History and Origin of Pinjar-Nadaf Community

Compiled by Tariqahmed Pinjar

Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinjara and http://peoplegroupsindia.com/profiles/dhunia

The Community mostly gets its name from the word “pinjna”, which means “ginning” in Hindi.

Not much study or research material is available on the origin and history of the Pinjar-Nadaf-Mansoori Community. However, some of the studies, as referred in the above sourced links, say the Community embraced Islam during the rule of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, and then took up the occupation of cotton ginning after their conversion to Islam. They are mostly Sunni Muslims, although they incorporate a number of folk beliefs and perceive themselves of Shaikh status. They speak a variety of local languages and have a working knowledge of Urdu.

It is mentioned that in Uttar Pradesh, they trace their descent from a prominent Muslim personality called Sheikh Mansoor, who was presumably a cotton-carder. Consequently, they also came to be known as Sheikh Mansoori. For some time, they did not have surnames. However, over a period of time, they begun using surnames, including Siddiqui.

The Community, as is commonly identified, is the traditional cotton carder of Central India, just like the Behna are the traditional cotton carders of North India. They were mostly found in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan and also in other parts in India. Over the period of time, this Community has spread across the globe in quest to fulfill their various professional skills of the day. Some members of the Community migrated to Pakistan after the independence in 1947 and have settled in Karachi, Sindh etc.

The Community’s traditional primary occupation was cotton-carding. They cleaned and re-fluffed the cotton with a vibrating bowstring. The bow is shaped like a harp, the wide end consisting of a broad piece of wood over which the string passes, which is secured to a straight wooden bar at the back. At the narrow end, the bar and string are fixed to an iron ring. The club or mallet is a wooden implement shaped like a dumbbell. The mallet is struck and drawn across the string, three or four times which scatters small fluffs of cotton, dispersing dirt at the same time. The process of carding cotton is very time consuming.

The carded cotton is made into spindle-shaped balls called puni, and is then ready for the spinning wheel. They did their trade by going from door to door to card cotton that is used in cotton quilts, mattresses and pillows.

They were mostly a landless community, and lived by cotton ginning and making quilt and pillows. They purchased cotton from the villages in their neighbourhood and sold quilts in the local towns. Many took up other occupations, such as cultivators, selling cloth, cotton, leather goods, baskets, stationary and paan (betel leaf) in shops. Some engaged as daily-wage laborers, masons, bullock-cart drivers or rickshaw-pullers. The educated among them work in government, private sectors and are also professionals in various fields of life.

They are mostly non-vegetarians and eat enjoy halal meat like mutton, chicken, fish, beef and buffalo meat. Pork and meat of any carnivorous animal/mammal is prohibited to Muslims.

They are monogamous even though Islam permits having four wives. Marriages were arranged by family members. Marriage in which a man had more than one wife, but they were not related to one another, was sometimes permitted. Marriages with cousins (paternal and maternal) were preferred. Some inter community ‘love’ marriages do take place (with the Julaha) but are not socially acceptable. Dowry was given as gifts in the form of goods and cash to bridegroom, while Mehar was paid in cash to the wife by husband. The marriage ceremony was performed by a Muslim priest in the presence of witnesses, usually close relatives and family friends. Marriage with the deceased husband’s younger brother or marriage with the deceased wife’s younger sister was acceptable but not obligatory.

The sons all received an equal share of parental property and the eldest son succeeded as head of the family. Daughters also were given a smaller share of the inheritance according to the Shariat (Islamic Law). Women were considered inferior in status to men but had specific roles in social, domestic and economic spheres and their opinions are sought in family matters. They were good at embroidery and sewing.

Formal education was of little value and despite some (especially boys) going on to higher education, the overall literacy rate was low and well below the national average. Boys usually studied up to secondary school but girls were sent to a madrasa (religious school) to learn Arabic and Urdu. However, over a period of time, both religion and education began to be given importance. Today the Community has prominent religious leaders and professionals excelling in every field.

They are Muslim by faith and follow the tenets of Islam. They belong to the Sunni sect and worship Allah as Almighty God. They revere Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) as his chosen Messenger to whom the Holy Scriptures, the Quran, was revealed by the Angel Gabriel. They worshiped at the tomb shrines of Muslim saints, believing that the saints act as intercessors and intermediaries for their prayers. A green sheet (sometimes richly embroidered) is spread over the tomb and garlands, flowers, incense and cash offerings are scattered over the tombs. Some believe in evil spirits and wear amulets and charms to ward off evil spirits and the evil eye or to bring them good luck and success.

The Community celebrates all Muslim festivals like Id-ul-Zuha or Bakr-Id etc. Those who can afford it, undertake a holy pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, at least once in their lifetimes.

After childbirth they observe Aqiqa (tonsure ceremony), and perform a circumcision on boys at ages five or six.  The dead are buried and the tenth day is a special day as is the fortieth day which marks the end of the mourning period.

In Maharashtra, they have two subdivisions, the Teli Pinjara and the Ghatore. The Teli Pinjara get their name from the fact that the community took to oil pressing, an occupation associated with the Teli community. While the Ghatore are said to get their name from the Ghat area of Chhindwara District in Madhya Pradesh, where the community are said to have originated. While in Madhya Pradesh, the community is found mainly in Nimar, and Sagar districts. They are further divided into a number of clans known as biradaris, the main ones being the Badharia, Sarsutia and Pardesi.

In Maharashtra, the community is found all over the state and mainly in the districts of Bhandara, Nagpur, Amravati and Wardha. They speak Marathi, although most also speak Dakhani. Unlike the Rajasthan Pinjara, the Maharashtra Pinjara does not practice clan exogamy. Most prefer marrying close kin, and practice parallel cousin marriage. Here they have mostly abandoned their traditional occupation of cotton ginning and the manufacture of quilts and pillows. A process that began in the 19th Century, when many members of the community took to agriculture has accelerated. Most of the Community people are now small and medium sized farmers. Most live in multi-caste villages which they share with the Maratha, Mang, Gond and Bandha communities.

By the progress of days, the Community underwent tremendous change from being sort of backward community to emerging as prominent sect of people in present social environment. Today many in the Community can now be seen in different professions. Some went on to become religious leaders and political leaders. Many and many have succeeded in various professions of the day. As such, as can be seen, this Community adopt to changing trends and socially merge with society.

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