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A Barber with Healing Fingers (standard:non fiction, 721 words)
Author: JuggernautAdded: Dec 07 2013Views/Reads: 3238/901Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
In anacient India, the profession of barbering, body massaging and playing drums in a band were all bundled into one barber caste. How that happened?

A Barber with Healing Fingers 

Subba Rao 

Hair gets dirty pretty quickly in hot tropics with sweat and 

dust. Handling hair is considered dirty in Hindu culture. Giving body 

massage was also considered dirty job since not everybody is clean, 

some may not take bath for days, and few camouflage their body odor 

with perfumes. Similarly, handling hides is also considered dirty since 

hide comes from dead animals. Since animal hide is used in making 

drums, drummers were relegated to the lower end of the Hindu society. 

In a calculated way, people in the trades of barbering, body massaging 

and playing drums were bundled into a designated caste at the lower end 

of the social hierarchy in Hindu culture at least until the recent 

past. Generally, a barber during day job gives a haircut and then 

offers as head massage for free and as a second job plays drums in the 

bands that perform in weddings, funerals and in other occasions. Boys 

born into the designated barber caste learn all three trades from 

childhood from their elders. 

Juggernaut during his recent visit to Pineappleville, his 

native town known for growing pineapples on southeastern seacoast in 

India visited a barber shop. Unlike the old time barber shop at the 

street corner, this one was a fancy one with high chairs and mirrors. 

The barber was in mid thirties with a nicely shaped mustache as if it 

is attended on a daily basis. “Do the persons born into barber caste 

still practicing barbering?” asked Juggernaut. 

“Not everybody but most of them still stick to their caste 

trade of barbering for living though some smart ones went into other 

professions like doctors, engineers, scientists bankers etc.  We also 

run massage parlors and play drums during festivals,” replied the 

barber looking at the Juggernaut's reflection in the mirror. 

“You know I always wondered why people born into barber caste 

play only percussions not other instruments in the band, I am sure they 

could play other musical instruments with training,” Juggernaut wants 

to explore further into their profession. 

“It is true we play mostly drums but many members our caste 

also plays other instruments particularly wind instruments like 


“What instrument you play?” 

“I play drums, all kinds from traditional Indian tabla drum to 

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