Mirasi

Mirasi
Total population
2,066,900[1]
Regions with significant populations
 India Pakistan
Languages

• Urdu • PunjabiRajasthani

Religion

Islam 90% • Sikhism

Related ethnic groups

CharanDomBarotNaqqalShaikh

The Mirasi (Hindi: मीरासी, Urdu: میراثی) are a Muslim or Sikh caste, found in Northern India and Pakistan. They are also known as Pakhwaji, Kalawart and Qawwal.The Mirasi community are the genealogists of a number of communities in Northern India and Pakistan. Most Mirasis are Muslim, but Rababi and Dhadi sub-groups are entirely Sikh.[2] Their preferred self-designation in Pakistan is now Qureshi.[3]

Contents

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 11th 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.[4]

In Punjab

In Indian Punjab, the Sikh Mirasi claim Jatt origin and call themselves 'Mirasi Jatt'. While in Pakistan, they claim Arab origin. According to their traditions, the Prophet Mohammad once whipped a Muslim of Medina, by the name of Akasa. At his death bed, the Prophet asked that anyone who might have been injured by him, to take revenge. The said Aksa, instead of taking revenge, eulogised him. The community has from that time claimed to have entertained kings and nobles for a living.

They are 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.[5]

Other minor groups include the Poslas, the genealogists of the Sayyid, the Kulet the Mirasi of the Mughals,, the Malet the Mirasi of the Qureshi, the Baral, the Mirasi of the Pathan, the Dair the Mirasi of the Rajput and Latkanian the Mirasi of the Mali.

In south Punjab, the Mirasi are a Seraiki speaking community, with the following sub-divisions:[6]

  • The Doran 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 Baluchistan, are the genealogists of the various Baluch tribes settled in the region.
  • The Posla, who are immigrants from central Punjab, and live by begging.

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.[4]

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.[7]

In Bihar

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. With the abolishment of the zamindari system, the Mirasi have taken to farming. 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.[8]

In Delhi

The Mirasi of Delhi claim descent from the Charan caste. They are found in the localities of Seelampur and Shahdara. They affix the surnames khan 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 Nizamuddin. The community, like many Muslim communities in Delhi suffered at the time of partition of India, with many members emigrating to Pakistan. Many are now involved in petty businesses, like selling vegetables and repairing umbrellas.[9]

Rajasthan

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 Gorel, Bhabra, Suel, Pohra, Kawa, Ghocha and Dhaosi. 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.[10] mirasi are also founfdin jalore dist of rajasthan

In Haryana

The Mirasi of Haryana are also known as Dom. They are found mainly in Mewat, Rohtak, Faridabad, Hissar, Karnal, Kurukshetra, Sonepat 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, Nimaba, Sanp and Seol. Each of these is of equal status, and intermarry.[11]

In Gujarat

The Mirasi of Gujarat are also known as Barot. They are traditionally the genealogists of a number of communities such as the Rabari. The community is found mainly in the districts of Ahmadabad, Bharuch, Surat, Junagadh, Kutch and Palanpur. There main clans are the Kalat, Chamanga, Dodia, Barbas, Ganglora and Chertia. The Gujarat Mirasi are entirely Sunni, and speak Gujarati.[12]

The Mirasi of Indian Punjab

The Mirasi in Indian Punjab are Muslim, Hindu and Sikh. They are the heredity genealogists of the various communitues 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.[13]

Major Sub-groups

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, and were the heredity genealogists of the Sayyid. Related to the Posla are the Malet, the genealogists of the Qureshis and Sohal, the genealogists of the Punjabi Shaikhs. With the departure of their patron communities at partition, these communities are now mainly musicians.

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.[13]

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. The community's preferred self-designation is Qureshi. Most Mirasi are now bilingual, speaking both Urdu and Punjabi. They are found throughout Punjab, and most villages contain their settlements.[14]

The Mirasi are no longer just the traditional genealogists of the Jat and Rajput communities, and many village Mirasi are now agricultural labourers, as the traditional payment in kind paid to village artisans, has been replaced with commercial transactions. Beside their traditional occupations, the Mirasi are involved in diverse types of hawkers jobs. Finally, the community are professional musicians, who still entertain other communities in the village.[3]

Many members of the community have completely abandoned their occupation, and have attempted to change their caste identity. This is known to anthropologists as ashrafization, where a Muslim community, which is perceived of being of lower status, tries to improve its status. This has included conversion to the Shia sect, by many members of the community.[15]

See also

References

  1. ^ http://www.joshuaproject.net/peoples.php?peo3=17562
  2. ^ People of India Uttar Pradesh Volume XLII Part Two edited by A Hasan & J C Das pages 973 to 977
  3. ^ a b Kinship, honour and money in rural Pakistan : subsistence economy and the effects of international migration by Alain Lefebvre ISBN/ISSN 0-7007-0984-3
  4. ^ a b People of India Uttar Pradesh Volume XLII Part Two edited by A Hasan & J C Das page 973
  5. ^ A Glossary of the Tribes & Castes of Punjab by H.A Rose page 105 to 115
  6. ^ A Glossary of the Tribes & Castes of Punjab by H.A Rose page 105 to 112
  7. ^ People of India Uttar Pradesh Volume XLII Part Two edited by A Hasan & J C Das pages 974
  8. ^ People of India Bihar Volume XVI Part Two edited by S Gopal & Hetukar Jha pages 683 to 685 Seagull Books
  9. ^ People of India Delhi Volume XX edited by T. K Ghosh & S Nath pages 475 to 477 Manohar Publications
  10. ^ 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
  11. ^ People of India Haryana Volume XXIII Part edited by M.L Sharma and A.K Bhatia page 159 to 161 Manohar
  12. ^ People of India Gujarat Volume XXI Part Two edited by R.B Lal, P.B.S.V Padmanabham, G Krishnan & M Azeez Mohideen pages 932-938
  13. ^ a b People of India Punjab Volume XXXVII edited by I.J.S Bansal and Swaran Singh pages 322 to 333 Manohar
  14. ^ Taboo: The Hidden culture of a Red light Area by Fouzia Saeed Oxford University Press
  15. ^ The Migration Process: Capital, Gifts and Offering among British Pakistanis by Pnina Werbner Berg publications

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