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Document Details :

Title: Castes, privilèges et divinité tutélaire. Pages d'histoire d'un village en Himalaya Occidental au XIXe siècle
Author(s): DISERENS, Hélène
Journal: Journal Asiatique
Volume: 289    Issue: 2   Date: 2001   
Pages: 237-284
DOI: 10.2143/JA.289.2.435

Abstract :
L'étude porte sur deux documents inédits, datés de 1881 et rédigés en langue anglaise. Ils sont conservés dans les archives d'une famille brahmanique de la haute vallée de Kullu (Himachal Pradesh, Inde). Ils se rapportent à un épisode de la vie d'un bisaïeul nommé Thuloo, pujari et administrateur des biens de Jalmadevi (la divinité tutélaire), qui fut condamné et exclu de sa caste par la justice locale suite à un désaccord l'opposant au negi (un notable) du village. L'assemblée villageoise, privée de l'arbitrage suprême de son raja depuis une trentaine d'années, et pensant pouvoir exercer librement sa propre justice, se trouve confrontée aux lois britanniques. Les liens et les contraintes touchant à l'organisation sociale de l'ancienne principauté de Kullu et aux pratiques religieuses des dévots de la divinité tutélaire — et son côté primordial à l'intérieur des villages qui lui sont rituellement liés — sont décrits. Le premier document est la requête (Petition) que le brahmane Thuloo adresse à un magistrat britannique de haute instance. Le requérant y expose les allégations et propos diffamatoires répétés dont il fait l'objet de la part du negi, les divers épisodes du conflit et sa condamnation qui entraîne son exclusion de sa caste de brahmane. Une telle exclusion impliquerait la révocation de ses charges de pujari et de kardar, le priverait des droits et privilèges incombant à ses offices, et lui apporterait, ainsi qu'à sa famille, ruine et destitution. Après plusieurs recours auprès des instances locales, et constatant le parti pris de l'Assistant Commissioner en faveur de son opposant, le brahmane Thuloo adresse sa re-quête à la justice britannique dont l'«integrity and sense of fair play are always enlisted on the side of the weak and unprotected». Le second document est un acte juridique (deed) établi entre le ‘Secretary of State in Council' et le pujari Thuloo, en charge du temple de Jalmadevi. Le ‘Secretary of State in Council' lui cède, sous certaines conditions, un jagir lui reconnaissant le droit de percevoir les revenus des biens fonciers de la divinité.

This article examines two unpublished documents in English, both dated 1881. They are kept among the private papers belonging to a Brahmanic family in the upper valley of Kullu (Himachal Pradesh, India). Both documents are related to an episode in the life of one of their forbears, Thuloo, a pujari who also administered the property of the local deity Jalmadevi. Following a disagreement between him and the negi (notable) of the village, he was prosecuted by local justice and subsequently excluded from his caste. The village council, deprived of the supreme arbitration of its raja for the last thirty years, and believing it could freely exercise its own justice, is confronted with British laws. The relationships and restrictions relating to the social organization of the former principality of Kullu and the religious practices of the devotees of its tutelary deity — are described. In the first document, a petition addressed to a high-ranking British magistrate, the plaintiff Thuloo sets out the allegations and repetitive slanderous remarks he has been subjected to by the negi, the various episodes in the conflict leading to his prosecution and exclusion from the Brahmanic caste. Such an exclusion would not only entail his dismissal as a pujari and kardar, thereby depriving him of the rights and privileges pertaining to these offices, but would also bring down ruin and destitution upon his family. Following several unsuccessful appeals to the local lawcourts, and noting the Assistant Commissioner's bias in favour of his opponent, Thuloo decided to address a petition to British justice whose «integrity and sense of fair play are always enlisted on the side of the weak and unprotected». The second document is a deed drawn up between the Secretary of State in Council and Thuloo whereby under certain conditions he is granted a jagir entitling him to enjoy the income from property belonging to the deity.

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