Caste and Kinship in Kangra

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Dark blue cloth with gilt type. Interior sheets all clean and VG. Such feasts can be elab- orate and can cost the kin of the bride of wealthier families up to Rs 30, What is evident is that marriage practices among the Gaddis have shifted over time from a pattern of polygyny for men and serial monog- amy for both men and women to a preferred pattern of life-long unions. The earlier pattern was also characterised by a preferred form of isogam- ous sister-exchange marriage with marriage prestations flowing in both directions, but with some brideservice for poorer households.

The situ- ation now is a preferred pattern of hypergamous marriages involving dowry with evident distinctions between wife-givers and wife-takers.

Sex is not everything In , one Agya Ram filed a suit for restoration of his conjugal rights against Jagdeshri Devi, who disputed the fact of her marriage to him. Goshwara no. She was a resident of Meghla and he used to visit the village in connection with his work as a contractor. He claimed that they had fallen in love and that she had compelled him to take her away to Chamba so that they could live as man and wife.

He asserted that he did so with the knowledge of her family. Jagdeshri, who was not yet 16 years old at the time, contested his version. She claimed that Agya had duped her into going with him to Chamba, and that they never married. He could not produce any docu- mentary or other evidence to prove in court that the wedding had indeed taken place. Agya Ram contested this decision and filed a suit of appeal in , which was summarily dismissed for a similar lack of sufficient evidence. The District Judge found the evidence compelling in favour of Agya Ram. Testimony of defence witness no.

Jagdeshri Devi. Original Suit of Goshwara no.

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The case finally reached the Punjab High Court when Agya filed an appeal in The Judge was alluding to a basic prin- ciple of jurisprudence, namely that the same issue cannot form the basis of two successive appeals. The contest between the legal legibility and the social recognition of marriage underpinned every stage of litigation in this case. Did the marri- age take place? What does it take for a marriage to be seen to have taken place? There are many issues that fracture the coherence of the case.

First, the Child Marriages Restraint Act of was invoked to decide whether or not Jagdeshri had been kidnapped by Agya, as she alleged, instead of having wilfully eloped with him, as he claimed. If it could be proved that she had been kidnapped, then the marriage, even if it had taken place according to local custom, would be void on the basis that patiara marriages or marriage by kidnap were illegal in Himachal Pradesh.

The legal issue of minority and its relevance was therefore a shifting one. As the District Judge noted, As such the marriage cannot be held to be illegal only because the sic defendant no. The only thing material is that she entered into marriage out of her own free will, which I find established in this case as a matter of fact. The judge ruled against Agya in because no evidence of either form of consent could be provided. He won on appeal in because the evidence to hand sug- gested that Jagdeshri had consented to a love-marriage, but finally lost when the evidence of her consent was successfully contested once again.

What is notable about the case discussed above, and in contrast to contemporary material discussed below, is that the focus of concern is not the fact of multiple unions, nor pre-marital sexuality and morality, but the question of consent as a proxy for the legal legibility of the mar- riage. What this case points to is the fact that for the Gaddis, conjugality was not primarily about exclusive sexuality, and that loyalty to the con- jugal unit was mapped along criteria other than sexuality.

In other words, conjugal expectations were not only different in Gaddi society in the past, but have also changed over time. It is difficult to know whether loyalty to the ongoing conjugal unit was assessed any differently for the woman than for the man in the past, because these issues did not form the basis either of marriage-related litigation or ethnographic elaboration.

Is a Theory of Caste still Possible?

However, my research on expressive sources like oral history, songs and stories, as well as genealogical data, shows that the ideal of permanence 21 Agia [sic] Ram vs Mst. Change has been extremely rapid, with no Meghla Gaddi woman under the age of 45 years having engaged in a second union, and no Gaddi man within that generation having contracted a polygynous union.

This is in marked contrast to the preceding generations. II Conjugating marriage in contemporary Meghla Multiple unions In October a new vegetable shop opened close to my house in Meghla. The woman who ran it was a newcomer in the village. Phulo Devi,22 whose arrival was to become a topic of conversation amongst her neighbours at least with me , and who had very recently moved to Meghla from the neighbouring district of Kulu to live with Jogi Ram. Also, she had brought along her infant child from her previous husband.

