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Namasudra, also known as Namassej or Namassut, is an Indian avarna community originating from certain regions of Bengal, India. The community was earlier known as Chandala or Chandal,[1] a term usually considered as a slur.[2] They were traditionally engaged in cultivation and as boatmen.[3] They lived outside the four-tier ritual varna system and thus were outcastes [4][5]


Joya Chatterji mentions that "in the 1870s, Chandals of Bakarganj and Faridpur boycotted caste Hindus "when they refused to accept an invitation to dine from a Chandal headman; and henceforth they "battled continuously to improve their ritual position" and later claimed the "more respectable title of 'Namasudra' and Brahmin status".[6] According to Anil Seal, the Namasudras were a "large non-Aryan caste of eastern Bengal, mainly engaged in boating and cultivation".[7] However, Niharranjan Ray, a historian, believed that they have a closer relation with north Indian Brahmins, saying "they are of the same line as the Brahmans of north India; indeed there is a closer relation between the north Indian Brahmans and the Bengali Namahsudras than between the north Indian Brahmans and the Bengali Brahmans, Kayasthas and Vaidyas."[8]

From the late 1930s, attempts by the Namasudras of Bengal Presidency, British India, to improve the way in which society perceived them received support from the bhadralok (an influential class). The bhadralok, to increase their own power in Bengal, sought to enlarge their political base by bringing the Namasudras into a united Hindu political community.[6]

According to Sekhar Bandyopadhyay, the Dalit of Bengal became involved in the Partition movement, and that the "two most important communities, who dominated dalit politics in the province, were the Namasudras and the Rajbanshis". The Namasudras, who mostly inhabited the districts of East Bengal, were forced to migrate to West Bengal during the Partition of India in 1947.[1]

Community association[edit]

The Namassej Samaj Andolon is a socio-political organisation that claims to represent the community.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Bandyopadhyay, Sekhar (2004). Caste, Culture and Hegemony: Social Dominance in Colonial Bengal. Sage Publications. p. 192. ISBN 978-0-76199-849-5. 
  2. ^ Viswanath, Rupa (2014). The Pariah Problem: Caste, Religion, and the Social in Modern India. Columbia University Press. p. 268. ISBN 978-0-23116-306-4. 
  3. ^ Bose, N.K. (1994). The Structure Of Hindu Society (Revised ed.). Orient Longman Limited. pp. 161–162. ISBN 81-250-0855-1. 
  4. ^ Rees, D. Ben, ed. (2002). Vehicles of Grace and Hope: Welsh Missionaries in India, 1800-1970. William Carey Library. p. 156. ISBN 978-0-87808-505-7. 
  5. ^ IBP USA (2012). Bangladesh Country Study Guide Volume 1 Strategic Information and Developments. International Business Publications USA. p. 86. ISBN 978-1-43877-389-6. 
  6. ^ a b Chatterji, Joya (2002). Bengal Divided: Hindu Communalism and Partition, 1932-1947. Cambridge University Press. pp. 191–194. ISBN 978-0-52152-328-8. 
  7. ^ Seal, Anil (1971). The Emergence of Indian Nationalism: Competition and Collaboration in the Later Nineteenth Century. Cambridge University Press. p. 374. ISBN 978-0-52109-652-2. 
  8. ^ Ray, Niharranjan (1994). History of the Bengali People: Ancient Period. Wood, John W. (trans.). Orient Longman. p. 28. ISBN 0-86311-378-8. 
  9. ^ "Home page". Namassej (Namasudra) Samaj. Archived from the original on 2012-05-27. 

Further reading[edit]