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I 9 1 6 



Articles on Castes and of the Central 
Provinces in Alphabetical Order 

The articles wJiich are considered to be of most getieral interest 

are shown in capitals 


Agaria {Iron-worker) . 


Agharia {Cultivator') . 


Aghori {Religious ine72di 

cant) . 


AhIr {Herdsmaii a7id niilknmn) 


Andh {Tribe, now cultivators) . 


Arakh {Hunter) 


Atari {Scent-seller) 


Audhelia {Labourer) . 


Badhak {Robber) 


Bahna {Cotton-cleaner) 


Baiga {Forest tribe) 


Bairagi {Religious inetidicants) 


Balahi {Labourer and v 

llage watchman) 


Balija {Cultivator) 


Bania {Merchant and moneylender) 

1 1 1 
























Baxj.\ra {Pack-carrier) 

Barai {Betel-vi/ie groivcr and seller) 

Barhai {Carpe7iter) 

Bari {Maker of leaf-plates) 

Basdewa {Cattle-dealer and religious mendica7it) 

Basor {Bamboo-iuorker) 

Bedar {Soldier and public service) 

Beldar {Digger and navvy) 

Beria ( Vagabond gipsy) 

Bhaina {Forest tribe) . 

Bhamta {Criminal tribe and labourers) 

Bharbhunja {Grain-parcher) 

Bharia {Forest tribe) . 

Bhat {Bard and genealogist) . 

Bhatra {Forest tribe) . 

BhIl (Forest tribe) 

Bhilala {Landotuner arid cultiimtor) 

Bhishti ( IVater-man) . 

Bhoyar {Cultivator) 

Bhuiya {Forest tribe) . 

Bhulia ( IVeaver) 

Bhunjia {Forest tribe) . 

Binjhwar {Cultivator) . 

Bishnoi {Cultivator) 

Bohra {Trader) 

Brahman {Priest) 


Ahivasi. Maharashtra. 

Jijhotia. Maithil. 

Kanaujia, Kanyakubja. Mahvi. 

Khedawal. Nagar. 

Chadar ( Village watcJanari and labourer-) 

Cha.U\k {Tanner ajui labourer) 

Chasa {Cultivator) 

Chauhan ( Village watchman and labourer) 

ChhTpa {Dyer and calico-printer) 

ChitAri {Painter) 












Chitrakathi (/Vi//f/;r .v/z<9tt';/w;/) . . . . -438 

CvLic\\\ {'Trader a?id sliopkcepcr) . . . .440 

Vits\\\vx {Village ivatchviaii and labourer) . . . 444 

Daharia {Culth'ator) . . . . ■ -453 

Vil\\\<g\ {Landowner and cultivator') . . . .457 

Dangri ( Vegetable-groiver) . . . . -4*^3 

Darzi {Tailor) ...... 466 

Dewar {Beggar and musician) . . . ■ .472 

Dhakar {Illegitimate, cultivator) .... 477 

Dhangar {Shep/ierd) . . . . . .480 

Dhanuk {Bowman, labourer) ..... 484 

Dhanwar {Forest tribe) ..... 488 

DhImar {Fisherman, water-carrier, and house/iold servant) . 502 
Dhoba {Forest tribe, cultivator) . . . • 5 1 5 

Dhobi {Wasker?nan) . . . . . .519 

Dhuri {Grain-parcher) . . . . . .527 

Dunial {Cultivator) . . . . . -53° 

Fakir {Beligious mendicant) . . . . -537 


31. Aghori mendicant ...... 

32. Ahirs decorated with cowries for the Stick Dance at Diwali 

33. Image of Krishna as Murhdhar or the flute-player, with 

attendant deities 

34. Ahir dancers in Diwali costume 

35. Pinjara cleaning cotton 

36. Baiga village, Balaghat District 

37. Hindu mendicants with sect-marks. 

38. Anchorite sitting on iron nails 

39. Pilgrims carrying water of the river Nerbudda 

40. Coloured Plate : Examples of Tilaks or sect-marks worn on 

the forehead ..... 

41. Group of Marwari Bania women . 

42. Image of the god Ganpati carried in procession 

43. The elephant-headed god Ganpati, His conveyance is a 

rat, which can be seen as a little blob between his feet 

44. Mud images made and worshipped at the Holi festival 

45. Bania's shop 

46. Banjara women with the singh or horn 

47. Group of Banjara women . 

48. Basors making baskets of bamboo 

49. Bhat with his piitla or doll 

50. Group of Bhlls 

51. Tantia Bhll, a famous dacoit 

52. Group of Bohras at Burhanpur (Nimar) 

53. Brahman worshipping his household gods 

54. Brahman bathing party 

55. Brahman Pujaris or priests 




1 12 



56. Group of Maratha Brahman men . 

57. Group of Naramdeo Brahman women 
5 8. Group of Naramdeo Brahman men 

59. Chamars tanning and working in leather . 

60. Chamars cutting leather and making shoes . 

61. ChhTpa or cahco-printer at work 

62. Dhlmar or fisherman's hut 

63. Fishermen in dug-outs or hollowed ti'ee trunks 

64. Group of Gurujwale Fakirs 



a has the sound of u in but or murmur. 


a in bath or tar. 


e in karte or ai in maid. 


i in bit^ or (as a final letter) of y in siilky 

i , 


ee in beet. 

in bore or bowl. 


u in /z/^" or bull. 


00 in /i9(??- or boot. 

The plural of caste names and a few common Hindustani words 
is formed by adding s in the English manner according to ordinary 
usage, though this is not, of course, the Hindustani plural. 

Note. — The rupee contains i6 annas, and an anna is of the same 
value as a penny. A pice is a quarter of an anna, or a farthing. 
Rs. 1-8 signifies one rupee and eight annas. A lakh is a hundred 
thousand, and a krore ten million. 

PART 11 




Agfaria.^ — A small Dravidian caste, who arc an offshoot 
of the Gond tribe. The Agarias have adopted the profession 
of iron-smelting and form a separate caste. They numbered 
9500 persons in 191 i and live on the Maikal range in the 
Mandla, Raipur and Bilaspur Districts, 

The name probably signifies a worker with d^- or fire. 
An Agaria subcaste of Lohars also exists, many of whom 
are quite probably Gonds, but they are not included in the 
regular caste. Similar Dravidian castes of Agarias are to 
be found in Mirzapur and Bengal. The Agarias are quite 
distinct from the Agharia cultivating caste of the Uriya 
country. The Raipur Agarias still intermarry with the 
Rawanbansi Gonds of the District. The Agarias think that 
their caste has existed from the beginning of the world, and 
that the first Agaria made the ploughshare with which the 
first bullocks furrowed the primeval soil. The caste has two 
endogamous divisions, the Patharia and the Khuntia /\garias. 
The Patharias place a stone on the mouth of the bellows to fix 
them in the ground for smelting, while the Khuntias use a peg. 
The two subcastes do not even take water from one another. 

Their exogamous sections have generally the same 
names as those of the Gonds, as Sonwani, Dhurua, Tekam, 
Markam, Uika, Purtai, Marai, and others. A few names of 
Hindi origin are also found, as Ahindwar, Ranchirai and 
Rathoria, which show that some Hindus have probably 
been amalgamated with the caste. Ahindwar or Aindwar 
and Ranchirai mean a fish and a bird respectively in Hindi, 
while Rathoria is a gotra both of Rajputs and Telis. The 
Gond names are probably also those of animals, plants or 
other objects, but their meaning has now generally been 

1 This article is compiled from of Bilaspur, and Kanhya Lai, clerk in 
papers by Mr. Mir Padshah, Tahsildar the Gazetteer office. 



forgotten. Tekam or ieka is a teak tree. Sonwani is a 
sept found among several of the Dravidian tribes, and the 
lower Hindu castes. A person of the Sonwani sept is always 
chosen to perform the ceremony of purification and readmis- 
sion into caste of persons temporarily excommunicated. 
His duty often consists in pouring on such a person a little 
water in which gold has been placed to make it holy, and 
hence the name is considered to mean Sonapani or gold- 
water. The Agarias do not know the meanings of their 
section names and therefore have no totemistic observances. 
But they consider that all persons belonging to one gotra 
are descended from a common ancestor, and marriage within 
the gotra is therefore prohibited. As among the Gonds, first 
cousins are allowed to marry. 
2. Mar- Marriage is usually adult. When the father of a boy 

riage. wishes to arrange a marriage he sends emissaries to the 
father of the girl. They open the proceedings by saying, 
' So-and-so has come to partake of your stale food.' ^ If 
the father of the girl approves he gives his consent by saying, 
' He has come on foot, I receive him on my head.' The 
boy's father then repairs to the girl's house, where he is 
respectfully received and his feet are washed. He is then 
asked to take a drink of plain water, which is a humble 
method of offering him a meal. After this, presents for the 
girl are sent by a party accompanied by tomtom players, 
and a date is fixed for the marriage, which, contrary to the 
usual Hindu rule, may take place in the rains. The reason 
is perhaps because iron-smelting is not carried on during the 
rains and the Agarias therefore have no work to do. A i&w 
days before the wedding the bride-price is paid, which consists 
of 5 seers each of ui'ad and til and a sum of Rs. 4 to Rs. i 2. 
The marriage is held on any Monday, Tuesday or Friday, 
no further trouble being taken to select an auspicious day. 
In order that they may not forget the date fixed, the fathers 
of the parties each take a piece of thread in which they tie 
a knot for every day intervening between the date when the 
marriage day is settled and the day itself, and they then 
untie one knot for every day. Previous to the marriage all 
the village gods are propitiated by being anointed with oil 

1 BCisi or rice boiled in water the previous day. 


by the Baiga or village priest. The first clod of earth for 
the ovens is also dug by the Baiga, and received in her cloth 
by the bride's mother as a mark of respect. The usual 
procedure is adopted in the marriage. After the bride- 
groom's arrival his teeth are cleaned with tooth-sticks, and 
the bride's sister tries to push sdj leaves into his mouth, a 
proceeding which he prevents by holding his fan in front of 
his face. For doing this the girl is given a small present. 
A paili^ measure of rice is filled alternately by the bride 
and bridegroom twelve times, the other upsetting it each 
time after it is filled. At the marriage feast, in addition to 
rice and pulse, mutton curry and cakes of urad pulse fried 
in oil are provided. Urad is held in great respect, and is 
always given as a food at ceremonial feasts and to honoured 
guests. The greater part of the marriage ceremony is 
performed a second time at the bridegroom's house. 
Finally, the decorations of the marriage-shed and the palm- 
leaf crowns of the bride and bridegroom are thrown into 
a tank. The bride and bridegroom go into the water, and 
each in turn hides a jar under water, which the other must 
find. They then bathe, change their clothes, and go back 
to the bridegroom's house, the bride carrying the jar filled 
with water on her head. The boy is furnished with a bow 
and arrows and has to shoot at a stuffed deer over the girl's 
shoulder. After each shot she gives him a little sugar, and 
if he does not hit the deer in three shots he must pay 
4 annas to the sazvdsa or page. After the marriage the 
bridegroom does not visit his wife for a month in order to 
ascertain whether she is already pregnant. They then live 
together. The marriage expenses usually amount to Rs. i 5 
for the bridegroom's father and Rs. 40 for the bride's father. 
Sometimes the bridegroom serves his father-in-law for his 
wife, and he is then not required to pay anything for the 
marriage, the period of service being three years. If the 
couple anticipate the ceremony, however, they must leave 
the house, and then are recalled by the bride's parents, and 
readmitted into caste on giving a feast, which is in lieu of 
the marriage ceremony. If they do not comply with the 
first summons of the parents, the latter finally sever connec- 

' A measure containing about 2^ lbs. of grain. 


tion with them. Widow marriage is freely permitted, and 
the widow is expected to marry her late husband's younger 
brother, especially if he is a bachelor. If she marries 
another man with his consent, the new husband gives him a 
turban and shoulder-cloth. The children by the first husband 
are made over to his relatives if there are any. Divorce is 
permitted for adultery or extravagance or ill-treatment by 
either party. A divorced wife can marry again, but if she 
absconds with another man without being divorced the latter 
has to pay Rs. 1 2 to the husband. 

When a woman becomes pregnant for the first time, her 
mother goes to her taking a new cloth and cakes and a 
preparation of milk, which is looked on as a luxurious food, 
and which, it is supposed, will strengthen the child in the 
womb. After birth the mother is impure for five days. 
The dead are usually burnt, but children under six whose 
ears have not been pierced, and persons dying a violent 
death or from cholera or smallpox are buried. When the 
principal man of the family dies, the caste-fellows at the 
mourning feast tie a cloth round the head of his successor 
to show that they acknowledge his new position. They 
offer water to the dead in the month of Kunwar (September- 

They have a vague belief in a supreme God but do not 
pay much attention to him. Their family god is Dulha Deo, 
to whom they offer goats, fowls, cocoanuts and cakes. In 
the forest tracts they also worship Bura Deo, the chief god 
of the Gonds. The deity who presides over their profession 
is Loha-Sur, the Iron demon, who is supposed to live in the 
smelting-kilns, and to whom they offer a black hen. Formerly, 
it is said, they were accustomed to offer a black cow. They 
worship their smelting implements on the day of Dasahra 
and during Phagun, and offer fowls to them. They have little 
faith in medicine, and in cases of sickness requisition the aid 
of the village sorcerer, who ascertains what deity is displeased 
with them by moving grain to and fro in a winnowing-fan 
and naming the village gods in turn. He goes on repeating 
the names until his hand slackens or stops at some name, 
and the offended god is thus indicated. He is then sum- 
moned and enters into the body of one of the persons present. 


and explains his reason for being offended with the sick 
person, as that he has passed by the god's shrine without 
taking off his shoes, or omitted to make the triennial offering 
of a fowl or the like. Atonement is then promised and the 
offering made, while the sick person on recovery notes the 
deity in question as one of a vindictive temper, whose 
worship must on no account be neglected. The Agarias 
say that they do not admit outsiders into the caste, but 
Gonds, Kawars and Ahirs are occasionally allowed to enter 
it. They refuse to eat monkeys, jackals, crocodiles, lizards, 
beef and the leavings of others. They eat pork and fowls 
and drink liquor copiously. They take food from the higher 
castes and from Gonds and Baigas. Only Bahelias and otlicr 
impure castes will take food from them. Temporary excom- 
munication from caste is imposed for conviction of a criminal 
offence, getting maggots in a wound, and killing a cow, a 
dog or a cat. Permanent excommunication is imposed for 
adultery or eating with a very low caste. Readmission to 
caste after temporary exclusion entails a feast, but if the 
offender is very poor he simply gives a little liquor or even 
water. The Agarias are usually sunk in poverty, and their 
personal belongings are of the scantiest description, consisting 
of a waist-cloth, and perhaps another wisp of cloth for the 
head, a brass lota or cup and a few earthen vessels. Their 
women dress like Gond women, and have a few pewter 
ornaments. They are profusely tattooed with representations 
of flowers, scorpions and other objects. This is done merely 
for ornament. 

The caste still follow their traditional occupation of iron- s- Occupa- 
smelting and also make a few agricultural implements. They 
get their ore from the Maikal range, selecting stones of a dark 
reddish colour. They mix i6 lbs. of ore with 15 lbs. of 
charcoal in the furnace, the blast being produced by a pair 
of bellows worked by the feet and conveyed to the furnace 
through bamboo tubes ; it is kept up steadily for four hours. 
The clay coating of the kiln is then broken down and the 
ball of molten slag and charcoal is taken out and hammered, 
and about 3 lbs. of good iron are obtained. With this they 
make ploughshares, mattocks, axes and sickles. They also 
move about from village to village with an anvil, a hammer 


8 AGHARIA part 

and tongs, and building a small furnace under a tree, make 
and repair iron implements for the villagers. 

I. Origin. Ag'hapia ^ (a corruption of Agaria, meaning one who 

came from Agra). — A cultivating caste belonging to the 
Sambalpur District^ and adjoining States. They number 
27,000 persons in the Raigarh and Sarangarh States and 
Bilaspur District of the Central Provinces, and are found also 
in some of the Chota Nagpur States transferred from Bengal. 
According to the traditions of the Agharias their forefathers 
were Rajputs who lived near Agra. They were accustomed 
to salute the king of Delhi with one hand only and without 
bending the head. The king after suffering this for a long 
time determined to punish them for their contumacy, and 
summoned all the Agharias to appear before him. At the 
door through which they were to pass to his presence he 
fixed a sword at the height of a man's neck. The haughty 
Agharias came to the door, holding their heads high and not 
seeing the sword, and as a natural consequence they were all 
decapitated as they passed through. But there was one 
Agharia who had heard about the fixing of the sword and 
who thought it better to stay at home, saying that he had 
some ceremony to perform. When the king heard that there 
was one Agharia who had not passed through the door, he 
sent again, commanding him to come. The Agharia did not 
wish to go but felt it impossible to decline. He therefore 
sent for a Chamar of his village and besought him to go 
instead, saying that he would become a Rajput in his death 
and that he would ever be held in remembrance by the 
Agharia's descendants. The Chamar consented to sacrifice 
himself for his master, and going before the king was be- 
headed at the door. But the Agharia fled south, taking his 
whole village with him, and came to Chhattisgarh, where 
each of the families in the village founded a clan of the 
Agharia caste. And in memory of this, whenever an Agharia 
makes a libation to his ancestors, he first pours a little water 
on the ground in honour of the dead Chamar. According to 

' This article is mainly compiled Mnster of the Raigarh English School, 

from papers by the late Mr. Baikunth and Kanhya Lai, clerk in the Gazetteer 

Nath Pujari, Extra Assistant Com- office. 

missioner, Sambalpur; Sitaram, Head '^ Now transferred to Bengal. 


another version of the story three brothers of different families 
escaped and first went to Orissa, where they asked the Gaj[)ati 
king to employ them as soldiers. The kin<^ caused two 
sheaths of swords to be placed before them, and telling them 
that one contained a sword and the other a bullock-goad, 
asked them to select one and by their choice to determine 
whether they would be soldiers or husbandmen. From one 
sheath a haft of gold projected and from the other one of 
silver. The Agharias pulled out the golden haft and found 
that they had chosen the goad. The point of the golden and 
silver handles is obvious, and the story is of some interest for 
the distant resemblance which it bears to the choice of the 
caskets in The Merchant of Venice. Condemned, as they 
considered, to drive the plough, the Agharias took off their 
sacred threads, which they could no longer wear, and gave 
them to the youngest member of the caste, saying that he 
should keep them and be their Bhat, and they would support 
him with contributions of a tenth of the produce of their 
fields. He assented, and his descendants are the genealogists 
of the Agharias and are termed Dashanshi. The Agharias 
claim to be Somvansi Rajputs, a claim which Colonel Dalton 
says their appearance favours. " Tall, well-made, with high 
Aryan features and tawny complexions, they look like 
Rajputs, though they are more industrious and intelligent 
than the generality of the fighting tribe." ^ 

Owing to the fact that with the transfer of the Sambalpur 2. Sub- 
District, a considerable portion of the Agharias have ceased 
to be residents of the Central Provinces, it is unnecessary to 
give the details of their caste organisation at length. They 
have two subdivisions, the Bad or superior Agharias and 
the Chhote, Sarolia or Sarwaria, the inferior or mixed 
Agharias. The latter are a cross between an Agharia and 
a Gaur (Ahir) woman. The Bad Agharias will not eat with 
or even take water from the others. Further local sub- 
divisions are now in course of formation, as the Ratanpuria, 
Phuljharia and Raigarhia or those living round Ratanpur, 
Phuljhar and Raigarh. The caste is said to have 84 gotras 
or exogamous sections, of which 60 bear the title of Patel, 
18 that of Naik, and 6 of Chaudhri. The section names 

' Daltou's EtJiiiolog}' of Bengal, p. 322. 


lo A CHART A part 

are very mixed, some being those of eponymous Brahman 
gotyas, as Sandilya, Kaushik and Bharadwaj ; others those 
of Rajput septs, as Karchhul ; while others are the names of 
animals and plants, as Barah (pig), Baram (the pipal tree), 
Nag (cobra), Kachhapa (tortoise), and a number of other 
local terms the meaning of which has been forgotten. Each 
of these sections, however, uses a different mark for brand- 
ing cows, which it is the religious duty of an Agharia to 
rear, and though the marks now convey no meaning, they 
were probably originally the representations of material 
objects. In the case of names whose meaning is understood, 
traces of totemism survive in the respect paid to the animal 
or plant by members of the sept which bears its name. 
This analysis of the structure of the caste shows that it was 
a very mixed one. Originally consisting perhaps of a 
nucleus of immigrant Rajputs, the offspring of connections 
with inferior classes have been assimilated ; while the story 
already quoted is probably intended to signify, after the 
usual Brahmanical fashion, that the pedigree of the Agharias 
at some period included a Chamar. 

Marriage within the exogamous section and also with 
first cousins is forbidden, though in some places the union of 
a sister's son with a brother's daughter is permitted. Child 
marriage is usual, and censure visits a man who allows an 
unmarried daughter to arrive at adolescence. The bride- 
groom should always be older than the bride, at any rate by 
a day. When a betrothal is arranged some ornaments and 
a cloth bearing the szuastik or lucky mark are sent to the 
girl. Marriages are always celebrated during the months of 
Magh and Phagun, and they are held only once in five or 
six years, when all children whose matches can be arranged 
for are married off. This custom is economical, as it saves 
expenditure on marriage feasts. Colonel Dalton also states 
that the Agharias always employ Hindustani Brahmans for 
their ceremonies, and as very few of these are available, they 
make circuits over large areas, and conduct all the weddings 
of a locality at the same period. Before the marriage 
a kid is sacrificed at the bride's house to celebrate the 
removal of her status of maidenhood. When the bridegroom 
arrives at the bride's house he touches with his dagger the 


string of mango-lcavcs suspended from the marriage-shed and 
presents a rupee and a hundred betel-leaves to the bride's 
saivdsin or attendant. Next day the bridegroom's father 
sends a present of a bracelet and seven small earthen cups 
to the bride. She is seated in the open, and seven women 
hold the cups over her head one above the other. Water is 
then poured from above from one cup into the other, each 
being filled in turn and the whole finally falling on the bride's 
head. This probably symbolises the fertilising action of rain. 
The bride is then bathed and carried in a basket seven times 
round the marriage-post, after which she is seated in a chair 
and seven women place their heads together round her while 
a male relative winds a thread seven times round the heads 
of the women. The meaning of this ceremony is obscure. 
The bridegroom makes his appearance alone and is seated 
with the bride, both being dressed in clothes coloured yellow 
with turmeric. The bridegroom's party follows, and the feet 
of the couple are washed with milk. The bride's brother 
embraces the bridegroom and changes cloths with him. 
Water is poured over the hands of the couple, the girl's 
forehead is daubed with vermilion, and a red silk cloth is 
presented to her and the couple go round the marriage-post. 
The bride is taken for four days to the husband's house 
and then returns, and is again sent with the usual gauna 
ceremony, when she is fit for conjugal relations. No price 
is usually paid for the bride, and each party spends about 
Rs. lOO on the marriage ceremony. Polygamy and widow 
marriage are generally allowed, the widow being disposed 
of by her parents. The ceremony at the marriage of a 
widow consists in putting vermilion on the parting of her 
hair and bangles on her wrists. Divorce is. allowed on 
pain of a fine of Rs. 50 if the divorce is sought by the 
husband, and of Rs. 25 if the wife asks for it. In some 
localities divorce and also polygamy are said to be forbidden, 
and in such cases a woman who commits adultery is finally 
expelled from the caste, and a funeral feast is given to sym- 
bolise her death. 

The family god of the Agharias is Dulha Deo, who exists 4- Reii- 

1 111 /->. ITT .'I ,1 gious and 

m every household. On the Haraiti day or the commence- ^^^^^^ 
ment of the agricultural year they worship the implements customs. 


of cultivation, and at Dasahra the sword if they have one. 
They have a great reverence for cows and feed them sump- 
tuously at festivals. Every Agharia has a giwu or spiritual 
guide who whispers the mantra or sacred verse into his ear 
and is occasionally consulted. The dead are usually burnt, 
but children and persons dying of cholera or smallpox are 
buried, males being placed on the pyre or in the grave on 
their faces and females on their backs, with the feet pointing 
to the south. On the third day the ashes are thrown into a 
river and the bones of each part of the body are collected 
and placed under the pipal tree, while a pot is slung over 
them, through which water trickles continually for a week, 
and a lighted lamp, cooked food, a leaf-cup and a tooth-stick 
are placed beside them daily for the use of the deceased 
during the same period. Mourning ends on the tenth day, 
and the usual purification ceremonies are then performed. 
Children are mourned for a shorter period. Well -to -do 
members of the caste feed a Brahman daily for a year after 
a death, believing that food so given passes to the spirit of 
the deceased. On the anniversary of the death the caste- 
fellows are feasted, and after that the deceased becomes a 
purkha or ancestor and participates in devotions paid at 
the shrddhh ceremony. When the head of a joint family 
dies, his successor is given a turban and betel-leaves, and his 
forehead is marked by the priest and other relations with 
sandalwood. After a birth the mother is impure for twenty- 
one days. A feast is given on the twelfth day, and sometimes 
the child is named then, but often children are not named 
until they are six years old. The names of men usually 
end in Ram, Ndth or Singh, and those of women in Kunwa^-. 
Women do not name their husbands, their elderly relations, 
nor the sons of their husband's eldest brother. A man does 
not name his wife, as he thinks that to do so would tend to 
shorten his life in accordance with the Sanskrit saying, ' He 
who is desirous of long life should not name himself, his guru, 
a miser, his eldest son, or his wife.' The Agharias do not 
admit outsiders into the caste. They will not take cooked 
food from any caste, and water only from a Gaur or Rawat. 
They refuse to take water from an Uriya Brahman, probably 
in retaliation for the refusal of Uriya Brahmans to accept 

II Acr/ORr 13 

water from an Ajrharfa, thoui;h taking it from a Kolta. 
Both the Uriya Brahmans and Agharias are of somewhat 
doubtful origin, and both are therefore probably the more 
concerned to maintain the social position to which they lay 
claim. But Kewats, Rawats, Telis and other castes eat 
cooked food from Agharias, and the caste therefore is 
admitted to a fairly high rank in the Uriya country. The 
Agharias do not drink liquor or eat any food which a Rajput 
would refuse. 

As cultivators they are considered to be proficient. In 5. Occupa- 
the census of 1901 nearly a quarter of the whole caste were ''°"' 
shown as malguzars or village proprietors and lessees. They 
wear a coarse cloth of homespun yarn which they get woven 
for them by Gandas ; probably in consequence of this the 
Agharias do not consider the touch of the Ganda to pollute 
them, as other castes do. They will not grow turmeric, 
onions, garlic, i-<a:;^-hemp or tomatoes, nor will they rear tasar 
silk-cocoons. Colonel Dalton says that their women do no out- 
door work, and this is true in the Central Provinces as regards 
the better classes, but poor women work in the fields. 

Aghori, Ag'horpanthi.^ — The most disreputable class of i. General 
Saiva mendicants who feed on human corpses and excre- accounts 
ment, and in past times practised cannibalism. The sect is caste. 
apparently an ancient one, a supposed reference to it being 
contained in the Sanskrit drama Malati Mdd/iava, the hero 
of which rescues his mistress from being offered as a sacri- 
fice by one named Aghori Ghanta.^ According to Lassen, 
quoted by Sir H. Risley, the Aghoris of the present day are 
closely connected with the Kapalika sect of the Middle Ages, 
who wore crowns and necklaces of skulls and offered human 
sacrifices to Chamunda, a form of Devi, The Aghoris now 
represent their filthy habits as merely giving practical ex- 
pression to the abstract doctrine that the whole universe is 
full of Brahma, and consequently that one thing is as pure 
as another. By eating the most horrible food they utterly 
subdue their natural appetites, and hence acquire great power 

1 This article is mainly based on a Aiithr. Soc. Bombay, iii. p. 197. 
paper on Aghoris and Aghorpanthis, ^ Bhattacharya, Hindu Casles and 

by Mr. H. W. Barrow, in Ihe Journal Sects, p. 392. 


over themselves and over the forces of nature. It is believed 
that an Aghori can at will assume the shapes of a bird, an 
animal or a fish, and that he can bring back to life a corpse 
of which he has eaten a part. The principal resort of the 
Aghoris appears to be at Benares and at Girnar near Mount 
Abu, and they wander about the country as solitary mendi- 
cants. A few reside in Saugor, and they are occasionally 
met with in other places. They are much feared and disliked 
by the people owing to their practice of extorting alms by 
the threat to carry out their horrible practices before the eyes 
of their victims, and by throwing filth into their houses. 
Similarly they gash and cut their limbs so that the crime of 
blood may rest on those who refuse to give. " For the most 
part," Mr. Barrow states,^ " the Aghorpanthis lead a wander- 
ing life, are without homes, and prefer to dwell in holes, 
clefts of rocks and hwxmw^-ghdts. They do not cook, but 
eat the fragments given them in charity as received, which 
they put as far as may be into the cavity of the skull used 
as a begging-bowl. The bodies of chelas (disciples) who die 
in Benares are thrown into the Ganges, but the dead who 
die well off are placed in coffins. As a rule, Aghoris do not 
care what becomes of their bodies, but when buried they are 
placed in the grave sitting cross-legged. The Aghori gurus 
keep dogs, which may be of any colour, and are said to be 
maintained for purposes of protection. The dogs are not all 
pariahs of the streets, although some gurus are followed by 
three or four when on pilgrimage. Occasionally the dogs 
seem to be regarded with real affection by their strange 
masters. The Aghori is believed to hold converse with all 
the evil spirits frequenting the burning-^/^5/j-, and funeral 
parties must be very badly off who refuse to pay him some- 
thing. In former days he claimed five pieces of wood at each 
funeral in Benares ; but the Doms interfere with his perqui- 
sites, and in some cases only let him carry off the remains of 
the unburned wood from each pyre. When angered and 
excited, Aghoris invoke Kali and threaten to spread devasta- 
tion around them. Even among the educated classes, who 
should know better, they arc dreaded, and as an instance of 
the terror which they create among the ignorant, it may be 

1 Aghoris and Aghorpanthis, pp. 224, 226. 



't)se, (_ iuio.. iJdrby. 


mentioned that in the Lucknow District it is believed that 
if ahns are refused them the Aghoris will cause those who 
refuse to be attacked with fever. 

" On the other hand, their good offices may secure bene- 
fits, as in the case of a zamlndar of Muzaffarnagar, who at 
Allahabad refused to eat a piece of human flesh offered to 
him by an Aghori ; the latter thereupon threw the flesh at the 
zamlndar's head, on which it stuck. The zamlndar afterwards 
became so exceedingly wealthy that he had difficulty in 
storing his wealth." 

In former times it is believed that the Aghoris used to 
kidnap strangers, sacrifice them to the goddess and eat the 
bodies, and Mr. Barrow relates the following incident of the ism. 
murder of a boy: ^ "Another horrible case, unconnected with 
magic and apparently arising from mere blood-thirst, occurred 
at Neirad in June 1878. An Aghori mendicant of Dwarka 
staying at the temple of Sitaram Laldas seized a boy of twelve, 
named Shankar Ramdas, who was playing with two other 
boys, threw him down on the ^(^//ir? of the temple, ripped open 
his abdomen, tore out part of his entrails, and, according to 
the poor little victim's dying declaration, began to eat them. 
The other boys having raised an alarm, the monster was 
seized. When interrogated by the magistrate as to whether 
he had committed the crime in order to perform Aghorbidya, 
the prisoner said that as the boy was Bhakshan he had eaten 
his flesh. He added that if he had not been interrupted he 
would have eaten all the entrails. He was convicted, but 
only sentenced to transportation for life. The High Court, 
however, altered the sentence and ordered the prisoner to be 

The following instance, quoted by Mr. Barrow from 
Rewah, shows how an Aghori was hoist with his own 
petard : " Some years ago, when Maharaja Bishnath Singh 
was Chief of Rewah, a man of the Aghori caste went to 
Rewah and sat dhania on the steps of the palace ; having 
made ineffectual demands for alms, he requested to be sup- 
plied with human flesh, and for five days abstained from 
food. The Maharaja was much troubled, and at last, in order 
to get rid of his unwelcome visitor, sent for Ghansiam Das, 

* Page 208. 


another Aghori, a Fakir, who had for some years Hved in 
Rewah. Ghansiam Das went up to the other Aghori and 
asked him if it was true that he had asked to be supphed 
with human flesh. On receiving a reply in the affirmative, 
Ghansiam Das said : ' Very well, I too am extremely 
partial to this form of food ; here is my hand, eat it and I 
will eat you'; and at the same time he seized hold of the 
other's hand and began to gnaw at it. The Aghori on this 
became much alarmed and begged to be excused. He shortly 
afterwards left Rewah and was not heard of again, while 
Ghansiam Das was rewarded for his services." 

The following recent instance of an Aghori devouring 
human corpses is reported from the Punjab : ^ " The loath- 
some story of a human ghoul from Patiala shows that the 
influence of the Aghorpanthi has not yet completely died 
out in this country. It is said that for some time past 
human graves have been found robbed of their contents, 
and the mystery could not be solved until the other 
day, when the police succeeded in arresting a man in the 
act of desecrating a child's grave, some forty miles distant 
from the capital (Patiala). The ghoul not only did not 
conceal the undevoured portion of the corpse he had with 
him, but told his captors the whole story of his gruesome 
career. He is a low-caste Hindu named Ram Nath, and 
is, according to a gentleman who saw him, ' a singularly 
mild and respectful-looking man, instead of a red-eyed and 
ravenous savage,' as he had expected to find him from the 
accounts of his disgusting propensities. He became an 
orphan at five and fell into the hands of two Sadhus of his 
own caste, who were evidently Aghorpanthis. They taught 
him to eat human flesh, which formed the staple of their 
food. The meat was procured from the graves in the vil- 
lages they passed through. When Ram Nath was thoroughly 
educated in this rank the Sadhus deserted him. Since then 
he had been living on human carrion only, roaming about 
the country like a hungry vulture. He cannot eat cooked 
food, and therefore gets two seers of raw meat from the 
State every day. It is also reported that the Maharaja has 

1 The Tribune (Lahore), November Ascetics and Saints of India, pp. 164, 
29, 1898, quoted in Oman's Mystics, 165. 


now prohibited his being given anj'tliing but cooked food 
with a view to reforming liim." 

Sir J. B. Fuller relates the following incident of the 
employment of an Aghori as a servant •} " There are actually 
ten thousand persons who at census time classed them- 
selves a,s Aghoris. All of them do not practise cannibalism 
and some of them attempt to rise in the world. One of them 
secured service as a cook with a British officer of my acquaint- 
ance. My friend was in camp in the jungle with his wife 
and children, when his other servants came to him in a body 
and refused to remain in service unless the cook was dis- 
missed, since they had discovered, they declared, that during 
the night-time he visited cemeteries and dug up the bodies 
of freshly buried cliildren. The cook was absent, but they 
pointed to a box of his that emitted a sickening smell. The 
man was incontinently expelled, but for long afterwards the 
family were haunted by reminiscences of the curries they 
had eaten." 

' Studies of Indian Life mid Sen/iweiif, p. 44. 




1 . Gefteral notice. i o. Birth customs. 

2. Former dominance of the Al>- ii. Fiaieralj-ites. Bringing back 

hiras. the soul. 

3. A/ur dialects. 12. Religion. Kj-ishna and other 

4. Tlie Yddavas and Kjishna. deified cowherds. 

5. TJie modern Ahlrs an occitpa- 13. Caste deities. 

tional caste. 1 4. Other deities. 

6. Subcastes. 15. The Diivdli festival. 

7. The Dauwa or ivet-77urse 16. Omens. 

Ahirs. Fosterage. 17. Social customs. 

8. Exogamy. 18. Or7taments. 
g. Marriage customs. 19. Occupation. 

20. Preparations of milk. 

Ahir,^ Gaoli, Guala, Golkar, Gaolan, Rawat, Gahra, 
Mahakul. — The caste of cowherds, milkmen and cattle- 
breeders. In 191 I the Ahlrs numbered nearly 750,000 
persons in the Central Provinces and Berar, being the 
sixth caste in point of numbers. This figure, however, 
excludes 150,000 Gowaris or graziers of the IMaratha 
Districts, and if these were added the Ahlrs would out- 
number the Telis and rank fifth. The name Ahir is derived 
from Abhlra, a tribe mentioned several times in inscriptions 
and the Hindu sacred books. Goala, a cowherd, from 
Gopala,'*^ a protector of cows, is the Bengali name for the 
caste, and Gaoli, with the same signification, is now used in 
the Central Provinces to signify a dairyman as opposed to 
a grazier. The Gaolans appear to be an inferior class of 
Gaolis in Berar. The Golkars of Chanda may be derived 
from the Telugu Golars or graziers, with a probable 

' The information about birth Nandgaon State, 
customs in this article is from a paper " Go, gau or gai, an ox or cow, 

by Mr. Kalika Prasad, Tahsildar, Riij- and pat 01 fdlai, guardian. 



admixture of Goncl blood. They are described as wild- 
looking people scattered about in the most thickly forested 
tracts of the District, where they graze and tend cattle. 
Rawat, a corruption of Rajputra or a princeling, is the name 
borne by the Ahir caste in Chhattlsgarh ; while Gahra is 
their designation in the Uriya country. The Mahakul 
Ahirs are a small group found in the Jashpur State, and 
said to belong to the Nandvansi division. The name means 
' Great family.' 

The Abhlras appear to have been one of the immigrant 2. Former 
tribes from Central Asia who entered India shortly before or '^°™"a"ce 
about the commencement of the Christian era. In the Puranas Abhiras. 
and Mahilbharata they are spoken of as Dasyu or robbers, 
and Mlechchhas or foreigners, in the story which says that 
Arjuna, after he had burned the dead bodies of Krishna and 
Balaram at Dwiirka, was proceeding with the widows of the 
Yadava princes to Mathura through the Punjab when he was 
waylaid by the Abhlras and deprived of his treasures and 
beautiful women. ^ An inscription of the Saka era 102, 
or A.D. 180, speaks of a grant made by the Senapati or 
commander-in-chief of the state, who is called an Abhlra, 
the locality being Sunda in Kathiawar. Another inscription 
found in Nasik and assigned by Mr. Enthoven to the fourth 
century speaks of an Abhlra king, and the Puranas say that 
after the Andhrabhrityas the Deccan was held by the 
Abhlras, the west coast tract from the Tapti to Deogarh 
being called by their name.^ In the time of Samudragupta 
in the middle of the fourth century the Abhiras were settled 
in Eastern Rajputana and Malwa.^ When the Kathis arrived 
in Gujarat in the eighth century, they found the greater part 
of the country in the possession of the Ahlrs.^ In the 
Mirzapur District of the United Provinces a tract known as 
Ahraura is considered to be named after the tribe ; and near 
Jhansi another piece of country is called Ahlrwar.^ Elliot 
states that AhIrs were also Rajas of Nepal about the com- 
mencement of our era.^ In Khandesh, Mr. Enthoven states, 

^ Ind. Ant. (Jan. 1911), 'Foreign ^ Early History of India, 3rd ed. 

Elements in the Hindu Population,' by p. 286. 

Mr. D. R. Bhandarkar. •* Elliot, ibide?>!. 

^ Elliot, Supplemental Glossary, s.v. ^ Bombay Monograph on Ahir. 

Ahir. 6 Elliot, ibidem. 


the settlements of the Ahirs were important. In many castes 
there is a separate division of AhIrs, such as the Ahir Sunars, 
Sutars, Lohars, Shimpis, Sails, Guraos and Kolis. The fort 
of Asirgarh in Nimar bordering on Khandesh is supposed 
to have been founded by one Asa AhIr, who lived in the 
beginning of the fifteenth century. It is said that his 
ancestors had held land here for seven hundred years, and 
he had io,ooo cattle, 20,000 sheep and 1000 mares, with 
2000 followers ; but was still known to the people, to 
whom his benevolence had endeared him, by the simple 
name of Asa. This derivation of Asirgarh is clearly 
erroneous, as it was known as Asir or Asirgarh, and held 
by the Tak and Chauhan Rajputs from the eleventh century. 
But the story need not on that account, Mr. Grant says,^ be 
set down as wholly a fable. Firishta, who records it, has 
usually a good credit, and more probably the real existence 
of a line of Ahir chieftains in the Tapti valley suggested a 
convenient ethnology for the fortress. Other traditions of 
the past domination of the pastoral tribes remain in the 
Central Provinces. Deogarh on the Chhindwara plateau 
was, according to the legend, the last seat of Gaoli power 
prior to its subversion by the Gonds in the sixteenth 
century. Jatba, the founder of the Deogarh Gond 
dynasty, is said to have entered the service of the Gaoli 
rulers, Mansur and Gansur, and subsequently with the aid 
of the goddess Devi to have slain them and usurped their 
kingdom. But a Gaoli chief still retained possession of the 
fort of Narnfda for a few years longer, when he also was 
slain by the Muhammadans. Similarly the fort of Gawilgarh 
on the southern crest of the Satpuras is said to be named 
after a Gaoli chief who founded it. The Saugor traditions 
bring down the Gaoli supremacy to a much later date, as 
the tracts of Etawa and Khurai are held to have been 
governed by their chieftains till the close of the seventeenth 

Certain dialects called after the Abhiras or AhIrs still 

remain. One, known as Ahlrwati, is spoken in the Rohtak 

and Gurgaon Districts of the Punjab and round Delhi. This 

is akin to Mewati, one of the forms of Rajasthani or the 

^ Central Provinces Gazetteer (1S71), Introduction. 



lancjuac^c of Rajputfina. The Malwi dialect of Rajasthani 
is also known as Ahiri ; and that curious form of Gujarati, 
which is half a l>hil dialect, and is generally known as 
Khandeshi, also bears the name of Ahlrani.^ The above 
linguistic facts seem to prove only that the Abhiras, or their 
occupational successors, the Ahlrs, were strongly settled in the 
Delhi country of the Punjab, Malwa and Khandesh. They 
do not seem to throw much light on the origin of the Abhiras 
or Ahlrs, and necessarily refer only to a small section of the 
existing Ahir caste, the great bulk of whom speak the Aryan 
language current where they dwell. Another authority 
states, however, that the Ahlrs of Gujarat still retain a 
dialect of their own, and concludes that this and the other 
Ahir dialects are the remains of the distinct Abhlra language. 

It cannot necessarily be assumed that all the above 4. The 
traditions relate to the Abhlra tribe proper, of which the ^^"^'^^^^ 
modern Ahir caste are scarcely more than the nominal Krishna. 
representatives. Nevertheless, it may fairly be concluded 
from them that the Abhiras were widely spread over India 
and dominated considerable tracts of country. They are 
held to have entered India about the same time as the 
Sakas, who settled in Gujarat, among other places, and, as 
seen above, the earliest records of the Abhiras show them in 
Nasik and Kathiawar, and afterwards widely spread in 
Khandesh, that is, in the close neighbourhood of the Sakas. 
It has been suggested in the article on Rajput that the 
Yadava and other lunar clans of Rajputs may be the 
representatives of the Sakas and other nomad tribes who 
invaded India shortly before and after the Christian era. 
The god Krishna is held to have been the leader of the 
Yadavas, and to have founded with them the sacred city of 
Dwarka in Gujarat. The modern Ahlrs have a subdivision 
called Jaduvansi or Yaduvansi, that is, of the race of the 
Yadavas, and they hold that Krishna was of the Ahir tribe. 
Since the Abhiras were also settled in Gujarat it is possible 
that they may have been connected with the Yadavas, and 
that this may be the foundation for their claim that Krishna 
was of their tribe. The Dyashraya-Kavya of Hemachandra 
speaks of a Chordasama prince reigning near Junagarh as 

^ Linguistic Survey of India, vol. ix. part ii. p. 50. 


an Abhira and a Yadava. But this is no doubt very con- 
jectural, and the simple fact that Krishna was a herdsman 
would be a sufficient reason for the Ahirs to claim connection 
with him. It is pointed out that the names of Abhira 
chieftains given in the early inscriptions are derived from 
the god Siva, and this would not have been the case if they 
had at that epoch derived their origin from Krishna, an 
incarnation of Vishnu. "If the Abhiras had really been 
the descendants of the cowherds (Gopas) whose hero was 
Krishna, the name of the rival god Siva would never have 
formed components of the names of the Abhiras, whom we 
find mentioned in inscriptions. Hence the conclusion may 
safely be drawn that the Abhiras were by no means connected 
'with Krishna and his cowherds even as late as about A.D. 
300, to which date the first of the two inscriptions mentioned 
above is to be assigned. Precisely the same conclusion is 
.pointed to by the contents of the Harivansha and Bhagwat 
Purana. The upbringing of Krishna among the cowherds 
and his flirtations with the milkmaids are again and again 
mentioned in these works, but the word Abhira does not 
occur even once in this connection. The only words we 
find used are Gopa, Gopi and Vraja. This is indeed 
remarkable. For the descriptions of the removal of Krishna 
as an infant to Nanda, the cowherd's hut, of his childhood 
passed in playing with the cowherd boys, and of his youth 
spent in amorous sports with the milkmaids are set forth at 
great length, but the word Abhira is not once met with. 
From this only one conclusion is possible, that is, that the 
yVbhiras did not originally represent the Gopas of Krishna. 
The word Abhira occurs for the first time in connection with 
the Krishna legend about A.D. 550, from which it follows 
that the Abhiras came to be identified with the Gopas shortly 
before that date." ^ 

This argument is interesting as showing that Abhira was 
not originally an occupational term for a herdsman, nor a caste 
name, but belonged to an immigrant tribe. Owing apparently 
to the fact that the Abhiras, like the Gujars, devoted them- 
selves to a pastoral mode of life in India, whereas the 
previous Aryan immigrants had settled down to cultivation, 
' Bombay Ethnographic Stcfvey. 


they fravc their name to the i^rcat occujjational caste of 
herdsmen which was subsequently develo[)ed, and of which 
they may originally have constituted the nucleus. The 
Gujars, who came to India at a later period, form a parallel 
case ; although the Giljar caste, which is derived from them, 
is far less important than the Ahlr, the Gujars have also 
been the parents of several Rajpiit clans. The reason why 
the early Mathura legends of Krishna make no mention of 
the Ahirs may be that the deity Krishna is probably com- 
pounded of at least two if not more distinct personalities. 
One is the hero chief of the Yadavas, who fought in the 
battle of the Pandavas and Kauravas, migrated to Gujarat 
and was killed there. As he was chief of the Yadavas this 
Krishna must stand for the actual or mythical personality 
of some leader of the immigrant nomad tribes. The other 
Krishna, the boy cowherd, who grazed cattle and sported 
writh the milkmaids of Brindaban, may very probably be 
some hero of the indigenous non-Aryan tribes, who, then as 
now, lived in the forests and were shepherds and herdsmen. 
His lowly birth from a labouring cowherd, and the fact that 
his name means black and he is represented in sculpture as 
being of a dark colour, lend support to this view. The cult 
of Krishna, Mr. Crooke points out, was comparatively late, 
and probably connected with the development of the worship 
of the cow after the decay of Buddhism. This latter 
Krishna, who is worshipped with his mother as a child-god, 
was especially attractive to women, both actual and pro- 
spective mothers. It is quite probable therefore that as his 
worship became very popular in Hindustan in connection 
with that of the cow, he was given a more illustrious origin 
by identification with the Yadava hero, whose first home 
was apparently in Gujarat. In this connection it may also 
be noted that the episodes connected with Krishna in the 
Mahabharata have been considered late interpolations. 

But though the Ahir caste takes its name and is perhaps 5. The 
partly descended from the Abhlra tribe, there is no doubt "hirsTn 
that it is now and has been for centuries a purely occupa- occupa- 
tional caste, largely recruited from the indigenous tribes. ^^^^^^_ 
Thus in Bengal Colonel Dalton remarks that the features 
of the Mathuravasi Goalas are high, sharp and delicate, and 


they are of light-brown complexion. Those of the Magadha 
subcaste, on the other hand, are undefined and coarse. They 
are dark-complexioned, and have large hands and feet. 
" Seeing the latter standing in a group with some Singhbhum 
Kols, there is no distinguishing one from the other. There 
has doubtless been much mixture of blood." ^ Similarly in 
the Central Provinces the Ahirs are largely recruited from 
the Gonds and other tribes. In Chanda the Gowaris are 
admittedly descended from the unions of Gonds and Ahirs, 
and one of their subcastes, the Gond- Gowaris, are often 
classed as Gonds. Again, the Kaonra Ahirs of Mandla 
are descended from the unions of Ahirs either with the 
Gonds or Kawars, and many of them are probably pure 
Gonds. They have Gond sept-names and eat pork. Members 
of one of their subdivisions, the Gond-Kaonra, will take water 
from Gonds, and rank below the other Kaonras, from whom 
they will accept food and water. As cattle have to go into 
the thick jungles to graze in the hot weather, the graziers 
attending them become intimate with the forest tribes who 
live there, and these latter are also often employed to graze 
the cattle, and are perhaps after a time admitted to the 
Ahir caste. Many Ahirs in Mandla are scarcely considered 
to be Hindus, living as they do in Gond villages in sole 
company with the Gonds. 

The principal subcastes of the Ahirs in northern India 
are the Jaduvansi, Nandvansi and Gowalvansi. The Jadu- 
vansi claimed to be descended from the Yadavas, who now 
form the Yadu and Jadon-Bhatti clans of Rajputs. The 
probability of a historical connection between the Abhiras 
and Yadavas has already been noticed. The Nandvansi 
consider their first ancestor to have been Nand, the cowherd, 
the foster-father of Krishna ; while the name of the Gowal- 
vansi is simply Gofda or Gauli, a milkman, a common 
synonym for the caste. The Kaonra Ahirs of Mandla and 
the Kamarias of Jubbulpore are considered to belong to the 
Nandvansi group. Other subcastes in the northern Districts 
are the Jijhotia, who, like the Jijhotia Brahmans, take their 
name from Jajhoti, the classical term for Bundelkhand ; the 
Bharotia ; and the Narwaria from Narwar. The Rawats 
* Quoted in Tribes ajtd Castes of Bengal, art. Goala. 


of Chhattisi^arh arc divided into the Jliadia, Kosaria and 
Kanaujia groups. Of these the Jhadia or 'jungly,' and 
Kosaria from Kosala, the ancient name of the Chhattlsgarh 
country, arc the oldest settlers, while the Kanaujia are largely 
employed as personal servants in Chhattlsgarh, and all castes 
will take water from their hands. The superior class of them, 
however, refuse to clean household cooking vessels, and are 
hence known as Thethwar, or exact or pure, as distinguished 
from the other Rawats, who will perform this somewhat 
derogatory work. 

The Dauwa or wet-nurse Ahirs are descended from the 7- The 
illegitimate offspring of Bundela Rajput fathers by Ahir weunur°e 
mothers who were employed in this capacity in their families. Ahirs. 
An AhIr woman kept by a Bundela was known as Pardwarin, 
or one coming from another house. This is not considered 
a disgraceful origin ; though the Dauwa Ahirs are not re- 
cognised by the Ahirs proper, they form a separate section 
of the caste, and Brahmans will take water from them. The 
children of such mothers stood in the relation of foster- 
brothers to the Rajputs, whom their mothers had nursed. 
The giving of milk, in accordance with the common primitive 
belief in the virtue attaching to an action in itself, was held 
to constitute a relation of quasi-maternity between the nurse 
and infant, and hence of fraternity between her own children 
and her foster-children. The former were called Dhai-bhais 
or foster-brothers by the Rajputs ; they were often given 
permanent grants of land and employed on confidential 
missions, as for the arrangement of marriages. The minister 
of a Raja of Karauli was his Dauwa or foster-father, the 
husband of his nurse. Similarly, Colonel Tod says that the 
Dhai-bhai or foster-brother of the Raja of Boondi, com- 
mandant of the fortress of Tanagarh, was, like all his class, 
devotion personified.^ A parallel instance of the tie of 
foster-kinship occurs in the case of the foster-brothers of 
Conachar or Hector in The Fair Maid of Perth. Thus the 
position of foster-brother of a Rajput was an honourable one, 
even though the child might be illegitimate. Ahir women 
were often employed as wet-nurses, because domestic service 
was a profession in which they commonly engaged. Owing 

^ Rajasthtui, ii. p. 639. 


to the comparatively humble origin of a large proportion of 
them they did not object to menial service, while the purity 
of their caste made it possible to use them for the supply of 
water and food. In Bengal the Uriya Ahlrs were a common 
class of servants in European houses. 

The Gaolis or milkmen appear to form a distinct branch 
of the caste with subcastes of their own. Among them are 
the Nandvans, comm.on to the Ahlrs, the Malwi from Malwa 
and the Raghuvansi, called after the Rajput clan of that 
name. The Ranyas take their designation from rdn^ forest, 
like the Jhadia Rawats. 

The caste have exogamous sections, which are of the 
usual low-caste type, with titular or totemistic names. Those 
of the Chhattlsgarhi Rawats are generally named after animals. 
A curious name among the Mahakul Ahirs is Mathankata, 
or one who bit his mother's nipples. The marriage of 
persons belonging to the same section and of first cousins 
is prohibited. A man may marry his wife's younger sister 
while his wife is living, but not her elder sister. The practice 
of exchanging girls between families is permissible. 

As a rule, girls may be married before or after puberty, but 
the Golkars of Chanda insist on infant marriage, and fine the 
parents if an unmarried girl becomes adolescent. On the 
other hand, the Kaonra Ahlrs of Mandla make a practice of 
not getting a girl married till the signs of puberty have 
appeared. It is said that in Mandla if an unmarried girl 
becomes pregnant by a man of the caste the paiicJidyat give 
her to him and fine him Rs. 2 or 30, which they appro- 
priate themselves, giving nothing to the father. If an Ahir 
girl is seduced by an outsider, she is made over to him, and 
a fine of Rs. 40 or 50 is exacted from him if possible. This 
is paid to the girl's father, who has to spend it on a penalty 
feast to the caste. Generally, sexual offences within the 
community are leniently regarded. The wedding ceremony 
is of the type prevalent in the locality. The proposal comes 
from the boy's family, and a price is usually given for the 
bride. The Kaonra Ahlrs of Mandla and the Jharia and 
Kosaria Rawats of Chhattlsgarh employ a Brfdiman only to 
write the lagun or paper fi.xing the date of the wedding, and 
the ceremony is conducted by the sazvdsins or relatives of 



the parties. In Chhatti.s<jaili the bridcf^room is dressed as a 
girl to be taken to the wedding. In Betul the weddings of 
most Gaolis are held in Magh (January), and that of the 
Ranya subcaste in the bright fortnight of Kartik (October). 
At the ceremony the bride is made to stand on a small stone 
roller ; the bridegroom then takes hold of the roller facing 
the bride and goes round in a circle seven times, turning 
the roller with him. Widow remarriage is permitted, and 
a widow is often expected to marry the younger brother of 
her deceased husband. If a bachelor wishes to marry a 
widow he first goes through the ceremony with a dagger or 
an earthen vessel. Divorce is freely permitted. In Hoshan- 
gabad a strip is torn off the clothes worn by husband 
and wife as a sign of their divorce. This is presumably in 
contrast to the knotting of the clothes of the couple together 
at a wedding. 

Among the Rawats of Chhattisgarh, when a child is 10. Birth 
shortly to be born the midwife dips her hand in oil and 
presses it on the wall, and it is supposed that she can tell by 
the way in which the oil trickles down whether the child will 
be a boy or a girl. If a woman is weak and ill during her 
pregnancy it is thought that a boy will be born, but if she is 
strong and healthy, a girl. A woman in advanced pregnancy 
is given whatever she desires to eat, and on one occasion 
especially delicate kinds of food are served to her, this rite 
being known as Sidhori. The explanation of the custom is 
that if the mother does not get the food she desires during 
pregnancy the child will long for it all through life. If 
delivery is delayed, a line of men and boys is sometimes 
made from the door of the house to a well, and a vessel is 
then passed from hand to hand from the house, filled with 
water, and back again. Thus the water, having acquired the 
quality of speed during its rapid transit, will communicate 
this to the woman and cause her quick delivery. Or they 
take some of the clay left un moulded on the potter's wheel 
and give it her to drink in water ; the explanation of this 
is exactly similar, the earth having acquired the quality of 
swiftness by the rapid transit on the wheel. If three boys 
or three girls have been born to a woman, they think that 
the fourth should be of the same sex, in order to make up 


two pairs. A boy or girl born after three of the opposite 
sex is called Titra or Titri, and is considered very unlucky. 
To avert this misfortune they cover the child with a basket, 
kindle a fire of grass all round it, and smash a brass pot on 
the floor. Then they say that the baby is the fifth and not 
the fourth child, and the evil is thus removed. When one 
woman gives birth to a male and another to a female child 
in the same quarter of a village on the same day and they 
are attended by the same midwife, it is thought that the boy 
child will fall ill from the contagion of the girl child com- 
municated through the midwife. To avoid this, on the 
following Sunday the child's maternal uncle makes a banghy, 
which is carried across the shoulders like a large pair of 
scales, and weighs the child in it against cowdung. He then 
takes the banghy and deposits it at cross-roads outside the 
village. The father cannot see either the child or its mother 
till after the Chathi or sixth-day ceremony of purification, 
when the mother is bathed and dressed in clean clothes, the 
males of the family are shaved, all their clothes are washed, 
and the house is whitewashed ; the child is also named on 
this day. The mother cannot go out of doors until after the 
Barhi or twelfth -day ceremony. If a child is born at an 
unlucky astrological period its ears are pierced in the fifth 
month after birth as a means of protection. 
1 1. Funeral The dead are either buried or burnt. When a man is 

Bringing '^y''"'? they put basil leaves and boiled rice and milk in his 
back the moutli, and a little piece of gold, or if they have not got 
gold they put a rupee in his mouth and take it out again. 
For ten days after a death, food in a leaf-cup and a lamp are 
set out in the house-yard every evening, and every morning 
water and a tooth-stick. On the tenth day they are taken 
away and consigned to a river. In Chhattisgarh on the 
third day after death the soul is brought back. The women 
put a lamp on a red earthen pot and go to a tank or 
stream at night. The fish are attracted towards the light, 
and one of them is caught and put in the pot, which is then 
filled with water. It is brought home and set beside a small 
heap of flour, and the elders sit round it. The son of the 
deceased or other near relative anoints himself with turmeric 
and picks up a stone. This is washed with the water from 



ihc pot, and placed on the floor, and a sacrifice of a cock or 
hen is made to it accordinq^ as the deceased was a man or a 
woman. The stone is then enshrined in the house as a 
family god, and the sacrifice of a fowl is repeated annually. It 
ij. supposed apparently that the dead man's spirit is brouc^ht 
';ack to the house in the fish, and then transferred to the 
:tone by washing this with the water. 

The Ahirs have a special relation to the Hindu religion, 12. Re- 
owing to their association with the sacred cow, which is itself i!f,.'°hna 
revered as a goddess. When religion gets to the anthropo- ;^"'i «ihcr 
morphic stage the cowherd, who partakes of the cow's sanctity, cowherds, 
may be deified as its representative. This was probably the 
case with Krishna, one of the most popular gods of Hinduism, 
who was a cowherd, and, as he is represented as being of a 
dark colour, may even have been held to be of the indigenous 
races. Though, according to the legend, he was really of 
royal birth, Krishna was brought up by Nand, a herdsman of 
Gokul, and Jasoda or Dasoda his wife, and in the popular 
belief these are his parents, as they probably were in the 
original story. The substitution of Krishna, born as a prince, 
for Jasoda's daughter, in order to protect him from destruc- 
tion by the evil king Kansa of Mathura, is perhaps a later 
gloss, devised when his herdsman parentage was considered 
too obscure for the divine hero. Krishna's childhood in 
Jasoda's house with his miraculous feats of strength and his 
amorous sports with Radha and the other milkmaids of Brinda- 
wan, are among the most favourite Hindu legends. Govind 
and Gopal, the protector or guardian of cows, are names of 
Krishna and the commonest names of Hindus, as are also 
his other epithets, Murlidhar and Bansidhar, the flute-player ; 
for Krishna and Balaram, like Greek and Roman shepherds, 
were accustomed to divert themselves with song, to the 
accompaniment of the same instrument. The child Krishna 
is also very popular, and his birthday, the Janam-Ashtami 
on the 8th of dark Bhadon (August), is a great festival. On 
this day potsful of curds are sprinkled over the assembled 
worshippers. Krishna, however, is not the solitary instance 
of the divine cowherd, but has several companions, humble 
indeed compared to him, but perhaps owing their apotheosis 
to the same reasons, Bhilat, a popular local godling of the 



Nerbudda Valley, was the son of an Ahir or Gaoli woman ; 
she was childless and prayed to Parvati for a child, and the 
goddess caused her votary to have one by her own husband, the 
god Mahadeo. Bhilat was stolen away from his home by 
Mahadeo in the disguise of a beggar, and grew up to be a 
great hero and made many conquests ; but finally he returned 
and lived with his herdsman parents, who were no doubt his 
real ones. He performed numerous miracles, and his devotees 
are still possessed by his spirit. Singaji is another godling 
who was a Gaoli by caste in Indore. He became a disciple of 
a holy Gokulastha Gosain or ascetic, and consequently a 
great observer of the Janam-Ashtami or Krishna's birthday.^ 
On one occasion Singaji was late for prayers on this day, and 
the guru was very angry, and said to him, ' Don't show 
your face to me again until you are dead.' Singaji went 
home and told the other children he was going to die. Then 
he went and buried himself alive. The occurrence was 
noised abroad and came to the ears of the guru, who was 
much distressed, and proceeded to offer his condolences to 
Singaji's family. But on the way he saw Singaji, who had 
been miraculously raised from the dead on account of his 
virtuous act of obedience, grazing his buffaloes as before. 
After asking for milk, which Singaji drew from a male 
buffalo calf, the gm-u was able to inform the bereaved parents 
of their son's joyful reappearance and his miraculous powers ; 
of these Singaji gave further subsequent demonstration, and 
since his death, said to have occurred 350 years ago, is 
widely venerated. The Gaolis pray to him for the 
protection of their cattle from disease, and make thank- 
offerings of butter if these prayers are fulfilled. Other 
pilgrims to Singaji's shrine offer unripe mangoes and sugar, 
and an annual fair is held at it, when it is said that for 
seven days no cows, flies or ants are to be seen in the place. 
In the Betul district there is a village godling called Dait, 
represented by a stone under a tree. He is the spirit of any 
Ahlr who in his lifetime was credited in the locality with 
having the powers of an exorcist. In Mandla and other 
Districts when any buffalo herdsman dies at a very advanced 

^ Gokul was the place where Krishna was brought up, and the Gokulastha 
Gosains are his special devotees. 


age the people make a platform for him within the village 
and call it Mahashi Deo or the buffalo god. Similarly, 
when an old cattle herdsman dies they do the same, and call 
it Balki Ueo or the bullock god. Here we have a clear 
instance of the process of substituting the spirit of the 
lierdsman for the cow or buffalo as an object of worship. 
The occupation di the Ahir also lends itself to religious 
imaginations. He stays in the forest or waste grass-land, 
frequently alone from morning till night, watching his herds ; 
and the credulous and uneducated minds of the more 
emotional may easily hear the voices of spirits, or in a 
half-sleeping condition during the heat and stillness of the 
long day may think that visions have appeared to them. 
Thus they come to believe themselves selected for communi- 
cation with the unseen deities or spirits, and on occasions of 
strong religious excitement work themselves into a frenzy 
and are held to be possessed by a spirit or god. 

Among the special deities of the Ahirs is Kharak Deo, 13. Caste 
who is always located at the khirkha, or place of assembly of '^'"^^' 
the cattle, on going to and returning from pasture. He appears 
to be the spirit or god of the kliirkJia. He is represented by 
a platform with an image of a horse on it, and when cattle 
fall ill the owners offer flour and butter to him. These 
are taken by the Ahirs in charge, and it is thought that the 
cattle will get well. Matar Deo is the god of the pen or 
enclosure for cattle made in the jungle. Three days after 
the Diwali festival the Rawats sacrifice one or more goats to 
him, cutting off their heads. They throw the heads into the 
air, and the cattle, smelling the blood, run together and 
toss them with their horns as they do when they scent a tiger. 
The men then say that the animals are possessed by Matar Deo, 
Guraya Deo is a deity who lives in the cattle-stalls in the 
village and is worshipped once a year. A man holds an ^^^ 
in his hand, and walks round the stall pouring liquid over 
the Q.'g^ all the way, so as to make a line round it. The o.^^ 
is then buried beneath the shrine of the ijod, the rite beine 
probably meant to ensure his aid for the protection of the 
cattle from disease in their stalls. A favourite saint of the 
Ahirs is Haridas Baba. He was a Jogi, and could separate his 
soul from his body at pleasure. On one occasion he had 


gone in spirit to Benares, leaving his body in the house of 
one of his disciples, who was an Ahlr. When he did not 
return, and the people heard that a dead body was lying there, 
they came and insisted that it should be burnt. When he 
came back and found that his body was burnt, he entered 
into a man and spoke through him, telling the people what 
had happened. In atonement for their unfortunate mistake 
they promised to worship him. 

14. Other The Mahakul Ahirs of Jashpur have three deities, whom 
deities. they call Mahadeo or Siva, Sahadeo, one of the five Pandava 

brothers, and the goddess Lakshmi. They say that the 
buffalo is Mahadeo, the cow Sahadeo, and the rice Lakshmi. 
This also appears to be an instance of the personification of 
animals and the corn into anthropomorphic deities. 

15. The The principal festival of the AhIrs is the Diwali, falling 
P'^^'^'l about the beginning of November, which is also the time 

festival. t> o 

when the autumn crops ripen. All classes observe this 
feast by illuminating their houses with many small saucer- 
lamps and letting off crackers and fireworks, and they 
generally gamble with money to bring them good luck 
during the coming year. The AhIrs make a mound of 
earth, which is called Govardhan, that is the mountain in 
Mathura which Krishna held upside down on his finger for 
seven days and nights, so that all the people might gather 
under it and be protected from the devastating storms of 
rain sent by Indra. After dancing round the mound they 
drive their cattle over it and make them trample it to pieces. 
At this time a festival called Marhai is held, at which much 
liquor is drunk and all classes disport themselves. In 
Damoh on this day the Ahirs go to the standing-place for 
village cattle, and after worshipping the god, frighten the 
cattle by waving leaves of the basil-plant at them, and then 
put on fantastic dresses, decorating themselves with cowries, 
and go round the village, singing and dancing. Elsewhere 
at the time of the Marhai they dance round a pole with 
peacock feathers tied to the top, and sometimes wear 
peacock feathers themselves, as well as aprons sewn all over 
with cowries. It is said that Krishna and Balaram used to 
wear peacock feathers when they danced in the jungles of 
Mathura, but this rite has probably some connection with 

11 77//:" niU'Al.I FESTIVAL 33 

the worship of the peacock. This bird niij^ht be venerated 
by the Ahirs as one of the prominent denizens of the jungle. 
In Raipur they tie a white cock to the top of the pole and 
dance round it. In Mandla, Khila Mutha, the god of the 
threshing-floor, is worshipped at this time, with offerings 
of a fowl and a goat. They also perform the rite oi jagdna 
or waking him up. They tie branches of a small shrub to a 
stick and pour milk over the stone which is his emblem, 
and sing, ' Wake up, Khila Mutha, this is the night of 
Amawas ' (the new moon). Then they go to the cattle-shed 
and wake up the cattle, crying, ' Poraiya, god of the door, 
watchman of the window, open the door, Nand Gowal is 
coming.' Then they drive out the cattle and chase them 
with the branches tied to their sticks as far as their grazing- 
ground. Nand Gowal was the foster-father of Krishna, and 
is now said to signify a man who has a lakh (100,000) of 
cows. This custom of frightening the cattle and making 
them run is called dhor jagdna or bichkdna, that is, to wake 
up or terrify the cattle. Its meaning is obscure, but it is 
said to preserve the cattle from disease during the year. 
In Raipur the women make an image of a parrot in clay at 
the Diwali and place it on a pole and go round to the 
different houses, singing and dancing round the pole, and 
receiving presents of rice and money. They praise the 
parrot as the bird who carries messages from a lover to his 
mistress, and as living on the mountains and among the 
green verdure, and sing : 

" Oh, parrot, where shall we sow gondla grass and where 
shall we sow rice ? 

" We will sow gondla in a pond and rice in the field. 

" With what shall we cvX gondla grass, and with what shall 
we cut rice ? 

" We shall cut gondla with an axe and rice with a sickle." 

It is probable that the parrot is revered as a spirit of 
the forest, and also perhaps because it is destructive to the 
corn. The parrot is not, so far as is known, associated 
with any god, but the Hindus do not kill it. In Bilaspur 
an ear of rice is put into the parrot's mouth, and it is said 
there that the object of the rite is to prevent the parrots 
from preying on the corn. 



On the night of the full moon of Jesth (May) the Ahirs 
stay awake all night, and if the moon is covered with clouds 
they think that the rains will be good. If a cow's horns are 
not firmly fixed in the head and seem to shake slightly, it 
is called Maini, and such an animal is considered to be 
lucky. If a bullock sits down with three legs under him 
and the fourth stretched out in front it is a very good 
omen, and it is thought that his master's cattle will increase 
and multiply. When a buffalo-calf is born they cover it at 
once with a black cloth and remove it from the mother's 
sight, as they think that if she saw the calf and it then died 
her milk would dry up. The calf is fed by hand. Cow- 
calves, on the other hand, are usually left with the mother, 
and many people allow them to take all the milk, as they 
think it a sin to deprive them of it. 

The Ahirs will eat the flesh of goats and chickens, and 
most of them consume liquor freely. The Kaonra Ahirs of 
Mandla eat pork, and the Ravvats of Chhattlsgarh are said 
not to object to field-mice and rats, even when caught in 
the houses. The Kaonra Ahirs are also said not to con- 
sider a woman impure during the period of menstruation. 
Nevertheless the Ahirs enjoy a good social status, owing to 
their relations with the sacred cow. As remarked by Eha : 
" His family having been connected for many generations 
with the sacred animal he enjoys a certain consciousness of 
moral respectability, like a man whose uncles are deans or 
canons." ^ All castes will take water from the hands of 
an Ahir, and in Chhattlsgarh and the Uriya country the 
Rawats and Gahras, as the AhIr caste is known respectively 
in these localities, are the only caste from whom Brahmans 
and all other Hindus will take water. On this account, and 
because of their comparative purity, they are largely 
employed as personal servants. In Chhattlsgarh the 
ordinary Rawats will clean the cooking - vessels even of 
Muhammadans, but the Thethwar or pure Rawats refuse this 
menial work. In Mandla, when a man is to be brought 
back into caste after a serious offence, such as getting 
vermin in a wound, he is made to stand in the middle of a 
stream, while some elderly relative pours water over him. 

' Behind the Bungalow. 


lie then addresses tlie members of the caste /(^wc/^cy/^/ or 
committee, who are standing on the bank, saying- to them, 
' Will you leave me in the mud or will you take me out ? ' 
Then they tell him to come out, and he has to give a feast. 
At this a member of the Meliha sept first eats food and 
puts some into the offender's mouth, thus taking the latter's 
sin upon himself The offender then addresses the pan- 
chdyat saying, ' Rajas of the Panch, eat.' Then the pan- 
chdyat and all the caste take food with him and he is 
readmitted. In Nandgaon State the head of the caste 
panchdyat is known as Thethwar, the title of the highest 
subcaste, and is appointed by the Raja, to whom he makes 
a present. In Jashpur, among the Mahakul Ahirs, when an 
offender is put out of caste he has on readmission to make 
an offering of Rs. 1-4 to Balaji, the tutelary deity of the 
State. These Mahakuls desire to be considered superior to 
ordinary Ahirs, and their social rules are hence very strict. 
A man is put out of caste if a dog, fowl or pig touches his 
water or cooking-pots, or if he touches a fowl. In the latter 
case he is obliged to make an offering of a fowl to the local 
god, and eight days are allowed for procuring it. A man is 
also put out of caste for beating his father. In Mandla, 
Ahirs commonly have the title of Patel or headman of a 
village, probably because in former times, when the country 
consisted almost entirely of forest and grass land, they were 
accustomed to hold large areas on contract for grazing. 

In Chhattlsgarh the Rawat women are especially fond of 18. Orna- 
wearing large churns or leg-ornaments of bell-metal. These "^^"'^• 
consist of a long cylinder which fits closely to the leg, 
being made in two halves which lock into each other, 
while at each end and in the centre circular plates project 
outwards horizontally. A pair of these churns may weigh 
8 or 10 lbs., and cost from Rs. 3 to Rs. 9. It is probable that 
some important magical advantage was expected to come 
from the wearing of these heavy appendages, which must 
greatly impede free progression, but its nature is not known. 

Only about thirty per cent of the Ahirs are still occupied 19- Occu- 
in breeding cattle and dealing in milk and butter. About P^"°"- 
four per cent are domestic servants, and nearly all the 
remainder cultivators and labourers. In former times the 


Ahirs had the exclusive right of milking the cow, so that on 
all occasions an Ahir must be hired for this purpose even 
by the lowest castes. Any one could, however, milk the 
buffalo, and also make curds and other preparations from 
cow's milk/ This rule is interesting as showing how the 
caste system was maintained and perpetuated by the custom 
of preserving to each caste a monopoly of its traditional 
occupation. The rule probably applied also to the bulk of 
the cultivating and the menial and artisan castes, and now 
that it has been entirely abrogated it would appear that the 
gradual decay and dissolution of the caste organisation must 
follow. The village cattle are usually entrusted jointly to 
one or more herdsmen for grazing purposes. The grazier is 
paid separately for each animal entrusted to his care, a common 
rate being one anna for a cow or bullock and two annas for a 
buffalo per month. When a calf is born he gets four annas 
for a cow-calf and eight annas for a she-buffalo, but except 
in the rice districts nothing for a male buffalo-calf, as these 
animals are considered useless outside the rice area. The 
reason is that buffaloes do not work steadily except in 
swampy or wet ground, where they can refresh themselves 
by frequent drinking. In the northern Districts male 
buffalo-calves are often neglected and allowed to die, but 
the cow-buffaloes are extremely valuable, because their milk 
is the principal source of supply of ghl or boiled butter. 
When a cow or buffalo is in milk the grazier often gets the 
milk one day out of four or five. When a calf is born the teats 
of the cow are first milked about twenty times on to the 
ground in the name of the local god of the Ahlrs. The 
remainder of the first day's milk is taken by the grazier, and 
for the next few days it is given to friends. The village 
grazier is often also expected to prepare the guest-house 
for Government officers and others visiting the village, 
fetch grass for their animals, and clean their cooking 
vessels. For this he sometimes receives a small plot of 
land and a present of a blanket annually from the village 
proprietor. Malguzars and large tenants have their private 
herdsmen. The pasturage afforded by the village waste 
lands and forest is, as a rule, only sufficient for the plough- 

' Eastern India, ii. \>. 467. 


bullocks and more valuable milch-animals. The remainder 
arc taken away sometimes for lon^^ distances to the Govern- 
ment forest reserves, and here the herdsmen make stockades 
in the jungle and remain there with their animals for months 
together. The cattle which remain in the village are taken 
by the owners in the early morning to the kJiirkha or central 
standing-ground. Here the grazier takes them over and 
drives them out to pasture. He brings them back at ten or 
eleven, and perhaps lets them stand in some field which 
the owner wants manured. Then he separates the cows 
and milch-buffaloes and takes them to their masters' houses, 
where he milks them all. In the afternoon all the cattle 
are again collected and driven out to pasture. The cultivators 
are very much in the grazier's hands, as they cannot super- 
vise him, and if dishonest he may sell off a cow or calf to 
a friend in a distant village and tell the owner that it has 
been carried off by a tiger or panther. Unless the owner 
succeeds by a protracted search or by accident in finding the 
animal he cannot disprove the herdsman's statement, and the 
only remedy is to dispense with the latter's services if such 
losses become unduly frequent. On this account, accord- 
ing to the proverbs, the Ahir is held to be treacherous and 
false to his engagements. They are also regarded as stupid 
because they seldom get any education, retain their rustic 
and half-aboriginal dialect, and on account of their solitary 
life are dull and slow-witted in company. ' The barber's 
son learns to shave on the Ahir's head.' ' The cow is in 
league with the milkman and lets him milk water into the 
pail.' The Ahirs are also hot-tempered, and their propensity 
for drinking often results in affrays, when they break each 
other's head with their cattle-staffs. ' A Gaoli's quarrel : 
drunk at night and friends in the morning.' 

Hindus nearly always boil their milk before using it, as 20. Prepar- 
the taste of milk fresh from the cow is considered unpalat- ^l°j!^^ °*^ 
able. After boiling, the milk is put in a pot and a little old 
curds added, when the whole becomes dahi or sour curds. 
This is a favourite food, and appears to be exactly the same 
substance as the Bulgarian sour milk which is now con- 
sidered to have much medicinal value. Butter is also made 
by churning these curds or dahi. Butter is never used 


without being boiled first, when it beconnes converted into a 
sort of oil ; this has the advantage of keeping much better 
than fresh butter, and may remain fit for use for as long as 
a year. This boiled butter is known as ght, and is the 
staple product of the dairy industry, the bulk of the surplus 
supply of milk being devoted to its manufacture. It is 
freely used by all classes who can afford it, and serves very 
well for cooking purposes. There is a comparatively small 
market for fresh milk among the Hindus, and as a rule 
only those drink milk who obtain it from their own animals. 
The acid residue after butter has been made from dahi 
(curds) or milk is known as viatJia or butter-milk, and is the 
only kind of milk drunk by the poorer classes. Milk boiled 
so long as to become solidified is known as kliir, and is used 
by confectioners for making sweets. When the milk is 
boiled and some sour milk added to it, so that it coagulates 
while hot, the preparation is called ckhana. The whey 
is expressed from this by squeezing it in a cloth, and a kind 
of cheese is obtained.^ The liquid which oozes out at the 
root of a cow's horns after death is known as gaolocJian and 
sells for a high price, as it is considered a valuable medicine 
for children's cough and lung diseases. 

Andh." — A low cultivating caste of Berar, who numbered 
52,000 persons in 191 i, and belong to the Yeotmal, Akola 
and Buldana Districts. The Andhs appear to be a non- 
Aryan tribe of the Andhra or Tamil country, from which 
they derive their name. The territories of the Andhra 
dynasty extended across southern India from sea to sea in 
the early part of the Christian era. This designation may, 
however, have been given to them after migration, emigrants 
being not infrequently called in their new country by the 
name of the place from which they came, as Berari, Purdesi, 
Audhia (from Oudh), and so on. At present there seems 
to be no caste called Andh in Madras. Mr. Kitts ^ notes 
that they still come from Hyderabad across the Penganga 

' Buchanan, Eastern India, ii. pp. paper by Mr. W. S. Slaney, E.A.C., 
924, 943. Akola. 

^ This article is mainly based on a ^ Berar Census Report (18S1). 

I AND II 39 

The caste arc divided into two groups, Vartati or pure 
and Khaltfiti or illci,M'timatc, which take food together, but 
do not intermarry. They have a large number of exoga- 
mous septs, most of which appear to have Marathi names, 
either taken from villages or of a titular character. A few 
are called after animals or plants, as Majiria the cat, Ringni 
a kind of tree, Dumare from Dumar, an ant-hill, Dukare from 
Dukar, a pig, and Titawe from Titawa, a bird. Baghmare 
means tiger-killer or one killed by a tiger ; members of this 
sept revere the tiger. Two septs, Bhoyar and Wanjari, are 
named after other castes. 

Marriage between members of the same sept is pro- 
hibited, and also between first cousins, except that a sister's 
son may marry a brother's daughter. Until recently marriage 
has been adult, but girls are now wedded as children, and 
betrothals are sometimes arranged before they are born. 
The ceremony resembles that of the Kunbis. Betrothals are 
arranged between October and December, and the weddings 
take place three or four months later, from January to April. 
If the bride is mature she goes at once to her husband's 
house. Polygamy is allowed ; and as only a well-to-do man 
can afford to obtain more than one wife, those who have 
several are held to be wealthy, and treated with respect. 
Divorce and the remarriage of widows are permitted, but 
the widow may not marry her husband's brother nor any 
member of his clan. If an unmarried girl becomes pregnant 
by a man of her own or a superior caste she is fined, and 
can then be married as a widow. Her feet are not washed 
nor besmeared with red powder at the wedding ceremony 
like those of other girls. In some localities Andh women 
detected in a criminal intimacy even with men of such im- 
pure castes as the Mahars and Mangs have been readmitted 
into the community. A substantial fine is imposed on a 
woman detected in adultery according to her means and 
spent on a feast to the caste. All the members thus have a 
personal interest in the detection and punishment of such 
offences. The dead are usually buried, and water and sugar 
are placed in a d}'ing man's mouth instead of the sacred 
objects used by Hindus ; nor are the dying urged to call 
on Rama. The dead are buried with the head to the south, 


in opposition to the Hindu custom. The Andhs will eat the 
flesh of fowls and pigs, and even cats, rats and snakes in 
some localities, though the more civilised have abjured these 
latter. They are very fond of pork, and drink liquor, and 
will take food from Kunbis, Malis and Kolis, but not from 
Gonds. They have a caste panchdyat or committee, with 
a headman called Mohtaria, and two officers known as 
Phopatia and Dukria. When a caste offence is committed 
the Dukria goes to call the offender, and is given the 
earthen pots used at the penalty-feast, while the Phopatia 
receives a new piece of cloth. The Mohtaria or headman 
goes from village to village to decide cases, and gets a share 
of the fine. The caste are shikaris or hunters, and culti- 
vators. • They catch antelope, hares, pig and nilgai in their 
nets, and kill them with sticks and stones, and they dam up 
streams and net fish. Birds are not caught. Generally, the 
customs of the Andhs clearly point to an aboriginal origin, 
but they are rapidly being Hinduised, and in some tracts can 
scarcely be distinguished from Kunbis. 

They have Marathi names ; and though only one name 
is given at birth, Mr. Slaney notes that this is frequently 
changed for some pet name, and as often as not a man goes 
regularly by some name other than his real one, 

Arakh. — A small caste of cultivators and labourers 
found principally in the Chanda District and Berar and 
scattered over other localities. The Arakhs are considered 
to be an offshoot of the Pasi or Bahelia caste of hunters 
and fowlers. Mr. Crooke ^ writes of them : " All their tradi- 
tions connect them with the Pasis and Parasurama, the 
sixth Avatara of Vishnu. One story runs that Parasurama 
was bathing in the sea, when a leech bit his foot and caused 
it to bleed. He divided the blood into two parts ; out of 
one part he made the first Pasi and out of the second the 
first Arakh. Another story is that the Pasis were made 
out of the sweat {paslna) of Parasurama. While Para- 
surama was away the Pasi shot some animals with his bow, 
and the deity was so enraged that he cursed the Pasi, and 
swore that his descendants should keep pigs. This accounts 

^ Tribes and Castes, art. Arakh. 


for the degradation of the Pfisis. Subsequently Parasurama 
sent for some Pfisis to help him in one of his wars ; but 
they ran away and hid in an arhar ' field and were hence 
called Arakhs." This connection with the Pasis is also 
recognised in the case of the Arakhs of Bcriir, of whom 
Mr. Kitts writes : " " The Arakhs found in Morsi are a 
race akin to the Bahelias. Their regular occupation is 
bird-catching and shikar (hunting). They do not follow 
Hindu customs in their marriages, but although they keep 
pigs, eat flesh and drink spirits, they will not touch a 
Chamar. They appear to be a branch of the Pasi tribe, 
and are described as a semi-Hinduised class of aborigines." 
In the Chanda District, however, the Arakhs are closely 
connected with the Gond tribe, as is evident from their 
system of exogamy. Thus they say that they are divided 
into the Matia, Tekam, Tesli, Godam, Madai, Sayam and 
Chorliu septs, worshipping respectively three, four, five, six, 
seven, eight and twelve gods ; and persons who worship 
the same number of gods cannot marry with one another. 
This system of divisions according to the different number 
of gods worshipped is found in the Central Provinces only 
among the Gonds and one or two other tribes like the 
Baigas, who have adopted it from them, and as some of the 
names given above are also Gondi words, no doubt need be 
entertained that the Arakhs of Chanda are largely of Gond 
descent. They are probably, in fact, the offspring of 
irregular connections between the Gonds and Pasis, who, 
being both frequenters of the forests, would naturally 
come much into contact with each other. And being 
disowned by the true Pasis on account of their defective 
pedigree, they have apparently set up as a separate caste 
and adopted the name of Arakh to hide the deficiencies of 
their ancestry. 

The social customs of the Arakhs resemble those of 
other low Hindu castes, and need not be given in detail. 
Their weddings are held near a temple of Maroti, or if there 
be none such, then at the place where the Holi fire was 
lit in the preceding year. A bride-price varying from 
Rs. 25 to Rs. 40 is usually paid. In the case of the 

' Cajanus indiciis. '^ BerCir Census Report (1881), p. 157. 

42 A TARI part 

marriage of a widow, the second husband goes to the house 
of the woman, where the couple are bathed and seated on 
two wooden boards, a branch of a cotton-plant being placed 
near them. The bridegroom then ties five strings of black 
glass beads round the woman's neck. The dead are mourned 
for one day only, and a funeral feast is given to the caste- 
fellows. The Arakhs are a very low caste, but their touch 
does not convey impurity. 

I. General 

2. Mar- 

Atari/ Gandhi, Bukekari. — A small Muhammadan 
caste of retailers of scent, incense, tooth-powder and kunku 
or pink powder. Atari is derived from atar or itra, attar 
of roses, Gandhi comes from gandJi, a Sanskrit word for 
scent. Bukekari is a Marathi word meaning a seller of 
powder. The Ataris number about two hundred persons in 
Nagpur, Wardha and Berar. Both Hindus and Muham- 
madans follow the profession, but the Hindu Ataris are not 
a separate caste, and belong to the Teli, Gurao and Beldar 
castes. The Muhammadan Ataris, to whom this article 
refers, may marry with other Muhammadans, with the 
exception of low-class tradesmen like the Pinjaras, Kasais 
and Kunjras. One instance of an Atari marrying a Rangrez 
is known, but usually they decline to do so. But since 
they are not considered to be the equals of ordinary Muham- 
madans, they constitute more or less a distinct social group. 
They are of the same position as Muhammadan tin- workers, 
bangle-makers and pedlars, and sometimes intermarry with 
them. They admit Hindu converts into the community, 
but the women refuse to eat with them, and the better- 
class families will not intermarry with converts. A new 
convert must be circumcised, but if he is of advanced age, 
or if his foreskin is wanting, as sometimes happens, they 
take a rolled-up betel-leaf and cut it in two in substitution 
for the rite. 

It is essential that a girl should be married before 
adolescence, as it is said that when the signs of puberty 
appear in her before wedlock her parents commit a crime 
equivalent to the shedding of human blood. The father 

1 Based on papers by Mr. Bijai Hinganghat, and Munslii Kanhya Lai 
Bahadur Royzada, Naib - Tahslldar of the Gazetteer office. 


of the boy looks for a bride, and after droppin;^ hints to the 
girl's family to see if his proposal is acceptable, he sends 
some female relatives or friends to discuss the marriage. 
Before the wedding the boy is presented with a clihiip or 
ring of gold or silver with a small cup-like attachment. 
A mehar or dowry must be given to the bride, the amount 
of which is not below Rs. 50 or above Rs. 250. The 
bride's parents give her cooking vessels, bedding and a 
bedstead. After the wedding, the couple are seated on a 
cot while the women sing songs, and they see each other's 
face reflected in a minor. The procession returns after 
a stay of four days, and is received by the women of the 
bridegroom's family with some humorous ceremonies bearing 
on the nature of marriage. A feast called Tamm Walima 
follows, and the couple are shut up together in an inner 
room, even though they may be under age. The marriage 
includes some Hindu customs, such as the erection of the 
pandal or shed, rubbing the couple with turmeric and oil, 
and the tying on of kankans or wrist-bands. A girl going 
wrong before marriage may be wedded with full rites so 
long as she has not conceived, but after conception until 
her child is born she cannot go through the ceremony at 
all. After the birth of the child she may be married simply 
with the rite for widows. She retains the child, but it has 
no claim to succeed to her husband's property. A widow 
may marry again after an interval of forty days from her 
first husband's death, and she may wed her younger brother- 
in-law. Divorce is permitted at the instance of either party, 
and for mere disagreement. A man usually divorces his 
wife by vowing in the presence of two witnesses that he 
will in future consider intercourse with her as incestuous 
in the same degree as with his mother. A divorced woman 
has a claim to her nieJiar or dowry if not already paid, but 
forfeits it if she marries again. A man can marry the 
daughter of his paternal uncle. The services of a Kazi at 
weddings are paid for with a fee of Rs. 1-4, and well-to-do 
persons also give him a pair of turbans. 

The Ataris are Muhammadans of the Sunni sect. They 3- Religion. 
revere the Muhammadan saints, and on the night of Shabrat 
they let off fireworks in honour of their ancestors and make 

44 A TART part 

offerings of hnhva ^ to them and place lamps and scent on 
their tombs. They swear by the pig and abstain from eating 
its flesh. The dog is considered an unclean animal and its 
tail, ears and tongue are especially defiling. If the hair of 
a dog falls on the ground they cannot pray in that place 
because the souls of the prophets cannot come there. To 
see a dog flapping its ears is a bad omen, and a person start- 
ing on a journey should postpone his departure. They 
esteem the spider, because they say it spread its web over the 
mouth of the cave where Hasan and Husain lay concealed 
from their enemies and thus prevented it from being searched. 
Some of them have Pirs or spiritual preceptors, these being 
Muhammadan beggars, not necessarily celibate. The cere- 
mony of adhesion is that a man should drink sherbet from the 
cup from which his preceptor has drunk. They do not observe 
impurity after a death nor bathe on returning from a funeral. 
Liquor is of course prohibited to the Ataris as to other 
Muhammadans, but some of them drink it nevertheless. 
Some of them eat beef and others abstain. The blood of 
animals killed must flow before death according to the rite 
of haldl, but they say that fish are an exception, because 
when Abraham was offering up his son Ishmael and God sub- 
stituted a goat, the goat bleated before it was killed, and 
this offended Abraham, who threw his sacrificial knife into 
the sea : the knife struck and killed a fish, and on this 
account all fish are considered to be haldl or lawful food 
without any further rite. The Ataris observe the Hindu 
law of inheritance, and some of them worship Hindu 
deities, as Mata the goddess of smallpox. As a rule their 
women are not secluded. The Ataris make viissi or tooth- 
powder from myrobalans, cloves and cardamoms, and other 
constituents. This has the effect of blackening the teeth. 
They also sell the kunku or red powder which women rub 
on their foreheads, its constituents being turmeric, borax and 
the juice of limes. They sell scent and sometimes deal in 
tobacco. The scents most in demand are giildb-pdni or 
rose-water and pJmlel or essence of tilli or sesamum. Scents 
are usually sold by the tola of i 8 annas silver weight,^ and 

' A preparation of raisins and other - The ordinary tola is a rupee weight 

fruits and rice. or two-fifths of an ounce. 

ir A UP up: LI A 45 

a tola of attar may vary in price from 8 annas to Rs. 8o. 
Other scents are made from klias-kkas grass, the mango, 
henna and music, the bela flower,^ the champak " and cucumber. 
Scent is manufactured by distillation from the flowers boiled 
in water, and the drops of congealed vapour fall into sandal- 
wood oil, which they say is the basis of all scents. Fragrant 
oils are also sold for rubbing on the hair, made from orange 
flowers, jasmine, cotton-seed and the flowers of the aonla tree.^ 
Scent is sold in tiny circular glass bottles, and the oils in 
little bottles made from thin leather. The Ataris also retail 
the little black sticks of incense which are set up and burnt 
at the time of taking food and in temples, so that the smell 
and smoke may keep off evil spirits. When professional 
exorcists are called upon to clear any building, such as a 
hospital, supposed to be haunted by spirits or the ghosts of 
the dead, they commence operations by placing these sticks 
of incense at the entrance and setting them alight as in a 

Audhelia (Audhalia). — A small hybrid caste found i. Origin. 
almost exclusively in the Bilaspur District, where they 
number about looo persons. The name is derived from 
the word Udharia, meaning a person with clandestine sexual 
intimacies. The Audhelias are a mixed caste and trace 
their origin from a Daharia Rajput ancestor, by one BhQri 
Bandi, a female slave of unknown caste. This couple is 
supposed to have resided in Ratanpur, the old capital of 
Chhattisgarh, and the female ancestors of the Audhelias are 
said to have been prostitutes until they developed into a 
caste and began to marry among themselves. Their proper 
avocation at present is the rearing of pigs, while some of 
them are also tenants and farm-labourers. Owing to the 
base descent and impure occupation of the caste they are 
held in very low esteem, and their touch is considered to 
convey pollution. 

The caste have at present no endogamous divisions and 2. Mar- 
still admit members of other castes with the exception of "^^^' 
the very lowest. But social gradations exist to a certain 

' Jasrnimiin zainbac. " Michelia chanipaca. 

'^ Phyllanthus cinblica. 

46 A UDHELIA part 

extent among the members according to the position of their 
male ancestors, a Daharia Audhelia, for instance, being 
rekictant to eat or intermarry with a Panka Audhelia. 
Under these circumstances it has become a rule among the 
Audhelias not to eat with their caste-fellows excepting their 
own relations. On the occasion of a caste feast, therefore, 
each guest prepares his own food, taking only uncooked 
grain from his host. At present seven gotras or exogamous 
divisions appear to have been formed in the caste with 
the names of Pachbhaiya, Chhahri, Kalkhor, Bachhawat, 
Dhanawat, Bhainsa and Limuan. The following story exists 
as to the origin of these gotras : There were formerly three 
brothers, Sahasman, Budha and Mangal, who were Sansis 
or robbers. One evening the three brothers halted in a 
forest and went to look for food. One brought back a 
buffalo-horn, another a peacock's feather and the youngest, 
Mangal, brought plums. The other brothers asked Mangal 
to let them share his plums, to which he agreed on condition 
that one of the brothers should give his daughter to him in 
marriage. As Mangal and his brothers were of one gotra 
or section, and the marriage would thus involve splitting up 
the gotra, the brothers were doubtful whether it could be 
performed. They sought about for some sign to determine 
this difficult question, and decided that if Mangal succeeded 
in breaking in pieces an iron image of a cat simply by blows 
of his naked fist, it would be a sufficient indication that they 
might split up "CaoAx gotra. Mangal was therefore put to the 
ordeal and succeeded in breaking the image, so the three 
brothers split up their gotra, the eldest assuming the gotra 
name of Bhainsa because he had found a buffalo-horn, the 
second that of Kalkhor, which is stated to mean peacock, and 
the third that of Chhahri, which at any rate does not mean a 
plum. The word Chhahri means either ' shadow,' or ' one 
who washes the clothes of a woman in confinement.' If we 
assume it to have the latter meaning, it may be due to the 
fact that Mangal had to wash the clothes of his own wife, 
not being able to induce a professional washerman to do so 
on account of the incestuous nature of the connection. 
As the eldest brother gave his daughter in an incestuous 
marriage he was also degraded, and became the ancestor 


of the Kanjars or prostitutes, who, it is said, to the present 
day do not solicit Audhelias in consideration of the con- 
sanguinity existinc^ between tlicm. The story itself suf- 
ficiently indicates the low and mixed descent of the 
Audhelias, and its real meaning may possibly be that 
when they first began to form a separate caste they per- 
mitted incestuous marriages on account of the paucity of 
their members. A curious point about the story is that the 
incestuous nature of the connection is not taken to be the 
most pressing objection to the marriage of Mangal with his 
own niece, but the violation of the caste rule prohibiting 
marriage within the same gotra. Bachhawat and Dhanawat 
are the names of sections of the Banjara caste, and the 
persons of these gotras among the Audhelias are probably the 
descendants of illicit connections among Banjaras. The word 
Pachbhaiya means ' five brothers,' and this name possibly 
commemorates a polyandrous connection of some Audhelia 
woman. Limuan means a tortoise, which is a section of 
many castes. Several of the section-names are thus totemistic, 
and, as in other castes, some reverence is paid to the animal 
from whom the name is derived. At present the Audhelias 
forbid marriage within the same gotra and also the union of 
first cousins. Girls are married between five and seven years 
of age as their numbers are scarce, and they are engaged as 
early as possible. Unless weddings are arranged by ex- 
changing girls between two families, a high bride-price, often 
amounting to as much as Rs. 60, is paid. No stigma is in- 
curred, however, if a girl should remain unmarried till she 
arrives at adolescence, but, on the contrary, a higher price 
is then obtained for her. Sexual licence either before or 
after marriage is considered a venial offence, but a woman 
detected in a liaison with a man of one of the lowest castes is 
turned out of caste. Widow marriage and divorce are freely 

The Audhelias venerate Dulha Deo and Devi, to whom 3. Religion, 
they usually offer pigs. Their principal festival is the Holi, ^lath^" 
at which their women were formerly engaged to perform as 
professional dancers. They usually burn their dead and 
remove the ashes on the third day, throwing them into the 
nearest stream. A few of the bones are picked up and 

48 AUDHELIA part ii 

buried under a pipal tree, and a pitcher with a hole in the 
bottom is hung on the tree so that water may trickle down 
on to them. On the tenth day the caste-people assemble 
and are shaved and bathe and rub their bodies with oil 
under the tree. Unmarried men and persons dying of 
cholera are buried, the head being placed to the north. 
They consider that if they place the corpse in the reverse 
position it would be an insult to the Ganges equivalent to 
kicking the holy river, as the feet of the body would then 
be turned towards it. 



1. Introductory notice. 9, Religion. Offering;s to an- 

2. The Badhak dacoits. cestors. 

3. Instances of dacoities. 10. The woiuided haunted by 

4. Further instances of dacoi- spirits. 

ties. II. Pious funeral observances. 

5 . Disguise of religious iiiendi- 1 2 . Taking the omens. 

cants. 13. Suppressio7i of dacoity. 

6. Countenance and support of 1 4. The Badhaks or Baoris at the 

landowners. present time. 

7. Pride in their profession. 15. Lisard-hunting. 

8. Caste rules a?id admission of 16. Social observances. 

outsiders. 17. Criminal practices. 

Badhak, Bagri, Baoria. — A famous tribe of dacoits i. intro- 
who flourished up to about 1850, and extended their depreda- ^^°l''^ 
tions over the whole of Northern and Central India. The 
Bagris and Baorias or Bawarias still exist and are well 
known to the police as inveterate criminals ; but their 
operations are now confined to ordinary burglary, theft and 
cheating, and their more interesting profession of armed 
gang-robbery on a large scale is a thing of the past. The 
first part of this article is entirely compiled from the Report 
on their suppression drawn up by Colonel Sleeman/ who 
may be regarded as the virtual founder of the Thuggee and 
Dacoity Department, Some mention of the existing Bagri 
and Baoria tribes is added at the end. 

The origin of the Badhaks is obscure, but they seem to 2. The 
have belonged to Gujarat, as their peculiar dialect, still in jj^coit^^ 
use, is a form of Gujarati. The most striking feature in it 
is the regular substitution of kh for s. They claimed to be 

' Report on the Badhak or Bagri the Government of India for tlieir 
Dacoits and the Measjtres adopted by Suppression, printed in 1849. 
VOL. II 49 E 

50 BADHAK part 

Rajputs and were divided into clans with the well-known 
Rajput names of Solanki, Panwar, Dhundhel, Chauhan, 
Rathor, Gahlot, Bhatti and Charan. Their ancestors were 
supposed to have fled from Chitor on one of the historical 
occasions on which it was assaulted and sacked. But as 
they spoke Gujarati it seems more probable that they be- 
longed to Gujarat, a fertile breeding-place of criminals, and 
they may have been descended from the alliances of Rajputs 
with the primitive tribes of this locality, the Bhils and Kolis. 
The existing Bagris are of short stature, one writer stating 
that none of them exceed five feet two inches in height ; and 
this seems to indicate that they have little Rajput blood. 
It may be surmised that the Badhaks rose into importance 
and found scope for their predatory instincts during the 
period of general disorder and absence of governing authority 
through which northern India passed after the decline of 
the Mughal Empire. And they lived and robbed with the 
connivance or open support of the petty chiefs and land- 
holders, to whom they gave a liberal share of their booty. 
The principal bands were located in the Oudh forests, but 
they belonged to the whole of northern India including the 
Central Provinces ; and as Colonel Sleeman's Report, though 
of much interest, is now practically unknown, I have thought 
it not out of place to compile an article by means of short 
extracts from his account of the tribe. 

In 1822 the operations of the Badhaks were being 
conducted on such a scale that an officer wrote : " No 
District between the Brahmaputra, the Nerbudda, the Satlej 
and the Himalayas is free from them ; and within this vast 
field hardly any wealthy merchant or manufacturer could feel 
himself secure for a single night from the depredations of 
Badhak dacoits. They had successfully attacked so many 
of the treasuries of our native Sub-Collectors that it was 
deemed necessary, all over the North-Western Provinces, to 
surround such buildings with extensive fortifications. In 
many cases they carried off our public treasure from strong 
parties of our regular troops and mounted police ; and none 
seemed to know whence they came or whither they fled with 
the booty acquired." ' 

^ Sleeman, p. 10. 


Colonel Sleeman thus described a dacoity in the town of 3. in- 

Narsinghpur when he was in charge of that District: "In 
February 1822, in the dusk of the evening, a party of about 
thirty persons, with nothing seemingly but walking-sticks in 
their hands, passed the piquet of sepoys on the bank of the 
rivulet which separates the cantonment from the town of 
Narsinghpur. On being challenged by the sentries they 
said they were cowherds and that their cattle were following 
close behind. Tliey walked up the street ; and coming 
opposite the houses of the most wealthy merchants, they set 
their torches in a blaze by blowing suddenly on pots filled 
with combustibles, stabbed everybody who ventured to move 
or make the slightest noise, plundered the houses, and in ten 
minutes were away with their booty, leaving about twelve 
persons dead and wounded on the ground. No trace of 
them was discovered." Another well-known exploit of the 
Badhaks was the attack on the palace of the ex-Peshwa, Baji 
Rao, at Bithur near Cawnpore. This was accomplished by a 
gang of about eighty men, who proceeded to the locality in 
the disguise of carriers of Ganges water. Having purchased 
a boat and a few muskets to intimidate the guard they 
crossed the Ganges about six miles below Bithur, and reached 
the place at ten o'clock at night ; and after wounding 
eighteen persons who attempted resistance they possessed 
themselves of property, chiefly in gold, to the value of more 
than two and a half lakhs of rupees ; and retiring without 
loss made their way in safety to their homes in the Oudh 
forests. The residence of this gang was known to a British 
police officer in the King of Oudh's service, Mr. Orr, and 
after a long delay on the part of the court an expedition 
was sent which recovered a portion of the treasure and 
captured two or three hundred of the Badhaks. But none of 
the recovered property reached the hands of Baji Rao and 
the prisoners were soon afterwards released.^ Again in 
1S39, a gang of about fifty men under a well-known 
leader, Gajraj, scaled the walls of Jhansi and plundered 
the Surafa or bankers' quarter of the town for two hours, 
obtaining booty to the value of Rs. 40,000, which they 
carried off without the loss of a man. The following 

^ Sleeman, p. 10. 2 Sleeman, p. 57. 

stances of 



account of this raid was obtained by Colonel Sleeman from 
one of the robbers : ^ " The spy {hirrowd) having returned 
and reported that he had found a merchant's house in 
Jhansi which contained a good deal of property, we 
proceeded to a grove where we took the auspices by the 
process of akut (counting of grains) and found the omens 
favourable. We then rested three days and settled the 
rates according to which the booty should be shared. Four 
or five men, who were considered too feeble for the enter- 
prise, were sent back, and the rest, well armed, strong and 
full of courage, went on. In the evening of the fourth day 
we reached a plain about a mile from the town, where we 
rested to take breath for an hour ; about nine o'clock we 
got to the wall and remained under it till midnight, pre- 
paring the ladders from materials which we had collected 
on the road. They were placed to the wall and we entered 
and passed through the town without opposition. A mar- 
riage procession was going on before us and the people 
thought we belonged to it. We found the bankers' shops 
closed. Thana and Saldewa, who carried the axes, soon 
broke them open, while Kulean lighted up his torch. Gajraj 
with twenty men entered, while the rest stood posted at the 
different avenues leading to the place. When all the pro- 
perty they could find had been collected, Gajraj hailed the 
god Hanuman and gave orders for the retreat. W^e got 
back safely to Mondegri in two days and a half, and then 
reposed for two or three days with the Raja of Narwar, 
with whom we left five or six of our stoutest men as a guard, 
and then returned home with our booty, consisting chiefly 
of diamonds, emeralds, gold and silver bullion, rupees and 
about sixty pounds of silver wire. None of our people 
were either killed or wounded, but whether any of the 
bankers' people were I know not." 

Colonel Sleeman writes elsewhere " of the leader of the 
above exploit : " This Gajraj had risen from the vocation 
of a bandarwdla (monkey showman) to be the Robin Hood 
of Gwalior and the adjacent States ; he was the governor- 
general of banditti in that country of banditti and kept 
the whole in awe ; he had made himself so formidable that 

^ Sleeman, p. 95. 2 Sleeman, p. 231. 


the Durbar ap[)ointcd him to keep the g/idts or ferries over 
the Chambal, which he did in a very profitable manner to 
them and to himself, and none entered or quitted the 
country without paying blackmail." A common practice of 
the Badhaks, when in need of a little ready money, was to 
lie in wait for money-changers on their return from the 
markets. These men take their bags of money with them 
to the important bazars at a distance from their residence 
and return home with them after dusk. The dacoits were 
accustomed to watch for them in the darkest and most 
retired places on the roads and fell them to the ground 
with their bludgeons. This device was often practised and 
usually succeeded.^ Of another Badhak chief, Meherban, it 
is stated " that he hired a discharged sepoy to instruct his 
followers in the European system of drill, that they might 
travel with him in the disguise of regular soldiers, well 
armed and accoutred. During the rains Meherban's spies 
(Jtirrowa) were sent to visit the great commercial towns and 
report any despatches of money or other valuables, which 
were to take place during the following open season. His 
own favourite disguise was that of a Hindu prince, while the 
remainder of the gang constituted his retinue and escort. 
On one occasion, assuming this character, he followed up 
a boat laden with Spanish dollars which was being sent from 
Calcutta to Benares ; and having attacked it at its moorings 
at Makrai, he killed one and wounded ten men of the guard 
and made off with 25,000 Spanish dollars and Rs. 2600 
of the Company's coinage. A part of the band were sent 
direct to the rendezvous previously arranged, while Meher- 
ban returned to the grove where he had left his women and 
proceeded with them in a more leisurely fashion to the same 
place. Retaining the character of a native prince he halted 
here for two days to celebrate the Holi festival. Marching 
thence with his women conveyed in covered litters by hired 
bearers who were changed at intervals, he proceeded to his 
bivouac in the Oudh forests ; and at Seosagar, one of his 
halting-places, he gave a large sum of money to a gardener 
to plant a grove of mango trees near a tank for the benefit 
of travellers, in the name of Raja Meherban Singh of Gaur 

^ Sleeman, p. 217. '^ Sleeman, p. 20. 

54 BADHAK part 

in Oudh ; and promised him further alms on future occa- 
sions of pilgrimage if he found the work progressing well, 
saying that it was a great shame that travellers should be 
compelled as he had been to halt without shade for them- 
selves or their families during the heat of the day. He 
arrived safely at his quarters in the forest and was received 
in the customary fashion by a procession of women in their 
best attire, who conducted him with dancing and music, like 
a victorious Roman Proconsul, to his fort.^ 
5. Disguise But naturally not all the Badhaks could do things in 

mendF°"^ the Style of Meherban Singh. The disguise which they 
cants. most often assumed in the north was that of carriers of 

Ganges water, while in Central India they often pretended 
to be Banjaras travelling with pack-bullocks, or pilgrims, or 
wedding -parties going to fetch the bride or bridegroom. 
Sometimes also they took the character of religious 
mendicants, the leader being the high priest and all the 
rest his followers and disciples. One such gang, described 
by Colonel Sleeman," had four or five tents of white and 
dyed cloth, two or three pairs of 7iakkdras or kettle-drums 
and trumpets, with a great number of buffaloes, cows, goats, 
sheep and ponies. Some were clothed, but the bodies of 
the greater part were covered with nothing but ashes, paint 
and a small cloth waistband. But they always provided 
themselves with five or six real Bairagis, whose services 
they purchased at a very high price. These men were 
put forward to answer questions in case of difficulty and 
to bully the landlords and peasantry ; and if the people 
demurred to the demands of the Badhaks, to intimidate 
them by tricks calculated to play upon the fears of the 
ignorant. They held in their hands a preparation of gun- 
powder resembling common ashes ; and when they found 
the people very stubborn they repeated their viafttras over 
this and threw it upon the thatch of the nearest house, to 
which it set fire. The explosion was caused by a kind of 
fusee held in the hand which the people could not see, and 
taking it for a miracle they paid all that was demanded. 
Another method was to pretend to be carrying the bones 
of dead relatives to the Ganges. The bones or ashes of 

' Sleeman, p. 21. - Sleeman, p. 81. 


the deceased, says ' Colonel Slceman, are carried to the 
Ganges in bags, coloured red for females and white for 
males. These bags are considered holy, and are not allowed 
to touch the ground upon the way, and during halts in 
the journey are placed on poles or triangles. The carriers 
are regarded with respect as persons engaged upon a 
pious duty, and seldom questioned on the road. When 
a gang assumed this disguise they proceeded to their 
place of rendezvous in small parties, some with red and 
some with white bags, in which they carried the bones of 
animals most resembling those of the human frame. These 
were supported on triangles formed of the shafts on which 
the spear -heads would be fitted when they reached their 
destination and had prepared for action. 

It would have been impossible for the Badhaks to exist 6. Counte- 
and flourish as they did without the protection of the land- "l^lj'^sup. 
owners on whose estates they lived ; and this they received port of 
in full measure in return for a liberal share of their booty, o^wners. 
When the chief of Karauli was called upon to dislodge a 
gang witliin his territory, he expressed apprehension that the 
coercion of the Badhaks might cause a revolution in the 
State. He was not at all singular, says Colonel Sleeman, in 
his fear of exasperating this formidable tribe of robbers. 
It was common to all the smaller chiefs and the provincial 
governors of the larger ones. They everywhere protected 
and fostered the Badhaks, as did the landholders ; and the 
highest of them associated with the leaders of gangs on terms 
of equality and confidence. It was very common for a chief 
or the governor of a district in times of great difficulty and 
personal danger to require from one of the leaders of such 
gangs a night-guard or palmig ki chauki : and no less so to 
entertain large bodies of them in the attack and defence of 
forts and camps whenever unusual courage and skill were 
required. The son of the Raja of Charda exchanged turbans 
with a Badhak leader, Mangal Singh, as a mark of the most 
intimate friendship. This episode recalls an alliance of 
similar character in Lorna Doom ; and indeed it would not 
be difficult to find several points of resemblance between the 
careers of the more enterprising Badhak leaders and the 

' Sleeman, p. 82. 

