Jajmani System in India: An Overview

Jajmani system is considered as the backbone of rural economy and social order.

It is a system of traditional occupational obligations. In rural India Jajmani system is linked with caste system. Both give power to each other.

It has become a part and parcel of social and economic system of India.

The term Jajman has been derived from the Sanskrit word Yajman, which means a person who performs a yajna. Thus if some yajna is to be performed for that the services of some Brahmins are essentially needed. It was gradually that its use was made common to everyone who hired services or to whom the services were given.

It could be said that the Jajmani system is a system of distribution whereby high caste land owning families are provided services and products of various lower castes such as Khati (Carpenter), Nai (Barber), Kumhars (Potters), Lohars (Blacksmiths), Dhobi (Washer man), Sweeper (Chuhra) etc.

The servicing castes are called Kamins while the castes served are called Jajmans. For services rendered the servicing castes are paid in cash or in kind (grains, fodder, clothes, animal products like milk, butter etc.) Kamin means who works for some body or services him.

In villages, durable relations are there mainly between food-producing families and the families that supply them with goods and services. William H. Wiser’s study of a village in Uttar Pradesh reveals that these relations are called Jajmani in Hindi. In Maharashtra, they are known as “Balutdar”.

In Jajmani system, at the centre is the family of agriculturists, the zamindars. They receive services from the families of occupational castes. One who receives services is known as Jajman, the patron. The families that provide services are known as Kamin, Kam Karney waley or Kamgars (workers). In other parts of India, terms such as Parjan, Pardhan, Balutedar etc. are also used for the providers of goods and services.

All these words literally refer to the same people, i.e. those who ‘work’ for others and one may call them clients. The castes, which happen to provide services to the agriculturists, vary from one village to another. Every caste in the village does not happen to be a part of Jajmani system. So Jajmani system can be defined as a patron-client relationship.

Yogendra Singh describes Jajmani system as a system governed by relationship based on reciprocity in inter-caste relations in villages. Ishwaran has said, that it is a system in which each caste has a role to play in a community life as a whole. This role consists of economic, social and moral functions. This is the philosophy of Varna System.

Definition of Jajmani System::

The Jajmani system is a peculiarity of Indian villages.

“A person by whom a Brahmin is hired to perform religious services, hence a patron, a client”. —Webster’s Dictionary

“The service relations which are governed by a hereditary tenure are called Jajman-Praja relations”. —N.S. Reddy

Kamins are also known as Praja.

“Under this system each caste group within a village is expected to give certain standardised services to the families of other castes. Each one works for certain family or group of families with whom he is hereditary linked.” —Oscar Lewis


Harold Gould has described the Jajmani system as inter-familial inter-caste relationship pertaining to the patterning of super- ordinate-subordinate relations between patrons and suppliers of services. The patrons are the families of clean castes while the suppers of services are the families of lower and unclean caste.

The first detailed study of Jajmani tradition in India was made by William H. Wiser. Both Kamin and Jajman are Integral part of the jajmani system and thus complementary to each other. The Jajmani system is called “Aya” in Mysore of South India, according to Ishwaran (1966).

Henty Orenstein has held that the families of village officials or village servants (for example the watchman) maintain jajmani relations with the whole village rather than with particular families.

Edmund R. Leach (1960) said, “Jajmani system maintains and regulates the division of labour and economic interdependence of caste.” William H. Wiser (1967) said, “Jajmani system serves to maintain the Indian village as a self-sufficient community.” Harold Gould (1987) said, “Jajmani system distributes agricultural produce In exchange for menial and craft services.”

A number of studies have been conducted on jajmani system in India. The important studies code N.S. Reddy’s study on North India in 1955, W.H. Wiser’s study in 1936, Prof. S.C. Dubey’s study in Hyderabad; D.N. Majumdar’s study (1958) in Lucknow of U.P., Katheline Cough’s (1955) study in Tanjore, Darling’s study (1934) In Punjab etc.

