|Yogi Nath (of Bengal)|
|Populated States||West Bengal, Assam, Tripura, Bangladesh|
Yogi Nath (Bengali: যোগী নাথ), simply known as Yogi (Bengali: যোগী), are a Bengali Hindu caste descended from the Nath Sampradaya (sect). The yogis are the followers of Shaivism and primarily united with the tradition of Nath Sampradaya.
The yogis were primarily associated with the Yogic-traditions promoted by the great Nath saints, e.g. Matsyendranath, Gorakshanath, Chauranginath etc. Hatha yoga is considered as the prominent part of those traditions promoted by these great Nath masters. The Nath Sampradaya is considered as a development of the earlier Siddha or Avadhuta Sampradaya, an ancient lineage of spiritual masters. The yogis identify themselves in the lineage of classical followers of Shaivism. The Nath Sampradaya is heterodox in nature and does not recognize caste barrier to open their teachings and lessons. Their teachings are being followed by people from higher as well as lower castes.
The yogis had to suffer with the establishment of caste-hierarchy based elitism in Bengal. According to Satish Chandra Mitra, Ballal Sen attempted for re-establishment of Brahmanism endorsing Vedic-tradition and additionally promoted caste based elitism while he demoted the yogis in the caste hierarchy. It can be noted that Vedic-tradition and Yogic-tradition were evolved differently. Today both of these traditions coexist under the banner of Hinduism. The Yogic-tradition which is considered as an initiation of lord Shiva is usually believed by the historians as a pre-Vedic tradition. Any possibility of sharing same root by these two traditions at any point of time is yet to be justified by the historians. The post-Vedic Hindu-literatures are observed to be influenced with the gradual integration of both of these traditions. In Bengal during Ballal Sen, some elements with sense of intolerance between these two traditions as well as difference in opinion between elitist strategy and heterodox strategy towards caste-system were possibly the factors which didn’t work well for the yogis. Conveying similar opinion with the heterodox strategy, elitism in any form is usually criticized for hampering the proper human resource development in a society, depriving a society from healthy competitions and finally directing a society in a position to survive below of its potential. According to Bipin Chandra Pal, after this establishment of elitist caste-system in Bengal, they had to face many problems with their social positions. Many of them then settled in the outlying tracts of eastern Bengal, especially in the districts of Sylhet, Tipperah, Noakhali, Chittagong, Mymensingh and Dhaka. Many of the yogis adopted weaving as profession.
According to James Wise, the yogis were an ambitious caste, who recognized the value of education. According to Santosh Kumar Kundu, they were very much inclined towards the study of Sanskrit. However, on account of their social degradation, they had to suffer serious economic hardships for their education and survival. The government of India has provided affirmative action to the non-creamy layer of the yogi-caste through inclusion of this caste in the category of Other Backward Classes (OBC). OBC status is verified at time to time and a caste is subjected to removal from affirmative action if the social, educational and economic conditions satisfy certain threshold assessments. Social-growth is observed to be on rise among the non-creamy section of the yogi-caste. At the present time, Hatha yoga has been immensely popular in the Western countries. It works as pride-factor to the Indians and possibly intense pride-factor to the yogis.
The principles of Yoga philosophy of Nath tradition are stated in various books e.g. Gorakshagita, Goraksha Paddhati, Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati, Amaraugha Sasana, Amaraugha Prabodha, Mahartha Manjari, Gheranda Samhita, etc., all written in Sanskrit. Hatha yoga is a holistic path of yoga which includes disciplines, postures (asana), purification procedures (shatkriya), gestures (mudra), breathing (pranayama), meditation (dhyana), samadhi.
Prominent Nath masters, Matsyendranath and Gorakshanath are also found to be greatly honoured in some areas of Buddhism as Mahasiddhas and are credited with great powers and perfected spiritual attainment. It can be noted that Buddhism, in fact, was originated from the same land of Yoga and shares similarities with different traditions of Yoga e.g. cultivation of higher wisdom through meditation etc. Such similarities have led some authors to refer the possibilities of associations between Buddhism and Yogic-traditions documented in later-age. Satish Chandra Mitra expressed his opinion in this regard that yogis are unconsciously Buddhists in their faith. The yogis, however, are not found to believe in any dependency with Buddhism. Dependency of Hatha Yoga with Buddhism is not generally found to be advocated by any Yoga-expert. At present, Hatha yoga is considered as one of the important traditions of Hinduism.
Many of the yogis are observed as religious minded people. The worship and initiation to different faiths are found to be performed by the priests belonging to own yogi-caste. They do not sacrifice during worship. Earlier the yogis used to bury their dead, by placing the corpse upright in Yogic posture. Nowadays they are also found to cremate their dead. They observe ashaucha for ten days.
- Mitra, Satish Chandra (January 2001) . যেশার খুলনার ইিতহাস [The History of Jessore and Khulna] (in Bengali). Volume 1. Kolkata: Deys Publishing. pp. 384–85. ISBN 81-7612-766-3.
- Kundu, Santosh Kumar (2008). বাঙালী িহন্দু জািত পিরচয় [An Introduction of Bengali Hindu Castes] (in Bengali). Kolkata: Presidency Library. pp. 160–164. ISBN 978-81-89466-13-8.
- Deshpande, M.N. (1986). The Caves of Panhale-Kaji. New Delhi: Archaeological Survey of India, Government of India.
- Pal, Bipin Chandra (February 2005). সত্তর বছর [Seventy Years] (in Bengali). Kolkata: Kalpan. p. 21. ISBN 81-89041-01-0.
- Wise, James (1883). Notes on the Races, Castes and Trades of Eastern Bengal. London: Harrison and Sons. pp. 296–300.
- "CENTRAL LIST OF OTHER BACKWARD CLASSES".
- Mitra, Satish Chandra (January 2001) . যেশার খুলনার ইিতহাস [The History of Jessore and Khulna] (in Bengali). Volume 1. Kolkata: Deys Publishing. pp. 485–487. ISBN 81-7612-766-3.