photo of Indian woman Garwhal and Kumaon
India glossary


(INDIA 18)








Chaura village, Nichar, Sutlej valley, Kinnaur


December 1996



Section 1
What is your name? Where do you come from, and what is your full address?
My name is Lakhupati. I belong to the village of Chod. The PO [address] is Nigulsari, Tehsil, Nichar, District Kinnaur. Our gram panchayat (village council) is Taranda.

What is your caste?

Are you married?
I got married very early.

The power project going on in your area is it of any use to you?
My answer is both yes and no. It has provided employment to people and some people have had the opportunity of earning money. But it is also doing a lot of harm. For example, the houses are caving in, so is the land. There is water seepage, and the drying up of water springs. The smoke coming out of the tunnel is polluting the air. It's affecting the life of the people of this area in an unhealthy way.

How far have you been educated?
I am absolutely uneducated. There were no schools during my time and girls were not sent far away from home for schooling.

What did you do in your childhood?
I grazed cattle and also spun wool. I played the whole day long!

Do you do any farming here?
Yes, our main business is agriculture and cattle rearing. As soon as the weather clears up after winter, we begin sowing. Some people rear sheep, goats and cattle. When we have free time we apply cow dung in the fields with khud (leaf compost from cattle bedding). We go in groups to collect dry firewood from the jungle (forest), for the winter.

What type of agriculture are you doing?
So far it has been the old style of farming. We have been following the method of our ancestors. But these days the officials from the agriculture department visit us and demonstrate the new methods of farming. This way our methods have improved. Our produce has increased. During the Robi season we produce barley, wheat, peas and maize, koda (finger millet), chaulai (amaranth) potato, maash (variety of lentil), baladi (variety of pulse), and rajma (beans) during the Kharif season.
Section 2
Could you tell me something about local horticulture?
As far as my knowledge goes, earlier we did not have apples or other fruits that have a stone inside. Only the wild type of apples and apricots were found, which had no value from the economic point of view. Since independence the government has taken a lot of interest and helped us plant a better quality of apples, pears, apricots, grapes and plums. We get good-quality fruit, which brings in a good amount of income.

Do you use manure and pesticides, and do pruning and so on?
Yes. From time to time we use manure and insecticides. We also trim the plants. If all this is not done then we get less fruit. Our entire life has become dependent upon horticulture.

Which manure do you use most?
Mostly we use cow dung and the manure from goat and sheep. But nowadays the people from the horticulture department are showing us how manure can be prepared in pits for use. They say that this way the yield will improve. People are adopting this method too.

What are the facilities for irrigation here?
Our fields are cultivated only through faith in god. We have a harvest if it rains, otherwise not. If it does not rain for a long time then we worship our local deities and compel them to bring us rain. The entire village gathers in the temple for the worship and we all pray. We all have full faith in our gods and goddesses. When we worship like this they will send us good rainfall, and on time! Nowadays the meteorological department gives advance information regarding rain and drought. This helps us to prepare ourselves in advance. The irrigation department is now providing irrigation facilities in many villages and the local people are giving them complete support.

What do you do when it rains a lot, and during heavy snowfall?
It snows heavily during December, January and February normally. Inside the house we burn logs and stay indoors and weave and spin wool. Even the old men and women enjoy wool spinning. And as it has become a sort of tradition we crack jokes, tell stories, and exchange some real life anecdotes. This way the winter days go by. We manage to complete the spinning of wool and also protect ourselves from the severe cold weather.

