SOHANG, SOHANG UCHARIYAH, SRESHAT PURASH SANG PIAR. SOHANG, SOHANG UCHARIYAH, KABHU NA AAVAI HAR. SOHANG, SOHANG UCHARIYAH, GUR KA NAM GAHEER. SOHANG, SOHANG UCHARIYAH, KHOJAI MAT SUDHIR. SOHANG, SOHANG UCHARIYAH, BHAJAN KARO GURDEV. SOHANG, SOHANG UCHARIYAH, TA JANI NIJ BHEV. SOHANG, SOHANG UCHARIYAH, SANDHYA SAMYA DHIYAN. SOHANG, SOHANG UCHARIYAH, AMRIT VELA GAYAN. SOHANG, SOHANG UCHARIYAH, SAKAT SANG NA HOYE. SOHANG, SOHANG UCHARIYAH, NIRMAL HOVAI SOYE. SOHANG, SOHANG UCHARIYAH, KARAN KAARAN ALEKH. KAHAI RAVIDASS PUKAR KE, MANN NEEVAN KAR DEKH ||
Recite the name of God and love the supreme God. Recite the name of God so that you do not face defeat. Recite the name of God, so that you may get the treasure of Guru’s name. Recite the name of God and search for elixir in your innerself. Recite the name of God and repeat the hymns of true Guru. Recite the name of God and know the secret of God. Recite the name of God and meditate on Him in the evening. Recite the name of God and achieve the spiritual knowledge during ambrosial hour. Recite the name of God without involving yourself too much in the worldly attachment. Only he recites the name of God, who is pure and pious. Recite the name of God, who is the cause of all actions, who is indescribable and invisible also. Ravidass says loudly, O man! You can see Him after renouncing your pride and bowing your mind in prayer before Him.
"The Ad-Dharm movement succeeded in raising the consciousness of the downtrodden people of the Doaba region of Punjab in particular, and of the entire state in general. It gave them gurus to believe in, a qaum to belong to and a sense of history to relate with. It envisions the possibility and potentiality of social change for the Scheduled Castes. The process of cultural transformation and spiritual regeneration started by the Ad Dharm movement under the leadership of Mangoo Ram has continued to reverberate in the cities and villages of Punjab into the 21st century through different platforms and political formations."
Mangoo Ram, Ad Dharm & The Dalit Movement in Punjab
Critical Quest, New Delhi
"The caste scene in Punjab also has several other distinctive features. Among all the states of India, the proportion of the Scheduled Castes population is the highest here. Against the national average of around 16 per cent, their population during the 1991 Census was more than 28 per cent. Dalits of Punjab have also been quite mobile. Apart from the positive effects of the Sikh movement, which nearly completely marginalised the Brahmanical ideology in the region, there have also been several vibrant movements from within the Dalit communities. The Ad-Dharam movement, which was initiated by Mangoo Ram in the Doaba region, has been one of the most successful of the Dalits movements anywhere in India. In terms of social and cultural indicators of progress, the Ad-Dharmis of Doaba will compare well with any of the so-called upper/forward castes of Punjab."
- Surinder S. Jodhka
The Tribune, Chandigarh (2003)
"It is however necessary to state that among the untouchables of Punjab there has been going on for some years past a strong movement called the Ad-Dharm movement the object of which is to separate from the Hindu fold and form themselves into a distinct community under the new name of Ad-Dharmis. Such has been the strength of the movement that the untouchables decided to return themselves as Ad-Dharmis instead of Hindus in the census of 1931, and the Government gave recognition to this feeling and allowed the Census Superintendent of Punjab to open a new category of Ad-Dharmis. This led in some parts of the Punjab to riots between the Hindus and the untouchables."
- Note by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar to The Indian Franchise Committee (Lothian Committee) on the Depressed Classes submitted on 1st May 1932
“While Ambedkar was concerning himself with a frontal attack on Hindu orthodoxy in Maharashtra, Mangoo Ram was building his Ad Dharm (Original Religion) organization in Punjab. Mangoo Ram too had lived for many years outside India, though his experience had been more earthy than that of Ambedkar. Within two years of his return in 1925 he had established his new ‘religion’. The central proposition was that the untouchables were the original (ad) inhabitants of India and that they had been pushed into subordination by later arrivals. It followed that a new religious philosophy had to be formulated to resurrect the original identity. As to the chosen name, Mangoo Ram simply added the term ‘Dharm’ to the ‘Adi’ which had previously been adopted in the south as a way of asserting Untouchable primacy and independence.”
