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The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India - Volume II
by R. V. Russell
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19. Dislike of the cultivators towards him.

The cultivators rarely get fair treatment from the Banias, as the odds are too much against them. They must have money to sow their land, and live while the crops are growing, and the majority who have no capital are at the moneylender's mercy. He is of a different caste, and often of a different country, and has no fellow-feeling towards them, and therefore considers the transaction merely from the business point of view of getting as much profit as possible. The debtors are illiterate, often not even understanding the meaning of figures, or the result of paying compound interest at twenty-five or fifty per cent; they can neither keep accounts themselves nor check their creditor's. Hence they are entirely in his hands, and in the end their villages or land, if saleable, pass to him, and they decline from landlord to tenant, or from tenant to labourer. They have found vent for their feelings in some of the bitterest sayings ever current: 'A man who has a Bania for a friend has no need of an enemy.' 'Borrow from a Bania and you are as good as ruined.' 'The rogue cheats strangers and the Bania cheats his friends.' 'Kick a Bania even if he is dead.' "His heart, we are told, is no bigger than a coriander seed; he goes in like a needle and comes out like a sword; as a neighbour he is as bad as a boil in the armpit. If a Bania is on the other side of a river you should leave your bundle on this side for fear he should steal it. If a Bania is drowning you should not give him your hand; he is sure to have some pecuniary motive for drifting down-stream. A Bania will start an auction in a desert. If a Bania's son tumbles down he is sure to pick up something. He uses light weights and swears that the scales tip up of themselves; he keeps his accounts in a character that no one but God can read; if you borrow from him your debt mounts up like a refuse-heap or gallops like a horse; if he talks to a customer he debits the conversation in his accounts; and when his own credit is shaky he writes up his transactions on the wall so that they can easily be rubbed out." [131]



20. His virtues.

Nevertheless there is a good deal to be said on the other side, and the Bania's faults are probably to a large extent produced by his environment, like other people's. One of the Bania's virtues is that he will lend on security which neither the Government nor the banks would look at, or on none at all. Then he will always wait a long time for his money, especially if the interest is paid. No doubt this is no loss to him, as he keeps his money out at good interest; but it is a great convenience to a client that his debt can be postponed in a bad year, and that he can pay as much as he likes in a good one. The village moneylender is indispensable to its economy when the tenants are like school-boys in that money burns a hole in their pocket; and Sir Denzil Ibbetson states that it is surprising how much reasonableness and honesty there is in his dealings with the people, so long as he can keep his transactions out of a court of justice. [132] Similarly, Sir Reginald Craddock writes: "The village Bania is a much-abused individual, but he is as a rule a quiet, peaceable man, a necessary factor in the village economy. He is generally most forbearing with his clients and customers, and is not the person most responsible for the indebtedness of the ryot. It is the casual moneylender with little or no capital who lives by his wits, or the large firms with shops and agents scattered over the face of the country who work the serious mischief. These latter encourage the people to take loans and discourage repayment until the debt has increased by accumulation of interest to a sum from which the borrower cannot easily free himself." [133]



21. The moneylender changed for the worse.

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



22. The enforcement of contracts.

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



23. Cash coinage and the rate of interest.

Again the free circulation of metal currency and its adoption as a medium for all transactions has hitherto been to the disadvantage of the debtors. Interest on money was probably little in vogue among pastoral peoples, and was looked upon with disfavour, being prohibited by both the Mosaic and Muhammadan codes. The reason was perhaps that in a pastoral community there existed no means of making a profit on a loan by which interest could be paid, and hence the result of usury was that the debtor ultimately became enslaved to his creditor; and the enslavement of freemen on any considerable scale was against the public interest. With the introduction of agriculture a system of loans on interest became a necessary and useful part of the public economy, as a cultivator could borrow grain to sow land and support himself and his family until the crop ripened, out of which the loan, principal and interest, could be repaid. If, as seems likely, this was the first occasion for the introduction of the system of loan-giving on a large scale, it would follow that the rate of interest would be based largely on the return yielded by the earth to the seed. Support is afforded to this conjecture by the fact that in the case of grain loans in the Central Provinces the interest on loans of grain of the crops which yield a comparatively small return, such as wheat, is twenty-five to fifty per cent, while in the case of those which yield a large return, such as juari and kodon, it is one hundred per cent. These high rates of interest were not of much importance so long as the transaction was in grain. The grain was much less valuable at harvest than at seed time, and in addition the lender had the expense of storing and protecting his stock of grain through the year. It is probable that a rate of twenty-five per cent on grain loans does not yield more than a reasonable profit to the lender. But when in recent times cash came to be substituted for grain it would appear that there was no proportionate reduction in the interest. The borrower would lose by having to sell his grain for the payment of his debt at the most unfavourable rate after harvest, and since the transaction was by a regular deed the lender no longer took any share of the risk of a bad harvest, as it is probable that he was formerly accustomed to do. The rates of interest for cash loans afforded a disproportionate profit to the lender, who was put to no substantial expense in keeping money as he had formerly been in the case of grain. It is thus probable that rates for cash loans were for a considerable period unduly severe in proportion to the risk, and involved unmerited loss to the borrower. This is now being remedied by competition, by Government loans given on a large scale in time of scarcity, and by the introduction of co-operative credit. But it has probably contributed to expedite the transfer of land from the cultivating to the moneylending classes.



24. Proprietary and transferable rights in land.

Lastly the grant of proprietary and transferable right to land has afforded a new incentive and reward to the successful moneylender. Prior to this measure it is probable that no considerable transfers of land occurred for ordinary debt. The village headman might be ousted for non-payment of revenue, or simply through the greed of some Government official under native rule, and of course the villages were continually pillaged and plundered by their own and hostile armies such as the Pindaris, while the population was periodically decimated by famine. But apart from their losses by famine, war and the badness of the central government, it is probable that the cultivators were held to have a hereditary right to their land, and were not liable to ejectment on the suit of any private person. It is doubtful whether they had any conception of ownership of the land, and it seems likely that they may have thought of it as a god or the property of the god; but the cultivating castes perhaps had a hereditary right to cultivate it, just as the Chamar had a prescriptive right to the hides of the village cattle, the Kalar to the mahua-flowers for making his liquor, the Kumhar to clay for his pots, and the Teli to press the oil-seeds grown in his village. The inferior castes were not allowed to hold land, and it was probably never imagined that the village moneylender should by means of a piece of stamped paper be able to oust the cultivators indebted to him and take their land himself. With the grant of proprietary right to land such as existed in England, and the application of the English law of contract and transfer of property, a new and easy road to wealth was opened to the moneylender, of which he was not slow to take advantage. The Banias have thus ousted numbers of improvident proprietors of the cultivating castes, and many of them have become large landlords. A considerable degree of protection has now been afforded to landowners and cultivators, and the process has been checked, but that it should have proceeded so far is regrettable; and the operation of the law has been responsible for a large amount of unintentional injustice to the cultivating castes and especially to proprietors of aboriginal descent, who on account of their extreme ignorance and improvidence most readily fall a prey to the moneylender.



25. The Bania as a landlord.

As landlords the Banias were not at first a success. They did not care to spend money in improving their property, and ground their tenants to the utmost. Sir R. Craddock remarks of them: [134] "Great or small they are absolutely unfitted by their natural instincts to be landlords. Shrewdest of traders, most business-like in the matter of bargains, they are unable to take a broad view of the duties of landlord or to see that rack-renting will not pay in the long run."

