Origins of the Meghwars

The origin stories of the Meghwars, the leather artisans of Kachchh, are many and complex. They tell a story of persecution yet resilience, of cruelty yet compassion, of hardship yet richness of spirit. In the ancient varna system, Meghwars used to belong to the so-called Shudra category — the lowest category. They were the underbelly of society who took care of all the unpleasant tasks and functions of living.

The Meghwars are believed to originate from the time of the Brahmin Parshurama, in the time of the Mahabharata. Parshurama was on a mission to exterminate all Kshatriyas or warriors, the second highest category of the varna system. Many Kshatriyas became Shudras in order to flee Parshurama’s wrath. A Kshatriya named Megh Singh, in the Marwar region (parts of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Sindh), fled with his family to take refuge in a forest. Survival required them to bend many caste rules – they began eating dead meat, and acquired skills in processing hides. 

Megh Singh became an ascetic, a rishi, which in local parlance became rikh or rikhya. His progeny and clan subsequently came to be known as the Megh Rikhyas.

Another Meghwar origin story comes from Siddhpur Patan in Gujarat during the reign of King Siddhraj Jaisingh.  This King had a curse on his head that brought a drought to his land for twelve years. The priests, in a desperate attempt to please the Gods for better fortune, suggested a human sacrifice.

They convinced Meghmaya, the ‘low caste’ Rikhya of the village to give his life for the larger good. Meghmaya agreed but negotiated better living conditions for his community as part of the bargain. It is said that after his sacrifice, it rained torrentially.

Meghmaya’s descendants were honoured with the name ‘Meghwar’ — the one who conquered the rains.


The Meghwars excel at not only leatherwork but also weaving and wood carving. Meghwar women are especially skilled in embroidery and artistic mudwork on walls.  They are still referred to as Rikhyas by other communities and considered an auspicious presence during the religious ceremonies of all communities in Kachchh. There is a rich tradition and repertoire of devotional music amongst the Meghwars which is still sought as an accompaniment to most religious events.  At the King’s coronation, the first tilak, or red mark, on the forehead was made by a Meghwar with a drop of  his blood. And yet until recently, the Meghwars were shunned, kept at the outskirts of the village from where the wind did not blow.


Rohi is a tribute to this gifted community. The winds of change have finally begun to blow favourably in their direction.