Balmiki

Dalit life is excruciatingly painful, charred by experiences.  Experiences that did not manage to find room in literary creations.  We have grown up in a social order that is extremely cruel and inhuman.  Omprakash Valmiki

Who are they?

The Balmiki are one of the largest socially stigmatized Dalit groups numbering nearly 1.5 million in Uttar Pradesh alone and constitute about 16 % of India’s population.  They occupy the lowliest position of the caste system.  During the colonial period they were brought from villages to remove human excrement and clean the cities.  They became an urban community.  In time, with the introduction of septic latrines, the practice of carrying buckets of excrement on their heads is gone but they still work to clear blockages in sewers where they are half submerged in filth.  The stigma remains as they are still identified with the work they perform and considered untouchable and treated as such.  They have always been marginalized and treated as outcasts socially, economically and culturally.   Sweepers are now referred to as safai karamcharis or sanitary workers.

The Balmiki make up a cluster of communities – a few of whom are the Bhangi, Mehtar, Chuhra, Lal Beghi and Halalkhor.  They have united to form one community and claim a common origin from the saint Balmiki.  Balmiki is thought to be the first Sanskrit poet and author of the holy Hindu epic Ramayana and was brought up by a sweeper woman although he was a Brahmin (highest Hindu caste) mendicant’s son.

They were given names contrary to their position to give them dignity despite their lowly status – like Chuhra meaning beautiful and Mehtar, a Persian word meaning prince or leader.  However Bhangi, the most widely used name is a Hindi word meaning one addicted to drinking bhang (a drink made from marijuana leaves).

Location

These communities can be found throughout the states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Delhi, Gujarat, and the union territory of Chandigarh where they are locally known by various names mentioned above.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Balmiki’s are employed as sweepers in municipalities, hospitals and government offices.  Some Balmiki are engaged in agricultural or contract labour.  Pig rearing, bamboo basketry, and poultry farming are some ancillary occupations.  Some Balmiki, such as the Mehtar men of Bihar, play drums at weddings and festivals, while women are midwives.

Post-independence, the Indian government’s affirmative action policies have seen an increase of Balmiki emerge as political leaders in regional and national levels.   A prominent example is Buta Singh, from the Bhangi community in Punjab, who was an MP in parliament from the early sixties and became a Union Minister of Home Affairs.  The Balmiki who work at municipalities have formed unions to help them be treated fairly.  The Balmiki have also formed an association for their caste at a national level called the All-India Safai Mazdoor Congress with a head office in Bombay and branches in other states.  The objectives of the association are to strengthen the economic, social, educational and political status of all sweeper castes in India and to remove all social discrimination.

Literacy rates among the Balmiki are low because they cannot afford it, though they view education favorably.  In recent years, especially in urban areas like Delhi, girls are educated.  They visit doctors and use traditional medicines as well.  They have begun to value and practice family planning.  They have started to utilize the government’s developmental programs provided for Scheduled Castes.

A major problem among the Balmiki is debt.  A common saying of the Bhangi is that they are born in debt, live in debt and will die in debt.  Social customs that require money for dowries, marriages, death rites, help for extended family and poor health all contribute to debt.  Money is borrowed from a money lender at very high interest rates.  Gambling is seen as a way out of poverty that leads them further in debt.

The Balmiki have a diet that includes wheat, millet and rice.  Pork is eaten by all and beef is eaten by Gujarati Balmiki’s.  Men drink homemade alcohol and women are allowed to drink at ritual celebrations only. The Balmiki accept water and food from almost all other communities but other communities make it a point not to reciprocate.  Wherever they are, the Balmiki live in squalid, overcrowded segregated areas.

Customs

The Balmiki practice group endogamy and clan or lineage exogamy.  Vermilion in the hair parting, a dot on the forehead and toe-rings are symbols for married women. They believe in monogamy and prefer adult marriages. The custom of dowry, given as cash and goods is given by the bride’s family.  Marriages are arranged by parents and elders.  Divorce is permissible.  Women are slightly better off in comparison to other lower caste women and participate actively in religious and social activities.  Both men and women work as sweepers.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Despite the abject position they hold in the Hindu caste system and in society, the Balmikis remain Hindu.  The Balmiki worship village and regional deities along with other Hindus.  As they are considered untouchable and not permitted entry to Hindu temples, they worship at Balmiki temples.  There are some localities that allow them entry.  Shiva and saint Balmiki are revered and Balmiki Jayanti (Balmiki’s birthday) is celebrated with a procession.  They worship a mother goddess called Masani who is thought to protect children from liver failure (caused by malaria and intestinal infection).  Animal sacrifices are offered to appease Masani and Kali (goddess who wears a necklace of human skulls).  Some others are Maha Mai (great mother) and Sitala (the smallpox goddess, who is believed to have cured the disease).  The Balmiki also believe in spirits and call on a Bhagat (a person who communicates with spirits) to pacify them.  The Bhagat identifies the problem and recommends a remedy which usually involves worship, a sacrifice and an offering to be made to the spirit.  Witchcraft and evil eye have other solutions.  Vows are also made at tombs of Muslim saints.

