Chura

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For the Islamic principle, see Shura.

Chura (Punjabi: ਚੂੜ੍ਹਾ) is a caste in Punjab and other northern Indian states whose traditional occupation is sweeping. Churas are largely followers of Sikhism and secondly Christianity. A small minority practice Valmikism, an off shoot or cult[1][2][3] form of mainstream Hinduism which still incorporates elements of Sikhism in its practices. They are treated as untouchables or Dalits as they occupy the lowest category in Hinduism's religious hierarchy.[4][5]

Demographics[edit]

As of 2001, according to the Indian Census, the Sikh Mazabhi are 9.98% of Punjab population, with Hindu Valmikis forming 3.53% of Punjab population. Together, the parent Chura caste forms 13.52% of the Punjab's population.[6]

In Sikhism[edit]

Main article: Mazhabi

By the 15th century Guru Nanak the founder of Sikhism brought a new message and spoke out against the caste system.[7] He stressed that all people were equal[8] and the new religion forbade the caste system.[9] The Churas flocked to the new religion, though in practice discrimination against Mazhabi Sikhs by upper caste Sikhs (Jatts, Rajputs) persists, and intermarriage is uncommon.

Amongst Sikhs, the Churas are known as a warrior landowning caste called Mazhabi Sikhs,[10][11] they have a fine and feared reputation as soldiers; a reputaion made famous by their service in the Sikh 10th Light Infantry.[12]

In Christianity[edit]

The Churas were largely converted to Christianity in North India during the British raj. The vast majority were converted from the Mazhabi Sikh communities of Punjab, and to a lesser extent 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 of Mazhabi Sikhs were also converted in the Moradabad district and the Bijnor district[13] of Uttar Pradesh. Rohilkhand saw a mass conversion of its entire population of 4500 Mazhabi Sikhs into the Methodist Church.[14] Sikh organisations became alarmed at the rate of conversions among the Mazhabi Sikhs and responded by immediately dispatching Sikh missionaries to counteract the conversions.

In Hinduism[edit]

The caste system with all its inequalities is closely identified with, and supported by the Hindu religion.[15] In sharp contrast to a Brahmin a sweeper born of sweeper parents is considered to be born "Inherently polluted".[16] The Churas occupy the lowest rank in the Hindu religious hierarchy.[17] Maintenance of purity is especially important for upper castes in the Hindu religion[18] and if an upper caste were to accept food or drink prepared by members of lower castes, they would become polluted.[19] For a Hindu to accept food from a Christian or Muslim it would be considered "Highly polluting"[20] for the upper caste.[21] If a Brahmin where to accept food and drink from a sweeper, he would immediately become polluted and would expect social rejection from his caste fellows.[22] from that moment, Brahmins following traditional "pollution rules" would refuse food touched by him and would abstain from traditional social interaction from him.[23] He will not be welcome in other Brahmin homes and would be barred especially from ritually pure kitchens.[24] He and his relatives would also not be considered eligible marriage partners by other Brahmins.[25]

Valmikism[edit]

A minority of Punjabi Churas based around the Jallandhar area have undergone "Hinduisation"[26] in the form of the "Valmiki cult"[27][28][29]

In Islam[edit]

Islam despite placing great emphasis on social equality and brotherhood among all Muslims did not address the problem of untouchability for the Churas or Bhangis, even if they did convert.[30] As a result, only a very few members from this community ever embraced Islam, most converting to Christianity..

Unfortunately, this is the effect of Hinduism on some Muslims, who by practising untouchability have gone against explicit Quranic emphasis of equality. The Quran says " O humankind, We created you from a single pair of a male and a female, and from it you become nations and tribes, so that you may recognize one another. The best among you in the sight of God is the most righteous. GOD is Omniscient, Cognizant." ( Chapter 49 Verse 13 ). And the Prophet Muhammad said " No Arab holds greater esteem over a non-Arab; nor a Black person over a red person; except on the grounds of the one having greater righteousness than the other.' (Tirmidhi)

Churas adopted the externals of Islam by keeping Muslim names, Namaz, Viz, observing Ramadan and burial of the dead.[31] However they never underwent circumcision.[32] Only a few cases of circumcision have ever been recorded for Churas or Bhangis[33] and these were Churas who lived very near Jama Masjid.[34] The Churas did not accept Mohammed as their prophet[35] and also continued observing traditional Hindu festivals, such as Diwali, Raki and Holi.[36] Just like their Hindu brethren they continued with their traditional caste work.[37] in India and the caste system was fully observed by Muslims.[38] Untouchability was fully accepted and justified by the Muslim Orthodoxy[39] in India and the caste system was fully observed by Muslim society.[40]

