The Bedia are a community of Bihar; they believe that they originally lived on Mohdipahar and have descended from the union of a Vedbansi prince with a Munda girl.
The Bedia, sometimes called Baidya, are a Muslim community found in eastern India. They are a community of pastoralists, who traditionally specialized in the castration of cattle. The community speak a number of dialects of Bengali and use the surnames Sekh, and Mondal.
The community has several names, like Bedia or Bede, Shershahbadia, Bhathia, Maldahiya, Badia and Bedia. However its official name is Sharshahbadia.
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, Nadia, Malda, South Dinajpur, North Dinajpur and Darjeeling. In Bihar, where the community is known as Shershahabadia, are found mainly in Kishanganj, Purnea and Katihar. The bedias are also found in the district of Jharkhand, mainly in Bhagalpur
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 a 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.
The Bedia are an endogamous group, and marriage occurs within close kin. In Bedia society, consanguineal 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.
According to Risley, the Bedia are divided into sects. However, the present survey identified some exogamous clans, namely Phecha, Kachhua, Mahua, Bambi, Suiya, etc. The marriage age for boys and girls is sixteen to seventeen years and fourteen to fifteen years, respectively. A marriage is arranged though monogamy is prevalent. Married women put a vermillion mark and wear an iron bangle as marriage symbols. The payment of bride price is obligatory. They follow the rule of patrilocal residence. Either spouse can seek divorce with social approval on grounds of adultery, barrenness, maladjustment, cruelty, or laziness. Remarriage of widows and divorcees is permitted and a widow can marry her late husband's brother. The Bedia live both in nuclear and extended families. Sons inherit parental property in equal measure while the eldest son succeeds to his father's authority. A woman contributed to the family income and is tonsured. The first cereal feeding ceremony is optional. The marriage rites are performed at the bridegroom's house. The dead are buried. The death rites observed are telnahan and daskarma.
The Bedia are followers of the traditional tribal religion. Their family and clan deities are Mai, Mudkati Kundri Bansa Darha, etc. The village deities worshipped by them are Jher-buri Gawandeti Mahadania, Durga and the regional deities are Palcharu and Badpahari. They visit the annual fairs at Rajarappa, Hundru and Jonha falls and Jaganathpur. The Bedia celebrate festivals like Phagun, Sarhul, Karma, Jitia, and Sohrai.
The Bedia who have settled down in West Bengal, are also known as the Bedia or Bede. They speak Bengali for communication. The Bengali and Devanagari scripts are used.
[[Ethnographic notes on the scheduled tribes of West Bengal Author: Manas Kamal Chowdhuri; West Bengal (India). Cultural Research Institute]]