(c)  Religions and Castes

Principal Communities

 

According to the 1971 Census, the population of the District was 10,44,936. The Sikhs form the majority and the Hindus come next.  In the urban areas, however, the Hindus form the majority and the Sikhs come next. The majority of the Sikhs reside in the rural areas. The Religion-wise population is as under:

 

Religion                             Persons          Males                          Females

Sikhs                5,63,130      3,00,782          2,62,348

Hindus              4,60,657      2,44,746          2,15,911

Christians         14,343       7,599               6,744

Muslims            4,216         2,278               1,938

Jains                 754            396                  358

Buddhits           438            285                  153

Other religions      --               --                     --

 

Religion not      1,398         1,180               218

 stated             

Total                10,44,936      5,57,266          4,87,670

(Statistical Abstract of Punjab, 1980, pp. 62-65)

Sikhs—The word ‘sikh’ has its origin from the Sanskrit word ‘shishya’ which means a ‘disciple’. Sikhs are the followers of Guru Nanak Dev and  believe in the teachings of the Ten Gurus and the Guru Granth Sahib. The creed of Guru Nanak Dev is summed up in the simple formula “the unity of God and brotherhood of man”. The Sikhs are  monotheists, opposed to idol worship and are against asceticism and casteism.

Next to Paris, the Sikhs are the most prosperous community in the country. Also, as soldiers, farmers and sportsmen, they are at the top. They are also good technicians, mechanics, carpenters, artisans and engineers. The vast majority of the Sikhs are peasants, living in scattered villages and hamlets

 

According to the 1971 Census , the number of the Sikhs in the District (including the Moga and Muktsar tehsil, transferred to the Faridkot District in 1972) was 5,63,130, which formed 53.8 per cent of the total population. The Sikhs include Jats, Khatris, Aroras, Kambohs and the Schedules Castes. A few sects among them are Nihangs, Namdharis, Nirankaris, etc.

Here, mentioned may be made o the Sodhis, who played a conspicuous part during the Sikhs rule in the Punjab. According to their account, their ancestor, Kalrai, ruled at Lahore, and his brother, Kalpat, at Kasur. the  latter drove out Kalrai, who took refuge with some king in the Deccan and married his daughter. Their son, Sodhi Rai, reconquered Lahore, and Kalpat, in his turn, became an exile. He went to Varanasi and studied the Vedas, on which account he obtained the name of Bedi. All the Sikhs Guru Khatris and included the Bedis, Trehans, Bhallals and Sodhis. Nanak belonged to the Bedi caste and Guru Gobind Singh to the Sodhi caste. The most important Sodhi  families in the District are those of Guru Har Sahai. The Guru Har Sahai family traces its succession directly from Guru Ramdas, with whom the great Sikh Temple of Amritsar is intimately associated.

Jats

The Sikhs Jats are preponderant in all the tehsils of the District and their principal clans are described below. The Hindu Jats are practically confined to the Fazilka Tehsil and are principally the Bagri Jats and the Bishnois.

Sidhu --        The Sidhus occupy numerous villages in the sandy tracts of the Firozpur and Zira Tehsils and in the cast of the Fazilka Rohi, Sidhu was the fourth in decent from Batera, who had four sons, one of whom, named Bur, was the ancestor of the Brars.  Brar was the eighth  in decent from Bur. Both the Sidhus and the Muhammadan Bhatti Rajputs claim that they belong originally to one and the same clan.

Brar had two sons, Paur and Dhul, besides three others who embraced Islam. From Paur were descended the Maharajkian families. The great-grandson of Maharaj was Mohan. Mohan, with his sons and grandsons, came to this District about 1580 and settled at Maharaj, a tract to the south of Moga, calling the village by the name of the ancestor.

Thakur Mohan fled Jaislmer, where he had revolted against the Rana, Chattar Sain, and killed him in battle. He and his son, Rup Chand migrated with their flocks and herds to Bathinda, which was the Bhatti territory. The Bhattis, however resented this incursion of the new settlers and attacked them.  Mohan and Rup Chand were killed in the battle. The remaining sons of Mohan moved on and settled the Mari Sikhan to the south of the present Village of Mahraj. This was in the tappa of the Man Bhullars who, under their leader Lala, greatly oppressed the descendants  of Mohan. Duni Chand, who seems to have been the principal man, appealed to Guru Har Rai who lived at Gurusar. The Guru, who had prophesied the future eminence of the descendants of Phul, advised the Bhullars to make peace with them. Duni Chand led his people to the Ramsara Pond and there Karam Chand founded Mahraj, in  1654. the struggle with the Man Bhullars continued, but finally Lala was killed and his tribe retreated before the Mohanki Clan.  The descendants of Mohan,  despite continual struggles with the Faridkot Barars, retained the possession of the Bahya Territory; the  name Bahya is derived from bais -- 22, the number of their villages.

Phul separated himself form others of his clan and founded the Village of Phul. The ruling families of Patiala, Nabha and Jind, as well as  the Sardars of Bhadaur and Malaud, are the descendants of Phul, and are, hence, known as the Phulkina families. The remainder of Mohan’s posterity were simple cultivators, but, owing to their being so nearly related to the great cis-Satluj rajas, they came under the exclusive dominion of none of them. Sometime before the First Anglo-Sikhs War (1845-46) they agreed to put themselves under the British rule, and were allowed to hold their land revenue free in perpetuity.

