Context: Central government kick-started the year-long commemoration of the 284th birth anniversary of Sant Sevalal Maharaj, a spiritual and religious leader of the Banjara community.
Who was Sant Sevalal Maharaj?
- Sant Sevalal Maharaj was born on February 15, 1739, at Surgondankoppa in Karnataka’s Shivamogga It’s believed that while he was young, he miraculously prepared sheer (a sweet) out of the mud and wheat puri to offer to Goddess Jagadamba.
- He dedicated his life to serving tribal forest dwellers and nomadic tribes. He worked tirelessly to dispel and eradicate myths and superstitions prevalent in the tribal communities, including the Banjaras and brought about reforms in their way of life.
- Sant Sevalal Maharaj is believed to have mastery in Ayurveda and Naturopathy. Many also believe that once he moved to Hyderabad, he cured cholera in the city and was allowed to graze his cattle in the present-day Banjara Hills area. He died at the age of 33 in Maharashtra.
- He is revered as a spiritual guru and social reformer by the Banjara community, which has mainly settled in parts of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh. His shrine is situated in Manora Taluka of Washim District of Maharashtra at Pohradevi, also known as Banjara Kashi.
Who are Banjaras?
SC community in Karnataka but not just confined here. The Banjara are a class usually ascribed as nomadic people from the Indian state of Rajasthan, North-West Gujarat, Western Madhya Pradesh, and Eastern Sindh province of pre-independence Pakistan. They claim to belong to the clan of Agnivanshi Rajputs and are also known as Banjari, Pindari, Bangala, Banjori, Banjuri, Brinjari, Lamani, Lamadi, Lambani, Labhani, Lambara, Lavani, Lemadi, Lumadale, Labhani Muka, Goola, Gurmarti, Gormati, Kora, Sugali, Sukali, Tanda, Vanjari, Vanzara, and Wanji Together with the Domba, they are sometimes called the “Gypsies of India”.
IMPORTANCE of Announcing?
- The announcement has come just months ahead of the Karnataka Assembly elections, where the Banjaras are a politically crucial group.
- Apart from wooing the Banjaras, who are included in the Scheduled Castes category, the government is trying to gain the support of other SC/ST communities, which together make up nearly 24 percent of the state population.
- To compensate for a possible division of its Lingayat caste support base in Karnataka and to prevent SC/ST groups from drifting to other political parties – which have traditionally enjoyed the backing of Other Backward Classes, the SC/STs, and minorities.