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

They also think that they can shut up the tiger's dar or jaws, so that he cannot bite them, by driving a nail into a tree. The forest track from Kanha to Kisli in the Banjar forest reserve of Mandla was formerly a haunt of man-eating tigers, to whom a number of the wood-cutters and Baiga coolies, clearing the jungle paths, fell victims every year. In a large tree, at a dangerous point in the track, there could recently be seen a nail, driven into the trunk by a Baiga priest, at some height from the ground. It was said that this nail shut the mouth of a famous man-eating tiger of the locality and prevented him from killing any more victims. As evidence of the truth of the story there were shown on the trunk the marks of the tiger's claws, where he had been jumping up the tree in the effort to pull the nail out of the trunk and get his man-eating powers restored.

6. Religion.

Although the Binjhwar subcaste now profess Hinduism, the religion of the Baigas is purely animistic. Their principal deity is Bura Deo, [92] who is supposed to reside in a saj tree (Terminalia tomentosa); he is worshipped in the month of Jeth (May), when goats, fowls, cocoanuts, and the liquor of the new mahua crop are offered to him. Thakur Deo is the god of the village land and boundaries, and is propitiated with a white goat. The Baigas who plough the fields have a ceremony called Bidri, which is performed before the breaking of the rains. A handful of each kind of grain sown is given by each cultivator to the priest, who mixes the grains together and sows a little beneath the tree where Thakur Deo lives. After this he returns a little to each cultivator, and he sows it in the centre of the land on which crops are to be grown, while the priest keeps the remainder. This ceremony is believed to secure the success of the harvest. Dulha Deo is the god who averts disease and accident, and the offering made to him should consist of a fowl or goat of reddish colour. Bhimsen is the deity of rainfall, and Dharti Mata or Mother Earth is considered to be the wife of Thakur Deo, and must also be propitiated for the success of the crops. The grain itself is worshipped at the threshing floor by sprinkling water and liquor on to it. Certain Hindu deities are also worshipped by the Baigas, but not in orthodox fashion. Thus it would be sacrilege on the part of a Hindu to offer animal sacrifices to Narayan Deo, the sun-god, but the Baigas devote to him a special oblation of the most unclean animal, the pig. The animal to be sacrificed is allowed to wander loose for two or three years, and is then killed in a most cruel manner. It is laid across the threshold of a doorway on its back, and across its stomach is placed a stout plank of saj-wood. Half a dozen men sit or stand on the ends of this, and the fore and hind feet of the pig are pulled backwards and forwards alternately over the plank until it is crushed to death, while all the men sing or shout a sacrificial hymn. The head and feet are cut off and offered to the deity, and the body is eaten. The forests are believed to be haunted by spirits, and in certain localities pats or shrines are erected in their honour, and occasional offerings are made to them. The spirits of married persons are supposed to live in streams, while trees afford a shelter to the souls of the unmarried, who become bhuts or malignant spirits after death. Nag Deo or the cobra is supposed to live in an ant-hill, and offerings are made to him there. Demoniacal possession is an article of faith, and a popular remedy is to burn human hair mixed with chillies and pig's dung near the person possessed, as the horrible smell thus produced will drive away the spirit. Many and weird, Mr. Low writes, are the simples which the Baiga's travelling scrip contains. Among these a dried bat has the chief place; this the Baiga says he uses to charm his nets with, that the prey may catch in them as the bat's claws catch in whatever it touches. As an instance of the Baiga's pantheism it may be mentioned that on one occasion when a train of the new Satpura railway [93] had pulled up at a wayside forest station, a Baiga was found offering a sacrifice to the engine. Like other superstitious people they are great believers in omens. A single crow bathing in a stream is a sign of death. A cock which crows in the night should be instantly killed and thrown into the darkness, a custom which some would be glad to see introduced into much more civilised centres. The woodpecker and owl are birds of bad omen. The Baigas do not appear to have any idea of a fresh birth, and one of their marriage songs says, "O girl, take your pleasure in going round the marriage-post once and for all, for there is no second birth." The Baigas are generally the priests of the Gonds, probably because being earlier residents of the country they are considered to have a more intimate acquaintance with the local deities. They have a wide knowledge of the medicinal properties of jungle roots and herbs, and are often successful in effecting cures when the regular native doctors have failed. Their village priests have consequently a considerable reputation as skilled sorcerers and persons conversant with the unseen world. A case is known of a Brahman transferred to a jungle station, who immediately after his arrival called in a Baiga priest and asked what forest gods he should worship, and what other steps he should take to keep well and escape calamity. Colonel Ward states that in his time Baigas were commonly called in to give aid when a town or village was attacked by cholera, and further that he had seen the greatest benefit to result from their visit. For the people had so much confidence in their powers and ceremonies that they lost half their fright at once, and were consequently not so much predisposed to an attack of the disease. On such an occasion the Baiga priest goes round the village and pulls out a little straw from each house-roof, afterwards burning the whole before the shrine of Khermata, the goddess of the village, to whom he also offers a chicken for each homestead. If this remedy fails goats are substituted for chickens, and lastly, as a forlorn hope, pigs are tried, and, as a rule, do not fail, because by this time the disease may be expected to have worked itself out. It is suggested that the chicken represents a human victim from each house, while the straw stands for the house itself, and the offering has the common idea of a substituted victim.

7. Appearance and mode of life.

In stature the Baigas are a little taller than most other tribes, and though they have a tendency to the flat nose of the Gonds, their foreheads and the general shape of their heads are of a better mould. Colonel Ward states that the members of the tribe inhabiting the Maikal range in Mandla are a much finer race than those living nearer the open country. [94] Their figures are very nearly perfect, says Colonel Bloomfield, [95] and their wiry limbs, unburdened by superfluous flesh, will carry them over very great distances and over places inaccessible to most human beings, while their compact bodies need no other nutriment than the scanty fare afforded by their native forests. They are born hunters, hardy and active in the chase, and exceedingly bold and courageous. In character they are naturally simple, honest and truthful, and when their fear of a stranger has been dissipated are most companionable folk. A small hut, 6 or 7 feet high at the ridge, made of split bamboos and mud, with a neat veranda in front thatched with leaves and grass, forms the Baiga's residence, and if it is burnt down, or abandoned on a visitation of epidemic disease, he can build another in the space of a day. A rough earthen vessel to hold water, leaves for plates, gourds for drinking-vessels, a piece of matting to sleep on, and a small axe, a sickle and a spear, exhaust the inventory of the Baiga's furniture, and the money value of the whole would not exceed a rupee. [96] The Baigas never live in a village with other castes, but have their huts some distance away from the village in the jungle. Unlike the other tribes also, the Baiga prefers his house to stand alone and at some little distance from those of his fellow-tribesmen. While nominally belonging to the village near which they dwell, so separate and distinct are they from the rest of people that in the famine of 1897 cases were found of starving Baiga hamlets only a few hundred yards away from the village proper in which ample relief was being given. On being questioned as to why they had not caused the Baigas to be helped, the other villagers said, 'We did not remember them'; and when the Baigas were asked why they did not apply for relief, they said, 'We did not think it was meant for Baigas.'