The reputed founders of the various villages may be mentioned. Sema, son of Mohan, was of a quarrel some disposition and his sons took after him; they slew Rama, son of Phul, and all but one of his grandsons fled to Chainiwala; hence they did not share in the diversion of the territory. On their return, however, they were given an outlying block on the border where they founded the village of Sema. In later times, some of them emigrated and founded a number of villages in the Fazilka and Muktsar tehsils.

Sardul Chand, another son of Mohan, also received no share in the division of the country, as he refused to contribute to the revenue, paid to the Subah of Sirhind; hence his descendants only hold a small portion of Patti Karam Chand, known as Thulla Sardul.  Sanwal, grandson of Mohan, gave his name to Patti Sanwal. He had three sons, Lal Chand, Bega and Dipa. Lal Chand founded Puhli and Dhilwan. Bega founded Kala Bega (Lahra Bega) and Dipa founded Mari.  Dipa’s descendants own part of Patti Sanwal. Karam Chand had five sons. The descendants of Haria and Baghela founded and hold Bath, Nathpura, Giddar, and Patti Karam Chand. Khana’s sons founded Lahra Khana, Singha’s sons founded Lahra Dhulkot and Lahra Sondha, and Muhabbat founded Lahra Muhabbat.

Sandali, son of Rup Chand, gave his name to Patti Sandli. His sons Sadda and Sukha, founded Kalian Sadda, Kalian Sukha and Kalian Bhai Mal, son of Sangheta, his third son, founded Kalian Malke, Begu and Bhaini, whereas the descendants of his other sons, Tilok Chand and Jowahir, founded Bajuana.

Duni Chandi, who was otherwise known as kala, gave his name to Patti Kala. His son, Dalla, founded Bhurj Dalla and Ganga, whereas his other sons, Khumara and Fatta, colonized Nathana.

From Sidhu’s son, Bur, are descended the Kaithal, Arnauli, Jhumba and Sadhuwal families. Several villages of Barars of this branch who style themselves Bhais, on account of one of their ancestors,  Bhai Bhagtu, having been attached to the service of the Sikh Guru, are settled in other villages of the Mahraj Pargana, known as the Bhuchho villages. The Bhai of Arnauli holds six of these villages in jagir.

The greatest part of the Sidhus outside the Mahraj Pargana are the descendants of Sangar and are related to the Faridkot family.  “When they came to this District, they seem to have been a wild semi-savage people, living on the spontaneous produce of the jungle and on the  milk of their herds, and hardly knew how to make chapatis. It seems probable from various indications that whole of the tribe was not the same descent, but that a nucleus of leading families had associated with themselves the members of the jungle tribes not differing very widely from the Baurias of the present day.  All of them took to calling themselves “Sidhu or Brars”. The above passage is adapted from the 1889 edition of the Firozpur Gazetteer, but the authority for it is not know. From their appearance one would not connect the Sidhus with the Baurias or other aboriginals.

There appear to have been two invasions of the Sidhu Barars.  The Mohanki branch of the clan are said to have founded Mahraj about 1650 after struggle with the Mans and Bhullars who then held that tract. The second influx seems to have taken place some fifty years later under the leadership of the Kot Kapura Chief when the Gills were driven out of the Bagha Purana (Faridkot District) ilaqa and their City of Danda Manda (now represented by a large theh near Rajiana) was destroyed. Their turbulent character is summed up in the proverb Tikka Dhaliwal da, Chaudhar Gharewal da, Barchhi Barar di.

The Brarars generally call themselves Sidhu Barars, having rather a preference for the name of Sidhu over that of Barra.

There are twenty-four sections of muhins of the Sidhus, which are named: Rathaia, Khilria, Mahramia, Darake, Mahrajke, Ratia, Bhulin, Harike, Bandhate, Bhukun, Jaid, Barar, Pahloke, Sara, Manoke, Khokarke, Ugarke, Sahuke, Amunke, Achal, Aspal and one or two others.

After the Barar and Mahrajke sections, the most important of these are Jaid, Sara, Mahramid, Darake and Harike.

Gills --- The Gills are the only important section of the Jats here who do not trace their origin to a bhatti stock. They say they come from a Raja of the Variah clan of Rajputs who ruled at Garhmathaia. It is not clear where this palace was. The name Gill is explained by a story to the effect that the Raja had no children by his Rajputni wives and, therefore married Jat woman. She bore a son, but the other wives, moved buy jealousy, exposed the infant in a marshy spot in the jungle. The infant accidentally found by the Kinsg’s minister and called  it Gill from the place where he was found, gill meaning moisture. Another version is given in L.H.  Griffin’s Punjab Chiefs, according to which the child, who was exposed was  the son of Gill, and he was found being licked and fondled by a tiger (sher), from which he received the name of Sher Gill. The Sher Gil are one section of the Gills. Other large sections are the Wadan Gills and Vairsi Gills. There are twelve sections altogether. The Wadan Gills say thatr one of their ancestors was Raja Bhainipal, who built the Fort of Bathinda, so named, it is said, because he buried a Banian, called Bhatia, in the foundations.

