (Shiva), his wife Goddess Parvati and his sons Lord Ganesh and Lord Kartikey.

From 500 B.C. to 600 A.D, The Kunindas ruled the Kumaon region. Theirs was the first known ruling dynasty of Kumaon region. They reigned for almost 11 centuries at a stretch. For almost five centuries after their reign ended, the Katyuri kings ruled the Kumaon region. Their rule extended from the 7th to the 11th century, with Baijnath, near Almora, serving as the capital. One of the many contributions of the dynasty was the building of the Sun temple of Katarmal which has seen more than 900 years pass by. It is situated on a hilltop facing eastward exactly opposite the town of Almora. It is also believed that, in the 16th century, the famous Maratha warrior Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj used shilas or granite stones from the sacred river of Kali Gandki for the famous idol of Pratapgad’s Bhavani Devi.

The original inhabitants of Kumaon are said to have been the Kols (also related to the Mund, ethnic group). One of their groups migrated to Kumaon after they had been defeated by the Dravidians. The Shilpkars of Kumaon are said to be the descendants of the Kols. The Kirats are believed to have been the ancestors of the tribes which are today known as Shaukas, Banrajis and Tharus. While the Shaukas were active from the Tarai region to Tibet, the Tharus and Boksas confined themselves to the Tarai, and the Banrajis had always lived in ‘splendid’ isolation.

Chand Dynasty of Pithoragarh is, usually, credited for the building and development of the modern Kumaon. With their capital at Almora, right in the heart of Kumaon, the dynasty ruled in the 17th century AD. It took the Chand rulers two centuries to complete the magnificent temple complex at Jageshwar, near Almora which is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It boasts of amazing architectural beauty throughout the cluster of a hundred and sixty-four temples.

After the beginning of the local dynastic history, inhabitants of Kumaon, most of whom were pastoralists, agriculturists and traders, were influenced from the ‘savarnas’ or higher castes who had come from different parts of India. This migration to Kumaon continued upto very recent times.Today Kumaon, is generally said, to consist of Brahmins, Rajputs and Shilpkars, with the Sahs or Shahs sometimes considered a separate caste. However, in order to be able to understand Kumaon fully, one must mention that it consists of Shaukas, Banrajis, Tharus, Boksas, Shilpkars, ‘Savarnas’ Gorkhas, Muslims, Bengalis and Punjabis (who came after partition) and Tibetans ( who came after 1960).

The Joshis, Pants and Pandes, Brahmins of Kumaon Hills, trace their roots to the Konkan region of Maharashtra. Most of them migrated to and settled in Kannauj, which was then a centre of Brahmanical influence. Kannauj is frequently referred to in the the epic Mahabharata and is alluded to by Patañjali in the second century B.C. In the 17th / 18th Century they again migrated from Kannauj and settled in the Kumaon hills of the Himalayas.


Literacy Rate in Kumaon

The overall rate of literacy in the state is 72.3%. This endows it with large pool of educated labour that industry can draw from. Importantly, the spread of high level of literacy is even across the rural and urban sectors with the respective literacy rate of 68.5% and 81.5%.
The total school enrollment ratio for Uttaranchal for the age group of 6-17 was at 87%, significantly higher than the all India ratio of 72%.

Kumaoni Brahmins 


The Kumaoni Brahmins (Priest Community) are the descendants of the Vedic Aryan priests who migrated from the plains. A large number of Vedic Brahmins migrated, along with the Rajputs, from Rajasthan and Gujarat. Similarly a large number of Brahmins also migrated from Maharashtra / Karnataka region.

In a number of cases the Brahmins who came to visit the religious places in Kumaon, decided to settle there for good. Like in case of Rajputs, they started naming their settlements/ surnames after the name of their places of origin. The reasons for migration are lost but common practices remain: the manner of the thread ceremony for instance, in which the Vedas are read for three days, and the anointed Brahmin asks for bhiksha (alms), gets his hair tonsured and ears pierced. The Brahmins were in charge of imparting knowledge to people, prayer and rituals. Later Kumaoni Brahmins migrated to Nepal and Garhwal Hills. For example the all Joshi’s from Garwhal Hills ascribe their origin to Kumaon; some from Joshiyana village near Hawalbagh, others from Jhijar, Galli and Joshikhola in Almora.

Some scholars have argued that the Bhumihar Brahmins of Eastern U.P. and in the state of Bihar, Mohyal Brahmins in the state of Punjab, Namboothiri Brahmins in Kerela, Havyak Brahmins of Karnataka, Anavil Brahmins of Gujarat, and Kumaoni Brahmins of Uttarakhand share the same lineage and are similar to Chitpawans in custom, tradition, practices, temperament and hold Bhagvan Parshuram in high esteem.

The records of Swami Sahajanand Saraswati in “Brahmarshi Vansha Vistar” and Acharya Chatursen Shastri in “Vayam Rakshamah” points towards the same origin, by taking help of all ancient texts as well as prevailing customary practices and temperament of these illustrious Brahmins.

