photo of Indian woman Garwhal and Kumaon
India glossary


(INDIA 35)








Pata village, Bhagirathi valley, Uttarkashi


25 June 1994



Section 1
What is your name?
My name is Ramchandri.

What is your husband's name?
Do I have to take (say) his name? We do not take our husband's name. I'll tell you, his name is Shri Nain Singh.

Why don't you take your husband's name?
We consider it bad (disrespectful).

So how do you call your husband for work when he is somewhere far?
We address him in some other way.

Tell me how you would call him.
Like I have a son, so we say son's father or add a relation to any small child's name and address him. My son's name is Kushal Singh.

Why shouldn’t you speak your husband’s name?
Today's educated girls take their husband’s name when someone asks them. But people of our times consider it bad. We ask someone else to take the name [laughs]. They say one should tell the husband's name, though we still do not know whether one should take one’s husband's name or not.

Are you basically residents of this village?
Yes, we are basically residents of this village.

How many members are there in your family?
I have six daughters and one son. My son has three children, one son and two daughters. Four daughters have been married off and two daughters are still with me and one daughter-in-law. My eldest daughter is 32-33 years old, then my son is 29 years and other daughters are after him.

Your daughters are educated?
Both younger daughters are studying and the eldest daughter has studied till standard VI. Two daughters did not study.
Section 2
You did not let them study?
No, because there were some problems before us.

What was the problem?
There was vast agricultural land, a lot of work had to be done, animals needed to be looked after. Therefore, daughters used to help in farming and getting grass and wood. That is why they did not study. Their father did not send them to school, so what could we do?

In your opinion, should girls be educated?
Yes girls must be educated. My parents did not educate me because in those times there was no education for anyone, I got married at the tender age of 13-14 years, so education was a far off thing for everyone.

How was marriage solemnized?
[Laughs] During the marriage ceremony walking around the sacred fire seven times took place on the ground floor. The girl was departed in a litter. The boy came in a choda. When she was married, she was 11 years old. At that time the girl's father used to take money and give the bride to the groom. I was also married in exchange for Rs. 800. But this custom is not prevalent now.

When you say ‘she’, whom are you referring to? She means who?
My husband's first wife. She did not have any children, so I was brought. Your mamaji [in the village, elders are always addressed as a relation, so she addressed her husband as my uncle (mamaji)] is very senior to me. He is 15-16 years older than me.

What would be uncle's age now?
He is 72 years.

What is your age?
55 years.

When you got married, didn't your husband's first wife feel bad?
No, it was only after talking with her that the second marriage was finalised with me. She said I am unable to have children, so you remarry, my house should not remain without children. The marriage was solemnized with her permission. Earlier in exceptional circumstances wives themselves suggested that their husbands go for a second marriage; family succession must continue, every woman desires it. In contemporary times things have reversed. Today's girls do not permit their husbands to go for a second marriage even if they are unable to have children. Now they give threats that if you marry I won’t spare you. [Laughs]

You have one son. What does he do?
He does farming, ploughs the land and cuts leaves from trees for the animals. He also goes and sells milk in the market.

You and your co-wife live together or separately?
No, we all live together. Our land has not been partitioned. She is the elder of the house and she gets her due respect. For all work her advice is taken. We all cook together and eat.
Section 3
How old is she?
She is as old as your uncle. A few months younger than him.

Are girls being educated now in your village?
Yes, people are now educating their daughters a little.

How many years has it been since the school opened in your village?
Perhaps it is 30 years. My elder daughter has studied up to VI – VII in this school. My son is educated. [He has completed XII in Science].

How many animals do you have?
One ram, ox, cows.

Aunty, is the opinion of the women of the house taken in household matters?
Yes it is taken, but sometimes men work against the opinion of the women.

What do you think is the condition of women in the house?
It depends upon the women. If the woman is intelligent she has an important position in the house, otherwise it is nothing exceptional. If the woman has a good nature everything remains fine, if her nature is spoilt everything is ruined. Every house has a different story.

The condition of women was better earlier or is it better now?
Earlier the girl had to go wherever her parents married her off, she would not know what was happening. If the boy’s parents came to see the girl, the girl would go away from home to some neighbour’s house out of sheer modesty. Now the girl herself takes tea for the boy. It has become a custom to show the girl. Earlier the boy’s parents would come themselves and respectfully ask for the girl in marriage. If the girl’s father found a suitable groom for her, she would be married there. Now the times are slowly changing. For example, the boy himself comes to see the girl, talks to her. This never happened before. This is also all right. In our times when the women used to go to their [mother’s] house they used to have their bath there. We never got enough time to have bath in our in-law’s house. We used to bath one day in a month. We were very scared of our mother-in-law. We thought she would scold us, so we never wasted time in bathing. We used to get a chance to have our bath once in a month at our mother’s house. Our lifestyle and food habits were totally different.
The lifestyle and food habits have changed now. The mother-in-law is not bad now, these days the daughter-in-law means everything. Mothers-in-law are in the habit of resting. The daughter-in-law cooks and serves her mother-in-law. We used to cook but our mother-in-law used to serve. We were scared that she might scold us, so we let her serve us food. Now the mother and daughter-in-law relationship is good, both help each other.
Section 4
How was your mother-in-law?
My mother-in-law was a little sharp by nature. She died after 18 years of my marriage. I was called the one who ate (killed) her mother-in-law.

Why were you called ‘the one who ate her mother-in-law’?
When my marriage was being finalised with my husband, the Panditji saw my horoscope and said that the girl’s stars are fine but not for her mother-in-law. She may prove fatal for her mother-in-law [laughs]. But my mother-in-law died after 18 years of my marriage. [If either of the in-laws dies within one year of marriage, the girl is called the one who ate her in-laws]. My family members called me “mother-in-law eater” and made fun of it. My mother-in-law died in old age. [Laughs loudly].

