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Kushwaha

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Kushwaha (sometimes, Kushvaha)[1] is a community of the Indian subcontinent, which has traditionally been involved in agriculture (including beekeeping).[2] The term has been used to represent at least four subcastes, being those of the Kachhis, Kachwahas, Koeris and Muraos. They claim descent from the mythological Suryavansh (Solar) dynasty via Kusha, who was one of the twin sons of Rama and Sita. Previously, they had worshipped Shiva and Shakta.

Demographics

William Pinch notes their presence in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.[3]

Myths of origin

Today, the Kushwaha generally claim descent from Kusha, a son of the mythological Rama, himself an avatar of Vishnu. This enables their claim to be of the Suryavansh dynasty but it is a myth of origin developed in the twentieth century. Prior to that time, the various branches that form the Kushwaha community - the Kachhis, Kachwahas, Koeris, and Muraos - favoured a connection with Shiva and Shakta.[3] Ganga Prasad Gupta claimed in the 1920s that Kushwaha families worshiped Hanuman - described by Pinch as "the embodiment of true devotion to Ram and Sita" - during Kartika, a month in the Hindu lunar calendar.[4]

Classification

Shudra varna

The Kushwaha were traditionally a peasant community and considered to be of the stigmatised Shudra varna.[5] Pinch describes them as "skilled agriculturalists".[6] The traditional perception of Shudra status was increasingly challenged during the later decades of British Raj rule, although various castes had made claims of a higher status well before the British administration instituted its first census.[a] Pinch describes that "The concern with personal dignity, community identity, and caste status reached a peak among Kurmi, Yadav, and Kushvaha peasants in the first four decades of the twentieth century."[8]

Identification as Kushwaha Kshatriya

From around 1910, the Kachhis and the Koeris, both of whom for much of the preceding century had close links with the British as a consequence of their favoured role in the cultivation of the opium poppy, began to identify themselves as Kushwaha Kshatriya.[9] An organisation claiming to represent those two groups and the Muraos petitioned for official recognition as being of the Kshatriya varna in 1928.[10]

This action by the All India Kushwaha Kshatriya Mahasabha (AIKKM) reflected the general trend for social upliftment by communities that had traditionally been classified as being Shudra. The process, which M. N. Srinivas called sanskritisation,[11] was a feature of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century caste politics.[10][12]

The position of the AIKKM was based on the concept of Vaishnavism, which promoted the worship and claims of descent from Rama or Krishna as a means to assume the trappings of Kshatriya symbolism and thus permit the wearing of the sacred thread even though the physical labour inherent in their cultivator occupations intrinsically defined them as Shudra. The movement caused them to abandon their claims to be descended from Shiva in favour of the alternate myth that claimed descent from Rama.[13] In 1921, Ganga Prasad Gupta, a proponent of Kushwaha reform, had published a book offering a proof of the Kshatriya status of the Koeri, Kachhi, Murao and Kachwaha.[6][14] His reconstructed history argued that the Kushwaha were Hindu descendants of Kush and that in the twelfth century they had served Raja Jaichand in a military capacity during the period of Muslim consolidation of the Delhi Sultanate. Subsequent persecution by the victorious Muslims caused the Kushwaha kshatryia to disperse and disguise their identity, foregoing the sacred thread and thereby becoming degraded and taking on various localised community names.[6] Gupta's attempt to prove Kshatriya status, in common with similar attempts by others to establish histories of various castes, was spread via the caste associations, which Dipankar Gupta describes as providing a link between the "urban, politically literate elite" and the "less literate villagers".[15] Some communities also constructed temples in support of these claims as, for example, did the Muraos in Ayodhya.[4]

Classification as Backward Caste

Some Kushwaha reformers also argued, in a similar vein to the Kurmi reformer Devi Prasad Sinha Chaudhari, that since Rajputs and Bhumihars and Brahmins worked the fields in some areas, there was no rational basis for assertions that such labour marked a community as being of the Shudra varna.[16]

