The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India - Volume II
by R. V. Russell
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List of Paragraphs

1. Origin and traditions. 2. Social customs. 3. Birth and childhood. 4. The evil eye. 5. Cradle-songs. 6. Occupation.

1. Origin and traditions.

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, [473] 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 Rajput descent. The Chitrakars of Mandla say that their ancestors belonged 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 Aniruddha, 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. [474] The Chitaris are declining in numbers, as their paintings are no longer in demand, the people preferring the cheap coloured prints imported from Germany and England.

2. Social customs.

The caste is a mixed occupational group, and those of 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 procession, 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. If she marries an outsider she takes her first husband's property and children with her. Formerly if a wife misbehaved 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 Akhatij, offering some food and a breast-cloth, so that the spirit may not trouble her.

3. Birth and childhood.

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 off as an offering.

4. The evil eye.

In order to avert the evil eye they hang round a child's neck 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. 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, 'Ishwar, Gauri, Parvati ke an nazar dur ho jao,' or 'Depart, Evil 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, 'Telin ki lagi ho, Tamolin ki lagi ho, Mararin ki ho, Gorania (Gondin) ki ho, oke, oke, parparake phut jawe,' '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 balayan leun,' 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.

5. Cradle-songs.

The following are some cradle-songs taken down from a Chitrakar, but probably used by most of the lower Hindu castes:

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 [475] 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 [476] flower. 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 jhumri 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 rocked.

3. Sleep, sleep, my little baby; I will wave my hands round your head [477] 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 ki Chireya, Ram ko khet. Khaori Chireya, bhar, bhar pet. Tan munaiyan kha lao khet, Agao, labra, gali det; Kahe ko, labra, gali de; Apni bhuntia gin, gin le.


The field is Rama's, the little birds are Rama's; O birds, eat your fill; the little birds have eaten up the corn. 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 Tulsi Das, the author of the Ramayana, who when he was a little 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?'

6. Occupation.

The Chitaris pursue their old trade, principally in Nagpur 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 avocations. 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 Ramlila or story of Rama on the Ramnaomi festival in Chait (March); they also make the tazias 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 [478] 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-hide.


Chitrakathi, Hardas. [479]—A small caste of religious mendicants and picture showmen in the Maratha Districts. In 1901 they numbered 200 persons in the Central Provinces and 1500 in Berar, being principally found in the Amraoti District. The name, Mr. Enthoven writes, [480] is derived from chitra, a picture, and katha, 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 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 Akhatij (3rd of light Baisakh) [481] 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 [482] describes them as "Wandering mendicants, sometimes suspected of associating 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 thali. 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 thali or plate on which their women play is also known as sarthada, and consists of a small brass dish coated with 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.


1. General notice.

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 1911 they numbered about 2000 persons, of whom five-sixths were men, this fact indicating the temporary nature of their settlements. 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. [483] 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 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.

2. Origin of the caste.

According to Mr. Faridi, from whose description the 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. 1165. His sixth descendant, Syed Yusufuddin 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: [484] "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 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. Faridi 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 (1580-1680). As Surat sank the Cutchi Memans moved to Bombay. Outside Cutch and Kathiawar, which may be considered 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." [485] They have two divisions in Bombay, known as Cutchi or Kachhi and Halai.

3. Social customs.

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. [486] They conduct their weddings by the Nikah form and the mehar 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. They say that either party may be divorced by the other for conjugal infidelity, but the mehar or dowry must always be paid to the wife in the case of a divorce. The caste eat flesh and fowls and abstain from liquor. Most of them also decline to eat beef as a consequence of their Hindu ancestry and they will not take food from Hindus of low caste.

Dahait [487]

List of Paragraphs

1. Origin of the caste. 2. Internal structure: totemism. 3. Marriage and other customs. 4. Social position. 5. Former occupations, door-keeper and mace-bearer. 6. The umbrella. 7. Significance of the umbrella.

1. Origin of the caste.

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 1911 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 Chhadidar or Darwan; and they came to Mandla about 200 years ago, during the time of Raja Nizam Shah of the Raj-Gond dynasty 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 Rajwar 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 Mirzapur, [488] and it is not improbable that the Dahaits are principally derived from this tribe. The actual name Dahait is also given by Mr. Crooke as a subdivision of the Kols, and he states it to have the meaning of 'villager,' from dehat, 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 considerable degree of physical robustness; and hence members of the non-Aryan forest tribes would naturally be selected for it. And it would appear that these menial servants gradually 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 watchmen.

2. Internal structure: totemism.

The subcastes returned from the Mandla District have already been mentioned. In Bilaspur they have quite 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, [489] Rusallo and Chheola [490] 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 maihar cake, which is given only to the members of the family and the husbands and children of daughters. Those belonging to the Nagotia sept [491] will not kill a snake, and at the time of marriage they deposit the maihar cake at a snake-hole. Members of the Singh (lion) and Bagh (tiger) septs will not 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. Marriage and other customs.

Prior to a marriage a bride-price, known as sukh or chari, and consisting of six rupees with some sugar, turmeric and sesamum oil, must be paid by the parents of the bridegroom 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 bridegroom 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 commemoration of Krishna's having done so on different occasions. 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 Bundelkhand 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 downhill, 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, [492] 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 his 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 panchayat or committee. The headman is known as Mirdhan, and a member of the committee as Diwan, the offices of both being hereditary. 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.

