The Ramnami community are considered casteless and untouchable The Ramnami are a part of the Dalit community . Once they were known as the ‘chamar’, leatherworkers, and therefore untouchable, without rights and discriminated. The Ramnami are devote Hinduists but as Dalits they were oppressed by the privileged castes, not being allowed into the temples and not being allowed to be present during holy ceremonies. In answer of this oppression they made their body their temple.
Hundreds years ago a man named Parasuram of the ‘chamar’ community went into exile because he was suffering from lepra. However, on the day he was to depart, he had a chance encounter with a wandering Ramanandi sadhu. As the monk approached him, Parasuram warned the sadhu both of his untouchable caste status and disease and begged him to keep his distance. The sadhu simply replied that the only true disease is ignorance.The monk impressed upon him the importance of chanting Ramnam.
Parasuram went into the forest to die but instead of dying he woke up completely cured with the name Ram Ram tattooed on his body. He dedicated his life to the god that spared his life. In the passing years of sole devotion to Ram he gained a lot of followers among the ‘chamar’.
The followers started tattooing Ram Ram over their bodies. The ‘chamar’ formed their own community, The Ramnami, without temples or statues but instead gathered at houses for praying and worshipping the god.
The two central practices of Ramnami devotion are chanting Ramnam ("the name of Ram") and reciting Ramkatha ("the story of Ram"). These practices are shared by the larger Ram traditions in India. Parsuram, the founder of the ramnami Samaj simply started the path of devotion for Ram. The primary goal of early Ramnami samaj was bonding together of low caste and uneducated people. Anybody who wanted to join in this samaj was welcomed without considering their caste. According to Parsuram the salvation can be attained only by chanting Ramnam. Keeping this in their mind the members of the sect use to chant Ramnam as much as possible. Especially they used to use their free time in chanting the Name of Ram, e.g., if they waited for the bus they use to chant the name of Ram.
One good thing we can observe about this movement is that it brought unity among the low cast people, specially among the harrjans. In this religion people of all caste and creed were welcomed without discrimination. People came together under the same roof and chanted the name of Ram. Followers of this movement shared the same belief with their teacher about the liberation; the chanting of Ramnam can lead to liberation. Thus ramnamis wanted to hear and utter only the name of Ram. Tattoo, ramnami shawl, mukut and Ghungru they shared in common were to show their devotion to their Lord Ram and to their unity. There have been a lot of changes among the Ramnami samaj. With the change of time they have also changed their life style and their custom. Today it is harder to identify their physical appearance like earlier used to be. This kind of changes can be observed in other religions too. Things changes with the time, and the changes are the sign of progress but the problem arises when identity is getting lost.
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