Charan

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

Social structure[edit]

Members of the caste are considered to be divine by a large section of society. Women of the caste are adored as mother goddesses by other major communities of this region including Rajputs.[1]

Charan society 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.[2]

Anil Chandra Banerjee, a professor of history, has said that

In them we have a combination of the traditional characteristics of the Brahmin and the Kshatriyas. Like the Brahmins, they adopted literary pursuits and accepted gifts.Like the Rajput, they worshipped Shakti, drank liquor, took meat and engaged in military activities. They stood at the chief portal on occasions of marriage to demand gifts from the bridegrooms, they also stood at the gate to receive the first blow of the sword.[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) symbolises 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]

Contributions to Indian literature[edit]

A whole genre of literature is known as Charan literature.[7] The Dingal language and literature exist largely due to this caste.[8][9] Zaverchand Meghani divides Charani sahitya (literature) into thirteen subgenres:[7]

  • Songs in praise of gods and goddesses (stavan)
  • Songs in praise of heroes, saints and patrons (birdavalo)
  • Descriptions of war (varanno)
  • Rebukes of wavering great kings and men who use their power for evil (upalambho)
  • Mockery of a standing treachery of heroism (thekadi)
  • Love stories
  • Laments for dead warriors, patrons and friends (marasiya or vilap kavya)
  • Praise of natural beauty, seasonal beauty and festivals
  • Descriptions of weapons
  • Songs in praise of lions, horses, camels, and buffalo
  • Sayings about didactic and practical cleverness
  • Ancient epics
  • 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]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Shah, A. M.; Shroff, R. G. (1958). "The Vahivanca Barots of Gujarat: A Caste of Genealogists and Mythographers". Journal of American Folk Lore. 71 (281): 246–276. doi:10.2307/538561. JSTOR 538561. (Subscription required (help)). 
  2. ^ Thomson, G. R. (1991). "Charans of Gujarat: Caste Identity, Music and Cultural Change". Ethnomusicology. 35 (3): 381–391. doi:10.2307/851968. JSTOR 851968. 
  3. ^ Banerjee, Anil Chandra. (1983). Aspects of Rajput State and Society. pp. 124–125. OCLC 12236372. 
  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. 

Further reading[edit]