Pir Panchal region is considered as the homeland for Pahari people. They ruled this region for centuries together. They are considered the warrior tribes and best fighters from the ancient times.
Although, the literary meaning of the word Pahari is (mountaineer) which itself is indefinite, yet in Jammu Kashmir, it is restricted to those people whose mother tongue is Pahari language and reside in mountainous areas. These people have distinct cultural heritage and historical background in the overall scenario of Jammu Kashmir state. Mostly they inhabit the foot hills, slopes, valleys, high pasture land and meadows of this region. They belong to various races, castes, creeds, sects and religions. They are hindus, muslims and sikhs but bonded with each other due to cultural affinity and mother tongue Pahari.
There is a similarity in their customs, habits, dresses, taste, cuisine, nature, physique etc. They are nature lovers strong, hardy, brave, handsome and an active race of people.
In the history of Jammu Kashmir, paharis are known as the defenders of Kashmir and warrior tribes, because most of the battles for Kashmir have been fought in their region. Pahari People have rich cultural heritage, colorful festivals, unique type of cuisine and social customs.
Traditionally, they are agriculturists and supplementing their income by raring cattle and sheep. Majority of them still live in Kaccha houses in the villages, valleys and plain areas. The house of a Pahari family is normally divided into two parts. The upper part is known as Kotha and is used for residential purposes. This part generally comprises of Bathak (sitting room), Passar (Veranda), Rasoi (a decorated kitchen which is also used for taking lunch and dinner), Kothar room (where costumes and jewellery is kept and also used as store).
The lower portion of the house is known as Dab. The roof of Dab (cattle house) is used as terrace for the residential part. The Dab is also known as Bandhi where cattle, sheep and goats apart from fodder for animal is kept.
The Pahari house is normally constructed near the village spring and surrounded by fruit trees and fields of garlic, onion and vegetables. Nowadays a section of Paharis are also constructing modern Pacca houses in the villages were they are living with modern amenities mixed with traditional flavor.
Usually they wear waist coat, shirt, shalwar (Trouser), Kulla (Afghani Cap) with white turban, shoes with embroidery, or Afgani Chappal known as khari, keep stylish stick in hand (known as khundi) and travel on horses.
The aged Paharis keep long beard, use Surma (Kohl), in eyess, Datun (to whiten their teeth) Mehndi (to colour their white beard, hands and foot) and ride on horse. Earlier muslim Pahari woman used to keep Taskastanicap with Duppata (Printed Long Clothes) on their head but new generation have lost this custom.
Pahari women hindu, sikh and muslim keep long printed cloth on their head known as chhipra or palla. They like printed suits and embroidery shawls, wear printed long shirt and shalwar. Traditional women are fond of Silver ornaments like jumka, kangan, loung, challa but now the silver ornaments are being replaced with golden ornaments. The musical instruments of Pharis are Algoza, Bangli and Joori. They like SufinaKalam and traditional folk songs. Kabadhi, lifting of Bugdhar (Power Game), Beni, (resting of arm) Conducting of bull fighting, ram fighting, cock fighting are their main hobbies. They are also fond of riding, hunting and shooting. Normally they take maize bread with paste of salt, chilly, garlic, mustard Saag and butter and use Lassi (mashed curd without butter). Traditionally, the Paharis in the villages were using utensils of clay, stone and wood like Handi, Payala, Rakabi, Dulla (clays) Parat,Kashak, (wooden spoon) and Langri, sill (a stone for mashing chilly garlic and salt ) but now these utensils are replaced by steel or bone china and the modern cooking machines. Majority of Paharis live a contented life in a pollution free zone. During summer season about 25 percent Pahari speaking people migrates to dhoks, margs and meadows of Pir Panchal range along with their cattle, enjoys natural atmosphere, life free from tension and favorable climatic conditions. However, with the passage of time Pahari culture is getting diluting with the modern life style and the traditional life style is disappearing day by day. Since Paharis are residing in far-flung, inaccessible areas and near the Line of Control. They are facing, number of problems. There are 37 percent Pahari houses which are yet to be electrified 41 percent Pahari basties are still to be connected with roads, 33 percent of Paharis are having no-portable drinking water.
The women travel miles together to bring water for drinking purposes. These problems are to be solved by the Government so that Paharis could also avail the modern amenities of life.