Articles

History, community and identity: an interpretation of Dalibai

by Rajshree Dhali

In recent years there has been a qualitative and progressive change in Dalit consciousness. This has resulted in Dalit assertion. Apart from mobilizing masses for political power, Dalits are now trying to reconstruct Dalit culture, literature and history so that they can claim for their identities. The present article intends to trace the process of formation of identity of the Meghwal, a Dalit community of western Rajasthan. The process of identity formation of the Meghwal community has been traced through the reading of oral traditions, and the written literature especially one by Swami Gokul Das titled "Meghwal Itehas" (History of Meghwals) written in the Vikram Samvat 2001/1994 A.D. 

The last decade of the twentieth century has witnessed a qualitative and progressive change in Dalit consciousness. Dalits have begun to organize themselves to alter the social relations to their advantage demanding institutionalized mechanism to undo the age old oppressive and discriminatory tilt of the social apparatus. Their assertion to demand a legitimate share in the political power and social equity has been accompanied by an increasing interest in Dalit culture, literature and history. The contributions made by Dalits for making of Indian culture, history, society and their religious worldview as a subject matter is acquiring a prominent place in the contemporary academic discourse. There is a legitimate attempt to recognize Dalit contributions and give them their due place in Indian history and culture. Dalit communities, over a period of time have produced intellectuals and theoreticians from among themselves who along with others are reconstructing several aspects of Dalit culture and history which till very recently had remained untouched.

The emergence of Dalit literature is yet another attempt by the Dalit communities to construct their identity. A tilt in the balance of forces at socio-political level has resulted into what has been called by Braj Ranjan Mani as "breaking the 'culture of silence' imposed on them and they have started telling their stories in their own language and idiom, and have begun to refute their conventional representation in history and culture". (1) It has also been argued by some scholars that authentic and near objective representation of Dalits in history, culture and literature can be ensured only by Dalits themselves as they are the ones who have experienced the caste oppression and discrimination. (2) Without going into the debate whether those who have not faced the caste discrimination and oppression themselves can do justice to the Dalit culture, literature and history or not, the present article intends to trace the process of formation of identity of the Meghwal, a Dalit community of western Rajasthan.

The process of identity formation of the Meghwal community has been traced through the reading of oral traditions, coined by the lower caste groups themselves or about them by others, and the literature produced by Swami Gokul Das, a Dalit author which reflects collective aspirations of this community. Most of the literary texts produced by Swami Gokul Das deals with Ramdev, a popular deity worshipped by the lower caste groups in western Rajasthan. The text consulted for the present work pertains to the origin of the Meghwal community and records several versions of the life-story of Dalibai, a Meghwal female deity. Several versions of the text have been studied to understand the formation of the identity of the Meghwal community. It is in this sense that the life-story of a Dalit woman makes history.

Before we analyze the text proper let us study the historical background to which this history was written. The Meghwal community was formed by the members of the low caste groups and marginalized sections who shared a non-Brahmanical world-view. However, by the nineteenth century the upper castes had already accepted the Meghwals as Hindus and included their deities and belief system as a part of Hinduism. The appropriation, the evidences suggest, was bitterly contested and far from a smooth process. The article intends to understand and underline the contestation made by the Meghwal community for religious and spiritual space within Brahmanism/Hinduism once the appropriation was complete.

I

The sources consulted to trace the aforesaid process include both written and oral literature and interviews conducted with members of the Meghwal community. The literature analyzed include oral traditions associated with Dalibai, a low caste female deity worshipped by the Meghwals and a text titled Meghwal Itehas (History of Meghwals) authored by a Dalit writer named Swami Gokuldas in the Vikram Samvat 2001/1994 A.D. Oral traditions suggesting deification of Dalibai, her association with Ramdev, a Rajput warrior who was deified by the low caste groups of western Rajasthan have been documented in several sources. More than one versions of these traditions offering variations in contents, suggest that they have come down to us through both Brahamanical and non-Brahamanical sources. Meghwal Itehas, a twentieth century text, written by a Dalit himself, is an exercise in constructing history of the Meghwal community with a view to gain respect and dignified social status within a discriminatory and hierarchical social apparatus. Constructing genealogical origin of the community, highlighting the deeds of the prominent members and deities of the community are the areas focused in the book.

