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ISSN: 0974-892X


July, 2013



Bijender Singh

Far From the Maddening Crowd: Krishan Nath in Kinnar Dharmalok

From the day one human being has travelled for:  food, to escape predators, identity, authority, pleasure, business, teaching and learning etc. World, we live in today, is because of travels undertaken by various people for a variety of reasons. World has been shaped by great travelers like Charles Darwin, Columbus, Vasco-da-Gama, Mahavir Jain, Mahatma Buddha, Ramanand, Chaitanya, Maharshi Dayanand, Guru Nanak, Sant Kabir, Christians and Jews and many others. Thus progress altered the world in every sphere of life; geography, sciences, religion, society.

India is a country of travellers: religious, social, political, economical, geographers, teachers and learners. And one among such is Krishan Nath- a thinker, writer, meditator, a wanderer, social activist, editor, writer and a professor from Kashi Vidhyapeeth Baneras- who travelled Himalaya and wrote ‘Spiti me Barish’ and ‘Kinnar Dharamlok’. Kinnar Dharamlok is a travelogue containing his travel to Kinnaur in 1976. Prior to this travel, travelers-Rahul Sankritayan, Dr. Banshiram Sharma, Former Headmaster Sanwal, and Dr. Dharam Dev shastri who had travelled the same District- had greatly affected mind and psyche of this traveler.

To understand the core of this region and residents, the religion is an urgency. The impact of Hindu and Buddhist ideology is all pervasive.  Every village has its own –Devi-Devta ‘who (Kinnauri gods/goddesses) have all the weakness that are of humanistic (Sanskritayan 239)’ and other Hindu gods/goddess besides the Buddhist. Kinnars, unbiased, worship all god-goddesses that fulfil their desires and help them irrespective of their sect. In exchange of help and desire fulfilment, kinnauri devtas demand human/goats offering. The Buddhist lamas-devta, lamas earlier, never demand human or animal offerings for Buddhism strongly advocates non-violence. Thus this does not matter who they worship- ‘devta, Gonpa, temple, office wherefrom they get the dosage for living the life they get (Krishannath 150).’ Sporadically, either Gonpa or Devta is stronger than the other in every village.

Celebrations of devtas or goddesses are the festivities mean to eating and drinking. The non-Buddhist god/goddess demands offerings and kinnauris compliance to are proofs of superstition and ignorance. The devta of Pangi (Paangi) ‘doesn’t accept offering. According to headmaster Negi- resident of Pangi- offering is off for last thirty-forty years that certifies its continuation till the last of the nineteenth century and later too. Immense offerings affected tremendously Dr Fob Sleen in 1925, having travelled Kinnaur, who wrote  ‘seeing this canto you will come to know that the religious madness had deeply affected these uncivilized. And remember that a couple of decades ago the same sword slain human sons.....sixty-seventy torsos were struggling lying on ground. Blood scent was anaesthetizing (Sanskritayan 280).’ If offerings are not made that is because of the deep impression of Buddhist religion in kinnaur.

Earlier they ‘sacrified khaddu. Khaddu is name of husband of sheep. That was offered. Earlier it costs 20-25, now costs 250-300. Where you get? Thus offering stopped. Negotiate with pudding of mixed coconut. Offering in Kothi is still on (Krishannath 54).’ Thus the poverty, not the sensibility of people, is the reason of ending of offerings along with the Buddhist impact. And people are so engrossed in superstition that they not only terrified of these in dreams and dark but in real and awaken. As ‘there a witch visits him (a boy) in night. Asks for fruition.  Not in dreams. Came really. troubled. This boy was fed up... Ran behind the string. Saw, witch entered in half-burnt bone. On being known that bone was kindled. Then witch cooled (Ibid 34).’ Such is the ignorance of people because lack of education and resources is their definite lot.

As such uneducated and ignorant people are easy prey of other evils and addictions- bell (Ghanti) is one such. Kinnaur, being a land of fertility and fruits people brew easily. ‘The bell is a tremendous evil. This is country liquor. Earlier, made of fruits. Made of grape-catamite. Now make of jaggery, corn. Drink self. Earn. Employees drink generally. Men of platoon drink. In evening, at Pooh all smells. In morning too eyes redden (Ibid 128).’  This picks the youngsters too very soon in unrestricted festivities that results in numerous deaths in valley of drunkards who unable to control their head that struck against the stones make the fathered-orphans, well wed- widow.

