Dynamics of Patron-Client Relationship in a Caste Stratified Society. An Ethnographic Study from a Damai Hill Village on Central Nepal

Term Paper, 2018

18 Pages




History of Dalit

The caste system today

Patron-client relationship in a caste-stratified society




Nepal is a country, which exhibits ethnic and cultural diversity. It is a cultural mosaic inhabited by an amazingly diverse array of castes, religions, languages, and ethnicity and so on. Undoubtedly, Nepal is a pluralistic and multicultural society. It must be noted that the Dalit group as a whole is not a homogenous group. Like groups in Nepal, their population is equally divided and their heterogeneity extends to language, culture and religion. Dalits are broadly divided into three categories i.e. a) Dalits in the hill community: b) Dalits in the Newari community: c) Dalits in the Terai community. Dalits as perceived are not a homogenous group; their heterogeneity extends to language, culture and religion. The Dalit commission has categorized them into two broad regional groups. 1) Hill Dalits (kami, Sarki, Damai,Gaine, Badi), II TeraiDalits (Bantar, Chamar, Dhobi, Dom, Dushad, Halkhor, Khatwe, Musahar, Pathharkatta and Tatma). However, detailed anthropological details of Hill Dalits.

Damai/Dholi is an occupational caste group people belonging to this caste are traditionally tailors and musicians. Damai is coined from musical instrument Damaha while Dholi is coined from the instrument Dhol. The 1854 Nepalese Muluki Ain (Legal Code) categorized Damai as "Impure and Untouchable (Pani Na Chalne)" category. Thus, the tribal designation of Khas is given only in few context to Kami, Damai and Sarki due to traditional low and untouchable status. According to 2011 Nepal census, Damai or Dholi make up 1.8% of Nepal's population (or 4,72,862 peoples). Damai are categorized under "Hill Dalit" among the 9 broad social groups, along with Kami, Badi, Sarki and Gaine by the Government of Nepal.

According to caste has a significant impact on those groups lying at the lowest step of the caste hierarchy. Caste-based discrimination has compelled the so-called untouchables of the Dalits to live in an unfriendly environment, subjected to deprivations of all kinds –social, political, economic etc- and denied even the basic rights of education, freedom. Dalits are still discriminated against as untouchables. Owing to these situations, Dalits are one of the poorest sections of the society. Members of the so-called higher castes like the Brahmins and Chetris do not accept cooked food and water from the Dalits. In addition, they are also denied access inside the homes of these higher caste groups, Also, temples, eating-places and public water taps are out of bounds for these marginalized communities.

This study was designed to record information of Hill Damai emphasizing on their socio-economic and political organization, life cycle rituals, and language and kinship pattern. An attempt also has been made to explore the impact of modernization on their traditional occupations. This paper also highlights the salient traditional occupational features and recommendations of policies for the promotion of traditional occupation for self-reliant. It also deals with the causes of intergenerational occupational mobility and shift from the traditional occupation of hill Damai. The caste engaged in sewing clothing is called Suchikar or Sujikar .Those who play musical instruments like damau (damaha), hudko, and devbaja, particularly, in wedding processions referred to as damai dholi hudke, nagarchi and nagdi. Originally they were called different names according to which instruments they played. Someone employed in sewing is now called da rji, tailor, master, or tailor-master. Darji was once used only for tailors, but now it is used for all tailors as well as musicians. Similarly, damai or damahi has also undergone extension of its meaning. Initially it only meant someone who played the damaha.

Damai people are sometimes known as Darjee and Dholi. The traditional occupation of Damai is tailoring as well as traditional musicians. They are non-vegetarian and rice is their staple cereal adding up drink alcohol. Damai women play a significant role in their economy by involving assistance in tailoring by means of using needle weaving to finishing the stitching cloth of their male. Damai male are particularly engaged in sewing work, their female support needlework, and in addition to this they slightly involve in agriculture. Damai people carry out some ritual ceremony of other castes people like marriage, and other festival by enjoying musical instrument for this they were provided in exchange of a few gifts and fees. Even though, Hindu religion have major three rituals function; birth, death and marriage. These gift exchanging performance can be found in all these rituals. The system of gift through exchange fills up all the economic, social, tribal and moral life in human beings. Furthermore, the gift is always related to material and moral life and exchange, function within it in a form that is both disinterested and obligatory. "This obligation is expressed in a mythical and imaginary way or one might say a symbolic and collective that assumes and aspect that centers on the interest attached to the things exchanged: (Mauss 1990:42) Therefore, here I compared the situation of the Damai people's livelihood is at the center of 'Bali Pratha ' or 'Bista' system, which involves exchanges of a wide range of practical and ritual services. The traditional occupation is depended to their own ' Bista ' in exchange of labor service with gift and fees. In addition to this, Dalits accept major festival ' Bhag ' (Rice, Vegetables, and festival specific foods etc. as a gift.) from their 'Bista's home' on the occasion of Some Sankrantis , Dashain and Tihar, Purnima and other pooja karma. Mostly in Dashain Damai people were provided feast also.

History of Dalit

The Nepali civil code Muluki Ain (1854) was written by Jang Bahadur Rana after his European tour. It codified social codes in practice for several centuries in Nepal that was rooted in traditional Hindu legal procedure, avoidanindu king was duty-bound to put these precepts into pce and removal of sin and the customary law of different castes and communities. These three are collectively called Dharmasastra A traditional Hractice.