Do you celebrate any festivals?
We do - mostly during winter. That is how people of one village get an opportunity to meet the people of another village.
Section 3
Please tell something about the weddings here?
Marriages...I feel that they are performed in the same way all over India. But this region does have its own customs. Broadly, there are five types of marriages. Child marriage, when parents on both sides mutually get the children married at an early age; then there is the “love” marriage, when the boy and the girl fall in love and get married without the parents’ consent. There is also the “forced” marriage. In olden days when the girl would not agree to get married, she was forced to do so. Sometimes, if a boy liked a girl, he married her against her wishes or abducted her. Such girls were abducted from fairs for marriages.
The “big” (lavish) wedding is for high-class people who marry their children with pomp and show. For this they call all their relatives and all the deities of the area. They slaughter a large number of sheep and goats. They also provide large sums of money and jewellery. The girls are given dowry. These marriages take place from September to December and from May to July. The small-scale marriage also takes place. It is popular among common (poor) people. Only two to three people from the side of bride and groom come, so very little is spent on food, drink and so on. The entire marriage is performed within their limited resources. But nowadays the marriage ceremonies are also undergoing substantial changes. This is bad since people are competing and giving more dowry. People drink a lot and eat non- vegetarian food. All this leads to mishaps and misunderstanding in marriages. All this should be limited and so should the big dowries be stopped completely. The children of the poor suffer, due to all this.

What do you know about family welfare programs?
I do not know very much about this. When somebody falls ill we call the village vaid (practitioner of indigenous medicine) who gives herbal medicines. In addition we also pray to our gods and goddesses to cure the sickness. In rural, tribal areas polyandry is practised. Without any family planning program the population stays under control. But in modern times people do not like to live together. Society is changing very rapidly and people are adopting the common practice of living in smaller families. Polyandry and joint family systems are gradually disappearing. People call [polyandry] a social evil but I feel that this system was very good for controlling the population growth, and simpler for property distribution. The entire family income was centrally controlled. In these days of development people are concentrating on family welfare schemes in a big way, which is a real advance. Checking the population growth is the duty of each one of us. If not checked on time it will be very difficult to get even an inch of land per person. The government can't provide employment for so many people. Keeping these problems in mind all men and women should accept this plan as a big public movement. This alone can keep our nation's future safe. The government has started many plans in this direction and offered various attractive incentives for the people who follow them.

Do share your knowledge regarding childbirth and delivery.
I am 80 years old. I have no knowledge of the modern methods but I can tell you about the old ways. The pregnant women used to be taken to the ground floor of the building for delivery since it was easier, and also she did not fall ill, since she was safe from the evil eye. For seven days one woman used to attend on her day and night on the ground floor. She was kept away from the rest of the family also. She was given very ordinary food. But now the women go to hospitals, dispensaries and operation theatres where the deliveries are conducted with ease and comfort. The mother and child do not face any problem and are well looked after by doctors, nurses and orderlies. They are given medicines free of charge. This is very attractive for the poor. The government is educating people through television, radio and newspapers. Our old methods should be stopped and new techniques should be adopted.
Section 4
Do tell me about the mode of transport in your lives.
Before independence I had heard that there were trains which transported both men and luggage and I really wanted to see a train. In 1947 I was about 31 and only knew the pathways in our area. There were no roads. I had heard of only one road, the Hindustan–Tibet road” but had no idea where it was and what areas it covered. In 1962 when China attacked India I saw ponies carrying heavy loads and travelling on this route. This scared me. We used to hide under huge stones. Gradually roads were made. The government paid special attention to this project and within a year the road was constructed – the national highway 22 – which goes from Kalka to Korik via Rampur Bushehar. Today thousands of vehicles travel on it.
I go around and so travel on buses to attend district level functions at the District Headquarters, Kalpa Peo. While sitting in a bus I feel strange. I discuss the modern travel facilities, which have become so fast and have connected all parts of the country with my fellow-passengers. Today a person can reach Kinnaur from Delhi whereas it took half a year earlier. Today, what to speak of roads, man has reached the moon! When it rains or there is an earthquake, people leave the roads and reach their destination in aeroplanes! This takes only a couple of hours. This is because there is a revolution in the transportation field. Today, besides the entire country, the whole world is interconnected, and it's a matter of pride that one can travel throughout the world.

