Dom (caste)

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A Dom man in Eastern Bengal, c. 1860.

The Dom (Sanskrit: डोम Doma meaning: a man of Dalit caste, living by singing and music), also known as Domra, Domba, Domaka, Dombara and Dombari, are castes, or groups, scattered across India. Dom were a caste of drummer.[1] According to Tantra scriptures, the Dom were engaged in the occupations of singing and playing music.[2] Historically, they were considered an untouchable caste called the Dalits and their traditional occupation was the disposal and cremation of dead bodies.[3][4] They are in the list of Scheduled caste for Reservation in India in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and West Bengal.[5][6][7][8][9][10]


Individuals who live by singing and music were referred to as Dom in Tantric scriptures. According to historian M.P Joshi, the word Duma is connected to the sound of a drum.[2] Its presumed root, ḍom, which is connected with drumming, is linked to damara and damaru, Sanskrit terms for "drum" and the Sanskrit verbal root डम् ḍam- 'to sound (as a drum)', perhaps a loan from Dravidian, e.g. Kannada ḍamāra 'a pair of kettle-drums', and Telugu ṭamaṭama 'a drum, tomtom'.[11]


The term dom is mentioned in Tantra scriptures as individuals who live by singing and music. During the reign of the Chand dynasty and Gorkha, all service castes were referred to as Dom and were prohibited from wearing gold and silver ornaments. They had to work as palanquin bearers, but they were prohibited from using palanquins at their weddings. They had to live in separate villages with different cremation sites and water sources. They had to bury the dead cows of others of which they ate flesh. During the British period, the British prohibited these discriminative practices. Social activist Lala Lajpat Rai and dalit leader Khusi Ram sought to reject low caste status and introduced the term Shilpkar to replace the pejorative Dom. They conducted purification rituals of Arya Samaj in which shilkars wore sacred threads (Janeu) and were allowed to use a palanquin in their wedding. Since then, in Uttarakhand, the Shilpkar replaced Dom in the official category. But it has done little to reduce the social stigma in the central Himalaya region.[2]

Many nomadic and peripatetic groups in Uttar Pradesh are said to be of Dom origin such as the Bangali, Bhantu, Bazigar, Habura, Kanjar, and Sansi. It could also be that the term Dom is generically used to describe any peripatetic nomad, as all of the aforementioned groups are distinct and strictly endogamous. Some speak a dialect or argot of their own, while others speak the prevailing dialect or language.[12]

The Doms were formerly classified as a criminal tribe under the Criminal Tribes Acts of the British Raj.[13][14]


Hunza Valley[edit]

The people are called Bericho, Dom, or Doma. The Dom identity developed out of their work as musicians. They are a heterogeneous group, descended from a number of families that took up service with the various local rulers. The Dom belong to the Nizari Ismaili sect in Hunza.[15][failed verification]


During the Chand and Gurkha dynasties (c. 700-1816 CE) in northern India, including regions that are now part of Uttarakhand, the term 'Dom' collectively referred to various occupational groups, including artisans and professional entertainers such as singers and musicians. Members of Dom castes were also involved in the disposal of dead animals, including cows.[2]


Dom were engaged in occupation of beating drums in marriage ceremonies in Delhi of caste hindus. But marriages of high caste are facilitated by a Brahmin priest where a drum is not beaten. In Delhi, Dom women facilitate marriages of Bhangi caste by singing and drum beating as Brahmin do not facilitate marriages of Bhangi caste as they are considered untouchable.[1]


In Jashpur district of Chhattisgarh, the Dom were rulers from the 16th century to 18th century, until the defeat of king Raibhan of the Dom dynasty by Sujan Rai of Sonpur who established Jashpur State.[16]


In Varanasi, the city in Uttar Pradesh, the Dom perform the most important task of cremation of dead bodies.[17] According to puranic legend, Raja Harishchandra was purchased by Kallu Dom and Harishchandra was working under him.[18][19] However, according to another legend, Harishchandra was said to have been sold to a Chandala, and the Chandala entrusted him with the responsibility of overseeing the cremation ground (shmashana).[20]

Andhra Pradesh[edit]

Dom originally hails from the hilly tract of Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and they were known for their occupation as drummers and are often considered "untouchables" in the caste system due to their historical role in disposing of bodies, including both animal and human remains.[21][22]


The traditional occupation of Dom was making musical instruments and households items of bamboo. They still make musical instruments and households items of bamboo. But due to the advent of electronic music, sales of musical instruments have dwindled.[citation needed]


There are around 706,000 Doms in Odisha.[23]

