photo of Indian woman Garwhal and Kumaon
India glossary


(INDIA 25)








Dunda village, Bhagirathi valley, Uttarkashi


January 1997



Section 1
What is your name?
Shanti Devi.

How old are you?
I am 55 years old.

How many children do you have?
Four: two boys and two girls.

What is your husband's name?
Jaspal Singh Rana.

Were women educated when you were young?
Yes, they were.

Where are your parents?
In Himachal Pradesh.

Was your husband from this place?
His great grandfather was from Himachal. They have been living here for four generations.

Do you reside only at this place or some other place as well?
We have been living here for the past eight years. But our friends (the villagers) - and we too - live here only for six months. We move to Harsil-Bagori for another six months.

What is the reason for this?
We can't live there since it snows and it is too cold. Even in summers we can't live there since we are basically involved in the sheep and goat rearing business. So we have to move up and down. We have started living here for our children's education. We live here only for short spells, though most of the time we live in Harsil with our sheep and goats. We old people come along with children.

Do the original dwellers of that place also come down?
Some people of Mukhawa Dharali stay there and some come down. But people of our community are no longer in Bagori during the winter season. Only the community that lives in the plains for six months and in Bagori for six months is to be found there. Some people come to stay at Charpani. All those who have lots of horses, goats and sheep - normally everyone has goats - come to live at Charpani.
Section 2
Where is Charpani?
It is near Rishikesh - close to Dalanwala Police Station. A little way inside there is a dense forest, so they go there. The rest of the people come here - near Jamgali Khala.

Do the people of Mukhawa Dharali not rear sheep?
They do.

Where do they take their sheep?
They too take them to Bavar (Charpani).

Do they take the family along?
No. Only one member of the family goes along with a servant. The family, along with its cows and horses, comes to Malati, Badeti and Makuri.

What is the main crop of that place?
Potato, rajma (beans) and apples.

Not wheat and rice?
No, not wheat and rice, but we do grow a lot of fafra (buckwheat) and ogla (variety of buckwheat).

What are fafra and ogla?
They are eaten as fruit - that is non-cereal. During fasts rotis (bread) or puris (type of fried bread) of fafra flour are eaten. It is made for the festival of Shivratri also when fasting is undertaken. Many great men and sadhu-mahatmas (ascetics and saints) eat it, regarding it as fruit.

Is it a fruit like apple?
No. It is a small grain like cheena (indigenous variety of wheat). Its leaves are round. When it flowers the seeds are white but later they turn black. The seeds of both are black in colour.

Is ogla also used for making flour?
Its flour is sweet but the fafra flour is bitter. It is eaten during fasts along with marsa (amaranthus). Wheat flour is not eaten during fasts. [Marsa seeds are roasted and sweet meats made out of them].

What is your source of income?
Wool. The source of income of all Bagoris is wool. So they rear sheep.
Section 3
What do you make?
We spin wool, make pankhis (woollen shawl), carpets, sweaters and chokhta (woollen blanket) - in place of a sweater - to be worn on the upper part of the body. It is made of coloured wool and is very expensive. We also make vindi (hand-woven woollen yardage) and choda (made of goat's wool) which is a thick carpet-like material for sitting. We make vindi or woollen material for coats in a variety of colours and checks. While weaving we make double coloured checks. We make material of any pattern desired. This is the main source of income for our people. The spinning wheel goes along with us - up and down.

What is the cost of a carpet?
It ranges between Rs 1000 to 5000. A plain carpet costs approximately, Rs.700 but one with a floral pattern about eight feet by eight feet costs about Rs 5000.

Do your children also know the art of carpet weaving?
Yes, they all know a little bit.

How long do you take to complete one carpet?
A carpet of 8 feet by 8 feet size takes about a month if two people make it. So we earn Rs 5000 a month. Two people work continuously for a month - they eat their meals also while working. The tools needed are an iron and a hammer. The iron costs anything between Rs.150 to 175 and we get it from Pithoragarh. People come from Pithoragarh to sell these tools. The hammer has to be wooden, though it is slightly weak and breaks when extra pressure is applied. But it has to be made of wood otherwise the wool gets broken. [This hammer is used to tighten the warp and the weft while weaving the carpet on the loom.] So one spends about Rs 1000 to buy these tools. Bigger carpets and dhurries (rugs) are woven in two separate parts and then joined.

You do rear sheep. Do tell me the price of raw wool?
The price is decided by the District Magistrate on the 15th of August. At about this time around August 15th we start shearing the sheep. This year the price was fixed at Rs 45 for the raw wool.

Do you do the wool washing and carding yourself?

Do you sell raw wool?
All those who do not have sheep do buy it from us. People come from Panipat, Tibetans from Dharamshala. In addition, the Khadi State Board and the Nigam Udyog Department, also buy from us. The rate is Rs 45 but the people who weigh it take one rupee since they insist that this is the practice.

Why do they do it?
Actually, some impurity does remain in the wool so they threaten to complain about it. So we take one rupee less. For instance if a bag contains 40 kgs of wool, they make a profit of Rs 40 - whereas, for us, it comes to about Rs 43 per kg.
Section 4
What are your views on women's education?
In my opinion as many women as possible should be educated so that they are independent and do not suffer like me. No other women work as hard and as much as we do. Still the husband bosses us around. We are uneducated, but young girls should be educated.