8. Dress and food.

Their dress is of the most simple description, a small strip of rag between the legs and another wisp for a head-covering sufficing for the men, though the women are decently covered from their shoulders to half-way between the thighs and knees. A Baiga may be known by his scanty clothing and tangled hair, and his wife by the way in which her single garment is arranged so as to provide a safe sitting-place in it for her child. Baiga women have been seen at work in the field transplanting rice with babies comfortably seated in their cloth, one sometimes supported on either hip with their arms and legs out, while the mother was stooping low, hour after hour, handling the rice plants. A girl is tattooed on the forehead at the age of five, and over her whole body before she is married, both for the sake of ornament and because the practice is considered beneficial to the health. The Baigas are usually without blankets or warm clothing, and in the cold season they sleep round a wood fire kept burning or smouldering all night, stray sparks from which may alight on their tough skins without being felt. Mr. Lampard relates that on one occasion a number of Baiga men were supplied by the Mission under his charge with large new cloths to cover their bodies with and make them presentable on appearance in church. On the second Sunday, however, they came with their cloths burnt full of small holes; and they explained that the damage had been done at night while they were sleeping round the fire.

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

In Baihar of Balaghat buying and selling are conducted on perhaps the most minute scale known, and if a Baiga has one or two pice [97] to lay out he will spend no inconsiderable time over it. Grain is sold in small measures holding about four ounces called baraiyas, but each of these has a layer of mud at the bottom of varying degrees of thickness, so as to reduce its capacity. Before a purchase can be made it must be settled by whose baraiya the grain is to be measured, and the seller and purchaser each refuse the other's as being unfair to himself, until at length after discussion some neutral person's baraiya is selected as a compromise. Their food consists largely of forest fruits and roots with a scanty allowance of rice or the light millets, and they can go without nourishment for periods which appear extraordinary to civilised man. They eat the flesh of almost all animals, though the more civilised abjure beef and monkeys. They will take food from a Gond but not from a Brahman. The Baiga dearly loves the common country liquor made from the mahua flower, and this is consumed as largely as funds will permit of at weddings, funerals and other social gatherings, and also if obtainable at other times. They have a tribal panchayat or committee which imposes penalties for social offences, one punishment being the abstention from meat for a fixed period. A girl going wrong with a man of the caste is punished by a fine, but cases of unchastity among unmarried Baiga girls are rare. Among their pastimes dancing is one of the chief, and in their favourite dance, known as karma, the men and women form long lines opposite to each other with the musicians between them. One of the instruments, a drum called mandar, gives out a deep bass note which can be heard for miles. The two lines advance and retire, everybody singing at the same time, and when the dancers get fully into the time and swing, the pace increases, the drums beat furiously, the voices of the singers rise higher and higher, and by the light of the bonfires which are kept burning the whole scene is wild in the extreme.

9. Occupation.

The Baigas formerly practised only shifting cultivation, burning down patches of jungle and sowing seed on the ground fertilised by the ashes after the breaking of the rains. Now that this method has been prohibited in Government forest, attempts have been made to train them to regular cultivation, but with indifferent success in Balaghat. An idea of the difficulties to be encountered may be obtained from the fact that in some villages the Baiga cultivators, if left unwatched, would dig up the grain which they had themselves sown as seed in their fields and eat it; while the plough-cattle which were given to them invariably developed diseases in spite of all precautions, as a result of which they found their way sooner or later to the Baiga's cooking-pot. But they are gradually adopting settled habits, and in Mandla, where a considerable block of forest was allotted to them in which they might continue their destructive practice of shifting sowings, it is reported that the majority have now become regular cultivators. One explanation of their refusal to till the ground is that they consider it a sin to lacerate the breast of their mother earth with a ploughshare. They also say that God made the jungle to produce everything necessary for the sustenance of men and made the Baigas kings of the forest, giving them wisdom to discover the things provided for them. To Gonds and others who had not this knowledge, the inferior occupation of tilling the land was left. The men never become farmservants, but during the cultivating season they work for hire at uprooting the rice seedlings for transplantation; they do no other agricultural labour for others. Women do the actual transplantation of rice and work as harvesters. The men make bamboo mats and baskets, which they sell in the village weekly markets. They also collect and sell honey and other forest products, and are most expert at all work that can be done with an axe, making excellent woodcutters. But they show no aptitude in acquiring the use of any other implement, and dislike steady continuous labour, preferring to do a few days' work and then rest in their homes for a like period before beginning again. Their skill and dexterity in the use of the axe in hunting is extraordinary. Small deer, hares and peacocks are often knocked over by throwing it at them, and panthers and other large animals are occasionally killed with a single blow. If one of two Baigas is carried off by a tiger, the survivor will almost always make a determined and often successful attempt to rescue him with nothing more formidable than an axe or a stick. They are expert trackers, and are also clever at setting traps and snares, while, like Korkus, they catch fish by damming streams in the hot weather and throwing into the pool thus formed some leaf or root which stupefies them. Even in a famine year, Mr. Low says, a Baiga can collect a large basketful of roots in a single day; and if the bamboo seeds he is amply provided for. Nowadays Baiga cultivators may occasionally be met with who have taken to regular cultivation and become quite prosperous, owning a number of cattle.

10. Language.

As already stated, the Baigas have completely forgotten their own language, and in the Satpura hills they speak a broken form of Hindi, though they have a certain number of words and expressions peculiar to the caste.


List of Paragraphs

1. Definition of name and statistics. 2. The four Sampradayas or main orders. 3. The Ramanujis. 4. The Ramanandis. 5. The Nimanandis. 6. The Madhavacharyas. 7. The Vallabhacharyas. 8. Minor sects. 9. The seven Akharas. 10. The Dwaras. 11. Initiation, appearance and customs. 12. Recruitment of the order and its character. 13. Social position and customs. 14. Bairagi monasteries. 15. Married Bairagis.

1. Definition of name and statistics.

Bairagi, [98] Sadhu.—The general term for members of the Vishnuite religious orders, who formerly as a rule lived by mendicancy. The Bairagis have now, however, become a caste. In 1911 they numbered 38,000 persons in the Provinces, being distributed over all Districts and States. The name Bairagi is supposed to come from the Sanskrit Vairagya and to signify one who is free from human passions. Bairaga is also the term for the crutched stick which such mendicants frequently carry about with them and lean upon, either sitting or standing, and which in case of need would serve them as a weapon. Platts considers [99] that the name of the order comes from the Sanskrit abstract term, and the crutch therefore apparently obtained its name from being used by members of the order. Properly, a religious mendicant of any Vishnuite sect should be called a Bairagi. But the term is not generally applied to the more distinctive sects as the Kabirpanthi, Swami-Narayan, Satnami and others, some of which are almost separated from Hinduism, nor to the Sikh religious orders, nor the Chaitanya sect of Bengal. A proper Bairagi is one whose principal deity is either Vishnu or either of his great incarnations, Rama and Krishna.

2. The four Sampradayas or main orders.

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

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

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

(c) The Vishnu-Swami or Vallabhacharya sect, worshippers of Krishna and Radha.

(d) The Madhavacharya sect of southern India.

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

3. The Ramanujis.

Ramanuj was the first great Vishnuite prophet, and lived in southern India in the eleventh or twelfth century on an island in the Kaveri river near Trichinopoly. He preached the worship of a supreme spirit, Vishnu and his consort Lakshmi, and taught that men also had souls or spirits, and that matter was lifeless. He was a strong opponent of the cult of Siva, then predominant in southern India, and of phallic worship. He, however, admitted only the higher castes into his order, and cannot therefore be considered as the founder of the liberalising principle of Vishnuism. The superiors of the Ramanuja sect are called Acharya, and rank highest among the priests of the Vishnuite orders. The most striking feature in the practice of the Ramanujis is the separate preparation and scrupulous privacy of their meals. They must not eat in cotton garments, but must bathe, and then put on wool or silk. The teachers allow their select pupils to assist them, but in general all the Ramanujis cook for themselves, and should the meal during this process, or while they are eating, attract even the look of a stranger, the operation is instantly stopped and the viands buried in the ground. The Ramanujis address each other with the salutation Dasoham, or 'I am your slave,' accompanied with the Pranam or slight inclination of the head and the application of joined hands to the forehead. To the Acharyas or superiors the other members of the sect perform the Ashtanga or prostration of the body with eight parts touching the ground. The tilak or sect-mark of the Ramanujis consists of two perpendicular white lines from the roots of the hair to the top of the eyebrows, with a connecting white line at the base, and a third central line either of red or yellow. The Ramanujis do not recognise the worship of Radha, the consort of Krishna. The mendicant orders of the Satanis and Dasaris of southern India are branches of this sect.

