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Namasudra (also Namassej or Namassut) is the name of an Indian avarna community originally from certain regions of Bengal, India. The community was earlier known as Chandala or Chandal,[1] a term usually considered as a slur.[2] They were traditionally engaged in cultivation and as boatmen.[3] They lived outside the four-tier ritual varna system and thus were outcastes.[4]


Joya Chatterji mentions that "in the 1870s, Chandals of Bakarganj and Faridpur boycotted caste Hindus" when they refused to accept an invitation to dine from a Chandal headman; and henceforth they "battled continuously to improve their ritual position" and later claimed the "more respectable title of 'Namasudra' and Brahmin status".[5] The Namasudra community of Bengal tried to take advantage of the interest in the bhadralok movement of the late 19th- and early 20th-centuries in order to improve the way in which society perceived them.[5]

Sekhar Bandyopadhyay mentions that the Dalit of Bengal became involved in the Partition related movement, and the "two most important communities, who dominated dalit politics in the province, were the Namasudras and the Rajbanshis". [1] Bandyopadhyay also mentions that the Namasudras, earlier known as the Chandals, who mostly inhabited the districts of East Bengal, were forced to migrate across to West Bengal during the Partition of India in 1947.[1]

Community association[edit]

The Namassej Samaj Andolon is a socio-political organisation that claims to represent the community.[6]


  1. ^ a b c Bandyopadhyay, Sekhar (2004). Caste, Culture and Hegemony: Social Dominance in Colonial Bengal. Sage Publications. p. 192. ISBN 978-0-76199-849-5. 
  2. ^ Viswanath, Rupa (2014). The Pariah Problem: Caste, Religion, and the Social in Modern India. Columbia University Press. p. 268. ISBN 978-0-23116-306-4. 
  3. ^ Bose, N.K. (1994). The Structure Of Hindu Society (Revised ed.). Orient Longman Limited. pp. 161–162. ISBN 81-250-0855-1. 
  4. ^ Rees, D. Ben, ed. (2002). Vehicles of Grace and Hope: Welsh Missionaries in India, 1800-1970. William Carey Library. p. 156. ISBN 978-0-87808-505-7. 
  5. ^ a b Chatterji, Joya (2002). Bengal Divided: Hindu Communalism and Partition, 1932-1947. Cambridge University Press. pp. 191–192. ISBN 978-0-52152-328-8. 
  6. ^ "Home page". Namassej (Namasudra) Samaj. 

Further reading[edit]