Do you feel that along with education they should also learn their traditional/hereditary occupation?
Nobody knows what is in store, what the future holds for us. No work is ever bad so girls should learn all types of work. What I feel is if there is a programme on TV where flower making is being taught, one should leave everything and watch the programme and learn it too. If one does not get a job or get time to follow the old traditional occupation, one could make flower-making art as a source of subsistence. You people are artists so you like all art. See, these flowers have been made by my daughter. [They are beautifully made with velvet cloth]. Art is useful in life, especially during hard times when there are no jobs.

Does it mean that a job is necessary?
Yes, a job is necessary for us because we have no land.

Did your father give you no education?
He did, but I have forgotten everything now.

I have had too many tragedies in life. I lost my eldest son when he had passed high school with science subjects. Had he been living he would have been 26 years old now. That tragedy changed me completely. I could sign my name in English. I studied up to fifth class in those days. Leave aside reading, I can't even sign without glasses. My children make fun of my signature. I lost my second son also. He died within an hour and a half. I called five doctors but they could not save him.

Were doctors available those days?
Yes, we had doctors and pharmacists.

Do you have some knowledge of medicinal herbs and roots?
Yes, attis (aconite) and other bitter herbs. Attis has small grains, maroon from outside and white from inside. This is used as a medicine for fever. There is a small quantity of attis in quinine pills also. The root of kadwi (a bitter root) is used in almost all medicines.

I have heard that there are herbs which give one long hair, is that so?
Well, balchadi is a black coloured root, which if soaked in oil gives a red colour. It is believed to help grow hair longer, but I have no such experience. My daughter Usha has long hair but she has not used balchadi. We use only mustard oil.
Section 5
How are marriages performed here?
There is a caste, Khampa, who are Tibetans. We do not marry into that caste. Their marriages are performed in a different way. The groom's people take ghee (clarified butter) to the bride's people. The bride's people also carry ghee and worship the guru (spiritual teacher/leader) inside a room. Everyone eats food and only on the guru's instruction apply ghee tika (mark indicating seat of the third eye; as a blessing) on the forehead of the girl. The ghee can be applied only by a boy who has parents, brothers and sisters. Both the boy and the girl are seen off on horseback. That is all that takes place during their marriages. But for the marriages in our caste, Jaad, is performed according to the vedic (according to the Vedas – Hindu sacred texts) rites of the seven ritual steps around the fire. Seven rounds are made around the fire while the pandit (priest) performs havan (sacred fire rituals). It is like a marriage in any other Hindu community, following betrothal. But if a girl runs away to get married then it is different. In villages the girls go to fetch grass and if they like a particular boy but the parents do not agree to this relationship, then they run away with the boy from there itself.

I hope they do not thrash the girl.
They do not get the opportunity to do that! That's why the girl and the boy elope.

What are the ornaments that are worn during wedding?
Those who have money wear jewellery from head to toe - paijeb for the feet and a mangalsutra (chain with a talisman worn after marriage) for the neck. Its width is about two fingers. It is lined with a collar of black cloth with a gold filigree design outside. This is fixed onto the cloth. Nowadays they wear a small gold piece connected with three gold beads in the centre and with small frills hanging downwards. It is joined together with thick green glass beads. The women in the villages of Garhwal wear only this. We have kagali - silver bangles which are made in different designs, a broad bracelet with beads - pointed ones - or some other designs. There are jhumkas (dangling earrings) for the ears and bulak (ring worn in the centre of the nose) for the nose. A gold ornament is worn on the centre of the nose (this hangs up to the chin). Shishupul is worn on the forehead. These are all old ornaments. These days they wear only a small nose ornament, a mangalsutra, and two bangles.

Which kind of jewellery do you like?
I feel the modern kind is better. How can a poor man give so many ornaments? Now they wear only silver not gold, which is much better keeping in mind those who are poor. Times have changed and this is better for the poor.
Section 6
But I want to know your preference.
I like the old ones. Mostly they were made of gold, and looked like flowers in bloom. Now people wear only a small nath (nose ring) and a chain.

What do you have round your neck?
A mangalsutra. It is the sign of a married woman. It has pure red coral, which is in accordance with the birth sign. In the centre there is a turquoise and it has sapphire and artificial pearls. All these three are found in the string of the mangalsutra. If any bead is broken, it is preserved very carefully and put into the foundation of either one's own house or any other house under construction - among other things, while the priest performs the puja (prayer ritual). [According to Hindu custom a bit of gold and a lamp are put into the foundation of a house]. These broken pieces [of turquoise, coral and pearls] are also put into the hearths of the houses whenever they are to be made. This is our tradition and considered auspicious. They are supposed to be items of worship, hence not even a small piece of these is wasted. The elders believe that the hearth is more important for life than a house - the house takes the second place. So the poor keep their pieces in the foundation of the hearth and the house in place of gold. All the religions say so - don't you know this?
Our elders believe that if the bride is given jewellery it brings prosperity in the family. We like our elders to live with us because they tell us about all the old customs and teachings. We have a belief that a household without seniors and with only children is no household. If the seniors of a family die, we do not get even hiran.

What is hiran?
When someone dies a piece of gold is put in the mouth of the dead person. We get five kinds of gold items made by the goldsmith and put into the mouths of the dead - that is known as hiran. The poor put only pieces of turquoise and coral - you can see how important these are.

What are you (your race) called? Are you called Bhotiya?
No, the Khampa people are called Bhotiya. We are Ranas (Rajput). They are Rawats, Chauhans and Bhandaris.

