yadav

Yadav

Who are they?

The Yadav are, at present, mostly a landowning community, with large sections being small-scale farmers. Their traditional and main occupations are animal husbandry (cattle and buffaloes) and agriculture, with the selling of milk and milk products forming an integral source of their livelihood. The Yadav is a relatively prosperous community occupying a respectably comfortable, middle position in social hierarchy. They have taken many steps to improve their circumstances since India’s independence.

Origin

The Yadav, or Yadava, people are considered to be Yaduvanshi (of the lineage of Yadu), and are celebrated as the community into which Krishna was born. They are said to have migrated from across the seas to Gujarat and as pastoralists, spread to the northern, central and eastern parts of India. As they mixed with local cattle-breeders, they gradually settled down, becoming peasants and continued farming and animal husbandry.

Over time the Yadav acquired political power and founded kingdoms that flourished in various parts of ancient and medieval India. During the colonial British rule, they were recognized as aristocrats. The Mahabharata, India’s greatest and oldest epic (dating to the third millennium BC, but more plausibly of the first millennium BC) illustrates the rise of the Yadav, led by Krishna, as a significant element in ancient Indian politics. After the legendary loss of Dwarka, a city in Gujarat, and Krishna’s tragic death, his noble cousins, the Pandavas, divided their kingdom into two. They gave one part of the kingdom to Krishna’s grandsons with the city of Mathura, located in present-day Uttar Pradesh, as its capital.

Today the Yadav are a large and interesting community distributed mainly in the northern Indian states of Uttar Pradesh (10.2 million) and Bihar, and some southern states.

Languages

The Yadavs of Uttar Pradesh speak dialects of Hindi such as Awadhi, Bhojpuri or Braj as their mother tongue, while those residing in Bihar primarily speak the Maithili or Bhojpuri dialects. The common Devanagari script is used. They are also conversant with Hindi and many educated Yadav also speak English.

The Yadav are listed as an Other Backward Classes (OBC) community under the provisions of the Indian constitution. This grants them, along with other OBCs, a number of affirmative action privileges such as fixed quotas in government jobs and higher educational institutions and relaxed criteria in competitive exams. In Uttar Pradesh the Yadav are also known as the Ahir, while in the neighbouring state of Bihar Ahir, Goala, Rai, Sar-gope and Gope are their synonyms. Some of their surnames are Yadav, Rai, Ram, Singh and Gope. However, Yadav is the most commonly used surname.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The traditional and main occupations of the Yadav are animal husbandry (cattle and buffaloes) and agriculture. An integral source of their livelihood comes from the production and sale of dairy products. Most of the Yadav are a landowning community. Many of them are small-scale farmers with some with large holdings. In fact, much of the new legislation since India’s independence is land-related which has benefited the Yadav people immensely and a large number, who were once merely cultivators, have become landowners.

These days, many Yadav people are self employed with their own small business, while others work in the government or private sectors at various levels. There are a few landless among them who work as daily-wage, agricultural or industrial labour.

The Yadav have emerged as a dynamic community in politics and administration and are quite prominent in state and, even, national level politics. Two of India’s very well known politicians, Laloo Prasad Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav, are from this community. There are also doctors, engineers, lawyers, scholars, teachers, businessmen, creative artists, sportsmen and defence and police personnel among them.

Formal education is important to them. Many Yadav children study to graduate and post-graduate levels. The community makes full use of modern health facilities and has adopted family planning methods. They make full use of official development schemes related to self-employment and rural employment which contributes to their prosperity. Additionally, this community makes good use of the provision of electricity, drinking water, Public Distribution System (PDS), nationalized banking and other government services.

Customs

The Yadav do not marry outside their community but do so at the clan or lineage level and occasionally at the village level. In Uttar Pradesh, they claim to have no subgroups, hierarchy or differentiation, but in Bihar their subgroups are Kannaujiya, Kisnaut, Dandhor, Majhrot and Bhurihar. Some of their exogamous clans are Kashyap and Manu.

Among this community, marriages are arranged by parents and elders. Monogamy is the common practice, but in exceptional circumstances a second wife is allowed, for instance, if the first wife is barren. Sindur (vermilion mark), glass bangles, bindi (coloured dot on forehead), toe-rings, earrings and a nose-stud are the symbols of matrimony for women. Divorce is socially permitted, as is the remarriage of widows, widowers and divorcees. Junior levirate and junior sororate are prevalent.

