Monday, November 23, 2015

132, Chamar of Sirsa and Megh

THE CHAMARS. According to the Census of 1881, the Chamars of this dis trict number 18,022, or 7 per cent. of the total population ; of these only 314 are returned as Sikh, and the rest as Hindu*. It is the third tribe in point of numbers in the district. They are very numerous also to the south and east in Bikaner, Rohtak, and much further east, and form about 10 per cent. of the population of the whole south and east of the Panjab. If the number of Chamars was rightly given at last census as 11,701, they have increased in numbers 54 per cent. In the Musalman villages their place as leather- workers is taken by the Mochls, who number 3,073, all Musalman except 132 who are Hindri. All the leather-work is done by Chamars or Mochis, who also work as labourers in the fields for wagps in money or kind. But in this district land is so plentiful that many of the Chamars are ordinary tenants and have given up leather-work for agriculture, making very good, prosperous cultivators,
little inferior to the J&ts. The Cha mars also do the weaving of blankets and coarse cloth in the Hindd villages, their places as weavers being taken in the Musalman villages by the Julahas. The Panjabi Chamars are known only by the name of Cha mar or Chimiy&r. Those from the Bagar like to be called Meghwal, and say they are descended from Meghrikh, who was created by Narayan. Any one wishing to be abusive calls a Chamar " Dhed," which seems to be the name of a large tribe holding a similar position in Kachh and Sind. They are also sometimes called Bhambi. Possibly all the tribes — Chamar, Bhambi, Meghwal, Dhed, Julaha or PaoK, and Mochi, engaged in weaving coarse cloth and work ing in tanned leather — are originally the same race, or at all events closely connected. The Chamars are divided into several distinct sections, which will not intermarry with each other. Almost all the Chamars of this neighbourhood are of the Chandor section, and will not intermarry with the Jatiya Chamars in the neigh bourhood of Delhi, who (they say) work in leather made from camels' and horses' skins, which is an abomination to the Chandors. On the other hand, some Marwari Chamars settled in Dehli, who make trips in this direction in the cold weather, selling leather ropes in the villages, refuse to have any connection with the Chamars here, who (they say) tan leather and eat the flesh of animals that have died, while the Marwari Chamars eat only the flesh of animals that have heen killed in the Musalman manner {haldl). All the Chamars of this neighbourhood intermarry with each other. They do not claim to be descended from any other tribe, and have no tradition of any special origin. The Chamars of this neighbourhood do not themselves tan leather— that is done by the Rahgar and Khatlk ; but the Jatiya Chamars of Dehli and the Chamars of the Pawadh about Ludhiana do tan leather. The Sirsa Chamars eat the flesh of cows, buf faloes, goats, and sheep, and work in their leather, but they will not eat the flesh of camels or horses, or work in their leather, nor will they eat fish, lizard, or pig. The skins of the camel and horse are left to the Chuhras. Cham&rs are practically Hindi! They have no special deity of their own, but worship the ordinary Hindu* deities, and make pilgrimages to shrines commonly held sacred, such as Ramdeo Gosayan of Runicha in the Bagar, Mairi-ka- pir or Guga Pir, not far from Sirsa in Bikaner, Hanuman, Masani of Gurgaon, Debl of Nagarkot near Kangra, Bhiron of Ahror near Rewarf". They have a caste of Brahmans of their own called Gurra or Chamrda Brahman, who wear the sacred thread (janeu), and do not eat with Chamars, but are quite distinct from the ordinary high-caste Brahmans. They accept offerings from Chamars and preside at their marriage ceremonies, which are performed, as among Hindus, by walking round the sacred fire. It is worthy of note that among the Chamars the dead are either buried or burned, as is most convenient ; neither custom is binding. Towards Bikaner it is more common to bury the dead ; towards the Panjab both customs are common, even in the same family. In either case the phul (if burned, the ashes ; if buried, the nails) are taken to the Ganges. They have no belief in transmigration, but believe the good in this life go to heaven (snrg) and are happy after death, while the wicked go to hell (narag) and are miserable. At funerals the women remain at home and weep, while the men go out with the corpse, mourning somewhat as follows : " tu hi hoi; tainne paidd kiya aur tainne mdrliya " — " Thou alone art. Thou madest and thou hast struck down." The Chamars have also a separate caste of Mirasis (Musalman), and another of Bhats (Hindu), both endogamous and distinct from the Chamdrs on the one side and from the ordinary Mirdsis and Bhats on the other, but probably originally belonging to the latter, and separated from them only when they took to serving Chamars.  Pages 23 to 25
Published by GOI, calcutta

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