Swangla Tribe of Himachal Pradesh

The Swangla tribe is a small Hindu community residing in the Pattan valley region along the Chandra Bhaga river in the Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh, India. They have a distinct culture and societal structure that has been shaped by their isolation in the high valleys and hills where they reside. In this article, we will take a detailed look at the Swangla tribe, their cultural practices, and societal structure within the tribal community of Himachal Pradesh.

History and Demographics

The Swangla tribe is primarily settled in the pattan area of the Lahaul sub-division. According to the Census of India, the population of the Swangla tribe is 9,630, with 4,829 males and 4,801 females. They are classified as a Scheduled Tribe and consist of people from Rajput and Brahmin ethnicities. The Swangla tribe speaks multiple languages, including Tinani or Tinent (spoken by people of Sisu area), which is an endangered language with only 12,000 known speakers. There are also other dialects spoken, such as Manchhad (a mixture of Tibetan and Hindi), Chinnali (spoken by the Sipi and the Lohar), Bhoti (spoken by Bodhs).

Interestingly, the Swangla tribe bears a resemblance to the Munda speaking tribe found in Bengal, Bihar, and Central India. Within the Swangla tribe, there are sub-groups known as Garu and Munda, which are believed to have originated from a Rajput marrying a Bodh girl, thus creating social stratification within the tribe.

Culture and Practices

The Swangla tribe has a unique culture and societal structure that has been shaped by their isolation in the high valleys and hills where they reside. They primarily engage in agriculture and animal husbandry, raising goats, sheep, and yaks for their meat, milk, and hides, while growing barley, potatoes, maize, and vegetables in the short mountain summers. They trade animals and their products for things they cannot make themselves, such as cell phones, solar panels, and tools.

The Swangla tribe has a distinct culture that includes consuming the local drink called Chhang and playing a martial game called Thoda, which involves bow and arrow skills.

The Swangla tribe has a property inheritance law called Pagwand, where all sons inherit property equally. They also have a community council headed by a "Sehna," meaning chief. The Swangla tribe has a unique marriage system where sons receive an equal inheritance from their fathers, and families arrange marriages with the consent of the young people.

Types of marriage

- Rusta-te-Byah (marriage by elopement)

- Kua-Byah (marriage by capture)

- Mazmi Byah (where a boy sends his sister to bring the girl due to marriage expenses)

Divorce System

They also have a unique divorce system known as Tsud-Thvagchi, where the divorced couple holds a thread symbolizing the breaking of the matrimonial bond.

Traditional attire

  • For men in Manali includes 'Sultan' (on the lower part of the body) and 'Chola' (on the upper part) with a belt called 'Dora'.
  • Women wear a long shawl called 'Pattoo' and 'Dhatu' or 'Thipu' on their heads.


The Swangla tribe is known for two famous temples, Trilokinath and Markula at Udaipur. The Brahmin Swanglas also believe in ghosts and evil spirits, with their main sacred center being Manimahesh in Bharmaur. They celebrate the Trilokinath fair in August-September.


The Swangla tribe has faced challenges like isolation in the high valleys and hills where they reside, illiteracy, and social stratification within the tribe. Most Swangla live at the subsistence level, and a bad harvest or a disease can bring starvation. Avalanches are a constant concern, which can bury people, animals, and villages.


The Swangla tribe is an intriguing and unique community with distinct cultural practices and societal structures. The harsh and isolated environment in which they live has shaped their way of life, and they continue to carry on their traditional practices despite the challenges they face. Understanding their traditions and beliefs provides an insight into the diversity of India's tribal communities and their way of life.

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