4. The Ramanandis

Ramanand, the great prophet of Vishnuism in northern India, and the real founder of the liberal doctrines of the cult, lived at Benares at the end of the fourteenth century, and is supposed to have been a follower of Ramanuj. He introduced, however, a great extension of his predecessor's gospel in making his sect, nominally at least, open to all castes. He thus initiated the struggle against the social tyranny and exclusiveness of the caste system, which was carried to greater lengths by his disciples and successors, Kabir, Nanak, Dadu, Rai Das and others. These afterwards proclaimed the worship of one unseen god who could not be represented by idols, and the religious equality of all men, their tenets no doubt being considerably influenced by their observance of Islam, which had now become a principal religion of India. Ramanand himself did not go so far, and remained a good Hindu, inculcating the special worship of Rama and his consort Sita. The Ramaaandis consider the Ramayana as their most sacred book, and make pilgrimages to Ajodhia and Ramnath. [100] Their sect-mark consists of two white lines down the forehead with a red one between, but they are continued on to the nose, ending in a loop, instead of terminating at the line of the eyebrows, like that of the Ramanujis. The Ramanandis say that the mark on the nose represents the Singasun or lion's throne, while the two white lines up the forehead are Rama and Lakhshman, and the centre red one is Sita. Some of their devotees wear ochre-coloured clothes like the Sivite mendicants.

5. The Nimanandis.

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

The doctrines of the sect, Mr. Growse states, [101] are of a very enlightened character. Thus their tenet of salvation by faith is thought by many scholars to have been directly derived from the Gospels; while another article in their creed is the continuance of conscious individual existence in a future world, when the highest reward of the good will not be extinction, but the enjoyment of the visible presence of the divinity whom they have served while on earth. The Nimanandis worship Krishna, and were the first sect, Dr. Bhattacharya states, [102] to associate with him as a divine consort Radha, the chief partner of his illicit loves.

Their headquarters are at Muttra, and their chief festival is the Janam-Ashtami [103] or Krishna's birthday. Their sect-mark consists of two white lines down the forehead with a black patch in the centre, which is called Shiambindini. Shiam means black, and is a name of Krishna. They also sometimes have a circular line across the nose, which represents the moon.

6. The Madhavacharyas.

The third great order is that of the Madhavas, named after a saint called Madhavacharya in southern India. He attempted to reconcile the warring Sivites and Vishnuites by combining the worship of Krishna with that of Siva and Parvati. The doctrine of the sect is that the human soul is different from the divine soul, and its members are therefore called dualists. They admit a distinction between the divine soul and the universe, and between the human soul and the material world. They deny also the possibility of Nirvana or the absorption and extinction of the human soul in the divine essence. They destroy their thread at initiation, and also wear red clothes like the Sivite devotees, and like them also they carry a staff and water-pot. The tilak of the Madhavacharyas is said to consist of two white lines down the forehead and continued on to the nose where they meet, with a black vertical line between them.

7. The Vallabhacharyas.

The fourth main order is the Vishnu-Swami, which is much better known as the Vallabhacharya sect, called after its founder Vallabha, who was born in A.D. 1479. The god Krishna appeared to him and ordered him to marry and set up a shrine to the god at Gokul near Mathura (Muttra). The sect worship Krishna in his character of Bala Gopala or the cowherd boy. Their temples are numerous all over India, and especially at Mathura and Brindaban, where Krishna was brought up as a cowherd. The temples at Benares, Jagannath and Dwarka are rich and important, but the most celebrated shrine is at Sri Nathadwara in Mewar. The image is said to have transported itself thither from Mathura, when Aurangzeb ordered its temple at Mathura to be destroyed. Krishna is here represented as a little boy in the act of supporting the mountain Govardhan on his finger to shelter the people from the storms of rain sent by Indra. The image is splendidly dressed and richly decorated with ornaments to the value of several thousand pounds. The images of Krishna in the temples are commonly known as Thakurji, and are either of stone or brass. At all Vallabhacharya temples there are eight daily services: the Mangala or morning levee, a little after sunrise, when the god is taken from his couch and bathed; the Sringara, when he is attired in his jewels and seated on his throne; the Gwala, when he is supposed to be starting to graze his cattle in the woods of Braj; the Raj Bhog or midday meal, which, after presentation, is consumed by the priests and votaries who have assisted at the ceremonies; the Uttapan, about three o'clock, when the god awakes from his siesta; the Bhog or evening collation; the Sandhiya or disrobing at sunset; and the Sayan or retiring to rest. The ritual is performed by the priests and the lay worshipper is only a spectator, who shows his reverence by the same forms as he would to a human superior. [104]

The priests of the sect are called Gokalastha Gosain or Maharaja. They are considered to be incarnations of the god, and divine honours are paid to them. They always marry, and avow that union with the god is best obtained by indulgence in all bodily enjoyments. This doctrine has led to great licentiousness in some groups of the sect, especially on the part of the priests or Maharajas. Women were taught to believe that the service of and contact with the priest were the most real form of worshipping the god, and that intercourse with him was equivalent to being united with the god. Dr. Bhattacharya quotes [105] the following tariff for the privilege of obtaining different degrees of contact with the body of the Maharaja or priest:

For homage by sight Rs. 5. For homage by touch Rs. 20. For the honour of washing the Maharaja's foot Rs. 35. For swinging him Rs. 40. For rubbing sweet unguents on his body Rs. 42. For being allowed to sit with him on the same couch Rs. 60. For the privilege of dancing with him Rs. 100 to 200. For drinking the water in which he has bathed Rs. 17. For being closeted with him in the same room Rs. 50 to 500.

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

8. Minor sects.

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

9. The seven Akharas.

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

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

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

The Munjia Akhara have a belt made of munj grass round the waist, and a little apron also of grass, which is hung from it, and passed through the legs. Formerly they wore no other clothes, but now they have a cloth. They also do penance between the fires.

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

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

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

The Lasgari are soldiers, as the name denotes. [106] They wear three straight lines of sandalwood up the forehead. It is said that on one occasion the Bairagis were suddenly attacked by the Gosains when they had only made the white lines of the sect-mark, and they fought as they were. In consequence of this, they have ever since worn three white lines and no red one.

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

10. The Dwaras.

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

11. Initiation, appearance and customs.

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

12. Recruitment of the order and its character.

A man belonging to any caste except the impure ones can be initiated as a Bairagi, and the order is to a large extent recruited from the lower castes. Theoretically all members of the order should eat together; but the Brahmans and other high castes belonging to it now eat only among themselves, except on the occasion of a Ghosti or special religious assembly, when all eat in common. As a matter of fact the order is a very mixed assortment of people. Many persons who lost their caste in the famine of 1897 from eating in Government poor-houses, joined the order and obtained a respectable position. Debtors who have become hopelessly involved sometimes find in it a means of escape from their creditors. Women of bad character, who have been expelled from their caste, are also frequently enrolled as female members, and in monasteries live openly with the men. The caste is also responsible for a good deal of crime. Not only is the disguise a very convenient one for thieves and robbers to assume on their travels, but many regular members of the order are criminally disposed. Nevertheless large numbers of Bairagis are men who have given up their caste and families from a genuine impulse of self-sacrifice, and the desire to lead a religious life.