Who are the Jaad?
There is a bridge near Lanka in Bhairon valley. This is across river Jaad Ganga. The story goes that close to the place of its origin King Janak did his penance. There is a lake close by and its water flows into this river. So the river is named Jaad Ganga. Our people lived near the lake close to a khala (small stream) that is our village. We get drinking water from there. That is why we have been named Jaad. Similarly all those living on the banks of the river Ganga are called Gangadi. In the Garhwal area all those living close to the Jaad Ganga are called Jaad as well as the people of Mukhaba Dharali village, called Buderu in the local language. Our caste is not Jaad but Jat Merut. We are called Jaad by virtue of our being from the banks of the river Jaad Ganga. We are originally the dwellers of Jadung village. There were two villages - Keelang and Jadung.

Why did you migrate from Jadung to this place?
Earlier we used to move up and down for six months from Jadung, and went up to Chorpani. We first came to Bagori, then to Dunda and then to Chorpani. While we were away for six months the Army jawans (soldiers) took control of our land. After taking over Jadung they allowed us to come back and till our land for one year. There is no dearth of water there and it does not snow there in summers. Since then, however, we have not been allowed to go there. It snows there from Paush (December/January) onwards.
Section 7
How long ago did you leave Jadung?
32 years ago. It was then that they fully acquired all of our land. Some people say that we will be given money, others feel that land will be given to us. But till now we have neither got the land nor money. The district magistrate had declared that land would be given, but till now we have received neither land nor money.

How did you manage in Bagori?
We were very familiar with it since it was one of the places where we used to spend six months of the year. So this was our land.

What crops did you grow in Jadung?
Cheena, barley without kees (hair) which is called na in our language. We also grew fafra. We make sattu (a flour of mixed millets) and eat it with tea. We also make badi. Salt and flour is added to boiling water and cooked for some time till it thickens. Then it is eaten with ghee and jaggery (unrefined sugar) syrup. This badi is prepared in the Hawain region and specially given to women after childbirth).

Do you grow apples there?
No, we do not since it is too high a place for apples.

What clothes did you wear in those cold, high areas?
All the clothes were woollen. We wore woollen pyjamas - called sutan, a coat called angadi which comes down to the knees or even below, a gown called kawalak (a long loose shirt) in the local dialect made of coloured patterned cloth tied with a tape.

What kind of food did you get there?
We used to buy foodstuff from Rishikesh for six months and bring it loaded on goats’ backs. We also bought condiments and grew our own potatoes, cheena and barley.

How do you feel about leaving that place (Jadung)? Do you get nostalgic?
We miss it very much. The ghee there had a different taste altogether. We never had to take our cattle and goats for grazing. They used to go and come back themselves. The grass is very short there. The bugyals (meadows) are very extensive in that region.
Section 8
I have heard that goats cannot eat very tall grass, they like the small variety.
A goat can eat the leaves of a tree but there are no trees because of the altitude [there are meadows in the higher regions but no trees] and the grass is very short.

Do you get scented / flavoured herbs and roots there?
There are so many different kinds of flowers that bloom in the months of Savan (July/August) and Bhadan (August/September). The fragrance is so heady that nobody wants to go on ahead. Oh! There are such lovely flowers there!

Would you like to go there now?
If the army allows it I would definitely go... if it does not rain! I still love my land.

What is your music like?
I do not know much about the traditional music, and whatever little I do I cannot sing because I have a bad voice. But now it is all disco dancing to the tune of film music. There are a number of old songs.

Do tell me something about them.
There are songs dedicated to the Ganga and Badri Kedar.
[Narrator sings:] Oh! Mother Ganga do open the doors of your house, made of deodar (Himalayan cedar). Mother Ganga asks “My son, what have you brought?” The devotee replies “Mother, please open the door, I will offer you a nose ring.”
These were the types of songs which were made and sung. Now they sing only songs from the pictures (films).

Which music do you like?
I neither like film music nor seeing the movies. The traditional songs are now sung only by the old women. We catch hold of them and make them sing those old songs.

Do people dance here?
Not any longer. Earlier we held hands and performed the tand dance in the same style as it is performed in Rawain area. Nowadays the women get together and perform tand.

What are the musical instruments of this area?
Dhal (drum), nagara (small drum), ransingha (instrument made from buffalo horns).

I can see only cedar trees here, what are the other trees?
We do have cedar, and kimu (mulberry). There are birch trees, too.
Section 9
Is it a fact that there was a forest of bhojpatra (birch) on the way to Gaumukh glacier?
Yes, there used to be a forest. Bhojpatra wood cannot be used for anything so it is stripped and taken away for firewood. That is why it has disappeared. Since the population has grown the whole forest has been cut and used as firewood.

How did the pilgrims go on the teerth yatra (the sacred source of the river) to Gangotri earlier [worshipping the sacred source of the river is an observance common to the whole country]?
As there was no bridge across Lanka, in the old days they travelled on foot. But now a number of taxis, cars and scooters come here.

Has it made any change?
Definitely. It is a fact that in our times alone the Gaumukh glacier has receded by 10 to 12 metres. 16 years ago the Glacier was far lower but now the Ganga flows from much higher up. All this indicates changes. I remember that my youngest daughter was about five or six months old then.

Do you feel that the pilgrims should be allowed up to this point?
The pilgrims would certainly like to go, but I feel that there should be restrictions and nobody should be allowed to go beyond a certain point. The priests of the Ganga are also aware of where and what the river looked like earlier and what and where it is now, and what its condition is now and what is the reason for this. They are the priests. The pilgrims go up to the source of the Ganga, many have died in the process since the glacier breaks. Still they have not stopped going up to the source.

