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To My Mother and Father 


This book is based upon research first reported in my dissertation, 
presented to the faculty of the Graduate School of Cornell University, 
in September, 1959. I am grateful to Professor Morris E. Opler for his 
interest and suggestions in supervising the preparation of the disserta- 
tion and for his encouragement thereafter to revise and publish it. 
Others who provided helpful advice include Professors Allan R. Holm- 
berg, Lauriston Sharp, Robert J. Smith, and Robin M. Williams. Mr. 
J. Michael Mahar and Professor S. C. Dube gave liberally of helpful 
counsel before the research was undertaken. Mr. A. C. Chandola re- 
viewed linguistic and other materials in the course of the final revision. 
Mr. James M. Sebring checked census figures and numerous biblio- 
graphic references and helped in proofreading. To all these people I 
am grateful. 

The Ford Foundation, through its Foreign Area Training Fellow- 
ship program, financed nearly three years of work which led to the 
dissertation, including 15 months in India during 1957-1958, and six 
months of analysis and writing following the research. Library re- 
search and substantial rewriting in the preparation of this book were 
supported by a University of California Summer Faculty Research 
Fellowship and by part-time research appointments with the Himalayan 
Border Countries Research Project and the South Asia Village Studies 
Project in the Center for South Asia Studies of the Institute of Inter- 
national Studies, University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Joan V. Bondu- 
rant, then chairman of the Center for South Asia Studies, Dr. Leo E. 



Rose, head of the Himalayan Border Countries Research Project, and 
Dr. William L. Rowe, my colleague in the South Asia Village Studies 
Project, have been encouraging and helpful in this research. The De- 
partment of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, 
has been cooperative in accommodating to my part-time research ap- 
pointments. I wish to thank all of these individuals and institutions for 
their material and moral support. 

My family and I are indebted to many people who were kind and 
helpful to us in India, especially to Mr. and Mrs. James Alters, Mr. 
and Mrs. Leon Elliott, Mr. and Mrs. T. D. Fordham, and Mr. and Mrs. 
J. Suvanto and their families, all of whom were friends in need. In my 
research I benefited greatly from the assistance of Mr. A. P. Sharma and 
Mr. M. Basir. Mr. Basir's unfailing interest and untiring efficiency were 
important factors in the success of the research. 

I am immeasurably indebted to my wife, Evelyn, who bore with good 
humor the difficulties of life under trying circumstances; who managed 
our household, cared for our small daughter in health and illness, and 
typed untold hundreds of pages of reference material and notes — all 
while I was preoccupied with research and most of the time while I 
was physically absent. Our daughter, Janet, shared without complaint 
the unstable life of the field anthropologist's family and the crises, 
maladies, and discomforts inherent therein (and several not inherent 
therein). Few families are called upon to endure what they endured, 
and they did so with a grace deserving of respect and my deepest 

Finally, I am grateful to the people of Sirkanda, without whose 
trust, friendship, and forbearance the research would have been im- 
possible. In particular I appreciate the kindness and understanding of 
my friends, Alam Singh and Safri. 


Introduction 1 


The Setting 9 


The Economic Context 38 

The Religious Context: The Supernatural 80 


The Religious Context: Calendrical and Life-Cycle 

Ceremonies 121 


Kin Groups and Kinship 143 


Caste 197 

Intercaste Relations 229 



The Village Community 


The Outside World: Urban Contacts and Government 

Programs 294 





I. Gods Worshiped in Sirkanda 
II. Calendrical Rites in Sirkanda 

III. Life-Cycle Rites in Sirkanda 

IV. Sirkanda Kin Terms 



3 6 9 






1. Linguistic and administrative environs of Sirkanda 13 

2. Sirkanda marriage network and chans 24 

3. Sirkanda village settlement area 25 

He who thinks on Himachal, though he should not be- 
hold him, is greater than he who performs all worship in Kashi. 
In a hundred ages of the gods I could not tell thee of the glories 
of Himachal. As the dew is dried up by the morning sun, so 
are the sins of mankind by the sight of Himachal. 



English equivalents have in most instances been substituted for Hindi 
and Pahari terms. Where pertinent, the Hindi or Pahari word has 
been included in parentheses. Where a Hindi or Pahari term has 
seemed more appropriate than an English one, it has been italicized 
and denned (if it is not denned by context) in its first appearance. 
Such words have been written as nearly phonetically as possible, accord- 
ing to Sirkanda pronunciation, in Roman script, with long vowels (— ) 
and nasalization (~) indicated in their first appearance. Retroflex con- 
sonants have been indicated by capitalization in their first appear- 
ance. Pluralization has usually been indicated as in English with a 
final "s" rather than as in Hindi. Some words which appear frequently 
in English writings are spelled in the conventional manner rather than 
phonetically, especially if they are proper nouns. 

Place names of villages within the immediate vicinity of Sirkanda 
and all personal names of individuals (except those in the Acknowl- 
edgments) are pseudonyms. "Sirkanda" is not the name of a real 
village, though it is the name of a well-known Pahari temple dedi- 
cated to Devi, the most important goddess in the village described 
here. The employment of pseudonyms is done for protection of privacy 
rather than for concealment. Anyone who set about it could easily 
locate "Sirkanda." 


In India, as in peasant societies elsewhere, the village community has 
been found by many anthropologists to be the most manageable unit 
for ethnological research. As a result of their experience no one would 
now be likely to assert that the village is isolated, independent, or un- 
changing, or that it can be studied meaningfully without reference to 
its past and its extensions into other communities, towns, and urban 
centers. In fact, dependence upon market towns or urban areas is 
inherent in most definitions of peasant communities. Redfield, for 
example, describes the peasant as a "rural native whose long estab- 
lished order of life takes important account of the city. The account 
that the peasant takes of the city or town is economic, political and 
moral" (Redfield, 1957, p. 31). 

Although no peasant village can be understood in isolation, it can 
serve as a useful focus for research. A village, with its extensions into 
the surrounding region, constitutes a functioning segment of rural 
Indian society of a size amenable to anthropological research tech- 
niques. Although no village is representative of rural India as a whole, 
any village properly understood represents in a general way villages 
of a particular type and area. Dube has commented that "what we 
need today is a series of studies of village communities from different 
parts of the country covering the many divergent patterns of organiza- 
tion and ethos. Until this is done our picture of social systems in rural 
India will remain vague and inadequate" (Dube, 1955, pp. 6 f.). Only 
then will we be able to assess the validity of generalizations already 


set forth on the subject. The present study is, among other things, a 
contribution in this direction. 

The research reported here was in the nature of a community study 
carried out from September, 1957, through August, 1958, in and around 
Sirkanda, 1 a village of the lower Himalayas of western Uttar Pradesh, 

The aims of the study were three: (1) to provide an ethnographic 
community study in an important and previously unreported culture 
area of India; (2) to analyze the functioning and interrelationship of 
kin, caste, and community ties in a Hindu society known to be dif- 
ferently organized in some significant respects than those of the ad- 
jacent and well-known plains; and (3) to study the effects of recent 
governmental programs and other outside contacts on a relatively 
isolated and conservative Indian community. 

The area selected for the research was the hill region near the town 
of Dehra Dun. It was chosen over other, equally promising hill regions 
because of ease of access, availability of competent medical care, and 
adequate housing in nearby Dehra Dun — features lacking in many 
hill areas but important in view of my plan to take my wife and in- 
fant daughter. Other factors were that I had an advance contact with 
a potential interpreter in the town of Dehra Dun and that town, as 
district headquarters and an educational center, had useful libraries 
and other documentary resources. The particular locality and com- 
munity were chosen as suitable in terms of the combined requirements 
of the type of community to be investigated, the plan of the research, 
and the necessity of remaining within a reasonable distance of the 
facilities of Dehra Dun. 

In selecting a site for the research, I visited some 25 villages over a 
period of two months, both in the hills and in the Dehra Dun valley 
bordering the hills. Sirkanda, a village ten air miles from Dehra Dun, 
was attractive in that it was large for a hill village, was fairly isolated 
but accessible, had a caste distribution typical of the area, and had no 
apparent important atypical features. During the period of research 
I lived most of the time in Sirkanda and simultaneously maintained 
a house in Dehra Dun or, for the last four months, in the nearby hill 
town of Mussoorie. Except on visits to the village, my family occupied 
the house in town. My characteristic routine during the research 
period was to spend four or five days in the village followed by two 
days in town. This provided a weekly opportunity to type notes, con- 
sult library resources and official records, secure supplies, and get 
needed rest. 

In addition to my residence in Sirkanda, I had fairly extensive con- 


tacts with other hill villages in the immediate area. I passed through 
other villages and intermediary markets en route to and from Sir- 
kanda, and I paid occasional visits to surrounding villages, often in 
the company of Sirkanda villagers. Contrasting hill regions were ob- 
served in two treks, one from Simla to Chakrata, a no-mile trip in 
Himachal Pradesh and Jaunsar-Bawar, to the west. The other was 
from Mussoorie east to Tehri, a 40-mile trip through the heart of the 
culture area represented by the people of Sirkanda. From these con- 
tacts and similar ones in the Dehra Dun valley, I gained a first-hand 
perspective on the place of Sirkanda in its own culture area and its 
relation to neighboring ones. 

Living conditions in the village were primitive even by local stand- 
ards — a fact which led me to reject the idea of moving my family there 
on a full-time basis. Except for a period of about four months when I 
owned an unreliable jeep and could drive by a devious route to within 
five miles of the village, access from Dehra Dun was by a foot trail nine 
miles beyond the end of a bus line. The last five-mile distance to the 
village was along a mountain trail climbing 2,700 feet. Access from 
Mussoorie, location of my "town house" for the last four months, was 
by a relatively level, but in places extremely rough, trail of 16 miles. 
My village house consisted of three small connecting rooms, one of 
which was occupied continuously by two to four water buffalo, and all 
of which were inferior to those inhabited by most villagers. The only 
food consistently available in the village was grain, milk, sugar, and 
tea. The source of water was one-fourth of a mile distant over a rocky 
trail. In short, Sirkanda was not suitable for protracted family living 
by outsiders. 

Throughout the research the services of an interpreter were utilized. 
The language of the people is the Central dialect of the language group 
known as Pahari. This is related to Hindi, and most villagers knew 
Hindi well. I knew elementary Hindi and was able to carry on or- 
dinary conversation and to comprehend much of what was being said 
by informants. However, for research purposes an assistant conversant 
with the language was needed. Two interpreters worked with me con- 

Problems of the research, especially as it was affected by the con- 
trasting personal and social characteristics of these two men, have been 
the subject of a short monograph (Berreman, 1962c). Suffice it to say 
here that villagers were at first suspicious of us and our motives. The 
nature of the rapport we established and consequently of the informa- 
tion we obtained was heavily influenced by the villagers' perceptions 
of us. The first interpreter, a young Brahmin, was helpful in establish- 


ing friendly relations but, partly because of his status as a Brahmin of 
plains origin, he inhibited people in their presentation of themselves 
to us. Villagers are self-conscious about many of their religious and 
social practices, which are unorthodox and even defiling by plains 
standards. They were anxious to conceal these from the young Brahmin 
in order to secure his respect. When it unexpectedly became necessary 
to find a replacement as interpreter, a retired Muslim schoolteacher 
was employed. Although his religion prevented him from achieving 
close friendship with most high-caste villagers, he won remarkably 
good rapport with villagers of low caste who, in any case, were the 
best informants. Moreover, neither he nor the villagers felt compelled 
to impress one another with their status or ritual purity. This led to 
more candid information and observation among all groups than had 
been possible when the Brahmin was present. 

The primary sources of data were Sirkanda villagers themselves. 
Initially they were, as a result of their suspicions, an unreliable source, 
and many of the data obtained were in the nature of half-truths. In 
the beginning there was consistent suppression of many kinds of in- 
formation, especially that which the villagers felt reflected adversely 
on their status as Hindus, and that which they believed might result 
in additional taxation, legal proceedings, or other governmental in- 
terference. Thus their subjects of conversation with me were limited 
to the weather, agricultural techniques, and similarly innocuous topics. 
Gradually we won their confidence and they gave information more 
freely. A few individuals remained suspicious and uncommunicative 
throughout the period of research; others became friendly but not 
informative; some became both friendly and informative. In virtually 
all instances, however, it was possible to check information with two 
or more informants. Most villagers were at least occasional informants. 

Low-caste people were freer with most kinds of information than 
were high-caste people, apparently because they had a smaller stake in 
the impressions others received of them and because they did not feel 
threatened by the anthropologist and his interpreter. Low-caste vil- 
lagers contributed a relatively large amount of information per capita, 
but this was compensated for by the greater numbers of high-caste 
informants. Information was always obtained from or checked by those 
in a position to know whereof they spoke on a particular topic. In the 
year of research there was an opportunity to observe many events at 
first hand. However, some of those to be described, and especially some 
religious and ceremonial activities, did not occur in my presence. De- 
scriptions of such events were obtained from people who had par- 
ticipated in them. 


Information was obtained primarily from observation and through 
informal interviews, both directed and undirected. Interviews were 
conducted wherever and whenever the occasion arose — in my house 
or yard, at the houses of villagers, in the shops, at places of work of 
artisans, in the fields, at the water source, on the trails, and so on. 
Generally several people were present at once, contributing informa- 
tion and attitudes and inhibiting one another's contributions. Such 
interviews were not recorded on the spot. At the first opportunity they 
were recorded in private. The approach could not be called participant 
observation because real participation was a virtual impossibility in 
most contexts. My interpreter and I were outsiders. Our participation 
was limited largely to informal social situations, and even there we 
were usually in the role of guests, invited or uninvited. 

As time passed villagers became interested in our work and ac- 
customed to our queries, and some were willing to have interviews re- 
corded in their presence. This was done in the unreliable privacy of 
my village house. Some objective and largely quantitative types of 
data were gathered, notebook in hand, from all the villagers or from 
a cross-section. These included genealogical and census materials, 
economic data, and the like. Scheduled interviews had been drawn up 
to get at attitudes toward the outside world and related matters, but 
they were discarded. I felt, on the basis of experience in informal in- 
terviewing and in collecting genealogical and other information, that 
these would do more harm in terms of rapport than good in terms of 
reliable data. More was to be gained, I believed, by getting this in- 
formation informally than by drawing attention (and inevitably, 
suspicion) to my interests by attempting a survey approach. This is an 
unusually closed society, whose members are accustomed to concealing 
and protecting themselves from the outside world. Data obtained by 
survey techniques on matters about which villagers are sensitive 
would, in all probability, have been of little value except as a kind of 
projective test, and any attempt to secure such data would have jeo- 
pardized further research efforts. 

The difficulty of obtaining reliable data is reflected in the quality 
of the official statistical sources of information presumably available 
on the village. There are such records as voting lists, birth and death 
records, census lists, school enrollment lists, livestock census, land 
records, and tax records, which provide neat statistical summaries. 
However, much of the information is inaccurate. On the current voting 
list, for example, 142 names appear accompanied by the person's age 
and name of father or husband. Among these are three people who 
appear twice, at least eight who are incorrectly identified, seven who 


are unidentified, and at least two who appear also on the voting list 
of a neighboring village. The list includes a mixture of full-time and 
part-time residents and people who no longer reside in the village, 
while some individuals in each of these categories are missing from the 
list. Ages given are at best rough approximations. The village live- 
stock census was conducted by a forestry officer, who was reported to 
have looked at the cattle in the yards of one or two houses and mul- 
tiplied by his guess as to the number of houses in the village. Land 
records are more accurate, since they are based on measurements, but 
they are inadequate to show current land distribution because informal 
division of land has long gone unrecorded. The man responsible for 
recording births and deaths in Sirkanda lives in another village and 
misses many births and cases of infant and child mortality. Even the 
school enrollment record which is kept in the village includes four 
students whom the teacher has never seen (these are excluded from all 
discussions and calculations with regard to the school in later chapters). 
The record fails to list six students who attend regularly. 

In view of the difficulties faced by those responsible for keeping 
records both in terms of the reliability of their informants and the 
pressure from their superiors, it is remarkable that they do as well as 
they do. But documentary records are less useful sources of data for 
research than might be expected. Each type of record has its own 
specific types of limitations. Reliance upon such records is misleading 
unless their limitations are recognized. 

Literature dealing with Central Pahari-speaking people is extremely 
scarce. The earliest account, and an indispensable one, is G. W. Traill's 
"Statistical Sketch of Kamaon" (1828). E. T. Atkinson's three-volume 
work, The Himalayan Districts of the North-Western Provinces of 
India (1882-1886), is a comprehensive and accurate report on the area 
and the people. It is the only such source, and most subsequent ac- 
counts rely heavily upon it. To these two insightful civil servants we 
owe most of what we know of these people. G. A. Grierson in the 
Linguistic Survey of India (Vol. IX, 1916) provides invaluable lin- 
guistic and historical data. E. S. Oakley's Holy Himalaya (1905) also 
contains interesting material. Other useful works are the District 
Gazetteers of Dehra Dun, British Garhwal, and Almora (the latter two 
largely revisions of pertinent sections of Atkinson's volumes) by H. G. 
Walton (1911a; 1910; 1911b), the Historical and Statistical Memoir 
of Dehra Dun by G. R. C. Williams (1874), and to a lesser extent the 
District Gazetteer of Naini Tal by H. R. Nevill (1904). 

An informative informal description by one who knew the people 
well is that of "Mr. Wilson of Mussoorie," contained in A Summer 


Ramble in the Himalayas, edited by Wilson under the nom de plume 
of "the Mountaineer" (i860, pp. 121-232). Useful works by local his- 
torians are: Garhwal, Ancient and Modern, by P. R. Bahadur (1916), 
History of Garhwal (in Hindi) by H. K. Raturi (1928), and Kumaon 
(in Hindi) by R. Sankrityayana (1958). L. D. Joshi (1929) compiled a 
valuable account of customary law — primarily family law — in the 
Central Pahari area, and V. A. Stowell (1907) contributed a source 
book on land tenures. 

With the exception of a brief appendix to the Gazetteer of British 
Garhwal, none of the above deals specifically with Tehri Garhwal, the 
administrative unit immediately adjacent, and for many purposes 
most relevant, to Sirkanda. The books cited do, however, deal with 
closely related peoples in neighboring Garhwal and the Kumaon dis- 
tricts to the east. 

The Pahari area is populated by five million Indo-Aryan speaking 
Hindus. It is famous as the location of some of the most important 
Hindu shrines, as the setting for widely known religious epics, as a 
traditional region of retreat for religious figures, and as the site of 
many points of historic interest. It is the home of the men who made 
up the Garhwal Rifles, who won fame in two World Wars. It is the 
location of "hill stations," where thousands of people from all over 
North India go annually to escape the summer heat, and where state 
and national governments and international political conferences have 
met. It is the source of an increasing variety of natural resources. Yet 
it has remained a virtual blank on the ethnographic map and is ig- 
nored by most of those who write about North Indian culture and 

The situation has changed little since 1935, when S. D. Pant noted 
that, "The Himalayas have for many years constituted a subject of 
such profound and unique interest, and have attracted so distinguished 
a company of explorers and investigators, that it seems all but incredible 
that no adequate scientific account of the human geography and social 
economy of the Himalayans has yet been written" (Pant, 1935, p. 9). 
Pant himself has provided the first exception to this dearth of scien- 
tific work in the area with his book, The Social Economy of the Hi- 
malayans, a valuable general survey of Almora and Naini Tal districts 
focusing upon the economy of the Paharis and Bhotiyas. This is the 
only contemporary study conducted even partially among Central 
Pahari-speaking peoples. 

The only Himalayan hill people to have attracted the attention of 
Indian anthropologists or sociologists are the polyandrous residents 
of Jaunsar-Bawar, a small area in Dehra Dun District inhabited by 


Western Pahari-speaking people. Evidently attracted by unusual mari- 
tal customs and related features which have led to characterization of 
the society as "a fossil of the age of the Mahabharata" (Munshi, 1955, 
p. i), D. N. Majumdar and his students, notably R. N. Saksena, have 
done some work in that region (Majumdar, 1944; Saksena, 1955). 

Recently short reports of village studies carried out in hill tracts 
farther to the west, in Chamba and Kulu, have appeared, by W. H. 
Newell (1955) and C. Rosser (1955), respectively, and a book by Rosser, 
The Valley of the Gods, is in press. The area is certain to receive fur- 
ther attention. 

The present study is, therefore, the first community study or ethnog- 
raphy attempted in the Central Pahari area, and one of very few 
studies of any kind that have dealt with Himalayan hill people. Be- 
cause of this it has seemed worthwhile to include in this account a good 
deal of ethnographic material which could have been omitted if it 
were available elsewhere. There is no independent documentation for 
much that is presented here. Without documentation and cultural 
context, the reader would be faced with the problem which faced the 
researcher in the initial phases of his work — he might fail to see ex- 
isting relationships and he might assume nonexistent ones. The reader 
familiar with India would be especially likely to jump to erroneous 
conclusions about the degree of similarity or difference between the 
community described here and other Indian communities with which 
he might be acquainted. This would be likely to prejudice his estimate 
of the credibility and applicability of the generalizations, analyses, and 
conclusions presented. Intelligent appraisal can follow only from data 
presented in cultural context. For this reason I have tried to present 
some of the empirical data upon which these generalizations, analyses, 
and conclusions are based. 

The aims of this book, then, are both ethnographic and analytic: the 
description of an example of a heretofore undescribed culture; the 
analysis of social organization in a uniquely organized caste society; 
and the analysis of reactions to planned and unplanned change in a 
remote and unsophisticated village. These aims have been important 
in determining the content and manner of presentation of the ma- 
terials to follow. 


The lower Himalayas from western Kashmir to eastern Nepal are 
populated by peoples sharing common and distinct cultural, linguistic, 
and historical traditions. This study deals primarily with the inhabit- 
ants of Sirkanda, one village in this broad culture area, and with their 
neighbors and relatives in nearby villages. Sirkanda lies in the Hi- 
malayan foothills bordering Dehra Dun and Tehri Garhwal districts in 
Uttar Pradesh, India, 125 air miles north and slightly east of Delhi, 
and 85 miles southwest of the Tibetan border. It is about ten air miles 
northeast of Dehra Dun, a large town situated in a valley at the foot 
of the Himalayan range, and seven miles east of Mussoorie, a British- 
built hill station on the crest of the first ridge of the Himalayas north 
of Dehra Dun. Distances in this region are deceptive because the ter- 
rain is rugged and mountainous. The only means of travel within the 
area is by mountain trails which average at least double the air-mile 
distances. There are adults in Sirkanda who have never visited Dehra 

Natural Features 

The Kumaon Himalaya or Himalaya West comprises the central 
portion of the mountainous expanse from Kashmir to Darjeeling. It 
constitutes the northernmost part of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh 
and is bordered on the east by Nepal, on the north by Tibet and on 
the west by the state of Himachal Pradesh. 1 It rises abruptly from the 



Gangetic plain at scarcely 1,000 feet above sea level to the perpetual 
snows of the passes into Tibet at 16,000 to 18,000 feet and the peaks of 
Bandarpunch, Trisul, Nanda Devi, and others reaching 20,000 to 
25,000 feet. The main axis of the high or snowy Himalayan range is 
an arc from Kashmir in the northwest, through and beyond Nepal in 
the east. The region of interest here comprises the lower and outer 
ranges known as the Sub-Himalayas, and specifically those portions of 
the Kumaon Himalaya lying predominately below 10,000 feet and often 
called the Kumaon hills. 

Topographically the Kumaon hill area is one of mountains and 
rivers. Since the mountains are geologically young they are precipitous 
and rocky. The valleys are steep and narrow, the streams and rivers are 
swift, and in the rainy season they become rushing torrents. The 
mountainous area is separated from the plains to the south by barren, 
rocky talus slopes below which is a strip of forest and marshland. 

Along part of their length the Himalayas are paralleled a few miles 
to the south by remnants of the ancient Siwalik range. Between these 
ranges lie narrow valleys such as that of Dehra Dun, bordering the 
Himalayan foothills for 45 miles and separated from the Gangetic 
plain by the low but rugged Siwalik hills. Here, as in popular usage in 
the area, "the valley" will be used to refer to the Dehra Dun valley, 
some of the eastern portion of which is visible from Sirkanda. The 
valley is about 2,000 feet above sea level, while the Gangetic plain 
beyond the Siwaliks is not over 1,000 feet in elevation. It is the latter 
plain that is here termed "the plains," in accordance with local usage. 

Throughout the Himalayas, population density is restricted by the 
terrain. Prime requisites for occupation by the agriculturists who 
inhabit these mountains are topsoil that can be terraced and a steady 
water supply. Alluvial fans, gradual slopes, or broad valleys are ex- 
ceptionally favorable spots for habitation. Most of the population is 
found in valleys and on the lower slopes of the mountains below an 
elevation of 6,000 feet. 

The Kumaon Himalaya lies across 30 north latitude and is there- 
fore within the Temperate Zone not far from the tropics. Climate is 
influenced by the high Himalayas to the north and the Gangetic plain 
to the south. Three seasons are recognized and terminologically dis- 
tinguished by the inhabitants: winter, hot season or summer, and rainy 
season. Winter lasts from mid-October to mid-February and is char- 
acterized by clear, cool weather, followed by colder weather and some 
precipitation in December, January, and February. Temperature varies 
with altitude, so that even during the coldest period little snow falls 


below the 6,000-foot level while considerable falls above that level. In 
Sirkanda for about a month in winter, temperatures often fall slightly 
below freezing at night, but they usually rise considerably during the 
day. Summer begins in mid-February and extends through the middle 
of June. In March and April localized storms occur. By mid-April the 
hot, dry season is at hand and lasts until the monsoon breaks in the 
latter half of June. Rains continue to come frequently and heavily and 
temperatures remain fairly high until mid-September, when tempera- 
tures begin to drop and rains cease. Annual rainfall varies greatly, 
with the outer range of mountains catching the heaviest precipitation 
as the clouds move in from the plains. Annual rainfall in Mussoorie 
averages around 80 inches, while other hill locations report rainfall of 
40 to 100 inches per year. Vegetation is profoundly influenced by al- 
titude and rainfall. 

Generally the slopes which face northward are more thickly wooded than 
the southward slopes, as in the former the sun's rays only slant across the 
surface, and the moisture is retained in the soil for a longer period. With the 
decrease in elevation a gradual change in the composition of the forest 
is observed. . . . The slopes above the Kali . . . present an excellent epitome 
of this plant variation. One passes from the shisham (Dalbergia sissoo) and 
sal (Shorea robusta) in the river beds, through oak and rhododendron on the 
high hills, to firs, birch, and box on the still higher central ridges. (Pant, 
1935. P- 37) 

The fauna is varied and includes deer, goats, pigs, monkeys, foxes, 
jackals, porcupines, bears, leopards, and an occasional tiger. A wide 
variety of birds is to be found, including native wild chickens. The 
streams abound in Indian trout. The wild life and terrain of the Ku- 
maon hills have been vividly depicted in the well-known works of Jim 
Corbett (1946), while the fauna has been described in detail by Atkinson 
(1884a, pp. 1-266). 

Administrative History 

The western half of the Kumaon Himalaya is known as Garhwal 
— the country of fortresses — after the large stone structures found 
scattered through the region. It comprises the present districts of 
Garhwal, Tehri Garhwal, and the Himalayan hill area of Dehra Dun 
District exclusive of Jaunsar-Bawar (see map 1). Almora and Naini 
Tal districts to the east are often called the "Kumaon districts" when 
contrasted to Garhwal. In the Hindu scriptures Garhwal is referred to 
as Kedarkhand. Kedarkhand is important in Hindu religion and my- 


thology as the place of origin of the two sacred rivers Ganges and Jumna 
and as the site of famous places of pilgrimage including Hardwar, 
Rishikesh, Kedarnath, Badrinath, Jamnotri, and Gangotri. 

Rishis [sages] and ascetics in large numbers resorted to its silent valleys 
for purposes of meditation or the instruction of their disciples. The final 
scene of the life of the five heroes of the Mahabharata was enacted amid its 
mountains and many place-names in the Alaknanda valley still recall the 
memory of BhimSen and his brothers. Garhwal may still claim to be the 
holy land of India: its valleys are full of ancient temples and there is scarcely 
a ridge from which the wonderful spectacle of the snowy range is visible 
without its humble shrine. Every year thousands of pilgrims from all parts 
of India make their laborious way on foot along the via sacra of Badrinath. 
(Bahadur, 1916, p. ii) 

Little is known of the early history of Garhwal and the surrounding 
areas either through written sources or local tradition. 

Up to the time of Ajaiya Pala [about a.d. 1358] Garhwal was divided 
amongst a number of petty Rajas. Every glen or hill, as formerly was the 
case in the highlands of Scotland, was subject to its own chiefs who have 
left no record behind except the moss-covered walls of their strongholds. 
And although Ajaiya Pala is credited with having reduced fifty-two of these 
petty chiefs under his own rule, we may well suppose that he was only the 
first of his line to aim at more than a local supremacy, and that to his suc- 
cessors is due the extension of the Garhwal power over the Dun, Bisahir, 
and the tract now known as Tihri or foreign Garhwal. (Atkinson, 1884a, pp. 

For the end of the sixteenth century and later, more precise records 
and dates are available. Then Garhwal appeared as an independent 
kingdom at its greatest recorded extent. It remained thus until 1803- 
1805, when the Garhwal Raja, Pradhuman Shah, was defeated and 
killed in battle by invading Nepalese armies which pushed westward, 
extending Nepalese suzerainty to the Sutlej River. Although the Nepa- 
lese acquired a reputation for harsh, exploitative rule which reportedly 
led to mass emigration out of the hills, their eleven-year rule left few 
imprints in relatively inaccessible localities such as Sirkanda. 

The British defeated the Nepalese in 1815 and, in taking control 
from them, divided Garhwal into its present parts. The eastern half, 
comprising 5,629 square miles, was placed under direct British rule 
and was thenceforth known as British Garhwal or simply Garhwal. 
For administrative purposes it was included with the districts of Naini 
Tal and Almora, to its east, to form the Kumaon Division. The Dehra 
Dun valley and adjacent hills in the southwestern corner of Garhwal 
and the hill tract called Jaunsar-Bawar west of Garhwal were annexed 


1. Dehro Dun District 

2 Tehri Garhwal District 

3 Garhwal District 

4 Almora District 

5 Naini Tal District 


o io 20 miles 


Administrative boundary 

Map 1. Linguistic and administrative environs of Sirkanda. Partly adapted 
from Grierson (1916), pp. 101, 373. 


to Saharanpur District, which was already under direct British rule. 
Later the annexed sections became Dehra Dun District. The remaining 
large portion of Garhwal, comprising 4,200 square miles between 
British Garhwal and Dehra Dun District, was ceded to Sudershan Shah, 
the son of the last of the Garhwal Rajas (who had died in the Nepalese 
war). This section, called Tehri Garhwal, remained an independent 
princely state under succeeding rajas until Indian Independence (1947), 
when, after some delay, it was incorporated into Uttar Pradesh. Since 
Independence these areas have remained administratively separated 
as districts in Uttar Pradesh but are, of course, under a common law. 
Throughout the period of recorded history, the inhabitants of Garhwal 
have retained their social and cultural ties despite administrative 
division of the area. 

The People and Their History 

The people of the Sub-Himalayan hills from western Kashmir to 
eastern Nepal are referred to by the generic term Pahari (of the moun- 
tains). While not a particularly precise term, it is a useful one and is 
recognized throughout North India. Two major ancestral stocks are 
generally believed to have contributed to the present Pahari popula- 
tion. One, often assumed to have been an early, indigenous group, 
now appears as the Dom or low castes. The other, described as an 
Indo-Aryan speaking group, is presumably more recent and of Central 
Asian origin. Its descendants, called Khasa or Khasiya, comprise the 
present high castes of the hills. The term "Khasiya" is used by the 
people in the region of this study, while "Khasa" is more frequent in 
the literature about Paharis. Throughout this account, the Bhotlya, 
a Mongoloid, Tibeto-Burmese speaking, and culturally distinct people 
of the higher Himalayas are excluded from the discussion except where 
specific reference is made to them. 

Both Khasas and Doms are often described as internally relatively 
undifferentiated. Khasas are divided into Brahmin and Rajput groups, 
but interaction is more intimate between them than is usual on the 
plains. Even intermarriage is tolerated. Doms are divided into several 
endogamous groups ranked relative to one another and associated 
with occupational specialties. However, occupational specialization is 
remarkably variable, and many accounts describe them as formerly 
less differentiated. One might speculate that at one time there were 
two relatively homogeneous groups, the dominant, agricultural Khasas 
and the dependent, depressed artisan or service group known as Doms. 
These were probably groups of different ethnic affinities, but they 


could have been status groups originating from a common source. 
Internal differentiation within each may have resulted from subse- 
quent contacts with plains peoples — perhaps immigrants to the hills. 
As a result of such contacts Khasas took the names and other status 
characteristics of Brahmins and Rajputs, or in some areas they may 
all have become "Rajputs" while the immigrants from the plains were 
Brahmins. Meanwhile Doms may have subdivided according to oc- 
cupational specialty as a result of high-caste expectations or their own 
adoption of plains attitudes, or as a result of an influx of artisans from 
the plains. Around Sirkanda it seems not improbable that the caste 
of drummer-tailor-basketmakers (Bajgi) may be descended from the 
archetypical "Doms" while the other specialties (such as blacksmiths) 
were derived from immigrant groups or possibly from specialization 
within the old Dom group (such as weavers). This, like the widespread 
assertion that Doms preceded Khasas, is speculation and should be 
interpreted as nothing more. With present evidence no better can be 
done. We can safely say only that the origins and affinities of con- 
temporary Pahari castes and occupational groups are largely unknown, 
and that this fact has stimulated conjecture. Such conjecture has 
centered most heavily on the Khasas, who are dominant in numbers, 
wealth, and status and about whom some historical information is at 


"Sanskrit literature contains frequent references to a tribe whose 
name is usually spelt Khasa, with variants such as Khasa, Khasha, and 
Khasira. The earlier we trace notices regarding them, the further 
northwest we find them" (Grierson, 1916, p. 2). They appear frequently 
in the Puranas (ancient Hindu literature), and they figure prominently 
in the Mahabharata. 

We gather that according to the most ancient Indian authorities in the 
extreme north-west of India, on the Hindu Kush and the mountainous 
tracts to the south, and in the Western Panjab there was a group of tribes 
one of which was called Khasa, which were looked upon as Kshatriyas of 
Aryan origin. These spoke a language closely allied to Sanskrit. . . . They 
were considered to have lost their claim to consideration as Aryans, and to 
have become Mlechchhas, or barbarians, owing to their non-observance of 
the rules for eating and drinking observed by the Sanskritic peoples of India. 
These Khasas were a warlike tribe, and were well known to classical writers, 
who noted, as their special home, the Indian Caucasus of Pliny. . . . 

It is probable that they once occupied an important position in Central 
Asia, and the Kashgar of Chitral were named after them. They were closely 


connected with the group of tribes nicknamed "PiSachas" or "cannibals" by 
Indian writers, and before the sixth century they were stated to speak the 
same language as the people of Balkh. At the same period they had ap- 
parently penetrated along the southern slope of the Himalaya as far east 
as Nepal, and in the twelfth century they certainly occupied in considerable 
force the hills to the south, south-west and south-east of Kashmir. 

At the present day their descendants, and the tribes who claim descent 
from them, occupy a much wider area. (Grierson, 1916, pp. 7-8) 

The languages of the hill regions, like the peoples, are termed Pahari. 

The word "Pahari" means "of or belonging to the mountains," and is 
specially applied to the groups of languages spoken in the sub-Himalayan 
hills extending from Bhadrawah, north of the Pan jab, to the eastern parts 
of Nepal. To its North and East various Himalayan Tibeto-Burman languages 
are spoken. To its west there are Aryan languages connected with Kashmiri 
and Western Panjabi, and to its south it has the Aryan languages of the 
Panjab and the Gangetic plain, viz.: — in order from West to East, Panjabi, 
Western Hindi, Eastern Hindi and Bihari. 

The Pahari languages fall into three main groups. In the extreme East 
there is Khas-Kura or Eastern Pahari, commonly called Naipali, the Aryan 
language spoken in Nepal. Next, in Kumaon and Garhwal, we have the 
Central Pahari language, Kumauni and Garhwali. Finally in the West we 
have the Western Pahari languages spoken in Jaunsar-Bawar, the Simla 
Hill States, Kulu, Mandi and Suket, Chamba, and Western Kashmir. (Grier- 
son, 1916, p. 1) 

"It is a remarkable fact that, although Pahari has little connexion 
with the Panjabi, Western and Eastern Hindi, and Bihari spoken im- 
mediately to its south, it shows manifold traces of intimate relation- 
ship with the languages of Rajputana" (Grierson, 1916, p. 2). There 
is general agreement that the relationship between the Pahari and 
Rajasthani languages is attributable to the movement of peoples, 
notably the Gurjaras, between these two areas. 

The earliest immigrants [into the Pahari tract] of whom we have any 
historical information were the Khasas, . . . They were followed by the 
Gurjaras, a tribe who invaded India about the sixth century a.d. and oc- 
cupied the same tract, then known as Sapadalaksha. At that time, they 
[like the Khasas] spoke an Aryan, but not necessarily Indo-Aryan language. 
Of these Gurjaras the bulk followed pastoral pursuits and became merged in 
and identified with the preceding Khasa population. Others were fighting 
men, and were identified by the Brahmans [priestly class] with Kshatriyas 
[warrior class]. In this guise they invaded Eastern Rajputana from Sapadalak- 
sha and, possibly, Western Rajputana from Sindh, and founded, as Rajputs, 
the great Rajput states of Rajputana. (Grierson, 1916, p. 14) 


Vincent Smith, quoted by Grierson, differs in his explanation of the 
sequence in this relationship, but not in the fact of the relationship: 

The Gujars, etc., of the lower Himalayas who now speak forms of Rajasthani 
are in large measure of the same stock as many Rajput clans in Rajputana, 
the Panjab and the United Provinces; . . . their ancestors emigrated from 
Rajputana after they had acquired the Rajasthani speech; and . . . the most 
likely time for such emigration is the ninth century, when the Gurjara- 
Rajput power dominated all northern and northwestern India . . . (Grier- 
son, 1916, p. 12; emphasis added) 

In either case ". . . it is plain that down even to the days of late 
Musalman dominion the tie between Sapadalaksha [the Western 
Pahari-speaking areas] and Rajputana was never broken. And this, in 
my opinion, satisfactorily explains the fact of the close connexion be- 
tween the Pahari languages and Rajasthani" (Grierson, 1916, p. 13). 

The Khasas were apparently among those participating in the large 
movements of Aryan-speaking peoples into India. Therefore it is 
probable that they entered between 1500 and 1000 b.c. from the north- 
west. There is not universal agreement among scholars that this was 
the route followed or even that there was large-scale immigration then. 
F. E. Pargiter concludes from his research that "tradition or myth in- 
dicates that the Ailas (or Aryans) entered India from the mid- 
Himalayan region, and its attitude towards the N. W. frontier lends 
no support to any invasion from that quarter" (Pargiter, 1922, p. 299). 
Thus he believes that entry was from Tibet through Garhwal into 
India. Probably archaeology can best resolve this question. 

It is evident that the Khasas have been in the Sub-Himalayan hills 
for a very long time. It is also true that there has been a continuing 
immigration of people from the plains who have become absorbed 
into the hill population. Grierson notes that the Gujars not only 
emigrated from the hills to the plains, but 

. . . there was a constant reflux of emigration on the part of the Gujar- 
Rajputs from Rajputana and the neighbouring parts of India. These re- 
immigrants became, as befitted their Kshatriya station, the rulers of the 
country and today most of the chiefs and princes of die old Sapadalaksha 
trace their descent from Rajputs of the plains. The re-immigration was 
increased by the oppression of the Mughul rule in India proper, and there 
are historical notices of tribe after tribe, and leader after leader, abandoning 
their established seats in Rajputana and seeking refuge from Musalman 
oppression in the hills from which they had originally issued to conquer the 
Gangetic valley. (Grierson, 1916, pp. 14 f.) 



Other non-Pahari people from the plains adjacent to the Himalayas 
also frequently sought refuge in the hills and became merged with the 
hill population. 

Contact has long existed between Paharis and Tibeto-Burmese 
speaking peoples, often referred to as Bhotiyas or Tibetans, who oc- 
cupy the higher Himalayas bordering the Pahari region along its 
northern periphery. In border areas physical and cultural intermin- 
gling occurs. In the Western and Central Pahari regions such admix- 
ture has been minimal, while to the east, especially in Nepal, it has 
occurred to a much greater extent. 

The physical appearance of the high-caste Paharis of the Central 
and Western hills is often described in idealized fashion, as in these 
words of a contemporary anthropologist: 

The Khasas are usually tall, handsome, fair-complexioned (rosy or sallow), 
possess a long head, vertical forehead, fine or leptorhine nose, hazel eyes 
with a sprinkling of blue, curly hair and other features well-cut and pro- 
portioned. The women are also comparatively tall, slender, graceful, of a 
very attractive appearance and of extremely gay disposition. (Majumdar, 
1944, p. 110) 

The number of exceptions to such a description probably exceeds the 
examples, and the range in physical types overlaps greatly with that 
found in the Gangetic plain. However, there is perhaps a statistically 
significant tendency in the direction suggested by Majumdar. Some 
observers claim to find physical differences among contiguous popula- 
tions of high-caste Paharis. Thus R. N. Saksena's description of the 
Khasas of Jaunsar-Bawar: "Their physical features, fair complexion, 
tall stature, aquiline nose and well-defined features of the face easily 
distinguish them from their neighbours, the Garhwalis" (Saksena, 
1955, p. 9). Such statements are based on stereotypes rather than ob- 

The Khasas have often been referred to as a "tribal" people. This 
term has not been defined in such a way as to include satisfactorily the 
diverse groups it is often used to designate nor to exclude many of the 
diverse groups it excludes. However, in India it usually refers to 
peoples who are not Hindus or Muslims or followers of other major 
religions, who do not have caste organization, or who practice a more 
primitive economy than that of most Indian communities. 

Whatever their origin, the Khasas of today cannot be considered a 
tribal people by any of these criteria. They certainly are not aborigines 
as that term is used in India to denote non-Hindu "original sons of 
the soil," who live in a "primitive state of existence." 


The great mass of the population in Kumaon and Garhwal profess a 
belief little differing from the orthodox Hinduism of the plains. . . . All 
their feelings and prejudices are so strongly imbued with the peculiar spirit 
of Hinduism that although their social habits and religious belief are often 
repugnant to those who strictly observe the orthodox ceremonial usages of 
Hinduism, it is impossible for any one that knows them to consider the 
Khasas to be other than Hindus. There are several facts connected with 
their history that show, whatever their origin may have been, the Khasas 
have for centuries been under the influence of the Brahmanical priesthood. 
(Atkinson, 1884a, p. 269) 

Their unorthodox practice of Hinduism is well-known and long- 
recognized. Grierson refers to the Laws of Manu: "Looking at the 
Khasas from the Brahmanical point of view, he says (X, 22) that Khasas 
are the offspring of outcaste Kshatriyas, and again (X, 44) ... he says 
that [among other tribes, the] Khasas are those who became outcaste 
through having neglected their religious duties . . ." (Grierson, 1916, 
p. 5). "Even in the most orthodox writings the Khasas are looked on 
more as heretical members of the great Aryan family than as outcaste 
aborigines, and . . . from a very early period they have been recog- 
nized as an important tribe in Upper India" (Atkinson, 1884a, p. 283). 

Today the Khasas universally define themselves as Hindus who are 
in some respects culturally distinct from others of their religion and 
caste. This they attribute primarily to the rigors of life in the hills. 
They display no pan-Khasa unity beyond recognition of the term and 
certain cultural similarities. Recently there has been some pressure in 
the Western Pahari area to form a separate hill state, but that is a 
post-Independence phenomenon of educated hill men. 

It is worth noting that in many areas, including that of this research 
and Jaunsar-Bawar to the northwest, only Rajputs (Kshatriyas) refer to 
themselves as Khasiya or Khasa. Brahmins, though apparently of the 
same stock, do not there admit to the designation. In fact the term 
Khasa refers historically to a Kshatriya group. However, Majumdar 
(1944, p. 110) notes that "the Khasas or the Khasiyas who constitute 
the high caste people of the cis-Himalayan region are either Rajput 
or Brahmin. . . ." "Khasiya Brahmans" are referred to by Atkinson 
(1886, p. 430), who states that, "Nearly ninety per cent of the Brahmans 
in Kumaon belong to the Khasiya race and are so classed by the people 
themselves. . . ." "Khas-Brahmins" are found throughout the Pahari 
regions both as landowning and tilling agriculturists, like the Rajputs, 
and as priests. Atkinson (1884a, p. 734) remarks that these Brahmins 
really have no title to the name Brahmin, evidently reserving legitimate 
application of the term to Brahmins of plains origin. In any event, 



Pahari Brahmins are indistinguishable from Rajputs in most respects. 
Even caste distinctions between the two are not as rigid as in most of 
India. It is likely that the division into Rajput and Brahmin castes 
occurred after the Khasas moved into India and not before the earliest 
references to them. Brahmin disavowal of the Khasa appellation may 
well relate to its association with defiled, or at least very unorthodox, 

Some Rajput Paharis deny that they are Khasas on grounds that 
they are of plains origin. They say the term refers to degraded people 
who are not really Rajputs, and they claim higher status for them- 
selves. No such people reside in or around Sirkanda, and it is impos- 
sible to assess the accuracy of their claims to plains origin. Probably 
some are of more recent plains ancestry than avowed Khasas, but 
others may well have adopted this claim as a means to status enhance- 


The second large population group of the Sub-Himalayan region 
is that of the alleged predecessors of the Khasa, commonly called Dom. 
Little or nothing is known of the history of these people. They are 
often described as having occupied the region at the time the Aryan 
invasions occurred, and having then been pushed back, subjugated, 
and assigned to their rigidly inferior social status by the conquering 
Aryans. For this reason they are sometimes included in accounts of 
aborigines. Majumdar (1944, p. 110) has suggested that the Aryans may 
have brought the Doms with them when they entered India. Whether 
they are related in any way other than by name to Doms of the plains 
is unknown. 

Doms are the low-caste groups of the Himalayan area. 

In the hills and in the Dun they comprise all classes who do menial and 
more or less degrading duties such as are performed by separate occupational 
castes in the plains. They are a depressed race, seldom cultivate and practi- 
cally never own land. (Walton, 1911a, p. 97) 

"They have for ages been the slaves of the Khasiyas and been thought 
less of than the cattle . . ." (Atkinson, 1884a, p. 370). They are the 
"serfs of the Khasiya race in Kumaon, Garhwal and along the hills to 
the westward as far as the Indus valley" (Atkinson, 1886, p. 443). They 
constitute the artisan class and in fact are also collectively referred to 
as Shilpkdr (artisan). They are untouchable (achut) whether they be 
blacksmith, carpenter, musician, shoemaker, weaver, tailor, basket- 
maker, or whatever. Fifteen to thirty castes of Doms are found in 


various parts of the Kumaon hills (Atkinson, 1886, pp. 444 f.; Bahadur, 
1916, pp. 101 f.; Raturi, 1928, pp. 196 ff.). Some of these may be wholly 
or partly derived from equivalent castes of the plains who have emi- 
grated to the hills, while others are old indigenous groups or groups 
derived from internal differentiation of the Doms. 

Doms have had no distinct language in history or tradition, and their 
religious and social beliefs and practices appear to be continuous with 
those of the higher castes. Whatever their cultural heritage may have 
been, it is now merged with that of the Khasiyas so that traces of their 
separate origin, if any, can no longer be identified. Many writers at- 
tribute the unorthodox religious and social practices of high-caste 
Paharis to their contact with Doms, but there is no evidence to support 
this explanation. At least one writer attributes the origin of the wor- 
ship of Shiva, one of the great gods of modern Hinduism, to the 
aboriginal low-caste Paharis (Bahadur, 1916, pp. 73, 122). 

Aside from occupational and status differences, the most widely re- 
marked distinctive feature of Doms is their physical appearance. The 
stereotypes regarding Doms are essentially those regarding low castes 
and "aborigines" or "Dravidians" elsewhere in India. Majumdar (1944, 
p. xvi) refers to them as "... a dark-skinned, short-statured, flat-nosed 
people who 'scourge the eastern districts of the province.' " Atkinson 
(1884a, p. 370) notes their "exceedingly dark complexion." In the 
Central and Western Pahari regions with which the writer is familiar, 
these are physical stereotypes based on a grain of truth, but little more. 
It is impossible for Paharis or others to distinguish Doms from high- 
caste people accurately and consistently on the basis of physiognomy 
alone. Majumdar is the only physical anthropologist to have worked 
among Paharis. The results of his measurements show minor physical 
differences between Khasas and Doms (Majumdar, 1944, pp. 181 ff.). 
Genetic admixture between the groups has largely eliminated the 
physical differences that may once have existed. 

Census materials indicate that high-caste people outnumber Doms 
ten to one in Tehri Garhwal District. This is almost exactly the ratio 
in Jaunsar-Bawar to the west and in thirty villages related to Sirkanda 
by marriage ties, although particular villages sometimes show wide 
deviation from this average. 


The people of Sirkanda speak the language termed "Central 
Pahari" by Grierson, a language which includes the local dialects of 
the lower Himalayas between the Nepalese border and the Punjab, 


except for Jaunsar-Bawar, where Western Pahari is spoken. Very likely 
field studies would demonstrate extension of this language well into 
western Nepal, without sharp demarcation between it and Eastern 
Pahari. Grierson recognizes two component languages, Kumauni and 
Garhwali, and he refers to several subdialects of Garhwali including 
"Gangapariya" (language of the country beyond the Ganges) or Tehri 
Garhwali, which, with some variations, is evidently that spoken in 
Sirkanda and surrounding villages. Estimating the total number of 
speakers of these languages is difficult because of the nature of records 
available and because of the lack of accurate definition of the linguistic 
designations. Grierson gave the Pahari-speaking population of India, 
excluding the large but undetermined number of speakers of Eastern 
Pahari in Nepal, as 2,067,514 in 1891. Of these over half, 1,107,612, 
were recorded as speaking Central Pahari, and over half of the Central 
Pahari speakers, 670,824, were recorded as speaking Garhwali. The 
1931 census is the most recent one for which reasonably complete fig- 
ures on Pahari speakers are available. At that time slightly over 
4,200,000 Pahari speakers were reported in India, distributed in sig- 
nificant numbers from Muzaffarabad District in Kashmir (164,000) on 
the west to the Nepal border on the east, with some Nepali or Eastern 
Pahari speakers in Darjeeling. A total of 1,725,000, all in the Kumaon 
hills of Uttar Pradesh, spoke Central Pahari. Whether or not this fig- 
ure included some 300,000 in Tehri Garhwal is unclear. 

The 1951 census of India shows just over 4,500,000 residents of the 
"Western Himalayan Sub-Region" exclusive of Jammu and Kashmir. 
This area plus Jammu and Kashmir, which contains well over 600,000 
Pahari speakers, corresponds approximately to the Pahari-speaking area 
of India, though it would include a few Tibeto-Burmese speakers and 
the non-Pahari residents of several hill stations. We may estimate, 
therefore, that there are now around 5,000,000 Pahari speakers in India, 
over one-third of whom would be classed with Sirkanda residents as 
Central Pahari speakers by Grierson and about 1,000,000 of whom he 
would classify as Garhwali speakers (cf. volumes of Census of India 
listed in the Selective Bibliography). There is no information upon 
which to base an estimate of Pahari speakers in Nepal. 

Grierson estimated speakers of Tehri Garhwali at 240,281. In the 
1951 census, 408,000 speakers of Garhwali, presumably Tehri Garhwali, 
were reported out of a total population of 412,000 in Tehri Garhwal. 
However, the administrative boundary probably does not correspond 
to a significant linguistic boundary on its eastern border. 

Since culture and language are to a large extent correlated in these 


hill regions, an idea of the population of the culture area represented 
by the subjects of this study can be derived from the above figures. 
From this can be inferred something of the representativeness of what 
will follow. 

Our discussion turns now from the culture area of which this study 
is broadly representative to the specific location of the research. 

Sirkanda Village 

Northeast of Dehra Dun lies a hill area roughly triangular in 
shape and seven miles on each side, known as BhatbaiR (sheep den) 
in recognition of its use by Bhotiyas of the higher Himalayas as a 
winter pasture for their sheep (see map 2). This region comprises pri- 
marily a single spur of mountains projecting southwest from the first 
ridge of the Himalayas. It lies within Dehra Dun District but is 
bordered on the north and east by Tehri Garhwal District, the crest 
of the Mussoorie Hills forming the northern boundary and the Bandal 
River forming the eastern. To the south and west it is bordered by the 
Dehra Dun valley and the Baldi River. Bhatbair has a total population 
of around 1,700 people living in about 10 villages and at least 15 
smaller settlements. These have been combined, for administrative 
convenience, into seven revenue villages including Sirkanda. This is 
now the official definition of "Bhatbair." 

In local usage the term "Bhatbair" has not been very precise. It is 
sometimes used by Sirkanda villagers to refer to the immediate Pahari 
area familiar to them and almost entirely within a four-mile radius of 
Sirkanda, including the side of the ridge facing them to the east, in 
Tehri Garhwal. This larger region forms a relatively independent 
economic and social unit of about 60 villages and settlements with a 
total population of almost 5,000. In another publication (Berreman, 
1960b) I have referred to this larger area as "Bhatbair" for convenience. 
In the present account I will use the term in its more restricted sense, 
closely approximating the official definition. The larger area can 
simply be designated Bhatbair and vicinity. 

Probably the earliest historical reference to Bhatbair is that by 
Williams (1874, pp. 92 ff.), who refers to a "Rajpoot Princess Ranee 
Kurnavutee" who had a palace near the present site of Dehra Dun 
before the arrival of the town's founder Guru Ram Rae (that is, before 
1700). "Under her fostering care the valley smiled, and many flourishing 
villages sprang up such as . . . [among others] Bhat Beer. . . ." Al- 
though he has confused the name of a local region and administrative 

1 to 4 marriage partners 
5 to 8 
9 or more 
more Sirkanda Chans 

Sirkanda village and lands 



Circle around Sirkanda indicates area in 
which 80% of Sirkanda marriages have 
been contracted 

General areas and more distant locations 
where marriages have been contracted; 
precise village unidentified or unidentifiable: 

Jaunpur 7 Sirmor(dist. to west). .1 

Saklana 6 Punjab(state to west).. .2 

Tehri Garhwal 12 Delhi 1 

Map 2. Sirkanda marriage network and chans. 

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unit containing several villages with that of a single village, there can 
be little doubt that the reference is to the area of which we are speak- 

For some time before the Nepalese conquest in 1804 and the British 
conquest in 1815, Sirkanda was included with the rest of Bhatbair, 
the Dehra Dun valley, Tehri Garhwal, and Garhwal as part of the 
kingdom of the Garhwal Raja. Villagers retain a good deal of pride in 
this raja as contrasted to other rajas, albeit they can also recount his 
tyranny and injustices. There are several tales told which relate his 
special interest in the tall, powerful, and honest residents of Sirkanda 
and the recognition given them in his court. In the later days of the 
Garhwal Rajas, Sirkanda was one of five villages located on this spur 
of hills. According to villagers these five and adjacent lands were listed 
in the Raja's records as being the revenue responsibility of Matthu, a 
hill Brahmin of Kanda, one of the five villages. As saycma, or tax col- 
lector of the villages, he was allowed to keep a considerable portion of 
his collections after turning over an annual sum to the Raja. Bhatbair 
was apparently 

one of those curious taluqs or clusters of several villages, so prevalent in the 
. . . hills, which are cultivated by a numerous community of zamindars 
[landowners], all enjoying separate and independent proprietary right but 
at the same time all bound together by joint responsibility for the revenue 
assessed on the whole mahal. (Walton, 1911a, p. 109) 

Each taluq (called khat in Jaunsar-Bawar and some other Pahari areas) 
was under a sayana who collected land revenue for the Raja from the 
landholders in each component village. At one time the landowners 
may have been individually responsible directly to the Raja for 
revenue, as was the case over most of the Kumaon Himalaya (cf. Stowell, 
1907, p. iv; Baden-Powell, 1892, II, p. 313). Whether cultivators were 
individually or collectively responsible for revenue, ultimate rights in 
the land were vested in the Raja, who not only collected revenue but 
was free to alienate any land in his dominion to his own purposes — 
most often to cede it to people he wished to reward. When this oc- 
curred, former owners suddenly became tenants (cf. Stowell, 1907, pp. 
ix, 1-6, 31 f.). 

When the British took over in 1815, Bhatbair was joined administra- 
tively with the Dehra Dun valley. Due to the accident that it is a very 
small hill tract in a district made up primarily of people of the plains, 
special conditions in Bhatbair have been ignored in the various revenue 
settlements. For revenue purposes Bhatbair villages have usually been 
treated like villages of the valley. Initially the revenue settlement for 


Bhatbair was probably made with the sayana, Matthu. There was much 
vacillation in the policies of early revenue officers dealing with Dehra 
Dun District, some favoring development of a landed aristocracy and 
acting accordingly, and others favoring owner-cultivators (cf. Williams, 
1874, pp. 200 ff.). However, under the British a Rajput of Kanda is 
said to have become headman of Bhatbair, which had come to include 
seven villages. He wielded considerable influence with the British, and 
is credited with having pressed for the rights of cultivators and having 
influenced the government finally to allot proprietary rights to the 
lands in Bhatbair in equal portions to the principal cultivating fami- 
lies, who thereafter paid reduced taxes directly to the British through 
a local tax collector. Matthu and his descendants then lost all connec- 
tion with the lands they did not cultivate. 

At that time Sirkanda had 16 high-caste cultivating families. Cul- 
tivated village lands were divided into 16 equal parts, and equal por- 
tions of each type of land and of land in each area were assigned to 
each of the 16 families. As new land came under cultivation, it too was 
divided in this fashion. In continuation of local tradition, uncultivated 
lands, trails, and certain open places in the village settlement area 
were deemed to be the common property of the village. This allot- 
ment, with alterations resulting from family division, inheritance, and 
purchase, has remained to the present. This system is referred to as 
the "bhdichdra" (custom of brothers) system of land tenure, a British 
introduction to the area which Sirkanda people compare most favor- 
ably with the landlord-tenancy system retained until Independence in 
nearby Tehri Garhwal under the Raja. 

Another portion of Bhatbair and lands west of it had been granted 
by the Raja to the Sikh religious leader who founded Dehra Dun. He 
exacted rent from the people living on this land, people who had until 
that time been owner-cultivators. The British honored his proprietor- 
ship, and his successors continued to enjoy this revenue until well after 
Independence; in fact, they still hold rights to some of the land. Sir- 
kanda lay outside this estate, though some Sirkanda-owned lands did 

Independence was never an important issue in Sirkanda, as the 
British government was looked upon without disfavor. No government 
is really approved of by these people, but according to them the British 
government was not meddlesome and was preferable to that of the 
Raja. After Independence there were revisions in administrative pro- 
cedures and in taxation policies and other laws affecting Sirkanda. The 
forests and other uncultivated lands adjacent to the village, which 
provide a substantial part of the means of livelihood in the hills and 


which formerly could be utilized quite freely, were nationalized. Access 
to their products and the right to cultivate previously uncultivated 
lands were sharply curtailed. This was the most resented and probably 
least obeyed of the many unpopular post-Independence reforms in 
these hills. Other innovations, such as village panchayat (council) rule, 
community development work, and attempts to set up village credit 
cooperatives, were largely ignored or actively opposed. Where the ap- 
pearance of conformity seemed desirable it was provided, but nothing 
more. The government-supported village school, established in 1950, 
met with a somewhat more favorable reception. The role of the govern- 
ment and reactions to it will be discussed in detail in chapter 9. 

Sirkanda is populated by Paharis who identify themselves as such 
and more specifically as Garhwalis. In this book the generic term 
"Pahari" will be used to refer to them in preference to the more spe- 
cific term "Garhwali," except where a contrast is intended. This is 
done simply because that is the term most used by the people themselves 
and by their neighbors on the plains and because on present evidence 
it seems to be a more defensible term culturally and linguistically than 
"Garhwali." There is no intention of minimizing differences among 
Pahari areas, most of which have yet to be studied. Sirkanda is rep- 
resentative of the following areas, in order of decreasing cultural homo- 
geneity: Tehri Garhwal, Garhwal, the Central Pahari area, and the 
Pahari area. 

The people of Sirkanda are closely attached culturally, linguistically, 
and historically to their relatives in Tehri Garhwal, though for 150 
years they have been administratively separated as a result of British 
rule. Theirs is one of the three largest villages within Bhatbair. It is 
situated on the crest of the spur of mountains comprising Bhatbair, 
5,300 feet above sea level, facing southeast, 2,300 feet above the Bandal 
River which separates it from Tehri Garhwal at a distance of one mile, 
and 3,100 feet above Dehra Dun, which is ten miles to the southwest. 

The history of Sirkanda is vague in the minds of its residents and is 
unrecorded elsewhere. Two large stone fortifications in the village 
overlook the steep valley of the Bandal and face the hills of Tehri 
Garhwal. They are thirty feet square and constructed of stones so large 
and heavy that it is believed no modern mortals could have placed 
them. According to village tradition they have been in place for many 
millennia, and were built in a former age when men were nine yards 
tall, lived for a thousand years, and were supremely intelligent. The 
use of the structures is unknown, though they are thought to have been 
either houses or forts. Bricks and charcoal have been found around 
them in recent excavations for housebuilding. Such fortifications occur 


throughout Garhwal and are responsible for its name. Fifty-two major 
forts are frequently cited in descriptions of Garhwal (Sirkanda's not 
among them) including one in the Dehra Dun valley. They are thought 
by historians to be the work of the various petty rajas who ruled small 
independent states in these hills before the seventeenth century. One 
writer attributes them to the pre- Aryan indigenes (Bahadur, 1916, p. 70). 

Local tradition states that Kedarkhand or Garhwal, of which Bhat- 
bair is a part, was first occupied in modern times by hermits, ascetics, 
and sages who were attracted by the serenity and beauty of the area 
to spend their meditative years there seeking enlightenment. The springs 
which provide water for many of the villages, including that for Sir- 
kanda, are thought to have been created by sages who did so miracu- 
lously in order to provide water at their stopping places. Villagers say 
that some of these ascetics failed to keep to the spiritual life, married, 
produced children, and so populated these hill regions. 

In view of Williams' mention of Bhatbair as having been in existence 
before 1700, it is probable that Sirkanda has existed for at least 300 
years. Villagers' estimates run to 1,000 years. Among its current resi- 
dents there is general agreement that Sirkanda was founded by the 
ancestors of its single Brahmin family, who came from Genogi, a vil- 
lage in Tehri Garhwal, a long day's trek east of Sirkanda. The Brahmin 
family soon thereafter brought a family of barber caste from the valley 
below to provide them with agricultural labor and barbering service. 
Since barbers are not a caste indigenous to this section of the hills, 
their functions are performed by other low castes in neighboring vil- 
lages. These were, then, the first two families in Sirkanda. Thereafter 
the Khasiya Rajputs, who today form 87 per cent of the village popula- 
tion, came in. Each of the two largest Rajput sibs in Sirkanda claims 
to have preceded the other. 2 Both are said to have come from villages 
to the east, in Tehri Garhwal. The drum-playing Bajgi family's an- 
cestors also came from Tehri, shortly after the Rajputs. The black- 
smith family was the most recent arrival, having come from a village 
35 trail miles to the northeast, in Tehri Garhwal, about 90 years ago. 

It is thought by all villagers that their ancestors came ultimately from 
"Kumaon," the present Almora and Naini Tal districts adjacent to 
Nepal. From there they moved to Tehri Garhwal, probably to escape 
political and economic difficulties, and then on to Sirkanda to find 
new land or to escape the pressures of local rajas. Their origin prior to 
Kumaon is unknown, though some believe their ancestors must have 
come there from the plains — perhaps to escape the Moghul rulers — 
while others claim they have always lived in the hills. High-caste 
villagers bear the names of sibs and phratries (gotras) found on the 


plains. This may reflect plains origin or merely adoption of names of 
Rajputs who fled the plains to live among the hill-residing Khasiyas. 
Both explanations may be correct in view of the nature of plains-hills 
contacts. Two and perhaps three of the four Sirkanda Rajput sib names 
are among those listed by Tod in his Annals and Antiquities of 
Rajast'han (1829, p. 120) as being among the "eighty-four mercantile 
tribes" of Rajasthan: "Pilliwal," "Khandailwal," "Kakulea," corre- 
sponding to Palidl, Khandial, and KukhalwalQ) in Sirkanda. Two and 
possibly three (JawaRl, Palialp], Khandial) appear among the 116 
Rajput groups listed by Raturi (1928, pp. 167 ff.) for Garhwal. Pos- 
sibly one (Palial) appears among 102 listed by Bahadur (1916, pp. 96 ff.). 
The Brahmin family of Sirkanda does not belong to any of the 68 
Brahmin subgroups listed by Bahadur. The barber is of plains origin. 
Bajgis and blacksmiths both are populous groups in Garhwal and ap- 
pear among the 15 to 30 Pahari Dom groups listed by Bahadur and 
Raturi, respectively. 

In physical appearance Sirkanda villagers differ little from plains 
people. There is perhaps a tendency toward lighter complexion and 
narrower features among the high-caste hill peoples, but individual 
variation virtually obscures this. Much more distinctive are cultural 
traits, and these are often mistaken by other Indians for racial traits. 
Paharis are noted by people of the Dehra Dun valley and the plains 
for their peculiarities of speech and dress and for general rusticity, 
much as are hillbillies in America. They are also known for honesty 
and bravery: 

Honesty and valour are possessed in ample measure by the Khasas. Their 
honesty is beyond question. A verbal bargain is seldom repudiated and theft 
is almost unknown. . . . The military exploits of the Khasas in modern 
times are enshrined in the records of the 39th Royal Garhwal Rifles, and 
we find that the descendants of the ancient Khasas [reported in the Mahab- 
harata] are endued with great courage, unyielding and obstinate in battle. 
(Joshi, 1929, pp. 23 f.) 3 

As a group, Paharis are readily identifiable outside their own area 
by their dress, speech, and manners. The badge of the Garhwali man 
is a black cap and cane. Now the "fit pajama" (tight from the knee 
down), shirt, dark vest, and black coat are in vogue for special occa- 
sions, with a wool blanket as wrap. Dhoti (loincloth), loose pajama, 
shorts or abbreviated loincloth, shirt, and sometimes coat or vest are 
daily wear. Formerly a cap, a small loincloth secured by a string, and, 
for cold weather, a blanket held in place with wooden skewers sufficed. 
Women are noted for their massive silver jewelry, and the large gold 


nose ornaments of married women. They do not wear the red mark at 
the part of the hair which designates the married woman of the ad- 
jacent plains, nor do they wear the red beauty spot on their forehead. 
Their hair is usually braided in one piece down the back, extended by 
a black or colored artificial hairpiece. The calves of their legs are gen- 
erally decorated with tattoos. Men and women alike often have tattoos 
on hands and arms. Women's dress consists of a colorful print skirt, a 
long black fitted jacket (or sometimes a shirt and vest), and invariably 
a head scarf. In earlier times they wore a long, loose blanket-like gar- 
ment, the fitted jacket, and the head scarf. They are not secluded in 
purdah as are many high-caste plains women. To one familiar with 
the area it is possible to determine quite precisely the locality from 
which a Pahari woman comes by observing the details of her dress and 
jewelry (Berreman, 1960b). Regarding Pahari dress, Traill's comment is 
as applicable today as it was in 1828: 

It may be observed, generally, of the hill people, that they are extremely 
indifferent in regard to the state of their every-day apparel, and continue 
to wear their clothes till reduced to mere shreds and tatters, but on holy- 
days and festivals, individuals of either sex prefer absenting themselves from 
the festivities, to appearing in a worn out garment. (Traill, 1828, p. 212) 

Sirkanda is strategically located in the sense that it is at the junction 
of two important trails. Several villages of Bhatbair and the adjacent 
section of Tehri Garhwal are accessible to Dehra Dun only via one of 
these trails, and the other is a good and frequently used pack trail 
built in 1914 by the Tehri Raja to enable his subjects to bypass the 
toll-tax collectors of Mussoorie on their way to and from the markets 
of the valley. This trail is still a trade route of some importance. It 
connects valley markets with the heavily used trade and pilgrimage 
route between Mussoorie and Tehri, nine trail miles from Sirkanda. 

Until recent years these trails were used by Paharis exclusively for 
foot traffic. Governmental employees and some traders used pack 
animals on them. Today some of the more prosperous high-caste fam- 
ilies of Sirkanda and other villages utilize horses or mules for trans- 
porting goods. However, goods of all types, from grain to roofing ma- 
terials, are still carried primarily by people — men carrying the loads 
on their backs and shoulders, women balancing the burdens on their 

Since 1930 a motor road has connected Mussoorie to the valley, but 
this does not directly affect Sirkanda villagers because it lies in a dif- 
ferent direction. Before 1930, Rajpur, which is a small town seven 
miles north of Dehra Dun at the foot of the mountains (seven miles 


south of Mussoorie and nine trail miles west of Sirkanda), was the end 
of the road. Today there is frequent and inexpensive bus service from 
Rajpur to Dehra Dun, a facility used by Sirkanda villagers which cuts 
the walk to Dehra Dun from sixteen to nine miles. Recently a motor- 
able road has been built into Sahas Dhara, a small market and place of 
pilgrimage five miles from Sirkanda on the trail to Dehra Dun. So far 
its use has been limited largely to the trucks of a limestone quarrying 
company for whom it was built, and there is no bus service on it. Oc- 
casionally villagers can hire empty trucks belonging to the quarrying 
company to carry heavy loads for them from Dehra Dun to this point. 

The village has features in common with others of the Sub-Himalayan 
area, and is reasonably typical of those in Tehri Garhwal. Like most 
Pahari villages and unlike many villages bordering the hills in the 
Dehra Dun valley, Sirkanda is nucleated, with its terraced lands oc- 
cupying the steep surrounding hillsides. Some two-hundred acres of 
terraced, cultivated lands lie below and beside the village, while 1,200 
acres of uncultivated forest and scrub land administratively attached 
to Sirkanda surround the cultivated and occupied area. The village 
houses are scattered for almost half a mile along the southeast contour 
of a hillside overlooking the mountains and valleys of Tehri Garhwal 
and part of the Dehra Dun valley. There are nearly sixty of the char- 
acteristic stone houses with gabled slate, thatch, or corrugated iron 
roofs supported by heavy wooden beams. Most of them are two-storied 
with an outside stone stairway and a narrow, shelflike porch extending 
the length of the house at the second floor level. Open, arched verandas 
with ornamentally carved columns occupy the center of the upper level, 
with closed rooms on either end and often in back as well. The rooms 
are entered by doorways off the veranda and have small, barred win- 
dows for ventilation and light. Verandas, doors and windows open on 
the front, which is almost invariably the downhill side. The backs, and 
often the ends, of houses are entirely closed. The family occupies the 
second floor, its animals the first. 

Part or all of the ceiling is boarded over to provide a storage garret, 
reached by a ladder. Here are kept boards and implements. Every family 
has the necessary agricultural implements or tools of its trade. Two 
families have phonographs, one in operating condition. The Bajgis 
have their drums and harmonium plus a sewing machine and iron 
used in tailoring. In general, high-caste houses are larger and better 
equipped than others. Wealth is to some extent reflected in the house 
and its contents, but the difference between houses of the well-off and 
of the poor is not as great as in most non-Pahari areas. This is partly 


because differences in wealth are less, but is also due to consumption 
patterns which inhibit conspicuous display of wealth. 

Household furnishings are few and simple. One or two of the inner 
rooms contain hearths for cooking. Brass and iron cooking utensils, a 
wooden churn, wooden vessels for storage of liquids, and large baskets 
and wooden cupboards for storage of dry goods are also found in these 
rooms. Pottery vessels are used hardly at all because none are made in 
this area, transportation is difficult, and they break easily. Light is 
given by small oil lamps. Many houses have string cots, the typical 
Indian bed, but this is a relatively recent innovation and there are 
never enough to go around. Bedding consists of quilts, blankets, and 
rugs which are used on the floor if beds are not available. People usually 
sit or squat on the dung-plastered floor, but small wooden slabs and 
pieces of leather or animal pelts may also be used for this purpose and 
are always offered guests. Every house has its water smoking pipe for 
the use of all its members and guests. 

Circular threshing platforms and adjacent storehouses surround the 
village, which is composed of three main settlement areas, the southern- 
most being a recent addition and the site of the school. Two small 
shops and a blacksmith's workshop are out of sight of the village, over 
a ridge and at the junction of the main trails leading into Sirkanda. 
The trail leading to the village water supply goes past them, and nearby 
is a rain pond which is dry half the year. Smaller trails emanate in all 
directions from the village to the fields and to neighboring houses 
and villages. The trails are for the most part rough, steep, and often 
dangerous. Every year mules, horses, and cattle plunge off, and oc- 
casionally men suffer this fate. Travel is difficult and casual visitors are 
a rarity. 

Although fields surround the village, there are no irrigated lands 
near Sirkanda. The village water supply is a small but reliable spring 
one-fourth to one-third of a mile from the village on the opposite and 
uncultivable side of the ridge. The spring's proverbial purity and re- 
liability apparently compensate for its inconvenience, though an el- 
derly wife of Sirkanda was once heard to mutter, as she lifted her heavy 
water pot to her head and prepared to negotiate again the difficult trail 
to the village: "I'd like to set fire to the beard of the man that founded 
this village here." Villagers want to pipe the water into the village, but 
the ridge forms a barrier. As a result of one abortive attempt to improve 
the situation, a small pipe brings water somewhat closer to the village 
but this water is considered inferior and is used mainly for animals. 

Sirkanda is primarily a crop-raising village with an important sec- 


ondary investment in animal husbandry. Normally it produces more 
grain than its residents eat in a year, and famine is virtually unknown. 
Since the establishment of the hill station and military cantonment of 
Mussoorie in 1829-1835, a six-hour trek from Sirkanda (and only half 
that from some Sirkanda cattle sheds), and with the growth of Dehra 
Dun and adjacent areas, milk-selling has been a profitable enterprise 
with which Sirkanda villagers supplement the traditional agriculture. 
The introduction of potatoes as a cash crop in the hills above Sirkanda 
has afforded further income and additional traffic past the village. 

The poverty of Paharis is proverbial, but this reputation is based on 
their frugality, the simple clothing and equipment they possess by 
plains standards, and their inelegant and unvaried diet wherein 
coarse millets substitute for rice. They do not share the precarious life 
of many plains people in food-deficit areas. They have sufficient lands, 
regular rainfall, and a tradition of maintaining the productivity of 
their fields by crop rotation and fertilizers, so that they have a con- 
sistently adequate food supply. 

Not all Sirkanda lands are near the village, and not all people known 
as Sirkanda villagers live in Sirkanda. As population has increased, 
new lands have been opened up and cultivated on the hills north and 
south of the village. Today villagers cultivate land up to eight trail 
miles north and seven trail miles south of Sirkanda, on the same spur 
of hills, at altitudes ranging from 7,000 feet to 2,000 feet above sea 
level. In order to tend fields and livestock at these distances, it is 
necessary to build dwellings near them. Such field houses or cattle 
sheds are called chdns. A chan is defined in terms of location and 
construction. It is never in a village, though it may be very near one. 
It is generally only one story high, unpartitioned, and is less finished 
inside than a house (ghar). Usually livestock are quartered in the chan 
among its human inhabitants, whereas in a house livestock are always 
kept downstairs or in an adjoining, but partitioned, room. Eleven of 
the 71 Sirkanda-owned dwellings outside of Sirkanda qualify as 
"houses" rather than "chans" on the basis of location or construction. 
Chans are occupied by their owners during planting and harvest times, 
and some members of the family live year-round in many of the chans 
or migrate seasonally between low-altitude winter chans and high- 
altitude summer chans. Formerly chans were only temporary dwellings, 
but, as they have been improved and as families have grown, many 
have become permanent. The 71 Sirkanda chans and second houses 
are owned by a total of 45 joint families and are to be found in 31 dis- 
tinct locations (see map 2). In most cases the village affiliation of chan 
dwellers is strong, and they are readily identified as Sirkanda villagers 



by themselves, by Sirkanda people, and by residents of other villages 
and chans. This in spite of the facts that they no longer reside in the 
village, that other villages may intervene between them and Sirkanda, 
and that they may be surrounded by the chans of other villages. While 
some Sirkanda chans are at considerable distances from Sirkanda, chans 
of other villages may be found adjacent to Sirkanda. On the other hand, 
some Sirkanda chans are so close to the village that a nonvillager might 
not distinguish them from village houses. This makes village census 
reporting and land records a complex and difficult matter. The prob- 
lem is solved in official reports by ignoring it. For administrative 
purposes village membership is assigned by geographical proximity, 
based on administrative boundaries. 

Total 384 
Males 196 M Females 188 

8765432 1012345678 
Total population, per cent 

Usually resident in Sirkanda | [ Usually resident in chan 
Fig. 1. Sirkanda population pyramid, 1958. 

Of a total Sirkanda population of 384, only 178 people are usually 
resident in Sirkanda, 43 stay there at regular intervals to work land, 
and 163 rarely or never reside there (though 38 of these occupy chans 
close enough to afford almost daily contact). On festive or ceremonial 
occasions many people who normally live away return temporarily to 
the village. Women move from chans to the village to have their babies, 
and elderly people usually return to live their final years in the village. 

Chan sites may develop into village sites, and in fact this is a means 
by which new villages are often formed. Residence in a cluster of chans 


can gradually lead to new village affiliation. The former chan status 
of many present-day villages is revealed in the village names. In some 
of these locations part of the residents consider themselves residents of 
that village, while others maintain their ties to some antecedent village 
affiliation. About one-fifth of the living persons (excluding married 
daughters) recorded in Sirkanda genealogical materials as having been 
born of Sirkanda families are no longer considered to be affiliated with 
Sirkanda, though their origin is remembered. Nearly all these people 
now live in locations once considered to be chans. There are undoubt- 
edly others who have been forgotten or are no longer even mentioned 
in this context. People who belong to joint families with a dwelling in 
the settlement area of Sirkanda are considered by all to be Sirkanda 
villagers regardless of where they live. Anyone who separates from his 
joint family, taking a chan and the lands near it as his share of the 
property and giving up all rights in the village, may cease to be con- 
sidered a village member; certainly his children will not be considered 
members of the ancestral village. 

Other important extra-village ties are those of marriage. Over 80 
per cent of Sirkanda marriages take place outside the village; that is, 
the bride comes from or goes to an alien village. This makes for close 
ties and contacts with almost 100 villages; most of the ties are with 
villages within 8 trail miles of Sirkanda, and virtually all are with 
Garhwali villages (see map 2). 

Immigration or emigration of men is rare. One Bajgi has come to 
live in Sirkanda in the past 25 years. Other immigrants are the five 
agricultural servants who are considered, and who consider themselves, 
to be temporary residents. In addition there is a shopkeeper from 
Rajpur who spends considerable time in his shop near the village. In 
recent years a schoolteacher and periodically a Village Level Worker 
and Economic Cooperative Supervisor, all government employees, have 
lived in the village school. In the past ten years one man has emigrated 
to an urban area, and another joined him during 1957. Most villagers 
who have left the village have returned. A few have disappeared. 

Garhwali villages are so constituted that no one village is likely to 
have the range of castes necessary to provide the occupational variety 
required for maintenance of community life. This brings about fur- 
ther intervillage ties of economic and ritual interdependence, to say 
nothing of the social ties of an intra-caste, intervillage nature. All 
such factors make an area such as Bhatbair (combined with an equally 
large adjoining area in Tehri Garhwal) a more nearly self-contained 
economic, social, and religious unit than the village. 

Sirkanda is predominantly a Rajput village; 87 per cent of its mem- 


bers are of this caste. The one Brahmin family adds another 3 per cent, 
making 90 per cent of the village of high caste. The 10 per cent who are 
of the Dom castes include two households of blacksmiths, one of bar- 
bers, and four of musician-tailors (Bajgis). The proportion of high 
castes to low castes is almost identical to that found throughout Bhat- 
bair and Tehri Garhwal. However, particular villages may be pre- 
dominantly or even exclusively Brahmin. In some, relatively large 
proportions of low-caste people are found, while in many, few or no 
low-caste people live. 

In population Sirkanda is above the average for Tehri Garhwal 
villages. In caste composition it is not unusual. It is as representative 
of Tehri Garhwal villages as one village could be expected to be ex- 
cept that it is somewhat less isolated than most, and in the past 150 
years its administrative history has been at variance with the Tehri 
Garhwal norm and similar to that of British Garhwal and other dis- 
tricts under direct British rule. The effects of its relative lack of isola- 
tion and its subjection to British rule have been less than might be 
expected because of its distance from Dehra Dun, the difficulty of 
access to that administrative center, Sirkanda's insignificance in the 
view of administrators, and the fact that its members' attention and 
identification have been directed throughout its history primarily to- 
ward the northeast — into Tehri Garhwal. 


The subsistence base in Sirkanda, as in most Indian villages, is agri- 
culture. Of second importance and closely related to agriculture is 
animal husbandry. Both of these activities are primarily the province 
of high-caste villagers but are open to and practiced by some members 
of all castes. The functional unit in these as in almost all economic 
matters is the joint family, often referred to as the household (chula, 
cooking hearth). Goods are produced, distributed, and consumed pri- 
marily by the household unit, and any relevant economic decisions are 
made there. In Sirkanda there are 45 such household units or joint 
families, averaging eight or nine individuals each but ranging in mem- 
bership from one to twenty-five. The household is ideally a patrilocal 
extended family under the leadership of the eldest active male. In prac- 
tice we find that 32 (71 per cent) of the households in Sirkanda are of 
this type, including seven which consist of only a nuclear family and 
one parent of the husband. Thirteen (29 per cent) consist of strictly 
nuclear family units. Eighty-four per cent of the population lives in 
extended family groups. Nonagricultural castes and families tend to be 
divided into more and smaller independent units than are agricul- 

Improved land and livestock, the main forms of capital in this area, 
are owned and manipulated by the joint family, and their products are 
shared within it. Ideally the joint family occupies one large house with 
separate rooms for each nuclear family when they are in the village, 
and shares one or more chans when they are out. In reality some fam- 
ilies own more than one house in Sirkanda, so that all their members 


do not live under one roof, while others are crowded with more than 
one nuclear family per room. Nearly all have chans, many of which 
are almost continuously occupied by some nuclear families of the 
household. Members of the joint family who live under a single roof 
eat from the same cooking fire (the literal meaning of chula), and all 
members, regardless of living arrangements, eat from the same store 
of food. 


Since agriculture is the basis of livelihood in Sirkanda, land is of 
utmost importance. At least one popular Pahari song concerns a hero 
who fought to the death rather than lose land which was rightfully 
his. Sirkanda families own 298 acres of cultivated land, according to 
records of the village accountant. These include 176 acres in the im- 
mediate vicinity of the village and 122 acres in outlying areas, tended 
from chans or other houses. As previously noted, about half the cur- 
rent village population usually lives in the 71 Sirkanda chans and other 
houses in 31 separate locations extending over fifteen trail miles north 
and south of the village settlement area (see map 2). Some idea of the 
fragmentation of village lands can be gathered from the following 
figures. Two hundred and five acres are recorded as cultivated "Sir- 
kanda lands." x The land is officially divided into 745 separate plots 
varying in size from less than one-tenth of an acre to seven acres. 
These figures are based on long-standing recorded divisions of land. 
In reality the plots have been subdivided into smaller parts as the old 
extended families have broken up. Today there are 1,144 separate land 
claims recorded for the 745 plots, and unrecorded but recognized di- 
visions probably bring the number of separately cultivated plots to 
nearly 1,500. 

Cultivated land is categorized by villagers in several ways relevant 
to its productivity. Probably the most important distinction is between 
land which is irrigated and that which is not. Most Sirkanda land is 
unirrigated. Only three acres out of 205 are recorded as being irrigated 
and hence unusually valuable. Sirkanda-owned land in lower-lying 
areas is often irrigated. While records for these lands were unobtain- 
able, crop yields for rice indicate that 16 Sirkanda households own 25 
to 30 acres of such valuable land, while 29 households own none. Some 
Bhatbair villages are located in the river valley and have considerably 
more irrigated land. Another valuable type of land is that at higher 
altitudes and on north slopes suitable for growing potatoes. Twenty- 
one Sirkanda families have such lands, totaling around 15 acres. 


Although irrigated land and potato land are the most valuable, 
neither is necessary for livelihood. The traditional economy of Sir- 
kanda is based upon dry-land grain agriculture, and dietary staples 
are grown on dry lands in amounts exceeding consumption rates. 

Villagers recognize and terminologically distinguish several types of 
land other than those based on irrigation. The two most important of 
these classifications are by soil type and exposure to the sun. The best 
soil is classed as "loamy," while inferior soil is "rocky." Fields on the 
sunny (generally south) side of slopes are preferred. Fields on the 
shady (north) slope, called "place of moisture," are considered less 
productive of the staple crops. Consequently they are chosen for cul- 
tivation when no more sunny-side slopes are available, although some 
villages are so situated that all their fields are of this type. For certain 
crops, such as potatoes, and in exceptionally dry seasons shady fields 
are superior. All Sirkanda lands near the village are on the sunny slope, 
and more than half are on loamy soil. Fields are also classified in terms 
of terrain; level ones are preferred to those on slopes. All Sirkanda 
lands near the village are on slopes and are, of necessity, terraced. 
Vertical stone walls three to eight feet high follow the contour of the 
hills to retain the soil of these terraces. Entire hillsides of scores of 
acres are so terraced. Fields located below the village, as are most 
Sirkanda fields, are considered preferable to those above the village 
because of the greater ease of carrying fertilizer to them. 

As a result of constant fertilization of fields with animal manure and 
the burned and raw stalks of harvested crops, combined with system- 
atic crop rotation, most fields produce consistently good crops. Certain 
distant fields which are too inaccessible for easy fertilization are simply 
used until they become exhausted, after which they are left, perma- 
nently or until they have regained their vitality. 

Land ownership by households shows the expectable caste-based 
variation. The ten per cent of the population who make up the low 
castes own only two per cent of the land. In the days of the Garhwal 
Raja's dominion, low castes were not allowed to own land or houses at 
all. This was the situation in nearby Tehri Garhwal until after Inde- 
pendence in 1947. In Sirkanda it ceased to be the rule when the British 
took over in 1815, but it has continued to influence practice in this 
area to the present. It was possible under the Raja for high-caste land- 
owners in the village to grant land or buildings to low-caste members 
for use rent-free, and land was regularly granted as a reward for services 
or to enable a service-caste family to make a living in the village and 
provide their services to villagers. However, the tenant was not allowed 
to sell or rent the land, and at his death or at the owner's discretion 


the property reverted to the owner. During British rule each of the 
low-caste families of Sirkanda managed to get some such lands re- 
corded in their names. 

Brief reference has already been made to the history of land tenures 
in Bhatbair. The pattern of land ownership which exists today in 
Sirkanda dates from the early days of British rule, when the bhaichara 
system of land allotment in equal portions to cultivating families was 
established. At the time there were sixteen cultivating households in 
Sirkanda, one family of Brahmins and the others of Rajputs. The 
sixteen divisions of cultivated land averaged about eleven acres each. 
As new lands came under cultivation they were similarly apportioned. 
Since that time, as lands have been divided, bought, and sold, they 
have retained the designation of the caste or sib of the original owner 
as patti Brahmin (Brahmin section), patti Palial (Palial Rajput sec- 
tion), and so on, for identification purposes. Uncultivated lands were 
held by the village in common. 

Under the bhaichara system low-caste members did not get shares 
in village lands, but they were assigned the small plots that had been 
previously granted them by the high castes or that were subsequently 
given to them. In this fashion the blacksmiths, for example, acquired 
slightly over two acres. Half this land had been granted by the village 
tax-free; that is, it remained in the names of former owners, who con- 
tinued to pay its taxes. The other half had been given to the black- 
smiths outright. The lands given outright were not assigned by name 
but instead were recorded as having been allotted to "blacksmiths." 
Later a friendly village accountant recorded all this land in the indi- 
vidual names of the blacksmith owners, thus protecting their interests. 
The other low castes were granted land in similar fashion, so that the 
barber family had nearly 1% acres and the Bajgi family had nearly 3 
acres. Virtually all low-caste lands are on steep, rocky, unproductive 
soil, some of such poor quality that it is hardly worth cultivating and 
would be spurned by high-caste agriculturists. This reflects the nature 
of high-caste generosity to the service castes. 

Under this system there are said to have been only two classes of 
landowners in Sirkanda, in contrast to the many types recognized else- 
where: (1) the original sixteen owners, who paid the government tax 
on the land they acquired under the bhaichara division, and cultivated 
it or let it out as they wished; (2) those who cultivated lands not al- 
lotted to them under the bhaichara system and to which they therefore 
did not have title. In Sirkanda most agriculturists were in the former 
category, although some families who had more land than they could 
use let part of it out to those who had too little from their bhaichara 


shares to support their enlarged families. Under bhaichara these non- 
owning cultivators (tenants or kachcha khaikars, cf. Stowell, 1907, p. ix) 
paid the amount of the taxes to the owners but in most cases paid no 
rental beyond that amount. This is in striking contrast to lands not 
included under bhaichara, such as some in Bhatbair that were owned 
by the Sikh founder of Dehra Dun and his successors. In such cases 
the landlord collected an amount several times the government tax and 
kept all except the tax money for himself. 

With Independence bhaichara lands went to the cultivators. Non- 
cultivating owners were reimbursed by the government in the amount 
of ten years' tax on the land they were to relinquish. Nonowner cul- 
tivating tenants were assessed an amount equal to ten years' tax on the 
land they occupied and then were recorded as its owners. Each owner 
thereafter paid the taxes on his own land, direct to the government. 
Taxation on owner-cultivated lands in Sirkanda has become slightly 
higher since Independence (from around Rs. 1.50 per acre before to 
Rs. 1.75 after). 2 For non-bhaichara land, the cultivators' taxes have 
greatly decreased since Independence because the landlord middleman 
has been eliminated. This decrease in the affected portions of Bhatbair 
and nearby Tehri Garhwal has been from about Rs. 4.50 to Rs. 1.75 per 
acre. The precise amount of tax is a function of the quality of the land 
as recorded by the government. In an official threefold categorization 
of Sirkanda-owned lands, none around Sirkanda is of first quality, and 
most is third and therefore least heavily taxed. 

Under bhaichara, when a joint family dissolved, land was to be 
divided equally among sons and each son's portion was to be divided 
equally among his sons if they separated. These "ancestral fractional 
shares" were to be officially recorded at the time of division. Each 
holder would then pay his share of the taxes, depending upon the 
proportion of village lands he held. In practice the division was gen- 
erally done informally and went unrecorded; hence the chaotic state 
of land records at present. Today three families — two of the Rajputs 
and the one Brahmin family — retain their original y i6 portion of vil- 
lage lands undivided. This retention has been possible because the 
families have remained relatively small. Consequently they are among 
the best-off of villagers. In 1958 the Brahmin family was preparing 
to divide its lands among three brothers, so that only two of the orig- 
inal shares would remain intact. Some bhaichara portions have been 
divided into four or more parts, though often these have been supple- 
mented (in at least one case to an extent exceeding the original share) 
by lands subsequently purchased outside the village. 

Land is the basis of livelihood, and those who control it, primarily 


the high castes, control the economy. Ownership of land, and especially 
of good land, is highly correlated with wealth. It is not, however, 
sufficient in itself to ensure wealth. There must also be manpower to 
work the land. Land that is unused is of no benefit to anyone. One of 
the wealthiest families in Sirkanda at present — the possessors of one 
of the original undivided shares of village lands — was poverty-stricken 
two generations ago when the sole member of the family was a teen-age 
boy who could not work the land properly and so had to hire out as a 
servant to others to make a living. Years later, when he and a son were 
both able to farm and to hire a servant as well, he made profitable use 
of the same lands. Acquisition of extra wives, servants, and adopted 
sons are means used to increase the labor force in a household and 
thereby to derive more benefit from the land. 

Although there is variation in wealth and land ownership by family 
and by caste, there are no big landholders in the sense of the "zamin- 
dars" of the plains, and there are no tenant farmers in Sirkanda. Sir- 
kanda agriculturists are owner-cultivators; they live by their own work 
on their own lands. The biggest landholding recorded in Sirkanda is 
20.4 acres, owned by a joint family of 22 individuals (nine adults, 
thirteen children below 16 years of age). The smallest holding by an 
agricultural family (that is, one of high caste, though some of the low- 
caste families own none) is 2.3 acres, supporting six people (two adults, 
four children). The average size of recorded holdings in the agricul- 
tural castes is 4.5 acres per eight- or nine-member joint family. Most 
agricultural families have about one-half acre per adult, counting two 
children as equivalent to one adult. Some have less, and the most pros- 
perous have one acre per adult. 

There is little rental or sharecropping of lands in Sirkanda. One man 
has a share in some lands owned by his wife's relatives in a distant 
village. Another lets out on shares some lands he owns that are too far 
away for him to look after. One man, whose lands were too scattered 
for him to look after, effected a mutually advantageous exchange of 
lands with another farmer so that lands of each were somewhat con- 
solidated. Occasionally some elderly or dependent person who cannot 
tend his or her land will rent it out to others on a share basis, as one 
Sirkanda widow does. Others sell land they can no longer work. More 
commonly, the owner gives the land to whoever is slated to inherit it 
and joins that household for the remainder of his lifetime. Several 
instances of the latter arrangement are in evidence in Sirkanda. 

Until Independence it was possible for any agriculturist to extend 
his holdings by cultivating previously uncultivated land. The primary 
requisite was labor — it is hard and time-consuming work to clear and 


terrace new land. The availability of land prevented the pressure on 
land common in much of North India. An expanding Pahari agri- 
cultural family in this area could usually, with effort, expand its hold- 

For low castes the story is different. In pre-British times they were 
prohibited from owning land and from cultivating new land without 
permission from high-caste villagers. Under the British they were pro- 
hibited by informal but effective village sanctions from seeking new 
lands. They were prevented from becoming economically independent 
rather than from farming at all. This situation has continued to the 
present when, as will be discussed in the context of intercaste relations, 
a blacksmith has been denied access to unused land in Sirkanda by the 
high-caste village council. Thus, low castes have been kept dependent 
and poor while both cultivated lands and population have increased. 

Throughout the period since 1815, the main settlement of Sirkanda 
is said to have remained about the same in population. Records 
of land within the village boundaries show very little change since 
1904. However, in this time lands outside the village have come 
under cultivation or have been purchased until the village cultivates 
twice as much land as formerly. Also, the lands have been increasingly 
fragmented. The resident population of Sirkanda has remained about 
150 or 175, but the population of Bhatbair and vicinity has doubled 
or tripled. Additional village population has been drained off to chans 
and second houses. The number of villages in Bhatbair has doubled 
since 1815. Chans, which were a rarity then, have been built and fields 
cleared where there was previously only wilderness. The trend is 
evident even in the period since Independence with the addition of new 
lands and new chans in several locations. Within Sirkanda the entire 
southern section of the village, comprising five houses, is a post- 
Independence phenomenon. As old houses in the village have become 
decrepit or crowded, new ones have been built in the new location. New 
lands have been opened up on the southern periphery of the village 
surrounding the new houses. It is one of the ironies of the post- 
Independence era that governmental restrictions have been imposed 
which discourage expansion of agricultural lands into hitherto un- 
cultivated areas. This is a source of keen resentment among high-caste 
Paharis of this region because, until Independence, uncultivated lands 
had been considered the property of the villages nearest them, and 
available to their members for cultivation. Now they have been made 
subject to stringent governmental regulation. As one Sirkanda farmer 
pointed out: "The government asked us to increase crop production 
to help the nation. When we did so in the only way possible, by open- 


ing up new lands, they accused us of infringing on government property 
and brought a suit against us." 


Agriculture is a family enterprise — those who share the hearth 
share in the work and the harvest. There are two annual crops and 
harvests which govern the work of villagers and influence the yearly 
cycle of all activities in Sirkanda. These are "millet harvest" in early 
winter (mid-September to October) just after the rainy season, and 
"barley-wheat harvest" in mid-summer (April) before the hot, dry pe- 
riod. These correspond to the kharif and rabi harvests of the plains, 
respectively, but are not called by these terms. Each planting season 
follows closely after the previous harvest. 

Winter Crop 

While the millet harvest is in progress, men of each family begin 
plowing the harvested fields preparatory to planting the principal 
winter crops, wheat and barley. Stalks of the previous crops are burned 
and the ashes are plowed into the ground along with manure, which 
has been spread on the fields. The plow, similar to those used on the 
plains, is wooden with a wooden moldboard and an iron bit and is 
pulled by a yoke of bullocks. A week or two after plowing men sow 
the fields by hand broadcast. Immediately thereafter the fields are 
again plowed and a leveler is dragged over them. The fields are plowed 
and seeded between mid-October and the end of November. Ideally, 
approximately equal proportions of land are devoted to wheat and 
barley. In reality, wheat, the preferred crop, may be sown in two- 
thirds of the available 200 acres of land in the vicinity of Sirkanda. 
Masitr (Ervum lens), a pulse, is also planted at this time but in much 
smaller quantities. 3 Some land is left fallow. Once planting is com- 
pleted the main agricultural activity is transporting animal manure 
and spreading it on the fields. This is done two or three times after 
planting, at intervals of about a month. 

