Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mahar Caste

Mahar caste is an cluster of endogenous sub casts residing in Indian  Subcontinent, particularly Mahar caste can be found in state of Maharashtra, India. Mahar population is about 10% within the state of Maharashtra. Mahar population also can be found in surrounding state of Maharashtra like Gujarat, Madhya pradesh,Karnataka in good amount. There are about 64 subcastes in Mahar caste. Some of them are Somvanshi , Suryavanshi , Ladvan , Gondane , Wasnik and more.....People of  Sub-castes were generally isolated as per regions.

According to Mr. R.V. Russell, "the most probable meaning of Mahārāshtra would therefore seem to be ‘ The country of the Mahārs. ’ 

The highest division are the Somvanshis or children of the moon; these claim to have taken part with the Pāndavas against the Kauravas in the war of the Mahābhārata, and 
subsequently to have settled in Mahārāshtra.
They also worked as agricultural laborers and held some land, though they were not primarily farmers. Mahar had role as a occupation to give security to villages or towns as per hindu caste system. They also had main role to judge village boundaries in disputes. There are many customs in hindu culture which shows that there are high importance and rights to Mahar though they were placed at bottom or out of the varnashrama of Hindu society. More information can be found at links given in this site.

The people of Mahar caste along with some other castes were treated as untouchable by Hindu caste system.

The population of Caste Mahar can be found in These places of Indian subcontinent.Dark green shows high density.
The population of Caste Mahar can be found in these places of
 Indian subcontinent. Dark green shows high density.
Hindu  religion is based on the varna  system in which caste is main prominent factor which prejudice the social status of a person on basic of varna position and caste of a person. It can be compared with racial culture of other parts of world or even worst.
In spite of this identity the caste Mahar also have significant contribution in history for their bravery in the army of Maratha King Shivaji, Bravery as a Mahar Regiment within British empire and other social reforms.

Why Mahars were treated as untouchables?

The People belonging to Mahar caste were beef eaters though the beef eating was abandoned by caste Hindus. Particularly Hindu started to believe that cow consists of 3300 million of gods within it. Mahar still did not abandon eating the flesh of cow.
This is the one of the major reason that hindues prejudice people based on the beef eating. Though Hindues are not Vegetarian but they started to believe that cow is an sacred animal and cursed to people who did not abandon it.
Actual fact is that Hindus were also beef eaters and their sacred book like veda have many text which allow animal sacrifice including cow, bull, horse etc. Animal sacrifice is the main ritual of Hindus which is synonym to vedik tradition.
The Mahars struggled lot due to atrocities done by caste Hindus and social boycott on them continuously.
Though the another theory tells us that Mahar were the original dwellers of the state of Maharashtra which is also approved by ASI (Archeological Survey of India). The Wilson, R.V.Russel and some other historian noted that the name of Maharashtra is originated from the name of the caste Mahar.

Are Caste Mahars really Hindus?

Actually the people of Caste Mahar are classified as Avarna means those who do not have Hindu varna. The people of caste Mahar were not allowed to enter inside Hindu temples nor they were allowed to mingle in caste Hindus. They were always abused by caste Hindus and many social rights were denied. They do not allowed to read scriptures of Hinduism like Veda and Upanishads. Hindu scriptures are written in the language called Sanskrit which is not allowed to learn to avarna and most of Hindus too.

Bhagwan Buddha the founder of Buddhism religion
Mahars are ancient Buddhist as per Dr. Ambedkar , and he has given many evidences of it.

One of the proof of untouchables being the real Buddhist in India is that they were described by detogatory word 'thed' by vedik Hindus. 'Ther'avada is most ancient branch of Buddhism. Although in India the people of different state have diverse ethnicity and language but caste descrimination is common wherever Hinduism exist as a majority . And the scheduled caste and tribes are boycotted by Hindu savarna because ancestors of them did not obey the Vedik authority and had other beliefs.
Now a days this practice to suppress other religious people in India is continued by fundamentalist vedik Hindu organisation. And news of atrocities on Christians , Muslims, and Dalits are common in India. This is often done to polarize votes of the elections

After the aggressive movement of Brahmin Shankaracharya they destroyed Buddhism and Jainism shrines in India. Shankaracharya describes that Jainims is mitya(false) and Buddhism is atimithya (super false) [Jina mithya bodhi atimithya].
Thed word is actually derived from 'Ther'vada the true form of earliest Buddhism. In India when the buddhism spread very fast then Brahmins started the Mahayana sect of Buddhism which has many corruption to the basic principles of Buddhism. They started calling Thervada Buddhist as Hinyana. Hin means lower form.

