Wednesday, June 7, 2023
Himachal Pradesh

Himachal People

Customs and Traditions

Customs and Traditions

Tribal and non-tribal communities live together all over Himachal Pradesh. The villages follow their own hierarchies of caste and community patterns, which follow the demands of a life style followed through the ages.

The village is looked upon as a large family. People have established close familiar relation-ship with each other and address the elder as Chacha-Tau (uncle), Bhabhi  (sister-in-law), Mausi (aunt) or Nani (grandmother) according to their ages. The relationship between the wife and the husband's younger brother (Bhabi-Devar) carries a special romanticised aura. Each bride addresses men younger than her husband, as Devar. An elder is addressed as Jija, a women about the same age as one's mother as Mausi and a man younger than one's father as Chacha. All old women in the mother's village are addressed as Nanis and ones in one's own village a Dadi. People close in age address each other as Bhau (male) or Bhain (female). These relationships are looked upon as precious among individuals and in the community.

In the tribal areas also there is a common practice. A women may choose a man as her brother and then they are known as Mitra and Mitrani. At the time of a marriage, the untying of the thread Kankan and at the time of the Karva Chauth fast, the exchange of karwa (clay pots with a snout) are also occasions for making a brother or a sister. The families always treat these relationships with respect.

The mother's brother (Mama) plays an important role at the time of wedding or other family festivities. He presents his sister and her family with gifts of sweets and clothes when the sister has a baby and also when the sacred thread ceremony (Yagyopavit) is performed for her sons. At the time of the sister's wedding, it is the brother who supports her and puts her in palanquin. Most brothers perform their traditional duties towards their sister with affection and respect.

The sister as Nanad or sister-in-law plays an important role in her father's family. The older brother is known as Jeth and his wife as Jithani. These two come next in important to the parents. The parents enjoy the highest place in the family hierarchy and if the son and his wife live in their own houses separately while the parents are alive, it is frowned upon. The older uncles are also highly respected and at the time of a wedding, they are honoured with gifts of pink turbans. Aunts, uncles, cousins are all considered equal to one's own parents and brothers and sisters are loved and respected.

The Rajputs and the Brahmins lay particular stress on the purity of race, caste, gotra and family. Among the higher castes the daughters father's house (Maika) enjoys a great importance. At the time of festivals and major family occasions like a wedding or a birth, various gifts including foodstuffs, jewellery and clothes are sent to the girls husband's house (sasural). It is also taboo for the girl's family members to eat or drink anything in her sasural. They must pay an equivalent sum of money as compensation. Among the lower castes such taboos are not enforced strictly. The higher castes follow a custom of Purdah. Women veil their faces in front of all elders with the head bared. When a girl comes out of her quarters after delivering a child, she must touch the feet of all the elders in her husband's family and leave some money at their feet. This customs is known as Pair Bandai (worshipping the feet).

Marriages are settled at an early age. There are instances of matches being settled between families before the babies are born, based on assumptions that one will be a boy and other a girl. 

The relationship between a brother-in-law and a sister-in-law is an informal and a close one. It is customary for the young brother-in-law to be seated in the bride's lap and to be the first to see her face. Among the tribals it is permissible for the younger brother to marry the older brothers widow but the higher castes do not permit this. Among them the older brothers wife is equal to one's mother.

All the brothers and their wives must live with the parents when they are alive. The older brother is considered equal to the father. The polyandrous customs of Kinnaur region also point at the close bond between the brothers.

The occasion of a girl child's birth is not celebrated with great joy. Girls are respected as De (short for Devi or goddess). At the time of the Navratra, special Puja is offered to the young girls and at the time of festivals she is given special gifts of clothing and sweets.