What are the sources of recreation here?
In Kinnaur area it’s basically singing at home and in the temples, organising fairs, dancing and doing nati (dramas). This kind of entertainment takes place at least ten or twelve times in a year. We have fairs which are like festivals. Young men and women sing together, organise meals. According to tradition they carry the gods and goddesses (they put the statues on their shoulders) and show some tricks to entertain the public. Since the people here have a lot of faith in gods and goddesses these dances and other related shows do have a special significance. People witness these items with reverence and start dancing. There are many festivals when people sit at home, sing and narrate interesting episodes and jokes. All this, in the local language, is called “toshing” (local cultural entertainment) programme. During such festivals the older people offer liquor to the deities and enjoy driking. But nowadays this practice is getting lost. All this has been replaced by TV, radio, cinema, transistors, sports, wrestling, drama, etc. People are getting more inclined towards the modern kinds of entertainment. This is all due to education. Today they can watch the best of competitions, games, sports – not only national but international – on the TV. This has become possible because of the increasing number of educated people.
Section 5
Could you tell me something about local food habits?
People generally grow oats, buckwheat, barley, millet, maize and potato. These are eaten locally. Normally the grain is ground in a mill or at home on the grinding stone. This flour is tipped into boiling water and a pudding is made out of it. But no oil, sugar or milk is added. We call it dou (dumpling) or badiya (pudding).
At times these food grains are boiled and ground into a paste. We call it yud or matu. It is made of barley, amaranth and wheat. Potatoes are boiled and eaten. Sattu (flour made of roasted grains) and dou is added to buttermilk or salted tea and eaten. A big container full of water is kept for boiling, and wild tea leaves, salt, milk, butter, walnut, almond and spices are grown and added to this water. All this is boiled for a long time. Then the whole family drinks it in the morning and evenings, at times during the day as well.
This quenches the thirst and is also good for general health. But the local tribal Kinnaur dwellers are also beginning to drink sweet tea like the people of the plains. This causes many stomach ailments and spoils the general health of the local people. Traditional food habits are beings replaced by the modern tastes. Earlier we cooked vegetables and dal (lentils) without any condiments or spices but not any longer. Some people are also using colouring, which is very harmful. The traditional cooking and food habits are being forgotten in these modern times. Food is not balanced any longer and a lot of attention is being paid to showing off and decoration of food.
The favourite foods of our village are chul funting (traditional dish made of chulu and chaulai - amaranth), sattu, lassi (buttermilk), dou with butter and ghee (clarified butter). During festivals we eat poltu (?), prasad, ramdama dalka jamlo (?), which is only boiled, and soonpol, which looks like jalebi (?).

What do you feel about the forests? Do you feel that they are necessary?
Our entire life depends on forests. We get firewood from forests, wood for house construction and also fodder for our cattle. This is spread in the khud of cattle, which gives us wonderful manure too. We also get grass, leaves of trees, precious herbs and minerals for our animals. In addition, forests also give us tea leaves, humus, fertiliser, and so on.
In summer all the cattle, goats and sheep are taken there for grazing. Forests add to the beauty of nature. Not only this, but the forest also provides pure air and a healthy environment without charging for it; the areas where the air and environment are polluted - they too are looked after by these forests - otherwise it would be very harmful for animals, birds and human beings. This pollution can't be checked without these forests to protect the pure environment; we must check tree felling and plant more trees to keep the area green and healthy. We should not use dhool (dust) and dhuwan (smoke) and explosives. In my opinion, the only way to check pollution is by preserving forests and growing trees in large numbers.
In the forests there is no soil erosion. It rains there and the atmosphere also remains clean and fresh, the air pressure is also just right. This will keep the birds and wild animals healthy and alive for a longer time, and save them from extinction. The water level of springs and ponds will be maintained. Forests will keep giving employment opportunities to human beings, a source of livelihood too, helping the standard of living to rise.
Section 6
Where are the water points and from where do you get drinking water?
Our villages have been drinking spring water for ages; it is right in the centre of the village. This water remains cool both in winter and summer. The spring water is clean and [a] good [remedy] for constipation. The village in our neighbourhood does not have this facility and two people there have to fetch water from the ravine, which is very difficult; large families have to fetch water the whole day long. We wash clothes near some river or rivulets where the animals also drink. People fetch and conserve the water for use. After 1947 the government set up health and irrigation departments, which have started several drinking water projects. Under this scheme each house in our village is provided with a water connection but this water is not as good as the spring water. Every day some treatment is used which spoils the taste of the water. The pipes get rusted and all this goes into the human body.
But life is easier now. People do not have to travel long distances. Water is available either inside or outside the houses. So, people have become comfort-loving. Whenever the water supply stops they have to go back to the old method of fetching water on their backs! I firmly believe that the springs - the water sources – should be looked after properly. They should not be polluted. They should be cleaned from time to time. Similarly the taps and pipes should be properly cleaned and maintained.

