The Musahars are a Hindu scheduled caste found in the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in India, and Terai. They are also known as Arya or Banbasi, or in Bihar as Rajwar or Rishideo, and on the plateau as Manjhi.
The Musahar were traditionally rat catchers, and there is still uncertainty as to their exact origin. This Hindu Mythology story shows how they are perceived in the traditional Indian society, Parmashwar (the Hindu creation god) created man and gave him a horse to ride. The first Musahar decided to dig holes in the belly of the horse to fix his feet as he rode. This offended Parmeshwar, who punished them by making them rat catchers. They are found in eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and north Madhya Pradesh. The Musahar speak the Bhojpuri dialect of Hindi.
In Bihar, the word Musahar is said to be derived from moos, a local Bhojpuri word for a rat, on account of their traditional occupation as rat catchers. The Bihari Rajwar self-identify as Rajvanshi Kshatryia.
The Musahar consists of three sub-groups, the Bhagat(there also exists a group of people with Bhagat as surname who do not belong to Musahar catse http://www.peoplegroupsindia.com/profiles/kalwar/), Sakatiya and Turkahia. Each of these clans are endogamous. The Musahar were once rat catchers, but this activity has been abandoned. They are now mainly landless agricultural labourers. They are one of the most marginalized groups in India, and have suffered discrimination. Although the Musahar are Hindu, they believe in a number of tribal deities.
In Bihar, the Musahar are employed in the stone quaries of the state. Many have also emigrated to the states of Punjab and Haryana, and are employed as agricultural labourers. They speak Bhojpuri, but many now have working knowledge of Hindi. The Musahar are found throughout Bihar.
In the rural areas, Musahar are primarily bonded agricultural labourers, but often go without work for as much as eight months in a year. Children work alongside their parents in the fields or as rag pickers, earning as little as 25 to 30 rupees daily. The Musahar literacy rate is 3 percent, but falls below 1 percent among women. By some estimates, as many as 85 percent of some villages of Musahars suffer from malnutrition and with access to health centres scant, diseases such as malaria and kala-azar, the most severe form of leishmaniasis, are prevalent.
The Government of Bihar operates the Mahadalit Mission, which partially funds some programs to expand education and other social welfare programs for the Musahar. An example is the Prerna schools operated by Sudha Varghese, residential schools for Musahar girls that include vocational training in the curriculum. Varghese also operates Nari Gunjan, which has 50 centres teaching 1500 Musahar girls throughout Bihar.
Chief Minister of Bihar - Jitan Ram Manjhi
On 19 May 2014, it was announced that Jitan Ram Manjhi will be the new Chief Minister of Bihar. He will be 23rd Chief Minister of Bihar. Till now he was the SC/ST Welfare Minister in the state. A graduate from Magadh University, Manji belongs to Khizir Sarai in Gaya district and currently represent Makhdoompur assembly constituency in Jehanabad.
- Jitan Ram Manjhi- Chief Minister of Bihar
- Dashrath Manjhi(1934-2007), Indian who single-handedly carved a 360-foot-long, 25-foot-high, and 30-foot-wide road
- Parmanand Rishideo (born 1962), Indian politician
- Hari Manjhi (born 1963), Indian politician
- Rajesh Kumar Manjhi (born 1968), Indian politician
- Tilka Manjhi (died 1784), Indian revolutionary
- Bhola Manjhi , member of parliament (ex)
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