Coute que coute, conservative and un-informed they are yet they live their lives. Deprivation of frivolity and connectivity with the world they unprejudiced of sex are quite open. It is only the festivity they make merry where women are actively engaged in foot to foot. Freedom and openness is gift of culture that allows them to talk and walk hand-in-hand as Krishan Nath describes the case of Tapri ‘on roadside milestone teenagers (male-female) are sitting adjoining. Observing the Satluj flow.  Beautiful. No make-up. No hide-and-seek. Sometimes they coo. As sparrows. Mostly remain silent. Still chat. Remain as they are…. That couple is returning arms-in-arms. Very happy. Indolent intoxicated walking. No hesitation...But these both walk. Stop. Walk. Comfortable. (Ibid 17-18).’  Tapir a representative of kinnaur lays bare the psyche of the people. Instead of restriction parents free their young to do what they like-eating, drinking, love-affairs etc. ‘Even in relation to girls-boys they don’t interrupt. These are free from all the way. For boy a girl, for girl a boy is everything. Now is lack of freedom. Perhaps it is the effect of bottom (Ibid 129)’. Thus women enjoy a better social status in these areas than in most places in India. They can divorce, re-marry, bear children out of wedlock just the cost of only mild social disapproval and, generally, hold their head higher than conventional Hindu Society would allow. Their frank, easy manners and ability to converse freely, even with the perfect stranger, is a proof of the liberal atmosphere they live in (Sunan, Swadi 52).

Popular in lower and middle Kinnaur- Phag, Bishu, Dakhraini and Ukiang while in upper Kinnaur Spiti, Losar, Dachang or Ropko and Namgan are widely celebrated festivals.  Unrestricted life and mentality can be seen in participation during festivals i.e. dance at temples and fairs for devtas and farming-seasonal festivals where they  make merry naive, unconscious of the sex,  intoxicated, drunken, in love they dance all toddlers-teen and young-old. This freedom or modernity allows them  to play sexual farce which is not a taboo, as Krishan Nath observes ‘with indecent singing and in twos playing the farce of sexual demo men proceeds towards women turn-wise (90)’ are taken without any inhibition. As proof, in Pangi at Dakhren dance is like

Up off in corner of a temple they contained in a triangular ground. Arms-in arms. Intertwined...They are dancing. With rhythm and sometimes without rhythm. Not quite children. Not old. Teenagers of lining rising generation. Young men-women. Grown-up men-women. Mostly teenagers, young males-females. Some old amative....
all day-night, have been dancing. Has been gesturing. Again came down. But not seems tired anyway...arms-in arms, one step forward, one step backward, leaning a bit forward, a bit backward. Searching anyone through core of eyes. Yet feet are dancing. Singing. Swaying....

At the end of queues is one amative. In traditional kinnauri dress. Trouser, tube, coloured wasteband, kinnauri cap, white flower therein and sweep-squelch are the sign of spending a night up. He is the leader of dance. Then are only men...when men exhausted then are elder women arms-in-arm with them. Some on the current rhythm are dancing. Some are dancing in memories. Some of them tempted. Then newly-wed. Oscillation. Suppleness. Swollen. On cheeks reflection of colour of half-ripen apples of kinnaur. From arms in arms of kinnariyan (kinnauri) is running as male-touch. Back in arms of arms, for male is running female-touch. Delighted. Core of eyes blushed. Seeing hither-thither. Towards sky. Everything appears to them new between earth and sky. Song as singing no one. In rising and falling seems sung itself. Taken out of kinner-throat.....

