The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India - Volume II
by R. V. Russell
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13     Next Part
Home - Random Browse


Andh. [30]—A low cultivating caste of Berar, who numbered 52,000 persons in 1911, and belong to the Yeotmal, Akola and Buldana Districts. The Andhs appear to be a non-Aryan tribe of the Andhra or Tamil country, from which they derive their name. The territories of the Andhra dynasty extended across southern India from sea to sea in the early part of the Christian era. This designation may, however, have been given to them after migration, emigrants being not infrequently called in their new country by the name of the place from which they came, as Berari, Purdesi, Audhia (from Oudh), and so on. At present there seems to be no caste called Andh in Madras. Mr. Kitts [31] notes that they still come from Hyderabad across the Penganga river.

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

Marriage between members of the same sept is prohibited, and also between first cousins, except that a sister's son may marry a brother's daughter. Until recently marriage has been adult, but girls are now wedded as children, and betrothals are sometimes arranged before they are born. The ceremony resembles that of the Kunbis. Betrothals are arranged between October and December, and the weddings take place three or four months later, from January to April. If the bride is mature she goes at once to her husband's house. Polygamy is allowed; and as only a well-to-do man can afford to obtain more than one wife, those who have several are held to be wealthy, and treated with respect. Divorce and the remarriage of widows are permitted, but the widow may not marry her husband's brother nor any member of his clan. If an unmarried girl becomes pregnant by a man of her own or a superior caste she is fined, and can then be married as a widow. Her feet are not washed nor besmeared with red powder at the wedding ceremony like those of other girls. In some localities Andh women detected in a criminal intimacy even with men of such impure castes as the Mahars and Mangs have been readmitted into the community. A substantial fine is imposed on a woman detected in adultery according to her means and spent on a feast to the caste. All the members thus have a personal interest in the detection and punishment of such offences. The dead are usually buried, and water and sugar are placed in a dying man's mouth instead of the sacred objects used by Hindus; nor are the dying urged to call on Rama. The dead are buried with the head to the south, in opposition to the Hindu custom. The Andhs will eat the flesh of fowls and pigs, and even cats, rats and snakes in some localities, though the more civilised have abjured these latter. They are very fond of pork, and drink liquor, and will take food from Kunbis, Malis and Kolis, but not from Gonds. They have a caste panchayat or committee, with a headman called Mohtaria, and two officers known as Phopatia and Dukria. When a caste offence is committed the Dukria goes to call the offender, and is given the earthen pots used at the penalty-feast, while the Phopatia receives a new piece of cloth. The Mohtaria or headman goes from village to village to decide cases, and gets a share of the fine. The caste are shikaris or hunters, and cultivators. They catch antelope, hares, pig and nilgai in their nets, and kill them with sticks and stones, and they dam up streams and net fish. Birds are not caught. Generally, the customs of the Andhs clearly point to an aboriginal origin, but they are rapidly being Hinduised, and in some tracts can scarcely be distinguished from Kunbis.

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


Arakh.—A small caste of cultivators and labourers found principally in the Chanda District and Berar and scattered over other localities. The Arakhs are considered to be an offshoot of the Pasi or Bahelia caste of hunters and fowlers. Mr. Crooke [32] writes of them: "All their traditions connect them with the Pasis and Parasurama, the sixth Avatara of Vishnu. One story runs that Parasurama was bathing in the sea, when a leech bit his foot and caused it to bleed. He divided the blood into two parts; out of one part he made the first Pasi and out of the second the first Arakh. Another story is that the Pasis were made out of the sweat (pasina) of Parasurama. While Parasurama was away the Pasi shot some animals with his bow, and the deity was so enraged that he cursed the Pasi, and swore that his descendants should keep pigs. This accounts for the degradation of the Pasis. Subsequently Parasurama sent for some Pasis to help him in one of his wars; but they ran away and hid in an arhar [33] field and were hence called Arakhs." This connection with the Pasis is also recognised in the case of the Arakhs of Berar, of whom Mr. Kitts writes: [34] "The Arakhs found in Morsi are a race akin to the Bahelias. Their regular occupation is bird-catching and shikar (hunting). They do not follow Hindu customs in their marriages, but although they keep pigs, eat flesh and drink spirits, they will not touch a Chamar. They appear to be a branch of the Pasi tribe, and are described as a semi-Hinduised class of aborigines." In the Chanda District, however, the Arakhs are closely connected with the Gond tribe, as is evident from their system of exogamy. Thus they say that they are divided into the Matia, Tekam, Tesli, Godam, Madai, Sayam and Chorliu septs, worshipping respectively three, four, five, six, seven, eight and twelve gods; and persons who worship the same number of gods cannot marry with one another. This system of divisions according to the different number of gods worshipped is found in the Central Provinces only among the Gonds and one or two other tribes like the Baigas, who have adopted it from them, and as some of the names given above are also Gondi words, no doubt need be entertained that the Arakhs of Chanda are largely of Gond descent. They are probably, in fact, the offspring of irregular connections between the Gonds and Pasis, who, being both frequenters of the forests, would naturally come much into contact with each other. And being disowned by the true Pasis on account of their defective pedigree, they have apparently set up as a separate caste and adopted the name of Arakh to hide the deficiencies of their ancestry.

The social customs of the Arakhs resemble those of other low Hindu castes, and need not be given in detail. Their weddings are held near a temple of Maroti, or if there be none such, then at the place where the Holi fire was lit in the preceding year. A bride-price varying from Rs. 25 to Rs. 40 is usually paid. In the case of the marriage of a widow, the second husband goes to the house of the woman, where the couple are bathed and seated on two wooden boards, a branch of a cotton-plant being placed near them. The bridegroom then ties five strings of black glass beads round the woman's neck. The dead are mourned for one day only, and a funeral feast is given to the caste-fellows. The Arakhs are a very low caste, but their touch does not convey impurity.


1. General notice.

Atari, [35] Gandhi, Bukekari.—A small Muhammadan caste of retailers of scent, incense, tooth-powder and kunku or pink powder. Atari is derived from atar or itra, attar of roses. Gandhi comes from gandh, a Sanskrit word for scent. Bukekari is a Marathi word meaning a seller of powder. The Ataris number about two hundred persons in Nagpur, Wardha and Berar. Both Hindus and Muhammadans follow the profession, but the Hindu Ataris are not a separate caste, and belong to the Teli, Gurao and Beldar castes. The Muhammadan Ataris, to whom this article refers, may marry with other Muhammadans, with the exception of low-class tradesmen like the Pinjaras, Kasais and Kunjras. One instance of an Atari marrying a Rangrez is known, but usually they decline to do so. But since they are not considered to be the equals of ordinary Muhammadans, they constitute more or less a distinct social group. They are of the same position as Muhammadan tin-workers, bangle-makers and pedlars, and sometimes intermarry with them. They admit Hindu converts into the community, but the women refuse to eat with them, and the better-class families will not intermarry with converts. A new convert must be circumcised, but if he is of advanced age, or if his foreskin is wanting, as sometimes happens, they take a rolled-up betel-leaf and cut it in two in substitution for the rite.

2. Marriage customs.

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

3. Religion.

The Ataris are Muhammadans of the Sunni sect. They revere the Muhammadan saints, and on the night of Shabrat they let off fireworks in honour of their ancestors and make offerings of halwa [36] to them and place lamps and scent on their tombs. They swear by the pig and abstain from eating its flesh. The dog is considered an unclean animal and its tail, ears and tongue are especially defiling. If the hair of a dog falls on the ground they cannot pray in that place because the souls of the prophets cannot come there. To see a dog flapping its ears is a bad omen, and a person starting on a journey should postpone his departure. They esteem the spider, because they say it spread its web over the mouth of the cave where Hasan and Husain lay concealed from their enemies and thus prevented it from being searched. Some of them have Pirs or spiritual preceptors, these being Muhammadan beggars, not necessarily celibate. The ceremony of adhesion is that a man should drink sherbet from the cup from which his preceptor has drunk. They do not observe impurity after a death nor bathe on returning from a funeral.

