2. Dvitīyaṃ kāṇḍam

16. śūdravargaḥ

(Über Śūdras)

2. Vers 5 - 15: Handwerker

Beispiel zu: Chamār (चमार / சாமர்)

Hrsg. von Alois Payer 

Zitierweise | cite as: Amarasiṃha <6./8. Jhdt. n. Chr.>: Nāmaliṅgānuśāsana (Amarakośa) / übersetzt von Alois Payer <1944 - >. -- 2. Dvitīyaṃ kāṇḍam. -- 16. śūdravargaḥ  (Über Śūdras). -- 2. Vers 5 - 15: Handwerker.  -- Beispiel zu: Chamār(चमार / சாமர்). -- Fassung vom 2017-08-22. --  URL:                                                          

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Dieser Text ist Teil der Abteilung Sanskrit von Tüpfli's Global Village Library

Meinem Lehrer und Freund

Prof. Dr. Heinrich von Stietencron

ist die gesamte Amarakośa-Übersetzung

in Dankbarkeit gewidmet.

Falls Sie die diakritischen Zeichen nicht dargestellt bekommen, installieren Sie eine Schrift mit Diakritika wie z.B. Tahoma.

Die Devanāgarī-Zeichen sind in Unicode kodiert. Sie benötigen also eine Unicode-Devanāgarī-Schrift.

Quelle: Briggs, George Weston <1874 - >: The Chamārs. -- Calcutta : Association Press, 1920. -- 270 S. : Ill.   . -- (The religious life of India).

Alle Nachweise findet man im Original.




The tanners of leather, the preparers of skins, the manufacturers of leather articles, and the makers of shoes belong to a well defined class in the Indian social order. Most of these workers, in Upper India, are to-day included under the general term Chamār [चमार]. This occupational group may be traced back to very early times. Tanners (charmamnā [carmamná]) are mentioned in the Ŗig Veda, in the later Vedic literature,  and in the Brāhmaṇas. Tanning, mlā, mnā, is also spoken of in the Ŗig Veda , and certain details of stretching and wetting hides probably refer to the process of manufacture. Ox-hides were used in the pressing of the soma, and ox-hides and antelope and tiger skins were used in sacramental and ceremonial rites. The use of skins for clothing is mentioned in the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa and in other early literature. The Māruts wore deer skins3 and the wild ascetics seem to have been clothed in skins. The use presupposes the preparation of skins.

The word leather (hide) charman [carman], charma [carma], is known in both the older and the later portions of the Ŗig Veda, in the Atharva Veda, in the books of the Yajur Vedic schools, in the Brāhmaṇas, and in the later literature. In these books we find references to the thong, yoktra, used for yoking the chariot or cart ; the bow-string, jyā, made of ox-hide ; reins of leather; leather bags, dṛti and dhmāta, for holding liquids ; leather bottles, bhastrā ; and thongs used for couches, vardhra, for door fastenings, paricarmaṇya, and for bridles, syuman. From the Mahābhārat we learn that leather was used for the hand-guard for the bow; that the hands and fingers were protected with leather ; that the soldier used a shield made of ox-hide or of bear-skin : that he had a cuirass and a breast-plate of leather; and that his body-armour was made of iron and leather. We find also that sinews were used to bind the feathers upon the arrow, and that the sword was sheathed in leather. The war chariot was protected with shields of leather. The box of the chariot was fixed to the axle with thongs of leather. The horses were yoked to the pole of the chariot with leather straps. The reins were of leather. Sometimes the horses were even covered with leather robes which served as armour. Drums, especially the great kettle-drums, were fashioned with leather heads.

The old literature also knows the shoemaker, carmakāra, charmakṛt, pādukāra, padukṛt. Shoes made of skins and of leather, are mentioned in the Brāhmaṇas, in Manu and the older law books, in the Mahābhārat, in the Rāmāyaṇa, and in the Vishṇu Purāṇa.

Thus there were well known and fully developed in ancient India, the occupations of tanner and leather worker.

Probably from early Aryan times the village life in India was organized somewhat as it is to-day, with its cultivators resident within the village, and the lower orders of labourers attached to its outskirts. To this latter class belonged the common labourers and those who, on account of the disgusting aspects of their work and life, were deemed to be unclean and untouchable. The Aryan came as a conqueror, and he retained for himself the religious and the military functions of the social order, along with the privileges belonging to the leisured class.

So, as time went on, he became, more and more, the priest and noble, the great landed proprietor and the ranchman. The conquered people, kept in subjection, performed the more lowly tasks of life. According to Hopkins, the Vaiśya (the people-caste) and the Śūdra (the serving-caste) formed the strata between the ruling and priestly castes on the one hand and the helots (the most depressed classes, the outcastes, the Dasyu) on the other. A casual reading of the law books reveals the fact that a fairly sharp line of distinction was drawn between the general community in the village and the helots, who lived beyond the village border. Manu’s famous passage is:

“All those tribes in this world, which are excluded from (the community of) those born from the mouth, the arms, the thighs, and the feet (of Brahman), are called Dasyus, whether they speak the language'of the Mlecchas (barbarians) or that of the Aryas.”

This excluded group was composed of mixed castes and of aborigines. Some such general term as Chaṇḍāla was applied to those who were of polluted Aryan blood, and that of Dasyu (slave, native) to those whom the Aryas had conquered. Sometimes these two words are used as synonyms. The Dasyu was looked upon as inferior and unclean even in Vedic times. He was never admitted to the Aryan community. Yet these classes had a sort of landed right, and they were useful in times of disease. Acquainted with primitive superstitions, and in many instances being the officiants in magical rites, in exorcism, and in disease transference, they served, in these capacities, even the higher castes. With, this community on the outskirts of the village the tanner and leather-worker were grouped.

Occupationally to-day the Chamār [चमार] corresponds to the charmamna or charmamla and the charmakara of the past.

Some Brahmanical tradition gives the Chamār [चमार] a respectable ancestry and attributes his out-caste condition to the violation of Aryan laws. According to Manu the Kāravāra, or leather-worker, has the following ancestry.

Karavara Niśāda Father Brāhman father
Śūdrī mother
Vaidehi ṁother Vaiśya father
Brāhmaṇī mother

Other reports give him a less respectable pedigree, for he is said also to be the offspring of a Chandal woman (one of the most despised of society, having „a Brāhmaṇī mother and a Śūdra father) by a man of the fisherman caste. And, again, he is said to be the son of a Malāh (boatman) and a Chandal. But evidently none of these traditions account for the Chamār [चमार]. At most they claim for him a higher birth than seems at all probable.

Much current tradition ascribes to him a good ancestry. For example, men say that, in the beginning, there was but one family of men and they were all of the highest caste. They worked in the fields, and followed other callings. In this family there were four brothers. It so happened that a cow died one day, and the body lay in the yard until evening. Since no one could be found to remove the carcass, the three older brothers agreed that their younger brother should carry away the body, and that, afterwards, when he had bathed, they would receive him on the old footing of equality. To this he agreed. After much pulling and hauling, he managed to drag the carcass to the jungle. When he returned from his bath, his brothers refused to receive him, but compelled him to live at a distance from them. He made a great fuss about it, but his complaints were of no avail. They told him that henceforth he was to do the work of a Chamār [चमार], that is, to skin the animals that died, and to make leather and implements of leather. The brothers promised to take care of him in return for these services. Thus the Chamār caste arose. It happened on another day that a buffalo died. This Chamār then said to his brothers, “I am not strong enough to remove this carcass.” The body lay in the yard until noon, when it so happened that Śiva, who had come down to look after the welfare of men, passed that way. The three brothers complained to him that the Chamār was unable to remove, the body of the buffalo. Then the latter appealed to Śiva for help. The great god then said to the brothers, “It is true that your brother cannot, unassisted, remove the carcass. Let one of you step forward and help him.” The brothers all protested. Śiva, then commanded the Chamār to collect a pile of refuse (kūṛā [कूड़ा].) When this was done, Śiva directed him to urinate upon it, and, as he obeyed, straightway, from the heap, a strong man arose. From this man the Kuril sub-caste of Chamārs sprang.

Another legend, current among the Agarwāla Baniyas [अग्रवाल बनिया], relates that there was once a Rāja who had two daughters, Chāmū and Bāmū, each of whom had a son of great physical powers. One day an elephant died in the Rāja’s grounds, and, as he did not wish to cut its body to pieces, he inquired if there was anyone strong enough to carry the carcass away and bury it. Chāmū’s son performed the task, whereupon Bāmū’s son declared him an out-caste.

According to a third legend, five brothers, Brāhmans, while out walking one day, saw the carcass of a cow by the roadside. Four of the brothers passed it by, but the fifth removed the body. Thereupon he was excommunicated by his brothers. His descendants continue to remove the carcasses of cattle.

These traditions, both ancient and modern, do not, however, account for the origin of the Chamār. They merely show how some persons were degraded into the leather-working group. The caste itself had its origin in that occupational class on the borders of the ancient village. This group, essentially non-Aryan, has maintained itself through the centuries in its traditional occupation. But the caste is to-day a very large one, and it would be difficult to account for it merely on the ground that it has been self-propagating. As now constituted, the caste is made up of a heterogeneous group of peoples. This is illustrated, in the first place, by the fact that most of the sub-castes of the Chamārs [चमार] are found in fairly well defined areas, and these may be described as local groups. Furthermore, some sub-caste 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. Some of the local groups of Chamārs [चमार] are of recent origin. For example, there were no Chamārs [चमार] in the Gorakhpur [गोरखपुर] District four hundred years ago.

Furthermore, there are good reasons for believing that the caste has received large recruitments from above. This is illustrated by the case of the Gorakhpur Chamārs [चमार]. Again, there are some rather pronounced variations in the features of members of the caste. This may be illustrated from places as widely separated as Ballia [बलिया] and Meerut [मेरठ]. It has been noted that many Chamār women have fine features, and that some Chamārs [चमार] have a better cast of features than is at all common in the social level in which they are found. This may be explained in part by illicit relations which Chamārwomen have had with men of higher castes; and partly by certain social and religious customs that have prevailed extensively, although now traces of the practices are somewhat difficult to discover. But such explanations are not sufficient to account for widespread characteristics of the higher sort. The Jatiya [जाटव], for example, is 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 Jaṭs [जाट] into this lower form of work; or, more likely, that some pressure or penalty resulted in their degradation. Some Jatiyas claim to be descendants of Jaṭs, and many of this sub-caste do resemble these taller and fairer complexioned neighbors. Such sections of the caste as possess markedly superior features must be accounted for through conquest. 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. 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. These contentions are borne out by many got, or family, and sub-caste names ; for example, Banaudhiya, Ujjaini, Chandhariya, Sarwariya, Kanaujiya, Chauhan [चौहान],  Chandel,  Saksena,  Sakarwar,  Bhadarauriya, and Bundela. These are names of Rajput [राज्पुत] clans, and, as applied to the Chamār, suggest dependency. This may mean also more or less racial admixture, as in the case of the Jatiya [जाटव]. Subcaste names such as Kori and Turkiya point also to the wide range of racial elements in the caste.

On the other hand, there have been large accessions to the caste from below. Got and sub-caste names show that many Chamārs [चमार] have sprung from the Dom, the Kanjar [कंजर], the Habura, the Koi, the Jaiswar [जैसवार] and other casteless tribes. This movement of peoples upwards through successive stages is a well-known phenomenon.    .

The caste, then, 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. On the other hand, various political changes have resulted in the subjugation of large groups, who consequently were forced into this lower stratum. Still, the caste is predominantly non-Aryan in character. This is accounted for by the fact that to the basal group, which was of aboriginal origin, large, recruitments have been made from below. On the other hand, it may be that environment  and food have played a large part in modifying the physical characteristics of those who have been brought into the caste from above. The basal group has always been large enough to assimilate its recruits to its own standards of temper and character. In the Chamār caste, there is a close and historically complete contact with Indian village life running very far back, and to-day it occupies a place in the social and economic order that agrees very well with that held from early times.

