Ethnobotanical Leaflets 13: 975-83, 2009.
Culture, Habitat and Ethno-Medicinal practices by Bhotia Tribe people of Dharchula Region of Pithoragarh District in Kumaun Himalaya, Uttarakhand
Deepika Bhatt*, G.C. Joshi** and L.M. Tiwari***
*Research Scholar, Central Council for Research in Ayurveda and Siddha (CCRAS) Tarikhet -263 663, Uttarakhand
**Central Council for Research in Ayurveda and Siddha (CCRAS) Tarikhet -263 663, Uttarakhand
*Corresponding author: E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Issued August 01, 2009
survey in different areas of Dharchula region
in Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand
was conducted in different seasons of the year to identify the
non-conventional uses of plants. In
Key words: Ethno-medicinal, IUCN, Indigenous Traditional Knowledge, Ailments
The ethnic and indigenous people of the world have learnt to live in most hostile environmental condition in this universe. The most interesting feature concerning with these ethnic and tribal people is that, they live in localities which are immensely rich in biodiversity. India has one of the largest concentration of tribal communities in the world, accounting for about 68 million tribal people belonging to 227 ethnic groups and 573 tribal communities (Anon., 2001) living in different geographic locations within the country. According to Indian context, ‘Tribe’ means a group with traditional territory, specific name, common language, strong kin relations, association with clan structure, tribal authority and rigid inclination to religion and belief (Majumdar & Madan, 1970). Functional independence, homogeneity, primitive mean of exploiting resources, economic backwardness, rich culture, tradition and least desire to change are some other characteristics dominated in tribes (Hasnain & Nadeem, 1990). The tribes constitute very significant part of the underdeveloped people and area of the Indian republic. These people comprise about 8.13 % of the population and 18.70 % area of the country respectively.
Scheduled tribes, (Tharus, Buxas, Rajis and Bhotias) inhabit the Kumaun division of Central Himalayan Region. These tribal communities present a significant degree of cultural and ethnic diversity (Pangty, et. al., 1989 & Samant, et. al., 1998). The present study focused on the habitat, culture, economy and ethno-medicinal uses of plants by the tribals of the Bhotia community inhabiting Dharchula region of Pithoragarh District in Uttarakhand.
The northern most part of Uttarakhand (Kumaun and Garhwal) is also known as “Bhot” region (Atkinson, 1989); Comprising
sub-alpine and alpine zones bordering
The eight major Bhotia groups in the state (Johari, Juthora, Darmi, Chudans, Byansi, Marccha, Tolcha & Jad) are scattered over eight main river valleys known as Johar, Darma, Byans, Chaudans (Pithoragarh District); Mana, Niti (Chamoli District); Nilang and Jadung (Uttarkashi District).
The cultural traits of Bhotias reflects close links with the Tibetans acquired through generations of association through trade, they stand distinct from Tibetians with regards to their character and mode of economy. The culture reveals much closer to socio-economic relationship with the population inhabiting the middle and lesser Himalayan region of Kumaun. Families are both joint and nuclear types; both male and female have equal rights on the affairs and decision making system of the family. The boys and girls are free to choose their partners or engage in love making without marriage. Shaukas practice cross-cousin marriage, while soroate and junior-levirate are practiced by all. They are monogamous and marriages are mostly arranged. Though, elopement and marriage consent through Rangbang is also found. Till recently the boys and girls in Dharchula region used to drink, dance and sing together throughout the night. This custom or social institution is known as Rangbang/Rambang or Khel. The participants used to passes the nights singing, dancing, eating, drinking and smoking around the fire. They practice endogamy at territorial level and exogamy at clan level. The personal adornment and dress of the Bhotias is greatly influenced by the environment. Due to the cold climate in the high hills where Bhotias inhabit, their cloths mainly comprise woolen material, quite often home made. The male dress mainly consists of the coat, trousers and a cap which is quite familiar also among hill people. The Bhotia female dress is quite different from the ordinary hill women. These women wear a skirt, coat, shirt and a waist coat.
The economy of the Bhotias is an aggregation of many elements such as a
highly developed trade organization, subsistence agricultural activities,
well developed handicraft, pastoralism and regional
sources of income. High altitude based habitat provide them very little land.
Thus, the scope for intensive agriculture is very thin (Das, 1982). They have
two settlements, the upper/summer (May-June to October-November) settlement
where they stay and cultivate limited varieties of crops like Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculantum
& Fagopyrum tataricum);
in lower or winter settlement, where they stay for rest of the year. Here
they cultivate wheat (Triticum aestivum),
paddy (Oryza sativa), Maize (Zea mays), Jowar
Potato (Solanum tuberosum),
etc. They engaged in organized trade with
Results & Discussion
In the present study 17 species belonging to 17 genera and 15 families i.e. Shrub (3 sps.), tree (2sps.), herb (11spp.), Fern (1 spp.) were recorded under the study area in Dharchula region. The utilization pattern of the species indicated that leaves of 1 spp., roots of 7 species, whole part of 3 species, tubers of 3 species, fruits of 1 spp., bark of 2 spp.; resin of 1spp., each are used in various ailments i.e. eczema, indigestion, dyspepsia, pregnancy, migraine, epilepsy, rheumatism, fever, fracture, etc. (Table.1)
Among these 9 plant species were native
to Himalayan region, while others were non-native to Indian Himalayan Region
(IHR) and were originated from biogeographic
According to a report of the World Health Organization (WHO), over three forth of the world population cannot afford the products of the modern medicine and have to rely on the use of traditional medicine of plant origin (Rai, Prasad, & Sharma. 2000). In the present attempt, major plant species used indigenously by the Bhotia people are Achyranthes aspera, Angelica glauca, Betula utilis, Berberis aristata, Berginia stracheyi, Calotropis procera, Nardostachys grandiflora, Orchis habenarioides, Picrrorhiza kurooa, Rubia cordifolia, etc. for major diseases like eczema, burn scar, indigestion, pregnancy, menstrual problems, whooping cough, cuts & wounds, dyspepsia, eye trouble, wormicides, kidney trouble, migraine, epilepsy, etc. (Table. 1)
The present study provides comprehensive information on habitat, culture, economy and ethno-medicinal uses of plants by the tribals of the Bhotia community inhabiting Dharchula region of Pithoragarh District in Uttarakhand. Traditional practice of using plant resources has a long history and wide acceptability throughout world. The inhabitants of the region use various species in various ailments. They use different plant parts in various forms to cater their daily needs.
In the present scenario, traditional knowledge system in our country is fast eroding and there is an urgent need to inventoried, record all ethno-botanical and cultural information among the diverse ethnic communities before the traditional cultures are completely lost. Therefore, documentation of information on ethno-medicinal uses will help in conserving the knowledge. Such type of information in other parts of the IHR should be documented; so that a comprehensive database of the plants used for various purposes could be saved for the forthcoming generations.
The authors are heartly thankful to the local Bhotia people for their immense help during field survey and providing information about the traditional health care systems of their community.
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Table 1. Ethno-medicinal uses of the plants in Dharchula region of Pithoragarh District in Uttarakhand, Kumaun Himalaya.
Abbreviations Used: VU=Vulnerable; EN=Endangered;
CR=Critically Rare; Rt=Root; Lf= Leaf; Frd= Frond; Br=Bark; WP= Whole Plant; Fr=Fruit; Tb=Tuber;