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.

Leave a Reply

114 Comments on "Balmiki"


Guest
saurav balmiki
3 days 14 hours 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
10 days 19 hours 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
1 month 13 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
mamta bidlan
1 month 20 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
2 months 18 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,,,
Guest
Bharat kharaliya
5 months 28 days ago
right gautam jatav g blkul right ajj sadi community nu humble need education di h job appe mil jaugi j educated hovage ta Khudi ko kar buland itna ki khuda b tujse aake puche e bande teri raja kya h
Guest
chetan vaghela
6 months 4 days ago
Sir.....I proud bcoz I m valmiki... From chetan vaghela ahmedabad(gujrat)
Guest
Sumit
10 months 16 days ago
Hame ye bataye...logo ki jo bhavna h.valmiki community k logo k liye use kaise badle....aap pade likhe ho,wel educated ho job bhi h..lekin phir bhi kahi na kahi logo k mann me ye rahta h are yar ye to schedule caste h ...aisa kyon h..ise kaise badal sakte h...
Guest
AMIT KUMAR
10 months 14 days ago
hm anaryans is country ke moolniwasi hai or aryans(brahman,shatriya.vaishya) ye sb bahar se aaye hue hai or india pe raaj kr rahe hai ye log 15% hai or 85% pe raaj kr rahe hai. hme divide kiya hua hai ek duje se ladwate hai taki hm log unity me na aa jye or apna haq na maang le.
Guest
gautam jatav
10 months 6 days ago
dosto,ab ye time nh h k hum history me ghuse rahe k hum ye h wo wo h,,society me sabko milkar hi chalna hoga,hum aj jo h apni khud ki galtiyo k wajah se h,,hamare purwajo ne unites hokar jung ladi hoti to aj ye nh hota,ambedkar ji k andolan k bad kabi koi andolan nh hua,hum educated hokr khud aryans ban jate h,,sab hamari galtiya h,,hm sewer or chamda saf karenge to log bhedbhav krenge,sabse phle jaruri h hum sab socialy active ho jaye,logo ko polluted jobs chhodni hongi,education leni hogi,ye sab dosto bina andolan k possible nh h,mind set tabi change hota h jab andolan hota h,,hame kuch selfles social activist chahye,jo is community me 0 hai,,tabi kuch hoga or logo ka mindset b change hoga..
Guest
parveen gill
10 months 17 days ago
Parveen Gill hi frnds..... hmary samsayo ka sirf ek hi samadan h wo h education. and ek dusre ka sahyog karo........... or ek achi pure india me unity banao. or is google chrome or wikipedia par case kr do kyon ki in dono ne hme net pe bilo ka darja de rakha h, hm bil kaise ho skte jab hamare guru valmik dunia ke sabse bidwan kabi or bahgwan or ramayan ke racheyata h.
Guest
gautam jatav
11 months 1 day ago
my dear balmiki brothers, i somehow came in contact with this page and read all the comments above,it gave me immense pleasure to knw about the keennes u guys have to serve for ur community,m jatav by caste bt i believe dat the real change wil come wen each and every SC caste wil b empowered and educated,first of al v shoud get united as the sayng goes 'united v stand and divided v fall',the main prob is the lack of unity,and the only solution for the problem is movements,v need atleast 100 movement to change the mindset of our people and other masses of india, our mobility is very slow that is becoz of lack of protests and movements,after ambedkar movement v havent indulged any movmnt on big scale,resulted in manual scavenging stil present,so guys my point here is v should be united and change our identity from dalit as it is very derogating,secondly v shoud do protest for dignity not for reservation al the time,conversion is not the solution, plz join me wid your valuable feedbacks,,thanks,
Guest
Ravi valmiki
11 months 5 days ago
i am realy know about my caste valmiki is uneducated many problem about mu caste i will try ss some solw this plz someone call me in delhi i want help
Guest
Ravi valmiki
11 months 5 days ago
i am realy know about my caste valmiki is uneducated many problem about mu caste i will try ss some solw this
Guest
vidya sagar
11 months 7 days ago
Respected sir, Don't think like bhangi and all that only just improve ur self and ownest on your work you'll defiantly achieve your goal e
Guest
rajender kumar sonaria
11 months 5 days ago
Happy lohri and makarskranti to all my brothers and sisters.
Guest
Shubham Valmiki
11 months 11 days ago
All I mst say is really feeling proud of being a Valmiki... Bt plz stop adding words like bhangi..it hurts our souls.. We should raise our standard of living.. May god gives more strength to our community....
Guest
NIHIT RAJ
11 months 22 days ago
When We are searching for a good groom to my sister got to know about Valmikirishtey.co.in by 2 Chowhan brothers in Delhi, spoke to them abhi tak to bot constructive nai maloom ho raha as our whole family is in Patna only And site or the book (Kadam) they publish include people from all over India. But, seems to be a good platform. Had heard of something like this in OBC community every individual and what they are doing is in a Community Book. THen for Business Loan got to know about National SC Financial Development Corporation providing Skill training & loan for business. need to be aware in oneself. Regards
Guest
mahendra
11 months 25 days ago
7677499419
Guest
mahendra
11 months 25 days ago
dear sir you all are right.pl contact each others.
Guest
yours sistr
1 year 4 days ago
And I will request all my Balmiki samaj youth not to induldge in with or believe Those of religiouse so called imaginary HINDU GODS (Dviyan,Matayen,Babe, and all animals like monkey(hanuman),snake(guga peer),elephant(ganesha),rat,cow,bull(nandi) or dog(bhairon)yaa bhalu(jamwant .Come out of their enticing net.or our generations will keep on facing the same as before and today we are going through!!! this way break the bondage of darkness come in Light.Turn your Face to Sun you will have your face shine................yes so forget any dharm varm and think,of self development through education &socio economic march free from Imposed Dharma full of myths All vain.Yaad rahe "Chidiyan agar eka kar le to sher ki khaal bhee khinch sakati hain" "Lakdiyan ikathhi ho kar aag jalati hain,ek akeli to sulag sulag kar raakhh ho jaati hai" this is the message of Victory for my people
Guest
Rinku Tank
1 year 15 days ago
My dear brothers and sisters, I request to all my communities persons that you should not addict to any intoxication things. Give performance to the unity and make a good leader for the upliftment of our community. Pay attention to the literacy of the children and recognize their power. Good luck (07417687316), Pilkhuwa, Hapur
Guest
Anil Chindaliya
1 year 17 days ago
Hello Bro...s Nice to c that many young people from our community are excited to help each other and want to share some more......but we all must submit here our mobile no and e -mail id. So we will connect each other for our communities development. Waiting for more replies..........JAI BALMIKI
Guest
AMIT KUMAR
10 months 14 days ago
jai balmiki nahi hota brother jai valmiki hota hai.
Guest
ajay chindaliya
11 months 3 days ago
hello dear my name ajay chindaliya ph.9873570754 [email protected]