13. Social position and customs.

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

If a mendicant Bairagi keeps a woman it is stated that he is expelled from the community, but this rule does not seem to be enforced in practice. If he is detected in a casual act of sexual intercourse a fine should be imposed, such as feeding two or three hundred Bairagis. The property of an unmarried Bairagi descends to a selected chela or disciple. The bodies of the dead are usually burnt, but those of saints specially famous for their austerities or piety are buried, and salt is put round the body to preserve it. Such men are known as Bhakta.

14. Bairagi monasteries.

The Bairagis [107] have numerous maths or monasteries, scattered over the country and usually attached to temples. The Math comprises a set of huts or chambers for the Mahant or superior and his permanent pupils; a temple and often the Samadhi or tomb of the founder, or of some eminent Mahant; and a Dharmsala or charitable hostel for the accommodation of wandering members of the order, and of other travellers who are constantly visiting the temple. Ingress and egress are free to all, and, indeed, a restraint on personal liberty seems never to have entered into the conception of any Hindu religious legislator. There are, as a rule, a small number of resident chelas or disciples who are scholars and attendants on the superiors, and also out-members who travel over the country and return to the monastery as a headquarters. The monastery has commonly some small endowment in land, and the resident chelas go out and beg for alms for their common support. If the Mahant is married the headship may descend in his family; but when he is unmarried his successor is one of his disciples, who is commonly chosen by election at a meeting of the Mahants of neighbouring monasteries. Formerly the Hindu governor of the district would preside at such an election, but it is now, of course, left entirely to the Bairagis themselves.

15. Married Bairagis.

Large numbers of Bairagis now marry and have children, and have formed an ordinary caste. The married Bairagis are held to be inferior to the celibate mendicants, and will take food from them, but the mendicants will not permit the married Bairagis to eat with them in the chauka or place purified for the taking of food. The customs of the married Bairagis resemble those of ordinary Hindu castes such as the Kurmis. They permit divorce and the remarriage of widows, and burn the dead. Those who have taken to cultivation do not, as a rule, plough with their own hands. Many Bairagis have acquired property and become landholders, and others have extensive moneylending transactions. Two such men who had acquired possession of extensive tracts of zamindari land in Chhattisgarh, in satisfaction of loans made to the Gond zamindars, and had been given the zamindari status by the Marathas, were subsequently made Feudatory Chiefs of the Nandgaon and Chhuikhadan States. These chiefs now marry and the States descend in their families by primogeniture in the ordinary manner. As a rule, the Bairagi landowners and moneylenders are not found to be particularly good specimens of their class.


1. General notice.

Balahi. [108]—A low functional caste of weavers and village watchmen found in the Nimar and Hoshangabad Districts and in Central India. They numbered 52,000 persons in the Central Provinces in 1911, being practically confined to the two Districts already mentioned. The name is a corruption of the Hindi bulahi, one who calls, or a messenger. The Balahis seem to be an occupational group, probably an offshoot of the large Kori caste of weavers, one of whose subdivisions is shown as Balahi in the United Provinces. In the Central Provinces they have received accretions from the spinner caste of Katias, themselves probably a branch of the Koris, and from the Mahars, the great menial caste of Bombay. In Hoshangabad they are known alternatively as Mahar, while in Burhanpur they are called Bunkar or weaver by outsiders. The following story which they tell about themselves also indicates their mixed origin. They say that their ancestors came to Nimar as part of the army of Raja Man of Jodhpur, who invaded the country when it was under Muhammadan rule. He was defeated, and his soldiers were captured and ordered to be killed. [109] One of the Balahis among them won the favour of the Muhammadan general and asked for his own freedom and that of the other Balahis from among the prisoners. The Musalman replied that he would be unable to determine which of the prisoners were really Balahis. On this the Balahi, whose name was Ganga Kochla, replied that he had an effective test. He therefore killed a cow, cooked its flesh and invited the prisoners to partake of it. So many of them as consented to eat were considered to be Balahis and liberated; but many members of other castes thus obtained their freedom, and they and their descendants are now included in the community. The subcastes or endogamous groups distinctly indicate the functional character of the caste, the names given being Nimari, Gannore, Katia, Kori and Mahar. Of these Katia, Kori and Mahar are the names of distinct castes, Nimari is a local subdivision indicating those who speak the peculiar dialect of this tract, and the Gannore are no doubt named after the Rajput clan of that name, of whom their ancestors were not improbably the illegitimate offspring. The Nimari Balahis are said to rank lower than the rest, as they will eat the flesh of dead cattle which the others refuse to do. They may not take water from the village well, and unless a separate one can be assigned to them, must pay others to draw water for them. Partly no doubt in the hope of escaping from this degraded position, many of the Nimari group became Christians in the famine of 1897. They are considered to be the oldest residents of Nimar. At marriages the Balahi receives as his perquisite the leaf-plates used for feasts with the leavings of food upon them; and at funerals he takes the cloth which covers the corpse on its way to the burning-ghat. In Nimar the Korkus and Balahis each have a separate burying-ground which is known as Murghata. [110] The Katias weave the finer kinds of cloth and rank a little higher than the others. In Burhanpur, as already stated, the caste are known as Bunkar, and they are probably identical with the Bunkars of Khandesh; Bunkar is simply an occupational term meaning a weaver.

2. Marriage.

The caste have the usual system of exogamous groups, some of which are named after villages, while the designations of others are apparently nicknames given to the founder of the clan, as Bagmar, a tiger-killer, Bhagoria, a runaway, and so on. They employ a Brahman to calculate the horoscopes of a bridal couple and fix the date of their wedding, but if he says the marriage is inauspicious, they merely obtain the permission of the caste panchayat and celebrate it on a Saturday or Sunday. Apparently, however, they do not consult real Brahmans, but merely priests of their own caste whom they call Balahi Brahmans. These Brahmans are, nevertheless, said to recite the Satya Narayan Katha. They also have gurus or spiritual preceptors, being members of the caste who have joined the mendicant orders; and Bhats or genealogists of their own caste who beg at their weddings. They have the practice of serving for a wife, known as Gharjamai or Lamjhana. When the pauper suitor is finally married at the expense of his wife's father, a marriage-shed is erected for him at the house of some neighbour, but his own family are not invited to the wedding.

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

3. Other customs.

Like the Mahars, the Balahis must not kill a dog or a cat under pain of expulsion; but it is peculiar that in their case the bear is held equally sacred, this being probably a residue of some totemistic observance. The most binding form of oath which they can use is by any one of these animals. The Balahis will admit any Hindu into the community except a man of the very lowest castes, and also Gonds and Korkus. The head and face of the neophyte are shaved clean, and he is made to lie on the ground under a string-cot; a number of the Balahis sit on this and wash themselves, letting the water drip from their bodies on to the man below until he is well drenched; he then gives a feast to the caste-fellows, and is considered to have become a Balahi. It is reported also that they will receive back into the community Balahi women who have lived with men of other castes and even with Jains and Muhammadans. They will take food from members of these religions and of any Hindu caste, except the most impure.