4. Social position.

The Dahaits are now commonly employed as village watchmen and as guards or porters (chaukidar) of houses. 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.

5. Former occupations: door-keeper and mace-bearer.

In past times the Dahaits were the personal attendants on the king. They fanned him with the chaur or yak-tail whisk when he sat in state on the royal cushion. This implement is held sacred and is also used by Brahmans to fan the deities. On ordinary occasions the Raja was fanned by a pankha made of khaskhas grass and wetted, but not so that the water fell on his head. They also acted as gate-keepers of the palace, and had the title of Darwan. 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 chob 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 announce 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, [493] 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.'" [494] The Dahaits ran before the Raja's chariot or litter to clear the way for him and announce his coming; and it was also a principal business of the caste to carry the royal umbrella above the head of the king.

6. The umbrella.

The umbrella was the essential symbol of sovereignty in Asia like the crown in Europe. "Among the ancient 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." [495] In Buddhist architecture the 'Wheel of Light' symbolising Buddha is overshadowed 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 same 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 subsequently became such a prominent feature of Buddhist architecture, culminating in the many-storied pagodas of China and Japan. [496] Similarly in Hindu temples the pinnacle 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.

7. Significance of the umbrella.

It has been supposed that the reason for carrying the umbrella above the king's head was to veil his eyes from his subjects, and prevent them from being injured by the magical power of his glance. [497] 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 without 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 aftada 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 staff. [498] 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 territories 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 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 Royal Umbrella. All these instances seem to indicate that some powerful significance, 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. [499] 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 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." [500] 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. [501] An extract from the Madras Standing Orders, 1677-78, prescribed: "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." [502] 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 business 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." [503] 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 in England; and this Mr. Skeat shows to be correct. "The first umbrella used in England by a man in the open street for protection against rain is usually said to have been that carried by Jonas Hanway, a great traveller, who introduced it on his return from Paris about 1750, some thirty years before it was generally adopted.

"Some kind of umbrella was, however, occasionally used by ladies at least so far back as 1709; and a fact not generally known is that from about the year 1717 onwards, a 'parish' umbrella, resembling the more recent 'family' umbrella of the nineteenth century, was employed by the priest at open-air funerals, as the church accounts of many places testify." [504] This ecclesiastical use of the umbrella may have been derived from its employment as a symbol in Italian churches, as seen above. The word umbrella is derived through the Italian from the Latin umbra, shade, and in mediaeval times a state umbrella was carried over the Doge or Duke at Venice on the occasion of any great ceremony. [505]

Even recently it is said that in Saugor no Bania dare go past a Bundela Rajput's house without getting down from his pony and folding up his umbrella. In Hindu slang a 'Chhatawali' or carrier of an umbrella was a term for a smart young man; as in the line, 'An umbrella has two kinds of ribs; two women are quarrelling for the love of him who carries it.' Now that the umbrella is free to all, and may be bought for a rupee or less in the bazar, the prestige which once attached to it has practically disappeared. But some flavour of its old associations may still cling to it in the minds of the sais and ayah who proudly parade to a festival carrying umbrellas spread over them to shade their dusky features from the sun; though the Raja, in obedience to the dictates of fashion, has discarded the umbrella for a sola-topi.


1. Origin and traditions.

Daharia. [506]—A caste of degraded Rajputs found in Bilaspur and Raipur, and numbering about 2000 persons. The Daharias were originally a clan of Rajputs but, like several others in the Central Provinces, they have now developed into a caste and marry among themselves, thus transgressing the first rule of Rajput exogamy. Colonel Tod included the Daharias among the thirty-six royal races of Rajasthan. [507] Their name is derived from Dahar or Dahal, the classical term for the Jubbulpore country at the period when it formed the dominion of the Haihaya or Kalachuri Rajput kings of Tripura or Tewar near Jubbulpore. This dynasty had an era of their own, commencing in A.D. 248, and their line continued until the tenth or eleventh century. The Arabian geographer Alberuni (born a.d. 973) mentions the country of Dahal and its king Gangeya Deva. His son Karna Daharia is still remembered as the builder of temples in Karanbel and Bilahri in Jubbulpore, and it is from him that the Daharia Rajputs take their name. The Haihaya dynasty of Ratanpur were related to the Kalachuri kings of Tewar, and under them the ancestors of the Daharia Rajputs probably migrated from Jubbulpore into Chhattisgarh. But they themselves have forgotten their illustrious origin, and tell a different story to account for their name. They say that they came from Baghelkhand or Rewah, which may well be correct, as Rewah lies between Chhattisgarh and Jubbulpore, and a large colony of Kalachuri Rajputs may still be found about ten miles north-east of Rewah town. The Daharias relate that when Parasurama, the great Brahman warrior, was slaying the Kshatriyas, a few of them escaped towards Ratanpur and were camping in the forest by the wayside. Parasurama came up and asked them who they were, and they said they were Daharias or wayfarers, from dahar the Chhattisgarhi term for a road or path; and thus they successfully escaped the vengeance of Parasurama. This futile fiction only demonstrates the real ignorance of their Brahman priests, who, if they had known a little history, need not have had recourse to their invention to furnish the Daharias with a distinguished pedigree. A third derivation is from a word dahri or gate, and they say that the name of Dahria or Daharia was conferred on them by Bimbaji Bhonsla, because of the bravery with which they held the gates of Ratanpur against his attack. But history is against them here, as it records that Ratanpur capitulated to the Marathas without striking a blow.

