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The Ghirth also known as Changh in Punjab are a Hindu agricultural caste found in the state of Himachal Pradesh in North India. They are also known as the Chaudhary.[verification needed] In customs and manners, they are similar to the Kanet, another Hindu cultivating caste found in the same region.
History and origin
Ghirth belong to hypogynous system. They are believed to have Rajput but became separate caste as they started widow remarriage and agriculture. According to folk etymology, the name came from Ghrith, the Sanskrit word for ghee (clarified butter), from which the God Shiva is said to have made them. In Hoshiarpur they are known as Bahti and Chang. The Ghirth are concentrated in the Kangra region, as well as the neighboring Una and Hamirpur districts. They are considered to be the earliest settlers of Kangra, Jammu, and nearby areas, and many of them own huge tracts of land. Originally Rajputs (ruling over the area) they were later subjugated and became farmers. They are currently found largely in the lower hills, leaving higher regions to the Brahmins and Rajputs.
Many scholars consider the Ghirth to be Jats This is supported by the fact that during the initial days of Sikhism, and even well into the late 1800s, the eldest sons of many Ghirth families became Sikh warriors, a common among Jats. A large number of Ghirth currently serve in the defence forces.
The community has several large subgroups, the largest ones being the Naryaliya, Kandal, Ĺakheru Ghanaaru, Lahol, Jinarh, Bhunaari, chakdol, pooner ,Kohli, Khadwal, Khatte, Bhanwal, Rana, Rehalia, Pathari, Chhabru, Reru, Badial, Chhora, Bhattu, Chandwal, Palyal, Panjla, Dhebra, Sadal, Duckwal, Sartan, Pooner,Sayal Bakraalu,Sakain,Labana, Mandela, Pathade. Most of the subgroups are named after the villages in which they live, or their occupation.[verification needed]
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The Ghirth culture is similar to that of other Himachal communities. They mainly worship Hindu gods and goddesses. Jakh (a form of the god Shiva) and Nag (the snake) are also worshipped. Goats are sacrificed during harvest time.
Ear piercing is an essential ritual for men, lest their sacred offerings to God be rejected. This is most important during rituals involving the death of family members, such as mukhagni (the lighting of the funeral pyre) and pind-daan during shraddha (the yearly remembrance ritual for dead family members).
The Hindu law of inheritance is followed. Property is equally shared among children, even including adopted children.
After an elaborate initiation ritual, men wear the traditional sacred thread. These days the thread is usually worn for only a day or two before the marriage ceremony, and is seen almost as a formality, required in order for the marriage to be legitimate. Thus many of the sacred thread rituals are reduced to a minimum, for example cutting only a few strands of the groom's hair rather than shaving his entire head.
Love marriages are now common, but arranged marriages require that the bride and groom, as well as their mothers and grandmothers, have different surnames. Some ultra-orthodox members even prohibit marriage where the groom's father's brother's wife shares the bride's surname, due to the mother-like status and respect accorded to aunts.
The Ghrith support widow remarriage. A widow, provided she is very young with small children, is even permitted to marry her late husband's younger brother, or even some other eligible male of the same community. This requires consent not only from both the widow and her new husband, but from their families as well. At some places in Kangra district, the marriage of a widow and a widower is called jhanjhrada.
Widow remarriage in olden times was criticized by some orthodox elements of Brahmin and other Rajput clans, who prided themselves on treating women as sub-human. Widow remarriage is also seen in some Jat clans in Haryana and Punjab.
The community treats women with great respect, and they are given equal say in family matters. As with most Himachali communities, the Ghirth do not have dowries.
The Ghirth traditionally worshipped little girls as a form of Goddess, and so the practice of female infanticide used to be negligible. However with the spread of modern medical technology, it is increasing.
- Sukh Dev Singh Charak (1979). Himachal Pradesh. Light & Life Publishers. p. 54. Retrieved 1 May 2011.. The Ghirths belong to the Agricultural division of Hindus...
- A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of Punjab by H.A Rose pages 287 to 295 Low Price Publications
- A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of Punjab by H.A Rose page 294 Low Price Publications
- H.A. Rose (1 January 1997). A glossary of the tribes and castes of the Punjab and North-West frontier province: A.-K.. Atlantic Publishers & Dist. pp. 84–. ISBN 978-81-85297-69-9. Retrieved 13 April 2011.