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Satnami Community & Satnami Revolt

  • Context (IE): The Satnami community in Chhattisgarh violently protested against the desecration of a Jaitkhamb (a structure of sacred importance).
  • Jaitkham is a structure revered by the Satnami community as a sacred symbol. Chattishgarh has the tallest Jatikham, located about 5 km from Giraud village in Baloda Bazar district, at the birthplace of Guru Ghasidas.

Guru Ghasidas Jaitkham

Guru Ghasidas Jaitkham

Credit: Wikipedia

  • The Satnami community was founded in 1657 by Birbhan in Narnaul (present-day Haryana).
  • The expression sat naam (literally “true name”) was popularised by the 15th century Bhakti poet Kabir.
  • The sect is thought to be an offshoot of the Ravidassia sect, as Udhodas, the guru of Birbhan, was the disciple of Saint Ravidas. Udhodas was the society’s first priest or spiritual guru.
  • The Satnamis trace their theological lineage to Guru Ghasidas, an 18th century saint.
  • The sect emphasises on three principles:
    1. Adorn the attire of a Satnami devotee.
    2. Earn money through proper means.
    3. Do not tolerate any injustice or oppression in any form.
  • The sect emphasizes social equality and rejects caste-based discrimination.
  • Remnants of earliest satnamis contributed to the formation of another sect, known as Sadhs (i.e., sadhu, “good”), in the early 19th century, who also designated their deity as satnam.
  • Ravidassia is a tradition based on the teachings of Guru Ravidass. It is a religious sect of the Sikhism, founded in the 14th century. A member of the Ravidassia sect is called a “Ravidassia.

Revival of Satnamis

  • The Satnami community revived in the mid-eighteenth century in present-day Uttar Pradesh under the leadership of Jagjivandas of Barabanki district. He was said to have been influenced by a disciple of the Sufi mystic Yari Shah (1668–1725).
    • He projected an image of an overarching creator God as nirguna (“devoid of sensible qualities”), best worshipped through a regimen of self-discipline and by use of the “true name” alone.
  • The most important Satnami group was founded in 1820 in the Chhattisgarh region by Ghasidas.
    • His Satnam Panth (“Path of the True Name”) succeeded in providing a religious and social identity for large numbers of Chhattisgarhi Chamars.
  • Saguna is worship of God with form and nirguna is worship of God without form.

Satnamis in present day

  • Initially, most Satnamis belonged to an “untouchable” caste engaged in leatherwork. The community has, however, moved away from the profession over time. Today, the community comprises farmers, artisans and people from backward castes.
  • Over the years, many Satnamis adopted caste-Hindu practices, beliefs and rituals, and came to see themselves as part of the Hindu religious mainstream. Some started to worship idols of Hindu Gods, and claimed to be of Rajput or even Brahmin lineage.
  • Satnamis are a predominant group within the 11% Scheduled Caste population in Chhattisgarh. The community inhabits the plains of the state’s central region, mostly the old districts of Bilaspur, Durg, Rajnandgaon and Raipur.

Satnami Revolt

  • It occurred in 1672 during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in Narnaul (present-day Haryana).
  • Reasons:
    • Revival of Islamic Jiziya tax (poll tax on non-Muslim subjects),
    • Banning music and art, and
    • Destroying Hindu temples.
  • The immediate cause of the revolt was the mistreatment of a Satnami by a Mughal official, which sparked widespread anger among the Satnamis.
  • The Satnami rebels initially achieved some military successes against Mughal forces, but they were eventually defeated by a larger Mughal army.
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