4. Social customs.

Liquor is of course prohibited to the Ataris as to other Muhammadans, but some of them drink it nevertheless. Some of them eat beef and others abstain. The blood of animals killed must flow before death according to the rite of halal, but they say that fish are an exception, because when Abraham was offering up his son Ishmael and God substituted a goat, the goat bleated before it was killed, and this offended Abraham, who threw his sacrificial knife into the sea: the knife struck and killed a fish, and on this account all fish are considered to be halal or lawful food without any further rite. The Ataris observe the Hindu law of inheritance, and some of them worship Hindu deities, as Mata the goddess of smallpox. As a rule their women are not secluded. The Ataris make missi or tooth-powder from myrobalans, cloves and cardamoms, and other constituents. This has the effect of blackening the teeth. They also sell the kunku or red powder which women rub on their foreheads, its constituents being turmeric, borax and the juice of limes. They sell scent and sometimes deal in tobacco. The scents most in demand are gulab-pani or rose-water and phulel or essence of tilli or sesamum. Scents are usually sold by the tola of 18 annas silver weight, [37] and a tola of attar may vary in price from 8 annas to Rs. 80. Other scents are made from khas-khas grass, the mango, henna and musk, the bela flower, [38] the champak [39] and cucumber. Scent is manufactured by distillation from the flowers boiled in water, and the drops of congealed vapour fall into sandalwood oil, which they say is the basis of all scents. Fragrant oils are also sold for rubbing on the hair, made from orange flowers, jasmine, cotton-seed and the flowers of the aonla tree. [40] Scent is sold in tiny circular glass bottles, and the oils in little bottles made from thin leather. The Ataris also retail the little black sticks of incense which are set up and burnt at the time of taking food and in temples, so that the smell and smoke may keep off evil spirits. When professional exorcists are called upon to clear any building, such as a hospital, supposed to be haunted by spirits or the ghosts of the dead, they commence operations by placing these sticks of incense at the entrance and setting them alight as in a temple.


1. Origin.

Audhelia (Audhalia).—A small hybrid caste found almost exclusively in the Bilaspur District, where they number about 1000 persons. The name is derived from the word Udharia, meaning a person with clandestine sexual intimacies. The Audhelias are a mixed caste and trace their origin from a Daharia Rajput ancestor, by one Bhuri Bandi, a female slave of unknown caste. This couple is supposed to have resided in Ratanpur, the old capital of Chhattisgarh, and the female ancestors of the Audhelias are said to have been prostitutes until they developed into a caste and began to marry among themselves. Their proper avocation at present is the rearing of pigs, while some of them are also tenants and farm-labourers. Owing to the base descent and impure occupation of the caste they are held in very low esteem, and their touch is considered to convey pollution.

2. Marriage.

The caste have at present no endogamous divisions and still admit members of other castes with the exception of the very lowest. But social gradations exist to a certain extent among the members according to the position of their male ancestors, a Daharia Audhelia, for instance, being reluctant to eat or intermarry with a Panka Audhelia. Under these circumstances it has become a rule among the Audhelias not to eat with their caste-fellows excepting their own relations. On the occasion of a caste feast, therefore, each guest prepares his own food, taking only uncooked grain from his host. At present seven gotras or exogamous divisions appear to have been formed in the caste with the names of Pachbhaiya, Chhahri, Kalkhor, Bachhawat, Dhanawat, Bhainsa and Limuan. The following story exists as to the origin of these gotras: There were formerly three brothers, Sahasman, Budha and Mangal, who were Sansis or robbers. One evening the three brothers halted in a forest and went to look for food. One brought back a buffalo-horn, another a peacock's feather and the youngest, Mangal, brought plums. The other brothers asked Mangal to let them share his plums, to which he agreed on condition that one of the brothers should give his daughter to him in marriage. As Mangal and his brothers were of one gotra or section, and the marriage would thus involve splitting up the gotra, the brothers were doubtful whether it could be performed. They sought about for some sign to determine this difficult question, and decided that if Mangal succeeded in breaking in pieces an iron image of a cat simply by blows of his naked fist, it would be a sufficient indication that they might split up their gotra. Mangal was therefore put to the ordeal and succeeded in breaking the image, so the three brothers split up their gotra, the eldest assuming the gotra name of Bhainsa because he had found a buffalo-horn, the second that of Kalkhor, which is stated to mean peacock, and the third that of Chhahri, which at any rate does not mean a plum. The word Chhahri means either 'shadow,' or 'one who washes the clothes of a woman in confinement.' If we assume it to have the latter meaning, it may be due to the fact that Mangal had to wash the clothes of his own wife, not being able to induce a professional washerman to do so on account of the incestuous nature of the connection. As the eldest brother gave his daughter in an incestuous marriage he was also degraded, and became the ancestor of the Kanjars or prostitutes, who, it is said, to the present day do not solicit Audhelias in consideration of the consanguinity existing between them. The story itself sufficiently indicates the low and mixed descent of the Audhelias, and its real meaning may possibly be that when they first began to form a separate caste they permitted incestuous marriages on account of the paucity of their members. A curious point about the story is that the incestuous nature of the connection is not taken to be the most pressing objection to the marriage of Mangal with his own niece, but the violation of the caste rule prohibiting marriage within the same gotra. Bachhawat and Dhanawat are the names of sections of the Banjara caste, and the persons of these gotras among the Audhelias are probably the descendants of illicit connections among Banjaras. The word Pachbhaiya means 'five brothers,' and this name possibly commemorates a polyandrous connection of some Audhelia woman. Limuan means a tortoise, which is a section of many castes. Several of the section-names are thus totemistic, and, as in other castes, some reverence is paid to the animal from whom the name is derived. At present the Audhelias forbid marriage within the same gotra and also the union of first cousins. Girls are married between five and seven years of age as their numbers are scarce, and they are engaged as early as possible. Unless weddings are arranged by exchanging girls between two families, a high bride-price, often amounting to as much as Rs. 60, is paid. No stigma is incurred, however, if a girl should remain unmarried till she arrives at adolescence, but, on the contrary, a higher price is then obtained for her. Sexual licence either before or after marriage is considered a venial offence, but a woman detected in a liaison with a man of one of the lowest castes is turned out of caste. Widow marriage and divorce are freely allowed.

3. Religion, birth and death.

The Audhelias venerate Dulha Deo and Devi, to whom they usually offer pigs. Their principal festival is the Holi, at which their women were formerly engaged to perform as professional dancers. They usually burn their dead and remove the ashes on the third day, throwing them into the nearest stream. A few of the bones are picked up and buried under a pipal tree, and a pitcher with a hole in the bottom is hung on the tree so that water may trickle down on to them. On the tenth day the caste-people assemble and are shaved and bathe and rub their bodies with oil under the tree. Unmarried men and persons dying of cholera are buried, the head being placed to the north. They consider that if they place the corpse in the reverse position it would be an insult to the Ganges equivalent to kicking the holy river, as the feet of the body would then be turned towards it.


List of Paragraphs

1. Introductory notice. 2. The Badhak dacoits. 3. Instances of dacoities. 4. Further instances of dacoities. 5. Disguise of religious mendicants. 6. Countenance and support of landowners. 7. Pride in their profession. 8. Caste rules and admission of outsiders. 9. Religion. Offerings to ancestors. 10. The wounded haunted by spirits. 11. Pious funeral observances. 12. Taking the omens. 13. Suppression of dacoity. 14. The Badhaks or Baoris at the present time. 15. Lizard-hunting. 16. Social observances. 17. Criminal practices.

1. Introductory notice.

Badhak, Bagri, Baoria.—A famous tribe of dacoits who flourished up to about 1850, and extended their depredations over the whole of Northern and Central India. The Bagris and Baorias or Bawarias still exist and are well known to the police as inveterate criminals; but their operations are now confined to ordinary burglary, theft and cheating, and their more interesting profession of armed gang-robbery on a large scale is a thing of the past. The first part of this article is entirely compiled from the Report on their suppression drawn up by Colonel Sleeman, [41] who may be regarded as the virtual founder of the Thuggee and Dacoity Department. Some mention of the existing Bagri and Baoria tribes is added at the end.