The Wadan Gills were settled about the beginning of the seventeenth century in the south and west of Moga, the tract now occupied by the Barars. Their principal towns were Rajiana and Danda Minda, the latter now a mound of ruins near Sekha Kalan. The Gills still go to Rajinana, though it now belongs to th eBarars, in the desi month of Chet and perform the jathera  ceremony of scooping up handfuls of earth from the chappar or tank; there is also a math, known as Raja Pri there, where they make offerings jharawa. The Barars of the Sangar clan attacked them and took these places, and the Gills were driven farther to the north. They then established themselves about Chirak, Ghal Kalan and Moga (Faridkot District) Peace was at last made by a daughter of Sangar, having been married to one of the Gills, and alliance which at that time was considered to raise the Barars conosiderably in the social scale.

Moga and Vega were two brothers and men of importance among the Wadan Gills. Moga had four sons, namely, Ausang (who descendants live in Moga and Landeke); Rupa (whose descendants live in Bughipra and Krial); Awwal Khair (whose descendants live in Mahna, Chuganwan and Landeke); and Sandali (whose descendants live in Kokri and Dunewala.).

The Sher Gills are mostly to be found in the Majha and in the south of the Zira firozpur tehsils. They are said to be the descendants of two brothers, Dhao and Raja, Raja had four sons, viz.  Dhude, Sane, Augar and Kanh.

Dhaliwals --- The Dhaliwals or Dhariwals were the earlies of the Jat tribes to establish themselves in this District. Their origin in uncertain; all they can tell is that they cam from Dharandgri, which they say was somewhere in the south of India. They are apparently a branch of the great Bhatti tribe. The Raja of Dhopur was of their clan. They are  divided into two sections, the Udis and the Manis. The principal villages of the Udis are Ransi, Salabatpura and Bilaspur, Saidoke and Dholpur belong to the Mani section.

Kangar, a littlet to the south of the Moga boundary, was the headquarters of the Dhaliwals before they came to this District. A daugher of Mihr Mitha of Kangar was married to the Emperor Akbar. It is related thatthe Emperor first saw her at a well  in her native village. She had two gharas (pitchers) of water on her head; at the same time, she caught a young buffalo which had escaped from its owner, putting her foot on the rope attached to its heard, and thus held the headstrong animal without losing her balance untill he campe up to claim it. the Emperor was so much delighted with this feat of strength and sourage that he made her his wife, in the hopes that she would be the mother of children no less curageous than herself. On her father , Mihr Mitha, he conoferred the titled of Mian and gave him a jagir of one hundred and twenty villages, of which Kangar was the centre.

The descendants of Mihr Mitha, though called Mian, are said not to have been converted to Islam, but for several generations their leaders, especially at Himmatpura (Faridkot District), bore distinctly Muhammadan names, and it is not impossible that they conformed to the religion of the Mughal Emperors untill the rise of the Sikh power encouraged them to return to Hinduism. The Dhaliwal villages having been under cultivation from an earlier period than the rest of the Rohi counry, the populaton began to press upon the land in course of time and the holdings became rather small.

 

Their origin from Kangar is preserved in their marriage ceremony when it is customary for the bridegroom’s father to call out : “ Nikalo Kangar da Mirasi, Kangar pahla makan hai” and the Kangar mihasi (bard) receives the largesse made to the menials.

Khosas--- The Khosas are a strongly marked tribe, holding villages mostly near the junction of the three tehsils Zira, Firozpur and Moga (Faridkot District) and they have a story, resembling that of the Gills, of their ancestor Randhir having been exposed as an infant, and miraculously preserved; he was sheltered by a kite.

Sandhus --     The Sandhus of this District have mostly come from the Majha. Many were brought over into the Zira Bet by the Ahluwalia Sardars during the time of their rule. Their principal villages are  Sarhali Kalan, Valtoha, Chabba, Bharana and Munawan.  Some oOAer Sandhu villages are found in the south of Firozpur. There is another importans group of Sandhus in the Fazlika tehsil.

The above are the only tribes that require any extended notice; there are , however, many miscellaneous clans scattered throughout the District. Many of them were intorudced as settlers by the Bhais of Arnauli into the villages founded by them in the Muktksar Rohi and Bhucho ilaqas. Such minor tribes as are in any way important are mentioned below :

Other Jats --   The Bhullars are found in the Moga and Muktsar tehsils. They seem to be conected with the Mans and are one of the original Jat tribes. According to popular history, they hld the country in the neighbourhood of Mahraj, from which they were explled by the Barars. The Buttars are practically confined to the Fazilka Tehsil. The only claim to importance that he Chahils had was that  some of them shared with the  Siodhus the position of pujaris at the Darbar Sahib at Muktsar. the Dhillions are scattered all over the District. The importance of the Kangs lay only in the fact  that the Chief family, descended from the famous Tara Singh Gheba, held jagirs in the Firozpur and Zira tehsils. The Mans are numerically of some importance in the Fazilka Tehsil.  Their original home in this part of the country seems to have been the Mahraj ilaqa, whence they were  expelled by the Barars. They still go to Ganga near Nathana to bathe in the pons there and do the jathera ceremony. A number of the Sanghas have some religious influence and are known as Bhais, especially those of Daroli in the Moga Tehsil.