Aroud the queues is bantering. As no sense of male-female. Or sense is but no difference... one teen of these comes intoxicated. As no rings  tied aroud anklet but wings. She in courtyard of temple runs as flying. Bumps a boy. With eyes calls one....outside is a fair. Here are only male-female. Bent of velocity they are upright. And some are making sound and gestures, acting that one can call it vulgar. Don’t know what is decent? What is vulgar? This is fair. It if festivity. Female is the ground of festivity for male. Male if ground of festivity for female. (Ibid 78-83)

But this is blurred picture as this freedom is highly costly for women who are allowed to take part equally because only during festive men contribute cent per cent with fair sex. Otherwise women shoulder the entire burden of work in house and field, performing every task, barring the ploughing the traditional rite of fertility (Sunan and Swadi 52). Without confusion Krishan Nath succeeds to depict the real situation of Kinnari though they dance merrily. Of course they are uncondemnable. Kinnari throat. Their voice is so melodious that men turned in stone having listened but their life and lot is not as melodious. Married women are beaten with (out) reason as Krishan Nath sees  the cruel patriarchy in Reckong peo   for the smallest reason as the gratification of sexual desires as the successful marriage is one where the couple has sex regularly, though not with each other (HT, September 19, 2010).

A man is beating a woman with shoe. She was crying. Man is drunken. Has turned as an animal. Stops to see me.  I scolds him. Why do you beat a woman? He says, not beat? We have paid for her skin and this (women)... doesn’t come near me. Not even in night. keeps lover somewhere else. Should I not beat? (Krishan Nath 34)

This frustration is because of sex and sex is denied here regularly for the certain reasons as Draupadism dominates this region as a result of Pandavs living for twelve years during their exile. They worked in night and disappeared in day as in the Kothi temple ‘Pandavs constructed pool an overnight. This temple and pool is made an overnight. Incomplete. This is the story of Pandavs all the way. Kunti, five Pandavs, Draupadi. Pandavs create in night (Ibid 33) besides Moorang fort and a one memory-temple in Rohtang-la where Draupadi had decomposed. These constructions and the traces reminds the presence of Pandavas and Draupadism that has proved toll for women because of Draupadism which is still alive as

Old clerk Dharmananda has kept three wives. He is let free to roam drunken. All work have been handled by women... all brothers have common wife that may be more than one. Had Dharmananda had brothers they also had included in all three. Not to say, how useful women are for house-farming. This is not only in Bushahar but in whole hill (Sanskritayan: 57).

In this district there are approximately 92.05% brothers those have a single common wife, while in only 6.82% cases are of single wife (Raha & Commar, 1987, pp. 151). The cause of perpetuation of polyandry or polygamy is not unequal sex ratio   but the limited resources except farming. Polyandry was, in fact, directly encouraged by the state through penalties exacted on the land partition (Mamgain 94) that forced the people in polyandry that had its own cons while some scholars say this institution more often occurs in societies in which women hold relatively high social status and the single versus multiple mating might have its own positive and negative bang (Bybee, Linda, Miller, Jocelyn, Paine, Timothy, Campbell & Kathleen et al. 2005).  But here women entangled in a web of liabilities that caused them suffer more as they had to keep a schedule for the brothers for bedding and circumstantially most of the time it was only one brother out of three or four at home- others being on trade/ flock mission that it continued. Further Polyandry is generally instituted in areas where difficult physical environments or high populations impose extreme pressures on agricultural systems (Segraves 1980).  And Kinnaur being the remotest of Himachal Pradesh most of the tribals in the very district are fraternally polyandrous, where sharing of one wife is common among real brothers (Raha & Coomar 1988). Thus it was painful but feasible to maintain and practice the system. polyandrous lady is only the women in the family to manage the work at home, in field and children, cattle such as cow, bull, sheep, goats, horses, donkeys as well as to carry their animal waste. They also have to copes with some psychological problems related to their husband, to manage their entry and timing to maintain sexual relationship, suspicious nature of husbands, equal love and affection for husbands, fear of leaving/ breaking the relationship, and equality between all the children’s, make her extra efforts’ to avoid family disputes and make trustworthy relation (Zinta and Negi 2011). The district had witnessed bonded labour-  who were almost Dalits and poor women-that ended with effort of Styanand Stock who led a tremendous movement otherwise they were required to carry the load up and down the hills. Further since all women work very hard and form constant exposure to the strain of physical work and weather, soon look much older in appearance than the men. They do all laborious work, such as carrying loads, weeding and harvesting the crops, carrying water, cooking food etc. In fact, in agriculture operations they do all the work except ploughing. Conversely, they have no right to property, even legally, as the Hindu Succession Act of 1956 is not applicable in Kinnaur. The right of transfer of property does not exist in this tribal area (Bajpai 23-24).

