The Indus Valley has been an important part of Indian culture and heritage. With that as a lifeline, it had many settlements along its banks. Its vast network of tributaries and distributaries was perfect for trade and with that, came in fame and fortune – one that could not escape the eyes of the famous conqueror Alexander. He arrived and left behind a legacy. Not just in the form of history but in the form of people that still reside along the banks of the river.
To find them, all you have to do is follow the Indus River from Leh in Ladakh, past the ancient Alchi monastery, almost till the border. Hidden in the mystical valleys, you will find five villages – Dah, Hanu, Bheema, Garkon and Sanit. It is here that the descendants of the three Aryan soldiers left behind by Alexander live. These are the last Aryan settlements in India.
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The Aryan people of Dahanu
It is not unusual to spot the typical Aryan features when you meet the residents of Dahanu. Most of them are tall, fair skinned with high cheek bones and light eyed. The heritage gene pool has been safely guarded by the people by marrying within their community. They have their own language – Brokskat and owing to that, are referred to as Brokpa in Ladakh.
The traditional dress of these Aryans involves an elaborate head gear made of flowers. This is called Tepi. The women are often found with long plaits and elaborate ear-rings. Wearing metal is not just auspicious for the Aryans but is considered to be therapeutic too. However, you are likely to see this, only if you visit them during their festivals or on special occasions like a wedding.
Originally the Aryans were worshippers of stone. However, over time they have become Buddhists. Despite that there are a few traditions that they still follow, the key one being Bononah festival. This is their harvest festival where they get into elaborate gear and dress up as Gods or Devta. A goat is sacrificed and hymns are sung. These are accompanied by special dances. The festivities continue for three days in the month of September.
The lifestyle of the Aryans
Farming is the key occupation here. They largely cultivate apricots and rear goats, cows and yaks as their livestock. Their regular diet involves wheat made with Yak Milk. The population of a little over 1000 people used to live in stone homes with low ceilings and fire hearths. Over time, their homes are now modernised with electricity and a gas connection for cooking.
While the older generation still lives in this village, the younger ones have moved to larger towns for jobs. A lot of them serve the Indian army close to their village. While modernisation has crept into these villages, it has not dampened their ancestral pride. Even today, you can well see it in their faces, their manners and even their warm hospitality.