The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India - Volume II
by R. V. Russell
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1. General notice.

Dewar. [521]—(Derived from Devi, whom they worship, or from Diabar, 'One who lights a lamp,' because they always practise magic with a lighted lamp.) A Dravidian caste of beggars and musicians. They numbered about 2500 persons in 1911 and are residents of the Chhattisgarh plain. The Dewars themselves trace their origin from a Binjhia named Gopal Rai, who accompanied Raja Kalyan Sai of Ratanpur on a visit to the Court of Delhi in Akbar's time. Gopal Rai was a great wrestler, and while at Delhi he seized and held a mast elephant belonging to the Emperor. When the latter heard of it he ordered a wrestling match to be arranged between Gopal Rai and his own champion wrestler. Gopal Rai defeated and killed his opponent, and Kalyan Sai ordered him to compose a triumphal song and sing it in honour of the occasion. He composed his song in favour of Devi Maha Mai, or Devi the Great Mother, and the composition and recitation of similar songs has ever since been the profession of his descendants the Dewars. The caste is, as is shown by the names of its sections, of mixed origin, and its members are the descendants of Gonds and Kawars reinforced probably by persons who have been expelled from their own caste and have become Dewars. They will still admit persons of any caste except the very lowest.

2. Subdivisions.

The caste has two principal divisions according to locality, named Raipuria and Ratanpuria, Raipur and Ratanpur having been formerly the two principal towns of Chhattisgarh. Within these are several other local subdivisions, e.g. Navagarhia or those belonging to Nawagarh in Bilaspur, Sonakhania from Sonakhan south of the Mahanadi, Chatarrajiha from Chater Raj, in Raipur, and Sarangarhia from Sarangarh State. Some other divisions are either occupational or social; thus the Baghurra Dewars are those who tame tigers and usually live in the direction of Bastar, the Baipari Dewars are petty traders in brass or pewter ornaments which they sell to Banjara women, and the Lohar and Jogi Dewars may be so called either because their ancestors belonged to these castes, or because they have adopted the profession of blacksmiths and beggars respectively. Probably both reasons are partly applicable. These subdivisions are not strictly endogamous, but show a tendency to become so. The two main subcastes, Raipuria and Ratanpuria, are distinguished by the musical instruments which they play on while begging. That of the Raipurias is a sort of rude fiddle called sarangi, which has a cocoanut shell as a resonator with horsehair strings, and is played with a bow. The Ratanpurias have an instrument called dhungru, which consists of a piece of bamboo about three feet long with a hollow gourd as a resonator and catgut strings. In the latter the resonator is held uppermost and rests against the shoulder of the player, while in the former it is at the lower end and is placed against his waist. The section names of the Dewars are almost all of Dravidian origin. Sonwania, Markam, Marai, Dhurwa, Ojha, Netam, Salam, Katlam and Jagat are the names of well-known Gond septs which are also possessed by the Dewars, and Telasi, Karsayal, Son-Mungir and others are Kawar septs which they have adopted. They admit that their ancestors were members of these septs among the Gonds and Kawars. Where the name of the ancestor has a meaning which they understand, some totemistic observances survive. Thus the members of the Karsayal sept will not kill or eat a deer. The septs are exogamous, but there is no other restriction on marriage and the union of first cousins is permissible.

3. Marriage customs.

Adult marriage is usual, and if a husband cannot be found for a girl who has reached maturity she is given to her sister's husband as a second wife, or to any other married person who will take her and give a feast to the caste. In some localities the boy who is to be married is sent with a few relatives to the girl's house. On arrival he places a pot of wine and a nut before the girl's father, who, if he is willing to carry out the marriage, orders the nut to be pounded up. This is always done by a member of the Sonwani sept, a similar respect being paid to this sept among some of the Dravidian tribes. The foreheads of the betrothed couple are smeared with the nut and with some yellow-coloured rice and they bow low to the elders of the caste. Usually a bride-price of Rs. 5 or 10 is then paid to the parents of the girl together with two pieces of cloth intended for their use. A feast follows, which consists merely of the distribution of uncooked food, as the Dewars, like some other low castes, will not take cooked food from each other. Pork and wine are essential ingredients in the feast or the ceremony cannot be completed. If liquor is not available, water from the house of a Kalar (distiller) will do instead, but there is no substitute for pork. This, however, is as a rule easily supplied as nearly all the Dewars keep pigs, which are retailed to the Gonds for their sacrifices. The marriage ceremony is performed within three or four months at most after the betrothal. Before entering the Mandwa or marriage-shed the bridegroom must place a jar of liquor in front of his prospective father-in-law. The bridegroom must also place a ring on the little finger of the bride's right hand, while she resists him as much as she can, her hand having previously been smeared with castor oil in order to make the task more difficult. Before taking the bride away the new husband must pay her father Rs. 20, and if he cannot do this, and in default of arrangements for remission which are sometimes made, must remain domiciled in his house for a certain period. As the bride is usually adult there is no necessity for a gauna ceremony, and she leaves for her husband's house once for all. Thereafter when she visits the house of her parents she does so as a stranger, and they will not accept cooked food at her hands nor she at theirs. Neither will her husband's parents accept food from her, and each couple with their unmarried children form an exclusive group in this respect. Such a practice is found only among the low castes of mixed origin where nobody is certain of his neighbour's standing. If a woman has gone wrong before marriage, most of the ceremonies are omitted. In such a case the bridegroom catches hold of the bride by the hair and gives her a blow by way of punishment for her sin, and they then walk seven times round the sacred pole, the whole ceremony taking less than an hour. The bride-price is under these circumstances reduced to Rs. 15. Widow-marriage is permitted, and while in some localities the new husband need give nothing, in others he must pay as much as Rs. 50 to the relatives of the deceased husband. If a woman runs away from her husband to another man, the latter must pay to the husband double the ordinary amount payable for a widow. If he cannot afford this, he must return the woman with Rs. 10 as compensation for the wrong he has done. The Dewars are also reported to have the practice of mortgaging their wives or making them over temporarily to a creditor in return for a loan. Divorce is allowed for the usual causes and by mutual consent. The husband must give a feast to the caste, which is looked on as the funeral ceremony of the woman so far as he is concerned; thereafter she is dead to him and he cannot marry her again on pain of the permanent exclusion of both from the caste. But a divorced woman can marry any other Dewar. Polygamy is freely allowed.

4. Religion and social practices.

The Dewars especially worship Devi Maha Mai and Dulha Deo. To the former they offer a she-goat and to the latter a he-goat which must be of a dark colour. They worship their dhungru or musical instrument on the day of Dasahra. They consider the sun and the moon to be brother and sister, and both to be manifestations of the deity. They bury their dead, but those who are in good circumstances dig up the bones after a year or two and burn them, taking the ashes to a sacred river. Mourning lasts for seven or ten days according as the deceased is unmarried or married, and during this time they abjure flesh and oil. Their social rules are peculiar. Though considered impure by the higher castes, they will not take cooked food from a Brahman, whom they call a Kumhati Kida, or an insect which effects the metamorphosis of others into his own form, and who will therefore change them into his own caste. Nor will they take cooked food from members of their own caste, but they accept it from several of the lower castes including Gonds, whose leavings they will eat. This is probably because they beg from Gonds and attend their weddings. They keep pigs and pork is their favourite food, but they do not eat beef. They have a tribal council with a headman called Gaontia or Jemadar, who always belongs either to the Sonwani or Telasi section. Among offences for which a man is temporarily put out of caste is that of naming his younger brother's wife. He must also abstain from going into her room or touching her clothes. This rule does not apply to an elder brother's wife.

5. Occupation.

The Dewars are professional beggars, and play on the musical instruments called dhungru and sarangi which have already been described. The Ratanpurias usually celebrate in an exaggerated style the praises of Gopal Rai, their mythical ancestor. One of his exploits was to sever with a single sword-stroke the stalk of a plantain inside which the Emperor of Delhi had caused a solid bar of iron to be placed. The Raipurias prefer a song, called Gujrigit, about curds and milk. They also sing various songs relating how a woman is beloved by a Raja who tries to seduce her, but her chastity is miraculously saved by some curious combination of circumstances. They exorcise ghosts, train monkeys, bears and tigers for exhibition, and sell ornaments of base metal. In Raipur the men take about performing monkeys and the women do tattooing, for which they usually receive payment in the shape of an old or new cloth. A few have settled down to cultivation, but as a rule they are wanderers, carrying from place to place their scanty outfit of a small tent and mattress, both made of old rags, and a few vessels. They meet at central villages during the Holi festival. The family is restricted to the parents and unmarried children, separation usually taking place on marriage.


1. Origin and subdivisions.

Dhakar. [522]—A small caste belonging solely to the Bastar State. In 1911 they numbered 5500 persons in Bastar, and it is noticeable that there were nearly twice as many women as men. The term Dhakar connotes a man of illegitimate descent and is applied to the Kirars of the Central Provinces and perhaps to other castes of mixed Rajput origin. But in Bastar it is the special designation of a considerable class of persons who are the descendants of alliances between Brahman and Rajput immigrants and women of the indigenous tribes. They are divided, like the Halbas, into two groups—Purait or pure, and Surait or mixed. The son of a Brahman or Rajput father by a Rawat (herdsman) or Halba mother is a Purait, but one born from a woman of the Muria, Marar, Nai or Kalar castes is a Surait. But these latter can become Puraits after two or three generations, and the same rule applies to the son of a Dhakar father by a Halba or Rawat woman, who also ranks in the first place as a Surait. Descendants of a Dhakar father by a Muria or other low-caste woman, however, always remain Suraits. The Puraits and Suraits form endogamous groups, and the latter will accept cooked food from the former. The more respectable Dhakars round Jagdalpur are now tending, however, to call themselves Rajputs and refuse to admit any one of mixed birth into their community.