2. The Badhak dacoits.

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

In 1822 the operations of the Badhaks were being conducted on such a scale that an officer wrote: "No District between the Brahmaputra, the Nerbudda, the Satlej and the Himalayas is free from them; and within this vast field hardly any wealthy merchant or manufacturer could feel himself secure for a single night from the depredations of Badhak dacoits. They had successfully attacked so many of the treasuries of our native Sub-Collectors that it was deemed necessary, all over the North-Western Provinces, to surround such buildings with extensive fortifications. In many cases they carried off our public treasure from strong parties of our regular troops and mounted police; and none seemed to know whence they came or whither they fled with the booty acquired." [42]

3. Instances of dacoities.

Colonel Sleeman thus described a dacoity in the town of Narsinghpur when he was in charge of that District: [43] "In February 1822, in the dusk of the evening, a party of about thirty persons, with nothing seemingly but walking-sticks in their hands, passed the piquet of sepoys on the bank of the rivulet which separates the cantonment from the town of Narsinghpur. On being challenged by the sentries they said they were cowherds and that their cattle were following close behind. They walked up the street; and coming opposite the houses of the most wealthy merchants, they set their torches in a blaze by blowing suddenly on pots filled with combustibles, stabbed everybody who ventured to move or make the slightest noise, plundered the houses, and in ten minutes were away with their booty, leaving about twelve persons dead and wounded on the ground. No trace of them was discovered." Another well-known exploit of the Badhaks was the attack on the palace of the ex-Peshwa, Baji Rao, at Bithur near Cawnpore. This was accomplished by a gang of about eighty men, who proceeded to the locality in the disguise of carriers of Ganges water. Having purchased a boat and a few muskets to intimidate the guard they crossed the Ganges about six miles below Bithur, and reached the place at ten o'clock at night; and after wounding eighteen persons who attempted resistance they possessed themselves of property, chiefly in gold, to the value of more than two and a half lakhs of rupees; and retiring without loss made their way in safety to their homes in the Oudh forests. The residence of this gang was known to a British police officer in the King of Oudh's service, Mr. Orr, and after a long delay on the part of the court an expedition was sent which recovered a portion of the treasure and captured two or three hundred of the Badhaks. But none of the recovered property reached the hands of Baji Rao and the prisoners were soon afterwards released. [44] Again in 1839, a gang of about fifty men under a well-known leader, Gajraj, scaled the walls of Jhansi and plundered the Surafa or bankers' quarter of the town for two hours, obtaining booty to the value of Rs. 40,000, which they carried off without the loss of a man. The following account of this raid was obtained by Colonel Sleeman from one of the robbers: [45] "The spy (hirrowa) having returned and reported that he had found a merchant's house in Jhansi which contained a good deal of property, we proceeded to a grove where we took the auspices by the process of akut (counting of grains) and found the omens favourable. We then rested three days and settled the rates according to which the booty should be shared. Four or five men, who were considered too feeble for the enterprise, were sent back, and the rest, well armed, strong and full of courage, went on. In the evening of the fourth day we reached a plain about a mile from the town, where we rested to take breath for an hour; about nine o'clock we got to the wall and remained under it till midnight, preparing the ladders from materials which we had collected on the road. They were placed to the wall and we entered and passed through the town without opposition. A marriage procession was going on before us and the people thought we belonged to it. We found the bankers' shops closed. Thana and Saldewa, who carried the axes, soon broke them open, while Kulean lighted up his torch. Gajraj with twenty men entered, while the rest stood posted at the different avenues leading to the place. When all the property they could find had been collected, Gajraj hailed the god Hanuman and gave orders for the retreat. We got back safely to Mondegri in two days and a half, and then reposed for two or three days with the Raja of Narwar, with whom we left five or six of our stoutest men as a guard, and then returned home with our booty, consisting chiefly of diamonds, emeralds, gold and silver bullion, rupees and about sixty pounds of silver wire. None of our people were either killed or wounded, but whether any of the bankers' people were I know not."

4. Further instances of dacoities.

Colonel Sleeman writes elsewhere [46] of the leader of the above exploit: "This Gajraj had risen from the vocation of a bandarwala (monkey showman) to be the Robin Hood of Gwalior and the adjacent States; he was the governor-general of banditti in that country of banditti and kept the whole in awe; he had made himself so formidable that the Durbar appointed him to keep the ghats or ferries over the Chambal, which he did in a very profitable manner to them and to himself, and none entered or quitted the country without paying blackmail." A common practice of the Badhaks, when in need of a little ready money, was to lie in wait for money-changers on their return from the markets. These men take their bags of money with them to the important bazars at a distance from their residence and return home with them after dusk. The dacoits were accustomed to watch for them in the darkest and most retired places on the roads and fell them to the ground with their bludgeons. This device was often practised and usually succeeded. [47] Of another Badhak chief, Meherban, it is stated [48] that he hired a discharged sepoy to instruct his followers in the European system of drill, that they might travel with him in the disguise of regular soldiers, well armed and accoutred. During the rains Meherban's spies (hirrowa) were sent to visit the great commercial towns and report any despatches of money or other valuables, which were to take place during the following open season. His own favourite disguise was that of a Hindu prince, while the remainder of the gang constituted his retinue and escort. On one occasion, assuming this character, he followed up a boat laden with Spanish dollars which was being sent from Calcutta to Benares; and having attacked it at its moorings at Makrai, he killed one and wounded ten men of the guard and made off with 25,000 Spanish dollars and Rs. 2600 of the Company's coinage. A part of the band were sent direct to the rendezvous previously arranged, while Meherban returned to the grove where he had left his women and proceeded with them in a more leisurely fashion to the same place. Retaining the character of a native prince he halted here for two days to celebrate the Holi festival. Marching thence with his women conveyed in covered litters by hired bearers who were changed at intervals, he proceeded to his bivouac in the Oudh forests; and at Seosagar, one of his halting-places, he gave a large sum of money to a gardener to plant a grove of mango trees near a tank for the benefit of travellers, in the name of Raja Meherban Singh of Gaur in Oudh; and promised him further alms on future occasions of pilgrimage if he found the work progressing well, saying that it was a great shame that travellers should be compelled as he had been to halt without shade for themselves or their families during the heat of the day. He arrived safely at his quarters in the forest and was received in the customary fashion by a procession of women in their best attire, who conducted him with dancing and music, like a victorious Roman Proconsul, to his fort. [49]

5. Disguise of religious mendicants.

But naturally not all the Badhaks could do things in the style of Meherban Singh. The disguise which they most often assumed in the north was that of carriers of Ganges water, while in Central India they often pretended to be Banjaras travelling with pack-bullocks, or pilgrims, or wedding-parties going to fetch the bride or bridegroom. Sometimes also they took the character of religious mendicants, the leader being the high priest and all the rest his followers and disciples. One such gang, described by Colonel Sleeman, [50] had four or five tents of white and dyed cloth, two or three pairs of nakkaras or kettle-drums and trumpets, with a great number of buffaloes, cows, goats, sheep and ponies. Some were clothed, but the bodies of the greater part were covered with nothing but ashes, paint and a small cloth waistband. But they always provided themselves with five or six real Bairagis, whose services they purchased at a very high price. These men were put forward to answer questions in case of difficulty and to bully the landlords and peasantry; and if the people demurred to the demands of the Badhaks, to intimidate them by tricks calculated to play upon the fears of the ignorant. They held in their hands a preparation of gunpowder resembling common ashes; and when they found the people very stubborn they repeated their mantras over this and threw it upon the thatch of the nearest house, to which it set fire. The explosion was caused by a kind of fusee held in the hand which the people could not see, and taking it for a miracle they paid all that was demanded. Another method was to pretend to be carrying the bones of dead relatives to the Ganges. The bones or ashes of the deceased, says [51] Colonel Sleeman, are carried to the Ganges in bags, coloured red for females and white for males. These bags are considered holy, and are not allowed to touch the ground upon the way, and during halts in the journey are placed on poles or triangles. The carriers are regarded with respect as persons engaged upon a pious duty, and seldom questioned on the road. When a gang assumed this disguise they proceeded to their place of rendezvous in small parties, some with red and some with white bags, in which they carried the bones of animals most resembling those of the human frame. These were supported on triangles formed of the shafts on which the spear-heads would be fitted when they reached their destination and had prepared for action.

