Chapter – VI
The present research work has been done on an endogamous group- Dhankut of District Bahraich. This research work is focused on their socio-cultural life. Uptill now maximum groups have been inked on pages by academicians and government officials. But in case of Dhankut, situation is different. They are living in the middle of the city in the locality “Dhankutty Pura”. Local people know them but no literature is available on them. It is all because of their small population (2687) and their living at one place (Dhankutty Pura). They have not attracted the attention of academicians or researchers.
Dhankutty Pura is surrounded by many adjacent communities. Dhankut do not go beyond their living place and form a pocket. The question arises how does a small population regulate its socio-cultural life, when mobility is absent from their living place and how do they maintain their identity? Present research work focuses on these points. Here an attempt has also been made to see whether their socio-cultural institution is culture bound or it has been developed due to their living in a closed pocket. The present study was carried out with the help of participant observation and views of the interviewed respondents. Research reveals following points Dhankut use their own dialect and due to living in one place, it is unaffected by the influence of other communities. The language has its own characteristics. It is spoken in rhythmic way.
Their dress code is not very different from district dress code, but the use of topi (Cap) makes them culture specific.Ornaments used by Dhankut make them different from district people. Lakh bangle is used by married woman and silver bangles are used by widows. The name of earning as Murki and bangles as Khadua make them culture specific because in the district these names are not in use. Here It is known as Jhumki and Kada respectively.
Their name “Dhankut” itself makes them different from other communities of the district because this name is not mentioned in any authentic literature and government records, so peculiarity comes by this name.
Marriage is culture specific among the Dhankut because Gotra system is totally absent among them. Beyond the Dhankutty Pura, no marriage is possible. They follow lineage system of marriage. They are lineage exogamy, this is due to their small population and single living place. Maximum Dhankut feel that marriage is a ritual whereas some feel that it is a religious act or act of God but in contrast to this feeling they are doing cross cousin marriage and parallel cousin marriage as they are living in a single place and they have no other alternative available.
They practice bride price but it is a tribal culture. Mainly they give money and cereal both as bride price. Cash and quantity of cereal vary according to economic condition of the parties. Bride price makes them different from other communities.
The evils of dowry has infiltrated Dhankut culture to some extent. They are being influenced by dowry system because of their poverty, influence of adjacent communities and other circumstances. But still the problem of dowry has not acquired a grave form among Dhankut, since their financial position is very weak, they cannot offer cash as dowry.
Dhankut perform sororate marriage. In this marriage the bride groom gives some lakh bangles to the bride and the marriage is considered to be complete. In the same way levirate marriage is also in existence. Apparently these types of marriages acquire a specific place in their socio-cultural context but in contract to this fact some Dhankut feel that such marriages are in existence due to poverty, as sororate marriage mean less expenses and Levirate marriage too gives economic security to women. Besides these marriages widow marriage is also prevalent among Dhankut. All these marriages are in practice to provide socio-economic security to women.
Marriage ceremony provides a special clue to their socio-cultural life. Dhankut starts their marriage by the settlement of bride price. This is followed by Rangparna ritual. It is the very first ritual of the marriage, when the bride groom side goes to the bride side for marriage. It is for the bride side to decide whether they accept the proposal or not. If they accept, they throw different colours on the face and body of each other. This ceremony establishes that both sides are consenting in every respect.
Lagna is another ceremony same as tilak ceremony of Hindu marriage but it is slightly different. Tilak comes from bride side but lagna comes from bride-groom’s side. Dhankut Bhent ritual gives some clue about their origin. In bow and arrow ceremony bow and arrow is sent to the bride’s home in a bucket with the bridegroom at the time of marriage, if the bride accepts it, it becomes an acceptance of the bridegroom as a husband by her.
In the last decade three inter caste marriages have been noticed among Dhankut. All these three marriages have been contacted with Lodh and Kurmi caste groups. Another noticeable thing is that in all these three cases daughter of Dhankut have been given in other communities.
Panchayat plays an important role in their life specially in marriage disputes separation or divorce (Chhutta-Chhutti). It is found that Panchayat is very much strict about its decision. Dhankut think divorce as a disgraceful act but if situation is unavoidable they go for it. In case Chhutta-Chhutti is not genuine, a separated man and women can’t remarry.