The present day Meghwal community is socially well knit and organized community to voice Dalit concerns. The Meghwals are distributed over Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. In Rajasthan they are known as Megh or Meghbangi. Other communities also refer to them as Meghwal, Chamar or Harijan. In official records of Rajasthan, they are notified as Megh, Meghwal, Menghvar, and their combined population, according to the 1981 Census is 889,300. (3) Meghvals are well known as an occupational group engaged in tanning of hides. They also engage in farming and work as agricultural laborers. They are also called, in a somewhat derogatory manner, dhedh or dhedha, as they drag away dead animals. The word dhedha has been derived from a Gujarati word dhayadavan, to drag. (4) According to the Census of 1901 the Meghwal were classified as untouchables.

The Meghwals began to architect their religious beliefs and rituals around two important non-Brahamanical deities--Ramdev and Dalibai. They not only deified them but through this process structured an independent identity of their own as a community. Ramdev, a sixteenth century Rajput hero, began to emerge as a lower caste deity by the seventeenth century whose followers were dominantly the untouchable dhedhs (now called Meghwals). It is perhaps this group in which Ramdev might have been active and whose interests he might have championed. Ramdev's association with the dhedhs was ridiculed and derided by the Rajputs and other upper castes. (5) While Ramdev belonged to Tomar (or Tanwar) Rajput clan, the initial impetus for the glorification and deification came from the lowest community of dhedhs. The association of the Meghwals with Ramdev is also brought out by numerous legends and established by scholars who have worked on Ramdev. (6)

Dalibai is another deity worshipped by the Meghwals. She is worshipped along with Ramdev. As per popular beliefs she was a selfless crusader and great disciple of Ramdev. The traditions suggest that she used to accompany Ramdev to help in his task to spread the idea of equality and establish an egalitarian society. (7) Dalibai is considered as the kuldevi by Meghwal worshippers. It may be mentioned here that kuldevi's are tutelary goddesses. Kuldevis and kuldevtas are important features of religious tradition in Rajasthan. In most cases they emerge from within its own clan and sometimes from outside. They are expected to perform various tasks for the clan. The tasks may range from curing their devotees from some diseases, protect members of the lineage from harm and playing a role for the clan in the formation of state. (8) 

Ramdev and Dalibai are worshipped together. The temples of Ramdev also contain a relatively smaller shrine of Dalibai in it. The main temple of both the deities is located at Runeecha, a small town in western part of Rajasthan which has housed graves of Ramdev and Dalibai, popularly known as samadhi. (9) Vanis attributed to Dalibai and Ramdev suggest a deep influence of Gorakhpanthis, a non-Brahmanical heterodox sect on their personalities and teachings. It may be mentioned here that the period between 10 to 11th and 14 to 15th centuries witnessed the growth of the powerful, non-Brahmanical Nathpanthi movement in various parts of northern India. (10) Being a Meghwal, Dalibai provided a strong basis for her fellow caste members to deify her for the expression of their religious beliefs and practices. The increasing commonalities of religious beliefs and practices as the veneration of Dalibai grew also forged a community feeling among the members of Meghwal caste. As the community bonds began to crystallize, new myths were coined and popularized and elements of charisma were added to Dalibai's personality. Almost all versions of life-story of Dalibai records her ability to perform miracles which have rendered even her mentor and Guru Ramdev speechless. 

Three versions of the story dealing primarily with the birth of Dalibai have come down to us through various sources and the same have been recorded by Swami Gokul Das. Apart from being part of popular traditions and narrated through "Vaat" and Bhajans more than one versions of these stories have been recorded into bardic sources. (11) These stories were also narrated by the devotees of Dalibai in their personal conversation with the author. The fact that these versions have been recorded in various literary sources ranging from official to bardic suggests their popularity. Contents of the stories suggest that they were composed at different times and throws light on the socio-religious processes of those times.