What did Gangotri look like in earlier times?
Oh! It was very clean. There used to be a temple. Beneath it two rows of houses and some shops. Now it is completely overcrowded. There is filth right up to the Ganga. Earlier we used to cook our food there. Now there no place to light a fire. There are hotels all over - serving half-cooked food. One has to pay Rs 92 for a single meal yet it is not sufficient. Still one has to eat since one feels very hungry there. Some people serve stale food as well.

Does everyone bathe in the Ganga?
Yes, but everything should have been arranged one km behind the temple whereas the Gangotri temple is right in the heart of the village and has become a panchayat ghar (place where meetings are held) since it is surrounded by filth on all sides. In Himachal there are separate temples where we go especially to sing and dance, whereas the Gangotri temple has virtually been converted into such a place. There is filth from Gaurikund to Gangotri.

So you feel that all the hotels, etc should be about one km away?
Yes, Now we hear that no vehicle will be allowed to go beyond Dharali and if at all they are - they will go in the morning and be back by evening. If this is implemented it will be very good. The hoteliers will not be able to live there for business and will help to arrest the dirt and filth in the home of the Ganga.
There is enough room for making toilets. Community toilets should be made, and that far away. These days all the dirt goes into the Ganga. How can we call the Ganga holy? Even in Uttarkashi all the filth goes into the Ganga. It is a place of pilgrimage but people consume liquor and eat non-vegetarian food. If people are stopped at Dharali then all this will not happen in Gangotri. These days even the terrorists come here. When people come in their vehicles it is difficult to pinpoint who is a terrorist and who is not. We are hard working people. You are well aware that women work a lot in the hills. They go alone to the forests. Men do not work so much. The terrorists can do anything [to us].
In earlier times people used to walk. They had to climb down two or three bends. There was a small bridge connecting the two valleys followed by a steep climb with three or three bends. Some pilgrims travelled on the backs of ???? [unclear recording]. Sometimes they used to fall and nobody ever saw them again. Now there is a bridge across the Lank Bhairon Valley.
Section 10
What is your main festival?
It is Losar, celebrated in the month of Falgun (February/March). This being our main festival we celebrate it with great gusto. We plant green seedlings fifteen days before the festival, which we call Jangsir. We also use greenery, which we get by planting barley with kees. We make different kinds of food delicacies, and chang (homemade wine).

Is chang a type of alcohol?
No, it is not. It is made of rice and is white like buttermilk. The intoxicating content is very mild like beer.

Does everyone drink it - even children?
No, children don't. Only men and old people drink it. We make puris (a type of fried bread) and other delicacies of flour in different designs. One of them is coloured and has five layers. As other people do on Holi (festival of colours marking the end of winter). We also embrace one another on Losar. The special guests on this occasion are the married daughters and sisters-in law (husband's sisters). The fair goes on for three days. On the first day we all go to enjoy the fair to our eldest brothers' house. On the second and third day we go to the families of our sisters and daughters to celebrate it. On the third day of the festival we hoist a flag near our houses. We write om (sacred Hindu symbol) on it along with the birth signs of family members. It takes twenty men to hoist it. [The flag pole is buried deep and it keeps fluttering for the entire year]. The top portion of the flag is covered with chir pine leaves since it is considered bad to leave it uncovered. To decorate the flag a small frill is put around it.
While the flag is being hoisted some ghee, green seedlings and flour is put on a metal plate and nicely decorated. The person whose flag is hoisted applies ghee tika on everyone's forehead gives each person some seedlings, takes some whole-wheat flour in his hand, chants God's name saying "so - so - ke - ke Largelo" and applies flour on everyone just like colour is applied during Holi. Everyone applies flour to others, brothers, sisters, mother, father, everybody. After this parties carry on in different families for five days. This is our main festival. All others like Holi, Diwali (festival of light), Shivarathri are common with others. Our New Years' day starts with Losar.
Section 11
What is the main food here?
Momo (steamed dumplings). Even Tibetans make it. It is made of flour like a samosa (savoury pastry). There is a special pot for making it, which has three containers. The lower container has meat bones cooked in it. The centre one has holes to keep the uppermost hot and in the topmost containers momos are kept for steaming. There is another dish, which looks like a girl's braid or plait, made of maida (refined wheat flour). It has five plaits and is sweet or salted and spicy.

Do people drink alcohol?
Yes. This habit has ruined people here. We see boys of 15 and 25 drinking and smoking.

What is the reason?
It has almost become a custom. Even when checked they drink and smoke stealthily.

Where do they get it from?
They make country liquor at home. Those who feel too lazy to spin wool make up to three canisters of liquor and sell it for Rs 20 to 30 per bottle. This is how they manage their affairs. Young boys do no work. I have earned a bad name in the village since I tell them not to drink and they get furious whenever confronted by me. You can ask anyone what Shanti Bhawan does and they will tell you. I am nicknamed a leader of Bagori. I try to make them understand that we should earn by doing the same job in which we have been engaged for generations. But they pay no heed. I have failed to change my own family members, how can I reform the villagers? [Her brother-in-law is a drunkard and on the day of the interview he was sitting outside the house dead drunk.] I tell them that it is better to beg than to earn your living by selling country liquor but these people get annoyed and want to thrash me. They also tell me that since both my son and husband drink, what face do I have to stop them and be their leader? This is the response to my advice.