2. Sept and subsept.

As already stated, the Daharias were originally a clan of Rajputs, whose members must take wives or husbands from other clans. They have now become a caste and marry among themselves, but within the caste they still have exogamous groups or septs, several of which are named after Rajput clans as Bais, Chandel, Baghel, Bundela, Mainpuri Chauhan, Parihar, Rathor and several others. Certain names are not of Rajput origin, and probably record the admission of outsiders into the caste. Like the Rajputs, within the sept they have also subsepts, some of which are taken from the Brahmans, as Parasar, Bharadwaj, Sandilya, while others are nicknames, as Kachariha (one who does not care about a beating), Atariha, Hiyas and others. The divisions of the septs and subsepts are very confused, and seem to indicate that at different times various foreign elements have been received into the community, including Rajputs of many different clans. According to rule, a man should not take a wife whose sept or subsept are the same as his own, but this is not adhered to; and in some cases the Daharias, on account of the paucity of their numbers and the difficulty of arranging matches, have been driven to permit the marriage of first cousins, which among proper Rajputs is forbidden. They also practise hypergamy, as members of the Mainpuri Chauhan, Hiyas, Bisen, Surkhi and Bais septs or subsepts will take girls in marriage from families of other septs, but will not give their daughters to them. This practice leads to polygamy among the five higher septs, whose daughters are all married in their own circle, while in addition they receive girls from the other groups. Members of these latter also consider it an honour to marry a daughter into one of the higher septs, and are willing to pay a considerable price for such a distinction. It seems probable that the small Daraiha caste of Bilaspur are an inferior branch of the Daharias.

3. Social customs.

The Daharias, in theory at any rate, observe the same rules in regard to their women as Brahmans and Rajputs. Neither divorce nor the marriage of widows is permitted, and a woman who goes wrong is finally expelled from the caste. Their social customs resemble those of the higher Hindustani castes. When the bridegroom starts for the wedding he is dressed in a long white gown reaching to the ankles, with new shoes, and he takes with him a dagger; this serves the double purpose of warding off evil spirits, always prone to attack the bridal party, and also of being a substitute for the bridegroom himself, as in case he should for some unforeseen reason be rendered unable to appear at the ceremony, the bride could be married to the dagger as his representative. It may also be mentioned that, before the bridegroom starts for the wedding, after he has been rubbed with oil and turmeric for five days he is seated on a wooden plank over a hole dug in the courtyard and bathed. He then changes his clothes, and the women bring twenty-one small chukias or cups full of water and empty them over him. His head is then covered with a piece of new cloth, and a thread wound round it seven times by a Brahman. The thread is afterwards removed, and tied round an iron ring with some mango leaves, and this ring forms the kankan which is tied to the bridegroom's wrist, a similar one being worn by the bride. Before the wedding the bride goes round to the houses of her friends, accompanied by the women of her party singing songs, and by musicians. At each house the mistress appears with her forehead and the parting of her hair profusely smeared with vermilion. She rubs her forehead against the bride's so as to colour it also with vermilion, which is now considered the symbol of a long and happy married life. The barber's wife applies red paint to the bride's feet, the gardener's wife presents her with a garland of flowers, and the carpenter's wife gives her a new wooden doll. She must also visit the potter's and washerman's wives, whose benisons are essential; they give her a new pot and a little rice respectively. When the bridegroom comes to touch the marriage-shed with his dagger he is resisted by the bride's sister, to whom he must give a rupee as a present. The binding portion of the marriage consists in the couple walking seven times round the marriage-post. At each turn the bridegroom seizes the bride's right toe and with it upsets one of seven little cups of rice placed near the marriage-post. This is probably a symbol of fertility. After it they worship seven pairs of little wooden boxes smeared with vermilion and called singhora and singhori as if they were male and female. The bridegroom's father brings two little dough images of Mahadeo and Parvati as the ideal married pair, and gives them to the couple. The new husband applies vermilion to his wife's forehead, and covers and uncovers her head seven times, to signify to her that, having become a wife, she should henceforth be veiled when she goes abroad. The bride's maid now washes her face, which probably requires it, and the wedding is complete. The Daharias usually have a guru or spiritual preceptor, but husband and wife must not have the same one, as in that case they would be in the anomalous position of brother and sister, a guru's disciples being looked upon as his children. The Daharias were formerly warriors in the service of the Ratanpur kings, and many families still possess an old sword which they worship on the day of Dasahra. Their names usually end in Singh or Lal. They are now engaged in cultivation, and many of them are proprietors of villages, and tenants. Some of them are employed as constables and chuprassies, but few are labourers, as they may not touch the plough with their own hands. They eat the flesh of clean animals, but do not drink liquor, and avoid onions and tomatoes. They have good features and fair complexions, the traces of their Rajput blood being quite evident. Brahmans will take water from them, but they now rank below Rajputs, on a level with the good cultivating castes.