II

According to one version of the story which is also recorded by Gokul Das in his work Meghvansh Itihas, Bhoj Meghwal had two sons--Sayer and Adsi. Sayer had no issue but Adsi had a son named Munja and a daughter Dali. Since Adsi died when the children were infants, Sayer brought them up. Since her childhood, Dalibai was a great disciple of Ramdev and accompanied him in his task of reforming the society. The narrative records that Dalibai used to accompany Ramdev to sing Bhajans. The episode of death of Dalibai is recorded in the story in detail. One day when Dalibai was grazing the cattle of Ramdev, she heard music and songs. When inquired, she found out that Ramdev was to take live samadhi. Hearing this, she left the cattle in the jungle and rushed to the spot where Ramdev along with his followers was preparing the land for his samadhi. She entered into a dialogue with Ramdev and insisted that she would take samadhi first. Ramdev and Dalibai argued for a while surprising the devotees and disciples. When no consensus was arrived at, Dalibai suggested a way out. It was agreed upon by both that while digging the samadhi, if articles used by women such as comb, bangles etc. are found, Dalibai would be the first to take the samadhi and if articles of worship used by men such as jhalar and shankh are discovered, Ramdev would take his turn first. The digging was undertaken before the gathering of curious devotees. To the surprise of everyone, articles used by women were found and Dalibai, therefore, took the samadhi first. She also instructed Ramdev to take samadhi after three days. Ramdev, the narrative tells, sang bhajans at Dalibai's samadhi for three days before taking samadhi.

The aforesaid narrative establishes Dalibai's birth in a low caste family. There is no attempt to hide or dilute the caste of the deity as it was attempted in the later versions of the story. In a caste ridden medieval society, Dalibai must have been rejected by the upper caste groups as a deity. This can be discerned from several couplets composed by the low caste devotees of Dalibai who have defended her saintly character in spite of her being a Meghwal. (12) Dalibai moved from place to place accompanying with Guru Ramdev singing bhajans which suggests that the duo preached their teachings through singing among masses, primarily the lower castes.

Defending the status of deity attributed to a Meghwal female must have given a sense of pride to the members of Meghwal caste and an icon to rally around. Singing of bhajans by Ramdev and Dalibai in lower caste gatherings in general and Meghwalhttp://roundtableindia.co.in/administrator/index.php?option=com_content&task=adds in particulars gradually built up the close socio-cultural network within the Meghwals and provided them an identity as a community. It was a non-Brahmanical identity as it is clearly established from their belief system, the rituals they performed and social practices followed by the members of the Meghwal caste. Dalibai was not worshipped by her followers for general spiritual welfare as is the case with deities of Hindu pantheon; rather, she was venerated for seeking protection from difficulties and problems faced in the mundane life. (13) Moreover, iconography of Dalibai has also remained vague. It has no definite human shape and resembles a doll made of cloth or wood. Meghwals like their counterparts in Brahamanical system do not consign their dead to flames. Rather they bury them. The episode of taking samadhi by Dalibai and Ramdev in the narrative and worship of their samadhis at the temple of Runeecha reveals the non-Brahamanical character of these deities. 

The story firmly establishes Dalibai as a deity and even attempts to free her from dominating influence of Ramdev. Dalibai is no longer a disciple of Ramdev, but a deity with enough miraculous powers to astonish her Guru. It is only through superior miraculous powers that she ensures the discovery of articles used by women when samadhi was being dug and succeeded in taking samadhi before Ramdev. Such a construction was an attempt to attribute a higher status to Dalibai in popular perception. The instruction to Ramdev by Dalibai to take samadhi only after three days and singing of bhajans at the samadhi of Dalibai by Ramdev indicate the attempt to project Dalibai as Guru of Ramdev, who happened to be of Rajput origin. This suggests that the Meghwals and their lower caste brethren were no longer willing to let their caste deity live under the shadow of Ramdev. 

