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Who are they?

The Mali is a caste of gardeners and vegetable-growers. The word Mali is derived from the Sanskrit mala, meaning garland. There are about 8 million Mali. They are a Backward Class (OBC) spread across 89 districts in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.


According to H.H. Risley, the Mali traces their descent from a garland-maker of Mathura, Uttar Pradesh. Legend has it that Krishna asked the garland-maker to make a garland for him. The garland maker ran out of string and used his genoi (cord signifying Brahmin status) to thread it; at this, Krishna rebuked him for parting with the sacred thread and declared that he would be ranked as Sudra, among the lowest of the social hierarchy. According to ethnologist William Crooke, Parvati, Shiva’s wife, was picking flowers in her garden when a thorn pierced her hand drawing blood, and from this was created the first Mali to tend the garden.


The Mochi speak the language of the region they live in which means that they speak Bengali in West Benga, Oriya in Orissa and Andhra Pradesh, Gujarati in Gujarat. Those living in Bihar speak Maithili, Awadhi in Uttar Pradesh and Mewari in Rajasthan. They also speak Hindi as a second language.

What are Their Lives like?

Mali cultivate flowers like marigolds, roses, lotus, jasmine, basil and tulsi plants, which are daily essentials for rituals and worship of the gods. The demand for fresh flowers at every temple enables the Mali to do a profitable trade. Elaborate flower arrangements, garlands, flowers are always in demand for religious ceremonies, festivals, marriage and other events. The Mali also makes the mukut, a decorative floral headgear worn by Hindu bridegrooms. As well as flowers, vegetables are also grown by the Mali, which they sell at local markets. Not all Mali own land.

In Bihar and Maharashtra, their ancestral occupation includes farming crops like sugarcane, lentils and cereals alongside flowers. In Madhya Pradesh, many are engaged primarily as daily-wage labourers. In Andhra Pradesh the Mali act as temple priests and make beautiful garlands that are offered to the god Shiva; they also seek alms. In West Bengal, some make the tinsel with is used to decorate clay idols. Mostly though, Mali’s are gardeners for people in towns and cities.

The literacy level of the Mali is poor. It is mainly boys that make it to secondary school; girls may be educated to primary school. Even so, many remain illiterate due to lack of finances. Despite this, there are some exceptions and doctors and teachers ca be found among them.


They use both modern medicine and traditional cures. Some Mali, like from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, offer cures for jaundice, chicken pox and scorpion and snake bite. They are responsive to family planning. They make some use of services offered by government schemes to improve their welfare, like irrigation.

Traditionally, the Mali has been rigidly endogamous at community and subdivision level. There are a number of exogamous gotras (clans) that regulate marital alliances, insisting that one must marry outside one’s gotra. Marriages are arranged by elders and adult marriages are common. They are monogamous. A married woman can be identified by the symbols of marriage which include sindur (vermilion), conch shell or lacquer bangles, anklets and a bor – a conical ornament worn on the forehead, especially in Rajasthan. A man may marry his paternal aunt’s daughter or his maternal uncle’s daughter. Divorce and remarriage of widows, widowers and divorcees are permitted, performed with a simple ceremony. Dowry, given by the bride’s parents, is prevalent.

Mali families live as smaller units with a few exceptions living in extended families. The inheritance is equally shared among sons only, with the eldest becoming the head of the family. According to Hindu beliefs, women are inferior to men but play a significant role in the social, domestic and religious life of the family. They work along with the men in growing and selling the produce; in fact, the Mali girls are known for their skill at selling flowers. They sing folk songs on festive occasions.

Caste councils settle community disputes and maintain social control. In addition there are regional level associations that provide for the welfare of the community.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The Mali are mostly Hindu by faith and worship the wider spectrum of gods and goddesses but also a specific family deity, like Lakshmi (goddess of wealth & fortune) and Sitala Devi (goddess of smallpox).
Some Mali of Rajasthan and Gujarat are Muslim. The Mali make pilgrimages to holy places like Hardwar, on the banks of the ‘sacred’ Ganges River, Allahabad, in Uttar Pradesh and Pushkar, Rajasthan. The Mali celebrate all major festivals like Shivaratri, Holi, Ganesha Chaturthi and Diwali, as well as Makar Sankranti – a festival celebrating the beginning of the sun’s northern journey according to the Hindu zodiac.

