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Lessons in community living

By Elita Almeida

Ensconced away from the mayhem of the metropolis and located in the lap of the Sahyadris - beside the mighty Ajobagad - Dehene/Dehena, known as the land of a thousand waterfalls, is rural experience waiting to take over you in every sense of the word! Separated by a stream, Dehena comprises of two hamlets each comprising of about 20 – 40 houses. Predominantly Hindu Maratha by caste and agrarian in occupation, the local villagers primarily cultivate rice and nachni/ragi (finger millet) on their fields.

Besides the dominant Hindu Maratha caste within the main hamlet, adjoining Dehena is Varpadi inhabited by the Other Backward Class community and the clusters of Chinchwadi, Kamatwadi and Kopriwadi inhabited by the Scheduled Tribe community.

There are different ways in which the different communities interact and play a complementary role with each other in their day-to-day functioning. The Brahmin pandits are invited to perform religious rites during occasions such as sakharpuda (ring ceremony), marriage and even final cremation rites. In tracking down the changes that have come about through time, it is interesting to note that in the past these ceremonies were performed in exchange of grain but that has recently been replaced by money.

In a similar manner, certain land-owning households within the Hindu Maratha community in Dehena sublet their agricultural fields to the members of the Scheduled Tribe community for purposes of cultivation. This practice has become a trend in the instance where there aren’t enough members in a household to work on the field.

With the need to sometimes source non-agricultural work from outside the village to earn that additional income to support their families, instead of leaving the field to grow wild and unutilized, landowners lease out their land to those who do not own any land of their own. In this instance, the landless are members of the tribal community. In exchange for the labour on the field, the crop yield at harvest is shared between both the parties; mostly on a 50:50 basis.

Now, isn’t this a fine lesson on what living as a community is representative of?

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