At world famous Ajanta caves there is one block named as Maharwada. There were untouchables too in south India, specially in kerala which provides us massive evidences that Buddhist were treated as outcasts or untouchable by Brahmin hegemony and they had support of later kings who accepted their vedik religon as state religion..

Many astrologers in south India belonged to untouchable caste although Brahmins used to tell people that they only have access to knowledge.

After analyzing fact it is described that actually not only Mahars but all the Scheduled castes and scheduled tribes were boycotted by Hindu priest after revival of advaita aka Vedik religion mainly after movement of Adi shankaracharya. Many shrines of famous Buddhist and Jainism were occupied and lot atrocities done. Further India came under the rule of Vedik Hindu priests and it promoted  feudal governance at hands of rulers and people degraded in society. It is the dark age for India.

In Hindu religion the caste is profession which is nowadays synonymously used for genetics. In Hindu varnashrama  castes have names which signifies the profession of that caste like black smith(lohar) gold smith(sonar) etc. which significance his profession as identity. But the name of caste 'Mahar' does not signifies the profession of a person but it resembles to the word 'marahatti'(a word of pakrit languages found in scriptures used for influential person in society.) Later they are recognised the as son of soil or bhumiputra the earliest settlers as recognized by ASI(Archeological Survey of  India)

The importance of Horse to the people of Mahar caste

R.V.Russel states that
"In marriage ceremony of people of Mahar caste, Groom goes to the bride's house on horse. Mahar people also consider horse a divine animal and they riot if any other people of cast lower than them rides on horse, they finds it insult of their divine animal if other rides on horse. He found it significant because horse is significant animal to the kshatriya or warrior people and Maratha people takes no objection if Mahars rides on horse."

The Peshwa rulers had a cavalry contingent consisted of only Mahar horse riders. The names like Huleswar, Ghodeswar are still prevalent in the Mahar community in Maharashtra. (these names refer to horse) He also noted down in his survey that the people of Mahar caste are hard working. 

Even though they were restricted in Hindu religion, they never skipped any chance to work hard. They worked very hard in army, railways , factories and as a post men (they used to walk at far distances between one village to other) and factories and mills.

The social structure of Mahar Caste

Though the people of caste Mahar were known as Hindus but they had very independent social structure than the Hindu. They were living outside of the village apart from Hindus. With increase in agriculture Hindus abounded eating flesh of cow and importance of cow and bull increased. Mahar did not abounded to eat flesh of cow. Mahars had right over dead cow and bull. They even ad hstarted to eat flesh of dead cow and bull with adverse time they faced due limited resources they had!!

Hindus consists of people of four varna and there priest belongs to Brahmin caste. Mahar had their own priest to perform marriage ceremony, to keep record of ancestry and to perform other rituals.

There were some astrologers in Mahar caste who were expert, found in Buldhana district. Even Hindu farmers used to take advice of them to fix muhurt(auspicious time) to start to take new crop in field .  R.V. Russell found it strange and noted down 'it is strange that Hindus take advice of Mahar even in presence of Joshi in their village which does the same thing.'
Likewise, people of Mahar caste also had their own herbal experts which used to serve ill and injured people in village.  

The people of Mahar caste had very good knowledge of herbal medicines .

  Unlike Hindus , the woman of caste Mahar had right to take divorce, remarriage after divorce and widowed woman had right to remarry. Inter caste marriages were prohibited in the people of Mahar caste. 

Mahar used to celebrate festival of 'Nag-Panchami' the festival of snakes. Many of them are identified with Naga race. Naga people can be found in Hindu Puranas(the scripture of Hindus) which said to be  enemies of Vedik Aryans. Nagas were supporter of Shramnic religion i.e. either Buddhism or Jainism. Many nagas described in puranas settled in Nagpur after their defeat.

Hence the people of caste Mahar do not belong to the particular race. In old days, people of all castes were restricted to marry within their own region no matter whether they belonged to same caste.  

In Hindu scriptures, caste is profession not the genetics. The people of same profession started to marry within same sub casts. Sub castes might be the actual word for the people of genes of relative stocks.
If this is fact then the people of caste Mahar have bond through the common religion i.e Buddhism since 2 millennium. 