Which times were better for women?
From one point of view the earlier time was better because then women were free from the fear of social crime. Like we used to go far into the forest, but we did not have any fear of thieves or thugs. But the times have changed now. Roads have been constructed so there is fear of goons and thieves. Earlier we used to get abundant fodder from the forest and we had lots of animals, there was enough milk and ghee. Now we have little milk, which we sell. We have to sell milk because financial requirements of the house cannot be sustained through agriculture alone; we get cash by selling milk. My son did not get any service (a job). The expenses were less before; one soap cake was enough to last a month, now 2 kg of soap is needed for one month. So more money was needed to meet the increased expenses. My mother-in-law used to take a bath with the bark of the bhimal tree. My mother and father also used to soak bhimal bark in water, pound it and have a bath with it. Now people bathe with soap; the family size has also increased.

Are you now scared in the forest?
Yes, we feel scared now. If strangers are present in the forest, it scares us.

How did you treat people when they fell sick before?
Domestic treatment was given. We used to roast onion seeds, boil them and drink the water. We stayed back home for five days. We never knew anything about the hospital. We used to treat sickness with domestic herbs such as attis kadwi (aconite), etc. In some distant places there were vaid (practitioner of indigenous medicine) also.

Do you have a domestic midwife here?
Yes, there are domestic midwives.

Do they work for free?
People paid them money of their own free will, they never asked for it. They paid one or two rupees only. Now people give them one sari (length of cloth for women’s clothing) and some money; some give them an entire dress and pay up to Rs. 50 or Rs. 30.

I have seen that in the Rawain region (in Yamuna Valley) that on the birth of a son people give doob grass (an evergreen variety) while congratulating the father, grandfather, mother and all other elderly numbers of the family. Does it happen here as well?
Yes, when a son is born in a house, people go to congratulate all the elderly members of that house and offer them doob grass, which they (the men) put on their caps and women on the scarves tied to their head.
Section 5
What is the significance of offering doob grass on the birth of a son?
Daughters go to another house after marriage and the house becomes empty. A son continues the dynasty of the family. The root of doob grass never dies. It grows anywhere and can survive in any condition. Therefore, people consider it a symbol of family succession and offer it with good wishes on the birth of a son. Till today we sing a song in the month of Chaitra (March-April) that says: “I offer you doob grass with the good wish that may you have 25 children.” [Laughs] Now we don’t need 25 children, times have changed. It was different earlier; at that time a lot of family members were needed for farming, that is why such songs were made. But now it is not needed.

We used to give the Jhumariyas (Harijan caste who play drums and musical instruments), who sang those songs, bhujkuta (snack of pounded, roasted rice grain) and chuda (puffed rice). It was our custom. Doob grass is always given while congratulating, even today.

What festivals are celebrated here?
We celebrate many festivals. They start from the month of Chaitra itself. In the month of Chaitra we made papadi (thin rice cakes which are fried in oil) and ghenja (sweet, steamed rice cakes). Jhumariyas used to sing and dance in the courtyard of each house. Houses are plastered with mud.

Do they still dance in the month of Chaitra?
No, they do not dance. Everyone has grown up now, so they do not dance. They do not consider dancing good anymore [Jhumariya people are now moving away from this occupation because they don’t want to be identified with lower caste]. Earlier Jhumariya people used to come and ask for their part of the festival. [Even now in the Yamuna Valley they come on the occasion of a festival to each house and ask for their share in which they generally get ghee, curd and buttermilk]. We used to give them rice, puris (fried bread), curd and everything else. But they do not come now. They do not allow themselves to be called Dom (lower caste). We, people of the earlier times, used to call them that.

Why don’t they allow this?
They say that the government does not allow it.

What do you call them?
We call them Harijans. They say call us Harijans and not Doms.

How many people from different castes are there in your village?
There is only one Harijan family, the rest are all Rajputs, in all there are around 150 families.
Section 6
How are your relations with the Harijans?
Relations with the Harijans were good. They used to play naurat every day in the temple (drums at four in the morning and evening) and pray. We used to give them a sack full of grains at the time of harvest and dadwar (fixed amount of grain given in exchange for work) from the homes. Now navati (drumbeat that is played on the first day of the lunar month ie on Sankranti) is played but not naurat. In the month of Savan (July/August) and Bhadan (August/September), God is worshipped. At that time they do not play navati. And in the remaining months naurat is not played.

Do you not have the custom of scattering flowers in the month of Chaitra?
No, not anymore. But it was there before. We used to scatter fyuli (beautiful yellow flower) and other flowers in the morning for eight days. First the flowers were put on the stove, then on both sides of the doorstep. They were also put on the doorstep of the temple. Now only a few do this, not everyone. We never brought flowers in empty vessels; we used to put a little rice in them. Bringing flowers in empty vessels is considered disrespectful to the flowers.

What is the reason that flowers are not scattered now?
I don’t know why they do not put them. These children have changed with the times. [In Tehri district the custom of scattering flowers continues throughout the entire month of Chaitra].

What are your other main festivals?
Our main festivals are the ones in the month of Paush December/Janauar). The festival of Chaitra is also a main festival. In other months we celebrate Ghold Sankranti (Baisakhi), another festival is celebrated in the month of Bhadan on Sankranti day, we call it Ujali Sankranti. On that day we cook kheer (dish of sweetened milk and rice), and dunobi , and light up the courtyard outside the house. [Chilke (thin strips of pine wood), are burnt. Even in the temple one member of each family goes and burns a chilka.] We also make patungi (fritters made of leaves, such as arabi leaves, pumpkin flowers and amaranthus leaves).