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



26. Commercial honesty.

As a trader the Bania formerly had a high standard of commercial probity. Even though he might show little kindliness or honesty in dealing with the poorer class of borrowers, he was respected and absolutely reliable in regard to money. It was not unusual for people to place their money in a rich Bania's hands without interest, even paying him a small sum for safe-keeping. Bankruptcy was considered disgraceful, and was visited with social penalties little less severe than those enforced for breaches of caste rules. There was a firm belief that a merchant's condition in the next world depended on the discharge of all claims against him. And the duty of paying ancestral debts was evaded only in the case of helpless or hopeless poverty. Of late, partly owing to the waning power of caste and religious feeling in the matter, and partly to the knowledge of the bankruptcy laws, the standard of commercial honour has greatly fallen. Since the case of bankruptcy is governed and arranged for by law, the trader thinks that so long as he can keep within the law he has done nothing wrong. A banker, when heavily involved, seldom scruples to become a bankrupt and to keep back money enough to enable him to start afresh, even if he does nothing worse. This, however, is probably a transitory phase, and the same thing has happened in England and America at one stage of commercial development. In time it may be expected that the loss of the old religious and caste feeling will be made good by a new standard of commercial honour enforced by public opinion among merchants generally. The Banias are very good to their own caste, and when a man is ruined will have a general subscription and provide funds to enable him to start afresh in a small way. Beggars are very rare in the caste. Rich Marwaris are extremely generous in their subscriptions to objects of public utility, but it is said that the small Bania is not very charitably inclined, though he doles out handfuls of grain to beggars with fair liberality. But he has a system by which he exacts from those who deal with him a slight percentage on the price received by them for religious purposes. This is called Deodan or a gift to God, and is supposed to go into some public fund for the construction or maintenance of a temple or similar object. In the absence of proper supervision or audit it is to be feared that the Bania inclines to make use of it for his private charity, thus saving himself expense on that score. The system has been investigated by Mr. Napier, Commissioner of Jubbulpore, with a view to the application of these funds to public improvements.



Bania, Agarwala

Bania, Agarwala, Agarwal.—This is generally considered to be the highest and most important subdivision of the Banias. They numbered about 25,000 persons in the Central Provinces in 1911, being principally found in Jubbulpore and Nagpur. The name is probably derived from Agroha, a small town in the Hissar District of the Punjab, which was formerly of some commercial importance. Buchanan records that when any firm failed in the city each of the others contributed a brick and five rupees, which formed a stock sufficient for the merchant to recommence trade with advantage. The Agarwalas trace their descent from a Raja Agar Sen, whose seventeen sons married the seventeen daughters of Basuki, the king of the Nagas or snakes. Elliot considers that the snakes were really the Scythian or barbarian immigrants, the Yueh-chi or Kushans, from whom several of the Rajpat clans as the Tak, Haihayas and others, who also have the legend of snake ancestry, were probably derived. Elliot also remarks that Raja Agar Sen, being a king, must have been a Kshatriya, and thus according to the legend the Agarwalas would have Rajput ancestry on both sides. Their appearance, Mr. Crooke states, indicates good race and breeding, and would lend colour to the theory of a Rajput origin. Raja Agar Sen is said to have ruled over both Agra and Agroha, and it seems possible that the name of the Agarwalas may also be connected with Agra, which is a much more important place than Agroha. The country round Agra and Delhi is their home, and the shrine of the tutelary goddess of some of the Agarwalas in the Central Provinces is near Delhi. The memory of the Naga princess who was their ancestor is still, Sir H. Risley states, held in honour by the Agarwalas, and they say, 'Our mother's house is of the race of the snake.' [135] No Agarwala, whether Hindu or Jain, will kill or molest a snake, and the Vaishnava Agarwalas of Delhi paint pictures of snakes on either side of the outside doors of their houses, and make offerings of fruit and flowers before them.

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

The Agarwalas are divided into seventeen and a half gotras or exogamous sections, which are supposed to be descended from the seventeen sons of Raja Agar Sen. The extra half gotra is accounted for by a legend, but it probably has in reality also something to do with illegitimate descent. Some of the gotras, as given by Mr. Crooke, are as a matter of fact named after Brahmanical saints like those of the Brahmans; instances of these are Garga, Gautama, Kaushika, Kasyapa and Vasishtha; the others appear to be territorial or titular names. The prohibitions on marriage between relations are far-reaching among the Agarwalas. The detailed rules are given in the article on Bania, and the effect is that persons descended from a common ancestor cannot intermarry for five generations. When the wedding procession is about to start the Kumhar brings his donkey and the bridegroom has to touch it with his foot, or, according to one version, ride upon it. The origin of this custom is obscure, but the people now say that it is meant to emphasise the fact that the bridegroom is going to do a foolish thing. The remarriage of widows is prohibited, and divorce is not recognised. Most of the Agarwalas are Vaishnava by religion, but a few are Jains. Intermarriage between members of the two religions is permitted in some localities, and the wife adopts that of her husband. The Jain Agarwalas observe the Hindu festivals and employ Brahmans for their ceremonies. In Nimar the caste have some curious taboos. It is said that a married woman may not eat wheat until a child has been born to her, but only juari; and if she has no child she may not eat wheat all her life. If a son is born to her she must go to Mahaur, a village near Delhi where the tutelary goddess of the caste has her shrine. This goddess is called Mohna Devi, and she is the deified spirit of a woman who burnt herself with her husband. After this the woman may eat wheat; but if a second son is born she must stop eating wheat until she has been to the shrine again. But if she has a daughter she may at once and always eat wheat without visiting the shrine. These rules, as well as the veneration of a snake, from which they believe themselves to be descended on the mother's side, may perhaps, as suggested by Sir H. Risley, be a relic of the system of matriarchal descent. It is said that when Raja Agar Sen or his sons married the Naga princesses, he obtained permission as a special favour from the goddess Lakshmi that the children should bear their father's name and not their mother's. [136]

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



Bania, Agrahari

Bania, Agrahari. [137]—This subcaste numbered nearly 2000 persons in 1911, resident principally in Jubbulpore, Raipur and Bilaspur, and some of the Feudatory States. Mr. Crooke states that they claim partly a Vaishya and partly a Brahmanical descent, and wear the sacred thread. Like that of the Agarwala Banias their name has been connected with the cities of Agra and Agroha. There is no doubt that they are closely connected with the Agarwalas, and Mr. Nesfield suggests that the two groups must have been sections of one and the same caste which quarrelled on some trifling matter connected with cooking or eating, and have remained separate ever since. The Agrahari Banias are Hindus, and some of them belong to the Nanakpanthi sect. They are principally dealers in provisions, and they have acquired some discredit as compared with their kinsfolk the Agarwalas, through not secluding their women and allowing them to attend the shop. They also retail various sweet-smelling woods which are used in religious ceremonies, such as aloe-wood and sandalwood, besides a number of medicines and simples. The richer members of the caste are bankers, dealers in grain and pawnbrokers.



