A reality of Badi community: so-called untouchable caste in Nepal

GUEST POST by TRIBHUVAN C WAGLE©


According to the population census 2011, there are 125 caste/ethnic groups and 123 languages in Nepal .

Tribhuvan C Wagle
Author

Nepal is the country of a number of caste\ethnic groups with different languages, religions and cultural traditions. There are 125 caste/ethnic groups and 123 languages reported in the census 2011. Varnashram System of Hindu society was developed and defined as caste system dividing people as Touchable and Untouchable, Tagadhari and Matawali as well. The origin of the caste system is through to have developed in south Asia towards the end of Vaidic Period. An important portion of population of the country has known as untouchable. Pani nacalne choi chitto halnu naparne and parne well as (castes from whom water is not accepted and whose touch requires sprinkling of holy water or Dalit).

 There is no exact definition of the word ‘Dalit’ in the legal documents such as Rajpatra (gazette) but the National Dalit Commission  (NDC) define ‘the community of caste that were discriminated and understood as untouchable in society as Pani Nachalne ( water not sharable) and Choichhito Halnuparne (when touched to be purified by sprinkling  water) according to Hindu Varnashram Jati Vyawastha (Hindu system on caste division) and Muluki Ain of 1854 AD (1910 BS) and that were left behind from state’s economy, education, and religious mainstream’ has been  as Dalit.’

For the first time different 23 castes such as Lohar, Sunar, Kami, Damai, Sarki, Badi, Gaine, Kasai, Kusule, Kuche, Chyame, Pode, Chamar, Dhobi, Paswan (Dushad), Tatma, Dom, Batar, Khatwe, Musahar, Santhal, Satar, and Halkhor scheduled as Dalit according to the decision of  Ministry of Local Development (MLD) in 2054-12-28. Recently The National Dalit Commission sheduled 26 different castes as Dalit which are: 1 Gaine   2.Damai, Dargee 3. Badi  4.Kami, 5. Sarki,   6.Pode 7.Chyame as hill Dalit and  8. Kalar  9. Kakaihiya  10. Kori 11. Khatik  12. Khatwe  13. Chamar 14. Chidimar  15. Dom 16. Tatma 17. Dushadh 18. Dhobi Hindu 19. Pasi  20. Bantar   21. Mushar   22. Mestar (Halkhor) 23. Sarbhang (Sarbariya)  24. Natuwa   25. Dhandi     26. Dharikar/ Dhankar as Terai Dalit.

Badi:  Brihad Nepali Shabdakosh (Grand Nepali Dictionary) 2040 BS edition writes Badi means ‘one who plays musical instruments’. The Nepali word Badi has its root in Sanskrit language. The word Badi gives the meaning of Vadya. The word Badya is closely related to the word Badhak which is mean by playing musical instrument. That is why; it is guessed that, ‘Badi’ means Vadyabadak, one who plays musical instruments, in Sanskrit language. Badi belongs to Hindu Khas society as Dalit community. According to a research paper by Thomas Cox, an anthropologist at Katmandu’s Tribhuvan University, Badi entered to Nepal in Licchavi dynasty (100BC-880AD) from the northern India’s Bihar state.

The census of 1991 identified and enumerated only 10 castes, (18,491,097 populations) that are included as Dalit in the list of MLD: 5 groups from the Hills (Kami, Damai, Sarki, Badi and Gaine) and 5 groups from the Tarai (Chamar, Dhobi, Mushahar, Dushad, and Khatwe). However, the untouchable groups such as Tatma, Batar, Dom and Halkhor have not segregated as a separate cultural group for the census purposes but they are included in the list of MLD. In the National Population Census 2001, Dalit represented 13.33 percent of the total Population of the country. The census listed and enumerated 20 castes of Dalit community. According to the National Population Census 20011 Dalit occupy 14.01 percent of the country population. That is why, it is believe that, almost One-fifth portion of the total population are therefore directly suffering under the caste-based discrimination and untouchability as well.

In this series of article The Rising Nepal (TRN), Nepali daily, will be introduced different Dalit caste by alphabetical order as their schedule by NDC.

Badi:  Brihad Nepali Shabdakosh (Grand Nepali Dictionary) 2040 BS edition writes Badi means ‘one who plays musical instruments’. The Nepali word Badi has its root in Sanskrit language. The word Badi gives the meaning of Vadya. The word Badya is closely related to the word Badhak which is mean by playing musical instrument. That is why; it is guessed that, ‘Badi’ means Vadyabadak, one who plays musical instruments, in Sanskrit language. Badi belongs to Hindu Khas society as Dalit community. According to a research paper by Thomas Cox, an anthropologist at Katmandu’s Tribhuvan University, Badi entered to Nepal in Licchavi dynasty (100BC-880AD) from the northern India’s Bihar state.

