Apart from the modern educated elites, Manali is inhabited by the aboriginal tribes of Himachal Pradesh, the foremost of them being Kinnaur and Gujjars. These indigenous residents of the region have been preserving their ancient socio cultural life style, diverse rituals and customs and their rich ancestral legacy even in this modern era. Kinnaur community mainly believes in the equal distribution of labor between the sexes. Men of the Kinnaur community take care of the cattle while women folk handle the household chores and bring the kids up. The Gujjars of Manali are chiefly hunters and they move from one place to another in search of food and game. The tribes of Manali follow the Totemic religion and worship nature. They also undertake various religious ceremonies to please the Gods and Goddesses related to nature, but recently some of the tribes have turned to idol worship as well.
The traditional attire of the men of Manali is a dress named ‘Sultan’ that is worn at the lower part of the body which is tightened with a belt called ‘Dora’. The upper part of the body is covered with a long over coat called ‘Chola’ and the head is covered with a black turban called ‘Topa’. During winter a traditional shawl called ‘Chadder’ and a blanket known as ‘Lachhoo’ is used to save themselves from cold. A long shawl called ‘Pattoo’ is worn by women and they cover their head with ‘Dhatu’ or ‘Thipu’. The woolen slippers especially worn in winter are known as ‘Pullas’. The traditional outfit of Manali people is mostly hand woven in very attractive and eloquent colors.
The culture of Manali is marked with their bequest of folk songs and folk dances particularly performed at the time of tribal festivals. The songs sung by men and women together are mostly based on the various folk lores, gallantry of Kings, beauty of Queens and their life experiences. Some of the folk dances of Manali named Naati, Kayang, Karthi, Bakayang etc. are performed with the background music of traditional musical instruments. Naati is performed at the time of almost all the traditional festivals while other dance forms are performed at particular occasions. For example ‘Karthi’ dance is enjoyed at the time of Harvest Festival. The natives of Manali are expert in various traditional crafts like handloom, metal crafts, wood crafts, drift wood, Tibetan crafts, pottery, cane crafts, hand knit woolen clothes, gift items, etc.
The festival of Dussehra that marks the victory of good over evil is celebrated with boundless splendor and pomp in Manali. Pipal Jatra, also known as Vasantotsava commences on the 16th day of the month of Baisakh. A carnival is organized at Dhalpur where people enjoy the song and dance shows and variety of shopping. Shamshi Virshu is celebrated on the 13th of April when natives together worship the local goddess. The Mela Bhuntar is celebrated for three days at Bhuntar which aims at thanking the kind deities for their blessings and good harvest.