The Bagri Jats ae emigrants from Bikaner and the south. They are confined to the Fazilka Tehsil. A few of them have embraced Sikhism. The principal clans are the Godara, Jakhar, Pannu and Saharan. They are distinguished  from the Sih Jats mainly by their speech, which is Bagri.

Rajputs ---   After the Jats, the Rajputs of different clans formed the most important agricultural tribe of the District before the partition of the 1947. Most of them being Muslims migrated to Pakistan. The  Hindu Rajpus are unimportant. There is a Rathore family in the Firozpur Tehsil, and there are some Bhatis in the Fazilka Tehsil.

Hindu --- According to the 1971 Census, the number of Hindu n the District ws 4,60,657 males and 2,15,911 females) which formed about 44 per cent of the total population.

The word Hindu is a geographical expression derived from the River Sindhu (Hindu in Persian and INdus in Greek). The name of our country is also derived from the Indus, and the term Hindu originally meant only ‘Indian’. Later , the religion professed by the Indians came to be known as Hinduism. the vedic Aryans did not give any name to the set of beliefs  that had come down to them. In later centuries, th hertiage represented by the Vedas and the Smritis (system of individual and social law) acquired the name of Sanatan Dharma or Eternal Religion.

Hinduism comprises many traditinoal faiths and is difficult to define. It is not a religion in the sense Islam and Christianity are religions. It is not ascribed to a single founder prophet or messiah or a scripture like the Quran or the Bible ---nor does it have a clearly defined dogma to which allegiance must be owed. It has become customary, therefore, to say that Hinduism is a way of life.  It is difficult to dfine this way of life. A Hundu can be a monotheist or monist and an idolater, a vegetarian or a non-vegetarian.

There are, however, two dogmas common to all Indian religious, viz., the doctrine of karma and the theory of rOAncarnation and the transmigration of the soul. Broadly speaking, a Hindu may be defnid as a theist who accepts karma and believes in the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.

Just as Hunduism, as it has developed over the centuries, is a comples of several cultures, Hindu as a people are the product of the intermingling of many races. A number of invading tribes, such as theHuns, the Scythians and the Mongols have been absorbed in the stream of Hindus along with Dravidians, Australoids and Mediterraneans.

Most Hindu observe endogamy and exogamy. Sagotra marriages ae traditionally not permitted among the twice-born castes. There is sapinda  exogamy among all Hindus. Sapinda has tow meanings: ‘those who share particles of thesame body’; and ‘those who are united by offering balss of cooked rice (pinda) to the same dead ancestors’.  Marriage taboos differ from community to community. The Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 bars marriage within five generations on the father’s side and three on the mother’s side. But it permits the marriage of cross-cousins where this is customary. The Act also permits sagotra marriages.  Whatever the law, to most of Hindu marriages, there still remains an involiable sacrament. It must be performed by priests before the holy fire. To Brahmins, the rite of panigrahanam (the groom holding the right hand of the bride) and saptapadi (taking the seven steps) are supreme rites that unit the  couple. the dowry system still prevails; so, too, the matching of horoscopes.

 

           The Hindus in the District belong to different castes and subcasters, viz. Brahmins, Khatris, Aroras, Bannians, Suds, Bagris, Rajputs, Scheduled Castes, Backward Classes. The Khatris are more important as a landholding class than as a trading class. The Aroras form the larges trading class in the District. Nearly all thebanians belong to the Aggarwala section, there being also a few Oswals and mahesris. Though a few, the Suds are of some importance as traders.

 

           The Hindus comprise the followers of different sects, such as Sanatan Dharam, Aryaaa Samaj, Dev Samaj, Bishnoi and Radhasoami. Of these, the Bishnoi and Dev Smaj require notice.

 

Bishnoi

 

            The most important development of Hinduism in this District in the Bishnoi Sect, which is of Bagri or Marwari orini. The name Bishnoi is evidently derived from the prominecne they give in their creed and worship to the God Vishnu, though they themselvs say it is derived from the twenty-nine (Bishnau) articles of their creed as prescribed by the founder of the Sect. The Bishnois live in the villages abaout Sitoganno and to the south of Abohar and are numerous in the Hissar District (Haryana) and in Bikaner (Rajasthan). It is said that any member of the higher Hindu Castes can become a Bishnoi, but in this District, at least they are a;lmot all Jat or Khati by tribe, and retain the lannguages, dress and other characteristics of the Bagris; bu they try to sink their tribe in their religion and gieve their caste as Bishnoi merely. The account they give of the founder  of their caste as Bishnoi merely. The account they give of the founder of sect is as follows: At Pinasar, a village south of Bikaner (Rajasthan), there lived a Rajput Panwar, named Laut, who had attained the age of sixty years and had no son. One day, a neighbour goinig to sow his field met Laut, and deeming it a bad omen to meet a childless man, turned from his purpose. This cut Laut until evening, when a faqir appeared to him and told him that in nine months he should have a son, and after showing his miraculous power by draawing milk from a calf, vanished  from his sight. After nine months a child miraculously appeared in Laut’s house and was  miraculously suckled by his wife Hansa. This happened in Sambat 1508 (A.D. 1451). For seven years, the boy, who was an incarnation (autar) of Vishnu, played with his fellows, and then for 27 years he tended cattle, but all this time he spoke no word. His miraculous powers were shown in various ways, such as producing syweets from nothing for the delecation of his  companions, and he became known as the Achambha (the wonder), whernce his name of Jhamba, by which he is generally know. After 34 years, a Brahman was sent for to get  him to speak, and on his confessing his failure, Jhambaji again showed his power by lighting a lamp, by simply snapping his fingers, and uttered his first word. He then adopted the life of a teacher and went to reside on a sandhill some 48 km. south of Bikaner, where after 51 years, he died and was buried instead of being burnt like an ordinary Hindu. He did not marry but devoted himself to the life of an ascetic teacher. His sayings (sabd), numbering 120, were written by his disciples, and have  been  handed down in a book (pothi) which is written in the Nagri character and in a Hindu dialect similar to Bagri, seemingly a Marwari dialect. He gave precepts for the guidance of his followers.

