Baishya Kapali

Baishya Kapali, simply known as Kapali, is a Bengali Hindu agricultural caste found in the Indian state of West Bengal and in Bangladesh. The Kapalis have excelled in the cultivation of jute and manufacture of gunny bags. Baishya Kapalis or Kapalis are listed as Other Backward Class in West Bengal.[1]


The ninth of the eleven Rudras of the thirty-three crore gods of Hindu pantheon is known as Kapali. According to Vamana Purana the Rudras were the sons of Kashyap and Aditi, while Matsya Purana mentions them as the offspring of the union between Brahma and Surabhi. The Harivamsa, an appendix to the Mahabharata mentions the Rudras as the children of Kashyap and Surabhi. The Adiparva of Mahabharata states that Kapali married the daughter of a sage and begot a son. According to Shourindra Kumar Ghosh, the progeny of their offspring came to be known as the Kapalis.[2]


Extraction of jute fibre.

Risely mentions Kapalis as "a cultivating and weaving caste of Eastern Bengal, who claim to be the offspring of a Karmakar father and a Teli mother".[3] James Wise supports the view of a mixed caste born out of a Karmakar father and a Teli mother.[4]

According to Wise, " Like many Bengal castes, the Kapāli have a vague tradition that their original home was in Upper India; but this tradition has never assumed a legendary form. The caste claims to be of higher rank than the Bhtiinmāli, Chandāl, or Sáha, and being descended from clean Südras the pure Dhobi and Nápit work for them. The Purohit, who is distinct from that of the Kawāli, is a Patit Brähman. Their only gotra is Kasyapa; and the caste Panchäft is presided overby a headman, called Mu'tabar. The titles found among the Kapális are Mánjhi, Mundle, mandal,mondal Shiq dar, Mála, and Hăldăr; the families with the first three patro nymics being regarded as higher than the others, while a larger sum is paid for their daughters. [4]

The Brihaddharma Purana has no mention of the Kapalis. The Brahmavaivarta Purana categorized the Kapalis with the untouchables. According to a tradition, after inviting the five Brahmins from Kannauj, Adisur ordered the Kapalis to wash their feet. When the Kapalis refused, they were decreed as untouchables. Satish Chandra Mitra believed that Ballal Sena had decreed the Kapalis to be out castes, much like the Subarnabaniks, on the presumption that they were Buddhists.[citation needed]

After the demotion in the social strata, the Kapalis took to agriculture, dairy farming and business. The Kapalis excelled in the cultivation of jute and the preparation of gunny bags from jute. Gradually they became prosperous and some of them even became wealthy landowners. During the reign of Maharaja Pratapaditya, many Kapalis were employed in the government as well as in the army.[5] The Kapalis do not work as labourers, servants or domestic helps.[6]


Kapali Bandhab Library in Kapalitola, Kolkata

The Kapalis usually have two gotras - Kashyap and Shiva. However Santosh Kumar Kundu mentions three gotras namely, Kashyap, Alambayana and Moudgalya.[5] Some Kapalis still use Kapali as their surname.


The Kapalis were originally Shaivites belonging to the school of Kashmir Shaivism, but later they embraced Buddhism. After the Bhakti movement, the Kapalis became Vaishnavas. In the present day, the majority of the Kapalis are Vaishnavas with a minority being Shaktas. The Kapalis follow the religious rituals with great devotion and piety.[7] The Kapalis have separate Brahmins known as Goswamis. Satish Chandra Mitra too mentions that the Kapalis have separate Brahmins to serve them.[7]


  1. ^ "List of Other Backward Classes (O.B.C.) Recognized by Govt. of West Bengal" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 November 2014.
  2. ^ Ghosh, Shourindra Kumar. Bangali Jati Parichay [An Introduction of Bengali Castes] (in Bengali). Kolkata. p. 27.
  3. ^ Rao, K.S. Krishna (2008). Global Encyclopaedia Of Brahamana Ethnography (2 Vols. Set). Global Vision Pub House. p. 259. ISBN 978-81-82202-08-5.
  4. ^ a b Wise, James (1883). Notes on the Races, Castes and Trades of Eastern Bengal. London: Harrison and Sons. pp. 305–306.
  5. ^ a b Kundu, Santosh Kumar (2008). বাঙালী হিন্দু জাতি পরিচয় [An Introduction of Bengali Hindu Castes] (in Bengali). Kolkata: Presidency Library. p. 80. ISBN 978-81-89466-13-8.
  6. ^ Mitra, Satish Chandra. Jashor Khulnar Itihas [The History of Jessore and Khulna] (in Bengali). Kolkata: Deys Publishing. p. 345.
  7. ^ a b Mitra, Satish Chandra. যশোর খুলনার ইতিহাস [The History of Jessore and Khulna] (in Bengali). Kolkata: Deys Publishing. p. 1035.