How many caste groups live in your area?
In my panchayat village there are people of various castes. There are Rajput, Negi, Harijan, blacksmiths, Chanalu, carpenters, weavers, etc. They have hereditary occupations or professions. They marry within the caste and their field of work is earmarked. They also have fairs and festivals according to their castes.
Rajput are basically farmers and rear sheep and goats. Those who have a prosperous standing try to sort out the village disputes. They are also moneylenders. They marry within their caste and share the happy and unhappy times.
Then there are blacksmiths. They make things of iron for villagers and are given either money, food grain or other things. These are the lower class people. Their living standard is much lower compared to those belonging to the higher classes - castes. They hardly ever rear goats or sheep. There are also goldsmiths. They make things of silver and gold for the people of their area, regardless of caste. People get their things made in the workshop. The goldsmiths in return are given either cash or food grain or sheep and goats. They also till the land.
The Harijans have their own place in society. They do farming and also work on the farms of Rajput. They are also engaged in cattle rearing. For their labour they are either paid in cash or given food grain or other items that they need. They also carry messages from one village to the other.
The weavers mainly weave woollen cloth on looms or do farming. They weave woollen articles for the entire village.
The people of Chanalu caste make baskets for the people who need them. They are also involved in other business and farming.
In our area each Rajput has dealings with people of these professions. [The Rajputs] get all the things they require for their daily needs made by these people and pay according to the set standard either in cash, food grain or wool. This is how [the artisans] respect the Rajput. The Rajputs in turn maintain good relations with them. They share their good times and bad times. During all festivals [other castes] are invited to share a meal and are entertained. They look after the Rajputs in turn.
Section 7
What is the state of literacy here? Are you educated?
Before independence there were no schools here. Only in Kinnaur, Kalpa and Nichar were there were schools up to class V. These must have been started by the British. After 1950 primary schools were started at Kinnaur, Nichar, Pooh, Chaura, etc. Later on many more came up. In my times there were no schools, hence nobody had schooling at all. For schooling one had to go to Sarahan in District Masu. My parents could not send me so far. Besides, girls were not supposed to be educated or sent out of their homes. In the sixties and eighties many more schools were established. The primary and middle schools were converted into high schools. Every village had a primary school. Between 1990 and 1995, colleges were built in Kalpa, Rekong and Peo of Kinnaur District. There are five or six senior secondary schools. In Nigulsari, which is about 3 km from my village, Choda, there is a high school where boys and girls from my village are getting an education. There is a primary school in my village itself. There is one pre-primary (nursery) school where children between one day and six years, are kept, given nutritious food, and taught a few things.
In addition to this, the village also has a Mahila Mangal Dal (rural women’s council) and a DWACRA group (a district-sponsored activity for women) and I am an active member of it myself. I am not educated but all the other family members are making good use of these schools, balwadi centres (crèches) and other development facilities. I am also attending classes run by the Literacy Mission and now I can write my name, and have learnt to count! I am happy that there are schools all over our place and children are getting education there. It hurts me when I see that in spite of so many schools nearby, some people refuse to send children for education. They would rather the children waste their time playing among the cattle or in other useless activities. They are not making use of the facilities available. Women must take the lead and put an end to the illiteracy.