Doms numbered 316,337 at the 2001 census and were 1.7 percent of the scheduled caste population of West Bengal. The same census found overall 46.0 percent of Doms (aged 7 and up) were literate. Along gender lines, 58.9 percent of males and 32.6 percent of females were found by the census to be literate.[7]

The 2011 Census of India for Uttar Pradesh showed the Dom as a Scheduled Caste with a population of 110,353.[5]

Official classification[edit]

Dom are listed as Scheduled Caste for reservation in India in Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha and West Bengal.[5][6][7][8]

Doms in Nepal[edit]

The Central Bureau of Statistics of Nepal classifies the Dom as a subgroup within the broader social group of Madheshi Dalits.[24] At the time of the 2011 Nepal census, 13,268 people (0.1% of the population of Nepal) were Dom. The frequency of Doms by province was as follows:

The frequency of Doms was higher than national average (0.1%) in the following districts:[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Rama Sharma (1995). Bhangi, Scavenger in Indian Society: Marginality, Identity, and Politicization of the Community. M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd. p. 126. ISBN 978-8185880709.
  2. ^ a b c d Stefan Fiol (2017). Recasting Folk in the Himalayas: Indian Music, Media, and Social Mobility. University of Illinois Press. p. 51-53. ISBN 978-0252099786.
  3. ^ Panchali Ray (2019). Politics of Precarity:Gendered Subjects and the Health Care Industry in Contemporary Kolkata. OUP India. p. 207. ISBN 978-0-19-909553-7.
  4. ^ Robert E. Van Voorst (2018). RELG: WORLD. Cengage Learning. p. 85. ISBN 9781337671866.
  5. ^ a b c "A-10 Individual Scheduled Caste Primary Census Abstract Data and its Appendix – Uttar Pradesh". Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Archived from the original on 31 July 2018. Retrieved 6 February 2017.
  6. ^ a b "Bihar Caste List 2022". Biharonlineportal. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  7. ^ a b c "West Bengal, Census of India 2001, Data Highlights – The Scheduled Castes" (PDF). Office of the Registrar General, India. Retrieved 28 June 2009.
  8. ^ a b "Dom". Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  9. ^ "Legal Database". 11 August 2018.
  10. ^ "List of Scheduled Castes | Department of Social Justice and Empowerment - Government of India". Retrieved 14 September 2023.
  11. ^ T. Burrow and M.B. Emeneau, A Dravidian Etymological Dictionary 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984), p. 257, entry #2949.
  12. ^ Nomads in India : proceedings of the National Seminar / edited by P.K. Misra, K.C. Malhotra
  13. ^ Bates, Crispin (1995). "Race, Caste and Tribe in Central India: the early origins of Indian anthropometry". In Robb, Peter (ed.). The Concept of Race in South Asia. Delhi: Oxford University Press. p. 227. ISBN 978-0-19-563767-0. Retrieved 1 December 2011.
  14. ^ Gupta, Ganesh (2005). Padabi Abhidhan [Dictionary of Family Names] (in Bengali). Kolkata: Annapurna Prakashan. p. 52.
  15. ^ Disappearing peoples? : indigenous groups and ethnic minorities in South and Central Asia. Brower, Barbara Anne., Johnston, Barbara Rose. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press. 2007. ISBN 978-1-59874-726-3. OCLC 647914842.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  16. ^ Shashishekhar Gopal Deogaonkar (1985). The Hill Korwa. Concept Publishing Company. p. 22. Retrieved 25 November 2022.
  17. ^ "Doms of Varanasi make a living among the dead". reuters. 26 October 2017. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  18. ^ Namit Arora (2021). Indians: A Brief History of A Civilization. Penguin Random House India Private Limited. p. 329. ISBN 978-9353052874.
  19. ^ Lalita Prasad Vidyarthi, Makhan Jha, Baidyanath Saraswati (1979). The Sacred Complex of Kashi: A Microcosm of Indian Civilization. Concept Publishing Company. p. 306.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  20. ^ Bibek Debroy (2008). Sarama and Her Children: The Dog in Indian Myth. Penguin Books India. p. 116. ISBN 978-0143064701.
  21. ^ "India - A-10 Appendix: District wise scheduled caste population (Appendix), Andhra Pradesh - 2011". Retrieved 14 September 2023.
  22. ^ Njuki, Jemimah; Parkins, John R.; Kaler, Amy (25 November 2016). Transforming Gender and Food Security in the Global South. Routledge. pp. 118–119. ISBN 978-1-317-19001-1.
  23. ^ "Census of India Website : Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India". Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  24. ^ Population Monograph of Nepal, Volume II [1]
  25. ^ "2011 Nepal Census, District Level Detail Report" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 March 2023. Retrieved 13 April 2023.

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