- Oliver Mendelsohn, La Trobe University, Victoria
Marika Vicziany, Monash University, Victoria
"The rise of Ad Dharm movement in Punjab in the 1920s unleashed the most virulent opposition to caste under the leadership of the Gadharite Babu Mangoo Ram Mugowalia. The autonomous movement drew inspiration from the Dalit poet-saints Ravidass, Kabir, and Namdev and assailed the brahmanical structures of social inequality and domination. The Ad Dharm movement aimed at securing a distinct identity for the Dalits, independent of both the Hindu and Sikh religions. In addition to political mobilization, the Ad Dharm movement brought about cultural transformation in the lives of Untouchables in Punjab by its emphasis on moral principles for bringing a sense of self-respect among them. It also attempted to forge unity among the different Untouchable castes by bringing them under one banner of Ad Dharm emphasising they were the original inhabitants of the region. Two weekly newspapers played a significant role in raising Dalit consciousness in Punjab : Adi Danka in the 1930s and Ujala in the early 1950s. Gurdas Ram Aalam and Chanan Lal Manak set the trend of radical Dalit poetry in Punjab via Adi Danka’s prestigious columns."
- Raj Kumar Hans
Rich Heritage of Punjabi Dalit Literature and its Exclusion from Histories
"Ad Dharm was the only movement of its kind in the North-Western region of the country that aimed at securing a respectable place for the scheduled castes through cultural transformation and political assertion rather than seeking patronage from above."
- Ronki Ram
“The ideology of Ad Dharm has become the spine, heart, brain, eyes, feet, and arms of the struggle of the BSP.”
- Bahujan Samaj Bulletin
12 January 1997:8
"The Ad Dharm movement saw itself as a religious movement. Its proponents advocated that the ‘untouchables’ were a separate qaum, a distinct religious community similar to the Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs, and should be treated as such by the rulers. Invoking the then popular ‘racial-origin’ theories of caste, they argued that Ad Dharam has always been the religion of the Dalits and that the qaum had existed from time immemorial (ibid: 45). Despite stiff opposition from the local Hindu leadership, the colonial Census of 1931 listed the Ad Dharmis as a separate religious community. In the very first conference of the organization, they declared:
“We are not Hindus. We strongly request the government not to list us as such in the census. Our faith is not Hindu but Ad Dharm. We are not a part of Hinduism, and Hindus are not a part of us.” (cited in ibid: 74).
The emphasis on Ad Dharam being a separate region, a qaum, was to undermine the identity of caste. As a separate qaum, Ad Dharmis were equal to other qaums recognized by the colonial state, the Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. Mangoo Ram also expected to bring other “untouchable” communities into the fold of Ad Dharm and emerge as a viable community at the regional level.
A total of 4,18,789 persons reported themselves as Ad Dharmis in the 1931 Punjab census, almost equal to the Christian population of the province. They accounted for about 1.5 per cent of the total population of Punjab and around a tenth of the total low-caste population of the province. Nearly 80 per cent of the low castes of Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur districts reported themselves as Ad Dharmis (ibid: 77).
The Ad Dharam movement succeeded in mobilizing the Chamars of Doaba region and in instilling a new sense of confidence in them. The Ad Dharmis are today among the most prosperous and educated of the Dalit communities of the country."
- Surinder S. Jodhka
"We are not Hindus. We strongly request the government not to list us as such. Our faith is not Hindu but Ad Dharm. We are not a part of Hinduism, and Hindus are not a part of us."
"Red color is the symbol of the Ad Dharm. It is the color of the original inhabitants; the Aryans took it and prohibited Untouchables from wearing it. We request the Government to allow us to wear red colors. In fact, we insist on it: red is our rightful color."
"Texts like the Laws of Manu, which treat Untouchables as slaves, should be banned and removed. These books have been obstacles in our progress."
- Report of the Ad Dharm Mandal, 1926-1931
Religious Rebels in the Punjab
The Ad Dharm Challenge to Caste
"Juergensmeyer’s book makes it impossible for anyone to ignore the Ad Dharm. Not only does he record the fascinating history of that movement, he gives us basemarks with which to test theories of the rise and nature of similar movements in the rest of India."