Although he does not meet any of the determining tests of Hinduism, the Chamār is a Hindu. In the Census Report for 1901, certain castes which fall below the twice-born were grouped as follows:

  • Those from whose hands Brahmans will take water ;
  • those from whose hands some of the higher castes will take water;
  • those from whom the twice-born cannot take water, but who are not untouchable ;
  • those whose touch defiles, but who do not eat beef;
  • and those who eat beef and vermin and whose touch defiles.

In this last class the Chamār belongs. He occupies an utterly degraded position in the village life, and he is regarded with loathing and disgust by the higher castes. His quarters (chamrauṭī, chamārwāṛā) abound in all kinds of abominable filth. His foul mode of living is proverbial. Except when it is absolutely necessary, a clean-living Hindu will not visit his part of the village. The author of Hindu Castes and Sects says that the very touch of a Chamār renders it necessary for a good Hindu to bathe with all his clothes on. The Chamār’s very name connects him with the carcasses of cattle. Besides, he not only removes the skins from the cattle that have died, but also he eats the flesh. The defilement and degradation resulting from these acts are insurmountable. The fact that the Chamār is habitually associated in thought with these practices may partially explain why the large non-leather-working sections of the caste are still rated as untouchable.

Chamārs [चमार], including Mochis [मोची], are scattered well over the “Aryo-Dravidian” tract, and leather-workers, under one name or another, are found in nearly every part of India. Chamārs [चमार] are most numerous in the United Provinces, and in the bordering areas of Bihar [बिहार] on the East and of the Punjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ] on the north-west. The census figures for 1911, for all India, show the Brahmans as the first caste in point of numbers, and the leather-workers as a whole, or even the Chamār-Chambhar taken alone, as the second. The Rajput is the third caste. This estimate excludes in calculation the Sheikh [شیخ] Mussulmans, who number 32,131,342 and who are evidently not a “caste.” In Bengal [বঙ্গ] the Chamār-Mochi is the sixth caste, the Brahman being the second, and the Kayastha [কায়স্থ] the third; in Bihar [बिहार] and Orissa [ଓଡ଼ିଶା] the Chamār [चमार] is the eighth or seventh, according as he is counted alone, or with the Mochi [मोची]; in the Central Provinces he is the third caste; in the Central India Agency the second, with the Brahman first; in the Punjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ] he is the fourth, or the third if the Mochi [मोची] be counted, while the Jat [जाट] is the first and the Rajput [राज्पुत] second ; in Rajaputana [राजपुताना] he is third, with the Jat first and the Brahman second ; in the United Provinces he is the first caste in point of numbers, with the Brahman second. Another striking fact is that in the United Provinces the Chamārs [चमार] are almost as numerous as the Mussulmans. Furthermore, the Chamār is increasing in numbers. In the United Provinces, during the twenty years ending in 1901, the increase was nearly ten percent.; and during the last decade, 2.4 per cent. In the last thirty years the increase has been 12.2 per cent.

The tables (Appendix A) show that the Chamārs [चमार] are scattered fairly evenly over the United Provinces. Numerically they are strongest in the Gorakhpur [गोरखपुर] and Basti [बस्ती] Districts; but, taken in proportion to the rest of the population, they are the largest element in the community in Saharanpur [सहारनपुर] and in the remainder of the Meerut [मेरठ] Division. In the Saharanpur District every fifth man is a Chamār, while in the Meerut Division seventeen per cent, of the population are Chamārs [चमार]. Taking the United Provinces as a whole, every eighth man is a Chamār.

The sub-castes of the Chamār are very numerous, 1,156 being returned in 1891. While these returns may not be accurate, and while numerous names are but variable pronunciations and spellings of others, still the number of sub-divisions of Chamārs [चमार] is very large. Like many other castes they are said to be divided into seven principal sub-castes. The names of these traditional seven vary in different places and their order of respectability varies also.

Among all the sections of the Chamār of the United Provinces, two great sub-castes predominate. These are the Jatiya  [जाटव] and the Jaiswar [जैसवार]. The former, which includes more than twenty per cent, of the total Chamār population, is found almost entirely in the north and west of the Provinces, in the Meerut [मेरठ] , Agra [आगरा] and Rohilkhand [रोहिलखंड] Divisions, being most numerous in Meerut [मेरठ], Agra [आगरा], Moradabad [मुरादाबाद], and Badaun [बदायूँ,] Districts ; and the latter, numbering about one million persons, are found chiefly in the Allahabad [इलाहाबाद], Benares [वाराणसी], Gorakhpur [गोरखपुर], and Fyzabad [फ़ैज़ाबाद] Divisions, being most numerous in the Jaunpur [जौनपुर], Azamgarh [आज़ामगढ़], Mirzapur [मिर्ज़ापुर], and Fyzabad [फ़ैज़ाबाद] Districts. These two sub-castes make up nearly two-fifths of the whole Chamār population. Both make claims to superior standing; and the Jatiya  [जाटव] can reasonably claim to be the highest of all the sub-castes of the Chamārs [चमार]. Among them there are many who are well-to-do. The Jaiswar [जैसवार] makes claims to superiority, and bases them upon his refusal to do certain degrading tasks that usually fall to the hot of the Chamār. Yet, where they are most numerous, they undoubtedly share in all of the degrading work, and practise all the disgusting habits characteristic of the caste.

The Jatiya, or Jatua [जाटव], is found in large numbers, not only in the central and upper Doab [दोआब], and in Rohilkhand [रोहिलखंड], but also in the Punjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ] in the neighbourhood of Delhi [दिल्ली] and Gurgaon [गुड़गांव]. He is a field-labourer, a cultivator, a dealer in hides, and a maker of shoes. Some of the cultivating sections of this sub-caste do not make leather, and do not allow their women to practise midwifery. Some of the shoemaking sections do not mend shoes. In some places, notably in the Punjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ], the Jatiya works in horse and camel hides, and refuses to touch the skins of cattle. Some of the dealers in hides are wealthy, and live as comfortably as do high-caste Hindus. About one half of the sub-caste eat carrion. Some, at least, refuse to eat beef or pork.

Two suggestions have been made as to their origin. Some say that their name is derived from the word jaṭ, meaning a camel-driver; others, that their name connects them with the Jāt [जाट] caste. It is sometimes said that they are descendants from the marriages of Jāts  with Chāmars. Nesfield suggests that they may be an occupational offshoot from the Yadu tribe from which Kṛishna came. Although the Jatiya of the Punjab works in camel and horse hides, which is an abomination to the Chandar, he employs Gaur [गौड़] Brahmans, and is, for this reason, in that part of India, considered the highest sub-caste of Chamārs [चमार].

The Jaiswar [जैसवार] is found almost exclusively in the eastern part of the Provinces. From his ranks many menial servants and house-servants for Europeans are recruited in the towns and cities. Many are grasscuts and grooms ; indeed many of the grooms (sāīs [साईस]) from Calcutta [কলকাতা] to Peshawar [پیشاور] are Jaiswars of Jaunpur [जौनपुर] and Azamgarh [आज़ामगढ़]. Some of this sub-caste are tanners, some of them make shoes, and many are day-labourers. Some Jaiswars were with the troops that fought with Clive [Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive, 1725 – 1774] at Plassey [পলাশী]. It is said that they have a custom which requires that they, because of an oath in the name of the goddess Māī Rām (Kāli [काली]), carry burdens on their heads but not on their shoulders. They worship the halter as a fetish, and consider it an act of sacrilege to tie up a dog with it, because the dog is unclean. For the most part they eat carrion and pork, but their leading men do not. In some places Jaiswar women practise midwifery.

The details of certain other important sub-castes of the Chamārs [चमार], as found in the United Provinces, together with supplementary notes bearing on other areas, are given below. Of these sub-castes the more important have been chosen in the order of their numerical strength.

The numbers in the first eight sub-castes enumerated range from more than 400,000 to just under 100,000.

The Chamār [चमार] Chamār is found almost exclusively in the Meerut [मेरठ] and Rohilkhand [रोहिलखंड] Divisions. He is most numerous in the Saharanpur [सहारनपुरव्], Bijnor [बिजनौर], and Muzaffarnagar [मुज़फ़्फ़रनगर] Districts, and he is found in considerable numbers in the Meerut [मेरठ], Moradabad [मुरादाबाद], and Bulandshar [बुलन्दशहर] Districts. He is counted amongst the lowest of all the sub-castes. In fact the tanning sections of the Chamārs [चमार], of whom the Chamār is one, seem to occupy the lowest level wherever they are found. He is a cultivator, a shoe-maker, and a tanner. His women practise midwifery. He eats pork.

The Dohar is a numerous group of the Chamārs [चमार], found in a section running right across the Provinces, from the Districts of Philibhit [पीलीभीत] and Kheri [खेरी], through those of Shahjahanpur [शाहजहाँपुर], Hardoi [हरदोई], Farrukhabad [फ़र्रूख़ाबाद], Cawnpore [कानपुर], and Etawah [इटावा], to Jalaun [जालौन]. He is most numerous in the Hardoi [हरदोई] District, where he forms more than half of the Chamār population. He does not keep pigs, but he eats pork.

The Kuril is found chiefly in the Allahabad [इलाहाबाद] and Lucknow [लखनऊ] Divisions. He is most numerous in the Unao [उन्नाव] District where he comprises nearly the whole of the Chamār community. He is found in considerable numbers in the neighbouring Districts of Cawnpore [कानपुर], Lucknow [लखनऊ], and Rae Bareilly [रायबरेली], and in small numbers in nearly every district in the Provinces, being in this respect, with the exception of the Jaiswar, the most widely distributed sub-caste in the Provinces. He claims to have been brought to Lucknow [लखनऊ] from Fatehpur Haswa [फतेहपुर हसवा] several generations ago. He is a leather-worker and field-labourer. He keeps pigs and eats carrion. He will not touch dead camels or horses. The Kurils who live to the west of the Ganges have no social intercourse with those who live on the other side of that stream. The two sections do not intermarry. The women of the former wear skirts and those of the latter wear loin-cloths (dhotī [धोटी]).

The Purbiya numbers nearly 300,000. The name is geographical. He is found chiefly in the Sitapur [सीतापुर] and Kheri [खेरी] Districts, being most numerous in the former. There are fairly large numbers of this sub-caste in the territory lying to the east of these districts. Few are found in the western parts of the Provinces.

The Kori or Koli Chamār [कोरी चमार] is found almost exclusively in the Gorakhpur [गोरखपुर] and Lucknow [लखनऊ] Divisions. About 100,000 are found in the Sultanpur []सुल्तानपुर] District alone, while more than 50,000 are found in the District of Basti [बस्ती], and more than 80,000 in the two Districts of Fyzabad [फ़ैज़ाबाद] and Partabgarh [प्रतापगढ़]. He is a shoe-maker, a field-labourer, a groom, and a weaver. He will not touch dead camels or horses. In the Punjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ], where he does not work in leather, and where he does not perform menial tasks, he is called a Chamār-Julaha [चमार जुलाहा ], i.e., Chamār weaver. The Kori [कोरी] (Weaver) often lives alongside of him, and was undoubtedly formerly a Chamār . In some places people still remember when the Kori and the Kori Chamār ate together and intermarried. In Mirzapur [मिर्ज़ापुर] the Kori is known as Chamār-Kori [चमार कोरी].

The Aharwar is found chiefly in Bundelkhand [बुन्देलखण्ड], where in some districts, as in Jhansi [झाँसी] and in Hamirpur [हमीरपुर], he comprises about ninety per cent, of the Chamār population. There are important communities of Aharwars in the Districts of Farukhabad [फ़र्रूख़ाबाद], Hardoi [हरदोई], and Bulandshahr [बुलन्दशहर]. In some places, he does not make leather, nor does his wife practise midwifery. Many Aharwars are cultivators, and some are petty contractors.

