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The Katkari are an Indian Hindu community mostly belonging to the state of Maharashtra. They have been categorised as a Scheduled tribe. Other names and spellings include Kathkari, Kathodi and Kathodia. They are bilingual, speaking the Katkari language, a dialect of the Marathi language with each other and speaking Marathi with the Marathi speakers who are a majority in the populance where they live.[nb 1] In Maharashtra the Katkari have been designated a Particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG), along with two other groups included in this sub-category: the Madia Gond and the Kolam. In the case of the Katkari this vulnerability derives from their history as a nomadic, forest-dwelling people listed by the British Raj under the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871, a stigma that continues to this day.
The Katkari were at one time a forest people living in the Western Ghats of Maharashtra, with a special relationship to forest creatures such as the tiger or ‘waughmare’, (waugh = tiger, mare = slayer; so tiger slayer) a common Katkari surname. The name Katkari is derived from a forest-based activity – the making and sale of catechu (katha) from the khair tree (Acacia catechu). Weling (1934, 2), drawing on census data from 1901, notes that the Katkari were ‘thickly scattered’ in small communities throughout the hill ranges and forests of Raigad and Thane districts in the present day state of Maharashtra. Some also lived in hill areas in the southern part of the current state of Gujarat, and in the forests of what are now Nasik, Pune and Dhule districts.
The Katkari population engaged in a wide range of livelihoods including the production and sale of catechu, charcoal, firewood and other forest products, freshwater fishing, hunting of small mammals and birds, upland agriculture and agricultural labour on the farms of both...