6. Countenance and support of landowners.

It would have been impossible for the Badhaks to exist and flourish as they did without the protection of the landowners on whose estates they lived; and this they received in full measure in return for a liberal share of their booty. When the chief of Karauli was called upon to dislodge a gang within his territory, he expressed apprehension that the coercion of the Badhaks might cause a revolution in the State. He was not at all singular, says Colonel Sleeman, in his fear of exasperating this formidable tribe of robbers. It was common to all the smaller chiefs and the provincial governors of the larger ones. They everywhere protected and fostered the Badhaks, as did the landholders; and the highest of them associated with the leaders of gangs on terms of equality and confidence. It was very common for a chief or the governor of a district in times of great difficulty and personal danger to require from one of the leaders of such gangs a night-guard or palang ki chauki: and no less so to entertain large bodies of them in the attack and defence of forts and camps whenever unusual courage and skill were required. The son of the Raja of Charda exchanged turbans with a Badhak leader, Mangal Singh, as a mark of the most intimate friendship. This episode recalls an alliance of similar character in Lorna Doone; and indeed it would not be difficult to find several points of resemblance between the careers of the more enterprising Badhak leaders and the Doones of Bagworthy; but India produced no character on the model of John Ridd, and it was reserved for an Englishman, Colonel Sleeman, to achieve the suppression of the Badhaks as well as that of the Thugs. After the fortress and territory of Garhakota in Saugor had been taken by the Maharaja Sindhia, Zalim Singh, a cousin of the dispossessed Bundela chief, collected a force of Bundelas and Pindaris and ravaged the country round Garhakota in 1813. In the course of his raid he sacked and burnt the town of Deori, and 15,000 persons perished in the flames. Colonel Jean Baptiste, Sindhia's general, obtained a number of picked Badhaks from Rajputana and offered them a rich reward for the head of Zalim Singh; and after watching his camp for three months they managed to come on him asleep in the tent of a dancing-girl, who was following his camp, and stabbed him to the heart. For this deed they received Rs. 20,000 from Baptiste with other valuable presents. Their reputation was indeed such that they were frequently employed at this period both by chiefs who desired to take the lives of others and by those who were anxious for the preservation of their own. When it happened that a gang was caught after a robbery in a native State, the custom was not infrequently to make them over to the merchant whose property they had taken, with permission to keep them in confinement until they should refund his money; and in this manner by giving up the whole or a part of the proceeds of their robbery they were enabled to regain their liberty. Even if they were sent before the courts, justice was at that time so corrupt as to permit of easy avenues of escape for those who could afford to pay; and Colonel Sleeman records the deposition of a Badhak describing their methods of bribery: "When police officers arrest Badhaks their old women get round them and give them large sums of money; and they either release them or get their depositions so written that their release shall be ordered by the magistrates. If they are brought to court, their old women, dressed in rags, follow them at a distance of three or four miles with a thousand or two thousand rupees upon ponies; and these rupees they distribute among the native officers of the court and get the Badhaks released. These old women first ascertain from the people of the villages who are the Nazirs and Munshis of influence, and wait upon them at their houses and make their bargains. If the officials cannot effect their release, they take money from the old women and send them off to the Sadar Court, with letters of introduction to their friends, and advice as to the rate they shall pay to each according to his supposed influence. This is the way that all our leaders get released, and hardly any but useless men are left in confinement." [52]

7. Pride in their profession.

It may be noticed that these robbers took the utmost pleasure in their calling, and were most averse to the idea of giving it up and taking to honest pursuits. "Some of the men with me," one magistrate wrote, [53] "have been in jail for twenty, and one man for thirty years, and still do not appear to have any idea of abandoning their illegal vocation; even now, indeed, they look on what we consider an honest means of livelihood with the most marked contempt; and in relating their excursions talk of them with the greatest pleasure, much in the way an eager sportsman describes a boar-chase or fox-hunt. While talking of their excursions, which were to me really very interesting, their eyes gleamed with pleasure; and beating their hands on their foreheads and breasts and muttering some ejaculation they bewailed the hardness of their lot, which now ensured their never again being able to participate in such a joyous occupation." Another Badhak, on being examined, said he could not recall a case of one of the community having ever given up the trade of dacoity. "None ever did, I am certain of it," he continued. [54] "After having been arrested, on our release we frequently take lands, to make it appear we have left off dacoity, but we never do so in reality; it is only done as a feint and to enable our zamindars (landowners) to screen us." They sometimes paid rent for their land at the rate of thirty rupees an acre, in return for the countenance and protection afforded by the zamindars. "Our profession," another Badhak remarked, [55] "has been a Padshahi Kam (a king's trade); we have attacked and seized boldly the thousands and hundreds of thousands that we have freely and nobly spent; we have been all our lives wallowing in wealth and basking in freedom, and find it hard to manage with the few copper pice a day we get from you." At the time when captures were numerous, and the idea was entertained of inducing the dacoits to settle in villages and supporting them until they had been trained to labour, several of them, on being asked how much they would require to support themselves, replied that they could not manage on less than two rupees a day, having earned quite that sum by dacoity. This amount would be more than twenty times the wages of an ordinary labourer at the same period. Another witness put the amount at one to two rupees a day, remarking, 'We are great persons for eating and drinking, and we keep several wives according to our means.' Of some of them Colonel Sleeman had a high opinion, and he mentions the case of one man, Ajit Singh, who was drafted into the native army and rose to be commander of a company. "I have seldom seen a man," he wrote, [56] "whom I would rather have with me in scenes of peril and difficulty." An attempt of the King of Oudh's, however, to form a regiment of Badhaks had ended in failure, as after a short time they mutinied, beat their commandant and other officers and turned them out of the regiment, giving as their reason that the officers had refused to perform the same duties as the men. And they visited with the same treatment all the other officers sent to them, until they were disbanded by the British on the province of Allahabad being made over to the Company. Colonel Sleeman notes that they were never known to offer any other violence or insult to females than to make them give up any gold ornaments that they might have about their persons. "In all my inquiries into the character, habits and conduct of these gangs, I have never found an instance of a female having been otherwise disgraced or insulted by them. They are all Hindus, and this reverence for the sex pervades all Hindu society." [57] According to their own account also they never committed murder; if people opposed them they struck and killed like soldiers, but this was considered to be in fair fight. It may be noted, nevertheless, that they had little idea of clan loyalty, and informed very freely against their fellows when this course was to their advantage. They also stated that they could not settle in towns; they had always been accustomed to live in the jungles and commit dacoities upon the people of the towns as a kind of shikar (sport); they delighted in it, and they felt living in towns or among other men as a kind of prison, and got quite confused (ghabraye), and their women even more than the men.

8. Caste rules and admission of outsiders.

The Badhaks had a regular caste organisation, and members of the different clans married with each other like the Rajputs after whom they were named. They admitted freely into the community members of any respectable Hindu caste, but not the impure castes or Muhammadans. But at least one instance of the admission of a Muhammadan is given. [58] The Badhaks were often known to the people as Siarkhawa or jackal-eaters, or Sabkhawa, those who eat everything. And the Muhammadan in question was given jackal's flesh to eat, and having partaken of it was considered to have become a member of the community. This indicates that the Badhaks were probably accustomed to eat the flesh of the jackal at a sacrificial meal, and hence that they worshipped the jackal, revering it probably as the deity of the forests where they lived. Such a veneration would account for the importance attached to the jackal's cry as an omen. The fact of their eating jackals also points to the conclusion that the Badhaks were not Rajputs, but a low hunting caste like the Pardhis and Bahelias. The Pardhis have Rajput sept names as well as the Badhaks. No doubt a few outcaste Rajputs may have joined the gangs and become their leaders. Others, however, said that they abstained from the flesh of jackals, snakes, foxes and cows and buffaloes. Children were frequently adopted, being purchased in large numbers in time of famine, and also occasionally kidnapped. They were brought up to the trade of dacoity, and if they showed sufficient aptitude for it were taken out on expeditions, but otherwise left at home to manage the household affairs. They were married to other adopted children and were known as Ghulami or Slave Badhaks, like the Jangar Banjaras; and like them also, after some generations, when their real origin had been forgotten, they became full Badhaks. It was very advantageous to a Badhak to have a number of children, because all plunder obtained was divided in regularly apportioned shares among the whole community. Men who were too old to go on dacoity also received their share, and all children, even babies born during the absence of the expedition. The Badhaks said that this rule was enforced because they thought it an advantage to the community that families should be large and their numbers should increase; from which statement it must be concluded that they seldom suffered any stringency from lack of spoil. They also stated that Badhak widows would go and find a second husband from among the regular population, and as a rule would sooner or later persuade him to join the Badhaks.