One legend of their origin is that the first Dhakar was the offspring of a Brahman cook of the Raja of Bastar with a Kosaria Rawat woman; and though this is discredited by the Dhakars it is probably a fairly correct version of the facts. An inferior branch of the caste exists which is known as Chikrasar; it is related of them that their ancestors once went out hunting and set the forest on fire as a method of driving the game, as they occasionally do still. They came across the roasted body of a dog in the forest and ate it without knowing what animal it was. In the stomach, however, some cooked rice was found, and hence it was known as a dog and they were branded as dog-eaters. As a penalty the Raja imposed on them the duty of thatching a hut for him at the Dasahra festival, which their descendants still perform. The other Dhakars refuse to marry or eat with them, and it is clear from the custom of thatching the Raja's hut that they are a primitive and jungly branch of the caste.

2. Marriage.

If a girl becomes with child by a member of the caste she is made over to him without a marriage, or to the man to whom she was previously betrothed if he is still willing to take her. Neither is she expelled if the same event occurs with a man of any higher caste, but if he be of lower caste she is thrown out. Marriages are usually arranged by the parents but an adult girl may choose her own husband, and she is then wedded to him with abbreviated rites so that her family may avoid the disgrace of her entering his house like a widow or kept woman. Formerly a Dhakar might marry his granddaughter, but this is no longer done. When the signs of puberty first appear in a girl she is secluded and must not see or be seen by any man. They think that the souls of dead ancestors are reborn in children, and if a child refuses to suck they ask which of their ancestors he is and what he wants, or they offer it some present such as a silver bangle, and if the child then takes to the breast they give away the bangle to a Brahman. The sixth day after a child is born the paternal aunt prepares lamp-black from a lamp fed with melted butter and rubs it on the child's eyes and receives a small present.

3. Funeral rites.

The period of mourning or impurity after a death must terminate with a feast to the caste-men, and it continues until this is given. Consequently the other caste-men subscribe for a poor member, so that he may give the feast and resume his ordinary avocations. On this occasion one of the guests puts a small fish in a leaf-cup full of water, which no doubt represents the spirit of the deceased, and all the mourners touch this cup and are freed from their impurity. A Brahman is also invited, who lights a lamp fed with melted butter and then asks for a cow or some other valuable present as a recompense for his service of blowing out the lamp. Until this is done the Dhakars think that the soul of the departed is tortured by the flame of the lamp. If the Brahman is pleased, he pours some curds over the lamp and this acts as a cooling balm to the soul. When a member of the family dies the mourners shave the whole head with beard and moustache.

4. Occupation and social status.

The Dhakars are mainly engaged in cultivation as farmservants and labourers. Like the Halbas, they consider it a sin to heat or forge iron, looking upon the metal as sacred. They eat the flesh of clean animals, but abstain from both pigs and chickens, and some also do not eat the peacock. A man as well as a woman is permanently expelled for adultery with a person of lower caste, the idea of this rule being no doubt to prevent degradation in the status of the caste from the admission of the offspring of such unions. If one Dhakar beats another with a shoe, both are temporarily put out of caste. But if a man seduces a caste-man's wife and is beaten with a shoe by the husband, he is permanently expelled, while the husband is readmitted after a feast. On being received back into caste intercourse an offender is purified by drinking water in which the image of a local god has been dipped or the Raja of Bastar has placed his toe. Like other low castes of mixed origin, they are very particular about each other's status and will only accept cooked food from families who are well known to them. At caste feasts each family or group of families cooks for itself, and in some cases parents refuse to eat with the family into which their daughter has married and hence cannot do so with the girl herself.


1. Traditions and structure of the caste.

Dhangar. [523]—The Maratha caste of shepherds and blanket-weavers, numbering 96,000 persons in the Central Provinces and Berar. They reside principally in the Nagpur, Wardha, Chanda and Nimar Districts of the Central Provinces and in all Districts of Berar. The Dhangars are a very numerous caste in Bombay and Hyderabad. The name is derived either from the Sanskrit dhenu, a cow, or more probably from dhan, [524] wealth, a term which is commonly applied to flocks of sheep and goats. It is said that the first sheep and goats came out of an ant-hill and scattering over the fields began to damage the crops of the cultivators. They, being helpless, prayed to Mahadeo to rescue them from this pest and he thereupon created the first Dhangar to tend the flocks. The Dhangars consequently revere an ant-hill, and never remove one from their fields, while they worship it on the Diwali day with offerings of rice, flowers and part of the ear of a goat. When tending and driving sheep and goats they ejaculate 'Har, Har,' which is a name of Mahadeo used by devotees in worshipping him. The Dhangars furnished a valuable contingent to Sivaji's guerilla soldiery, and the ruling family of Indore State belong to this caste. It is divided into the following subcastes: Varadi or Barade, belonging to Berar; Kanore or Kanade, of Kanara; Jhade, or those belonging to the Bhandara, Balaghat and Chhindwara Districts, called the Jhadi or hill country; Ladse, found in Hyderabad; Gadri, from gadar, a sheep, a division probably consisting of northerners, as the name for the cognate caste of shepherds in Hindustan is Gadaria; Telange, belonging to the Telugu country; Marathe, of the Maratha country; Mahurai from Mahur in Hyderabad, and one or two others. Eleven subcastes in all are reported. For the purposes of marriage a number of exogamous groups or septs exist which may be classified according to their nomenclature as titular and totemistic, many having also the names of other castes. Examples of sept names are: Powar, a Rajput sept; Dokra, an old man; Marte, a murderer or slayer; Sarodi, the name of a caste of mendicants; Mhali, a barber; Kaode, a crow; Chambhade, a Chamar; Gujde, a Gujar; Juade, a gambler; Lamchote, long-haired; Bodke, bald-headed; Khatik, a butcher; Chandekar, from Chanda; Dambhade, one having pimples on the body; Halle, a he-buffalo; Moya, a grass, and others. The sept names show that the caste is a functional one of very mixed composition, partly recruited from members of other castes who have taken to sheep-tending and generally from the non-Aryan tribes.

2. Marriage.

A man must not marry within his own sept or that of his mother, nor may he marry a first cousin. He may wed a younger sister of his wife during her lifetime, and the practice of marrying a girl and boy into the same family, called Anta Santa or exchange, is permitted. Occasionally the husband does service for his wife in his father-in-law's house. In Wardha the Dhangars measure the heights of a prospective bride and bridegroom with a piece of string and consider it a suitable match if the husband is taller than the wife, whether he be older or not. Marriages may be infant or adult, and polygamy is permitted, no stigma attaching to the taking of a second wife. Weddings may be celebrated in the rains up to the month of Kunwar (September), this provision probably arising from the fact that many Dhangars wander about the country during the open season, and are only at home during the rainy months. Perhaps for the same reason the wedding may, if the officiating priest so directs, be held at the house of a Brahman. This happens only when the Brahman has sown an offering of rice, called Gag, in the name of the goddess Rana Devi, the favourite deity of the Dhangars. On his way to the bride's house the bridegroom must be covered with a black blanket. Nowadays the wedding is sometimes held at the bridegroom's house and the bride comes for it. The caste say that this is done because there are not infrequently among the members of the bridegroom's family widows who have remarried or women who have been kept by men of higher castes or been guilty of adultery. The bride's female relatives refuse to wash the feet of these women and this provokes quarrels. To meet such cases the new rule has been introduced. At the wedding the priest sits on the roof of the house facing the west, and the bride and bridegroom stand below with a curtain between them. As the sun is half set he claps his hands and the bridegroom takes the clasped hands of the bride within his own, the curtain being withdrawn. The bridegroom ties round the bride's neck a yellow thread of seven strands, and when this is done she is married. Next morning a black bead necklace is substituted for the thread. The expenses of the bridegroom's party are about Rs. 50, and of the bride's about Rs. 30. The remaining procedure follows the customary usage of the Maratha Districts. Widows are permitted to marry again, but must not take a second husband from the sept to which the first belonged. A considerable price is paid for a widow, and it is often more expensive to marry one than a girl. A Brahman and the malguzar (village proprietor) should be present at the ceremony. If a bachelor marries a widow he must first go through the ceremony with a silver ring, and if the ring is subsequently lost or broken, its funeral rites must be performed. Divorce is allowed in the presence of the caste panchayat at the instance of either party for sufficient reason, as the misconduct or bad temper of the wife or the impotency of the husband.

3. Religion.

Mahadeo is the special deity of the Dhangars, and they also observe the ordinary Hindu festivals. At Diwali they worship their goats by dyeing their horns and touching their feet. One Bahram of Nachangaon near Pulgaon is the tutelary deity of the Wardha Dhangars and the protector of their flocks. On the last day of the month of Magh they perform a special ceremony called the Deo Puja. A Dhimar acts as priest to the caste on this occasion and fashions some figures of idols out of rice to which vermilion and flowers are offered. He then distributes the grains of rice to the Dhangars who are present, pronouncing a benediction. The Dhimar receives his food and a present, and it is essential that the act of worship should be performed by one of this caste. In their houses they have Kul-Devi and Khandoba the Maratha hero, who are the family deities. But in large families they are kept only in the house of the eldest brother. Kul-Devi or the goddess of the family is worshipped at weddings, and a goat is offered to her in the month of Chait (March). The head is buried beneath her shrine inside the house and the body is consumed by members of the family only. Khandoba is worshipped on Sundays and they identify him with the sun. Vithoba, a form of Vishnu, is revered on Wednesdays, and Balaji, the younger brother of Rama, on Fridays. Many families also make a representation of some deceased bachelor relative, which they call Munjia, and of some married woman who is known as Mairni or Sasin, and worship them daily.