Do other women not oppose drinking?
There are many who do but there are an equally great number of men who drink. They have been arrested and fined so often. Once when a government liquor shop was opened in our village, all the women opposed it and had it removed from the village. Then it was reopened in the market in Dunda. Again it was shifted to the farthest corner of the market. We tried to get it out of that place, too, but these people argue and tell us first to stop our own family members from drinking and only then will the shop be shifted. They are also right when they say this. Once we gave it to them in writing that if they stopped drinking we would request the government to start some spinning and weaving programmes to look after their needs, but they refuse to listen. We are helpless.
My husband is 89 years old. You can compare his face with the face of any youngster. We ate very rough things. Nowadays they eat pickles and onion, fried food. We used to eat laddu, chora (herbs used for seasoning). It is green and used for seasoning and adding flavour. But now people like spicy food. We covered our head and wore bangles. Modern girls and boys have changed. Girls just throw a chunni (a stole, scarf, meant to cover a woman’s breast) around them and go out. Their faces are unhealthy whereas we look healthy.
Section 12
Why do you think this has happened?
TV has brought in a revolution. Everyone is shameless. Everybody sits together - father, daughter, daughter-in-law. In our times whenever we went to see a movie in Uttarkashi and happened to see our brother or some elder person in the hall, we left the hall and did not see the movie. The advent of TV has made everyone shameless and fashionable.

Do you have LPG (cooking gas) facility?
People have been buying it from Uttarkashi for last five to six years. But it has reached Bagori only in March 1994. We use firewood more than gas. We get the wood from the forest.

Do you go to the forest alone or in a group?
In a group since we have to go very far.

How far do you go?
About six to seven km. We have to chop first and then bring the wood. While chopping we are alone in the forest.

Do you chop wet wood?
No, only dry wood - green or fresh wood very rarely. I don't like food cooked on a gas stove. I can't digest it. So we cook roti on wood fire and tea, dal (lentils) etc on gas stove. I like dal cooked in a pressure cooker.

Are the forests very dense?
Not as much as they were because of the increase in population. Wood is also needed for house construction as houses here are made of wood.

Is wood sold here?
I have heard so but have not seen it. Everybody steals wood these days from Harsil, Bagori, Mukuba, Dharali. People take away truckloads of wood whereas there are people who do not get wood even to build their houses. What can I say, when I try to stop this? People do go away but they become my enemies. There are others who send advance messages.

Do you feel that one of the reasons why the forests are getting depleted is because of this plundering of wood?
Yes. Day by day people are becoming very clever and cunning.
Section 13
Tell me how this can be prevented?
I have failed to find a solution. When we tell them to stop, we are threatened that we will be shot dead. Only the government can stop it. The government officials should be stopped from accepting bribes. If this carries on the officials will get richer. We are the losers, not they. Our forests are getting depleted. If we complain it reaches the village and we receive threats.

What do you feel - that the old means of transport were better, or do you approve of the maruti (motorised transport)?
If time is important then the maruti is better. If we wish to go up to Harsil, we have to stop at seven places, pack and unpack the baggage also. [We have to carry all the household baggage along with the animals] Nowadays it is different. We reach Harsil in a day. [The animals catch up later, accompanied by one or two persons.] On the other hand when I see accidents due to the fact that the drivers are drunk, I feel that it was better and safer to travel on horses. If anybody fell down only one person died, but in a car accident everyone dies. So families are completely wiped out.

What animals are found in the forests? Are there tigers too?
I have not seen any but have heard that there are leopards. We have deer, barking deer, barasingha (antelope) and musk deer are found. Earlier these animals were shot but not any longer since the government has imposed a ban. The leopard has been made into a pet animal.

Do you have forest fires? Who burns these forests?
Yes, we do, but it is difficult to find out who sets them on fire.

Do you all rush to put out these forest fires?
We were called twice before but now we are not called anymore. Nobody can stop it single-handedly so nobody goes. It goes on for three or four days and when we enquire we are told that it is the work of the contractors who extract resin. Perhaps they only put it out after some days.

Do they take out resin?
Yes, they do.

How do they do it?
The trunk of the tree is slit and a flat iron disc or saucer is inserted under the slit. Under this a tin cup is tied. The resin keeps dripping into the cup. We are warned that if a resin cup is found missing they will arrest us. Why should we be doing such a thing, since resin is of no use to us?

How many such slits are made on a tree?
Sometimes it is only one on each tree, but often ranges from two to three cups hanging at various levels on a tree.

Do they take out resin in the forest even now?
Section 14
Is it harmful?
I am sure it is. When a human being feels pain on getting a prick, similarly the trees too must be feeling pain. Some trees dry up. When the tree trunk is slashed it is bound to cause some harm.

What do they do with resin?
We have never been told.

What was the weather like at Harsil (close to Bagori)?
It used to rain on time. So the crops used to be ready on time. But now it no longer rains when it is supposed to so there is no timely crop. The yield has been reduced to half of what it used to be. Now potato and rajma (beans) are largely grown. But when the crops are ready and the grains start to form they turn black.

Why is that so?
Lack of rain must be the reason for grains turning black. A field, which used to have a potato cash crop of nine to ten maunds (one maund: approx. 40kg) now has only three instead.

What is the role of women here?
At the time of the birth of the first child parents wish to have a son so obviously men are given more importance. But experience says that daughters are better since they look after the ageing parents even after they are married - provided the husband is good. Even otherwise they do it without the husband's knowledge. On the other hand a son demands a share in the property soon after marriage. If it is not given to him he starts fighting. A daughter is satisfied with what she gets and is ready to look after the old parents. These days there are families where in spite of having five sons, the old mother chooses to live with the daughter. Times have really changed. The waters of the river Ganga still flows through this land and the land is still the same, but these people (sons) have become ruthless and selfish. Earlier they used to bow before us with folded hands, but not any more.

