(Last Updated on : 16/08/2010)
Audhelia caste is considered as a small hybrid caste of India. This community is mostly spread over the central region of the country. Audhelia caste is exclusively found in Bilaspur District. The name of the caste is derived from the term Udharia. Audhelias are regarded as a mixed caste and they claim their origin from a Daharia Rajput
ancestor, by one female slave of unknown caste. The Audhelias are mainly associated with the rearing of pigs. However, some of them are also leaseholders and farm labourers.
Audhelia caste does not have any endogamous division. They also admit members belonging to other castes. As per the position of their male ancestors there exist some social gradations. Like for instance, members within the same clan are not allowed to intermarry. According to another rule, members are prohibited to eat with their fellow caste members. Thus, on any particular occasion within the caste, guests prepare their own food and they only accept the uncooked grain from the host.
Audhelia caste appears to have seven exogamous divisions namely Pachbhaiya, Chhahri, Dhanawat, Bhainsa, Kalkhor, Bachhawat and Limuan. There are several legends associated with the origin of these exogamous clans or gotras. A legend states that there were three brothers named Sahasman, Budha and Mangal. They were robbers. One fine evening they halted in a forest and went to search for some food. After some time, one brother brought a buffalo horn, another brought a feather of a peacock and the youngest brother brought plums. The elder two brothers asked Mangal to share his plums. He agreed on one condition that one of them should give his daughter to him in marriage. The three brothers were of same gotra, and the marriage would mean splitting up the gotra. So the brothers were uncertain whether it could be done. They took the help of some sign in order to determine this tricky question. They decided that if their younger brother succeeded in breaking an iron image is a cat in pieces simply by blows of his naked fist then it would be an indication that they can split up their section. Mangal was put to the test and he also succeeded in breaking the image. Thus, the three brothers decided to split up their gotra. The eldest brother assumed the gotra name of Bhainsa as because he had brought a buffalo horn, the second brother assuming the gotra name Kalkhor, which is believed to mean peacock, and the youngest brother assumed name of Chhahri. This word either means shadow, or one who washes the clothes of a lady in confinement. As the eldest brother gave his daughter he was also degraded.
This story adequately indicates the mixed descent of the Audhelia caste. The Audhelias prohibit marriage within the same clan. Girls get married at a tender age between five and seven years. In their society widow marriage and divorce are freely allowed. The Audhelias worship Dulha Deo and Devi. They also sacrifice pigs occasionally. They also celebrate several Hindu festivals with high enthusiasm. One of their principal festivals is Holi
. Audhelia people either burn or bury their dead and they remove the ashes on the third day and throw them into a stream. They also observe various funeral rites.