1. Origin and traditions.

Balija, Balji, Gurusthulu, Naidu.—A large trading caste of the Madras Presidency, where they number a million persons. In the Central Provinces 1200 were enumerated in 1911, excluding 1500 Perikis, who though really a subcaste and not a very exalted one of Balijas, [111] claim to be a separate caste. They are mainly returned from places where Madras troops have been stationed, as Nagpur, Jubbulpore and Raipur. The caste are frequently known as Naidu, a corruption of the Telugu word Nayakdu, a prince or leader. Their ancestors are supposed to have been Nayaks or kings of Madura, Tanjore and Vijayanagar. The traditional occupation of the caste appears to have been to make bangles and pearl and coral ornaments, and they have still a subcaste called Gazulu, or a bangle-seller. In Madras they are said to be an offshoot of the great cultivating castes of Kamma and Kapu and to be a mixed community recruited from these and other Telugu castes. Another proof of their mixed descent may be inferred from the fact that they will admit persons of other castes or the descendants of mixed marriages into the community without much scruple in Madras. [112] The name of Balija seems also to have been applied to a mixed caste started by Basava, the founder of the Lingayat sect of Sivites, these persons being known in Madras as Linga Balijas.

2. Marriage.

The Balijas have two main divisions, Desa or Kota, and Peta, the Desas or Kotas being those who claim descent from the old Balija kings, while the Petas are the trading Balijas, and are further subdivided into groups like the Gazulu or bangle-sellers and the Periki or salt-sellers. The subdivisions are not strictly endogamous. Every family has a surname, and exogamous groups or gotras also exist, but these have generally been forgotten, and marriages are regulated by the surnames, the only prohibition being that persons of the same surname may not intermarry. Instances of such names are: Singiri, Gudari, Jadal, Sangnad and Dasiri. In fact the rules of exogamy are so loose that an instance is known of an uncle having married his niece. Marriage is usually infant, and the ceremony lasts for five days. On the first day the bride and bridegroom are seated on a yoke in the pandal or marriage pavilion, where the relatives and guests assemble. The bridegroom puts a pair of silver rings on the bride's toes and ties the mangal-sutram or flat circular piece of gold round her neck. On the next three days the bridegroom and bride are made to sit on a plank or cot face to face with each other and to throw flowers and play together for two hours in the mornings and evenings. On the fourth day, at dead of night, they are seated on a cot and the jewels and gifts for the bride are presented, and she is then formally handed over to the bridegroom's family. In Madras Mr. Thurston [113] states that on the last day of the marriage ceremony a mock ploughing and sowing rite is held, and during this, the sister of the bridegroom puts a cloth over the basket containing earth, wherein seeds are to be sown by the bridegroom, and will not allow him to go on with the ceremony till she has extracted a promise that his first-born daughter shall marry her son. No bride-price is paid, and the remarriage of widows is forbidden.

3. Occupation and social status.

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

In Madras a curious connection exists between the Kapus and Balijas and the impure Mala caste. It is said that once upon a time the Kapus and Balijas were flying from the Muhammadans and came to the northern Pallar river in high flood. They besought the river to go down and let them across, but it demanded the sacrifice of a first-born child. While the Kapus and Balijas were hesitating, the Malas who had followed them boldly sacrificed one of their children. Immediately the river divided before them and they all crossed in safety. Ever since then the Kapus and Balijas have respected the Malas, and the Balijas formerly even deposited the images of the goddess Gauri, of Ganesha, and of Siva's bull with the Malas, as the hereditary custodians of their gods. [114]


List of Paragraphs

1. General notice. 2. The Banias a true caste: use of the name. 3. Their distinctive occupation. 4. Their distinctive status. 5. The endogamous divisions of the Banias. 6. The Banias derived from the Rajputs. 7. Banias employed as ministers in Rajput courts. 8. Subcastes. 9. Hindu and Jain subcastes: divisions among subcastes. 10. Exogamy and rules regulating marriage. 11. Marriage customs. 12. Polygamy and widow-marrriage. 13. Disposal of the dead and mourning. 14. Religion: the god Ganpati or Ganesh. 15. Diwali festival. 16. Holi festival. 17. Social customs: rules about food. 18. Character of the Bania. 19. Dislike of the cultivators towards him. 20. His virtues. 21. The moneylender changed for the worse. 22. The enforcement of contracts. 23. Cash coinage and the rate of interest. 24. Proprietary and transferable rights in land. 25. The Bania as a landlord. 26. Commercial honesty.

List of Subordinate Articles on Subcastes

1. Agarwala, Agarwal. 2. Agrahari. 3. Ajudhiabasi, Audhia. 4. Asathi. 5. Charnagri, Channagri, Samaiya. 6. Dhusar, Bhargava Dhusar. 7. Dosar, Dusra. 8. Gahoi. 9. Golapurab, Golahre. 10. Kasarwani. 11. Kasaundhan. 12. Khandelwal. 13. Lad. 14. Lingayat. 15. Maheshri. 16. Nema. 17. Oswal. 18. Parwar. 19. Srimali. 20. Umre.

1. General notice.

Bania, Bani, Vani, Mahajan, Seth, Sahukar.—The occupational caste of bankers, moneylenders and dealers in grain, ghi (butter), groceries and spices. The name Bania is derived from the Sanskrit vanij, a merchant. In western India the Banias are always called Vania or Vani. Mahajan literally means a great man, and being applied to successful Banias as an honorific title has now come to signify a banker or moneylender; Seth signifies a great merchant or capitalist, and is applied to Banias as an honorific prefix. The words Sahu, Sao and Sahukar mean upright or honest, and have also, curiously enough, come to signify a moneylender. The total number of Banias in the Central Provinces in 1911 was about 200,000, or rather over one per cent of the population. Of the above total two-thirds were Hindus and one-third Jains. The caste is fairly distributed over the whole Province, being most numerous in Districts with large towns and a considerable volume of trade.

2. The Banias a true caste: use of the name.

There has been much difference of opinion as to whether the name Bania should be taken to signify a caste, or whether it is merely an occupational term applied to a number of distinct castes. I venture to think it is necessary and scientifically correct to take it as a caste. In Bengal the word Banian, a corruption of Bania, has probably come to be a general term meaning simply a banker, or person dealing in money. But this does not seem to be the case elsewhere. As a rule the name Bania is used only as a caste name for groups who are considered both by themselves and outsiders to belong to the Bania caste. It may occasionally be applied to members of other castes, as in the case of certain Teli-Banias who have abandoned oil-pressing for shop-keeping, but such instances are very rare; and these Telis would probably now assert that they belonged to the Bania caste. That the Banias are recognised as a distinct caste by the people is shown by the number of uncomplimentary proverbs and sayings about them, which is far larger than in the case of any other caste. [115] In all these the name Bania is used and not that of any subdivision, and this indicates that none of the subdivisions are looked upon as distinctive social groups or castes. Moreover, so far as I am aware, the name Bania is applied regularly to all the groups usually classified under the caste, and there is no group which objects to the name or whose members refuse to describe themselves by it. This is by no means always the case with other important castes. The Rathor Telis of Mandla entirely decline to answer to the name of Teli, though they are classified under that caste. In the case of the important Ahir or grazier caste, those who sell milk instead of grazing cattle are called Gaoli, but remain members of the Ahir caste. An Ahir in Chhattisgarh would be called Rawat and in the Maratha Districts Gowari, but might still be an Ahir by caste. The Barai caste of betel-vine growers and sellers is in some localities called Tamboli and not Barai; elsewhere it is known only as Pansari, though the name Pansari is correctly an occupational term, and, where it is not applied to the Barais, means a grocer or druggist by profession and not a caste. Bania, on the other hand, over the greater part of India is applied only to persons who acknowledge themselves and are generally recognised by Hindu society to be members of the Bania caste, and there is no other name which is generally applied to any considerable section of such persons. Certain of the more important subcastes of Bania, as the Agarwala, Oswal and Parwar, are, it is true, frequently known by the subcaste name. But the caste name is as often as not, or even more often, affixed to it. Agarwala, or Agarwala Bania, are names equally applied to designate this subcaste, and similarly with the Oswals and Parwars; and even so the subcaste name is only applied for greater accuracy and for compliment, since these are the best subcastes; the Bania's quarter of a town will be called Bania Mahalla, and its residents spoken of as Banias, even though they may be nearly all Agarwals or Oswals. Several Rajput clans are similarly spoken of by their clan names, as Rathor, Panwar, and so on, without the addition of the caste name Rajput. Brahman subcastes are usually mentioned by their subcaste name for greater accuracy, though in their case too it is usual to add the caste name. And there are subdivisions of other castes, such as the Jaiswar Chamars and the Somvansi Mehras, who invariably speak of themselves only by their subcaste name, and discard the caste name altogether, being ashamed of it, but are nevertheless held to belong to their parent castes. Thus in the matter of common usage Bania conforms in all respects to the requirements of a proper caste name.