In February and March, over a month before harvest time, the 
fields that have been left fallow over the winter are plowed for the 
first time in preparation for planting janghora (Oplismenus frumen- 
taceus), a millet which is one of the principal crops of the rainy grow- 
ing season. The plowing continues, twice per field, over a period of 
six weeks, overlapping with the barley harvest, since barley fields as 
well as fallow ones will be planted in janghora. Toward the end of 
March and in early April barley and masur are harvested, and the 


fields are plowed after the stubble or stalks have been burned. Wheat 
matures shortly after the other winter crops and is harvested in mid- 
April. As wheat is harvested threshing begins. This is done by driving 
cattle over the grain heads, which have been spread on a hard, dung- 
plastered circular threshing floor. The cattle, two to ten in number, 
are hitched to a central post and driven around by people of almost 
any age and either sex. It is an eight- to ten-hour job to thresh one 
batch of about two maunds (160 pounds) of unthreshed grain. There- 
after the grain is winnowed by women in traditional North Indian 
fashion with a winnowing tray and the aid of the breeze. Finally ashes 
are mixed with the grain "to prevent worms from infesting it." Women 
do this by trampling the grain and ashes on a threshing platform. It 
is then stored in the home in large baskets sealed with dung-plaster or 
in wooden storage boxes. Each family spends about two weeks at 
threshing, winnowing, and storing. Since not every family owns a 
threshing platform (there are 21 platforms in the village), they are 
borrowed for further use as soon as the owners are finished. Such 
borrowing occurs freely across sib and caste lines. The chaff is burned 
and the straw is saved and stored in tall stacks supported by central 
poles or saplings, to be used later as thatch or fodder. 

Rainy-Season Crop 

Before and during the wheat and barley threshing period, janghora 
is planted in the same manner as was wheat the previous season. Con- 
currently, the harvested wheat fields are burned over and plowed. 
After plowing they are left for about two weeks and then planted with 
rainy-season crops other than janghora, primary among which is a 
millet called khoda or mandud (Eleusine coracana). Janghora and 
khoda are the principal rainy-season crops, forming about 75 per cent 
of the grain product of the season. They are planted in roughly equal 
amounts. At the same time are planted kulat (Dolichos biflorus), a 
pulse, and chauldi {Amaranthus polygamous, Amaranthus blitum), an 
amaranth which supplies a grain (forming about 20 per cent of the 
grain harvest of this season) and also leaves which are used as vege- 
tables. Other crops of the season include dry and wet rice, taro, pump- 
kins, beans, corn, ginger, chili, cucumbers, leafy vegetables, and to- 
bacco. Wet rice is planted at this time in seedbeds in areas where 
irrigation is possible. At the beginning of the rains (late June) wet 
rice is transplanted from seedbeds to irrigated fields, and chili plants 
are transplanted to Sirkanda gardens from irrigated seedbeds else- 

The fields are manured during the rainy season just as they were 


in the winter. From shortly after the rains begin, in July, until the 
first of September, harrowing, followed by weeding of the fields, is a 
full-time job. First the fields are harrowed from one to three times 
each with a long-toothed harrow pulled by bullocks. This has the 
effect of thinning the fields, which were purposely overseeded to pre- 
vent erosion and uprooting of the seedlings by the heavy rains. It is 
also alleged to kill weeds, the belief being that grain withstands the 
disturbance better than weeds do. Some incidental transplanting may 
be done at the same time to even out plant distribution in the fields. 
Thereafter the fields are repeatedly and painstakingly weeded by hand 
by the entire families, using small pick-like tools. By the first of Sep- 
tember weeding is no longer necessary, and the harvest begins in late 
September. First janghora, corn, and beans are harvested, followed in 
about two weeks by khoda, chaulai, kulat, and the rainy-season crops. 
The harvest continues to the end of October. Threshing of the millets 
extends throughout October and overlaps with plowing and sowing 
for the winter crops. 

Maximizing Productivity 

In the planting of crops there is an ideal pattern of crop rotation 
said to enhance the productivity of the soil. The sequence in an in- 
dividual field is as follows: (1) barley, followed by (2) janghora or 
dry rice, followed by (3) wheat, followed by (4) khoda, followed by 
(1) barley, and so on. Although the sequence is not adhered to re- 
ligiously, it is a traditional pattern that is approximated by most 
farmers in Sirkanda. Periodically crops not included in the rotating 
sequence are planted in some of the fields. Any field that appears to 
be losing its vitality as evidenced by smaller crops is left fallow for a 
season or two. The above pattern applies only to fertilized fields. Those 
which cannot be adequately fertilized or are poor to begin with are 
left fallow every other season. Often entire hillsides are planted in a 
single crop and are rotated in the same sequence, a result of informal 
consultation among the various people who own the many plots in- 
volved. Crop rotation is practiced in most Pahari areas but in differ- 
ent patterns (cf. Stowell, 1907, p. 11; Walton, 1910, pp. 26 ff.; 1911a, 
p. 55; Pant, 1935, pp. 136 ff.). 

Few fields can be irrigated in this terrain. Stowell reported in 1907 
(p. 9) that only 3 per cent of all cultivated land in Garhwal was irri- 
gated, and 8 per cent in Almora. Only three of the 205 acres within 
Sirkanda's boundaries are irrigated, plus 25 to 30 of the 93 acres which 
lie outside of Sirkanda and are owned by Sirkanda people. These 25 
to 30 irrigated acres are nearly all low, flat lands bordering the valley. 


Irrigation of fields in these hills is an engineering feat of consider- 
able complexity. Water is obtained from streams or springs which are 
blocked with stone dams at distances varying from a few hundred 
yards to more than a mile upstream from the fields to be watered. From 
the dams narrow channels are constructed following the contour of 
the land at sufficient gradient to keep a steady flow of water. Where 
these canals skirt bare rock cliffs or bridge small ravines, they are 
made of wood lined with clay and are held in place by wooden or 
stone supports wedged in crevices. The canals empty into the highest 
of the fields to be irrigated, and outlets are so arranged as to provide 
maximum subsequent use of the water in lower fields. Irrigation canals 
are built and maintained cooperatively by those who use them — usually 
high-caste people of a single village. 

The nature and extent of cultivation of some crops is limited by 
the type of land available; that is, irrigated lands are necessary for 
wet rice; shady, loamy lands are required for potatoes. Another im- 
portant factor is animal molestation. Corn is grown only in small 
quantities and in fields adjacent to the village because bears and por- 
cupines destroy more distant stands. Potatoes are grown only in the 
vicinity of chans in most areas because wild pigs destroy unsupervised 
fields. Monkeys menace several crops. No specific measures are taken 
to ward off these pests other than to plant their favorite crops where 
they are unlikely to come and, occasionally, to build a shelter near a 
field where someone can stay or a dog can be tied to scare off the 
marauders. Persistent animal pests may be ambushed and shot. 

Thus far only the "practical" means by which agriculture is car- 
ried out and good crops are ensured have been discussed. To enhance 
success there are also supernatural means, ranging from an annual 
ceremony to deities who influence crops and weather (described in 
Appendix IB) to beliefs as to the appropriate day of the week for be- 
ginning planting and harvest. Ceremonials and beliefs of this nature 
are not extensive and seem to be of decreasing importance, perhaps 
reflecting the relatively reliable and adequate nature of Pahari agri- 
culture. Difficulties with crops are usually treated, as are illness, finan- 
cial reversal, or other adversities, as manifestations of the displeasure 
of specific household or village deities. These matters will be discussed 
in the following chapter. 

Cash Crops 

Growing crops primarily for sale is a relatively recent innovation 
in the village. The most important such crop now is potatoes. Several 
varieties with different growing seasons are cultivated, so that some are 


in the ground at almost any time of year. Potatoes are grown in chan 
locations north of Sirkanda and usually above it in altitude. Less than 
half of the villagers own land suitable for this crop. 

Other cash crops grown on Sirkanda-owned lands include ginger, 
onions, garlic, koreander, and the surpluses of wheat, rice, and taro. 

Preparation and Consumption of Food 

Year-around daily staples eaten in Sirkanda are the millets jang- 
hora and khoda (mandua). Wheat and barley are often mixed with the 
latter variety of millet. In addition, dal (pulses) and vegetables, pri- 
marily taro and potatoes, are eaten regularly. 

Grain must, of course, be milled before use. Normally milling is 
done at intervals after harvest so that an adequate supply is on hand 
for use, but at any one time most of the stored grain is unmilled. Two 
water-powered mills are patronized, payment in flour being made to 
their owners at each milling. The mills are four and five miles distant 
in opposite directions, the farther and more patronized being en route 
to points in the valley and owned by a member of a Sirkanda Rajput 
household. In addition, some families have small stone hand mills 
which are used occasionally. The daily supply of rice and janghora 
is husked each morning in a stone mortar with a long wooden pestle. 
There are several community mortars in convenient locations around 
the village and individual ones at several houses. Pounding in them 
is regular early-morning women's work. 

Cooking is done by women in an inner room of the house, over a 
small wood fire in an open, dung-plastered stone fireplace. Brass and 
iron utensils are utilized as in the plains, and the style of cooking is 
similar to that in the plains. 

Two large meals and one or two small ones are prepared daily. 
At 6:30 or 7:00 a.m., about an hour after rising, there is a light meal 
consisting of leftover chapaties (unleavened bread) eaten with salt and 
chilis or milk or one of several milk products. Between 10:30 a.m. 
and noon a large meal is prepared consisting of janghora boiled in 
water and served with boiled dal. Boiled vegetables (potatoes, taro, 
pumpkin), and occasionally curds, may also be served. At 4:00 to 
7:00 p.m. another light meal may be served, consisting of leftovers from 
the noon or previous evening's meal. This meal is sometimes omitted. 
Between 8:00 and 10:00 p.m., one to two hours before retiring, another 
complete meal is prepared. This consists of chapaties made of khoda, 
often mixed with wheat or barley, and a vegetable mixture, usually of 
potatoes or taro cooked with spices and chilis. Water and rarely milk 
or buttermilk are drunk after each meal. This fare is considered very 


plain and inferior to that which is served guests, in which the chapaties 
are made of wheat, rice is substituted for janghora, and milk, ghee 
(clarified butter), and other fancier foods are served. Paharis are self- 
conscious about their food before outsiders and frequently make depre- 
catory remarks about the poverty of Paharis and Pahari food. "Jang- 
hora is Pahari basmati [the finest grade of rice]," is a frequent wry 
comment in Sirkanda. 

When guests are present tea is served regardless of time of day, 
though it is rarely used otherwise. Ceremonial feasts are elaborations 
of the daily fare with a variety of pulses, ghee, curds, vegetables, pickles, 
sweetened rice, and halwa (a sweet dish) generally added to it. In 
any case the food is almost exclusively of locally grown products, so 
that cash expenditures on food are minimal. 

Animal Husbandry 

Second to crops in the economy of Sirkanda is livestock. A man's 
first investment after land is in livestock. Most important of his animals 
are his bullocks or oxen which pull the plow. The usual way to desig- 
nate how much land a man owns is by how many oxen he uses to till it. 
In Sirkanda there are twenty-five "two-bullock" (one-plow) house- 
holds, twelve "four-bullock" households, three "six-bullock" house- 
holds, and one "eight-bullock" household. A total of 124 bullocks 
are owned by 41 households — a sizable investment in view of the 
fact that a good pair of oxen are worth 250 to 350 rupees. No family 
owns more oxen than it uses, and any that are not in good condition 
are quickly sold. 

Almost equally important are cows and buffaloes. These are kept 
for their two valuable products, milk and manure. Animal manure is 
considered necessary for agriculture and is often sufficient reason for 
keeping an animal. Milk is a cash product. Most of it is sold to shop- 
keepers in the form of milk, butter, ghee (clarified butter), or a boiled- 
down solid product used in the making of sweets. Relatively small 
amounts are used in the village. 

Most cows and many buffaloes are kept at chans and are moved 
seasonally from low altitudes in winter to higher altitudes in summer. 
This protects them from climatic extremes. It also gives them an 
optimal diet, and brings them close to the milk markets of Dehra 
Dun or smaller, closer markets in the valley during the winter, and 
to Mussoorie (with its big milk trade during the vacation season) or 
closer hill markets in the summer. Sirkanda villagers own about 725 
cows worth Rs. 70 to 150 each, and 140 buffaloes worth Rs. 250 to 


400 each. Buffaloes are more valuable as milk producers than cows, 
but are harder to care for since they are too heavy and awkward to be 
allowed out to pasture or to get water in this rugged terrain. 

In the markets buffalo milk is generally preferred to that of cows, 
but in the village cow's milk is often preferred. It is admitted that 
buffalo milk is "better for the body" and makes men virile (any ap- 
preciative wife or lover will feed her man buffalo milk and its products 
frequently), but it does not help the brain. One villager commented 
that, "If you drink too much buffalo milk you will get buffalo wis- 
dom," that is, stupidity. The difference in quality of milk from these 
two sources is locally ascribed to diet — a cow has a more varied diet 
since it grazes for itself, and therefore its milk is superior. On the same 
basis goat's milk, though it is not used (see below), is better than that of 
cows, and woman's milk is best of all. 

Buffaloes are occasionally killed as offerings to gods in Bhatbair. 
Their flesh is said to be eaten only by people of the shoemaker caste, 
but there is some evidence that others, even in Sirkanda, may occa- 
sionally eat buffalo meat. The sanctity of cows is as strongly felt in 
the hills as in the plains, and they are never killed nor is their meat 

About 350 goats and 10 sheep are kept by a total of 24 families in 
Sirkanda. They are raised primarily for sale in the markets, where they 
bring Rs. 15 to 30 each. In a year 10 to 20 goats may be sold by a 
single household. In addition, their manure is considered more valu- 
able as fertilizer than that of other animals. Their flesh is eaten in 
the village — usually after they have been used as religious sacrifices. 
In the entire village not over 20 or 30 goats are used yearly for sacrifice. 
Occasionally a goat is killed solely for eating, but this fact is not 
readily admitted. Villagers imply that a sacrifice may sometimes be an 
excuse to eat meat, but in no case is meat eaten as part of a regular 
meal. Instead, it is treated as a special feast and is generally consumed 
with liquor. Goat's milk is not used. The proffered explanation for 
this is that one cannot take the milk of an animal whose flesh he eats, 
nor vice versa, because an animal that gives milk is in some respects 
like a mother. This is also a reason for not eating buffalo meat. 

Horses and mules are used as beasts of burden and for human 
transportation. There are now 15 horses and two mules in the village, 
owned by 16 of the larger high-caste households and representing an 
investment of Rs. 200 to 1,000 each. They are a relatively recent in- 
novation in the village; previously all loads were carried by the men 
and women of the village. 

It is worth noting that livestock, like land, is predominantly high- 


caste property. The 10 per cent of the population that is of low caste 
owns 2 per cent of the cattle, 5 per cent of the bullocks, 6 per cent 
of the buffaloes, and 8 per cent of the goats. They, more than many of 
the high-caste families, find it worthwhile to supplement their income 
by goat breeding, because they need the money and have the time to 
devote to this activity. They own no horses or mules. 

Other Economic Activities 

No animal fodder as such is grown by villagers. The straw of 
grains is often kept for use when other fodder gets scarce, but the 
major dependence is upon wild grasses and leaves collected daily the 
year around, green or dry as the season permits. This is a major oc- 
cupation for women of the village. In addition, all animals except 
buffaloes are pastured daily, and all of these except horses and mules 
are attended at all times. No one goes to the forests to shepherd animals 
without bringing in a headload of fodder or firewood. In the months 
of May and June grass fires are lit by villagers in order to burn over 
the hillsides and ensure a superior grass crop after the rains. These 
fires — the bane of the government forestry officers — dot the hills during 
this season. Often, and not surprisingly, they leave burned chans, and 
occasionally dead livestock, in their wake. 

For two or three months before the rains the year-round activity of 
wood collecting is intensified in order to prepare a stockpile of dry 
fuel for the rainy season. It is the availability of wood for fuel which 
makes possible the extensive manuring of fields, in contrast to the 
plains custom and necessity of utilizing all manure for fuel. 

Housebuilding and repair are winter and summer activities. Con- 
siderable frantic roof repair takes place after the rains begin, revealing 
its need. Agricultural terraces and stone fences are built and repaired 
when the need arises and when other work permits, especially before 
and after the rains, which do considerable damage to terraced fields 
and retaining walls. 

The agricultural slack season comes in December and January, when 
only daily routine work and building has to be done. During this time 
men engage in minor activities such as rope-making and repairing 
equipment and houses, and the whole family contributes to yarn- 
making, knitting, and the like in idle moments. Somewhat the same 
situation exists in the midst of the rains. 

Beekeeping is an incidental enterprise conducted by many house- 
holds in the village and in chans. A small hole on the outside wall of a 
house leads to a cubical space about a foot square in the wall with a 


removable board at the back of the space, inside the house. Wild bees 
nest in this space. Twice a year (in April and October) the bees are 
smoked out and the honey is removed and sold in the markets. Hunting 
and gathering play a very small part in the Sirkanda economy. Although 
most high-caste households own guns, they are used primarily to 
frighten or kill marauding animals. Occasionally native wild chickens, 
partridges, wild pigs, wild goats, or deer are shot for meat. If a freshly 
killed prey of some carnivorous animal is found it is eaten by villagers, 
though they admit it reluctantly if at all. Fish are obtained from the 
rivers by low-caste people of villages near the rivers who net them to 
sell, or by young men of Sirkanda who make a picnic excursion of the 
fishing and a party of the ensuing feast. In late summer several varieties 
of wild berries and wild apricots and peaches may be collected. Except 
for the apricots, which are sold in urban markets, there is relatively 
little enthusiasm for these products. 

Production and Income 

Crops and livestock provide the high castes with most of their 
livelihood. Estimated annual crop yields were obtained in detail for 
20 (just over half) of the high-caste households. The estimates indicated 
that almost 150 per cent of the household's annual grain needs were 
produced in the fields during a good year. An average household 
(eight or nine persons) consumes about 50 to 60 maunds (4,000 to 
4,800 pounds) of grain per year and produces 75 to 90 maunds. 4 Each 
harvest is customarily stored and used throughout the year for sub- 
sistence and for payments to artisans and priests. The surplus is sold 
only when the succeeding harvest is in. Sale of surplus grain and cash 
crops together were reported to yield about Rs. 600 in a good year for 
a nine-member family. This would amount to around Rs. 20,000 for 
the whole village. 

The main source of cash and credit is dairy products. Estimates of 
milk production and sale in 39 households indicated an annual cash 
income of around Rs. 800 per family from this source. Total yearly 
cash expenditures for a nine-member family were roughly calculated at 
Rs. i,ooo. 5 Thus total income was estimated to exceed total expenditure 
by an average of Rs. 400 (equal to about 27 maunds of grain) per fam- 
ily per year among land- and cattle-owning families. The estimates are 
extremely rough, and it seems probable that both income and expen- 
ditures are exaggerated. Moreover, the sample is slightly biased in favor 
of the more prosperous joint families. The estimates indicate relative 
orders of magnitude rather than precise quantities. There is a range, 
with some families exceeding the average and others falling well below 


it. Some years bring larger or smaller than average crops, greater or 
smaller expenditures, on family and village levels. Some families spend 
more than the average on ceremonies and other approved means of 
conspicuous consumption, while others economize. There are significant 
caste differences, with the service castes having considerably less to live 
on than the landowning castes. Low-caste incomes are discussed below 
under the description of their occupational specialties. These figures 
do serve to suggest, however, the relative prosperity of this village com- 
pared to many Indian villages. Moreover, they check with separate in- 
quiries, such as that into the village accountant's official estimates of 
crop yields per acre multiplied by acreage planted. 

Only one "famine" year is recalled by Sirkanda residents, and it 
occurred some fifteen years previous to the research. Crops were in- 
sufficient to meet food requirements that year, and a number of families 
had to go to Dehra Dun to buy grain. The significant fact is that they 
were able to buy it; no one went hungry, and no one went deeply in 

It is apparent that some families will accumulate wealth under these 
conditions. In Sirkanda, when income exceeds that which is necessary 
for family welfare and livelihood, a man first sees to his lands and then 
to his livestock. If these are sufficient he is most likely to use his money 
for house- or chan-building. If these too are sufficient he may buy 
household utensils and jewelry. Beyond this, with the simple needs of 
life in the hills met, extra money is stored in concealment or part of it 
is loaned on interest (15 to 25 per cent) to other villagers or reliable 
acquaintances. Money is never kept in banks. At least six Sirkanda 
families regularly or occasionally lend money. These include the three 
families who retain their original undivided lands and three others 
with higher than average land-to-person ratios. The wealthiest man of 
the group is variously estimated to have Rs. 8,000 to Rs. 50,000, the latter 
doubtless a greatly exaggerated estimate. Borrowing is done to finance 
such major outlays as marriage (which averages from Rs. 2,000 to 
3,000 for a son and, depending upon the type of marriage, from nothing 
to Rs. 1,500 for a daughter); house construction (which ranges from 
Rs. 2,000 to 4,000); purchase of animals, purchase of land, costs of legal 
cases. Several Sirkanda families have been chronically in debt from 
such expenditures in recent years, but the relative wealth of families 
shifts with time. Thus, of the four wealthiest families in the village, 
two have become so recently — one in the generation just past, the other 
since Independence. Both of the others have increased their wealth 
during the past generation. Several other families are said to be less 


well off than in previous generations. This type of shift has in all cases 
but one been linked with a change in the man-land ratio. The more 
land per man, up to a point, the more wealth is accrued. With too little 
manpower, even land is useless, and in one of these cases wealth came 
when a man finally acquired a son and a servant to help him work his 
more than ample lands. In one case sudden wealth came from an un- 
expected windfall in the form of money acquired by questionable 
means from fleeing Muslims at the time of the partition of India and 

There are few people in or out of the hills who will not attest to the 
poverty of Paharis. As applied to Sirkanda and neighboring villages 
this stereotype is a fiction, based largely upon the simple material pos- 
sessions and hard work that characterize Pahari life. While it is true 
that by plains standards Paharis do not acquire great wealth and that 
what wealth they do acquire is not displayed, it is also true that they do 
not live the marginal existence led by many of their plains brethren, nor 
have they faced periodic famines and droughts as have people of Bihar 
and Bengal. 

Trade and Markets 

Neither Sirkanda nor the interdependent and relatively isolated 
group of villages which make up Bhatbair and the adjacent area in 
Tehri Garhwal are entirely self-sufficient. They are and perhaps always 
have been dependent upon larger centers. This relationship is an im- 
portant prerequisite for classifying these Pahari villages as an example 
of peasant society. A peasant society is one composed primarily of 
people who make their living by agriculture and who live in symbiotic 
interdependence with market towns or urban areas though living away 
from them (cf. Kroeber, 1948, p. 284; Redfield, 1957, pp. 31 ff.). 

The peasant has some product which the city consumes, and there are products 
of the city — metal tools, guns, patent medicines, or electric flashlights — 
which the peasant takes from the manufacturers in the city. Since the coming 
of money into the world, the peasant village has come in great degree to define 
its economic affairs in terms of this measure. (Redfield, 1957, pp. 31 f.) 

Having been included in the "economic nexus of civilized society," the 
peasant is imbued with "a spirit of pecuniary advantage" (ibid.). 

The dependence of Sirkanda peasants on urban centers is increasing. 
Sixty years ago one trip per year to a major market sufficed to exchange 
the agricultural surplus directly or indirectly for major items not 
locally available, and to transact necessary business with official agents 


of authority. Several trips to intermediary markets and occasional 
visits from peddlers provided those items needing more frequent re- 
plenishment, such as salt, sugar, and glass bangles. As transportation 
has improved, urban areas such as Dehra Dun have increased their 
direct influence on the village. Some men go every month, and most 
go several times a year. Those living in chans may go weekly or oftener 
because they are close to town and have milk products to sell. Inter- 
mediary markets are visited with proportionately increased frequency. 
The range of products sought and of agencies providing them has 
increased in the area as money has become more readily available. 
Milk and agricultural surpluses are sold to get money to buy an in- 
creasing array of goods, to pay taxes and court costs, and even to pay 
village artisans. 

Reliance upon products and services deriving from urban areas is 
therefore a traditional feature of the Sirkanda economy which is be- 
coming more prominent. Today the urban economy reaches into the 
village in many ways. 

There are two shops in Sirkanda. One is owned and operated by a 
large household of Rajputs in Sirkanda. It sells mostly staples such as 
cigarettes, matches, kerosene, cooking oil, sugar, salt, spices, and tea to 
villagers, and hot tea to passing travelers, on a cash basis. The other is 
operated by a merchant from Rajpur, who was asked to come by a group 
of villagers who did not want to trade in the other shop because of 
personal rivalries. He has run this shop for some 25 years. 6 His trade 
includes selling staples, often on credit, but his main business is buying 
some of the villagers' produce, notably the solidified milk product, 
pumpkins, apricots, lemons, and anything else he can resell in Dehra 
Dun at a profit. 

Lower prices and greater selection encourage villagers to buy at 
larger centers except in emergencies. Likewise, they can sell their 
produce to greater advantage in market towns. Dehra Dun and Mus- 
soorie are the large trading centers, but smaller, closer ones are fre- 
quently patronized. Suakholi, ten miles from Sirkanda and six from 
Mussoorie on the Mussoorie-Tehri trail, is much used by hillmen 
throughout this area. Similarly Sahas Dhara, Nagal, and Rajpur are 
traditional markets below Sirkanda, five to nine miles away. Supplies 
for such special occasions as marriage, and items not produced locally, 
such as salt, sugar, oil, jewelry, trinkets, cloth, utensils, and some tools, 
are often obtained from these places. In each market are particular 
merchants with whom Sirkanda farmers regularly trade. The relation- 
ship becomes somewhat personal, so that villagers may stay overnight 
in the trader's shop when they visit town even if they have no business 


to transact with the shopkeeper. The shopkeeper may also serve as an 
informal adviser on matters unfamiliar to the villagers. 

Itinerant peddlers come through Sirkanda selling bangles and other 
small items of decoration and convenience two or three times a year. 
One who came and stayed three days while I was in the village sold 
trinkets worth seven maunds (560 pounds) of grain, for a gross of about 
Rs. 100 and a profit of at least Rs. 70, in Sirkanda alone. Even with an 
extra rented mule, he had to make a return trip to carry off his pro- 
ceeds. Interestingly enough, he arrived shortly after the annual fair 
at which the people had already spent a good deal of money, much of it 
on items which this very peddler had been selling at the fair. 

The annual fair (taulu) of Bhatbair is held a few miles from Sirkanda 
and is by far the most important event of its kind for the residents of 
Bhatbair, but it is too provincial to attract outsiders other than two or 
three merchants. Other fairs attended by Sirkanda villagers are those 
held annually at Rajpur, Mussoorie, and at a well-known temple on 
the Mussoorie-Tehri trail. At all of these there is ample opportunity 
to spend money on tea, refreshments, sweets, trinkets, entertainment, 
liquor, and women. A number of Sirkanda villagers set up concessions 
at the annual Bhatbair fair, but aside from the Ferris wheel operated 
by Bajgis of Sirkanda and a nearby village, these rarely show much of a 
profit. The profiteers are the two or three outside merchants who sell 
trinkets, the clandestine sellers of liquor, and perhaps some of those 
who sell sweets, which are the medium of exchange for obtaining sexual 
favors from women, one of the major activities of this fair. The in- 
experience of the amateur village entrepreneurs who set up booths at 
this fair generally dooms them to financial failure. They join the spirit 
and activities of the festival and forget to collect cash for their wares 
or are distracted from their shop-tending by other activities, while 
their stores are good-naturedly depleted. 

The Jajmani System 

A number of essential activities in the village, especially those 
requiring particular skills or knowledge, are performed by specialists. 
Most of these occupations are thought of as caste monopolies, and the 
arrangements for work and payment are standardized in some form of 
traditional exchange, known widely in North India as the jajmani 
system (cf. W. H. Wiser, 1936; Beidelman, 1959; Berreman, 1962b, in 
which part of the following has appeared). 

When Sirkanda villagers use the term jajman they refer to one kind 
of exchange: that of the Brahmin's ritual services to his clients (jajmans) 
in exchange for traditional "gifts" paid in grain or other goods. This 


is in accordance with widespread usage of the term among villagers in 
North India and with its etymological meaning: one who asks another 
to perform worship and offers a gift to him in return. 

Sirkanda villagers also understand, though they do not themselves 
normally use, the term jajman to refer to the traditional arrangement 
whereby an artisan serves the needs of an agriculturist in his specialty. 
In this relationship the artisan or service caste member is paid a fixed 
portion of grain at each harvest, the amount depending upon the size 
of the household or landholding of the agriculturist and the type of 
service performed. 

The Pahari term which Sirkanda villagers normally use in reference 
to an artisan's clients, parallel to their use of "jajman" in reference to 
a Brahmin's clients, is gaikh, one who purchases the service of another. 
Ideally the relationship between artisan and gaikh is a permanent one 
with standard traditional payments, but in practice there is a good deal 
of shifting, especially where there is more than one local artisan avail- 

A third kind of traditional economic exchange in the village is that 
of service among artisans. This is not usually included in either the 
term "jajman" or "gaikh" by villagers. Blacksmiths, for example, see to 
the ironwork needs of the local drummers, who in return drum for the 
blacksmiths as needed. Agreements to this sort of exchange are about 
as stable as those in the gaikh arrangement. 

Finally, many services are performed, and have been traditionally 
performed, on a piecework or daily wage basis, with cash or grain used 
for payment. These include the sporadic services of ceremonial cooks, 
stonemasons, wood turners, and others, who are not resident in or near 
most villages, as are blacksmiths and drummers. They include also the 
nontraditional or non-caste-specific activities performed by local ar- 
tisans. Tailoring and basketmaking, for example, are in this village 
done by drummers. Payment for these services is on a piecework basis. 

Any low-caste person may be called upon to help a high-caste villager 
in emergency jobs or in tasks which the high-caste person is unable or 
unwilling to do himself. Most often the high-caste person calls upon 
one of the artisans who serve him, that is, for whom he is a client. The 
low-caste person cannot refuse to help without a good reason such as 
physical incapacity or an urgent prior commitment to another client. 
Otherwise he risks economic or physical sanctions. This is not the case 
with either Brahmin-jajman relations or intraservice caste relations. 

Although each caste in and around Sirkanda is identified with a par- 
ticular occupational role, there is considerable flexibility in the system. 


Important in the jajmani or gaikh system is the fact that service castes, 
unlike Brahmins, have a difficult time maintaining a monopoly on their 
services and often have no other reliable source of income such as 
farming. The traditional occupation of each caste may remain caste- 
specific, but its members' livelihood may depend largely or entirely on 
specialties which are not restricted to a single caste. Under conditions 
of necessity or even convenience, many occupations are interchange- 
able among low castes. Occasionally a high-caste person will perform an 
artisan's work. Therefore, if an artisan quits working for a client there 
are others, even outside his caste, who can and will take his place. 

Another feature of significance in economic organization is the ab- 
solutely small number of individuals who make up each local artisan 
caste group, often only one nuclear family or two closely related and 
recently separated families. Probably partly as a result of this fact the 
artisan castes are not very cohesive groups. Unlike the high castes, they 
have little or nothing in the way of group organization and discipline 
beyond local kin-connected groups. Moreover, in many areas, as popu- 
lation has increased, so has access to bazaar-made goods. Agriculturists 
have become less dependent upon artisans' services and less inclined 
to make full payment to them. There is increasing competition among 
artisans for a decreasingly remunerative clientele. As a result there is 
considerable friction among them. In Sirkanda the local blacksmith 
and drummer castes are both divided within themselves between two 
competing and often hostile brothers, neither able to make an adequate 
living at his traditional occupation and therefore supplementing it by 
brewing illicit liquor, raising goats, practicing medicine and divination, 
tailoring, or carrying on agriculture if he has land. Thus gaikh rela- 
tionships are unstable, with much jockeying for the better-paying cli- 
ents on the one hand, and for the better-performing artisans on the 
other. The effect of this situation is shown by the fact that only among 
service castes do brothers frequently dissolve the joint family and di- 
vide the common patrimony. 

Exploitation in the sense of arbitrary and self-seeking control over 
the behavior of others is characteristic of the relationship of agricul- 
turists to artisans in Sirkanda. While many clients are responsible in- 
dividuals who do not often overtly exercise their power over the low 
castes, still, as in the village of Karimpur described by the Wisers, "let 
there be any move toward independence or even indifference among 
them, and the paternal touch becomes a strangle-hold" (C. V. and 
W. H. Wiser, 1951, p. 18). 

Exploitation is not characteristic of the ritual relationships between 


Brahmins and their clients, nor in the exchange of services among the 
artisan castes. The reason for this pattern seems to lie largely in the 
distribution of power — the control that local castes exert relative to 
one another. 

In Sirkanda low castes are dependent upon high castes for livelihood 
— almost absolutely so. Moreover, they have little leverage on the high 
castes because of the absence of caste cohesion among themselves and 
the absence of caste monopolies on the essential goods and services 
which they provide for the high castes. The high castes, in contrast, 
are generally well organized and able to present a united front to the 
artisans of any local area. Moreover, potential clients are sufficiently 
restricted in numbers, and villages are sufficiently isolated from one 
another, that village artisans often find it difficult if not impossible to 
seek new clients. In the village context, therefore, they subsist at the 
discretion of their high-caste patrons. 

Low-caste people who have become agriculturists no longer depend- 
ent upon their craft skills are, like Brahmins, free of obligation to, and 
potential exploitation by, other agriculturists. They have in most cases 
moved out of their traditional villages to nonvillage locations where 
they do not have to deal frequently with the high castes and where they 
perform most of their own labor. 

In the exchange of services among low castes in Sirkanda there is no 
opportunity for exploitation, since none controls the livelihood of 
others nor performs unique and essential services. 

A feature of the artisan-gaikh relationship that should not be over- 
looked is the part played by high-caste clients in the work of the low- 
caste artisan. A scene repeated daily for several months during the 
building season of the writer's year in Sirkanda took place at the 
construction site of the Brahmin family's imposing new house. The 
two carpenter-masons were engaged in their skilled but relatively lei- 
surely work of placing and mortaring stones, making window frames, 
or carving columns. Meanwhile the Brahmins, women and men, 
struggled with immense loads of stone from the quarrying place % 
mile distant. They quarried the stone, dug, transported, and mixed 
mortar clay, felled and transported trees, carried corrugated iron sheet- 
ing from the valley, handed stones up to the masons (who might airily 
reject any particular stone), and generally did all the heavy, dirty work 
of the construction. Their exhausted and begrimed countenances were 
in striking contrast to those of the masons, who often sat and waited 
for more materials to be brought. Lesser manifestations of the same 
phenomenon were to be seen when Rajputs operated the bellows or 
wielded the sledge under the direction of the blacksmith on jobs too 


pressing or too big for him to handle alone. Rajputs were also to be 
seen sewing buttons on their newly made shirts while the tailor worked 
on more complicated phases of his craft in order to get a rush order 

No incongruity was seen in these aspects of the gaikh relationship, 
and they did not embarrass those involved. The superior skill of the 
artisan in his specialty was recognized, and his client got the most for 
his money by arranging to let the artisan concentrate on the skilled 
aspects of his work. The low-castes were still expected to respond at 
once without remuneration, when not otherwise employed, to a call 
for assistance in thatching a roof, mixing tobacco and molasses, killing 
a goat, plastering a floor, carrying a load, or assisting in other ways 
when a high-caste member needed help. The high castes' relative ritual 
and social status was never ignored or compromised. 

Occupational Specialties 

In Sirkanda four castes of specialists are represented: Brahmins, 
the high-caste priests, and three low-caste artisan groups: blacksmiths 
(Lohar), barbers (Nai), and drummer-tailors (Bajgi). Each of these 
groups is tied in some form of the jajmani or gaikh arrangement to 
exclusively agricultural families in the village, and usually to other 
specialist families as well. If there is more than one household which 
follows a particular specialty in the village, each normally has its own 
circle of traditional clients, just as each agricultural household has its 
own fields. In each instance the household remains the important 
economic unit. The proceeds of traditional specialties, like those of 
agriculture, are shared within the household. The economic roles of 
the occupational specialists will be considered in turn. 


Sirkanda Brahmins are primarily agriculturists, most of whose 
economic pursuits are indistinguishable from those of Rajputs. Their 
income from agriculture is equivalent to that of the more prosperous 
Rajputs. Priestly work is done only by Jairam, one of three brothers in 
the family, and it does not interfere with his agricultural work. In his 
own words and in obvious reference to his competitor, a Brahmin 
from Tehri Garhwal who gets most of the high-caste business from 
Sirkanda, "Some Brahmins haven't anything else to do but spend all 
of their time gallivanting around doing their priestly work. I am too 
busy for that." 
Jairam officiates at weddings, funerals, and various ceremonies in 


Sirkanda but usually only when his competitor is not available or needs 
assistance, or when a request comes from low-caste people, whom his 
competitor will not serve. He is too close to people in Sirkanda to be 
held in awe or any great respect. The Tehri Brahmin from fifteen miles 
away is used whenever possible and is considered to be the family priest 
by most Rajputs of Sirkanda. He is credited with more priestly learning 
than Jairam, and his rates are higher. He serves a restricted clientele of 
high-caste people who can afford him. Either Brahmin is paid for the 
work he does, for example, around Rs. 20 for a wedding or funeral, 
Rs. 1 to 5 for simple ceremonies. These Brahmins are also the recipients 
of occasional extra charity on certain religious days and occasions when 
people want to acquire merit in this manner. The two Brahmins refer 
to those families they serve regularly as their "jajman." They can de- 
pend upon being called to serve any ritual needs these families may 
have and to receive charity as well as payment from them. However, 
neither Brahmin is the hereditary priest or purohit for Sirkanda people 
in the true sense of the term. 

The traditional Sirkanda Brahmin or purohit is Tula, who lives in 
another village two hours' walk from Sirkanda. All Sirkanda families 
as well as those in several neighboring villages are in his jajman — the 
traditional, hereditary client-practitioner relationship. The office has 
been in his family for many generations and continues in full force 
although Tula, like his father before him, practices very little and al- 
legedly knows even less of priestly duties. Some generations back his 
family were highly regarded in Bhatbair as learned priests. Now they 
are not so regarded and make no pretense in this direction, limiting 
their priestly participation to minor roles in ceremonies, to astrology, 
and so on. Nevertheless, as traditional priest or purohit in this and 
surrounding villages, Tula attends and is given the purohit's charity 
and payment at every marriage, funeral, or other important ceremonial 
event and at every occasion calling for the granting of charity to Brah- 
mins. Thus he receives many times the amounts that the officiating 
Brahmins do. He is given due honor and respect as the traditional and 
rightful recipient. As a result he is one of the wealthiest men in the 
area, with three houses, three wives, much land, and many children, 
some of whom have married into prominent families of Garhwali 
Brahmin ancestry in Dehru Dun. He is also the only obese Pahari I 
have ever seen and is addressed and referred to almost exclusively as 
"mota Brahmin" (fat Brahmin). The jajmani system has worked to his 

The term jajman is used loosely by all three of the above-mentioned 


Brahmins to refer to the people they regularly serve (as, "Family X is in 
my jajman"). However, only Tula has the long-standing, hereditary 
relationship with its system of traditional payment that is generally 
associated with the term "jajman." 


All the artisan (shilpkar) castes in Sirkanda, commonly referred to 
as Doms, depend upon their crafts for their living and are to some ex- 
tent prevented from acquiring other means of livelihood. An artisan's 
clients are referred to as his gaikh or, commonly, simply "farmer" 
(kisari), terms which are roughly parallel in usage to the Brahmin's 
use of "jajman." "Jajman" is also used sometimes by the artisans, 
though it is not thought to be entirely appropriate. The artisan is 
known as the "worker" (kam karnewala) by his clients. The client 
usually pays the artisan who works for him a fixed amount of grain at 
each harvest, that is, twice a year. There is not the rigidly hereditary 
association between worker and client reported for the plains (W. H. 
Wiser, 1936). However, no farmer will be denied service by an artisan 
if he demands it. Threat of physical punishment can be used if neces- 
sary, with the backing of the rest of the high-caste majority. The artisan 
may use more subtle pressures, such as inferior or slow service, to en- 
courage prompt and adequate payment by a delinquent client. If an 
artisan does not perform satisfactorily, his clients may patronize another 
craftsman in the same or a nearby village. 


The blacksmith's main job is making and repairing iron tools, 
horseshoes, bells, occasional religious images, and so on. Agricultural 
implements, axes, and grass knives make up most of the blacksmith's 
work. Today there are two blacksmiths, brothers, who work and live 
separately in separate households. One of the two has 20 households 
in his clientele, including "all the big people" — those who pay reg- 
ularly and well — in Sirkanda and nearby villages. He prides himself 
on having maneuvered himself into the favor of the more desirable 
customers by personal charm rather than superior work. His brother 
has 29 of the "lesser" households including 12 in Sirkanda and 17 in 
neighboring villages. Though he recognizes the inferiority of his clien- 
tele to his brother's, he philosophizes that "God will provide for all." 
Some other households patronize blacksmiths near their chans and 
only occasionally utilize one of the Sirkanda ones, on a job-payment 
basis. Neither of the Sirkanda blacksmiths is kept very busy by his 


work, and it provides only a marginal income. When the father of these 
two men was the village smith he had a good income; he is said to 
have loaned money to Rajputs, and to have left a cash nestegg when 
he died. Now the business is divided in half. Moreover, the smiths claim 
that payment has fallen off as people have come to use ready-made tools 
from the bazaar more frequently and as households have increased in 
membership or split up. Where formerly there was one household 
there are now often two or three, or membership has doubled or 
tripled, while the members continue to pay a total of only one house- 
hold's traditional payment. Meanwhile other households have passed 
out of existence or have moved to chans, so that their business is lost. 
Equally important is the fact that formerly grants of grain, livestock, 
or even land, as well as clothing, tobacco, tools, and so on, were given to 
all the low-castes as gratuities. Now these things are rarely given. The 
attitude of the higher-castes has ceased to be as paternalistic as it was 
in former days — partly, according to the high-caste people, because 
the low-castes do not now conform to the submissive role expected in 
a paternalistic relationship. 

The blacksmiths are the poorest of Sirkanda villagers and are the 
only ones aside from two Bajgis who now own virtually no land, having 
sold what little remained of their holdings some time ago when the 
extended family divided. Payment for their traditional work is in 
five-seer (ten-pound) measures of grain. At each harvest they are sup- 
posed to get two to three measures from each two-oxen household they 
serve, three from four-oxen households, and four measures from a six- 
or eight-oxen household. This scale is not rigidly adhered to, and the 
blacksmiths claim that they are consistently underpaid. They get a 
total of 16 to 18 maunds of grain per year — about half their minimum 
requirement for livelihood. One of the blacksmiths supplements his 
income by distilling and selling home-made liquor — a brisk business 
yielding 25 to 35 maunds of grain per year. The other has tried cloth- 
selling and other schemes to augment his income, all unsuccessful 
largely because of his illiteracy and softheartedness, which have pre- 
vented him from recording and collecting debts or refusing credit. He 
now makes ends meet by raising goats, from which he nets 25 maunds 
of grain per year. He also does odd jobs around the village and gener- 
ally remains on such good terms with all villagers that free meals and 
occasional gifts come his way. 

Blacksmiths live a marginal existence, their income barely exceeding 
the requirements for livelihood. However, they do not fear starvation 
because they know that other villagers will not allow them to go hungry 
if they are really in need so long as they continue to perform their 


functions in the village without offending their caste superiors. Such 
assistance comes bit by bit as needed rather than in an advance, 
security-providing amount. Opportunities exist for blacksmiths to work 
where large-scale stone-quarrying operations are in progress some six 
to ten miles away. There a cousin of the Sirkanda blacksmiths makes 
up to Rs. 20 per day blacksmithing. When asked about this, one Sir- 
kanda blacksmith commented that such work, while profitable, is un- 
certain. Here he has lifetime security which he would lose if he left, 
and the stone quarry might close down at any time. Moreover, he says, 
"I've never worked in my life." The latter point has a large element 
of truth. No one in Sirkanda leads a life as leisurely as that of the 
blacksmiths. This man volunteers that if he worked harder he could 
make more money right in Sirkanda — by getting work from customers 
in nearby villages and doing it promptly and well. He attributes his 
father's prosperity partly to his industry. 


The Sirkanda barber is a descendant of a barber brought from 
the valley at the time of the founding of the village. Elsewhere in this 
area the barber's functions are performed by other low-caste members, 
usually Bajgis and sometimes blacksmiths. When the Sirkanda barber 
left the village for three years once, his duties were taken over by one 
of the blacksmiths. Whoever performs the barber's functions receives 
annual payment of four seers (eight pounds) of grain at each harvest 
for each bewhiskered man in each household and two seers per whis- 
kerless boy in each household he serves. At this rate the Sirkanda barber 
gets about 25 maunds (2,000 pounds) of grain per year for his small 
family from his rather extensive practice, including all of Sirkanda 
and several neighboring settlements. This meets his subsistence require- 
ment for grain. In addition he receives payment for his traditional 
ritual services at weddings, funerals, initial hair-cutting ceremonies, 
and one annual festival day, ranging from Rs. 20 to a few annas (one 
anna = % of one rupee) each. This barber owns some lands in Sir- 
kanda and more land and bullocks in the village of relatives in the 
valley, which give him a modest but comfortable income beyond that 
of his barbering. 


The work of Bajgis in Sirkanda is varied. With the exception of 
barbering, they perform the functions common to their caste in most 
Pahari villages: drum-playing, tailoring, and basketmaking. 

Of these activities, only drum-playing is done in the traditional 


artisan-gaikh relationship. It is done for the entire village by two 
households working jointly. They play drums at all ceremonies and 
festivals. In return for their drumming each village household gives 
the drummers 16 seers (32 pounds) of grain at each harvest and oc- 
casional other gratuities in the form of grain. This income is divided 
between the two households who do this work in Sirkanda. Formerly 
it was one household, but the two brothers have divided their property. 
Since the drumming requires a team of two, they have retained this as 
a joint enterprise and they divide the proceeds. In former days Bajgi 
women danced on special occasions as part of the caste's traditional 
duties, but they have given up this defiling practice. 

Tailoring is an important activity of the Bajgi caste — so much so 
that Bajgis are commonly referred to as Darzi (tailors), whether or not 
they follow this profession. In Sirkanda tailoring is done on a piece- 
work basis for cash or its grain equivalent. Rates range from six rupees 
for a coat down to six annas for a cap. One man does all the tailoring 
in Sirkanda, and the payment is kept in his household, one of the 
two drum-playing households. This arrangement was the basis for a 
major but short-lived dispute when the household which shares the 
proceeds of the drumming activity demanded, but did not get, half 
the income from tailoring as well. 

Baskets are made on a similar basis at rates ranging from three rupees 
for a large grain-storage basket down to four annas for a small basket 
or winnowing tray. Three Bajgi households make baskets. 

In addition, one of the two non-drum-playing Bajgis makes and sells 
liquor. The other, an immigrant of some twenty-five years' residence in 
Sirkanda, lives entirely on his income as a practitioner of a kind of 
curative magic. The two large, drum-playing households own land and 
bullocks, which provide a substantial addition to their other income. 
They get about 18 maunds of grain apiece annually for drumming, 
about one-third of their grain requirements. They make another 12 
maunds in their other specialized work, 20 maunds from milk, goats, 
and so on, and 40 maunds from their fields. They are therefore reason- 
ably well off. The two smaller households, who have no land and no 
income from drumming, are about as poor as the blacksmiths. 

Blacksmiths and Bajgis exchange traditional services in lieu of pay- 
ment. The barber is, however, paid in grain by all who have it and in 
cash equivalent by those (like the blacksmiths) who do not. 


A number of Pahari occupational specialists contribute to the Sir- 
kanda economy, although they do not reside in the village. All of these 
described below are represented within the eight-trail-mile (four-air- 


mile) radius which is the area of face-to-face social and economic inter- 
action for Sirkanda villagers. 

Sarola is the name of a subcaste of Brahmins who specialize in cook- 
ing for Brahmins and Rajputs on ceremonial occasions. They are 
ritually superior to other Brahmins and therefore pure enough that 
anyone can eat from their hands. Payment is Rs. 16 to 20 for the job 
or R. 1 per maund (80 pounds) of food cooked — whichever is greater 
— plus their board and shelter while the job lasts. In addition they get 
a traditional payment of 2% seers of gur (sugar) and R. 1 at the time of 
the ceremonial lighting of the cooking fire. 

Sonars are makers of silver and gold jewelry. In these hills there are 
two castes of these goldsmiths — one equivalent to Rajputs in every way, 
the other a Dom caste equivalent to blacksmiths and carpenters. The 
Rajput goldsmiths are called "Sonar" as an occupational term, just as 
are Dom goldsmiths, but they are Rajputs and intermarry freely with 
other Rajputs. Similarly Dom goldsmiths intermarry freely with black- 
smiths and carpenters, with whom they are included under the broader 
occupational classification, Mistri. Most of the Sonars of this area are 
of the Rajput group, and they include some of the wealthiest of Paharis. 
They are paid in cash or grain by the job. They have shops in towns 
such as Mussoorie and in small trading centers such as Suakholi. Some 
travel from village to village taking orders and doing their work as they 

Carpenter-masons (BaRhai) intermarry with blacksmiths and Dom 
goldsmiths, but their occupational specialty is usually handed down 
patrilineally. They make wooden tools and utensils and construct 
houses. In Sirkanda most men make their own wooden tools, but car- 
penters are called in to build houses. Carpenters live in the village 
while they work, receiving their food and shelter plus Rs. 4 per day. 
They may also be paid by the job, for example, Rs. 80 for sawing out 
100 boards. There is occupational specialization among carpenters; 
some, called Rengdlda, produce lathe-turned wooden containers and 
churns which are sold by volume. There is no traditional economic 
relationship of Sirkanda households with carpenters, though certain 
ones are usually called in because of their skill and proximity. 

Kholls are weavers of wool blankets and heavy wool cloth. Formerly 
their work was more in demand than it is today because their cloth was 
used for coats and they were virtually the only source for blankets and 
cloaks. Now cloth from the bazaar is much used and the Kholis' main 
trade is in a distinctive type of blanket used as a wrap. They are paid 
a piece rate, an arm and hand length of loom width being the unit and 
costing Rs. 2.50 if the customer furnishes the wool. 

There are several terms for people whose profession is singing and 


dancing. The only Paharis of this profession in Bhatbair are called 
Beda. One family of this caste has long been associated with Bhatbair, 
and, though they have moved from their traditional home in a village 
in the heart of Bhatbair, they still live within walking distance in a 
Pahari village bordering the valley. They (two men and one or two 
women) visit Sirkanda and other Bhatbair villages about once a year, 
staying three or four days in each village and going from house to house 
entertaining with songs and dances. For this they receive 2 to 4 seers 
of grain from each house. People of this caste are thought to possess 
unusual spiritual powers. They were formerly the performers of the 
rope-sliding feat, a spectacular form of worship which, when performed, 
brought them a large lump sum of cash and goods as well as a great 
deal of honor (Berreman, 1961b). Since Beda women dance and sing, 
they are thought of as prostitutes. Today the Bedas are primarily ag- 
riculturists and are trying to give up their hereditary occupation and 
the stigma attached to it. They have ceased to give evening command 
performances while in the village, apparently because these were linked 
to prostitution. Instead they perform only in the daytime at each house 
and they give a public performance in the evening in one place. Ac- 
cording to the present practitioners of the trade they would give it up 
altogether as, indeed, they intend to, if it were not for pressure from 
their father to carry on in the family tradition. 

Mochis or Chamars are shoemakers and removers of dead animals. 
They are not indigenous to this Pahari region, although farther back 
in Tehri Garhwal there are local people of this caste. Those who live 
and work near Bhatbair come from the Kangra valley, a Pahari area 
some 150 miles to the west. They have been in the region for 20 or 30 
years or more. Before they came, villagers assert, people here went bare- 
foot, as many of them do yet. They remain culturally distinct and are 
readily identifiable by dress, house type, and speech, although not by 
physical type. Their work is more defiling and their caste rank lower 
than that of any other group in these hills. They sell shoes by the pair, 
or by an arrangement in which a household gives them 5 seers of grain 
per harvest in return for which they provide all the shoes needed in 
that household at R. 1 per pair. In addition they are called to remove 
any large domestic animal which dies. In return they keep the skin and 
give the owner a pair of shoes unless the animal is a cow or an ox, in 
which case the owner takes nothing. A few years ago a family of this 
caste moved to the outskirts of Sirkanda but found it unprofitable and 
moved on to Sahas Dhara, a larger center below. 

In addition there are ten to fifteen other Garhwali service castes, 
most of them never seen in Sirkanda. Some, such as rope bridge-makers, 
may be called upon if a special need arises. 



Several important occupations are not closely or rigidly bound to 
caste. Farming is foremost among these, as evidenced by the fact that 
currently some members of every caste in Bhatbair make a substantial 
part of their living by farming. 

Special occupations in this caste-neutral category are primarily those 
associated with divining, curing, and dealing with the supernatural. 
Whatever their caste, practitioners of these arts are paid in cash or grain 
for their work. One Bajgi in Sirkanda makes his entire living from his 
work as a practitioner of curing through exorcising spirits. Another 
makes some income as a diviner. Specialists in the treatment of various 
maladies (chickenpox, mumps, boils, snakebite) are found among all 
castes. Jairam, the Sirkanda Brahmin, carries on a brisk business in 
simple Vedic medical practice, that is, curing based on ancient Hindu 
prescriptions. Shamans are found in several villages in and near Bhat- 
bair and are frequently consulted to learn the cause of difficulties be- 
setting families or individuals. In the process a god enters the shaman's 
body, speaks through his mouth, and provides the desired informa- 
tion. The shaman, who may be of any caste, is paid a small fee for 
each consultation. Pujarls specialize in the worship of household gods, 
playing drums and reciting praise of these gods to induce them to 
dance in the bodies of the worshipers and frequently to speak through 
them. These practitioners come from all castes, with a tendency toward 
the lower castes. They too are paid by the job. 

There is no Pahari Vaishya or merchant caste. Shopkeepers and 
peddlers come from the plains, from Tibet and Nepal, and from all 
Pahari castes. Of three Pahari tradesmen in Bhatbair, two are Rajputs 
and one is a Brahmin. As mentioned previously, a Sirkanda blacksmith 
tried his hand at selling cloth throughout the region for several years, 
and people of all castes may become temporary shopkeepers at the 
annual fair. 


Some high-caste agriculturists of Sirkanda employ servants to help 
tend their fields and livestock. Those who do the hiring are people 
who have more land, or land in more scattered locations, than the men 
in the family can handle. In a small family with considerable land a 
good servant pays his way many times over. 

Servants live with their employers and are paid a small amount 
monthly (Rs. 10 to 30). Because of their close association with their 
employers they are chosen from high castes to avoid problems of rit- 
ual pollution. Thus, of the three permanent servants in Sirkanda, two 


are Rajputs and one a Brahmin — all Paharis, two from Nepal and one 
from Tehri-Garhwal. Servants are given responsibilities equivalent to 
those of a family member, often being left for long periods to look after 
a chan, and frequently one of its owner's wives and her children as well. 
A lifelong servant is generally given land and a house as a reward for 
faithful service. The oldest resident of Sirkanda is the widow of a man 
whose father came to Sirkanda as a servant and remained there after 
having thus acquired lands. 

Temporary servants in the person of carpenter-masons engaged in 
house construction, or indebted high-caste men (often relatives of their 
employers) working as laborers, are generally to be found in the village 
during the winter housebuilding season. As many as eight of these 
were resident in the village at once during 1957-1958. 

Occupational Variation 

Occupational variation within caste is found throughout India 
(cf. J. M. Mahar, 1958; Sharma, 1961). Paharis are tolerant and flexible 
in this respect. As mentioned above, in addition to the traditionally 
caste-neutral occupation of agriculture, there are a variety of magical- 
medical practitioners of all castes, Rajput goldsmiths, merchants of 
blacksmith, Rajput, and Brahmin castes, and high-caste agricultural 
servants. Barber functions are shared among several low-caste groups. 
In general, low castes share the artisan occupations, and not uncom- 
monly a member of one low caste will be found doing the work of 
another, especially where economy demands it and population does 
not provide the appropriate caste specialist. Thus either blacksmiths 
or drummers may serve as barbers, either may serve as tailors, and it 
is not unheard-of for a blacksmith to play drums. Such occupational 
flexibility is characteristic of caste and economic organization in the 
hills. Just as status differences among Dom groups are somewhat am- 
biguous, so are their occupational specializations. For both purposes, 
Doms are often treated by the high castes as an undifferentiated group. 
Even high castes perform the work of artisans on occasion. They 
exhibit many of the skills of artisans while assisting them in their work 
in order to hurry things along or to save payment. Since there was no 
carpenter in Sirkanda, Rajputs and Brahmins did their own routine 
carpentry, calling in an outside specialist only for major building jobs 
or tasks requiring unusual skill. In addition high-caste people are not 
entirely barred from becoming professional artisans. An example that 
has already been mentioned is that of the Rajput goldsmiths. An ex- 
ample on the individual level is that of a skilled carpenter of Bhatbair 
who is a Rajput and is accepted as such in every respect, although he 


makes his living in precisely the fashion of low-caste carpenters and in 
their company. Another highly respected Rajput of Sirkanda worked 
for a Vaishya shopkeeper as a servant in the trading village of Nagal. 

Outside Employment 

Residents of Sirkanda and Bhatbair have not been attracted in 
large numbers to outside employment. Most of those who have, have 
been gone only a short time. A frequent pattern of adolescent male 
behavior is running away from the village. Boys often go to the plains 
to wander around, see the sights, engage in sporadic employment, and 
in a few months return to remain in the village. At least this has been 
the pattern until the present. Perhaps with improved preparation 
through the village school and increased job opportunities outside, 
the high return rate will decrease. 

Six recent cases of the kind concerned boys 13 to 15 years of age. 
Two, a Brahmin and a Rajput, ran away together to Delhi, where they 
worked for three months in a tea stall washing dishes and delivering 
tea at Rs. 15 per month plus board and room. They came back after 
they had had enough of city life and had been unable to find more in- 
spiring or remunerative labor. As one said, "You could spend all your 
life washing glasses in a tea stall and never get anywhere." A black- 
smith boy had run away to Dehra Dun twice, staying three or four 
months each time and working once in a tea stall and once in an em- 
broidery shop, at Rs. 15 per month. One boy was taken by an employer 
from Dehra Dun to Naini Tal, 100 miles to the southeast, where he 
worked as a kitchen boy for seven months before coming home. Another 
worked in a dairy south of Delhi for five months and then returned. 
Two boys left during the winter of 1957-1958 and had not yet been 
heard from seven months later. More than once people from neighbor- 
ing villages came through Sirkanda in quest of runaway sons. At least 
five older men in Sirkanda recounted similar youthful adventures. 
That not all return is indicated by the fact that three or four men were 
listed in the genealogical survey as having disappeared from the village 
in their youth and having never been heard from again. 

Needless to say, such short-lived escapades result in little economic 
gain for those involved, and by the time worried relatives have gone 
to look for and bring back the truants, as is frequently done, the finan- 
cial loss to the household is appreciable. 

Not all outside employment is of this youthful and transitory nature. 
One young Sirkanda Rajput left the village as a result of a family dis- 
pute (there is nearly always some such motivating incident), and got a 


job in a textile mill in an industrial suburb of Delhi. He has been at 
it six years, has been promoted, and has no intention of leaving the 
job. He occasionally visits Sirkanda, but does not keep in close touch 
with his family and sends little or nothing in the way of financial aid — ■ 
partly because he spends most of what he makes (Rs. 120 per month) 
and partly because the family dispute has alienated him from his 
household. In the minds of villagers, he is the single example of a 
local boy who has made good on the outside. Another young man left 
the village early in the period of my residence to join the millworker. 
He got a job at Rs. 70 per month at which he was still working a year 
later, and he gave no indications of quitting. He had hoped to send 
money home but had as yet failed to make enough to enable him to do 
so. His departure — in secrecy — worked a real hardship on his family, 
as he was one of only two adult males available to work the land upon 
which ten people depended for livelihood. 

One Rajput had left the village several years previously to escape 
some outside creditors, and ended up running a tea stall for over two 
years in Kalsi, a town in the Dehra Dun valley 20 miles to the west. 
He returned at the urging of relatives, stayed three years, and again 
left for an unknown destination. Two Sirkanda Rajput men had been 
in the army during World War II, though neither left India. Both 
returned to the village after demobilization. One, however, neglected 
to procure a discharge and was later picked up and forced to return 
to the army where he is today, having served about ten years in two 
periods. Both these men sent money to their families sufficient to con- 
tribute substantially to the support of their dependents, though in both 
cases they and others felt that economic as well as emotional ties 
would have been better served by their presence in the village. Several 
other men of Bhatbair, but outside Sirkanda, served in World War II, 
including men of Rajput, blacksmith, carpenter, and shoemaker castes. 
A carpenter and a shoemaker who work for Sirkanda families had each 
served several years in both the African and Pacific theaters of opera- 
tions, one with American and the other with British troops. All these 
men were able to make sufficient income so that their families did not 
suffer. One deceased Sirkanda Rajput served in World War I, as did a 
Rajput shopkeeper from a nearby village. 

Dehra Dun is not an industrial city and does not offer many em- 
ployment opportunities for people who are uneducated, as are most 
Paharis of this region. This situation probably contributes to the low 
rate of outside employment. Two educated young men of villages on 
the edge of Bhatbair near Dehra Dun (a Brahmin and a Rajput whose 
wives are from Sirkanda) have gotten jobs in that city — one with a 


small government ordnance factory employing primarily skilled per- 
sonnel, and the other with the office staff of a limestone quarrying com- 
pany which operates near Bhatbair. Both make about Rs. 100 per 
month and live at home, so that they contribute a substantial amount 
to supplement the agricultural income of their families. 

The total number of Paharis in the ordnance factory is only ten or 
twelve, and the others are all from a neighboring region in Tehri 
Garhwal. The husband of another Sirkanda woman who lives in the 
Bhatbair village nearest Dehra Dun has become wealthy as a result 
of having been given the contract to maintain the Rajpur canal, which 
supplies much of the water used in Dehra Dun. 

One Sirkanda Rajput moved to Sahas Dhara, a small trading center 
and site of a popular religious shrine five miles below Sirkanda, where 
he made his living for many years as a shopkeeper and where he is 
now retired. A Sirkanda-born blacksmith makes his living in the same 
place, largely from the work he gets from commercial limestone quar- 
ries in the area. 

These make up the sum total of Sirkanda men, plus a sampling of 
others from Bhatbair, who have engaged in outside employment. The 
importance of such employment to village economy is small, though 
possibly it presages things to come. To the present, no Sirkanda vil- 
lager has relatives resident in Dehra Dun. No Sirkanda couple 
or larger family unit has migrated from the village to a larger center. 
One of the men who was in the army took his wife with him for a 
period of about six months and then brought her back to Sirkanda. 
The man who recently went to work in the cloth mill sent without 
success for his wife, but would not come back after her. Rarely is out- 
side employment considered more than a temporary activity. Rarely 
is the type of employment available spoken of by others with approval 
or admiration. Nearly every person who has left the Bhatbair area to 
work has done so surreptitiously and without advance warning. Other 
aspects and implications of these defections, and of outside experiences 
and contacts in general, will be discussed in chapter 9. 

Illegal Economic Activities 

Liquor is manufactured independently by two men in Sirkanda, 
a Bajgi and a blacksmith. In other villages other castes engage in this 
activity, but most are nonagricultural castes, probably because they 
have more time to devote to such side-line enterprises and more need 
for the additional income. Since to sell untaxed liquor is illegal, there 
is an element of risk, and therefore of secrecy. Usually the distilling 


apparatus is so designed as to be easily and quickly disassembled, and 
always it is well concealed. Any particular distillery may close down sud- 
denly and indefinitely if the owner fears detection by outside authorities, 
whose approach is usually, of course, relayed well in advance. Detection 
can lead to fine and imprisonment or demands for large bribes. The liq- 
uor is made by soaking any of several grains in sugar and water for about 
a week, and then distilling it. The product has a high alcohol content. 
It is drunk for effect rather than taste and is in constant demand at 
R. 1 per bottle. No celebration is complete without liquor. Liquor 
manufacture and selling is a profitable business, especially at festival 
times, when the demand generally exceeds the supply. 

Marijuana is also produced in the village. Its addicts mix it with 
locally grown tobacco and smoke it to produce a euphoric effect. Its 
sale is illegal, and the two or three Sirkanda men who use it prepare 
their own or buy it illegally from neighboring villagers. 

Another much publicized and criticized illegal activity of hillmen is 
the traffic in women. Although its prevalence has been exaggerated and 
it is evidently on the decrease, it has at times been an important ac- 
tivity among certain people of all castes. The procedure is simple: 
Pahari women of any caste but especially of the low castes, and almost 
invariably married women, who are unhappy with the hard and simple 
life of the hills and who have heard and have been convinced of the 
luxuries and pleasures of plains life, are helped by a Pahari, often of 
their acquaintance, to travel to Dehra Dun or some other center. There 
they are turned over as wife to a contact man. The woman may live 
as the wife or concubine of this person permanently or temporarily, 
she may be turned over to someone else seeking a wife or concubine, 
or she may be utilized in prostitution. The Pahari's profit in the trans- 
action is in the initial payment made by the man who received the 
woman to the one who delivered her. One transaction may net the 
"abductor" several hundred or a thousand rupees, which is clear profit, 
as the wronged husband is unable to collect compensation unless he 
can find the person who was responsible, effect his arrest, and press 
court action. Occasionally a husband or other family member may 
cooperate in the transaction. 

Sisters and wives of people now living in Sirkanda have been sub- 
ject to this experience. One Bajgi woman currently resident in Sirkanda 
had been abducted and sold in her youth, but she returned after a few 
years. More commonly such women are not heard from again. Tula, 
the hereditary Brahmin of the village, was one of a trio, together with 
a Rajput and a Bajgi, who carried on this traffic some 25 years ago. 
They were apprehended, convicted, and imprisoned. Only Tula re- 


turned, one man having died in prison and the other having escaped 
and disappeared. Tula's priestly standing seems to have been unaf- 
fected by the incident. The men of one whole Rajput household in the 
village were at one time actively engaged in this trade; several were 
eventually caught, and others left the region to escape prosecution. 
Several Sirkanda men have occasionally profited from participation in 
such transactions, as recently as the past ten years. Most of these were 
not members of a professional gang, as were Tula and the household 
mentioned above, but rather were men who took advantage of an op- 
portunity when it arose. Several factional disputes in Sirkanda can 
be traced to incidents of this nature. 

Throughout North India the hills are thought of as a source of pros- 
titutes, sought after for their beauty and lack of inhibition. Paharis and 
plains people alike assert the truth of this statement, at least as ap- 
plied to the states bordering the hills. This is not to say that there are 
prostitutes in abundance in the hill areas, but rather that many pros- 
titutes come originally from the area. Apparently the process described 
above accounts for the transportation of a good number of women to 
the plains. The custom of "bride-price" marriage in the hills facilitates 
such transactions, as it is customary to take money for women in per- 
fectly valid marriage arrangements. It is not uncommon for men from 
the plains to come to the hills looking for brides from poor families 
who may not be too inquisitive or particular about their credentials. 
Some of these men are genuine seekers of wives. At least two low-caste 
Sirkanda women are today in distant places as the wives of such men, 
and are apparently happy. Some men have less noble motives. On the 
other hand prostitution is not despised by the lowest castes, from which 
these girls (at least those who are heard from again) usually come. It 
is an occupation providing a good income by Pahari standards and it 
has a certain glamour as compared with village life, because of its 
association with an urban setting. While not marriageable, these girls 
are not outcastes, and they visit their homes occasionally. A famous 
prostitute of Dehra Dun is the sister-in-law of two Sirkanda Bajgis, and 
prostitutes of Mussoorie and Dehra Dun who come from villages in 
the vicinity of Bhatbair are known and patronized, at a discount, by 
Sirkanda men. 

Division of Labor by Sex 

Paharis work hard to make their living and in return they are 
able to lead a fairly secure existence. Men, women, and children 
above the age of about eight years all make their contribution to 


family economy. The men are the heads of the families and make the 
decisions in economic matters. Men do all the plowing and other 
cultivation of fields that is done with animals. They also generally 
sow the fields. Men market the produce and do the family's trading. 
They deal with all outsiders and outside agencies, though women, 
too, participate in buying from peddlers. Men see to the construction 
and repair of houses and fields; they make and maintain household 

Women cook and care for children. They collect most of the fodder 
for animals and, with the children, tend the animals most of the time. 
They take care of the manure, dry it, store it, and are primarily respon- 
sible for seeing that the fields are fertilized with it. They carry most 
of the water for the family and animals. They winnow the grain 
after it is threshed and prepare it for storage. When the time comes, 
they prepare the food for cooking. They do unskilled labor in assist- 
ing the men in constructing houses, terracing fields, and clearing land. 

Men, women, and children all take part in weeding crops, harvest- 
ing, and threshing, though men are often engaged in plowing by the 
time the harvesting and threshing are well under way, and so they 
participate relatively little in them. Everyone collects firewood. All 
spin wool into yarn and knit yarn into garments in their free mo- 

In the artisan and priestly castes men do the specialized work and 
women perform nearly the same tasks as do women in exclusively agri- 
cultural families. In the tailoring and basketmaking castes they may 
occasionally help their menfolk do some of the stitching or weaving. 

One of the most striking features of Pahari life is how hard the 
women, in particular, work. Even a person who has been accustomed 
to plains villages, where women, especially those of the lower castes, 
are far from idle, cannot help being struck by this feature of Pahari 
life. Women are almost constantly at work carrying headloads of 
fodder, firewood, manure, water, grain, flour, and, in building season, 
rocks and clay — often herding cattle or goats at the same time. They 
are frequently gone from the village most of the day collecting grass, 
leaves, or firewood and tending animals in the forest. On moonlit 
nights at harvest time they often come out to work after the evening 
meal, from ten to one at night. They are rarely idle. Men too work 
hard, but the winter and rainy seasons are periods of relative inactivity, 
and in all seasons except plowing and planting they spend some time 
sitting, talking, and smoking. Children from an early age help their 
mothers, engage in herding goats or cattle, look after younger children, 


bring water, fodder, and firewood, and in the specialist castes learn 
the traditional trade. 

Cooperative Labor 

Most work in Sirkanda is done on a family basis or with hired 
assistance. There is, however, a tradition of cooperative group labor 
within the community which cuts across lines of kinship and caste. 
Such voluntary help (called madat dena, to give help) is undertaken 
when someone announces that he needs help on a task. On the ap- 
pointed day all those who are free to do so assemble at the place of 
work. The only people likely not to participate or to be asked to 
participate are those who have had a dispute with the person to be 
helped or with others closely identified with him. The principal oc- 
casion for cooperative labor is the transplanting of rice. Occasionally 
weeding of rice or of other rainy-season crops is done cooperatively. 
Special songs, vigorous, rhythmic, and heroic in theme, are sung by 
those who participate in such cooperative agricultural work. When- 
ever there is a great deal of carrying to be done over considerable 
distances, cooperative labor may be employed, as when wood, slate, 
or sheet iron is to be brought for house construction. Roof beams are 
lifted into place on a new house in this cooperative manner. After the 
work is completed the "host" serves some refreshment, but no formal 
obligation to repay is incurred. 

Village property, such as the water supply and the trails, are re- 
paired cooperatively when their condition demands. Since Inde- 
pendence there has been a tendency to feel that the government should 
look after the trails. Governmental attempts at enlisting the voluntary 
cooperative labor of villagers have met with little or no success, the 
common complaint being that the government servants who make 
the requests are paid employees, so they should do the work rather 
than asking villagers to do it. "What right has a salaried official to ask 
for voluntary work from others?" "Pay us sixty rupees a month and 
we'll do voluntary labor willingly." This attitude relates to a larger 
area of attitudes toward the government to be discussed in chapter 9. 


Property is normally passed down within the patrilocal extended 
family in this area. When a man dies his property goes to his sons 
as a group. If his wife is living it stays in her custody until her 


death or remarriage, at which time it goes to his sons. If a man leaves 
no sons and designates no son surrogate, his nearest male relatives 
(in order: brothers, father's brothers, father's brother's sons) take their 
place in the line of inheritance. This is at variance with Hindu law, 
according to Joshi, but it is in accordance with Khasa customary 

The distinct feature of Khasa agnatic succession is that the inheritance 
does not go to an individual, but to a group, which may consist of the male 
descendants of the propositus himself or of those of one of his ascendants. 
There is no rule of the nearer agnate excluding the more remote such as is 
found in Hindu law. The sons of a deceased brother take the share which 
their father would have received if he had been alive when the inheritance 
opens. . . . The distinction between undivided brothers or between full 
blood and half blood . . . has no place in Khasa customary law. . . . The 
rules of inheritance are based on the theory that agnates alone are entitled 
to the estate left by a deceased person, and that the ancestral land held by 
a person who has no male descendants reverts to the immediate parent stock 
and is distributable accordingly. (Joshi, 1929, pp. 296 f.) 

If there is no son, an adopted son, a daughter's son, or a son-in-law 
can be designated to substitute for a son, both in inheritance of property 
and in performance of the father's funeral rites. In each of these cases 
the heir must come to live in the house of the one from whom he will 
inherit (Berreman, 1962c). A son-in-law who assumes this function 
lives with his wife's father and is known as a "house son-in-law." Ac- 
tually the inheritance in such a case remains in the hands of the woman 
and ultimately passes on to her sons (or lacking sons, to her lineage 
mates) unless a bequest has been made to her husband. However, the 
husband has use of the land during his lifetime. This status is em- 
barrassing for the son-in-law in a patrilocal society, but it is sufficiently 
advantageous to all concerned that it occurs quite often. Since sib 
membership is patrilineal, this arrangement often results in a transfer 
of property to another sib. Houses and land in Sirkanda have been 
transferred in this manner to sibs other than those in which they were 
originally held. 7 If no lineage claimants exist, property reverts to the 
village, not the caste. A woman's jewelry is treated as her husband's 
property for purposes of inheritance. 

Incorporeal property such as jajman or gaikh clients and the he- 
reditary title of mukhia — a village leader — is inherited similarly. 
Where, as with a hereditary title, there is a single, discrete entity to 
be passed along, it goes to the eldest son. Where no son is left, in- 
corporeal property, like other property, may go to a near male agnate 
or may be assigned to the husband of a daughter who lives in her 


father's house, and thence to the daughter's son, or it may go directly 
to a daughter's son who comes to live in his mother's father's house. 
Thus the Sirkanda barber inherited his clients from his mother's 
father. As with corporeal property, the arrangement often results in 
transfer of the property to another sib. 

In this patrilocal society the levirate is practiced: a wife is inherited 
by her husband's eldest surviving brother or equivalent relative. At 
least, first claim to her is so inherited and the decision as to whether 
she will become his real wife, or the wife of another brother, or not, 
is left to him. If she wishes to marry a nonfamily member (as she 
often does) she is generally allowed to do so but, unless she runs away 
(as she also often does) or receives special permission, payment has 
to be made by the new husband to the family of the deceased husband. 
When a woman leaves or is left by her husband, her children generally 
remain with their father's family. In this way property is kept in the 
patrilocal extended family. 



Most Paharis are Hindus, as evidenced by their own profession of 
faith and by application of any realistic definition of that term to 
observation of the behavior they exhibit and the beliefs they profess 
relating to the supernatural world. 1 D. N. Majumdar (1944, pp. 139 ff.) 
supports this statement in his discussion of the people of Jaunsar- 
Bawar: "The Khasas are Hindus; their customary rites in temples, 
the manner and mode of offering sacrifices . . . periodical festivals 
... all indicate their Hindu origin . . ." 

They are not orthodox Hindus. That is, they are not highly 
Sanskritized or Brahmanical in that they do not adhere closely to 
written prescriptions and proscriptions of post-Vedic Hinduism (cf. 
Srinivas, 1952, p. 30; 1956). This unorthodoxy is evidently confusing 
to many who are familiar with Khasas. Majumdar, a few pages be- 
yond the above-quoted passage wherein he verifies the Hinduism of 
the Khasas, says: 

While the Khasas claim to be Hindus . . . their social life as well as their 
beliefs and practices connected with their religion do not identify them with 
the Hindus of the plains. They re-marry their widows, practise levirate, 
sororate and polyandry, recognize divorce as legal, while inter-marriage be- 
tween the various Khasa groups is not tabooed and children born of such 
marriages do not suffer any social stigma. While they worship Hindu gods 
and goddesses, they have a partiality for ancestor spirits, queer and fan- 
tastic demons and gods and for the worship of stones, weapons, dyed rags and 


symbols. The sun, the moon and the constellations are their gods. (Majumdar, 
1944. P- 15°) 

Paharis themselves are well aware of these deviations from high-caste 
orthodoxy of the plains, and in fact they often actively try to emulate 
plains rituals in order to raise their status in the eyes of other Hindus. 
That their unorthodoxy makes them any the less Hindu is contra- 
dicted by a comparison of their own traditions, practices, and beliefs 
with the range of equivalent traits among village Hindus elsewhere 
in India (cf. Cohn, 1954, pp. 174 ff.; Dube, 1955, pp. 88 ff.; Lewis, 
1958, pp. 197 ff., 249 ff.; P. M. Mahar, 1957, i960; Marriott, 1955a; 
Opler, 1958; Planalp, 1956; Srinivas, 1952). 

Hinduism in Sirkanda shares virtually all of its forms with that 
in the rest of Bhatbair, most of its forms with that in Tehri Garhwal, 
many with that in other Himalayan hill areas, some with that in 
North India, and fewer with all-India Hinduism. 

In this context it is useful to utilize the concept of "spread" of 
Hinduism and the terms "local Hinduism," "regional Hinduism," 
and "national Hinduism" (Srinivas, 1952, p. 213). "Spread" refers to 
the area (horizontal spread) or social groupings in an area (vertical 
spread) within which traits associated with Hinduism are distributed. 
". . . As the area of spread decreases, the number of ritual or cultural 
forms shared in common increases, as the area increases, the common 
forms decrease" (Srinivas, 1952, pp. 213 f.). 

Morgan (1953, pp. 3 ff.) notes that Hinduism is "ethnic rather than 
creedal," pointing out the difficulty in distinguishing its essential fea- 
tures in view of its tremendous diversity. Dube indicates something of 
this diversity and the complexity of beliefs which make up village 

A text-book knowledge of the religious lore of India, and an acquaintance 
with her ancient classics and their modern expositions will hardly give us 
a true picture of the actual religious beliefs, thoughts, feelings and practices 
of the people now living in the countryside. A classification of their religious 
beliefs and rituals is not an easy task. Folklore and myths, religious teachings 
of saint-poets, and contacts with persons having knowledge of scriptures and 
popular religious books have all influenced their religious ideology, and 
consequently their religion is a mixture of animism, animatism and polytheism, 
with the occasional appearance of monotheism also. To these must be added 
a living faith in spirits, ghosts, demons, witches and magic. The complex of 
all these diverse factors constitutes the picture of the supernatural world as 
it is understood by the people in the countryside. Tenets of classical Hinduism 
having an all-India spread are mingled with the regional religious beliefs 
and forms of worship current among the Hindus of the [particular area]. 


Several cults and worships of a purely local nature add furdier to the 
complexity of the beliefs and ritual system of the community. A wide 
variety of cults is observed by the family, some by the village as a whole; 
and still others by individual caste groups. (Dube, 1955, p. 88) 

Despite its diversity, there is a basic unity to Hinduism by which it 
may be recognized. Morgan (1953, pp. 6 f.) identifies this as lying in 
"common scripture, common deities, common ideals, common beliefs, 
and common practices." Srinivas makes a similar statement and then 
characterizes the elements of Hinduism according to their spread. He 
describes all-India Hinduism as "chiefly Sanskritic" in contrast to the 
more limited spread of most non-Sanskritic elements in regional and 
local Hinduism. By "Sanskritic," Srinivas means those elements of all- 
India Hinduism which are recorded in the classic religious literature 
and are often called Brahmanical or post-Vedic Hinduism by other 
writers. They are frequently identified as the "great tradition" of Hin- 
duism, while local, regional, and even universal Hindu beliefs and 
practices which are not included in the "literate religious tradition" 
are identified as the "little tradition" (Redfield, 1955; Marriott, 1955a). 

It is apparent to any student of village religious practices and beliefs 
that there is a considerable body of non-Sanskritic elements of all- 
India spread (cf. Berreman, 1961b). Care must be taken not to confuse 
"little tradition" with "local spread." Many elements of "little tradi- 
tion" as conventionally defined are regional, national, or greater in 

In this chapter religion will be presented in terms of beliefs and 
practices regarding the supernatural as they were observed and re- 
ported in and around Sirkanda. Part of the purpose is to illustrate one 
variety of the genus village Hinduism. Another is to point out specific 
examples of the great and little traditions as they manifest themselves 
in this village and to throw some light on the relevance and limitations 
of these concepts in the village context. In so doing, the evidence for 
and the nature of Sanskritization, or change from adherence to the 
elements of the little tradition to recognition and practice of the 
elements of the literary tradition of Hinduism will be mentioned. The 
more immediate purpose, as in the preceding chapters, will be to 
furnish prefatory material for the discussion of social organization to 
follow, and to illustrate the functions of kinship, caste, and community 
ties in the religious sphere of life. 

Religious Beliefs 

The supernatural is almost as pervasive in the minds of Sirkanda 
villagers as is the natural, though to an observer it may be less readily 


apparent. Difficulty of any kind — crop failure, ailing animals, economic 
reversal, mysterious loss of property, persistent family troubles, disease, 
sterility, stillbirth, hysteria, death — is attributed ultimately to fate and 
more immediately to the machination of one or another of a host of 
supernatural beings. A sizable amount of time, effort, and money is 
invested in activities designed to influence these beings to tread lightly 
on the people of Sirkanda. Most of these activities are carried on at the 
joint-family level, some at the community level, and, in this area, prac- 
tically none at the caste level. 

The supernatural beings who affect humans range from capricious 
sprites, malevolent ghosts, and ancestral spirits to household, village, 
and regional gods. On another level is a general belief in inevitable fate 
(mukadar, bhdg) controlled by a remote, impersonal, and ultimately 
supreme deity, Bhagwdn or Nardyan. This deity is neither personified 
nor worshiped. To it is attributed almost any event or circumstance 
worthy of notice and beyond immediate human control. Such com- 
ments as "It is God's will," "God only knows," and "It is in the hands 
of God," are frequently made by villagers. There is no effective means 
by which to deal with Bhagwan or his manifestation in fate, although 
villagers may occasionally direct an appeal for mercy or help to him in 
a general way, as "God help me." Nevertheless there is lively interest 
and activity in influencing events by propitiating the many specific 
deities and other supernatural beings which are thought to control or 
influence daily life. When the inconsistency which an outsider may see, 
between belief in inevitable fate and simultaneous efforts to influence 
or control events, is pointed out to villagers their answers are vague 
but not defensive because their belief is not threatened. Such incon- 
sistencies are considered irrelevant. One informant affirmed that fate is 
inevitable, that Bhagwan controls fate and cannot be influenced, but 
that worship of specific deities is still necessary "because gods are 
closely associated with fate." And there the matter rests. Evidently it 
is through gods that fate is accomplished. 

The effects of predestined and unalterable fate are everywhere ap- 
parent. To demonstrate its importance a villager pointed out that a 
potter makes many pots that look alike, and yet each has a different 
subsequent history. That is fate. Similarly, men are born essentially 
alike but no two lead the same life. The classic example was that of 
myself. "There are millions of Americans and none of them have ever 
heard of this small and distant village. There are thousands of villages 
in India to which no American has ever come. Now you have come to 
live here. Is not that evidence enough of fate?" Death, disease, dis- 
ability, poverty, wealth, beauty, travel, marriage — all are attributed to 
fate or God's will. Weather too is predetermined. Yet these are pre- 


cisely the things which villagers seek to control through their worship 
of various gods. Late in the dry season I asked a villager when it would 
rain. His characteristic reply was: "I do not sit with Bhagwan, nor am 
I his brother." But before the week was out he was one of many who 
participated in a ceremony calculated to please specific deities who 
control the weather and thereby to bring rain. Of course, since every- 
thing is controlled by fate, my informant could retreat to the argument 
that it was the villagers' fate to carry out such worship with the pre- 
ordained results. 

Closely allied to belief in fate is the belief in reincarnation. It is 
believed that the present condition of any being is largely determined 
by his deeds in previous lives. "As you sow, so will you reap." Present 
deeds influence fate after death and in future lives, but they have no 
effect on the present life. An informant commented on the point, 

Fate in life is determined before birth and nothing can alter it. If a man 
has given much gold in charity in a previous life he will in the next life 
be a raja, if he has given grain he will be a money-lender, if he has taught 
others he will be a great leader like Nehru, if he has killed a female or 
thirsty wild animal he will be a leper or blind, if he was a slanderer he 
will be an idiot, if he did not give ritu dan [seasonal charity — man's obliga- 
tion to have sexual relations with his wife after her menses each month] 
he will starve sexually. 

Disappointments are nearly always rationalized in terms of fate as 
determined by misdeeds in previous lives. A Brahmin from the village 
nearest to Sirkanda had such an explanation for the nagging, unat- 
tractive wife with whom he had been saddled. When his friends asked 
him why he was so unfortunate he reflected at length and finally re- 
ported that in a previous life he had been a crow and his wife a camel 
on whose back he had sat, pecking and worrying her. Now it was her 
turn to get revenge. His friends urged him to leave her, but he replied 
that he could not as this was his fate and it could not be escaped by 
running away. 

Low-caste status is always attributed to misdeeds in previous lives, 
while people who commit misdeeds in the present are thought to be 
ensuring punishment in future lives. The idea of life after death (and 
particularly the time between death and reincarnation) is a vague and 
confused one to villagers. Many have no systematic conception of what 
occurs, and others hold firmly to mutually contradictory views. But all 
agree that acts in this life determine the nature of the next life. Punish- 
ment for misdeeds may include a long period after death in which 
the soul wanders in suffering as a ghost before finding a body in 


which to be reborn. Then it may be reborn as a crawling worm or 
insect, or in an undesirable human condition. A good life is rewarded 
by rapid transit of the soul to another body so that the cycle of 184 
births through which it must pass may be quickly accomplished and 
the ultimate goal attained — heaven or, according to learned Brahmins, 
unity with the infinite. The new body will be, in such cases, one that 
is desirable: if animal, a bird that can fly and enjoy itself; if human, 
of a high caste, in a pleasant locale with access to good food. Light 
skin color, beauty, health, wealth, many sons, and happiness are also 
considered rewards. 

Station of birth is, therefore, no accident. A low-caste informant who 
had probably pondered the matter more than most Sirkanda people, 

America and England are pleasant places where everyone is wealthy and 
comfortable. To deserve such good fortune the citizens of these countries must 
have been very pious Hindus in their previous lives. On the other hand, 
in those countries people do many evil things in their lifetimes. They eat 
meat, especially beef, they eat eggs, they kill people in great wars. It is a 
very sinful life. After death they must be punished by being reborn in filth, 
poverty and sorrow — namely, as low-caste people in India. 

He felt that this must certainly be the case, though he admitted the 
circularity of the sequence and had not solved the problem of how one 
could escape the circle. 

The same informant considered birth as a Pahari to be punishment, 
partly evident in the hard work, poor food, and primitive living condi- 
tions which Paharis must endure. Another reason was also given: since 
nothing in life is chance — all is part of the larger design called fate — 
to be born in circumstances where sin punishable by low birth is in- 
evitable is in itself a punishment. Thus, to be born a Pahari, where the 
sin of taking the life of animals in sacrifice is part of regular religious 
practice demanded by local deities, is not an accident; it is an indirect 
kind of punishment in that it will lead to further punishment in future 
lives. God or fate uses it as an excuse for further punishment. The 
informant referred to this as an "excuse of fate." Perhaps it is considera- 
tion of such factors that accounts for the widespread Pahari joke, 
"When we Paharis die we are reborn on the plains as donkeys." This 
logic might also explain the peculiar fate of Americans as deduced by 
the informant. Awareness of punishment in future lives does not lead 
Paharis to give up animal sacrifice, nor would it prevent them from 
behaving like other wicked Americans were they to be reborn in Amer- 
ica. It is all fate and cannot be altered. Paharis accept their fate phil- 


osophically. A blacksmith who had learned from a Brahmin who read 
his horoscope, that he had been a raja in his previous life and was 
destined to be a merchant in the next shrugged when asked what he 
thought of the prospect, and said simply, "I am adaptable." 

After a birth a Brahmin is called to read the horoscope of the new- 
born. This tells with perfect accuracy all that has befallen an individual 
in past lives and all that will befall him in the present and future lives. 
Everything pertaining to the individual's past and future is there to 
be read. Where inaccuracies occur the Brahmin is either incompetent 
or misinformed. The latter is most often the explanation, as accuracy 
depends upon precise reporting of time of birth. As the villagers 
point out, in a community with no clock this is a difficult feat. 

Deeds in life which lead to punishment in future lives include fail- 
ing to give charity, physically hurting others, exploiting others or 
taking their property, and taking to evil ways — robbery, killing, steal- 
ing, cheating, lying, covetousness. Breaking caste rules was not in- 
cluded by informants. Upon inquiry, low-caste informants held that 
this is a social, not a spiritual, matter, and is to be enforced by man, 
not God. This is in contrast to traditional Hindu doctrines of caste 
duty and destiny, doctrines which high-caste people profess. All groups 
relegated rules regarding incest, exogamy, endogamy, and other sexual 
behavior to the secular realm. 

The things Pahari men aspire for in life regardless of caste include: 
sufficient money to satisfy wants and a surplus to lend out on interest, 
good land, good crops, good cattle, hard-working and obedient sons, 
and profit in whatever transactions are entered into. Stories and anec- 
dotes illustrating the importance of good deeds to reap desired re- 
wards in future lives and, conversely, the dire consequences of evil- 
doing in this life, are many, vivid, and well-known in Sirkanda. 

It is within this general context of belief in an impersonal, all- 
powerful supernatural force called Bhagwan, evidenced in unalterable 
fate, that other beliefs regarding the supernatural are held in Sirkanda. 
This is in conformance with the great tradition of Hinduism. 

In everyday life in Sirkanda people think about and deal with re- 
ligion in terms of immediate problems of their welfare and that of 
their families. The supernatural agents who are closely involved in 
these matters are personal, personified beings whose behavior influ- 
ences and can be influenced by people. The effective social unit for 
dealing with most of these beings is the household. As in economic 
activity, so in religious worship, the extended family is the most sig- 
nificant element of social organization. 

Village religious life in Sirkanda, as elsewhere in India, is primarily 


concerned with the maintenance of proper relations with supernatural 
beings who have power over the members of the family and of the 
village. Their displeasure is easily aroused by neglect and is quickly 
evident in the several kinds of difficulties, notably illness, which beset 
their negligent worshipers. Fortunately, they can usually be placated. 
Their form, origin, and affinities are of less significance to villagers 
than are their effects and the means to placate them. Some of these 
beings are gods or goddesses which affect the entire village, or which 
affect only particular households. Others are ancestral spirits. Other 
categories of powerful supernaturals are ghosts and sprites. Some of 
the gods can be traced to the great gods of Hinduism, but others cannot. 
Some spirits are ghosts of dead relatives or of known types of individuals, 
while others cannot be traced to specific people or to people at all. 
These facts are of interest, and are often known, but are of little im- 
mediate relevance to the villager. All such beings are active forces 
which must be recognized and dealt with in specified and often similar 
ways, or else their subjects will suffer well-known and dreaded conse- 

Before describing the patterns of worship and the exorcism of these 
beings, it will be well to comment briefly on the phenomena usually 
described as supernatural possession. Possession is a common occurrence 
in Sirkanda in the cause, diagnosis, and alleviation of difficulties of 
many kinds. But it is not a uniform process. Its nature varies with the 
type of supernatural being involved. 

A shaman voluntarily induces his personal familiar spirit to possess 
him and speak through him to his clients. He does this by chanting 
certain phrases, playing a drum, and performing other acts pleasing to 
the spirit. When the spirit leaves it does so without ill effect. Its good 
will is maintained by the shaman's worship. 

Anyone may be possessed by a household deity attracted by the 
drumming of pujaris during worship of a household god. Such posses- 
sion results in the deity's dancing in the worshiper's body, and some- 
times in his speaking through the worshiper. No one knows who will 
be possessed, but possession is expected to result from the activities of 
the pujaris on these occasions. 

At village-wide worship, individuals often become possessed by 
village gods, just as they do by household gods in household worship. 
Generally the person whom a particular god will possess is known as 
the traditional vehicle through which that god dances and, more rarely, 

In all the above cases the god is attracted by drumming, the rhythm 
of which induces him to engage in the pleasurable activity of dancing. 


One god, Memendia, possesses people unexpectedly and then calls for 
music to dance by. A god's presence is indicated by the behavior of the 
one he possesses — especially by trembling, rolling of the eyes or fixed 
staring, insensitivity to touch or pain, incomprehensible speech, and 
generally uncontrolled behavior. Once a god is present, he is honored 
with incense, gestures of devotion, and so on. 

Such possession is described by a phrase meaning that a god has 
"come to the head" of his devotee. It is never harmful to the one 
possessed, and the deity leaves voluntarily. In fact, the possessed person 
is said to be immune to pain or lasting harm inflicted while he or she 
is possessed. Gods do harm individuals, but not as a result of possession. 
A god who is angry will possess his victims only briefly in order to tell 
them what they must do to appease his anger and to relieve themselves 
of his punishment. 

Harmful possession is of a different order, described as "adherence" 
of a ghost. It occurs unexpectedly. Usually it can be terminated only 
by strenuous exorcism by a specialist. Ghosts are not worshiped. Only 
by forcing the ghost to leave can the harmful effects of such possession 
be alleviated. The fact of ghost possession is indicated by the harmful 
effects of the possession — great pain or other inner torment, illness, 
misfortune, barrenness, stillbirths, mental derangement, physical im- 
pairment, or even death. Ghost possession usually follows severe stress 
on the individual. Calamity, frightening illness, the death of a friend 
or relative, interpersonal strife, and physical exhaustion immediately 
preceded cases of such possession in Sirkanda. Possession is a satisfactory 
explanation or excuse for almost any behavior. The one possessed is an 
object of solicitude rather than condemnation. Possession therefore 
appears to be a psychological mechanism used to alleviate stress, to ex- 
plain otherwise incomprehensible and often taboo behavior. While 
women are more often subject to this kind of possession than men, it is 
by no means limited to women. 

Some spirits can harm people without possessing them, merely by 
"striking" them. In the case of one type of sprite, such harm is not ma- 
licious nor intended, but once it has occurred it is irreparable. Its only 
symptom is the harm done, usually a sudden physical, sensory, or mental 

Pattern of Worship 

The details of worship of various supernatural beings in Sirkanda 
vary. There is, however, a basic pattern underlying most worship in 
the village. In order to make subsequent descriptions clear and varia- 


tions more obvious, the general pattern of worship will be presented. 
In outline it bears many similarities to worship by plains villagers. 

Most supernatural beings make their presence felt by imposing diffi- 
culties or troubles upon people — usually disease or death to people or 
animals, and sometimes other troubles such as hysteria, faithless 
spouses, sterility, poor crops, dry cows, financial loss, or mysterious 
disappearance of belongings. "Above all a prevailing health anxiety is 
suggested by the data regarding ghost and spirit possession" (Opler, 
1958, p. 566). In such cases the householder usually repairs at once to 
his favorite shaman (baki), or sometimes to a less prominent practi- 
tioner, to find out what is causing the trouble (cf. Berreman, 1961a). 
The only supernaturals regularly worshiped without illness or other 
difficulty as a signal that worship is demanded, and therefore without 
the advice of a shaman or other practitioner, are village gods (to be 
defined below). Such worship follows the pattern to be described here 
except that consultation with the shaman is omitted. It is relatively 
infrequent as compared to the worship recommended by shamans, 
which occurs somewhere in the village every few weeks. 

A shaman is a man who may be of any caste and who is devoted to a 
particular deity for whom he acts as medium in the diagnosis of diffi- 
culties. It is from this practice that the shaman makes his living. He 
generally holds regular sessions which his clients attend. First he con- 
ducts a short pujd (ceremony), and to the beat of a small drum he sings 
mantras (prayers or incantations) in honor of the god to whom he is 
personally devoted. Gradually, as the god takes possession of him, 
the shaman becomes impervious to pain, often demonstrating this by 
touching red-hot metal or by some similar action. The god when in 
complete charge speaks and acts in the body of the shaman. The god 
then singles out the various waiting clients one at a time and tells each 
what troubles he has had and what the cause is, that is, what super- 
natural being has been tormenting him, and what should be done to 
alleviate the trouble. The god may also identify human thieves or 
other culprits and point out objects that have deleterious magical 
effects. If the victim is not satisfied with the diagnosis he will merely 
say "The god knows better than I," and go elsewhere for advice until 
he finds a shaman who seems to have a more accurate god. 

The treatment recommended by a shaman is almost invariably per- 
formance of a puja in honor of the offending supernatural being, or 
exorcism if it is a ghost. In cases of theft the shaman will merely identify 
the guilty party. In cases of magical affliction he may identify the of- 
fending object and recommend its removal. Treatment may also be a 
pilgrimage or other specific action designed to please the god. In some 



very difficult afflictions, such as apparently incurable insanity, an im- 
possible recommendation may be made, such as sacrifice of a cow 
which, as Hindus, these people cannot carry out. The necessary puja 
is usually a stereotyped one for the particular deity to be honored. 
Sometimes the shaman may have specific recommendations as to how, 
when, or where the worship should be conducted. The shaman's main 
functions are to identify the cause of the trouble and to specify what 
action must be taken to alleviate it or to contact the being responsible 
in order to hear his demands. From then on the family of the victim 
takes steps to carry out the shaman's recommendations, for which 
special practitioners are required. In this respect the Pahari shaman 
differs from the shaman of the plains reported by Opler (1958) and by 
Planalp (1956). The plains shaman, with the help of his personal 
spirit, induces a god or spirit which has entered the body of its victim 
to make known its demands. Among Paharis the shaman does not take 
part in exorcism or in ceremonies in which the god speaks through 
its victim and is ultimately appeased. The Pahari shaman is primarily 
a diagnostician who is able to call upon his personal god at will, be- 
come possessed by him, and then diagnose the difficulties of his clients 
through the wisdom of the god. The Pahari sequence is virtually identi- 
cal with the shamanism of a Mysore village reported by Harper (1957, 
pp. 268 ff.). 