4. Birth, death and social status.

The Dhangars burn their dead unless they are too poor to purchase wood for fuel, in which case burial is resorted to. Unmarried children and persons dying from smallpox, leprosy, cholera and snake-bite are also buried. At the pyre the widow breaks her bangles and throws her glass beads on to her husband's body. On returning from the burning ghat the funeral party drink liquor. Some ganja, tobacco and anything else which the deceased may have been fond of during his life are left near the grave on the first day. Mourning is observed during ten days on the death of an adult and for three days for a child. Children are usually named on the twelfth day after birth, the well-to-do employing a Brahman for the purpose. On this day the child must not see a lamp, as it is feared that if he should do so he will afterwards have a squint. Only one name is given as a rule, but subsequently when the child comes to be married, if the Brahman finds that its name does not make the marriage auspicious, he substitutes another and the child is afterwards known by this new name. The caste employ Brahmans for ceremonies at birth and marriage. They eat flesh including fowls and wild pig, and drink liquor, but abstain from other unclean food. They will take food from a Kunbi, Phulmali or a Sunar, and water from any of the good cultivating castes. A Kunbi will take water from them. The women of the caste wear bracelets of lead or brass on the right wrist and glass bangles on the left. Permanent or temporary excommunication from caste is imposed for the usual offences, and among those visited with the minor penalty are selling shoes, touching the carcase of a dog or cat, and killing a cow or buffalo, or allowing one to die with a rope round its neck. No food is cooked for five weeks in a house in which a cat has died. The social standing of the caste is low.

5. Occupation.

The traditional occupation of the Dhangars is to tend sheep and goats, and they also sell goats' milk, make blankets from the wool of sheep, and sometimes breed and sell stock for slaughter. They generally live near tracts of waste land where grazing is available. Sheep are kept in open and goats in roofed folds. Like English shepherds they carry sticks or staffs and have dogs to assist in driving the flocks, and they sometimes hunt hares with their dogs. Their dress consists frequently only of a loin-cloth and a blanket, and having to bear exposure to all weathers, they are naturally strong and hardy. In appearance they are dark and of medium size. They eat three times a day and bathe in the evening on returning from work, though their ablutions are sometimes omitted in the cold weather.


1. Original and classical records.

Dhanuk.—A low caste of agriculturists found principally in the Narsinghpur District, which contained three-fourths of the total of nearly 7000 persons returned in 1911. The headquarters of the caste are in the United Provinces, which contains more than a lakh of Dhanuks. The name is derived from the Sanskrit dhanuska, an archer, and the caste is an ancient one, its origin as given in the Padma Purana, quoted by Sir Henry Elliot, being from a Chamar father and a Chandal or sweeper mother. Another pedigree makes the mother a Chamar and the father an outcaste Ahir. Such statements, Sir H. Risley remarks in commenting on this genealogy, [525] serve to indicate in a general way the social rank held by the Dhanuks at the time when it was first thought necessary to enrol them among the mixed castes. Dr. Buchanan [526] says that the Dhanuks were in former times the militia of the country. He states that all the Dhanuks were at one time probably slaves and many were recruited to fill up the military ranks—a method of security which had long been prevalent in Asia, the armies of the Parthians having been composed entirely of slaves. A great many Dhanuks, at the time when Buchanan wrote, were still slaves, but some annually procured their liberty by the inability of their masters to maintain them and their unwillingness to sell their fellow-creatures. It may be concluded, therefore, that the Dhanuks were a body of servile soldiery, recruited as was often the case from the subject Dravidian tribes; following the all-powerful tendency of Hindu society they became a caste, and owing to the comparatively respectable nature of their occupation obtained a rise in social position from the outcaste status of the subject Dravidians to the somewhat higher group of castes who were not unclean but from whom a Brahman would not accept water. They did not advance so far as the Khandaits, another caste formed from military service, who were also, Sir H. Risley shows, originally recruited from a subject tribe, probably because the position of the Dhanuks was always more subordinate and no appreciable number of them came to be officers or leaders. The very debased origin of the caste already mentioned as given in the Padma Purana may be supposed as in other cases to be an attempt on the part of the priestly chronicler to repress what he considered to be unfounded claims to a rise in rank. But the Dhanuks, not less than the other soldier castes, have advanced a pretension to be Kshatriyas, those of Narsinghpur sometimes calling themselves Dhankarai Rajputs, though this claim is of course in their case a pure absurdity. It is not necessary to suppose that the Dhanuks of the Central Provinces are the lineal descendants of the caste whose genealogy is given in the Puranas; they may be a much more recent offshoot from a main caste, formed in a precisely similar manner from military service. [527] Mr. Crooke [528] surmises that they belonged to the large impure caste of Basors or basket-makers, who took to bow-making and thence to archery; and some connection is traceable between the Dhanuks and Basors in Narsinghpur. Such a separation must probably have occurred in comparatively recent times, inasmuch as some recollection of it still remains. The fact that Lodhis are the only caste besides Brahmans from whom the Dhanuks of Narsinghpur will take food cooked without water may indicate that they formed the militia of Lodhi chieftains in the Nerbudda valley, a hypothesis which is highly probable on general grounds.

2. Marriage.

In the Central Provinces the Dhanuks have no subcastes. [529] The names of their gotras or family groups, though they themselves cannot explain them, are apparently territorial: as Maragaiyan from Maragaon, Benaikawar from Benaika village, Pangarya from Panagar, Binjharia from Bindhya or Vindhya, Barodhaya from Barodha village, and so on. Marriages within the same gotra and between first cousins are prohibited, and child-marriage is usual. The father of the boy always takes the initiative in arranging a match, and if a man wants to find a husband for his daughter he must ask the assistance of his relatives to obtain a proposal, as it would be derogatory to move in the matter himself. The contract for marriages is made at the boy's house and is not inviolable. Before the departure of the bridegroom for the bride's village, he stands at the entrance of the marriage-shed, and his mother comes up and places her breast to his mouth and throws rice balls and ashes over him. The former action signifies the termination of his boyhood, while the latter is meant to protect him on his important journey. The bridegroom in walking away treads on a saucer in which a little rice is placed. Widow-marriage and divorce are permitted.

3. Social rank and customs.

A few members of the caste are tenants and the bulk of them farmservants and field-labourers. They also act as village watchmen. The Dhanuks eat flesh and fish, but not fowls, beef or pork, and they abstain from liquor. They will take food cooked without water from a Brahman and a Lodhi, but not from a Rajput; but in Nimar the status of the caste is distinctly lower, and they eat pig's flesh and the leavings of Brahmans and Rajputs. The mixed nature of the caste is shown by the fact that they will receive into the community illegitimate children born of a Dhanuk father and a woman of a higher caste such as Lodhi or Kurmi. They rank as already indicated just above the impure castes.


List of Paragraphs

1. Origin and traditions. 2. Exogamous septs. 3. Marriage. 4. Festivities of the women of the bridegroom's party. 5. Conclusion of the marriage. 6. Widow-marriage and divorce. 7. Childbirth. 8. Disposal of the dead. 9. Religion. 10. Magic and witchcraft. 11. Social rules. 12. Dress and tattooing. 13. Names of children. 14. Occupation.

1. Origin and traditions.

Dhanwar, Dhanuhar. [530]—A primitive tribe living in the wild hilly country of the Bilaspur zamindari estates, adjoining Chota Nagpur. They numbered only 19,000 persons in 1911. The name Dhanuhar means a bowman, and the bulk of the tribe have until recently been accustomed to obtain their livelihood by hunting with bow and arrows. The name is thus merely a functional term and is analogous to those of Dhangar, or labourer, and Kisan, or cultivator, which are applied to the Oraons, and perhaps Halba or farmservant, by which another tribe is known. The Dhanwars are almost certainly not connected with the Dhanuks of northern India, though the names have the same meaning. They are probably an offshoot of either the Gond or the Kawar tribe or a mixture of both. Their own legend of their origin is nearly the same as that of the Gonds, while the bulk of their sept or family names are identical with those of the Kawars. Like the Kawars, the Dhanwars have no language of their own and speak a corrupt form of Chhattisgarhi Hindi. Mr. Jeorakhan Lal writes of them:—"The word Dhanuhar is a corrupt form of Dhanusdhar or a holder of a bow. The bow consists of a cleft piece of bamboo and the arrow is made of wood of the dhaman tree. [531] The pointed end is furnished with a piece or a nail of iron called phani, while to the other end are attached feathers of the vulture or peacock with a string of tasar silk. Dhanuhar boys learn the use of the bow at five years of age, and kill birds with it when they are seven or eight years old. At their marriage ceremony the bridegroom carries an arrow with him in place of a dagger as among the Hindus, and each household has a bow which is worshipped at every festival." According to their own legend the ancestors of the Dhanuhars were two babies whom a tigress unearthed from the ground when scratching a hole in her den, and brought up with her own young. They were named Naga Lodha and Nagi Lodhi, Naga meaning naked and Lodha being the Chhattisgarhi word for a wild dog. Growing up they lived for some time as brother and sister, until the deity enjoined them to marry. But they had no children until Naga Lodha, in obedience to the god's instructions, gave his wife the fruit of eleven trees to eat. From these she had eleven sons at a birth, and as she observed a fortnight's impurity for each of them the total period was five and a half months. In memory of this, Dhanuhar women still remain impure for five months after delivery, and do not worship the gods for that period. Afterwards the couple had a twelfth son, who was born with a bow and arrows in his hand, and is now the ancestral hero of the tribe, being named Karankot. One day in the forest when Karankot was not with them, the eleven brothers came upon a wooden palisade, inside which were many deer and antelope tended by twelve Gaoli (herdsmen) brothers with their twelve sisters. The Lodha brothers attacked the place, but were taken prisoners by the Gaolis and forced to remove dung and other refuse from the enclosure. After a time Karankot went in search of his brothers and, coming to the place, defeated the Gaolis and rescued them and carried off the twelve sisters. The twelve brothers subsequently married the twelve Gaoli girls, Karankot himself being wedded to the youngest and most beautiful, whose name was Maswasi. From each couple is supposed to be descended one of the tribes who live in this country, as the Binjhwar, Bhumia, Korwa, Majhi, Kol, Kawar and others, the Dhanuhars themselves being the progeny of Karankot and Maswasi. The bones of the animals killed by Karankot were thrown into ditches dug round the village and form the pits of chhui mithi or white clay now existing in this tract.

