Thursday, September 9, 2010


Bagdi a cultivating, fishing and menial caste of Dravidian descent and akin to the aboriginal tribes of the subcontinent. There are different sub-castes of bagdis living in different regions. A bagdi was traditionally restricted from marrying outside the sub-caste. Social and economic factors, especially the intent of not allowing their property to be enjoyed by people outside their community, produced strict endogamy among them. Currently, however, they are flexible in MARRIAGE customs. Bagdis practise both infant and adult marriages, though cases of infant marriage are not common today. Polygamy is permitted, depending on a man's material condition. A bagdi can marry two sisters at a time. Bagdis have borrowed many rituals from the Brahminical system. But they have also preserved some interesting rituals, which belong to different and perhaps more primitive societies. Before formal marriage, the bridegroom goes through a mock marriage to a Mahua tree. The bagdi allow widows to marry again by the ceremony known as sanga marriage rite, in which a Brahmin officiates, but no mantras are recited. As for divorce, the general opinion seems to be that a wife might be divorced for barrenness, unchastity, and disobedience, when those are duly proved to the satisfaction of the council of the caste elders. A divorced wife was entitled to claim maintenance from her previous husband for a period of six months after divorce.
All sub-castes of bagdis admit into their circle members of any other caste higher than themselves in social standing. The religious practices of bagdis combine orthodox HINDUISM and nature worship of their ancestors. They worship the snake goddess MANASA Devi. Legal transactions of Bagdis in the past were of a very simple nature and were supervised by some elder caste members. Currently, they have been absorbed into formal institutions. The occupation of bagdis differs from region to region and from sub-caste to sub-caste. Some bagdis still work in fishing, some as PALANQUIN bearers, lime producers, gunny bag makers and COTTON weavers. Some bagdis are also engaged in AGRICULTURE, usually as under-RAIYATs, and a few of them have attained the position of occupancy tenants. From the olden times, a large number of bagdis in Bengal worked as day labourers and were paid in cash or kind. Many worked as nomadic cultivators, tilling other men's land on the bhag-jot system, under which they were remunerated by one half or less the share of produce.
Bagdis are socially ranked very low and are treated by others as dwellers on the outskirts of Hinduism. Many of them eat beef or pork, though according to the prevailing Hindu custom, some of them abstain from all sorts of flesh. With the dispersion of modern amenities, customs and values amidst all strata of society, bagdis are currently able to change their social standing along with their life style and are able to engage in several occupations.
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