Why do you think this has happened?
Perhaps movies have spoilt them. And what they watch on the TV they wish to do themselves. So they want to send their elders to old age homes.

Were women given due respect 40-50 years ago?
Of course! Even now it is so. But the daughters-in-law do not respect us as much as they did earlier. If the sons have changed, what we can say of the daughters-in-law? “If the driver is bad the vehicle cannot be blamed.” [Or wherever the driver goes the vehicle must follow.]

Was it better for women earlier or now?
It is better now. Earlier we hardly had good clean clothes and so we never changed when we went out but now we change and then go out.

Is dowry still prevalent?
Yes, according to one's means everybody practices it. People give TVs, Godrej almirahs (steel cupboards made by the Godrej company; status symbol) and sofa sets. But we used to give jewellery and things, which were useful.
Section 15
Do the groom's people demand it?
No, not like the city people. People have started doing it because they are worried about public opinion. Some rich people give more to their daughters so the poor think that people will make fun of them if they give less. As a result this custom is increasing more on account of the feeling among the bride's people.

If you are ever uprooted from Vagori - as the people of Jadung have been - will you go elsewhere?
We will have to whether we like it or not. Those people taunt us even now and ask us if there ever was a place called Vagori village. The Ganga flows there, and close by there are open fields where our children are not allowed to play anymore (Jalendrigad (?)). Even the horses are not allowed to enter. If we are given an alternate place to live, we will go, otherwise where else shall we go? The place where the helicopter pad is now also belonged to us. Initially no compensation was given but now we have received some after a great deal of correspondence. The Mahila Mangal Dal pradhan (head of the women’s rural council) had made lot of efforts over that.

What are the other activities of the Mahila Mangal Dal?
First and foremost to look after the cleanliness of the village, to prevent drinking, felling of trees, etc, but who does it? Now I am the secretary of the Mahila Mangal Dal. My photo is displayed there, but what am I doing? We get nothing. On paper the village women get sewing machines, wool for spinning and loans are given, but the office staff here tells us that the funds are exhausted and things will only be provided when the new budget session starts. We do have funds allocated to us to make small roads inside the village but we do not get even that. 48 of us village women repaired the basic school building (in Dunda) - carrying cement and other construction material on our backs - mixed it all and worked for three days and had the school building ready. Since my friends got nothing in return they have refused to help me further and I get no grants to help them in any way.

You mentioned that TV is spoiling the new generation. Can you suggest some ways to check it?
TV has now spread to every house. If we do not have it at home we now have to search for our children in both the village, and in Dunda like streetwalkers. So we had to buy one, thinking that after watching the TV they would attend to their studies also. But the programmes on TV are so bad. They have a very bad effect on our children. Such programmes should be banned. There should be puppet shows for small children and good programmes for the grown-ups. Such vulgar songs are shown on Chitrahaar (a popular song/dance programme on government channels) that a daughter cannot watch it in the presence of her father without embarrassment. This should be checked. Good and entertaining programmes should be broadcast.

What are your views on the type of education girls should get?
It should be based on fine arts since art comes handy anytime in life. Without getting a formal job art can become a source of income. I encourage girls to watch such TV programmes where flower making and other things are taught.
Section 16
What is the costume worn here?
We wear cotton salwar kameez (loose trousers and long tunic) in the summer but in the hills we wear woollen clothes - that is, woollen salwar kameez. The older people wear woollen clothes even here.

Has tourism affected your culture in anyway?
It has had an impact only on young people's fashions - the older people are not affected. Young girls have learnt to get their hair cut. They wear frocks and suits when they go out. At home they dress up like we do.

There is a temple buried under the Dharali Bridge - to which God is it dedicated?
It is Bhairon's (an incarnation of Shiva) temple. It is a very tall temple and what you see is the top most portion. Once during a flood, a part of the temple got buried but it was dug out by the villagers. Then there was a fire in the Dharali village where four or five houses got burnt completely. A dharamshala (rest house) was also destroyed. This was about 13-14 years ago. Then there were floods again which buried this temple completely.

Have you seen that temple?
Yes, I had. It was very beautiful. The villagers keep trying to clear it but the flood recurs due to the breaking of the glacier and lots of sand keeps sweeping down and covering it up again.

When Gangotri is closed for public, where does the Ganga ki doli (the palanquin in which the idol of Ganga is carried to a lower altitude) go?
To Markunda village - facing Dharali on the other side of the Ganga. The villagers of Mukhwa Dharali come in their best, dance and beat the drums and welcome the doli and celebrate Thaulu (a local fair). Gangotri is closed during Diwali in Kartik (October/November) and is opened in Baisakh (April/May).

Do you have a family deity?
We have a goddess, the goddess Ringali and the five pandavas (the five warrior Princes of the Mahabharata) are our gods. My husband's younger brother is possessed by god Sahadeva (one of the pandavas). God Narasimha also dances through men. In the month of Kartik all these gods are made to perform. This goes on for five days and on the fourteenth day when there is no moon, a goat is slaughtered. It is taken by Draupadi. Even Draupadi dances. People play on the dhol and ransingha.

How is Ringali Devi worshipped?
We used to sacrifice a goat for her earlier, but now we have asked her to accept only a coconut.