9. Religion: offerings to ancestors.

Like other Indian criminals the Badhaks were of a very religious or superstitious disposition. They considered the gods of the Hindu creed as favouring their undertakings so long as they were suitably propitiated by offering to their temples and priests, and the spirits of the most distinguished of their ancestors as exercising a vicarious authority under these deities in guiding them to their prey and warning them of danger. [59] The following is an account of a Badhak sacrifice given to Colonel Sleeman by the Ajit Singh already mentioned. It was in celebration of a dacoity in which they had obtained Rs. 40,000, out of which Rs. 4500 were set aside for sacrifices to the gods and charity to the poor. Ajit Singh said: "For offerings to the gods we purchase goats, sweet cakes and spirits; and having prepared a feast we throw a handful of the savoury food upon the fire in the name of the gods who have most assisted us; but of the feast so consecrated no female but a virgin can partake. The offering is made through the man who has successfully invoked the god on that particular occasion; and, as my god had guided us this time, I was employed to prepare the feast for him and to throw the offering upon the fire. The offering must be taken up before the feast is touched and put upon the fire, and a little water must be sprinkled on it. The savoury smell of the food as it burns reaches the nostrils of the god and delights him. On this as on most occasions I invoked the spirit of Ganga Singh, my grandfather, and to him I made the offering. I considered him to be the greatest of all my ancestors as a robber, and him I invoked on this solemn occasion. He never failed me when I invoked him, and I had the greatest confidence in his aid. The spirits of our ancestors can easily see whether we shall succeed in what we are about to undertake; and when we are to succeed they order us on, and when we are not they make signs to us to desist." Their mode [60] of ascertaining which of their ancestors interested himself most in their affairs was commonly this, that whenever a person talked incoherently in a fever or an epileptic fit, the spirit of one or other of his ancestors was supposed to be upon him. If they were in doubt as to whose spirit it was, one of them threw down some grains of wheat or coloured glass beads, a pinch at a time, saying the name of the ancestor he supposed the most likely to be at work and calling odd or even as he pleased. If the number proved to be as he called it several times running while that name was repeated, they felt secure of their family god, and proceeded at once to sacrifice a goat or something else in his name. When they were being hunted down and arrested by Colonel Sleeman and his assistants, they ascribed their misfortunes to the anger of the goddess Kali, because they had infringed her rules and disregarded her signs, and said that their forefathers had often told them they would one day be punished for their disobedience. [61]

10. The wounded haunted by spirits.

Whenever one of the gang was wounded and was taken with his wounds bleeding near a place haunted by a spirit, they believed the spirit got angry and took hold of him, [62] in the manner described by Ajit Singh as follows: "The spirit comes upon him in all kinds of shapes, sometimes in that of a buffalo, at others in that of a woman, sometimes in the air above and sometimes from the ground below; but no one can see him except the wounded person he is angry with and wants to punish. Upon such a wounded person we always place a naked sword or some other sharp steel instrument, as spirits are much afraid of weapons of this kind. If there be any good conjurer at hand to charm away the spirits from the person wounded he recovers, but nothing else can save him." In one case a dacoit named Ghisa had been severely wounded in an encounter and was seized by the spirit of a banyan tree as he was being taken away: "We made a litter with our ropes and cloaks thrown over them and on this he was carried off by four of our party; at half a mile distant the road passed under a large banyan tree and as the four men carried him along under the tree, the spirit of the place fell upon him and the four men who carried him fell down with the shock. They could not raise him again, so much were they frightened, and four other men were obliged to lift him and carry him off." The man died of his wounds soon after they reached the halting-place, and in commenting on this Ajit Singh continued: "When the spirit seized Ghisa under the tree we had unfortunately no conjurer, and he, poor fellow, died in consequence. It was evident that a spirit had got hold of him, for he could not keep his head upright; it always fell down upon his right or left shoulder as often as we tried to put it right; and he complained much of a pain in the region of the liver. We therefore concluded that the spirit had broken his neck and was consuming his liver."

11. Pious funeral observances.

Like pious Hindus as they were, the Badhaks were accustomed, whenever it was possible, to preserve the bones of their dead after the body had been burnt and carry them to the Ganges. If this was not possible, however, and the exigencies of their profession obliged them to make away with the body without the performance of due funeral rites, they cut off two or three fingers and sent these to the Ganges to be deposited instead of the whole body. [63] In one case a dacoit, Kundana, was killed in an affray, and the others carried off his body and thrust it into a porcupine's hole after cutting off three of the fingers. "We gave Kundana's fingers to his mother," Ajit Singh stated, "and she sent them with due offerings and ceremonies to the Ganges by the hands of the family priest. She gave this priest money to purchase a cow, to be presented to the priests in the name of her deceased son, and to distribute in charity to the poor and to holy men. She got from us for these purposes eighty rupees over and above her son's share of the booty, while his widow and children continued to receive their usual share of the takings of the gang so long as they remained with us."

12. Taking the omens.

Before setting out on an expedition it was their regular custom to take the omens, and the following account may be quoted of the preliminaries to an expedition of the great leader, Meherban Singh, who has already been mentioned: "In the latter end of that year, Meherban and his brother set out and assembled their friends on the bank of the Bisori river, where the rate at which each member of the party should share in the spoil was determined in order to secure to the dependants of any one who should fall in the enterprise their due share, as well as to prevent inconvenient disputes during and after the expedition. The party assembled on this occasion, including women and children, amounted to two hundred, and when the shares had been determined the goats were sacrificed for the feast. Each leader and member of the gang dipped his finger in the blood and swore fidelity to his engagements and his associates under all circumstances. The whole feasted together and drank freely till the next evening, when Meherban advanced with about twenty of the principal persons to a spot chosen a little way from the camp on the road they proposed to take in the expedition, and lifting up his hands in supplication said aloud, 'If it be thy will, O God, and thine, Kali, to prosper our undertaking for the sake of the blind and the lame, the widow and the orphan, who depend upon our exertions for subsistence, vouchsafe, we pray thee, the call of the female jackal.' All his followers held up their hands in the same manner and repeated these words after him. All then sat down and waited in silence for the reply or spoke only in whispers. At last the cry of the female jackal was heard three times on the left, and believing her to have been inspired by the deity for their guidance they were all much rejoiced." The following was another more elaborate method of taking omens described by Ajit Singh: "When we speak of seeking omens from our gods or Devi Deota, we mean the spirits of those of our ancestors who performed great exploits in dacoity in their day, gained a great name and established lasting reputations. For instance, Mahajit, my grandfather, and Sahiba, his father, are called gods and admitted to be so by us all. We have all of us some such gods to be proud of among our ancestors; we propitiate them and ask for favourable omens from them before we enter upon any enterprise. We sometimes propitiate the Suraj Deota (sun god) and seek good omens from him. We get two or three goats or rams, and sometimes even ten or eleven, at the place where we determine to take the auspices, and having assembled the principal men of the gang we put water into the mouth of one of them and pray to the sun and to our ancestors thus: 'O thou Sun God! And O all ye other Gods! If we are to succeed in the enterprise we are about to undertake we pray you to cause these goats to shake their bodies.' If they do not shake them after the gods have been thus duly invoked, the enterprise must not be entered upon and the goats are not sacrificed. We then try the auspices with wheat. We burn frankincense and scented wood and blow a shell; and taking out a pinch of wheat grains, put them on the cloth and count them. If they come up odd the omen is favourable, and if even it is bad. After this, which we call the auspices of the Akut, we take that of the Siarni or female jackal. If it calls on the left it is good, but if on the right bad. If the omens turn out favourable in all three trials then we have no fear whatever, but if they are favourable in only one trial out of the three the enterprise must be given up."

13. Suppression of dacoity.

Between 1837 and 1849 the suppression of the regular practice of armed dacoity was practically achieved by Colonel Sleeman. A number of officers were placed under his orders, and with small bodies of military and police were set to hunt down different bands of dacoits, following them all over India when necessary. And special Acts were passed to enable the offence of dacoity, wherever committed, to be tried by a competent magistrate in any part of India as had been done in the case of the Thugs. Many of the Badhaks received conditional pardons, and were drafted into the police in different stations, and an agricultural labour colony was also formed, but does not seem to have been altogether successful. During these twelve years more than 1200 dacoits in all were brought to trial, while some were killed during the operations, and no doubt many others escaped and took to other avocations, or became ordinary criminals when their armed gangs were broken up. In 1825 it had been estimated that the Oudh forests alone contained from 4000 to 6000 dacoits, while the property stolen in 1811 from known dacoities was valued at ten lakhs of rupees.

