By: SUREKHA DHALETA
In the phase today when traditional institutions, customs, values and beliefs are changing at a very fast pace, some reflections on Himachal. Though most of these are not worth boasting of…
In the district of Kinnaur, there existed a practice of maintaining JOMAS, a tradition very similar to that of DEVADASIS as practised in South India. Young girls were given to the temple deity at a very early age. An organization named Parvatiya Adam Jati Sewa Sangh (PAJSS) which spearheaded the initiatives work for backward communities in Himachal revolutionized the practice of Jomas by opening schools exclusively for them in Kinnaur.
Lahaul Spiti was earlier known as ‘GARJA KHADOLING’, loosely translated in Hindi would be ‘DAKINIYON KA DESH’ .This would probably be interpreted as a land of evil, because of its difficult terrain, whoever tried to access the land did not return, hence the name. Similarly, ROHTANG, the dead pass as it is commonly known derives its name ROH (lash, dead body) and THANG (sthan, place).
Polyandry, still exists in remote areas of Himachal and Uttaranchal, and which exhorted Dr.Y.S Parmar (the first C.M of H.P) to write a book ‘Polyandry in the Himalayas’ focusing upon polyandry in Sirmaur. The form of marriages is still prevalent in parts of Kinnaur, Lahaul-Spiti, interior parts of Chamba, and in parts of Sirmaur like Shilai, though it is a dying custom. The form of polyandry prevalent in these areas is called ‘adelphic polyandry’, also generally known as ‘fraternal polyandry’ where the eldest of the brothers in the family marries and the lady becomes a common wife of all the brothers. It is said to have inherited from the Pandavas. Looking it from a sociological perspective the common reason identified for this is the non-fragmentation of large holdings of land.
The form of ‘Bride-Price’ marriage had been common earlier in parts of Himachal, which was called ‘Dheri’, in some parts of H.P., where a person offering a price for the bride, could own a bride. One form of this marriage also cited by Parmar in his book is, Reet Marriage, when an already married woman wanted to leave her husband and marry another man, the husband charged ‘Reet money’ husband to be, and allowed her to go with the man of her choice.
Though the age of marriage has been legally raised under the laws still girls of tender age succumb to ‘bride price marriages’ in interior regions of upper Himachal, especially Shimla district. For instance, in areas of H.P., bordering Uttaranchal, like Arakot, Tyuni, Nerwa, interior parts of Chopal small girls are falling prey to bride-price marriages which raises concern over the position of girl child as it becomes an anomaly, as Himachal is considered as an outlier in giving vantage position to women and being a high literacy state. Though voices are being raised against declining sex-ratio in Himachal, these issues too need a responsive concern.