mahesh shepherds himalayan
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Man In India, 92 (1) : 13-35
STATE, PASTURES AND RICE-FIELDS: THE GADDI SHEPHERDS OF HIMACHAL HIMALAYAS (NORTH INDIA)Mahesh SharmaThis paper documents the transformations taking place in the process of mobility, both in terms of structure and attitudes, deliberating upon the linkages between the seasonally mobile shepherds on the one hand and the sedentary peasants on the other over a time frame of a century. We argue that the shepherds bring into economic equation the resources that are beyond the revenue demand and marketing strategies that are beyond fixed markets and bazaars. We therefore consider shepherding not only as a constituent of the larger economic and social system but also as a competing economy in it-self. As a result, an attempt has been made to understand the process of interaction within different ecological zones and how the state, particularly colonial rule, intervened to control the pastorals in their attempt to Hinduize by ritualizing and locating them in a caste hierarchy. In the process the dynamics of herdingalpine-temperate migratory cycle; the rights and obligations in relation to herding practice; the evolution of herding tax structure; and the socio-economic basis of herdinghas been analyzed. Keywords: Transhumance; seasonal-migration; conflict; management; marketing.
Introduction While understanding the diversity of Indian society, historians have generally ignored or minimized the role of transhumant1 pastoral communities in the socioeconomic processes. They have considered the raising of livestock only as an integral part of mixed agricultural practice, an extension of agrarian structure in which such communities, whose demographic size was generally small, were conveniently merged with the peasants of the region. The assumption for such a marginalization is that the stock farming was only a one time marginal activity requiring little expertise or specialization for the stock takes care of itself requiring only a seasonal stabling and open air. Therefore transhumance, a constant quest for pasture across the altitudinal zones, was relegated to exception rather than the rule, which was the basic characteristic of any shepherding community (Braudel 1986: 294-315). Even while making a passing reference to the herding communitieslike the Bhattis, Gujjars, Mewatis or Pindaristhey are projected as plunderers who ran baggage trains for the great armies. 2 They are characterized as mercenaries living on loot rather than herding, who never the less, benefited the agricultural stability of their homelands by injecting cash and cattle into them. While these communities were negatively stereotyped by the colonial administrationGujjars as cattleAddress for communication: Mahesh Sharma, Professor of History, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India-160 014, E-mail: email@example.com
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thieves or Mewatis as robber-bandsthey were comprehended largely as settled agriculturists with predominantly pastoral economy. Alternatively, they are projected as the enemies of the settled agriculture and settled government, who contributed to the local economy by providing animals, milk, clarified butter and forest produce (Bayly 1983: 29-30, 91, 204). Colonialism severely affected such nomads, who were reckoned as potentially subversive and therefore needed to be disciplined by restricting their mobility by bringing them gradually into the fold of settled peasants. In the process they were relegated to the fringe of the social order (Markovits et al. 2003:8; Sauli 2003: 215-39). While the stereotypes were perpetuated by the historians, they paid scant attention to the inner-structures of the transhumant pastorals and their linkages with the local economy, as well as the complex process of social change involving them and the society they interacted with. More topical studiesparticularly by Anthropologists and Geographers like Sidhy (1993: 145-69) on Hunza transhumant; Wangmo (1990: 141-58) on Brokpas yak raisers in Sikkim; and Parks (1987: 637-60) on the pastorals of Hindukush regionhave attempted to understand the inner structures of the mobile herders and their interaction with the settled agriculturists. Kavoor (1999) affirms synergism between pastoralists and agriculturists in western Rajasthan, even as the herders face volatile situations and are always under serious constraints and threat. Agrawal (1999) contends that migration is related to the political marginalization of the Raikas (the camel-herders) that may be tackled by the institutions based in community. Such institutions, as caste councils, have been highlighted by Hayden (1999). He emphasizes the role of such in-built institutions of services as nomadic existence prevents people from taking legal recourse. Both Agrawal and Kavoor argue that the pastoralists are at a disadvantage in their market relation with the cultivators, wool merchants and others that they are engaged with in the market transactions. While these studies are located in the present time frame-work, Scholz (1974) locates the change among three territorial tribal herding communitiesthe Bruhi, Baloch and Pathanin Baluchistan between 1872 and 1972. He defines the tribal territoriality as the pattern of spatial utilization and the tribal identity as the pattern of mobility. He argues that the colonial regime pacified the country and in the newly formed society the peasantry was placed above the tribe initiating a complex process of differentiation. The tribal society, however, becomes a class society based on occupational categories. Though Scholz shares with Bayly the concerns of colonial regime that took initiative in curbing the mobile tendencies, he does not recognize the complex segmentation and hierarchy against the backdrop of Islamic injunction of social equality. What perhaps he means is that there is no consequent hierarchical social segmentation, but a class differentiation based on economy. The implications of such a transition on the local economy or society are, however, not considered.
