Caste Systems in Himachal Pradesh
Himachal Pradesh is inhabited by the people, who are diverse in their ethnic and socio-cultural attributes. Early migration and its frontier location have left deep imprints on its ethnic characteristics. The population displays a high degree of diversity in ethnic composition as is evident from the fact that the scheduled Tribes comprise 4.22 Percent and Scheduled castes about 24.72 percent of the state’s population. People of Himachal Pradesh speak a number of languages and dialects. It is believed that people have inhabited Himachal Pradesh since ancient times. Himachal Pradesh is, as stated earlier rightly called the melting pot of cultures. Numerous racial communities and cultures have intermingled here.
- The ‘Pahari’ caste structure is characterized by a twofold division into high-caste groups (Brahmin and Rajput or Khasiya) and low caste artisan groups (Doms).
- The “lower strata” are called Doms, a term that applies to all artisan castes of the hills.
- The Brahmins, the priestly class form the second largest group followed by the ghiraths. The Khatris, Sood, and Mahajans comprising the business communities, along with Rajputs form another large chunk of the state’s population.
- Rajputs are descendants of immigrant Rajputs who were either driven to the hills by the Muslim invaders or who came here and established small princely States. They are mostly land-owners and engaged in agriculture.
- The Khashas (People include in this form today’s Nepal, Garhwal, Kumaon, and Himachal zone) are the second important element in the population of the State. The Khashas penetrated into the State from the northwest and settled in the mid-mountain belt. With the passage of time, they split into a number of subgroups. Today the successors of the Khashas can be traced to the Khasia and Kanet Rajputs.
The Scheduled castes of Himachal Pradesh
The Scheduled castes and scheduled tribes are those castes and tribes which have been notified as such by Presidential order in accordance with the Articles 341 and 342 of the Constitution. The lists of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes were notified for the first time under the Constitution Order of 1950. However, from time to time these lists have been modified or amended or supplemented. According to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Order (Amendment) Act, 1976, the following castes and tribes have been treated as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes throughout the state.
Sex Ratio of Scheduled Castes
- The sex ratio among the scheduled castes was 967 females per 1000 males in 1991 which rose by one point to 968 in the 2001 Census in the State. Lahul & Spit district has the lowest sex ratio in 2001. Where there were 980 females after every 1000 males.
- There was an improvement of 48 points during 1991-2001 periods as at 1991 census sex ratio was 832.
The district Hamirpur with 1022 females to every 1000 males occupied the top position among all the districts of the state
- Kangra occupies the second position where there were 999 females to every 1000 males among the scheduled castes.
- Except for Lahaul and Spiti, the sex ratio in all the districts of the state was above 900. The low sex ratio in Lahaul and Spiti was attributable to male selective migration.
Literacy Rate of Scheduled Caste
- The proportion of Scheduled Castes literates to the total Scheduled Castes population excluding age-group 0-6 was 53.2 percent in 1991 which rose to 70.3 percent in the 2001 Census resulting in an increase of 17.1 percent during the decade.
- During the decade of 1991-2001, a significant improvement has taken place in the literacy of Scheduled Castes. At the district level, the district of Chamba was at the bottom with 36.9 percent literates in 1991.
- The literacy rate increased to 58.5 percent in 2001, but the district continued to occupy the lowest position.
- The highest proportion of Scheduled Castes literates of 68.5 percent was recorded in Hamirpur district in 1991, which rose to 79.1 percent in 2001 keeping the district again in the first place among the districts.
- In 8 districts out of 12, the proportion of literates was above 70 percent. There was not even a single in 1991 having 70.0 percent literates.
Male Literacy among the Scheduled Castes
The proportion of males among Scheduled Caste literates was 80.0 percent in the 2001 Census. The highest percentage (86.4) has been reported in the Hamirpur district closely followed by Lahul and Spiti (86.2) and Kangra (82.8). Chamba district had the lowest proportion of 71.4 percent male literates and the second-lowest position was occupied by the Sirmaur district.
Female Literacy among Scheduled Castes
The female literacy was quite low as compared to male literacy among the Scheduled Castes. The proportion of female literates was 60.4 percent in 2001. The gender gap in literacy was 19.6 percentages at the 2001 census. The highest percentage of 72.2 female literates was found in Hamirpur district while the lowest proportion of 45.0 percent female literates has been found in the Chamba district.
What are the types of Casts system found in Himachal Pradesh?
- ACHARAJ – The Acharaj or Charaj are the Brahmins who seeks offerings (daan) in the name of the dead by performing death rites – Kriya-Karam for various Hindu communities.
- BATTARHAS – The Battarhas are occupationally stone – workers or dresser/breakers. They are commonly known as ‘Mistri’ or ‘Rajgir’ or ‘Raj’ or ‘Sangatrash’.
- BRAHMIN – The Brahmin from one of the largest social group in India. The Brahmins have their ‘gotra’ associated with various Rishis of ancient times. They consider themselves descendants of seven Rishi ancestors, namely Jamdagni, Gautama, Bhardwaj, Attri, Agatsaya, Kashyapa, and Vashista. The famous Brahmin gotras are – Sarswat, Gauda, Vatsya, Upamanyu, Attri, Shandilya, Garga, Prashar, Gautam, Vatsa, Sankhyayan, Vatsyayan, Upadhyaya, Awasthi Sukla, Pathak, Vashistha, Kaushal, Kashyap, Bhardwaj, and so on.
