Charan

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For places in Iran, see Charan, Iran. For the biblical place, see Haran (biblical place).

Charan is a caste living in the Sindh, Rajasthan and Gujarat states of India.

Charan caste is also known by the names of Devi Putra, Kaviraj and Jagirdar. Charans are divided into many groups such as Maru Charan, Tumbel Charan and many more, where each one of these groups consists of different surnames like Gadan, Detha, Bathi, Barhat, Sinhdhayach, Ratnu, Kaviya, Modd and many others. Charans of Gujarat are known as Gadhvis.

The goddesses Karni Mataji, Bahuchara Mataji, Khodiyar Mataji, Mogal Mataji and Sonal Mataji are well-known examples of Charan Maha Shakti mothers. All Charan Maha Shaktis' are represented with the word "આઈ મા" (aai ma), for example "આઈ શ્રી ખોડીયાર મા" (aai shree khodiyar maa), "આઈ શ્રી સોનલ મા" (aai shree sonal maa). Due to this the Charans are also known as Devi Putra, meaning "The Sons of goddess'.

In the medieval era, it was considered a matter of prestige and pride for a Rajput king to keep a Charan in his court. The kings would also invite them to occupy a place in the Royal Courts. Because of their ability to think in a different manner, another popular way of addressing members of the Charan caste is "Kaviraj", which literally means "king among poets". Charans are considered to be the only thakurs other than the rajputs. Charans were always posted in the front lines of attacks in the armies.[1]

Kings gave the caste grants of villages, and various kings also gave them Lakh Pasavs, large gifts equivalent to 100,000 rupees that usually consisted of elephants, money, and ornaments. The kings would also invite them to occupy a place in the royal courts.

History of Charans[edit]

The Charans have been mentioned in many ancient texts such as the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, Mahābhārata and Padma Purana.

deva-sargaś cāṣṭa-vidho vibudhāḥ pitaro 'surāḥ gandharvāpsarasaḥ siddhā yakṣa-rakṣāḿsi cāraṇāḥ

bhūta-preta-piśācāś ca vidyādhrāḥ kinnarādayaḥ daśaite vidurākhyātāḥ sargās te viśva-sṛk-kṛtāḥ

Translation

The creation of the demigods is of eight varieties: (1) the demigods, (2) the forefathers, (3) the asuras, or demons, (4) the Gandharvas and Apsaras, or angels, (5) the Yaksas and Raksasas, (6) the Siddhas, Charans and Vidyadharas, (7) the Bhutas, Pretas and Pisacas, and (8) the superhuman beings, celestial singers, etc. All are created by Brahma, the creator of the universe.

- Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (3.10.28-29) Canto 3, Chapter 10, Text: 28-29[2]

Social structure[edit]

The Charan caste system is based on written genealogy. A Charan will consider all the other Charans as equal even if they do not know each other and have radically different economic or geographic status.[3]

Food and drink[edit]

Their eating and drinking habits resemble those of the Rajputs. Charans used to enjoy consumption of opium and drinking of liquor, practices which are also popular among the Rajputs of this region.[4] Charans do not eat the flesh of cows and hold those who do in utter disregard. Cows are respected like mothers. A husband and wife will not drink milk from the same cow, or milk soiled by their counter part. Drinking milk from one mother (cow) symbolizes that those who do so should be considered as siblings. Before Indian independence in 1947, a sacrifice of a male buffalo constituted a major part of the celebration of Navratri.[5] Such celebrations quite often used to be presided over by Charan woman.[6]

Present circumstances[edit]

The Gadhvi maintain community endogamy and clan exogamy. They maintain good relations with other clans such as Parmar, Jadhav, Gohil, Leuva, Kabaria and Rajputs. King Adityanath (A.D 967 - 1034) gave equal status to all of these clans.[1]

The Gadhvi were traditionally genealogists, but many are now small and medium-sized farmers. Many are now also engaged in animal husbandry. A great number are now being urbanized, and taking up a number of urban professions.

Contributions in the history of Medieval India[edit]

Literature , history writing ,poems and participation in warfare as active combatants are an integral part of the identity of Charans. A whole genre of literature is known as Charan literature.[7] The Dingal language and literature exist largely due to this caste.[8][9] It is generally agreed that modern Rajasthani literature and history began with the works of Suryamal Misran, who was of the Charan caste.[10] Zaverchand Meghani divides Charani sahitya (literature) into thirteen subgenres:[7]

  1. Songs in praise of gods and goddesses (stavan)
  2. Songs in praise of heroes, saints and patrons (birdavalo)
  3. Descriptions of war (varanno)
  4. Rebukes of wavering great kings and men who use their power for evil (upalambho)
  5. Mockery of a standing treachery of heroism (thekadi)
  6. Love stories
  7. Laments for dead warriors, patrons and friends (marasiya or vilap kavya)
  8. Praise of natural beauty, seasonal beauty and festivals
  9. Descriptions of weapons
  10. Songs in praise of lions, horses, camels, and buffalo
  11. Sayings about didactic and practical cleverness
  12. Ancient epics
  13. Songs describing the anguish of people in times of famine and adversity

Other classifications of Charani sahitya are Khyatas (chronicles), Vartas and Vatas (stories), Raso (martial epics), Veli - Veli Krishan Rukman ri, Doha-Chhand (verses).[8][9]

Another form of Charani literature is the chirajaa, or song of Charan Maha Shakti mothers's worship. Other minor forms are aaranya and zilaniyu, which are also songs for worship.[citation needed]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b People of India Gujarat Volume XXII Part One edited by R.B Lal, S.V Padmanabham & A Mohideen page 389 to 392 Popular Prakashan
  2. ^ The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International, Inc. - His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
  3. ^ Thomson, G. R. (1991). "Charans of Gujarat: Caste Identity, Music and Cultural Change". Ethnomusicology 35 (3): 381–391. doi:10.2307/851968. JSTOR 851968. 
  4. ^ Singh, Khushwant (1982). We Indians. Delhi: Orient Paperbacks. OCLC 10710940. 
  5. ^ Harlan L (2003). Goddesses' Henchmen - Gender in Hero Worship. USA: Oxford University Press. p. 258. 
  6. ^ "Matanamadh, Desh Devi Ashapura". Matanamadh Jagir, Kachchh, India. 2006. Archived from the original on 2007-08-08. Retrieved 2006-12-23. 
  7. ^ a b Meghani, Z. (1943). Charano and Charani Sahitya. Ahmedabad. 
  8. ^ a b Sharma G. N. (1968). Social Life in Medieval Rajasthan. Agra: Lakshmi Narayan Agarwal Educational Publisher. pp. 94–96. 
  9. ^ a b Smith, J. D. (1974). "An introduction to language of the historical documents from Rajasthan". Modern Asian Studies 9 (4): 433–464. doi:10.1017/S0026749X00012841. 
  10. ^ "South Asian Arts: Rajasthani". Encyclopædia Britannica. Archived from the original on 2007-11-14. Retrieved 2007-11-15. 

Further reading[edit]