Chuhra

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For the Islamic principle, see Shura.

Chura (Punjabi: ਚੂੜ੍ਹਾ) is a caste in Punjab, Pakistani Punjab[1] and other northern Indian states of the former Greater Punjab whose traditional occupation is sweeping. Churas are largely followers of Sikhism.[2] A small minority practice Valmikism,[3] an off shoot or cult[4][5][6] form of mainstream Hinduism which still incorporates elements of Sikhism in its practices.[7] In Pakistani Punjab 90-95% of its christian population are from the Chura caste[8] They are untouchables or Dalits as they occupy the lowest category in Hinduism's religious hierarchy.[9][10] Socially equivalent groups can be found out side the Punjab in other North-en Indian states were they are known as Bhangis.[11]

Demographics[edit]

As of 2001, according to the Indian Census, the Mazhabi Sikhs are numerically the largest Schedule caste population of Indian Punjab with 2,220,945 recorded individuals; making them the largest social group out of all schedule castes in Indian Punjab. The Mazhabi Sikhs make up 31.6% of punjabs schedule caste population by percentage.[12] Balmikis (Hindu Churas) are only the 4rth largest schedule caste population in Indian Punjab with only 11.2% of Indian Punjab's schedule caste population, forming 3.53% of Punjab population.[13] Together, the parent Chura caste forms 13.52% of the Punjab's population[14] As of 2001 Punjabi Christians make up just over 1% of Indian Punjab[15]

In Sikhism[edit]

By the 15th century, Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, brought a new message and spoke out against untouchability. He stressed that all people were equal and the new religion forbade untouchability.[16]

After Guru Tegh Bahadur was executed on the orders of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, a Chura clansman called Bhai Jaita rescued the severed head and brought it back to Guru Gobind Singh, who initiated him into Sikhism and baptised him as Bhai Jiwan Singh. The Churas then flocked to the new religion, though in practice discrimination against Mazhabi Sikhs by upper caste Sikhs (belonging to the Jat and Rajput castes) still persists, and intermarriage is uncommon.[citation needed]

Amongst Sikhs, the Churas are known as Mazhabis and have a reputation as soldiers, made famous by their service in the Sikh 10th Light Infantry.[citation needed]

In Christianity[edit]

Churas were converted to Christianity in North India during the British raj. The vast majority were converted from the Mazhabi Sikh community, and to a lesser extent from the Hindu Churas, under the influence of enthusiastic British army officers and Christian missionaries. Consequently, since partition they are now divided between Pakistani Punjab and Indian Punjab. Large numbers were also converted in the Moradabad district and the Bijnor district[17] of Uttar Pradesh. Rohilkhand once saw a mass conversion of its entire population of 4500 Mazhabi Sikhs into the Methodist Church.[18][dubious ]

Christian missionary activity began in Punjab during the 1800's with the arrival of seven Protestant societies in the North West of India. Among those organisations was the Baptist Missionary society in Delhi, arriving in 1818.[19]

In Islam[edit]

Despite placing great emphasis on social equality and brotherhood among all Muslims, Islam does not address the problem of untouchability for the Churas or Bhangis, even if they convert. As a result, only a very few members from this community ever embraced Islam, most converting to Christianity. Churas adopted the externals of Islam by keeping Muslim names, observing Ramadan and burial of the dead. However they never underwent circumcision. Only a few cases of circumcision have ever been recorded for Churas or Bhangis and these were Churas who lived very near Jama Masjid. The Churas did not accept Mohammed as their prophet and also continued observing traditional Hindu festivals, such as Diwali, Raki and Holi. Just like their Hindu brethren they continued with their traditional caste work. In India the caste system was fully observed by Muslims. Untouchability was fully accepted and justified by the Muslim Orthodoxy in India and the caste system was fully observed by Muslim society. In the same way that Hindu Churas who were barred from entrance to temples in historical times, Muslim Churas are still today barred from entrance to mosques and never allowed to go past the outside steps to Muslim religious places. Untouchability in Islam even extended after death; Churas were to bury their dead in separate graveyards away from other Muslims.[20]

