Dom a lower caste community of the Hindu religion. They are marked as untouchable and are primarily engaged in handling and dissection of corpse, burial and cremation. Earlier in different parts of the subcontinent they used to make and sell ropes, mats, baskets, hand fans etc for their livelihood and also worked as sweepers. Women of this community were at times adept in songs and music and in dramatic performances.
In Bangladesh, there are two categories of Dom, Bangali and non-Bangali. Non-Bangali Doms were brought to Bengal from Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajsthan, Orissa, Kuch Bihar, Ranchi, Madras, and different parts of Assam in the middle of the British rule in India. Opinions vary as to their influx in Bengal. Some are of the opinion that they migrated to Bengal from the Deccan in the mediaeval period. Other suggest that they came from Patna and Andhra Pradesh of India sometime between 1835 and 1850. Since the word 'Dom' has its mention in the charyapada, it can be assumed that they started living in Bengal before the arrival of the Ariyans. Now a days the sociologist and the left politicians have termed them as dalit since they are religiously and socio-economically neglected and exploited by the upper caste Hindus.
Seven Dom families still live near the Postogola crematory established in 1876. Their ancestors came to Dhaka city about 150 years back. In the census report of 1891, the Doms were categorised as Namashudras. Earlier, they were known as chandals. Mahatma Gandhi termed them as Harijan. Many dom women are now engaged in the profession of midwifery. The doms celebrate their wedding ceremony, religious festivals, rituals and social functions in their own way.
The Doms live almost in every district of Bangladesh. According to the census report of 2001, the number of Doms was 3,17,337. At present, most of them work in hospital. Moreover, many of them remain busy at home in making various household goods such as bamboo baskets, fan, cage, tray, flower vases etc.
Most of the Doms follow the Vaisnava faith of Hinduism. They worship Dharmaraj as their ideal icon. Srabani Puja is their main religious ceremony held in July and August. They sacrifice a pig during the observance of puja and collect a pot of fresh blood to dedicate to their god Narayan along with another pot full of milk. Again in a dark night of Bangla month of Bhadra, they dedicate one can of milk, a coconut, one piece of raw tobacco and a small amount of straw to their god Harirama. Later they sacrifice a pig and enjoy a feast with pork.
However, people other than the ethnic Doms are now working as Doms in different hospitals of Bangladesh thereby making the employment opportunities of the ethnic Doms limited. [Jobaida Nasreen]