A Brahmin priest performs all rites for births, marriages and deaths. Sometimes, they perform their own ceremonies. The dead are cremated and ashes immersed in a river, preferably the Ganges. Death and birth pollution are observed for specific periods, usually eleven or twelve days. Ancestor worship is prevalent. During the latter half of the 19th century, Jyotiba Phule, a Mali from Pune in Maharashtra, was instrumental in pioneering a social reform movement that, among other things, challenged the domination of higher castes. His teachings and writings reflect Christian beliefs.

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We must be always thankful to Mahatma Jyotiba Phule and Devi Savitribai Phule of this caste in MAHRASHTRA for their great contribution to our indian society.


First jouhar recorded in indian history was done by some of the women of this caste , when infuriated solidiers of Alexender Great killed the all most all the men,women and children in malav villages at the sangam of ravi and vitasta rivers in Punjab in 326 bc,,because, they fought against the Alexender, while he was returning to his country and Alexender was seriously injured in that battle. This was a black spot on Alexender”s army as they killed malav women and children against their greek principles of war.


originally they are malav tribe, which was persisting at the time of alexander”s invasion in west Punjab near Multan and surrounding area in 326 bc .Later on defeated by alexander etc. they migrated to other parts of the country. After migration ,They established their kingdom in and around Ujjain, which is known as malawa in MP . They established a kingodom near karkotak nagar,nearer to present day Jaipur in olden days. They started malav samvat , later on implemented as vikram samvat. by other kings of malwa .They are priests in many devi temples in UP,MP and Rajasthan. Shri Ashok… Read more »


Coins found near karkotak nagar nearer to present day Jaipur were inscribed as “malavanam jay” are in rajasthan museam. Perhaps, these coins were implemented by malav tribe for their victory in that part of rajasthan in olden days. later, due to various historical developments, this caste was defeated by other powerful castes and as a result, adopted, profession related to flower growing etc.for survival and lateron, provided a slight lower status in hindu caste system. Despite all this and being poverty ridden, Upper caste and other caste”s people of rural india, still giving respect to this caste people as they… Read more »


(1)we must always remember one more revolutionary hero of this caste, NAKSHATRA MALAKAR(BORN in 1905 and died in 1987),of BIHAR,who faught for oppressed class in British period. He is described as a hero of oppressed people in “MAILA ANCHAL” a hindi novel written by Fanishwar nath Renu.

(2)At present days, shri Hari Narke is doing good job to spread Mahatma Phule”works & Vichar in Pune.(Maharashtra)
(3)At present Shri Kundan Mali is doing good work for Rajasthani Litereture in JaipurRajasthan)
(4)Reference of MALAV community/Tribe/caste also mentioned in “BHISHM PARVA of MAHABHARATA” and also in “PANINI VYAKARAN.”


We are proudly believe in Hinduism. We believe Monotheism as well as in polytheism ( the belief in the existence of one god or in the oneness of God and various incarnation of God and its expression in various forms of energy and also as mother nature and its various beautiful boons to the various forms of life on earth.). We worship lord Ram(the SUN GOD, who took incarnation with 12 kala, means passes through 12 zodiac signs and a true source of all kinds of life and natural wealth(Laxmi) on the earth),Lord Krishna(the MOON GOD,who took incarnation with 16… Read more »


Malav is a true and real surname for Mali caste/Jati people as their ancestors were Originally Malav(Malloi) tribe persisted in mahajanapad era in Punjab and later on migrated to Rajasthan, Gujrat, Maharashtra ,MP and some of them to UP also after being defeated by Alexender and other strong local tribes in those days Punjab.. Some people deliberately snatching this surname from Mali caste people and Mali caste people are not aware about it, because of their low education and economic level in present time. In fact,Saini is not a true surname for Mali case/jati people. It is better for them… Read more »


As per culture & traditions, A man belonging to Mali caste can never marry his paternal aunt’s daughter . Such type of Information given in the article is completely wrong. Please correct it. In very-very rare case, a person belonging to Mali caste may marry his distinct maternal uncle’s or maternal uncle’s distinct cousin brother’s daughter.


The Dhaa Maa,Goora Dhay (wet nurse) of Infant prince Ajit Singh of Marwar, put her beloved son on the royal bed Instead of Ajit Singh and put the sleeping prince Ajit into a basket and smuggle him with others out of Delhi. Aurangzeb deigned to accept this deceit and sent the child to be raised as a Muslim in his harem. The child was renamed Mohammadi Raj and the act of changing religion meant that, by custom, the imposter lost all hereditary entitlement to the lands of Marwar that he would otherwise have had if he had indeed been Ajit… Read more »


We also remember greatl sàint of Mali caste Saint Savta Mali. Of Maharashtra and Saint Sri Likhmi jee of Nagore in Rajasthan and know more about them.