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"Chandal" redirects here. For the town in Bangladesh, see Chandal, Bangladeshmarker.
Chandala (चांडाल) is an opprobrious term, reserved for a despised group of peoples in India's Sanskrit literature.Currently it is a caste title used specifically in the Hindi belt.Usage of the term is also noted in ancient and medieval literature of Sri Lankamarker, South India which is generally Dravidian speaking and in Indo-China.

Chandala as a term of despised caste was used even in Dravidian-speaking South India among the Sinhala of Sri Lanka.Sandala has become a swear term in the colloquial usage of the Tamil language. Chandal continues to be a derogatory expletive used to refer to a mean person in North India.

Many Dalit castes in north India are still referred to as Chanadalas. and it is a general term to denote any similar caste, as well. They are noted in Maharashtramarker, Orissamarker, Uttar Pradeshmarker, Biharmarker and Bengalmarker. In Bengal they have changed their name to Namasudra to escape the negative effects of the terminology.

In literature

The term Chandala was used in the Manu Smriti or the codes of caste segregation to the Mahabharata the religious epic. It was also used as a synonym for Domba indicating the terms were interchangeable. Instead, it is a general opprobrious term.

In the early Vedic literature several castes spoken of in the Smritis as Antyajas occur. We have Carmanna (a tanner of hides) in the Rig Veda (VIII.8,38) the Chandala and Paulkasa occur in Vaj. S., the Vepa or Vapta (barber) even in the Rig., the Vidalakara or Bidalakar (corresponding to the Buruda of the Smritis) occurs in the Vaj.S. and the Tai, Br. Vasahpalpuli (washer woman) corresponding to the Rajakas of the Smritis in Vaj.S.

According to Fa Hien, a Chinese Buddhist pilgrim who visited India in the early 4th century AD said Throughout the country the people kill no living thing nor drink wine, nor do they eat garlic or onion, with the exception of Chandalas only. The Chandalas are named 'evil men' and dwell apart from others; if they enter a town or market, they sound a piece of wood in order to separate themselves; then, men knowing they are, avoid coming in contact with them. In this country they do not keep swine nor fowls, and do not deal in cable; they have no shambles or wine shops in their market-places. In selling they use cowrie shells. The Chandalas only hunt and sell flesh. Thus indicating even by then they have been segregated from the mainstream society as untouchables.

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche described the Jewish and Christian religions with the term Chandala ("Tschandala") in his works The Antichrist and The Twilight of the Idols. Nietzsche's use of this term was influenced by the French writer Louis Jacolliot, and his work Les législateurs religieux, Manou, Moïse, Mahomet. Nietzsche also claimed that every great spirit has experienced, "as one stage in his development", the stigma of being a Chandala; not because others consider him this way, but because he feels and senses within himself a profound schizm and alienation from the world.

Sydney Owenson, Lady Morgan misspells the word as "Chancalas" throughout the text in her 1811 Sentimental Novel The Missionary: An Indian Tale.


  1. The Missionary: An Indian Tale (ISBN 1-55111-263-9) by Sydney Owenson, Lady Morgan, introduction by Julia M. Wright, 2002 edition

  • Anna Dallapiccola, Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend, ISBN 0-500-51088-1.

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