2. Exogamous septs.

The Dhanuhars, being a small tribe, have no endogamous divisions, but are divided into a number of totemistic exogamous septs. Many of the septs are called after plants or animals, and members of the sept refrain from killing or destroying the animal or plant after which it is named. The names of the septs are generally Chhattisgarhi words, though a few are Gondi. Out of fifty names returned twenty are also found in the Kawar tribe and four among the Gonds. This makes it probable that the Dhanuhars are mainly an offshoot from the Kawars with an admixture of Gonds and other tribes. A peculiarity worth noticing is that one or two of the septs have been split up into a number of others. The best instance of this is the Sonwani sept, which is found among several castes and tribes in Chhattisgarh; its name is perhaps derived from Sona pani (Gold water), and its members have the function of readmitting those temporarily expelled from social intercourse by pouring on them a little water into which a piece of gold has been dipped. Among the Dhanuhars the Sonwani sept has become divided into the Son-Sonwani, who pour the gold water over the penitent; the Rakat Sonwani, who give him to drink a little of the blood of the sacrificial fowl; the Hardi Sonwani, who give turmeric water to the mourners when they come back from a funeral; the Kari Sonwani, who assist at this ceremony; and one or two others. The totem of the Kari Sonwani sept is a black cow, and when such an animal dies in the village members of the sept throw away their earthen pots. All these are now separate exogamous septs. The Deswars are another sept which has been divided in the same manner. They are, perhaps, a more recent accession to the tribe, and are looked down on by the others because they will eat the flesh of bison. The other Dhanwars refuse to do this because they say that when Sita, Rama's wife, was exiled in the jungles, she could not find a cow to worship and so revered a bison in its stead. And they say that the animal's feet are grey because of the turmeric water which Sita poured on them, and that the depression on its forehead is the mark of her hand when she placed a tika or sign there with coloured rice. The Deswars are also called Dui Duaria or 'Those having two doors,' because they have a back door to their huts which is used only by women during their monthly period of impurity and kept shut at all other times. One of the septs is named Manakhia, which means 'man-eater,' and it is possible that its members formerly offered human sacrifices. Similarly, the Rakat-bund or 'Drop of blood Deswars' may be so called because they shed human blood. A member of the Telasi or 'Oil' sept, when he has killed a deer, will cut off the head and bring it home; placing it in his courtyard, he suspends a burning lamp over the head and places grains of rice on the forehead of the deer; and he then considers that he is revering the oil in the lamp. Members of the Surajgoti or sun sept are said to have stood as representatives of the sun in the rite of the purification of an offender.

3. Marriage.

Marriage within the sept is prohibited, and usually also between first cousins. Girls are commonly married a year or two after they arrive at maturity. The father of the boy looks out for a suitable girl for his son and sends a friend to make the proposal. If this is accepted a feast is given, and is known as Phul Phulwari or 'The bursting of the flower.' The betrothal itself is called Phaldan or 'The gift of the fruit'; on this occasion the contract is ratified and the usual presents are exchanged. Yet a third ceremony, prior to the marriage, is that of the Barokhi or inspection, when the bride and bridegroom are taken to see each other. On this occasion they exchange copper rings, placing them on each other's finger, and the boy offers vermilion to the earth, and then rubs it on the bride's forehead. When the girl is mature the date of the wedding is fixed, a small bride-price of six rupees and a piece of cloth being usually paid. If the first signs of puberty appear in the girl during the bright fortnight of the month, the marriage is held during the dark fortnight and vice versa. The marriage-shed is built in the form of a rectangle and must consist of either seven or nine posts in three lines. The bridegroom's party comprises from twenty to forty persons of both sexes. When they arrive at the bride's village her father comes out to meet them and gives them leaf-pipes to smoke. He escorts them inside the village where a lodging has been prepared for them. The ceremony is based on that of the local Hindus with numerous petty variations in points of detail. In the actual ceremony the bride and bridegroom are first supported on the knees of two relatives. A sheet is held between them and each throws seven handfuls of parched rice over the other. They are then made to stand side by side; a knot is made of their cloths containing a piece of turmeric, and the bride's left hand is laid over the bridegroom's right one, and on it a sendhaura or wooden box for vermilion is placed. The bride's mother moves seven times round the pair holding a lighted lamp, at which she warms her hand and then touches the marriage-crowns of the bride and bridegroom seven times in succession. And finally the couple walk seven times round the marriage-post, the bridegroom following the bride. The marriage is held during the day, and not, as is usual, at night or in the early morning. Afterwards, the pair are seated in the marriage-shed, the bridegroom's leg being placed over that of the bride, with their feet in a brass dish. The bride's mother then washes their great toes with milk and the rest of their feet with water. The bridegroom applies vermilion seven times to the marriage-post and to his wife's forehead at the parting of her hair. The couple are fed with rice and pulses one after the other out of the same leaf-plates, and the parties have a feast. Next morning, before their departure, the father of the bride asks the bridegroom to do his best to put up with his daughter, who is thievish, gluttonous and so slovenly that she lets her food drop on to the floor; but if he finds he cannot endure her, to send her home. In the same manner the father of the boy apologises for his son, saying that he cares only for mischief and pleasure. The party then returns to the bridegroom's house.

4. Festivities of the women of the bridegroom's party.

During the absence of the wedding party the women of the bridegroom's house with others in the village sing songs at night in the marriage-shed constructed at his house. These are known as Dindwa, a term applied to a man who has no wife, whether widower or bachelor. As they sing, the women dance in two lines with their arms interlaced, clapping their hands as they move backwards and forwards. The songs are of a lewd character, treating of intrigues in love mingled with abuse of their relatives and of other men who may be watching the proceedings by stealth. No offence is taken on such occasions, whatever may be said. In Upper India, Mr. Jeorakhan Lal states such songs are sung at the time of the marriage and are called Naktoureki louk or the ceremony of the useless or shameless ones, because women, however shy and modest, become at this time as bold and shameless as men are at the Holi festival. The following are a few lines from one of these songs:

The wheat-cake is below and the urad-cake is above. Do you see my brother's brother-in-law watching the dance in the narrow lane. [532]

A sweetmeat is placed on the wheat-cake; a handsome young black-guard has climbed on to the top of the wall to see the dance.

When a woman sees a man from afar he looks beautiful and attractive: but when he comes near she sees that he is not worth the trouble.

I went to the market and came back with my salt. Oh, I looked more at you than at my husband who is wedded to me.

5. Conclusion of the marriage.

Several of the ceremonies are repeated at the bridegroom's house after the return of the wedding party. On the day following them the couple are taken to a tank walking under a canopy held up by their friends. Here they throw away their marriage-crowns, and play at hiding a vessel under the water. When they return to the house a goat is sacrificed to Dulha Deo and the bride cooks food in her new house for the first time, her husband helping her, and their relatives and friends in the village are invited to partake of it. After this the conjugal chamber is prepared by the women of the household, and the bride is taken to it and told to consider her husband's house as her own. The couple are then left together and the marriage is consummated.

6. Widow-marriage and divorce.

The remarriage of widows is permitted but it is not considered as a real marriage, according to the saying: "A woman cannot be anointed twice with the marriage oil, as a wooden cooking-vessel cannot be put twice on the fire." A widow married again is called a Churiyahi Dauki or 'Wife made by bangles,' as the ceremony may be completed by putting bangles on her wrists. When a woman is going to marry again she leaves her late husband's house and goes and lives with her own people or in a house by herself. The second husband makes his proposal to her through some other women. If accepted he comes with a party of his male friends, taking with him a new cloth and some bangles. They are received by the widow's guardian, and they sit in her house smoking and chewing tobacco while some woman friend retires with her and invests her with the new cloth and bangles. She comes out and the new husband and wife bow to all the Dhanwars, who are subsequently regaled with liquor and goats' flesh, and the marriage is completed. Polygamy is permitted but is not common. A husband may divorce his wife for failing to bear him issue, for being ugly, thievish, shrewish or a witch, or for an intrigue with another man. If a married woman commits adultery with another man of the tribe they are pardoned with the exaction of one feast. If her paramour is a Gond, Rawat, Binjhwar or Kawar, he is allowed to become a Dhanwar and marry her on giving several feasts, the exact number being fixed by the village Baiga or priest in a panchayat or committee. With these exceptions a married woman having an intrigue with a man of another caste is finally expelled. A wife who desires to divorce her husband without his agreement is also turned out of the caste like a common woman.

7. Childbirth.

After the birth of a child the mother receives no food for the first and second, and fourth and fifth days, while on the third she is given only a warm decoction to drink. On the sixth day the men of the house are shaved and their impurity ceases. But the mother cooks no food for two months after bearing a female child and for three months if it is a male. The period has thus been somewhat reduced from the traditional one of five and a half months, [533] but it must still be highly inconvenient. At the expiration of the time of impurity the earthen pots are changed and the mother prepares a meal for the whole household. During her monthly period of impurity a woman cooks no food for six days. On the seventh day she bathes and cleans her hair with clay, and is then again permitted to touch the drinking water and cook food.