- ELEANOR ZELLIOT, Journal of Asian Studies
"This book is an important effort to understand one dimension of social reality – religious rebellions from below in twentieth century Punjab. Juergensmeyer takes one bold step forward from conventional social history, and he deserves our unqualified praise for that."
- T.K. OOMMEN, Contributions to Indian Sociology
The Ad-Dharm Conference of 1970
Date: 13 December 1970
Venue: Dera Sachkhand Ballan, Jalandhar (Punjab)
Purpose/Discussion in the Meeting:
- Promote the Temple in Benares (Varanasi).
- Renewal of Qaum Identity.
- Resurrection of Ad-Dharm as the Original Religion of the Scheduled Castes.
- Better roads and bridge across the canal at Ballan, so that people can easily reach the Dera.
- Better road be built in Benaras (Varanasi) to connect the Guru Ravidass Ji Temple there with the Benares Hindu University and rest of the city.
- Launch of Ad Dharm Scheduled Caste Federation.
- Managing Trust Committee set up for responsibility of Guru Ravidass Ji Temple at Benares.
- Seth Khushi Ram formally made Chairman of Advisory Committee.
- Presidency of the Federation assigned to Babu Mangu Ram Ji.
- Hazara Ram Ji became the General Secretary of the Federation.
Address by Babu Mangu Ram Ji to the gathering:
“Whatever rights we have now, it is because of the [original] Ad-Dharm Mandal. But the young people have not seemed to be capable of carrying the task which we started. During the British rule, we were twice slaves: slaves of the British and slaves of the Hindus. We have gotten rid of the British, now we have to assert our own rights against the upper castes. We were inspired by Ravi Das, Kabir, and Nam Dev. Hinduism is a fraud to us. Ad Dharm is our only true religion.”
- Babu Mangu Ram Ji
Ad-Dharm Conference at Dera Ballan
December 13, 1970
Balbir Madhopuri with Babu Mangu Ram Jaspal, Editor, Ravidas Patrika,
in his office at Jalandhar. Picture taken on 10th April 2009
"For various historical reasons, those from the second cluster of Punjabi SCs have been much more mobile and politically active than the rest. It was among the chamars of the doaba sub-region that the famous Ad-Dharm movement appeared during the 1920s. Not only did the movement give visibility to the community, it also emphasised the need to educate children and encouraged entrepreneurship among its followers, who were almost entirely made up of the local chamars [Juergensmeyer 1988]."
- Avinash Kumar Mishra
Internal Classifcation of Scheduled Castes: The Punjab Story
"History of active dalit politics in Punjab is fairly old and goes back to the early years of the 20th century. It was in the 1920s that the ad dharam movement was initiated in Punjab by Mangoo Ram among the chamars of the doaba sub-region. The Ad-Dharm Movement of Punjab has been one of the most successful of dalits mobilisations in the entire subcontinent. Not only did it succeed in mobilising a large number of local dalits against the caste system and for a separate religious identity [see for example Juergensmeyer 1988], it also succeeded in spreading the message of education among them. Today the ad dharmis are perhaps the most progressive community among the scheduled castes of Punjab."
- Avinash Kumar Mishra
Internal Classifcation of Scheduled Castes: The Punjab Story
“Ad-Dharm flourished from 1925 to 1935 in the central Punjab districts of Jallandhar and Hoshiarpur, claiming perhaps a million adherents. The name of the movement "Ad-Dharm", signified the central concept: that the Scheduled Castes (the untouchables) were not members of Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism or any other "Upper caste religion". Rather, they were members of a distinctly separate religious community. Indeed, the oldest religion of India. They claimed that theirs was the "Ad-Dharm", the "original religion", worshipped by the pre-Aryan ancestors of modern India. We are not Hindus. Our facts are not Hindu but Ad Dharm. We are not a part of Hindus and Hindus are not a part of us. It was able to give a new sense of identity to the Chamars of Doaba. They have since emerged as a proud and influential community.”
- Nirmal Singh, Research Fellow in the Deptt. of Political Science, Panjab University, Chandigarh
"Continuing Revolution of Dalit Identity Paradigms and Possibilities in Punjab"
"The Chamars chose to become Ad-dharmis when Mangoo Ram – former activist of the Ghadar party movement from the village Mughowal in Hoshiarpur district launched the Ad-dharm movement in the 1920s. The movement remained concentrated in Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur districts. The agenda of the Ad-dharm movement was to create a new religious identity – Ad-dharm (an ancient religion) for the lower castes, which would carve out a separate religious space for them (Ram 2004). Thus the term Ad-dharmi has become a polite synonym for Chamar. Henceforth, in this study Chamars are referred to as Ad-dharmis.
