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Guru Ravidas

Chamar ("tanner"; from the Sanskrit Charmakara) is a prominent occupational caste in India and Nepal. Chamar is a Dalit sub-caste mainly found in the northern states, such as Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi and in Nepal at least north to the Himalayas. The traditional occupation of this caste was processing, manufacturing and trading in leather and leather goods, but agriculture is another important occupation in which they engage, either as owners or as tenants who farm property on a share-cropping basis, in which they get ¼, ⅓ or ½ of a farm's produce per their agreement with the land owner.

Chamars form the second-largest caste in India with a population of over 50 million and are heavily active in politics. They are known to be one of the most highly influential groups among scheduled castes. Traditionally, their social status was low in the Indian caste system because of the association with tanning and thus were considered as untouchables, but in modern days they are one of the progressive castes in India. Part of this can be attributed to affirmative action laws that "reserve" seats in colleges and jobs for all scheduled castes including Chamars.


Background and origin

Chamar were basically engaged in manufacturing, processing and trading in leather and leather goods. Apart that farming is also their most important occupational stay either in their full ownership or on share cropping basis in which they used to get 1/3rd or 1/4th part of the farm produce. They do not belong to any one particular group, clan or area, but are those people from various castes and tribes who joined Chamar community from time to time for various reasons and purposes such as employment, political, and spiritual etc.For example Baluch Mochis and Chamars are also classed as Jat meaning camel rider [1] . Tanning being profession of Chamars in past, they could be both from the original tribes who were living in India even before the creation of caste system where tribes interacted with each other. Historians believe they are true Hindus. India being shut out from the rest of the world by the mountains and the sea, there grew up a division of labor which gradually crystallized into the caste system, elaborate schemes of religious philosophy were built up by the sages; the trades were fenced round with religious sanctions, so that for a man to follow his fathers calling was made sacred duty, a thing to which he was born, and which, as his fate, he must perforce accept.

In Punjab

Guru Ravidas' image being worshipped on his birthday

The most politically and socially influential Chamars are from the state of Punjab, where they form 11% of the population (2.8 million), with Dalits comprising 27% of the population. In the Punjab they are divided into various groups, such as Ad-Dharm,Ravidasi and Ramdasia. In Majha they share the same gotras as Saraswati and Mohyal Brahmins, in Doaba and Malwa they share family names with Jats, Khatris and Rajputs.

In Malwa most Chamars turned to Sikhism, whereas in Doaba most of them did not opt for Sikhism. In Majha they are called Ārya (Aryan), Ramdasia and Ravidasia, in Doaba they are called Adi Dharmi. They are highly concentrated in the Doaba region of Punjab.

In Uttar Pradesh

Most Chamars reside in west Uttar Pradesh are known as Jatav. Total Chamar population in this state is almost 20 million and form 13-14% of the population [1]. In this state, the political party of Chamars Bahujan Samaj Party has its political base and this has led to Bahujan Samaj Party to win the state elections and chief minister post by Ms Mayawati 4 times since 1990.

In Rajasthan

The castes which were involved in leather work in past (before independence) were termed "Chamar". Chamars in Rajasthan can only be identified in the districts adjoining to the states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. The districts of Bikaner, Shriganganagar, Hanumangarh, Churu, Jhunjhunu, Alwar, Bharatpur and Dhaulpur are inhabited by Chamars. In the districts of Bharatpur, Dhaulpur and parts of Alwar (adjoining to Bharatpur) they are known as Jatav. Regar (leather tanners) and Mochi (shoe makers) are other two castes related to the leather profession.

In Haryana

The total Chamar population in Haryana is more than 2,079,132, about 9% of the Population.[2] Most Chamars in the districts of Hisar ,Jind, Panipat, Karnal, Sonepat, Rohtak, Kaithal are Julaha Chamars. They are similar to the Kori Julahas of Western Uttar Pradesh and have family relationships with them.


Originally Hindus, and the majority still accept their Hindu ancestry. Due to the oppression caused by the caste system of India prominent the most amongst Hindus, many Chamars have converted to other religions such, mainly Sikhism, Islam, Christianity and Buddhism. Many Chamars have also joined smaller yet influential Hindu religious groups such as the Ad-Dharm Movement, Ravidasi, Arya Samaj. Others joined Deras such as Nirankari & Radhaswami.