The Dhusiya or Jhusiya is found almost exclusively in the Benares [वाराणसी] Division and in the adjoining District of Gorakhpur [गोरखपुर]. He is most numerous in the District of Ballia [बलिया] where he forms about sixty-five per cent, of the Chamār population. Nearly forty-five per cent, of this sub-caste are found in the Ballia District alone. The only other Districts where he is found in considerable numbers are Benares [वाराणसी] and Gorakhpur [गोरखपुर]. In the Ballia and Benares Districts are found nearly three quarters of the whole sub-caste. Colonies of Dhusiyas are found in the Districts of Saharanpur [सहारनपुर] and Bulandshahr [बुलन्दशहर] and there are large settlements of them in the Punjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ]. Although he is a shoe and harness maker, he is chiefly a day labourer. Some of the sub-caste are tanners. He sometimes serves as a musician. House-servants of Europeans are often from this sub-caste. Occasionally he cultivates his own fields. In the east, e.g., in Bihar [बिहार], he keeps pigs and chickens. His women practise midwifery. In the Punjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ] he is counted as a sub-division of the Mochi [मोची].

The Chamkatiya is found chiefly in the Bareilly [बरेली] District, where nearly eighty per cent, of the sub-caste is found. There are a few thousands, all told, found in a section running through the Districts of Fatehpur [फ़तेहपुर], Rae-Bareilly [रायबरेली], Sultanpur [सुल्तानपुर], Fyzabad [फ़ैज़ाबाद], and Basti [बस्ती]. Chamkatiyas are scarcely found elsewhere. It is said that from this sub-caste both Nona Chamārī [लूना चमारी] and Rai Dās [रविदास, 15. Jhdt.] came.

The Dosadh or Dusadh, found in the Lucknow [लखनऊ] and Gorakhpur [गोरखपुर] Divisions and in the lower Doab [दोआब], is a weaver, a groom, and a field-labourer. He keeps pigs. In Bengal [বঙ্গ] the Dosadh claims to be of higher standing than the Chamār. Formerly, in the east, he was reckoned as a Chamār, but now he assumes an independent position. He no longer works in leather, nor does he eat carrion, nor does his wife practise midwifery. He often works as a house-servant. He is on very friendly terms with the Chamārs [चमार] and lives next to them in the villages. Many Dosadhs have gone to the cities to work in the factories.

From the Azamgarhya, or Birhiruya, of the Gorakhpur [गोरखपुर] Division, come many servants of Europeans. They also tend swine.

The Kaiyan of Bundelkhand [बुंदेलखंड] and Sagar [सागर] is sometimes rated as a criminal. He is related to the Bohra [बोहरा], a trader and usurer of Brahman, or Rajput, origin.

There are some groups of Chamārs [चमार] that are often spoken of as sub-castes, which are not strictly such. The Rangiya is a good example. It is an occupational division of certain sub-castes. As the name suggests, he is a dyer, or tanner, of leather, and, as such, is a low type of Chamār. Some of them make shoes.

Another group that is often spoken of as a sub-caste is the Rai Dasi. With the possible exception of those in the Karnal [करनाल] and its neighbourhood, this group is not a sub-caste. In some parts of the provinces all Chamārs [चमार] call themselves Rai Dasis, and many bearing this name are found as religious groups in a number of sub-castes. Followers of Rām Dās [ਗੁਰੂ ਰਾਮਦਾਸ, 1534 - 1581] are found all over the provinces. There are other religious bodies amongst the Chamārs [चमार] which are not sub-castes.

On the other hand the Satnamis [सतनामी], a religious group in the Central Provinces, have become practically a new sub-caste. These Chamārs [चमार], who make up the largest and oldest Chamār group in this part of India, have given up leather work entirely, and have become cultivators. Many of them have tenant rights, and a number of them have obtained villages.

Likewise the Alakhgir, a group formed by Lālgīr, has become a separate sub-caste.

While it is unnecessary to name all the sub-castes of the Chamārs [चमार], a number of groups may be added to those already enumerated.

The Mangatiya is a beggar who receives alms from the Jaiswars [जैसवार] only. Once a year he makes his rounds, taking a pice [1/64 Rupie] and a roṭi [रोटी] from each house. 

The Chandaur makes but does not mend shoes, and sews canvas and coarse cloth.

The Nona Chamār is found in the neighbourhood of Cawnpore [कानपुर].

The Dhengar and the Nikhar, tribes of the Etawah [इटावा] District, are Chamārs [चमार]. The former serves as a groom, but the latter does not. Their wives do not practise midwifery. 

The Sakarwars are tanners, shoe-makers and cultivators. They keep pigs.

The Karol is a small tribe of shoemakers found in the Bahraich [बहराइच], Aligarh [अलीगढ़], Bulandshahr [बुलन्दशहर], and Benares [वाराणसी] Districts.

Then, there are the

  • Dhuman,
  • Domar, 
  • Raj Kumari,
  • Nigati,
  • Dhingariya,
  • Ghorcharha, and 
  • Pachhwahan.

Among the minor sub-castes may be noted 

  • the Gole of Etawah [इटावा] ;
  • the Dolidhauwa, or palanquin-bearer of Partabgarh [प्रतापगढ़] ;
  • the Dhunyal-Julaha, who makes cloth ;
  • the Lashkariya, who makes shoes, often of the English style, and
  • the Gharami, of Dehra Dun [देहरादून], who is a thatcher.

The Raj or Raj-Mistri, found everywhere in the United Provinces, a purely occupational caste of masons and bricklayers, is largely recruited from the Chamārs [चमार]. This caste is of comparatively recent origin. 

The Chain, who is in some areas, e.g., in Ballia [बलिया], rated as a Chamār, is also considered a separate caste. He is described as a criminal, a thief, a swindler, an impostor, and a pick-pocket. He is decidedly the criminal among the Chamārs [चमार], making long expeditions with the object of looting and robbing. He is a terror to law-abiding citizens and a thorn in the flesh of the police. He is often under police supervision.

The Dhanuk is sometimes classed as a Chamār. He eats carrion and the leavings of food from other castes, and his women act as midwives.

There are a number of minor castes that work in leather.

The Dafali makes the drums called tablā [तबला] and tāśa, and the Bhand, or jester, makes the drums called ḍaṁkā.

There are also

  • the Dhor, who makes buckets and dyes leather;
  • the Kalan, who cobbles shoes and makes tents;
  • the Dabgar, found in Bengal [বঙ্গ] and in the east of the United Provinces, as well as in the Punjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ], who makes large raw-hide vessels, beaten raw camel’s hide bottles for ghee and oil, and also drum-heads, leather sheaths for swords, and shields;
  • the Dhalgar, a maker of leather shields;
  • the Chakkiliyan, the Dom of the hill tracts, and 
  • the Koral are also workers in leather.
  • The Khatik makes drum-heads.
  • The Charkata is a Mohammadan leather-worker. The bihiśti, who is sometimes a Chamār, also works in leather.
  • The Chik, Chikwa, is a Mohammadan who turns out goat and sheep skins.

In the Punjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ] still other sub-castes of Chamārs [चमार] are found.

The Chandar, whose origin is traced to Benares [वाराणसी], is sometimes reckoned as the highest of the sub-castes. He does no tanning. He forms the principal sub-caste in the Hisar [हिसार] and Sirsa [सिरसा] regions.

The Chamrang is a tanner who works in ox and buffalo hides only, and who does not work up the leather which he tans. One section of this group, which keeps pigs, is separated from the other, which dyes and tans hides.

The Ramdasi is a weaver.

The Chambar is the principal sub-caste about Jalandar [ਜਲੰਧਰ] and Ludhiana [ਲੁਧਿਆਣਾ].

Besides, there are the Chamār, the Chamarwa, Chanwar, and the Jata. The last is the descendant of the wife of Rām Dās [ਗੁਰੂ ਰਾਮਦਾਸ, 1534 - 1581].

In Patiala [ਪਟਿਆਲਾ] we have the endogamous Bagri and Desi. The former is an immigrant from Bagar [बगड़], and the latter consists of two groups, Chamārs [चमार] who make shoes, and the Bonas, weavers of blankets, who are Sikhs.

Among the allied castes in the Punjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ] are

  • the Dhed, who is a separate caste in the Central Provinces, and in Gujarat [ગુજરાત]; but who does there much that is really Chamār work ;
  • the Buniya and the Ruhtiya, both Sikh Chamārs [चमार], who have taken to weaving;
  • the Bilai (known as a Chamār in the Punjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ]), a groom and a village messenger, and, in the Central Doab, a weaver and labourer;
  • the Dosadh, an eastern tribe of Chamārs [चमार];
  • the Ramdasi, or Sikh, who is usually a weaver, and who does not eat carrion;
  • and the Khatik.

Besides these there is the Mochi [मोची], who is, for the most part, a Mussulman Chamār. He works in leather, graining it and giving it a surface stain. In the west he is a worker in leather, whether it be as a skinner, as a tanner, or as a shoemaker. The name mochi is often applied to the more skilled workman of the towns and cities. The Mochi is not usually a weaver. In the west he does not occupy as important a place in agriculture as in the east. He does not render menial services. Where the Chamār is not numerous, his place is taken by the Mochi.

The Khatik, the Pasi, and the Chanal are traditionally connected with leather worker. The latter is a professional skinner in the Simla [शिमला] hills and corresponds to the Chamār of the plains.

In Behar [बिहार] and Bengal [বঙ্গ] the Mochi [मोची] and the Chamār are one caste.

In the Central Provinces we have the Chamārs [चमार], the greater portion of whom are in the Chhattisgarh [छत्तीसगढ़] Division. Here many villages contain none but Chamārs [चमार], from the landlord down ; and seventy per cent, of these Chamārs [चमार] have given up leather work entirely. Among the subcastes in these Provinces, the Satnami [सतनामी] is the most important. Other Chamārs [चमार] are termed paikahā as opposed to the Satnami.

The Kanaujiya and the Aharwar are tanners and leather workers. They make shoes in a peculiar way. The Kanaujiya eats pork but does not raise pigs. The Aharwar claims to be a descendant of Rām Dās [ਗੁਰੂ ਰਾਮਦਾਸ, 1534 - 1581].

 The Jaiswar [जैसवार] is a groom. There are a number of territorial groups whose names have geographical significance, among whom are

  • the Bundelkhandi,
  • the Bhadoriya,
  • the Antervedi,
  • the Gangapari,
  • the Pardeshi,
  • Desa, or Deswar,
  • Mahobia, 
  • Khaijraha,
  • Ladse for Ladvi,
  • Marathi,
  • Parvarhiya, 
  • Beraria and
  • Dakhini.

There are also a number of groups whose names are of occupational significance. These are 

  • the Budalgirs, makers of leather bags (budla);
  • the Daijaniyas whose women folk are midwives (dāī [दाई]),
  • the Katuas, or leather-cutters;
  • the Gobardhuas, who collect the droppings of cattle on the threshing floors, and wash out and eat the undigested grain;
  • the Mochi [मोची], or shoe-maker; and
  •  the Jingar [जीनगर], the saddle-maker and book-binder.

The Jingar [जीनगर] claims to be superior to the Mochi [मोची], although the latter claims to be of Rajput [राजपूत] origin ; and some under the name, Jirayat, are separating from the main caste and are forming a higher social group. They are skilled artisans who handle guns and other delicate instruments.

At the other extreme of the social scale is the Dohar, who is a grass-cutter and doer of odd jobs.

Besides, there is the aboriginal worker in leather, the Solha, a very small group. 

The Kor-Chamārs [चमार] are weavers.

In Berar [वर्हाड] we find the superior Romya or Haralya Chamār [चमार].

Two groups of beggars are the Mangya and the Nona Chamārs.

In Raipur [रायपुर] the Chamārs [चमार] have become regular cattle-dealers and are known as Kochias.