            The Bishnois abstain from tobacco, drugs and spirits, and are noted for their regard for animal life which is such that not only will they not themselves kill any living creature, but they do their  utmost to prevent  others from doing so. The day before the new moon, they observe as the Sabbath and a day of fasting, doing no work in the fields or in the afternoon and in the evening, saying  “Bishno Bishno”. Their clothing is  the same as that of other Bagris, except their women do not allow the waist to be seen, and are found of wearing black woollen clothing. They are very particular about ceremonial purity, and it is common saying that if  a Bishnoi’s food is on the first of a string of 20 camels and a man of another caste touches the last camel of the string, the Bishnoi will consider his food defiled and throw it away.

        The ceremony of initiation (pahul) is as follows:

 

             A number of representative Bishnois assemble, and before them a saadh Bisnoi priest after lighting a sacrificial fire (hom) instructs the novice in the duties of the faith. He then takes some water in a new earthen  vessel over which he prays in a set from (Bishnogayatri), stirring it all the  while with his string of beads (mala) and after  asking the consent of the assembled Bisnois, he pours the water three times into the hands of the novice who drinks it off. The novice’s scalp-lock (choti) is then cut off and his head is shaved, for the Bisnois shave the whole head and do not leave scalp-look like the other Hindus; but they allow the beard to grow, only shaving the chin on the father’s death. Infant-baptism is also practized,  and thirty days after the birth, the child, whether boy or girl, is baptized by the priest (saadh) in much the same way as an adult; only the set form of prayer is different (Garhb-gayatri), and the priest pours a few drops of water into the child’s mouth, and gives the child’s relatives each three handfuls of the consecrated water to drink; at the same time the barber clips off the child’s hair. This baptismal ceremony also has the effect of purifying the house which has been made impure by the birth (sutak).

                         

                Bishnoi marry among themselves only, and by a ceremony of their own. They do not revere Brahmans, but have priest (saadh) of their own, chosen from among the laity. These saadhs are celibates. they do not burn their dead, but bury them below the cattle-stall or in a place frequented by cattle, such as a cattle-pen. They observe the Holi in a way different from that of other Hindus. After sunset on that day, they fast till the next forenoon, when after hearing, read the account of how Prahlad was tortured by his infidel father  Harnakash for believing in the God Vishnu untill he was delivered  by Vishnu himself in his incarnation of  Narsingh (lion-man), and mourning ever Prahlad’s sufferings, they light a sacrificial fire and partake of the consecrated water, and after distributing unpurified sugar (gur) in commemoration of Prahlad’s deliver from the fire into which he was thrown, they break their fast, Bishnois go on pilgrimage to the place where Jhambaji is buried, in the south of Bikaner, where there is a tomb built over his remains and a temple(mandir) with regular attendants (pugaris). A festival takes place here every six months in the months of Asauj and Phagon, when the  pilgrims go to  the sandhill on which Jhamhaji lived and there light sacrificial fires (hom) of jandi wood in vessels of stone and offer a burnt offering of barely, till, ghee and sugar, at the same time muttering the set prayers. They also make presents to the attendants of the temple and distribute moth and other grain for the peacocks and pigeons which live there in numbers. Should any one have committed an offence, such as having killed  when he could have prevented it, he is fined by the assembled Bishnois for the good of the temple and the animals kept there. Another place of pilgrimage is a tomb called Chhambola in the Jodhpur area, where a festival is held once a year in Chet. There the pilgrims bathe in the tank and help to deepen it, and sing and play musical instruments and scatter grain to peacocks and pigeons.

De Samaj

            It is religious society founded on 16 February 1887 by Bhagwan Dev Atma whose personal name was Pandit Satyanand Agnihotri (1850-1929). The society is devoted to the service of mankind along social, intellectual and, above all, higher life-evolving lines, irrespective of caste, creed, colour, country or any other extraneous consideration. As such, its object is to advance social, educational, moral and reclamation work. The Dev Samajis do not believe in the existence of God. They abstain from meat, wine and other intoxicants.

        The society runs a good number of schools and colleges in the District.