Ravidasia Chamars

Sikh converts from the community working professionally in leather are usually referred to as Ravidasia Sikhs. The term Ravidasi is an adaptation from Ravidasias, as some Chamar castes came to be called.

The spiritual enlightenment of Saint Guru Ravidass attaracted many people toward Ravidassia Sect. Saint Ravidass was one of those few saints who were directly linked to God witout being stuck to false and hoaxful rites. It was due to such top graded spiritual enlightenment of Saint Ravidass that many people became his disciples.

The teachings of the Sikh gurus, with their rejection of the caste system and emphasis on ethnic equality of all human beings, appealed to them. Of special significance for them was the canonization of the hymns of Shri Guru Ravidas Ji in the Sikh Scripture. Consequently, many Chamars converted to Sikhism and were, as a class, given the respectable name of Ravidassia Chamars.

Conversion of Hindu Chamars to Sikhism accelerated towards the end of the nineteenth century. This was due to the rise of the Singh Sabha movement, launched in 1873 for the restoration and propagation of Sikh teachings, including the removal of caste distinctions. The number of Chamars who declared Sikhism as their religion increased from 100,014 in 1881 to 155,717 in 1931.

Meanwhile, the term Ravidasias was no longer confined to Sikh Chamars. During the census of 1931, many Hindu Chamars registered themselves as Ravidasias. Nearly 52.8 percent of all Ravidasias declared themselves Sikhs.


Raigar is not a sub-caste of Chamar, but economic and professional similarity gives the impression of sub-caste of Chamar. The Raigar, Raiger, Ranger, Regar or Rangar, spelled in various forms, are a community of leather tanners in the Union Territory of Delhi. They are also known as Raidas, Jatia/Jatav, Rangya and Bota. The word Raiger is a corrupt form of raingaya, i.e. those who engage themselves in leather tanning. Those who immigrated to Delhi from Rajasthan claim Rajput ancestry. Incidentally Raigar is also a sub-caste of Rajpurohit in Rajasthan (Rajpurohit). Rajpurohits are Brahmin and the connection between Raigars under scheduled caste list and Raigar Rajpurohits is yet to explored. Both these Raigar caste and subcaste Raigar Rajpurohit have their roots in Rajasthan.

There are three subgroups, namely Sindhi Raiger, Lashkaria Raiger and Raigar. Marriages take place among all the three. These subgroups are further divided into a number of clans (gotras), such as Bandarwal, Jajoria, Kankheria, Rachoiya, Mauria, Jaggarwal, Atolia, Jaluthria, Dotania, Vohra, Heria, Bokolia, Barolia, Kholia, Sakkarwal, Sarsoonia and Tongaria.

Raigars have now prominent presence in IT sector, banking, civil services, police services in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Delhi. They are also having important positions in political arena of Delhi and Rajasthan,


The Chamar Community are one of the most involved and influential castes involved in Indian politics. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), a dalit-dominated political party, is very powerful in U.P and is expanding all over India. The BSP is one of the most powerful political parties of India. It was founded by Kanshi Ram and is led today by Mayawati Kumari, a Chamar. The BSP was created and is dominated by the dalits but currently includes all castes.


The Chamar Community has a history of military service and have their exclusive regiment in Indian army called Sikh Light Infantry. Many Chamar families are descended from Kshatriya communities, which is why they share common family names, for example Bhatti, Chauhan, Toor, Bar gujjar and a number of others. Many Chamars were recruited in British Indian Army during World War I and World War II on various ranks. Their contribution in these great wars was exemplary as mentioned in their discharge certificates. They received many medals and stars in recognition of their bravery and honest contribution in these wars after being recruited in various regiments of British India Army. The 1st Chamar Regiment was awarded the Battle Honor of Kohima for its distinguished role in the 2nd World War. The Chamar Regiment was later disbanded but Chamars still continue to display their valor in various other regiments.

During World War II, the Chamar Regiment was created and was involved on the Japanese front[3]. The Chamar Regiment was disbanded after the war[4]. Former Pakistani Leader Ayub Khan was an officer of the Chamar Regiment[5].