III

The second version of the story seems to be addressing the concerns of the Meghwal community that emerged during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The part of the story dealing with the birth of Dalibai is completely new addition and needs explanation. According to this version of the story, Dalibai was born of a Rishi named Bhrigi. Once when the Rishi was performing tapasya, a nymph distracted him by dancing in a seductive manner. The Rishi, unable to control himself, released his semen. Feeling guilty of what he had done he kept the semen in a cleaved branch of the "Jal" tree and went away. When he came back after twelve months, he was surprised to see a girl child born in cleave of the branch. He picked up the child, blessed her and then made a basket of the branches and leaves of the Jal tree, kept the child in it, covered her with his shawl and left the basket in the river afloat. The Tanwar Rajput, Maharaj Ramdev, along with his friends was riding horse on the river bank. A Meghwal named Sayer from the Jaypal Gotra was also accompanying Ramdev. Ramdev spotted the basket and asked Sayer to take out the basket from the river. Sayer took out the basket and found a baby girl playing in it. Ramdev was perplexed and then he told Sayer that since he did not have a child, the god had sent him a daughter. Sayer brought her home and along with his wife brought up the girl with love and affection, who was called Dali.

The narrative attempts to veil the lower caste birth of the deity and traces her parenthood to a Rishi. Rishi in Indian traditions is one who has renounced the world seeking individual salvation through tapasya. He breaks away from the worldly life, refusing to be a part of institutionalized religious system and the state. In the process he acquires supernormal powers and becomes an alternative sources of power, in fact a god himself. (14) Though possessing the qualities of a rebel, Rishi in Indian traditions could not be identified as a non-Brahamanical figure. Popularity of the epics such as the Mahabharata and the Ramayana and numerous Puranic legends established Rishi as a well-knit figure in the Indian religious tradition, a figure whom even the gods of Hindu pantheon respected.

The changed version with regard to the birth of Dalibai can be understood by contextualizing the new version in the fast changing socio-religious conditions in Rajasthan primarily during the nineteenth century. Prior to the nineteenth century Brahmans and other upper caste groups, who enjoyed the position of dominance in social and religious domain, were either dismissive or scornful about the religious beliefs and practices of the untouchables and other lower caste groups. The Brahmans treated these beliefs and practices as superstitions and primitive. Power and dominance found their expression in, and was sustained through, institutions such as caste, which worked as a system of privilege for some and disabilities for many. Brahmanical supremacy was mediated through ordering of different varna and Hindu theological construct--sanskara, karma and dharma were integrated into caste system to legitimize Brahmanical supremacy. (15) Though, the system was patronized and protected by those who operated the levers of political power, it primarily drew its strength through inner dynamics. The sustenance of iniquitous and hierarchical social order, however, was not an easy task. The dominance of Brahmans was often resisted by those who found ascriptive hierarchy disadvantageous. Since, the hierarchical social order sustained and perpetuated itself primarily through religion and social customs sanctified by religion, resistance in the religious sphere was the strongest. 

The nineteenth and early twentieth centuries India witnessed numerous movements of political awakening and posed a renewed threat to the Brahamanical dominance and ascriptive hierarchy struggling to acquire a new form under the changed circumstances. (16) Similar localized movements in Rajasthan and weakening of the Rajput states due to Maratha depredations, infighting among them and the colonial rule had adversely affected the traditional balance of social forces and supremacy of Brahmans was challenged in religio-cultural sphere by asserting independent religious identity and giving wide currency to the cults of non-Brahmanical deities. The Brahmanical forces responded to the situation and began to appropriate lower caste religious traditions and deities to arrest the process of declining hegemony. The aforesaid version of Dalibai's story, if read in this background, provides a plausible explanation for veiling the caste of the deity. The process of appropriation of Dalibai into Brahmanical fold is facilitated by suggesting a Rishi as biological father of the deity as the upper caste commoners might not worship a deity who was born in a Meghwal family. Further, Dalibai, as the narratives record, is born in a branch of Jal tree, and not to a woman. This emphasizes the association of Dalibai with "Jal tree", an important vegetation in the arid region of western Rajasthan. It withstands the harsh ecological conditions and during the periods of drought and famine provides food and fodder for the members of the communities. After Bhrigi Rishi finds her, the basket made of Jal branches becomes her second home and the vehicle in which she reaches her mentor Ramdev. The association of the Jal tree with the birth of Dalibai signifies her as a product of nature, she being prakriti. It is popularly believed that Dalibai received her name from the branch of the Jal tree-branch in Hindi means "dali". 

