Chasa caste is the chief cultivating caste inhabiting the state of Orissa. This caste is also known as Alia in Sonepur. In the past, Chasas were mostly enumerated in the regions of Sambalpur and other adjoining states, but majority of them moved to Bengal in the year 1905. It is said that Chasa caste has a loose organisation making it possible for outsiders to be admitted into the caste. This fact is proved by the names of the sub-divisions of this caste. Like for instance, three of the sub-divisions namely Kolta, Khandait and Ud are actually the names of different castes. The word Chasa in general means 'a cultivator.'
Each family of Chasa community has a gotra or sept as well as a varga or family name. In their society, marriages are arranged on the basis of the vargas. Union of members of the same varga is prohibited. The names of the sept are totemistic while the family names are usually territorial or titular. Some of the totemistic names of the sept are bachhas (calf), dipas (lamp) nagas (cobra), harin (deer), hasti or gaj (elephant), mahumachhi (bee) and so one. Some of the varga names of Chasa caste are Pitmundia, Hulbulsingia, Dumania and Giringia, all names of villages in Angul District; and Nayak (headman), Kandra (bamboo-worker), Dehri (worshipper), Mahanti (writer), Behera (cook) and others.
The members of different sects worship their totems and draw figures of them on the walls of their houses. Interestingly, if they find the footprints of animal, after which their sect has been named and which they worship, they bow to the marks and demolish them with hands, with the belief of giving protection to the totem animal from the hunters. They also believe that if they injure the totem animals in some way they would be attacked by leprosy and eventually their line would die out. The members of the dipas sect will not eat if they find a lamp is put out at night and they do not touch a lamp with unclean hands. Those belonging to the madhumakhi or bee will not take honey or eat it. Some of these exogamous septs have an Ishta Devata, whom they worship. Members of the gaj sect worship Lord Ganesha, similarly the members of harin sect worship Lord Pawan.
In Chasa community, girls get married before reaching the stage of adolescence. If no suitable match is found then she may be married to a flower or an arrow and when a suitable husband is found she is united with him in the form of widow-marriage. Widow re-marriage and divorce are permitted in Casa community. They bury the dead if unmarried, and burn the dead if married. Chasa caste worships various Hindu deities. Occasionally they also sacrifice animals. Brahmin priests are employed for performing religious ceremonies. They have an enriching culture.
(Last Updated on : 16-08-2010)