In polyandrous marriage, the eldest brother is recognized as the social father of all children (Raha & Coomar, 158). The ego of my- wife, son and husband-   turns the rest in Buddhist monks/nuns. These polyandry victims-turned-nuns are also not free of the burden but triply burdened as seen in Kanam where ‘nuns are very hard-working alike general Kinnari, handle domestic agriculture. Where can be found so cheap maids only for food working till death (Sanskritayan 167)’ while men does not work much there. During qualitative studies observation made on such people again pinpoints that such fraternal types of marriage are also proving as a resource to restore their assets, dignity as well as to check population explosion on the one hand as well as also causing physical, social and psychological problem among them on the other (Zinta and Negi 2011).  Furthermore both male and female suffer from venereal diseases because of the establishment of Cantonment Boards. These Cantonments speeded out emphatically venereal diseases. Today around the Cantonments almost seventy percent male-female are venereal-disease ridden (Sanskritayan, Ghummakad Shashtra 64). Due to Stragury one village near Shimla was near decimation and syphilis has also taken shape near cantonments.  Incontrovertibly, this pains the people as researchers report that polyandry inflicts deep psychological pain and abuse as compared to their counterpart. The scheduled castes and the females from both the caste and both types of marriage-polyandry and polygamy report more physical and psychological abuse and distress compared to other group (Zinta and Negi 2011).

But now the massive road, building projects, district administration offices and their several agencies provide people with employment at the doorsteps. Thus they find job in the same city that has become the source of quarrel among them making the life of the lady of the house miserable. Exultingly the polyandry is gradually on its way out (Bajpai 25). In the contemporary scenario this graph has decreased and now level of education and modernity has affected this convention and youths now prefer to bond in monogamous relationship. But monogamous marriage divides home and farms causing population explosion and problems. Thus to maintain all this polyandry and polygamy is the culture of Kinnaur. One should learn from Gandhi’s success mantra, who emphasized, that “societies here will become civilized only when men imbibe some of positive famine qualities”, such as nurturing and revulsion towards violence. Polyandry cannot be understood without an adequate comprehension of custom of Reet. The Reet permits a woman to secure release from one set of husbands to many other. This custom ensures that each set of brothers would get, for some time at least, a common wife although there is no guarantee that she would stay with them permanently. Thus, the custom of Reet extends the extent of sharing of scarce women by the larger group (Ramu 1977).  The Reet permits the movement of women from one set of brothers to another in the course of her several marital unions after customary divorce. In a society which regards women as a chattel‐ a commodity to be bought and sold, the practice of Reet permits her release from inhospitable domestic environments to demonstrate her value (Majumdar 1955a). But this Reet- a custom propagated by the chauvinists who had practiced polyandry- is too more cruel, inhuman and unfeminine to throw a women in same or rather worse pit to be raped  and exploited repeatedly than a release for them. Thus Reet is not a release but a cyclic array of polyandry.

Moreover girls are married and sold, say Sanskritayan, in money depending on the people they were married/sold to on rupees fifty in Kinnaur and one hundred at plain ( Kinnar desh  145). Paradoxically the utter poverty and beauty of kinnari causes trafficking that was prevalent in 1815 that testifies the statement as women of Bushahar being more beautiful. In market is great demand of maids of this city. Here the maid that is bought in eight-ten and twenty- twenty five that is sold in one hundred fifty and two hundreds (Frazer).

Of course under influence of Buddhist Lamas that prohibit untouchability,  Kinnaur is not untouched of it. Kinnaur has a distinct social structure that combines the elements of tribe- racial and ethnic, as well as of Hindu Caste system (Bhandari 288). Resulting,  People in high caste group ( Khosla or kanet Rajput, comprise 63 percent of total population)  and low caste group which includes Badhai ( Carpenter), Domang ( Balck smith, Gold smith and Silver smith)  Chamang ( Weavers Shoe-makers and tailors)....These groups of  low and high coincide with scheduled tribe and scheduled caste respectively (Sen 528). Thus Carpenter and Chamang-Domang are at the lowest rung of social hierarchy. Though all the communities are scheduled in Indian Constitution but the practice much owes to the resources and power position. The Negi deprived of power and money is no better than the Koli and those Koli who somehow entered the position are no less than the Negis. Krishan Nath here does not miss to convey attitude of Negis towards Domang in Rickaung where Negi- who does good is Negi (to respectful word as Rao Saheb or Babu Saheb)- says they are Domang. Man-woman. Drunken. Do all this. What can we do (Krishan Nath 34)?  All the menial jobs and help are accomplished by these low people. They weave but wear rags, they cobbles but bare feet, grow but emaciated.