The Jal tree branch or nature, here, has performed the role of a mother in giving birth to Dalibai. The absence of a biological mother, suggests an abstract birth, this creates an impersonal and cosmic image of the person in question. This version of the story postulates an obscure maternal lineage but the paternity is firmly established into Brahmanical system. Several such supernatural births can be read from Indian epics and puranas. The immediate references can be made to the births of Sita in the Ramayana and Draupadi in the Mahabharata. Sita was found by Janak from the ploughing field whereas Draupadi came out from the sacrificial fire. The kind of narration in regard to Dalibai's birth fits into the Brahmanical idea of supernaturalism.

The concerted attempt by the Brahmanical and other socially dominant forces to appropriate the traditions and deities of the lower caste groups as discussed above raises certain important questions. Was this appropriation a smooth affair or was it contested by the devotees and members of the lower caste groups? Did upper caste Hindu commoners accept Dalibai as a goddess of the Hindu pantheon and begin worshipping her for general spiritual welfare? The question of resistance offered to the attempts of appropriation is a subject matter that cannot be dealt in the present paper owing to the constraints of space. However, with regard to the acceptance of Dalibai as a Hindu goddess by the masses at large, the text Meghvansh Itehas by Swami Gokul Das, physical representation of Dalibai at Ramdev temple at Runeecha and worship offered by the visitors as observed by the author, throw up some important conclusions. Swami Gokul Das, records the construction of temples at samadhis of both Ramdev and Dalibai in the same enclosure. The temple of Ramdev was renovated by Sri Ganga Singh, who ruled Bikaner during first half of the twentieth century, new floor was constructed and doors of the temple were replaced. The author records with dismay that Ganga Singh paid no attention to the temple of Dalibai which stood in a bad condition next to Ramdev's temple. It is asserted that every year, a large number of Meghwal devotees visit the temple and make monetary contribution, but money, by the trust of the Ramdev temple, is not spent on Dalibai's temple. The neglect of Dalibai as a deity was further established when visit of the devotees, offerings and physical representation was personally observed at Runeecha temple. The shrine of Dalibai besides Ramdev's temple presented a stark contrast. It was a small structure, not repaired for a long time and without any proper icon of Dalibai in the sanctum sanctorum. The devotees queued up to worship and make offering to Ramdev. Once out of Ramdev's temple very few of them paid a visit to Dalibai's shrine. When inquired, most of them were found to be from the lower caste groups. A few of them who visited Dalibai's shrine from the middle caste and upper caste groups knew nothing about the deity. The shrine had no regular priest to perform puja and receive offerings as was the case with Ramdev's temple. 

The attempts to appropriate Dalibai into the Hindu pantheon of deities, therefore, have remained primarily at theological level. Caste still functions as a major deterrent for the upper caste groups in accepting Dalibai as a deity. The process, however, has brought some significant changes with regard to the Meghwals as an untouchable community who prior to the nineteenth century were not considered part of Hindu caste groups. There are enough evidences to suggest that Meghwals, prior to the nineteenth century, were considered as non-Hindu caste. The twentieth century sources including the writings of Gokul Das, on the other hand, not only recognize the Meghwals as Hindus but also suggest that they take pride in being one. Gokul Das asserts the loyalty of the Meghwals to Hinduism by claiming that Ramdev and Dalibai together resisted and saved the Meghwals from attacks of Muslims and also saved their religion i.e. Hinduism. It was because of this providence, Ramdev and Dalibai are worshipped as the chief deities by the Meghwals. (17) 

