Monday, October 18, 2021


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Customs and Tradition

In the Customs and tradition of  Punjab, kinship plays a significant role. The Punjabis have a very vast range of it. Its pattern varies considerably from groups to group but the general mode of behaviour and attitude is more or less the same. Each relation has certain duties and responsibilities towards others in his group, in the day-to-day life, birth and marriage ceremonies, funerals and other social occasions. Different sets of terms are used for addressing the patrilineal and matrilineal kinfolk. The father's brother, is addressed as chacha, while the mother's brother is mama. Even the terms used for addressing the elder or younger agnatic kin are different. The father's elder brother is addressed as taya and the younger one as chacha. 

Generally most of the kinsmen of a person reside in the same village, or in the adjoining villages. Because of the joint family system, the real brothers, even married ones, often live in the same household. There are some other agnates who generally reside in the same locality, or patti, participate in all social functions and exchange gifts.

Some of the cognates reside in the adjoining villages and very often they participate in social or festive occasions, like the initiation and marriage ceremonies, as also other occasions like funerals etc.

 Kinship plays a very vital role in the social and cultural life of the people because most of the kin have to perform certain specified and obligatory functions on social occasions. Thus, for instance, the choora (red ivory bangles) which bride wears at her wedding has necessarily to come as a gift  from her maternal uncle. The maternal uncle has to put the bangles on her forearm while going through certain rituals. Similarly the maternal grandparents must send their khat (bridal gift) to the girl on the occasion of marriage. This gift generally comprises a set of clothes, some jewellery and other household objects for the bride. At an initiation ceremony, like the first haircutting or wedding, each relative gives something in cash or kind according to his social standing or nearness of relation. The exchange of gifts is a prominent custom and keeps the kin, in a way, well-knit in the social fabric. Presence of all relatives at social functions is considered very essential and special efforts are made to patch up differences with all those with whom relations have been strained for some reason or the other.

The joint family system having been in vogue for ages, the entire responsibility for the maintenance of the household and of social relations falls upon the father. No one in the family can question his authority. Even in such personal matters as contracting a marriage, the father as the head of the family, has the ultimate say. After his death the patriarchal powers pass on to the eldest son who becomes the head of the family and its chief representative on all social occasions.

At home the head of the family inspires awe among the members. Younger members of the family dare not talk flippantly or joke in his presence, nor is it considered befitting for them to smoke or drink when he around. All conversation in his presence is conducted in Subdued voices. Daughters-in-law observe purdah when the father-in-law is present and it is generally understood that when he comes into the house, he would either cough aloud, or indicate in some other way that he is around, so that they may cover their faces and tone down their voices. As a general rule, there is no direct conversation between the father-in-law and the daughter-in-law, but if a situation and an occasion necessitate it, it  is brief to the extent of being monosyllabic, and the daughter-in-law is barely audible.

Purdah is observed before the husband's elder brother also. The same customary respect as is shown to the father-in-law is also shown to him. But the younger brother of the husband, the devar, enjoys a privileged position. He is free to talk, laugh and joke with the bhabi ( brother's wife). Among some clans, there is a custom that when the bride is brought home, the husband's younger brother is the first person who lifts here veil and peeps at her face. In certain clans the eldest bhabi is given a status equal to that of the mother and she is treated with great respect. In Malwa, where the devar generally marries the widow of the elder brother, the relationship is very free.