Saturday, 27 August 2011

The Chamar


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Chamar (Hindi: चमार, "tanner"; from the Sanskrit Charmakara) is a prominent occupational caste in India, Pakistan and Nepal. Chamar is a Dalit sub-caste mainly found in the northern states, such as Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi and in Nepal at least north to the Himalayas. The traditional occupation of this caste was processing, manufacturing and trading in leather and leather goods, but agriculture is another important occupation in which they engage, either as owners or as tenants.
Chamars have a population of over 50 million. They are known to be one of the most highly influential groups amongst scheduled castes. Traditionally, their social status was low in the Indian caste system because of their association with tanning and thus are still considered as untouchables in some parts of India.



[edit] Background and origin

Chamar were the diverse group of people who were engaged in manufacturing, processing and trading in leather and leather goods. A second occupation was farming, either in full ownership or on share cropping basis, by which they used to get a third or a quarter of the farm produce.
As now constituted, the Chamar caste is made up of a heterogeneous group of peoples. They do not belong to any one particular group, clan or area, but are those people from various castes who were classified into the Chamar castes by Mughal and British censuses from time to time for various reasons and purposes such as employment, political, and religion etc.The caste has been recruited from numerous sources. Many people and even whole sections of tribes have risen up from the lower levels and entered the caste, and this process is still going on.
The subjugation of tribe after tribe has been a recurring phenomenon in India. These movements have occurred over wide areas and over limited portions of the country as well. Local history fully illustrates this fact, and we may picture the flux of rising and falling tribes and clans under repeated foreign and local waves of conquest, and the consequent reconstruction, in more or less detail, of the social distribution of races and clans as a fairly constant process.[1] This means that the fixed status of an occupational group may go hand in hand with the repeated recruitment of the group by those who have been degraded from better positions. In some instances this may mean that certain clans were unable to maintain their identity and prestige with the changing order, and that consequently they have sunk to lower levels.[1]
There are more than 1000 Chamar subcastes or gots. Many of the these subclans originated from the local regions from a mixture of the local population and this is some sub-caste names showing the region names such as Azamgarhiya Banaudhiya, Kalkattiya, Ujjaini, Saksena, Chandariya, Guliya, Aharwar, and Jhusiya, are specifically local; while other sub-caste names, such as, Gangapari, Purabiya, Uttaraha, and Dakkhinaha, point to definite geographical origins.[1]
Many of the sub-caste names indicate that the caste has received large recruitments from higher castes above. For example Chamar sub-castes such as Banaudhiya,Ujjaini,Chandhariya, Sarwariya, Kandujiya, Chauhan, Chandel, Saksena, Sakarwar, Bhadarauriya, and Bundela are names of Rajput clans and indicate higher caste group members who have moved down the social structure.[1]
Another major Chamar subcaste: the Jatiya and Jatav indicate Jat origin since members of this caste are of a higher physical type than some other sub-castes and of lighter complexion. The explanation in his case may be that some occupational demand drew Jats into this lower form of work or more likely, that some pressure or penalty resulted in their degradation.[1]
On the other hand, there have been large accessions to the caste from castes that are considered to be lower than the Chamars in the caste system. Got and sub-caste names show that many Chamars have sprung from the Dom, the Kanjar, the Habura, the Koli, the Jaiswar and other casteless tribes. This movement of peoples upwards through successive stages is a well-known phenomenon.[1]

[edit] Demographics

Chamar Population in India by State
State Population State Population %
Bengal[2] 999,756 1.25%
Bihar[3] 4,090,070 5%
Delhi[4] 893,384 6.45%
Chandigarh[5] 48,159 5.3%
Chhattisgarh[6] 1,659,303 8%
Haryana[7] 2,079,132 9%
Himachal Pradesh[8] 414,669 6.8%
Jammu & Kashmir[9] 187,277 1.9%
Jharkhand[10] 837,333 3.1%
Madya Pradesh[11] 4,498,165 7.5%
Punjab[12] 2,800,000 11.9%
Rajasthan[13] 2,465,563 4%
Uttar Pradesh[14] 19,803,106 14%
Uttaranchal[15] 444,535 5%
Chamar Population Percentage of a State
Chamar Population by State

[edit] In Punjab

The most politically and socially influential Chamars are from the state of Punjab, where they form 11% of the population (2.8 million), with Dalits comprising 27% of the population. In the Punjab they are divided into various groups, such as Ad-Dharm, Ravidasi, Ramdasia,[16][17] and Chamar. In Majha they share the same gotras as Saraswati and Mohyal Brahmins, they share family names with Jats and Rajputs.
In Malwa most Chamars turned to Sikhism, whereas in Doaba most of them did not opt for Sikhism. In Majha they are called Ramdasia and Ravidasia, in Doaba they are called Adi Dharmi. They are highly concentrated in the Doaba, and the Malwa region of Punjab, where they form over 25% of the population.

