Introduction / History
Dudekula are numerically a small community. They are known by other names such as "Pinjari", "Bhai", "Panjakuttai", and "Panjari". The other synonyms recorded by Thurston (1909) are "Ladaf" and "Nurbash". All these names are recorded at the time of census taking exercises and are found to be the corrupted forms of "naddaf" (a cotton-dresser) and "nur-baf" (weaver). In Telugu, the state language of Andhra Pradesh, "dude" means cotton and "ekuta" means cleaning. Hence they are locally called the Dudekula, the cotton cleaners and mattress makers. They are mentioned as "Mohammadan caste of cotton-cleaners, rope and tape makers" [Francis Thruston: 1909].
Where Are they Located?
Dudekula, in Andhra Pradesh are distributed in the districts bordering Tamil Nadu such as Gudiatham, Amburu, Thiruttani, Puttur ad Chittoor. They are found in large numbers in the villages of Regallu, Domalacheruvu, Kallur, Mangalepeta, Kalikiri, Rompicherla, Arakonda and Nayanapakala of Andhra Pradesh. Telugu is their mother tongue and it is used for communication at home and with outsiders. They also use the Telugu script. The personal name giving pattern of Dudekula is similar to the Hindus.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The Dudekula community is endogamous. They are further divided on lineages such as Amburollu, Macharla, Gudiyathamollu, Nagurollu, Kallurollu, Ratollu, and Palemollu. Persons belong to a lineage are considered as brothers and sisters ("dayadulu") and marriage alliances among them are not made. For example, Dudekula with the Ratollu surname cannot marry among themselves. Hence for marriage alliance they go to Amburollu which is treated as "menarikam". Thus, the Dudekula follow exogamy based on surname. This type of alliance that includes the dropping of parallel cousin marriages, is a Hindu practice, but is followed by the Dudekulas. They marry cross cousins: father's sister's daughters (FSD) and mother's brother's daughters (MBD). As a result they are looked down upon by other Muslims. To overcome this, now they are adopting the customs and manners of the more Islamised groups.
What Are Their Beliefs?
The Dudekulas are Muslims by religion and profess the folk version of Islam. As a rule they do not have family, clan, village deities, the way the Hindus have and pray in the name of one god Allah. But they are affiliated to the Muslim saints (pirs) of the nearby dargah. To observe Muharram festival, the "muzawar" is selected from their own community. To officiate over their marriage and death rituals a clergy (hazarat) from the Syed Muslim sect is engaged. The weekly congregations meet on Fridays and are led by the Hazarat. The sermon (bayan) is conducted in Urdu or Arabic and later it is translated into the local language Telugu, since the Dudekula do not understand the Urdu or Arabic. They regularly visit the Muslim shrines (dargahs) on pilgrimage. As has been already stated, the Dudekula consider the saint Penugonda Baba, i.e. Faqruddin, their patron saint and attend his annual funeral ceremony every year. Apart from this they also go on pilgrimage to the dargahs of Nagore-e-Sharief at Nagore, Tabrialm Pasha at Trichy to take vows or pay their offerings. When they are there they offer the Fathiha the ritual of reciting the first page of the Quran in the name of the saint and also offer food to the poor at the dargah en masse.
What Are Their Needs?
Dudekula were originally Hindu who converted to Islam a few generations ago. Till a few years ago they vacillated between the two religious traditions. Of late they have come under total Islamic ritual, tradition, customs and manners. Because of their poverty and also the un Islamic customs they practiced, they had a low status. By adopting Islamic customs now they are drawing a better status. The urge to claim higher status has turned the younger generation to learn Urdu and Arabic. Their women have begun observing seclusion rules, dress code and have dropped the Hindu custom of wearing "kumkum" on their forehead. Though quite a few of their rituals were Hindu, they are now renaming them with Urdu terms but still observe them. They have dropped observing the puberty ritual for the girls. The role of maternal uncle has also dispensed with. They have also adopted the practice of parallel cousin marriages. As a result the clan exogamy has been abandoned. Now-a-days marriages are settled and observed as per Islamic tradition. Both Dudekula men and women have accepted modern education and have occupied jobs in different fields. All these have helped the Dudekula elevate their status in the society.