Nat caste

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Nat
Total population
420,000[1]
Regions with significant populations
 India   Nepal
Languages
HindiMaithili
Religion
Hinduism 100% •
Related ethnic groups
Muslim NatBazigarDombaPerna

The Nat are a Hindu caste found in North India.[2][3]

History and origin[edit]

The Nat are a nomadic community found in North India. They are one of number of communities that are said to be of Dom origin, and have traditions similar to the Bazigar caste. The word nata in Sanskrit means a dancer, and the Nat were traditionally entertainers and jugglers. They have fourteen sub-groups, the main ones being the Nituria, Rarhi, Chhabhayia, Tikulhara, Tirkuta, Pushtia, Rathore, Kazarhatia, Kathbangi, Banwaria, Kougarh, Lodhra, Korohia, and Gulgulia. The Nat maintain strict clan exogamy, and each clan of equal status. In Uttar Pradesh, the Nat community now consists of two groupings, the Brijbasi Nat, who are settled, and the Bajania, who are nomadic.[4]

In Punjab, the Nat claim to be by origin Brahmin of Marwar, whose duty was supply funeral pyres. On a particular occasion, as the community was transporting the funeral pyre, a member of the party died. This was seen as a bad omen, and the community were outcastes. They therefore took the occupation of dancing. They are closely connected with the Bazigar community, who are the jugglers of Punjab. But the two communities remain distinct, and do not intermarry. The community have scheduled caste status, and are found mainly in the districts of Gurdaspur and Amritsar.

In Haryana, according to the traditions of the Nat community, they are descended from two Chamar brothers, Asa and Basa. The community is divided along religious lines, with a separate and distinct community of Muslim Nat. There traditional occupation was that of an acrobat and entertainer, and provided entertainment to the courts of the various princes.[5]

Present circumstances[edit]

The community is now associated with cattle trading, with poorer members being professional beggars. Like other nomadic communities they are extremely marginalized. The Nat are Hindu, and with a small number who have converted to Islam, and form a distinct community of Muslim Nats. They speak Magadhi and are found in the districts of Gaya, Bhojpur and Rohtas.[6]

The Nat of Punjab are a poor landless community, and they are now mainly engaged as unskilled labourers. They have now abandoned their traditional occupation of rope dancing. The community is strictly endogamous, and consist of a number of clans, the main ones being the Kals, Muchal, Bhati, Chauhan and Puwar. Like other Hindu communities, they practice clan exogamy. The community was nomadic, but they are now settled. They remain one of the most marginal community in Punjab.[7]

The Nat in Haryana remain a semi-nomadic community. In Haryana, they are found mainly in the districts of Faridabad, Gurgaon and Rohtak. They speak Haryanvi, and understand Hindi. The Nat consist of a number of exogamous clans, the main ones being the Dagariya, Sansebar, Baraike, Khoyareke, Paharike, Nangariye, Dhadhasiya, Palike, Jirmichya, Dangiya, Kotiya, Shirkarake, Dilwati, Occhluke, Rashidiya, and Badanke. The Nat are no longer involved in their traditional occupation, and are now largely landless agriculture workers, migrating to different places in search of employment.[8]

Bajania Nat[edit]

Bajania Nat are one of two endogamous sub-groups within the Nat community of Uttar Pradesh. They get their name from the Hindi bajana, which means to play a musical instruments. They were traditional the acrobats and tumblers of village India. The Bajania are largely a nomadic community, with the community establishing camps at the end of villages. They speak the Nati language among themselves, but most also speak Hindi. The Nat are further divided into five groups, the Karnat, Kalabaz, who are also known as Thakur Nat, the Kabutar Bhanmata, the Chamar Nat, and finally the Muslim Nat. The Muslim Nat are now practically a separate and distinct community. Each of these sub-grouping was associated with a particular occupation, the Karnat were singers, while the Kalabaz were acrobats. The five sub-divisions are further sub-divided into clans, known as gotras. Among the Karnat, the main gotras are the Mutana, Chapaneri, Rangni, Nakna, Sakodaria, Makriyana and Gagolia. Marriages are strictly prohibited within the clan. With the exception of the Muslim Nat, all the other sub-groups are Hindu, and their tribal deities are Kali Maiya and Bundela.[9]

The traditional occupation of the Nat in Uttar Pradesh was that of a village entertainer, and they were acrobats, jugglers, tight rope walkers and singers. With the growth in televisions, the community has seen a decline in their traditional occupations, which has led to a decline in their economic circumstances. This is seen in the prevalence of child labour among the community. Furthermore, as a Dalit community, they often suffer from societal discrimination. Each of their encampment consists of a caste council, known as path. The panth resolves intra community disputes, and also acts as a crude welfare association.[10]

Brijbasi Nat[edit]

The Brijbasi Nat are one of the two sub-divisions of the Nat community found in Uttar Pradesh. Their name literally means an inhabitant of Brij or modern day Mathura, and as such they are a territorial grouping, their name meaning the Nat of Braj country. The community is found mainly in the districts of Farrukhabad, Shahjahanpur, Hardoi, Bareilly, Badaun, Mainpuri, Etawah and Agra. They speak the Braj bhasha dialect of Hindi, and are Hindus. The Brijbasi have the goddess Durga as their tribal deity.[11]Hemant Brijwasi the winner of (Sa Re Ga Ma Pa L'il Champs 2009),belongs to Brijbasi Nat community.

They are strictly endogamous, and practice clan exogamy. The Brijbasi community consists of seven clans, namely the Bijrawat, Dharam Saut, Kakera,gwal, Kurra, Mucchar and Wadaut. Marriages are strictly prohibited within the clan. The Brijbasi are a landless community, and they are mainly musicians and dancers. At the time of social functions, they are required to perform for their patrons, who tend to belong to the locally dominant castes. But a greater number are now employed as wage labourers. They live in multi-caste villages, but occupy their own distinct quarters. As a Dalit community, they often suffer from societal discrimination. Each of their settlement contains an informal caste council, known as a biradari panchayat. The panchayat acts as instrument of social control, dealing with issues such as divorce and adultery.[12]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.joshuaproject.net/peoples.php
  2. ^ People of India Bihar Volume XVI Part Two edited by Surendra Gopal and Hetukar Jha, pages 722-725
  3. ^ People of India Haryana Volume XXIII edited by M.K Sharma and A.K Bhatia pages 380 to 385 Manohar
  4. ^ People of India Bihar Volume XVI Part Two edited by Surendra Gopal and Hetukar Jha, pages 722-725
  5. ^ People of India Haryana Volume XXIII edited by M.K Sharma and A.K Bhatia pages 380 to 385 Manohar
  6. ^ People of India Bihar Volume XVI Part Two edited by Surendra Gopal and Hetukar Jha, pages 722-725
  7. ^ People of India Punjab Volume XXXVII edited by I.J.S Bansal and Swaran Singh pages 334 to 337 Manohar
  8. ^ People of India Haryana Volume XXIII edited by M.K Sharma and A.K Bhatia pages 380 to 385 Manohar
  9. ^ People of India Uttar Pradesh Volume XLII Part One edited by A Hasan & J C Das pages 128 to 135 Manohar Publications
  10. ^ People of India Uttar Pradesh Volume XLII Part One edited by A Hasan & J C Das pages 128 to 135 Manohar Publications
  11. ^ People of India Uttar Pradesh Volume XLII Part One edited by A Hasan & J C Das pages 355 to 357Manohar Publications
  12. ^ People of India Uttar Pradesh Volume XLII Part One edited by A Hasan & J C Das pages 355 to 357Manohar Publications