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Members of this caste are considered to be divine by a large section of society. Women of the caste were adored as mother goddesses by other major communities of this region including Rajput kings. The goddesses Karni Mata, Bahuchara Mata, Khodiyar Mata, Mogal Mata and Sonal Mata are well-known examples of Charan Maha Shakti mothers. All Charan Maha Shaktis are represented with the word (aai ma), for example (aai shree khodiyar maa), (aai shree sonal maa).
Kings gave them grants of villages, and various kings also gave them Lakh Pasavs, large gifts equivalent to 100,000 rupees that usually consisted of elephants, money, and ornaments. The kings would also invite them to occupy a place in the Royal Courts. Indeed, a Rajput's regard for a Charan was uppermost. Because of their ability to compose poems instantaneously, another popular way of addressing members of the Charan caste is "Kaviraj", which literally means "king among poets". Charans are considered to be the only thakurs other than the rajputs. Charans were always posted in the front lines of attacks in the armies.
Charans caste system is based on written genealogy. A Charan will consider all the other Charans as equal even if they do not know each other and have radically different economic or geographic status.
Values and beliefs
Their battle cry is "Jai Mataji" ("Hail the mother goddess"), which is also a phrase used by members of the Charan community to greet each other. Female Charans are highly respected by most communities in Rajasthan and Gujarat. Charans are also known as Devi Putra (Son of Mother). Most at current time in Gujarat have a great belief in the worship of the goddesses Mogal Mata, Sonal Mata (Madhada) and Karni Mata (in Rajasthan).
The Charans practised a form of self-immolation, known as tragu. It was believed that anyone who shed the blood of a Charan would meet with ruin. The British government in India put a ban on performing tragu from 1808 onward; nevertheless, incidents of it kept occurring during a large part of the later period. However, in post-independent India, tragu has become exceedingly uncommon.
Food and drink
Their food and drink habits resemble those of the Rajputs. Charans used to enjoy consumption of opium and drinking liquor, which are also widely used substances by the Rajputs of this region.. Charans do not eat the flesh of cows and hold those who do in utter disregard. Cows are respected like mothers. A husband and wife will not drink milk from the same cow, or milk soiled by their counterpart. Drinking milk from one mother (cow) symbolizes that those who do so should be considered as siblings. Before Indian independence in 1947, a sacrifice of a male buffalo constituted a major part of the celebration of Navratri. Such celebrations quite often used to be presided over by Charan woman.
Animal sacrifice is illegal now in India, and modern day Charans no longer perform animal sacrifices as part of religious rituals, nor do they encourage drinking of opium or liquor as a social value. On the contrary, vegetarianism has become a highly valued lifestyle. The social movement of the mid-1960s led by aai (mother goddess) Sonal Ma, Limbdi Kaviraaj Shankardan Detha and his son Haridan Detha,the poet Dula Bhaya Kag, Merubha.Meghanand.Gadhavi, Pinglshin Bapu and others focused on stopping animal sacrifice, discouraging drinking of liquor and opium, and encouraging modern education. This movement had great success for socioeconomic reform of this community.
Literature and poems are an integral part of the identity of Charans. A whole genre of literature is known as Charani literature. The Dingal language and literature exist largely due to this caste. It is generally agreed that modern Rajasthani literature began with the works of Suryamal Misran, who was of the Charan caste. Zaverchand Meghani divides Charani sahitya (literature) into thirteen sub genres:
- Songs in praise of gods and goddesses (stavan)
- Songs in praise of heroes, saints and patrons (birdavalo)
- Descriptions of war (varanno)
- Rebukes of wavering great kings and men who use their power for evil (upalambho)
- Mockery of a standing treachery of heroism (thekadi)
- Love stories
- Laments for dead warriors, patrons and friends (marasiya or vilap kavya)
- Praise of natural beauty, seasonal beauty and festivals
- Descriptions of weapons
- Songs in praise of lions, horses, camels, and buffalo
- Sayings about didactic and practical cleverness
- Ancient epics
- Songs describing the anguish of people in times of famine and adversity
Another form of Charani literature is the charaj, or song of mother's worship. Other minor forms are aaraniyu and zilaniyu, which are also songs for worship.
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