Consecutively the underprivileged have turned conscious of repeated occurrence of this evil for they behave as they are desired. They themselves keep a distance of touch mania as in Tapri the Chokidar was kanet (Rajput), so Koli (low caste) having taken the firecoal from far off started smoking pipe separately (Sankrityan: 40). Firstly they are not allowed to enter in temple be it Tabo or Pangi, if they are, they cannot enter the sanctum of the temple, touch the god  and contrary to it in Dakhren  are even separate platform for offerings for untouchables and touchable consequential low caste do not go to temple as in Reckong krishan Nath talks to Mooldas- Chokidar of Rest House

Didn’t go fair?
I don’t go. Not from childhood.          
I am harijan. They are other. I am other.
Some have gone. Some not.
Mooldas is Domang by caste. By occupation weaver...these are in rags. They are in erotics....
I? I am ‘sweeper’.
Then what?
Would you eat of my hand?
No, I am Dwang. Harijan. You came from Baneras.
I will eat more. You cook bread-vegetables....(86)
Guard Negi comes---- he scolds Mooldas. Brings getting the supper cooked           himself. (Krishannath 84-87)

Obviously Kinnauri are as untoward to the social problems that seems justified to them as the stone that is ‘not in between of peak but seemed (seen through binocular) a eight-ten feet slab vertically crossed outwardly (Sanskrityan 50)’ yet it is Shiva-Linga to them. Thus they are blind societal infection.

The trade-commerce besides the farming also continued between Kinnaur and Tibet but now it is not for various reasons. As krishan Nath offers as

The old world of finances was dependent on Bharat-Tibet business. That business is put down the lid. The basis of that world too slipped away. The basics of new world are- one, agriculture; two, Bharat-Tibbet border road; three, the work of Public Works Department and four, platoon and employees.
Farming somewhat all do. Here they call it jamindari. Somewhat land too all possess.....
Still they do business up-down. As purchased a male-goat in 250 and sold in 300 down. (128)

Of course women are lost creature socially and economically but even male folk of deprived section is out of picture of trade-commerce thus the under-privileged suffers more as these people signifies the value of currency.  Negi understand the currency value of accumulation besides sale-purchase and measurement but what of the others who are forced or left to die in penury i.e. Koli, Carpenter, and Chawang and Dwang. Accumulation is incapability of low caste cause may be any poverty, ignorance or currency only hand to mouth. But Chawang-Dwang they exercise currency only mean of sale-purchase... No flour is in home. Wife is sad. And the stove is cold (Ibid 128-29). This is the reality of Kinnaur in post-colonial era that the living standard and condition of people around are unsuitable.

Political freedom is no more a relief for the folk anyway. This freedom has troubled the life of people there as on question of freedom Pradhan of Peo Sh. Negi says----- after independence they are upset. Became turbulent. Ealier they were quiet. Now they are prey of haste life. Earlier they never locked. No theft. But now it occurs (Ibid 109). For the various reasons people are now affected by the plain as they are getting in jobs thus they have engaged in monogamous marriages, brides now associates husband wherever he stays,  though connected to the state and world but in exchange of the ready-made material, money, merits and puberty goes downwards. Independent India is inefficient to school Each and every village.  For teachers are not paid fully and full time but part-time partially. The medium of instruction is not the mother tongue therefore kids have to stay away from school. But is it possible with education the eradication of evils and emancipation of the people as such in Kinnaur?

To conclude hard life of Kinnaur has contained so many evils as superstition, religion, heart rending situation of women and Dalits, bell (Ghanti), polyandry, polygamy, connectivity to the state and world, spoiled childhood etc that seem never cease without proper education. Modernisation, globalisation education has turned to be unforeseen as causing more problem than the relief as polyandry to monogamy, unpopulated to populated, undivided to divided property, healthy life to venereal disease, slipping of the puberty and resources, eco-problems etc. Thus the evils have masked anew but remained the same. 