Some exorcists of ghosts (not bakis) function in a fashion similar to 
that of the plains shamans in that they perform both the diagnosis and 
exorcism, sometimes with the help of their own god. However, such 
practitioners are less frequently consulted and their advice is less val- 
ued. As often as not a shaman is consulted first, and he may direct 
his client to one of these practitioners to perform the exorcism. Ma- 
levolent ghosts are quite distinct from gods and ancestors and will be 
described later. The discussion which follows applies to gods and an- 
cestors only. 

Sometimes worship of a god or ancestor is held without first con- 
sulting a shaman. A less powerful diviner may be consulted because 
he is more easily available or has a reputation for accuracy. Occasion- 
ally no specialist is consulted at all, when the victims feel certain they 
know which god is responsible for their difficulty, either because of 
experience with similar past affliction or because of an unfulfilled vow. 
Worship may also be held to fulfill a vow before trouble has come to 
compel its performance. 

Vows are often made to gods and are a frequent antecedent to wor- 
ship. If a puja or other propitiatory act which has been recommended 
by a shaman cannot be performed at once for reasons of economy or 


conflicting obligations, a vow may be taken to perform it within a 
certain period. The vow has the same efficacy as performance of the 
puja itself provided that it is fulfilled. Trouble of any kind may be met 
by such a vow even, in some cases, without a shaman's advice. Whether 
or not a shaman is consulted, the vow itself is made without the services 
of a specialist. 

In order to carry out the pujas, most of which are undertaken on the 
advice of a shaman, one or more often two practitioners who specialize 
in performing worship for particular gods or classes of gods must be 
called. These pujaris (or a pujari and his assistant) arrange and per- 
form the puja at the request of the family who is to sponsor it. 2 The 
purpose of the puja is to ensure that the god is pleased or at least has 
a chance to possess one of his victims, dance in the victim's body, and 
through that person make known any further demands. It is a family 
member, never a specialist, who becomes possessed during the per- 
formance. These specialists may be of any caste, but usually they come 
from the low castes. They play percussion accompaniment for the 
dancing that is a part of every such performance and that brings the 
god to possess his worshipers. In fact, particular types of pujaris are 
known by the term for the kind of drum they play, which in turn is 
determined by the god they worship. For some village gods, Brahmin 
priests act as pujaris in that they perform the worship, and low-caste 
people merely play the drums for dancing. 

The ceremonial proceedings in such worship are in three major 
parts: the dance, the puja, and the offering. The entire sequence 
usually takes place before the shrine of the deity to whom it is dedi- 
cated, which is either in the house or somewhere in or around the 

Preparing the shrine is a simple process because, though it is ne- 
glected in the months or years intervening between occasions of wor- 
ship, it is so simple as to require little arranging. The shrine generally 
consists of one to four simple iron tridents (tirsul) of varying shapes, 
about eight inches in height, made by the local blacksmith. These are 
placed in a niche in the wall of an inner room if the shrine is a house- 
hold one, or at the base of a large stone or in a stone enclosure if it is 
outdoors. During the ceremonies the shrine is illuminated by a small 
oil lamp, and often a container of grain and a few coins are placed by 
it. Sometimes a small bag filled with rice and coins is hung near the 
shrine. Such accouterments are in the nature of offerings to the deity. 

The first stage of worship is the dance (kalratra, literally "black 
night" or "night for Kali"). It is intended to attract the gods or an- 
cestors who like to dance and who can do so in the bodies of humans. 


This in itself is pleasing to the gods. It also induces them to speak and 
air their complaints and demands if they wish to do so. Usually dancing 
occurs during an evening and again the following day. The puja to 
one god requires seventeen dances over a period of nine days. 

A kalratra or dance begins late in the evening of the appointed day, 
when householders, onlookers, and specialists assemble by the shrine. 
The pujaris begin to play their instruments, and one of them chants or 
sings sacred mantras (prayers or incantations) honoring the deity. 
During this time the god in whose honor the worship is being held, 
and often other gods and ancestral spirits as well, come and gradually 
possess people. The room is filled with onlookers, smoke, and heat, and 
it reverberates with the compelling rhythm of the drums. Gradually 
one or more members of the household and sometimes others as well 
begin to move in time to the drums, then to jerk, shout, and finally to 
dance, first gently and then wildly as they become possessed by a god. 
This period is called "awakening." The possessed person is honored 
with incense and religious gestures and is fed boiled rice because he or 
she is a manifestation of the god at that time. The dancing continues, 
with occasional breaks for smoking and talking, far into the night. 
Some people dance who are not possessed, or, if so, only temporarily. 
The same god may possess several people in sequence in one evening. 

Village gods are worshiped outdoors, usually at the dancing ground 
adjacent to the Pandavas' temple (to be discussed below), but some- 
times near Devi's temple. At that time any village god or gods may 
possess individual villagers. Household gods do not possess people on 
these occasions. In contrast to the nature of possession by household 
gods, there is one particular individual whom each village god usually 
possesses. Most often village gods utilize the state of possession merely 
to dance, but they may speak if they wish to. 

After the god has danced his fill, usually on the last night of the 
kalratra, he may leave or may choose to speak. If the latter, the dancer 
becomes immobile, speaks unintelligibly ("It sounds like English," 
asserted one informant), and then begins to answer questions put to 
him. This stage is simply called "questioning." The god tells the cause 
of his anger and the action necessary by the victimized household to 
appease that anger. Usually he demands a goat or other sacrifice, but 
sometimes he asks for a more elaborate puja. The god also gives advice, 
solves dilemmas, and issues warnings and ultimatums. When he is 
through, he so states, the drums of the pujaris beat briefly, the god de- 
parts, and the session is over. The possessed person shows no after- 
effects and does not remember the period of possession, although I 


noted that some showed a remarkable ability to recall the number and 
subject matter of photographs taken during possession. 

Shortly after the god has left, the pujari and the victimized members 
perform a short ceremony or puja in the god's honor, and then make 
an offering. The offering to be made, usually a young male goat, is 
placed before the shrine and rice is thrown on its back by the household 
members as the pujari chants mantras. When the goat shakes itself, 
this is taken as evidence that the god has accepted the offering. There- 
upon the animal is taken outside and beheaded — usually but not al- 
ways by some low-caste person, as high-caste people consider this some- 
what defiling and prefer not to do it. Then a foot and the head of the 
animal and some delicacies such as bread and sweet rice are placed 
before the shrine as offerings for the god. Afterwards the pujari takes 
these items along with his fee of Rs. 1.25. The rest of the animal is 
divided among the participating householders and observers. 

The efficacy of worshiping gods to combat difficulties is not doubted 
by most villagers, and many cases of miraculous results are cited in 
support of their belief. One teen-age boy professed disbelief until his 
father, sick with pneumonia, began to breathe more easily as soon as 
the practitioner began his mantras. In the boy's words, "I never believed 
until I saw it work on my father. A dying man was saved by mantras 
to the god. That is proof." Another informant replied to my question 
as to the effect of such a puja in his household: "Of course it worked. 
We satisfied the god's every demand, didn't we?" On the occasion of an 
elaborate and difficult puja, an informant commented: "Why not go 
to all this trouble? It gets results. Gods are like lawyers; the more you 
give them, the more they will do in your behalf." 

The intended result of these observances is to alleviate difficulties 
attributed to deities, or in the case of worship of some village gods, to 
ensure their continued good will. An important latent function is that 
of providing entertainment, relaxation, and social intercourse for the 
spectators. At the same time they reinforce ties of kinship and village 
solidarity. There are few recreational activities for these hard-working, 
isolated people, and the occurrence of a puja of some sort every few 
weeks is a welcome break in routine. It is also one of the few occasions 
upon which there is widespread involvement in a common activity. 
Every such event involves participation of a group of kinfolk or of the 
entire village, and it plays to a full house of all castes including a large 
proportion of women and children who have less access to varied ex- 
perience and entertainment than do men. The behavior of the audi- 
ences at such exercises is very similar to that of cinema audiences in the 


big towns of the valley. They smoke, talk, wander in and out, and 
generally enjoy the show. 

More than once informants implied that a particular puja was held 
by someone (not of their own household) largely as an excuse to kill 
a goat and have a feast. Generally when a puja is to be held people lay 
in a supply of liquor, the perennial accompaniment of meat at Sir- 
kanda "parties." A kalratra for village gods, as distinguished from 
household gods, is largely a social and recreational occasion for par- 
ticipants and spectators alike, and only occasionally does a god seize 
the opportunity to talk or make demands of villagers. More often the 
gods merely enjoy this opportunity to dance, and many of the dancers 
participate without benefit of supernatural possession. 

The nature of worship of the gods honored in most of these pujas is 
definitely placative. It consists of efforts to appease angry deities, to 
cater to their cravings for worship and sacrifice. 

The truth is that popular religion in these hills is a worship of fear. . . . 
When famine and pestilence stalks abroad, village temples are crowded and 
promises of oblations are made; if the evil be averted these promises are ful- 
filled, if not the deity is frequently abused and his shrine is neglected. The 
efforts of all are directed to appease the malevolence of these spirits who 
are supposed to lie in wait to take advantage of any error willingly or un- 
willingly committed. . . . (Atkinson, 1884a, p. 839) 

Villagers themselves sometimes describe their worship as motivated 
by fear. One man asserted, "If a god can do no harm, it has no power 
and need not be worshiped." Another commented, "All gods are bad, 
but Nor Singh and Agorndth are the most terrible of all." Most gods 
are feared for the power they have to punish men who incur their 
wrath. The exceptions are certain village gods, to be discussed below. 
Even they have the power to punish, but they are primarily benevolent. 
The prevalence of disease, untimely death, and unpredictable mis- 
fortune stands as a constant reminder of this power. Fear of gods is 
continually reinforced by attribution to them, especially by shamans 
and diviners, of almost every misfortune that occurs. If a god whose 
worship depends on fear fails to make his power felt by punishing 
people, he is rarely or never worshiped and is soon forgotten. Anxiety 
is maintained by the fact that misfortune often strikes where it is least 
expected. However, though fear is an important motive, it is not help- 
less fear. Gods do not punish randomly or capriciously. They punish 
when punishment is due. The offense is generally unintended and is 
often unknown or unrecognized, but a shaman can usually detect it. 
Most often the offense has been that of neglecting the god — failing to 


worship adequately. The offense may have been one against the god 
or against one of his devotees; the essential thing is that the god has 
interpreted it as an action or oversight deserving of punishment. The 
victim is not helpless. In fact, he has at his disposal extremely effective 
means of appeasement, which are sometimes difficult and often ex- 
pensive, but are rarely beyond the realm of possibility. The efficacy of 
these means is attested by the many spectacular successes people recall, 
the routine reliance upon them, and the readily available alternative 
explanations for apparent failures. 

Therefore, Sirkanda villagers do not lead a life dominated by helpless 
terror of the gods they worship. Observation of worship reveals a range 
in individual attitudes from relative indifference to enthusiasm, from 
apprehension to confidence. It seems that gods are treated much as are 
powerful people. They are feared insofar as it is well known that their 
anger can lead to serious consequences. On the other hand, it is known 
that the means to prevent or assuage their anger are at hand and are 
often easily put into play, as is not often the case in dealing with 
powerful secular forces. The prevailing attitude is one of respectful 
awareness of what are conceived to be the realities of life in a world 
where ultimate powers are in the hands of divine beings, whose anger 
is easily and often unwittingly aroused, but whose demands are com- 
municated to their subjects and can usually be met. Worship is the 
means by which these dangerous beings are controlled. 


By far the most active class of supernatural beings in Sirkanda are 
the gods and goddesses (devta, devl) or, as they are sometimes referred 
to in English, the godlings. Gods indigenous to Sirkanda are referred 
to in the village as ghar ka devta (household gods) or kul devta (family 
gods) and are thereby distinguished from gods of other villages and 
other regions. Any god to which local people are devoted is isht devta. 
These terms are used loosely and often interchangeably in the village. 
However, an analytic distinction can be drawn to categorize deities in 
Sirkanda as household gods and village gods. Household gods will here 
be defined as those gods worshiped consistently by the members of a 
particular household as a group, usually within the house, where the 
shrines are kept, and not worshiped jointly with the members of other 
households, nor with the aid of Brahmin priests. Devotion to these 
gods is passed down in the lineage. Village gods are those gods wor- 
shiped jointly by all or nearly all villagers at some central shrine 
called a temple (mandir) in or near the village. The worship is usually 


under the supervision of a local Brahmin priest. One worships these 
particular village gods because he is a Sirkanda villager. Other dif- 
ferences between these two categories of gods will be mentioned in the 
course of discussion of each class. This dichotomy is not commonly, if 
at all, noticed by villagers, though it is evident to the observer of re- 
ligious behavior in the village. Neither is it a rigid distinction. Some 
household gods have gradually shifted to become essentially village 
gods. Some village gods have been adopted as household gods by one or 
two families. Occasionally particular households worship village gods 
individually at their village shrines. Certain village gods are not wor- 
shiped by every household. Some household gods in Sirkanda are vil- 
lage gods in other areas, and vice versa. A distinction is, however, use- 
ful for purposes of presentation. In the beginning it is usually the god 
himself, speaking through a shaman or some other person, who directs 
the type of shrine and worship to be given him. 

Household Gods 

Six major household gods are worshiped in Sirkanda homes: Nar 
Singh, Manglla, Gauril, Nag Raja, Agorndth, and Dhagbairu. 3 Each 
of these gods is worshiped by certain households and not by others. 
Thus, of the 45 Sirkanda households, 41, none of whom are Brahmins 
or Bajgis, worship Nar Singh; 28, all Rajputs, worship Manglia; 13 (1 
Brahmin, 7 Rajputs, 1 blacksmith, and 4 Bajgis) worship Gauril; 13, 
all Rajputs, worship Nag Raja; 3, all Bajgis, worship Agornath; 2 
Rajput households worship Dhagbairu. These gods appear in villages 
throughout the area. Not every village contains households worshiping 
each of them, and some have households worshiping other gods, but 
the pattern is the same and none of these deities is unique to a par- 
ticular village. Every household which worships one of these gods, 
except some of those worshiping Nar Singh and Nag Raja, has a 
shrine, called "god's place," dedicated to that god, and usually the 
shrine is inside the house. In those houses worshiping more than one 
god, which includes all but five of the 45 in Sirkanda, separate shrines 
are kept for each god. When joint families divide, each new household 
unit sets up its own shrines to the family gods. 

Household gods are the most acutely feared gods worshiped in 
Sirkanda. They are worshiped as long as, and to the extent that, they 
demonstrate their power and interest by tormenting household mem- 
bers and placing demands upon them. Each is usually worshiped in 
ceremonies directed exclusively to him and calculated to alleviate 
trouble attributed to him by a shaman. The god has generally been 
displeased by neglect of worship or unfulfilled vows. However, trouble 


may also stem from a plea to the god by one of his devotees who wishes 
to inflict harm. A god can be induced, by worship, sacrifice, or vows, 
to attack one's enemy if the enemy is either a nonworshiper or a 
less faithful worshiper of that god. The victim learns the cause of his 
trouble by consulting a shaman. To alleviate the attack, the victim 
must worship the god. If he is not already a devotee of the god, he 
must worship that god in some house where there is a shrine — and 
generally no other household wants to become involved with the god's 
wrath — or else he must set up a shrine of his own, in his own house. 
Then he becomes the god's devotee and must continue to worship him 
because the god thereafter frequents his house. 

Three recent cases were reported in Sirkanda, in each of which a 
wife found that her husband was having illicit sexual relations with 
another woman. Thereupon the aggrieved wife verbally abused the 
other woman in public. In response to this abuse the other woman set 
her household god's wrath upon the wife. A puja to that god therefore 
had to be performed in the house of the wife, and her husband thereby 
acquired a new household god. In another case a policeman was set 
upon by the god of a household whose members he had apprehended 
for selling diluted milk. He had to worship their god, thereby acquiring 
him as a household god, and to reimburse them. These examples, in 
addition to their relevance to an understanding of village religion, 
provide an interesting indication of attitudes on sex and interpersonal 
relations (to be discussed in chapter 5). 

The most common source of a new god in a household is a bride, 
who usually comes from another village. Her household god frequently 
goes or is sent with the girl to her new home and protects her in- 
terests there. Such a god is known as mathzva devta, as distinguished 
from the ghar ka devta that already frequents the household. If the 
bride is mistreated in her new home or if her family is slighted at 
the wedding or in subsequent situations, the god will attack the family 
of the groom. This may happen at any time after marriage. Then it 
is necessary for the groom's family to placate the god by worship. If 
the god is one not already worshiped in the house, a new shrine must 
be set up for him and thereafter he is a household god, although at 
kalratra he will usually possess only the bride and will voice his de- 
mands through her. Later he may possess her daughters-in-law or other 
female relatives. 

A household god may also be acquired if a shaman diagnoses some 
misfortune as the work of a god who has not previously been wor- 
shiped or even known in the household he has attacked, and who is 
not acting on behalf or at the bidding of a worshiper. The god simply 


demands attention and utilizes this means to acquire it. In any event, 
the result is the same in that the god must be worshiped to be ap- 
peased. He then acquires a shrine, bringing occasional trouble and 
demanding occasional worship. 

Therefore, although most of the household gods currently wor- 
shiped in Sirkanda have been in the families of their worshipers for 
several generations, the acquisition of new gods is not an unusual 
event. Several informants remembered when their families began to 
worship current household gods. Likewise, as interest in old gods is 
lost, they lose significance and are finally forgotten. When new houses 
are built or families separate, the members will not bother to devote 
shrines to ineffectual gods, while in the old family home those shrines 
may be ignored. Some Sirkanda villagers remember that their im- 
mediate ancestors worshiped none or only some of the present gods, 
but most are unable to specify which ones were worshiped previously. 

A special household ceremony is performed to protect a new house 
and its occupants from alien gods and spirits. It is similar in purpose 
to the village-protection rite to be mentioned below, but it protects 
the household group rather than the village. It is called literally, "house 
pot." In the ceremony an all-night puja is performed in which a pot 
containing certain sacred items is sealed into the house wall, where it 
remains to protect the household from disease, accident, violent death, 
financial reversal, and crop failure. 

Other ceremonies associated with the house and household members 
are those performed by carpenters when they place doorframes and 
the ornamental archways in a new house, and those performed by 
Brahmins to purify a house after pollution by violent death or by 
occupation by low-caste people, anthropologists, and the like. All assure 
the future well-being of those who occupy the dwelling, and inhibit 
the depredations of alien supernaturals. The only occasion upon which 
Brahmin priests regularly participate in worship of household gods 
is during the marriage ceremony, when the good will of the gods is 
secured by invoking a brief blessing. 

Village Gods 

There are seven shrines in Sirkanda devoted to what are here 
termed village gods. All are in the immediate vicinity of Sirkanda, the 
most distant being that to Matri a. half-mile away on the crest of the 
bill which dominates the village (map 3). 

All village gods are worshiped at village temples (mandir) rather 
than in the home, and usually a Brahmin conducts the worship rather 
than a low-caste pujari. Village gods are distinguished from household 


gods primarily by this greater honor and by the fact that their relevance 
and worship is not household-specific. Some may have begun as house- 
hold gods, but they have not remained as such. All village gods can be 
and occasionally are worshiped by all or nearly all villagers. A few 
households, lineages, or sibs are partial to certain village gods and 
not to others, but there is not the pattern of household devotion or 
non-devotion found with household gods. Several temples are identi- 
fied with particular lineages whose members are temple keepers, main- 
taining the temple, supervising worship there, and receiving offerings 
on behalf of the god, but worship at a village temple is not private or 
limited to particular households. 

Worship of village gods does not follow a uniform pattern to the 
extent found among household gods, though the same elements of 
worship occur — kalratra, puja, sacrifice. The worship of village gods 
tends not to be as specific or mutually exclusive as that of household 
gods. Often several village gods are worshiped together in a single 
ceremony. Each village god possesses some villager at ceremonies in 
his honor and often at other village-wide ceremonies. Most village gods 
possess the same individual each time they appear. When that individ- 
ual dies they usually shift to another member of the same lineage, sib, 
or clan, but sometimes they shift even to another caste. The god's 
possession of an individual is thought to be auspicious for the whole 
village, not merely or even especially for that individual's lineage or 
household as in the case of household gods. Village gods speak to their 
worshipers less frequently than household gods and torment them less, 
usually being content to dance occasionally in their bodies. 

Village gods can inflict troubles on their worshipers, but they are 
less cantankerous and hence less feared than household gods. Worship 
of them does not depend upon fear of the consequences of failure to 
worship to the extent that is true of household gods. While most village 
gods are sometimes worshiped to alleviate specific difficulties which 
according to a shaman's diagnosis they have imposed or can counter- 
act, they are often worshiped simply to maintain the status quo of 
village life. Thus, they figure in periodic worship and that performed 
in stereotyped situations, as well as in worship indicated by a shaman's 
diagnosis. Finally, they are more permanent than household gods in 
the village pantheon. Household gods come and go; village gods rarely 
do so, partly because they are not so dependent on a shaman's advice 
for their continued relevance to village life, and partly because they 
enjoy village-wide interest and support which is less fickle and less 
subject to alteration by happenstance and petty disagreements. 

As with worship of other supernatural beings, worship of village gods 


is influenced by shamans because they can attribute difficulty to these 
gods. However, most troubles are attributed to household gods — per- 
haps because most difficulties strike household units — and so shamans 
are less vital in trends of worship of village gods. 

Among village gods there are differences of form and function that 
are worth pointing out and using as classificatory criteria. 4 The classifi- 
cation used here is arbitrary, its recommendation being that it permits 
orderly presentation and comparison. Two village gods, Memendla 
and Bhartwali, are comparable to household gods in several respects, 
and so they can be grouped to form a class of "household-like" village 
gods, on the borderline between these two categories, just as Nar Singh 
and Nag Raja are household gods bearing similarities to village gods. 
These two village gods are worshiped to avoid or counteract difficulties 
which they may inflict on the village. Like household gods they are 
respected to the extent that they are thought capable of inflicting pun- 
ishment. Bhartwali is said by some to be Bharat, described in the 
Ramayana as the brother of Ram, who is an incarnation of Vishnu. 
The temple keeper for Bhartwali is the local Brahmin priest. Memen- 
dia, like several village gods, has no specific temple keeper. 

A similar god is Raghunath, the only god to whom a real temple 
building is dedicated in the village. He is worshiped by all village brides 
and grooms, at the time of their wedding, under the supervision of a 
Brahmin priest and with the aid of the Rajput temple keeper whose 
family built the temple three or four generations ago. The god is also 
worshiped by the entire village at the crop ceremony and at almost any 
ceremony honoring village gods. Like the paramount gods described 
below, he is likely to dance in the body of a particular person — in his 
case a Rajput woman — at village-wide kalratras. In addition, Raghu- 
nath inflicts punishment on particular households. Two Rajput house- 
holds worship him at the temple in a fashion and under circumstances 
similar to those under which a household god is worshiped. He is the 
most dangerous village god and is among the most powerful. It appears 
that he is becoming one of the paramount gods of the village. A few 
villagers identify him with Shiva, but in the region he is usually iden- 
tified as the grandfather of Ram, an incarnation of Vishnu. Another of 
Vishnu's incarnations (Parasii Ram) is said to be separately depicted 
in the Raghunath temple. Bhairu, a god associated with Shiva, is also 
said to be represented in this temple. 

One village god, Lhesania, is specific to an age group, children. He is 
associated with the coming of spring and is honored at that time by 
children. He is not feared because he does not inflict punishment. 
Two village gods are primarily associated with agriculture, crops, 


and weather. These are Matri, evidently a form of mother goddess, and 
Bhula, god of the soil. They are worshiped to ensure success in agricul- 
ture, often in ceremonies including offerings to both of them as well 
as to Devi or other village gods. 

Two village gods, Devi and the Pandavas, are paramount in Sir- 
kanda, in that they are distinctly more highly regarded by most villagers 
than are other gods. They are worshiped on a wide variety of occasions 
for many purposes, and their worship is of more general interest than 
that of other gods. Together they receive village-wide worship at most 
important ceremonies. They are appealed to in times of village-wide 
trouble and are honored to ensure success or good fortune in the village. 
They are thought of primarily as protectors who deserve honor rather 
than tormentors who must be placated. These gods are thought to take 
a special interest in Sirkanda and its people, and to have had a par- 
ticularly intimate association with it in the past. Consequently, 
the villagers feel closely identified with them. Part of being a Sir- 
kanda villager, as distinguished from being a member of another vil- 
lage, is this identification which cuts across all other divisions within 
the village. At the same time, these gods' relationships to individuals 
and families in the village are usually not as specific and personal as 
those of household gods. They are, to a greater extent than other gods, 
identified with the welfare of the entire village. In some contexts they 
are even identified with broader entities such as the residents of Bhat- 
bair, or Paharis, or even mankind. They are more closely identifiable 
with "all-India Hinduism" than are most gods of this region. 

Devi is a local version of the Hindu mother goddess, Durga. A temple 
to her, 15 miles to the northeast, is the most important temple in west- 
ern Tehri Garhwal. She is honored in a small temple in Sirkanda as a 
sort of village patroness. She dances in the body of a village woman at 
nearly all occasions of worship of village gods and assumes special 
significance in ceremonies having to do with the crops and weather. 
Such ceremonies are carried out at her temple. She therefore forms 
something of a link between "agricultural" and "paramount" village 
gods. She traditionally possesses the barber's wife at public ceremonies. 
The barber's family now worships her as a household god, in their 

Sltala Devi, the smallpox goddess of the plains, is known to Sir- 
kanda villagers, but no shrine or worship in her honor is found in the 
area, perhaps because smallpox is rare and of little interest to people 
in these hills. Apparently she is assimilated with Devi in the minds of 

The most honored deities or complex of deities in Sirkanda, and as 


important as Devi in Bhatbair and the surrounding Pahari area, are 
the five Pandava brothers and their common wife Draupadi (locally 
Dropt'i), whose story is told in the Hindu religious epic Mahabharata 
where they are described as having lived in these very hills. Every 
village of the area has its shrine to the Pandavas. Adjacent to this shrine 
is the village's ceremonial center, a small open area called maDan 
(in Hindi, maidan, field) but frequently described by village folk 
etymology as mdndn from the verb "to please," "because that is where 
we please the gods." Here most village dances and public ceremonies 
are held and here all village gods take the opportunity to dance in the 
bodies of their worshipers, but the Pandavas are the gods most directly 
honored at the madan. The Pandavas' puja is the most important vil- 
lage ceremony. It comprises part of almost all village religious activities, 
including the all-important village protection and boundary rite known 
as Mundklle. This ceremony is devoted to worship of the Pandavas 
and a number of other village gods, prominent among whom is Devi. 
Its immediate aim is to protect the village as an entity by excluding 
malevolent ghosts and alien gods from its boundaries. (For a more de- 
tailed description see Appendix IIIB.) It is usually financed by village 
subscription, though in some circumstances a well-to-do family may 
sponsor it. In any case participation and benefit is village-wide. Al- 
though most village gods play a part in the ceremony, it is considered 
by villagers to be primarily for the Pandavas. In it we find evidence of 
the interrelation of village gods and of their distinctness from house- 
hold gods. Household gods do not appear during this ceremony. In 
face, they do not appear at all during worship of village gods, although 
the reverse occasionally happens. Not infrequently one household god 
appears during the worship of another, just as village gods appear at 
one another's pujas. 

A god of importance comparable to Devi and the Pandavas in this 
area, but not in Sirkanda village, is Mahdsii. This god, often identified 
as Mahddev or Shiva, but distinct from Shiva in the minds of most 
villagers, is the paramount god in some neighboring villages (cf. Sak- 
sena, 1955, pp. 40 ff.). Mahadev, whether equated to Mahasu or not, is 
consistently identified with Shiva, and like Mahasu is a major god in 
the area. He is worshiped in a number of ceremonies, the most elaborate 
of which is the spectacular rope-sliding feat peculiar to the Himalayas 
and known as beddRat (cf. Berreman, 1961b). When this is performed 
in the region, Sirkanda villagers attend and seek the blessing of the 
god (and his wife Pdrbatl), even though they do not worship him. 

It is important to note that there is wide variation among villagers 


in interpretation, practice, and reported practice in all ceremonies, 
the more so the more complex they are. The ceremonial sequence, 
number of sacrifices, and alleged objectives are not consistent. This 
variation was especially evident in the Mundkile ceremony, where 
even the participants differed in their explanations of what was going 
on (cf. Marriott, 1955a). 


Pilgrimages are frequently undertaken for reasons similar to those 
motivating worship of village or household gods. A person suffers from 
some trouble or disease such as, in one recent case, weeping ulcers. A 
shaman is consulted and advises the sufferer to worship at a particular 
holy place, in this case Kedarnath. The person vows to do so and sac- 
rifices a goat to his god, whereupon he recovers. At the first opportu- 
nity he undertakes the journey to fulfill the vow. People also go merely 
to see the temple or to give charity there in order to attain credit to- 
ward the next life. A number of middle-aged high-caste men of Sir- 
kanda have been on pilgrimages to Hardwar, Kedarnath, Badrinath, 
and a few to distant Gaya. At least one woman and one low-caste man 
have been to Badrinath. Many tales of the wonders of these holy places 
and the miracles which regularly occur at them are current in the vil- 
lage as the result of reports brought back by pilgrims or traveling 
ascetics and priests. The fewer villagers who have seen a place, the more 
numerous and amazing are the stories. Many villagers — about twenty- 
five men — have been to Hardwar to bathe in the Ganges or attend 
funeral rites, and there is relatively little lore about it, but there are 
many stories of the wonders of remote Kedarnath. 

Equally current, among low-caste people, are the stories of discrim- 
ination, disappointment, and denial of access to these places experi- 
enced by their caste-fellows who have made the trip, despite official 
denial of such practices. The one village blacksmith who had gone to 
Kedarnath nonplussed the priests by his presence (fellow pilgrims had 
complained) and was not allowed access to the temple. Eventually he 
was shown the temple padlock and told to worship that. 

Closer and less prominent temples such as that to Devi at Kuddu 
Kal and several in nearby sections of the valley are occasionally visited 
in order to fulfill vows or contribute charity. Caste discrimination at 
these, as in fact at the Raghunath temple in Sirkanda, is as strict as at 
the large and famous shrines. Post-Independence laws and pronounce- 
ments regarding nondiscrimination in access to temples have been un- 
enforced and totally ignored in this part of India. 



Gods of the Great Tradition 

Concepts and deities contained in the great religious literature of 
India are known to Sirkanda villagers as a result of their own tra- 
ditions and of outside contacts. Traveling priests and ascetics occasion- 
ally stop in the village and recite religious works and stories. Residents 
of the village occasionally attend religious celebrations such as Ram 
Lila, the annual dramatization of the religious epic, Ramayana, which 
is held in towns and villages of the valley. They also attend fairs, 
moving pictures, and ceremonies held in the larger centers. Much of 
the knowledge so acquired does not readily penetrate into the daily 
thought and action of these people because of the imperfect manner 
in which it is communicated and the alien context in which it is ac- 
quired. Among Paharis, plains (desi) beliefs and practices are often 
considered sophisticated and even worthy of emulation, but, as they 
are observed in casual contacts with plains people, they usually seem 
alien and inapplicable to the Pahari context. More potent sources of 
such knowledge are the local schoolteacher, villagers who have gone 
to school outside the village, and especially practicing Pahari Brahmins, 
all of whom communicate plains Hinduism in a Pahari idiom. 

There are devout and learned Brahmins in Tehri Garhwal, among 
them Har Nam, who counts most high-caste Sirkanda households 
among his clients. Such Brahmins read standard Sanskritic Hindu 
literature and utilize the standard procedures described therein in their 
ceremonial duties. In some areas they have reportedly contributed to a 
high degree of emulation of plains Hinduism. Har Nam, on his visits 
to Sirkanda, is without doubt the most vocal advocate of plains Hindu- 
ism in the village. The influence of such people in Sirkanda has been 
insufficient to alter significantly many of the basic beliefs or practices 
of villagers, but they have not been without effect. Superficial famil- 
iarity with certain deities and concepts identifiable with the "great 
tradition" but alien to the hills has resulted from the influence of these 
Brahmins, among others. Its superficiality is indicated by the fact that 
many of these deities and concepts are not integrated into the religious 
life of the village or region. 

On the other hand, some aspects of the great tradition are an old 
and integral part of Pahari Hinduism. The story of the Mahabharata, 
including especially the Pandava brothers and their wife, their allies, 
and their enemies, is an example. The god Shiva, relatively recent in 
Hinduism but now universal, may even have originated as a Pahari 
god. Belief in fate and reincarnation, practice of certain annual and 
life cycle ceremonies, and many other religious features could extend 


this list. Many of these great traditional elements are as old as Pahari 
culture, which like all cultures is constantly changing and adding ele- 
ments. In any case they confirm the Hinduism of these people and 
their ancestors, but they do not alter the fact of its regional distinctive- 
ness nor the significance of its deviations from plains orthodoxy. 

Beliefs and knowledge of such aspects of the great tradition as cos- 
mology and the origin of man and the universe vary with the experience 
of individuals. Broadly they conform to ideas held by village Hindus 
elsewhere in India. Some village Brahmins have read or heard religious 
works and the explanations given therein. People who have attended 
schools have heard the teachers' explanations, which are likewise based 
upon the great tradition, with a smattering of Western science. Every- 
one has heard Brahmins or others give various explanations along these 
lines. Most villagers, however, simply have no consistent or fixed opin- 
ions on these subjects. If asked they will repeat stories they have heard 
which are widespread in India, such as that the earth was created when 
an egg broke in half forming the earth from one half and the sky from 
the other, and that the earth is held on the horns of an ox. The prob- 
lem is apparently not relevant to most villagers. 

It is possible to identify among the deities of local significance in 
Sirkanda evidence of relationship to prominent gods in the literary 
tradition of Hinduism. These relationships are often vague, sometimes 
not extending beyond the similarity of name or form. To many villagers 
such relationships are largely or totally unknown, while to others, 
though known, they are ignored or their significance is virtually nil. 
To educated people and especially to practicing priests these relation- 
ships are known and often magnified. The trend toward emulation of 
plains Hindus and the attendant self-consciousness about local tra- 
dition on the part of educated people leads to the adoption of explana- 
tions for local beliefs and practices in terms of all-India and regional 
Hinduism where these probably did not previously exist and are un- 
recognized by most of the people. 

Four or five high-caste families in Sirkanda are alleged to own copies 
of one or more classic religious works, but they read these rarely if at 
all and none of them holds regular readings or worship. No Sirkanda 
family has religious pictures or objects other than shrines to local gods. 
The traditional Brahmin or purohit for the village (who lives in 
another village) does possess religious pictures representing gods of 
the great literary tradition, but he pays little attention to them or to 
their meaning. 

The effect of educated Brahmins is greatest in the conspicuous as- 
pects of plains Hinduism — in getting villagers to Sanskritize their cere- 


monies, particularly the marriage ceremony, and to observe some of 
the periodic all-India festivals. At the same time they have achieved 
some success in getting these Paharis to conceal some of their more 
flagrantly non-Sanskritic practices from outsiders, by communicating 
to them most of the responses and behaviors necessary to gain the ap- 
proval of plains Hindus. There is a general self-conscious reluctance 
among many Paharis, especially those of high caste, to discuss their 
ritual and religious practices, their marital regulations, and so on, and 
a tendency to present these as being closer to Hindu orthodoxy than 
they actually are. Here acceptability by high-caste non-Paharis and 
educated Paharis has been a major goal, and sophisticated Brahmins 
have been among its most active advocates. They have attempted to 
counteract the derisive connotation which the term "Pahari" and es- 
pecially "Pahari Brahmin" holds for many non-Pahari Hindus. It is 
toward the same goal that educated and prominent Paharis are striving 
when they recall and extol the sacred heritage of the high-caste hill 
people of this area. For these purposes conspicuous aspects of practice 
are more important than subtle aspects of belief. The religious and 
social changes in Sirkanda have been in the direction of the efforts of 
those who wish to bring about more of these outward changes. 
Crooke refers to the all-India spread of this process: 

If the chief of a forest tribe becomes for the sake of respectability an 
orthodox Hindu, he brings with him his tribal or village god, who becomes 
an incarnation of Vishnu or a manifestation of Siva. If a village shrine gains 
a reputation for miraculous cures of spirit diseases ... by and by a Brahman 
or an ascetic takes possession of it as a working concern, and develops it ac- 
cording to orthodox rule. (Crooke, 1926, p. 28) 

Srinivas (1956) is among those who have made the same point: 

Each region has its own body of folklore about the heroes of the Ramayana 
and Mahabharata and not infrequently, epic incidents and characters are 
related to outstanding features of local geography. And in every part of India 
are to be found Brahmins who worship the local deities which preside over 
epidemics, cattle, children's lives, and crops, besides the great gods of all- 
India Hinduism. . . . Throughout Indian history Sanskritic Hinduism has 
absorbed local and folk elements and their presence makes easier the further 
absorption of similar elements. The absorption is done in such a way that 
there is a continuity between the folk and the theological or philosophical 
levels, and this makes possible both the gradual transformation of the folk 
layer as well as the "vulgarization" of the theological layer. (Srinivas, 1956, 
P- 494) 

Here some of the apparent ties between beliefs and practices in Sir- 
kanda as compared to those found over part or all of India and in the 


literary tradition will be mentioned. The village gods of Sirkanda show 
closer affinities to gods of the great tradition than do household gods, 
and so they will be discussed first in this context. 

The Bhartwali shrine in Sirkanda is said by some informants to be 
in honor of Bharat, brother of Rama in the Ramayana epic. Kali, who 
possesses a low-caste woman during kalratras to village gods in Sirkanda, 
is the same in name as the Kali who is prominent in Hinduism as a 
deification of femaleness. In Sirkanda she is not so identified. Devi is 
apparently also a manifestation of the mother goddess and particularly 
the goddess known as Durga, who is popular in the hills as well as 
elsewhere. She is represented by Sirkanda informants as riding a tiger, 
the characteristic vehicle of Durga. 

Raghunath is identified by some in Sirkanda as Mahasu or Mahadev, 
generally described as other names for Shiva, one of the three great gods 
of Hinduism. In Kumaon, Raghunath is identified as Vishnu, another 
of this trinity (Atkinson, 1884a, p. 813). In Sirkanda this deity is as- 
sociated with Parasu Ram, an incarnation of Vishnu whose image is 
in the Raghunath temple. Shiva as represented in prominent temples 
is occasionally worshiped by Sirkanda people, and the commemoration 
of his birth is one of the Hindu festivals recognized in Sirkanda. Some 
historians of Garhwal believe that Shiva as an all-India deity originated 
in the beliefs of the aboriginal inhabitants of this area. (Cf. Bahadur, 
1916, pp. 73 f.) These are deities worshiped in Sirkanda which are di- 
rectly identifiable with gods of the great literary tradition. 

Two household gods have tenuous ties of this type: Nar Singh is the 
name of an incarnation of Vishnu, and temples are devoted to him in 
Garhwal. In Sirkanda, however, he is a household god. As such he is 
found throughout this region and is also reported for the hill region 
of Chamba (Crooke, 1926, p. 201). Nag Raja, the snake king, has a 
Shiva temple dedicated to him elsewhere in Garhwal (Atkinson, 1884a, 
p. 811). ". . . We have numerous traces of Naga worship in these hills, 
but now chiefly connected with the special cult of Vishnu or [less fre- 
quently] Siva" (Atkinson, 1884a, p. 835). Worship of this deity is non- 
Brahmanical in origin and is thought to have derived from the religion 
of the Nagas, a non-Aryan tribe of uncertain affinities and wide spread 
who have apparently long been displaced to the east or have been ab- 
sorbed in the later populations in Garhwal (cf. Atkinson, 1884a, pp. 
373 f.; Crooke, 1926, pp. 383 ff.). In Sirkanda, Nag Raja is a household, 
or at most a village, god. 

Paharis are generally described as Shiva worshipers, but in Sirkanda 
deities identifiable with Vishnu are more prominent. To Sirkanda 
residents, however, these affiliations are irrelevant and largely unknown. 


To them each is a deity in its own right, and none overshadows house- 
hold gods in their relevance to daily life. 

Notwithstanding the number and importance of the more orthodox forms 
of Vishnu and Siva in this portion of the Himalaya the non-Brahmanical 
deities . . . have far more worshippers and are more constantly addressed. 
. . . The common resort in times of trouble or distress is Goril . . . and the 
other village gods. (Atkinson, 1884a, p. 839) 

The general belief of Sirkanda villagers relative to the great tradi- 
tion of Hinduism, and the essence of their responses to inquiries de- 
signed to bring out relationships between their brand of village Hindu- 
ism and all-India Hinduism, were summed up by an informant who 
said, "The learned people know all those things, we don't. They don't 
concern us." 

The term "village gods" or "local gods" as applied to Indian villages 
should not be interpreted as meaning that these gods are unique to the 
particular village in which they are found. As a matter of fact, like most 
other traits of culture they generally occur over cultural-linguistic 
regions of fairly broad extent. Those that originate in a single village, 
say as a deified ancestor, are likely to spread to others as their fame 
spreads and as they accompany brides to other villages, until eventually 
their origin is forgotten or in dispute. Most of the non-Sanskritized 
deities, village and household, worshiped in Sirkanda are of this super- 
local character. "Goril ... if we judge from his general repute and 
the number of temples to his name, is the most popular of all deities 
worshipped by the lower classes in Kumaon" (Atkinson, 1884a, p. 821). 
A birth story recorded by Atkinson for Gauril is different but vaguely 
similar to that told in Sirkanda. Kali, who is a manifestation of the 
"mother goddess" in great traditional Hinduism and is associated 
with the Pandavas in Sirkanda, is reported by Atkinson (1884a, pp. 
821 ff.) in that story as the mother of "Goril." This relationship did not 
appear in my Sirkanda materials. Kalua, brother of Gardevi and as- 
sociate of Gauril in Sirkanda, is the name of an independent deity who, 
according to Atkinson, originated in a village in Garhwal as the spirit 
of a murdered man, and Masdn (Appendix I), is identified as a demon 
who inhabits cremation grounds. Bhuia is well known in villages 
throughout northern India as the "tutelary god of fields and boundaries, 
... a beneficent deity who does not as a rule force his worship on any- 
one by possessing them or injuring them or their crops" (Atkinson, 
1884a, p. 825; cf. Crooke, 1926, pp. 87, 92). 

Mahasu is a name applied to a group of four regional deities in 
Jaunsar-Bawar adjacent to Garhwal (Saksena, 1955, pp. 40 ff.; Atkinson, 


1884a, pp. 836 ff.). As mentioned above, the same term refers to a single 
deity sometimes equated to Shiva in Sirkanda. Reference has already 
been made to various regional interpretations of Nar Singh and Nag 
Raja. Devi shows similar variation. Such similarities, variations, dis- 
crepancies, and identities could be repeated many times over for the 
other deities of Sirkanda, and in fact for those of villages throughout 

Caste and Deities 

Religious belief and practice do not vary significantly by caste 
in Sirkanda. No caste gods, as such, are worshiped. Low castes do not 
engage in unique worship or hold beliefs that offer a clue to their 
presumed early cultural distinctiveness from the higher castes. In this 
Sirkanda differs markedly from plains villages, where caste differences 
in religious practice are pronounced (cf. P. M. Mahar, 1957; Cohn, 
1954, pp. 174 ff.; Planalp, 1956). Perhaps the absence of caste distinc- 
tions in Sirkanda's religion can be largely attributed to the relative 
lack of physical and social isolation of castes. We have noted, however, 
that certain gods tend to be identified with certain castes in Sirkanda. 
Informants point out that such distinctions are most likely to appear 
during village dances, when certain gods tend to possess members of 
certain castes. Thus, Bhartwali, if he were to appear, would allegedly 
possess a Brahmin, Memendia would possess a Rajput (though he has 
on occasion possessed members of all castes). A blacksmith (Lohar) 
would be possessed by a god called Kaludl Lohar if it appeared, and a 
Bajgi would be possessed by Kali Das. In practice in Sirkanda the last 
of these appears regularly, the first two rarely, and Kalual Lohar not 
at all. 

One low-caste informant commented that the gods do not recognize 
caste distinctions and they never punish people for breaking caste 
rules. As he said, "If gods were caste-conscious would Devi, who is such 
an important deity, possess the barber's wife?" The fact that high 
castes are apparently somewhat more aware of Sanskritic belief and 
ritual than low castes seems to be a result of their greater contacts 
with education and educated people rather than of any caste heritage 
of belief. 

Caste discrimination in worship has been mentioned in the dis- 
cussion of pilgrimages. Discrimination occurs in the village temples 
as well as in distant ones. At festivals and marriages low-caste members 
receive their blessings indirectly from the Brahmin, who flicks the 
vermilion paste onto some object as, for example, the drum of a Bajgi, 
and it is then applied to the Bajgis' foreheads by the owner of the drum. 


Low castes perform the same ceremonies and worship as high castes, 
but they do so separately or indirectly so as not to pollute the high-caste 
worshipers. They stand outside the temple to worship Raghunath, but 
they worship him as devoutly as do Brahmins or Rajputs. 


The spirits of deceased people may evolve into gods as was re- 
portedly the case with Kalua in Kumaon mentioned above, with Happy 
Eye in Kishan Garhi (Marriott, 1955a, pp. 212 f.), and Ghatal Deo in 
Rampur (Lewis, 1958, pp. 204 f.). In Sirkanda such spirits occur in a 
form closely resembling household gods in behavior and demands. 
Some of these might conceivably become minor gods — the first step in 
"universalization" or elevation to super-local status (cf. Marriott, 
!955 a > PP- 207 ff.). 

Such spirits occur in Sirkanda as rati, the spirit of a deceased male 
who returns to torment the household in which he had lived, and 
hanthia, the spirit of a female. These beings are identified by shamans 
and are worshiped as household deities by the households they afflict 
(see Appendix IC). The difference is that only one household worships 
each of these, and generally after a generation or two they are dropped. 

In Sirkanda there are currently thirteen of these ancestor spirits 
which afflict a total of eleven households, nine of which are Rajputs, 
one a barber, and one a Bajgi. Eight of the spirits are female. The re- 
lationship of these to living household members is as follows: four, 
and possibly five, are wives who do not want to be forgotten by their 
living husbands, two are mothers, and one is a co-wife. Of the five male 
spirits, three are father's younger brothers, one is a father, and one a 
brother, of current householders. They are worshiped in a manner very 
similar to that for household gods, and under similar circumstances. 

An ancestral spirit that has virtually become a devi or goddess and 
is, in fact, sometimes referred to by that term, is that of a village wife 
who committed satl (immolation on husband's funeral pyre). After the 
event no stone or monument was erected in her honor. People of the 
village gradually forgot about her noble act and failed to honor her. 
After some time the family of the woman began to suffer with boils 
and fevers, and their cows went dry. A shaman diagnosed the trouble 
as being due to neglect of the sati. Therefore the householders built a 
shrine to the shaman's specifications. This shrine is now the place of 
worship for the sati spirit or devi. So far its use has been limited almost 
entirely to the Rajput sib of the household who built the shrine, but it 


has extended within the sib beyond that particular household and 
lineage. It seems a likely candidate for a village goddess. 

All recent ancestors in each household are worshiped in an annual 
ceremony {kanagat, described in Appendix II), even though they have 
in no way afflicted their survivors. 


A variety of ghosts or malevolent spirits inhabit the countryside, 
unassociated with any one family or even any one village. They are 
usually the wandering spirits of deceased people who are wont to at- 
tack living people with results ranging from death to luckless fishing. 
In general these ghosts (bhuts) or demons (shetanths) attack at night 
and in dark places. Strange or unaccountable sounds, rock slides, and 
the like are attributed to them. None inhabit Sirkanda, but some are 
known to inhabit deep, jungle-covered ravines on trails leading into 
Sirkanda. Whistling, lights, and dislodged stones attributed to them 
are frequently encountered at night. Fear of them tends to keep people 
from traveling at night. 

The worst of the ghosts come to people and enter their bodies be- 
cause they are miserable disembodied souls seeking a body in which to 
dwell. Others are jealous of human beings, or merely cantankerous. 
However, possession by a ghost differs from that by a god or ancestor. 
The term for ghost possession is bhut lag gea (ghost has adhered) or 
chat patana (to cause torment as evidenced by trembling), as con- 
trasted to "sir a gea" (has come to a head) for possession by a god. 
Ghost possession is qualitatively different from possession by a god. 
Once a ghost has "caught hold" it will usually not leave unless forced 
out by exorcism. During the time it is in possession, it causes illness, 
unusual behavior, and even death. Insensitivity to pain is the usual 
diagnostic symptom of possession by a ghost. Other afflictions are: eyes 
rolled back, fever, inability to talk coherently, melancholia, some sen- 
sory disability or aphasia, catatonic adherence to a particular posture, 
illness, barrenness, or repeated stillbirths. Sometimes these afflictions 
may prove incurable because the ghost cannot be exorcised. Inexpli- 
cable sudden death is often attributed to ghosts. The very fact of pos- 
session by a ghost is harmful to the one possessed. A god, in contrast, 
bothers his victim without possessing him. He possesses only to dance or 
to speak. He does so temporarily without harm to the one possessed, 
and he leaves voluntarily. 

Ghosts do not attack as punishment for misdeeds or oversights, and 


they are not usually propitiated. They are avoided by means of charms, 
magical acts, or use of objects inimical to them. Once possession has 
occurred, they are driven out with the help of a professional exorcist 
who knows what will send them away. A few require sacrifice as ran- 
som before departing, but this is not considered to be propitiatory 
sacrifice in the sense of an offering such as is given to the gods. People 
simply pay off an evil spirit. There is no feeling of guilt or laxity, as 
they cannot avoid such spirits by worship in advance. 

Usually a shaman diagnoses possession by a ghost and refers the pa- 
tient to an expert in exorcism. Practitioners who exorcise ghosts can 
often do so simply by chanting appropriate mantras and placing a 
sacred mark on the victim's forehead. The ghost cannot face such sa- 
credness and must leave. Some ghosts leave under physical duress such 
as the application of a scorpion plant to the body, a mild beating, or 
blessed grain thrown in the face of its victim. Some require very com- 
plex rites of exorcism. Some can be exorcised only at certain places, 
for example, by running water, at a cremation ground, at a crossroads 
where a goat's or sheep's head has been buried. Some can be warded 
off by specific objects, words, or written formulas. Iron, black color, and 
scorpion plant are anathema to most ghosts. 

In appearance and effect as well as susceptibility to various types of 
exorcism, ghosts vary. All or nearly all have backward-turned feet and 
long fangs if they have human form. Some take the form of snakes or 
other animals; one looks like a white pillar, another like a bright light. 
They are adept at disguise. Some are prone to attack women, one at- 
tacks new mothers, another attacks men wearing blankets. Cremation 
grounds are populated by many ghosts — those of the recently dead, 
those which torment the souls of the dead, and those which feed on 
corpses. It is often remarked in Sirkanda that it is really ghosts rather 
than flames which consume the corpse. 

Special precautions are taken at cremation to ensure that nothing of 
the body remains for ghosts to use or torment sexually or otherwise, 
and to ensure that the spirit of the deceased will not be bothered by 
other ghosts. The spirit of a dead person wanders for at least thirteen 
days after cremation. No matter how well-loved the person was in life, 
his spirit is feared in the village until after the thirteenth-day ceremony, 
which allows it to settle in some body or at least to pass into a less rest- 
less condition. A new mother and infant are especially vulnerable to the 
jealous ghosts of women who died in childbirth. As protection, mothers 
carry iron sickles and black blankets when they go out and leave scor- 
pion plant and the sickle by their child or in the doorway when they 
are at home. 


In discussing ghosts of the dead and ancestors, it is worth noting that 
the dead who return to torment the living are those who are thought 
to have reason to be angry or jealous. They are usually those who died 
prematurely or are improperly mourned. A deceased wife torments her 
successor; a person who died prematurely, jealously torments the liv- 
ing; a woman who died in childbirth attacks young mothers; a father 
whose sons failed to give proper charity on his behalf at his funeral 
suffers in the afterlife and therefore plagues his sons; a man whose 
family neglected to perform the thirteenth-day ceremony after death 
cannot enter a new life, and so disturbs his family; a woman who 
brought honor to her family by immolating herself on her husband's 
funeral pyre torments her neglectful descendants. 

Ghosts are often categorized terminologically by their origin. Thus 
chuRail is the ghost of a woman who died in childbirth, and shaiad is 
the ghost of a Muslim. Eight named ghosts plus a number of unnamed 
ones were described by Sirkanda men. Some of these are well known in 
other areas. Crooke (1926, pp. 134, 171), for example, describes "churel" 
and "shahid" on the plains, corresponding to the two types mentioned 
immediately above. Others are doubtless of very limited distribution. 


One category of supernatural beings differs from others in that 
their effects on people are harmful but not malicious. These are the 
matriya (matris) or sprites associated with the goddess Matri, mentioned 
above and representing the ghosts of little girls. They live around the 
shrine dedicated to Matri, atop the hill overlooking Sirkanda, and their 
affinity to her may be based primarily on that fact (see Appendix IB). 
Sirkanda villagers think of them as a band of fast-moving, invisible, 
playful fairies who occasionally leave their normal abode on the hill- 
top to flit about over the countryside like a flock of birds or a swarm of 
insects. If a person happens to get in their way while they are traveling 
or cavorting, he will be struck with fatal or debilitating maladies such 
as insanity, blindness, deafness, muteness, or aphasia of various sorts. 
Sudden occurrences of such disabilities, without warning symptoms, 
are often attributed to these beings. The effects are considered incur- 
able, but the sprites have not inflicted them as punishment, nor is it 
done in anger or spite. It is simply an inevitable result of happening 
into the midst of matris at play. The matris are capricious and without 
malice. They strike people in passing rather than possessing them. 
Therefore, they cannot be propitiated or exorcised. They are a hazard 
to human beings — one that cannot be anticipated, avoided, or cured. 


"He just got in the way of the matris; it was his fate," is the way their 
afflictions are explained. Fortunately, the chances that one will be 
struck by them are slim, for like lightning and wild animals they strike 
rarely and over an area so large as to make direct contact with them 
unlikely. Perhaps one out of each thousand Bhatbair residents has been 
struck by matris. 

Their nature and activities are very similar to those of the acheri 
or fairies described by Traill. "These reside on the tops of mountains, 
but descend at dusk to hold their revels in more convenient spots. To 
fall in with the train, at the time, is fatal . . . : they occasionally also 
molest those who may cross the sites of their abodes during the 
day . . ." (Traill, 1828, p. 221; cf. Oakley, 1905, pp. 212 f.). 

It should be remembered that the categories of supernatural beings, 
such as sprites, ghosts, household gods, and village gods, as well as the 
subdivisions of these categories, are not entirely distinct and in practice 
constitute a continuum or spectrum of intergrading types of super- 
natural beings with similarities running through all. When informants 
recount memorable or recent instances of the machinations of super- 
natural beings, they often jump from one type to another and back 
again without pause, explanation, or even identification of the type of 
supernatural responsible. On the other hand, inquiry can usually pro- 
duce such identification. 

Supernatural Functionaries 

In a world beset by such a variety of supernatural troublemakers 
there are a variety of professional people whose job it is to deal with 
them. In Bhatbair these can be categorized according to the functions 
they perform, as priests, temple keepers, shamans, pujaris, diviners, 
exorcists, and curers. These categories are not necessarily mutually 

Priests maintain the system of Hinduism in ways prescribed in the 
great tradition. It is they who help people achieve a favorable afterlife 
and rebirth. Their primary responsibility is the long-range welfare of 
their clients. They perform the annual ceremonies and life-cycle 
rites as well as many special ceremonies. In addition they perform 
pujas to village gods, and they practice astrology and some forms 
of divination based on written prescriptions of Hinduism. They 
are the local experts on the great tradition, though their beliefs and 
daily practices in Bhatbair do not differ materially from those of other 

Temple keepers maintain particular shrines to honor gods, receive 
gifts on their behalf, and often lead or assist in their worship. 


The other supernatural functionaries deal with the exigencies of 
daily life relative to the supernatural. Their primary responsibility is 
the immediate welfare of their clients in this life. The shaman who 
diagnoses difficulties through the offices of his own personal deity, and 
the pujari who performs worship for household gods and plays drums 
to let the gods dance, have been discussed sufficiently above so that no 
elaboration is required here (cf. Berreman, 1961a). These two types of 
functionaries enable people to find out what deities are troubling them 
and how to appease them. The pujaris help in satisfying the deities' 

With regard to gods worshiped locally we can say that Brahmin 
priests are to village gods as pujaris are to household gods; that is, they 
perform comparable functions. By the same token, temple keepers are 
to the gods of their temples as household heads are to the gods of their 
households; they maintain the shrines and supervise the worship, 
though often specialists actually perform the worship. 

Aside from these there are a variety of specialists in several kinds of 
supernatural activities. These practitioners range from the lowliest 
shoemakers to Brahmins, but there is a heavy predominance of low 
castes. Their methods vary with their specialties, their place of origin, 
and in some cases their personal predilections. Although the specialties 
are not hereditary, the practitioner usually derives the necessary knowl- 
edge and skill from a parent or other relative who practiced before 
him and taught him the necessary lore. 

In Sirkanda there are two such practitioners, both Bajgis. Each rep- 
resents a common type of practitioner in the area. One is a diviner. 
He performs much the same function as a shaman in that he diagnoses 
trouble and divines the past and future, but he is without the shaman's 
personal god as his source of information. In this practice he uses at 
least two techniques of gaining insight, one involving a system of 
counting grains of rice brought to him by a client, and the other a 
system of reading significance in patterns of drawn lines. The second 
Sirkanda practitioner is an exorciser of ghosts and spirits. This man is 
credited with several impressive successes. He is especially adept at 
exorcism of ghosts which cause stillbirths. One of his techniques is 
that of jhdrd tdrd karnd (to do brushing away of evil), a term applied 
to the magic used to treat cases of spiritually caused diseases and other 
difficulties. He is sometimes called to diagnose and treat a patient as- 
sumed to be possessed by a ghost. More often he is called as a result of 
diagnosis by a shaman in order to carry out exorcism. 

There are many other practitioners of similar arts in neighboring 
areas. In a distant but accessible village lives a Nepalese Rajput ex- 
orciser of considerable renown and spectacular methods who brings 


ghosts physically into his clients' terrified presence in their natural 
form and habitat (at the cremation grounds) and browbeats them into 
submission to his will. Like well-known specialists in many cultures, 
his services do not come cheaply and he is therefore a last resort in 
most cases of ghost possession. 

All these practitioners serve over a wide geographical area, and their 
practice is a direct reflection of their reputation for success. Rarely are 
their services as highly valued in their own villages as in distant ones 
— an instance of the general rule in these hills that respect for a prac- 
titioner who deals with the supernatural varies inversely with physical 
(and sometimes social) proximity to him. Typical is the Sirkanda Bajgi 
exorciser, one of the few of his profession able to make a living without 
supplementing his income by following a trade, making liquor, or 
engaging in agriculture. He is patently in great demand in other vil- 
lages and lives as well as many other villagers, but he is rarely con- 
sulted in Sirkanda. A villager summed up local opinion when asked 
his estimate of this practitioner's skill: "If he were any good would 
he live here in poverty as he does?" Another commented, "Everyone 
has to make a living; some work, some beg, some steal; he does exor- 
cising." Similar attitudes are expressed regarding the local Brahmin 
priest as compared to more distant and hence more respected priests. 

Diseases are usually considered to be supernaturally caused. Diagnosis 
is most often performed by a shaman, who recomends the appropriate 
type of practitioner and treatment. As we have seen, shamanism is a 
major focus of religion in Sirkanda. Some common diseases are thought 
to be amenable to direct treatment either with herbs and diets or with 
incantation by minor specialists. Those who treat such diseases tend 
to specialize in certain diseases or groups of diseases. Other practi- 
tioners, like the Sirkanda Brahmin, will treat almost any ailment. 
Afflictions characterized by some external, visible symptom such as 
sores or swelling (for example, boils, gout, mumps, chicken pox, sore 
eyes, snakebite, and spider bite) are usually treated by the class of 
specialists called jharnewala (practitioner of jhama, stroking or brush- 
ing). In Bhatbair there is a specialist for each of the above-named ail- 
ments, and for most of them there is a specialist in Sirkanda itself. 
Such practitioners may be men of any caste who perform this duty 
when called upon but do not make a major occupation of it. Treat- 
ment varies with the disease, but in general it involves recitation of 
appropriate mantras by the practitioner while he repeatedly touches 
the afflicted member and the ground (or water, lump of sugar, animal, 
or other object) alternately with a hawk's feather, thus transferring the 
trouble from the patient to the ground or object. Smallpox is rare in 


the area, but if it occurred would be treated by worshiping the deity 
to whose displeasure it was attributed, probably Devi. 

As previously noted, the Sirkanda Brahmin practices elementary 
Vedic medicine. In this practice he follows a book of instructions, 
based upon Hindu religious works, which directs the practitioner in 
herbal, dietary, and hot and cold treatments, as well as others. He also 
practices jharna. 

General debility or lingering illness may be treated by giving charity 
to relieve the misery. The treatment, under the direction of a Brahmin, 
is called "weighing." It is a rather elaborate process the essence of which 
is that the patient is balanced in a large scales against a counterweight of 
several items, primary among which is grain. A puja is performed, the 
counterweight goes to the Brahmin as charity, and thereafter the ill- 
ness is cured. 

Occasionally Vedic doctors in Mussoorie or Dehra Dun are consulted 
to set bones or prescribe for diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, 
venereal disease, chronic dysentery, general weakness, and male sexual 
difficulties. Women rarely go outside the village for treatment. In 
serious or lingering cases a variety of treatments and practitioners may 
be tried. Some minor ailments are treated in the home without the ad- 
vice of specialists, either with traditional folk remedies or with local 
interpretations of Vedic prescriptions. 

Spell-Casting, Witchcraft, and Evil Eye 

Some practitioners of curative magic and occasionally others have 
learned to cast spells (jaddu) into people that will cause either slow 
suffering and eventual death or sudden death, depending upon the 
type of spell. The latter is more difficult and the method is a closely 
guarded secret, while the former is well known. The same practitioners 
are proficient in the process of lautand, "to send back" or counteract 
jaddu, whereby the evil spell can be removed and returned to the 
sender or put in some harmless place. Such practitioners are supported 
by the god Bhairu. A goat is sacrificed to the god as part of the prepa- 
ration for sending or counteracting a spell. There have been Bajgi, 
Rajput, and Brahmin practitioners of this magic in Sirkanda. In ad- 
dition, there is a lesser form of jaddu which takes the form of practical 
jokes which inconvenience or make ridiculous their victims. This type 
is especially common among Bajgis, who use it to interfere with the 
drum-playing of their rivals. 

Casting of spells and counterspells is a very precise and difficult art. 
Slight mistakes in the ritual can result in the death of the practitioner, 


and instances are readily cited. In one local case the magically treated 
pot by which the spell was to be conveyed turned upon the errant 
spell-caster who had prepared it and dispatched him with a blow on 
the skull. Similarly, misuse can be the doom of the practitioner, ac- 
cording to a belief that fatal jaddu must be used only on those who de- 
serve death. It is often stated that anyone who learns this art has to 
pledge his teacher never to use it irresponsibly under pain of dire 
punishment. One death and a case of affliction with leprosy in the fam- 
ily of Tula, the traditional Brahmin of Sirkanda, are attributed to 
injudicious, impulsive use of fatal jaddu by a member of that family 
on an innocent Bajgi victim. 

Jaddu is accomplished by a combination of imitative and contagious 
magic. A flour-and-water image of the intended victim is prepared and 
placed in a pot along with various rare and esoteric, magically treated 
items. Incantations are recited over this, and pulses (legumes) are 
thrown over the image as its intended fate is spelled out. Then the pot 
is secretly buried in the home of the intended victim, who begins to 
suffer the consequences. The source of the victim's trouble is usually 
diagnosed for him by a shaman. Then a practitioner — preferably the 
one who cast the spell in the first place — is called in at considerable ex- 
pense to nullify the spell by a special performance with a similar con- 
tainer, or redirect it by finding the buried container so that it can be 
reburied elsewhere. 

A related technique of spell-casting is magically sending flour 
and water images of the victim and of a sheep (the latter as an 
offering "to the art of jaddu") to the victim after magical preparation 
similar to that exercised upon the pot in the above description. The 
images are made to walk in upon the victim by force of magic, where- 
upon he is expected to drop dead of fright. This spell can be counter- 
acted by a practitioner if the victim survives long enough to summon 

Mantras can theoretically be recited by a practitioner over the nail 
and hair clippings of a potential victim to drive him insane by jaddu, 
but fear of this danger is not sufficient to motivate Sirkanda people 
to conceal clippings. Shamans rarely designate clippings as the source 
of a person's trouble; ghost possession or contact with matris are the 
usual diagnoses of such symptoms. Nail and hair clippings automati- 
cally cause bad dreams if left in a house and will cause creaking roof 
beams if placed among the rafters of a house. In such cases a shaman 
can diagnose the trouble and specify where the offending objects can 
be found. 

Dag, witchcraft, is practiced secretly by certain women. Other hill 

I I 


areas, including Jaunpur and Jaunsar-Bawar, are thought to abound 
in witches, so that girls are not sent there as wives or taken from there 
without careful advance investigation. Three of five Sirkanda girls 
who were married in Jaunpur died early, allegedly as a result of witch- 
craft. There has never been a witch in Sirkanda and there are no witches 
in Bhatbair now, according to Sirkanda people, though there are re- 
ported to have been some who came as brides from time to time in the 
distant past. The nearest witch now lives in a village on the farthest 
periphery of the area within which Sirkanda people regularly marry. 
Witchcraft is associated with people who are different, and hence mys- 
terious and therefore dangerous. Witchcraft is a reason for staying away 
from alien people and areas and for avoiding unnecessary interaction, 
especially marriage, with distant and unknown people. 

Witches are very covetous. They insidiously destroy any person, 
animal, or object which they admire. They can disguise themselves as 
cats or other animals to gain access to the homes of their victims. 
There they may measure the victim with a thread or eat his liver or 
replace it with another object without leaving a trace. As a result the 
victim, whether human or animal, will die a miserable death. Some- 
times shoemakers report that dead cattle are found to have had no 
liver — a sure sign of dag. There is no countermagic for this dread 

The "evil eye" (nazar lagnd, to look covetously) is well known over 
North India and bears some superficial resemblance to dag. In Sir- 
kanda, as elsewhere, the evil eye consists of a covetous, greedy, admir- 
ing, or envious look cast by certain persons at any person, animal, or 
object. The result is that the object of the evil eye is harmed — the 
child or adult becomes weak or sickly, the cow goes dry, the artifact 
breaks. The possessor of the evil eye is usually unaware of the effect 
he produces. Not all people possess the evil eye, and those who do 
cannot control it. It is not restricted to any particular type of person. 
A shaman generally diagnoses the trouble. Specialists prescribe amulets 
or short ceremonies to dispel its effects. However, it is not very much 
feared in this area, and is rarely blamed for trouble. There is not, as a 
result of this belief, reluctance to have a child admired or complimented 
in any way, as is often the case in the plains. Neither are such precau- 
tions as eye-blackening commonly used to protect children. As one in- 
formant said, 

If we have many children we don't fear evil eye at all. If we have only 
one or two we fear it and we protect the child by giving extra charity and, 
if necessary, with amulets. We like to have our children admired and we 


don't think admiration increases the likelihood of evil eye. It is counteracted 
by charity and charms, not by disguise. 

A somewhat related concept is that of dux lakshirii, a person of evil 
portent. The term refers especially to a person who utters curses or 
dire predictions which have a tendency to come true. If a person uses 
a common curse such as "I hope you fall and skin your knees," and it 
comes true regularly, he is referred to by this term and is feared. 

Certain social relationships into which people enter prove to be in- 
herently fortunate or unfortunate. Most frequently, marriage is of this 
nature. Some marriages bring a marked change in the luck or fortune 
of a family. The change is attributed to the new relationship and more 
particularly to the bride since, in this patrilocal society, she is the new 
element in the situation. There are many examples of Sirkanda house- 
holds whose luck changed from bad to good or good to bad immediately 
after a marriage. Bad luck is attributed to misread or mismatched 
horoscopes of the married couple because, if properly read, the horo- 
scopes would have predicted the difficulty and the marriage would 
not have been performed. 

Similarly the birth of a particular child may prove lucky or unlucky 
to a family. Children born under one astrological condition (mul) are 
so dangerous to their parents that they are usually adopted by others, 
and they may even prove to be harbingers of bad luck to their foster 

There is in Sirkanda a whole series of auspicious and inauspicious 
omens, days, acts, and objects with corroborative stories about people 
who have felt their effects or narrowly missed feeling their effects. 
These need not be enumerated here. Some of the portents are based on 
religious writings and are known primarily by the Brahmins who 
consult religious works and astrological tables to detect them. Others 
are known to diviners and similar practitioners. Many are the common 
knowledge of every villager. 



A number of recurrent ceremonies in which household and village gods 
play important roles have been mentioned. In this chapter two cyclical 
patterns of ceremonial observance will be discussed. The first of these is 
the annual cycle of festivals, and the second is the lifetime cycle of rites 
of passage — the ritual observance of changes in status of the individ- 
ual. No attempt will be made to describe these observances in the 
vast detail that would be necessary in order to reproduce them. Rather, 
their main outlines, the social composition of groups which participate 
in them, and their points of difference and similarity in comparison 
with equivalent ceremonies of all-India Hinduism will be described. 
It will be noted that no daily cycle of ritual or worship is described 
for Sirkanda. There is no tradition of such practice in this village 
among the members of any caste, although in other areas of the hills 
high-caste people do perform daily ceremonies much like those ob- 
served by some plains groups (cf. Atkinson, 1884b, p. 65). In Sirkanda 
one middle-aged Rajput who has had eight years of schooling and 
operates the village shop is the only person who lays claim to any such 
practice, and he says only a brief prayer at the time of lighting his lamp 
in the evening. A few high-caste households possess religious books 
but do not read them regularly. There is little in the way of private, 
individual worship of any sort in the village. 


Calendrical ceremonies in Sirkanda are observed by all or nearly 
all community members, but specific ceremonial activities which make 
up the calendrical observances are carried out primarily within the 
household. Life-cycle ceremonies are performed by the kin group 
(usually the lineage) but are carried out in the household with house- 
hold members playing the most important roles. The household there- 
fore is the basic ritual unit. 

Annual Ceremonial Cycle 

Twelve ritual observances or religious ceremonies are celebrated 
annually in Sirkanda. 

Nine of these (numbers 4-12 in table 1) are local manifestations of 
widespread Hindu festivals, two of which (numbers 5 and 12) are given 
little more than lip service in Sirkanda. Another (number 9) is observed 
in a manner very different from its observance on the plains. Three 
festivals (numbers 1, 2, and 3) are apparently of only regional signifi- 

This sequence can be compared with the calendrical ceremonies re- 
ported for various villages of the plains: 12 are reported for the Chamar 
caste of Senapur (Cohn, 1954, pp. 200 ff.), and 35 are recorded for the 
entire village of Senapur (Planalp, 1956, pp. 249 ff.). Nineteen each 
are reported for Kishan Garhi (Marriott, 1955a, pp. 191 ff.) and Ram- 
pur (Lewis, 1958, pp. 197 ff.). 

Marriott notes that half the festivals of Kishan Garhi are identifiable 
with those of the great tradition. In making this comparison he makes 
certain qualifications that must be borne in mind. These apply equally 
well to other North Indian Hindu villages, including Sirkanda. 

. . . The presumption that the festivals of Kishan Garhi are approximately 
identical with those of the great tradition needs to be qualified in at least 
four ways. These four qualifications bring us to confront the little tradition 
of Kishan Garhi. 

First, there are four festivals which have no evident Sanskritic rationales. 
. . . Second, those festivals of Kishan Garhi which do have Sanskritic ra- 
tionales represent only a small selection of the total annual cycle of festivals 
which finds sanction in the great tradition. . . . Third, between the festivals 
of Kishan Garhi and those sanctioned by the great tradition, connections 
are often loosened, confused, or mistaken because of a multiplicity of com- 
peting meanings for each special day within the great tradition itself. . . . 
Accustomed to an interminable variety of over-lapping Sanskritic mythology, 
villagers have ceased to be much concerned with distinguishing the "right" 
great-traditional explanation of a festival from such Sanskritic-sounding and 
possibly newly invented ones as may be convenient. 



Fourth, behind their Sanskritic names and multiple great-traditional ra- 
tionales, the festivals of Kishan Garhi contain much ritual which has no 
evident connection with the great tradition. (Marriott, 1955a, pp. 193 ff.) 

Srinivas has pointed out regional variety in festivals: 

Festivals such as the Dasara, Deepavali, and Holi have no doubt certain 
common features all over the country, but they have also important regional 
peculiarities. In the case of some festivals only the name is common all over 
India and everything else is different — the same name connotes different 
things to peoples in different regions. (Srinivas, 1956, p. 494) 


Calendrical Ceremonies in Sirkanda» 


1. Phul Dalna 

2. Poprla Sakrant 

Meaning Month 

Flower placing; rite of spring Chait (March-April) 

First of month when poppers Baisak (April-May) 
(type of bread) are eaten; chil- 
dren's god worshiped 

First of month when image of Jet (May-June) 
wild goat is eaten 

(Secular fair, following spring Jet (May-June) 

Wrist charms Bhado (August- 


5. Jenem Ashtml Barat Krishna's birthday fast Bhado (August- 


Worship of household dead Asoj (September- 

Nine nights (worship of Durga) Asoj (September- 

Cow honoring Katik (October- 


Festival of lights; follows fall Magsir (November- 
harvest, one month after December) 
plains Diwali 

3. GhoRlia Sakrant 

4. Rakrl 

6. Kanagat 

7. Nauratra. 

8. Gaojiman 

9. Pahari Diwali 

10. Kicherl Sakrant 

11. Panchmi Basant 

12. Shiv Ratri Barat 

First of month when rice and Mau (January- 
dal mixture is eaten February) 

Spring fifth 

Mau (January- 

Shiva's (birthday) night fast Phagun (February- 
For descriptions of these ceremonies, see Appendix II. 


Marriott's first point has been applied to Sirkanda in the discussion 
above, and his third and fourth points will be elaborated in the de- 
scriptions to follow. The second point, that the festivals in any partic- 
ular locality are but a small sample of the universe of Hindu festivals, 
can be documented here. Of the thirteen major festivals of Hindu re- 
ligion listed by Hindu scholars in Morgan's book, three are celebrated 
in Sirkanda as compared to seven in Kishan Garhi (Morgan, 1953, p. 
423; Marriott, 1955a, p. 194). "Of the 35 presumably all-Indian Hindu 
festivals listed by Swami Sivananda only 9 occur in Kishan Garhi" 
(Marriott, 1955a, p. 194), and only seven occur in Sirkanda (Sivananda, 
1947, pp. 1-57). In comparing local with regional festivals we note that 
among the twelve annual festivals of Sirkanda are nine of the nineteen 
festivals of Rampur, seven of the nineteen at Kishan Garhi, nine of 
the thirty-five calendrical festivals at Senapur, and five of the twelve 
among Senapur Chamars. Obviously some of these are North Indian 
regional festivals or festivals which, like Kanagat, are practically uni- 
versal in Indian Hinduism, but are not included in the literary "great 

Sirkanda is within the broad culture area of North India but more 
specifically in that of the sub-Himalayan hills. It would therefore be 
expected to share religious observance with other people of the area. 
Atkinson reports a variety of local, regional, and all-India ceremonial 
and festival observances which occur among hill people of Garhwal 
and Kumaon, totaling over 60 (Atkinson, 1884a, pp. 847-874). Ten of 
these are among Sirkanda's twelve, leaving only two Sirkanda ob- 
servances of such limited significance or distribution that they are not 
reported for neighboring regions of the same cultural-linguistic area. 

The outstanding feature of Sirkanda's ceremonial cycle is its basic 
similarity to that of other Indian villages. Its greatest differences seem 
to lie in its sparseness and the weakness of its ties to the great tradition, 
even where great-traditional affinities can be detected. 

Conspicuous by their absence in Sirkanda are the great festivals of 
the plains, Holi, and Dashera. Occasionally Sirkanda villagers witness 
such festivals in towns or trading villages in the valley. The Ram Lila, 
a dramatic presentation of the Ramayana preceding Dashera, is at- 
tended in valley villages by a few Sirkanda villagers, and Holi can 
hardly be avoided by any who may be traveling outside the hills on 
that day. Such events are, however, regarded as alien, just as are simi- 
larly recognized Sikh and Muslim festivals. 

The social composition of participating groups in calendrical cere- 
monies in Sirkanda can be briefly indicated here, although descriptions 
of the nature of the ceremonies is confined to Appendix II. 


In all but one ceremony, the ceremonial observance takes place 
primarily within the household unit, by household members. The 
exception, Nauratra (number 7 on the list in table 1), is celebrated by 
a village dance and worship of Devi. There is similar worship on 
Diwali (number 9), accompanied by household worship and worship by 
all devotees of one god, Nag Raja. All village children together worship 
the children's god on Popria Sakrant (number 2), and there is house- 
hold worship as well on that occasion. On all other calendrical cere- 
monies household units worship separately. 

Jenem Ashtmi Barat (number 5) and Shiv Ratri Barat (number 12), 
the two fasts, honoring Vishnu and Shiva respectively, are observed by 
only a few of the more sophisticated (educated, high-caste) families, 
who fast in accordance with plains custom. On the other ceremonial 
occasions there is enthusiastic participation by nearly everyone, on a 
household basis. 

Brahmins are prominently involved as priests in three of the cere- 
monies, Rakri, Kanagat, and Kicheri Sakrant, and less prominently in 
two others, Navratra and Diwali. In the first they tie wrist bands on 
household members and receive charity in return. In the third they 
are the recipients of charity given for general merit but not in return 
for any specific service. In the last two they perform worship to village 
gods on behalf of the village. 

Bajgis, as drummers, are prominent in all three Sakrants, and in 
the celebration of Panchmi Basant, for which they play their drums 
and receive gifts of sugar, grain, or cooked food in return. They per- 
form similar service for like remuneration on other periodic and 
life-cycle ceremonial occasions. 

Finally, the barber is the main religious functionary on Panchmi 
Basant, when he performs a simple ceremony welcoming spring. 

In the rest of the ceremonial observances cited here, the family per- 
forms its own ritual functions without assistance. 

One annual secular event is important in Sirkanda. This is the fair 
(taulu) held in the middle of Jet (May-June), on a hilltop in the cen- 
ter of Bhatbair about four miles from Sirkanda. It is widely attended 
by Bhatbair residents including many people from Sirkanda, but at- 
tracts no non-Paharis other than two or three merchants. This fair 
corresponds in its temporal relationship to the spring harvest, precisely 
as Diwali, the greatest annual festival of Sirkanda, does in its relation- 
ship to autumn harvest. Both occur just after the hard work is over. 
The fair bears many resemblances to Diwali, but the resemblances are 
not related to religion, for it is not a religious event. As on Diwali, 
there is general blossoming out in good clothes, accompanied by gaiety, 


sociability, dancing, singing, drinking, and general lowering of in- 
hibitions. The fair and Diwali are the two big holidays in the hills, and 
they are anticipated with equal relish. Only an occasional wedding 
matches them in public appeal. They may well be derived from the 
two non-Brahmanical but "really popular festivals . . . held at the 
two harvests," mentioned by Atkinson (1884b, p. 64). 

Three other fairs are attended regularly by some Sirkanda people. 
All have some religious significance that is vague or unimportant to 
villagers. One is held at the Kuddu Kal temple in mid-AsaRh (June- 
July), one is at Mussoorie in early Asoj (September), and the third is 
at Rajpur in mid-Baisdk (April-May). The first two are primarily 
Pahari fairs, and the last is heavily attended by Paharis. Sirkanda 
people do not care to attend festivities of non-Paharis simply because 
they feel out of place. 

Life-Cycle Ceremonies 

Three events in the lives of all individuals in Sirkanda are rein- 
forced by the family and community with ritual performances. These 
are: birth, marriage, and death. In addition high-caste males are ad- 
mitted as adult members of their caste in the sacred thread ceremony, 
generally associated with marriage. These rituals are universal in Hindu 
India. Those in Sirkanda, like those in villages throughout India, 
show certain differences from, as well as resemblances to, the rites 
prescribed in the literature of the great traditions of Hinduism. In 
Sirkanda they are based on written prescriptions used in the area by 
Pahari Brahmin priests. 

Birth and Childhood 

Birth ceremonies in Sirkanda are much like those in the plains. 
The birth of a son is announced by distributing sugar lumps to friends 
and relatives on the day of birth. A girl's birth is not formally pro- 
claimed. The first ceremony in the child's life is that of das sotan — the 
tenth day after birth. On this day a Brahmin is called to prepare the 
child's horoscope, a process which may take many days, during which 
time he lives at the house of his client. The Brahmin gives the child a 
name at this time, but he is not known by this name. Many people do 
not know the names written in their own horoscopes or those of their 
children. In the first weeks, months, and years a child acquires names 
given by its parents or other family members. One informant had five 
such names. Literate men often later adopt yet another name for signa- 
tures which, in contrast to their village name, is usually a conventional 


Sanskritic Hindu name. One man ridiculed a current trend toward 
fancy Sanskritic names: "If you call a jackal 'lion,' it is still a jackal." 

One year after birth a Brahmin conducts a ceremony, the "taste of 
boiled rice," which is supposed to be at the time of first giving the 
child solid food. Boys have their first haircut during a ceremony per- 
formed by a Brahmin and a barber, held on the third, fifth, or seventh 
birthday, depending upon the Brahmin's reading of the horoscope. 

Special ceremonies related to birth include those performed to bring 
about conception in childless couples, and those held to eliminate the 
danger which two new mothers (those who have given birth in the 
same month) pose to one another if they are in contact. 1 


Marriage in any Hindu family is a complex process. Lewis dis- 
tinguishes five major phases in what he terms the "marriage cycle" of 
Rampur, and within these he notes twenty distinct "ceremonial steps" 
(Lewis, 1958, pp. 157-190). He also distinguishes two less frequent 
types of marriage, and remarriage of a deserted woman. 

In Sirkanda there is greater variation in marriage practices than is 

described or implied for Rampur. Ceremonies are used in Sirkanda to 

celebrate only the first marriage of a woman — about 65 per cent of all 

unions established. Until the post-Independence era at least one-third 

of initial marriages of high-caste women were unmarked by ceremonies 

simply because of the expense and effort involved. Marriages without 

ceremonies still occur, but less frequently. Thus, among the residents 

of Sirkanda no more than 50 per cent of current high-caste unions were 

marked by wedding ceremonies. Among low castes the proportion is 

considerably smaller. Among the 50 per cent of all marriages which 

were marked by ceremony, there have been three major varieties of 

ceremony: (1) the traditional Pahari wedding (bid), a manifestation of 

regional tradition, (2) the traditional Hindu wedding of the plains 

modified by bride price and related practices, called tako-ka bid 

(money marriage) or paisd (money) wedding, (3) the traditional plains 

wedding complete with dowry, called kanniaddn (daughter charity) or 

pun (gift) wedding. The first of these was the only type of wedding 

ceremony performed in Sirkanda until five or ten years before Indian 

Independence, but it has since been dropped altogether. In it, as in 

all Pahari weddings but unlike plains weddings, the groom's family 

takes the initiative in arranging the marriage. A unique feature of the 

traditional Pahari marriage is that the final ceremonies are conducted 

at the home of the groom. In the other forms of marriage in this area, 

as in the plains, the ceremonies occur in the bride's house. 


The plains-type dowry marriage has long occurred among educated 
and wealthy Paharis of neighboring areas, but it has occurred in Sir- 
kanda only since shortly before Independence. The second type, a 
syncretism, is an equally recent innovation and is currently the most 
frequently used. The latter two types, and particularly the orthodox 
plains Hindu dowry marriage, are indicative of the trend toward emu- 
lation of plains culture (Sanskritization) advocated by educated 
Paharis. 2 The percentage of initial marriages unmarked by ceremony 
has dropped in recent years, but has not disappeared. 

At weddings a considerable number of interested people participate 
— in preparation, caring for guests, assisting the ceremonial cooks and 
the priest, assisting the principals in the wedding, and so on. The 
people involved in order of decreasing intensity of involvement are: 
the extended-family members, the lineage, the kindred (including 
people outside the lineage who are recognized as relatives of the bride 
or groom), and often friends, especially sib-fellows and caste-fellows in 
the village. The kindred comes nearer to visibility as a group at this 
time than at any other. 


The traditional form of Pahari marriage involves a bride price; 
that is, the family of the groom pays an agreed-upon sum in cash to the 
family of the bride. In the early 1900's this amount was generally under 
Rs. 50; by World War II it had risen to between Rs. 200 and 400; and 
now it varies from Rs. 500 to 1,500 with an average around Rs. 1,000. 
In addition to the bride price the groom's family spends around Rs. 
1,000 on food and other materials for a good-sized wedding, Rs. 750 on 
jewelry and other gifts, and Rs. 250 for the services of specialists and 
other miscellaneous expenses. The bride's family spends an equal 
amount on entertaining guests (about Rs. 1,000) and perhaps another 
Rs. 500 on clothing, dowry, gifts, and so on. Therefore, the bride price 
is used in the marriage by the bride's family. Rarely is any profit 
realized. If no bride price is given, as is the case with some well-to-do 
families, the expenses on both sides are about equal. A dowry is nearly 
always given by the bride's family to the couple, but in bride-price 
marriages it is a token gift only. 

Everyone knows that bride-price marriage is contrary to high-caste 
plains custom. 3 Therefore there is considerable striving toward dowry 
marriages on the part of some of those who can afford it. The Brahmin 
who performs most high-caste ceremonies is a vociferous advocate of 
such marriages. Prestige is the goal of these ceremonies. Statements 
such as the following from a well-to-do Rajput are common: "We 


don't like bride-price marriage. How can you sell a daughter you love?" 
Or another: "You can't enjoy money you receive for a daughter." 
Usually this is merely repetition of platitudes, as both the men quoted 
had given and received bride price in their day. On the other hand, 
there are many families who will not give or take a bride without pay- 
ment and are proud of it. As one Rajput elder said, "It is not proper 
for Rajputs to accept charity. Only a Brahmin can do that. When we 
take a girl, we pay for her." There is also a widespread belief that 
dowry brides do not live nor produce children. It is only in the past 
fifteen years that a real trend toward dowry marriages has begun even 
among families who can afford them. Still at least 80 per cent of all 
marriages include a bride price. Sometimes when no bride price is 
given, the groom's family promises to bear all the wedding expenses. If 
so, it is a case of the bride's family trying to have the cake and eat it 
too. In at least one recent situation a dowry marriage was held but a 
bride price was demanded later. 

In former days it was common among all castes to effect a bride-price 
transaction without ceremony of any kind beyond agreement between 
the families. Meals might be exchanged at the time of agreement and 
of bringing the bride. A puja to the household god was frequently in- 
cluded. Thus the expenses of marriage ceremonies were avoided. The 
practice still exists, especially among the lower castes. Joshi cites a legal 
case in which validity of a Pahari marriage was sought to be proved 
on grounds that the bride was delivered to her husband, those who 
brought her were feasted, and a puja was performed. Although this 
failed in the courts where Pahari custom was unrecognized, Joshi 
asserts that even these three acts are not required for a valid marriage 
under Khasa customary law. "The payment of bride-price and formal 
entry as wife in the husband's house are enough for the purpose" 
(Joshi, 1929, p. 40). 


Some families of all castes now have Sanskritized marriage rituals. 
Second or subsequent marriages of women, and often of men, have 
always been effected without ceremony. Usually a divorced woman's 
parents are then paid the bride price and they pass it on to her former 
husband, though occasionally direct payment is made to the husband. 
In the case of widow remarriage, a universal practice in this area, pay- 
ment is generally made to the first husband's family if the widow 
marries outside it, unless she elopes. 

Second marriages for men may be carried out with ceremonies just 
like the first if it is the bride's first marriage and especially if the man 


is young and has no children. Such marriages are most often bride- 
price marriages because a girl's family who wants a big dowry marriage 
will usually find an unmarried husband for their daughter. Moreover, 
many second marriages are contracted to produce children, and a bride 
price is considered more likely to bring that result. 

Elopement and inheritance of a wife from a brother are both pub- 
licly recognized forms of marriage wherein ceremony and payment are 
avoided, though payment is exacted by the aggrieved husband in an 
elopement if possible. Poor families of all castes often effect marriage 
without ceremony or payment simply by common agreement. 

Divorce proceedings will be discussed in chapter 5. 

Sacred Thread 

Rajput and Brahmin males are initiated into adulthood with the 
ceremony of investiture with the sacred thread (jainu or bartbhandan) 
indicating their spiritual rebirth (cf. Atkinson, 1884b, pp. 92 ff.). They 
are then said to be "twice born" and therefore are possessed of the 
knowledge necessary to an adult man of high caste. The ceremony is 
evidently of relatively recent origin in these hills, adopted along with 
Sanskritic marriage forms in an effort toward plains emulation or 
Sanskritization. Normally this ceremony takes place in the groom's 
village as part of the pre-marriage ceremonies. If a man is not married 
and is an adult, or if he has not gone through a marriage ceremony, 
he may call for the sacred thread ceremony at any time after he is about 
20 years old. 

Death Ceremonies 

Ceremonies surrounding death are as complex as those surround- 
ing marriage (see Appendix IIIC). It is believed in Sirkanda, as in 
Hindu India generally, that a person's life after death will be greatly 
influenced by the amount of charity that he has given in this life and 
that is given in the ceremonies associated with his death. Specifically 
it is thought that only what has been given in life and at these cere- 
monies will be available to the spirit for livelihood in the afterlife. 
Sirkanda villagers tell an eye-witness account of a woman who came 
back to life shortly after death and begged that more charity be given, 
since she had found that there was nothing for her to live on and no 
comforts in the other world because of her niggardliness in life. There- 
fore a person who has no descendants upon whom he can depend to 
carry out the death ceremonies properly will usually sponsor pujas and 
give the necessary charity in advance. This charity is given to the tra- 
ditional village Brahmin or purohit, although in Sirkanda the cere- 


monies are performed by more learned Brahmins. The persons in- 
volved in the mourning and ritual pollution which follows a death are 
primarily the male lineage members — those who trace descent to a 
common ancestor — and to a lesser extent the local sib members and 
those closely associated with them, that is, the clan, for wives of these 
people play a minor role. The eldest son or an equivalent male relative 
(sometimes an adopted son) performs the duties of chief mourner. 
During the ceremonies the Brahmin performs pujas, directs the chief 
mourner in his duties, and receives charity. The barber provides leaf 
packets used in the ceremony, prepares the pipe for the Brahmin's use, 
and prepares the leaf plates for the feast at the end of the mourning 

Widows are not restricted in activity or dress, as they often are on 
the plains. An unremarried widow does not, however, take an active 
part in birth or marriage ceremonies. Also, she does not wear gold 
nose ornaments (the symbols of marriage) for at least a year after her 
husband's death or until she remarries, whichever comes first. Widow 
remarriage is universal here except when the widow is elderly. 

If a villager dies far from home the postdeath ceremonies are per- 
formed in his village home. A married woman's death is observed only 
in the village of her husband and by the family of her husband. Her 
family of origin takes no part in it except as observers if they are in the 
same village. 

Children, and often unmarried adolescents, who die are buried 
without ceremony in unmarked graves near the village. Strangers who 
die in the vicinity are usually buried rather than cremated so that 
proof of death can be established if necessary later. Adults who die of 
epidemic diseases are buried and then exhumed and cremated after 
the epidemic has passed, usually three to six months later. 

Kin, Caste, and Community in Religion and Ceremonies 

The household, comprising the joint family, is the most significant 
social unit in religious matters in Sirkanda. 4 Deities and other super- 
natural beings generally attack the household and must be dealt with 
by its members collectively. This is true even when only a single mem- 
ber feels the wrath of the gods, since they remain with the household 
once they have entered it. The worship of household gods is the most 
frequent expression of religious behavior in the village. Life-cycle rites 
are likewise observed in the household unit, generally with participa- 
tion by local sib fellows, their spouses, and adopted sons (that is, the 
clan); other villagers are observers or guests at best. Local lineage is 


most significant in death ceremonies for a man, and the local clan runs a 
close second. For a woman the corresponding groups are the husband's 
local lineage and the clan. The kindred looms large in marriage. Most 
annual festivals are performed in household groups. There are special 
ceremonies for the well-being of the household. Lineage, clan, kindred, 
and sib are significant in such household ceremonies in that order. 

No specific caste deities are worshiped in this village, although cer- 
tain ones tend in fact to be associated with certain castes. Household 
observances, whether worship or life-cycle rites, remain within the 
caste in that those primarily concerned are relatives, and all relatives 
are caste fellows. For castes separated by little social or ritual distance, 
attendance at ceremonies extends across caste boundaries, as, for ex- 
ample, between Rajputs and Brahmins, or between barbers, black- 
smiths, and carpenters. Members of ritually and socially more distant 
castes are not often explicitly barred from attendance, but they are 
barred from participation in many activities, such as group eating, 
which are central to the celebration and which would be polluting to, 
or polluted by, these castes. Usually there is no desire for cross-caste 
participation in such ceremonies, as was made explicit by a low-caste 
informant who commented that, "There is no enjoyment for me at a 
Rajput wedding. We can only have fun at weddings in our own caste." 

There are no caste festivals or holidays among the castes represented 
in Sirkanda. Caste enters the religious and ceremonial picture primarily 
in the caste-specific roles of participants, as in the barber's duties in life- 
cycle rites, the Bajgi's role in worship of deities and certain annual 
and life-cycle ceremonies, the carpenter's ritual function in blessing 
the doorways of a new house, and the Brahmin's priestly role. 

Caste differences in religious belief and usage are virtually absent — 
a notable contrast to the situation reported for other parts of India. 
Where they do occur in Sirkanda, they represent differences in edu- 
cation, wealth, and enforced restrictions on low-caste behavior more 
than differences in beliefs or aspirations. Educated people know more 
of the Sanskritic tradition than do others, and they tend to be of the 
high castes, but uneducated Brahmins and Rajputs differ little from 
Doms in their knowledge and beliefs. Even among Brahmins there is 
little concern with ritual observance or daily worship. They maintain 
ritual distance from lower castes as do Rajputs and some of the low 
castes, but their ritual life does not differ significantly from that of 
other castes. Diet of high-caste members and Doms differs not at all 
except as dictated by differential income. Bathing is as foreign to most 
Brahmins as to Bajgis. 

The lack of caste differential in such matters is apparently attribu- 


table in part to the frequent and intense interaction among members 
of all castes in Sirkanda. In such villages the entire population is largely 
isolated from frequent contact with people other than their fellow 
villagers. Since most castes are very small in numbers, their daily 
social interaction must be largely with members of other castes. No 
caste remains isolated from any other. The various castes have more in 
common and interact more frequently than would groups separated 
by greater social barriers or with caste communities of their own, and 
consequently they have less opportunity to maintain differences in 
beliefs and practices (cf. Berreman, 1960b). 

The community is the unit which observes some annual festivals, 
notably Diwali. It is also the traditional unit for observance of agri- 
cultural ceremonies and worship of the village gods. Two specifically 
village-directed ceremonies are the Mundkile village-protection cere- 
mony and the rope-sliding event to alleviate village and regional 

Supervillage observances are limited to annual regional fairs and 
the rope-sliding ceremony. In Bhatbair the one such fair is evidently 
secular in nature, while those in larger centers often have religious 

Religion is thus an important feature at every level in Sirkanda. Its 
place is similar to that of religion in other Indian villages. Opler's 
summary statement applies as well to Sirkanda as it does to Senapur, 
the plains village of which it was written: 

To live a very full and estimable life, a villager has to participate in the 
religious round. Religion justifies the existence of his line, the tie between 
his ancestors and his sons. It holds his kin together in family rituals. It 
provides travel, adventure, and new experience and connects his village with 
others. . . . The presence of the protective godlings of the village strengthens 
group consciousness. The agricultural rites, the worship of the disease god- 
desses, and the life-cycle ceremonies awake courage and hope in areas of life 
where uncertainty and anxiety are most prevalent. (Opler, 1959b, p. 226) 

Brahmins and Shamans 

One of the most striking features of traditional religious organiza- 
tion in Sirkanda and vicinity is the strategic importance of the shaman 
(baki) (cf. Berreman, 1961a). In the sphere of religion he is a "cultural 
policy maker," to use Singer's term (Singer, 1955, p. 30) — a cultural 
"gatekeeper." He is a man, who may be of any caste, whose prestige and 
power are dependent upon success in his practice of diagnosing super- 
naturally caused difficulties through the use of a personal deity who 


provides the insights and information, using the practitioner as a ve- 
hicle. He is the key man in virtually every instance of traditional re- 
ligious worship. He determines which supernatural being is to be 
worshiped or placated, be it household, village, regional, or all-India 
Hindu god, or be it ancestor, ghost, spirit, or witch. He often determines 
which puja will be performed, which sacrifices will be offered, which 
pilgrimages undertaken, which new gods will be worshiped, and, in the 
long run, which ones will fall by the wayside. Styles and fads of wor- 
ship, means of correcting troubles and treating disease, are largely in 
the shaman's hands. Certain lesser practitioners share a part of these 
important functions. To be sure, such people work within their cul- 
ture and are probably largely unaware of their key importance. They 
may well be unaware of the extent to which they could manipulate 
their clients if they wished. This does not alter the fact of their crucial 
role. Traditionally they have undoubtedly been the most important 
individuals in influencing the nature of religious practice. 

