Sunday, April 29, 2007

Who are the Bhandaris?

The Mumbai Magic Chor Bazaar Walk ends at the Gol Deoul temple. I was hanging around, saying goodbye to my guest, when I spotted this road sign - Bhandari Street.


I knew that the Bhandaris were among the earliest settlers in Mumbai. Raja Bhimdev, who ruled this area in the 13th century, created a capital city at Mahim (Mahikawati). With him came the Bhandaris. The Bhandaris in Raja Bhimdev's employ were originally toddy tappers.

Have you seen them? The guys that shimmy up tall trees and collect palm wine? It's an interesting sight. I thought I'd read up a bit more about them - so I hunted around, and found out the community has a little legend about why they shimmy up trees!

The story goes thus - Once, Lord Shiva mounted an army and went to war against the demon called Tilakasur. He stopped on the way, it was a hot day, and he was thirsty. A drop of sweat fell from his brow, and from that drop, the first Bhandari man emerged. Shiva asked him to find some water for him to drink. The man roamed the forest, but couldn't find anything. Then Shiva created a palm tree. In a trice, the man went up the tree and fetched the Lord a refreshing drink. And since then, this community has been climbing palm trees. Neat story, huh?

The story doesn't end there. Pleased with the man's service, Shiva appointed him Treasurer of Alkavati - and so they became known as Bhandaris (Bhandar is the local word for treasury).

The Bhandaris have martial traditions, and include themselves among the Kshatriya caste. The Bhandaris formed a part of the armies of many kings (Shivaji's trusted naval general was a Bhandari). They have a reputation for bravery, hardiness and loyalty. Gerald Aungier, the "Father of Bombay" formed the Bhandari Militia in the late 1600's, which was the first police establishment in Mumbai. Later, this group grew into what we call today's Bombay Police. You can read the history of the Bhandari Militia and Bombay Police in this book by S M Edwardes. 

There are Bhandaris all over Western and South India - the Ezhavas of Kerala (who practice the famous martial art of Kalaripayattu, from which Kung Fu originated), the Billavas of Karnataka, the Nadars of Tamil Nadu (also Kalari fighters), the Gaud Bhandaris from Andhra, and the Gomantak Bhandaris from Goa.

They are united by the religious leader they follow -
Shree Narayana Guru, a nineteenth century Ezava saint and social reformer, who preached that all men were equal, and that caste was a whole load of bunkum. In 1888, Narayana Guru built a temple in Kerala, where he inscribed these simple lines:
Devoid of dividing walls of CasteOr hatred of rival faith,
We all live here

In Brotherhood
.

22 comments:

HP said...

Hey

Good Post!!

Thanks!!

Cheers,
HP

raghunandan said...

Are you sure about the Gouds of Andhra Pradesh being part of the Bhandaris? The Gouds have been associated with Toddy Tapping. However, they do not claim any Kshatriya status. They are in fact enumerated as Backward classes.

Deepa Krishnan said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhandari_caste
Goud or Edigas are said to be in the same group as Bhandaris.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goud
This article says that they used to be warriors.

This page from the Bhandari Mahasangh includes the Gaud Bhandaris:
http://www.bhandarimahasangh.org/appeal.html

This page from Goanet News lists Bhandari as a surname among Gauds, but I don't know whether it is the same community:
http://www.goanet.org/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=137

raghunandan said...

The question was out of curiosity. I am from Andhra Pradesh. In this state, traditionally, only the community known as "Rajus" are taken as Kshatriyas. As a matter of interest, the Telugu areas were never under the control of Kshatriyas except for the northern coastal areas around Visakhapatnam. So the warriors came from all communtites. There is a mention of one Kannammanaidu a member of a schedule caste being the commander of the army on one side in the Battle of Palnadu, which is one of the defining moments in the history of Andhra Pradesh.

Deepa Krishnan said...

The Bhandaris count themselves among Kshatriyas as per the varna system. However, because of their poor economic status, many Bhandari communities are listed under the 'Other Backward Classes' category. Communities which have not received OBC listing are fighting for it.

Ken said...

Your blog is very good resource for information on such topics. I liked it very much.

Thx,
Ken

khalid said...

Hello deepa..terrific stuff on city and its history. I edit a paper called Ht Cafe, part of Hindustan Times in Bombay, and would very much like to use the article if it has not been printed elsewhere. Also wanted to know if you would like to contribuite to the city page of the Cafe on a regular basis. Please do call me on my cell 98210-46318. Hoping to hear from you soonest..regards..Khalid Mohamed.

empcarl said...