Kushwahas are classified as a Most Backward Caste (MBC) in some Indian states.[17] In 2013, the Haryana government added the Kushwaha, Koeri and Maurya castes to the list of backward classes.[18]

References

Notes

  1. ^ William Pinch records that, "... a popular concern with status predated the rise of an imperial census apparatus and the colonial obsession with caste. ... [C]laims to personal and community dignity appeared to be part of a longer discourse that did not require European political and administrative structures."[7]

Citations

  1. ^ Pinch, William R. (1996). Peasants and monks in British India. University of California Press. p. 91. ISBN 978-0-520-20061-6. Retrieved 2012-02-22. 
  2. ^ Harper, Malcolm (2010). Inclusive Value Chains: A Pathway Out of Poverty. World Scientific. pp. 182, 297. ISBN 978-981-4293-89-1. Retrieved 2012-02-06. 
  3. ^ a b Pinch, William R. (1996). Peasants and monks in British India. University of California Press. pp. 12, 91–92. ISBN 978-0-520-20061-6. Retrieved 2012-02-22. 
  4. ^ a b Pinch, William R. (1996). Peasants and monks in British India. University of California Press. p. 98. ISBN 978-0-520-20061-6. Retrieved 2012-02-22. 
  5. ^ Pinch, William R. (1996). Peasants and monks in British India. University of California Press. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-520-20061-6. Retrieved 2012-02-22. 
  6. ^ a b c Pinch, William R. (1996). Peasants and monks in British India. University of California Press. p. 92. ISBN 978-0-520-20061-6. Retrieved 2012-02-22. 
  7. ^ Pinch, William R. (1996). Peasants and monks in British India. University of California Press. p. 88. ISBN 978-0-520-20061-6. Retrieved 2012-02-22. 
  8. ^ Pinch, William R. (1996). Peasants and monks in British India. University of California Press. pp. 83–84. ISBN 978-0-520-20061-6. Retrieved 2012-02-22. 
  9. ^ Pinch, William R. (1996). Peasants and monks in British India. University of California Press. p. 90. ISBN 978-0-520-20061-6. Retrieved 2012-02-22. 
  10. ^ a b Jaffrelot, Christophe (2003). India's silent revolution: the rise of the lower castes in North India (Reprinted ed.). C. Hurst & Co. p. 199. ISBN 978-1-85065-670-8. Retrieved 2012-02-06. 
  11. ^ Charsley, S. (1998). "Sanskritization: The Career of an Anthropological Theory". Contributions to Indian Sociology. 32 (2): 527. doi:10.1177/006996679803200216.  (subscription required)
  12. ^ Upadhyay, Vijay S.; Pandey, Gaya (1993). History of anthropological thought. Concept Publishing Company. p. 436. ISBN 978-81-7022-492-1. Retrieved 2012-02-06. 
  13. ^ Jassal, Smita Tewari (2001). Daughters of the earth: women and land in Uttar Pradesh. Technical Publications. pp. 51–53. ISBN 978-81-7304-375-8. Retrieved 2012-02-06. 
  14. ^ Narayan, Badri (2009). Fascinating Hindutva: saffron politics and Dalit mobilisation. SAGE. p. 25. ISBN 978-81-7829-906-8. Retrieved 2012-02-06. 
  15. ^ Gupta, Dipankar (2004). Caste in question: identity or hierarchy?. SAGE. p. 199. ISBN 978-0-7619-3324-3. Retrieved 2012-02-22. 
  16. ^ Pinch, William R. (1996). Peasants and monks in British India. University of California Press. p. 110. ISBN 978-0-520-20061-6. Retrieved 2012-02-22. 
  17. ^ "Upper castes rule Cabinet, backwards MoS". The Times of India. 
  18. ^ "Three castes included in backward classes list". Hindustan Times. 5 November 2013. Retrieved 14 April 2014.