q. on Ambedkar

N. Ganesan naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Apr 12 13:31:53 EDT 2001

Dear List,

What does mahAr mean in Marathi/IA? Does it have anything to
do with music, drumming, etc.?

The Puri Jagannatha temple devadasis in Orissa are called mAhArIs.
Are mahAr caste name and mAhArI title related?

In the south India, the male members of the mELakkAran caste
are naTTuvans (teachers of catir nATyam), drummers in the temple etc,
and the females were dedicated as devadasis.

Historically, the members of temple musicians are gifted and many
rebelled against the caste system. In the musician-devadasi setup,
matriarchy gains ascendency (eg., Basavi property rights
in Karnataka) and caste rules were lot more lax and interaction
with temple priests were prescribed in the aagamas.

Kamban, the mahAkavi in Tamil, was an uvaccan/Occan by caste
(see L. C. Orr's book on chola temple women, for example)
and he knew Sanskrit well enough to render the entire Ramayana
into Tamil in his own way. Members of the Kambar caste are
worshippers of Kaali even today.

Possibly Kaalidaasa is also from temple musicians, (his name in
that early period sounds so un-brahminical), and Kaalidaasa
talks of Ujjain devadasis and describes the nAtyam so well in

Coming back, in Indo-Aryan languages what does mahAr mean?
Are mAhArI and mahAr related words?

N. Ganesan

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