56 BADHAK part 

Doones of Bagworthy ; but India produced no character on 
the model of John Ridd, and it was reserved for an 
Englishman, Colonel Sleeman, to achieve the suppression of 
the Badhaks as well as that of the Thugs. After the fortress 
and territory of Garhakota in Saugor had been taken by the 
Maharaja Sindhia, Zalim Singh, a cousin of the dispossessed 
Bundela chief, collected a force of Bundelas and Pindaris and 
ravaged the country round Garhakota in 1 8 1 3. In the course 
of his raid he sacked and burnt the town of Deori, and i 5,000 
persons perished in the flames. Colonel Jean Baptiste, 
Sindhia's general, obtained a number of picked Badhaks 
from Rajputana and offered them a rich reward for the head 
of Zalim Singh ; and after watching his camp for three 
months they managed to come on him asleep in the tent of 
a dancing-girl, who was following his camp, and stabbed 
him to the heart. For this deed they received Rs. 20,000 
from Baptiste with other valuable presents. Their reputa- 
tion was indeed such that they were frequently employed 
at this period both by chiefs who desired to take the lives of 
others and by those who were anxious for the preservation 
of their own. When it happened that a gang was caught 
after a robbery in a native State, the custom was not infre- 
quently to make them over to the merchant whose property 
they had taken, with permission to keep them in confinement 
until they should refund his money ; and in this manner by 
giving up the whole or a part of the proceeds of their robbery 
they were enabled to regain their liberty. Even if they were 
sent before the courts, justice was at that time so corrupt 
as to permit of easy avenues of escape for those who could 
afford to pay ; and Colonel Sleeman records the deposition of 
a Badhak describing their methods of briber}^ : " When police 
officers arrest Badhaks their old women get round them and 
give them large sums of money ; and they either release them 
or get their depositions so written that their release shall be 
ordered by the magistrates. If they are brought to court, 
their old women, dressed in rags, follow them at a distance 
of three or four miles with a thousand or two thousand 
rupees upon ponies ; and these rupees they distribute among 
the native officers of the court and get the Badhaks released. 
These old women first ascertain from the people of the villages 


who are the Nazirs and Munshis of influence, and wait 
upon them at their houses and make their bargains. If the 
officials cannot effect their release, they take money from 
the old women and send them off to the Sadar Court, with 
letters of introduction to their friends, and advice as to the 
rate they shall pay to each according to his supposed influ- 
ence. This is the way that all our leaders get released, and 
hardly any but useless men are left in confinement." ^ 

It may be noticed that these robbers took the utmost 7. Pride in 
pleasure in their calling, and were most averse to the idea of profession. 
giving it up and taking to honest pursuits. " Some of the 
men with me," one magistrate wrote," " have been in jail for 
twenty, and one man for thirty years, and still do not appear 
to have any idea of abandoning their illegal vocation ; even 
now, indeed, they look on what we consider an honest means 
of livelihood with the most marked contempt ; and in relating 
their excursions talk of them with the greatest pleasure, 
much in the way an eager sportsman describes a boar-chase 
or fox-hunt. While talking of their excursions, which were 
to me really very interesting, their eyes gleamed with 
pleasure ; and beating their hands on their foreheads and 
breasts and muttering some ejaculation they bewailed the 
hardness of their lot, which now ensured their never again 
being able to participate in such a joyous occupation." 
Another Badhak, on being examined, said he could not 
recall a case of one of the community having ever given up 
the trade of dacoity. " None ever did, I am certain of it, " 
he continued.^ " After having been arrested, on our release 
we frequently take lands, to make it appear we have left off 
dacoity, but we never do so in reality ; it is only done as a 
feint and to enable our zamindars (landowners) to screen 
us." They sometimes paid rent for their land at the rate 
of thirty rupees an acre, in return for the countenance and 
protection afforded by the zamindars. " Our profession," 
another Badhak remarked,'* " has been a PadsJidhi Kdin 
(a king's trade) ; we have attacked and seized boldly the 
thousands and hundreds of thousands that we have freely 

1 Sleeman, p. 152. Mr. Ramsay. 

^ Sleeman, p. 127. This passage is -^ Sleeman, p. 129. 

from a letter written by a magistrate, ■* Sleeman, p. 112. 

58 BADHAK part 

and nobly spent ; we have been all our lives wallowing in 
wealth and basking in freedom, and find it hard to manage 
with the few copper pice a day we get from you," At the 
time when captures were numerous, and the idea was enter- 
tained of inducing the dacoits to settle in villages and sup- 
porting them until they had been trained to labour, several 
of them, on being asked how much they would require to 
support themselves, replied that they could not manage on 
less than two rupees a day, having earned quite that sum by 
dacoity. This amount would be more than twenty times the 
wages of an ordinary labourer at the same period. Another 
witness put the amount at one to two rupees a day, remark- 
ing, ' We are great persons for eating and drinking, and we 
keep several wives according to our means.' Of some of 
them Colonel Sleeman had a high opinion, and he mentions 
the case of one man, Ajit Singh, who was drafted into the 
native army and rose to be commander of a company. " I 
have seldom seen a man," he wrote,^ " whom I would 
rather have with me in scenes of peril and difficulty." An 
attempt of the King of Oudh's, however, to form a regiment 
of Badhaks had ended in failure, as after a short time they 
mutinied, beat their commandant and other officers and 
turned them out of the regiment, giving as their reason that 
the officers had refused to perform the same duties as the 
men. And they visited with the same treatment all the 
other officers sent to them, until they were disbanded by 
the British on the province of Allahabad being made over to 
the Company. Colonel Sleeman notes that they were never 
known to offer any other violence or insult to females than 
to make them give up any gold ornaments that they might 
have about their persons. " In all my inquiries into the 
character, habits and conduct of these gangs, I have never 
found an instance of a female having been otherwise dis- 
graced or insulted by them. They are all Hindus, and this 
reverence for the sex pervades all Hindu society." " Accord- 
ing to their own account also they never committed murder ; 
if people opposed them they struck and killed like soldiers, 
but this was considered to be in fair fight. It may be noted, 
nevertheless, that they had little idea of clan loyalty, and 

^ Sleeman, p. 124. 2, p. 125. 


informed very freely against their fellows when this course 
was to their advantage. They also stated that they could 
not settle in towns ; they had always been accustomed to 
live in the jungles and commit dacoitics upon the people of 
the towns as a kind of shikar (sport) ; they delighted in it, 
and they felt living in towns or among other men as a kind 
of prison, and got quite confused {ghabrdye), and their women 
even more than the men. 

The Badhaks had a regular caste organisation, and 8. Caste 

I H 

members of the different clans married with each other like I^'^^^ig^"^,, 
the Rajputs after whom they were named. They admitted ofout- 
freely into the community members of any respectable 
Hindu caste, but not the impure castes or Muhammadans. 
But at least one instance of the admission of a Muham- 
madan is given.^ The Badhaks were often known to the 
people as Siarkhavva or jackal-eaters, or Sabkhawa, those 
who eat everything. And the Muhammadan in question 
was given jackal's flesh to eat, and having partaken of it 
was considered to have become a member of the com- 
munity. This indicates that the Badhaks were probably 
accustomed to eat the flesh of the jackal at a sacrificial 
meal, and hence that they worshipped the jackal, revering 
it probably as the deity of the forests where they lived. 
Such a veneration would account for the importance 
attached to the jackal's cry as an omen. The fact of their 
eating jackals also points to the conclusion that the Badhaks 
were not Rajputs, but a low hunting caste like the Pardhis 
and Bahelias. The Pardhis have Rajput sept names as well 
as the Badhaks. No doubt a few outcaste Rajputs may 
have joined the gangs and become their leaders. Others, 
however, said that they abstained from the flesh of jackals, 
snakes, foxes and cows and buffaloes. Children were 
frequently adopted, being purchased in large numbers in 
time of famine, and also occasionally kidnapped. They 
were brought up to the trade of dacoity, and if they showed 
sufficient aptitude for it were taken out on expeditions, 
but otherwise left at home to manage the household affairs. 
They were married to other adopted children and were 
known as Ghulami or Slave Badhaks, like the Jangar 

^ Sleeman, p. 147. 

6o BADHAK part 

Banjaras ; and like them also, after some generations, when 
their real origin had been forgotten, they became full 
Badhaks. It was very advantageous to a Badhak to have 
a number of children, because all plunder obtained was 
divided in regularly apportioned shares among the whole 
community. Men who were too old to go on dacoity also 
received their share, and all children, even babies born 
during the absence of the expedition. The Badhaks said 
that this rule was enforced because they thought it an 
advantage to the community that families should be large 
and their numbers should increase ; from which statement 
it must be concluded that they seldom suffered any strin- 
gency from lack of spoil. They also stated that Badhak 
widows would go and find a second husband from among 
the regular population, and as a rule would sooner or later 
persuade him to join the Badhaks. 
9. Reii- Like other Indian criminals the Badhaks were of a very 

^!?".' . religious or superstitious disposition. They considered the 

offerings to •=• ^ ^ _ ■' _ 

ancestors, gods of the Hindu creed as favouring their undertakings 
so long as they were suitably propitiated by offering to 
their temples and priests, and the spirits of the most 
distinguished of their ancestors as exercising a vicarious 
authority under these deities in guiding them to their prey 
and warning them of danger.^ The following is an account 
of a Badhak sacrifice given to Colonel Sleeman by the 
Ajit Singh already mentioned. It was in celebration of a 
dacoity in which they had obtained Rs. 40,000, out of 
which Rs. 4500 were set aside for sacrifices to the gods 
and charity to the poor. AjTt Singh said : " For offerings 
to the gods we purchase goats, sweet cakes and spirits ; 
and having prepared a feast we throw a handful of the 
savoury food upon the fire in the name of the gods who 
have most assisted us ; but of the feast so consecrated 
no female but a virgin can partake. The offering is made 
through the man who has successfully invoked the god 
on that particular occasion ; and, as my god had guided us 
this time, I was employed to prepare the feast for him 
and to throw the offering upon the fire. The offering must 
be taken up before the feast is touched and put upon the 

' Sleeman, p. 104. 


fire, and a little water must be sprinkled on it. The savoury 
smell of the food as it burns feaches the nostrils of the j^od 
and delights him. On this as on most occasions I invoked 
the spirit of Ganga Singh, my grandfather, and to him I 
made the offering. I considered him to be the greatest 
of all my ancestors as a robber, and him I invoked on this 
solemn occasion. He never failed me when I invoked him, 
and I had the greatest confidence in his aid. The spirits 
of our ancestors can easily see whether we shall succeed 
in what we are about to undertake ; and when we are to 
succeed they order us on, and when we are not they make 
signs to us to desist." Their mode ^ of ascertaining which 
of their ancestors interested himself most in their affairs 
was commonly this, that whenever a person talked inco- 
herently in a fever or an epileptic fit, the spirit of one 
or other of his ancestors was supposed to be upon him. 
If they were in doubt as to whose spirit it was, one of them 
threw down some grains of wheat or coloured glass beads, 
a pinch at a time, saying the name of the ancestor he 
supposed the most likely to be at work and calling odd 
or even as he pleased. If the number proved to be as 
he called it several times running while that name was 
repeated, they felt secure of their family god, and proceeded 
at once to sacrifice a goat or something else in his name. 
When they were being hunted down and arrested by 
Colonel Sleeman and his assistants, they ascribed their 
misfortunes to the anger of the goddess Kali, because they 
had infringed her rules and disregarded her signs, and said 
that their forefathers had often told them they would one 
day be punished for their disobedience." 

Whenever one of the gang was wounded and was taken lo. The 
with his wounds bleeding near a place haunted by a spirit, hTumed'^b 
they believed the spirit got angry and took hold of him,^ spirits. 
in the manner described by A jit Singh as follows: "The 
spirit comes upon him in all kinds of shapes, sometimes 
in that of a buffalo, at others in that of a woman, some- 
times in the air above and sometimes from the ground 
below ; but no one can see him except the wounded person 

1 Sleeman, p. no. - Sleeman, p. 131. 

^ Sleeman, p. 205. 

62 BADHAK part 

he is angry with and wants to punish. Upon such a 
wounded person we always ^lace a naked sword or some 
other sharp steel instrument, as spirits are much afraid of 
weapons of this kind. If there be any good conjurer at 
hand to charm away the spirits from the person wounded 
he recovers, but nothing else can save him." In one case 
a dacoit named Ghlsa had been severely wounded in an 
encounter and was seized by the spirit of a banyan tree 
as he was being taken away : " We made a litter with our 
ropes and cloaks thrown over them and on this he was 
carried off by four of our party ; at half a mile distant the 
road passed under a large banyan tree and as the four men 
carried him along under the tree, the spirit of the place fell 
upon him and the four men who carried him fell down with 
the shock. They could not raise him again, so much were 
they frightened, and four other men were obliged to lift him 
and carry him off." The man died of his wounds soon 
after they reached the halting-place, and in commenting on 
this Ajit Singh continued : " When the spirit seized Ghisa 
under the tree we had unfortunately no conjurer, and he, 
poor fellow, died in consequence. It was evident that a 
spirit had got hold of him, for he could not keep his head 
upright ; it always fell down upon his right or left shoulder 
as often as we tried to put it right ; and he complained 
much of a pain in the region of the liver. We therefore 
concluded that the spirit had broken his neck and was 
consuming his liver." 
II. Pious Like pious Hindus as they were, the Badhaks w^ere 

funeral ob- accustomcd, whcncvcr it was possible, to preserve the bones 

servances. r ■> r 

of their dead after the body had been burnt and carry them 
to the Ganges, If this was not possible, however, and the 
exigencies of their profession obliged them to make away 
with the body without the performance of due funeral rites, 
they cut off two or three fingers and sent these to the Ganges 
to be deposited instead of the whole body.^ In one case a 
dacoit, Kundana, was killed in an affray, and the others 
carried off his body and thrust it into a porcupine's hole 
after cutting off three of the fingers. " We gave Kundana's 
fingers to his mother," Ajit Singh stated, " and she sent them 

' Sleeman, p. io6. 


with due offerings and ceremonies to the Ganges by the 
hands of the family priest. She gave this priest money to 
purchase a cow, to be presented to the priests in the name of 
her deceased son, and to distribute in charity to the poor and 
to holy men. She got from us for these purposes eighty 
rupees over and above her son's share of the booty, while 
his widow and children continued to receive their usual 
share of the takings of the gang so long as they remained 
with us." 

Before setting out on an expedition it was their regular 12- Taking 
custom to take the omens, and the following account may be 
quoted of the preliminaries to an expedition of the great 
leader, Meherban Singh, who has already been mentioned : 
" In the latter end of that year, Meherban and his brother set 
out and assembled their friends on the bank of the Bisori 
river, where the rate at which each member of the party 
should share in the spoil was determined in order to secure 
to the dependants of any one who should fall in the enter- 
prise their due share, as well as to prevent inconvenient 
disputes during and after the expedition. The party 
assembled on this occasion, including women and children, 
amounted to two hundred, and when the shares had been 
determined the goats were sacrificed for the feast. Each 
leader and member of the gang dipped his finger in the 
blood and swore fidelity to his engagements and his asso- 
ciates under all circumstances. The v^hole feasted together 
and drank freely till the next evening, when Meherban 
advanced with about twenty of the principal persons to a 
spot chosen a little way from the camp on the road they 
proposed to take in the expedition, and lifting up his hands 
in supplication said aloud, ' If it be thy will, O God, and 
thine, Kali, to prosper our undertaking for the sake of the 
blind and the lame, tJie widoiv and tJie orpJian, who depend 
upon our exertions for subsistence, vouchsafe, we pray thee, 
the call of the female jackal.' All his followers held up 
their hands in the same manner and repeated these words 
after him. All then sat down and waited in silence for 
the reply or spoke only in whispers. At last the cry of 
the female jackal was heard three times on the left, and 
believing her to have been inspired by the deity for 

64 BADHAK part 

their guidance they were all much rejoiced." The follow- 
ing was another more elaborate method of taking omens 
described by Ajit Singh : " When we speak of seeking 
omens from our gods or Devi Deota, we mean the spirits 
of those of our ancestors who performed great exploits in 
dacoity in their day, gained a great name and established 
lasting reputations. For instance, Mahajit, my grandfather, 
and Sahiba, his father, are called gods and admitted to 
be so by us all. We have all of us some such gods to be 
proud of among our ancestors ; we propitiate them and ask 
for favourable omens from them before we enter upon 
any enterprise. We sometimes propitiate the Suraj Deota 
(sun god) and seek good omens from him. We get tv/o 
or three goats or rams, and sometimes even ten or eleven, 
at the place where we determine to take the auspices, 
and having assembled the principal men of the gang we 
put water into the mouth of one of them and pray to the 
sun and to our ancestors thus : ' O thou Sun God ! And 
O all ye other Gods ! If we are to succeed in the enter- 
prise we are about to undertake we pray you to cause 
these goats to shake their bodies.' If they do not shake 
them after the gods have been thus duly invoked, the enter- 
prise must not be entered upon and the goats are not 
sacrificed. We then try the auspices with wheat. We 
burn frankincense and scented wood and blow a shell ; and 
taking out a pinch of wheat grains, put them on the cloth 
and count them. If they come up odd the omen is favour- 
able, and if even it is bad. After this, which we call the 
auspices of the Akut, we take that of the Siarni or female 
jackal. If it calls on the left it is good, but if on the right 
bad. If the omens turn out favourable in all three trials 
then we have no fear whatever, but if they are favour- 
able in only one trial out of the three the enterprise must be 
given up." 
13. Sup- Between 1837 and 1849 the suppression of the regular 

dacoTt°" °^ practice of armed dacoity was practically achieved by Colonel 
Sleeman. A number of officers were placed under his orders, 
and with small bodies of military and police were set to hunt 
down different bands of dacoits, following them all over 
India when necessary. And special Acts were passed to 

II HA 1)11 A KS OR liAORlS AR TllJi J'RKSJiNI' 77/1//:' 65 

enable the offence of dacoity, wherever committed, to be 
tried by a com[)ctent magistrate in any part of India as had 
been done in the case of the Thugs. Many of the Badhaks 
received conditional pardons, and were drafted into the police 
in different stations, and an agricultural labour colony was 
also formed, but does not seem to have been altogether 
successful. During these twelve years more than 1200 
dacoits in all were brought to trial, while some were killed 
during the operations, and no doubt many others escaped 
and took to other avocations, or became ordinary criminals 
when their armed gangs were broken up. In 1825 it had 
been estimated that the Oudh forests alone contained from 
4000 to 6000 dacoits, while the property stolen in 1 8 i i 
from known dacoities was valued at ten lakhs of rupees. 

The Badhaks still exist, and are well known as one m- The 
of the worst classes of criminals, practising ordinary o'rBaori's 
house-breaking and theft. The name Badhak is now less at the 
commonly used than those of Bagri and Baori or Bawaria, time!" 
both of which were borne by the original Badhaks. The 
word Bagri is derived from a tract of country in Malwa 
which is known as the Bagar or ' hedge of thorns,' because 
it is surrounded on all sides by wooded hills.^ There are 
Bagri Jats and Bagri Rajputs, many of whom are now highly 
respectable landholders. Bawaria or Baori is derived from 
bdnwar, a creeper, or the tendril of a vine, and hence a 
noose made originally from some fibrous plant and used 
for trapping animals, this being one of the primary occupa- 
tions of the tribe.^ The term Badhak signifies a hunter 
or fowler, hence a robber or murderer (Platts). The Bagris 
and Bawarias are sometimes considered to be separate 
communities, but it is doubtful whether there is any real 
distinction between them. In Bombay the Bagris are known 
as Vaghris by the common change of b into v. A good 
description of them is contained in Appendix C to Mr. 
Bhimbhai Kirparam's volume Hindus of Gujarat in the 
Bombay Gazetteer. He divides them into the Chunaria or 
lime-burners, the Datonia or sellers of twig tooth-brushes, 
and two other groups, and states that, " They also keep 

^ Malcolm's Memoir of Central ^ Ciooke's Tribes and Castes, art. 

India, ii. p. 479. Bawaria. 



66 BADHAK part 

fowls and sell eggs, catch birds and go as shikaris or 
hunters. They traffic in green parrots, which they buy 
from Bhils and sell for a profit." 
15. Lizard- Their strength and powers of endurance are great, the 

same writer states, and they consider that these qualities are 
obtained by the eating of the goh and sdndJia or iguana 
lizards, which a Vaghri prizes very highly. This is also 
the case with the Bawarias of the Punjab, who go out 
hunting lizards in the rains and may be seen returning 
with baskets full of live lizards, which exist for days without 
food and are killed and eaten fresh by degrees. Their 
metnod of hunting the lizard is described by Mr. Wilson 
as follows : ^ " The lizard lives on grass, cannot bite severely, 
and is sluggish in his movements, so that he is easily caught. 
He digs a hole for himself of no great depth, and the 
easiest way to take him is to look out for the scarcely 
perceptible airhole and dig him out ; but there are various 
ways of saving oneself this trouble. One, which I have 
seen, takes advantage of a habit the lizard has in cold 
weather (when he never comes out of his hole) of coming 
to the mouth for air and warmth. The Chuhra or other 
sportsman puts off his shoes and steals along the prairie 
till he sees signs of a lizard's hole. This he approaches on 
tiptoe, raising over his head with both hands a mallet with 
a round sharp point, and fixing his eyes intently upon the 
hole. When close enough he brings down his mallet with 
all his might on the ground just behind the mouth of 
the hole, and is often successful in breaking the lizard's 
back before he awakes to a sense of his danger. Another 
plan, which I have not seen, is to tie a wisp of grass 
to a long stick and move it over the hole so as to make 
a rustling noise. The lizard within thinks, * Oh here's a 
snake ! I may as well give in,' and comes to the mouth of 
the hole, putting out his tail first so that he may not see his 
executioner. The sportsman seizes his tail and snatches him 
out before he has time to learn his mistake." This common 
fondness for lizards is a point in favour of a connection 
between the Gujarat Vaghris and the Punjab Bawarias. 

In Sirsa the great mass of the Bawarias are not given to 

^ Sirsa Settlement Report. 


crime, and in Gujarat also they do not appear to have s[)ccial )'>. Suti.ii 
criminal tendencies. It is a curious point, however, that ''^^^l^' 
Mr. Bhimbhai Kirparam emphasises the chastity of the 
women of the Gujarat Vagjhris.^ " When a family returns 
home after a money-making tour to Bombay or some other 
city, the women are taken before Vihat (Devi), and with the 
women is brought a buffalo or a sheep that is tethered in 
front of Vihat's shrine. They must confess all, even their 
slightest shortcomings, such as the following : ' Two weeks 
ago, when begging in Parsi Bazar-street, a drunken sailor 
caught me by the hand. Another day a Miyan or Musalmiin 
ogled me, and forgive me, Devi, my looks encouraged him.' 
If Devi is satisfied the sheep or buffalo shivers, and is then 
sacrificed and provides a feast for the caste. " "" On the other 
hand, Mr. Crooke states^ that in northern India, "The 
standard of morality is very low because in Muzaffarnagar 
it is extremely rare for a Bawaria woman to live with her 
husband. Almost invariably she lives with another man : 
but the official husband is responsible for the children." 
The great difference in the standard of morality is certainly 

In Gujarat"* the Vaghris have gurus or religious pre- 
ceptors of their own. These men take an eight-anna silver 
piece and whisper in the ear of their disciples " Be immortal." 
. . . "The Bhuvas or priest- mediums play an important 
part in many Vaghri ceremonies. A Bhuva is a male child 
born after the mother has made a vow to the goddess Vihat 
or Devi that if a son be granted to her she will devote him 
to the service of the goddess. No Bhuva may cut or shave 
his hair on pain of a fine of ten rupees, and no Bhuva may 
eat carrion or food cooked by a Muhammadan." 

The criminal Bagris still usually travel about in the 17- Crim- 
disguise of Gosains and Bairagis, and are very difficult of practices, 
detection except to real religious mendicants. Their house- 
breaking implement or jemmy is known as Gjdn, but in 
speaking of it they always add Das, so that it sounds like 

1 It would appear that the Gujarat ^ Ajj-, Bawaria, quoting from North 
Vaghris are a distinct class from the Indian Notes and Queries, i. 5 1 . 
criminal section of the tribe. 

2 Bombay Gazetteer, Gujarat Hin- •* Bombay Gazetteer, Hindus of 
dtis, p. 514. Gujarat, p. 574. 

68 BADHAK part 

the name of a Bairagi.^ They are usually very much afraid 
of the gydn being discovered on their persons, and are careful 
to bury it in the ground at each halting-place, while on the 
march it may be concealed in a pack-saddle. The means of 
identifying them, Mr. Kennedy remarks,'^ is by their family 
dco or god, which they carry about when wandering with 
their families. It consists of a brass or copper box contain- 
ing grains of wheat and the seeds of a creeper, both soaked 
in ghi (melted butter). The box with a peacock's feather 
and a bell is wrapped in two white and then in two red 
cloths, one of the white cloths having the print of a man's 
hand dipped in goat's blood upon it. The grains of wheat 
are used for taking the omens, a few being thrown up at sun- 
down and counted afterwards to see whether they are odd 
or even. When even, two grains are placed on the right 
hand of the omen -taker, and if this occurs three times 
running the auspices are considered to be favourable.^ 
Mr. Gayer ^ notes that the Badhaks have usually from one to 
three brands from a hot iron on the inside of their left wrist. 
Those of them who are hunters brand the muscles of the 
left wrist in order to steady the hand when firing their 
matchlocks. The customs of wearing a peculiar necklace of 
small wooden beads and a kind of gold pin fixed to the front 
teeth, which Mr. Crooke ^ records as having been prevalent 
some years ago, have apparently been since abandoned, as 
they are not mentioned in more recent accounts. The 
Dehliwal and Malpura Baorias have, Mr. Kennedy states,^ 
an interesting system of signs, which they mark on the 
walls of buildings at important corners, bridges and cross- 
roads and on the ground by the roadside with a stick, if no 
building is handy. The commonest is a loop, the straight 
line indicating the direction a gang or individual has 
taken : 


' Gunlhorpe's Criminal Tribes. ■* C. P. Police Lccliircs, art. Badhak. 

'^ Criminal Classes in ike Bombay ^ ^ ^ -,^- 

n J J' ^^[_ hawaria, i)aia. 12. 

Presidency, p. 151. ' 

^ Gunthorpe's Criminal Tribes, art. " Criminal Classes in the Bombay 

Badhak. Presidency, p. 179. 

II HA I IN A 69 

Tlic addition of a number of vertical strokes inside the loop 
sii^nifics the luiinber of males in a gang. If these strokes 
are enclosed by a circle it means that the gang is encamped 
in the vicinity ; while a square inside a circle and line as 
below means that property has been secured by friends who 


have left in the direction pointed by the line. It is said that 
Baorias will follow one another up for fifty or even a hundred 
miles by means of these hieroglyphics. The signs are bold 
marks, sometimes even a foot or more in length, and are 
made where they will at once catch the eye. When the 
Murwari Baorias desire to indicate to others of their caste, 
who may follow in their footsteps, the route taken, a member 
of the gang, usually a woman, trails a stick in the dust 
as she walks along, leaving a spiral track on the ground. 
Another method of indicating the route taken is to place 
leaves under stones at intervals along the road.^ The form 
of crime most in favour among the ordinary Baoris is house- 
breaking by night. Their common practice is to make a hole 
in the wall beside the door through which the hand passes 
to raise the latch ; and only occasionally they dig a hole in 
the base of the wall to admit of the passage of a man, 
while another favoured alternative is to break in through a 
barred window, the bars being quickly and forcibly bent and 
drawn out.^ One class of Marwari Bagris are also expert 

Bahna, Pinjara, Dhunia.^ — The occupational caste of i. Nomen- 
cotton-cleaners. The Bahnas numbered 48,000 persons in |^,-,^eJ^^^i^" 
the Central Provinces and Berar in 191 1. The large stmciure. 
increase in the number of ginning-factories has ruined the 
Bahna's trade of cleaning hand-ginned cotton, and as no 
distinction attaches to the name of Bahna it is possible 
that members of the caste who have taken to other occu- 
pations may have abandoned it and returned themselves 

1 Kennedy, loc. cit. p. 208. paper by Munshi Kanhya Lai of the 

'^ Kennedy, loc. cit. p. 185. Gazetteer office. 

■^ This article is partly based on a 


simply as Muhammadans, The three names Bahna, Pinjara, 
Dhunia appear to be used indifferently for the caste in 
this Province, though in other parts of India they are dis- 
tinguished. Pinjara is derived from the word pinjan used 
for a cotton-bow, and Dhunia is from dJnmna, to card cotton. 
The caste is also known as Dhunak Pathani. Though 
professing the Muhammadan religion, they still have many 
Hindu customs and ceremonies, and in the matter of in- 
heritance our courts have held that they are subject to 
Hindu and not Muhammadan law.^ In Raipur a girl 
receives half the share of a boy in the division of inherited 
property. The caste appears to be a mixed occupational 
group, and is split into many territorial subcastes named 
after the different parts of the country from which its 
members have come, as Badharia from Badhas in Mirzapur, 
Sarsutia from the Saraswati river, Berari of Berar, Dakhni 
from the Deccan, Telangi from Madras, Pardeshi from 
northern India, and so on. Two groups are occupational, 
the Newaris of Saugor, who make the thick newdr tape 
used for the webbing of beds, and the Kanderas, who make 
fireworks and generally constitute a separate caste. There 
is considerable ground for supposing that the Bahnas are 
mainly derived from the caste of Telis or oil-pressers. In 
the Punjab Sir D. Ibbetson says ^ that the Penja or cotton- 
scutcher is an occupational name applied to Telis who 
follow this profession ; and that the Penja, Kasai and Teli 
are all of the same caste. Similarly in Nasik the Telis 
and Pinjaras are said to form one community, under the 
government of a single panchayat. In cases of dispute or 
misconduct the usual penalty is temporary excommunica- 
tion, which is known as the stopping of food and water.^ 
The Telis are an enterprising community of very low status, 
and would therefore be naturally inclined to take to other 
occupations ; many of them are shopkeepers, cultivators 
and landholders, and it is quite probable that in past 
times they took up the Bahna's profession and changed 
their religion with the hope of improving their social status. 

' Sir \'>. Robertson's C.P. Census paras. 646, 647. 
/Report (1 89 1), p. 203. ^ Ni'isik Gazetteer, pp. 84, 85. 

'^ Punjab Census Rep07-l (1881), 


The TcHs are generally considered to be quarrelsome and 
talkative, and the Bahnas or Dhunias have the same 
characteristics. If one man abusing another lapses into 
Billingsgate, the other will say to him, ' Hainko JuldJia 
Dhunia neJi Jdno,' or ' Don't talk to me as if I u^as a 
Juliiha or a Dhunia.' 

Some Bahnas have exogamous sections with Hindu 2. Mar- 
names, while others are without these, and simply regulate '^'^•^^' 
their marriages by rules of relationship. They have the 
primitive Hindu custom of allowing a sister's son to marry 
a brother's daughter, but not vice versa. A man cannot 
marry his wife's younger sister during her lifetime, nor her 
elder sister at any time. Children of the same foster- 
mother are also not allowed to marry. Their marriages 
are performed by a Kazi with an imitation of the Nikah rite. 
The bridegroom's party sit under the marriage-shed, and the 
bride with the women of her party inside the house. The 
Kazi selects two men, one from the bride's party, who is 
known as the Nikahi Bap or ' Marriage Father,' and the 
other from the bridegroom's, who is called the Gowah 
or ' Witness.' These two men go to the bride and ask 
her whether she accepts the bridegroom, whose name is 
stated, for her husband. She answers in the affirmative, 
and mentions the amount of the dowry which she is to 
receive. The bridegroom, who has hitherto had a veil 
{imck/ma) over his face, now takes it off, and the men go 
to him and ask him whether he accepts the bride. He 
replies that he does, and agrees to pay the dowry demanded 
by her. The Kazi reads some texts and the guests are 
given a meal of rice and sugar. Many of the preliminaries 
to a Hindu marriage are performed by the more backward 
members of the caste, and until recently they erected a 
sacred post in the marriage -shed, but now they merely 
hang the green branch of a mango tree to the roof The 
minimum amount of the vie/iar or dowry is said to be 
Rs. 125, but it is paid to the girl's parents as a bride- 
price and not to herself, as among the Muhammadans. 
A widow is expected, but not obliged, to marry her 
deceased husband's younger brother. Divorce is permitted 
by means of a written deed known as ' Farkhati.' 



The Bahnas venerate Muhammad, and also worship the 
tombs of Muhammadan saints or Pirs. A green sheet or 
cloth is spread over the tomb and a lamp is kept burning 
by it, while offerings of incense and flowers are made. 
When the new cotton crop has been gathered they lay 
some new cotton by their bow and mallet and make an 
offering of viallda or cakes of flour and sugar to it. They 
believe that two angels, one good and one bad, are perched 
continually on the shoulders of every man to record his 
good and evil deeds. And when an eclipse occurs they 
say that the sun and moon have gone behind a pinnacle 
or tower of the heavens. For exorcising evil spirits they 
write texts of the Koran on paper and burn them before 
the sufferer. The caste bury the dead with the feet point- 
ing to the south. On the way to the grave each one of 
the mourners places his shoulder under the bier for a 
time, partaking of the impurity communicated by it. 
Incense is burnt daily in the name of a deceased person 
for forty days after his death, with the object probably 
of preventing his ghost from returning to haunt the house. 
Muhammadan beggars are fed on the tenth day. Similarly, 
after the birth of a child a woman is unclean for forty 
days, and cannot cook for her husband during that period. 
A child's hair is cut for the first time on the tenth or 
twelfth day after birth, this being known as Jhalar. Some 
parents leave a lock of hair to grow on the head in the 
name of the famous saint Sheikh Farid, thinking that they 
will thus ensure a long life for the child. It is probably in 
reality a way of preserving the Hindu choti or scalp-lock. 

The hereditary calling ^ of the Bahna is the cleaning or 
scutching of cotton, which is done by subjecting it to the 
vibration of a bow-string. The seed has been previously 
separated by a hand-gin, but the ginned cotton still contains 
much dirt, leaf-fibre and other rubbish, and to remove this is 
the Bahna's task. The bow is somewhat in the shape of a 
harp, the wide end consisting of a broad piece of wood over 
which the string passes, being secured to a straight wooden 
bar at the back. At the narrow end the bar and string 
arc fixed to an iron ring. The string is made of the 

' Cr<Joke's lyibes and Castes, art. Bahna. 

II occur ATION 73 

sinew of some animal, and this renders the implement 
objectionable to Hindus, and may account for the liahnas 
being Muhammadans. The club or mallet is a wooden 
implement shaped like a dumb-bell. The bow is suspended 
from the roof so as to hang just over the pile of loose cotton ; 
and the worker twangs the string with the mallet and then 
draws the mallet across the string, each three or four times. 
The string strikes a small portion of the cotton, the fibre 
of which is scattered by the impact and thrown off in a 
uniform condition of soft fluff, all dirt being at the same 
time removed. This is the operation technically known as 
teasing. Buchanan remarked that women frequently did the 
work themselves at home, using a smaller kind of bow called 
dlmnkara. The clean cotton is made up into balls, some of 
which are passed on to the spinner, while others are used for 
the filling of quilts and the padded coats worn in the cold 
weather. The ingenious though rather clumsy method of the 
Bahna has been superseded by the ginning-factory, and little 
or no cotton destined for the spindle is now cleaned by him. 
The caste have been forced to take to cultivation or field 
labour, while many have become cartmen and others are 
brokers, peons or constables. Nearly every house still has its 
pinjajt or bow, but only a desultory use is made of this during 
the winter months. As it is principally used by a Muham- 
madan caste it seems a possible hypothesis that the cotton-bow 
was introduced into India by invaders of that religion. The 
name of the bow, pinj'an, is, however, a Sanskrit derivative, 
and this is against the above theory. It has already been 
seen that the fact of animal sinew being used for the string 
would make it objectionable to Hindus. The Bahnas 
are subjected to considerable ridicule on account of their 
curious mixture of Hindu and Muhammadan ceremonies, 
amounting in some respects practically to a caricature of 
the rites of Islam ; and further, they share with the 
weaver class the contempt shown to those who follow a 
calling considered more suitable for women than men. It is 
related that when the Mughal general Asaf Khan first made 
an expedition into the north of the Central Provinces he 
found the famous Gond- Rajput queen Durgavati of the 
Garha-Mandla dynasty governing with success a large and 

74 BAHNA part 

prosperous state in this locality. He thought a country- 
ruled by a woman should fall an easy prey to the Muham- 
madan arms, and to show his contempt for her power he 
sent her a golden spindle. The queen retorted by a present 
of a gold cotton-cleaner's bow, and this so enraged the Mughal 
that he proceeded to attack the Gond kingdom. The story 
indicates that cotton-carding is considered a Muhammadan 
profession, and also that it is held in contempt. 

Various sayings show that the Bahna is not considered 
a proper Muhammadan, as 

Turuk to Turuk 
Aiir BaJina Tm'iik, 

or ' A Muhammadan (Turk) is a Muhammadan and the 
Bahna is also a Muhammadan ' ; and again — 

Achera^ Kachera, Pinjdra, 
AIuham7nad se dfir, Din se niyura^ 

or ' The Kachera and Pinjara are lost to Muhammad and 
far from the faith ' ; and again — 

Adho Hindu ad/io Musabndn 
Tink/ton kahcn DJiiinak Pat/iiln, 

or ' Half a Hindu and half a Muhammadan, that is he who 
is a Dhunak Pathan.' They have a grotesque imitation of 
the Muhammadan rite of halill, or causing an animal's blood 
to flow on to the ground with the repetition of the kalma or 
invocation ; thus it is said that when a Bahna is about to 
kill a fowl he addresses it somewhat as follows : 

Kdhe karkarat hai ? 

KdJie barbardt hai ? 

Kdhe jai jai log07t ka duna khdt hdi? 

Tor kidniat inor nidviat, 

Bismilldh hai iuch, 

or " Why do you cackle ? Why do you crow ? Why do 
you eat other people's grain ? Your death is my feast ; I 
touch you in the name of God." And saying this he puts 
a knife to the fowl's throat. The vernacular verse is a good 

* The word Achera is merely a jingle put in to make the rhyme complete. 
Kachera is a maker of glass bangles. 


imitation of the cackling of a fowl. And again, they slice 
off the top of an egg as if they were killing an animal and 
repeat the formula, " White dome, full of moisture, I know 
not if there is a male or female within ; in the name of God 
I kill you." A person whose memory is not good enough 
to retain these texts will take a knife and proceed to one 
who knows them. Such a man will repeat the texts over 
the knife, blowing on it as he does so, and the Bahna con- 
siders that the knife has been sanctified and retains its virtue 
for a week. Others do not think this necessary, but have a 
special knife, which having once been consecrated is always 
kept for killing animals, and descends as an heirloom in the 
family, the use of this sacred knife being considered to make 
the repetition of the kalma unnecessary. These customs are, 
however, practised only by the ignorant members of the 
caste in Raipur and Bilaspur, and are unknown in the more 
civilised tracts, where the Bahnas are rapidly conforming 
to ordinary Muhammadan usage. Such primitive Bahnas 
perform their marriages by walking round the sacred post, 
keep the Hindu festivals, and feed Brahmans on the tenth 
day after a death. They have a priest whom they call their 
Kazi, but elect him themselves. In some places when a 
Bahn-a goes to the well to draw water he first washes the 
parapet of the well to make it ceremonially clean, and then 
draws his water. This custom can only be compared with 
that of the Raj-Gonds who wash the firewood with which 
they are about to cook their food, in order to make it more 
pure. Respectable Muhammadans naturally look down on 
the Bahnas, and they retaliate by refusing to take food or 
watqr from any Muhammadan who is not a Bahna. By 
such strictness the more ignorant think that they will enhance 
their ceremonial purity and hence their social consideration ; 
but the intelligent members of the caste know better and 
are glad to improve themselves by learning from educated 
Muhammadans. The other menial artisan castes among the 
Muhammadans have similar ideas, and it is reported that a 
Rangrez boy who took food in the house of one of the highest 
Muhammadan officers of Government in the Province was 
temporarily put out of caste. Another saying about the 
Bahnas is — 

76 BAHNA part ii 

Sheik Jioji ki Sheikht, 

Pathdnofi kl farr, 
Tiirkott ki Tierkshdhi, 

Bahnoii ki bharrr . . . 

or ' Proud as a Sheikh, obstinate as a Pathan, royal as a 
Turk, buzzing like a Bahna.' This refers to the noise of 
the cotton-cleaning bow, the twang of which as it is struck 
by the club is like a quail flying ; and at the same time to 
the Bahna's loquacity. Another story is that a Bahna was 
once going through the forest with his cotton-cleaning bow 
and club or mallet, when a jackal met him on the path. 
The jackal was afraid that the Bahna would knock him on 
the head, so he said, " With thy bow on thy shoulder and 
thine arrow in thy hand, whither goest thou, O King of 
Delhi ? " The Bahna was exceedingly pleased at this and 
replied, ' King of the forest, eater of wild plums, only the 
great can recognise the great.' But when the jackal had 
got to a safe distance he turned round and shouted, " With 
your cotton-bow on your shoulder and your club in your 
hand, there you go, you sorry Bahna." It is said also that 
although the Bahnas as good Muhammadans wear beards, 
they do not cultivate them very successfully, and many of 
them only have a growth of hair below the chin and none 
on the under-lip, in the fashion known as a goat's beard. 
This kind of beard is thus proverbially described as ' Bahna 
kaisi ddrhi' or *A Bahna's beard.' It may be repeated in 
conclusion that much of the ridicule attaching to the Bahnas 
arises simply from the fact that they follow what is considered 
a feminine occupation, and the remainder because in their 
ignorance they parody the rites of Islam. It may seem ill- 
natured to record the sayings in which they are lampooned, 
but the l^ahnas cannot read English, and these have an 
interest as specimens of popular wit. 



1. The tribe iDtd ils offslioois. 6. Religion. 

2. Tribal lege7ids. 7. Appearance and mode of life. 

3. Tribal subdivisions. 8. Dress and food. 

4. Afarriage. 9. Occupation. 

5. Birth and funeral rites. 10. Language. 

Baiga/ — A primitive Dravidian tribe whose home is i. The 
on the eastern Satpura hills in the Mandla, Balaghfit and jj^ l^^ 
Bilaspur Districts. The number of the Baigas proper was shoots. 
only 30,000 in 191 i. But the Binjhals or Binjhwars, a 
fairly numerous caste in the Chhattlsgarh Division, and 
especially in the Sambalpur District, appear to have been 
originally Baigas, though they have dropped the original 
caste name, become Hinduised, and now disclaim connection 
with the parent tribe. A reason for this may be found in 
the fact that Sambalpur contains several Binjhwar zamlndars, 
or large landowners, whose families would naturally desire a 
more respectable pedigree than one giving them the wild 
Baigas of the Satpuras for their forefathers. And the evolu- 
tion 9f the Binjhwar caste is a similar phenomenon to the 
constitution of the Raj-Gonds, the Raj-Korkus, and other 
aristocratic subdivisions among the forest tribes, who have 
been admitted to a respectable position in the Hindu social 
community. The Binjhwars, however, have been so success- 
ful as to cut themselves off almost completely from connec- 
tion with the original tribe, owing to their adoption of 
another name. But in Balaghat and Mandla the Binjhwar 

1 This article is based largely on a Ali Haqqani, B.A., Tahsildar, Dindori. 

monograph by the Rev. J- Lampard, Some extracts have been made from 

missionary, Baihar, and also on papers Colonel Ward's Mandla Settlement 

by Muhammad Hanlf Siddlqi, forest Report (1869), and from Colonel 

ranger, Bilaspur, and Mr. Muhammad Bloomfield's Azotes on ike Baigas. 



subtribe is still recognised as tiie most civilised subdivision 
of the Baigas. The Bhainas, a small tribe in Bilaspur, are 
probably another offshoot, Kath-Bhaina being the name of 
a subtribe of Baigas in that District, and Rai-Bhaina in 
Balaghat, though the Bhainas too no longer admit identity 
with the Baigas. A feature common to all three branches 
is that they have forgotten their original tongue, and now 
speak a more or less corrupt form of the Indo- Aryan 
vernaculars current around them. Finally, the term Bhumia 
or ' Lord of the soil ' is used sometimes as the name of a 
separate tribe and sometimes as a synonym for Baiga. 
The fact is that in the Central Provinces ^ Bhumia is the 
name of an office, that of the priest of the village and local 
deities, which is held by one of the forest tribes. In the 
tract where the Baigas live, they, as the most ancient 
residents, are usually the priests of the indigenous gods ; but 
in Jubbulpore the same office is held by another tribe, the 
Bharias. The name of the office often attaches itself to 
members of the tribe, who consider it as somewhat more 
respectable than their own, and it is therefore generally true 
to say that the people known as Bhumias in Jubbulpore are 
really Bharias, but in Mandla and Bilaspur they are Baigas. 
In Mandla there is also found a group called Bharia- 
Baigas. These are employed as village priests by Hindus, 
and worship certain Hindu deities and not the Gond gods. 
They may perhaps be members of the Bharia tribe of 
Jubbulpore, originally derived from the Bhars, who have 
obtained the designation of Baiga, owing to their employ- 
ment as village priests. But they now consider themselves 
a part of the Baiga tribe and say they came to Mandla from 
Rewah. In Mandla the decision of a Baiga on a boundary 
dispute is almost always considered as final, and this authority 
is of a kind that commonly emanates from recognised 
priority of residence." There seems reason to suppose that 
the Baigas are really a branch of the primitive Bhuiya tribe 
of Chota Nagpur, and that they have taken or been given 
the name of Baiga, the designation of a village priest, on 
migration into the Central Provinces. There is reason to 

' In Bengal tlie Tihumia or BhumTj ^ Colonel Ward's Mandla Settlement 

are an iniportanl tribe. Report (1868-69), P- 'SS- 

II fh'I/lA/. I.I'A.I'INDS 79 

believe tluit the Haiijas were once dominant in the Clihat- 
tist^arh phu'n and the hills surrounding^ it wiiich adjoin 
Chota Nai;[)ur, the home of the Bhuiyas. The considera- 
tions in favour of this view are given in the article on 
Bhuiya, to which reference may be made. 

The Baigas, however, are not without some conceit of 2. rribai 
themselves, as the following legend will show. In the *^^'^" ^' 
beginning, they say, God created Nanga Baiga and Nangi 
Baigin, the first of the human race, and asked them by what 
calling they would choose to live. They at once said that 
they would make their living by felling trees in the jungle, 
and permission being accorded, have done so ever since. 
They had two sons, one of whom remained a Baiga, while 
the other became a Gond and a tiller of the soil. The sons 
married their own two sisters who were afterwards born, and 
while the elder couple are the ancestors of the Baigas, 
from the younger are descended the Gonds and all the 
remainder of the human race. In another version of the 
story the first Baiga cut down two thousand old sal^ trees 
in one day, and God told him to sprinkle a few grains of 
kutki on the ashes, and then to retire and sleep for some 
months, when on his return he would be able to reap a 
rich harvest for his children. In this manner the habit of 
shifting cultivation is accorded divine sanction. According 
to Binjhwar tradition Nanga Baiga and Nangi Baigin 
dwelt on the kajli ban paJidr, which being interpreted is 
the hill of elephants, and may well refer to the ranges of 
Mandla and Bilaspur. It is stated in the Ain-i-Akbari~ 
that the country of Garha- Mandla abounded in wild 
elephants, and that the people paid their tribute in these 
and gold mohurs. In Mandla the Baigas sometimes hang 
out from their houses a bamboo mat fastened to a long 
pole to represent a flag which they say once flew from the 
palace of a Baiga king. It seems likely that the original 
home of the tribe may have been the Chhattlsgarh plain and 
the hill-ranges surrounding it. A number of estates in these 
hills are held by landowners of tribes which are offshoots 
of the Baigas, as the Bhainas and Binjhwars. The point is 

1 Skorea rohnsta. 
^ Jarrett's Ain-i-Akbari, vol. ii. p. ig6. 



further discussed in the article on Bhuiya. Most of the 
Baigas speak a corrupt form of the Chhattisgarhi dialect. 
When they first came under the detailed observation of 
English officers in the middle of the nineteenth century, the 
tribe were even more solitary and retired than at present. 
Their villages, it is said, were only to be found in places 
far removed from all cleared and cultivated country. No 
roads or well-defined paths connected them with ordinary 
lines of traffic and more thickly inhabited tracts, but perched 
away in snug corners in the hills, and hidden by convenient 
projecting spurs and dense forests from the country round, 
they could not be seen except when nearly approached, 
and were seldom visited unless by occasional enterprising 
Banias and vendors of country liquor. Indeed, without a 
Baiga for a guide many of the villages could hardly be dis- 
covered, for nothing but occasional notches on the trees 
distineuished the tracks to them from those of the sambhar 
and other wild animals. 

The following seven subdivisions or subtribes are recog- 
nised : Binjhwar, Bharotia, Narotia or Nahar, Raibhaina, 
Kathbhaina, Kondwan or Kundi, and Gondwaina. Of these 
the Binjhwar, Bharotia and Narotia are the best -known. 
The name of the Binjhwars is probably derived from the 
Vindhyan range, which in turn comes from the Sanskrit 
vindliya, a hunter. The rule of exogamy is by no means 
strictly observed, and in Kawardha it is said that these 
three subcastes intermarry though they do not eat together, 
while in Balaghat the Bharotias and Narotias both eat together 
and intermarry. In both places the Binjhwars occupy 
the highest position, and the other two subtribes will take 
food from them. The Binjhwars consider themselves as 
Hindus and abjure the consumption of buffalo's and cow's 
flesh and rats, while the other Baigas will eat almost any- 
thing. The Bharotias partially shave their heads, and in 
Mandla are apparently known as Mundia or Mudia, or 
" shaven." The Gondwainas eat both cow's flesh and 
monkeys, and are regarded as the lowest subcaste. As 
shown by their name they are probably the offspring of 
unions between Baigas and Gonds. Similarly the Kondwans 
apparently derive their name from the tract south of the 


Mahfinadi which is tKuncd after tlic Khoiid tribe, and was 
formerly owned by them. 

Each sLibtribe is divided into a number of exogamous 
septs, the names of which are identical in many cases with 
those of the Gonds, as Markam, Maravi, Netam, Tekam and 
others. Gond names are found most frequently among the 
Gondwainas and Narotias, and these have adopted from the 
Gonds the prohibition of marriage between worshippers of 
the same number of gods. Thus the four septs above 
mentioned worship seven gods and may not intermarry. 
But they may marry among other septs such as the Dhurua, 
Pusam, Bania and Mawar who worship six gods. The 
Baigas do not appear to have assimilated the further division 
into worshippers of five, four, three and two gods which 
exists among the Gonds in some localities, and the system is 
confined to the lower subtribes. The meanings of the sept 
names have been forgotten and no instances of totemism are 
known. And the Binjhwars and Bharotias, who are more 
or less Hinduised, have now adopted territorial names for 
their septs, as Lapheya from Lapha zamlndari, Ghugharia 
from Ghughri village in Mandia, and so on. The adoption 
of Gond names and septs appears to indicate that Gonds 
were in former times freely admitted into the Baiga tribe ; 
and this continues to be the case at present among the lower 
subtribes, so far that a Gond girl marrying a Baiga becomes 
a regular member of the community. But the Binjhwars 
and Bharotias, who have a somewhat higher status than the 
others, refuse to admit Gonds, and are gradually adopting 
the strict rule" of endogamy within the subtribe. 

A Baiga must not take a wife from his own sept or from 4. Mar- 
another one worshipping the same number of gods. But he "^^^' 
may marry within his mother's sept, and in some localities 
the union of first cousins is permitted. Marriage is adult 
and the proposal comes from the parents of the bride, but in 
some places the girl is allowed to select a husband for herself 
A price varying from five to twenty rupees is usually paid to 
the bride's parents, or in lieu of this the prospective husband 
serves his father-in-law for a period of about two years, the 
marriage being celebrated after the first year if his conduct 
is satisfactory. Orphan boys who have no parents to arrange 



their marriages for them often take service for a wife. Three 
ceremonies should precede the marriage. The first, which 
may take place at any time after the birth of both children, 
consists merely in the arrangement for their betrothal. The 
second is only a ratification of the first, feasts being provided 
by the boy's parents on both occasions. While on the ap- 
proach of the children to marriageable age the final betrothal 
or barokhi is held. The boy's father gives a large feast at 
the house of the girl and the date of the wedding is fixed. 
To ascertain whether the union will be auspicious, two 
grains of rice are dropped into a pot of water, after various 
preliminary solemnities to mark the importance of the occa- 
sion. If the points of the grains meet almost immediately it 
is considered that the marriage will be highly auspicious. If 
they do not meet, a second pair of grains are dropped in, 
and should these meet it is believed that the couple will 
quarrel after an interval of married life and that the wife 
will return to her father's house. While if neither of the two 
first essays are successful and a third pair is required, the 
regrettable conclusion is arrived at that the wife will run 
away with another man after a very short stay with her hus- 
band. But it is not stated that the betrothal is on that 
account annulled. The wedding procession starts from the 
bridegroom's house ^ and is received by the bride's father out- 
side the village. It is considered essential that he should go 
out to meet the bride's party riding on an elephant. But 
as a real elephant is not within the means of a Baiga, two 
wooden bedsteads are lashed together and covered with 
blankets with a black cloth trunk in front, and this arrange- 
ment passes muster for an elephant. The elephant makes 
pretence to charge and trample down the marriage procession, 
until a rupee is paid, when the two parties embrace each 
other and proceed to the marriage-shed. Here the bride and 
bridegroom throw fried rice at each other until they are tired, 
and then walk three or seven times round the marriage-post 
with their clothes tied together. It is stated by Colonel 
Ward that the couple always retired to the forest to spend 

' Colonel Ward gives the bride's custom formerly existed it has been 
house as among the Gonds. But in- abandoned, 
(juiry in Mandla shows that if tliis 


the wedding night, but this custom has now been abandoned. 
The expenditure on a marriage varies between ten and fifty 
rupees, of which only about five rupees fall on the bride's 
l)arents. The remarriage of widows is permitted, and the 
widow is expected, though not obliged, to wed her late hus- 
band's younger brother, while if she takes another husband 
he must pay her brother-in-law the sum of five rupees. 
The ceremony consists merely of the presentation of bangles 
and new clothes by the suitor, in token of her acceptance of 
which the widow pours some tepid water stained with turmeric 
over his head. Divorce may be effected by the husband and 
wife breaking a straw in the presence of the caste panchdyat 
or committee. If the woman remains in the same village 
and does not marry again, the husband is responsible for her 
maintenance and that of her children, while a divorced woman 
may not remarry without the sanction of the pancJiayat so 
long as her husband is alive and remains single. Polygamy 
is permitted. 

A woman is unclean for a month after childbirth, though 5. Birth 
the Binjhwars restrict the period to eight days. At the 
ceremony of purification a feast is given and the child is 
named, often after the month or day of its birth, as 
Chaitu, Phagu, Saoni, and so on, from the months of 
Chait, Phagun and Shrawan. Children who appear to be 
physically defective are given names accordingly, such as 
Langra (lame), or Bahira (deaf). The dead are usually 
buried, the bodies of old persons being burnt as a special 
honour and to save them from the risk of being devoured by 
wild animals. Bodies are laid naked in the grave with the 
head pointing to the south. In the grave of a man of im- 
portance two or three rupees and some tobacco are placed. 
In some places a rupee is thrust into the mouth of the dying 
man, and if his body is burnt, the coin is recovered from the 
pyre by his daughter or sister, who wears it as an amulet. 
Over the grave a platform is made on which a stone is 
erected. This is called the Bhiri of the deceased and is 
worshipped by his relatives in time of trouble. If one of 
the family has to be buried elsewhere, the relatives go to the 
BhIri of the great dead and consign his spirit to be kept in 
their company. At a funeral the mourners take one black 

and funeral 


and one white fowl to a stream and kill and eat them there, 
setting aside a portion for the dead man. Mourning is 
observed for a period of from two to nine days, and during 
this time labour and even household work are stopped, food 
being supplied by the friends of the family. When a man 
is killed by a tiger the Baiga priest goes to the spot and 
there makes a small cone out of the blood-stained earth. 
This must represent a man, either the dead man or one of 
his living relatives. His companions having retired a few 
paces, the priest goes on his hands and knees and performs 
a series of antics which are supposed to represent the tiger 
in the act of destroying the man, at the same time seizing 
the lump of blood-stained earth in his teeth. One of the 
party then runs up and taps him on the back with a small 
stick. This perhaps means that the tiger is killed or other- 
wise rendered harmless ; and the Baiga immediately lets the 
mud cone fall into the hands of one of the party. It is then 
placed in an ant-hill and a pig is sacrificed over it. The 
next day a small chicken is taken to the place, and after a 
mark supposed to be the dead man's name is made on its 
head with red ochre, it is thrown back into the forest, the 
priest exclaiming, ' Take this and go home.' The ceremony 
is supposed to lay the dead man's spirit and at the same 
time to prevent the tiger from doing any further damage. 
The Baigas believe that the ghost of the victim, if not 
charmed to rest, resides on the head of the tiger and incites 
him to further deeds of blood, rendering him also secure from 
harm by his preternatural watchfulness.^ 

They also think that they can shut up the tiger's ddr or 
jaws, so that he cannot bite them, by driving a nail into a 
tree. The forest track from Kanha to Kisli in the Banjar 
forest reserve of Mandla was formerly a haunt of man- 
eating tigers, to whom a number of the wood-cutters and 
Baiga coolies, clearing the jungle paths, fell victims every 
year. In a large tree, at a dangerous point in the track, 
there could recently be seen a nail, driven into the trunk by 
a Baiga priest, at some height from the ground. It was 
said that this nail shut the mouth of a famous man-eating 
tiger of the locality and prevented him from killing any 

' VorayiWs Hig/iiands of Central India, p. 377. 

II 85 

more victims. As evidence of the truth (;f the story there 
were shown on the trunk the marks of the timer's chiws, 
where he had been jumpinfT up the tree in the effort to pull 
the nail out of the trunk and get his man-eating powers 

Although the IMnjhwar subcaste now profess Hinduism, 6. Rcii^'ion 
the religion of the Baigas is purely animistic. Their prin- 
cipal deity is Bura Deo/ who is supposed to reside in a sdj 
tree {Teriiiinalia touientosci) ; he is worshipped in the month 
of Jeth (May), when goats, fowls, cocoanuts, and the liquor 
of the new mahua crop are offered to him. Thakur Deo 
is the god of the village land and boundaries, and is propi- 
tiated with a white goat. The Baigas who plough the fields 
have a ceremony called Bidri, which is performed before the 
breaking of the rains. A handful of each kind of grain sown 
is given by each cultivator to the priest, who mixes the 
grains together and sows a little beneath the tree where 
Thakur Deo lives. After this he returns a little to each 
cultivator, and he sows it in the centre of the land on which 
crops are to be grown, while the priest keeps the remainder. 
This ceremony is believed to secure the success of the har- 
vest. Dulha Deo is the god who averts disease and accident, 
and the offering made to him should consist of a fowl or goat 
of reddish colour. Bhimsen is the deity of rainfall, and 
Dharti Mata or Mother Earth is considered to be the wife 
of Thakur Deo, and must also be propitiated for the success 
of the crops. The grain itself is worshipped at the thresh- 
ing floor by sprinkling water and liquor on to it. Certain 
Hindu deities are also worshipped by the Baigas, but not in 
orthodox fashion. Thus it would be sacrilege on the part 
of a Hindu to offer animal sacrifices to Narayan Deo, the 
sun-god, but the Baigas devote to him a special oblation of 
the most unclean animal, the pig. The animal to be sacri- 
ficed is allowed to wander loose for two or three years, and 
is then killed in a most cruel manner. It is laid across the 
threshold of a doorway on its back, and across its stomach 
is placed a stout plank of sdj-wooA. Half a dozen men sit 
or stand on the ends of this, and the fore and hind feet of 
the pig are pulled backwards and forwards alternately over 

' The Great God. The Gonds also worship Bura Deo, resident in a sdj tree.' 


the plank until it is crushed to death, while all the men sing 
or shout a sacrificial hymn. The head and feet are cut 
off and offered to the deity, and the body is eaten. The 
forests are believed to be haunted by spirits, and in certain 
localities pats or shrines are erected in their honour, and 
occasional offerings are made to them. The spirits of married 
persons are supposed to live in streams, while trees afford a 
shelter to the souls of the unmarried, who become bJiuts or 
malignant spirits after death. Nag Deo or the cobra is 
supposed to live in an ant-hill, and offerings are made to him 
there. Demoniacal possession is an article of faith, and a 
popular remedy is to burn human hair mixed with chillies 
and pig's dung near the person possessed, as the horrible 
smell thus produced will drive away the spirit. Many and 
weird, Mr. Low writes, are the simples which the Baiga's 
travelling scrip contains. Among these a dried bat has the 
chief place ; this the Baiga says he uses to charm his nets 
with, that the prey may catch in them as the bat's claws 
catch in w^hatever it touches. As an instance of the Baiga's 
pantheism it may be mentioned that on one occasion when a 
train of the new Satpura railway ^ had pulled up at a way- 
side forest station, a Baiga was found offering a sacrifice 
to the engine. Like other superstitious people they are 
great believers in omens. A single crow bathing in a stream 
is a sign of death. A cock which crows in the night should 
be instantly killed and thrown into the darkness, a custom 
which some would be glad to see introduced into much more 
civilised centres. The woodpecker and owl are birds of bad 
omen. The Baigas do not appear to have anj- idea of a fresh 
birth, and one of their marriage songs says, " O girl, take 
your pleasure in going round the marriage-post once and for 
all, for there is no second birth." The Baigas are generally 
the priests of the Gonds, probably because being earlier resi- 
dents of the country they are considered to have a more 
intimate acquaintance with the local deities. They have 
a wide knowledge of the medicinal properties of jungle 
roots and herbs, and are often successful in effecting cures 
when the regular native doctors have failed. Their village 
priests have consequently a considerable reputation as skilled 

' Opened in 1905. 


sorcerers and persons conversant with the unseen world. A 
case is known of a Brahman transferred to a jungle station, 
who immediately after his arrival called in a Baiga priest 
and asked what forest gods he should worship, and what 
other steps he should take to keep well and escape calamity. 
Colonel Ward states that in his time Baigas were commonly 
called in to give aid when a town or village was attacked by 
cholera, and further that he had seen the greatest benefit to 
result from their visit. For the people had so much con- 
fidence in their powers and ceremonies that they lost half 
their fright at once, and were consequently not so much pre- 
disposed to an attack of the disease. On such an occasion 
the Baiga priest goes round the village and pulls out a little 
straw from each house-roof, afterwards burning the whole 
before the shrine of Khermata, the goddess of the village, to 
whom he also offers a chicken for each homestead. If this 
remedy fails goats are substituted for chickens, and lastly, as 
a forlorn hope, pigs are tried, and, as a rule, do not fail, 
because by this time the disease may be expected to have 
worked itself out. It is suggested that the chicken represents 
a human victim from each house, while the straw stands for 
the house itself, and the offering has the common idea of a 
substituted victim. 

In stature the Baigas are a little taller than most other 7. Appear- 
tribes, and though they have a tendency to the flat nose of ^^^^^^^^ 
the Gonds, their foreheads and the general shape of their life. 
heads are of a better mould. Colonel Ward states that the 
members of the tribe inhabiting the Maikal range in Mandla 
are a much finer race than those living nearer the open 
country.^ Their figures are very nearly perfect, says Colonel 
Bloomfield,^ and their wiry limbs, unburdened by superfluous 
flesh, will carry them over very great distances and over 
places inaccessible to most human beings, while their com- 
pact bodies need no other nutriment than the scanty fare 
afforded by their native forests. They are born hunters, 
hardy and active in the chase, and exceedingly bold and 
courageous. In character they are naturally simple, honest 
and truthful, and when their fear of a stranger has been 

1 Mandla Settlement Jieport {l?>6S-6()), Y>- 153- 
2 Notes on the Baigas, p. 4. 


dissipated are most companionable folk. A small hut, 6 or 
7 feet high at the ridge, made of split bamboos and mud, 
with a neat veranda in front thatched with leaves and grass, 
forms the Baiga's residence, and if it is burnt down, or 
abandoned on a visitation of epidemic disease, he can build 
another in the space of a day, A rough earthen vessel to 
hold water, leaves for plates, gourds for drinking-vessels, a 
piece of matting to sleep on, and a small axe, a sickle and a 
spear, exhaust the inventory of the Baiga's furniture, and the 
money value of the whole would not exceed a rupee.^ The 
Baigas never live in a village with other castes, but have 
their huts some distance away from the village in the jungle. 
Unlike the other tribes also, the Baiga prefers his house to 
stand alone and at some little distance from those of his 
fellow-tribesmen. While nominally belonging to the village 
near which they dwell, so separate and distinct are they 
from the rest of people that in the famine of 1897 cases 
were found of starving Baiga hamlets only a few hundred 
yards away from the village proper in which ample relief 
was being given. On being questioned as to why they had 
not caused the Baigas to be helped, the other villagers said, 
' We did not remember them ' ; and when the Baigas were 
asked why they did not apply for relief, they said, ' We did 
not think it was meant for Baigas.' 

Their dress is of the most simple description, a small 
strip of rag between the legs and another wisp for a head- 
covering sufficing for the men, though the women are decently 
covered from their shoulders to half-way between the thighs 
and knees. A Baiga may be known by his scanty clothing 
and tangled hair, and his wife by the way in which her single 
garment is arranged so as to provide a safe sitting- place in 
it for her child. Baiga women have been seen at work in 
the field transplanting rice with babies comfortably seated in 
their cloth, one sometimes supported on either hip with their 
arms and legs out, while the mother was stooping low, hour 
after hour, handling the rice plants. A girl is tattooed on 
the forehead at the age of five, and over her whole body 
before she is married, both for the sake of ornament and 
because the practice is considered beneficial to the health. 

1 Mr. T.ampard's monograph. 

11 /)h'j':ss AND i-oon 89 

The Baif]^as arc usually without blankets ox warm clothint^, 
and in the cold season they sleep round a wood fire kept 
burning or smouldering all night, stray sparks from which 
may alight on their tough skins without being felt. Mr. 
Lampard relates that on one occasion a number of Baiga 
men were supplied by the Mission under his charge with large 
new cloths to cover their bodies with and make them pre- 
sentable on appearance in church. On the second Sunday, 
however, they came with their cloths burnt full of small 
holes ; and they explained that the damage had been done 
at night while they were sleeping round the fire. 

A Baiga, Mr. Lampard continues, is speedily discerned 
in a forest village bazar, and is the most interesting object in 
it. His almost nude figure, wild, tangled hair innocent of 
such inventions as brush or comb, lithe wiry limbs and jungly 
and uncivilised appearance, mark him out at once. He 
generally brings a few mats or baskets which he has made, 
or fruits, roots, honey, horns of animals, or other jungle 
products which he has collected, for sale, and with the sum 
obtained (a few pice or annas at the most) he proceeds to 
make his weekly purchases, changing his pice into cowrie 
shells, of which he receives eighty for each one. He buys 
tobacco, salt, chillies and other sundries, besides as much of 
kodon, kutki, or perhaps rice, as he can afford, always leaving 
a trifle to be expended at the liquor shop before departing for 
home. The various purchases are tied up in the corners of 
the bit of rag twisted round his head. Unlike pieces of cloth 
known to civilisation, which usually have four corners, the 
l^aiga's headgear appears to be nothing but corners, and when 
the shopping is done the strip of rag may have a dozen 
minute bundles tied up in it. 

In Baihar of Balaghat buying and selling are conducted 
on perhaps the most minute scale known, and if a Baiga has 
one or two pice ^ to lay out he will spend no inconsiderable 
time over it. Grain is sold in small measures holding about 
four ounces called baraiyas, but each of these has a layer of 
mud at the bottom of varying degrees of thickness, so as to 
reduce its capacity. Before a purchase can be made it must 
be settled by whose baraiya the grain is to be measured, and 

^ Farthings. 


the seller and purchaser each refuse the other's as being 
unfair to himself, until at length after discussion some neutral 
person's baraiya is selected as a compromise. Their food 
consists largely of forest fruits and roots with a scanty 
allowance of rice or the light millets, and they can go 
without nourishment for periods which appear extraordinary 
to civilised man. They eat the flesh of almost all animals, 
though the more civilised abjure beef and monkeys. They 
will take food from a Gond but not from a Brahman. The 
Baiga dearly loves the common country liquor made from 
the mahua flower, and this is consumed as largely as funds 
will permit of at weddings, funerals and other social gatherings, 
and also if obtainable at other times. They have a tribal 
panchayat or committee which imposes penalties for social 
offences, one punishment being the abstention from meat for 
a fixed period. A girl going wrong with a man of the caste 
is punished by a fine, but cases of unchastity among unmarried 
Baiga girls are rare. xA.mong their pastimes dancing is one 
of the chief, and in their favourite dance, known as karma., 
the men and women form long lines opposite to each other 
with the musicians between them. One of the instruments, 
a drum called nidndar, gives out a deep bass note which can 
be heard for miles. The two lines advance and retire, every- 
body singing at the same time, and when the dancers get 
fully into the time and swing, the pace increases, the drums 
beat furiously, the voices of the singers rise higher and higher, 
and by the light of the bonfires which are kept burning the 
whole scene is wild in the extreme. 

The Baigas formerly practised only shifting cultivation, 
burning down patches of jungle and sowing seed on the 
ground fertilised by the ashes after the breaking of the rains. 
Now that this method has been prohibited in Government 
forest, attempts have been made to train them to regular 
cultivation, but with indifferent success in Balaghat. An 
idea of the difficulties to be encountered may be obtained 
from the fact that in some villages the Baiga cultivators, if 
left unwatched, would dig up the grain which they had 
themselves sown as seed in their fields and eat it ; while 
the plough -cattle which were given to them invariably 
developed diseases in spite of all precautions, as a result of 


which they fcniiul their way sooner or later to the l')ai^a'.s 
cookinL;-pot. lUit they arc f;rachially ucloptiiiL; settled habits, 
arul in MancHa, where a considerable block of forest was 
allotted to them in which they might continnc their destruc- 
tive practice of shifting sowings, it is reported that the 
majority have now become regular cultivators. One explana- 
tion of their refusal to till the ground is that they consider 
it a sin to lacerate the breast of their mother earth with a 
ploughshare. They also say that God made the jungle to 
produce everything necessary for the sustenance of men and 
made the Raigas kings of the forest, giving them wisdom to 
discover the things provided for them. To Gonds and others 
who had not this knowledge, the inferior occupation of tilling 
the land was left. The men never become farmservants, but 
during the cultivating season they work for hire at uprooting 
the rice seedlings for transplantation ; they do no other 
agricultural labour for others. Women do the actual trans- 
plantation of rice and work as harvesters. The men make 
bamboo mats and baskets, which they sell in the village 
weekly markets. They also collect and sell honey and other 
forest products, and are most expert at all work that can be 
done with an axe, making excellent woodcutters. But they 
show no aptitude in acquiring the use of any other implement, 
and dislike steady continuous labour, preferring to do a few 
days' work and then rest in their homes for a like period 
before beginning again. Their skill and dexterity in the use 
of the axe in hunting is extraordinary. Small deer, hares 
and peacocks are often knocked over by throwing it at them, 
and panthers and other large animals are occasionally killed 
with a single blow. If one of two Baigas is carried off by a 
tiger, the survivor will almost always make a determined and 
often successful attempt to rescue him with nothing more 
formidable than an axe or a stick. They are expert trackers, 
and are also clever at setting traps and snares, while, like 
Korkus, they catch fish by damming streams in the hot 
weather and throwing into the pool thus formed some leaf 
or root which stupefies them. Even in a famine year, Mr. 
Low says, a Baiga can collect a large basketful of roots in a 
single day ; and if the bamboo seeds he is amply provided 
for. Nowadays Baiga cultivators may occasionally be met 


with who have taken to regular cultivation and become quite 

prosperous, owning a number of cattle. 
10. Lan- As already stated, the Baigas have completely fongotten 

guage. their own language, and in the Satpura hills they speak a 

broken form of Hindi, though they have a certain number 

of words and expressions peculiar to the caste. 



1. Defitiition of name and sta- 


2 . The four SanipradCiyas or main 


3. The Rdmdnujis. 

4. The RdmCinandis. 

5. The Ninumandis. 

6. The MddJiavachdryas. 

7. The Vallabhachdryas. 

1 1. 



Minor sects. 

The seven A k haras. 

The Dwdras. 

Initiation, appearance and 

Recruitment of the order and 

its character. 
Social position and customs. 
Bairdgi motuistcries. 

I 5. Married Bairagis. 

Bairagfi,^ Sadhu. — The general term for members of i- Defini- 
the Vishnuite religious orders, who formerly as a rule lived „ai'nrand 
by mendicancy. The Bairagis have now, however, become statistics. 
a caste. In 191 1 they numbered 38,000 persons in the 
Provinces, being distributed over all Districts and States. 
The name Bairagi is supposed to come from the Sanskrit 
Vairagya and to signify one who is free from human passions. 
Bairaga is also the term for the crutched stick which such 
mendicants frequently carry about with them and lean upon, 
either sitting or standing, and which in case of need would 
serve them as a weapon. Platts considers '' that the name 
of the order comes from the Sanskrit abstract term, and the 
crutch therefore apparently obtained its name from being 
used by members of the order. Properly, a religious mendi- 
cant of any Vishnuite sect should be called a Bairagi. But 
the term is not generally applied to the more distinctive 
sects as the Kablrpanthi, Swami-Narayan, Satnami and 
others, some of whfch are almost separated from Hinduism, 

' This article contains material from chSrya's Hindu Castes and Sects 
Sir E. Maclagan's Punjab Census Re- (Thacker, Spink & Co., Calcutta). 
port (1891), and Dr. J. N. Bhatta- - Dictionary, s.v. 




nor to the Sikh religious orders, nor the Chaitanya sect of 
Bengal. A proper Bairagi is one whose principal deity is 
either Vishnu or either of his great incarnations, Rama and 

It is generally held that there are four Sampradayas or 
main sects of Bairagis. These are — 

{a) The Ramanujis, the followers of the first prominent 
Vishnuite reformer Ramanuj in southern India, with whom 
are classed the Ramanandis or adherents of his great disciple 
Ramanand in northern India. Both these are also called 
Sri Vaishnava, that is, the principal or original Vaishnava 

(Jj) The Nimanandi, Nimat or Nimbaditya sect, followers 
of a saint called Nimanand. 

{c) The Vishnu- Swami or Vallabhacharya sect, wor- 
shippers of Krishna and Radha. 

[d) The Madhavacharya sect of southern India. 

It will be desirable to give a few particulars of each 
of these, mainly taken from Wilson's Hindu Sects and Dr. 
Bhattacharya's Hindu Castes and Sects. 

Ramanuj was the first great Vishnuite prophet, and lived 
in southern India in the eleventh or twelfth century on an 
island in the Kaveri river near Trichinopoly. He preached 
the worship of a supreme spirit, Vishnu and his consort 
Lakshmi, and taught that men also had souls or spirits, 
and that matter was lifeless. He was a strong opponent 
of the cult of Siva, then predominant in southern India, and 
of phallic worship. He, however, admitted only the higher 
castes into his order, and cannot therefore be considered as 
the founder of the liberalising principle of Vishnuism. The 
superiors of the Ramanuja sect are called Acharya, and rank 
highest among the priests of the Vishnuite orders. The 
most striking feature in the practice of the Ramanujis is the 
separate preparation and scrupulous privacy of their meals. 
They must not eat in cotton garments, but must bathe, and 
then put on wool or silk. The teachers allow their select 
pupils to assist them, but in general all the Ramanujis cook 
for themselves, and should the meal during this process, or 
while they are eating, attract even the look of a stranger, the 
operation is instantly stopped and the viands buried in the 


ground. The Rumruuijis address each other with the sakita- 
tion Dasoham, or ' I am your slave/ accompanied with the 
I'ranam or slight inclination of the head and the applica- 
tion of joined hands to the forehead. To the Acharyas or 
superiors the other members of the sect perform the Ashtanga 
or prostration of the body with eight parts touching the 
ground. The tilak or sect-mark of the Ramanujis consists 
of two perpendicular white lines from the roots of the hair 
to the top of the eyebrows, with a connecting white line at 
the base, and a third central line either of red or yellow. 
The Ramanujis do not recognise the worship of Radha, 
the consort of Krishna. The mendicant orders of the 
Satanis and Dasaris of southern India are branches of this 

Ramanand, the great prophet of Vishnuism in northern 4. The 
India, and the real founder of the liberal doctrines of the ^^^'"!'' 


cult, lived at Benares at the end of the fourteenth century, 
and is supposed to have been a follower of Ramanuj. He 
introduced, however, a great extension of his predecessor's 
gospel in making his sect, nominally at least, open to all 
castes. He thus initiated the struggle against the social 
tyranny and exclusiveness of the caste system, which was 
carried to greater lengths by his disciples and successors, 
Kablr, Nanak, Dadu, Rai Das and others. These afterwards 
proclaimed the worship of one unseen god who could not be 
represented by idols, and the religious equality of all men, 
their tenets no doubt being considerably influenced by their 
observance of Islam, which had now become a principal 
religion of India. Ramanand himself did not go so far, and 
remained a good Hindu, inculcating the special worship of 
Rama and his consort Sita. The Ramanandis consider the 
Ramayana as their most sacred book, and make pilgrimages 
to Ajodhia and Ramnath.^ Their sect-mark consists of two 
white lines down the forehead with a red one between, but 
they are continued on to the nose, ending in a loop, instead 
of terminating at the line of the eyebrows, like that of the 
Ramanujis. The Ramanandis say that the mark on the 
nose represents the Singasun or lion's throne, while the two 
white lines up the forehead are Rama and Lakhshman, and 

* Sir E. Maclagan's Punjab Cciistts Report (1S91), p. 122. 



5- The 

6. The 


the centre red one is Sita. Some of their devotees wear 
ochre-coloured clothes like the Sivite mendicants. 

The second of the four orders is that of the Nimanandis, 
called after a saint Nimanand. He lived near Mathura 
Brindaban, and on one occasion was engaged in religious 
controversy with a Jain ascetic till sunset. He then offered 
his visitor some refreshment, but the Jain could not eat 
anything after sunset, so Nimanand stopped the sun from 
setting, and ordered him to wait above a nlm tree till the 
meal was cooked and eaten under the tree, and this 
direction the sun duly obeyed. Hence Nimanand, whose 
original name was Bhaskaracharya, was called by his new 
name after the tree, and was afterwards held to have been 
an incarnation of Vishnu or the Sun. 

The doctrines of the sect, Mr. Growse states,-^ are of 
a very enlightened character. Thus their tenet of salvation 
by faith is thought by many scholars to have been directly 
derived from the Gospels ; while another article in their 
creed is the continuance of conscious individual existence 
in a future world, when the highest reward of the good 
will not be extinction, but the enjoyment of the visible 
presence of the divinity whom they have served while on 
earth. The Nimanandis worship Krishna, and were the 
first sect, Dr. Bhattacharya states," to associate with him 
as a divine consort Radha, the chief partner of his 
illicit loves. 

Their headquarters arc at Muttra, and their chief festival 
is the Janam-Ashtami^ or Krishna's birthday. Their sect- 
mark consists of two white lines down the forehead with 
a bl,ack patch in the centre, which is called Shiambindini. 
Shiam means black, and is a name of Krishna. They also 
sometimes have a circular line across the nose, which 
represents the moon. 

The third great order is that of the Madhavas, named 
after a saint called Madhavachfirya in southern India. He 
attempted to reconcile the warring Sivites and Vishnuites 
by combining the worship of Krisiina with that of Siva 

' Memoir of Matlinra. 

^ Hi)idn Ca<:les and Sects, p. 449. 

^ I>it. the birth on the eitjhth day, 
as Krishna was born on the 8th of 
(iaik r.iiadon. 


and Pfirvati. The doctrine of the sect is that the human 
soul is different from the divine soul, and its members arc 
therefore called dualists. They admit a distinction between 
the divine soul and the universe, and between the human 
soul and the material world. They deny also the possibility 
of Nirvana or the absorption and extinction of the human 
soul in the divine essence. They destroy their thread at 
initiation, and also wear red clothes like the Sivite devotees, 
and like them also they carry a staff and water-pot. The 
tilak of the Madhavacharyas is said to consist of two white 
lines down the forehead and continued on to the nose 
where they meet, with a black vertical line between them. 

The fourth main order is the Vishnu-Swami, which is 7- The 
much better known as the Vallabhacharya sect, called after chlrvas'^ 
its founder Vallabha, who was born in A.D. 1479. The 
god Krishna appeared to him and ordered him to marry 
and set up a shrine to the god at Gokul near Mathura 
(Muttra). The sect worship Krishna in his character of 
Bala Gopala or the cowherd boy. Their temples are 
numerous all over India, and especially at Mathura and 
Brindaban, where Krishna was brought up as a cowherd. 
The temples at Benares, Jagannath and Dwarka are rich 
and important, but the most celebrated shrine is at Sri 
Nathadwara in Mewar. The image is said to have trans- 
ported itself thither from Mathura, when Aurangzeb ordered 
its temple at Mathura to be destroyed. Krishna is here 
represented as a little boy in the act of supporting the 
mountain Govardhan on his finger to shelter the people 
from the storms of rain sent by Indra. The image is 
splendidly dressed and richly decorated with ornaments to 
the value of several thousand pounds. The images of 
Krishna in the temples are commonly known as Thakurji, 
and are either of stone or brass. At all Vallabhacharya 
temples there are eight daily services : the Mangala or 
morning levee, a little after sunrise, when the god is taken 
from his couch and bathed ; the Sringara, when he is 
attired in his jewels and seated on his throne ; the Gwala, 
when he is supposed to be starting to graze his cattle in 
the woods of Braj ; the Raj Bhog or midday meal, which, 
after presentation, is consumed by the priests and votaries 


98 BAIRAGI part 

who have assisted at the ceremonies ; the Uttapan, about 
three o'clock, when the god awakes from his siesta ; the 
Bhog or evening collation ; the Sandhiya or disrobing at 
sunset ; and the Sayan or retiring to rest. The ritual is 
performed by the priests and the lay worshipper is only 
a spectator, who shows his reverence by the same forms 
as he would to a human superior/ 

The priests of the sect are called Gokalastha Gosain or 
Maharaja. They are considered to be incarnations of the 
god, and divine honours are paid to them. They always 
marry, and avow that union with the god is best obtained 
by indulgence in all bodily enjoyments. This doctrine 
has led to great licentiousness in some groups of the sect, 
especially on the part of the priests or Maharajas. Women 
were taught to believe that the service of and contact with 
the priest were the most real form of worshipping the god, 
and that intercourse with him was equivalent to being 
united with the god. Dr. Bhattacharya quotes ^ the follow- 
ing tariff for the privilege of obtaining different degrees 
of contact with the body of the Maharaja or priest : 

For homage by sight . . . Rs. 5. 

For homage by touch . . . Rs. 20. 

For the honour of washing the Maha- 
raja's foot .... Rs. 35. 

For swinging him .... Rs. 40. 

For rubbing sweet unguents on his 

body ..... Rs. 42. 

For being allowed to sit with him 

on the same couch . . . Rs. 60. 

For the privilege of dancing with 

him ..... Rs. 100 to 200. 

For drinking the water in which he 

has bathed .... Rs. 17. 

For being closeted with him in the 

same room .... Rs, 50 to 500. 

The public disapprobation caused by these practices 

^ Mr. Crookc's 7'rihes and Castes, art. Vallabhacharya. 
'■^ Hindu Castes and Sects, p. 457. 

Beijtrcse. t\..>., Verb\ 



and their bad effect on the morality of women culminated 
in the great Maharfij libel suit in the l^ombay High Court 
in 1862. Since then the objectionable features of the cult 
have to a large extent disappeared, while it has produced 
some priests of exceptional liberality and enlightenment. 
The tilak of the Vallabhacharyas is said to consist of two 
white lines down the forehead, forming a half-circle at its 
base and a white dot between them. They will not admit 
the lower castes into the order, but only those from whom 
a Brahman can take water. 

Besides the main sects as described above, Vaishnavism 8. Minor 
has produced many minor sects, consisting of the followers ^*^'^'^" 
of some saint of special fame, and mendicants belonging 
to these are included in the body of Bairagis. One or two 
legends concerning such saints may be given. A common 
order is that of the Bendiwale, or those who wear a dot. 
Their founder began putting a red dot on his forehead 
between the two white lines in place of the long red line 
of the Ramanandis. His associates asked him why he had 
dared to alter his tilak or sect-mark. He said that the 
goddess Janki had given him the dot, and as a test he went 
and bathed in the Sarju river, and rubbed his forehead with 
water, and all the sect-mark was rubbed out except the dot. 
So the others recognised the special intervention of the 
goddess, and he founded a sect. Another sect is called 
the Chaturbhuji or four-armed, Chaturbhuj being an epithet 
of Vishnu. He was taking part in a feast when his loin- 
cloth came undone behind, and the others said to him that 
as this had happened, he had become impure at the feast. 
He replied, ' Let him to whom the dhoti belongs tie it up,' 
and immediately four arms sprang from his body, and while 
two continued to take food, the other two tied up his loin- 
cloth behind. Thus it was recognised that the Chaturbhuji 
Vishnu had appeared in him, and he was venerated. 

Among the Bairagis, besides the four Sampradayas or 9. The 
main orders, there are seven Akharas. These are military ^^^"^^^g 
divisions or schools for training, and were instituted when 
the Bairagis had to fight with the Gosains, Any member 
of one of the four Sampradayas can belong to any one of 
the seven Akharas, and a man can change his Akhara as 

lOo B A TRAGI part 

often as he likes, but not his Sampradaya. The Akharas, 
with the exception of the Lasgaris, who change the red 
centre line of the Ramanandis into a white line, have no 
special sect-marks. They are distinguished by their flags 
or standards, which are elaborately decorated with gold 
thread embroidered on silk or sometimes with jewels, and 
cost two or three hundred rupees to prepare. These 
standards were carried by the Naga or naked members of 
the Akhara, who went in front and fought. Once in twelve 
years a great meeting of all the seven Akharas is held at 
Allahabad, Nasik, Ujjain or Hardwar, where they bathe 
and wash the image of the god in the water of the holy 
rivers. The quarrels between the Bairagis and Gosains 
usually occurred at the sacred rivers, and the point of con- 
tention was which sect should bathe first. The following 
is a list of the seven Akharas : Digambari, Khaki, Munjia, 
Kathia, Nirmohi, Nirbani or Niranjani and Lasgari. 

The name of the Digamber or Meghdamber signifies 
sky-clad or cloud-clad, that is naked. They do penance 
in the rainy season by sitting naked in the rain for two or 
three hours a day with an earthen pot on the head and the 
hands inserted in two others so that they cannot rub the 
skin. In the dry season they wear only a little cloth 
round the waist and ashes over the rest of the body. The 
ashes are produced from burnt cowdung picked up off 
the ground, and not mixed with straw like that which is 
prepared for fuel. 

The Khaki Bairagis also rub ashes on the body. During 
the four hot months they make five fires in a circle, and 
kneel between them with the head and legs and arms 
stretched towards the fires. The fires are kindled at noon 
with little heaps of cowdung cakes, and the penitent stays 
between them till they go out. They also have a block of 
wood with a hole through it, into which they insert the 
organ of generation and suspend it by chains in front and 
behind. They rub ashes on the body, from which they 
probably get their name of Khaki or dust-colour. 

The Munjia Akhara have a belt made of inunj grass 
round the \vaist, and a little apron also of grass, which is 
hsung from -it, and passed through the legs. Formerly they 

:i:i 'b 1 


wore no other clothes, but now they have a cloth. They 
also do penance between the fires. 

The Kathias have a waist-belt of bamboo fibre, to which 
is suspended the wooden block for the purpose already 
described. Their name signifies wooden, and is probably 
given to them on account of this custom. 

The Nirmohi carry a lota or brass vessel and a little 
cup, in which they receive alms. 

The Nirbani wear only a piece of string or rope round 
the waist, to which is attached a small strip o'^ o^h passing 
through the legs. When begging, they carry a kawar or 
banghy, holding two baskets covered with cloth, and into 
this they put all their alms. They never remove the cloth, 
but plunge their hands into the basket at random when they 
want something to eat. They call the basket Kamdhenu, 
the name of the cow which gave inexhaustible wealth. 
These Bairagis commonly marry and accumulate property. 

The Lasgari are soldiers, as the name denotes.^ They 
wear three straight lines of sandalwood up the forehead. 
It is said that on one occasion the Bairagis were suddenly 
attacked by the Gosains when they had only made the 
white lines of the sect-mark, and they fought as they were. 
In consequence of this, they have ever since worn three 
white lines and no red one. 

Others say that the Lasgari are a branch of the Digambari 
Akhara, and that the Munjia and Kathia are branches of the 
Khaki Akhara. They give three other Akharas — Niralankhi, 
Mahanirbani and Santokhi — about which nothing is known. 

Besides the Akharas, the Bairagis are said to have fifty- ^o. The 
two Dwaras or doors, and every man must be a member i^w^ras. 
of a Dwara as well as of a Sampradaya and Akhara. The 
Dwaras seem to have no special purpose, but in the case 
of Bairagis who marry, they now serve as exogamous 
sections, so that members of the same Dwara do not inter- 

A candidate for initiation has his head shaved, is invested n. initia- 
with a necklace of beads of the tulsi or basil, and is taught a ''°"' 

' ^ appearance 

mantra or text relating to Vishnu by his preceptor. The and 
initiation text of the Ramanandis is said to be Ovi Rdniaya '="^^°"^^- 

1 From laskkar, an army. 



Namali, or 0)n, Salutation to Rama. Om is a very sacred 
syllable, having much magical power. Thereafter the novice 
must journey to Dwarka in Gujarat and have his body 
branded with hot iron or copper in the shape of Vishnu's 
four implements : the cJiakra or discus, the guda or club, the 
shank or conch-shell and the padina or lotus. Sometimes 
these are not branded but are made daily on the arms with 
clay. The sect-mark should be made with Gopichandan or 
the milkmaid's sandalwood. This is supposed to be clay 
taken from a tank at Dwarka, in which the Gopis or milk- 
maids who had been Krishna's companions drowned them- 
selves when they heard of his death. But as this can seldom 
be obtained any suitable whitish clay is used instead. The 
Bairagis commonly let their hair grow long, after being 
shaved at initiation, to imitate the old forest ascetics. If a 
man makes a pilgrimage on foot to some famous shrine he 
may have his head shaved there and make an offering of his 
hair. Others keep their hair long and shave it only at the 
death of their guru or preceptor. They usually wear white 
clothes, and if a man has a cloth on the upper part of the 
body it should be folded over the shoulders and knotted at 
the neck. He also has a cliimta or small pair of tongs, and, 
if he can obtain it, the skin of an Indian antelope, on which 
he will sit while taking his food. The skin of this animal is 
held to be sacred. Every Bairagi before he takes his food 
should dip a sprig of tulsi or basil into it to sanctify it, and 
if he cannot get this he uses his necklace of i'///jz'-beads for 
the purpose instead. The caste abstain from flesh and 
liquor, but are addicted to the intoxicating drugs, gdnja and 
bhang or preparations of Indian hemp. A Hindu on meeting 
a Bairagi will greet him with the phrase ' Jai Sitaram,' and the 
Bairagi will answer, ' Sitaram.' This word is a conjunction of 
the names of Rama and his consort Sita. When a Bairagi 
receives alms he will present to the giver a flower and a 
sprig of tidsi. 

A man belonging to any caste except the impure ones 
can be initiated as a Bairagi, and the order is to a 
large extent recruited from the lower castes. Theoretic- 
ally all members of the order should eat together ; but the 
Brahmans and other high castes belonging to it now eat only 


-. c 




-5 w 
^ a. 

= Q 

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5 < 

.E S 






— ^ X 


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— ^ c 










































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in) iLl 




S oc 












II SOCIAL rosrriON and customs 103 

among themselves, except on the occasion of a Ghosti or 
special religious assembly, when all eat in common. As a 
matter of fact the order is a very mixed assortment of 
people. Many persons who lost their caste in the famine 
of 1 897 from eating in Government poor-houses, joined 
the order and obtained a respectable position. Debtors who 
have become hopelessly involved sometimes find in it a 
means of escape from their creditors. Women of bad 
character, who have been expelled from their caste, are also 
frequently enrolled as female members, and in monasteries 
live openly with the men. The caste is also responsible for 
a good deal of crime. Not only is the disguise a very con- 
venient one for thieves and robbers to assume on their 
travels, but many regular members of the order are 
criminally disposed. Nevertheless large numbers of Bairagis 
are men who have given up their caste and families from 
a genuine impulse of self-sacrifice, and the desire to lead a 
religious life. 

On account of their sanctity the Bairagis have a fairly 13. Social 
good social position, and respectable Hindu castes will and"°" 
accept cooked food from them. Brahmans usually, but not customs, 
always, take water. They act as gurus or spiritual guides 
to the laymen of all castes who can become Bairagis. They 
give the Ram and Gopal Mantras, or the texts of Rama and 
Krishna, to their disciples of the three twice-born castes, and 
the Sheo Mantra or Siva's text to other castes. The last is 
considered to be of smaller religious efficacy than the others, 
and is given to the lower castes and members of the higher 
ones who do not lead a particularly virtuous life. They invest 
boys with the sacred thread, and make the sect-mark on 
their foreheads. When they go and visit their disciples they 
receive presents, but do not ask them to confess their sins 
nor impose penalties. 

If a mendicant Bairagi keeps a woman it is stated that 
he is expelled from the community, but this rule does not 
seem to be enforced in practice. If he is detected in a 
casual act of sexual intercourse a fine should be imposed, 
such as feeding two or three hundred Bairagis. The 
property of an unmarried Bairagi descends to a selected 
chela or disciple. The bodies of the dead are usually burnt, 



but those of saints specially famous for their austerities or 
piety are buried, and salt is put round the body to preserve 
it. Such men are known as Bhakta. 

The Bairagis ^ have numerous maths or monasteries, 
scattered over the country and usually attached to temples. 
The Math comprises a set of huts or chambers for the 
Mahant or superior and his permanent pupils ; a temple 
and often the Samadhi or tomb of the founder, or of some 
eminent Mahant ; and a Dharmsala or charitable hostel for 
the accommodation of wandering members of the order, and 
of other travellers who are constantly visiting the temple. 
Ingress and egress are free to all, and, indeed, a restraint on 
personal liberty seems never to have entered into the con- 
ception of any Hindu religious legislator. There are, as a 
rule, a small number of resident cJielas or disciples who are 
scholars and attendants on the superiors, and also out- 
members who travel over the country and return to the 
monastery as a headquarters. The monastery has commonly 
some small endowment in land, and the resident cJielas go 
out and beg for alms for their common support. If the 
Mahant is married the headship may descend in his family ; 
but when he is unmarried his successor is one of his disciples, 
who is commonly chosen by election at a meeting of the 
Mahants of neighbouring monasteries. Formerly the Hindu 
governor of the district would preside at such an election, 
but it is now, of course, left entirely to the Bairagis them- 

Large numbers of Bairagis now marry and have children, 
and have formed an ordinary caste. The married Bairagis 
are held to be inferior to the celibate mendicants, and 
will take food from them, but the mendicants will not 
permit the married Bairagis to eat with them in the cJiauka 
or place purified for the taking of food. The customs of 
the married Bairagis resemble those of ordinary Hindu 
castes such as the Kurmis. They permit divorce and the 
remarriage of widows, and burn the dead. Those who have 
taken to cultivation do not, as a rule, plough with their own 
hands. Many Bairagis have acquired property and become 

^ This paragraph is taken from Professor Wilson's Account of Hindu Sects in 
the Asiatic Researches. 



landholders, and others have extensive moneylendin^ trans- 
actions. Two such men who had acquired possession of 
extensive tracts of zamlndari land in Chhattlsgarh, in satis- 
faction of loans made to the Gond zamlndfirs, and had been 
given the zamlndari status by the Marathas, were subse- 
quently made Feudatory Chiefs of the Nandgaon and 
Chhuikhadan States. These chiefs now marry and the 
States descend in their families by primogeniture in the 
ordinary manner. As a rule, the Bairagi landowners and 
moneylenders are not found to be particularly good specimens 
of their class. 

Balahi.^ — A low functional caste of weavers and village i. General 
watchmen found in the Nimar and Hoshangabad Districts 
and in Central India. They numbered 52,000 persons in 
the Central Provinces in 191 1, being practically confined to 
the two Districts already mentioned. The name is a cor- 
ruption of the Hindi bnldhi, one who calls, or a messenger. 
The Balahis seem to be an occupational group, probably an 
offshoot of the large Kori caste of weavers, one of whose 
subdivisions is shown as Balahi in the United Provinces. 
In the Central Provinces they have received accretions from 
the spinner caste of Katias, themselves probably a branch of 
the Koris, and from the Mahars, the great menial caste of 
Bombay. In Hoshangabad they are known alternatively as 
Mahar, while in Burhanpur they are called Bunkar or 
weaver by outsiders. The following story which they tell 
about themselves also indicates their mixed origin. They 
say that their ancestors came to Nimar as part of the army 
of Raja Man of Jodhpur, who invaded the country when it 
was under Muhammadan rule. He was defeated, and his 
soldiers were captured and ordered to be killed." One of 
the Balahis among them won the favour of the Muham- 
madan general and asked for his own freedom and that of 
the other Balahis from among the prisoners. The Musalman 

^ This article is based on papers by reminiscence of the historical fact that 

Mr. Habib Ullah, Pleader, Burhanpur, a Malvva army was misled by a Gond 

Mr. W. Bagley, Subdivisional Officer, guide in the Nimar forests and cut up 

and Munsh Kanhya Lai, of the Gazet- by the local Muhammadan ruler. The 

teer office. well-known Raja Man of Jodhpur was, 

2 This legend is probably a vague it is believed, never in Nimar. 


replied that he would be unable to determine which of 
the prisoners were really Balahis, On this the Balahi, 
whose name was Ganga Kochla, replied that he had an 
effective test. He therefore killed a cow, cooked its flesh 
and invited the prisoners to partake of it. So many of them 
as consented to eat were considered to be Balahis and 
liberated ; but many members of other castes thus obtained 
their freedom, and they and their descendants are now in- 
cluded in the community. The subcastes or endogamous 
groups distinctly indicate the functional character of the 
caste, the names given being Nimari, Gannore, Katia, Kori 
and Mahar. Of these Katia, Kori and Mahar are the 
names of distinct castes, Nimari is a local subdivision in- 
dicating those who speak the peculiar dialect of this tract, 
and the Gannore are no doubt named after the Rajput clan 
of that name, of whom their ancestors were not improbably 
the illegitimate offspring. The Nimari Balahis are said to 
rank lower than the rest, as they will eat the flesh of dead 
cattle which the others refuse to do. They may not take 
water from the village well, and unless a separate one can 
be assigned to them, must pay others to draw water for 
them. Partly no doubt in the hope of escaping from this 
degraded position, many of the Nimari group became 
Christians in the famine of 1897. They are considered to 
be the oldest residents of Nimar. At marriages the Balahi 
receives as his perquisite the leaf-plates used for feasts with 
the leavings of food upon them ; and at funerals he takes 
the cloth which covers the corpse on its way to the burning- 
glidt. In Nimar the Korkus and Balahis each have a 
separate burying-ground which is known as Murghata.^ The 
Katias weave the finer kinds of cloth and rank a little 
higher than the others. In Burhanpur, as already stated, 
the caste are known as Bunkar, and they are probably 
identical with the Bunkars of Khandesh ; Bunkar is simply 
an occupational term meaning a weaver. 
2. Mar- The caste have the usual system of exogamous groups, 

"^^^' some of which are named after villages, while the designa- 
tions of others are apparently nicknames given to the founder 
of the clan, as Bagmar, a tiger-killer, Bhagoria, a runaway, 

^ The ghat or river-bank for the disposal of corpses. 

11 or ITER CUSTOMS 107 

and so on. They employ a Brahman to calculate the 
horoscopes of a bridal couple and fix the date of their 
wedding, but if he says the marriage is inauspicious, they 
merely obtain the permission of the caste panchdyat and 
celebrate it on a Saturday or Sunday. Apparently, however, 
they do not consult real Brahmans, but merely priests of their 
own caste whom they call Balahi Brahmans. These Brahmans 
are, nevertheless, said to recite the Satya Narayan Katha. 
They also have gums or spiritual preceptors, being members 
of the caste who have joined the mendicant orders ; and 
Bhats or genealogists of their own caste who beg at their 
weddings. They have the practice of serving for a wife, 
known as Gharjamai or Lamjhana. When the pauper suitor 
is finally married at the expense of his wife's father, a 
marriage -shed is erected for him at the house of some 
neighbour, but his own family are not invited to the 

After marriage a girl goes to her husband's house for a 
few days and returns. The first Diwali or Akha-tij festival 
after the wedding must also be passed at the husband's 
house, but consummation is not effected until the ama or 
gauna ceremony is performed on the attainment of puberty. 
The cost of a wedding is about Rs. 80 to the bridegroom's 
family and Rs. 20 to the bride's family. A widow is for- 
bidden to marry her late husband's brother or other relatives. 
At the wedding she is dressed in new clothes, and the fore- 
heads of the couple are marked with cowdung as a sign of 
purification. They then proceed by night to the husband's 
village, and the woman waits till morning in some empty 
building, when she enters her husband's house carrying two 
water-pots on her head in token of the fertility which she is 
to bring to it. 

Like the Mahars, the Balahis must not kill a dog or a 3. other 
cat under pain of expulsion ; but it is peculiar that in their 
case the bear is held equally sacred, this being probably a 
residue of some totemistic observance. The most binding 
form of oath which they can use is by any one of these 
animals. The Balahis will admit any Hindu into the 
community except a man of the very lowest castes, and also 
Gonds and Korkus. The head and face of the neophyte 


are shaved clean, and he is made to lie on the ground under 
a string-cot ; a number of the Balahis sit on this and wash 
themselves, letting the water drip from their bodies on to 
the man below until he is well drenched ; he then gives a 
feast to the caste-fellows, and is considered to have become 
a Balahi. It is reported also that they will receive back 
into the community Balahi women who have lived with men 
of other castes and even with Jains and Muhammadans. 
They will take food from members of these religions and of 
any Hindu caste, except the most impure. 

1. Origin Balija, Balji, Gurusthulu, Naidu. — A large trading 
f"*^. . caste of the Madras Presidency, where they number a million 

traditions. •' ' •' 

persons. In the Central Provinces 1200 were enumerated 
in 191 1, excluding 1500 Perikis, who though really a sub- 
caste and not a very exalted one of Balijas,^ claim to be a 
separate caste. They are mainly returned from places where 
Madras troops have been stationed, as Nagpur, Jubbulpore 
and Raipur. The caste are frequently known as Naidu, 
a corruption of the Telugu word Nayakdu, a prince or 
leader. Their ancestors are supposed to have been Nayaks 
or kings of Madura, Tanjore and Vijayanagar. The tra- 
ditional occupation of the caste appears to have been to 
make bangles and pearl and coral ornaments, and they have 
still a subcaste called Gazulu, or a bangle-seller. In Madras 
they are said to be an offshoot of the great cultivating castes 
of Kamma and Kapu and to be a mixed community recruited 
from these and other Telugu castes. Another proof of their 
mixed descent may be inferred from the fact that they will 
admit persons of other castes or the descendants of mixed 
marriages into the community without much scruple in 
Madras.^ The name of Balija seems also to have been 
applied to a mixed caste started by Basava, the founder of 
the Lingayat sect of Sivites, these persons being known in 
Madras as Linga Balijas. 

2. Mar- The Balijas have two main divisions, Desa or Kota, and 
riage. Peta, the Desas or Kotas being those who claim descent from 

the old Balija kings, while the Petas are the trading Balijas, 
and are further subdivided into groups like the Gazulu or 

1 Madras Census Report (1891), p. 277. - Ibidej?i (1891), p. 226. 


banglc-sellcrs and the Pcriki or salt-sellers. The subdivisions 
are not strictly cndoj^amous. Every family has a surname, 
and exogamous groups or gotras also exist, but these have 
generally been forgotten, and marriages are regulated by the 
surnames, the only prohibition being that persons of the 
same surname may not intermarry. Instances of such names 
are : Singiri, Gudari, Jadal, Sangnad and Dasiri. In fact 
the rules of exogamy are so loose that an instance is known 
of an uncle having married his niece. Marriage is usually 
infant, and the ceremony lasts for five days. On the first 
day the bride and bridegroom are seated on a yoke in the 
pandal or marriage pavilion, where the relatives and guests 
assemble. The bridegroom puts a pair of silver rings on the 
bride's toes and ties the mangal-sfitravi or flat circular piece 
of gold round her neck. On the next three days the bride- 
groom and bride are made to sit on a plank or cot face to 
face with each other and to throw flowers and play together 
for two hours in the mornings and evenings. On the fourth 
day, at dead of night, they are seated on a cot and the jewels 
and gifts for the bride are presented, and she is then formally 
handed over to the bridegroom's family. In Madras Mr. 
Thurston ^ states that on the last day of the marriage 
ceremony a mock ploughing and sowing rite is held, and 
during this, the sister of the bridegroom puts a cloth over 
the basket containing earth, wherein seeds are to be sown 
by the bridegroom, and will not allow him to go on with 
the ceremony till she has extracted a promise that his first- 
born daughter shall marry her son. No bride-price is paid, 
and the remarriage of widows is forbidden. 

The Balijas bury their dead in a sitting posture. In the 3- Occupa- 
Central Provinces they are usually Lingayats and especially soc'iai^ 
worship Gauri, Siva's wife. Jangams serve them as priests, status. 
They usually eat flesh and drink liquor, but in Chanda it 
is stated that both these practices are forbidden. In the 
Central Provinces they are mainly cultivators, but some of 
them still sell bangles and salt. Several of them are in 
Government service and occupy a fairly high social position. 

In Madras a curious connection exists between the 
Kapus and Balijas and the impure Mala caste. It is said 

1 Ethnographic Notes in Southern India, p. 16, 

no BALIJA partii 

that once upon a time the Kapus and Balijas were flying from 
the Muhammadans and came to the northern Pallar river in 
high flood. They besought the river to go down and let 
them across, but it demanded the sacrifice of a first-born 
child. While the Kapus and Balijas were hesitating, the 
Malas who had followed them boldly sacrificed one of their 
children. Immediately the river divided before them and 
they all crossed in safety. Ever since then the Kapus and 
Balijas have respected the Malas, and the Balijas formerly 
even deposited the images of the goddess Gauri, of Ganesha, 
and of Siva's bull with the Malas, as the hereditary custo- 
dians of their gods.^ 

1 Madras Census Report (1S91), p. 277. 



1 . Gc7ic7-al ttoticc. 

2. The Banias a true caste : use 

of the name. 

3. Their distinctive occupation. 

4. Tlicir distinctive status. 

5. The endogamous divisions of 

the Banias. 

6. The Batiias derived from the 


7. Banias employed as ministers 

in Rajpiit courts. 

8. Subcastes. 

9. Hindu and fain subcastes : 

divisions among subcastes. 
I o. Exogamy and rules regulating 

1 1 . Marriage customs. 

12. Polygamy and widoiu-mar- 


13. Disposal of the dead and 


14. Religiofi : the god Ganpati or 

1 5 . Diwdli festival. 

16. Holi festival. 

17. Social customs: rules about 


18. Character of the Bania. 

19. Dislike of the cultivators to- 

Tvards him. 

20. His virtues. 

2 I . 'The moneylender changed J or 

the worse. 

22. The enforcement of contracts. 

23. Cash coi?iage ajul the rate of 


24. Proprietary and transferable 

rights in land. 
2 5 . The Ba7tia as a landlord. 
2 6 . Commercial honesty. 


1. Agarwala, Aganval. 10. Kasarwani. 

2. Agrahari. 11. Kasaundhan. 

3. Ajudhiabasi, Audhia. 12. Khandelwal. 

4. Asathi. 1 3. Lad. 

5. Charnagri, Channagri, Sam- 14. Lingayat. 

aiya. 15. Maheshri. 

6. Dhusar, Bhargava Dhusar. 16. Nema. 

7. Dosar, Dusra. 17. Oswal. 

8. Gahoi. 18. Parwar. 

9. Golapurab, Golahre. 19. Srimali. 

20. Umre. 

Bania, Bani, Vani, Mahajan, Seth, Sahukar. — The i. General 
occupational caste of bankers, moneylenders and dealers in no^'ce. 


2. The 
Banias a 

grain, ^//f (butter), groceries and spices. The name Bania is 
derived from the Sanskrit vanij\ a merchant. In western 
India the Banias are always called Vania or Vani. Mahajan 
literally means a great man, and being applied to successful 
Banias as an honorific title has now come to signify a 
banker or moneylender ; Seth signifies a great merchant or 
capitalist, and is applied to Banias as an honorific prefix. The 
words Sdhu, Sao and SdJiukdr mean upright or honest, and 
have also, curiously enough, come to signify a moneylender. 
The total number of Banias in the Central Provinces in 
191 1 was about 200,000, or rather over one per cent of 
the population. Of the above total two-thirds were Hindus 
and one-third Jains. The caste is fairly distributed over the 
whole Province, being most numerous in Districts with large 
towns and a considerable volume of trade. 

There has been much difference of opinion as to whether 
the name Bania should be taken to signify a caste, or whether 
caste : use it is merely an occupational term applied to a number of 
name^ distinct castcs. I venture to think it is necessary and 

scientifically correct to take it as a caste. In Bengal the 
word Banian, a corruption of Bania, has probably come to 
be a general term meaning simply a banker, or person 
dealing in money. But this does not seem to be the case 
elsewhere. As a rule the name Bania is used only 
as a caste name for groups who are considered both by 
themselves and outsiders to belong to the Bania caste. It 
may occasionally be applied to members of other castes, as 
in the case of certain Teli-Banias who have abandoned oil- 
pressing for shop-keeping, but such instances are very rare ; 
and these Tel is would probably now assert that they belonged 
to the Bania caste. That the Banias are recognised as a dis- 
tinct caste by the people is shown by the number of uncom- 
plimentary proverbs and sayings about them, which is far 
larger than in the case of any other caste.^ In all these the 
name Bania is used and not that of any subdivision, and 
this indicates that none of the subdivisions are looked upon 
as distinctive social groups or castes. Moreover, so far as I 
am aware, the name Bania is applied regularly to all the 
groups usually classified under the caste, and there is no 

^ See para. 19 below. 

II BAN! A it3 

group which objects to the name or whose members refuse 
to describe themselves by it. This is by no means always 
the case with other important castes. The Rathor Telis of 
Mandla entirely decline to answer to the name of Teli, 
though they are classified under that caste. In the case of 
the important Ahir or grazier caste, those who sell milk 
instead of grazing cattle are called Gaoli, but remain 
members of the AhIr caste. An AhIr in Chhattlsgarh would 
be called Rawat and in the Maratha Districts Gowari, but 
might still be an AhIr by caste. The Barai caste of betel- 
vine growers and sellers is in some localities called Tamboli 
and not Barai ; elsewhere it is known only as Pansari, 
though the name Pansari is correctly an occupational term, 
and, where it is not applied to the Barais, means a grocer or 
druggist by profession and not a caste. Bania, on the other 
hand, over the greater part of India is applied only to 
persons who acknowledge themselves and are generally re- 
cognised by Hindu society to be members of the Bania caste, 
and there is no other name which is generally applied to any 
considerable section of such persons. Certain of the more 
important subcastes of Bania, as the Agarwala, Oswal and 
Parwar, are, it is true, frequently known by the subcaste 
name. But the caste name is as often as not, or even more 
often, affixed to it. Agarwala, or Agarwala Bania, are names 
equally applied to designate this subcaste, and similarly with 
the Oswals and Parwars ; and even so the subcaste name is 
only applied for greater accuracy and for compliment, since 
these are the best subcastes ; the Bania's quarter of a town 
will be called Bania Mahalla, and its residents spoken of as 
Banias, even though they may be nearly all Agarwrds or 
Oswals. Several Rajput clans are similarly spoken of by their 
clan names, as Rathor, Panwar, and so on, without the addition 
of the caste name Rajput. Brahman subcastes are usually 
mentioned by their subcaste name for greater accuracy, 
though in their case too it is usual to add the caste name. 
And there are subdivisions of other castes, such as the Jaiswar 
Chamars and the Somvansi Mehras, who invariably speak 
of themselves only by their subcaste name, and discard the 
caste name altogether, being ashamed of it, but are never- 
theless held to belong to their parent castes. Thus in the 



3. Their 

4. Their 



matter of common usage Bania conforms in all respects to 
the requirements of a proper caste name. 