During British raj in India, British researcher tried to find and study the highly divergence in the population of India. Researchers studied the cranium i.e structure skull of the people of different castes. In the study of Deccan habitat, they found that Skull of people of Mahar caste is distinct than the other majority of Hindus.

They found that skull of  people of caste Mahar is much evolved and they seem to be more origin of Aryan than Dravidian.

The people of Mahar caste have started to take pride to be identified as Nagas i.e a kind of Mongoloid origin. And there name also justifies it with presence of 'nag' or 'nak' in there surnames. 

The people of Mahar caste resembles to the both Caucasian and mongoloid features in diverse of population. But there body structure is strongly structured unlike Caucasians and it is similar to the people of oldest Harappa civilisation. 

 It might not seem contradictory because Mongoloid is also identified as a sub group of  Caucasian race. As Mahars are earliest inhabitants of this region and they were follower of shramnic religion, they might have no restrictions to marry people of other ethnicity. The shramnic religions were popular not only  in common people of every caste but they were more supported and propagated by kshatriyas or royal people because founder of Shramanic religion were Kshatriyas or belonged to royal families. Shramanic religion discarded the identity of caste and bounded the people of many community under one religion.

 The restrictions on inter caste marriages in all Hindu communities were applied naturally after 9th century when India faced many invasions from north west direction.

 The examples and various kind of inter caste marriages can be found in old Hindu scriptures.

The Caste Mahar Proved their Martial Status

India was facing several invasions from north west as always during  17th century, now India was facing invasions deep inside within main land. To face this situations, the Maratha king agitated named as chatrapati Shivajihe was a self made man who also faced several resistance to be recognized as a King by same vedik priests.

Shivaji organized all possible strata of people to raise his army to save the subjects of own land.
The Mahars were socially isolated (but there are evidences that people of mahar caste were the part of army at various places before the time of king Shivaji) during this time but due to entry and excellence within the army of King Shivaji, they got a chance to arise socially again and to prove their resistance as a martial race. Mahar people already had job of village watchman at those times. Due to excellence in army, Shivaji given many Mahars a top position in his military positions. 

Few Mahars despite they were placed at low rank in Hindu caste system also awarded with subhedar or Patil rank  which was opposed by other upper castes but due to excellence and devotion of Mahars, thier complaints were rejected and Mahar retained their Patil (Patil is head of village or fort) status in Maratha governance.

Further Maratha kingdom raised as an Empire, Maratha Kingdom also faced many conspiracies.
Some of land in Maharashtra belonged to Maratha Kingdom was ruled by Peshwa. Bajirao 2 a Peshwa was an highly casteist person, he discriminated and applied racial vedik policies on people based on caste. Peshwa fired all Mahar from army belonged to Maratha empire. Mahar also faced several atrocities during Bajirao Peshwa 2 time. Actually Peshwa is very infamous for their others deeds as well including dishonoring ladies and playing conspiracy with same Maratha who given them jobs.

As other castes the Mahars suffered lot again during racial approach of Peshwa. During this time when Mahars suddenly lost their army positions and other Mahars were facing atrocities, British were invading Muslim kingdom from west of Maharashtra.

British recruited the Mahars. Mahar made a history winning the important war of Bhima-koregaon against Peshwa.

A famous & significant Battle at Bhima-Koregaon

Bhima Koregaon Victory Pillar
Bhima Koregaon Victory Pillar
This war fought on January 1,1818 at koregaon at the bank of river Bhima.A very little troop of British which consisted Mahars of 500 men of 2nd battalion, 1 st regiment belonged to Bombay Native Light Infantry under the command of Capt.F. F. Staunton.

They marched a very long distance to reach at the bank of river Bhima and fought war without rest and succeeded to end Peshwa completely.

During November 1817, Peshwas were successfully resists British to enter their land. But at time of koregaon battle , only 500 foot soldiers and 250 cavalry both predominantly having with Mahars defeated the mighty Peshwa army of 8,000 foot soldiers and 20,000 cavalry.

In honor of 22 martyr Mahar ,British established Koregaon pillar in memory of this successful and unparalleled battle in history of world. The names of these brave soldiers can be found on this pillar.

This battle proved significant because British succeeded to defeat mighty peshwa with very little troops without expecting great success which they got and Mahar able to break the shackles of caste order dominance and atrocities by vedik peshwa.

