(Last Updated on : 31/01/2011)
Mahar community is a significant group residing in the state of Maharashtra
. The Mahars form around nine percent of the total population of Maharashtra. In the year 1956, over 80 percent Mahars turned to Buddhism, under the leadership of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar
, to free themselves from the shackles of caste and to remove the stigma of untouchability by building a new religious and cultural identity for them. They are mostly found in Wardha District
, Nagpur District
, and Bhandara District. However, considerable colonies of Mahars are found in Chhindwara
. People of Mahar community largely speak Marathi language
. In the state of Gujarat, they also have some surnames like Panwar, Solanki, Rathor and Chauhan. There are references that recognise Mahar community as the oldest resident of the regions of Nagpur
It has been claimed that the Mahars were the earliest settlers in Maharashtra but were pushed out by the invading Aryans. They belong to the early marital race of the country. Mahars claim that they are the descendents of Mahamuni, an orphan picked up Goddess Parvati
from the banks of Ganga River
. In the 14th century, a Mahar poet named Chokhamela joined the ranks of the cult`s pantheon of saints. His poems and those of his wife and son are sung even today by devout bhaktas. Mahar community has several sub-divisions basically of a territorial or local type such as Daharia, residents of Dahar, Baonia of Berar, Khandeshi from Khandesh and Nemadya from Nimar. The highest division in their society are the Somvanshis. Further, there are certain exogamous groups in Mahar community, whose names are derived from animals, plants and other natural objects. Some of the interesting names are Darpan, Khanda Phari, Aglavi, Andhare, Khobragade, Bhajikhai and so on. A man is not allowed to marry within his own clan. Regarding funeral rites, Mahars either bury or burn the dead. A new born baby is named either on the seventh or the twelfth day. They celebrate various festivals like Nagpanchami, Dussehra
and more. The main occupation of the people belonging to Mahar community is weaving. However, in the present times, they have also started working in mills.
Mahars have a well-organised society. In appearance the Mahars look much like the agriculturists of Maharashtra, the Marathas. In many ways, the long struggle for a self respecting identity has finally led the Mahars into the mainstream of Indian life.