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Type (e.g. Planet, Faction, System): "Faction." The Panchamayanis are a small ethno-religious group scattered across human space, descended from India's "untouchable" caste and from B. R. Ambedkar's early 20th-century Dalit Buddhist movement among the same.

Founding/Settlement Date (if applicable): Ambedkar's movement began in 1956, when he called for the untouchables of India to abandon Hinduism (which he saw as reinforcing the caste system) in favor of a new Buddhist movement stripped of mysticism and focusing on social justice. The movement was first called "Panchamayana" (the theological "vehicle" of the Panchamas, the untouchable caste) in 2016, and the name came into real currency among these people (who emigrated into the stars with the same frequency as anybody else) in 2147, with the publication of a magazine called Panchamayana.

Region of Space: Panchamayanis do not own any planets, but they can be found anywhere humans live - except, oddly enough, on Sol, where the Ambedkerites who remained in India do not generally identify themselves with their cousins who ventured abroad. (If they did, there would be three times as many of them, and Mumbai would be their undisputed capital.) The largest Panchamayani communities are on Biesel and Mars, but they can be found practically everywhere that hasn't made a specific policy of excluding them.

Controlled by (if not a faction): About 75% of Panchamayanis live in the Sol Alliance, with 20% living in Tau Ceti. The remaining 5% have ventured even further afield.

Other Snapshot information: The Panchayamanis are, if one may, similar to the Jews - they are a small group of people, with no nation of their own, who are connected by shared traditions, culture, and religion, and are dedicated to maintaining their links with one another despite their physical distance. They take strong efforts to make sure that their children learn their history, practice their religion, speak their sacred Pali language, and marry within the group.

Long Description:

The Panchamayanis (the 's' at the end is optional when referring to a group of them) are the descendants of a very specific time and place - they trace a strong lineage to the Dalit untouchables of Maharashtra, India, who took up B. R. Ambedkar's 1956 call to abandon Hinduism and embrace the Buddhist religion as part of an anti-caste social justice movement. Isolated from the rest of India by caste status, isolated from the rest of their caste by their religion, and isolated from the rest of their religion by their refusal to participate in "the culture of superstition," the Dalit Buddhists walled themselves off as much as their could, and formed a tight-knit, insular culture. Many of them moved to Mumbai, one of the emerging Indian hyper-cities, and lived together in ghettos. Some of them got involved in the nascent Mumbai-centric Indian film industry, known to the world as "Bollywood," and got startlingly rich because of it.

When humanity surged into the stars at the end of the 21st century, the people of India - including these Ambedkerites, who had carved a niche for themselves in the mega-city of Mumbai - proudly took a place among them. The Ambedkerites had an advantage in this field - they had no holy places or ancient homelands, and as a people they were willing to pack up and move to any place that promised opportunities. While they were never what you call a massive force - even if they were 20 times over-represented among space colonists, they only numbered at eight and a half million people total - they were still quick to go anywhere and everywhere.

In 2147, an author named Madhur Bhave (who had quite an interesting life story, trying and failing at some 15 other professions before he took up publishing) began publishing his magazine on Mars. His dream was that Panchayamana would serve as a kind of village gossip circle, trading in everything from holy sermons by the most venerable monks to things as mundane as recipes and wedding announcements. The magazine eventually stood on its own merits among the 25,000 strong Martian Ambedkerite community, but that wasn't enough for Bhave - he paid printers and distributors on every settled planet, however small, to carry his magazine even if nobody bought it. If and when his people arrived there, Panchayamana was waiting for them.

Panchayamana wasn't the best - it's hard to read the unbridled earnestness of the first editions and not cringe a little - but it was the first, and it laid down a metaphorical road upon which later, more polished efforts could tread. Because of his work, the Ambedkerites of Mars began to think of themselves as Panchayamanis, as people different from their cousins on Earth, and Ambedkerites who spread even further would identify themselves with the Martian community. Bhave also encouraged his people to spread themselves across the galaxy, promising them that a nation based on proximity of ideas was better and more durable than one based on proximity of houses. (To be fair, they were doing that anyway - he just used his pulpit to approve of it.)

Today, there are some 23 million Panchayamanis. Wherever they are, their culture is startlingly uniform - they eat the same food, practice the same religion, and observe the same culture. They are also notoriously tight-knit and clannish; they wall themselves off into insular communities, connected to one another but not to the people next door to them. They prize hard work, education, and parsimony - indeed, they practically boast about how cheaply they can live and how great they are at bargain-hunting. They have the sacred Pali language, which every Panchi (for short) studies from infancy and can use to communicate (haltingly) with every other Panchi. Their Buddhist religion - Theravada-style, stripped of ancestor worship, spirits of the Earth, or angelic Bodhisattvas - is essential to them, and as a rite of passage every young person spends a season as a monk as the final step to adulthood. They keep up a spirit of egalitarianism as reflects their roots as the poorest of the poor, even though their income distribution is the same as anyone else's. They live in extended, multi-generational families that spread out like rabbit warrens, and children roam back and forth between their 'aunts' and 'uncles.' And, perhaps most importantly, they are endogamous. A young person might voyage to another planet a spouse there, but that spouse must come from that planet's Panchi community, and they must raise their children in their religion. People who marry out are struck from the rolls and never mentioned again.

(Note: The first paragraph in the Long Description is actually true, in real life.)

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