What is dunobi?
Dunobi is a special dish in which a thin chapati is made which is covered with butter and then another chapati is placed over it and cooked in a pan. This chapati is made in the name of ancestors and offered to them while worshipping them. Ujala Sankranti is celebrated as the festival of ancestors. We believe that if there is any disorder in this festival, that is if there is something dirty in the food or if someone touches it, then all the ancestors shall be annoyed, which is not considered good. Therefore, all utensils of the house are cleaned on this day and then food is cooked in them, houses are also cleaned. In the evening we bring a big flat stone and put some kheer and curd on it, and then burn chilkas. This month is dark so we give light to the ancestors by burning chilkas. This is how we worship the ancestors.
Now we also celebrate Diwali in the month of Kartik (October/November) but earlier we used to mainly celebrate Diwali in the month of Margsheesh (November/December) and even now we celebrate Diwali in December. In this festival cutlets of urd dal (type of pulse) are mainly prepared. At night bhailla (a fire game) is played. Over here small children stayed out all night and played the entire night burning fire, they spent the night in the warmth of the fire. In the morning they went to each house asking for bhailla. Everyone gave those children something or the other to eat. This was also a kind of a game. I used to go a lot in my childhood, I have played bhailla a lot. Now this tradition has also ended; children have now changed.
A lot of ghee is used in the festival in the month of Paush. Ghee is stored over a long period. On the day of the festival, first the ghee is worshipped and then it is served to all members of the house. Ghee is eaten a lot with puris and other delicacies. Then on the day of Makar-Sankranti khichari (rice and lentils cooked together) of urd pulse is made. It is also eaten with ghee. We call that day Khichari-Sankrant. On this day everyone goes and takes a bath in the holy Ganga at 4 o’clock in the morning. The Brahmins are given mixed urd cereal and rice as a form of uncooked khichari on this day. A little dakshina (gift which carries a blessing), 5 or 10 paise for children and for elderly Brahmins 1or 1.25 rupees is kept in it. Earlier many children used to come to take khichari, and people gave a lot, there used to be a huge pile of cereal and rice. But now children (those of Brahmins) do not come for khichari, only the priest of the house comes to take khichari. Our children have changed their festivals with time. Earlier people came from far but now only the priests of the temple and Brahmins come. On the day of Baishakhi we go to take a bath in the Ganga and bring some of the holy water with us, which we offer to Vishwanath devta in Uttarkashi, Mahadev temple in Laksheshwar, Kandar devta and in Vimaleshwar temple. All of us women do this in a group starting with our bath in the Ganga at four in the morning. It happens everywhere.
Section 7
Do you have fairs here?
Yes, on the third day of the month of Savan there is a fair in Bagyal village, after 11 days we have a fair here. In this fair people also come from Uttarkashi. In this fair the litter carrying the deities is made to dance, people make it dance. We do Ransu dance in which men are on one side and women on the other with chanwar (a fan made of the hair of a yak’s tail, with a silver handle, used at the time of prayer) and dangare (small, broad, flat silver or iron axes) in their hands. After this day the sacred litter is placed in the temple and it does not come out because prior to this people take God in this litter to every village during the fair. On the last day, he comes here and then sits in the temple.

Why is this fair celebrated?
Since earlier times people have been celebrating these fairs for dancing and playing. That is why we celebrate them even today.

Do people celebrate Holi?
No, it is not our festival; we do not celebrate it. Small children play a little, otherwise we do not celebrate it till now.
Section 8
I have seen people coming here for Panchkosi journey (pilgrimage). Why do they do this journey? (Panchkosi is a pilgrimage taken around the mountain of Uttarkashi, which is panch (five) kos long)
This pilgrimage is undertaken in the month of Chaitra according to its occasion. This pilgrimage begins with a bath in the Asi Ganga at Gangotri (situated 3 km away from Uttarkashi). The journey begins by taking the water of Asi Ganga, on the way it is offered at Mahadev temple in Laksheshwar, then at Vishwanath temple, after that at Tilmani further ahead of Uttarkashi (near Badethi Chungi). They take a bath in the Varuna River flowing at Tilmani. They then carry the water of Varuna River also and reach the mountain peak after passing through the villages of Vasunga, Jarav, etc. On their way they offer the water at Gyanja, Sigleshwar (a temple situated on the mountain peak) and Vimaleshwar. They start descending from Vimaleshwar and come back to their village which has a temple of Kandar devta (deity). They offer the water of Asi and Varuna Rivers to Kandar devta also. In this way the journey is completed. This pilgrimage holds great importance here. This journey is around 15 km. People arrange for tea, fruits, boiled potatoes and drinking water for the travellers at certain distances out of sheer devotion. People who have come from outside and settled in Uttarkashi also take part in this pilgrimage. They come with a lot of faith and people of our village arrange for their tea without any cost.

What is the name of your village deity?
Our village deity is Kandar devta. This deity arose near the current collectorate (the office of the District Magistrate) in Uttarkashi, which is his birthplace. It is said that once the king of Tehri wanted to test all the village deities, so he invited them all to his court. The king took our deity to be the smallest, and so he offered him a smaller seat. This made the deity feel bad. He made all the other deities fall down and placed himself on the highest seat. The King saw this and was amazed and he called his priest and enquired. The priest said that he is a very great deity and has a lot of influence in our area. You gave him a small seat thinking that he is small; therefore, he himself acquired the higher seat. The King did not believe this, so he once again placed the statue at the bottom. Next day he again heard a sound from that room. When the king opened the door next morning he saw that the statue was seated high up. In the end the king gave up and sent the statue back to Uttarkashi calling it Khandvarta devta (the one who ruins). The deity was happy to come back to his birthplace and started living in our village. We do all our work such as marriage, worship etc with the prior permission of the God.