The Balmiki have tried for centuries to free themselves from the bondage to the degrading caste system by converting to Islam and Christianity.  In the 1880s and 1890s there were large scale conversions in western Uttar Pradesh which resulted in a marginal improvement in basic dignity and some economic gain.  It did not take long before they converted back to Hinduism on being offered inducements.  For example, the Mehtar of Karnataka embraced Islam to escape the stigma associated with their caste and returned to Hinduism in order to receive the benefits extended to Scheduled Castes in newly independent India’s constitution.  In the early 1900’s a Hindu organization called Arya Samaj was active in reconverting Balmiki’s to Hinduism.

What Are Their Needs?

The Balmiki need to be given dignity and freed from centuries of discrimination.  Poverty and illiteracy has to be eradicated.  Material needs have to be balanced with emotional and spiritual growth.

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134 Comments on "Balmiki"


Guest
Sunil taank
2 days 3 hours ago
I am sunil taank belongs to valmiki
bhai logo mere hisab se sabse pahle valmiki caste ko in adhvishvas ki duniya se bhar nikla hoga kyoki in mai ajj bhi andhvisvas jayada hai
bhut sare to padai hi nahi karte inko education ke liye protsahit karna hoga or ek commitee honi chahiye jo valmiki caste ko padai ke liye suvidyaon ki jankari de or wo bhi pad sake gaon mai jakar unhe shiksha ka mahtavbatayi or agge badne ke liye parerit kare sharo mai to jagriti aa rahi hai gaon mai nahi waha ajj bhi log sadiyon purani zindagi jee rahe hai
thanks.
jai valmiki
har har valmiki
Guest
yash
11 days 21 hours ago
Hello..everyone,I am yash from Delhi. I am also a valmiki .I feels very bad for our community.in our country we treated like disease people.we have fends from all communities like punjab Hindu n all they pretend they are very good with us bt actually they are not.i had a gf who was punjabi n we both got married ..love come arrange by parents.after 1 year of our marriage my father in law want that I suppose to divorce my wife because his relatives disagree with this marriage. And after some time he file a complaint against me that I had the dowry demands.cz he don't wanted to marry his daughter with me cz m a valmiki. My wife come back to me n she took the complaint back n we both were again living happy. .n after some time my wife got pregnant n it was her 9 month ..we checked all d routine test n all she was absulutely fine n baby was also fit..unfortunately she had a cardiac arrest in d hospital n she died.now her parents sent me to jail for d charge 304b n 498a.n he is saying that I need 1cr otherwise I ll nt spare you.he is a punjabi n he has links now after 7 month I cm bck from the jail on bail.you guys plz tell me what are we.the valmiki...we are nothing cz all casts has links bt for our nobody survive us.we r very down by these things
Guest
rocky
13 days 15 hours ago
Har har valmiki,
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Central-Valmiki-Sabha-International-Uk/165721326935165
Guest
rocky
13 days 16 hours ago
Valmiki smaj k logo ko Hindu dharm ko shod Dena chahiye .
Apna alag dharm bnana chahiye...
Guest
DHIR SINGH
16 days 5 hours ago
thx for a valuable information...meine comments pade,i want to just say ki agar government group c aur d ki recruitment kar de wo bhi sarkari to lots of problem will be autmatically solved..but they didnt do dis.instead of dis ,wo private karte ja rahe hai,,,,,
Guest
Chatoor Partap (Gurpartap Singh)
17 days 16 hours ago
One God -All his children. You look like god,think like god,feel like god,you are not what other tells you.You are God's children.All equal .Please visit chatoorpartp.com, I write about Balmiki.
Guest
jugraj singh
18 days 8 hours ago
sikh dharam mein valmiki smaj ko mazhabi sikhon ke naam se jana jata hai....punjab mein valmiki mazhabi sikhon ki ginti 50 lakh ke pas hai......
Guest
Chatoor Partap (Gurpartap Singh)
17 days 16 hours ago
In sikh dharam,Balmikis are called Rangreta-Guru ka beta.
Guest
NARENDAR VALMIKI
29 days 13 hours ago
JAI VALMIKI
Guest
K97Ha
1 month 10 days ago
hello every body here..
I just read the blog above here and felt a bit proud . But a huge dissapointment.
Dissapointment is here coz of that our people are think themselves as a lower part of the society as mentioned in blog .
Do you know what is the biggest issue nd lack of our community have is the unity .
Hum logo me ekta naam ki chiz hi nai h ...
Aap dusri castes ko deko gujar ye log 300 400saal pahele kya the or aj ye apni ekta ya unity k wajah se kaha pahoch gae h
or woh b without any education .
Aur agar hum log
admit nahi karte that who we are?
Then education
or mje lgta k , jesa 1 dost ne comment kia k hm sabhi ko kisi 1 platform pe meelna chahie to discuss all the issues
or hume apni community ko education ke lie aware karna chaie
sumit kajani from delhi
Guest
malkeet ram
2 months 5 days ago