Bania, Ajudhiabasi

Bania, Ajudhiabasi, Audhia.—A subcaste of Bania, whose name signifies a resident of Ajodhia, the old name of Oudh. Outsiders often shorten the name to Audhia, but, as will be seen, the name Audhia is regularly applied to a criminal class, who may have been derived from the Ajudhiabasi Banias, but are now quite distinct from them. The Ajudhiabasis numbered nearly 2000 persons in 1911, belonging chiefly to the Jubbulpore, Narsinghpur and Hoshangabad Districts. This total includes any persons who may have returned themselves as Audhia. The Ajudhiabasis are nearly all Hindus with a small Jain minority. Though Oudh was their original home they are now fairly numerous in Cawnpore and Bundelkhand as well, and it may have been from this last locality that they entered the Central Provinces. Here they form a separate endogamous group and do not marry with their caste-fellows in northern India. They have exogamous sections, and marriage is prohibited within the section and also between first cousins. They permit the remarriage of widows, but are said not to recognise divorce, and to expel from the caste a woman guilty of adultery. It may be doubted, however, whether this is correct. Brahmans serve as their priests, and they invest boys with the sacred thread either at marriage or at a special ceremony known as Gurmukh. The dead are either buried or burnt; in the case of burial men are laid on the face and women on the back, the body being first rubbed with salt, clarified butter, turmeric and milk. A little earth from the grave is carried away and thrown into a sacred river, and when the dead are burnt the ashes are similarly disposed of. Their principal deity is the goddess Devi, and at the Dasahra festival they offer a goat to her, the flesh of which is distributed among members of the caste.

The Audhias are a well-known criminal tribe, whose headquarters is in the Fatehpur District. They say that they are Banias, and use the name Ajudhiabasi in speaking of themselves, and from their customs and criminal methods it seems not unlikely that they may originally have been an offshoot from the Ajudhiabasi Banias. They are now, however, perfectly distinct from this group, and any confusion between them would be very unjust to the latter. In northern India it is said that the Audhias deal largely in counterfeit coin and false jewellery, and never commit crimes of violence; [138] but in Bombay they have taken to housebreaking, though they usually select an empty house. [139] From their homes in the United Provinces they wander over Central India, the Central Provinces, Bengal and Bombay; they are said to avoid the Punjab and Sind owing to difficulties of working, and they have made it a caste offence to commit any crime in the Ganges-Jumna Doab, probably because this is their home. It is said also that if any one of them is imprisoned he is put out of caste. They wander about disguised as religious mendicants, Brahmans or Bairagis. They carry their bedding tied on their back with a cloth, and a large bag slung over the shoulders which contains food, cooking-vessels and other articles. Sometimes they pretend to be Banias and hawk about sweets and groceries, or one of the gang opens a shop, which serves as a rendezvous and centre for collecting information. [140] In the Districts where they reside they are perfectly well-behaved. They are well-to-do and to all appearance respectable in their habits. Their women are well-dressed with plenty of ornaments on their persons. They have no apparent means of support; they neither cultivate land nor trade; and all that appears on the surface is that most of the men and boys go off after the rains and return at the end of the cold weather. If asked how they support themselves they reply by begging. Their marriage rules are those of high-caste Hindus. They are divided into two classes, Unch or high and Nich or low, the former being of pure blood, and the latter the descendants of kept women. These are practically endogamous. A man may not have more than two wives. If a girl is detected in immorality before marriage, she is permanently excommunicated, and a married woman can be turned out by her husband on proof of adultery. A bridegroom-price is usually paid, the father of the bride visiting the bridegroom and giving him the money in secret. The dead are burnt, and Brahmans are duly fed. If a man has died through an accident or from cholera, smallpox, poison or leprosy, the corpse, if available, is at once consigned to the Ganges or other river, and during the course of the next twelve months a Mahabrahman is paid to make an image of the deceased in gram-flour, which is cremated with the usual rites. As in the case of the Ajudhiabasi Banias, the tribal deity of the Audhias is the goddess Devi. [141]



Bania, Asathi

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

Ardha jale, ardha gare Jinka nam Asathi pare,

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



Bania, Charnagri

Bania, Charnagri, Channagri, Samaiya.—The Charnagris are a small Jain subcaste which numbered about 2500 persons in 1911, residing principally in the Damoh and Chhindwara Districts. They are the followers of one Taran Swami, who is said to have lived about five centuries ago. He preached against the worship of the images of the Jain Tirthakars, and said that this should be abandoned and only the sacred books be revered. The chief sacred place of the sect is Malhargarh in Gwalior State; here the tomb of their prophet is situated and there is also a large temple in which the Jain scriptures are enshrined. In the month of Phagun (February) a fair is held here, and Charnagris dance in the temples, holding lighted lamps in their hands. Nowadays the Charnagris also visit the ordinary Jain temples when their own are not available. They are practically all derived from Parwar Banias, and formerly would sometimes give their daughters to Parwars in marriage, but this practice is said to have stopped. Like other Bania subcastes, they are divided into Bisa and Dasa, or twenty and ten sections, the Dasa being of irregular descent. Intermarriage between the two sections occasionally occurs, and the Dasa will take food from the Bisa section, but the latter do not reciprocate except at caste feasts.



Bania, Dhusar

Bania, Dhusar, Bhargava Dhusar.—The origin of this group is much disputed. They are usually classed as a subcaste of Bania, but claim to be Brahmans. They take their name from a hill called Dhusi or Dhosi, near Narnaul on the border of Alwar State. The title Bhargava signifies a descendant of Bhrigu, one of the famous eponymous Rishis or Brahmanical saints, to whom Manu confided his institutes, calling him his son. If this was their original name, it would show that they were Brahmans, but its adoption appears to be somewhat recent. Their claim to be Brahmans is, however, admitted by many members of that caste, and it is stated that they perform the functions of Brahmans in their original home in Rajputana. Mr. Burn wrote of them: [142] "In his book on castes published in 1872 Mr. Sherring does not refer to any claim to kinship with Brahmans, though in his description of Dhusar Banias he appears to include the people under consideration. Both the Dhusar Bhargavas and Dhusar Banias assert that Himu, the capable Vazir of Muhammad Shah Suri, belonged to their community, and such a claim by the former is if anything in favour of the view that they are not Brahmans, since Himu is variously described by Muhammadan writers as a corn-chandler, a weighman and a Bania. Colonel Dow in his history of Hindustan calls him a shopkeeper who was raised by Sher Shah to be Superintendent of Markets. It is not improbable that Himu's success laid the foundation for a claim to a higher position, but the matter does not admit of absolute proof, and I have therefore accepted the decision of the majority of the caste-committees and considered them as a caste allied to Brahmans." In the Punjab the Dhusars appear to be in some places Brahmans and in others Banias. "They take their food before morning prayer, contrary to the Hindu rule, but of late years they have begun to conform to the orthodox practice. The Brahman Dhusar marries with his caste-fellows and the Bania with Banias, avoiding always the same family (gotra) or one having the same family deity." [143] From the above accounts it would appear that the Dhusars may have originally been a class of Brahmans who took to trade, like the Palliwal Brahmans of Marwar, and have lost their position as Brahmans and become amalgamated with the Bania caste; or they may have been Banias, who acted as priests to others of the community, and hence claimed to be Brahmans. The caste is important and influential, and is now making every effort to recover or substantiate its Brahman status. One writer states that they combine the office aptitude and hard-heartedness to a debtor characteristic of the Bania. The Dhusars are rigid in the maintenance of the purity of their order and in the performance of Hindu ceremonies and duties, and neither eat meat nor drink any kind of spirit. In Delhi they were distinguished for their talent as singers, and cultivated a peculiar strain or measure, in which they were unsurpassed. [144] In the Central Provinces the Dhusars are a flourishing body, their leaders being Rai Bahadur Bihari Lal Khizanchi of Jubbulpore and Rai Sahib Seth Sundar Lal of Betul. They have founded the Bhargava bank of Jubbulpore, and shown considerable public spirit; to the latter gentleman's generosity a large part of the success of the recent debt-conciliation proceedings in the Betul District must be attributed.



