Ancient History of Himachal Pradesh

Baspa Valley
Baspa Valley/Wikimedia
The earliest evidence of human existence in Himachal Pradesh traces back to 2 million years ago. The places where prehistoric man used to live are Bangana valley of Kangra, Sirsa valley of Nalagarh and Narkanda valley of Sirmour. Later the region was inhabitated by the people of Indus valley civilization during 2250 and 1750 BC.

Himachal Pradesh During Stone Age
As mentioned above, the earliest evidence of human settlement in Himachal Pradesh trace back to 2 million years ago. The fact is further strengthened by the discovery of stone age tools like pebbles, choppers, hand-axes and flakes. These tools are found in the Shiwalik foothills at Guler, Dehra, Dhaliara and Kangra in Beas Valley. Bilaspur and Nalagarh in Sirsa-Sutlej valley, and Suketi area of Sirmaur. These tools generally shows advanced Acheulian characters. This proves the existence of early middle paleolithic culture in the area.

Settled Life in Himachal Pradesh
The traces of earliest settled life in Himachal Pradesh are found near Ror Village of Nurpur (Kangra). Axes, chisels, picks, axe-hammers and rig-stones are some of the tools found here. There are also evidence of earthen pots, domesticated animals and food produced through agriculture found here.

The Indus Valley Civilization
The Indus Valley Civilization flourished between 3000 to 1750 BC. It is assumed that the people of Indus Valley Civilization entered Himalayan foothills around 2250 BC, pushing back Munda speaking Kolorian people. The traces of Indus Valley Civilization are found in Ropar near the foothills of Himachal Pradesh.

Kolorians - The Earliest Inhabitants of Himachal Pradesh
Kolorians were forced to migrate to inner and difficult valleys of Himachal Pradesh by the people of Indus Valley Civilization. With passage of time, they spread across western and central Himalayas. They developed their own linguistic system and beliefs. During Rig-vedic time, these people were came to be known as Dasas, Dasyus and Nishads.

Other literary sources also refer to Kinnaras, Nagas and Yakshas who migrated to inner hills of Himachal Pradesh during post-Vedic times.

On the other side, the Kolts, Halis, Dums and Chanals of the Western Himalayas and the Chamangs and Damangs of Kinnaur, Lahul and Spiti are supposed to be descended from Kolis (Mundas) who are stated to be the earliest migrants to the inner Himachal hills.

Khasas - The Indo-Aryans
The Indo-Aryans who were known as Khasas entered from north-west and quickly settled around the mid Himalayan belt from Kashmir to Nepal around 2000 BC. Though, they faced strong resistance from Dasyus, the aboriginals of the land, but they successfully established themselves. One of the powerful Dasyu kings was Shambara, who is mentioned in Rig-Veda as the greatest enemy of Aryans. It took forty years for Aryans to defeat the Dasyu King. Some Dasyu tribe retreated toward north and some accepted the Aryan superamacy and lived along with them.

Bhotas and Kiratas - The Indo-Mongoloids
The people with mongoloid features are mentioned as Bhotas and Kiratas by ancient writers. In pre-historice times, they used to live in sub-Himalayan region and now they are concentrated in the higher regions of the state.

Khasas, in course of time, developed their own customs and rituals and were referred as Mlechhas (Barbarians) by the Vedic Aryans of Gangetic plains. They organised themselves into families and villages, which came to be known as Mavanas. The stronger Mavana used to engulf weaker Mavanas. which ultimately led to the formation of Janapadas (tribal republics).

Four of the most important Janapadas of Himachal Pradesh were the Audumbaras, the Trigartas, the Kulutas and the Kulinda, which rose to prominence after the fall of Kushanas.