Martial Race of British Empire

On the ground of Scottish and other races are considered as martial races in Britain, British needed to study same case inside India during their rule over India. On same principles they identified people of India as Martial and non martial races depending upon their castes.
The Regimental Insignia of the Mahar Regiment
The Regimental Insignia of the Mahar Regiment

The important politician of indian Congress belonged to same vedik  racial approach known as Bal Tilak unsuccessfully opposed very strongly against  rewarding Mahars by Britishers.

British identified caste Mahar as a Martial Race and recruited them highly within their Empire. Mahar are highly appreciated by British for their bravery inside war of Afghanistan which was very hard to win due to it's geographical nature and their significant work during world war as well.
Mahars battled successfully in Afganistan which is one of the most difficult war zone to invade therefore they got recognised even more by British empire.

They were also heavily recruited by the British East India Company, at one part forming one-sixth of the Company's Bombay Army. The Bombay Army especially favored the Mahar troops for their bravery and loyalty , and also because they could be relied upon during the Anglo-Maratha Wars.

Mahar regiment still is a very famous infantry regiment within the Independent India.

Post-Independence role of Mahar Regiment

  • Theatre Honours: Jammu & Kashmir - 1947-48, Punjab - 1947-48 and Ladakh - 1962.
  • Battle Honours: Asal Uttar, Jaurain Kalit, Kalidhar, Tilakpur-Muhadipur, Sehjra, Harar Kalan, Parbat Ali, Thanpir and Shamsher Nagar.
  • Honours & Awards: 1 Param Vir Chakra, 4 Maha Vir Chakra, 29 Vir Chakra, 1 Kirti Chakra, 12 Shaurya Chakra, 22 Vishisht Seva Medals and 63 Sena Medals.

In 1946, the Regiment converted to the specialist role of fielding medium machine guns, and for a decade and a half rendered most effective support in combat. The medium machine gun detachments were most warmly welcomed in every infantry battalion, for their skills and competent fire support in combat. The men carried the heavy weapons in every terrain and never failed to hold their ground in defense. During the disturbed conditions in the aftermath of partition, the Regiment helped in the safe transfer of lakhs of refugees, in the face of violent armed mobs. In 1956, the Regiment absorbed three battalions of the Border Scouts, which had been earlier raised for manning the disturbed Punjab border.


  1. thank you very much for providing this info, proud to be a mahar, Jai Bheem!

  2. Hi Dear,
    You have tried to provide good information over here except the one regarding ‘Jiva Mahale’. Jiva Mahale is from Nhavi caste of the ‘Bara Balutedar’ system. We still have many Mahale communities as our close family members out of which one family is Jiva Mahale’s descendants. We are also trying to get help from Government to erect his statue in his memories & great work done in service of Shivaji the Great.

    ‘Bara Balutedar’ system is as below -
    1. Sonar ( Goldsmith )
    2. Gurav (Idol-Dresser)
    3. Nhavi ( Barber)
    4. Parit (Washerman)
    5. Kumbhar ( Potter )
    6. Sutar ( Carpenter )
    7. Lohar ( Blacksmith )
    8. Chambhar ( Shoe maker )
    9. Dhor ( To Make Wearings of cattle-rare cast only found in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat, and south India.)

    10. Koli ( Water Carrier )
    11. Chougula

    All above are still Hindus.

    12. Mahar/Mang – Now converted to Buddhism.

    Post independence Mahar community under the able leadership of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar left the menial jobs and converted to Buddhism. Today this group form one of the highly educated groups of the Society in Maharashtra.

  3. Please do not Mahar as Hindus. They are 'Native Indian'. If you are Hindu then you are not belong to this land. We are not Hindus.

  4. I extremely proud of my daredevils forefathers although
    they have been kept out of sanatan Hindu (vedic) religion or out-caste. Like as precious stones; diamonds and golds found in coal mines the same thing happened with mahar caste whose qualities are more precious then diamonds and golds. if mahars given chances to prove their abilities in military component of peshwa rein, they could protect their families from sexual atrocities British.

    Siddharth Bhambedkar July 25, 2013 at 9:20 a.m.

  5. Amazing information shared publicly... Your work is commendable and hatsoff to you.

  6. Good information but still many people don't know about battle of Bheema koregao

  7. Thank you for publishing this brief history about mahars