Bania, Dosar

Bania, Dosar, Dusra. [145]—This subcaste numbers about 600 persons. The original name is Dusra or second, and the Dosar or Dusra are a section of the Ummar Banias, who were so called because they permit widows to make a second marriage. Their home is the Ganges-Jumna Doab and Oudh, and in the United Provinces they are classed as an inferior subcaste of the Ummars. Here they say that the Ummars are their elder brothers. In the Central Provinces they are said to be forming three local endogamous groups according as their homes were in the Doab, Oudh or the Allahabad country; and members of each of these marry among themselves. The Dosars say that they all belong to the Kashyap [146] gotra or clan, but for the purpose of marriage they have territorial or titular exogamous sections; instances of these are Gangapari, a native of Oudh; Sagarah, a resident of Saugor; Makraha, a seller of makka or maize, and Tamakhuha, a tobacco-seller. They pay a bridegroom-price, the full recognised amount of which is Rs. 211, either in cash or brass cooking-vessels. Those who cannot afford this sum give half of it or Rs. 105, and the poorest classes pay anything they can afford. The Dosars are Vaishnava Hindus and employ Sanadhya Brahmans as their priests. These Brahmans will take food without water from their clients, but they are an inferior class and are looked down upon by other Brahmans. The caste are mainly shopkeepers, and they deal in gold and silver ornaments, as well as grain, tobacco and all kinds of groceries.



Bania, Gahoi

Bania, Gahoi. [147]—This Hindu subcaste numbered nearly 7000 persons in 1911, belonging principally to the Saugor, Jubbulpore and Narsinghpur Districts. Their home is the Bundelkhand country, which these Districts adjoin, and they say that their original headquarters was at Kharagpur in Bundelkhand, whence they have spread over the surrounding country. They tell a curious story of their origin to the effect that once upon a time there was a certain schoolmaster, one Biya Pande Brahman, who could foretell the future. One day he was in his school with his boys when he foresaw that there was about to be an earthquake. He immediately warned his boys to get out of the building, and himself led the way. Only twelve of the boys had followed, and the others were still hesitating, when the earthquake began, the school fell in, and they were all buried in the ruins. The schoolmaster formed the boys who had escaped into one caste, calling them Gahoi, which is supposed to mean that which is left or the residue; and he determined that he and his descendants would be the priests of the new caste. At the weddings of the Gahois an image of the schoolmaster is painted on the house wall, and the bridegroom worships it with offerings of butter and flowers. The story indicates clearly that the Gahois are of mixed descent from several castes.

The subcaste has twelve gotras or sections, and seventy-two al or anken, which are subsections of the gotras. Several of the al names appear to be of a titular or totemistic character, as Mor peacock, Sohania beautiful, Nagaria a drummer, Paharia a hillman, Matele the name of a village headman in Bundelkhand, Piparvania from the pipal tree, Dadaria a singer. The rule of exogamy is said to be that a man must not marry in his own gotra nor in the al of his mother or either grandmother. [148] Their weddings are held only at the bride's house, no ceremonies being performed at the bridegroom's; at the ceremony the bridegroom stands in the centre of the shed by the marriage-post and the bride walks seven times round him. At their weddings the Gahois still use the old rupees of the Nagpur kingdom for presents and payments to menials, and they hoard them up, when they can get them, for this special purpose. The rupee is sacred with the Bania, and this is an instance of the preservation of old accessories for religious ceremonies when they have been superseded in ordinary use. Polygamy is permitted, but is rare. The Gahois employ Bhargava Brahmans for their priests, and these are presumably the descendants of the schoolmaster who founded the caste. At the thirteenth-day feast after a death the Brahmans must be fed first before the members of the caste. On this occasion thirteen brass or earthen vessels are filled with flour, and a piece of money, and presented to thirteen Brahmans, while the family priest receives a bed and piece of cloth. The priests are said to be greedy, and to raise quarrels over the value of the presents given to them. At the Diwali festival the Gahois worship the implements of their trade, pen and ink, and their account-books. The Gahois are Vaishnava Hindus, and abstain from all flesh and alcoholic liquor. They trade in grain and groceries, and are bankers and moneylenders. They are considered to be cunning in business, and a proverb says that a Gahoi will deceive even his own father.



Bania, Golapurab

Bania, Golapurab, Golahre.—This Jain subcaste numbers about 6000 persons in the Central Provinces, and belongs mainly to the Saugor, Damoh and Narsinghpur Districts. Its distribution is nearly the same as that of the Gahois, and it is probably also a Bundelkhand group. The Golapurabs are practically all Digambari Jains with a small Hindu minority. In some localities they intermarry with Parwar Banias who are also Digambari Jains; and they will take food cooked without water from the Nema subcaste who are Hindus. According to one story the Golapurabs were the offspring of a Purabia, that is probably a Bais Rajput, by a kept woman of the Ahir caste. This fits in very well with the name, as Golak means a bastard, and the termination purab would be from Purabia; but it is probably the name which has given rise to the story, or at any rate to the supposed descent from a Purabia. In the United Provinces a small subcaste of Bania called Golahre exists, belonging to the Jhansi District, that is the country of the Golapurabs, and Jain by religion. There is no doubt that this group is the same as the Golapurabs, and Mr. Crooke derives [149] the name from gola, a grain-mart, which seems more probable than the derivation suggested above. But it is an interesting fact that there is also a caste of cultivators called Golapurab in the United Provinces, found only in the Agra District. It is suggested that these people are the illegitimate offspring of Sanadhya Brahmans, with whom they appear to be closely connected. From their sept-names, however, which include those of several Rajput clans and also some titular terms of a low-caste type, Mr. Crooke thinks their Brahmanical origin improbable. It is noticeable that these Golapurabs though a cultivating caste have, like the Banias, a subcaste called Dasa, comprising persons of irregular descent; they also prohibit the remarriage of widows, and abstain from all flesh and from onions and garlic. Such customs are peculiar in a cultivating caste, and resemble those of Banias. It seems possible that a detailed investigation might give ground for supposing that both the Golahre and Golapurab subcastes of Banias in the United and Central Provinces respectively are connected with this cultivating caste of Golapurabs. The latter might have abandoned the Jain religion on taking to cultivation, as a Jain cannot well drive the plough, which involves destruction of animal life; or the Bania section might have adopted Jainism in order to obtain a better social position and differentiate themselves from the cultivators. Unfortunately no detailed information about the Golapurabs of the Central Provinces is available, from which the probability or otherwise of this hypothesis could be tested.