In Central India we find the Balahis, one section of whom are weavers, and the other, carrion-eaters, who skin animals and deal in skins.

(In the Punjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ] the Chamārs engaged to manure the fields and some who take up groom’s work are called Balahis or Balais.)

In the eastern parts of Rajputana [राजपुताना], the leather-worker is a Mohammadan.

Other leather-workers of this area are

  • Banubhi,
  • Bola,
  • Meghwal,
  • Raigar,
  • Jatiya,
  • Chandor, 
  • Sukariya,
  • Mowanpuriya, s
  • Kausotiya, and
  • Damariya.

In Bikaneer [बीकानेर] the Balai is the leather-worker.

In the Bombay Presidency are found, as in North India, seven main divisions of leather-workers. Of these, the Satrangar and the Halalbhakt [हलालभक्त] are dyers of skins, the former working in sheepskins; the Paradoshpardesi manufactures tents; and the Dabali, the Woji, and the Chaur are lower in the social scale than the others, and eat the flesh of bullocks and of other animals. Besides these, there is the Marathi Chamār [चमार] and the Kalpa. All of these, except the Paradoshpardesi, are shoemakers. There is also the Jingar [जीनगर], or saddle and harness maker, and the Rangari, or tanner. In addition to these we have the Dhor, a maker of leather buckets and a dyer of skins; the Katai, a cobbler and tent-maker; and the Daphgar, a bottle-maker. The two last-named eat carrion.

In Gujarat [ગુજરાત] we find the Kalpa, a skinner and tanner, and the Mochi [મોચી], a maker of leather and of shoes.

The leather-worker of the Tamil country [தமிழ் நாடு] is the Chakalliyan. He is a dresser of leather and a maker of slippers, harness, and other articles of leather. He is a devil-worshipper. He holds sacred the avaram (cassia aureculata [Senna auriculata (L.) Roxb.]tree. It is to be noted that the bark of this tree is a most valuable tanning agent. The men of this caste are drunkards. They eat flesh, and are more detested than the Pariah [பறையர்]. As a usual thing their girls are not married before puberty. Widows are re-married. Divorce is common and is easily secured. Their women are beautiful, and from amongst them is usually chosen the woman for the coarser form of śakti worship. The women are noted also for their intrigues with landlords and other rich men.

The great leather-working caste of the Telugu [తెలుగు] country is the Madiga [మాదిగ]. He lives on the outskirts of the village. He is described as coarse and filthy, as an eater of unclean food, and as a user of obscene language. He works in leather, and serves as a menial and as a scavenger. Many

Madigas [మాదిగ] are practically serfs. Most of them are field-labourers. They beat drums at festivals. In some parts of the country they still have their perquisites (jajman [जजमान]), but these are disappearing under competition. They perform the revolting parts of bloody sacrifices, and aid in removing the demons of disease. Their girls are often dedicated to temple service (basavīs). The caste is divided into a number of endogamous divisions with exogamous septs, some of which seem to be totemistic. Widows are re-married. Divorce is easily secured. They have a panchayat [पंचायत], or council. They both bury and burn their dead. In 1902 ten per cent, of the Madigas [మాదిగ] were returned as Christians.

Evidences of affiliations with other castes have already been mentioned, such as the Kaiyan with the Bohra [बोहरा] from above ; and the Kori [कोरी] and the Koi and other alliances from below. Other cases of affiliations and illustrations of caste fissure are suggested by such well-known names as, Kor-Chamār [चमार], a weaver become tanner; Chamār -Julaha, a Chamār [चमार] become weaver [جولاہا]; and Chamār [चमार]-Kori. In Gorakhpur [गोरखपुर] there are no Koris [कोरी], but Kori-Chamārs [कोरी-चमार]. The Karwal, a vagrant tribe, is found also as a sub-caste under the Chamār [चमार]. The Darzi [درزی ], the Banjara [बंजारा], the Barhai [बढ़ई] and the Sonar [सोनार] each have a Chamār [चमार] sub-caste. The Kayastha-Mochi [कायस्थ-मोची], who makes saddles and harness, claims to be of superior origin, and says that the term, “Mochi" [मोची] refers merely to his occupation. There are other sub-castes of Chamārs and allied castes which now form more or less separate bodies and claim to be distinct castes. Even the Jaiswar [जैसवार], for example, claims, in some places, to be a separate caste. The Dusadhs of Bihar [बिहार] are another example. The Kori [कोरी] (Hindu weaver) is probably another instance of caste fissure.

A notable example of a caste formed from the Chamār [चमार] is the Mohammadan weaver, the Julaha [جولاہا]. He is distributed over the United Provinces in considerable numbers, and is found also in other parts of India, especially in the Punjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ]. He is a typical illustration of how a group of people may rise in the social scale within the Brahmanic system. Originally a Chamār [चमार], he secured a better position by taking to weaving. He eats no carrion, touches no carcasses, does not work in impure leather, and has separated himself entirely from the other sections of the Chamār [चमार]. In taking to the comparatively high occupation of weaving, he has reached the border of the respectable artisan class. In many places this separation took place a good while ago; but Ibbetson reported instances of this process still going on. His numbers are recruited from several groups, as the following names show:

  • Chamār-Julaha,
  • Koli-Julaha,
  • Mohammadan-Julaha and
  • Rai Das-Julaha.

In many instances now the caste prefix has been dropped. Ninety-two per cent, of the Julahas are Mohammadans. Among the Hindu Julahas are many Kabirpanthis [कबीरपंथी] and Ramdasis [रामदासी]. Kabir [1440 - 1518] [کبیر] was a Julaha [جولاہا].

Still more important is the Mochi [मोची], a purely occupational off-shoot from the Chamār [चमार]. The word “mochi,” [मोची] which is applied to those who make shoes, leather aprons, buckets, harness, portmanteaux, etc., denotes occupation rather than caste. Mochis are divided into two main classes, those who make and cobble shoes, who are real Chamārs; and those who make saddles and harness. These latter call themselves Sirbāstab-Kāyasths, with whom they intermarry and agree in manners and customs. According to a text cited as authoritative by the pandits of Bengal [বঙ্গ], the astrologers are shoe-makers by caste, and good Brahmans sometimes refuse to take even a drink of water from their hands. In 1891 there were reported one hundred and fifty sub-divisions of Hindu Mochis  [मोची]. In some places the Mochis of the towns are divided into functional sub-castes, such as saddlers, embroiderers of saddle-cloth, ghi bucket-makers, makers of spangles and of shields and scabbards. These sub-castes rise in rank as their calling requires greater skill or more costly materials. While the Mochi  [मोची] is an offshoot from the Chamār [चमार], as a caste he is quite distinct. However, this holds good in certain areas only. He neither eats nor intermarries with the Chamār [चमार]. The Mochi does not eat carrion or pork, and his wife does not serve as a midwife. His touch is not polluting. The maker of leather is considered lower in the scale than he who works in prepared leather. As a class he is well off, and socially superior to the Chamār [चमार]. The Gorakhpur [गोरखपुर] Mochi has received medals at Melbourne and Paris for embossed deerskins, made up as table-cloths, table-mats, carpets, etc. The Bengali Mochi is a Chamār [चमार], but he tans only cow, buffalo, goat, and deer hides. Many Mochis are Mohammadans. The Census of 1891 returned twenty-seven divisions of Mohammadan Mochis. The Mochi of Garhwal [गढ़वाल] is from  the non-Aryan race called the Dom and is an endogamous group; and in Almora [अल्मोड़ा] this group includes Chandal (Chamār [चमार]), and Mochi or Sarki (tanner). In the Punjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ], the Mochi, who is a Chamār [चमार], works in tanned leather. He also grains leather. In some places the name Mochi denotes a Mussulman Chamār [चमार]. Sometimes he is a weaver. In the west of the Punjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ] he is a tanner and leather-worker. In Ludhiana [ਲੁਧਿਆਣਾ] he is a weaver, and the name is almost synonymous with Julaha [جولاہا], but he does not intermarry with the latter. In the east of the Punjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ], the Hindu Mochi makes boxes, saddles, and other articles of leather but not shoes. Some Punjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ] Mochis claim Rajput origin. The Bhanger of Kapurthala [ਕਪੂਰਥਲਾ], a weaver, is an offshoot from the Mochi, but he does not intermarry with him."

[Quelle: Briggs, George Weston <1874 - >: The Chamārs. -- Calcutta : Association Press, 1920. -- 270 S. : Ill.   . -- (The religious life of India). -- S. 11 - 34]



As a rule the Chamār [चमार] chooses his wife locally, outside his own village group, but within his own sub-caste. Although the sub-castes are essentially endogamous groups, marriages are occasionally arranged between members of different sub-castes. For example, Dhusiyas and Kanaujiyas intermarry, and Jatiyas and Kaiyans sometimes do.

Again, the restrictions between endogamous groups may apply only to the giving, not to the taking of wives. Thus, Kurils will take Dohar girls in marriage, but will not give their daughters to Dohars. In such instances the Kuril settles with the birādarī [برادری] by giving a feast; and, indeed, nearly all infringements of marriage regulations are usually adjusted by the panchayat’s ordering the payment of a fine or the giving of a feast.

Occupation may become a bar to marriage, sometimes even within the endogamous group. Thus, those who remove manure and night-soil cannot intermarry with those who serve as grooms. Rai Dasis (in the Punjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ]) will not marry with Jatiyas who skin dead animals. Jatiyas in the Delhi territory, who work in the skins of “unclean” animals, are refused marriage by some clans of the Sutlej. In some places Kurils who tan do not marry with Kurils who make shoes.

Within the sub-caste there are smaller exogamous or “family” groups (got, kul [गोत्र, कुल]) which bear the name of some mythical saint, hero, or other person ; the name of some village or locality; or a name having reference to some totem. Marriage between members of the same exogamous group is prohibited. The chacherā-mamerā-phupherā-mauserā [चचेरा-ममेरा-फुफेरा-मौसेरा] law, which prevents a man marrying anyone in the line of his uncle or aunt on either the male or the female side, is somewhat loosely observed; but the practice usually followed is that, so long as any relationship, however remote, is found on either side, marriage is forbidden. In some places a marriage is not arranged with any family from which a mother, a grandmother or a great-grandmother has come. A man may marry two sisters, but in general may not have them both as wives at the same time, and the second sister must be younger than the first. He may not marry the daughter of a brother-in-law. Marriages are always arranged by the parents or relatives of the parties, and women are never contracting parties. Of course, the female relatives have a voice in the discussion of the marriage arrangements, and their opinion carries weight. Marriage is considered a sacrament and not a contract. Still, in some places, a bride-price as high as twenty or thirty rupees, and occasionally as high as one hundred, is paid ; but the amount exacted is usually that fixed by custom. Nowadays this price generally takes the form of a contribution made by the groom’s family towards the expenses of the wedding. Besides money, it includes gifts of clothes, food, sugar (gur [गुड़]), cooking utensils, and ornaments. A marriage is binding when the ceremony is performed, even if the consent of the parties has not been expressed or implied ; but the consent of the relatives of both parties to a marriage must in every case be obtained. In case the marriage does not take place until after puberty, or where some other unfortunate circumstances have occurred, the bride may be given away. Daughters are married in order of seniority. When a girl may not be married, on account of some infirmity, or for some other equally valid reason, the younger sister is allowed to marry. The younger sister may be married first, if the older is already betrothed.

Under the principles of concubinage and polygamy, the practice of keeping more than one woman is common. There is no general objection to polygamy, provided a man is financially able to support more than one wife. Where the first wife is barren, a second marriage is usually sanctioned by the council. Furthermore a man may buy a widow or a younger woman. Widow-marriage often contributes to polygamy, especially where the younger brother takes the widow of his deceased brother. Although a second wife is often bought, she is not always regularly married. In some places, when a man takes a second wife, the first leaves him, and desertion under such circumstances is recognized as according to tribal custom. If the second woman live with the man for twelve years, she will have the same rights as the first. If the husband die, and the two women live at peace, both will inherit, provided he make a will. Rival wives, however, as a usual thing, do not get on together, and the quarrelling arising out of this condition has a special name, sautiyā ḍāh. There is a saying, “Even a co-wife of wood is an evil.”