Hey.. was checking out stuff on the community and, wow, ain't this a treasure trove. A very interesting community, and their warrior lineage is fab. Actually was looking up tidbits to impress my girlfriend ( ok ok.. ;-) ) But really, good history lesson.

Anonymous said...

Deepa ,

Good post , btw we do not count us as Kshatriya , we are kshatriya's I belong to Sheshvanshiya kshatriya bhandari family for your very kind information. Kindly study well before writing on caste and also referring to open sites like wiki where citations are needed.

Deepa Krishnan said...

Anonymous, If there are any factual errors in the article, please point them out. I don't see any so far, but happy to be corrected. I agree wiki is not reliable, I was only using it to answer a question that someone asked. I also read through several other websites including the marriage portals where I searched for Bhandari brides and grooms to see what castes they listed.

- Deepa

myfrnd2000 said...

Deepa,
This was very nice information. quite surprising....

prashob said...

its nice post deepa, i too was checking out the history of bhandaris, they got a great history behind them, just confused there are bahndaris' who are lower caste(not economicaly but due to their profession) and also kshatriyas.
Anyways nice article.

Regards,
Prashob

Anonymous said...

Really great article with very interesting information. You might want to follow up to this topic!?! 2011

Anonymous said...

Okay it's interesting but would anyone like to tell me that what about bhandaris frm Nepal, we do have so many numbers of bhandari families in Nepal. And just for further information in Nepal there is two kinds of bhandaris; one called "rajbhandari" and another just "bhandari". N I m bhandari aswell..Brahmin dananjay gotra... Just wondering if anyone can figured it out...???

Chetan said...

I feel that Hindus should stop talking about their caste and sub caste and think of them as nothing but Hindus and human beings. I cannot think of any good reason that caste can help us in today's modern world. The government should really ban and destroy any paper indicating the caste of a Hindu person. This will make us come together as a religion. Maybe the government is afraid of Hindu unity.

Anonymous said...

Bhandari subcaste belongs to which caste?? Obc????

SSP said...

Hi, My self Sainath. I'm belongs to the Bhandari caste community from Mumbai, Maharashtra. First of all Bhadari's are belongs to seafaring castes. Which comes under "Kshatriya" varna. Today it belongs to Other Backward Caste (OBC) category. Our mother tongue is MARATHI. We have big impact on today's Maharashtrian culture especially in Mumbai and Konkan region of Maharashtra. Do not confuse in Bhandari surname and Bhandari caste both are different. Nepali surname Bhandari is different one & it is not comes under our caste.
Thank You!

praveen gowda said...

hello gowdas of andhra claim HEHEYA kshathriya origin.the eastern chalukyas and shatavahanas are from goud community .gowdas are aryan caste and are associated with toddy but we are also called as old martials. haven't you reffered that. goud is one of richest community in andhra. And many of the gouds are in oc.think before u talk

Anonymous said...

gouds of ap are kshatriyas ,, refer the below sites
rddsaapwarangal.blogspot.com


http://goudayouthforce.blogspot.in/p/history.html

apgouds.com/‎

http://www.gurudevan.info/forum/goud-in-andhra-pradesh-similar-ezhava-billava-community-t464.html


goudsparivaar.com

www.settibalija.com/surnames

nadarsangam.com




www.goudsinfo.com


www.goudsinfo.com/history.htm‎


https://www.facebook.com/pages/Royal-Gouds/437223159650991‎


www.goudmatrimony.com/‎


shubhamgoudsmatrimony.com

www.gopa.co.in

Anonymous said...

wow...that was really a good information nd i ws confused abt the varnas, that it belonged to as i fall in that caste...nd i didnt know why dey put bhandaris in OBC section...thanks a lot....

Anonymous said...

Hi Deepa, I am a 96K Marartha girl, married into a Bhandari family. I have been trying to obtain as much information as I can about the culture, history and origin of the Bhandari community. Your article has certainly helped. Would like to thank you and encourage you to continue your research and post the same.

Ramana said...

i have observed some surnames in bhandaris and bhavasar kshatriya (a caste prominent in maharashtra , gujarat and also seen in karnataka, andhra pradesh, tamilnadu and rajasthan but in less number compared to maharashtra and gujarat) are common.....can any body tell me the reason.

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