The Banias have also a distinct and well - defined 
traditional occupation/ which is followed by many or most 
members of practically every subcaste so far as has been 
observed. This occupation has caused the caste as a body 
to be credited with special mental and moral characteristics 
in popular estimation, to a greater extent perhaps than any 
other caste. None of the subcastes are ashamed of their 
traditional occupation or try to abandon it. It is true that 
a few subcastes such as the Kasaundhans and Kasarwanis, 
sellers of metal vessels, apparently had originally a some- 
what different profession, though resembling the traditional 
one ; but they too, if they once only sold vessels, now 
engage largely in the traditional Bania's calling, and deal 
generally in grain and money. The Banias, no doubt 
because it is both profitable and respectable, adhere more 
generally to their traditional occupation than almost any 
great caste, except the cultivators. Mr. Marten's analysis ^ 
of the occupations of different castes shows that sixty per 
cent of the Banias are still engaged in trade ; while only 
nineteen per cent of Brahmans follow a religious calling ; 
twenty-nine per cent of Ahirs are graziers, cattle-dealers or 
milkmen ; only nine per cent of Telis are engaged in all 
branches of industry, including their traditional occupation 
of oil - pressing ; and similarly only twelve per cent of 
Chamars work at industrial occupations, including that of 
curing hides. In respect of occupation therefore the Banias 
strictly fulfil the definition of a caste. 

The Banias have also a distinctive social status. They 
are considered, though perhaps incorrectly, to represent the 
Vaishyas or third great division of the Aryan twice-born ; 
they rank just below Rajputs and perhaps above all other 
castes except Brahmans ; Brahmans will take food cooked 
without water from many Banias and drinking-water from 
all. Nearly all Banias wear the sacred thread ; and the 
Banias are distinguished by the fact that they abstain more 
rigorously and generally from all kinds of flesh food than 

* See commencement of article. pation Chapter, Subsidiary Table I. 

2 C.P. Census Report (191 1), Occu- p. 234. 


any other caste. Their rules as to diet are exceptionally 
strict, and are equally observed by the great majority of the 

Thus the Banias apparently fulfil the definition of a 5. The 
caste, as consisting: of one or more endoiramous rroups or '="'^'"K''^" 

' *^ fc> & r mous 

subcastes with a distinct name applied to them all and to divisions of 
them only, a distinctive occupation and a distinctive social ^ *" ^"'^^' 
status ; and there seems no reason for not considering them 
a caste. If on the other hand we examine the subcastes 
of Bania we find that the majority of them have names 
derived from places,^ not indicating any separate origin, 
occupation or status, but only residence in separate tracts. 
Such divisions are properly termed subcastes, being endoga- 
mous only, and in no other way distinctive. No subcaste 
can be markedly distinguished from the others in respect 
of occupation or social status, and none apparently can 
therefore be classified as a separate caste. There are no 
doubt substantial differences in status between the highest 
subcastes of Bania, the Agarwals, Oswals and Parwars, and 
the lower ones, the Kasaundhan, Kasarwani, Dosar and 
others. But this diflference is not so great as that which 
separates different groups included in such important castes 
as Rajput and Bhat. It is true again that subcastes like 
the Agarwals and Oswals are individually important, but 
not more so than the Maratha, Khedawal, Kanaujia and 
Maithil Brahmans, or the Sesodia, Rathor, Panwar and 
Jadon Rajputs. The higher subcastes of Bania themselves 
recognise a common relationship by taking food cooked 
without water from each other, which is a very rare custom 
among subcastes. Some of them are even said to have 
intermarried. If on the other hand it is argued, not that 
two or three or more of the important subdivisions should 
be erected into independent castes, but that Bania is not a 
caste at all, and that every subcaste should be treated as a 
separate caste, then such purely local groups as Kanaujia, 
Jaiswar, Gujarati, Jaunpuri and others, which are found in 
forty or fifty other castes, would have to become separate 

1 For examples, the subordinate basi, and Srimali may be consulted, 
articles on Agarwal, Oswal, Maheshri, The census lists contain numerous other 
Khandelwal, Lad, Agrahari, Ajudhia- territorial names. 


castes ; and if in this one case why not in all the other 
castes where they occur ? This would result in the im- 
possible position of having forty or fifty castes of the same 
name, which recognise no connection of any kind with each 
other, and make any arrangement or classification of castes 
altogether impracticable. And in 191 i out of 200,000 
Banias in the Central Provinces, 43,000 were returned with 
no subcaste at all, and it would therefore be impossible to 
classify these under any other name. 

The Banias have been commonly supposed to represent 
the Vaishyas or third of the four classical castes, both by 
Hindu society generally and by leading authorities on the 
subject. It is perhaps this view of their origin which is 
partly responsible for the tendency to consider them as 
several castes and not one. But its accuracy is doubtful. 
The important Bania groups appear to be of Rajput stock. 
They nearly all -come from Rajputana, Bundelkhand or 
Gujarat, that is from the homes of the principal Rajput 
clans. Several of them have legends of Rajput descent. 
The Agarwalas say that their first ancestor was a Kshatriya 
king, who married a Naga or snake princess ; the Naga race 
is supposed to have signified the Scythian immigrants, who 
were snake- worshippers and from whom several clans of 
Rajputs were probably derived. The Agarwalas took their 
name from the ancient city of Agroha or possibly from Agra. 
The Oswals say that their ancestor was the Rajput king of 
Osnagar in Marwar, who with his followers was converted 
by a Jain mendicant. The Nemas state that their ancestors 
were fourteen young Rajput princes who escaped the 
vengeance of Parasurama by abandoning the profession of 
arms and taking to trade. The Khandelwals take their 
name from the town of Khandela in Jaipur State of 
Rajputana. The Kasarwanis say they immigrated from 
Kara Manikpur in Bundelkhand. The origin of the Umre 
Banias is not known, but in Gujarat they are also called 
Bagaria from the Bagar or wild country of the Dongarpur 
and Pertabgarh States of Rajputana, where numbers of them 
arc still settled ; the name Bagaria would appear to indicate 
that they are supposed to have immigrated thence into 
Gujarat. The Dhusar Banias ascribe their name to a hill 

Bt^;irose, Couj.. Dt:)by. 



called Dhusi or Dhosi on the border of Alwar State. The 
Asfitis say that their original home was Tikamgarh State 
in Bundelkhand. The name of the Maheshris is held to 
be derived from Maheshwar, an ancient town on the Ner- 
budda, near Indore, which is traditionally supposed to have 
been the earliest settlement of the Yadava Rajputs. The 
headquarters of the Gahoi Banias is said to have been at 
Kharagpur in Bundelkhand, though according to their own 
legend they are of mixed origin. The home of the Srimalis 
was the old town of Srimal, now Bhinmal in Marwar. The 
Palliwal Banias were from the well-known trading town of 
Pali in Marwar. The Jaiswal are said to take their name 
from Jaisalmer State, which was their native country. The 
above are no doubt only a fraction of the Bania subcastes, 
but they include nearly all the most important and re- 
presentative ones, from whom the caste takes its status and 
character. Of the numerous other groups the bulk have 
probably been brought into existence through the migration 
and settlement of sections of the caste in dafferent parts of 
the country, where they have become endogamous and 
obtained a fresh name. Other subcastes may be composed 
of bodies of persons who, having taken to trade and 
prospered, obtained admission to the Bania caste through the 
efforts of their Brahman priests. But a number of mixed 
groups of the same character are also found among the Brah- 
mans and Rajputs, and their existence does not invalidate 
arguments derived from a consideration of the representative 
subcastes. It may be said that not only the Banias, but 
many of the low castes have legends showing them to be of 
Rajput descent of the same character as those quoted above ; 
and since in their case these stories have been adjudged 
spurious and worthless, no greater importance should be 
attached to those of the Banias. But it must be remembered 
that in the case of the Banias the stories are reinforced by 
the fact that the Bania subcastes certainly come from 
Rajputana ; no doubt exists that they are of high caste, and 
that they must either be derived from Brahmans or Rajputs, 
or themselves represent some separate foreign group ; but if 
they are really the descendants of the Vaishyas, the main body 
of the Aryan immigrants and the third of the four classical 


castes, It might be expected that their legends would show 
some trace of this instead of being unitedly in favour of 
their Rajput origin. 

Colonel Tod gives a catalogue of the eighty -four 
mercantile tribes, whom he states to be chiefly of Rajput 
descent.^ In this list the Agarwal, Oswal, Srimal, 
Khandelwal, Palliwal and Lad subcastes occur ; while the 
Dhakar and Dhusar subcastes may be represented by the 
names Dhakarwal and Dusora in the lists. The other 
names given by Tod appear to be mainly small territorial 
groups of Rajputana. Elsewhere, after speaking of the 
claims of certain towns in Rajputana to be centres of trade, 
Colonel Tod remarks : " These pretensions we may the more 
readily admit, when we recollect that nine-tenths of the 
bankers and commercial men of India are natives of 
Marudesh,'' and these chiefly of the Jain faith. The Oswals, 
so termed from the town of Osi, near the Luni, estimate 
one hundred thousand families whose occupation is com- 
merce. All these claim a Rajput descent, a fact entirely 
unknown to the European inquirer into the peculiarities of 
Hindu manners." ^ 

Similarly, Sir D. Ibbetson states that the Maheshri 
Banias claim Rajput origin and still have subdivisions 
bearing Rajput names.^ Elliot also says that almost all the 
mercantile tribes of Hindustan are of Rajput descent.^ 

It would appear, then, that the Banias are an offshoot 
from the Rajputs, who took to commerce and learnt to read 
and write for the purpose of keeping accounts. The Charans 
or bards are another literate caste derived from the Rajputs, 
and it may be noticed that both the Banias and Charans or 
Bhats have hitherto been content with the knowledge of their 
own rude Marwari dialect and evinced no desire for classical 
learning or higher English education. Matters are now 
changing, but this attitude shows that they have hitherto not 
desired education for itself but merely as an indispensable 
adjunct to their business. 

Being literate, the Banias were not infrequently employed 

^ Kajaslhdn, i. pp. 76, 109. '^ Rajasthan, ii. p. 145. 

^ That is Marwar. But perhaps the •* Punjab Censjts Report {1881), p. 

term here is used in the wider sense of 293. 

Rajputana. '' Supplemental Glossary, p. no. 

II sun CASTES 119 

as ministers and treasurers in Rajput states. Forbes says, 7. Hanias 
in an account of an Indian court : " Beside the king stand the asminfslcrs 
warriors of Rajput race or, equally gallant in the field and i" Kfijput 
wiser far in council, the Wania (Bania) Muntreshwars, 
already in profession puritans of peace, and not yet drained 
enough of their fiery Kshatriya blood. ... It is remark- 
able that so many of the officers possessing high rank and 
holding independent commands are represented to have 
been Wanias," ^ Colonel Tod writes that Nunkurn, the 
Kachhwaha chief of the Shekhawat federation, had a 
minister named Devi Das of the Bania or mercantile caste, 
and, like thousands of that caste, energetic, shrewd and 
intelligent." Similarly, Muhaj, the Jadon Bhatti chief of 
Jaisalmer, by an unhappy choice of a Bania minister, com- 
pleted the demoralisation of the Bhatti state. This minister 
was named Sarup Singh, a Bania of the Jain faith and Mehta 
family, whose descendants were destined to be the ex- 
terminators of the laws and fortunes of the sons of Jaisal.^ 
Other instances of the employment of Bania ministers are to 
be found in Rajput history. Finally, it may be noted that 
the Banias are by no means the only instance of a mercantile 
class formed from the Rajputs. The two important trading 
castes of Khatri and Bhatia are almost certainly of Rajput 
origin, as is shown in the articles on those castes. 

The Banias are divided into a large number of endo- 8. Sub- 
gamous groups or subcastes, of which the most important 
have been treated in the annexed subordinate articles. The 
minor subcastes, mainly formed by migration, vary greatly in 
different provinces. Colonel Tod gave a list of eighty-four 
in Rajputana, of which eight or ten only can be identified in 
the Central Provinces, and of thirty mentioned by Bhatta- 
charya as the most common groups in northern India, about 
a third are unknown in the Central Provinces. The origin 
of such subcastes has already been explained. The main 
subcastes may be classified roughly into groups coming from 
Rajputana, Bundelkhand and the United Provinces. The 
leading Rajputana groups are the Oswal, Maheshri, Khandel- 
wal, Saitwal, Srimal and Jaiswal. These groups are com- 

^ J\ds?Hala, i. pp. 240, 243. 
2 Riljasthan, ii. p. 360. 2 Jbid. ii. p. 240. 


monly known as Marwari Bania or simply Marwari. The 
Bundelkhand or Central India subcastes are the Gahoi, 
Golapurab, Asati, Umre and Parwar ; ^ while the Agarwal, 
Dhusar, Agrahari, Ajudhiabasi and others come from the 
United Provinces. The Lad subcaste is from Gujarat, 
while the Lingayats originally belonged to the Telugu and 
Canarese country. Several of the subcastes coming from 
the same locality will take food cooked without water from 
each other, and occasionally two subcastes, as the Oswal and 
Khandelwal, even food cooked with water or katcJii. This 
practice is seldom found in other good castes. It is prob- 
ably due to the fact that the rules about food are less 
strictly observed in Rajputana. 

Another classification may be made of the subcastes 
according as they are of the Hindu or Jain religion ; the 
important Jain subcastes are the Oswal, Parwar, Golapurab, 
Saitwal and Charnagar, and one or two smaller ones, as the 
Baghelwal and Samaiya. The other subcastes are prin- 
cipally Hindu, but many have a Jain minority, and similarly 
the Jain subcastes return a proportion of Hindus. The 
difference of religion counts for very little, as practically all 
the non-Jain Banias are strict Vaishnava Hindus, abstain 
entirely from any kind of flesh meat, and think it a sin 
to take animal life ; while on their side the Jains employ 
Brahmans for certain purposes, worship some of the local 
Hindu deities, and observe the principal Hindu festivals. 
The Jain and Hindu sections of a subcaste have conse- 
quently, as a rule, no objection to taking food together, and 
will sometimes intermarry. Several of the important sub- 
castes are subdivided into Bisa and Dasa, or twenty and ten 
groups. The Bisa or twenty group is of pure descent, or 
twenty carat, as it were, while the Dasas are considered 
to have a certain amount of alloy in their family pedigree. 
They are the offspring of remarried widows, and perhaps 
occasionally of still more irregular unions. Intermarriage 
sometimes takes place between the two groups, and families 
in the Dasa group, by living a respectable life and marrying 
well, improve their status, and perhaps ultimately get back 

' The Parwars probably belonged originally to Rajputana ; see subordinate 


into the Bisa group. As the Dasas become more respectable 
they will not admit to their communion newly remarried 
widows or couples who have married within the prohibited 
degrees, or otherwise made a incsalliance, and hence a third 
inferior group, called the Pacha or five, is brought into 
existence to make room for these. 

Most subcastes have an elaborate system of exogamy. 10. Exo- 
Thcy are either divided into a large number of sections, f^ie^ ^" 
or into a i^w gotras, usually twelve, each of which is further regulating 
split up into subsections. Marriage can then be regulated "^''''^'"'^se- 
by forbidding a man to take a wife from the whole of his 
own section or from the subsection of his mother, grand- 
mothers and even greatgrandmothers. By this means the 
union of persons within five or more degrees of relationship 
either through males or females is avoided, and most Ijanias 
prohibit intermarriage, at any rate nominally, up to five 
degrees. Such practices as exchanging girls between 
families or marrying two sisters are, as a rule, prohibited. 
The gotras or main sections appear to be frequently named 
after Brahman Rishis or saints, while the subsections have 
names of a territorial or titular character. 

There is generally no recognised custom of paying a n- Mar- 
bride- or bridegroom -price, but one or two instances of cusloms. 
its being done are given in the subordinate articles. 
On the occasion of betrothal, among some subcastes, the 
boy's father proceeds to the girl's house and presents her 
with a vidla or necklace of gold or silver coins or coral, and 
a muiidri or silver ring for the finger. The contract of 
betrothal is made at the village temple and the caste-fellows 
sprinkle turmeric and water over the parties. Before the 
wedding the ceremony of Benaiki is performed ; in this the 
bridegroom, riding on a horse, and the bride on a decorated 
chair or litter, go round their villages and say farewell to 
their friends and relations. Sometimes they have a pro- 
cession in this way round the marriage-shed. Among the 
Marwari Banias a toran or string of mango-leaves is stretched 
above the door of the house on the occasion of a wedding 
and left there for six months. And a wooden triangle with 
figures perched on it to represent sparrows is tied over 
the door. The binding portion of the wedding is the pro- 


cession seven times round the marriage altar or post. In 
some Jain subcastes the bridegroom stands beside the 
post and the bride walks seven times round him, while 
he throws sugar over her head at each turn. After the 
wedding the couple are made to draw figures out of flour 
sprinkled on a brass plate in token of the bridegroom's 
occupation of keeping accounts. It is customary for the 
bride's family to give sidha or uncooked food sufficient for a 
day's consumption to every outsider who accompanies the 
marriage party, while to each member of the caste pro- 
visions for two to five days are given. This is in addition 
to the evening feasts and involves great expense. Some- 
times the wedding lasts for eight days, and feasts are given 
for four days by the bridegroom's party and four days by 
the bride's. It is said that in some places before a Bania 
has a wedding he goes before the caste panchdyat and they 
ask him how many people he is going to invite. If he says 
five hundred, they prescribe the quantity of the different 
kinds of provisions which he must supply. Thus they may 
say forty maunds (3 200 lbs.) of sugar and flour, with butter, 
spices, and other articles in proportion. He says, ' Gentle- 
men, I am a poor man ; make it a little less ' ; or he says 
he will give gur or cakes of raw cane sugar instead of 
refined sugar. Then they say, ' No, your social position is 
too high for gur ; you must have sugar for all purposes.' 
The more guests the host invites the higher is his social 
consideration ; and it is said that if he does not maintain 
this his life is not worth living. Sometimes the exact 
amount of entertainment to be given at a wedding is fixed, 
and if a man cannot afford it at the time he must give the 
balance of the feasts at any subsequent period when he has 
money ; and if he fails to do this he is put out of caste. 
The bride's father is often called on to furnish a certain sum 
for the travelling expenses of the bridegroom's party, and if 
he does not send this money they do not come. The dis- 
tinctive feature of a Bania wedding in the northern Districts 
is that women accompany the marriage procession, and the 
Banias are the only high caste in which they do this. 
Hence a high-caste wedding party in which women are 
present can be recognised to be a Bania's. In the Maratha 


Districts women also go, but here this custom obtains among 
other high castes. The bridegroom's party hire or borrow a 
house in the bride's village, and here they erect a marriage- 
shed and go through the preliminary ceremonies of the 
wedding on the bridegroom's side as if they were at home. 

Polygamy is very rare among the Banias, and it is 12. Poiy- 
generally the rule that a man must obtain the consent of ^tdow^" 
his first wife before taking a second one. In the absence of marriage, 
this precaution for her happiness, parents will refuse to give 
him their daughter. The remarriage of widows is nominally 
prohibited, but frequently occurs, and remarried widows are 
relegated to the inferior social groups in each subcaste as 
already described. Divorce is also said to be prohibited, 
but it is probable that women put away for adultery are 
allowed to take refuge in such groups instead of being finally 

The dead are cremated as a rule, and the ashes are 13. Dis- 
thrown into a sacred river or any stream. The bodies of fj^g'^^g^^i 
young children and of persons dying from epidemic disease and 
are buried. The period of mourning must be for an odd '""^'""'"S- 
number of days. On the third day a leaf plate with cooked 
food is placed on the ground where the body was burnt, and 
on some subsequent day a feast is given to the caste. Rich 
Banias will hire people to mourn. Widows and young girls 
are usually employed, and these come and sit before the 
house for an hour in the morning and sometimes also in the 
evening, and covering their heads with their cloths, beat their 
breasts and make lamentations. Rich men may hire as 
many as ten mourners for a period of one, two or three 
months. The Marwaris, when a girl is born, break an 
earthen pot to show that they have had a misfortune ; but 
when a boy is born they beat a brass plate in token of 
their joy. 

Nearly all the Banias are Jains or Vaishnava Hindus. 14. Reii- 
An account of the Jain religion has been given in a separate |o°^G^n^ 
article, and some notice of the retention of Hindu practices pati or 
by the Jains is contained in the subordinate article on Parwar 
Bania. The Vaishnava Banias no less than the Jains are 
strongly averse to the destruction of animal life, and will not 
kill any living thing. Their principal deity is the god Ganesh 


or Ganpati, the son of Mahadeo and Parvati, who is the god 
of good-luck, wealth and prosperity. Ganesh is represented 
in sculpture with the head of an elephant and riding on a 
rat, though the rat is now covered by the body of the god 
and is scarcely visible. He has a small body like a child's 
with a fat belly and round plump arms. Perhaps his body 
signifies that he is figured as a boy, the son of Parvati or 
Gauri. In former times grain was the main source of wealth, 
and from the appearance of Ganesh it can be understood 
why he is the god of overflowing granaries, and hence of 
wealth and good fortune. The elephant is a sacred animal 
among Hindus, and that on which the king rides. To have 
an elephant was a mark of wealth and distinction among 
Banias, and the Jains harness the cars of their gods to 
elephants at their great rath or chariot festival. Gajpati or 
' lord of elephants ' is a title given to a king ; Gajanand or 
' elephant -faced ' is an epithet of the god Ganesh and a 
favourite Hindu name. Gajvlthi or the track of the elephant 
is a name of the Milky Way, and indicates that there is 
believed to be a divine elephant who takes this course 
through the heavens. The elephant eats so much grain that 
only a comparatively rich man can afford to keep one ; and 
hence it is easy to understand how the attribute of plenty or 
of wealth was associated with the divine elephant as his 
special characteristic. Similarly the rat is connected with 
overflowing granaries, because when there is much corn in a 
Hindu house or store-shed there will be many rats ; thus a 
multitude of rats implied a rich household, and so this animal 
too came to be a symbol of wealth. The Hindus do not now 
consider the rat sacred, but they have a tenderness for it, 
especially in the Maratha country. The more bigoted of 
them objected to rats being poisoned as a means of checking 
plague, though observation has fully convinced them that 
rats spread the plague ; and in the Bania hospitals, formerly 
maintained for preserving the lives of animals, a number of 
rats were usually to be found. The rat, in fact, may now be 
said to stand to Ganpati in the position of a disreputable 
poor relation. No attempt is made to deny his existence, 
but he is kept in the background as far as possible. The god 
Ganpati is also associated with wealth of grain through his 


parentage. He is the offspring of Siva or Mahadco and his 
wife Devi or Gauri. Mahadeo is in this case probably taken 
in his beneficent cliaracter of the deified bull ; Devi in her 
most important aspect as the great mother-goddess is the 
earth, but as mother of Ganesh she is probably imagined in 
her special form of Gauri, the yellow one, that is, the yellow 
corn. Gauri is closely associated with Ganesh, and every 
Hindu bridal couple worship Gauri Ganesh together as an 
important rite of the wedding. Their conjunction in this 
manner lends colour to the idea that they are held to be 
mother and son. In Rajputana Gauri is worshipped as the 
corn goddess at the Gangore festival about the time of the 
vernal equinox, especially by women. The meaning of 
Gauri, Colonel Tod states, is yellow, emblematic of the 
ripened harvest, when the votaries of the goddess adore her 
effigies, in the shape of a matron painted the colour of 
ripe corn. Here she is seen as Ana-purna (the corn-goddess), 
the benefactress of mankind. " The rites commence when 
the sun enters Aries (the opening of the Hindu year), by a 
deputation to a spot beyond the city to bring earth for the 
image of Gauri. A small trench is then excavated in which 
barley is sown ; the ground is irrigated and artificial heat 
supplied till the grain germinates, when the females join 
hands and dance round it, invoking the blessings of Gauri 
on their husbands. The young corn is then taken up, dis- 
tributed and presented by the females to the men, who wear 
it in their turbans." ^ Thus if Ganesh is the son of Gauri he 
is the offspring of the bull and the growing corn ; and his 
genesis from the elephant and the rat show him equally as 
the god of full granaries, and hence of wealth and good 
fortune. We can understand therefore how he is the special 
god of the Banias, who formerly must have dealt almost 
entirely in grain, as coined money had not come into 
general use. 

At the Diwali festival the Banias worship Ganpati or 15. Diwaii 
Ganesh, in conjunction with Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. 
Lakshmi is considered to be the deified cow, and, as such, 
the other main source of wealth, both as mother of the bull, 
the tiller of the soil, and the giver of milk from which ghl 

1 RdjasthiDi, i. p. 491. 



(clarified butter) is made ; this is another staple of the 
Bania's trade, as well as a luxurious food, of which he is 
especially fond. At Diwali all Banias make up their 
accounts for the year, and obtain the signatures of clients 
to their balances. They open fresh account-books, which 
they first worship and adorn with an image of Ganesh, and 
perhaps an invocation to the god on the front page. A 
silver rupee is also worshipped as an emblem of Lakshmi, 
but in some cases an English sovereign, as a more precious 
coin, has been substituted, and this is placed on the seat 
of the goddess and reverence paid to it. The Banias and 
Hindus generally think it requisite to gamble at Diwali in 
order to bring good luck during the coming year ; all 
classes indulge in a little speculation at this season. 

In the month of Phagun (February), about the time of 
the Holi, the Marwaris make an image of mud naked, 
calling it Nathu Ram, who was supposed to be a great 
Marwari. They mock at this and throw mud at it, and 
beat it with shoes, and have various jests and sports. The 
men and women are divided into two parties, and throw 
dirty water and red powder over each other, and the women 
make whips of cloth and beat the men. After two or three 
days, they break up the image and throw it away. The 
Banias, both Jain and Hindu, like to begin the day by 
going and looking at the god in his temple. This is con- 
sidered an auspicious omen in the same manner as it is 
commonly held to be a good omen to see some particular 
person or class of person the first thing in the morning. 
Others begin the day by worshipping the sacred Udsi or 

The Banias arc very strict about food. The majority 
of them abstain from all kinds of flesh food and alcoholic 
liquor. The Kasarwanis are reported to eat the flesh of 
clean animals, and perhaps others of the lower subcastes 
may also do so, but the Banias are probably stricter than 
any other caste in their adherence to a vegetable diet. 
Many of them eschew also onions and garlic as impure 
food. Banias take the lead in the objection to foreign 
sugar on account of the stories told of the impure ingredients 
which it contains, and many of them, until recently, at any 

Bemrose. Colic, Derby. 



rate, still adhered to Indian sugar. Drugs arc not forbidden, 
but they are not usually addicted to them. Tobacco is 
forbidden to the Jains, but both they and the Hindus smoke, 
and their women sometimes chew tobacco. The Bania 
while he is poor is very abstemious, and it is said that on 
a day when he has made no money he goes supperless to 
bed. But when he has accumulated wealth, he develops 
a fondness for ghl or preserved butter, which often causes 
him to become portly. Otherwise his food remains simple, 
and as a rule he confined himself until recently to two daily 
meals, at midday and in the evening ; but Banias, like most 
other classes who can afford it, have now begun to drink 
tea in the morning. In dress the Bania is also simple, 
adhering to the orthodox Hindu garb of a long white coat 
and a loin-cloth. He has not yet adopted the cotton 
trousers copied from the English fashion. Some Banias 
in their shops wear only a cloth over their shoulders and 
another round their waist. The kardora or silver waist- 
belt is a favourite Bania ornament, and though plainly 
dressed in ordinary life, rich Marwaris will on special festival 
occasions wear costly jewels. On his head the Marwari 
wears a small tightly folded turban, often coloured crimson, 
pink or yellow ; a green turban is a sign of mourning and 
also black, though the latter is seldom seen. The Banias 
object to taking the life of any animal. They will not 
castrate cattle even through their servants, but sell the 
young bulls and buy oxen. In Saugor, a Bania is put out 
of caste if he keeps buffaloes. It is supposed that good 
Hindus should not keep buffaloes nor use them for carting 
or ploughing, because the buffalo is impure, and is the 
animal on which Yama, the god of death, rides. Thus 
in his social observances generally the Bania is one of the 
strictest castes, and this is a reason why his social status is 
high. Sometimes he is even held superior to the Rajput, 
as the local Rajputs are often of impure descent and lax in 
their observance of religious and social restrictions. Though 
he soon learns the vernacular language of the country where 
he settles, the Marwari usually retains his own native dialect 
in his account-books, and this makes it more difficult for 
his customers to understand them. 


The Bania has a very distinctive caste character. From 
early boyhood he is trained to the keeping of accounts and 
to the view that it is his business in Hfe to make money, 
and that no transaction should be considered successful or 
creditable which does not show a profit. As an apprentice, 
he goes through a severe training in mental arithmetic, so 
as to enable him to make the most intricate calculations in 
his head. With this object a boy commits to memory a 
number of very elaborate tables. For whole numbers he 
learns by heart the units from one to ten multiplied as high 
as forty times, and the numbers from eleven to twenty 
multiplied to twenty times. There are also fractional tables, 
giving the results of multiplying \, \, |, ij, i|, 2\, and 3^ 
into units from one to one hundred ; interest-tables showing 
the interest due on any sum from one to one thousand 
rupees for one month, and for a quarter of a month at 
twelve per cent ; tables of the squares of all numbers from 
one to one hundred, and a set of technical rules for finding 
the price of a part from the price of the whole.^ The self- 
denial and tenacity which enable the Bania without capital 
to lay the foundations of a business are also remarkable. 
On first settling in a new locality, a Marwari Bania takes 
service with some shopkeeper, and by dint of the strictest 
economy puts together a little money. Then the new 
trader establishes himself in some village and begins to 
make grain advances to the cultivators on high rates of 
interest, though occasionally on bad security. He opens 
a shop and retails grain, pulses, condiments, spices, sugar 
and flour. From grain he gradually passes to selling cloth 
and lending money, and being keen and exacting, and 
having to deal with ignorant and illiterate clients, he 
acquires wealth ; this he invests in purchasing villages, 
and after a time blossoms out into a big Seth or banker. 
The liania can also start a retail business without capital. 
The way in which he does it is to buy a rupee's worth 
of stock in a town, and take it out early in the morning 
to a village, where he sits on the steps of the temple 
until he has sold it. Up till then he neither eats nor 
washes his face. 1 le comes back in the evening after 

1 Bombay Gazetteer, Hindus of Gttjariit, p. 80. 


having eaten two or three pice worth of grain, and buys a 
fresh stocic, whicli he takes out to another village in the 
morning. Thus he turns over his capital with a profit two 
or three times a week according to the saying, " If a Bania 
gets a rupee he will have an income of eight rupees a 
month," or as another proverb pithily sums up the immigrant 
Marwfiri's career, ' He comes with a lota ^ and goes back with 
a lakh.' The Bania never writes off debts, even though his 
debtor may be a pauper, but goes on entering them up year 
by year in his account-books and taking the debtor's acknow- 
ledgment. For he says, ' Ptirus Pdnisl or man is like the 
philosopher's stone, and his fortune may change any day. 

The cultivators rarely get fair treatment from the Banias, 19. Dis- 
as the odds are too much against them. They must have ''^^.o*^ ^^e 

o -I cultivators 

money to sow their land, and live while the crops are towards 
growing, and the majority who have no capital are at the '"^' 
moneylender's mercy. He is of a different caste, and often 
of a different country, and has no fellow-feeling towards 
them, and therefore considers the transaction merely from 
the business point of view of getting as much profit as 
possible. The debtors are illiterate, often not even under- 
standing the meaning of figures, or the result of paying 
compound interest at twenty-five or fifty per cent ; they can 
neither keep accounts themselves nor check their creditor's. 
Hence they are entirely in his hands, and in the end their 
villages or land, if saleable, pass to him, and they decline 
from landlord to tenant, or from tenant to labourer. They 
have found vent for their feelings in some of the bitterest 
sayings ever current : * A man who has a Bania for a friend 
has no need of an enemy.' ' Borrow from a Bania and you 
are as good as ruined.' ' The rogue cheats strangers and 
the Bania cheats his friends.' ' Kick a Bania even if he is 
dead.' " His heart, we are told, is no bigger than a coriander 
seed ; he goes in Hke a needle and comes out like a sword ; 
as a neighbour he is as bad as a boil in the armpit. If a 
Bania is on the other side of a river you should leave your 
bundle on this side for fear he should steal it. If a Bania 
is drowning you should not give him your hand ; he is 
sure to have some pecuniary motive for drifting down-stream. 

^ The common brass drinking-vessel, 



A Bania will start an auction in a desert. If a Bania's son 
tumbles down he is sure to pick up something. He uses 
light weights and swears that the scales tip up of themselves ; 
he keeps his accounts in a character that no one but God 
can read ; if you borrow from him your debt mounts up like 
a refuse-heap or gallops like a horse ; if he talks to a 
customer he debits the conversation in his accounts ; and 
when his own credit is shaky he writes up his transactions on 
the wall so that they can easily be rubbed out." ^ 
20. His Nevertheless there is a good deal to be said on the other 

side, and the Bania's faults are probably to a large extent 
produced by his environment, like other people's. One of 
the Bania's virtues is that he will lend on security which 
neither the Government nor the banks would look at, or on 
none at all. Then he will always wait a long time for his 
money, especially if the interest is paid. No doubt this is 
no loss to him, as he keeps his money out at good interest ; 
but it is a great convenience to a client that his debt can be 
postponed in a bad year, and that he can pay as much as 
he likes in a good one. The village moneylender is in- 
dispensable to its economy when the tenants are like school- 
boys in that money burns a hole in their pocket ; and Sir 
Denzil Ibbetson states that it is surprising how much 
reasonableness and honesty there is in his dealings with the 
people, so long as he can keep his transactions out of a 
court of justice.^ Similarly, Sir Reginald Craddock writes : 
" The village Bania is a much-abused individual, but he is as 
a rule a quiet, peaceable man, a necessary factor in the village 
economy. He is generally most forbearing with his clients 
and customers, and is not the person most responsible for 
the indebtedness of the ryot. It is the casual moneylender 
with little or no capital who lives by his wits, or the large 
firms with shops and agents scattered over the face of the 
country who work the serious mischief. These latter en- 
courage the people to take loans and discourage repayment 
until the debt has increased by accumulation of interest to 
a sum from which the borrower cannot easily free himself" ^ 

1 Sir II. II. "RisXty^s Peoples of India, p. 291. 
p. 127, and Appendix I. p. 8. ^ Nagptu- Setllement Report (1900), 

2 Punjab Census Report (1881), para. 54. 


The progress of administration, bringing with it easy 21. The 
and safe transit all over the country ; the institution of a '""'"^y" 

■' lender 

complete system of civil justice and the stringent enforce- changed 

ment of contracts through the courts ; the introduction of ^°'^ ''^'^ 
_ ^ ' worse. 

cash coinage as the basis of all transactions ; and the grant 
of proprietary and transferable rights in land, appear to have 
at the same time enhanced the Bania's prosperity and 
increased the harshness and rapacity of his dealings. When 
the moneylender lived in the village he had an interest in 
the solvency of the tenants who constituted his clientele and 
was also amenable to public opinion, even though not of his 
own caste. For it would clearly be an impossibly unpleasant 
position for him to meet no one but bitter enemies whenever 
he set foot outside his house, and to go to bed in nightly 
fear of being dacoited and murdered by a combination of 
his next-door neighbours. He therefore probably adopted 
the motto of live and let live, and conducted his transactions 
on a basis of custom, like the other traders and artisans who 
lived among the village community. But with the rise of 
the large banking - houses whose dealings are conducted 
through agents over considerable tracts of country, public 
opinion can no longer act. The agent looks mainly to his 
principal, and the latter has no interest in or regard for the 
cultivators of distant villages. He cares only for his profit, 
and his business is conducted with a single view to that end. 
He himself has no public opinion to face, as he lives in a 
town among a community of his caste-fellows, and here 
absolutely no discredit is attached to grinding the faces of 
the poor, but on the contrary the honour and consideration 
accruing to him are in direct proportion to his wealth. The 
agent may have some compunction, but his first aim is to 
please his principal, and as he is often a sojourner liable to 
early transfer he cares little what may be said or thought 
about him locally. 

Again the introduction of the English law of contract 22. The 
and transfer of property, and the increase in the habit of enforce- 

11 ment of 

litigation have greatly altered the character of the money- contracts, 
lending business for the worse. The debtor signs a bond 
sometimes not even knowing the conditions, more often 
having heard them but without any clear idea of their effect 


or of the consequences to himself, and as readily allows it to 
be registered. When it comes into court the witnesses, who 
are the moneylender's creatures, easily prove that it was a 
genuine and bona fide transaction, and the debtor is too 
ignorant and stupid to be able to show that he did not 
understand the bargain or that it was unconscionable. In 
any case the court has little or no power to go behind a 
properly executed contract without any actual evidence of 
fraud, and has no option but to decree it in terms of the 
deed. This evil is likely to be remedied very shortly, as 
the Government of India have announced a proposal to 
introduce the recent English Act and allow the courts the 
discretion to go behind contracts, and to refuse to decree 
exorbitant interest or other hard bargains. This urgently 
needed reform will, it may be hoped, greatly improve the 
character of the civil administration by encouraging the 
courts to realise that it is their business to do justice between 
litigants, and not merely to administer the letter of the law ; 
and at the same time it should have the result, as in England, 
of quickening the public conscience and that of the money- 
lenders themselves, which has indeed already been to some 
extent awakened by other Government measures, including 
the example set by the Government itself as a creditor. 

Again the free circulation of metal currency and its 
adoption as a medium for all transactions has hitherto been 
to the disadvantage of the debtors. Interest on money was 
probably little in vogue among pastoral peoples, and was 
looked upon with disfavour, being prohibited by both the 
Mosaic and Muhammadan codes. The reason was perhaps 
that in a pastoral community there existed no means of 
making a profit on a loan by which interest could be paid, 
and hence the result of usury was that the debtor ultimately 
became enslaved to his creditor ; and the enslavement of 
freemen on any considerable scale was against the public 
interest. With the introduction of agriculture a system of 
loans on interest became a necessary and useful part of the 
public economy, as a cultivator could borrow grain to sow 
land and support himself and his family until the crop 
ripened, out of which the loan, principal and interest, could 
be repaid. If, as seems likely, this was the first occasion 


for the introduction of the system of loan-giving on a large 
scale, it would follow that the rate of interest would be based 
largely on the return yielded by the earth to the seed. 
Support is afforded to this conjecture by the fact that in 
the case of grain loans in the Central Provinces the interest 
on loans of grain of the crops which yield a comparatively 
small return, such as wheat, is twenty-five to fifty per cent, 
while in the case of those which yield a large return, such as 
juari and kodon, it is one hundred per cent. These high 
rates of interest were not of much importance so long as the 
transaction was in grain. The grain was much less valuable 
at harvest than at seed time, and in addition the lender had 
the expense of storing and protecting his stock of grain 
through the year. It is probable that a rate of twenty-five 
per cent on grain loans does not yield more than a reasonable 
profit to the lender. But when in recent times cash came 
to be substituted for grain it would appear that there was 
no proportionate reduction in the interest. The borrower 
would lose by having to sell his grain for the payment of 
his debt at the most unfavourable rate after harvest, and since 
the transaction was by a regular deed the lender no longer 
took any share of the risk of a bad harvest, as it is 
probable that he was formerly accustomed to do. The rates 
of interest for cash loans afforded a disproportionate profit 
to the lender, who was put to no substantial expense in 
keeping money as he had formerly been in the case of grain. 
It is thus probable that rates for cash loans were for a con- 
siderable period unduly severe in proportion to the risk, and 
involved unmerited loss to the borrower. This is now being 
remedied by competition, by Government loans given on a 
large scale in time of scarcity, and by the introduction of 
co-operative credit. But it has probably contributed to 
expedite the transfer of land from the cultivating to the 
moneylending classes. 

Lastly the grant of proprietary and transferable right to 24. Pro- 
land has afforded a new incentive and reward to the success- ^"^ ^^^^^ 
ful moneylender. Prior to this measure it is probable that ferabie 
no considerable transfers of land occurred for ordinary debt. |,^'^d. 
The village headman might be ousted for non-payment of 
revenue, or simply through the greed of some Government 


official under native rule, and of course the villages were 
continually pillaged and plundered by their own and hostile 
armies such as the Pindaris, while the population was periodic- 
ally decimated by famine. But apart from their losses by 
famine, war and the badness of the central government, it is 
probable that the cultivators were held to have a hereditary 
right to their land, and were not liable to ejectment on the 
suit of any private person. It is doubtful whether they had 
any conception of ownership of the land, and it seems likely 
that they may have thought of it as a god or the property 
of the god ; but the cultivating castes perhaps had a 
hereditary right to cultivate it, just as the Chamar had a 
prescriptive right to the hides of the village cattle, the Kalar 
to the mahua-flowers for making his liquor, the Kumhar to 
clay for his pots, and the Teli to press the oil-seeds grown in 
his village. The inferior castes were not allowed to hold 
land, and it was probably never imagined that the village 
moneylender should by means of a piece of stamped paper 
be able to oust the cultivators indebted to him and take their 
land himself. With the grant of proprietary right to land 
such as existed in England, and the application of the 
English law of contract and transfer of property, a new and 
easy road to wealth was opened to the moneylender, of which 
he was not slow to take advantage. The Banias have thus 
ousted numbers of improvident proprietors of the cultivating 
castes, and many of them have become large landlords. A 
considerable degree of protection has now been afforded to 
landowners and cultivators, and the process has been checked, 
but that it should have proceeded so far is regrettable ; and 
the operation of the law has been responsible for a large 
amount of unintentional injustice to the cultivating castes 
and especially to proprietors of aboriginal descent, who on 
account of their extreme ignorance and improvidence most 
readily fall a prey to the moneylender. 

As landlords the Banias were not at first a success. 
They did not care to spend money in improving their 
property, and ground their tenants to the utmost. Sir R. 
Craddock remarks of them : ^ " Great or small they are 
absolutely unfitted by their natural instincts to be landlords. 

^ Nagpur Settlement Report (1900), para. 54. 


Shrewdest of traders, most business-like in the matter of 
bargains, they are unable to take a broad view of the duties 
of landlord or to see that rack-renting will not pay in the 
long run." 

Still, under the influence of education, and the growth of 
moral feeling, as well as the desire to stand well with Govern- 
ment officers and to obtain recognition in the shape of some 
honour, many of the Marwari proprietors are developing into 
just and progressive landlords. But from the cultivator's 
point of view, residence on their estates, which are managed 
by agents in charge of a number of villages for an absent 
owner, cannot compare with the system of the small cultivat- 
ing proprietor resident among tenants of his own caste, and 
bound to them by ties of sympathy and caste feeling, which 
produces, as described by Sir R. Craddock, the ideal village. 

As a trader the Bania formerly had a high standard of 26. Com- 
commercial probity. Even though he might show little ho^^esty 
kindliness or honesty in dealing with the poorer class of 
borrowers, he was respected and absolutely reliable in regard 
to money. It was not unusual for people to place their 
money in a rich Bania's hands without interest, even paying 
him a small sum for safe-keeping. Bankruptcy was con- 
sidered disgraceful, and was visited with social penalties little 
less severe than those enforced for breaches of caste rules. 
There was a firm belief that a merchant's condition in the 
next world depended on the discharge of all claims against 
him. And the duty of paying ancestral debts was evaded 
only in the case of helpless or hopeless poverty. Of late, 
partly owing to the waning power of caste and religious 
feeling in the matter, and partly to the knowledge of the 
bankruptcy laws, the standard of commercial honour has 
greatly fallen. Since the case of bankruptcy is governed and 
arranged for by law, the trader thinks that so long as he can 
keep within the law he has done nothing wrong. A banker, 
when heavily involved, seldom scruples to become a bankrupt 
and to keep back money enough to enable him to start 
afresh, even if he does nothing worse. This, however, is 
probably a transitory phase, and the same thing has happened 
in England and America at one stage of commercial develop- 
ment. In time it may be expected that the loss of the old 


religious and caste feeling will be made good by a new 
standard of commercial honour enforced by public opinion 
among merchants generally. The Banias are very good to 
their own caste, and when a man is ruined will have a 
general subscription and provide funds to enable him to start 
afresh in a small way. Beggars are very rare in the caste. 
Rich Marwaris are extremely generous in their subscriptions 
to objects of public utility, but it is said that the small Bania 
is not very charitably inclined, though he doles out handfuls 
of grain to beggars with fair liberality. But he has a system 
by which he exacts from those who deal with him a slight 
percentage on the price received by them for religious pur- 
poses. This is called Deodan or a gift to God, and is 
supposed to go into some public fund for the construction or 
maintenance of a temple or similar object. In the absence 
of proper supervision or audit it is to be feared that the Bania 
inclines to make use of it for his private charity, thus saving 
himself expense on that score. The system has been in- 
vestigated by Mr. Napier, Commissioner of Jubbulpore, 
with a view to the application of these funds to public 

Bania, Agarwala, Ag-arwal. — This is generally con- 
sidered to be the highest and most important subdivision of 
the Banias. They numbered about 25,000 persons in the 
Central Provinces in 191 1, being principally found in Jub- 
bulpore and Nagpur. The name is probably derived from 
Agroha, a small town in the Hissar District of the Punjab, 
whichwasformerlyof some commercial importance. Buchanan 
records that when any firm failed in the city each of the others 
contributed a brick and five rupees, which formed a stock 
sufficient for the merchant to recommence trade with 
advantage. The Agarwalas trace their descent from a Raja 
Agar Sen, whose seventeen sons married the seventeen 
daughters of Basuki, the king of the Nagas or snakes. Elliot 
considers that the snakes were really the Scythian or bar- 
barian immigrants, the Yuch-chi or Kushans, from whom 
several of the Rajput clans as the Tak, Haihayas and others, 
who also have the legend of snake ancestry, were probably 
derived. Elliot also remarks that Raja Agar Sen, being a 

II aganivAla 137 

king, must have been a Kshatriya, and thus according to the 
legend the Agarwalas would have Rajput ancestry on both 
sides. Their appearance, Mr. Crooke states, indicates good 
race and breeding, and would lend colour to the theory of a 
Rajput origin. Raja Agar Sen is said to have ruled over 
both Agra and Agroha, and it seems possible that the name 
of the Agarwalas may also be connected with Agra, which 
is a much more important place than Agroha. The country 
round Agra and Delhi is their home, and the shrine of the 
tutelary goddess of some of the Agarwalas in the Central 
Provinces is near Delhi. The memory of the Naga princess 
who was their ancestor is still, Sir H. Risley states, held in 
honour by the Agarwalas, and they say, * Our mother's house 
is of the race of the snake.' ^ No Agarwala, whether Hindu 
or Jain, will kill or molest a snake, and the Vaishnava 
Agarwalas of Delhi paint pictures of snakes on either side of 
the outside doors of their houses, and make offerings of fruit 
and flowers before them. 

In the Central Provinces, like other Bania subcastes, they 
are divided into the Bisa and Dasa or twenty and ten sub- 
divisions, which marry among themselves. The Bisa rank 
higher than the Dasa, the latter being considered to have 
some flaw in their pedigree, such as descent from a remarried 
widow. The Dasas are sometimes said to be the descend- 
ants of the maidservants who accompanied the seventeen 
Naga or snake princesses on their marriages to the sons 
of Raja Agar Sen. A third division has now come into 
existence in the Central Provinces, known as the Pacha 
or fives; these are apparently of still more doubtful origin 
than the Dasas. The divisions tend to be endogamous, but 
if a man of the Bisa or Dasa cannot obtain a wife from 
his own group he will sometimes marry in a lower group. 

The Agarwalas are divided into seventeen and a half 
gotras or exogamous sections, which are supposed to be 
descended from the seventeen sons of Raja Agar Sen. The 
extra \\2Xi gotra is accounted for by a legend, but it probably 
has in reality also something to do with illegitimate descent. 
Some of the gotras, as given by Mr. Crooke, are as a matter 
of fact named after Brahmanical saints like those of the 

* Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art. Agarwala. 


Brahmans ; instances of these are Garga, Gautama, Kaushika, 
Kasyapa and Vasishtha ; the others appear to be territorial 
or titular names. The prohibitions on marriage between 
relations are far-reaching among the Agarwalas. The de- 
tailed rules are given in the article on Bania, and the effect 
is that persons descended from a common ancestor cannot 
intermarry for five generations. When the wedding pro- 
cession is about to start the Kumhar brings his donkey and 
the bridegroom has to touch it with his foot, or, according to 
one version, ride upon it. The origin of this custom is 
obscure, but the people now say that it is meant to emphasise 
the fact that the bridegroom is going to do a foolish thing. 
The remarriage of widows is prohibited, and divorce is not 
recognised. Most of the Agarwalas are Vaishnava by reli- 
gion, but a few are Jains. Intermarriage between members 
of the two religions is permitted in some localities, and the 
wife adopts that of her husband. The Jain Agarwalas 
observe the Hindu festivals and employ Brahmans for their 
ceremonies. In Nimar the caste have some curious taboos. 
It is said that a married woman may not eat wheat until a 
child has been born to her, but only juari ; and if she has 
no child she may not eat wheat all her life. If a son is born 
to her she must go to Mahaur, a village near Delhi where 
the tutelary goddess of the caste has her shrine. This 
goddess is called Mohna Devi, and she is the deified spirit of 
a woman who burnt herself with her husband. After this 
the woman may eat wheat ; but if a second son is born she 
must stop eating wheat until she has been to the shrine again. 
But if she has a daughter she may at once and always eat 
wheat without visiting the shrine. These rules, as well as 
the veneration of a snake, from which they believe themselves 
to be descended on the mother's side, may perhaps, as 
suggested by Sir H. Risley, be a relic of the system of 
matriarchal descent. It is said that when Raja Agar Sen or 
his sons married the Naga princesses, he obtained permission 
as a special favour from the goddess Lakshmi that the 
children should bear their father's name and not their 

In Nimar some Agarwalas worship Goba Pir, the god of 
' Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art. Agarwala. 


the sweepers. He is represented by a pole some 30 feet 
long on which are hung a cloth and cocoanuts. The 
sweepers carry this through the city almost daily during 
the month of Shrawan (July), and people offer cocoanuts, 
tying them on to the pole. Some Agarwalas offer vermilion 
to the god in token of worship, and a {q\v invite it to the 
compounds of their houses and keep it there all night for 
the same purpose. When a feast is given in the caste 
the Agarwalas do not take their own brass vessels accord- 
ing to the usual practice, but the host gives them little 
earthen pots to drink from which are afterwards broken, 
and leaf-plates for their food. The Agarwalas will take 
food cooked without water {j)akki) from Oswal, Maheshri 
and Khandelwal Banias. The Agarwalas of the Central 
Provinces hold some substantial estates in Chhattlsgarh ; 
these were obtained at the first settlements during 1860-70, 
when considerable depression existed, and many of the 
village headmen were unwilling to accept the revenue 
assessed on their villages. The more enterprising Banias 
stepped in and took them, and have profited enormously 
owing to the increase in the value of land. Akbar's great 
minister, Todar Mai, who first introduced an assessment of 
the land-revenue based on the measurement and survey of 
the land, is said to have been an Agarwala. 

Bania, Ag^rahari.^^ — This subcaste numbered nearly 2000 
persons in 191 1, resident principally in Jubbulpore, Raipur 
and Bilaspur, and some of the Feudatory States. Mr. 
Crooke states that they claim partly a Vaishya and partly 
a Brahmanical descent, and wear the sacred thread. Like 
that of the Agarwala Banias their name has been con- 
nected with the cities of Agra and Agroha. There is 
no doubt that they are closely connected with the Agar- 
walas, and Mr. Nesfield suggests that the two groups must 
have been sections of one and the same caste which 
quarrelled on some trifling matter connected with cooking 
or eating, and have remained separate ever since. The 
Agrahari Banias are Hindus, and some of them belong to 

' The information on this subcaste is taken from Mr. Crooke's article on it 
in his Tribes and Castes. 


the Nanakpanthi sect. They are principally dealers in 
provisions, and they have acquired some discredit as com- 
pared with their kinsfolk the Agarvvalas, through not 
secluding their women and allowing them to attend the 
shop. They also retail various sweet-smelling woods which 
are used in religious ceremonies, such as aloe -wood and 
sandalwood, besides a number of medicines and simples. 
The richer members of the caste are bankers, dealers in 
grain and pawnbrokers. 

Bania, AjudhiaMsi, Audhia. — A subcaste of Bania, 
whose name signifies a resident of Ajodhia, the old name 
of Oudh. Outsiders often shorten the name to Audhia, but, 
as will be seen, the name Audhia is regularly applied to 
a criminal class, who may have been derived from the 
Ajudhiabasi Banias, but are now quite distinct from them. 
The Ajudhiabasis numbered nearly 2000 persons in 191 i, 
belonging chiefly to the Jubbulpore, Narsinghpur and 
Hoshangabad Districts. This total includes any persons 
who may have returned themselves as Audhia. The 
Ajudhiabasis are nearly all Hindus with a small Jain 
minority. Though Oudh was their original home they 
are now fairly numerous in Cawnpore and Bundelkhand 
as well, and it may have been from this last locality that 
they entered the Central Provinces. Here they form a 
separate endogamous group and do not marry with their 
caste -fellows in northern India. They have exogamous 
sections, and marriage is prohibited within the section and 
also between first cousins. They permit the remarriage 
of widows, but are said not to recognise divorce, and to 
expel from the caste a woman guilty of adultery. It may 
be doubted, however, whether this is correct. Brahmans 
serve as their priests, and they invest boys with the sacred 
thread either at marriage or at a special ceremony known 
as Gurmukh. The dead arc either buried or burnt ; in 
the case of burial men are laid on the face and women 
on the back, the body being first rubbed with salt, clarified 
butter, turmeric and milk. A little earth from the grave 
is carried away and thrown into a sacred river, and when 
the dead arc burnt the ashes are similarly disposed of. 


Their principal deity is the goddess Devi, and at the 
Dasahra festival they offer a goat to her, the flesh of 
which is distributed among members of the caste. 

The Audhias are a well-known criminal tribe, whose 
headquarters is in the Fatehpur District. They say 
that they are Banias, and use the name Ajudhiabasi in 
speaking of themselves, and from their customs and criminal 
methods it seems not unlikely that they may originally 
have been an offshoot from the Ajudhiabasi Banias. They 
are now, however, perfectly distinct from this group, and 
any confusion between them would be very unjust to the 
latter. In northern India it is said that the Audhias deal 
largely in counterfeit coin and false jewellery, and never 
commit crimes of violence ; ^ but in Bombay they have 
taken to housebreaking, though they usually select an 
empty house.^ From their homes in the United Provinces 
they wander over Central India, the Central Provinces, 
Bengal and Bombay ; they are said to avoid the Punjab 
and Sind owing to difficulties of working, and they 
have made it a caste offence to commit any crime in the 
Ganges-Jumna Doab, probably because this is their home. 
It is said also that if any one of them is imprisoned he 
is put out of caste. They wander about disguised as 
religious mendicants, Brahmans or Bairagis. They carry 
their bedding tied on their back with a cloth, and a large 
bag slung over the shoulders which contains food, cooking- 
vessels and other articles. Sometimes they pretend to be 
Banias and hawk about sweets and groceries, or one 
of the gang opens a shop, which serves as a rendezvous 
and centre for collecting information.^ In the Districts 
where they reside they are perfectly well-behaved. They 
are well-to-do and to all appearance respectable in their 
habits. Their women are well-dressed with plenty of orna- 
ments on their persons. They have no apparent means 
of support ; they neither cultivate land nor trade ; and 
all that appears on the surface is that most of the men 
and boys go off after the rains and return at the end of 

1 Mr. Crooke's Tribes and Castes, Bombaji Presidency, art. Audhia. 
art. Audhia. 3 Kennedy, ibidem. 

•^ Kennedy's Criminal Classes of the 


the cold weather. If asked how they support themselves 
they reply by begging. Their marriage rules are those of 
high -caste Hindus. They are divided into two classes, 
Unch or high and Nich or low, the former being of pure 
blood, and the latter the descendants of kept women. 
These are practically endogamous. A man may not have 
more than two wives. If a girl is detected in immorality 
before marriage, she is permanently excommunicated, and 
a married woman can be turned out by her husband 
on proof of adultery. A bridegroom-price is usually paid, 
the father of the bride visiting the bridegroom and giving 
him the money in secret. The dead are burnt, and Brahmans 
are duly fed. If a man has died through an accident 
or from cholera, smallpox, poison or leprosy, the corpse, if 
available, is at once consigned to the Ganges or other 
river, and during the course of the next twelve months a 
Mahabrahman is paid to make an image of the deceased 
in gram-flour, which is cremated with the usual rites. As 
in the case of the Ajudhiabasi Banias, the tribal deity of 
the Audhias is the goddess Devi.^ 

Bania, Asathi. — This subcaste numbers about 2500 
persons in the Central Provinces, belonging principally to 
the Damoh and Jubbulpore Districts. They say that their 
original home was the Tikamgarh State in Bundelkhand. 
They do not rank very high, and are sometimes said to be 
the descendants of an Ahir who became a Bania. The 
great bulk are Hindus and a small minority Jains. It is 
told of the Asathis that they first bury their dead, in accord- 
ance presumably with a former practice, and then exhume 
and burn the bodies ; and there is a saying — 

Ardha jale, ardha gave 
Ji7ika 7iain Asathi parc^ 

or, ' He who is an Asathi is half buried and half burnt.* 
But this practice, if it ever really existed, has now been 

Bania, Charnag-ri, Channag-ri, Samaiya. — The Char- 
nagris are a small Jain subcaste which numbered about 2500 

1 Mr. Crooke's Tribes and Castes, art. Audhia. 

u ASATHl 143 

persons in 191 i, residing princiimlly in the Damoh and 
Chhlndwara Districts. They are the followers of one Taran 
Svvami, who is said to have lived about five centuries aL^^o. 
He preached against the worship of the images of the Jain 
Tirthakars, and said that this should be abandoned and only 
the sacred books be revered. The chief sacred place of the 
sect is Malhargarh in Gwalior State ; here the tomb of their 
prophet is situated and there is also a large temple in 
which the Jain scriptures are enshrined. In the month of 
Phagun (February) a fair is held here, and Charnagris dance 
in the temples, holding lighted lamps in their hands. 
Nowadays the Charnagris also visit the ordinary Jain 
temples when their own are not available. They are 
practically all derived from Parwar Banias, and formerly 
would sometimes give their daughters to Parwars in marriage, 
but this practice is said to have stopped. Like other 
Bania subcastes, they are divided into Bisa and Dasa, or 
twenty and ten sections, the Dasa being of irregular descent. 
Intermarriage between the two sections occasionally occurs, 
and the Dasa will take food from the Bisa section, but the 
latter do not reciprocate except at caste feasts. 

Bania, Dhusar, Bhargfava Dhusar. — The origin of this 
group is much disputed. They are usually classed as a 
subcaste of Bania, but claim to be Brahmans. They take 
their name from a hill called Dhusi or Dhosi, near Narnaul 
on the border of Alwar State. The title Bhargava signifies a 
descendant of Bhrigu, one of the famous eponymous Rishis 
or Brahmanical saints, to whom Manu confided his institutes, 
calling him his son. If this was their original name, it 
would show that they were Brahmans, but its adoption 
appears to be somewhat recent. Their claim to be 
Brahmans is, however, admitted by many members of that 
caste, and it is stated that they perform the functions of 
Brahmans in their original home in Rajputana. Mr. Burn 
wrote of them : ^ "In his book on castes published in 1872 
Mr. Sherring does not refer to any claim to kinship wnth 
Brahmans, though in his description of Dhusar Banias he 
appears to include the people under consideration. Both 

1 United Provinces Census Report (1901), p. 220. 


the Dhusar Bhargavas and Dhusar Banias assert that Himu, 
the capable Vazir of Muhammad Shah Suri, belonged to 
their community, and such a claim by the former is if 
anything in favour of the view that they are not Brahmans, 
since Himu is variously described by Muhammadan writers 
as a corn-chandler, a weighman and a Bania. Colonel Dow 
in his history of Hindustan calls him a shopkeeper who was 
raised by Sher Shah to be Superintendent of Markets. It 
is not improbable that Himu's success laid the foundation 
for a claim to a higher position, but the matter does not 
admit of absolute proof, and I have therefore accepted the 
decision of the majority of the caste - committees and 
considered them as a caste allied to Brahmans." In the 
Punjab the Dhusars appear to be in some places Brahmans 
and in others Banias. " They take their food before 
morning prayer, contrary to the Hindu rule, but of late 
years they have begun to conform to the orthodox practice. 
The Brahman Dhusar marries with his caste-fellows and the 
Bania with Banias, avoiding always the same family {gotrd) 
or one having the same family deity." ^ From the above 
accounts it would appear that the Dhusars may have 
originally been a class of Brahmans who took to trade, like 
the Palliwal Brahmans of Marv/ar, and have lost their 
position as Brahmans and become amalgamated with the 
Bania caste ; or they may have been Banias, who acted as 
priests to others of the community, and hence claimed to be 
Brahmans. The caste is important and influential, and is 
now making every effort to recover or substantiate its 
Brahman status. One writer states that they combine the 
office aptitude and hard-heartedness to a debtor characteristic 
of the Bania. The Dhusars are rigid in the maintenance of 
the purity of their order and in the performance of Hindu 
ceremonies and duties, and neither eat meat nor drink any 
kind of spirit. In Delhi they were distinguished for their 
talent as singers, and cultivated a peculiar strain or measure, 
in which they were unsurpassed.^ In the Central Provinces 
the Dhusars are a flourishing body, their leaders being Rai 
Bahadur Bihari Lai Khizanchi of Jubbulpore and Rai Sahib 

• Atkinson, Himalayan Gazetteer, article Dhusar. 
ii. p. 473, quoted in Mr. Crooke's ^ Sherring, FIi7idH Castes, i. p. 293. 


Seth Sundar Lfil of Betul. They have founded the 
Bhfirgava bank of Jubbulporc, and shown considerable public 
spirit ; to the latter gentleman's generosity a large part of 
the success of the recent debt-conciliation proceedings in the 
Betul District must be attributed. 

Bania, Dosar, Dusra.^ — This subcaste numbers about 
600 persons. The original name is Dusra or second, and the 
Dosar or Dusra are a section of the Ummar Banias, who were 
so called because they permit widows to make a second 
marriage. Their home is the Ganges -Jumna Doab and 
Oudh, and in the United Provinces they are classed as an 
inferior subcaste of the Ummars. Here they say that the 
Ummars are their elder brothers. In the Central Provinces 
they are said to be forming three local endogamous groups 
according as their homes were in the Doab, Oudh or the 
Allahabad country ; and members of each of these marry 
among themselves. The Dosars say that they all belong to 
the Kashyap " gotra or clan, but for the purpose of marriage 
they have territorial or titular exogamous sections ; instances 
of these are Gangapari, a native of Oudh ; Sagarah, a resident 
of Saugor ; Makraha, a seller of makka or maize, and 
Tamakhuha, a tobacco -seller. They pay a bridegroom- 
price, the full recognised amount of which is Rs. 211, either 
in cash or brass cooking-vessels. Those who cannot afford 
this sum give half of it or Rs. 105, and the poorest classes 
pay anything they can afford. The Dosars are Vaishnava 
Hindus and employ Sanadhya Brahmans as their priests. 
These Brahmans will take food without water from their 
clients, but they are an inferior class and are looked down 
upon by other Brahmans. The caste are mainly shop- 
keepers, and they deal in gold and silver ornaments, as well 
as grain, tobacco and all kinds of groceries. 

Bania, Gahoi.^ — This Hindu subcaste numbered nearly 
7000 persons in 191 1, belonging principally to the Saugor, 

^ This account is based on a paper but the name is perhaps derived from 

furnished by Mr. Jeorakhan Lai, Kachhap, a tortoise. 

Deputy Inspector of Schools, Bilas- ^ This article is mainly based on a 

pur. paper by ]\Ir. Pancham Lai, Naib- 

- Kashyap was a Brahman saint, Tahsildar Sihora. 



Jubbulpore and Narsinghpur Districts. Their home is the 
Bundelkhand country, which these Districts adjoin, and they 
say that their original headquarters was at Kharagpur in 
Bundelkhand, whence they have spread over the surrounding 
country. They tell a curious story of their origin to the effect 
that once upon a time there was a certain schoolmaster, one 
Biya Pande Brahman, who could foretell the future. One 
day he was in his school with his boys when he foresaw that 
there was about to be an earthquake. He immediately 
warned his boys to get out of the building, and himself led 
the way. Only twelve of the boys had followed, and the 
others were still hesitating, when the earthquake began, the 
school fell in, and they were all buried in the ruins. The 
schoolmaster formed the boys who had escaped into one 
caste, calling them Gahoi, which is supposed to mean that 
which is left or the residue ; and he determined that he and 
his descendants would be the priests of the new caste. At 
the weddings of the Gahois an image of the schoolmaster is 
painted on the house wall, and the bridegroom worships it with 
offerings of butter and flowers. The story indicates clearly 
that the Gahois are of mixed descent from several castes. 

The subcaste has twelve gotras or sections, and seventy- 
two al or dnken, which are subsections of the gotras. Several 
of the al names appear to be of a titular or totemistic 
character, as Mor peacock, Sohania beautiful, Nagaria a 
drummer, Paharia a hillman, Matele the name of a village 
headman in Bundelkhand, Piparvania from the plpal tree, 
Dadaria a singer. The rule of exogamy is said to be that a 
man must not marry in his own gotra nor in the al of his 
mother or either grandmother.^ Their weddings are held 
only at the bride's house, no ceremonies being performed at 
the bridegroom's ; at the ceremony the bridegroom stands 
in the centre of the shed by the marriage-post and the bride 
walks seven times round him. At their weddings the 
Gahois still use the old rupees of the Nagpur kingdom 
for presents and payments to menials, and they hoard them 
up, when they can get them, for this special purpose. The 
rupee is sacred with the Bania, and this is an instance of 
the preservation of old accessories for religious ceremonies 

1 Mr. Crooke's Tribes and Castes, art. Gahoi. 


when they have been superseded in ordinary use. Polygamy 
is permitted, but is rare. The Gahois employ Bhargava 
Brahmans for their priests, and these are presumably the 
descendants of the schoolmaster who founded the caste. 
At the thirteenth-day feast after a death the Brahmans 
must be fed first before the members of the caste. On this 
occasion thirteen brass or earthen vessels arc filled with 
flour, and a piece of money, and presented to thirteen 
Brahmans, while the family priest receives a bed and piece 
of cloth. The priests are said to be greedy, and to raise 
quarrels over the value of the presents given to them. At 
the Diwali festival the Gahois worship the implements of 
their trade, pen and ink, and their account-books. The 
Gahois are Vaishnava Hindus, and abstain from all flesh 
and alcoholic liquor. They trade in grain and groceries, 
and are bankers and moneylenders. They are considered 
to be cunning in business, and a proverb says that a Gahoi 
will deceive even his own father. 

Bania, Golapiirab, Golahre. — This Jain subcaste num- 
bers about 6000 persons in the Central Provinces, and 
belongs mainly to the Saugor, Damoh and Narsinghpur 
Districts. Its distribution is nearly the same as that of the 
Gahois, and it is probably also a Bundelkhand group. The 
Golapurabs are practically all Digambari Jains with a small 
Hindu minority. In some localities they intermarry with 
Parwar Banias who are also Digambari Jains ; and they will 
take food cooked without water from the Nema subcaste who 
are Hindus. According to one story the Golapurabs were 
the offspring of a Purabia, that is probably a Bais Rajput, by 
a kept woman of the Ahlr caste. This fits in very well with 
the name, as Golak means a bastard, and the termination 
purab would be from Purabia ; but it is probably the name 
which has given rise to the story, or at any rate to the sup- 
posed descent from a Purabia. In the United Provinces a 
small subcaste of Bania called Golahre exists, belonging to 
the Jhansi District, that is the country of the Golapurabs, 
and Jain by religion. There is no doubt that this group is 
the same as the Golapurabs, and Mr. Crooke derives ^ the 

' Tribes and Castes, art. Golahre. 


name from gola^ a grain-mart, which seems more probable than 
the derivation suggested above. But it is an interesting fact 
that there is also a caste of cultivators called Golapurab in 
the United Provinces, found only in the Agra District. It is 
suggested that these people are the illegitimate offspring of 
Sanadhya Brahmans, with whom they appear to be closely 
connected. From their sept-names, however, which include 
those of several Rajput clans and also some titular terms of 
a low-caste type, Mr. Crooke thinks their Brahmanical origin 
improbable. It is noticeable that these Golapurabs though 
a cultivating caste have, like the Banias, a subcaste called 
Dasa, comprising persons of irregular descent ; they also 
prohibit the remarriage of widows, and abstain from all flesh 
and from onions and garlic. Such customs are peculiar in a 
cultivating caste, and resemble those of Banias. It seems 
possible that a detailed investigation might give ground for 
supposing that both the Golahre and Golapurab subcastes 
of Banias in the United and Central Provinces respectively 
are connected with this cultivating caste of Golapurabs. 
The latter might have abandoned the Jain religion on 
taking to cultivation, as a Jain cannot well drive the 
plough, which involves destruction of animal life ; or the 
Bania section might have adopted Jainism in order to 
obtain a better social position and differentiate themselves 
from the cultivators. Unfortunately no detailed information 
about the Golapurabs of the Central Provinces is available, 
from which the probability or otherwise of this hypothesis 
could be tested. 

Bania, Kasarwani.^ — This Hindu subcaste numbers about 
6500 persons in the Central Provinces, who belong mainly 
to Saugor, Jubbulpore and the three Chhattlsgarh Districts. 
The name is probably derived from kdnsa, bell-metal, as 
these Banias retail brass and bell - metal vessels. The 
Kasarwanis may therefore not improbably be an occupational 
group formed from persons who engaged in the trade, and in 
that case they may be wholly or partly derived from the 
Kasars and Tameras, the castes which work in brass, copper 

' The above notice is partly based on a paper by Mr. Sant Prasad, school- 
master, Nandgaon. 


and bell-metal. The Kasarvvanis are numerous in Allahabad 
and Mirzapur, and they may have come to Chhattlsgarh 
from Mirzapur, attracted by the bell-metal industries in 
Ratanpur and Drug. In Saugor and also in the United 
Provinces they say that they came from Kara Manikpur 
several generations ago. If the selling of metal vessels was 
their original calling, many, or the majority of them, have 
now abandoned it, and deal in grain and groceries, and lend 
money like other Banias. The Kasarwanis do not observe 
the same standard of strictness as the good Bania subcastes 
in their social rules. They eat the flesh of goats, sheep, 
birds and fish, though they abstain from liquor. They 
permit the remarriage of widows and divorce ; and women 
who have been divorced can marry again in the caste by the 
same rite as widows. They also allow the exchange of girls 
in marriage between two families. They do not as a rule 
wear the sacred thread. Their priests are Sarwaria Brahmans, 
and these Brahmans and a few Bania subcastes, such as the 
Agarwalas, Umres and Gahois, can take food cooked 
without water from them, but other Brahmans and Rajputs 
will not take any kind of food. Matches are arranged in 
the presence of the head of the caste panchdyat, who is known 
as Chaudhri. The parents on each side give their consent, 
and in pledge of it six pice (farthings) are taken from both 
of them, mixed together and given to their family priests 
and barbers, four pice to the priests and two to the barbers. 
The following is a local derivation of the name ; the word 
kasar means more or the increase, and bJiata means less ; 
and Hamdra kya kasar hhata ? means ' How does my 
account stand ? ' Hence Kasarbani is one who keeps 
accounts, that is a Bania. 

Bania, Kasaundhan. — This subcaste numbers about 5500 
persons in the Central Provinces and is returned principally 
from the Bilaspur, Raipur and Jubbulpore Districts. The 
name is derived ^ by Mr. Crooke from kdnsa, bell-metal, and 
dkana, wealth, and it would appear that the Kasaundhans 
like the Kasarwanis are an occupational group, made up of 
shopkeepers who dealt in metal vessels. Like them also the 

^ Tribes and Castes, art. Kasaundhan. 


Kasaundhans may have originally been constituted from the 
metal-working castes, and indeed they may be only a local 
branch of the Kasarwanis, though no information is available 
which would decide this point. In the United Provinces 
both the Kasarwanis and Kasaundhans are divided into the 
Purbia or eastern and Pachhaiyan or western subcastes. 
Dharam Das, the great disciple of Kablr, who founded the 
Kablrpanthi sect in the Central Provinces, was a Kasaundhan 
Bania, and the Kablrpanthi Mahants or high-priests of 
Kawardha are of this caste. It is probable that a good 
many of the Kasaundhan Banias in Bilaspur and Raipur 
belong to the Kablrpanthi sect. The remainder are ordinary 

Bania, Khandelwal. — Thissubcaste numbers about i 500 
persons in the Central Provinces ; they are most numerous 
in the Hoshangabad and Amraoti Districts, but are scattered 
all over the Province. They take their name from the town 
of Khandela in the Jaipur State of Rajputana, which was 
formerly the capital of the Shekhawati federation. There is 
also a Khandelwal subcaste of the Brahman caste, found in 
the United Provinces.^ Mr. Bhattacharya says of them : ^ 
" The Khandelwal Banias are not inferior to any other division 
of the caste either in wealth or refinement. There are both 
Vaishnavites and Jains among them, and the Vaishnavite 
Khandelwals wear the sacred thread. The millionaire Seths 
of Mathura are Khandelwal Banias." 

Bania, Lad. — This subcaste numbers about 5000 persons 
in the Central Provinces, being settled in Nimar, Nagpur and 
all the Berar Districts. The Lad Banias came from Gujarat, 
and Lad is derived from Lat-desh, the old name for Gujarat. 
Like other Banias they are divided into the Bisa and Dasa 
groups or twenties and tens, the Dasa being of irregular 
descent. Their family priests are Khedavval Brahmans, and 
their caste deity is Ashapuri of Ashnai, near Petlad. Lad 
women, especially those of Baroda, are noted for their taste 
in dress. The Lad Banias are Hindus of the Vallabhacharya 

^ Mr. Crooke's Tribes and Castes, art. Khandelwal. 
2 Hindu Castes and Sects, p. 209. 

II LING Ay AT 151 

sect, who worship Krishna, and were formerly addicted to 
sexual indulgence/ 

Bania, Ling"ayat. — The Lingayat Banias number nearly 
8000 persons in the Central Provinces, being numerous in 
Wardha, Nagpur and all the Berar Districts. A brief account 
of the Lingayat sect has been given in a separate article. 
The Lingayat Banias form a separate endogamous group, 
and they do not eat or intermarry either with other Banias 
or with members of other castes belonging to the Lingayat 
sect. But they retain the name and occupation of Banias. 
They have five subdivisions, Pancham, Dikshawant, Chilli- 
want, Takalkar and Kanade. The Pancham or Pancham- 
salis are the descendants of the original Brahman converts 
to the Lingayat sect. They are the main body of the 
community and are initiated by what is known as the eight- 
fold sacrament or esJita-varna. The Dikshawant, from diksha 
or initiation, are a subdivision of the Panchamsalis, who 
apparently initiate disciples like the Dikshit Brahmans. 
The Takalkar are said to take their name from a forest 
called Takali, where their first ancestress bore a child to 
the god Siva. The Kanade are from Canara. The mean- 
ing of the term Chilliwant is not known ; it is said that a 
member of this subcaste will throw away his food or water 
if it is seen by any one who is not a Lingayat, and they 
shave the whole head. The above form endogamous sub- 
castes. The Lingayat Banias also have exogamous groups, 
the names of which are mainly titular, of a low-caste type. 
Instances of them are Kaode, from kawa a crow, Teli an 
oil-seller, Thubri a dwarf, Ubadkar an incendiary, Gudkari 
a sugar-seller and Dhamankar from Dhamangaon. They 
say that the maths or exogamous groups are no longer 
regarded, and that marriage is now prohibited between 
persons having the same surname. It is stated that if a 
girl is not married before adolescence she is finally expelled 
from the caste, but this rule has probably become obsolete. 
The proposal for marriage comes from either the boy's or 
girl's party, and sometimes the bridegroom receives a small 
sum for his travelling expenses, while at other times a bride- 
1 See article Bairagi for some notice of the sect. 


price is paid. At the wedding, rice coloured red is put in 
the hands of the bridegroom and juari coloured yellow in 
those of the bride. The bridegroom places the rice on the 
bride's head and she lays the juari at his feet. A dish full 
of water with a golden ring in it is put between them, and 
they lay their hands on the ring together under the water 
and walk five times round a decorative little marriage-shed 
erected inside the real one. A feast is given, and the bridal 
couple sit on a little dais and eat out of the same dish. 
The remarriage of widows is permitted, but the widow may 
not marry a man belonging to the section either of her 
first husband or of her father. Divorce is recognised. The 
Lingayats bury the dead in a sitting posture with the lingam 
or emblem of Siva, which has never left the dead man during 
his lifetime, clasped in his right hand. Sometimes a platform 
is made over the grave with an image of Siva. They do 
not shave the head in token of mourning. Their principal 
festival is Shivratri or Siva's night, when they offer the 
leaves of the bel tree and ashes to the god. A Lingayat 
must never be without the lingam or phallic sign of Siva, 
which is carried slung round the neck in a little case of 
silver, copper or brass. If he loses it, he must not eat, 
drink nor smoke until he finds it or obtains another. The 
Lingayats do not employ Brahmans for any purpose, but are 
served by their own priests, the Jangams,^ who are recruited 
both by descent and by initiation from members of the 
Pancham group. The Lingayat Banias are practically all 
immigrants from the Telugu country ; they have Telugu 
names and speak this language in their homes. They deal 
in grain, cloth, groceries and spices. 

Bania, Maheshri. — This important subcaste of Banias 
numbered about 14,000 persons in the Central Provinces in 
191 1, of whom 8000 belonged to the Berar Districts, and the 
remainder principally to Hoshangabad, Nimar, Wardha and 
Nagpur. The name is said to be derived from Maheshwar, 
an ancient town on the Nerbudda, near Indore, and one of 
the earliest Rajput settlements. But some of them say 
that their original home is in Bikanir, and tell a story to 
1 See separate article on Jangam. 


the effect that their ancestor was a Raja who was turned 
into stone with his seventy-two followers by some ascetics 
whose devotions they had interrupted in the forest. But 
when their wives came to commit sati by the stone figures 
the god Siva intervened and brought them to life again. 
He told them to give up the profession of arms and take 
to trade. So the seventy-two followers were the ancestors 
of the seventy-two gotras or sections of the Maheshris, and 
the Raja became their tribal Blidt or genealogist, and they 
were called Maheshri or Maheswari, from Mahesh, a name of 
Siva. In Gujarat the term Maheshri or Meshri appears to 
be used for all Banias who are not Jains, including the 
other important Hindu subcastes.^ This is somewhat peculiar, 
and perhaps tends to show that several of the local subcastes 
are of recent formation. But though they profess to be 
named after Siva, the Maheshris, like practically all other 
Hindu Banias, are Vaishnava by sect, and wear the kiniti or 
necklace of beads of basil. A small minority are Jains. 
It is to be noticed that both the place of their origin, an 
early Rajput settlement of the Yadava clan, and their own 
legend tend to show that they were derived from the Rajput 
caste ; for as their ancestors were attendants on a Raja and 
followed the profession of arms, which they were told to 
abandon, they could be none other than Rajpiits. The 
Maheshris also have the Rajput custom of sending a cocoa- 
nut as a symbol of a proposal of marriage. In Nimar the 
Maheshri Banias say they belong to the Dhakar subcaste, 
a name which usually means illegitimate, though they 
themselves explain that it is derived from a place called 
Dhakargarh, from which they migrated. As already stated 
they are divided into seventy-two exogamous clans, the 
names of which appear to be titular or territorial. It is 
said that at their weddings when the bridegroom gets to the 
door of the marriage-shed, the bride's mother ties a scarf 
round his neck and takes hold of his nose and drags him 
into the shed. Sometimes they make the bridegroom kneel 
down and pay reverence to a shoe as a joke. They do not 
observe the custom of the pangat or formal festal assembly, 
which is usual among Hindu castes ; according to this, none 

^ Bombay Gazetteer, Hindus of Gujarat, p. 70. 

154 BAN I A ' PART 

can begin to eat until all the guests have assembled, when 
they all sit down at once. Among the Maheshris the guests 
sit down as they come in, and are served and take their food 
and go. They only have the pajtgat feast on very rare 
occasions. The Maheshris are one of the richest, most 
enterprising and influential classes of Banias. They are 
intelligent, of high-bred appearance, cleanly habits and 
courteous manners. The great bankers, Sir Kasturchand 
Daga of Kamptee, of the firm of Bansi Lai Ablrchand, and 
Rai Bahadur Seth Jiwan Das and Diwan Bahadur Seth 
Ballabh Das, of Jubbulpore, belong to this subcaste. 

Bania, Nema. — This subcaste numbers nearly 4000 
persons, the bulk of whom reside in the Saugor, Damoh, 
Narsinghpur and Seoni Districts. The Nemas are most largely 
returned from Central India, and are probably a Bundelkhand 
group ; they will eat food cooked without water with Gola- 
purab Banias, who are also found in Bundelkhand. They are 
mainly Hindus, with a small minority of Jains. The origin 
of the name is obscure ; the suggestion that it comes from 
Nimar appears to be untenable, as there are very few Nemas 
in that District. They say that when Parasurama was 
slaying the Kshatriyas fourteen young Rajput princes, who 
at the time were studying religion with their family priests, 
were saved by the latter on renouncing their Kshatriya status 
and declaring themselves to be Vaishyas. These fourteen 
princes were the ancestors of the fourteen gotras of the 
Nema subcaste, but the gotras actually bear the names of 
the fourteen Rishis or saints who saved their lives. These 
sections appear to be of the usual Brahmanical type, but 
marriage is regulated by another set of fifty-two subsections, 
with names which are apparently titular or territorial. Like 
other Bania groups the Nemas are divided into Bisa and 
Dasa subdivisions or twenties and tens, the Bisa being of 
pure and the Dasa of irregular descent. There is also a 
third group of Pacha or fives, who appear to be the offspring 
of kept women. After some generations, when the details 
of their ancestry are forgotten, the Pachas probably obtain 
promotion into the Dasa group. The Bisa and Dasa groups 
take food together, but do not intermarry. The Nemas wear 

II oswal 155 

the sacred thread and apparently prohibit the remarriage of 
widows. The Nemas are considered to be very keen busi- 
ness men, and a saying about them is, " Where a sheep 
grazes or a Nema trades, what is there left for anybody 
else ? " 

Bania, Oswal. — This is perhaps the most important sub- 
division of the Banias after the Agarwala. The Oswals 
numbered nearly 10,000 persons in the Central Provinces in 
191 I, being found in considerable numbers in all the Berar 
Districts, and also in Nimar, Wardha and Raipur. The 
name is derived from the town of Osia or Osnagar in 
Marwar. According to one legend of their origin the Raja 
of Osnagar had no son, and obtained one through the 
promise of a Jain ascetic. The people then drove the 
ascetic from the town, fearing that the Raja would become 
a Jain ; but Osadev, the guardian goddess of the place, told 
the ascetic, Sri Ratan Suri, to convert the Raja by a miracle. 
So she took a small hank {pilni) of cotton and passed it 
along the back of the saint, when it immediately became a 
snake and bit Jaichand, the son of the Raja, in the toe, while 
he was asleep beside his wife. Every means was tried to 
save his life, but he died. As his corpse was about to be 
burnt, the ascetic sent one of his disciples and stopped the 
cremation. Then the Raja came with the body of his son 
and stood with hands clasped before the saint. He ordered 
that it was to be taken back to the place where the prince 
had been bitten, and that the princess was to lie down beside 
it as before. At midnight the snake returned and licked 
the bite, when the prince was restored to life. Then the 
Raja, with all his Court and people, became a Jain. He and 
his family founded the gotra or section now known as Sri 
Srimal or most noble ; his servants formed that known as 
Srimal or excellent, while the other Rajputs of the town 
became ordinary Oswals. When the Brahmans of the place 
heard of these conversions they asked the saint how they 
were to live, as all their clients had become Jains. The 
saint directed that they should continue to be the family 
priests of the Oswals and be known as Bhojak or ' eaters.' 
Thus the Oswals, though Jains, continue to employ Marwari 


Brahmans as their family priests. Another version of the 
story is that the king of Srimali ^ allowed no one who was 
not a millionaire to live within his city walls. In conse- 
quence of this a large number of persons left Srimal, and, 
settling in Mandovad, called it Osa or the frontier. Among 
them were Srimali Banias and also Bhatti, Chauhan, Gahlot, 
Gaur, Yadava, and several other clans of Rajputs, and these 
were the people who were subsequently converted by the 
Jain ascetic, Sri Ratan Suri, and formed into the single caste 
of Oswal.^ Finally, Colonel Tod states that the Oswals 
are all of pure Rajput descent, of no single tribe, but chiefly 
Panwars, Solankis and Bhattis.^ From these legends and the 
fact that their headquarters are in Rajputana, it may safely 
be concluded that the Oswal Banias are of Rajput origin. 

The large majority of the Oswals are Jain by religion, 
but a few are Vaishnava Hindus. Intermarriage between 
the Hindu and Jain sections is permitted. Like the 
Agarwalas, the Oswals are divided into Bisa, Dasa and 
Pacha sections or twenties, tens and fives, according to the 
purity of their lineage. The Pacha subcaste still permit 
the remarriage of widows. The three groups take food 
together but do not intermarry. In Bombay, Dasa Oswals 
intermarry with the Dasa groups of Srimali and Parwar 
Banias,'* and Oswals generally can marry with other good 
Bania subcastes so long as both parties are Jains. The 
Oswals are divided into eighty-four goiras or exogamous 
sections for purposes of marriage, a list of which is given by 
Mr. Crooke.^ Most of these cannot be recognised, but a few 
of them seem to be titular, as Lorha a caste which grows 
hemp, Nunia a salt-refiner, Seth a banker, Daftari an office- 
boy, Vaid a physician, Bhandari a cook, and Kukara a dog. 
These may indicate a certain amount of admixture of foreign 
elements in the caste. As stated from Benares, the 
exogamous rule is that a man cannot marry in his own 
section, and he cannot marry a girl whose father's or 
mother's section is the same as that of either his father or 
mother. This would bar the marriage of first cousins. 

^ A town near Jhalor in Marwar, ^ Rajasihdti, ii. p. 210, footnote, 

now called Bhinmal. ^ Hindus of Gujarat, loc. cit.^ and 

2 Bombay Gazetteer, Hindtis of Bombay Gazetteer, xvi. 45. 
Gujarat, p. 97. ^ Tribes and Castes, art. Oswal. 


Though Jains the Osvvfils perform their weddings by 
walking round the sacred fire and observe certain Hindu 
rites, including the worship of the god Ganpati.^ They 
also revere other Hindu deities and the sun and moon. The 
dead are burnt, but they do not observe any impurity after a 
death nor clean the house. On the day after the death the 
mourning family, both men and women, visit Parasnath's 
temple, and lay one seer (2 lbs.) of Indian millet before the 
god, bow to him and go home. They do not gather the 
ashes of the dead nor keep the yearly death-day. Their 
only observance is that on some day between the twelfth 
day after a death and the end of a year, the caste-people 
are treated to a dinner of sweetmeats and the dead ' are 
then forgotten.' ^ The Oswals will take food cooked with 
water {katchi) only from Brahmans, and that cooked without 
water {pakki) from Agarwala and Maheshri Banias. In the 
Central Provinces the principal deity of the Oswals is the 
Jain Tirthakar Parasnath, and they spend large sums in the 
erection of splendid temples. The Oswals are the most 
prominent trading caste in Rajputana ; and they have also 
frequently held high offices, such as Diwan or minister, and 
paymaster in Rajput States.^ 

Bania, Parwar.'* — This Jain subcaste numbered nearly 
29,000 persons in 191 1. They belong almost entirely to 
the Jubbulpore and Nerbudda Divisions, and the great bulk 
are found in the Saugor, Damoh and Jubbulpore Districts. 
The origin of the Parwars and of their name is not known, 
but there is some reason to suppose that they are from 
Rajputana. Their women wear on the head the bij\ a 
Rajputana ornament, and use the chdru, a deep brass plate 
for drinking, which also belongs there. Their songs are 
said to be in the Rajasthani dialect. It seems likely that 
the Parwars may be identical with the Porawal subcaste 
found in other Provinces, which, judging from the name, may 
belong to Rajputana. In the northern Districts the Parwars 

1 Bombay Gazetteer, vol. xvii. p. 51. ^ This article is based on papers 

2 Ibidem. by Mr. Pancham Lai, Naib-Tahslldar 

3 Bhattacharya, Hindu Castes and Sihora, and Munshi Kanhya Lai, of 
Sects, p. 207. the Gazetteer office. 



speak Bundeli, but in the south their language is said to 
be Marwari. 

Among the Parwars the Samaiya or Channagri form 
a separate sectarian Jain group. They do not worship 
the images of the Jain Tirthakars, but enshrine the sacred 
books of the Jains in their temples, and worship these. 
The Parwars will take daughters in marriage from the Chan- 
nagris, and sometimes give their daughters in consideration 
of a substantial bride-price. Among the Parwars themselves 
there is a social division between the Ath Sake and 
the Chao Sake ; the former will not permit the marriage of 
persons related more nearly than eight degrees, while the 
latter permit it after four degrees. The Ath Sake have the 
higher position, and if one of them marries a Chao Sake he 
is degraded to that group. Besides this the Parwars have 
an inferior division called Benaikia, which consists of the 
offspring of irregular unions and of widows who have 
remarried. Persons who have committed a caste offence and 
cannot pay the fine imposed on them for it also go into this 
subcaste. The Benaikias ^ themselves are distributed into 
four groups of varying degrees of respectability, and families 
who live correctly and marry as well as they can tend to rise 
from one to the other until after several generations they 
may again be recognised as Parwars proper. 

The Parwars have twelve gotras or main sections, and 
each gotra has, or is supposed to have, twelve inuls or 
subsections. A Parwar must not marry in his own gotra 
nor in the mul of his mother, or any of his grandmothers 
or greatgrandmothers. This practically bars marriage within 
seven degrees of relationship. But a man's sister and 
daughter may be married in the same family, and even to 
two brothers, and a man can marry two sisters. 

As a rule no bride-price is paid, but occasionally an 
old man desiring a wife will give something substantial 
to her father in secret. There are two forms of marriage, 
called Thinga and Dajanha ; in the former, women do 
not accompany the wedding procession, and they have a 
separate marriage-shed at the bridegroom's house for their 
own celebrations ; while in the latter, they accompany it 

' See also notice of Benaikias in article on Vidur. 

II J'ARlVyjR 159 

and erect such a shed at the house in the bridegroom's 
village or town where they have their lodging. Before 
the wedding, the bridegroom, mounted on a horse, and the 
bride, carried in a litter, proceed together round the mar- 
riage-shed. The bridegroom then stands by the sacred 
post in the centre and the bride walks seven times round 
him. In the evening there was a custom of dressing 
the principal male relatives of the bridegroom in women's 
clothes and making them dance, but this is now being 
discarded. On the fifth day is held a rite called Palkachar. 
A new cot is provided by the bride's father, and on it is 
spread a red cloth. The couple are seated on this with 
their hands entwined, and their relations come and make 
them presents. If the bridegroom catches hold of the dress 
of his mother- or father-in-law, they are expected to make 
him a handsome present. In other respects the wedding 
follows the ordinary Hindu ritual. Widow-marriage and 
divorce are forbidden among the Farwars proper, and those 
who practise them go into the lower Benaikia group. 

The Parwars are practically all Jains of the Digambari ^ Reii- 
sect. They build costly and beautiful temples for their 5'°": 
Tirthakars, especially for their favourite Parasnath. They observ- 
have also many Hindu practices. They observe the Diwali, ^'^^^^• 
Rakshabandhan and Holi festivals ; they say that at the 
Diwali the last Tirthakar Mahavira attained beatitude and 
the gods rained down jewels ; the little lamps now lighted 
at Diwali are held to be symbolic of these jewels. They 
tie the threads round the wrist on Rakshabandhan to keep 
off evil spirits. They worship Sitala Devi, the Hindu 
goddess of smallpox, and employ Brahmans to choose 
names for their children and fix the dates of their wedding 
and other ceremonies, though not at the ceremonies 

The caste burn the dead, with the exception of the 6. Dis- 
bodies of young children, which are buried. The corpse p°^^! °^ 
is sometimes placed sitting in a car to be taken to the 
cremation ground, but often laid on a bier in the ordinary 
manner. The sitting posture is that in which all the 
Tirthakars attained paradise, and their images always repre- 
sent them in this posture. The corpse is naked save for 



a new piece of cloth round the waist, but it is covered 
with a sheet. The Jains do not shave their hair in 
token of mourning, nor do they offer sacrificial cakes to 
the dead. When the body is burnt they bathe in the nearest 
water and go home. Neither the bearers nor the mourners 
are held to be impure. Next day the mourning family, both 
men and women, visit Parasnath's temple, lay two pounds 
of Indian millet before the god and go home.^ But in the 
Central Provinces they whitewash their houses, get their 
clothes washed, throw away their earthen pots and give a 
feast to the caste. 

The Parwars abstain from eating any kind of flesh and 
from drinking liquor. They have a panchdyat and impose 
penalties for offences against caste rules like the Hindus. 
Among the offences are the killing of any living thing, 
unchastity or adultery, theft or other bad conduct, taking 
cooked food or water from a caste from which the Parwars 
do not take them, and violation of any rule of their religion. 
To get vermin in a wound, or to be beaten by a low-caste 
man or with a shoe, incidents which entail serious penalties 
among the Hindus, are not offences with the Parwars. 
When an offender is put out of caste the ordinary depriva- 
tion is that he is not allowed to enter a Jain temple, and 
in serious cases he may also not eat nor drink with the caste. 
The Parwars are generally engaged in the trade in grain, 
ghi^ and other staples. Several of them are well-to-do and 
own villages. 

Bania, Srimali. — This subcaste takes its name from the 
town of Srimal, which is now Bhinmal in Marwar. They 
numbered 600 persons in the Central Provinces in 191 1, most 
of whom belonged to the Hoshangabad District. More than 
two-thirds were Hindus and the remainder Jains. Colonel 
Tod writes of Bhinmal and an adjoining town, Sanchor : 
" These towns are on the high road to Cutch and Gujarat, 
which has given them from the most remote times a 
commercial celebrity. Bhinmal is said to contain about 
1500 houses and Sanchor half that number. Very wealthy 
mahdjans or merchants used to reside here, but insecurity 

^ Bombay Gazetteer, vol. xvii. p. 8i. 

II UAfRE i6i 

both within and without has much injured these cities." 
From Bhinmal the Srimah's appear to have gone to Gujarat, 
where they are found in considerable numbers. Their 
legend of origin is that tlie goddess Lakshmi created from 
a flower-garland 90,000 families to act as servants to the 
90,000 Srimali Brahmans, and these were the ancestors of 
the Srimali Banias.^ Both the Jain and Hindu sections 
of the Srimali Banias employ Srimali Brahmans as priests. 
Like other classes of Banias, the Srimali are divided into 
two sections, the Bisa and Dasa, or twenty and ten, of which 
the Bisa are considered to be of pure and the Dasa of some- 
what mixed descent. In Gujarat they also have a third 
territorial group, known as Ladva, from Lad, the old name 
of Gujarat. All three subdivisions take food together but 
do not intermarry." The two highest sections of the Oswal 
Banias are called Sri Srimal and Srimal, and it is possible 
that further investigation might show the Srimals and 
Oswals to have been originally of one stock. 

Bania, Umre. — This Hindu subcaste belongs to Damoh 
and Jubbulpore. They are perhaps the same as the Ummar 
Banias of the United Provinces, who reside in the Meerut, 
Agra and Kumaon Divisions. The name Umre is found 
as a subdivision of several castes in the Central Provinces, 
as the Telis and others, and is probably derived from some 
town or tract of country in northern or central India, but 
no identification has been made. Mr. Bhimbhai Kirparam 
states that in Gujarat the Ummar Banias are also known 
as Bagaria from the Bagar or wild country, comprised in 
the Dongarpur and Pertabgarh States of Rajputana, where 
considerable numbers of them are still settled. Their head- 
quarters is at Sagwara, near Dongarpur,^ In Damoh the 
Umre Banias formerly cultivated the al plant,'* which yielded 
a well-known dye, and hence they lost caste, as in soaking the 
roots of the plant to extract the dye the numerous insects in 
them are necessarily destroyed. The Dosar subcaste ^ are 
a branch of the Umre, who allow widow-remarriage. 

1 Bombay Gazetteer, Hindus of ^ Ibidem, p. 98. 

Gujarat, p. 99. * Merinda citrifolia, see art. Alia. 

■■^ Ibidem. -^ See article. 






1 1. 

Historical notice of the caste. 
Batijdras derived frojn the 

Chdrans or Bhdts. 
Chdran Banjdras oiiployed 

with the Mughal armies. 
Internal structure. 
Minor subcastes. 
Marriage : betrothal. 
Birth ajtd death. 
Religion : Banjdri Devi. 
Mithu Bhiikia. 

22. TJieir 

12. Siva Bhaia. 

13. Worship of cattle. 

1 4. Connection with the Sikhs. 
I 5 . Witchcraft. 

1 6. Human sacrifice. 

1 7. Admissio7i of outsiders : kid- 

7iapped children and slaves. 

18. Dress. 

1 9. Social customs. 

20. The Ndik or headman. Ban- 

jdra dogs. 

2 1 . Crimi7ial tendencies of the 


Banjara, Wanjari, Labhana, Mukeri/ — The caste 
of carriers and drivers of pack- bullocks. In 191 i the 
Banjaras numbered about 56,000 persons in the Central 
Provinces and 80,000 in Berar, the caste being in greater 
strength here than in any part of India except Hyderabad, 
where their total is 174,000. Bombay comes next with a 
figure approaching that of the Central Provinces and Berar, 
and the caste belongs therefore rather to the Deccan than to 
northern India. The name has been variously explained, 
but the most probable derivation is from the Sanskrit 

^ This article is based principally on 
a Monograph on the Banjara Clan, by 
Mr. N. F. Cumberlege of the Berar 
Police, believed to have been first 
written in 1869 and reprinted in 1882 ; 
notes on the Banjaras written by 
Colonel Mackenzie and printed in the 
Berar Census Report (1881) and the 
Pioneer newspaper (communicated by 

Mrs. Horsburgh) ; Major Gunthorpe's 
C7-iminal Tribes ; papers by Mr. M. E. 
Khare, Extra-Assistant Commissioner, 
Clianda ; Mr. Narayan Rao, Tahr. , 
Betul ; Mr. Mukund Rao, Manager, 
Pachmarhi Estate ; and information 
on the caste collected in Yeotnial and 


rr. II DANJARAS nERIlKn hliOM /'///•: CJlAKANS 163 

banijya kanr, a merchant. Sir H. M. Elliot held that the 
name Banjfira was of great antiquity, quoting a passage from 
the Dasa Kumara Charita of the eleventh or twelfth century. 
But it was subsequently shown by Professor Cowcll that 
the name l^anjara did not occur in the original text of this 
work.^ Banjaras are supposed to be the people mentioned 
by Arrian in the fourth century B.C., as leading a wandering 
life, dwelling in tents and letting out for hire their beasts 
of burden.' But this passage merely proves the existence 
of carriers and not of the Banjara caste. Mr. Crooke states '^ 
that the first mention of Banjaras in Muhammadan his- 
tory is in Sikandar's attack on Dholpur in A.D, 1504.'' It 
seems improbable, therefore, that the Banjaras accompanied 
the different Muhammadan invaders of India, as might 
have been inferred from the fact that they came into 
the Deccan in the train of the forces of Aurangzeb. The 
caste has indeed two Muhammadan sections, the Turkia 
and Mukeri.^ But both of these have the same Rajput 
clan names as the Hindu branch of the caste, and it seems 
possible that they may have embraced Islam under the 
proselytising influence of Aurangzeb, or simply owing to 
their having been employed with the Muhammadan troops. 
The great bulk of the caste in southern India are Hindus, 
and there seems no reason for assuming that its origin was 

It may be suggested that the Banjaras are derived from 2. Ban- 
the Charan or Bhat caste of Rajputana. Mr. Cumberlege, ^f'^^j^.^^ 
whose MonogTaph on the caste in Berar is one of the best from the 
authorities, states that of the four divisions existing there o^^Bhats 
the Charans are the most numerous and by far the most 
interesting class.*" In the article on Bhat it has been ex- 
plained how the Charans or bards, owing to their readiness 

' Mr. Crooke's Tribes a)id Castes, actions Bombay Literary Society, \o\.\. 

art. Banjara, para. i. 183) says that "as carriers of grain 

2 Berar Census Report (1881), for Muhammadan armies the Banjaras 

p. 150. have figured in history from the days 

2 Ibidem, para. 2, quoting Dowson's of Muhammad Tughlak (a.D. 1340) to 

Elliot, V. 100. those of Aurangzeb.'' 

* Khan Bahadur Fazalullah Lut- ^ Sir H. M. Elliot's Sttpplemeiital 

fullah Farldi in the Bombay Gazetteer Glossary. 

(Muhammadans of Gujarat, p. 86) ® Monograph on ike Batijdra Clan, 

quoting from General Briggs [Trans- p. 8, 

104 BANJARA tart 

to kill themselves rather than give up the property entrusted 
to their care, became the best safe-conduct for the passage 
of goods in Rajputana. The name Charan is generally held 
to mean ' Wanderer,' and in their capacity of bards the 
Charans were accustomed to travel from court to court of 
the different chiefs in quest of patronage. They were first 
protected by their sacred character and afterwards by their 
custom of trdga or chdndi, that is, of killing themselves when 
attacked and threatening their assailants with the dreaded 
fate of being haunted by their ghosts. Mr. Bhimbhai 
Kirparam ^ remarks : " After Parasurama's dispersion of the 
Kshatris the Charans accompanied them in their southward 
flight. In those troubled times the Charans took charge 
of the supplies of the Kshatri forces and so fell to their 
present position of cattle-breeders and grain-carriers. . . ." 
Most of the Charans are graziers, cattle-sellers and pack- 
carriers. Colonel Tod says : ^ " The Charans and Bhats or 
bards and genealogists are the chief carriers of these regions 
(Marwar) ; their sacred character overawes the lawless Rajput 
chief, and even the savage Koli and Bhil and the plundering 
Sahrai of the desert dread the anathema of these singular 
races, who conduct the caravans through the wildest and 
most desolate regions." In another passage Colonel Tod 
identifies the Charans and Banjaras ^ as follows : " Murlah 
is an excellent township inhabited by a community of 
Charans of the tribe Cucholia (Kacheli), who are Bunjarris 
(carriers) by profession, though poets by birth. The alliance 
is a curious one, and would appear incongruous were not 
gain the object generally in both cases. It was the sanctity 
of their office which converted our bardais (bards) into 
buujdrris, for their persons being sacred, the immunity ex- 
tended likewise to their goods and saved them from all 
imposts ; so that in process of time they became the free- 
traders of Rajputana. I was highly gratified with the re- 
ception I received from the community, which collectively 
advanced to meet me at some distance from the town. The 
procession was headed by the village elders and all the fair 
Charanis, who, as they approached, gracefully waved their 

' Hindus of Gujarat, p. 214 e( seq. ^ Rajasthdn, i. 602. 

3 Ibidem, ii. 570, 573. 


scarfs over mc until I was fairly made captive by the muses 
of Murlah ! It was a novel and interesting scene. The 
manly persons of the Charans, clad in the flowing white 
robe witii the high loose-folded turban inclined on one side, 
from which the Didla or chaplet was gracefully suspended ; 
and the uaiqucs or leaders, with their massive necklaces of 
gold, with the image of the pitriszvar {iiianes) depending 
therefrom, gave the whole an air of opulence and dignity. 
The females were uniformly attired in a skirt of dark-brown 
camlet, having a bodice of light-coloured stuff, with gold orna- 
ments worked into their fine black hair ; and all had the 
favourite chilris or rings of lidthiddnt (elephant's tooth) 
covering the arm from the wrist to the elbow, and even 
above it." A little later, referring to the same Charan 
community. Colonel Tod writes : " The id?tda or caravan, 
consisting of four thousand bullocks, has been kept up 
amidst all the evils which have beset this land through 
Mughal and Maratha tyranny. The utility of these caravans 
as general carriers to conflicting armies and as regular tax- 
paying subjects has proved their safeguard, and they were 
too strong to be pillaged by any petty marauder, as any 
one who has seen a Banjari encampment will be convinced. 
They encamp in a square, and their grain-bags piled over 
each other breast-high, with interstices left for their match- 
locks, make no contemptible fortification. Even the ruth- 
less Turk, Jamshid Khan, set up a protecting tablet in 
favour of the Charans of Murlah, recording their exemp- 
tion from dlnd contributions, and that there should be no 
increase in duties, with threats to all who should injure 
the community. As usual, the sun and moon are appealed 
to as witnesses of good faith, and sculptured on the 
stone. Even the forest Bhil and mountain Mair have set 
up their signs of immunity and protection to the chosen 
of Hinglaz (tutelary deity) ; and the figures of a cow and 
its kairi (calf) carved in rude relief speak the agreement 
that they should not be slain or stolen within the limits of 

In the above passage the community described by 
Colonel Tod were Charans, but he identified them with 
Banjaras, using the name alternatively. He mentions their 

1 66 BANJARA part 

large herds of pack-bullocks, for the management of which 
the Charans, who were graziers as well as bards, would 
naturally be adapted ; the name given to the camp, tdnda, 
is that generally used by the Banjaras ; the women wore 
ivory bangles, which the Banjara women wear.^ In com- 
menting on the way in which the women threw their scarves 
over him, making him a prisoner. Colonel Tod remarks : 
" This community had enjoyed for five hundred years the 
privilege of making prisoner any Rana of Mewar who may 
pass through Murlah, and keeping him in bondage until he 
gives them a got or entertainment. The patriarch (of the 
village) told me that I was in jeopardy as the Rana's repre- 
sentative, but not knowing how I might have relished the 
joke had it been carried to its conclusion, they let me escape." 
Mr. Ball notes a similar custom of the Banjara women far 
away in the Bastar State of the Central Provinces : " " To- 
day I passed through another Banjara hamlet, from whence 
the women and girls all hurried out in pursuit, and a brazen- 
faced powerful-looking lass seized the bridle of my horse as 
he was being led by the sais in the rear. The sais and 
chaprdsi were both Muhammadans, and the forward conduct 
of these females perplexed them not a little, and the former 
was fast losing his temper at being thus assaulted by a 
woman." Colonel Mackenzie in his account of the Banjara 
caste remarks : ^ "It is certain that the Charans, whoever 
they were, first rose to the demand which the great armies 
of northern India, contending in exhausted countries far 
from their basis of supply, created, viz. the want of a fearless 
and reliable transport service. . . . The start which the 
Charans then acquired they retain among Banjaras to this 
day, though in very much diminished splendour and position. 
As they themselves relate, they were originally five brethren, 
Rathor, Turi, Panwar, Chauhan and Jadon. But fortune 
particularly smiled on Bhika Rathor, as his four sons, Mersi, 
Multasi, Dheda and Khamdar, great names among the 

' This custom does not necessarily frequently wear the hair long, down to 

indicate a special connection between the neck, which is another custom of 

the Banjaras and Charans, as it is Kajputana. 

common to several castes in Kajputana ; ^ Jungle Life in India, p. 517. 

but it indicates that the Banjaras came ■'' Berar Census Report (1881), p. 

from Kajputana. Banjara men also 152. 


Charans, rose immediately to eminence as commissariat 
transporters in the north. And not only under the Delhi 
Emperors, but under the Satara, subsequently the Poona 
Raj, and the Subahship of the Nizam, did several of their 
descendants rise to consideration and power." It thus seems 
a reasonable hy[)othesis that the nucleus of the Banjara caste 
was constituted by the Charans or bards of Rajputana. Mr. 
Bhimbhai Kirparam ^ also identifies the Charans and Banjaras, 
but I have not been able to find the exact passage. The 
following' notice '"' by Colonel Tone is of interest in this 
connection : 

" The vast consumption that attends a Maratha army 
necessarily superinduces the idea of great supplies ; yet, 
notwithstanding this, the native powers never concern them- 
selves about providing for their forces, and have no idea 
of a grain and victualling department, which forms so 
great an object in a European campaign. The Banias or 
grain-sellers in an Indian army have always their servants 
ahead of the troops on the line of march, to purchase in 
the circumjacent country whatever necessaries are to be 
disposed of. Articles of consumption are never wanting in 
a native camp, though they are generally twenty-five per 
cent dearer than in the town bazars ; but independent 
of this mode of supply the Vanjaris or itinerant grain- 
merchants furnish large quantities, which they bring on 
bullocks from an immense distance. These are a very 
peculiar race, and appear a marked and discriminated 
people from any other I have seen in this country. 
Formerly they were considered so sacred that they passed 
in safety in the midst of contending armies ; of late, how- 
ever, this reverence for their character is much abated 
and they have been frequently plundered, particularly by 

The reference to the sacred character attaching to 
the Banjaras a century ago appears to be strong evidence 
in favour of their derivation from the Charans. For it 
could scarcely have been obtained by any body of com- 
missariat agents coming into India with the Muham- 

' Bombay Gazetteer, Hindus of Gujarat. 
- Letter on the Marathas (1798), p. 67, India Office Tracts. 



madans. The fact that the example of disregarding it 
was first set by a Muhammadan prince points to the same 

Mr. Irvine notices the Banjaras with the Mughal armies 
in similar terms : ^ "It is by these people that the Indian 
armies in the field are fed, and they are never injured by 
either army. The grain is taken from them, but invariably 
paid for. They encamp for safety every evening in a 
regular square formed of the bags of grain of which they 
construct a breastwork. They and their families are in 
the centre, and the oxen are made fast outside. Guards 
with matchlocks and spears are placed at the corners, and 
their dogs do duty as advanced posts. I have seen them 
with droves of 5000 bullocks. They do not move above 
two miles an hour, as their cattle are allowed to graze as 
they proceed on the march." 

One may suppose that the Charans having acted as 
carriers for the Rajput chiefs and courts, both in time of 
peace and in their continuous intestinal feuds, were pressed 
into service when the Mughal armies entered Rajputana 
and passed through it to Gujarat and the Deccan. In 
adopting the profession of transport agents for the imperial 
troops they may have been amalgamated into a fresh 
caste with other Hindus and Muhammadans doing the 
same work, just as the camp language formed by the 
superposition of a Persian vocabulary on to a grammatical 
basis of Hindi became Urdu or Hindustani. The readiness 
of the Charans to commit suicide rather than give up 
property committed to their charge was not, however, 
copied by the Banjaras, and so far as I am aware there 
is no record of men of this caste taking their own lives, 
though they had little scruple with those of others. 

The Charan Banjaras, Mr. Cumberlege states," first 
came to the Deccan with Asaf Khan in the campaign which 
closed with the annexation by the Emperor Shah Jahan 
of Ahmadnagar and Berar about 1630. Their leaders or 
Naiks were Bhangi and Jhangi of the Rathor^ and 

' Army of the Indian A/itt^hals, 
p. 192. 

'^ Monograph, p. 14, and Jierar 
Census Report (1S81) (Kilts), p. 151. 

^ These are held to have been de- 
scendants of the Bhika Rathor referred 
to by Colonel Mackenzie above. 