1. Origin and traditions.

Dangi.—A cultivating caste found almost exclusively in the Saugor District, which contained 23,000 persons out of a total of 24,000 of the caste in the Central Provinces in 1911. There are also considerable numbers of them in Rajputana and Central India, from which localities they probably immigrated into the Saugor District during the eleventh century. The Dangis were formerly dominant in Saugor, a part of which was called Dangiwara after them. The kings of Garhpahra or old Saugor were Dangis, and their family still remains at the village of Bilehra, which with a few other villages they hold as a revenue-free grant. The name of the caste is variously derived. The traditional story is that the Rajput king of Garhpahra detained the palanquins of twenty-two married women of different castes and kept them as his wives. The issue of the illicit intercourse were named Dangis, and there are thus twenty-two subdivisions of the caste, besides three other subdivisions who are held to be descended from pure Rajputs. The name is said to be derived from dang, fraud, on account of the above deception. A more plausible derivation is from the Persian dang, a hill, the Dangis being thus hillmen; and they may not improbably have been a set of robbers and freebooters in the Vindhyan Hills, like the Gujars and Mewatis in northern India, naturally recruiting their band from all classes of the population, as is shown by ingenious implication in this story itself. 'Khet men bami, gaon men Dangi,' or 'A Dangi in the village is like the hole of a snake in one's field' is a proverb which shows the estimation in which they were formerly held. The three higher septs may have been their leaders and may well have been Rajputs. Since they have settled down as respectable cultivators and enjoy a good repute among their neighbours, the Dangis have disowned the above story, and now say that they are descended from Raja Dang, a Kachhwaha Rajput king of Narwar in Central India. Nothing is known of Raja Dang except a rude couplet which records how he was cheated by a horse-dealer:

Jitki ghori tit gayi Dang hath karyari rahi,

'The mare bolted to the seller again, leaving in Dang's hand nothing except the reins.'

The Dangis have a more heroic version of this story to the effect that the mare was a fairy of Indra's court, who for some reason had been transformed into this shape and was captured by Raja Dang. He refused to give her up to Indra and a battle was about to ensue, when the mare besought them to place her on a pyre and sacrifice her instead of fighting. They agreed to do this, and out of the flames of the pyre the fairy emerged and floated up to heaven, leaving only the reins and bridle of the mare in Raja Dang's hand. Yet a third story is that their original ancestor was Raja Nipal Singh of Narwar, and when he was fighting with Indra over the fairy, Krishna came to Indra's assistance. But Nipal Singh refused to bow down to Krishna, and being annoyed at this and wishing to teach him a lesson the god summoned him to his court. At the gate through which Nipal Singh had to pass, Krishna fixed a sword at the height of a man's neck, so that he must bend or have his head cut off. But Nipal Singh saw the trick, and, sitting down, propelled himself through the doorway with his head erect. The outwitted god remarked, 'Tum bare dandi ho,' or 'You are very cunning,' and the name Dandi stuck to Nipal Singh and was afterwards corrupted to Dangi. There can be little doubt that the caste are an offshoot of Rajputs of impure blood, and with a large admixture of other classes of the population. Some of their sept names indicate their mixed descent, as Rakhya, born of a potter woman, Dhoniya, born of a washerwoman, and Pavniya, born of a weaver woman. In past times the Dangis served in the Rajput and Maratha armies, and a small isolated colony of them is found in one village of Indora in the Nagpur District, the descendants of Dangis who engaged in military service under the Bhonsla kings.

2. Caste subdivisions.

The Dangis have no subcastes distinguished by separate names, but they are divided into three classes, among whom the principle of hypergamy prevails. As already seen, there were formerly twenty-five clans, of whom the three highest, the Nahonias, Bhadonias and Nadias, claimed to be pure Rajputs. The other twenty-two clans are known as Baisa (22) or Prithwipat Dangis, after the king who is supposed to have been the ancestor of all the clans. Each of his twenty-two wives is said to have been given a village for her maintenance, and the clans are named after these villages. But there are now only thirteen of these local clans left, and below them is a miscellaneous group of clans, representing apparently later accretions to the caste. Some of them are named from the places from which they came, as Mahobia, from Mahoba, Narwaria, from Narwar, and so on. The Solakhia sept is named after the Solanki Rajputs, of whom they may be the partly illegitimate descendants. The Parnami sept are apparently those who have the creed of the Dhamis, the followers of Prannath of Panna. And as already seen, some are named from women of low caste, from whom by Dangi fathers they are supposed to be descended. The whole number of septs is thus divided into three groups, the highest containing the three quasi-Rajput septs already mentioned, the next highest the thirteen septs of Prithwipat Dangis, and the lowest all the other septs. Pure Rajputs will take daughters in marriage from the highest group, and this in turn takes girls of the Prithwipat Dangis of the thirteen clans, though neither will give daughters in return; and the Prithwipat Dangis will similarly accept the daughters of the miscellaneous septs below them in marriage with their sons. Matches are, however, not generally arranged according to the above system of hypergamy, but each group marries among its own members. Girls who are married into a higher group have to be given a larger dowry, the fathers often being willing to pay Rs. 500 or Rs. 1000 for the social distinction which such an alliance confers on the family. Among the highest septs there is a further difference between those whose ancestors accepted food from Raja Jai Singh, the founder of Jaisinghnagar, and those who refused it. The former are called Sakrodia or those who ate the leavings of others, and the latter Deotaon ki sansar, or the divine Dangis. Pure Rajputs will take daughters only from the members of the latter group in each sept. Marriage within the sept or baink is prohibited, and as a rule a man does not marry a wife belonging to the same sept as his mother or grandmother. Marriage by exchange also is not allowed, that is, a girl cannot be married into the same family as that in which her brother has married.