She was no young bride, nor did she make any pretensions to it. A few months later, Phulo left Meghla and went back to Kulu. It was widely believed that she had gone back to her erstwhile husband. Her disappearance evoked a mixed response amongst her neighbours. Their older neighbours and kin seemed less perturbed and more matter-of-fact about it. While many of the older generation appeared to be relatively comfortable with the notion, although aware of the fact that within the Gaddi self- image this practice connoted a certain antiquarianism, the younger gener- ation seemed distinctly uncomfortable.

They perceived a clear sense of moral transgression in such unions. What Phulo had done was not the way of doing things, not anymore at least. For young women who were married and were in their twenties and thirties, some of them in abusive marital situations, Phulo was neither an ideal wife nor a good mother.

By this they meant that she was not singularly devoted to any one man and chose not to provide her child with a stable home. According to them she was obviously inviting trouble, as she was going to be per- ceived by other men in the locality as someone who was sexually easy- going, and no man was ever going to treat her well. Men of a similar age group and socio-economic background, on the other hand, were reticent in making a comment of either approval or disapproval, generally explain- ing the situation as a condition of a certain class chhote log, garib log, or small, poor people , and therefore not something that concerned them directly.

Condemnation was more overt in the case of Roopa Devi. In January , after ten years of marriage, she eloped from her conjugal home in Meghla for three days with her lover, who was a truck driver from a neigh- bouring town. Her husband Mahato Ram seemed angry and bitter. His initial instinct was to lodge a complaint in the local police station, but his friends and kin dissuaded him from doing so.

They told him that there was little he was going to achieve by it except accrue paperwork with the local police and make endless rounds to the local court. Instead, he should wait; she would soon be back, because she had left behind her two children. He frequently beat her, and Roopa had often garnered support from neighbours usually kin against his wife-beating. The up-pradhan of the village panchayat told me that Roopa had tried to solicit the intervention of the panchayat in getting her husband to stop beating her. But the panchayat had hesitated to do so and had only informally counselled Mahato against it.

However, a week after her return to Meghla, when Roopa was greeted with severe chastisement by her 23 Wife-beating occurred mostly at night, and mostly under the influence of alcohol. Scenes of domestic violence that had taken place in full public glare were almost concertedly forgotten the morning after, and were rarely picked up in conversation, especially with either of the people concerned.

A wife ought not to stray, and in case she did, well, she deserved the beating. Sharing and caring Marriage means several things in contemporary Meghla. Sexuality is only one aspect of marriage; care and on-going contribution to the con- jugal unit are also defining features of how marriages are conceived of and lived at the present time.

Shaadi marriage means companionship saath , says Pratap. He and his wife Ramna have three children. Companionship, Pratap explains, is not only that of the spouse, but also of children. It ties people with the past and the future at the same time. This is because Ramna and he can become buzurg old, but also in the sense of ancestors to their future generations.

Children are the most critical aspect of the family. A spouse provides you with that possibility, along with providing love and affection. Pratap makes a distinction for my benefit between pyaar and muhabbat, the former connoting love in its broadest sense, and the latter love in the romantic sense. Echoing popular notions, he elaborates that the former is the more enduring one, whereas the latter is more ephemeral.

Caste and Kinship in Kangra

Many elopements end in tragedy because those liaisons fail to transform muhabbat into pyaar, he says. Pratap has been married to Ramna for thirteen years, and their daily life is marked by a constant financial struggle. The vagaries of daily wage work take their toll on the emotional life of the couple. However, unlike other men in the village in similar economic or other circumstances, Pratap has never raised his hand at Ramna, nor have they shouted at each other loud enough for their neighbours to hear.

Ramna rarely spends time gossiping with friends in the 24 Though not uncommon, wife-beating does not enjoy popular sanction and a husband who does not beat his wife even under the influence of alcohol is seen as ideal.

Le système indien des castes

Ramna and Pratap look upon their economic strife as something that has to be surmounted to- gether, and fighting with each other, they say, does not help at all. Pre-marital behaviour and sexuality Ideas of conjugality, household and marriage and their relationship to sexuality have clearly undergone much change in Meghla and this is evident in relation to ideas about pre-marital sexual behaviour and com- portment.

In searching for a groom for their daughter Bidya, Simro and Chokas Ram were delighted to accept a proposal from a young man, Rupinder, who had come personally to ask for her hand. Away from the frenzy of preparations that marked the period between then and the actual wedding,25 Rupinder made a visit to Meghla again, this time to ask Chokas and Simro if he could meet Bidya.