II C//ARAN n.lA'J.lh'AS U'l'I'If MlUJllAI. ARMJI'.S 169 

Bhagvvun Das of the Jadtin clan. Bhangi and Jhangi had 
180,000 pack-bullocks, and Bhagwan Das 52,000. It 
was naturally an object with Asaf Khan to keep his 
commissariat well up with his force, and as Bhangi and 
Jhangi made difficulties about the supply of grass and 
water to their cattle, he gave them an order engraved on 
copper in letters of gold to the following effect : 

Ranjan kd pdtii 

ChJiappar kd ghds 

Din kc tin k/ifin miidf; 

Aur jalidn Asaf Jdli ke ghorc 

IVahdn Blian^^i J/uDigi kc bail, 

which may be rendered as follows : "If you can find no 
water elsewhere you may even take it from the pots of 
my followers ; grass you may take from the roofs of their 
huts ; and I will pardon you up to three murders a day, 
provided that wherever I find my cavalry, Bhangi and 
Jhangi's bullocks shall be with them." This grant is still 
in the possession of Bhangi Naik's descendant who lives at 
Musi, near HingoH. He is recognised by the Hyderabad 
Court as the head Naik of the Banjara caste, and on his 
death his successor receives a khillat or dress-of-honour from 
His Highness the Nizam. After Asaf Khan's campaign and 
settlement in the Deccan, a quarrel broke out between the 
Rathor clan, headed by Bhangi and Jhangi, and the Jadons 
under Bhagwan Das, owing to the fact that Asaf Khan had 
refused to give Bhagwan Das a grant like that quoted above. 
Both Bhangi and Bhagwan Das were slain in the feud and 
the Jadons captured the standard, consisting of eight thdns 
(lengths) of cloth, which was annually presented by the 
Nizam to Bhangi's descendants. When Mr. Cumberlege 
wrote (1869), this standard was in the possession of Hatti 
Naik, a descendant of Bhagwan D3.S, who had an estate 
near Muchli Bunder, in the Madras Presidency. Colonel 
Mackenzie states ^ that the leaders of the Rathor clan 
became so distinguished not only in their particular line 
but as men of war that the Emperors recognised their 
carrying distinctive standards, which were known as dJial 

1 See note 3, p. 16S. 

I70 BAN JAR A part 

by the Rathors themselves. Jhangi's family was also 
represented in the person of Ramu Naik, the patel or 
headman of the village of Yaoli in the Yeotmal District. 
In 1791—92 the Banjaras were employed to supply grain 
to the British army under the Marquis of Cornwallis during 
the siege of Seringapatam/ and the Duke of Wellington 
in his Indian campaigns regularly engaged them as part of 
the commissariat staff of his army. On one occasion he 
said of them : " The Banjaras I look upon in the light 
of servants of the public, of whose grain I have a right 
to regulate the sale, always taking care that they have 
a proportionate advantage." - 

Mr. Cumberlege gives four main divisions of the caste 
in Berar, the Charans, Mathurias, Labhanas and Dharis. 
Of these the Charans are by far the most numerous and 
important, and included all the famous leaders of the 
caste mentioned above. The Charans are divided into 
the five clans, Rathor, Panwar, Chauhan, Puri and Jadon 
or Burthia, all of these being the names of leading Rajput 
clans ; and as the Charan bards themselves were probably 
Rajputs, the Banjaras, who are descended from them, may 
claim the same lineage. Each clan or sept is divided into 
a number of subsepts ; thus among the Rathors the 
principal subsept is the Bhurkia, called after the Bhika 
Rathor already mentioned ; and this is again split into 
four groups, Mersi, Multasi, Dheda and Khamdar, named 
after his four sons. As a rule, members of the same clan, 
Panwar, Rathor and so on, may not intermarry, but Mr. 
Cumberlege states that a man belonging to the Banod 
or Bhurkia subsepts of the Rathors must not take a wife 
from his own subsept, but may marry any other Rathor 
girl. It seems probable that the same rule may hold 
with the other subsepts, as it is most unlikely that inter- 
marriage should still be prohibited among so large a 
body as the Rathor Charans have now become. It may 
be supposed therefore that the division into subsepts took 
place when it became too inconvenient to prohibit marriage 

' General Briggs quoted by Mr. - A. Wellesley (1800), quoted in 

Farldi in Bombay Gazetteer, Muham- Mr. Crooke's edition of Hobson-Jobson, 
madans of Gujarat, p. 86. art. Brinjarry. 


throughout the whole body of the sept, as has happened 
in other cases. The Mathuria Banjaras take their name 
from Mathura or M ultra and appear to be Brahmans. 
" They wear the sacred thread/ know the Gayatri Mantra, 
and to the present day abstain from meat and Hquor, 
subsisting entirely on grain and vegetables. They always 
had a sufficiency of Charans and servants {Jdiigar) in their 
villages to perform all necessary manual labour, and would 
not themselves work for a remuneration otherwise than 
by carrying grain, which was and still is their legitimate 
occupation ; but it was not considered undignified to cut 
wood and grass for the household. Both Mathuria and 
Labhana men are fairer than the Charans ; they wear 
better jewellery and their loin-cloths have a silk border, 
while those of the Charans are of rough, common cloth." 
The Mathurias are sometimes known as Ahiwasi, and may 
be connected with the Ahiwasis of the Hindustani Districts, 
who also drive pack-bullocks and call themselves Brahmans. 
But it is naturally a sin for a Brahman to load the sacred 
ox, and any one who does so is held to have derogated 
from the priestly order. The Mathurias are divided 
according to Mr. Cumberlege into four groups called Pande, 
Dube, Tiwari and Chaube, all of which are common titles 
of Hindustani Brahmans and signify a man learned in 
one, two, three and four Vedas respectively. It is probable 
that these groups are cxogamous, marrying with each 
other, but this is not stated. The third division, the 
Labhanas, may derive their name from lavana, salt, and 
probably devoted themselves more especially to the carriage 
of this staple. They are said to be Rajputs, and to be 
descended from Mota and Mela, the cowherds of Krishna. 
The fourth subdivision are the Dharis or bards of the caste, 
who rank below the others. According to their own story "" 
their ancestor was a member of the Bhat caste, who became 
a disciple of Nanak, the Sikh apostle, and with him attended 
a feast given by the Mughal Emperor Humayun. Here 
he ate the flesh of a cow or buffalo, and in consequence 
became a Muhammadan and was circumcised. He was 
employed as a musician at the Mughal court, and his sons 

^ Cumberlege, loc. cit. - Cumberlege, pp. 28, 29. 


joined the Charans and became the bards of the Banjara 
caste. " The Dharis," Mr. Cumberlege continues, " are both 
musicians and mendicants ; they sing in praise of their 
own and the Charan ancestors and of the old kings of 
Delhi ; while at certain seasons of the year they visit 
Charan hamlets, when each family gives them a young 
bullock or a few rupees. They are Muhammadans, but 
worship Sarasvati and at their marriages offer up a he-goat 
to Gaji and Gandha, the two sons of the original Bhat, who 
became a IMuhammadan. At burials a Fakir is called to 
read the prayers." 

Besides the above four main divisions, there are a num- 
ber of others, the caste being now of a very mixed character. 
Two principal Muhammadan groups are given by Sir 
H. Elliot, the Turkia and Mukeri. The Turkia have thirty- 
six septs, some with Rajput names and others territorial or 
titular. They seem to be a mixed group of Hindus who 
may have embraced Islam as the religion of their employers. 
The Mukeri Banjaras assert that they derive their name 
from Mecca (Makka), which one of their Naiks, who had his 
camp in the vicinity, assisted Father Abraham in building.^ 
Mr. Crooke thinks that the name may be a corruption of 
Makkeri and mean a seller of maize. Mr. Cumberlege says 
of them : " Multanis and Mukeris have been called Banjaras 
also, but have nothing in common with the caste ; the Multanis 
are carriers of grain and the Mukeris of wood and timber, and 
hence the confusion may have arisen between them." But they 
are now held to be Banjaras by common usage ; in Saugor 
the Mukeris also deal in cattle. From Chanda a different set 
of subcastes is reported called Bhusarjin, Ladjin, Saojin and 
Kanhejin ; the first may take their name from bliusa, the 
chaff of wheat, while Lad is the term -used for people 
coming from Gujarat, and Sao means a banker. In Sambalpur 
again a class of Thuria Banjaras is found, divided into the 
Bandesia, Atharadesia, Navadcsia and Chhadesia, or the men 
of the 52 districts, the 18 districts, the 9 districts and the 
6 districts respectively. The first and last two of these take 
food and marry with each other. Other groups are the Guar 
Banjaras, apparently from Guara or Gwrda, a milkman, the 
' Elliot's Races, quoted by Mr. Crooke, ibidem. 


Guguria Baiijaras, wiio may, Mr. Ilira Lai suggests, take their 
name from trading in gi'tgar^ a Icind of gum, and the Bahrup 
l^anjaras, who arc Nats or acrobats. In Bcrar also a number 
of the caste have become respectable cultivators and now call 
themselves Wanjari, disclaiming any connection with the 
Banjaras, probably on account of the bad reputation for crime 
attached to these latter. Many of the Wanjaris have been 
allowed to rank with the Kunbi caste, and call themselves 
Wanjari Kunbis in order the better to dissociate themselves 
from their parent caste. The existing caste is therefore of a 
very mixed nature, and the original Brahman and Charan 
strains, though still perfectly recognisable, cannot have main- 
tained their purity. 

At a betrothal in Nimar the bridegroom and his friends 6. Mar- 
come and stay in the next village to that of the bride. The two betrothal 
parties meet on the boundary of the village, and here the bride- 
price is fixed, which is often a very large sum, ranging from 
Rs. 200 to Rs. 1000. Until the price is paid the father 
will not let the bridegroom into his house. In Yeotmal, 
when a betrothal is to be made, the parties go to a liquor-shop 
and there a betel-leaf and a large handful of sugar are 
distributed to everybody. Here the price to be paid for the 
bride amounts to Rs. 40 and four young bullocks. Prior to 
the wedding the bridegroom goes and stays for a month or 
so in the house of the bride's father, and during this time 
he must provide a supply of liquor daily for the bride's 
male relatives. The period was formerly longer, but now 
extends to a month at the most. While he resides at the 
bride's house the bridegroom wears a cloth over his head 
so that his face cannot be seen. Probably the prohibition 
against seeing him applies to the bride only, as the rule in 
Berar is that between the betrothal and marriage of a 
Charan girl she may not eat or drink in the bridegroom's 
house, or show her face to him or any of his relatives. 
Mathuria girls must be wedded before they are seven years 
old, but the Charans permit them to remain single until after 

Banjara marriages are frequently held in the rains, a 7. Mar- 
season forbidden to other Hindus, but naturally the most con- "^^^• 
venient to them, because in the dry weather they are usuall}' 

174 BANJARA part 

travelling. For the marriage ceremony they pitch a tent in lieu 
of the marriage-shed, and on the ground they place two rice- 
pounding pestles, round which the bride and bridegroom 
make the seven turns. Others substitute for the pestles 
a pack - saddle with two bags of grain in order to sym- 
bolise their camp life. During the turns the girl's hand 
is held by the Joshi or village priest, or some other Brahman, 
in case she should fall ; such an occurrence being probably a 
very unlucky omen. Afterwards, the girl runs away and the 
Brahman has to pursue and catch her. In Bhandara the girl 
is clad only in a light skirt and breast-cloth, and her body is 
rubbed all over with oil in order to make his task more 
difficult. During this time the bride's party pelt the Brah- 
man with rice, turmeric and areca-nuts, and sometimes even 
with stones ; and if he is forced to cry with the pain, it is 
considered luck}^ But if he finally catches the girl, he is 
conducted to a dais and sits there holding a brass plate 
in front of him, into which the bridegroom's party drop 
presents. A case is mentioned of a Brahman having obtained 
Rs. 70 in this manner. Among the Mathuria Banjaras of 
Berar the ceremony resembles the usual Hindu type.^ 
Before the wedding the families bring the branches of eight 
or ten different kinds of trees, and perform the Jiom or fire 
sacrifice with them. A Brahman knots the clothes of the 
couple together, and they walk round the fire. When the 
bride arrives at the bridegroom's hamlet after the wedding, 
two small brass vessels are given to her ; she fetches water in 
these and returns them to the women of the boy's family, who 
mix this with other water previously drawn, and the girl, who 
up to this period was considered of no caste at all, becomes 
a Mathuria." Food is cooked with this water, and the bride 
and bridegroom are formally received into the husband's kttri 
or hamlet. It is possible that the mixing of the water may be 
a survival of the blood covenant, whereby a girl was received 
into her husband's clan on her marriage by her blood being 
mixed with that of her husband.'^ Or it may be simply 
symbolical of the union of the families. In some localities 
after the wedding the bride and bridegroom are made to 

1 Cumberlege, pp. 4, 5. ' Cumberlege, I.e. 

^ This custom is noticed in the article on Khairwar. 


II 111 RTJ{ AND Dl'lA I'll 175 

stand on two bullocks, which arc driven forward, and it is 
believed that whichever of them falls off first will be the first 
to die. 

Owing to the scarcity of women in the caste a widow 8. Widow 
is seldom allowed to go out of the family, and when her 
husband dies she is taken either by his elder or younger 
brother ; this is in opposition to the usual Hindu practice, 
which forbids the marriage of a woman to her deceased 
husband's elder brother, on the ground that as successor to 
the headship of the joint family he stands to her, at least 
potentially, in the light of a father. If the widow prefers 
another man and runs away to him, the first husband's 
relatives claim compensation, and threaten, in the event of 
its being refused, to abduct a girl from this man's family in 
exchange for the widow. But no case of abduction has 
occurred in recent years. In Berar the compensation 
claimed in the case of a woman marrying out of the family 
amounts to Rs. 75, with Rs. 5 for the Naik or headman of 
the family. Should the widow elope without her brother- 
in-law's consent, he chooses ten or twelve of his friends to 
go and sit dharna (starving themselves) before the hut of 
the man who has taken her. He is then bound to supply 
these men with food and liquor until he has paid the 
customary sum, when he may marry the widow.^ In the 
event of the second husband being too poor to pay monetary 
compensation, he gives a goat, which is cut into eighteen 
pieces and distributed to the community.^ 

After the birth of a child the mother is unclean for five 9- Birth 
days, and lives apart in a separate hut, which is run up for ^"^ ^^^^'^^' 
her use in the kuri or hamlet. On the sixth day she washes 
the feet of all the children in the kuri, feeds them and then 
returns to her husband's hut. When a child is born in a 
moving tdnda or camp, the same rule is observed, and for 
five days the mother walks alone after the camp during the 
daily march. The caste bury the bodies of unmarried 

1 Cuniberlege, p. 18. seems, however, to be a euphemism, 

2 Mr. Hlra Lai suggests that this eighteen castes being a term of inde- 
custom may have something to do with finite multitude for any or no caste, 
the phrase Athara jat ke gayi, or The number eighteen may be selected 
'She has gone to the eighteen castes,' from the same unknown association 
used of a woman who has been turned which causes the goat to be cut into 
out of the community. This phrase eighteen pieces. 

176 BANJARA part 

persons and those dying of smallpox and burn the others. 
Their rites of mourning are not strict, and are observed 
only for three days. The Banjaras have a saying : " Death 
in a foreign land is to be preferred, where there are no 
kinsfolk to mourn, and the corpse is a feast for birds and 
animals " ; but this may perhaps be taken rather as an ex- 
pression of philosophic resignation to the fate which must 
be in store for many of them, than a real preference, as with 
most people the desire to die at home almost amounts to 
an instinct. 

10. Reii- One of the tutelary deities of the Banjaras is Banjari 
1'°"; . Devi, whose shrine is usually located in the forest. It is 
Devi. often represented by a heap of stones, a large stone smeared 

with vermilion being placed on the top of the heap to repre- 
sent the goddess. When a Banjara passes the place he 
casts a stone upon the heap as a prayer to the goddess to 
protect him from the dangers of the forest. A similar 
practice of offering bells from the necks of cattle is recorded 
by Mr. Thurston : ^ "It is related by Moor that he passed 
a tree on which were hanging several hundred bells. This 
was a superstitious sacrifice of the Banjaras (Lambaris), who, 
passing this tree, are in the habit of hanging a bell or bells 
upon it, which they take from the necks of their sick cattle, 
expecting to leave behind them the complaint also. Our 
servants particularly cautioned us against touching these 
diabolical bells, but as a few of them were taken for our 
own cattle, several accidents which happened were imputed 
to the anger of the deity to whom these offerings were 
made ; who, they say, inflicts the same disorder on the 
unhappy bullock who carries a bell from the tree, as that 
from which he relieved the donor." In their houses the 
Banjari Devi is represented by a pack-saddle set on high in 
the room, and this is worshipped before the caravans set 
out on their annual tours. 

11. Mithu Another deity is Mlthu Bhukia, an old freebooter, who 
lived in the Central Provinces ; he is venerated by the 
dacoits as the most clever dacoit known in the annals of the 
caste, and a hut was usually set apart for him in each 

1 Ethnographic Notes in Southern India, p. 344, quoting from Moor's 
Narrative of Little s Detachment. 


II .SV/Vi lUlAlA 177 

hamlet, a staff carrying a white flag being planted before 
it. Before setting out for a clacoity, the men engaged would 
assemble at the hut of Mlthu Bhtikia, and, burning a lamp 
before him, ask for an omen ; if the wick of the lamp 
drooped the omen was propitious, and the men present 
then set out at once on the raid without returning home. 
They might not speak to each other nor answer if challenged ; 
for if any one spoke the charm would be broken and the 
protection of Mithu 15hukia removed ; and they should 
either return to take the omens again or give up that 
particular dacoity altogether.^ It has been recorded as a 
characteristic trait of Banjaras that they will, as a rule, not 
answer if spoken to when engaged on a robbery, and the 
custom probably arises from this observance ; but the 
worship of Mlthu Bhukia is now frequently neglected. 
After a successful dacoity a portion of the spoil would be 
set apart for Mlthu Bhukia, and of the balance the Nfiik or 
headman of the village received two shares if he participated 
in the crime ; the man who struck the first blow or did most 
towards the common object also received two shares, and 
all the rest one share. With Mlthu Bhukia's share a feast 
was given at which thanks were returned to him for the 
success of the enterprise, a burnt offering of incense being 
made in his tent and a libation of liquor poured over the 
flagstaff. A portion of the food was sent to the women 
and children, and the men sat down to the feast. Women 
were not allowed to share in the worship of Mlthu Bhukia 
nor to enter his hut. 

Another favourite deity is Siva Bhaia, whose story is 12. Siva 
given by Colonel Mackenzie ^ as follows : " The love borne ^'^^'^• 
by Mari Mata, the goddess of cholera, for the handsome Siva 
Rathor, is an event of our own times (1874) ; she proposed 
to him, but his heart being pre-engaged he rejected her ; 
and in consequence his earthly bride was smitten sick and 
died, and the hand of the goddess fell heavily on Siva 
himself, thwarting all his schemes and blighting his fortunes 
and possessions, until at last he gave himself up to her. She 
then possessed him and caused him to prosper exceedingly, 
gifting him with supernatural power until his fame was 

^ Cumberlege, p. 35. 2 Bei-ai- Census Report, i8Si. 




noised abroad, and he was venerated as the saintly Siva 
Bhaia or great brother to all women, being himself unable 
to marry. But in his old age the goddess capriciously 
wished him to marry and have issue, but he refused and 
was slain and buried at Pohur in Berar. A temple was 
erected over him and his kinsmen became priests of it, 
and hither large numbers are attracted by the supposed 
efficacy of vows made to Siva, the most sacred of all 
oaths being that taken in his name." If a Banjara 
swears by Siva Bhaia, placing his right hand on the 
bare head of his son and heir, and grasping a cow's tail 
in his left, he will fear to jaerjure himself, lest by doing 
so he should bring injury on his son and a murrain on his 

Naturally also the Banjaras worshipped their pack- 
cattle.'"' " When sickness occurs they lead the sick man 
to the feet of the bullock called Hatadiya.^ On this animal 
no burden is ever laid, but he is decorated with streamers 
of red-dyed silk, and tinkling bells with many brass chains 
and rings on neck and feet, and silken tassels hanging in all 
directions ; he moves steadily at the head of the convoy, 
and at the place where he lies down when he is tired they 
pitch their camp for the day ; at his feet they make their 
vows when difficulties overtake them, and in illness, whether 
of themselves or their cattle, they trust to his worship for 
a cure." 

Mr. Balfour also mentions in his paper that the Banjaras 
call themselves Sikhs, and it is noticeable that the Charan 
subcaste say that their ancestors were three Rajput boys who 
followed Guru Nanak, the prophet of the Sikhs. The influ- 
ence of Nanak appears to have been widely extended over 
northern India, and to have been felt by large bodies of the 
people other than those who actually embraced the Sikh 
religion. Cumberlege states ■* that before starting to his 
marriage the bridegroom ties a rupee in his turban in honour 
of Guru Nanak, which is afterwards expended in sweetmeats. 

' Cumberlege, p. 21. 

2 The followini; instance is taken 
from Mr. I'alfour's article, ' Migratory 
Tribes of Central India,' inJ.A.S.B., 
new series, vol. xiii., quoted in Mr. 

Crook e's Tribes and Castes. 

^ From the Sanskrit Hatya-adhya, 
meaning ' That which it is most sinful 
to slay ' (Balfour). 

* Monograph, p. 12. 

11 WrrCIICRAFT 179 

But otherwise the modern Banjaras do not appear to retain 
any Sikh observances. 

"The Banjaras," Sir A. L}all writes/ "are terribly vexed 15. vvitch- 
by witchcraft, to which their wandcrin<^ and precarious exist- '^'^'^ '' 
cnce especially exposes them in the shape of fever, rheuma- 
tism and dysentery. Solemn inquiries are still held in the 
wild jungles where these people camp out like gipsies, and 
many an unlucky hag has been strangled by sentence of their 
secret tribunals." The business of magic and witchcraft was 
in the hands of two classes of Bhagats or magicians, one 
good and the other bad," who may correspond to the Euro- 
pean practitioners of black and white magic. The good 
Bhagat is called Nimbu-katna or lemon -cutter, a lemon 
speared on a knife being a powerful averter of evil spirits. 
He is a total abstainer from meat and liquor, and fasts 
once a week on the day sacred to the deity whom he 
venerates, usually Mahadeo ; he is highly respected and 
never panders to vice. But the Janta, the ' Wise or 
Cunning Man,' is of a different type, and the following 
is an account of the devilry often enacted when a deputa- 
tion visited him to inquire into the cause of a prolonged 
illness, a cattle murrain, a sudden death or other misfortune. 
A woman might often be called a Dakun or witch in 
spite, and when once this word had been used, the husband 
or nearest male relative would be regularly bullied into 
consulting the Janta. Or if some woman had been ill for 
a week, an avaricious ^ husband or brother would begin to 
whisper foul play. Witchcraft would be mentioned, and 
the wise man called in. He would give the sufferer a quid 
of betel, muttering an incantation, but this rarely effected a 
cure, as it was against the interest of all parties that it should 
do so. The sufferer's relatives would then go to their Naik, 
tell him that the sick person was bewitched, and ask him to 
send a deputation to the Janta or witch-doctor. This would 
be at once despatched, consisting of one male adult from 
each house in the hamlet, with one of the sufferer's relatives. 
On the road the party would bury a bone or other article to 

1 Asiatic Stttdies,\. p. Ii8(ed. 1899). produced from his Monograph. 

2 Cumberlege, p. 23 et seq. The ^ His motive being the fine inflicted 
description of witchcraft is wholly re- on the witch's famih-. 

i8o BANJARA part 

test the wisdom of the witch-doctor. But he was not to be 
caught out, and on their arrival he would bid the deputation 
rest, and come to him for consultation on the following day. 
Meanwhile during the night the Janta would be thoroughly 
coached by some accomplice in the party. Next morning, 
meeting the deputation, he would tell every man all particu- 
lars of his name and family ; name the invalid, and tell the 
party to bring materials for consulting the spirits, such as oil, 
vermilion, sugar, dates, cocoanut, chironji} and sesamum. 
In the evening, holding a lamp, the Janta would be possessed 
by Mariai, the goddess of cholera ; he would mention all 
particulars of the sick man's illness, and indignantly inquire 
why they had buried the bone on the road, naming it and 
describing the place. If this did not satisfy the deputation, 
a goat would be brought, and he would name its sex with 
any distinguishing marks on the body. The sick person's 
representative would then produce his iiazar or fee, formerly 
Rs. 25, but lately the double of this or more. The Janta 
would now begin a sort of chant, introducing the names of 
the families of the kuri other than that containing her who 
was to be proclaimed a witch, and heap on them all kinds of 
abuse. Finally, he would assume an ironic tone, extol the 
virtues of a certain family, become facetious, and praise its 
representative then present. This man would then question 
the Janta on all points regarding his own family, his connec- 
tions, worldly goods, and what gods he worshipped, ask who 
was the witch, who taught her sorcery, and how and why 
she practised it in this particular instance. But the witch- 
doctor, having taken care to be well coached, would answer 
everything correctly and fix the guilt on to the witch. A goat 
would be sacrificed and eaten with liquor, and the deputation 
would return. The punishment for being proclaimed a 
Dakun or witch was formerly death to the woman and a fine 
to be paid by her relatives to the bewitched person's family. 
The woman's husband or her sons would be directed to kill 
her, and if they refused, other men were deputed to murder 
her, and bury the body at once with all the clothing and 
ornaments then on her person, while a further fine would be 
exacted from the family for not doing away with her themselves. 

1 The fruil of Buchanania latifolia. 


But murder for witchcraft has been almost entirely stopped, 
and nowadays the husband, after being fined a i^w head of 
cattle, which are given to the sick man, is turned out of the 
village with his wife. It is quite possible, however, that an 
obnoxious old hag would even now not escape death, especi- 
ally if the money fine were not forthcoming, and an instance 
is known in recent times of a mother being murdered by her 
three sons. The whole village combined to screen these 
amiable young men, and eventually they made the Janta the 
scapegoat, and he got seven years, while the murderers 
could not be touched. Colonel Mackenzie writes that, 
" Curious to relate, the Jantas, known locally as Bhagats, in 
order to become possessed of their alleged powers of divina- 
tion and prophecy, require to travel to Kazhe, beyond Surat, 
there to learn and be instructed by low-caste Koli impostors." 
This is interesting as an instance of the powers of witchcraft 
being attributed by the Hindus or higher race to the indi- 
genous primitive tribes, a rule which Dr. Tylor and Dr. 
Jevons consider to hold good generally in the history of magic. 

Several instances are known also of the Banjaras having i6. Human 
practised human sacrifice. Mr. Thurston states : ^ " In ^ 
former times the Lambadis, before setting out on a journey, 
used to procure a little child and bury it in the ground up 
to the shoulders, and then drive their loaded bullocks over 
the unfortunate victim. In proportion to the bullocks 
thoroughly trampling the child to death, so their belief in a 
successful journey increased." The Abbe Dubois describes 
another form of sacrifice : " 

" The Lambadis are accused of the still more atrocious 
crime of offering up human sacrifices. When they wish to 
perform this horrible act, it is said, they secretly carry off the 
first person they meet. Having conducted the victim to 
some lonely spot, they dig a hole in which they bury him up 
to the neck. While he is still alive they make a sort of 
lamp of dough made of flour, which they place on his head ; 
this they fill with oil, and light four wicks in it. Having 
done this, the men and women join hands and, forming a 

1 Ethnographic Notes in Southern - Hindu Manners, Customs and 

India, p. 507, quoting from the Rev. Ceremonies, p. 70. 
J. Cain, Ind. Ant. viii. (1879). 



17. Ad- 
mission of 
outsiders : 

circle, dance round their victim, singing and making a great 
noise until he expires." Mr. Cumberlege records ^ the fol- 
lowing statement of a child kidnapped by a Banjara caravan 
in I 87 I. After explaining how he was kidnapped and the 
tip of his tongue cut off to give him a defect in speech, 
the Kunbi lad, taken from Sahungarhi, in the Bhandara 
District, went on to say that, " The tdnda (caravan) encamped 
for the night in the jungle. In the morning a woman named 
Gangi said that the devil was in her and that a sacrifice must 
be made. On this four men and three women took a boy to 
a place they had made for puja (worship). They fed him 
with milk, rice and sugar, and then made him stand up, when 
Gangi drew a sword and approached the child, who tried to 
run away ; caught and brought back to this place, Gangi, 
holding the sword with both hands and standing on the 
child's right side, cut off his head with one blow. Gangi col- 
lected the blood and sprinkled it on the idol ; this idol is 
made of stone, is about 9 inches high, and has something 
sparkling in its forehead. The camp marched that day, and 
for four or five days consecutively, without another sacrifice ; 
but on the fifth day a young woman came to the camp to 
sell curds, and having bought some, the Banjaras asked her 
to come in in the evening and eat with them. She did come, 
and after eating with the women slept in the camp. Early 
next morning she was sacrificed in the same way as the boy 
had been, but it took three blows to cut ofif her head ; it was 
done by Gangi, and the blood was sprinkled on the stone 
idol. About a month ago Sitaram, a Gond lad, who had 
also been kidnapped and was in the camp, told me to run 
away as it had been decided to offer me up in sacrifice at 
the next Jiuti festival, so I ran away." The child having 
been brought to the police, a searching and protracted in- 
quiry was held, which, however, determined nothing, though 
it did not disprove his story. 

The Banjara caste is not closed to outsiders, but the 
general rule is to admit only women who have been married 
to Banjara men. Women of the lowest and impure castes 


children ^^^ cxcludcd, and for some unknown reason the Patwas " and 

and slaves. 

' Monograph, p. 19. 

2 The Patwas are weavers of silk 

thread and the Nunias are masons and 


Nunias arc bracketed with these. In Nimar it is stated 
that formerly Gonds, Korkus and even Balahis ^ might 
become Banjaras, but this does not happen now, because 
the caste has lost its occupation of carrying goods, and there 
is therefore no inducement to enter it. In former times 
they were much addicted to kidnapping children — these 
were whipped up or enticed away whenever an opportunity 
presented itself during their expeditions. The children were 
first put into the gotiis or grain bags of the bullocks and so 
carried for a few days, being made over at each halt to the 
care of a woman, who would pop the child back into its 
bag if any stranger passed by the encampment. The 
tongues of boys were sometimes slit or branded with hot 
gold, this last being the ceremony of initiation into the 
caste still used in Nimar. Girls, if they were as old as seven, 
were sometimes disfigured for fear of recognition, and for 
this purpose the juice of the marking-nut^ tree would be 
smeared on one side of the face, which burned into the 
skin and entirely altered the appearance. Such children 
were known as Jangar. Girls would be used as concubines 
and servants of the married wife, and boys would also be 
employed as servants. Jangar boys would be married to 
Jangar girls, both remaining in their condition of servitude. 
But sometimes the more enterprising of them would 
abscond and settle down in a village. The rule was that 
for seven generations the children of Jangars or slaves 
continued in that condition, after which they were recog- 
nised as proper Banjaras. The Jangar could not draw 
in smoke through the stem of the huqqa when it was 
passed round in the assembly, but must take off the stem 
and inhale from the bowl. The Jangar also could not 
eat off the bell-metal plates of his master, because these 
were liable to pollution, but must use brass plates. At 
one time the Banjaras conducted a regular traffic in 
female slaves between Gujarat and Central India, selling 
in each country the girls whom they had kidnapped in 
the other.^ 

1 An impure caste of weavers, rank- ^ Malcolm. Memoir of Central 

in;4 with the Mahars. India, ii. p. 296. 

- Seniecarpns Anacardiuiii. 

1 84 BANJARA part 

i8. Dress. Up to twelve years of age a Charan girl only wears a 

skirt with a shoulder-cloth tucked into the waist and carried 
over the left arm and the head. After this she may have 
anklets and bangles on the forearm and a breast -cloth. 
But until she is married she may not have the zudnkri or 
curved anklet, which marks that estate, nor wear bone or 
ivory bangles on the upper arm.^ When she is ten years old 
a Labhana girl is given two small bundles containing a nut, 
some cowries and rice, which are knotted to two corners of 
the dupatta or shoulder-cloth and hung over the shoulder, 
one in front and one behind. This denotes maidenhood. 
The bundles are considered sacred, are always knotted to the 
shoulder-cloth in wear, and are only removed to be tucked 
into the waist at the girl's marriage, where they are worn 
till death. These bundles alone distinguish the Labhana 
from the Mathuria woman. Women often have their hair 
hanging down beside the face in front and woven behind 
with silver thread into a plait down the back. This is 
known as Anthi, and has a number of cowries at the end. 
They have large bell-shaped ornaments of silver tied over 
the head and hanging down behind the ears, the hollow 
part of the ornament being stuffed with sheep's wool dyed 
red ; and to these are attached little bells, while the anklets 
on the feet are also hollow and contain little stones or balls, 
which tinkle as they move. They have skirts, and separate 
short cloths drawn across the shoulders according to the 
northern fashion, usually red or green in colour, and along 
the skirt-borders double lines of cowries are sewn. Their 
breast-cloths are profusely ornamented with needle-work 
embroidery and small pieces of glass sewn into them, and 
are tied behind with cords of many colours whose ends are 
decorated with cowries and beads. Strings of beads, ten to 
twenty thick, threaded on horse-hair, are worn round the 
neck. Their favourite ornaments are cowries,' and they 

' Cumberlege, p. i6. change for a rupee could not be had 

'^ Small double shells which are still in Chhattlsgarh outside the two prin- 

used to a slight e.Ktent as a currency in cipal towns. As the cowries were 

backward tracts. This would seem a form of currency they were prob- 

an impossibly cumbrous method of ably held sacred, and hence sewn 

carrying money about nowadays, but I on to clothes as a charm, just as 

have been informed by a comparatively gold and silver are used for orna- 

young official that in his father's lime, ments. 



have these on their dress, in their liouses and on the 
trappinj^s of their bullocks. On the arms they have ten or 
twelve bangles of ivory, or in default of this lac, horn or 
cocoanut-shell. Mr. Ball states that he was "at once 
struck by the peculiar costumes and brilliant clothing of 
these Indian gipsies. They recalled to my mind the appear- 
ance of the gipsies of the Lower Danube and Wallachia." ^ 
The most distinctive ornament of a Banjara married woman 
is, however, a small stick about 6 inches long made of the 
wood of the kJiair or catechu. In Nimar this is given to a 
woman by her husband at marriage, and she wears it after- 
wards placed upright on the top of the head, the hair 
being wound round it and the head-cloth draped over it in 
a graceful fashion. Widows leave it off, but on remarriage 
adopt it again. The stick is known as chunda by the 
Banjaras, but outsiders call it singh or horn. In Yeotmal, 
instead of one, the women have two little sticks fixed 
upright in the hair. The rank of the woman is said to be 
shown by the angle at which she wears this horn." The 
dress of the men presents no features of special interest. 
In Nimar they usually have a necklace of coral beads, and 
some of them carry, slung on a thread round the neck, a 

^ Jtmgic Life in India, p. 516. 

^ Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and 
Fable contains the following notice of 
horns as an article of dress : " Mr. 
Buckingham says of a Tyrian lady, 
' She wore on her head a hollow silver 
horn rearing itself up obliquely from 
the forehead. It was some four inches 
in diameter at the root and pointed 
at the extremity. This peculiarity re- 
minded me forcibly of the expression 
of the Psalmist : " Lift not up your 
horn on high ; speak not with a stiff 
neck. All the horns of the wicked 
also will I cut off, but the horns of the 
righteous shall be exalted" (Ps. Ixxv. 
5, 10).' Bruce found in Abyssinia the 
silver horns of warriors and distin- 
guished men. In the reign of Henry 
V. the horned headgear was introduced 
into England and from the effigy of 
Beatrice, Countess of Arundel, at 
Arundel Church, who is represented 
with the horns outspread to a great 
extent, we may infer that the length 

of the head -horn, like the length of 
the shoe -point in the reign of Henry 
VI., etc., marked the degree of rank. 
To cut off such horns would be to 
degrade ; and to exalt and extend such 
horns would be to add honour and 
dignity to the wearer." Webb {Herit- 
age of Dress, p. 117) writes: "Mr. 
Elworthy in a paper to the British 
Association at Ipswich in 1865 con- 
sidered the crown to be a development 
from horns of honour. He maintained 
that the symbols found in the head of 
the god Serapis were the elements 
from which were formed the composite 
head-dress called the crown into which 
horns entered to a very great extent." 
This seems a doubtful speculation, but 
still it may be quite possible that the 
idea of distinguishing by a crown the 
leader of the tribe was originally taken 
from the antlers of the leader of the 
herd. The helmets of the Vikings 
were also, I believe, decorated with 

1 86 BANJARA part 

tin tooth-pick and ear-scraper, while a small mirror and 
comb are kept in the head-cloth so that their toilet can be 
performed anywhere. 

Mr. Cumberlege ^ notes that in former times all Charan 
Banjaras when carrying grain for an army placed a twig 
of some tree, the sacred nlui " when available, in their 
turban to show that they were on the war-path ; and 
that they would do the same now if they had occasion to 
fight to the death on any social matter or under any sup- 
posed grievance. 

The Banjaras eat all kinds of meat, including fowls and 
pork, and drink liquor. But the Mathurias abstain from 
both flesh and liquor. Major Gunthorpe states that the 
Banjaras are accustomed to drink before setting out for a 
dacoity or robbery and, as they smoke after drinking, the 
remains of leaf-pipes lying about the scene of action may 
indicate their handiwork. They rank below the cultivating 
castes, and Brahmans will not take water to drink from 
them. When engaged in the carrying trade, they usually 
lived in kun's or hamlets attached to such regular villages 
as had considerable tracts of waste land belonging to them. 
When the tdnda or caravan started on its long carrying 
trips, the young men and some of the women went with it 
with the working bullocks, while the old men and the 
remainder of the women and children remained to tend the 
breeding cattle in the hamlet. In Nimar they generally 
rented a little land in the village to give them a footing, 
and paid also a carrying fee on the number of cattle present. 
Their spare time was constantly occupied in the manufacture 
of hempen twine and sacking, which was much superior to 
that obtainable in towns. Even in Captain Forsyth's ^ time 
(1866) the construction of raihvays and roads had seriously 
interfered with the Banjaras' calling, and the}' had perforce 
taken to agriculture. Many of them have settled in the 
new ryotwari villages in Nimar as Government tenants. 
They still grow tilW^ in preference to other crops, because 
this oilseed can be raised without much labour or skill, and 
during their former nomadic life they were accustomed to 

* Monograph, p. 40. ^ Author of the Niutar Settlement Report. 

2 Melia indica. ■* Sesatmiiu. 


sow it on any poor strip of land wliich they might rent for 
a season. Some of them also are accustomed to leave a 
part of tiieir holding untilled in memory of their former and 
more prosperous life. In many villages they have not yet 
built proper houses, but continue to live in mud huts 
thatched with grass. They consider it unlucky to inhabit 
a house with a cement or tiled roof; this being no doubt a 
superstition arising from their camp life. Their houses 
must also be built so that the main beams do not cross, 
that is, the main beam of a house must never be in such a 
position that if projected it would cut another main beam ; 
but the beams may be parallel. The same rule probably 
governed the arrangement of tents in their camps. In 
Nimar they prefer to live at some distance from water, 
probably that is of a tank or river ; and this seems to be 
a survival of a usage mentioned by the Abbe Dubois : ^ 
" Among other curious customs of this odious caste is one 
that obliges them to drink no water which is not drawn 
from springs or wells. The water from rivers and tanks 
being thus forbidden, they are obliged in case of necessity 
to dig a little hole by the side of a tank or river and take 
the water filtering through, which, by this means, is supposed 
to become spring water." It is possible that this rule may 
have had its origin in a sanitary precaution. Colonel 
Sleeman notes ^ that the Banjaras on their carrying trips 
preferred by-paths through jungles to the high roads along 
cultivated plains, as grass, wood and water were more 
abundant along such paths ; and when they could not avoid 
the high roads, they commonly encamped as far as they 
could from villages and towns, and upon the banks of rivers 
and streams, with the same object of obtaining a sufficient 
supply of grass, wood and water. Now it is well known 
that the decaying vegetation in these hill streams renders 
the water noxious and highly productive of malaria. And 
it seems possible that the perception of this fact led the 
Banjaras to dig shallow wells by the sides of the streams 
for their drinking-water, so that the supply thus obtained 
might be in some degree filtered by percolation through the 

1 Hindu Manners^ Citsloms and - Report on the Badhak or Bagri 

CercmoJiies, p. 21. Dacoits, p. 310. 

1 88 BANJARA part 

intervening soil and freed from its vegetable germs. And 
the custom may have grown into a taboo, its underlying 
reason being unknown to the bulk of them, and be still 
practised, though no longer necessary when they do not 
travel. If this explanation be correct it would be an 
interesting conclusion that the Banjaras anticipated so far 
as they were able the sanitary precaution by which our 
soldiers are supplied with portable filters when on the 

Each kuri (hamlet) or tdnda (caravan) had a chief or 
leader with the designation of Naik, a Telugu word meaning 
' lord ' or ' master.' The office of Naik ^ was only partly 
hereditary, and the choice also depended on ability. The 
Naik had authority to decide all disputes in the communit}', 
and the only appeal from him lay to the representatives of 
Bhangi and Jhangi Naik's families at Narsi and Poona, and 
to Burthia Naik's successors in the Telugu country. As 
already seen, the Naik received two shares if he participated 
in a robbery or other crime, and a fee on the remarriage of 
a widow outside her family and on the discovery of a witch. 
Another matter in which he was specially interested was 
pig-sticking. The Banjaras have a particular breed of 
dogs, and with these they were accustomed to hunt wild 
pig on foot, carrying spears. When a pig was killed, the 
head was cut off and presented to the Naik or head- 
man, and if any man was injured or gored by the pig in 
the hunt, the Naik kept and fed him without charge until 
he recovered. 

The following notice of the Banjaras and their dogs 
may be reproduced : '" " They are brave and have the 
reputation of great independence, which I am not disposed 
to allow to them. The Wanjari indeed is insolent on the 
road, and will drive his bullocks up against a Sahib or 
any one else ; but at any disadvantage he is abject enough. 
I remember one who rather enjoyed seeing his dogs attack 
me, whom he supposed alone and unarmed, but the sight 
of a cocked pistol made him very quick in calling them off, 
and very humble in praying for their lives, which I spared, 

' Colonel Mackenzie's notes. 
- -Mr. W. !•'. Sinclair, C.S., in Ind. An/, iii. p. 1S4 {1S74). 


less for liis entreaties than because they were really noble 
animals. The Wanjaris arc famous for their doi^s, of which 
tiicre are three breeds. The first is a large, smooth dog, 
generally black, sometimes fawn-coloured, with a square 
heavy head, most resembling the Danish boarhound. This 
is the true Wanjari dog. The second is also a large, 
square-headed dog, but shaggy, more like a great underbred 
spaniel than anything else. The third is an almost tailless 
greyhound, of the type known all over India by the 
various names of Lat, Polygar, Rampuri, etc. They all 
run both by sight and scent, and with their help the 
Wanjaris kill a good deal of game, chiefly pigs ; but I 
think they usually keep clear of the old fighting boars. 
Besides sport and their legitimate occupations the Wanjaris 
seldom stickle at supplementing their resources by theft, 
especially of cattle ; and they are more than suspected 
of infanticide." 

The Banjaras are credited with great affection for their 
dogs, and the following legend is told about one of them : 
Once upon a time a Banjara, who had a faithful dog, took a 
loan from a Bania (moneylender) and pledged his dog with 
him as security for payment. And some time afterwards, 
while the dog was with the moneylender, a theft was com- 
mitted in his house, and the dog followed the thieves and 
saw them throw the property into a tank. When they 
went away the dog brought the Bania to the tank and he 
found his property. He was therefore very pleased with 
the dog and wrote a letter to his master, saying that the 
loan was repaid, and tied it round his neck and said to 
him, * Now, go back to your master.' So the dog started 
back, but on his way he met his master, the Banjara, 
coming to the Bania with the money for the repayment 
of the loan. And when the Banjara saw the dog he was 
angry with him, not seeing the letter, and thinking he had 
run away, and said to him, ' Why did you come, betraying 
your trust ? ' and he killed the dog in a rage. And after 
killing him he found the letter and was very grieved, so he 
built a temple to the dog's memory, which is called the 
Kukurra Mandhi. And in the temple is the image of a 
dog. This temple is in the Drug District, five miles from 

I go BANJARA part 

Balod. A similar story is told of the temple of Kukurra 
Math in Mandla. 

The following notice of Banjara criminals is abstracted 
from Major Gunthorpe's interesting account:^ "In the 
palmy days of the tribe dacoities were undertaken on the 
most extensive scale. Gangs of fifty to a hundred and fifty 
well-armed men would go long distances from their tdndas 
or encampments for the purpose of attacking houses in villages, 
or treasure-parties or wealthy travellers on the high roads. 
The more intimate knowledge which the police have obtained 
concerning the habits of this race, and the detection and 
punishment of many criminals through approvers, have aided 
in stopping the heavy class of dacoities formerly prevalent, 
and their operations are now on a much smaller scale. In 
British territory arms are scarcely carried, but each man has 
a good stout stick {gedi), the bark of which is peeled off so 
as to make it look whitish and fresh. The attack is generally 
commenced by stone -throwing and then a rush is made, 
the sticks being freely used and the victims almost invariably 
struck about the head or face. While plundering, Hindustani 
is sometimes spoken, but as a rule they never utter a word, 
but grunt signals to one another. Their loin-cloths are 
braced up, nothing is worn on the upper part of the body, 
and their faces are generally muffled. In house dacoities 
men are posted at different corners of streets, each with a 
supply of well-chosen round stones to keep off any people 
coming to the rescue. Banjaras are very expert cattle- 
lifters, sometimes taking as many as a hundred head or 
even more at a time. This kind of robbery is usually 
practised in hilly or forest country where the cattle are 
sent to graze. Secreting themselves they watch for the 
herdsman to have his usual midday doze and for the cattle 
to stray to a little distance. As many as possible are 
then driven off to a great distance and secreted in ravines 
and woods. If questioned they answer that the animals 
belong to landowners and have been given into their charge 
to graze, and as this is done every day the questioner 
thinks nothing more of it. After a time the cattle are 

1 Azotes on Criminal Tribes frequenting Bombay^ Berar and the Central 
Provinces (Bombay, 1882). 


quietly sold to individual purchasers or taken to markets 
at a distance. 

The Banjfiras, however, are far from being wholly 22. Their 
criminal, and the number who have adopted an honest ^" "^^' 
mode of livelihood is continually on the increase. Some 
allowance must be made for their having been deprived of 
their former calling by the cessation of the continual wars 
which distracted India under native rule, and the extension 
of roads and railways which has rendered their mode 
of transport by pack - bullocks almost entirely obsolete. 
At one time practically all the grain exported from 
Chhattlsgarh was carried by them. In 1881 Mr. Kitts 
noted that the number of Banjaras convicted in the Berar 
criminal courts was lower in proportion to the strength of 
the caste than that of Muhammadans, Brahmans, Koshtis 
or Sunars,^ though the offences committed by them were 
usually more heinous. Colonel Mackenzie had quite a 
favourable opinion of them : " A Banjara who can read 
and write is unknown. But their memories, from cultiva- 
tion, are marvellous and very retentive. They carry in 
their heads, without slip or mistake, the most varied and 
complicated transactions and the share of each in such, 
striking a debtor and creditor account as accurately as the 
best -kept ledger, while their history and songs are all 
learnt by heart and transmitted orally from generation to 
generation. On the whole, and taken rightly in their 
clannish nature, their virtues preponderate over their vices. 
In the main they are truthful and very brave, be it in 
war or the chase, and once gained over are faithful and 
devoted adherents. With the pride of high descent and 
with the right that might gives in unsettled and troublous 
times, these Banjaras habitually lord it over and contemn 
the settled inhabitants of the plains. And now not having 
foreseen their own fate, or at least not timely having read 
the warnings given by a yearly diminishing occupation, 
which slowly has taken their bread away, it is a bitter pill 
for them to sink into the ryot class or, oftener still, under 
stern necessity to become the ryot's servant. But they 
are settling to their fate, and the time must come when 

' Berar Census Report (iSSi), p. 1 51. 


all their peculiar distinctive marks and traditions will be 

I. Origin Barai/ Tamboli, Pansari. — The caste of growers and 

^" J. . sellers of the betel-vine leaf The three terms are used 


indifferently for the caste in the Central Provinces, although 
some shades of variation in the meaning can be detected even 
here — Barai signifying especially one who grows the betel- 
vine, and Tamboli the seller of the prepared leaf ; while 
Pansari, though its etymological meaning is also a dealer in 
pan or betel-vine leaves, is used rather in the general sense 
of a druggist or grocer, and is apparently applied to the 
Barai caste because its members commonly follow this 
occupation. In Bengal, however, Barai and Tamboli are 
distinct castes, the occupations of growing and selling the 
betel-leaf being there separately practised. And they have 
been shown as different castes in the India Census Tables of 
1 90 1, though it is perhaps doubtful whether the distinction 
holds good in northern India." In the Central Provinces 
and Berar the Barais numbered nearly 60,000 persons in 
191 I. They reside principally in the Amraoti, Buldana, 
Nagpur, Wardha, Saugor and Jubbulpore Districts. The 
betel-vine is grown principally in the northern Districts of 
Saugor, Damoh and Jubbulpore and in those of Berar and 
the Nagpur plain. It is noticeable also that the growers and 
sellers of the betel-vine numbered only 14,000 in 191 1 out 
of 33,000 actual workers of the Barai caste; so that the 
majority of them are now employed in ordinary agriculture, 
field-labour and other avocations. No very probable deriva- 
tion has been obtained for the word Barai, unless it comes 
from bdri, a hedge or enclosure, and simply means 
' gardener.' Another derivation is from bardna, to avert 
hailstorms, a calling which they still practise in northern 
India. Pdn^ from the Sanskrit parna (leaf), is the leaf 

1 This notice is compiled principally niukh, Deputy Inspector of Schools, 

from a good paper by Mr. M. C. Nagpur. 
Chatterji, retired Extra Assistant Com- 
missioner, Jubbulpore, and from papers ^ %\\&xx\r\g^Hindii Tribes a7id Castes, 

by Professor Sada Shiva Jai Ram, i. p. 330. Nesfield, B?-ief Viezv, p. 

M.A., Government College, Jubbul- 15. N.M^.P. Cens2is ReJ>ort (i^gi),^^ 

pore, and Mr. Bhaskar Baji Rao Desh- 3 1 7. 

II CAS'l'l'l SUIiDIVlSlONS 193 

f^ar cxccllcna-. Ovviii^ to the fact that they produce what 
is [)crhaps the most esteemed luxury in the diet of the 
higher classes of native society, the Barais occupy a fairly 
good social position, and one legend gives them a Ikahman 
ancestry. This is to the effect that the first Barai was a 
Brfdiman whom God detected in a flagrant case of lying 
to his brother. His sacred thread was confiscated and 
being planted in the ground grew up into the first betel- 
vine, which he was set to tend. Another story of the 
origin of the vine is given later in this article. In the 
Central Provinces its cultivation has probably only flourished 
to any appreciable extent for a period of about three 
centuries, and the Barai caste would appear to be mainly 
a functional one, made up of a number of immigrants from 
northern India and of recruits from different classes of the 
population, including a large proportion of the non-Aryan 

The following endogamous divisions of the caste have 2. Caste 
been reported : Chaurasia, so called from the Chaurasi divisions 
pargana of the Mirzapur District ; Panagaria from Panagar 
in Jubbulpore ; Mahobia from Mahoba in Hamirpur ; Jaiswar 
from the town of Jais in the Rai Bareli District of the United 
Provinces ; Gangapari, coming from the further side of the 
Ganges ; and Pardeshi or Deshwari, foreigners. The above 
divisions all have territorial names, and these show that a 
large proportion of the caste have come from northern India, 
the different batches of immigrants forming separate endo- 
gamous groups on their arrival here. Other subcastes are 
the Dudh Barais, from dildh, milk ; the Kuman, said to be 
Kunbis who have adopted this occupation and become Barais ; 
the Jharia and Kosaria, the oldest or jungly Barais, and those 
who live in Chhattlsgarh ; the Purania or old Barais ; the 
Kumhardhang, who are said to be the descendants of a potter 
on whose wheel a betel-vine grew ; and the Lahuri Sen, who 
are a subcaste formed of the descendants of irregular unions. 
None of the other subcastes will take food from these last, 
and the name is locally derived from lahuri, lower, and se^i 
or shreni, class. The caste is also divided into a large 
number of exogamous groups or septs which may be classified 
according to their names as territorial, titular and totemistic. 




Examples of territorial names are : Kanaujia of Kanauj, 
Burhanpuria of Burhanpur, Chitoria of Chitor in Rajputana, 
Deobijha the name of a village in Chhattlsgarh, and Kha- 
rondiha from Kharond or Kalahandi State. These names 
must apparently have been adopted at random when a family 
either settled in one of these places or removed from it to 
another part of the country. Examples of titular names of 
groups are : Pandit (priest), Bhandari (store-keeper), Patharha 
(hail-averter), Batkaphor (pot-breaker), Bhulya (the forgetful 
one), Gujar (a caste), Gahoi (a caste), and so on. While 
the following are totemistic groups : Katara (dagger), Kulha 
(jackal), Bandrele (monkey), Chlkhalkar (from cJiikhal, mud), 
Richharia (bear), and others. Where the group is named 
after another caste it probably indicates that a man of that 
caste became a Barai and founded a family ; while the fact 
that some groups are totemistic shows that a section of the 
caste is recruited from the indigenous tribes. The large 
variety of names discloses the diverse elements of which the 
caste is made up. 
3. Mar- Marriage within the gotra or exogamous group and within 

riage. three degrees of relationship between persons connected 
through females is prohibited. Girls are usually wedded 
before adolescence, but no stigma attaches to the family if 
they remain single beyond this period. If a girl is seduced 
by a man of the caste she is married to him by the pat, a 
simple ceremony used for widows. In the southern Districts 
a barber cuts off a lock of her hair on the banks of a tank or 
river by way of penalty, and a fast is also imposed on her, 
while the caste-fellows exact a meal from her family. If she 
has an illegitimate child, it is given away to somebody else, if 
possible. A girl going wrong with an outsider is expelled 
from the caste. 

Polygamy is permitted and no stigma attaches to the 
taking of a second wife, though it is rarely done except for 
special family reasons. Among the Maratha Barais the bride 
and bridegroom must walk five times round the marriage 
altar and then worship the stone slab and roller used for 
pounding spices. This seems to show that the trade of the 
Pansari or druggist is recognised as being a proper avocation 
of the Barai. They subsequently have to worship the potter's 


wheel. yVftcr the wedding the bride, if she is a child, goes 
as usual to her husband's house for a few days. In Chhattis- 
garh she is accompanied by a few relations, the party being 
known as Chauthia, and during her stay in her husband's 
house the bride is made to sleep on the ground. Widow 
marriage is permitted, and the ceremony is conducted accord- 
ing to the usage of the locality. In Betul the relatives of the 
widow take the second husband before Maroti's shrine, where 
he offers a nut and some betel-leaf. He is then taken to the 
mrdguzar's house and presents to him Rs. 1-4-0, a cocoanut 
and some betel-vine leaf as the price of his assent to the 
marriage. If there is a Dcshmukh ^ of the village, a cocoanut 
and betel-leaf are also given to him. The nut offered to 
Maroti represents the deceased husband's spirit, and is sub- 
sequently placed on a plank and kicked off by the new 
bridegroom in token of his usurping the other's place, 
and finally buried to lay the spirit. The property of the 
first husband descends to his children, and failing them his 
brother's children or collateral heirs take it before the widow. 
A bachelor espousing a widow must first go through the 
ceremony of marriage with a swallow-wort plant. When a 
widower marries a girl a silver impression representing the 
deceased first wife is made and worshipped daily with the 
family gods. Divorce is permitted on sufficient grounds at 
the instance of either party, being effected before the caste 
committee or panchdyat. If a husband divorces his wife 
merely on account of bad temper, he must maintain her so 
long as she remains unmarried and continues to lead a 
moral life. 

The Barais especially venerate the Nag or cobra and 4^ Reii- 
observe the festival of Nag-Panchmi (Cobra's fifth), in con- foc^af" 
nection with which the following story is related. Formerly status. 
there was no betel -vine on the earth. But when the five 
Pandava brothers celebrated the great horse sacrifice after 
their victory at Hastinapur, they wanted some, and so 
messengers were sent down below the earth to the residence 
of the queen of the serpents, in order to try and obtain it. 
Basuki, the queen of the serpents, obligingly cut off the top 

^ The name of a superior revenue officer under the Marathas, now borne 
as a courtesy title by certain families. 


joint of her little finger and gave it to the messengers. This 
was brought up and sown on the earth, and pan creepers grew 
out of the joint. For this reason the betel-vine has no 
blossoms or seeds, but the joints of the creepers are cut off 
and sown, when they sprout afresh ; and the betel-vine is 
called Nagbel or the serpent-creeper. On the day of Nag- 
Panchmi the Barais go to the bareja with flowers, cocoanuts 
and other offerings, and worship a stone which is placed in 
it and which represents the Nag or cobra. A goat or sheep 
is sacrificed and they return home, no leaf of the pan garden 
being touched on that day. A cup of milk is also left, in 
the belief that a cobra will come out of the pan garden and 
drink it. The Barais say that members of their caste are 
never bitten by cobras, though many of these snakes frequent 
the gardens on account of the moist coolness and shade 
which they afford. The Agarwala Banias, from whom the 
Barais will take food cooked without water, have also a legend 
of descent from a Naga or snake princess. ' Our mother's 
house is of the race of the snake,' say the Agarwals of 
Bihar.^ The caste usually burn the dead, with the ex- 
ception of children and persons dying of leprosy or snake- 
bite, whose bodies are buried. Mourning is observed for 
ten days in the case of adults and for three days for 
children. In Chhattlsgarh if any portion of the corpse 
remains unburnt on the day following the cremation, the 
relatives are penalised to the extent of an extra feast 
to the caste-fellows. Children are named on the sixth 
or twelfth day after birth either by a Brahman or by 
the women of the household. Two names are given, one 
for ceremonial and the other for ordinary use. When a 
Brahman is engaged he gives seven names for a boy and 
five for a girl, and the parents select one out of these. 
The Barais do not admit outsiders into the caste, and 
employ Brahmans for religious and ceremonial purposes. 
They are allowed to eat the flesh of clean animals, but 
very rarely do so, and they abstain from liquor. Brahmans 
will take sweets and water from them, and they occupy a 
fairly good social position on account of the important 
nature of their occupation. 

^ Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art. Agarwal. 

11 O ecu PA TION 197 

" It has been mentioned," says Sir 1 1. Rislcy,' " that the s- Occupa- 
garden is regarded as ahnost sacred, and the superstitious 
practices in vogue resemble those of the silk-worm breeder. 
The Bfirui will not enter it until he has bathed and washed 
his clothes. Animals found inside are driven out, while 
women ceremonially unclean dare not enter within the gate. 
A Bnlhman never sets foot inside, and old men have a pre- 
judice against entering it. It has, however, been known to 
be used for assignations." The betel-vine is the leaf of Piper 
betel L., the word being derived from the Malay alam vcttila, 
' a plain leaf,' and coming to us through the Portuguese detre 
and bet/e. The leaf is called pan, and is eaten with the nut 
of Areca catechu, called in Hindi supari. The vine needs 
careful cultivation, the gardens having to be covered to keep 
off the heat of the sun, while liberal treatment with manure 
and irrigation is needed. The joints of the creepers are 
planted in February, and begin to supply leaves in about five 
months' time. When the first creepers are stripped after a 
period of nearly a year, they are cut off and fresh ones 
appear, the plants being exhausted within a period of about 
two years after the first sowing. A garden may cover from 
half an acre to an acre of land, and belongs to a number of 
growers, who act in partnership, each owning so many lines 
of vines. The plain leaves are sold at from 2 annas to 
4 annas a hundred, or a higher rate when they are out of 
season. Damoh, Ramtek and Bilahri are three of the best- 
known centres of cultivation in the Central Provinces. The 
Bilahri leaf is described in the Ain-i-Akbari as follows : 
" The leaf called Bilahri is white and shining, and does not 
make the tongue harsh and hard. It tastes best of all kinds. 
After it has been taken away from the creeper, it turns 
white with some care after a month, or even after twenty 
days, when greater efforts are made." ^ For retail sale btdas 
are prepared, consisting of a rolled betel-leaf containing 
areca-nut, catechu and lime, and fastened with a clove. 
Musk and cardamoms are sometimes added. Tobacco 
should be smoked after eating a bida according to the saying, 

' Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art. 72, quoted in Crooke's Tribes and 
Barui. Castes, art. Tamboli. 

^ Bloclimann, Ain-i-Ahbari, i. p. 

198 BARAI PART 11 

' Service without a patron, a young man without a shield, 
and betel without tobacco are alike savourless.' Bidas are 
sold at from two to four for a pice (farthing). Women of the 
caste often retail them, and as many are good-looking they 
secure more custom ; they are also said to have an indiffer- 
ent reputation. Early in the morning, when they open their 
shops, they burn some incense before the bamboo basket in 
which the leaves are kept, to propitiate Lakshmi, the goddess 
of wealth. 



1. Sircngih iifid /oca! distribution. 4. lieligion. 

2. Internal structure. 5. Social position. 

3. Marriage customs. 6. Occupation. 

Barhai, Sutar, Kharadi, Mistri.— The occupational i. strength 
caste of carpenters. The Barhais numbered nearly 1 1 0,000 |^|!.'jribu^ 
persons in the Central Provinces and Berar in 191 i, or tion. 
about I in 150 persons. The caste is most numerous in 
Districts with large towns, and few carpenters are to be 
found in villages except in the richer and more advanced 
Districts. Hitherto such woodwork as the villagers wanted 
for agriculture has been made by the Lobar or blacksmith, 
while the country cots, the only wooden article of furniture 
in their houses, could be fashioned by their own hands or 
by the Gond woodcutter. In the Mandla District the 
Barhai caste counts only 300 persons, and about the same 
in Balaghat, in Drug only 47 persons, and in the fourteen 
Chhattisgarh Feudatory States, with a population of more 
than two millions, only some 800 persons. The name 
Barhai is said to be from the Sanskrit Vardhika and the 
root vardh, to cut. Sutar is a common name of the caste 
in the Maratha Districts, and is from Sutra-kara, one who 
works by string, or a maker of string. The allusion may 
be to the Barhai's use of string in planing or measuring 
timber, or it may possibly indicate a transfer of occupation, 
the Sutars having first been mainly string-makers and after- 
wards abandoned this calling for that of the carpenter. The 
first wooden implements and articles of furniture may have 
been held together by string before nails came into use. 
Kharadi is literally a turner, one who turns woodwork on 



3. Mar- 

a lathe, from khaidt, a lathe. Mistri, a corruption of the 
English Mister, is an honorific title for master carpenters. 

The comparatively recent growth of the caste in these 
Provinces is shown by its subdivisions. The principal sub- 
castes of the Hindustani Districts are the Pardeshi or 
foreigners, immigrants from northern India, and the Purbia 
or eastern, coming from Oudh ; other subcastes are the Sri 
Gaur Malas or immigrants from Malvva, the Beradi from 
Berar, and the Mahure from Hyderabad. We find also 
subcastes of Jat and Teli Barhais, consisting of Jats and 
Telis (oil-pressers) who have taken to carpentering. Two 
other caste-groups, the Chamar Barhais and Gondi Barhais, 
are returned, but these are not at present included in 
the Barhai caste, and consist merely of Chamars and 
Gonds who work as carpenters but remain in their own 
castes. In the course of some generations, however, if the 
cohesive social force of the caste system continues un- 
abated, these groups may probably find admission into the 
Barhai caste. Colonel Tod notes that the progeny of one 
Makiar, a prince of the Jadon Rajpiat house of Jaisalmer, 
became carpenters, and were known centuries after as Makur 
Sutars. They were apparently considered illegitimate, as 
he states : " Illegitimate children can never overcome this 
natural defect among the Rajputs. Thus we find among all 
classes of artisans in India some of royal but spurious 
descent." ^ The internal structure of the caste seems therefore 
to indicate that it is largely of foreign origin and to a certain 
degree of recent formation in these Provinces. 

The caste are also divided into exogamous septs named 
after villages. In some localities it is said that they have no 
septs, but only surnames, and that people of the same surname 
cannot intermarry. Well-to-do persons marry their daughters 
before puberty and others when they can afford the expense 
of the ceremony. Brahman priests are employed at weddings, 
though on other occasions their services are occasionally dis- 
pensed with. The wedding ceremony is of the type pre- 
valent in the locality. When the wedding procession reaches 
the bride's village it halts near the temple of Maroti or 
Hanuman. Among the Panchfd Barhais the bridegroom does 

' Kdjaslhdn, ii. p. 210. 


not wear a marriage crown but tics a bunch of flowers to his 
turban. The bridegroom's party is entertained for five days. 
Divorce and the remarriage of widows are permitted. In 
most localities it is said that a widow is forbidden to marry 
her first husband's younger as well as his elder brother. 
Among the Pardeshi Barhais of Betul if a bachelor desires to 
marry a widow he must first go through the ceremony with 
a branch or twig of the gfi/ar tree.^ 

The caste worship Viswakarma, the celestial architect, .4. kdi- 
and venerate their trade implements on the Dasahra festival. ^'""" 
They consider the sight of a mongoose and of a light-grey 
pigeon or dove as lucky omens. They burn the dead and 
throw the ashes into a river or tank, employing a Maha- 
Brahman to receive the gifts for the dead. 

In social status the Barhais rank with the higher artisan 5. Social 
castes. Brahmans take water from them in some localities. Position. 
perhaps more especially in towns. In Betul for instance 
Hindustani Brahmans do not accept water from the rural 
Barhais. In Damoh where both the Barhai and Lobar are 
village menials, their status is said to be the same, and 
Brahmans do not take water from Lobars. Mr. Nesfield 
says that the Barhai is a village servant and ranks with the 
Kurmi, with whom his interests are so closely allied. But 
there seems no special reason why the interests of the 
carpenter should be more closely allied with the cultivator 
than those of any other village menial, and it may be offered 
as a surmise that carpentering as a distinct trade is of 
comparatively late origin, and was adopted by Kurmis, to 
which fact the connection noticed by Mr. Nesfield might 
be attributed ; hence the position of the Barhai among the 
castes from whom a Brahman will take water. In some 
localities well-to-do members of the caste have begun to 
wear the sacred thread. 

In the northern Districts and the cotton tract the Barhai 6. Occupa- 
works as a village menial. He makes and mends the plough ^'°"' 
and harrow {bakJiar) and other wooden implements of agri- 
culture, and makes new ones when supplied with the wood. 
In Wardha he receives an annual contribution of 100 lbs. of 
grain from each cultivator. In Betul he gets Gj lbs. of grain 

' FicHS glonierata. 


and other perquisites for each plough of four bullocks. For 
making carts and building or repairing houses he must be 
separately paid. At weddings the Barhai often supplies the 
sacred marriage-post and is given from four annas to a rupee. 
At the Diwali festival he prepares a wooden peg about six 
inches long, and drives it into the cultivator's house inside the 
threshold, and receives half a pound to a pound of grain. 

In cities the carpenters are rapidly acquiring an in- 
creased degree of skill as the demand for a better class of 
houses and furniture becomes continually greater and more 
extensive. The carpenters have been taught to make English 
furniture by such institutions as the Friends' Mission of 
Hoshangabad and other missionaries ; and a Government 
technical school has now been opened at Nagpur, in which 
boys from all over the Province are trained in the profession. 
Very little wood-carving with any pretensions to excellence 
has hitherto been done in the Central Provinces, but the 
Jain temples at Saugor and Khurai contain some fair wood- 
work. A good carpenter in towns can earn from i 2 annas 
to Rs. 1-8 a day, and both his earnings and prospects have 
greatly improved within recent years. Sherring remarks of 
the Barhais : " As artisans they exhibit little or no inventive 
powers : but in imitating the workmanship of others they are 
perhaps unsurpassed in the whole world. They are equally 
clever in working from designs and models." ^ 

Bapi. — A caste of household servants and makers of 
leaf-plates, belonging to northern India. The Baris num- 
bered 1200 persons in the Central Provinces in 191 i, 
residing mainly in Jubbulpore and Mandla. Sir H. Risley 
remarks of the caste : ^ " Mr. Nesfield regards the Bari as 
merely an offshoot from a semi -savage tribe known as 
Banmanush and Musahar. He is said still to associate with 
them at times, and if the demand for leaf-plates and cups, 
owing to some temporary cause, such as a local fair or an 
unusual multitude of marriages, happens to become larger 
than he can at once supply, he gets them secretly made by 
his ruder kinsfolk and retails them at a higher rate, passing 

• ni)tdit Castes, i. p. 316. 
'^ Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art. Bari. 

11 nARf 203 

them off as his own production. The strictest IJrahmans, 
those at least who aspire to imitate the self-denying life of 
the ancient Indian hermit, never eat off any other plates 
than those made of leaves." " If the above view is correct," 
Sir II. Risley remarks, " the Baris are a branch of a non-Aryan 
tribe who have been given a fairly respectable position in the 
social system in consequence of the demand for leaf-plates, 
which are largely used by the highest as well as the lowest 
castes. Instances of this sort, in which a non-Aryan or 
mixed group is promoted on grounds of necessity or con- 
venience to a higher status than their antecedents would 
entitle them to claim, are not unknown in other castes, and 
must have occurred frequently in outlying parts of the 
country, where the Aryan settlements were scanty and 
imperfectly supplied with the social apparatus demanded by 
the theory of ceremonial purity." There is no reason why 
the origin of the Bari from the Banmanush (wild man of the 
woods) or Musahar (mouse-eater), a forest tribe, as suggested 
by Mr. Nesfield from his observation of their mutual connec- 
tion, should be questioned. The making of leaf-plates is an 
avocation which may be considered naturally to pertain to 
the tribes frequenting jungles from which the leaves are 
gathered ; and in the Central Provinces, though in the north 
the Nai or barber ostensibly supplies the leaf-plates, probably 
buying the leaves and getting them made up by Gonds and 
others, in the Maratha Districts the Gond himself does so, 
and many Gonds make their living by this trade. The 
people of the Maratha country are apparently less strict 
than those of northern India, and do not object to eat off 
plates avowedly the handiwork of Gonds. The fact that 
the Bari has been raised to the position of a pure caste, so 
that Brahmans will take water from his hands, is one among 
several instances of this elevation of the rank of the serving 
castes for purposes of convenience. The caste themselves 
have the following legend of their origin : Once upon a time 
Parmeshwar ^ was offering rice milk to the spirits of his 
ancestors. In the course of this ceremony the performer has 
to present a gift known as Vikraya Dan, which cannot be 
accepted by others without loss of position. Parmeshwar 

* Vishnu. 

204 BA SDE WA part 

offered the gift to various Brahmans, but they all refused it. 
So he made a man of clay, and blew upon the image and 
gave it life, and the god then asked the man whom he had 
created to accept the gift which the Brahmans had refused. 
This man, who was the first Bari, agreed on condition that 
all men should drink with him and recognise his purity of 
caste. Parmeshwar then told him to bring water in a cup, 
and drank of it in the presence of all the castes. And in 
consequence of this all the Hindus will take water from the 
hands of a Bari. They also say that their first ancestor was 
named Sundar on account of his personal beauty ; but if so, 
he failed to bequeath this quality to his descendants. The 
proper avocation of the Baris is, as already stated, the 
manufacture of the leaf-cups and plates used by all Hindus 
at festivals. In the Central Provinces these are made from 
the large leaves of the mdJiul creeper {Bauhinia Vahlii), or 
from the palds {Butea frondosa). The caste also act as 
personal servants, handing round water, lighting and carry- 
ing torches at marriages and other entertainments and on 
journeys, and performing other functions. Some of them 
have taken to agriculture. Their women act as maids to 
high-caste Hindu ladies, and as they are always about the 
zenana, are liable to lose their virtue. A curious custom 
prevails in Marwar on the birth of an heir to the throne. 
An impression of the child's foot is taken by a Bari on 
cloth covered with saffron, and is exhibited to the native 
chiefs, who make him rich presents.^ The Baris have the 
reputation of great fidelity to their employers, and a 
saying about them is, ' The Bari will die fighting for his 

Basdewa,- Wasudeo, Harbola, Kaparia, Jag-a, Kapdi. — 

A wandering beggar caste of mixed origin, who also 
call themselves Sanadhya or Sanaurhia Brahmans. The 
Basdewas trace their origin to Wasudeo, the father of 
Krishna, and the term Basdewa is a corruption of Wasudeo 
or Wasudeva. Kaparia is the name they bear in the 

' Sherring, Tribes and Castes, i. papers by Mr. W. N. Maw, Deputy 
pj). 403, 404. Commissioner, Damoh, and Murlidhar, 

^ This article is compiled from MunsiCr of Kliurai in Saugor. 


Antcrvcd or country between the Ganges and Jumna, whence 
they claim to have come. Kaparia has been derived from 
kapra, cloth, owing to the custom of the Basdewas of having 
several dresses, which they change rapidly like the Bahrupia, 
making themselves up in different characters as a show. 
Harbola is an occupational term, applied to a class of 
Basdewas who climb trees in the early morning and thence 
vociferate praises of the deity in a loud voice. The name 
is derived from Haj\ God, and bolna^ to speak. As the 
1 larbolas wake people up in the morning they are also called 
Jaga or Awakener. The number of ]?asdewas in the Central 
Provinces and Berar in 191 i was 2500, and they are found 
principally in the northern Districts and in Chhattlsgarh. 
They have several territorial subcastes, as Gangaputri or 
those who dwell on the banks of the Ganges ; Khaltia or 
Deswari, those who belong to the Central Provinces ; Parauha, 
from para, a male buffalo calf, being the dealers in buffaloes ; 
Harbola or those who climb trees and sing the praises of 
God ; and Wasudeo, the dwellers in the Maratha Districts 
who marry only among themselves. The names of the 
exogamous divisions are very varied, some being taken from 
Brahman gotras and Rajput septs, while others are the 
names of villages, or nicknames, or derived from animals 
and plants. It may be concluded from these names that the 
Basdewas are a mixed occupational group recruited from 
high and low castes, though they themselves say that they 
do not admit any outsiders except Brahmans into the 
community. In Bombay ^ the Wasudevas have a special 
connection with Kumhars or potters, whom they address by 
the term of kdka or paternal uncle, and at whose houses 
they lodge on their travels, presenting their host with the 
two halves of a cocoanut. The caste do not observe celibacy. 
A price of Rs. 25 has usually tO; be given for a bride, and a 
Brahman is employed to perform the ceremony. At the 
conclusion of this the Brahman invests the bridegroom with 
a sacred thread, which he thereafter continues to wear. 
Widow marriage is permitted, and widows are commonly 
married to widowers. Divorce is also permitted. When a 
man's wife dies he shaves his moustache and beard, if any, 

^ Bombay Gazetteer, xvii. p. io8. 

2o6 BASDEIVA part 

in mourning and a fatlier likewise for a daughter-in-law ; 
this is somewhat peculiar, as other Hindus do not shave 
the moustache for a wife or daughter-in-law. The Basdewas 
are wandering mendicants. In the Maratha Districts they 
wear a plume of peacock's feathers, which they say was 
given to them as a badge by Krishna. In Saugor and 
Damoh instead of this they carry during the period from 
Dasahra to the end of Magh or from September to January 
a brass vessel called inatuk bound on their heads. It is 
surmounted by a brass cone and adorned with mango-leaves, 
cowries and a piece of red cloth, and with figures of Rama 
and Lakshman. Their stock-in-trade for begging consists of 
two kartdls or wooden clappers which are struck against 
each other ; gimngrus or jingling ornaments for the feet, 
worn when dancing ; and a paijna or kind of rattle, consist- 
ing of two semicircular iron wires bound at each end to a 
piece of wood with rings slung on to them ; this is simply 
shaken in the hand and gives out a sound from the movement 
of the rings against the wires. They worship all these 
implements as well as their beggar's wallet on the Janam- 
Ashtami or Krishna's birthday, the Dasahra, and the full moon 
of Magh (January). They rise early and beg only in the 
morning from about four till eight, and sing songs in praise 
of Sarwan and Karan. Sarwan was a son renowned for his 
filial piety ; he maintained and did service to his old blind 
parents to the end of their lives, much against the will of his 
wife, and was proof against all her machinations to induce 
him to abandon them. Karan was a proverbially chari- 
table king, and all his family had the same virtue. His 
wife gave away daily rice and pulse to those who required 
it, his daughter gave them clothes, his son distributed cows 
as alms and his daughter-in-law cocoanuts. The king him- 
self gave only gold, and it is related of him that he was 
accustomed to expend a maund and a quarter '^ weight of 
gold in alms-giving before he washed himself and paid his 
morning devotions. Therefore the Basdewas sing that he 
who gives early in the morning acquires the merit of Karan ; 
and their presence at this time affords the requisite oppor- 
tunity to anybody who may be desirous of emulating the 

1 About lOO lbs. 

M HAS /)E IV A 207 

kinc^. At the end of every cou[)let they cry ' Jai Gan^a ' or 
' liar Ganga,' invoking^ the Ganges. 

The Harbolas have each a beat of a certain number of 
villages which must not be infringed by the others. Their 
method is to ascertain the name of some well-to-do jjcrson 
in the village. This done, they climb a tree in the early 
morning before sunrise, and continue chanting his praises in 
a loud voice until he is sufficiently flattered by their eulogies 
or wearied by their importunity to throw down a present of 
a few pice under the tree, which the Harbola, descending, 
appropriates. The Basdewas of the northern Districts are 
now commonly engaged in the trade of buying and selling 
buffaloes. They take the young male calves from Saugor 
and Damoh to Chhattisgarh, and there retail them at a profit 
for rice cultivation, driving them in large herds along the 
road. For the capital which they have to borrow to make 
their purchases, they are charged very high rates of interest. 
The Basdewas have here a special veneration for the buffalo 
as the animal from which they make their livelihood, and 
they object strongly to the calves being taken to be tied out 
as baits for tiger, refusing, it is said, to accept payment if the 
calf should be killed. Their social status is not high, and 
none but the lowest castes will take food from their hands. 
They eat flesh and drink liquor, but abstain from pork, fowls 
and beef. Some of the caste have given up animal food. 



1 . Numbers and distrlbuiion. 4. Marriage. 

2. Caste traditions. 5. Religion and social status. 

3. Subdivisions. 6. Occupation. 

Basop,^ Bansphop, Dhulia, Bupud. — The occupational 
caste of bamboo-workers, the two first names being Hindi 
and the last the term used in the Maratha Districts. The 
cognate Uriya caste is called Kandra and the Telugu one 
Medara. The Basors numbered 53,000 persons in the 
Central Provinces and Berar in 191 i. About half the total 
number reside in the Saugor, Damoh and Jubbulpore 
Districts. The word Basor is a corruption of Bansphor, ' a 
breaker of bamboos.' Dhulia, from dholi, a drum, means a 

The caste trace their origin from Raja Benu or Venu 
who ruled at Singorgarh in Damoh. It is related of him 
that he was so pious that he raised no taxes from his 
subjects, but earned his livelihood by making and selling 
bamboo fans. He could of course keep no army, but he 
knew magic, and when he broke his fan the army of the 
enemy broke up in unison. Venu is a Sanskrit word 
meaning bamboo. But a mythological Sanskrit king called 
Vena is mentioned in the Puranas, from whom for his sins 
was born the first Nishada, the lowest of human beings, and 
Manu ^ states that the bamboo -worker is the issue of a 

' Compiled from papers by Mr. Ram Betul ; Mr. Keshava Rao, Headmaster, 

Lai, B.A., De])Uty Inspector of Schools, Middle School, Seoni ; and Bapu Gulab 

Saugor; Mr. Vishnu Gangadhar Gadgil, Singh, Superintendent, Land Records, 

Tahslldar, Narsinghpur ; Mr. Devi Betul. 

Dayal, Tahsildar, liatta ; Mr. Kanhya ^ Chapter x. 37, and Shudra Kani- 

Lal, B. A., Deputy Inspector of Schools, lakar, p. 284. 


Nishada or Chandal father and a Vaidcha ' mother. So 
that the local story may be a corruption of the Brahmanical 
tradition. Another legend relates that in the beginning there 
were no bamboos, and the first Basor took the serpent which 
Siva wore round his neck and going to a hill planted it with 
its head in the ground, A bamboo at once sprang up on 
the spot, and from this the liasor made the first winnowing 
fan. And the snake-like root of the bamboo, which no doubt 
suggested the story to its composer, is now adduced in proof 
of it. 

The Basors of the northern Districts are divided into a 3- •'^"•j- 
number of subcastes, the principal of which are : the Purania '^''^'°" • 
or Juthia, who perhaps represent the oldest section, Purania 
being from purdna old ; they are called Juthia because they 
eat the leavings of others ; the Barmaiya or Malaiya, 
apparently a territorial group ; the Deshwari or Bundel- 
khandi who reside in the desJi or native place of Bundel- 
khand ; the Gudha or Gurha, the name being derived by 
some from giida a pigsty ; the Dumar or Dom Basors ; the 
Dhubela, perhaps from the Dhobi caste ; and the Dharkar. 
Two or three of the above names appear to be those of 
other low castes from which the Basor caste may have been 
recruited, perhaps at times when a strong demand existed 
for bamboo-workers. The Buruds do not appear to be 
sufficiently numerous to have subcastes. But they include 
a few Telenga Buruds who are really Medaras, and the caste 
proper are therefore sometimes known as Maratha Buruds to 
distinguish them from these. The caste has numerous bainks 
or exogamous groups or septs, the names of which may chiefly 
be classified as territorial and totemistic. Among the former 
are Mahobia, from the town of Mahoba ; Sirmaiya, from 
Sirmau ; Orahia, from Orai, the battlefield of the Banaphar 
generals, Alha and Udal ; Tikarahia from Tikari, and so on. 
The totemistic septs include the Sanpero from sdnp a snake, 
the Mangrelo from mangra a crocodile, the Morya from inor 
a peacock, the Titya from the titehri bird and the Sarkia 
from sarki or red ochre, all of which worship their respective 
totems. The Katarya or ' dagger ' sept worship a real or 
painted dagger at their marriage, and the Kemia, a branch 

* A Vaideha was the child of a Vaishya father and a Brahman mother. 


of the kem tree {Stephegyne parvifolid). The Bandrelo, from 
bandar^ worship a painted monkey. One or two groups 
are named after castes, as Bamhnelo from Brahman and 
Bargujaria from Bargujar Rajput, thus indicating that 
members of these castes became Basors and founded families. 
One sept is called Marha from Marhai, the goddess of cholera, 
and the members worship a picture of the goddess drawn in 
black. The name of the Kulhantia sept means somersault, 
and these turn a somersault before worshipping their gods. 
So strong is the totemistic idea that some of the territorial 
groups worship objects with similar names. Thus the 
Mahobia group, whose name is undoubtedly derived from 
the town of Mahoba, have adopted the mahua tree as their 
totem, and digging a small hole in the ground place in it a 
little water and the liquor made from mahua flowers, and 
worship it. This represents the process of distillation of 
country liquor. Similarly, the Orahia group, who derive 
their name from the town of Orai, now worship the urai or 
khaskhas grass, and the Tikarahia from Tikari worship a 
tikli or glass spangle. 
4. Mar- The marriage of persons belonging to the same haink or 

nage. s^^X. and also that of first cousins is forbidden. The age of 
marriage is settled by convenience, and no stigma attaches 
to its postponement beyond adolescence. Intrigues of un- 
married girls with men of their own or any higher caste are 
usually overlooked. The ceremony follows the standard 
Hindi and Marathi forms, and presents no special features. 
A bride-price called chdri, amounting to seven or eight 
rupees, is usually paid. In Betul the practice of lanijhana, 
or serving the father-in-law for a term of years before 
marrying his daughter, is sometimes followed. Widow- 
marriage is permitted, and the widow is expected to wed her 
late husband's younger brother. The Basors are musicians 
by profession, but in Betul the narsingha, a peculiar kind of 
crooked trumpet, is the only implement which may be played 
at the marriage of a widow. A woman marrying a second 
time forfeits all interest in the property of her late husband, 
unless she is without issue and there are no near relatives of 
her husband to take it. Divorce is effected by the breaking 
of the woman's bangles in public. If obtained by the wife, 










\ ■.'' 



, \. 







she must repay to her first husband the expenditure incurred 
by him for her marriage when she takes a second, liut the 
acceptance of this payment is considered derogatory and the 
husband refuses it unless he is poor. 

The liasors worship the ordinary Hindu deities and also 5. Reii- 
ghosts and spirits. Like the other low castes they entertain focfaf" 
a special veneration for Devi. They profess to exorcise evil status. 
spirits and the evil eye, and to cure other disorders and dis- 
eases through the agency of their incantations and the goblins 
who do their bidding. They burn their dead when they can 
afford it and otherwise bury them, placing the corpse in the 
grave with its head to the north. The body of a woman is 
wrapped in a red shroud and that of a man in a white one. 
They observe mourning for a period of three to ten days, 
but in Jubbulpore it always ends with the fortnight in which 
the death takes place ; so that a person dying on the 15 th 
or 30th of the month is mourned only for one day. They 
eat almost every kind of food, including beef, pork, fowls, 
liquor and the leavings of others, but abjure crocodiles, 
monkeys, snakes and rats. Many of them have now given 
up eating cow's flesh in deference to Hindu feeling. They 
will take food from almost any caste except sweepers, and 
one or two others, as Joshi and Jasondhi, towards whom for 
some unexplained reason they entertain a special aversion. 
They will admit outsiders belonging to any caste from whom 
they can take food into the community. They are generally 
considered as impure, and live outside the village, and their 
touch conveys pollution, more especially in the Maratha 
Districts. The ordinary village menials, as the barber and 
washerman, will not work for them, and services of this 
nature are performed by men of their own community. As, 
however, their occupation is not in itself unclean, they rank 
above sweepers, Chamars and Dhobis. Temporary exclusion 
from caste is imposed for the usual offences, and the almost 
invariable penalty for readmission is a feast to the caste- 
fellows. A person, male or female, who has been convicted 
of adultery must have the head shaved, and is then seated 
in the centre of the caste-fellows and pelted by them with 
the leavings of their food. Basor women are not permitted 
to wear nose-rings on pain of exclusion from caste. 


6. Occupa- The trade of the Basors is a very essential one to the 

^'°°- agricultural community. They make numerous kinds of 

baskets, among which may be mentioned the chujika, a very 
small one, the tokni, a basket of middle size, and the iokna, 
a very large one. The dauri is a special basket with a 
lining of matting for washing rice in a stream. The jhdnpi 
is a round basket with a cover for holding clothes ; the 
tipanna a small one in which girls keep dolls ; and the 
bilahra a still smaller one for holding betel-leaf. Other 
articles made from bamboo-bark are the chalni or sieve, the 
khunkhwia or rattle, the bdnsuri or wooden flute, the bijna 
or fan, and the supa or winnowing-fan. All grain is cleaned 
with the help of the supa both on the threshing-floor and in 
the house before consumption, and a child is always laid in 
one as soon as it is born. In towns the Basors make the 
bamboo matting which is so much used. The only imple- 
ment they employ is the bdnka, a heavy curved knife, with 
which all the above articles are made. The bdnka is duly 
worshipped at the Diwali festival. The Basors are also the 
village musicians, and a band of three or four of them play 
at weddings and on other festive occasions. Some of them 
work as pig-breeders and others are village watchmen. The 
women often act as midwives. One subcaste, the Dumar, 
will do scavenger's work, but they never take employment 
as saises, because the touch of horse-dung is considered as a 
pollution, entailing temporary excommunication from caste, 

r. General BedaP.^ — A Small castc of about I 500 persons, belonging 

notice. J.Q ^j^qI^^ Khandcsh and Hyderabad. Their ancestors were 
J^indaris, apparently recruited from the different Maratha 
castes, and when the Pindaris were suppressed they obtained 
or were awarded land in the localities where they now 
reside, and took to cultivation. The more respectable 
Bedars say that their ancestors were Tirole Kunbis, but 
when Tipu Sultan invaded the Carnatic he took many of 
them prisoners and ordered them to become Muhammadans. 
In order to please him they took food with Muhammadans, 

1 Based on a paper by Rao Sahib Mr. Adiiriim Chaudhri of the Gazetteer 
Dhonduji, retired Inspector of Police, office. 
Akola, and information collected by 


and on this account the Kunbis i)ut them out of caste until 
they should purify themselves. But as there were a lar^^e 
number of them, they did not do this, and have remained a 
separate caste. The real derivation of the name is unknown, 
but the caste say that it is be-dar or ' without fear,' and was 
i^iven to them on account of their bravery. They have now 
obtained a warrant from the descendant of Shankar Acharya, 
or the high priest of Sivite Hindus, permitting them to 
describe themselves as Put Kunbi or purified Kunbi.^ The 
community is clearly of a most mixed nature, as there are 
also Dher or Mahar Bedars. They refuse to take food from 
other Mahars and consider themselves defiled by their touch. 
The social position of the caste also presents some peculiar 
features. Several of them have taken service in the army 
and police, and have risen to the rank of native officer ; and 
Rao Sahib Dhonduji, a retired Inspector of Police, is a 
prominent member of the caste. The Raja of Surpur, near 
Raichur, is also said to be a Bedar, while others are ministerial 
officials occupying a respectable position. Yet of the Bedars 
generally it is said that they cannot draw water freely from 
the public wells, and in Nasik Bedar constables are not con- 
sidered suitable for ordinary duty, as people object to their 
entering houses. The caste must therefore apparently have 
higher and lower groups, differing considerably in position. 

They have three subdivisions, the Maratha, Telugu and 2. Sub- 
Kande Bedars. The names of their exogamous sections are anT'°"^ 
also Marathi. Nevertheless they retain one or two northern marriage 
customs, presumably acquired from association with the ^^^ °"^^' 
Pindaris. Their women do not tuck the body-cloth in 
behind the waist, but draw it over the right shoulder. They 
wear the choli or Hindustani breast-cloth tied in front, and 
have a hooped silver ornament on the top of the head, which 
is known as dJwra. They eat goats, fowls and the flesh of 
the wild pig, and drink liquor, and will take food from a 
Kunbi or a Phulmali, and pay little heed to the rules of 
social impurity. But Hindustani Brahmans act as their 

Before a wedding they call a Brahman and worship him 
as a god, the ceremony being known as Deo Brahman. The 

' Mr. Marten's C.P. Census Report (19 11), p. 212. 



Brahman then cooks food in the house of his host. On the 
same occasion a person specially nominated by the Brahman, 
and known as Deokia, fetches an earthen vessel from the 
potter, and this is worshipped with offerings of turmeric and 
rice, and a cotton thread is tied round it. Formerly it is 
said they worshipped the spent bullets picked up after a 
battle, and especially any which had been extracted from the 
body of a wounded person. 
3. Funeral When a man is about to die they take him down from 

his cot and lay him on the ground with his head in the lap 
of a relative. The dead are buried, a person of importance 
being carried to the grave in a sitting posture, while others 
are laid out in the ordinary manner. A woman is buried in 
a green cloth and a breast-cloth. When the corpse has been 
prepared for the funeral they take some liquor, and after a 
few drops have been poured into the mouth of the corpse the 
assembled persons drink the rest. While following to the 
grave they beat drums and play on musical instruments and 
sing religious songs ; and if a man dies during the night, 
since he is not buried till the morning, they sit in the house 
playing and singing for the remaining hours of darkness. 
The object of this custom must presumably be to keep away 
evil spirits. After the funeral each man places a leafy branch 
of some tree or shrub on the grave, and on the thirteenth 
day they put food before a cow and also throw some on to 
the roof of the house as a portion for the crows. 


list of paragraphs 

1. General notice. 4. Other ChJiattlsgarhi Belddrs. 

2. Belddrs of the nor titer n Dis- 5. MunurwCir a7td Telenga. 

tricts. 6. Vaddar. 

3. Odias of ChhattlsgarJi. 7. Pdthrot. 

8. Takdri. 

Beldar/ Od, Sonkar, Raj, Larhia, Karigar, Matkuda, 
Chunkar, Munurwar, Thapatkari, Vaddar, Pathrot, 
Takari. — The term Beldar is generically applied to a number 
of occupational groups of more or less diverse origin, who 
work as masons or navvies, build the earthen embankments 
of tanks or fields, carry lime and bricks and in former times 
refined salt. Beldar means one who carries a bel^ a hoe or 
mattock. In 191 i a total of 25,000 Beldars were returned 
from the Central Provinces, being most numerous in the 
Nimar, Wardha, Nagpur, Chanda and Raipur districts. 
The Nunia, Murha and Sansia (Uriya) castes, which have 
been treated in separate articles, are also frequently known as 
Beldar, and cannot be clearly distinguished from the main 
caste. If they are all classed together the total of the earth- 
and stone- working castes comes to 35,000 persons. 

It is probable that the bulk of the Beldars and allied 
castes are derived from the non-Aryan tribes. The Murhas 
or navvies of the northern Districts appear to be an offshoot 
of the Bind tribe ; the people known as Matkuda (earth- 
digger) are usually Gonds or Pardhans ; the Sansias and 
Larhias or Uriyas of Chhattlsgarh and the Uriya country 
seem to have originated from the Kol, Bhuiya and Oraon 

1 This article is based on papers by Raipur, and Munshi Kanhiya Lai, of 
Mr. A. K. Smith, C.S., Mr. Khande the Gazetteer office. 
Rao, Superintendent of Land Records, 




tribes, the Kols especially making excellent diggers and 
masons ; the Oddes or Vaddars of Madras are a' very low 
caste, and some of their customs point to a similar origin, 
though the Munurwar masons of Chanda appear to have 
belonged originally to the Kapu caste of cultivators. 

The term Raj, which is also used for the Beldars in the 
northern Districts, has the distinctive meaning of a mason, 
while Chunkar signifies a lime-burner. The Sonkars were 
formerly occupied in Saugor in carrying lime, bricks and 
earth on donkeys, but they have now abandoned this calling 
in Chhattlsgarh and taken to growing vegetables, and have 
been given a short separate notice. In Hoshangabad some 
Muhammadan Beldars are now also found. 

The Beldars of Saugor say that their ancestors were 
engaged in refining salt from earth. A divine saint named 
Nona Rlshi {non, salt) came down on earth, and while 
cooking his food mixed some saline soil with it. The bread 
tasted much better in consequence, and he made the earth 
into a ball or goli and taught his followers to extract the 
salt from it, whence their descendants are known as Goli 
Beldars. The customs of these Beldars are of the ordinary 
low-caste type. The wedding procession is accompanied 
by drums, fireworks and, if means permit, a nautch-girl. 
If a man puts away his wife without adequate cause the 
caste panchdyat may compel him to support her so long as 
she remains of good conduct. The party seeking a divorce, 
whether husband or wife, has to pay Rs. y to the caste 
committee and the other partner Rs. 3, irrespective of where 
the blame rests, and each remains out of caste until he or 
she pays. 

These Beldars will not take food from any caste but 
their own, and will not take water from a Brahman, though 
they will accept it from Kurmis, Gujars and similar castes. 
Sir H. Risley notes that their women always remove earth 
in baskets on the head. " The Beldars regard this mode of 
carrying earth as distinctive of themselves, and will on no 
account transport it in baskets slung from the shoulders. 
They work very hard when paid by the piece, and are 
notorious for their skill in manipulating the pillars {sdkhi^ 
witness) left to mark work done, so as to exaggerate the 

1 1 on I A s oh~ ciiUA I rise A i<ii 2 1 7 

measurement. On one occasion while working for mc on a 
large lake at Govindpur, in the north of the Manbhum 
District, a number of l^eldars transplanted an entire pillar 
during the night and claimed payment for several thousand 
feet of imaginary earthwork. The fraud was most skilfully 
carried out, and was only detected by accident." ^ The 
Beldars are often dishonest in their dealings, and will take 
large advances for a tank or embankment, and then abscond 
with the money without doing the work. During the open 
season parties of the caste travel about in camp looking for 
work, their furniture being loaded on donkeys. They carry 
grain in earthen pots encased in bags of netting, neatly and 
closely woven, and grind their wheat daily in a small mill 
set on a goat-skin. Butter is made in one of their pots with 
a churning-stick, consisting of a cogged wheel fixed on to 
the end of a wooden rod. 

The Beldars of ChhattTsgarh are divided into the Odia 3. Odias of 
or Uriya, Larhia, Kuchbandhia, Matkuda and Karigar j^^ 
groups. Uriya and Larhia are local names, applied to 
residents of the Uriya country and ChhattTsgarh respectively. 
Odia is the name of a low Madras caste of masons, but 
whether it is a corruption of Uriya is not clear. Karigar 
means a workman, and Kuchbandhia is the name of a 
separate caste, who make loom-combs for weavers. The 
Odias pretend to be fallen Rajputs. They say that when 
Indra stole the sacrificial horse of Raja Sagar and kept it 
in the underworld, the Raja's thousand sons dug great holes 
through the earth to get it. Finally they arrived at the 
underworld and were all reduced to ashes by the Rishi 
Kapil Muni, who dwelt there. Their ghosts besought him 
for life, and he said that their descendants should always 
continue to dig holes in the earth, which would be used as 
tanks ; and that whenever a tank was dug by them, and its 
marriage celebrated with a sacrifice, the savour of the sacrifice 
would descend to the ghosts and would afford them sus- 
tenance. The Odias say that they are the descendants of 
the Raja's sons, and unless a tank is dug and its marriage 
celebrated by them it remains impure. These Odias have 
their tutelary deity in Rewah State, and at his shrine is 

1 Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art. Beldar. 




a flag which none but an Odia of genuine descent from 
Raja Sagar's sons can touch without some injury befalling 
him. If any Beldar therefore claims to belong to their caste 
they call on him to touch the flag, and if he does so with 
impunity they acknowledge him as a brother. 

The other groups of Chhattisgarhi Beldars are of lower 
status, and clearly derived from the non-Aryan tribes. 
They eat pigs, and at intervals of two or three years they 
celebrate the worship of Gosain Deo with a sacrifice of pigs, 
the deity being apparently a deified ascetic or mendicant. 
On this occasion the Dhlmars, Gonds, and all other castes 
which eat pig's flesh join in the sacrifice, and consume the 
meat together after the fashion of the rice at Jagannath's 
temple, which all castes may eat together without becoming 
impure. These Beldars use asses for the transport of their 
bricks and stones, and on the Diwali day they place a lamp 
before the ass and pay reverence to it. They say that at 
their marriages a bride-price of Rs. loo or Rs. 200 must 
always be paid, but they are allowed to give one or two 
donkeys and value them at Rs. 50 apiece. They make 
grindstones {chakki), combs for straightening the threads on 
the loom, and frames for stretching the threads. These 
frames are called dongi, and are made either wholly or 
partly from the horns of animals, a fact which no doubt 
renders them impure. 

In Chanda the principal castes of stone-workers are the 
Telengas (Telugus), who are also known as Thapatkari 
(tapper or chiseller), Telenga Kunbi and Munurwar. They 
occupy a higher position than the ordinary Beldar, and 
Kunbis will take water from them and sometimes food. 
They say that they came into Chanda from the Telugu 
country along the Godavari and Pranhita rivers to build 
the great wall of Chanda and the palaces and tombs of 
the Gond kings. There is no reason to doubt that the 
Munurwars are a branch of the Kapu cultivating caste of the 
Telugu country. Mr. A. K. Smith states that they refuse 
to eat the flesh of an animal which has been skinned by a 
Mahar, a Chamar, or a Gond ; the Kunbis and Marathas 
also consider flesh touched by a Mahar or Chamar to be 
impure, but do not object to a Gond. Like the Berar 


Kuiibis, the Telengas prefer that an animal should be killed 
by the rite of haldl as practised by Muhamnaadan butchers. 
The reason no doubt is that the haldl is a method of 
sacrificial slaughter, and the killing of the animal is legiti- 
mised even though by the ritual of a foreign religion. The 
Thapatkaris appear to be a separate group, and their original 
profession was to collect and retail jungle fruits and roots 
having medicinal properties. Though the majority have 
become stone- and earth-workers some of them still do this. 

The Vaddars or Wadewars are a branch of the Odde 6. Vaddar. 
caste of Madras. They are almost an impure caste, and a 
section of them are professional criminals. Their women 
wear glass bangles only on the left arm, those on the right 
arm being made of brass or other metal. This rule has no 
doubt been introduced because glass bangles would get 
broken when they were supporting loads on the head. 
The men often wear an iron bangle on the left wrist, 
which they say keeps off the lightning. Mr. Thurston 
states that " Women who have had seven husbands are 
much respected among the Oddes, and their blessing on 
a bridal pair is greatly prized. They" work in gangs on 
contract, and every one, except very old and very young, 
shares in the labour. The women carry the earth in 
baskets, while the men use the pick and spade. The babies 
are usually tied up in cloths, which are suspended, hammock- 
fashion, from the boughs of trees. A woman found guilty of 
immorality is said to have to carry a basketful of earth from 
house to house before she is readmitted to the caste. The 
stone-cutting Vaddars are the principal criminals, and by going 
about under the pretence of mending grindstones they obtain 
much useful information as to the houses to be looted or 
parties of travellers to be attacked. In committing a highway 
robbery or dacoity they are always armed with stout sticks." ^ 

In Berar besides the regular Beldars two castes of stone- 7. Pathrot. 
workers are found, the Pathrawats or Pathrots (stone-breakers) 
and the Takaris, who should perhaps be classed as separate 
castes. Both make and sharpen millstones and grindstones, 
and they are probably only occupational groups of recent 
formation. The Takaris are connected with the Pardhi caste 
1 The Castes and Tribes of Southern India, art. Odde. 


of professional hunters and fowlers and may be a branch of 
them. The social customs of the Pathrots resemble those 
of the Kunbis. " They will take cooked food from a Sutar 
or a Kumbhar. Imprisonment, the killing of a cow or 
criminal intimacy of a man with a woman of another caste 
is punished by temporary outcasting, readmission involving 
a fine of Rs. 4 or Rs. 5. Their chief deity is the Devi of 
Tuljapur and their chief festival Dasahra ; the implements 
of the caste are worshipped twice a year, on Gudhi Padwa 
and Diwali. Women are tattooed with a crescent between 
the eyebrows and dots on the right side of the nose, the 
right cheek, and the chin, and a basil plant or peacock is 
drawn on their wrists." ^ 
8. Takari. " The Takaris take their name from the verb tdkne, to 

reset or rechisel. They mend the handmills {chakkis) used 
for grinding corn, an occupation which is sometimes shared 
with them by the Langoti Pardhis. The Takari's avocation 
of chiselling grindstones gives him excellent opportunities 
for examining the interior economy of houses, and the posi- 
tion of boxes and cupboards, and for gauging the wealth 
of the inmates. They are the most inveterate house-breakers 
and dangerous criminals. A form of crime favoured by 
the Takari, in common with many other criminal classes, is 
that of decoying into a secluded spot outside the village 
the would-be receiver of stolen property and robbing him 
ot his cash — a trick which carries a wholesome lesson with 
it." ^ The chisel with which they chip the grindstones 
furnishes, as stated by Mr. D. A. Smyth, D.S.P., an excel- 
lent implement for breaking a hole through the mud wall 
of a house. 

Beria, Bedia. 

[Bibliography. Sir H. Risley's Tribes and Castes of Bengal ; Rajendra Lai 
Mitra in Memoirs, Anthropological Society of London, iii. p. 122; Mr. Crooke's 
Tribes and Castes of the A^orth- IVestern Provinces and Oudh ; Mr. Kennedy's 
Criminal Classes of the Bombay Presidency ; Major Gunthorpe's Criminal 
Tribes ; Mr. Gayer's Lectures on some Criininal Tribes of the Central Pro- 
vinces ; Colonel Sleeman's Report on the Badhak or Bdgri Dacoits.'] 

I. nistori- A caste of gipsies and thieves who are closely con- 

cai notice, nccted with the Sansias. In 1891 they numbered 906 

1 Akola District Gazetteer (Mr. C. ^ Ai?vaoti District Gazetteer (Messrs. 

Brown), pp. 132, 133. Nelson and Fitzgerald), p. 146. 


persons in the Central Provinces, distributed over the 
northern Districts ; in 1 90 1 they were not separately 
classified but were identified with the Nats. " They say 
that some generations ago two brothers resided in the 
Bhartpur territory, of whom one was named Sains Mul and 
the other Mullanur. The descendants of Sains Mul are the 
Sansias and those of Mullanur the Berias or Kolhatis, who 
are vagrants and robbers by hereditary profession, living in 
tents or huts of matting, like Nats or other vagrant tribes, 
and having their women in common without any marriage 
ceremonies or ties whatsoever. Among themselves or their 
relatives the Sansias or descendants of Sains Mul, they are 
called Dholi or Kolhati. The descendants of the brothers 
cat, drink and smoke together, and join in robberies, but 
never intermarry." So Colonel Sleeman wrote in 1849, 
and other authorities agree on the close connection or identity 
of the Berias and Sansias of Central India. The Kolhatis 
belong mainly to the Deccan and are apparently a branch 
of the Berias, named after the Kolhdn or long pole with 
which they perform acrobatic feats. The Berias of Central 
India differ in many respects from those of Bengal. Here 
Sir H, Risley considers Beria to be ' the generic name of a 
number of vagrant, gipsy-like groups ' ; and a full descrip- 
tion of them has been given by Babu Rajendra Lai Mitra, 
who considers them to resemble the gipsies of Europe. 
" They are noted for a light, elastic, wiry make, very uncom- 
mon in the people of this country. In agility and hardness 
they stand unrivalled. The men are of a brownish colour, 
like the bulk of Bengalis, but never black. The women are 
of lighter complexion and generally well-formed ; some of 
them have considerable claims to beauty, and for a race so 
rude and primitive in their habits as the Berias, there is a 
sharpness in the features of their women which we see in no 
other aboriginal race in India. Like the gipsies of Europe 
they are noted for the symmetry of their limbs ; but their 
offensive habits, dirty clothing and filthy professions 
give them a repulsive appearance, which is heightened 
by the reputation they have of kidnapping children and 
frequenting burial-grounds and places of cremation. . . . 
Familiar with the use of bows and arrows and great adepts in 


laying snares and traps, they are seldom without large supplies 
of game and flesh of wild animals of all kinds. They keep 
the dried bodies of a variety of birds for medical purposes ; 
mongoose, squirrels and flying-foxes they eat with avidity as 
articles of luxury. Spirituous liquors and intoxicating drugs 
are indulged in to a large extent, and chiefs of clans assume 
the title of Bhangi or drinkers of hemp ibJidng) as a 
mark of honour. ... In lying, thieving and knavery the 
Beria is not a whit inferior to his brother gipsy of Europe. 
The Beria woman deals in charms for exorcising the 
devil and palmistry is her special vocation. She also carries 
with her a bundle of herbs and other real or pretended 
charms against sickness of body or mind ; and she is 
much sought after by village maidens for the sake of the 
philtre with which she restores to them their estranged 
lovers ; while she foretells the date when absent friends 
will return and the sex of unborn children. They practise 
cupping with buffalo horns, pretend to extract worms from 
decayed teeth and are commonly employed as tattooers. 
At home the Beria woman makes mats of palm-leaves, 
while her lord alone cooks. . . . Beria women are even 
more circumspect than European gipsies. If a wife does 
not return before the jackal's cry is heard in the evening, she 
is subject to severe punishment. It is said that a faux pas 
among her own kindred is not considered reprehensible ; 
but it is certain that no Berini has ever been known to be 
at fault with any one not of her own caste." This last state- 
ment is not a little astonishing, inasmuch as in Central 
India and in Bundelkhand Berni is an equivalent term 
for a prostitute. A similar diversity of conjugal morality 
has been noticed between the Bagris of northern India and 
the Vaghris of Gujarat.^ 
2. Criminal ^^ Other rcspects also the Berias of Bengal appear to 

tendencies ^e morc respectable than the remainder of the caste, obtain- 
Centrai i"g thcir livelihood by means which, if disreputable, are not 
Provinces, actually dishonest ; while in Central India the women Berias 
are prostitutes and the men house-breakers and thieves. 
These latter are so closely connected with the Sansias that 
the account of that caste is also applicable to the Berias. 

' See article on Badhak. 



In Jubbulporc, Mr. Gayer states, tlic caste are expert house- 
breakers, bold and daring, and sometimes armed with swords 
and matchlocks. They sew up stolen property in their bed- 
quilts and secrete it in the hollow legs of their sleeping-cots, 
and the women habitually conceal jewels and even coins in 
the natural passages of the body, in which they make special 
saos or receptacles by practice. The Beria women go about 
begging, and often break open the doors of unoccupied 
houses in the daytime and steal anything they can find.! 
Both Sansia and Beria women wear a laong or clove in the 
left nostril. 

As already stated, the women are professional prostitutes, 3. Social 
but these do not marry, and on arrival at maturity they 
choose the life which they prefer. Mr. Crooke states," how- 
ever, that regular marriages seldom occur among them, 
because nearly all the girls are reserved for prostitution, 
and the men keep concubines drawn from any fairly respect- 
able caste. So far is this the rule that in some localities if 
a man marries a girl of the tribe he is put out of caste or 
obliged to pay a fine to the tribal council. This last rule 
does not seem to obtain in the Central Provinces, but 
marriages are uncommon. In a colony of Berias in Jubbul- 
pore ^ numbering sixty families it was stated that only eight 
weddings could be remembered as having occurred in the 
last fifty years. The boys therefore have to obtain wives as 
best they can ; sometimes orphan girls from other castes 
are taken into the community, or any outsider is picked up. 
For a bride from the caste itself a sum of Rs. 100 is usually 
demanded, and the same has to be paid by a Beria man 
who takes a wife from the Nat or Kanjar castes, as is some- 
times done. When a match is proposed they ask the 
expectant bridegroom how many thefts he has committed 
without detection ; and if his performances have been 
inadequate they refuse to give him the girl on the ground 
that he will be unable to support a wife. At the betrothal 
the boy's parents go to the girl's house, taking with them a 
potful of liquor round which a silver ring is placed and a 

1 Kennedy, p. 247. from a note by Mr. K. N. Date, 

2 Crooke, art. Beria. Deputy Superintendent, Reformatory 
^ The following particulars are taken School, Jubbulpore. 


pig. The ring is given to the girl and the head of the pig 
to her father, while the liquor and the body of the pig 
provide a feast for the caste. They consult Brahmans at 
their birth and marriage ceremonies. Their principal deities 
appear to be their ancestors, whom they worship on the 
same day of the month and year as that on which their 
death took place. They make an offering of a pig to the 
goddess Dadaju or Devi before starting on their annual 
predatory excursions. Some rice is thrown into the animal's 
ear before it is killed, and the direction in which it turns its 
head is selected as the one divinely indicated for their route. 
Prostitution is naturally not regarded as any disgrace, and 
the women who have selected this profession mix on perfectly 
equal terms with those who are married. They occupy, in 
fact, a more independent position, as they dispose absolutely 
of their own earnings and property, and on their death it 
devolves on their daughters or other female relatives, males 
having no claim to it, in some localities at least. Among 
the children of married couples daughters inherit equally 
with sons. A prostitute is regarded as the head of the 
family so far as her children are concerned. Outsiders are 
freely admitted into the caste on giving a feast to the 
community. In Saugor the women of the caste, known as 
Berni, are the village dancing-girls, and are employed to 
give performances in the cold weather, especially at the 
Holi festival, where they dance the whole night through, 
fortified by continuous potations of liquor. This dance is 
called rai, and is accompanied by most obscene songs and 



1. TJie ifibe derived from the 4. Marriage. 

Baigas. 5. Religious superstitio7is. 

2. Closely connected with the 6. Admission of outsiders ajid 

Kawars. caste offences. 

3. Internal structure. Totem ism. 7. Social customs. 

Bhaina.^ — A primitive tribe peculiar to the Central i- The 
Provinces and found principally in the Bilaspur District and derived 
the adjoining area, that is, in the wild tract of forest country f'om the 
between the Satpura range and the south of the Chota ^'^^^' 
Nagpur plateau. In 191 1 about 17,000 members of the 
tribe were returned. The tribe is of mixed descent and 
appears to have been derived principally from the Baigas 
and Kawars, having probably served as a city of refuge to 
persons expelled from these and other tribes and the lower 
castes for irregular sexual relations. Their connection with 
the Baigas is shown by the fact that in Mandla the Baigas 
have two subdivisions, which are known as Rai or Raj- 
Bhaina, and Kath, or catechu-making Bhaina. The name 
therefore would appear to have originated with the Baiga 
tribe, A Bhaina is also not infrequently found to be 
employed in the office of village priest and magician, which 
goes by the name of Baiga in Bilaspur. And a Bhaina has 
the same reputation as a Baiga for sorcery, it being said 
of him — 

Mainhar ki manjh 

Bhaina ki pang 

1 This article is based principally by Mr. Syed Sher Ali, Naib-Tahsildar, 
on a paper by Panna Lai, Revenue Mr. Hira Lai and Mr. Aduram Chaud- 
Inspector, Bilaspur, and also on papers hri of the Gazetteer office. 