Bania, Kasarwani

Bania, Kasarwani. [150]—This Hindu subcaste numbers about 6500 persons in the Central Provinces, who belong mainly to Saugor, Jubbulpore and the three Chhattisgarh Districts. The name is probably derived from kansa, bell-metal, as these Banias retail brass and bell-metal vessels. The Kasarwanis may therefore not improbably be an occupational group formed from persons who engaged in the trade, and in that case they may be wholly or partly derived from the Kasars and Tameras, the castes which work in brass, copper and bell-metal. The Kasarwanis are numerous in Allahabad and Mirzapur, and they may have come to Chhattisgarh from Mirzapur, attracted by the bell-metal industries in Ratanpur and Drug. In Saugor and also in the United Provinces they say that they came from Kara Manikpur several generations ago. If the selling of metal vessels was their original calling, many, or the majority of them, have now abandoned it, and deal in grain and groceries, and lend money like other Banias. The Kasarwanis do not observe the same standard of strictness as the good Bania subcastes in their social rules. They eat the flesh of goats, sheep, birds and fish, though they abstain from liquor. They permit the remarriage of widows and divorce; and women who have been divorced can marry again in the caste by the same rite as widows. They also allow the exchange of girls in marriage between two families. They do not as a rule wear the sacred thread. Their priests are Sarwaria Brahmans, and these Brahmans and a few Bania subcastes, such as the Agarwalas, Umres and Gahois, can take food cooked without water from them, but other Brahmans and Rajputs will not take any kind of food. Matches are arranged in the presence of the head of the caste panchayat, who is known as Chaudhri. The parents on each side give their consent, and in pledge of it six pice (farthings) are taken from both of them, mixed together and given to their family priests and barbers, four pice to the priests and two to the barbers. The following is a local derivation of the name; the word kasar means more or the increase, and bhata means less; and Hamara kya kasar bhata? means 'How does my account stand?' Hence Kasarbani is one who keeps accounts, that is a Bania.



Bania, Kasaundhan

Bania, Kasaundhan.—This subcaste numbers about 5500 persons in the Central Provinces and is returned principally from the Bilaspur, Raipur and Jubbulpore Districts. The name is derived [151] by Mr. Crooke from kansa, bell-metal, and dhana, wealth, and it would appear that the Kasaundhans like the Kasarwanis are an occupational group, made up of shopkeepers who dealt in metal vessels. Like them also the Kasaundhans may have originally been constituted from the metal-working castes, and indeed they may be only a local branch of the Kasarwanis, though no information is available which would decide this point. In the United Provinces both the Kasarwanis and Kasaundhans are divided into the Purbia or eastern and Pachhaiyan or western subcastes. Dharam Das, the great disciple of Kabir, who founded the Kabirpanthi sect in the Central Provinces, was a Kasaundhan Bania, and the Kabirpanthi Mahants or high-priests of Kawardha are of this caste. It is probable that a good many of the Kasaundhan Banias in Bilaspur and Raipur belong to the Kabirpanthi sect. The remainder are ordinary Hindus.



Bania, Khandelwal

Bania, Khandelwal.—This subcaste numbers about 1500 persons in the Central Provinces; they are most numerous in the Hoshangabad and Amraoti Districts, but are scattered all over the Province. They take their name from the town of Khandela in the Jaipur State of Rajputana, which was formerly the capital of the Shekhawati federation. There is also a Khandelwal subcaste of the Brahman caste, found in the United Provinces. [152] Mr. Bhattacharya says of them: [153] "The Khandelwal Banias are not inferior to any other division of the caste either in wealth or refinement. There are both Vaishnavites and Jains among them, and the Vaishnavite Khandelwals wear the sacred thread. The millionaire Seths of Mathura are Khandelwal Banias."



Bania, Lad

Bania, Lad.—This subcaste numbers about 5000 persons in the Central Provinces, being settled in Nimar, Nagpur and all the Berar Districts. The Lad Banias came from Gujarat, and Lad is derived from Lat-desh, the old name for Gujarat. Like other Banias they are divided into the Bisa and Dasa groups or twenties and tens, the Dasa being of irregular descent. Their family priests are Khedawal Brahmans, and their caste deity is Ashapuri of Ashnai, near Petlad. Lad women, especially those of Baroda, are noted for their taste in dress. The Lad Banias are Hindus of the Vallabhacharya sect, who worship Krishna, and were formerly addicted to sexual indulgence. [154]



Bania, Lingayat

Bania, Lingayat.—The Lingayat Banias number nearly 8000 persons in the Central Provinces, being numerous in Wardha, Nagpur and all the Berar Districts. A brief account of the Lingayat sect has been given in a separate article. The Lingayat Banias form a separate endogamous group, and they do not eat or intermarry either with other Banias or with members of other castes belonging to the Lingayat sect. But they retain the name and occupation of Banias. They have five subdivisions, Pancham, Dikshawant, Chilliwant, Takalkar and Kanade. The Pancham or Panchamsalis are the descendants of the original Brahman converts to the Lingayat sect. They are the main body of the community and are initiated by what is known as the eight-fold sacrament or eshta-varna. The Dikshawant, from diksha or initiation, are a subdivision of the Panchamsalis, who apparently initiate disciples like the Dikshit Brahmans. The Takalkar are said to take their name from a forest called Takali, where their first ancestress bore a child to the god Siva. The Kanade are from Canara. The meaning of the term Chilliwant is not known; it is said that a member of this subcaste will throw away his food or water if it is seen by any one who is not a Lingayat, and they shave the whole head. The above form endogamous subcastes. The Lingayat Banias also have exogamous groups, the names of which are mainly titular, of a low-caste type. Instances of them are Kaode, from kawa a crow, Teli an oil-seller, Thubri a dwarf, Ubadkar an incendiary, Gudkari a sugar-seller and Dhamankar from Dhamangaon. They say that the maths or exogamous groups are no longer regarded, and that marriage is now prohibited between persons having the same surname. It is stated that if a girl is not married before adolescence she is finally expelled from the caste, but this rule has probably become obsolete. The proposal for marriage comes from either the boy's or girl's party, and sometimes the bridegroom receives a small sum for his travelling expenses, while at other times a bride-price is paid. At the wedding, rice coloured red is put in the hands of the bridegroom and juari coloured yellow in those of the bride. The bridegroom places the rice on the bride's head and she lays the juari at his feet. A dish full of water with a golden ring in it is put between them, and they lay their hands on the ring together under the water and walk five times round a decorative little marriage-shed erected inside the real one. A feast is given, and the bridal couple sit on a little dais and eat out of the same dish. The remarriage of widows is permitted, but the widow may not marry a man belonging to the section either of her first husband or of her father. Divorce is recognised. The Lingayats bury the dead in a sitting posture with the lingam or emblem of Siva, which has never left the dead man during his lifetime, clasped in his right hand. Sometimes a platform is made over the grave with an image of Siva. They do not shave the head in token of mourning. Their principal festival is Shivratri or Siva's night, when they offer the leaves of the bel tree and ashes to the god. A Lingayat must never be without the lingam or phallic sign of Siva, which is carried slung round the neck in a little case of silver, copper or brass. If he loses it, he must not eat, drink nor smoke until he finds it or obtains another. The Lingayats do not employ Brahmans for any purpose, but are served by their own priests, the Jangams, [155] who are recruited both by descent and by initiation from members of the Pancham group. The Lingayat Banias are practically all immigrants from the Telugu country; they have Telugu names and speak this language in their homes. They deal in grain, cloth, groceries and spices.



