Moyra

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Moyra the traditional confectioner caste. Members of moyra caste prepare sweetmeats and products from milk, flour, molasses and sugar. They prepare products like chhana (posset), ghee (butter) and sweetmeats of different sizes and tastes such as sandesh, rasogolla, matichur, mihidana, luchi, kachuri, jilapi, khaja, barfi, halua etc. Originally, Hindus and a heterogeneous functional group, the moyras are to be distinguished from the Madhunapit, on whom popular usage sometimes confers the titles Modak and Kuri. Some indeed regard the Madhunapit as merely a sub-caste of Moyras. But at present, this distinction is meaningless since both groups are uniformly involved in sweetmeat making.

The Moyras profess to be orthodox Hindus, belonging for the most part to the Vaishnava sect. They regard ganesh as their special deity, and make images in his honour. The special season for his worship is winter and the most appropriate time to start working with sugarcane harvests when they first propitiate God and then use freshly prepared molasses in making sweetmeats. Moyras believe that the making of sweetmeats was their original occupation, but many of them now work in other occupations, including agriculture. They do not, however, cultivate sugarcane themselves, or take any part in the preparation of molasses. Moyras rank relatively high in the Hindu caste system and as suppliers of sweetmeats to the community, they are supposed to possess a ceremonial purity. They belong to the Navasakha sect and brahmans take water from their hands. Their own rules regarding diet are those of the most respectable Hindus.

In the past, well to do Hindus had sweetmeats as the staple article of diet and often took sweetmeats as the only food to be eaten on a journey. Sweetmeats are now essential items in festive dinners or in entertaining guests at home. They are sold in traditional fairs and festivals. The role of moyras, therefore, is a crucial one in society. Moyras today, however, no longer belong to any single, specialised caste and come from different religious, economic and cultural backgrounds. Large-scale investment in the manufacture of sweetmeats by rich entrepreneurs, who do not necessarily belong to the Hindu community, has turned most moyras into wage labourers in the sweetmeat making industry. In the modern urban sweetmeat making industries of Bangladesh, Muslims work in large numbers. In addition to people in formal trade and commerce, housewives also prepare many kinds of sweetmeats and cakes such as pakanpitha, patisapta or ras-chity with rice flour, molasses, oil, ghee, date juice, and palm juice. [Gofran Faroqi]