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The Bhovis (Marathi: भोई) are an ethnic community native to Maharashtra, Gujarat,Eastern parts of Karnataka,Western Orissa and Andhra Pradesh states in India. In Maharashtra, the Bhois originally lived in Mumbai, Nashik, Dhulia, Jalgaon, Ahmednagar, Pune, Aurangabad, Kolhapur, Ratnagiri and Sholapur districts of Maharshtra. Presently, the members of the Bhoi community have spread over whole Maharashtra. After independence of India in 1947, they have been included in the list of the Nomadic tribes in Maharashtra. The total 22 sub-groups of the community speak in Ahirani language in the family and within kin groups but speak in Marathi, while talking to the others. They had migrated to Mumbai from Rajasthan during the 13th century during the reign of Raja Bhimdev.
In Maharastra, the Bhois were the palanquin bearers or doli carriers. There are altogether 22 sub-groups namely Zinga Bhoi, Pardesh Bhoi, Raj bhoi, Kahar Bhoi, Gadia Bhoi, Dhuria Kahar Bhoi, Kirat Machwa Bhoi, Hanzi, Jati, Kewat, Dhiwar, Dingar, palewar, Macchindra,Havadi, Halhar, Gadhav Bhoi, Khodi Bhoi, Khare Bhoi and Devra.
In Gujarat, the Bhois consist of seven sub-groups, namely, Bhoiraj, Dhiman Zinga Bhoi or Kevat-Bhoi, Macchindra Bhoi, Paleshwar Bhoi, Kirat Bhoi, Kahar Bhoi, Parbishin Bhoi and Shrimali Bhoi. The community are traditionally associated with fishing.
In Andhra Pradesh, the Bhois comprise two sub-castes, Besta and Gundlodu, It appears to have originally sprung from same stock, but have subsequently broken up into endogamous divisions by reason of their long occupation of different tracts of land.
In Orissa, the bhois consist of two sub-groups,namely,Jiatkar and Madkukria. This commununity has huge lands and are the head of the villages.
The etymology of the word ‘Bhoi’ is from the word bhovi meaning the leader or headman of group of vaddars community speaks vaddar language originated from Rayala seema meaning the land of rocks. The vaddars also known as vodde, vaddila, odda, odde, bhovi, odeyar, wadeyar from place to place who are nomadic tribe travel in search of occupations like land levelling for cultivation for farmer community, digging of earth and canals, making of roads, cutting of rocks and stones for the purpose of construction of water tanks, houses and making roads. They are called as Uru oddar or Uru bhovis in the region of Banavasi of Karnataka who are known for surveying of lands to settlement of villages, the Uru means village therefore, those who make land levelling for location of villages and cultivation are known as uru bhovis, similarly the earth diggers and land suppliers of sands to make roads and other construction are known to be matti voddars or mannu vaddaru. Those who transport sand from river beds on the back of donkeys and horses are called as katte vadders or rahuth vadders. those who cut huge rocks and roll out them on huge carts known as Bande vadders or bandi vadders or Gaali vadders. those who mill stone and crush as jelly stone are known as Girini vaddars and those who work on stones, slabs,quarries and Mining are known as Kallu vadders. there are arstisans in this community who make grinding stones and other house hold articles are known as Pathrots. They claim to be the clan of Bhagirath Ganga, who built a canal from the Ganges in the Himalayas when there was a hundred-year drought in northern India. This Bhagirath was requested by then Kshathriyas to find a solution, inturn he was given the status of Kshathriya and he was successful in excavation of huge canals from Himalayas to the Prayag and diverted the Ganges to the whole northern part of India. Hence the Bhagirath was remembered as saviour of northern part of India and they remember him as the son of the Ganges. Therefore, these wadders being the oldest community in India claim them as builders of India. They speak ODDE language out of which the Telugu, Kannada, Tulu and after which Tamil, Malayalam and Sihamlese languages said to have taken origin. The wadders were the first to scribe on Rocks during the reign of the Asoka the Great. The King Kharavela claim him as the great Odda and his hathigumpa Inscription subscribes with superscripture as sri odde, meaning the blessings of Odda, the fore father of present Orissa. Bhovi Waddar or Vaddar, Vaddar, Od, Odde, have common Gothras all over Karnataka, Andhara Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The Gotra is a term applied to an ancestor or an originator through whom a particular family has originated. A Gotra is the lineage or clan assigned to a Hindu at birth. In most cases, the system is patrilineal and the gotra assigned is the gotra of the persons father.
Lineage segment within an Indian caste, indicating common descent from a mythical ancestor. Marriage by members of the same gotra is traditionally prohibited. The custom is intended to prevent inbreeding as well as to broaden the influence of each gotra through marriage alliances.
A common mistake is to consider gotra to be synonymous with cult or 'Kula'. A 'kula' is basically a set of people following similar rituals, often worshipping the same God (the Kula-Devata - the God of the cult). Kula has nothing to do with lineage or caste and it is possible to change ones Kula based on faith or ista devtha.
Bhovi caste consists several Gotras (Kulams) which has same meaning in Telugu and Tamil language. These gotras are believed to be shared from Reddi. As per a folklore belief the Odda was the is elder brother among Radda,the Reddy, Kamma and Komati.
It is supposed to be a Telugu word, derived from Boya or Boyar caste but this derivation appears to be fictitious and has probably been suggested because of the similarities between the names "Bhoi", "Bhovi" and "Boya".
- Singh, K.S. (ed.). (2004) People of India:Maharshtra, Vol.XXX, Part I, Mumbai: Popular Prakashan, ISBN 81-7991-100-4, pp.342-8
- Ghatak, N.K.. (2003). K.S. Singh, ed. Gujarat, Part 1. Mumbai: Popular Prakashan. pp. 239–42. ISBN 81-7991-104-7.
- Siraj ul Hassan, Syed (1989). The Castes and Tribes of H.E.H. the Nizam's Dominions 1. Delhi: Asian Educational Service. p. 77. ISBN 81-206-0488-1.