Introduction / History The Gosain are very religious. By tradition, they have removed themselves from material pleasures and live by collecting alms and looking after temples. They worship the Hindu god Shiva. They live in many parts of India but particularly in Uttar Pradesh in the Gonda and Gorakhpur regions.
What are their lives like? Many of the Gosain have now turned to other things for a living like farming, raising cows for milk, and government services.
The Gosain are landowners except in Maharashtra and the Punjab where most have no land. In Punjab they do rickshaw pulling, carpentry and other things while some beg. Some are weavers. They eat grain, lentils and vegetables and meat except for beef. Smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol happens a lot among them. Education takes place with the boys and the literacy level among females is much less than among males. They do family planning and use local and modern medicines.
Families usually arrange marriages. They believe in monogamy. Most marriages are now adult ones. If the wife cannot have children, the husband is allowed to keep his wife while marrying again. Divorce is allowed in such things as adultery, cruelty and impotence. Divorcees and the bereaved can remarry.
Only the sons inherit property and the oldest son becomes leader of the home. Women usually are only involved in social, religious and ritual matters. The Gosain have organizations that are national, regional and local that look after social, economic, religious and educational needs. A traditional community council is elected in the villages. They judge on things like divorce and family matters. When found guilty, fines are given or the guilty are boycotted. The money from the fine is given to a Shiva temple or a feast for the local people.
What are their beliefs? The Gosain are Hindus and give their offerings to Hindu gods and goddesses. Shiva is their main god. Also they worship male and female clan gods. They do ceremonies they believe will rid them of evil spirits and please their god.
The Gosain go to the main Hindu pilgrimages that they believe to be holy. They celebrate all the Hindu festivals such as Holi and Diwali. They particularly celebrate Maha Shivaratri which means the great night of Shiva. It is they believe to do with the destruction and renewing of the universe.
Most Gosain bury their dead except in Himachal Pradesh, Bihar and Delhi. Bodies are burned in big cities to avoid crowding of dead bodies. The dead are buried in a sitting down position towards the Kailash peak in the Himalayas as they believe that is the heavenly home of Shiva. There is death pollution for a set period and that is followed by a funeral feast at the end of it.
The Gosain are devoted to Shiva and are looking to find peace and happiness in God. They hope to be redeemed by living a life of hardship that they put on themselves and by a life of denial. (As they are wanting to find happiness in God, that may be an opportunity for the gospel message to be given to them).