How does the God tell you?
God descends on the priest who understands His gestures and tells us. We have a lot of faith in our deity.

How do you worship him?
He is worshipped in the fair and whenever there is an auspicious occasion we worship our Kandar devta. We worship him when a son is born or after a marriage, when someone gets a job or when someone comes back home after his service. He is the deity of our family also. People ask him on which day to begin the construction of their house. When our daughters come from their in-laws’ house they offer chunni (a stole, scarf, meant to cover a woman’s breast) to the deity.
Section 9
Do Harijans go to the temple?
No, Harijans cannot go inside the temple of Kandar devta. They play drums; they do not even touch the base where the deity sits.

Don’t they ever insist that they would like to touch the deity?
No, they don’t insist. When the deity dances he touches them on his own. His litter dances and turns around itself. He loves and touches everyone at that time. They cannot offer water, flowers or prasad (an offering made from unrefined sugar and ghee) to the deity like us.

What was your dress?
Now we wear blouse, saree, red coloured woollen belt on the waist and a scarf on the head. Earlier we used to wear woollen pankhi (shawl) instead of a saree, woollen angadi (shirt) or shirt and vasket (waistcoat) and tied the saree around the waist as a belt. We have now started wearing cotton clothes instead of the woollen ones. The belt is still the same, our back remains straight when we tie it, and does not hurt while working nor do we feel tired quickly. Earlier the scarves were also woollen. The woollen belt is very useful and convenient for bringing or carrying loads on the back.

What are your ornaments?
Timaniya (thick necklace of red and gold beads), nath (nose ring), kundal (earrings), kangan (bangles), etc. Kanthi – a silver necklace, mathavanu – a broad silver ornament hanging on the forehead;
sheeshfool was worn on the braid, it is also made of silver.

What were the ornaments earlier?
There used to be many ornaments before. They were silver khagwala (thick silver chains worn around the neck), murki (jewellery worn on the upper portion of the ear), button, kanthi (worn on neck), mathavanu, gold nath, bulak (worn between the nose), and on the feet manyuri (a thin chain with bells), and paunchi (a large chain worn around the ankle which tinkled loudly). Now perhaps no one has these ornaments any more. Even I don’t have any. Your uncle sold them someplace when we needed money. He says what is the use of having jewellery now? You cannot go out wearing them, there is fear of them being stolen, so what is the use of keeping the root of fear? Clothes and food are important; ornaments are not necessary. Now there is only timaniya.

Which jewels do you like?
I like old ornaments. Clothes before were also all right but they were not cleaned. Now we can clean our clothes easily and quickly, so we like our new attire. [Long full sleeve blouses are worn in the village].

Do pandavs dance here?
Yes, earlier pandavs use to dance for eight or nine days at night; Draupadi used to dance. But since the past eight or nine years there has been no pandav dance. Now no one believes in this custom.
Section 10
Is there any other custom which is not celebrated anymore?
Yes the custom of making Dufari has also ended now. The children who took the cattle for grazing in the forest used to cook their food in the forest itself. This happened in the month of Chaitra. All the children got together and collected rice from the village. Then they went to the forest and cooked whatever they liked. People used to give them other things to eat. Dufari means the festival of children in the forest. Now it does not take place; people do not graze their cattle together anymore. Animals have also reduced. [Children are now sent to school to study - perhaps this is another reason]. And during the month of Baisakh (April/May) there used to be the children’s festival at the time of harvesting wheat. Children used to go to every field and ask the mistress of the field for wheat. Then all the children took their wheat together to the banks of the Ganga. There they roasted and cleaned the wheat for eating and brought some home for the others. Those who did not have children at home were also given umi (young unripe wheat grains which have been roasted) to eat. Now this festival has also come to an end. Everyone must be roasting and eating wheat in their own fields. It used to be good fun before.

Do you worship the fields here? We do at our place.
Yes, we do on the day of Panchami. (Vasant Panchami, Spring Festival). It is in the month of Chaitra. On that day sickle, pickaxe, spade, plough are taken to the field, cow-dung is taken in childe (local cane baskets used for carrying dung and grass), a little bit of grain is put in a patha (brass utensil for measuring grains, measures approx. 2 kgs), and leaves of panya (?) tree are also taken along. All these are worshipped in the field; the earth is also worshipped with barley and sesame. We walk around the childe. [All things connected with agriculture are worshipped]. A lamp is lit in the patha. At home the Brahmin worships the plough and in the field we do it ourselves.

Why is this worship performed?
On this day the Brahmin looks up the panchang (astrological calendar) and gives the forecast regarding the weather and produce for the coming year. We worship the fields for a good produce.

Why do you sow hariyali (young green barley sprouts)?
The Goddess is worshipped in the month of Chaitra and Ashwin, and a sacred text is recited for nine days, that is why we sow barley. On the ninth or eighth day hariyali is cut and the recitation ends. [Hariyali is given as prasad to all]. My mother-in-law was a devi (goddess) herself because our goddess Draupadi used to descend on her (used to possess her). So we used to sow barley to worship our goddess also. We make a wooden statue of our goddess and keep it in our homes.

Are there any wrong customs in the village also?
Yes there are many, people have started drinking a lot now.
Section 11
Do they make liquor themselves?
No one makes it in the village; everyone purchases it from shops.

