Goudas: A symbol of unity among the Dalitbahujans
I belong to Gouda (Toddy Tapper) caste (OBC). It is everywhere in India, but it is better -known in the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh. Goudas have been tapping toddy for ages. In rural villages of Telangana, every Dalitbahujan community and upper-caste (Reddy, Velama, and Kammas) consumes toddy. Of course, other upper-castes also drink. I know this is good for health, where as liquor is very much harmful to the health. My caste is very much closely related all Dalitbahujan communities (dalit, kummari, kammari, yadava, sala, dhobi etc) in the villages. Some times Goudas are also untouchables. The upper-caste brahmins and banias do not touch our caste people in the villages. They do not drink or even smell them. In case they walk into the street early in the morning, we must not be seen on the roads. Sometimes they shout at us. They call us by names ‘Chandaluda, why come in front of me, go away’. And yet they consume our Munjas (coming from toddy tree, very cool in summer).
I studied at a village school in a place called Pedda Nagaram in Warangal district of Telangana. Before that I studied in my grandmother’s village, Komatipally. In that village, lived a number of brahmin families. They do not allow us to study Sanskrit. That is the only school in the village. My grandmother requested brahmin priests and finally they agreed but they said that I should not sit by the side of brahmins. I had studied at that school for three years. After completion of 4th class, I went to another government school in Chetlamupparam seven kilometers away, a large distance to walk for a child.
The village of Komatipally has an agrahara (temple located outskirts of the village given by the villagers to the brahmins) of brahmin families. About 20 families are living in the village. The village structure, customs and traditions are totally controlled by brahmins priests. The temple is located at Laxminarasimhaswamy close to a small pond. The brahmins regularly conduct pujas. No other castes can perform their pujas in this temple. Sometimes, the brahmins perfom pujas for the OBC castes, but they are not allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum at all. When we went to their well to have water they warned us not to do so.
One day all the communities celebrated the Bathukammapanduga (famous in the Telengana region because of its spectacle of women singing and dancing around Bathukamma). All the upper-caste hindus and OBC castes celebrated the event. When the dalits entered to put their Bathukamma, the dikus attacked them. Dalits filed a case against the brahmins and OBCs. The dalits did not compromise on the case and they won. Today all the dalits and OBC castes participate in the bathukamma panduga. I can’t forget that the event till today.
[Chalamalla Venkateshwarlu is a research scholar in Osmania University, Hyderabad and works for BODHI-Centre for Adivasi Dalit Bahujan Initiatives]