VOL. II 225 Q 


or ' The magic of a Bhaina is as deadly as the powdered 
maiftkdr fruit,' this fruit having the property of stupefying 
fish when thrown into the water, so that they can easily be 
caught. This reputation simply arises from the fact that in 
his capacity of village priest the Bhaina performs the various 
magical devices which lay the ghosts of the dead, protect 
the village against tigers, ensure the prosperity of the crops 
and so on. But it is always the older residents of any 
locality who are employed by later comers in this office, 
because they are considered to have a more intimate acquaint- 
ance with the local deities. And consequently we are 
entitled to assume that the Bhainas are older residents of 
the country where they are found than their neighbours, the 
Gonds and Kawars. There is other evidence to the same 
effect ; for instance, the oldest forts in Bilaspur are attributed 
to the Bhainas, and a chief of this tribe is remembered as 
having ruled in Bilaigarh ; they are also said to have been 
dominant in Pendra, where they are still most numerous, 
though the estate is now held by a Kawar ; and it is related 
that the Bhainas were expelled from Phuljhar in Raipur by 
the Gonds. Phuljhar is believed to be a Gond State of long 
standing, and the Raja of Raigarh and others claim to be 
descended from its ruling family. A manuscript history of 
the Phuljhar chiefs records that that country was held by 
a Bhaina king when the Gonds invaded it, coming from 
Chanda. The Bhaina with his soldiers took refuge in a 
hollow underground chamber with two exits. But the secret 
of this was betrayed to the Gonds by an old Gond woman, 
and they filled up the openings of the chamber with grass 
and burnt the Bhainas to death. On this account the tribe 
will not enter Phuljhar territory to this day, and say that it 
is death to a Bhaina to do so. The Binjhwars are also said 
to have been dominant in the hills to the east of Raipur 
District, and they too are a civilised branch of the Baigas. 
And in all this area the village priest is commonly known 
as Baiga, the deduction from which is, as already stated, that 
the Baigas were the oldest residents.^ It seems a legitimate 
conclusion, therefore, that prior to the immigration of the 

* For the meaning of the term Baiga and its application to the tribe, see also 
article on Bhuiya. 


Gonds and Kawars, the ancient Baiga tribe was spread 
over the whole hill country east and north of the Mahanadi 

The Bhainas are also closely connected with the Kawars, =■ cioseiy 
who still own many large estates in the hills north of Bilas- wTtirthe 
pur. It is said that formerly the Bhainas and Kawars both Kawars. 
ate in common and intermarried, but at present, though the 
Bhainas still eat rice boiled in water from the Kawars, the 
latter do not reciprocate. But still, when a Kawar is cele- 
brating a birth, marriage or death in his family, or when he 
takes in hand to make a tank, he will first give food to a 
Bhaina before his own caste-men eat. And it may safely 
be assumed that this is a recognition of the Bhaina's position 
as having once been lord of the land. A Kawar may still 
be admitted into the Bhaina community, and it is said that 
the reason of the rupture of the former equal relations 
between the two tribes was the disgust felt by the Kawars 
for the rude and uncouth behaviour of the Bhainas. For 
on one occasion a Kawar went to ask for a Bhaina girl in 
marriage, and, as the men of the family were away, the 
women undertook to entertain him. And as the Bhainas 
had no axes, the daughter proceeded to crack the sticks on 
her head for kindling a fire, and for grass she pulled out 
a wisp of thatch from the roof and broke it over her thigh, 
being unable to chop it. This so offended the delicate 
susceptibilities of the Kawar that he went away without 
waiting for his meal, and from that time the Kawars ceased 
to marry with the Bhainas. It seems possible that the 
story points to the period when the primitive Bhainas and 
Baigas did not know the use of iron and to the introduction 
of this metal by the later-coming Kawars and Gonds. It 
is further related that when a Kawar is going to make a 
ceremonial visit he likes always to take with him two or 
three Bhainas, who are considered as his retainers, though 
not being so in fact. This enhances his importance, and it 
is also said that the stupidity of the Bhainas acts as a foil, 
through which the superior intelligence of the Kawar is made 
more apparent. All these details point to the same con- 
clusion that the primitive Bhainas first held the country and 
were supplanted by the more civilised Kawars, and bears 

structure : 


out the theory that the settlement of the Munda tribes was 
prior to those of the Dravidian family. 
3. Internal The tribe has two subdivisions of a territorial nature, 

Laria or Chhattlsgarhi, and Uriya. The Uriya Bhainas 
will accept food cooked without water from the Sawaras 
or Saonrs, and these also from them ; so that they have 
probably intermarried. Two other subdivisions recorded 
are the Jhalyara and Ghantyara or Ghatyara ; the former 
being so called because they live in jJidlas or leaf huts in 
the forest, and the latter, it is said, because they tie a glianta 
or bell to their doors. This, however, seems very im- 
probable. Another theory is that the word is derived from 
ghdt^ a slope or descent, and refers to a method which the 
tribe have of tattooing themselves with a pattern of lines 
known as gJidt. Or it is said to mean a low or despised 
section. The Jhalyara and Ghatyara divisions comprise 
the less civilised portion of the tribe, who still live in the 
forests ; and they are looked down on by the Uriya and 
Laria sections, who belong to the open country. The 
exogamous divisions of the tribe show clearly enough that 
the Bhainas, like other subject races, have quite failed to 
preserve any purity of blood. Among the names of their 
gots or septs are Dhobia (a washerman), Ahera (cowherd), 
Gond, Mallin (gardener), Panika (from a Panka or Ganda) 
and others. The members of such septs pay respect to 
any man belonging to the caste after which they are named 
and avoid picking a quarrel with him. They also worship 
the family gods of this caste. The tribe have also a number 
of totem septs, named after animals or plants. Such are 
Nag the cobra, Bagh the tiger, Chitwa the leopard, Gidha 
the vulture, Besra the hawk, Bendra the monkey, Kok or 
Lodha the wild dog, Bataria the quail, Durgachhia the 
black ant, and so on. Members of a sept will not injure 
the animal after which it is named, and if they see the 
corpse of the animal or hear of its death, they throw away 
an earthen cooking -pot and bathe and shave themselves 
as for one of the family. Members of the Baghchhal or 
tiger sept will, however, join in a beat for tiger though they 
are reluctant to do so. At weddings the Bhainas have a 
ceremony known as the goU-a worship. The bride's father 


makes an image in clay of the bird or animal of the groom's 
sept and places it beside the marriage-post. The bride- 
groom worships the image, lighting a sacrificial fire before 
it, and offers to it the vermilion which he afterwards smears 
upon the forehead of the bride. At the bridegroom's house 
a similar image is made of the bride's totem, and on return- 
ing there after the wedding she worships this. Women 
are often tattooed with representations of their totem 
animal, and men swear by it as their most sacred oath. A 
similar respect is paid to the inanimate objects after which 
certain septs are named. Thus members of the Gawad or 
cowdung sept will not burn cowdung cakes for fuel ; and 
those of the Mircha sept do not use chillies. One sept is 
named after the sun, and when an eclipse occurs these 
perform the same formal rites of mourning as the others 
do on the death of their totem animal. Some of the groups 
have two divisions, male and female, which practically rank as 
separate septs. Instances of these are the Nagbans Andura 
and the Nagbans Mai or male and female cobra septs ; 
the Karsayal Singhara and Karsayal Mundi or stag and doe 
deer septs ; and the Baghchhal Andura and Baghchhal Mai 
or tiger and tigress septs. These may simply be instances 
of subdivisions arising owing to the boundaries of the sept 
having become too large for convenience. 

The tribe consider that a boy should be married when 4. Mar- 
he has learnt to drive the plough, and a girl when she is "^^^" 
able to manage her household affairs. When a father can 
afford a bride for his son, he and his relatives go to the 
girl's village, taking with them ten or fifteen cakes of bread 
and a bottle of liquor. He stays with some relative and 
sends to ask the girl's father if he will give his daughter to 
the inquirer's son. If the former agrees, the bread and 
liquor are sent over to him, and he drinks three cups of the 
spirit as a pledge of the betrothal, the remainder being 
distributed to the company. This is known as Tatia 
kJiobia or ' the opening of the door,' and is followed some 
days afterwards by a similar ceremonial which constitutes 
the regular betrothal. On this occasion the father agrees 
to marry his daughter within a year and demands the bride- 
price, which consists of rice, cloth, a goat and other articles, 


the total value being about five rupees. A date is next 
fixed for the wedding, the day selected being usually a 
Monday or Friday, but no date or month is forbidden. The 
number of days to the wedding are then counted, and two 
knotted strings are given to each party, with a knot for 
each day up to that on which the anointings with oil and 
turmeric will commence at the bridegroom's and bride's 
houses. Every day one knot is untied at each house up to 
that on which the ceremonies begin, and thus the correct 
date for them is known. The invitations to the wedding 
are given by distributing rice coloured yellow with turmeric 
to all members of the caste in the locality, with the intima- 
tion that the wedding procession will start on a certain day 
and that they will be pleased to attend. During the four 
days that they are being anointed the bride and bridegroom 
dance at their respective houses to the accompaniment of 
drums and other instruments. For the wedding ceremony 
a number of Hindu rites have been adopted. The eldest 
sister of the bridegroom or bride is known as the sawdsin 
and her husband as the sawdsa, and these persons seem to 
act as the representatives of the bridal couple throughout 
the marriage and to receive all presents on their behalf. 
The custom is almost universal among the Hindus, and it 
is possible that they are intended to act as substitutes and 
to receive any strokes of evil fortune which may befall the 
bridal pair at a season at which they are peculiarly liable to 
it. The couple go round the sacred post, and afterwards 
the bridegroom daubs the bride's forehead with red lead 
seven times and covers her head with her cloth to show 
that she has become a married woman. After the wedding 
the bridegroom's parents say to him, " Now your parents 
have done everything they could for you, and you must 
manage your own house." The expenditure on an average 
wedding is about fifteen or twenty rupees. A widow is 
usually taken in marriage by her late husband's younger 
brother or Dewar, or by one of his relatives. If she marries 
an outsider, the Dewar realises twelve rupees from him in 
compensation for her loss. But if there is no Dewar this 
sum is not payable to her first husband's elder brother or 
her own father, because they could not have married her 


and hence arc not held to be injured by a stranger doing 

so. If a woman is divorced and another man wishes to 

marry her, he must make a similar payment of twelve rupees 

to the first husband, together with a goat and liquor for 

the penal feast. The Bhainas bury or burn the dead 

according as their means permit. 

Their principal deit)^ in Bilaspur is Nakti Devi ^ or the s- i<t;i'- 

' Noseless Goddess.' For her ritual rice is placed on a suuersti- 

square of the floor washed with cowdung, and ghl or tio"s. 

preserved butter is poured on it and burnt. A hen is made 

to eat the rice, and then its head is cut off and laid on the 

square. The liver is burnt on the fire as an offering to the 

deity and the head and body of the animal are then eaten. 

After the death of a man a cock is offered to Nakti Devi 

and a hen after that of a woman. The fowl is made to 

pick rice first in the yard of the house, then on the threshold, 

and lastly inside the house. Thakur Deo is the deity of 

cultivation and is worshipped on the day before the autumn 

crops are sown. On this day all the men in the village go 

to his shrine taking a measure of rice and a ploughshare. 

At the same time the Baiga or village priest goes and bathes 

in the tank and is afterwards carried to the assembly on a 

man's shoulders. Here he makes an offering and repeats a 

charm, and then kneeling down strikes the earth seven times 

with the ploughshare, and sows five handfuls of rice, 

sprinkling water over the seed. After him the villagers 

walk seven times round the altar of the god in pairs, one 

man turning up the earth with the ploughshare and the 

other sowing and watering the seed. While this is going 

on the Baiga sits with his face covered with a piece 

of cloth, and at the end the villagers salute the Baiga 

and go home. When a man wishes to do an injury 

to another he makes an image of him with clay and 

daubs it with vermilion and worships it with an offering 

of a goat or a fowl and liquor. Then he prays the 

image that his enemy may die. Another way of injuring 

an enemy is to take rice coloured with turmeric, and after 

1 It is or was, of course, a common application of the epithet to the goddess 

practice for a husband to cut off his should he taken to imply anything 

wife's nose if he suspected her of being against her moral character is not 

unfaithful to him. But whether the known. 


muttering charms throw it in the direction in which the 
enemy hves. 

Outsiders are not usually admitted, but if a Bhaina 
forms a connection with a woman of another tribe, they 
will admit the children of such a union, though not the 
woman herself. For they say : ' The seed is ours and what 
matters the field on which it was sown.' But a man of the 
Kawar tribe having intimacy with a Bhaina woman may 
be taken into the community. He must wait for three 
or four months after the matter becomes known and will 
beg for admission and offer to give the penalty feast. A 
day is fixed for this and invitations are sent to members of 
the caste. On the appointed day the women of the tribe 
cook rice, pulse, goat's flesh and urad cakes fried in oil, and 
in the evening the people assemble and drink liquor and 
then go to take their food. The candidate for admission 
serves water to the men and his prospective wife to the 
women, both being then permitted to take food with the 
tribe. Next morning the people come again and the woman 
is dressed in a white cloth with bangles. The couple stand 
together supported by their brother-in-law and sister-in-law 
respectively, and turmeric dissolved in water is poured over 
their heads. They are now considered to be married and 
go round together and give the salutation or Johar to the 
people, touching the feet of those who are entitled to this 
mark of respect, and kissing the others. Among the offences 
for which a man is temporarily put out of caste is getting the 
ear torn either accidentally or otherwise, being beaten by a 
man of very low caste, growing san-hemp {Crotalaria junced), 
rearing tasar silk-worms or getting maggots in a wound. 
This last is almost as serious an offence as killing a cow, and, 
in both cases, before an offender can be reinstated he must kill 
a fowl and swallow a drop or two of its blood with turmeric. 
Women commonly get the lobe of the ear torn through the 
heavy ear-rings which they wear ; and in a squabble another 
woman will often seize the ear-ring maliciously in order to 
tear the ear. A woman injured in this way is put out of caste 
for a year in Janjgir. To grow turmeric or garlic is also 
an offence against caste, but a man is permitted to do this for 
his own use and not for sale. A man who gets leprosy is 


said to be permanently expelled from caste. The purifica- 
tion of delinquents is conducted by members of the Sonwani 
(gold-water) and Patel (headman) septs, whose business it 
is to give the offender water to drink in which gold has been 
dipped and to take over the burden of his sins by first eating 
food with him. But others say that the Ilathi or elephant sept 
is the highest, and to its members are delegated these duties. 
And in Janjgir again the president of the committee gives the 
gold-water, and is hence known as Sonwan ; and this office 
must always be held by a man of the l^andar or monkey sept. 

The Bhainas are a comparatively civilised tribe and have 7- Social 
largely adopted Hindu usages. They employ Brahmans to 
fix auspicious days for their ceremonies, though not to officiate 
at them. They live principally in the open country and are 
engaged in agriculture, though very iew of them hold land 
and the bulk are farm-labourers. They now disclaim any 
connection with the primitive Baigas, who still prefer the 
forests. But their caste mark, a symbol which may be 
affixed to documents in place of a signature or used for a 
brand on cattle, is a bow, and this shows that they retain 
the recollection of hunting as their traditional occupation. 
Like the Baigas, the tribe have forgotten their native 
dialect and now speak bad Hindi. They will eat pork and 
rats, and almost anything else they can get, eschewing only 
beef But in their intercourse with other castes they are 
absurdly strict, and will take boiled rice only from a Kawar, 
or from a Brahman if it is cooked in a brass and not in an 
earthen vessel, and this only from a male and not from a 
female Brahman ; while they will accept baked cJiapdtis and 
other food from a Gond and a Rawat. But in Sambalpur 
they will take this from a Savar and not from a Gond. 
They rank below the Gonds, Kawars and Savars or Saonrs. 
Women are tattooed with a representation of their sept totem ; 
and on the knees and ankles they have some figures of lines 
which are known as ghats. These they say will enable 
them to climb the mountains leading to heaven in the other 
world, while those who have not such marks will be pierced 
with spears on their way up the ascent. It has already been 
suggested that these marks may have given rise to the name 
of the Ghatyara division of the tribe. 

234 BHAMTA or BHAMTYA part 

I. Occupa- Bhamta or Bhamtya.^ — A caste numbering 4000 

tion. persons in the Central Provinces, nearly all of whom 

reside in the Wardha, Nagpur and Chanda Districts of 
the Nagpur Division. The Bhamtas are also found in 
Bombay, Berar and Hyderabad. In Bombay they are 
known by the names of Uchla or ' Lifter ' and Gantha- 
chor or ' Bundle-thief,' "^ The Bhamtas were and still are 
notorious thieves, but many of the caste are now engaged 
in the cultivation of hemp, from which they make ropes, 
mats and gunny-bags. Formerly it was said in Wardha 
that a Bhamta girl would not marry unless her suitor had 
been arrested not less than fourteen times by the police, 
when she considered that he had qualified as a man. 
The following description of their methods does not 
necessarily apply to the whole caste, though the bulk of 
them are believed to have criminal tendencies. But some 
colonies of Bhamtas who have taken to the manufacture 
of sacking and gunny-bags from hemp-fibre may perhaps 
be excepted. They steal only during the daytime, and 
divide that part of the Province which they frequent into 
regular beats or ranges. They adopt many disguises. 
Even in their own cottages one dresses as a Marwari 
Bania, another as a Gujarat Jain, a third as a Brahman 
and a fourth as a Rajput. They keep to some particular 
disguise for years and often travel hundreds of miles, enter- 
ing and stealing from the houses of the classes of persons 
whose dress they adopt, or taking service with a merchant 
or trader, and having gained their employer's confidence, 
seizing an opportunity to abscond with some valuable 
property. Sometimes two or three Bhamtas visit a large 
fair, and one of them dressed as a Brahman mingles with 
the crowd of bathers and worshippers. The false Brahman 
notices some ornament deposited by a bather, and while 
himself entering the water and repeating sacred verses, 
watches his opportunity and spreads out his cloth near 
the ornament, which he then catches with his toes, and drag- 
ging it with him to a distance as he walks away buries 

' This article is mainly compiled ^ Bombay Gazetteer (Campbell), 

from a paper by Pyare Lai Misra, xviii. p. 464. 
Ethnographic Clerk. 

II occur A rioN 235 

it in the sand. The accomplices meanwhile loiter near, 
and when the owner discovers his loss the Brahman 
sympathises with him and points out the accomplices as 
likely thieves, thus diverting suspicion from himself. The 
victim follows the accomplices, who make off, and the real 
thief meanwhile digs the ornament out of the sand and 
escapes at his leisure. Women often tie their ornaments 
in bundles at such bathing-fairs, and in that case two 
Bhamtas will go up to her, one on each side, and while 
one distracts her attention the other makes off with the 
bundle and buries it in the sand. A Bhamta rarely retains 
the stolen property on his person while there is a chance 
of his being searched, and is therefore not detected. They 
show considerable loyalty to one another, and never steal 
from or give information against a member of the caste. 
If stolen property is found in a Bhamta's house, and it has 
merely been deposited there for security, the real thief comes 
forward. An escaped prisoner does not come back to his 
friends lest he should get them into trouble. A Bhamta 
is never guilty of house-breaking or gang- robbery, and if 
he takes part in this offence he is put out of caste. He 
does not steal from the body of a person asleep. He 
is, however, expert at the theft of ornaments from the 
person. He never steals from a house in his own village, 
and the villagers frequently share directly or indirectly in 
his gains. The Bhamtas are now expert railway thieves.^ 
Two of them will get into a carriage, and, engaging the other 
passengers in conversation, find out where they are going, 
so as to know the time available for action. When it 
gets dark and the travellers go to sleep, one of the Bhamtas 
lies down on the floor and covers himself with a large cloth. 
He begins feeling some bag under the seat, and if he cannot 
open it with his hands, takes from his mouth the small curved 
knife which all Bhamtas carry concealed between their gum 
and upper lip, and with this he rips up the seams of the bag 
and takes out what he finds ; or they exchange bags, accord- 
ing to a favourite device of English railway thieves, and then 
quickly either leave the train or get into another carriage. 

1 The following particulars are taken from Colonel Portman's Report on the 
Bhamtas of the Deccan (Bombay, 1887). 



If attention is aroused they throw the stolen property out of 
the window, marking the place and afterwards going back to 
recover it. Another device is to split open and pick the 
pockets of people in a crowd. Besides the knife they often 
have a needle and thread and an iron nut-cutter. 

Members of other castes, as Chhatri, Kanjar, Rawat and 
others, who have taken to stealing, are frequently known as 
Bhamtas, but unless they have been specially initiated do 
not belong to the caste. The Bhamtas proper have two 
main divisions, the Chhatri Bhamtas, who are usually immi- 
grants from Gujarat, and those of the Maratha country, who 
are often known as Bhamtis. The former have a dialect 
which is a mixture of Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati, while 
the latter speak the local form of Marathi. The sections 
of the Chhatri Bhamtas are named after Rajput septs, as 
Badgujar, Chauhan, Gahlot, Bhatti, Kachhwaha and others. 
They may be partly of Rajput descent, as they have regular 
and pleasing features and a fair complexion, and are well 
built and sturdy. The sections of the Bhamtis are called 
by Maratha surnames, as Gudekar, Kaothi, Bailkhade, 
Satbhaia and others. The Chhatri Bhamtas have northern 
customs, and the Bhamtis those of the Maratha country. 
Marriage between persons of the same gotra or surname 
is prohibited. The Chhatris avoid marriage between rela- 
tions having a common greatgrandparent, but among the 
Bhamtis the custom of Mehunchar is prevalent, by which 
the brother's daughter is married to the sister's son. Girls 
are usually married at ten and eleven years of age or later. 
The betrothal and marriage customs of the two subcastes 
differ, the Chhatris following the ceremonial of the northern 
Districts and the Bhamtis that of the Maratha country. 
The Chhatris do not pay a bride-price, but the Bhamtis 
usually do. Widow -marriage is allowed, and while the 
Chhatris expect the widow to marry her deceased husband's 
brother, the Bhamtis do not permit this. Among both 
subdivisions a price is paid for the widow to her parents. 
Divorce is only permitted for immoral conduct on the part 
of the wife. A divorced woman may remarry after giving 
a feast to the caste panchdyat or committee, and obtaining 
their consent. 


The goddess Devi is the tutelary deity of the caste, as 3- ^di- 
of all those who ply a disreputable profession. Animals are sociLr" 
sacrificed to her or let loose to wander in her name. The tustoms. 
offerings are appropriated by the village washerman. In 
Bombay the rendezvous of the Bhamtis is the temple of Devi 
at Konali, in Akalkot State, near Sholapur, and here the 
gangs frequently assemble before and after their raids to ask 
the goddess that luck may attend them and to thank her for 
success obtained.^ They worship their rope-making imple- 
ments on the Dasahra day. They both bury and burn 
the dead. Ghosts and spirits are worshipped. If a man 
takes a second wife after the death of his first, the new 
wife wears a putli or image of the first wife on a piece of 
silver on her neck, and offers it the Jioni sacrifice by placing 
some ghl on the fire before taking a meal. In cases of 
doubt and difficulty she often consults the putli by speak- 
ing to it, while any chance stir of the image due to the 
movement of her body is interpreted as approval or dis- 
approval. In the Central Provinces the Bhamtis say that 
they do not admit outsiders into the caste, but this is 
almost certainly untrue. In Bombay they are said to 
admit all Hindus^ except the very lowest castes, and 
also Muhammadans. The candidate must pass through 
the two ceremonies of admission into the caste and adop- 
tion into a particular family. For the first he pays an 
admission fee, is bathed and dressed in new clothes, and 
one of the elders drops turmeric and sugar into his mouth. 
A feast follows, during which some elders of the caste eat 
out of the same plate with him. This completes the admis- 
sion ceremony, but in order to marry in the caste a candidate 
must also be adopted into a particular family. The Bhamta 
who has agreed to adopt him invites the caste people to his 
house, and there takes the candidate on his knee while the 
guests drop turmeric and sugar into his mouth. The Bham- 
tas eat fish and fowl but not pork or beef, and drink liquor. 
This last practice is, however, frequently made a caste offence 
by the Bhamtis. They take cooked food from Brahmans 
and Kunbis and water from Gonds. The keeping of con- 
cubines is also an offence entailing temporary excommuni- 

1 Portman, loc. cit. ^ Bombay Gazetteer (Campbell), xviii. p. 465. 


238 BHARBHUNJA part 

cation. The morality of the caste is somewhat low and 
their women are addicted to prostitution. The occupation 
of the Bhamta is also looked down on, and it is said, 
BJidinta ka kdm sub se iiikdiii, or ' The Bhamta's work is 
the worst of all.' This may apply either to his habits of 
stealing or to the fact that he supplies a bier made of twine 
and bamboo sticks at a death. In Bombay the showy dress 
of the Bhamta is proverbial. Women are tattooed before 
marriage on the forehead and lower lip, and on other parts 
of the body for purposes of adornment. The men have the 
head shaved for three inches above the top of the forehead 
in front and an inch higher behind, and they wear the scalp- 
lock much thicker than Brahmans do. They usually have 
red head-cloths. 

General Bhapbhunja.^ — The occupational caste of grain-parchers. 

The name is derived from the Sanskrit hJirdstra, a frying-pan, 
and bhdrjaka, one who fries. The Bharbhunjas numbered 
3000 persons in 191 i, and belong mainly to the northern 
Districts, their headquarters being in Upper India. In 
Chhattlsgarh the place of the Bharbhunjas is taken by the 
Dhuris. Sir H. Elliot " remarks that the caste are tradition- 
ally supposed to be descended from a Kahar father and 
a Sudra mother, and they are probably connected with the 
Kahars. In Saugor they say that their ancestors were 
Kankubja Brahmans who were ordered to parch rice at the 
wedding of the great Rama, and in consequence of this one 
of their subcastes is known as Kanbajia. But Kankubja is 
one of the commonest names of subcastes among the people 
of northern India, and merely indicates that the bearers 
belong to the tract round the old city of Kanauj ; and there 
is no reason to suppose that it means anything more in the 
case of the Bharbhunjas. Another group are called Kaitha, 
and they say that their ancestors were Kayasths, who adopted 
the profession of grain-parching. It is said that in Bhopal 
proper Kayasths will take food from Kaitha Bharbhunjas 
and smoke from their huqqa ; and it is noticeable that in 

' This article contains some informa- Saugor. 
tion from a paper by Mr. Gopal Par- ^ Memoirs of the Races of the 

manand, Deputy Inspector of Schools, N. W.P. vol. i. p. 35. 


northern India Mr. Crooke gives ^ not only the Kaitha sub- 
caste, but other groups called Saksena and Srivastab, which 
arc the names of well-known Kayasth subdivisions. It is 
possible, therefore, that the Kaitha group may really be 
connected with the Kayasths. Other subcastes are the 
Benglah, who are probably immigrants from Bengal ; and 
the Kandu, who may also come from that direction, Kandu 
being the name of the corresponding caste of grain-parchers 
in Bengal. 

The social customs of tlxp Bharbhunjas resemble those 2. Social 
of Hindustani castes of fairly good position." They employ ^"^'°"'^- 
Brahmans for their ceremonies, and the family priest receives 
five rupees for officiating at a wedding, three rupees for a 
funeral, one rupee for a birth, and four annas on ordinary 
occasions. No price is paid for a bride, and at their 
marriages the greater part of the expense falls on the girl's 
father, who has to give three feasts as against two provided 
by the bridegroom's father. After the wedding the bride- 
groom's father puts on women's clothes given by the bride's 
father and dances before the family. Rose-coloured water 
and powder are sprinkled over the guests and the proceeding 
is known as Phag, because it is considered to have the same 
significance as the Holi festival observed in Phagun. This 
is usually done on the bank of a river or in some garden 
outside the village. At the gauna or going-away ceremony 
the bride and bridegroom take their seats on two wooden 
boards and then change places. Divorce and the remarriage 
of widows are permitted. The union of a widow with 
her deceased husband's younger brother is considered a 
suitable match, but is not compulsory. When a bachelor 
marries a widow, he first goes through the proper ceremony 
either with a stick or an ear-ring, and is then united to the 
widow by the simple ritual employed for widow remarriage. 
A girl who is seduced by a member of the caste may be 
married to him as if she were a widow, but if her lover is 
an outsider she is permanently expelled from the caste. 

The Bharbhunjas occupy a fairly high social position, 3. Occupa- 

^ Tribes and Castes, art. Bhar- mainder of this section is taken from 
bhunja. ]Mr. Gopal Parmanand's notes. 

2 See article on Kurmi. The re- 

240 BHARBHUNJA part 

analogous to that of the Barais, Kahars and other serving 
castes, the explanation being that all Hindus require the grain 
parched by them ; this, as it is not cooked with water, may 
be eaten abroad, on a journey or in the market-place. This 
is known as pakki food, and even Brahmans will take it from 
their hands. But Mr. Crooke notes ^ that the work they do, 
and particularly the sweeping up of dry leaves for fuel, tends 
to lower them in the popular estimation, and it is a favourite 
curse to wish of an enemy that he may some day come to 
stoke the kiln of a grain-parcher. Of their occupation Sir 
H. Risley states that " Throughout the caste the actual work 
of parching grain is usually left to the women. The process 
is a simple one. A clay oven is built, somewhat in the 
shape of a bee-hive, with ten or twelve round holes at the 
top. A fire is lighted under it and broken earthen pots 
containing sand are put on the holes. The grain to be 
parched is thrown in with the sand and stirred with a flat 
piece of wood or a broom until it is ready. The sand and 
parched grain are then placed in a sieve, through which the 
former escapes. The wages of the parcher are a proportion 
of the grain, varying from one-eighth to one-fourth. In Bengal 
the caste was spoken of by early English travellers under the 
quaint name of the frymen." " In the Central Provinces also 
grain-parching is distinctly a woman's industry, only twenty- 
two per cent of those shown as working at it being men. 
There are two classes of tradesmen, those who simply keep 
ovens and parch grain which is brought to them, and those 
who keep the grain and sell it ready parched. The rates for 
parching are a pice a seer or an eighth part of the grain. 
Gram and rice, husked or unhusked, are the grains usually 
parched. When parched, gram is called phutdna (broken) 
and rice Idhi. The Bharbhunjas also prepare sathu, a flour 
made by grinding parched gram or wheat, which is a 
favourite food for a light morning meal, or for travellers. It 
can be taken without preparation, being simply mixed with 
water and a little salt or sugar. The following story is told 
about sathii to emphasise its convenience in this respect. 
Once two travellers were about to take some food before 

' Ibidem. 
- Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art. Kandu. 


starting in the morning, of whom one had satku and the other 
dhdn (unhusked rice). The one with the dhdn knew that it 
would take him a long time to pound, and then cook and 
eat it, so he said to the other, " My poor friend, I perceive 
that you only have sathu, which will delay you because you 
must find water, and then mix it, and find salt, and put it in, 
before your sat/m can be ready, while rice — pound, eat and 
go. But if you like, as you are in a greater hurry than I 
am, I will change my rice for your sathu." The other 
traveller unsuspectingly consented, thinking he was getting 
the best of the bargain, and while he was still looking for 
a mortar in which to pound his rice, the first traveller had 
mixed and eaten the sathu and proceeded on his journey. 
In the vernacular the point is brought out by the onoma- 
topoeic character of the lines, which cannot be rendered in 
English, The caste are now also engaged in selling tobacco 
and sweetmeats and the manufacture of fireworks. They 
stoke their ovens with any refuse they can collect from the 
roads, and hence comes the saying, ' Bhdr inen ddlnal ' To 
throw into the oven,' meaning to throw away something or 
to make ducks and drakes with it ; while Bhdr-jhokna sig- 
nifies to light or heat the oven, and, figuratively, to take up 
a mean occupation (Platts). Another proverb quoted by 
Mr. Crooke is, ^ Bharbhunja ka larki kesar ka tikal or ' The 
Bharbhunja's slut with saffron on her forehead,' meaning one 
dressed in borrowed plumes. Another saying is, ' To tiiin 
kya abhi tak bhdr bhunjte rake,' or ' Have you been stoking 
the oven all this time ? ' — meaning to imply that the person 
addressed has been wasting his time, because the profits 
from grain-parching are so small. The oven of the Psalmist 
into which the grass was cast no doubt closely resembled 
that of the Bharbhunjas. 


I. Origin 





I . Origin and h'ibal lege fid. 5 . Fii7ieral ceremonies, 

z. Tribal subdivisions. 6. Religion and magic. 

3. Marriage. 7. Social life and customs. 

4. Childbirth. 8. Occupatioii. 

Bharia, BhaPia - Bhumia.^ — A Dravidian tribe num- 
bering about 50,000 persons and residing principally in 
legend. the Jubbulpore District, which contains a half of the total 
number. The others are found in Chhindvvara and Bilaspur. 
The proper name of the tribe is Bharia, but they are often 
called Bharia-Bhumia, because many of them hold the office 
of Bhumia or priest of the village gods and of the lower 
castes in Jubbulpore, and the Bharias prefer the designa- 
tion of Bhumia as being the more respectable. The term 
Bhumia or ' Lord of the soil ' is an alternative for Bhuiya, 
the name of another Dravidian tribe, and no doubt came 
to be applied to the office of village priest because it was 
held by members of this tribe ; the term Baiga has a similar 
signification in Mandla and Balaghat, and is applied to the 
village priest though he may not belong to the Baiga tribe 
at all. The Bharias have forgotten their original affinities, 
and several stories of the origin of the tribe are based on 
far-fetched derivations of the name. One of these is to the 
effect that Arjun, when matters were going badly with the 
Pandavas in their battle against the Kauravas, took up a 
handful of bJiarru grass and, pressing it, produced a host of 
men who fought in the battle and became the ancestors of 

^ This article is compiled fronn notes pore, and from a paper by Ram Lai 
taken by Mr. Hira Lai, Assistant Sharma, schoolmaster, Bilaspur. 
Gazetteer Superintendent in Jubbul- 



the Bliarias. And there are others of the same historical 
value. But there is no reason to doubt that l^haria is the 
contemptuous form of Bhar, as Telia for Teli, Jugia for Jogi, 
Kuria for Kori, and that the Bharias belong to the great 
Bhar tribe who were once dominant in the eastern part of 
the United Provinces, but are now at the bottom of the 
social scale, and relegated by their conquerors to the degrad- 
ing office of swineherds. The Rajjhars, who appear to have 
formed a separate caste as the landowning subdivision of the 
Bhars, like the Raj-Gonds among Gonds, are said to be the 
descendants of a Raja and a Bharia woman. The Rajjhars 
form a separate caste in the Central Provinces, and the 
Bharias acknowledge some connection with them, but refuse 
to take water from their hands, as they consider them to be 
of impure blood. The Bharias also give Mahoba or Band- 
hogarh as their former home, and these places are in the 
country of the Bhars. According to tradition Raja Kama 
Deva, a former king of Dahal, the classical name of the 
Jubbulpore country, was a Bhar, and it may be that the 
immigration of the Bharias into Jubbulpore dates from his 
period, which is taken as 1040 to 1080 A.D. While then it 
may be considered as fairly certain that the Bharias are 
merely the Bhar tribe with a variant of the name, it is clear 
from the titles of their family groups, which will shortly be 
given, that they are an extremely mixed class and consist 
largely of the descendants of members of other castes, who, 
having lost their own social position, have taken refuge among 
the Bharias at the bottom of the social scale. Mr. Crooke 
says of the Bhars : ^ " The most probable supposition is that 
the Bhars were a Dravidian race closely allied to the Kols, 
Cheros and Seoris, who at an early date succumbed to the 
invading Aryans. This is borne out by their appearance 
and physique, which closely resemble that of the undoubted 
non-Aryan aborigines of the Vindhyan-Kaimur plateau." In 
the Central Provinces the Bharias have been so closely 
associated with the Gonds that they have been commonly 
considered to belong to that tribe. Thus Mr. Drysdale says 
of them : " ' The Bharias were the wildest of the wild Gonds 

^ Tribes and Castes of the N. W.P., art. Bhar. 
- C.P. Census Report, 1881, p. 188. 



2. Tribal 

and were inveterate dJiayd^ cutters.' Although, however, 
they have to some extent intermarried with the Gonds, the 
Bharias were originally quite a distinct tribe, and would 
belong to the Kolarian or Munda group but that they have 
entirely forgotten their own language and speak only Hindi, 
though with a peculiar intonation especially noticeable in the 
case of their women. 

The structure of the tribe is a very loose one, and though 
the Bharias say that they are divided into subcastes, there 
are none in reality. Members of all castes except the very 
lowest may become Bharias, and one Bharia will recognise 
another as a fellow-tribesman if he can show relationship 
to any person admitted to occupy that position. But a 
division is in process of formation in Bilaspur based on the 
practice of eating beef, from which some abstain, and in 
consequence look down on the others who are addicted to 
it, and call them Dhur Bharias, the term dJiur meaning cattle. 
The abstainers from beef now refuse to marry with the others. 
The tribe is divided into a number of exogamous groups, 
and the names of these indicate the very heterogeneous 
elements of which it consists. Out of fifty-one groups reported 
not less than fifteen or sixteen have names derived from 
other castes or clans, showing almost certainly that such 
groups were formed by a mixed marriage or the admission 
of a family of outsiders. Such names are : Agaria, from 
the Agarias or iron-workers : this clan worships Loha-Sur, 
the god of the Agarias ; Ahirwar, or the descendants of an 
Ahir : this clan worships the Ahir gods ; Bamhania, born of 
a Brahman ancestor ; Binjhwar or Binjha, perhaps from the 
tribe of that name ; Chandel, from a Rajput clan ; Dagdoha, 
a synonym of Basor : persons of this sept hang a piece of 
bamboo and a curved knife to the waist of the bride at their 
marriages ; Dhurua, born of a Dhurua Gond ; Kuanpa, born 
of an Ahir subcaste of that name ; Kurka, of Korku 
parentage ; Maravi, the name of a Gond clan ; Rathor from 
a Rajput clan ; Samarba from a Chamar ; and Yarkara, the 
name of a Gond clan. These names sufficiently indicate 
the diverse elements of which the tribe is made up. Other 

' Dhaya means the system of shifting cultivation, which until prohibited was 
so injurious to the forests. 


group names with meanings are : Gambhele, or those who 
scckide tlieir women in a separate house during the menstrual 
period ; Kaitha, from the kaith tree {^Fcronia clephantiivi) ; 
Karondiha, from the karonda plant {Carissa Carandas) ; 
Magarha, from Diagar a crocodile : members of this group 
worship an image of a crocodile made with flour and fried 
in oil ; Sonwani, from sona gold : members of this group 
perform the ceremony of readmission of persons temporarily 
put out of caste by sprinkling on them a little water in 
which gold has been dipped. Any person who does not 
know his clan name calls himself a Chandel, and this group, 
though bearing the name of a distinguished Rajput clan, is 
looked upon as the lowest. But although the rule of 
exogamy in marriage is recognised, it is by no means 
strictly adhered to, and many cases are known in which 
unions have taken place between members of the same 
clan. So long as people can recollect a relationship between 
themselves, they do not permit their families to intermarry. 
But the memory of the Bharia does not extend beyond the 
third generation. 

Marriages are adult, and the proposal comes from the 3. Mar- 
boy's father, who has it conveyed to the girl's father through "^^^' 
some friend in his village. If a betrothal is arranged the 
bride's father invites the father and friends of the bridegroom 
to dinner ; on this occasion the boy's father brings some 
necklaces of lac beads and spangles and presents them 
to the bride's female relatives, who then come out and tie 
the necklaces round his neck and those of his friends, place 
the spangles on their foreheads, and then, catching hold of 
their cheeks, press and twist them violently. Some turmeric 
powder is also thrown on their faces. This is the binding 
portion of the betrothal ceremony. The date of marriage 
is fixed by a Brahman, this being the only purpose for 
which he is employed, and a bride-price varying from six to 
twelve rupees is paid. On this occasion the women draw 
caricatures with turmeric or charcoal on the loin-cloth of the 
boy's father, which they manage to purloin. The marriage 
ceremony follows generally the Hindu form. The bride- 
groom puts on women's ornaments and carries with him an 
iron nut-cracker or dagger to keep off evil spirits. After 

246 BHARIA part 

the wedding, the niidua, a sort of burlesque dance, is held. 
The girl's mother gets the dress of the boy's father and puts 
it on, together with a false beard and moustaches, and dances, 
holding a wooden ladle in one hand and a packet of ashes in 
the other. Every time she approaches the bridegroom's 
father on her rounds she spills some of the ashes over him, 
and occasionally gives him a crack on the head with her 
ladle, these actions being accompanied by bursts of laughter 
from the party and frenzied playing by the musicians. 
When the party reach the bridegroom's house on their return, 
his mother and the other women come out and burn a 
little mustard and human hair in a lamp, the unpleasant 
smell emitted by these articles being considered potent to 
drive away evil spirits. Every time the bride leaves her 
father's house she must weep, and must cry separately with 
each one of her caste-sisters when taking leave of them. 
When she returns home she must begin weeping loudly on 
the boundary of the village, and continue doing so until she 
has embraced each of her relatives and friends, a performance 
which in a village containing a large number of Bharias may 
take from three to six hours. These tears are, however, 
considered to be a manifestation of joy, and the girl who 
cannot produce enough of them is often ridiculed. A pro- 
spective son-in-law who serves for his wife is known as 
Gharjian. The work given him is always very heavy, and 
the Bharias have a saying which compares his treatment 
with that awarded to an ox obtained on hire. If a girl 
is seduced by a man of the tribe, she may be married to him 
by the ceremony prescribed for the remarriage of a widow, 
which consists merely in the placing of bangles on the 
wrists and a present of a new cloth, together with a feast 
to the caste-fellows. Similarly if she is seduced by a man 
of another caste who would be allowed to become a Bharia, 
she can be married as a widow to any man of the tribe. A 
widow is expected to marry her late husband's younger 
brother, but no compulsion is exercised. If a bachelor 
espouses a widow, he first goes through the ceremony of 
marriage with a ring to which a twig of the date-palm is 
tied, by carrying the ring seven times round the marriage 
post. This is necessary to save him from the sin of dying 


unmarried, as the union with a widow is not reckoned as a 
true marriage. In Jubbulpore divorce is said to be allowed 
only for conjugal misbehaviour, and a Bharia will pass over 
three transgressions on his wife's part before finally turning 
her out of his house. A woman who wishes to leave her 
husband simply runs away from him and lives with somebody 
else. In this case the third party must pay a goat to the 
husband by way of compensation and give a feast to the 

The carelessness of the Bharias in the matter of child- 4. Child- 
birth is notorious, and it is said that mothers commonly ^^^^ " 
went 'on working up to the moment of childbirth and were 
delivered of children in the fields. Now, however, the 
woman lies up for three days, and some ceremonies of 
purification are performed. In Chhattlsgarh infants are 
branded on the day of their birth, under the impression that 
this will cause them to digest the food they have taken in 
the womb. The child is named six months after birth by 
the father's sister, and its lips are then touched with cooked 
food for the first time. 

The tribe both burn and bury the dead, and observe 5. Funeral 
mourning for an adult for ten days, during which time they ^lonies 
daily put out a leaf-cup containing food for the use of the 
deceased. In the third year after the death, the viaugan or 
caste beggar visits the relatives of the deceased, and receives 
what they call one limb iang)^ or half his belongings ; the 
ang consists of a loin-cloth, a brass vessel and dish, an axe, 
a scythe and a wrist-ring. 

The Bharias call themselves Hindus and worship the 6. Reii- 
village deities of the locality, and on the day of Diwali offer magic" 
a black chicken to their family god, who may be Bura Deo, 
Dulha Deo or Karua, the cobra. For this snake they pro- 
fess great reverence, and say that he was actually born in 
a Bharia family. As he could not work in the fields he was 
usually employed on errands. One day he was sent to the 
house, and surprised one of his younger brother's wives, who 
had not heard him coming, without her veil. She reproached 
him, and he retired in dudgeon to the oven, where he was 
presently burnt to death by another woman, who kindled a 
fire under it not knowing that he was there. So he has 

248 BHARIA part 

been deified and is worshipped by the tribe. The Bharias 
also venerate Bagheshwar, the tiger god, and believe that no 
tiger will eat a Bharia. On the Diwali day they invite the 
tiger to drink some gruel which they place ready for him 
behind their houses, at the same time warning the other 
villagers not to stir out of doors. In the morning they 
display the empty vessels as a proof that the tiger has 
visited them. They practise various magical devices, 
believing that they can kill a man by discharging at him 
a inutJi or handful of charmed objects such as lemons, 
vermilion and seeds of urad. This ball will travel through 
the air and, descending on the house of the person at whom it 
is aimed, will kill him outright unless he can avert its power 
by stronger magic, and perhaps even cause it to recoil in the 
same manner on the head of the sender. They exorcise the 
Sudhiniyas or the drinkers of human blood. A person 
troubled by one of these is seated near the Bharia, who 
places two pots with their mouths joined over a fire. He 
recites incantations and the pots begin to boil, emitting blood. 
This result is obtained by placing a herb in the pot whose 
juice stains the water red. The blood-sucker is thus success- 
fully exorcised. To drive away the evil eye they burn a 
mixture of chillies, salt, human hair and the husks of kodon, 
which emits a very evil smell. Such devices are practised by 
members of the tribe who hold the office of Bhumia or 
village priest. The Bharias are well-known thieves, and 
they say that the dark spots on the moon are caused by a 
banyan tree, which God planted with the object of diminish- 
ing her light and giving thieves a chance to ply their trade. 
If a Bhumia wishes to detect a thief, he sits clasping hands 
with a friend, while a pitcher is supported on their hands. 
An oblation is offered to the deity to guide the ordeal 
correctly, and the names of suspected persons are recited 
one by one, the name at which the pitcher topples over being 
that of the thief. But before employing this method of 
detection the Bhumia proclaims his intention of doing so on 
a certain date, and in the meantime places a heap of ashes in 
some lonely place and invites the thief to deposit the stolen 
article in the ashes to save himself from exposure. By 
common custom each person in the village is required to visit 


the heap and mingle a handful of ashes with it, and not 
infrequently the thief, frightened at the Bhumia's powers of 
detection, takes the stolen article and buries it in the ash-heap 
where it is duly found, the necessity for resorting to the 
further method of divination being thus obviated. Occasion- 
ally the Bharia in his character of a Hindu will make a vow 
to pay for a recitation of the Satya Narayan Katha or some 
other holy work. But he understands nothing of it, and if 
the Brahman employed takes a longer time than he had 
bargained for over the recitation he becomes extremely bored 
and irritated. 

The scantiness of the Bharia's dress is proverbial, and 7- Social 
the saying is ' Bharia b/nudka, pwdnda langwdta,' or ' The customs. 
Bharia is verily a devil, who only covers his loins with a strip 
of cloth.' But lately he has assumed more clothing. For- 
merly an iron ring carried on the wrist to exorcise the evil 
spirits was his only ornament. Women wear usually only one 
coarse cloth dyed red, spangles on the forehead and ears, bead 
necklaces, and cheap metal bracelets and anklets. Some now 
have Hindu ornaments, but in common with other low castes 
they do not usually wear a nose-ring, out of respect to the 
higher castes. Women, though they work in the fields, do not 
commonly wear shoes ; and if these are necessary to protect 
the feet from thorns, they take them off and carry them in 
the presence of an elder or a man of higher caste. They 
are tattooed with various devices, as a cock, a crown, a native 
chair, a pitcher stand, a sieve and a figure called dhandha, 
which consists of six dots joined by lines, and appears to be 
a representation of a man, one dot standing for the head, 
one for the body, two for the arms and two for the legs. 
This device is also used by other castes, and they evince 
reluctance if asked to explain its meaning, so that it may be 
intended as a representation of the girl's future husband. 
The Bharia is considered very ugly, and a saying about him 
is : ' The Bharia came down from the hills and got burnt 
by a cinder, so that his face is black.' He does not bathe 
for months together, and lives in a dirt}' hovel, infested by 
the fowls which he loves to rear. His food consists of 
coarse grain, often with boiled leaves as a vegetable, and he 
consumes much whey, mixing it with his scanty portion of 


grain. Members of all except the lowest castes are admitted 
to the Bharia community on presentation of a pagri and 
some money to the headman, together with a feast to the 
caste-fellows. The Bharias do not eat monkeys, beef or 
the leavings of others, but they freely consume fowls and 
pork. They are not considered as impure, but rank above 
those castes only whose touch conveys pollution. For the 
slaughter of a cow the Bilaspur Bharias inflict the severe 
punishment of nine daily feasts to the caste, or one for each 
limb of the cow, the limbs being held to consist of the legs, 
ears, horns and tail. They have an aversion for the horse 
and will not remove its dung. To account for this they tell 
a story to the effect that in the beginning God gave them a 
horse to ride and fight upon. But they did not know how 
■ to mount the horse because it was so high. The wisest 
man among them then proposed to cut notches in the 
side of the animal by which they could climb up, and 
they did this. But God, when he saw it, was very angry 
with them, and ordered that they should never be soldiers, 
but should be given a winnowing-fan and broom to sweep 
the grain out of the grass and make their livelihood in 
that way. 
8. Occupa- The Bharias are usually farmservants and field-labourers, 

and their services in these capacities are in much request. 
They are hardy and industrious, and so simple that it is an easy 
matter for their masters to involve them in perpetual debt, 
and thus to keep them bound to service from generation to 
generation. They have no understanding of accounts, and 
the saying, ' Pay for the marriage of a Bharia and he is 
your bond-slave for ever,' sufficiently explains the methods 
adopted by their employers and creditors. 



Origin of the Bhdts. 



Bhdts and Chdrans. 



Lower-class Bhdts. 


Social status of the caste. 



Social customs. 



The Bhdfs business. 



Their extortionate practices. 



The JasondJiis. 



The Chdrans as carriers. 




Suicide and the fear of ghosts. 
Instances of haunting and lay- 
ing ghosts. 
The Chdrans as sureties. 
Suicide as a means of revenge. 

Casting out spirits. 
Sulking. Going bankrupt. 
Blidt songs. 

Bhat, Rao, Jasondhi. — The caste of bards and genea- i. Origin 
legists. In 191 I the Bhats numbered 29,000 persons in ^^-^l^^ 
the Central Provinces and Berar, being distributed over all 
Districts and States, with a slight preponderance in large 
towns such as Nagpur, Jubbulpore and Amraoti. The name 
Bhat is derived from the Sanskrit Bhatta, a lord. The 
origin of the Bhats has been discussed in detail by Sir H. 
Risley. Some, no doubt, are derived from the Brahman 
caste as stated by Mr. Nesfield : " They are an offshoot from 
those secularised Brahmans who frequented the courts of 
princes and the camps of warriors, recited their praises in 
public, and kept records of their genealogies. Such, with- 
out much variation, is the function of the Bhat at the present 
day. The Mahabharata speaks of a band of bards and * 

eulogists marching in front of Yudishthira as he made his 
progress from the field of Kurukshetra towards Hastinapur. 
But these very men are spoken of in the same poem as 
Brahmans. Naturally as time went on these courtier priests 
became hereditary bards, receded from the parent stem and 
founded a new caste." " The best modern opinion," Sir H. 


252 BHAT part 

Risley states,^ " seems disposed to find the germ of the 
Brahman caste in the bards, ministers and family priests, who 
were attached to the king's household in Vedic times. The 
characteristic profession of the Bhats has an ancient and 
distinguished history. The literature of both Greece and 
India owes the preservation of its oldest treasures to the 
singers who recited poems in the households of the chiefs, 
and doubtless helped in some measure to shape the master- 
pieces which they handed down. Their place was one of 
marked distinction. In the days when writing was unknown, 
the man who could remember many verses was held in high 
honour by the tribal chief, who depended upon the memory 
of the bard for his personal amusement, for the record of 
his own and his ancestors' prowess, and for the mainten- 
ance of the genealogy which established the purity of his 
descent. The bard, like the herald, was not lightly to be 
slain, and even Odysseus in the heat of his vengeance 
spares the aoiSo? Phemius, ' who sang among the wooers of 
necessity.' " ^ 

There is no reason to doubt that the Birm or Baram 
Bhats are an offshoot of Brahmans, their name being merely 
a corruption of the term Brahman. But the caste is a very 
mixed one, and another large section, the Charans, are 
almost certainly derived from Rajputs. Malcolm states that 
according to the fable of their origin, Mahadeo first created 
Bhats to attend his lion and bull ; but these could not prevent 
the former from killing the latter, which was a source of 
infinite vexation and trouble, as it compelled Mahadeo to 
create new ones. He therefore formed the Charan, equally 
devout with the Bhat, but of bolder spirit, and gave him in 
charge these favourite animals. From that time no bull was 
ever destroyed by the lion.^ This fable perhaps indicates that 
while the peaceful Bhats were Brahmans, the more warlike 
Charans were Rajputs. It is also said that some Rajputs 
disguised themselves as bards to escape the vengeance of 
Parasurama.^ The Maru Charans intermarry with Rajputs, 
and their name appears to be derived from Maru, the term 
for the Rajputana desert, which is also found in Marwar. 

^ Tribes a7id Castes of Bengal, art. ^ Art. Bhat. 

Brahman. * Rajasthan, ii. p. 406. 

^ Malcolm, Central India, ii. p. 132. 


Malcolm states ' that when the Rajputs migrated fn^m the 
banks of the Ganges to Rajputana, their lirahman priests 
did not accompany them in any numbers, and hence the 
Charans arose and supplied their place. They had to under- 
stand the rites of worship, particularly of Siva and Parvati, 
the favourite deities of the Rajputs, and were taught to read 
and write. One class became merchants and travelled with 
large convoys of goods, and the others were the bards and 
genealogists of the Rajputs. Their songs were in the rudest 
metre, and their language was the local dialect, understood 
by all. All this evidence shows that the Charans were a 
class of Rajput bards. 

But besides the Bi/m or Brahman Bhats and the Rajput 3. Lower- 
Charans there is another large body of the caste of mixed ^^- 
origin, who serve as bards of the lower castes and are 
probably composed to a great extent of members of these 
castes. These are known as the Brid-dhari or bes's^incf 
Bhats. They beg from such castes as Lodhis, Telis, Kurmis, 
Ahirs and so on, each caste having a separate section of 
Bhats to serve it ; the Bhats of each caste take food from 
the members of the caste, but they also eat and intermarry 
with each other. Again, there are Bairagi Bhats who beg 
from Bairagis, and keep the genealogies of the temple-priests 
and their successors. Yet another class are the Dasaundhis 
or Jasondhis, who sing songs in honour of Devi, play on 
musical instruments and practise astrology. These rank 
below the cultivating castes and sometimes admit members 
of such castes who have taken religious vows. 

The Brahman or Birm-Bhats form a separate subcaste, 4. Social 
and the Rajputs are sometimes called Rajbhat. These wear the^castl 
the sacred thread, which the Brid-Bhats and Jasondhis do 
not. The social status of the Bhats appears to vary greatly. 
Sir H. Risley states that they rank immediately below 
Kayasths, and Brahmans will take water from their hands. 
The Charans are treated by the Rajputs with the greatest 
respect ; " the highest ruler rises when one of this class enters 
or leaves an assembly, and the Charan is invited to eat first 
at a Rajput feast. He smokes from the same huqqa as 
Rajputs, and only caste-fellows can do this, as the smoke 

' Malcolm, ii. p. 135. ^ Rajasthdn, ii. pp. 133, 134. 


passes through water on its way to the mouth. In past 
times the Charan acted as a herald, and his person was 
inviolable. He was addressed as Maharaj,^ and could sit on 
the Singhasan or Lion's Hide, the ancient term for a Rajput 
throne, as well as on the hides of the tiger, panther and 
black antelope. The Rajputs held him in equal estimation 
with the Brahman or perhaps even greater.^ This was 
because they looked to him to enshrine their heroic deeds in 
his songs and hand them down to posterity. His sarcastic 
references to a defeat in battle or any act displaying a want 
of courage inflamed their passions as nothing else could do. 
On the other hand, the Brid-Bhats, who serve the lower castes, 
occupy an inferior position. This is because they beg at 
weddings and other feasts, and accept cooked food from 
members of the caste who are their clients. Such an act 
constitutes an admission of inferior status, and as the Bhats 
eat together their position becomes equivalent to that of the 
lowest group among them. Thus if other Bhats eat with the 
Bhats of Telis or Kalars, who have taken cooked food from 
their clients, they are all in the position of having taken food 
from Telis and Kalars, a thing which only the lowest castes 
will do. If the Bhat of any caste, such as the Kurmis, keeps 
a girl of that caste, she can be admitted into the community, 
which is therefore of a very mixed character. Such a caste 
as the Kurmis will not even take water from the hands of 
the Bhats who serve them. This rule applies also where a 
special section of the caste itself act as bards and minstrels. 
Thus the Pardhans are the bards of the Gonds, but rank 
below ordinary Gonds, who give them food and will not take 
it from them. And the Sansias, the bards of the Jats, and 
the Mirasis, who are employed in this capacity by the lower 
castes generally, occupy a very inferior position, and are 
sometimes considered as impure. 
5. Social The customs of the Bhats resemble those of other castes 

customs. Q^ corresponding status. The higher Bhats forbid the re- 
marriage of widows, and expel a girl who becomes pregnant 
before marriage. They carry a dagger, the special emblem 
of the Charans, in order to be distinguished from low-class 

' Great King, the ordinary method of address to Brahmans. 
- RdjasthCin, ii. p. 175. 


lihats. The lihuts generally display the chaur or yak -tail 
whisk and the chhadi or silver-plated rod on ceremonial 
occasions, and they worship these emblems of their calling on 
the principal festivals. The former is waved over the bride- 
groom at a wedding, and the latter is borne before him. 
The Brahman Bhats abstain from flesh of any l^ind and 
liquor, and other Bhats usually have the same rules about 
food as the caste whom they serve. Brahman Bhats and 
Charans alone wear the sacred thread. The high status 
sometimes assigned to this division of the caste is shown in 
the saying : 

Age BrCikvimi pichhc Bhat 
take picJihe aitr jdt^ 

or, * First comes the Brahman, then the Bhat, and after them 
the other castes.' 

The business of a Bhat in former times is thus described 6. The 
by Forbes : ^ " When the rainy season closes and travelling- J^^^.'^ 

-' . business. 

becomes practicable, the bard sets off on his yearly tour from 
his residence in the Bhatwara or bard's quarter of some city 
or town. One by one he visits each of the Rajpiat chiefs 
who are his patrons, and from whom he has received portions 
of land or annual grants of money, timing his arrival, if 
possible, to suit occasions of marriage or other domestic 
festivals. After he has received the usual courtesies he pro- 
duces the Wai, a book written in his own crabbed hiero- 
glyphics or in those of his father, which contains the descent 
of the house from its founder, interspersed with many a verse 
or ballad, the dark sayings contained in which are chanted 
forth in musical cadence to a delighted audience, and are 
then orally interpreted by the bard with many an illustrative 
anecdote or tale. The Wai, however, is not merely a source 
for the gratification of family pride or even of love of song ; 
it is also a record by which questions of relationship are 
determined when a marriage is in prospect, and disputes 
relating to the division of ancestral property are decided, 
intricate as these last necessarily are from the practice of 
polygamy and the rule that all the sons of a family are 
entitled to a share. It is the duty of the bard at each 
periodical visit to register the births, marriages and deaths 

1 Rasmala, ii. pp. 261, 262. 



7. Their 

which have taken place in the family since his last circuit, as 
well as to chronicle all the other events worthy of remark 
which have occurred to affect the fortunes of his patron ; nor 
have we ever heard even a doubt suggested regarding the 
accurate, much less the honest fulfilment of this duty by the 
bard. The manners of the bardic tribe are very similar to 
those of their Rajput clients ; their dress is nearly the same, 
but the bard seldom appears without the katdr or dagger, a 
representation of which is scrawled beside his signature, and 
often rudely engraved upon his monumental stone, in evidence 
of his death in the sacred duty of trdga (suicide)." ^ 

The Bhat thus fulfilled a most useful function as regis- 
trar of births and marriages. But his merits were soon 
eclipsed by the evils produced by his custom of extolling 
liberal patrons and satirising those who gave inadequately. 
The desire of the Rajputs to be handed down to fame in the 
Bhat's songs was such that no extravagance was spared to 
satisfy him. Chand, the great Rajput bard, sang of the 
marriage of Prithwi Raj, king of Delhi, that the bride's father 
emptied his coffers in gifts, but he filled them with the praises 
of mankind. A lakh of rupees ^ was given to the chief bard, 
and this became a precedent for similar occasions. " Until 
vanity suffers itself to be controlled," Colonel Tod wrote,^ 
" and the aristocratic Rajputs submit to republican simplicity, 
the evils arising from nuptial profusion will not cease. Un- 
fortunately those who should check it find their interest in 
stimulating it, namely, the whole crowd of vidiigtas or 
beggars, bards, minstrels, jugglers, Brahmans, who assemble 
on these occasions, and pour forth their epithalamiums in 
praise of the virtue of liberality. The bards are the grand 
recorders of fame, and the volume of precedent is always 

^ See later in this article. 

2 This present of a lakh of rupees is 
known as Lakh Pasaru, and it is not 
usually given in cash but in kind. It 
is made up of grain, land, carriages, 
jewellery, horses, camels and elephants, 
and varies in value from Rs. 30,000 to 
Rs. 70,000. A living bard, Mahama- 
hopadhyaya Murar Das, has received 
three Lakh Pasarus from the Rajas of 
Jodhpur and has refused one from the 
Rana of Udaipur in view of the fact 

that he was made ayachaka by the 
Jodhpur Raja. Ayachaka means liter- 
ally 'not a beggar,' and when a bard 
has once been made ayachaka he cannot 
accept gifts from any person other than 
his own patron. An ayachaka was 
formerly known as polpat, as it became 
his bounden duty to sing the praises of 
his patron constantly from the gate {pol) 
of the donor's fort or castle. (Mr. 
HTra Lai.) 

2 Rajasihan, ii. p. 548. 


Beitnose, Cotlo., Derby. 


resorted to by citing the liberality of former chiefs ; while 
the dread of their satire ' shuts the eyes of the chief to 
consequences, and they are only anxious to maintain the 
reputation of their ancestors, though fraught with future 
ruin." Owing t© this insensate liberality in the desire to 
satisfy the bards and win their praises, a Rajput chief who 
had to marry a daughter was often practically ruined ; and 
the desire to avoid such obligations led to the general 
practice of female infanticide, formerly so prevalent in 
Rajputana. The importance of the bards increased their 
voracity ; Mr. Nesficld describes them as " Rapacious and 
conceited mendicants, too proud to work but not too proud 
to beg." The Dholis ^ or minstrels were one of the 
seven great evils which the famous king Sidhraj expelled 
from Anhilwada Patan in Gujarat ; the Dakans or witches 
were another.^ Malcolm states that " They give praise and 
fame in their songs to those who are liberal to them, while 
they visit those who neglect or injure them with satires 
in which the victims are usually reproached with illegiti- 
mate birth and meanness of character. Sometimes the 
Bhat, if very seriously offended, fixes an e-^%y of the person 
he desires to degrade on a long pole and appends to it a 
slipper as a mark of disgrace. In such cases the song of 
the Bhat records the infamy of the object of his revenge. 
This image usually travels the country till the party or his 
friends purchase the cessation of the curses and ridicule thus 
entailed. It is not deemed in these countries within the 
power of the prince, much less any other person, to stop 
a Bhat or even punish him for such a proceeding. In i 8 i 2 
Sevak Ram Seth, a banker of Holkar's court, offended one 
of these Bhats, pushing him rudely out of the shop where 
the man had come to ask alms. The man made a figure ■* 
of him to which he attached a slipper and carried it to 
court, and everywhere sang the infamy of the Seth. The 
latter, though a man of wealth and influence, could not 
prevent him, but obstinately refused to purchase his forbear- 
ance. His friends after some months subscribed Rs. 80 
and the Bhat discontinued his execrations, but said it was 

1 Viserva, lit. poison. ^ Rajasthdn, ii. p. 1S4. 

2 From dhol, a drum. * Lit. putli or doll. 

258 BHAT part 

too late, as his curses had taken effect ; and the superstitious 
Hindus ascribe the ruin of the banker, which took place some 
years afterwards, to this unfortunate event." The loquacity 
and importunity of the Bhats are shown in the saying, ' Four 
Bhats make a crowd ' ; and their insincerity in the proverb 
quoted by Mr. Crooke, " The bard, the innkeeper and the 
harlot have no heart ; they are polite when customers 
arrive, but neglect those leaving (after they have paid) " ^ 
The Bhat women are as bold, voluble and ready in retort as 
the men. When a Bhat woman passes a male caste- 
fellow on the road, it is the latter who raises a piece of 
cloth to his face till the woman is out of sight." 
8_ The Some of the lower classes of Bhats have become religious 

jasondhis. mendicants and musicians, and perform ceremonial functions. 
Thus the Jasondhis, who are considered a class of Bhats, 
take their name from the jas or hymns sung in praise of 
Devi. They are divided into various sections, as the Nakib 
or flag-bearers in a procession, the Nazir or ushers who 
introduced visitors to the Raja, the Nagaria or players on 
kettle-drums, the Karaola who pour sesamum oil on their 
clothes and beg, and the Panda, who serve as priests of 
Devi, and beg carrying an image of the goddess in their 
hands. There is also a section of Muhammadan Bhats 
who serve as bards and genealogists for Muhammadan 
castes. Some Bhats, having the rare and needful qualifica- 
tion of literacy so that they can read the old Sanskrit 
medical works, have, like a number of Brahmans, taken to 
the practice of medicine and are known as Kaviraj. 
9. The As already stated, the persons of the Charans in the 

Charansas capacity of bard and herald were sacred, and they travelled 

carriers. '^ '' ^ 

from court to court without fear of molestation from robbers 
or enemies. It seems likely that the Charans may have 
united the breeding of cattle to their calling of bard ; but 
in any case the advantage derived from their sanctity was 
so important that they gradually became the chief carriers 
and traders of Rajputana and the adjoining tracts. They 
further, in virtue of their holy character, enjoyed a partial 
exemption from the perpetual and harassing imposts levied 

1 Tribes and Castes, art. Bhat. 
2 Ibidem^ Veiling the face is a sign of modesty. 


by evciy petty State on produce entering its territory ; 
and the combination of advantages thus obtained was such 
as to give them almost a monopoly in trade. They carried 
merchandise on large droves of bullocks all over' Rajputana 
and the adjoining countries ; and in course of time the 
carriers restricted themselves to their new profession, splitting 
off from the Charans and forming the caste of Banjaras. 

But the mere reverence for their calling would not have 10. Suicide 
sufficed for a permanent safeguard to the Charans from !^"'^' "i^ 

'■ '^ fear of 

destitute and unscrupulous robbers. They preserved it by ghosts, 
the customs of CJiaiidi or Trdga and Dharna. These 
consisted in their readiness to mutilate, starve or kill them- 
selves rather than give up property entrusted to their care ; 
and it was a general belief that their ghosts would then 
haunt the persons whose ill deeds had forced them to take 
their own lives. It seems likely that this belief in the 
power of a suicide or murdered man to avenge himself by 
haunting any persons who had injured him or been re- 
sponsible for his death may have had a somewhat wide 
prevalence and been partly accountable for the reprobation 
attaching in early times to the murderer and the act of 
self-slaughter. The haunted murderer would be impure 
and would bring ill-fortune on all who had to do with him, 
while the injury which a suicide would inflict on his relatives 
in haunting them would cause this act to be regarded as a 
sin against one's family and tribe. Even the ordinary fear 
of the ghosts of people who die in the natural course, and 
especially of those who are killed by accident, is so strong 
that a large part of the funeral rites is devoted to placating 
and laying the ghost of the dead man ; and in India the 
period of observance of mourning for the dead is perhaps 
in reality that time during which the spirit of the dead man 
is supposed to haunt his old abode and render the survivors 
of his family impure. It was this fear of ghosts on which 
the Charans relied, nor did they hesitate a moment to 
sacrifice their lives in defence of any obligation they had 
undertaken or of property committed to their care. When 
plunderers carried off any cattle belonging to the Charans, 
the whole community would proceed to the spot where the 
robbers resided ; and in failure of having their property 


restored would cut off the heads of several of their old men 
and women. Frequent instances occurred of a man dressing 
himself in cotton-quilted cloths steeped in oil which he set 
on fire at the bottom, and thus danced against the person 
against whom ti'dga was performed until the miserable creature 
dropped down and was burnt to ashes. On one occasion 
a Cutch chieftain, attempting to escape with his wife and 
child from a village, was overtaken by his enemy when about 
to leap a precipice ; immediately turning he cut off his wife's 
head with his scimitar and, flourishing his reeking blade in 
the face of his pursuer, denounced against him the curse of 
the trdga which he had so fearfully performed.^ In this 
case it was supposed that the wife's ghost would haunt the 
enemy who had driven the husband to kill her. 
II. In- The following account in \hQ. Rdsnidla'^ is an instance of 

stances of g^icidc and of the actual haunting- by the ghost : A Charan 

haunting fc> / fc> 

and laying asserted a claim against the chief of Siela in Kathiawar, 
ghosts. which the latter refused to liquidate. The bard thereupon, 
taking forty of his caste with him, went to Siela with the 
intention of sitting Dkarna at the chief's door and preventing 
any one from coming out or going in until the claim should 
be discharged. However, as they approached the town, the 
chief, becoming aware of their intention, caused the gates to 
be closed. The bards remained outside and for three days 
abstained from food ; on the fourth day they proceeded to 
perform tj'dga as follows : some hacked their own arms ; 
others decapitated three old women of the party and hung 
their heads up at the gate as a garland ; certain of the 
women cut off their own breasts. The bards also pierced the 
throats of four of their old men with spikes, and they took 
two young girls by the heels, and dashed out their brains 
against the town gate. The Charan to whom the money 
was due dressed himself in clothes wadded with cotton 
which he steeped in oil and then set on fire. He thus 
burned himself to death. But as he died he cried out, 
" I am now dying ; but I will become a headless ghost 
{Kuvts) in the palace, and will take the chief's life and 
cut off his posterity." After this sacrifice the rest of the 
bards returned home. 

' Postans, Cutch, p. 172. 2 YqI. ii. pp. 392-394. 


On the third day after the Charan's death his Bhut 
(ghost) threw the Rani downstairs so that she was very 
much injured. Many other persons also beheld the head- 
less phantom in the palace. At last he entered the chiefs 
head and set him trembling. At night he would throw 
stones at the palace, and he killed a female servant outright. 
At length, in consequence of the various acts of oppression 
which he committed, none dared to approach the chief's 
mansion even in broad daylight. In order to exorcise the 
Bhut, Jogis, Fakirs and Brahmans were sent for from 
many different places ; but whoever attempted the cure 
was immediately assailed by the Bhut in the chief's body, 
and that so furiously that the exorcist's courage failed him. 
The Bhut would also cause the chief to tear the flesh off 
his own arms with his teeth. Besides this, four or five persons 
died of injuries received from the Bhut ; but nobody had 
the power to expel him. At length a foreign Jyotishi 
(astrologer) came who had a great reputation for charms 
and magic, and the chief sent for him and paid him 
honour. First he tied all round the house threads which he 
had charged with a charm ; then he sprinkled charmed milk 
and water all round ; then he drove a charmed iron nail into 
the ground at each corner of the mansion, and two at the 
door. He purified the house and continued his charms and 
incantations for forty-one days, every day making sacrifices at 
the cemetery to the Bhut's spirit. The Joshi lived in a room 
securely fastened up ; but people say that while he was mutter- 
ing his charms stones would fall and strike the windows. 
Finally the Joshi brought the chief, who had been living in 
a separate room, and tried to exorcise the spirit. The 
patient began to be very violent, but the Joshi and his people 
spared no pains in thrashing him until they had rendered 
him quite docile. A sacrificial fire-pit was made and a lemon 
placed between it and the chief. The Joshi commanded 
the Bhut to enter the lime. The possessed, however, said, 
* Who are you ; if one of your Deos (gods) were to come, I 
would not quit this person.' Thus they went on from 
morning till noon. At last they came outside, and, burning 
various kinds of incense and sprinkling many charms, the 
Bhut was got out into the lemon. When the lemon began 

262 BHAT part 

to jump about, the whole of the spectators praised the 
Joshi, crying out : ' The Bhut has gone into the lemon ! 
Tlie Bhut has gone into the lemon ! ' The possessed 
person himself, when he saw the lemon hopping about, 
was perfectly satisfied that the Bhut had left his body 
and gone out into the lemon. The Joshi then drove the 
lemon outside the city, followed by drummers and trumpeters ; 
if the lemon left the road, he would touch it with his stick 
and put it into the right way again. On the track they 
sprinkled mustard and salt and finally buried the lemon in a pit 
seven cubits deep, throwing into the hole above it mustard 
and salt, and over these dust and stones, and filling in the 
space between the stones with lead. At each corner, too, the 
Joshi drove in an iron nail, two feet long, which he had 
previously charmed. The lemon buried, the people returned 
home, and not one of them ever saw the Bhut thereafter. 
According to the recorder of the tale, the cure was effected 
by putting quicksilver into the lemon. When a man is 
attacked with fever or becomes speechless or appears to have 
lockjaw, his friends conclude from these indications that he 
is possessed by a Bhut. 

In another case some Bhats had been put in charge, by 
the chief of a small State, of a village which was coveted 
by a neighbouring prince, the Rana of Danta. The latter 
sent for the Bhats and asked them to guard one or two of 
his villages, and having obtained their absence by this 
pretext he raided their village, carrying off hostages and 
cattle. When the Bhats got back they collected to the 
number of a hundred and began to perform DJiarna against 
the Rana. They set out from their village, and at every 
two miles as they advanced they burned a man, so that by 
the time they got to the Rana's territory seven or eight men 
had been burnt. They were then pacified by his people 
and induced to go back. The Rana offered them presents, 
but they refused to accept them, as they said the guilt of the 
death of their fellows who had been burned would thereby 
be removed from the Rana. The Rana lost all the seven 
sons born to him and died childless, and it was generally 
held to be on account of this sin.^ 

^ Kdsindla, ii. pp. 143, 144. 

as sureties. 


Such was the certainty attaching to the Charan's 12. The 
readiness to forfeit his Hfe rather than prove false to a trust, 
and the fear entertained of the offence of causing him to do so 
and being haunted by his ghost, that his security was eagerly 
coveted in every kind of transaction. " No traveller could 
journey unattended by these guards, who for a small sum 
were satisfied to conduct him in safety.^ The guards, 
called Valavas, were never backward in inflicting the most 
grievous wounds and even causing the death of their old 
men and women if the robbers persisted in plundering those 
under their protection ; but this seldom happened, as the 
wildest Koli, Kathi or Rajput held the person of a Charan 
sacred. Besides becoming safeguards to travellers and 
goods, they used to stand security to the amount of many 
lakhs of rupees. When rents and property were concerned, 
the Rajputs preferred a Charan's bond to that of the wealthiest 
banker. They also gave security for good behaviour, 
called c/idlu zdviin, and for personal attendance in court 
called Jidzar zdviin. The ordinary trdga went no farther 
than a cut on the arm with the katdr or crease ; the forearms 
of those who were in the habit of becoming security had 
generally several cuts from the elbow downwards. The 
Charans, both men and women, wounded themselves, com- 
mitted suicide and murdered their relations with the most 
complete self-devotion. In 1 8 1 2 the Marathas brought a 
body of troops to impose a payment on the village of 
Panchpipla.^ The Charans resisted the demand, but finding 
the Marathas determined to carry their point, after a remon- 
strance against paying any kind of revenue as being contrary 
to their occupation and principles, they at last cut the throats 
of ten young children and threw them at the feet of the 
Marathas, exclaiming, ' These are our riches and the only 
payment we can make.' The Charans were immediately 
seized and confined in irons at Jambusar." 

As was the case with the Bhat and the Brahman, the 
source of the Charan's power lay in the widespread fear that 
a Charan's blood brought ruin on him who caused the blood 
to be spilt. It was also sometimes considered that the 

' Bombay Gazetteer, Hindus of Gujarat, Mr. Bhimbhai Kirparam, pp. 217, 219. 

- In Broach. 

as a means 
of revenge. 


Charan was possessed by his deity, and the caste were known 
as Deoputra or sons of God, the favourite dwelHng of the 
guardian spirit. 
13. Suicide Such a beh'cf enhanced the guilt attaching to the act of 

causing or being responsible for a Charan's death. Suicide 
from motives of revenge has been practised in other countries. 
" Another common form of suicide which is admired as 
heroic in China is that committed for the purpose of taking 
revenge upon an enemy who is otherwise out of reach — 
according to Chinese ideas a most effective mode of revenge, 
not only because the law throws the responsibility of the 
deed on him who occasioned it, but also because the dis- 
embodied soul is supposed to be better able than the living 
man to persecute the enemy." ^ Similarly, among the Hos 
or Mundas the suicide of young married women is or was 
extremely common, and the usual motive was that the girl, 
being unhappy in her husband's house, jumped down a well 
or otherwise made away with herself in the belief that she 
would take revenge on his family by haunting them after 
her death. The treatment of the suicide's body was some- 
times directed to prevent his spirit from causing trouble. 
" According to Jewish custom persons who had killed them- 
selves were left unburied till sunset, perhaps for fear lest the 
spirit of the deceased otherwise might find its way back 
to the old home." ^ At Athens the right hand of a person 
who had taken his own life was struck off and buried apart 
from the rest of the body, evidently in order to make him 
harmless after death.^ Similarly, in England suicides were 
buried with a spike through the chest to prevent their spirits 
from rising, and at cross-roads, so that the ghost might not 
be able to find its way home. This fear appears to have 
partly underlain the idea that suicide was a crime or an 
offence against society and the state, though, as shown by 
Dr. Westermarck, the reprobation attaching to it was far 
from universal ; while in the cultured communities of ancient 
Greece and Rome, and among such military peoples as the 
Japanese suicide was considered at all times a legitimate 
and, on occasion, a highly meritorious and praiseworthy act. 

1 Wesleimarck, Origin and Development of the Moral Ideas, ii. p. 242. 
^ Westermarck, ibidem, p. 246. ^ Westermarck, ibidem, p. 248. 


That condition of nnind which leads to the taking of 
one's own Hfe from motives of revenge is perhaps a fruit 
of ignorance and solitude. The mind becomes distorted, 
and the sufferer attributes the unhappiness really caused by 
accident or his own faults or defects to the persecution of a 
malignant fate or the ill-will of his neighbours and associates. 
And long brooding over his wrongs eventuates in his taking 
the extreme step. The crime known as running amok 
appears to be the outcome of a similar state of mind. Here 
too the criminal considers his wrongs or misery as the result 
of injury or unjust treatment from his fellow-men, and, care- 
less of his own life, determines to be revenged on them. 
Such hatred of one's kind is cured by education, leading to 
a truer appreciation of the circumstances and environment 
which determine the course of life, and by the more cheerful 
temper engendered by social intercourse. And these crimes 
of vengeance tend to die out with the advance of civilisation. 

Analogous to the custom of trdga was that of Dharjia, 14- 
which was frequently and generally resorted to for the 
redress of wrongs and offences at a time w^hen the law made 
little provision for either. The ordinary method of Dharfta 
was to sit starving oneself in front of the door of the person 
from whom redress was sought until he gave it from fear of 
causing the death of the suppliant and being haunted by his 
ghost. It was, naturally, useless unless the person seeking 
redress was prepared to go to extremes, and has some 
analogy to the modern hunger-strike with the object of 
getting out of jail. Another common device was to thrust 
a spear-blade through both cheeks, and in this state to dance 
before the person against whom Dharna was practised. The 
pain had to be borne without a sign of suffering, which, if 
displayed, would destroy its efficacy. Or a creditor would 
proceed to the door of his debtor and demand payment, 
and if not appeased would stand up in his presence with an 
enormous weight upon his head, which he had brought with 
him for the purpose, swearing never to alter his position 
until satisfaction was given, and denouncing at the same 
time the most horrible execrations on his debtor, should he 
suffer him to expire in that situation. This seldom failed 
to produce the desired effect, but should he actually die 


while in Dharna, the debtor's house was razed to the earth 
and he and his family sold for the satisfaction of the 
creditor's heirs. Another and more desperate form of 
Dkarna, only occasionally resorted to, was to erect a large 
pile of wood before the house of the debtor, and after the 
customary application for payment had been refused the 
creditor tied on the top of the pile a cow or a calf, or very 
frequently an old woman, generally his mother or other 
relation, swearing at the same time to set fire to it if 
satisfaction was not instantly given. All the time the 
old woman denounced the bitterest curses, threatening to 
persecute the wretched debtor both here and hereafter.^ 

The word dharna means ' to place or lay on,' and hence 
' a pledge.' Mr. Hira Lai suggests that the standing with 
a weight on the head may have been the original form of 
the penance, from which the other and severer methods were 
subsequently derived. Another custom known as dharna 
is that of a suppliant placing a stone on the shrine of 
a god or tomb of a saint. He makes his request and, 
laying the stone on the shrine, says, " Here I place this 
stone until you fulfil my prayer ; if I do not remove it, 
the shame is on you." If the prayer is afterwards fulfilled, 
he takes away the stone and offers a cocoanut. It seems 
clear that the underlying idea of this custom is the same 
as that of standing with a stone on the head as described 
above, but it is difficult to say which was the earlier or 
original form. 

As a general rule, if the guilt of having caused a suicide 
was at a man's door, he should expiate it by going to the 
Ganges to bathe. When a man was haunted by the ghost 
of any one whom he had wronged, whether such a person 
had committed suicide or simply died of grief at being 
unable to obtain redress, it was said of him BraJiui laga, or 
that Brahma had possessed him. The spirit of a Brahman 
boy, who has died unmarried, is also accustomed to haunt any 
person who walks over his grave in an impure condition or 
otherwise defiles it, and when a man is haunted in such a 
manner it is called Brahvi laga. Then an exorcist is called, 

* The above account of Dharna is taken from Colonel Tone's Letter on the 
Marathas (India Office Tracts). 


who sprinkles water over the possessed man, and this burns 
the Brahm Deo or spirit inside him as if it were burning oil. 
The spirit cries out, and the exorcist orders him to leave the 
man. Then the spirit states how he has been injured by 
the man, and refuses to leave him. The exorcist asks him 
what he requires on condition of leaving the man, and he asks 
for some good food or something else, and is given it. The 
exorcist takes a nail and goes to a plpal tree and orders the 
Brahm Deo to go into the tree. Brahm Deo obeys, and the 
exorcist drives the nail into the tree and the spirit remains 
imprisoned there until somebody takes the nail out, when he 
will come out again and haunt him. The Hindus think that 
the god Brahma lives in the roots of the pipal tree, Siva in 
its branches, and Vishnu in the choti or scalp-knot, that is 
the topmost foliage. 

Another and mild form of Dharna is that known as 16. Suik- 
KJidtpdti. When a woman is angry with her husband on ^^^^^^ 
account of his having refused her some request, she will put bankrupt. 
her bed in a corner of the room and go and lie on it, turning 
her face to the wall, and remain so, not answering when 
spoken to nor taking food. The term Khatpati signifies 
keeping to one side of the bed, and there she will remain 
until her husband accedes to her request, unless indeed he 
should decide to beat her instead. This is merely an exag- 
gerated form of the familiar display of temper known as 
sulking. It is interesting to note the use of the phrase 
turning one's face to the wall, with something of the mean- 
ing attached to it in the Bible. 

A custom similar to that of Dhariia was called Diwdla 
nikdlna or going bankrupt. When a merchant had had 
heavy losses and could not meet his liabilities, he would 
place the lock of his door outside, reversing it, and sit in 
the veranda with a piece of sackcloth over him. Or he 
wrapped round him the floor-carpet of his room. When he 
had displayed these signs of ruin and self-abasement his 
creditors would not sue him, but he would never be able to 
borrow money again. 

In conclusion a few specimens of Bhat songs may be 17. Bhat 
given. The following is an account of the last king of ^°"ss- 
Nagpur, Raghuji III., commonly known as Baji Rao : 


They made a picture of Baji Rao ; 

Baji Rao was the finest king to see ; 

The Brahmans told hes about him, 

They sent a letter from Nagpur to Calcutta, 

They made Baji Rao go on a pilgrimage. 

Brothers ! the great Sirdars who were with him, 

They brought a troop of five hundred horse ! 

The Tuesday fair in Benares was held with fireworks. 

They made the Ganges pink with rose-petals. 

Baji Rao's gifts were splendid. 

His turban and coat were of brocaded silk, 

A pair of diamonds and emeralds 

He gave to the Brahmans of Benares. 

Oh brothers ! the Raja sat in a covered howdah bound on an 

elephant ! 
Many fans waved over his head ; 
How charitable a king he was 1 

In the above song a note of regret is manifest for the 
parade and display of the old court of Nagpur, English 
rule being less picturesque. The next is a song about the 
English : 

The English have taken the throne of Nagpur, 

The fear of the English is great. 

In a moment's time they conquer countries. 

The guns boomed, the English came strong and warlike, 

They give wealth to all. 

They ram the ramrods in the guns. 

They conquered also Tippoo's dominions, 

The English are ruling in the fort of Gawilgarh. 

The following is another song about the English, not 
quite so complimentary : 

The English became our kings and have made current the kalddr 

(milled) rupee. 
The menials are favoured and the Bhats have lost their profession, 
The mango has lost its taste, the milk has lost its sweetness, 
The rose has lost its scent. 
Baji Rao of Nagpur he also is gone, 
No longer are the drums beaten at the palace gate, 
Poona customs have come in. 

Brahmans knowing the eighteen Purans have become Christians ; 
The son thinks himself better than his father, 
The daughter-in-law no longer respects her mother-in-law. 
The wife fights with her husband. 
The English have made the railways and telegraphs ; 
The people wondered at the silver rupees and all the country 


n /Uf AT SONGS 269 

The following is a song about the Nerbudda at Mandla, 
Revva being another name for the river : 

The stream of the world springs out breaking apart the hills ; 

The Revva cuts her path through the soil, the air is darkened with her 

All the length of her banks are the seats of saints ; hermits and pilgrims 

worship her. 
On seeing the holy river a man's sins fall away as wood is cut by a saw ; 
IJy bathing in her he plucks the fruit of holiness. 
When boats are caught in her flood, the people pray : ' We are sinners, 

O Rewa, bring us safely to the bank ! ' 
When the Nerbudda is in flood, Mandla is an island and the people 

think their end has come : 
The rain pours down on all sides, earth and sky become dark as smoke, 

and men call on Rama. 
The bard says : ' Let it rain as it may, some one will save us as Krishna 

saved the people of Brindawan ! ' 

This is a description of a beautiful woman : 

A beautiful woman is loved by her neighbours. 

But she will let none come to her and answers them not. 

They say : ' Since God has made you so beautiful, open your litter and 

let yourself be seen ! ' 
He who sees her is struck as by lightning, she shoots her lover with the 

darts of her eyes, invisible herself. 
She will not go to her husband's house till he has her brought by the 

When she goes her father's village is left empty. 
She is so delicate she faints at the sight of a flower. 
Her body cannot bear the weight of her cloth. 
The garland of jasmine-flowers is a burden on her neck, 
The red powder on her feet is too heavy for them. 

It is interesting to note that weakness and delicacy in a 
woman are emphasised as an attraction, as in English litera- 
ture of the eighteenth century. 

The last is a gentle intimation that poets, like other 
people, have to live : 

It is useless to adorn oneself with sandalwood on an empty belly, 

Nobody's body gets fat from the scent of flowers ; 

The singing of songs excites the mind, 

But if the body is not fed all these are vain and hollow. 

All Bhats recite their verses in a high-pitched sing-song 
tone, which renders it very difficult for their hearers to grasp 


the sense unless they know it ah'eady. The Vedas and all 
other sacred verses are spoken in this manner, perhaps as 
a mark of respect and to distinguish them from ordinary 
speech. The method has some resemblance to intoning. 
Women use the same tone when mourning for the dead. 



1. General notice and stntcti/re of 6. Propitiation of ghosts. 

the caste. 7. Religion. Ceremonies at hunt- 

2. Admission of outsiders. ing, 

3. A r range jnent of marriages. 8. Superstitious retnedies. 

4. The Counter of Posts. 9. Occupatioji. 

5. Marriage customs. 10. Names. 

Bhatra.^ — A primitive tribe of the Bastar State and the i. General 
south of Raipur District, akin to the Gonds. They numbered "°'"^^ ^"^ 

•^ ' •' structure 

33,000 persons in 1 891, and in subsequent enumerations of the 
have been amalgamated with the Gonds. Nothing is known ^^^'^' 
of their origin except a legend that they came with the 
Rajas of Bastar from Warangal twenty-three generations 
ago. The word Bhatra is said to mean a servant, and the 
tribe are emplo}'ed as village watchmen and household and 
domestic servants. They have three divisions, the Pit, 
Amnait and San Bhatras, who rank one below the other, 
the Pit being the highest and the San the lowest. The Pit 
Bhatras base their superiority on the fact that they decline 
to make grass mats, which the Amnait Bhatras will do, 
while the San Bhatras are considered to be practically 
identical with the Muria Gonds. Members of the three 
groups will eat with each other before marriage, but after- 
wards they will take only food cooked without water from a 
person belonging to another group. They have the usual 
set of exogamous septs named after plants and animals. 
Formerly, it is said, they were tattooed with representations 

1 This article is compiled from ment Officer, Bastar ; and Mr. Gopal 

papers drawn up by Rai Bahadur Krishna, Assistant Superintendent, 

Panda Baijnath, Superintendent, Bas- Bastar. 
tar State ; Mr. Ravi Shankar, Settle- 




2. Admis- 
sion of 

3. Arrange- 
ment of 

4. The 

of Posts. 

of the totem plant and animal, and the septs named after 
the tiger and snake ate the flesh of these animals at a 
sacrificial meal. These customs have fallen into abeyance, 
but still if they kill their totem animal they will make 
apologies to it, and break their cooking-pots, and bury or 
burn the body, A man of substance will distribute alms 
in the name of the deceased animal. In some localities 
members of the Kachhun or tortoise sept will not eat a 
pumpkin which drops from a tree because it is considered to 
resemble a tortoise. But if they can break it immediately 
on touching the ground they may partake of the fruit, the 
assumption being apparently that it has not had time to 
become like a tortoise. 

Outsiders are not as a rule admitted. But a woman of 
equal or higher caste who enters the house of a Bhatra will 
be recognised as his wife, and a man of the Panara, or 
gardener caste, can also become a member of the community 
if he lives with a Bhatra woman and eats from her hand. 

In Raipur a girl should be married before puberty, and 
if no husband is immediately available, they tie a few 
flowers into her cloth and consider this as a marriage. If 
an unmarried girl becomes pregnant she is debarred from 
going through the wedding ceremony, and will simply go 
and live with her lover or any other man. Matches are 
usually arranged by the parents, but if a daughter is not 
pleased with the prospective bridegroom, who may some- 
times be a well-to-do man much older than herself, she 
occasionally runs away and goes through the ceremony on 
her own account with the man of her choice. 

If no one has asked her parents for her hand she may 
similarly select a husband for herself and make her wishes 
known, but in that case she is temporarily put out of caste _ 
until the chosen bridegroom signifies his acquiescence by 
giving the marriage feast. What happens if he definitely 
fails to respond is not stated, but presumably the young 
woman tries elsewhere until she finds herself accepted. 

The date and hour of the wedding are fixed by an 
official known as the Meda Gantia, or Counter of Posts. 
He is a sort of illiterate village astrologer, who can foretell 
the character of the rainfall, and gives auspicious dates for 


sowing and harvest. He goes through some training, and 
as a test of his capacity is required by his teacher to tell at 
a glance the number of posts in an enclosure which he has 
not seen before. Having done this correctly he qualifies as 
a Meda Gantia. Apparently the Bhatras, being unable at 
one time to count themselves, acquired an exaggerated 
reverence for the faculty of counting, and thought that if a 
man could only count far enough he could reckon into the 
future ; or it might be thought that as he could count and 
name future days, he thus obtained power over them, and 
could tell what would happen on them just as one can 
obtain power over a man and work him injury by knowing 
his real name. 

At a wedding the couple walk seven times round the 5- MJit"- 
sacred post, which must be of wood of the mahua ^ tree, and customs. 
on its conclusion the post is taken to a river or stream and 
consigned to the water. The Bhatras, like the Gonds, no 
doubt revere this tree because their intoxicating liquor is 
made from its flowers. The couple wear marriage crowns 
made from the leaves of the date palm and exchange these. 
A little turmeric and flour are mixed with water in a plate, 
and the bride, taking the bridegroom's right hand, dips 
it into the coloured paste and strikes it against the wall. 
The action is repeated five times, and then the bridegroom 
does the same with the bride's hand. By this rite the 
couple pledge each other for their mutual behaviour during 
married life. From the custom of making an impression of 
the hand on a wall in token of a vow may have arisen that 
of clasping hands as a symbol of a bargain assented to, and 
hence of shaking hands, by persons who meet, as a pledge 
of amity and the absence of hostile intentions. Usually the 
hand is covered with red ochre, which is probably a sub- 
stitute for blood ; and the impression of the hand is made 
on the wall of a temple in token of a vow. This may be a 
survival of the covenant made by the parties dipping their 
hands in the blood of the sacrifice and laying them on the 
god. A pit about a foot deep is dug close to the marriage- 
shed, and filled with mud or wet earth. The bride conceals 
a nut in the mud and the bridegroom has to find it, and 

1 Bassia latifolia. 

274 BHATRA part 

the hiding and finding are repeated by both parties. This 
rite may have the signification of looking for children. The 
remainder of the day is spent in eating, drinking and dancing. 
On the way home after the wedding the bridegroom has to 
shoot a deer, the animal being represented by a branch of a 
tree thrown across the path by one of the party. But if 
a real deer happens by any chance to come by he has to 
shoot this. The bride goes up to the real or sham deer and 
pulls out the arrow, and presents her husband with water and 
a tooth-stick, after which he takes her in his arms and they 
dance home together. On arrival at the house the bride- 
groom's maternal uncle or his son lies down before the door 
covering himself with a blanket. He is asked what he wants, 
and says he will have tlie daughter of the bridegroom to wife. 
The bridegroom promises to give a daughter if he has one, 
and if he has a son to give him for a friend. The tribe 
consider that a man has a right to marry the daughter of 
his maternal uncle, and formerly if the girl was refused by 
her parents he abducted her and married her forcibly. The 
bride remains at her husband's house for a few days and 
then goes home, and before she finally takes up her abode 
with him the gamia or going-away ceremony must be per- 
formed. The hands of the bride and bridegroom are tied 
together, and an arrow is held upright on them and some oil 
poured over it. The foreheads of the couple are marked 
with turmeric and rice, this rite being known as tika or 
anointing, and presents are given to the bride's family. 
6. Pro- The dead are buried, the corpse being laid on its back 

pitiation of ^yjtj-^ thg head to the north. Some rice, cowrie-shells, a 


winnowing-fan and other articles are placed on the grave. 
The tribe probably consider the winnowing-fan to have 
some magical property, as it also forms one of the presents 
given to the bride at the betrothal. If a man is killed by 
a tiger his spirit must be propitiated. The priest ties strips 
of tiger-skin to his arms, and the feathers of the peacock and 
blue jay to his waist, and jumps about pretending to be a 
tiger. A package of a hundred seers (200 lbs.) of rice is 
made up, and he sits on this and finally takes it away with 
him. If the dead man had any ornaments they must all be 
given, however valuable, lest his spirit should hanker after 


them and return to look for them in the shape of the tiger. 
The lari^^e quantity of rice given to the priest is also probably 
intended as a provision of the best food for the dead man's 
spirit, lest it be hungry and come in the shape of the tiger 
to satisfy its appetite upon the surviving relatives. The 
laying of the ghosts of persons killed by tigers is thus a 
very profitable business for the priests. 

The tribe worship the god of hunting, who is known as 7. Reii- 
Mati Deo and resides in a separate tree in each village. At ^'°"". ^^''^' 

_ . . . monies at 

the Bljphutni (threshing) or harvest festival in the month of hunting. 
Chait (March) they have a ceremonial hunting party. All 
the people of the village collect, each man having a bow 
and arrow slung to his back and a hatchet on his shoulder. 
They spread out a long net in the forest and beat the 
animals into this, usually catching a deer, wild pig or hare, 
and quails and other birds. They return and cook the game 
before the shrine of the god and offer to him a fowl and a 
pig. A pit is dug and water poured into it, and a person 
from each house must stand in the mud. A little seed taken 
from each house is also soaked in the mud, and after the 
feast is over this is taken and returned to the householder 
with words of abuse, a small present of two or three pice 
being received from him. The seed is no doubt thus con- 
secrated for the next sowing. The tribe also have joint 
ceremonial fishing excursions. Their ideas of a future life 
are very vague, and they have no belief in a place of reward or 
punishment after death. They propitiate the spirits of their 
ancestors on the 15th of Asarh (June) with offerings of a 
little rice and incense. 

To cure the evil eye they place a little gunpowder in s. Super- 
water and apply it to the sufferer's eyes, the idea perhaps 
being that the fiery glance from the evil eye which struck 
him is quenched like the gunpowder. To bring on rain 
they perform a frog marriage, tying two frogs to a pestle 
and pouring oil and turmeric over them as in a real 
marriage. The children carry them round begging from 
door to door and finally deposit them in water. They say 
that when rain falls and the sun shines together the jackals 
are being married. Formerly a woman suspected of being 
a witch was tied up in a bag and thrown into a river or tank 



276 BHATRA part 

at various places set apart for the purpose. If she sank she 
was held to be innocent, and if she floated, guilty. In the 
latter case she had to defile herself by taking the bone of a 
cow and the tail of a pig in her mouth, and it was supposed 
that this drove out the magic-working spirit. In the case 
of illness of their children or cattle, or the failure of crops, 
they consult the Pujari or priest and make an offering. He 
applies some flowers or grains of rice to the forehead of the 
deity, and when one of these falls down he diagnoses from 
it the nature of the illness, and gives it to the sufferer to 
wear as a charm. 

9. Occupa- The tribe are cultivators and farmservants, and practise 
^'°"- shifting cultivation. They work as village watchmen and 

also as the Majhi or village headman and the Pujari or 
village priest. These officials are paid by contributions of 
grain from the cultivators. And as already seen, the Bhatras 
are employed as household servants and will clean cooking- 
vessels. Since they act as village priests, it may perhaps be 
concluded that the Bhatras like the Parjas are older residents 
of Bastar than the bulk of the Gonds, and they have become 
the household servants of the Hindu immigrants, which the 
Gonds would probably disdain to do. Some of them wear 
the sacred thread, but in former times the Bastar Raja would 
invest any man with this for a fee of four or five rupees, and 
the Bhatras therefore purchased the social distinction. They 
find it inconvenient, however, and lay it aside when proceed- 
ing to their work or going out to hunt. If a man breaks 
his thread he must wait till a Brahman comes round, when 
he can purchase another. 

10. Names. Among a list of personal names given by Mr. Baijnath 

the following are of some interest : Pillu, one of short 
stature ; Matola, one who learnt to walk late ; Phagu, 
born in Phagun (February) ; Ghinu, dirty-looking ; Dasru, 
born on the Dasahra festival ; Ludki, one with a fleshy ear ; 
Dalu, big-bellied ; Mudi, a ring, this name having been 
given to a child which cried much after birth, but when its 
nose was pierced and a ring put in it stopped crying ; Chhi, 
given to a child which sneezed immediately after birth ; 
Nunha, a posthumous child ; and Bhuklu, a child which 
began to play almost as soon as born. The above instances 


indicate that it is a favourite plan to select the name from 
any characteristic displayed by the child soon after birth, or 
from any circumstance or incident connected with its birth. 
Among names of women are : Cherangi, thin ; Fundi, one 
with swollen cheeks ; Kandri, one given to crying ; Mahlna 
(month), a child born a month late ; Batai, one with large 
eyes ; Gaida, fat ; Pakli, of fair colour ; Boda, one with 
crooked legs ; Jhunki, one with small eyes ; Rupi, a girl 
who was given a nose-ring of silver as her brothers had 
died ; Paro^ born on a field-embankment ; Dango, tall. A 
woman must not call by their names her father-in-law, 
mother-in-law, her husband's brothers and elder sisters and 
the sons and daughters of her husband's brothers and sisters. 



1. General notice. The Bhils a 7. 

Kolarian tribe. 

2. Rajputs deriving their title to 8. 

the land from the Bhils. 9. 

3. Historical notice. 10. 

4. General Out ram and the 11. 

Khdndesh Bhtl Corps. 12. 

5 . Siibdivisio7is. 

6. Exogamy and marriage ciis- 13. 

to)ns. 1 4. 

Widoiv-marriage, divorce and 


Witchcraft and amulets. 

Funeral rites. 

Social custojns. 

Appeara7ice and character- 



I. General 
The Bhils 
a Kolarian 

Bhll.^ — An indigenous or non-Aryan tribe which has 
been much in contact with the Hindus and is consequently- 
well known. The home of the Bhils is the country com- 
prised in the hill ranges of Khandesh, Central India and 
Rajputana, west from the Satpuras to the sea in Gujarat. 
The total number of Bhils in India exceeds a million and a 
half, of which the great bulk belong to Bombay, Rajputana 
and Central India. The Central Provinces have only about 
28,000, practically all of whom reside in the Nimar district, 
on the hills forming the western end of the Satpura range 
and adjoining the Rajpipla hills of Khandesh. As the 
southern slopes of these hills lie in Berar, a few Bhils are 
also found there. The name Bhil seems to occur for the 
first time about A.D. 600. It is supposed to be derived from 
the Dravidian word for a bow, which is the characteristic 
weapon of the tribe. It has been suggested that the Bhils 

^ The principal authorities on the 
Bhils are : An Account of the Alewdr 
Bhils, by Major P. 11. Hendley, 
f.A.S.B. vol. xliv., 1875, PP- 347-385 ; 
the Bombay Gazetteer, vol. ix., Hindus 

of Gujarat ; and notices in Colonel 
Tod's Rcyasthdn, Mr. A. L. Forbes's 
Rdsmala, and The Khandesh Bhil 
Corps, by Mr. A. H. A. Simcox, 



are the Pygmies referred to by Ktesias (400 H.c.) and the 
Phylhtae of Ptolemy (a.u. 150). The Bhils are recognised 
as the oldest inhabitants of southern Rajputana and parts of 
Gujarat, and are usually spoken of in conjunction witli the 
Kolis, who inhabit the adjoining tracts of Gujarat. The 
most probable hypotheilsis of the origin of the Kolis is that 
they are a western branch of the Kol or Munda tribe who 
have spread from Chota Nagpur, through Mandla and 
Jubbulpore, Central India and Rajputana to Gujarat and 
the sea. If this is correct the Kolis would be a Kolarian 
tribe. The Bhils have lost their own language, so that it 
cannot be ascertained whether it was Kolarian or Dravidian. 
But there is nothing against its being Kolarian in Sir 
G. Grierson's opinion ; and in view of the length of residence 
of the tribe, the fact that they have abandoned their own 
language and their association with the Kolis, this view may 
be taken as generally probable. The Dravidian tribes have 
not penetrated so far west as Central India and Gujarat in 
appreciable numbers. 

The Rajputs still recognise the Bhils as the former 2. Rajputs 
residents and occupiers of the land by the fact that some their'"^ 
Rajput chiefs must be marked on the brow with a Bhll's title to the 

,,, . iz-rf 1 1- T-j l^"d from 

blood on accession to the Gaddi or regal cushion. 1 od ^^^^ ghOs. 
relates how Goha,^ the eponymous ancestor of the Sesodia 
Rajputs, took the state of Idar in Gujarat from a Bhil : 
" At this period Idar was governed by a chief of the 
savage race of Bhils. The young Goha frequented the 
forests in company with the Bhils, whose habits better 
assimilated with his daring nature than those of the Brah- 
mans. He became a favourite with these vena-putras or 
sons of the forest, who resigned to him Idar with its woods 
and mountains. The Bhils having determined in sport to 
elect a king, their choice fell on Goha ; and one of the young 
savages, cutting his finger, applied the blood as the badge 
{tikd) of sovereignty to his forehead. What was done in 
sport was confirmed by the old forest chief. The sequel 
fixes on Goha the stain of ingratitude, for he slew his 

1 The old name of the Sesodia clan, for a notice of the real origin of the 
Gahlot, is held to be derived from this clan. 
Goha. See the article Rajput Sesodia 


benefactor, and no motive is assigned in the legend for the 
deed." ^ 

The legend is of course a euphemism for the fact that 
the Rajputs conquered and dispossessed the Bhils of 
Idar. But it is interesting as an indication that they did 
not consider themselves to derive a proper title to the land 
merely from the conquest, but wished also to show that it 
passed to them by the designation and free consent of the 
Bhils. The explanation is perhaps that they considered the 
gods of the Bhils to be the tutelary guardians and owners of 
the land, whom they must conciliate before they could hope to 
enjoy it in quiet and prosperity. This token of the devolution 
of the land from its previous holders, the Bhils, was till recently 
repeated on the occasion of each succession of a Sesodia 
chief " The Bhil landholders of Oguna and Undri still 
claim the privilege of performing the tlka for the Sesodias. 
The Oguna Bhil makes the mark of sovereignty on the 
chief's forehead with blood drawn from his own thumb, and 
then takes the chief by the arm and seats him on the 
throne, while the Undri Bhil holds the salver of spices and 
sacred grains of rice used in making the badge." ^ The 
story that Goha killed the old Bhil chief, his benefactor, 
who had adopted him as heir and successor, which fits in 
very badly with the rest of the legend, is probably based 
on another superstition. Sir J. G. Frazer has shown in The 
Golden Bough that in ancient times it was a common 
superstition that any one who killed the king had a right to 
succeed him. The belief was that the king was the god 
of the country, on whose health, strength and efficiency its 
prosperity depended. When the king grew old and weak 
it was time for a successor, and he who could kill the king 
proved in this manner that the divine power and strength 
inherent in the late king had descended to him, and he was 
therefore the fit person to be king.^ An almost similar 
story is told of the way in which the Kachhwaha Rajputs 
took the territory of Amber State from the Mina tribe. 
The infant Rajput prince had been deprived of Narwar by 

' RajastJidii, i. p. 184. Golden Botigh for the full explana- 

^ Ibidem, p. 1S6. tion and illustration of this super- 

3 Reference may be made to The stition. 


his uncle, and his mother wandered forth carryinc^ him in a 
basket, till she came to the capital of the Minas, where she 
first obtained employment in the chiefs kitchen. But 
owing to her good cooking she attracted his wife's notice 
and ultimately disclosed her identity and told her story. 
The Mina chief then adopted her as his sister and the boy 
as his nephew. This boy, Dhola Rai, on growing up 
obtained a (cw Rajput adherents and slaughtered all the 
Minas while they were bathing at the feast of Diwali, after 
which he usurped their country.^ The repetition both of 
the adoption and the ungrateful murder shows the import- 
ance attached by the Rajputs to both beliefs as necessary to 
the validity of their succession and occupation of the land. 

The position of the- Bhlls as the earliest residents of 
the country was also recognised by their employment in 
the capacity of village watchmen. One of the duties of 
this official is to know the village boundaries and keep 
watch and ward over them, and it was supposed that the 
oldest class of residents would know them best. The Bhlls 
worked in the office of Mankar, the superior village watch- 
man, in Nimar and also in Berar. Grant Duff states " that 
the Ramosi or Bhil was emplo)'ed as village guard by the 
Marathas, and the Ramosis were a professional caste of 
village policemen, probably derived from the Bhlls or from 
the Bhlls and Kolis. 

The Rajputs seem at first to have treated the Bhlls 3. Histori- 
leniently. Intermarriage was frequent, especially in the 
families of BhIl chieftains, and a new caste called Bhilala ^ 
has arisen, which is composed of the descendants of mixed 
Rajput and Bhil marriages. Chiefs and landholders in 
the Bhll country now belong to this caste, and it is 
possible that some pure Bhll families may have been 
admitted to it. The Bhilalas rank above the Bhlls, on a 
level with the cultivating castes. Instances occasionally 
occurred in which the children of a Rajput by a Bhll wife 
became Rajputs. When Colonel Tod wrote, Rajputs would 
still take food with Ujla Bhlls or those of pure aboriginal 
descent, and all castes would take water from them."* But 

1 RSjasthan, ii. pp. 320, 321. 3 gee article. 

"^History of the Alardihas, i. p. 28. "* Rajasthan, ii. p. 466. 


as Hinduism came to be more orthodox in Rajputana, the 
Bhils sank to the position of outcastes. Their custom of 
eating beef had always caused them to be much despised. 
A tradition is related that one day the god Mahadeo or 
Siva, sick and unhappy, was reclining in a shady forest when 
a beautiful woman appeared, the first sight of whom effected 
a cure of all his complaints. An intercourse between the 
god and the strange female was established, the result of 
which was many children ; one of whom, from infancy 
distinguished alike by his ugliness and vice, slew the favourite 
bull of Mahadeo, for which crime he was expelled to the 
woods and mountains, and his descendants have ever since 
been stigmatised by the names of Bhil and Nishada.^ 
Nishada is a term of contempt applied to the lowest out- 
castes. Major Hendley, writing in 1875, states: "Some 
time since a Thakur (chief) cut off the legs of two Bhils, 
eaters of the sacred cow, and plunged the stumps into boiling 
oil." ^ When the Marathas began to occupy Central India 
they treated the Bhils with great cruelty. A BhIl caught 
in a disturbed part of the country was without inquiry flogged 
and hanged. Hundreds were thrown over high cliffs, and 
large bodies of them, assembled under promise of pardon, 
were beheaded or blown from guns. Their women were 
mutilated or smothered by smoke, and their children smashed 
to death against the stones.^ This treatment may to some 
extent have been deserved owing to the predatory habits and 
cruelty of the Bhils, but its result was to make them utter 
savages with their hand against every man, as they believed 
that every one's was against them. From their strongholds 
in the hills they laid waste the plain country, holding villages 
and towns to ransom and driving off cattle ; nor did any 
travellers pass with impunity through the hills except in 
convoys too large to be attacked. In Khandesh, during the 
disturbed period of the wars of Sindhia and Holkar, about 
A.D. I 800, the Bhils betook themselves to highway robbery 
and lived in bands either in mountains or in villages im- 
mediately beneath them. The revenue contractors were 

1 Malcolm, Memoir of Central (1875), p. 369. 
India, i. p. 518. ^ Hyderabad Census Report (1891), 

"^ An Account of the Bhils, J.A.S.B. p. 218. 

Bemrose, Collo., Derby. 


unable or unwilling to spend money in the maintenance 
of soldiers to protect the country, and the Bhils in a very 
short time became so bold as to appear in bands of hundreds 
and attack towns, carrying off either cattle or hostages, for 
whom they demanded handsome ransoms.^ In Gujarat 
another writer described the Bhils and Kolis as hereditary 
and professional plunderers — ' Soldiers of the night,' as they 
themselves said they were." Malcolm said of them, after 
peace had been restored to Central India :^ "Measures are 
in progress that will, it is expected, soon complete the re- 
formation of a class of men who, believing themselves doomed 
to be thieves and plunderers, have been confirmed in their 
destiny by the oppression and cruelty of neighbouring govern- 
ments, increased by an avowed contempt for them as out- 
casts. The feeling this system of degradation has produced 
must be changed ; and no effort has been left untried to 
restore this race of men to a better sense of their condition 
than that which they at present entertain. The common 
answer of a Bhil when charged with theft or robbery is, ' I 
am not to blame ; I am the thief of Mahadeo ' ; in other 
words, ' My destiny as a thief has been fixed by God.' " 
The Bhil chiefs, who were known as Bhumia, exercised the 
most absolute power, and their orders to commit the most 
atrocious crimes were obeyed by their ignorant but attached 
subjects without a conception on the part of the latter that 
they had an option when he whom they termed their Dhunni 
(Lord) issued the mandates.'* firearms and swords were 
only used by the chiefs and headmen of the tribe, and their 
national weapon was the bamboo bow having the bowstring 
made from a thin strip of its elastic bark. The quiver was 
a piece of strong bamboo matting, and would contain sixty 
barbed arrows a yard long, and tipped with an iron spike 
either flattened and sharpened like a knife or rounded like a 
nail ; other arrows, used for knocking over birds, had knob- 
like heads. Thus armed, the Bhils would lie in wait in some 
deep ravine by the roadside, and an infernal yell announced 
their attack to the unwary traveller.^ Major Hendley states 

^ The Kliandesh Bhil Corps, by Mr ^ Metnoir of Central India, ■ i. pp. 

