Types of Gorakhnath Yogis - Informative & researched article on Types of Gorakhnath Yogis
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Types of Gorakhnath Yogis
Types of Gorakhnath Yogis are various and there are several castes that trace their origin to the followers of Gorakhnath.
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 There are several types of Gorakhnath Yogis as a number of castes trace their origin to Gorakhnathis. However, certain records are not very clear as to whether the Yogis reported trace their origin to Gorakhnathis or not. In the hills of Shimla, Yogis form a sort of occupational caste that is burning the bodies of the dead and receiving certain perquisites for the service. From the fact that they take offerings made at death, Kanets and higher castes will not drink with them. They wear ear-rings, but rank below Kanphatas.

The Nathas in the higher hills, where the worship of Siva is prevalent, correspond very closely to the Yogis of the plains. They practise little asceticism but grow vegetables and perform certain semi-sacerdotal functions, taking the place of the acraj (a class of Brahmans) of the plains in the funeral ceremonies of Kanets and receive the clothes of the dead. They consecrate new houses and purify them when they have been defiled. They are a true caste. One or more in nearly every Natha household has his ears pierced in honour of Siva and is called Kanphatanath. They are unclean and uncanny. In Punjab, secular Yogis are called Rawal. They make their living by begging, fortune-telling, singing and similar means; they were originally Yogis. The Samyog of Punjab is a true caste.

In Kulu they are Nathas; in Ambala they are Jogi Padha; in Nabha, they are teachers of the children of Hindus; in Laharu they are of the Jatu tribe, part being secular, part celibate. Among them widow marriage is practised. The Samyog of Ambala has twelve sections. In Karnal, they are Hindus. In Kangra, there are two groups, the Andarla who are Darsanis and the Bahirla, all Aughars. The Yogi castes of the central provinces rank as Hindu of the menial group. They accept cooked food from respectable castes; permit the marriage of widows, using their own priests in the ceremonies; allow divorce and follow social customs of the cultivating castes of the locality. They are divided into sub-sects which are determined according to occupation or profession, as follows: Barwa or Garpagari who ward off hail storms from the standing crops; Manihari peddlers who travel about to bazaars, selling various small articles such as hand mirrors, spangles and dyeing powder coral beads, imitation jewellery, pens, pencils and other articles; Ritabikanath, who prepare and sell soap-nut; Patbina, who make hempen thread for gunny bags used in carrying grain on bullocks; and Ladaimar, who hunt jackals and sell and eat their flesh.

Several Yogi Castes of Bengal also trace their origin to Kanphatas. It is said that the tradition in North-eastern Bengal to the effect that the Yogis were formerly pupils of the great Sankara, and that they took to drinking and were degraded. The legend of Gopicand gives evidence pointing in this direction. In Rangpur, there was low-caste Yogis who were itinerant bards, who sang songs of Gopichand, who were descendants of the priesthood of the time of Gopichand. There were basically two divisions of yogis. One was the Helayas, weavers and cultivators. Their women dyed thread and retailed turmeric, capsicum and other seasonings. The other division were the Theyayas, idle beggars who burned shells for lime. Some of these were cultivators. Both groups were eaters of impure food and drunkards who buried their dead. They were illiterate. Elsewhere, there was a caste of Yogis who were weavers, lime burners, unskilled labourers, beggars and wandering singers. Some of them are now engaged in agriculture, some are goldsmiths, and some are found in the subordinate grades of Government service.

Moreover, another research suggests that in Eastern Bengal there were two sub-castes of Yogis, the Masyas and the Ekadasis. Between these two sections no marriages were arranged, and they do not accept cooked food from each other. But they drink from each other's water vessels. Their division is based upon differences in their funeral rites. The period of mourning for one group is thirty days (masa), for the other, eleven (ekadasa) days. The division is based upon the further fact that some live upon an island and others upon the mainland.

In the Nizam's Dominions two divisions of the Gorakh-nathis are found, the Davre and the Ravals. Both were originally recruits from Maratha Kunbis, but now form independent castes. The Davre, who are of the Navanath sect, derive their name from the drum which they use in singing the hymns of Bhairava. They are also known Kumar Bharadi, from the name of a dance which they perform at the commencement of the marriage ceremony of their Kunbi (an agricultural caste) disciples. They admit only married Kunbis and others of higher caste. The recruits are mostly children, dedicated by parents to Bhairava in fulfilment of vows. The initiation of the boy (or girl) takes place in the temple of Bhairava at Sonari, at about the ages of twelve. The lobes of the ears are split and brass rings are worn. The division consists of three exogamous sections. Marriage is usually early, widow remarriage is allowed, polygamy is practised and divorce is permissible. Brahmans officiate at their weddings. Their gurus are Kanphata Yogis. The body is smeared with ashes of cow dung; and 'bel' leaves and flowers are offered. Water is poured into the mouth. There are mendicants amongst them.

In Mumbai the Yogis, also known as Nathas, have two divisions; the Gujarat Jogis, who are ascetics; and the Maratha Jogis, including Karnataka and Kanara Jogis, who are both regular and secular. The secular groups are labourers. The Marathas have twelve endogamous divisions, Balgar, Berak, Bhorpi, Bombari, Dawarji, Jogar, Ker, Kindri, Kurub, Mendar and Murad. These twelve clans are named each after one of the twelve orders said to have been founded by Gorakhnath, and no marriages between members of the sub-castes are permitted. Widow marriage is allowed. Polygamy is practised. They bury their dead, mourning for twelve days; otherwise they do not differ much in customs from those of the surrounding cultivating castes. Boys are initiated at the age of twelve years. They are a wandering class, who carry their huts, made of matting set on bamboo poles, and goods from camp to camp on ponies and buffaloes. The Jogi Purusa is a recently formed caste that speaks Marathi and Tulu. Their head monastery is at Kadiri but they have several other Bhairom and Gorakhnath. There are both celibates and householders amongst them. The former wear rings of rhinoceros horn or of clay.

Bhaddar Yogis and Nandi Jogis in the west of the United Provinces, work as tailors and silk-spinners, and have several sects with Rajput names. Another interesting group of Jogis, who trace their origin to Gorakhnath, are the Sepalas. They wear in their ears very large rings. These are set the lower part of the ears. All sorts of rings are worn, but the ones most valued are made of the bone of a certain snake found in the hills. They make offerings to Gorakhnath the time of the piercing of the ears. These Yogis wear the rudraksa. They do not wear a sacred thread; they allow their beards to grow long. They wear their hair in a knot and over it wind a turn in a strange way. They do not practise Yoga. Like other Yogi they bury their dead, placing the body in a sitting posture. They claim to worship Gorakhnath. These yogis are unclean and ignorant people.

These are some of the widely described types of Gorakhnathis.

(Last Updated on : 04/01/2010)
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