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The Mahar are an Indian community historically identified as Nag-vanshis (Serpents). They are found largely within Naglok i.e. present State of Maharashtra, where they comprise 10% of the population, and neighboring states. As Warriors they were assigned a very high status in Buddhist Literature, and most of the Mahar community followed social reformer B. R. Ambedkar in converting to Buddhism in the early 20th century.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 History
- 3 Conversion
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
The 19th century activist and social reformer Jyotirao Phule wrote that the Mahars are indigenous people of India belong to Somvanshi Kshatriya (warrior) varna, and they were conquered by Aryan Brahman race, which came from beyond the Indus region to invade India and the established the caste system for social control. The Mahar fought with the Brahman. Phule proposed etymologies "great/terrible enemy" (maha meaning great and ari or art meaning enemy). The name of Maharashtra state is derived from "land of the Mahars"(Mahāran̄ce rāṣṭra ).
Though of scheduled caste, during the Bhakti era of Hinduism several Mahar saints such as Chokhamela, Karmamela, Banka, Nirmala., Soyarabai and Bhagu became popular. Chokhamela, a popular 14th century Mahar poet-saint, was denied basic rights such as education. His Abhangas narrating incidents were orally handed down for generations and this living tradition is continued by the Varkari community and other communities of pilgrims. Chokhamela, his wife, her brother and their son are all historic figures in the Varkari cult.
The Mahar were subjected to painful degradation during the rule of Chitpavan Peshwa. These Peshwas were limited to only Pune area of western Maharashtra, where it is said that, the Mahars were treated as untouchables by these Peshwas, and the 500 Mahar warrior ended up this Peshwa rule on 1st January 1818, by defeating the 20,000 cavalry and 8,000 soldiers of the Peshava (Maratha) Army in the Battle_of_Koregaon near Pune. In Nagpur, the second Capital of Maharashtra State, in the Vidarbha Province (Earlier Capital of Central Province and Berar C.P & Berar, present Madhya Pradesh State) Mr. Sakharam Meshram was the First Mayor of Nagpur for the three consecutive terms, indicates that the Mahars were highly respected in the Era of Indian Independence.
The Mahar Factor: Decline of Peshwas and the rise of British India
This is the story after the Fall of Peshwa's (The Chitpawani Brahmins) of Pune, Maharashtra State, India, in the Battle of Bhima Koregaon (near Pune), on 1st Jan 1818, after the defeat of 28,000 Brahmin and Maratha troops by the defenders of Buddhism in India, the 500 Brave Mahar warriors, .... Now, the Brahmins were compelled to hide in order to survive, in the British India. Sai's real name: Govind Madhav Bhatt. Born on 06/12/1824. Govind Madhav Bhatt was adopted by Peshve on 07/06/1827, and renamed 'Nana Peshwa'. Before the battle of l857, a warrant was issued to Nana Peshve alias Shirdi's Sai-Baba on 28/Feb/1856 by the British declaring a reward of 0.2 Million Indian Rupees. Warrant (decree) wrote: Nana Peshva, blond, big eyes, 06 fit 02 inch tall, nosy, along with one ear chopped servant. The cash prize of Rs. 0.2 Million to reveal. Afraid of British, Nana Peshwa came to Shirdi in Muslim dervish's clothes. Sai introduced himself sometimes as Nana Bhatt or later Apparam, but never revealed his name.
Sai never told his village's name, father's name. Always hid his identity. With the disappearance of the Nana Peshva and Tatya Tope, the two sage of same stature appeared in Maharashtra, showing the so called miracles, it was a hoax, a fraudulence. Gajanan Maharaj of Shegav- the absconding Tope's death broke down sai like women, because, Gajanan Maharaj alias Tatya Tope was the captain of the Nana Peshva. Sai sits on slab reclining on round cushions, just like Peshvas. These things prove that Sai was a runaway Nana Peshva, but were never so called Sage. If, Nana Peshwa was a real Patriots, he must have fought bravely like Bhagat Singh, Udham Singh, Subhash Chandra Bose, Birsa Munda, Tntya Bhil (Mama), and would never hide like a Muslim mystic. The article was written in 1994 by the descendants of Peshvas, that Sai Baba is our ancestor. Prabodhankar Thackeray (Balasaheb Thackeray's father) writes: 'Sai is no other but the Nana Peshwa. Bhawani Singh a military rank was posted in Atak nagar, recognized disguised Muslim Sai as Nana Peshva. And, still the hypocrisy going on , in the modern India..... Special Note: - Nana Peshva renamed himself as Sai, the reverse of Isa (Christian Messiah-Christ.)