Brahmins have played an important but less significant religious 
role from the point of view of dynamics of culture in the traditional 
setting. They operate primarily within rigidly prescribed limits of 
ritual with little opportunity for initiative or innovation despite their 
high status. When they are called and what they will do are often 
prescribed by a shaman. They are, in fact, ritual technicians or engi- 
neers. The shaman makes most of the decisions and therefore is the 
policy maker. 

Plains emulation has been effectively advocated by some Pahari 
Brahmins, but these advocates have been priests with a plains orienta- 
tion seeking to establish or enlarge their clientele, not traditional fam- 
ily priests or purohits whose clientele is fixed and assured. It seems 
likely that the change would come about more quickly in this area if 
it were advocated by shamans. Shamans could diagnose difficulties of 
all types as being attributable to failure to conform to plains religious 
and social standards. They could presumably prescribe Sanskritic 
worship of great traditional gods in many circumstances and people 
would be likely to follow their advice. 

However, shamans, being uneducated and with a stake in the tra- 
ditional Pahari religious system, have remained traditional in their 
attitudes and consequently have impeded plains emulation in the 
religious sphere. They have nothing to gain and everything to lose by 
emulation of plains Hindu orthodoxy, for that orthodoxy undermines 
their religious roles. They therefore generally use their considerable 
influence to encourage adherence to traditional religious usages and to 
stave off plains emulation. 


Family priests (purohits), with their assured clientele and their 
status in the traditional Pahari religious system are in much the same 
position. They, too, stand to lose by plains emulation, since villagers 
would come to depend upon other priests more learned in plains 
Hinduism. Plains emulation, therefore, threatens the purohit, as it 
does the shaman, with loss of religious importance and ultimately of 
income. For other Brahmin priests, however, the reverse is evidently 
true; it is a means to economic and status enhancement (cf. Berreman, 
1961a). Plains emulation offers new clients and prestige to priests who 
have few clients or no traditional clientele and who have learned plains 

Increasing contacts with plains people have led many Paharis — 
especially those with education, and these are mostly from the high 
castes — to adopt high-caste people of the plains as a reference group 
in many contexts. With this aspiration for plains emulation they come 
to demand services which the purohit and shaman cannot provide. 
Sophisticated, ambitious priests actively compete for clients in this 
sphere, whereas they could not — at least not so overtly — in the tra- 
ditional situation. As a result, in recent times some Pahari Brahmins 
have been cast in the role of religious innovators or policy makers. 
Relative to them, shamans and purohits have been religious conserva- 
tives. The effect of the changes advocated by these enterprising atradi- 
tional Brahmins in any given locality is more spectacular and perhaps 
of more fundamental structural significance in Pahari religion than 
that effected by shamans in the traditional setting over a comparable 
time span. It involves new religious and social conceptions, whereas 
the influence of shamans has been felt primarily in introducing varia- 
tions on traditional Pahari religious themes and in invoking sanctions 
on individuals and groups. The sanctions can even be invoked against 
Brahmin priests, who have traditionally consulted shamans as avidly 
as anyone else. It can be argued that through use of such sanctions 
shamans in the long run have had the potential for structural effect 
as great as that of atraditional Brahmins. It can also be argued that 
priests who advocate plains emulation are often merely reflecting or 
accommodating to a trend among sophisticated Paharis rather than 
initiating it. 

That shamans have not become a powerful elite in their own right 
is perhaps partly attributable to the openness of their profession. Being 
neither hereditary nor caste-bound, it is highly competitive. There are 
many such practitioners and they are approached by their clients on a 
very pragmatic basis, success being the criterion for patronage. There 
is no traditional practitioner-client arrangement comparable to the 


jajmani system. Thus the clientele shifts easily, public opinion is a 
limiting factor, and no shaman has a monopoly on the market. Sha- 
mans do have in common their opposition to plains emulation. 

Competition among atraditional Brahmin priests is tempered by 
jajmani-like loyalties on the part of their clients, whom they in fact 
refer to as "jajmans." Such Brahmins share a vested interest in the 
advocacy of plains emulation. 

Plains-Pahari Religious Differences 

In discussing religious life in Sirkanda emphasis has been placed 
on its essential similarity to that found in other Indian villages, and 
particularly those of the Gangetic plain. Implicit throughout, however, 
has been an emphasis upon differences, upon the unique aspects of 
Hinduism as it is practiced in Sirkanda. Such differences have been, 
for the most part, differences common to the region — differences which 
help define the Sub-Himalayan region as a distinct culture area, that 
define the Central Pahari-speaking peoples as a subcultural group, 
that distinguish the residents of Tehri Garhwal or even Bhatbair from 
their neighbors. The differences have been most frequently differences 
of emphasis rather than differences of kind. Paharis do not do many 
things that are unknown on the plains nor are many plains practices 
entirely foreign to them, but they do more of some things and less of 
others and that is where the real difference lies. 

As has been noted above, perhaps the most striking religious differ- 
ences are those relating to caste. In Sirkanda there is remarkably little 
variation in religious belief and practice from caste to caste, whereas 
in the plains caste differences are prominent features of village religion. 
In Sirkanda, Brahmins and Bajgis carry out very similar rituals, ob- 
serve the same festivals, and express virtually the same beliefs. They 
have distinct ritual functions and are characterized by the expectable 
differences in ritual purity, but they do not possess significantly dif- 
ferent religious subcultures. 

The Brahmin perhaps plays a less crucial role in religion here than 
on the plains. There are fewer events requiring his presence. There is 
apparently a more important and complex system of non-Brahmanical 
practitioners — of shamans, diviners, pujaris, exorcists, curers, and so 
on, than among most plains groups. The services of these practitioners 
are available to, and in demand by, all castes, whereas in the plains 
they are often caste-specific (cf. P. M. Mahar, 1957). 

There is a casualness about matters of ritual purity, marriage regu- 


lations, and similar religion-based social practices, which is not char- 
acteristic of high-caste plains groups. 

Gods of the literate tradition of Hinduism are less widely recognized 
and less honored in this area than in the plains. Similarly there is less 
observance of the ceremonies and festivals of all-India spread than is 
common in the plains. Rituals that are observed are adapted to local 
convenience and taste to a degree perhaps exceeding that in most areas. 
This is especially noticeable in the celebration of Diwali and in mar- 
riage ceremonies. There is virtually no daily or private worship. How- 
ever, the people have a lively interest in religion and do not lack for 
ceremonies arranged to appease their traditional gods. Worship is 
aimed at controlling powerful and dangerous supernatural beings who 
plague them. Such worship is a group matter rather than an individ- 
ual one — a family or village undertaking. Probably the most distinctive 
aspect of worship is the incorporation of animal sacrifice as an integral 
part of virtually every ceremony. The life of an animal is required to 
please Pahari gods. The gods must also be given the opportunity to 
dance in the bodies of their devotees if they are to remain favorably 

In a low-caste plains community such beliefs and practices would 
not seem unusual. The striking feature is that Sirkanda and other 
Pahari villages are predominately high-caste communities which 
closely resemble low-caste communities of other areas in the religious 
life of their members. It is for this reason that Paharis are considered 
ritually inferior by their plains-dwelling caste-fellows. And it is for 
this reason that plains emulation or Sanskritization is becoming in- 
creasingly evident among informed Paharis, who more and more fre- 
quently come into contact with critical plainsmen in positions of 
authority or influence. 

Sirkanda and the Great Tradition 

The discussion of religion has demonstrated that Sirkanda is within 
the range of variation of other Hindu villages in the practice of Hindu- 
ism. While it has perhaps less in the way of all-India Hindu- 
ism than many Indian villages — especially in comparison to other 
largely high-caste villages of the plains of northern India — it is not 
atypical in this respect in comparison to other Pahari villages. This 
leads to the observation that, while elements of the all-India Hindu 
tradition as represented in sacred writings and India-wide precepts 
and practices are prominent enough in the village to make it recog- 


nizably and undeniably a part of that tradition, a large proportion of 
village religious traits do not fit into that tradition. To suppose that 
these other traits are purely local would be, however, fallacious. Many 
are characteristic of villages throughout all or much of Hindu India. 
Others are characteristic of Pahari villages. "Regional Hinduism" is 
perhaps the best term to apply to those traits of less than all-India 
spread, since "local Hinduism" is likely to imply that the traits re- 
ferred to are unique to the village or small locality, when in reality 
they are to be found over a fairly large cultural area (cf. Cohn and 
Marriott, 1958). 5 Finally, there are purely local elements — if not in 
pattern at least in specific content. Such terms as "local," "regional," 
and "national" Hinduism are merely labels along a continuum. There 
are no sharp boundaries and the continuum is a moving one. 

The terms "great tradition" and "little tradition" present further 
difficulties. They imply considerably more than simply geographical, 
cultural, or social "spread." The "great tradition" generally denotes 
the "literate religious tradition" (Marriott, 1955a, p. 191). However, it 
is often used in the context of "all-India Hinduism" in discussions of 
Indian religion. Conversely, the "little tradition" is generally implicitly 
defined as the nonliterate, vernacular religious tradition but is often 
used as though it meant local Hinduism. In India these are two entirely 
different dimensions. In village India it is possible to identify literate 
religious traditions based upon the great religious writings and em- 
bodying the philosophical foundations of the religion. These can be 
contrasted, as Marriott has done, with the folk practices and beliefs 
which have not (or not yet) been incorporated into the literate tradi- 
tion. However, the nonliterate tradition includes many elements which 
are as widespread geographically as elements of the literate tradition. 
Some of these folk elements may be more widespread than many literate 
ones in terms of the population which understands or practices them. 
In discussing traits of village Hinduism it is useful, therefore, to discuss 
spread in terms of geography, culture, social organization, and so on, 
as well as to attempt to apply the literate-nonliterate or great-little tra- 
dition dichotomy. 

It should be clear that Sirkanda is not unique in its deviation from 
the literate tradition as evidenced in the religious beliefs and practices 
of its members. Researchers have found similar circumstances in other 
Indian villages (for example, Opler, 1958, pp. 553 f.). 

Historically, it is suggested by many writers from the time of Manu, 
the Hindu lawgiver, to the present, that Paharis of the high castes 
(that is, Khasas) came from a culture that was once more highly San- 
skritized than at present, but which fell away from the practices and 


beliefs that define this term. The decline is attributed to a combina- 
tion of the exigencies of life in the hills and the intimate contact which 
the Khasas are supposed to have had with the subjugated indigenes 
and their "inferior" religion. It is interesting to note the extent to 
which local historians credit the lowly Doms, who were presumably 
so readily overpowered by the Khasas, with having altered or even 
revolutionized the way of life and religion of these allegedly pristine 
Hindus. Another view is that these high-caste hill people represent a 
relatively untouched and unchanged survival of antediluvian Aryan 
culture. It seems probable that in reality the Paharis are the product 
of mixture between the early Khasas and Doms (if indeed they were 
different cultural groups) and more recent immigrants. Pahari religion, 
like the rest of their culture, is the product of gradual change in an 
area of relative isolation where they have been out of direct contact 
with many of the influences important in shaping Hinduism on the 
plains. Beliefs and practices have been influenced by their cultural 
heritage and by contacts with peoples of the plains and the higher 

There is an increasing trend toward religious change on the model 
of high-caste plains Hinduism at all caste levels in and around Sir- 
kanda. There has long been awareness of plains ways through contacts 
with educated Brahmins, merchants, government officials, and others 
knowledgeable in the great traditions of Hinduism. Recently with 
improved means of communication, increased movement of people 
between the hills and plains, more easily available schooling, and in- 
creased financial capabilities, this awareness has increased, resulting 
in an active tendency toward emulation. The motivation is simply to 
be respected by plains people, for Paharis increasingly feel the effects 
of their unorthodox religious and social practices as a result of their 
increasing contacts with people adhering to plains values, especially 
with people in positions of authority or influence. Paharis are con- 
sidered to be rustic, degraded Hindus by most plainsmen. Plains 
Brahmins and Rajputs often reject the caste status claims of their 
Pahari caste-fellows, largely because of their unorthodoxy. By adopting 
some of the symbols of plains culture, Paharis hope to improve their 
status in the eyes of the plains people. Instrumental in this change have 
been those Paharis who have had the most extensive and intensive ex- 
posure to orthodox plains viewpoints and who feel their status most 
threatened by invidious comparisons. These are the high castes and 
especially the Brahmins. They have been active in effecting the most 
obvious changes in this trend: Sanskritization of marriage customs, 
adoption of other Sanskritic rituals and festivals, and attribution of 


Sanskritic interpretations to traditional Pahari religious beliefs and 
practices. The trend is similar to the process of Sanskritization or status 
emulation widely documented among tribal and low-caste groups else- 
where in India. 

Few Paharis have adopted the modern values and ideas associated 
with education, urban living, and cash economy that have been adopted 
by some plains people — especially those of the higher castes — and that 
have been termed "Westernization" by Srinivas (1956; cf. Cohn, 1955). 
The reasons are very similar to those which account for the fact that, 
when high castes adopt modern aspirations and values, low-caste plains 
groups adopt Sanskritic behaviors formerly denied them rather than 
following the high castes in the new life. These groups have differential 
experience and different reference groups — in short, different sources 
of values and aspirations. High-caste people of the plains have bene- 
fited from the results of increased educational and employment oppor- 
tunities in the new context, while Paharis, like low castes of the plains, 
have benefited less. In fact, the latter groups have had little opportunity 
even to learn the modern, Western culture within which such benefits 
can be realized. It is a basic axiom of reference group theory that, if 
one group is to identify with another so that its members adopt the 
outlook, and judge themselves by the standards, of the other group, 
there must be both knowledge of the identification group and some 
perceived similarity or equivalence to it (Merton and Kitt, 1950, p. 61). 
Among many high-caste plains people, travel, education, and employ- 
ment have resulted in familiarity with modern ways and competence in 
them which make possible perceived similarities and subsequent iden- 
tification with extra-traditional groups. Adoption of new values and 
aspirations to the relative neglect of traditional Sanskritic values and 
aspirations has followed. 

Meanwhile Paharis, like low-caste groups of the plains, have lacked 
equivalent facilities and experience for acquiring the knowledge and 
competence prerequisite to adoption of nontraditional reference groups. 
In Sirkanda cultural, physical, and intellectual isolation have in all 
castes militated against adoption of new alien reference groups to any 
significant extent. Plains people have long served as something of a 
reference group for Paharis and have long been known to them. In- 
creased contact has resulted in increased knowledge of their view- 
points. This, combined with increased wealth, has enabled Paharis to 
push toward higher status in their eyes by emulating them. Since Pahari 
experience has been for the most part with plains people who advocate 
a traditional Hindu world view, emulation has been in this direction. 
For low-caste plains people the enabling feature for upward mobility 


has been decreased downward pressure from the high castes, as well as 
increased financial capability and social justice. For both the Paharis 
and the plains low castes, it is the high castes of the plains in their 
traditional role who form the reference groups, for they are sufficiently 
known, understood, and envied for the other groups to identify with 
them and seek to emulate them. From the Pahari point of view, modern, 
urban, or Westernized society is simply too alien to be emulated. Tra- 
ditional plains culture is a familiar and increasingly attainable ref- 
erence point. 

There has been little caste differential in the "plainsward mobility" 
of Paharis. This is partly because of the cross-caste cultural homogene- 
ity of Paharis of this area and the fact that there has been relatively 
little difference from caste to caste in opportunity to acquire outside 
reference groups. High castes have had only slightly better opportu- 
nities for education and close contact with educated Brahmins than 
have low castes. Low castes have had as much or more per capita out- 
side contact as they travel to trade and procure the tools and materials 
of their trades. High castes have had significantly greater financial 
capability to carry out Sanskritization by performing expensive rituals 
under the supervision of educated Brahmins, and it is in this respect 
that high and low castes differ most. But due to the intensive nature 
of intercaste interaction in the Pahari context, low castes have been 
fully aware of the practices of their caste superiors and follow them 
insofar as they are financially able. It could perhaps be asserted that 
low castes emulate their high-caste neighbors while the latter are emu- 
lating a plains model. If so, the time lag is so short as to be unnotice- 
able; it is as if both were emulating the plains model. Both groups are 
explicit in attributing their practices to the plains model. 

Another factor in the cross-caste nature of Pahari Sanskritization 
may be the fact that high castes have not felt a threat of imminently 
successful low-caste upward mobility. They have therefore not felt the 
necessity of seeking Westernization as an alternative source of hier- 
archical supremacy, a motivation for Westernization suggested by 
Gould (1961a). 

Therefore, while the picture of changing caste status on the plains 
is often one of the low castes moving up in the Sanskritic caste-status 
hierarchy as the higher, more advantaged castes move out of this hier- 
archy into a non-Sanskritic milieu, in Sirkanda the picture is of the 
entire Pahari community attempting to move toward the ways of their 
plains reference group while castes within the community retain their 
relative status positions. This is not to deny some cases of new non- 
Sanskritic aspirations in Sirkanda. Neither is it to deny ambitions of 



upward mobility and competitive scrambling for status among the 
lower castes in this area. These occur, for example, among the Bajgis, 
whose women have given up dancing for the public in order to raise 
their status, and among the Bedas, who, in the present generation, 
would like to follow suit. It can be asserted, however, that the dominant 
trend is a society-wide movement toward what is viewed as the re- 
ligious context of the plains in order to win the respect of members of 
that dominant group. 


Previous chapters have described the relationship of men to their 
natural environment in Sirkanda and to the supernatural world which 
impinges upon them. This and the following three chapters will de- 
scribe and analyze the interrelationships among people in and around 
Sirkanda. An attempt will be made to describe and distinguish ideal 
patterns of social behavior as expressed by informants and actual pat- 
terns of behavior as observed and reported. Similarly, an attempt will 
be made to distinguish between what is believed and done, and what 
people would like outsiders to think is believed and done (cf. Berre- 
man, 1962c). 

Here, as in preceding chapters, the way of life of the residents of 
this village and the culture area it represents is compared with that of 
villages in other parts of India. 

From the point of view of social life, the whole of the cis-Himalayan 
region behaves as a culture area, as there is a homogeneous social code to 
which both the higher and lower groups subscribe. . . . But the hill culture 
differs from that of the plains and all cultures that surround them. . . . 
(Majumdar, 1944, p. 139) 

It will become evident that basic similarities accompany important 
differences, and it is essential that these be presented for comparative 
purposes. A basic aim, throughout this account, is to throw light on 
the role of kin groups, castes, and community organization in the lives 
of the people under discussion. 


Basically Sirkanda shares the social structure of Hindu Indian so- 
ciety. Family, caste, and community are the most significant social 

The discussion will begin with the extended family or household, 
the economically cooperating residential kin group and the most inti- 
mate, immediate social unit in Sirkanda. From the residential kin 
group the discussion will proceed to its extensions in consanguineal and 
affinal kin groups, to castes, and finally to the community and its ex- 
tensions. It is impossible to understand the functioning of Sirkanda 
society at any of these levels without reference to the others. The 
system is an interdependent one which does not operate on independ- 
ent subcircuits. Choice of family as a starting point for presentation is, 
therefore, largely arbitrary and perhaps stems from an inductive bias. 

A further qualification should be inserted. In Sirkanda, as in most 
Indian villages, there are differences in internal social organization 
among various castes. They are less in the Pahari area than in many 
others and by comparison they may seem almost insignificant, but 
they do exist. Since 87 per cent of the population of Sirkanda is of one 
caste — Rajputs — more reliable data were obtained regarding that caste 
than any other. However, caste differences were a special focus of the 
research and were sought out whenever possible. Such differences as 
were revealed have been reported here. Differences not mentioned did 
not exist or were not obtained in investigation aimed at detecting 


As the Wisers (1951, p. 160) have commented, "no villager thinks 
of himself apart from his family." Ideally the basic residential, social, 
religious, and economic unit in Sirkanda is the patrilocal extended 
family. This consists of a man, his wife, his sons, and their wives and 
children plus any unmarried daughters. In Sirkanda this unit is sup- 
posed to occupy a house, preferably with a separate sleeping room for 
each nuclear family consisting of man, wife, and children. It is an 
economic unit which includes fathers, sons, and brothers and their 
wives and unmarried daughters, and therefore may be termed a "joint 
family." All members share in the family occupation and in the product 
obtained. All eat from the same hearth — a distinguishing feature rec- 
ognized by the people themselves, who refer to this family unit or 
household as the chula (cooking hearth). The eldest active male is the 
family head and bears final responsibility and authority for family 
well-being. The wife of the eldest male, whether he is living or not, is 
the head of the female component (wives and unmarried daughters) of 


the household in domestic matters. She becomes the titular head of the 
household upon her husband's death if there are no brothers to take 
over, but generally a son acts in her stead. Within the component nu- 
clear families the age and sex hierarchy is the same. 

I. Largest household in Sirkanda (Rajput): Four dwellings 


---*"" "r^ 7^1 i x \ 

0=A \ . u / 0=A=0 0=A \ 

\ chan chan / , , 

f 1 ' 1 — 1 — w — n - / 1 \ \ n / 

lp=A O 0=A 0=A \|0=A fO=Al \ O A / 

I I H / / ^_ ^ 

rn 1 — I — 1 1 
^^ o A a o a; 



E. Medium (Rajput): Single dwelling m. Small (Rajput): Single dwelling 

^ I v / I I 

/ r L r i 1 o=A/ 

/ 0=A 0=A A/ \ / 

\0 A O A / 

12. Atypical (Rajput): Two dwellings 

I T^H 

•=A ,-" 0=A chan 

/ \\ s' ~^ 

•=A/ = A-0 (A) Hired servant 

( A" ^ ov ^ 

^ec» / ^. ^ y 

Adeceased ancestor Aliving household member 

Fig. 2. Household composition and residence. Residence in a single dwelling 
is indicated by a broken line. 

In Sirkanda there are several types of deviation from this ideal 
pattern (see fig. 2). As has been mentioned previously, most households 
(37 of 45, or 82 per cent) own houses or chans outside of Sirkanda. 
Twenty-five of these joint families, 55 per cent of those in the village, 
are continually or usually split into two or more residential units be- 


cause of regular occupancy of chans or second houses away from the 
village. Therefore, in over half the joint families the basic family 
economic unit is not a residential unit, as villagers say it ideally 
should be. The extended family may become permanently divided, 
and more distant households may sever connections with the village. 
As has been noted, approximately one-fifth of the living adult males 
who appear in Sirkanda genealogical materials do not appear as mem- 
bers of Sirkanda households at present. They have severed village and 
joint-family ties. 

Between one-third and one-fourth of the family units (13 of 45, or 
29 per cent) consists only of a nuclear family or a single individual. 
Seven more consist only of a nuclear family and a parent of the hus- 
band (a "minimal extended family"). In these 20 small family units 
there are 99 individuals, while among the 25 larger family units are 
the remaining 285 Sirkanda residents. Thus, over one-third of all 
Sirkanda residents live in family units much smaller than the ideal. 
Ten of the large units are fraternal joint families, consisting of brothers 
and their dependents, while 15 include one or both of an elder man- 
wife couple and their sons, daughters-in-law, unmarried daughters, and 

Household membership ranges from 1 to 25 individuals with an 
average between 8 and 9. Thirteen households have 10 or over; thir- 
teen have 5 or under. Household membership spans four generations in 
1 case, three generations in 25 cases, two generations in 14 cases, and 
one generation in 5 cases. In only 4 cases have real brothers divided 
into separate households. In 1 case the only half-brothers currently 
in the village without a living father did so, and in 2 cases father-son 
divisions have occurred. In the latter instances the sons with their 
fathers' approval took advantage of chances for adoption into heirless 
families. Half-brothers quite consistently divide their father's prop- 
erty upon his death and establish separate joint-family households. 
Real brothers of the same mother rarely divide joint property, but 
the relatively landless low castes do so more frequently than the high 
castes. Of the four current cases, two are in low-caste families — the only 
low-caste brothers, with father deceased, in Sirkanda — while only two 
are in the high castes, of twelve possibilities in that group. 

One of the most prominent differences between high and low castes 
in Sirkanda is in joint family size and composition. Not only do low- 
caste brothers usually divide their property when their father dies 
whereas high-caste brothers retain it intact, but low-caste people char- 
acteristically live in smaller joint family units. This is indicated in 
table 2. The differences are perhaps attributable more to economic 


conditions than to caste. All three of the low-caste extended family 
households are dependent in large part on agriculture, while none of 
the low-caste nuclear households has land to till. Agriculture requires 
many hands to make it productive, and it will feed many mouths. Two 
low-caste brothers, each the head of a good-sized extended family, have 
divided their lands and clients, but they perform one economic func- 
tion jointly where teamwork is requisite, namely drumming. Thus it 
seems that larger joint families are usually retained when it is ad- 
vantageous or necessary to do so, and they break down more readily 
when they perform no useful or necessary function. 


Sirkanda Population by Family Types 

Households Population 

Extended Nuclear Extended Nuclear 

families families families families 

High castes 30 9 306 40 

Low castes 3 4 22 16 

Division of a household generally takes place among first cousins 
(brothers' sons). In no current cases do such first cousins belong to the 
same household unless their parents are living. Thus, the division of 
the extended family into smaller units occurs quite consistently after 
the third generation; that is, brothers do not often divide their father's 
property, but when the brothers die their offspring (first cousins) do 
divide it. This conforms to the ideal pattern. 

It is worth noting in this connection that in nine of the 13 nuclear 
family household units there is no other nuclear family related to the 
household head more closely than at the first cousin level, the level 
at which division of the family is to be expected. Therefore, in only 
four cases can the nuclear family be called a voluntarily or prematurely 
segmented social and economic unit. Two of these households are 
those of blacksmith brothers and one is that of a Rajput who moved 
to his wife's house to acquire her inheritance. In the other nine cases, 
segmentation has resulted from necessity brought about either by dif- 
ferential birth and death rates or by the custom of dividing property 
in the third generation. Likewise, only one of the seven minimal ex- 
tended families is minimal by choice. One Rajput household head 
expressed a common attitude: 

These days in some of the families when boys become young men and are 
married they think of breaking away from the joint family. In my family 
my younger brother and I never thought of separating. Of course, now that 


our father is dead we don't know how things will take shape. But we like 
the joint family system. I sometimes feel overburdened being in charge of 
such a big family, but the household work, agricultural work, and tending 
the cattle is done very smoothly as there are enough people to take care of 
it all. If there are only two or three people in a family they just don't know 
how to take care of all of the agricultural and other work. They don't know 
where to leave their children when they go to work in the fields or to bring 
firewood and grass. 

In the above figures on household size and composition I have in- 
cluded "polygamous families" with nuclear families. A polygamous 
family is made up of more than one nuclear family linked by a com- 
mon spouse (Murdock, 1949, p. 2). In Sirkanda these are polygynous 
— multiple wives and a single husband — and generally with only two 
wives. Murdock calls both extended and polygamous families "com- 
posite" families, as distinguished from nuclear ones (Murdock, 1949, 
pp. 23 ff.). I have lumped the polygynous and nuclear types simply 
because in Sirkanda only a man-woman or man-women combination 
is a family. A man and woman are potentially an independent family 
unit; an additional wife is not. An additional wife does not alter the 
family make-up in the same sense that another nuclear family does. 
In any event, there are currently twelve polygynous families in Sir- 
kanda, ten of which are included in larger joint families. Of these ten, 
two have only a dependent parent in addition. The other two con- 
stitute households in themselves. All are Rajputs and are therefore 
landholding families. Seven of these families occupy two separate 
houses, and five families occupy single houses. Size of the extended 
family is apparently the most important factor influencing the living 
arrangement in the polygynous families. A small family often has to 
separate wives into different locations in order to occupy outlying 
dwellings, whereas larger families send out an entire nuclear unit. In 
all five cases in which the polygynous family constitutes virtually the 
entire family unit, the co-wives and their children occupy separate 
dwellings. In all five cases in which they occupy a single house the ex- 
tended family is large enough to tend its chans with other nuclear 
units. This leaves two cases in which wives are separated purely out of 
choice — a frequently cited means of minimizing co-wife friction. 

Marriage Regulations 

The nuclear family is established as a result of marriage customs 
described in the preceding chapter. Joshi summarizes the traits of 
Khasa marriage which distinguish it from Brahamanical Hindu mar- 


riage: existence of levirate, marriage as a secular transaction involving 
bride price, religious ceremony unessential for marriage, marriage 
dissolvable by mutual consent, remarriage of widows and divorcees 
recognized, sacred thread ceremony not deemed essential. These are 
characteristics of traditional marriage in Sirkanda. The religious cere- 
mony and sacred thread ceremony are gaining prominence with the 
increasing trend toward Sanskritization (Joshi, 1929, pp. 50 f.). Here 
I will use the term "marriage" very loosely to designate any instance 
in which a man and woman live openly together so that any child born 
of the woman will be acknowledged to be that of the man as well. 

As has been indicated, the ideal marriage is one between a previously 
unmarried man and woman with appropriate and compatible genea- 
logical and astrological credentials. It is arranged by the parents of 
the principals without their direct participation and at the initiative 
of the groom's family. 

In order to understand marriage regulations it will be necessary to 
jump ahead of the discussion and comment briefly upon two impor- 
tant social units more inclusive than the family. The largest of these 
is the caste or jdt (jati in Hindi), which has frequently been mentioned 
in earlier chapters and which functions much as it does over the rest 
of India. It is the endogamous unit — the unit within which marriages 
should always be contracted. In fact, its extent may be defined by the 
extent of marriage ties. The other unit relevant to marriage is also 
called jat or jati by villagers but is here termed sib (cf. Lowie, 1947, 
p. 111; Murdock, 1949, p. 47). This is a subgroup of the caste and is 
composed of assumed consanguineal relatives. It is exogamous — its 
members are not potential mates. 1 Neither, according to the rules 
followed in this area, are people potential mates if their mothers (or, 
ideally, other maternal ancestors for several generations back) are of 
the same sib. Caste is virtually universal in India, while sibs occur 
primarily among the higher castes. In Sirkanda the low castes claim 
to have a sib structure, although their sibs are somewhat less consist- 
ently and uniformly defined than those of the high castes. Another 
feature of marriage in Sirkanda, as in most of India, is that it is nor- 
mally patrilocal — the bride goes to live at the home of her husband 
and his family. 

In practice it is found that these rules are followed quite rigidly in 
first marriages, arranged by the parents with the advice of Brahmins. 
The rules are less consistently obeyed in subsequent marriages, which 
are often informally contracted, and may even omit bride-price. 

A total of 471 marriages were recorded in genealogical materials 
collected in Sirkanda — 390 high-caste and 81 low-caste marriages. Of 


this number, 300 were marriages of village men (that is, sons of the 
village) and 143 of these were marriages of men who are living and 
currently identified as Sirkanda villagers. 2 For most purposes the 300 
total is most useful in that it is large and is associated with accurate 
data. Data on village women's marriages, except those on location of 
spouse's village, are not complete enough to warrant their use. 

Multiple Marriages 

Ninety-six of 300 unions, 32 per cent, were second or subsequent 
marriages. These were almost evenly divided between polygynous 
unions and nonpolygynous or sequential unions (that is, in which first 
wife died or left before the second marriage). It is probable that in 
this accounting the number of nonpolygynous plural marriages are 
underreported because there is a tendency to overlook first wives, es- 
pecially if they were childless and either left or died early in marriage. 
This is indicated by the fact that in the figures for living Sirkanda men 
such cases outnumber polygynous ones by one-third, while in the total 
figures there is a slight preponderance of polygynous marriages. It 
therefore seems likely that around 40 per cent of all marital unions are 
second or subsequent ones for the man. Polygynous marriages consist- 
ently form about 15 per cent of all unions. 

Polygyny involving more than two wives is rare. Only four cases are 
reported in the genealogical materials, although it is likely that some 
cases stemming from inheritance of additional wives have gone un- 
reported. Polygyny and nonpolygynous plural marriages have occurred 
in all castes represented in Sirkanda. No significant caste differences 
appear, but there is a tendency toward more polygyny among the high 
castes than among the low castes. This tendency may relate to the 
greater usefulness of extra wives in agricultural households than in 
others and the fact that extra wives can evidently pay their way in 
labor more effectively in agriculture than in the specialized occupa- 

Since the people of the area are widely reputed in India to be polyg- 
amous, some special inquiry was directed toward determining the 
extent and nature of such marital arrangements. In the process some 
detailed information about marriage in general was obtained. I have 
already indicated that polyandry is not at all practiced here as it is in 
neighboring Jaunsar-Bawar. In the discussion of intrafamily relations 
it will become evident, however, that there is not as much difference 
as might be expected in the sexual arrangements within the family in 
these two areas (cf. Berreman, 1962a). 

I have shown in the above discussion that polygynous unions are 


permitted and occur with a frequency of about 15 per cent. Twelve 
established polygynous families and one de facto case on the verge of 
public recognition were observed in some detail in Sirkanda. They were 
the total current cases wherein all the principals were alive and par- 
ticipating in the marriage. All were Rajputs. 

Reasons given for polygyny in particular cases were four: (1) to 
produce children when the first wife has been barren, (2) to help with 
the work, (3) for "pleasure," (4) inheritance of an additional wife from 
a deceased brother. 

In eight cases of polygyny in Sirkanda the first two reasons were 
given in combination. The work contributed by the second wife was 
stressed in each of these cases, but sterility of the first wife was appar- 
ently the primary motivation. In one of the cases the woman herself 
asked that another wife be brought for these two reasons, and it was 
her father who made the necessary arrangements to secure a distant 
classificatory sister as her co-wife. In another case the husband was in- 
clined to repeated marriages — he had had four previous wives — but 
had produced no children and claimed to need two women at a time 
to take care of the work. 

One villager commented, 

A wife is a valuable asset here. Here the wife takes care of her husband in 
many ways, and she does much of the work of the household. Therefore, two 
wives are better than one. In your country and in the plains the husband 
has to support the woman, so a second wife is a hardship and a luxury. 

Atkinson (1886, p. 255) says that in Garhwal "the custom probably 
arose from the great difficulty there was in cultivating the large amount 
of waste land available. Wives were procured to help in field 
work. . . ." 

In three cases in Sirkanda "pleasure" was given as the reason for 
taking a second wife; that is, there was no question of need for more 
workers or more children in the family. In two cases wives were in- 
herited from elder brothers. In one of these cases a man inherited two 
wives from his brother and already had one of his own. He had not 
declared that the widows were his wives, though in fact they were, 
and one of the inherited wives had borne a son by him. It was ex- 
pected that the relationship would soon be publicly acknowledged, 
especially in view of the fact that one of the inherited wives had 
moved from her deceased husband's house to that of his brother 
shortly before my departure. In two additional cases a man got his 
second wife from a living brother. In one case the husband acqui- 
esced when his wife declared her intention to leave and expressed 


her desire to marry her husband's brother. In the other case the man 
simply took over the wife of his younger brother, lived with her and 
his first wife in a chan, and fathered a son by her. After the birth 
of the son and an announcement by the household head (a still older 
brother), she became publicly known as his wife. At that time the 
younger brother was promised a new wife. 

Fifteen of the 27 women in these polygynous marriages were virgins 
(that is, previously unmarried) at marriage. The twelve nonvirgins 
included the five procured from brothers (three inherited, two taken) 
and seven divorcees. There is a significant difference in the incidence 
of virgin brides among first, as compared to second, wives in these 
polygynous unions. Ten first wives were virgins and three were non- 
virgins, while five second wives were virgins and nine were nonvirgins. 
Although three cases of inheritance account for three of the nonvirgin 
second wives, there is still a marked tendency to accept previously 
married brides as second wives and to reject them as first wives. There 
is also a preference for marrying a virgin daughter to a single man. 

In 22 of the 27 marriages in these 13 families, bride-price payment 
was made at the time of marriage either to the bride's family or to a 
former husband, while in only one case, a first marriage, was a dowry 
given instead. The remaining four cases were those of wives obtained 
from a brother and involved no exchange of money. 

Marriage ceremonies were performed in seven of the 13 initial mar- 
riages which established families destined to become polygynous. All 
seven were among the 10 with virgin brides. This conforms to the 
village ratio: about 50 per cent of all marriages have been without 
benefit of ceremony, and ceremonies are performed only when the 
bride is previously unmarried. 

Second marriages are less often ceremonialized than first ones. Of 
the 14 second marriages (that is, those which made the family polyg- 
ynous), only two were ceremonialized, and both of these were among 
the five such marriages which involved virgin brides. Intervals be- 
tween marriages ranged from two to 20 years. In six marriages the 
co-wives normally shared a house or chan as residence, and in seven 
marriages they were separated. 3 

Three of the thirteen instances of polygyny were sororal — sisters 
married to the same man. Two pairs of co-wives were real sisters and 
the other pair were classificatory sisters (daughters of first cousins re- 
lated through the male line). 

Levirate, or inheritance of wives from a brother, is standard pro- 
cedure here. Either an elder or younger brother may inherit at the dis- 
cretion of the household head, who is usually the eldest surviving 


brother. Although no preference for junior levirate was expressed in 
Sirkanda, it is most frequent, probably because elder brothers tend 
to die first. If an outsider wishes to marry the widow, he must secure 
permission and reimburse her husband's family. This, too, is frequently 
done. Elopement is another frequent means by which a widow marries 
the man of her choice. A boy who has been betrothed and then dies 
may be replaced by his brother to fulfill the marital contract. There is 
no evidence of the systematic practice of sororate, wherein a deceased 
woman is replaced by her single sister in the marital union. Two or three 
isolated instances occur in the data. Similarly, there are isolated instances 
of brothers marrying women who are sisters, but this is an unusual ar- 
rangement neither encouraged nor discouraged. 

In this society it is important to contract proper marriages for one's 
children. Once this has been done, regardless of what may happen 
subsequently, the honor of the family is intact. Danger of an inter- 
caste or intra-sib union is precluded because a proper match has been 
made. If, later, a proscribed alliance develops, the individuals in- 
volved will take the blame; the family has done its duty. This explains 
the fact that no deviations from rules of caste endogamy and 
sib exogamy were found or reported for first marriages in Sirkanda. 
Maintenance of family honor is also offered as an explanation for 
early marriage. Early marriage prevents the disgrace of an unwed 
mother or nonvirginal bride because no girl old enough for child- 
bearing or adult sex activity is unwed. That she may have relations 
with various men and perhaps even bear children by them in the 
absence of her husband is irrelevant — she is a properly married woman. 
Virginity at first marriage is important, while sex behavior thereafter 
is unimportant. As one man put it, "We disobey the law [which sets 
the minimum marriage age for girls at fourteen], but we protect our 
honor." As a result, unwed pregnant girls are a rarity. When they are 
found out they are immediately married to their lover if possible, or to 
one of their sisters' husbands, or to some boy whose family is willing 
— usually a family hard pressed to find a bride for financial or other 
reasons. Unwed mothers are virtually unknown. The nearest approach 
to unwed motherhood that can be cited in the village is the occasional 
un-rewed widow who bears a child, to the consternation of her family. 

First marriages for women, as described in the preceding chapter, 
are likely to be accompanied by ceremony and public acclaim. Sub- 
sequent marriages for women are contracted without ceremony and 
receive little attention, though they do receive public recognition and 
approval. Second marriages for men are less likely to be ceremonialized 
than first ones. In second marriages which run counter to rules of 


endogamy or exogamy, and in other "love marriages," the couple 
usually elopes or the woman comes secretly to the home of her new 
husband and the marriage is accepted by others as a fait accompli. 
Numerous cases of this kind have occurred among all castes. They are 
frequent bases for disputes, sometimes resulting in long-standing fac- 
tional splits involving considerable numbers of people. 


Paharis have a reputation for disregarding the rules of caste 
endogamy and other orthodox Hindu marriage regulations. My data 
indicate that in this region the reputation is undeserved so far as 
initial marriages are concerned but finds corroboration in subsequent 
marriages. While no deviations occurred among first marriages in Sir- 
kanda, some did occur in second or subsequent marriages. The num- 
bers of such deviations are not large, but the fact that they exist is 

In Sirkanda there is at present one established and recognized inter- 
caste union — that of a Rajput man and a Brahmin woman who eloped. 
The woman came to the man's village and took up residence with him, 
and he then reimbursed her former husband, a Brahmin. The only 
long-range effect in Sirkanda was estrangement between the Rajput 
husband and his brothers, who resented his bringing a Brahmin woman 
into the family. To this day his elder brother will not let the Brahmin 
woman into his house, nor allow her to address him as "husband's 
elder brother." In the woman's village the Brahmins were angry but 
did nothing beyond lodging a prompt protest and threatening to 
punish physically the Rajput who took this woman. There is a sim- 
ilarly accepted union of a Brahmin man and a Rajput woman in an- 
other Bhatbair village. 

A second case involving a Rajput man and a Brahmin woman in a 
neighboring village was terminated by public pressure after a council 
met and directed that the woman be returned to her former husband 
and the abductor pay a fine (which he avoided by leaving the village). 
A child had been conceived in this union, and there was talk of in- 
ducing an abortion. However, when the father left and the woman 
settled back with her former husband the idea was dropped. The child 
was born and was accepted as a Brahmin — as the offspring of the man 
and wife in whose household it was born — despite its well-known and 
undoubted parentage. The Rajput involved was a well-known "loafer" 
or philanderer who had left more than one wife and had established 
unions with several women, including a low-caste woman. Moreover, 
he had taken the Brahmin woman far away, to Delhi, on the strength of 


promises which were never fulfilled. He failed to provide for her prop- 
erly and allegedly mistreated her and sold her jewelry for his own 
profit. Had he been a stable member of the community, it is likely that 
little sentiment would have been aroused over the incident. Normally 
feeling does not run high in such cases. As a Brahmin commented in 
the council meeting to resolve this case, "There is not much differ- 
ence between Rajputs and Brahmins, so it doesn't matter very much 
anyway." On the other hand a Rajput was apparently incensed and 
made the comment, "A Brahmin woman is like a mother to Rajputs." 
The latter attitude is evidently a statement of ideal rather than actual 

Unions across high- and low-caste lines meet with greater public 
disapproval. They are nearly always unions of high-caste men with 
low-caste women; the reverse is violently condemned and could not be 
continued if it were known. In Sirkanda two Rajput men have taken 
low-caste wives from outside the village — one of barber caste and one 
of a charcoal-making group. Both unions were terminated under pub- 
lic pressure when the facts became known. One Rajput man related to 
a Sirkanda family but resident in a neighboring village took three 
low-caste wives, a weaver, a carpenter, and a blacksmith, and lived with 
all three at once. In the case of the last of these the couple underwent a 
ceremony at the insistence of the girl's parents, for she had not been 
previously married. A Brahmin was found to perform it, but no one 
other than the girl's relatives attended. The man remained with these 
three wives throughout his life but was ostracized by his own caste. 
His one son is of the caste of his mother but has inherited the property 
of his father. A life-long Rajput-weaver union existed in a nearby 
village, and in another village a Rajput had three blacksmith wives. 
Both the blacksmiths and Bajgis of Sirkanda trace their ancestry to 
high-caste male ancestors, a Rajput and a Brahmin, respectively, who 
married women of low caste with the result that their children were 
assigned to the same caste as their mothers. Whether this ancestry is 
fact or fancy, it is believed and indicates the possibility of such unions 
and their results. 

An extreme case of intercaste marriage in Bhatbair involved the 
elopement of a boy of shoemaker caste and a Brahmin girl — the lowest 
and highest castes and the reverse of the expected sex-caste affiliation. 
This was a universally disapproved case. When such a union is hypothe- 
sized to villagers in a question, the questioner is promptly assured that 
the result would be death to the man or perhaps to both partners, and 
lifelong ostracism should either survive. In reality, the couple ran off 
to Dehra Dun, where they lived together for some time. There fellow 


shoemakers finally put pressure on the boy to return the girl to her 
people, and he too went home. Now both live in their respective vil- 
lages, unmarriageable but otherwise unimpeded in carrying on their 
normal lives. Rumor has it that they are still in love and perhaps in 
surreptitious contact and that they have no desire to remarry even were 
this allowed. 

Among the low castes, blacksmiths and carpenters form a single 
endogamous group while weavers and the immigrant Sirkanda bar- 
bers are separated from them and from one another by little social or 
ritual distance. These groups intermarry frequently and without public 
disapproval (see discussion of "Relations Among Low Castes" in 
chap. 7). 

Bajgis and shoemakers stay within their respective castes more con- 
sistently as they are more distant from one another and from the above 
group than are the castes within the above group. Exceptions cutting 
across these lines probably occur with about the same frequency and 
results as the above-listed high-caste deviations. No examples of ex- 
ceptions were found in Bhatbair, where only a small sample of low- 
caste marriages could be obtained because of their small numbers. 

Married women of any caste may be "sold" to outsiders, as described 
in the section on "Illegal Economic Activities" in chapter 2. In such 
cases caste is not a significant consideration. There are Sirkanda women 
who have been married in this way to plains merchants (Banias), Nepa- 
lese Rajput military officers, and a Sikh religious leader. There is no 
caste in Bhatbair whose women have not on occasion been involved in 
such transactions, though all, and especially the high castes, are careful 
to conceal the fact. In terms of frequency, more low-caste women have 
been sold. Usually the woman's family and her husband lack prior 
knowledge and do not consent, although one Rajput husband appar- 
ently connived in such a transaction in order to make way for a new 
wife for himself. Among the low castes an unmarried girl is occasionally 
"sold" by her parents to outsiders in this fashion. Two such instances 
were recorded as initial marriages in Sirkanda. These were two of 32 
recorded marriages of low-caste village girls, so the practice is not 
especially rare. 

One current case of cross-caste marriage exists in Sirkanda and three 
others have been reported in recent years, constituting a total of about 
1 per cent of all unions. Marriage of women to non-Paharis would not 
raise this above 2 per cent at the maximum. Of the local intercaste 
unions only Rajput-Brahmin and some inter-low-caste marriages sur- 
vived public disapproval. In all reported cases marriages which crossed 
the boundary between high and low castes resulted either in ostracism 


of the high-caste partner by his caste-fellows or dissolution of the mar- 
riage under public pressure. No union would be allowed to persist be- 
tween a high-caste woman and a low-caste man, and none would be 
openly attempted in the area. There is an explicit tradition that, while 
intercaste marriage is not permissible, if it does in fact occur and if it 
is repeated for seven generations, a new caste is formed and recognized. 
No example of this was known, and the mechanics of its operation were 
hazy in the minds of villagers. Normally the children of an intercaste 
union belong to the caste of the lower-caste parent, usually the mother. 

Before closing this discussion of rules of endogamy it may be rele- 
vant to mention that the most popular Pahari song in Sirkanda during 
1957-1958 glorified an intercaste elopement and widow remarriage. 
This song, sung primarily by young people as they worked in the jungle, 
had several versions. In essence, it was the story of a young widow of 
weaver caste who was directed by her own and her husband's family 
to remain in the family of her deceased husband. Unable to face the 
prospect of such a lonely life, she eloped to the plains with a Brahmin 
man. Tracked down by her relatives, the couple were taken to court, 
where the magistrate ruled in favor of the couple, saying that it was 
their right to do as they felt best. He fined the relatives for causing 
such inconvenience to all concerned. The couple went off to live hap- 
pily ever after, but not before the woman's relatives had secured a 
measure of revenge by branding her on the forehead with a red-hot 
coin. The song is allegedly based on a true story of recent origin in a 
neighboring area of Tehri Garhwal. It was popular with all castes, and 
the heroine was known affectionately to all by her pet name. 

Thus, marriage across caste lines is not abhorred in this society to the 
extent that it is in many areas of India. Rules of endogamy are not 
rigidly adhered to, but they are not violated as frequently as the Pahari 
reputation would lead one to expect. 4 Intercaste marriage is tolerated 
if it is not the initial marriage and if the castes of the individuals in- 
volved are of the same general economic and social level. As will be- 
come evident in later discussion, this is one aspect of a generally looser 
definition of appropriate caste behavior in the hills as compared to the 


Besides caste endogamy, marriages are also regulated by sib exog- 
amy. In this region no person is allowed to marry within his own sib 
or that of his mother. To do so would be to commit incest, since it 
would be to marry classificatory siblings or other relatives. All of the 
mother's sib is included within the kindred (discussed below). Children 


of mother's siblings (real and classificatory) are classified as siblings of 
ego, even though they are of different sib affiliation, just as are children 
of father's siblings. In addition, among the high castes the sibs of di- 
rect female ancestors are supposed to be excluded from eligibility for 
marriage for five to ten generations back, as reported variously by 
Brahmin informants, who are the ultimate authorities on such matters. 
This is evidently an expression of the Hindu sapinda rule of exogamy 
prohibiting marriage within the bilaterally defined kindred: 

The marriage rules as regards Sapinda relationship or consanguinity de- 
fine that a man should not marry a girl who is related to him through a com- 
mon male ancestor up to the 7th generation in the father's line and up to 
the 5th generation in the mother's line. Different law books give different 
rules. (Karve, 1953, p. 55) 

Unfortunately in Sirkanda sib affiliation of village wives proved to 
be a difficult and unreliable type of data to obtain for generations 
preceding the present, although marriage does not alter a woman's 
sib affiliation. However, the village contains two large and two smaller 
Rajput sibs. The data on these are good and throw light on the matter 
of inter-sib marriage arrangements, since these sibs can and do inter- 
marry frequently in the village. Fifty-three Rajput marriages between 
people of the sibs found in Sirkanda were recorded, and they revealed 
no cases of marriage within own or mother's sib on first or subsequent 
marriages. 5 Four cases of marriage into paternal grandmother's sib 
occurred. One of these four was a first marriage, and two comprised an 
instance of sororal polygyny. This indicates that the effective exoga- 
mous units are own and mother's sib only, and accords with information 
given by Joshi (1929, p. 75) and with the testimony of uneducated 
Rajput informants, who mentioned only these as prohibited groups. 

A single instance of intra-sib marriage was reported. The wife of a 
Sirkanda Rajput left him shortly after marriage to live as wife of a 
man in another village who stood in the relationship of father's brother's 
son's son to her and was therefore her sib-fellow and nephew. Since this 
was a second marriage, objection was mild and the union has endured. 
Probably the fact that the relationship was not particularly close and 
that the woman was not older than the man added to its acceptability. 
No other instances of marriages within incest boundaries appeared. 
Perhaps this is partly because when they occur among the most distant 
prohibited relationships they are not as conspicuous as the more fre- 
quently reported intercaste marriages. However, these data and the 
expressed attitudes of villagers suggest that rules of exogamy are less 
frequently broken than rules of endogamy in this society. 


Marriage Networks 

There is no rule of village exogamy in this area such as is reported 
for other parts of North India, including nearby Jaunsar-Bawar 
(Saksena, 1955, p. 28; Berreman, ig62d). Neither is there any reluctance 
to give and take brides in the same village as is true, for example, 
among the Noniyas of Senapur (Rowe, 1960b). As will be mentioned 
again, high-caste sibs in Sirkanda may derive from formerly exogamous 
community affiliation, but this does not affect the present situation in 
and around Sirkanda. In this region, if a man and woman of the same 
caste are not within one another's kindred, if they are of different sibs 
and their mothers are of different sibs, they are potential mates re- 
gardless of village membership. Local exogamy often results from the 
fact that these conditions cannot be met within the village, but this is 
local exogamy in effect, not in intent. Local exogamy occurs in all 
castes of Sirkanda except Rajputs, because all but they are single-sib 
local segments of castes. Some Bhatbair villages are entirely single-sib 
villages, and hence their members must marry outside the village. 

Of 471 recorded marriages contracted by Sirkanda people, 377 were 
Rajput marriages, and of these 77, or 20 per cent, were contracted 
within the village. 6 The remaining 394 Sirkanda marriages were con- 
tracted with people of 92 identified villages and four general areas at 
greater distances — roughly 400 marriages in 100 localities (see map 2). 
The numbers ranged from 45 marriages in one village (Kanda) to one 
each in 36 villages. Thirty per cent of these marriages were contracted 
in seven villages, and 80 per cent were contracted in 50 villages (in- 
cluding the seven just mentioned but excluding Sirkanda), all within 
a four air-mile radius of the village, that is, eight trail miles, an easy 
half-day's trip. This leaves 20 per cent of the nonviilage marriages 
spread over 42 villages and four broader areas up to 18 air miles dis- 
tant (about 35 trail miles, a two-day trip each way). Thus, of all Sir- 
kanda marriages, 83 per cent are within a radius of four air miles. Six- 
teen per cent (all Rajput marriages) are within Sirkanda itself. 7 A 
villager remarked, "On the plains it is easy to travel, and people there 
go great distances for brides. Here it is very difficult to get around so 
we have to find ours closer to our own village. It is as hard to go one 
mile here as it is to go five miles in the plains on foot, and many places 
there they can go by motor bus or at least by cart." 

Virtually all Sirkanda marriages are contracted in Pahari villages, 
although non-Pahari villages are well-known and easily accessible 
within five air miles of the village, in the valley en route to Dehra Dun. 
Marriages at distances this great or greater comprise 17 per cent of all 


village unions, but they are all in Tehri Garhwal, which is culturally 
more similar, though physically less accessible, than the valley. The 
only exceptions in Sirkanda have been six barber-caste marriages and 
the sale of two low-caste women to outsiders. 8 

Caste differences in distribution of spouses' villages revealed differ- 
ential extent in marriage networks (cf. Rowe, 1960b) in the various 
castes. Eighty-five per cent of high-caste marriages occurred within the 
four-mile radius, and 73 per cent of Bajgi, 53 per cent of blacksmith, 
and 35 per cent of barber marriages were that close. This is a direct 
reflection of the relative population of these groups and of the outside 
origin of the barbers. The fewer the potential mates for a group in the 
area, the farther they have to go to find mates. The overwhelming ma- 
jority of Bhatbair residents are Rajputs and Brahmins. Likewise, in- 
dividual villages reflect their caste and sib composition in the fre- 
quency of intermarriage with Sirkanda villagers. One village provided 
45 mates, all Rajputs, while another provided 14 mates, 12 of low 
castes, and two Brahmins. There were no discernible patterned differ- 
ences between distribution of bride-giving and bride-taking villages; 
that is, giving and taking of brides appeared to occur randomly among 
villages in the marriage networks of each caste, except where sib ex- 
ogamy prevented it. 

The marriage network of each caste roughly defines the limits of its 
informal social interaction outside the village. Most visiting is done 
with relatives, and most relatives outside the village are affines. How- 
ever, the village community remains the social unit of most frequent 
and important interaction. It is not surpassed, even among low castes 
(as is the case among Senapur Noniyas) by the intervillage marriage 
network. Low-caste people of Sirkanda have not experienced the new- 
found freedom of the Noniyas and, even if they had, demography and 
topography might have precluded development of transcendent social 
and political functions characteristic of the marriage network of Sen- 
apur (cf. Rowe, 1960b, p. 310). Sirkanda villagers are still closely tied 
to the multi-caste village dominated by the local Rajputs. 

New Wives for Old 

Divorce and remarriage are frequent among the people of Sir- 
kanda, although perhaps not so common as in Jaunsar-Bawar, where 
Majumdar (1944, p. 162) reports that barrenness results in divorce and 
Saksena (1955, p. 36) reports that the "slightest disloyalty or the slight- 
est slip" on the part of a wife may result in divorce. 9 

A couple who do not get along well together or who have specific 
grievances either on their own part or that of their families — for ex- 


ample, the wife refusing to stay with her husband, or the husband's 
family refusing to make good the bride price — may go through a pro- 
cedure called chUt, divorce, which breaks the marriage bond. Either 
party may initiate this action. In such cases an ad hoc panchayat, or 
council, of friends of both parties acts as intermediary to achieve a sat- 
isfactory settlement. A written agreement is signed by the father of 
the wife and by the husband or his father. The agreement specifies the 
amount to be paid by the family of the wife and states that thereafter 
the parties are to be free of mutual obligation. In addition, a sum is 
paid to the panchayat. If the girl plans to live with someone else, that 
man may pay the former husband's family either directly or indirectly. 
One such formal dissolution occurred in a Rajput family in the year 

1 957~ 1 958. 

A much more common type of divorce, and virtually the only type 
among low castes, occurs when a wife goes to her parents' home or to 
another man and refuses to return, or a husband sends her home. In 
the former case the husband will try to exact reimbursement but may 
not be successful, especially if the wife runs some distance away. Vil- 
lage or caste panchayats may intervene to secure a just settlement in 
such cases. In any elopement the panchayat is called by the family with 
which the girl was affiliated at the time of elopement (usually the hus- 
band's family, but sometimes parents), as they are the aggrieved party. 

Threats of running away or unannounced short-term retreats to the 
home village are used by women to secure better treatment from their 
husbands. Husbands may deprive errant wives of things they want 
(trinkets, new clothes, attendance at a fair) or physically punish them. 
No accurate data were obtained on frequency with which the husband, 
as compared to the wife, instigated divorce, but it appears to be about 
equal. Although precise data are lacking, it seems likely that at least 
20 per cent of all marriages are dissolved by formal or informal divorce. 
This estimate is based primarily on figures for high castes. Unlike the 
plains situation, where low-caste divorce is frequent but high-caste 
divorce is infrequent or concealed, there are no apparent differences 
in divorce rates among the various hill castes. Divorce is taken as a 
matter of course. 

Causes of divorce are many and complex. Failure to fulfill the formal 
and informal obligations of marriage are overt reasons given for di- 
vorce. Among reasons given in specific instances were: nonpayment of 
bride price, nonvirginity of allegedly virginal bride, mental or physi- 
cal defect in one partner, bride's failure to perform her duties in the 
house, bride's inability to get along with in-laws, bride's refusal to stay 
in the household or refusal to return after postmarriage visit to her 


home, husband's mistreatment of wife, husband's failure to provide 
adequately for wife, husband's departure from village leaving wife 
stranded there, father-in-law's molestation of bride, and persistent 
adultery or philandering on part of wife or husband. Occasional adul- 
tery is not normally a ground for divorce and is, in fact, expected. How- 
ever, when it is practiced openly, when lasting attachments are made, 
when a person acquires a reputation for excessive indulgence — es- 
pecially if it involves cross-caste relations — or when a person neglects 
his or her spouse in favor of a lover, divorce is likely to follow. If either 
partner falls in love with someone else, he or she is likely to leave or 
purposely bring about divorce. In at least one case in Sirkanda a wife 
left when her husband took a second wife, although his intent had 
been to establish a polygynous relationship. A Brahmin man in a nearby 
village lost his first wife, a Brahmin, when he brought in a Rajput 
woman as second wife. Remarriage after divorce is almost universal. 
Some men and women have had a succession of marriages. One Sirkanda 
man voluntarily parted with three successive wives. One nineteen-year- 
old girl is living with her third successive husband, a young Sirkanda 
man. On the other hand, one village daughter in Sirkanda has returned 
home after a particularly unhappy marriage, resolved to live out her 
life in the large extended family of her parents and brothers and never 
to remarry. 

Remarriage after a spouse's death is expected. High-caste plains 
customs in this regard are known but not envied. This is one instance 
in which orthodox, Sanskritic custom is not emulated. Even educated 
Pahari Brahmins do not press for it, saying that in these hills it is im- 
practical to keep dependent widows unmarried. There is no reluctance 
to discuss the subject and no inferiority feeling about it, as there is 
about some non-Sanskritic practices. One Rajput man said, 

Forbidding widow remarriage is a stupid custom. What is a widow to do 
with herself if she does not remarry? She is a burden to her family and to 
herself. Anyway, it would not work here. Every man needs a woman and 
every woman needs a man. If our widows didn't remarry we would have de- 
pendent widows and unmarried men who couldn't do all of their work in 
the village. It is taken care of easily because the woman often goes to her 
husband's brother. 

If a widow remarries outside her husband's family, she usually gives 
up her rights to her husband's property, though her children by him 
will receive it when they reach maturity, even if she keeps them with 
her. Occasionally a widow remains in her husband's house and re- 
mains a clan member, even though she does not become the wife of 


one of his brothers. Rarely such a woman will take a husband from 
outside the family and yet remain in the house. As in the unusual case 
of a matrilocal initial marriage, this occurs only if there are no eligible 
men in the family and most often when there are no other adults in 
the family at all. The new husband then becomes a member of the 
clan of his new wife and her former husband. He is derisively said to 
have "gone to sit" at the woman's house, and he is likely to be ridiculed 
if he is an outsider in the village. The arrangement is advantageous 
if the woman has property from her first husband which she can in this 
way retain and still be remarried. One such case had occurred in a 
Sirkanda chan in recent years. 


Having children, and especially sons, is very important in Sir- 
kanda families, as it is throughout Hindu India. The son not only 
helps with the work and carries on the family line but inherits the 
father's property and performs the necessary rites associated with the 
death and postdeath welfare of his parents. If no son is born to a man 
he often designates his son-in-law to fulfill these roles. The son-in-law 
must then come to live in the father's house, and he manages the lands 
of his deceased father-in-law, ultimately passing them on to his sons 
by this wife, or to an adopted son. If he has no sons, the land does not 
revert to others in his lineage, but stays in the lineage of his wife. 

If a man has no son or daughter, he may designate some other rela- 
tive to be his heir and to perform the death rites. More often, however, 
he will adopt a son. Girls are not adopted. There are currently four 
cases of adoption in Sirkanda. An adopted son is usually a relative who 
stands to gain more in the way of property by the adoption than if he 
stayed with his real parents. Often he is a daughter's son. He may be a 
boy born under an inauspicious asterism, an orphan or semi-orphan, 
or one of many brothers in a poor family. Like marriage, adoption 
does not alter sib affiliation, but it does alter clan identification. Adop- 
tion is frequently resented by relatives of the adopter, who would in- 
herit his property were it not for the adopted heir. Sometimes a family 
offers a son for adoption, especially when he is near adulthood already, 
for purely mercenary reasons: they hope to get additional property into 
the family. 

Adoption is publicly recognized but is informally effected without 
ceremony. The adopted child simply comes to live with the adopting 
family, and it is announced that this boy will inherit the property of 
his new father. From that time on the boy is treated as a son by his 


new parents. "An adopted son is just like a real son to his father. He 
serves and honors his father even more than a real son would. Since a 
foster father has no other sons, he showers more affection on the adopted 
boy than he would if he had several of his own. He won't adopt a boy 
he doesn't like." If adoption occurs in childhood, the boy grows up in 
the family as a son. If, as is often the case, adoption occurs later in life 
— after the foster parents have given up all hope of offspring of their 
own — the boy moves into the household of his new parents even if he 
is already married. He begins to share in that economic unit and ceases 
to share in that of his real father. The parents by adoption will make 
wedding arrangements and payments if the boy is unmarried or takes 
a second wife. In such cases the boy may be entitled to claim inheritance 
from his real parents as well as the foster ones. Adoption is generally 
arranged with an advance understanding on this matter, and usually 
the boy surrenders his claim to his real parents' property. 

Sometimes an orphaned or otherwise disadvantaged child, usually a 
relative, is taken into a family where there are already several children. 
There is less interest in such a child, probably because he is thrust 
upon the family and will perform no important function for it, and 
often he is exploited and deprived in comparison to the real offspring 
of the family. Two current instances of this type were found among 
Sirkanda families. 

Child Rearing 

An important function of the family is, of course, child rearing. 
Children are usually carefully cared for. If there are already four or 
more in the family, a child may tend to suffer from neglect. Infant 
mortality rates are high, but accurate data are unavailable. Three 
children two years of age or under died out of 31 in the village during 
1957-1958. One of five born during the year died shortly after birth. 
Two families reported twice as many births as living children; some 
others had had few or no infant deaths. Probably infant and child 
mortality runs over 20 per cent. 

Children are not given solid foods until a year after birth. They 
continue to nurse until another child is born, and sporadically there- 
after. Occasionally a youngest child may be allowed to suck for six 
years or longer. 

The atmosphere of child rearing is indulgent and permissive. The 
child is allowed to handle anything within reach, and its parents or 
relatives and friends are usually around the house, sitting on the floor 
where the child can crawl over them as it pleases and where they can 


show it whatever attention it demands. Almost anything a small child 
does is accepted. No special effort is made to encourage the child to 
walk. Toilet training is gradual and not intensive; the mother or a 
sibling simply begins taking the child out of the living area of the 
house when defecation or urination seems imminent, and accidents are 
tolerated without comment for at least three years. The small child, 
until it can walk competently, spends most of the time in the house or 
on the hip of an elder sibling. Since dwelling rooms are on the second 
story, doorways and verandas are barricaded with boards to protect the 
infant from falling. Often the child is tied around the waist with a 
leash attached to a bedpost. In most extended families someone, often 
an elderly person, is always around to look after the child, and this is 
cited as an advantage of the extended family system. In families where 
there is no extra person about to watch the child, it may simply be 
locked in the house when the parents have to be away to work in the 
fields or forest. One infant was burned to death in 1957 when it rolled 
into the fireplace after having been left alone while its parents were 
working in the fields. As children grow old enough to get about easily 
and to take care of themselves, they are free to roam the village with 
siblings or other children, though they are encouraged to stay near the 
house when unaccompanied. 

About half the boys resident in the village and an occasional girl 
attend the local school with varying degrees of regularity from age 6 
to 1 1 or 12. The children who attend are those whose parents want them 
to, and this is largely a matter of whether they are needed to help with 
the household work. By age 8 to 12 boys begin to accompany their 
fathers in their work, while girls continue to help their mothers. By 
age 14 a girl is ready to live with her husband, whom she has married 
1 to 3 years earlier. Ideally she should have her first menstruation in 
her husband's household, but some marry considerably later. A boy is 
ready to take a wife by 16 or 17, though some do not do so until later. 

Throughout childhood the child is rarely disciplined. He is repri- 
manded, commanded, and threatened, but these words are not often 
enforced by physical means, and the child soon learns this. Lackadaisi- 
cal compliance is the typical reaction to adult direction. The child is 
generally in the company of other children but is rarely excluded from 
adult company. There is little a child cannot see and attempt to imi- 
tate, although sex activity is (not very successfully) concealed from 
children. Caste consciousness and discrimination are learned from 
childhood through instructions received, references overheard, and 
behavior observed. However, caste barriers do not enter into children's 
interaction among themselves until after puberty. One case of mutual 


"puppy love" during my stay in the village was between a 15-year-old 
blacksmith boy and the 14-year-old daughter of the village headman, a 
Rajput and the wealthiest man in the village. During this period the 
girl became engaged to her future husband, but this did not dismay her 
nor her friend. Their relationship was concealed from adults but not 
for reasons of caste. 

Intrafamily Relations 

Patterns of interaction among members of the patrilocal extended 
family depend in large part upon interplay of age, sex, and relationship 
roles. Males take precedence over females, age over youth, consanguin- 
eal over affinal relationship. 

As has been stated, the eldest active male is the household head. This 
man is in the relationship of father or elder brother to other adult males 
in the family. He is responsible for all decisions in the family, and his 
is the final authority, whether it be in matters of allocating lands to 
crops, performing worship, or arranging a marriage. The father is not 
always the authoritarian family head as ideally described. He may 
hesitate to rebuke an adult son. The father of one young Sirkanda man 
was disturbed at his son's continual absence from home in pursuit of 
an illicit love affair in another village. He was not doing his share of the 
family work (they were Bajgis). But the father had not the courage to 
face the boy on the matter. Finally he went to the husband of his son's 
lover and complained to him that his wife was ruining the boy and 
taking his money, and that the affair must stop. The husband, who had 
known of the affair but had not interfered (probably because his wife 
was getting material rewards for her service), then spoke to the young 
man and told him to leave the woman alone. It worked, for a time 
at least, with a minimum of hard feeling and no intrafamily tension 
in the Sirkanda family. 

In most instances the family head acts on family matters after con- 
sulting with other males and often his wife as well, but this is not 
necessary nor prescribed. When an old man becomes senile or inactive 
or when he dies, he is replaced by the next in line. If conflict occurs 
over succession, the joint family is likely to divide. An old and inactive 
man tends to be ignored or actively resented by other family members 
and he himself often resents their attitudes toward him, so that every- 
one looks forward to his death. Old men, like old women, find occupa- 
tion around the house in caring for children or doing domestic tasks. 
After the death of the household head his widow may be referred to as 



the head, but in reality the authority usually passes to the next eldest 
male if he is an adult. 

Among brothers in a family, age takes precedence. Younger brothers 
are expected to obey and respect their elders. This rule applies to par- 
allel cousins (father's brother's sons) as well as to real brothers. Sisters 
are expected to respect and obey brothers regardless of relative age, 
though of course they often care for and wield authority over much 
younger brothers in childhood. Among sisters, age takes precedence. 
The mother has the honor and respect of sons and daughters. She re- 
tains authority over daughters till they marry, and loses authority over 
sons as they reach maturity. 

Before proceeding further it will be well to emphasize that Pahari 
women of all castes enjoy a degree of freedom unknown among any 
but the low-caste women of the plains. They work alone or in groups 
without male accompaniment. They come and go as they please around 
the village and talk to whomever they please except strangers. They are 
not restricted to separate living quarters, and they are not subject to 
purdah (seclusion). Therefore in the ensuing discussion, their sub- 
ordination to men must be recognized as subordination within a con- 
text of relative freedom. It is not the same order of subordination 
found among many plains groups. One indication of this is the ease 
with which divorce and remarriage are effected and the freedom allowed 
women in sexual matters. If a woman is unhappy she can always turn 
elsewhere or go home. 

The relationship between the patrilineal family and the wives who 
have joined it from outside is ideally one of a cohesive group taking in 
a stranger. The bride comes in to be critically appraised by the extant 
in-group. She must prove herself by her good works. The new wife 
finds herself at the bottom of a well-established hierarchy. She often 
does not know her husband, and in any event his loyalties and respon- 
sibilities are first to the family. She is under the direct authority of her 
mother-in-law and the wives of her husband's elder brothers. She must 
show obedience, respect, and deference to all of her elders. She shows 
respect by never using the names of the males and elder females in the 
family, by never smoking in their presence or laughing to their faces. 
Often she is accepted and even comforted by all or most of the women 
in the household. Sometimes she is not. Her fate in this respect is in 
the unpredictable hands of others, and therefore it is an uncertain and 
potentially unpleasant one. Consequently the tears of a bride at leaving 
her family of origin are not entirely conventional. As time passes and 
a wife proves her value as a contributing member of the family through 


her industry and skill and especially by producing children, her po- 
sition becomes increasingly secure. As younger sisters-in-law come in, 
her authority increases. She learns which family members are her 
friends and which are not; to whom she can turn for consolation and 
from whom she must keep her secrets. Often a woman's husband be- 
comes her strongest ally and will mediate on her behalf if necessary. 
The husband's younger brothers are traditionally her friends, and often 
it is only with them that a young wife is able to establish an easy, in- 
formal friendship. There is something of the "joking relationship" 
between these two that is traditional over much of North India. Sisters- 
in-law may become friends and so may other village wives, especially 
if they have previous ties, as when they are related to one another or 
are from the same village. In such cases a woman may receive moral 
support outside the family, but her loyalties and responsibilities must 
remain with her husband's family. This is true even when her own fam- 
ily lives in the same village. In such a case a woman is in frequent inter- 
action with her family of origin, but she must be careful not to let 
such interaction interfere with her responsibilities to her husband's 

One day in Sirkanda a young village wife who lived a stone's throw 
from her parents' house stopped to talk to her mother. The mother 
and she requested that she be photographed with her infant daughter. 
When I offered to do so at once, they quickly declined, saying that the 
girl's mother-in-law had sent her to collect fodder and would not like 
it if she delayed to be photographed at her mother's request. I was 
advised to come to the mother-in-law some time and offer to take the 
photograph without mentioning this prior arrangement. 

A woman's natal household gods may intervene in her behalf if she 
is mistreated by her husband's family. If worst comes to worst, it is 
relatively easy for her to escape to her home or to another potential 
husband. This happens frequently in the village, though usually a 
girl's parents return her to her husband, often after a conference with 
her husband's family. In happier circumstances a wife from outside the 
village can expect to visit her home about once a year for a few days 
or weeks and can expect to see relatives and friends from her own village 
occasionally on visits. 

In visits to her village of origin, among her parents and siblings and 
childhood friends, a woman is very free and relaxed. She is under the 
authority of parents and brothers, but it is normally an indulgent 
authority. She has few responsibilities at home. Her brothers' wives do 
the work, and she is the guest of honor. There is no one to watch her 
moves and report or criticize her behavior. She is more likely to joke, 

an hi 


talk, or flirt with men and dance if a dance is held, than in her hus- 
band's village. Often she uses the opportunity to carry on clandestine 
love affairs with the men of the village whom she knew in her youth. 
There is something of the "double standard of morality" for a woman 
in the house of her parents and that of her in-laws, which is more pro- 
nounced in Jaunsar-Bawar, where Majumdar reports: "A woman has 
two standards of morality to conform to, one in her parents' house, the 
other in her husband's. In her parents' house she is allowed every kind 
of liberty and licence and nothing is an offence unless specifically pro- 
hibited" (Majumdar, 1944, p. 163; cf. Saksena, 1955, p. 36). 

Marriage is an important event in a man's life, too, but it is not as 
potentially traumatic as it is for a woman. He remains in his own fam- 
ily and village where there are friends and allies on every side as con- 
trasted to the strangers and critics who usually greet a bride. A man's 
social situation changes relatively little. That his responsibilities are 
somewhat increased is recognized in the vows he makes at marriage. A 
village joke runs to the effect that an unmarried man is a free man, he 
can run about as he pleases "on two legs"; a married man is like a 
quadruped, he must spend most of his time foraging for food; a man 
with children is like the eight-legged spider, he must weave a net and 
be ever ready at its center to seize any food that comes his way. 

A husband who visits his wife's home is in the position of all in-laws. 
He is the honored and respected guest, but neither he nor his hosts 
are likely to feel at ease and the visit is usually made as short as pos- 
sible. Of course, in many instances, the husband and his in-laws know 
one another well and may visit frequently and easily, but the ideal 
pattern is one of respect and distance. Most visiting outside the village 
is with affinal relatives, especially the wife's brothers. When a man's 
in-laws live in his own village, he is often on close terms with them and 
frequently visits with, and works with, his father-in-law and brothers- 
in-law. However, an element of mutual respect is maintained. 

The relationship of wife to husband is ideally one of devotion, serv- 
ice, and respect. The husband is referred to by his wife as mdlik, owner, 
or simply "man." He makes the decisions and gives the orders, though 
in reality a wife may exercise as much influence as their personalities 
allow, and the henpecked husband is a familiar concept. 

A woman shows her respect and devotion by catering to and antici- 
pating her husband's wishes. When he comes back from a trip or from 
working, even if she is tired herself, a wife will massage his limbs with 
oil, feed him, prepare his pipe for him, and make him comfortable. 
She will not refuse his sexual advances and afterwards will "replenish 
his virility" by feeding him ghee and other milk products. She will bear 


and care for his children, keep his house, cook his meals, and do the 
necessary household work in the fields and forest. In the words of an 

A wife should have three qualities: (1) she should be beautiful, (2) she 
should keep the house in order, (3) she should be able to cook good food 
when guests come. When she has none of these qualities it is very sad; she 
cannot expect much from her husband, and he may leave her. My wife has 
no such virtues, but I cannot leave her. The chains of flesh are too strong — 
I love my children. 

As has been noted in the section on death ceremonies, widows are 
not expected to retire from public life as is the ideal among high-caste 
plains groups. Pahari widows mourn their husbands during the thirteen- 
day mourning period, and many do so for a year. They take off their 
nose ring and do not wear it again until they have remarried or until 
they no longer wish to display their respectful grief for the dead hus- 
band. The practice of sati, wherein a wife threw herself in anguish 
upon her husband's funeral pyre, was popular among high castes in 
the plains in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but was ap- 
parently never widely practiced in this area, perhaps partly because a 
widow here had no unpleasant future to dread. One sati did occur, 
however, in Sirkanda a few generations ago, and at least two popular 
Pahari songs celebrate the stories of brave men whose wives destroyed 
themselves after their husbands' deaths. In general, the Pahari attitude 
is that a wife should respect, honor, and obey her husband in life but 
that she has little obligation to him after the ceremonies immediately 
following death. 

In return for his wife's fealty, a husband is expected to provide for 
her physical well-being, and is supposed to fulfill his obligation to have 
sexual intercourse with her at least once a month, and preferably 
oftener, as a woman is believed to have seven times the sexual energies 
that a man has. 

If a man has regular sex relations with his wife, she will be happy and do 
anything for him. If he neglects her for a while she gets suspicious and rest- 
less and may start an argument and accuse him of loving another. Divorce 
is always due to a man's failure to satisfy his wife in this way. If he kept 
her satisfied she would never look elsewhere and would have eyes for no 
one but him. 

Also, a husband may go out of his way to intercede for his wife in 
intrafamily matters, to see that she has a chance to visit her family 
periodically, and to provide her with things she wants or take her to 
some fair or market outside the village occasionally. 


When a man has more than one wife he usually takes the second 
with the approval, and sometimes with the encouragement, of the first. 
If the wives are sisters it is expected that trouble between them will 
automatically be at a minimum. If not, they may live in separate dwell- 
ings, one in the village and one in a chan. In former days they more 
frequently lived together, as chans were fewer, less productive, and 
more isolated than today and were therefore less suitable for year- 
round occupation. Whatever the arrangement, polygyny is a potentially 
explosive situation. The first wife is traditionally the dominant one, 
and her attitude toward the second is much like that of a mother-in-law 
or elder sister-in-law toward a younger brother's wife. Skill and tact may 
win more power to a second wife, but tradition is on the side of the 
first. The first wife is especially likely to be jealous or vindictive if the 
second wife has been taken to make up for her own failure to bear 
children, for in such a situation she may feel threatened. The mother 
of a man's children is likely to take precedence over other wives in the 
eyes of both the husband and the extended family. However, wives are 
usually separated if they do not get along together, and many who 
live together do so congenially. They may even cooperate to press de- 
mands on their common husband. A husband must always be careful 
not to favor one wife conspicuously over the other. One man com- 
mented in this context, "If you get two cups of tea from the teapot and 
I get only one I will naturally be jealous. So it is with wives sharing a 
husband." If a co-wife feels neglected she will react just as does a single 
wife who suspects her husband of having another lover. She will sulk, 
do her work poorly or not at all, and try to provoke an argument in 
which to express her charges against her husband. If he is unable or 
unwilling to make amends, she may run away. 

The relationship between a wife and her husband's brothers is one 
of considerable sexual freedom. Though polyandry is publicly ridi- 
culed and abhorred by people in this area, covert sexual relationships 
within the family are not greatly divergent from those among frater- 
nally polyandrous families such as those of Jaunsar-Bawar (cf . Berreman, 
1962a). Paharis are well aware of standard Hindu attitudes on poly- 
andry and familial sexual freedom, so that these practices are generally 
concealed from outsiders. Despite such precautions, they have attained 
a reputation for deviation from orthodox Hindu behavior. A change 
toward orthodoxy or modernity in both attitudes and behavior is 
taking place as some of the younger and educated people object to tra- 
ditional patterns of intrafamily sexual behavior and make their feelings 

The traditional view here is that a wife's sexuality may be freely 


used not only by her husband but by his brothers as well. One low- 
caste elder drew laughter from listeners when, in providing genealogi- 
cal materials, he listed his brothers' wives as his own in addition to his 
own wives. His response was, "What's the difference? They are all 
like wives to me." In discussing the matter other informants said, "A 
woman would never refuse herself to her husband's brother because 
he is in the same relationship as her husband and she would not like 
to create discord in the family." 

An elder brother has the right to make sexual use of his younger brothers' 
wives. Younger brothers do the same so long as the age difference is not too 
great. There is no quarreling or jealousy on this score. It is their right, and 
they are expected to do it. They don't do it in the husband's presence. They 
wait till he has gone out, if only to fetch water, and then approach his 
wife. The wife will yield readily if she likes the brother, but even if she 
doesn't he can insist. If she is angry she may tell the man's wife, and the 
wife will scold him for forcing himself on the unwilling woman. Usually 
such things are kept secret only from the wife who may be jealous. A brother 
should not be jealous on these grounds. If a woman wishes she may send 
her sister-in-law on errands in order that she may have access to the girl's 

A woman is obligated to satisfy her husband's sexual wants and her 
husband always takes precedence, but she should not deny the re- 
quests of his brothers either. Informants were incredulous that rela- 
tions between a man and his brother's wife could be expected to lead 
to divorce, if discovered, in some cultures. A husband has no justifiable 
grounds for complaint if his wife has relations with his brothers as 
long as he is given precedence and is not denied his own sexual rights 
and as long as the relations are carried on discreetly, away from the 
house or in his absence. In reality husbands do occasionally complain 
on this score. If a man's brother is overly attentive to the man's wife 
he may abuse the brother by saying, "You have been eating my feces" 
— a circumlocution which serves as a warning to the brother to pay 
less attention to his sister-in-law. 

If a wife is suspected of extrafamilial affairs or is going to work in 
the jungle where such liaisons can easily be made, her mother-in-law or 
elder sister-in-law may send one of her husband's brothers — often an 
unmarried one — to accompany her or to work in the same area. This 
protects the wife from the advances of nonfamily members and en- 
courages relationships between her and her brother-in-law. "It pro- 
tects our wives' honor from men outside the family." It is assumed that 
every wife has at least occasional relations with her husband's brothers, 


and this is a typical way in which boys are initiated into adult sexual 

Such freedom does not cross generational lines, and if it did it would 
be considered a serious and reprehensible deviation. Generation is an 
important boundary in all sex relations. This is reflected in the preju- 
dice against relations between a very young man and a much older 
sister-in-law. Brothers' and parallel cousins' wives are available as part- 
ners; wives of sons, of brother's sons, of father's brothers are not. The 
kinship terminology for a younger brother's wife, who is available 
sexually, and for a son's wife, who is not, is the same, but this fact ap- 
parently does not bear on the current behavioral situation. One case 
was reported in Sirkanda in which a man made advances to his 
daughter-in-law, but she was promptly recalled to her parents' home 
and was not returned to her husband. A middle-aged and much-married 
man who took as wife the wife of his young classificatory uncle was 
widely criticized for crossing the generational boundary. 

Great sexual freedom is practiced outside the extended family by 
both men and women. It is assumed to be virtually a foregone conclu- 
sion that if a man and woman meet alone in the jungle, intercourse 
will ensue. The nature of the terrain and of the work engaged in by 
both men and women make such meetings, planned or not, frequent. 
Clandestine liaisons occur regularly, often with the connivance of the 
female age-mates of the woman. There are well-known signals and 
other means of arranging these. Few women are considered unap- 
proachable in such matters, and it is thought to be unlikely that any 
woman would refuse an insistent request. As in the case of the Lepchas, 
". . . casual sexual relationships are so unimportant emotionally 
. . . that few women would think it worth while making a fuss" 
(Gorer, 1938, p. 160). While villagers may overestimate the frequency 
of casual sexual contacts, it seems likely that most men and women of 
the same general age and caste status in the village, outside of the 
exogamous sibs, have had relations with one another. Some lasting 
liaisons have been established. Instances of cross-caste and in-sib re- 
lationships are also known. 

The difference between all such relations and those between brothers 
and their wives is that in the former cases legitimate grounds for com- 
plaint exist, whereas within the family there is no such sanction. If a 
husband wishes to press a charge of persistent adultery outside the 
family he can usually win the support of the community to bring about 
divorce, punishment, or a promise to desist. Even a wife may be sup- 
ported in presenting such a charge. A similar charge against a brother 


would be laughed off or hushed up in the family as mere bickering. 
In line with the shift toward adoption of plains behavior and San- 
skritization in general, there is apparently a tendency away from the 
pattern of sharing a wife's sexuality among brothers. Some high-caste 
families, perhaps under the influence of the outside Brahmin who per- 
forms their rituals and is the most vocal advocate of Sanskritization in 
the village, express an orthodox Hindu view on this matter. They state 
that an elder brother's wife should be respected like a mother, a younger 
brother's wife should be treated like a sister or daughter. This view is 
found in association with disapproval of bride price (also a Sanskritic 
attitude), but both are often practiced by their detractors. One young 
man in the village was quite upset by the fact that his wife had lived 
openly, for over a year, with his elder brother in a chan. When she 
returned to the family house to bear her husband's brother's child, to 
be known officially as her husband's child, intrafamily tension grew 
until the young wife suddenly discarded her nose-ring (symbolic of 
marriage) and ran away to her own village. It was later found that she 
was possessed by a ghost who impelled her to take this action, and 
she nearly died of its affliction before she was brought back to her 
husband's village, where the ghost was exorcised. After she gave birth 
the problem was solved by a familial announcement that the baby was 
the elder brother's. Thenceforth the baby's parents were considered 
man and wife and a new wife was to be procured for the dispossessed 
younger brother. It was largely at the insistence of the younger brother 
that this solution was reached. 

The relationship among nuclear families in the joint family is above 
all a combination of the various specific relationships mentioned above. 
Nuclear families or larger subdivisions of the extended family are the 
units which remain together when the extended family breaks up. 
Despite the frequency of divorce, there is a unity within the nuclear 
family which in some cases is stronger than that which runs through 
the extended family. The break-up of extended families follows mutual 
agreement among the separating units that they can get along better 
separately than they could together. Most often the break-up is among 
cousins (sons of brothers) and is blamed on their wives. It is said that 
wives drive a wedge between brothers (classificatory as well as "real" 
brothers). A wife complains to her husband that she and he are doing 
more than their fair share of work in the family and perhaps that 
other nuclear units are expending more than their share of the in- 
come. Behind this is often sister-in-law jealousy, and particularly re- 
sentment of the domination of an elder sister-in-law. The husband 
finally becomes convinced or willing and expresses his desire to separate. 


Eventually a division may be effected. Wives are often blamed for what 
s really fraternal strife. Brothers are supposed to get along with one 
mother harmoniously and to respect their elders. Therefore, if they 
:annot get along in the joint family, it is socially more acceptable to 
)lame their strife on disputing wives who, as outsiders, do not reflect 
m the family reputation as directly as do brothers. 

Division of the joint family may thus be brought about by disputes 
tmong brothers or cousins, though for sake of appearance it may be \ 

attributed to friction among wives. The Brahmin family in Sirkanda 
vas on the verge of dividing its lands into three parts in 1958, as a re- 
ult of the feeling by each of the three Brahmin brothers that he was 
:ontributing more than his share and getting less in the joint economic 
irrangement. This split was to occur despite the fact that their elderly 
nother was still living. As a first step in the dissolution of this joint 
amily, the fields were being marked off into three equal parts and a 
arge house containing three separate dwelling units was being built 
o replace the less spacious one the joint family had shared. In this 
nstance the old house furnished part of the materials for the new one. 
n other cases the old house has remained in use by one of the new 
amily units, has been given to a Dom for occupancy, or has been 
bandoned. As has been pointed out, low-caste brothers more frequently 
livide their property than do those of high castes. This difference is 
vidently related to their occupations. In the agricultural high castes 
and can best be worked by large joint families, but the occupations 
»f artisans can be efficiently performed by smaller family units. 

While Sirkanda and its component extended families have increased 
n population, there has apparently been no commensurate increase 
n the frequency of breakdowns into smaller family economic units 
is is reported for other parts of India. Some informants, in fact, re- 
>orted that proportionately fewer splits occur now than in former 
lays; that joint families have become larger rather than smaller. This 
rend, which is not in the direction one might expect, is attributed to 
he fact that in former days the entire joint family occupied a single 
touse where its members, and particularly the wives, were constantly 
n contact with one another and disputes were frequent. Disputes led 
o disintegration of the joint family because disputing groups within 
t could only avoid conflict by moving out, and moving out meant 
etting up a new household. Few families had chans in those days, and 
:hans were isolated and surrounded by relatively little cultivated land, 
o that they were not suitable for year-round living. Now most families 
lave chans or second houses. There are several chans at most locations, 
ind the lands have been developed so that year-round occupancy is 


possible and even necessary in terms of the crops and animals to be 
cared for. Many nuclear family units are now separated from others 
within the same joint family. They thus avoid the friction that is 
inevitable in the close daily contact of a shared dwelling. With less 
frequent disputes and with the possibility that a disgruntled nuclear 
family can live in another dwelling, there is less pressure to divide 
family property. The joint family remains intact as an economic unit 
while it no longer remains a residential unit. 

Between half-siblings of polygynous marriages there is often no love 
lost. This probably reflects the relationship between the co-wives who 
were their mothers. Such rivalry is common knowledge among villagers 
and finds expression in folklore. Frequently in adult life the dislike 
takes the form of merely ignoring the half-sibling or having little or 
nothing to do with him. Sometimes it takes the form of continual dis- 
puting or unfriendly rivalry. In one family in Sirkanda it is the basis 
for a four-generational factional split. In most of the reported cases 
half-brothers have divided their father's property into separate eco- 
nomic units after his death. 


