The people of Lahaul
or the Lahaulas are both Hindus and Buddhists, and their dialect resembles
Tibetan. They have a close affinity with Ladakhis and Tibetans.
The family is the basic unit of kinship amongst the Lahaulas. They usually follow an extended family system, an inheritance from the polyandry system of the past. The family is headed by a senior male member who may not always be the oldest male member or the senior most living member of the family. The head is known as 'Yunda' and his wife 'Yundamo'. He usually attains automatic authority by virtue of his being the oldest member of the senior generation.
However, in case of his not being able to discharge his functions suitably, the authority is transferred to another senior male member of the family. All senior members of the Lahaula family are highly respected by the others. Their advice is sought on all-important matters concerning the family.
The next higher social structure amongst the Lahaulas is the clan. These are locally called 'Rhus'. A clan is a unit that divides the community in a valley or a group of villages into smaller groups that form the basis for close relationships. The clan is one of the main considerations for entering into marriages. Important clans of the Lahaulas are Chepapa, Langzipa, Darnapa, Lenchenpa, Khingopa, Mehrupa and Kisingpa.
TRADITIONS AND CULTURE
Marriages may not take place within a clan though there is nothing to forbid a male from selecting his spouse from the family of his mother's parents or from the family of his father's sister. However, in recent times this system of cross- cousin marriage is slowly dying out. There is also no taboo on marrying within the same village provided the clans of the partners differ.
Since castes are virtually absent among the Lahaulas, there is no sense of superiority or inferiority. Due to the cultural, linguistic and physical barriers between the different valleys of Lahaul, the people prefer to marry within their own valley. Communication between valleys is a problem for most of the year as the high passes, trails and roads remain blocked by snow.
Polyandry was prevalent till recent times in many valleys of Lahaul. However, with the advent of modern civilization in these areas, this practise is dying out. Divorce is not common in this community, though divorces do occur and are accomplished by a simple ceremo ny performed in the presence of village elders. Either partner can seek divorce. The husband has to pay compensation to his ex-wife if she does not remarry.
The main source of livelihood for the Lahaulas is agriculture and allied activities. Occupations include animal husbandry, daily wage earning as laborers in government programs, regular government service, business (mainly shopkeeping), and crafts like weaving.