He invited Bidya to a cafe in Palampur town, which she promptly declined. While Simro and Chokas on their part saw nothing wrong with Bidya meeting Rupinder in a cafe in town, preferably accompanied by someone, they were by no means going to force or even persuade their daughter to change her mind; in fact they were quietly proud of her decision. He made another visit to Meghla a few days later, accompanied by a mate, and instead sought a meeting with Bidya in her own house.

The two exchanged pleasantries 25 Among the more notable changes in the marriage practises of the Gaddis in recent times is the shift from bride-service to dowry. Wedding preparations now include assem- bling items of dowry seen as essential, i. Depending on the economic capability, furniture, bicycles, sewing machines and white goods like television sets, refrigerators, etc.

However, I was told on several occasions that no one demands specific things, and certainly no cash is ever transacted. Tea drunk and the biscuits and sweetmeats eaten, there was little pretext left for Rupinder and his friend to stay on. Resigning himself to see Bidya next only as a bride on their wedding day, Rupinder left. This milna-milana lit. What if I had met him in a cafe in Palampur, in full view of everyone, and for some reason our match did not work out?

Sushma concurred with her cousin. Sushma was enrolled in an undergraduate degree in the local college.


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She too did not approve much of the dating culture that was fast becoming a part of college life: Most of the time, these girls have no idea what damage nuksan they are doing to themselves. There is a small group of young men who seri- ally date fellow women students. While some women are naive enough to believe that these men mean their marriage proposals, there are others who quite consciously play along.

I have friends in college who are involved in impossible relationships [i. There is little hope that any of these rela-tionships will ever end in marriage. Generation and class Anu is eighteen and she is unique in that she is the only girl in her village Kandi a village on the other side of the gorge from Meghla who has been allowed by her parents to study beyond high school. Articu- late, aware and confident, she prizes her unique status in the village where she is held up as an example for younger girls in the village to follow.

It was surprising, therefore, when her father told me that they had found a groom for her and that she was going to be married within a couple of months, and that too in the middle of her end-of-year exams. He cited a number of reasons for this haste. She was the oldest of the four children.

They were a prestigious family amongst the local Gaddis and they had found a good and an equal match for their daughter. Anu on her part did not object either to the marriage or its timing.

Once her own marriage was fixed, she too refused to go out or even talk to her husband- to-be alone. Her mother and aunts were pictures of confidence. The political ambitions of the family were in tandem with their aim to occupy a more visible space socially, which at times meant making their women less visible. This was recounted with a fair deal of pride to assert that Gaddis in general are accepting of outsiders.

Even five years after the death of her husband, and still in her early thirties, she had not remarried, or even considered remarriage. On the one hand, the issue of difference is politically translated into the demand for the special status of Scheduled Tribe. Any other way of living is articulated in terms of a remembered past, one that is seen as necessarily incompatible with Gaddi goals for the future. There- fore, for young Gaddi men and women of marriageable age, Phulo cer- tainly appears neither as a role model nor in an enviable position.

I heard with unfailing regularity that it was illegal to be married to more than one person and immoral to cohabit with more than one. In this way, education and wealth serve as important disciplines of the nation, not only producing citizens as legal subjects, but also altering their life-cycle rhythms.

Phulo and Jogi remain objects of passive resentment; their perceived social and economic in- significance keeps them marginal so that their relationship is not seen as threatening to prevalent norms. I asked some of the village panchayat29 members what they thought of such liaisons. Gaddi members of the pan- chayat agreed that while such practices were morally permissible amongst their ancestors as recently as two generations ago, given the high cost of living today and the fear of a spouse going to court, it not worth the po- tential trouble.

Thus, there was a judgement of class, status and civilisation governing the endorsement of single life- long marriages amongst Gaddis in Kangra today. The local panchayat is the usual body whose arbitration is solicited in situations when either individuals or a collective feel that certain moral boundaries have been transgressed.

The Gaddis do not have caste panchyats. However, Meghla Gram Panchayat has on occasion taken stringent measures when it felt that the situation threatens not merely a domestic arrangement, but the social milieu of the village. Even though its punitive powers are restricted in the juridical sense, in principle it is meant to be a significant force in keeping order in the village.

At that time Sonki was a man in his early twenties. His family owned modest agricul- tural holdings in Meghla. Set up My libraries How do I set up "My libraries"? Australian National University Library. Open to the public. CARM Centre. May not be open to the public brn. Casuarina Campus Library.

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