The Ad- dharmi are the most progressive and enterprising of all the scheduled castes. Sabarwal in Mobile Men (1990) has made a comparative study of Ramgarhia, Ad-dharmis and Balmikis in an urban area of Punjab. The Ad-dharmis have been found more open to new experiences and exposures, learning new skills, venturing into the industry by restricting their consumption and ploughing the savings back for expansion. Through their entrepreneurial skills they have moved up in the social and political hierarchy. They could occupy many positions of political and social importance. There is also a study that informs that many Ad- dharmis also migrated to foreign countries such as England in the first half of the last century where they took up various types of occupations and the remunerations sent back home further contributed to their economic well being (Judge 2002). Many of them improved their life style and also ventured into the wholesale business of hides and skins and tanning industry."
- Gurpreet Bal, Department of Sociology
Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, Punjab
"Dalit Empowerment through Entrepreneurship: A Case of Punjab"
"The Ad-Dharm tradition was not looking for equality in the Hindu world but mainly separation from it. It rejected the Arya Samaj movement (“Society of Aryans”), which sought to establish a new Hinduism for the middle class and to accept as equal women and the lower classes; instead, the Untouchables fought for their own sense of cultural identity.
Signs of a separate quam (religious community) became visible under the leadership of Mangoo Ram. To set themselves apart from other religions, the Untouchables developed their own greeting. They also, in rebellion, wore the color red, sacred in Hinduism and usually prohibited for the Untouchables. As solidarity grew, political religious rallies became even more vibrant."
- Andrea Diem-lane
When Scholars Study The Sacred
"It would be appropriate to focus on certain aspects relating to the rise of this movement in 1926 and its so-called demise in 1946. Some of the close associates of the Ad Dharm movement, however, did not approve the closure of the movement in 1946. They were of the opinion that Ad Dharm continued to play an important role for the upliftment of the untouchables even after 1946. In 1946 Mangoo Ram got elected to the Punjab Assembly and remained there to espouse the cause of the Ad Dharmis till the first general elections in independent India. By that time, Mangoo Ram had grown fairly old. According to Chanan Lal Manak, a close associate of the movement, Ad Dharm could not produce any one of the calibers of Mangoo Ram to replace him. The rank and file of Ad Dharm was more interested in their individual vested interests rather than in the upliftment of the Dalits as a community. However, Mangoo Ram till his death did not surrender the herculean task that he had taken on his shoulders for the dalit consciousness and their upliftment (Interviews with Ishwar Das Pawar, Chandigarh, April 23, 2001; Chanan Lal Manak, Jalandhar, May 1, 2001; and Chattar Sain, son of Mangoo Ram, Garshankar [Distt. Hoshiarpur], April 27, 2001). "
- Ronki Ram
“Although the constitutional state affirmative action programme has been an important factor behind the uplift of the Dalits, the role of the Ad Dharm movement and of Ravidass Deras has been most crucial in empowering them and forging a separate Dalit identity in Punjab. The Ad Dharm movement is widely accredited with the task of sowing the seeds of Dalit consciousness in Punjab. It emphasised that Dalits (Ad Dharmis) are the original inhabitants of the region and are distinguished from caste Hindus and Sikhs. It was during this very movement, that the image of Ravidass, a Dalit Nirguni (devotee of God without attributes) Sant of the medieval north Indian bhakti (loving devotion) movement was projected systematically to concretise the newly conceived Dalit cultural space in Punjab. This movement used his pictures as its emblem, his poetry as its sacred text and legends about him as illustrations of power, pride and glory of the socially excluded sections of the society in the constructed past.”
- Ronki Ram
“Though the founders of the Ad Dharm movement appealed to all the untouchables in the state, the response of the Chamars was tremendous. Majority of the total of 418,789 Ad Dharmis who joined the movement within the four years of its origin, belonged to the Chamar caste (Juergensmeyer, 1988: 77; see also Mendelsohn and Vicziany, 2000:102). Chamar is an umbrella caste category that clubs together “Chamar, Jatia Chamar, Rehgar, Raigar, Ramdasi and Ravidasi” (Census of India 1981, Series 17 <Punjab> Part IX. They comprise about twenty six percent (1991 census) of the total Scheduled Caste population of the state. If clubbed with Ad Dharmis, they together comprised forty two percent of the total Scheduled Caste population in Punjab (Gosal, 2004:23). Since majority of the Ad Dharmis are Chamars, they are popularly known as Ad Dharmi Chamars. Chamars and Ad Dharmi Chamars are mostly concentrated in the Doaba sub-region of the state.”