3. Marriage.

Girls are generally married between seven and twelve and boys between ten and twenty, but no stigma attaches to a family allowing an unmarried girl to exceed the age of puberty. The bridegroom should always be older than the bride. Matches are arranged by the parents, the horoscopes of the children being compared among the well-to-do. The zodiacal sign of the boy's horoscope should be stronger than that of the girl's, so that she may be submissive to him in after-life. Thus a girl whose zodiac sign is the lion should not be married to a boy whose sign is the ram, because in that case the wife would dominate the husband. There is no special rule as to the time of the betrothal, and the ceremony is very simple, consisting in the presentation of a cocoanut by the bride's father to the bridegroom's father, and the distribution of sweets to the caste-fellows. The betrothal is not considered to have any particularly binding force and either party may break through it. Among the Dangis a bridegroom-price is usually paid, which varies according to the social respectability of the boy's sept, as much as Rs. 2000 having been given for a bridegroom of higher class according to the rule of hypergamy already described. But no value is placed on educational qualifications, as is the case among Brahmans and Kayasths. The marriage ceremony is conducted according to the ritual prevalent in the northern Districts, and presents no special features. Two feasts are given by the bride's father to the caste-fellows, one consisting of katchi food or that which is cooked with water, and another of pakki food cooked with ghi (butter). If the bride is of marriageable age the gauna or sending away ceremony is performed at once, otherwise it takes place in the third or fifth year after marriage. At the gauna ceremony the bride's cloth is tied to that of the bridegroom, and they change seats. Widow-marriage is not fashionable, and the caste say that it is not permitted, but several instances are known of its having occurred. Divorce is not allowed, and a woman who goes wrong is finally expelled from the caste. Polygamy is allowed, and many well-to-do persons have more than one wife.

4. Religious and social customs.

The Dangis pay special reverence to the goddess Durga or Devi as the presiding deity of war. They worship her during the months of Kunwar (September) and Chait (March), and at the same time pay reverence to their weapons of war, their swords and guns, or if they have not got these, to knives and spears. They burn their dead, but children are usually buried. They observe mourning for three days for a child and for ten days for an adult, and on the 13th day the caste-fellows are feasted. Their family priests, who are Jijhotia Brahmans, used formerly to shave the head and beard when a death occurred among their clients as if they belonged to the family, but this practice was considered derogatory by other Brahmans, and they have now stopped it. The Dangis perform the shradhh ceremony in the month of Kunwar. The caste wear the sacred thread, but it is said that they were formerly not allowed to do so in Bundelkhand. They eat fish and flesh, including that of wild boars, but not fowls or beef, and they do not drink liquor. They take pakki food or that cooked without water from Kayasths and Gahoi Banias, and katchi food, cooked with water, from Jijhotia and Sanadhya Brahmans. Jijhotia Brahmans formerly took pakki food from Dangis, but have now ceased to do so. The Dangis require the services of Brahmans at all ceremonies. They have a caste panchayat or committee. A person who changes his religion or eats with a low caste is permanently expelled, while temporary exclusion is awarded for the usual delinquencies. In the case of the more serious offences, as murder or killing of a cow, the culprit must purify himself by a pilgrimage to a sacred river.

5. Occupation and character.

The Dangis were formerly, as already stated, of a quarrelsome temperament, but they have now settled down and, though spirited, are of a good disposition, and hard-working cultivators. They rank slightly above the representative cultivating castes owing to their former dominant position, and are still considered to have a good conceit of themselves, according to the saying:

Tin men neh terah men, Mirdang bajawe dere men,

or 'Though he belong neither to the three septs nor the thirteen septs, yet the Dangi blows his own trumpet in his own house.' They are still, too, of a fiery disposition, and it is said that the favourite dish of gram-flour cooked with curds, which is known as karhi, is never served at their weddings. Because the word karhi also signifies the coming out of a sword from its sheath, and when addressed to another man has the equivalent of the English word 'Draw' in the duelling days. So if one Dangi said it to another, meaning to ask him for the dish, it might result in a fight. They are very backward in respect of education and set no store by it. They consider their traditional occupation to be military service, but nearly all of them are now engaged in agriculture. At the census of 1901 over 2000 were returned as supported by the ownership of land and 3000 as labourers and farmservants. Practically all the remainder are tenants. They are industrious, and their women work in the fields. The only crops which they object to grow are kusum or safflower and san-hemp. The Nahonia Dangis, being the highest subcaste, refuse to sell milk or ghi. The men usually have Singh as a termination to their names, like Rajputs. Their dress and ornaments are of the type common in the northern Districts. The women tattoo their bodies.