Although the Jajmani relationship seems to be between castes, in reality, it is between particular families belonging to particular castes. It is the relationship between families that continue to exist over time.

Advantages of Jajmani System:

Advantages of Jajmani System

1. Security of Occupation:

Security of occupation is guaranteed in case of jajmani system. Since this system is hereditary, the kamin is assured of his occupation. He knows that if he breaks his family occupation he shall not be able to earn his livelihood.

2. Economic Security:

It provides economic security to kamins as the jajman looks after all of their needs. The kamins are assured of their economic security. In every monetary crisis the jajman helps the kamins. They extend all possible help to the kamins. So there is economic security in the jajmani system.

3. Close and Intimate Relationship:

There is close and intimate relationship between the jajman and kamin. This relationship is not purely economical but it is sentimental and internal. A spirit of fellow feeling and brotherhood develops under this system. Both jajman and kamin know full well each other’s limitations as well as plus points.

So, they try to adjust each other. Jajmani system is hereditary and permanent, that is why both jajman and kamin sympathies for each other. This system creates an atmosphere conducive to peaceful living and co-operation.

4. Peaceful Living:

The cut-throat-competition for work or employment is almost absent in jajmani system. No jajman goes without service nor any kamin goes without food. So this system creates an atmosphere of peaceful living by creating the spirit of fellow-feeling and co-operation.

Disadvantages of Jajmani System:

Disadvantages of Jajmani System

1. Source of Exploitation:

Jajmani system is exploitative. The agricultural castes, which are invariably upper castes, seek the services of the occupational castes, which are generally lower castes. The exploitation of lower castes continues under the garb of paternal ties.

Like the caste system, this system has become a source of suppression, exploitation and discrimination and  Social Exclusion. Oscar Lewis has pointed out in his study of Jajmani system in Rampur village, whereas in the past it was based on personal relationship, it has now become an instrument of exploitation of kamins by jajmans.

2. Feeling of Superiority and Inferiority:

In this system, the kamins are considered low whereas the jajmans are placed high. This has resulted in social inequality and feeling of superiority and inferiority in the minds of both Jajman and kamin. Because this system is based on heredity, the kamin cannot take other Job or occupation and the advantage of latest scientific developments to improve his economic condition.

This system has resulted in lower  economic standard of the kamins. They are treated as inferior. They are sometimes exploited and abused by the Jajmans. They become helpless before the money power of their Jajmans. This is a system which is based on the sense of high and low.

3. Impediment to Occupational and Social Mobility:

Jajmani system has stood on the way of occupational mobility and resulted in lowering economic standard of the kamins. This system is hereditary, so there is no possibility of changing the occupation. In this way the system has given rise to rigidity in social mobility. The conditions of the kamins remain miserable because of their economic weaknesses.

4. Supported by Caste System:

Caste system is the basis of jajmani system.It gives validity to jammani relationship. So this system suffers from all the evils of caste system. Dr. Majumdar found in his study that the conditions of kamins are miserable and the upper castes subject them to great harassment and trouble.

They are ill-treated by the Jajmans. This system leads to widespread discrimination. There is exploitation and coercion. Dumont has pointed out that this system has to satisfy all those who enter into jajmani relationships.

5. Effect of Transport and Communication:

Due to rapid expansion of transport and communication, the system is in a decline. Because it has made easy for the kamins to seek job or other occupation outside their village. Now the kamins are no longer compelled to do the Job of Jajmans.

6. Impact of Social Reform Movement:

Due to the impact of social reform movements, the suppressed castes get benefits. They try to rise up in the social ladder. Various religious reform movements, like Arya Samaj have produced one of the greatest setback to the Jajmani system.




About Rashid Faridi

I am Rashid Aziz Faridi ,Writer, Teacher and a Voracious Reader.
This entry was posted in India, Nations, States and People, opinions, Population, society. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.