The Gaddisand Shipis are a tribe living mainly in the Indian states of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. They are Hindus and belong to several castes including Brahmin, Rajput, Dhangar, Khatri, Rana and Thakur.
They are widely respected for their honesty, friendliness and peaceful lifestyle. They have great faith in Gods and Goddesses especially Lord Shiva. The language (dialect) spoken within the tribe is Gaddi. Old people used the Tankri script. Crime is almost unknown in Gaddi villages. Gaddi is a generic term used for all of the indigenous population of the Bharmaur area of Chamba district and some regions of Jammu and Kashmir. The Gaddis include the savarnas - such as Brahman, Rajput, Khatri, Thakur Rathi and the non–savarnas like Hali, Rihare and Dom (Rose 1919).Startled by the unity among the tribal people of Himachal Pradesh,the Britishers sowed the seeds of differences among them dividing one ancestor tribe into two sister tribes Gaddi and Shippi. The distortion of Indian History was due to British imperial interest in India. (Ancient India - Makkhan Lal). The generalisations made by historians like Ross were either false or grossly exaggerated a propaganda material for the perpetuation of British rule. some writers blindly copy British literature without considering the ground reality. Although all are categories as scheduled tribe by virtue of their living in a scheduled area, the non-savarnas are also included separately as scheduled as scheduled caste. There is custom prevalent among the savarna of calling themselves as Gaddi and Shippi, whereas calling others by their respective caste names. Most common Rajput Gaddi Castes are: Chouhans, Lalhals etc.
The Gaddis and Shipis are not fully nomadic, since they have homes in villages, but transhumance is a traditional practice: they generally travel with their flocks to higher pastures in the summer.
It is thought that the Chauhan Rajput Gaddis/Shipis and Brahman Gaddis/Shipis emigrated to Chamba, their present domicile, as early as in c. 850-70 CE. Most of the other castes of Gaddis/Shipis are thought to be descended from people who fled to the hills to escape the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb's persecutions in the 17th century CE. The word Gaddi means ‘seat’ and since Bharmaur was the seat of the Raja of Chamba, all the people of the Gaderan called themselves Gaddi. History confirms that Gaddi Rajputs migrated from Lahore (now in Pakistan) to this place in order to avoid religious persecution, a saying, “Ujjra Lahore te basiya Bharmaur” prevalent in the community further confirms this. Khatris are also believed to have migrated from plains and have come to acquire status parallel to that of the Rajputs.
Presently, the bulk of the population lives in Bharmaur tehsil of Chamba district, but a scattered population of this tribe is also found in the adjoining districts of Kangra and Mandi. The total population of the Gaddis in 1981 was 76,860, which also included a small population of Gaddi Brahmans. The community occupies the inaccessible, inhospitable terrain in between the Pir-Panjal and Dhauladhar range, between Ravi and Chenab. It is a high altitude area and remains cut off most of the time because of heavy snowfall. The area has thick and dense forest with low rainfall and low humidity.
The language spoken within the community is Bharmaruri Gaddi. Tankri was the script used by the old people. With others, however, colloquial Hindi is spoken whereas Devanagari is used as a script. The Gaddi man is identified by typical dress which consists of a chola and dora whereas the woman by a luanchiri (similar to a flared Scottish kilt). Both women and men wear gold earrings. Men also wear white turban, which is a characteristic of the Gaddi dress.
Divorce is permitted and can be initiated by the aggrieved party on grounds of infidelity and incompatibility of mature, with sociojudicial approval. A divorcee is compensated by way of returning the marriage expenses. Children are normally the liability of the father in divorce cases, but in the event a divorcee woman wants to take them she can do so if the divorcee husband also desires the same. Khewat (divorcee remarriage) can however take place. Widow marriage is also permitted with either the husband’s elder or younger brother and so is widower remarriage.
The inheritance of property is in the male line according to the locally recognized mode of inheritance known as chundaband and mundaband. According to the former, the property at the first instance is divided into the number of wives and subsequently each share is further sub- divided according to the number of sons. According to the letter, all sons, legal or illegal, inherit the father’s property equally. Children on being taken by the divorced mother lose right to their biological father’s property; but can inherit on returning to their father or can share the father’s property in the event of their mother getting remarried.
Women have no right to inheritance as per the traditional laws. Her social position is regarded as equal to that of the husband. She works equally with her husband in agricultural work expect for poaching. She is also responsible for the collection of fuel and fodder, both for immediate use and for storing them for use in winter months. She traditionally did not work outside the four walls of the house but recently the educated girls have taken up jobs in various occupations and are working outside the house and adding to their family income. They also take part in all social, religious and ritual activities. Though girls’ participation was limited traditionally to the casting to votes in elections, today they have started becoming more active and some have been nominated and members at the Block level. In addition to all her work outside the house, she also attends to all the household chores, which include cooking food and looking after the children. In spite of the tremendous role of women as an indispensable part of the Gaddi economy, they do not have any decision making powers in family matters, though they do manage the family expenditure.
Restrictions on the movement on the enceinte women exist. The Kailubir is propitiated for the safe delivery of the child. Sutak is observed for a period of 11 days till which time all auspicious ceremonies are deferred. The mother is also not allowed to do any household work until shuddhi takes place. Six months after the birth of a child Kirpu or sugru is celebrated, which a ceremony is observed jointly for naming and cereal- taking. This is followed by jattu ceremony, which is celebrated on the third, fifth or the seventh year. Marriage rituals are performed at the bride’s residence, including kanyadaan or sanklap and pradikshna or char lavi (walking round the fire four times), with the bridal knot having been tied to the bride and the groom. A feast is also arranged by the bride’s parents. The nuptial ceremony is performed at the groom’s residence. The dead are cremated, with the last rites being performed by the eldest male member. The mortal remains are then collected and either taken to Haridwar or thrown into any river. The house is considered and polluted for a period of 13 days; the rituals connected with the dead are observed at chha-mah (six month), barhi (twelve months) and chobarhi (four years) after the death. Ancestors are worshipped annually during the days of shradh.
For solving family disputes, caste of theft and for maintenance of traditional norms the people of the community have their traditional bhaichara Panchayat, which is headed by a set of people who act as the jury and who are elected by general consensus. The guilty are punished by social boycott, or fine in cash or kind, depending on the gravity of the crime. Though the Gram Panchayat has come up after independence for exercising social control, planning and implementing welfare and development activities, yet people have greater faith in their traditional panchayats.
Traditionally they do not accept food from Hali and Sippi(British dogma). Mitr-bhai (putative) kinship is stablished with persons who are not related but belong to an equal ranking community. Such a person is obliged to take part in family rites and rituals and is expected to behave as a real kin. They have separate cremation grounds. Kameen-bartani(patron-client) relationship exists with various serving communities like Hali, Rihara and Lohar, who in lieu of their specialized services, are paid in kind at annual harvest. Education and employment have brought them in contact with the wider world. Liberalization of the caste
Considerations have been observed in families which have got education and moved to urban centers. The Gaddi Rajputs have started talking part in political activities at the regional level.