‘Qawwal’, a sub-caste of the large Muslim caste of ‘Mirasis’ or singer/genealogists. A man beating a drum. — Tashrih al-aqvam (1825)
|Regions with significant populations|
|• India • Pakistan|
|• Urdu • Punjabi • Rajasthani|
|• Islam • Sikhism• Hinduism|
|Related ethnic groups|
|• Charan • Dom • Naqqal • Shaikh|
The Mirasi are a Hindu, Muslim or Sikh caste, found in Northern India . They are also known as Pakhwaji, Kalawart and Qawwal. The Mirasi community are the genealogists of a number of communities in Northern India.
History and origin
In North India
Included within the name Mirasi are a number of sub-groups, each with their own history and origin myths. Some Mirasi groups are Muslim converts from the Hindu Dom caste, while others claim to have originally belonged to the Hindu charan community. They are said to have converted to Islam at the hands of Amir Khusro, the 13th Century Sufi poet. The word mirasi is derived from the Arabic word miras, which means inheritance or sometimes heritage. They are the heredity genealogists of many communities in North India, and as such the keepers of the heritage or Mirasi. The North Indian Mirasi are divided into five main sub-groups, the Abbal, Posla, Bet, Kattu and Kalet. In customs, they are similar to the Muslim Raibhat, another community of genealogists. Also related to the Mirasi are the Kingharia, another community that once employed as musicians and entertainers.
They are also known Pakhwaji due to the pakhwaj the timbrel they play. The Mirasi maintained pedigrees of their patrons, and were often involved in the negotiations of marriages. As genealogists, the Mirasi were also styled Nasab khwan, or the keeps of the family tree.
The Mirasi clan is sub-divided into the following sub-divisions, the Rai-Mirasis, who were the genealogists of the Jats, the Mir-Mirasis who participates in Ashura activities, the Dhadhi, the Kalawant, the Khariala, the Kamachi, who were the traditional genealogists of the Brahmins, the Mutrib, Naqqal, Qawwal, singers of devotional singers of Sufi poetry, and the Rababis, who play the musical instrument the rabab. Unlike the other Mirasi communities, the Rababi are Sikh, and trace their descent from Bhai Mardana, a Mirasi who used to play the rebab before Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism.
Other minor groups include the Poslas, the genealogists of the Sayyidposlas are now called veghwa in pakistan but they are actually poslas whose origin is arabic ,they are having source from arab syyed akasa , the Kulet the Mirasi of the Mughals, the Baral, the Mirasi of the Pathan, the Dair the Mirasi of the Rajput and Latkanian the Mirasi of the Mali, chumbars, the mirasi of the jats
- The Doran, veghwa and Kanotra, who the genealogists of the Sayyid and Johiyas.
- The Sewak, who are the qawwals at various Sufi shrines that are situated in the Multan region.
- The Jathi who are the genealogists of the Sial.
- The Kharaila are the genealogists of the Kumhars.
- The Lachh who are traditionally beggars at the various Sufi shrines in the region.
- The Langha are immigrants from Rajasthan. They are the genealogists of the Daudpotas.
- The Lori, a gypsy tribe, originally from Balochistan, are the genealogists of the various Baloch tribes settled in the region.
Mirasi of North India
The Mirasi are found throughout Northern India. In Punjab, the community were genealogists of the Jat communities. They were traditionally ballad singers, and would often sing at weddings. The community were also connected with the manufacture of paper flowers. They can be seen performing in fairs in the rural area of Punjab. As an urban community, found at the edges of towns, many are now employed as wage labourers.Some Mirasis have migrated from Punjab to the neighbouring states - Rajasthan, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, and Western Uttar Pradesh.
In Uttar Pradesh
In Uttar Pradesh, the community is concentrated in western Uttar Pradesh, found mainly in the districts of Meerut, Muzaffarnagar and Bulandshahr. Historically, the Mirasi were the genealogists of the Rebari community, whom they accompanied from Rajasthan. They have a traditional caste council, headed by headman known as a mukhiya. The caste council deals with infringement of community rules, settle disputes and prevent immoral activity. They are Sunni Muslims, but also worship Sikh Gurus and Hindu gods. The Mirasi speak standard Urdu, although most can speak the various dialects of Hindi. The Naqqal of Lucknow are an important sub-group of the Mirasi of Uttar Pradesh.