 

Scheduled Castes

            According  to the 1971 Census, the number of persons belonging to the Scheduled Castes in he District was 1,89,918 (1,02,488 males and 87,430 females), forming 18.2 per cent of the total population. Of these, 1,57,210 were rural and 32,708 urban. They include both the Hindus and the Sikhs. Only 16,802 persons (14,080 males and 2,722 females), i.e. 8.8.5 per cent of  them were literate.

            Throughout the past, the Scheduled Castes have remained backward and down-trodden and have been treated as untouchables. After independence, untouchability has been made a legal offence. Steps have also been taken by the Government of India to ameliorate the condition of the Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes. A certain percentage of vacancies for posts under the Government are reserved for them. Land is allotted to the landless Harijan cultivators. Loans and grants are given to enable them to start small and medium-scale industries. Some other concessions are also given to them.

            Christians – The Christians in the District are both Catholics and Protestants. The Catholics believe in Trinity, i.e. Father, Son and Holy Spirit, untied in one god head. As the followers of Jesus Christ, they owe their allegiance to the Holy Church, founded by Jesus Christ and entrusted to Peter, the first vicar (the Pope). His Holiness the Pope, who resides in the Vatican City, is the supreme religious head of the Catholics. The Protestants are the adherents of refined doctrines. According to the 1971 Census, the number of Christians in the District was 14,343.

            Muslims --- The Muslims migrated to Pakistan en masse on the partition of the country in 1947 and,  according to the 1961 Census, their number in the District was only 4,216.

            The Muslims essentially in : namely

(1)One God or Allah, (2) angels 93) The Koran, (4) the Prophets, (5) Judgement, paradise and hell and (6)  the divine decrees. The five primary duties, called the five pillars of Islam are : (1) repetition of the creed or kalimah ever day, (2) prayer (3) alms-giving, (4) fasting during the month of Ramzan and 95) pilgrimage to Mecca. Apart from Ramzan, the other principal feasts are the Bakrid and the Shab-e-Barat. According to Islam, the daily prayer,  called namaz, has to be performed five times a day. In addition to the usual namaz of every day, special namaz is held in the mosques every Friday, and generally the Muslims make it a point to attend this  prayer.

            The two main sects of the Muslims are Sunni and Shia.

            Jains – According to the 1971 Census, the number of Jains in the District was 754. There  are two major sects among the Jains; the Shvetambara (their monks are clad  in white) and the Digambara(their monks are clothed by the elements)

            Jains believe that the universe is infinite and eternal, and not created by any God. They worship the Jina or the Conqueror, who by his pious deeds and acts of self-denial in his past lives had overcome wordily passions, and hence freed himself from the unending cycle of rebirths, and attained moksha (salvation).

            The Jain doctrine is based on the fundamental principle of ahimsa or non-violence. The rules of ahimsa and self-denial in his past lives had overcome worldly passions, and hence freed himself from the unending cycle of rebirths, and attained mokhsa (salvation).

            The Jain doctrine is based on the fundamental principle of ahimsa or non-violence. The rules of ahimsa and self-denial are observed and the Jains are strict vegetarians.

            For all jains, fasting and austerity are considered essential for self-purification. They lay stress on mental discipline to obtain self-control, concentration in contemplation, and purity of thought.

            Budhists – At the time of  1971 Census, the number of Buddhists in the District was 438.

                                    (d) Social Life

            The caste feeling in the society is getting relaxed day by day and the people of different castes mix together quitter freely in their day-to-day life. With regard to the Scheduled Castes, however, some sort of aversion still does seem to persist in social contacts, particularly in the rural areas, in  spite of the passage of the Untouchability (Offence) Act, 1955.

            The influence exercised in the past by  bradari on an individual with regard to his social and personal behaviour is also on the wane, particularly in the urban areas. In the villages, however, the hold of the bradari does persist to a great extent.

Under the stresses and strains of the modern social and economic set-up, the joint family system is breaking up day by day. the members of  a family, however, generally make it a point to join at the time of marriage, death or other special occasions. As far as possible, people also try to help9 financially or in some other way their parents or other near relations.

With the spread of education and enlightenment, the practice of purdah among women has almost disappointed. However, among some conservative sections of the people in the rural areas, such as the Bagris and Bishnois, it is still observed strictly.

(i)  Property and Inheritance—The rule of inheritance of property has undergone a charge  of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956.  Under the Act, which governs the inheritance among the Hindus, the Sikhs, the Jains and the Budhists, the property of the deceased is distributed equally among sons, daughters, the widows and the mother.  The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956, governs the adoption of children and the maintenance allowance to the wife.

Muslims  are governed by the Shariat Act, 1937. Under Islamic Law, the sons, daughters and wife inherit the property of the deceased. The wife is the sole owner of mehr given to her at the time of marriage.

Inheritance among Christians is governed by the Indian Successions Act, 1925.

 

(ii)    Marriage and Morals

Marriage—Now-a-days, monogamy has become the usual practice among the people except the Muslims. Marriages have been classified by the Manu into eight types, out of which the first four are considered good, whereas  the rest are considered  improper . No such classification is taken into account these days. Generally, arranged marriages are performed. The parents of a marriageable girl generally select  a suitable boy either  through their own efforts or with the assistance of some of  their relations or friends. These duties were formerly performed by the nai (barbe), but now in village his services are utilized for informing the relations and acquaintances about the time and the venue of the ceremony. Among the advanced families, the mater is also initiated through advertisement in newspapers It has now become practice to see the boy and girl by the parties before settling the negotiations.

