The tribal population constitute the Kinners or Kinnaure, the Lahules, the Spitians, the Pangwalas, the Gaddis and the Gujjars. Their permanent and semi-permanent dwelling places are in Kinnaur, Lahaul. Pangi and Gadderan (Chamba and Bharmaur). They have their own customs, traditions, religious beliefs, dances and music. Most of these tribes are nomadic but they are immensely popular due to their open and friendly temperament.
Most tribals love to drink although the higher castes consider drinking sinful. There are three main meals in the morning (Nuhari), noon (Dhupahari) and evening (Sanhiyalu). The wedding feast is known as Datayalu. A traditional meal consists of boiled rice, Roti (unleavened bread), curried dal, buttermilk and vegetables. In the hill areas Roti made of barley or corn is popular. The Kangra people eat more rice. Sweet fritters (Gulgule) are made for birthdays and savouries (Polu Pakodu) during the Shradhas. There are special courses for special occasions. All these tribes are very fond of silver ornaments. The women wear strings of beads and corals.
The Kinners or Kinnaure inhabit the border district of Kinnaur. Physically they are closer to the Aryan races in their tall well-built bodies, their high foreheads, large eyes and fair complexions. Temperamentally they are a gentle and soft-spoken people, quite content to live in poverty. Their main occupation is rearing sheep and goats and raising wool. Some are engaged in agriculture and horticulture. They live in joint families and men and women have more than one mate.
Their marriage customs are very interesting. All the brothers in a family share a wife. They call it the Pandava marriage. Due to this a lot of girls remain unmarried. But these systems are being abandoned in the changing socio-economic conditions. Some say they are the descendants of the Kinners of Mahabharata fame but others believe them to be remnants of Kirats who were first defeated by the Aryans and then pushed by the Khasaa to remote areas in the trans-Himalayan region. Their mongoloid features are evidence of the intermixing of ideas on the borders.
Kinnaur women are beautiful, modest and homely and spend most of their time in the fields. A Kinnaur girl unable to find suitable match becomes a Jomo ( a Buddhist nun). Men wear long coats (chubha) and woolen pyjamas (chamu sutan) and women Dhoru ( a kind of woolen saree). Their shoes are made of wool and goat hair. They wear Bushahri cape. They are fond of meat and drink home-distilled wine 'Angoori'.
The word Lahule means the dwellers of Lahaul. The aboriginal Lahaules are a mixture of the aboriginal Munda tribe and the racially intermixed Tibetans. Lahules are enterprising. Besides farming they are engaged in trade. Their valley lies on the traditional trade routes to Ladakh, Sinkrang and beyond. They carried wheat from the plains, and their own barley to Tibet. Now that Tibet is closed to them, they export 'Kuth' (a herb used in medicine) to Kolcuta for onward dispatch to foreign markets. Lahules are divided into upper and lower classes. Their higher castes are those of Brahmins and Thakurs. They also have Lohars and Dagis. Their chief religion is Buddhism. Each well-to-do family has its own shrine with a statue of the Buddha in it. Their chief temple is Trilokinath. They are a colourful people and their women adorn their dresses with ornaments. They marry within their tribe and a woman can have more than one mate. Divorce is recognised and simple.