14. The Badhaks or Baoris at the present time.

The Badhaks still exist, and are well known as one of the worst classes of criminals, practising ordinary house-breaking and theft. The name Badhak is now less commonly used than those of Bagri and Baori or Bawaria, both of which were borne by the original Badhaks. The word Bagri is derived from a tract of country in Malwa which is known as the Bagar or 'hedge of thorns,' because it is surrounded on all sides by wooded hills. [64] There are Bagri Jats and Bagri Rajputs, many of whom are now highly respectable landholders. Bawaria or Baori is derived from banwar, a creeper, or the tendril of a vine, and hence a noose made originally from some fibrous plant and used for trapping animals, this being one of the primary occupations of the tribe. [65] The term Badhak signifies a hunter or fowler, hence a robber or murderer (Platts). The Bagris and Bawarias are sometimes considered to be separate communities, but it is doubtful whether there is any real distinction between them. In Bombay the Bagris are known as Vaghris by the common change of b into v. A good description of them is contained in Appendix C to Mr. Bhimbhai Kirparam's volume Hindus of Gujarat in the Bombay Gazetteer. He divides them into the Chunaria or lime-burners, the Datonia or sellers of twig tooth-brushes, and two other groups, and states that, "They also keep fowls and sell eggs, catch birds and go as shikaris or hunters. They traffic in green parrots, which they buy from Bhils and sell for a profit."

15. Lizard-hunting.

Their strength and powers of endurance are great, the same writer states, and they consider that these qualities are obtained by the eating of the goh and sandha or iguana lizards, which a Vaghri prizes very highly. This is also the case with the Bawarias of the Punjab, who go out hunting lizards in the rains and may be seen returning with baskets full of live lizards, which exist for days without food and are killed and eaten fresh by degrees. Their method of hunting the lizard is described by Mr. Wilson as follows: [66] "The lizard lives on grass, cannot bite severely, and is sluggish in his movements, so that he is easily caught. He digs a hole for himself of no great depth, and the easiest way to take him is to look out for the scarcely perceptible airhole and dig him out; but there are various ways of saving oneself this trouble. One, which I have seen, takes advantage of a habit the lizard has in cold weather (when he never comes out of his hole) of coming to the mouth for air and warmth. The Chuhra or other sportsman puts off his shoes and steals along the prairie till he sees signs of a lizard's hole. This he approaches on tiptoe, raising over his head with both hands a mallet with a round sharp point, and fixing his eyes intently upon the hole. When close enough he brings down his mallet with all his might on the ground just behind the mouth of the hole, and is often successful in breaking the lizard's back before he awakes to a sense of his danger. Another plan, which I have not seen, is to tie a wisp of grass to a long stick and move it over the hole so as to make a rustling noise. The lizard within thinks, 'Oh here's a snake! I may as well give in,' and comes to the mouth of the hole, putting out his tail first so that he may not see his executioner. The sportsman seizes his tail and snatches him out before he has time to learn his mistake." This common fondness for lizards is a point in favour of a connection between the Gujarat Vaghris and the Punjab Bawarias.

16. Social observances.

In Sirsa the great mass of the Bawarias are not given to crime, and in Gujarat also they do not appear to have special criminal tendencies. It is a curious point, however, that Mr. Bhimbhai Kirparam emphasises the chastity of the women of the Gujarat Vaghris. [67] "When a family returns home after a money-making tour to Bombay or some other city, the women are taken before Vihat (Devi), and with the women is brought a buffalo or a sheep that is tethered in front of Vihat's shrine. They must confess all, even their slightest shortcomings, such as the following: 'Two weeks ago, when begging in Parsi Bazar-street, a drunken sailor caught me by the hand. Another day a Miyan or Musalman ogled me, and forgive me, Devi, my looks encouraged him.' If Devi is satisfied the sheep or buffalo shivers, and is then sacrificed and provides a feast for the caste." [68] On the other hand, Mr. Crooke states [69] that in northern India, "The standard of morality is very low because in Muzaffarnagar it is extremely rare for a Bawaria woman to live with her husband. Almost invariably she lives with another man: but the official husband is responsible for the children." The great difference in the standard of morality is certainly surprising.

In Gujarat [70] the Vaghris have gurus or religious preceptors of their own. These men take an eight-anna silver piece and whisper in the ear of their disciples "Be immortal."... "The Bhuvas or priest-mediums play an important part in many Vaghri ceremonies. A Bhuva is a male child born after the mother has made a vow to the goddess Vihat or Devi that if a son be granted to her she will devote him to the service of the goddess. No Bhuva may cut or shave his hair on pain of a fine of ten rupees, and no Bhuva may eat carrion or food cooked by a Muhammadan."

17. Criminal practices.

The criminal Bagris still usually travel about in the disguise of Gosains and Bairagis, and are very difficult of detection except to real religious mendicants. Their housebreaking implement or jemmy is known as Gyan, but in speaking of it they always add Das, so that it sounds like the name of a Bairagi. [71] They are usually very much afraid of the gyan being discovered on their persons, and are careful to bury it in the ground at each halting-place, while on the march it may be concealed in a pack-saddle. The means of identifying them, Mr. Kennedy remarks, [72] is by their family deo or god, which they carry about when wandering with their families. It consists of a brass or copper box containing grains of wheat and the seeds of a creeper, both soaked in ghi (melted butter). The box with a peacock's feather and a bell is wrapped in two white and then in two red cloths, one of the white cloths having the print of a man's hand dipped in goat's blood upon it. The grains of wheat are used for taking the omens, a few being thrown up at sun-down and counted afterwards to see whether they are odd or even. When even, two grains are placed on the right hand of the omen-taker, and if this occurs three times running the auspices are considered to be favourable. [73] Mr. Gayer [74] notes that the Badhaks have usually from one to three brands from a hot iron on the inside of their left wrist. Those of them who are hunters brand the muscles of the left wrist in order to steady the hand when firing their matchlocks. The customs of wearing a peculiar necklace of small wooden beads and a kind of gold pin fixed to the front teeth, which Mr. Crooke [75] records as having been prevalent some years ago, have apparently been since abandoned, as they are not mentioned in more recent accounts. The Dehliwal and Malpura Baorias have, Mr. Kennedy states, [76] an interesting system of signs, which they mark on the walls of buildings at important corners, bridges and cross-roads and on the ground by the roadside with a stick, if no building is handy. The commonest is a loop, the straight line indicating the direction a gang or individual has taken:

/ / /—- ( ( /// ) —-/

The addition of a number of vertical strokes inside the loop signifies the number of males in a gang. If these strokes are enclosed by a circle it means that the gang is encamped in the vicinity; while a square inside a circle and line as below means that property has been secured by friends who have left in the direction pointed by the line. It is said that Baorias will follow one another up for fifty or even a hundred miles by means of these hieroglyphics. The signs are bold marks, sometimes even a foot or more in length, and are made where they will at once catch the eye. When the Marwari Baorias desire to indicate to others of their caste, who may follow in their footsteps, the route taken, a member of the gang, usually a woman, trails a stick in the dust as she walks along, leaving a spiral track on the ground. Another method of indicating the route taken is to place leaves under stones at intervals along the road. [77] The form of crime most in favour among the ordinary Baoris is housebreaking by night. Their common practice is to make a hole in the wall beside the door through which the hand passes to raise the latch; and only occasionally they dig a hole in the base of the wall to admit of the passage of a man, while another favoured alternative is to break in through a barred window, the bars being quickly and forcibly bent and drawn out. [78] One class of Marwari Bagris are also expert coiners.