Traditional extended families exist among the Yadav but they are moving towards a nuclear family, especially in urban settings. All sons equally inherit the paternal property and succession to the late father’s authority goes to the eldest son. Daughters have no right in the inheritance and do not claim any share. The status of women is secondary to the men in Yadav society, though they do have important roles in the religious and ritual spheres. In addition to doing all the domestic chores, they do menial farm work; feeding and tending to the animals and collecting fuel wood. A few educated women are in government and private jobs.

The Yadav do not have a traditional caste panchayat or council anymore. Instead they participate in the statutory village council and belong to a national organization called the All India Yadav Mahasabha, established in 1924, that strives for community’s welfare. It promotes education and social reform, as well as political mobilization in order to have power at the national level.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The Yadav are Hindu by faith and worship all Hindu gods and goddesses. However, Krishna comes is especially revered and regarded as their community deity. His birthday, Janamashtami, is celebrated with great enthusiasm and devotion by the Yadav. Vrindavan, on the banks of the Yamuna River, near Mathura, is a very important pilgrimage center because of its legendary association with Krishna.

The Yadav celebrate all major Hindu festivals like Diwali (festival of lamps), Holi (festival of colours), Dussehra (festival celebrating Rama’s victory over the demon king Ravana), Maha Sivaratri (great night of Shiva) and Ramnavmi (Rama’s birthday). Haridwar, Kurukshetra, Mathura, Gangotri and Yamunotri are some of their pilgrimage centers.

The Yadav request the services of a Brahmin priest to perform all their lifecycle rituals related to birth, marriage and death. The dead are cremated and the ashes immersed in a river, preferably the Ganges river at Haridwar or the Yamuna which are considered holy. Both birth and death pollutions for specific periods are observed. Ancestor worship is prevalent.

taga

Taga

Who are they?

The Taga, better known as Tyagi, have been settled cultivators since ancient times and live in the northern Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi. They claim their origin from the Brahmin which is the highest Hindu caste.

Origin

They acquired their name from the Hindi word tyag, or ‘abandoned’, which, it is said, indicates that at some point in the past they abandoned their traditional priestly function and took to agriculture. Supplementing this hypothesis, the colonial anthropologist William Crooke (1896) says that, “On the whole, it seems not unreasonable to believe that, like the Bhuinhar Brahmans of the eastern part of the province, the Taga may have actually been Gaur Brahmans, who lost status by abandoning priestly functions for taking to agriculture.”

According to a legend, when the Brahmin saint Parshurama killed the Kshatriya (second highest Hindu caste), the land was given to the Brahmin who started cultivating it. These Brahmin were the Tyagi.

In Uttar Pradesh the Tyagi, numbering around 5 million, are concentrated in the immensely fertile and prosperous districts of Bulandshahr, Moradabad, Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Ghaziabad, Saharanpur and Bijnor. In Haryana, too, they populate the well-off Sonepat and Karnal districts. They converse in Hindi in the former state and in the local Haryanvi dialect in the latter.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Land is their main resource and is controlled by individual family ownership. In earlier times, they rarely used to plough the land themselves, since they were the land owners. However, that elitist rule is not followed strictly today, as the industrial revolution began to influence India with increased availability of farming machinery. Their farm produce is sold in the nearby market directly and the local market is fully regulated. Animal husbandry is also an important occupation with many in the Taga community.

Many Taga can also be found in private and government service. Some of them are shopkeepers, doctors and businessmen. In Delhi, the majority of the Taga have left working the land because it has been acquired by the Delhi Development Authority. As a result they too have found employment in government services, businesses or professions, while a few are industrial workers.

Political leadership has emerged at the regional or state level among the Taga. There are influential Taga Ministers in the state cabinets who actively promote the interests of the community in their state. There is also a streak of criminality among some of the Taga who have formed notorious gangs that usually operate in the urban and semi-urban areas and specialise in kidnapping, land-grabbing and extortion. In Uttar Pradesh, some elected Taga members of the State Legislative Assembly even have criminal records and court cases pending against them. In fact, during the British period , the Taga of Karnal district were officially identified as a Criminal Tribe, addicted to picking pockets and petty thefts in crowds and fairs.