Bania, Maheshri

Bania, Maheshri.—This important subcaste of Banias numbered about 14,000 persons in the Central Provinces in 1911, of whom 8000 belonged to the Berar Districts, and the remainder principally to Hoshangabad, Nimar, Wardha and Nagpur. The name is said to be derived from Maheshwar, an ancient town on the Nerbudda, near Indore, and one of the earliest Rajput settlements. But some of them say that their original home is in Bikanir, and tell a story to the effect that their ancestor was a Raja who was turned into stone with his seventy-two followers by some ascetics whose devotions they had interrupted in the forest. But when their wives came to commit sati by the stone figures the god Siva intervened and brought them to life again. He told them to give up the profession of arms and take to trade. So the seventy-two followers were the ancestors of the seventy-two gotras or sections of the Maheshris, and the Raja became their tribal Bhat or genealogist, and they were called Maheshri or Maheswari, from Mahesh, a name of Siva. In Gujarat the term Maheshri or Meshri appears to be used for all Banias who are not Jains, including the other important Hindu subcastes. [156] This is somewhat peculiar, and perhaps tends to show that several of the local subcastes are of recent formation. But though they profess to be named after Siva, the Maheshris, like practically all other Hindu Banias, are Vaishnava by sect, and wear the kunti or necklace of beads of basil. A small minority are Jains. It is to be noticed that both the place of their origin, an early Rajput settlement of the Yadava clan, and their own legend tend to show that they were derived from the Rajput caste; for as their ancestors were attendants on a Raja and followed the profession of arms, which they were told to abandon, they could be none other than Rajputs. The Maheshris also have the Rajput custom of sending a cocoanut as a symbol of a proposal of marriage. In Nimar the Maheshri Banias say they belong to the Dhakar subcaste, a name which usually means illegitimate, though they themselves explain that it is derived from a place called Dhakargarh, from which they migrated. As already stated they are divided into seventy-two exogamous clans, the names of which appear to be titular or territorial. It is said that at their weddings when the bridegroom gets to the door of the marriage-shed, the bride's mother ties a scarf round his neck and takes hold of his nose and drags him into the shed. Sometimes they make the bridegroom kneel down and pay reverence to a shoe as a joke. They do not observe the custom of the pangat or formal festal assembly, which is usual among Hindu castes; according to this, none can begin to eat until all the guests have assembled, when they all sit down at once. Among the Maheshris the guests sit down as they come in, and are served and take their food and go. They only have the pangat feast on very rare occasions. The Maheshris are one of the richest, most enterprising and influential classes of Banias. They are intelligent, of high-bred appearance, cleanly habits and courteous manners. The great bankers, Sir Kasturchand Daga of Kamptee, of the firm of Bansi Lal Abirchand, and Rai Bahadur Seth Jiwan Das and Diwan Bahadur Seth Ballabh Das, of Jubbulpore, belong to this subcaste.



Bania, Nema

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



Bania, Oswal

Bania, Oswal.—This is perhaps the most important subdivision of the Banias after the Agarwala. The Oswals numbered nearly 10,000 persons in the Central Provinces in 1911, being found in considerable numbers in all the Berar Districts, and also in Nimar, Wardha and Raipur. The name is derived from the town of Osia or Osnagar in Marwar. According to one legend of their origin the Raja of Osnagar had no son, and obtained one through the promise of a Jain ascetic. The people then drove the ascetic from the town, fearing that the Raja would become a Jain; but Osadev, the guardian goddess of the place, told the ascetic, Sri Ratan Suri, to convert the Raja by a miracle. So she took a small hank (puni) of cotton and passed it along the back of the saint, when it immediately became a snake and bit Jaichand, the son of the Raja, in the toe, while he was asleep beside his wife. Every means was tried to save his life, but he died. As his corpse was about to be burnt, the ascetic sent one of his disciples and stopped the cremation. Then the Raja came with the body of his son and stood with hands clasped before the saint. He ordered that it was to be taken back to the place where the prince had been bitten, and that the princess was to lie down beside it as before. At midnight the snake returned and licked the bite, when the prince was restored to life. Then the Raja, with all his Court and people, became a Jain. He and his family founded the gotra or section now known as Sri Srimal or most noble; his servants formed that known as Srimal or excellent, while the other Rajputs of the town became ordinary Oswals. When the Brahmans of the place heard of these conversions they asked the saint how they were to live, as all their clients had become Jains. The saint directed that they should continue to be the family priests of the Oswals and be known as Bhojak or 'eaters.' Thus the Oswals, though Jains, continue to employ Marwari Brahmans as their family priests. Another version of the story is that the king of Srimali [157] allowed no one who was not a millionaire to live within his city walls. In consequence of this a large number of persons left Srimal, and, settling in Mandovad, called it Osa or the frontier. Among them were Srimali Banias and also Bhatti, Chauhan, Gahlot, Gaur, Yadava, and several other clans of Rajputs, and these were the people who were subsequently converted by the Jain ascetic, Sri Ratan Suri, and formed into the single caste of Oswal. [158] Finally, Colonel Tod states that the Oswals are all of pure Rajput descent, of no single tribe, but chiefly Panwars, Solankis and Bhattis. [159] From these legends and the fact that their headquarters are in Rajputana, it may safely be concluded that the Oswal Banias are of Rajput origin.

The large majority of the Oswals are Jain by religion, but a few are Vaishnava Hindus. Intermarriage between the Hindu and Jain sections is permitted. Like the Agarwalas, the Oswals are divided into Bisa, Dasa and Pacha sections or twenties, tens and fives, according to the purity of their lineage. The Pacha subcaste still permit the remarriage of widows. The three groups take food together but do not intermarry. In Bombay, Dasa Oswals intermarry with the Dasa groups of Srimali and Parwar Banias, [160] and Oswals generally can marry with other good Bania subcastes so long as both parties are Jains. The Oswals are divided into eighty-four gotras or exogamous sections for purposes of marriage, a list of which is given by Mr. Crooke. [161] Most of these cannot be recognised, but a few of them seem to be titular, as Lorha a caste which grows hemp, Nunia a salt-refiner, Seth a banker, Daftari an office-boy, Vaid a physician, Bhandari a cook, and Kukara a dog. These may indicate a certain amount of admixture of foreign elements in the caste. As stated from Benares, the exogamous rule is that a man cannot marry in his own section, and he cannot marry a girl whose father's or mother's section is the same as that of either his father or mother. This would bar the marriage of first cousins.

Though Jains the Oswals perform their weddings by walking round the sacred fire and observe certain Hindu rites, including the worship of the god Ganpati. [162] They also revere other Hindu deities and the sun and moon. The dead are burnt, but they do not observe any impurity after a death nor clean the house. On the day after the death the mourning family, both men and women, visit Parasnath's temple, and lay one seer (2 lbs.) of Indian millet before the god, bow to him and go home. They do not gather the ashes of the dead nor keep the yearly death-day. Their only observance is that on some day between the twelfth day after a death and the end of a year, the caste-people are treated to a dinner of sweetmeats and the dead 'are then forgotten.' [163] The Oswals will take food cooked with water (katchi) only from Brahmans, and that cooked without water (pakki) from Agarwala and Maheshri Banias. In the Central Provinces the principal deity of the Oswals is the Jain Tirthakar Parasnath, and they spend large sums in the erection of splendid temples. The Oswals are the most prominent trading caste in Rajputana; and they have also frequently held high offices, such as Diwan or minister, and paymaster in Rajput States. [164]



Bania, Parwar



1. Origin.

Bania, Parwar. [165]—This Jain subcaste numbered nearly 29,000 persons in 1911. They belong almost entirely to the Jubbulpore and Nerbudda Divisions, and the great bulk are found in the Saugor, Damoh and Jubbulpore Districts. The origin of the Parwars and of their name is not known, but there is some reason to suppose that they are from Rajputana. Their women wear on the head the bij, a Rajputana ornament, and use the charu, a deep brass plate for drinking, which also belongs there. Their songs are said to be in the Rajasthani dialect. It seems likely that the Parwars may be identical with the Porawal subcaste found in other Provinces, which, judging from the name, may belong to Rajputana. In the northern Districts the Parwars speak Bundeli, but in the south their language is said to be Marwari.