8. Disposal of the dead.

The tribe bury the dead. The corpse is wrapped in an old cloth and carried to the grave on a cot turned upside down. On arrival there it is washed with turmeric and water and wrapped in a new cloth. The bearers carry the corpse seven times round the open grave, saying, 'This is your last marriage,' that is, with the earth. The male relatives and friends fill in the grave with earth, working with their hands only and keep their backs turned to the grave so as to avoid seeing the corpse. It is said that each person should throw only five handfuls. Other people then come up and fill in the grave, trampling down the surface as much as possible. For three days after a death the bereaved family do not cook for themselves but are supplied with food by their friends. These, however, do not give them any salt as it is thought that the craving for salt will divert their minds from dwelling on their loss. The tribe do not perform the shraddh ceremony, but in the month of Kunwar, on the day corresponding to that on which his father died, a man feeds the caste-fellows in memory of him. And at this period he offers libations to his ancestors, pouring a double handful of water on the ground for each one that he can remember and then one for all the others. While doing this he stands facing the east and does not turn to three different directions as the Hindu custom is. The spirit of a man who has been killed by a tiger becomes Baghia Masan or the tiger imp, and that of a woman who dies in childbirth becomes a Churel. Both are very troublesome to the living.

9. Religion.

The principal deities of the Dhanwars are Thakur Deo, the god of agriculture, and Dulha Deo, the deity of the family and hearth. Twice a year the village Baiga or medicine-man, who is usually a Gond, offers a cocoanut to Thakur Deo. He first consecrates it to the god by placing it in contact with water and the small heap of rice which lies in front of his shrine, and then splits it asunder on a stone, saying, 'Jai Thakur Deo,' or 'Victory to Thakur Deo.' When any serious calamity befalls the tribe a goat is offered to the deity. It must also be first consecrated to him by eating his rice; its body is then washed in water and some of the sacred dub [534] grass is placed on it, and the Baiga severs the head from the body with an axe. Dulha Deo is the god of the family and the marriage-bed, and when a Dhanwar is married or his first son is born, a goat is offered to the deity. Another interesting deity is Maiya Andhiyari, or the goddess of the dark fortnight of the month. She is worshipped in the house conjointly by husband and wife on any Tuesday in the dark fortnight of Magh (January-February), all the relatives of the family being invited. On the day of worship the husband and wife observe a fast, and all the water which is required for use in the house during the day and night must be brought into it in the early morning. A circular pit is dug inside the house, about three feet deep and as many wide. A she-goat which has borne no young is sacrificed to the goddess in the house in the same manner as in the sacrifice to Thakur Deo. The goat is skinned and cut up, the skin, bones and other refuse being thrown into the hole. The flesh is cooked and eaten with rice and pulse in the evening, all the family and relatives, men and women, eating together at the same time. After the meal, all the remaining food and the water including that used for cooking, and the new earthen pots used to carry water on that day are thrown into the pit. The mouth of the pit is then covered with wooden boards and plastered over with mud with great care to prevent a child falling into it; as it is held that nothing which has once gone into the pit may be taken out, even if it were a human being. It is said that once in the old days a man who happened to fall into the pit was buried alive, its mouth being covered over with planks of wood; and he was found alive when the pit was reopened next year. This is an instance of the sacrificial meal, common to many primitive peoples, at which the sacred animal was consumed by the worshippers, skin, bones and all. But now that such a course has become repugnant to their more civilised digestions, the refuse is considered sacred and disposed of in some such manner as that described. The goddess is also known as Rat Devi or the goddess of the night; or Rat Mai, the night mother. The goddess Maswasi was the mythical ancestress of the Dhanwars, the wife of Karankot, and also the daughter of Maiya Andhiyari or Rat Mai. She too is worshipped every third year in the dark fortnight of the month of Magh on any Tuesday. Her sacrifice is offered in the morning hours in the forest by men only, and consists also of a black she-goat. A site is chosen under a tree and cleaned with cowdung, the bones of animals being placed upon it in a heap to represent the goddess. The village Baiga kills the goat with an axe and the body is eaten by the worshippers. Maswasi is invoked by the Dhanwars before they go hunting, and whenever they kill a wild boar or a deer they offer it to her. She is thus clearly the goddess of hunting. The tribe also worship the spirits of hills and woods and the ghosts of the illustrious dead. The ghosts of dead Baigas or medicine-men are believed to become spirits attending on Thakur Deo, and when he is displeased with the Dhanwars they intervene to allay his anger. The brothers of Maswasi, the twelve Gaolis, are believed to be divine hunters and to haunt the forests, where they kill beasts and occasionally men. Six of them take post and the other six drive the beasts or men towards these through the forest, when they are pierced as with an arrow. The victim dies after a few days, but if human he may go to a sorcerer, who can extract the arrow, smaller than a grain of rice, from his body. In the month of Aghan (November), when the grass of the forests is to be cut, the members of the village collectively offer a goat to the grass deity, in order that none of the grass-cutters may be killed by a tiger or bitten by a snake or other wild animal.

10. Magic and witchcraft.

The Dhanwars are fervent believers in all kinds of magic and witchcraft. Magic is practised both by the Baiga, the village priest or medicine-man, who is always a man and who conducts the worship of the deities mentioned above, and by the tonhi, the regular witch, who may be a man or woman. Little difference appears to exist in the methods of the two classes of magicians, but the Baiga's magic is usually exercised for the good of his fellow-creatures, which indeed might be expected as he gets his livelihood from them, and he is also less powerful than the tonhi. The Baiga cures ordinary maladies and the bites of snakes and scorpions by mesmeric passes fortified by the utterance of charms. He raises the dead in much the same manner as a witch does, but employs the spirit of the dead person in casting out other evil spirits by which his clients may be possessed. One of the miracles performed by the Baiga is to make his wet cloth stand in the air stiff and straight, holding only the two lower ends. He can cross a river walking on leaves, and change men into beasts. Witches are not very common among the Dhanwars. A witch, male or female, maybe detected by a sunken and gloomy appearance of the eyes, a passionate temperament, or by being found naked in a graveyard at night, as only a witch would go there to raise a corpse from the dead. The Dhanwars eat nearly all kinds of food except beef and the leavings of others. They will take cooked food from the hands of Kawars, and the men also from Gonds, but not the women. In some places they will accept food from Brahmans, but not everywhere. They are not an impure caste, but usually live in a separate hamlet of their own, and are lower than the Gonds and Kawars, who will take water from them but not food. They are a very primitive people, and it is stated that at the census several of them left their huts and fled into the jungle, and were with difficulty induced to return. When an elder man dies his family usually abandon their hut, as it is believed that his spirit haunts it and causes death to any one who lives there.

11. Social rules.

A Kawar is always permitted to become a Dhanwar, and a woman of the Gond, Binjhwar and Rawat tribes, if such a one is living with a Dhanwar, may be married to him with the approval of the tribe. She does not enjoy the full status of membership herself, but it is accorded to her children. When an outsider is to be admitted a panchayat of five Dhanwars is assembled, one of whom must be of the Majhi sept. The members of the panchayat hold out their right hands, palm upwards, one below the other, and beneath them the candidate and his wife place their hands. The Majhi pours water from a brass vessel on to the topmost hand, and it trickles down from one to the other on to those of the candidate and his wife. The blood of a slaughtered goat is mixed with the water in their palms and they sip it, and after giving a feast to the caste are considered as Dhanwars. Permanent exclusion from caste is imposed only for living with a man or woman of another caste other than those who may become Dhanwars, or for taking food from a member of an impure caste, the only ones which are lower than the Dhanwars. Temporary exclusion for an indefinite period is awarded for an irregular connection between a Dhanwar man and woman, or of a Dhanwar with a Kawar, Binjhwar, Rawat or Gond; on a family which harbours any one of its members who has been permanently expelled; and on a woman who cuts the navel-cord of a newly-born child, whether of her own caste or not. Irregular sexual intimacies are usually kept secret and condoned by marriage whenever possible. A person expelled for any of the above offences cannot claim readmission as a right. He must first please the members of the caste, and to do this he attends every caste feast without being invited, removes their leaf-plates with the leavings of food, and waits on them generally, and continually proffers his prayer for readmission. When the other Dhanwars are satisfied with his long and faithful service they take him back into the community. Temporary exclusion from caste, with the penalty of one or more feasts for readmission, is imposed for killing a cow or a cat accidentally, or in the course of giving it a beating; for having a cow or bullock in one's possession whose nostrils or ears get split; for getting maggots in a wound; for being beaten except by a Government official; for taking food from any higher caste other than those from whom food is accepted; and in the case of a woman for saying her husband's name aloud. This list of offences shows that the Dhanwars have almost completely adopted the Hindu code in social matters, while retaining their tribal religion. A person guilty of one of the above offences must have his or her head shaved by a barber, and make a pilgrimage to the shrine of Narsingh Nath in Bodasamar zamindari; after having accomplished this he is purified by one of the Sonwani sept, being given water in which gold has been dipped to drink through a bamboo tube, and he provides usually three feasts for the caste-fellows.

12. Dress and tattooing.

The tribe dress in the somewhat primitive fashion prevalent in Chhattisgarh, and there is nothing distinctive about their clothing. Women are tattooed at their parents' house before or just after marriage. It is said that the tattoo marks remain on the soul after death, and that she shows them to God, probably for purposes of identification. There is a saying, 'All other pleasures are transient, but the tattoo marks are my companions through life.' A Dhanwar will not take water from a woman who is not tattooed.

