Kumauni people

Regions with significant populations

Primary populations in:

Populations in:


Kumaoni, Hindi
Related ethnic groups
Indo-Aryans, Rajputs, Brahmins, Garhwali people

Kumauni or Kumaoni are people from Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, India. In colloquial language, people of Kumaon are also referred to as "Pahari" though that is not a specific reference.

They include all those who speak the Kumaoni language or any of its numerous dialects, living in the Almora, Bageshwar, Champawat, Pithoragarh, Nainital, Dehradun, Udham Singh Nagar, districts of Uttarakhand, India.

Significant populations of Kumauni people exist in Uttar Pradesh especially in Lucknow, Allahabad, Bijnor, Kanpur, Assam, Bihar, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh; Maharashtra, the Punjab, and some regions of Himachal Pradesh like Solan and Nahan. Pahari Rajput/Kumauni people are also in Nepal and North eastern India (Sikkim, West Bengal, Assam and Manipur).


Traditional social structure

Traditional Kumaoni society consisted of three major communities.

Brahmins were the artists and shamanic spiritual people. They were educated and held in high esteem.Shilpkars were the clergy, businessmen and artisans, Pahari Rajputs or Kshatriya were mostly the administrative, military and land-owning estates. They held land in lieu of military service.

Katyuri Raj

Main article: Katyuri Kings

The Katyuri dynasty was a branch of Kuninda origin founded by Vashudev Katyuri.[1] Originally from Joshimath, during their reign they dominated lands of varying extent from the 'Katyur' (modern day Baijnath) valley in Kumaon, between the 7th and 11th centuries AD, and established their capital at Baijnath in Bageshwar district, then known as Kartikeyapura and located in the centre of 'Katyur' valley.[2] Brahmadev mandi (a trading/business center in a flat area of the then Katyuri kingdom) in the Kanchanpur District of Nepal was established by Katyuris king Brahma Deo (Brahma Dev). Brahmadeo Mandi still exists by this name.

At its peak, the Katyuri kingdom extended from Nepal in the east to Kabul, Afghanistan, in the west,[1] before fragmenting into numerous principalities by the 12th century.[3] They were displaced by the Chand Kings in the 11th century AD. Architectural remains of the Katyur dynasty can be found in Baijnath and Dwarahat.

The Rajbar dynasty of Askot in Pithoragarh was set up in 1279 AD by a branch of the Katyuri Kings, headed by Abhay Pal Deo, who was the grandson of Katyuri king, Brahm Deo. The dynasty ruled the region until it became part of the British Raj through the treaty of Sighauli in 1816.[4] The Doti Kingdom is another strong kingdom of the Katyuri dynasty. They were known as Rainka Maharaj; presently, Doti is a part of Nepal. As per the manuscript found direct descendants of Katyuri kings are residing in 'pali pachau' (Areas around the Ranikhet tehsil of Almora district), Askot in Pithoragarh and in different parts of Nepal i.e. Khati, Manral, Rajwar.

Chand Raj

Main article: Chand Kings

The Chand kingdom was established by Som Chand, who arrived from Kannuaj near Allahabad some time in the 10th century and displaced the Katyuri Kings, originally from Katyur valley near Joshimath, who had been ruling the area starting from the 7th century AD. He continued to call his state Kurmanchal and established its capital in Champawat in Kali Kumaon, called so due to its vicinity to the river Kali. Many temples built in this former capital city during the 11th and 12th centuries exist today, including the Baleshwar and Nagnath temples.

They had brief stints with the Rajput clans in Gangoli and Bankot then predominant there the Mankotis of Mankot, the Pathanis of Attigaon-Kamsyar, Kalakotis, Bargalis, Nagdalis and many other Khas Rajput Clans of the region . However, they were able to establish their domain there.

One of most powerful ruler of the Chand dynasty was Baz Bahadur (1638–78) AD, who met Shah Jahan in Delhi, and in 1655 joined forces with him to attack Garhwal, which was under its king, Pirthi Shah, and subsequently captured the Terai region including Dehradun, which was hence separated from the Garhwal kingdom. Baz Bahadur extended his territory east to the Karnali river.

