A guest post by Tribhuvan Chandra Wagle


Tribhuvan C Wagle
Author

The Chidimars are not known only as Dalit, they are also known as minor in term of population and nomadic as well even today. Chidimars are known as so-called untouchables, enlisted as Terai Dalits under the schedule of National Dalit Commission (NDC). The word Chidimar has been fashioned with two words, Chidi and Mar which means birds and hunter respectively. Therefore, we can say Chidimar means one who hunts birds. The Chidimar community is a distinct group within Nepal’s Dalit or ‘untouchable’ caste with its own traditions. Even today, it is supposed that the Chidimars are applying traditional nomadic, hunting and gathering life style. They are very weak among Dalits as they nomadic for hunting birds, wolf, jackal, and wild-cat. Dipak Chaudhary, writer of Nepal Ko Madheshi Samaj, 2065; says that Chidirmars move from one place to another for hunting, which shows that they are still remaining in nomadic or semi nomadic socio-cultural life.

The Chidimar are supposed to enter into Nepal from India, especially from Bihar, before about 300 years ago when other such groups were entering into Nepal. The Chidimars are found mainly in the Terai districts but they are not socially united. They remain socially disunited and live scattered in small groups. The Chidimars are marginalized from social, economic, educational, political and religious development spheres due to caste based discrimination.

Though, the Census 1991 is the first population Census that initiated to collect datas on population by caste and ethnicity in the history of National Population Census of Nepal. This census had identified 59 castes\ethnicities whereas 2001 census identified 101 castes\ethnicities. But the 1991 census had not given figures of various Dalit groups of the Terai such as Chidimar, Bantar, Tatma, Dom and Halkhor. The census of 1991 identified and enumerated only 10 Dalit castes except Chidimar but The NDC has scheduled 15 distinct Terai Daltis as Dalit community including Chidimar.  

The number of Chidimar is decreasing today.  The 2001 census showed there were 12296 Chidimar in Nepal but according to census 2011 total number of Chidirmar has decreased 12296 to 1254. It may not be reliable data; which has raised a serious question where the large number of Chidimar has gone out? Sufficient and reliable data and relevant social indicators on Chidimar are not available; it is because of some reasons. First, it is the problem of identifying Chidimar. Before the census 2001 no Chidimar are enumerated as a separate caste; and second, some Chidimar identified themselves as other castes changing their surname either like to Dalits or non-Dalits. According to the NDC Saraneriya, Saranariya, Karauriya, Yadav, Not and Bakhu are the surnames practiced in Chdimar community. The census 2001 said that Chidimars were found in 24 districts of Nepal mostly in Bardiya, Bara and Banke with the number of 3496, 2515 and 2320 respectively.

The Chidimar are supposed to enter into Nepal from India, especially from Bihar, before about 300 years ago when other such groups were entering into Nepal. The Chidimars are found mainly in the Terai districts but they are not socially united. They remain socially disunited and live scattered in small groups. The Chidimars are marginalized from social, economic, educational, political and religious development spheres due to caste based discrimination.

A Banke, Nepalgung resident Chidimar woman with her children.  Photo by; sirajjudin khan, reporter Gorkhapatra
A Banke, Nepalgung resident Chidimar woman with her children.
Photo by; sirajjudin khan, reporter Gorkhapatra

Chaudhary writes, The Chidimars known as Kadoriya in Terai region. Accorging to The National Dalit Strategy Paper 2002 Chidimar is also known as Badimar. Chaudhary also says, Chidimar kills even pet-cat for meat. Economically they are poorest among the poor Dalits.  The Chidimars are known as approximately synonym to landlessness. Many Chidimar are settled themselves in the land of big landlord. Food-first Information and Action Network Nepal (FIAN) claims that merely ten percent of this population owes own land and most of them are residing in public lands (Ailani). FIAN again claims the females in this community are restricted to involve themselves in daily household activities. Interaction with outsiders or working outsides family is a taboo. However, in Belaspur area of Banke, a few Chidimar women are entrepreneurs in small scale business with the support of RESIC through Micro credit promotion programme. Some women are running tailoring shops and retail shops thus contributing to their family income.

Overwhelming majority of the Chidimar is Hindu and the remaining minor portion of them follows Jain, Christian, Bauddhism and Islam. Most of them speak Nepali, Maithali and Bhojpuri. They have their own life style and folkways. Women Chidimar go to neighboring villages begging for food, second hand clothes to support their family and male Chidimar are used to go to jungle for hunting. They use arrows known as Narkul and Gums which are traditionally made for birds hunting. This types of Gum pest the fin of birds when the birds come to feed foodstuff.

The Chidimars are patriarchal with the headship of male in household. They celebrate birth, marriage and death rites more or less like to so-called Hindu upper caste and their local tradition. Mainly, birth, marriage and death rites are compulsory to be completed by Chidimars. Other norms, value, folkways and social life ways are more or less similar to the Hindu values.

According to the NDC Saraneriya, Saranariya, Karauriya, Yadav, Not and Bakhu are the surname of Chidimar community.

Sukrarishi Chaulagain, writer of Pahichan 2063, says Chidimar is a social status or designation (Padbi) rather than caste. The Chidimars belongs to Baheliya which is a caste organization. Nawabaganj of Bahraich district of India is supposed the origin place of chidimar. Baheliya were known as bird hunter in those days in Nawabaganj. The Chidimars are proud sometimes they take part in hunting camps with the Rana and Shaha kings ruling family as well. They use Jaal, Lasa (a type of glue bade from Pipal or bar tree),Narkul for hunting.

They have their own socio-legal system. Panchayat an authority of Chidimar society finds out guilty, make reconciliation and punishment over the concerned Chidimar members as their acts in society. Being endogamy Chidimars are extremely prohibited to practice exogamy marriage. If one Chidimar weds to a girl except their caste, he will be punished by Chaudhary through Panchayat. Chaudhari, the head of village should chair meeting of Panchayat. Nayab, Sipahi, Katuwal, and Devan are the assistances of Chaudhari, who have to help Chaudhari as necessary. Chaudhari is a hereditary head of socio-legal system of the Chidimar community whereas Panchayat is a social institution within them. The most eldest son of Chaudhari would take over the rights, duties and responsibilities in the absence of his father.

Birth, marriage and death rituals of Chidimar are more or less like to either so- called higher or lower castes in Terai. Gaina and Thaina are peculiar process in their marriage ceremony. These two Processes to be completed in Chidimar family after 5 to 11 months of formal marriage. For most Chidimars burial is the ideal method for dealing with the dead, although many groups practice cremation.

According to a social survey done by a non-governmental organization (NGO) nearly 5 percent of Chidimar were literate in Banke district. Only three students have passed the SLC examination up to 2063 BS.

They believe in witchcraft, sin, magic, sorcery, pre and rebirth. They have deep faith over fatalistic values. Being Hindu, The Chidimars are following Hindu religions, norms and values in their daily social life. They believe pantheism but worship Shiva, Durga, Ganesh. They also worship sun as their god. They celebrate Holi, Chhatha, Dashahara (Dashain) Tihar as other residents in Terai. They use yellow coloured Tika on the occasion of Dahsain whereas red Tike will put on their forehead only the occasion of marriage. Some Chidimars remain in fasting in the 9th or 10th days of Dashain, some of them pierce their tongue on the occasion of Dashain.

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