Notes on the meaning and features of Jajmani System



In almost all the villages of this country, the Caste System predominates. Linked with the Caste System is the Jajmani System. Caste System in the village is based on economic needs and structure of the society. In village people of a particular caste take one profession. Members of the other castes are not allowed to take the profession of a particular caste.

In a village the carpenter does the wood-work, the blacksmith do the things pertaining to the iron implements of the people of the village. The washer man washes clothes, the barber shaves them. These belong to different castes and thus carry out these provisions on the basis of the age old customs. There are certain classes or castes that are entitled to these services. Those who serve are known as ‘Praja’ or ‘Kamin’ while those who get these services are known as ‘jajman.’

According to Oscar Lewis “Under Jajmani System each caste group within a village is accepted to give certain standardized services to the families of other castes. A Khati (carpenter) repairs tools for example, a Nai (barber) cuts hair, but they do not necessarily perform these services for every one and each man works for a particular family or a group of families with which he has hereditary ties.”

N.S. Reddy observes, “These service relations which are governed by hereditary tenure are called jajman-parja relations”.

Thus according to Jajmani System there is standardised and well-organised arrangement for different types of economics services. There is a system for payment to those, who provide these services. In this arrangement, the relations are not like that of the employer and employee or that of the master and a servant. In its original form the services provided by the Praja of Kamin would have been looked services provided by the Praja of Kamin would have been looked upon and treated as something respectable.

In order to avoid over loading the groups who offer services made such arrangement that they did not disturb the Jajmani of the others. Because of the arrangement, these services became traditional. Normally in the villages it is seen that a family has a barber for severs generations. The barber who has Jajmani of family would find that his father and of that family. It means that the son will perform the same kind of deed the specified families as his father and grand father did.

The term of ‘Kamin” or ‘Praja” is used in different place. Although the term Kamin is not very respectable term, but it does not mean that the people who do all these things are less respectable. It is the economic condition that has changed their status. Oscar Lewis has made an elaborate study of the Jajmani System in India.

The studies that were carried out in different states and provinces shows that this institutions was to be found in various states of the country. This system was established as a result of provisional relationship between various castes. It was the division of labour amongst castes which has been sanctioned by religious and social tradition and customs.

This institution is to be found in India only because the division of the professions and occupations is hereditary here only. There has been division form the hereditary professions and this Jajmani System has continued in this country for all these years. It has now become an accepted part of the social life. Sometimes the term Jajmani is used only in relevance to relationship between a Brahmin and the members of the other caste. But really speaking it is not the case. Any body is entitled to particular services of particular members of the other cases called jajman.

Etymological meaning of Jajmani:

The Jajmani has been derived from the term ‘jajman’ which has been form the Sanskrit term ‘Yajman’. According to Sanskrit terminology, yajman means a person who performs a yajna of hires the services of a Brahmin to do it. With the passage of time this term came to be applied to every one who hired services of a person who was prepared to offer those services. As a custom any body that carried the services is known as ‘jajman’. But that was why a farmer who engaged a carpenter of the blacksmith was known as yajman.

The carpenter or the blacksmith who offered the services was known as ‘Praja’ or Kamin’. The relationship between the Praja of Kamin and the yajman is hereditary and traditional. The jajman is expected to secure a variety of services by various categories of Praja of Kamin and the jajman is hereditary and traditional. The jajman is expected to secure a variety of services categories of Praja or Kamin and reward their services by making payments.

In villages these Kamin and Prajas are paid in form of grain and other commodities. Now it is the currency that has replaced the grains or other commodities. Now it is the currency that has replaced the grayness or other commodities. Normally in Jajmani System the jajman is given a place of respect. Members of the lower caste treat him like a Raja.

The study of the Jajmani System as it is prevalent in this country was made for the first time in the year when in 1934. Darling made study of this institution, it was prevalent in Punjab. Since then different scholars have made study of this institution and on the basis of these studies certain conclusion have been drawn. These conclusions throw light on the rural life of this country.

Economic basis of Jajmani System:

Though Jajmani System is basically linked with the Caste System in this country, it has also economic basis. It is a method through with the division of labour takes place and needs of various groups of the society are fulfilled. Those who are economically well off and have required the services of those who are landless and for their services they pay them in form of grains and agricultural yields so that they many be able to satisfy their needs. It is also method of keeping the village economy in balanced state.

In agricultural economy it was a good method for providing employment. If the father has done a job his son was assured of the same job. This means that there was no livelihood of competition which would disturb the economic arrangement. Normally it was the members of the lower caste which now known as backward caste who acted as ‘Praja’ of ‘Prajajan’ or ‘Kamin”.