In Bihar, the Mirasi claim to have come from Uttar Pradesh in the 16th Century. Many were musicians at the court of the many zamindars of Bihar although these were courts of there incestors. With the abolition of the zamindari system, the Mirasi have taken to farming that was something as retuirn to nature. A few are still called to sing songs at special occasions, such as weddings and funerals. Many Mirasi are now Shia, and play an important role in the Moharam festivities. They are found mainly in the districts of Bhagalpur, Bhojpur, Gaya, Munger, Nalanda and Patna districts. The Mirasi speak Magadhi among themselves and Urdu with outsiders. Unlike other Mirasi communities, the Bihar Mirasi have never been genealogists. The Pamaria community are a major sub-division of the Mirasi of Bihar.
The Mirasi of Delhi claim descent caste. They are found in the localities of Seelampur,Shahdara, Bawana, kanjhawla,Narela . They affix the surnames khan, Bobla, posla and Mallick. The Delhi Mirasi are singers and musicians, and were associated with the Mughal court in Delhi. Many Mirasi khandans (families) attained great fame at the court of the emperors, while others were devotional singers (qawwals) at the various Sufi shrines, such as that of Niz'amuddin. Some are Saangi such as Raagni Singer's In the community, like Dhulia Khan Bobla(1970 Aakashwani ke 1st Saarangi wadak),Sabbir Hussain Bobla (1980 Aakashwani Saarangi wadak)Subhan khan Bobla(Harmunium wadak) Pyare Lal Bobla (Saangi) Risale Bobla (Harmunium) Basaru Bobla(dholak wadak) Meddey Bobla(dholak wadak)Tungal posla(dhaolak)Tahir Khan Takhan (Harmunium) Rashid Khan Takhan(Tabla wadak) Jahoor mir(Saangi) Narela wale many famaus musician in their community.Muslim communities in Delhi suffered at the time of independence, with many members emigrating to Pakistan. Many are now involved in petty businesses, like selling vegetables and repairing umbrellas.
The Mirasi of Rajasthan are found in the districts of Bikaner, Jodhpur, Nagaur, Chittorgarh, Ajmer and Jaiselmer. They are said to be have converted to Islam about eight Centuries ago, and said to have originally belonged to the Hindu Dhadi caste. The Mirasi have a number of exogamous gotras, the main ones being the sinwal,bagadwa, maliya, Gorel, Babra, Suel, Pohra, Kawa, Ghocha,chumbad,chamaga,gari,shimbhi,dhandhu,bawara,foga,didan,posala and Dhawasi,chata,chunkar,dhandu,dhuth. Their traditional occupations is singing and a playing drums at weddings. They were also genealogists of the Chhipa and Jat communities. Many are now tenant farmers. They speak Bikaneri dialect of Rajasthani. mirasi are also found in the Jalore district of rajasthan
The Mirasi of Haryana are also known as dom but this dom cast has no link with posla or veghwa of muslims who were actually considered very respectable due to services at courts but sometime they were wrongly mixed with musicians or doms of hindu casts. They are found mainly in Mewat, Rohtak, Faridabad, Hissar, Karnal, Kurukshetra, Sonepat(Shamri), bhiwani and Mahendergarh districts. The community speak Haryanvi, and many can also speak Urdu. They are mainly a landless community, and were traditionally employed as singers and entertainers, as well as serving as genealogists of the Jat community. Most have now abandoned their traditional occupation, and are employed as wage labourers. They are an extremely marginalized community. The community is endogamous, and practice clan exogamy, and consist of a number of clans, the main ones being the Bhat, Borda,Sanp,Nimbha, posla and Seol.The famous singer Late Janab sh.Jhhaman mirasi G also from Village Shamri sonepat haryana and now in this period his Grand son Master Manish is coming for make his name proud and his gotra is sanp.his singing style and personality just like Punjabi singer MASTER SALEEM.Each of these is of equal status, and intermarry.
The Mirasi of Indian Punjab
The Mirasi in Indian Punjab are Muslim, Hindu and Sikh. They are the heredity genealogists of the various communities of Jat and Rajput in the state. The community is divided into three groups, the Balmiki, Dom and Muslim Mirasi. The Balmiki Mirasi consist of a number of gotras, and marriage is forbidden within the gotra. While the Muslim Mirasi marry among close kin. The Mirasis of Punjab are a Punjabi speaking community, although most speak and understand Urdu. They consist of a number sub-groups, the main ones being the Rai Mirasi, Mir Mirasi, Rababis, Kamachis, Dhadi, Kumachi, Kulawant and Mir Mang. The Dhadi and Rababi are Sikh, while the other groups are Hindu and Muslim. They have produced a number of folk singers, and unlike their counterparts in West Punjab, the majority of the community are still involved in their traditional occupation.