3. Their distinctive occupation.

The Banias have also a distinct and well-defined traditional occupation, [116] which is followed by many or most members of practically every subcaste so far as has been observed. This occupation has caused the caste as a body to be credited with special mental and moral characteristics in popular estimation, to a greater extent perhaps than any other caste. None of the subcastes are ashamed of their traditional occupation or try to abandon it. It is true that a few subcastes such as the Kasaundhans and Kasarwanis, sellers of metal vessels, apparently had originally a somewhat different profession, though resembling the traditional one; but they too, if they once only sold vessels, now engage largely in the traditional Bania's calling, and deal generally in grain and money. The Banias, no doubt because it is both profitable and respectable, adhere more generally to their traditional occupation than almost any great caste, except the cultivators. Mr. Marten's analysis [117] of the occupations of different castes shows that sixty per cent of the Banias are still engaged in trade; while only nineteen per cent of Brahmans follow a religious calling; twenty-nine per cent of Ahirs are graziers, cattle-dealers or milkmen; only nine per cent of Telis are engaged in all branches of industry, including their traditional occupation of oil-pressing; and similarly only twelve per cent of Chamars work at industrial occupations, including that of curing hides. In respect of occupation therefore the Banias strictly fulfil the definition of a caste.

4. Their distinctive status.

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

5. The endogamous divisions of the Banias.

Thus the Banias apparently fulfil the definition of a caste, as consisting of one or more endogamous groups or subcastes with a distinct name applied to them all and to them only, a distinctive occupation and a distinctive social status; and there seems no reason for not considering them a caste. If on the other hand we examine the subcastes of Bania we find that the majority of them have names derived from places, [118] not indicating any separate origin, occupation or status, but only residence in separate tracts. Such divisions are properly termed subcastes, being endogamous only, and in no other way distinctive. No subcaste can be markedly distinguished from the others in respect of occupation or social status, and none apparently can therefore be classified as a separate caste. There are no doubt substantial differences in status between the highest subcastes of Bania, the Agarwals, Oswals and Parwars, and the lower ones, the Kasaundhan, Kasarwani, Dosar and others. But this difference is not so great as that which separates different groups included in such important castes as Rajput and Bhat. It is true again that subcastes like the Agarwals and Oswals are individually important, but not more so than the Maratha, Khedawal, Kanaujia and Maithil Brahmans, or the Sesodia, Rathor, Panwar and Jadon Rajputs. The higher subcastes of Bania themselves recognise a common relationship by taking food cooked without water from each other, which is a very rare custom among subcastes. Some of them are even said to have intermarried. If on the other hand it is argued, not that two or three or more of the important subdivisions should be erected into independent castes, but that Bania is not a caste at all, and that every subcaste should be treated as a separate caste, then such purely local groups as Kanaujia, Jaiswar, Gujarati, Jaunpuri and others, which are found in forty or fifty other castes, would have to become separate castes; and if in this one case why not in all the other castes where they occur? This would result in the impossible position of having forty or fifty castes of the same name, which recognise no connection of any kind with each other, and make any arrangement or classification of castes altogether impracticable. And in 1911 out of 200,000 Banias in the Central Provinces, 43,000 were returned with no subcaste at all, and it would therefore be impossible to classify these under any other name.

6. The Banias derived from the Rajputs.

The Banias have been commonly supposed to represent the Vaishyas or third of the four classical castes, both by Hindu society generally and by leading authorities on the subject. It is perhaps this view of their origin which is partly responsible for the tendency to consider them as several castes and not one. But its accuracy is doubtful. The important Bania groups appear to be of Rajput stock. They nearly all come from Rajputana, Bundelkhand or Gujarat, that is from the homes of the principal Rajut clans. Several of them have legends of Rajput descent. The Agarwalas say that their first ancestor was a Kshatriya king, who married a Naga or snake princess; the Naga race is supposed to have signified the Scythian immigrants, who were snake-worshippers and from whom several clans of Rajputs were probably derived. The Agarwalas took their name from the ancient city of Agroha or possibly from Agra. The Oswals say that their ancestor was the Rajput king of Osnagar in Marwar, who with his followers was converted by a Jain mendicant. The Nemas state that their ancestors were fourteen young Rajput princes who escaped the vengeance of Parasurama by abandoning the profession of arms and taking to trade. The Khandelwals take their name from the town of Khandela in Jaipur State of Rajputana. The Kasarwanis say they immigrated from Kara Manikpur in Bundelkhand. The origin of the Umre Banias is not known, but in Gujarat they are also called Bagaria from the Bagar or wild country of the Dongarpur and Pertabgarh States of Rajputana, where numbers of them are still settled; the name Bagaria would appear to indicate that they are supposed to have immigrated thence into Gujarat. The Dhusar Banias ascribe their name to a hill called Dhusi or Dhosi on the border of Alwar State. The Asatis say that their original home was Tikamgarh State in Bundelkhand. The name of the Maheshris is held to be derived from Maheshwar, an ancient town on the Nerbudda, near Indore, which is traditionally supposed to have been the earliest settlement of the Yadava Rajputs. The headquarters of the Gahoi Banias is said to have been at Kharagpur in Bundelkhand, though according to their own legend they are of mixed origin. The home of the Srimalis was the old town of Srimal, now Bhinmal in Marwar. The Palliwal Banias were from the well-known trading town of Pali in Marwar. The Jaiswal are said to take their name from Jaisalmer State, which was their native country. The above are no doubt only a fraction of the Bania subcastes, but they include nearly all the most important and representative ones, from whom the caste takes its status and character. Of the numerous other groups the bulk have probably been brought into existence through the migration and settlement of sections of the caste in different parts of the country, where they have become endogamous and obtained a fresh name. Other subcastes may be composed of bodies of persons who, having taken to trade and prospered, obtained admission to the Bania caste through the efforts of their Brahman priests. But a number of mixed groups of the same character are also found among the Brahmans and Rajputs, and their existence does not invalidate arguments derived from a consideration of the representative subcastes. It may be said that not only the Banias, but many of the low castes have legends showing them to be of Rajput descent of the same character as those quoted above; and since in their case these stories have been adjudged spurious and worthless, no greater importance should be attached to those of the Banias. But it must be remembered that in the case of the Banias the stories are reinforced by the fact that the Bania subcastes certainly come from Rajputana; no doubt exists that they are of high caste, and that they must either be derived from Brahmans or Rajputs, or themselves represent some separate foreign group; but if they are really the descendants of the Vaishyas, the main body of the Aryan immigrants and the third of the four classical castes, it might be expected that their legends would show some trace of this instead of being unitedly in favour of their Rajput origin.

