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: deepika_bhatt59@rediffmail.com

 

Issued August 01, 2009

 

Abstract

 

  A 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 India, there are about 68 million people belonging to 227 ethnic groups and comprising of 573 tribal communities. Out of which 4 tribes (Tharus, Buxas, Rajis and Bhotias) inhabit the Kumaun division of the state. The Bhotia tribe living in remote thick forest of the Dharchula region depends on nature for their basic needs of life. The 8 major Bhotia groups in the state are i.e. Johari, Juthora, Darmi, Chudans, Byansi, Marccha, Tolcha and Jad. The tribal population of Bhotia community is 8.13 % and inhabited in about 18.70 % of area of the country. The present study was carried out to document the precious indigenous traditional knowledge about the ethno-medicinal uses and properties of plants which are under Red Data List of IUCN. Ethno-medicinal information on 17 plant species belonging 15 families, used in various ailments by the inhabitants of the community was recorded. The attempt is also made to describe the habitat, customs and economical aspects of Bhotia tribes.

Key words: Ethno-medicinal, IUCN, Indigenous Traditional Knowledge, Ailments

 

Introduction

        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.

Habitat

       The northern most part of Uttarakhand (Kumaun and Garhwal) is also known as Bhot region (Atkinson, 1989); Comprising sub-alpine and alpine zones bordering Tibet. It is believed that, Bhotias are a transhumant community of semi-mongoloid people of Tibetan origin (Fuchs, 1982). They show close racial and cultural affinity to the Tibetans and probably for this similarity the Bhotia region is called as Bod or Bhot which is a corrupt form of Bod, which means “Follower of Buddhism” (Srivastava, 1952-53). These people in Dharchula region of Pithoragarh district are known as Shauka. The anthropological study of these tribes has not been undertaken so far and our information about the race elements in the population of the Himalayan region is extremely meager (Majumdar, 1958). They live either in the high mountain ranges, which remain snow covered for about five months, or the lower mountain ranges with rich flora and ample rainfall.

        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).

Culture

         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.

Economy

         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 (Sorghum vulgare), Potato (Solanum tuberosum), etc. They engaged in organized trade with Tibet. The main terms exported were food grain, sugar, gur (unrefined sugar), spices, tobacco, cotton, cloths, hard wears, corals, beads etc. The main items of imports were borax, salt, wool, etc. The impact of physiographic environment and trade with Tibet had been so great on the Bhotia socio-cultural life; that they had to resort to seasonal nomadism which forced them to build a distinct socio-economic culture. Pastoralism has been closely related to Bhotia trade economy. The animals like sheep, goat, ponies, yak and jibus are of immense use for these people. Associated with trade, another element of economy is woolen industry. They have been become specialized for manufacturing the woolen materials like Thulma, Gudma, Lawa, Danna, Galicha, Asan etc. The marketing of these woolen materials are generally done in the trade fairs.

Results & Discussion

Diversity

            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)

Nativity

         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 regions including Japan, Africa, Tropical Asia, Oriental India, etc.

Ethno-medicinal Uses

         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)

Conclusion

        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.

Acknowledgements

         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.

References

Anonymous,2001. Census Report. GOI New Delhi.

Atkinson, E. T. 1989. The Himalayan Gazetteer, Vol. 1 (1 &2), Cosmo Publishers, New Delhi.

Das, J. C. 1982. From trade to agriculture: a case study to Bhotias of Pithoragarh. In: Singh, K. S.(ed.), Economics of the Tribes and their Transformation,208-215, Concept Publishing Company, New Delhi.

Fuchs, S. 1982. The aboriginals tribes of India, Macmillan India Ltd. New Delhi.

Hasnain & Nadeem. 1990. Tribal India Today, Harman Publications, New Delhi

Majumdar, D. N. 1958. Caste and Communication in an Indian Village, Asia Publishing House, Mumbai.

Majumdar, D. N. & Madan, T. N. 1970. An introduction to Social Anthropology, Asia Publishing House, New Delhi.

Pangtey, Y. P. S., Samant, S. S. & Rawat, G. S. 1989. Ethnobotanical notes on Bhotia Tribes of Kumaun Himalaya. Indian J. Forestry 12(2): 191-196. (1989).

Rai, L. K., Prasad, P. & E. Sharma. 2000. Conservation threats to some important plants of the Sikkim Himalaya. Biological Conservation, 93: 27-33.

Samant, S. S., Dhar, U. & Rawal, R. S. 1998. Biodiversity status of a protected area in West Himalaya: Askot Wildlife Sanctuary. Int. Journal of Sustainable Development & Wild Ecology, 5:194-203.

Srivastava, R. P., 1952-53. Rang-Bang in the changing Bhotia Life, The eastern Anthropologist, 6(3-4):191-203.

 

Table 1. Ethno-medicinal uses of the plants in Dharchula region of Pithoragarh District in Uttarakhand, Kumaun Himalaya.

 

Family/Taxa

Common Name

Altitudinal

Range (m)

Parts

Used

  Indigenous Uses

Disease

Nativity

IUCN Status

Achyranthaceae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Achyranthes aspera

Linn.

Latjeera,

Apamarga

100-3000

WP

100g powder of dried leaves mixed with 20g cow’s ghee is applied on the affected part.

Eczema

Geront

  Trop

-

Pterigaceae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adiantum sp.

