Pahari - Marriage and Family



Marriage and Domestic Unit. Marriage must be within the caste and outside the patrilineal sib (clan). It is ceremonialized in a way well within the range of variation found through north India except that, unlike that of most high castes elsewhere, it does not entail a dowry. Rather, it entails a bride-price, which in fact is the traditional necessary component of a valid marriage. Polygyny is permitted (most often occasioned by the levirate), with an incidence of about 15 percent in the region of my work; about 20 percent of polygynous unions are sororal. Unmarried men never marry previously married women (although unceremonialized elopement occasionally occurs). Any subsequent marriage is ceremonialized only if the woman has not been previously married. Divorce, initiated by husband or wife, is easy and frequent, requiring only the return of the bride-price (by the wife's family or new husband). Children, however, belong to and stay with their father and his family, a major deterrent to divorce for women with children.

A major distinctive feature of the Western Pahari area is that fraternal polyandry—strictly prohibited in the Central and Eastern Pahari areas—is permitted and in fact is the preferred form of marriage in some regions such as Jaunsar Bawar and scattered localities in Himachal Pradesh.

Throughout the Pahari area, postmarital residence is prescriptively patrilocal (virilocal). Exceptions occur for Economic reasons, but some stigma is attached to them.

Socialization. Children are nursed to the age of 3 or 4 and are given the breast occasionally up to age 5 or 6. Socialization is permissive and relaxed, especially in the early years. Boys are socialized together with girls, in a largely female environment, up to the age of 7 or 8, at which time they begin to interact mainly with males. Never are the sexes as segregated as in the plains, however. Girls assume household responsibilities earlier and these are more taxing than for boys—in short, boys are indulged more than girls. Not until puberty are caste distinctions and restrictions rigorously enforced. The marriage ceremony may take place at an early age (8 to 10) but nowadays usually not until later, and in any case the couple does not begin to live together until puberty has been attained: girls by about age 13 or later, boys by age 16 or later. Schooling is a recent phenomenon, restricted primarily to high-caste boys from prosperous families and usually not pursued beyond the first three to five years. Learning for both sexes and all castes is by participation, in effect by apprenticeship.


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