Dangri. [508]—A small caste of melon and vegetable growers, whose name is derived from dangar or dangra, a water-melon. They reside in the Wardha and Bhandara Districts, and numbered about 1800 persons in 1911. The caste is a mixed one of functional origin, and appears to be an offshoot from the Kunbis with additions from other sources. In Wardha they say that their ancestor was one of two brothers to whom Mahadeo gave the seeds of a juari plant and a water-melon respectively for sowing. The former became the ancestor of the Kunbis and the latter of the Dangris. On one occasion when Mahadeo, assuming the guise of a beggar, asked the Dangri brother for a water-melon, he refused to give it, and on this account his descendants were condemned to perpetual poverty. In fact, the Dangris, like the other market-gardening castes, are badly off, possibly on account of their common habit of marrying a number of wives, whom they utilise as labourers in their vegetable gardens; for though a wife is better than a hired labourer for their particular method of cultivation, where supervision is difficult and the master may be put to serious loss from bad work and petty pilfering, while there is also much scope for women workers; yet on the other hand polygamy tends to the breeding of family quarrels and to excessive subdivision of property. The close personal supervision which is requisite perhaps also renders it especially difficult to carry on the business of market-gardening on a large scale. In any case the agricultural holdings of the Malis and Dangris are as a rule very small. The conclusion indicated by the above story that the Dangris are an offshoot from the Kunbi caste of cultivators appears to be correct; and it is supported by the fact that they will accept food cooked with water from the Baone Kunbis. But their subcastes show that even this small body is of very heterogeneous composition; for they are divided into the Teli, the Kalar, the Kunbi and the Gadiwan Dangris, thus showing that the caste has received recruits from the Telis or oilmen and the Kalars or liquor-sellers. The Gadiwan, as their name denotes, are a separate section who have adopted the comparatively novel occupation of cart-driving for a livelihood. In Wardha there is also a small class of Panibhar or waterman Dangris who are employed as water-bearers, this occupation arising not unnaturally from that of growing melons and other crops in river-beds. And a few members of the caste have taken to working in iron. The bulk of the Dangris, however, grow melons, chillies and brinjals on the banks or in the beds of rivers; but as the melon crop is raised in a period of six weeks during the hot season, they can also undertake some ordinary cultivation. When the melons ripen the first fruits are offered to Mahadeo and given to a Brahman to ensure the success of the crop. When the melon plants are in flower, a woman must not enter the field during the period of her monthly impurity, as it is believed that she would cause the crop to wither. While it may safely be assumed that the Dangris originated from the great Kunbi caste, it may be noted that some of them tell a story to the effect that their original home was Benares, and that they came from there into the Central Provinces; hence they call themselves Kashi Dangri, Kashi being the classical name for Benares. This legend appears to be entirely without foundation, as their family names, speech and customs are alike of purely Marathi origin. But it is found among other castes also that they like to pretend that they came from Benares, the most sacred centre of Hinduism. The social customs of the Dangris resemble those of the Kunbis, and it is unnecessary to describe them in detail. Before their weddings they have a curious ceremony known as Dewat Puja. The father of the bridegroom, with an axe over his shoulder and accompanied by his wife, goes to a well or a stream. Here they clean a small space with cow-dung and make an offering of rice, flowers, turmeric and incense, after which the man, breaking his bangle from off his wrist, throws it into the water, apparently as a propitiatory offering for the success of the marriage. It is not stated what the bangle is made of, but it may be assumed that a valuable one would not thus be thrown away. As among some of the other Maratha castes, the bridegroom must be wrapped in a blanket on his journey to the bride's village. If a bachelor desires to espouse a widow he must first go through the ceremony of marriage with a swallow-wort plant. Polygamy is freely permitted, and some Dangris are known to have as many as five wives. As already stated, wives are of great assistance in gardening work, which demands much hand-labour. Divorce and the remarriage of widows are allowed. The Dangris commonly bury the dead, and they place cotton leaves over the eyes and ears of the corpse. In Bhandara they say that this is done when it is believed the dead person was possessed by an evil spirit, and there is possibly some idea of preventing the escape of the spirit from the body. In Wardha the Dangris have rather a bad reputation, and a saying current about them is 'Dangri beta puha chor,' or 'A Dangri will steal even a shred of cotton'; but this may be a libel.


List of Paragraphs

1. General notice. 2. Subdivisions. 3. Sewn clothes not formerly worn. 4. Occupation. 5. Religion.

1. General notice.

Darzi, Shimpi, Chhipi, Suji.—The occupational caste of tailors. In 1911 a total of 51,000 persons were returned as belonging to the caste in the Central Provinces and Berar. The Darzis are an urban caste and are most numerous in Districts with large towns. Mr. Crooke derives the word Darzi from the Persian darz, meaning a seam. The name Suji from sui, a needle, was formerly more common. Shimpi is the Maratha name, and Chhipi, from Chhipa a calico-printer or dyer, is another name used for the caste, probably because it is largely recruited from the Chhipas. In Bombay they say that when Parasurama was destroying the Kshatriyas, two Rajput brothers hid themselves in a temple and were protected by the priest, who set one of them to sew dresses for the idol and the other to dye and stamp them. The first brother was called Chhipi and from him the Darzis are descended, the name being corrupted to Shimpi, and the second was called Chhipa and was the ancestor of the dyers. The common title of the Darzis is Khalifa, an Arabic word meaning 'The Successor of the Prophet.' Colonel Temple says that it is not confined to them but is also used by barbers, cooks and monitors in schools. [509] The caste is of comparatively recent formation. In fact Sir D. Ibbetson wrote [510] that "Darzi, or its Hindi equivalent Suji, is purely an occupational term, and though there is a Darzi guild in every town, there is no Darzi caste in the proper acceptation of the word. The greater number of Darzis belong perhaps to the Dhobi and Chhimba castes, more especially to the latter."