Many Chamars have played an active role in the events of 1857. The bravery of Banke Chamar of Village Kurarpur, Distt. Jaunpur (UP) is highlighted by the historians. This revolutionary laid down his life for the country and was ordered to be hanged by the British for his role in the events of 1857. Chetram (Jatav) and Belluram also sacrificed their life for being the moving force behind Barrackpur revolution.

Chamar-Satnami kingdom

There was a Satnami Kingdom of Narnaul (Haryana). The Satnami sect of Hinduism was founded in 1657 in Narnaul (a town in today’s Indian state of Haryana, situated about 100 km south-west of Delhi, by a saint names Birbhan. They are considered to be an offshoot of the followers of the great saint Ravidas. The name Satnami reflects the major religious activity of the sect-which is the chanting and meditation of the true name (satnam, names of God), especially the names of Rama and Krishna. Fixing the mind devotedly on divine names, the fluctuations of the consciousness are stabilised, which makes one fit to receive higher intuitive knowledge of the divine. The sect is comprised mostly, but by no means exclusively, of the lower strata of Hindu society-particularly the leather working, sweeper, carpenters, and goldsmith communities-and they observe no caste distinctions-judging people only be their actions. They were known to have dressed simply like saints, and keep shaved heads (and were hence also called mundiyas), and abstain from intoxicants and animal foods. These tenets are still practiced by many today. Today the sect numbers over 15 million, and followers are to be found in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra. This huge spread is because those who survived the genocide following their rebellion against the Moghuls spread out into small units over vast tracts of land.

The Satnami revolt occurred in the reign of the Moghul Emperor Aurungzeb. Many Hindus resented Aurungzeb’s strict Islamic policies-which included reviving the hated Islamic Jiziya tax (poll tax on non-Muslim subjects), banning music and art, and destroying Hindu temples. The revolt began in 1672 when a Moghul soldier killed a Satnami. Other Satnamis took revenge on the Moghul soldier, and in turn the Moghul soldiers went about repressing the Satnamis. The result was that about 5,000 Satnamis were up in arms. They routed the Moghul troops situated in the town, drove away the Moghul administrators and set up their own administration in its place. The uprising gained the enthusiasm of Hindus in Agra and Ajmer also. Though totally lacking in weaponry and money, the Satnamis inflicted several defeats on the Moghul forces. The contemporary Moghul chronicler, Saqi Mustaid Khan, expressed amazement as to what came over this “destitute gang of goldsmiths, carpenters, sweepers and tanners and other… artisan castes that their conceited brains became so overclouded? Rebellious pride having found a place in their brains, their heads became too heavy for their shoulders.” The resentment of the Satnami’s against the Moghul persecution meant that they even enacted revenge by destroying mosques in the area. It was only with great difficulty that any Muslim soldiers could be brought to face the Satnamis, such was the wrath of the Satnamis at the time. It was only when Aurungzeb himself took personal command and sent 10,000 troops with artillery that the Satnamis fell. They put up a brave defense. According to Saqi Mustaid Khan they believed that they were re-enacting scenes from the Mahabharata war. 2,000 Satnamis were slain on the battlefield and many more were slain in pursuit. What followed was an attempt to slay every remaining member of the Satnamis, and destroy all their homes. The remnants of the Satnamis fled in all directions and for a long time were totally disorganized and leaderless.

Prominent Chamars



  • Kanshi Ram - Founder of the Bahujan Samaj Party (founded on 14 April 1984, On Lal Quila,Delhi)
  • Mayawati Kumari - President of Bahujan Samaj Party and Chief Minister UP
  • Jagjivan Ram - First Labour Minister of India (under Nehru), Defence Minister of India (under Indira Gandhi-incumbent during 1971 war), Deputy Prime Minister of India (under Charan Singh)
  • Charanjit Singh - Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha
  • Meira Kumar - Lok Sabha Speaker and Member of Parliament (India)
  • Kumari Selja - Minister of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation and Minister of Tourism, Govt. of India.
  • Sushil Kumar Shinde - (1941- ) Minister of power, former Chief Minister of {Maharashtra}
  • K.H. Muniyappa - Union Minister of state for railways
  • Ashok Tanwar - President of National Youth Congress and M.P from Sirsa(Haryana)
  • Chand Ram- Central Minister of India, deputy chief Minister of Haryana.



See also


External links


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