A. H. A. Simcox. 525, 526. 

■* Ibidem, i. p. 550. 
2 Forbes, RdsmCxla, i. p. 104. " Hobson-Jobson, art, Bhil. 



that according to tradition in the Mahabharata the god 
Krishna was killed by a Bhll's arrow, when he was fighting 
against them in Gujarat with the Yadavas ; and on this 
account it was ordained that the Bhil should never again be 
able to draw the bow with the forefinger of the right hand. 
" Times have changed since then, but I noticed in examining 
their hands that few could move the forefinger without the 
second finger ; indeed the fingers appeared useless as in- 
dependent members of the hands. In connection with this 
may be mentioned their apparent inability to distinguish 
colours or count numbers, due alone to their want of words 
to express themselves." ^ 

The reclamation and pacification of the Bhlls is insepar- 
ably associated with the name of Lieutenant, afterwards Sir 
James, Outram. The Khandesh BhIl Corps was first raised 
by him in 1825, when Bhil robber bands were being hunted 
down by small parties of troops, and those who were willing 
to surrender were granted a free pardon for past offences, 
and given grants of land for cultivation and advances for the 
purchase of seed and bullocks. When the first attempts to 
raise the corps were made, the Bhlls believed that the object 
was to link them in line like galley-slaves with a view to 
extirpate the race, that blood was in high demand as a 
medicine in the country of their foreign masters, and so on. 
Indulging the wild men with feasts and entertainments, and 
delighting them with his matchless urbanity. Captain Outram 
at length contrived to draw over to the cause nine recruits, 
one of whom was a notorious plunderer who had a short 
time before successfully robbed the officer commanding a 
detachment sent against him. This infant corps soon 
became strongly attached to the person of their new chief 
and entirely devoted to his wishes ; their goodwill had been 
won by his kind and conciliatory manners, while their ad- 
miration and respect had been thoroughly roused and excited 
by his prowess and valour in the chase. On one occasion, 
it is recorded, word was brought to Outram of the presence 
of a panther in some prickly-pear shrubs on the side of a 
hill near his station. He went to shoot it with a friend, 
Outram being on foot and his friend on horseback searching 

' An Accoimt of the Bhlls, p. 369. 


through the bushes. When close on the animal, Outrain's 
friend fired and missed, on which the panther sprang forward 
roaring and seized Outram, and they rolled down the hill 
together. Being released from the claws of the furious 
beast for a moment, Outram with great presence of mind 
drew a pistol which he had with him, and shot the panther 
dead. The IMills, on seeing that he had been injured, were 
one and all loud in their grief and expressions of regret, 
when Outram quieted them with the remark, ' What do I 
care for the clawing of a cat ? ' and this saying long re- 
mained a proverb among the Bhlls.^ By his kindness and 
sympathy, listening freely to all that each single man in the 
corps had to say to him, Outram at length won their con- 
fidence, convinced them of his good faith and dissipated their 
fears of treachery. Soon the ranks of the corps became full, 
and for every vacant place there were numbers of applicants. 
The Bhils freely hunted down and captured their friends and 
relations who continued to create disturbances, and brought 
them in for punishment. Outram managed to check their 
propensity for liquor by paying them every day just sufificient 
for their food, and giving them the balance of their pay at 
the end of the month, when some might have a drinking 
bout, but many preferred to spend the money on ornaments 
and articles of finery. With the assistance of the corps the 
marauding tendencies of the hill Bhils were suppressed and 
tranquillity restored to Khandesh, which rapidly became one 
of the most fertile parts of India. During the Mutiny the 
Bhil corps remained loyal, and did good service in checking 
the local outbursts which occurred in Khandesh. A second 
battalion was raised at this time, but was disbanded three 
years afterwards. After this the corps had little or nothing 
to do, and as the absence of fighting and the higher wages 
which could be obtained by ordinary labour ceased to render 
it attractive to the Bhils, it was finally converted into police 
in 1891.^ 

The Bhils of the Central Provinces have now only two 5- Sub- 
subdivisions, the Muhammadan Bhils, who were forcibly con- 
verted to Islam during the time of Aurangzeb, and the 
remainder, who though retaining many animistic beliefs and 

^ The Khandesh Bhll Corps, p. 71. ^ Ibidem, p. 275. 

286 BHiL PART 

superstitions, have practically become Hindus. The 
Muhammadan Bhils only number about 3000 out of 28,000. 
They are known as Tadvi, a name which was formerly 
applied to a Bhil headman, and is said to be derived from 
tad, meaning a separate branch or section. These Bhlls 
marry among themselves and not with any other Muham- 
madans. They retain many Hindu and animistic usages, 
and are scarcely Muhammadan in more than name. Both 
classes are divided into groups or septs, generally named 
after plants or animals to which they still show reverence. 
Thus the Jamania sept, named after the jdman tree,^ will 
not cut or burn any part of this tree, and at their weddings 
the dresses of the bride and bridegroom are taken and 
rubbed against the tree before being worn. Similarly the 
Rohini sept worship the r'o/iau" tree, the Avalia sept the 
aonla ^ tree, the Meheda sept the baJicra ^ tree, and so on. 
The Mori sept worship the peacock. They go into the 
jungle and look for the tracks of a peacock, and spreading 
a piece of red cloth before the footprint, lay their offerings 
of grain upon it. Members of this sept may not be tattooed, 
because they think the splashes of colour on the peacock's 
feathers are tattoo-marks. Their women must veil them- 
selves if they see a peacock, and they think that if any 
member of the sept irreverently treads on a peacock's foot- 
prints he will fall ill. The Ghodmarya (Horse-killer) sept 
may not tame a horse nor ride one. The Masrya sept will 
not kill or eat fish. The Sanyan or cat sept have a tradition 
that one of their ancestors was once chasing a cat, which 
ran for protection under a cover which had been put over 
the stone figure of their goddess. The goddess turned the 
cat into stone and sat on it, and since then members of the 
sept will not touch a cat except to save it from harm, and 
they will not eat anything which has been touched by a cat. 
The Ghattaya sept worship the grinding mill at their wed- 
dings and also on festival days. The Solia sept, whose name 
is apparently derived from the sun, are split up into four 
subsepts : the Ada Solia, who hold their weddings at sunrise ; 
the Japa Solia, who hold them at sunset ; the Taria Solia, 

1 Eugenia jainbolana. ^ Phyllanthus et?iblica. 

2 Soymidafebrifuga. ■* Terinmalia belerica. 


who hold them when stars have become visible after sunset ; 
and the Tar Solia, who believe their name is connected with 
cotton thread and wrap several skeins of raw thread round 
tlie bride and bridegroom at the wedding ceremony. The 
Moharia sept worship the local goddess at the village of 
Moharia in Indore State, who is known as the Moharia 
Mata ; at their weddings they apply turmeric and oil to the 
fingers of the goddess before rubbing them on the bride and 
bridegroom. The Maoli sept worship a goddess of that 
name in Barwani town. Her shrine is considered to be in 
the shape of a kind of grain-basket known as kilia, and 
members of the sept may never make or use baskets of this 
shape, nor may they be tattooed with representations of it. 
Women of the sept are not allowed to visit the shrine of 
the goddess, but may worship her at home. Several septs 
have the names of Rajpiit clans, as Sesodia, Panwar, Mori, 
and appear to have originated in mixed unions between 
Rajputs and Bhils. 

A man must not marry in his own sept nor in the 6. Exo- 
families of his mothers and grandmothers. The union of niTrriage 
first cousins is thus prohibited, nor can girls be exchanged customs, 
in marriage between two families. A wife's sister may also 
not be married during the wife's lifetime. The Muham- 
madan Bhils permit a man to marry his maternal uncle's 
daughter, and though he cannot marry his wife's sister he 
may keep her as a concubine. Marriages may be infant or 
adult, but the former practice is becoming prevalent and 
girls are often wedded before they are eleven. Matches are 
arranged by the parents of the parties in consultation with 
the caste pancJidyat ; but in Bombay girls may select their 
own husbands, and they have also a recognised custom of 
elopement at the Tosina fair in the month of the Mahi 
Kantha. If a Bhil can persuade a girl to cross the river 
there with him he may claim her as his wife ; but if they 
are caught before getting across he is liable to be punished 
by the bride's father.^ The betrothal and wedding cere- 
monies now follow the ordinary ritual of the middle and 
lower castes in the Maratha country." The bride must be 

1 Bombay Gazetteer, Hindus of Gujarat, p. 309. 
'^ See article Kunbi. 


younger than the bridegroom except in the case of a widow. 
A bride-price is paid which may vary from Rs. 9 to 20 ; in 
the case of Muhammadan Bhils the bridegroom is said to 
give a dowry of Rs. 20 to 25. When the ovens are made 
with the sacred earth they roast some of the large millet 
juari ^ for the family feast, calling this Juari Mata or the 
grain goddess. Offerings of this are made to the family 
gods, and it is partaken of only by the members of the 
bride's and bridegroom's septs respectively at their houses. 
No outsider may even see this food being eaten. The 
leavings of food, with the leaf-plates on which it was eaten, 
are buried inside the house, as it is believed that if they 
should fall into the hands of any outsider the death or 
blindness of one of the family will ensue. When the bride- 
groom reaches the bride's house he strikes the marriage-shed 
with a dagger or other sharp instrument. A goat is killed 
and he steps in its blood as he enters the shed. A day for 
the wedding is selected by the priest, but it may also take 
place on any Sunday in the eight fine months. If the wed- 
ding takes place on the eleventh day of Kartik, that is on 
the expiration of the four rainy months when marriages are 
forbidden, they make a little hut of eleven stalks of juari 
with their cobs in the shape of a cone, and the bride and 
bridegroom walk round this. The services of a Brahman 
are not required for such a wedding. Sometimes the bride- 
groom is simply seated in a grain basket and the bride in 
a winnowing- fan ; then their hands are joined as the sun 
is half set, and the marriage is completed. The bridegroom 
takes the basket and fan home with him. On the return of 
the wedding couple, their kankans or wristbands are taken 
off at Hanuman's temple. The Muhammadan BhIls perform 
the same ceremonies as the Hindus, but at the end they 
call in the Kazi or registrar, who repeats the Muhammadan 
prayers and records the dowry agreed upon. The practice 
of the bridegroom serving for his wife is in force among both 
classes of Bhils. 
7. Widow- The remarriage of widows is permitted, but the widow 

marriage, ^ ^^^ marry any relative of her first husband. She 

divorce and ■' ■' ■' 

polygamy, rctums to her father's house, and on her remarriage they 

' Sorghian vulgare. 


obtain a bride -price of Rs. 40 or 50, a quarter of which 
goes in a feast to the tribesmen. The wedding of a widow 
is held on the Amawas or last day of the dark fortnight of 
the month, or on a Sunday. A wife may be divorced for 
adultery without consulting the pmichdyat. It is said that a 
wife cannot otherwise be divorced on any account, nor can 
a woman divorce her husband, but she may desert him and 
go and live with a man. In this case all that is necessary 
is that the second husband should repay to the first as com- 
pensation the amount expended by the latter on his marriage 
with the woman. Polygamy is permitted, and a second wife 
is sometimes taken in order to obtain children, but this 
number is seldom if ever exceeded. It is stated that the 
Bhil married women are generally chaste and faithful to 
their husbands, and any attempt to tamper with their virtue 
on the part of an outsider is strongly resented by the man. 

The Bhlls worship the ordinary Hindu deities and the 8. Reii 
village godlings of the locality. The favourite both with ^'°"' 
Hindu and Muhammadan Bhlls is Khande Rao or Khandoba, 
the war-god of the Marathas, who is often represented by a 
sword. The Muhammadans and the Hindu Bhlls also to 
a less extent worship the Pirs or spirits of Muhammadan 
saints at their tombs, of which there are a number in Nimar. 
Major Hendley states that in Mewar the seats or sthdns of 
the Bhil gods are on the summits of high hills, and are 
represented by heaps of stones, solid or hollowed out in 
the centre, or mere platforms, in or near which are found 
numbers of clay or mud images of horses.^ In some places 
clay lamps are burnt in front of the images of horses, from 
which it may be concluded that the horse itself is or was 
worshipped as a god. Colonel Tod states that the Bhlls will 
eat of nothing white in colour, as a white sheep or goat ; 
and their grand adjuration is ' By the white ram.' ^ Sir 
A. Lyall ^ says that their principal oath is by the dog. The 
Bhil sepoys told Major Hendley that they considered it of 
little use to go on worshipping their own gods, as the power 
of these had declined since the English became supreme. 
They thought the strong English gods were too much for 

^ Loc. cit. p. 347. - Western India. 

^ Asiatic Studies, ist series, p. 174. 


craft and 


the weak deities of their country, hence they were desirous of 
embracing Brahmanism, which would also raise them in the 
social scale and give them a better chance of promotion in 
regiments where there were Brahman officers. 
9. Witch- They wear charms and amulets to keep off evil spirits ; 

the charms are generally pieces of blue string with seven 
knots in them, which their witch- finder or Badwa ties, 
reciting an incantation on each ; the knots were sometimes 
covered with metal to keep them undefiled and the charms 
were tied on at the Holi, Dasahra or some other festival.^ 
In Bombay the Bhlls still believe in witches as the agents 
of any misfortunes that may befall them. If a man was 
sick and thought some woman had bewitched him, the 
suspected woman was thrown into a stream or swung 
from a tree. If the branch broke and the woman fell and 
suffered serious injury, or if she could not swim across the 
stream and sank, she was considered to be innocent and 
efforts were made to save her. But if she escaped without 
injury she was held to be a witch, and it frequently happened 
that the woman would admit herself to be one either from 
fear of the infliction of a harder ordeal, or to keep up the 
belief in her powers as a witch, which often secured her a 
free supper of milk and chickens. She would then admit 
that she had really bewitched the sick man and undertake 
to cure him on some sacrifice being made. If he recovered, 
the animal named by the witch was sacrificed and its blood 
given her to drink while still warm ; either from fear or in 
order to keep up the character she would drink it, and 
would be permitted to stay on in the village. If, on the 
other hand, the sick person died, the witch would often be 
driven into the forest to die of hunger or to be devoured 
by wild animals.""' These practices have now disappeared 
in the Central Provinces, though occasionally murders of 
suspected witches may still occur. The BhTls are firm 
believers in omens, the nature of which is much the same 
as among the Hindus. When a Bhil is persistently unlucky 
in hunting, he sometimes says ' Nat laga,' meaning that 
some bad spirit is causing his ill-success. Then he will 

' Asiatic Studies , 1st series, p. 352. 
2 Bombay Gazetteer, Hindus of Gujarat, p. 302. 


make an image of a man in the sand or dust of the road, 
or sometimes two images of a man and woman, and throw- 
ing straw or grass over the images set it ah'ght, and pound 
it down on them with a stick with abusive yells. This he 
calls killing his bad luck.^ Major Hendley notes that the 
men danced before the different festivals and before battles. 
The men danced in a ring holding sticks and striking them 
against each other, much like the Baiga dance. Before 
battle they had a war-dance in which the performers were 
armed and imitated a combat. To be carried on the 
shoulders of one of the combatants was a great honour, 
perhaps because it symbolised being on horseback. The 
dance was probably in the nature of a magical rite, designed 
to obtain success in battle by going through an imitation of 
it beforehand. The priests are the chief physicians among 
the Bhils, though most old men were supposed to know 
something about medicine." 

The dead are usually buried lying on the back, with the 10. Funeral 
head pointing to the south. Cooked food is placed on the "^^^' 
bier and deposited on the ground half-way to the cemetery. 
On return each family of the sept brings a wheaten cake to 
the mourners and these are eaten. On the third day they 
place on the grave a thick cake of wheaten flour, water in 
an earthen pot and tobacco or any other stimulant which 
the deceased was in the habit of using in his life. 

The Hindu Bhlls say that they do not admit outsiders "• Social 
into the caste, but the Muhammadans will admit a man of 
any but the impure castes. The neophyte must be shaved 
and circumcised, and the Kazi gives him some holy water to 
drink and teaches him the profession of belief in Islam. If 
a man is not circumcised, the Tadvi or Muhammadan Bhils 
will not bury his body. Both classes of Bhils employ 
Brahmans at their ceremonies. The tribe eat almost all 
kinds of flesh and drink liquor, but the Hindus now abjure 
beef and the Muhammadans pork. Some Bhils now refuse 
to take the skins off dead cattle, but others will do so. 
The Bhils will take food from any caste except the impure 
ones, and none except these castes will now take food from 

' Bombay Gazetteer, vol. xii. p. 87. 
2 An Account of the Bhlls, pp. 362, 363. 


12. Ap- 
and char- 

13. Occu- 

them. Temporary or permanent exclusion from caste is 
imposed for the same offences as among the Hindus. 

The t}-pical Bhil is small, dark, broad-nosed and ugly, 
but well built and active. The average height of 128 men 
measured by Major Hendley was 5 feet 6.4 inches. The 
hands are somewhat small and the legs fairly developed, 
those of the women being the best. " The Bhil is an 
excellent woodsman, knows the shortest cuts over the hills, 
can walk the roughest paths and climb the steepest crags 
without slipping or feeling distressed. He is often called in 
old Sanskrit works Venaputra, ' child of the forest,' or Pal 
Indra, ' lord of the pass.' These names well describe his 
character. His country is approached through narrow 
defiles (/'c?/), and through these none could pass without his 
permission. In former days he always levied rakhivdli or 
blackmail, and even now native travellers find him quite 
ready to assert what he deems his just rights. The Bhil 
is a capital huntsman, tracking and marking down tigers, 
panthers and bears, knowing all their haunts, the best 
places to shoot them, the paths they take and all those 
points so essential to success in big-game shooting ; they 
will remember for years the spots where tigers have been 
disposed of, and all the circumstances connected with their 
deaths. The Bhil will himself attack a leopard, and with 
his sword, aided by his friends, cut him to pieces." ^ Their 
agility impressed the Hindus, and an old writer says : 
" Some Bhil chieftains who attended the camp of Sidhraj, 
king of Gujarat, astonished him with their feats of activity ; 
in his army they seemed as the followers of Hanuman in 
attendance upon Ram." ^ 

The Bhils have now had to abandon their free use of the 
forests, which was highl)'- destructive in its effects, and their 
indiscriminate slaughter of game. Many of them live in the 
open country and have become farmservants and field- 
labourers. A certain proportion are tenants, but very few- 
own villages. Some of the Tadvi Bhils, however, still 
retain villages which were originally granted free of revenue 
on condition of their keeping the hill-passes of the Satpijras 

' Account of the Mewar Bhils, pp. 357, 3 5 8. 
^ Forbes, Rdsmdla, i. p. 113. 

II B HI LA LA 293 

open and safe for travellers. These are known as Hattiwala. 
lihils also serve as village watchmen in Nimar and the 
adjoining tracts of the Berar Districts. Captain Forsyth, 
writing- in 1868, described the Bhils as follows: "The 
Muhammadan Bhils are with few exceptions a miserable lot, 
idle and thriftless, and steeped in the deadly vice of opium- 
eating. The unconverted Bhils are held to be tolerably 
reliable. When they borrow money or stock for cultivation 
they seldom abscond fraudulently from their creditors, and 
this simple honesty of theirs tends, I fear, to keep numbers 
of them still in a state little above serfdom." ^ 

The Bhils have now entirely abandoned their own m- Langu 
language and speak a corrupt dialect based on the Aryan ^^^' 
vernaculars current around them. The Bhil dialect is 
mainly derived from Gujarati, but it is influenced by Marwari 
and Marathi ; in Nimar especially it becomes a corrupt 
form of Marathi. Bhili, as this dialect is called, contains a 
number of non-Aryan words, some of which appear to come 
from the Mundari, and others from the Dravidian languages ; 
but these are insufficient to form any basis for a deduction 
as to whether the Bhils belonged to the Kolarian or 
Dravidian race." 

Bhilala.^ — A small caste found in the Nimar and i- General 
Hoshangabad Districts of the Central Provinces and in "°^''^^- 
Central India. The total strength of the Bhilalas is 
about 150,000 persons, most of whom reside in the 
Bhopawar Agency, adjoining Nimar. Only 15,000 were 
returned from the Central Provinces in 191 1. The 
Bhilalas are commonly considered, and the general belief 
may in their case be accepted as correct, to be a mixed 
caste sprung from the alliances of immigrant Rajputs with 
the Bhils of the Central India hills. The original term was 
not improbably Bhilwala, and may have been applied to 
those Rajput chiefs, a numerous body, who acquired small 
estates in the Bhil country, or to those who took the daughters 
of Bhil chieftains to wife, the second course being often no 

1 Niindr Settlement Report, i^y^. 2\(}, ^ fhis article is based mainly on 

247. Captain Forsyth's Nimar Settlement 

'^ Sir G. Grierson, Linguistic Survey Report, and a paper by Mr. T. T. 

of India, vol. ix. part iii. pp. 6-9. Korke, Pleader, Khandwa. 

294 BHILALA part 

doubt a necessary preliminary to the first. Several Bhilala 
families hold estates in Nimar and Indore, and their chiefs 
now claim to be pure Rajputs. The principal Bhilala houses, 
as those of Bhamgarh, Selani and Mandhata, do not inter- 
marry with the rest of the caste, but only among themselves 
and with other families of the same standing in Malwa and 
Holkar's Nimar. On succession to the Gaddi or headship of 
the house, representatives of these families are marked with a 
tlka or badge on the forehead and sometimes presented with 
a sword, and the investiture may be carried out by custom 
by the head of another house. Bhilala landholders usually 
have the title of Rao or Rawat. They do not admit that a 
Bhilala can now spring from intermarriage between a Rajput 
and a Bhil. The local Brahmans will take water from them 
and they are occasionally invested with the sacred thread at 
the time of marriage. The Bhilala Rao of Mandhata is 
hereditary custodian of the great shrine of Siva at Onkar 
Mandhata on an island in the Nerbudda. According to the 
traditions of the family, their ancestor, Bharat Singh, was a 
Chauhan Rajpiit, who took Mandhata from Nathu Bhil in 
A.D. I 165, and restored the worship of Siva to the island, 
which had been made inaccessible to pilgrims by the terrible 
deities, Kali and Bhairava, devourers of human flesh. In 
such legends may be recognised the propagation of Hinduism 
by the Rajpiit adventurers and the reconsecration of the 
aboriginal shrines to its deities. Bharat Singh is said to 
have killed Nathu Bhil, but it is more probable that he 
only married his daughter and founded a Bhilala family. 
Similar alliances have taken place among other tribes, as 
the Korku chiefs of the Gawilgarh and Mahadeo hills, and 
the Gond princes of Garha Mandla. The Bhilalas generally 
resemble other Hindus in appearance, showing no marked 
signs of aboriginal descent. Very probably they have all 
an infusion of Rajput blood, as the Rajputs settled in the 
Bhil country in some strength at an early period of history. 
The caste have, however, totemistic group names ; they will 
eat fowls and drink liquor ; and they bury their dead with 
the feet to the north, all these customs indicating a Dravidian 
origin. Their subordinate position in past times is shown 
by the fact that they will accept cooked food from a Kunbi 


or a Gujar ; and indeed the status of all except the chiefs 
families would naturally have been a low one, as they were 
practically the offspring of kept women. As already stated, 
the landowning families usually arrange alliances among 
themselves. Below these comes the body of the caste and 
below them is a group known as the Chhoti Tad or bastard 
Bhilalas, to which are relegated the progeny of irregular 
unions and persons expelled from the caste for social 

The caste, for the purpose of avoiding marriages between 2. Mar- 
relations, are also divided into exogamous groups called "^^^' 
kul or kuri, several of the names of which are of totemistic 
origin or derived from those of animals and plants. Members 
of the Jamra kuri will not cut or burn XhQjdviun ^ tree ; those 
of the Saniyar kuri will not grow sa7i-\\ers\\y, while the 
Astaryas revere the sona '"^ tree and the Pipaladya, the pipal 
tree. Some of the kuris have Rajput sept names, as Mori, 
Baghel and Solanki. A man is forbidden to take a wife 
from within his own sept or that of his mother, and the 
union of first cousins is also prohibited. The customs of the 
Bhilalas resemble those of the Kunbis and other cultivating 
castes. At their weddings four cart-yokes are arranged in a 
square, and inside this are placed two copper vessels filled 
with water and considered to represent the Ganges and 
Jumna. When the sun is half set, the bride and the bride- 
groom clasp hands and then walk seven times round the 
square of cart-yokes. The water of the pots is mixed and 
this is considered to represent the mingling of the bride's and 
bridegroom's personalities as the Ganges and Jumna meet at 
Allahabad. A sum of about Rs. 60 is usually paid by the 
parents of the bridegroom to those of the bride and is 
expended on the ceremony. The ordinary Bhilalas have, 
Mr. Korke states, a simple form of wedding which may be 
gone through without consulting a Brahman on the Ekadashi 
or eleventh of Kartik (October) ; this is the day on which 
the gods awake from sleep and marks the commencement 
of the marriage season. A cone is erected of eleven plants 
of juari, roots and all, and the couple simply walk round this 
seven times at night, when the marriage is complete. The 

^ Eugenia Jambolatia. 2 B mi hint a raceniosa. 

296 BHILALA part 

remarriage of widows is permitted. The woman's forehead 
is marked with cowdung by another widow, probably as a 
rite of purification, and the cloths of the couple are tied 

The caste commonly bury the dead and erect memorial 
stones at the heads of graves which they worship in the 
month of Chait (April), smearing them with vermilion and 
making an offering of flowers. This may either be a 
Dravidian usage or have been adopted by imitation from 
the Muhammadans. The caste worship the ordinary Hindu 
deities, but each family has a Kul-devi or household god, 
Mr. Korke remarks, to which they pay special reverence. 
The offerings made to the Kul-devi must be consumed by 
the family alone, but married daughters are allowed to 
participate. They employ Nimari Brahmans as their priests, 
and also have gurus or spiritual preceptors, who are Gosains 
or Bairagis. They will take food cooked with water from 
Brahmans, Rajputs, Munda Gujars and Tirole Kunbis. The 
last two groups are principal agricultural castes of the 
locality and the Bhilalas are probably employed by them 
as farmservants, and hence accept cooked food from their 
masters in accordance with a common custom. The local 
Brahmans of the Nagar, Naramdeo, Balsa and other subcastes 
will take water from the hand of a Bhilala. Temporary ex- 
communication from caste is imposed for the usual offences, 
such as going to jail, getting maggots in a wound, killing 
a cow, a dog or a squirrel, committing homicide, being 
beaten by a man of low caste, selling shoes at a profit, 
committing adultery, and allowing a cow to die with a rope 
round its neck ; and further, for touching the corpses of a 
cow, cat or horse, or a Barhai (carpenter) or Chamar 
(tanner). They will not swear by a dog, a cat or a squirrel, 
and if either of the first two animals dies in a house, it is 
considered to be impure for a month and a quarter. The 
head of the caste committee has the designation of Mandloi, 
which is a territorial title borne by several families in 
Nimar. He receives a share of the fine levied for the Sarni 
or purification ceremony, when a person temporarily expelled 
is readmitted into caste. Under the Mandloi is the Kotwal 
whose business is to summon the members to the caste 

1 1 occur A TION A ND CHA RA CTER 297 

assemblies ; he also is paid out of the fines and his office 
is hereditary. 

The caste are cultivators, farmservants and field-labourers, 4. Occupa- 
and a Bhilala also usually held the office of Mankar, a ch"rrcter. 
superior kind of Kotwar or village watchman. The Mankar 
did no dirty work and would not touch hides, but attended 
on any officer who came to the village and acted as a guide. 
Where there was a village sarai or rest-house, it was in 
charge of the Mankar, who was frequently also known as 
zamindar. This may have been a recognition of the ancient 
rights of the Bhilalas and Bhils to the country. 

Captain Forsyth, Settlement Officer of Nimar, had a 5. Char- 
very unfavourable opinion of the Bhilalas, whom he described 
as proverbial for dishonesty in agricultural engagements and 
worse drunkards than any of the indigenous tribes.^ This 
judgment was probably somewhat too severe, but they are 
poor cultivators, and a Bhilala's field may often be recognised 
by its slovenly appearance.^ 

A century ago Sir J. Malcolm also wrote very severely 
of the Bhilalas : " The Bhilala and Lundi chiefs were the 
only robbers in Malwa whom under no circumstances 
travellers could trust. There are oaths of a sacred but 
obscure kind among those that are Rajputs or who boast 
their blood, which are almost a disgrace to take, but which, 
they assert, the basest was never known to break before 
Mandrup Singh, a Bhilala, and some of his associates, 
plunderers on the Nerbudda, showed the example. The 
vanity of this race has lately been flattered by their having 
risen into such power and consideration that neighbouring 
Rajput chiefs found it their interest to forget their prejudices 
and to condescend so far as to eat and drink with them. 
Hatti Singh, Grassia chief of Nowlana, a Khichi Rajput, and 
several others in the vicinity cultivated the friendship of 
Nadir, the late formidable Bhilala robber-chief of the Vindhya 
range ; and among other sacrifices made by the Rajputs, was 
eating and drinking with him. On seeing this take place in 
my camp, I asked Hatti Singh whether he was not degraded 
by doing so ; he said no, but that Nadir was elevated." " 

1 Settlement Report (1869), para. 7ncnt Report. 
411. •'* Memoir of Central India, ii. p. 

^ Mr. Montgomerie's Ninidr Settle- 156. 


Bhishti. — A small Muhammadan caste of water-bearers. 
Only 26 Bhishtis were shown in the Central Provinces in 
1 90 1 and 278 in 1891. The tendency of the lower 
Muhammadan castes, as they obtain some education, is to 
return themselves simply as Muhammadans, the caste name 
being considered derogatory. The Bhishtis are, however, 
a regular caste numbering over a lakh of persons in India, 
the bulk of whom belong to the United Provinces. Many 
of them are converts from Hinduism, and they combine 
Hindu and Muhammadan practices. They have gotras 
or exogamous sections, the names of which indicate the 
Hindu origin of their members, as Huseni Brahman, Samri 
Chauhan, Bahmangour and others. They prohibit marriage 
within the section and within two degrees of relationship on 
the mother's side. Marriages are performed by the Muham- 
madan ritual or Nikah, but a Brahman is sometimes asked 
to fix the auspicious day, and they erect a marriage-shed. 
The bridegroom goes to the bride's house riding on a horse, 
and when he arrives drops Rs. 1-4 into a pot of water held 
by a woman. The bride whips the bridegroom's horse 
with a switch made of flowers. During the marriage the 
bride sits inside the house and the bridegroom in the shed 
outside. An agent or Vakil with two witnesses goes 
to the bride and asks her whether she consents to 
marry the bridegroom, and when she gives her consent, 
as she always does, they go out and formally communi- 
cate it to the Kazi. The dowry is then settled, and the 
bond of marriage is sealed. But when the parents of 
the bride are poor they receive a bride -price of Rs. "i^o^ 
from which they pay the dowry. The Bhishtis worship 
their leather bag {inashk) as a sort of fetish, and burn 
incense before it on Fridays.^ The traditional occupation 
of the Bhishti is to supply water, and he is still engaged in 
this and other kinds of domestic service. The name is said 
to be derived from the Persian bihisht, 'paradise,' and to have 
been given to them on account of the relief which their 
ministrations afforded to the thirsty soldiery." Perhaps, 
too, the grandiloquent name was applied partly in derision, 

' Crooke's Tribes and Castes, art. Bhishti. 
^ Elliott's Metnoi7-s of I he Noflh-PVestern Provinces, i. p. 191. 

II nmsfrri 299 

like similar titles given to other menial servants. 'I'hey 
are also known as Mashki o/ Pakliali, after their leathern 
water-bag. The leather bag is a distinctive sign of the 
Bhishti, but when he puts it away he may be recognised 
from the piece of red cloth which he usually wears round 
his waist. There is an interesting legend to the effect 
that the Bhishti who saved the Emperor Humayun's life at 
Chausa, and was rewarded by the tenure of the Imperial 
throne for half a day, employed his short lease of power by 
providing for his family and friends, and caused his leather 
bag to be cut up into rupees, which were gilded and stamped 
with the record of his date and reign in order to perpetuate 
its memory.^ The story of the Bhishti obtaining his name on 
account of the solace which he afforded to the Muhammadan 
soldiery finds a parallel in the case of the English army : 

The uniform 'e wore 

Was nothin' much before, 

An' rather less than 'arf o' that be'ind, 

For a piece o' twisty rag 

An' a goatskin water-bag 

Was all the field-equipment 'e could find. 

With 'is mussick on 'is back, 

'E would skip with our attack. 

An' watch us till the bugles made ' Retire,' 

An' for all 'is dirty 'ide 

'E was white, clear white, inside 

When 'e went to tend the wounded under fire.'-^ 

An excellent description of the Bhishti as a household 
servant is contained in Eha's Behind the Bungalow'^ from 
which the following extract is taken : " If you ask : Who 
is the Bhishti ? I will tell you. Bihisht in the Persian 
tongue means Paradise, and a Bihishtee is therefore an 
inhabitant of Paradise, a cherub, a seraph, an angel of mercy. 
He has no wings ; the painters have misconceived him ; but 
his back is bowed down with the burden of a great goat-skin 
swollen to bursting with the elixir of life. He walks the 
land when the heaven above him is brass and the earth iron, 
when the trees and shrubs are languishing and the last blade 

^ Crooke's Tribes atid Castes, ii. p. Ballads, ' Gunga Din.' 
100. ^ Thacker and Co., London. 

" Kudyard Kipling, Barrack- Roooi 


of grass has given up the struggle for life, when the very 
roses smell only of dust, and all day long the roaming dust- 
devils waltz about the fields, whirling leaf and grass and corn- 
stalk round and round and up and away into the regions of 
the sky ; and he unties a leather thong which chokes the 
throat of his goat-skin just where the head of the poor old 
goat was cut off, and straightway, with a life- reviving gurgle, 
the stream called thandha pdni gushes forth, and plant and 
shrub lift up their heads and the garden smiles again. The 
dust also on the roads is laid, and a grateful incense rises 
from the ground, the sides of the water chatti grow dark and 
moist and cool themselves in the hot air, and through the 
dripping interstices of the khaskJias tattie a chilly fragrance 
creeps into the room, causing the mercury in the thermometer 
to retreat from its proud place. I like the Bhishti and 
respect him. As a man he is temperate and contented, 
eating bdjri bread and slaking his thirst with his own element. 
And as a servant he is laborious and faithful, rarely shirking 
his work, seeking it out rather. For example, we had a 
bottle-shaped filter of porous stoneware, standing in a bucket 
of water which it was his duty to fill daily ; but the good 
man, not content with doing his bare duty, took the plug 
out of the filter and filled it too. And all the station knows 
how assiduously he fills the rain-gauge." With the con- 
struction of water -works in large stations the Bhishti is 
losing his occupation, and he is a far less familiar figure to 
the present generation of Anglo-Indians than to their pre- 

Origin Bhoyar/ Bhoir (Honorific titles, Mahajan and Patel). — 

A cultivating caste numbering nearly 60,000 persons in 191 1, 
and residing principally in the Betul and Chhindwara Districts. 
The Bhoyars are not found outside the Central Provinces, 
They claim to be the descendants of a band of Panwar 
Rajputs, who were defending the town of Dharanagri or 
Dhar in Central India when it was besieged by Aurangzeb. 
Their post was on the western part of the wall, but they gave 
way and fled into the town as the sun was rising, and it 

' This article is mainly compiled man Bakre, pleader, Betul, and Munshi 
from papers by Mr. Pandurang Laksh- Pyare Lai, ethnographic clerk. 


ir B J 10 YAK 301 

shone on their faces. Hence they were called lihoyar from 
a word blior meaning morning, because they were seen 
running away in the morning. They were put out of caste by 
the other Rajputs, and fled to the Central Provinces. The 
name may also be a variant of that of the Bhagore Rajputs. 
And another derivation is from bhora, a simpleton or timid 
person. Their claim to be immigrants from Central India 
is borne out by the fact that they still speak a corrupt form 
of the Malvvi dialect of Rajputana, which is called after them 
Bhoyari, and their Bhats or genealogists come from Malwa. 
But they have now entirely lost their position as Rajputs. 

The Bhoyars are divided into the Panwari, Dholewar, 2. Suh- 
Chaurasia and Daharia subcastes. The Panwars are the '^^^'^^ ^^^ 


most numerous and the highest, as claiming to be directly 
descended from Panwar Rajputs. They sometimes called 
themselves Jagdeo Panwars, Jagdeo being the name of the 
king under whom they served in Dharanagri. The Dholewars 
take their name from Dhola, a place in Malwa, or from dJioL, 
a drum. They are the lowest subcaste, and some of them 
keep pigs. It is probable that these subcastes immigrated 
with the Malwa Rajas in the fifteenth century, the Dholewars 
being the earlier arrivals, and having from the first intermarried 
with the local Dravidian tribes. The Daharias take their 
name from Dahar, the old name of the Jubbulpore country, 
and may be a relic of the domination of the Chedi kings of 
Tewar. The name of the Chaurasias is probably derived 
from the Chaurasi or tract of eighty-four villages formerly 
held by the Betul Korku family of Chandu. The last two 
subdivisions are numerically unimportant. The Bhoyars 
have over a hundred kuls or exogamous sections. The 
names of most of these are titular, but some are territorial 
and a few totemistic. Instances of such names are Onkar 
(the god Siva), Deshmukh and Chaudhari, headman, Hazari 
(a leader of 1000 horse). Gore (fair-coloured), Dongardiya 
(a lamp on a hill), Pinjara (a cotton -cleaner), Gadria (a 
shepherd), Khaparia (a tyler), Khawasi (a barber), Chiknya 
(a sycophant), Kinkar (a slave), Dukhi (penurious), Suplya 
toplya (a basket and fan maker), Kasai (a butcher), Gohattya 
(a cow -killer), and Kalebhut (black devil). Among the 
territorial sections may be mentioned Sonpuria, from Sonpur, 

302 BHOYAR part 

and Patharia, from the hill country. The name Badnagrya 
is also really territorial, being derived from the town of 
Badnagar, but the members of the section connect it with 
the bad or banyan tree, the leaves of which they refrain from 
eating. Two other totemistic gotras are the Baranga and 
Baignya, derived from the bdraiig plant {Kydia calycind) and 
from the brinjal respectively. Some sections have the names 
of Rajput septs, as Chauhan, Parihar and Pan war. This 
curiously mixed list of family names appears to indicate that 
the Bhoyars originate from a small band of Rajputs who 
must have settled in the District about the fifteenth century 
as military colonists, and taken their wives from the people 
of the country. They may have subsequently been recruited 
by fresh bands of immigrants who have preserved a slightly 
higher status. They have abandoned their old high position, 
and now rank below the ordinary cultivating castes like 
Kunbis and Kurmis who arrived later ; while the caste has 
probably in times past also been recruited to a considerable 
extent by the admission of families of outsiders. 
3. Mar- Marriage within the kid or family group is forbidden, 

as also the union of first cousins. Girls are usually 
married young, and sometimes infants of one or two months 
are given in wedlock, while contracts of betrothal are made 
for unborn children if they should be of the proper sex, the 
mother's womb being touched with kunku or red powder 
to seal the agreement. A small dej or price is usually paid 
for the bride, amounting to Rs. 5 with 240 lbs. of grain, 
and 8 seers of ght and oil. At the betrothal the Joshi or 
astrologer is consulted to see whether the names of the 
couple make an auspicious conjunction. He asks for the 
names of the bride and bridegroom, and if these are found 
to be inimical another set of names is given, and the 
experiment is continued until a union is obtained which 
is astrologically auspicious. In order to provide for this 
contingency some Bhoyars give their children ten or twelve 
names at birth. If all the names fail, the Joshi invents new 
ones of his own, and in some way brings about the auspicious 
union to the satisfaction of both parties, who consider it no 
business of theirs to pry into the Joshi's calculations or to 
question his methods. After the marriage-shed is erected 




the family god must be invoked to be present at the 
ceremony. He is asked to come and take his seat in an 
earthen pot containing a h'ghted wick, the pot being sup- 
ported on a toy chariot made of sticks. A thread is coiled 
round the neck of the jar, and the Bhoyars then place it in 
the middle of the house, confident that the god has entered 
it, and will ward off all calamities during the marriage. 
This is performed by the bJidtnvar ceremony, seven earthen 
pots being placed in a row, while the bride and bridegroom 
walk round in a circle holding a basket with a lighted lamp 
in it. As each circle is completed, one pot is removed. 
This always takes place at night. The Dholewars do not 
perform the hJiCunvar ceremony, and simply throw sacred 
rice on the couple, and this is also done in Wardha. 
Sometimes the Bhoyars dispense with the presence of the 
Brahman and merely get some rice and juari consecrated by 
him beforehand, which they throw on the heads of the 
couple, and thereupon consider the marriage complete. 
Weddings are generally held in the bright fortnight of 
Baisakh (April— May), and sometimes can be completed in a 
single day. Widow-marriage is allowed, but it is considered 
that the widow should marry a widower and not a bachelor. 

The regular occupation of the Bhoyars is agriculture, 4. Occupa- 
and they are good cultivators, growing much sugar-cane ''°"- 
with well - irrigation. They are industrious, and their 
holdings on the rocky soils of the plateau Districts are 
often cleared of stones at the cost of much labour. Their 
women work in the fields. In Betijl they have the reputation 
of being much addicted to drink. 

They do not now admit outsiders, but their family 5. Social 
names show that at one time they probably did so, and this ^^-'^tus. 
laxity of feeling survives in the toleration with which they 
readmit into caste a woman who has gone wrong with an 
outsider. They eat flesh and fowls, and the Dholewars eat 
pork, while as already stated they are fond of liquor. To 
have a shoe thrown on his house by a caste-fellow is a 
serious degradation for a Bhoyar, and he must break his 
earthen pots, clean his house and give a feast. To be 
beaten with a shoe by a low caste like Mahar entails shaving 
the moustaches and paying a heavy fine, which is spent on a 

304 BHOYAR part ii 

feast. The Bhoyars do not take food from any caste but 
Brahmans, but no caste higher than Kunbis and Mails will 
take water from them. In social status they rank somewhat 
below Kunbis. In appearance they are well built, and often 
of a fair complexion. Unmarried girls generally wear skirts 
instead of sdj'is or cloths folding between the legs ; they also 
must not wear toe-rings. Women of the Panwar subcaste 
wear glass bangles on the left hand, and brass ones on the 
right. All women are tattooed. They both burn and bury 
the dead, placing the corpse on the pyre with its head to the 
south or west, and in Wardha to the north. Here they have 
a peculiar custom as regards mourning, which is observed 
only till the next Monday or Thursday whichever falls first. 
Thus the period of mourning may extend from one to four 
days. The Bhoyars are considered in Wardha to be more 
than ordinarily timid, and also to be considerable simpletons, 
while they stand in much awe of Government officials, and 
consider it a great misfortune to be brought into a court of 
justice. Very few of them can read and write. 

tribe and 
its name. 



1 . The tribe and its fiame. 7 . Tribal subdivisions. 

2. Distribution of t/ie tribe. 8. E.xogamous septs. 

3. Example 0/ the position 0/ the 9. Marriage customs. 

aborigines in Hi7idu society. i o. Widow-marriage and divorce. 

4. The Bhuiyas a Kolarian tribe. 1 1 . Religion. 

5. The Baigas and the Bhuiyas. 12. Religious dancing. 

Chhattisgarh the home of the 1 3. Funeral rites and inheritance. 
Baigas. 14. Physical appearatice atid occu- 

6. The Baigas a branch of the paiion. 

Bhuiyas. i 5. Social customs. 

Bhuiya, Bhuinhar, Bhumia/ — The name of a very i. The 
important tribe of Chota Nagpur, Bengal and Orissa. The 
Bhuiyas numbered more than 22,000 persons in the Central 
Provinces in 1911, being mainly found in the Sarguja and 
Jashpur States. In Bengal and Bihar the Bhuiyas proper 
count about half a million persons, while the Musahar and 
Khandait castes, both of whom are mainly derived from the 
Bhuiyas, total together well over a million. 

The name Bhuiya means ' Lord of the soil,' or * Belong- 
ing to the soil,' and is a Sanskrit derivative. The tribe have 
completely forgotten their original name, and adopted this 
designation conferred on them by the immigrant Aryans. The 
term Bhuiya, however, is also employed by other tribes and 
by some Hindus as a title for landholders, being practically 
equivalent to zamindar. And hence a certain confusion 
arises, and classes or individuals may have the name of 
Bhuiya without belonging to the tribe at all. " In most 

^ This article is compiled partly from furnished by Mr. B. C. Mazumdar, 
Colonel Dal ton's Ethnology of Bengal pleader, Sambalpur, and papers by 
and Sir H. Risley's Tribes and Castes of Mr. A. B. Napier, Deputy Commis- 
Bengal ; a monograph has also been sioner, Raipur, and Mr. Hira Lai. 
VOL. II 305 X 

3o6 BHUIYA part 

parts of Chota Nagpur," Sir H. Risley says, " there is a well- 
known distinction between a Bhuiya by tribe and a Bhuiya 
by title. The Bhuiyas of Bonai and Keonjhar described by 
Colonel Dalton belong to the former category ; the Bhuiya 
Mundas and Oraons to the latter. The distinction will be 
made somewhat clearer if it is explained that every ' tribal 
Bhuiya ' will as a matter of course describe himself as 
Bhuiya, while a member of another tribe will only do so if 
he is speaking with reference to a question of land, or desires 
for some special reason to lay stress on his status as a land- 
holder or agriculturist." 

We further find in Bengal and Benares a caste of land- 
holders known as Bhuinhar or Babhan, who are generally 
considered as a somewhat mixed and inferior group of 
Brahman and Rajput origin. Both Sir H. Risley and Mr. 
Crooke adopt this view and deny any connection between 
the Bhuinhars and the Bhuiya tribes. Babhan appears to 
be a corrupt form of Brahman. Mr. Mazumdar, however, 
states that Bhuiya is never used in Bengali as an equivalent 
for zamlndar or landholder, and he considers that the 
Bhuinhars and also the Barah Bhuiyas, a well-known group 
of twelve landholders of Eastern Bengal and Assam, belonged 
to the Bhuiya tribe. He adduces from Sir E. Gait's History 
of Assa})i the fact that the Chutias and Bhuiyas were 
dominant in that country prior to its conquest by the 
Ahoms in the thirteenth century, and considers that these 
Chutias gave their name to Chutia or Chota Nagpur. I am 
unable to express any opinion on Mr. Mazumdar's argument, 
and it is also unnecessary as the question does not concern 
the Central Provinces. 
Distribu- The principal home of the Bhuiya tribe proper is the 

south of the Chota Nagpur plateau, comprised in the Gang- 
pur, Bonai, Keonjhar and Bamra States. " The chiefs of 
these States," Colonel Dalton says, " now call themselves 
Rajputs ; if they be so, they are strangely isolated families 
of Rajputs. The country for the most part belongs to the 
Bhuiya sub-proprietors. They are a privileged class, holding 
as hereditaments the principal offices of the State, and are 
organised as a body of militia. The chiefs have no right to 
exercise any authority till they have received the tilak or 

tion of the 


token of invcstituic from their powerful Bhuiya vassals. 
Their position altogether renders their claim to be con- 
sidered Rajputs extremely doublful, and the stcjries told to 
account for their acquisition of the dignity are palpable 
fables. They were no doubt all Bhuiyas originally ; they 
certainly do not look like Rajputs." Members of the tribe 
are the household servants of the Bamra Raja's family, and 
it is said that the first Raja of Bamra was a child of the 
Patna house, who was stolen from his home and anointed 
king of Bamra by the Bhuiyas and Khonds. Similarly 
Colonel Dalton records the legend that the Bhuiyas twenty- 
seven generations ago stole a child of the Moharbhanj Raja's 
famil)', brought it up amongst them and made it their Raja. 
He was freely admitted to intercourse with Bhuiya girls, and 
the children of this intimacy are the progenitors of the 
Rajkuli branch of the tribe. But they are not considered 
first among Bhuiyas because they are not of pure Bhuiya 
descent. Again the Raja of Keonjhar is always installed 
by the Bhuiyas. These facts indicate that the Bhuiyas were 
once the rulers of Chota Nagpur and are recognised as the 
oldest inhabitants of the country. From this centre they 
have spread north through Lohardaga and Hazaribagh and 
into southern Bihar, where large numbers of Bhuiyas are 
encountered on whom the opprobrious designation of Musahar 
or 'rat-eater' has been conferred by their Hindu neighbours. 
Others of the tribe who travelled south from Chota Nagpur 
experienced more favourable conditions, and here the 
tendency has been for the Bhuiyas to rise rather than to 
decline in social status. " Some of their leading families," 
Sir H. Risley states, " have come to be chiefs of the petty 
States of Orissa, and have now sunk the Bhuiya in the 
Khandait or swordsman, a caste of admitted respectability 
in Orissa and likely in course of time to transform itself into 
some variety of Rajput." 

The ^varying status of the Bhuiyas in Bihar, Chota 3. Example 
Nagpur and Orissa is a good instance of the different ways ^q^Ij^qj^ of 
in which the primitive tribes have fared in contact with the the abori- 
immigrant Aryans. Where the country has been completely fi^ndu" 
colonised and populated by Hindus, as in Bihar, the aboriginal society, 
residents have commonly become transformed into village 

3o8 BHUIYA part 

drudges, relegated to the meanest occupations, and despised 
as impure by the Hindu cultivators, like the Chamars of 
northern India and the Mahars of the Maratha Districts. 
Where the Hindu immigration has only been partial and 
the forests have not been cleared, as in Chota Nagpur and 
the Central Provinces, they may keep their old villages 
and tribal organisation and be admitted as a body into the 
hierarchy of caste, ranking above the impure castes but 
below the Hindu cultivators. This is the position of the 
Gonds, Baigas and other tribes in these tracts. While, if 
the Hindus come only as colonists and not as rulers, the 
indigenous residents may retain the overlordship of the soil 
and the landed proprietors among them may be formed into 
a caste ranking with the good cultivating castes of the 
Aryans. Instances of such are the Khandaits of Orissa, 
the Binjhwars of Chhattlsgarh and the Bhilalas of Nimar 
and Indore. 
4. The The Bhuiyas have now entirely forgotten their own 

Bhuiyas a lancruage and speak Hindi, Uriya and Bengali, according as 

Kolanan fc> & r > ^ t-? 1 • 1 1 

tribe. each is the dommant vernacular of their Hmdu neighbours. 

They cannot therefore on the evidence of language be 
classified as a Munda or Kolarian or as a Dravidian tribe. 
Colonel Dalton was inclined to consider them as Dravidian : ^ 
" Mr. Stirling in his account of Orissa classes them among 
the Kols ; but there are no grounds that I know of for so 
connecting them. As I have said above, they appear to me 
to be linked with the Dravidian rather than with the 
Kolarian tribes." His account, however, does not appear to 
contain any further evidence in support of this view ; and, 
on the other hand, he identifies the Bhuiyas with the Savars 
or Saonrs. Speaking of the Bendkars or Savars of 
Keonjhar, he says : " It is difficult to regard them otherwise 
than as members of the great Bhuiya family, and thus 
connecting them we link the Bhuiyas and Savaras and give 
support to the conjecture that the former are Dravidian." 
But it is now shown in the Linguistic Survey that the 
Savars have a Munda dialect. In Chota Nagpur this has 
been forgotten, and the tribe speak Hindi or Uriya like the 
Bhuiyas, but it remains in the hilly tracts of Ganjam and 

1 Ethnology of Bengal, p. 140. 


Vizagapatam.' Savara is closely related to Kharia and 
Juang, the dialects of two of the most primitive Munda 
tribes. The Savars must therefore be classed as a Munda 
or Kolarian tribe, and since Colonel Dalton identified the 
Bhuiyas with the Savars of Chota Nagpur, his evidence 
appears really to be in favour of the Kolarian origin of the 
Bhuiyas. He notes further that the ceremony of naming 
children among the Bhuiyas is identical with that of the 
Mundas and Hos." Mr. Mazumdar writes : " Judging 
from the external appearance and general physical type one 
would be sure to mistake a Bhuiya for a Munda. Their 
habits and customs are essentially Mundari. The Bhuiyas 
who live in and around the District of Manbhum are not 
much ashamed to admit that they are Kol people ; and 
Bhumia Kol is the name that has been given them there 
by the Hindus. The Mundas and Larka-Kols of Chota 
Nagpur tell us that they first established themselves there 
by driving out the Bhuiyas ; and it seems likely that the 
Bhuiyas formed the first batch of the Munda immigrants in 
Chota Nagpur and became greatly Hinduised there, and on 
that account were not recognised by the Mundas as people 
of their kin." If the tradition of the Mundas and Kols that 
they came to Chota Nagpur after the Bhuiyas be accepted, 
and tradition on the point of priority of immigration is 
often trustworthy, then it follows that the Bhuiyas must be 
a Munda tribe. For the main distinction other than that of 
language between the Munda and Dravidian tribes is that 
the former were the earlier and the latter subsequent 
immigrants. The claim of the Bhuiyas to be the earliest 
residents of Chota Nagpur is supported by the fact that 
they officiate as priests in certain temples. Because in 
primitive religion the jurisdiction of the gods is entirely 
local, and foreigners bringing their own gods with them are 
ignorant of the character and qualities of the local deities, 
with which the indigenous residents are, on the other hand, 
well acquainted. Hence the tendency of later comers to 
employ these latter in the capacity of priests of the godlings 
of the earth, corn, forests and hills. Colonel Dalton writes : ^ 

1 Linguistic Survey, vol. xiv. Mtnida and Dravidian Languages, p. 217. 
2 Page 142. 3 Ibidem, p. 141. 


" It is strange that these Hinduised Bhuiyas retain in 
their own hands the priestly duties of certain old shrines to 
the exclusion of Brahmans. This custom has no doubt 
descended in Bhuiya families from the time when Brahmans 
were not, or had obtained no footing amongst them, and 
when the religion of the land and the temples were not 
Hindu ; they are now indeed dedicated to Hindu deities, 
but there are evidences of the temples having been originally 
occupied by other images. At some of these shrines human 
sacrifices were offered every third year and this continued 
till the country came under British rule." And again of 
the Pauri Bhuiyas of Keonjhar : " The Pauris dispute with 
the Juangs the claim to be the first settlers in Keonjhar, 
and boldly aver that the country belongs to them. They 
assert that the Raja is of their creation and that the prero- 
gative of installing every new Raja on his accession is theirs, 
and theirs alone. The Hindu population of Keonjhar is in 
excess of the Bhuiya and it comprises Gonds and Kols, but 
the claim of the Pauris to the dominion they arrogate is 
admitted by all ; even Brahmans and Rajputs respectfully 
acknowledge it, and the former by the addition of Brah- 
manical rites to the wild ceremonies of the Bhuiyas affirm 
and sanctify their installation." In view of this evidence it 
seems a probable hypothesis that the Bhuiyas are the 
earliest residents of these parts of Chota Nagpur and that 
they are a Kolarian tribe. 

There appears to be considerable reason for supposing 
that the Baiga tribe of the Central Provinces are really a 
branch of the Bhuiyas. Though the Baigas are now 
mainly returned from Mandla and Balaghat, it seems likely 
that these Districts were not their original home, and that 
they emigrated from Chhattlsgarh into the Satpura hills on 
the western borders of the plain. The hill country of 
Mandla and the Maikal range of Balaghat form one of the 
wildest and most inhospitable tracts in the Province, and it 
is unlikely that the Baigas would have made their first 
settlements here and spread thence into the fertile plain of 
Chhattlsgarh. Migration in the opposite direction would be 
more natural and probable. But it is fairly certain that the 
Baiga tribe were among the earliest if not the earliest 


residents of the ChhattTsii^arh plain and the hills north and 
east of it. The IMiaina, Bhunjia and Binjhwar tribes who 
still reside in this country can all be recognised as offshoots 
of the Raigas. In the article on Bhaina it is shown that 
some of the oldest forts in Bilaspur are attributed to the 
Bhainas and a chief of this tribe is remembered as having 
ruled in Bilaigarh south of the Mahfinadi, They arc said 
to have been dominant in Pendra where they arc still most 
numerous, and to have been expelled from Phuljhar in 
Raipur by the Gonds. The Binjhwars or Binjhals again 
are an aristocratic subdivision of the Baigas, belonging to 
the hills east of Chhattlsgarh and the Uriya plain country of 
Sambalpur beyond them. The zamlndfirs of Bodasamar, 
Rampur, Bhatgaon and other estates to the south and east 
of the Chhattlsgarh plain are members of this tribe. Both 
the Bhainas and Binjhwars are frequently employed as 
priests of the village deities all over this area, and may 
therefore be considered as older residents than the Gond 
and Kawar tribes and the Hindus. Sir G. Grierson also 
states that the language of the Baigas of Mandla and 
Balaghat is a form of Chhattisgarhi, and this is fairly con- 
clusive evidence of their first having belonged to Chhat- 
tlsgarh.^ It seems not unlikely that the Baigas retreated 
into the hills round Chhattlsgarh after the Hindu invasion 
and establishment of the Haihaya Rajput dynasty of Ratan- 
pur, which is now assigned to the ninth century of the 
Christian era ; just as the Gonds retired from the Nerbudda 
valley and the Nagpur plain before the Hindus several 
centuries later. Sir H. Risley states that the Binjhias or 
Binjhwars of Chota Nagpur say that their ancestors came 
from Ratanpur twenty generations ago." 

But the Chhattlsgarh plain and the hills north and east 6. The 
of it are adjacent to and belong to the same tract of country branch ^ 
as the Chota Nagpur States, which are the home of the of the 
Bhuiyas, Sir H. Risley gives Baiga as a name for a "'^^^' 
sorcerer, and as a synonym or title of the Khairwar tribe in 
Chota Nagpur, possibly having reference to the idea that 

1 In the article on Binjhwar, it was But the evidence adduced ahove appears 
supposed that the Baigas migrated east to show that this view is incorrect, 
from the Satpura hills into Chhattlsgarh. '-' Tribes and Castes, zx\.. Binjhia. 


they, being among the original inhabitants of the country, 
are best qualified to play the part of sorcerer and propitiate 
the local gods. It has been suggested in the article on 
Khairvvar that that tribe are a mongrel offshoot of the 
Santals and Cheros, but the point to be noticed here is the 
use of the term Baiga in Chota Nagpur for a sorcerer ; and 
a sorcerer may be taken as practically equivalent for a 
priest of the indigenous deities, all tribes who act in this 
capacity being considered as sorcerers by the Hindus. If 
the Bhuiyas of Chota Nagpur had the title of Baiga, it is 
possible that it may have been substituted for the proper 
tribal name on their migration to the Central Provinces. 
Mr. Crooke distinguishes two tribes in Mirzapur whom he 
calls the Bhuiyas and Bhuiyars. The Bhuiyas of Mirzapur 
seem to be clearly a branch of the Bhuiya tribe of Chota 
Nagpur, with whom their section -names establish their 
identity.^ Mr. Crooke states that the Bhuiyas are dis- 
tinguished with very great difficulty from the Bhuiyars with 
whom they are doubtless very closely connected.^ Of the 
Bhuiyars ^ he writes that the tribe is also known as Baiga, 
because large numbers of the aboriginal local priests are 
derived from this caste. He also states that " Most Bhuiyars 
are Baigas and officiate in their own as well as allied tribes ; 
in fact, as already stated, one general name for the tribe is 
Baiga." ^ It seems not unlikely that these Bhuiyars are the 
Baigas of the Central Provinces and that they went to 
Mirzapur from here with the Gonds. Their original name 
may have been preserved or revived there, while it has 
dropped out of use in this Province. The name Baiga in 
the Central Provinces is sometimes applied to members of 
other tribes who serve as village priests, and, as has already 
been seen, it is used in the same sense in Chota Nagpur. 
The Baigas of Mandla are also known as Bhumia, which is 
only a variant of Bhuiya, having the same meaning of lord 
of the soil or belonging to the soil. Both Bhuiya and 
Bhumia are in fact nearly equivalent to our word 
' aboriginal,' and both are names given to the tribe by the 

^ Crooke, l^ribes and Castes, art. ' Ibidem, ail. Bhuiyar, para. i. 

Bhuiya, para. 4. 

- Ibidem, para. 3. < Ibid£in, para. 16. 


Hindus and not originally tiiat by which its members called 
themselves. It would be quite natural that a branch of the 
Bhuiyas, who settled in the Central Provinces and were 
commonly employed as village priests by the Hindus and 
Gonds should have adopted the name of the office, Baiga, 
as their tribal designation ; just as the title of Munda or 
village headman has become the name of one branch of the 
Kol tribe, and Bhumij, another term equivalent to Bhuiya, 
of a second branch. Mr. A. F. Hewitt, Settlement Officer 
of Raipur, considered that the Buniyas of that District were 
the same tribe as the Bhuiyas of the Garhjiit States.^ By 
Buniya he must apparently have meant the Bhunjia tribe of 
Raipur, who as already stated are an offshoot of the Baigas. 
Colonel Dalton describes the dances of the Bhuiyas of Chota 
Nagpur as follows : ^ " The men have each a wide kind of 
tambourine. They march round in a circle, beating these 
and singing a ver}^ simple melody in a minor key on four 
notes. The women dance opposite to them with their heads 
covered and bodies much inclined, touching each other like 
soldiers in line, but not holding hands or wreathing arms like 
the Kols." This account applies very closely to the Sela 
and Rina dances of the Baigas. The Sela dance is danced 
by men only w^io similarly march round in a circle, though 
they do not carry tambourines in the Central Provinces. 
Here, however, they sometimes carry sticks and march round 
in opposite directions, passing in and out and hitting their 
sticks against each other as they meet, the movement being 
exactly like the grand chain in the Lancers. Similarly the 
Baiga women dance the Rina dance by themselves, standing 
close to each other and bending forward, but not holding 
each other by the hands and arms, just as described by 
Colonel Dalton. The Gonds now also have the Sela and 
Rina dances, but admit that they are derived from the 
Baigas. Another point of some importance is that the 
Bhuiyas of Chota Nagpur and the Baigas and the tribes 
derived from them in the Central Provinces have all com- 
pletely abandoned their own language and speak a broken 
form of that of their Hindu neighbours. As has been seen, 
too, the Bhuiyas are commonly employed as priests in Chota 

' Dalton, p. 147. - Page 142. 



7. Tribal 



Xagpur, and there seems therefore to be a strong case for 
the original identity of the two tribes.^ Both the Baigas 
and Bhuiyas, however, have now become greatly mixed with 
the surrounding tribes, the Baigas of Mandla and Balaghat 
having a strong Gond element. 

In Singhbhum the Bhuiyas call themselves Pdivan-bans 
or ' The Children of the Wind,' and in connection with 
Hanuman's title of Pdivan-ka-pTit or ' The Son of the Wind,' 
are held to be the veritable apes of the Ramayana who, under 
the leadership of Hanuman, the monkey-god, assisted the 
Aryan hero Rama on his expedition to Ceylon. This may 
be compared with the name given to the Gonds of the 
Central Provinces of Rawanbansi, or descendants of Rawan, 
the idea being that their ancestors were the subjects of 
Rawan, the demon king of Ceylon, who was conquered by 
Rama. " All Bhuiyas," Sir H. Risley states, " affect great 
reverence for the memory of Rikhmun or Rikhiasan, whom 
they regard, some as a patron deity, others as a mythical 
ancestor, whose name distinguishes one of the divisions of 
the tribe. It seems probable that in the earliest stage of 
belief Rikhmun v\-as the bear-totem of a sept of the tribe, 
that later on he was transformed into an ancestral hero, and 
finally promoted to the rank of a tribal god." The Rikhiasan 
Mahatwar subtribe of the Bhuiyas in the Central Provinces 
are named after this hero Rikhmun ; the designation of 
Mahatwar signifies that they are the Mahtos or leaders of 
the Bhuiyas. The Khandaits or Paiks are another subcaste 
formed from those who became soldiers ; in Orissa they are 
now, as already stated, a separate caste of fairly high rank. 
The Parja or ' subject people ' are the ordinary Bhuiyas, 
probably those living in Hindu tracts. The Dhur or ' dust ' 
Gonds, and the Parja Gonds of Bastar may be noted as a 
parallel in nomenclature. The Rautadi are a territorial 
group, taking their name from a place called Raotal. The 
Khandaits practise hypergamy with the Rautadi, taking 
daughters from them, but not giving their daughters to them. 
The Pabudia or Madhai are the hill Bhuiyas, and are the 

1 The question of the relation of the 
Baiga tribe to Mr. Crooke's Bhuiyars 
was first raised by Mr. E. A. H. Blunt, 

Census Superintendent, United Pro- 


most wild and backward portion of the tribe. Dalton writes 
of them in Keonjhar : " They arc not bound to fi;4ht for 
the Raja, though they occasionally take up arms against 
him. Their duty is to attend on him and carry his loads 
when he travels about, and so long as they are satisfied with 
his person and his rule, no more willing or devoted subjects 
could be found. They arc then in Keonjhar, as in Bonai, a 
race whom you cannot help liking and taking an interest in 
from the primitive simplicity of their customs, their amena- 
bility and their anxiety to oblige ; but unsophisticated as 
they are they wield an extraordinary power in Keonjhar, 
and when they take it into their heads to use that power, 
the country may be said to be governed by an oligarchy 
composed of the sixty chiefs of the Pawri Desh, the Bhuiya 
Highlands. A knotted string passed from village to village 
in the name of the sixty chiefs throws the entire country into 
commotion, and the order verbally communicated in connec- 
tion with it is as implicitly obeyed as if it emanated from 
the most potent despot." This knotted string is known as 
GnntJii. The Pabudias say that their ancestors were twelve 
brothers belonging to Keonjhar, of whom eight went to an 
unknown country, while the remaining four divided among 
themselves all the territory of which they had knowledge, 
this being comprised in the four existing states of Keonjhar, 
Bamra, Palahara and Bonai. Any Pabudia who takes up his 
residence permanently beyond the boundaries of these four 
states is considered to lose his caste, like Hindus in former 
times who went to dwell in the foreign country beyond the 
Indus.^ But if the wandering Pabudia returns in two years, 
and proves that he has not drunk water from any other caste, 
he is taken back into the fold. Other subdivisions are the 
Kati or Khatti and the Bathudia, these last being an inferior 
group who are said to be looked down on because they have 
taken food from other low castes. No doubt they are really 
the offspring of irregular unions. 

In Raigarh the Bhuiyas appear to have no exogamous s. Exo- 
divisions. When they wish to arrange a marriage they ^^^^ 
compare the family gods of the parties, and if these are not 
identical and there is no recollection of a common ancestor 

1 Mr. Mazunidar's monograph. 


for three generations, the union is permitted. In Sambalpur, 
however, Mr. Mazumdar states, all Bhuiyas are divided into 
the following twelve septs : Thakur, or the clan of royal 
blood ; Saont, from sdmanta, a viceroy ; Padhan, a village 
headman ; Naik, a military leader ; Kalo, a wizard or priest ; 
Dehri, also a priest ; Chatria, one who carried the royal 
umbrella ; Sahu, a moneylender ; Majhi, a headman ; Behra, 
manager of the household ; Amata, counsellor ; and Dand- 
sena, a police official. The Dehrin sept still worship the 
village gods on behalf of the tribe. 

Marriage is adult, but the more civilised Bhuiyas are 
gradually adopting Hindu usages, and parents arrange 
matches for their children while they are still young. 
Among the Pabudias some primitive customs survive. They 
have the same system as the Oraons, by which all the 
bachelors of the village sleep in one large dormitory ; this is 
known as Dhangarbasa, dhdngar meaning a farmservant or 
young man, or Mandarghar, the house of the drums, because 
these instruments are kept in it. " Some villages," Colonel 
Dalton states, " have a Dhangaria basa, or house for maidens, 
which, strange to say, they are allowed to occupy without any 
one to look after them. They appear to have very great 
liberty, and slips of morality, so long as they are confined to 
the tribe, are not much heeded." This intimacy between 
boys and girls of the same village does not, however, 
commonly end in marriage, for which a partner should be 
sought from another village. For this purpose the girls go 
in a body, taking with them some ground rice decorated 
with flowers. They lay this before the elders of the village 
they have entered, saying, ' Keep this or throw it into the 
water, as you prefer.' The old men pick up the flowers, 
placing them behind their ears. In the evening all the boys 
of the village come and dance with the girls, with intervals 
for courtship, half the total number of couples dancing and 
sitting out alternately. This goes on all night, and in the 
morning any couples who have come to an understanding 
run away together for a day or two. The boy's father niust 
present a rupee and a piece of cloth to the girl's mother, and 
the marriage is considered to be completed. 

Among the Pabudia or Madhai Bhuiyas the bride-price 


consists of two bullocks or cows, one of which is given to the 
girl's father and the other to her brother. The boy's father 
makes the proposal for marriage, and the consent of the girl 
is necessary. At the wedding turmeric and rice are offered 
to the sun ; some rice is then placed on the girl's head and 
turmeric rubbed on her body, and a brass ring is placed on 
her finger. The bridegroom's father says to him, " This girl 
is ours now : if in future she becomes one-eyed, lame or deaf, 
she will still be ours." The ceremony concludes with the 
usual feast and drinking bout. If the boy's father cannot 
afford the bride-price the couple sometimes run away from 
home for two or three days, when^ their parents go in search 
of them and they are brought back and married in the boy's 

A widow is often taken by the younger brother of the 10. Widow- 
deceased husband, though no compulsion is exerted over ^rid"^^^ 
her. But the match is common because the Bhuiyas have divorce, 
the survival of fraternal polyandry, which consists in allow- 
ing unmarried younger brothers to have access to an elder 
brother's wife during his lifetime.^ Divorce is allowed for 
misconduct on the part of the wife or mutual disagreement. 

The Bhuiyas commonly take as their principal deity the n. Reii- 
spirit of the nearest mountain overlooking their village, and S'°"' 
make offerings to it of butter, rice and fowls. In April they 
present the first-fruits of the mango harvest. They venerate 
the sun as Dharam Deota, but no offerings are made to 
him. Nearly all Bhuiyas worship the cobra, and some of 
them call it their mother and think they are descended 
from it. They will not touch or kill a cobra, and do not 
swear by it. In Rairakhol they venerate a goddess, Rambha 
Devi, who may be a corn-goddess, as the practice of burning 
down successive patches of jungle and sowing seed on each 
for two or three years is here known as rambha. They 
think that the sun and moon are sentient beings, and that 
fire and lightning are the children of the sun, and the stars 
the children of the moon. One day the moon invited the 
sun to dinner and gave him very nice food, so that the sun 
asked what it was. The moon said she had cooked her 
own children, and on this the sun went home and cooked all 

^ From Mr. Mazumdar's monograph. 


his children and ate them, and this is the reason why there 
are no stars during the day. But his eldest son, fire, went 
and hid in a rengal tree, and his daughter, the lightning, 
darted hither and thither so that the sun could not catch 
her. And when night came again, and the stars came out, 
the sun saw how the moon had deceived him and cursed 
her, saying that she should die for fifteen days in every 
month. And this is the reason for the waxing and waning 
of the moon. Ever since this event fire has remained hidden 
in a rengal tree, and when the Bhuiyas want him they rub 
two pieces of its wood together and he comes out. This is 
the Bhuiya explanation of the production of fire from the 
friction of wood. 

In the month of Kartik (October), or the next month, 
they bring from the forest a branch of the karin tree and 
venerate it and perform the karma dance in front of it. 
They think that this worship and dance will cause the 
karma tree, the mango, the jack-fruit and the mahua to 
bear a full crop of fruit. Monday, Wednesday and Friday 
are considered the proper days for worshipping the deities, 
and children are often named on a Friday. 

The dead are either buried or burnt, the corpse being 
placed always with the feet pointing to its native village. 
On the tenth day the soul of the dead person is called back 
to the house. But if a man is killed by a tiger or by falling 
from a tree no mourning is observed for him, and his soul is 
not brought back. To perish from snake-bite is considered 
a natural death, and in such cases the usual obsequies are 
awarded. This is probably because they revere the cobra 
as their first mother. The Pabudia Bhuiyas throw four to 
eight annas' worth of copper on to the pyre or into the grave, 
and if the deceased had a cow some ghi or melted butter. 
No division of property can take place during the lifetime of 
either parent, but when both have died the children divide 
the inheritance, the eldest son taking two shares and the 
others one equal share each. 
14. Physi- Colonel Dalton describes the Bhuiyas as, " A dark- 

cai appear- bfown, well -proportioned race, with black, straight hair, 

ance and > 1 x o 

occupation, plentiful on the head, but scant on the face, of middle height, 
figures well knit and capable of enduring great fatigue, but 

ri lUWIJA 319 

li^ht-fnimcd likt> the lUiulu rather tliaii i)re.seiitiiii^ the usual 
muscuhir development of the hillman." Their dress is 
scanty, and in the Tributary States Dalton says that the 
men and women all wear dresses of brown cotton cloth. 
This may be because white is a very conspicuous colour in 
the forests. They wear ornaments and beads, and are dis- 
tinctive in that neither men nor women practise tattooini^, 
though in some localities this rule is not observed by the 
women. To keep themselves warm at night they kindle 
two fires and sleep between them, and this custom has given 
rise to the saying, ' Wherever you see a Bhuiya he always 
has a fire.' In Bamra the Bhuiyas still practise shifting 
cultivation, for which they burn the forest growth from the 
hillsides and sow oilseeds in the fresh soil. This method 
of agriculture is called locally Khasrathumi. They obtain 
their lands free from the Raja in return for acting as luggage 
porters and coolies. In Bamra they will not serve as farm- 
servants or labourers for hire, but elsewhere they are more 

A woman divorced for adultery is not again admitted '^S- Social 

TT 11 1 • -11 customs. 

to caste mtercourse. Her parents take her to their village, 
where she has to live in a separate hut and earn her own 
livelihood. If any Bhuiya steals from a Kol, Ganda or 
Ghasia he is permanently put out of caste, while for killing 
a cow the period of expulsion is twelve years. The emblem 
of the Bhuiyas is a sword, in reference to their employment 
as soldiers, and this they affix to documents in place of their 

Bhulia,^ Bholia, Bhoriya, Bholwa, Mihir, Mehar. — A 

caste of weavers in the Uriya country. In 1901 the 
Bhulias numbered 26,000 persons, but with the transfer of 
Sambalpur and the Uriya States to Bengal this figure has 
been reduced to 5000. A curious fact about the caste is 
that though solely domiciled in the Uriya territories, many 
families belonging to it talk Hindi in their own houses. 
According to one of their traditions they immigrated to 
this part of the country with the first Chauhan Raja of 
Patna, and it may be that they are members of some 

^ This article is compiled from a paper taken by Mr. Hira Lai at Sonpur. 


northern caste who have forgotten their origin and taken 
to a fresh calling in the land of their adoption. The 
Koshtas of Chhattisgarh have a subcaste called Bhoriya, 
and possibly the Bhulias have some connection with these. 
The caste sometimes call themselves Devang, and Devang 
or Devangan is the name of another subcaste of Koshtis. 
Various local derivations of the name are current, generally 
connecting it with bhiilna, to forget. The Bhulias occupy 
a higher rank than the ordinary weavers, corresponding 
with that of the Koshtis elsewhere, and this is to some 
extent considered to be an unwarranted pretension. Thus 
one saying has it : " Formerly a son was born from a 
Chandal woman ; at that time none were aware of his 
descent or rank, and so he was called Bhulia (one who is 
forgotten). He took the loom in his hands and became 
the brother-in-law of the Ganda." The object here is 
obviously to relegate the Bhulia to the same impure status 
as the Ganda. Again the Bhulias affect the honorific title 
of Meher, and another saying addresses them thus : " Why 
do you call yourself Meher ? You make a hole in the 
ground and put your legs into it and are like a cow with 
foot-and-mouth disease struggling in the mud." The 
allusion here is to the habit of the weaver of hollowing out 
a hole for his feet as he sits before the loom, while cattle 
with foot-and-mouth disease are made to stand in mud to 
cool and cleanse the feet. 

The caste have no subcastes, except that in Kalahandi 
a degraded section is recognised who are called Sanpara 
Bhulias, and with whom the others refuse to intermarry. 
These are, there is little reason to doubt, the progeny of 
illicit unions. They say that they have two gotras, Nagas 
from the cobra and Kachhap from the tortoise. But these 
have only been adopted for the sake of respectability, and 
exercise no influence on marriage, which is regulated by a 
number of exogamous groups called vansa. The names 
of the vansas are usually either derived from villages or 
are titles or nicknames. Two of them, Bagh (tiger) and 
Kimir (crocodile), are totemistic, while two more, Kumhar 
(potter) and Dhuba (washerman), are the names of other 
castes. Examples of titular names are Bankra (crooked). 

II niruijA 321 

Ranjujha (warrior), Kodjit (one who has conquered a score 
of people) and others. The territorial names arc derived 
from those of villages where the caste reside at present. 
Marriage within the vansa is forbidden, but some of the 
vansas have been divided into bad and san, or great and 
small, and members of these may marry with each other, 
the subdivision having been adopted when the original 
group became so large as to include persons who were 
practically not relations. The binding portion of the 
wedding ceremony is that the bridegroom should carry the 
bride in a basket seven times round the honi or sacrificial 
fire. If he cannot do this, the girl's grandfather carries 
them both. After the ceremony the pair return to the 
bridegroom's village, and are made to sleep on the same 
bed, some elder woman of the family lying between them. 
After a few days the girl goes back to her parents and does 
not rejoin her husband until she attains maturity. The 
remarriage of widows is permitted, and in Native States is 
not less costly to the bridegroom than the regular ceremony. 
In Sonpur the suitor must proceed to the Raja and pay 
him twenty rupees for his permission, which is given in the 
shape of a present of rice and nuts. Similar sums are paid 
to the caste -fellows and the parents of the girl, and the 
Raja's rice and nuts are then placed on the heads of the 
couple, who become man and wife. Divorce may be effected 
at the instance of the husband or the wife's parents on the 
mere ground of incompatibility of temper. The position of 
the caste corresponds to that of the Koshtas ; that is, they 
rank below the good cultivating castes, but above the menial 
and servile classes. They eat fowls and the flesh of wild 
pig, and drink liquor. A liaison with one of the impure 
castes is the only offence entailing permanent expulsion 
from social intercourse. A curious rule is that in the case 
of a woman going wrong with a man of the caste, the man 
only is temporarily outcasted and forced to pay a fine 
on read mission, while the woman escapes without penalty. 
They employ Brahmans for ceremonial purposes. They 
are considered proverbially stupid, like the Koris in the 
northern Districts, but very laborious. One saying about 
them is : " The Kewat catches fish but himself eats crabs, 


and the BhuHa weaves loin-cloths but himself wears only 
a rag " ; and another : " A BhuHa who is idle is as useless 
as a confectioner's son who eats sweetmeats, or a money- 
lender's son with a generous disposition, or a cultivator's son 
who is extravagant." 

I. Origin Bhuiljia.^ — A small Dravidian tribe residing in the 

traditions. Bindranawagarh and Khariar zamindaris of the Raipur 
District, and numbering about 7000 persons. The tribe 
was not returned outside this area in 191 1, but Sherring 
mentions them in a list of the hill tribes of the Jaipur 
zamlndari of Vizagapatam, which touches the extreme south 
of Bindranawagarh. The Bhunjias are divided into two 
branches, Chaukhutia and Chinda, and the former have the 
following legend of their origin. On one occasion a Bhatra 
Gond named Bachar cast a net into the Pairi river and 
brought out a stone. He threw the stone back into the river 
and cast his net again, but a second and yet a third time the 
stone came out. So he laid the stone on the bank of the 
river and went back to his house, and that night he dreamt 
that the stone was Bura Deo, the great God of the Gonds. 
So he said : ' If this dream be true let me draw in a deer in 
my net to-morrow for a sign ' ; and the next day the body 
of a deer appeared in his net. The stone then called upon 
the Gond to worship him as Bura Deo, but the Gond 
demurred to doing so himself, and said he would provide a 
substitute as a devotee. To this Bura Deo agreed, but said 
that Bachar, the Gond, must marry his daughter to the 
substituted worshipper. The Gond then set out to search 
for somebody, and in the village of Lafandi he found a Halba 
of the name of Konda, who was a cripple, deaf and dumb, 
blind, and a leper. He brought Konda to the stone, and on 
reaching it he was miraculously cured of all his ailments 
and gladly began to worship Bura Deo. He afterwards 
married the Gond's daughter and they had a son called 
Chaukhutia Bhunjia, who was the ancestor of the Chaukhutia 
division of the tribe. Now the term Chaukhutia in 

^ This article is based on papers by Misra of the Gazetteer office, and 
Mr. Hira Lai, Mr. Gokul Prasad, Munshi Ganpati Giri, Superintendent, 
Tahsildar, Dhamtari, Mr. Pyare L^l Bindranawagarh estate. 


Chhattisc^arhi sit^nifics a bastard, and the story related above 
is obviously intended to signify that the Chaukhutia J^hunjias 
are of mixed descent from the Gonds and Halbas. It is 
clearly with this end in view that the Gond is made to 
decline to worship the stone himself and promise to find 
a substitute, an incident which is wholly unnatural and is 
simply dragged in to meet the case. The Chaukhutia sub- 
tribe especially worship Bura Deo, and sing a song relating 
to the finding of the stone in their marriage ceremony as 
follows : 

Johdr, johar Thdkur Dcota, Tiiniko Idgon, 

Do 7natia ghar men dine tumhdre nam. 

Johdr, johdr Konda, Tumko Idgon, 

Do ntatia ghar men, etc. 

Johdr, johdr Bdchar Jhdkar Tumko Idgoji, etc. 

Johdr, johdr Bftdha Kdja Tumko Idgon, etc. 

Johdr, johdr Lafandi Mdti Tumko Idgon, etc. 

Johdr, johdr Anand Mdti Tumko Idgon, etc. 

which may be rendered : 

I make obeisance to thee, O Thakur Deo, I bow down to thee ! 

In thy name have I placed two pots in my house (as a mark of 

I make obeisance to thee, O Konda Pujari, I bow down to thee ! 
In thy name have I placed two pots in my house. 
I make obeisance to thee, O Bachar Jhakar ! 
In thy name have I placed two pots in my house. 
I make obeisance to thee, O Biadha Raja ! 
In thy name have I placed two pots in my house. 
I make obeisance to thee, O Soil of Lafandi ! 
In thy name have I placed two pots in my house. 
I make obeisance to thee, O Happy Spot ! 
In thy name have I placed two pots in my house. 

The song refers to the incidents in the story. Thakur 
Deo is the title given to the divine stone, Konda is the Halba 
priest, and Bachar the Gond who cast the net. Budha Raja, 
otherwise Singh Sei, is the Chief who was ruling in 
Bindranawagarh at the time, Lafandi the village where Konda 
Halba was found, and the Anand Mati or Happy Spot is 
that where the stone was taken out of the river. The 
majority of the sept-names returned are of Gond origin, and 
there seems no doubt that the Chaukhutias are, as the story 
says, of mixed descent from the Halbas and Goods. It is 


noticeable, however, that the Bhunjias, though surrounded by 
Gonds on all sides, do not speak Gondi but a dialect of Hindi, 
which Sir G. Grierson considers to resemble that of the Halbas, 
and also describes as " A form of Chhattlsgarhi which is 
practically the same as Baigani. It is a jargon spoken by 
Binjhwars, Bhumias and Bhunjias of Raipur, Raigarh, 
Sarangarh and Patna in the Central Provinces." ^ The 
Binjhwars also belong to the country of the Bhunjias, and 
one or two estates close to Bindranawagarh are held by 
members of this tribe. The Chinda division of the Bhunjias 
have a saying about themselves: ' Chinda Raja, BJiunjia Pdik^ ; 
and they say that there was originally a Kamar ruler of 
Bindranawagarh who was dispossessed by Chinda. The 
Kamars are a small and very primitive tribe of the same 
locality. Pdik means a foot-soldier, and it seems therefore 
that the Bhunjias formed the levies of this Chinda, who may 
very probably have been one of themselves. The term 
Bhunjia may perhaps signify one who lives on the soil, from 
bhuni, the earth, and jia, dependent on. The word Birjia, 
a synonym for Binjhwar, is similarly a corruption of bewar 
jia, and means one who is dependent on dahia or patch 
cultivation. Sir H. Risley gives Birjia, Binjhia and Binjhwar ^ 
as synonymous terms, and Bhunjia may be another corruption 
of the same sort. The Binjhwars are a Hinduised offshoot 
of the ancient Baiga tribe, who may probably have been in 
possession of the hills bordering the Chhattlsgarh plain as 
well as of the Satpura range before the advent of the Gonds, 
as the term Baiga is employed for a village priest over a large 
part of this area. It thus seems not improbable that the 
Chinda Bhunjias may have been derived from the Binjhwars, 
and this would account for the fact that the tribe speaks 
a dialect of Hindi and not Gondi. As already seen, the 
Chaukhutia subcaste appear to be of mixed origin from 
the Gonds and Halbas, and as the Chindas are probably 
descended from the Baigas, the Bhunjias may be considered 
to be an offshoot from these three important tribes, 
2. Sub- Of the two subtribes already mentioned the Chaukhutia 


' P'rom the Index of Languages and - Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art. 

Dialects, furnished by Sir G. Grierson Binjhia. 
for the census. 


are recognised to be of illegitimate descent. As a consequence 
of this they strive to obtain increased social estimation by 
a ridiculously strict observance of the rules of ceremonial 
purity. If any man not of his own caste touches the hut 
where a Chaukhutia cooks his food, it is entirely abandoned 
and a fresh one built. At the time of the census they 
threatened to kill the enumerator if he touched their huts 
to affix the census number. Pegs had therefore to be 
planted in the ground a little in front of the huts and marked 
with their numbers. The Chaukhutia will not eat food 
cooked by other members of his own community, and this 
is a restriction found only among those of bastard descent, 
where every man is suspicious of his neighbour's parentage. 
He will not take food from the hands of his own daughter 
after she is married ; as soon as the ceremony is over her 
belongings are at once removed from the hut, and even the 
floor beneath the seat of the bride and bridegroom during 
the marriage ceremony is dug up and the surface earth 
thrown away to avoid any risk of defilement. Only when it 
is remembered that these rules are observed by people who 
do not wash themselves from one week's end to the other, 
and wear the same wisp of cloth about their loins until it 
comes to pieces, can the full absurdity of such customs as the 
above be appreciated. But the tendency appears to be of 
the same kind as the intense desire for respectability so often 
noticed among the lower classes in England. The Chindas, 
whose pedigree is more reliable, are far less particular about 
their social purity. 

As already stated, the exogamous divisions of the 3- i^^ar- 
Bhunjias are derived from those of the Gonds. Among '"^ ' 
the Chaukhutias it is considered a great sin if the signs of 
puberty appear in a girl before she is married, and to avoid 
this, if no husband has been found for her, they perform a 
' Kand Byah ' or ' Arrow Marriage ' : the girl walks seven 
times round an arrow fixed in the ground, and is given away 
without ceremony to the man who by previous arrangement 
has brought the arrow. If a girl of the Chinda group goes 
wrong with an outsider before marriage and becomes 
pregnant, the matter is hushed up, but if she is a Chaukhutia 
it is said that she is finally expelled from the community, 


the same severe course being adopted even when she is not 
pregnant if there is reason to suppose that the offence has 
been committed. A proposal for marriage among the 
Chaukhutias is made on the boy's behalf by two men who 
are known as Mahalia and Jangalia, and are supposed to 
represent a Nai (barber) and Dhlmar (water-carrier), though 
they do not actually belong to these castes. As among the 
Gonds, the marriage takes place at the bridegroom's village, 
and the Mahalia and Jangalia act as stewards of the cere- 
mony, and are entrusted with the rice, pulse, salt, oil and 
other provisions, the bridegroom's family having no function 
in the matter except to pay for them. The provisions 
are all stored in a separate hut, and when the time 
for the feast has come they are distributed raw to all the 
guests, each family of whom cook for themselves. The 
reason for this is, as already explained, that each one 
is afraid of losing status by eating with other members of 
the tribe. The marriage is solemnised by walking round 
the sacred post, and the ceremony is conducted by a 
hereditary priest known as Dinwari, a member of the tribe, 
whose line it is believed will never become extinct. Among 
the Chinda Bhunjias the bride goes away with her husband, 
and in a short time returns with him to her parents' house 
for a few days, to make an offering to the deities. But the 
Chaukhutias will not allow her, after she has lived in her 
father-in-law's house, to return to her home. In future if 
she goes to visit her parents she must stay outside the 
house and cook her food separately. Widow-marriage and 
divorce are permitted, but a husband will often overlook 
transgressions on the part of his wife and only put her away 
when her conduct has become an open scandal. In such 
a case he will either quietly leave house and wife and settle 
alone in another village, or have his wife informed by means 
of a neighbour that if she does not leave the village he will 
do so. It is not the custom to bring cases before the tribal 
committee or to claim damages. A special tie exists 
between a man and his sister's children. The marriage of 
a brother's son or daughter to a sister's daughter or son 
is considered the most suitable. A man will not allow his 
sister's children .to eat the leavings of food on his plate, 


though his own children may do so. This is a special 
token of respect to his sister's children. He will not chastise 
his sister's children, even though they deserve it. And it 
is considered especially meritorious for a man to pay for 
the wedding ceremony of his sister's son or daughter. 

Every third year in the month of Chait (March) the 4- Reii- 
tribe offer a goat and a cocoanut to Mata, the deity of ^' 
cholera and smallpox. They bow daily to the sun with 
folded hands, and believe that he is of special assistance to 
them in the liquidation of debt, which the Bhunjias consider 
a primary obligation. When a debt has been paid off they 
offer a cocoanut to the sun as a mark of gratitude for his 
assistance. They also pay great reverence to the tortoise. 
They call the tortoise the footstool (jpidha) of God, and 
have adopted the Hindu theory that the earth is supported 
by a tortoise swimming in the midst of the ocean. Professor 
Tylor explains as follows how this belief arose : ^ " To 
man in the lower levels of science the earth is a flat plain 
over which the sky is placed like a dome as the arched 
upper shell of the tortoise stands upon the flat plate below, 
and this is why the tortoise is the symbol or representative 
of the world," It is said that Bhunjia women are never 
allowed to sit either on a footstool or a bed -cot, because 
these are considered to be the seats of the deities. They 
consider it disrespectful to walk across the shadow of any 
elderly person, or to step over the body of any human being 
or revered object on the ground. If they do this inadvert- 
ently, they apologise to the person or thing. If a man falls 
from a tree he will offer a chicken to the tree-spirit. 

The tribe will eat pork, but abstain from beef and the s- Social 
flesh of monkeys. Notwithstanding their strictness of social 
observance, they rank lower than the Gonds, and only the 
Kamars will accept food from their hands. A man who 
has got maggots in a wound is purified by being given to 
drink water, mixed with powdered turmeric, in which silver 
and copper rings have been dipped. Women are secluded 
during the menstrual period for as long as eight days, and 
during this time they may not enter the dwelling-hut nor 
touch any article belonging to it. The Bhunjias take their 

^ Early History of J\Iaiiki)id, p. 341. 


food on plates of leaves, and often a whole family will have 
only one brass vessel, which will be reserved for production 
on the visit of a guest. But no strangers can be admitted 
to the house, and a separate hut is kept in the village for 
their use. Here they are given uncooked grain and pulse, 
which they prepare for themselves. When the women go 
out to work they do not leave their babies in the house, but 
carry them tied up in a small rag under the arm. They 
have no knowledge of medicine and are too timid to enter 
a Government dispensary. Their panacea for most dis- 
eases is branding the skin with a hot iron, which is employed 
indifferently for headache, pains in the stomach and 
rheumatism. Mr. Pyare Lai notes that one of his informants 
had recently been branded for rheumatism on both knees 
and said that he felt much relief. 


list of paragraphs 

1. Orlghi and tradition. 5. Sexual morality. 

2. Tribal subdivisions. 6. Disposal of the dead. 

3. Marriage. 7. Religiofi. 

4. The marriage ceremojiy. 8. Festivals. 

9. Social customs. 

Binjhwar,Binjhal.^ — A comparatively civilised Dravidian i. Origin 
tribe, or caste formed from a tribe, found in the Raipur and ^j'^jitjo^ 
Bilaspur Districts and the adjoining Uriya country. In 
191 1 the Binjhwars numbered 60,000 persons in the 
Central Provinces. There is little or no doubt that the 
Binjhwars are an offshoot of the primitive Baiga tribe of 
Mandla and Balaghat, who occupy the Satpura or Maikal 
hills to the north of the Chhattlsgarh plain. In these 
Districts a Binjhwar subdivision of the Baigas exists ; it is 
the most civilised and occupies the highest rank in the 
tribe. In Bhandara is found the Injhwar caste who are 
boatmen and cultivators. This caste is derived from the 
Binjhwar subdivision of the Baigas, and the name Injhwar is 
simply a corruption of Binjhwar. Neither the Binjhwars 
nor the Baigas are found except in the territories above 
mentioned, and it seems clear that the Binjhwars are a 
comparatively civilised section of the Baigas, who have 
become a distinct caste. They are in fact the landholding 
section of the Baigas, like the Raj-Gonds among the Gonds 
and the Bhilalas among Bhils. The zamlndars of Bodasamar, 
Rampur, Bhatgaon and other estates to the south and east 
of the Chhattlsgarh plain belong to this tribe. But owing 

1 This article is based on a paper by Mr. Mian Bhai Abdul Hussain, Extra 
Assistant Commissioner, Sambalpur. 


330 BINJHWAR part 

to the change of name their connection with the parent 
Baigas has now been forgotten. The name Binjhwar is 
derived from the Vindhya hills, and the tribe still worship 
the goddess Vindhyabasini of these hills as their tutelary 
deity. They say that their ancestors migrated from Binjha- 
kop to Lampa, which may be either Lamta in Balaghat or 
Laphagarh in Bilaspur. The hills of Mandla, the home of 
perhaps the most primitive Baigas, are quite close to the 
Vindhya range. The tribe say that their original ancestors 
were Bdrah bhai betkdr, or the twelve Brother Archers. ' 
They were the sons of the goddess Vindhyabasini. One day 
they were out shooting and let off their arrows, which flew 
to the door of the great temple at Puri and stuck in it. 
Nobody in the place was able to pull them out, not even 
when the king's elephants were brought and harnessed to 
them ; till at length the brothers arrived and drew them 
forth quite easily with their hands, and the king was so 
pleased with their feat that he gave them the several 
estates which their descendants now hold. The story 
recalls that of Arthur and the magic sword. According to 
another legend the mother of the first Raja of Patna, a 
Chauhan Rajput, had fled from northern India to Sambalpur 
after her husband and relations had been killed in battle. 
She took refuge in a Binjhwar's hut and bore a son who 
became Raja of Patna ; and in reward for the protection 
afforded to his mother he gave the Binjhwar the Bodasamar 
estate, requiring only of him and his descendants the tribute 
of a silk cloth on accession to the zamindari ; and this has 
been rendered ever since by the zamlndars of Bodasamar 
to the Rajas of Patna as a mark of fealty. It is further 
stated that the twelve archers when they fired the memor- 
able arrows in the forest were in pursuit of a wild boar ; 
and the landholding class of Binjhwars are called Bariha 
from bdrdh, a boar. As is only fitting, the Binjhwars have 
taken the arrow as their tribal symbol or mark ; their cattle 
are branded with it, and illiterate Binjhwars sign it in place 
of their name. If a husband cannot be found for a girl she 
is sometimes married to an arrow. At a Binjhwar wedding 
an arrow is laid on the trunk of mahua ^ which forms the 

1 Bassia latifolia. 


marriage-post, and honours are paid to it as representing the 

The tribe have four subdivisions, the Binjhwars proper, a. Tribal 
the Sonjharas, the Birjhias and the Binjhias. The Sonjharas jl^j'sions 
consist of those who took to washing for gold in the sands 
of the Mahanadi, and it may be noted that a separate caste 
of Sonjharas is also in existence in this locality besides the 
Binjhwar group. The Birjhias are those who practised 
bezvar or shifting cultivation in the forests, the name being 
derived from beivarjia, one living by bewar-^o'wmg. Binjhia 
is simply a diminutive form of Binjhwar, but in Bilaspur 
it is sometimes regarded as a separate caste. The zamlndar 
of Bhatgaon belongs to this group. The tribe have also 
exogamous divisions, the names of which are of a diverse 
character, and on being scrutinised show a mixture of 
foreign blood. Among totemistic names are Bagh, a tiger ; 
Pod, a buffalo ; Kamalia, the lotus flower ; Panknali, the water- 
crow ; Tar, the date-palm ; Jal, a net, and others. Some of 
the sections are nicknames, as Udhar, a debtor ; Marai Meli 
Bagh, one who carried a dead tiger ; Ultum, a talker ; Jalia, a 
liar ; Kessal, one who has shaved a man, and so on. Several 
are the names of other castes, as Lobar, Dudh Kawaria, 
Bhil, Banka and Majhi, indicating that members of these 
castes have become Binjhwars and have founded families. 
The sept names also differ in different localities ; the Birjhia 
subtribe who live in the same country as the Mundas have 
several Munda names among their septs, as Munna, Son, 
Solai ; while the Binjhwars who are neighbours of the 
Gonds have Gond sept names, as Tekam, Sonwani, and 
others. This indicates that there has been a considerable 
amount of intermarriage with the surrounding tribes, as is 
the case generally among the lower classes of the population 
in Chhattlsgarh. Even now if a woman of any caste from 
whom the Binjhwars will take water to drink forms a con- 
nection with a man of the tribe, though she herself must 
remain in an irregular position, her children will be considered 
as full members of it. The Barhias or landowning group 
have now adopted names of Sanskrit formation, as Gajendra, 
an elephant, Rameswar, the god Rama, and Nageshwar, the 
cobra deity. Two of their septs are named Lobar (black- 

332 BINJHWAR part 

smith) and Kumhar (potter), and may be derived from 
members of these castes who became Binjhvvars or from 
Binjhwars who took up the occupations. At a Binjhwar 
wedding the presence of a person belonging to each of the 
Lobar and Kumhar septs is essential, the reason being probably 
the estimation in which the two handicrafts were held when 
the Binjhwars first learnt them from their Hindu neighbours. 

3. Mar- In Sambalpur there appears to be no system of 
riage. exogamous groups, and marriage is determined simply by 

relationship. The union of agnates is avoided as long as 
the connection can be traced between them, but on the 
mother's side all except first cousins may marry. Marriage 
is usually adult, and girls are sometimes allowed to choose 
their own husbands. A bride-price of about eight kJiandis 
(1400 lbs.) of unhusked rice is paid. The ceremony is 
performed at the bridegroom's house, to which the bride 
proceeds after bidding farewell to her family and friends in 
a fit of weeping. Weddings are avoided during the four 
months of the rainy season, and in Chait (March) because it 
is inauspicious, Jeth (May) because it is too hot, and Pus 
(December) because it is the last month of the year among 
the Binjhwars. The marriage ceremony should begin on a 
Sunday, when the guests are welcomed and their feet washed. 
On Monday the formal reception of the bride takes place, 
the Gandsan or scenting ceremony follows on Tuesday, and 
on Wednesday is the actual wedding. At the scenting 
ceremony seven married girls dressed in new clothes dyed 
yellow with turmeric conduct the bridegroom round the 
central post ; one holds a dish containing rice, mango leaves, 
myrobalans and betel-nuts, and a second sprinkles water 
from a small pot. At each round the bridegroom is made 
to throw some of the condiments from the dish on to the 
wedding-post, and after the seven rounds he is seated and is 
rubbed with oil and turmeric. 

4. The Among the Birjhias a trunk of mahua with two branches 
marriage jg ercctcd in the marriacre-shed, and on this a dagger is 

ceremony. ° _ '^^ 

placed in a winnowing-fan filled with rice, the former repre- 
senting the bridegroom and the latter the bride. The bride 
first goes round the post seven times alone, and then the 
bridegroom, and after this they go round it together. A 


ploui^h is brou;^ht and they stand upon the yoke, and seven 
cups of water havini^ been collected from seven different 
houses, four arc poured over the brider,froom and three over 
the bride. Some men climb on to the top of the shed and 
pour pots of water down on to the couple. This is now 
said to be done only as a joke. Next morninj^ two strong 
men take the bridegroom and bride, who are usually grown 
up, on their backs, and the parties pelt each other with 
unhusked rice. Then the bridegroom holds the bride in his 
arms from behind and they stand facing the sun, while some 
old man ties round their feet a thread specially spun by a 
virgin. The couple stand for some time and then fall to 
the ground as if dazzled by his rays, when water is again 
poured over their bodies to revive them. Lastly, an old 
man takes the arrow from the top of the marriage-post and 
draws three lines with it on the ground to represent the 
Hindu trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, and the bridegroom 
jumps over these holding the bride in his arms. The couple 
go to bathe in a river or tank, and on the way home the 
bridegroom shoots seven arrows at an image of a sambhar 
deer made with straw. At the seventh shot the bride's 
brother takes the arrow, and running away and hiding it in 
his cloth lies down at the entrance of the bridegroom's 
house. The couple go up to him, and the bridegroom 
examines his body with suspicion, pretending to think that 
he is dead. He draws the arrow out of his cloth and points 
to some blood which has been previously sprinkled on the 
ground. After a time the boy gets up and receives some 
liquor as a reward. This procedure may perhaps be a 
symbolic survival of marriage by capture, the bridegroom 
killing the bride's brother before carrying her off, or more 
probably, perhaps, the boy may represent a dead deer. In 
some of the wilder tracts the man actually waylays and seizes 
the girl before the wedding, the occasion being previously 
determined, and the women of her family trying to prevent 
him. If he succeeds in carrying her off they stay for three 
or four days in the forest and then return and are married. 

If a Binjhwar girl is seduced and rendered pregnant by 5. Sexual 
a man of the tribe, the people exact a feast and compel '"°'"^i''y- 
them to join their hands in an informal manner before the 

334 BINJHWAR part 

caste committee, the tie thus formed being considered as 
indissoluble as a formal marriage. Polygamy is permitted ; 
a Binjhvvar zamindar marries a new wife, who is known as 
Pat Rani, to celebrate his accession to his estates, even 
though he may have five or six already. 

Divorce is recognised but is not very common, and a 
married woman having an intrigue with another Binjhwar is 
often simply made over to him and they live as husband 
and wife. If this man does not wish to take her she can 
live with any other, conjugal morality being very loose in 
Sambalpur. In Bodasamar a fine of from one to ten rupees 
is payable to the zamindar in the case of each divorce, and a 
feast must also be given to the caste-fellows. 

6. Disposal The tribe usually bury the dead, and on the third day 
of the they place on the grave some uncooked rice and a lighted 

lamp. As soon as an insect flies to the lamp they catch it, 
and placing it in a cake of flour carry this to a stream, 
where it is worshipped with an offering of coloured rice. It 
is then thrust into the sand or mud in the bed of the stream 
with a grass broom. This ceremony is called Kharpani or 
' Grass and Water,' and appears to be a method of disposing 
of the dead man's spirit. It is not performed at all for 
young children, while, on the other hand, in the case of 
respected elders a second ceremony is carried out of the 
same nature, being known as Badapani or ' Great Water.' 
On this occasion the jivn or soul is worshipped with greater 
pomp. Except in the case of wicked souls, who are 
supposed to become malignant ghosts, the Binjhwars do not 
seem to have any definite belief in a future life. They say, ^ Je 
maris te saris', or ' That which is dead is rotten and gone.' 

7. Reii- The tribe worship the common village deities of Chhat- 
gioti. tlsgarh, and extend their veneration to Bura Deo, the 

principal god of the Gonds. They venerate their daggers, 
spears and arrows on the day of Dasahra, and every third 
year their tutelary goddess Vindhyabasini is carried in pro- 
cession from village to village. Mr. Mian Bhai gives the 
following list of precepts as forming the Binjhwar's moral 
code : — Not to commit adultery outside the caste ; not to 
eat beef ; not to murder ; not to steal ; not to swear falsely 
before the caste committee. The tribe have gurus or 


spiritual preceptors, whom he describes as the most itinerant 
Bairagis, very Httle better than impostors. When a b(jy or 
girl grows up the Bairagi comes and whispers the Karn 
mnntra or spell in his ear, also hanging a necklace of iulsi 
(basil) beads round his neck ; for this the guru receives a 
cloth, a cocoanut and a cash payment of four annas to a 
rupee. Thereafter he visits his disciples annually at harvest 
time and receives a present of grain from them. 

On the iith of Bhadon (August) the tribe celebrate 8. Festi- 
the karma festival, which is something like May-Day or a ^^^' 
harvest feast. The youths and maidens go to the forest 
and bring home a young karma tree, singing, dancing and 
beating drums. Offerings are made to the tree, and then 
the whole village, young and old, drink and dance round it 
all through the night. Next morning the tree is taken to 
the nearest stream or tank and consigned to it. After this 
the young girls of five or six villages make up a party and 
go about to the different villages accompanied by drummers 
and Ganda musicians. They are entertained for the night, 
and next morning dance for five or six hours in the village 
and then go on to another. 

The tribe are indiscriminate in their diet, which includes 9. Social 
pork, snakes, rats, and even carnivorous animals, as panthers. ^'^'^'°'^^- 
They refuse only beef, monkeys and the leavings of others. 
The wilder Binjhwars of the forests will not accept cooked 
food from any other caste, but those who live in association 
with Hindus will take it when cooked without water from a 
few of the higher ones. The tribe are not considered as 
impure. Their dress is very simple, consisting as a rule 
only of one dirty white piece of cloth in the case of both 
men and women. Their hair is unkempt, and they neither oil 
nor comb it. A genuine Binjhwar of the hills wears long 
frizzled hair with long beard and moustaches, but in the 
open country they cut their hair and shave the chin. Every 
Binjhwar woman is tattooed either before, or just after her 
marriage, when she has attained to the age of adolescence. 
A man will not touch or accept food from a woman who is 
not tattooed on the feet. The expenses must be paid either 
by the woman's parents or her brothers and not by her 
husband. The practice is carried to an extreme, and many 

336 BINJHWAR part ii 

women have the upper part of the chest, the arms from 
shoulder to wrist, and the feet and legs up to the knee 
covered with devices. On the chest and arms the patterns 
are in the shape of flowers and leaves, while along the leg a 
succession of zigzag lines are pricked. The Binjhwars are 
usually cultivators and labourers, while, as already stated, 
several zamlndari and other estates are owned by members 
of the tribe. Binjhwars also commonly hold the office of 
Jhankar or priest of the village gods in the Sambalpur 
District, as the Baigas do in Mandla and Balaghat. In 
Sambalpur the Jhankar or village priest is a universal and 
recognised village servant of fairly high status. His business 
is to conduct the worship of the local deities of the soil, 
crops, forests and hills, and he generally has a substantial 
holding, rent free, containing some of the best land in the 
village. It is said locally that the Jhankar is looked on as 
the founder of the village, and the representative of the old 
owners who were ousted by the Hindus. He worships on 
their behalf the indigenous deities, with whom he naturally 
possesses a more intimate acquaintance than the later immi- 
grants ; while the gods of these latter cannot be relied on to 
exercise a sufficient control over the works of nature in the 
foreign land to which they have been imported, or to ensure 
that the earth and the seasons will regularly perform their 
necessary functions in producing sustenance for mankind. 



1 . Origin of the sect. 5 . Nature of the sect. 

2. Precepts of fhambdji. 6. Bishnois in the Cetttral Pro- 

3. Customs of the Bishnois in the vijices. 

Punjab. 7. Marriage. 

4. Initiation and baptism. 8. Disposal of the dead. 

9. Developnieftt into a caste. 

Bishnoi.^ — A Hindu sect which has now developed into i. Origin 
a caste. The sect was founded in the Punjab, and the "'^ ^^^'^ ^^'^'^ 
Bishnois are immigrants from northern India. In the 
Central Provinces they numbered about iioo persons in 
191 I, nearly all of whom belonged to the Hoshangabad 
District. The best description of the sect is contained in 
Mr. Wilson's Sij'sa Settlement Report (quoted in Sir E. 
Maclagan's Census Report of the Punjab for 1 891), from 
which the following details are taken : " The name Bishnoi 
means a worshipper of Vishnu. The founder of the sect 
was a Panwar Rajput named Jhambaji, who was born in 
a village of Bikaner State in A.D. 145 i. His father had 
hitherto remained childless, and being greatly oppressed by 
this misfortune had been promised a son by a Muhammadan 
Fakir. After nine months Jhambaji was born and showed 
his miraculous origin in various ways, such as producing 
sweets from nothing for the delectation of his companions. 
Until he was thirty-four years old he spoke no word and 
was employed in tending his father's cattle. At this time a 
Brahman was sent for to get him to speak, and on confess- 
ing his failure, Jhambaji showed his power by lighting a 

^ This article is compiled from Mr. Castes, and from notes taken by Mr. 
Wilson's account of the Bishnois as Aduram Chaudhri in the Hoshangabad 
reproduced in Mr. Crooke's Tribes and District. 

VOL. II 337 Z 

338 BISHNOI part 

lamp with a snap of his fingers and spoke his first word. He 
adopted the Hfe of a teacher and went to reside on a sand- 
hill some thirty miles south of Bikaner. In 1485 a fear- 
ful famine desolated the country, and Jhambaji gained an 
enormous number of disciples by providing food for all who 
would declare their belief in him. He is said to have died 
on his sandhill at the good old age of eighty-four, and to 
have been buried at a spot about a mile distant from it. A 
further account says that his body remained suspended for 
six months in the bier without decomposing. His name 
Jhambaji was a contraction of Achambha (The Wonder), 
with the honorific suffix ji. 
2. Precepts " The sayings {shabd) of Jhambaji, to the number of one 

o^jham- hundred and twenty, were recorded by his disciples, and 
have been handed down in a book {pothi) which is written 
in the Nagari character, and in a Hindu dialect similar to 
Bagri and therefore probably a dialect of Rajasthani. The 
following is a translation of the twenty-nine precepts given 
by him for the guidance of his followers : ' For thirty days 
after childbirth and five days after a menstrual discharge 
a woman must not cook food. Bathe in the morning. 
Commit no adultery. Be content. Be abstemious and 
pure. Strain your drinking-water. Be careful of your 
speech. Examine your fuel in case any living creature be 
burnt with it. Show pity to living creatures. Keep duty 
present to your mind as the teacher bade. Do not steal. 
Do not speak evil of others. Do not tell lies. Never 
quarrel. Avoid opium, tobacco, bhang and blue clothing. 
Flee from spirits and flesh. See that your goats are kept 
alive (not sold to Musalmans, who will kill them for food). 
Do not plough with bullocks. Keep a fast on the day 
before the new moon. Do not cut green trees. Sacrifice 
with fire. Say prayers ; meditate. Perform worship and 
attain heaven.' And the last of the twenty-nine duties pre- 
scribed by the teacher : * Baptise your children if you would 
be called a true Bishnoi.' ^ 

" Some of these precepts are not strictly obeyed. For 

' The total number of precepts as the prohibition of opium, tobacco, 
given above is only twenty-five, but can bhang, blue clothing, spirits and flesh 
be raised to twenty-nine by counting separately. 


instance, though ordinarily they allow no blue in their 3- Customs 
clothing, yet a Bishnoi, if he is a police constable, is allowed ^jshnois j„ 
to wear a blue uniform ; and Bishnois do use bullocks, the Punjab. 
though most of their farming is done with camels. They 
also seem to be generally quarrelsome (in words) and given to 
use bad language. But they abstain from tobacco, drugs 
and spirits, and are noted for their regard for animal life, 
which is such that not only will they not themselves kill any 
living creature, but they do their utmost to prevent others 
from doing so. Consequently their villages are generally 
swarming with antelope and other animals, and they forbid 
their Musalman neighbours to kill them, and try to dissuade 
European sportsmen from interfering with them. They 
wanted to make it a condition of their settlement that no 
one should be allowed to shoot on their land, but at the 
same time they asked that they might be assessed at lower 
rates than their neighbours, on the ground that the antelope, 
being thus left undisturbed, did more damage to their crops ; 
but I told them that this would lessen the merit (^pun) of 
their actions in protecting the animals, and they must be 
treated just as the surrounding villages were. They consider 
it a good deed to scatter grain to pigeons and other birds, 
and often have a large number of half- tame birds about 
their villages. The day before the new moon (Amawas) 
they observe as a Sabbath and fast-day, doing no work in 
the fields or in the house. They bathe and pray three times 
a day, in the morning, afternoon and evening, saying ' Bishnu ! 
Bishnu ! ' instead of the ordinary Hindu ' Ram ! Ram.' Their 
clothing is the same as that of other Bagris, except that their 
women do not allow the waist to be seen, and are fond of 
wearing black woollen clothing. They are more particular 
about ceremonial purity than ordinary Hindus are, and it is 
a common saying that if a Bishnoi's food is on the first of a 
string of twenty camels and a man of another caste touches 
the last camel of the string, the Bishnoi would consider his 
food defiled and throw it away." 