Colonel Tod gives a catalogue of the eighty-four mercantile tribes, whom he states to be chiefly of Rajput descent. [119] In this list the Agarwal, Oswal, Srimal, Khandelwal, Palliwal and Lad subcastes occur; while the Dhakar and Dhusar subcastes may be represented by the names Dhakarwal and Dusora in the lists. The other names given by Tod appear to be mainly small territorial groups of Rajputana. Elsewhere, after speaking of the claims of certain towns in Rajputana to be centres of trade, Colonel Tod remarks: "These pretensions we may the more readily admit, when we recollect that nine-tenths of the bankers and commercial men of India are natives of Marudesh, [120] and these chiefly of the Jain faith. The Oswals, so termed from the town of Osi, near the Luni, estimate one hundred thousand families whose occupation is commerce. All these claim a Rajput descent, a fact entirely unknown to the European inquirer into the peculiarities of Hindu manners." [121]

Similarly, Sir D. Ibbetson states that the Maheshri Banias claim Rajput origin and still have subdivisions bearing Rajput names. [122] Elliot also says that almost all the mercantile tribes of Hindustan are of Rajput descent. [123]

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

7. Banias employed as ministers in Rajput courts.

Being literate, the Banias were not infrequently employed as ministers and treasurers in Rajput states. Forbes says, in an account of an Indian court: "Beside the king stand the warriors of Rajput race or, equally gallant in the field and wiser far in council, the Wania (Bania) Muntreshwars, already in profession puritans of peace, and not yet drained enough of their fiery Kshatriya blood.... It is remarkable that so many of the officers possessing high rank and holding independent commands are represented to have been Wanias." [124] Colonel Tod writes that Nunkurn, the Kachhwaha chief of the Shekhawat federation, had a minister named Devi Das of the Bania or mercantile caste, and, like thousands of that caste, energetic, shrewd and intelligent. [125] Similarly, Muhaj, the Jadon Bhatti chief of Jaisalmer, by an unhappy choice of a Bania minister, completed the demoralisation of the Bhatti state. This minister was named Sarup Singh, a Bania of the Jain faith and Mehta family, whose descendants were destined to be the exterminators of the laws and fortunes of the sons of Jaisal. [126] Other instances of the employment of Bania ministers are to be found in Rajput history. Finally, it may be noted that the Banias are by no means the only instance of a mercantile class formed from the Rajputs. The two important trading castes of Khatri and Bhatia are almost certainly of Rajput origin, as is shown in the articles on those castes.

8. Subcastes.

The Banias are divided into a large number of endogamous groups or subcastes, of which the most important have been treated in the annexed subordinate articles. The minor subcastes, mainly formed by migration, vary greatly in different provinces. Colonel Tod gave a list of eighty-four in Rajputana, of which eight or ten only can be identified in the Central Provinces, and of thirty mentioned by Bhattacharya as the most common groups in northern India, about a third are unknown in the Central Provinces. The origin of such subcastes has already been explained. The main subcastes may be classified roughly into groups coming from Rajputana, Bundelkhand and the United Provinces. The leading Rajputana groups are the Oswal, Maheshri, Khandelwal, Saitwal, Srimal and Jaiswaal. These groups are commonly known as Marwari Bania or simply Marwari. The Bundelkhand or Central India subcastes are the Gahoi, Golapurab, Asati, Umre and Parwar; [127] while the Agarwal, Dhusar, Agrahari, Ajudhiabasi and others come from the United Provinces. The Lad subcaste is from Gujarat, while the Lingayats originally belonged to the Telugu and Canarese country. Several of the subcastes coming from the same locality will take food cooked without water from each other, and occasionally two subcastes, as the Oswal and Khandelwal, even food cooked with water or katchi. This practice is seldom found in other good castes. It is probably due to the fact that the rules about food are less strictly observed in Rajputana.

9. Hindu and Jain subcastes: divisions among subcastes.

Another classification may be made of the subcastes according as they are of the Hindu or Jain religion; the important Jain subcastes are the Oswal, Parwar, Golapurab, Saitwal and Charnagar, and one or two smaller ones, as the Baghelwal and Samaiya. The other subcastes are principally Hindu, but many have a Jain minority, and similarly the Jain subcastes return a proportion of Hindus. The difference of religion counts for very little, as practically all the non-Jain Banias are strict Vaishnava Hindus, abstain entirely from any kind of flesh meat, and think it a sin to take animal life; while on their side the Jains employ Brahmans for certain purposes, worship some of the local Hindu deities, and observe the principal Hindu festivals. The Jain and Hindu sections of a subcaste have consequently, as a rule, no objection to taking food together, and will sometimes intermarry. Several of the important subcastes are subdivided into Bisa and Dasa, or twenty and ten groups. The Bisa or twenty group is of pure descent, or twenty carat, as it were, while the Dasas are considered to have a certain amount of alloy in their family pedigree. They are the offspring of remarried widows, and perhaps occasionally of still more irregular unions. Intermarriage sometimes takes place between the two groups, and families in the Dasa group, by living a respectable life and marrying well, improve their status, and perhaps ultimately get back into the Bisa group. As the Dasas become more respectable they will not admit to their communion newly remarried widows or couples who have married within the prohibited degrees, or otherwise made a mesalliance, and hence a third inferior group, called the Pacha or five, is brought into existence to make room for these.

10. Exogamy and rules regulating marriage.

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

11. Marriage customs.

There is generally no recognised custom of paying a bride- or bridegroom-price, but one or two instances of its being done are given in the subordinate articles. On the occasion of betrothal, among some subcastes, the boy's father proceeds to the girl's house and presents her with a mala or necklace of gold or silver coins or coral, and a mundri or silver ring for the finger. The contract of betrothal is made at the village temple and the caste-fellows sprinkle turmeric and water over the parties. Before the wedding the ceremony of Benaiki is performed; in this the bridegroom, riding on a horse, and the bride on a decorated chair or litter, go round their villages and say farewell to their friends and relations. Sometimes they have a procession in this way round the marriage-shed. Among the Marwari Banias a toran or string of mango-leaves is stretched above the door of the house on the occasion of a wedding and left there for six months. And a wooden triangle with figures perched on it to represent sparrows is tied over the door. The binding portion of the wedding is the procession seven times round the marriage altar or post. In some Jain subcastes the bridegroom stands beside the post and the bride walks seven times round him, while he throws sugar over her head at each turn. After the wedding the couple are made to draw figures out of flour sprinkled on a brass plate in token of the bridegroom's occupation of keeping accounts. It is customary for the bride's family to give sidha or uncooked food sufficient for a day's consumption to every outsider who accompanies the marriage party, while to each member of the caste provisions for two to five days are given. This is in addition to the evening feasts and involves great expense. Sometimes the wedding lasts for eight days, and feasts are given for four days by the bridegroom's party and four days by the bride's. It is said that in some places before a Bania has a wedding he goes before the caste panchayat and they ask him how many people he is going to invite. If he says five hundred, they prescribe the quantity of the different kinds of provisions which he must supply. Thus they may say forty maunds (3200 lbs.) of sugar and flour, with butter, spices, and other articles in proportion. He says, 'Gentlemen, I am a poor man; make it a little less'; or he says he will give gur or cakes of raw cane sugar instead of refined sugar. Then they say, 'No, your social position is too high for gur; you must have sugar for all purposes.' The more guests the host invites the higher is his social consideration; and it is said that if he does not maintain this his life is not worth living. Sometimes the exact amount of entertainment to be given at a wedding is fixed, and if a man cannot afford it at the time he must give the balance of the feasts at any subsequent period when he has money; and if he fails to do this he is put out of caste. The bride's father is often called on to furnish a certain sum for the travelling expenses of the bridegroom's party, and if he does not send this money they do not come. The distinctive feature of a Bania wedding in the northern Districts is that women accompany the marriage procession, and the Banias are the only high caste in which they do this. Hence a high-caste wedding party in which women are present can be recognised to be a Bania's. In the Maratha Districts women also go, but here this custom obtains among other high castes. The bridegroom's party hire or borrow a house in the bride's village, and here they erect a marriage-shed and go through the preliminary ceremonies of the wedding on the bridegroom's side as if they were at home.