13. Names of children.

Children are named on the chathi or sixth day after birth, and the parents always ascertain from a wise man whether the soul of any dead relative has been born again in the child so that they may name it after him. It is also thought that the sex may change in transmigration, for male children are sometimes named after women relatives and female after men. Mr. Hira Lal notes the following instance of the names of four children in a family. The eldest was named after his grandfather; the second was called Bhalu or bear, as his maternal uncle who had been eaten by a bear was reborn in him; the third was called Ghasi, the name of a low caste of grass-cutters, because the two children born before him had died; and the fourth was called Kausi, because the sorcerer could not identify the spirit of any relative as having been born again in him. The name Kausi is given to any one who cannot remember his sept, as in the saying, 'Bhule bisare kausi got,' or 'A man who has got no got belongs to the Kausi got.' Kausi is said to mean a stranger. Bad names are commonly given to avert ill-luck or premature death, as Boya, a liar; Labdu, one smeared with ashes; Marha, a corpse; or after some physical defect as Lati, one with clotted hair; Petwa, a stammerer; Lendra, shy; Ghundu, one who cannot walk; Ghunari, stunted; or from the place of birth, as Dongariha or Paharu, born on a hill; Banjariha, born in brushwood, and so on. A man will not mention the names of his wife, his son's wife or his sister's son's wife, and a woman will not name her husband or his elder brother or parents. As already stated, a woman saying her husband's name aloud is temporarily put out of caste, the Hindu custom being thus carried to extremes, as is often the case among the lower castes.

14. Occupation.

The tribe consider hunting to have been their proper calling, but many of them are now cultivators and labourers. They also make bamboo matting and large baskets for storing grain, but they will not make small bamboo baskets or fans, because this is the calling of the Turis, on whom the Dhanwar looks down. The women collect the leaves of sal [535] trees and sell them at the rate of about ten bundles for a pice (farthing) for use as chongis or leaf-pipes. As already stated, the tribe have no language of their own, but speak a corrupt form of Chhattisgarhi.

Dhimar [536]

List of Paragraphs

1. General notice. 2. Subcastes. 3. Exogamous groups. 4. Marriage. 5. Childbirth. 6. Disposal of the dead. 7. Religion. 8. Occupation: fisherman. 9. Water-carrier. 10. Palanquin-bearer and personal servant. 11. Other occupations. 12. Social status. 13. Legend of the caste.

1. General notice.

Dhimar, Kahar, Bhoi, Palewar, Baraua, Machhandar.—The caste of fishermen and palanquin-bearers. In 1911 the Dhimars numbered 284,000 persons in the Central Provinces and Berar, being most numerous in the Maratha Districts. In the north of the Province we find in place of the Dhimars the Kahars and Mullahs, and in the east or Chhattisgarh country the Kewats. But the distinction between these castes is no more than nominal, for in some localities both Kahar and Kewat are returned as subcastes of Dhimar. In some parts of India the Bhois and Dhimars are considered as separate castes, but in the Central Provinces they are not to be distinguished, both names being applied indiscriminately to the same persons. The name of Bhoi perhaps belongs more particularly to those who carry litters or palanquins, and that of Dhimar to the fishermen. The word Dhimar is a corruption of the Sanskrit Dhivara, a fisherman. Bhoi is a South Indian word (Telugu and Malayalam boyi, Tamil bovi), and in the Konkan people of this class are known as Kahar Bhui. Among the Gonds Bhoi is considered as an honorific name or title; and this indicates that a large number of Gonds have become enrolled in the Dhimar or Kahar caste, and consider it a rise in status. Palewar is the name of the Telugu fishermen of Chanda. Machhandar signifies one who catches fish.

2. Subcastes.

The caste has a large number of subdivisions of a local or occupational nature; among occupational names may be mentioned the Singaria or those who cultivate the singara nut, the Nadha or those who live on the banks of streams, the Tankiwalas or sharpeners of grindstones, the Jhingas or prawn-catchers, the Bansias and Saraias or anglers (from bansi or sarai, a bamboo fishing-rod), the Bandhaiyas or those who make ropes and sacking of hemp and fibre, and the Dhurias who sell parched rice. These last say that their original ancestors were created by Mahadeo out of a handful of dust (dhur) for carrying the palanquin of Parvati when she was tired. They are probably the same people as the Dhuris who also parch grain, and in Chhattisgarh are considered as a separate caste. Similarly the Sonjhara Dhimars wash for gold, the calling of the separate Sonjhara caste. The Kasdhonia Dhimars wash the sands of the sacred rivers to find the coins which pious pilgrims frequently drop or throw into the river as an offering when they bathe in it. The Gondia subcaste is clearly an offshoot from the Gond tribe, but a large proportion of the whole caste in the Central Provinces is probably derived from the Gonds or Kols, members of this latter tribe being especially proficient as palanquin-bearers. The Suvarha subcaste is named after the suar or pig, because members of this subcaste breed and eat the unclean animal; they are looked down on by the others. Similarly the Gadhewale Dhimars keep donkeys, and are despised by the other subcastes who will not take food from them. They use donkeys for carrying loads of wood, and the bridegroom rides to his wedding on this animal; and among them a donkey is the only animal the corpse of which can be touched without conveying pollution. The Bhanare Dhimars appear to be named after the town of Bhandara.

3. Exogamous groups.

A large number of exogamous groups are also returned, either of a titular or totemistic nature: such are Baghmar, a tiger-slayer; Ojhwa, from Ojha, or sorcerer; Guru pahchan, one who knows his teacher; Midoia, a guardian of boundaries, from med, a boundary or border; Gidhwe, a vulture; Kolhe, or jackal; Gadhekhaya, a donkey-eater; and Kasture, musk; a few names are from towns or villages, as Tumsare from Tumsar, Nagpurkar from Nagpur; and a few from other castes as Madgi, Bhoyar, Pindaria from Pindari, a freebooter; Gondia (Gond) and Gondhali; and Kachhwaha, a sept of Rajputs.

4. Marriage.

Marriage is prohibited between members of the same sept and also between first cousins. In many localities families do not intermarry so long as they remember any relationship to have existed between them. In Mandla, Mr. Govind Moreshwar states, the Nadha and Kehera subcastes do not intermarry; but if a man desires a girl of the other subcaste he can be admitted into it on giving a feast to the caste-fellows according to his means, and thus marry her. Two families may exchange daughters in marriage. A maiden who goes wrong with a man of the caste or of any higher caste may be readmitted to the community under penalty of a feast to the caste and of having a lock of her hair cut off. In the Hindustani Districts women do not accompany the marriage procession, but in the Maratha Districts they do. Among the Bhanara Dhimars of Chanda the wedding may be held either at the bride's or the bridegroom's house. In the former case a bride-price of Rs. 16 is paid, and in the latter one of Rs. 20, because the expenses of the bride's family are increased if the wedding is held at her house. A custom exists among the poorer Dhimars in Chanda of postponing the marriage ceremony to avoid expense; a man will thus simply take a girl for his wife, making a payment of Rs. 1-4 or twenty pence to her father and giving a feast to the community. She will then live in his house as his wife, and at some subsequent date, perhaps in old age, the religious ceremony will be held so that the couple may have been properly married before they die. In this fashion the weddings of grandparents, parents and children have all been celebrated simultaneously. The Singaria Dhimars of Chhindwara grow singara or water-nut in tanks, and at their weddings a crocodile must be killed and eaten. The Sonjharas or gold-washers must also have a crocodile, but they keep it alive and worship it, and when the ceremony is concluded let it go back again to the river. It is natural that castes whose avocations are connected with rivers and tanks should in a manner deify the most prominent or most ferocious animal contained in their waters. And the ceremonial eating of a sacred animal has been recorded among divers peoples all over the world. At a Dhimar marriage in Bhandara a net is given to the bridegroom, and sidori or cooked food, tied in a piece of cloth, to the bride, and they walk out together as if going to a river to fish, but the bride's brother comes up and stops them. After a wedding in Mandla they kill a pig and bury it before the door of the bridegroom's house, covering it with earth, and the bride and bridegroom step over its body into the house. Widow-marriage is freely permitted; in Mandla the marriage of a widow may be held on the night of any day except Sunday, Tuesday and Saturday. Divorce is allowed, but is of rare occurrence. Adultery on the part of a wife will be frequently overlooked, and the extreme step of divorcing her is only taken if she creates a public scandal. In such a case the parties appear before a meeting of the caste, and the headman asks them whether they have determined to separate. He then breaks a straw in token of the disruption of the union, and the husband and wife must pronounce each other's names in an audible voice. [537] A fee of Rs. 1-4 is paid to the headman, and the divorce is completed. [538] In some localities the woman's bangles are also broken. In Jhansi the fine for keeping a widow is ten rupees and for living with the wife of another man sixty rupees.

5. Childbirth

Children are named either on the day of birth or the twelfth day afterwards. The women place the child in a cradle, spreading boiled wheat and gram over its body, and after swinging it to and fro the name is given. Sweets or boiled wheat and gram are distributed to those present. In Berar on the third day after a birth cakes of juari flour and buttermilk are distributed to other children; on the fifth day the slab and roller used for grinding the household corn are washed, anointed and worshipped; on the twelfth day the child is named and shortly after this its head is shaved. [539]

6. Disposal of the dead.

The bodies of the dead are usually buried, cremation being beyond the means of Dhimars. Children whose ears have not been pierced are mourned only for one day, and others for ten days. When a body has been burnt the ashes are consigned to a tank or river on the third day, or if the third day be a Sunday or a Wednesday, then on the fifth day. In Berar, Mr. Kitts remarks, [540] the funeral ceremony of the Dhimars resembles that of the Gonds. After a burial the mourners repair to the deceased's house to drink; and subsequently each fetches his own dinner and dines with the chief mourner. At this time he and his family are impure and the others cannot take food prepared by him; but ten days afterwards when the mourning is over and the chief mourner has bathed and shaved they again dine with him, and on the next day the caste is feasted. During the period of mourning a lighted lamp is daily placed outside the house. When the period of mourning expires all the clothes of the family are washed and their house is newly whitewashed. There is no subsequent annual performance of funeral rites as among the higher Hindus; but at the Akshayatritiya or commencement of the agricultural year the head of the household throws at each meal a little food into the fire, in honour of his dead ancestors.

