The region of jaunsar bhabar in the Dehradun district of Uttarakhand holds an important place apart from the Kedarkhand and the Manaskhand region of Uttarakhand. Jaunsar bhabar is the integral part of the mahasu terai region. The word “jaunsar” is given to the region belonging at the banks of Jamuna ( yamuna). The region of bhabhar is also the witness of the Tons river origin. The region of Jaunsar is not only culturally rich but also has its value in the form of mystical rituals. The region of Mahasu tarai has its parts in both Uttarakhand and Himachal pradesh which in pre-independence era was the part of Saharanpur district but gradually in the 20th century Jaunsar and bhabhar became part of Dehradun district. In the reign of East India company, Mahasu tarai not only had its own bandobast system but also the region was dear to the company because the Jaunsaris helped the British government officials to take over the Gurkhas reign, which were then considered as brutal and violent in war crafts.
Among these facts, Jaunsar was affected by two major cultures during the post Mahabharat period and period of Arrival of four Mahasu brothers. Both of the period have their value in the life of the jaunsari but Jaunsar considers themselves as the ancestors of Pandavas.
Pandavas had a special relation with Jaunsar Bhabhar, as pandavas lived during the exile given by the Kaurva’s eldest brother, Duryodhana.
The shivlingas of Lakhamandal and perfectly cut caves of residences of Pandavas shows that their valid archeological treasures are hidden in the Jaunsar. The people not only pray to the pandavas but also have made the temples of Yudhisthir, Arjuna, Bhim, Nakul and Sehdev. Due to this influence, the Jaunsar not only has the rituals of different festivities based on Mahabharat but also follows the ritual of polyandry i.e woman having multiple husbands. The ritual is inspired from the polyandry of Draupadi with Pandavas. The ceremonies and rituals related to the polyandry in the Jaunsar region is called ‘ Pandav Pratha’.
Well ! if one has to know how women have such liberal rights in a society of India, one must know that the Jaunsari culture is unique in itself which is dominated by women of the Jaunsari society. Many documents support the idea of a jaunsari woman to have power of the men instead of the men in society. The Jaunsaris consider women as the decision-makers as most of the social meetings are governed by the women in jaunsar.
The image of Women in a native Jaunsari family is concerned as the head member. Many of the places in jaunsar, it is considered that, if a woman gets married in a family of four brothers, she is considered as wife of all the brothers. These kind of cultural difference between Garhwali culture and Jaunsari culture is defined on the basis of the area. In fact, the languages of Garhwal and Jaunsar are the vital attributes that distinguish the aspects of the two mandals from JAunsar, hence many a times the demand of declaring the third mandal in the state was demanded.
Pandav paratha or polyandry has been studied in many types of research that showed that this practice prevents the society from the social problem of Divorce, property division and dowry system.
The women dominated Jaunsari marriage system is not implemented by natives now in as there is high influence of modern civilization of Dehradun and Delhi on the cultural implication of these people. But Pandav pratha is the reason that the region is still holding to its culture. Among this cultural diversity in the region of Jaunsar, the question still holds that how a family decides the sharing of the wife in sense of progeny and taking care of the family and kids. Studies have found that the polyandry starts from the elderly brother, which later on leads to other brother according to pattern defined in the culture. Hence, child from any one among the brothers is considered as an asset of the family. The child is taken care of by all the fathers and the child was made to understand the structure of the family.
The women in Jaunsari culture is also seen as one of the bread earners of the family, though ‘Pandav Pratha’ is now endangered and can only been observed in lower caste system of Hindu Jaunsari natives. Child marriage in the jaunsar is still observed in the region. Though the practice is legally banned by the government but the natives still follow the legacy, which shows a society in scene of liberty given to the girl child.
One of the most important power a women is given in Jaunsari culture of Pandav pratha is that, a woman if get widowed, she can marry again upto seven times at most. Many of the natives claims that the polyandry in earlier times was accepted as there was low sex ratio in the region of Jaunsar -bhabhar, hence, it reduced the dependency of the natives to search relations further in the states of Himachal and Uttarakhand. The social factors like child care and economic benefits were also seen as the keen benefits of polyandry. In case if a family has only one son, then only monogamy is applicable in the family.
In the modern society (20th and 21st century) there are only few families that follows this culture, as most of the natives shifted to Dehradun and NCR, the perspective of monogamy seems viable and feasible to them.
Many of the people belonging to these families, said that it’s not a viable culture for new world, as the economic considerations have to be made to make a living. The one whose grandparents followed the ritual of polyandry justified that the culture of ‘pandav pratha’ was exhausting for the women in the family. as , the wife has to take care of all the brothers and health considerations were exploited.
What ever may be the reason for the declination in such eccentric ritual, the modern world could not have made it to survive in the region. These practices of the mahabharata times will always be the part of the history and will always create enthusiasm among the researchers to learn about indian tribes.
A column by Nitin Chandola