2. Subdivisions.

The Darzis, however, are now recognised as a distinct caste, but their mixed origin is shown by the names of their subcastes and exogamous sections. Thus they have a Baman subdivision named after the Brahman caste. These will not take food from any other caste except Brahmans and are probably an offshoot from them. They are considered to be the highest subdivision, and next to them come the Rai or Raj Darzis. Another subcaste is named Kaithia, after the Kayasths, and a third Srivastab, which is the name of a well-known subcaste of Kayasths derived from the town of Sravasti, now Sahet Mahet in the Gonda District. [511] In Betul the Srivastab Darzis are reported to forbid the remarriage of widows, thus showing that they desire to live up to their distinguished ancestry. A third subcaste is known as Chamarua and appears to be derived from the Chamars. Other subcastes are of the territorial type as Malwi, Khandeshi, Chhattisgarhi, Mathuria and so on, and the section or family names are usually taken from villages. Among them, however, we find Jugia from Jogi, Thakur or Rajput, Gujar, Khawas or barber, and Baroni, the title of a female Dhimar. Mr. Crooke gives several other names.

3. Sewn clothes not formerly worn.

It may thus reasonably be concluded that the Darzis are a caste of comparatively recent origin, and the explanation is probably that the use of the needle and thread in making clothes is a new fashion. Buchanan remarks: "The needle indeed seems to have been totally unknown to the Hindus, and I have not been able to learn any Hindi word for sewing except that used to express passing the shuttle in the act of weaving...." "Cloth composed of several pieces sewn together is an abomination to the Hindus, so that every woman of rank when she eats, cooks or prays, must lay aside her petticoat and retain only the wrapper made without the use of scissors or needle"; and again, "The dress of the Hindu men of rank has become nearly the same with that of the Muhammadans [512] who did not allow any officer employed by them to appear at their levees (Durbars) except in proper dress. At home, however, the Hindu men, and on all occasions their women, retain almost entirely their native dress, which consists of various pieces of cloth wrapped round them without having been sewn together in any form, and only kept in their place by having their ends thrust under the folds." And elsewhere he states: "The flowering of cotton cloth with the needle has given a good deal of employment to the Muhammadan women of Maldeh as the needle has never been used by the Hindus." [513] Darzi, as has been seen, is a Persian word, and in northern India many tailors are Muhammadans. And it seems, therefore, a possible hypothesis that the needle and the art of sewing were brought into general use by the Moslem invaders. It is true that in his Indo-Aryans [514] Mr. Rajendra Lal Mitra combats this hypothesis and demonstrates that made-up clothes were known to the Aryans of the Rig-Veda and are found in early statuary. But he admits that the instances are not numerous, and it seems likely that the use of such clothes may have been confined to royal and aristocratic families. It is possible also that the Scythian invasions of the fifth century brought about a partial relapse from civilisation, during which certain arts and industries, and among them that of cutting and sewing cloth, were partially or completely lost. The tailor is not the familiar figure in Hindu social life that he is, for example, in England. Here he is traditionally an object or butt for ridicule as in the saying, 'Nine tailors make a man,' and so on; and his weakness is no doubt supposed to be due to the fact that he pursues a sedentary indoor occupation and one more adapted to women than men, the needle being essentially a feminine implement. A similar ridicule, based no doubt on exactly the same grounds, attaches in India to the village weaver, as is evidenced by the proverbs given in the articles on Bhulia, Kori, and Jolaha. No reason exists probably for the contempt in which the weaver class is held other than that their work is considered to be more fitting for women than men. Thus in India the weaver appears to take the place of the tailor, and this leads to the conclusion that woven and not sewn clothes have always been commonly worn.

In the Central Provinces, at least, the Darzi caste is practically confined to the towns, and though cotton jackets are worn even by labourers and shirts by the better-to-do, these are usually bought ready-made at the more important markets. Women, more conservative in their dress than men, have only one garment prepared with the needle, the small bodice known as choli or angia. And in Chhattisgarh, a landlocked tract very backward in civilisation, the choli has hitherto not been worn and is only now being introduced. Though he first copied the Muhammadan and now shows a partiality for the English style of dress for outdoor use, the Hindu when indoors still reverts to the one cloth round the waist and a second over the shoulders, which was probably once the regular garb of his countrymen. For meals the latter is discarded, and this costume, so strange to English ideas, while partly based on considerations of ceremonial purity, may also be due to a conservative adherence to the ancient fashion, when sewn clothes were not worn. It is noticeable also that high-caste Hindus, though they may wear a coat of cloth or tasar silk and cotton trousers, copying the English, still often carry the dupatta or shoulder-cloth hanging round the neck. This now appears a useless encumbrance, but may be the relic of the old body-cloth and therefore interesting as a survival in dress, like the buttons on the back of our tail-coats to which the flaps were once hooked up for riding, or the seams on the backs of gloves, a relic of the time when the glove consisted simply of finger-lengths sewn together. [515] More recently the dupatta has been made to fulfil the function of a pocket-handkerchief, while the educated are now discarding the dupatta and carry their handkerchiefs in their pockets. The old dress of ceremony for landowners is the angarkha, a long coat reaching to the knees and with flaps folding over the breast and tied with strings. This is worn with pyjamas and is probably the Muhammadan ceremonial costume as remarked by Buchanan. In its correct form, at, least it has no buttons, and recalls the time when a similar state of things prevailed in English dress and the 'trussing of his points' was a laborious daily task for every English gentleman. The ghundis or small pieces of cloth made up into a ball, which were the precursors of the button, may still be seen on the cotton coats of rustics in the rural area.