The patrilocal extended family is the most important social, eco- 
nomic, and ritual unit in most phases of life in Sirkanda. There are, 
however, more inclusive kin groups which are relevant in certain con- 
texts. The smallest of these may best be termed the "lineage" — a con- 
sanguineal kin group that traces common descent through known an- 
cestors, in this case male ancestors and therefore a patrilineal group 
(see fig. 3). In practice in Sirkanda this unit usually excludes married 
sisters and daughters and includes wives of the male lineage members. 
As such it resembles a "compromise kin group" in Murdock's formu- 
lation, combining unilineal descent with residential unity, so that 
lineage members who live away from the group are excluded from it 
and nonlineage members who live with the group are included in it. 
I will here refer to this unit in Sirkanda as the lineage because the uni- 
linear rule of descent is paramount; lineage ties do not disappear in 
fact or theory at marriage. This is indicated by the fact that women are 
accepted heartily as lineage members when they visit their parents' 
homes. Lineages, as segments of sibs, are strictly exogamous. A woman 
has sex relations with her husband's brothers, real and classificatory, 
but never with people of her own lineage or sib. When a woman is 
widowed or divorced she either marries her husband's brother or is 
accepted back into her parents' household, where subsequent marriages 


are arranged with reference to her parents' lineage and sib rather than 
that of her husband, that is, for considerations of exogamy. The lineage 
of her erstwhile husband is disregarded except that it is reimbursed if 
she leaves voluntarily. It should be remembered, however, that resi- 
dence, in combination with lineage, is important in daily life. As long 

Jawari Rajput Lineages 


• = 

e I 

A = • 

= • 





• = A 


•=i • = !: 