/ - / - - - / -/


1. Nomenclature and internal structure.

Bahna, Pinjara, Dhunia. [79]—The occupational caste of cotton-cleaners. The Bahnas numbered 48,000 persons in the Central Provinces and Berar in 1911. The large increase in the number of ginning-factories has ruined the Bahna's trade of cleaning hand-ginned cotton, and as no distinction attaches to the name of Bahna it is possible that members of the caste who have taken to other occupations may have abandoned it and returned themselves simply as Muhammadans. The three names Bahna, Pinjara, Dhunia appear to be used indifferently for the caste in this Province, though in other parts of India they are distinguished. Pinjara is derived from the word pinjan used for a cotton-bow, and Dhunia is from dhunna, to card cotton. The caste is also known as Dhunak Pathani. Though professing the Muhammadan religion, they still have many Hindu customs and ceremonies, and in the matter of inheritance our courts have held that they are subject to Hindu and not Muhammadan law. [80] In Raipur a girl receives half the share of a boy in the division of inherited property. The caste appears to be a mixed occupational group, and is split into many territorial subcastes named after the different parts of the country from which its members have come, as Badharia from Badhas in Mirzapur, Sarsutia from the Saraswati river, Berari of Berar, Dakhni from the Deccan, Telangi from Madras, Pardeshi from northern India, and so on. Two groups are occupational, the Newaris of Saugor, who make the thick newar tape used for the webbing of beds, and the Kanderas, who make fireworks and generally constitute a separate caste. There is considerable ground for supposing that the Bahnas are mainly derived from the caste of Telis or oil-pressers. In the Punjab Sir D. Ibbetson says [81] that the Penja or cotton-scutcher is an occupational name applied to Telis who follow this profession; and that the Penja, Kasai and Teli are all of the same caste. Similarly in Nasik the Telis and Pinjaras are said to form one community, under the government of a single panchayat. In cases of dispute or misconduct the usual penalty is temporary excommunication, which is known as the stopping of food and water. [82] The Telis are an enterprising community of very low status, and would therefore be naturally inclined to take to other occupations; many of them are shopkeepers, cultivators and landholders, and it is quite probable that in past times they took up the Bahna's profession and changed their religion with the hope of improving their social status. The Telis are generally considered to be quarrelsome and talkative, and the Bahnas or Dhunias have the same characteristics. If one man abusing another lapses into Billingsgate, the other will say to him, 'Hamko Julaha Dhunia neh jano,' or 'Don't talk to me as if I was a Julaha or a Dhunia.'

2. Marriage.

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

3. Religious and other customs.

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

4. Occupation.

The hereditary calling [83] of the Bahna is the cleaning or scutching of cotton, which is done by subjecting it to the vibration of a bow-string. The seed has been previously separated by a hand-gin, but the ginned cotton still contains much dirt, leaf-fibre and other rubbish, and to remove this is the Bahna's task. The bow is somewhat in the shape of a harp, the wide end consisting of a broad piece of wood over which the string passes, being secured to a straight wooden bar at the back. At the narrow end the bar and string are fixed to an iron ring. The string is made of the sinew of some animal, and this renders the implement objectionable to Hindus, and may account for the Bahnas being Muhammadans. The club or mallet is a wooden implement shaped like a dumb-bell. The bow is suspended from the roof so as to hang just over the pile of loose cotton; and the worker twangs the string with the mallet and then draws the mallet across the string, each three or four times. The string strikes a small portion of the cotton, the fibre of which is scattered by the impact and thrown off in a uniform condition of soft fluff, all dirt being at the same time removed. This is the operation technically known as teasing. Buchanan remarked that women frequently did the work themselves at home, using a smaller kind of bow called dhunkara. The clean cotton is made up into balls, some of which are passed on to the spinner, while others are used for the filling of quilts and the padded coats worn in the cold weather. The ingenious though rather clumsy method of the Bahna has been superseded by the ginning-factory, and little or no cotton destined for the spindle is now cleaned by him. The caste have been forced to take to cultivation or field labour, while many have become cartmen and others are brokers, peons or constables. Nearly every house still has its pinjan or bow, but only a desultory use is made of this during the winter months. As it is principally used by a Muhammadan caste it seems a possible hypothesis that the cotton-bow was introduced into India by invaders of that religion. The name of the bow, pinjan, is, however, a Sanskrit derivative, and this is against the above theory. It has already been seen that the fact of animal sinew being used for the string would make it objectionable to Hindus. The Bahnas are subjected to considerable ridicule on account of their curious mixture of Hindu and Muhammadan ceremonies, amounting in some respects practically to a caricature of the rites of Islam; and further, they share with the weaver class the contempt shown to those who follow a calling considered more suitable for women than men. It is related that when the Mughal general Asaf Khan first made an expedition into the north of the Central Provinces he found the famous Gond-Rajput queen Durgavati of the Garha-Mandla dynasty governing with success a large and prosperous state in this locality. He thought a country ruled by a woman should fall an easy prey to the Muhammadan arms, and to show his contempt for her power he sent her a golden spindle. The queen retorted by a present of a gold cotton-cleaner's bow, and this so enraged the Mughal that he proceeded to attack the Gond kingdom. The story indicates that cotton-carding is considered a Muhammadan profession, and also that it is held in contempt.

5. Proverbs about Bahnas.

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

Turuk to Turuk Aur Bahna Turuk,

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

Achera, [84] Kachera, Pinjara, Muhammad se dur, Din se niyara,

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

Adho Hindu adho Musalman Tinkhon kahen Dhunak Pathan,

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

Kahe karkarat hai? Kahe barbarat hai? Kahe jai jai logon ka dana khat hai? Tor kiamat mor niamat, Bismillah hai tuch,

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

Sheikhon ki Sheikhi, Pathanon ki tarr, Turkon ki Turkshahi, Bahnon ki bharrr ...

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


List of Paragraphs

1. The tribe and its offshoots. 2. Tribal legends. 3. Tribal subdivisions. 4. Marriage. 5. Birth and funeral rites. 6. Religion. 7. Appearance and mode of life. 8. Dress and food. 9. Occupation. 10. Language.

1. The tribe and its offshoots.

Baiga. [85]—A primitive Dravidian tribe whose home is on the eastern Satpura hills in the Mandla, Balaghat and Bilaspur Districts. The number of the Baigas proper was only 30,000 in 1911. But the Binjhals or Binjhwars, a fairly numerous caste in the Chhattisgarh Division, and especially in the Sambalpur District, appear to have been originally Baigas, though they have dropped the original caste name, become Hinduised, and now disclaim connection with the parent tribe. A reason for this may be found in the fact that Sambalpur contains several Binjhwar zamindars, or large landowners, whose families would naturally desire a more respectable pedigree than one giving them the wild Baigas of the Satpuras for their forefathers. And the evolution of the Binjhwar caste is a similar phenomenon to the constitution of the Raj-Gonds, the Raj-Korkus, and other aristocratic subdivisions among the forest tribes, who have been admitted to a respectable position in the Hindu social community. The Binjhwars, however, have been so successful as to cut themselves off almost completely from connection with the original tribe, owing to their adoption of another name. But in Balaghat and Mandla the Binjhwar subtribe is still recognised as the most civilised subdivision of the Baigas. The Bhainas, a small tribe in Bilaspur, are probably another offshoot, Kath-Bhaina being the name of a subtribe of Baigas in that District, and Rai-Bhaina in Balaghat, though the Bhainas too no longer admit identity with the Baigas. A feature common to all three branches is that they have forgotten their original tongue, and now speak a more or less corrupt form of the Indo-Aryan vernaculars current around them. Finally, the term Bhumia or 'Lord of the soil' is used sometimes as the name of a separate tribe and sometimes as a synonym for Baiga. The fact is that in the Central Provinces [86] Bhumia is the name of an office, that of the priest of the village and local deities, which is held by one of the forest tribes. In the tract where the Baigas live, they, as the most ancient residents, are usually the priests of the indigenous gods; but in Jubbulpore the same office is held by another tribe, the Bharias. The name of the office often attaches itself to members of the tribe, who consider it as somewhat more respectable than their own, and it is therefore generally true to say that the people known as Bhumias in Jubbulpore are really Bharias, but in Mandla and Bilaspur they are Baigas.

