Indeginous Indian Tribal Society


Indian Tribal Society - the building blocks of Indian society

Indigenous Indian or adivasi tribal clans were the original building blocks of the castes or caste-clusters. Every aspect of the caste system, with the obvious exceptions of absence of hierarchy and of sexual inequality is found in the true tribal society.

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Valmik the Unbowed


 Valmik- Bandit or Divine Poet?

According to later (but not earlier) Hindu texts Valmik was a reformed bandit.

Valmiki community, however, reveres him as the divinised poet-saint who composed two of the most important sacred texts of India: Valmiki Ramayana and the Yogavisistha Ramayana. The above controversy has been detailed in a very scholarly manner by the late Professor Juila Leslie of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Professor Leslie's findings are contained in her book (See Source below). To date no one has refuted this work which establishes Shri Guru Bhagwan Valmik Ji's credentials as the adi-kavi, fighter for justice and possibly the first anti-caste eco-warrior who opposed Aryan expansion into the indigenous Indian adivasi territory. In one of our future articles we will be looking at true story of Ramayana.

Source: Authority and Meaning in Indian Religions - Hinduism and the Case of  Valmiki by Julia Leslie, published by Ashgate Publishing Limited, UK 2003. 

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Dalits and the Emanicipatory Sikh religion


Presented at UPenn Dec 3-5, 2008 Conference Dalit Challenges to Academic Knowledge: The Great Paradoxes


Dalits and the Emancipatory Sikh Religion


Raj Kumar Hans

M. S. University of Baroda


Hinduism has always been hostile to Sikhism, whose Gurus successfully attacked the principle of caste, which is the foundation on which the fabric of Brahminical religion has been reared. The activities of Hinduism have, therefore, been constantly directed to the undermining of Sikhism... Hinduism has strangled Buddhism, once a formidable rival to it, and it made serious inroads on the domains of Sikhism.

A. E. Barstow (1928)[1]

The ‘Dalit history’ approach, a particularly germane form of social history ‘from below’, seeks to bring caste conflict out in the open by making it a central theme in the writing of Sikh history. It thus provides a rather different, potentially stimulating, and realistic lens through which to take a closer look at Sikh history as a whole.

John C. B. Webster[2]


Today’s Untouchables are stronger than they have ever been. The progress they have made over the last century is quite remarkable. Many of the discriminations that once affected them have been seriously attenuated. Yet, and perhaps paradoxically, the great majority remain poor, powerless, and indeed without a voice.

Robert Diliege[3]

Dalits constitute about 30 per cent of Punjab population that happens to be largest propor­tion in the country, when compared with other provinces, but they occupy the lowest share in the ownership of land (2.34 per cent of the cultivated area). Mazhbis and Ramdasias, the two dalit castes among the Sikhs, particularly the Mazhbis, remain the most deprived. Evidence of untouchability against dalit Sikhs is well established. They have been forced to live in separate settlements, contemptuously called ‘thhattis’ or ‘chamarlees’, located on the western side and away from the main body of the villages. All the Sikh organisations from Sikh temples to the political party are under the control of the Jatt Sikhs. The Jatt Sikhs refuse to consider them equals even after death, by disallowing cremation of their dead in the main cremation ground of the village. Over the years such harsh caste attitude has forced the dalits to es­tablish separate gurdwaras, marriage places and cremation grounds.[4] This seems to be the biggest paradox of Sikhism which theoretically and theologically has been characterized as ‘emancipatory’[5] and even sociologically as ‘revolutionary’[6]. In its true egalitarian spirit, Sikhism had succeeded in integrating the lowliest of the low, the former untouchables, the dalits, into its fold. From dalits’ perspective the evolution of Sikhism can be seen in two phases: a) from seventeenth century to Ranjit Singh’s rule, when dalits played remarkable role in Sikh political struggles and religious movements; b) post-Ranjit Singh phase, when Brahmanical values and attitudes resurfaced with caste and untouchability afflicting the Sikh body politic in such a way that there was danger of its re-absorption into Hinduism. Though dominant literary tradition has denied the significance of ‘caste’ and ‘untouchability’ in Sikhism, it has also ignored and neglected the dalit contribution to the flourishing of Sikhism in the first phase. The rise in consciousness in the twentieth century has enabled the Dalits to raise questions on the dominant historigraphical praxis by attempting to recover the lost ground. The paper would first look at the modern moment, the rise in the dalit consciousness as manifest in Dalit creative writings. In seeking an answer to as to what made the powerful Sikh movement drift the paper would look at the ‘brahmanisation’ of Sikhism in the nineteenth century with ominous implications for dalits as well as for Sikhism.


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The Satnami Chamars

The Satnami Chamars


There is a city named Begampura; Where pain and sorrow find no place; There is no fear of tribute or tax; There is no sin, nor dread or death.


The story of the Satnami rebellion of 1672 starts with Guru Ravidas (?1373 ?1475) who dreamed of and sang about  a Utopian city named Begampura, literally a city without sorrow, which had no exploitation or tribute. The movement of the untouchables led by Ravidas did not come to an end on his death. His pupil, Udho Das or Udhav Das, kept the anti caste tradition alive from where it was passed on to, Birbhan (?1543?1658). By this time the followers were known as the Sadhus or the Sadhs. Since belief in one God (whom they called Sat Nam i.e. true name) was one of the fundamental tenet of their faith they were also called Satnamis. The unitarianism or the belief in one God was a central tenent of the followers of Kabir, Nanak and Ravidas and indeed it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between the hymns of these three. The sect's supposed founder Birbhan was an inhabitant of Brijhisar near Narnaul in the east Punjab near Delhi. The commandments of their sects are contained in their scripture called the Pothi (book). This pothi, equivalent in stature to the Guru Granth Sahib of the Sikhs is written in the ordinry Brajbhasa language in Devanagari script and contained hymns of many saints who opposed the caste system, for example Kabir and Nanak.

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