Caste and Religions of Natal Immigrants


K. Chetty


While the traditional caste divisions of Brahmin, Ksattriya, Vaisya and Sudra (4 Varnas) is in theory the basis of the caste system, this division has no "distinct and determinate existence". Rather, the caste (jati) segmentation has developed historically around the basic division into hierarchical network of castes and sub-castes. Indian society says the Imperial Gazetteer had always been composed of "diverse and heterogeneous groups" out of which the modern caste system developed "by natural and insensible stages". New castes appeared and broke off connection with the parent stock. Castes arose from tribes that were "Hinduised" (e.g. Dom, Dosadh, Jat, Rajput, Nayar), from the sectarian type (e.g. Lingayats of south India ), from occupational/functional categories (e.g. Ahirs[herdsmen], dhobis [washermen], Goalas[milkmen)] Pods[fishermen]), through inter-tribal marriages (e.g. Shagirdpeshas of Bengal) and National types (e.g. Newars of Nepal and Marathas of Bombay), through original territorial linkages (e.g. Jaunpuris, Barendra), and the last category formed as a result of new ceremonial practices and/or occupations e.g. the Ayodhia Kurmis set themselves apart from other Kurmis and claimed Ksattriya origins.

While Islam accepted no caste distinctions, Muslims in India nevertheless tended to segment themselves in caste-like groups (e.g. Saiyids, Ashrafs, Ajlafs, Jolahas and Rajputs). Many Muslims were Hindu converts e.g. Manihir, Dhobi, Gaddi and Teli are Hindu caste names which Muslims bore. In 1901 there were 2400 castes and tribes in India. The list of caste names below were compiled showing religious and occupational/functional/professional categories. Where a "/'" appears this indicates a synonym or alternate spelling. Where the language or religion could be ascertained this is indicated as well but may not necessarily exclude other religions/language groups from carrying those caste names.

According to a study by Professor Surendra Bhana, at the lowest socio-economic level, those that emigrated to Natal were predominantly agricultural labourers, at the medium level were artisans with skills and at the highest economic level were the landowners.

CASTE Meaning/profession
Agamudi/Agumudaiyan Agriculturists
Agrawala Sub-caste of Banias(traders)
Ahir Herdsman
Babhans landowners- (mostly found in Behar)
Bagdee Agricultural labourers
Balija/Balji Traders/merchants or agriculturists (Telugu)
Bania/ Vania Traders and merchants
Bansia Fishermen:bansi meaning bamboo fishing rod
Behna Cotton carders
Bhandhaiya Those making rope and sacking from hemp and fibre
Bhangi Scavengers
Bhar/Bhur labourers
Bhooyear Agricultural labourers
Bhuinar/ Bhumihar Agriculturists/ landowners
Bhur/Bhar Agricultural labourers
Brahmin Priestly caste although many were farmers/landowners
Cavarai/Kavarai Landowners (Tamil)
Chakkiliyan/Chakkiyam Cobblers and leatherworkers (Telugu)
Chamar/Chambhar leather workers
Chetty/ Chetti Traders (Tamil)
Chitara Painters
Chohan Clan within Rajput caste
Christian Followers of Christ
Chuckler Leather workers (Telugu)
Chuhras Scavengers and village sweepers / menial jobs
Darzi Tailor (Muslim)
Dhimar Fishermen and palanquin bearers
Dhobi Washermen
Dhuniya Cotton Carder
Dom-Mirzai Musician
Dom/Dumba/Domba Scavengers/sweepers, arrange pyre at burning ghats,singers/dancer
Dosadh Village Watchmen
Fakir Beggar
Gaddi Milkman
Gauli Cowherds
Gentoo probably meaning Gentile , first used by the Portuguese (Telugu)
Golla/Goala/Gowala Milkman/herdsman
Idiayan/Konar/Yadhava Shepherds and cattle breeders (Tamil)
Indiga Toddy-drawing caste (Telugu)
Izhava Toddy-tappers
Jat landowners or tenant cultivators
Jingars saddle-makers
Jolaha Weaver (Muslim)
Julahas Weavers (Muslim)
Kabaria Greengrocer (Muslim)
Kachhi Market gardeners
Kahar Personal servants
Kaibarttas Fishermen and cultivators
Kalla/Kallan Priests (Tamil)
Kamma Agriculture (Telugu)
Kammalan/Panchala Artisans
Kapu Agricultural workers (Telugu)
Karan Writers
Katia Weavers
Kavandans Konga Vellalas (agriculturists) of Salem and Coimbatore
Kavari/Cavarai landowners (Tamil)
Kawote/Kewats Fishermen and cultivators
Kayasths Writers
Kewats/Kawote Fishermen and cultivators
Kodikkals Betel-vine growers
Koiree Weavers (Hindu)
Koiri Market gardeners/ weavers
Komati Trader (Telugu)
Koonbi/Kunbi/Kanbi Agriculturists/cultivators
Koormee/Kurmi Agriculturists
Korchamar descendants of weavers/leatherworkers
Kumhar Potters
Kurumban Herdsmen
Lodha Agriculturists/cultivators
Lohar Blacksmith
Lonaria Salt and lime preparers
Lunia Saltpetre workers
Madiga Leather workers (Telugu) - untouchables
Mala/ Mallah field labourers or herdsmen or fishermen boatsmen (Telugu)
Malabar Generic term referring to South Indian immigrants
Malaiyali Agriculture
Mali Caste with sub-castes eg Phil Mali (florist), Kachu Mali (cotton)
Mang Snake charmers
Moodley/Mudaliyar Title of highest section of Vellalan caste
Moosohur Rodent catchers
Muchi/Mochi Leather workers
Murao landowners or tenant cultivators
Muslim Muslim/Hindu castes :Rajputs, Behna, Nai, Teli, Darzi
Muslim/Musselman Mostly Sunnis (Castes : Shaikhs, Pathans, Saiyids,Mughals, Labba)
Nades Rope-makers; nadas=rope
Nai Barber (Muslim)
Noonia/Nuniya/Noniya Agricultural labourers
Odda/Oddar/Oddai Agriculture (Tamil)
Odde Earthworker (Telugu)
Oppara/Wappara/Uppara Agriculture (Tamil)
Padiachy/Padaiyachi Foot soldiers of Palli caste (Tamil)
Palla/Pallan/Palli Agricultural labourers (Tamil)
Pandaram Tamil priests
Panka Weavers
Pariah/Paraiya Labourers in agriculture or industry (Tamil) - untouchables
Pasi/Pasee/Pausee Toddy-makers (e.g. in form of liquor)
Pillai Title of Pandya Vellalas (agricultural labourers)
Pods Fishermen
Qassab Butcher (Muslim)
Rajput Farmers/landowners
Reddy Agriculturists (Telugu)
Sali Weavers
Shanar Toddy-tappers
Shepherd Herdsmen probably cowherds/milkmen
Shimpi Tailors
Telaga Mostly agricultural labourers (Telugu)
Teli/Telee Oil Pressers (oil e.g. from castor seeds)
Telugu Language : caste not given
Thakoor/Thakur Agriculturists /landowners
Unknown Caste not given or is unknown
Uppara/Wappara Agriculture (Tamil)
Vakkaliga Cultivators
Vanniah/Vanniar Oil pressers e.g. from castor seeds or farmers(Tamil)
Vanniyan belong to the Palli caste
Velama Mostly agricultural labourers (Telugu)
Vellala/Vellalan Agricultural labourers (Tamil)
Wappara/Uppara Agriculture (Tamil)
Wodda/Odda Agriculture (Tamil)