Did people consume liquor in your time?
In our time drinking liquor was considered very bad. Old men never used to drink, let alone the young. Once we heard that a liquor shop had opened, at that time we went to Tehri with Raturiji. We participated in the anti-liquor campaign and went with Ghanshyam Raturiji from here. This campaign continued for a month, women even went to jail. The Dehra Dun-Vareli jail was totally filled up. It was a big movement. Bahugunaji (Shri Sunderlal Bahuguna) was on a fast. The day we went he broke his fast with lime juice.
People came from Chamoli playing drums to protest against liquor and support Bahugunaji at Tehri. We, the women of Uttarkashi, did not know how to deliver speeches but women of other villages spoke a lot. Bahugunaji’s wife used to get up at four in the morning and take her bath in Gangaji. She heard our folksongs; we used to sing our folk songs in our tents. She used to go for her bath and heard us sing. So she requested us to sing some folk songs. Then we sang to our heart’s content. She recorded our songs; at that time we knew nothing about tapes. We were surprised to see it and wondered what it was? How can it replay our songs? We were amazed. We felt shy that others would hear our songs also. Our voices were not very sweet. At that time the liquor shop did not open at Tehri. But now this type of thing does not happen, liquor shops can open anywhere. [Women protested against the opening of a liquor shop in Uttarkashi but were not successful]. When we scold children these days they answer back and say that we don’t drink from your money, so how does it bother you? So what can we tell the youth these days? Bahugunaji went on a fast for the good of the public and he became very thin. We have not seen him for a long time now. We have been twice to Tehri. We were given a book about songs on the anti-liquor campaign there but we don’t know how to read. Now my son reads it.

In your view is a joint family better or a nuclear family?
Joint families are better. There used to be only joint families before, and now it is difficult to find a joint family. Earlier people liked living together; they would share everything amongst themselves. But now families separate right after marriage, they give everything to their wives [laughs]. Both in good and bad times joint families are better. Everything has changed now; people have become very selfish.

At the time of finalising the girl’s marriage, are the women asked?
Yes they are, but if the girl’s mother does not like the proposal and her father does, then the father’s decision is ultimate. The girl’s father tells her mother that I like the proposal, I’ll marry her there, you can keep thinking.

In your entire lifetime, has there been a tragedy here?
Yes, 15 years ago there was terrible flood in Uttarkashi [in 1978]. We received the information in advance, therefore, all people of the valley and Uttarkashi came to our village, some went to the villages across the river situated above, in the mountains. They even brought their animals along. We were weeding in fields which were to be cultivated. Around 3 o’clock in the evening there was a terrible roar and the Ganga came with flooding waters. There were trees coming down before the river. We had never seen a flood like that in our entire life. All the villages and fields near the river were badly damaged.
The second incident was of the earthquake that disrupted our lives and scared the people. The tremors were so strong that we could not even walk; the trees were also shaking. It was 3 o’clock [in the morning], we ran outside because the houses started collapsing. Our things had already fallen down because of the tremors, by the time we came out a two-storey house also fell down. I was asking my husband what is all this happening – the nearby mountain was making loud rumbling noises and sparks were being emitted. In the morning we saw the mountain had broken apart a lot, white stones could be seen. My husband and I were here, our family was in the village; above the house there is a large three-storey building [made of wood]. I felt that today the whole family must have vanished, but that house did not collapse. My daughter-in-law and grandchildren were also here. A few stones fell on my daughter-in-law, she hid the child under her arms, she was slightly injured. They were saved that day by the grace of God. My son, daughters, two grandchildren and my elder sister (husband’s first wife) were in the upper house. This is our chaan (thatched dwelling). We make small houses near our fields and stay there when working. This thatched home had three rooms on the ground floor and three rooms on the top; we had made a whole house.
Section 12
What is the reason that the other house did not collapse whereas this one here did?
The other house is made of flat stones and wood, the house here was made of round stones. Perhaps that’s why it collapsed. In the old days houses were made of wood. In Gangori and Jamak also the houses were made up of round stones, so all of them collapsed [Jamak was a village near the Maneri Mali Dam. During the earthquake this entire village sank into the earth]. The kind of devastation that took place in Jamak has never happened before anywhere to date. [Except in Gangnani where the entire village drowned at night. Only those who were awake would have heard their cries for help, otherwise, the next day there was a deep (or dark) blue lake there]. From each family seven or eight members perished, some families were wiped out entirely. We shivered in the cold for many days [for it happened on the night of 20th October 1991]. People from outside sent us help, sent us food. In some places only the old people survived, the rest all perished. We cannot forget these incidents. The government gave us financial aid.

What do you harvest here?
Paddy, wheat, jhangora (barnyard millet), kauni (proso millet), koda (finger millet), in pulses we have lobia, urd, kulath (varieties of pulses), til (sesame seeds), bhanjeer (white grain like sesame seed), mustard, etc.

What are the qualities of paddy (rice)?
Rice has two qualities, red and white. Panmishri rice is white in colour, netai rice is also white in colour. Bauni rice is red in colour. Ghundaya rice has a good produce here.
Section 13
Does everybody have sufficient agricultural land?
Some have more, while some have less.

Do you get your annual food supply from the fields?
Those who do not get enough, sell milk or do some job to earn their livelihood. Some people have their own shops in the village. Many are working in government service.

Do you have irrigated land?
The land on the mountain is not irrigated, but Gangori has irrigated land in the entire (main?) village [the fields are near the banks of the Ganga]. They have a larger produce of red and white bauni rice there. Otherwise mainly red bauni paddy is generally sown.

Do you use home-made manure?
We use chemical fertiliser along with cow dung manure. This helps in increasing the rice production.