The ceremony of initiation is as follows : " A number 4- Initia- 
of representative Bishnois assemble, and before them a Sadh ^apti^m 
or Bishnoi priest, after lighting a sacrificial fire {/win), 
instructs the novice in the duties of the faith. He then 



takes some water in a new earthen vessel, over which he 
prays in a set form {BisJino gdyatri), stirring it the while 
with his string of beads {indld), and after asking the consent 
of the assembled Bishnois he pours the water three times 
into the hands of the novice, who drinks it off. The 
novice's scalp-lock {choti) is then cut off and his head shaved, 
for the Bishnois shave the whole head and do not leave 
a scalp-lock like the Hindus, but they allow the beard to 
grow, only shaving the chin on the father's death. Infant 
baptism is also practised, and thirty days after birth the 
child, whether boy or girl, is baptised by the priest (Sadh) 
in much the same way as an adult ; only the set form of 
prayer is different, and the priest pours a few drops of water 
into the child's mouth, and gives the child's relatives each 
three handfuls of the consecrated water to drink ; at the 
same time the barber clips off the child's hair. The 
baptismal ceremony has the effect of purifying the house, 
which has been made impure by the birth {sutak). 

" The Bishnois do not revere Brahmans, but have priests 
of their own known as Sadh, who are chosen from among 
the laity. The priests are a hereditary class, and do not 
intermarry with other Bishnois, from whom, like Brahmans, 
they receive food and offerings. The Bishnois do not burn 
their dead, but bury them below the cattle-shed or in some 
place like a pen frequented by cattle. They make pilgrim- 
ages to the place where Jhambaji is buried to the south of 
Bikaner ; here a tomb and temple have been erected to his 
memory, and gatherings are held twice a year. The sect 
observe the Holi in a different way from other Hindus. 
After sunset on that day they fast till the next forenoon 
when, after hearing read the account of how Prahlad was 
tortured by his infidel father, Hrianya Kasipu, for believing 
in the god Vishnu, until he was delivered by the god himself 
in his incarnation of Narsingh, the Man-lion, and mourning 
over Prahlad's sufferings, they light a sacrificial fire and 
partake of consecrated water, and after distributing sugar 
i^gur) in commemoration of Prahlad's delivery from the fire 
into which he was thrown, they break their fast." 

5. Nature The abovc interesting account of the Bishnois by Mr. 

of the sect. WilsoH shows that Jhambaji was a religious reformer, who 


attempted to break loose from the debased Hindu polytlieism 
and arrogant supremacy of the Brahmans by choosing one 
god, Vishnu, out of the Hindu pantheon and exalting him into 
the sole and supreme deity. In his method he thus differed 
from Kablr and other reformers, who went outside Hinduism 
altogether, preaching a monotheistic faith with one unseen 
and nameless deity. The case of the Manbhaos, whose 
unknown founder made Krishna the one god, discarding the 
Vedas and the rest of Hinduism, is analogous to Jhambaji's 
movement. His creed much resembles that of the other 
Hindu reformers and founders of the Vaishnavite sects. 
The extreme tenderness for animal life is a characteristic 
of most of them, and would be fostered by the Hindu belief 
in the transmigration of souls. The prohibition of liquor 
is another common feature, to which Jhambaji added that 
of all kinds of drugs. His mind, like those of Kablr and 
Nanak, was probably influenced by the spectacle of the 
comparatively liberal creed of Islam, which had now taken 
root in northern India. Mr. Crooke remarks that the 
Bishnois of Bijnor appear to differ from those of the Punjab 
in using the Muhammadan form of salutation, Saldm alaikum, 
and the title of Shaikhji. They account for this by saying 
they murdered a Muhammadan Kazi, who prevented them 
from burning a widow, and were glad to compound the 
offence by pretending to adopt Islam. But it seems 
possible that on their first rupture with Hinduism they 
were to some extent drawn towards the Muhammadans, 
and adopted practices of which, on tending again to con- 
form to their old religion, they have subsequently become 

In northern India the members of different castes who 6. Bishnois 
have become Bishnois have formed separate endogamous ^q^^^^^t^ 
groups, of which Mr. Crooke gives nine ; among these are Provinces, 
the Brahman, Bania, Jat, Sunar, Ahir and Nai Bishnois. 
Only members of comparatively good castes appear to have 
been admitted into the community, and in the Punjab they 
are nearly all Jats and Banias. In the Central Provinces 
the caste forms only one endogamous group. They have 
gotras or exogamous sections, the names of which appear 
to be of the titular or territorial type. Some of the gotras. 


Jhuria, Ajna, Sain and Ahir/ are considered to be lower 
than the others, and though they are not debarred from 
intermarriage, a connection with them is looked upon as 
something of a inesallia7ice. They are not consulted in the 
settlement of tribal disputes. No explanation of the com- 
paratively degraded position of these septs is forthcoming, 
but it may probably be attributed to some blot in their 
ancestral escutcheon. The Bishnois celebrate their marriages 
at any period of the year, and place no reliance on astrology. 
According to their saying, " Every day is as good as 
Sankrant," every day is as good as Amawas.^ The 
Ganges flows every day, and he whose preceptor has 
taught him the most truth will get the most good from 
bathing in it." 
7. Mar- Before a wedding the bride's father sends, by the 

riage. barber, a cocoanut and a silver ring tied round it with a 
yellow thread. On the thread are seven, nine, eleven or 
thirteen knots, signifying the number of days to elapse 
before the ceremony. The barber on his arrival stands 
outside the door of the house, and the bridegroom's father 
sends round to all the families of his caste. The men go 
to the house and the women come singing to the barber, 
and rub turmeric on the boy. A married woman touches 
the cocoanut and waves a lighted lamp seven times round 
the bridegroom's head. This is meant to scare off evil 
spirits. On arrival at the bride's village the bridegroom 
touches the marriage-shed with the branch of a ber or wild 
plum tree. The mother of the bride gives him some sugar, 
rubs lamp-black on his eyes and twists his nose. The bride 
and bridegroom are seated side by side on wooden boards, 
and after the caste priest (Sadh) has chanted some sacred 
verses, water is poured nine times on to the palms of the 
bridegroom, and he drinks it. They do not perform the 
ceremony of walking round the sacred pole. Girls are 
usually married at a very early age, sometimes when they 
are only a few months old. Subsequently, when the bride- 

1 Jhuria may be Jharia, jungly ; Sain - The day when the sun passes from 

is a term applied to beggars ; the Ahir one zodiacal sign into another, 
or herdsman sept may be descended 

from a man of this caste who became "^ The New Moon day or the day 

a Bishnoi. before. 


groom comes to take his bride, her family present her with 
clothing and a spinning-wheel, this implement being still in 
favour among the Bishnois. When a widow is to be married 
again she is taken to her new husband's house at night, and 
there grinds a flour-mill five times, being afterwards presented 
with lac bangles. 

The dead are never burnt, but their bodies are weighted 8. Disposal 
with sand-bags and thrown into a stream. The practice ^g^^ 
which formerly prevailed among the Bishnois of burying 
their dead in the courtyard of the house by the cattle-stalls 
has now fallen into desuetude as being insanitary. A red 
cloth is spread over the body of a woman, and if her 
maternal relatives are present each of them places a piece 
of cloth on the bier. After the funeral the mourning party 
proceed to a river to bathe, and then cook and eat their food 
on the bank. This custom is also followed by the Panwar 
Rajputs of the Wainganga Valley, but is forbidden by most 
of the good Hindu castes. No period of impurity is 
observed after a death, but on some day between the fourth 
and tenth days afterwards a feast is given to the caste- 

The Bishnois of the Central Provinces are gradually 9. Deveiop- 
becoming an ordinary Hindu caste, a fate which has several ™c"ste" ° 
times befallen the adherents of Hindu reformers. Many 
of the precepts of Jhambaji are neglected. They still 
usually strain their water and examine their fuel before 
burning it to remove insects, and they scatter flour to feed 
the ants and grain for peacocks and pigeons. The wearing 
of blue cloth is avoided by most, blue being for an obscure 
reason a somewhat unlucky colour among the Hindus. But 
they now use bullocks for ploughing, and cut green trees 
except on the Amawas day. Many of them, especially the 
younger generation, have begun to grow the Hindu cJioti or 
scalp-lock. They go on pilgrimage to all the Hindu sacred 
places, and no doubt make presents there to Brahman priests. 
They o^&x pindas or sacrificial cakes to the spirits of their 
deceased ancestors. They observe some of the ordinary 
Hindu festivals, as the Anant Chaturthi, arid some of them 
employ Brahmans to read the Satya Narayan Katha, the 
favourite Hindu sacred book. They still retain their special 

344 BISHNOI part ii 

observance of the Holi, The admission of proselytes has 
practically ceased, and they marry among themselves like 
an ordinary Hindu caste, in which light they are gradually 
coming to be regarded. The Bishnois are usually cultivators 
or moneylenders by calling. 



1. Origin of the sect. 4. BoJira graveyards. 

2. Their religious tenets. 5. Religious custotns. 

3. The Mullahs. 6. Occupatio7i. 

7. Houses and dress. 

Bohra, Bohora.^ — A Muhammadan caste of traders who i. Origin 
come from Gujarat and speak Gujarati. At the last census ° ' esect. 
they numbered nearly 5000 persons, residing principally in 
the Nimar, Nagpur and Amraoti Districts, Burhanpur being 
the headquarters of the sect in the Central Provinces. The 
name is probably derived from the Hindi byoJidra, a trader. 
Members of the caste are honorifically addressed as Mullaji. 
According to the received account of the rise of the Bohras 
in Gujarat a missionary, Abdulla, came from Yemen to 
Cambay in A.D. 1067. By his miracles he converted the 
great king Sidhraj of Anhilvada Patan in Gujarat, and he 
with numbers of his subjects embraced the new faith. For 
two centuries and a half the Bohras flourished, but with the 
establishment of Muzaffar Shah's power (A.D. 1 390-141 3) 
in that country the spread of Sunni doctrines was encouraged 
and the Bohra and other Shia sects suppressed. Since then, 
with gradually lessening numbers, they have passed through 
several bitter persecutions, meeting with little favour or 
protection, till at the close of the eighteenth century they 
found shelter under British rule. In 1539 the members of 
the sect living in Arabia were expelled from there and came 
to Gujarat, where they were hospitably received by their 
brethren, the headquarters of the sect being thenceforward 

^ This article is largely based on Muhammadans of Gujarat, and on a 
Mr. F. L. Farldi's full description of paper by Mr. Habib Ullah, pleader, 
the sect in the Bombay Gazetteer, Burhanpur. 




fixed at Surat. The Bohras are Shias of the great IsmaiHa 
sect of Egypt. The IsmaiHa sect split off from the orthodox 
Shias on the question of the succession to the sixth Imam, 
Jafar Sadik, in A.D. 765. The dispute was between his 
eldest son's son Ismail and his second son Musi, the 
Ismailias being those who supported the former and the 
orthodox Shias the latter. The orthodox Shias are distin- 
guished as believers in twelve Imams, the last of whom is 
still to come. The Ismailias again divided on a similar 
dispute as to the succession to the Khalifa Almustansir 
Billah by his eldest son Nazar or his younger son Almustaali. 
The Bohras are descended from the Mustaalians or supporters 
of the younger son and the Khojas from the Nazarians who 
supported the elder son.^ All these distinctions appear 
somewhat trivial. 

Gujarat contains two classes of Bohras : the traders who 
are all Shias and are the only immigrants into the Central 
Provinces, and a large class of cultivating Bohras who are 
Sunnis. The latter may be the descendants of the earliest 
converts and may have been forced to become Sunnis when 
this sect was dominant in Gujarat as noticed above, while the 
Shias are perhaps descended from the later immigrants from 
Arabia. The Shia Bohras themselves are further divided 
into several sects of which the Daudi are the principal. 

Mr. Farldi writes of them : ' " They are attentive to 
their religious duties, both men and women knowing the 
Koran. They are careful to say their prayers, to observe 
Muharram as a season of mourning and to go on pilgrimage 
to Mecca and Kerbala. They strictly abstain from music 
and dancing and from using or dealing in intoxicating 
drinks or drugs. Though fierce sectarians, keenly hating 
and hated by the regular Sunnis and other Muhammadans 
than those of their own sect, their reverence for Ali and for 
their high priest seems to be further removed from adoration 
than among the Khojahs. They would appear to accept 
the ordinary distinctions of right and wrong, punishing 
drunkenness, adultery and other acts generally considered 

^ Bombay Gazetteer, AInhammadans 
of Gujarat, p. 30. Sir H. T. Cole- 
brooke and Mr. Conolly thought that 

the Bohras were true Shias and not 

2 Ibidem, pp. 30-32. 


disgraceful. Of the state beyond death they hold that, after 
passing a time of freedom as evil spirits, unbelievers go to a 
place of torment. Believers, but apparently only believers 
of the Ismaili faith, after a term of training enter a state of 
perfection. Among the faithful each disembodied spirit 
passes the term of training in communion with the soul of 
some good man. The spirit can suggest good or evil to 
the man and may learn from his good deeds to love the 
right ; when the good man dies the spirits in communion 
with his soul are, if they have gained by their training, 
attached to some more perfect man, or if they have lost by 
their opportunities are sent back to learn ; spirits raised to 
a higher degree of knowledge are placed in communion with 
the High Priest on earth ; and on his death are with him 
united to the Imams, and when through the Imams they 
have learnt what they still require to know they are absorbed 
in perfection. Except for some peculiarities in their names ; 
that they attach special importance to circumcision ; that 
the sacrifice or alsikah ceremony is held in the Mullah's 
house ; that at marriage the bride and bridegroom when 
not of age are represented by sponsors or ivalis ; that at 
death a prayer for pity on his soul and body is laid in the 
dead man's hands ; and that on certain occasions the High 
Priest feeds the whole community — Bohra customs do not 
so far as has been ascertained differ from those of ordinary 

" Their leader, both in things religious and social, is the 3. The 
head Mullah of Surat. The ruling Mullah names his ^^"^^^^'• 
successor, generally, but it is said not always, from among 
the members of his own family. Short of worship the head 
Mullah is treated with the greatest respect. He lives in 
much state and entertains with the most profuse liberality. 
On both religious and civil questions his authority is final. 
Discipline is enforced in religious matters by fine, and in 
case of adultery, drunkenness and other offences, by fine, 
excommunication and rarely by flogging. On ceremonial 
occasions the head Mullah sits on his throne, and in token 
of his power has the flyflapper, chauri, held before him. As 
the Bohras enter they make three prostrations, salaams^ close 
their hands and stand before him. To such as are worthy 

348 BOHRA part 

he says ' Be seated,' to others ' Stand.' Once a year, on 
the 1 8th Rajjab, every Daudi lays his palm within the head 
Mullah's hand and takes an oath to be faithful. On this 
day when he goes to the mosque the Bohras are said to kiss 
the Mullah's footsteps and to apply the dust he treads to 
their heads and eyes." Each considerable settlement of the 
sect has a deputy Mullah of its own. 

4. Bohra Thc Sahadra or burial-place of the Bohras at Burhanpur 
graveyards, contains the tombs of three of the Surat Mullahs who 

happened to die when they were at Burhanpur. The tombs 
are in shell-lime and are fairly handsome erections. The 
Bohras support here by voluntary subscription a rest-house, 
where members of the sect coming to the city can obtain free 
board and lodging for as long as they like to stay. Mr. 
Conolly says of their graveyards : ^ 

" Their burial-grounds have a pleasing appearance, the 
tombs being regularly arranged in streets, east and west. 
The tombs themselves, which are, of course, north and south, 
the corpse resting on its right side, differ in no respect from 
those of Sunnis, with the exception of a small chirdgh takia 
or lamp-socket, cut out of the north face, just like the cavity 
for the inscription of our own tombs." 

5. Reii- Of their religion Mr. Kitts writes : - "In prayers they 
gious differ both from Shias and Sunnis in that they follow their 

customs. ■' 

Mullah, praying aloud after him, but without much regularity 
of posture. The times for commencing their devotions are 
about five minutes later than those observed by Sunnis. 
After the midday and sunset supplications they allow a 
short interval to elapse, remaining themselves in the mosque 
meanwhile. They then commence the afternoon and even- 
ing prayers and thus run five services into three." 

Mr. Thurston notes that the Bohras consider themselves 
so superior to other sects that if another Muhammadan 
enters their mosque they afterwards clean the spot which he 
has occupied during his prayers.^ They show strictness in 
other ways, making their own sweetmeats at home and 
declining to eat those of the Halwai (confectioner). It is said 

"^ J.A.S.B. vol. vi. (1837), part ii. ^ Cas/es and Tribes of Southern 

p. 847. India, art. Bohra. 

'^ Berar Census Report ( 1 8 1 8), p. 70. 


also that they will not have their clothes washed by a Dhobi, 
nor wear shoes made by a Chamar, nor take food touched by 
any Hindu. They are said to bathe only on Fridays, and 
some of them not on every Friday. If a dog touches them 
they are unclean and must change their clothes. They 
celebrate the Id and Ramazan a day before other Muham- 
madans. At the Muharram their women break all their 
bangles and wear new bangles next day to show that they 
have been widowed, and during this period they observe 
mourning by going without shoes and not using umbrellas. 
Mr. Conolly says of them : " I must not omit to notice that 
a fine of 20 cowries (equally for rich and poor) punishes the 
non-attendance of a Bohra at the daily prayers. A large 
sum is exacted for remissness during the Ramazan, and it is 
said that the dread of loss operates powerfully upon a class 
of men who are particularly penny -wise. The money 
collected thus is transmitted by the Ujjain Mullah to his 
chief at Surat, who devotes it to religious purposes such as 
repairing or building mosques, assisting the needy of his 
subjects and the like. Several other offences have the same 
characteristic punishment, such as fornication, drunkenness, 
etc. But the cunning Bohras elude many of the fines and 
daily indulge in practices not sanctioned by their creed ; 
thus in their shops pictures and figures may be purchased 
though it is against the commandments to sell the likeness 
of any living thing." 

It has been seen that when a Bohra is buried a prayer 
for pity on his soul and body is laid in the dead man's hands, 
of which Mr. Faridi gives the text. But other Muhammadans 
tell a story to the effect that the head Mullah writes a letter 
to the archangel Gabriel in which he is instructed to supply 
a stream of honey, a stream of milk, water and some fruit 
trees, a golden building and a number of houris, the extent 
of the order depending on the amount of money which has 
been paid to the Mullah by the departed in his lifetime ; 
and this letter is placed beneath the dead man's head in the 
grave, the Bohras having no coffins. The Bohras indignantly 
repudiate any such version of the letter, and no doubt if the 
custom ever existed it has died out. 

The Bohras, Captain Forsyth remarks, though bigoted 



6. Occupa- religionists, are certainly the most civilised and enterprising 
tion. g^j^jj perhaps also the most industrious class in the Nimar 

District. They deal generally in hardware, piece-goods and 
drugs, and are very keen traders. There is a proverb, " He 
who is sharper than a Bohra must be mad, and he who is 
fairer than a Khatri must be a leper." Some of them are 
only pedlars and hawkers, and in past times their position 
seems to have been lower than at present. An old account 
says : ^ " The Bohras are an inferior set of travelling 
merchants. The inside of a Bohra's box is like that of an 
English country shop ; spelling-books, prayer-books, lavender- 
water, soap, tapes, scissors, knives, needles and thread make 
but a small part of the variety." And again : "In Bombay 
the Bohras go about the town as the dirty Jews do in London 
early and late, carrying a bag and inviting by the same nasal 
tone servants and others to fill it with old clothes, empty 
bottles, scraps of iron, etc."" 

7. Houses Of their method of living Malcolm wrote : ^ " I visited 
and dress, several of the houses of this tribe at Shahjahanpur, where a 

colony of them are settled, and was gratified to find not only 
in their apartments, but in the spaciousness and cleanliness 
of their kitchens, in the well-constructed chimney, the neatly 
arranged pantries, and the polished dishes and plates as 
much of real comfort in domestic arrangements as could 
be found anywhere. We took the parties we visited by 
surprise and there could have been no preparation." The 
Bohras do not charge interest on loans, and they combine 
to support indigent members of the community, never 
allowing one of their caste to beg. The caste may easily 
be known from other Muhammadans by their small, tightly 
wound turbans and little skull-caps, and their long flowing 
robes, and loose trousers widening from the ankle upwards and 
gathered in at the waist with a string. The women dress 
in a coloured cotton or silk petticoat, a short-sleeved bodice 
and a coloured cotton head-scarf When they go out of doors 
they throw a dark cloak over the head which covers the 
body to the ankles, with gauze openings for the eyes. 

1 Crooke's edition of i/c;Z'j-^;/-y<5/;i(7«, ^ Memoir of Central India, ii. p. 
art. Bohra. in. 

2 Moor's ///«(/« Infanticide, p. 168. 



Origin mid development of the 

Their monopoly of literature. 

Absence of central authority. 

Mixed elements in the caste. 

Caste subdivisio7is. 

Miscellaneous groups. 

Sectarian divisions. 
8. Exogamy. 
g. Restrictions on marriage. 

0. Hypergamy. 

1. Marriage customs. 

1. Polygamy., divorce and treat- 
ment of widows. 

1. Ahivasi. 

2. Jijhotia. 

3. Kanaujia, Kanyakubja. 

4. Khedawal. 

5. Maharashtra, Maratha. 

6. Maithil. 


Sati or burning of widows. 


Funeral 7 ites and nioiirning. 




Daily ritual. 


The sacred thread. 


Social position. 




Caste panchdyat and offences. 


Rules about food. 








Character of Brdhmans. 










Sanadhya, Sanaurhia. 





Brahman, Baman. — The well-known priestly caste of i. Origin 
India and the first of the four traditional castes of the ^"^ ^^~ 

_ velopment 

Hindu scriptures. In 191 1 the Brahmans numbered about of the 
450,000 persons in the Central Provinces and Berar, or ^^^^^' 

^ This article is mainly compiled 
from a full and excellent account of 
the caste by Mr. Gopal Datta Joshi, 
Civil Judge, Saugor, C. P., to whom 
the writer is much indebted. Extracts 
have also been taken from Mr. W. 
Crooke's and Sir H. Risley's articles 
on the caste in their works on the 

Tribes and Castes of the United Pro- 
vinces and Bengal respectively ; from 
Mr. J. N. Bhattacharya's Hindu Castes 
and Sects (Thacker, Spink & Co., 
Calcutta, 1896), and from the Rev. 
W. Ward's View of the History, Litcra- 
tu7-e and Religion of the Hindus 
(London, 1817). 


352 BRAHMAN part 

nearly 3 per cent of the population. This is less than 
the average strength for India as a whole, which is about 
4^ per cent. The caste is spread over the whole Province, 
but is in greatest numbers in proportion to the population 
in Saugor and Jubbulpore, and weakest in the Feudatory 

The name Brahman or Brahma is said to be from the 
root brih or vrih, to increase. The god Brahma is con- 
sidered as the spirit and soul of the universe, the divine 
essence and source of all being. Brahmana, the masculine 
numerative singular, originally denoted one who prays, a 
worshipper or the composer or reciter of a hymn.^ It is 
the common term used in the Vedas for the officiating 
priest. Sir H. Risley remarks on the origin of the caste : ^ 
" The best modern opinion seems disposed to find the germ 
of the Brahman caste in the bards, ministers and family 
priests who were attached to the king's household in Vedic 
times. Different stages of this institution may be observed. 
In the earliest ages the head of every Aryan household was 
his own priest, and even a king would himself perform the 
sacrifices which were appropriate to his rank. By degrees 
families or guilds of priestly singers arose, who sought 
service under the kings, and were rewarded by rich presents 
for the hymns or praise and prayer recited and sacrifices 
offered by them on behalf of their masters. As time went 
on the sacrifices became more numerous and more elaborate, 
and the mass of ritual grew to such an extent that the king 
could no longer cope with it unaided. The employment of 
puroJdts or family priests, formerly optional, now became a 
sacred duty if the sacrifices were not to fall into disuse. 
The Brfdiman obtained a monopoly of priestly functions, 
and a race of sacerdotal specialists arose which tended 
continually to close its ranks against the intrusion of out- 
siders." Gradually then from the household priests and 
those who made it their business to commit to memory and 
recite the sacred hymns and verses handed down orally 
from generation to generation through this agency, an 

1 Crooke's Tribes and Castes, art. Brahmanism. 
Brahman, quoting Professor Eggol- ^ Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art. 

ing in Encyclopcedia Britannica, s.v. Braliman. 


occupational caste emerged, which arrogated to itself the 
monopoly of these functions, and the doctrine developed 
that nobody could perform them who was not qualified by 
birth, that is, nobody could be a Brahman who was not the 
son of a Brahman. When religious ritual became more 
important, as apparently it did, a desire would naturally 
arise among the priests to make their revered and lucrative 
profession a hereditary monopoly ; and this they were easily 
and naturally able to do by only teaching the sacred songs 
and the sacrificial rules and procedure to their own de- 
scendants. The process indeed would be to a considerable 
extent automatic, because the priests would always take 
their own sons for their pupils in the first place, and in the 
circumstances of early Indian society a married priesthood 
would thus naturally evolve into a hereditary caste. The 
Levites among the Jews and the priests of the Parsis formed 
similar hereditary orders, and the reason why they did not 
arise in other great religions would appear to have been the 
prescription or encouragement of the rule of celibacy for 
the clergy and the foundation of monasteries, to which 
admission was free. But the military landed aristocracies 
of Europe practically formed hereditary castes which were 
analogous to the Brahman and Rajput castes, though of a 
less stereotyped and primitive character. The rise of the 
Brahman caste was thus perhaps a comparatively simple 
and natural product of religious and social evolution, and 
might have occurred independently of the development of 
the caste system as a whole. The former might be 
accounted for by reasons which would be inadequate to 
explain the latter, even though as a matter of fact the same 
factors were at work in both cases. 

The hereditary monopoly of the sacred scriptures would 2. Their 
be strengthened and made absolute when the Sanskrit i"o"opoiy 

° of litera- 

language, in which they had been composed and handed ture. 
down, ceased to be the ordinary spoken language of the 
people. Nobody then' could learn them unless he was 
taught by a Brahman priest. And by keeping the sacred 
literature in an unknown language the priesthood made 
their own position absolutely secure and got into their own 
hands the allocation of the penalties and rewards promised 
VOL. II 2 A 

354 BRAHMAN part 

by religion, for which these books were the authority, that 
is to say, the disposal of the souls of Hindus in the after- 
life. They, in fact, held the keys of heaven and hell. The 
jealousy with which they guarded them is well shown by 
the Abbe Dubois : ^ " To the Brahmans alone belongs 
the right of reading the Vedas, and they are so jealous of 
this, or rather it is so much to their interest to prevent 
other castes obtaining any insight into their contents, that 
the Brahmans have inculcated the absurd theory, which is 
implicitly believed, that should anybody of any other caste 
be so highly imprudent as even to read the title-page his 
head would immediately split in two. The very few 
Brahmans who are able to read those sacred books in the 
original, only do so in secret and in a whisper. Expulsion 
from caste, without the smallest hope of re-entering it, would 
be the lightest punishment of a Brahman who exposed those 
books to the eyes of the profane." It would probably be 
unfair, however, to suppose that the Vedas were kept in the 
original Sanskrit simply from motives of policy. It was 
probably thought that the actual words of the sacred text 
had themselves a concrete force and potency which would 
be lost in a translation. This is the idea underlying the 
whole class of beliefs in the virtue of charms and spells. 

But the Brahmans had the monopoly not only of the 
sacred Sanskrit literature, but practically of any kind of 
literacy or education. They were for long the only literate 
section of the people. Subsequently two other castes learnt 
to read and write in response to an economic demand, the 
Kayasths and the Banias. The Kayasths, it has been 
suggested in the article on that caste, were to a large extent 
the offspring and inmates of the households of Brahmans, 
and were no doubt taught by them, but only to read and 
write the vernacular for the purpose of keeping the village 
records and accounts of rent. They were excluded from 
any knowledge of Sanskrit, and the Kayasths subsequently 
became an educated caste in spite of their Brahman pre- 
ceptors, by learning Persian under their Muhammadan, 
and English under their European employers. The Banias 
never desired nor were encouraged to attain to any higher 

' Hindu Manners^ Ciis/onis, and Ccretiionies, 3rd ed. p. 172. 


degree of literacy than that necessary for keeping accounts 
of sale and loan transactions. The Brahmans thus remained 
the only class with any real education, and acquired a 
monopoly not only of intellectual and religious leadership, 
but largely of public administration under the Hindu kings. 
No literature cxi.sted outside their own, which was mainly 
of a sacerdotal character ; and India had no heritage such 
as that bequeathed by Greece and Rome to mediaeval 
Europe which could produce a Renaissance or revival of 
literacy, leading to the Reformation of religion and the 
breaking of the fetters in which the Roman priesthood had 
bound the human mind. The Brahmans thus established, 
not only a complete religious, but also a social ascendancy 
which is only now beginning to break down since the 
British Government has made education available to all. 

The Brahman body, however, lacked one very important 3- Absence 
clement of strength. They were apparently never organised authority. 
nor controlled by any central authority such as that which 
made the Roman church so powerful and cohesive. Colleges 
and seats of learning existed at Benares and other places, 
at which their youth were trained in the knowledge of religion 
and of the measure of their own pretensions, and the means 
by which these were to be sustained. But probably only a 
small minority can have attended them, and even these 
when they returned home must have been left practically 
to themselves, spread as the Brahmans were over the whole 
of India with no means of postal communication or rapid 
transit. And by this fact the chaotic character of the 
Hindu religion, its freedom of belief and worship, its 
innumerable deities, and the almost complete absence of 
dogmas may probably be to a great extent explained. 
And further the Brahman caste itself cannot have been so 
strictly organised that outsiders and the priests of the 
lower alien religions never obtained entrance to it. As 
shown by Mr. Crooke, many foreign elements, both indi- 
viduals and groups, have at various times been admitted 
into the caste. 

The early texts indicate that Brahmans were in the 4. Mixed 
habit of forming connections with the widows of Raianyas elements m 

° . -' -^ the caste. 

and Vaishyas, even if they did not take possession of the 

356 BRAHMAN part 

wives of such men while they were still alive/ The sons 
of Angiras, one of the great ancestral sages, were Brahmans 
as well as Kshatriyas, The descendants of Garga, another 
well-known eponymous ancestor, were Kshatriyas by birth 
but became Brahmans. Visvamitra was a Kshatriya, who, 
by the force of his austerities, compelled Brahma to admit 
him into the Brahmanical order, so that he might be on a 
level with Vasishtha with whom he had quarrelled. Accord- 
ing to a passage in the Mahabharata all castes become 
Brahmans when once they have crossed the Gomti on a 
pilgrimage to the hermitage of Vasishtha." In more recent 
times there are legends of persons created Brahmans by 
Hindu Rajas. Sir J. Malcolm in Central India found many 
low-caste female slaves in Brahman houses, the owners of 
which had treated them as belonging to their own caste.^ 

It would appear also that in some cases the caste priests of 
different castes have become Brahmans. Thus the Saraswat 
Brahmans of the Punjab are the priests of the Khatri caste. 
They have the same complicated arrangement of exogamy 
and hypergamy as the Khatris, and will take food from 
that caste. It seems not improbable that they are really 
descendants of Khatri priests who have become Brahmans.* 

Similarly such groups as the Oswal, Srimal and Palliwal 
Brahmans of Rajputana, who are priests of the subcastes of 
Banias of the same name, may originally have been caste 
priests and become Brahmans. The Naramdeo Brahmans, 
or those living on the Nerbudda River, are said to be 
descendants of a Brahman father by a woman of the Naoda 
or Dhlmar caste ; and the Golapurab Brahmans similarly of 
a Brahman father and Ahlr mother. In many cases, such 
as the island of Onkar Mandhata in the Nerbudda in Nimar, 
and the Mahadeo caves at Pachmarhi, the places of worship 
of the non- Aryan tribes have been adopted by Hinduism 
and the old mountain or river gods transformed into Hindu 
deities. At the same time it is not improbable that the 
tribal priests of the old shrines have been admitted into the 
Brahman caste. 

^ Muir, Ancient Sanskrit Texts, i. ■'' Quoted by Mr. Crooke. 

282 sq. 

^ Quoted in Mr. Crooke's Tribes ^ Tribes and Castes oj the Punjab, 

and Castes, art. Brahman. by Mr. H. A. Rose, vol. ii. p. 123. 


The Brahman caste has ten main territorial divisions, 5. Caste 
forming two groups, the ranch-Gaur or five northern, and ^'jyjsions 
the Panch-Dravida or five southern. The boundary Hue 
between the two groups is supposed to be the Ncrbudda 
River, which is also the boundary between Hindustan and 
the Deccan. But the Gujarati Brahmans belong to the 
southern group, though Gujarat is north of the Nerbudda. 
The five northern divisions are : 

{(i) Sdraswat. — ^ These belong to the Punjab and are 
named after the Saraswati river of the classical period, on 
whose banks they are supposed to have lived. 

{])) Ganr. — The home of these is the country round 
Delhi, but they say that the name is from the old Gaur or 
Lakhnauti kingdom of Bengal. If this is correct, it is 
difficult to understand how they came from Bengal to Delhi 
contrary to the usual tendency of migration. General 
Cunningham has suggested that Gaura was also the name 
of the modern Gonda District, and it is possible that the 
term was once used for a considerable tract in northern 
India as well as Bengal, since it has come to be applied 
to all the northern Brahmans.^ 

{c) Kdnkubja or Kanaujia. — These are named after the 
old town of Kanauj on the Ganges near Cawnpore, once 
the capital of India. The Kanaujia are the most important 
of the northern groups and extend from the west of Oudh 
to beyond Benares and into the northern Districts of the 
Central Provinces. Here they are subdivided into four 
principal groups — the Kanaujia, Jijhotia, Sarwaria and 
Sanadhya, which are treated in annexed subordinate 

{d) Maithil. — They take their name from Mithila, the 
old term for Bihar or Tirhut, and belong to this tract. 

{e) Utkal. — These are the Brahmans of Orissa. 

The five groups of the Panch-Dravida are as follows : 

ia) Maharashtra. — These belong to the Maratha country 
or Bombay. They are subdivided into three main terri- 
torial groups — the Deshasth, or those of the home country, 
that is the Poona tract above the Western Ghats ; the 
Konkonasth, who belong to the Bombay Konkan or littoral ; 
^ See also article Rajput-Gaur. 

358 BRAHMAN part 

and the Karhara, named after a place in the Satara 

ib) Tailanga or AndJira. — The Brahmans of the Telugu 
country, Hyderabad and the northern part of Madras. This 
territory was known as Andhra and governed by an important 
dynasty of the same name in early times. 

(r) Drdvida. — The Brahmans of the Tamil country or 
the south of Madras, 

id) Karndta. — The Brahmans of the Carnatic, or the 
Canarese country. The Canarese area comprises the Mysore 
State, and the British Districts of Canara, Dharwar and 

{e) Gurjara. — The Brahmans of Gujarat, of whom two 
subcastes are found in the Central Provinces. The first 
consists of the Khedawals, named after Kheda, a village in 
Gujarat, who are a strictly orthodox class holding a good 
position in the caste. And the second are the Nagar 
Brahmans, who have been long settled in Nimar and the 
adjacent tracts, and act as village priests and astrologers. 
Their social status is somewhat lower. 

There are, however, a large number of other subcastes, 
and the tendency to fissure in a large caste, and to the 
formation of small local groups which marry among them- 
selves, is nowhere more strikingly apparent than among 
the Brahmans. This is only natural, as they, more than 
any other caste, attach importance to strict ceremonial 
observance in matters of food and the daily ritual of prayer, 
and any group which was suspected of backsliding in respect 
of these on emigration to a new locality would be debarred 
from intermarriage with the parent caste at home. An 
instance of this is found among the Chhattlsgarhi Brahmans, 
who have been long settled in this backward tract and cut 
off from communication with northern India. They are 
mainly of the Kanaujia division, but the Kanaujias of Oudh 
will neither take food nor intermarry with them, and they 
now constitute a separate subcaste of Kanaujias. Similarly 
the Malwi Brahmans, whose home is in Malwa, whence 
they have spread to Hoshangabad and Betul, are believed 
to have been originally a branch of the Gaur or Kanaujia, 

' Sec subordinate articles. 


but have now become a distinct subcastc, and have adopted 
many of the customs of Maratha Brfdimans. Mandla 
contains a colony of Sarwaria ' Brahmans who received 
grants of villages from the Gond kings and have settled 
down there. They are now cultivators, and some have 
taken to the plough, while they also permit widow-remarriage 
in all but the name. They arc naturally cut off from 
intercourse with the orthodox Sarwarias and marry among 
themselves. The Harenia Brahmans of Saugor arc believed 
to have immigrated from Hariana some generations ago and 
form a separate local group ; and also the Laheria Brahmans 
of the same District, who, like the Mandla Sarwarias, permit 
widows to marry. In Hoshangabad there is a small sub- 
caste of BawTsa or ' Twenty-two ' Brahmans, descended from 
twenty-two families from northern India, who settled here 
and have since married among themselves. A similar diversity 
of subcastes is found in other Provinces. The Brahmans 
of Bengal are also mainly of the Kanaujia division, but they 
are divided into several local subcastes, of which the principal 
are Rarhi and Barendra, named after tracts in Bengal, and 
quite distinct from the subdivisions of the Kanaujia group in 
the Central Provinces. 

Another class of local subdivisions consists of those e. Miscei- 
Brahmans who live on the banks of the various sacred rivers '^"^o^s 

, . groups, 

or at famous shrmes, and earn their livelihood by conducting 

pilgrims through the series of ceremonies and acts of wor- 
ship which are performed on a visit to such places ; they 
receive presents from the pilgrims and the offerings made 
at the shrines. The most prominent among these are the 
Gayawals of Gaya, the Prayagwals of Allahabad (Prayag), the 
Chaubes of Mathura, the Gangaputras (Sons of the Ganges) 
of Benares, the Pandarams of southern India and the 
Naramdeo Brahmans who hold charge of the many temples 
on the Nerbudda. As such men accept gifts from pilgrims 
they are generally looked down on by good Brahmans and 
marry among themselves. Many of them have a character 
for extortion and for fleecing their clients, a propensity 
commonly developed in a profession of this kind. Such a 
reputation particularly attaches to the Chaubes of Mathura 

1 A section of the Kanaujia. See above. 

36o BRAHMAN part 

and Brindaban, the holy places of the god Krishna. They 
are strong and finely built men, but gluttonous, idle and 
dissolute. Some of the Benares Brahmans are known as 
Sawalakhi, or having one and a quarter lakhs, apparently 
on account of the wealth they amass from pilgrims, A 
much lower group are the Maha-Brahmans (great Brah- 
mans), who are also known as Patit (degraded) or Katia. 
These accept the gifts offered by the relatives after a death 
for the use of the dead man in the next world during 
the period of mourning ; they also eat food which it is 
supposed will benefit the dead man, and are considered to 
represent him. Probably on this account they share in the 
impurity attaching to the dead, and are despised by all 
castes and sometimes not permitted to live in the village. 
Other Brahmans are degraded on account of their having 
partly adopted Muhammadan practices. The Husaini 
Brahmans of western India are so called as they combine 
Muhammadan with Hindu rites. They are principally 
beggars. And the Kalanki Brahmans of Wardha and other 
Districts are looked down upon because, it is said, that at 
the bidding of a Muhammadan governor they make a figure 
of a cow from sugar and eat it up. Probably they may have 
really acted as priests to Muhammadans who were inclined 
to adopt certain Hindu rites on the principle of imitation, 
and with a view to please their disciples conformed to some 
extent to Islam. 
7. Sect- Brahmans have also sectarian divisions according to the 

sions '^' different Vedas, which they especially study. It is held 
that the ancient Rishis or saints, like the Jewish patriarchs, 
lived far beyond the ordinary span of existence, and hence 
had time to learn all the Vedas and their commentaries. 
But this was impossible for their shorter-lived descendants, 
and hence each Veda has been divided into a number of 
Shakhas or branches, and the ordinary Brahman only learns 
one Shakha of one Veda. Most Brahmans of the Central 
Provinces are either Rigvedis or Yajurvedis, and these 
commonly marry only followers of their own Veda, thus 
forming a sort of cross set of endogamous divisions. The 
restriction on marriage may also extend to the Shakha, so 
that a man can only marry in a family of the same Shakha 


as himself. This applies in the Central Provinces mainly 
to the Yajurvcclis, who have three well-known Shakhas or 
branches called Kannava, Apastambha and Madhyandina. 
These are derived from the Shukla or White Yajurveda, 
which can be understood, while the Black Yajurveda is 
obscure and unintelligible. The Rigvedis and Yajurvedis 
have some differences in their methods of recitation. The 
Rigvedis are said to move the head up and down when they 
recite and not to use the hands ; while the Yajurvedis swing 
the hands and body from side to side. It is said that a 
Madhyandina cannot say his prayers nor take his food 
before midday, and hence the name, which means half the 
day. These points of distinction are given as stated by the 
local Brahmans, and it is not known whether they would be 
endorsed by the Pandits. The Maratha Brahmans of the 
Central Provinces are usually Rigvedis and the Kanaujia 
Brahmans Yajurvedis. Followers of the other two Vedas 
are practically not found. Among Kanaujia Brahmans it is 
also customary to ask the head of a family with which a 
marriage is proposed whether he ties a knot in the right or 
left half of his Shikha or scalp-lock during his prayers and 
whether he washes his right or left foot first in the perform- 
ance of a religious ceremony. 

The exogamous arrangements of the Brahmans are also s. Exo- 
very complex. It is said that the Brahmans are descended s^my- 
from the seven sons of the god Brahma, who were Bhrigu, 
Angirasa, Marichi, Atri, Pulaha, Pulastya and Vasishtha. 
But Pulaha only begot demons and Pulastya giants, while 
Vasishtha died and was born again as a descendant of 
Marichi. Consequently the four ancestors of the Brahmans 
were Bhrigu, Angirasa, Marichi and Atri. But according 
to another account the ancestors of the Brahmans were the 
seven Rishis or saints who form the constellation of the 
Great Bear. These were Jamadagni, Bharadwaj, Gautam, 
Kashyap, Vasishtha, Agastya, Atri and Visvamitra, who 
makes the eighth and is held to be descended from Atri. 
These latter saints are also said to be the descendants of 
the four original ones, Atri appearing in both lists. But the 
two lists taken together make up eleven great saints, who 
were the eponymous ancestors of the Brahmans. All the 



9. Restric- 
tions on 

different subcastes have as a rule exogamous classes tracing 
their descent from these saints. But each group, such as 
that of Bhrigu or Angirasa, contains a large number of exo- 
gamous sections usually named after other more recent 
saints, and intermarriage is sometimes prohibited among the 
different sections, which are descended from the same son of 
Brahma or star of the Great Bear. The arrangement thus 
bears a certain resemblance to the classification system of 
exogamy found among primitive races, only that the number 
of groups is now fairly large ; but it is said that originally 
there were only four, from the four sons of Brahma who 
gave birth to Brahmans. The names of other important 
saints, after whom exogamous sections are most commonly 
called, are Garg, Sandilya, Kaushik, Vatsya and Bhargava. 
These five appear sometimes to be held as original ancestors 
in addition to the eleven already mentioned. It may be 
noted that some of the above names of saints have a totem- 
istic character ; for instance, Bharadwaj means a lark ; 
Kashyap resembles Kachhap, the name for a tortoise ; 
Kaushik may come from the kusJia grass ; Agastya from the 
agasti flower, and so on. Within the main group exogamy 
sometimes also goes by titles or family names. Thus the 
principal titles of the Kanaujias are : Pande, a wise man ; 
Dube, learned in two Vedas ; Tiwari, learned in three Vedas ; 
Chaube, learned in four Vedas ; Sukul, white or pure ; 
Upadhya, a teacher ; Agnihotri, the priest who performs the 
fire-sacrifice ; Dikshit, the initiator, and so on. Marriage 
between persons bearing the same family name tends to be 
prohibited, as they are considered to be relations. 

The prohibition of marriage within the gotra or exo- 
gamous section bars the union of persons related solely 
through males. In addition to this, according to Hindu 
law a Brahman must not marry a girl of his mother's or 
maternal grandfather's gotra, or one who is a sapinda of 
his father or maternal grandfather. Mr. Joshi states that 
sapindas are persons related through being particles of the 
same body. It is also understood that two persons are 
said to be sapindas when they can offer pindas or funeral 
cakes to the same ancestor. The rule barring the marriage 
of sapindas is that two persons cannot marry if they are 


both as near as fourth in descent from a common ancestor, 
and the relationship is derived through the father of either 
party. If either is more remote than fourth in descent 
they apparently could marry. If the relationship of the 
couple is through their mothers in each case, then they 
cannot marry if they are third in descent from the same 
ancestor, but may do so in the fourth or subsequent genera- 
tions. It is of no importance whether the intervening links 
between the common ancestor and the proposed couple are 
male or female ; descent is considered to be male if through 
the father, and female if through the mother. In practice, 
marriages are held to be valid between persons fourth in 
descent from a common ancestor in the case of male 
relationship, and third in the case of female relationship, that 
is, persons having a common greatgrandparent in the male 
line or a common grandparent in the female line can marry. 

Other rules are that girls must not be exchanged in 
marriage between two families, and a man may not marry 
two sisters, though he can marry his deceased wife's sister. 
The bride should be both younger in age and shorter in 
stature than the bridegroom. A younger sister should not 
be married while her elder sister is single. 

The practice of hypergamy is, or was until recently, 10. Hyper 
common among Brahmans. This is the rule by which the ^^™^' 
social estimation of a family is raised if its girls are married 
into a class of higher social status than its own. Members 
of the superior classes will take daughters from the lower 
classes on payment usually of a substantial bride-price, but 
will not give their daughters to them. According to Manu, 
men of the higher castes were allowed to take wives from 
the lower ones but not to give daughters to them. The 
origin of the custom is obscure. If caste was based on 
distinctions of race, then apparently the practice of 
hypergamy would be objectionable, because it would destroy 
the different racial classes. If, on the other hand, the castes 
consisted of groups of varying social status, the distinction 
being that those of the lower ones could not participate in 
the sacramental or communal meals of the higher ones, 
then the marriage of a daughter into a higher group, which 
would carry with it participation at the sacramental marriage 

364 BRAHMAN part 

feast of this group, might well be a coveted distinction. 
The custom of hypergamy prevails somewhat largely in 
northern India between different subcastes, groups of 
different social status in the same subcaste, and occasion- 
ally even between different castes. The social results of 
hypergamy, when commonly practised, are highly injurious. 
Men of the higher subcastes get paid for marrying several 
wives, and indulge in polygamy, while the girls of the higher 
subcastes and the boys of the lower ones find it difficult 
and sometimes even impossible to obtain husbands and 
wives. The custom attained its most absurd development 
among the Kulin Brahmans of eastern Bengal, as described 
by Sir H. Risley.^ Here the Brahmans were divided by a 
Hindu king, Ballal Sen, into two classes, the Kulin (of good 
family), who had observed the entire nine counsels of 
perfection ; and the Srotriya, who, though regular students 
of the Vedas, had lost sanctity by intermarrying with 
families of inferior birth. The latter were further sub- 
divided into three classes according to their degree of 
social purity, and each higher class could take daughters 
from the next one or two lower ones. The doctrine known 
as Kula-gotra was developed, whereby the reputation of a 
family depended on the character of the marriages made by 
its female members. In describing the results of the system 
Sir H. Risley states : " The rush of competition for Kulin 
husbands on the part of the inferior classes became acute. 
In order to dispose of the surplus of women in the higlier 
groups polygamy was resorted to on a very large scale : it 
was popular with the Kulins because it enabled them to 
make a handsome income by the accident of their birth ; 
and it was accepted by the parents of the girls concerned 
as offering the only means of complying with the require- 
ments of the Hindu religion. Tempted by a pan or 
premium, which often reached the sum of two thousand 
rupees, Swabhava Kulins made light of their kid and its 
obligations, and married girls, whom they left after the 
ceremony to be taken care of by their parents. Matrimony 
became a sort of profession, and the honour of marrying a 
girl to a Kulin is said to have been so highly valued in 

^ Tribes and Castes, art. Brahman. 


eastern Bengal that as soon as a boy was ten years old 
his friends began to discuss his matrimonial prospects, and 
before he was twenty he had become the husband of many 
wives of ages varying from five to fifty." The wives were 
commonly left at home to be supported by their parents, 
and it is said that when a Kulin Brahman had a journey 
to make he usually tried to put up for the night at the 
house of one of his fathers-in-law. All the marriages were 
recorded in the registers of the professional Ghataks or 
marriage -brokers, and each party was supplied with an 
extract. On arrival at his father-in-law's house the Kulin 
would produce his extract showing the date on which his 
marriage took place ; and the owner of the house, who was 
often unfamiliar with the bridegroom's identity, would com- 
pare it with his own extract. When they agreed he was 
taken in and put up for the night, and enjoyed the society 
of his wife. The system thus entailed the greatest misery 
to large numbers of women, both those who were married 
to husbands whom they scarcely ever saw, and those of 
the higher classes who got no husbands at all. It is now 
rapidly falling into abeyance. Hypergamy is found in 
the Central Provinces among the subcastes of Kanaujia 
Brahmans. The Sarwaria subcaste, which is the highest, 
takes daughters from Kanaujias and Jijhotias, and the 
Kanaujias take them from the Jijhotias. These and other 
subcastes such as the Khedawals are also often divided into 
two groups of different status, the higher of which takes 
daughters from the lower. Usually the parents of the girl 
pay a liberal bridegroom-price in money or ornaments. It 
has never, however, been carried to the same length here as 
in Bengal, and two, or in some cases three, wives are the 
limit for a man of the higher classes. One division of 
Kanaujias is called the Satkul or seven families, and is the 
highest. Other Kanaujias, who are known as Pachhadar, pay 
substantial sums for husbands for this group, and it is reported 
that if such a marriage takes place and the bridegroom- 
price is not paid up, the husband will turn his wife out and 
send her home to her father. Certain subcastes of Sunars 
also have hypergamy and, as between different castes, it 
exists between the Dangis and Rajputs, pure Rajputs being 


366 BRAHMAN part 

held willing to take daughters in marriage from the highest 
clans of Dangis. 
II. Mar- A text of Manu prescribes : ^ " If a young woman marry 

while she is pregnant, whether her pregnancy be known or 
unknown, the male child in her womb belongs to the bride- 
groom and is called a son received with his bride," But at 
present a Brahman girl who is known to be pregnant will 
be wholly debarred from the sacrament of marriage. An 
invitation to a wedding is sent by means of grains of rice 
coloured yellow with turmeric and placed in a brass bowl with 
areca-nuts over them. All the members of the caste or 
subcaste who eat food with the host and are resident in the 
same town or close at hand are as a rule invited, and all 
relatives of the family who reside at a distance. The head 
of the family goes himself to the residence of the guests and 
invites them with expressions of humility to honour his 
home. Before the wedding the ancestors of the family and 
also the divine mothers are worshipped, these latter con- 
sisting of the consorts of the principal gods. In front of 
the wedding procession are carried kalasJias or earthen jars 
filled to the brim with water, and with green shoots and 
branches floating on the top. The kalasJia is said to 
represent the universe and to contain the principal gods and 
divine mothers, while the waters in it are the seven seas. 
All these are witnesses to the wedding. Among other 
ceremonies, presents of fruit, food, ornaments and jewellery 
are exchanged between the parties, and these are called 
cJwli-ka-bJiardna or filling the bride's breast -cloth. The 
original object of giving these presents was thus, it would 
appear from the name, to render the bride fertile. The 
father then gives his daughter away in a set form of speech. 
After reciting the exact moment of time, the hour, the day, the 
minute according to solar and lunar reckoning, the year and 
the epoch, he proceeds : "In the name of Vishnu (repeating 
the name three times), the supreme spirit, father and creator 
of the universe, and in furtherance of his wish for the 
propagation of the human species, I (specifying his full 
name and section, etc.), in the company of my married wife, 
do hereby offer the hand of my daughter — may she live 

' Chap. ix. V. 173. 


long — full of all virtuous qualities, image of Lakshmi, wife of 
Vishnu, anxious of union in lawful wedlock, ornamented and 
dressed, brought up and instructed according to the best of 
my means, by name (naming her and repeating the full 
description of ancestors, class, etc.) in the solemn presence of 
the Brahmans, Gurus, fire and deities, to you — may you 
live long — (repeating the bridegroom's name and full 
description), anxious to obtain a wife with a view to secure 
the abode of bliss and eternal happiness in the heaven of 
Brahma. Accept her with kusha grass, grains of rice, 
water and presents of money." Afterwards the father asks 
the bridegroom never to disregard the feelings and senti- 
ments of his wife in matters of religion, social pleasures and 
the acquisition of money, and the bridegroom agrees. The 
binding portion of the ceremony consists in walking seven 
times round the sacred post, and when the seventh round is 
completed the marriage is irrevocable. Among the Maratha 
Brahmans the bridegroom is called Nawar Deo or the new 
god. During the five days of the wedding he is considered 
to be a sort of king, and is put in the highest place, and 
everybody defers to him. They make the bridegroom and 
bride name each other for a joke, as they are ashamed to 
do this, and will not untie their clothes to let them bathe 
until they have done it. At all the feasts the bride and 
bridegroom are made to eat out of the same plate, and they 
put pieces of food in each other's mouth, which is supposed 
to produce affection between them. The wedding expenses 
in an ordinary Kanaujia Brahman's family, whose income is 
perhaps Rs. 20 to 40 a month, are estimated at Rs. 200 for 
the bridegroom's party and Rs. 175 for the bride's, exclusive 
of any bride- or bridegroom-price. The bulk of the expendi- 
ture is on feasts to the caste. The bride does not live with 
her husband until after she arrives at puberty, but it is 
thought desirable that she should spend long visits with his 
family before this, in order that she may assimilate their 
customs and be trained by her mother-in-law, according to 
the saying, ' Tender branches are easily bent' Among 
some Maratha Brahmans, when the bride arrives at puberty 
a ceremony called Garhbhadan is performed, and the 
husband confesses whether he has cohabited with his wife 



12. Poly- 
and treat- 
ment of 

before her puberty, and if so, he is fined a small sum. Such 
instances usually occur when the signs of puberty are 
delayed. If the planet Mangal or Mars is adverse to a girl 
in her horoscope, it is thought* that her husband will die. 
The women of her family will, therefore, first marry her 
secretly to a pipal-tree, so that the tree may die instead. 
But they do not tell this to the bridegroom. In Saugor, 
girls whose horoscope is unfavourable to the husband are 
first married to the arka or swallow- wort plant. If a 
Brahman has not sufficient funds to arrange for the marriage 
of his daughter he will go about and beg, and it is considered 
that alms given for this purpose acquire special merit for 
the donor, nor will any good Brahman refuse a contribution 
according to his means. 

Polygamy conveys no stigma among Brahmans, but is 
uncommon. Divorce is not recognised, a woman who is 
put away by her husband being turned out of the caste. The 
remarriage of widows is strictly prohibited. It is said that 
marriage is the only sacrament (Sanskar) for a woman, and 
she can only go through it once. The holy nuptial texts 
may not be repeated except for a virgin. The prohibition 
of the remarriage of widows has become a most firmly rooted 
prejudice among the higher classes of Hindus, and is the 
last to give way before the inroads of liberal reform. Only 
a small minority of the most advanced Brahmans have 
recognised widow-remarriage, and these are generally held to 
be excluded from the caste, though breaches of the rules 
against the consumption of prohibited kinds of meat, and 
the drinking of aerated waters and even alcoholic liquor, 
are now winked at and not visited with the proper penalty. 
Nevertheless, many classes of Brahmans, who live in the 
country and have taken to cultivation, allow widows to live 
with men without putting the family out of caste. Where 
this is not permitted, surreptitious intercourse may occasion- 
ally take place with members of the family. The treatment 
of widows is also becoming more humane. Only Maratha 
and Khedawal Brahmans in the Central Provinces still force 
them to .shave their heads, and these will permit a child- 
widow to retain her hair until she grows up, though they 
regard her as impure while she has it. A widow is usually 

11 S ATI OR liURNING OF ll'/DOlVS 369 

forbidden to have a cot or bed, and must sleep on the 
ground or on a plank. She may not chew betel-leaves, 
should eat only once a day, and must rigorously observe all 
the prescribed fasts. She wears while clothes only, no glass 
bangles, and no ornaments on her feet. She is subject to 
other restrictions and is a general drudge in the family. It 
is probable that the original reason for such treatment of a 
widow was that she was considered impure through being 
perpetually haunted by her husband's ghost. Hindus say 
that a widow is half- dead. She should not be allowed to 
cook the household food, because while cooking it she will 
remember her husband and the food will become like a 
corpse. The smell of such food will offend the gods, and it 
cannot be offered to them. A widow is not permitted to 
worship the household god or the ancestors of the family. 
It was no doubt an advantage under the joint family system 
that a widow should not claim any life -interest in her 
husband's property. The modern tendency of widows, who 
are left in possession, to try and alienate the property from 
the husband's relatives has been a fruitful cause of litigation 
and the ruin of many old landed families. The severe 
treatment of widows was further calculated to suppress any 
tendency on the part of wives to poison their husbands. 
These secondary grounds may have contributed something 
to the preservation and enforcement of an idea based origin- 
ally on superstitious motives. 

For a widow to remain single and lead an austere and 13. Sati or 
joyless life was held to confer great honour on her family ; |^."^o^"f °^ 
and this was enormously enhanced when she decided to 
become sati and die with her husband on the funeral pyre. 
Though it is doubtful whether this practice is advocated by 
the Vedas, subsequent Hindu scriptures insist strongly on it. 
It was said that a widow who was burnt with her husband 
would enjoy as many years in paradise as there are hairs on 
the human head, that is to say, thirty-five million. Con- 
versely, one who insisted on surviving him would in her 
next birth go into the body of some animal. By the act of 
sati she purified all her husband's ancestors, even from the 
guilt of killing a Brahman, and also those of her own family. 
If a man died during an absence from home in another 

VOL. II 2 B 

370 BRAHMAN part 

country his wife was recommended to take his slippers or 
any other article of dress and burn herself with them tied to 
her breast.^ 

Great honour was paid to a Sati, and a temple or 
memorial stone was always erected to her at which her 
spirit was venerated, and this encouraged many pious women 
not only to resign themselves to this terrible death but 
ardently to desire it. The following account given by Mr. 
Ward of the method of a sati immolation in Bengal may be 
reproduced : ^ 

" When the husband's life is despaired of and he is 
carried to the bank of the Ganges, the wife declares her 
resolution to be burnt with him. In this case she is treated 
with great respect by her neighbours, who bring her 
delicate food, and when her husband is dead she again 
declares her resolve to be burnt with his body. Having 
broken a small branch from a mango tree she takes it with 
her and proceeds to the body, where she sits down. The 
barber then paints the sides of her feet red, after which she 
bathes and puts on new clothes. During these preparations 
the drum beats a certain sound by which it is known that a 
widow is about to be burnt with the corpse of her husband. 
A hole is dug in the ground round which posts are driven 
into the earth, and thick green stakes laid across to form a 
kind of bed ; and upon these are laid in abundance dry 
faggots, hemp, clarified butter and pitch. The officiating 
Brahman now causes the widow to repeat the prayer that as 
long as fourteen Indras reign, or as many years as there are 
hairs on her head, she may abide in heaven with her husband ; 
that during this time the heavenly dancers may wait on her 
and her husband ; and that by this act of merit all the 
ancestors of her mother and husband may ascend to heaven. 
She now presents her ornaments to her friends, ties some 
red cotton on both wrists, puts two new combs in her hair, 
paints her forehead, and takes into the end of the cloth that 
she wears some parched rice and cowries. The dead body 
is bathed, anointed with butter, and dressed in new clothes. 
The son takes a handful of boiled rice and offers it in the 
name of his deceased father. Ropes and another piece of 

^ Ward's Hiftdus, vol. ii. p. 97. - Ibidem, pp. 98, 100. 


cloth are spread on the wood, and the dead body is laid 
upon the pile. The widow next walks round the pyre seven 
times, as she did round the marriage-post at her wedding, 
strewing parched rice and cowries as she goes, which the 
spectators catch and keep under the belief that they will 
cure diseases. The widow then lies down on the fatal pile 
by the side of the dead body. The bodies arc bound 
together with ropes and the faggots placed over them. The 
son, averting his head, puts fire to the face of his father, and 
at the same moment several persons light the pile at different 
sides, when the women and mourners set up cries. More 
faggots are hastily brought and thrown over the pile, and 
two bamboo levers are pressed over them to hold down the 
bodies and the pile. Several persons are employed in 
holding down these levers. More clarified butter, pitch and 
faggots are thrown on to the pile till the bodies are con- 
sumed. This may take about two hours, but I conceive the 
woman must be dead in a few minutes after the fire has been 

As showing the tenacity with which women sometimes 
adhered to their resolve to be burned with their husbands, and 
thus, as they believed, resume their conjugal life in heaven, 
the following account by Sir William Sleeman, in his Rambles 
and Recollections^ of a sati at Jubbulpore may be given : 

" At Gopalpur on the Nerbudda are some very pretty 
temples built for the most part to the memory of women who 
have burned themselves with the remains of their husbands, 
and on the very spot where the cremation occurred. Among 
them was one recently raised over the ashes of one of the 
most extraordinary old bodies I had ever seen, who burned 
herself in my presence in 1829. In March 1828 I had 
issued a proclamation prohibiting any one from aiding or 
assisting in sati, and distinctly stating that to bring one 
ounce of wood for the purpose would be considered as so 
doing. Subsequently, on Tuesday, 24th November, I had an 
application from the heads of the most respectable and 
most extensive family of Brahmans in the District, to suffer 
this old woman to burn herself with the remains of her 
husband, Umeid Singh Upadhya, who had that morning 
died upon the banks of the Nerbudda. I threatened to 

372 BRAHMAN part 

enforce my order and punish severely any man who assisted ; 
and placed a police guard for the purpose of seeing that 
no one did so. The old woman remained by the edge of the 
water without eating or drinking. Next day the body of 
her husband was burned in the presence of several thousand 
spectators, who had assembled to see ^he.* sati. The sons 
and grandsons of the old woman remained with her, urging 
her to desist from her resolve, while her other relatives 
surrounded my house urging me to allow her to burn. All 
the day she remained sitting upon a bare rock in the bed 
of the Nerbudda, refusing every kind of sustenance, and 
exposed to the intense heat of the sun by day and the severe 
cold of the night, with only a thin sheet thrown over her 
shoulders. On the next day, Thursday, to cut off all hope 
of her being moved from her purpose, she put on the dhujja 
or coarse red turban and broke her bracelets in pieces, by 
which she became dead in law and for ever excluded from 
caste. Should she choose to live after this she could never 
return to her family. On the morning of Saturday, the 
fourth day after the death, I rode out ten miles to the spot, 
and found the poor old widow sitting with the dhujja round 
her head, a brass plate before her with undressed rice and 
flowers, and a cocoanut in each hand. She talked very 
collectedly, telling me that she had determined to mix her 
ashes with those of her departed husband, and should 
patiently await my permission to do so, assured that God 
would enable her to sustain life till that was given, though 
she dared not eat or drink. Looking at the sun, then rising 
before her over a long and beautiful reach of the Nerbudda, 
she said calmly : ' My soul has been for five days with my 
husband's near that sun ; nothing but my earthly frame is 
left, and this I know you will in time suffer to be mixed 
with the ashes of his in yonder pit, because it is not in your 
nature wantonly to prolong the miseries of a poor old woman.' 
I told her that my object and duty was to save and preserve 
her ; I was come to urge her to live and keep her family 
from the disgrace of being thought her murderers. I tried 
to work upon her pride and fears. I told her that the rent- 
free lands on which her family had long subsisted might be 
resumed by Government if her children permitted her to do 

II SAT I OR miRNINC, O/' 117/)01VS 373 

lliis act ; and that no brick or stone should ever mark the 
place of her death ; but if she would live, a splendid habita- 
tion should be made for her among the temples, and an 
allowance given her from the rent-free lands. She smiled, 
but held out her arm and said, ' My pulse has long ceased to 
beat, for my spirit has departed, and I have nothing left but 
a little earth that I wish to mix with the ashes of my 
husband. I shall suffer nothing in burning, and if you wish 
proof order some fire, and you shall see this arm consumed 
without giving me any pain.' I did not attempt to feel her 
pulse, but some of my people did, and declared that it had 
ceased to be perceptible. At this time every native present 
believed that she was incapable of suffering pain, and her 
end confirmed them in their opinion. Satisfied myself that 
it would be unavailing to attempt to save her life, I sent for 
all the principal members of the family, and consented that 
she should be suffered to burn herself if they would enter 
into engagements that no other member of their family 
should ever do the same. This they all agreed to, and the 
papers having been drawn out in due form about midday, I 
sent down notice to the old lady, who seemed extremely 
pleased and thankful. The ceremonies of bathing were gone 
through before three, while the wood and other combustible 
materials for a strong fire were collected and put into the 
pit. After bathing she called for a fan (betel-leaf) and ate 
it, then rose up, and with one arm on the shoulder of her 
eldest son, and the other on that of her nephew, approached 
the fire. As she rose up fire was set to the pile, and it was 
instantly in a blaze. The distance was about one hundred 
and fifty yards ; she came on with a calm and cheerful 
countenance, stopped once, and casting her eyes upwards 
said, ' Why have they kept me five days from thee, my 
husband ? ' On coming to the sentries her supports stopped, 
she walked round the pit, paused a moment ; and while 
muttering a prayer threw some flowers into the fire. She 
then walked deliberately and steadily to the brink, stepped 
into the centre of the flame, sat down, and leaning back in 
the midst as if reposing upon a couch, was consumed without 
uttering a shriek or betraying one sign of agony." 

In cases, however, where women shrank from the flames 

rites and 

374 BRAHMAN part 

they were frequently forced into them, as it was a terrible 
disgrace to their families that they should recoil on the scene 
of the sacrifice. Opium and other drugs were also ad- 
ministered to stupefy the woman and prevent her from feeling 
pain. Widows were sometimes buried alive with their dead 
husbands. The practice of sati was finally prohibited in 
1829, without exciting the least discontent. 
14. Funeral The bodics of children dying before they are named, 

or before the tonsure ceremony is performed on them, are 
buried, and those of other persons are burnt. In the grave 
of a small child some of its mother's milk, or, if this is not 
available, cow's milk in a leaf-cup or earthen vessel, is placed. 
Before a body is burnt cakes of wheat-flour are put on the 
face, breast and both shoulders, and a coin is always 
deposited for the purchase of the site. Mourning or impurity 
is observed for varying periods, according to the nearness of 
relationship. For a child, relatives other than the parents 
have only to take a bath to remove the impurity caused by 
the death. In a small town or village all Brahmans of the 
same subcaste living in the place are impure from the time of 
the death until cremation has taken place. After the funeral 
the chief mourner performs the sJirdddJi ceremony, offering 
piiidas or cakes of rice, with libations of water, to the dead. 
Presents are made to Brahmans for the use of the dead 
man in the other world, and these are sometimes very 
valuable, as it is thought that the spirit will thereby be 
profited. Such presents are taken by the Maha-Brahman, 
who is much despised. When a late zamlndar of Khariar 
died, Rs. 2000 were given to the Maha-Brahman for the use 
of his soul in the next world. The funeral rites are 
performed by an ordinary Brahman, known as Malai, who 
may receive presents after the period of impurity has 
expired. Formerly a calf was let loose in the name of the 
deceased after being branded with the mark of a trident to 
dedicate it to Siva, and allowed to wander free thenceforth. 
Sometimes it was formally married to three or four female 
calves, and these latter were presented to Brahmans. Some- 
times the calf was brought to stand over the dying man and 
water poured down its tail into his mouth. The practice 
of letting loose a male calf is now declining, as these animals 


arc a great nuisance to the crops, and cultivators put them 
in the pound. The calf is therefore also presented to a 
Brfdiman. It is believed that the sJirdddJi ceremony is 
necessary to unite the dead man's spirit with the Pitris or 
ancestors, and without this it wanders homeless. Some 
think that the ancestors dwell on the under or dark side of 
the moon. Those descendants who can offer the pindas or 
funeral cakes to the same ancestor are called Sapindas or 
relatives, and the man who fills the office of chief mourner 
thereby becomes the dead man's heir. Persons who have 
died a violent death or have been executed are not entitled 
to the ordinary funeral oblations, and cannot at once be 
united with the ancestors. But one year after the death 
an effigy of the deceased person is made in kusha grass and 
burnt, with all the ordinary funeral rites, and offerings are 
made to his spirit as if he had died on this occasion. If 
the death was caused by snake-bite a gold snake is made 
and presented to a Brahman before this ceremony is begun. 
This is held to be the proper funeral ceremony which unites 
his spirit with the ancestors. Formerly in Madras if a man 
died during the last five days of the waning of the moon it 
was considered very unlucky. In order to escape evil effects 
to the relatives a special opening was made in the wall of 
the house, through which the body was carried, and the 
house itself was afterwards abandoned for three to six 
months.^ A similar superstition prevails in the Central 
Provinces about a man dying in the Mul Nakshatra or 
lunar asterism, which is perhaps the same or some similar 
period. In this case it is thought that the deaths of four other 
members of the household are portended, and to avert this four 
human figures are made of flour or grass and burnt with the 
corpse. According to the Abbe Dubois if a man died on a 
Saturday it was thought that another death would occur 
in the family, and to avert this a living animal, such as a 
ram, goat or fowl, was offered with the corpse.^ 

The religion of the Brahmans is Hinduism, of which 15. Reii- 
they are the priests and exponents. Formerly the Brahman ^'°"" 
considered himself as a part of Brahma, and hence a god. 

^ Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies, by the Abbe Dubois, 3rd ed. p. 499. 

2 Ibidem, p. 500. 


376 BRAHMAN part 

This belief has decayed, but the gods are still held to reside 
in the body ; Siva in the crown of the head, Vishnu in the 
chest, Brahma in the navel, Indra in the genitals and 
Ganesh in the rectum. Most Brahmans belong to a sect 
worshipping especially Siva or Vishnu, or Rama and 
Krishna, the incarnations of the latter god, or Sakti, the 
female principle of energy of Siva. But as a rule Brahmans, 
whether of the Sivite or Vishnuite sects, abstain from flesh 
meat and are averse to the killing of any living thing. The 
following account of the daily ritual prayers of a Benares 
Brahman may be reproduced from M. Andre Chevrillon's 
Romantic India} as, though possibly not altogether accurate 
in points of detail, it gives an excellent idea of their infinitely 
complicated nature : 
16. Daily " Here is the daily life of one of the twenty-five thousand 

Brahmans of Benares. He rises before the dawn, and his 
first care is to look at an object of good omen. If he sees 
a crow at his left, a kite, a snake, a cat, a hare, a jackal, an 
empty jar, a smoking fire, a wood-pile, a widow, a man 
blind of one eye, he is threatened with great dangers 
during the day. If he intended to make a journey, he puts 
it off. But if he sees a cow, a horse, an elephant, a parrot, 
a lizard, a clear-burning fire, a virgin, all will go well. If 
he should sneeze once, he may count upon some special 
good fortune ; but if twice some disaster will happen to 
him. If he yawns some demon may enter his body. 
Having avoided all objects of evil omen, the Brahman drops 
into the endless routine of his religious rites. Under 
penalty of rendering all the day's acts worthless, he must 
wash his teeth at the bank of a sacred stream or lake, 
reciting a special mantra, which ends in this ascription : ' O 
Ganges, daughter of Vishnu, thou springest from Vishnu's 
foot, thou art beloved by him ! Remove from us the stains 
of sin and birth, and until death protect us thy servants ! ' 
He then rubs his body with ashes, saying : ' Homage to 
Siva, homage to the source of all birth ! May he protect 
me during all births ! ' He traces the sacred signs upon his 
forehead — the three vertical lines representing the foot of 
Vishnu, or the three horizontal lines which symbolise the 
^ London, Ileinemann (1897), pp. 84-91. 


trident of Siva — and twists into a knot the hair left by the 
razor on the top of his head, that no im[)urity may fall 
from it to pollute the sacred river. 

" He is now ready to begin the ceremonies of the morning 
{sandhya), those which I have just observed on the banks 
of the river. Minutely and mechanically each Brahman 
performs by himself these rites of prescribed acts and 
gestures. First the internal ablution : the worshipper takes 
water in the hollow of his hand, and, letting it fall from 
above into his mouth, cleanses his body and soul. Mean- 
while he mentally invokes the names of Vishnu, saying, 
' Glory to Keshava, to Narayana, to Madhava, to Govinda,' 
and so on. 

" The second rite is the exercise or ' discipline ' of the 
respiration {prajayavia). Here there are three acts : first, 
the worshipper compresses the right nostril with the thumb, 
and drives the breath through the left ; second, he inhales 
through the left nostril, then compresses it, and inhales 
through the other ; third, he stops the nose completely with 
thumb and forefinger, and holds his breath as long as 
possible. All these acts must be done before sunrise, and 
prepare for what is to follow. Standing on the water's edge, 
he utters solemnly the famous syllable OM, pronouncing it 
auin, with a length equalling that of three letters. It recalls 
to him the three persons of the Hindu trinity : Brahma, 
who creates ; Vishnu, who preserves ; Siva, who destroys. 
More noble than any other word, imperishable, says Manu, 
it is eternal as Brahma himself. It is not a sign, but a being, 
a force ; a force which constrains the gods, superior to them, 
the very essence of all things. Mysterious operations of the 
mind, strange associations of ideas, from which spring 
conceptions like these ! Having uttered this ancient and 
formidable syllable, the man calls by their names the three 
worlds : earth, air, sky ; and the four superior heavens. He 
then turns towards the east, and repeats the verse ^ from the 
Rig- Veda : ' Let us meditate upon the resplendent glory of 
the divine vivifier, that it may enlighten our minds.' As he 
says the last words he takes water in the palm of his hand 
and pours it upon the top of his head. ' Waters,' he says, 

' This is the famous Gayatri. 

378 BRAHMAN part 

' give me strength and vigour that I may rejoice. Like 
loving mothers, bless us, penetrate us with your sacred 
essence. We come to wash ourselves from the pollution of 
sins : make us fruitful and prosperous.' Then follow other 
ablutions, other mantras, verses from the Rig-Veda, and this 
hymn, which relates the origin of all things : ' From the 
burning heat came out all things. Yes, the complete order 
of the world ; Night, the throbbing Ocean, and after the 
throbbing Ocean, Time, which separates Light from 
Darkness. All mortals are its subjects. It is this which 
disposes of all things, and has made, one after another, the 
sun, the sky, the earth, the intermediate air.' This hymn, 
says Manu, thrice repeated, effaces the gravest sins. 

" About this time, beyond the sands of the opposite shore 
of the Ganges, the sun appears. As soon as its brilliant 
disc becomes visible the multitude welcome it, and salute it 
with ' the offering of water.' This is thrown into the air, 
either from a vase or from the hand. Thrice the worshipper, 
standing in the river up to his waist, flings the water towards 
the sun. The farther and wider he flings it, the greater the 
virtue attributed to this act. Then the Brahman, seated 
upon his heels, fulfils the most sacred of his religious duties : 
he meditates upon his fingers. For the fingers are sacred, 
inhabited by different manifestations of Vishnu ; the thumb 
by Govinda, the index-finger by Madhava, the middle finger 
by Hrikesa, the third by Trivikama and the little finger by 
Vishnu himself. ' Homage to the two thumbs,' says the 
Brahman, ' to the two index-fingers, to the two middle 
fingers, to the two " unnamed fingers," to the two little fingers, 
to the two palms, to the two backs of the hands.' Then he 
touches the various parts of the body, and lastly, the right 
ear, the most sacred of all, where reside fire, water, the sun 
and the moon. He then takes a red bag (gomukhi), into 
which he plunges his hand, and by contortions of the fingers 
rapidly represents the chief incarnations of Vishnu : a fish, 
a tortoise, a wild boar, a lion, a slip-knot, a garland.^ 

" The second part of the service is no less rich than the 
first in ablutions and mantras. The Brahman invokes the 

' It is not known how a slip-knot incarnation of Vishnu. For the incaina- 
and a garland are connected with any tions see articles Vaishnava sect. 


sun, * Mitra, who regards all creatures with unchani^infr 
gaze/ and the Dawns, ' brilliant children of the sky,' the 
earliest divinities of our Aryan race. lie extols the world 
of Brahma, that of Siva, that of Vishnu ; recites passages 
from the Mahabharata, the Puranas, all the first hymn of the 
Rig- Veda, the first lines of the second, the first words of the 
principal Vedas, of the Yajur, the Sama, and the Atharva, 
then fragments of grammar, inspired prosodies, and, in 
conclusion, the first words of the book of the Laws of 
Yajnavalkya, the philosophic Sutras : and finally ends the 
ceremony with three kinds of ablutions, which are called the 
refreshing of the gods, of the sages and of the ancestors. 

" First, placing his sacred cord upon the left shoulder, the 
Brahman takes up water in the right hand, and lets it run 
off his extended fingers. To refresh the sages, the cord 
must hang about the neck, and the water run over the side 
of the hand between the thumb and the forefinger, which is 
bent back. For the ancestors, the cord passes over the 
right shoulder, and the water falls from the hand in the 
same way as for the sages. ' Let the fathers be refreshed,' 
says the prayer, ' may this water serve all those who inhabit 
the seven worlds, as far as to Brahma's dwelling, even 
though their number be greater than thousands of millions 
of families. May this water, consecrated by my cord, be 
accepted by the men of my race who have left no sons.' 

" With this prayer the morning service ends. Now, 
remember that this worship is daily, that these formulas 
must be pronounced, these movements of the hands made with 
mechanical precision ; that if the worshipper forgets qne of 
the incarnations of Vishnu which he is to figure with his 
fingers, if he stop his left nostril when it should be the right, 
the entire ceremony loses its efficacy ; that, not to go astray 
amid this multitude of words and gestures required for each 
rite, he is obliged to use mnemotechnic methods ; that there 
are five of these for each series of formulas ; that his atten- 
tion always strained and always directed toward the externals 
of the cult, does not leave his mind a moment in which to 
reflect upon the profound meaning of some of these prayers, 
and you will comprehend the extraordinary scene that the 
banks of the Ganges at Benares present every morning ; 

38o BRAHMAN part 

this anxious and demented multitude, these gestures, eager 
and yet methodical, this rapid movement of the lips, the 
fixed gaze of these men and women who, standing in the 
water, seem not even to see their neighbours, and count 
mentally like men in the delirium of a fever. Remember 
that there are ceremonies like these in the afternoon and also 
in the evening, and that in the intervals, in the street, in the 
house at meals, when going to bed, similar rites no less 
minute pursue the Brahman, all preceded by the exercises 
of respiration, the enunciation of the syllable OM, and the 
invocation of the principal gods. It is estimated that 
between daybreak and noon he has scarcely an hour of rest 
from the performance of these rites. After the great powers 
of nature, the Ganges, the Dawn, and the Sun, he goes to 
worship in their temples the representations of divinity, the 
sacred trees, finally the cows, to whom he offers flowers. 
In his own dwelling other divinities await him, five black 
stones,^ representing Siva, Ganesa, Surya, Devi and Vishnu, 
arranged according to the cardinal points : one towards the 
north, a second to the south-east, a third to the south-west, 
a fourth to the north-west, and one in the centre, this order 
changing according as the worshipper regards one god or 
another as most important ; then there is a shell, a bell — 
to which, kneeling, he offers flowers — and, lastly, a vase, 
whose mouth contains Vishnu, the neck Rudra, the paunch 
Brahma, while at the bottom repose the three divine mothers, 
the Ganges, the Indus, and the Jumna. 

" This is the daily cult of the Brahman of Benares, and on 
holidjiys it is still further complicated. Since the great 
epoch of Brahmanism it has remained the same. Some 
details may alter, but as a whole it has always been thus 
tyrannical and thus extravagant. As far back as the 
Upanishads appears the same faith in the power of articulate 
speech, the same imperative and innumerable prescriptions, 
the same singular formulas, the same enumeration of grotesque 

1 In the Central Provinces Ganpati black stone or Saligram. Besides 

is represented by a round red stone, these every Brahman will have a special 

Surya by a rock crystal or the Swastik family god, who may be one of the 

sign, Devi by an image in brass or by above or another deity, as Rama or 

a stone brought from her famous temple Krishna, 
at Mahur, and Vishnu by the round 


gestures. Every day, for more than twenty-five hundred years, 
since Buddhism was a protest a<^ainst the tyranny and 
absurdity of rites, has this race mechanically passed through 
this machinery, resulting in what mental malformations, what 
habitual attitudes of mind and will, the race is now too 
different from ourselves for us to be able to conceive." 

Secular Brahmans now, however, greatly abridge the 
length of their prayers, and an hour or an hour and a half in 
the morning suffices for the daily bath and purification, the 
worship of the household deities and the morning meal. 

Brahman boys are invested with the sacred thread 17- The 
between the ages of five and nine. The ceremony is called thread 
Upanayana or the introduction to knowledge, since by it the 
boy acquires the right to read the sacred books. Until this 
ceremony he is not really a Brahman, and is not bound to 
observe the caste rules and restrictions. By its performance 
he becomes Dvija or twice-born, and the highest importance 
is attached to the change or initiation. He may then begin 
to acquire divine knowledge, and perhaps in past times it 
was thought that he obtained the divine character belonging 
to a Brahman. The sacred thread is made of three strands 
of cotton, which should be obtained from the cotton tree 
growing wild. Sometimes a tree is grown in the yard of 
the house for the provision of the threads. It has several 
knots in it, to which great importance is attached, the number 
of knots being different for a Brahman, a Kshatriya and 
a Vaishya, the three twice-born castes. The thread hangs 
from the left shoulder, falling on to the right hip. Some- 
times, when a man is married, he wears a double thread of 
six strands, the second being for his wife ; and after his 
father dies a treble one of nine strands. At the investiture 
the boy's nails are cut and his hair is shaved, and he per- 
forms the Jioni or fire sacrifice for the first time. He then 
acquires the status of a Brahmachari or disciple, and in 
former times he would proceed to some religious centre and 
begin to study the sacred books. The idea of this is pre- 
served by a symbolic ritual. Some Brahmans shave the boy's 
head completely, make a girdle of kusJia or inunj grass round 
his waist, provide him with a begging-bowl and tongs and 
the skin of an antelope to sit on and make him go and beg 

382 BRAHMAN part 

from four houses. Among others the boy gets on to a 
wooden horse and announces his intention of going off to 
Benares to study. His mother then sits on the edge of a 
well and threatens to throw herself in if he will not change 
his mind, or the maternal uncle promises to give the boy his 
daughter in marriage. Then the boy relinquishes his inten- 
tion and agrees to stay at home. The sacred thread must 
always be passed through the hand before saying the 
Gayatri text in praise of the sun, the most sacred Brahmanical 
text. The sacred thread is changed once a year on the day 
of Rakshabandhan ; the Brahman and all his family change 
it together. The word Rakshabandhan means binding or 
tying up the devils, and it would thus appear that the 
sacred thread and the knots in it may have been originally 
intended to some extent to be a protection against evil 
spirits. It is also changed on the occasion of a birth or 
death in the family, or of an eclipse, or if it breaks. The 
old threads are torn up or sewn into clothes by the very 
poor in the Maratha districts. It is said that the Brahmans 
are afraid that the Kunbis will get hold of their old threads, 
and if they do get one they will fold it into four strings, 
holding a lamp in the middle, and wave it over any one who 
is sick. The Brahmans think that if this is done all the 
accumulated virtue which they have obtained by many repe- 
titions of the Gayatri or sacred prayer will be transferred 
to the sick Kunbi. Many castes now wear the sacred thread 
who have no proper claim to do so, especially those who have 
become landholders and aspire to the status of Rajputs. 

18. Social The Brahman is of course supreme in Hindu society. 

position. y\q never bows his head in salutation to any one who is not 
a Brahman, and acknowledges with a benediction the greet- 
ings of all other classes. No member of another caste. Dr. 
Bhattacharya states, can, consistently with Hindu etiquette 
and religious beliefs, refuse altogether to bow to a Brahman. 
" The more orthodox Sudras carry their veneration for the 
priestly caste to such an extent that they will not cross the 
shadow of a Brahman, and it is not unusual for them to be 
under a vow not to eat any food in the morning before 
drinking Brahman nectar,^ or water in which the toe of a 

1 Bipracharaiia»i7-ita. 


Brfihrnan has been dipped. On the other hand, the pride of 
the Brahman is such that he does not bow even to the 
images of the gods in a Sudra's house. When a Brahman 
invites a Sudra the latter is usually asked to partake of the 
host's prasdda or favour in the shape of the leavings of his 
plate. Orthodox Sudras actually take offence if invited by 
the use of any other formula. No Sudra is allowed to cat 
in the same room or at the same time with Brahmans." ^ 

A man of low caste meeting a Brahman says ' Pailagi ' or 
* I fall at your feet,' and touches the Brahman's foot with 
his hand, which he then carries to his own forehead to 
signify this. A man wishing to ask a favour in a humble 
manner stands on one leg and folds his cloth round his neck 
to show that his head is at his benefactor's disposal ; and he 
takes a piece of grass in his mouth by which he means to 
say, ' I am your cow.' Brahmans greeting each other clasp 
the hands and say ' Salaam,' this method of greeting being 
known as Namaskar. Since most Brahmans have abandoned 
the priestly calling and are engaged in Government service 
and the professions, this exaggerated display of reverence is 
tending to disappear, nor do the educated members of the 
caste set any great store by it, preferring the social estima- 
tion attaching to such a prominent secular position as they 
often attain for themselves. 

Any Brahman is, however, commonly addressed by other 19. Titles. 
castes as Maharaj, great king, or else as Pandit, a learned 
man. I had a Brahman chuprassie, or orderly, who was 
regularly addressed by the rest of the household as Pandit, 
and on inquiring as to the literary attainments of this learned 
man, I found he had read the first two class-books in a 
primary school. Other titles of Brahmans are Dvija, or 
twice-born, that is, one who has had the thread ceremony 
performed ; Bipra, applied to a Brahman learned in the 
Shastras or scriptures ; and Srotriya, a learned Brahman who 
is engaged in the performance of Vedic rites. 

The Brahmans have a caste panchdyat, but among the 20. Caste 
educated classes the tendency is to drop the panchdyat pro- ^^^'l''''^"'^ 
cedure and to refer matters of caste rules and etiquette to offences, 
the informal decision of a few of the most respected local 

^ Hindu Castes and Sects, pp. 19-21. 


384 BRAHMAN part 

members. In northern India there is no supreme authority 
for the caste, but the five southern divisions acknowledge 
the successor of the great reformer Shankar Acharya as their 
spiritual head, and important caste questions are referred to 
him. His headquarters are at the monastery of Sringeri on 
the Cauvery river in Mysore. Mr. Joshi gives four offences 
as punishable with permanent exclusion from caste : killing 
a Brahman, drinking prohibited wine or spirits, committing 
incest with a mother or step-mother or with the wife of one's 
spiritual preceptor, and stealing gold from a priest. Some 
very important offences, therefore, such as murder of any 
person other than a Brahman, adultery with a woman of 
impure caste and taking food from her, and all offences 
against property, except those mentioned, do not involve 
permanent expulsion. Temporary exclusion is inflicted for 
a variety of offences, among which are teaching the Vedas 
for hire, receiving gifts from a Sudra for performing fire- 
worship, falsely accusing a spiritual preceptor, subsisting by 
the harlotry of a wife, and defiling a damsel. It is possible 
that some of the offences against morality are compara- 
tively recent additions. Brahmans who cross the sea to 
be educated in England are readmitted into caste on going 
through various rites of purification ; the principal of these 
is to swallow the five products of the sacred cow, milk, ghi 
or preserved butter, curds, dung and urine. But the small 
minority who have introduced widow -marriage are still 
banned by the orthodox. 
Rules Brahmans as a rule should not eat meat nor drink 

intoxicating liquor. But it is said that the following 
indulgences have been recognised : for residents in eastern 
India the eating of flesh and drinking liquor ; for those 
of northern India the eating of flesh ; for those in the 
west the use of water out of leather buckets ; and in the 
south marriage with a first cousin on the mother's side. 
Hindustani Brahmans eat meat, according to Mr. Joshi, 
and others are now also adopting this custom. The kinds 
of meat permitted are mutton and venison, scaly, but 
not scaleless, fish, hares, and even the tortoise, wild boar, 
wild buffalo and rhinoceros. Brahmans are said even to 
eat domestic fowls, though not openly, and wild jungle 

1 1 PKESS 385 

fowls arc preferred, but arc seldom obtainable. Maratha 
Brfdimans will not cat meat openly. Formerly only the 
flesh of animals offered in sacrifice could be eaten, but this 
rule is being disregarded and some Brahmans buy mutton 
from the butchers. A Brahman should not eat even pakki 
rasoi or food cooked without water, such as sweetmeats and 
cakes fried in butter or oil, except when cooked by his own 
family and in his own home. But these are now partaken 
of abroad, and also purchased from the Halwai or confectioner 
on the assumption that he is a Brahman. A Brahman 
should take food cooked with water only from his own 
relations and in his own home after the place has been 
purified and spread with cowdung. He bathes before 
eating, and wears only a yellow silk or woollen cloth round 
his waist, which is kept specially for this purpose, cotton 
being regarded as impure. But these rules are tending to 
become obsolete, as educated Brahmans recognise more and 
more what a hindrance they cause to any social enjoyment. 
Boys especially who receive an English education in high 
schools and universities are rapidly becoming more liberal. 
They will drink soda-water or lemonade of which they 
are very fond, and eat European sweets and sometimes 
biscuits. The social intercourse of boys of all castes and 
religions in school and games, and in the latter the frequent 
association with Europeans, are having a remarkable effect 
in breaking down caste prejudice, the results of which 
should become very apparent in a few years. A Brahman 
also should not smoke, but many now do so, and when 
they go to see a friend will take their own huqqa with 
them as they cannot smoke out of his. Maratha and 
Khedawal Brahmans, however, as a rule do not smoke,' but 
only chew tobacco. 

A Brahman's dress should be white, and he can have a 22. Dress, 
coloured turban, preferably red. Maratha Brahmans were 
very particular about the securing of their dJioti or loin- 
cloth, which always had to have five tucks, three into the 
waistband at the two sides and in front, while the loose 
ends were tucked in in front and behind. Buttons had to 
be avoided as they were made of bone, and shoes were 
considered to be impure as being of leather. Formerly a 

VOL. II 2 C 

386 BRAHMAN part 

Brahman never entered a house with his shoes on, as he 
would consider the house to be defiled. According to the 
old rule, if a Brahman touches a man of an impure caste, 
as a Chamar (tanner) or Basor (basket-maker), he should 
bathe and change his loin-cloth, and if he touches a 
sweeper he should change his sacred thread. Now, however, 
educated Brahmans usually wear white cotton trousers and 
black or brown coats of cloth, alpaca or silk with the normal 
allowance of buttons, and European shoes and boots which 
they keep on indoors. Boys are even discarding the cJioti 
or scalp-lock and simply cut their hair short in imitation 
of the English. For the head small felt caps have become 
fashionable in lieu of turbans, 

23. Tattoo- Men are never tattooed, but women are freely tattooed 
'"^' on the face and body. One dot is made in the centre of 

the forehead and three on the left nostril in the form of a 
triangle. All the limbs and the fingers and toes may also 
be tattooed, the most common patterns being a peacock 
with spread wings, a fish, cuckoo, scorpion, a child's doll, a 
sieve, a pattern of Sita's cookroom and representations of 
all female ornaments. Some women think that they will be 
able to sell the ornaments tattooed on their bodies in the 
next world and subsist on the proceeds. 

24. Occu- In former times the Brahman was supposed to confine 
pation. himself to priestly duties, learning the Vedas and giving 

instruction to the laity. His subsistence was to be obtained 
from gleaning the fields after the crop had been cut and 
from unsolicited alms, as it was disgraceful for him to beg. 
But if he could not make a living in this manner he was at 
liberty to adopt a trade or profession. The majority of 
Brahmans have followed the latter course with much success. 
They were the ministers of Hindu kings, and as these were 
usually illiterate, most of the power fell into the Brahmans' 
hands. In Poona the Maratha Brahmans became the 
actual rulers of the State. They have profited much from 
gifts and bequests of land for charitable purposes and are 
one of the largest landholding castes. In Mewar it was 
recorded that a fifth of the State revenue from land was 
assigned in religious grants,^ and in the deeds of gift, drawn 

' Rdjastlum, i. p. 487. 


u[) no doubt by the Brahmans themselves, the most tcrriljle 
penalties were invoked on any one who should interfere with 
the grant. One of these was that such an impious person 
would be a caterpillar in hell for sixty thousand years.' 
Plots of land and mant^o groves are also frequently given to 
l^rahmans by village proprietors. A Brahman is forbidden 
to touch the plough with his own hands, but this rule is 
falling into abeyance and many Brahman cultivators plough 
themselves. Brfdimans are also j^rohibitcd from selling a 
large number of articles, as milk, butter, cows, salt and so 
on. Formerly a Brahman village proprietor refused pay- 
ment for the supplies of milk and butter given to travellers, 
and some would expend the whole produce of their cattle in 
feeding religious mendicants and poor Brahmans. But these 
scruples, which tended to multiply the number of beggars 
indefinitely, have happily vanished, and Brahmans will even 
sell cows to a butcher. Mr. Joshi relates that a suit w^as 
brought by a Brahman in his court for the hide of a cow 
sold by him for slaughter. A number of Brahmans are 
employed as personal servants, and these are usually cooks, 
a Brahman cook being very useful, since all Hindus can eat 
the food which he prepares. Nor has this calling hitherto 
been considered derogatory, as food is held to be sacred, 
and he who prepares it is respected. Many live on 
charitable contributions, and it is a rule among Hindus 
that a Brahman coming into the house and asking for 
a present must be given something or his curse will ruin 
the family. Liberality is encouraged by the recitation of 
legends, such as that of the good king Harischandra who 
gave away his whole kingdom to the great Brahman saint 
Visvamitra, and retired to Benares with a loin-cloth which 
the recipient allowed him to retain from his possessions. 
But Brahmans who take gifts at the time of a death, and 
those who take them from pilgrims at the sacred shrines, 
are despised and considered as out of caste, though not the 
priests in charge of temples. The rapacity of all these classes 
is proverbial, and an instance may be given of the conduct of 
the Pandas or temple-priests of Benares. These men were 
so haughty that they never appeared in the temple unless 

' Rajasthan, i. p. 69S. 

388 BRAHMAN part 

some very important visitor was expected, who would be 
able to pay largely. It is related that when the ex-Peshwa 
of Poona came to Benares after the death of his father he 
solicited the Panda of the great temple of Viseshwar to 
assist him in the performance of the ceremonies necessary 
for the repose of his father's soul. But the priest refused to 
do so until the Maharaja had filled with coined silver the 
hauz or font of the temple. The demand was acceded 
to and Rs. 125,000 were required to fill the font.^ Those 
who are very poor adopt the profession of a Maha-Brahman 
or Mahapatra, who takes gifts for the dead. Respectable 
Brahmans will not accept gifts at all, but when asked to a 
feast the host usually gives them one to four annas or pence 
with betel-leaf at the time of their departure, and there is 
no shame in accepting this. A very rich man may give 
a gold mohar (guinea) to each Brahman. Other Brahmans 
act as astrologers and foretell events. They pretend to 
be able to produce rain in a drought or stop excessive 
rainfall when it is injuring the crops. They interpret 
dreams and omens. In the case of a theft the loser will 
go to a Brahman astrologer, and after learning the cir- 
cumstances the latter will tell him what sort of person 
stole the property and in what direction the property is 
concealed. But the large majority of Brahmans have 
abandoned all priestly functions, and are employed in 
all grades of Government service, the professions and agri- 
culture. In 191 1 about fifty-three per cent of Brahmans 
in the Central Provinces were supported by agriculture as 
landowners, cultivators and labourers. About twenty-two per 
cent were engaged in the arts and professions, seven per cent 
in Government service, including the police which contains 
many Brahman constables, and only nineteen per cent were 
returned under all occupations connected with religion. 
25. Char- Many hard things have been said about the Brahman 

actcr of caste and have not been undeserved. The Brahman priest- 

Brahnians. _ '■ 

hood displayed in a marked degree the vices of arrogance, 
greed, hypocrisy and dissimulation, which would naturally be 
engendered by their sacerdotal pretensions and the position 
they claimed at the head of Hindu society. But the priests 

^ At that time ;^ 12, 500 or more, now about ^8000. 


and mendicants now, as has been seen, contribute only a com- 
paratively small minority of the whole caste. The majority 
of the Brahmans are lawyers, doctors, executive officers of 
Government and clerks in all kinds of Government, railway 
and private offices. The defects ascribed to the priesthood 
apply to these, if at all, only in a very minor degree. The 
Brfdiman official has many virtues. He is, as a rule, honest, 
industrious and anxious to do his work creditably. He 
spends very little on his own pleasures, and his chief aim in 
life is to give his children as good an education as he can 
afford. A half or more of his income may be devoted to 
this object. If he is well-to-do he helps his poor relations 
liberally, having the strong fellow-feeling for them which is 
a relic of the joint family system. He is a faithful husband 
and an affectionate father. If his outlook on life is narrow 
and much of his leisure often devoted to petty quarrels and 
intrigues, this is largely the result of his imperfect, parrot- 
like education and lack of opportunity for anything better. 
In this respect it may be anticipated that the excellent 
education and training now afforded by Government in 
secondary schools for very small fees will produce a great 
improvement ; and that the next generation of educated 
Hindus will be considerably more manly and intelligent, 
and it may be hoped at the same time not less honest, 
industrious and loyal than their fathers. 

Brahman, Ahivasi. — A class of persons who claim to 
be Brahmans, but are generally engaged in cultivation and 
pack -carriage. They are looked down upon by other 
Brahmans, and permit the remarriage of widows. The 
name means the abode of the snake or dragon, and the 
caste are said to be derived from a village Sunrakh in 
Muttra District, where a dragon once lived. For further 
information Mr. Crooke's article on the caste/ from which 
the above details are taken, may be consulted. 

Brahman, Jijhotia. — This is a local subdivision of the 
Kanaujia subcaste, belonging to Bundelkhand. They take 
their name from Jajhoti, the classical term for Bundelkhand, 

^ Tribes and Castes of the North- West Provinces and Oudh, s.v. 

390 BRAHMAN part 

and reside in Saugor and the adjoining Districts, where they 
usually act as priests to the higher castes. The Jijhotia 
Brahmans rank a little below the Kanaujias proper and the 
Sarwarias, who are also a branch of the Kanaujia division. 
The two latter classes take daughters in marriage from 
Jijhotias, but do not give their daughters to them. But these 
hypergamous marriages are now rare. Jijhotia Brahmans 
will plough with their own hands in Saugor. 

Brahman, Kanaujia, Kanyakubja. — This, the most im- 
portant division of the northern Brahmans, takes its name 
from the ancient city of Kanauj in the Farukhabad District on 
the Ganges, which was on two occasions the capital of India. 
The great king Harsha Vardhana, who ruled the whole of 
northern India in the seventh century, had his headquarters 
here, and when the Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang stayed at 
Kanauj in A.D. 638 and 643 he f6und upwards of a hundred 
monasteries crowded by more than 10,000 Buddhist monks. 
" Hinduism flourished as well as Buddhism, and could show 
more than two hundred temples with thousands of wor- 
shippers. The city, which was strongly fortified, extended 
along the east bank of the Ganges for about four miles, and 
was adorned with lovely gardens and clear tanks. The 
inhabitants were well-to-do, including some families of great 
wealth ; they dressed in silk, and were skilled in learning 
and the arts." ^ When Mahmud of Ghazni appeared before 
Kanauj in A.D. 10 18 the number of temples is said to have 
risen to 10,000. The Sultan destroyed the temples, but 
seems to have spared the city. Thereafter Kanauj declined 
in importance, though still the capital of a Rajput dynasty, 
and the final sack by Shihab-ud-Din in A.D. 1194 reduced 
it to desolation and insignificance for ever.^ 

The Kanaujia Brahmans include the principal body of 
the caste in Bengal and in the Hindi Districts of the 
Central Provinces. They are here divided into four sub- 
groups, the Kanaujia proper, Sarwaria, Jijhotia and 
Sanadhya, which are separately noticed. The Sarwarias 
are sometimes considered to rank a little higher than the 
proper Kanaujias. It is said that the two classes are the 

' Early History oj India, 3rd ed. p. 376. - Ibidem, p. 385. 

II KIlKDAlVAf. 391 

descendants of two brothers, Kanya and Kubja, of whom 
the former accepted a present from the divine king Rama of 
Ayodhya when he celebrated a sacrifice on his return from 
Ceylon, while the latter refused it. The Sarwarias are 
descended from Kubja who refused the present and therefore 
arc purer than the Kanaujias, whose ancestor, Kanya, 
accepted it. Kanya and Kubja are simply the two parts 
of Kanyakubja, the old name for Kanauj. It may be 
noted that Kanya means a maiden and also the constella- 
tion Virgo, while Kubja is a name of the planet Mars ; 
but it is not known whether the words in this sense are 
connected with the name of the city. The Kanaujia 
Brahmans of the Central Provinces practise hypergamy, as 
described in the general article on Brahman. Mr. Crooke 
states that in the United Provinces the children of a man's 
second wife can intermarry with those of his first wife, 
provided that they are not otherwise related or of the same 
section. The practice of exchanging girls between families 
is also permitted there.^ In the Central Provinces the 
Kanaujias eat meat and sometimes plough with their own 
hands. The Chhattlsgarhi Kanaujias form a separate group, 
who have been long separated from their brethren elsewhere. 
As a consequence other Kanaujias will neither eat nor inter- 
marry with them. Similarly in Saugor those who have 
come recently from the United Provinces will not marry 
with the older settlers. A Kanaujia Brahman is very strict 
in the matter of taking food, and will scarcely eat it unless 
cooked by his own relations, according to the saying, ^ AtJi 
Kanaujia, nan chidJial or ' Eight Kanaujias will want nine 
places to cook their food.' 

Brahman, Khedawal. — The Khedawals are a class of 
Gujarati Brahmans, who take their name from Kheda or 
Kaira, the headquarters of the Kaira District, where they 
principally reside. They have two divisions, known as Inside 
and Outside. It is said that once the Kaira chief was anxious 
to have a son and offered them gifts. The majority re- 
fused the gifts, and leaving Kaira settled in villages outside 
the town ; while a small number accepted the gifts and 

^ Tribes and Castes, art. Kanaujia. 

392 BRAHMAN part 

remained inside, and hence two separate divisions arose, the 
outside group being the higher/ It is said that the first 
Khedawal who came to the Central Provinces was on a 
journey from Gujarat to Benares when, on passing through 
Panna State, he saw some diamonds lying in a field. He 
stopped and picked up as many as he could and presented 
them to the Raja of Panna, who made him a grant of an 
estate, and from this time other Khedawals came and settled. 
A considerable colony of them now exists in Saugor and 
Damoh. The Khedawals are clever and astute, and many 
of them are the agents of landowners and moneylenders, 
while a large proportion are in the service of the Govern- 
ment. They do not as a rule perform priestly functions in 
the Central Provinces. Their caste observances are strict. 
Formerly it is said that a Khedawal who was sent to jail 
was permanently expelled from caste, and though the rule 
has been relaxed the penalties for readmission are still very 
heavy. They do not smoke, but only chew tobacco. Widows 
must dress in white, and their heads are sometimes shaved. 
They are said to consider a camel as impure as a donkey, 
and will not touch either animal. One of their common 
titles is Mehta, meaning great. The Khedawals of the 
Central Provinces formerly married only among themselves, 
but since the railway has been opened intermarriage with 
their caste-fellows in Gujarat has been resumed. 

Brahman, Maharashtra, Maratha. — The Maratha Brah- 
mans, or those of the Bombay country, are numerous and 
important in the Central Provinces. The northern Districts 
were for a period governed by Maratha Brahmans on behalf 
of the Peshwa of Poona, and under the Bhonsla dynasty of 
Nagpur in the south they took a large part in the administra- 
tion. The Maratha Brahmans have three main subcastes, the 
Deshasth,Konkonasth and Karhada. The Deshasth Brahmans 
belong to the country of Poona above the Western Ghats, 
which is known as the desk or home country. They are 
numerous in Berar and Nagpur. The Konkonasth are so 
called because they reside in the Konkan country along the 
Bombay coast. They have noticeably fair complexions, 

' Bombay Gaze/ leer, Hindus of Gii/'ardt, p. II. 

II MAllAKASiri'RA 393 

^ood features and often grey eyes. According to a legend 
they were sprung from the corpses of a party of shipwrecked 
foreigners, who were raised to life by Parasurama/ This 
story and their fine appearance have given rise to the 
hypothesis that their ancestors were shipwrecked sailors 
from some Euroj^ean country, or from Arabia or Persia. 
They are also known as Chitpavan, which is said to mean 
the pure in heart, but a derivation suggested in the Bombay 
Gazetteer is from Chiplun or Chitapolan, a place in the 
Konkan which was their headquarters. The Peshwa of Poona 
was a Konkonasth Brahman, and there are a number of them 
in Saugor, The Karhada Brahmans take their name from 
the town of Karhad in the Satara District. They show little 
difference from the Deshasths in customs and appearance. 

Formerly the above three subcastes were endogamous 
and married only among themselves. But since the railway 
has been opened they have begun to intermarry with each 
other to a limited extent, having obtained sanction to this 
from the successor of Shankar Acharya, whom they acknow- 
ledge as their spiritual head. 

The Maratha Brahmans are also divided into sects, 
according to the Veda which they follow. Most of them 
are either Rigvedis or Yajurvedis, and these two sects 
marry among themselves. These Brahmans are strict in 
the observance of caste rules. They do not take water 
from any but other Brahmans, and abstain from flesh and 
liquor. They will, however, eat with any of the Panch- 
Dravid or southern divisions of Brahmans except those of 
Gujarat. They usually abstain from smoking, and until 
recently have made widows shave their heads ; but this rule 
is perhaps now relaxed. As a rule they are well educated, 
and the majority of them look to Government service for 
a career, either as clerks in the public offices or as officers 
of the executive and judicial services. They are intelligent 
and generally reliable workers. The full name of a Maratha 
or Gujarati Brahman consists of his own name, his father's 
name and a surname. But he is commonly addressed by 
his own name, followed by the honorific termination Rao 
for Raja, a king, or Pant for Pandit, a wise man. 

1 Bo/Jtbay Gazetteer, Satilra, p. 54. 

394 BRAHMAN part 

Brahman, Maithil. — One of the five Panch-Gaur or 
northern divisions, comprising the Brahmans of Bihar or 
Tirhut There are some Maithil Brahman families settled in 
Mandla, who were formerly in the service of the Gond kings. 
They have the surname of Ojha, which is one of those borne by 
the caste and signifies a soothsayer. The Maithil Brahmans 
are said to have at one time practised magic. Mithila or 
Bihar has also, from the earliest times, been famous for the 
cultivation of Sanskrit, and the great lawgiver Yajnavalkya 
is described as a native of this country.^ The head of the 
subcaste is the Maharaja of Darbhanga, to whom family 
disputes are sometimes referred for decision. The Maithil 
Brahmans are said to be mainly Sakti worshippers. They 
eat flesh and fish, but do not drink liquor or smoke 

Brahman, Malwi. — This is a local class of Brahmans from 
Malwa in Central India, who are found in the Hoshangabad 
and Betul Districts. They are said to have been invited 
here by the Gond kings of Kherla in Betul six or more 
centuries ago, and are probably of impure descent. Malwa 
is north of the Nerbudda, and they should therefore properly 
belong to the Panch-Gaur division, but they speak Marathi 
and their customs resemble those of Maratha Brahmans, 
who will take food cooked without water from them. The 
Malwi Brahmans usually belong to the Madhyandina branch 
of the Yajurvedi sect. They work as village accountants 
{patwdris) and village priests, and also cultivate land. 

Brahman, Nag-ar. — A class of Gujarati Brahmans found 
in the Nimar District. The name is said to be derived 
from the town of Vadnagar of Gujarat, now in Baroda State. 
According to one account they accepted grants of land from 
a Rajput king, and hence were put out of caste by their 
fellows. Another story is that the Nagar Brahman women 
were renov^ned for their personal beauty and also for their 
skill in music. The emperor Jahangir, hearing of their 
fame, wished to see them and sent for them, but they refused 

^ Hhaltaclifirya, Hindu CaUes and Sects, p. 47. 
'^ Ibidon, p. 48. 


to go. The emperor then ordered that all the men sliould 
be killed and the women be taken to his Court. A terrible 
struggle ensued, and many women threw themselves into 
tanks and rivers and were drowned, rather than lose their 
modesty by appearing before the emperor. A body of 
Brahmans numbering 7450 (or j d^}, hundred) threw away 
their sacred threads and became Sudras in order to save 
their lives. Since this occurrence the figure 74-^- is con- 
sidered very unlucky. Banias write 74^ in the beginning 
of their account-books, by which they are held to take a 
vow that if they make a false entry in the book they will be 
guilty of the sin of having killed this number of Brahmans. 
The same figure is also written on letters, so that none but 
the person to whom they are addressed may dare to open 

The above stories seem to show that the Nagar Brahmans 
are partly of impure descent. In Gujarat it is said that one 
section of them called Barud are the descendants of Nagar 
Brahman fathers who were unable to get wives in their own 
caste and took them from others. The Barud section also 
formerly permitted the remarriage of widows." This seems 
a further indication of mixed descent. The Nagars settled 
in the Central Provinces have for a long time ceased to 
marry with those of Gujarat owing to difficulties in com- 
munication. But now that the railway has been opened 
they have petitioned the Rao of Bhaunagar, who is the 
head of the caste, and a Nagar Brahman, to introduce inter- 
marriage again between the two sections of the caste. Many 
Nagar Brahmans have taken to secular occupations and are 
land-agents and cultivators. 