2. Subdivisions.

Among the Parwars the Samaiya or Channagri form a separate sectarian Jain group. They do not worship the images of the Jain Tirthakars, but enshrine the sacred books of the Jains in their temples, and worship these. The Parwars will take daughters in marriage from the Channagris, and sometimes give their daughters in consideration of a substantial bride-price. Among the Parwars themselves there is a social division between the Ath Sake and the Chao Sake; the former will not permit the marriage of persons related more nearly than eight degrees, while the latter permit it after four degrees. The Ath Sake have the higher position, and if one of them marries a Chao Sake he is degraded to that group. Besides this the Parwars have an inferior division called Benaikia, which consists of the offspring of irregular unions and of widows who have remarried. Persons who have committed a caste offence and cannot pay the fine imposed on them for it also go into this subcaste. The Benaikias [166] themselves are distributed into four groups of varying degrees of respectability, and families who live correctly and marry as well as they can tend to rise from one to the other until after several generations they may again be recognised as Parwars proper.



3. Exogamy.

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



4. Marriage customs.

As a rule no bride-price is paid, but occasionally an old man desiring a wife will give something substantial to her father in secret. There are two forms of marriage, called Thinga and Dajanha; in the former, women do not accompany the wedding procession, and they have a separate marriage-shed at the bridegroom's house for their own celebrations; while in the latter, they accompany it and erect such a shed at the house in the bridegroom's village or town where they have their lodging. Before the wedding, the bridegroom, mounted on a horse, and the bride, carried in a litter, proceed together round the marriage-shed. The bridegroom then stands by the sacred post in the centre and the bride walks seven times round him. In the evening there was a custom of dressing the principal male relatives of the bridegroom in women's clothes and making them dance, but this is now being discarded. On the fifth day is held a rite called Palkachar. A new cot is provided by the bride's father, and on it is spread a red cloth. The couple are seated on this with their hands entwined, and their relations come and make them presents. If the bridegroom catches hold of the dress of his mother- or father-in-law, they are expected to make him a handsome present. In other respects the wedding follows the ordinary Hindu ritual. Widow-marriage and divorce are forbidden among the Parwars proper, and those who practise them go into the lower Benaikia group.



5. Religion: Hindu observances.

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



6. Disposal of the dead.

The caste burn the dead, with the exception of the bodies of young children, which are buried. The corpse is sometimes placed sitting in a car to be taken to the cremation ground, but often laid on a bier in the ordinary manner. The sitting posture is that in which all the Tirthakars attained paradise, and their images always represent them in this posture. The corpse is naked save for a new piece of cloth round the waist, but it is covered with a sheet. The Jains do not shave their hair in token of mourning, nor do they offer sacrificial cakes to the dead. When the body is burnt they bathe in the nearest water and go home. Neither the bearers nor the mourners are held to be impure. Next day the mourning family, both men and women, visit Parasnath's temple, lay two pounds of Indian millet before the god and go home. [167] But in the Central Provinces they whitewash their houses, get their clothes washed, throw away their earthen pots and give a feast to the caste.



7. Social rules and customs.

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



Bania, Srimali

Bania, Srimali.—This subcaste takes its name from the town of Srimal, which is now Bhinmal in Marwar. They numbered 600 persons in the Central Provinces in 1911, most of whom belonged to the Hoshangabad District. More than two-thirds were Hindus and the remainder Jains. Colonel Tod writes of Bhinmal and an adjoining town, Sanchor: "These towns are on the high road to Cutch and Gujarat, which has given them from the most remote times a commercial celebrity. Bhinmal is said to contain about 1500 houses and Sanchor half that number. Very wealthy mahajans or merchants used to reside here, but insecurity both within and without has much injured these cities." From Bhinmal the Srimalis appear to have gone to Gujarat, where they are found in considerable numbers. Their legend of origin is that the goddess Lakshmi created from a flower-garland 90,000 families to act as servants to the 90,000 Srimali Brahmans, and these were the ancestors of the Srimali Banias. [168] Both the Jain and Hindu sections of the Srimali Banias employ Srimali Brahmans as priests. Like other classes of Banias, the Srimali are divided into two sections, the Bisa and Dasa, or twenty and ten, of which the Bisa are considered to be of pure and the Dasa of somewhat mixed descent. In Gujarat they also have a third territorial group, known as Ladva, from Lad, the old name of Gujarat. All three subdivisions take food together but do not intermarry. [169] The two highest sections of the Oswal Banias are called Sri Srimal and Srimal, and it is possible that further investigation might show the Srimals and Oswals to have been originally of one stock.



Bania, Umre

Bania, Umre.—This Hindu subcaste belongs to Damoh and Jubbulpore. They are perhaps the same as the Ummar Banias of the United Provinces, who reside in the Meerut, Agra and Kumaon Divisions. The name Umre is found as a subdivision of several castes in the Central Provinces, as the Telis and others, and is probably derived from some town or tract of country in northern or central India, but no identification has been made. Mr. Bhimbhai Kirparam states that in Gujarat the Ummar Banias are also known as Bagaria from the Bagar or wild country, comprised in the Dongarpur and Pertabgarh States of Rajputana, where considerable numbers of them are still settled. Their headquarters is at Sagwara, near Dongarpur. [170] In Damoh the Umre Banias formerly cultivated the al plant, [171] which yielded a well-known dye, and hence they lost caste, as in soaking the roots of the plant to extract the dye the numerous insects in them are necessarily destroyed. The Dosar subcaste [172] are a branch of the Umre, who allow widow-remarriage.



Banjara



List of Paragraphs

1. Historical notice of the caste. 2. Banjaras derived from the Charans or Bhats. 3. Charan Banjaras employed with the Mughal armies. 4. Internal structure. 5. Minor subcastes. 6. Marriage: betrothal. 7. Marriage. 8. Widow-remarriage. 9. Birth and death. 10. Religion: Banjari Devi. 11. Mithu Bhukia. 12. Siva Bhaia. 13. Worship of cattle. 14. Connection with the Sikhs. 15. Witchcraft. 16. Human sacrifice. 17. Admission of outsiders: kidnapped children and slaves. 18. Dress. 19. Social customs. 20. The Naik or headman. Banjara dogs. 21. Criminal tendencies of the caste. 22. Their virtues.



1. Historical notice of the caste.

Banjara, Wanjari, Lahana, Mukeri. [173]—The caste of carriers and drivers of pack-bullocks. In 1911 the Banjaras numbered about 56,000 persons in the Central Provinces and 80,000 in Berar, the caste being in greater strength here than in any part of India except Hyderabad, where their total is 174,000. Bombay comes next with a figure approaching that of the Central Provinces and Berar, and the caste belongs therefore rather to the Deccan than to northern India. The name has been variously explained, but the most probable derivation is from the Sanskrit banijya kara, a merchant. Sir H. M. Elliot held that the name Banjara was of great antiquity, quoting a passage from the Dasa Kumara Charita of the eleventh or twelfth century. But it was subsequently shown by Professor Cowell that the name Banjara did not occur in the original text of this work. [174] Banjaras are supposed to be the people mentioned by Arrian in the fourth century B.C., as leading a wandering life, dwelling in tents and letting out for hire their beasts of burden. [175] But this passage merely proves the existence of carriers and not of the Banjara caste. Mr. Crooke states [176] that the first mention of Banjaras in Muhammadan history is in Sikandar's attack on Dholpur in A.D. 1504. [177] It seems improbable, therefore, that the Banjaras accompanied the different Muhammadan invaders of India, as might have been inferred from the fact that they came into the Deccan in the train of the forces of Aurangzeb. The caste has indeed two Muhammadan sections, the Turkia and Mukeri. [178] But both of these have the same Rajput clan names as the Hindu branch of the caste, and it seems possible that they may have embraced Islam under the proselytising influence of Aurangzeb, or simply owing to their having been employed with the Muhammadan troops. The great bulk of the caste in southern India are Hindus, and there seems no reason for assuming that its origin was Muhammadan.