Literacy rate among the Taga is high and formal education is favored for both boys and girls. Boys are usually sent for studies to college and post-graduate levels. They understand the advantages of a small family and demonstrate a favorable attitude towards family planning by having two or three children and using modern contraceptive methods. The Taga take full advantage of various official developmental programmes. They avail themselves of irrigation facilities, use organic and chemical fertilizers, and being relatively affluent can afford the use of mechanised farming aids such as threshers and tractors.

Traditionally these people are vegetarian, with some, as those in Delhi abstaining even from onion and garlic. But, increasingly a few – mainly men – have begun to enjoy meats. Cereals such as wheat, rice and maize, and pulses and beans are common to their diet. Milk and milk products are taken in ample amounts and fruit consumption is moderate while all types of seasonal vegetables are eaten. Some Taga men drink alcohol occasionally. Chewing betel and tobacco as well as smoking cigarettes and bidi is quite common among the men folk.

Customs

Both nuclear and extended family types exist among the Taga. However, the extended families tend to break up in urban areas either due to lack of residential space or lack of cooperation and adjustment between family members. Even so, in matters relating to occupation and socio-religious rituals, the Taga families often remain in close contact with each other through mutual cooperation.

Elders command great respect and an avoidance relationship is observed between the daughter-in-law and father-in-law; the husband’s elder brother and younger brother’s wife. Today however, conflict and confrontation are increasingly seen in the Taga families between the elders in authority and the youth who are challenging that authority and resisting the restraints placed upon the freedom they demand.

Inheritance is patrilineal and property is equally divided among the sons. The status of women is low even though they have a significant role in agricultural operations, animal husbandry, collection of fuel and bringing potable water. They are, however, respected in the family and have a crucial part in the ritual, religious and social spheres.

The Taga women are adept at embroidery and knitting and sing traditional folksongs on the occasions of birth and marriage. Only the women participate in dances. The Taga also have oral traditions in the form of folklore and folktales which they often share with other local communities. In them, heroic tales of Hindu gods, goddesses and saints are narrated. Dholki (small barrel shaped drum), Chimta, and a bamboo flute are some of the common musical instruments used by them.

The Taga have two subdivisions in their community. In Uttar Pradesh these are Dasa or Dasawan (ten), and Bisa or Bisawan (twenty). The former allow widow remarriage while the latter prohibit it. If a Bisa allows and approves widow remarriage he at once falls into the lower Dasa subdivision. There are, however, no restrictions on widower remarriage.

In Delhi the two subgroups are known as Bade (big) Tyagi and Chottey (small) Tyagi. Each of these subdivisions of the Taga is endogamous and within them are several exogamous gotras (clans) such as Bharadwaj, Vishvamitra, Gaur, etc. Marriages are arranged by negotiation among the elders of the two families. The earlier practice of child marriage followed by gaona (departure of the bride to the groom’s place after puberty) has been replaced by adult marriage. Once a girl marries, she wears the marriage symbols of vermilion, glass and gold bangles, and a dot on the forehead called bindi.

Polygamy is permitted only if the first wife is childless. However, most marriages are monogamous. Dowry, which can be heavy at times, is demanded (and given) in both cash and kind. Traditionally, divorce is not allowed among the Taga except under extreme conditions of maladjustment. Divorcee remarriage is socially approved for willing and young individuals.

Among the Taga a traditional caste council exists but is ad hoc in nature. It is formed as and when required to sort out inter-family disputes of various kinds. This body is, however, slowly losing its effectiveness. There are also larger, regional Tyagi Brahmin Sabhas in Delhi and Meerut. They take the issues concerning the broader interests of the community into consideration in addition to social regulation. However, these larger councils are falling victim to modernity’s individualism and liberalism.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The Taga follow Hinduism and worship all Hindu gods and goddesses like Vishnu, Krishna, Siva, Durga and Kali. They have great reverence for Bhoomiya Devta (earth god). They have the same centres of pilgrimage and shrines as the other Hindus. Safidon, located in the Kurukshetra district of Haryana, is a place of great religious importance for them. Gurgaonwali Mata and Garh Ganga are two other sacred sites commonly visited by them. The Taga celebrate all Hindu festivals such as Holi, Dussehra, Diwali and Sivaratri.