Concubinage (lauṁḍī, baṁbdī, rakhnī, rāṁdī, biṭhāī) is widely practised, especially where men are able to support a large establishment, and the practice is not considered wrong. Two or three concubines are quite common, and some keep even more. They are obtained by purchase.

Among the Chamārs [चमार] early marriage is all but universal. The betrothal is very early, often in infancy, and marriage is usually as early as the eighth year. Any time between the weaning of the child and the eleventh year is considered proper for marriage. However, the age for the consummation of marriage is pretty generally recognized as that of puberty. Under special conditions, when the bride is an orphan, or when her parents are in financial straits, she may go to her husband’s home at an earlier age. Usually the marriage is consummated when the groom is from sixteen to eighteen years of age and the bride from twelve to fourteen. The last Census returns for the United Provinces show that ninety-eight per cent, of all Chamār [चमार] girls over fifteen years of age are married. The general practice of the caste may be gathered from the description of the marriage ceremonies. In 1891 Chamārs [चमार] were included in the group in which infant marriage most widely prevailed.

There are special forms of marriage contracts which may be mentioned here. One is marriage by exchange (waṭṭa satta, gurāwat, adla badla), where each family gives a girl in marriage to a son in the other. This is done to save marriage expenses, and is practised amongst the poor. Another form of marriage is that in which, like Jacob, a boy serves a certain number of years for a wife. This is called ghar jawāī, and is sometimes arranged when a man has no son. The marriage relation may exist during this time.

There are in the Chamār [चमार] marriage-ceremony many interesting survivals of marriage by capture. Among these are the bridegroom’s coming mounted on a horse, if he can afford it, or in an ekka, or in a olī, or a bahlī; in his carrying a sword, or something to represent it; in the barāt being composed of men, and in their stopping outside the bride’s village ; in the mock fight between the two parties at the bride’s door ; in the bride’s being carried away in some sort of equipage; in the pulling down of one of the poles of the marriage pavilion or the shaking of it by the groom’s father, and in the shaking of it by the groom ; in the weeping of the bride ; in the show of violence on the part of the bridegroom ; in the mark of the bloody hand at both houses ; in the fact that at the pherā the bride wears nothing belonging to herself, but things given by the groom’s relatives; in the hiding of the bride ; in the bringing of false brides and in other jokes at the expense of the groom and his party; in the fact that the bride’s mother makes a mark in red on the groom’s father’s shoulder; in that the boy’s village is tabu so far as drinking water by the bride’s father and elder brother is concerned ; in the fact that all the words denoting male relations by marriage are used as terms of abuse (e.g., susrā, sālā, bahnoī, jawāī) ; and in the use of abuse directed by the bride’s women-folk against the groom’s relatives and friends all through the wedding ceremonies.

Chamārs [चमार] in 1891 were included in the group in which widows were comparatively few. The following table, taken from the census of 1911, shows that the marriage of widows between the ages of twenty and forty is almost universal.

This remarriage of widows is legal and the tribal council may declare the children rightful heirs. The limits for such marriages are the same as for virgins. If the widow be young, and there be a younger brother of her former husband, of suitable age, they usually marry. There are traces of the levirate, in the right of the younger brother to take the widow in marriage. There is no idea of raising up seed for the dead brother. If the widow have brothers-in-law (brothers of her late husband), she must marry one of them, unless they choose to sell her, or make another arrangement for her. An older brother may take her. She may be married to the husband of an elder sister provided the latter be willing, or if the latter has died. If she is old enough to decide for herself, and if she has a child, her consent to the arrangements is taken; otherwise her relatives will decide. No ceremony is performed. The children by the former marriage may remain in the father’s family, except in the case of an infant. Sometimes the woman takes all of the children with her, but then they do not inherit from their father. The settlement of the inheritance is usually made by the council. If there be no younger brother of suitable age, she may marry someone, usually a widower of the tribe, by an informal rite, but not by the śādi ceremony. If she marries outside of the family, the bride-price must be paid to her former husband’s relatives, and she loses the property and the children by the previous marriage. If the groom is not a widower, some form of mock marriage may be performed. By this ceremony the groom and the bride are placed upon the same level. It seems as if the widow were inherited by the levir, or bought by the outsider ; as if she were property to be inherited, or to be sold. Of course her marriage is arranged for her by her own family, and the family of her late husband must agree to the marriage.

As a caste rises, the remarriage of widows and the levirate disappear together. For example, well-to-do Chamārs [चमार] in Cawnpore [कानपुर] are prohibiting widow-marriage. Young widows (children) are mere household drudges, and are often ill-treated, poorly fed, and generally neglected.

Divorce is common. A man with the consent of the panchayat [पंचायत] may turn his wife out for unfaithfulness, but she cannot get a separation on the same ground, if he feed and clothe her properly. A woman may desert her husband if he take a second wife. Impotency proved to the satisfaction of the council is another valid reason for a wife’s abandoning her husband. In some places, a woman may not secure a divorce on the ground of disease or physical defect in her husband, provided his relatives continue to support her. The discovery of physical defects in the bride after marriage would be sufficient grounds for a divorce; and if a separation occurs on such grounds, the husband is usually satisfied if the marriage fee is returned. The divorced parties may marry others. Separation for adultery if the woman does not stay at home, and also for certain forms of disease, such as insanity, may be sanctioned. As a usual thing, the woman who is thus turned out of doors by her husband is either abandoned or sold. If she be sold, she may be married by the sagāī rite, and the issue of such a marriage can inherit. The principal causes of separation are when the woman leaves her husband and returns to her parents and when she goes to live with another man. In both cases the former husband receives back his wedding expenses. Divorce is legalized by the panchayat [पंचायत]. Sometimes the woman breaks a straw as a sign that her marriage has been dissolved.

Traces of the matriarchate are seen in the following facts: The marriage is arranged by the mother’s brother, or the mother’s sister’s husband, or these relatives play an important part in the negotiations; the father’s sister’s husband, negī, has duties at the wedding; there are other similar relationships involved. Again, the uncle’s (mother’s brother’s) consent to the marriage is necessary, and he sometimes receives all or part of the bride-price. In other places his privileges are confined to the making of certain gifts, such as earrings, the wedding clothes for all the family, and a certain number of rupees towards the wedding expenses, and the furnishing of the dinner for the barat. These privileges are not always obligatory. There are other duties in connection with the funeral rites and the practices connected with the birth and early years of children, which point in the same direction.

Social intercourse is lax and moral standards are exceedingly low. Irregular unions, such as concubinage, both inter-tribal and extra-tribal, are admitted by the Chamārs [चमार]. Where sentiment is against such practices the payment of a fine removes disabilities. Sexual irregularities are common. When they are brought to the notice of the council, they are punished by fine. A man may leave his wife and take another, yet through the c he may demand his former wife back again. If a woman is discovered in adultery, a fine and a feast are required by the panchayat [पंचायत] or she is out-casted. In case a widow becomes pregnant, abortion is resorted to, or some marriage is arranged, or she may be sold. If she names the father of her child, or if the panchayat [पंचायत] discovers him, they are required to marry, but both are ostracized for about a year, after which the panchayat [पंचायत] may recognize them and their union. If this irregularity be with a man of another caste she is excommunicated. Pre-marital immorality is common, and, if within the caste, is much less serious than if detected with outsiders. A pregnant girl simply names before the panchayat [पंचायत] the man concerned, and he must take her as his wife, that is if they are not of the same got [गित्र], and he is unmarried ; otherwise he must pay a fine. This always includes cash and a feast. She will then remain with her parents, or they may arrange a wedding for her or turn her out. These matters are sometimes severely dealt with. The children of such irregular unions have no property rights. Again, the guilty man in such a case may pay a bride-price and she may marry someone else. The sale of a woman is common when she gives trouble, or is unhappy, or lazy, or disobedient, or if she be a bad character. The purchaser takes her by means of the less formal marriage ceremony. In the Punjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ] Chamār [ਚਮਾਰ] women are sold to Jāṭs [ਜਾਟ], to Gujars [ਗੁਰ੍ਜਰ], to some Rajputs [ਰਾਜਪੁਤ], and to Mohammadans as wives. Some bring as high a price as 200 or 300 rupees. These are usually women of the poor. Women are sometimes gambled away. In case of children born from irregular marriages, if the woman be of a higher caste or rank than the husband, the children have full caste rights, but restricted inheritance or no inheritance at all. In other cases, the offspring belong to the caste, or tribe, of the father, except when the mother is a Mohammadan, or of a lower caste. There are certain kinds of laxity that are common. A visitor occasionally has liberties with the host’s wife or daughter. But this is not considered “good.” The relatives of the husband take certain liberties (haṁsnā-khelnā) which usually do not extend to immoral acts. There is sometimes prostitution in the home, and sometimes the wife is hired out. Women sometimes exchange husbands secretly. A woman may go and live openly with another man and still be received back. Sometimes, when men are in the relationship of very close friends, having vowed friendship on rice from the temple of Jagannath [ଜଗନ୍ନାଥ ମନ୍ଦିର], they will each place his wife at the disposal of the other. In the Central Provinces Chamār [चमार] women are hired for the śakti mārg [शक्ति मार्ग]ceremonies, and women of the Madigas [మాదిగ] and Chakalliyans of the South are chosen for similar rites. During the year at certain festivals, such as the Holī [होली], the Dewālī [दीवाली], and the Sāwan [श्रावण]there is great sexual license. Not only are the songs of these festivals obscene beyond imagination, but the people give themselves up to unlimited excess.

There are other social customs, more or less objected to, but often allowed and not considered wrong, which are gradually disappearing under modern conditions: such are the jus primae noctis of landlords and gurus [गुरु]. The zamindar [ज़मींदार] often has liberties with the Chamār’s [चमार] wife in consideration for his payments to the Chamār [चमार]. The sais’s wife often gives immoral services where her husband is employed in the towns or cities. Furthermore there are certain customs within the caste which are most debasing. 

“Formerly, when a Satnami [सतनामी] Chamār [चमार] was married, a ceremony called Satlok took place within three years of the wedding, or after the birth of the first son, which Mr. Durga Prasad Pande describes as follows: It was considered to be the initiatory rite of a Satnami [सतनामी], so that prior to its performance he and his wife were not proper members of the sect. When the occasion was considered ripe, a committee of men in the village would propose the holding of the ceremony to the bridegroom; the elderly members of his family would also exert their influence upon him, because it was believed that if they died prior to its performance their disembodied spirits would continue a comfortless existence about the scene of their mortal habitation, but if afterwards that they would go straight to heaven. When the rite was to be held a feast was given, the villagers sitting round a lighted lamp placed on a water-pot in the centre of the sacred chauk or square made of lines of wheat flour; and from evening until midnight they would sing and dance. In the meantime the newly-married wife would be lying alone in a room in the house. At midnight her husband went into her and asked her whom he should revere as his guru [गुरु] or preceptor. She named a man, and the husband went out and bowed to him, and he then went in to the woman and lay with her. The process would be repeated, the woman naming different men until she was exhausted. Sometimes if the head priest of the sect was present, he would nominate the favoured men who were known as gurus. Next morning the married couple were seated together in the courtyard, and the head priest or his representative tied a kanthi or necklace of wooden beads round their necks, repeating an initiatory text..... It is also said that during his annual progresses it was the custom for the chief priest to be allowed access to any of the wives of the Satnamis [सतनामी] whom he might select, and that this was considered rather an honour than otherwise by the husband. But the Satnamis [सतनामी] have now become ashamed of such practices, and, except in a few isolated localities, they have been abandoned.”

The practice has not been entirely abandoned.

