Punjabi - Kinship

Kin Groups and Descent. The most important descent/kinship groups in Punjab, in order of comprehensiveness, are caste ( jati ), clan ( got ), village ( pind ), division ( patti ), and family ( parivar ). In Punjab a caste is described as a group of families in an area, with common ancestry, who marry among themselves and have a common traditional occupation based upon a common type of inherited productive property.

Castes generally have origin stories that explain how they came into the area and/or into their present occupational position. Lower castes are described either as original landholders who were defeated and subordinated by later invaders (who became the present landholders), or alternatively as latecomers who were given their present occupation by the landholders in exchange for being allowed to settle. Higher castes are described as successful invaders or as a group given the land of an area by some past ruler for notable services.

In villages, castes commonly fall into higher and lower groups. Traditionally, members of the lower caste would have been considered unclean by the upper, and they might have been denied house sites and access to public wells on the upper-caste side of the village, and they also might have had to use different ritual specialists for marriages and other Lifecycle rituals. Exactly which castes are put in each group varies by area, but the upper castes usually are Brahmans, landowners, and skilled artisans, while the lower groups do work such as handling dead animals and sweeping up offal. Landowning castes include Jats, Rajputs, Sainis, Kambohs, Brahmans, Gujars, and Ahirs. The term "Rajput" literally means "son of a king," but most of the other names are purely ethnic in connotation. There is no caste group literally named "landowner" or farmer. Artisan castes include carpenters, masons, blacksmiths, barbers, operators of cotton gins, and perhaps weavers. The lower group contains leatherworkers and sweepers. People often do not actually perform the work their caste name suggests. Leatherworkers, for example, are a numerous group who usually do agricultural labor. People of lower castes often use different caste names according to religion; for example, a Mazhbi is a leatherworker who is a Sikh.

In Punjab, caste discrimination is not generally supported by religion. It is specifically rejected in all forms of Islam and Sikhism. Many local Hindu sects and movements, such as Radhoswami, reject it as well. Each jati is divided into an indefinite number of clans (got). A got is a group descended from a common ancestor, not specifically known, whose members are more closely related to each other than to other members of the caste. Gots are exogamous; one must not marry a person from the gots of any of one's four grandparents. People commonly use the name of their got as part of their personal name.

Villages are also exogamous, and people of one's village are addressed with kinship terms as though they were people of one's own family, irrespective of caste or got. A patti—literally, a division—is the largest group of families with actual common ancestry within a caste or got in a single village. A family (parivar) is the basic and most important unit of Punjab society. The complementary roles of men and women in the household division of labor are based upon complementary rights and duties in terms of the kinship system, particularly complementary rights over property (see below).

Kinship Terminology. The Punjabi kinship terminology distinguishes just four superior generations and four inferior generations, but there is no limit to the relationships that may be considered collateral.

In Ego's own generation, all males are addressed as bhai (brother) and all females are bhain (sister). These terms include all of those who would be called "cousin" in English, and many more. In the first ascending generation, the terminology distinguishes mother, mother's brother, and mother's sister, and each of their respective spouses, all of which are further distinguished from father, father's elder brother, Father's younger brother, and father's sister and their respective spouses. From an English speaker's point of view, Punjabi thus demarcates ten distinct relations where English has only "uncle" and "aunt." But the offspring of these relations are all either "brother" or "sister," according to sex.

The terms above +1 continue to separate the matrilateral and patrilateral sides: all the terms of the mother's side are built up on the stem -nan-. On the father's side the stem is -dad-. Prefixes and suffixes distinguish generation and sex only. Thus the father of the father is dada, mother of father is dadi. Dada also applies to any male relative through the dada or dadi, and dadi to any female through the dada or dadi. Thus dada is "grandfather," "great-uncle," and indeed all of their siblings, spouses, or siblings of spouses or spouses of Siblings of whatever remoteness. Nana and nani are those similarly related on the mother's side. Father of dada is pardada, his wife/sister is parnani, and these terms too are similarly extended. Their counterparts on the mother's side are parnana and parnani. The father or mother of parnana or parnani has no term (i.e., is not a relative). The term-pair superior to parnana-parnani on the father's side in turn is nakarnana-nakarnani. Above this no further relations are recognized on the father's side.

The system of terms for relatives below the generation of Ego is more complex. Each position is distinguished by generation, sex, and whether the person was brought into the Family by birth or marriage. Further, lines of descent through males only are separated from those through females; Beginning with distinguishing Ego's own sons and daughters from those of Ego's sister's on the one hand and Ego's brother's on the other. The line of direct descendants that remains with a man in his village is also separated out from all others. The terminology for men is the same as for women. In address, only terms for one's own and superior generations are used. Genealogical inferiors are addressed by name.

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