The Taga believe in evil spirits and that the Brahmin priest protects them from these spirits. Brahman priests have a role in performing their birth, marriage and death rites, in addition to worship and religious teaching. The Taga consider themselves as Brahmin – the highest Hindu caste – however diminished or fallen they might be because of their adopted profession, but, unlike other Brahman, refuse to accept gifts or money from any patron. Instead, they give something to them. This trait is unique to the Taga people. A considerable number of the Taga in Uttar Pradesh, both individually or as a family, are affiliated to the Muslim saints of the mystic and ascetic Sufi order and visit their tombs.

The Taga cremate their dead and immerse the charred bones or phul in the Ganges River – which they consider to be holy – at Haridwar or at Garh Ganga near Meerut. Death pollution for thirteen or seventeen days is observed, and during this period the chief mourner must sleep on the floor, eat once a day and is not permitted to shave.

The Hindu purificatory and revivalist Arya Samaj sect has found adherents among the Taga of Haryana. A few of the Taga have embraced Islam and given up Hindu practices but the Hindu Taga maintain cordial relations with them and even attend their functions and festivals.

sonar

Sonar

Who Are They?

The Sonar are gold and silversmiths. They make jewelry and ornaments that are elaborately designed and inlaid with precious and semi-precious stones. Some Sonar cut and polish diamonds, while others engrave deities on pendants and gold and silver plates. Most Sonar own their jewelry shops and showrooms while others work as paid skilled workers making delicate filigree designs. Gold jewelry is considered a good investment option for most Indians, and is in great demand for marriages, making up part of the dowry.

Some wealthier Sonar are money-lenders as well. They charge higher interest rates than banks do from their clients who are from the poorer sections of society. In cities like Delhi and Chandigarh, they have secondary occupations like tailoring, electroplating and car repairs, retail shops dealing with books and stationery, motor and tractor parts. The ones who have done tertiary education are professionals. There are some politicians at village, regional and national levels.

They are also known as Suvarnakar, Swarnakar, Sonkar, Soni, Potdar, Hemkar, Jargar, Zargar, Kapila, Tank, Verma or Saraf and Maipotra. The Muslim Sonar in Jammu & Kashmir are known as Sanur or Shakish. In Uttarakhand, they are called by the surnames Verma or Choudhury.

Location

Their population numbers around 6.5 million and they are spread over one hundred and twenty-five districts of North, Central and East India.
The Sonar are distributed in large concentrations in Varanasi, Allahabad, Deoria districts of Uttar Pradesh (970,000), and Barakot, Gangolihat, Pithoragarh, Champawat, Pulhindola, Almora, Nainital and Ranikhet in Uttaranchal

There are 57,000 in Delhi, 160,000 in Punjab, 580,00 in Bihar , 70,000 in Orissa, 170,000 in Haryana, 300,000 in Rajasthan in the districts of Udaipur, Bikaner, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Ajmer and Alwar. They also reside in Chandigarh, Bilaspur, Kangra, Hamirpur, Mandi, Solan, Shimla and Una districts of Himachal Pradesh and the Srinagar district of Jammu and Kashmir.

Origin

Sonar or Sunar (also spelled Suniar) is from the Sanskrit suvarnakar, meaning worker in gold. According to records from the Vishnu Purana (writings about Vishnu) the Sonar are the descendents of the youngest of five sons created by Vishnu‘s incarnation, Vishwakarama, the architect of the universe.

Another legend states that the first Sonar was used by the goddess Devi to destroy a giant demon called Sonwa Daitya, who was made of gold. The Sonar appealed to the giant demon’s vanity by suggesting that his appearance would look much better if it was polished. This meant that he had to be melted down. As a reward, Devi gave the body to the Sonar and kept his head. (This is similar to the Greek legend of Medea, who was melted down.)

They are categorized as Vaisya (traders and merchants) and rank third in the four-fold Hindu caste system. They are accepted by other castes as such. In Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh, they classify themselves as Kshatriya, second in the hierarchy.

