Unlike the major community marriage tradition in Jammu and Kashmir, the Gujjar community has, slightly, retained their own identity and has not let other trends affect their way of living, albeit.
A study conducted by Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation – a frontal organisation of community – reveals that 88% nomad Gujjars-Bakarwals of Jammu and Kashmir spend only up to Rs 50 thousand on a marriage ceremony.
“In this budget they organise all social rituals and host 3 dinners or lunch for relatives and friends on the occasion of – Teel, Nehari and Meeal – the main rites of tribal marriage,” the study said.
The other 12% nomads spend up to Rs 1 Lakh on a wedding and they call it as a Bado Biya – the Grand Marriage.
Dr Javaid Rahi, Secretary Tribal Foundation while releasing the jist of the study stated that total 100 nomads comprising of Banhara and Bakarwal – Gujjar families residing in different parts of the state were sampled and prepared a data which is ‘highly surprising’ in many ways.
“The study reveals in Rs 50, 000 marriage budget, they spend Rs 10 thousands each to purchase new cloths, foot-wear and ornaments / jewellery mainly made of Silver or Gold,” he said.
He added that they arrange 3 dinners for Rs 30, 000. “Banhara Gujjars cook rice and serve the same with Ghee and Shakar (A type of Sugar) while other families cook a light non-veg,” the study said.
The study further reveals that the family of bride gives her a dowry of Rs 5000.00 including a Box, Light Bedding, a few kitchen utensils and other essentials of tribal migrations.
“They fix just Rs 5000 to Rs 10000 as Mehar – which is a religious binding – and give gifts to brides like buffalos, cows, sheep, goats or a camel on her entry to groom’s house,” reveals the study, Javaid said.
The Schedule Tribe Gujjars constitute 20% of 125 Lakh population of the State and around 40% of Gujjars-Bakarwals are practising nomads or semi nomads, he informed.
Dr Javaid claimed that 78 % community members opposed Kharchi (extravagance) following Muslim laws.
“78% Gujjars opposed Kharchi system popular in some nomads wherein the groom’s family pays full costs of wedding spent by bride’s family, and termed it un-Islamic as in J&K all Gujjars are Muslims (Sunni),” Javaid quoting the study, said.
Divulging further details of the marriage system in Gujjar community of restive state, Dr Javaid said that the tradition of ‘abducting a girl for marriage’ is still alive called Kadho in Gojri.
“5% to 10% marriages among nomad Gujjars are arranged in hurry by Kadho or Adhaloo – abducting a girl of choice (un-married) or woman (Married) with her consent, for marriage,” he said.
“42% nomad Gujjars favour Kadho – the abduction and they consider this as matter of heroism and valour to marry a choice woman,” the study reveals though 39% believe the practice is ‘anti’ social, “others remained salient on the issue,” the study said.
On the issue of polygamy, the study, interestingly, reveals that the tradition of marrying more than one woman is ‘decreasing fastly’ in the community but more than half of the total Gujjar population is in favour of marrying two women.
“62% nomads favour marring two women – to generate human resource so as to run daily tribal affair while around 18% of them favour marrying 3 to 6 or more wives,” the study revealed and added that this tradition is declining fastly.
“89% nomad Gujjars arrange first marriage of their children at the age of 14 to 18,” the study said.
Around 72% girls get engaged to boys-in-relation with already at the time birth or at the age of 6, it says.
In 91% nomadic Gujjar weddings, around 200 to 300 guests are invited, said the study.
The interference of Muqdam – the tribal headman in Gujjar marriages – has declined by 71% and the crime issues related to marriages are also low during last 30 years by 82% which is a positive change, claims the study.
“No one among nomad Gujjars is allowed to remain un-married for his/her whole life,” Javaid concluded.