Is there any village god?
Yes, her name is Nagni Devi. The story goes that a woman from Chamoli got married in this area. When she had some problem in her husband's home she prayed to her [village] goddess. The goddess came to her rescue and has been living here ever since. The whole village has adopted her, and she is worshipped as the village deity of 60-65 families. When a child is born in a family the goddess is kept away for 21 days. On the twenty first day the house is cleaned with cow's urine a havan is performed, the goddess is brought back and a goat sacrificed. For those 21 days some other family lights a lamp everyday. We cannot touch the goddess' temple for 21 days.
Section 17
Are there some special death rites also?
Yes, there are. If a woman dies she is wrapped in red or yellow cloth and taken for cremation in a palanquin, and if it is a man he is wrapped in a white shroud and carried to the cremation ground accompanied by the beating of drums. [This is a custom specific to this area.]

Do you like the modern age or the old times?
Children like the modern age but I prefer the old times. Everyone was well mannered and courteous to the elders. The senior members of the family were given full respect and looked after with special care. Now the sons and their wives have no regard for their in-laws.

Have there been any memorable happenings in your life, which you cannot forget?
The most tragic events in my life were the deaths of my two sons and that of my mother. I was 15 when my mother fell ill. My father's orchard was far below Simla. [She belongs to Simla in Himachal Pradesh] There was not even an approach road in those days. Since I was alone at home and father was away into the orchard I took my mother to Simla on horseback to get her treated. But on the third day en route she died. I had with me my two sisters - one nine months and the other was eight years old. I went to a relative's house. He was the kind of man who did not keep awake for a single night even when his wife died so how could he do so for my mother? I alone stayed awake [one has to be awake with the body the whole night].
Early morning I travelled eight kms downtown and bought one kg of ghee and milk for my sisters, and also bought 4.75 metres of cloth. Then I approached the numberdar (community head/local revenue officer) [there were no pradhans (head of panchayat) at that time] and told him the entire tragic story. He belonged to Tapri village. He said he had seen my mother being carried on horse back on the previous day. He sent four men to help me. Three of them and I were the pallbearers who took my mother to the bank of the Sutlej river. I lit the pyre for her since my brothers were too young. There was a military camp near by and those people gave me wood for the funeral pyre. They had tears in their eyes when they saw me performing the cremation. They helped me a lot and commented that there comes a time when even a daughter has to perform the last rites. [This is traditionally a Hindu male's responsibility]

Were you not scared?
Where was the fear to come from? I had become completely wooden. Where had the tears gone? I had not eaten anything for two days. One can cry if there is some comfort in doing so, but even the tears dry up when grief is so intense. When the stomach is empty and one is grieving there are no tears.
Section 18
Please pardon me, but I cannot help asking, why is your husband so old?
He lost 12 of his children and wife. Nobody would give a daughter to him since there was no Himachali of our caste here. There was this fear as well - that the girl may not be loyal and may leave him since he was quite aged. My people knew him and fixed our marriage amidst lots of apprehensions. Some said I would leave him, others said they were quite sure I wouldn't. I was in military service then, a section commander in the Home Guards. We used to guard the bridge. One policeman and five girls - we used to patrol the bridge at night. The daroga (police officer) teased me that my engagement had been fixed with that old man and also said that the ceremony would take place in Utter Pradesh where some of our people had settled down. He told me to go home that evening. He had been told by my father not to inform me but he was doing so secretly.
When I went home my younger sister had no idea about the matter. My uncle (mother's brother) came home and told me that he wanted to talk to me. I had heard everything so I told him that I knew everything and that he should arrange his daughter's marriage with the old man instead of mine and I abused him. I accused him of having taken some bribe from that man. He tried to make me see the point but I went back on duty. I also went to the judge and told him how my marriage was being fixed. He consoled me and said that nobody could force me. I stayed there but my uncle turned up. The judge asked him how and why a marriage between the people of Himachal Pradesh and Utter Pradesh could take place. Was the old man very rich to be able to bribe them all? My uncle requested the judge not to say such a thing since he was not a beggar. The old man belonged to our caste and had relatives who had settled down in Utter Pradesh. They wanted a reliable wife for him who would not leave him. He had lost 12 of his children and his wife. They said that I was their daughter and were very sure that I would not leave him. So we got married. But I was very annoyed with him and their relatives.
In those days there used to be an upper and lower portions of the bus. I travelled all the way to Dunda in the upper part near the driver's seat, and my husband sat in the lower part. I did not take a drop of water from him, for three days - ask him! I was an odd girl. When I was helpless and hungry then only I ate food made by him. Now a time has come that he is totally dependent on me. I manage everything, even buying salt. I earn for the family. After our marriage the judge had called me over for a tea party.
When I came here there was a puwal (paddy husk) hut and rats used to walk about on the top and by evening the grass used to fall down. I did not know how to whitewash and plaster it (with cow dung). My husband's sister used to do it. I stayed in the hut for three years. Then I planned to build a house. But my husband said that all the money was finished. How did I plan to build a house? I would sell my jewellery. I did that and had the house constructed. I did not tell you that after my marriage I handed over charge to my colleagues. I had 180 rifles under me. My officer arranged a farewell party, took photographs. These snaps got burnt in Charpani when our house caught fire. [She says that earlier a permit was needed to go to Utter Pradesh from Himachal Pradesh]
Section 19
Are your weddings performed according to saptpadi custom (seven ritual steps around the sacred fire - a Hindu custom)?
Yes, proper pheras (perambulation around the fire) are done. No money is taken from the girl's people [among Rajputs].

I have spotted a Baudh temple in Bagori. Is it connected with you?
Yes, it is our temple. We follow Buddhism.

Can you chant some of the mantras if you know them?
Yes, I do. She chants and says “Om mani panhush...” As you say “Om nama sivayam...” in the same way we say this.