Kinnaur is one of twelve administrative districts in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. The district is divided into three administrative areas – Pooh, Kalpa, and Nichar and has five tehsils. The administrative headquarter of Kinnaur district is at Reckong Peo. From here Sangla valley and district headquarters Recong Peo, Kalpa, Kinnaur Kailash, considered to be the abode of Lord Shiva, can be viewed

Is a god that speaks and acts in impersonage

Pangi is a Village in Kalpa Mandal , Kinnaur District , Himachal Pradesh State . Pangi is located 5.1 km distance from its Mandal Main Town Kalpa . Pangi is 8.7 km far from its District Main City Reckong Peo.

  Drunken people swing like a pendulum therefore the liquor is called bell (Gahanti)

Tapri is village in Nichar tehsil and Kinnaur district       

Reckong Peo is a Town in Reckong Peo Mandal in Kinnaur District in Himachal Pradesh State which is main town for the Reckong Peo Mandal .

Polyandry- having more than one husband like Draupadi.

Kothi is one of the Village in Kalpa Mandal in Kinnaur District in Himachal Pradesh State which is located 2.7 Kms. away from its main town Kalpa.

The stones that used in pool prove that these were not in control of others except Bhima. Pandava’s twelve years of exile had passed only in Kinnaur, therefore, Kinnaur is mine of Draupadies. 

The male female ratio in Kinnaur is as equal as in other parts of India.


Work Cited


Bajpai, Shiv Chandra. Kinnaur in the Himalayas: Mythology to Modernity. New Delhi: Concept, 1981. Print.

Bhandari, Niranjna. “ Changing Status of Women in Kinnaur: An Appraisal of Women-Centred Approach.”  Ethnic Rural And Gender Issues In Contemporary North-West. Ed. S.L Sharma, S. K Sharma and Jayaram Panda. New Delhi: Anamika, 2005. Print.

Bybee, Linda, Millar, Jocelyn, Paine, Timothy , Campbell, Kathleen et al, (2005). Effects of single versus multiple mates: monogamy result in increased fecundity for the beetle phoracantha semipunctata. Department of Entomology, University of California, Riverside, CA. Journal of Insect Behavior, 18(4), 513‐527.

Fraser, James Bellie. The Himala Mountain. Lomabon: 1820. Qtd. In  Sanskritayan, Rahul. Kinner Desh Mein. Latest ed. Allahabad: Kitab Mahal, 2012. Print.

Majumdar, D.N. (1955a). Family and marriage in a polyandrous society. The Eastern Anthropologist, 8, 85‐110.

Mamgain, M.D. (Ed). District Gazetteer of Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh. Shimla, 1971. Print.

Krishannath. Kinnar Dharmalok: Kinnaur mein Dharma and Jeevan. Bikaner: Vagdevi, 1999. Print.

Raha, M.K. & Coomar, P.C. (Eds) (1988). The Kinnaur polyandry and the allocation of paternity. Man and Life, 14 (2&4).

Ramu, G. N. (1977). Family and caste in urban India: A case study. New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House Pvt. Ltd.

Sanskritayan, Rahul. Kinner Desh Mein. 1948. Allahabad: Kitab Mahal, 2012. Print.

_________________ Ghumakkar Shashtra. 1948. Allahabad: Kitab Mahal, 2011. Print.

Segraves R. T (1980). Marriage and mental health. J Sex Marital Ther. Fall, 6(3):187‐98.

Sen, Biswajit. ‘Caste, Class and Leadership in Himalayan District’. The Tribal Situation in India. Ed. K. S. Singh. Shimla: IIAS. Print.

Sunan, Deepak and Dhanu Swadi. Exploring Kinnaur in the Trans-Himalaya. 1998. New Delhi: Indus, 2002. Print.

Wyse, L. (2010). Make friends, live longer. Hindustan Times, September 23, 2010. Chandigarh: HT Press.

Zinta, Roshan Lal and Sunder Kala Negi. ‘To Compare the Polyandrous and Monogamous Socially Disadvantaged People of Kinnaur District on Various Parameter of Psychological Wellbeing.’  Himachal Pradesh University Journal, July 2011: 1-18. Print.