Life and Society:

Karan are religious, family oriented, and modest. Physical purity, spiritual refinement, and humility are highly valued. People accept incidents as the will of fate or karma (consequences of past deeds). Those who rebel against tradition or caste are frowned upon. Most believe that bhoot (ghosts), pret (evil spirits), bokshi (witches), and graha dasha (a bad position of the stars) cause disease, crop failures, or accidents. Incense, flowers, and foods are offered to pacify the spirits and stars. A rooster or male goat may also be sacrificed.

Wealth and education are admired. Personal privacy is not part of the culture; it is considered strange to want to spend time alone. Karan are warm and hospitable. They believe being kind to strangers can enhance their status in the next life.

Karan take care to look good in public and wear proper clothing for formal occasions. Men wear Western-style clothing more often than women. Traditional attire for men often is a dara surwal (tight, thin cotton pants and a flowing knee-length cotton tunic). Women wear a sari (long, colorful wraparound dress) and cholo (blouse). Most women wear gold jewelry; some wear nose rings. Married women of wear a wraparound jumper (bhaku) and a colorful apron. Some women and unmarried girls often wear a kurta surwal (colorful pants, tight from the calves down, with a matching knee-length tunic), also called punjabi. Married women wear a red tika (made from vermilion powder) on their foreheads and vermilion powder in the part of their hair to signify their husbands are alive. Widows do not wear the tika, powder, jewelry, or colorful clothing.

Namaste is the traditional greeting and parting gesture. A person places the palms together (fingers up) in front of the chest or chin and says Namaste (or Namaskar for superiors and elders).

Among the elite, it is polite to address people using the suffix -jye (or -jyu) with the last name. Otherwise, people use terms like dai (older brother), didi (older sister), bai (younger brother), and bahini (younger sister) instead of names or titles.

It is rude to touch another person's head or shoulders. Men do not touch women in public. An immediate apology is necessary if one's foot touches another person. To beckon, one waves all fingers with the palm down. Pointing with a finger is impolite. Only the right hand is used in gestures, eating, or handling objects. The left hand is reserved for bathroom hygiene.

Karan do not whistle inside a home or at night. Winking at someone of the opposite sex is vulgar. Cows are sacred; one may not point a foot at them or touch them. When passing a temple, a stupa (shrine), or a banyan tree, a person will walk around it (if necessary) to keep it on one's right. A person's right side keeps evil spirits at bay and shows veneration for the temple, stupa, or tree. When entering a home or a temple, it is customary to remove one's shoes. A person stays with his or her gender group at social gatherings.

Higher-caste Karan will not eat food touched by those outside their caste or religion. Indeed, water cooked or food prepared by any caste lower than one's own is considered jutho, or impure. Only roti (flat bread) can be prepared by a lower-caste person.

The family takes precedence over the individual. The elderly are respected and cared for by their families. Very often, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other relatives live together and share the same kitchen. Older siblings have authority over younger siblings. Land is inherited and divided equally among sons. Women generally have few rights or privileges in society. They are responsible for the household and farming (except plowing) and do not socialize in public as much as men. Women often marry before they are 18. They join their husband's extended family at that time and are expected to care for his parents.

Marriage customs vary among different castes. Traditional marriages are arranged by parents, although sometimes with the consent of the marriage partners. Grooms pay a dowry. Marriage is sacred, divine, and considered to endure beyond death. Widows do not remarry. Sat (chastity) is the most important virtue a woman brings to marriage. Weddings, a time of great celebration and feasting, are expensive and may last several days. The bride and groom have separate parties. The bride wears a fancy red sari with gold brocade and gold jewelry.

Traditional music is played on drums, wooden flutes, and stringed instruments. Most common is the sarangi, a four-stringed instrument used to accompany singing and dancing. The madal is a double-sided drum; a string is attached and hung around the player's neck so that the instrument hangs at waist height. Gaines (a caste of professional singers) perform songs and tell stories. Panchai baja (five-instrument) musical ensembles are popular to accompany special activities and festivals.






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