Since the members of the Scheduled caste are not to be touched and it was the members of these backward classes who had to render various types of services. In short, the Jajmani System was an attempt to regulate the village economy. It had a caste no doubt but really speaking it was based on economic need and requirements.

Characteristics of the Jajmani System:

The main characteristics or features of the Jajmani System on the basis of various studies that are carried out in this respect in different parts of country are:

1) Permanent relationship; 2) Relationship based on hereditary or hereditary relationship; 3) Protection of hereditary occupation; 4) Payment for the services rendered; 5) Peace and security ;6) Difference in scope of work.

1) Permanent relationship:

The relationship between Jajman and Praja are permanent. It is a unique feature of the village economy. Through this system the farmers and those who had landed property were assured of required essential services and on the other hand those who did not have it were assured of livelihood. In this manner, the village economy was maintained in a balanced manner. The village would also be allowed to function as a self-sufficient unit so that its economy could be maintained.

It so happened that a jajman could not employ another Praja or Kamin except the one whose family had been rendering their service to the family of jajman for generations. If any one tried to do it no other person would take up that job and if unfortunately some one took up, the caste Panchayat of that particular person should penalise him. This is in fact gave a permanent structure to the economy of the country. In this respect Dr.D.C. Dube made a study of the system has remarked.

It is not easy for an agriculturalist to remove a family attached to his household and secure the service of another. For example a barber, is attached to the family of B. If for any reason B is greatly dissatisfied with the services of A and wants those of another, he cannot abruptly dismiss A. His difficulty will not be in dismissing A, but finding a substitute. Each of these castes has its own inter-village council. Occupational castes have a developed trade unionism; no one else would be willing to Act as a substitute for fear of being penalised by caste Panchayat.”

2) Relationship based on hereditary or hereditary relationship:

In Jajmani System there is a hereditary relationship. If fathered has done a job in a particular family son would also do it. On the other hand if a family has been served by the father it would be obligatory for the family to employ the son for that job. If there is a separation or division of the family these laborers are also divided. When a person has no son and only a daughter, then the rights is passed to the husband of the daughter.

Jajamani rights are in fact equally distributed, in the village. When the male member in a family of Praja increases the rights get splitter. The quantum grown when there is increase in the members of the family of jajman and all these things go on in a here dietary manner that is from father to the son and so on.

According to N.S.Reddy, “the right to Jajmani work is treated as any other right of property. It passes from father to son and is equally proportioned among brothers when they separate. In the case of a family with an only daughter, her husband succeeds to her father rights.

3) Protection of hereditary occupations:

The system of Jajmani System provides a protection to the hereditary occupation. Members of a particular caste continue to perform their occupation. They are paid for their services. Because of these payments they are able to earn their livelihood and so their hereditary occupation is preserved.

4) Payment for the services rendered:

In Jajmani System, there is an arrangement for payment for services rendered by Praja or Kamin. The jajman in the past used to pay them in form of grains and other agricultural yields. Now with the introduction of currency they are paid sometimes in cash and sometimes in kind. Through this payment the interest of the Praja were maintained. The studies that are carried out by the scholars in regard to Jajmani System of various villages yielded the results that the payment made in form of kinds was quite sufficient for them.

For example a carpenter who repaired the agricultural implements of the farmer in a Rajput village of Madhya Pradesh got one mound of food grains in a year and 2 1/2 seers of food at the time of harvesting. It means that if he had 10 familiar as his jajman he could think of getting 10 mounds of food grains in the year and 25 seers food at the time of harvesting.

5) Peace and security:

As a result of Jajmani System, the farmers were assured of the services while the Prajajana were secured of their livelihood. This kept them free from worrying about employment. Since the jobs that were secured were of a specialised nature the farmers got their requirements while the Kamins secured the livelihood. The old age customs and traditions had made these adjustments smooth and nobody had to bother.

This does not mean that everything was very smooth, nice and rosy. There were lot of differences and problems and these differences and problems cropped from village to village.

6) Differences in scope of work:

The work of the Kamins was not confined to one family if it were so, they would actually starve. Most of these Kamins had such a job to do that they could do it for a large member of families. This made their livelihood possible. Sometimes some of these families ‘Prajajan’ or ‘Kamin’ had their Jajmani in more that one village.

In fact the range and the scope of activity of these Praja were determined by their activity. A sweeper would attend to 10 to 15 families while a barber could shave about 50 to 60 persons. Apart from it if a village was prosperous or had large number of persons these Prajajana or Kamins shall have good business. On the other hand if village was not prosperous and there were very few people they would not get much.