Just like Hindu Churas who were barred from entrance to temples; Churas were barred from entrance to mosques[41] and churas were never allowed to go past the outside steps to Muslim religious places.[42] Muslim untouchablily even extended after death, Churas were to bury their dead in separate graveyards away from other Muslims.[43]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Indian Social Institute, Indian Institute of Social Order (1976) Social action, Volume 26: Indian Social Institute. p227
  2. ^ Indian Social Institute, Indian Institute of Social Order (1976) Social action, Volume 26: Indian Social Institute. p228
  3. ^ Indian Social Institute, Indian Institute of Social Order (1976) Social action, Volume 26: Indian Social Institute. p235
  4. ^ Bodley, J.H (2011) Cultural Anthropology: Tribes, States, and the Global System. 5th Ed. Rowman Altamira p 315
  5. ^ Pruthi, R.K (2004) Indian caste system Culture and civilization series. Discovery Publishing House. p164
  6. ^ http://www.censusindia.gov.in/Tables_Published/SCST/dh_sc_punjab.pdf
  7. ^ Pollock, R. (2002) The Everything World's Religions Book: Discover the Beliefs, Traditions, and Cultures of Ancient and Modern Religions. Everything Books p181
  8. ^ Pollock, R. (2002) The Everything World's Religions Book: Discover the Beliefs, Traditions, and Cultures of Ancient and Modern Religions. Everything Books p181
  9. ^ Pollock, R. (2002) The Everything World's Religions Book: Discover the Beliefs, Traditions, and Cultures of Ancient and Modern Religions. Everything Books p184
  10. ^ Nation and migration: the politics of space in the South Asian diaspora By Peter van der Veer
  11. ^ India and World War 1 By DeWitt C. Ellinwood, S. D. Pradhan Page 216
  12. ^ The Sikh Light Infantry
  13. ^ Alter, J.P and J. Alter (1986) In the Doab and Rohilkhand: north Indian Christianity, 1815-1915. I.S.P.C.K publishing p183
  14. ^ Alter, J.P and J. Alter (1986) In the Doab and Rohilkhand: north Indian Christianity, 1815-1915. I.S.P.C.K publishing p196
  15. ^ Bodley, J.H (2011) Cultural Anthropology: Tribes, States, and the Global System. 5th Ed. Rowman Altamira p 315
  16. ^ Pruthi, R.K (2004) Indian caste system Culture and civilization series. Discovery Publishing House. p164
  17. ^ Pruthi, R.K (2004) Indian caste system Culture and civilization series. Discovery Publishing House. p164
  18. ^ Pruthi, R.K (2004) Indian caste system Culture and civilization series. Discovery Publishing House. p164
  19. ^ Pruthi, R.K (2004) Indian caste system Culture and civilization series. Discovery Publishing House. p164
  20. ^ Pruthi, R.K (2004) Indian caste system Culture and civilization series. Discovery Publishing House. p164
  21. ^ Pruthi, R.K (2004) Indian caste system Culture and civilization series. Discovery Publishing House. p164
  22. ^ Pruthi, R.K (2004) Indian caste system Culture and civilization series. Discovery Publishing House. p164
  23. ^ Pruthi, R.K (2004) Indian caste system Culture and civilization series. Discovery Publishing House. p165
  24. ^ Pruthi, R.K (2004) Indian caste system Culture and civilization series. Discovery Publishing House. p165
  25. ^ Pruthi, R.K (2004) Indian caste system Culture and civilization series. Discovery Publishing House. p165
  26. ^ Indian Social Institute, Indian Institute of Social Order (1976) Social action, Volume 26: Indian Social Institute. p227
  27. ^ Indian Social Institute, Indian Institute of Social Order (1976) Social action, Volume 26: Indian Social Institute. p227
  28. ^ Indian Social Institute, Indian Institute of Social Order (1976) Social action, Volume 26: Indian Social Institute. p228
  29. ^ Indian Social Institute, Indian Institute of Social Order (1976) Social action, Volume 26: Indian Social Institute. p235
  30. ^ Sharma, R. Dr. (1995) Bhangi, scavenger in Indian Society: marginality, identity, and politicization of the community. M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd. p128
  31. ^ Sharma, R. Dr. (1995) Bhangi, scavenger in Indian Society: marginality, identity, and politicization of the community. M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd. p128
  32. ^ Sharma, R. Dr. (1995) Bhangi, scavenger in Indian Society: marginality, identity, and politicization of the community. M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd. p128
  33. ^ Sharma, R. Dr. (1995) Bhangi, scavenger in Indian Society: marginality, identity, and politicization of the community. M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd. p128
  34. ^ Sharma, R. Dr. (1995) Bhangi, scavenger in Indian Society: marginality, identity, and politicization of the community. M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd. p128
  35. ^ Sharma, R. Dr. (1995) Bhangi, scavenger in Indian Society: marginality, identity, and politicization of the community. M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd. p128
  36. ^ Sharma, R. Dr. (1995) Bhangi, scavenger in Indian Society: marginality, identity, and politicization of the community. M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd. p128
  37. ^ Sharma, R. Dr. (1995) Bhangi, scavenger in Indian Society: marginality, identity, and politicization of the community. M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd. p128
  38. ^ Sharma, R. Dr. (1995) Bhangi, scavenger in Indian Society: marginality, identity, and politicization of the community. M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd. p128
  39. ^ Sharma, R. Dr. (1995) Bhangi, scavenger in Indian Society: marginality, identity, and politicization of the community. M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd. p128
  40. ^ Sharma, R. Dr. (1995) Bhangi, scavenger in Indian Society: marginality, identity, and politicization of the community. M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd. p128
  41. ^ Sharma, R. Dr. (1995) Bhangi, scavenger in Indian Society: marginality, identity, and politicization of the community. M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd. p128
  42. ^ Sharma, R. Dr. (1995) Bhangi, scavenger in Indian Society: marginality, identity, and politicization of the community. M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd. p128
  43. ^ Sharma, R. Dr. (1995) Bhangi, scavenger in Indian Society: marginality, identity, and politicization of the community. M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd. p128