Hello I am malkeet ram from Punjab belonging to balmiki kasti Join the this
Guest
G.SRIKISHAN
2 months 30 days ago
this are the cheap tactics of just making time pass and nothing else because the amount really expended on he blog can be given for the welfare of any needy balmiki but it is the only caste system that resrict them to do so,there is no political influence for the balmiki's and in the deficiency of this,the sorrow of the balmiki's will never make the world to hear there problem's which are never tried to be heard by any political leader..............it is just waist of time.who says their is no literacy in the balmiki cast,their are enn number of balmiki youth who are highly qualified but nobody support's them,Thank you for the sympathy.
Guest
Preeti
3 months 6 days ago
May someone tell me Are valmikis in bihar or not. One of my friend is from biharsariff but he told to his GF that he is rajput but I know his gotra is valmiki as he told me. I think its incorrect because i checked many websites and i hv seen that no valmiki is realated to rajput. If someone have any idea please tell me.
Guest
Ashish shilelan
3 months 13 days ago
I really like the article. but i I have few question. Do we all rally respect our cast. if yes then why dont we accept in a community that we belong from valmiki cast. I saw many people writte gujar, rajput, jaat etc. behind their vehicle but i hardly found valmiki on the vehilce. Why??????
We afraid to discolse our cast in front of the society or people????
It clearly shows that some were we feel that our cast is small. As comapre to other cast and if our cast is samll in our eye and make us weak.Till the time we can't bring our cast and other cast on the same page. Sharam chhodo aur gurve se kaho. Jai valmiki. Plzzz sab log apne vehicle ke piche mention karo aur khul k kaho that yes i am valmiki and i proud to be a valmiki.
Guest
Piyush Wagh
3 months 18 days ago
Hello sir
I m impressed from your survey. I m from amravati district in Maharashtra, want to work for the people from backward class in my district under my NGO JHEP MULTIPURPOSE FOUNDATION. Please guide me for that.
Guest
Yashpal Kazania
4 months 5 days ago
Hello everyone
Guest
Yashpal Kazania
4 months 5 days ago
We should one platform for meeting all educated brother n sisters for unit.
Guest
Rahul
26 days 23 hours ago
Hi bro I am here to join you. As I am also balmiki. We need to stand firm and make our community stand in front of the others.
Guest
saurav balmiki
4 months 9 days ago
Hello everyone i love dis survey its jst amazing!!! I also belong to balmiki community !!! I am studying journalisim and media studies, i hope one day i,ll do sumthng better 4 my communiy !!!!
Guest
Aniket Sheryar
4 months 17 days ago
I'm Aniket Sheryar from meerut I have done b.tech I totally impressed ; Sir I also belong this so I wanna join u plzz
Guest
Ricky Thapar
5 months 19 days ago
I am absolutely inspired to read all the comments . I am an upcoming Rap Music producer and MC . I am in Canada but from Punjab(India) . I respect all castes and regions but my aim is to do shows back to back as I have target of educating Valmiki Students who can't afford to study . All knowledge I have will be used in spreading education in our community. No matter who is doing what , We gonna make the change. All of us , lets be the change that we see in our community. Jai Valmiki , Har har Valmiki .
Guest
Ashish shilelan
3 months 13 days ago
Hi sir. I really have egerness to learn rap music. If u teach me i assured u i'll learn from the core of my hear. I never tried it before but some were i feel if u teach me i can do good in this
Guest
mamta bidlan
5 months 28 days ago
i real appreciate u sir to give this much knowledge and its really required for our community do bst education and prove our self what we are....i am from pune now i am doing journalism i want to do something for our community people... u can guide me sir
Guest
sabare Alam
6 months 24 days ago
Dear Readers , You have been kept out boycotted by People since born,, People uses you but never accepted you in there heigh value society. Till today people talk about system but in village and city these comunities are still in boycotted by Upper class ( upper class mean people who think that only there right to read and write and give social justics to any one,, you people must unite and raise the issue together else you will be used by people like before,,, Think Great Person Late Babasaheb accepted Other relegion,, Do not forget his hard work for you people,,, stay united and stay for better yours community....there are lot of people who sacrifice his life for the freedom of INDIA , for example late gangu who had been hanged by british ,,, after raising his voice against Britihs, in 1857 lot of lower class help to get freedom from british,, but Todays samaj taking all the cridit for there own benifit and keeping lower cast people away for education, and equal right. decision is yours,,,