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MIHTAR SIKHS, like Mazhabi Sikhs, their PUNJABI counterpart, belong to the socalled scheduled castes. Mihtar, a Persian term, meaning elder, chief, or governor, is the name given to the members of the community of scavengers which stands at the lowest rung of Indian society. Scattered in different villages and towns, Mihtar Sikhs are largely concentrated in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra. As their folk songs in Marvari and Rajasthani dialects indicate, the Mihtars` original home was probably Rajasthan. They have many customs and practices pointing to SIKH influence. For example, many of the Mihtar males use, like Sikhs, suffix `SINGH` after their names. The female names however mostly end with `Bai` though in the case of the few who have been initiated as Sikhs, `Kaur` replaces `Bai.` Many of the men keep their hair untrimmed and wear turbans. Children receive at birth pdhulor Sikh initiation, usually at the hands of Udasi sadhus. At the time of marriage, water for the ritual bathing of the bride and bridegroom and earth for plastering vedi or venue for the ceremonies are brought from some place of worship, preferably from a gurudwara. Mihtar Sikhs, wherever concentrated in sufficient numbers, have their exclusive gurudwaras too. For four or five days prior to the marriage, the prospective couple carry a weapon each which they must not part with at any time until the marriage ceremony is over. Child marriage among the Mihtars is rare; gotra exogamy is observed and widow remarriage is permitted. They have faith in GURU NANAK, Kabir and Ramanand, but Hindu deities such as Ganesa, Sarikara and Santoshi Mata are also worshipped in some homes. The marriage is solemnized through the Hindu ritual of going round a fire. Also on the death of their father, the sons undergo mundan or tonsure rites. Traditionally treated as untouchables even by the highcasie Sikhs, efforts are now afootjointly by the Gurdwara Board ofTakht Sachkhand Sri Hazur Sahib, and the Shiromarii Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee for their social and economic uplift as well as for their religious education.
1. Rose, H.A., ed., A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province. LAHORE, 1911-19.
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