The inhabitants of Kinnaur
district are known as Kinnauras, Kinara, Kanawara, Kannaura or Kinnaurese.
The Word Kinner originated from the two Sanskrit words; Kim + Nara, means,
"what kind of strange persons are they?" There are references
about Kinners in 'MAHABHARATA' and in the
epics of Kalidas. It is believed that the 131st descendant of this dynasty
is Raja Veerbhadra Singh, former Chief Minster of Himachal
Pradesh. Presently, the Kinner population is confined to
Kinnaur district only.
The people of Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh have traditionally been referred to as Kinners. The term Kinnauras is also widely used. They live under very harsh conditions, created by the inclement weather and climatic conditions
The Kinners speak the Kinnauri dialect, which, according to G. A. Grierson comes under the Himalayan group of Tibeto-Burman family of languages. At present, the Kinnauras have Hindi as the second language. Besides, Bhoti is also spoken in upper Kinnaur. With the spread of modern education, English is also understood and spoken by educated Kinners.
The Kinners consist of the Rajputs or Khosias and the Berus. The Khosias include Hindus and Buddhists. The formers are dominant in Nichar, Sangla and Kalpa areas while the latter dominate the tracts adjoining Tibet and Spiti. The Berus are made up of four artist castes -- the Lohar, the Badhi, the Koli and the Nangalu.
TRADITION AND CULTURE
The inhabitants of Kinnaur have a fair complexion and are well built, tough and muscular. The extended family system is still prevalent in the Kinnaur region. Polyandry prevails in the villages but is rapidly losing ground to monogamy. The Himachalis practise fraternal polyandry and the patriarchal system of inheritance.
All the brothers of the bridegroom are considered automatically the husbands of the bride. Polyandry helps the people of Kinnaur to perpetuate the name of their family and safeguard the family property from fragmentation. The polyandrous tribes of the Himalayas can be compared with the Pandavas of the ancient Indian epic of Mahabharata, who are believed to have had a polygamous system. However, such marriages are on the decline.
The women of Kinnaur are famous for their beauty and there are many references to it in books of olden times. According to the old scriptures, the Kinner 'Kanyas' (girls) were famous for their beauty and were used as 'Vish Kanyas' (poison girls) by the kings and royal families to overcome their enemies through their seductive "talents".