RELIGION AND CASTES
The predominantly Hindu population of Dhulia may be described as that of confirmed theists and god-fearing people. The animist Bhils and Buddhists also answer to this description. There are scarcely
any people who deny god altogether or call themselves atheists or rationalists. Philosophically all will concede that there is only one god. the source and fundamental cause of this universe, but most of them are found to be devotees of one or another of a symbol of god and therefore idolaters. These symbols usually are Siva or Visnu or Canes or Rama and Krishna, incarnations of Visnu.
Vithoba is Visnu's form which is popular all over Maharastra and so also in Dhulia. Laksmi-Narayan temples are also to be found in some places and temples dedicated to Dattatraya, who is the combination of Brahma. Visnu and Siva, are by no means rare. Goddess Bhavani is also worshipped as Jagadamba, mother of the world and usually Her temple is found in every town and village. Lower in the order are Maruti, Mhasoba, Khandoba and Bhairava. No orthodox and tradition observing conformist Hindu will take his meal without offering it to his favourite deity and accepting it as the favour of the deity.
Among the common people and in the peasantry, there are a number of superstitions too. Almost every field is regarded as having its presiding deity and it has to be appeased by an annual tribute of a fowl or a goat and in rare cases even a he-buffalo, particularly if the landed property is fairly large. People in the various talukas have their special religious rites whereby these presiding deities are appeased. Ranubai is a favourite deity in many Khandes families. Herr image is set on an octagonal heap of rice. A lamp is set near it. Both the image and the lamp are worshipped. Dinner is served and special care is taken that not a particle of food is wasted. Whatever surplus may be there is buried near the house. After dinner the rice is shaped in the form of Salunka or pindi in which the sivalinga is set; a coconut is placed on the heap of rice
as a symbol of the linga and worship is offered. After prayers the coconut is broken and its kernel distributed as prasad to all present.
Hospitality is considered as a great virtue and sign of high culture among the Khandes people of means and repute. No head of such. a well-to-do family would take food without a guest usually and traditionally it is a Brahman but even others are
honourably received if they arrive at meal time. This has been imposed as a duty on ever householder according to ancient Hindu teachings. Waiting for a guest while throwing Kakabali i.e., a portion of food to crows and dogs was enjoined on every householder and even the duration for
it was prescribed. It was as much time as it takes to milk r. caw. The daily ritual called Vaisvadeva of which this formed a part has now almost disappeared from daily routine but the basic idea of giving
food and shelter to man and animal in need is still respected and is handed down as a cultural heritage to all Hindus including people of this district.
The Hindu social theory and practice lay down that the whole of human life is a duty. Every human being has a series of subsidiary duties to perform as part of the great duty of living. An individual is born with duties he owes to god, ancestors and fellow human beings. The duties begin with birth and end with death. This concept of life has led to specific injunctions being laid down for human beings in various stages and stations in life, which are embodied in what is succinctly known as Varnasramadharma. This ordering out
of life later deteriorated into the rigid caste system based wholly on birth and not on merit. The evils of this system soon manifested themselves and went on increasing. In an era of scientific advance, analytical thinking, supremacy of modern civilization, the old social beliefs and dogmas ceased to claim the same implicit faith as before and many of the old religious rites tended to disappear. The people of this district could not remain exempt from this and. the several castes among Hindus dropped many of the ritualistic details which came to be felt as mere excrescences from their day to day life. This development could, if at all. be traced only distantly to the teachings of the Prarthana Samaj. Satyashodhak Samaj and leaders of the social reform movement, all of which preached one god, human brotherhood and pleaded for social equality.
Inspite of this, castes have remained and it will be long before the caste system completely breaks down. Generally the caste conforms to the profession it follows, thus a potter traditionally only bakes earthenware a shoemaker makes shoes and a washerman washes clothes. But members of all these and other castes have given up their time honoured functions and any member of any caste pursues any calling that is found suitable. This will ultimately help to breakdown the caste-system completely. Even a Brahman will be found
running a shoe shop in these days. Their manners and customs and modes of behaviour follow patterns suited to their professions and callings. For some time the Brahman monopoly of learning and education gave that caste an advantage over others and, therefore, there was discontent among non-Brahman communities, but due to opportunities for the same education to all, partly during the British days and on a much larger scale under the era that was ushered in with independence, equality of opportunity for all is becoming a common vogue.
Even when the caste system was far more rigid than it is now, the relations between members of the different castes were cordial enough. Social inter-course, inspire of restrictions as to partaking of food together or ban on inter-caste marriages, was smooth. Relations based on economic transactions were normal and law-abiding and there was no bitterness on account of existence of difference of caste or beliefs in superiority or inferiority of the various castes on account of mere birth. The superiority of Brahmans over all was conceded by others ungrudgingly.
According to Hindu Dharmasastra, the sanskaras or sacraments are socio-religious rites regarded as purificatory processes which make an individual fit to
carry out his mundane duties. The smrtis have laid down rituals regarding their performance to the minutest detail. There are 16 sanskaras which are considered to be nitya i.e., constant or indispensable and 24 which are occasional depending on circumstances. None of these are considered necessary for Sudras and Antyajas. The chief of these customary rituals arc those performed at the time of birth, thread-girding, marriage,
pregnancy and death. Garbhadhana which signified consummation of marriage in the case of child bride when she came of age, used to be performed, not many years ago with much fanfare and feeling but has now become almost extinct as altogether unnecessary and even vulgar among those who take pride in being conformists and conservatives.