Kumaon and Garhwal Division
Kumaon and Garhwal Division (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Bhim Tal Kumaon, India. July 30, 1878." O...
Bhim Tal Kumaon, India. July 30, 1878.” Oil painting on paper, by Marianne North (1830–1890) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Binsar, a view of Kumaon Himalayas, (Uttarakhand)
Binsar, a view of Kumaon Himalayas, (Uttarakhand) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Brooklyn Museum - Baj Bahadur of Kumaon
Brooklyn Museum – Baj Bahadur of Kumaon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
'Almora Bazaar', the main market of Almora cit...
‘Almora Bazaar’, the main market of Almora city, Uttarakhand. c1860. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)





  1. The origin of Kature is from north of Himalaya and the chand was from Jhushi near Allahabad.Katur got thrown from Kushan in starting of third century and Chanda has snatch dynasty from Katur .I do agree that Brahimin like Joshi,Pant ,and Pandy were came from old Maharasta .It was a place of Khasha Now Khasha has called them self Rajput .It was a place of devotion so the people came in Kumaon from all over India .It is not an easy to through light in caste system of Kumon Some are called Brahiman in one place and another they are Rajput .Hear all schedule caste called shilpkar or artisan .But the Tamta and Lohar are from backward.The Rajput can beclassify in different grade .

  2. I am shivani panta from nepal. i just want to know the truth about our ancestors coming from konkan area of maharastra

    1. Yes, It appears to be accurate based on what I have read, our culture, language and eating habits have a lot in common with people from Rajasthan, Konkan and even Bengal.

      1. Can you please tell me the jaintwal caste of almora in uttrakhand is rajputs or not.. And please give some information about them

  3. I was told that our ancestors migrated due to Mughal invasion, to save their religion. But I don’t know the exact time when they arrived in kumao and then ultimately settled in western Nepal. Please let me know if you know anything about the dates or any other thing.

  4. Hello Sir,
    I loved your article would like to read more about the Kingdom of Kumaon and the different areas divided then and their control centres, secondly I see nobody knows much about the Shah community which is alarming I come from a reputed family of the Shah’s and my ancestors know a lot about the past so I’ve summed up a brief article on my blog will be traveling now and doing some research asking more and getting a detailed done soon hope you like it.

  5. I want to know about Tamta caste ….from where they belong. ..Is it fall in dalit ur untouchable community??

    1. Not really sure of the specific location where they belong to and their status in caste hierarchy- my feeling is irrespective of the caste, most communities in Uttarakhand have struggled a lot to survive…

  6. Nice information Sirjii…My anscestors belonged to village named Simalta in Champawat and were the gurus of Chand Kings. Later when Chand Kings moved their capital to Almora they also took some of our anscestors with them and gifted them a village in Almora. They named this village Simalta too in the memory of their village in Simalta, Champawat. Later during the 18th century, one of our anscestor went to Baitadi (Kalipar) with the Chand King. Then after some time Kumaun Kingdom was captured by the Gorkhas, where we were again the gurus and also used to royal writers, the King there bestowed us the title of ‘Lekhak’. Later when one of the Chand King got Muwani region from the Britishers, he bought us to India (in late nineteenth century).

  7. Kumaon (Uttrakhand) has a history back from Mahabharat era, there is no concrete proof that people migrated from other parts (plains) to Kumaon. Many believe that they migrated to save religion from Mughal but the looks and physical appearance of people from Kumaon (Tibetian plateau) are different than other parts of India.

    It is been noticed that Pandit from Maharastra and Rajput from Rajasthan trying very hard to prove that people of Uttrakhand are originally from Rajasthan / Maharastra.

    1. Dear Kailash,

      Yes there are different perspective. And some facts to prove both the points. There was some bit of migration from different region in India to the mountain during the Mughal period and there always were people who lived in the mountain earlier.

      This topic required more research and discussion 🙂

  8. I want to know about Negi caste and about ancestor’s of Negi’s.please provide some information about this.

    1. Dear Bhawesh, I am tied up with my regular work and not able to update the blog regularly, please refer to the books in the local library on the subject. I will also note down your interest area and will try to cover this whenever I get some time to carry out more research on this topic.



  9. Where do we trace the lineage of Sah dynasty in Kumaon? Some claim to be descendants from the Shalivahan dynasty. Some acclaim to be from Nepal and some claim to be Kshatriya.
    From where did they come and gathered a major share in Kumaoni caste system.

    1. Sorry Harshit, I am tied up with in my regular office work and not regular on this blog, you may refer to your local library, will share with you more details once I get some time to devote to this topic and carry out some more research.



  10. My surname is kharel. And we are also kumai brahmin. We live in eastern Nepal. It is told that we were migrated to western Nepal probably after establishment of kash empire in 11th centuriy. Our ancestors told that our cast was just upadhaya untill 250 years ago. After that we get the surname kharel. Others Kumaon surname in eastern Nepal are Uprety, sitaula, siwakoti, oli( present prime minister of Nepal is also kumai), and many other. In Nepal kumai. have 64-65 surname.Is kumain and kash people similar or not.

    1. Nice to connect with you Abisek, and hear from you about the fascinating details of people from Kumaon in Nepal. My surname was Pant, father dropped it in favor of more common surname Sharma when he moved from Almora to Delhi. I dropped the Sharma surname also during schooling. We are actually similar type of people across the Himalayan mountain region of Nepal, Garhwal, Kumaon, Tibet, Himachal Pradesh, Leh Laddakh, Even the Kashmiri Pandits… eating habit is similar, sometime even words in the our language are common.

      Hope you are doing well. Stay connected



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