Dhankut mainly constitute nuclear families but extended and joint families are also found to some extent. Family is headed by male and property is inherited from father to son. In case if daughter takes separation from her husband and comes back to her parental home, she gets a share in the parental property. Maximum Dhankut women are not aware of their property rights, they take whatever share is given to them. After marriage son lives in his father’s home but within the six month father asks him to leave and son with his wife leads a nuclear family. Nuclear family system is preferred by maximum Dhankut because of financial crisis. It is very difficult to survive in a joint family with small amount of money, so every one likes a nuclear family. Even after living in nuclear family, they do not want to associate themselves with parental family due to monetary crisis. It may be noticed that due to monetary problem they gave up their tradition of joint family. Those Dhankut who are living in joint family system, have minimum two generation of married couples and share single kitchen.
Their houses are very small and maximum family members share common rooms. They make their food out side the house which acts as kitchen, no separate kitchen is available to most of them. Their houses are so small that maximum houses have no lavatory system. To answer the call of nature they go to far off places sometimes 2km. away from their living place. On the other hand due to financial crisis they can not afford electricity, and their houses have no water supply. Hence they follow natural living. Maximum houses are kachcha and some are mixture of kachcha and cemented both. Kachcha houses are made of mud and cow dung. Every house has one or two rooms without any yard and its front is used as kitchen.
Dhankut enjoy joking relations and avoidance. Joking relation is found between sister-in-law and brother-in-law whereas avoidance is observed between Daughter-in-law and father-in-law and mother in law and son-in-law. Maternal uncle (Mother’s brother) plays an important role in their cultural life. He brings gifts at the time of birth and marriage of son and daughter of his sister. Bua (father’s sister) plays more important role than maternal uncle. She plays an important role as a mediator of marriage and for settlement bride price. Bua helps her brother in marriage settlement if she has an unmarried boy, she prefers to settle his marriage with her niece. Dhankut use almost same kinship terminology as adjacent communities use but they use Dau for Baba (Father’s father) and Dai for Dadi (Father’s mother). They also use Badke Bappa for Tau (father’s elder brother) Chhotke Bappa for chacha (father’s younger brother) and Badki Amma for Tai (father’s elder brother’s wife) and chhotki Amma for chachi (father’s younger brother’s wife).
Since Dhankut have no land and other property, they have personal disputes, mainly, most of them solve their disputes mutually or by the interference of the elderly people but some prefer going to Panchayat when disputes become serious. Every Dhankut obeys Panchayat’s decision. Panchayat plays multifarious role in their lives. If cremation is not possible due to financial crisis in a concerned family, Panchayat provides financial support to the bereaved family. It helps in matrimonial matters also such as in divorce, separation and other marital disputes. Disputes relating to alcoholism are also solved by the Panchayat. Panchayat takes the matter to the civil court when matter is concerned with community and an outsider but an individual can not go to the court without the prior permission of the Panchayat if he goes he may face community boycott. Panchayat bans socio-cultural relation (Hukka-Pani) of the person who goes to the court. Panchayat also imposes penalty for the same. It is clear that Panchayat is an axis of Dhankut, who look towards it for the solution of their problems. Panchayat is a supporting factor of their lives, which gives them protection. So they can not leave it and even the process of acculturation and urbanization couldn’t stop its existence. This institution still survives even though some Dhankut prefer going to the court if they are economically well. Some other factors are also responsible for the existence and influence of the Panchayat. Due to social isolation of Dhankut from the adjacent communities, every problem is solved by the Panchayat. Dhankut are economically poor. They are not in a position to afford the expenditure of judicial court. So they believe in the Panchayat system.
Every family of the Dhankut community finds panchayat near to it at the time of any difficulty. So panchayat provides a moral support in case of any crisis or emergency. It also gives them a feeling of security and stability.
