Charan

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For places in Iran, see Charan, Iran.

Cāraṇas (Charan, plural Chaarans) is a caste living in the Rajasthan and Gujarat states of India.

Members of this caste are considered to be divine by a large section of society.[1] Women of the caste were adored as mother goddesses by other major communities of this region including Rajput kings.[1] 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 the caste 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. 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.[2]

Social structure[edit]

The Charan 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.[3]

Food and drink[edit]

Their eating and drinking habits resemble those of the Rajputs. Charans used to enjoy consumption of opium and drinking of liquor, practices which are also popular among the Rajputs of this region.[4][citation needed]. Charans do not eat the flesh of cows and hold those who do in utter disregard[citation needed]. 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.[5] Such celebrations quite often used to be presided over by Charan woman.[6]

Charani literature[edit]

Literature and poems are an integral part of the identity of Charans. A whole genre of literature is known as Charani literature.[7] The Dingal language and literature exist largely due to this caste.[2][8] It is generally agreed that modern Rajasthani literature began with the works of Suryamal Misran, who was of the Charan caste.[9] Zaverchand Meghani divides Charani sahitya (literature) into thirteen sub genres:[7]

  1. Songs in praise of gods and goddesses (stavan)
  2. Songs in praise of heroes, saints and patrons (birdavalo)
  3. Descriptions of war (varanno)
  4. Rebukes of wavering great kings and men who use their power for evil (upalambho)
  5. Mockery of a standing treachery of heroism (thekadi)
  6. Love stories
  7. Laments for dead warriors, patrons and friends (marasiya or vilap kavya)
  8. Praise of natural beauty, seasonal beauty and festivals
  9. Descriptions of weapons
  10. Songs in praise of lions, horses, camels, and buffalo
  11. Sayings about didactic and practical cleverness
  12. Ancient epics
  13. Songs describing the anguish of people in times of famine and adversity

Other classifications of Charani sahitya are Khyatas (chronicles), Vartas and Vatas (stories), Raso (martial epics), Veli - Veli Krishan Rukman ri, Doha-Chhand (verses).[2][8]

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.[citation needed]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Shah A. M. and Shroff R. G. (1958). "The Vahivanca Barots of Gujarat: A Caste of Genealogists and Mythographers". J. American Folk Lore 71 (281): 246–276. doi:10.2307/538561. JSTOR 538561. 
  2. ^ a b c Sharma G. N. (1968). Social Life in Medieval Rajasthan. Agra: Lakshmi Narayan Agarwal Educational Publisher. pp. 94–96. 
  3. ^ Thomson, G. R. (1991). "Charans of Gujarat: Caste Identity, Music and Cultural Change". Ethnomusicology 35 (3): 381–391. doi:10.2307/851968. JSTOR 851968. 
  4. ^ Singh, Khushwant (1982). We Indians. Delhi: Orient Paperbacks. OCLC 10710940. 
  5. ^ Harlan L (2003). Goddesses' Henchmen - Gender in Hero Worship. USA: Oxford University Press. p. 258. 
  6. ^ "Matanamadh, Desh Devi Ashapura". Matanamadh Jagir, Kachchh, India. 2006. Archived from the original on 2007-08-08. Retrieved 2006-12-23. 
  7. ^ a b Meghani, Z. (1943). Charano and Charani Sahitya. Ahmedabad. 
  8. ^ a b Smith, J. D. (1974). "An introduction to language of the historical documents from Rajasthan". Modern Asian Studies 9 (4): 433–464. doi:10.1017/S0026749X00012841. 
  9. ^ "South Asian Arts: Rajasthani". Encyclopædia Britannica. Archived from the original on 2007-11-14. Retrieved 2007-11-15. 

Further reading[edit]