In 1672, Baz Bahadur, started a poll tax, and its revenue was sent to Delhi as a tribute. Baz Bahadur also built the Golu Devata Temple, at Ghorakhal, near Bhimtal, named after Lord Golu, a general in his army who died valiantly at war. He also built famous Bhimeshwara Mahadev Temple at Bhimtal. Towards the end of the 17th century, Chand Rajas again attacked the Garhwal kingdom, and in 1688, Udyot Chand erected several temples at Almora, including Tripur Sundari, Udyot Chandeshwer and Parbateshwer, to mark his victory over Garhwal and Doti; the Pabateshwar temple was renamed twice, to become the present Nanda Devi temple.[1] Gyan chand, the king of Kumaun, ascended the throne in 1698. In 1699 he attacked Garhwal, which was under the king Fateh Shah. He crossed the Ramganga river and plundered Sabli, Khatli, and Sainchar. In 1701, Fateh Shah entered in Chaukote (now Syalde region with three parts, Talla Chaukote (lower), Malla Chaukote (upper) and Bichla Chaukote (middle)), and Gewar Valley (the region of Chaukhitiya, Masi and Dwarahat) as reply. The Kumaonis defeated the Garhwalis in the battle of Duduli (near Melchauri in Garhwal). In 1707, the Kumaon forces annexed Juniyagarh in Bichla Chaukot (Syalde), and razed the old fort at Chandpur. Later, Jagat Chand (1708–20), defeated the Raja of Garhwal and pushed him away from Srinagar, and his kingdom was given to a Brahmin. However, a subsequent king of Garhwal, Pradip Shah (1717–72), regained control over Garhwal and retained Doon until 1757, when Rohilla leader, Najib-ul-Daula, established himself there, though he was ousted soon by Pradip Shah.

British Raj

Almora Bazaar, c1860

The Kumaon Regiment, established at Ranikhet in 1813, still gets its recruits from the Kumaonis of the Kumaon division and the Ahir from the plains.[2]

There were widespread opposition to British rule in various parts of Kumaon. The Kumauni people, especially the Champawat District, rose in rebellion against the British during the Indian Rebellion of 1857 under the leadership of Kalu Singh Mahara.[3]


Main article: Kumaoni language

UNESCO designated Kumaoni as language in the unsafe category which requires consistent conservation efforts.[4]



After harvesting season people mostly relax, rejoice, dance and sing, and thus a festival is generated. At the transition of the sun from one constellation to another Sankranti is observed. Each Sankranti has a fair or festival connected to it somewhere in Kumaon. Fooldeyi, Bikhauti, Harela, Ghee Sankranti, Khatarua, Uttaraini and Ghughutiya are the most-observed Sankranties throughout the region. Other festivals have the bearings in the moon and thus the dates change frequently in the Gregorian Calendar. Basant Panchami, Shiv Ratri, Holi, Samvatsar Parwa, Ram Navami, Dashra, Batsavitri, Rakshabandhan, Janmastmi, Nandastmi, and Deepawali are some of the auspicious occasions.[5]

Dasshera or Bijaydashmi

Main article: Vijayadashami

Dasshera festival starts in Kumaon with the performance of Ramlila, which is itself unique as it is based on the musical rendering of the katha or story of Lord Ram based on the theatrical traditions set by Uday Shankar while on his stay in Almora. These traditions were further enriched by Mohan Upreti and Brijendra Lal Sah. Known as the Almora or Kumaon style, Ramlila has been recognised by UNESCO as one of the representative styles of Ramlila in India.[6]


Kumaoni theatre, which developed through its 'Ramleela' plays,[7] later evolved into a modern theatre form through the efforts of theatre stalwarts like Mohan Upreti and Dinesh Pandey and groups like 'Parvatiya Kala Kendra' (started by Mohan Upreti) and 'Parvatiya Lok Kala Manch'



Main article: Kumaoni cuisine

Kumaoni food is simple and comprises largely of vegetables and pulses. It is highly nutritious to enable survival in the hard environment of the hills and cold climate.

Vegetables like potato (aaloo), radish (mooli), colocacia leaves (arbi ke patte, papad), pumpkin (kaddoo), spinach (palak) and many others are grown locally by the largely agrarian populace and consumed in various forms.

See also


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