Title: Hierarchies of Major Caste/Ethnic Groups in Nepal:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source:- Muluki Ain (1854).

The Muluki Ain divided Nepali citizens into two castes "the caste whose water is allowed to remain pure" and "the caste whose water is defiled". Chiefs of the various castes were entrusted with sorting out issues related to their own castes. The heads of Kamis (blacksmiths) and Sarkis (tanners and cobblers) were called Mijar. Similarly the head of Damai (tailors and musicians) was called Nagarchi. Castes of the first (non-defiling) category also had their chiefs. In this way community members might not need to go to courts or government offices to settle minor legal matters. Mijars and Nagarchis, however, added to injustice and exploitation meted out to their respective communities. They were obviously influenced by their masters' natures. Like their masters, they never hesitated to do injustice against their own communities. No appeal was heard against them.

From the medieval period onward, people could lose status through caste demotion. People considering themselves superior used caste as a pretext for exploitation. The lower castes were prevented from entering temples, receiving education, listening to high-caste people's teachings, worshipping, planting Bar or Pipal trees, digging ponds, and participating in fairs and festivals. Upper caste people use the things such as sewing cloths, iron pots & other instruments that were prepared by untouchable caste. Sometime, their bloods used by those upper caste people, who have unable to find same group bloods from his/her relatives. In this way, upper caste uses such things and articulated their bloods but they never eat untouchable caste touches food items and water. These problems persist also into intra-untouchable caste group. They could be exiled from the country for looking at a high-caste woman. If they encountered someone of higher caste they would have to step aside. They had to pay jadau (obeisance) to any higher caste person. They could be put to death for rebelling against caste rules. If someone from higher caste married a woman from lower caste, he was not eligible for legal intercession against jarikhet (adultery). A sacred thread-wearing or even non-thread-wearing person would need to be ritually purified if they were touched by an 'untouchable'. Two-way conversation with upper castes was banned for them. These discriminatory provisions of the civil code were based on Hindu scriptures like Parskar Grihyasutra, Gautam Sutra, Manusmriti and Shukra Niti. There was no provision for lower-caste participation in the economic, social, cultural and administrative spheres. They had to survive on low-paid manual work such as playing indigenous musical instruments, leather-work, practicing music, art and dance, pottery, general labor, cleaning latrines, and washing clothes. This system prevailed till by law until Muluki Ain was revised in 1962.The present caste system derives from Shah Dynasty founder Prithvi Narayan's famous saying that Nepal was a garden of four varnas and 36 castes. However this is only a rough estimate for the hill region.

The caste system today

The caste system is still intact today but the rules are not as rigid as they were in the past. Because of western education, contact with foreigners, media, and modern communications, people are progressive in many aspects. In 1962, a law was passed making it illegal to discriminate against the untouchable castes. In practice, however, discrimination still continues today.

In the past, when Brahmins and Chetris came in contact with Sudras, they used to bath. Now, some people just sprinkle water on their body and some do not even care at all. Today, Brahmins have land, work in the field and are involved in government service. Some Baisya and Sudra caste people are teachers, high officials, and successful politicians. Previously, Brahmins were not subject to the death penalty and were instead given the same status as cows in the Hindu religion. But now, all castes are equally treated by the law. Education is free and open to all castes. Discrimination is only done socially.

The caste system has also led to a structural class divide which persists, in which lower castes/ethnicities are generally socio-economically worse off than those of higher castes/ethnicities. Among Indigenous ethnic groups it only Newars who have Castes (Caste system). It is notable, though, that some few of the indigenous (adevasi janajati) lower castes belong to peoples who are economically generally rather well of - such as the Newars. Recent research has also shown that when it comes to Nepali people's impressions of social change, "poverty, human resources and region explain more of the variation than ethnicity, caste or religious belonging" - i.e. people's perception of their own social situation has more to do with geography and objective social class, than with their association with the groups that the state has based its internal social policy on.

In recent times, following the overthrow of the Nepali monarchy and move towards a federal republic, ethnicity and caste have taken center stage - the indigenous peoples (Aadevasi Janajati) who make up a third of the country having been guaranteed rights that have not yet been fulfilled. There is an observable reaction to this among certain Brahmin and Chetri groups, seeking to prevent group-based rights from becoming an important factor in the country that earlier had a political system associated with group-based discrimination. Certain outside analysts have suggested that "seeking a balance in approach requires addressing both specific indigenous historical injustices while creating a common citizenship for all marginalized citizens regardless of identity, which remains a particularly challenging issue for Nepal.


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Dynamics of Patron-Client Relationship in a Caste Stratified Society. An Ethnographic Study from a Damai Hill Village on Central Nepal
Tribhuvan University
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dynamics, patron-client, relationship, caste, stratified, society, ethnographic, study, damai, hill, village, central, nepal
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Navaraj Nepali (Author), 2018, Dynamics of Patron-Client Relationship in a Caste Stratified Society. An Ethnographic Study from a Damai Hill Village on Central Nepal, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/445048


  • Navaraj Nepali on 10/25/2018

    This paper is based on Damai caste, one of the untouchable caste in Nepal. About patron-client relationship in the caste stratified society.

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Title: Dynamics of Patron-Client Relationship in a Caste Stratified Society. An Ethnographic Study from a Damai Hill Village on Central Nepal

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