"Socio-Economic Plights of the Hira Community in Assam: An Overview"

Authors

Dr. Debendra Kumar Bezbaruah (Principal), Kamrup College, Chamata, Nalbari, Assam.

Dr. Tribeni Bezbarua (Associate Professor), North Kamrup College, Baghmara, Barpeta.

Abstract

In the book “Prachin Hindu Parichay’ edited in 1461 by Sidheswar Siromoni and in the book named ‘Satya Sangrah” written by Amrit Lal Sarma in the name of Hira Devi – the original mother of Hira Jati, a caste with her progenies was formed and it came to be known as Hira Jati and the potteries, produced by them came to be known as Hira potteries i.e. locally known as Hirar bachon.On the basis of historical fact a group of historians like Satyendra Nath Sarma (1989:303) opines that during the medieval period the potters belonging to Chandalas who produced potteries by manipulation of hands were called Hiras. According to Dr. Narendra Nath Bhattarchya (1987:288) the Hiras of Assam belong to one of the subcastes of Chandalas.Though the Hiras were shown separately from the Chandalas in 1872 yet in 1881 the Hiras were included among the different sub-castes of Chandalas . According to the Report of the Census of Assam 1901 the Hira community is said to be a functional offshoot from the Namasudras .According to B.C.Allen (1905:88) a section of the Chandals has formed itself into a separate caste called Hira.Hiras and Chandalas are regarded as one and the same caste generally throughout the Assam valley, but in practice,they will never eat together nor inter-marry. Originally, the Hiras may have been simply a potter Chandal but the sub-caste may be separated distinctively in later period .So in the later censuses they have been separated from Chandalas.Scholars like Nabin Chandra Sarma are of the opinion that the Hiras are varnasankars as they are born as the outcome of the inter-caste marriage between the tribal and the non-tribal. Tribal wiomen used to make earthen pots with their hand. Hira women learnt the art of making potteries from the tribal women from very ancient time . According to some scholars a community is named according to occupation that it performs. Accordingly Hira Jati is defined in accordance with its occupation of making ‘hirar bachon’ (i.e.different kinds of pots by using Hira clay).According to Nilamani Phukan (1987:18) the Hiras of Assam are the professional potters. That is, the Hiras are traditionally an occupational community engaged in pottery industry from very ancient time. From the very skill of making the cooking vessel i.e. Hari, the term ‘Hira’ takes its origin. So the people engaged in the pottery industry or Hari industry are called the Hiras .In course of time they have been introduced and identified as the people belonging to the Scheduled Castes.