In Mandla there is also found a group called Bharia-Baigas. These are employed as village priests by Hindus, and worship certain Hindu deities and not the Gond gods. They may perhaps be members of the Bharia tribe of Jubbulpore, originally derived from the Bhars, who have obtained the designation of Baiga, owing to their employment as village priests. But they now consider themselves a part of the Baiga tribe and say they came to Mandla from Rewah. In Mandla the decision of a Baiga on a boundary dispute is almost always considered as final, and this authority is of a kind that commonly emanates from recognised priority of residence. [87] There seems reason to suppose that the Baigas are really a branch of the primitive Bhuiya tribe of Chota Nagpur, and that they have taken or been given the name of Baiga, the designation of a village priest, on migration into the Central Provinces. There is reason to believe that the Baigas were once dominant in the Chhattisgarh plain and the hills surrounding it which adjoin Chota Nagpur, the home of the Bhuiyas. The considerations in favour of this view are given in the article on Bhuiya, to which reference may be made.

2. Tribal legends.

The Baigas, however, are not without some conceit of themselves, as the following legend will show. In the beginning, they say, God created Nanga Baiga and Nangi Baigin, the first of the human race, and asked them by what calling they would choose to live. They at once said that they would make their living by felling trees in the jungle, and permission being accorded, have done so ever since. They had two sons, one of whom remained a Baiga, while the other became a Gond and a tiller of the soil. The sons married their own two sisters who were afterwards born, and while the elder couple are the ancestors of the Baigas, from the younger are descended the Gonds and all the remainder of the human race. In another version of the story the first Baiga cut down two thousand old sal [88] trees in one day, and God told him to sprinkle a few grains of kutki on the ashes, and then to retire and sleep for some months, when on his return he would be able to reap a rich harvest for his children. In this manner the habit of shifting cultivation is accorded divine sanction. According to Binjhwar tradition Nanga Baiga and Nangi Baigin dwelt on the kajli ban pahar, which being interpreted is the hill of elephants, and may well refer to the ranges of Mandla and Bilaspur. It is stated in the Ain-i-Akbari [89] that the country of Garha-Mandla abounded in wild elephants, and that the people paid their tribute in these and gold mohurs. In Mandla the Baigas sometimes hang out from their houses a bamboo mat fastened to a long pole to represent a flag which they say once flew from the palace of a Baiga king. It seems likely that the original home of the tribe may have been the Chhattisgarh plain and the hill-ranges surrounding it. A number of estates in these hills are held by landowners of tribes which are offshoots of the Baigas, as the Bhainas and Binjhwars. The point is further discussed in the article on Bhuiya. Most of the Baigas speak a corrupt form of the Chhattisgarhi dialect. When they first came under the detailed observation of English officers in the middle of the nineteenth century, the tribe were even more solitary and retired than at present. Their villages, it is said, were only to be found in places far removed from all cleared and cultivated country. No roads or well-defined paths connected them with ordinary lines of traffic and more thickly inhabited tracts, but perched away in snug corners in the hills, and hidden by convenient projecting spurs and dense forests from the country round, they could not be seen except when nearly approached, and were seldom visited unless by occasional enterprising Banias and vendors of country liquor. Indeed, without a Baiga for a guide many of the villages could hardly be discovered, for nothing but occasional notches on the trees distinguished the tracks to them from those of the sambhar and other wild animals.

3. Tribal subdivisions.

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

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

4. Marriage.

A Baiga must not take a wife from his own sept or from another one worshipping the same number of gods. But he may marry within his mother's sept, and in some localities the union of first cousins is permitted. Marriage is adult and the proposal comes from the parents of the bride, but in some places the girl is allowed to select a husband for herself. A price varying from five to twenty rupees is usually paid to the bride's parents, or in lieu of this the prospective husband serves his father-in-law for a period of about two years, the marriage being celebrated after the first year if his conduct is satisfactory. Orphan boys who have no parents to arrange their marriages for them often take service for a wife. Three ceremonies should precede the marriage. The first, which may take place at any time after the birth of both children, consists merely in the arrangement for their betrothal. The second is only a ratification of the first, feasts being provided by the boy's parents on both occasions. While on the approach of the children to marriageable age the final betrothal or barokhi is held. The boy's father gives a large feast at the house of the girl and the date of the wedding is fixed. To ascertain whether the union will be auspicious, two grains of rice are dropped into a pot of water, after various preliminary solemnities to mark the importance of the occasion. If the points of the grains meet almost immediately it is considered that the marriage will be highly auspicious. If they do not meet, a second pair of grains are dropped in, and should these meet it is believed that the couple will quarrel after an interval of married life and that the wife will return to her father's house. While if neither of the two first essays are successful and a third pair is required, the regrettable conclusion is arrived at that the wife will run away with another man after a very short stay with her husband. But it is not stated that the betrothal is on that account annulled. The wedding procession starts from the bridegroom's house [90] and is received by the bride's father outside the village. It is considered essential that he should go out to meet the bride's party riding on an elephant. But as a real elephant is not within the means of a Baiga, two wooden bedsteads are lashed together and covered with blankets with a black cloth trunk in front, and this arrangement passes muster for an elephant. The elephant makes pretence to charge and trample down the marriage procession, until a rupee is paid, when the two parties embrace each other and proceed to the marriage-shed. Here the bride and bridegroom throw fried rice at each other until they are tired, and then walk three or seven times round the marriage-post with their clothes tied together. It is stated by Colonel Ward that the couple always retired to the forest to spend the wedding night, but this custom has now been abandoned. The expenditure on a marriage varies between ten and fifty rupees, of which only about five rupees fall on the bride's parents. The remarriage of widows is permitted, and the widow is expected, though not obliged, to wed her late husband's younger brother, while if she takes another husband he must pay her brother-in-law the sum of five rupees. The ceremony consists merely of the presentation of bangles and new clothes by the suitor, in token of her acceptance of which the widow pours some tepid water stained with turmeric over his head. Divorce may be effected by the husband and wife breaking a straw in the presence of the caste panchayat or committee. If the woman remains in the same village and does not marry again, the husband is responsible for her maintenance and that of her children, while a divorced woman may not remarry without the sanction of the panchayat so long as her husband is alive and remains single. Polygamy is permitted.

5. Birth and funeral rites.

A woman is unclean for a month after childbirth, though the Binjhwars restrict the period to eight days. At the ceremony of purification a feast is given and the child is named, often after the month or day of its birth, as Chaitu, Phagu, Saoni, and so on, from the months of Chait, Phagun and Shrawan. Children who appear to be physically defective are given names accordingly, such as Langra (lame), or Bahira (deaf). The dead are usually buried, the bodies of old persons being burnt as a special honour and to save them from the risk of being devoured by wild animals. Bodies are laid naked in the grave with the head pointing to the south. In the grave of a man of importance two or three rupees and some tobacco are placed. In some places a rupee is thrust into the mouth of the dying man, and if his body is burnt, the coin is recovered from the pyre by his daughter or sister, who wears it as an amulet. Over the grave a platform is made on which a stone is erected. This is called the Bhiri of the deceased and is worshipped by his relatives in time of trouble. If one of the family has to be buried elsewhere, the relatives go to the Bhiri of the great dead and consign his spirit to be kept in their company. At a funeral the mourners take one black and one white fowl to a stream and kill and eat them there, setting aside a portion for the dead man. Mourning is observed for a period of from two to nine days, and during this time labour and even household work are stopped, food being supplied by the friends of the family. When a man is killed by a tiger the Baiga priest goes to the spot and there makes a small cone out of the blood-stained earth. This must represent a man, either the dead man or one of his living relatives. His companions having retired a few paces, the priest goes on his hands and knees and performs a series of antics which are supposed to represent the tiger in the act of destroying the man, at the same time seizing the lump of blood-stained earth in his teeth. One of the party then runs up and taps him on the back with a small stick. This perhaps means that the tiger is killed or otherwise rendered harmless; and the Baiga immediately lets the mud cone fall into the hands of one of the party. It is then placed in an ant-hill and a pig is sacrificed over it. The next day a small chicken is taken to the place, and after a mark supposed to be the dead man's name is made on its head with red ochre, it is thrown back into the forest, the priest exclaiming, 'Take this and go home.' The ceremony is supposed to lay the dead man's spirit and at the same time to prevent the tiger from doing any further damage. The Baigas believe that the ghost of the victim, if not charmed to rest, resides on the head of the tiger and incites him to further deeds of blood, rendering him also secure from harm by his preternatural watchfulness. [91]

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13     Next Part
Home - Random Browse