Mahars form a sixth of the whole population, the great majority being cultivators and labourers. The rural Mahar is still considered impure, and is not allowed to drink from the village well, nor may his children sit in school with those of the Hindu castes. But there are traces of decay of this tendency, as many Mahars have become wealthy and risen in the world, with their tenacity and adaptive ability.
The Mahar occupied an important, if low-status, place in the village system of the Deccan. Traditionally, they were made to live on the outskirts of villages. Their duties included those of village watchman, messenger, wall mender, adjudicator of boundary disputes, street sweeper, and remover and processor of carcasses. They also worked as agricultural labourers and held some land, though they were not primarily farmers. Mahars were considered an Untouchable caste in the Hindu community but under British rule they became aware of their social and political rights. As the collective consciousness of the Mahar grew in the 20th century, significant numbers left their traditional villages and moved into the urban centres of India in search of better employment and educational opportunities. They gave up their traditional jobs in cities and to a large extent in rural Maharashtra, and took employment in the mills, docks, construction sites and railways. They created a receptive body of urban workers who were ready to join a political movement for higher status and equality.
In 1873, Jyotirao Phule, the founder of Satyashodhak Samaj—which aimed to abolish religious slavery from the influence of Brahaminical scriptures—organised Mahars particularly. Their first conference was held in Mumbai 1903. Mahar were not allowed to enter the Hindu temple and were consider as pollutants. Even their entry into the shrines of Hindu gods was restricted.
The Mahar have served in various militaries for the last several centuries. The Maratha emperor Shivaji recruited number of Mahars into his army in the 17th century. They served as guards in hill forts and soldiers. During the colonial period, large numbers of Mahars were recruited for military duties by the East India Company and the British Raj. The Battle of Koregaon (January 1, 1818) is commemorated by an obelisk known as the Koregaon pillar—which was erected at the site of the battle—and by a medal issued in 1851. The pillar featured on the Mahar Regiment crest until Indian Independence; it is inscribed with the names of twenty-two Mahars killed there. The Victory memorial commemorates the fall of Peshwas who oppressed the Mahar and the inauguration of British rule. Annually people gather to remember the victory.
The Mahar were initially heavily recruited into British military units, but this process slowed after the 1857 Sepoy Rebellion. The recruitment of Mahars was halted under Lord Kitchener in the early 1890s. Before the Sepoy Rebellion, Mahar regiments made up one-sixth of the Bombay units of the East India Company, but after the Rebellion and the reorganization of British Indian units, Mahars were pensioned off and gradually removed from military service. Mahar recruitment reached its nadir in the early 1890s (sources differ as to exact year) when Lord Kitchener halted the recruitment of Untouchables in Maharashtra in favour of "martial races" such as the Marathas and other north-western communities. The Mahar community attempted to confront this block with a petition circulated among the Mahar, Chamar, and Mang former soldiers—all Marathi-speaking Untouchables—but the movement was unable to organise and submit their petition. In 1941, the Mahar Regiment was formed. During the British Raj the Mahar were encouraged into education to build a modern army, which began the movement against untouchability.
Mahars, Maharashtra and the Marathas: the origin of Marathi Language.
In ancient Pali language, 'Rattha (Pali: रठ्ठ )' means 'Rashtra (Hindi: राष्ट्र)', English - 'Nation'. Since, it was the Rashtra (Nation) of Brave Mahars, it was called as the 'Mahar-Rattha (Hindi: महार - राष्ट्र)' meaning 'The Brave Mahar Nation'. And, the language of the brave Mahars were called as Mahar-Ratthi (Hindi: महार रठ्ठी ), That is, the Marathi (Hindi: मराठी ) Language.
The Marathas, they were the outsiders to this Land of Maharashtra, just like the Shahaji (Father of Shivaji, the Great). They came here from The Mewads ( Hindi: मेवाड ), and the Marwaad (Hindi: मारवाड) region of the north India, just like the Bhaiyyas (Hindi: भैय्या ) of the Uttar Pradesh and Bihar States.
