I attended the “courtship” fair in a village that was about 60 km from Udaipur.
After an enjoyable bus ride in the state transport bus with villagers I got off the bus to be instantly blinded by the gorgeous colors of the the veils and turbans.
(Large Hi-res images available on jainamishra.com)
Note the large silver jewelry, the gold noserings and the tunics that many of the women are seen wearing. These are the signature elements of this tribe.
Note also that many of the women are dressed in bridal accessories.
On my first day in Udaipur, after a visit to the museum I got talking to the office bearers. The conversation was long and relaxed – as I chatted about random subjects with the group consisting of the ticketing lady, a contractor who was visiting, an office clerk and the watchman. These people had lived here all their lives and were steeped in local knowledge. The contractor built roads in the villages around so he knew the rural areas well; the watchman hailed from one of the villages and the lady clerk – just by virtue of being a woman just knew everything there was to know – through the countless conversations she must have had throughout her life ((like all women )
Soon enough from random topics we had narrowed down the subject to the ‘tribes’ that live in the area.
And together they told me about the very interesting Garasia traditions.
But before I present the summary of my in-depth conversation a preface:
The Garasia Tribe of Rajasthan follows a convention of life partnerships that is totally different from the common conventions seen in larger tribes or community.
They live only within their own tribe and the question of allowing an outsider to participate in their lives simply does not arise – and such an intrusion might invite the wrath of the tribe.
Because this tribe is small and limited in geography, most people have not heard of this model of living within themselves.
So it is likely that the reader will find their ideas strange.
But then, the Garasias too would find the ideas of a larger community such Buddhists or Christians or Hindus or Muslims – equally strange.
If we all were to just accept that just as elephants, lions and rabbits and ants all have different community living models so also do our human communities, there would be no sentiments of shocked moralities or unfounded superiority.
We all just have to accept that everyone is right – no one is wrong.
A summary of the conversation:
They said that the ‘key club’ of Ahmedabad is an idea borrowed from the Garasias – in which keys were replaced by cholis. This is before the girl commits herself to any man.
They said that Garasia girls and boys are free to choose their own partners from their teenage years.
The entire community meets up at a fair such as the one I attended, and during that 2 day fair, courtship is followed by an commitment between the boy and the girl to become partners.
They then begin living together – by eloping (for want of a better word). When the father of the girl discovers this, he arrives at the boy’s home along with his tribemates for a confrontation tradition. The result is the payment of the bride price to the father – after which the couple is free to live happily ever after.
Now a few years of family life later, the man or the woman might take a fancy to a different partner at another village fair. This is followed by a new partnership, a new elopement and a repeat of the confrontation tradition. Only this time, it is the first partner who demands the bride price from the new partner.
This bride price is higher than the price paid previously, as the ex-partner has to recover not only the price paid to the father but also the cost of living incurred on account of the woman.
In this way, each tribesperson has 5-8 partners over a lifetime with the bride price increasing with every subsequent partnership.The older the woman, the higher her bride price.
I say ‘partnership’ because a legal ‘marriage’ is not a requirement of their community.
However since the tribe must follow the ‘law of the land’, every now and then the government organises a mass wedding ceremony in which scores of couples get married. This ceremony naturally, does not mean the same things that it means to a urban girl from a cosmopolitan city.
Children born of any partnership are raised by the women and are considered an asset.
The traditions seem to have an underlying belief that genetic mixing is good for the tribe. Principles that formal eugenics professors might recommend have already been in place for centuries within this tribe.
For me these interactions were just a first step in understanding these people. I hope to understand their complete life model someday.
Also, this group would make an interesting subject for understanding deep ancestry and genetic migrations!