When the preliminaries have been settled, a specific date is fixed for the engagement. On the fixed day, the father of the girl offers seven dried dates (chhuaras) to the boy along with sweets and money and applies the tilak or tikka to his forehead. The boy receives these presents and eats on dried date. The ceremony ends with mutual congratulations.

Amount the Bishnois it is the boy’s it is the boy’s party which takes the initiative  in the betrothal. The party goes to the girl’s house and the members sit on a chadar (sheet) in the courtyard, together with the girl’s  father and his party. The boy’s father gives a rupee and coconut to the girl’s father or  brother who accepts them by touching them with his forehead and then after bowing his head (signifying namaskar), takes them inside his house,  Then they ask each other the names of the boy and the girl. The girl’s father distributes sweets and   the ceremony is complete. The gift  of the  coconut is the essential feature.  Among the Bagri Suthars, each party takes the initiative, if the boy’s party goes to the girl’s house, the members of it go through the same ceremonies as those among the Bishois, whereas  if the girl’s party takes the initiative, the ceremonies are the same as those among the Bagri Jats.

After the formal engagement, the sister or the sister-in-law of the  boy visits the girl’s house and  an hands over the dupatta (headwear) and son’s  ornaments for the girl. This  custom is called chunni jarahna (presenting the headwear). Sometimes after that, the horoscopes of the boy and the  girl are studied and the date of the marriage is fixed.

A day before the date of the marriage, the sangeer(singing) is held, in which the women from among the relatives, friends and neighbours participate. On the day of the marriage, an hour or so before the  marriage-party starts in the evening, the sehra bandhi ceremony is performed. The marriage-party proceeds to the bird’s house with pomp and show. The bridegroom rides a decorated mare at the head of the  party. One reaching the bride’s house, milni (reception) is held. After that, the boy is asked to dismount and the jai mala ceremony is performed. This ceremony consists the bride’s garlanding the bridegroom. Then the dinner follows.

At the fixed auspicious time during the night, phere (circumambulating the holy fire by the bridegroom and the bride) ceremony is performed. In the morning, the bridegroom returns to his house along with bride. Among the Bishnois, the Lord’s blessing are sought through a night long recitation of prayers by the  gayan acharyas. The marriage ceremony amongst the Jains is virtually the same as among the Hindus. Instead of the services of a Brahmin, those of a Jain priest are availed of.

Among the Sikhs, the marriage ceremony is  performed according to the Anand Karaj (literally, the ceremony of bliss) rites in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib. It is now generally done in the morning.

The marriage among the Christians is performed in a church. The relations and friends of both the bride and bridegroom assemble there to greet the couple

 

            The marriage among the Muhammadans is mutual contract and is called nikah. It is also generally an arranged  marriage. After the betrothal takes place, the date of marriage is fixed. The bridegroom gives mehr, which is explicitly the property of the bride. The marriage-party proceeds to the bride’s house. In the case of the Sunnis, the vakil of the bride obtains her  consent in the presence of two withnesses and conveys it to the  vakil of the  bridegroom who sanctifies the marriage. Among the Shias, the consent of the bridegroom is obtained in the first instance.

 

            A civil marriage is performed under the Special Marriage Act, 1954. It takes place when either parent of both the parties disagree to the marriage or in case of a marriage within a sub-caste or between persons belonging to two different communities. This type of marriage is not popular.

Widow re-marriage

            With the spread of education, enlightenment and progressive ideas, widow re-marriage is gradually gaining favour among all classes of the Hindus, Sikhs, etc. especially in the case of a widow of a younger age, without any issue.

            Among the Jats, the kareva or chaderandazi marriage is performed in the following manner: The man puts  a white sheet (chadar) over the widow’s head in the presence of the brotherhood and distributes gur. One corner of this sheet is coloured  red or yellow. This constitutes the ceremony and even this simple ceremony is sometimes  dispensed with and the parties simple ceremony is sometimes dispensed with and the parties simply live together as a couple. Among the Maahtams, the ceremony is the same. Among the Bagri Jats, the widow  re-marriage is known as natha. The widow puts on a red dress (orhna) and a red sealing wax bangle (churi). The putting on of the churi constitutes the re-marriage, as widows do not wear bangles. If anyone other than a relation of the deceased husband is married to the widow he had to pay something to the husband’s family.

            Morals – There is nothing  particular about the standard of morals in the District, as it is the same all over this region. The customary conjugal relations usually prevail. Generally, al persons marry with the exception of those who may be of unsound body or mind, disabled suffering from infectious diseases , extremely poor, or disrupted.

            With the exception of the Muslims, polygamy is practiced only in exceptional circumstances. Polyyandry does not exist. In the past, among the Jats and some lower castes, however, a women might sometimes have been shared among several brothers, though recognized as the wife of only the eldest of them.

