The Koli (Kori, Kol), aboriginal communities found “from Kashmir to Kanya Kumari”: Representations from ancient epics to freedom struggle and modern India

Bhushan on MEGHnet 1 January 2011 | Read the full article here >>

[…] It is interesting to note that Koris trace their history to the past where all present day downtrodden reach. This again bursts the myth that there was an amicable agreement between Asuras (aboriginals of Harappan Civilization and Indus Valley Civilization) and Suras who came from Iran.

There are myths indicating that Asuras were made slaves by Aryans. These slave races are still struggling for annihilation of caste system. They live in abject poverty. Their latest names are ‘Scheduled Castes’, ‘Scheduled Tribes, and ‘Other Backward Castes’. They are yet to know about ‘human rights’. The fact is that aboriginals were enslaved and subjected to inhuman treatment through centuries. Most of them still live in villages and they are coerced to live in wretched and inhuman conditions. The facts are now known to the outer world despite efforts by some to prove it contrary to the facts. […]

‘Kolis, Koris and Kols are aboriginals (Mulnivasi, मूलनिवासी) of India like all other SCs, STs and OBCs. Their past is same. They had been given different name and profession through religious sanctions (i.e. Manusmriti) and termed as different community so that they remain away from other sister communities. Broadly, Kolis and Koris are traditional weavers (like Meghwal, Bunkar, Megh, Bhagat, Julaha, etc.) (Kols may have been forced to similar or other such activities) and that precisely gives the entire picture of their present economic condition. All these people suffer from malnutrition and hunger. They work for paltry wages and also work as forced labor. Anyhow, keep on reading the excerpts of the article and know about trustworthy and lovable Koli/Kori (कोली/कोरी) people. […]

In studying the aboriginal tribes of India, scholars have consulted our most ancient records and documents – the Vedas, the Puranas, the epics in different languages, many archaeological records and notes, and various other publications. Students of history and anthropology have found numerous instances recorded in all prehistoric and established history of India, of a glowing past of this ancient tribe of India and more is being uncovered as research continues.

This article is based mainly on three publications written in Gujarati. ‘An ancient Tribe of Bharat – The History of Koli Tribe’ a book edited by Shree Bachoobhai Pitamber Kambed and published by Shree Talpoda Koli Community of Bhavnagar (First Edition 1961 and Second Edition 1981), an article by Shree Ramjibhai Santola published in Bombay Samachar in 1979 and a lengthy paper prepared by Dr. Arjun Patel in 1989 for presentation at the International Koli Samaj Conference in 1989.

The most ancient King Mandhata, a supreme and universal ruler whose reputation spread far and wide throughout India and whose stories of valor and yajna were described in the stone carvings of Mohanjo Daro, belonged to this tribe.

The most ancient and revered sage Valmiki, the author of Ramayana belonged to this tribe. Even today Ramayana is referred to as Koli Valmiki Ramayan in Maharashtra State. Teachings from Ramayan form the basis of Indian culture. […]

In the 1857 uprising a number of Koli women fighters played an important role in trying to save the life of the ‘Rani of Jhansi’. Among them was a very close colleague of the queen named Jhalkari. The Koli Samaj, thus, has given India and the world, great sons and daughters whose teachings are of universal import and of relevance to modern day living. […]

The Present

In present day India, Kolis are found from Kashmir to Kanya Kumari and are known by slightly different names according to the languages of the regions. The following are some of the major groups: Koli Kshtria, Koli Raja, Koli Rajput, Koli Suryavanshi, Nagarkoli, Gondakoli, Koli Mahadev, Koli Patel, Koli Thakor, Bavraya, Tharkarda, Pathanvadia, Mein Koli, Koyeri, Mandhata Patel etc. As an original tribe of India preferring to live in open agricultural landscape and coastal regions as clansman, the present day Kolis are a product of much intermarriage. It has been estimated that there are over 1040 subgroups all lumped together as Koli in the population census. Vast majority have very little in common except that they are Hindus, that the upper class Hindus have always accepted that a Koli’s touch does not defile and Koli chiefs of pure blood are difficult to distinguish from the Kshtria Rajputs among whom there are regular intermarriage. […]

When on 9th January 1920, Bapu [‘Mahatma’ Gandhi] returned to India from South Africa a number of people who were with him there returned also. Bapu had personal knowledge of the character of our people. So when the time came to decide the destination of the 1930 Salt March it was no accident that he chose Dandi, from among a number of choices and pressures from other interested parties. He was convinced of the courage and the depth of understanding of our people in completing a project successfully. And so it proved. We cannot wholly blame the upper castes for our present conditions. […]

Material comforts are necessary but our priority must also be to guard our religion, culture and tradition. The cream of our present generation must see themselves as the torch-bearers of our Samaj and make every effort to communicate, unite and become a formidable force to reclaim our past glory. This is now our challenge.

Source: MEGHnet: Koli, Kori, Kol (कोली, कोरी, कोल)- Aboriginal tribes Of India
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Date Visited: 2 November 2020

As occupations developed and occupational skills came to be handed down in hereditary fashion, the classes showed a tendency to harden into groups, and this, in course of time, became one of the factors in the formation of the “caste” system. True it is that one hymn in the last book of the Rg Veda refers to the creation of the four orders of society from the body of the Cosmic Man, but by many scholars this hymn is considered apocryphal. Nevertheless it provided the basis for theorizing in all subsequent ages, and we find later lawgivers quoting it with evident relish. This hymn tells us that the Brahmana came from the mouth of the Cosmic Man, the Ksatriya was created from his arms, the Vaisya from his thighs, and the Sudra from his feet.

Source: B.G. Gokhale in Ancient India (Bombay, 1959 ed.), p. 118 

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

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