- CHAMAR – Traditional leather workers are called Chamar. It is a widely spread community in the state of Himachal Pradesh. They worship ‘Sidh Chano’ as their community deity in the name of ‘Garha Devta’. Chamars are known by various names as Mochi, Ramdasis, and Ravidasi.
- CHANAL – The Channels correspond regarding their occupation, rituals, and customs closely to the Hali of Chamba and Dagi and Koli of Kullu and Shimla. In district Kangra, Channels are treated somewhat lower to the Kolis. Majority of this community work as agricultural labors for the Brahmins and Rajputs in lieu of a certain share of the produce.
- DUMNA – Dumna’s working material is bamboo. The Dumna is mostly found in Chamba, Kangra, and Shimla Hills. They make sieves (tokri), winnowing pans, fans, matting, baskets, grass rope, string, furniture, and other articles made of bamboo.
- GHIRATH – The Ghirath or Chowdhary come next to the Brahmins and Rajputs as a predominant Hindi community. They are mostly found in the western part of Himachal Pradesh viz. Hamirpur, Kangra, Una, and Bilaspur districts. Birth is a local name and its origin from ghee reveals their traditional occupation of animal husbandry and farming. Although the Ghiraths community claims their descent from Rajput or Kshatriya. The sub-division of Ghiraths is – namely Kaundal, Bhardwaj, Bhattlu, Badial, Pathari, Chhabra, Reru and Chhora.
- HALI – The Hali means a person who earns his livelihood by hal (plough). Hali’s traditional occupations were to the skin and tan dead animals, to remove carcasses, and to play music on marriages and other social and religious ceremonies.
- HESI – The Hesis are the traditional vagrant minstrels, who used to subsist by playing a Shehnai and beating Dholak or Tamborium, and singing wedding greetings and folk songs.
- KUMHARS – Kumhar is the man who makes earthen pots. These pots are used in the village to store grains. Some of their got/gotras are Shandil, Kashab, and Bharapdariye.
- KOLI – Kolis is believed to have sprung from abandoned Kanets who volunteered to remove carcasses in the absence of Chamar when disease claimed the lives of a large number of cattle. In the Shivalik Hills Kolis call themselves New Rajput or Kshatriya.
- LOHAR – The Lohar is one of the village menials, receiving customary dues in the form of a share of the produce, in return for which he makes and mends all the iron implements of agriculture. They write Devnagari script and speak the local dialect of Pahari within and outside the community.
- MAHAJAN – The Mahajan literally means “the great folk” are also known as Shah or Sahukar. The main castes in the Mahajan community are Khatri, Kayastha, and Baniya.
- RAJPUT – The Rajput, one of the erstwhile principal warrior and ruling community of Himachal Pradesh, ‘” are said to be Brahmin by original stock”. The Rajputs are divided into six status groups, including Raja, Rajput, Mian, and Thakur which include first grade and second-grade Ranas and Mathis.
- RIHANNA – According to Ibbetson, the Riharas appears to be closely allied to Dumna. In district Shimla, they earn their livelihood by making Kirri (Kilta basket) and removing cow dung whereas the Riharas is primarily engaged in silver smithy and tin smithy.
- SIPPI – Sippis is described as a ‘weaves of the Gaddi tribe’ and virtually the same as Hali. They are mostly found in Bharmour, district Chamba.
- SUNAR – Sunar is basically the jeweler of the village. He is also a moneylender, making ornaments in pawns and making cash advances upon them. Soni, Kapila, Jargar, and Zargar are the synonyms of this community. Tank and Mair are the subgroups of the Sunar community.
- SOOD – Sood constitutes an important group of the traditional traders and shopkeepers like the Bania, Khatri, and Mahajan. Their clans are Butel, Gupta, Chimre, Bante, Bagle, Mahdudiye, Parkhoee, Chab, Kodel, Wahi, Kalander Baddhu, Baggha, and Augarh.
- TURI – Turis is the agriculturist but their main occupation is music and dancing. They are also known as ‘Dayal’ (in Chopal) or ‘Dhakis’ or ‘Bajgir’. Their main concentration is in trans- Giri tract of district Sirmaur and their commonly spoken language is Sirmauri.
- THATHERA – Thathera is the man who makes vessels of brass, copper, and other mixed metals. The community is divided into different gotra/got viz. Mehta, Wadhvan, Uppal, Chadha, Varma, and Anand.
WHAT HIMACHAL IS FACING NOWADAYS?
- Despite having progressive improvements in education, sanitation, harmony, electrification, and even the public distribution system Himachal has a dark reality of CASTE DISCRIMINATION which has gone unacknowledged.
- As per the 2011 census, Himachal has a total population of 68,56,509 of which 17,29,252 (25.22%) are Scheduled Castes (SC), 3,92,126 (5.71%) belong to Scheduled Tribes (ST) and 9,27,452 (13.52%) are from Other Backward Classes (OBC).
- The rest of the population belongs to upper castes (50.72%) or other communities (4.83%).
- A further breakup of caste demography shows that among the 50.72% upper castes, 32.72% are Rajputs and 18% Brahmins.
- The 68-member assembly has 20 reserved seats, 17 for SCs, and three for STs.
External Links and References
1. Himachal Polls of 2017 – HINDUSTAN TIMES
2. HIMACHAL PRADESH CENSUS 2001
3. Different type of Cast Systems