Introduction / History
The Meo of India are farmers of livestock. They live in the Mewat district of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan. The Meo are a Muslim people but practice a mixture of Islam and Hinduism. They are a Rajput caste. They are Muslims but have their ethnic roots in Hinduism. It is believed they turned to Islam in the 1600s and more became Muslims at about the beginning of the 1900s.
What Are Their Lives Like?
For a long time the Meo have been livestock farmers, breeding cattle. They are well known in India. Some have trucking businesses. Others work for the government or are in the army and the police. A few are electricians and plumbers and there are laborers among them. The Meo who live in Haryana do basket work. Some are money lenders.
They value education and they use medical doctors as well as traditional ones. They are now beginning to use family planning. They eat wheat, rice, maize, fruit, vegetables, potatoes and dairy products. They accept cooked foods only from high castes and to those linked to high castes.
With the Meo, the oldest male in the family is the boss at home. Property is inherited only by the sons and the oldest son is in charge of the home after the death of the father. The Meo are endogamous and there is rigid exogamy at clan and village levels. This means that while they marry within the group, partners are selected from other clans or villages. They are not allowed to take a bride from the village of their mother. Marriage is allowed with the widow of the elder brother and with the younger sister of a dead wife. They are mostly monogamous but polygamy is allowed regards not being able to have children, not having a male heir and difficulty in adjusting. A gift is given for a dowry. Parents arrange marriages and engagement takes place at an early age. The marriage is at the home of the bride and is done by a Muslim priest. Divorce is allowed and divorcees can marry again.
The Meo have traditional clan assemblies who judge and make decisions. Punishments are given by fines or excommunications.
What Are Their Beliefs?
The Meo follow traditional Islam. They go on pilgrimages to Muslim shrines and take part in Muslim festivals. They visit and do homage at the tombs of their dead saints. They pray for their wishes to come about by the intercession of these saints. Under the leading of the Tablighi Movement (an Islam reform movement), they stopped taking part in Hindu festivals and have become devout Muslims. They perform circumcision and bury the dead in their own cemeteries. Attempts to get the Meo to become Hindus again have failed.
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