The substitution of clothes cut and sewn to fit the body for draped clothes is a matter of regret from an artistic or picturesque point of view, as the latter have usually a more graceful appearance. This is shown by the difficulty of reproducing modern clothes in statuary, trousers being usually the despair of the sculptor. But sewn clothes, when once introduced, must always prevail from considerations of comfort. When a Hindu pulls his dhoti or loin-cloth up his legs and tucks it in round his hips in order to run or play a game he presumably performs the act described in the Bible as 'girding up his loins.'

4. Occupation.

The social customs of the Darzis present no features of special interest and resemble those of the lower castes in their locality. They rank below the cultivating castes, and Brahmans will not take water from their hands. Though not often employed by the Hindu villager the Darzi is to Europeans one of the best known of all castes. He is on the whole a capable workman and especially good at copying from a pattern. His proficiency in this respect attracted notice so long ago as 1689, as shown in an interesting quotation in the Bombay Gazetteer referring to the tailors of Surat: [516] "The tailors here fashion clothes for the Europeans, either men or women, according to every mode that prevails, and fit up the commodes and towering head-dresses for the women with as much skill as if they had been an Indian fashion, or themselves had been apprenticed at the Royal Exchange. (The commode was a wire structure to raise the cap and hair.)" Since then the Darzi has no doubt copied in turn all the changes of English fashions. He is a familiar figure in the veranda of the houses of Europeans, and his idiosyncrasies have been delightfully described by Eha in Behind the Bungalow. His needles and pins are stuck into the folds of his turban, and Eha says that he is bandy-legged because of the position in which he squats on his feet while sewing. In Gujarat the tailor is often employed in native households. "Though even in well-to-do families," Mr. Bhimbhai Kirparam writes, [517] "women sew their bodices and young children's clothes for everyday wear, every family has its own tailor. As a rule tailors sew in their own houses, and in the tailor's shop may be seen workmen squatting in rows on a palm-leaf mat or on cotton-stuffed quilts. The wives and sons' wives of the head of the establishment sit and work in the shop along with the men. Their busy time is during the marriage season from November to June. A village tailor is paid either in cash or grain and is not infrequently a member of the village establishment. During the rains, the tailor's slack season, he supplements his earnings by tillage, holding land which Government has continued to him on payment of one-half the ordinary rental. In south Gujarat, in the absence of Brahmans, a Darzi officiates at Bhawad marriages, and in some Brahman marriages a Darzi is called with some ceremony to sew a bodice for the bride. On the other hand, in the Panch Mahals and Rewa Kantha, besides tailoring Darzis blow trumpets at marriage and other processions and hold so low a position that even Dhedas object to eat their food." It seems clear that in Gujarat the Darzi caste is of older standing than in northern India, and it is possible that the art of sewing may have been acquired through the sea trade which was carried on between the western coast and Arabia and the Persian Gulf. Here the Darzi has become a village menial, which he is not recorded as being in any other part of India.

5. Religion.

Like the weaver, the Darzi is of a somewhat religious turn of mind, probably on account of his sedentary calling which gives him plenty of time for reflection. Many of them belong to the Namdeo sect, originated by a Chhipa or dyer, Namdeo Sadhu. Namdeo is said to have been a contemporary of Kabir and to have flourished in the twelfth or thirteenth century. He was a great worshipper of the god Vithoba of Pandharpur and is considered by the Marathas to be their oldest writer, being the author of many Abhangs, or sacred hymns. [518] He preached the unity of God, recognising apparently Vithoba or Vishnu as the one deity, and the uselessness of ceremonial. His followers are mainly Dhobis and Chhipas, the two principal castes from whom the Darzis have originated. [519] Namdeo's sect was thus apparently a protest on the part of the Chhipas and Dhobis against their inferior position in the caste system and the tyranny of the Brahmans, and resembled the spiritual revolt of the weavers under Kabir and of the Chamars under Ghasi Das and Jagjiwan Das.

In Berar it is stated [520] that "the Simpi caste has twelve and a half divisions; of these the chief are known as the Jain, Marathi and Telugu Simpis. The Jain Simpis claim the hero Riminath as a caste-fellow, while the Marathas are often Lingayats and the Telugu division generally Vaishnavas." Before beginning work in the morning the Darzi bows to his scissors or needle and prays to them for his livelihood for that day.

The Darzi's occupation, Mr. Crooke remarks, is a poor one and held rather in contempt. The village proverb runs, 'Darzi ka put jab tak jita tab tak sita,' 'The tailor's boy will do nothing but sew all his life long.' Another somewhat more complimentary saying is, 'Tanak si suiya tak tak kare aur lakh taka ko banj kare,' or 'The tiny needle goes tuk tuk, and makes merchandise worth a lakh of rupees.' The Hindustani version of both proverbs is obviously intended to give the sound of a needle passing through cloth, and it is possible that our word 'tuck' has the same origin.

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