Chasadhoba, Chadsadhopa

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This article is an extract from


Ethnographic Glossary.

Printed at the Bengal Secretariat Press.
1891. .

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Chasadhoba, Chadsadhopa


A cultivating and trading caste of o' . Bengal Proper, some of whose members are rlgm. employed as artisans and builders. According to their own account, they are the modern representatives of the Vaidehas spoken of in Manu x, 11, as the offspring of a Vaisya rather and a Vaideha mother, the second half of their name being a corruption of the Sansk. dhava 'husband,' so that Chasadhoba means the husband or owner of cultivated fields (chas) , and not, as is ordinarily supposed, a washerman who has taken to cultivation. Another story is that once upon a time Brahma's washerwoman came with her son to fetch the dirty clothes. The god was busy and asked the woman to let her Ron wait till he was ready. After a bit the boy got tired of waiting and went home: meanwhile Brahma brought out his dirty linen, and finding the boy not there concluded that a demon (Asura) had eaten him. To console the mother he created a new boy exactly like the first; but no sooner had he done so than the mother herself returned, bringing the original boy wit.h her. Embarrassed by the confusion he had caused, Brahma called upon the washerwoman to adopt the second boy, but stipulated that as he was of divine origin he should not follow the profession of his adoptive mother, but should set up as an agriculturist and dealer in food-grains. In spite of these exalted traditions it may be inferred from the social status of the Chasiiclhobas, and the apparently totemistic character of some of their gotras or exogamous groups, that they are really of Dravidian descent, and probably a branch of Dhobas who have taken to cultivation, and thus raised themselves so far above the parent caste that they now disown all connexion with it.

Internal structure

The Chasadhobas are divided into three Rub•castes-Uttar-Rarhi, Dakshin-Rarhi, and Barendra, which indicate Internal structure. the chief settlements of the caste and are common to them and to some of the higher castes. Members of these groups cannot intermarry, but may eat together and may smoke from the same hookah. Their sections are shown in Appendix 1. Two of them, Baghrishi and Brihatbat, seem to be totemistic, and to refer to the tiger and the banyan tree; but neither the tree nor the animal is worshipped by the caste, which has now become thoroughly Hinduised. A man may not marry a woman of his own gotra but marriage with a woman belonging to his mother's gotra is not forbidden, provided such an alliance is not barred by the table of prohibited degrees, which is the same as is generally recognised by orthodox Hindus. chasadhobiis have two .hypergamous divisions, Kulin and Maulik, which affect marriage in the ordinary way; that is to say, a Kulin man may marry a Maulik woman, while a Maulik man can ouly gE't a wife from his own group.


Chasadhobas marry their daughters as infants at ages ranging from two to twelve years. Eight or nine years may be taken as the usual age for the marriage. Boys, however, are not married under five, and the husband is usually a few years older than the wife. In the Maulik group, where ~here may often be a surplus of males owing to the constant endeavour to get the -females married to Kulins, it sometimes happens that a youth is not married before twenty-five owing to the difficulty of procuring a wife within the circle of selection open to a particular family. In all cases the standard Brahmanical ritual is used. Special importance seems to be attached to asirbad at' the ceremony of blessing the bride and bridegroom, and to the exchange of presents. These are represented as the essential and binding portions of the rite.

Polygamy is supposed to be forbidden, but the rule is subject to the usual exception that a man may marry a second wife when the first is ballen or suffers from an incurable disease. The remarriage of widows is strictly prohibited. In respect of divorce Chasadhobas follow the higher castes in holding the practice to be incompatible with the orthodox theory of marriage among the Hindus. In cases of proved unchastity, the offending wife is turned out to shift for herself and ceases to be a member of respectable society. In order to clear himself and his household from the stain of impurity, the husband makes a straw effigy of the wife, which is solemnly burned, while rice cakes (pindas) are offered to her and a sort of srriddh is performed, as if she were literally dead. Brahmans and relations are feasted, and puja is done to Satya Narayan.


The Religion of the Chasadhobas differs little from that of the orthodox middle-class Hindus of Bengal. Most of them belong to the Vaishnava sect: only a few are Saktas, and there are said to be no Saivas among them. The Vaishnavas abstain from flesh and wine, but may eat fish. Cultivators show special reverence to Lakshmi as the goddess of harvest, while artisans worship Viswakarma. Brahmans are employed for religious and ceremonial purposes; but they rank with the Bm'na Brahmans, who serve the lower castes and are looked down on by the higher classes of the priestly order.

Social status

It will be seen from the Tables of Precedence for Bengal that the pretensions of the Chasadhoba to rank above the Dhoba are not generally recognised, and that both stand on about the same level in popular estimation. This fact, coupled with the numerical smallness of the caste, seems to suggest that it may be of comparatively recent formation. If the caste were' an old one, we might expect that by abandoniug the specially impure practices of the Dhobas and adopting the respect¬ able occupation of agriculture they would have attained a higher social position than is actually conceded to them. Cbasadhobas are generally classed along with the Chandal, the fishing Kaibarttas, and the Sunris, and Brahmans will not take water from their hands. The cultivating members of the caste are mostly occupancy or non¬ occupancy raiyats, and some have risen to the position of tenure¬ holders. So far as I have been able to ascertain, none of them are zamindars. Prosperous grain-merchants and money-Ienders are found among them, and many follow the business of carpenters, builders, and artisans working in wood or metal.

The following statement shows the number and distribution of the Chasadhoba caste in 1872 and 1881:¬

Chasadhoba, Chadsadhopa.png
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