People generally tell me that the taste has declined. Do you feel the same?
Yes, there has certainly been some change in the taste. The rice does not taste sweet any more. This is absolutely true. People now hesitate to put cow dung manure in their fields because it requires a lot of hard work. We always used to put dung manure; grains used to taste good. But now many people have few animals, they do not have enough dung for all their fields. Therefore they use chemical fertilizers to increase their production. But the taste has declined. Panmishri and retail paddy are sown in the non-irrigated fields during the month of Chaitra and are transplanted during the month of Aashad (June/July). Seeds of paddy meant for transplantation are sown in the month of Baisakh. Wheat is sown in the month of Margsheesh. Rice gives a better yield than wheat. Cow dung manure is best for the soil.

What do you sow in the ukhad (non-irrigated) land?
Sesame, kulath, urd, koda, jhangora. Koda is sown in the month of Jeth (May/June) and harvested in the month of Kartik (Oct-Nov). Sesame and gahat are also sown in Jeth. [Maize is also cultivated here].

How do you look after the seeds?
Now we put medicine (pesticide/insecticide) in the seeds. Even today some people store seeds after drying them in the sun and cleaning them, without using any medicine. Paddy seeds are winnowed, dried and kept separately in the store. We used to put ash or walnut leaves in them earlier. Tobacco was put in wheat storage, we also used to put chilli so as to keep pests away from wheat. Masoor (variety of lentil) was rubbed in oil and stored; even now we store it the same way.

What do people do after cultivation work is completed?
After cultivation is over we bring wood and grass from the forest and also bring sotar (manure made by mixing leaves from the forest and cow dung) to spread below the animals. We store all these things for the winters. Farmers cannot rest; they have a lot to do. Now our daughters-in-law even knit while going to the forest, otherwise they don’t get any time [laughs]. They do this work while walking. We did not know knitting. These days girls have learnt knitting.
Section 14
You go to the forest to bring fodder and wood alone or in a group?
No, we don’t go alone. The girls and daughters-in-law of the whole village go together in a group.

How far do you go?
We go very far, we go in the morning and come back in the evening.

Do you carry food with you?
We used to take bhujkuta, bhanjeer, chuda (puffed rice) etc for breakfast with us. But these days the girls don’t take anything. We used to share and eat. It used to be wonderful. But these days everyone eats their own food if they take it along. We used to even sit together in the forest for sometime, gossip and enjoy ourselves.

How are the fields divided?
Here the land is divided equally among all brothers. Some people give more land to their elder brothers, but they are very few. If the people are nice, they divide the land between themselves on their own and if they have any conflict they call the panch (priest) to divide the land. If good fields are few then phogua is done.

What is phogua?
A lottery is taken out by the panch or the elder of the house. In the lottery, the fields that come in their share is accepted, there are no conflicts. Each type of land is separated into different parts and then a lottery is taken out. In this way land is fairly divided among all. Sometimes one person gets bad land but then no complaints are made. This is known as phogua.

What is the arrangement for irrigation?
We have canals for irrigation. Though it rains heavily here, we have our own canals, which receive water from our local (mountain) river.

What does the panchayat (village council) do?
The panch used to settle conflicts earlier, but not any more. They now settle small disputes or partition of fields. Some people go to the court. People have changed now, so they do not trust the panch. The panch allots turns for people to protect the fields from monkeys. Everyone has to go to watch and save the fields from monkeys on their turn, even today.

Is there any other organisation in the village?
Yes, there was an organisation by the name of Mahila Samaj (women’s society, but more informal than govt-sponsored ones usually known as Mahila Mangal Dal) before. It had a chairman but not any more.

Why not any more?
I don’t know why it closed down. Mahila Samaj took the responsibility of protecting the crop from monkeys, three to four women used to go together to the fields. Even today we do the same.
Section 15
Do people from all classes take part in the panchayat?
Yes, we are all Rajputs here; there is only one Harijan family.

Do you work collectively here?
Yes, most of our agricultural work is done collectively. We call working collectively padiyali (a specific time for mutual aid and collective work among village groups). We go in turns to each other’s house for transplanting, hoeing and weeding. Earlier everyone used to help even during construction of house, but now they don’t.

Now people have jobs so they bring mules and Nepalese labour, they do everything. The poor, that is those who do not have jobs today are all alone, they have to bear all the pain. Earlier both the rich and poor had their houses constructed easily. But today money has eradicated mutual love. The rich bring their materials in vehicles up to the road. [The road is 1-2 kms away and belongs to ITBP people (Indo-Tibetan Border Police). Only army vehicles run on the road, there is no bus for the villagers. Only private buses can be taken].

How do you like TV?
We do not have TV. Only few people in the village have TV. I have never watched TV neither do our family members go to watch it. There is no time to watch TV.

Have you seen a gas stove?
No, we burn wood. Only one or two people in the village have gas but everyone burns wood. Now almost everybody has stove, they use it sometimes.

Electricity has been here for how many years?
It must be 20 years.

What was the arrangement for light before that?
People burnt chilka for light. Now there is light even in the sheds for animals. Our children see light as soon as they are born in the obara (lower storey room often used for livestock).