Do you feel that education is very important in the modern age?
Oh, no, what are you asking me! An illiterate person is like an animal. An illiterate person can be duped, cheated. If such a person goes to fetch something, people cheat him by giving him expensive things and not weighing the goods properly. We, the uneducated, have no knowledge of weights and are being cheated at every step. An illiterate labourer is never paid his full labour charges. On the contrary, he is treated shabbily. He is not conscious of his basic rights. It becomes very difficult for him to survive [with dignity]. Under these circumstances the parents have to guide their children properly. As many children as possible should be given schooling. They should be given professional, scientific and moral education. Only an educated society can take the nation forwards. No one is complete without education. Education should not be attained only for the sake of getting employment but for becoming self-reliant, far sighted and truly educated, to be able to assess the values of modern times.
Section 8
Tell me, would you prefer to live in the hills, or would you like to move to the plains?
I was born in the hills, and like living here, though it's very cold. It snows and rains heavily. We have avalanches and floods and we often get cut off from the main land (from the rest of the state). The roads are bad and so are the means of transportation. We have power shortages and shortages of food grain, vegetables and grocery items. We do not get proper communication facilities, health facilities, and other development projects, as do the people of plains. But these distant areas are good in many ways. We hardly ever have burglaries, dacoity (banditry), and the people live simply by and large. People are very attached to nature where the gods reside. Since people are simple-natured they are not cheats. We have amiable relations with all and no goondaism, (rowdiness) cheating and forgery. People respect each other. We respect the elders. Since we have fresh and unpolluted air and atmosphere, the hill people are of pure character and strongly built. The population is small, hence there is no filth around. We have no quarrels and the water is pure and clean. We get sufficient firewood. We store food grain for difficult days.
By contrast, there is a lot of water and air pollution in the plains. The entire atmosphere is polluted; it is bad for health. Accidents take place and there is large-scale cheating, arson, looting etc. Since people live in an atmosphere of fear the mental fibre of the public is very very weak. There are too many people in the plains so the surroundings are dirty all over, leading to the spread of diseases. There are lots of motor vehicles, which pollute the air and even the edible plants. Keeping all this in mind, I feel that life in the hills is much better than in the plains. But it's a matter of concern that the young people of our areas, who are either educated or are getting higher education, are becoming attracted by cities and the plains. They do not want to visit their homes any more. In fact they should change their thinking and work towards the betterment of our backward areas.

In Kinnaur do you give people medicines when they fall ill?
No. We never took medicines. In case of any sickness we took chul funting. We ate only chuli (wild apricot) and nothing else. We also took some herbs and roots.

Do you believe in gods and goddesses?
Yes, we do. We worship gods and goddesses – this entire area has been called Dev Bhunai (literally, land of the gods) from the times of our ancestors.
Section 9
Do you pray to God when somebody is sick?
Yes, this is the first thing we do, even before going to the health centre or hospital. Many a time only praying cures us.

What is your religion?
In Kinnaur we follow Buddhism.

What is the source of your livelihood?
Earlier we used to sell sheep, goats, wool and potatoes. Now, times have changed and people have apple orchards and earn their livelihood by selling apple produce.

What did you used to buy from the shops?
Earlier we had no shops. We had to go to Rampur Busher to buy salt, tobacco, oil and clothes, for the whole year. These days every village throughout the rural areas has a road and a shop which is well stocked. This has improved our life.

Is your land sufficient to look after your needs?
The land is uneven, rocky and on a slope. The area is sufficient but the produce is not sufficient. You see, the topsoil gets washed away in the rains and drought destroys our harvest. Thus the yield is insufficient for a family and we have to depend on shops and co-operative stores.

What orchards do people have here?
They have mainly apple orchards. People also have apricot and pear orchards. In the lower regions people are also growing Japanese fruit.

What do you think about family planning?
I feel that it should not be forced upon people. People should be convinced that it is good for them so that they take it up voluntarily. Programmes should be shown through audio visual means. People’s thinking will gradually change and they will willingly opt for it.

Which is more important, educating boys or educating girls?
Actually we prefer educating the boys first and foremost, and afterwards the girls. Educating girls is not considered very good. But the government is encouraging the education of both girls and boys. So we should send the girls also for higher education.

Do you all have ancestral land or do some people have other kinds of land?
Generally the land is inherited and they cultivate it. Lately the government is giving land to those who have small pieces of land and getting it registered in their names according to “Nau Tod” (?). People are taking full advantage of this. The government is granting permission for land according to “Nau Tod” to almost everyone.