Tons Valley – Jaunsar Bawar region in Garhwal

History, Myth and culture – Another name of Uttaranchal was Panchaldesh so named after the Pandavas. According to local village lore, the Pandavas and Kauravas figure in the anthropology of the Tons valley and some families claim to be direct descendents of the two clans. The Jaunsaris claim to be descendants of the Pandavas, while the Bawaris are from the Kauravas or Duryodhana’s clan. The two cultures usually do not mix, and it is a rare occurrence to see the two cultures mix in terms of marriage or social custom.

The claim to being a pure bred Aryan race and descendants from Pandavas doesn’t stop only in name. The people of the Jaunsar Bawar region practice polyandry and polygamy and many brother share many wives. The custom owes its origins to the Pandavas who shared Draupadi amongst the 5 brothers.

Another unique custom which is followed here is the concept of bride price. The custom owes its origin to some strong logic. The parents spend a substantial amount on raising, educating and making the life of the girl as good as they can make it. In return the girl is an asset to the family as she cooks, cleans, works on the farms etc. When a boy wants to marry the girl, he is taking away an asset of the family and must pay the fair price of the asset known as the bride price.

Divorce is not taboo in the culture, and divorced women are not ostracized from society. However, if the woman comes back to the parent’s home after a divorce, the family must pay back the bride price to the man’s family. If the woman divorces her husband to marry another man, the second man must pay (a higher) bride price to the first man’s family.

From what we hear, there is much more to this beautiful culture than what we’ve written here. We do hope to research some more while we’re there and bring back some firsthand accounts of life in Jaunsar Bawar region.

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