            Divorce, as a custom, is confined only to the Muhammadans in accordance with the Muhammadan law. Among the Sikhs, Hindus etc. divorce may be allowed by the court is exceptional circumstances, as provided under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

            Prostitution ended in the State with the passage of the Suppression of Immoral Traffic in  Women and Girls Act, 1956. However, the growing disregard of the traditional cultural values among the people since Independence has resulted in increasing moral laxity. The cases of immoral traffic in women generally escape the notice of the police. Only such  cases are  reported to the police are investigated. The cases of elopement, enticement and  abduction also cannot be properly checked, as these are generally caused by mutual consent.

Birth and Death Ceremonies

            Birth Ceremonies --- Among the Hindus, the birth ceremonies start even before the birth of a child. The ceremony called reet is performed while a women is in  the family way. The expectant mother is greeted by close relations and neighbours. One the sixth night of birth of a male child, the ceremony of chhati rat is held when relations and friends assemble and, in their presence, the priest names the child according to its relations and horoscope. Among the Sikhs, the Guru Granth Sahib is opened at random and the child has to be found a name beginning with first letter of first word of the first passage on the left page. According to the old custom, after child-birth, a woman is considered impure and remains confined to the house during the sutak period, extending up to forty days. The mundan ceremony of a child is performed between the ages of 3 and 5 years. This is generally observed on the Baaisakhi day in April. This ceremony is not observed among the Sikhs who observe the dastar ceremony. ON the birth of a child among the  Christians, a priest is sent for to baptize it.

             Among the Muhammadans at the time of birth, the midwife, is sent for. She applies sugar to the child’s mouth the ceremony being known as gurhti. After an hour, sheep’s milk is given to the child with swab of cotton soaked in it. After the child has been bathed, the imam of the mosque is summoned. He recites the bang or call to prayer into  the child’s ear. The child’s name is then announced. After 11 to 13 days, the mother bathes. After bathing, she changes her dress and leave the birth-chamber (zachch-khanna). Circumcision (khatna) is occasionally performed in infancy, but is generally deferred till the child is 5 to 12 years old.

            The birth of a male child is an occasion for rejoicing among almost all the sections of the people.

            Death Ceremonies --- The Hindus, Sikhs and Jains cremate  their dead. The dead body is bathed, wrapped up in a shroud, is taken to the cremation-ground and put on the pyre. After some religious ceremonies the pyre is lit by the eldest son of the deceased. On the fourth day, called chautha, the ashes and phul (or charred bones) are collected and immersed in the Ganges at Haridwar (Uttar Pradesh).  Among the Sikhs, the ashes are generally immersed in the Satluj at Paltapuri near Kiratpur (District Rupnagar). The  mourning period lasts for thirteen days among the Hindus , e.g., and for ten days among the Sikhs.

            Among the Muslims and Christians, the dead body is buried in a graveyard after performing some ceremonies.

(iii) Home Life

Dwellings --- The dwellings in the urban areas are almost  all pucca and mostly double-storeyed. The newly constructed houses of well-to-do people are mostly of modern designs. The poorer and backward sections of the people generally live in kachcha and partly pucca houses in a corner of the town.

                        The houses in the rural areas are mostly kachcha, but those of the well-to-do farmers are pucca and quite commodious. the present tendency on the part of all high –and low-class people is too build pucca houses, provided they can afford to build them. The houses of the cultivators have arrangements for keeping cattle also.

            According to the 1971 Census, the total number of houses, shop-cum-residences and workshop-cum-residence including household industries enumerated in the rural and urban areas of the District (including those in the Moga and Muktsar tehsils ) are given below :

 

District            Total number of                   Number of                  Number of   

                        houses-enumer-                     workshop-                   shop-cum-resid-

                atede in the census                      -cum-                          dences, in, in-

                                                        residences                    cluding house-

                                                                                        hold industri-

                                                                                        es.

Firozpur District

Total                    3,85,925                          4,210                   4,595

Rural                    3,00,515                          3,665                   3,775

Urban                     85,410                                545                             840

                (Census of India, 1971, Series 17 Pb. Part IV-Housing Report and Tables pp, 60-61)

 

            The utensils used in the urban areas vary from those of brass to those stainless steel, according to the status and income of the people. The same is the case with respect to the items of  crockery. In the rural, areas, right from the earthenware utensils to those of aluminum, brass, copper, bronze, etc. are used. Except well-to-do farmers, the crockery items are generally  confined to some cheap teacups and saucers. Earthen pitches are used invariably in every house for fetching and storing water. The well-to-do people have brass pitchers for storing water.

            Furniture and Decorations --- In the urban areas, the items of furnishing in a house comprise a sofa-set, a dining-table, dining-chairs, teapoys, peerhis, a divan, plangs (bed teads) and, nivari cots, etc. The items to cover the floor are darris and druggets. Decoration pieces are framed pictures, wall-calendars, etc. The items of furniture and decoration vary from house to house, according to the status and income belonging to the urban areas.

            The items of furniture are generally quite simple in the rural areas. There may be nivari cots, moohras with back or without back, peerhis and in some houses one or two chairs along with a small table. The decoration pieces generally include paintings of birds or animals on the interior walls, besides calendars, etc. A radio-set or a transistor is also a common this. The surplus utensils are decorated in a stylish manner and are placed on a wooden mantel in a room in the interior of the house.

 

 

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