I have heard “Om renge kyo ho”. Do you know this mantra?
Yes, it comes in the middle of the whole mantra.

You were showing me some prayer cloth. Do tell me about it.
When we go to the guru we put some money into this cloth according to our means either one or five rupees. [It is a white lacy cloth meant for prayer and called khatak] We bow down and offer it to the guru. The guru places the same khatak around our neck with his blessing. He also enquires about our well being. In case there is a sick person in the family, we pray to the guru to restore the person's health. The Dalai Lama is our guru.

Do you have faith in ghosts and spirits?
Yes. There are ghosts of various kinds. There are different types of food for different ghosts. Some eat pumpkin, some raw, thick roti, some eat sheep.

Are there witches too?
Yes, there are many here. One of them - a Harijan (low caste) weaver - has died. His eye was so evil that if he liked something it never lasted long. Once that weaver came to ask a local man to sell his cow. The man refused, saying that anyway it was not giving any milk. The weaver said that he didn't believe it since the udders of the cow looked heavy. But the man insisted that he would not sell the cow. The weaver went away and we couldn’t understand why the man had told a lie. So he told us that the weaver was a witch and therefore he had told a lie. That evening the cow gave no milk at all and its udders started shrinking. I am an eyewitness and it is a true happening.
Another story goes like this - he liked somebody's calf and the calf got weaker and died. Somebody was making sweets and did not give any to the witch since he had no instinct for trouble. By evening he was possessed by the witch and started dancing. He had to feed him lots of sweets and then only the witch went away. We have all common customs and traditions. Only the guru traditions of Buddhism are a little different. We have the same gods, goddesses, ghosts, and witches.
Section 20
Do people sell apples here?
Yes, people have apple orchards and sell apples as a business. Earlier only some people had trees but now everybody has apple orchards.

What are the other fruits here?
Plums, peaches and apricot. In some places there are almond trees also.

Are new trees being planted?
We are not planting any but the forest department is planting deodar and pine. They have planted a beautiful forest.

Is the new generation prepared to carry on the hereditary profession?
They are doing it since there are no jobs for them. So it's better to continue it. It would be better if alternative jobs were available.

If they can earn good money in this way, why are they keen to get jobs?
They have to be at this work for 24 hours. A job would give them some leave and they get a salary even when they are going through personal difficulties. Whereas when this work comes to a standstill, and we suffer great loss. My daughter, Usha, has gone to take the DP ed (Diploma of Education) test and it would be nice if she could get a job.

How are Harijans treated here?
They also do the same work.

Are they treated as untouchables?
Yes, they are, even now. When we go out it is difficult to find out who is what [caste] but here we do not eat food cooked by them nor are any inter-caste marriages arranged. Untouchability is observed only to this extent. Otherwise we live together and work together. Earlier it was too much. If a Harijan also walked on a six feet wide road with a person from a different caste, he would have to step down and cover his mouth with a cloth, while talking. His shadow could not fall on us. We cleaned the tap where they also went for fetching water, and only after washing it thoroughly did we fetch water. Today a Harijan sits with us and works with us.

Is this better or it was better earlier?
Wrong is wrong. But we cannot change anything, or one could be sent to jail. We only avoid eating with them. Otherwise we are all equals. We have to accept it.

Do you like the joint family system or the single one?
The joint family system was better, but now the trend is to separate.

Why was the joint family system better?
Everybody shared the work. Some did the outside work and others looked after the work at home. Everything got done together. Food was cooked in one place, instead of in five kitchens. It was much better that way. If there was problem or illness, people were looked after and the work went on smoothly. The present generation does not want this. They separate soon after marriage.

There are mountains all around. What are their names?
Gangotri and Chirwasa [these are names of places not of mountains].
Section 21
You are smoking a beedie (local cigarette). Is it a tradition here?
Yes, without other people’s knowledge! Seniors and old women smoke here but the younger lot does not. I was not habituated to it, but I used to eat mud. Women have such habits as eating chalk-stone. [In the hills we get soap stone. This is known as milk stone locally. In the valley area also, women eat stone and smoke beedies] sand, coal, and so on. My stomach got bad and the doctor advised me to leave this habit and start smoking. So I got into this habit. The children scold me, but I can live without food but not without smoking.

Do you smoke in front of others - outside - as you are doing while talking to me?
No, I hide and smoke. Your case is different. You are like my family [remarks jokingly]. Outside I do not get time to think of smoking. Now I have become shameless. I eat only goat meat, not fish nor eggs. This is the only addiction I have.

What language are you speaking?

No, the one you speak to your daughter in.
It is called the Jaad language, spoken by the Jaad people.

What is the meaning of this song? [Some girls are singing in the “Jaad” language. Her daughter Usha translates:]
“Happily they are going to the forest - and the girls are saying that as these rivers, flowers, mountains and fields are free, similarly our lives should be free. All these things are so beautiful. There is something called chhada (thick and rough dhurrie made of wool) and the feet get tired while washing it and it hurts the feet.”
“It gave me pain to wash it, but now, after my marriage, I am very happy”.
“As we feel pain, so the flowers also get hurt when we pluck them. Flowers should not be plucked. We should understand and feel its pain. We should not cause pain to others for our pleasure.”

That's why the villagers stopped me from plucking flowers. [There were lovely butterfly flowers of different hues but they refused even to give the seeds]. Your people love flowers a lot, don’t they?
[Shanti Devi laughs heartily.]
[Usha says:] We do not even offer flowers to God. They are not used for decorating the hair, as in other places, or houses, nor for offering to God. Plucking flowers is a sin. We love nature.