7. Religion.

One of the principal deities of the Dhimars [541] as of other low castes is Dulha Deo, the deified bridegroom. They fashion his image of kadamb [542] wood and besmear it with red lead. In Berar they also pray to Anna Purna, the Corn-giving goddess of Madras corresponding to Durga or Devi, whose form with that of her horse is engraved on a brass plate and anointed with yellow and red turmeric. When about to enter a river or tank for fishing or other purposes they pray to the water-god to save them from being drowned or molested by its denizens. They address a river as Ganga Mai or 'Mother Ganges' in order to propitiate it by this flattery. Those who are employed on ferry-boats especially venerate Ghatoia [543] Deo, the god of ferries and river-crossings. His shrine is near the place where the boats are tied up, and ferry contractors keep a live chicken in their boat to be offered to Ghatoia on the first occasion when the river is sufficiently in flood to be crossed by ferry after the breaking of the rains. Other local godlings are the Bare Purakh or Great men, a collective term for their deceased ancestors, of whom they make silver images; Parihar, the soul of the village priest; Baram Deo, the spirit of the banyan tree; and Gosain Deo, a deified ascetic. To the goddess Devi they offer a black she-goat which is eaten ceremonially, and when they have finished, the bones, skin and all the other remains of the animal are placed in a pit inside the house. If anything should fall into this pit it must be buried with the remains of the offering and not taken out. And they relate that on one occasion a child fell into the pit, and the parents, setting obedience to the law of the goddess above the life of their child, buried it alive. But next year when the sacrifice was again made and the pit was opened, the child was found in it alive and playing. So they say that the goddess will save the life of any one who is buried in the pit with her offering. When a widower marries a second time his wife sometimes wears a tawiz or amulet in the shape of a silver box containing charms round her neck in order to ward off the evil machinations of her predecessor's spirit.

8. Occupation: fisherman.

The occupations of the Dhimar are many and various. He is primarily a fisherman and boatman, and has various kinds of nets for taking fish. One of these is of triangular shape about 150 feet wide at the base and 80 feet in height to the apex. The meshes vary from an inch wide at the top to three inches at the bottom. The ends of the base are weighted with stones and the net is then sunk into a river so that the base rests on its bed and the top is held by men in boats at the surface. Then other Dhimars beat the surface of the water for some distance with long bamboos on both sides of the net, driving the fish towards it. They call this a kheda, the term used for a beat of the forest for game.

Another method is to stretch a long rope or cord across the river, secured on either bank, with baited hooks attached to it at short intervals. It is left for some hours and then drawn in. When the river is shallow one wide-bottomed boat will be paddled up the stream and a line of men will wade on each side beating the water with bamboos so as to make the small fish jump into the boat. Or they put a little cotton-seed on a stone in shallow water, and when the fish collect to eat the seed a long circular net weighted with pieces of iron is let down over the stone. Then the upper end is drawn tight and the fishermen put their hands inside and seize the little fish. The Dhimar is also regularly employed as a worker on ferries. His primitive boat made from the hollowed trunk of a tree and sometimes lashed in couples for greater stability may still be seen on all rivers. He makes his own fishing-nets, knitting them on a stick at his leisure while he is walking along or sitting down to smoke and talk. He worships his fishing-nets at the Diwali festival, and his reverence for the knitted thread is such that he will not touch or wear a shoe made of thread, because he thinks that the sacred article is debased by being sewn into leather. When engaged in road-work the Dhimars have unsewn sandals secured to the feet with strips of leather. It is a special degradation to a Dhimar to be struck with a shoe. He has a monopoly of growing singara [544] or water-nuts in tanks. The fruit of this plant has a taste somewhat between a cocoanut and a potato, with a flavour of soap. It can be taken raw and is therefore a favourite comestible for fast days when cooked food is forbidden. It is also sold at railway stations and the fresh fruit is prescribed by village doctors as easy of digestion. The Dhimar grows melons, cucumbers and other vegetables on the sandy stretches along the banks of streams, but at agriculture proper he does not excel.

9. Water-carrier.

The Dhimar's connection with water has led to his becoming the water-carrier for Hindus, or that section of the community which can afford to employ one. This is more especially the case in the Hindustani Districts where women are frequently secluded and therefore cannot draw water for the household, while in the Maratha Districts where the women go to the well no water-bearer is required. In this capacity the Dhimar is usually the personal servant of the village proprietor, but in large villages every house has a ghinochi, either an earthen platform or wooden stand just outside the house, on which four or five earthen water-pots are kept. These the Dhimar fills up morning and evening and receives two or three annas or pence a month for doing so. He also brings water for Government servants when they come to the village, and cleans their cooking-vessels and prepares the hearth with fresh cowdung and water in order to cleanse it.

If he cleans the malguzar's vessels he gets his food for doing so. When the tenants have marriages he performs the same duties for the whole wedding party and receives a present of one or two rupees and some clothes if the families are well off, and also his food every day while the marriage is in progress. In his capacity of waterman the title Baraua is used to him as an honorific method of address; and to his wife Baroni. In a hot country like India water is revered as the source of relief, comfort and life itself, like fire in cold countries, and the waterman participates in the regard paid to his element.

Another business of the Dhimar's is to take sweet potatoes and boiled plums to the fields at harvest-time and sell them. He supplies water for drinking to the reapers and receives three sheaves a day in payment. On the fifteenth of Jesth (May) the Dhimar goes round to the cultivators, throwing his fishing-net over their heads and receives a small present.

10. Palanquin-bearer and personal servant.

At the period prior to the introduction of wheeled transport when palanquins or litters were largely used for travelling, the carriers belonged to the Kahar caste in northern India and to the Dhimars or Bhois in the south. Though litters are now practically not used for travelling except occasionally by high-caste women, a survival of the old custom is retained in the marriage ceremony, the bride and bridegroom being always carried back from the marriage-shed to the temporary lodging of the bridegroom in a palki, though for the longer journey to the bridegroom's village some less cumbrous conveyance is utilised. Four Dhimars carry the palki and receive Rs. 1-4. Well-to-do people will be carried in procession round the town. When employed by the village proprietor the Dhimar accompanies him on his journey, carrying his cooking-vessels and other necessaries in a banhgi or wooden cross-bar slung across the shoulders, from which two baskets are suspended by loops of rope. Water he will always carry in a banhgi and never on his head or shoulders. From waterman and litter-carrier the Dhimar has become a personal servant; it is he to whom the term 'bearer' as designating a body-servant was first applied because he bears or carries his master in a palki and his clothes in a banhgi. He is commonly so employed in native houses, but rarely by Europeans, whether because he is too stupid or on account of caste objections of his own. When employed as a cook the Dhimar or his wife is permitted to knead flour with water and make it into a cake which the Brahman will then take and put on to the girdle with his own hands. He can also boil water and pour pulse into the cooking-pot from above so long as he does not touch the vessel after the food has been placed in it. He or she will also take any remains of food which is left in the cooking-pot as this is not considered to be polluted, food only becoming polluted when the hand touches it on the dish after having touched the mouth. When this has happened all the food on the dish becomes jutha or leavings of food, and as a general rule no caste except the sweepers will eat the leavings of food of another caste or of another person of their own. Only the wife, whose meal follows her husband's, will eat his leavings. As a servant the Dhimar is very familiar with his master; he may enter any part of the house, including the cooking-place and the women's rooms, and he addresses his mistress as 'Mother.' In northern India Mr. Crooke states that the Kahars are sometimes known as Mahra, from the Sanskrit Mahila, a woman, because they have the entry of the female apartments. When he lights his master's pipe he takes the first pull himself to show that it has not been tampered with, and then presents it to him with his left hand placed under his right elbow in token of respect. Maid-servants also frequently belong to the Dhimar caste, and it often happens that the master of the household has illicit intercourse with them. Hence there is a proverb, 'The king's son draws water and the water-bearer's son sits on the throne,' similar intrigues on the part of high-born women with their servants being not unknown. The Dhimar often acts as a pimp, this being an incident of his profession of indoor servant.

11. Other occupations.

Another occupation of the Dhimar's is to sell parched grain and rice to travellers in markets and railway stations like the Bharbhunja and Dhuri. This he can do because of his comparative social purity, as all castes will take water and cakes and sweetmeats from his hands. Some Dhimars and Kewats also weave hemp-matting and gunny-bags, but such members of the caste rank lower than the others and Brahmans will not take water from them. Another calling by which a few Dhimars find support is that of breeding pigs. One would think it a difficult matter to make a living out of the village pig, an animal abhorred by both Hindus and Muhammadans as the most unclean of the brute creation, and equally abjured by Europeans as unfit for food. But the pig is in considerable demand by the forest tribes for sacrifice to their deities. The Dhimar participates in the sacrifice to Narayan Deo described in the article on Mahar, when a pig is eaten in concert by several of the lower castes. Lastly, the business of rearing the cocoons of the tasar silk-worm is usually in the hands of Dhimars and Kewats. While the caterpillars are feeding on leaves and spinning their cocoons these men live in the forests for two months together and watch the kosa-baris or silk-gardens, that is the blocks of trees which are set apart for the purpose of rearing the caterpillars. During this period they eat only once a day, abstain from meat and lentils, do not get shaved and do not visit their wives. When the eggs of the caterpillars are to be placed on the trees they tie a silk thread round the first tree to be used and worship it as Pat Deo or the god of silk thread. On this subject Mr. Ball writes: [545] "The trees which it is intended to stock are carefully pollarded before the rains, and in early spring the leaves are stocked with young caterpillars which have been hatched in the houses. The men in charge erect wigwams and remain on the spot, isolated from their families, who regard them for the time being as unclean. During the daytime they have full occupation in guarding the large green caterpillars from the attacks of kites and other birds. The cocoons are collected soon after they are spun and boiled in a lye of wood-ash, and the extracted chrysalids must then be eaten by the caretakers, who have to undergo certain ceremonial rites before they are readmitted into the society of their fellows. The effect of the boiling in the lye is the removal of the glutinous matter, which renders it possible to wind off the silk." The eating of the caterpillars is no doubt a ceremonial observance like that of the crocodile at weddings. They are killed by the boiling of the cocoons and on this account members of good castes will not engage in the business of rearing them. The abstention from conjugal intimacy while engaged in some important business is a very common phenomenon.