 

  

100-1800

Frd

Freshly made 50g leaf paste is applied on effected part for 3-4 days regularly.

Burn Scar

As Trop

-

Apiaceae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angelica glauca Edgew.

Chhipi

Up to 3000

Rt

1. 50g roots boiled with 200ml water on moderate flame up to 15min. and kept it cooling. The liquid is drunk to cure vomiting and indigestion.

2. 20g roots dried in shady place are chewed directly to cure Dyspepsia.

Indigestion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dyspepsia

Reg

Himal

CR

Asteraceae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artemisia nilgerica

 (Cl.) Pamp.

Pati/

Kharia

Up to 1800

WP

Freshly and washed 100g roots/leaf are dipped overnight in cold water and drunk 5-6 days before meal to cure intestinal worm.

Wormicide

Reg Temp

  Bor

-

Beutalaceae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Betula utilis Don

 

Bhojpatra

2700-4300

Res

  50g resin and 20g seed kernels of Prunus  persica ground into paste and mixed with milk is drunk to conceive the delivery and for internal strength.

Pregnancy

Reg

Himal,   Japon

-

Berbidaceae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Berberis

aristata DC.

Kilmoru/

Daruhaldi

1500-3000

Rt, Br

  50g root juice mixed

  with 150ml water

  and dropped in eyes

  to cure redness

  and infection.

Eye Trouble

  Ind Or

EN

Saxifragraceae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Berginia stracheyi

(Hk.f. & Th.) Engler

 

Silphora

3600-4200

Rt

100g fresh roots are removed and washed thoroughly, cut in to pieces and chewed like candy to cure urinary and kidney trouble.

Kidney/

Urinary trouble

Reg

Himal

VU

Asclepiadaceae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calotropis procera Br.

Aak

Upto 800

Lf

Powder of 5g dried leaves mixed with Gur given orally before Sunrises for 5 days to cure migraine.

Migraine

Peruv

AfrTrop Ind

Or

-

Dioscoreaceae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dioscorea bulbifera

 Linn.

Gethi

150-2100

Tb

Tubers are roasted in hot ash and given with Sendha Namak (Salt) to cure old cough.

Cough

As Trop

-

Orchidaceae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dactylorrhiza hatagirea

D. Don

Salampanja/ Hathazari

2800-4000

Tb

1. 50g fresh roots are crushed in cold water & filtered and drunk to regularize menstruation cycle for 15 days twice in a day.

2. 5g dried and powdered tubers are mixed with 2 tablespoon mustard oil and paste rubbed externally on the effected part to check the bleeding.

Menstrual

Complaints

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cuts

& Wounds

Reg

Himal

CR

Juglandaceae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Juglans regia L.

Akhrot

1000-3000

Fr

  The oil extracted from seed kernels is heated mildly and massaged on the naval region of the pregnant women to facilitate the delivery.

Pregnancy

   As Occ

    Reg

   Himal

 

-

Valerianaceae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nardostachys grandiflora DC.

Masi/

Jatamasi

3200-5000

 

Rt

1. Locally roots are used as incense. The smoke is given to the patient of epilepsy at the time of fits.

2. 100g rhizomes are boiled with ghee and used to cure joint pain.

Epilepsy

 

 

 

 

 

Rheumatism

 

Reg    Himal

CR

Orchidaceae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orchis habenarioides

King & Pant

Salam Mishri

3000-4500

Tb

200ml decoction of

the tubers mixed

with 200ml milk &

one tablespoon honey

and drunk to check

the excessive

bleeding during child

birth and also acts as a tonic.

Pregnancy

Reg Himal

EN

Polygoneaceae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Polygonum

nepalensis Mesin.

Bhotia

Chai

1200-4100

Br, Rt

1.                    100ml decoction of bark is given to women for easier child birth.

2.                    10g dried roots are chewed to cure pain and hoarseness of throat.

Pregnancy

 

 

 

Throat pain

/Cough

 

As et

Afr

Trop

et Sub

trop

CR

Scrofularaceae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picrrorhiza kurooa

Royle ex Benth.

Kutki

3300-4800

Rt

1. 50g root decoction boiled mildly for 5-10min. and flavored with honey is given to cure stomach ache.

2. 30g root powder and 5g black piper mixed with honey is given orally to cure high fever.

Stomachache

 

 

 

 

 

Fever

Reg

Himal

 

 

EN

Rubiaceae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rubia cordifolia Linn.

Manjitha

1200-2000

WP

Whole plant pulp rubbed with honey is recommended as a cure for acne and dark spots on face.

Skin Care/Acne

As

Trop Temp

Afr Trop

EN

Polygoneaceae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rheum  australe

D. Don

Dolu

3000-4200

Rt

20g roots heated mildly and plastered on fractured part covered with a bandage which reduces the swelling, pain and fracture.

Fracture

Reg

Himal

VU

 

Abbreviations Used: VU=Vulnerable; EN=Endangered; CR=Critically Rare; Rt=Root; Lf= Leaf; Frd= Frond; Br=Bark; WP= Whole Plant; Fr=Fruit; Tb=Tuber; Ind Or= Indian Oriental; Reg Himal= Himalayan Region; As=Asia; Afr=Africa; Trop=Tropical; Occ=Occidantails; Temp=Temperate; Res=Resin.