Economy of Dhankut was stemmed by cereal selling which was their traditional occupation. They were engaged in the selling of rice and pulses up to 1970. Rice and pulses were purchased from the nearby villages and these were sold in the city. Horses were used for this purpose. But today it is not so. Villagers don’t want to sell their cereal to Dhankut because they get good money by direct selling and due to acceleration of market system. Dhankut couldn’t maintain their traditional occupation because they are living in urban areas where many cereal shops have come up and are existing. One is able to bring that quantity of cereal from the market which he/she wants. Dhankut used to sell cereal in bulk. Now this occupation has come to an end. This situation has led to multifarious occupations among Dhankut, as Dhankut couldn’t get even shops in market due to financial crisis. Dhankut can be divided into 23 occupational categories such as selling tea, betel, thela pulling (street vendor), numaish (street play), palledari (supervisor of truck load), truck driving, rickshaw pulling etc.
Due to giving up of traditional occupation and switching over to different occupations Dhankut can be divided into different economic strata which has developed. Two clear categories of very poor and poor Dhankut can be noticed.
Sound economy provides a feeling of security and social status. Those Dhankut who are in good economic condition, are looking towards the other communities for social mobility. Economy is also a factor of sanskritization which creates awareness. Socio-cultural change can be noticed regarding marriage, family etc. among rich Dhankut (who get more than Rs. 4000 per month).
Today Dhankut are divided in three main categories namely –
1) Dhankut of service class- these Dhankut use surname Gupta (Tribhuvan Gupta- Railway employee) they want good financial status for marital alliance, but they are not willing to leave the community.
2) Dhankut in agriculture – This class is represented by 09 families.
3) Dhankut in business – Majority of Dhankut belong to this class and they feel neglected among service class and agriculturist Dhankut.
Dhankut believe that good standard of living can be achieved by getting government jobs. Since they are the victims of poverty. They think that government jobs will provide them with fixed salary and other facilities (as Railway pass). They also feel that govt. jobs do not involve any risk and their future will remain secure but they are not getting jobs as their mobility is concentrated only in Dhankutty Pura due to illiteracy and poverty. Lack of reservation in government jobs also works as hindrance to their progress.
As it has already been noticed that traditional occupation of Dhankut was cereal selling but now they have also taken up agriculture as their source of living which makes them land owners also. The size of agricultural land varies from 01 bigha to 07 bigha, where they grow wheat, rice, gram, pulses, etc.
Alchohol is the counter part of their cultural life which is made of mahua and almost every Dhankut male drinks. Women are engaged in the preparation of alchohol to some extent but they are also engaged in other works as in the production of cow dung cake, they sell it to meet house hold expenses. Dhankut have no cattle. So Dhankut women collect cow dung for making cakes in the streets of the city by roaming whole day. Another peculiar characteristic of Dhankut is that they don’t take their wives names. They don’t like them to work outside the houses as servants of others but ironically women are doing these works. It may be noticed that Dhankut women are independent. They are working and supporting their families.
Children are the future of any country and education is the means to develop the personality of a child but Dhankut children are receiving education for getting mid day meal in their primary school. Though child labour is prohibited but among Dhankut it is in practice. Dhankut children sell eatables in the streets of the city to meet house hold expenses.
Since Dhankut are concentrated in one place, they are leading a very difficult life in the absence of proper economy but the irony is that can’t go for other works due to financial crisis. It may be said that they are poor because they are poor. It is a vicious circle.
Dhankut lead a specific socio-cultural life which is creating many health problems due to small houses, absence of sanitary system and inbreeding. They believe in quacks/ojha. They don’t want to go to hospital. The influence of quacks/ojha is due to their poor economy mainly. Inbreeding is caused by their socio-cultural pattern but they are practicing it without knowing its repercussions.
They have full faith in God. So they see every adverse situation as the will of God but normally they feel that illiteracy, poverty and lack of awareness are main causes of their poor health. For Dhankut also, God exists and it fulfils every desire. Their traditional God is Gullabeer. Gullabeer is a sacred place, 3km. away from their living place. This place has an important role in the life of the Dahnkut. Every work starts in their life from the worship of Gullabeer and ends with the worship of the Gullabeer. Due to the process of acculturation Dhankut have started worshipping of God Ram, Krishna, Vishnu, Shiva and Goddess Durga (Shakti).
Dhankut have full faith in “Ram Charit Manas” a holy religious text of Hindus and this book can be seen in every family. Keeping fast is also a recent change among Dhankut. It is all due to process of acculturation.
Dhankut celebrates birth ceremony. Khadua (It is a type of Bangles made of silver) is brought by maternal uncle on the birth of a child.