12. Social status.

The social status of the Dhimar is somewhat peculiar. Owing to his employment as palanquin-bearer, cook and household servant he has been promoted to the group of castes who are ceremonially clean, so that Brahmans in northern India will take water and food cooked in butter from his hands. But by origin he no doubt belongs to the primitive or non-Aryan tribes, a fact which he shows by his appearance and also by his customs. In diet he is the reverse of fastidious, eating crocodiles, tortoises and crabs, and also pork in the Maratha Districts, though in the north where he is employed by Brahmans as a personal servant he abstains from this food. With all this, however, the Dhimars practise in some social matters a pharasaical strictness. In Jubbulpore Mr. Pancham Lal records that among the four subcastes of Rekwar, Bant, Barmaian and Pabeha a woman of one subcaste will not partake of any food cooked by one of another division. A man will take any kind of food cooked by a man of another subcaste, but from a woman only such as is not mixed with water. A woman will drink the water held in the metal vessel of a woman of another division, but not in an earthen vessel; and in a metal vessel only provided that it is brought straight from the well and not taken from the ghinochi or water-stand of such woman's house. A man will take water to drink from the metal or earthen vessel of any other Dhimar, male or female. In Berar again Mr. Kitts states [546] that a Bhoi considers it pollution to eat or drink at the house of a Lohar (blacksmith), a Sutar (carpenter), a Bhat (bard), a washerman or a barber; he will not even carry their palanquins at a marriage.

Once a year at the Muharram festival the Dhimars will eat at the hands of Muhammadans. They go round and beg for offerings of food and take them to the Fakir, who places a little before the tazia or tomb of Husain and distributes the remainder to the Dhimars and other Hindus and Muhammadans who have been begging. Except on this occasion they will eat nothing touched by a Muhammadan. The Dhimar, the Nai or barber, and the Bari or indoor servant are the three household menials of the northern Districts, and are known as Pauni Parja. Sometimes the Ahir or grazier is an indoor servant and takes the place of the Dhimar or the Bari. These menials are admitted to the wedding and other family feasts and allowed to eat at them. They sit in a line apart from the members of the caste and one member of the family is deputed to wait on them. Their food is brought to them in separate dishes and no food from these dishes is served to guests of the caste.

Permanent expulsion [547] from caste is inflicted only for marrying, or eating regularly, with a man or woman of some other low caste; but in the case of unmarried persons the latter offence may also be expiated. Temporary exclusion is imposed for killing a cat, dog or squirrel, getting maggots in a wound, being sentenced to imprisonment [548] or committing adultery with a person of any low caste. One who has committed any of the above offences must be purified by the Batta of the caste, that is a person who takes the sins of others upon himself. The Batta conducts the culprit to a river and then causes him to bathe, cuts off a lock of his hair, breaks a cocoanut as a sacrifice, and gives him a little cowdung and milk to eat. Then they proceed to eat together; the Batta eats five mouthfuls first and declares that he has taken the sin of the offender on himself; the latter gives the Batta Rs. 1-4 as his fee, and is once more a proper member of the community. In Berar a Bhoi who has been put out of caste is received back by his fellows when he has drunk the water touched by a Brahman's toe, and has feasted them with a bout of liquor. In towns the caste are generally addicted to drink, and no marriage or other social function is held without a sufficient supply of liquor. They also smoke ganja (Indian hemp).

13. Legend of the caste.

The Dhimars are proverbially of a cheerful disposition, though simple and easily cheated. When carrying palkis or litters at night they talk continually or sing monotonous songs to lighten the tedium of the way. In illustration of these qualities the following story is told: One day when Mahadeo and Parvati were travelling the goddess became very tired, so Mahadeo created four men from the dust, who bore her in a litter. On the way they talked and laughed, and Parvati was very pleased with them, so when she got home she told them to wait while she sent them out a reward. The Bhois found that they could get plenty of liquor, so they went on drinking it and forgot all about going for the reward. In the meantime a Marwari Bania who had heard what the goddess said, waited at the door of the palace, and when the servants brought out a bag of money he pretended that he was one of the Bhois and got them to give him the money, with which he made off. After a time the Bhois remembered about the reward and went to the door of the palace to get it, when the goddess came out and found out what had happened. The Bhois then wept and asked for another reward, but the goddess refused and said that as they had been so stupid their caste would always be poor, but at the same time they would be cheerful and happy.


List of Paragraphs

1. General notice. 2. Exogamous divisions. 3. Marriage customs. 4. Funeral rites. 5. Caste panchayat and social penalties. 6. Occupation and social customs.

1. General notice.

Dhoba. [549]—A small caste belonging to the Mandla District and apparently an offshoot from one of the primitive tribes. They have never been separately classified at the census but always amalgamated with the Dhobi or washerman caste. But the Mandla Dhobas acknowledge no connection with Dhobis, nor has any been detected. One Dhoba has indeed furnished a story to the Rev. E. Price that the first ancestor of the caste was a foundling boy, by appearance of good lineage, who was brought up by some Dhobis, and, marrying a Dhobi girl, made a new caste. But this is not sufficient to demonstrate the common origin of the Dhobas and Dhobis. The Dhobas reside principally in a few villages in the upper valley of the Burhner River, and members of the caste own two or three villages. They are dark in complexion and have, though in a less degree, the flat features, coarse nose and receding forehead of the Gond; but they are taller in stature and not so strongly built, and are much less capable of exertion.

2. Exogamous divisions.

The caste has twelve exogamous septs, though the list is probably not complete. These appear to be derived from the names of villages. Marriage is forbidden between the Baghmar and Baghcharia septs, the Maratha and Khatnagar and Maralwati septs and the Sonwani and Sonsonwani septs. These septs are said to have been subdivided and to be still related. The names Baghmar and Baghcharia are both derived from the tiger; Sonnwani is from Sona-pani or gold-water, and the Sonsonwani sept seems therefore to be the aristocratic branch or creme de la creme of the Sonwanis. The children of brothers and sisters may marry but not those of two sisters, because a man's maternal aunt or mausi is considered as equivalent to his mother. A man may also marry his step-sister on the mother's side, that is the daughter of his own mother by another husband either prior to or subsequent to his father, the step-sister being of a different sept. This relaxation may have been permitted on account of the small numbers of the caste and the consequent difficulty of arranging marriages.

3. Marriage customs.

The bridegroom goes to the bride's house for the wedding, which is conducted according to the Hindu ritual of walking round the sacred post. The cost of a marriage in a fairly well-to-do family, including the betrothal, may be about Rs. 140, of which a quarter falls on the bride's people. Divorce and the remarriage of widows are permitted. A pregnant woman stops working after six months and goes into retirement. After a birth the woman is impure for five or six days. She does not appear in public for a month, and takes no part in outdoor occupations or field-work until the child is weaned, that is six months after its birth.

4. Funeral rites.

The dead are usually buried, and all members of the dead man's sept are considered to be impure. After the funeral they bathe and come home and have their food cooked for them by other Dhobas, partaking of it in the dead man's house. On the ninth, eleventh or thirteenth day, when the impurity ends, the male members of the sept are shaved on the bank of a river and the hair is left lying there. When they start home they spread some thorns and two stones across the path. Then, as the first man steps over the thorns, he takes up one of the stones in his hand and passes it behind him to the second, and each man successively passes it back as he steps over the thorns, the last man throwing the stone behind the thorns. Thus the dead man's spirit in the shape of the stone is separated from the living and prevented from accompanying them home. Then a feast is held, all the men of the dead man's sept sitting opposite to the panchayat at a distance of three feet. Next day water in which gold has been dipped is thrown over the dead man's house and each member of the sept drinks a little and is pure.

5. Caste panchayat and social penalties.

The head of the caste is always a member of the Sonwani sept and is known as Raja. It is his business to administer water in which gold has been dipped (sona-pani) to offenders as a means of purification, and from this the name of the sept is derived. The Raja has no deputy, and officiates in all ceremonies of the caste; he receives no contribution from the caste, but a double share of food and sweetmeats when they are distributed. The other members of the Panch he is at liberty to choose from any got or sept he likes. When a man has been put out of caste for a serious offence he has to give three feasts for readmission. The first meal consists of a goat with rice and pulse, and is eaten on the bank of a stream; on this occasion the head of the offender is shaved clean and all the hair thrown into the stream. The second meal is eaten in the yard of his house, and consists of cakes fried in butter with rice and pulse. The offender is not allowed to partake of either the first or second meal. On the third day the Raja gives the offender gold-water, and he is then considered to be purified and cooks food himself, which the caste-people eat with him in his house. A man is not put out of caste when he is sent to jail, as this is considered to be an order of the Government. A man keeping a woman of another caste is expelled and not reinstated until he has put her away, and even then it is said that they will consider his character before taking him back. A man who gets maggots in a wound may be readmitted to caste only during the months of Chait and Pus.

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