[edit] In Haryana

The total Chamar population in Haryana is more than 2,079,132, about 9% of the Population.[18] Most Chamars in the districts of Hisar, Jind, Panipat, Karnal, Sonepat, Rohtak, Kaithal are Julaha Chamars. They are similar to the Kori Julahas of Western Uttar Pradesh and have family relationships with them.

[edit] In Uttar Pradesh

Most Chamars reside in Western Uttar Pradesh are known as Jatav. Total Chamar population in this state is almost 20 million and form 13-14% of the population.[5] In this state, the political party of Chamars Bahujan Samaj Party has its political base and this has led to Bahujan Samaj Party to win the state elections and chief minister post by Ms Mayawati 4 times since 1990.

[edit] In Rajasthan

The castes which were involved in leather work in past (before independence) were termed "Chamar". Chamars in Rajasthan can only be identified in the districts adjoining to the states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. The districts of Bikaner, Shriganganagar, Hanumangarh, Churu, Jhunjhunu, Alwar, Bharatpur and Dhaulpur are inhabited by Chamars. In the districts of Bharatpur, Dhaulpur and parts of Alwar (adjoining to Bharatpur) they are known as Jatav. Raigar (leather tanners) and Mochi (shoe makers) are other two castes related to the leather profession.

[edit] In Himachal Pradesh

The Chamars are the second largest SC caste in the state after the Kori. Chamars are mainly found in the following districts: Kangra, Mandi and Una.

[edit] Religion

Chamars are mostly Hindus. The long term foreign rules by Mughals and British meant that their condition declined day by day. This especially peaked with British rule who practiced divide and rule and preferentially allotted seats in education sector to other castes while ignoring Chamars. In military too, they were excluded. But Hindu revivalists starting from the 15th century preached emancipation of the Chamars. It ultimately culminated in the new Constitution of India; formulated by Dr B.R.Ambedkar. It was hugely supported by most Hindu leaders and reservations in large numbers were provided. Gradually numerous Chamars en-masse increased their standard of living. So much so, that many Muslim authors in the past few decades have lamented that their standard of living in India is far below that of even Chamars. It is symbolic of how much change has occurred since independence. Many Chamars have also joined smaller Hindu religious groups such as the Ravidasi, Arya Samaj. Others joined Sikh Deras such as Nirankari & Radhaswami.

[edit] Ravidasia Chamars

Sikh converts from the community working professionally in leather are usually referred to as Ravidasia Sikhs. The term Ravidasi is an adaptation from Ravidasias, as some Chamar castes came to be called.
The spiritual enlightenment of Saint Guru Ravidas attracted many people toward Ravidassia sect. Saint Ravidass was one of those few saints who were directly linked to God without being stuck to false and hoaxful rites.
The teachings of the Sikh gurus, with their rejection of the caste system and emphasis on ethnic equality of all human beings, appealed to them. Of special significance for them was the canonization of the hymns of Shri Guru Ravidas Ji in the Sikh Scripture. Consequently, many Chamars converted to Sikhism and were, as a class, given the respectable name of Ravidassia Sikhs.
Conversion of Hindu Chamars to Sikhism accelerated towards the end of the nineteenth century. This was due to the rise of the Singh Sabha movement, launched in 1873 for the restoration and propagation of Sikh teachings, including the removal of caste distinctions. The number of Chamars who declared Sikhism as their religion increased from 100,014 in 1881 to 155,717 in 1931.

[edit] Politics

The Chamar Community are one of the most involved and influential castes involved in UP politics. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), a dalit-dominated political party, is very powerful in U.P and is expanding all over India. The BSP is one of the most powerful political parties of India. It was founded by Kanshi Ram and is led today by Mayawati Kumari, a Chamar. The BSP was created and is dominated by the dalits but currently includes all castes.

[edit] Military

The Chamar Community has a history of military service and are heavily represented in the Sikh Light Infantry.
Many Chamars have played an active role in the Indian War of Independence of 1857. Banke Chamar of Kurarpur, Jaunpur district (Uttar Pradesh) is one noted revolutionary, who was hanged by the British. Chetram (Jatav) and Belluram also died for their role in the Barrackpur revolution.