It was the Brave Mahar Mrs. Jijabai Jadhav of Sind-Khed (Raja) town in the Vidarbha province of Maharashtra state, who gave birth, and bring and brought up Shivaji, and gave recognition to the so called duplicate caste- The Marathas (The fake Marathis - the marathi language speaking community). Nobody questions about the Marwaads and the Mewads, and this is the truth of the Maharashtra - The Land of Brave Mahars. And, last but not least, the word Ari (Hindi: अरी ) means, Foe, Enemy (Hindi: शत्रु , दुश्मन ). These foreigners are Aris and Aryans to this land of Maharashtra State. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar always said, The Mahars and the Marathas - this subject is a tablet of Poison, given by the Brahmins to the Brave Mahars, So just leave it to the Brahmins and the non-Mahar Buddhists ( like, Coorgies, Devendra Kula Vellalar, Devangas, the Devdigas, and others, also called 'The Dhor (Hindi: ढोर ) People ), who migrated here from the Dharwad (Hindi: धारवाड) region of the Karnatka State, and adopted Buddhism.
These provinces were created by these Maratha outsiders. Ancient Mahar-Land was Sovereign Republic based on Buddhist Teachings. Even Lord Buddha also used to praise these Mahars, See these Nag-Vanshis (Hindi : नागवंशी) the Serpents, if you haven't seen Gods. These are the Gods of rains, the Green Mother Nature, and and every good thing in this land. Because, these are the people who live by the principals, fight for the equality, even the equality of The Aryans, the enemies. Remember, the Great Buddha was the Shakyas - the caste found in the south India, and was also called as the Shakya-Muni, the Sage/ Prince of the Shakyas.
Mahar community is found in the North-East region of India, as Mahar Adivasis, including The Nagas, all across the Indian Subcontinent. It is said that, Lord Krishna left the Vrindawana (Hindi: व्रिंदावन) and the Dwarka (Hindi: द्वारका), (Pali word Dwarika means Bride in Hindi) and requested an inches of Mahar land of the brick (Hindi: Vith, विठ ) size to be remembered forever as the Vitthals (Hindi: विठ्ठल ), who wedded with the Maharashtrian Rukmini (The Princes of King Bhishmak of the Vidarbha Province of the Maharashtra State). It is always said that, - if no Mahars, no fight for the Equality, then let inequality prevail, and ruin this land to desert ( HIndi: रेगीस्तान ), Chindu-sthan (Hindi: चिंधुस्तान), whatever!
In Nagpur in 1956, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, seeking to remove Mahars from the strictures and discrimination of the caste system, conducted a mass conversion to Buddhism of around 500,000 of his followers. As Buddhists they gave up their traditional Hindu occupations and sought to redefine their social status. Ambedker died about two months after this mass conversion; his Buddhist cremation was attended by half a million people in Mumbai. At the same spot after his cremation, more Mahars were converted in Buddhism. Now this community is the third most populous in Mumbai.
Mahars who have converted to Buddhism are called "Neo-Buddhists". Some Buddhist leaders among the population prefer that the term Mahar is no longer applied to these converts. Buddhism sparked the sense of equality in the Mahar; an intellectual of Mahar origin said, "I have accepted Buddhist doctrine. I am Buddhist now. I am not Mahar now, not untouchable nor even Hindu. I have become a human being". They accepted the 22 Vows given by Ambedkar to renounce Hinduism.
In mid of 18th century Many Mahar converted to Christianity specially in Ahmednagar, and surrounding area. Most Mahar Christians are converts as a result of Christian missions such as the American Marathi Mission, Church Mission Society, and the Church of England's SPG Mission. Around the turn of the 19th century, British Baptist missionary William Carey was instrumental in translating the Bible into the Marathi language. In Sangamner, Fr. Weishaupt travelled between villages to explain the Bible to Mahars but he hardly succeeded. This Christian conversion movement was overshadowed by the emergence of Ambedkar's Buddhist Conversion Movement 
In 1927, during the Mahad conference Ambedkar said, "we [the Mahar] want equal right in Hindu society. We will achieve them as far as possible while remaining within the Hindu fold or, if necessary to give up Hinduism it would no longer be necessary for us to bother about temples". In the later years in 1935, he declared that " it was not in his hands to take birth in hindu religion , but it is in his hands not to die in hindu religion ". And in his last years, he embraced "buddhism".
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