A A A «|i 








1 1 
L -A 









Minimal Lineages A,B,C 
(Relationship to one anothe 

Lineage III (Maximal 

funcertain) \ 

N B 



~~~~~~— - C 


1 1 



1 1 

1 1 





l 1 

l l 
•=A *=A 



1 1 
A 0=A 





1 1 

A A 






, 1 




A A(l 

1 1 
A A 








A deceased ancestor 

A living household head 

Fig. 3. Sample lineage structures. 

as a woman's husband lives, she participates in the ritual, social, and 
economic activities of his lineage and sib. If she dies, her funeral is 
performed by her husband's family, not her family of origin. But she 
retains her identification with her lineage of origin. In short, she be- 
comes a member of her husband's clan, the compromise kin group de- 


termined by descent, residential unity, and social integration (Mur- 
dock, 1949, p. 68) but not of his sib. 

The lineage is termed khandan locally, and its component house- 
holds are called "hearths." In Sirkanda there are few households which 
do not belong to lineages containing several households. As genera- 
tions pass, lineage connections in the larger village castes grow dim 
and eventually are forgotten as subsidiary divisions assume lineage 
proportions. The male Sirkanda members of each caste except Rajputs 
— the Brahmins, blacksmiths, barbers, and all of the Bajgis except the 
immigrant one — belong to single lineages as well as single sibs within 
their respective castes. There are at least nine Rajput lineages. 

Three of the Rajput lineages in Sirkanda are named. They have 
acquired the names of honored ancestors from whom their members 
trace common descent. One of these lineages is well-known for its 
devotion to the worship of the Pandavas and for the special attention 
the Pandavas show its members in return. Corroborative stories are 
told of this relationship. In two of these lineages the common descent 
of members can be accurately traced. In the third there are three 
named sublineages or minimal lineages within which common descent 
is easily traced but between which the relationship has grown hazy. 
If the names persist and the relationship of the sublineages is for- 
gotten, the sublineages may be elevated to lineage status and the present 
lineage would then become a kind of sub-sib and might conceivably 
assume sib significance, just as sibs (jatis, see discussion below) may 
have succeeded gotras as sib units in this area. At present the three 
sublineages together resemble a maximal lineage in that together they 
are considered a lineage relative to others, while each of the three 
component sublineages is considered to be a lineage relative to the 
other two. 

Four other Rajput lineages are distinct, while the remaining two 
are known to be related to one another but have drifted apart as the 
ties of relationship have been forgotten. None of these is a named 

The typical lineage contains three or four households. The largest 
contains eleven, but it is the one which is now reduced in reality to 
three sublineages. The largest intact lineage has seven component 
households. Beyond the household it is the members of the lineage 
unit who are most likely to participate actively in the life-cycle cere- 
monies of their members. They tend to support one another in social 
situations, to worship the same gods, and, of course, to honor the same 
ancestors. In short, they share a feeling of common identification and 
a somewhat more homogeneous culture than occurs across lineage 


lines, though less homogeneous than that within the extended family. 
There is also a tendency toward residential proximity within the 
lineage, based apparently on common origin. The lineage has in- 
herited from people who once held property in common, and it is part 
of this property upon which houses have been built. Factions tend to 
follow lineage lines, but here the exceptions almost equal the examples 
in their frequency. 


Not all the people significantly related to one another in Sirkanda 
are related through the male line. There is a circle of kinfolk recog- 
nized as relatives of the individual, who are related to him through 
either one or the other parent, that is, bilaterally. They will be termed 
the kindred, following Murdock (1949, pp. 46, 56, 61). The kindred 
form a group only from the point of view of the individual to whom all 
are related. They do not comprise a self-conscious identification group. 
The kindred's common interest is focused specifically on an individual 
who ties it together on certain occasions, notably life-cycle ceremonies. 
Such bilateral relationship is widely recognized in Northern India. The 
common name for the kindred is sapinda, mentioned above (p. 158) in 
the discussion of marriage regulations. Although this term is not com- 
monly used in Sirkanda, the concept is prevalent. 

Those who are born of one body are Sapinda. A child is a Sapinda of his 
father and mother. He is also the Sapinda of his father's brothers, sisters, 
father and grand-father as also of his mother's brothers and sisters, father and 
grand-father. He is Sapinda to his cousins (father's sister's children, mother's 
sister's children, father's brother's children and mother's brother's children) 
as he shares with them common body-particles either from his mother's side 
or from his father's side. In this meaning of the word Pinda, a common 
kinship of blood is established with both the father's and mother's side. 
(Karve, 1953, p. 55) 

As has been noted, one cannot marry within the sapinda group, 
though its boundaries are variously defined even for this important 
function. In other situations the kindred is variable in its extent and 
inclusiveness. As in its function of regulating choice of marriage part- 
ner, the function of the kindred in ceremonial activities is parallel to 
that described by Murdock (1949, pp. 56 f.) for American society 
where ". . . its members are collectively called 'kinfolk' or 'relations,' 
[and] it includes that group of near kinsmen who may be expected to 
be present and participate on important ceremonial occasions such as 
weddings, christenings, funerals. . . ." Kindred serve many of the 


same functions as lineage members, and in fact by definition kindred 
membership overlaps greatly with that patrilineal group. Participation 
of kindred in ceremonial functions is likely to be less intensive than 
that of the lineage simply because kindred are residentially separated 
and include relatives whose relationship to one another is traditionally 
one of mutual respect and even avoidance. They do not identify them- 
selves as a group. Kindred are not bound by diffuse, interconnected 
group ties. It is in this crucial respect that the kindred differs from the 
lineage group, which is closely bound by ties of consanguinity and com- 
mon identification to which any particular individual is incidental. 


Above the lineage in degree of assumed patrilineal relationship 
is the sib (jat or more often jati in local parlance). In this named kin 
group, relationship in the patrilineal line is assumed but cannot be 
traced. It is the effective exogamous unit within the caste, and it ex- 
tends across village boundaries. It occurs most prominently among 
Brahmins and Rajputs. Judging by sib names and local tradition, some 
sib names may have derived from a former place of residence of the 
group — indicating, perhaps, that local exogamy was there the rule. If 
some sibs did originate in this way, local exogamy ceased to be the rule 
when people emigrated from the villages in which it was practiced to 
new localities, such as Sirkanda, where people of other villages or areas 
settled. The other migrants were potential mates because they were 
from other villages, and their common residence in Sirkanda was 
deemed irrelevant for marriage purposes. That is, the ancestral vil- 
lages of some Sirkanda Rajputs may have been exogamous. If so, when 
they settled in the present location, they may have excluded from 
marriageability their former village affiliates but not the members of 
their new local group. In that way, former village affiliation would 
have become important so that the names of those villages were used 
to identify the exogamous group (hence sib). Other groups evidently 
carried their sib names with them from the plains or adopted those of 
plains groups. The latter explanation seems the most probable in light 
of available evidence. 

As has been mentioned in chapter 1, some 116 Rajput sibs have been 
listed for Garhwal. These include three of the four found in Sirkanda 
(Raturi, 1928, pp. 167 ff.). The names of these three (Jawari, Palial, 
Khandial) are attributed in that listing to the names of the villages in 
which their ancestors settled. Whether the sib got its name from the 
village or vice versa is a moot question. The village name was likely 


derived from its early settlers or founders, though it may then have 
been adopted by subsequent immigrants. Tod (1829, p. 120) lists 
"eighty-four mercantile tribes" of Rajasthan among which are "Pilli- 
wal," "Khandailwal," and "Kakulea," which are apparently three of 
the Rajput sib names of Sirkanda. He suggests that the Palial (Pilliwal, 
Palliwal) group originated in Palli, the great commercial market of 
western Rajasthan. "A community of Brahmins then held Palli in 
grant . . . whence comes a numerous class, termed Palliwal, who fol- 
low mercantile pursuits" (Tod, 1829, p. 700). Bahadur (1916) mentions 
a "Pyal" Rajput group (an alternative pronunciation, according to a 
Sirkanda informant) which is said to have come to Garhwal from Delhi. 
This could well be the same group or a branch of it. Villagers them- 
selves retain no traditions on the matter beyond assertions that their 
people came from various locations in the Kumaon Hills to the east 
and that sib names indicate the village of origin. The sib names of 
two village wives were said to be the names of their villages of origin 
in Garhwal. One village man said, "Jati is named for the place where 
a member of the caste went and settled. His descendants carry this 
name." Another attributed it to the name of an ancestral leader who 
brought his people to some new locality. A glance at the village map 
(map 3) will show that sibs retain a pattern of residential proximity, 
though it is not rigidly followed and most villagers are not even aware 
of it. It probably reflects the fact that sib ancestors settled in one loca- 
tion when they first came to the village as a group, and that this loca- 
tion has remained somewhat intact through patrilineal inheritance of 
land and houses. 

The low castes claim such kin groups and utilize them as exogamous 
units just as do the high castes. Among low castes the units are ap- 
parently of varied origin — some are the jati, gotra, or caste names of 
alleged high-caste ancestors. Some are the personal names of particular 
ancestors, and some may be place names. Some may well be lineage 
names of fairly recent origin. The low castes may often have adopted 
names in imitation of high-caste practice, as, in fact, Khasiya Rajputs 
may also have done in earlier days. In any event, the named groups are 
in effect sibs, and they are referred to as jatis or gotras. Insufficient 
data were collected on low-caste marriages of any one caste to determine 
precisely the extent to which their "sibs" are important or to verify 
their functioning. The data that were collected and the testimony of 
informants showed no consistent differences at this level between high- 
caste and low-caste sibs in marriage regulation. Both conform equally 
well to the definition of sib. Differences are apparently of origin and 
extent rather than of local functioning. 


Since all non-Rajput castes in Sirkanda contain only single lineages 
(except for the single immigrant Bajgi), they are also made up of single 
sibs; for example, the local Brahmins are of the Kotari sib. Among 
Rajputs four sibs are represented: Jawari, comprising 20 households 
and three main lineages, including the one which is in effect three 
sublineages at present; Palial, comprising 11 households and three 
lineages; Kukhalwal, comprising five households and two lineages; and 
Khandial, comprising a single household and lineage. Within these 
sibs the lineage divisions are sufficiently recent that the tradition of 
interlineage relationship is strong, strong enough that the term khandan 
(lineage) is applied to each of the four local Rajput sibs as wholes as 
well as to their component lineages. A Rajput elder's comment on the 
subject was typical: "Our Khandan divided seven generations back, 
but now no one remembers who the people were who divided it." In 
other contexts people distinguish khandan as lineage from jati as sib. 
The term biradari (brotherhood) is also used to designate the sib. 
Among low castes this term is applied to the entire caste group. 

The significance of sib groupings is primarily in establishing bound- 
aries of marriage eligibility. Members of the same sib are never po- 
tential marriage partners. Neither are people whose mothers were in 
the same sib. A secondary function is participation in ritual. The entire 
local sib unit is supposed to observe a degree of ritual pollution after 
the death of a member, and to a lesser extent the sib functions as does 
the lineage in other life-cycle ceremonies. Actually, since the group 
involved in ritual is localized and for some purposes includes wives 
of sib members, it is perhaps more properly termed the clan. It appears 
likely that the lineages may eventually replace sibs or clans in these 
functions, as sib and clan responsibilities in this context seem to be 
decreasing in importance in the minds of villagers. 

Sibs and clans also enter into faction formation. Although there are 
many factions within sibs, and factions which separate sibs, relatively 
few cut across sib lines allying members of different sibs against their 
sib-fellows. That sib identification is still a real factor in the village is 
indicated by sib loyalties. In reference to the founding of Sirkanda, 
each of the larger sibs claims precedence. A member of either one is 
likely to disparage the members of the other, especially to compare 
them unfavorably in terms of wealth, honesty, or Sanskritization of 
ritual observances and marriage regulations. An old Jawari, head of 
the largest household in his sib, said, "We Jawaris were the first Raj- 
puts here. Then those Palials showed up, and our forefathers let them 
settle here too. We don't know where they came from or who they 
are. Hell, we don't even know if they're Rajputs — we just took their 


word for it!" The speaker's wife of 40 years, mother of his five adult 
sons, is a Palial. There is considerable rivalry between the sibs, as 
evidenced in all their relationships and recorded in disputes, court 
cases, and recently in voting patterns in elections of village officers. 
The divisions are not rigid, but they do show up. 

There is no concept of hierarchical ranking of sibs in the village — 
all are equally prestigeful. Some sibs or larger subcaste groupings out- 
side the village are thought of as more or less prestigeful. Among the 
Brahmins and low castes prestige of subcastes is often related to oc- 
cupational specialization. Ceremonial cooks (Sarola) are ritually purer 
than family priests. Carpenters often consider themselves higher than 
blacksmiths. Among Rajputs and some Brahmin groups the place of 
origin is important. Plains groups are more prestigeful than Pahari 
ones; that is, those admitting the appellation "Khasa" are lower than 
some of those denying it. Among some low castes prestige is related to 
alleged high-caste ancestry. These distinctions do not come into play 
in the village and, except in the case of Sarola Brahmins, they rarely 
crop up in Bhatbair. With the exception, again, of Sarola Brahmins, 
they are unimportant in determining marriage relationships within 
this area, although they do assume significance in some outside ar- 
rangements. No evidence of subcaste hypergamy appeared in the 


The clan in Sirkanda is made up basically of the local members 
of one sib together with their wives. 10 As such it is very closely iden- 
tified with the sib, and its functioning often cannot readily be dis- 
tinguished from that of the sib or the lineage. It is an unnamed, overtly 
unrecognized group which can be of considerable analytic utility. Its 
core is the local portion of the patrilineal sib. It is distinguished from 
the sib by the fact that it is a compromise kin group (Murdock, 1949, 
p. 66), that is, it includes some people on the basis of their local 
residence who are not tied to it by consanguinity, and it excludes 
some on the basis of their outside residence who do have consanguineal 
ties to its members. It includes the wives of local members of the sib, 
and it excludes their married sisters and daughters. It also excludes 
sib-fellows of other villages and areas. It functions to include the 
occasional adopted son who is of another area or another sib, and the 
rare man who marries into the local sib matrilocally. Conversely, it 
excludes the local boy of the sib adopted elsewhere and the rare 
local man of the sib who marries outside and lives in his wife's village. 


The third criterion of a clan (in addition to a uniiineally related 
core and residential unity) is social integration. This is a feature of 
Sirkanda clans which becomes most apparent at times of ceremonial 
participation. Confusion easily arises at this point, since villagers 
themselves do not recognize the clan as a group. When describing 
life-cycle and other ceremonies, they describe the participants as mem- 
bers of the family, lineage, sib, kindred, caste, or community, depend- 
ing upon the nature of the participation. In their descriptions of sib 
participation, however, it is often apparent that they are including 
local members of the sib and their spouses and excluding nonlocal 
members of the sib, that is, they are describing participation of the 
clan, as that term is defined by Murdock. Even "lineage" participation 
often proves to include wives of lineage members and to exclude 
lineage members who live elsewhere; it includes the most closely asso- 
ciated clan group centering on the lineage, rather than the lineage 

The concept of the clan, as distinguished from the sib, provides a 
consistent explanation for a number of otherwise perplexing features 
of Pahari social organization. First, of course, is the composition of the 
groups which participate in ceremonies. While family, kindred, caste, 
and community are social units which can account for many of the 
non-unilineally related participants in ceremonies, the clan more suc- 
cinctly defines the local, socially integrated group centered on a 
uniiineally related sib, but including other individuals, which par- 
ticipates in several kinds of ceremonies. 

Second, the clan concept clarifies the complex matter of changes in 
group affiliation, identification, and inheritance which accompany 
changes in residence at the times of marriage and adoption (in the 
relatively rare cases where adoption occurs across sib lines). Without 
the concept of clan this has proved difficult to understand. Wives, 
adopted sons, and matrilocally resident men stoutly deny that they 
have altered their sib affiliations when they go to live among people of 
another sib. Yet some informants claim that they have done so. Cer- 
tainly, for some purposes, they have severed ties with their natal groups 
and have established ties with new groups. To explain this in terms 
of complex alterations in sib affiliation and responsibilities, as is 
usually done, is both confusing and inaccurate. Sib ties have not been 
altered. What has happened is that clan affiliation has changed. The 
individual has ceased to be a member of one localized clan and has 
become a member of another. If the relationship is terminated and 
the person returns to his natal group (as when an adopted son leaves 
his foster family) or joins yet another group (as when a divorced 


woman remarries) then clan affiliation is changed again without diffi- 
culty. Clan affiliation is as easily changed as is residence, but sib 
affiliation is inherited and unalterable. This is the affiliation which is 
important (by delimiting the exogamous group) in determining mar- 
riage. Thus, a woman of sib A and clan a who marries a man of sib 
B becomes a member of clan b when she goes to live with him, but 
she remains in sib A. She has sexual relations with her brothers-in- 
law in sib B as well as with her husband, and upon being widowed 
or divorced she may marry someone else in sib B. If it were claimed 
that upon marriage she had become a member of sib B, these relation- 
ships would be incestuous and therefore prohibited. 

When a man dies, the wives of his local sib-fellows participate in 
the mourning insofar as women participate at all. His married 
daughters and nieces do not. When a wife dies, her major funeral 
ceremonies are performed by the clan-fellows she acquired by mar- 
riage, including those extending beyond the extended family, but are 
not performed by her sib-fellows. A lingrd stone (see Appendix IIIC), 
symbolizing that the deceased woman is one with Shiva, is placed with 
those of the rest of the dead of the local clan group. It is not sent 
back to rest with those of her sib-fellows. A woman participates in 
the life-cycle ceremonies of her clan-fellows much more consistently 
and actively than in those of her sib-fellows. Moreover, an adopted 
son or a son-in-law resident in his wife's father's house can perform 
the father's funeral rites and can inherit his property. In this manner 
property can pass from one sib to another. The lingra stones of 
adopted sons and resident sons-in-law are placed with those of the 
family with which they reside. The stones are not sent back to rest 
with those of their family of origin. This practice, like inheritance 
by an adopted son, does not depend upon a change in sib affiliation; 
rather it depends primarily upon place of residence and therefore 
upon clanship. A sib-fellow, lineally related, is preferred to perform 
funeral rites and to inherit property, but failing such a person, a 
clan-fellow can substitute. One who lacks both sib and clan ties (for 
example, a son-in-law resident in his natal household) is not eligible 
under normal circumstances. These facts emphasize the social struc- 
tural importance of the residence group. If funeral participation is 
described as primarily involving the household, lineage, and clan, with 
lesser participation by the sib, kindred, caste, and community; if 
patrilocal marriage is viewed as entailing a change in clan affiliation 
for the woman, and if adoption and matrilocal residence are viewed 
as entailing a change in clan affiliation for the man, then these prac- 
tices are consistent and more readily understood than if one were to 



assume that there is no significant change in group affiliation at mar- 
riage or adoption or that sib affiliation is changed at these times. 11 
Therefore, the local compromise kin group, the clan, assumes greater 
significance in ritual and ceremonial participation (especially that 
surrounding life-cycle ceremonies) than does the sib. The unilineal 

V, Sib 
' x -'Clan 


Head of household 
Ultimate recipient of 
property of household head 

"Normal" household (patrilocal) 

Matrilocal son-in-law (x) 



IO=A(x) i 

Matrilocal son (x) Adopted son (x) 

Fig. 4. Sib and clan affiliations in Sirkanda families. From Berreman (1962c). 

descent group, the sib, determines eligibility for marriage and is the 
preferred means for determining inheritance. It is the core around 
which the clan is formed. Sirkanda villagers lump these analytically 
distinguishable groups under a single term, jati, which literally refers 
to the sib. They tend to think of wives as members of their husbands' 
sibs in the ceremonial context and as members of their natal sibs 


in most other contexts. They think of adopted sons as members of the 
family of adoption for purposes of ritual and inheritance, and as 
members of their natal families for purposes of marriage. In most 
cases (other than those involving determination of limits of exogamy) 
they think of the sib in terms of its local membership, that is, those 
sib members who live in one village or in closely adjacent villages. 
A clear distinction between clan and sib, as such, is not made by 
villagers, but it is implicit in their own conceptualization of their 
social organization. This, combined with its analytical utility, make it 
worth distinguishing. The "clan" is somewhat less sharply defined — 
less a corporate group — than one would wish if use of the term 
"clan" were to be fully justified. 

Gotra (Phratry) 

The exogamous unit among high castes over much of India is 
called the gotra. In many areas this unit amounts to a patrilineal sib 
(cf. Lewis, 1958, p. 23; Dube, 1955, pp. 42 f.). Gotras appear in 
Sirkanda and are said by educated villagers to derive from the names 
of twenty-four great religious teachers or ascetics who founded vast 
lineages whose descendants in the male line retain the name of 
the founder as the gotra name. A local Brahmin explained: 

Gotras are called by the names of great rishis who were founders of the 
original families. Bharadwaj was a great rishi. Some of his children went 
into religious work, and their descendants are Bharadwaj Brahmins. Others 
among his children went into the work of governing, and their descendants 
are Bharadwaj Rajputs. Jawari [a sib name] was the name of the headman of 
a group of Bharadwaj Rajputs who came and settled in one place in these 
hills. Now his descendants are Jawari Bharadwaj Rajputs. 

Tod (1829, P- 2 7) explains gotra origin in a similar way. Others 
describe Brahmin gotras as deriving from a lineal ancestor's name, 
while Rajput gotras derive from the name of the religious preceptor 
(guru) of a lineal ancestor. In any event, the same gotras are found 
among both Brahmins and Rajputs in this area, but among no other 
castes, and remote common ancestry for Brahmins and Rajputs is 
assumed by some. 

On the basis of his research in "Kalapur," a plains village, Hitch- 
cock (1956, pp. 43 ff.) refers to this usage of the term "gotra" as 
"Brahmanical." "Nothing in our data shows that the gotra concept 
in the Brahmanical sense now has any functional significance for 
marriage . . ." (ibid., p. 45). However, he reports that it is used in 


a second sense (the sense common on the plains) to refer to the sib — 
a usage parallel to the Pahari use of the term "jati" as described here. 

In Sirkanda the low-caste sibs are sometimes termed "gotra," and 
sometimes "jati." Only the high castes have both units consistently 
and distinguish them precisely. Even among them "gotra" does not 
mean what it means among many plains groups. The term "gotra," 
as Hitchcock's comment would suggest, does not mean the same thing 
throughout India to those who use it. "Sometimes a caste is divided 
into exogamous groups called Gotra with no further division. Some- 
times a caste is divided into exogamous Gotras or endogamous Gotras 
with further smaller divisions" (Karve, 1953, p. 118). 

In Sirkanda there are two gotras among the Rajputs: Bharadwaj, 
which includes the sibs Jawari and Kukhalwal, and Kasib, which 
includes the sibs Palial and Khandial. The Brahmin gotra in Sirkanda 
is also Kasib. Each gotra includes many sibs — an estimated 20 to 50 
in each gotra — but only two of each are represented among Sirkanda 
Rajputs. In addition, there are at least ten other gotras in this 
general area. 

Both the Sirkanda gotras receive mention by Tod as having been 
present in Rajasthan. He refers to an ancient lineage in which, in 
the fifteenth recorded generation, nine brothers " '. . . took to the 
office of religion, and established the Causika Gotra or tribe of 
Brahmins.' From the twenty-fourth prince in lineal descent from 
Yayat, by the name of Bhardwaja, originated a celebrated sect, who 
still bear his name and are the spiritual teachers of several Rajpoot 
tribes" (Tod, 1829, p. 27). Rajputs and others took the gotra names 
of their priests when they adopted the gotra system (Karve, 1953, 
p. 115). This constituted an early step in Brahmanization or San- 

Gotra, like sib, is an inherited affiliation passed down patrilineally. 
Since sibs are subdivisions of gotras, the gotra contains many sibs 
but one sib never spans two gotras. Gotras therefore fit the definition 
of phratry, wherein ". . . two or more sibs recognize a purely con- 
ventional unilinear bond of kinship . . ." (Murdock, 1949, p. 47). 
Among Rajputs in Sirkanda this would amount to a moiety division 
because there is a division into two phratries. This is fortuitous:' 
neighboring villages have one, three, or more phratries. 

In Sirkanda and the surrounding region, gotra is not now a func- 
tional unit in marriage regulations. Joshi (1929, p. 272) states, "The 
Khasas have no real gotras. Mr. Atkinson noted that they all stated 
themselves to belong to the Bharadwaj gotra, and had no idea of what 
'gotra' meant." As a Sirkanda Rajput said, "People must marry in 


their own caste and they cannot marry in their own sib or their 
mother's sib. That is all that matters in marriage. Gotra is just a 
name, it doesn't mean anything." In this respect these people are 
not unique, as indicated by Hitchcock in the discussion noted above. 
Karve reports that among the Rajputs of Rajasthan and among the 
Kayasthas of Uttar Pradesh, gotras do not seem to have any function 
in marriage relations (Karve, 1953, pp. 119, 141). On the other hand, 
ultimate common ancestry in the gotra is admitted. This is consistent 
with Murdock's point (1949, p. 47) that the larger the kin group, 
the less likely it is to be exogamous. 

Among Sirkanda Rajputs there are six possible sib combinations 
for marriage within the village based on the division into four sibs. 
All six have occurred among the 53 marital unions that were recorded 
as having been contracted among the four village sibs. Of the six 
possibilities, two are in-gotra combinations and four are cross-gotra 
combinations, based upon the division of the four sibs into two gotra 
groups (phratries or moieties). Since the two large sibs are in opposite 
gotras and since four of the six possible sib combinations in marriage 
are gross-gotra ones, cross-gotra marriages would be expected to pre- 
dominate among those contracted within the village. This proves to 
be true, with 39 of 53 marriages across gotra lines. However, 14 in- 
gotra marriages were also recorded, virtually all of which were first 
marriages. This is actually greater than the expectable proportion. 
Half (5 of 10) of the in-village marriages of members of the smallest 
sib (Khandial), for example, were in-gotra ones, whereas well under 
half of all potential mates in the village for these people have been 
in their own gotra (at present 38 per cent of the village population 
is in this gotra and out of this sib). 

Almost two-thirds (9 of 15) of the in-village marriages of the other 
small sib (Kukhalwal) were in-gotra ones, although potential mates 
in the village for these people have been about equally split between 
the same and opposite gotras (at present 58 per cent of the population 
is in this gotra and out of this sib). The relatively high rates of in- 
village and in-gotra marriage in small sibs reflect the larger number 
of potential mates in the village for members of small sibs (those with 
small population in the village) as contrasted to members of large sibs. 

I do not suggest that in-gotra marriage is preferred. There is a 
tendency in this direction within the village, but it is not based upon 
a large enough sample to establish significance, and in any event when 
extravillage marriages are included it is an even less impressive trend. 
What I have demonstrated, however, is that gotra does not enter 
into regulation of marriage contracts in this area. There is no prefer- 


ence for cross-gotra marriages over in-gotra ones. This substantiates 
verbal testimony. No Sirkanda informant expressed a feeling that 
gotras should play a part in marriage arrangements, and no case was 
reported in which they did. Few villagers know their gotras and fewer 
yet know those of their wives, whereas everyone knows his own sib, 
and many know the sibs of their wives. Precisely the same situation 
obtains for Brahmins, except among those who are better-informed 
because they deal in horoscopes and life-cycle rites where gotras are 
mentioned. Interestingly enough, the "gotra puja" is an integral part 
of every Sanskritized Pahari marriage ceremony, which includes most 
first marriages these days. In this puja, taken directly from the religious 
prescriptions of the "great tradition," the gotra affiliations of the bride 
and groom are repeated many times over in the recitation of the 
sacred verses. The history and honor of the gotras that are being 
joined by marriage is reiterated. In Sirkanda the gotras so described 
and honored are sometimes one and the same. This is perplexing to 
many high-caste non-Paharis who learn of it. However, even the most 
sophisticated of the Brahmins who function in Bhatbair see no con- 
tradiction in the practice. It may be expected that plains emulation 
will result in the attaching of greater importance to gotra in the future, 
as has happened among upwardly mobile castes of the plains. 

The gotra unit was found to be virtually nonfunctional among 
Sirkanda Rajputs, in both theory and practice, in every sphere of 
life. The only suggestive evidence that the gotra is of any importance 
is the fact of residential proximity of several households of the two 
sibs comprising the Bharadwaj gotra in the easternmost of the two 
Sirkanda settlement areas. This is probably the original village site 
(map 3). If, as is likely, this is more than a chance occurrence, it is not 
recognized as such in the village and it has no detectable ramifications 
beyond those of residential proximity found elsewhere in the village. 
I would speculate that it represents early common association or com- 
mon origin of the two sibs, so that when they settled here they built 
houses near one another. More recent building has not followed this 
pattern and it is not noticeable in other sections of the village, al- 
though, as has been noted previously, residential unity of lineages 
and sibs is found fairly consistently. 

Among the lower castes there are apparently no gotras in the sense 
of phratries such as those found in the high castes. Some claim to 
have them, but these usually prove to be sibs. Sometimes non-sib names 
are given in addition to sib names but they are usually lineage names, 
names of ancestors, names of localities, or subcaste occupational terms 
and are recognized only over a very limited area by fellow caste- 


members. Sometimes the names apply to precisely the same group 
as the sib name, even though they are given as gotra and are dis- 
tinguished from jati. It is not unlikely that real phratries do exist 
among some low castes in this area, but none was found in Sirkanda. 
Such claims are apparently attempts at achieving Sanskritic respect- 
ability. Said a Bajgi, "We are just like Rajputs and Brahmins in that 
respect. We have the same divisions and marriage rules. Some other 
low castes don't have that, but we do." The high castes do not concur 
in this: "The low castes have regulations, but they don't have the 
same kind we do and they are lax about these matters." 


In order to understand the aggregates of related individuals that 
have been referred to above as kin groups, it is necessary to understand 
the kinship system, the system of relationships defined in terms of 
consanguinity and affinity which exists among people. This is codified 
in the system of terms used by people in addressing and referring to 
one another. The terms are given in Appendix IV. In Sirkanda, terms 
of reference and address are generally identical, although the latter 
are sometimes contractions of the former (didi jl becomes dijl). The 
most prominent exceptions are cases in which terms of reference are 
avoided in address between persons who stand in a relationship of 
respect or conventional social distance. Sometimes in reference de- 
scriptive terminology is used for clarity, especially when a term applies 
to more than one kind of relative. Specific exceptions are noted below 
and in Appendix IV. 

In order to characterize Pahari kinship relative to other systems 
that have been reported, we may refer to the criteria by which kin 
are classified suggested by Murdock (1949, pp. 100-106). 

In Pahari kinship, generation is specified with these exceptions: the 
term for wife (reference) and for junior female affine (address) and 
that for husband (reference) and young male affine (address), apply 
in all generations. Terms for father's brothers apply also for spouse's 
sisters' husbands. Sex is specified in all terms. Affinity is specified in 
most terms of reference. That is, consanguineal relatives are not 
referred to by the same terms as affinal relatives. The primary ex- 
ception to this is a pattern of equating close affinal relatives within 
a generation to consanguineal relatives of that generation. A man 
refers to his wife's brothers' wives as he would to his own sister, and 
a woman refers to her husband's sisters' husbands as she would to 
her own brothers. A person's mother's brother is terminologically 


equated to his father's sister's husband, and his father's brother is 
equated to his mother's sister's husband. The same equation is made 
in the grandparental generation. This resembles a moiety distinction. 
It is elaborated to the point that a man refers to his wife's sisters' 
husbands as "co-brother" or "half-brother." He addresses and refers to 
his mother's sisters as "elder mother" or "younger mother," the same 
terms by which he addresses his father's co-wives. There is a special 
term of reference for father's co-wives. A woman addresses her hus- 
band's brothers' wives as her sisters, although they are distinguished by 
terms of reference. Her husband's sister's husbands are referred to 
as her own brothers. Thus, members of one's own patrilineage are 
equated to affines of one's mother's or spouse's patrilineage, and mem- 
bers of one's mother's or spouse's patrilineage are equated to affines 
of one's own lineage. This might suggest that there is or was a norm 
of sororal polygyny or a custom of brothers of one family marrying 
sisters of another. Both types of marriage occasionally occur, but there 
is no independent evidence that either has ever been common or pre- 
ferred. Therefore, we can safely say only that there is a tendency to 
identify relatives of a single generation terminologically as members 
of a single household, which potentially they are. It is here that the 
criterion of affinity is ignored in kinship terminology. 

Collaterality, that is, the degree of relationship in the consanguineal 
line, is ignored except in the distinction between father and father's 
brothers and in that between mother and mother's sisters. In the 
latter case the terms are derivatives of that for mother, meaning "elder 
mother" and "junior mother." Otherwise, merging is the rule. Bifur- 
cation, distinguishing whether the connecting relative is male or 
female, is an important criterion in Pahari kinship. Whether the 
person who links two relatives is a mother or a father, a brother or 
a sister, a wife or a husband, is specified terminologically. Relatives 
linked by sons and by daughters are not distinguished from one an- 
other, however. Polarity, use of the same kinship term reciprocally by 
two relatives, is found only in affinal relationships between people of 
the same generation where the affinal link is in the first descending 
generation from the relatives using the reciprocal term. Relative age, 
whether the person referred to is elder or younger, is always specified 
among consanguineal relatives of the same generation. In address, 
relative age of cousins and siblings is sometimes ignored. Among 
affinal relatives, it is the relative ages of the connecting relatives that 
are crucial. For example, whether a wife's brother's wife will be 
referred to by the term which means elder sister or that for younger 
sister depends upon whether that woman's husband is an elder or 


younger brother of ego's wife. Generation always takes precedence 
over age in determining seniority. An uncle who is younger than his 
nephew should still be accorded the respect due his generation by 
the nephew. Speaker's sex is not a factor in Pahari kinship, nor is 
decedence (whether the connecting relative between two relatives is 
living or dead). 

Pahari kinship can now be analyzed according to Murdock's 
typologies of kinship terminology, based primarily upon cousin terms 
(Murdock, 1949, pp. 223 ff.). 

In Sirkanda siblings and all cousins, cross and parallel, related 
through mother and father, are called by terms which vary only by 
sex and relative age. The terms are: elder brother or male cousin, 
dlda; younger brother or male cousin, bhula; elder sister or female 
cousin, didl; younger sister or female cousin, bhuli. The same pattern 
appears in kin terms recorded for the Western Pahari dialect (Karve, 
1953, pp. 98 ff.). This is the standard "Hawaiian" type of cousin 
terminology in Murdock's classification. Since in Sirkanda this termi- 
nology is associated with exogamous patrilineal kin groups, the system 
conforms by definition to Murdock's "Guinea" type of social organ- 
ization, and since these groups are patrilocal, it belongs in the "normal 
Guinea" subtype. Murdock (1949, pp. 225 f.) includes ten criteria in 
his discussion of types of social organization. These will be briefly 
presented for Sirkanda: (1) descent: patrilineal; 12 (2) cousin terms: 
Hawaiian type; (3) residence: patrilocal; (4) clans-demes: groups 
closely resembling patri-clans are analytically discernible, and demes 
are absent; (5) other kin groups: bilateral kindreds present; (6) 
exogamy: patrilineal exogamy and bilateral extension of incest taboos 
(all second cousins ineligible for marriage, though deviations occur); 
(7) marriage: polygyny permitted, incidence around 15 per cent; 
sororal polygyny permitted, incidence around 20 per cent of polyg- 
ynous marriages; (8) family: patrilocal extended family; (9) aunt 
terms: bifurcate collateral, that is, separate terms for mother, mother's 
sister, and father's sister (the mother's sister's terms are, however, 
derivatives of the mother term, which indicates a tendency toward 
bifurcate merging, and Karve [1953, pp. 98, 100] reports terms in- 
dicating bifurcate collateral terminology for both mother-aunts and 
daughter-nieces in the Western Pahari language); (10) niece terms: 
bifurcate merging, that is, one term for daughter and brother's 
daughter, another for sister's daughter. All these data were obtained 
from men, but so far as could be determined, the same terminology 
is used regardless of whether a man or woman is speaking. This con- 
forms to usage elsewhere in North India (cf. Karve, 1953, pp. 99 f., 104). 


In a patrilocal, patrilineal society such as this, patrilineal relation- 
ship and male relatives would be expected to be more prominent than 
matrilineal relationship and female relatives. This is true in that 
the kindred extends farther on the paternal side than on the maternal 
one. But in accounting for greater refinement of terminological dis- 
tinctions, residence seems to be a more important factor. Those rela- 
tives among whom there is or might be repeated interaction are mem- 
bers of the residential group — the patrilocal extended family. They 
are the ones among whom the most refined terminological distinctions 
are made, especially those having to do with relative age. Those who 
are not in the patrilocal group (mother's brothers) and those who leave 
it (father's sisters) are in less frequent interaction and are not dis- 
tinguished as to relative age. Father's brothers are in this group, and 
mother's sisters potentially could be (in line with the Pahari kinship 
terminological pattern, they are called by terms indicating that they 
are). Both of these categories are distinguished by age relative to the 
connecting relative. Seniority is an important matter to be kept in 
mind among those who interact frequently, for it has significant be- 
havioral concomitants. 

Affinal relatives outside one's own generation are classified under 
fewer terms than are consanguineal relatives, suggesting the lesser 
emphasis placed on affinal relatives and the greater social (and in the 
case of a man, physical) distance between a person and his affinal 

Something has already been said of the behavior of various relatives 
toward one another. Husbands and wives never address one another 
by name nor by the term of reference. Rather, teknonymy is generally 
resorted to ("father of X," "mother of X"). Often a wife is addressed 
in the household as "girl" (chori). In reference by the spouse, gharwall 
(one of the house, housewife), or "woman," is used most often for a 
wife, and malik (owner), or "man," for a husband. Similarly the terms 
for mother-in-law and father-in-law are never used in address. They 
are avoided by teknonymy or other circumlocutions and indirections 
because they are relationships of respect. All younger relatives or those 
who wish to show respect add the honorific jl to the relationship 
terms, especially in address. Minor phonetic changes often accompany 
this addition. In the table in Appendix IV this information has been 
omitted except where it always occurs in both reference and address. 

There is a tendency in Sirkanda to adopt some kinship terms com- 
mon among Hindi speakers of the adjacent plains and distinct from 
Pahari terms. Most often these appear as variants rather than as sub- 
stitute terms. Those Hindi terms most frequently used simplify or 


make more symmetrical the terminological structure. Thus the Hindi 
term mausa, husband of a senior woman (mother's sister's husband, 
wife's elder sister's husband, husband's elder sister's husband) tends 
to be used in place of the more complex set of Pahari terms for these 
rather distant and seldom-seen relatives. In three cases distinct Pahari 
terms for affines are replaced with Hindi terms derived from the term 
for the consanguineal relative connecting ego and the affine, making 
a pair of terms for a man and wife that are identical except in ending. 
For example, Hindi pupha replaces Pahari mama as husband of puphu. 
A trend toward consistency seems to explain the changes shown in 
table 3. 

Some Variations in Kinship Terminology a 

dldi esh: bahena 

bhull ysh: said 

dldi web: bahena 

bhull wyb: said 

Traditional local terms 

Newer, H 

es: dldi esh: jijd 
ys: bhull ysh: jawai 

Wife of web: didi web: jeThu 
Wife of wyb: bhull wyb: syalu 



wife of web: 
wife of wyb: 

See Appendix IV for meanings of the abbreviations. 

Use of Kin Terms for Non-Kin 

In a number of situations kinship terminology is applied outside 
the kin group. 

Most common in this respect is the general tendency to address 
anyone of roughly one's own age in friendly and respectful greeting 
by the term "brother" or, in the case of a woman, "sister." This 
usage occurs often in addressing strangers and is common among 
Hindi speakers throughout Northern India. "Puphu" (father's sister) 
may be used respectfully to address any older woman. There is no 
general practice of referring to fellow villagers (as distinct from mem- 
bers of other villages) by kin terms as is done in the plains. This may 
reflect the fact that Sirkanda is not an exogamous village, and so all 
villagers are not thought of as relatives. 

In Sirkanda close friendship between two men sometimes results in 
their consistently addressing and referring to one another's wives as 
"sister," and treating them as sisters in social relationships. It is then 
said that the offspring of the two couples would not be potential mates 
even if sib affiliations and other factors were favorable. 

If two women who are close friends have infant sons of approxi- 
mately the same age they may suckle one another's child. In such cases 


the children are treated as brothers and will later so address one 
another. They are referred to as "milk brothers" and are expected 
to be especially close and mutually attached, much as would real 
brothers. Probably the sister of each would not be a potential mate 
for the other, though in the cases recorded they were ineligible on 
other grounds. 

Across caste lines relationship terms are also used in address. A 
blacksmith in Sirkanda is consistently called "uncle" (mother's brother, 
mama) by high-caste people younger than himself, and his wife is 
called "aunt" (father's sister, puphu). To address a stranger as mother's 
brother would be an insult implying that one's father has had rela- 
tions with the stranger's sister. It has no such connotation in this case, 
however. The blacksmith addresses younger high-caste women as 
"niece" (sister's daughter, bahanji). He addresses high-caste women of 
his own age as "sister," and they sometimes address him as "brother," 
whereas he addresses older women as "father's sister." All these terms 
used to address high-caste women are terms of respect and honor preclud- 
ing sexual interest, an important fact for low-caste men's relationship 
with high-caste women. High-caste men are usually addressed by low- 
caste people in honorific terms, usually by their caste title (thakurjl, 
landlord; panditjl, priest). 

Terms of reference across caste lines are never kinship terms. Names, 
caste names, or occupational terms are used. An elderly person, regard- 
less of caste or relationship, is likely to be addressed and referred to 
simply as "old man" or "old woman." Descriptive terms are frequently 
used in reference, as "black man," "white man," "fat man," "tall one," 
"crippled one." 



The caste system has probably attracted more attention from soci- 
ologists and anthropologists than has any other feature of Indian 
society. The emphasis is not unwarranted, for it is one of the dominant 
social and cultural facts of life in India. In this chapter caste will be 
described as it functions in Sirkanda. Some of the differences and 
similarities of the Sirkanda system as compared to other examples 
that have been reported in India and elsewhere will be pointed out. 

Caste has been defined variously or not at all by the many writers 
who have discussed it. 1 Many have been concerned exclusively with 
India and have therefore dealt with caste in terms so specific as to 
apply only to India, the area of their interest or experience (for ex- 
ample, Gilbert, 1948, pp. 31 f., and Leach, i960). Such narrow defini- 
tions are useful because caste in India is unique and has distinctive 
regional variations. The same is true of religion, family organization, 
economy, and most other phases of life. To understand these things 
thoroughly it is well to make explicit their unique characteristics. 
Srinivas emphasizes a prominent and unique aspect of caste in India 
when he says, "The concept of pollution governs relations between 
different castes. This concept is absolutely fundamental to the caste 
system and along with the concepts of karma and dharma it contributes 
to make caste the unique institution it is" (Srinivas, 1952, p. 28). 

However, to define caste in terms of its uniquely Indian attributes 
eliminates or at least diminishes its use as a cross-culturally com- 

1 98 CASTE 

parable phenomenon (Bailey, 1959; Berreman, 1960a). This in itself 
is not a criticism. Cultures do have unique traits. I prefer, however, 
to define caste more broadly in order to include, for purposes of com- 
parison, similar systems of social stratification which occur in other 
cultures. More is lost, from the point of view of social science (though 
not, perhaps, from that of Indology) by emphasizing its unique aspects 
at the expense of comparability than is gained by the added precision. 
The definition of castes which will be followed here seems to be 
valid both in India and elsewhere: Castes are ranked endogamous divi- 
sions of society in which membership is hereditary and permanent. 2 
Implicit in this minimal definition are additional criteria: castes are 
recognized as groups (i.e., they are usually named); they are in some 
ways interdependent; barriers to free social intercourse exist between 
castes; there are cultural differences between castes; there are differ- 
ential degrees of power and privilege between castes. Associated with 
caste in many and perhaps all instances is a degree of occupational 
specialization. While all the members of a caste are not often com- 
mitted to one line of work, there is a particular occupation or range 
of occupations which is considered to be appropriate to each caste. 
Passin (1955, p. 41) notes that among the "untouchable" groups of 
India, Japan, Korea, and Tibet, ". . . What is particularly striking 
is the detailed similarity of their occupations. In principle, they were 
restricted to the despised and menial functions of the community 
which were, however, essential. Someone had to do them." Occu- 
pational specialization may be evidenced in the occupations a caste 
cannot or does not practice as well as in those it does practice. In 
India caste groups are specifically characterized by (1) a common 
traditional occupation and / or a claim to common origin, and (2) 
a ritual status which must be maintained and which can be defiled 
by specified types of behavior and contacts with other groups. 

The concepts of ritual status and pollution, as mentioned above in 
the quotation from Srinivas, are important in understanding the func- 
tioning of caste in India. Stevenson specifies that ". . . it is from 
ritual rather than secular status and from group rather than personal 
status, that the caste system derives it unique consistency and viability." 
"The ritual status relationship between individuals and groups and 
between groups of different categories [castes] rest wholly upon be- 
havior-patterns linked with mystical beliefs in general, and mainly 
upon behavior linked with a particular corpus of beliefs concerning 
purity and pollution, . . . the Hindu Pollution Concept" (Stevenson, 
1954, p. 46). 

Indian caste distinctions are explained in terms of elaborate reli- 

CASTE 1 99 

gious, mythological, and historical rationalizations. It is sometimes 
asserted that as a result of such rationalizations the caste system is 
made acceptable to all those who are included within it. This may 
be true, but the implication that therefore all who are included within 
the system are content with their assigned position in the hierarchy 
either as individuals or as groups is contradicted by the present re- 
search and by the many examples of caste-group mobility and indi- 
vidual aspirations of low-caste people that have been reported (Berre- 
man, 1960a). 

In India castes are generally divided into five major hierarchically 
ranked groupings or levels. The top four of these are the four varna 
or categories described by Manu, the Hindu lawgiver, comprising the 
three "twice-born" groups (Brahmins or priests, Kshatriya or rulers 
and warriors, Vaishya or traders and farmers) and the Shudra artisans. 
At the bottom, outside the varna system, are the untouchables. This 
system is well known and is discussed at length elsewhere (cf. Basham, 
1954, pp. 137 ff.; Dube, 1955, pp. 34 ff.). Also well known is the division 
of these major caste levels into many endogamous regional subgroups, 
called jati in much of North India, the "castes" of ordinary parlance. 
The many details of ritual and other barriers restricting social relations 
between castes have been explained at length by other authors (cf. 
Srinivas, 1952, pp. 24 ft.; O'Malley, 1932, pp. 1-31). One of the best 
concise discussions of these matters is that of Stevenson (1954). Recently 
attention has been directed toward objective and precise determina- 
tion of caste functions, characteristics, and especially relative status 
or ranking of castes (cf. Gough, 1959; P. M. Mahar, 1959; and Marriott, 
1959, i960). It is unnecessary to go further into these matters here. 

Caste Functions 

Caste (jat or jati) is the ultimate extension of the kin group. Its 
members are considered to be remotely related to one another, and 
it is the furthest extent of potential or actual affinal kin ties. In fact, 
the geographical and social limits of a caste may be defined most 
satisfactorily in terms of the marriage network. As a result, caste 
functions are in many respects similar to family, sib, clan, and kindred 
functions, although caste is a less intimate group. It is a unit of social 
control in that its members or their representatives determine col- 
lectively what the membership may and may not do, and what shall 
be done to enforce these rules. It is the unit of ritual and social 
equality. It is the endogamous unit, the commensal unit, the unit 
within which there are no ritual prohibitions on contact and outside 

200 CASTE 

of which such prohibitions must, theoretically, be observed. It is an 
economic unit of importance in that it tends to be the largest com- 
petitive unit — the largest unit whose members engage in the same 
traditional occupation. Caste is an important reference group for its 
members. Matters of importance to individuals, families, sibs, clans, 
and kindreds are of some concern to the caste as a whole and are likely 
to engage the attention of caste-fellows. Ritual and ceremonial occa- 
sions reveal this. Cliques and factions show the influence of caste 
boundaries. People interact socially and ritually with their caste-fel- 
lows more often than with members of other castes. 

As a result, caste members share a culture which differs slightly 
from that of other castes. Although caste cultures vary less in Sirkanda 
than on the plains, differences do become apparent in matters pertain- 
ing to traditional occupation, to social organization, to caste prefer- 
ences in worship, and to interaction with other castes. 

Caste in the Sub-Himalayan Region 

There has been no systematic study of Pahari caste organization. 
There are, however, enough references to the population and customs 
of the Pahari areas to give a general picture of caste structure there 
and to verify much of what came to light in Sirkanda. The Pahari 
caste system is similar to that in other parts of India and is well within 
the range of regional variations. 

All over the cis-Himalayan region, the Simla states, the Doon valley, Kulu 
and Kangra valleys there exists a hierarchy of social status, though the rigidity 
of the caste system as in the plains does not exist. The upper class consists 
of Brahmins and Rajputs (Kshatriyas) . . . the lower strata is composed of 
innumerable social groups who form the artisan elements in the population 
of these parts. . . . These suffer from a number of disabilities and are treated 
as serfs or dependents and thus provide a dual organization of economic 
classes in these hills. (Majumdar, 1944, pp. 137 f.) 

It has been noted before that the component castes of the "upper 
class," the Khasiyas, are not separated by great social or ritual distance 
in some Pahari areas and that, in fact, intermarriage between them is 
not rare. The "lower strata" are called Doms, a term which applies to 
all the artisan castes of the hills. "The Doms . . . are as far as can be 
asserted the aborigines of the country. They are found wherever the 
Khasiyas are found, living with them in a state even now not far re- 
moved from serfdom" (Walton, 1910, p. 62). Saksena reports that 
while the Brahmins and Rajputs of Jaunsar-Bawar form a single en- 
dogamous group, "each group among the Doms constitutes a single 

CASTE 20 1 

endogamous group, arranged in hierarchical order" (Saksena, 1955, 
p. 28). 

There can be no doubt that we are dealing with a caste society. 
It is not as rigid, perhaps, as that found on the plains, but the bases 
for status evaluation of castes, the barriers limiting contacts between 
them, and the nature of interaction among them are in general similar 
to those characteristic of the Hindu caste system throughout India. It 
cannot be accurately described as a class system, as Majumdar wishes 
to do, because legitimate individual mobility within the system is 

Most writers attest to the physical and cultural distinctiveness of 
the Doms as contrasted to the high castes or Khasas. The difference is 
traced to their alleged separate origins as early aborigines and Indo- 
Aryan invaders, respectively. These views have been discussed at some 
length in chapter 1. Whatever may have been the earlier situation, 
it is evident that these distinctions now exist primarily in the minds 
of their advocates and to a minor extent if at all in the physical and 
cultural make-up of the Paharis. Today Khasas and Doms are phys- 
ically virtually indistinguishable and culturally similar. 

There is a homogeneous social code to which both the higher and lower 
groups subscribe. The disabilities that obtain in these parts among the lower 
castes in the matter of dress, food and drink, in the restrictions to marriage 
and inter-dining, are mostly superficial, and they have not affected the social 
relationships to any appreciable extent. (Majumdar, 1944, p. 139) 

Thus Pahari caste stucture is characterized by a twofold division 
into high-caste groups (Brahmin and Rajput or Khasiya) and low-caste 
artisan groups (Dom). The latter are accorded the status of untouch- 
ables and include most of the occupational groups found among both 
the clean Shudras and the untouchables of the plains. Within each 
of these classifications there are status distinctions, but not of the same 
order as that of the main division. Even intermarriage is tolerated 
between castes of the same general social and economic level. As will 
be made clear below, the high-low or pure-polluted caste dichotomy 
is a striking feature of caste structure in Sirkanda as distinguished from 
the multiple divisions of the plains. On the other hand, this is not 
a qualitative difference — plains people too distinguish "clean" castes 
(the four varnas) from untouchables, and "twice-born" castes (the top 
three varnas) from those which are not twice-born (the Shudras and 
untouchables). Cohn (1954, p. 116) notes that, in the plains village he 
studied, "it would appear that, although the caste system is a graduated 
hierarchical one, the difference between the Thakurs and all the others 

202 CASTE 

is greater than any differences among the low-caste people." Bailey 
(1957, p. 8) emphasizes the importance of the "line of pollution" 
between untouchables and others in a South Indian village. Hocart 
(1950, p. 4) comments on the distinction in Ceylon between the three 
leading castes or "good people" as ". . . opposed to the 'low-castes,' 
who comprise fishermen, smiths, washermen, . . . tailors, potters, 
weavers. . . ." Marriott (i960, pp. 43 ff.) cites comparable systems of 
caste status ranking in the middle Indus and Bengal delta areas. In 
much of South India Brahmins, Shudras, and untouchables are the 
major groupings. 

In plains villages the most important division seems to be at least 
threefold (twice-born, Shudra, untouchable) if not fivefold (Brahmin, 
Kshatriya, Vaishya, Shudra, untouchable) rather than twofold as in 
Sirkanda. Also, in the plains there is evidently greater social distance 
between groups which would in Sirkanda fall within the high- or low- 
caste divisions. Another difference is that in the hill area there are 
few ranked subcaste divisions such as those characteristic of plains 
castes. Among the indigenous hill castes in and around Bhatbair, the 
subdivisions (sib, gotra) are of equal rank and purity. The only excep- 
tion is in the superior ritual purity of ceremonial cooks over other 

The range of castes in the hills, as in any other particular locality 
in India, is but a small segment of the total of endogamous castes 
and subcastes found in India. Ghurye (1952, p. 23) estimates that at 
the beginning of the nineteenth century there were 500 to 2,000 sub- 
castes in each linguistic area of India. In comparison to the adjacent 
plains, the absolute number of castes in the Pahari area and in each 
Pahari village is small. For Garhwal, Raturi (1928, pp. 196 ff.) lists 
Brahmins, Rajputs, and 30 untouchable castes. Bahadur (1916, pp. 
101 f.) lists 15 "professional castes" belonging to the Dom group. It is 
probable that both these listings of artisans include occupational 
groups which cannot accurately be described as castes in that they are 
not endogamous, but the pattern of two high castes and a variety of 
low, ritually impure artisan castes of roughly comparable status is 
verified. Conspicuous by their absence in the Pahari region are in- 
digenous Vaishya (members of the merchant caste) and Shudras (clean, 
but not twice-born, castes, primarily artisans). 

Caste in Sirkanda 

There are five castes represented in Sirkanda: Brahmins and 
Rajputs in the twice-born, Khasa category, and blacksmiths, Bajgis 

CASTE 203 

(drummers), and barbers in the untouchable, artisan Dom category. 
Although the barber caste is not an indigenous Pahari caste, the 
Sirkanda barbers were brought into the village by its Brahmin 
founders and have therefore been an integral part of Sirkanda since 
it has existed as a village. Blacksmiths are the most recent immigrant 
group, having come about 90 years ago. One Bajgi man settled in 
Sirkanda only 25 years ago, but the other Bajgis are long-time resi- 
dents. At one time or another, in the past, shoemakers and weavers 
have lived temporarily in or near the village, but, like the Vaishya 
merchant who operates one of the village shops, they were never 
identified by themselves or others as villagers. Within a half-day's 
walk of Sirkanda are a few other service groups who are occasionally 
utilized in the village, notably shoemakers, weavers, and carpenters. 
Traditional caste occupations, occupational deviation, and the role of 
caste in the local economy have been discussed in chapter 2. 

Caste organization in this area is extremely loose and informal. 
There are no organized caste governments or councils. When an in- 
fraction of caste rules occurs in a high caste, a group of male high- 
caste members may be called together as a council to take action. If 
so, they discuss the case, listen to any evidence or pleas that are to be 
given, and come to a decision. They may fine or otherwise punish the 
offender or, in extreme cases, ostracize him from the caste, that is, 
outcaste him by refusing to let him take further part in caste functions 
and refusing to interact socially with him. The only remembered occa- 
sions upon which such councils have been called have been for con- 
sideration of breaches of rules of caste endogamy. Theoretically they 
might be called for other cases of disobedience of rules of ritual purity. 
Often no meeting is called and the offender is merely ostracized by 
informal agreement. 

Generally councils are made up of Rajputs and Brahmins. It is 
thought proper by both Rajputs and Brahmins to invite representa- 
tives of both castes to any meeting that may be held by either of them 
because they are interdependent as priests and protectors and there- 
fore have common interests. 

Members of low castes usually try to settle their problems informally 
among the individuals or kin groups involved. This course is most 
frequently taken as numbers are too small to make a caste council 
feasible, and the members wish to attract as little attention and inter- 
ference as possible. If agreement cannot be reached on that level, high- 
caste people will intervene whether requested to do so or not. As the 
masters and possessors of superior judgment, and as people with a stake 
in smooth social relations and docility among their subordinates, high 

204 CASTE 

castes do not hesitate to assume their traditional authoritarian, 
paternalistic role even in the internal affairs of low castes. Often a 
meeting to decide a dispute or punish a misdemeanor involving only 
low-caste people will be made up entirely of Rajputs and Brahmins. 
It may even be called by the high castes when the caste involved has 
no intention of acting in the matter. Individual low-caste people often 
turn in times of trouble to high-caste patrons — usually people to whom 
they are committed by employment — who are expected to intercede on 
their behalf. The dominance of high castes (in this area, Rajputs) is 
readily apparent in such matters, as they can control the behavior not 
only of their own caste members, but to a significant extent that of 
other castes as well. 

The real source of day-to-day control within the caste is social pres- 
sure applied informally, but often relentlessly, by the group. 

Caste Identification 

Caste identification or loyalty is prominent despite the informality 
of caste organization. It is to be expected that in a caste society in 
an isolated area caste identification will be strong. From childhood 
the individual learns that only among caste-fellows is he among equals. 
He hears the stereotypes about other castes and sees the conventional 
behavior between castes. He is taught that he cannot deviate from 
caste rules. If he is of high caste he gradually learns the advantages 
which accrue to him as a result of his position. If he is of low caste he 
learns of his dependent status and the sanctions which can be applied 
to keep him in his place. He learns that to leave the village is to leave 
all that is familiar, all that provides security. Most people therefore 
come to accept their position, though not necessarily to like it. Inter- 
caste conflicts are frequent enough, and rivalries are persistent enough, 
that other castes are seen as rival groups in many contexts. Sympathy 
for caste-fellows generally overrides local loyalties. In the interests 
of village harmony or personal survival, caste loyalties may be sup- 
pressed but they do not disappear. Thus, initial inquiry among low- 
caste people invariably brought the response that in a dispute they 
would side with their high-caste village-mates against aliens regardless 
of caste. "Our village must stand together." Later, as they came to trust 
the inquirer they stated emphatically that their sympathies invariably 
lay with their caste-fellows regardless of village affiliation. A blacksmith 
informant said, "If there were a dispute between a blacksmith of 
some other village and a Sirkanda Rajput my whole sympathy would 
be with the blacksmith, but I would speak out for the Rajput, if I 
had to speak, for fear of the punishment of Rajputs. This is always 

CASTE 205 

the case. I think it is true of all castes." A Bajgi commented, "If there 
is an intercaste dispute involving a Bajgi we are on his side whether 
he is from a neighboring village or from Bombay. If they knew of it, 
every Bajgi in India would be on his side." 

That such attitudes do not seriously affect village stability is largely 
attributable to the concentration of numbers and power in the high 
castes. Organized opposition to them is hopeless, and overriding caste 
loyalties among low castes are restricted largely to private attitudes. 

Caste loyalties appear to be somewhat less strong in Rajput-Brahmin 
relations, where village unity or in-caste factions often override inter- 
caste rivalry. In a real power struggle, however, a high-caste man can 
usually count on the support of his caste-fellows, or demand it. 

High castes frequently intervene or support one side or the other 
in inter-low-caste disputes. Low castes try to avoid involvement in 
inter-high-caste disputes within the village and enter into such dis- 
putes across village lines only at the urging of high-caste villagers. 

The status identification of low-caste people is recognized by all 
castes. A radio program devoted to "Harijan uplift" (untouchable 
uplift) heard on the anthropologist's radio, attracted the immediate 
attention of low-caste people and was the subject of pointed remarks 
and jokes by high-caste villagers. "Well, you will soon be a big man, 
Ram Lai. The government will teach you to read and make you a 
cabinet minister." Low-caste people are expected to be interested in 
talk of their position and government efforts to improve it, but not 
to take it seriously. They are watched closely by high-caste people, and 
a wrong response or attitude can bring abuse. I described to a group of 
Rajputs the visit to India of United States Congressman Dr. Singh 
Saund, and mentioned that he was of Punjabi Indian origin and, 
according to the papers, had been a blacksmith. My listeners shouted 
at once for the blacksmith, who was working in his shop. The story 
was repeated for his benefit, and all expectantly awaited his reaction. 
Having been put on the spot, he mulled the idea over briefly and then 
said evenly, "I want to go to America," and returned to his shop. 

Dominant Caste 

A study of the locally dominant caste and the kind of dominance it enjoys 
is essential to the understanding of rural society in India. Numerical strength, 
economic and political power, ritual status and Western education and oc- 
cupations, are the most important elements of dominance. Usually the differ- 
ent elements of dominance are distributed among different castes in a village. 
When a caste enjoys all or most of the elements of dominance, it may be said 
to have decisive dominance. (Srinivas, 1959, p. 15) 

206 CASTE 

Of 384 current residents of Sirkanda, 90 per cent are in the high 
castes (87 per cent Rajputs, 3 per cent Brahmins) and 10 per cent 
are in the low castes (5 per cent Bajgi, 3 per cent blacksmiths, 2 per 
cent barbers). Of 45 households or joint families, 37 are Rajputs, one 
Brahmin, two blacksmith, one barber, and four Bajgi. Therefore 
Rajputs are numerically the dominant caste in this village. 

Rajputs own 94 per cent of the arable land surrounding Sirkanda, 
while the Brahmin household owns another 4 per cent, leaving but 2 
per cent for the low castes. Similarly the high castes own 97 per cent 
of the cows, buffaloes, and oxen, all the horses and mules, and 92 per 
cent of the sheep and goats of Sirkanda. Of the livestock, the Brahmin 
family owns its proportional share as a larger-than-average high-caste 
joint family — about 4 per cent. A Rajput family has the only locally 
owned and operated shop, and another Rajput family owns the build- 
ing in which the outside merchant keeps his shop. Low-caste income 
is derived primarily from high-caste villagers in return for services 
as artisans. It is therefore apparent that Rajputs are economically 
the dominant caste in Sirkanda. 

Formal village government and political affiliation count for little 
in Sirkanda. However, of the eleven Sirkanda members of the village 
council, 10 are Rajputs and one a blacksmith (by law one seat is 
reserved for low castes). The president and vice president of the council, 
as well as their opponents in the last election and their predecessors, 
all are Rajputs. The five Sirkanda members of more inclusive govern- 
ing bodies (judicial councils) have all been Rajputs, including the 
president of one of these councils. The two officers of the Sirkanda 
credit cooperative, although they have never had occasion to function, 
are Rajputs. In the past various official and semiofficial offices were 
given to appointed villagers by the British for administrative pur- 
poses. One of these, village accountant, was held by a Rajput; another, 
village tax collector (Lambarddr), was held successively by two Rajputs 
of Sirkanda and before that by a Brahmin of a neighboring village. The 
hereditary title of Mukhia (a local administrative officer supposed to 
be a keeper of the peace) was held in a Rajput family, and a son-in-law 
of that family retains the title today. 

No official position within the village, except the recently designated 
low caste seat on the village council, has been held by other than a 
Rajput. A frequent criticism which low-caste people voice against 
the village council is that it is dominated by Rajputs and therefore 
dispenses "Rajput justice." A blacksmith commented: 

The president of the village council is a Rajput. He was put into office 
by Rajputs. Even if he wanted to be fair to us and help us get some land 

CASTE 207 

to till he could not. There would be too much pressure on him from other 
Rajputs. So everything he does is for the benefit of Rajputs. 

Another low-caste man said: 

They run the village to their own advantage. They never think of us. They 
fine us if we bring a dispute before them and do not fine Rajputs in the 
same circumstances. Then they use our money for their enjoyment. They 
prey on our vulnerability. 

In the more important realm of traditional leadership and power 
in the village, Rajputs play the dominant role. When meetings or 
councils are called to decide disputes or infractions of rules involving 
villagers, those called are high-caste people, so that Rajputs are always 
represented and dominate even though their caste-fellows may not 
be involved in the issue at hand. They combine the traditional roles 
of landowners, rulers, and protectors of the village, and so they are 
its leaders. 

It is therefore evident that Rajputs are politically the dominant 
caste in Sirkanda. 

Nontraditional education is as yet not a powerful influence in 
Sirkanda. The village school, established in 1950, is open to, and 
attended by, all castes. However, of the twelve villagers who went 
outside Sirkanda for schooling before establishment of the local school 
or for higher education than that offered in the village, all were 

Of Sirkanda villagers only three, all Rajputs, have been in military 
service. Rajputs have no monopoly on casual outside contacts or 
temporary sojourns in urban or non-Pahari areas. Members of all castes 
have had such experience, and low castes, in particular, travel — 
primarily to get materials for their crafts. However, such travel seems 
to have relatively little lasting effect. The two villagers who have 
moved out to take apparently permanent employment in urban areas 
are both Rajputs. On the whole, then, Rajputs have had greater 
access to nontraditional education and experience than have other 
castes in Sirkanda. 

Ritually, Rajputs are second to Brahmins in status, but the differ- 
ence is relatively unimportant in this area. As will become evident, the 
difference in ritual status is not as great between these two groups 
as it is in the plains; intermarriage is tolerated (although it is dis- 
approved and occurs infrequently), and a high degree of social in- 
timacy is practiced. Moreover, these two castes are far above the other 
Pahari castes in ritual status. 

Thus Rajputs enjoy nearly all the elements of dominance in Sirkanda 

208 CASTE 

and are therefore the possessors of "decisive dominance" as defined by 
Srinivas. In Sirkanda, as throughout the hills, Rajputs and Brahmins 
are what Mayer (1958) terms "allied castes" in that they act together 
on certain occasions, notably in relation to the low castes, to present 
a united front. There are disputes and jealousies between the two 
high castes, but they are rarely divided in their relations with the 
low castes, to whom they appear as a single dominant group. 

In some villages of the area Brahmins are approximately equal in 
numbers to Rajputs, and in a few they outnumber Rajputs. I would 
estimate the Brahmin population of Bhatbair and vicinity at one- 
fourth to one-third that of Rajputs. According to the census of 1872, 
there were 81,000 Brahmins and 152,000 Rajputs in Garhwal (Atkin- 
son, 1886, p. 277; see also table 4 below). 


Population by Caste 







Number Percentage 

. , J Brahmin 
lg 1 Rajput 






11 3 ] 
335 87 i 

f Blacksmith 
dw J Barber 
I Bajgi 












12 3 I 

5 2 
21 5 J 
384 100 

90 % 


26 Villages Which Each Supplied at Least 1% of Sirkanda Mates* 

High-caste individuals 4332 (93%) 

Low-caste individuals 339 ( 7%) 

Total 4671 

India b 

Harijans 51,000,000 (13%) 

Others 333,000,000 (87%) 

Population of Garhwal, 1872 c 

Brahmins 81,000 (28%) 

Rajputs 152,000 (53%) 

Doms 52,000 (18%) 

a Census of India, 1951. 

b Planning Commission (1958), p. 380. 

c Atkinson (1886), p. 277. 

Relative size of population is decisive in determining which of 
the two high castes will exercise practical dominance in any given 

CASTE 209 

village, because they differ little in the other criteria of dominance. 
The importance of numbers is as readily apparent to villagers as it is 
to the outside observer. Even among low castes a frequent rational- 
ization for the power of high-caste villagers is in terms of their superior 
numbers. A blacksmith described the discrimination practiced by 
Rajputs in the village against his own caste, and then commented, 
"The reason Rajputs can do those things is that they outnumber us 
so much. If blacksmiths were in the majority, the Rajputs would be 
untouchables." He also recognized the importance of land to power: 

Because of our skill at blacksmithing, our ancestors spurned land — they 
wanted to make their living by their craft. What they did not realize was 
that people with land are people with power. So now we blacksmiths are 
suffering the consequences. We are just like servants now. We have to do 
what the landowners tell us to do. Since we do not grow our own food, we 
must come begging to them for payment. 

Another low-caste man explained: 

Caste is a matter of wealth and numbers. A wealthy untouchable can have 
the District Magistrate and others to his house. A poor untouchable cannot 
even draw water from the public well. In this village there are many Rajputs, 
so they can tell the low castes where to sit. If the numbers were reversed they 
couldn't do this. As an example, there are few shoemakers and sweepers 
[the lowest castes] in Dehra Dun and they are poor. They are not allowed 
to touch anyone of higher caste. On the other hand, before partition there 
were many Muslims in Dehra Dun and many of them were well-to-do. The 
Muslims were fed and entertained in the homes of high-caste Hindus and 
vice versa. A Muslim kills the sacred cow and eats its flesh, while a shoemaker 
merely removes the hide of a dead cow and with it makes shoes for people 
— a necessary service. But Muslims were numerous and wealthy, so in spite 
of their defiling practices they were treated well. Shoemakers are few and 
poor, so they must suffer as untouchables. Such is the nature of caste. 

Although Rajputs are the dominant caste they are dependent upon 
other castes in and around Sirkanda for economic and religious serv- 
ices, as discussed in previous chapters. Before we proceed to an examina- 
tion of intercaste relationships in these and other contexts, it will be 
well to consider the important matter of relative ranking of castes. 

Caste Ranking in Sirkanda 

Determination of the relative rank of castes is not as easy as it 
might at first appear. To simply ask a person may or may not produce 
a coherent account of rank order. To ask several people is most likely 
to produce several rank orders. 

2 1 CASTE 

Individuals and even groups may be given one rank order in a particular 
context and a different ranking in another context. . . . What is quite con- 
stant is a set of criteria for ranking; what varies is the interpretation given 
in a specific instance to a particular combination of characteristics. (Mandel- 
baum, 1955, p. 241) 

Recently a good deal of attention has been directed toward this 
problem. Among the most interesting studies has been Pauline Mahar's 
use of a multiple scaling technique to get at caste ranking from the 
point of view of ritual purity and pollution by investigating the "norms 
relevant to the interactions symbolizing inequality of ritual status in 
dyadic inter-caste relations" (P. M. Mahar, 1959, p. 128). Through 
this technique she was able to show quite precisely the relative ranks 
of 18 of 22 castes in Kalapur and to specify areas of disagreement in 
caste ranking. 

In Sirkanda the situation was less complex than that with which 
Mahar and most other researchers have worked in Indian villages, in 
that a relatively small number of castes were to be dealt with. The 
pattern of intercaste relationships was, however, essentially the same 
as that found by other researchers. In view of the limited number of 
informants and castes, I was able to question extensively on this 
subject and to derive a fairly consistent body of data. In analyzing 
these data I compared a range of statements of what should be done 
and what is done with the observations and reports of actual inter- 
action among members of the various castes. As a result, I obtained a 
quite complete picture of caste as it functions in the village and as 
it is seen from the various caste levels. 

In the research an attempt was made to pay equal attention to 
"ritual" and "secular" criteria of caste ranking. It soon became evident 
that "secular status" is significant to caste ranking primarily as it is 
reflected in "ritual status," but not in and of itself. The two cannot be 
separated. Traditional occupation, which is an important factor in 
caste status and might be assumed to be a secular consideration, is in 
fact not secular. Inherent in it is attribution of ritual status. That is, 
occupation is accorded ritual significance. A shoemaker or blacksmith 
is, by the nature of his traditional occupation, ritually impure. If a 
group gives up or adopts a ritually impure occupation, its ritual status 
will usually vary accordingly. Thus it was reported that some Bajgis 
further in Garhwal had, in the absence of available shoemakers and 
at the insistence of high castes, adopted the occupation of skinning and 
disposing of dead animals. They had thereupon become untouchable 
to other Bajgis. On the other hand, a group of Bedas near Bhatbair 
were trying to raise their status by giving up their traditional occupa- 

1. Sirkanda village and neighboring hills. View eastward from the school 
(see map 3). 

2. Settlement area of Sirkanda. The Brahmins' house in the foreground 
is being rebuilt by carpenter-masons while two members of the family and 
two elderly Rajputs watch. 

3. The respected head of a 
prosperous Rajput household. 
He wears gold earrings to 
honor a household deity. 

4. Wife and mother in a Rajput household. The gold 
nose ring indicates marriage; the heavy silver neck- 
lace was given at her engagement. The other jewelry 
is simply for "fashion." 

5. Three young Rajput girls 
and a little boy. The eldest 
girl is approaching marriage- 
able age. 

6. These boys, like men, carry loads on their shoulders 
or backs rather than on their heads as women do. The 
boy on the left is a Bajgi; the other two are Rajputs. 
They show physical differences which fit the stereo- 
types of their castes. 

7. Women such as these Rajputs spend considerable time every day 
carrying water more than a quarter of a mile from the village spring to 
their homes. 

8. Residents of two good-sized villages farm this terraced hillside. One of the 
villages is discernible in the lower foreground; the other is near the crest of 
the hillside on the right. 

9. A Rajput harrows his plot of millet on a large terrace early in the rainy 

10. Children and bullocks here perform die tedious task of threshing wheat. 

11. Bringing fodder from the forest is a year-round job for women 
and children. This Rajput boy is bringing dry fodder in the dry 

12. Women of all castes devote much of the day to housekeeping. This Rajput 
woman grinds spices as she watches the children. 

13. The barber is of a caste alien to these hills, but his people have lived in 
Sirkanda since its founding and have intermarried with Pahari service castes. 
Here be performs his traditional duty for the village schoolteacher. 

14. A blacksmith does all the iron work for his clients in return for traditional 
payments in grain at each harvest. This man is repairing a grass knife. 


"J' WMkMittMi 

15. This Bajgi earns his liv- 
ing by making baskets to or- 
der. His relatives are farmers, 
musicians, and tailors, and 
one operates an illegal still. 




urn r h 

I II I !: 



N II ., 


16. A gala wedding party (barat) sets out for the bride's village. In this group 
the musicians and palanquin bearers are Bajgis while the groom and guests 
are Rajputs. The groom will walk most of the way because the trail is rough 
and the way is long, but during the triumphal exit from his village and the 
entry into the bride's village he will be in the palanquin. 

17. The Brahmin priest (book in hand) calls for a recess in the 
night-long wedding ceremony. It is being performed in a chart 
where the bride's family lives, sharing this room with three buffalo 
even during the ceremony. 

18. While the wedding 
ceremony is in prog- 
ress, some of the men 
amuse themselves by 
singing and dancing 

19. A least is part oi 
every major life-cycle 
rite. Women do not 
travel to ceremonies 
but local women eat 
together, adjacent to 
their menfolk and 
the male guests. 

m Ml 

20. The annual Pahari fair (taulft) of the area is a secular event that is greatly 
enjoyed, much as are weddings and the religious festival, Diwali. Here gaily 
dressed men and women take a ride on a Ferris wheel. 

21. A Bajgi woman dances while possessed by a household god whose shrine 
is visible in die rear wall. The pujaris who have induced die god to dance 
sit on the right. The female victim of the god's wrath, whose illness has neces- 
sitated the ceremony, sits behind the dancer. 

22. A Bajgi diviner analyzes the 
troubles of a Rajput client. In 
the foreground is a typical wa- 
ter pipe. 

23. Taking milk products to 
market to sell for cash or credit 
is a regular activity of young 
men such as these Rajputs. These 
men's ideas of stylish dress differ 
considerably. The one on the 
left is a villager with little ex- 
perience outside. His companion 
has been to school in the valley 
and has acquired a taste for 
plains styles. 


24. Occasionally an outside merchant brings his wares to Sirkanda. Here an 
itinerant Tibetan bangle seller, his son, and his employee are enjoying a lively 
market for their sjoods. 

25. The school is a recent and relatively successful source of governmental 
influence in Sirkanda. Note that two students are spinning wool thread while 
reciting their lessons. 

26. An even more recent outside intrusion is All India Radio, brought to 
Sirkanda for the first time via the anthropologist's radio, shown here. The 
listeners on the cot are Rajputs, the others are Doms. If a village panchayat 
house is built, a free radio and loudspeaker will be provided by the govern- 

27. These members of the older 
generation of Rajputs look back 
contentedlv on their lives. Thev 
have four obedient sons and good 
land. They do not foresee rapid 
or unsettling changes in the vil- 
lage, but diev do expect voting 
men to take advantage of new 

28. This young Rajput is considered to be the out- 
standing pupil in the village school. From a pros- 
perous family, he expects to go to high school and 
perhaps to college. As a fourth-grader, he is the first 
member of his family to be educated beyond the first 
three grades. He would like to get a job "in service," 
that is, a white-collar job. 

CASTE 2 1 1 

tion of singing and dancing. It is important to keep in mind that ritual 
status is a group phenomenon. An individual cannot raise his status 
by changing his occupation, and he is unlikely to lower it in this 
fashion unless he is ostracized by his own group. The discussion in 
chapter 2 of caste occupations, occupational variation within castes, 
and caste-neutral occupations is relevant in this context. It seems likely 
that occupational variation within castes is more acceptable and has 
wider limits here than in the plains. 

In Sirkanda the details of caste ranking van' with the status level 
from which the individual views his fellow villagers. In general, 
ritual and social distance (in one direction) between the caste of an 
observer and two castes being observed varies inversely with the 
perceived ritual and social distance between those two castes. How- 
ever, pattern of ranking is remarkably consistent. In the discussion of 
caste ranking below, ideal patterns will be presented first and there- 
after some of the exceptions and deviations will be mentioned. 

Ritually purest of all castes are the Brahmins — traditionally the 
priestly caste. Regardless of whether or not individuals follow a 
priestly occupation they are accorded their traditional ritual primacy. 
Their touch or presence defiles no one. All castes will take water and 
boiled (kachcha) food from them. 3 One group of Brahmins is ritually 
even purer than other Brahmins. They are the ceremonial cooks (cf. 
p. 67) who accept kachcha food from no one but their own subcaste- 
fellows. Brahmins in general take kachcha food from no other caste, 
will let no other caste enter their cooking and eating area, and when 
smoking the water pipe will share the wooden pipestem with no other 

Rajputs are a close second to Brahmins in ritual status. They are 
approximately as far from other castes in ritual distance as are 
Brahmins but are slightly inferior to Brahmins. Brahmins will not 
accept kachcha food from them, share the wooden pipestem with them, 
nor let them eat in a Brahmin kitchen. When a Rajput eats in a 
Brahmin house he rinses the utensils he has used and leaves them out- 
side where they can be cleaned before being used again in the Brahmin 
household. Rajputs and Brahmins do, however, freely share the brass 
pipestem or, lacking this, the brass base of the water pipe, and ciga- 
rettes. In most situations they interact as equals. 

The Brahmins and Rajputs are the two "twice-born," ritually clean 
castes. From their point of view all other castes are achut (literally "un- 
touchable") or defiling and are referred to as Dom. Distinctions among 
Doms are known but irrelevant to these high-castes. They will accept 
from Doms no drink except liquor and no cooked food except parched 

2 1 2 CASTE 

grain, and potatoes or meat roasted directly on the coals of a fire. Doms 
must not touch the water pots or other utensils of high-caste people. 
If they do, the contents are discarded and the utensil, if it is brass 
(as is usual), is cleaned. If it is of the alloy known as kansi, which 
absorbs pollution easily, it cannot be cleaned and must be discarded. 
Bodily untouchability is not observed — it is not polluting for a high- 
caste person to be touched by a Dom. Cohn found the same to be true 
in Senapur. "When a Thakur uses the term achut in reference to a 
Camar he does not mean that he cannot touch or be touched by him, 
but rather that he cannot take water or food from him and that the 
Camar's touch of utensils or of cooked food is defiling" (Cohn, 1954, 
p. 120). 

Doms are not supposed to sit on the same string cot with high- 
caste people or, in fact, on a string cot at all in the presence of high- 
caste people. Doms are not allowed to enter or sit in the houses of 
high castes. When visiting high-caste homes Doms are expected to sit 
on the narrow porch outside the house or on the steps leading up to 
the house. On the other hand, high-caste individuals can enter freely 
into the homes of low-caste people and are given the seat of honor 
when they do so. Doms cannot share either the pipestem or the base 
of the water pipe with high-caste people. When smoking in a group 
they are given only the clay pipe bowl to smoke. They are not allowed 
to share cigarettes with high-caste people. They cannot worship in 
the Raghunath temple or the larger temples outside the village. When 
being blessed by a Brahmin they are not touched by him. Instead he 
throws a small amount of vermilion substance onto a convenient 
surface and a Dom applies it to the foreheads of his caste-fellows. 
Sexual contacts between Dom men and high-caste women are taboo. 

When a Dom and a high-caste person meet one another, the Dom 
is expected to bow or nod and respectfully address the high-caste person 
with the traditional Pahari greeting, "Samarii Thakur" (greetings, 
landlord). 4 This is an enforceable rule. 

There is thus a great social and ritual barrier between Rajputs and 
Brahmins, on the one hand, and Doms on the other. Strengthening 
the barrier, in the minds of villagers, is the traditional occupation 
associated with each caste. Brahmins are traditionally priests and Raj- 
puts are traditionally administrators and warriors, but both are thought 
of, in the present context, primarily as landowning agriculturists. 
The high castes are also thought to be ultimately related in that sons 
of the great ascetics became Brahmins and Rajputs depending upon 
their choice of occupation. On the other hand, Doms are identified 
as artisans — people who work with their hands. A word which is some- 

CASTE 2 1 3 

times used in reference to Doms, and which carries the same connota- 
tions of pollution and inferiority implied in that term, is shilpkar, 
artisan. In this category fall the craftsmen and specialists who would 
be classified as Shudras and untouchables on the plains. The same sorts 
of disabilities are imposed upon them as upon untouchables of the 

The Doms of Sirkanda are blacksmiths, barbers, and Bajgis. Car- 
penters, weavers, and shoemakers will be included in this discussion, 
since these groups are continually in contact with Sirkanda villagers 
and are residents of the area. Mention will also be made of Bedas (the 
rope sliders and musicians described in previous chapters), who are 
indigenous to the area and are still in occasional contact with Sirkanda. 
All these groups are lumped together under the term "Dom" by high- 
caste villagers, who often assert that "Doms are all alike." A blacksmith 
remarked, "They [high castes] treat all low castes alike. We are just 
Doms to them even though there are great differences among low 
castes." 5 High-caste people know the distinctions among low castes 
but consider them unimportant and irrelevant, as indeed they are to 
high-caste people. All low castes are considered by them to be approxi- 
mately equally polluting. 

Blacksmiths and carpenters actually form one endogamous group, 
although there is a strong tendency for males of the families to remain 
in one or the other occupational specialty. There are no formal ritual 
distinctions between them, and for most purposes they can be con- 
sidered a single caste. Dom goldsmiths also fall in this group. These 
three occupational specialties are collectively and exclusively termed 
Mistri. This group and barbers and weavers are roughly equivalent 
in status and consistently rank above other Dom castes in the ritual 
hierarchy among Doms. The barbers, being of alien origin, have been 
in a somewhat anomalous position. They share a common marriage 
pool with Mistris, although both barbers and Mistris claim ritual 
superiority and often will not allow one another in their kitchens. 
Weavers are generally considered to be slightly lower in status than 
Mistris and they, on their part, claim to be higher. Both observe 
ritual distance in that they do not normally go into one another's 
kitchens. Intermarriage is allowed but is not encouraged and is in- 
frequent. Weavers are in nearly all respects equivalent in status to 
the Sirkanda barbers and, like Mistris, intermarry freely with them. 
Thus, the barbers form a link between Mistris and weavers. This 
entire group is of nearly equivalent status, so that a rigid hierarchy 
cannot be outlined. All claim to be highest; all claim to be polluted 
by others in the group; all occasionally intermarry. 

214 CASTE 

Below the above-listed group of artisan castes are the Bajgis, 
musicians who are also tailors and basket weavers and in this area 
usually perform the functions of barber (although Mistris, too, may 
perform these duties). Restrictions placed upon Bajgis in their relation- 
ships with Mistris are, according to the latter, the same as those 
Rajputs place on all Doms. In practice, however, the restrictions are 
not as far-reaching or carefully observed as those between Doms and 
Rajputs. Bajgis frequently challenge the superiority of Mistris, but 
if forced to a showdown will concede it. Roughly equivalent in rank 
to Bajgis are other musician castes such as Beda. The most defiling 
characteristic of these people is apparently their occupation as musi- 
cians and dancers, with the assumed correlate that their women are 
prostitutes. This interpretation is based both upon observation of 
caste ranking and upon local explanations, which usually include men- 
tion not only of the occupation of Bajgi men but also their women's 
role as prostitutes. To explain the significance of this in terms of the 
pollution concept, we might turn to an interesting point made by 
Stevenson, who distinguishes between "external pollution" and "in- 
ternal pollution," the latter being much more defiling and difficult to 
counteract (Stevenson, 1954, p. 52). Stevenson points out that bodily 
emissions are ritually polluting to Hindus. He speculates that this 
may explain the fact (true also in Sirkanda) that intercaste sexual 
congress is much more serious for a woman than for a man. A lower- 
caste partner defiles a woman permanently and irreparably but affects 
a man only slightly. Stevenson hypothesizes that, ". . . since in sexual 
intercourse it is the man who emits the polluting secretion, and the 
woman who receives it internally, the man is exposed only to external 
pollution, which can be removed by a bath, whereas the woman is 
internally polluted [so that she cannot be purified] . . ." (Stevenson, 
1954, p. 57). Perhaps the low ritual status of the musician castes might 
be accounted for by interpreting the sexual availability and assumed 
prostitution of their women in these terms — their women are con- 
tinually and irreparably polluted by sexual contacts with members of 
many castes. More simply, they are occupationally associated with 
human emissions which are polluting, and therefore they are polluted. 
Bajgi women in Sirkanda have given up dancing, and the Beda women 
in this area dance less than formerly in an effort to overcome this 

Lowest among the Dom castes are the shoemakers and skinners of 
dead animals (Mochis, Chamars). They are often musicians as well. 
These people are treated by Bajgis and all higher castes much as 
Doms in general are treated by Rajputs and Brahmins. They are the 

CASTE 215 

scapegoats for Bajgis, who are the scapegoats for Mistris, just as all 
Doms are scapegoats for higher castes. Mochis and Chamars are con- 
sistently ranked lower by all castes than other Doms and are reportedly 
even more restricted in their contacts with high castes. Their rank 
is apparently due primarily to their uniquely defiling occupation. It 
is often asserted or suspected by others that they occasionally eat not 
only dead buffaloes, but even dead cows or oxen. Their alien origin 
and persistent cultural and residential separateness in the area prob- 
ably contribute to the great social distance between them and other 
castes. Much of what Bhatbair people "know" about them is rumor. 
This added factor makes assessment of their caste status relative to 
other Doms especially difficult. While they are definitely the lowest of 
the low castes, it is difficult to determine to what extent high-caste 
attitudes toward them differ from those toward indigenous Doms in 
terms of pollution, and to what extent cultural factors are accountable. 

Among low castes, then, there are three hierarchically ranked en- 
dogamous groups whose ritual status is linked to their traditional 
occupational specialties: all are artisans and therefore, by Pahari stand- 
ards, polluted. On this basis alone the clean castes treat them as a group 
and largely ignore their differences. Among artisans the purest are 
those who practice only a craft (metalwork, woodworking, weaving, 
barbering), whose women are not suspected of prostitution, and who 
do not handle dead animals. Inferior to them are those castes who, 
in addition to whatever other occupation they may follow, are mu- 
sicians and whose women are dancers and therefore suspected of prosti- 
tution. Lowest of all are those whose work is with dead animals. There 
is a consistent progression of pollution: All low castes are artisans, 
those who are also musicians are lower than those who are not, and 
those who also deal with dead animals are lower than those who do 
not (see table 5). 6 

The details of this hierarchy differ from those reported by Atkinson 
for Garhwal and Kumaon. Speaking of the Doms of this area he says: 

According to popular estimation, they are divided into four grades, all 
equally impure and outside ordinary caste life, but furnishing certain dis- 
tinctions from occupation and the like which bring up the first grade very 
close to the lower forms of Rajput clans and these again connect with 
Brahmans, so that no link in the chain of social distinction between the 
highest and the lowest is wanting. (Atkinson, 1886, p. 444) 

Atkinson then lists the four grades or status levels of Doms, start- 
ing at the top, as: (1) smiths, carpenter-masons, weavers, and "Khasiyas 
degraded for caste offences"; (2) basketmakers, wood turners, oil 

2l6 CASTE 

pressers, messengers, miners; (3) leather workers; (4) "vagrant tribes of 
musicians, dancers, jugglers, acrobats, etc." The differences between 
that account and the situation in Bhatbair are that the second category 
is missing in Bhatbair, since wood turners are categorized with other 
carpenters, and basket makers are musicians. The castes which approx- 
imate the third and fourth are reversed in status level. Perhaps the 
facts that leather workers are not indigenous to the Bhatbair area 
and that in Garhwal and Kumaon their women are not thought of 
as prostitutes account for the reversal of their status. 

Caste Ranking in Sirkanda 

1 ' Rajputs 


Barbers, weavers 

Bajgis Bedas 

I 4 J Shoemakers 

1. Clean castes (twice-born) — landowning agriculturists. 

2. Unclean castes (achut) — artisans. 

3. Castes in which men play musical instruments and women dance. 

4. Castes that handle dead animals and/or scavenge. 

In this schematic representation, a solid line indicates strongly enforced 
prohibition of intermarriage; the broken line indicates ideal prohibition of 
marriage but rare toleration of it; the dotted line indicates some claims to 
ritual distance, including marriage restrictions, but little distance in fact. 
Those caste names which appear on the same horizontal plane are of approxi- 
mately equal status. 

In general, a caste's members may freely engage in any activity 
less defiling than that appropriate to their caste status or irrelevant 
to caste status, but not in anything more defiling. Caste terminology 
is instructive in this context. Mention has already been made of the 
use of the traditional Pahari greeting as indicating relative status, 
and that clean castes refer to all the lower castes as "Doms" and con- 
sider them "achut." Among low castes the term Dom is resented and 
is applied only to castes lower than one's own. Blacksmiths refer to 
Bajgis and shoemakers as Doms but deny that the term is properly 
applied to themselves. Bajgis, in turn, apply the term only to shoe- 
makers, and shoemakers resent the appellation, preferring a more 

CASTE 2 1 7 

specific caste term. The government listed all these low-caste groups 
as "scheduled castes" in the 1951 census. The census taker who came 
to Sirkanda termed them Harijans, Gandhi's term for untouchables — 
literally "children of god." As one Bajgi said, "In the census they 
listed all who are not Brahmins or Rajputs as Harijans. Of course that 
is absurd. There aren't any shoemakers or sweepers in this village, 
and they are the only real Harijans." Low-caste people resent general 
terms which lump them with other low castes. They prefer specific 
occupational terms. Some low-caste groups have alternative terms of 
reference which they prefer to the usual one. Thus Bajgis often refer 
to themselves as Darzi or Auji (tailor). Shoemakers are often called 
Chamar by other castes, but prefer to be called "shoemaker." 

Class Differences 

Within castes there are differential advantages and status based 
in part on wealth. In general, as has been shown previously, high- 
caste villagers control the wealth of Sirkanda. Wealth correlates 
positively with caste but is not rigidly bound to it. Although great 
differences in land ownership and income do not exist among high- 
caste families, this does not mean that no differences are found. Some 
families are in debt; others have money to lend. Some are financially 
better off than they were a few years or generations ago; others have 
less than formerly. Changes in fortune are a prime topic of gossip 
in the village. One Rajput family came into a large and unexpected 
sum of money obtained by dubious means from Muslims at the time 
of India's partition. They now possess the best house in Sirkanda, 
display their wealth, and affect airs of superiority — behavior which is 
repulsive to the entire village. Villagers commented that they are 
little people who got too much money and do not know how to live 
with it. "A big person is unchanged by a change in fortune; a small 
person is overcome with it. Money is like a rainstorm which affects 
the ocean hardly at all, but makes a mountain stream into a raging 
torrent that tries to carry away the mountain with it." 

Low castes are, on the whole, much less secure financially than are 
the high castes. However, there are differences among them. At present 
the blacksmiths and the two small Bajgi households are the poorest 
villagers. They have no land to cultivate, they own few animals, and 
their traditional income is scanty. The barber and the two larger 
Bajgi families are better off. They have animals and some culti- 
vable land in addition to income from their traditional occupations. 
They are almost as well off as the poorer Rajputs. The shoemakers of 

2 1 8 CASTE 

this area are as well off as the Bajgis. They too own land and have 
a sizable traditional income. Several artisans of the Mistri group who 
live in areas adjacent to Sirkanda have become very well-to-do, and 
live in a manner superior to that of Sirkanda Rajputs. 

Thus, while "class" differences are correlated with caste status, 
there are exceptions and there is differential wealth within castes. 
Such deviations and differences do not affect caste status (that is, ritual 
purity), but they are relevant to individual status, standard of living, 
and to interpersonal and intercaste relations. Blacksmith-Bajgi rivalry 
in Sirkanda is based partly upon the disparity between their tradi- 
tional ritual status and their present relative economic status (cf. Rowe, 
1960a, pp. 70 ff.). According to reports, blacksmiths were formerly 
relatively well off, and friction between them and the Bajgis was 
minimal. Sirkanda Brahmins hold their own in the village, despite 
their small numbers, largely because their wealth backs up their 
ritual status. 

Low castes hesitate to press for their rights partly because of their 
economic inferiority to, and dependence upon, high castes. A black- 
smith said, "We cannot press charges against a Rajput. He and his 
caste-fellows would pay bribes and hire lawyers such as we could 
never afford. Twenty Rajputs could raise Rs. 100 by collecting Rs. 5 
each. What could two poor blacksmiths do against that?" A Bajgi 
does not hesitate to press charges against a blacksmith because he 
knows he can bring at least as much money (and therefore influence), 
to bear as can the blacksmith. 

Although there are well-known differences in income within the 
village, display of wealth is tightly controlled by custom. To display 
wealth in disapproved or unconventional ways is to invite public 
criticism, social pressure, and even open hostility, as has the newly 
rich Rajput family mentioned above. This is true at all caste levels 
but especially at the lower levels, where it would be considered not 
only bad taste but arrogance. The objection is not to living beyond 
one's means, but to living beyond the approved level of expenditure, 
which is considerably below the means of a number of families. 

Wealth is legitimately displayed among high-caste villagers in ex- 
pensive weddings and, to a lesser extent, in funerals and other cere- 
monies, and in the giving of charity to Brahmins. This ritualistic 
sphere is really the only one in which "conspicuous consumption" is 
practiced without disapproval. A family's wealth is shown in other 
ways: in the jewelry worn on special occasions by its women; in large, 
well-built houses (here the number of ornately carved pillars on the 
veranda is a publicly recognized criterion of wealth, as is the type 

CASTE 2 1 9 

of roof, thatch being least expensive, corrugated iron next, and slate 
most expensive); in the number and quality of cattle owned; in the 
number and quality of household utensils (brass trays, tumblers, and 
so on) used; and in the quality of food served in the house. Educa- 
tion of a son outside the village is coming to indicate wealth, but 
its absence is not a sign of lack of wealth. Wealth cannot be legit- 
imately displayed by low-caste members in the village. Any display 
would bring prompt and painful sanctions. 

For the most part, however, wealth is not displayed even by high 
castes. Instead, money is stored in concealment or loaned on interest. 
Clothing, household furnishings, and most other material possessions, 
as well as the work and other activities of well-to-do families, are 
not significantly different from those of poor people. Wealth is usually 
apparent more in spite of its owner's wishes than because of them. 
There is an effort at nonconspicuous consumption, or perhaps more 
accurately, conspicuous nonconsumption. 

The Wisers have explained an important reason for villagers' reluc- 
tance to advertise their wealth — the fear of exploitation by agents of 
authority, fear of increased taxes, and so on — by paraphrasing village 
sentiment in these terms: 

In self-protection we have learned to make it almost impossible for anyone 
to tell who is prospering among us. You may guess, and we may guess. But 
who is going to tell us if we are right. . . . Some among us are honestly poor. 
And the rest of us, excepting the affirmed leaders, have learned to make a 
show of poverty. (C. V. and W. H. Wiser, 1951, p. 159) 

The wealthiest man in Sirkanda shows his wealth in no perceptible 
way except in the very favorable marriages (with educated boys of 
prominent, well-to-do families) that he has contracted for his daughters. 
Quality of marriage arrangements in the family is the ultimate crite- 
rion of wealth and status within the caste. 

The most important factor in "class" or status within the caste 
besides wealth and the things correlated with it, is Sanskritization. The 
more a family conforms to Sanskritic orthodoxy in life-cycle cere- 
monies, the more highly it is thought of. This is not wholly inde- 
pendent of wealth, as Sanskritization is expensive, but it is a somewhat 
different dimension. 

Caste Stereotypes 

Associated with conventional criteria of caste ranking in terms 
of ritual status are a number of caste stereotypes. Rajputs are said 

220 CASTE 

by low-caste informants to be proud, haughty, jealous of their power, 
authoritarian. Brahmins are supposed to be niggardly with their own 
property and exacting in their demands for charity and service from 
others. "A Brahmin is never satisfied," is a frequent saying. Low-caste 
people are considered by high-caste informants to be lazy, impulsive, 
thoughtless, ignorant, irresponsible, childlike, addicted to music, drink, 
and narcotics. Low castes are capable of taking advantage of these 
stereotypes by using them as excuses for behavior that would other- 
wise be inexcusable. If a Bajgi is found holding a drunken songfest 
in his home or is away from the village pursuing an illicit love 
affair while he is supposed to be preparing a set of clothes for a Rajput 
client, he will be cursed but, after all, "what can be expected of such 

Low castes hold particular stereotypes about one another which 
are shared to varying degrees by high castes. Blacksmiths are con- 
sidered physically powerful, Bajgis are considered hard-working and 
clever, and the barber (whose functions are elsewhere performed by 
Bajgis) is also considered clever. Shoemakers are considered degraded 
in every respect. (Cf. Oakley, 1905, pp. 260 ff.) 

Stereotypes tend to justify the system and perpetuate it. The mem- 
bers of various castes are often said to be suited to that caste and 
no other by their very nature. To give advantages to low castes would 
be useless, as they would not be able to make use of them. "Maggots 
which live in feces cannot live in grain." On the other hand, in Sirkanda 
as elsewhere, this philosophy is not put to the test by making ad- 
vantages accessible to low castes. Rather, low castes are actively denied 
access to advantages which high castes assert they could not use or 
would not want anyway. 

Attitudes About Caste 

Individual attitudes on caste are shaped from earliest childhood 
by observation of behavior of elders and by direct instruction or 
admonition. A blacksmith discussed his own feeling toward Bajgis in 
response to a query following up apparent inconsistencies between his 
behavior and his statements about caste. He had condemned caste 
discrimination while stoutly denying that he would treat a lower-caste 
person as he wished to be treated by Rajputs. 

I don't mingle with Bajgis any more than Rajputs mingle with blacksmiths. 
In my heart I cannot bring myself to do it. My conscience will not let me. 
I have been taught all my life that they are inferior and unclean. Even if 
I wanted to, I could not overcome this feeling. Secondly, it is due to the 

CASTE 221 

character of their women who become dancers and prostitutes — and the men 
play drums. Such people cannot be my equals. Finally, there is pressure from 
other people in my caste and the knowledge of what higher castes would 
think. If I mixed with Bajgis the high castes would treat me just like a 
Bajgi, and it would degrade my whole caste. High castes would expect the 
same behavior from blacksmith women as from Bajgi women. My own caste 
members would be angry with me. 

This particular informant made all the following statements rep- 
resenting a variety of different views: "The high castes treat all low 
castes alike, even shoemakers." "Caste is an undesirable thing, it divides 
people and makes for conflict; it should be abolished." "There are 
really only two castes in the world, men and women; all others are 
artificial and unnecessary." "I don't mix with Bajgis and shoemakers; 
I treat those Doms just as Rajputs treat low castes." 

Low-caste people's resentment of their own caste position is con- 
stantly evident. Equally evident is their need to rationalize their 
status relative to others. Their thoughts along these lines vary from 
individual to individual and from time to time. An attitude shared 
and expressed by several low-caste villagers was stated by one: "Eng- 
lishmen and Muslims are untouchable because they have an alien 
religion and they eat beef. This is logical. We are Hindus and we do 
not eat beef, yet we too are treated as untouchables. This is not 
proper. We should be accorded higher status." 

A blacksmith explained, "Long ago Bajgis used to kill and eat 
cattle and buffaloes and that is why they are untouchable. Our people 
never did that, so we should not be called untouchable." This alleged 
inconsistency in occupation and status is usually rationalized in terms 
of high-caste numerical and economic dominance. It is commonly 
also explained in terms of mythology, which takes away some of the 
sting of the negative associations of low status, usually by providing 
respectable ancestry for the caste and explaining its decline in terms 
of unfortunate circumstances. Atkinson notes that in Kumaon "the 
Doms, like all the others, claim an exalted origin and say that they 
are the descendants of a Brahman named Gorakhnath and were 
turned out of caste for eating forbidden food" (Atkinson, 1886, p. 446). 
The blacksmiths and Bajgis of Sirkanda lay claim to relatively recent 
but unrecognized Rajput and Brahmin ancestry, respectively. 

Q. What is your caste? 

A. We are Lohars [blacksmiths]. Sometimes we are called Mistri. 
Q. Are you Doms? 

A. No, Bajgis and shoemakers are Doms. We are above them. We cannot 
take water from them. 

222 CASTE 

Q. Someone told me you are Mahar Rajputs. 

A. Oh yes, that is true, but people here don't recognize that. We are 
descended from a Mahar Rajput who lived several generations ago farther 
up in the hills and who took a blacksmith wife. Since we are his children 
we are of his caste, but people here call us blacksmiths. There are other such 
cases. A man should be of the caste of his father, but people don't recognize 
that when the mother is of low caste. 

Similarly, the Chamars of Senapur trace their ancestry to Rajputs 
or Brahmins (Cohn, 1954, pp. 112 ff.). 

Besides rationalizations for the low status of their family or caste, 
people almost invariably seek rationalizations for individual status; 
that is, in addition to denying that his caste deserves low status or 
has always been of low status, a man usually denies that, granted the 
low status of his caste, he is deserving of having been accorded such 
caste affiliation or that he is an ordinary low-caste person. The attitude 
is, "I was meant for greater things." There are many stories of low- 
caste individuals who were destined for high status because of their 
good works in previous lives, but through mischance were assigned 
to life in a low caste. The same people who adhere to claims of un- 
recognized higher caste status believe (in apparent contradiction) that 
they have been assigned low status in some almost accidental way. 
Thus, the blacksmith who gave the above responses on his caste 
status also recounted the story of his own origin as it had been told 
him by a Brahmin who read his horoscope. 

The pundit read my horoscope and told me my fate and my history. He 
is always right in these matters. He said that in my previous life I was a 
wealthy Raja. I was well known for my valour, honor, and piety, and the 
fairness of my rule. I was destined for a very high rebirth. One time I de- 
cided to give away a great deal of wealth in charity to my Brahmins. In order 
to do this I had my servants bake a great many pastries. Instead of filling 
them with food, I instructed my attendants and servants to stuff them with 
gold and distribute them to the Brahmins. This was done secretly and was 
intended as a surprise. This was a very meritorious act. However, my assist- 
ants and servants were dishonest, and instead of doing as I had instructed 
they stole the gold and filled the pastries with stones. These were distributed 
and I was unaware of the deceit. The Brahmins who received them did not 
tell me because they did not know my intent, so I never found out. Although 
my intent was pure, I was guilty of putting trust in untrustworthy assistants. 
Therefore, when I died, I was punished by being born a blacksmith. It is 
my fate in this life never to succeed in any enterprise and never to acquire 
or retain wealth. This has proved true. I have tried several schemes to get 
money and all have failed. When I had some money which I inherited from 
my father, it was stolen from me on a trip into Dehra Dun. The only way 

CASTE 2 23 

I can get anything out o£ money is to spend it at once before I lose it, and 
that is my policy. In my next life I am destined to be a merchant — perhaps 
I will do better then. 

A Bajgi from another village had a comparable tale. He had been 
an ascetic destined to become a Raja in the next life. While meditating 
on the infinite, he had ignored the plight of a cow entangled in the 
brush. As punishment he was reincarnated as a lowly Dom. 

Such stories of deserved but unintentionally provoked punishment 
apparently account for many instances of low birth. They are dis- 
seminated by Brahmins and serve as a means of rationalization and 
comfort for low-caste people. As such they are effective means of 
control for the high castes. Whether or to what extent Brahmins are 
conscious of the usefulness of the stories I did not find out, but their 
effect is obvious. As will become evident, the high castes in general 
and the Brahmins in particular have a strong vested interest in the 
caste system and therefore in keeping the low castes in their place 
and relatively content. 

No informants were found who said, in effect, "I was a scoundrel 
in a previous life and now I am getting my just desserts." Neither 
was any caste found whose members said in effect: "We have always 
done defiling work. This is what we were created to do and we do it. 
Therefore we are untouchable." These (and particularly the first) 
seem to be psychologically untenable positions for individuals to 
accept. On the other hand, high castes readily admitted that they 
were receiving the deserved rewards of exemplary previous lives. 

In Sirkanda, as in Hindu society generally, there appears to be an 
inherent contradiction between what some would call social structure 
and culture. That is, according to the concept of dharma (here definable 
as inherent duty), every member of every caste group is enjoined to 
behave according to the hereditary station of the caste in the hierarchy. 
This is an explicit injunction against social mobility in the context of 
the caste system. 

At the same time there is upward mobility among low castes in 
India. Lipset and Bendix have asserted that 

the fact that there is constant striving for upward mobility in the most status- 
ridden society in the world, adds considerable weight to the hypothesis derived 
from Veblin, according to which a system of stratification is a fundamental 
source of mobility motivation in and of itself. Apparently, there are impera- 
tives which prompt men to resist and reject an inferior status and these 
imperatives persist regardless of the way in which any given society has 
legitimated inequality. (Lipset and Bendix, i960, p. 63) 

224 CASTE 

If this statement is correct then a dilemma faces the low-caste person 
who according to his religion should stay in his place, but according 
to this "natural law" wants to rise. 

In Sirkanda and, I believe, throughout India, this dilemma is often 
neatly resolved by exactly the mechanisms described above: accept- 
ing cast dharma but denying that one's apparent dharma is his real 
dharma. That is, the individual takes the position that a person should 
behave according to his caste status but that he or his kin group or 
jati is not really of the caste or status to which others ascribe him 
(or them). He is of a higher caste. He aspires to live as a member of 
his "true" caste in order to fulfill his true dharma. Therefore his 
mobility aspirations are legitimized and even made imperative. He 
rationalizes his own mobility aspirations without challenging the 

The over-all pattern is one of high castes justifying their superior 
position in terms of myths and religio-philosophical beliefs. Subor- 
dinate castes assert their superiority to some castes while rationalizing 
their inferiority to others, and their consequent mobility aspirations, 
in terms of unrecognized but deserved higher status and dharma than 
that accorded them by society. 7 

In Sirkanda expressed resentment about caste was usually put in 
terms of the way it affects "me" or "my family" or "my caste." It 
rarely extended to other groups. Even those low-caste individuals most 
piously opposed to upper-caste abuses were likely to be equally abusive 
to their caste inferiors. No group admitted to being lower than all 
others. Even shoemakers would point to sweepers of the plains or to 
beef-eating Muslims or Christians as being lower than themselves. 

Thus, objections to the caste system, as such, were not common. 
Those voiced in Sirkanda were isolated references apparently derived 
from the opinions of a previous low-caste schoolteacher or others who 
had had experience with the Arya Samaj (a reform movement), or 
Gandhian or government views on caste. They did not reflect a con- 
sistent objection in the village to the caste system. 

This is a feature of intercaste relations common throughout India. 
Gould (1961a, p. 946) attributes it in large part to "repressed hostility 
which manifests itself not in the form of rejecting the caste system 
but in the form of its victims trying to seize control of it and thereby 
expiate their frustrations on the same battle field where they acquired 
them." I would suggest that an important factor is simply that all 
castes are so imbued with the value of hierarchy that none wants 
to associate with those it considers inferior. Should the caste system 
be abolished, the opportunity to mingle as equals with superiors would 

CASTE 225 

be accompanied by the necessity to mingle as equals with inferiors. 
The latter would be an especially distasteful prospect to a group 
whose only claim to status is a tenuous superiority to one or a few 
degraded groups. To seek to undermine the caste system would be to 
seek the end of one's own superiority to at least some other groups. 
To seek to raise the status of one's own caste within the system gives, 
promise of superiority to more groups. The former would put any 
caste in an ambivalent position relative to its previous status; the 
latter would bring clear-cut advantage. Above all, the Indian ethos 
is not one of equality but one of hierarchy, of which caste is the 
epitome. The upwardly mobile Indian peasant seeks superiority, not 

Individuals who are the objects of caste discrimination generally 
direct their resentment not at the intergroup phenomenon as such, 
but at the manifestation of it which affects them personally. They 
resent not caste discrimination, but discrimination directed against 
themselves. One of the persistent problems of "Harijan uplift" in 
India is that, once untouchables become educated and can break away 
from many of the restrictions and disabilities imposed by their tradi- 
tional caste identification, they tend to disassociate themselves from 
their caste fellows and (with notable exceptions) contribute nothing 
to further the cause which was at least part of the reason they were 
given scholarships or other extra advantages which made possible 
their rise in status. The former schoolteacher in Sirkanda, who was of 
blacksmith caste, had been popular among all castes in the village, 
but was accused by his caste-fellows of having curried favor among 
high castes and others to his own advantage while ignoring the wel- 
fare of his own caste. This pattern is not surprising, nor is it unique 
to the hills or to India. It occurs in intergroup relations everywhere. 
The same kinds of accusations are directed toward the "emancipated 
Negro" of the United States. 

However, the pattern seems to be somewhat more acute and general 
in India, partly, perhaps, because in India intergroup relations are 
largely carried out on such an intensely personal, individual level. 

I sometimes discussed the status of whites, Indians, and Negroes in 
Africa with urban people of Dehra Dun. There was great indignation 
about the situation, but it invariably boiled down to the statement, 
"They treat Indians just like Negroes there — it is a grave injustice." 
Curiosity about American race relations was of the same quality, in 
essence: "How does an Indian fare in America? Like a white [as he 
deserves] or like a Negro?" No one I knew was disturbed about or 
interested in racial or national discrimination in principle. This 

226 CASTE 

attitude reflects the pervasiveness of the theme of hierarchy. People 
assume there is everywhere a hierarchy in social relations based on 
inherited status, with attendant discrimination, and they want to be 
sure that they are at or near the top. 

Changes in Caste 

Judging by testimony of informants and by the few available 
accounts of Pahari castes, caste organization today is not greatly 
different from what it was 50 or 150 years ago. It seems probable that 
there has been a tendency to shift from a more consistently dual 
division of the society into low- and high-caste groups to one in 
which, while this division has remained paramount, status differences 
within the two groups have become increasingly pronounced. On the 
other hand, this may reflect a high-caste conception of the earlier 
situation (a conception to which the high castes still adhere) as com- 
pared to a more realistic appraisal of the present situation. On the 
high-caste side of the barrier, it seems likely that in earlier days (before 
increasing outside contact and "Sanskritization") Rajput-Brahmin 
distinctness was less emphasized. Intermarriage between the groups 
was reportedly more frequent, and very likely other ritual barriers 
were much reduced. 

Doms were evidently somewhat less differentiated among them- 
selves than at present. Bajgis claim that at one time they and the 
Mistris were one endogamous group. Under the Raja of Garhwal and 
more recently in nearby Tehri Garhwal, Doms of all subgroups were 
legally prohibited from owning land or dwellings outright. They 
could not own or use eating utensils of a particular alloy. They were 
prohibited from wearing gold jewelry. Today one still finds an occa- 
sional old Dom woman whose marital nose ring is a silver replica of 
the gold one (now worn by all castes) which was formerly restricted, 
to the high castes. In many areas Doms were prohibited from living 
within the village. Thus, they were treated as a homogeneous group 
by the high castes, and the scanty evidence available suggests that 
they may have considered themselves more nearly as a single group. 

Doms claim to have been in former days the recipients of more 
paternalistic concern by the high castes than at present. They were 
given land, houses, grain, and gratuities by the high-caste people for 
whom they worked. The high castes interceded on their behalf and 
protected their interests from outsiders when necessary. In return the 
high castes demanded respect and obedience. Physical punishment and 
economic sanctions were used by high castes to maintain their status. 

CASTE 227 

Now high-caste people complain that the low castes are growing dis- 
respectful and independent. According to high-caste people, the low 
castes no longer want to live by their traditional occupations. Low- 
caste people complain that the high castes no longer give them 
gratuities or even their proper pay, that high castes will not come to 
their aid when they need help. Each blames the other for having 
brought about the changes. 

Among low castes there has been increased rivalry. Apparently the 
situation was relatively stable shortly before Independence — or at 
least it seems to informants to have been so in retrospect. Then the 
Bajgis, who had rankled under the growing superiority complex of 
the Mistris, began to press for equality, encouraged by rumors of the 
Congress political party's platform and their economic superiority 
and traditional claims of former equality. This has irritated the 
Mistris, whose status position is shaky at best. Now each group claims 
superiority, although Bajgis often display deference behavior and are 
evidently ready to settle for equality. A recent council case resulted 
when a Bajgi's sarcastic greeting of "Samani Thakur" to a blacksmith 
was accepted and acknowledged by the blacksmith as though it had 
been respectfully offered. The Bajgi lodged a complaint at the urging 
of high-caste villagers. In typical council fashion the Bajgi was fined 
for thus greeting a low-caste man; the blacksmith was fined an equal 
amount for accepting the greeting. The council members, all high- 
caste men who had pressed for the suit in the first place, enjoyed a 
liquor party from the proceeds — a result which low-caste people not 
involved in the case claimed was predictable and planned in advance. 

In general the trend in behavior associated with caste status is now 
toward adoption of orthodox Hindu behavior in some contexts. As 
has been noted in previous chapters, the trend is especially evident 
in life-cycle and annual ceremonies. In other spheres of life the trend 
is limited largely to concealing unorthodox practices from potentially 
critical outsiders, while in some matters there is little or no self-con- 
sciousness about such practices. Thus sacrifice of buffaloes, consump- 
tion of buffalo meat, and eating of carcasses of recently dead wild 
animals found in the jungle are carefully guarded secrets. That goats 
are killed purely for their meat is also denied. Sexual freedom within 
the caste and sharing of wives among brothers are concealed. Cross- 
caste and polygynous marriages are not readily admitted. Liquor and 
meat consumption are admitted with little concern, but excuses are 
occasionally offered. Widow remarriage and lack of seclusion of women 
cause no embarrassment at all. There is surprisingly little caste differ- 
ence in attitudes and behavior on these matters, although low castes 

228 CASTE 

cannot afford to carry out Sanskritic rituals to the extent that high 
castes can. They are somewhat less inhibited about their non-San- 
skritic behavior than are the high castes, who have a greater prestige 
stake and who are also in somewhat closer contact with educated 
Brahmins and other advocates of Sanskritization. When high-caste 
Paharis are accused of behavior proscribed in plains Hinduism, 
especially that involving ritual purity, they often deny the behavior 
themselves and attribute it to low-caste Paharis. 


Intercaste relations, as practiced and enforced in Sirkanda, differ 
significantly from ideal norms. Analysis of intercaste behavior as it 
compares to the normative model will contribute to an understanding 
of the dynamics of stability and change in the caste system. The 
previous chapter dealt primarily with caste organization, and with 
attitudes and behavior which are publicly recognized. The discussion 
will turn now to the nature of caste and the conduct of intercaste 
relations as revealed by observation of behavior to which caste is 
relevant, both behavior which is "relatively easy for the individual 
to manipulate at will," and that "in regard to which he seems to have 
little concern or control" (Goffman, 1959, p. 7; cf. Berreman, 1962c). 
As a result, the functioning of the system will be made more com- 

Relations Among High Castes 

As has been noted, intermarriage can and does occur between 
Rajputs and Brahmins in and around Sirkanda. Although such mar- 
riages are disapproved and are never arranged as initial marriages, 
relatively little indignation is aroused by them once they have occurred. 
Brahmins engage in considerable informal social interaction with Raj- 
puts, as is inevitable in a village where Brahmins are in such a small 
minority. This is also the case, however, in nearby villages where 
the two castes are more evenly distributed. They can be seen sharing 


freely even the wooden pipestem, although this is verbally denied. 
Brahmins and Rajputs do not usually distinguish rank by deferential 
behavior, seating arrangements, greetings, or the like, although an 
honored Brahmin from outside may receive such deference from Raj- 

Extramarital sex relations between Brahmins and Rajputs are 
treated in no appreciably different light than those within each of 
these castes. The most celebrated beauty of the Sirkanda area was 
a Brahmin girl of a neighboring village who was sexually available to 
Rajputs and Brahmins alike. What little critical gossip circulated 
about her was concerned with the frequency and openness of her 
contacts, not their intercaste character. In fact, her reputation and 
the identity of several of her lovers (in Sirkanda all were Rajputs) 
were revealed to me some time before I learned that she was a Brahmin. 
Her family voiced no objection, and even her husband kept quiet. The 
analysis given by villagers was, "He can't say anything— if he did she 
might leave him and then he would have nothing. It is better to share 
something good than to lose it altogether." 

Relations between Rajputs and Brahmins are not always amicable, 
and the power distribution between the two groups often comes to 
light when conflict arises. In Sirkanda Rajput-Brahmin relations have 
been somewhat strained because, while the Brahmins are said to have 
been the founders of the village and are one of the more prosperous 
families, they are far outnumbered not only as a caste but as a sib 
and lineage, so that they are outnumbered in interfamily and inter- 
sib disputes as well as in intercaste ones. A dispute over ownership 
of a valuable tree on the border between Brahmin property and a 
Rajput family's property created a tense situation in which the Rajput 
family head threatened the Brahmin with physical punishment if he 
carried out his stated intent to cut the tree. It was well known by all 
that the Rajput could make good his threat with the help of sib- 
fellows if necessary. Cooler heads prevailed when the Brahmin braved 
the Rajput's threat and felled the tree. Had there not been Rajputs 
who valued peace over power, the Brahmin would probably not have 
dared risk such action. 

A further irritant in relations between the high castes is that the 
Rajputs depend upon outside Brahmins for most of their ritual needs 
but expect the local Brahmin to be available in emergencies, while 
at the same time they disparage his capabilities in religious matters. 
The outside Brahmin is respected partly because he restricts his prac- 
tice to high castes and partly because he devotes full time to his 
religious duties. The local Brahmin serves the low castes also and 


spends much of his time on agriculture because he does not get enough 
high-caste clients to make a living by his traditional occupation alone. 
It is a circular situation and causes resentment on both sides. More- 
over, as a result of daily contact and competition, it is evident to 
villagers that the local Brahmin is a very ordinary person while the 
alien Brahmin has an aura of purity, wisdom, and infallibility about 
him which is perhaps due more to the lack of intimate contact with 
these Rajputs than to any inherent priestly superiority. The effect of 
distance is confirmed by the Sirkanda Brahmin, who receives more 
respect in alien villages than in his own. Any religious practitioner 
in these hills would confirm the adage that familiarity breeds con- 
tempt. Upreti (1894, p. 378) quotes a Pahari proverb to this effect. The 
relative position of the alien Brahmin is suggested not only by his 
practice in Sirkanda but by his reception there. He invariably stays 
at the homes of Rajputs, who compete for the honor, rather than 
at that of his Sirkanda caste-fellows, and he himself speaks disparag- 
ingly of the local Brahmin's abilities and merits. 

As a result, the Brahmin family of Sirkanda is somewhat isolated 
socially from Rajputs, not because of ritual barriers, but because of 
a combination of circumstances among which ritual differences are 
minor. However, Tula, the purohit or traditional Brahmin for 
Sirkanda, participates intimately with Rajputs in every type of inter- 
action including drinking and meat-eating parties. He is also known 
as a great ladies' man. Important in this context is the fact that 
Tula retains his position by tradition — he will not lose his clientele 
because of his behavior. Moreover, in his position he is neither re- 
quired nor expected to have special knowledge or special virtue. The 
Sirkanda Brahmin, on the other hand, has a voluntary clientele and 
risks losing clients or failing to get more if he does not retain what 
esteem he has in their eyes. Since he is responsible for ceremonies, he 
is expected to know more than other people and perhaps be more 
pure than they — expectations which are not verified in daily contact 
with him in the village. Also, the charity given the village Brahmin 
can as meritoriously be given to any other Brahmin, whereas Tula 
receives traditional charity which must go to him or his family regard- 
less of circumstances. As a Bajgi said of the local Brahmin, "He works 
for Rajputs just like we do; he can't afford to displease them." 

Therefore the local Brahmin is sensitive to public opinion. He 
participated little in Rajput drinking parties. He was extremely reluc- 
tant to discuss the village or his work with me if there was a chance 
others might find out, for fear that villagers would accuse him of 
divulging secrets and would bring pressure to bear upon him. Similar 


charges were frequently made against other villagers and were usually 
ignored or dismissed, but the Brahmin was especially sensitive to them. 
He was ever aware of his minority status, his vulnerability, and their 
implications for his place in the village which was, after all, his home. 

Relations Among Low Castes 

Among low castes there is also considerable deviation from stated 
norms. Although blacksmiths and carpenters form an endogamous 
group, it is not uncommon for one to offer the other only the bowl of 
his pipe, not the stem, just as though there were a great difference in 
status between the two. Weavers and barbers keep themselves ritually 
separated from Mistris in some contexts. There is evidently a reciprocal 
feeling of superiority among all these groups. On the other hand, mar- 
riage is acceptable among them and inter-sex contact is very free. More- 
over, unfriendly rivalry among them appears to be at a minimum, 
partly because not all are represented in the village and so they do not 
have close contact with one another. 

In contrast, Bajgis are said by all the above-listed low-caste groups 
to be inferior in ritual status. This is made explicit in a number of 
disabilities imposed on Bajgis. The pipestem is never shared with 
them. Restrictions on eating and drinking are observed about as 
carefully as those across the high-low caste boundary. Intermarriage is 
denied, and no cases were reported. Bajgis often yield the seat of 
honor to blacksmiths in the presence of outsiders. Bajgis occasionally 
strike back by proclaiming their own superiority and imposing the 
same restrictions upon other low castes which those castes inflict on 
Bajgis. The attitude of the Bajgis is, "If they can do it to us, we 
can do it to them too." The Bajgis' reaction toward the other groups 
is often one of resentment that people of approximately their own 
status should turn against them and affect superiority. In the presence 
of outsiders, or even of some high-status villagers, blacksmiths assume 
an air of superiority which is not characteristic of their normal rela- 
tionship with Bajgis and which is therefore irritating to the latter. 
Relations between the two groups are not helped by the fact that 
blacksmiths are less prosperous than Bajgis and yet claim ritual and 
social superiority. The discrepancy constantly rankles both parties. 
Evidently the distance between them is neither too great nor too little 
to discourage rivalry. 

Bajgis consistently claim equality even when not claiming superior- 
ity. In reality there is considerable freedom of interaction between 
these groups and also considerable rivalry. Sex relations are frequent, 


with Bajgi women being more openly pursued by men of the higher 
status group than blacksmith women are pursued by Bajgi men. Friend- 
ship is common across this line, and there is a much greater air of 
camaraderie in the relations between men of these groups than across 
the high-low caste boundary. Deference behavior is not practiced be- 
tween these groups, although both claim to expect it of the other. 
Cigarettes are shared freely, quite in contrast to blacksmiths' private 
assurances that this is not done. Despite such evidence of relatively 
close relations, Bajgis recognize that their claims to equality are un- 
likely to be recognized and they get small comfort from knowledge 
that the government of India supports their rights. 

Contacts between Mistris and Bajgis, on the one hand, and shoe- 
makers, on the other, are few. The former groups are anxious to 
disavow any equivalence between themselves and the lowly shoemakers. 
Geographical and cultural distance prevent much contact, but social 
and ritual considerations would probably be sufficient in themselves to 
accomplish the same thing. Shoemakers are the true Doms or Harijans 
from the point of view of Bajgis, though high castes recognize rela- 
tively little status difference between them. With regard to sex con- 
tact and social interaction, the relationship between the shoemakers 
and the Bajgis is comparable to that between Rajputs and Doms. 

Shoemakers themselves adjust to their status as aliens who are lowest 
of the low by keeping away from other people to a considerable extent. 
They live by themselves, and thereby avoid many of the discriminatory 
acts directed toward their caste. They retain the cultural distinctive- 
ness derived from their alien origin in the Kangra Valley area far to 
the west. They cling to their assertions of superiority to sweepers of 
the plains and to non-Hindus. 

High-Low Caste Relations 

Relationships between high and low castes do not always conform 
to the ideal patterns of paternalistic control and maintenance of ritual 
distance by the high castes. The most conspicuous deviations are the 
examples of intercaste marriage and elopement discussed in chapter 5. 
Although instances of this type which cross the high-low caste boundary 
are widely disapproved and result in dissolution of the relationship 
or ostracism of the high-caste member (who is usually the man) by 
his caste-fellows, the fact that they occur is significant. Much more 
common than marriage or elopement are instances of informal liaisons 
and sex relations between high- and low-caste individuals. Most often 
high-caste men take advantage of the vulnerability and traditional 


receptivity of low-caste women. Such situations attract little or no 
attention and, in fact, are routine. They become the subject of gossip 
only if they are flagrantly pursued, if a particular union becomes well 
established, or if a man is openly accused by his wife of indulging too 
freely in such escapades. Low-caste people overtly accept the situation 
with a shrug and perhaps a bitter comment: "What can we do about 
it? We are at their mercy." They harbor strong resentment, however, 
and express it privately. 

Relations between low-caste men and high-caste women are strongly 
condemned and severely punished if detected by high-caste people. A 
low-caste informant who had an apparently well-earned reputation 
as a ladies' man in his own and other low castes commented, "There 
is plenty of opportunity for sex relations in all castes, but I would not 
risk an affair with a high-caste woman. I fear for my head." It was 
universally agreed that a man caught in such a relationship would 
be beaten, probably to death, or chased out of the village. Low-caste 
informants asserted that such affairs were occasionally pursued success- 
fully but that the man involved had to be very sure of the cooperation 
of the woman because she could easily bring about his downfall by 
complaining to others, and if the relationship were discovered she 
might put on a show of indignation and shift the blame to her lover. 
The man takes most of the risk. A low-caste informant said: 

One of us would approach a Rajput or Brahmin woman only if we were 
sure she had her eye upon us. It is, after all, the woman who takes the 
initiative in sexual matters by making her wishes known through looks and 
signals. Contact would have to be made secretly in a secluded spot unknown 
to others. If the woman were willing, the relationship might be carried out 
and continued successfully. If the woman were unwilling and she were a 
gracious person who wished to avoid trouble, her reaction to such an ap- 
proach would be to reply, "Brother, you have asked me once and I excuse 
you. I respect you as my brother, but never ask me again. I am your sister." 
This would be the end of the matter and no one would ever know. However, 
if the low-caste man were foolish enough to persist or if the woman were 
touchy, she might at once go to the men of her family and complain and 
then the low-caste man would be in grave trouble. For this reason we avoid 
such dangers. 

That such relationships do occur is widely known, although they are 
concealed by high castes. Their results are less drastic than verbal 
testimony would lead one to believe, as evidenced by the shoemaker- 
Brahmin elopement described in chapter 5. A recent case in Sirkanda 
had been that of a Bajgi man and a Rajput woman, the first of two wives 
of a prominent Rajput householder. The lovers had evidently been 


carrying on a secret affair for some time when they were accidentally 
surprised in the jungle by the village Brahmin. The Brahmin was in- 
different or unable to identify the man, who beat a hasty retreat, and 
he told no one. The Rajput woman was, however, afraid that the 
Brahmin would spread the word through the village. She revealed her 
fear in confidence to a trusted friend. Later the two women had a falling 
out, and the erstwhile friend exposed the illicit relationship to others. 
The Brahmin, who up to this point had kept his knowledge to him- 
self, corroborated the story. The cuckolded husband did nothing to 
punish the low-caste man until another Rajput man had occasion to 
beat the offender for a different reason. At that time the aggrieved 
husband loudly encouraged the beating and shouted, "Beat him to 
death!" The end result was that the beaten man and his father went 
to court and on the basis of testimony by witnesses to the beating, 
including a Rajput of a rival faction, received a judgment in their 
favor by which the two Rajput men each had to pay a fine. The hus- 
band held his tongue throughout. To admit publicly to having been 
cuckolded by a Bajgi was apparently harder than to ignore it publicly. 
His wife continued to be his first wife, and her lover was sufficiently 
frightened to break off the relationship. This was certainly not the only 
affair of its kind, but it was the most recent one to have come to public 

In intercaste sex relations in Sirkanda, as in Negro-white sex rela- 
tions in a town of the southern United States reported by Dollard, "It 
would seem . . . that the taboo falls heaviest on social acknowledge- 
ment of such relations rather than on the fact of their occurrence" 
(Dollard, 1957, p. 151). 

Persistent resentment is harbored by low-caste people toward high- 
caste people in Sirkanda, especially by blacksmiths, the most deprived 
group in the village. Most of the Bajgis and the barber make an 
adequate income, have some land and animals of their own to supple- 
ment their income, and therefore have less cause for complaint. They 
share the blacksmiths' resentment of the indignity of their position 
and the injustice of their treatment, but economic well-being softens 
their feelings. Only the blacksmiths feel acutely underpaid and under- 
privileged. They have been blocked by Rajputs in their recent efforts 
to acquire land in the village. When a strike was described to a black- 
smith he responded by saying, 

It would never work here. The Rajputs would just beat up the ones who 
refused to work and throw them out of the village. Then they would find 
someone else to take their place — at twice the pay if necessary. We are small 
in numbers and therefore weak. The Rajputs hold the key to the low castes 


and can manipulate us as they wish, just as you manipulate the radio dial. 
Rajputs don't want us to have land because they want us to have to come 
begging for our grain payment. When we ask for land, they laugh at us. 
The Bajgis and barber don't join with us in our efforts to get land because 
they make a good income from their work, and anyway they already have 
some land. We, on the other hand, have neither land nor a good income 
from our work. We are alone in our desire to get land, and it seems hopeless. 

High- and low-caste men alike affirmed the obedience accorded 
high-caste men by low-caste men. However, subtle countermeasures 
were admitted by low-castes and complained of by high-castes. Thus, 
in performing his craft a blacksmith claimed to do work quickly and 
well for those who paid him promptly and justly and who treated him 
civilly (as many, in fact, did) and to do it poorly and slowly for 
delinquent or arrogant clients. An incident of this nature occurred 
in the writer's presence. While it conformed to no reported pattern 
of intercaste behavior, it aroused no comment among witnesses, so 
it was apparently not out of the range of acceptable behavior. A 
young Rajput man of a large household known by village artisans 
as a bad credit risk and not a particularly desirable client, came to the 
blacksmith with an axe he wanted sharpened. The blacksmith, who 
was listening to the anthropologist's radio, took the axe, inspected it 
with evident distaste, and announced, "This axe is worth eight annas, 
[to cents]. My file is worth 15 rupees [three dollars]. It would spoil 
my valuable file to sharpen this worthless axe. Go find a flat rock and 
sharpen it yourself." Further feeble entreaties brought nothing but 
refusal from the blacksmith, and the Rajput left, presumably in search 
of a flat rock. 

Needless to say, the blacksmith did not frequently practice this 
pattern of behavior, as he could not have done it with impunity in 
other circumstances. He would not have tried it, for instance, with 
an older or more prestigeful man. However, in an occasional well- 
chosen situation he could get by with it, and it obviously gave him 
considerable satisfaction. Members of all low castes relished tales of 
moral victories by low-castes over high-caste people. 

High-caste men do not observe rules of pollution carefully when 
they go to the larger towns. There they eat in public places with 
people whose caste they do not know, and even with low-caste people 
of their own village. They patronize the same prostitutes as are 
patronized by Doms (and by Brahmins from the plains). They would 
even eat at the homes of the writer and his Muslim assistant, although 
they would not eat in their house in the village. A 15-year-old Rajput 
boy expressed the attitude of most men when he politely refused to 


share the writer's dinner in the village with the comment, "I would 
gladly eat if we were elsewhere, but we are in my own village. Here 
everyone knows my caste and I must be careful what I do. In town no 
one knows me nor I them, and I do as I please without fear of 

The influence of the caste-equality, anti-discrimination stand of 
the dominant Congress party in India has been felt even in Sirkanda. 
The president of the village council occasionally has to attend a 
meeting or workshop for council presidents in the valley. There he 
not only hears the official policy of the party to which he nominally 
belongs but has to practice it by eating with fellow officials and civil 
servants of all castes. The food is prepared and served by people of 
unknown (and highly suspect) caste status. He makes no effort to 
conceal this when he returns to the village, but it does not alter the 
fact that in the village he is as caste-conscious and discriminatory as 
anyone else. 

Anti-discrimination talk led to the nearest thing to a test case of 
caste discrimination that has ever occurred in the village — in itself an 
indication of new or changing attitudes. The blacksmith who holds 
the village council seat reserved for untouchables planned to brew 
tea at his home and serve it at a village council meeting which was to 
be attended by the teacher, village level worker, accountant, tax col- 
lector, forestry officer, economic cooperative supervisor, and the anthro- 
pologist in addition to the local council members. The blacksmith's 
intent was to press charges of caste discrimination if anyone refused the 
tea, and he counted on the outsiders to form an august body of im- 
partial witnesses. He made his intent known only to the teacher, 
village level worker, and anthropologist. However, when the time 
came, no tea appeared. The advocate of the test case lamely claimed 
to have forgotten, but in reality he had apparently not felt like risking 
the probable consequences of such a defiant act in his vulnerable 

In discussing caste relations in the village a young Rajput man 

I would like to spend more time at your house talking with you and 
listening to your radio. I would share tea and food with you. I could learn 
many things and have a good time. But too many low-caste people come 
there. I do not care so much about that for myself, but people here are very 
strict. On the plains caste rules are broken frequently and everything is 
breaking down, but not here. We cannot share food, drink, utensils, or 
cigarettes with Doms. I must live my life in this village. If I associate with 
those low people my people will be angry with me. I could be your friend 


and associate with Doms at your house, but I would lose my friends in the 
village. There would be no comfort in the friendship of a few Doms when 
you are gone. 

People of all castes denied that there were individual differences 
in the strictness of caste observance among high-caste individuals. 
Everyone maintained that in the village all were equally rigid. Ob- 
servation proved this to be not entirely the case. While most high- 
caste men shared cigarettes only in their group, a few shared them 
with low-caste men as well. Some interacted socially with low-caste 
men regularly; others did so rarely or not at all. Age and position 
within the family were evidently important factors in this context. 
Old men and young men were noticeably less concerned with 
caste rules governing social interaction than were middle-aged men. 
Middle-aged men (roughly 35 to 55 years of age) were usually also 
the effective family heads. They were the leaders of their castes. They 
felt responsible for maintaining the status of their families and their 
castes. They were the most suspicious of outsiders, the most proud, 
the most arrogant in their relationship to low castes, the most authori- 
tarian in all their relationships. 

In a village of the size and caste composition of Sirkanda, it is 
almost inevitable that a good deal of informal social interaction will 
take place across caste lines, including the high-low caste boundary. 
There are very few low-caste people in a predominantly Rajput village, 
and the village is isolated from other villages. If low-caste people 
are to have social life at all, it must be to a large extent with Rajputs. 
In Sirkanda this is especially true because the two blacksmith house- 
holds are not on good terms with one another, nor are the three main 
Bajgi households, because of intrafamilial strife. Moreover, the black- 
smiths and Bajgis are on somewhat strained terms, largely because of 
the claims to higher status held by the blacksmiths and the reality 
of greater prosperity of the Bajgis. Bajgis have a number of relatives 
within easy walking distance of the village, and much of their social 
life is with these caste-fellows. In the village, however, they, like 
the blacksmiths who have few relatives, must find friends among the 
Rajputs. The amount of friendly interaction between high and low 
castes is therefore considerable — evidently more than would be found 
on the plains and certainly more than one might expect from the 
expressed attitudes of these groups toward one another and the formal 
restrictions placed upon interaction between them. That such inter- 
action is allowed by the high castes does not mean that caste status is 
ambiguous but rather that it is so secure that it is not jeopardized by 
interaction of this kind. 


The place of work of each artisan is a gathering place for men 
of all castes to sit and talk. The tailor's veranda is rarely without one 
or more high-caste people watching the craftsman at his work, talking 
to him and his relatives and to other visitors. The same is true of the 
blacksmith's workshop, the basketmaker's porch, the sites of house 
construction, and the carpenters' work areas. The village shops and 