The probability is that female infanticide is not practised by the Chamārs [चमार], although female infants are neglected, often deliberately. When food is scarce they suffer most. But other reasons will account for the disparity in numbers between males and females. The woman is more subject to plague and malaria, owing to her domestic duties and to her closer confinement in the house. Besides this, unsanitary and unclean methods of midwifery are the cause of a good deal of female mortality. Furthermore, the practice of infant marriage reduces the vitality of women and subjects them to many dangers. Yet, when all the disabilities of women are taken into account, the proportion of females to males is high. In the United Provinces, there are, among the Chamārs [चमार], 958 females to every 1,000 males. This is above the average for the Provinces for the whole population. For Bihar and Orissa the proportion is 1,153 females to 1,000 males, for the Central Provinces and Berar 1,035 to 1,000, and for the Punjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ] 846 to 1,000.

Not only is the moral standard of the Chamār [चमार] low in respect to social purity, but also in matters of excessive use of narcotic drugs and intoxicating beverages. Drunkenness is a caste-failing and forms a prominent element in many domestic and religious customs.

The Chamār [चमार] is not fastidious about his food. He eats the leavings from nearly all castes, except the Dhobī [धोबी] and Dom. The death of a buffalo or of a cow in the village is his opportunity for a feast. This is almost universally true, although there are sub-castes some of whose members do not eat carrion, and the number of such is growing. There is, however, not a single sub-caste that is free from this practice. Sometimes the chief men of a sub-caste may refuse to share in such food. Furthermore, many Chamārs [चमार] eat pork. In general the flesh of fowls and of cloven-footed animals goes to the Chamār [चमार], while that of such animals as do not divide the hoof goes to the Dom or Bhamgi. The Chamār [चमार] in general will not touch the carcasses of ponies, camels, cats, dogs, squirrels, and monkeys. Those are delegated to the Bhaṁgī. [भंगी] Strange as it may seem, in some places (e.g., the Punjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ], in Hindu communities), while he eats dead cattle, the Chamār [चमार] may be excommunicated for eating beef. In Mohammadan communities there is no such scruple.

His ordinary food consists of bread made from the flour of the cheaper grains such as gram, barley, and millet, and of such grains as he may get as pay for labour at harvest-time. His regular meal is at night. He has some grain in the morning and sattū [सत्तू] at noon.

“He considers that his full ration would be two and a half pakā seers [सेर] of grain or about three and a half Government sīrs. Some days he gets only one seer [सेर] and sometimes one and a half seers [सेर]. A large part of his diet consists of whatever vegetables, such as leaves of gram, mustard, etc., his wife and children can pick up in the fields. His rule is to mix from two to four chhatāṁks [छटाँक] of flour in about two and a half seers [सेर] of vegetables. These are all boiled down into a mess and eaten hot with the balance of the flour made into bread.”

Some groups, as for example the Jaiswars [जैसवार]s, refuse to eat any food prepared by others. It is difficult to say just how far these distinctions are observed, but in general the main sub-castes do not eat or drink or smoke together. Chamārs [चमार] will accept cooked food from members of their own sub-caste and from those sub-castes which are of a slightly higher social status. For example, a Chamār [चमार] will accept food from a Jatiya, but the reverse is impossible. There is a gulf between these sub-castes, not only determined by occupation, but by other considerations as well, for a Jatiya plasters the place where he cooks his food with cow-dung, while the Chamār [चमार] does not. The former will eat goat’s flesh but not beef, while the latter has no such scruples.

The rules pertaining to the drinking of water are similar to those with reference to eating. For example, a Jatiya, while he will not drink water in the house of a Chamār [चमार], will take the latter’s loṭā [लोटा], clean it, draw water with it from the well of the Chamār [चमार] and drink it. The vessel in which the water is brought must belong to a member of the caste. Women draw and carry the water required for household purposes. A Chamār [चमार] will accept spirituous liquors from the hand of a higher subcaste man but not from that of a lower. If he drink from the hands of a member of another sub-caste, he will require a separate cup; but if those who drink together are of the same sub-caste, they will drink from the same cup. The rules governing smoking are quite similar. Members of the same clan will smoke together, but if men of different sub-castes are present, each group will have its own huqqā [हुक़्क़ा]. Other castes do not smoke with them. Chamārs [चमार] will smoke together, using the same chilam [चिलम].

The men and women of the home do not eat together. The women prepare the meals and eat after the men have finished. Only in times of sickness do the men condescend to do much household work.

Since the caste is largely shut up within its own limits, social intercourse is almost wholly a caste matter. Higher castes do not mingle with them and the Chamārs [चमार] will not associate with castes of lower social status. They observe caste rules governing marriage and commensality, and are said to conform to Hindu practices rather more strictly than better-class Hindus.

Chamārs [चमार] will not accept food from Mohammadans. When, however, they are out-casted, they will eat anything.

In some places sections of the caste are slowly securing a higher social position by adopting the usual methods employed in India. Those who are well-to-do, are making an effort to seclude their women, are prohibiting widow-marriage and are discouraging the more disgusting and heterodox practices of eating pork, beef, carrion, and the leavings of food of other castes. Such sections are slowly separating themselves from the main caste and from the name “Chamār” [चमार]. But, as a whole, the caste still occupies a position on the very outskirts of Hindu society.

The Chamār [चमार] has a well-organized and influential council, or panchayat [पंचायत]. It is greatly feared, and exercises a very strong influence over its constituency. In its simplest form it consists of the whole village or mahallā [محلة] group, is conterminous with the sub-caste to which the Chamār [चमार] belongs, and consists of all the men under its jurisdiction. In its less extensive form it is a body in which the families of a village group are represented, or it may be composed of all the old men. Usually the representation is by families. There may be a sub-committee, often composed of five persons, which guides and rules the larger body. Amongst the Chamārs [चमार], as amongst most of the functional castes, the panchayat [पंचायत] is a permanent body, that is, the headman (chaudharī [चौधरी], sarpañch, pradhān [प्रधान], methā, sardār [सरदार], mukhiyā [मुखिया], māñjan) is elected for life. The office is usually hereditary. When a chaudharī [चौधरी] dies leaving a minor son, his relatives usually act for him during his minority, allowing him to announce decisions. When it becomes necessary, someone else may be chosen to succeed the father; but this would probably be some other member of his family. In Rajputana [राजपुतान] there are places where the raja [राजा] appoints a chaudharī [चौधरी]. Continuation in office depends upon good conduct and competency. A vice-president (nāib-pañch, dārogā), or summoner of the council, is a more or less permanent officer, chosen by the panchayat [पंचायत]. He is sometimes called the chhaṛidār, or mace-bearer. He serves as an assistant to the headman. For his services he gets a small money fee, sometimes about half what the chaudharī [चौधरी] receives. There is a chaudharī [चौधरी] in every community or village, and, oftentimes, a sarpañch or chaudharī, who governs a group of villages.

The investiture (pagṛī ḍālnā [पगड़ी डालना], pagrī lagānā [पगड़ी लगाना]) of the chaudhari [चौधरी] with his pagri [पगड़ी] (turban) is a serious matter, for it is his official inauguration into an office which is of great importance in the social and economic life of the Chamār [चमार]. The whole village group performs this act as a sign that they have chosen him and have entrusted him with their interests. If the same man be chosen for two or more villages, or mahallās [محلة], each will give him a pagri. Before the investiture a careful examination is made as to the candidate’s fitness for the office and as to his character. If the Chamārs [चमार] are satisfied on these points, a day is fixed for the ceremony. At the appointed time the whole group assembles for the purpose. First, with the use of a loṭā [लोटा] and a basin, there is a general foot-washing ceremony. This is followed by a fire sacrifice (hom [होम]), after which the candidate is conducted to a conspicuous place in the midst of the assembly. A white pagri [पगड़ी] together with one and a quarter rupees and a cocoa-nut are then presented to him. Occasionally a ṭīkā [टीका]is made on his forehead with haldī [हलदी]. Sometimes one, or five, rupees are placed in the pagri [पगड़ी]. Then the assembly greets him as chaudhari [चौधरी]. A great feast, in which both rice and sugar are included, follows. There is an idolatrous phase to this dinner similar to that observed in the death feast. There is an excessive use of country spirits. Women do not take part in these festivities. The expenses of the feast are met by a public collection. The candidate himself gives a preliminary feast to the group. His official perquisites are certain fees and a percentage of all fines connected with trials and a share in the feasts. His office brings him in a considerable income.

All ordinary matters are brought before the local body. But, when cases of major importance are to be considered, several panchayats [पंचायत] may be called together; that is, the headmen of several villages, each with a number of influential Chamārs [चमार], meet with the pañch [पंच], in the village where the case has been brought. In very grave matters representative men from widely scattered areas may be called together. Each sub-caste has its own independent council, and, with rare exceptions, different sub-castes do not meet in council. However, one or more influential men (panch [पंच]) of another sub-caste may be called in for advice. Cases are known, as when the interests of the whole caste are involved, of a general meeting of representatives of all the chief local sub-divisions of the caste. Such a council is called “sabhā ”  [सभा] and is quite modern. Such a one was held in Bijnor [बिजनौर] some years ago. In some places in the Punjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ], and in the United Provinces also, there are village panchayats [पंचायत] in which the Chamārs [चमार] are represented.

The jurisdiction of the panchayat [पंचायत] is local, but other panchayats [पंचायत] may enforce its findings. The panchayat [पंचायत] exercises jurisdiction over the following classes of cases : 

  1. Of illicit sexual relations, such as the discovery of a pregnant widow, of adultery, or of fornication. If the matter is not well known, the parties are let off with a fine and a threat, but if the irregularity be a public scandal, a trial must be held.
  2. Of the violation of the tribal rules concerning commensality.
  3. Of matrimonial disputes, such as the sale of widows and cases where a girl is not given in marriage after the betrothal.
  4. Of petty quarrels that would not come under the cognizance of the Government Courts, such as false witnessing, fighting and quarrelling.
  5. Of disputes about small money transactions and debts.
  6. Of cases connected with hereditary rights; and
  7. of matters affecting the welfare of the caste.

There are certain occasions, such as caste dinners of all kinds, when persons take advantage of the gatherings to bring matters before the panchayat [पंचायत]. Council meetings are avoided at marriages, but are often held during funeral services.

