RAMNAMI COMMUNITY – MY BODY IS MY TEMPLE
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.