school serve also as meeting places for informal social interaction 
across caste boundaries. High-caste houses are the locus of high-caste 
interaction, but not uncommonly a low-caste person may participate, 
sitting on the steps or doorsill or standing outside. 

Intercaste groups form in various circumstances. Intercaste work 
groups are common, including both cooperative labor and independ- 
ent labor performed in groups (as tending goats and gathering wood 
or fodder). In times of trouble or need, caste boundaries may be subor- 
dinated. A Rajput family of Sirkanda owes its prosperity to loans 
granted it a generation ago by a sympathetic Brahmin when the 
family was not producing enough to survive. A nearby Brahmin family 
took in a homeless Rajput widow and her invalid son when they had 
nowhere to turn. Rajputs did not hesitate to borrow money from a 
blacksmith two generations ago. When the Brahmins were in need 
of a place to stay during part of the time their house was being re- 
built in 1958, they stayed with a blacksmith family although they ate 
separately. Those who have to travel away from the village seek travel- 
ing companions, and no caste is excluded from such a group. Inter- 
caste groups often go to town to trade, to do business at government 
offices, or even to seek entertainment together. In the village and out- 
side, drinking and gambling groups are often intercaste in composition. 
The famous illicit woman-selling gang of Bhatbair was made up of 
a Brahmin, a Rajput, and a Bajgi who worked as a team, sharing the 
risks and profits with little caste distinction. 

Perhaps the most frequent occasion for intimate social interaction 
across caste lines in the village is at drinking parties. There caste 
barriers are largely ignored. Low-caste people may be invited to a 
high-caste house where a party is to be held, and there they are allowed 
to participate fully in it. Of course such parties are held on verandas 
of houses, not in cooking areas, and boiled food is not served, so it is 
not potentially a very polluting situation. Although low castes may 
contribute liquor, they do not furnish the site for such parties. In 
Sirkanda one blacksmith and one Bajgi are inveterate participants in 
high-caste drinking parties. 

In general, activities which are illegal, overtly disapproved, or non- 
Sanskritic are much more likely to be intercaste in nature than are 


those which are entirely legal, approved, and orthodox. Thus inter- 
caste drinking, meat-eating, dancing, and trips to town are indulged 
in often with little regard for caste differences. Even illicit sex activity 
may be pursued by intercaste groups who together go to a house of 
prostitution or approach low-caste girls outside the village. A Rajput 
and blacksmith both told a story on themselves which occurred at 
the Pahari fair. The blacksmith was paying for Ferris wheel rides 
and sweets for two Muslim girls of easy virtue when the Rajput came 
and joined in. Both were confident of their reward until the girls 
got off the Ferris wheel and were spirited away by two husky strangers, 
to the dismay of the girls' erstwhile benefactors. 

Among the most colorful personalities in Sirkanda is a blacksmith 
man. His company is sought and enjoyed by all. No party or discussion 
is complete without him. His wit and good judgment combine to make 
him popular despite his caste status. He is the greatest talker and gossip 
in the village. He spreads news and helps formulate opinion. He is 
the repository of knowledge not possessed by others; he remembers 
things others forget. More than once Rajputs turned to him when 
questioned for details of their own genealogies or family histories. 
Although in many contexts he plays the role of the joker, his opinion 
on serious matters is highly valued but rarely, to his disgust, acknowl- 
edged. When unusual circumstances arise, he is often sent forth to 
appraise the situation or express village sentiments. Numerous ex- 
amples could be cited. When a horse trader came to Sirkanda, the 
blacksmith was sent to look over the horses and sound out their owner 
before high-caste potential customers made an appearance. He passed 
judgment on the trader's honesty, his willingness to bargain, and the 
value of his horses. As he himself noted, he received no thanks for his 
efforts, although several villagers relied heavily on his advice in sub- 
sequent purchases. 

When the Brahmin family wanted to move a large rock which 
they thought endangered their house but which was on village prop- 
erty, Rajputs objected. The blacksmith looked it over, said "This rock 
is a hazard to the Brahmin's house and should be moved," and began 
to decide the best method of moving it. Soon the Rajputs were helping. 
This blacksmith is the usual choice for making contact with and 
appraising strangers — a role which a low-caste man can perform well 
without committing the village. He is the informal channel for com- 
munication with outsiders and sometimes with rival factions. When 
the schoolteacher was new, the blacksmith communicated to him village 
attitudes on schooling and the role of the teacher. When the anthro- 
pologist considered moving into a house in the most crowded section 
of the village, the blacksmith was sent to voice the objections of some 


influential villagers (stating them as his own), who were thus able to 
have their opinions voiced while denying any responsibility and, in 
fact, condemning the blacksmith for inhospitality. 

This is not to assert that the blacksmith is the most important man 
in the village or even that his opinion was decisive in all the above 
cases. It does, however, point out that one low-caste man, at least, is 
important far beyond the admission or realization of his caste superiors 
and far beyond their ideal of the complaisant, subservient, know- 
nothing Dom. He has achieved importance largely as a result of 
personal characteristics which override his caste status. It is significant 
that his importance is not admitted or even realized by most villagers, 
and his caste status is never forgotten or ignored. 

He is apparently an atypical Dom, but he is not beyond the range 
of permissible behavior in Doms. Some individuals in each of the 
other Dom castes were to a lesser extent influential in the village. 

High-caste jealousy of this blacksmith reveals implicit recognition 
of his role. He was often accused of not knowing his place, of having 
big ideas, or of being a troublemaker. His wit was sometimes dis- 
paraged by those who could not equal it. His love of liquor, women, 
music, laughter, and leisure were frequently criticized. That he made 
fun of himself on these very grounds only served to exasperate his 
detractors. As he said, 

People here are very jealous. I have to be careful lest I suffer their wrath. 
Even if I wanted and could afford some comforts and a better house or better 
clothes I could not have them because Rajputs would accuse me of putting 
on airs. I must always remain humble to them if I am to survive in this village. 

This man frequently mentioned wealthy caste-fellows of his, resident 
in other villages, who surpass local Rajputs in wealth and sophisti- 
cation but are still untouchable in their eyes. This he considered to 
be an example of unreasoning pride on the part of Rajputs. He as- 
serted that they would not tolerate action on the part of low-caste 
people which they consider inconsistent with caste status. 

I could put these Rajputs to shame by getting a table and serving you 
with food and drink at my house. They would be envious and angry and 
after you are gone they would make it hard on me. Therefore I must show 
that I know my station and not be unduly close to you in public social re- 
lationships. They will be jealous when you give me your radio. For that 
reason I will have to tell them that I bought it from you. They are jealous 
to see me associating with big people. 

On another occasion he remarked upon his relationship with 


No matter how friendly a Rajput may be at one time, he will turn against 
a low-caste person the next time. All are proud and jealous of their caste 
position. None are true friends to us. They always resent my presence in 
social situations. They will eat with me in Dehra Dun but never in the 
village. They will drink liquor with me and often invite me to sit on their 
veranda to do so. If they are having something dry like parched gram [chick 
peas], I can eat it with them. If they have something cooked, I am given a 
separate plate. They are very strict on such matters. I am with them a great 
deal, but I cannot say they are my true friends. I am always a Dom and they 
are big people. Here big people mingle with other big people as friends. 
I call that man truly big who mingles with high and low alike. Such are 
not to be found in this village. 

Vested Interests in Caste 

The functioning of the caste system in an Indian village can be 
assessed on several different levels. From the point of view of the 
community or of the society as a system, the Indian caste system is 
remarkably efficient. Ideally, it assures a stable division of labor with 
a constant supply of specialists in all occupations. In return it pro- 
vides the individual with an assured occupation, an assured income, 
and a body of people who share his interests. It provides a religious 
and philosophical rationale for differences in status and standard of 
living which minimizes discontent and subversion. It is preordained 
and static, so that status change is, ideally, impossible. It reduces am- 
biguity by the recognition of rules and symbols segregating social 
groups. It minimizes intergroup frictions. It provides stable group 
identification and affiliation for individuals at all status levels and 
minimizes the chances of disparity between reference group and mem- 
bership group and the potentially disintegrative results of such dis- 

Not only does everyone have some place within the Hindu system, but 
it is significant that every group, from the Brahmin to the Chamar caste, has 
been somehow integrated into the social and ceremonial round of the com- 
munity and has been given some opportunity to feel indispensable and proud. 
(Opler and R. Singh, 1948, p. 496) 

That the system has not been completely successful; that change, 
discontent, and subversion occur in spite of the system, does not belie 
its relative efficiency as a system. Breakdowns in discipline, changes 
in caste status, and the like, are either suppressed or rationalized. 
Rationalizations become part of the system and are not remembered as 
deviations from it. What these facts do reveal is that there is more 


to caste than its ideal structure. Human beings are involved, and the 
effects of the system on the individuals who live in it must be under- 
stood if its functioning in reality is to be understood. Despite pious 
statements to the contrary in India and elsewhere, no group of people 
has been reported which relishes a life of deprivation and subjection 
to other groups. That people submit to depressed status does not 
mean that they feel it is justified nor that they would not like to see 
it changed, nor, in fact, that they would not do everything in their 
power to change it if given the opportunity. The rationalizations for 
caste status which are consistent and convincing to those who benefit 
from them or are unaffected by them seem much less so to those whose 
deprivation they are expected to justify or explain. Adherence to a 
religion or a religious principle may not significantly affect attitudes 
and behavior to which logic would seem to tie it. It will be well, 
therefore, to look briefly at caste as it affects people. As John Dollard 
has said in studying caste and class structure in a town of the southern 
United States, 

We should like to know something not only about the class structure but 
also about the differential advantages and disadvantages of membership in 
any particular caste or class; and, in particular, we wish to state these ad- 
vantages and disadvantages from the standpoint of the types of direct, per- 
sonal, ultimately organic, gratification derived. (Dollard, 1957, pp. 97 f.) 

Following Dollard, I will state the advantages which the caste 
system in Sirkanda provides for its high-caste participants. Inherent 
in most of these advantages are disadvantages which automatically 
fall to the low castes. An effort will be made to point out as well those 
ways in which low castes may benefit from the caste system. "In using 
the concept of 'gains' we are not leaving the 'social' plane of percep- 
tion; we will merely . . . look for a moment at the individuals rather 
than at the society" (Dollard, 1957, p. 98). In listing gains the three 
broad categories suggested by Dollard will be used: the economic, 
sexual, and prestige gains. In addition, a fourth category, here called 
"ultimate rewards," will be mentioned. Use of Dollard's categorization 
for this portion of the Sirkanda data is based not upon the pressing 
of data into alien molds but upon my belief in real similarities in the 
situations analyzed — a position elaborated in another publication 
(Berreman, 1960a). 

The discussion need not be lengthy because most of the evidence has 
been presented in this and other chapters. An effort will be made 
not only to assert that a particular gain is achieved but to show that 
gain by particular individuals is a result of the caste hierarchy. Al- 


though the discussion is based primarily upon Sirkanda data, the same 
sort of analysis, leading to essentially the same conclusions, could no 
doubt be made in other Indian villages. 

It seems likely that, in villages where caste dominance is less clear- 
cut than in Sirkanda, our present approach would produce less con- 
sistent evidence. An economically deprived high-caste or a wealthy 
low-caste person might well upset the statements about economic 
gain, but they would have done so in spite of caste affiliation. Caste 
affiliation would doubtless still be a force in the expected direction 
even if it were overcome by other factors. Such a case, looked at from 
this point of view, would be an interesting study. The obvious con- 
clusion would probably be that caste operates to the best advantage 
of high castes when their rank is correlated positively with decisive 

Obtaining reliable data on intercaste relations and attitudes is a 
difficult task. It is especially difficult in India, where any evidently 
educated or urbanized person is automatically classed by low-caste 
villagers as a member of the elite regardless of his professed aims and 
affiliations, and by the high-caste villagers as a potential threat to 
the status quo. The low-caste informant is likely to be wary of saying 
or doing anything which might conceivably be held against him at 
a later date. Many high-caste people, on the other hand, are aware 
of official doctrines of equalitarianism and may respond verbally in 
ways quite different from those which represent their true feelings 
on the subject (cf. Berreman, 1962c). 

In Sirkanda these were problems in obtaining data, but information 
was obtained from enough different people and observations were 
made in so many different situations, that a body of reliable and 
apparently valid information was obtained. Where inconsistencies 
occurred, they were often closely linked to situational factors. Re- 
sponses of both low- and high-caste people varied predictably in the 
presence of the opposite status group, while responses of some in- 
dividuals varied predictably in the presence of their caste-fellows. 
Since these were predictable variations, they apparently did not con- 
taminate the data. 

In this discussion the only status distinction to be considered will 
be that between nigh and low, or clean and untouchable, castes. This 
is a valid distinction in the Pahari area, as preceding discussion has 
shown, in terms of both ritual and secular status attributes. Subsidiary 
caste distinctions will not be dealt with because in Sirkanda they are 
minor by comparison and would only serve to provide lesser examples 


of the points made more clearly in an examination of the major status 

The Economic Gain 

It has been pointed out that land is wealth in Sirkanda. The 
high castes, by restricting land ownership to themselves before British 
dominion, ensured their own economic dominance. The paramount 
importance of land is recognized by Sirkanda villagers, as has been 
illustrated by examples and quotations in previous chapters. It is 
further illustrated by the history of the struggle which the villagers 
have waged and are still waging for land. The high-caste villagers 
considered it a victory when, under the British, the bhaichara land 
ownership pattern was established, eliminating an intermediary land- 
lord and giving the cultivators direct ownership of their lands. The 
low castes considered it an even greater victory when lands formerly 
allotted to them only for use (that is, they did not own these lands) 
were assigned by law to their castes and later to them as individuals. 
Until that time high castes had control over low castes in that lands 
and dwellings alike were in the names of high-caste owners. An un- 
ruly, disobedient, or disrespectful artisan was readily dispossessed of 
house and livelihood. Post-Independence restriction on further de- 
velopment of uncultivated lands by villagers has brought bitter resent- 
ment of the government by all castes. 

Efforts by low castes to acquire more land have been fought at 
every turn by the high castes, not because they stand to lose land 
as a result (they do not), but because they stand to lose a measure of 
economic dominance. Thus, the village blacksmiths have needed only 
the support of the village council president or the accountant to put 
in a request to open up heretofore uncultivated village lands. The 
council and its president have stated, "If you want land, you will have 
to leave this village to get it." They have used their influence to 
prevent the village accountant (a government official alien to the 
village) from submitting a favorable report on behalf of the black- 
smiths. In the closest village to Sirkanda a blacksmith had been 
granted a share of village lands under the British, the only low-caste 
person of that village who was so fortunate. A few years ago he decided 
to sell part of this land. Over high-caste protests he sold it to a local, 
landless Bajgi who was his friend. The high-caste villagers were in- 
furiated. They retaliated by calling the police, making out a false 
accusation of theft against the hapless blacksmith, and bribing the 
police to ensure that he would be punished. As a result he served 


seven months in jail. As one of his caste-fellows said, "You can't go 
against the wishes of high-caste people and get away with it around 
here." Low-caste people occasionally openly accuse Rajputs of "wanting 
to keep us in slavery," and not wanting to see them economically 
secure or self-sufficient. 

To keep the low castes dependent not only assures greater income 
for the higher castes; it also assures a ready supply of cheap labor. 
For, as long as the low castes are dependent for their livelihood upon 
high castes, the latter can call upon them for all sorts of services, under 
implicit or explicit threat of economic sanctions. Low-caste members 
are available to carry loads, thatch houses, pound tobacco, clean up 
debris, plaster floors, run errands, or help in any work where another 
person is needed. They also brew liquor, kill animals, and perform 
other unpleasant, risky, or polluting tasks at high-caste bidding. As 
long as they are landless or own insufficient land for survival, the high 
castes can use them almost at will. Thus the high castes have a strong 
economic interest in maintaining the caste system in its traditional 
form, which includes economic dominance over the low castes. This 
is perhaps the key enabling factor in sexual and prestige gains as well. 

An economic advantage of the caste system which is specific to 
Brahmins is their role as recipients of charity — charity which is neces- 
sary to ensure a favorable future for the soul of the giver (cf. Weber, 
1958, p. 60). This is an India-wide phenomenon and the degree to 
which individual Brahmins exploit it varies, but it is apparently no 
accident that the formulators and primary agents of communication 
of the religio-philosophical tradition are its greatest benefactors. 
Stories illustrating the necessity of giving ample charity are widely 
repeated in Sirkanda and elsewhere. Such stories are told primarily 
by Brahmins and are often included in their professional services of 
reading the past and future fate of villagers in horoscopes. Villagers 
often refer to the avariciousness of Brahmins and sarcastically hint 
at pecuniary motives in their visits or scheduling of ceremonies. 

All economic gain is not on the side of the high castes; there are 
compensatory gains for low castes. Specific gains which accrue to low 
castes include exclusive access to a number of foods and other goods. 
Shoemakers, for example, get the carcasses of dead animals, which 
provide both materials for their trade and meat for consumption. Such 
advantages are more pronounced on the plains, where diet differs by 
caste more than it does in Sirkanda. Under the traditional system the 
low-caste individual was assured of work and of payment for it as long 
as he did not offend his employer. He also expected and received a 
paternalistic sort of care and protection much like that accorded the 


Negro who knew his place in the American "Old South." These were 
notable compensations for dependent status. However, they often did 
not satisfy the low-caste person and were in themselves aspects of the 
exploitative economic situation perpetuated by the upper castes. They 
were the kinds of compensations an authoritarian system often offers 
its subjects. 

Srinivas notes in the Mysore village he studied that: 

While the Governments of India and Mysore want to abolish Untouch- 
ability, and the Untouchables themselves want to improve their position, the 
locally dominant caste stands in its way: its members want the Untouchables 
to supply them with cheap labor and perform degrading tasks. . . . They 
have the twin sanction of physical force and boycott at their disposal. 
(Srinivas, 1959, p. 4) 

K. Singh found that, out of five frequently cited grounds for conflict 
leading to tension between landowners and low castes in a plains 
village, two were directly economic and two others indirectly so 
(Singh, 1957, p. 185). Lewis makes much of the economic advantages 
which accrue to high-caste landlords at the expense of the low castes 
that serve them in Rampur (Lewis, 1958, pp. 55 ff., especially 79-84). 
P. M. Mahar (1958), interviewing in a plains village, found that a 
Rajput elder ". . . disapproves of educational advancement for un- 
touchables not only because of sacred precedent, but also because it 
will lead to a depletion of the Rajputs' labor supply." She quotes the 

Now the government says all should become one. We are afraid of that. 
Now we can't get anyone to work for us. If they are all clerks and gentlemen, 
who will plow our fields? Even now it is hard to get laborers. It used to be 
you could get a man for five rupees to work for you. Now they ask thirty 
or forty. (P. M. Mahar, 1958, p. 56) 

This reasoning explains in part the emotional reaction by high- 
caste people in Sirkanda to low-caste attempts to acquire land and 
achieve economic security. Such attempts are a threat to their own 
economic dominance and ultimately to their status. 

The Sexual Gain - 

The sexual advantages of high-caste status in Sirkanda are not 
inconsiderable, but they are less pronounced and are probably less 
important motives for maintenance of the status quo than is the case 
in many plains areas. The reason is simply that in Sirkanda there is 
a relatively high degree of permissiveness in matters of extramarital 
sex relations within and between castes. Men and women rarely lack 


for variety in sexual partners if that is their desire. On the plains, in 
contrast, there is close supervision of high-caste women. 

This does not, however, alter the basic fact that in Sirkanda the 
low castes provide a constant source of available women for high- 
caste men, and the men are not reluctant to make use of this advantage. 
It is the one relationship in which a man can find a sex partner to 
whom he owes nothing and from whom he needs fear no trouble. 
While he may make sexual use of women of his own caste, he will 
be expected to supply them with trinkets, cigarettes, sweets, or other 
favors to show his appreciation. He also runs the risk of a fight with 
an irate husband or his own irate wife. A low-caste woman expects 
and usually gets no more than a cigarette for her favors; her husband is 
in no position to exact revenge; the chances of the news reaching the 
high-caste man's wife are less across caste boundaries than within a 
caste, and even if it does the wife is unlikely to be particularly upset 
or able to win sympathy from others if she is. A low-caste woman is 
not considered a serious threat to a high-caste wife. Such liaisons are 
expected and are usually lightly dismissed. An example of this attitude 
is found in the case of a prominent Rajput, whose short-lived liaison 
with a low-caste girl has become a family joke told by his wife, whereas 
his liaison with a Rajput widow caused a serious and never-again 
mentioned family fight. Low-caste men's resentment of free use of 
their women by high-caste men is suppressed but comes to the surface 
readily when the subject is discussed out of the hearing of high castes. 
Low-caste women, too, resent the advantage taken of them by high- 
caste men. 

Relations between low-caste men and high-caste women, when they 
do occur, are extremely risky for both parties in view of the attitudes 
of high-caste men. Informants of all castes affirm the dire nature of the 
punishment which would befall the participants if caught. Exagger- 
ated fear is also revealed in precautions taken by high-caste men to 
prevent such contacts, for example, often prohibiting their women- 
folk from attending intercaste occasions where drinking and dancing 
occur, such as fairs, celebrations, and so on. 

Some idea of the sexual gain enjoyed by high-caste men can be 
inferred from the fact that eleven recognized unions of some duration 
between high-caste men and low-caste women were reported for 
Sirkanda and neighboring villages. Only one recognized union between 
a low-caste man and a high-caste woman occurred, and it was in a 
more distant village than any of the others (thus, more unusual, and 
so reported and remembered more widely). It involved an elopement 
out of the area, unlike the other eleven, all of which were carried on 


in Bhatbair. Similarly, casual affairs and extramarital sex relationships 
were frequently reported between high-caste men and low-caste 
women, while extremely few cases of the reverse situation were re- 
ported. 1 Whether these reports reflect sexual behavior accurately or 
not (and it is likely that they do), they certainly reflect attitudes 

There is little in the way of compensatory sexual gain for low- 
caste men in Sirkanda. Looking at the situation from the low-caste 
woman's point of view, it could be argued that she derives a gain 
comparable to that of the high-caste man and that the high-caste 
woman is deprived as is the low-caste man. Actually, the high-caste 
man has the advantage of choice which the low-caste woman is denied, 
though both have access to a greater variety of partners than have 
their spouses. In other areas of India greater freedom of sexual ex- 
pression is allowed low-caste people within their status group than is 
allowed high-caste people within theirs, but there is little caste differ- 
ence on this score in Sirkanda. An economic gain may accrue to low- 
caste people from the high-caste sexual gain. Occasionally a low-caste 
woman succeeds in getting money, clothing, or other goods from a 
high-caste lover, and in at least one instance in a village near Sirkanda 
the low-caste husband encouraged his wife in an affair that bordered 
between prostitution and concubinage. 

Sexual gain derived by high castes as a result of their status position 
in the system is frequently implicit in accounts from other areas of 
India and seems, in fact, to be a universal aspect of caste in India. 
Majumdar (1944, pp. 175 f.) remarks that Rajput men cannot marry 
or have social intercourse with Dom women but can have sex relations 
with them or keep them as mistresses. Lewis (1958, p. 257) notes that 
". . . lower-caste women are more vulnerable than the women of other 
castes to the sexual advances of higher-caste men." Cohn (1955, p. 68) 
says that "it was a commonplace a generation ago for a Thakur man 
to have sexual relations with a Camar woman. This still occurs . . ." 
Stevenson asserts: 

A man may keep as a lover or a concubine a lower status woman, from 
whose hand he would not take either food or water, without requiring 
further purification than a bath after contact. A high status woman con- 
ducting a liaison with a lower status man, however, would be expelled from 
her status group. (Stevenson, 1954, p. 57) 

A standard joke told in the plains concerns two Chamar women watch- 
ing the funeral procession of an old landlord. As the body is carried 
past, one hand falls out from under the shroud and flops about. One 

■ ' 


Chamar woman turns to the other and says, "You see, Thakur Singh 
is dead, but he still beckons to us." 

In general the situation conforms to that in Southerntown as re- 
ported by Dollard. In this and the following quotations from Dollard, 
I have substituted the words in brackets: "high-caste" for "white," and 
"low-caste" for "Negro." 

. . . [High-caste] men, by virtue of their caste position, have access to two 
classes of women, those of the [high] and [low] castes. The same condition 
is somewhat true of the [low-caste] women, except that they are rather the 
objects of the gain than the choosers, though it is a fact that they have some 
degree of access to [high-caste] men as well as to the men of their own caste. 
[Low-caste] men and [high-caste] women, on the other hand, are limited to 
their own castes in sexual choices. (Dollard, 1957, p. 135) 

The Prestige Gain 

High-caste people gain, by virtue of their caste status alone, def- 
erence from others, constant reinforcement of a feeling of superiority, 
and a permanent scapegoat group in the form of the lower castes. 

The gain here is very simple. It consists in the fact that a member of the 
[high] caste has an automatic right to demand forms of behavior from [low- 
caste people] which serve to increase his own self-esteem. 

It must always be remembered that in the end this deference is demanded 
and not merely independently given. (Dollard, 1957, p. 174) 

In Sirkanda relative prestige and the attendant symbols conform 
well to these statements. The honorific greeting accorded the high 
castes by low castes has been mentioned previously. It is enforced if 
it is not volunteered. A respectful form of address and reference is always 
expected from low castes by high castes. The continual inflation of 
high-caste ego is emphasized not only by verbal adulation but by 
other symbolic acts. Low castes sit lower than high castes. Normally 
they also remain outside high-caste houses, squatting on a step or 
doorsill rather than entering. On the other hand, the high-caste person 
can enter freely into the house of the low-caste person. Low castes step 
out of the way when high castes pass on the trail. They perform small 
services for high-caste members upon demand, including especially 
those that are inconvenient, risky, dirty, or defiling. They are expected 
to live in inferior dwellings, use inferior utensils, wear inferior clothes 
and ornaments, and generally play the role demanded by their in- 
ferior status. They must follow the leadership of high-caste people 
and refrain from pressing complaints. They must accept judgments 
handed down from the high castes, even in their private affairs, in- 


eluding the punishment or abuse that often accompanies them. They 
must endure quietly many kinds of impositions upon them, including 
sexual impositions upon their women. They must often beg payment 
for their labor and receive it humbly. They must carefully avoid 
high-caste temples and be ever on their guard not to defile the persons 
or possessions of high-caste people according to the traditional rules 
governing intercaste contacts. Powerful sanctions — economic, social, 
and physical — are at hand to enforce these rules and are not used 
reluctantly. Gould (1961a, pp. 946, 948) cites examples, from the plains 
village of Sherupur, of fear of "rule of the lower orders" as high-caste 
villagers saw their position of respect being undermined. 

The whole tenor of intercaste relations is prescribed by custom. 
The high-caste person is paternalistic, authoritarian. The low-caste 
person is submissive, subservient. He must not pay undue attention 
to high-caste women. He should be indulgent and friendly to high- 
caste children. He is expected to be respectful, agreeable, mildly 
humorous in the presence of his superiors. He must laugh at jokes 
at his expense and conceal resentment if he feels it. He must know 
how to respond with just the right note of humor or self-deprecation 
when intercaste relations are discussed in a mixed-caste group. A light 
remark can bring an ominous response. 

In Sirkanda the pride of high-caste people is proverbial. They are 
quick to censure the low-caste person who steps out of line. The rules 
are known by everyone, but a misjudgment by a low-caste person can 
lead to a rebuke or physical punishment. When a Rajput asked me 
the time, using an honorific form of address, a low-caste man made 
bold to look at his tattoo-watch (a common form of male adornment) 
and say "4:30 by my watch." The questioner shot back edgily, 
"Watches sometimes get broken." 

In general the impression I gained, not only from my own experi- 
ence but from that of the schoolteacher and other outsiders in the 
village, was that, while high-caste villagers feel relatively secure in 
their prestigeful status position in the village, they feel very insecure 
in the presence of outsiders, especially non-Paharis. This is doubtless 
related to self-consciousness about their own unorthodox Hindu prac- 
tices and their resultant low status in the eyes of plains people, com- 
bined with awareness of their relatively simple or primitive living 
conditions, clothing, and foods. Their insecurity in this context is 
revealed in self-conscious jokes about their being "wild men" (un- 
domesticated), being destined to be reborn as donkeys on the plains, 
being readily identifiable in town by their boorish manners and rustic 
appearance despite efforts to appear cosmopolitan, and the like. An- 


other factor may be their awareness of government efforts to raise 
the status and living conditions of low-caste people. For these reasons, 
among others, the high castes show extreme reluctance to have any- 
thing to do with outsiders — to feed them, talk to them, or even offer 
them a seat or a smoke. After he had been in the village three months, 
the schoolteacher complained that no one had invited him to eat and 
no high-caste person had even inquired as to his origin or family 
status. He was himself a Pahari Rajput from a neighboring area. Stories 
of the suspicious and inhospitable nature of Paharis are many and 
graphic. To the extent that they are true, they seem to be based 
largely on a general insecurity in the presence of the status threat 
posed by strangers. Any stranger is an unknown quantity who may be 
of low-caste or alien religion and hence defiling. He may be an advocate 
of intercaste equality and interaction. Worse yet, he might try to put 
some such ideology into practice, thereby defiling high castes or putting 
ideas into the minds of low castes. On the other hand, he may be a 
high-caste Hindu and hence be critical or contemptuous of unorthodox 
claimants to high status. 

Also of fundamental significance is the fact that this is an isolated 
and relatively closed social system where kin, caste, and community 
ties are extremely important. Anyone who lacks these familiar ties 
is outside the system and cannot be placed within it readily if at all. 
Such a person poses an inherent threat to the community. Therefore, 
the best way to handle him is to get rid of him, or, if that cannot 
be done quickly, to ignore him. If he remains he will gradually come 
to be accepted as an outsider who is resident in the village, tolerated 
but ignored except in the context of his legitimate function in the 
village. Fear of outside agents of authority also leads to rejection or 
avoidance of strangers. 

Low-caste people are often more relaxed than are those of high 
caste in the presence of outsiders. Evidently they have little to fear 
and nothing to lose in terms of status. They are often used by high- 
caste people, perhaps for this reason, to deal with strangers. This 
aggravates intercaste tensions because low-caste people come to know 
outsiders (the schoolteacher, the village level worker, the anthro- 
pologist) better than do high-caste people. They learn more of the 
ways of outsiders, become accustomed to being with them, and even 
acquire habits and ideas from them. The high-caste people fear what 
may be passing between the local untouchables and the potentially 
threatening outsider, and dread that they will be "found out," ridi- 
culed, and hence lose status. They therefore try to get rid of outsiders 
if possible, or keep them away from close contacts with villagers. 


Middle-aged high-caste men are especially sensitive on this point. 
3nly when they are secure in the knowledge that their status and 
mportance are recognized and properly appreciated do they relax 
heir pose. On the other hand, it is not a matter of consciously striving 
'or prestige and deference. These are considered to be natural and 
ust concomitants of caste status. When infractions of rules of inter- 
:aste relations are brought to the notice of these men, they usually 
ittribute them to outside influence or general deterioration from the 
golden age of amicable intercaste relations — a period in the indefinite 
3ast when the low castes knew their place and the high castes were 
ible to play their paternalistic role to best advantage. 

Compensatory gains of low-caste people are few in the social sphere, 
rhey strive to maintain status superiority to one or more castes which 
hey consider lower than themselves. Their only direct gain is in 
dative freedom from ritual and status restrictions. In the hills, this 
loes not result in important advantages for low castes because all 
:astes are relatively unorthodox. In the plains the demands of ritual 
jurity and social distance on high castes are considerably stricter, 
particularly in such matters as the seclusion of women, continence 
)f widows, abstinence from liquor and meat, and so on. There low 
:astes can ignore these prohibitions while high castes must adhere to 
hem, at least in public. In Sirkanda the primary advantage to low- 
:aste people is in their prerogative to largely ignore prestige con- 
iderations in their daily life and live with relative freedom from fear 
)f loss of a respect they do not have. 

Ultimate Rewards as Gains 

High-caste people feel that they are justified in demanding respect 
ind service from their caste inferiors, as the direct result of their own 
neritorious acts in previous lives. But the matter does not end there. 
\ccording to the conventional Hindu view they are destined, by the 
'act that they play their high-caste role well, to reap further and even 
nore desirable rewards in subsequent lives. In turn, low-caste people 
:an hope to improve their lot by submitting to their fate as disad- 
vantaged people. Weber (1958, p. 122) points out that "the neglect of 
me's caste duties out of high pretensions unfailingly is disadvantageous 
n the present or future life." In the orthodox Hindu view, high castes 
:an increase their chances for ultimate rewards by increasing the 
economic and prestige advantages they seek in this life, while low 
:astes can increase their chances for ultimate rewards by subordinating 
economic and prestige gains in this life to the cause of pursuing their 
:aste duty, including the serving and honoring of high castes. Thus, 


immediate and ultimate rewards are consistent in the behavior they 
require of high-caste people but contradictory in the behavior they 
require of low-caste people. 

In Sirkanda this view is held primarily by educated, high-caste men. 
Orthodox Hindu views of caste duty, as such, are not held by most 
villagers. However, it is believed that by living a good life and giving 
charity a person can enhance his caste status in the next life. The 
opportunities for low castes in the next life are less than those for 
high castes simply because the next step for them is not as high as 
that for high castes. Moreover, the economic advantages possessed by 
high castes enable them to give more charity at less personal sacrifice 
than can low castes, thus furthering their prospects for ultimate 

Maintenance of the System 

The caste system is maintained by caste stereotypes and by religio- 
philosophical beliefs relating to fate and proper behavior. Many vivid 
stories are told of the wonderful results of living a good life and the 
dire results of improper behavior. Low- and high-caste status is rational- 
ized and justified, both on caste and individual levels, as described 
above. More immediately and practically, proper caste behavior is 
enforced on the low castes by high castes and on all people by their 
caste-fellows, through social and economic pressure and physical force. 
The actions of individuals are likely to have results which affect the 
entire caste. A high-caste person who pollutes himself endangers 
the status of others of his caste; a low-caste person who angers a high- 
caste person may bring retribution to his caste. Sanctions are most 
conspicuously applied, however, across caste lines. A recalcitrant Dom 
can be readily taken care of through economic pressures (such as non- 
payment), by physical violence or threats thereof, by expulsion from 
the village, or by legal action (wherein high castes can control the 
decisions through superior wealth and judicious use of bribes). 

To the present, low castes in Sirkanda have made no concerted effort 
to break out of their status as a group, nor is it likely that they will 
do so. Particular castes or individuals have made brief sallies in this 
direction but nothing more. Relative caste status remains quite stable. 
A certain flexibility among younger and older high-caste men, com- 
bined with a fair degree of realistic tact on the part of low-caste 
people, has prevented open conflict. Many low-caste members have 
thought out rationalizations which make acceptance of their status 
easier. One Bajgi said: 


We actually are better off than the high castes in some ways. When they 
want work done, they have to come ask us and we can refuse if we are too 
busy. They have to give us grain or money periodically. When we need help 
in doing our work we get high-caste people to do it and they follow our 

A blacksmith said: 

Anyone who serves another is a slave regardless of his position because 
he does not determine his own action. In that respect we are no worse off 
than many people who are wealthy and respected. The district magistrate, 
the schoolteacher, the surveyor — they are servants just as surely as are their 
peons or we blacksmiths. The district magistrate has a great deal of power. 
He can collect fines and send people to prison whether they are poor or 
wealthy, strong or weak. Therefore he is greatly feared. However, even he 
can do only what the law says. He is not to be feared as a person because 
he only implements the law. He has no power beyond what the law gives 
him and he can harm no man who has not disobeyed the law. He can give 
no punishment not written in the law. Therefore he is just a servant of the 
law like any other servant of a master. This is true of many positions. All 
of us who work for others are servants. 

The methods which low-caste people adopt in accommodating to 
their depressed status are similar to those reported by Dollard (1957, p. 
253) for Negroes in Southerntown. In Sirkanda the most common reac- 
tion is adoption of attitudes of passive accommodation and acceptance 
of gratifications commensurate with low-caste status. Overt aggression 
is rare, though not unknown. More characteristic of the plains and 
particularly of urban areas than of the hills is competition by low- 
caste members for high-caste values and increased status (cf. Bailey, 
1957, pp. 186 ff.; Cohn, 1955; Opler and R. Singh, 1948, p. 476; Rowe, 
1960a, pp. 58 ff., 298 ff.). In Sirkanda low-caste members characteris- 
tically turn their aggressive impulses toward members of their own 
group. They are explicitly encouraged in this by high-caste members. 
Overt aggression by low castes in Sirkanda (fights, cases referred to 
council action, and even legal suits) is almost exclusively directed 
toward caste-fellows or members of castes of roughly equivalent status, 
often with high-caste support. 

Tension between high and low castes is not lacking but is usually 
kept on the covert level. It is based on the dominance of high castes 
in all spheres of life, which results in differential availability of ad- 
vantages, primarily economic and prestige advantages. K. Singh, in a 
study of intercaste tensions in two plains villages, found essentially 
the same situation as that in Sirkanda, but with overt tensions and 


resultant conflict evidently considerably further developed. Speaking 
of these tensions he states: 

The major conflict in both villages was found to be between the Thakurs 
on one side and the low castes on the other. The conflict between castes in 
the two villages seems to lie in the attempts of the low-caste people to estab- 
lish autonomy from Thakur domination and to reduce the extent of their 
dependence upon them. Almost in its entirety, low-caste tension may be seen 
in terms of their desire to assert their independence, on the one hand, and 
their inability to do so on the other. 

... As dependence decreases tension is also seen to decrease. (K. Singh, 
1957, pp. 183 f.) 

If the low castes are to decrease their dependence in Sirkanda, they 
must have access to more land. At present this is an issue on which the 
high castes are in no mood to conciliate and on which the low castes 
are in no position to press demands. 

Caste Trends 

Sanskritization in relation to caste has been discussed in chapter 
4. There it was noted that a trend toward adoption of the orthodox 
Hindu usage of the plains is occurring among all castes in Sirkanda 
as compared to the dual trend toward low-caste Sanskritization and 
high-caste urbanization (or what might be called "atraditionalism") 
in the plains reported by Srinivas, Cohn, and others. The high castes 
of Sirkanda have adopted somewhat more of the orthodox traits than 
have the low castes, but this difference seems to be more a result of 
their economic ability than of differential aspirations. In Sirkanda 
there is relatively little evidence that any one caste is making an 
organized effort to raise its status in the system. The most conspicuous 
effort has been that of the Bajgis, whose women have ceased to dance 
professionally. A similar effort was underway in the Bhatbair Beda 
caste. The status rivalry, and its behavioral ramifications, among black- 
smiths and Bajgis is another approach to mobility, but it lacks organ- 
ization or consistency, and does not affect other castes. 

Therefore, low castes are anxious to rise in status, but they seldom 
see any way to do it. They feel that they are subject to the will of 
high castes who would never tolerate infringement upon their superior 
status. Moreover, the low castes are small in numbers and divided 
among themselves by the jealousies inherent in a competitive situ- 
ation, such as that with which households in the same occupational 
specialty are faced. As Cohn (1955, p. 74) has pointed out, mobility 
in a caste system must be a group phenomenon. So far, group effort in 


his direction on the low-caste level has been largely lacking in 
iirkanda. Low castes realize that any organized effort to raise their 
iwn status, even if it could be undertaken, would meet with bitter 
md powerful opposition by the high castes. The high castes prefer to 
leal with low-caste people as dependent individuals. Organized op- 
)Osition is a much greater threat than individual opposition. 

On a broader level, trends in Pahari culture as a whole have brought 
:hanges in behavior and perhaps some enhancement in the status of 
he people of this culture area relative to those of the neighboring 
jlains. This, at least, is the goal of changes in ritual usages among 
? aharis, and especially among people of high caste. Elsewhere this 
, r oal has been referred to as "plainsward mobility" (Berreman, 1961b). 

Caste is not a static phenomenon. Not only are relative caste status 
ind the attendant caste rules in constant flux, but the caste system 
tself assumes new and varying significance under changing circum- 
itances. The accommodations, alterations, and new functions of caste 
n nontraditional settings have been discussed at some length by several 
mthors (cf. Bose, 1958; Gadgil, 1952, pp. 184 ff.; Niehoff, 1959; Olcott, 
1944; O'Malley, 1932, pp. 161 ff.; Ryan, 1953, pp. 307 ff.; Srinivas, 
1955a, 1957). In these accounts emphasis is placed upon the functions 
}f caste in the newly relevant political arena. Political consciousness 
ind participation began to spread widely in India only shortly before 
Independence. Caste has arisen as a vital unit in national and regional, 
is well as local, politics. In Sirkanda these changes have not yet be- 
come apparent. While Sirkanda people have voted both in local and 
national elections, there has been no caste alignment evident in the 
elections. The low castes do not see the vote as a means to obtain 
desired ends. To put up a low-caste candidate never occurred to 
Sirkanda Doms, and when an outsider suggested it the idea was dis- 
missed as useless and likely to cause trouble. Doms are so outnumbered 
that their attitude is realistic. They are cynical about the reservation 
of a seat for untouchables on the village council. While it is good in 
principle, it is an empty gesture in practice, because one low-caste 
man has little influence in such a body. Doms are pleased that school- 
ing is equally available to all in the village and that scholarships to 
higher schools are available for untouchables, but no one plans to 
make use of the latter provision simply because it is too far from the 
realities of village life. Therefore, caste has not become a divisive 
factor in recent years as it reportedly has in other areas. Srinivas, who 
has discussed the increasingly divisive nature of caste in the villages 
and the nation, has also emphasized the "bonds opposing the divisive- 
ness of caste," the "links that bind together the members of different 


castes who inhabit a village or a small local area" (Srinivas, 1955b, pp. 
32, 34). In Sirkanda it is true, to a significantly lesser extent than in 
the villages studied by Lewis and by Srinivas, that caste is "... a 
distinct ethnic group with its own history, traditions, and identifica- 
tions, and [that] each caste lives in more or less separate quarters in 
the village" (Lewis, 1958, p. 314). In Sirkanda the numbers of in- 
dividuals in all castes except Rajputs are too small to function as 
separate little communities. Nevertheless, in Sirkanda caste per se is 
divisive — it frequently turns the attention and loyalties of everyone 
but Rajputs to the world outside the village and toward the caste 
brotherhood. Caste creates intergroup friction within the village and 
often prevents common purpose. However, caste organization entails 
economic and ritual interdependence, and associated with it in the 
village context is social interdependence. In the following chapter 
factors contributing to village unity and cohesion will be discussed. 
These are the factors which override intracaste identification and inter- 
caste friction to make the village community a functioning social, 
economic, and religious unit within the larger field of its extensions 
in surrounding villages and its relationship to larger social, economic, 
and administrative units. 



"From time immemorial the village has been a basic and important 
unit in the organization of Indian social polity" (Dube, 1955, p. 1). As 
such, villages are useful units for anthropological analysis (cf. Bailey, 
1959). In fact, I would maintain that in the area in which this study 
was carried out, the community is the most relevant manageable unit 
of analysis if one's aim is to achieve an over-all understanding of the 
way of life of the people in a limited time. Detailed studies of an 
entire region would be impossible. Studies of kin and caste groups 
would be fruitful, but in a different direction. 

Like all Indian villages, Pahari villages are not static, isolated, or 
autonomous. To be understood they must be viewed in historical 
perspective and in their relationship to other social, political, eco- 
nomic, and religious systems of which they or some of their members 
are a part. The nature and extent of these larger systems must be 
determined empirically. "Like any unit in a segmentary social system, 
the Indian village has to be examined to determine in what respects 
it stands alone and parallels for its members the advantages and pur- 
poses of similar units, and in what respects it combines in various ways 
with other units to serve wider purposes" (Opler, 1956, p. 10). 


Sirkanda is readily identifiable as a village community. It is named, 
and it is called a village (gabri) by its residents and by others familiar 


with it. Village affiliation of individuals is widely recognized in this 
area by people of other villages as well as by fellow villagers. There 
is village loyalty and, in some contexts, rivalry between villages. There 
are stereotypes about villages as entities, as in the local saying, "Two 
things to be wary of are Sirkanda's rocks and Kanda's women." 
Travelers on the trail invariably inquire as to one another's village 
of origin and the villages of their departure and destination. People 
are often identified in conversation by personal name, caste, and 
village. The villages of origin of brides brought in from outside are 
long remembered. 

As has been mentioned, slightly over half of all Sirkanda villagers 
(206 of 384) live outside the nucleated settlement area which com- 
prises the village, and yet their affiliation with it — resulting from their 
origin, family ties, and property owned in the village — is not ques- 
tioned. The focus of community identification is, therefore, the well- 
defined nucleated settlement area containing dwellings and sur- 
rounded by cultivated lands. People who identify with this settlement 
rather than with other similar settlements are members of this village. 
Whether or not they usually live in the settlement, it is the focus of 
their religious activity and much of their social and economic activity, 
and it is the location of traditional family lands and dwellings. The 
village is therefore unquestionably a real, functioning social entity 
of great importance to its members and to others who come into 
contact with its members. 

Economic and religious functions of the community and its rela- 
tionship to other communities, towns, and regions in these matters 
have been presented in chapters 2, 3, and 4. Kinship and caste as they 
function within and beyond community boundaries and as they affect 
community organization have been discussed in chapters 5, 6, and 7. In 
this and the following chapters it will be my purpose to comment 
further on the village community of Sirkanda as a social and ad- 
ministrative entity. The village will be examined in terms of both 
its internal organization — the relations of various groups and cate- 
gories within the village — and its relations with, and inclusion within, 
entities external to it. 

Interaction by Age and Sex 

Relationships between individuals within kin groups as influenced 
by age, generation, and sex have been discussed in chapter 5. Age and 
sex have a similar importance in the relationship of individuals un- 
related by kin ties: Males almost always dominate over females; age 


dominates youth. Women are usually more relaxed and sociable among 
women than in the presence of men; young peoples' behavior is in- 
hibited by the presence of elders. Women and young people are 
especially careful of their behavior in the presence of outsiders or 
members of other villages. 

A recurrent situation in which these relationships were clearly mani- 
fested was that presented early in the period of this research when 
the anthropologist wished to secure photographs. Young men were 
almost invariably willing to be photographed when alone or in the 
presence of age-mates. In the presence of male elders they would 
usually await an indication of approval from the elders. With women 
the situation was even clearer. A young woman would refuse to be 
photographed if she were in the presence of either men or older women 
unless she received specific encouragement from them. With a word 
of encouragement from males or elders (or in their absence) a woman 
was as eager to be photographed as was a man. 

Ideally a male dominates even an older female, but this does not 
always work out in practice. An elderly woman can persuade a young 
man to allow his wife to be photographed. At the Bhatbair fair, an 
intervillage function, a group of gaily dressed young women of various 
villages agreed to be photographed until a proud, middle-aged, and 
inebriated Brahmin man stormed up and ordered them to refuse. An 
elderly, high-status Rajput woman of Sirkanda who knew the photog- 
rapher, as the Brahmin did not, and who had been observing the 
proceedings, was obviously irritated by the arrogant intervention. 
She interceded by stepping to the center of the group of girls. Eyeing 
the Brahmin evenly, she said, "Please take my photograph." Her age, 
status, and composure were sufficient to abash the Brahmin, who left, 
and to encourage the women, who posed willingly for the picture. 

Within the village there is great freedom in the relations among 
men and women. They work, travel, and participate in village func- 
tions together. Women do not leave the village in marriage parties or 
other such functions, but in the village they participate freely. No- 
where is this more evident than in drinking and dancing parties 
where, especially if outsiders are not present, women often participate 
with their menfolk. At public feasts women often eat with men. 
Evidently in villages more remote than Sirkanda such participation 
is even freer; Sirkanda has felt, to some extent, the effects of plains 
customs on this score. Such behavior is significant as one aspect of 
informal community organization. 

Freedom in sexual behavior has been discussed in chapter 5, where 
it was emphasized that both men and women commonly engage in 


extramarital sexual relations. Men have especially free access to 
women of lower caste than themselves and to the wives of their 
brothers. Women visiting in their natal villages are also unusually 
free. Much of the conversation of young men is devoted to their 
sexual exploits, a topic upon which immoderate boasting is not un- 
common. At fairs and other celebrations sexual activity accompanies 
drinking and dancing as a source of diversion. An ideal of romantic 
love pervades the culture, expressed in stories and songs, and realized, 
with greater frequency than seems usual in most of India, through 
elopement and extramarital liaisons. Pahari songs generally recount 
tales of romantic love or of heroism. The most popular type of song 
can best be described by quoting Traill (1828, p. 219): 

The Byri, or Bhagnaol, is a species of duet, sung commonly by a male and 
a female, who respond to each other in extemporary stanzas alternately. The 
subject has commonly reference to the situation or actual occupation of the 
parties, clothed in numerous metaphors and similes, drawn chiefly from 
vegetable products; where the parties are skillful, the Byri is made the 
vehicle of personal praise or satire: this style of singing is highly popular 
in the Kamaon pergunnahs, and it is there a common saying, that no female 
heart can withstand the seductions of an accomplished Byri singer. The 
measure is slow and plaintive. 

The haunting melodies of these songs, as verses are exchanged be- 
tween young men and women working out of sight but within earshot 
of one another on the steep, forest-covered hillsides, no passer-by can 
easily forget. Such singing is a means of maintaining contact and 
finding reassurance in lonely work in isolated areas, as well as a vehicle 
for indicating romantic interest and exercising creative wit. 

Caste and Community 

Caste has been presented in the preceding chapter as a primarily 
divisive force in the village. However, it is worth emphasizing again 
that this is only part of the picture. The nature of caste in this area 
creates economic and religious interdependence in the village. Every 
local caste is essential to every other, and, to the extent that people 
depend upon members of other castes within the village, a strong 
cohesive bond is formed. From such interdependence and from the 
crucial fact of residential proximity, intercaste social bonds also grow 
to be effective cohesive forces. There is certain lore about the village, 
its locale and people, which is shared almost exclusively among vil- 


lagers without regard to castes and cliques. There are common atti- 
tudes on many subjects. There is an essentially common body of 
religious belief and behavior. These common understandings help 
tie village members together. 

Participation in common enterprises, ownership of common prop- 
erty, and preoccupation with common problems and common antag- 
onisms further bind the community together despite caste, sib, and 
clique alignments. Community members participate in annual cere- 
monies, ritual observances, and informal drinking, dancing, and sing- 
ing parties. Cooperative work on village-owned trails, on the water 
source, and in certain phases of housebuilding and agriculture also 
contribute to community identification. Indicative of a degree of 
village unity and interdependence is ownership by the village in com- 
mon of large cooking vessels and a few large tools available to all 
community members as needed. Community government (discussed 
below) and informal councils are enterprises cutting across divisive 
loyalties, though they also provide a setting for engaging in disputes. 
Common loyalties are shared by villagers in their identification of 
themselves as Sirkanda villagers. They share pride in village history, 
its former relationship with the Garhwal Raja, and in him and his 

Common problems and antagonisms are found in uniform dislike 
of the present government, its programs and personnel. No faction 
deviates on this matter. Rivalry with other villages and areas, and 
feelings of strangeness in alien settings, serve also to bind people to- 
gether before strangers. Village-wide suspicion of outsiders has a 
similar effect. Certain village secrets are kept by all factions. Caste 
may have a counterfactional function in that cross-caste antagonisms 
make for occasional cross-factional alliances within castes, especially 
in disputes with caste or status implications. 

Therefore, in spite of the many cleavages and potential cleavages 
in the village, there are counterforces which make it a real community 
— an identification group as well as a membership group. Srinivas 
(1955b, p. 35) has said that in Mysore, "the village is a community 
which commands loyalty from all who live in it, irrespective of caste 
affiliation. Some are first-class members of the village community, and 
others are second-class members, but all are members." This is true 
too in Sirkanda. The village is thus enabled to survive as a unity, to 
maintain conventional understandings about behavior, and to deal 
with deviants effectively. 


Village Exogamy 

An outstanding feature of Sirkanda as a community, in contrast 
to many plains communities, is the absence of village exogamy (Berre- 
man, ig62d; cf. Gould, 1960, 1961b). This is important in community 
consensus and cohesion in that intravillage marriages create strong 
ties across cleavages of sib, clan, and clique. Lewis (1958, p. 325) has 
emphasized the importance of rules of village endogamy and exogamy 
in the world view of those who live under them; they are "so im- 
portant that it might be useful to add endogamy and exogamy as 
crucial universal variables in our models of the folk society and peasant 

Despite absence of formal exogamy in Sirkanda, in 84 per cent of 
all marriages the wife comes from outside the village. In the minority 
castes (that is, all but Rajputs) all wives come from other villages 
due to sib exogamy. However, the "region whose limits are determined 
by kinship bonds" is relatively small in the hills as compared with 
the plains. In Sirkanda, 83 per cent of all spouses come from within 
four air miles of Sirkanda. 

To the extent that Sirkanda marriages are contracted within a 
small area and with relatively few families, most of whose members 
are personally known to Sirkanda villagers, Sirkanda presents a con- 
trast to Rampur, as reported by Lewis, and to similar plains villages. 
The area of "rural cosmopolitanism" surrounding the village, which 
Lewis found to be so extensive around Rampur, is relatively restricted 
in the hills. There is a very real "isolationist" and "inward-looking" 
tendency among residents of Sirkanda and neighboring communities. 
This isolationism occurs not at the village level, as it would in en- 
dogamous villages, but at the level of the immediate cultural area — 
the area of the marriage network. There is not, therefore, sufficient 
contrast between exogamous Rampur and nonexogamous Sirkanda to 
test Lewis' ideas rigorously. 

A contrast between Sirkanda and Rampur, which may be partially 
attributable to the difference in marriage rules, is the apparently greater 
flexibility, changeability, and ambiguity in factional alignment in 
Sirkanda (Lewis, 1958, p. 114). This probably stems in part from the 
incidence of in-village, cross-sib, and hence often cross-faction marriage 
in Sirkanda. The extreme suspiciousness which Sirkanda residents 
display toward outsiders mav be partlv attributable to the relatively 
small, well-known group of people with whom marriages are con- 


traded and other intercommunity relations occur. However, most dif- 
ferences which appear between villages of the hills and of the plains 
are more plausibly attributable to other cultural and ecological factors. 

Cliques and Factions 

The most prominent social units within Sirkanda are those based 
upon considerations of kin and caste ties. These have been discussed 
in previous chapters. However, there are other relationships among 
individuals and groups which are significant to life in the community 
although they are not coextensive with these units. Primary among 
these are informal alliances and friendships which go to make up 
cliques or factions of individuals who tend to help one another in 
economic and religious undertakings, to interact with one another 
more frequently than with others in social relations, and to support 
one another in rivalry or disputes with others in or out of the village. 
In Sirkanda these are not powerful, stable, well-delineated factions 
which consistently oppose one another and command the loyalty of 
their members, as are those reported by Lewis (1958, p. 114) for 
Rampur. Rather they are often vague, shifting, uncoordinated groups 
of people. It therefore seems preferable in most contexts to call such 
alliances in Sirkanda "cliques" in translation of the villagers' own 
term, gutt. The term "faction" will be used in this presentation to 
refer to groups involved in disputes. No rigid terminological distinc- 
tion is advocated here. Friendship groups and other groups distinguish- 
able on grounds other than disputes will be termed cliques. Actively 
disputing groups will be called factions. Often these groups are the 
same, in which case context will determine usage. 

In Sirkanda such groups are found primarily in the Rajput caste, 
it being the only group large enough to contain many such alignments, 
just as it is the only caste large enough to contain several different 
phratries, sibs, clans, and lineages within the village. 1 However, not 
all Rajputs are aligned with cliques nor are all non-Rajputs unaligned. 
Some members of other castes are tied into Rajput cliques, sometimes 
despite their own efforts to remain neutral. In addition, as has been 
noted, there are disputes within and among joint families, between 
castes, and between high- and low-caste groups. Examples of these have 
been discussed in previous chapters in connection with the social units 
in which they occur. 

In Sirkanda there are no named groups which correspond to cliques. 
The nearest thing are some kin groups which happen to be coterminus 


with certain cliques. Most cliques, in fact, are not generally recognized 
social entities. There are no special social centers or regular occasions 
for intra-clique interaction. Even informants who wish to cooperate 
in giving information on this subject and who understand the concept 
well are hard-pressed to delineate cliques or to name clique members 
in any but the most obvious alliances. Clique divisions and membership 
can in many cases only be inferred by observation of interaction in 
economic, religious, and social contexts. Important sources of data in 
this respect are patterns of visiting and friendship, and disputes among 

As a result of inquiries along these lines it was found that in Sirkanda 
cliques tend to follow caste, sib, clan, lineage, and family lines, in 
order of increasing relevance. The core of a clique is usually a large 
or well-to-do family, and those influential in the clique are usually 
family heads. But around this core are other individuals who side 
with the core group. To consider cliques independently of family and 
larger social divisions would be to misunderstand them. If they deviate 
from, or cut across, these boundaries, that fact in itself is important, 
since it runs against traditional ideals of caste and kin-group unity. 
Another important dimension was found to be that of age. People 
of roughly the same age tend to participate on the same level of 
interaction in inter-clique behavior, while those of other age groups 
have somewhat independent alignments. Sex is also a factor in that 
women have their own cliques, apparently somewhat independent of 
those of their husbands and based upon ties of relationship and com- 
mon village origin as well as upon jealousies and disputes among 
themselves. Women, as family and clan members, often follow in the 
clique alignments of their husbands. The wives of men who are at 
odds generally also avoid one another unless they have close ties of 
relationship or common village origin, and sometimes even these ties 
are subordinated to male factionalization. In this study only male 
cliques were studied sufficiently to draw many conclusions. 

Friendship and Visiting Patterns 

One important manifestation of clique membership is that of 
patterns of friendship and visiting in the village. These are not easily 
delineated. One villager commented: 

There are no special friends here. People talk occasionally to everyone — 
whoever they meet at the water source, at work, or around the village. They 
don't talk a lot with anyone outside of their joint family. An exception is 
the young men of the village, who often sit around and talk togedier. Cer- 
tain people avoid one another because of disputes they have had. 


There is not the custom, such as is found on the plains, of men 
sitting in a living area reserved for them and passing time with their 
friends. There is no area in Pahari houses where men can gather, 
undisturbed by women and children. Informal visiting by small groups 
of men (two to four) does occasionally take place on the veranda of the 
house, but many men rarely participate. Principal locations for social 
interaction among groups of men are the village shops and the places 
of work of artisans. These represent "neutral ground," and an indi- 
vidual does not compromise himself by stopping there regardless of 
who else may be there or may later come. Since everyone is welcome 
at these places and is, in fact, expected to stop at least briefly if he is 
passing by, patterns of friendship and clique composition are not as 
clearly revealed as they would be in individual houses where only 
friends are welcome. Other informal groups relevant to an under- 
standing of friendship and clique formation are those of men working 
or traveling together. 

On the basis of observations of friendly interaction in Sirkanda, six 
main cliques were found among Rajputs. One of these consisted of 
two lineages of the Palial sib, the second consisted of the third lineage 
in that sib, and the third consisted of most of the members of the 
largest lineage in the Jawari sib. The fourth and fifth were formerly 
one clique consisting of another lineage in the Jawari sib, but it has 
split so that now there are essentially two family isolates. The sixth is 
another small Jawari clique (see fig. 5). The importance of kin ties 
in these alliances is obvious. Two of the cliques follow lineage bound- 
aries (one includes two and the other one lineage), and the other four 
follow family boundaries (in each there are two family cliques within 
a lineage). In only one case are brothers in different cliques. 

In addition to these main groups, there are individuals and groups 
whose interaction does not reveal any clique alignments or, more 
importantly, whose interaction spans clique boundaries or makes cross- 
clique groups. Four main factors seem to be basic to such individuals: 
(1) age ties, (2) affinal ties, (3) ties of geographic proximity, (4) lack of 
particular kinship ties which would tend to commit the individuals to 
specific cliques. In the first category, age ties, is the group of young 
men (20 to 35 years in age) who generally ignore the factional affiliations 
of their elders and associate quite freely with one another. They even 
cut across caste barriers to some extent, with a blacksmith and a Bajgi 
often being included in the group. Children are another such age 
group. In the second category, affinal ties, are the relationships be- 
tween men who have married within the village, and their male in- 
laws. There are several of these relationships, which take the form 



of frequent informal social interaction at the home of the father- or 
brother-in-law. In the third category, geographical proximity, fall the 
friendship and economic and ceremonial cooperation of the occupants 
to this category is the interaction of neighbors, especially the greater 
of four chans in a small area % mile distant from the village. Related 
frequency of interaction among people living within each of the three 
main settlement areas of Sirkanda than occurs between these sections, 

Jawari lineages 

Palial lineages 

1 1 

F j G ! H 













Kukhalwal Rajput „ i . 

Blacksmith ,.. .. i . 

Khandial Rajput 
Barber ■ 

One Blacksmith household 

Fig. 5. Principal Rajput cliques through time. 

Cliques are enclosed in solid-line boxes. Broken lines indicate lineage bound- 
aries within cliques. Solid arrows indicate development through time. Broken 
arrows indicate casual alliances. Asterisked lineages are at present small in 
numbers and largely unaffiliated. 

other things being equal. In the last category, lack of kinship ties 
which commit individuals to cliques, fall the members of three rela- 
tively small Jawari Rajput lineages, the members of one small sib 
in the village (Kukhalwal), and the members of other castes. The 
remaining Rajput sib, Khandial, consists of one family which is com- 
mitted by marriage to the first Palial clique listed above. 

Clique alignments and deviations from them are evident not only 
in visiting patterns but in cooperation in ritual and economic under- 


takings as well. No family, lineage, sib, or clan is large enough to 
perform an important marriage without outside assistance, and this 
is usually not available from members of opposing cliques. Drinking 
parties are another activity in which cliques and clique deviations are 
readily apparent. 

Disputes and Dispute Resolution 

Dispute reveal clique divisions sharply. They are, in fact, usually 
the bases for the avoidance between individuals and groups which 
becomes stereotyped into clique behavior. A study of disputes, there- 
fore, leads to an understanding not only of what the clique structure 
is, but of how it got that way, that is, how cliques are formed and how 
they change through time. In addition, such a study reveals important 
information about the means and dimensions of social control and 
conflict resolution in the community. 

In discussing disputes a major difficulty is that of deciding relative 
significance. Disputes of all intensities occur, from the minor irritation 
that is quickly forgotten to the major power struggle that is remem- 
bered for generations. Some disputes bring about formation of cliques 
or factions; most are symptomatic of already existing factionalization, 
and some are unrelated to clique affiliation. Here disputes that have 
aroused strong feelings among the participants and that are apparently 
associated in some way with clique alignments will be considered. They 
include all those upon which sufficient relevant information was avail- 
able for analysis — the recent and the well-remembered. A few occurred 
during the writer's residence in Sirkanda; most occurred within the 
previous 10 years; one took place 40 years ago. In all cases, however, 
relevant and apparently reliable data were obtained from informants 
who were present at the time of the dispute. 

That this is a biased sample is indicated by the fact that of the 
32 in- village disputes analyzed, 19 resulted in estrangement of the 
parties to the dispute although no apparent estrangement had existed 
previously, and only 13 perpetuated or were symptomatic of old 
animosities, so far as could be determined. Obviously the latter would 
be far more frequent than the former in a random sample, but they 
are less well remembered. 

Once a major factional split has occurred, further disputes usually 
follow at frequent intervals which sustain and often deepen the rift. 
Disputes without significance either as causes or symptoms of factional- 
ization do not appear here, not because they do not occur, but because 
they are frequent, usually minor, and not germane to this discussion. 
In this category would fall most such temporary and recurrent disputes 


as those which occur frequently among family members, between in- 
dividual women in the village, and between village occupational 
specialists and the clients they serve. 

Fifty-one disputes are analyzed here. Of these, 44 involved Sirkanda 
people either as both parties in the dispute (32 cases) or as one party, 
the other being from a neighboring village (12 cases). The seven re- 
maining cases involved primarily people of neighboring villages, but 
Sirkanda people were involved as relatives, council members, or 

The disputes have been analyzed in terms of the nature of the 
grievance and the action taken as a result. Grievances were categorized 
as follows: (1) sex, arising from illicit sex relations or alienation of 
affection; (2) property, arising from conflicting claims to land, houses, 
or income; (3) status, arising from nonadherence to caste rules, or 
inappropriate caste or intercaste behavior; (4) legal testimony, arising 
from a person's refusal to testify for, or his testimony against, another 
in a court case in which he was to have appeared as a witness and 
in which some connivance had been planned; (5) beating or physical 
assault on another (in all cases this occurred as a result of grievances 
falling under one of the other categories listed here); (6) wife-stealing 
(transporting a woman out of the village for profit rather than for 
personal sexual reasons); (7) malpractice of a curing rite. 

Actions taken to resolve or win a dispute have been categorized 
as follows: (1) threats, avoidance, insults, family division, and so on, 
which involved none of the other types of action listed below but which 
sometimes eventuated in a modus vivendi or solution acceptable to 
both; (2) beating or physical assault on another; (3) revenge by com- 
mitting a like offense, the only such case in this sample being one in 
which a man whose wife was regularly having sexual relations with 
another man helped steal that man's wife; (4) council (referral to an 
ad hoc council of villagers); (5) intervention by gods; (6) intervention 
by officials (referral to police, courts, or government officials outside 
the village); (7) "frame-up" (revenge by bringing a false legal charge 
against an opponent after arranging matters so that he will be found 
guilty). An example of the last befell a man whose prosperity was 
envied by his caste-fellows. They had once tried unsuccessfully to get 
some of his land by bribing the government records officer to testify 
that he had acquired the land illegally. Failing in this, they obtained 
revenge by hiding liquor in his house and calling the police to say 
that he was dealing in illicit liquor. 

The frequencies of these types of grievances and the actions taken 
are presented in table 6. Not shown in the figures in table 6 is the 


fact that beatings, and to a lesser extent all types of action taken in 
disputes, were preceded and accompanied by threats, avoidance, in- 
sults, and so on, and that a fight was always a possibility. As one 
villager remarked when a crippled man verbally abused another man, 
"A person should not use abuse unless he is strong enough to fight." 
Also not shown here is the fact that the council case for woman- 
stealing was subsequently prosecuted by the government in the courts, 
but not as a result of action by villagers. 

Sirkanda Disputes by Type and Resultant Action 

Action Taken 
Threats, Officials 

avoid- Like and Frame- 

ance Beating offense Council Gods courts up Totals 

Sex 6 5 13 2 2 1 20(39%) 
Property 8 1 — — — 4 1 14(27%) 
Status 3 — — 2 — — 1 6(12%) 
Testimony 3 — — — — _ _ 3 (7%) 
Beating — ____ 4_4 \%%) 
stealing 2 — — 1 — — — 3 (6%) 
Malpractice — — — 1 — — — 1(2%) 
Totals 22 6~~ ~~T 7 2 ~7u 3 5T~ 

(43%) (12%) (2%) (14%) (4%) (20%) (6%) (100%) 

These figures and the relationships among them show a number 
of things about the nature of Sirkanda disputes. Sex and property are 
the main causes for disputes which get into the public eye and are 
felt to be important by all concerned. Together they account for two- 
thirds of all disputes recorded. Sex disputes are consistently resolved 
in the local context. The two cases that went to court involved obvious 
breaches of law. Property disputes, on the other hand, go much more 
frequently to official, outside agencies for resolution. Beatings are 
usually cause for a lawsuit. The reasons here are very obvious: you 
do not go to an official, the police, or a court of law unless you have 
good reason to think you will win your case. These people have found 
that beating can be easily proved and prosecution is sure, and that 
in property disputes the law courts often decide cases on the basis 
of evidence which is ignored in the village context. Consequently, it 
is worthwhile to take such cases to official agencies. Sex, status, mal- 
practice in curing, failures to keep a promise to testify in court, and 


woman-stealing are areas in which court decisions are either unavail- 
able or unlikely to be useful. Woman-stealing, which might seem to 
be amenable to court decision, is rarely referred to the courts because 
the woman has invariably cooperated so that evidence against the 
"abductor" is usually lacking. Those who have engaged in woman- 
stealing as a regular business rarely participate in the abduction of 
local women, and those who do it only once can always plead innocence 
and support their plea by evidence of good character. 

Further insight into the nature of appeal to courts is found in 
the three "frame-ups." In each case grievances which could not be 
successfully brought to a court of law were resolved by manufacturing 
a case which could be decided in the courts. The three actual grievances 
were an illicit sexual affair, jealousy over property, and anger caused 
by low-caste insolence. The grievances manufactured and brought to 
court were, respectively, assault and rape, liquor-selling, and theft. 
Incidentally, this was the only case of alleged rape known in the area, 
and one of the very few allegations of theft. 

One other fact worth noting is that the village council is not used 
for property disputes. Villagers feel that justice cannot be obtained 
because the council is made up of people with heavy vested interests 
in local property, who would decide solely in terms of self-interest or 

Disputes are not submitted for arbitration by courts (in cases of 
alleged breaches of legal statutes) or by the village council (in cases 
of alleged breaches of custom) unless those who present them are con- 
fident that they will win. Often those with grievances are challenged 
to take them to court or a council. As one Rajput informant said, 
"If there is a legitimate complaint the case will go to a panchayat or 
to a court. If not, it is just bickering." 

Gods intervened in only two disputes, both hinging on sex. Sex 
disputes are the most ambiguous as well as the most frequent kind 
of grievance. Gods can give satisfaction to one party when no one else 
can. They intervene much more frequently than this analysis in- 
dicates, because they often enter a sex dispute between two women 
or between family members which never reaches the public eye or 
never enters into factional alliances. Likewise gods frequently inter- 
vene on behalf of brides from other villages in matters unrelated to 

The functions of various kinds of groups in the village can be made 
clearer by investigating the nature of social groups which engage in 
various types of disputes and employ various types of action to resolve 


Forty of the disputes analyzed here took place between people of 
the same caste. Thirty-two of these were Rajput disputes, and eight 
were blacksmith or Bajgi disputes. Eleven were intercaste disputes, 
three between Rajputs and Brahmins, two between blacksmiths and 
Bajgis, and six between particular high castes and low castes. These 
figures are largely a reflection of population and social structure in 
Sirkanda. There is only one household of Brahmins. Disputes, as 
defined here, do not occur within households except when they result 
in a lasting division of the household unit. Bajgis and Lohars are few 
in numbers, and each of these castes in Sirkanda is composed of a 
closely related group of people in a single lineage. The eight intra- 
caste disputes within these two groups are a reflection of the fact 
that low castes are more likely to divide the household and compete 
for livelihood than are the other castes. Rajputs are numerous and com- 
prise four different sibs; consequently, most disputes in the village 
involve them. Most disputes which villagers would describe as inter- 
sib disputes involve local sib members, and usually wives side with 
their husbands. Therefore such disputes will here be termed inter- 
clan disputes. 

In the 40 intracaste disputes, 22 were between clans, five were within 
clans but between lineages, and 15 were within lineages. One dispute 
involved both inter-clan and interlineage disputants, and another in- 
volved both inter-clan and intralineage disputants; hence the disparity 
in totals. 

In table 7, grievances and action taken are tabulated according to 
their occurrence in intercaste disputes, disputes which are within 
the caste but between clans (inter-clan), disputes which are within 
the clan but between lineages (interlineage), and those which are 
within the lineage (intralineage). This table shows that inter-clan dis- 
putes are predominately concerned with alleged sex offenses, while 
intralineage disputes are most often centered on property. This can be 
easily explained in retrospect. Only within the lineage is property 
derived from a common estate, and only there is property held in 
common by several members of the group. That is where one would 
expect to find disagreements over property — in its management and 
division. Intense sexual activity occurs across clan lines because clans 
are essentially sibs, the exogamous units. Since all legitimate mates 
are found across sib lines, the potential for this type of dispute among 
these groups is high. Within the clan, sib, and lineage, wives are quite 
freely available to their husbands' brothers, real and classificatory, 
while other women associated with the lineage are exempt by incest 
rules. Therefore, disputes of this kind are less likely within these 


largely exogamous units. The sex disputes which did occur within 
lineages nearly always involved one man's taking over another's wife 
or carrying on a conspicuous affair with her. 

Incidence of Disputes by Social Groups Involved a 

Intercaste Inter-clan Interlineage Intralineage 






























Action Taken 






Like offense 

























a The two totals marked with an asterisk which appear on the same horizontal 
row include one case in common; for example, in the property disputes, there 
was one with inter-clan and interlineage disputants, and so it was included in both 
columns although it was a single dispute. This accounts for the fact that the total 
number of cases listed here is 53, whereas only 51 cases were analyzed. 

Disputes in general are more common among status equals than 
across status boundaries. Large differences in status are associated 
with differences in power, so that disputes across status boundaries 
are infrequently essayed and are likely to be nipped in the bud if 
begun. Of the six recorded high-caste-low-caste disputes, one involved 
woman-stealing and included a Brahmin and Rajput as well as a 
Bajgi among the culprits, so that it was hardly a case of high caste 
versus low caste. Two of the others involved low-caste insolence, one 
resulting in a "frame-up" and the other, which involved behavior of 
children, resulting in threats and verbal abuse. Another was a low- 
caste grievance against a Brahmin who failed to pay for a cow taken 
on agreement to purchase. The final two stemmed from a sexual liaison 
between a low-caste man and an acquiescent Rajput woman. The man 
was beaten and then took his assailants to court. 

The other five intercaste disputes were between castes adjacent in 


the status hierarchy, and did not differ in type or distribution from 
what would be expected within castes. 

Status disputes occurred either between castes or within lineages. 
The former were matters of low-caste insolence prosecuted by the high 
castes. The intralineage status disputes were cases of individuals failing 
to conform to requirements of caste or family honor. Lineage mem- 
bers, as those most immediately involved, were the group which sought 
to rectify matters. 

Figures on action taken show that lineage solidarity is effective in 
keeping most intralineage disputes on a verbal level, with a minimum 
of public display and outside intervention. Beatings, council action, 
and court cases occurred frequently in inter-clan and intercaste cases. 
Apparently group controls across these lines are relatively weak. 

Physical assault as a means of resolving a difference occurred most 
often among status equals unrelated to one another, that is, at the 
inter-sib or inter-clan level. Relatives are reluctant to fight, and low- 
caste people are reluctant to get themselves into a position where 
powerful high castes will have an excuse to attack them. The only 
intercaste beating was the one described above, in which a low-caste 
sex offender was beaten. 

The distribution of cases in which there was resort to outside officials 
reflects closely the distribution of disputes over property, since it is 
in property disputes that official agencies are most useful. 

When a council is appealed to voluntarily it is almost always as 
a result of an intercaste dispute. Within the caste, less conspicuous 
means of arbitration are preferred. Three of the four cases involving 
single castes (that is, inter-clan) which went to councils were intra- 
low-caste disputes into which councils intervened without the request 
of those involved. Low castes try to keep their disputes out of councils, 
where they say low castes always lose and only the council wins. 

"Frame-ups" occurred only in intercaste and inter-clan disputes, 
probably because such plots are a drastic action, usually resulting in 
imprisonment, which relatives would rarely inflict on one another. 

Clique and Faction Formation 

The clique or faction structure revealed by disputes corresponds 
closely to that shown in friendship and visiting patterns, and explains 
the formation of current alignments. 

The Jawari sib of Rajputs is characterized by several factional splits 
and antagonisms toward other groups as a result of a number of 
important disputes. It was allegedly once undivided by major disputes. 
Then two factions, A and B, split off a few generations ago, as the 


result of a serious sexual dispute (see fig. 5). Later each of these 
factions split into two groups along family lines (Ai, A2; Bi, B2) as 
a result of property and status disputes. One of these divisions also 
involved a half-brother relationship, a relationship which quite con- 
sistently results in social distance between the parties. Most recently, 
one family in Ai was alienated from that clique as a result of a status 
dispute, and so it joined A2, its current alignment. Similar histories 
could probably be traced for other cliques in the village. 

In general there is considerable disputing between the two large 
sibs in Sirkanda, and they have each acted as factions in and of 
themselves. Within these groups lineages and sometimes households 
have formed cliques. The importance of kin ties can be readily seen 
in the diagram, although they are not equally important in all cliques. 
Other groups which might prefer to remain neutral tend to become 
aligned with cliques through friendship, work relationships, affinal 
relations, proximity, and so on. 

In correlating friendship groups with disputant groups it becomes 
evident that not all friendship groups are antagonistic to one another. 
Between the Palial cliques there is little or no animosity (H, FG). 
The same holds for the relationship of B2 to H and FG. These are, 
therefore, cliques that are on good terms with one another. On the 
other hand, Ai, A2, Bi, and B2 are antagonistic to one another, and 
Ai, A2, and Bi are antagonistic to FG and, to a lesser extent, to H. 
The household comprising clique Bi is generally disliked by everyone 
in the village except one Bajgi household, with which it is in a patron- 
like relationship, and lineage C, which has sided with it occasionally. 
Clique FG is the most generally liked group in the village. It has had 
few disputes with others and comprises a loose-knit, open group. 

The attitudes between cliques are usually related directly to the 
types and intensity of disputes they have had with one another. The 
Jawari sib is permeated with jealousy, animosity, and disputes, while 
the Palial sib is at present relatively congenial. As has been mentioned 
before, all but the most serious disputes tend to be ignored after one 
or two generations unless they are reinforced by new ones. Therefore, 
young men of Ai and A2 associate freely with those of H and FG, and 
even the youngest man of the isolated and generally disliked clique, 
Bi, has some informal social contact with these groups. 

The effects of disputes and factionalization on the community are 
important and far-reaching. They sometimes seriously affect village 
cohesion just as they do lineage and clan unity. The complexity of 
disputes, the means of dealing with them, and their effects may be 
illustrated by picking two examples and describing them briefly. 


Case I 

The most serious dispute in recent history was over land. About the time 
of World War I the army purchased some Sirkanda lands a little over a mile 
from the village, to be used as a small summer encampment for Ghurka 
troops. Two stone houses and some other improvements were made there 
by the army. For nearly twenty years the camp was often occupied during 
the summer months. The army was rigidly segregated from the villagers by 
army orders, with one exception — one village family (A in the diagram of 
cliques) sold milk to the army and became friendly with its personnel. When 
the army left in 1932, the milk-selling family bought the desirable army land, 
complete with its buildings, for a ridiculously small sum. Other villagers were 
incensed when they found out because many of them had formerly owned 
shares in the land and they had been given no opportunity to buy their 
shares back. According to them, the sale should have been publicly announced 
and all should have had a chance to buy some of the land. 

A nine-year legal suit resulted which was eventually won by the milk-selling 
family (A). Although the law seemed to be on the side of the other villagers, 
the village accountant, whose records were crucial to the case, was a member 
of the winning family. Also the army officers had liked that family, had 
cooperated with them in the sale, and had testified in their behalf in court. 
The appellants were of the opposite clan (clique FG) but were actively and 
openly supported by members of a rival faction (Bi) in the milk-sellers' clan 
who hoped to get land, although they had not been among the original 
owners of the land. It was essentially the village versus the milk-sellers 
(cliques Bi, B2, H, FG vs. Ai, A2). 

During and after the trial, relations between the disputants and their 
respective supporters deteriorated. An outside merchant was brought in when 
the suit began, so that villagers would not have to buy from the only village- 
run shop, owned and operated by the milk-sellers' family. These two shops 
have remained in the village, in full view of one another, jealous of one 
another's patronage, and a constant reminder of the dispute. A member of 
the milk-selling family was replaced as village tax collector under pressure 
occasioned by animosity resulting from this case. Villagers blame subsequent 
lack of village unity largely on the case. Attempts to improve the water supply 
have failed, and money granted by the government to repair the school and 
to build a community center has gone unused. Villagers say that animosities 
kindled and fanned by the old dispute prevent agreement and cooperation 
on the new projects and lead individuals to purposely subvert plans that are 
made. Even the lineage that won the case has been split because one member 
family (A2) could not pay its full share of the heavy legal expenses and so 
was given none of the lands it had been promised for its support. It there- 
fore broke completely away from the rest of the lineage. 

Case II 

A Rajput woman, who lived with her husband in a chan, fell in love with 
a relative of her husband who lived in a neighboring chan. When the hus- 


band came to know he moved away from the chan to the village, whereupon 
his wife went to her parents, refusing to return to her husband. After two 
years the wife wanted to rejoin her husband, but he then refused to take her. 
Her family insisted, but to no avail. A council meeting was suggested, but 
the husband's family refused in highly insulting terms. At the urging of 
another relative, Sohan, they wrote the woman's family a letter saying that 
the marriage was void and they would have nothing to do with her. This 
angered the girl's family because, since no money had been demanded as 
compensation, the divorce implied that she was immoral and worthless. They 
especially resented this because no public charges had been placed against 
the girl. Moreover, the unstated charges involved the husband's own relative; 
therefore, they felt, the girl was not at fault. In their anger the woman's 
relatives caught and beat her husband and his brother. Thereupon Sohan 
urged the beaten men to go to court about the beating. This they did upon 
the assurance that Sohan would stand as witness in their behalf. However, 
when the case came up, Sohan did not appear as promised. The husband's 
family spent a good deal of money on the case, which lasted a year and was 
then dropped. Meanwhile, Sohan had shifted his loyalties to the other side 
and helped them with advice and encouragement. When the case was dropped, 
the ex-wife was turned over as wife to her former lover at the chan, who had 
been paying part of the legal expenses on her behalf. 

As a result, the disputants (and Sohan, on the side of the wife) refused 
to ever again attend social or ritual occasions where they would meet and 
especially where eating was to take place. This avoidance was practiced for 
over five years until a prominent and well-liked village woman died. Her 
husband had been in one of the two large Rajput sibs, and she was a member 
of the other, a daughter of the village as well as a village wife and mother. 
The entire village was united in love and respect for her, and yet the two 
disputing factions refused to attend the death ceremonies together. A council 
meeting was held to come to a new agreement, as it was felt by those not 
involved in the dispute that the estrangement should not continue with such 
disruptive effect. A compromise was reached which is still followed today. The 
two parties agreed to attend all village functions but not to eat in the kitchen 
area on such occasions. They eat outside and leave as soon as they have 
eaten. They never eat in the kitchen area of the same house on the same day. 

Villagers generally admit that the husband was in the right in this case, 
but because of the arrogant rejection of council arbitration and the generally 
haughty attitude of the husband and his family, village sympathies were with 
the wife — to teach the husband a lesson. General dislike of the husband's 
family also entered in. In this case the husband's family comprised clique Bi; 
Sohan's family was clique Ai; the wife's family was in clique FG. 

A villager commented, in reference to this case, "Village disputes are of 
this silly nature." 

It is evident from these somewhat simplified accounts that disputes 
are complex, that alignments are not firm nor entirely consistent and 


predictable, and that ramifications may be far-reaching and disruptive. 
The motivations determining sympathies and alignments among non- 
disputants are usually based in previous grievances and are often 
extremely complex. Nurturing and compounding these animosities 
by planning revenge is a major activity among some villagers. On the 
other hand, in daily activities the animosities are kept under control 
so that they come into the open relatively infrequently in view of the 
amount of interpersonal contact which is inevitable in the village. 

The village settlement pattern is suggestive in this regard. While 
it conforms in general to sib and lineage distribution, it conforms 
even more closely to clique alignments (see map 3, p. 25). Thus, 
clique Bi, the most isolated and antagonistic clique, is physically 
isolated in a single house on the western edge of the village; clique 
Ai is isolated in the house nearest the Devi shrine; clique A2 is in 
two adjacent houses on the edge of the eastern settlement area; clique 
H is in the line of houses nearest the school. Clique FG, the most open 
of all, is in the center of the village. In general, the most congenial 
households are those which occupy the central portion of the village, 
while those harboring animosities and rivalries and those which are 
simply asocial are found on the peripheries, where they have built 
houses in recent years; for example, all houses in the southwestern 
settlement area of the village have been built in the past ten years. 
A possible earlier pattern is suggested by older houses in the village. 
Among them there is a general separation of the Palial sib (lineages 
H, FG) and Jawari lineages B, D, E (all located in the central settle- 
ment area, although clustered by sib) on the one hand, and Jawari 
lineages A and C and the Kukhalwal sib (located in the eastern settle- 
ment area) on the other. 

Cliques have no formal organization. The elder men of the house- 
holds involved tend to be the policymakers for the cliques and to 
enforce, when possible, loyalty and conformity within the group. The 
clique is an extremely loose relationship when more than one house- 
hold is involved. 

Clique alignments serve as barriers to communication and common 
action among villagers, and therefore they are divisive factors. On the 
other hand, they facilitate interaction among members of the same 
clique, thus forming a close tie that is not always coextensive with 
ties of kinship and caste. Insofar as they do that they help bind the 
community together across natural lines of cleavage. Moreover, it 
should be emphasized that cliques operate primarily in the community 
context. Outside the community they have little relevance. None of 
the cliques in Sirkanda has close ties in other villages which divide 


them against other groups in the community in intervillage disputes. 
In relations with other villages, caste is often a divisive force but 
cliques are not. An outside threat brings unity to the village unless 
there are conflicting caste or kin-group loyalties. Also, clique differ- 
ences are largely disregarded in dealings with the urban and official 
worlds. In town and in relations with officials, Sirkanda villagers 
usually support one another regardless of clique differences in the 

An important source of cross-clique communication which leads to 
a weakening of clique loyalties and a lessening of the divisiveness of 
cliques is that of in-village marriage. The importance of in-law rela- 
tionships among village men in cutting across clique lines has already 
been noted. Perhaps even more important is the role of the local 
girl who marries in the village and is at once a wife in one clique 
(and sib) and a daughter or sister in another. Seventeen per cent of all 
marriages (20 per cent of Rajput marriages, the relevant ones in this 
context) occur within the village. Such marriages always occur across 
sib lines, all sibs are connected by such affinal ties, and nearly half 
of all intracaste disputes occur across sib lines. Therefore, in-village 
marriage is an important factor in village cohesion which is absent 
in exogamous villages. 

Councils (Panchayats) 

The ad hoc councils (panchayats) which were summoned in eight 
of the disputes discussed above, to arbitrate in cases concerning sex, 
property, and status, are the locus of formalized traditional community 
government insofar as this exists at all (cf. Newell, 1954). These coun- 
cils act primarily in cases involving traditional rules of behavior. 
Atkinson notes that in Garhwal: 

Panchayats for the settlement of social disputes have long been known 
... in the hills. . . . They are now usually assembled for the settling of 
cases of abduction or seduction of women, or offenses against caste. Witnesses 
are heard on each side, and the award given is usually submitted to. A fine 
is often imposed and a feast given to the assembled brethren at the expense 
of die offending party. (Atkinson, 1886, pp. 265 f.) 

Panchayats are ad hoc rather than permanently constituted bodies. 
Their membership is recruited by invitations sent out by elders of the 
households involved to other interested households, who then send 
representatives. The membership varies with circumstances, but it is 
traditionally confined to the high castes, and women are never council 


members. In intervillage disputes councils are intervillage in com- 
position, generally with representatives from a number of neighboring 
villages. In an intravillage dispute they may include representatives 
of neighboring villages if the matter is considered to have implications 
which extend beyond the village, such as a breach of proper intercaste 
relations. For purely local matters panchayats are made up of local 
men, many or few depending upon interest. A case of woman-stealing 
will usually involve a large meeting; a mutually desired divorce will 
involve a council of only three persons. Since councils consist of high- 
caste people, Rajputs dominate them in Sirkanda. However, except 
in purely internal matters within a high caste, both Brahmins and 
Rajputs are represented in most council meetings. Such councils decide 
those low-caste disputes which reach a council as well as high-caste 
disputes and disputes between high and low castes. Within the council, 
discussion and decision making are quite democratic, with the expected 
deference to age and generation. Wealth, ability to speak and reason 
convincingly, and an even temper are other qualities which lend 
influence to a man in these situations. Clique affiliation becomes im- 
portant in that those aligned with small, unpopular, hostile groups are 
able to wield less influence than those affiliated with large, popular 
groups or those who are known to be objective or little committed to 
any particular group. 

Councils or panchayats serve mainly to coordinate and express 
public opinion. Usually the members of the council are well aware in 
advance of the facts and opinions relevant to any dispute put before 
them. Their decision is often a means of making official that upon 
which there is already general agreement. Most often they attempt 
to come to a mutually agreeable compromise. In more serious cases, 
or those in which the parties are unable or unwilling to compromise, 
the council can impose sanctions under threat of physical punishment, 
social ostracism, or legal action. It may order a man to leave the 
village, to make payment or some other concession to another party, 
to make payment to the council itself, or to refrain from certain types 
of social interaction. Public humiliation or a public beating may also 
be inflicted, usually upon flagrant sexual offenders, primarily wife- 
stealers. In two such disputes among those analyzed here, the offender 
was led through the village wearing a garland of worn-out shoes 
around his neck — an extremely humiliating punishment because of 
the defiling nature of shoes as being made of cow leather. In one case 
the offender was then beaten with shoes. 

There is little confidence in the objectivity of councils. They are 
thought (quite correctly) to be heavily influenced by caste, clique, and 


kin-group loyalties and to be easily swayed by money and favors. As 
a Rajput said, "Whoever treats the council to the best feast wins the 
case." Low-caste people, in particular, distrust councils, because in 
disputes among themselves as well as those between themselves and 
high castes they are often victimized by the councils. Stories of such 
cases are numerous. An example follows: 

A blacksmith girl of a neighboring village was married to an old blacksmith 
man. She was unhappy with this arrangement and soon returned to her 
parents. From there she later eloped with a blacksmith boy. None of the 
parties involved were concerned enough to try to alter the situation. How- 
ever, Rajputs of the village found out about it. They knew (according to 
blacksmiths) that the boy involved had Rs. 600 in his possession. They there- 
fore called a council meeting of Rajputs and went to the girl's father and 
extracted from him, by threats and promises, a complaint in the case. They 
then caught the boy, brought him before the council, and fined him Rs. 600. 
The terrified boy paid this sum willingly, glad to escape without a beating. 
Two hundred rupees of the fine went to the girl's father, and the remainder 
was "swallowed up" by the council. 

Even high-caste people are occasionally victimized in this way. A 
council meeting is always expensive for those whose dispute is to be 
decided, as they are obligated to feed and house the council members 
and must do it well or risk losing the case. 

For these reasons cases are rarely referred to councils by the dis- 
putants. People prefer to carry on private feuds, as witness the fact 
that well over half the cases discussed here were kept on this level 
although they were of quite major importance. Councils usually inter- 
vene upon the insistence of people not parties to the dispute and 
usually when the dispute is such that it affects others not immediately 
involved in it. In extreme cases, and especially in the case of a beating, 
woman-selling, or illegal alienation of land, when it is felt that a law 
has been broken, people take their grievance to the courts — again 
an expensive undertaking where money counts above all else, but 
where the decisions are firm. Informants state that in earlier days the 
main resort in all cases was to gods, who would punish a person's 
rival or bring a favorable conclusion to a dispute in response to worship 
and sacrifice. As education and money have increased, courts and coun- 
cils have been increasingly used, often in addition to appeal to the gods. 

In these hills there are still relatively few civil and criminal cases, 
especially the latter. Litigation in the courts is a less important activity 
than it is in many plains areas, while crimes of theft and violence (other 
than occasional retributional beatings) are very rare. Murder occurs 
rarely — never in the history of Sirkanda, and four or five times in the 


history of Bhatbair. The cases in Bhatbair were apparently carefully 
planned retributional killings. In each case the victim was widely 
known as a scoundrel. Those who had grievances against him caught 
him, tied him up, told him their intent and the reasons for it, and 
then methodically beat him to death. Less severe beatings are also 
sometimes administered in this way. 

Suicide is virtually unknown in this area. In the past a woman 
occasionally immolated herself on her husband's funeral pyre. Only 
one such case is known for Sirkanda. Rape has never occurred in 
Sirkanda; villagers have difficulty imagining it in the Pahari context. 
Woman-selling, illegal sale of liquor, and illegal use of government 
forest land are the most common offenses, and they are not offenses in 
Pahari customary law. 

Leadership and Influence 

Outside the family, in which the eldest active male is the recog- 
nized authority, there is no generally recognized leadership in the 
village beyond that of elder, landowning males. Individuals hold power 
in the village primarily to the extent that they are influential as a result 
of personal qualities in important cliques, or are members (especially 
household heads) of large and wealthy families. Wealth, verbal ability, 
an even temper, modesty, and simple living are virtues which win a 
man respect. But no man is in a position to tell others outside his 
family what to do. Villagers found it hard to conceive of an influential 
leader, and seemed opposed to the notion. They recognized a former 
condition when a "sayana" held rights to collect taxes and as superior 
"landlord" had control over those on his lands. But since all high 
castes now own land, they feel that none should have power over others. 
Their attitude parallels that reported by Baden-Powell (1892, I, p. 153), 
who noted the absence of a headman in "landlord" villages where 
"the proprietary families were too jealous of the equal rights to allow 
of any degree of authority residing in one head." Sirkanda villagers 
do not pay much attention to the official headman (council president), 
nor is the position sought after. They resent the powers officially in- 
vested in this office. They neither want them for themselves, nor will 
they grant them to others. One man summarized: 

Here all [high-caste] men are the same. They do what they want without 
regard for others. They decide on the basis of what is best for them. If 
several people agree, that is good, but it will not lead others to agree unless 
they come independently to the same conclusion. Every man does what is 
best for his household without regard for what others think or want to do. 


This does not mean that power and influence are evenly distributed, 
but it does mean that they are ideally so and that in reality they will 
approximate this ideal state. 

At one time Sirkanda lands were included under those granted by 
the Raja to a Brahmin of Kanda, as discussed previously. This man, 
as "sayana," collected taxes and theoretically had some control over 
those who occupied his lands. The term "sayana" still carries strong 
connotations of status and power among people of the area. The first 
remembered formalized village government in Sirkanda was that of 
the hereditary mukhia or keeper of the peace, recognized by the British. 
He decided petty local disputes and transgressions brought before him 
and referred more important cases to a council of five mukhias in the 
vicinity. It was his responsibility to serve as the administrative link 
between the British government and the villagers. Above him were 
the courts and the district government. 

The village lambarddr or appointed tax collector was also a man 
of influence under the British and was considered to be a village leader 
much like the mukhia. Apparently the lambardar is a more recent 
innovation in this village. 

Today there is only one paid government employee who is normally 
a villager. He is the village chaukldar or watchman. His duties are to 
report births and deaths in the village and to act as a government mes- 
senger when needed. In this area it is a position of little importance 
and no prestige. The man who fills this position for Sirkanda and 
several surrounding villages is a resident of Chamba, a nearby village. 
He is rarely seen in Sirkanda and is dependent upon the Sirkanda 
village president for the information he is required to supply to the 

Formal Village Government Today 

Today formal village government is in the hands of the village 
council as specified in the U. P. Panchayat Raj Act of 1947 and as 
amended thereafter (Dwivedi, 1957). According to this act, a village 
or group of villages is under the jurisdiction of a "village government" 
or assembly (Gdbn Sab ha), consisting of all sane adults (that is, 
people 21 years of age or over) within the area for which it is estab- 
lished. Presiding over this body is a president (pradhan) elected from 
among the membership for a three-year term of office, and a vice- 
president (up-pradhan) elected for a one-year period. This body is 
supposed to hold two annual meetings as well as others upon request 
of the membership. 

From among its members the village assembly elects a "village 


council" (Gdon Panchdyat) to function as an executive committee. 
This, too, is presided over by the village president and vice-president. 
Membership in this body is for the same period as the president's term 
in office (now three years). The powers, duties, and functions of village 
councils are wide, covering all aspects of village welfare, upkeep, and 
control and serving as the local agency for higher governmental author- 
ity as sanctioned by that authority. Moreover, it is empowered to im- 
pose taxes and hold property. It is required to report to the village 
assembly at that body's semiannual meeting. 

In Sirkanda these provisions are unknown to many villagers and are 
imperfectly understood by those who know of them. The village as- 
sembly is thought by some to consist only of men, and in practice this 
is apparently the case. It did not meet in 1957-1958, nor had it met 
since the election of the village council two years earlier. A meeting 
was called by the teacher and village level worker to celebrate Republic 
Day in 1958, but despite advance publicity, not a single individual 
appeared at the appointed hour. This body is significant in village 
government in Sirkanda only in that it is the electoral body for the 
council. The area which is included with Sirkanda in a common 
village government includes four other, smaller villages, from 1% to 
8 trail miles from Sirkanda. They have little in common beyond the 
fact that they are the only villages in a large, relatively unpopulated 
geographic area which the government has chosen, for administrative 
purposes, to consider a unity. Two of the villages are trading centers 
on the Mussoorie-Tehri trail; one (Suakholi) is very active; the other 
is virtually deserted. The other two villages are similar to Sirkanda. 
The local governmental seat for this area is Sirkanda. 

The village council is composed of 16 members at present. Eleven 
of these are from Sirkanda (including one low-caste man in a seat 
reserved for "scheduled castes"); two are from the largest of the other 
villages, a trading center; and one is from each of the other three 
villages. The president and vice-president are Sirkanda men, though 
they need not be. All are Rajputs except for the occupant of the 
reserved scheduled-caste seat, a blacksmith, and a Vaishya merchant 
from the trading center included in this area. 

This system of village government was established in Sirkanda in 
1951 when Sirkanda was joined, for administrative purposes, with 
five other villages in the immediate vicinity, all with common interests 
and problems. At that time a widely respected Sirkanda Rajput was 
elected president (for the then-prescribed five-year term) without op- 
position. At the end of his term, in 1956, the laws had been changed 
so that the term was reduced to three years and the area had been 
redivided administratively in its present unrealistic manner — ap- 


parently partly to reduce the population included under one village 
government. At that time the former president declined to run again 
and gave his approval to another man in the village — the wealthiest 
Sirkanda villager, but a man well known for his modesty, simplicity, 
and hard work, and one unaligned with any antagonistic clique (he 
is in clique H in figure 5; his predecessor was in clique FG). Against 
him ran the most generally disliked villager (head of clique Bi), a man 
who apparently wanted the power and did not realize his own un- 
popularity. Needless to say, the latter lost the election, receiving only 
a few votes from some of his sib-fellows and apparently none from 
other sibs or castes or the other three major cliques in his own sib. 

It was difficult to get enough candidates for the village council; 
there was, therefore, no competition. Some villagers on the village 
council are under the impression that the president of the village 
helps select the candidates for the council and that he must approve 
them before they take office. They evidently acquired this idea be- 
cause, in the elections held thus far, the village president has had to 
use his influence to get people to accept nomination for that office. A 
factor which has discouraged candidates is that each had to pay a fee of 
Rs. 6 before assuming office. This appears to be the fee for membership 
in the Congress party, which many villagers evidently assumed to be 
a prerequisite to election. On this point there is confusion, as some 
villagers claim to have had to pay Rs. 12, Rs. 6 for nomination and 
6 to become Congress members. In any case, there are now 17 villagers 
who joined the Congress party at the time of elections, including those 
who became council members and a few others. They paid Rs. 6 each 
to become members, while the council president reportedly had to 
pay Rs. 12. The villagers joined the Congress party, according to one 
of their number, under the impression that they would thereupon 
become members of a "ruling group" — the power elite of Sirkanda. 
They apparently gained this idea from government officials who helped 
set up the village government and who recruited members. One man re- 
marked ruefully, "If I had spent that money on ghee, I could have 
been big and strong by now; this way it was wasted." 

The defeated candidate for president of the council refused to join 
the Congress party, and so the election was officially a Congress party 
victory — grass-roots support for the party. In fact, no villager under- 
stands the Congress party or even the significance of party affiliation. 
Moreover, to a man, the village is opposed to the present (Congress) 
government of India and to virtually all its policies, as will be made 
clear below. Worst of all, from the party's point of view, the villagers 
are opposed to Independence. 


Village Government in Action 

The village council of Sirkanda met once during 1957-1958, in 
a meeting called by the village level worker, a government employee 
stationed in the village. This meeting was announced well in advance 
and was scheduled to coincide with the annual visit of the government 
tax collector and the even rarer presence of the village accountant, 
with both of whom all landholders had to deal. The village level 
worker was motivated to call the meeting primarily because it was 
time for him to turn in certain reports, but it was announced as a 
meeting to discuss village improvements. No agenda was circulated in 
advance. The meeting was held in the open near the two village shops 
and beside the trail to the village water supply — a pleasant, convenient, 
and conspicuous location, with the shops serving as comfortable re- 
treats for bored participants and observers. Even in these favorable 
circumstances attendance was poor. Most council members did their 
business with the government officials and left. Most of those who at- 
tended the meeting did so out of idle curiosity, drifting in as they felt 
inclined and away again as they tired of joining their colleagues in 
peering through the village accountant's spectacles, reading the tax 
collector's book of blank receipts, stamping one another with the offi- 
cial panchayat seal, gossiping with their neighbors, or making sarcastic 
remarks about the business of the meeting. 

Three of the five outside members attended the meeting, having been 
summoned to Sirkanda for that purpose and having nothing else to 
do while there. Four Sirkanda members attended throughout most of 
the meeting and were a fairly attentive, if passive, group. Four others 
were there sporadically, and four or five nonmembers participated 
occasionally. One of the nonmembers was among the eight who signed 
the minutes — an official act which was the highlight of the meeting. 
Two members, including the vice-president, stopped by for this pur- 
pose only, having heard none of the prior business, and joined eagerly 
in the signing of the minutes (recorded by the village level worker) 
without having read them. In addition an occasional member and 
various nonmembers of all ages and both sexes stopped briefly by on 
their way to or from the water source, joining curious children and 
livestock to hear or see what might occur. Following is an account of 
the meeting as recorded by the author: 

The tax collector and village accountant had been doing their business in 
one of the village shops beginning at about 10 a.m. 

At 2:30 p.m. the village president and the village level worker [VLW] 


arrived with their record books and a tarpaulin and went to a spot near the 
shops to prepare for the meeting. The VLW sat down and wrote out an 
agenda of the meeting, which should have been circulated to members in 
advance. It read as follows: 

All members of the Gram Panchayat, Sirkanda, are informed hereby that 
a meeting of the Panchayat is to take place on Sunday [in reality it was 
Monday], the twenty-third of December, 1957, at Sirkanda School, at 2 p.m. 
All members are requested to be present at that time. The following items 
will be considered by the members: 

1. Consideration of last meeting's proceedings. 

2. Consideration of doing the remaining work to improve the drinking 
water supply. 

3. Consideration of collection of panchayat tax in arrears and of future tax. 

4. Consideration of voluntary labor in the village. 

5. Consideration of opening a night school for adults. 

6. Consideration of sending five people to village training camp. 

7. Consideration of starting a Village Credit Cooperative Society in Sirkanda. 

After the above agenda had been written, the VLW asked the president to 
call the council members and begin the meeting. This was done and seven 
people came and sat for the meeting — four Sirkanda members, three outside 
members, and one nonmember. One additional member, who had been pay- 
ing his tax, signed the agenda to indicate his presence but left at once with 
the excuse that he had to arrange for the tax collector's lunch. The village 
shopkeeper, who was within earshot, participated occasionally in discussions. 

The VLW started the meeting by reading the minutes of the last meeting, 
over one year previous. 

Then the second item on the agenda, concerning the drinking water 
supply, was discussed. The VLW asked the president what he thought should 
be done. The latter told him to request the Block Development Officer to 
send an overseer to Sirkanda to examine the problem and advise them how 
to solve it. 

The third item on the agenda was read by the VLW to the members. The 
tax arrears were, for every household in the village, R. 1 per year from 1949 
through 1955. The VLW read an official circular which said that a Tax Col- 
lection Week should be observed by every panchayat for which the president 
should appoint a committee of five persons and go from house to house with 
them to collect the tax arrears. When the president heard this, he said it 
was impossible. First, no one would go with him as a committee member to 
collect the tax. Second, even if someone would go with him, no one would 
pay the tax. The president said, and others agreed, that the government 
should send an official to collect the tax. 

At this point a young village man on his way for water stopped by to 
hear what the discussion was about. When the president saw him, he told the 
VLW that he would ask this man to pay the tax. Everyone thought that the 
man would refuse to pay and thus they would be proved correct. But, to 


everyone's surprise, the man took out a ten-rupee note, threw it before the 
president, and said, "Now what do you think of me!" Everyone laughed. A 
receipt for his Rs. 6 and the change were returned to him, and he went on 
his way. This incident embarrassed the members, and the VLW immediately 
started putting down the names of the committee members — all the men 
present except two of the outside members. 

The fourth item, consideration of voluntary labor in die village, was taken 
up. The VLW suggested that the villagers should repair the trail from 
Sirkanda to the valley (five miles) and should work for one week, beginning 
the first of January. Members suggested repairing local trails, but had diffi- 
culty deciding which to repair. Objection to repairing the trail to the valley 
was based on the fact that it is used by people of other villages who would 
thus be benefiting from the labor of Sirkanda without contributing to it. 
Members also complained that once before they had done voluntary labor 
on trails with the understanding that they would be paid for it and, although 
they worked hard, no payment was forthcoming. The VLW pointed out that 
this was probably a trick some official played on them to get them to work 
and, in any event, they should be satisfied with the achievement and not 
demand money. The members still objected. They claimed that the residents 
of a neighboring village got money for working on their own village trail 
once. Finally they agreed to work on two short trails used only by Sirkanda 
villagers (and rarely by them) for one week, starting in three days. 

The fifth item, opening of a night school, was then read by the VLW. 
Everyone said that it was useless to have a night school, since no one would 
attend it. It had been tried by a teacher here once and failed. The matter 
was dropped. 

The VLW then read the sixth item. It concerned sending five villagers to 
a training session on better methods of farming to be held in Sirkanda at 
some future date. This was met with considerable incredulity and banter. 
When one member, who had retired to a nearby shop for tea, was hailed 
and told that he would be sent to school to learn to farm, he replied that 
he had done that every day of his life. It was suggested that the blacksmith 
be sent. He objected that he had never held a plow in his life and owned 
not a foot of land. Finally five people, including one not present, were put 
down for this program. 

Next the VLW turned to a discussion of work to be done according to the 
government's second five-year plan for the village. According to that plan, 
he said, the village was supposed to construct a community center during the 
year. He described the advantages and uses of such a building: meetings 
could be held indoors; it could be used for housing visitors; it could be used 
at weddings; the village would be entitled to a free public radio to be placed 
in it. At this point a member quipped that the blacksmith (one of the most 
avid listeners to the anthropologist's radio) would then not need to buy a 
radio. This brought laughter. The VLW pointed out that the government 
would give the village Rs. 800 for the community center, an amount consti- 
tuting 40 per cent of the total cost of such a building, according to estimates 


submitted by this panchayat a few years before. Members requested the VLW 
to get them Rs. 1000 and they would construct the building with that money 
alone and spend nothing of their own. The VLW insisted that it would not 
be difficult to raise the money in the village. The members were dubious. 
One man commented, "If people were like that [willing to donate labor 
and money], would the water supply now be in bad condition, and would 
the village trails be so rough?" Someone asked how much the anthropologist 
would contribute. I replied, "As much voluntary labor as anyone else gives," 
a response which evoked considerable merriment. Finally the president said 
he would give Rs. 50. Another man said he would contribute only if the 
center were to be constructed in the central settlement area where it could 
be useful at times of marriages. An argument developed as to the best location, 
the local shopkeeper coming out and arguing that it should be outside the 
main village in view of the fact that strangers might use it sometimes. [It 
later developed that he had a vested interest in this suggestion. He hoped 
to get the panchayat to buy the other shop as a community center, thus 
eliminating his business competition.] Nothing could be agreed upon, and 
the matter was postponed to a future meeting. 

Next a letter from the schoolteacher was read, stating that according to 
Education Department rules all children between the ages of 6 and 12 
should be in school. It urged all villagers to comply with this rule. The 
president turned to one member and said, "Why isn't your son in school?" 
The reply was, "Those rules are meant for children that don't have anything 
else to do and spend their time idly at home; my boy herds cattle." One 
villager supported the teacher's letter, saying, "They didn't have such facili- 
ties in this village when we were young, so here we are signing these registers 
with our thumbprints. We should send the children to school so that they 
will be able to do better than we do." 

The next matter was an announcement by the VLW that the council 
owed Rs. 12.50 to the Block Development Office. The amount was made up of 
Rs. 10 as contribution for an Extension Exhibition to be held in a town in 
the valley, Rs. 2 for some sort of training school held there, and half a rupee 
for a booklet on village councils. The president said it would be paid from 
funds on hand, though no one knew anything about these matters. 

Next the economic cooperative supervisor, who had joined the meeting, 
asked the VLW to take up the seventh item on the agenda: formation of a 
credit cooperative society in Sirkanda. This the VLW did, explaining the 
advantages of such a society and of cooperatives in general. He told his 
listeners that a society had already been registered for Sirkanda on the basis 
of work done by a former government employee who had visited this area 
and had secured their approval of such a plan. He urged them to buy shares. 
He read the names of those who had been recorded by the previous officer 
as being interested. No one wanted to buy. Finally two shares each were 
recorded in the names of the president and another man, and one share each 
in the names of the shopkeeper and the blacksmith, over the latter's loud 
protests of insolvency. No payments were made on these shares. A villager 


who was not present was listed as president of the cooperative, and one of 
those present was designated its treasurer. None of the group showed any 
interest at all in this item. 

The VLW then passed the register around for signatures, the last official 
act of the meeting. Two additional members had come for this event, and 
two of the original seven had left, and so a total of seven members and one 
nonmember signed. The meeting was over at 5 p.m. 

As the members left, the VLW made a plea for the purchase of National 
Savings Certificates as part of the government's small savings program. By 
the time he finished he was talking to the anthropologist and his interpreter 
only, all others having departed. 

Not one of the suggestions or decisions for positive action coming 
out of this meeting was ever acted upon. The lack of success of this 
meeting, as of village self-government and government programs in 
general in this area, lies in part in the fact that it did not contain 
much of real interest to villagers. Of the six items proposed for action, 
only item 2, having to do with the water supply, was of any real 
interest to members. Of four additional subjects discussed, only one, 
that concerning the community center, was of interest to villagers. 
Even more important is the uniformly negative attitude of villagers 
toward the government and everything associated with it, including 
the village level worker who called the meeting, the council itself, 
and every item on the agenda. This attitude and related matters are 
discussed in the following chapter. 

In summary, the meeting was an utter failure at accomplishing its 
ostensible purpose — that of contributing to village uplift and improve- 
ment in conformance with the goals of the government's second five- 
year plan. In accomplishing immediate ends, which were evidently 
also the ultimate ends of those who called it, it was an eminent success. 
Every item of business was completed with some kind of action re- 
corded or with appropriately filled-in lists of names, volunteers, or 
pledges of funds. It was a paper success and from the point of view of 
the village level worker and council president, that meant a real 
success. From the point of view of the villagers, it was a good meeting 
too because it satisfied the officials with a minimum of interference in 
village affairs. Only the schoolteacher considered it a farce and a 
failure, accurately predicting that nothing would come of any of the 
discussions held or decisions made. Not one of the decisions to act on 
matters raised at the council meeting was followed through as planned. 
Discussion of this phase appears on pp. 319-320. Many villagers stayed 
away from the meeting, convinced that it would be a meaningless waste 
of time, thus helping fulfill their own prophecy. The meeting was a 


typical example of reactions to government-sponsored local self-govern- 
ment and other programs in this area. In fact, there are villages in 
Bhatbair which are considerably more hostile to such programs than 
is Sirkanda — villages in which the meeting would, in all probability, 
have been boycotted entirely. 

Some indication of the significance of the ineffectiveness of village 
self-government such as that reported here and elsewhere can be de- 
rived from an examination of the attitude of the government of India 
toward village government: 

The Planning Commission clearly acknowledges that rural progress de- 
pends entirely on the existence of an active village organization which can 
bring all the people, including those at the bottom of the social and eco- 
nomic ladder, into common programs and activities, using assistance from 
the Government, and their own contributions in labor, cash and kind. 

Further, India feels keenly that the nation's strength as a democracy de- 
pends to a most important degree on building, in hundreds of thousands of 
villages, effective local governments through which the people can, as respon- 
sible citizens, plan and participate in their own and the nation's progress. 
(Planning Commission, 1958, p. 123) 

Judicial Council 

Above the village government is a body locally known as "judicial 
council" (adalat panchayat, now officially known as Nyaya Panchayat). 
This has jurisdiction over a number of villages. In this area one 
judicial council has jurisdiction over most of Bhatbair and a few 
neighboring villages. The functions of this council are unknown to 
most villagers. Many think that when its name is used the speaker is 
referring to the former constituency of the village council. The judicial 
council is made up of a total of five individuals chosen from among 
five (or fewer) individuals elected by each village assembly within its 
jurisdiction. Those elected may not also be members of a village coun- 
cil. The composition of the judicial council varies on a rotating basis 
with each meeting. This council is presided over by a headman from 
among its membership. One Sirkanda man has been headman of this 
council, and two Sirkanda men are currently members. This council 
has the benefit of a petty government official, the "panchayat secretary," 
to advise it, keep records, and so on. Five members are supposed to 
meet weekly at its headquarters, a good-sized village on the edge of 
the valley. In reality, it meets relatively infrequently because it has 
not enough business to warrant such frequent meetings. It has wide 
judicial powers in deciding disputes and breaches of law which would 


otherwise have to go into the law courts, or which have been referred 
down to it by courts of law. It is legally defined as a "court" and its 
members are "judges." It can fine those who appear before it, or refer 
their cases to higher courts. It is, therefore, a potentially powerful 
body. In practice it is avoided when possible by those with grievances 
because of their fear of the nonobjectivity of its decisions. One villager 

It has never solved a single case since it began. The members are mostly 
dishonest and unscrupulous, and any who aren't are in an ineffectual minor- 
ity. They listen to the man who feeds them well or does them favors. They 
are not partial to caste so much as to favors. In this respect they are just like 
all other panchayats. Panchayats would be all right if they were honestly 
and impartially run, but they never are. 


Mp\\\\\ The Pahari village is always incomplete in the goods, services, and 

personnel necessary to its functioning. These are accessible, to a great 
extent, within a larger surrounding area which includes several vil- 
lages and is characterized by cultural unity, frequent social interaction, 
and economic and ritual interdependence. We have seen in previous 
chapters that for Sirkanda this unit comprises the surrounding hill area 
(Bhatbair and a corresponding area to the east) within a four-air-mile 
or eight-trail-mile radius, a half-day's journey (see map 2). This area 
contains some 60 villages and settlements and around 5,000 people. 
It is the area within which all the castes and occupational specialists 
necessary to the economy are found. It is, therefore, the area over 
which artisans move to perform their duties and collect their payments. 
In it are also merchants who serve as important sources of goods from 
the outside and as markets for local goods. All Sirkanda lands are 
found in this area. Within the area all the necessary religious practi- 
tioners are to be found — Brahmins, ceremonial cooks, shamans, pujaris, 
exorcists, rope-sliders. It is the area within which most (83 per cent) 
Sirkanda marriages take place, and therefore within which consan- 
guineal and affinal kin ties are concentrated. As a result it is the 
largest area within which visiting frequently occurs. It is the maximal 
area over which most women have traveled in their lives. Within this 
area castes which may number only one or a few families in a village 


find caste-fellows for ritual participation and moral support. In this 
area are found not only the formal and informal councils for local 
self-government and the judicial councils, but the local representatives 
of the state and national governments — the teachers, village level 
workers, economic cooperative supervisors, and forestry officers. Into 
this area come the land records officers, tax collectors, police, and others 
with whom villagers must deal. In the past local officials such as the 
mukhia, lambardar, and sayana had their jurisdiction within this area. 

In short, while the village is a real, functional unit, the immediate 
culture area — that which can be reached in half a day — is the more 
nearly self-sufficient unit. Every village within this area relies upon 
other villages for many of the necessary elements of village life. It is 
this area within which we find most of the "extensions" of the village 
as discussed by Opler (1956). Here is found the "rural cosmopolitan- 
ism" among villages mentioned by Lewis (1958, p. 320). In relation to 
the outside there is, among the villages in this area, a corresponding 
"rural isolationism." 

However, even this immediate cultural area is not isolated nor in- 
dependent. It is in constant contact with similar neighboring areas of 
the hills. In fact, it is an area primarily from the point of view of 
those villages toward its center. Villages on the peripheries are seen 
by their residents as the centers of other, overlapping areas, just as 
they are the centers of other, overlapping marriage networks unless 
important cultural boundaries hem them in. Moreover, such areas, 
including the one surrounding Sirkanda, are in constant contact with 
the valley and especially with urban centers such as Dehra Dun and 
the hill town of Mussoorie. Many goods and services must come to 
these hill areas directly or indirectly from outside. Villagers often go 
outside to obtain goods and services rather than obtaining them 
through intermediaries. Sometimes, as in the licensing of firearms, they 
must go outside. Authority over the people of the area rests ultimately 
with outside law and outside government located in Dehra Dun and 
Mussoorie. Higher education, certain religious activities, and some 
kinds of diversion are available only outside the area. People who 
live within the area feel the effects of the outside world in the presence 
of outsiders in their villages, in communication with outsiders, and 
in their own trips to the outside. 

Levels of Identification 

In discussing outside contacts it is necessary to define the "out- 
side," for several levels of contact and identification are pertinent. Sub- 



groups within the community — the family, sib, clan, caste, and village 
— have already been discussed at some length, and these are funda- 
mental units of individual identification and orientation. In this chap- 
ter the discussion will be in broader terms. Bhatbair (including the 
adjoining area in Tehri Garhwal) will be considered to be the "inside" 
as distinguished from the "outside" world. It is the unit within which 

Fig. 6. Levels of identification and interaction, showing relative inclusiveness 
of individual's membership-identification groups. Significant groups are en- 
closed within numbered areas. Broken lines indicate less clearly delineated 





7. Sib 


Nuclear family 

Extended family (household) 
Lineage (or minimal lineage) 
Kindred (affinal kin follow a 
pattern similar to that of kin- 
dred but not coextensive with 

6. Maximal lineage (where ap- 

Clan is indicated by diagonal hatchures. Wives (and other local affiliates) of 
ego's sib are indicated by cross hatchures within the clan but outside the sib. 

Note that cliques (10) do not divide extended families (3) nor do they extend 
out of the village (11), but they do divide lineage (4), kindred (5), maximal 
lineage (6), sib (7), and caste (8 and 9). Caste as a marriage network (8) includes 
all kin (1-7), and excludes some clique, village, and Bhatbair people (10-12). 




Caste as a marriage network 

Caste as a named group 



Bhatbair and vicinity 


Pahari area 



Sirkanda residents feel entirely at home. Beyond it they are, to vary- 
ing degrees, "outside" — in alien territory, among people different from 

Nearest to the residents of Bhatbair, in terms of cultural distance, 
are the residents of adjacent Pahari areas to the east — people who speak 
essentially the same dialect, dress in much the same way, share many 
of the same beliefs and values. These are areas from which marriage 
partners are occasionally obtained, in which distant relatives live, to 
which local people are sometimes invited for ritual observances and 
fairs. These are the areas to which Sirkanda people trace their own 
ancestry. Rivalry and animosities occasionally crop up, as when a 
council meeting was held to decide a dispute arising out of insults 
exchanged between two men of the same caste, one from Bhatbair and 
one from an area to the east. Each area supported its man, and the 
council had wide representation from villages in each area. More 
commonly, good-natured insults and banter are exchanged between the 
residents of these areas. Bhatbair people used to call their neighbors in 
Tehri Garhwal "slaves" because they were under the Raja's absolute 
power. Now the shoe is on the other foot and the taunting goes the 
other way, as the former subjects of the Raja allegedly have more 
forest and land at their disposal. 

More significant differences and loyalties are those associated with 
more prominent cultural boundaries. The residents of Jaunpur, a hill 
area north of Bhatbair (and not identical in extent to the area which 
the government designates by this term), dress somewhat differently, 
build houses in a slightly different style, and in general bear cultural 
differences noticeable to both groups. Mutual suspicion becomes 
prominent at this level. Jaunpur women are thought to be given to 
witchcraft by people in Bhatbair, and, although wives are occasionally 
obtained or given across this boundary, it is done with some trepidation. 

Where linguistic and social traits are significantly different and dis- 
tances are too great to permit accurate appraisal of the residents of 
two areas, feelings are even stronger. The polyandrous people of 
Jaunsar-Bawar, though recognized as fellow Paharis, are considered 
immoral, treacherous, and given to evil magic and witchcraft. Wives 
are not exchanged with them, travel to the area is avoided, and most 
information about them is in the nature of inaccurate gossip. Residents 
of a Pahari area some distance to the southeast are thought of in a 
somewhat similar light. At this level dialectal differences become im- 
portant. Jokes are frequently told which ridicule the alien dialect. 
One probably apocryphal story concerns a man of Bhatbair who 
allegedly went to a village to the southeast to see about making mar- 
riage arrangements for his nephew: 


In (he alien village he overheard the brother of the prospective bride 
make a statement to his mother which, in the dialect of that region, meant 
"The buffalo is ready to be milked," but to the visitor it sounded like, "I 
am ready to have sexual intercourse." The mother replied, "Then untie the 
calf," which in the visitor's dialect meant, "Then untie your loincloth." 
Shocked and frightened to hear a man speak in this unseemly fashion to his 
mother and to receive such a reply from her, the visitor ran out of the 
village, headed for home. The dismayed family shouted after him, "Stay, 
for tomorrow we will kill a goat to feast on," which only served to accelerate 
his departure, as in his dialect it meant, "Stay, for tomorrow we will engage 
in sodomy." 

Despite differences in beliefs and attitudes with distance, there is 
recognition of cultural similarities among Paharis. A Pahari is a more 
congenial stranger than is a non-Pahari; he is more easily understood 
and can be more readily placed in terms of the relatively closed social 
system indigenous to this area. Common language, culture, and history 
result in a kind of incipient Pahari group consciousness. The fact that 
Paharis are considered and treated as a group by non-Paharis may also 
be a factor. So far this consciousness is largely in negative terms at 
the broader levels; the differences between Paharis and non-Paharis 
are more important than the similarities and common interests among 
Paharis. However, there is some agitation for a separate hill state in 
Pahari regions to the west. Among educated Paharis of Garhwal and 
Tehri Garhwal there is considerable pride of origin, with local societies 
and even publications in some urban areas stressing the heritage of 

Paharis distinguish themselves terminologically from plains and valley 
people who are called desi (native). Foreigners are even farther re- 
moved and are called pardesl (foreign). Representatives of either group 
are suspect, threatening, and somewhat baffling to Paharis. In an iso- 
lated area which stresses kin, caste, and community affiliation they are 
simply outside the system. To fit them into it is usually an impossible 
task; hence the traditional unfriendliness with which Paharis greet 
strangers. The usual reaction to them is avoidance. Inevitable contacts 
with them are kept as short and impersonal as possible. Plains people 
are, of course, better known and better understood than foreigners, 
but in their presence Paharis feel ill at ease. The plains person is 
considered to be sophisticated and well-off, to have a superiority com- 
plex, and to be arrogant, untrustworthy, avaricious, and immoral. 
These attitudes are not born of recent contacts. In 1828 Traill (1828, 
pp. 217 f.) noted that "all mountaineers unite in an excessive distrust 
of the natives of the low country, whom they regard as a race of 


swindlers and extortioners. . . ." One present-day Pahari who had 
been to Delhi commented, "I don't like Delhi or any of those places. 
There are too many people there and they make fun of us. I like 
Dehra Dun where you can always see lots of Paharis around." Sirkanda 
people feel that they can size up a Pahari, but a plains person or a 
foreigner is an unknown quantity: "You can't tell how much water 
they're standing in." 

Concerning Europeans there are conflicting stereotypes. One set of 
stereotypes, based upon observation and stories of British soldiers, views 
them as immoral scoundrels. Another, based upon the reputation of 
the British civil servants, views them as stern, cold, and distant but 
honest and fair. A third, based upon closer observation of individuals 
(customers for milk, occasional hunters and hikers), views them as well- 
meaning but odd. One villager commented, 

Englishmen [that is, "white people"] are very strange. They always cooper- 
ate with one another and never dispute among themselves, but their anger 
is easily aroused. Their customs are strange. If one of them comes to a village 
he does not enter it and ask for a place to stay, but pitches his tent alone, 
outside the village. They do not care what their food tastes like; they use 
no spices but just put a pinch of salt on it and gobble it up. They eat mostly 
from cans. They never take off their shoes — even if one were going to climb 
a tree he would do it with his shoes on. They also have immoral sexual 

It is usually assumed that foreigners (other than hunters) who come 
to the mountains are missionaries, government officials, or spies. All of 
these pose a threat. One foreigner came through the village several 
years ago riding a horse and carrying a pistol. He stopped for tea and 
then passed on. He is assumed to this day to have been a spy. Aside 
from occasional military personnel, he is said to have been the only 
foreigner to come to Sirkanda. 

The Non-Pahari World 

The non-Pahari world impinges upon Sirkanda and the surround- 
ing villages in many ways. Although the degree to which it does so 
has apparently increased since Independence, such contacts are not 
new. From earliest times traders, ascetics, pilgrims, and immigrants 
have traveled from the plains to this area. Tibetans or Bhotiyas have 
come from the high country to the north to pasture their sheep in the 
winter. There has been outside authority — the Garhwal Raja, the 
Nepalese, the British, the "Congress government." This authority has 


been represented to villagers largely by its soldiers, police, and tax 

The British found the hills especially useful as a place for summer 
rest areas, military cantonments, encampments, and maneuvers. They 
established the famous "hill stations," such as Simla, Mussoorie, Naini 
Tal, Darjeeling, and military cantonments, such as Chakrata and 
Ranikhet. The "Tommy" (British soldier) gained the same reputation 
for arrogance and immorality that he gained over most of India and 
that soldiers have had from time immemorial among the civilian 
populations near which they have lived. 

Before the beginning of World War I a small summer rest camp 
was set up by the army a little over a mile from Sirkanda. There small 
contingents of Nepalese troops and their British officers came during 
the hot season. Although they were rigidly segregated from all vil- 
lagers except the family which sold them milk, and had no conflicts 
with the villagers, their presence was felt. The army bought village 
land, was a customer for village milk, and its presence restricted the 
movement of villagers, especially women, in the vicinity of the camp. 

World War I found many Garhwalis, including a few from Bhatbair 
and one from Sirkanda, enlisting in the Garhwal Rifles to fight for 
the British. Sirkanda people still sing the song and proudly recount 
the tale of a Garhwali hero who took command of his unit when all 
its officers had been killed and led it to victory in a crucial battle. 
His widow resides in her husband's village on a comfortable pension 
from the government, and this too is a point of pride among Paharis 
of the region. 

In the 1920's several Sirkanda boys attended school in nearby vil- 
lages of the valley, two or three reaching the eighth class. They were 
the first from this area to be educated. When the army abandoned the 
summer encampment near Sirkanda in the early 1930's, the resulting 
intravillage court case over ownership of the land lasted nine years. 
It necessitated extended trips by several villagers to courts as far 
away as Allahabad. During this period a merchant from the valley 
was called in to run a competing shop in the village, and he has re- 
mained to the present. 

Throughout these times adult male villagers occasionally went on 
pilgrimages to the shrines of the high Himalayas, to Hardwar or to 
distant Gaya in Bihar. Boys and young men, then as now, occasionally 
left home to seek adventure in the plains, usually returning after a 
few months. 

World War II brought further army recruitment, with two Sirkanda 
men among half a dozen Bhatbair volunteers. The Sirkanda volunteers 


saw much of northern India in their service but did not go outside 

Independence affected Sirkanda relatively slightly. The partition of 
India which accompanied it brought bands of fleeing Muslims and 
pursuing Hindus through these hills, but for the most part Sirkanda 
was not involved. Bhatbair residents refused sanctuary to Muslims of 
the valley out of fear of the marauding Sikhs who were pursuing them. 
However, they withheld information from the Sikhs about Muslim 
movements and helped the Bhatbair Muslim family to remain un- 
molested. In nearby Pahari areas fleeing Muslims were looted and 
occasionally killed as they passed. One Sirkanda family became wealthy 
overnight from money apparently looted from a Muslim chan left 
in their care. 

After Independence the influence of the government of India was 
felt increasingly. Laws regarding use of forest lands were altered and, 
worse yet, enforced. A school was built in Sirkanda and various govern- 
ment programs had their effects locally, as will be discussed below. 
Government representatives in the village have become an increasingly 
familiar sight since Independence. A schoolteacher lives in the village 
most of the year; two other officers are there much of the time. Govern- 
ment survey parties on training exercises have often camped near the 
village during the hot season, providing a source of outside companion- 
ship for some of the younger men. The postal service now reaches 
Sirkanda with a postman coming through about once every two months, 
while letters can be mailed whenever a villager or passer-by goes to 
the valley. 

Throughout this time outside markets have increased in importance. 
Milk has long been a cash product to be sold in Dehra Dun, Mussoorie, 
and the smaller, intermediate markets such as Nagal, Rajpur, Sahas 
Dhara, and Suakholi. Mussoorie has been a market for over 100 years, 
Dehra Dun for longer than that. Rajpur was a major market for 80 
years until a motor road was built to Mussoorie in 1930 and Rajpur 
ceased to be an important way station en route to Mussoorie. As better 
trails have been built in the Bhatbair region and beyond (beginning 
with the pack trail past Sirkanda built by the Tehri Garhwal Raja 
in 1914), and as horses and mules have been acquired, agricultural 
products have been sold with increasing frequency. Potatoes have be- 
come an important cash crop. At the same time, more goods from the 
outside have come into the village — cloth and clothing, utensils and 
tools, corrugated iron roofing, tea, cigarettes, and so on. Trips to the 
valley and Mussoorie for trade have become commonplace. Dehra Dun 
has been increasingly frequented by villagers on official business re- 


lating to the government. Dehra Dun and Mussoorie have the added 
attraction of a full range of entertainment facilities. 
An 85-year-old man commented: 

In the old days a man wore a loincloth and had a blanket for a wrap. 
Now everyone has to have a wardrobe of three coats, three shirts, three 
pajamas, and shoes and many other things. We used to go to town once a 
year, in a group, to buy staples, and we came home as soon as we were 
through. Now someone goes almost every week. They go alone and don't 
even tell others they're going. Sometimes they stay for a day or two and 
waste money on the cinema or prostitutes. In my day we didn't have time, 
money, nor inclination for such things. 

Occasionally a Vedic doctor is consulted in town, and once a valu- 
able horse was taken to the government veterinary. The number of 
boys going to school in town has increased. Two young Sirkanda men 
have taken jobs near Delhi, but their families remain in the village. 
Two men from a Pahari village nearer Dehra Dun have taken jobs 
in Dehra Dun, but they continue to live in their village. In all this 
time no one from Bhatbair has moved permanently into Dehra Dun 
or Mussoorie. When villagers go to Dehra Dun they have to stay over- 
night with the wholesalers to whom they sell their products, or in a 
