The Bedia or sometimes pronounced Baidya are a Muslim community found in north east India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. They are a community of pastoralists, who traditionally specialized un the castration of cattle. The community speak a number of dialects of Bengali and use the surnames Chaudhary, Sekh and Mondal. [1]

Origin

The Bedia are found mainly in central and north West Bengal, the Purnia Division of Bihar, Rajshahi District of Bangladesh, the Terai region of Nepal and southern Bhutan. In West Bengal, the Bedia are found mainly in the districts of Murshidabad, Malda, South Dinajpur, North Dinajpur and Darjeeling. In Bihar, where the community is known as Shershahabadia, are found mainly in Kishanganj, Purnea and Katihar. [2]

The Bedia claim descent from Pathan soldiers who were settled in northern Bengal and north east Bihar by Sher Shah Suri, the last Afghan ruler of North India. There initial settlement was in the district of Shahabad in Bihar, which was historically known as Shershahabad, and the community is still known as Shershahabadia in Bihar. A section of the Bedias was settled in Murshidabad by Ali Verdi Khan, the Nawab of Bengal in the early 18th Century. The community was settled in marshy land, referred to in Bengali as beda, and over time the community came to be known as bedia or people of the marsh land. Over time small groups of Bedia moved to Malda and Dinajpur, and eventually to the Terai region of Nepal. The Bedia of Darjeeling are descendents of labourers that built the railway line to the city.

Present Circumstances

Traditionally, the Bedia were a pastoral group who used to breed buffaloes, sheep and goats, with the castration of cattle being a secondary occupation. By the 19th Century, the majority of the Bedia had settled down to cultivation, and majority were small and medium sized farmers. A small number of Bedia were also jotedars, or large landowners, particularly in Malda. Presently, the bulk of the community remains cultivators, with a smaller numbers employed in the military and police services.[3]

The Bedia are endogamous group, and marriage occurs within close kin. In Bedia society, consanguinal kin are classed into two categories, the bhiad or minimal lineage and khandan or maximal lineage. Marriages are preferred within the bhiad. Bedias of West Bengal now belong to the Ahle Hadith sect, which distinguishes from other Bengali Muslim communities. The Shershahabadia of Malda and Bihar remain Sunni Hanafi.

Traditionally, each Bedia settlement consists of a paich, or caste council. These remain informal, and there is no India wide formal caste association. The council consists of a hakim or headman, a jurist or mahat and a dhuli or messenger. All intra-group or inter-religious matters and disputes are settled by the paich.

See Also

References

  1. ^ Marginal Muslim Communities in India edited by M.K.A Siddiqui pages 263-267
  2. ^ Marginal Muslim Communities in India edited by M.K.A Siddiqui pages 263-267
  3. ^ Marginal Muslim Communities in India edited by M.K.A Siddiqui pages 263-267