Mala (caste)

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Mala Community
Total population
(85 lakhs as per 2001 census[1])
Regions with significant populations
Andhra Pradesh
Telangana
Languages
Telugu language
Religion
Predominantly:
Hinduism
Minorities:
Related ethnic groups
Telugu people, Dravidian peoples

Mala are Dalits from the south Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Mala groups are considered as Scheduled Castes by the Government of India.[2]

Culture[edit]

Subdivisions[edit]

Malas, who were considerable in number, were mostly agricultural workers like Pulayars of Kerala today. And it has been pointed earlier, some of them were employed village messengers (Maskoori or Elodu) and some as watchmen of the village chavadi by the middle of Twentieth century. Malas were also employed to dig graves. Malas employed to see the irrigation in villages called Neerati, Neeradu.

There were kin-communities of Malas such as Baindla, Jangam, Poturaju, Mala Mashtin, Relli Mala, Mala Rajanna, Mala dasari / Mala Dasu / Mithaalayyalavalu, Dandems, Nethakani or Mala sale, Mala Jangama.[3] Mala Dasari/Mala Dasu has been a tradition of Tamil Nadu, which spread over to Andhra Pradesh between 9th and 10th century.

Jangams were traveling priests begging from Malas and at night they were to keep vigilance at the graveyards. Poturajus were another group of priests serving the village spirits both benevolent and malevolent, they also assist the priestess when the sacrifices were offered. Mashtis were traveling acrobats performing their heroics at the outskirts of the villages where caste villagers turn up to watch them. Mala dasoos were another set of priests who reside with Mala settlements. Dandems were agricultural laborers either hired or bought by landlords.

According to B. R. Ambedkar, the Mahars and similar communities like Malas were warriors of defeated kingdoms, who were disarmed and pushed down in social status but retained as village servants.[4] B. R. Ambedkar also notes Mahiya Rajputs in Gujarat and the Khatris of Punjab who were formerly employed as warriors, were defeated and disarmed armed and employed in other professions over time.[5]

According to Government of India census data from 2001,[6] Malas constituted 41.6 percent (5,139,305) of the Scheduled Castes (SC) population in the then state of Andhra Pradesh, which has subsequently been bifurcated by the creation of Telangana state.[7] They are largely concentrated in the Coastal Andhra region.[citation needed]

The Mahars in neighbouring Maharashtra are akin to the Malas[8] and the two dominant dalit castes in Tamil Nadu, Paraiyar and Pallar, tend to claim the inter-relation with the Malas, Mahars, Holeyas or Chalawadis of Karnataka and Pulayas. According to researchers like Ambedkar, the Mahars and similar communities like Malas were actually warriors of some defeated kingdom, they were pushed down in social status,they were disarmed but retained as village servants." Malas also have done well in various fields, especially in military.

Mala Christians[edit]

A small section of the Malas also turned to Christianity but after noticing the similar caste politics in the Telugu Catholic church, shifted to Protestantism instead. They are prominent in the Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church (AELC), Church of South India (CSI). They have made very good use of the Christian educational programs, considerably elevating their social position and now form part of the upper middle class, these Christian Malas are commonly called Merugumala people, who came from Godavari Krishna basin. They are not considered Scheduled Castes by the Government of India but fall under the "BC-C" category (Backward castes C-category) with 1% Reservation at state level and at national level they come under Other Backward Class (OBC, List of OBC's; Andhra Pradesh list, Entry No.in the Central List-60 (Scheduled castes converts to Christianity and their progeny) ).[9] They have been demanding central Government to accord them SC status on par with Dalit Buddhists, Dalit Sikhs and not to discriminate them on religious grounds for being Dalit Christians, the case is pending with the Supreme Court since 2005 when it was filed on behalf of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims (Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz).

Notable people[edit]

References[edit]

  • Reich, D. et al., Nature 461, 489-494, 2009.
  • Bouckaert, R., Lemey, P., Dunn, M., Greenhill, S. J., Alekseyenko, A. V., Drummond, A. J., Gray, R. D., Suchard, M. A., & Atkinson, Q. D.*, Mapping the origins and expansion of the Indo-European language family. Science, 337:957–960. http://language.cs.auckland.ac.nz/ , 2012.