Badi is listed as Dalit by MLD. According to NDC the Badis belongs to Hill Dalit. They are understood untouchable; sometimes Badi is called untouchables within the untouchable caste in Hindu organization. In the Hill Dalit as a whole the social and economic position of Badi is the lowest compared to Gaine (Gandharwa). Badi is also known as singer caste. Singing and dancing are the traditional occupation of Badi, by which they collect food and money from their clients. Badi used sang and dance at festivals, wedding and private parties as well.

Most of the Badis men are make drum (Damaha) and pipe where as women used to sing and dance to their patron and consumer. Sometimes they leave their village to visit new and next place to play their musical instrument for the purpose of income generate. It is seemed that dancing and singing are the means of subsistence economy of Badis. Cox claimed that sometimes Badi go to neighboring village of India to play their dance and sang.

According to the first National Civil Code of Nepal also known as Purano Muluki Ain 1854 (1910BS), Badi remain the 10th lowest ranking among the 12 untouchable castes as Pani nacalne choi chitto halnu parne (castes from whom water is not accepted and whose touch requires sprinkling of holy water). The rules of orthodox Hinduism dictate that members of the so-called higher castes and the caste form indigenous do not allow the Badi into their houses, accept water or food from them, and use the same water pond, pump and tap.

Badi women Image: http://www.ipsnews.net/2011/07/nepal-sex-workers-demand-a-place-in-the-constitution/
Badi women
Image: http://www.ipsnews.net/2011/07/nepal-sex-workers-demand-a-place-in-the-constitution/

According to Thomas Cox, an anthropologist; Badi have an argot, which they use to talk about prostitution in the presence of outsiders without being understood. Even these days, it is believe that, some Badi women (both young girls and adults) prostitute themselves in neighboring towns, market centers and highways, mostly in Nepalgung, Rajapur, Tulsipur and Ghorahi, western part of Nepal, to support their families. So-called higher caste men and women from indigenous people are allowed to have sex with Badi prostitutes.

The National population census, 2001 stated that there were 4442 Badis in the country who were scattered mainly of the Mid- Western, Far-western, Far-western hill and Terai. According to the census 2011, there are 386, 03 Badis almost 0.15 Percent of the total population of country, the number of Badis was 7082 in 1991. The population of Badi was decreased 7082 to 4442 from 1991 to 2001.  On the other side, it is enormously increased 4442 to 38603 from 2001 to 2011 census, it is about 0.13 percent. It is believe that the Badi Movement (Singh Durbar Gherau) was held in 2007 gave proud Badi to identify them as Badi. Therefore, the number of Badi has gone up in the present census. Surkhet, Bardiya, Dang, Jajarkor, Kailali, Banke, Rukum and Slyan are the high Badi populated districts.

The NDc says Badi use more than three dozens of surname as family name. Some of them are like to higher caste and indigenous as well. Das, Rana, Bdai Bhand, Hudke Dhital, Lekali, Pahadi, Kashyap, Chanda,Chhilel, Jogi Rajyog,Chhilal, Sinha, Vaisya, Nagarchi, Khati, Chhinwayal,Bsel, Gautam,Nepal, Vadyakar, Batha, Nepali, Chhinal, Bahya, Kaliya, Baikar, Poudel, Dumarki, Pokharel, Simal, Jumleli, Harithanga,Kesari, Kahnaute, baresahan are some popular surname practiced by Badi.

According to Thomas Cox, an anthropologist; Badi have an argot, which they use to talk about prostitution in the presence of outsiders without being understood. Even these days, it is believe that, some Badi women (both young girls and adults) prostitute themselves in neighboring towns, market centers and highways, mostly in Nepalgung, Rajapur, Tulsipur and Ghorahi, western part of Nepal, to support their families. So-called higher caste men and women from indigenous people are allowed to have sex with Badi prostitutes.

The landless people in Nepal are mostly the Dalit groups as a whole. Their main source of livelihood was the patronage by rulers of principalities or wealthy high caste landlords. Until the mid-twentieth century, these patrons provided for Badi’s basic needs such as housing, clothes and food and in return the Badi offered entertainment and served as their courtesans. National Dalit Strategy Report 2002 says the overall economic activity rate, according to 1991 census, was 63.6 per cent of the total Dalit population aged 10 years and above, which was slightly higher than the national average (57%). Economic Activity rate of Badi population (aged 10 years and above), 1991 was 71.4 per cent followed the Phadi Dalit 74.2 percent.

© The author is a sociologist/Anthropologist and an associate editor for Gorkhapatra Daily News Paper, his expertise is the cast system in Nepal 

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