IV

The third version of the story, from its contents, appears to be a recent construct. The narrative speaks of the atrocities committed by the Muslim ruling class and forcible conversion of the Hindus to Islam. One such victim of the forcible conversion, according to the narrative, happened to be Dalibai. Ramdev, an important deity of the Meghwals, resisted the ongoing conversions and reconverted the converts to Hinduism by performing "shuddi". The story has strong communal overtones. Projection of Ramdev and Dalibai as champions of Hinduism and anti-Islam has a purpose. The dominant traditions associated with Ramdev and Dalibai are non-Brahmanical and have been categorized by some scholars as Islamic. (18) Ramdev has a large following among Muslims and is regarded as Ramsa Pir by the Muslims. His temple contains his grave, which is called samadhi by his Hindu followers. (19) To mitigate their association with Islamic practices, it was necessary to project these lower caste deities as anti-Islamic characters. Depicting them as orthodox Hindus in their lifetime, even by the Meghwals--as it is amply clear from the writings of Swami Gokul Das--is a drive towards fulfilling the unfinished agenda--making Dalibai a true Hindu deity which can be seen as an attempt by the Meghwals to carve out a religious space for themselves within Hinduism.

V

Meghwal traditions have also been reinvented and new traditions have been invented to fit them into the Hindu caste structure. Meghvansh Itehas also titled as Rishi Puran by Gokul Das has traced the genealogy of the Meghwal community to Lord Brahma. The text begins with the origin of the universe, earth and then living beings including humans. The traditions dealing with emergence of gods and goddesses, various races of human beings and varna system have been lifted from various Puranas, the Brahmanical texts. The text has also reproduced Puranic traditions describing the origin of Rishis. With the blessings of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh, three sons--Detratey, Durvasa and Chandrma were born to Attri Rishi's wife, Anusuya. From Chandrma began the Chandravansh, a branch of Kashatriya rulers. Megh, the founder of the Meghvansh was born to Vashisht Rishi, son of Lord Brahma and his wife Arundhiti. (20) All Rishis, according to the author were not Brahmans. Those part of the Brahman varna were called Brahmrishi and those part of Kashatriya varna were called Brahmakshatrap. Megh Rishi belonged to the Brahmakshatrap groups of Rishis and therefore, Meghwals possessed characteristics of both Brahmans and Kashatriyas. The text also provides an explanation for lower status for Meghwals in the caste hierarchy. Society, which during antiquities, was comprised of only two varnas, bifurcated into various caste and sub-caste groups determined by their karma (deeds). Those who did not follow the norms of the Brahmanical society were either cursed by Brahmans or declared outcaste. Such people formed separate castes belonging to the lower rung of the society. (21) According to one Puranic tradition, a king Trishanku once expressed the desire to proceed to heaven with human body. To achieve this, he invited Rishi Vashisht to perform yagna for him, which Vashisht refused. The king, then approached his hundred sons with the same request. Vashisht's sons cursed him to live the life of Chandala. The king turned Chandala, thereafter approached Rishi Vishwamitra who permitted him to perform the yagna. Rishi Vashisht and his hundred sons refused to participate in the yagna and were cursed by Vishwamitra to lead the life of Shudra. Rishi Vashisht and his hundred sons, including Megh lost their high social status. As a consequence, the Meghwals who originated from Rishi Megh found themselves as a lower caste group. 

The construction of literary traditions, therefore, played an important role in building a sense of a community among the Meghwals who began to believe in a common lineage, history and culture. The story of their origin from Rishi Megh undoubtedly helped them to stand up to the social oppression which they were subjected to owing to their low birth. Literary as well as oral traditions became a vehicle for defying Dalibai which not only helped them in constructing an identity of their own, but also provided a mechanism to contest the Brahmanical dominance. As long as the ruling elite and Brahmans were in position to maintain their hegemonic position, such non-Brhamanical deities posed no serious threat to them. Therefore, prior to the nineteenth century, the ruling elite and socially dominant section of western Rajasthan took no serious note of deities such as Ramdev and Dalibai. The decline of political power of the Rajputs and entry of colonial ruling elite diminished the hegemonic position of both Rajputs and Brahmans and Brahmanical hegemony was openly challenged by numerous lower caste movements. Brahmaical system responded to the situation by appropriating lower caste deities and the lower caste groups into the fold of Hinduism. This was seen as means to regain the old hegemonic position. The Meghwals, once part of Hindu caste system aspired for a religious space, which they were denied for ages. Constructing new genealogy and giving up degrading customs has to be seen in this perspective. 