[edit] Chamar Regiment

The 1st Chamar Regiment was an infantry regiment formed by the British during World War II. Officially, it was created on 1 March 1943, as the 27th Battalion 2nd Punjab Regiment was converted.[19] The Chamar Regiment which was involved in the Pacific War Japanese front and was awarded the Battle Honor of Kohima for theirs distinguished role in the Battle of Kohima.[20] The Regiment was disbanded in 1946.[21] Recently, several politicians have demanded that the The Chamar Regiment be revived.[21]

[edit] Chamar-Satnami kingdom

There was a Satnami Kingdom of Narnaul (Haryana). The Satnami sect of Hinduism was founded in 1657 in Narnaul (a town in today's Indian state of Haryana, situated about 100 km south-west of Delhi), by a saint names Birbhan. They are considered to be an offshoot of the followers of the great saint Ravidas. The name Satnami reflects the major religious activity of the sect-which is the chanting and meditation of the true name (satnam, names of God), especially the names of Rama and Krishna. Fixing the mind devotedly on divine names, the fluctuations of the consciousness are stabilised, which makes one fit to receive higher intuitive knowledge of the divine. The sect is comprised mostly, but by no means exclusively, of the lower strata of Hindu society-particularly the leather working, sweeper, carpenters, and goldsmith communities-and they observe no caste distinctions-judging people only be their actions. They were known to have dressed simply like saints, and keep shaved heads (and were hence also called mundiyas), and abstain from intoxicants and animal foods. These tenets are still practiced by many today. Today the sect numbers over 15 million, and followers are to be found in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra. This huge spread is because those who survived the genocide following their rebellion against the Moghuls spread out into small units over vast tracts of land.
The Satnami revolt occurred in the reign of the Moghul Emperor Aurungzeb. Many Hindus resented Aurungzeb's strict Islamic policies-which included reviving the hated Islamic Jiziya tax (poll tax on non-Muslim subjects), banning music and art, and destroying Hindu temples. The revolt began in 1672 when a Moghul soldier killed a Satnami. Other Satnamis took revenge on the Moghul soldier, and in turn the Moghul soldiers went about repressing the Satnamis. The result was that about 5,000 Satnamis were up in arms. They routed the Moghul troops situated in the town, drove away the Moghul administrators and set up their own administration in its place. The uprising gained the enthusiasm of Hindus in Agra and Ajmer also. Though totally lacking in weaponry and money, the Satnamis inflicted several defeats on the Moghul forces. The contemporary Moghul chronicler, Saqi Mustaid Khan, expressed amazement as to what came over this "destitute gang of goldsmiths, carpenters, sweepers and tanners and other… artisan castes that their conceited brains became so overclouded? Rebellious pride having found a place in their brains, their heads became too heavy for their shoulders." This also shows the thinking of Muslim intelligentsia who regard them as untouchables. Amusingly, in contrast, Hindus have greatly respected the Satnamis throughout for their beliefs like prohibition of intoxicants and meat. The resentment of the Satnami's against the Moghul persecution meant that they even enacted revenge by destroying mosques in the area. It was only with great difficulty that any Muslim soldiers could be brought to face the Satnamis, such was the wrath of the Satnamis at the time. It was only when Aurungzeb himself took personal command and sent 10,000 troops with artillery that the Satnamis fell. They put up a brave defense. According to Saqi Mustaid Khan they believed that they were re-enacting scenes from the Mahabharata war. 2,000 Satnamis were slain on the battlefield and many more were slain in pursuit. What followed was an attempt to slay every remaining member of the Satnamis, and destroy all their homes. The remnants of the Satnamis fled in all directions and for a long time were totally disorganized and leaderless.

[edit] Notable Chamars

prof. Arun kumar from bathinda punjab also president shri gururavidas janam utsav comittee,bathinda

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b c d e f Briggs, Geo W. (1920). The Religious Life of India - The Chamars. p. 20. ISBN 1-4067-5762-4.
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  16. ^ Das, K.C (2005). Indian Dalits: Voices,Visions and Politics. India: Global Vision Publishing House. pp. 302. ISBN 8182200466.
  17. ^ kumar, raj (2003). Essays on Dalits. India: Discovery Publishing House. pp. 234. ISBN 8171417086.
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Orders of Battle - 27/2 Punjab Regiment [British Commonwealth]". Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  20. ^ "The Battle of Kohima" (PDF).
  21. ^ a b "RJD man Raghuvansh calls for reviving Chamar Regiment". Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  22. ^ "I will be the best PM and Mayawati is my chosen heir". Indian Express. May 2, 2003. "...I am a chamar from Punjab..."
  23. ^ "I will be the best PM and Mayawati is my chosen heir". Indian Express. May 2, 2003. "...Jagjivan Ram, a chamar leader..."