Formerly the Nagar Brahmans observed very strict rules 
about defilement when in the state called Ntcven, that is, 
having bathed and purified themselves prior to taking food. 
A Brahman in this condition was defiled if he touched an 
earthen vessel unless it was quite new and had never held 
water. If he sat down on a piece of cotton cloth or a scrap 
of leather or paper he became impure unless Hindu letters 
had been written on the paper ; these, as being the goddess 

1 From Mr. Gopal Datta Joshi's paper. 
- Hasmdla, ii. p. 233. 

396 BRAHMAN part 

Saraswati, would preserve it from defilement. But cloth or 
leather could not be purified through being written on. 
Thus if the Brahman wished to read any book before or 
at his meal it had to be bound with silk and not with 
cotton ; leather could not be used, and instead of paste of 
flour and water the binder had to employ paste of pounded 
tamarind seed. A printed book could not be read, because 
printing-ink contained impure matter. Raw cotton did not 
render the Brahman impure, but if it had been twisted into 
the wick of a lamp by any one not in a state of purity he 
became impure. Bones defiled, but women's ivory armlets 
did not, except in those parts of the country where they 
were not usually worn, and then they did. The touch of a 
child of the same caste who had not learned to eat grain 
did not defile, but if the child ate grain it did. The touch 
of a donkey, a dog or a pig defiled ; some said that the 
touch of a cat also defiled, but others were inclined to think 
it did not, because in truth it was not easy to keep the 
cat out.^ 

If a Brahman was defiled and rendered impure by any 
of the above means he could not proceed with his meal. 

Brahman, Naramdeo. — A class of Brahmans who live in 
the Hoshangabad and Nimar Districts near the banks of the 
Nerbudda, from which river their name is derived. Accord- 
ing to their own account they belong to the Gurjara or 
Gujarati division, and were expelled from Gujarat by a Raja 
who had cut up a golden cow and wished them to accept 
pieces of it as presents. This they refused to do on 
account of the sin involved, and hence were exiled and came 
to the Central Provinces. A local legend about them is 
to the effect that they are the descendants of a famous 
Rishi or saint, who dwelt beside the Nerbudda, and of a 
Naoda or Dhlmar woman who was one of his disciples. 
The Naramdeo Brahmans have for the most part adopted 
secular occupations, though they act as village priests or 
astrologers. They are largely employed as village ac- 
countants {paiwdi'is), clerks in Government offices, and 
agents to landowners, that is, in very much the same capacity 

' RCismCda, ii. p. 259. 


as the Kayasths. As land-agents they show much astute- 
ness, and are reputed to have enriched themselves in many 
cases at the expense of their masters. Hence they are 
unpopular with the cultivators just as the Kayasths arc, and 
very uncomplimentary proverbs are current about them. 

Brahman, Sanadhya, Sanaurhia. — The Sanadhyas are 
considered in the Central Provinces to be a branch of the 
Kanaujia division. Their home is in the Ganges-Jumna Doab 
and Rohilkhand, between the Gaur Brahmans to the north- 
west and the Kanaujias to the east. Mr. Crooke states that 
in some localities the Sanadhyas intermarry with both the 
Kanaujia and Gaur divisions. But formerly both Kanaujias 
and Gaurs practised hypergamy with the Sanadhyas, taking 
daughters from them in marriage but not giving their 
daughters to them.^ This fact indicates the inferiority of 
the Sanadhya group, but marriage is now becoming reciprocal. 
In Bengal the Sanadhyas account for their inferiority to 
the other Kanaujias by saying that their ancestors on one 
occasion at the bidding of a Raja partook of a sacrificial 
feast with all their clothes on, instead of only their loin- 
cloths according to the rule among Brahmans, and were 
hence degraded. The Sanadhyas themselves have two 
divisions, the Sdrhe-tln ghar and Dasghar, or Three-and-a- 
half houses and Ten houses, of whom the former are superior, 
and practise hypergamy with the latter. Further, it is said 
that the Three-and-a-half group were once made to inter- 
marry with the degraded Kataha or Maha-Brahmans, who 
are funeral priests.'^ This further indicates the inferior 
status of the Sanadhyas. The Sanaurhia criminal caste of 
pickpockets are supposed to be made up of a nucleus of 
Sanadhya Brahmans with recruits from all other castes, 
but this is not certain. In the Central Provinces a number 
of Sanadhyas took to carrying grain and merchandise on 
pack -bullocks, and are hence known as Bel war. They form 
a separate subcaste, ranking below the other Sanadhyas and 
marrying among themselves. Mr. Crooke notes that at 
their weddings the Sanadhyas worship a potter's wheel. 
Some make an image of it on the wall of the house, while 

' Tribes and Castes, art. Sanadhya. 2 Crooke, ibidem, paras. 3 and 6. 

398 BRAHMAN part 

others go to the potter's house and worship his wheel there. 
In the Central Provinces after the wedding they get a bed 
newly made with netvdr tape and seat the bride and 
bridegroom on it, and put a large plate at their feet, in 
which presents are placed. The Sanadhyas differ from the 
Kanaujias in that they smoke tobacco but do not eat meat, 
while the Kanaujias eat meat but do not smoke. They 
greet each other with the word Dandawat, adding Maharaj 
to an equal or superior. 

Brahman, Sarwaria. — This is the highest class of the 
Kanaujia Brahmans, who take their name from the river Sarju 
or Gogra in Oudh, where they have their home. They observe 
strict rules of ceremonial purity, and do not smoke tobacco 
nor plough with their own hands. An orthodox Sarwaria 
Brahman will not give his daughter in marriage in a village 
from which his family has received a girl, and sometimes will 
not even drink the water of that village. The Sarwarias 
make widows dress in white and sometimes shave their 
heads. In some tracts they intermarry with the Kanaujia 
Brahmans, and in others take daughters in marriage but do 
not give their own daughters to them. In Dr. Buchanan's 
time, a century ago, the Sarwaria Brahmans would not eat 
rice sold in the bazar which had been cleaned in boiling 
water, as they considered that it had thereby become food 
cooked with water ; and they carried their own grain to the 
grain-parcher to be prepared for them. When they ate 
either parched grain or sweetmeats from a confectioner in 
public they must purify the place on which they sat down 
with cowdung and water.^ This may be compared with a 
practice observed by very strict Brahmans even now, of 
adding water to the medicine which they obtain from a 
Government dispensary, to purify it before drinking it. 

Brahman, Utkal. — These are the Brahmans of Orissa 
and one of the Panch-Gaur divisions. They are divided into 
two groups, the Dakshinatya or southern and the Jajpuria 
or northern clan. The Utkal Brrdimans, who first settled 
in Sambalpur, are known as Jharia or jungly, and form a 

' Eastern India, ii. 472, f|uoted in Mr. Crooke's art. Sarwaria. 


separate subcastc, marrying amont^ themselves, as the later 
immigrants refuse to intermarry with them. Another group 
of Orissa Brahmans have taken to cultivation, and are known 
as IL'ilia, from Jial, a plough. They grow the betel-vine, and 
in Orissa the arcca and cocoanuts, besides doing ordinary 
cultivation. They have entirely lost their sacerdotal character, 
but glory in their occupation, and affect to despise the Bed 
or Veda Brahmans, who live upon alms.^ A third class of 
Orissa Brahmans are the Pandas, who serve as priests and 
cooks in the public temples and also in private houses, and 
travel about India touting for pilgrims to visit the temple 
at Jagannath. Dr. Bhattacharya describes the procedure of 
the temple-touts as follows : ^ 

" Their tours are so organised that during their cam- 
paigning season, which commences in November and is 
finished by the car-festival at the beginning of the rains, 
very few villages of the adjoining Provinces escape their 
visits and taxation. Their appearance causes a disturbance 
in every household. Those who have already visited ' The 
Lord of the World ' at Puri are called upon to pay an 
instalment towards the debt contracted by them while at the 
sacred shrine, which, though paid many times over, is never 
completely satisfied. That, however, is a small matter 
compared with the misery and distraction caused by the 
' Jagannath mania,' which is excited by the preachings and 
pictures of the Panda. A fresh batch of old ladies become 
determined to visit the shrine, and neither the wailings and 
protestations of the children nor the prospect of a long and 
toilsome journey can dissuade them. The arrangements of 
the family are for the time being altogether upset, and the 
grief of those left behind is heightened by the fact that they 
look upon the pilgrims as going to meet almost certain 
death. . . ." 

This vivid statement of the objections to the habit of 
pilgrimage from a Brahman writer is very interesting. 
Since the opening of the railway to Puri the danger and 
expense as well as the period of absence have been greatly 
reduced ; but the pilgrimages are still responsible for a large 

1 Stirling's description of Orissa in Hindu Castes and Sects. 
As. Res. vol, XV. p. 199, quoted in '- Hindu Castes and Sects, p. 63. 

400 CHADAR part 

mortality, as cholera frequently breaks out among the vast 
assembly at the temple, and the pilgrims, hastily returning 
to all parts of India, carry the disease with them, and cause 
epidemics in many localities. All castes now eat the rice 
cooked at the temple of Jagannath together without defile- 
ment, and friendships are cemented by eating a little of this 
rice together as a sacred bond. 

Chadar,^ KotwaP. — A small caste of weavers and village 
watchmen resident in the Districts of Saugor, Damoh, Jub- 
bulpore and Narsinghpur. They numbered 28,000 persons 
in 191 1. The caste is not found outside the northern 
Districts of the Central Provinces. The name is derived 
from the Sanskrit chirkar, a weaver, and belongs to Bundel- 
khand, but beyond this the Chadars have no knowledge or 
traditions of their origin. They are probably an occupa- 
tional group formed from members of the Dravidian tribes 
and others who took to the profession of village watchmen. 
A number of other occupational castes of low status are 
found in the northern Districts, and their existence is prob- 
ably to be accounted for by the fact that the forest tribes 
were subjected and their tribal organisation destroyed by 
the invading Bundelas and other Hindus some centuries 
ago. They were deprived of the land and relegated to the 
performance of menial and servile duties in the village, and 
they have formed a new set of divisions into castes arising 
from the occupations they adopted. The Chadars have two 
subcastcs based on differences of religious practice, the Par- 
mesuria or worshippers of Vishnu, and Athia or devotees of 
Devi. It is doubtful, however, whether these are strictly 
endogamous. They have a large number of exogamous 
septs or bainks, which are named after all sorts of animals, 
plants and natural objects. Instances of these names are 
Dhana (a leaf of the rice plant), Kasia (bell-metal), Gohia (a 
kind of lizard), Bachhulia (a calf), Gujaria (a milkmaid), 
Moria (a peacock), Laraiya (a jackal), Khatkira (a bug), 
Sugaria (a pig), Barraiya (a wasp), Neora (a mongoose), 
Bhartu Chiraiya (a sparrow), and so on. Thirty-nine names 

1 This article is compiled from Tahsildar of Khurai, and Kanhya Lai, 
papers liy Mr. Wali Muhammad, clerk in the Gazetteer oflfice. 


in all are reported. Members of each sept draw the figure 
of the animal or plant after which it is named on the wall 
at marriages and worship it. They usually refuse to kill the 
totem animal, and the members of the Sugaria or pig sept 
throw away their earthen vessels if a pig should be killed in 
their sight, and clean their houses as if on the death of a 
member of the family. Marriage between members of the 
same sept is forbidden and also between first cousins and 
other near relations. The Chadars say that the marriages 
of persons nearly related by blood are unhappy, and occasion 
serious consequences to the parties and their families. Girls 
are usually wedded in the fifth, seventh, ninth, or eleventh 
year of their age and boys between the ages of eight and 
sixteen. If an unmarried girl is seduced by a member of 
the caste she is married to him by the simple form adopted 
for the wedding of a widow. Rut if she goes wrong with 
an outsider of low caste she is permanently expelled. The 
remarriage of widows is permitted and divorce is also 
allowed, a deed being executed on stamped paper before the 
panchdyat or caste committee. If a woman runs away from 
her husband to another man he must repay to the husband 
the amount expended on her wedding and give a feast to 
the caste. A Brahman is employed to fix the date of a 
wedding and sometimes for the naming of children, but he 
is only consulted and is never present at the ceremony. 
The caste venerate the goddess Devi, offering her a virgin 
she-goat in the month of Asarh (June-July). They worship 
their weaving implements at the Diwali and HoH festivals, 
and feed the crows in Kunwar (September-October) as 
representing the spirits of their ancestors. This custom is 
based on the superstition that a crow does not die of old 
age or disease, but only when it is killed. To cure a patient 
of fever they tie a blue thread, irregularly knotted, round 
his wrist. They believe that thunder-bolts are the arrows 
shot by Indra to kill his enemies in the lower world, and 
that the rainbow is Indra's bow ; any one pointing at it will 
feel pain in his finger. The dead are mourned for ten days, 
and during that time a burning lamp is placed on the 
ground at some distance from the house, while on the tenth 
day a tooth-stick and water and food are set out for the 

402 CHADAR part II 

soul of the dead. They will not throw the first teeth of a 
child on to a tiled roof, because they believe that if this 
is done his next teeth will be wide and ugly like the tiles. 
But it is a cominon practice to throw the first teeth on to 
the thatched roof of the house. The Chadars will admit 
members of most castes of good standing into the com- 
munity, and they eat flesh, including pork and fowls, and 
drink liquor, and will take cooked food from most of the 
good castes and from Kalars, Khangars and Kumhars. The 
social status of the caste is very low, but they rank above 
the impure castes and are of cleanly habits, bathing daily 
and cleaning their kitchens before taking food. They are 
employed as village watchmen and as farmservants and 
field-labourers, and also weave coarse country cloth. 




General notice of the caste. 



Endogainous divisioiis. 

1 1. 


Subcastcs continued. 



Exogavioiis divisions. 






Widow-marriage and divorce. 



Fimeral customs. 








The tan?iing process. 


Other articles made of leather. 

Cjistoms connected with shoes. 

The Chamar as general village 

Social status. 

of the 

Chamar, Chambhar.^ — The caste of tanners and menial i. General 
labourers of northern India. In the Central Provinces the 
Chamars numbered about 900,000 persons in 191 i. They 
are the third caste in the Province in numerical strength, 
being exceeded by the Gonds and Kunbis. About 600,000 
persons, or two-thirds of the total strength of the caste in 
the Province, belong to the Chhattisgarh Division and 
adjacent Feudatory States. Here the Chamars have to 
some extent emancipated themselves from their servile 
status and have become cultivators, and occasionally even 
malguzars or landed proprietors ; and between them and 

^ This article is based on the Rev. 
E. M. Gordon's Indian Folk- Tales 
(London, Elliott & Stock, 1908), and 
the Central Provinces Monograph on 
the Leather Industry, by Mr. C. G. 
Chenevix Trench, C.S. ; with extracts 
from Sir H. H. Risley's and Mr. 
Crooke's descriptions of the caste, and 
from the Berar Census Report (1881) ; 
on information collected for the District 
Gazetteers ; and papers by Messrs. 
Durga Prasad Pande, Tahsildar, Raipur ; 

Ram Lai, Deputy Inspector of Schools, 
Saugor ; Govind Vithal Kane, Naib- 
Tahslldar, Wardha ; Balkrishna Rara- 
chandra Bakhle, Tahsildar, Mandla ; 
Sitaram, schoolmaster, Balaghat ; and 
Kanhya Lai of the Gazetteer office. 
Some of the material found in Mr. 
Gordon's book was obtained independ- 
ently by the writer in Bilaspur before 
its publication and is therefore not 
specially acknowledged. 


404 CHAMAR part 

the Hindus a bitter and long-standing feud is in progress. 
Outside Chhattlsgarh the Chamars are found in most of the 
Hindi -speaking Districts whose population has been re- 
cruited from northern and central India, and here they are 
perhaps the most debased class of the community, con- 
signed to the lowest of menial tasks, and their spirit broken 
by generations of servitude. In the Maratha country the 
place of the Chamars is taken by the Mehras or Mahars. 
In the whole of India the Chamars are about eleven millions 
strong, and are the largest caste with the exception of the 
Brahmans. The name is derived from the Sanskrit Char- 
makara, a worker in leather ; and, according to classical 
tradition, the Chamar is the offspring of a Chandal or 
sweeper woman by a man of the fisher caste.^ The superior 
physical type of the Chamar has been noticed in several 
localities. Thus in the Kanara District of Bombay ^ the 
Chamar women are said to be famed for their beauty of face 
and figure, and there it is stated that the Padminis or perfect 
type of women, middle-sized with fine features, black lustrous 
hair and eyes, full breasts and slim waists,^ are all Chamarins. 
Sir D. Ibbetson writes '^ that their women are celebrated for 
beauty, and loss of caste is often attributed to too great a 
partiality for a Chamarin. In Chhattlsgarh the Chamars 
are generally of fine stature and fair complexion ; some of 
them are lighter in colour than the Chhattlsgarhi Brahmans, 
and it is on record that a European officer mistook a Chamiar 
for a Eurasian and addressed him in English. This, how- 
ever, is by no means universally the case, and Sir H. Risley 
considers ^ that " The average Chamar is hardly distinguish- 
able in point of features, stature or complexion from the 
members of those non-Aryan races from whose ranks we 
should primarily expect the profession of leather-dressers to 
be recruited." Again, Sir Henry Elliot, writing of the 
Chamars of the North-Western Provinces, says : " Chamars 

^ There are other genealogies show- four, and of these Padmini is the most 

ing the Chamar as the offspring of perfect. No details of the other classes 

various mixed unions. are given. Kdsmdla, i. p. l6o. 

2 Bombay Gazetteer, so\.y.^.\\'!iXi2.x?^, ■* Punjab Census Report (1881), p. 

P- 355- 320. 

•'' The Hindus say that there are five '' Tribes and Castes 0/ Bengal, art. 

classes of women, Padmini, Ilastini, Chamar. 
Chitrani and Shunkhini being the first 


are reputed to be a dark race, and a fair Chamar is said to 
be as rare an object as a black Brahman : 

Karia Bni/uiian, gor C/icrindr, 
hike satli ml ittariye par, 

that is, ' Do not cross a river in the same boat with a black 
Brahman or a fair Chamar,' both being of evil omen." The 
latter description would certainly apply to the Chamars of 
the Central Provinces outside the Chhattlsgarh Districts, but 
hardly to the caste as a whole within that area. No satis- 
factory explanation has been offered of this distinction of 
appearance of some groups of Chamars. It is possible that 
the Chamars of certain localities may be the descendants of 
a race from the north-west, conquered and enslaved by a 
later wave of immigrants ; or that their physical development 
may owe something to adult marriage and a flesh diet, even 
though consisting largely of carrion. It may be noticed 
that the sweepers, who eat the broken food from the tables 
of the Europeans and wealthy natives, are sometimes stronger 
and better built than the average Hindu. Similarly, the 
Kasais or Muhammadan butchers are proverbially strong and 
lusty. But no evidence is forthcoming in support of such 
conjectures, and the problem is likely to remain insoluble. 

" The Chamars," Sir H. Risley states,^ " trace their own 
pedigree to Ravi or Rai Das, the famous disciple of 
Ramanand at the end of the fourteenth century, and when- 
ever a Chamar is asked what he is, he replies a Ravi Das. 
Another tradition current among them alleges that their 
original ancestor was the youngest of four Brahman brethren 
who went to bathe in a river and found a cow struggling in 
a quicksand. They sent the youngest brother in to rescue 
the animal, but before he could get to the spot it had been 
drowned. He was compelled, therefore, by his brothers to 
remove the carcase, and after he had done this they turned 
him out of their caste and gave him the name of Chamar." 
Other legends are related by Mr. Crooke in his article on the 

The Chamars are broken up into a number of endoga- ^ Endo- 
mous subcastes. Of these the largest now consists of the gamous 

1 Loc. cit. 

4o6 C HA MAR part 

members of the Satnami sect in ChhattTsgarh, who do not 
intermarry with other Chamars. They are described in the 
article on that sect. The other Chamars call the Satnamis 
Jharia or 'jungly/ which implies that they are the oldest 
residents in ChhattTsgarh. The Satnamis are all cultivators, 
and have given up working in leather. The Chungias (from 
chungi, a leaf-pipe) are a branch of the Satnamis who have 
taken to smoking, a practice which is forbidden by the rules 
of the sect. In ChhattTsgarh those Chamars who still cure 
hides and work in leather belong either to the Kanaujia or 
Ahirwar subcastes, the former of whom take their name 
from the well-known classical town of Kanauj in northern 
India, while the latter are said to be the descendants of 
unions between Chamar fathers and AhTr mothers. The 
Kanaujias are much addicted to drink, and though they eat 
pork they do not rear pigs. The Ahirwars, or Erwars as 
they are called outside ChhattTsgarh, occupy a somewhat 
higher position than the Kanaujias. They consider them- 
selves to be the direct descendants of the prophet Raidas or 
Rohidas, who, they say, had seven wives of different castes; 
one of them was an AhTr woman, and her offspring were 
the ancestors of the Ahirwar subcaste. Both the Kanaujias 
and Ahirwars of ChhattTsgarh are generally known to out- 
siders as Paikaha, a term which indicates that they still 
follow their ancestral calling of curing hides, as opposed to 
the Satnamis, who have generally eschewed it. Those 
Chamars who are curriers have, as a rule, the right to receive 
the hides of the village cattle in return for removing the 
carcases, each family of Chamars having allotted to them a 
certain number of tenants whose dead cattle they take, 
while their women are the hereditary midwives of the village. 
Such Chamars have the designation of Meher. The Kanau- 
jias make shoes out of a single piece of leather, while the 
Ahirwars cut the front separately. The latter also ornament 
their shoes with fancy work consisting of patterns of silver 
thread on red cloth. No Ahirwar girl is married until she 
has shown herself proficient in this kind of needlework.^ 
Another well-known group, found both in ChhattTsgarh and 
elsewhere, are the Jaiswaras, who take their name from the 

' From Mr. Gordon's paper. 


old town of Jais in the United Provinces. Many of them 
serve as grooms, and are accustomed to state their caste as 
Jaisvvara, considering it a more respectable designation than 
Chamar. The Jaiswaras must carry burdens on their heads 
only and not on their shoulders, and they must not tie up 
a dog with a halter or neck-rope, this article being venerated 
by them as an implement of their calling. A breach of 
either of these rules entails temporary excommunication 
from caste and a fine for readmission. Among a number 
of territorial groups may be mentioned the Bundelkhandi 
or immigrants from I^undelkhand ; the Bhadoria from the 
Bhadawar State ; the Antarvedi from Antarved or the 
Doab, the country lying between the Ganges and Jumna ; 
the Gangapari or those from the north of the Ganges ; and 
the Pardeshi (foreigners) and Desha or Deswar (belonging 
to the country), both of which groups come from Hindustan. 
The Deswar Chamars of Narsinghpur ^ are now all agri- 
culturists and have totally abjured the business of working 
in leather. The Mahobia and Khaijraha take their names 
from the towns of Mahoba and Khaijra in Central India. 
The Ladse or Ladvi come from south Gujarat, which in 
classical times was known as Lat ; while the Maratha, 
Beraria and Dakhini subdivisions belong to southern India. 
There are a number of other territorial groups of less 

Certain subcastes are of an occupational nature, and 3. Sub- 
among these may be mentioned the Budalgirs of Chhind- continued 
wara, who derive their name from the budla, or leather bag 
made for the transport and storage of oil and gki. The 
budla, Mr. Trench remarks,^ has been ousted by the kerosene 
oil tin, and the industry of the Budalgirs has consequently 
almost disappeared ; but the budlas are still used by barbers 
to hold oil for the torches which they carry in wedding 
processions. The Daijanya subcaste are so named because 
their women act as midwives {dai), but this business is by 
no means confined to one particular group, being undertaken 
generally by Chamar women. The Kataua or Katwa are 
leather-cutters, the name being derived from kdtna, to cut. 
And the Gobardhua (from gobar, cowdung) collect the 
' Alonograph on Leather Industries, p. 9. ^ Ibidem. 

4o8 CHAMAR part 

droppings of cattle on the threshing-floors and wash out 
and eat the undigested grain. The Mochis or shoemakers 
and Jingars ^ or saddlemakers and bookbinders have ob- 
tained a better position than the ordinary Chamars, and 
have now practically become separate castes ; while, on the 
other hand, the Dohar subcaste of Narsinghpur have sunk 
to the very lowest stage of casual labour, grass-cutting and 
the like, and are looked down on by the rest of the caste.^ 
The Korchamars are said to be the descendants of alliances 
between Chamars and Koris or weavers, and the Turkanyas 
probably have Turk or Musalman blood in their veins. 
In Berar the Romya or Haralya subcaste claim the highest 
rank and say that their ancestor Harlya was the primeval 
Chamar who stripped off a piece of his own skin to make 
a pair of shoes for Mahadeo.^ The Mangya * Chamars of 
Chanda and the Nona Chamars of Damoh are groups of 
beggars, who are the lowest of the caste and will take food 
from the hands of any other Chamar, The Nona group 
take their name from Nona or Lona Chamarin, a well- 
known witch about whom Mr. Crooke relates the following 
story : * " Her legend tells how Dhanwantari, the physician 
of the gods, was bitten by Takshaka, the king of the snakes, 
and knowing that death approached he ordered his sons 
to cook and eat his body after his death, so that they might 
thereby inherit his skill in medicine. They accordingly 
cooked his body in a cauldron, and were about to eat it 
when Takshaka appeared to them in the form of a Brahman 
and warned them against this act of cannibalism. So they 
let the cauldron float down the Ganges, and as it floated 
down, Lona the Chamarin, who was washing on the bank 
of the river, took the vessel out in ignorance of its contents, 
and partook of the ghastly food. She at once obtained 
power to cure diseases, and especially snake-bite. One day 
all the women were transplanting rice, and it was found 
that Lona could do as much work as all her companions 
put together. So they watched her, and when she thought 
she was alone she stripped off her clothes (nudity being an 

' See articles on these castes. ^ Berdr Census Report (1881), p. 

■■^ Monograph on Leather Industries, ■* From viangna, to beg. 

p. 3. " Tribes and Castes, art. Chamar. 


essential element in magic), muttered .some spells, and threw 
the plants into the air, when they all settled down in their 
proper places. Finding she was observed, she tried to 
escape, and as she ran the earth opened, and all the water 
of the rice -fields followed iicr and thus was formed the 
channel of the Loni River in the Unao District." This Lona 
or Nona has obtained the position of a nursery bogey, and 
throughout Hindustan, Sir H. Risley states, parents frighten 
naughty children by telling them that Nona Chamarin will 
carry them off. The Chamars say that she was the mother 
or grandmother of the prophet Ravi Das, or Rai Das already 
referred to. 

The caste is also divided into a large number of exoga- 4- Exo- 
mous groups or sections, whose names, as might be expected, divisions 
present a great diversity of character. Some are borrowed 
from Rajput clans, as Surajvansi, Gaharwar and Rathor ; 
while others, as Marai, are taken from the Gonds. Instances 
of sections named after other castes are Banjar (Banjara), 
Jogi, Chhipia (Chhipi, a tailor) and Khairwar (a forest tribe). 
The Chhipia section preserve the memory of their compara- 
tively illustrious descent by refusing to eat pork. Instances 
of sections called after a title or nickname of the reputed 
founder are Maladhari, one who wears a garland ; Machhi- 
Mundia or fly-headed, perhaps the equivalent of feather- 
brained ; Hathlla, obstinate ; Baghmar, a tiger-killer ; Man- 
gaya, a beggar ; Dhuliya, a drummer ; Jadkodiha, one who 
digs for roots, and so on. There are numerous territorial 
groups named after the town or village where the ancestor 
of the clan may be supposed to have lived ; and many 
names also are of a totemistic nature, being taken from 
plants, animals or natural objects. Among these are Khunti, 
a peg; Chandaniha, sandalwood; Tarwaria, a sword ; Borbans, 
plums ; Miri, chillies ; Chauria, a whisk ; Baraiya, a wasp ; 
Khalaria, a hide or skin; Kosni, kosa or tasar silk; and Purain, 
the lotus plant. Totemistic observances survive only in one 
or two isolated instances. 

A man must not take a wife from his own section, nor in 5. Mar- 
some localities from that of his mother or either of his grand- "^^^' 
mothers. Generally the union of first cousins is prohibited. 
Adult marriage is the rule, but those who wish to improve 

4IO CHAM A R part 

their social position have taken to disposing of their daughters 
at an early age. Matches are always arranged by the 
parents, and it is the business of the boy's father to find a 
bride for his son. A bride-price is paid which may vary 
from two pice (farthings) to a hundred rupees, but usually 
averages about twenty rupees. In Chanda the amount is 
fixed at Rs. 1 3 and it is known as hunda, but if the bride's 
grandmother is alive it is increased to Rs. 15-8, and the 
extra money is given to her. The marriage ceremony 
follows the standard type prevalent in the locality. On his 
journey to the girl's house the boy rides on a bullock and is 
wrapped up in a blanket. In Bilaspur a kind of sham fight 
takes place between the parties, which is a reminiscence of 
the former practice of marriage by capture and is thus 
described as an eye-witness by the Rev. E. M. Gordon of 
Mungeli : ^ 

" As the bridegroom's party approached the home of the 
bride the boy's friends lifted him up on their shoulders, and, 
surrounding him on every side, they made their way to the 
bride's house, swinging round their sticks in a threatening 
manner. On coming near the house they crossed sticks 
with the bride's friends, who gradually fell back and allowed 
the bridegroom's friends to advance in their direction. The 
women of the house gathered with baskets and fans and 
some threw about rice in pretence of self-defence. When 
the sticks of the bridegroom's party struck the roof of the 
bride's house or of the marriage-shed her friends considered 
themselves defeated and the sham fight was at an end." 
Among the Maratha Chamars of Betul two earthen pots full 
of water are half buried in the ground and worship is paid to 
them. The bride and bridegroom then stand together and 
their relatives take out water from the pots and pour it on to 
their heads from above. The idea is that the pouring of the 
sacred water on to them will make them grow, and if the 
bride is much smaller than the bridegroom more water is 
poured on to her in order that she may grow faster. The 
practice may symbolise the fertilising influence of rain. 
Among the Dohar Chamars of Narsinghpur the bride and 
bridegroom are seated on a plough-yoke while the marriage 

^ liidiati Folk-Tales. 


ceremony is performed. Before the wedding the bride's party 
take a goat's leg in a basket with other articles to the 
jamvdsa or bridegroom's lodging and present it to his father. 
The bride and bridegroom take the goat's leg and beat each 
other with it alternately. Another ceremony, known as 
Pendpuja, consists in placing pieces of stick with cotton stuck 
to the ends in an oven and burning them in the name of 
the deceased ancestors ; but the signijficance, if there be any, 
of this rite is obscure. Some time after the wedding the bride 
is taken to her husband's house to live with him, and on this 
occasion a simple ceremony known as Chauk or Pathoni is 

Widows commonly remarry, and may take for their 6. Widow- 
second husband anybody they please, except their own ^J^'^'^^'^ 
relatives and their late husband's elder brother and ascendant divorce, 
relations. In Chhattisgarh widows are known either as 
barandi or randi, the randi being a widow in the ordinary 
sense of the term and the bai-andi a girl who has been 
married but has not lived with her husband. Such a girl is 
not required to break her bangles on her husband's death, and, 
being more in demand as a second wife, her father naturally 
obtains a good price for her. To many a woman whose 
husband is alive is known as chhandzve banana, the term 
cJiJiandive implying that the woman has discarded, or has been 
discarded by, her husband. The second husband must in 
this case repay to the first husband the expenses incurred by 
him on his wedding. The marriage ceremony for a widow 
is of the simplest character, and consists generally of the 
presentation to her by her new husband of those articles which 
a married woman may use, but which should be forsworn by 
a widow, as representing the useless vanities of the world. 
Thus in Saugor the bridegroom presents his bride with new 
clothes, vermilion for the parting of her hair, a spangle for 
her forehead, lac dye for her feet, antimony for the eyes, a 
comb, glass bangles and betel-leaves. In Mandla and Seoni 
the bridegroom gives a ring, according to the English custom, 
instead of bangles. When a widow marries a second time 
her first husband's property remains with his family and also 
the children, unless they are very young, when the mother 
may keep them for a few years and subsequently send them 


back to their father's relatives. Divorce is permitted for 
a variety of causes, and is usually effected in the presence of 
the caste panchdyat or committee by the husband and wife 
breaking a straw as a symbol of the rupture of the union. 
In Chanda an image of the divorced wife is made of grass 
and burnt to indicate that to her husband she is as good as 
dead ; if she has children their heads and faces are shaved in 
token of mourning, and in the absence of children the 
husband's younger brother has this rite performed ; while the 
husband gives a funeral feast known as Marti Jlti kd Bhdt, 
or ' The feast of the living dead woman.' In Chhattlsgarh 
marriage ties are of the loosest description, and adultery is 
scarcely recognised as an offence. A woman may go and 
live openly with other men and her husband will take her 
back afterwards. Sometimes, when two men are in the 
relation of Mahaprasad or nearest friend to each other, that 
is, when they have vowed friendship on rice from the temple 
of Jagannath, they will each place his wife at the other's dis- 
posal. The Chamars justify this carelessness of the fidelity 
of their wives by the saying, ' If my cow wanders and comes 
home again, shall I not let her into her stall ? ' In Seoni, if 
a Chamar woman is detected in a misdemeanour with a 
man of the caste, both parties are taken to the bank of 
a tank or river, where their heads are shaved in the pres- 
ence of the caste panchdyat or committee. They are then 
made to bathe, and the shoes of all the assembled Chamars 
made up into two bundles and placed on their heads, while 
they are required to promise that they will not repeat the 

The caste usually bury the dead with the feet to the 
north, like the Gonds and other aboriginal tribes. They say 
that heaven is situated towards the north, and the dead man 
should be placed in a position to start for that direction. 
Another explanation is that the head of the earth lies 
towards the north, and yet another that in the Satyug or 
beginning of time the sun rose in the north ; and in each 
succeeding Yug or era it has veered round the compass until 
now in the Kali Yug or Iron Age it rises in the east. In 
Chhattlsgarh, before burying a corpse, they often make a mark 
on the body with butter, oil or soot ; and when a child is 

II cniLPniRTii 413 

subsequently born into the same family they look for any 
kind of mark on the corrcspondinLj place on its body. If 
any such be found they consider the child as a reincarnation 
of the deceased person. Still-born children, and those who 
die before the Chathi or sixth-day ceremony of purification, 
arc not taken to the burial-ground, but their bodies are 
placed in an earthen pot and interred below the doorway or 
in the courtyard of the house. In such cases no funeral feast 
is demanded from the family, and some people believe that 
the custom tends in favour of the mother bearing another 
child ; others say, however, that its object is to prevent the 
tonhi or witch from getting hold of the body of the child and 
rousing its spirit to life to do her bidding as Matia Deo.^ In 
Seoni a curious rule obtains to the effect that the bodies of 
those who eat carrion or the flesh of animals dying a natural 
death should be cremated. In the northern Districts a bier 
painted white is used for a man and a red one for a woman. 

Among the better-class Chamars it is customary to place s. Chiid- 
a newborn child in a winnowing-fan on a bed of rice. The ^"^^^" 
nurse receives the rice and she also goes round to the houses 
of the headman of the village and the relatives of the family 
and makes a mark with covvdung on their doors as an 
announcement of the birth, for which she receives a small 
present. In Chhattlsgarh a woman is given nothing to eat 
or drink on the day that a child is born and for two days 
afterwards. On the fourth day she receives a liquid decoction 
of ginger, the roots of the oral or khaskhas grass, areca-nut, 
coriander and turmeric and other hot substances, and in 
some places a cake of linseed or sesamum. She sometimes 
goes on drinking this mixture for as long as a month, and 
usually receives solid food for the first time on the sixth day 
after the birth, when she bathes and her impurity is removed. 
The child is not permitted to suckle its mother until the 
third day after it is born, but before this it receives a small 
quantity of a mixture made by boiling the urine of a calf 
with some medicinal root. In Chhattlsgarh it is a common 
practice to brand a child on the stomach on the name-day 
or sixth day after its birth ; twenty or more small burns 
may be made with the point of a hansia or sickle on the 

1 Indian Folk-Tales, pp. 49, 50. 

414 CHAMAR part 

stomach, and it is supposed that this operation will prevent 
it from catching cold. Another preventive for convulsions 
and diseases of the lungs is the rubbing of the limbs and 
body with castor-oil ; the nurse wets her hands with the oil 
and then warms them before a fire and rubs the child. It 
is also held in the smoke of burning ajwdin plants {Carum 
copticuni). Infants are named on the Chathi or sixth day, 
or sometimes on the twelfth day after birth. The child's 
head is shaved, and the hair, known as Jhalar, thrown away, 
the mother and child are washed and the males of the 
family are shaved. The mother is given her first regular 
meal of grain and pulse cooked with pumpkins. A pregnant 
woman who is afraid that her child will die will sometimes 
sell it to a neighbour before its birth for five or six cowries.^ 
The baby will then be named Pachkouri or Chhekouri, and 
it is thought that the gods, who are jealous of the lives of 
children, will overlook one whose name shows it to be value- 
less. Children are often nicknamed after some peculiarity 
as Kanwa (one-eyed), Behra (deaf), Konda (dumb), Khurwa 
(lame), Kari (black), Bhuri (fair). It does not follow that 
a child called Konda is actually dumb, but it may simply 
have been late in learning to speak. Parents are jealous of 
exposing their children to the gaze of strangers and especially 
of a crowd, in which there will almost certainly be some 
malignant person to cast the evil eye upon them. Young 
children are therefore not infrequently secluded in the house 
and deprived of light and air to an extent which is highly 
injurious to them. 
g. Reii- The castc worship the ordinary Hindu and village deities 

of the localities in which they reside, and observe the principal 
festivals. In Saugor the Chamars have a family god, known 
as Marri, who is represented by a lump of clay kept in the 
cooking-room of the house. He is supposed to represent 
the ancestors of the family. The Seoni Chamars especially 
worship the castor-oil plant. Generally the caste revere the 
rdnipi or skinning -knife with offerings of flour-cakes and 
cocoanuts on festival days. In Chhattisgarh more than half 
the Chamars belong to the reformed Satnami sect, by which 
the worship of images is at least nominally abolished. This 

' Shells which were formerly used as money. 



is separately treated. Mr. Gordon states ' that it is im- 
possible to form a clear conception of the beliefs of the 
village Chamars as to the hereafter : " That they have the 
idea of hell as a place of jiunishment may be gathered from 
the belief that if salt is spilt the one who docs this will in 
Fatal — or the infernal region — have to gather up each grain 
of salt with his eyelids. Salt is for this reason handed round 
with great care, and it is considered unlucky to receive it in 
the palm of the hand ; it is therefore invariably taken in a 
cloth or in a vessel. There is a belief that the spirit of the 
deceased hovers round familiar scenes and places, and on 
this account, whenever it is possible, it is customary to 
destroy or desert the house in which any one has died. If 
a house is deserted the custom is to sweep and plaster the 
place, and then, after lighting a lamp, to leave it in the 
house and withdraw altogether. After the spirit of the dead 
has wandered around restlessly for a certain time it is said 
that it will again become incarnate and take the form of 
man or of one of the lower animals." 

The curing and tanning of hides is the primary occupa- 10. Occu- 
tion of the Chamar, but in 191 1 only 80,000 persons, or P^''°"- 
about a seventh of the actual workers of the caste, were 
engaged in it, and by Satnamis the trade has been entirely 
eschewed. The majority of the Chhattisgarhi Chamars are 
cultivators with tenant right, and a number of them have 
obtained villages. In the northern Districts, however, the 
caste are as a rule miserably poor, and none of them own 
villages. A very few are tenants, and the vast majority 
despised and bullied helots. The condition of the leather- 
working Chamars is described by Mr. Trench as lamentable.' 
Chief among the causes of their ruin has been the recently 
established trade in raw hides. Formerly the bodies of all 
cattle dying within the precincts of the village necessarily 
became the property of the Chamars, as the Hindu owners 
could not touch them without loss of caste. But since 
the rise of the cattle-slaughtering industry the cultivator has 
put his religious scruples in his pocket, and sells his old and 
worn-out animals to the butchers for a respectable sum. 
" For a mere walking skeleton of a cow or bullock from 

^ Indian Folk-Tales, pp. 49, 50. ^ I\Ionograph, p. 3. 



two to four rupees may be had for the asking, and 
so long as he does not actually see or stipulate for the 
slaughter of the sacred animal, the cultivator's scruples 
remain dormant. No one laments this lapse from ortho- 
doxy more sincerely than the outcaste Chamar. His 
situation may be compared with that of the Cornish 
pilchard -fishers, for whom the growing laxity on the 
part of continental Roman Catholic countries in the 
observance of Lent is already more than an omen of 
coming disaster." ^ 
The When a hide is to be cured the inside is first cleaned 

with the rdjjipi, a chisel-like implement with a short > blade 
four inches broad and a thick short handle. It is then 
soaked in a mixture of water and lime for ten or twelve 
days, and at intervals scraped clean of flesh and hair with 
the rdiiipi. " The skill of a good tanner appears in the 
absence of superfluous inner skin, fat or flesh, remaining to 
be removed after the hide is finally taken out of the lime- 
pit. Next the hard berries of the ghont"^ tree are poured 
into a large earthen vessel sunk in the ground, and water 
added till the mixture is so thick as to become barely 
liquid. In this the folded hide is dipped three or four 
times a day, undergoing meanwhile a vigorous rubbing and 
kneading. The average duration of this process is eight 
days, and it is followed by what is according to European 
ideas the real tanning. Using as thread the roots of the 
ubiquitous palds^ tree, the Chamar sews the hide up into a 
mussack- shaped bag open at the neck. The sewing is 
admirably executed, and when drawn tight the seams are 
nearly, but purposely not quite, water-tight. The hide is 
then hung on low stout scaffolding over a pit and filled with 
a decoction of the dried and semi-powdered leaves of the 
dhaura ^ tree mixed with water. As the decoction trickles 
slowly through the seams below, more is poured on from 
above, and from time to time the position of the hide is 
reversed in such a way that the tanning permeates each part 
in turn. Sometimes only one reversal of the hide takes place 
half-way through the process, which occupies as a rule some 

^ Monograph on Leather Industries, p. 5. 
2 Zizyphiis xylopera. ^ Butea frondosa. * Anogeissus latifolia. 

^' ■^ 



eight days. But energetic Chamars continually turn and 
relill the skin until satisfied that it is thoroughly saturated 
with the tanning. After a washing in clean water the hide 
is now considered to be tanned." ^ 

In return for receiving the hides of the village cattle the 12. shoes. 
Chamar had to supply the village proprietor and his family 
with a pair of shoes each free of payment once a year, and 
sometimes also the village accountant and watchman ; but 
the cultivators had usually to pay for them, though nowa- 
days they also often insist on shoes in exchange for their 
hides. Shoes are usually worn in the wheat and cotton 
growing areas, but are less common in the rice country, 
where they would continually stick in the mud of the fields. 
The Saugor or Bundelkhandi shoe is a striking specimen of 
footgear. The sole is formed of as many as three layers 
of stout hide, and may be nearly an inch thick. The uppers 
in a typical shoe are of black soft leather, inlaid with a 
simple pattern in silver thread. These are covered by flaps 
of stamped yellow goat-skin cut in triangular and half-moon 
patterns, the interstices between the flaps being filled with 
red cloth. The heel-piece is continued more than half-way 
up the calf behind. The toe is pointed, curled tightly over 
backwards and surmounted by a brass knob. The high 
frontal shield protects the instep from mud and spear-grass, 
and the heel-piece ensures the retention of the shoe in the 
deepest quagmire. Such shoes cost one or two rupees a 
pair.^ In the rice Districts sandals are often worn on the 
road, and laid aside when the cultivator enters his fields. 
Women go bare- footed as a rule, but sometimes have 
sandals. Up till recently only prostitutes wore shoes in 
public, and no respectable woman would dare to do so. In 
towns boots and shoes made in the English fashion at 
Cawnpore and other centres have now been generally adopted, 
and with these socks are worn. The Mochis and Jingars, 
who are offshoots from the Chamar caste, have adopted the 
distinctive occupations of making shoes and horse furniture 
with prepared leather, and no longer cure hides. They have 

' The above is an abridgment of the further details, 

description in Mr. Trench's il/i3«^^ra//z, ^ Monogi-aph on the Leather Indus- 

to which reference may be made for tries, pp. lo, ii. 

VOL. II 2 E 

4i8 CHAMAR part 

thus developed into a separate caste, and consider themselves 
greatly superior to the Chamars. 

13. Other Other articles made of leather are the thongs and nose- 
made^of strings for bullocks, the buckets for irrigation wells, rude 
leather. couutry Saddlery, and inussacks and pakJidls for carrying 

water. These last are simply hides sewn into a bag and 
provided with an orifice. To make a pair of bellows a 
goat-skin is taken with all four legs attached, and wetted 
and filled with sand. It is then dried in the sun, the sand 
shaken out, the sticks fitted at the hind-quarters for blowing, 
and the pair of bellows is complete, 

14. cus- The shoe, as everybody in India knows, is a symbol of 
toms con- ^j^g greatest degradation and impurity. This is partly on 

nected with ° ^ ^ •' r j 

shoes. account of its manufacture from the impure leather or hide, 
and also perhaps because it is worn and trodden under foot. 
All the hides of tame animals are polluted and impure, but 
those of certain wild animals, such as the deer and tiger, are 
not so, being on the contrary to some extent sacred. This 
last feeling may be due to the fact that the old anchorites 
of the forests were accustomed to cover themselves with the 
skins of wild animals, and to use them for sitting and kneel- 
ing to pray. A Bairagi or Vaishnava religious mendicant 
much likes to carry a tiger-skin on his body if he can afford 
one ; and a Brahman will have the skin of a black-buck 
spread in the room where he performs his devotions. Possibly 
the sin involved in killing tame animals has been partly 
responsible for the impurity attaching to their hides, to 
the obtaining of which the death of the animal must be a 
preliminary. Every Hindu removes his shoes before entering 
a house, though with the adoption of English boots a breach 
is being made in this custom. So far as the houses of 
Europeans are concerned, the retention of shoes is not, as 
might be imagined, of recent origin, but was noticed by 
Buchanan a hundred years ago : " Men of rank and their 
attendants continue to wear their shoes loose for the purpose 
of throwing them off whenever they enter a room, which 
they still continue to do everywhere except in the houses 
of Europeans, in which all natives of rank now imitate 
our example." In this connection it must be remembered 
that a Hindu house is always sacred as the shrine of the 

^■*cI;|a^ ^^^ 


household f^od, and shoes are removed before stepping 
across the threshold on to the hallowed i^round. This con- 
sideration does not apply to European houses, and affords 
ground for dispensing with the removal of laced shoes and 

To be beaten or sometimes even touched with a shoe by 
a man of low caste entails temporary social excommunication 
to most Mindus, and must be expiated by a formal purifica- 
tion and caste feast. The outcaste Mahars punish a member 
of their community in the same manner even if somebody 
should throw a shoe on to the roof of his house, and the 
Pharasaical absurdities of the caste system surely find their 
culminating point in this rule. Similarly if a man touches 
his shoe with his hand and says ' I have beaten you,' to a 
member of any of the lower castes in Seoni, the person so 
addressed is considered as temporarily out of caste. If he 
then immediately goes and informs his caste-fellows he is 
reinstated with a nominal fine of grain worth one or two 
pice. But if he goes back to his house and takes food, and 
the incident is subsequently discovered, a penalty of a goat 
is levied. A curious exception recognised is that of the 
Sirkdri jiita, or shoe belonging to a Government servant, 
and to be beaten with this shoe does not entail social 

In return for his perquisite of the hides of cattle the 15. The 
Chamar has to act as the general village drudge in the ^^^ ^^ 
northern Districts and is always selected for the performance village 
of bigdr or forced labour. When a Government officer visits ™ ^^' 
the village the Chamar must look after him, fetch what 
grass or fuel he requires, and accompany him as far as the 
next village to point out the road. He is also the bearer of 
official letters and messages sent to the village. The special 
Chamar on whom these duties are imposed usually receives 
a plot of land rent-free from the village proprietor. Another 
of the functions of the Chamar is the castration of the 
young bullocks, which task the cultivators will not do for 
themselves. His method is most primitive, the scrotum 
being held in a cleft bamboo or a pair of iron pincers, while 
the testicles are bruised and rubbed to pulp with a stone. 
The animal remains ill for a week or a fortnight and is not 

420 CHAM A R ^ PART 

worked for two months, but the operation is rarely or never 
fatal. In the northern Districts the Chamars are said to be 
very strong and to make the best farmservants and coolies 
for earthwork. It is a proverb that ' The Chamar has half 
a rib more than other men.' Notwithstanding his strength, 
however, he is a great coward, this characteristic having 
probably been acquired through centuries of oppression. 
Many Chamar women act as midwives. In Raipur the 
cultivators give her five annas at the birth of a boy and four 
annas for a girl, while well-to-do people pay a rupee. 
When the first child of a rich man is born, the midwife, 
barber and washerman go round to all his friends and re- 
lations to announce the event and obtain presents. It is a 
regular function of the Chamars to remove the carcases of 
dead cattle, which they eat without regard to the disease 
from which the animal may have died. But a Chamar will 
not touch the corpse of a pony, camel, cat, dog, squirrel or 
monkey, and to remove the bodies of such animals a Mehtar 
(sweeper) or a Gond must be requisitioned. In Raipur it is 
said that the Chamars will eat only the flesh of four-legged 
animals, avoiding presumably birds and fish. When acting 
as a porter the Chamar usually carries a load on his head, 
whereas the Kahar bears it on his shoulders, and this dis- 
tinction is proverbial. In Raipur the Chamars have become 
retail cattle-dealers and are known as Kochias. They 
purchase cattle at the large central markets of Baloda and 
Bamnidih and retail them at the small village bazars. It is 
said that this trade could . only flourish in Chhattisgarh, 
where the cultivators are too lazy to go and buy their cattle 
for themselves. Many Chamars have emigrated from 
Chhattisgarh to the Assam tea-gardens, and others have 
gone to Calcutta and to the railway workshops at Kharag- 
pur and Chakardharpur. Many of them work as porters on 
the railway. It is probable that their taste for emigration 
is due to the resentment felt at their despised position in 
i6. Social The Chamar ranks at the very bottom of the social scale, 

status. ^,-|(j contact with his person is considered to be a defilement 
to high-caste Hindus. He cannot draw vv^ater from the 
common well and usually lives in a hamlet somewhat removed 


from the main village. But in several localities the rule is 
not so strict, and in Saugor a Chamar may go into all parts 
of the house except the cooking and eating rooms. This is 
almost necessary when he is so commonly employed as a farm- 
servant. Here the village barber will shave Chamars and the 
washerman will wash their clothes. And the Chamar himself 
will not touch the corpse of a horse, a dog or any animal 
whose feet are uncloven ; and he will not kill a cow though 
he eats its flesh. It is stated indeed that a Chamar who once 
killed a calf accidentally had to go to the Ganges to purify 
himself. The crime of cattle-poisoning is thus rare in Saugor 
and the other northern Districts, but in the east of the 
Provinces it is a common practice of the Chamars. As is 
usual with the low castes, many Chamars are in some repute 
as Gunias or sorcerers, and in this capacity they are frequently 
invited to enter the houses of Hindus to heal persons pos- 
sessed of evil spirits. When children fall ill one of them is 
called in and he waves a branch of the mm ^ tree over the 
child and taking ashes in his hand blows them at it ; he is 
also consulted for hysterical women. When a Chamar has 
had something stolen and wishes to detect the thief, he takes 
the wooden-handled needle used for stitching leather and 
sticks the spike into the sole of a shoe. Then two persons 
standing in the relation of maternal uncle and nephew hold 
the needle and shoe up by placing their forefingers under 
the wooden handle. The names of all suspected persons are 
pronounced, and he at whose name the shoe turns on the 
needle is taken to be the thief. 

The caste do not employ Brahmans for their ceremonies, 
but consult them for the selection of auspicious days, as this 
business can be performed by the Brahman at home and he 
need not enter the Chamar's house. But poor and despised 
as the Chamars are they have a pride of their own. When 
the Dohar and Maratha Chamars sell shoes to a Mahar they 
will only allow him to try on one of them and not both, and 
this, too, he must do in a sitting posture, as an indication of 
humility. The Harale or Maratha Chamars of Berar " do not 
eat beef nor work with untanned leather, and they will not 
work for the lowest castes, as Mahars, Mangs, Basors and 

^ Melia indica. 2 Berar Census Report (1881), p. 149. 

422 CHAMAR part 

Kolis. If one of these buys a pair of shoes from the Chamar 
the seller asks no indiscreet questions ; but he will not mend 
the pair as he would for a man of higher caste. The 
Satnamis of Chhattisgarh have openly revolted against the 
degraded position to which they are relegated by Hinduism 
and are at permanent feud with the Hindus ; some of them 
have even adopted the sacred thread. But this inter- 
esting movement is separately discussed in the article on 

In Chhattisgarh the Chamars are the most criminal class 
of the population, and have made a regular practice of 
poisoning cattle with arsenic in order to obtain the hides and 
flesh. They either mix the poison with mahua flowers 
strewn on the grazing-ground, or make it into a ball with 
butter and insert it into the anus of the animal when the 
herdsman is absent. They also commit cattle-theft and 
frequently appear at the whipping-post before the court-house. 
The estimation in which they are held by their neighbours is 
reflected in the proverb, ' Hemp, rice and a Chamar ; the 
more they are pounded the better they are.' " The caste," 
Mr. Trench writes, " are illiterate to a man, and their intel- 
lectual development is reflected in their style of living. A 
visit to a hamlet of tanning Chamars induces doubt as to 
whence the appalling smells of the place proceed — from the 
hides or from the tanners. Were this squalor invariably, 
as it is occasionally, accompanied by a sufficiency of the 
necessaries of life, victuals and clothing, the Chamar would 
not be badly off, but the truth is that in the northern 
Districts at all events the Chamar, except in years of good 
harvest, does not get enough to eat. This fact is sufficiently 
indicated by a glance at the perquisites of the village Chamar, 
who is almost invariably the shoemaker and leather-worker 
for his little community. In one District the undigested 
grain left by the gorged bullocks on the threshing-floor is his 
portion, and a portion for which he will sometimes fight. 
Everywhere he is a carrion-eater, paying little or no regard 
to the disease from which the animal may have died." The 
custom above mentioned of washing grain from the dung of 
cattle is not so repugnant to the Hindus, owing to the sacred 
character of the cow, as it is to us. It is even sometimes 


considered holy food : — " The zamindar of Idar, who is named 
Naron Dus, lives with such austerity that his only food is 
grain which has passed through oxen and has been separated 
from their dung ; and this kind of aliment the Brahmans 
consider pure in the highest degree."^ Old-fashioned 
cultivators do not muzzle the bullocks treading out the corn, 
and the animals eat it the whole time, so that much passes 
through their bodies undigested. The Chamar will make 
several maunds (So lbs.) of grain in this way, and to a 
cultivator who does not muzzle his bullocks he will give a 
pair of shoes and a plough-rein and yoke-string. Another 
duty of the Chamar is to look after the banda or large under- 
ground masonry chamber in which grain is kept. After the 
grain has been stored, a conical roof is built and plastered 
over with mud to keep out water. The Chamar looks 
after the repairs of the mud plaster and in return receives 
a small quantity of grain, which usually goes bad on the 
floor of the store -chamber. They prepare the threshing- 
floors for the cultivators, making the surface of the soil 
level and beating it down to a smooth and hard surface. 
In return for this they receive the grain mixed with earth 
which remains on the threshing-floor after the crop is 

Like all other village artisans the Chamar is considered 
by the cultivators to be faithless and dilatory in his dealings 
with them ; and they vent their spleen in sayings such as 
the following : — " The Kori, the Chamar and the Ahir, these 
are the three biggest liars that ever were known. For if 
you ask the Chamar whether he has mended your shoes 
he says, ' I am at the last stitch,' when he has not begun 
them ; if you ask the AhIr whether he has brought back 
your cow from the jungle he says, * It has come, it has 
come,' without knowing or caring whether it has come or 
not ; and if you ask the Kori whether he has made your 
cloth he says, ' It is on the loom,' when he has not so much 
as bought the thread." Another proverb conveying the 
same sense is, ' The Mochi's to-morrow never comes.' But 
no doubt the uncertainty and delay in payment account for 
much of this conduct. 

^ jRdsmala, i. 395, quoting from the Ain-i-Akbari. 




Chasa,^ Tasa (also called Alia in the Sonpur and Patna 
States). — The chief cultivating caste of Orissa. In 1901 
more than 21,000 Chasas were enumerated in Sambalpur 
and the adjoining Feudatory States, but nearly all these 
passed in 1905 to Bengal. The Chasas are said ^ by 
Sir H. Risley to be for the most part of non-Aryan descent, 
the loose organisation of the caste system among the 
Uriyas making it possible on the one hand for outsiders 
to be admitted into the caste, and on the other for wealthy 
Chasas who gave up ploughing with their own hands and 
assumed the respectable title of Mahanti to raise themselves 
to membership among the lower classes of Kayasths. This 
passage indicates that the term Mahanti is or was a broader 
one than Karan or Uriya Kayasth, and was applied to 
educated persons of other castes who apparently aspired to 
admission among the Karans, in the same manner as leading 
members of the warlike and landholding castes lay claim to 
rank as Rajputs. For this reason probably the Uriya 
Kayasths prefer the name of Karan to that of Mahanti, 
and the Uriya saying, ' He who has no caste is called a 
Mahanti,' supports this view. The word Chasa has the 
generic meaning of ' a cultivator,' and the Chasas may in 
Sambalpur be merely an occupational group recruited 
from other castes. This theory is supported by the names 
of their subdivisions, three of which, Kolta, Khandait 
and Ud or Orh are the names of distinct castes, while 
the fourth, Benatia, is found as a subdivision of several 
other castes. 

Each family has a got or sept and a varga or family 
name. The vargas are much more numerous than the gots, 
and marriages are arranged according to them, unions of 
members of the same varga only being forbidden. The 
sept names are totemistic and the family names territorial 
or titular. Among the former are bacJihds (calf), ndgas 
(cobra), Jiasti or gaj (elephant), Jiarin (deer), maJiuindcJiJd 
(bee), dlpas (lamp), and others ; while instances of the varga 
names are Pitmundia, Hulbulsingia, Giringia and Dumania, 

' From papers by Mr. Parmcshwar 
Misra, Settlement Superintendent, 
Rairakhol, and Mr. Rasanand, Siresh- 

tedar, Bamra. 

^ Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art. 


all names of villages in Angul State ; and Nayak (headman), 
Mahanti (writer), Dehri (vvorshii)per), 15ehera (cook), Kandra 
(bamboo-worker), and others. The different gots or septs 
revere their totems by drawing figures of them on their 
houses, and abstaining from injuring them in any way. If 
they find the footprints of the animal which they worship, 
they bow to the marks and obliterate them with the hand, 
perhaps with the view of affording protection to the totem 
animal from hunters or of preventing the marks from being 
trampled on by others. They believe that if they injured 
the totem animal they would be attacked by leprosy and 
their line would die out. Members of the dipas sept will 
not eat if a lamp is put out at night, and will not touch a 
lamp with unclean hands. Those of the viahunidcJihi or 
bee sept will not take honey from a comb or eat it. Those 
of the gaj sept will not join an elephant kheddah. Some of 
the septs have an Ishta Devata or tutelary Hindu deity to 
whom worship is paid. Thus the elephant sept w^orship 
Ganesh, the elephant-headed god, and also do not kill rats 
because Ganesh rides on this animal. Similarly the harin 
or deer sept have Pawan, the god of the wind, as their Ishta 
Devata, because a deer is considered to be as swift as the 
wind. It would appear then that the septs, each having 
its totem, were the original divisions for the restriction of 
marriage, but as these increased in size they were felt to 
debar the union of persons who had no real relationship 
and hence the smaller family groups were substituted for 
them ; while in the case of the old septs, the substitution 
of the Hindu god representing the animal worshipped by 
the sept for the animal itself as the object of veneration is 
an instance of the process of abandoning totem or animal 
worship and conforming to Hinduism. In one or two cases 
the Vargas themselves have been further subdivided for the 
purpose of marriage. Thus certain families of the Padhan 
(leader, chief) varga were entrusted with the duty of re- 
admitting persons temporarily put out of caste to social 
intercourse, for which they received the remuneration of a 
rupee and a piece of cloth in each case. These families 
were called the Parichha or ' Scrutinisers ' and have now 
become a separate varga, so that a Parichha Padhan may 


marry another Padhan. This is a further instance of the 
process of subdivision of exogamous groups which nriust 
take place as the groups increase in size and numbers, and 
the original idea of the common ancestry of the group 
vanishes. Until finally the primitive system of exogamy 
disappears and is replaced by the modern and convenient 
method of prohibition of marriage within certain degrees of 

The Chasas do not marry within the same varga, but a 
man may usually take a wife from his mother's varga. A 
girl must always be wedded before arriving at adolescence, 
the penalty for breach of this rule being the driving out of 
the girl to seclusion in the forest for a day and a half, and a 
feast to the caste-fellows. If no husband is available she 
may be married to an arrow or a flower, or she goes through 
the form of marriage with any man in the caste, and when a 
suitable partner is subsequently found, is united with him by 
the form of widow-marriage. Widows may marry again and 
divorce is also allowed. The dead are usually buried if 
unmarried, and burnt when married. The Chasas worship 
the Hindu deities and also the village god Gramsiri, who is 
represented by a stone outside the village. At festivals they 
offer animal sacrifices to their agricultural implements, as 
hoes and hatchets. They employ Brahmans for religious 
ceremonies. They have an aversion to objects of a black 
colour, and will not use black umbrellas or clothes woven 
with black thread. They do not usually wear shoes or ride 
horses, even when they can afford these latter. Cultivation 
is the traditional occupation of the caste, and they are 
tenants, farmservants and field-labourers. They take food 
from Rajputs and Brahmans, and sometimes from Koltas 
and Sudhs. They eat flesh and fish, but abjure liquor, beef, 
pork and fowls. Their social position is a little below that 
of the good agricultural castes, and they are considered 
somewhat stupid, as shown by the proverb : 

Chasa, ki jane pasdr katha^ 
Padili bolai dons ; 

or ' What does the Chasa know of the dice ? At every 
throw he calls out " twenty." ' 


Chauhan.^ — A small caste of village watchmen and 
labourers in the Chhattlsgarh Division. They are also 
known as Chandel by outsiders. In 191 i the Chauhans 
numbered 7000 persons in the Raipur and Bilaspur Districts, 
and the adjoining Feudatory States. The caste claim 
themselves to be of Rajput origin, and say that their 
ancestors came from Mainpuri, which is the home of the 
Chauhan clan of Rajputs. A few of their section names are 
taken from those of Rajput clans, but the majority are of a 
totemistic nature, being called after animals and plants, as 
Nag the cobra, Neora the mongoose, Kolhia the jackal, 
Kamal the lotus, Pat silk, Chanwar rice, Khanda a sword, 
and so on. Members of each sept worship the object after 
which it is named at the time of marriage, and if the tree or 
animal itself is not readily available, they make a representa- 
tion of it in flour and pay their respects to that. Thus 
members of the Bedna or sugarcane sept make a stick of 
flour and worship it. They will not kill or eat their sept 
totem, but in some cases, as in that of the Chanwar or rice 
sept, this rule is impossible of observance, so the members of 
this sept content themselves with abstaining from a single 
variety of rice, the kind called Nagkesar. Families who 
belong to septs named after heroic ancestors make an image 
in flour of the ancestral saint or hero and worship it. The 
caste employ Brahmans for their marriage and other cere- 
monies, and will not take food from any caste except 
Brahmans and their Bairagi gurus or spiritual preceptors. 
But their social position is very low, as none except the most 
debased castes will take food or water from their hands, and 
their hereditary calling of village watchman would not be 
practised by any respectable caste. By outsiders they are 
considered little, if at all, superior to the Pankas and Gandas, 
and the most probable theory of their origin is that they are 
the descendants of irregular alliances between immigrant 
Rajput adventurers and the women of the country. Their 
social customs resemble those of other low castes in Chhattls- 
garh. Before the bridegroom starts for a wedding, they 
have a peculiar ceremony known as. Naodori. Seven small 
earthen cups full of water are placed on the boy's head, and 

^ This article is based principally on notes taken by Mr. Hira Lai at Bhatgaon. 

438 CHA UHAN part 

then poured over him in succession. A piece of new cloth 
is laid on his head, and afterwards placed seven times in 
contact with the earth. During this ritual the boy keeps his 
eyes shut, and it is believed that if he should open them 
before its completion, his children would be born blind. 
When the bride leaves her father's house she and all her 
relatives mourn and weep noisily, and the bride continues 
doing so until she is well over a mile from her own 
village. Similarly on the first three or four visits which she 
pays to her parents after her wedding, she begins crying 
loudly a mile away from their house, and continues until she 
reaches it. It is the etiquette also that women should cry 
whenever they meet relatives from a distance. In such cases 
when two women see each other they cry together, each 
placing her head on the other's shoulder and her hands at 
her sides. While they cry they change the position of their 
heads two or three times, and each addresses the other 
according to their relationship, as mother, sister, and so on. 
Or if any member of the family has recently died, they call 
upon him or her, exclaiming ' O my mother ! O my sister ! 
O my father ! Why did not I, unfortunate one, die instead 
of thee ? ' A woman \\hen weeping with a man holds to 
his sides and rests her head against his breast. The man 
exclaims at intervals, ' Stop crying, do not cry,' When 
two women are weeping together it is a point of etiquette 
that the elder should stop first and then beg her companion 
to do so, but if it is doubtful which is the elder, they some- 
times go on crying for an hour at a time, exciting the younger 
spectators to mirth, until at length some elder steps forward 
and tells one of them to stop. The Chauhans permit the 
remarriage of widows, and a woman is bound by no restrictions 
as to her choice of a second husband. 

The goddess Durga or Devi is chiefly revered by the 
caste, who observe fasts in her honour in the months of 
Kunwar (September) and Chait (March). When they make 
a badna or vow, they usually offer goats to the goddess, and 
sow the Jaivaras or Gardens of Adonis in her name, but 
except on such occasions they present less costly articles, as 
cocoanuts, betel-leaves, areca-nuts and flowers. On the 
Dasahra festival they worship the lathi or stick which is the 

H cum PA 429 

badge of office of the village watchman. They were formerly 
addicted to petty theft, and it is said that they worshipped 
the khunta or pointed rod for digging through the wall of a 
house. The caste usually burn the dead, but children whose 
cars or noses have not been pierced are buried. Children 
who die before they have begun to eat grain are not mourned 
at all, while for older children the period of mourning is 
three to seven days, and for adults ten days. On the tenth 
day they clean their houses, shave themselves and offer balls 
of rice to the dead under the direction of a Brahman, to 
whom they present eating and drinking vessels, clothes, 
shoes and cattle with the belief that the articles will thus 
become available for the use of the dead man in the other 
world. The Chauhans will not eat fowls, pork or beef, and 
in some places they abstain from drinking liquor. 

Chhipa, Rangari, Bhaosar, Nirali, Nilgar. — The Hindu i. consti- 
tution of 

the caste. 

caste of cotton printers and dyers. They are commonly ^"''°" ° 

known as Chhipa in the northern Districts and Rangari 
or Bhaosar in the Maratha country. The Chhipas and 
Rangaris together number about 23,000 persons. In the 
south of the Central Provinces and Berar cotton is a staple 
crop, and the cotton-weaving industry is much stronger than 
in the north, and as a necessary consequence the dyers also 
would be more numerous. Though the Chhipas and Ran- 
garis do not intermarry 6r dine together, no essential 
distinction exists between them. They are both of func- 
tional origin, pursue exactly the same occupation, and 
relate the same story about themselves, and no good reason 
therefore exists for considering them as separate castes. 
Nilgar or Nirali is a purely occupational term applied to 
Chhipas or Rangaris who work in indigo («J/) ; while 
Bhaosar is another name for the Rangaris in the northern 

The Rangaris say that when Parasurama, the Brahman, 2. its 
was slaying the Kshatriyas, two brothers of the warrior caste °"?'" ^"^ 

. position. 

took refuge in a temple of Devi. One of them^r called 
Bhaosar, threw himself upon the image, while the other hid 
behind it. The goddess saved them both and told them to 
adopt the vocation, of dyers. The Rangaris are descended 



from the brother who was called Bhaosar and the Chhipas 
from the other brother, because he hid behind the image 
{chhipna, to hide). The word is really derived from chhdpna, 
to print, because the Chhipas print coloured patterns on cotton 
cloths with wooden stamps. Rangari comes from the common 
word rang or colour. The Chhipas have a slightly different 
version of the same story, according to which the goddess gave 
one brother a needle and a piece of thread, and the other some 
red betel-leaf which she spat at him out of her mouth ; and 
told one to follow the vocation of a tailor, and the other that 
of a dyer. Hence the first was called Chhlpi or Shimpi 
and the second Chhipa. This story indicates a connection 
between the dyeing and tailoring castes in the Maratha 
Districts, which no doubt exists, as one subcaste of the 
Rangaris is named after Namdeo, the patron saint of the 
Shimpis or tailors. Both the dyeing and tailoring industries 
are probably of considerably later origin than that of cotton- 
weaving, and both are urban rather than village industries. 
And this consideration perhaps accounts Tor the fact that the 
Chhipas and Rangaris rank higher than most of the weaving 
castes, and no stigma or impurity attaches to them. 

The caste have a number of subdivisions, such as the 
Malaiyas or immigrants from Malwa, the Gujrati who come 
from Gujarat, the Golias or those who dye cloth with goli ka 
rang, the fugitive aniline dyes, the Namdeos who belong to 
the sect founded by the Darzi or tailor of that name, and the 
Khatris, these last being members of the Khatri caste who 
have adopted the profession. 

Marriage is forbidden between persons so closely con- 
nected as to have a common ancestor in the third genera- 
tion. In Bhandara it is obligatory on all members of 
the caste, who know the bride or bridegroom, to ask him or 
her to dine. The marriage rite is that prevalent among the 
Hindustani castes, of walking round the sacred post. Divorce 
and the marriage of widows are permitted. In Narsinghpur, 
when a bachelor marries a widow, he first goes through a 
mock dftremony by walking seven times round an earthen 
vessel filled with cakes ; this rite being known as Langra 
Biyah or the lame marriage. The caste burn their dead, 
placing the head to the north. On the day of Dasahra the 


ChhTpas worship their wooden stamps, first washing them 
and then making an offering to them of a cocoanut, flowers 
and an image consisting of a bottle-gourd standing on four 
sticks, which is considered to represent a goat. The Chhipas 
rank with the lower artisan castes, from whose hands 
Brahmans will not take water. Nevertheless some of them 
wear the sacred thread and place sect - marks on their 

The bulk of the ChhTpas dye cloths in red, blue or black, s- Occupa- 
with ornamental patterns picked out on them in black and 
white. Formerly their principal agent was the al or Indian 
mulberry {Morinda citrifolia), from which a rich red dye is 
obtained. But this indigenous product has been ousted by 
alizarin, a colouring agent made from coal-tar, which is im- 
ported from Germany, and is about thirty per cent cheaper 
than the native dye. Chhipas prepare saris or women's 
wearing-cloths, and floor and bed cloths. The dye stamps 
are made of teakwood by an ordinary carpenter, the flat 
surface of the wood being hollowed out so as to leave ridges 
which form either a design in curved lines or the outlines of 
the figures of men, elephants and tigers. There is a great 
variety of patterns, as many as three hundred stamps having 
been found in one Chhipa's shop. The stamps are usually 
covered with a black ink made of sulphate of iron, and this 
is fixed by myrobalans ; the Nllgars usually dye a plain blue 
with indigotin. No great variety or brilliancy of colours 
is obtained by the Hindu dyers, who are much excelled in 
this branch of the art by the Muhammadan Rangrez. In 
Gujarat dyeing is strictly forbidden by the caste rules of 
the Chhipas or Bhaosars during the four rainy months, 
because the slaughter of insects in the dyeing vat adds to 
the evil and ill-luck of that sunless time.' 

1 Bombay Gazetteer, Hindus of Gujarat, p. 1 78. 



1. Origin and t7-aditions. 4. The evil eye. 

2. Social customs. 5. Cradle-songs. 

3. Birl/i and childhood. 6. Occiipatioti. 

Chitari, Chiter, Chitrakar, Maharana. — A caste of 
painters on wood and plaster. Chiter is the Hindustani, 
and Chitari the Marathi name, both being corruptions of 
the Sanskrit Chitrakar. Maharana is the term used in the 
Uriya country, where the caste are also known as Phal- 
Barhai, or a carpenter who only works on one side of the 
wood. Chitari is further an occupational term applied to 
Mochis and Jingars, or leather-workers, who have adopted 
the occupation of wall-painting, and there is no reason to 
doubt that the Chitaris were originally derived from the 
Mochis, though they have now a somewhat higher position. 
In Mandla the Chitrakars and Jingars are separate castes, 
and do not eat or intermarry with one another. Neither 
branch will take water from the Mochis, who make shoes, 
and some Chitrakars even refuse to touch them. They 
say that the founder of their caste was Biskarma,^ the first 
painter, and that their ancestors were Rajputs, whose country 
was taken by Akbar. As they were without occupation 
Akbar then assigned to them the business of making saddles 
and bridles for his cavalry and scabbards for their swords. 
It is not unlikely that the Jingar caste did really originate 
or first become differentiated from the Mochis and Chamars 
in Rajputana owing to the demand for such articles, and this 
would account for the Mochis and Jingars having adopted 
Rajput names for their sections, and making a claim to Rajpilt 
1 A corruption for Viswakarma, the divine artificer and architect. 


descent. Tlie Chitrakars of Mandla say that their ancestors 
beloni^ed to Garha, near Jubbulpore, where the tomb of a 
woman of their family who became sati is still to be seen. 
Garha, which was once the seat of an important Gond dynasty 
with a garrison, would also naturally have been a centre for 
their craft. 

Another legend traces their origin from Chitrarekha, a 
nymph who was skilled in painting and magic. She was the 
friend of a princess Usha, whose father was king of Sohagpur 
in Hoshangabad. Usha fell in love with a beautiful young 
prince whom she saw in a dream, and Chitrarekha drew the 
portraits of many gods and men for her, until finally Usha 
recognised the youth of her dream in the portrait of Ani- 
ruddha, the grandson of Krishna. Chitrarekha then by her 
magic power brought Aniruddha to Usha, but when her 
father found him in the palace he bound him and kept him in 
prison. On this Krishna appeared and rescued his grandson, 
and taking Usha from her father married them to each other. 
The Chitaris say that as a reward to Chitrarekha, Krishna 
promised her that her descendants should never be in want, 
and hence members of their caste do not lack for food even 
in famine time.^ The Chitaris are declining in numbers, as 
their paintings are no longer in demand, the people prefer- 
ring the cheap coloured prints imported from Germany and 

The caste is a mixed occupational group, and those of 2. Social 
Maratha, Telugu and Hindustani extraction marry among 
themselves. A few wear the sacred thread, and abstain from 
eating flesh or drinking liquor, while the bulk of them do not 
observe these restrictions. 

Among the Jingars women accompany the marriage pro- 
cession, but not with the Chitaris. 

Widow-marriage is allowed, but among the Maharanas 
a wife who has lived with her husband may not marry any 
one except his younger brother, and if there are none she 
must remain a widow. In Mandla, if a widow marries her 
younger brother-in-law, half her first husband's property 
goes to him finally, and half to the first husband's children. 

^ The story, however, really belongs to northern India. Usha is the goddess 
of dawn. 

VOL. II 2 F 


434 CHITARI part 

If she marries an outsider she takes her first husband's 
property and children with her. Formerly if a wife mis- 
behaved the Chitari sometimes sold her to the highest 
bidder, but this custom has fallen into abeyance, and now 
if a man divorces his wife her father usually repays to him 
the expenses of his marriage. These he realises in turn 
from any man who takes his daughter. A second wife 
worships the spirit of the dead first wife on the day of 
Akhatlj, offering some food and a breast-cloth, so that the 
spirit may not trouble her. 

A pregnant woman must stay indoors during an eclipse ; 
if she goes out and sees it they believe that her child will be 
born deformed. They think that a woman in this condition 
must be given any food which she takes a fancy for, so far 
as may be practicable, as to thwart her desires would affect 
the health of the child. Women in this condition sometimes 
have a craving for eating earth ; then they will eat either the 
scrapings or whitewash from the walls, or black clay soil, or 
the ashes of cowdung cakes to the extent of a small handful 
a day. A woman's first child should be born in her father- 
in-law's or husband's house if possible, but at any rate not in 
her father's house. And if she should be taken with the 
pangs of travail while on a visit to her own family, they will 
send her to some other house for her child to be born. The 
ears of boys and the ears and nostrils of girls are pierced, 
and until this is done they are not considered to be proper 
members of the caste and can take food from any one's hand. 
The Chitaris of Mandla permit a boy to do this until he is 
married. A child's hair is not shaved when it is born, but 
this should be done once before it is three years old, whether 
it be a boy or girl. After this the hair may be allowed to 
grow, and shaved off or simply cut as they prefer. Except 
in the case of illness a girl's hair is only shaved once, and 
that of an adult woman is never cut, unless she becomes a 
widow and makes a pilgrimage to a sacred place, when it is 
shaved ofif as an offering. 
4- The In order to avert the evil eye they hang round a child's 

eye. j^g^k a nut called bajar-battu, the shell of which they say will 
crack and open if any one casts the evil eye on the child. 
If it is placed in milk the two parts will come together again. 

ir 11 IF. jci'ii. j:vi-: 435 

They also think that the nut attracts the evil eye and absorbs 
its effect, and the child is therefore not injured. If they 
think that some one has cast the evil eye on a child, they 
say a charm, ' IsJiivar^ Gauri, Paiuati kc an iui::ar diir ho 
jao' or ' Depart, Iwil Eye, in the name of Mahadeo and 
Parvati,' and as they say this they blow on the child three 
times ; or they take some salt, chillies and mustard in 
their hand and wave it round the child's head and say, 
' Teliu ki Idgi ho, Tamolin kl Idgi ho, Mardrin kl ho, 
Gorania {Gondiii) ki ho, oke, oke, parpardke phut jdwe^ 
' If it be a Telin, Tambolin, Mararin or Gondin who 
has cast the evil eye, may her eyes crack and fall out.' 
And • at the same time they throw the mustard, chillies 
and salt on the fire so that the eyes of her who cast the 
evil eye may crack and fall out as these things crackle in 
the fire. 

If tiger's claws are used for an amulet, the points must 
be turned outwards. If any one intends to wish luck to a 
child, he says, ' Tori balaydn knn' and waves his hands round 
the child's head several times to signify that he takes upon 
himself all the misfortunes which are to happen to the child. 
Then he presses the knuckles of his hands against the sides of 
his own head till they crack, which is a lucky omen, averting 
calamity. If the knuckles do not crack at the first attempt, it 
is repeated two or three times. When a man sneezes he will 
say ' Chatrapati,' which is considered to be a name of Devi, 
but is only used on this occasion. But some say nothing. 
After yawning they snap their fingers, the object of which, 
they say, is to drive away sleep, as otherwise the desire will 
become infectious and attack others present. But if a child 
yawns they sometimes hold one of their hands in front of 
his mouth, and it is probable that the original meaning of 
the custom was to prevent evil spirits from entering through 
the widely opened mouth, or the yawner's own soul or spirit 
from escaping ; and the habit of holding the hand before the 
mouth from politeness when yawning inadvertently may be 
a reminiscence of this. 

The following are some cradle-songs taken down from a 5. Cradie- 
Chitrakar, but probably used by most of the lower Hindu 
castes : 


436 CHITARI part 

1. Mother, rock the cradle of your pretty child. What is the cradle 

made of, and what are its tassels made of ? 
The cradle is made of sandalwood, its tassels are of silk. 
Some Gaolin (milkwoman) has overlooked the child, he vomits up 

his milk. 
Dasoda ^ shall wave salt and mustard round his head, and he shall 

play in my lap. 
My baby is making little steps. O Sunar, bring him tinkling 

anklets ! 
The Sunar shall bring anklets for him, and my child will go to the 

garden and there we will eat oranges and lemons. 

2. My Krishna's tassel is lost, Tell me, some one, where it is. My 

child is angry and will not come into my arms. 
The tears are falling from his eyes like blossoms from the bela 2 

He has bangles on his wrists and anklets on his feet, on his head 

a golden crown and round his waist a silver chain. 

The jliumri or tassel referred to above is a tassel adorned 
with cowries and hung from the top of the cradle so that 
the child may keep his eyes on it while the cradle is being 

3. Sleep, sleep, my little baby ; I will wave my hands round your 

head ^ on the banks of the Jumna, I have cooked hot cakes 

for you and put butter in them ; all the night you lay awake, 

now take your fill of sleep. 
The little mangoes are hanging on the tree ; the rope is in the 

well ; sleep thou till I go and come back with water. 
I will hang your cradle on the banyan tree, and its rope to the 

pipal tree ; I will rock my darling gently so that the rope shall 

never break. 

The last song may be given in the vernacular as a 
specimen : 

4. Ram kl Chireya, Ram ko khet. 
Khaori Chireya, bhar, bhar pet. 
Tan jnuttaiydn khd lao khet., 
Agao, labra^ gCili det j 

Knhe ko, /abra, gdli de j 
Ap?ii bhiiniia gin, gin le. 
or — 

The field is Rama's, the little birds are Rama's ; O birds, eat 
your fill ; the little birds have eaten up the corn. 

' Krishna's mother. to the ordinary observer who sees a 

Hindu child crying. 
^ Little white flowers like jasmine. ^ Tori balayaii hnin. For explana- 

This simile would be unlikely to occur tion see above. 


The surly farmer has come to the field and scolds them ; the little 
birds say, 'O farmer, why do you scold us? count your ears of maize, 
they are all there.' 

This song commemorates a favourite incident in the 
life of Tuisi Das, the author of the Ramayana, who when 
he was a Httle boy was once sent by his guru to watch the 
crop. But after some time the guru came and found the 
field full of birds eating the corn and Tulsi Das watching 
them. When asked why he did not scare them away, he 
said, ' Are they not as much the creatures of Rama as I am ? 
how should I deprive them of food ? ' 

The Chitaris pursue their old trade, principally in Nagpur 6. Occupa- 
city, where the taste for wall-paintings still survives ; and "°"' 
they decorate the walls of houses with their crude red and 
blue colours. But they have now a number of other avoca- 
tions. They paint pictures on paper, making their colours 
from the tins of imported aniline dyeing-powders which are 
sold in the bazar ; but there is little demand for these. 
They make small pictures of the deities which the people 
hang on their walls for a day and then throw away. They 
also paint the bodies of the men who pretend to be tigers 
at the Muharram festival, for which they charge a rupee. 
They make the clay paper-covered masks of monkeys and 
demons worn by actors who play the Ramllla or story of 
Rama on the Ramnaomi festival in Chait (March) ; they 
also make the tdzias or representations of the tomb of 
Hussain and paper figures of human beings with small clay 
heads, which are carried in the Muharram procession. They 
make marriage crowns ; the frames of these are of conical 
shape with a half-moon at the top, made from strips of 
bamboo ; they are covered with red paper picked out with 
yellow and green and with tinfoil, and are ornamented with 
borders of date-palm leaves. The crowns cost from four 
annas to a rupee each. They make the artificial flowers 
used at weddings ; these are stuck on a bamboo stick and 
at the arrival and departure of the bridegroom are scrambled 
for by the guests, who take them home as keepsakes or 
give them to their children for playthings. The flowers 
copied are the lotus, rose and chrysanthemum, and the 
imitations are quite good. Sometimes the bridegroom is 


surrounded by trays or boxes of flowers, carried in procession 
and arranged so as to look as if they were planted in beds. 
Other articles made by the Chitrakar are paper fans, paper 
globes for hanging to the roofs of houses, Chinese lanterns 
made either of paper or of mica covered with paper, and 
small caps of velvet embroidered with gold lace. At the 
Akti festival ^ they make pairs of little clay dolls, dressing 
them as male and female, and sell them in red lacquered 
bamboo baskets, and the girls take them to the jungle and 
pretend that they are married. Formerly the Chitrakars 
made clay idols for temples, but these have been supplanted 
by marble images imported from Jaipur. The Jingars make 
the cloth saddles on which natives ride, and some of them 
bind books, the leather for which is made from goat-skin, 
and is not considered so impure as that made from the 
hides of cattle.' But one class of them, who are considered 
inferior, make leather harness from cow-hide and buffalo- 

Chitrakathi, Hardas." — A small caste of religious mendi- 
cants and picture showmen in the Maratha Districts. In 
1 90 1 they numbered 200 persons in the Central Provinces 
and 1500 in Berar, being principally found in the Amraoti 
District. The name, Mr. Enthoven writes,^ is derived from 
chitra^ a picture, and kat/ia, a story, and the professional 
occupation of the caste is to travel about exhibiting pictures 
of heroes and gods, and telling stories about them. The 
community is probably of mixed functional origin, for in 
Bombay they have exogamous section -names taken from 
those of the Marathas, as Jadhow, More, Powar and so on, 
while in the Central Provinces and Berar an entirely different 
set is found. Here several sections appear to be named 
after certain offices held or functions performed by their 
members at the caste feasts. Thus the Atak section are 
the caste headmen ; the Mankari appear to be a sort of 
substitute for the Atak or their grand viziers, the word 

1 Commencement of the agricultural Tahsildar, Balaghat. 

2 This article is partly Imsed on a ■'' Bombay Ethnogi-apJiic Sn->~i<ey, 
paper by Mr. Bijai Bahadur, Naib- draft article on Chitrakathi. 

1 1 CHI / 'RA KA Tffl 439 

Mankar being primarily a title applied to Maratha noblemen, 
who held an official position at court ; the Bhojni section 
serve the food at marriage and other ceremonies ; the Kakra 
arrange for the lighting ; the Kotharya are store-keepers ; 
and the Ghoderao (from ghoda, a horse) have the duty of 
looking after the horses and bullock-carts of the castemen 
who assemble. The Chitrakathis are really no doubt the 
same caste as the Chitaris or Chitrakars (painters) of the 
Central Provinces, and, like them, a branch of the Mochis 
(tanners), and originally derived from the Chamars. But as 
the Berar Chitrakathis are migratory instead of settled, and 
in other respects differ from the Chitaris, they are treated in 
a separate article. Marriage within the section is forbidden, 
and, besides this, members of the Atak and Mankari sections 
cannot intermarry as they are considered to be related, being 
divisions of one original section. The social customs of the 
caste resemble those of the Kunbis, but they bury their dead 
in a sitting posture, with the face to the east, and on the 
eighth day erect a platform over the grave. At the festival 
of Akhatlj (3rd of light Baisakh) ^ they worship a vessel of 
water in honour of their dead ancestors, and in Kunwar 
(September) they offer oblations to them. Though not 
impure, the caste occupy a low social position, and are said 
to prostitute their married women and tolerate sexual licence 
on the part of unmarried girls, Mr. Kitts ^ describes them 
as " Wandering mendicants, sometimes suspected of associat- 
ing with Kaikaris for purposes of crime ; but they seem 
nevertheless to be a comparatively harmless people. They 
travel about in little huts like those used by the Waddars ; 
the men occasionally sell buffaloes and milk ; the women 
beg, singing and accompanying themselves on the tJidli. 
The old men also beg, carrying a flag in their hand, and 
shouting the name of their god, Hari Vithal (from which 
they derive their name of Hardas). They are fond of spirits, 
and, when drunk, become pot-valiant and troublesome." 
The thdli or plate on which their women play is also known 
as sarthdda, and consists of a small brass dish coated with 

1 May-June. The Akhatij is the graph 206. The passage is slightly 
beginning of the agricultural year. altered and abridged in reproduc- 

^ Berdr Census Report {i^Si), \)a.x3^- tion. 


wax in the centre ; this is held on the thigh and a pointed 
stick is moved in a circle so as to produce a droning sound. 
The men sometimes paint their own pictures, and in Bombay 
they have a caste rule that every Chitrakathi must have in his 
house a complete set of sacred pictures ; this usually includes 
forty representations of Rama's life, thirty-five of that of 
the sons of Arjun, forty of the Pandavas, forty of Sita and 
Rawan, and forty of Harishchandra. The men also have 
sets of puppets representing the above and other deities, 
and enact scenes with them like a Punch and Judy show, 
sometimes aided by ventriloquism. 

Cutchi or Meman, Kachhi, Muamin. — A class of 
Muhammadan merchants who come every year from Gujarat 
and Cutch to trade in the towns of the Central Provinces, 
where they reside for eight months, returning to their houses 
during the four months of the rainy season. In 19 1 1 they 
numbered about 2000 persons, of whom five-sixths were 
men, this fact indicating the temporary nature of their settle- 
ments. Nevertheless a large proportion of the trade of the 
Province is in their hands. The caste is fully and excellently 
described by Khan Bahadur Fazalullah Lutfullah Faridi, 
Assistant Collector of Customs, Bombay, in the Bombay 
Gazetteer} He remarks of them : " As shopkeepers and 
miscellaneous dealers Cutchis are considered to be the most 
successful of Muhammadans. They owe their success in 
commerce to their freedom from display and their close and 
personal attention to and keen interest in business. The 
richest Meman merchant does not disdain to do what a 
Parsi in his position would leave to his clerks. Their hope 
and courage are also excellent endowments. They engage 
without fear in any promising new branch of trade and are 
daring in their ventures, a trait partly inherited from their 
Lohana ancestors, and partly due to their faith in the luck 
which the favour of their saints secures them." Another 
great advantage arises from their method of trading in small 
corporations or companies of a number of persons either 
relations or friends. Some of these will have shops in the 
great centres of trade, Bombay and Calcutta, and others in 
' Vol. ix. part. ii. Muhanimadcuts of Gujarat, p. 57. 


different places in the interior. Each member then acts as 
correspondent and agent for all the others, and puts what 
business he can in their way. Many are also employed as 
assistants and servants in the shops ; but at the end of the 
season, when all return to their native Gujarat, the profits 
from the different shops are pooled and divided among the 
members in varying proportion. By this method they obtain 
all the advantages which are recognised as attaching to 
co-operative trading. 

According to Mr. Farldi, from whose description the 2. Origin 
remainder of this article is mainly taken, the Memans or ^^^^^^ 
more correctly Muamins or ' Believers ' are converts from 
the Hindu caste of Lohanas of Sind. They venerate 
especially Maulana Abdul Kadir Gilani who died at Baghdad 
in A.D. 1 165. His sixth descendant, Syed Yusufuddln 
Kordiri, was in 1421 instructed in a dream to proceed to 
Sind and guide its people into the way of Islam. On his 
arrival he was received with honour by the local king, who 
was converted, and the ruler's example was followed by one 
Manikji, the head of one of the nukhs or clans of the 
Lohana community. He with his three sons and seven 
hundred families of the caste embraced Islam, and on their 
conversion the title of Muamin or ' Believer ' was conferred 
on them by the saint. It may be noted that Colonel Tod 
derives the Lohanas from the Rajputs, remarking of them : ^ 
" This tribe is numerous both in Dhat and Talpura ; 
formerly they were Rajputs, but betaking themselves to 
commerce have fallen into the third class. They are scribes 
and shopkeepers, and object to no occupation that will bring 
a subsistence ; and as to food, to use the expressive idiom of 
this region where hunger spurns at law, ' Excepting their 
cats and their cows they will eat anything.' " In his account 
of Sind, Postans says of the Lohanas : " The Hindu 
merchants and bankers have agents in the most remote 
parts of Central Asia and could negotiate bills upon 
Candahar, Khelat, Cabul, Khiva, Herat, Bokhara or any 
other marts of that country. These agents, in the pursuit of 
their calling, leave Sind for many years, quitting their families 
to locate themselves among the most savage and intolerant 

1 RSjasthan, ii. p. 292. 


tribes." This account could equally apply to the Khatris, who 
also travel over Central Asia, as shown in the article on 
that caste ; and if, as seems not improbable, the Lohanas and 
Khatris are connected, the hypothesis that the former, like the 
latter, are derived from Rajputs would receive some support. 

The present Pir or head of the community is Sayyid 
Jafir Shah, who is nineteenth in descent from Yusufuddin 
and lives partly in Bombay and partly in Mundra of South 
Cutch. " At an uncertain date," Mr. Farldi continues, " the 
Lohana or Cutchi Memans passed from Cutch south through 
Kathiawar to Gujarat. They are said to have been strong 
and wealthy in Surat during the period of its prosperity 
(i 580—1680). As Surat sank the Cutchi Memans moved to 
Bombay. Outside Cutch and Kathiawar, which may be con- 
sidered their homes, the Memans are scattered over the cities 
of north and south Gujarat and other Districts of Bombay. 
Beyond that Presidency they have spread as traders and 
merchants and formed settlements in Calcutta, Madras, the 
Malabar Coast, South Burma, Siam, Singapore and Java ; in 
the ports of the Arabian Peninsula, except Muscat, where 
they have been ousted by the Khojas ; and in Mozambique, 
Zanzibar and the East African Coast." ^ They have two 
divisions in Bombay, known as Cutchi or Kachhi and Halai. 

Cutchis and Memans retain some non-Muhammadan 
usages. The principal of these is that they do not allow 
their daughters and widows to inherit according to the rule 
of Muhammadan law.^ They conduct their weddings by 
the Nikah form and the Jiiehar or dowry is always the same 
sum of a hundred and twenty-five rupees, whatever may be 
the position of the parties and in the case of widows also. 

^ Bombay Gazetteer, I.e. Court, in spite of the ridicule of other 

2 In recording this point Mr. Faridi Sunnis, the elders of the Cutchi Memans 

gives the following note: "In 1847 declared that their caste rules denied 

a case occurred which shows how firmly the widow's claim. The matter caused 

the Memans cling to their original and is still (1896) causing agitation, as 

tribal customs. The widow of Haji the doctors of the Sunni law at Mecca 

Nur Muhammad of the Lakariya family have decided that as the law of inherit- 

demanded a share of her deceased hus- ance is laid down by the holy Koran, 

band's property according to Muham- a wilful departure from it is little 

madan law. The Jawd-at or commun- short of apostasy. The Memans are 

ity decided that a widow had no claim contemplating a change, but so far they 

to share her husband's estates under have not found themselves able to 

the Hindu law. Before the High depart from their tribal practices." 


They say that eitlicr i)arty ma)' be divorced hy the other for 
conjugal infidehty^ but the vic/iar or dowry must always be 
paid to the wife in the case of a divorce. The caste eat 
flesh and fowls and abstain from licjuor. Most of them also 
decline to eat beef as a consecjuence of their Hindu ancestry, 
and the}' will not take food from Hindus of low caste. 



1 . Origin of the caste. 5 . Former occupations, door-keeper 

2. Internal structure : totemisfn. and niace-bearer. 

3. Marriage a?id other customs. 6. The ujnbrella. 

4. Social position. 7. Significance of the umbrella. 

Dahait, Dahayat. — A mixed caste of village watchmen 
of the Jubbulpore and Mandla Districts, who are derived 
from the cognate caste of Khangars and from several of the 
forest tribes. In 191 i the Dahaits numbered about 15,000 
persons in the Central Provinces, of whom the large majority- 
were found in the Jubbulpore District and the remainder in 
Bilaspur, Damoh and Seoni. Outside the Province they 
reside only in Bundelkhand. According to one story the 
Dahaits and Khangars had a common ancestor, and in 
Mandla again they say that their ancestors were the door- 
keepers of the Rajas of Mahoba, and were known as Chhadi- 
dar or Darwan ; and they came to Mandla about 200 years 
ago, during the time of Raja Nizam Shah of the Raj-Gond 
d\'nasty of that place. In Mandla the names of their 
subdivisions are given as Rawatia or Rautia, Kol, Mawasi, 
Sonwani and Rajwaria. Of these Kol and Raj war are the 
names of separate tribes ; Mawasi is commonly used as a 
synonym for Korku, another tribe ; Sonwani is the name of 
a sept found among several of the primitive tribes ; while 
Rawat is a title borne by the Saonrs and Gonds. The 
names Rautia and Rajwaria are found as subdivisions of the 
Kol tribe in Mlrzapur,^ and it is not improbable that the 

' This article is based on papers by Pyare Lai Misra of the Gazetteer 
Mr. Vithal Rao, Naib-Tahsildar, Bil- office. 

aspur, and Messrs. Kanhya La) and ^ Crooke. Tribes and Castes, art. 




Dahuits arc principally derived from this tribe. The actual 
name Dahait is also yivcn by Mr. Crooke as a subdivision 
of the Kols, and he states it to have the meaning of 
' villager,' from liclidt, a village. The Dahaits were a class 
of personal attendants on the chief or Raja, as will be seen 
subsequently. They stood behind the royal cushion and 
fanned him, ran in front of his chariot or litter to clear the 
way, and acted as door-keepers and ushers. Service of this 
kind is of a menial nature and, further, demands a consider- 
able degree of physical robustness ; and hence members of 
the non-Aryan forest tribes w^ould naturally be selected for 
it. And it would appear that these menial servants gradu- 
ally formed themselves into a caste in Bundelkhand and 
became the Dahaits. They obtained a certain rise in status, 
and now rank in the position of village menials above their 
parent tribes. In the Central Provinces the Dahaits have 
commonly been employed as village watchmen, a post 
analogous to that of door-keeper or porter. The caste are 
also known as Bhaldar or spearmen, and Kotwar or village 

The subcastes returned from the Mandla District have 2. internal 
already been mentioned. In Bilaspur they have quite totemism. 
different ones, of which two, Joharia and Pailagia, are 
derived from methods of greeting. Johar is the salutation 
which a Rajput prince sends to a vassal or chief of inferior 
rank, and Pailagi or ' I fall at your feet ' is that with which 
a member of a lower caste accosts a Brahman. How such 
names came to be adopted as subcastes cannot be explained. 
The caste have a number of exogamous groups named after 
plants and animals. Members of the Bel,^ Rusallo and 
Chheola^ septs revere the trees after which these septs are 
named. They will not cut or injure the tree, and at the 
time of marriage they go and invite it to be present at 
the ceremony. They offer to the tree the maiJiar cake, 
which is given only to the members of the family and the 
husbands and children of daughters. Those belonging to 
the Nagotia sept ^ will not kill a snake, and at the time 
of marriage they deposit the inaihar cake at a snake-hole. 
Members of the Singh (lion) and Bagh (tiger) septs will not 

1 Aegh Mannelos. '^ Biiteafrondosa. ^ -^''iT) ^ cobra. 


kill a tiger, and at their weddings they draw his image on a 
wall and offer the cake to it, being well aware that if they 
approached the animal himself, he would probably repudiate 
the relationship and might not be satisfied with the cake for 
his meal. 
3. Mar- Prior to a marriage a bride-price, known as sukJi or 

i-iage and cJidri, and consisting of six rupees with some sugar, turmeric 
customs. and sesamum oil, must be paid by the parents of the bride- 
groom to those of the bride ; and in the absence of this 
they will decline to perform the ceremony. At the wedding 
the couple go round the sacred post, and then the bride- 
groom mingles the flames of two burning lamps and pierces 
the nose of the image of a bullock made in flour. This rite 
is performed by several castes, and is said to be in com- 
memoration of Krishna's having done so on different occa- 
sions. It is probably meant to excuse or legitimise the real 
operation, which should properly be considered as sinful in 
view of the sacred character of the animal. And it may be 
mentioned here that the people of the Vindhyan or Bundel- 
khand Districts where the Dahaits live do not perforate the 
nostrils of bullocks, and drive them simply by a rope tied 
round the mouth. In consequence they have little control 
over them and are quite unable to stop a cart going down- 
hill, which simply proceeds at the will of the animals until 
it reaches the level or bangs up against some obstacle. 
In Bilaspur a widow is expected to remain single for five 
years after her husband's death, and if she marries within 
that time she is put out of caste. Divorce is permitted, but 
is not of frequent occurrence. The caste will excuse a 
married woman caught in adultery once, but on a second 
offence she must be expelled. If a woman leaves her 
husband and goes to live with another man, the latter must 
repay to her husband the amount expended on his marriage. 
But in such a case, if the woman was already a widow or 
kari aurat} no penalty is incurred by a man who takes her 
from her second husband. A man of any good cultivating 
caste who has a liaison with a Dahait woman will be 
admitted into the community. An outsider who desires to 
become a member of the caste must clean his house, break 

' Kept woman, a term applied to a widow. 


liis earthen cooking-pots and buy new ones, and give a meal 
to the caste-fellows at his house. He sits and takes food 
with them, and when the meal is over he takes a grain of 
rice from the leaf-plate of each guest and eats it, and drinks 
a drop of water from his leaf-cup. This act is equivalent 
to eating the leavings of food, and after it he cannot re-enter 
his own caste. On such occasions a rupee and a piece of 
cloth must be given to the headman of the caste, and a 
piece of cloth to each member of the pajichdyat or com- 
mittee. The headman is known as Mirdhan, and a member 
of the committee as Diwan, the offices of both being heredi- 
tary. The caste worship the Hindu and village gods of the 
locality. They have a curious belief that the skull of a man of 
the Kayasth (writer) caste cannot be burnt in fire, and that if 
it is placed in a dwelling-house the inmates will quarrel. A 
child's first teeth, if found, are thrown into a sacred river or 
on to the roof of a house with a few grains of rice, in order 
that the second teeth may grow white and pointed like the 
rice. The Jhalar or first hair of a boy or girl is cut between 
two and ten years of age and is wrapped in a piece of dough 
and thrown into a sacred river. Women are tattooed on 
the back of the hands, and also sometimes on the shoulder 
and the arms above the elbow, but not on the feet or face. 

The Dahaits are now commonly employed as village 4. Social 
watchmen and as guards or porters ichaukiddr) of houses. p°^'^'°"- 
In Bilaspur they also carry litters and work as navvies and 
stonebreakers like the Kols. Here they will eat pork, but 
in Jubbulpore greater regard is paid to Hindu prejudice, 
and they have given up pork and fowls and begun to employ 
Brahmans for their ceremonies. The men of the caste will 
accept cooked food from any man of the higher castes or 
those cultivators from whom a Brahman will take water, 
but the women are more strict and will only accept it from 
a Brahman, Bania, Lodhi or Kurmi. 

In past times the Dahaits were the personal attendants s- Former 
on the king. They fanned him with the chaiir or yak-tail °ions^-^" 
whisk when he sat in state on the royal cushion. This im- door- 
plement is held sacred and is also used by Brahmans to fan ^nd mace- 
the deities. On ordinary occasions the Raja was fanned by Nearer. 
a pankha made of khaskhas grass and wetted, but not so that 

448 D AH A IT part 

the water fell on his head. They also acted as gate-keepers 
of the palace, and had the title of Darvvan, The gate- 
keeper's post was a responsible one, as it lay on him to see 
that no one with evil intentions or carrying secret arms was 
admitted to the palace. Whenever a chief or noble came to 
visit the king he deposited his arms with the porter or 
door-keeper. The necessity of a faithful door-keeper is 
shown in the proverb : " With these five you must never 
quarrel : your Guru, your wife, your gate-keeper, your doctor 
and your cook." The reasons for the inclusion of the others 
are fairly clear. On the other hand the gate-porter had 
usually to be propitiated before access was obtained to his 
master, like the modern chuprassie ; and* the resentment felt 
at his rapacity is shown in the proverb : " The broker, the 
octroi moharrir, the door-keeper and the bard : these four 
will surely go to hell." The Darwan or door-keeper would 
be given the right to collect dues, equivalent to those of a 
village watchman, from forty or fifty villages. The Dahaits 
also carried the cJiob or silver mace before the king. This 
was about five feet long with a knob at the upper end as 
thick as a man's wrist. The mace-bearer was known as 
Chobdar, and it was his duty to carry messages and an- 
nounce visitors ; this latter function he performed with a 
degree of pomposity truly Asiatic, dwelling with open 
mouth very audibly on some of the most sounding and 
emphatic syllables in a way that appeared to strangers 
almost ludicrous,^ as shown in the following instance : " On 
advancing, the Chobdars or heralds proclaimed the titles of 
this princely cow-keeper in the usual hyperbolical style. One 
of the most insignificant-looking men I ever saw then became 
the destroyer of nations, the leveller of mountains, the 
exhauster of the ocean. After commanding every inferior 
mortal to make way for this exalted prince, the heralds 
called aloud to the animal creation, ' Retire, ye serpents ; fly, 
ye locusts ; approach not, iguanas, lizards and reptiles, while 
your lord and master condescends to set his foot on the 
earth. ' " " The Dahaits ran before the Raja's chariot or litter 
to clear the way for him and announce his coming ; and it 

' Moor's Hindu Infanticide, p, 133. 
'^ James Forbes, Oriental Alemoirs, i. p. 313. 


was also a principal business of the caste to cany the royal 
umbrella above the head of the king. 

The umbrella was the essential symbol of sovereignty 6. The 
in Asia like the crown in Europe. " Among the ancient "'^^''^"3- 
Egyptians the umbrella carried with it a mark of distinction, 
and persons of quality alone could use it. The Assyrians 
reserved it for royal personages only. The umbrella or 
parasol, says Layard, that emblem of royalty so universally 
adopted by Eastern nations, was generally carried over 
the king in time of peace and sometimes even in war. 
In shape it resembled very closely those now in common 
use ; but it is always seen open in the sculptures. It was 
edged with- tassels and usually decorated at the top by a 
flower or some other ornament. The Greeks used it as a 
mystic symbol in some of their sacred festivals, and the 
Romans introduced the custom of hanging an umbrella in 
the basilican churches as a part of the insignia of office of 
the judge sitting in the basilica. It is said that on the 
judgment hall being turned into a church the umbrella 
remained, and in fact occupied the place of the canopy over 
thrones and the like ; and Beatian, an Italian herald, says 
that a vermilion umbrella in a field argent symbolises 
dominion. It is also believed that the cardinal's hat is a 
modification of the umbrella in the basilican churches. The 
king of Burma is proud to call himself The Lord of Twenty- 
four Umbrellas, and the Emperor of China carries that 
number even to the hunting-field." ^ In Buddhist architec- 
ture the 'Wheel of Light' symbolising Buddha is over- 
shadowed by an umbrella, itself adorned with garlands. At 
Sanchi we find sculptured representations of two and even 
three umbrellas placed one above the other over the temples, 
the double and triple canopies of which appear to be fixed 
to the sam.e handle or staff as in the modern state umbrellas 
of China and Burma. Thus we have the primary idea of 
the accumulated honour of stone or metal discs which sub- 
sequently became such a prominent feature of Buddhist 
architecture, culminating in the many-storied pagodas of 
China and Japan."- Similarly in Hindu temples the pinnacle 

' Rajendra Lai Mitra, /ndo-Aryans, - Journal of Indian Art and In- 

i. p. 263. ditstry, xvi., April 1912, p. 3. 

VOL. ir 2 G 

of the 


often stands on a circular stone base, probably representing 
an umbrella. 

The umbrella of state was apparently not black like its 
successor of commerce, but of white or another colour, though 
the colour is seldom recorded. Sometimes it was of peacock's 
feathers, the symbol of the Indian war-god, and as seen 
above, in Italy it was of red, the royal colour. It has been 
suggested that the halo originally represented an umbrella, 
and there is no reason to doubt that the umbrella was the 
parent of the state canopy. 
Signi- It has been supposed that the reason for carrying the 

umbrella above the king's head was to veil his eyes from 
umbrella, his subjects, and prevent them from being injured by the 
magical power of his glance.^ But its appearance on 
temples perhaps rather militates against this view. Possibly 
it may have merely served as a protection or covering to 
the king's head, the head being considered especially sacred 
as the seat of life. The same idea is perhaps at the root 
of the objection felt by Hindus to being seen abroad with- 
out a covering on the head. It seems likely that the 
umbrella may have been held to be a representation of 
the sky or firmament. The Muhammadans conjoined with it 
an aftdda or sun-symbol ; this was an imitation of the sun, 
embroidered in gold upon crimson velvet and fixed on a 
circular framework which was borne aloft upon a gold or 
silver staffs Both were carried over the head of any royal 
personage, and the association favours the idea that the 
umbrella represents the sky, while the king's head might be 
considered analogous to the sun. When one of the early 
Indian monarchs made extensive conquests, the annexed terri- 
tories were described as being brought under his umbrella ; 
of the king Harsha-Vardhana (606-648 A.D.) it is recorded 
that he prosecuted a methodical scheme of conquest with 
the deliberate object of bringing all India under one 
umbrella, that is, of constituting it into one state. This 
phrase seems to support the idea that the umbrella symbolised 
the firmament. Similarly, when Visvamitra sent beautiful 
maidens to tempt the good king Harischandra he instructed 

^ Dr. Tevons, Introduction to the " Private Life of an Eastern King, 

History of Religion, p. 60. p. 294. 


them to try and induce the king to marry them, and if he 
would not do this, to ask him for the Puchukra Undi or State 
Umbrella, which was the emblem of the king's protecting 
power over his kingdom, with the idea that that power would 
be destroyed by its loss. Chhatrapati or Lord of the Umbrella 
was the proudest title of an Indian king. When Sivaji was 
enthroned in 1674 he proclaimed himself as Pinnacle of 
the Kshatriya race and Lord of the Ro)'al Umbrella. All 
these instances seem to indicate that some powerful signi- 
ficance, such as that already suggested, attached to the 
umbrella. Several tribes, as the Gonds and Mundas, have a 
legend that their earliest king was born of poor parents, and 
that one day his mother, having left the child under some 
tree while she went to her work, returned to find a cobra 
spreading its hood over him. The future royal destiny of 
the boy was thus predicted. It is commonly said that the 
cobra spread its hood over the child to guard it from the heat 
of the sun, but such protection would perhaps scarcely seem 
very important to such a people as the Gonds, and the mother 
would naturally also leave the child in the shade. It seems 
a possible hypothesis that the cobra's hood really symbolised 
the umbrella, the principal emblem of royal rank, and it was 
in this way that the child's great destiny was predicted. 
In this connection it may be noticed that one of the Jain 
Tirthakars, Parasnath, is represented in sculpture with an 
umbrella over his head ; but some Jains say that the carving 
above the saint's head is not an umbrella but a cobra's hood. 
Even after it had ceased to be the exclusive appanage of the 
king, the umbrella was a sign of noble rank, and not permitted 
to the commonalty. 

The old Anglo-Indian term for an umbrella was ' roundel,' 
an early English word, applied to a variety of circular 
objects, as a mat under a dish, or a target, and in its form of 
' arundel ' to the conical handguard on a lance.^ An old 
Indian writer says : " Roundels are in these warm climates 
very necessary to keep the sun from scorching a man, they 
may also be serviceable to keep the rain off; most men 
of account maintain one, two or three roundeliers, whose 
office is only to attend their master's motion ; they are very 

' Hobson-Jobson, s.v. 'Roundel.' 


light but of exceeding stiffness, being for the most part made 
of rhinoceros hide, very decently painted and guilded with 
what flowers they best admire. Exactly in the midst thereof 
is fixed a smooth handle made of wood, by which the 
Roundelier doth carry it, holding it a foot or more above his 
master's head, directing the centre thereof as opposite to 
the sun as possibly he may. Any man whatever that will 
go to the charge of it, which is no great matter, may have 
one or more Katysols to attend him but not a Roundel ; 
unless he be a Governor or one of the Council. The same 
custom the English hold good amongst their own people, 
whereby they may be distinguished by the natives." ^ The 
Katysol was a Chinese paper and bamboo sunshade, and the 
use of them was not prohibited. It was derived from the 
Portuguese quito-sol, or that which keeps off the sun." An 
extract from the Madras Standing Orders, 1677-78, pre- 
scribed : " That except by the members of this Council, 
those that have formerly been in that quality. Chiefs of 
Factories, Commanders of Ships out of England, and the 
Chaplains, Rundells shall not be worn by any men in this 
town, and by no woman below the degree of Factors' Wives 
and Ensigns' Wives, except by such as the Governor shall 
permit."^ Another writer in 1754 states: "Some years 
before our arrival in the country, they (the E. I. Co.) found 
such sumptuary laws so absolutely necessary, that they gave 
the strictest orders that none of these young gentlemen 
should be allowed even to hire a Roundel boy, whose busi- 
ness it is to walk by his master and defend him with his 
Roundel or umbrella from the heat of the sun. A young 
fellow of humour, upon this last order coming over, altered 
the form of his Umbrella from a round to a square, called it 
a Squaredel instead of a Roundel, and insisted that no order 
yet in force forbade him the use of it." "* The fact that the 
Anglo-Indians called the umbrella a roundel and regarded 
it as a symbol of sovereignty or nobility indicates that it was 
not yet used