Languages

The Sonar speaks the languages of the region they live in. Hindi is spoken in Madhya Pradesh, Chandigarh, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. In Bihar and Rajasthan, they speak Mewari or Marwari. All these are written in Devanagari script. Oriya is spoken in Orissa and Kashmiri in Jammu and Kashmir, using the Oriya and Persian-Arabic scripts, respectively. In Delhi, they speak Hindi, Punjabi or Mewari depending on the place where they migrated from. The Punjabi Sonars speak Punjabi and write with the Gurumukhi script. Regional dialects are spoken in Himachal Pradesh, and Kumaoni is spoken. They are also conversant in Hindi and some also speak Urdu.

In the traditional four-fold Hindu caste system the Sonar generally place themselves under the category of Vaisya (3rd highest class of traders and merchants) and are accepted by other castes as such. But in some states, as in Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh, they classify themselves as Kshatriya.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Being Hindu, beef is excluded from the mainly non-vegetarian diet. In rural Bihar, eggs and chicken are also excluded but they eat fish. Some vegetarians among the Sonar, mainly those of Orissa and Haryana, do not eat onions and garlic. Their diet consists of wheat, rice, maize, millet, a variety of lentils and vegetable, along with seasonal fruit and dairy products. Only men smoke and drink alcohol. They believe that drinking liquor is beneficial in neutralizing the poisonous, acidic fumes inhaled while making ornaments. However, in Madhya Pradesh alcohol is socially prohibited.
This community encourages literacy for both boys and girls and many go on to complete tertiary education. They are also favourably inclined to modern medicine, along with indigenous cures. They practice family planning methods including sterilization, except in Jammu & Kashmir. Generally, the Sonar are better money-managers, saving and investing wisely.

Customs

Adult marriages are arranged by negotiation among family members within the Sonar community only. The common symbols of marriage include sindoor (vermilion), bindi (dot on forehead), gold bangles, black-bead and gold necklace (mangalsutra), toe and finger rings. Dowry is paid by the bride’s family in cash and goods. Most Sonar are monogamous but divorce is permitted but rare. Widows, widowers and divorcees are permitted to remarry. Junior levirate and junior sororate are permissible and at times preferred.

Nuclear families are most common among the Sonar, though joint families also exist. Parental property is divided among all the sons equally and the eldest son succeeds as the head of the family. The daughters don’t get receive a share. The status of women is secondary to that of men though they participate actively in ritual, religious and social activities. Sometimes they help their men by cleaning the ornaments. The folksongs sung by the women to the accompaniment of the dholak (barrel-shaped drum) are their oral tradition. They also dance on occasions of birth and marriage.

The Sonar are an endogamous community who very often observe endogamy at the subgroup level as well. They have different number of subgroups in the different regions they inhabit and often they are territorial in origin. There are also a number of exogamous clans among the Sonar.

There are several community associations for the Sonar community at a local, regional and national level. These regulate social control, settle disputes and initiate welfare activities.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The Sonar are mostly Hindu (95%) though there are some Sikh, Muslim and Jain Sonar. The Hindu Sonar worship Shiva, Vishnu, Rama, Krishna (8th incarnation of Vishnu), Durga, Kali, Ganesh, and Lakshmi (goddess of wealth, wife of Vishnu.)

They also have family, clan and regional deities like Jwaladevi (Flame goddess), Mansadevi (Wish-fulfilling goddess), Vaishnodevi, Ambadevi (form of Durga), Gurgaonwali Mata, Jagannatha (lord of the world), Mangala and Patheswari. The Sonars have special reverence for a saint known as Sant Narhari Sonar.

The Sonar celebrate all Hindu festivals like Dussehra, Diwali, Holi, Janamashtami, Navratri, Ramnavmi, Navratri and Rathyatra. The dead are cremated, except small children whose bodies are either buried or disposed of in flowing water. The ashes of the dead are preferably immersed in the Ganges River at Haridwar; a thirteen days’ death pollution is observed. A Brahmin priest performs all sacred rites. In Uttarakhand, Dangaria (shaman) and fortune-tellers are also consulted for ailments and demon possession.

Some Sonar are Sikh followers; Muslim Sonar belong to the Sunni sect and adhere to the tenets of Islam.

rajput Mochi