Behna

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Behna or Mansoori
Total population
2,730,000 [1]
Regions with significant populations
 Pakistan India   Nepal
Languages
UrduHindi
Religion
Allah-green.svg Islam 100% •
Related ethnic groups
AnsariMansooriPinjara

The Behna are a Muslim community, found in North India . In eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, they were known as Dhuna or Dhunia. They also known as Naddaf in South India and Pinjara in Gujarat and Rajasthan. Their preferred self-designation is now Shaikh Mansoori, and this is beginning replace Behna as the community name.[2]

History and origin[edit]

The word Behna comes from the Sanskrit behn or seed, and they were a community that removed the cotton seed from the fibre. In eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, they are known as Dhuna or Dhuniya, which comes from the Sanskrit word dhu, which means to shake. They were historically a community of associated with cotton cardering. According to their traditions, the community are descendents of the Sufi Mansur Al Halaj.[3] They can not give any account as to when or where their first settlement in India took place. The community is concentrated in the Awadh and Rohilkhand regions, with those in Awadh speaking both Urdu and Awadhi, and those in Rohilkhand speaking Khari boli. In Rohilkhand, the community is found mainly in the districts of Bareilly, Bijnor, Moradabad, and Rampur. While in Awadh, they are found in the districts of Hardoi, Kheri, Lucknow, Barabanki, Bahraich, Faizabad and Gonda. .[2]

Present circumstances[edit]

The Behna are no longer employed mainly as cotton carders, and many are now involved in farming. They are largely small and medium sized farmers, although a sizeable number are agricultural labourers. In fact, the term Behna has all but been discarded by the community, and they now call themselves Mansoori. They live in multi caste and multi religious settlements, but occupy their own distinct quarters. Each settlement has a caste council, known as a panchayat, which acts as an instrument of social control. It deals with intra community disputes, as well as punishing those who breach communal norms. Although they live in close proximity to other Muslim groups, such as the Shaikh, Kabaria, Ansari, Muslim Dhobi and Qassab in Awadh, and the Muslim Teli, Muslim Banjara, Baghban and Rohilla in Rohilkhand, there is very little interaction, and virtually no intermarriage. With regards to neighbouring Hindu groups such the Kurmi and Ahir, a social distance is maintained.

They remain an endogamous community, only rarely marrying out, with communities of the same status such as the Momin Ansari. According to their traditions, the community has a hundred and fifty sections, and these sections are known as biradaris. Their main biradaris are the Ayudhiabasi or Awadhi, Bahraichi, Baksariya, Mathuriya, Gangapari, Purbiya, Baheliya, Bargujar, Chauhan, Pathan, Khairabindi, Gorakhpuri, Rawat, and Rathore. Some of these biradaris refer to a territorial origin, such as the Awadhia from Awadh or the Mathuriya from Mathura, while others reflect groups of well-known Rajput and Pathan clans, perhaps suggesting a composite origin. Marriages are permitted between the biradaris, but tend to take placr within the biradari, rather than outside it. In Awadh, there main biradaris are the Shaikh Usmani, Shah Mansuri, Mohammad Hanfi, Khwaja Mansuri and Turkiya, and the community in Awadh is also known as Usmani.[4]

The Behna are Sunni Muslim of the Barelvi sect. They speak Urdu, and various dialects of Hindi. Many visit the shrine of Sukhwa Pir, a saint associated with the Awadh region. There customs are similar to other Uttar Pradesh Muslims.[5]

Many members of this community migrated to Pakistan in 1947 and have settled in Karachi and Sindh.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.joshuaproject.net/people-profile.php?peo3=17877&rog3=IN
  2. ^ a b People of India Uttar Pradesh Volume XLII Part One edited by A Hasan & J C Das pages 240 to 243
  3. ^ Tribes and Castes of Northwestern Provinces and Oudh Volume II by William Crook
  4. ^ People of India Uttar Pradesh Volume XLII Part One edited by A Hasan & J C Das page 243
  5. ^ People of India Uttar Pradesh Volume XLII Part One edited by A Hasan & J C Das page 243