Meetings of the panchayat [पंचायत] may be summoned by either party to a dispute. Cases are usually brought before the whole village group by the offender who wishes to clear himself. But the headman or some other party may lodge a complaint. The person who calls the council must furnish tobacco enough for the whole company and a huqqā [हुक़्क़ा]. He must also pay a fee of one and a quarter rupees to the chairman, who will not take up the case unless it is paid. This fee is usually spent for spirits. The village group is called together and the case involved is thoroughly talked over. All evidence is oral. Anyone may speak. Often an oath is taken over Ganges [गंगा] water, or upon the plough, or with a son in the lap. This is resorted to in cases when it is difficult to reach a decision or to get at the facts. After a full discussion five men are chosen to give a decision. There is no custom which necessitates the choosing of the same five men in case after case. The decision, which is pronounced by the headman, is binding. Decrees are not published, except in special cases. When the council finds a person guilty of the offence charged, it imposes a penalty which usually takes the form of a fine. This may be levied in rupees, or may be an order for the offender to entertain the clansmen. The fine may be any reasonable amount, but the sum collected seldom exceeds five rupees. The fines in certain classes of cases are fixed by custom. Until the fine is paid, or the feast given, the offender is not allowed to eat or drink with his clansmen. Another and a more, serious result of conviction is that until the ban is removed all marriage alliances with the family of the offender are barred ; and, if anyone marries a member of such a family, he at once becomes liable to the same punishment as that which they are undergoing. It is very seldom that the process of excommunication has to be used to enforce payments. The fines are spent in the purchase of spirits for the members of the tribe and in feasting them, or for some such purposes as the digging of a well. A certain proportion, however, of the fines collected is the perquisite of the chaudhari [चौधरी]. Besides this a certain percentage of the fines is often set aside as a sinking fund for special purposes, such as the hiring of lawyers when trials occur in the Government courts. Some unusual punishments include the sending of persons on pilgrimage, requiring them to solicit alms, and various forms of degradation. Sometimes a beating with a shoe is pronounced as a punishment; and again the shoes of the whole party are placed upon the head of the offender. For discovery in sexual irregularities the parties are sometimes taken to the bank of a tank, or river, where their heads are shaved in the presence of the panchayat [पंचायत]. They are then made to bathe. The shoes of all the company are then made into two bundles and placed upon the heads of the guilty pair and they are made to promise not to repeat the offence. Frequently the convicted party, is bound to a tree and beaten. If a Chamār [चमार] entice away the wife of a clansman, in addition to the punishment inflicted by council he is obliged to pay her marriage expenses. Even excommunication resulting from irregular marriages, and the punishment of the most grievous offences may be remitted by the payment of a fine. Becoming a Christian does not necessarily result in excommunication. Although he will, as a Christian, abjure caste practices, he is not excluded from social intercourse with the sub-caste from which he came. But a Chamār [चमार] who has turned Mohammadan is permanently excluded from his clan. In some places, where the Christian is considered by the caste as a social outcaste, he may be reinstated by the payment of a fine. The amount imposed will depend upon the financial ability of the outcasted party. Where a whole village which has become Christian desires to be reinstated in the biradari [برادری], an amount, determined by the financial resources of the village, is paid through the chaudhari [चौधरी] to the head chaudhari [चौधरी] of that particular part of the country. There is no ceremony of re-instatement ; they simply resume the exercise of privileges amongst which huqqā-pānī, and śādi-biyāh [شادی بیاہ] are the most esteemed.

In some cases heavy penalities are imposed. For example, a chaudhari [चौधरी] was outcasted for twelve years for showing partiality to his brother (the punishment was afterwards reduced to a fine by a council of panchayats [पंचायत]). Another Chamār [चमार], who disgraced his caste by begging, was outcasted. His son was reinstated by paying a fine of four rupees and feasting five Brahmans. Some others, who were in a court convicted of poisoning cattle, were excommunicated for twelve years. They offered 500 rupees to be reinstated but in vain. In another case two Chamārs [चमार] were fined ten and six rupees respectively for removing dead animals from the house of another Chamār’s [चमार] clients ; and the husband of a Chamār [चमार] woman who worked as midwife for another Chamār’s [चमार] client was fined five rupees.

The work of the panchayat [पंचायत] is of great importance. It relieves the courts of a great many petty cases, on the one hand ; and, on the other, it is of great regulative value in the life of the village group.

There are certain hereditary rights which are the privilege of a certain Chamār [चमार] family (or families) in each village. These rights, called jajman [जजमान] or gaukamā, are carefully guarded. In return for these perquisites the Chamār [चमार] gives regular services to the landlords. The circle of clients from whom he receives these privileges expect him to remove dead cattle, to prepare leather from the hide, and to furnish a certain limited supply of shoes and other leather articles. Besides the dead cattle, which belong to him by right, he gets a fee of from ten to twelve seers [सेर] of grain for curing the hides of the animals that die. From the hide he sells one pair of shoes to the zamindar [ज़मींदार] for two and a half seers [सेर] of grain. The rest of the hide is his. Occasionally he is expected to mend, or even to make, shoes for nothing. In some places he can claim the hide without the obligation of furnishing anything. These rights in respect to hides are now being questioned and in some cases denied altogether; but the landlord is obliged to make some concession, which is usually in the form of privileges of cultivation. Besides the rights connected with leather, the Chamār [चमार] receives certain small privileges, such as fuel and grass from the village lands and gifts at stated festivals and on other social occasions. He is expected to work for his clients upon demand, but receives certain definite gifts of grain at harvest-time.

The Chamār’s [चमार] wife has her clientèle, as well, for whom she acts as midwife, and for whom she performs various menial services at marriages and festivals, such as collecting wood, bringing earthen vessels from the bazar, supplying cow-dung and grinding grain.

The following summary of the Chamār’s [चमार] perquisites as a labourer in rural districts is substantially from Morrison.

  • When grain is threshed, the Chamār [चमार] gets twenty seers [सेर] at each harvest per plough in consideration for repairing the well-water bags, for providing leather straps and whips, and for helping to clean the grain. The light grain and sweepings of the threshing-floor are his perquisite in consideration for the help that he gives in threshing and in winnowing.
  • For work in irrigation his wages are often one and a half annas [आना] per day. He receives three bundles of the cut crops each day during the harvest. These are large or small according to the amount of work that he does.
  • As a ploughman his wages are a daily portion of grain from one and a half to two seers [सेर] of rabī [रबी] grain, or pulse, at mid-day, which represents half a seer [सेर] of sattu [सत्तू], and for fifteen days during seed-time he will get an additional allowance of one seer [सेर] a day.

The practice of paying the Chamār [चमार] in kind is being discontinued in certain parts of the country. This is due to changing economic conditions. In former days he used to sell his grain in the markets and purchase the things which he needed for himself.

  • Women and children do the weeding, for which each gets a seer [सेर] of grain, or such an amount as is fixed by custom, and, sometimes, an extra allowance.
  • At reaping-time all hands receive one good bundle for each sixteen small bundles gathered for the landlord.
  • At earth-work an able bodied man earns two seers [सेर] of grain and half a seer [सेर] of sattu [सत्तू] and an additional handful of grain to start with in the morning.
  • For carrying flags and doing other services in wedding processions, both father and son receive gifts after the wedding and an allowance of food during the festivities. 

The Chamār [चमार] often gets the old clothes and blankets which the zamindar [ज़मींदार] wishes to give away. These fees and allowances are scarcely more than illustrative. The actual amounts vary, and the whole system of perquisites is in a somewhat unsettled condition.

For services as midwife, the Chamārī [चमारी] receives food and presents. These will be more or less according as the child happens to be a boy or a girl, or the firstborn. Her usual perquisite is a new sari and four annas [आना] in cash. But these fees have been considerably increased in recent years. It is to be noted, however, that there are areas where this work is done by other and lower castes ; and further that, in the same sub-caste, in some areas the women are engaged in this profession, while in others they are not.

The practice of midwifery is looked upon as most degrading. The women who follow this profession employ methods of the crudest sort. Sanitary conditions are almost entirely neglected, and no attempt is made to prevent infection. A considerable percentage of the mortality amongst women is traceable to the work of the midwife. The ceremonies of the sixth day are to a certain extent directed against tetanus, which is prevalent especially amongst babies. The conditions under which the mother is confined are most unfavourable. The room is kept close, and she and all things within the room are considered unclean. A fire is kept burning constantly, and very often the atmosphere is laden with the heavy smoke of incense. Such things as red peppers and old leather are amongst the articles that are cast into the fire. The whole technique of the practice of midwifery is directed by custom and superstition ; and the evil smells and the other barbarous practices connected with the lying-in room are designed to beat off demons of disease and of destruction. Unfavourable signs, such as fever, are the occasion for the practice of magic and the burning of such things as give off most distressing and oppressive odours.

There is a real sense in which the Chamār [चमार] has to do work for which he receives no compensation. These conditions are well known and need no proof. A characteristic illustration is found in the following incident. A young Chamār [चमार] left his section of the country and took up service. He became fairly prosperous and felt that he had risen in the world. He concluded to pay a visit to his native village. There he chanced upon his old master, who said, “Give me that umbrella. You have no use for it. I will give you eleven annas [आना].” So, taking it, the landlord said, “Go to work with the plough to-morrow.” The next morning the landlord’s servant appeared and forced the Chamār [चमार] to go to work. In the evening the young man received three pice [पैसा] for his day’s work. He realized then that he was only a Chamār [चमार] after all.

As a class, they are oppressed and they live in continual fear, especially of the zamindars, and far from having the comfortable environment pictured in Industrial Organization of an Indian Province, their lot is a hard one. They are constantly harassed by demands of all kinds. Men are needed for some odd job and a request is sent to some officer. A peon goes to the Chamār [चमार] section of the village or town, and impresses the number of persons required. They are supposed to receive wages for their services, but they are more or less at the call of others, no matter what their own interests may be. There are certain duties which they must perform for Government and for the landlord, and for these they receive certain privileges related to the land. There are, however, many instances where they are required to work without pay, under the direction of petty officers.

Tanners are more common in the Meerut [मेरठ], Agra [आगरा], Rohilkhand [रोहिलखंड], Allahabad [इलाहाबाद], and Lucknow [लखनऊ] divisions, and less common in the Benares [वाराणसी], Gorakhpore [गोरखपुर], and Fyzabad [फ़ैज़ाबाद] divisions.

Furriers are found only in Saharanpur [सहारनपुर] and Bara Banki [बाराबंकी].

A catalogue of the different kinds of work which the Chamār [चमार] performs, shows that he belongs to the great class of unskilled labour.

He is a

  • grass-cutter,
  • coolie,
  • wood- and bundle-carrier,
  • drudge,
  • doer of odd jobs,
  • maker and repairer of thatch and of mud walls,
  • field-labourer, 
  • groom,
  • house-servant,
  • peon,
  • brickmaker, and even, 
  • village watchman.
  • He is the common labourer along the railways and in the great cities.
  • He does a good deal of weaving.
  • The contractors who undertake petty repairs in the towns and cities are often Chamārs [चमार]. 
  • He repairs the underground rooms and makes the bins where grain is stored, and prepares the threshing-floors. 
  • Besides, he beats drums, rings bells, and blows trumpets at weddings or when cholera or other epidemics are being exorcised from the village.
  • He also makes musical instruments.

Some sub-caste names are illustrations of occupational functions; for example,

  • Mochi [मोची](shoemaker), 
  • Chāmkatiyā [चांकतिया] (leather-cutter),
  • Chāmar [चमार] (leather-maker), 
  • Chamār māṁgtā or Māṁgatiyā (beggar),
  • Kāṭuā (leather-cutter),
  • Tāṁtuā (maker of leather thongs),
  • Zingār (maker of saddles), and
  • Nālchhinā (one who cuts the navel cord).

It is as a tanner and worker in leather that the Chamār [चमार] obtains his name. Besides making the thongs, baskets and other articles used in husbandry, he is a maker and cobbler of shoes. He furnishes not only the shoes made according to country patterns, but also, and in rapidly increasing quantities, shoes and boots made on English models. He is also a dealer in hides. In the Central Provinces he has, in some instances, become a dealer in cattle.

But the Chamār [चमार] is not now chiefly a tanner and a worker in leather. The census returns for the United Provinces in 1911 show less than 131,000 who reported their hereditary occupation as their principal means of livelihood, while but 38,205 reported leather-work of any sort as their subsidiary means of livelihood. But 26,112 actual workers who returned their traditional occupation as their principal means of livelihood, had some subsidiary occupation. 1,354,622 recorded their principal occupation as cultivation ; 1,245,312 were returned as field-labourers, wood-cutters, etc.; 142,248 as artisans and workmen; 331,244 as labourers (unspecified); and 31,855 as domestic servants. In the United Provinces the great majority of the Chamārs [चमार] are engaged in “the exploitation of the earth’s surface.” Similarly we find that, in the Punjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ], they are an extensive class of low-caste cultivators; and that in the Central Provinces, the great bulk of the caste, namely, the Satnamis [सतनामी], do not touch leather at all. The figures from the United Provinces show that only five per cent, of the Chamārs [चमार] are leather-workers; that seventy-eight per cent, of them exploit the earth’s surface (e.g., are cultivators, agriculturists, and labourers); that four per cent, are engaged in other industries; that two per cent, are occupied with transport and trade; and that nine per cent, are general labourers. In most occupations both men and women are engaged.