The Rai Mirasi are the genealogists of the Jats, and claim to have converted from the Rai Bhat caste. They claim to have been Brahmin, and continued to compose and recite kabits after their conversion. The community are strictly endogamous, and are Shia Muslims.
The Mir Mirasi are said to have gotten their name on account of the fact that they were the genealogists of the wealthy inhabitants of the city of Ludhiana. Their sub-division, the Dhadi are Sikh, and their heredity occupation was singing praises of Sikh heroes.
The Kumachi Mirasi are the genealogists of the Brahmin community. According to their traditions, the community were once Brahmin, who converted to Islam on the condition that they would remain the genealogists of the Brahmin.
The Rababi are Mirasis who play a musical instrument known as a rabab. They trace their descent from Bhai Mardana, a Mirasi who used to play the rabab as an accompaniment to Guru Nanak. The Rababi are Sikh.
The Posla are Muslim Mirasis and consist of four sub-divisions, the Ghorian, Kharia, Malhar and Gurbal or veghwa, and were the heredity genealogists of the Sayyidas arabic poslas were themselves having noble chain . Related to the Posla are the veghwa.poslas were also victim of dancing queens who left them as begger and they adopted petty jobs and almost lost there noble arabic past.
The Naqqal Mirasis were a community of mimics, and were found mainly in Ludhiana. They were associated with the courts of the Mughal Emperors, were they employed as entertainers. The community is strictly endogamous, and marry close kin.
Other sub-groups include the Kulawant, the genealogists of the Rajputs, Mir Mangs, who were a community of beggars, Naqarchi who played a musical instrument known as a naqqara, the Naqib and Mirzada.
The Dhadi branch of the Mirasis are musicians, balladeers and panegyrists. Under the patronage of the sixth Sikh Guru Hargobind (1595 to 1644), the community prospered and converted in their entirety to Sikhism. Their name is derived from a dhad, which is a small drum, which they use. Other instruments used are the sarangi, the pakhwai (two ended drum) and daf (a tambourine). The Dhadi are associated with singing stanzas called karkha praising the soldiers of the Sikh guru’s armies as well as other hymns. dhadi equated with bhats the dhadi clans 1 Tajnath 2pochala 3 rathnavat or rathna 4 dungroth 5 sehravat 6 rudha or rudi 7 Baji 8 sagrawat or sugunavat 9 Bhimla 10 Bhagrawt or banavath , bane bani 11 ramdas 12 dehavat or Devavat, hindu cast dhadi is original bhat cast
The Mirasi of Pakistani Punjab
In Pakistani Punjab, the Mirasi are now mainly a community of entertainers, having providing many of the country's singers and entertainers. Most Mirasi are now bilingual, speaking both Urdu and Punjabi. They are found throughout Punjab, and most villages contain their settlements.
The Mirasi are now agricultural labourers, and those who are well educated have got very good status in society they are now in bureaucracy, military and other civil jobs. Beside their traditional occupations, the Mirasi are involved in diverse types of hawkers jobs. Finally, there are people who still entertain other communities in the village.
- People of India Uttar Pradesh Volume XLII Part Two edited by A Hasan & J C Das pages 973 to 977
- People of India Uttar Pradesh Volume XLII Part Two edited by A Hasan & J C Das page 973
- Mirasi at page 142 in The last wanderers : nomads and gypsies of India The last wanderers : nomads and gypsies of India Tejinder Singh Randhawa page 166 ISBN 0-944142-35-4
- People of India Uttar Pradesh Volume XLII Part Two edited by A Hasan & J C Das pages 974
- People of India Bihar Volume XVI Part Two edited by S Gopal & Hetukar Jha pages 683 to 685 Seagull Books
- People of India Delhi Volume XX edited by with tT. K Ghosh & S Nath pages 475 to 477 xManohar Publications
- People of India Rajasthan Volume XXXVIII Part Two edited by B.K Lavania, D. K Samanta, S K Mandal & N.N Vyas page 657 to 659 Popular Prakashan
- People of India Haryana Volume XXIII Part edited by M.L Sharma and A.K Bhatia page 159 to 161 Manohar
- People of India Punjab Volume XXXVII edited by I.J.S Bansal and Swaran Singh pages 322 to 333 Manohar
- Dhadi Mirasi at page 161 in The last wanderers : nomads and gypsies of IndiaThe last wanderers : nomads and gypsies of India Tejinder Singh Randhawa page 166 ISBN 0-944142-35-4
- Taboo: The Hidden culture of a Red light Area by Fouzia Saeed Oxford University Press
- Kinship, honour and money in rural Pakistan: subsistence economy and the effects of international migration by Alain Lefebvre ISBN/ISSN 0-7007-0984-3