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The Ghirth are a Hindu agricultural caste found in the state of Himachal Pradesh in North India. 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 Chang and in present mostly known as labana.
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.
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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.
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.
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 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.