GLOSSARY

Bhajans : Devotional songs

Jhalar : Frill used in worship ritual

Shankh : Conch

Samadhi : Death by interment

Tapasya : Deep meditation

Vaat : Story telling

Vani : saying by saints

NOTES AND REFERENCES

(1.) Braj Ranjan Mani, Debrahmanising, History Dominance and Resistance in the Indian Society, Manohar, New Delhi, 2005

(2.) Ibid, p. 19.

(3.) K. S. Singh, People of India (ed), Part II, Volume XXXVII, Popular Prakashan, Mumbai, 1998.

(4.) R. E. Enthovan, The Tribes and Castes of Bombay, Asian Educational Service, Delhi, 1914.

(5.) Shree Jagdish Gahlot, Ramdev Ne Milya Dhedh Hi Dhedh, Report Mardushumari Raj Marwar, Shodh Sansthan, Jodhpur, 1891.

(6.) D. Sila Khan, Conversion and Shifting Identities: Ramdev Pir and the Ismailies in Rajasthan, Manohar, Delhi, 1997

(7.) Numerous hymns and devotional songs composed and attributed to Ramdev establish their companionship. See Pushpa Bhati, Rajasthan Ke Lok devta Avam Lok Sahitya, Kavita Prakashan, Bikaner, 1996.

(8.) For further details see Lindsey Harlan, Religion and Rajput Women: The Ethic of Protection in Contemporary Narratives, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1992.

(9.) The author has personally visited the temple complex in March, 2001.

(10.) For more details see Satish Chandra, "Historical background to the rise of the Bhakti movement in northern India", edited by Satish Chandra Historiography, Religion and State in Medieval India, Har Anand Publications, New Delhi, 1996, pp.110-31. Also see in Sonaram Bishnoi. Baba Ramdev: Itihas Avam Sahitya, Scientific Publishers, Jodhpur, 1989

(11.) The literary traditions in Rajasthan were carried and nurtured by Charans and Bhats, two bardic communities. The specialized groups of Charans and Bhats were patronized both by the ruling elite and commoners. They maintained client-patron relationship with the families of the other castes, and maintained genealogies and kept records of endowments made by the head of the families to their clients. They were professional story-tellers and entertainers who narrated stories and entertained the guests on occasions like birth, deaths and marriages.

(12.) One such couplet suggests that the basic character of a saint does not change even after infinite time is passed. Whether one is born in a higher caste family or a lower caste family, a saint remains a saint. Gokul Das, Meghvansh Itehas, Phoolchand Bookseller, Ajmer, 1994, p.204.

(13.) The devotees revealed during the course of an interview at the temple of Ramdev and Dalibai at Runeecha that Dalibai protects them from diseases, natural calamities and evil spirits.

(14.) Romila Thapar, Cultural Transaction and Early India: Tradition and Patronage, OUP, Delhi, 1994, p.13.

(15.) M. N. Srinivas, Social Change in Modern India, Orient Longman, New Delhi, 1972

(16.) Izhavas, an untouchable agricultural caste in Travancore challenged the monopoly of the Brahmans in ritual matters whereas Shanars conducted a struggle against degrading custom of partial nakedness of women. See G. Aloysius, Nationalism without a Nation in India, OUP, New Delhi, 1997 

(17.) Gokul Das, Meghvansh Itehas, Phoolchand Bookseller, Ajmer, 1994, p.206.

(18.) See Dominique Sila Khan, Conversion and Shifting Identities: Ramdev Pir and the Ismailies in Rajasthan, Manohar, Delhi, 1997

(19.) Ibid.

(20.) Gokul Das, Meghvansh Itehas, op. cit., p.38.

(21.) Ibid, p. 40.

RAJSHREE DHALI

DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY

SGTB KHALSA COLLEGE

UNIVERSITY OF DELHI, DELHI-110007

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RAJSHREE DHALI 

University of Delhi, Delhi

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