Chamār [चमार] women, besides performing the ordinary house duties, do an immense amount of work in the fields. This consists of weeding and other forms of lighter work connected with the care of the crops. They also do the husking and grinding and help in the winnowing. In addition to this they do a considerable amount of ordinary coolie work such as carrying produce to market, and the like. They do not, however, compete with the men, but rather supplement their work. In the hide industries the number of women-workers to one thousand men is one hundred and eighty-five.

Economically the Chamār [चमार] is a most valuable element in the population, and his function is the rough toil and drudgery of the community. Though nearly always a poor man, he, as a rural labourer, generally has plenty to do. His work is distributed over the year about as follows: For five months, June to November, he works in the field with a plough ; for two months, November and December, he is engaged in reaping the kḥarīf [ख़रीफ़](the autumn crops); during January and February he is occupied with kachchā [कच्चा] buildings and other forms of earthwork ; in March and April he is busy in gathering the rabī [रबी] (spring harvest); and in May he does a little earthwork. Between times he does whatever work comes to hand. For the most part he is still in an almost hopeless state of degradation and serfdom. In large areas he is at the beck and call of others, and dares not lift his voice in protest lest he be beaten or driven from his village. However, economic changes are taking place, and Chamārs [चमार] are leaving the land to take up employment on the railways and in the industrial centres. In some parts of the country as many as twenty-five per cent, of them are away from home half the year The result is an increasing demand for field-labour. Consequently wages have been enhanced. The recent increase in the value of farm products has resulted, in some instances, in the substitution of cash for grain as wages. This will eventually help the Chamār [चमार]. The increased value of leather has led the landlords, in some parts of the country, to question the Chamārs' [चमार] traditional right to raw skins. But the landlord has been obliged to offer another form of compensation, and this has been in cultivating privileges. The Chamārs' [चमार] rights of occupancy are being obstructed in many places, and the laws which have been framed for his protection have not always secured him his just dues; still, the amount of land that is coming into his possession, both in the form of non-occupancy and of occupancy rights, is slowly increasing. Some Chamārs [चमार] are owners of land, and in the Central Provinces, for instance, whole villages are possessed by them. Not only are they under the heel of the landlords, who they fear may deprive them of their cultivating rights and of their houses, but they are also under the influence of the baniyā [बनिया] and the landlord, from whom they borrow to purchase seed-grain, leather, and oxen. Debt becomes a heavy shackle for them, and often the labour of their whole family is employed in satisfying the claims of creditors. As these people begin to discover their rights before the law, and as they gather courage, their position must improve. Not infrequently Chamārs [चमार] shift to other villages where conditions are more tolerable, or they appeal to someone who is willing to help them to obtain justice. These are encouraging signs. Still, the process which will lift him from dependency to independence is a long one, and as yet he has scarcely begun to move."

[Quelle: Briggs, George Weston <1874 - >: The Chamārs. -- Calcutta : Association Press, 1920. -- 270 S. : Ill.   . -- (The religious life of India). -- S. 35 - 59]

APPENDIX B. Tanning, Shoemaking, and Leather Articles

"APPENDIX B. Tanning, Shoemaking, and Leather Articles

The preparation of buffalo, bullock and cow hides, which occupies about a month, consists of two processes, liming and tanning. The hides are soaked, split into sides, and limed. They are left in the pits for from six to eight, or from twelve to fourteen, days according to the season. For each hide one seer [सेर] (about two pounds) of slaked lime is used and enough water to cover the hide. For every ten seers [सेर] of lime one of impure soda is added. After three to four, or six to eight, days the skins are removed, and unhaired with a khurpī, or scraper. They are then placed in a new lime solution of the same strength as before, but without the soda. When the skins are sufficiently swollen they are taken out and fleshed on a stone slab with a rāṁpī, or currier’s knife. They are then laid in clean water for from four to six hours. Bating (hāṅgā) follows. This process is designed to remove the lime and to open the pores so that the hide may be grained and coloured. The first solution consists of ten measures of very old tan liquor and ten seers [सेर] of the same three times as strong and one seer [सेर] of kan, or rice husk. This is put into earthen vessels and allowed to ferment for about a Week. Each vessel holds four sides, which are handled frequently. This process lasts four days. A second bating is done in a solution of water mixed with molasses and mahwa [महुआ] flour or with mahwa refuse from a distillery. A third bating is then made in a solution the same as the first, except that scraps of fleshing are used in the place of rice husks. The hide is now pliable. It is laid on a slab, scraped on the grained side, and wrung dry. It is then rinsed with old tan liquor, kneaded, rubbed, and wrung dry. Again it is laid in strong tan liquor for from twelve to twenty-four hours, being kneaded and wrung by hand at frequent intervals. The leather is now sewed up with munj [मुंज] (a grass twine) into a bag, hung up, and filled with tan mixture. This consists of fifteen seers [सेर] of new and ten seers [सेर] of half-spent tan bark (babūl [बबूल]), water and weak tan liquor. To this mixture are added two to four pounds of small twigs of baṁḍā, powdered and mixed with water. The bag is suspended by the neck from a wooden tripod over a nāṁd (a large earthen vessel). As the liquor drips through the pores it is poured back into the bag. After twenty-four hours the bag is taken down, the neck is sewn up and the bag is hung up reversed for twelve hours. The hide is then taken down, opened and laid out. It is sprinkled with four ounces of impure salt (khārī) and four ounces of bark dust, which are then well rubbed in. The hide is then set out on the grain side with a sleeker. This last, and even the bating, process is often neglected by Chamārs [चमार]. The currying of leather is almost entirely neglected.

Another native process consists chiefly of liming. First, the hides are laid on the floor and roughly fleshed, smeared over with lime-paste and folded up. Each hide is then tied at both ends and placed in a naihd containing lime solution. The hides are kept in position by means of a large stone. After three days the hides are removed, unfolded and rubbed with lime, after which they are replaced in the nāṁd and left for four or five days. They are then taken out, rubbed, scraped, cleaned, and washed with clean water. When the hair and flesh have been completely removed the hides are fit for tanning. The hides, which are now white, are soaked in clean water to which is added a handful of fermented bark-dust paste, and allowed to lie for two nights. The hides are then folded lengthwise and twisted until all the moisture is squeezed out of them. They are then unfolded, wet, and twisted in the reverse way. This process of wetting and squeezing takes the place of bating. The hides are then treated with tanning materials as above described. After the tanning process has been completed, the leather is curried with salt curds and ghi [घी]. This completes the process.

Owing to the excessive use of lime, the leather produced by the Chamār [चमार] is very porous and of an inferior quality. The tanning is scarcely more than a colouring process. The object of tanning is to produce, by a combination of tannin with the gelatine of the hide or skin, an insoluble, impenetrable substance. The lime destroys to a considerable extent the fibres upon which, the tannin acts.

The tanning of sheep and goat skins is almost entirely in the hands of the Chikwas, or Chiks, Mohammedan leather workers of Chamār [चमार] origin, who look down with scorn upon the Chamār [चमार]. This process is, briefly, as follows: The skins, which are received whole from the slaughter-house, flesh outside, are smeared with lime, left for a day, and then turned right-side out. They are then washed and limed, being allowed to lie in the lime for from five to fifteen days, and then washed and fleshed. A thick paste is then made by boiling down mahua [महुआ] flour. When it has cooled it is spread over the skins, which are then allowed to stand for eight days; or a gruel of lentil and barley meal and water is prepared, in which the skins are laid for a week, and occasionally handled. The skins are then washed, and laid in tan liquor, being passed from weak to strong solutions in a series of nāṁds. This process lasts from eight to fifteen days, during which time the skins are handled two or three times a day, hand-rubbed, and wrung to make them pliable. They are then rubbed with sajjī (impure soda) on the flesh side and dried in the sun.

Coloured leathers are made from goat and sheep skins by special processes. To produce red leather lākh [लाख] (lac) is put into the gruel bath. Blue leather is obtained by the use of copper filings, sal ammoniac and lime juice; and black leather by the use of copperas instead of copper filings.

The manufacture of shagreen is in the hands of Mohammedans. The preparation of the skins of various species of deer is as above, except that sāl [साल] bark is used in the tanning process. Sāl [साल] gives a rich brown colour, dhadra a light yellow, and babūl [बबूल] a buff. Combinations of these materials produce shades of colour.

The substances used in tanning are the bark, leaves, and pods of

  • the babūl [बबूल] tree (acacia arabica [Vachellia nilotica (L.) P.J.H.Hurter & Mabb.]);
  • the dhadra or bakli (anogeissus latifolia [(Roxb. ex DC.) Wall. ex Guill. & Perr.]), a native of the lower Himalayan tract;
  • the bark of the sāl [शाल](shorea robusta [C.F.Gaertn.]);
  • har [हर] and bahaira [बहेड़ा], myrabolams, the fruit of the terminalia chebula [Retz.] and terminalia bellerica [Terminalia bellirica (Gaertn.) Roxb.] respectively ;
  • the bark and berries of the ghunt (ziziphus xylopyra), a jungle tree ;
  • the leaves of the baṁḍā, a parasite commonly found on the mango tree ;
  • the fruit, leaves and bark of the aonla [आँवला] (phyllanthus emblica), a tree of moderate size with feathery foliage ;
  • the bark of the amaltās [अमलतास] (cassia fistula);
  • the leaves and flour of the mahua [महुआ] (cassia latifolia [Senna latifolia (G.Mey.) H.S.Irwin & Barneby]);
  • the bark of the rhea [रेवंजा] (acacia leucophlaea [Vachellia leucophloea
    (Roxb.) Maslin, Seigler & Ebinger
    ]) ;
  • the bark of the avaram (cassia auriculata [Senna auriculata (L.) Roxb.]) ;
  • and the pod of the dividivi (caesalpinia coriaria [(Jacq.) Willd.]).

 Some materials imported from abroad are also used. Babūl [बबूल] is the most valuable tanning agent found in India.

The several kinds of shoes are all made on the same principle. They may be embroidered or otherwise decorated. The shoemaker begins with the sole. A thin-piece of leather is smeared with a paste of mustard oil. Over this are laid, first, odd scraps of leather, second, a heavy layer of mud, and third, a thin piece of leather. The curved toe of the shoe forms part of the inside of the sole of leather. The heel-piece is attached in the same way. The maker now puts a couple of stitches of leather thong through the middle of this composite sole to keep it in position for the next step, which consists in stitching on the upper. He begins at the toe, working round with a plain running stitch, boring holes for the thong to pass through. The heel-piece is then trimmed and sewed on to the upper, which is then closed. The toe part is likewise treated. Additional stitching and ornamentation may be added. The commonest kinds of country shoes are called golpañjā and adhauṛī. The latter is generally made for hard work. Other styles of shoes are the hafti, something like the English slipper ; the sulemshahī, a long narrow shoe with a slender nok ; the pañjābī, similar to the former but with characteristic decorations; the ghetla, an ugly shoe with an exaggerated curl over the toes, and apparently without a heel; the gurgābī, which has no nok, made with a buckle over the instep; the chaṛhāwans, made of black velvet, with nok and heel-piece of shagreen ; and the zerpai, or half-shoe, with a point and no heel, which is worn by women only.

Among the leather articles manufactured in the villages are thongs ; the maśak, or water skin, used by the bihiṣṭī ; the kuppā, a leather jar for holding ghi; the kuppī, or phuleli, scent bottles; drums, aṁka tablā [तबला], tāśā and ḍhol [ढोल]the charsā, pūr, or moṭh, usually made of buffalo or of cow hides, and laced in the form of a bag on a circle of wood, and used for drawing water from wells; and sarnais, inflated nīlgai [नीलगाय - Boselaphus tragocamelus] hides used to support a cot, and made for working fishing-nets in rivers."

[Quelle: Briggs, George Weston <1874 - >: The Chamārs. -- Calcutta : Association Press, 1920. -- 270 S. : Ill.   . -- (The religious life of India). -- S. 256 - 260]