ETHNONYMS: Bhil-Grasia Bhomia, Dungri-Grasia, Gara, Garasia, Girisia
The term "Grasia" refers to the Rajput and other landholders in sections of Gujarat and Rajasth, where they hold lands given to them as garas (landlords) by the chieftains for maintenance. It is said that the term "Grasia" is derived from the native term for "landlords." The Grasias are the principal inhabitants of the Bhakkar section of Pakistani Punjab, and also of parts of Kachchh District, in Gujarat. Sir John Malcolm noted that the term "Girasias" denotes "chiefs who were driven from their possessions by invaders and established and maintained their claim to a share of the revenue upon the ground of their power to disturb or prevent its collection." The word can be derived from the Sanskrit giras, which signifies "mouthful," and in the past it was used metaphorically to designate the small share of the produce of the country that these plunderers claimed. The Grasias are said to have come from Mewar many centuries ago, "and as they still have their internal 'Gots' or circles of affinity (such as Parmars, Chouhan, Rathoi, etc.) upon the model of a regular clan, we may perhaps assume that they are the descendants of Rajputs by Bhil women," according to P. C. Dave.
In Maharashtra State the Grasias are on the list of Scheduled Tribes as "Dungri-Grasias." The Grasias speak a dialect of their own that is close to Bhili, with Bhili being closely related to Gujarati.
Grasia houses are found on the slopes of hills with their fields extending out in front. The houses usually each have one room and an open veranda with walls of mud or split bamboo plastered with mud. The roofs are covered with handmade flat tiles made by the Grasias themselves. Sometimes, though, the houses of the poor may have grass thatching covering the roofs.
A special shed for the cattle is often constructed on the side of or opposite to the house, and often fodder is stored on the roofs of these sheds. To shelter guests, a special shed with a tiled roof is built opposite the house of the headman.
Grasias are generally vegetarian but have been known occasionally to enjoy nonvegetarian foods. Maize is the food staple, which is grown by every Grasia who has land for cultivation. It is prepared by cooking the coarse maize flour with buttermilk and adding some salt to it. Sometimes breads of maize flour are also prepared. When little wheat and maize are available the Grasias use inferior grain like kuro (Italian millet?) as a substitute, and when necessary jungle roots and tubers are used.
Men primarily do the work that requires the most physical strength, such as plowing and other agricultural work, preparing fences for the fields, construction of houses, felling of trees, and some household work such as churning of the curds for butter. Women do the cooking, tend to the cattle and milk the cows, buffalo, and goats, bring drinking water, grind grain, etc., and look after the children. There are no social stigmas attached to either men's or women's work. Women veil their faces in the presence of elder male relations of their husbands, but they are generally free to move about in society like men and are not considered inferior to men. Girls share a similar freedom with boys. Once they are grown up they have the freedom to choose their own husbands. The largest sign of female social oppression is that women aren't allowed to own property on their own, not even if it was left to them by their father.
Kinship, Marriage and Family
Only extreme circumstances such as abject poverty, debilitating disease, etc. keep Grasia men and women from marrying, as the Grasias believe marriage is a necessity for all. Boys marry between the ages of 18 and 24, and girls between 14 and 18. The selection of a mate usually is without ritual and involves selecting a spouse and then living together without any marriage ceremony. This arrangement may vary in some areas because of Hindu influence. The only restrictions are that the bride-price must be paid and that the marriage cannot be between cousins. Divorce often occurs if the boy does not like the girl. It is easy and freely permitted.
The terms natra, or nata, refer to widow remarriage, which is quite common and which involves the handing out of bread and jaggery to relatives, and the man making a payment of money to the widow's father and providing the necessary marriage clothes to the widow.
Polygyny occurs but polyandry is unknown, although most Grasia men marry only once. Because of the social structure that exists it is not necessary for him to marry for companionship or even for help in cultivation, as the average holding of a Grasia is small and he is able to do all agricultural work even if he has a small family. The main reasons for a man to take more than one wife are either that his first wife cannot bear children or that she has only female children.
The Grasias work within a joint-family system where the sons stay with the family up to the time their children become adults. Only on rare occasions do the sons live separately from their parents due to domestic quarrels. Separation usually occurs, however, after the father's death. Only unmarried sisters and minor unmarried brothers continue to live with the family of one of the older brothers.
The Grasias basically worship the Hindu gods and respect the cow and are thus almost Hinduized, even though they tend to hold onto their original belief in spirits and fear ghosts, spirits of the dead, and black magic.
See also Bhil
Dave, P. C. (1960). The Grasias also Called Dungri Grasias. Delhi: Bharatiya Adimjati Sevak Sangh.