- Ronki Ram
"In the 1920s similar ideas emerged in the Punjab. It had become a highly politicized region with four potential blocs of voters with rough numerical parity, comprising Sikhs, Muslims, ‘high’ caste Hindus, and ‘low’ castes. Who would the ‘low’ castes side with? The Arya Samaj began a purification (shuddhi) movement to ‘re-admit’ the fallen ‘low’ castes back into the ‘Hindu’ fold. All manner of sects and groups were players in the field. The ‘untouchable’ Ad-Dharmis (followers of the ‘original’ rule, order, or ‘religion’) insisted they were the descendants of the indigenous inhabitants of India who had preserved the original dharma in the face of Aryan (‘Hindu’) ‘high’ caste oppression. ‘We are not Hindus, and we are not part of Hinduism.’ By 1931 they had succeeded in getting themselves classified as a ‘religion’ in the Census of India."
- Religion, Language, and Power
Nile Green (Editor), Mary Searle-chatterjee (Editor)
"The Ad Dharm rejected the caste system arguing that pre-Aryan India had no caste discrimination. Guru Ravidas became the posthumous patron of the movement; this could be seen as a large-scale revivalism of him and his teachings. Interestingly, the report of the Ad Dharm leaders explicitly stated that the founders of the religion of the Ad-Dharmis were, in addition to Guru Ravidas, other low caste saints such as Valmiki, Kabir and Namdev. It was Ravidas’ mission against the oppression of his class members that was carried forward by the Ad Dharm through their efforts to abolish the practice of untouchability. The Ad Dharm sought to base itself at Benaras, the birthplace of Guru Ravidas. The aims of the Ad Dharm were revolutionary in the history of the traditional position of Untouchables in India. The social reforms of the Ad Dharm are aptly portrayed in the following report:
In addition to the political aspect of Ad Dharm Mandal, Jullunder, which has been very successful, there is even a greater emphasis on social reform. The religious and organizational status of the Untouchable has been raised through our efforts. For example, we are getting education for Untouchable children. As one wise man of the Punjab put it, “Ad Dharm has performed miracles beyond imagination.” To us, no talk is worthwhile without action. We are not interested in simply collecting money the way the other groups are doing. They collect money for their own luxuries, for their own names. Our principle is solely humanitarian. As someone has said, “It is only the struggle for humanity’s improvement which is worth the pain of having been created.” And as Guru Ravi Das has said, “for the spirit of sympathy, the whole body is created.”
The census of 1931 was to be a turning point in the mission of the Ad Dharmis. It was looked forward to with great enthusiasm since this census would determine once and for all the identity of the followers of the Ad Dharm movement. Prior to this, members of the Scheduled Classes were to be enumerated as Hindus, Sikhs or Muslims. Now, however, they had the opportunity to include themselves under their own distinct identity. There was a great determination on behalf of the Hindus and Sikhs for the Ad Dharmis not to be counted separately. They carried out physical attacks on the Ad Dharmis as part of the pressure placed on them not to record themselves as belonging to the Ad Dharmi category in the census. But the Ad Dharmi leaders had persevered on this issue of identity as a distinct qaum, and strengthened their followers against the expected persecution. The following song of the Ad Dharm illustrates this very well:
Leave the bickering behind,
And tie your turban red;
We do not have to record
Any qaum other than our own;
So, Ad Dharmi, be strong.
Census figures show that a total of 418, 789 Ad Dharmis had been recorded in the Punjab. This was a great achievement, bearing in mind that their first formal meeting had only taken place in 1925. The fact that many Ad Dharmis are likely to have been forced to state either Hindu or Sikh as their religion, must also be borne in mind. One point that was surely determined by the 1931 census is that the Ad Dharmis were to be seen as a distinct qaum from now on, with Guru Ravidas as their leader. They were neither Hindus nor Sikhs.
- Opinderjit Kaur Takhar
Memorandum submitted by Mr. M.A. Ghani, M.L.C., General Secretary, Punjab Labour Board
To Indian Franchise Committee, 1932