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Chamar (from the Sanskrit Charmakara,Tanners ) is a prominent occupational Dalit caste in India. Also associated with the Madiga in South India.


Chamars were mainly labourers and peasants, however, some of them were traditionally engaged in professions such as Leather-working. However, many Chamars living in rural areas have branched out into other occupations such as Weaving. Because of their Dalit status, which was considered to be the lowest in the Indian Caste System, over the centuries, the Chamars have been subjected to discrimination, as a result of which many of them remain poor and backward to this day. Many Chamar families share the same names as families from other castes, this is because they had belonged to those other castes in the past but had fallen down the hierarchy due to poverty or exclusion from the family.

One example of discrimination against Chamars is cited in an Amar Chitra Katha book about Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar. According to the booke, Vidyasagar and several assistants of his, offered food and provisions to victims of a famine in Bengal. Vidyasagar asked his assistants to distribute oil to Chamar victims with parched skin. However, he noticed that one assistant did his bidding only from a distance. When asked why he could not move closer to the Chamars, the assistant replied, "How can I touch a Chamar?" (Vidyasagar then touched one Chamar and said, "What makes you think you can't?"

Today in India, Chamars are politically organised for their status in the society and these changes really helped them to improve their status. Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and other states of India are examples where this caste is very much more conscious.

Chamars in the Punjab

Chamars are among the biggest castes in India. The most politically and socially influential Chamars are from the state of Punjab with Dalits comprising 27% of the population. In the Punjab they are divided into various groups such as Ad-dharmis and Ravidasis. They are highly concentrated in the Doaba region of Punjab (India).

The Chamars of Doaba are rich and educated. Due the influence of Sikhism and the preference of the British for Sikh soldiers, many Chamar Sikhs, were able to serve in the military and thus improve their social and economic status.

A lot of Chamars from Doaba have been migrating to the USA, the UK, Canada, the Middle East and other countries from where send a lot of money back home.

One of the most decorated regiments of the Indian Army is the Sikh Light Infantry, which is composed mostly of Chamar and Mazhabi Sikhs.

The Dalit/Shudra political party, the BSP is a powerful force in the Indian political environment.

Famous Chamars

  • Jagjivan Ram - Deputy Prime Minister of India
  • Meira Kumar - Minister of Parliament (India)
  • Kanshi Ram - Founder of the BSP
  • Mayawati - Leader of BSP
  • Samsher Singh Doolan - President of the Congress Party
  • Chaudhary Jagjit Singh - A prominent Politician in the Doaba district of Punjab
  • Palwankar Baloo - Cricketer and Social Activist
  • Chamkila - Punjabi Singer and Musician
  • Amar Arshi - Punjabi Singer
  • Lal Chand Yamla Jatt - Punjabi Singer
  • Lehmber Hussainpuri - Punjabi Singer
  • Kaler Kanth - Punjabi Singer
  • Sant Ram Udassi - Punjabi Poet
  • Bhulla Ram Chann - Punjabi Poet
  • Charan Singh Safri - Punjabi Poet
  • Dev Jassal - Punjabi Poet
  • Balbeer-O - Sarpanchni
  • Tejinder Sandhu - Veterinary Clinic Manager
  • Gurkamal Singh Kandhola - Fought legal battle against caste discrimination

See also

  • Karmabhoomi by Premchand

The famous Ad Dharam movement, initiated by Mangoo Ram during the 1920s, has been among the most successful of dalit mobilizations in the history of modern India. The Ad Dharam movement not only successfully mobilized a large majority of the chamars from the Doaba region, it also played an important role in transforming the social identity of dalits in the region.

Though the son of a rich chamar, his family had to bear the stigma of untouchability. He spent much of his early life in the United States where he got involved with the Gadar movement. On his return to Punjab in 1925, he set up a school for lower caste children with the help of the Arya Samaj, but soon distanced himself from the Samaj and took over the Ad Dharm movement.

Social Groups

♣♣ Bania ♣♣ Chamar ♣♣ Julaha ♣♣ Khatri ♣♣ Lobana ♣♣ Saini ♣♣

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