Mahar - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Traditionally, the Mahars were servants to all the village, with a number of responsibilities. They were the deciding voices in land disputes, but they also brought wood to the burning grounds, carried off dead animals, took messages to other villages, cared for the horses of traveling government officials, mended the village wall, acted as village watchmen, and served the Village headman as town criers. In this capacity they were watandars (leaseholders) and so held some land, but they were never primarily agriculturists. Mahars when not engaged in village duties served as agricultural laborers. In the eastern portion of the Marathi-speaking region, Mahars had more economic freedom, and they were sometimes weavers or contractors. Mahars kept no domestic animals, and they despised the Mangs for their pig keeping. Mahars were expected to eat the flesh of the cattle carcasses they dragged from the village, and this consumption of carrion beef became an early target for Mahar reformers.


Industrial Arts. The Mahar possessed no skill other than wall mending to carry them into the modern period. Some Mahars became masons in the early twentieth century.


Trade. The Mahar's untouchability prevented any "clean" trade, and the Chambhars had a monopoly on leather work, which the Mahar did not touch.


Division of Labor. Both men and women worked in the fields as agricultural laborers. Only men served as watandar village servants.


Land Tenure. The watandar land owned by the Mahars for their village service was not alienable.


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