In Hinduism[edit]

In Punjab Churas who follow Hinduism are known as Valmikis[21] A minority of Punjabi Churas based around the Jallandhar area have undergone Hinduisation in the form of the Balmiki sect.[22][full citation needed][need quotation to verify]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Phan, P.C. (2011) Christianities in Asia Volume 1 of Blackwell Guides to Global Christianity. John Wiley & Sons ISBN 1405160896 p25
  2. ^ http://www.censusindia.gov.in/Tables_Published/SCST/dh_sc_punjab.pdf
  3. ^ http://www.censusindia.gov.in/Tables_Published/SCST/dh_sc_punjab.pdf
  4. ^ Indian Social Institute, Indian Institute of Social Order (1976) Social action, Volume 26: Indian Social Institute. p227
  5. ^ Indian Social Institute, Indian Institute of Social Order (1976) Social action, Volume 26: Indian Social Institute. p228
  6. ^ Indian Social Institute, Indian Institute of Social Order (1976) Social action, Volume 26: Indian Social Institute. p235
  7. ^ Leslie, J.(2003) Authority and Meaning in Indian Religions: Hinduism and the Case of Valmiki. Ashgate publishing. ISBN 0754634302
  8. ^ Phan, P.C. (2011) Christianities in Asia Volume 1 of Blackwell Guides to Global Christianity. John Wiley & Sons ISBN 1405160896 p25
  9. ^ Bodley, J.H (2011) Cultural Anthropology: Tribes, States, and the Global System. 5th Ed. Rowman Altamira p 315
  10. ^ Pruthi, R.K (2004) Indian caste system Culture and civilization series. Discovery Publishing House. p164
  11. ^ Sharma, Rana (1995). Bhangi, Scavenger in Indian Society: Marginality, Identity, and Politicization of the Community. M.D. Publications. p. 17. ISBN 978-8-18588-070-9.
  12. ^ http://www.censusindia.gov.in/Tables_Published/SCST/dh_sc_punjab.pdf
  13. ^ http://www.censusindia.gov.in/Tables_Published/SCST/dh_sc_punjab.pdf
  14. ^ http://www.censusindia.gov.in/Tables_Published/SCST/dh_sc_punjab.pdf
  15. ^ Kanjamala, A., (2014) The Future of Christian Mission in India: Toward a New Paradigm for the Third Millennium. Wipf and Stock Publishers. ISBN 9781630874858
  16. ^ Pollock, R. (2002). The Everything World's Religions Book: Discover the Beliefs, Traditions, and Cultures of Ancient and Modern Religions. Everything Books. pp. 181, 184. 
  17. ^ Alter, J.P and J. Alter (1986) In the Doab and Rohilkhand: north Indian Christianity, 1815-1915. I.S.P.C.K publishing p183
  18. ^ Alter, J.P and J. Alter (1986) In the Doab and Rohilkhand: north Indian Christianity, 1815-1915. I.S.P.C.K publishing p196
  19. ^ Kanjamala. A. (2014) The Future of Christian Mission in India: Toward a New Paradigm for the Third Millennium Volume 4 of Missional church, public theology, world Christianity. Wipf and Stock Publishers. ISBN 9781630874858
  20. ^ Sharma, Rana (1995). Bhangi, Scavenger in Indian Society: Marginality, Identity, and Politicization of the Community. M.D. Publications. p. 128. ISBN 978-8-18588-070-9. 
  21. ^ Leslie, J.(2003) Authority and Meaning in Indian Religions: Hinduism and the Case of Valmiki. Ashgate publishing. ISBN 0754634302
  22. ^ Social Action (Indian Social Institute, Indian Institute of Social Order) 26: 227–228, 235. 1976.  Missing or empty |title= (help)

Further reading[edit]