Even today a child is born in the obara in the village?
Yes, a child is born in the obara because during delivery only the midwife or any one member of the family looks after her. We consider a pregnant woman as impure so we do not let the whole house become impure. Therefore, after five days, which we call panchola (5-day period), we distribute til and rice and bring the newborn and the mother in to sunlight. Cow’s urine, gold, milk, curd, honey and water of holy Ganga are mixed together and gold is washed in this mixture and given to everyone to drink. It was done then. The Brahmin does havan (sacred fire ritual) with barley and purifies everyone. That day the woman who has given birth recently, comes to the upper storey but she is not allowed to do other household work because she is still not completely pure. She cannot go to the temple also; even family members do not go to the temple. They can go to the temple only after 21 days when the pandit purifies them all, though one month later is considered best. A big havan is performed in the house; tilak (red mark on the forehead) is put to everyone. Prayers are performed after 5th day, 11th day after which that woman can go to the fields, 21st day and then after one month. If a son is born sweets are distributed in the entire village. Then all members of the house go to the temple.
Section 16
Are things of rural requirement made in the village?
Plough, dhora (utensil for feeding fodder to cattle) are made by the villagers themselves, and we get sickle and spade from Gangori, our blacksmith lives there, we give him dadwar. Each family gives 12 kg of grain in six months, only 6 kg of wheat is given. But if he asks for money we do not give him dadwar. He gives one sickle for Rs. 5 and a bigger one for Rs. 10. If he works for an entire day he is given Rs.100. The people who make daudaki (vessel for drying paddy) charge Rs. 60 or Rs. 80. It is also made by people living outside. Some people of our village make ghilda (a large basket carried on the back, used for bringing dung and fodder) but generally these are made in the village of Kelasu Jhankoli and brought from there. We purchase them in exchange for 19 kg or 8 kg of paddy (i.e. as barter). We make rope from the bark of bhimal tree or sometimes buy it.

You purchase things made up of stone or make them?
Those who have their own stone quarries make stone slab and silbatta (pestle and mortar) themselves and others purchase it. It costs Rs. 100. A stone mortar is made in the village itself. Generally everyone pounds paddy in the mortar.

Do you make parotha (wooden vessel for churning curd) yourself?
No we buy it. The smaller ones cost Rs.100 whereas the bigger ones are made for Rs. 500.

What is the reason that you buy everything from outside?
Raw material is not easily available here. Forests mainly have pine trees. In my hometown, Jamak village, everything is available, so people there don’t need to buy things.

Where all do you have relationships (alliances)?
In Jamak, Kishanpur, Gyanaja, Nismaur, Kunasi, Bhadasyun, Gawana, Sirola, Dunda etc. [places within a radius of 35 km]

Do you have a water source?
Yes, we have a water source in our village and also in Sangrali village. Though even taps have been put up now. But people go to the reservoir to bring cool drinking water. As the water of your Ganga is cold, so is the water of our reservoir. Didn’t you see it in my daughter’s marriage? The reservoir is near our house; you came for Kedari’s marriage. [Her third daughter’s name is Kedari].
Section 17
You go to the forest to gather fodder. How was the forest before and how is it now?
We have to go far inside to get fodder. We now have horses and mules, so there is less grass available for the animals of the village. Earlier the forest was very dense. The place where ITBP has now settled was a dense forest of oak and burans. The forest was cut down to settle these people. A road has been built up to there, so many trees were cut down for the road. Now the forest has really thinned. Earlier ayar, bhamorin (?) also known as tharmola (?), was found in abundance. We used to eat a lot of its fruits while cutting grass in the forest. When we sow paddy seeds, we put manure made of oak leaves in the fields. We bring oak leaves from there but now there are very few oak trees left. Oak leaf manure is the best for paddy. Wild fruits have also diminished in the forest now.

Is road the reason for their decline?
Trees were cut in one go at the time of construction of the road, but even now trees fall. This is because of the khampa (deep cuts) made in the tree. Khampa are deep incisions made in the centre of the trunk of pine trees to extract leesa (resin extracted from pine trees), three cuts are made on each tree, the trunk becomes weak as a result of which it cannot hold its own weight and breaks during a storm. Earlier there was no rain or dust with a storm. It has started happening only now. [Pine resin has various industrial purposes].

Does it rain on time?
Earlier there used to be good rainfall but now the rains are bad. There never used to be such thunder and storms before, the rain used to be quiet and peaceful. Times have changed.

Why do you think it is happening?
I cannot understand; bad times have come. After that flood [in 1978], the weather has been changing constantly.

You were speaking about monkeys. Did they pose problems before also?
There are large numbers of monkeys now, earlier there were not so many, we never faced this kind of trouble.

Why did the monkeys start coming here?
The population of these monkeys is also increasing constantly like us humans. During the time of my mother-in-law, there were very few members in the family and today, in my time, we have quadrupled. We need more things to eat. The same is with these monkeys, so they have started coming towards the fields.

Do you get fruits to eat in the forest now?
We get mol (wild pear), which has a tree similar to that of a pear, but its fruit is small and round, tharmola, hinsar, kingoda. Bedu (wild fig) is found less here. In my hometown all these fruits are available in abundance even today. These fruits are available for eating, but less, not much. Just as the forest has thinned down, likewise these plants have also reduced.

What is the arrangement in the village to safeguard the forest?
Earlier the villagers also used to go along with the patrol to put out any forest fire but now the villagers do not go. Only the patrol (forest guards) goes.
Section 18
Why don’t they go to put out fire?
Don’t know why these people don’t go. There is a lot of difference in the old people and the young generation.

Do you have your own panchayati forest?
Yes it is our pasture land. Our animals graze there. We cut and bring grass from our forest in the month of Savan – Bhadon (months of the rain, July and August). We don’t cut grass from this forest for two to three months, and then after a predetermined period everyone cuts grass from their own area, dries it and stores it for winters. The grass is put nicely on the trees and kept.

How much snow used to fall earlier?
Earlier the snowfall used to be heavy, the snow would stay put for many days and the weather was very cold. Now sometimes snowfall does not occur at all. If the snow falls here it stays only for one day. The weather has now changed a lot; it has become very hot. We never knew what mosquitoes were before, now there are so many mosquitoes, they bite us a lot.

Do you have afforestation here?
Yes, the forest people plant trees.

Which trees are being planted?
They have planted cedar and pangar (chestnut) trees. We do not know the pangar tree but we have heard that it is good for fodder. There is a new thorny tree, oak and khadik have also been planted.