12. Polygamy and widow-marriage.

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

13. Disposal of the dead and mourning.

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

14. Religion: the god Ganpati or Ganesh.

Nearly all the Banias are Jains or Vaishnava Hindus. An account of the Jain religion has been given in a separate article, and some notice of the retention of Hindu practices by the Jains is contained in the subordinate article on Parwar Bania. The Vaishnava Banias no less than the Jains are strongly averse to the destruction of animal life, and will not kill any living thing. Their principal deity is the god Ganesh or Ganpati, the son of Mahadeo and Parvati, who is the god of good-luck, wealth and prosperity. Ganesh is represented in sculpture with the head of an elephant and riding on a rat, though the rat is now covered by the body of the god and is scarcely visible. He has a small body like a child's with a fat belly and round plump arms. Perhaps his body signifies that he is figured as a boy, the son of Parvati or Gauri. In former times grain was the main source of wealth, and from the appearance of Ganesh it can be understood why he is the god of overflowing granaries, and hence of wealth and good fortune. The elephant is a sacred animal among Hindus, and that on which the king rides. To have an elephant was a mark of wealth and distinction among Banias, and the Jains harness the cars of their gods to elephants at their great rath or chariot festival. Gajpati or 'lord of elephants' is a title given to a king; Gajanand or 'elephant-faced' is an epithet of the god Ganesh and a favourite Hindu name. Gajvithi or the track of the elephant is a name of the Milky Way, and indicates that there is believed to be a divine elephant who takes this course through the heavens. The elephant eats so much grain that only a comparatively rich man can afford to keep one; and hence it is easy to understand how the attribute of plenty or of wealth was associated with the divine elephant as his special characteristic. Similarly the rat is connected with overflowing granaries, because when there is much corn in a Hindu house or store-shed there will be many rats; thus a multitude of rats implied a rich household, and so this animal too came to be a symbol of wealth. The Hindus do not now consider the rat sacred, but they have a tenderness for it, especially in the Maratha country. The more bigoted of them objected to rats being poisoned as a means of checking plague, though observation has fully convinced them that rats spread the plague; and in the Bania hospitals, formerly maintained for preserving the lives of animals, a number of rats were usually to be found. The rat, in fact, may now be said to stand to Ganpati in the position of a disreputable poor relation. No attempt is made to deny his existence, but he is kept in the background as far as possible. The god Ganpati is also associated with wealth of grain through his parentage. He is the offspring of Siva or Mahadeo and his wife Devi or Gauri. Mahadeo is in this case probably taken in his beneficent character of the deified bull; Devi in her most important aspect as the great mother-goddess is the earth, but as mother of Ganesh she is probably imagined in her special form of Gauri, the yellow one, that is, the yellow corn. Gauri is closely associated with Ganesh, and every Hindu bridal couple worship Gauri Ganesh together as an important rite of the wedding. Their conjunction in this manner lends colour to the idea that they are held to be mother and son. In Rajputana Gauri is worshipped as the corn goddess at the Gangore festival about the time of the vernal equinox, especially by women. The meaning of Gauri, Colonel Tod states, is yellow, emblematic of the ripened harvest, when the votaries of the goddess adore her effigies, in the shape of a matron painted the colour of ripe corn. Here she is seen as Ana-purna (the corn-goddess), the benefactress of mankind. "The rites commence when the sun enters Aries (the opening of the Hindu year), by a deputation to a spot beyond the city to bring earth for the image of Gauri. A small trench is then excavated in which barley is sown; the ground is irrigated and artificial heat supplied till the grain germinates, when the females join hands and dance round it, invoking the blessings of Gauri on their husbands. The young corn is then taken up, distributed and presented by the females to the men, who wear it in their turbans." [128] Thus if Ganesh is the son of Gauri he is the offspring of the bull and the growing corn; and his genesis from the elephant and the rat show him equally as the god of full granaries, and hence of wealth and good fortune. We can understand therefore how he is the special god of the Banias, who formerly must have dealt almost entirely in grain, as coined money had not come into general use.

15. Diwali festival.

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

16. Holi festival.

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

17. Social customs: rules about food.

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

18. Character of the Bania.

The Bania has a very distinctive caste character. From early boyhood he is trained to the keeping of accounts and to the view that it is his business in life to make money, and that no transaction should be considered successful or creditable which does not show a profit. As an apprentice, he goes through a severe training in mental arithmetic, so as to enable him to make the most intricate calculations in his head. With this object a boy commits to memory a number of very elaborate tables. For whole numbers he learns by heart the units from one to ten multiplied as high as forty times, and the numbers from eleven to twenty multiplied to twenty times. There are also fractional tables, giving the results of multiplying 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, 1 1/4, 1 1/2, 2 1/2, 3 1/2 into units from one to one hundred; interest-tables showing the interest due on any sum from one to one thousand rupees for one month, and for a quarter of a month at twelve per cent; tables of the squares of all numbers from one to one hundred, and a set of technical rules for finding the price of a part from the price of the whole. [129] The self-denial and tenacity which enable the Bania without capital to lay the foundations of a business are also remarkable. On first settling in a new locality, a Marwari Bania takes service with some shopkeeper, and by dint of the strictest economy puts together a little money. Then the new trader establishes himself in some village and begins to make grain advances to the cultivators on high rates of interest, though occasionally on bad security. He opens a shop and retails grain, pulses, condiments, spices, sugar and flour. From grain he gradually passes to selling cloth and lending money, and being keen and exacting, and having to deal with ignorant and illiterate clients, he acquires wealth; this he invests in purchasing villages, and after a time blossoms out into a big Seth or banker. The Bania can also start a retail business without capital. The way in which he does it is to buy a rupee's worth of stock in a town, and take it out early in the morning to a village, where he sits on the steps of the temple until he has sold it. Up till then he neither eats nor washes his face. He comes back in the evening after having eaten two or three pice worth of grain, and buys a fresh stock, which he takes out to another village in the morning. Thus he turns over his capital with a profit two or three times a week according to the saying, "If a Bania gets a rupee he will have an income of eight rupees a month," or as another proverb pithily sums up the immigrant Marwari's career, 'He comes with a lota [130] and goes back with a lakh.' The Bania never writes off debts, even though his debtor may be a pauper, but goes on entering them up year by year in his account-books and taking the debtor's acknowledgment. For he says, 'Purus Parus', or man is like the philosopher's stone, and his fortune may change any day.

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