STATE, PASTURES AND RICE-FIELDS:
Most of these studies document the interface between the herding communities that are on the margins of the dominant agriculturist communities, as in western India. In contrast, this paper deals exclusively with the Gaddi shepherds, a pastoral community of the western Himalayas. Their sedentary base is in Brahmaur, a Ravi river valley in the erstwhile Chamba statenow a district of north Indian province of Himachal Pradeshbetween 7622 and 7653 east longitude and 3211 and 3241 north latitude. The period of analysis is essentially between 1850 and 1950. The Gaddi community has, however, received considerable scholarly attention, unlike other pastoral communities of India. Bhasin (1987) compared two Gaddi settlements, in the plains and the higher hills; Village Survey Reports (Brahmaur no 4; Chatrari no. 5; Devi Kothi no. 10), the Glossary prepared by Rose (1882) as well as Shashi (1977) and Newell (1961) provided primary data on their economy and social structure, and Noble (1987) detailed a migratory account of these shepherds. Recently, Saberwal (1999) has deliberated on the rhetoric of conservation vis--vis polices of the forest bureaucrats, the officials blaming the shepherds for environmental degradation due to the misuse of land resources. He emphasizes that the local understandings of how ecosystems function need to be given far greater recognition and advocates the incorporation of local knowledge into the management of resources. In contrast Chetan Singh (1998) considers pastorals as an integral part of the economic system of the state as taxpayers whose activities allowed the colonial regime to obtain revenue from its large natural wealth. This paper tries to map the transformations shaped by the process of mobility in structure and attitudes. Like Agrawal and Kavoor the present study scans the linkages between the seasonally mobile shepherds on the one hand and the sedentary peasants on the other, but over a time frame of a century. It emphasizes the impact of economic interaction in terms of social change. The paper, thus, brings into a sharp focus the complex interplay, at various levels, among the forces of state, the agriculturists, and the pastorals by considering the shepherding economy in itself and as a constituent of the larger economic and social system. We shall argue that the shepherds bring into economic equation the resources that were beyond the revenue demand and marketing strategies that are beyond fixed markets and bazaars.3 We shall attempt to understand the process of interaction within different ecological zones and how the state, particularly colonial rule, intervened to control the pastorals in their attempt to Hinduize by ritualizing and locating them in a caste hierarchy. In the process the dynamics of herdingalpine-temperate migratory cycle; the rights and obligations in relation to herding practice; the evolution of herding tax structure; and the socio-economic basis of herdinghas been analyzed. The Shepherds The Gaddi shepherds were distinct by their attire of the chola and dora. The male chola was a knee length coarse woolen frock coat that was firmly tied on the waist
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by 18-meter long woolen rope called dora. The coat was loose above the waistband, dora, making it a receptacle to store things while on march. When moving with a flock, a shepherd may have couple of lambs stowed in his bosom, along with his daily food and other miscellaneous articles. They also wore a peculiar cap, with a flap round the margin, and a peak like projection in the center. The flap was normally tied but let down over the ears and neck in winters or in the time of mourning. The women garment was similar to men, of coarse wool called cholu, hanging straight from neck to ankles and tie