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Castes

 
The Rajputs are in a majority in Himachal. They are the descendants of immigrant Rajputs who came here to establish small princely states or who were driven to the hills by the Muslim invaders. The earlier inhabitants, the Khasia (descendants of the Khasas) joined the Rajputs and adopted some of their sub-castes. But a certain distance has always persisted in their social relationship. Rajputs are mostly landed people and are engaged in agriculture. They are also good soldiers. In relation to its population Himachal has contributed the maximum number of Rajputs to the Indian army. The Rajputs soldiers from Kangra and Hamispur areas are well known for their qualities of bravery and loyalty. Kotoch, Bana, Pathaniya and Baliriye are the main branches of the Rajputs in the area. The Kanait Rajputs are considered a little below these and they have taken to farming.

The Brahmins, who were the priests of Rajputs are the second largest group. Shrotriyas, the Dixit, the Nagas, the Panch Karmas and the Padhes are some prominent Brahmin branches. They have more influence in the lower hills than in the higher regions.

The Ghirats are next in number. They are the descendants of Kirats according to some sources. But according to ethnographic evidence they are of Indo-Aryan origin. They are farmers.

Mahajans and Soods, the business communities are sprinkled all over. They wield great influence even though they are a small minority. They have a shop in almost every village right up to the Tibetan border. Traditionally they used to be the main exporters and importers of the products in the state. Now co-operatives and corporations are taking up their role.

Chahang, Saini etc are other castes where people are professional farmers. The Ahirs own windmills and catch fish. The Darai have settled along the river Beas. Their forefathers were boatmen. Lohar (ironsmiths), Tarkhan (carpenter), Nai (barbers), Dusali, Doomna, Chamar (cobblers) and Julahas (weavers) follow their paternal professions. 

The educated in these castes are moving towards other professions and also into farming. The caste system has weakened and there is a greater intermingling among the people in the society. The untouchables are being specially protected and helped by the government by special acts. A few peasant families belong to the backward classes. All these castes are divided into the categories of Kachha, Pakka, Nagar Kotiya and Bhatedu.


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