temple compound which is open to all. In Mussoorie they usually 
return to chans before nightfall. There are no relatives or fellow 
villagers in either place to afford them a place to stay. 

Limestone quarrying operations have penetrated to the foot of the 
hills, so that trucks and workers operate within five miles of Sirkanda 
and are pushing farther constantly. Tourists and worshipers come in- 
creasingly to the temple and springs at Sahas Dhara five miles away 
now that a dirt road enables cars to reach it. Travel to Dehra Dun is 
facilitated by regular and inexpensive bus service from Rajpur to 
Dehra Dun, cutting the 16-mile walk from Sirkanda to about 9 miles. 
The Mussoorie-Tehri trail is being prepared for bus service so that 
before many years have passed the walk to Mussoorie will be cut from 
16 to 8 miles. 

Therefore, outside contacts have been increasing. In view of the 
changes that have come about over a long period, it is perhaps sur- 
prising that Sirkanda has not been influenced more than it has by 
these contacts. A Rajput householder with an eighth-grade education 

The reason most people here are so backward is that they are uneducated 
and they have never been outside and gotten new ideas. You have to go 
outside to learn to improve yourself. The trouble with this village is that 


people aren't educated — look how few children attend school. The village is 
accessible enough to town that it should have improved but it hasn't, while 
some other Pahari areas have improved greatly. Even some government 
officers are Paharis, but none come from around here. Here people don't 
know enough to be able to improve. 

Not all villagers share this attitude toward the outside. Some see it 
as a contaminating influence. One man remarked: 

Contact with towns has been bad for Pahari villages. Farther up in the 
hills the people are better off. There they still wear simple clothes and prac- 
tice the old customs more than we do. They are freer. Their women are not 
ashamed to dance and sing and drink with the men. They have more village 
celebrations. They are content with what they have, simple though it is, and 
many of them are wealthy because they have nothing to waste their money 
on. We are better off in this respect than are people who live near the cities, 
but the people farther up in the hills are better off than we are. 

One reason for the relative isolation of Sirkanda is that it has 
nothing to attract outsiders. It is high on a ridge and is not en route 
to any place of interest to plains people. Unless limestone is found in 
its immediate vicinity, it is likely to be bypassed for a long time. 

Outside influences have been felt in Sirkanda primarily as a result 
of direct, personal contact. Villagers who have taken extended trips 
outside have returned to tell their stories. Some villagers make frequent 
trips to market, where they learn the current news. The alien merchant 
and government employees have added their experience. Itinerant 
merchants and religious practitioners have contributed, too. From such 
contacts villagers have acquired some idea of what goes on in the out- 
side world. They are familiar with Gandhi, Nehru, and the Congress 
party. They know of India's difficulties with Pakistan and sympathize 
with India (or, more accurately, they are anti-Muslim). They know 
something of the struggle between Russia and the United States. Cer- 
tain domestic policies — land reform, Harijan uplift — are vaguely 
known. New developments — the launching of Sputnik, the outlawing 
of prostitution in Dehra Dun — cause comment and speculation. Aware- 
ness of and interest in foreign countries and other parts of India are 
very limited. Discussion with the anthropologist about America arose 
relatively infrequently. Villagers usually began with an inquiry as to 
how long it would take to walk there and proceeded through discus- 
sions of the price of consumer goods, productivity of land and animals, 
social customs, and finally sex habits. 

Written materials and mass media have been of little importance. 
Mail, which is received rarely, consists primarily of instructions to the 


council or of personal and official mail for the teacher and other out- 
siders in the village. Villagers who go outside communicate rarely if 
at all with their relatives in Sirkanda. There are no periodicals in the 
village and no books other than the school materials of the teacher and 
a few largely unread religious works. The only current documents 
are posters given to the village level worker or the village president, 
urging public health and personal hygiene and explaining in graphic 
detail the intricacies of the change to the decimal system of coinage. 
There has been no functional radio in Bhatbair, although one was 
once brought to a Sirkanda chan, where it failed to operate. One 
brought by the anthropologist attracted an interested audience. Film 
music and news programs were the favorite radio fare, in that order. 
Newspapers and magazines brought to the village aroused little in- 
terest aside from their illustrations. The low level of literacy even 
among those who claim to know how to read is probably largely re- 
sponsible for this reception. 

Contacts between villagers and representatives of urban culture and 
the "new India" will probably continue to take place primarily 
through villagers' trips outside and through government representa- 
tives who are attempting to initiate various programs in this and 
neighboring hill villages. Governmental programs of planned change 
and villagers' responses to them will be discussed below. 

Urban Contacts 

Urban centers are important to Sirkanda villagers as they are to 
all peasants. In fact, Redfield (1957, p. 31) defines peasantry with 
reference to the presence of cities, stating that "there were no peasants 
before the first cities." 

In Sirkanda as in other peasant communities, "the account the 
peasant takes of the city or town is economic, political, and moral" 
(ibid.). That is, he carries on some trade in the city, he pays his taxes 
to people from the city, he is subject to control by institutions ema- 
nating from the city, he knows something of city ways, and in fact 
adopts some values of urban dwellers as his own. 

The sources and amounts of urban influence in Sirkanda are varied. 
One of the most important kinds of contact is that of direct, personal 
experience. This varies from person to person. Women have much less 
urban experience than do men. While there are men who have never 
been to Dehra Dun, others go every few weeks. Of 116 men in Sirkanda, 
3 have never seen Dehra Dun, 62 have seen nothing beyond Dehra 
Dun and Mussoorie, 20 have been as far as Hardwar or an equivalent 


place within 40 miles and bordering the hills (such as Rishikesh and 
Kalsi), 6 have been into the plains but only as far as one of the smaller 
towns or cities within 60 miles of Dehra Dun (Saharanpur, Muzaf- 
farnagar, Ambala), 15 have been as far as Delhi (150 miles), 8 have 
been on pilgrimage to Gaya (750 miles), 1 has been to Calcutta, and 1 
has been over most of North India in the army. 

Outside employment, discussed in chapter 2, has given a number of 
villagers firsthand experience with city life for months at a time, but 
no one has moved his family outside and only one man has taken a 
lasting job outside (another who recently joined him may be the second 
to do so). The general opinion of city life is that it is easy, entertaining, 
sinful, and expensive. For well-to-do plains people it is fine, but it is 
not suitable for poor Paharis. One Rajput, apparently referring to 
emigration, commented: "Anyone who leaves the village is a fool be- 
cause here he is a king but there he is a slave." Another, referring to 
short-term visits, objected to this view, saying, "A person can learn 
and improve himself only by going away and having other experiences. 
In the village he can learn nothing." 

The one Sirkanda man who had gone out and made a success of 
life on the outside was pointed to with pride by some villagers, al- 
though he had apparently not been well thought of at the time of his 
departure and he left as the result of a family dispute. Disputes were 
involved in many cases of temporary emigration from the village. 
Niehoff (1959, p. 501) comments that among factory workers of Kan- 
pur, ". . . the push from the village was stronger than the pull from 
the city and the factory." The rise of the Sirkanda emigrant was 
graphically described by a villager: 

Maru used to live here. He was ignorant and dirty. He wore the worst 
clothes in the village. He always had manure all over his hair and clothes 
from carrying it to the fields, and he never had taken a bath. Even his wife 
didn't care for him, and she took up with his cousin. Because of that he ran 
off to Delhi, and no one heard from him and no one cared. Then he came 
back on a visit. He was clean, well-dressed, and handsome. He talked just 
like a sahib. He had a job at Rs. 150 per month in a spinning mill. He had 
had one hand mangled in a machine and got Rs. 800 for that. He brought 
a radio and good liquor with him. The radio did not work, but everyone 
was impressed. He still works there and is doing very well. It was all in his 
fate. It would never work for others unless that was in their fate, too. A boy 
from here has joined him recently. He may fail, but perhaps it is in his fate 
to succeed, too. We shall see. 

There was considerable interest on the part of some Rajputs in Sir- 
kanda in getting a boy into "service," that is, into a white-collar job. 


So far there had been no success. Two Rajput boys had recently been 
sent through the eighth grade with this end in view, but they had 
failed. The father of one complained: 

I wish one of the boys from here would get a job in service. We sent my 
eldest son and his cousin out to school so that they could succeed. We gave 
them everything they needed so that they could study and do well. When 
they wanted bicycles, we bought them. We got them good clothes. But all 
they did was waste their time going to the cinema and the like. They did 
not apply themselves, so they both failed the examinations at the end of the 
eighth grade. Now they are useless. There is plenty to be done here in the 
village and a good income can be made from it, but they do not want to do 
village work any more. They have been spoiled. My next eldest son, whom 
I did not educate, is content to work in the village, but not these educated 
boys. They are too big for that. They carry a pen and pencil in their pockets 
when they go to herd goats. They go off to town when they get a chance 
and waste their time and money. My boy says he wants a job there, but what 
can he do? Nothing. 

I know that young men have new ideas now and I try not to stand in my 
boy's way. In my youth we wore only a loincloth. We ran around bare- 
footed. Now every young man wants an outfit of 22 clothes and goes to 
fetch water in boots costing Rs. 18. One has to move with the times. I cater 
to my boy's wants within reason. Last winter I bought wool for coats for our 
family. That for myself cost Rs. 8 per yard, that for my father cost Rs. 12 
per yard, that for my son cost Rs. 16 per yard. But he did not even appre- 
ciate that. This fall the boy sold his coat to the schoolteacher for Rs. 10 so 
he could use the money for something else. He claimed the coat wasn't 
stylish. Now my youngest boy is in school. I hope he will do better, but I 
fear the same fate for him. The boys go wrong because they are not super- 
vised in town, but how can we supervise them when we live way up here? 

The son in question frequently inquired of me about jobs in town, 
but he had totally unrealistic goals in view of his qualifications. He 
spoke of wanting to be an office worker or cinema actor. He would 
consider no job as lowly as those for which he might have been 
qualified. His father commented that "Even if he made Rs. 100 per 
month it would not meet his expenses outside. Here in a good season 
we make more than that and our expenses are small." This boy's 
cousin was the one who ran off to join the millworker, and this boy 
was tempted to join him, but ties of wife and joint family were too 
strong to allow him to do it secretly and he was not granted permission 
by his father to do it. His affectations were the bane of his age-mates, 
who had the maximum village education (five years) or less. They, by 
and large, were content to remain in the village to live and work with 
occasional visits to town for fun. Their requirements for clothes and 


other possessions were patterned on his, but their concepts of what 
constituted "fashion" in clothing were less sophisticated than his. 

The opinion of most villagers is that cultural distances are too 
great to permit their successful adjustment to town life. Despite their 
efforts to practice the proverb, "When in Nepal, eat buffalo" (do as the 
Nepalese do), they find it difficult to adjust to the unfamiliar way of 
life of the city. One young man, who had aspirations toward the bright 
lights of the city, explained: 

People in this village are mostly content. They have the things they want, 
they eat enough, and many of them are well off by local standards. Some- 
times they like to go to Dehra Dun. They put on their best clothes and feel 
proud of themselves. But when they get to town, everyone there thinks they 
are fools. We don't know how to dress or act in town. There even a poor 
untouchable puts on a shirt and pajama and looks respectable, but we can't 
look like that. Even if we spend Rs. 200 on the finest cloth and have the 
best clothes made, we still look like fools in town. 

Many stories are told on themselves by villagers, illustrating this 

Attractions in towns which draw Paharis are cinemas, "hotels" 
(shops which sell sweets, meals, and tea to the accompaniment of loud 
radio music), drinking establishments, and prostitutes. Although these 
are rarely the sole reason for going to town, they are the side attractions 
of trips intended primarily for trade or official business with govern- 
ment offices. A Sirkanda blacksmith is often teased about his affinity 
for these pleasures. He protests, "It is true, no doubt, but why must 
you advertise the matter? There is no act of valor in it." Two examples 
of his experiences, as told by himself, will serve to illustrate the adven- 
tures of Paharis in town. The first of these concerns his first visit to a 
prostitute in Dehra Dun. 

I had a little money and nothing to do, so I decided to go to a prostitute. 
I had never been before and I didn't know the times when they are avail- 
able, but I knew the compound where their houses are. About 12 at night 
I went there and entered the gate of the large compound containing the 
houses of prostitutes. Just after I went in and was looking around to decide 
my next move, the Muslim gatekeeper closed and locked the gate I had just 
come through. I was frightened — I wondered how I could ever get out again. 
Then I saw the gatekeeper hitting people who tried to leave [apparently 
people who wanted to sneak out without paying]. I wanted to get away. I 
walked around the compound, keeping to the shadows, but saw no way to 
escape. Finally I climbed a stairway to one of the balconies. The girl there 
asked me what I would pay. I had Rs. 20, so I gave her that [actually Rs. 2 
to 5 would have been plenty]. She took me into her room and brought out 


betel nuts and a cuspidor. She called the musicians and they played and she 
sang for me. I sat and watched and listened. I never knew what would 
happen next, but I didn't want to go out and be beaten by the gatekeeper. 
The girl asked me several times if I was ready but I always said no, thinking 
that would cost extra and I had no more money. Finally, much later, the 
girl grew disgusted and demanded, "Why have you come here and paid all 
this money and not wanted intercourse? What do you want?" Then I felt 
foolish and realized that this was included in the price. After that I went 
back many times. 

Another occasion was that upon which this man decided to attend 
a Western-type restaurant just as he had seen the important towns- 
people do. 

I went to the Nilam Bar where I had seen the big people go in their 
fancy cars — the same people who drive back and forth past the prostitutes' 
compound waiting until there are not many people around, and then send 
a servant in to make sure there is no one like me widi their favorite girl, 
before coming in themselves. 

I bought a newspaper to take in with me so that they might not know I 
am illiterate. I went in and sat down. Soon a waiter came, all dressed in 
white, and handed me the menu, but I just said I would have tea and cakes. 
The waiter asked if I wanted single or double. I thought single would be a 
cup and double a tumblerful, so I ordered a double. I was amazed when he 
brought a great glass pitcher full of tea — enough for an army. The sugar 
and milk were in separate containers rather than cooked in the tea — a sur- 
prise to me. However, I drank some tea in a very blase manner and ate some 
cakes. I left some of each uneaten to show that I am well-bred. The big 
people never eat all that is put before them as we villagers do. If I had 
eaten all that was served they would have known I was a bumpkin. After 
I was through I looked at my paper and the waiter soon brought my bill 
on a plate. I then realized that I did not know the cost of my refreshment 
and could not read the bill, but I did not want to admit this. Therefore, I 
got up absent-mindedly and walked to the door. There I asked the man at 
the desk where my bill was, and he told me it was on my table. I said I 
hadn't noticed it and now didn't have time to go back to get it as my car 
was waiting for me outside, and I asked him to tell me the amount. He did 
— it was Rs. 6, which I paid him. That is the most expensive tea I ever had 
[normally tea and cakes would cost not over R. 1 at the fanciest of eating 

The city is an exciting, but in many ways a mysterious and dangerous, 
place for most Paharis. Even the cinemas are not clearly understood 
by many of those who attend them. One man, having recently seen 
one, was asked about it. Being illiterate, he knew neither the title 
nor the cast. The only actor he recognized, he said, was Dr. Rajendra 


Prasad (President of India), who appeared near the beginning of the 
film. He had evidently failed to differentiate the preceding newsreel 
from the featured film. He was vague about the plot but agreed 
vigorously when it was suggested that it was about a boy and girl in 
love who, in spite of great obstacles, finally came together (the plot of 
go per cent of the films shown). "Yes, yes, that was the one I saw," he 
affirmed. Occasionally a villager happens into an English-language 
cinema but, having paid his admission, usually stoically sits it out. 
He is often rewarded, according to those who have seen these British 
and American films, with a display of nudity and sexual aberrations — 
the local interpretation of some Western women's wear and love scenes, 

An important feature of village-urban contacts is that of victimiza- 
tion of the naive Pahari villager by urban shopkeepers and others. A 
foreigner in India is likely to get the impression that shopkeepers, 
service personnel, and officials are "out to get" him. S. J. Perelman 
(1947, p. 96) has summed up his impression of India in the phrase, 
"It's not the heat, it's the cupidity." However, this is not exploitation 
of the foreigner as such; it is exploitation of the ignorant, the naive, 
the unwary, in short, the vulnerable. It hits the villager, and partic- 
ularly the Pahari villager, hard, for he is just as vulnerable as the 
foreigner and much less able to afford the results of his vulnerability 
than are most foreigners. Such exploitation affects villagers in most 
contacts with outsiders, but especially in the urban areas. 

The average villager is at the mercy of shopkeepers when he goes 
to town, and his vulnerability is advertised by his dress, speech, and 
manners. He is an easy mark. He is the hillbilly come to town, and 
everyone knows he has money with him, as otherwise he would not 
have made the trip. He buys inferior goods at inflated prices and is 
none the wiser. He pays Rs. 2 for a flashlight bulb that costs anyone 
else R. 0.25, and feels fortunate to have found a store which sells 
such an intricate mechanism. He is victim of the cheat and thief 
and the dishonest official as well. The only Sirkanda villager who ever 
tried to buy a radio had his pocket picked of the Rs. 350 in a cinema 
before he had had a chance to spend it. Money is extorted from Paharis 
regularly by corrupt inspectors, toll-tax collectors, and police who 
threaten a false report if no bribe is paid. It is a simple matter to 
produce a bottle of illicit liquor and accuse a Pahari of having sold 
it — better to pay a bribe than risk a heavy fine or imprisonment. The 
Wisers have described well the position of residents of the plains 
village in which they worked for several years. Paraphrasing villagers' 
statements they say: 


In the cities they devise ways of exploiting us. . . . We are at home in the 
wholesale market. But when we get our money and want to take home some 
cloth, the shopkeepers get out the pieces which they have been unable to 
dispose of, and persuade us to buy them at exorbitant prices. We know that 
they are laughing at us. But we want cloth, and the next shopkeeper will 
cheat us as badly as the last. Wherever we go in the town, sharp eyes are 
watching to tempt our precious rupees from us. And there is no one to ad- 
vise us honestly or to help us escape from fraudulent men. When we go to 
town to attend the courts, there are men everywhere waiting to take advan- 
tage of our ignorance and fear. Our lawyers charge fees which they know 
are beyond our means to pay. And then if we win a case they think that 
they deserve an extra large gift. Sometimes there is a sincere helper among 
them, but we are never sure who is what. (C. V. and W. H. Wiser, 1951, p. 163) 

As has been mentioned previously, social pressure is one factor 
which keeps people from bringing urban or other alien traits into 
the village. The man who had returned to the village after being 
in the army in World War II, and who had enjoyed his outside experi- 
ence very much, replied to an inquiry: 

When I got back to the village I didn't like it at first. I was used to the 
comforts of army life. But I gradually became accustomed to the village 
again. I would have liked to bring some things home with me, especially 
utensils and other conveniences for the house. However, I brought only some 
cloth for the family, and what I brought is similar to what other people 
here use. I didn't bring any really nice clothes or other things because peo- 
ple would have laughed at me. 

This attitude has not prevented acquisition of material possessions, 
but it has been one reason for the gradual nature of adoption of new 
things. Clothing styles, especially those of men, who are in contact 
with outsiders more frequently than are women, have changed con- 
siderably in recent years. Costume jewelry and other ornaments have 
been acquired by women. Household possessions have come to in- 
clude more utensils procured from town bazaars. For the most part 
these have been relatively minor changes — better artifacts rather than 
new ones. A few people have gotten new items, spurred by urban 
example. One villager had a functioning phonograph and a few worn 
records, and someone else was alleged to have a similar machine, long 
inoperative. The only radio in Bhatbair history, brought by the man 
employed near Delhi, had failed to operate. When I left, mine was in 
great demand but the likelihood is that it was used only until its 
battery was exhausted. A few young men in the village had mechanical 
pencils or pens, and at least one owned a cheap watch. One purchased 
a Japanese cigarette lighter adorned with photographs of nude girls. 


Many boys owned pocket knives. The village tailor had a hand- 
operated sewing machine and a charcoal-heated iron for use in his 

Tools and materials for agriculture have changed little. Corrugated 
iron is now often used in roofing, and one new house has a little 
cement in its construction. Household furnishings now include string 
cots and cotton quilts or rugs in addition to the traditional wool 
blanket used for sleeping on the floor. A few kerosene storm lanterns 
and one or two flashlights are in the village. 

There is an accelerating demand for all these things as they become 
increasingly accessible and as villagers become increasingly aware of 
them. However, material items in the village, like behavior and beliefs, 
are predominantly traditional. 

The Government in Sirkanda 

Sirkanda is strategically located in many respects. It is the gateway 
from the valley to much of Bhatbair and neighboring areas to the east. 
It is the most accessible of the large villages of the interior of this 
area. As such it has been the focus of recent attention by agencies of 
the state and national governments. It has been designated as the seat 
of the council, originally for much of Bhatbair and now for a less 
populous area on the western edge of Bhatbair. It is the village which 
serves as headquarters for the village level worker and the economic 
cooperative supervisor. It contains the largest of three schools in Bhat- 
bair. On the rare occasions when tax collectors or other officials come 
to Bhatbair, they usually do their work in Sirkanda. 

In order to understand the relationship of villagers to specific pro- 
grams in the village, it is necessary first to understand attitudes toward 
the government in general. 

The first question asked of the anthropologist in Bhatbair villages 
and in all other hill areas visited was invariably, "How can we get 
our forests back?" In Bhatbair the remark which was usually associated 
with this question was, "When are the British coming back into 
power?" These two questions sum up village attitudes toward the 
present government. It is felt by villagers that the British government 
had two outstanding qualities: (i) it did not meddle in village affairs, 
(2) it was an ultimately available source of impartial, if not always 
comprehensible, justice. Thus, it is believed, it was the antithesis of 
the present government. To the further credit of the British was the 
fact that they established the bhaichara system of land ownership in 
Sirkanda, giving every high-caste family the land it cultivated, elim- 


inating the intermediate landlord of earlier times, and charging 
relatively low taxes. 

The current state and national governments (not distinguished 
from one another by villagers) are thought by Sirkanda people to be 
made up of corrupt troublemakers. Anything advocated by the gov- 
ernment or its representatives is automatically suspect and is usually 
opposed out of hand. Villagers' attitudes were perfectly exemplified 
in their response to Republic Day ceremonies planned for the village 
by the teacher, and supported by the other two governmental em- 
ployees stationed in Sirkanda. This celebration was announced well 
in advance. A full day of activities was scheduled, beginning with 
a flag-raising ceremony at the school, followed by a procession of 
school children, led through the village by the teacher and his fellow 
sponsors, singing patriotic and religious songs. In the afternoon a 
village assembly meeting was to be held at which patriotic speeches 
would be made and some village business would be conducted. At 
the conclusion of this, tea and sweets were to be distributed. 

Villagers completely ignored the whole program. When the singing 
group went through the village not a soul joined, acknowledged, or 
even watched, the procession. Even the usual number of people who 
would be expected to be in view were out of sight, consciously avoid- 
ing the display. No one came to the scheduled meeting, and only the 
school children were on hand to receive sweets. This was enough to 
discourage even the conscientious teacher and to convince the other 
workers that their job in Sirkanda was hopeless. 

Land Reform 

One of the first acts by the Independent government of India 
to affect Sirkanda was the nationalization of forest lands in 1953. 
This affected all uncultivated and unoccupied lands surrounding the 
village. In so doing, the government placed restrictions upon cultiva- 
tion of new lands and upon access to the products of uncultivated 
lands, apparently with a view to reducing floods, erosion, and depletion 
of forest resources. By this act alone, most hill people were alienated 
from the government because it hit at the basis of Pahari livelihood. 
Paharis live in their none-too-hospitable environment largely by full 
utilization of forest products. Forest grass and leaves are fodder for 
their animals, and forest trees are made into their tools, many of 
their utensils, and essential parts of their houses. Most importantly, 
the forest provides wood for fuel. Without such fuel the villagers 
would have to resort to the plains practice of burning dung, and they 
would then be unable to fertilize their fields. Without fertilizer their 


fields would be unlikely to produce a subsistence crop. Moreover, as 
is readily evident to any observer, such utilization of the forests does 
not seriously affect the forests. Where devastating depletion has oc- 
curred and is still occurring rapidly and irreparably, is where outside 
contractors have been given the right to cut trees in order to make 
and sell charcoal. In this manner whole forests go down that have 
been unaffected by hundreds of years of village use. Villagers would 
gladly see curbs put on this practice, which benefits them not in the 
least and depletes their own forest resources. 

The government has not forbidden use of forest lands and products 
(especially trees) to villagers, but it has placed tighter restrictions upon 
such use than existed heretofore. The villagers, however, feel that the 
forest is their own land, and they refuse to make even a pretense at 
asking permission to use that which they believe to be rightly theirs. 
Anyway, the appropriate governmental representatives from whom 
permission can be obtained, the forestry officer and the land records 
officer, are not easily accessible and not always sympathetic, and the 
necessary procedures are ponderously time-consuming and complex, 
so that any desire to obey the law is discouraged at the outset. Local 
caste and factional alignments are an obstacle because applications for 
forest products have to be made through the local council. Therefore, 
disobedience of public laws is accepted practice in this sphere, a fact 
which may have facilitated its spread to other spheres. 

The seriousness of public reaction to these regulations may be in- 
ferred from the headline of a story in a newspaper of Dehra Dun 
and Mussoorie in August, 1958: "congress men threaten direct 
action, Forest Rights Issue Causes Unrest" (Himachal Times, 1958b). 
The local political figures' threat came five years after the issue arose 
and followed a state government decision, based on a subcommittee's 
report, not to make any concessions on the matter. This issue has 
been a major factor in support of demands, farther to the west, for a 
separate hill state for the "suppressed and exploited" hill people 
(Himachal Times, 1958a). 

Defiance of these rules (as of the government in general) takes many 
forms in the village. It is against the law to burn grass in the forest. 
Throughout the lower Himalayas from time immemorial, the forest 
grass has been burned every dry season just before the rains to make 
a better crop of new grass after the rains. In this process fires occasion- 
ally get out of hand. Occasionally a chan and the animals in it are 
consumed in flames. However, villagers consider this a calculated and 
not unduly heavy risk, inherent in the performance of a necessary 
task. The government, apparently worried about forest trees (which 


villagers insist are unaffected by the fires), has outlawed the practice 
with notably unimpressive results. In June the lower Himalayan grass- 
lands are still blackened and a thick pall of smoke obscures the 
Himalayan view. The difference is that now the practice has become 
a contest to outwit and frustrate the forest guard — a contest which 
villagers invariably win. In 1958, when the forest guard came to fight 
some fires around Sirkanda, he was greeted with complete apathy. He 
asked for volunteers to help fight the fires and got no one to help. 
He was told, "You get paid Rs. 60 per month to fight fires. Why should 
we who earn nothing help you? Pay us Rs. 60 per month and we will 
gladly join you. Otherwise, leave us alone." 

Wherever the forest guard went, new fires would appear over the 
ridge or just out of sight, usually with a few idly watching "observers" 
to keep the flames away from valuable property such as chans or caches 
of firewood. This occurred in spite of the fact that the forest guard 
was relatively well liked as an individual and had the villagers' welfare 
in mind. He felt compelled to report one particularly large and visible 
fire in 1957, and asked villagers to make statements as to its origin. 
All he wanted them to say was that it began by a public trail, probably 
from the cigarette of an unknown traveler. This report would have 
been satisfactory to the authorities and would have precluded further 
investigation. Instead, villagers responded with statements to the effect, 
"It is our forest, and we will burn it or not as we please." This would 
have brought further investigation and a fine to the village had it 
gone in the official report. Only by privately working out the report 
with the village council president was a sufficiently innocuous state- 
ment obtained and submitted to avoid further complications. Such 
cases of defiance of forest laws are commonplace in Sirkanda and 
throughout the hills. Recently there has been talk of assigning a forest 
guard to Sirkanda, making it the center of a new forest district. This 
plan is bitterly opposed by villagers. At present Sirkanda is at the 
junction of three large forest districts under the jurisdiction of three 
distant forest guards, a situation which facilitates evasion of the forest 
laws. The boundaries actually meet in the settlement area of the vil- 
lage, and the responsible officers are stationed in three widely separated 

As has been stated earlier (chap. 2), nationalization of the forest 
lands has made it illegal to cultivate new lands without special per- 
mission. Villagers cite nationalization as an example of governmental 
stupidity. "The government asked us to increase crop production for 
the national welfare. We were happy to comply. However, at the same 
time they made illegal the only means to accomplish this." The ruling 


means that, as fields become depleted or inadequate for increasing 
family size, new ones cannot be legally prepared without special per- 
mission. An understanding village accountant (probably he understood 
bribes) looked the other way when villagers disobeyed the law, but a 
later accountant, either out of respect for the law or pique at the lack 
of bribes or of sufficient bribes, reported the matter. Considerable 
rancor was aroused before a reasonably happy solution was reached 
in the land records office, where the offenders were assessed back taxes 
and allowed to keep the land. This is not a solution for the future, 
however. As in the use of forest products, notably trees, there is not 
a rigid prohibition against use of new land, but there is a procedure 
of application, payment of fees, and so on, which must be followed. 
Villagers refuse to abide by these rules just as they do the forest laws. 
Their attitude is not softened by the extreme difficulty they encounter, 
the necessity for repeated trips to distant headquarters, the arrogant 
and often greedy officials with whom they must deal in making such 
applications. It is a task to frustrate anyone, most of all a semiliterate 
villager. This point will be elaborated below as one element in a 
pattern which villagers face in dealing with the government. 

Another aspect of land legislation is that of taxation. Unfortunately, 
when landlordism was abolished in the state in 1953, taxes were raised 
slightly for Sirkanda landowners. Although the increase was slight 
and lower taxes resulted for the majority of agriculturists in the 
state, it was resented in Sirkanda, where all agriculturists had long 
owned the land they tilled. The village comment is, "Congress prom- 
ised to lower taxes and instead they raised them." Villagers are 
totally unaware of the larger picture on this matter. 

The indiscriminate application of general programs of land reform 
that are inappropriate to the Pahari context has thus been an im- 
portant factor in alienating these villagers from the government. In 
itself it would probably have been sufficient to achieve this result. 
However, it was not the only factor. 

Agents of Authority 

For villagers, one of the most frustrating aspects of their relation- 
ship to the government is their contact with its official representatives, 
and especially those who hold power over them. The Wisers have 
discussed the problem in a plains village at some length (C. V. and 
W. H. Wiser, 1951, pp. 130 ff.; cf. Beals, 1954, Newell, 1954). The 
brutality and dishonesty of the police are proverbial in Sirkanda. The 
maxim, "Never trust a policeman," is often quoted and religiously prac- 
ticed. Specific instances of police brutality and dishonesty are legion, 


ranging from simple demands for bribes upon threat of a false accu- 
sation of illegal distilling to unreasonable violence in trying to extract 
confessions or information (or, alternatively, heavy bribes) from people 
who obviously had no connection with a case. 

Similarly, the corruption of village accountants is proverbial. These 
officials today are people totally unassociated with the village or even 
the area. The accountant for most of Bhatbair in 1957-1958 had not 
been seen by villagers since his appointment two years previously, 
until suddenly word came to him that a higher official would be coming 
on an inspection tour. The accountant appeared in great haste to 
prepare records in two weeks that should have been kept over the past 
two years. In the process his arrogance, incompetence, and inaccuracy, 
combined with his corruption, put the villagers at a disadvantage and 
aroused their resentment. 

Such examples are not unique to the post-Independence era. They 
carry on a long-established tradition. As many examples could be cited 
under British rule. 

The point, as the villagers see it, is that, compared to British times, 
(1) there are now more occasions upon which a person is likely to 
confront officials, and (2) there is now no ultimate authority from 
which justice can be obtained, and therefore officials are arrogant 
to an extreme never before seen. Whether or not the comparison is 
accurate, it is believed by villagers. 

To take these points in order, it is readily apparent that the amount 
of official activity and consequently the number of agents of authority 
affecting villagers has increased greatly since Independence with the 
institution of land reforms, community development plans, and other 
programs. The activities of rationing authorities may be considered 
as an example. Villagers often use corrugated iron for roofing. To get 
it they must apply through a rationing office whose officials, being in 
league with black marketeers, never authorize enough of the material 
to fulfill the villagers' needs. The official procedures are such that to 
obtain any legal materials at all requires several trips to town. Most 
villagers would agree with one who said: 

By the time you have gone to Dehra Dun two or three times [a two-day 
undertaking necessitating an overnight stay in strange surroundings] and 
have been insulted by the officials and then get only one-fourth of the roofing 
you need, you learn that it is better to go directly to the black market and 
get what you need at the higher price. That is where you will have to go in 
the end anyway. 

This is just one of several newly created official hazards for villagers. 
The biggest complaint of villagers against the present government 


is the lack of ultimate, impartial justice. As they frequently point out, 
under the British the police were corrupt and the accountants were 
corrupt, but the courts were fair. Examples are told of corrupt officials 
of all types who were found guilty in the courts under the British, 
and of false court cases exposed by the district magistrate. Officials 
were restrained by the knowledge that this authority existed. Tax 
collectors were often polite. Milk inspectors were often honest or at 
least refrained from pressing their authority too far. Villagers contrast 
that idealized (and perhaps unrealistic) picture with the realities of the 
present. An example of immediate importance and tangible effect 
was recounted by villagers as follows: 

It has long been our custom to sell milk in the markets of Dehra Dun and 
Mussoorie. The government sometimes inspects this milk now, as it did 
under the British. Under the British, if we adulterated the milk with water 
and were caught, as sometimes happened, we were fined and were denied 
permission to sell for a specified period thereafter. This we knew and could 
count upon. Now when we carry our milk to market we may be stopped by 
the inspectors who, without even looking at our milk, accuse us of adulter- 
ating it. We must pay them a bribe or go to court and be fined and penalized, 
for what is the word of a milkman against that of an inspector. For this 
reason most of us have quit selling milk since Independence. We now sell 
instead a solidified milk product which is less profitable but which cannot 
be easily adulterated and which is therefore not inspected. 

The courts are held in utter contempt by most villagers. Examples 
are given from this area of how even the most serious and flagrant 
crimes or civil cases are decided on the basis of bribery. "No crime is 
now so serious that money cannot win acquittal; no man is so innocent 
that an enemy cannot put him in prison or win a judgment against 
him if he has sufficient money for bribes." "Under the British there 
was justice — water for water and milk for milk. Now water and milk 
are one" (that is, lies were then treated as lies, truth as truth; now 
they are not distinguished). It is felt that now even the highest official 
is subject to bribes and that a poor villager has no one to whom to turn. 

Comments from a range of informants of all castes indicate con- 
sistent attitudes toward the government: 

Before Independence India was ruled by the British; now it is ruled by 
rascals. Law was then just, now anyone with money can avoid the law. 

Under the British there was government by men; now it is government 
by money. 

In days of British rule India was a subject nation, but at least there was an 
established law and order. Now India is like a woman with several husbands, 
dominated by whichever is present at the moment. 


Under the British we were free — we cultivated and worked as we pleased. 
Now we are slaves. The government tells us what to do and what not to do. 

The Congress promised to circulate gold money when freedom was won. 
Instead they are circulating money of alloy that is not even pure silver or 
copper. So it is with their promises. 

The people, especially the leaders, wanted to get rid of the British. But 
in fact, India under British rule was better than it has been since Inde- 
pendence under the Congress government. 

This government will be able to stay in power by force but not by the 
people's will. 

In this context of grass-roots rejection the government has attempted 
to carry out various specific programs in Bhatbair. 

Community Development 

On October 2, 1952, the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's birthday, 
India launched a program whose purpose was no less than a rural revolu- 
tion. What it proposed was to transform the social and economic life and 
outlook of the rural people, raise farm production and incomes, and create 
from stagnant backward villages a vital, progressive rural community. It 
proposed to do all this, not by coercion, but, as the "essence of the program," 
by self-help and participation of the people themselves. (Planning Commis- 
sion, 1958, p. 168) 

This was the Community Development Program. Its aim was to enable 
people to raise their standard of living by introducing schools, com- 
munity centers, pure water, better seeds, tools, and techniques of 
acquiring a livelihood, better transportation, and better public health. 
The key person in this program is the village level worker (VLW) 
or Gram Sevak (village servant). 

Living in one of a "circle" of the eight to ten villages under his care, the 
worker goes from village to village, from farmer to farmer, using all the 
techniques familiar to extension work in the west — field demonstrations, 
individual talks and group discussions, audio-visual teaching, approach to 
villagers with help on felt needs in order to awaken new needs and interest 
in change. 

Trained as a multi-purpose worker, he brings help and information on 
improved methods of cultivation, on health care and sanitation, on cattle 
diseases and their prevention, and so on. Working through village leaders, 
he enlists the interest and participation of the village as a whole in change 
and progress. (Planning Commission, 1958, p. 171) 

In January, 1955, a Community Development Block was opened in 
Eastern Dehra Dun District which brought a total of 88 village ad- 
ministrative units (and a population of 62,000 people), including those 


of Bhatbair, into the Community Development program. Shortly there- 
after a VLW was stationed in Nagal, a large village in the valley seven 
miles from Sirkanda. His area of responsibility was large, including 
Bhatbair and a number of villages in the valley. In 1957 this Develop- 
ment Block was changed from a National Extension Block to an In- 
tensive Development Block, the shift being intended to increase de- 
velopment activity. At this time additional VLW's were assigned. In 
addition to the one at Nagal, who continued to have responsibility 
for a number of valley villages and a few on the edge of Bhatbair, a 
new VLW was assigned with Sirkanda as his headquarters and the 
interior of Bhatbair as his area of responsibility. This man was in 
Sirkanda a year, from the summer of 1957 until the summer of 1958. 
Therefore, virtually all his official activities were observed by the 
anthropologist. This period overlapped the third and fourth year of 
the program in the area, the second year of India's second five-year plan. 

Specific goals for Sirkanda in the second five-year plan were the 
construction of a community center and repair of thirty miles of trails. 
Other projects attempted were those mentioned in the council meeting 
described above (chap. 8). In addition the VLW had a box of equip- 
ment for first aid and equipment for inoculating and castrating 
animals, and he was supposed to encourage the villagers in self-gov- 
ernment, patriotic fervor, equalitarianism, and other aspects of the new 
national creed. 

At the end of his year in Sirkanda, when he finally achieved his goal 
of securing a transfer, the VLW had achieved no tangible results in 
any of his areas of responsibility in Bhatbair. He had, however, turned 
in satisfactory reports. The proceedings of the only council meeting 
held during that year are indicative of the programs undertaken and 
the way villagers reacted to them. It is relevant here to summarize 
briefly the results of the items taken up and decided upon in that 
meeting: No one ever came to inspect the problem of the village's 
water supply, and nothing was done about it. The panchayat tax was 
not collected. No voluntary labor was performed on trails or on any 
other project discussed in the meeting; the agreed-upon days for this 
came and went without comment from the VLW or villagers. No 
attempt was made to set up a night school (but this, unlike the other 
items, had been formally rejected in council meeting). No agricultural 
training session was held, although the VLW had been specifically 
directed to hold a session in which he would explain to villagers the 
Japanese method of rice cultivation. Despite considerable talk about 
the matter on his part, no such session was ever held. The Village 
Credit Cooperative Society of Sirkanda got no paid-up members as a 


result of the efforts of the VLW, the council, or the society itself, al- 
though later (as will be explained below) some token success was 
achieved on this score. No further action or discussion about a com- 
munity center took place. School attendance did rise, but because of 
independent efforts of the teacher rather than council action. No 
National Savings Certificates were sold. In addition, in the entire year 
the interior of the VLW's first-aid kit and the veterinary equipment 
were never exposed to the light of day. In short, the VLW was totally 
ineffective in this village and throughout his area of responsibility. 
As will be explained in the discussion below, this was a result of 
several factors, including the training, motivation, and personal char- 
acteristics of this VLW; villagers' attitudes toward the government, 
toward change, and toward community cooperation; and inappro- 
priateness of the program and of its manner of presentation in the 

Credit Cooperative Program 

A second civil servant assigned to the village for approximately 
the same period as the VLW was the economic cooperative supervisor, 
locally known as the "supervisor sahib," and here termed ECS. His 
job was to set up government-sponsored credit cooperatives in the 
various villages of Bhatbair on the strength of a report submitted by 
another officer who had previously visited the area and had secured 
signatures in several of these villages indicating interest in the plan. 
The idea was that villagers were to buy shares at Rs. 20 (payable over 
two and one-half years), each of which would entitle the holder to 
borrow Rs. 100 at 8.5 per cent annual interest. This plan met with no 
success in any village in the area. In the words of the ECS: 

All of these villages signed up with the agent saying that they wanted 
cooperatives, but they probably did it just to get rid of him. There is no 
real interest, and none of the people who signed up have received me 
cordially. In no village has anyone paid any dues, and there is no prospect 
of setting up cooperatives here. 

In the council meeting at Sirkanda the necessary minimum of five 
pledges was recorded, including the most unlikely member of all, a 
landless blacksmith. A month later the ECS was notified that he was 
to lose his job for not producing results. Upon receipt of this intel- 
ligence, the teacher and he managed to round up nine people who 
made payments of Rs. 2 to 10 each as initial membership fees in 
response to a plea to save the job of the ECS. No mention of the 
advantages of the society was made in this hurried fund drive. The 


council president, who had been a steadfast foe of the plan, later 
commented, "We started a cooperative society so the ECS wouldn't 
lose his job." The factors relevant to the ineffectiveness of the ECS 
are precisely parallel to those relevant to the case of the VLW. 

Failure of the Programs 

In analyzing the lack of success of these two men and the pro- 
grams they were employed to advocate, it is obvious that social and 
cultural factors — the relationship of the social organization and cul- 
ture of the villagers to the programs presented — were crucial. It is 
important, therefore, to consider both social and cultural factors and 
the content of the programs presented. Also significant in the degree 
of success or failure of the programs was the manner in which they 
were presented and the personnel who presented them. These factors 
will be discussed in that order. 


Dube (1956, 1958) has discussed at some length social and cultural 
factors in relation to change in Indian villages: 

Agents of rural development projects and of programs of technical as- 
sistance are confronted with these factors at almost every step of their work. 
The acceptance of the agents of change as well as the effectiveness of the 
media through which they endeavor to communicate their innovations are 
largely governed by the cultural predispositions, attitudes, and social organi- 
zation of the community in which they operate. The acceptance of the pro- 
gram itself, or of its constituent parts, is determined to a considerable extent 
by a variety of complex cultural factors, ranging from simple habits and 
accepted social practices to the intricate patterns of belief, social structure, 
world view, and values and attitudes. (Dube, 1956, pp. 19 f.) 

Attitudes of suspicion and avoidance of outsiders seem to be char- 
acteristic of the relatively closed society of Sirkanda, where familiar 
ties of kinship, caste, and community are necessary if an individual 
is to be accepted into the group or even to be dealt with on equal 
terms. Lacking these, an outsider is an unknown and potentially dan- 
gerous quantity best avoided. 

The Wisers have paraphrased the attitude of plains villagers toward 
change as follows: 

To a new-comer we may seem suspicious, obstinate, intolerant, backward 
— all that goes with refusal to change. We did not choose qualities for our- 
selves. Experience forced them upon our fathers. . . . Refusal to change is 
the armour with which we have learned to protect ourselves. . . . We are 


not blind to the advantages of the new, but unless we know just where it 
will lead us, we prefer to let it pass us by. (C. V. and W. H. Wiser, 1951, 

PP- 153 f 

In Sirkanda the unfamiliar, be it a person or a program of change, 
is regarded with suspicion. The reasons are readily apparent. Contacts 
with outsiders have been limited largely to contacts with policemen 
and tax collectors — two of the most unpopular forms of life in the 
Pahari taxonomy. Such officials are despised and feared, not only be- 
cause they make trouble for villagers in the line of duty but also 
because they extort bribes on the threat of causing further trouble 
and often seem to take advantage of their official position to vent their 
aggressions on these vulnerable people. Since India's independence, 
governmental responsibilities have increased and extended to matters 
previously ignored, such as closer supervision of enlarged government 
forest lands and rationing of certain goods. The grounds for inter- 
fering in village affairs have multiplied as the variety of officials has 
proliferated. Any stranger, therefore, may be a government agent and 
as such he is potentially troublesome and even dangerous. 

Villagers' fears on this score are not groundless. Aside from the 
unjust exploitation which such agents are reputed to employ, the 
villagers themselves carry on many illegal or semilegal activities which 
could be grounds for punishment and are easily used as an excuse 
for extortion. In Sirkanda, government forest lands and products have 
been illegally appropriated by villagers, taxable land has been under- 
reported, liquor is brewed and sold illicitly, women have been il- 
legally sold, guns have gone unlicensed, adulterated milk is sold to 
outside merchants, marriages of children under legal age are per- 
formed, men have fled the army or escaped from jail, and property 
has been illegally acquired from fleeing Muslims at the time of parti- 
tion. Any of these and similar real and imagined infractions may be 
objects of a stranger's curiosity and therefore are reasons for discourag- 
ing his presence in the village. 

Paharis are thought by people of the plains to be ritually, spiritually, 
and morally inferior. They are suspected of witchcraft and evil magic. 
In addition, they are considered naive bumpkins; the hillbilly stereo- 
type of other cultures is shared by Indians. Paharis try to avoid inter- 
action with those who hold these stereotypes. Alien Brahmins may 
seek to discredit their Pahari counterparts by finding evidence of their 
unorthodoxy; alien traders may seek to relieve Paharis of their hard- 
earned cash or produce by sharp business practices; scoundrels may 
seek to waylay or abduct village women; thieves may come to steal 
their worldly possessions; lawyers or their cohorts may seek evidence 


for trumped-up legal proceedings which a poor Pahari could not hope 
to counteract in court. Christians may hope to infringe on their reli- 
gious beliefs and practices. Strangers are therefore suspected of having 
ulterior motives even if they are not associated with the government. 

The only way to feel sure that such dangers do not inhere in a 
person is to know who he is, and to know this he must fit somewhere 
into the known social system. Only then is he subject to effective local 
controls so that if he transgresses, or betrays a trust, he can be brought 
to account. The person who is beyond control is beyond trust and is 
best hurried on his way. 

To take a stranger's advice and change accepted practices would be 
foolhardy. In view of past experience with the government, govern- 
ment sanction of the advocate and his program merely serves to in- 
crease the distrust of villagers. 

In considering cultural factors which may be relevant to the con- 
sistent failure of Sirkanda villagers to respond to programs of village 
self-government and cooperative efforts toward self-improvement, cer- 
tain similarities may be noted to the situation found by Banfield in 
a village of southern Italy, ". . . the extreme poverty and backward- 
ness of which is to be explained largely (but not entirely) by the in- 
ability of the villagers to act together for their common good or, in- 
deed, for any end transcending the immediate, material interest of the 
nuclear family" (Banfield, 1958, p. 10). 

This ethos is defined in terms of the hypothesis by Banfield that 
the villagers act according to the following implicit rule: "Maximize 
the material, short-run advantage of the nuclear family; assume that 
all others will do likewise" (ibid., p. 85). 

Adherence to this rule Banfield terms an ethos of "amoral familism." 
He presents a list of seventeen "logical implications" of this rule (ibid., 
pp. 85-102). Many of these implications as well as other observations 
by Banfield are reminiscent of findings reported here and in other 
studies of Indian family and village life, with the qualification that in 
India the relevant unit is the extended rather than the nuclear family. 
There is a temptation to ascribe to this society a characteristic of 
"amoral familism" on the extended family level. However, as Ban- 
field points out, similar observations could be made about any society. 

Amoral familism is a pattern or syndrome; a society exhibiting some of 
the constituent elements of the syndrome is decisively different from one 
exhibiting all of them together. Moreover, the matter is one of degree: no 
matter how selfish or unscrupulous most of its members may be, a society is 
not amorally individualistic (or familistic) if there is somewhere a significant 
element of public spiritedness or even of "enlightened" self interest. (Ban- 
field, 1958, pp. 11 f.) 


In view of this rigorous requirement, Sirkanda villagers are ex- 
cluded from "amoral familism" even on the extended family level. 
"Amoral factionalism," "amoral casteism," and so on, are also ex- 
cluded; there are too many occasions upon which behavior is incon- 
sistent with the rule of total commitment to the short-run material 
advantage of these groups. The symptoms do not add up to the syn- 
drome. Perhaps elsewhere in India there are groups to which the syn- 
drome does apply — or more nearly so. This does not mean that Ban- 
field's conception is useless for an understanding of social behavior 
in Sirkanda or other Indian villages. Its real usefulness is that it points 
up the "moral basis" for characteristic social behavior. That is, there 
may be a cultural norm or world view, an ethos, a pattern of values 
and attitudes, which predisposes the members of a society against 
combined action for long-range common goals. Similarly there may be 
cultural bases for rejection of change or of certain kinds of change. 
Certainly in Sirkanda there is enough "amoral" preoccupation with, 
and loyalty to, the extended family that it is a serious obstacle to 
community action and leads to most of the ramifications which Ban- 
field has listed as "logical implications" of amoral familism. 

In Sirkanda this is a relative matter. In interlineage relations the 
lineage becomes the focus of self-interest; in inter-sib relations it is 
the sib; in intercaste relations it is the caste. In intervillage matters 
where caste loyalties are not at issue, there is similar preoccupation 
with one's own community, as witness the Sirkanda council's refusal 
to volunteer work on trails to be used by other villages. It might be 
argued that all these manifestations of group self-interest could be 
reduced to "familism," since the family is the unit with which the 
individual is most closely identified and of which he is thinking when 
he takes a stand on issues at any of these levels. That is, he may take 
his stand on the basis of the best interests of the family which, in 
certain circumstances, happen to coincide with sib, caste, or commu- 
nity interests. 
* i / 

'Amoral" self-interest seems especially likely to function at the level 
of the social unit which acts as an entity in facing insecurity. In any 
event, culturally sanctioned self-interest on family and other levels is 
a matter which might usefully be considered along with other cultural 
factors by anyone attempting to influence people to implement action 
programs in India. 

One aspect of this feature of community life in Sirkanda is the 
absence of an effective tradition of community cooperation in any 
but very specific contexts. Another is the absence of village-wide ac- 
ceptance of formal leadership. Everyone claims to make his own 


decisions, and those who advocate their viewpoints for others are 
viewed with suspicion. Neither is there a precedent for democratic 
village government. 

Opler has described perhaps the most crucial obstacle to community 
development programs as "the social organizational difficulty of ex- 
pecting a social structure which was essentially fluid, diffuse and con- 
servative to implement programs which demand decision, dispatch, 
and an experimental frame of mind" (Opler, i960, p. 197). 

The controlling group in Sirkanda has always been the high-caste 
landowners, and they remain so today. Although they are not a co- 
ordinated body on many matters, they are coordinated in their relation- 
ship to the low castes, whom they control in almost every sphere. This 
leads to one of the most perplexing problems in community develop- 
ment in Sirkanda, the conflicting interests of high and low castes. 

Sirkanda has a sharply segmented society with important privileges 
granted to high castes and withheld from low castes. High castes 
naturally have a heavy stake in maintaining the status quo. The 
Congress party and the government of India have proclaimed an 
equalitarian, anticaste ideal. To Sirkanda villagers this is one im- 
portant characteristic of "government" and of "Congress." This alien- 
ates high-caste people from the government and its representatives, 
who are assumed to be dangerous radicals who threaten the traditional 
system. They feel that ultimately the government will force them to 
associate with their caste inferiors and will help low castes to in- 
dependence, prosperity, and arrogance, possibly at high-caste expense 
and certainly to their detriment. This is an important and explicit 
reason why high castes refuse to cooperate with government people 
and programs in Sirkanda. 

Low-caste people have been hopeful of improved status and liveli- 
hood on exactly these grounds. They hope to benefit from the govern- 
ment's attitudes and programs. The Community Development Pro- 
gram, as it has functioned thus far, has been designed primarily to 
benefit agriculturists — the high-caste, well-off landowners. This is to 
be expected because, as Lewis (1959, p. 536) has pointed out, the main 
aim of the program has been "increases in production rather than 
social justice" (cf. Dube, 1958, pp. 82 f.). This has become apparent to 
low-caste Sirkanda villagers, who note that the VLW does not talk to 
them or consider their problems and obviously has no interest in aid- 
ing them. He merely tries to help those who already are well-off and 
in control. Low castes have not benefited from the program, and there 
has been no action taken to implement the government's equalitarian 
pronouncements. Therefore, low-caste people are disillusioned about 


the government's stated interest in them and their welfare. As a result 
they are alienated from the Community Development Program and 
other governmental activities in the village. 

High-caste people are antagonistic to the government, partly be- 
cause of its alleged interest in the equalitarian ideal, which they feel 
will ultimately result in active championing of low-caste grievances. 
The government's clumsy attempts to increase agricultural production 
in the village have not succeeded in counteracting this antagonism, 
and at the same time have contributed to alienation of the low castes. 

Thus, low castes want their positions improved; high castes want 
their positions maintained by suppression of the low castes. The gov- 
ernment has alienated the low castes by their actions, and the high 
castes by their words. This is a dilemma that has not received explicit 
recognition but which is very real in Sirkanda and has no readily 
apparent solution without a choice between production and social 

Other reasons for the failure of programs, and for the general atti- 
tude toward the government in Sirkanda, are to be found in the nature 
of the programs, their manner of presentation, and the personnel who 
have presented them. Since these are matters directly amenable to 
action by those responsible for the implementation of changes, it is 
appropriate to consider them here. 


In general, the programs have ignored the traditional orientations 
of villagers and have not been in line with the desires or "felt needs" 
of the people. 

Dumont and Pocock (1957, P- 1 9> c ^- Tinker, 1959) have attributed 
the lack of success of village government throughout Uttar Pradesh 
to lack of understanding of the culture of those being governed: 

They have tried to transfer the idea of the assembly or pancdyat from a 
caste-group to the multi-caste village. The result, according to our own ob- 
servations confirmed by reports from elsewhere (all in U.P.) is a standstill 
since the enterprise comes up against the total disinterest of the elected 
judges. The institution of the caste pancdyat rests on the solidarity of the 
caste-group, which is highly sensitive to certain kinds of offenses, while the 
assumed solidarity of the village is simply nonexistent at that level. 

This criticism would seem to be applicable in Sirkanda to a large 
extent, although it would have to be modified in view of the essentially 
one-caste nature of the Sirkanda council today and the traditional 
dominance of that same caste in the village. 


Specific programs in Sirkanda have consistently ignored the wants 
of villagers themselves. Of those presented in 1957-1958, only the 
water supply project was felt by villagers to be really worthwhile. 
An earlier attempt to improve that situation had ended in an expensive 
fiasco at the hands of an unscrupulous contractor, so there was great 
reluctance to try anything new. The VLW was unable to offer good 
advice on the matter and no technically qualified person who could 
have done so was made available, although the council requested such 
advice. The community center evoked interest but no general agree- 
ment. Other programs informally introduced or advocated by the 
VLW were equally unsuccessful. Improved seed, seed potatoes, and 
chemical fertilizer, which the previous VLW had attempted to intro- 
duce, were rejected by villagers largely because local resources were 
felt to be sufficient. Adequate natural fertilizer and local seed were 
available, and there was a general conviction among villagers that 
seeds, fertilizer, and agricultural techniques which were developed or 
tested in the plains would be unsuccessful in the hills. Moreover, they 
were difficult to obtain. They had to be purchased in a distant village 
of the valley, and by the time they were transported to the hills they 
were exorbitantly expensive. The government required that the seed 
be returned with 25 per cent interest and that it be carefully cleaned, 
requirements which discouraged villagers from its use. Seed potatoes 
were requested by one villager, but the minimum allotment was more 
than twice what he could use, and so the idea was dropped. 

In the case of the ECS, there was no desire among villagers for the 
benefits a cooperative credit society could offer. People were accus- 
tomed to borrowing from one another or to obtaining credit from a 
local shop when necessary. They had no desire to risk a new system, 
especially one which they did not understand at all. 

Thus, a general lack of appropriate programs was an important 
factor in the failure of the VLW and the ECS. It is likely that, had 
the VLW been able to present the people with a useful solution to the 
problem of their distant water supply, he would have been well on 
the way to winning their confidence. Had he practiced the first aid and 
simple medicine (including veterinary medicine) supposedly at his 
command, he certainly would have won favor. Had he been sensitive 
to the desires of villagers, he would have increased his chances of 
establishing rapport and ultimately of achieving other goals. Among 
young men there was a real desire for organized recreation in the 
village; interest had been expressed in volleyball (introduced briefly 
by a former teacher) and evening singing and music sessions. The 
VLW ignored these interests — they were not in his program. 


He was bound by policy to specific programs which did not lead to 
the general goals of winning the confidence of the people so that they 
might be helped to help themselves. What was needed was not rigid 
application of programs, but study of local conditions — cultural, 
ecological, agricultural — so that appropriate programs might have 
been formulated to satisfy some of the immediate wants of villagers. 
In this way their confidence and cooperation might have been won 
so that the improved standard of living which is the ultimate goal of 
community development could be obtained. The overt goal of helping 
or serving people was in practice subordinated, both by the VLW and 
by higher administrative levels, to the covert goal of getting minimal 
compliance, on paper, with official programs. As a result, the entire 
project was an empty facade. In administrative headquarters this 
area had achieved a record as a successful unit. In reality it was a 

Had specific local programs been formulated in terms of general 
goals of community development and had accomplishment of covert 
goals not been substituted for fulfillment of overt goals, success might 
have been achieved. 


Even the programs which might have been successful were not 
presented effectively or even comprehensibly to villagers. There was 
no effort to discuss planned programs informally in advance with 
household heads or others nor to invite discussion in their formulation. 
The programs were invariably presented to the village president, who 
then relayed the information to villagers as being the VLW's plan, 
or they were presented through the village council without advance 
warning. The villagers had no chance to think over a project in advance, 
much less to ask questions, make suggestions, or suggest alternatives. The 
VLW is known by the title "village servant," but his projects were 
presented as governmentally decreed programs to be carried out by 
villagers under his supervision. Villagers were not led to feel that 
they were being helped to help themselves, but rather that they were 
being directed to meet the whims of a government which did not under- 
stand their problems and with which they were already at odds. As a 
result their resentment was compounded. 

The government repeatedly demonstrated its ignorance of, and in- 
difference to, the problems of the villagers by advocating programs 
with no apparent local relevance (chemical fertilizer, Japanese rice 
cultivation) and by sending as its representatives personnel with no 
familiarity with the way of life of people in the hills. Simple misunder- 


standings were also frequent, based partly on the inability of the VLW 
and ECS to speak or understand the Pahari language, and partly on 
these officials' failure to explain their plans adequately. Thus, villagers 
believed that their investment in a credit cooperative would be 
"swallowed up" by the officials of some government agency and that 
it could not be refunded. They were totally unaware of some of the 
services which a VLW was supposed to be able to provide, especially 
first aid and medicine. 


The VLW and ECS were poorly trained and poorly motivated. 
They had no special preparation for work in these rugged and isolated 
hills. They were therefore thought of by villagers as complete out- 
siders and greenhorns. Villagers ridiculed their inability to get around 
easily on the rough mountain trails. When one of these officials made 
his first appearance in the village, he was guided part of the way 
by a small village boy. Villagers never forgot the boy's tale of how 
he had to encourage the man onward at narrow points on the trail and 
how the man inched forward on all fours, asking God's mercy as he 
went. These officials constantly complained of the unpleasant sur- 
roundings, the difficult terrain, and their own loneliness and boredom. 
Their meager salaries did not compensate for these hardships. The hill 
environment did not provide them with the rewards to which they 
felt their education and official position entitled them. They had no 
intense commitment or emotional involvement in their jobs, as did 
the schoolteacher. They were devoted to their status rather than to 
their responsibilities. They did not receive the prestige, public ac- 
ceptance, or personal satisfaction that came to the teacher in his 
well-known and widely respected profession. As a result they were per- 
sonally ineffective workers as well as advocates of inappropriate pro- 

The ECS has been assigned to the village (perhaps as punishment) 
after having failed the training program for the post. Both the men 
spent much of their energies trying to effect a transfer to more favor- 
able circumstances. Worst of all, from the point of view of their 
reception by villagers, was their lack of understanding of or interest 
in the people with whom they worked. They neither understood nor 
sympathized with the way of life and problems of the Paharis. They 
considered the villagers dirty, ignorant, and immoral, not capable of 
raising their standards and unworthy of close association. Their lack 
of knowledge of the Pahari language contributed to this state of affairs. 
They could not even communicate easily with villagers. As a result, 


neither of the officials talked informally with villagers or came to know, 
even superficially, any of them other than the shopkeeper, the council 
president, and one or two men who frequented the school building 
where these men lived. Neither of the officials was ever seen to enter 
the village proper nor to go to the fields where villagers worked, in 
the year that they lived on its outskirts. They won neither the respect 
nor the trust of villagers. Although the villagers were not hospitable, 
it might be expected that as agents of change these officials would 
have made a real effort to win their confidence and understand their 
outlook. Instead, they relied entirely upon their official positions in 
their attempts to initiate and carry out programs. Gandhi has com- 
mented on the fruitlessness of this approach: 

When an official becomes a reformer, he must realize that his official posi- 
tion is not a help but a hindrance. In spite of his Herculean efforts people will 
suspect him and his motives, and they will scent danger where there is none. 
And when they do certain things, they often do them more to please the 
official than to please themselves. (Gandhi, 1952, p. 103) 

Education: A Successful Program 

The third government employee in Sirkanda is the schoolteacher. 
Education is not new to Sirkanda villagers, but until 1950 they had 
to go out of Sirkanda to get it. Usually they went to schools in one 
of two or three villages of the valley not far from Bhatbair. Even now 
anyone desiring education beyond the fifth class must go to those vil- 
lages, and anyone seeking education beyond the eighth class must go 
into Dehra Dun. People as old as 60 years acquired some education in 
their childhood. Three men in their late forties have had an eighth- 
grade education. There are 24 local students currently enrolled in or 
attending classes regularly in Sirkanda, and three attend higher classes 
outside Sirkanda. In addition to these students, 36 villagers have at- 
tended a village or outside school in the past — 33 Rajputs, 2 Brahmins, 
and 1 blacksmith. Thirty-three of these are men and three are girls. 
The girls attended school in the village after 1950. In addition, one 
Brahmin man received some religious training in another hill village. 
The average period of attendance of these 36 was three years; five 
went to the eighth class, and four completed five years. It is obvious 
that this amount of schooling cannot make for a high rate of effective 
literacy. While all who have gone to school and a few who have not 
can sign their names, many can read or write little if at all. Little 
reading or writing is done in the village except in the school, and 
so literacy is quickly lost by those who acquire it. At best perhaps half 
of those who have been to school are usefully literate, making a literacy 


rate among village men of less than 15 per cent and that for women 
around 1 per cent — a village rate among adults of less than 8 per cent. 

Attitudes toward education in Sirkanda are generally not favorable. 
School is thought of as a place for children with nothing better to do. 
In most families only children who are not needed elsewhere are 
allowed to go. Most families consider education for girls to be en- 
tirely useless and actually detrimental. As a result of these attitudes, 
a maximum of 20 out of 35 eligible boys in Sirkanda attend the local 
elementary school while 4 of 31 girls do so. Most children are in agree- 
ment with their parents on this issue, but at least one small girl at- 
tended school sporadically despite her father's refusal to enroll her, 
and one boy requested private tutoring when his father demanded that 
he work during school hours. Often one or two boys of a large family 
are educated and others are not. The educated one is usually one who 
shows some liking or aptitude for school or, perhaps more often, who 
dislikes other work or is unable to perform it. 

One of the most successful educated men of Bhatbair is a man of 
another village who began school at the age of 14 after an attack of 
pneumonia which left him weak and sickly. His father, who had 
previously forbidden education in his family, saw the boy's weak con- 
dition and said, "Now he's not good for work, he may as well sit in 
the school each day." Despite his late start this boy went on through 
high school, got a job on the office staff of a limestone quarrying com- 
pany and quickly advanced to an excellent position. Now he is edu- 
cating a younger sister although his parents insist that it is a waste to 
do so. 

Family size and land ownership are important factors. A small 
family, especially if it has much land, cannot afford to let boys go to 
school who might otherwise be helping to farm. A family's wealth is 
a primary factor, especially in higher education. Sometimes a wealthy 
family can afford to hire a servant to do a boy's work so that he can 
go to school if he wishes. Education outside the village is expensive 
because the student must board. The only Bhatbair boy to go to college 
is a Brahmin from the wealthiest family of Kanda, a neighboring 
village. All those in Sirkanda who have gone outside the village for 
schooling have been from the wealthiest families, and some had rela- 
tives near the valley with whom they could live and from whose homes 
they could commute to school. 

Establishing schools in Bhatbair was not an easy task. Three one- 
teacher schools were authorized in 1949, one in each of the three 
largest villages, with a potential enrollment of around 50 students 
each. Teachers were assigned by the Dehra Dun District Board in 


1950. They were all well-trained, young but experienced, apparently 
quite highly motivated, and, most important, were from other hill 
areas so that the living conditions, terrain, language, and culture of 
the area were not strange to them. In each village where they have 
established schools they have come to know villagers on a personal 
level and have to a considerable extent been accepted by them. How- 
ever, in the initial stages they were beset by many difficulties. In one 
of the three villages originally picked for a school (and it is a village 
with a long-standing reputation for inhospitality), the teacher was 
unable to get a single pupil to attend school. After several months he 
was authorized to move to a village with one-sixth of the potential 
student body, but one more favorably disposed toward education. It 
is a village made up entirely of relatives of the wealthy Brahmin who 
serves as the traditional Sirkanda priest. There the teacher has run 
a school on the veranda of a house for six years, with an average of 
five pupils in attendance. The other teachers did somewhat better in 
Kanda and Sirkanda where eight to fifteen students have attended the 
schools over this period. 

In 1957, when a new teacher came to Sirkanda, he found an attend- 
ing student body of 8 students and an official register of over 20. He 
found the standard of achievement extremely low. Being a conscien- 
tious person, he set about to rectify both matters and he met with 
remarkable success. On the point of attendance, he was faced with 
three alternatives: (1) continue to falsify the attendance record as his 
predecessor evidently had, under pressure from the District Board to 
increase enrollment, though this involved the risk of detection and 
punishment; (2) report the truth of the matter, thus provoking an 
investigation that would hurt either the previous teacher, himself, or 
both; (3) raise the enrollment to match the records, a seemingly hope- 
less task. This teacher elected to follow the last course and in a period 
of three months he had, by begging, cajoling, and threatening, man- 
aged to raise his regular daily attendance from 8 to around 20. He 
received no credit for this beyond his own satisfaction and peace of 
mind. No one in the village cared, and the increase in attendance did 
not show on his records to higher officials. 

As to achievement, the teacher undertook to raise standards by 
intensive effort, discipline, and some tutoring. His success is indicated 
by the fact that the only candidate for the fifth-class examinations, an 
exceptionally backward pupil at the beginning of his fifth year, passed 
the district examinations in the upper third of the group examined. 
For this, too, the teacher received no credit from villagers, and his 
efforts were unknown to the school authorities. 


The teacher's efforts were not unappreciated by his students. Of 31 
students, roughly 20 of whom were in attendance on any particular 
day, there was a core of about 10 who attended consistently. That is, 
10 students came regularly, while of the remaining 21 an average of 
about 10 appeared daily. The consistent attendees appeared to be 
sincerely interested in school and respectful and appreciative of the 
teacher. Several of the other students were equally interested but 
lacked the support of their families which would have enabled them 
to attend regularly. It was the interest displayed by these pupils 
which inspired the teacher in his largely thankless task. He was espe- 
cially pleased when one of his students, on his own initiative, took 
English lessons from the anthropologist's interpreter for a period of 
three or four months. However, neither the schoolteacher nor any 
villager knew English, and the boy finally gave up the effort. 

The school year in Sirkanda consisted of about a 5-hour day of 
classwork, 5% days a week for approximately 10 months per year. The 
curriculum was similar to that in elementary schools throughout 
Uttar Pradesh, consisting of exercises in reading, writing, and arith- 
metic and occasional study of stories, religion, history, and geography, 
all by rote. There was no attempt to relate school studies to practical 
problems of village life. 

Official school enrollment in Sirkanda was 25 at its maximum, and 
with 6 unenrolled attendees, attendance remained consistently at 
around 20 despite daily absentees, except in the harvest periods and 
heavy rains, when it dropped to around 10. Seven of these pupils (2 
Bajgis, 1 Muslim, and 4 Brahmins) were boys from two other villages 
about three miles distant, who came daily over an extremely rough trail. 
Twenty-one enrolled and unenrolled Sirkanda students were Rajputs, 
2 were blacksmiths and 1 a Brahmin, and only 4 (all Rajputs) were 
girls. Grade distribution reflects both the drop-out rate and the suc- 
cessful recruitment of beginners by the new teacher: first grade, 1 1 
enrolled and 6 in informal attendance; second grade, 5 enrolled; third 
grade, 4 enrolled; fourth grade, 3 enrolled; fifth grade, 1 enrolled. 
Only one girl attended at all regularly. 

Three Sirkanda boys were enrolled in high schools in 1957-1958, 
one each in the seventh and eighth grades in Majra, a village border- 
ing the valley, and one in high school (ninth grade) in Dehra Dun. 
At the end of the year, one Sirkanda student went on to the sixth 
class at Majra and the eighth-grader there went on to high school in 
Dehra Dun. 

It seems likely that when a high school is established in Majra, 
where the sixth, seventh, and eighth classes are currently held, more 


Sirkanda boys will pursue their education. Such a school is under 
construction and is expected to be opened in a year or two. There, 
as villagers point out, the boys can live with relatives and attend 
school relatively inexpensively, without being exposed to the tempta- 
tions of city life. 

The school, then, is a government enterprise that has fared better 
in Sirkanda and neighboring villages than have other programs. The 
reasons for this success are several. The school is an institution to 
which villagers have become accustomed over a long period of time, 
first outside the village and more recently in the village. Its potential 
value in achieving tangible results in the form of jobs and prestige 
is obvious to all, though many hold that these results are not suitable 
or attainable for their children. The teacher's role is a familiar one 
to villagers, and his purposes and functions, although not always ap- 
proved, are at least understood. He may be a bother and a distracting 
influence to children who could be better engaged elsewhere, but at 
least he does not pose a threat to adult villagers nor is he suspected of 
ulterior motives. He is not, in the conventional sense, an agent of 
authority. In these respects he is different from other government 

Teachers have been consistently effective as individuals in this area. 
They have been relatively well trained in teacher training schools. 
They are self-selected, doing what they planned to do in a well-estab- 
lished profession with a secure future. They have been intelligently 
assigned, with their own cultural background in mind. Indicative of 
their appropriateness for their jobs is the length of their tenure in 
these jobs despite isolation and frustrating working conditions: 6, 
6, and 4 years for the three recent teachers, and the replacement for 
the last of these is beginning his second year without yet seeking 
transfer. They have consistently established fairly good rapport with 
villagers, considering the obstacles which any outsider faces in the 
closed society of the area. This did not come easily. One or two years 
were required for each to gain acceptance, but from the point of view 
of the program the time has probably been well spent. Rapid turn- 
over of personnel would have precluded the possibility of achieving 
such rapport. 

Some of the important factors which have led to failure of other 
programs in the village have therefore not characterized the educa- 
tional program. The goals have been relatively consistent. In the con- 
text of Indian or at least district educational policy covert goals have 
been the same as overt goals (the principal disparity being in the 
emphasis upon enrollment versus actual attendance), and general goals 


(teaching children facts and skills as outlined in the curriculum) have 
been in harmony with specific goals (enabling children to pass the 
examinations, or at least to fail them only after a noble try). 

In spite of its relative success, education has not been enthusiastically 
received in Sirkanda. The teacher's job is a frustrating and thankless 
one. This can in part be attributed to villagers' suspicion of outsiders; 
in part to antigovernment sentiments; in part to lack of enthusiasm 
about education. The last-mentioned factor is conditioned to a large 
extent by the lack of tangible benefits to those who have been educated 
in the past. To many villagers education is simply irrelevant in tradi- 
tional village life, the only way of life accessible to these people. Vil- 
lage education is not conducive to orientation toward the outside, nor 
sufficient to enable people to make a success of life on the outside, nor 
is it of any great practical value in the village. Its demonstrated value 
in Sirkanda is only that it brings to the villager the advantages of a 
limited literacy (which villagers are coming to appreciate in the light 
of increasing necessity to deal with the government) and some general 
awareness of geography, history, and nationalism. The villager is 
presumably thus helped to become a more responsible citizen in a 
republic — an official goal of education of which villagers are unaware. 

However, to the extent that education has been successful and is 
becoming more so, we have presumptive evidence that inherent cul- 
tural factors do not preclude success in governmental programs. Care- 
fully planned programs presented intelligently by properly trained 
and motivated people can be successful in the village. If they have 
the further advantage of fulfilling a "felt need" and bringing a tangible 
benefit, their success is even more likely. With initial hard-earned 
successes, subsequent accomplishments might be expected to come 
more easily as traditional suspicions are allayed. 

Balance of External Relations 

Relations between Sirkanda and the outside can be summarized 
by saying that on the whole, intrusions from the outside into the 
village have far outweighed, in numbers and effect, the extensions of 
the village into the outside world. That is, while villagers do go out 
of the hill area for trade and pilgrimage, and village boys and young 
men not infrequently seek adventure in other areas, the excursions 
are short-lived and usually result in greater appreciation of the village 
and its familiar way of life. Those who have been outside bring back 
stories of their adventures and certain material goods obtained there, 
but they do not often bring lasting changes to the village. On the other 


hand, government activity in the village, and to a lesser extent outside 
merchants and others, have brought into the village a number of alien 
ideas, practices, and material goods. Although the activity of outsiders 
has recently increased in effect, it is not a recent thing. Under the 
British and before that under the Garhwal Raja, outside government 
impinged on Sirkanda, and traders have long frequented the village. 
And for fifty years schooling has been acquired by some village children. 

Within the more restricted area of the "marriage network" sur- 
rounding Sirkanda — the immediate culture area — but not extending to 
"outside" or urban areas, it is evident that extensions of the village 
are many and pervasive, as with the plains village, Senapur, of which 
Opler (1956, p. 10) writes, "the involvement of . . . villagers with 
organizations, places, and events outside of the village is considerable 
and it seems that this has been the case for a very long time." 

The fact that this village, like communities everywhere, has such 
relations and extensions does not make it any less a functional unit. 
This fact merely puts it into perspective as one unit within a larger 
complex of systems on several different levels. 

In discussing the problem of extensions of village communities to 
the extra-community world, R. J. Smith (1956, p. 4) has said: 

There are three types of extensions: 

1. Intellectual awareness 

2. Physical mobility 

3. Organizational affiliation (or membership). 

These are not, of course, water-tight compartments, and it is unlikely that 
any one activity or extension will be entirely one or the other of these. 

It is evident from the discussion above that all three of these types 
are found, in varying degrees, in the relationship of Sirkanda to the 
outside world. However, a fourth type of extension was of interest 
in this research and appears to be crucial to community cohesion and 
relevant to cultural change. This is individual or group identification 
with an outside group. That is, in addition to awareness of, mobility to, 
or organizational affiliation with, an outside group, there is also the 
possibility of adoption of that group as an identification group or, as 
it is commonly known in the sociological literature, a reference group 
(Newcomb, 1950, pp. 225 f.; Turner, 1956, p. 328). 

One of the aims of the research reported here was to investigate fac- 
tors relevant to social cohesion and disintegration in the community. 

Unfortunately, comparative data from a culturally similar com- 
munity is not at hand. There is, however, some literature of a theoret- 
ical nature on the subject, and the writer has made comparable ob- 


servations in a community in the Aleutian Islands of North America 
which provide some useful contrasts (Berreman, 1955). In the Aleutian 
village, it was found that individuals tended to identify consistently 
with an alien group, non-Aleut participants in the urban culture of 
the mainland. This attitude was disintegrative to the community be- 
cause the norms of the alien group could not be realized in the con- 
text of the isolated community. People had to leave the community 
to achieve any chance of acceptance by members of the group providing 
the frames of reference which influence their attitudes and behavior, 
or even to be able to practice this behavior and satisfy their aspirations. 
The situation was attributable largely to the influx into the community 
of alien agents of socialization, who represented the source of authority 
and of rewards in the community and who instilled in its members 
values which were not realizable in the community context. As a result, 
people began to look outside the community for their standards of 
behavior and achievement. Unable to meet these standards in the 
village they left, or remained as frustrated "marginal men." Their 
plight was evident in the high emigration rate and the many types of 
stress experienced by individuals in the village, including stress of 
unprecedented kinds for which no adaptive mechanisms were readily 

On the basis of that example it was hypothesized that "persistently 
attempted projection to an . . . alien context, if it cannot be achieved 
by community members within their community, is disintegrative to 
that community" (Berreman, 1955, p. 58). That is, to the extent that 
members of the community adopt values which cannot be realized in 
the community but can be realized outside the community, that 
community is likely to disintegrate. Such values are most often ac- 
quired from alien reference groups — groups which are the sources of 
authority and rewards. Such groups are especially potent when they 
are in key positions as agents of socialization of children (for ex- 
ample, teachers), as they were in the Aleutian community. To state it 
differently, a high positive correlation exists between the extent to 
which individuals' reference groups are also their membership groups 
and the integration of the community as evidenced by other criteria 
of integration. 

In attempting to counteract disintegrative trends in a community, 
success is as likely to be achieved (and probably more realistically so) 
by making new values achievable within the community as by trying 
to prevent their acquisition or by trying to reestablish traditional 

Sirkanda offers a notable contrast to the Aleutian village in its 


state of cohesion or integration as a community. In Sirkanda there is 
little in the way of adoption of alien values or reference groups aside 
from the ritual sphere, where plains standards are adopted as a means 
of social mobility. Socialization remains primarily in the hands of 
villagers. Schooling within the village has been relatively innocuous 
from this point of view. It has reached relatively few villagers with 
any significant intensity. Moreover, teachers have been of the same 
general Pahari cultural background as the villagers. The curriculum 
has not taught an alien way of life, nor has it conflicted in many 
respects with traditional values of villagers. Village schooling (unlike 
that obtained in Dehra Dun) has not turned students' aspirations to 
the outside, nor has it lessened their effectiveness as villagers. This 
situation is in sharp contrast to that in the Aleutian village (Berreman, 

1955» PP- 54 £•)■ 

In Sirkanda there has as yet been no significant interest in move- 
ment to the outside, no significant dissatisfaction with village life. 
There are few signs of stress in individuals or groups that are not well 
within the traditional and expectable range and are therefore dealt 
with effectively in traditional ways. The village is, within the tradi- 
tional cultural context, which includes caste and factional divisions, 
cohesive and well-integrated by most indexes that could be set forth. 
This does not mean that it will remain so. The two recent emigrants 
to city jobs may be straws in the new wind which is blowing in India, 
generated by increasing awareness of other ways of living and resulting, 
as with these two men, in identification with another way of life and 
attempts to become part of it. 

Traditional ties are strong in India. Even villages near large cities 
remain remarkably cohesive, and people who go to cities to work 
generally retain close ties in their home villages. Pahari villages very 
close to Dehra Dun are tied culturally, socially, and religiously much 
more closely to the hills than to the city. Urban emigration in them 
is virtually unknown. Attitudes and behavior of their residents seem 
to differ surprisingly little from those of their fellows in more isolated 
villages. It is a question to what extent education may alter this situ- 
ation. So far, the evidence in Sirkanda does not contradict the hypoth- 
esis regarding community cohesion derived in the Aleutian village. 
These are two extreme cases which follow the expected pattern. Further 
work in less clear-cut circumstances is needed for more substantial 



The function and relative significance of ties of kinship, caste, and 
community in the lives of people in and around Sirkanda have been 
a major focus of this research. Implicit in this focus is a belief that 
the findings will be relevant to an understanding of other villages 
not only within this culture area, but throughout Northern India 
and to a lesser extent in India at large. 

In the five chapters immediately preceding this one it has been 
demonstrated that each of these levels of organization is vital in the 
lives of Sirkanda villagers. They are the structural framework for 
Pahari culture and social interaction. They come into prominence in 
varying degrees in various situations. Of the three, kinship ties are 
of most immediate significance in the lives of individuals. The patri- 
local extended family is the residential unit, the property-owning and 
work group, the group that finds wives for its sons, that participates 
most actively in the life-cycle rites of its members, that worships com- 
mon gods together, and that applies safeguards and sanctions to its 
members to keep the family reputation untarnished. It is, in short, 
the basic economic, social, and religious unit. Above it, the lineage, 
clan, sib, and kindred are kin groups which function in many contexts 
as social and religious units of progressively less relevance to the in- 
dividual. Informal organization within the caste and community tends 
to follow lines of kinship. Those kin ties are strongest which occur 
within the community. 

The caste or jati is theoretically an extension of the kin group, 


since its members are supposed to be descended from a common an- 
cestor. Their kin relationship is, however, sufficiently remote that it 
assumes little practical significance beyond that basic to caste itself, 
namely the ritual and social equivalence of its members. Pahari caste 
is the hereditary, endogamous unit, ranked with regard to other such 
units in terms of ritual and social status. It is associated with a tradi- 
tional occupation or range of occupations. Caste is significant in its 
regulation of marriage and other social and ritual contacts, in its in- 
fluence on the religious and economic activities of its members, and 
as an effective identification group for its members. It is an important 
tie which extends throughout the immediate culture area across com- 
munity boundaries and transcends community loyalties. 

The village community is made up of people identified with a par- 
ticular nucleated settlement area surrounded by agricultural lands 
cultivated primarily by its high-caste residents. The village cannot be 
understood without reference to its extensions in surrounding villages, 
especially those which can be reached in half a day and with which 
its members have most of their marriage and other extravillage social, 
religious, and economic ties. However in most circumstances the village 
is a more important identification group than is the larger locality. 
People feel loyalty to it, keep its secrets, and rally to its support when 
confronted by outsiders. It is the place where property is held, where a 
living can be made, where one's primary emotional attachments are 
focused, where one feels secure at times of crisis and happy at times 
of rejoicing. Disputes among villagers are most often resolved within 
the community, usually by high-caste pressure or arbitration. Trails, 
water supply, and uncultivated lands are held by the village in com- 
mon. It functions as an entity in the worship of village gods, its unity 
and identity becoming especially explicit in the important village- 
protection ceremony. 

Interaction among villagers is far more frequent than their inter- 
action with members of other villages, except for villagers who live 
elsewhere but still identify with the village. The status of nonresident 
villagers, who retain their traditional village affiliation although they 
live in outlying dwellings where they may interact more frequently 
with members of other villages than with members of their own village, 
is one of the contrasts between hill villages and those of the plains. 
Often nonresident hill villagers represent the first step toward creation 
of a new village. They usually retain their original village identifica- 
tion as long as they belong to joint families which own a dwelling in 
that village. 

An individual's identification and commitment is first and always 



with his local kin groups. It is not so easy to determine precedence 
in more distant ties within the caste and in cross-caste ties in the 
community. The individual is closely identified with, and committed 
to, both. In disputes which test these loyalties he usually takes the 
side of his caste over that of his village, but such situations are rare. 
When there is no such conflict of loyalties, intercaste disputes find 
him siding with his caste, and intervillage disputes find him siding with 
his village. Village affiliation can be changed, though not easily, while 
caste affiliation is inherited and unalterable. If a person emigrates from 
his village he may seek new village affiliation, although his village of 
origin will not be forgotten. He cannot seek new caste affiliation. He 
establishes himself among members of his own caste in his new en- 
vironment. Therefore, community ties, though strong, are less stable 
than, and in certain respects secondary to, caste ties. 

2J Primary orientation 
Secondary orientation 
Tertiary orientation 

1. Kin groups 

a. Household 

b. Lineage (minimal and maximal) 

c. Sib 

d. Kindred 

2. Caste as named group 

3. Local community 

4. Other sub-culture areas 

Fig. 7. Kin, caste, and community orientations. 

The relationship of these three levels of orientation for the in- 
dividual — kin, caste, and community — can best be viewed in terms of 
the area in which they coincide. A portion of the diagram of "levels 
of identification and interaction" (fig. 6) can be adapted as a sche- 
matic way of looking at the relationships. It is intended to suggest 
reality rather than to define it precisely. Where kin, caste, and com- 
munity ties all function at once to tie individuals to one another, 
we find the area of the individual's fundamental or primary identifi- 


cation (diagonally hatched portion of figure 7). Where two of the three 
coincide, there is less intense or secondary identification (crosshatched 
portion of the figure). Where only one of these ties is present, there 
is a tertiary level of identification. Of course, kinship ties always occur 
within the caste, a fact which assures the local kin group of its pre- 
eminent place in the orientation of the individual. In other words, 
kinfolk who live in the same village identify most closely with one 
another. Other things being equal, as they rarely are, kinfolk who 
reside in other villages and non-kin caste-fellows who reside in the same 
village are of secondary immediacy in the orientation of the individual. 
Non-kin caste-fellows of other villages and local villagers of other castes 
are of tertiary immediacy in the orientation of the individual. 

These statements are applicable only within the familiar area of 
marriage relationships around the village, that is, Bhatbair and vicin- 
ity. To go beyond the immediate culture area is to go beyond the 
familiar world of villagers and hence to bring in factors of strangeness 
and uncertainty. Thus, a caste-fellow from another area is not com- 
parable to a resident of Bhatbair in the minds of the people of Bhat- 
bair. He is outside the marriage network. Here degrees of difference 
are crucial. A resident of a neighboring area is more easily appraised 
and is more likely to be acceptable in a marriage arrangement than 
one of a more distant and more different area. Any speaker of the 
Central Pahari dialect can be fitted into the system more easily than 
can speakers of Western and Eastern Pahari, while any Pahari is 
less foreign than a non-Pahari. A fourth level of identification might 
therefore be defined as non-kin, noncaste, noncommunity members 
who are of the same subcultural area. 

The status of the stranger emphasizes the relatively closed nature 
of Sirkanda society. Ties of kinship, caste, and community are crucial. 
If a person has such ties in the culture area he can be incorporated 
into the social system. If not, he is an outsider and a stranger. Since 
kin and caste ties cannot be acquired, the only hope of acceptance an 
outsider has (shopkeeper, schoolteacher, village level worker, servant) 
is through community affiliation, and this comes only after continuous 
residence and interaction with villagers. The measure of acceptance 
granted the anthropologist and his interpreter came after some time, 
on the basis of residence in Sirkanda and interaction with its mem- 
bers. Redfield (1957, pp. 33 f.) says that "institutionalized forms for 
admitting strangers" are characteristic of peasant communities, re- 
sulting from the fact that such communities are dependent upon cities 
and therefore must admit representatives of necessary urban institu- 
tions into their midst. Some of these representatives have to reside 

conclusion 343 

in the village for extended periods, and the peasant society is prepared 
to allow them to do so. Redfield points out that such aliens do not 
participate fully in village life (indeed they would not be allowed to 
in Sirkanda), and cannot become village members. Like the shop- 
keeper and governmental employees in Sirkanda, they become in- 
stead "resident strangers," admitted upon sufferance of villagers to 
play their limited roles. 

In this research attention has been called to the confusion which 
often arises between caste conceived of as an abstract, idealized system 
and caste viewed as behavior — as attitudes expressed by people and as 
interaction among people (cf. Berreman, 1960a). Both are important 
for an understanding of the system, but their differences and spheres 
of relevance have to be kept clear in the observer's mind if accurate 
interpretations are to result. 

While this point has been made with special reference to caste, a 
similar point is pertinent to discussions of kin group, community, and 
extracommunity organization and interaction. What people say should 
be done is often quite different from what is done and enforced within 
and among these groups. Some of the confusion about the "great" 
and "little" religious traditions in India, with the frequent implication 
that these are correlated with national and local spread, respectively, 
is attributable in large part to failure to make the appropriate distinc- 
tions in observation and analysis or to make explicit the context in 
which reported religious attitudes and behavior correspond to the facts 
of daily life. Similar confusion is evident in much of the comment 
concerning the effectiveness, on the community level, of programs of 
community development and local self-government. Speculation about 
the decline, in some areas, of the village and of the extended family 
as effective social and economic units may also be biased by confusion 
on these points. Behavior, observed and analyzed in context, is neces- 
sary information upon which to base conclusions about culture and 
social structure. 

This does not mean that such factors as private attitudes and, at 
the other extreme, great traditions, should be overlooked. These are 
important aspects of reality whose existence and relevance to those who 
hold them are detectable only through behavior, often verbal or other 
symbolic behavior. To overlook such factors would be to overlook an 
aspect of culture as important as any other. However, they should 
be analyzed in terms of their relationship to other types of behavior. 
When information is obtained from secondary sources or literary 
sources, care has to be taken to obtain the behavioral context in which 
it functions. Caution is especially necessary when, as in matters of caste 


in India, certain groups have strong vested interests in adhering to 
particular and often limited views of reality, particularly before an 
audience of outsiders. 

The Pahari Culture Area: Sources and Affinities 

In comparisons and generalizations the Himalayan foothills from 
Kashmir across North India and Nepal have here been referred to as 
a "culture area." In some contexts smaller segments of this area as, 
for example, the region occupied by Central Pahari-speaking peoples 
(roughly between the Jumna and Kali rivers), Tehri Garhwal, or even 
Bhatbair and vicinity have been referred to as culture areas. This is 
a matter of level of generalization, since a culture area is simply an 
area within which the cultures are similar to one another and distinc- 
tive relative to cultures outside that area. Sirkanda residents could be 
legitimately described as representatives of any or all of the following 
culture areas: India, North India, Pahari, Central Pahari, Garhwal, 
Tehri Garhwal, Bhatbair and vicinity. Other areas could be delimited, 
including some that would crosscut these. For present purposes the 
Pahari culture area, an unusually distinct and sharply defined one, 
will be discussed. 

A brief description of this culture area which has been given else- 
where can be repeated here to indicate the nature of Pahari culture: 

The distinctiveness of the Paharis as a group is suggested by the fact that 
they share a common and distinctive linguistic stock. They also share a num- 
ber of other cultural features which distinguish them from the rest of the 
North Indian culture area and specifically from the plains-dwellers adjacent 
to them. These features, like their language, are not entirely unique or di- 
vorced from those of the rest of North India, but are divergent forms grounded 
in a common heritage. In emphasizing differences, care must be taken not to 
ignore the numerous and basic similarities common to Paharis and other 
North Indians. Differences are, however, the primary subject of this analysis. 
Among distinguishing Pahari characteristics are: 

(1) A somewhat distinctive caste structure wherein there is a major division 
between the dominant high or twice-born castes ("big castes" in local par- 
lance), made up of Brahmins and Rajputs, and the "untouchable" (achut) 
low or "small" castes. The former are the land-owning agriculturalists; the 
latter comprise all of the service castes (blacksmiths, carpenters, weavers, 
musicians, shoemakers, and others), collectively termed Dom, and make up 
only about 10 percent of the population in any area. While there is hierarchi- 
cal caste ranking within each of these two major categories, it is of significance 
primarily to those within that category. From across the high-low caste pollu- 
tion barrier, it appears insignificant. The range of castes found in the hills is 

conclusion 345 

smaller than in the plains. Conspicuous by their absence are indigenous 
Vaisya (merchants) and Sudra (clean caste artisans). On the other hand, 
occupational variability within castes is considerable in the hills. . . . 

(2) A number of rules pertaining to marriage which would be unacceptable 
to many plains groups and especially to those of high caste. These include 
bride-price marriage with no necessity for a Sanskritic marriage ceremony, 
polyandry in some areas, levirate, divorce by mutual consent, remarriage of 
widows and divorcees, toleration of intercaste marriage within the high- or 
low-caste group. There is also a good deal of postmarital sexual freedom and 
sanctioned relations of brothers with one another's wives. Marriage is uni- 
versally prohibited only in own and mother's clan [that is, sib], and village 
exogamy is not everywhere the rule. 

(3) No seclusion of women and freer participation of women in most 
aspects of life than on the plains, including their participation in singing 
and dancing at festivals. Relatively free informal contact between the sexes 
is usual. 

(4) A number of religious and ritual features such as absence of the require- 
ment for a Sanskritic marriage ceremony and absence of the requirement for 
a sacred thread ceremony for high-caste boys, though such ceremonies are 
coming rapidly into vogue in some areas. Distinctive Pahari marriage and 
death ceremonies are performed. There is a great reliance upon mediums and 
diviners and in some areas the Brahmin priest is relatively less important 
than on the plains. Frequent and elaborate ritual purification and other 
religiously motivated acts common on the plains are less widespread in the 
hills. There are many distinctively Pahari religious beliefs and forms of wor- 
ship. Animal sacrifice is a part of most Pahari ceremonies, and buffalo 
sacrifice is found in some areas. Paharis are widely known for their devotion to 
the Pandavas of Mahabharata fame and to Siva. The unique and spectacular 
rope-sliding ceremony is performed in honor of the latter. . . . 

(5) Distinctive folklore, songs, dances and festivals. 

(6) Consumption of meat and liquor by all castes. 

(7) Greater flexibility of intercaste relations and freer intercaste interac- 
tion than on the plains. The caste hierarchy is important and caste status 
differences are actively enforced, but the rules allow considerably more con- 
tact and informal interaction than is usual in India. 

(8) In addition to a nucleated settlement adjacent to a concentration of 
village lands there are temporary-cum-permanent dwellings on widely scat- 
tered and often distant agricultural and grazing lands. These are thought of 
as part of the village even when other villages intervene. 

(g) Terrace agriculture with primary dependence on millets, wheat, and 
barley. Soil productivity is maintained by systematic fertilization, crop rota- 
tion, and fallowing. Water is scarce but wherever possible is used for irrigated 
rice cultivation. 

(10) Dwellings of stone and timbers, often with slate roofs. Distinctive archi- 
tecture of two stories with lower floor as barn and upper floor as living area, 
often with large open veranda or porch at the upper level. 


(11) A number of artifacts including lathe-turned wooden utensils, elabo- 
rately carved wooden porch columns, lintels, windows, etc.; virtual absence of 

(12) Distinctive women's dress and ornamentation, including full skirt, 
fitted jacket, and several types of gold and silver jewelry. Men's dress is not 
so distinctive and has rapidly become like that of men of the plains, but now 
includes a black or colored cap, a woolen blanket, and a cane as typical 
Pahari accoutrements. 

This list is suggestive rather than exhaustive. Some items on it may not be 
as widespread in the hills as others, especially in the area east of Garhwal, 
for which there is little information. It serves to make the point, however, 
that this can for some purposes be considered a distinct culture area or 
subarea within the greater North Indian area. In view of its geographical 
and ecological isolation, its distinctiveness is not surprising; in view of its 
common heritage with the rest of North India, its basic similarity thereto 
is only what would be expected. (Berreman, 1960b, pp. 775-778) 

Several explanations for these and other distinctive Pahari traits 
have been offered by the people themselves and by various observers. 
Perhaps the most frequent explanation is an environmental one. A 
villager commented: 

We can't observe all of those rules that plains people do. Our women 
have to work, they can't bother with being secluded [purdah] or being out of 
circulation when they menstruate or for a long time after they give birth. 
We haven't enough water nor enough time to waste bathing all of the time 
like some plains people do. If a Brahmin here practiced all the observances 
a plains Brahmin does, his family would starve. 

Some writers have set forth very explicit, and often curious en- 
vironmentally deterministic, explanations. Raturi (1928, p. 207) says 
that "it is natural to eat meat and drink wine and wear woolen clothes 
to keep warm in cold countries," and Majumdar (1944, p. 128) asserts 
that "in cold climates dances form the most important form of 

Some traits have been explained in terms of economics. Bahadur 
(1916, p. 135) attributes polygyny to the need for wives as agricultural 
laborers, and many villagers also give this explanation. Walton (1911a, 
p. 88) attributes fraternal polyandry, where it occurs, to pressure on 
the land and a desire to maintain family lands intact. Majumdar (1944, 
p. 127) mentions the expense of a woman's jewelry as contributing to 
polyandry. Several writers have attributed polygamy in this area to 
disparity in proportions of the sexes (Berreman, 1962a). 

A frequently suggested source of the unique configuration of cus- 
toms found in this hill area is in the assumed cultural origins of the 

conclusion 347 

hill people. They are often pictured as modern survivals of an earlier 
era. Briffault (1927, p. 671) says that "The highland regions of the 
Himalaya are but a residual cultural island which preserves social 
customs that had once a far more extensive distribution. The in- 
stitutions which are found surviving there were once common through- 
out the greater part of Central Asia." Another author has called them 
"a fossil of the age of Mahabharata" (Munshi, 1955, p. i). Statements 
such as the latter are based on similarities between certain practices 
common in the area (polyandry, meat-eating, freedom of women, lack 
of caste rigidity) and practices recorded in classic texts of Hinduism. 
As has been pointed out in chapter 1, it is frequently asserted that 
the high-caste Khasiyas represent a population of Indo-Aryan speak- 
ing invaders who came into this area from the northwest, either directly 
or via Rajasthan. These people presumably conquered or absorbed 
an indigenous non-Aryan population ancestral to present-day Doms. 
It is often assumed that the Indo-Aryans were originally of the pure 
high-caste stock both genetically and culturally, but that they have 
since degenerated as a result of isolation or adoption of the practices 
of the people they conquered. Grierson (1916, p. 7) states that the 
Khasiyas ". . . were looked upon [by the most ancient Indian au- 
thorities] as Kshatriyas of Aryan origin. . . . They were considered 
to have lost their claim to consideration as Aryans, and to have become 
. . . barbarians due to their non-observance of the rules of eating and 
drinking observed by the Sanskritic peoples of India." 

The Himalayan area may once have been the home of the ancestors 
of today's plains Hindus. Basham states that "It has been reasonably 
suggested that the main line of Aryan penetration was not down the 
[Ganges] river, the banks of which were then probably thick swampy 
jungle, but along the Himalayan foothills" (Basham, 1953, p. 41). 
"While the Aryans had by now [later Vedic period, ca. 700 B.C.] 
expanded far into India their old home in the Panjab and the North- 
West was practically forgotten. Later Vedic literature mentions it 
rarely, and then usually with disparagement and contempt, as an 
impure land where the Vedic sacraments are not performed. It may 
have been once more invaded by Indo-Iranian tribes who did not 
follow the orthodox rites" (ibid.). 

Majumdar believes that the social and religious life of this culture 
area is a result of mixture of the cultural traditions of indigenes and 
the Indo-Aryan invaders, and even claims to find evidence that the 
Doms were "matriarchal" and the Khasiyas "patriarchal." He assigns 
particular distinctive Pahari traits such as "the double standard of 
morality practiced by women" (in their home villages as contrasted 


to those of their husbands) to the influence of alleged matriarchal Dom 
culture (Majumdar, 1944, pp. 173 £.). 

Saksena (1955, p. 30) notes that "it has been suggested by Mayne 
that the Indo-Aryans adopted their polyandrous customs from the 
aborigines or from a neighboring polyandrous people." Meat-eating, 
religious unorthodoxy including worship of household and village 
gods, and even worship of the god Shiva, have been attributed by some 
writers to the "aboriginal" culture. Saksena disagrees, on grounds that 
"when a superior culture imposes itself over an inferior culture, it 
is the latter which is affected more" (Saksena, 1955, p. 31). Instead, 
following Briffault, he attributes polyandry as well as most distinctive 
contemporary practices to survivals of the common Indo-Aryan cul- 
tural origin of the high-caste people. 

The unique Pahari cultural configuration can also be attributed in 
part to the distinctive combination of cultural contacts to which the 
area has been subject since the period of settlement of Indo-Aryan 
speaking peoples there. 

The Pahari area, a long, narrow strip following the southern face 
of the Himalayas, comprises the northernmost border of the Indian 
and North Indian culture areas, meeting throughout its length the 
southern edge of the Tibetan culture area. Off the western end of the 
Pahari area lies the Southwest Asian area — the Indus valley and 
Afghanistan (cf. Bacon, 1946). To the east the Pahari area seems to 
terminate in contact with Tibetans, Tibeto-Burman, and perhaps 
other "tribal" peoples (cf. Iijima, i960), and North Indian plains 
groups. Paharis are to some extent physically isolated from these other 
areas and groups. They are separated from peoples of the Indo- 
Gangetic plain by the fact that they occupy rugged hills bordered by 
a band of talus slopes, swamps, and jungles. They are separated from 
the Tibetan plateau by the high Himalayas, and from Afghanistan 
by the mountains of the old Northwest Frontier Province. More im- 
portant in separating Paharis from adjacent peoples have been cultural 
and ecological factors. Kawakita (1957, 1961) and Iijima (1961) have 
commented in some detail on ecological zones and their ethnic cor- 
relates in the Nepal Himalaya. Such barriers have contributed to 
Pahari isolation, but they have not proved insuperable. 

The most intensive outside contact in Garhwal has been with the 
people of the plains of North India, who share historical ties with 
Paharis and are of the same racial, cultural, and linguistic stock. 
People from North India — the Gangetic plain, the Punjab, and 
Rajasthan — have come to the Pahari area frequently on pilgrimages, 
to trade, to seek refuge from the tribulations of their native areas, or 

conclusion 349 

to find new lands and subjects. Thus, the Paharis have felt directly 
or indirectly the effects of most of the important invasions and other 
upheavals of North India. Occasionally South Indians have come, espe- 
cially on pilgrimage, and a few important temples in the mountains 
are said to have South Indian priests. 

Contact with the Southwest Asian area has been extremely limited in 
contemporary times because of the short common boundary, the great 
distances, intervening mountains and desert, and political and cultural 
factors. However, historically this was very likely a region inhabited 
at least for a time by the Indo-Aryan populations which ultimately 
extended over all of North India including the Himalayan hills, and 
which are presumed to have been the source of much of today's 
Indian culture. The Paharis share this cultural tradition. Contact with 
Kashmiris, in the northwest, continues today as an indirect Southwest 
Asian contact. 

Observers have frequently attributed Pahari polyandry to contacts 
with polyandrous Tibetans. This is an unlikely source in view of the 
distribution and functioning of Pahari polyandry. There has been, 
however, considerable contact and mutual influence between the two 
cultures. There are numerous regular trade routes over the Hima- 
layas into Tibet including at least one (Nilang) in Tehri Garhwal. 
Trade is carried on in both directions. Moreover, there are peoples 
(the Bhotiyas) living in the higher Indian Himalayas, whose cultural 
affinities are with Tibet (cf. Kawakita, 1957, 1961; Iijima, 1961; Pant, 
1935; Srivastava, 1958). The Bhotiyas are in frequent contact with 
adjacent Paharis, and they come each winter to trade and to pasture 
goats and sheep in Pahari areas. In fact, as was noted in chapter 1, the 
traditional name of the hill area in which this study was carried 
out, Bhatbair, means "sheep den," in reference to its yearly use by 
Bhotiya shepherds. Pahari culture has been influenced by contacts 
with Bhotiyas, especially in Almora District. As a rule in India, 
Bhotiyas seem to show more markedly than Paharis a cultural amalgam 
or syncretism brought about by a combination of Tibetan affinities 
and contacts and close association with Paharis of the Indian culture 
area. In the hill area of Nepal (the Eastern Pahari-speaking region) 
Tibetan influence has evidently been considerably stronger than it has 
in most of the Indian Himalayas and is evidenced today in the greater 
numbers of people and cultural traits of Tibetan affinities there (cf. 
Kawakita, 1957, 1961; Iijima, 1961). 

The Pahari area is, therefore, a relatively isolated one whose resi- 
dents share common origins, history, contacts, and environment and 
who interact with one another more than with outsiders. They have 


numerous contacts with the residents of the adjacent North Indian 
plains area, with whom they share origins, much history, and therefore 
much culture. A significant number of Paharis are relatively recent 
immigrants from the plains. With the Tibetan area Paharis have long 
had occasional contact. They have had historical ties and rare con- 
tacts with the Southwest Asian culture area as well. No attempt can 
be made here to outline cultural element distributions to enumerate 
the debts Pahari culture owes to these other areas. Comparative data 
are not available and their collection was beyond the scope of this 
research, but it is obvious that Pahari culture owes them much and 
has contributed to them as well. 

Origins, outside contacts, cultural amalgamation, and environmental 
and economic adaptation are therefore all relevant to an explanation 
of the distinctive Pahari culture. In conjunction with such explanatory 
factors, the fact of isolation and the concept of cultural drift are use- 
ful in throwing light on this subject. «, 

All cultures change through time as a result of the transmission, 
among those who carry them, of the results of experience — cultural 
variants, alternatives, and additions and deletions, derived from new 
conditions, relationships, contacts, and insights. Common experience 
resulting from common environment and from frequent, intensive 
interaction results in common culture. However, when two or more 
groups of people become isolated so that social interaction and there- 
fore cultural transmission is decreased or cut off between them, they 
gradually accumulate differential experience and consequently their 
cultures change in divergent ways. This cultural drift accounts in 
large part for the differences between plains and Pahari cultures (Berre- 
man, 1960b). Paharis have had more frequent and intensive contacts 
with one another than with peoples of the plains or of other cul- 
ture areas. For example, marriage networks apparently interconnect 
throughout the Pahari area, but they end abruptly at the plains 
boundary. Despite their probable common origin, Paharis and plains 
people have long been separated by topographical and sociocultural 
barriers, and subjected to different contacts and environments. As a 
result they are culturally distinct. Language, social organization, econ- 
omy, religion, and material culture all reflect their distinctiveness. 

Degree of mutual isolation also explains contrasts between the de- 
gree of cultural variability found among social groups in the hills 
and that in the plains. Although Pahari culture displays relatively 
consistent differences when contrasted with plains culture, and in 
that context appears to be relatively homogeneous, small Pahari 
localities and regions show a high degree of cultural difference from 


one another. This variability is evidently greater over shorter dis- 
tances than in the plains, just as Pahari marriage networks are smaller. 
This is largely a result of greater isolation between Pahari localities 
with consequent divergent or differential culture change, that is, 
cultural drift. Because of the terrain, Pahari settled areas are relatively 
inaccessible to one another. A fertile valley or gently sloping ridge 
may have a fairly dense population but may be a difficult journey from 
another such settled locality. It is such localities which differ culturally 
so conspicuously from one another. Rosser (1955) describes an extreme 
example of an isolated and culturally distinct Pahari locality. 

Caste groups within a Pahari locality show notably less cultural 
difference from one another than do castes of the plains — probably 
also a function of isolation. Plains castes are socially more isolated 
from one another than are those of the hills and so have had an 
opportunity to become or remain culturally more distinct than if 
they had been in frequent, intensive, and extensive contact as are 
hill castes. On the plains, most intensive contacts are among caste- 
fellows, often across local boundaries. In the hills, most intensive 
contacts are within the locality, often across caste boundaries (Berre- 
man, 1960b). 

Functional Implications of Plains-Pahari Contrasts 

Most generalizations about North Indian society and culture in 
the anthropological literature are in reality generalizations about the 
Indo-Gangetic plain. They ignore the Himalayan area either through 
lack of information or an impression that Paharis are unimportant 
marginals or possibly tribal peoples. One aim of the present research 
is to provide a basis for correcting such errors or oversights and to 
broaden the scope of available information about Indian village life 
and its regional variations by describing a Pahari village and its region. 

Distinctive Pahari characteristics and their possible sources have 
been pointed out above and contrasted to those of the plains of North 
India. In conclusion, it is appropriate to comment on the functional 
implications of some of the most prominent contrasts between these 
two culture areas. 

The nature of the Pahari local group — the village — is affected by 
its physical environment. Cultivable areas are often small and 
scattered. Travel between them is slow and difficult as compared to 
that in the plains. As a consequence, villages are small and isolated. 
They have an inward-looking, self-contained character as compared 
to plains villages, and the area of near self-sufficiency in economic, 


social, and ritual matters is relatively small. Interaction has to be 
within local or nearby groups if it is to occur at all. 

In many Pahari areas there has always been more potentially cul- 
tivable land available than could be put into cultivation under the 
rigorous conditions of this sparsely populated region. Therefore, 
population increase has proceeded with minimal pressure on the land. 
Since much usable land is scattered in small amounts, a system of 
residence in field houses (chans) has developed. As a consequence, 
population increase has taken place without significant increase in the 
size of particular villages. New settlements have arisen instead. The 
chans may also have enabled growing joint families to remain intact 
as social, economic, and ritual units by permitting them to divide as 
residential units, thereby reducing interpersonal frictions which lead 
to dissolution of joint families. 

The small, inward-looking nature of the Garhwali village is reflected 
in the relations among social units within it. The village is not exog- 
amous. All members of the locally dominant Rajput caste in Sirkanda 
have affinal or consanguineal ties with one another. Marriage net- 
works of all castes are small, their size varying inversely with the popu- 
lation of the caste in the surrounding area. Between high and low 
castes there is more permissiveness or flexibility in rules of interaction 
than on the plains, so that within the village they interact frequently 
and intensively. Minority castes have to interact with their fellow 
villagers of other castes if they are to interact at all, because caste- 
fellows are few, far, and difficult of access. Permissiveness of interaction 
as compared to plains custom does not indicate decreased importance 
of the pollution barrier or ambiguity as to where it lies or what it 
means. It merely indicates that there are different behavioral symbols 
of status in the hierarchy. The lines are drawn as sharply as in the 
plains, but in different places and in different ways. 

Because Paharis have relatively little interaction with distant people, 
even of their own caste, regional variation in culture is a prominent 
feature. As a result of the nature of interaction between high and low 
castes, cultural homogeneity within a locality is great. Everyone knows 
everyone else's way of life, beliefs, and secrets. To a large extent, these 
are common to all groups except where particular behaviors are sym- 
bols of status differences or are the means of maintaining advantages for 
particular groups in the village. Freedom of association, including 
toleration of occasional intermarriage between Rajputs and Brahmins, 
seems to indicate a genuinely smaller social and ritual distance at this 
level than is found on the plains. 

Associated with permissiveness of intercaste relations is a great 

conclusion 353 

amount of flexibility of occupational specialization among castes. There 
are few castes of occupational specialists, and few individuals in these 
castes. In any one village or local area, certain specialists may be lack- 
ing, or inaccessible. It is therefore important to have artisans who can 
adopt any of several occupations, and even to have high castes willing 
and able to take over in an emergency. The flexibility of rules of caste 
behavior makes this possible without jeopardizing caste status, but it 
has the effect of reducing the economic security of artisans, for they 
have little in the way of effective occupational monopolies. Conse- 
quently the jajmani system of traditional exchange of goods for serv- 
ices is less rigid, and is less effective from the artisans' point of view, 
than on the plains (Berreman, 1962b). 

The fact that villages have been occupied primarily by owner- 
cultivators has contributed to self-reliance and an independent attitude 
among high-caste Sirkanda residents quite in contrast to the alleged 
ma-bapism, or dependence upon paternalistic agents of outside author- 
ity, reported for some peoples of India. Paharis owe allegiance to no 
landlord. No cultivator in the locality in recent times has been master 
of any other. No landholder is free of arduous agricultural labor in 
his fields. No one has conveniences or luxuries not available to nearly 
everyone else. Pahari agricultural techniques, such as fertilization of 
fields and crop rotation, together with ample land, regular rainfall, 
and large forest areas to provide fuel and fodder, have made for an 
economy sufficient to consistently meet subsistence needs. Famine is 
virtually unknown. People work hard, but economic sufficiency is the 
result. For the dominant high castes this means a kind of security un- 
known to many cultivators of the plains. 

Also contributory to an independence of spirit in and around Sir- 
kanda has been relative isolation from outside supervision and inter- 
vention. Sirkanda people seem to feel less restricted than many plains 
people. They have a mild kind of frontier mentality associated with 
freedom from authority and freedom from absence of alternatives. For 
high-caste Paharis there has always been more land for the taking if 
one could muster the labor to prepare and cultivate it. Moreover, one 
could move out of his family's house and out of the village to a new 
chan location if he wished. If worst came to worst, he could remove to 
an entirely new area, as did those who settled Sirkanda over 300 years 

Low-caste people are acutely aware of their insecure economic po- 
sition and of high-caste advantage. They feel that they are virtual 
puppets of the agriculturists. They do not need to fear starvation as 
long as they remain in the good graces of the cultivating high castes. 


What they fear is the rather erratic bestowal and withdrawal of those 
good graces. Among themselves they are more competitive and less 
cohesive than is usual among equivalent plains castes. They must often 
compete for clients because they are dependent on their craftwork for 
livelihood and there are others, even of other castes, who will take 
their place if the opportunity arises. This competition varies from place 
to place and time to time, depending upon the population of artisans 
in a particular area. 

Because of their isolation from caste-fellows resulting from their 
small numbers and the isolation of villages, low-caste people have little 
opportunity to coordinate their activities to defend their interests. 
Perhaps, in view of factors noted above, they would not do so anyway. 
They have little in the way of caste government, so that their position 
relative to the high castes is especially weak. The high castes have 
maintained the situation by serving as authoritarian and ideally pa- 
ternalistic overseers of the low castes, deciding among themselves all 
matters pertaining to low-caste people, both internal and intercaste. 
Low castes are controlled by being kept economically dependent 
through being denied the opportunity to acquire land in amounts 
sufficient to make a living. All castes recognize that land means inde- 
pendence for those who own it and control over those who depend 
upon the owners. This is why agrarian reform is one of the most impor- 
tant problems of rural India. 

The nature of Pahari economic organization has ramifications in the 
position of women, which is one of unusual freedom compared to that 
of high-caste plains women. Like low-caste women of the plains, hill 
women participate in the economy in a way incompatible with seclu- 
sion. 1 Their work in fields and forests is essential to the well-being of 
their families. If anything, they do more of this kind of work than the 
men. Under the circumstances it would not only be difficult for them 
to observe the niceties of seclusion and other disabilities common on 
the plains, but also impossible for their menfolk to supervise them 
closely. This is probably a factor in the sexual freedom allowed Pahari 

The Pahari rule of bride-price marriage is combined with easy di- 
vorce and universal remarriage for divorcees and widows. The family 
of the groom seeks out a bride and arranges the marriage with her 
family, whereas in the plains, where dowry is the rule, the bride's fam- 
ily performs these functions. The Pahari bride is in a sense considered 
the property — and valuable property — of the husband's joint family 
who paid for her, who derive benefit from her labor, and who will give 
her up only upon return of the bride price. Even after her husband's 

conclusion 355 

death the family's interest in her remains. Usually she becomes her 
husband's brother's wife by the custom of levirate. The idea of a wife 
as common property is undoubtedly related to the fact that brothers 
share their wives' sexuality and that in several Pahari areas fraternal 
polyandry is the rule (Berreman, 1962a). 

Hindu unorthodoxy in the area is due in part to the cultural herit- 
age of the Paharis and in part to their isolation from areas where 
modern Hinduism developed. It is ascribed by Paharis to poverty and 
their difficult environment. They have little time or money for the 
luxury of the elaborate rituals of the plains. They claim to lack the 
water for the frequent purificatory baths of plainsmen, the leisure to 
endure fasts and food taboos, the money to hire learned Brahmins, and 
the education to appreciate these things. In this, as in the freedom of 
women, they are like low-caste people of the plains. Their increasing 
awareness of this similarity, resulting from increasing contacts with 
plains people, leads high-caste Paharis to aspire to emulate plains be- 
havior in order to improve their relative status. 

In discussing Pahari culture, the plains have been chosen for com- 
parison because the culture of that area is closely associated with that 
of the Himalayan hills. The two areas have a common cultural base 
upon which differences stand out in high relief. Also, it is among people 
of the plains that the most comparable work has been done upon 
which comparisons can be based. However, one familiar with the 
plains must guard against plains-oriented ethnocentrism, in which the 
plains become the yardstick by which Pahari culture is measured. It is 
important to bear in mind that Pahari culture is viable in its own right. 
The fact that it is marginal to the Indian and North Indian culture 
areas and that it has also apparently been influenced from Tibet does 
not mean that it is a hodgepodge of borrowings or a distorted reflection 
of other cultures. The borrowed traits have been integrated into the 
matrix that is Pahari culture. 

The observer of Pahari culture is struck not only by the traits which 
bear similarities to those found in other culture areas and that have 
been either borrowed from them or derived from a common origin, but 
also by the unique traits that, so far as can be determined, were de- 
veloped by the residents of this region. These range from agricultural 
techniques such as complex feats of terracing and irrigation, and 
uniquely constructed and styled houses, to the songs, dances, folklore, 
and religion of the area. 

Moreover, the Pahari area has made important contributions to the 
cultures of adjacent areas. The Hindu god Shiva, for example, may 
have originated in Pahari culture, and it is not improbable that some 


cultural characteristics commonly attributed to the plains have ema- 
nated from the hills. 

Perhaps more significant than particular traits and their affinities 
is the distinctive over-all configuration of Pahari culture. To those who 
live it, Pahari culture is as distinct and as internally consistent as is 
the culture of any other group, whether it be in an area of "culture 
climax" or in a "marginal" area. Marginality is relative. From the 
Pahari's point of view the plains of North India constitute an area as 
marginal to his own as do the high Himalayas to the north. 

When the Pahari disparages his homeland and his way of life to 
outsiders, it does not mean that he thinks them inferior. It merely 
indicates his knowledge of outsiders' views of him and his anticipation 
of their remarks or thoughts. He may feel that the time is coming when 
the modern plains way will be the only way to success in a new world. 
He may envy a movie star or a well-to-do contractor or a suave lawyer, 
but he does not envy the plains villager or urban peon. He is embar- 
rassed by his conspicuous rusticity when he goes to town. He resents 
taunts and exploitation by strangers. But as long as he is in his home- 
land, among his own people, he sees the Pahari way of life as superior. 

The Pahari's rejection of strangers and their ideas is in part an indi- 
cation of his satisfaction with his own way of life, a fact which is fur- 
ther indicated by the community cohesion characteristic of this area 
and by the fact that few have left the area. The Pahari ridicules the 
man of the plains who cannot easily negotiate the mountain trails, who 
is afraid of the terrain and its fauna, who cannot survive on its re- 
sources. He pities the people of the plains who do not dance, sing, and 
drink together; whose women are secluded; whose widows cannot re- 
marry; who must drink stagnant water and breathe dusty air; who do 
not eat meat; who suffer extreme heat, and risk drought and famine in 
the hot season; who face flood and malaria in the rainy season. Paharis 
work hard, but they know how to enjoy their spare time together, re- 
gardless of age, sex, and caste differences, in a way that plains people 
might envy. Paharis are proud of their way of life and their environ- 
ment, but are sensitive to ridicule of them. 

While it is useful to analyze this culture in terms of contacts and out- 
side sources of diffusion, the analysis, if it is to be complete, must con- 
sider the adjustments, innovations, and distinctive integration which 
make of the Pahari region a culture area in its own right. As more data 
become available on the way of life of the peoples of surrounding areas, 
it will be possible to determine more accurately the culture areas of 
this part of the world and to assess the mutual cultural debts and 

conclusion 357 

affiliations of the Paharis and their neighbors, and the kinds and di- 
rections of change they face. 

In the meantime, the Himalayan hill peoples, in common with 
villagers all over India, are beginning to play an increasingly important 
role as contributors and recipients in the development of the national 
culture of Independent India. They live in a region which will assume 
increasing importance to the nation as a reservoir of rich mineral, 
forest, agricultural, and hydraulic resources, natural beauty, climatic 
attractiveness, and religious inspiration. The Paharis themselves, as the 
human resources, are essential to the development of this area and 
important in the development of the nation. They have much to offer 
as well as much to learn if India is to realize the potential inherent 
in them and in the land they occupy. 


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A. Household Gods 

The following gods are worshiped separately by particular house- 
holds in Sirkanda, before shrines maintained by each household, and 
usually without the aid of Brahmin priests. 

Nar Singh 

The god Nar Singh, though generally referred to as a single god, 
has three manifestations which require separate worship: Dudadharl 
Nar Singh, Janghoria Nar Singh, and Kerarl Nar Singh. The first of 
these is by far the most often worshiped of the three, and he is the 
gentlest, his name deriving from the word for milk. The second has the 
reputation of being the most dangerous. It is difficult to determine in 
any particular household which of the three is worshiped, since they are 
identical in representation and in the worship demanded. Many vil- 
lagers themselves are not clear as to the distinctions or even which one 
is worshiped in their own household. At least two households worship 
two of these manifestations and have two separate shrines honoring 
them. Two tirsuls are used to represent Nar Singh (v^ P ). During 
kalratra, musical accompaniment is provided by a brass tray placed on 
a butter churn and beaten by the pujari, and a large drum played by 


a local Bajgi. Those who become possessed by this god often use iron 
chains to beat themselves and may also rub ashes on their bodies. These 
mortifications are done most vigorously when the most virulent form 
of this god is in possession. Informants pointed out that in earlier days 
this god was more feared and hence more frequently worshiped than 
at present. However, he was worshiped more than once during 1957- 
1958. His affinity to the incarnation of Vishnu which appears by the 
name Narsingh in the great tradition was unknown to most villagers. 
Until recent years most households in Sirkanda contained shrines 
to Nar Singh. Then some households became divided among them- 
selves on the question of whether or not to worship this god; more 
importantly, other households had split up as economic units and no 
longer wished to worship the god together as a household. The matter 
was solved when members of the households who wished to continue 
the worship took their tirsuls to a tree near the village where other 
shrines are located, and deposited them there at the base of a large 
rock. Subsequently other households have followed suit, and now a 
number of families carry out their worship at that spot, though some 
still keep shrines in their homes. The shrine at the tree resembles, in 
most respects, other shrines to village gods and is in fact very close to 
three village shrines. It is not, however, termed a temple (mandir), as 
are other village shrines, nor is it worshiped by the village at large. 
This deity may be undergoing metamorphosis from a household god 
to a village god (see Appendix IB). 


This god is similar in many ways to Nar Singh. His shrines and 
tirsuls are identical. He is, however, mild in his demands and punish- 
ments. When he possesses a person, the person dances gently and 
shivers and shakes softly as compared to the effect of other gods, and 
the body of the dancer is not mortified in any way during the dance. 
In Sirkanda only Rajputs worship Manglia, although no one feels 
that the god could not also demand worship from others. Reportedly 
the pujari for this god must be a Bajgi who plays either of two types 
of drums. These types of drums are used in pujas for most household 
gods except in those for Gauril. Manglia was last worshiped about a 
year before I arrived in Sirkanda. He was alleged to have come orig- 
inally from Jaunpur, an area in Tehri Garhwal north of Bhatbair. 


Gauril is the most prominent household god in Sirkanda from the 
point of view of interest and frequency and intensity of worship, 


though not in terms of number of devotees. He is a god whose prom- 
inence is not fading, as some others are said to be. He is worshiped by 
Brahmins, Rajputs, blacksmiths, and Bajgis. No one who worships 
Manglia also worships Gauril. 

Worship of Gauril is more complex and varied than that of other 
household gods, and in Sirkanda there is more known mythology sur- 
rounding him than any other household god. As a result of lore about 
this god transmitted by his pujaris, Gauril's believers in Sirkanda know 
the rather elaborate tale of the marriage of Gauril's parents, his birth, 
his relationship to other gods associated with him, and stories of his 
power and accomplishments. 

Gauril is never alone. He is in inseparable association with his three 
deputies or assistants: the gods Kalua and Kdld Kalua, and the goddess 
Gardevi. These three are said to be three of the hundred siblings born 
or created as the infant Gauril was thrown one hundred times into 
scorpion plants by a jealous co-wife of his mother. The foursome is 
referred to collectively under the name Gauril. A single shrine is de- 
voted to them as a group, and they are always collectively identified as 
Gauril in cases of possession. 

The tirsuls which go to make up the Gauril shrine are four in num- 
ber (^f^Y P p) representing, respectively, Gauril, Gardevi, Kalua, and 
Kala Kalua. During pujas four lamps and a container of grain with a 
few coins in it are placed in the shrine. For the dance a special type 
of drum, used on no other occasion, is employed by a pujari. During 
possession, demands are made by Gauril, but only for his assistants. He 
himself never tortures people nor makes demands in his own name. He 
is satisfied at receiving a little sujl (farina) fried in ghee and sugar. 
The female assistant can usually be appeased by sacrifice of a cock, and 
the male assistants are satisfied with sacrifice of a goat. A coconut is also 
frequently offered in the name of Gardevi. 1 Gardevi is well known else- 
where as a form of the mother goddess, unassociated with Gauril. 

Two special pujas may be performed in the name of Gauril, usually 
in response to demands made during periods of possession. One is 
demanded by Gardevi to honor a being identified locally as her con- 
sort M asan, who does not otherwise receive notice. Masan is often iden- 
tified in other areas as a ghost or a type of ghost which inhabits cre- 
mation grounds. The puja in his honor in this area is called Samen 
and is usually demanded only when severe forms of torment have been 
inflicted on people as a result of the god's extreme anger. This puja 
involves a series of seventeen dances over a period of nine days fol- 
lowed by an offering at the cremation grounds. The required offerings 
include five kinds of animals, water from seven places, flour from seven 


mills made into an image of Shamshan, seven kinds of grain, seven kinds 
of thorns, fruit, jewelry (for Gardevi), and sixty-four dough lamps — 
altogether a complex and expensive undertaking. The ceremony oc- 
curs about once every two years in Sirkanda. It had been given by one 
family in 1957 and was promised by another for late 1958. 

The other important special puja for Gauril is in honor of his birth, 
Gauril ki ashtami, and is commonly referred to by the term for one of 
the ceremonial elements in it, hariall (green). It is held upon demand 
and allegedly would be held every few years even if not demanded. For 
this puja the tirsuls of the three gods are plastered with rice and that 
of Gardevi is ornamented with bangles on its two "arms" and a red 
cloth around it, a comb, a bindl (red spot worn on forehead by plains 
women), and a mirror placed at its foot. Four lamps and a container 
of grain with a lamp on top are placed in the shrine. A small plot on 
the earth floor in front of the shrine is sown in barley. On the fifth day 
after sowing a canopy is made with four special twigs as corner posts, 
a red cloth as the canopy, and a white cloth as side curtains. On the 
tenth day the barley grass is reaped. A blade or two is placed in front 
of each tirsul, and the rest is worn by men who place it behind their 
ears, and by women who place it in their hair. Kalratra (comprising 
four dances held over two days), puja, and goat sacrifices are held. 
This ceremony had last been held about a year before my presence in 
the village. 


The crudest god of all is Agornath. He is described as dirty and 
vicious. Only he, of all the gods, would dare bother a new mother and 
infant during the traditional forty-day postpartum pollution period. 
In Sirkanda at present only Bajgis worship him, though he is wor- 
shiped by other castes elsewhere in Bhatbair. His symbol is a single 
tirsul ( P) illuminated by one lamp during puja. His kalratra includes 
three dances over two days to the accompaniment of a drum and a brass 
tray set on the ground and beaten. Possessed persons rub their bodies 
with ashes during the dance. A ram is the appropriate sacrifice for this 
god. He is reportedly less worshiped now than previously and no puja 
had been given him for some time, though one was promised for late 

Nag Raja 

The snake king god, Nag Raja, is worshiped by thirteen Rajput 
households. This god has taken on many of the characteristics of a 


village god, although its worship is still specific to certain households. 
At present only one villager has a household shrine to this god, and it 
is in a chan and is no longer used. A blacksmith of Sirkanda origin who 
now lives in Sahas Dhara has such a shrine in use in his house. At one 
time all who worshiped the god did so in their homes. Now, however, 
most Sirkanda devotees of Nag Raja worship at a central shrine or 
temple which has been erected near the village and is known as a 
mandir, as are the shrines of village gods. 

Worship of this god in the home is similar to that for other house- 
hold gods. The shrine is unique in that it is placed not in a wall niche 
but on a raised platform above the floor. In addition to a single tirsul, 
the shrine contains a small flag, a conch-shell horn, a small drum, 
chains for mortification during possession, an incense vessel, an oil 
lamp, and a brass tray containing rice, vermilion powder, and silver 
bangles. Ideally the first day of every month (sakrant or sankranti) is 
celebrated by kalratra and puja in the homes of devotees. If the god 
possesses anyone at the kalratra, a sacrifice follows. Halwa is distrib- 
uted to finish the celebration. Actually this puja is held, like the others, 
in time of need only. Some Sirkanda worshipers of Nag Raja wear gold 
earrings or heavy silver bracelets decorated with images of snakes' 
heads in fulfillment of vows to honor this god. 

The village shrine to Nag Raja was built by a village Rajput family 
who had probably been directed to do so by the god. The head of this 
family remains the keeper of this temple. He presides at every cere- 
mony there and receives the head of the sacrificial goat. Worship at the 
shrine sometimes follows kalratra at the house of a devotee, or it may 
be held without prior dancing. It is performed about every three years 
in order to keep the god happy, even if he is not tormenting his be- 
lievers. The puja and sacrifice at the temple are the same as at the 
household shrine and are a substitute for the latter. At the annual 
Diwali festival the worshipers of Nag Raja go in procession to his 
temple and deposit there a blazing torch in his honor. He is the only 
god to be so honored. 

A special ceremony involving the snake is found widely distributed 
in Northern India in one form or another. In Sirkanda it is performed 
to avoid the displeasure of Nag Raja and of snakes in general. If a 
farmer touches, cuts, or kills a snake with his plow while working in the 
fields, he is supposed to stop plowing at once and give the oxen, the 
plow, and his own clothes to Bajgis. In addition he gives the field away 
to them or, more frequently, leaves it fallow for several seasons. There- 
after a special snake puja is held in which three metal snakes — one sil- 


ver, one gold, one copper — are worshiped, after which a number of 
Brahmins and the female household members are ceremonially fed. 
This ceremony has been performed by three or four Sirkanda men. 


One god, Dhagbairu, has so far appeared in Sirkanda only as the 
god of incoming brides. This god now occasionally possesses one Sir- 
kanda wife, though it has never caused trouble to her household and 
therefore has not had a shrine devoted to it. In another household the 
god has caused serious trouble in a distant chan and has begun to be 
worshiped there at a shrine. The shrine differs from the pattern de- 
scribed above for household gods. It is out-of-doors, under a tree. A 
stone rather than a tirsul symbolizes the god, and other differences 
exist. Kalratra, puja, and sacrifice are held at this shrine, similar to 
those for other household gods. In Sirkanda not much is known of this 

One other god, known only as Bard Devta (big god), is worshiped 
privately by the immigrant Bajgi in Sirkanda. The god is apparently a 
local or regional god of this man's native village which he has brought 
with him. He has a small shrine to Bara Devta in his home, but the 
god has never bothered other villagers and is of no concern to them. 

B. Village Gods 

The following gods are worshiped at public temples (mandir) and 
by the village at large rather than by particular households. Local 
Brahmin priests usually perform the attendant rituals. 

Household-Like Village Gods 

Two gods, Memendia and Bhartwali, each have shrines located 
west of the village. When either is to be worshiped, kalratra, puja, and 
goat sacrifice are held. 


The unique and memorable thing about this god was his mode of 
entry into the village. Some thirty or forty years ago there was a great 
epidemic in the plains, apparently plague, which reached the hills. 
A number of people in Sirkanda were afflicted, and three or four died. 
At this time virtually all Sirkanda villagers, and especially the young 
adults, suddenly showed typical but exaggerated symptoms of super- 
natural possession — they began to laugh hysterically, dance, shout, and 


speak nonsense. Their heads were turned to one side, and they shook 
violently. They shouted for drummers to come "make us dance." The 
drummers came and the people danced until they were exhausted, 
slept where they fell, and danced again. The dancing went on for 
three or four days. The unaffected villagers recognized at once that 
this was possession by a supernatural being, but they had never before 
seen it on such a mass scale nor did they connect it at once with the ill- 
ness and fear of illness in the village. When the possessed people were 
asked who they were and what they wanted, some answered that they 
were possessed by Memendia, a god who had never been in Sirkanda 
before. They were told to erect a temple under a tree west of the vil- 
lage, place tirsuls there, and perform a puja in his honor. The villager