Kan chheden (Ear piercing) is most important ritual among Dhankut. It is performed on the very first “Makar Sankranti (a festival usually celebrated on 14th January every year) after the birth of child. After this ritual the child wears a ring in the ear, which is known as “Murki”.
Mundan (Hair cutting ritual) – It is performed at the age of three or five years at the holy place of Gullabeer. A biradari bhoj (community feast) is given according to the economic capacity of the family.
Death ceremony among Dhankut is also peculiar. Dhankut women go to the cremation ground along with dead body (in the city other community women don’t do so). They observe Daswan instead of Terhvi.
Social-Change is a natural process. Dhankut have gone through many social changes for their survival even when they are living at one place with a small population.
Every group has its own culture, but culture, itself has its limit. Beyond that a culture can’t retain a groups identity as in case of Dhankut. Traditionally Dhankut were known for their cereal selling business but due to their setup in urban areas they couldn’t retain that practice and now they have adopted different categories of occupations for their existence.
Everyone wants to survive and remain alive, if culture is unable to provide that situation a group searches for another alternative. Incase of Dhankut, their marriage procedure is same till today but it was noticed in the interview data that due to living at single place with small population, they started practicing cross cousin and parallel cousin marriages. To retain their community identity and smooth existence they started practicing widow, levirate and sororate marriages.
Every individual wants a smooth survival. In case of Dhankut they adopted micro type of family i.e. nuclear family to cope with circumstances. Since they are poor and have meagre resources. They can not afford joint families.
Economy plays a vital role in retaining socio-cultural group, as in case of Dhankut, Panchayat is still in existence due to insufficiency of money. The lack of money also keeps them away from modern day facilities as the use of medicine and going to the hospital. They go to quacks or ojhas instead of hospital due to their poor economic condition. If socio-cultural traits are not fulfilling its group requirement, it sees other alternatives as in case of Dhankut, who are living in urban area at single place with small population without any survival trait, they take knowledge from the outer world for their survival. Dhankut find that education, reservation and financial support by government are very important parameters which can uplift their position in society. They find the lack of these traits in their backwardness and demand for these.
If a group finds that it is inferior or neglected in the vision of adjacent communities, it starts adopting higher caste groups tradition, (Sanskritisation) Dhankut are no exception. They are accepting the surname “Gupta” to declare themselves as vaish. Initially they used to have names like Maila, Mailee, Ghure etc. due to process of acculturation and not because of Islamization they adopted the names like Suleman, Husain, Gulam etc. and presently they are having names like Ram Shyam Geeta in order to so their vicinity with higher caste groups. They are worshiping Hindu Gods and Goddesses. They also keep fast as a Hindu does and visit temple. Under the influence of Hindu community they have given up Pai-Puja ritual and have adopted Tilak ceremony in marriages.
Dhankut think that adjacent communities are progressive and developed because they are educated. So they have also started sending their children to school but it is affected by economy again. Children mostly come to school to take cereals the day, it is distributed or to collect mid day meal and not in the pursuit of education. Due to poor economy they have to work to help their families which they think is more important than receiving education.
Upto 1970, members of other communities used to file their name for the election of membership of the Nagar Palika (Municipality) ward Dhankutty Pura and got elected but after 1990 when Nagar Palika election reopened, Dhankut fielded their own candidate and succeeded too. Presently Lado is ward member of Nagar Palika (Dhankutty Pura). It shows that political change has come amongst Dhankut and now they are availing their democratic rights.
Dhankut are living at single place with small population. They want to regulate their life with their own socio-cultural parameters but they have also developed many new socio-cultural traits for their smooth survival. Social mobility is must for the survival of a group which is not very much visible in case of Dhankut.
Dhankut is a good example to study the socio-cultural aspect of a group which is living in a single place. It helps in understanding how a particular group retains its identity and survives even in adverse circumstances.
The origin and link of Dhankut with other communities should be investigated which will help to maintain social mobility.
Marriage ceremony observed in Dhankut should also be researched separately because the use of lakh bangles, Bhent ritual etc. can disclose the origin of Dhankut.
Besides, the government should provide educational and financial assistance to Dhankut to help their survival and for this reservation may be made in educational institutions and government jobs. The government should make sincere efforts in this regard so that a group with its unique characteristics may not become extinct.