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Chandal


Chandal a low caste of people traditionally engaged in menial jobs. They are of dark complexion. Chandals are untouchables and often conceptually mixed with doms. Chandals engage themselves in cultivation, trading, and shopkeeping, and also work as goldsmiths, blacksmiths, and palanquin bearers. They perform any job higher caste people engage them in. Their dietary habits include pork, mud eel, snake and foods prohibited for other castes. They are generally poor and uneducated and consequently, their lifestyle is abominable. They are forced to live in unhygienic, unhealthy areas littered with animal and other filth. They rear pigs, which further contribute to their sub-human living atmosphere. Chandals call themselves Nama-Sudra. They marry off their daughters while they are infants but observe the same ceremonies as most of their higher counterparts. Bride price is a custom among chandals. Divorce is not so common. Polygamy is permitted in the chandal society.

After the birth of a male child, the chandal mother is ceremonially declared unclean for ten days, but for a female child the period varies from seven to nine days. On the sixth day after the birth of a male child, a Sasthi puja is performed. Although the majority of the caste professes the tenets of the Vaishnava sect of hinduism, they still retain many religious customs (Bastu puja or worship of the earth goddess, Bansura puja or worship of the river god, manasa puja or worship of the goddess of snake etc.), peculiar to animistic cults. Chandals have brahmans of their own, who preside at their religious and social ceremonies, but they are popularly called Barna-Brahman or Chandaler Brahman, since they are Brahmans, who have degraded themselves in status by presiding over lower caste ceremonies. [Sharmin Naaz]