Are all trees well protected?
No, only a few trees are left. Children cut down many trees. Last year there was a watchman, but not this year, or maybe he does not come here at all. There are many trees in the nursery. When there is a forest fire, young trees and recently planted ones are destroyed in the fire. Another reason for diminishing forests is fire. Trees that are used to extract leesa are also burnt in the forest fire and fall down. There should be no forest fire and there must always be a watchman.

In your opinion which trees should be planted?
Oak, khadik and himri (?) trees should be planted, these are useful for providing fodder and for other purposes, and in fruit trees - pear, walnut and plum trees should be planted.

What different fruit trees are there in the village?
There are walnut, chulu (apricot) and peach trees. People have now started planting plum trees also. Earlier walnut and chulu used to be in greater numbers.

Has there been any change in the mutual relationships within the village?
Yes, people had a lot of love for each other before, but not now. Now every person feels that he is more superior to the other.
Section 19
Why has this happened?
The only reason is that every man feels that he is superior to everyone; no one wants to be subordinate.

What changes have come within the past 50 to 60 years?
Today’s children are educated, they have started going out, they have seen the world; they have started pointing out shortcomings in our work. We have spent our entire life in the village. We have neither seen anything nor are we well read. Children have now started working of their own free will.

Which times do you like?
We like our time. Now there are different kinds of people all around. We feel scared even in the forest; don’t know what kind of people are there. We were free before; there was no fear at all. No one wears any jewellery. There have been many incidents in the forest in which ornaments have been snatched away; therefore girls do not wear jewellery to the forest anymore. We do not stay without ornaments. There has been a change in food habits. We used to eat food with just one vegetable before, but now chutney, pickles, spices, everything has increased.

How are the relations between mother and daughter-in-law now?
In this case it is better now. Now villagers treat their daughters-in-law as their own daughters. Daughters come to their mother’s home eat and go and also take something along. Daughter-in-law stays with them, so they are also loved as daughters. They now get the opportunity to bathe and rest. There are very few people who do not let their daughters-in-law rest.

Does the dowry system prevail?
It was not there before but now people have started giving a lot of dowry on their own. In our times it was not given. All villagers used to donate food to the girl so that she had three to four sacks full of grain. We considered it the best gift. It was said that if you cannot give anything, at least you can give one supa (sieve used to separate grain from husk) of grains, to the girl. Now in the girl’s marriage, daali (basket filled with dry fruits, sweets, fruits, clothes for the bride, jewellery etc) comes from the groom’s side. It is now seen what has come for the girl from her in-laws house and how much; it was not so before. Now we have to fill those baskets and send them back. Earlier only Rs. 1.25 was given.
After the girl’s marriage, within a year, in the month of Magh (January/February) we send kanda (small cane basket) to the girl that contains clothes, arsa (traditional sweet dish made from rice flour) and cutlets. It is distributed throughout the entire village of the girl’s in-laws. Kanda is sent to both the girl and her sister-in-law (husband’s sister) and it is sent all through their life. My jeth (husband’s elder brother) had only daughters who had no brothers, so I send them kanda. Now she says that you have many girls and I add on to their number, so don’t send me anything. Your one son bears the burden of all sisters; everything has become expensive. But I still send it because after all he is also her paternal uncle’s son.
Section 20
What is the condition of Harijans now?
It is very good. They get all facilities from the government. Earlier they could not fill water from our taps but now they do. They have now acquired equal status in the society. If someone calls them Dom instead of Harijan, he may land up in prison.

There are many sayings in the village. Please tell me some.
[Laughs and quotes a Garhwali idiom or proverb]. “Done na saki th bisu th haki”. (As long as there is ample time then the work is easy - but no one does the work then. But when the work becomes a necessity then that work requires a lot of hard labour for it to be done. In other words, that is, the work should be done on time so that it can be completed easily without much difficulty.)  Listen to another one [says it in Hindi]; my mother-in-law used to say this phrase. It means that the woman who does not listen to her husband’s suggestion, for her the whole village is like hell.

Tell us some incident during the king’s regime which you think is special.
When the king used to hold begar (forced or unpaid labour/revenue) each village got its own turn. Each family in the village was given the task of arranging food. Once it was a poor family’s turn to arrange curd for the king. They had no cows or buffaloes. The poor lady of that house started collecting her own milk, made curd out of it and sent it to the king for his meal. The king found the curd to be very delicious. He asked his chefs to find out where the curd had come from. The woman was produced before the king. She told the whole story to the king. She said, since I did not have any cows or buffaloes I could not have brought curd for you. So I made curd from my own milk and sent it for you. “The king replied, I have had your milk in the form of curd, it was very delicious. Only the child has his mother’s milk. From today you are my mother.” The king gave them lots of riches and departed them. I have heard this.

Do old superstitions still prevail in the society, like a cat crossing the path etc?
Yes, they say if the snake comes up (from down) it is considered bad, the path is crossed. They even believe in ghosts.

How is a funeral performed here?
The dead body is put in a litter and taken with beating drums. In my native village God does not permit drums to be played for the dead. My native village is Jamak. Here it depends on the person’s condition, that is, the number of drums depends on whether the person is rich or poor. The rich bring four to five drums and instruments. Ransingha (an instrument made from buffalo horns), nagara (a small drum that is played with two sticks) and maski (bagpipe) instruments are played. The cremation is performed with due respect.

What is the name of this place?
It is called Ghudecha. This is our chann (thatched, temporary shelter). It is convenient to put manure in the fields and do hoeing, so we are here these days. My daughter and sister are in the big house in the village above. I will show you my fields but you must come some other day. Today I have stayed back to talk to you otherwise where do we have time? We have a lot of work to do.