2. Banjaras derived from the Charans or Bhats.

It may be suggested that the Banjaras are derived from the Charan or Bhat caste of Rajputana. Mr. Cumberlege, whose Monograph on the caste in Berar is one of the best authorities, states that of the four divisions existing there the Charans are the most numerous and by far the most interesting class. [179] In the article on Bhat it has been explained how the Charans or bards, owing to their readiness to kill themselves rather than give up the property entrusted to their care, became the best safe-conduct for the passage of goods in Rajputana. The name Charan is generally held to mean 'Wanderer,' and in their capacity of bards the Charans were accustomed to travel from court to court of the different chiefs in quest of patronage. They were first protected by their sacred character and afterwards by their custom of traga or chandi, that is, of killing themselves when attacked and threatening their assailants with the dreaded fate of being haunted by their ghosts. Mr. Bhimbhai Kirparam [180] remarks: "After Parasurama's dispersion of the Kshatris the Charans accompanied them in their southward flight. In those troubled times the Charans took charge of the supplies of the Kshatri forces and so fell to their present position of cattle-breeders and grain-carriers...." Most of the Charans are graziers, cattle-sellers and pack-carriers. Colonel Tod says: [181] "The Charans and Bhats or bards and genealogists are the chief carriers of these regions (Marwar); their sacred character overawes the lawless Rajput chief, and even the savage Koli and Bhil and the plundering Sahrai of the desert dread the anathema of these singular races, who conduct the caravans through the wildest and most desolate regions." In another passage Colonel Tod identifies the Charans and Banjaras [182] as follows: "Murlah is an excellent township inhabited by a community of Charans of the tribe Cucholia (Kacheli), who are Bunjarris (carriers) by profession, though poets by birth. The alliance is a curious one, and would appear incongruous were not gain the object generally in both cases. It was the sanctity of their office which converted our bardais (bards) into bunjarris, for their persons being sacred, the immunity extended likewise to their goods and saved them from all imposts; so that in process of time they became the free-traders of Rajputana. I was highly gratified with the reception I received from the community, which collectively advanced to meet me at some distance from the town. The procession was headed by the village elders and all the fair Charanis, who, as they approached, gracefully waved their scarfs over me until I was fairly made captive by the muses of Murlah! It was a novel and interesting scene. The manly persons of the Charans, clad in the flowing white robe with the high loose-folded turban inclined on one side, from which the mala or chaplet was gracefully suspended; and the naiques or leaders, with their massive necklaces of gold, with the image of the pitriswar (manes) depending therefrom, gave the whole an air of opulence and dignity. The females were uniformly attired in a skirt of dark-brown camlet, having a bodice of light-coloured stuff, with gold ornaments worked into their fine black hair; and all had the favourite churis or rings of hathidant (elephant's tooth) covering the arm from the wrist to the elbow, and even above it." A little later, referring to the same Charan community, Colonel Tod writes: "The tanda or caravan, consisting of four thousand bullocks, has been kept up amidst all the evils which have beset this land through Mughal and Maratha tyranny. The utility of these caravans as general carriers to conflicting armies and as regular tax-paying subjects has proved their safeguard, and they were too strong to be pillaged by any petty marauder, as any one who has seen a Banjari encampment will be convinced. They encamp in a square, and their grain-bags piled over each other breast-high, with interstices left for their matchlocks, make no contemptible fortification. Even the ruthless Turk, Jamshid Khan, set up a protecting tablet in favour of the Charans of Murlah, recording their exemption from dind contributions, and that there should be no increase in duties, with threats to all who should injure the community. As usual, the sun and moon are appealed to as witnesses of good faith, and sculptured on the stone. Even the forest Bhil and mountain Mair have set up their signs of immunity and protection to the chosen of Hinglaz (tutelary deity); and the figures of a cow and its kairi (calf) carved in rude relief speak the agreement that they should not be slain or stolen within the limits of Murlah."

In the above passage the community described by Colonel Tod were Charans, but he identified them with Banjaras, using the name alternatively. He mentions their large herds of pack-bullocks, for the management of which the Charans, who were graziers as well as bards, would naturally be adapted; the name given to the camp, tanda, is that generally used by the Banjaras; the women wore ivory bangles, which the Banjara women wear. [183] In commenting on the way in which the women threw their scarves over him, making him a prisoner, Colonel Tod remarks: "This community had enjoyed for five hundred years the privilege of making prisoner any Rana of Mewar who may pass through Murlah, and keeping him in bondage until he gives them a got or entertainment. The patriarch (of the village) told me that I was in jeopardy as the Rana's representative, but not knowing how I might have relished the joke had it been carried to its conclusion, they let me escape." Mr. Ball notes a similar custom of the Banjara women far away in the Bastar State of the Central Provinces: [184] "Today I passed through another Banjara hamlet, from whence the women and girls all hurried out in pursuit, and a brazen-faced powerful-looking lass seized the bridle of my horse as he was being led by the sais in the rear. The sais and chaprasi were both Muhammadans, and the forward conduct of these females perplexed them not a little, and the former was fast losing his temper at being thus assaulted by a woman." Colonel Mackenzie in his account of the Banjara caste remarks: [185] "It is certain that the Charans, whoever they were, first rose to the demand which the great armies of northern India, contending in exhausted countries far from their basis of supply, created, viz. the want of a fearless and reliable transport service.... The start which the Charans then acquired they retain among Banjaras to this day, though in very much diminished splendour and position. As they themselves relate, they were originally five brethren, Rathor, Turi, Panwar, Chauhan and Jadon. But fortune particularly smiled on Bhika Rathor, as his four sons, Mersi, Multasi, Dheda and Khamdar, great names among the Charans, rose immediately to eminence as commissariat transporters in the north. And not only under the Delhi Emperors, but under the Satara, subsequently the Poona Raj, and the Subahship of the Nizam, did several of their descendants rise to consideration and power." It thus seems a reasonable hypothesis that the nucleus of the Banjara caste was constituted by the Charans or bards of Rajputana. Mr. Bhimbhai Kirparam [186] also identifies the Charans and Banjaras, but I have not been able to find the exact passage. The following notice [187] by Colonel Tone is of interest in this connection:

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

The reference to the sacred character attaching to the Banjaras a century ago appears to be strong evidence in favour of their derivation from the Charans. For it could scarcely have been obtained by any body of commissariat agents coming into India with the Muhammadans. The fact that the example of disregarding it was first set by a Muhammadan prince points to the same conclusion.

Mr. Irvine notices the Banjaras with the Mughal armies in similar terms: [188] "It is by these people that the Indian armies in the field are fed, and they are never injured by either army. The grain is taken from them, but invariably paid for. They encamp for safety every evening in a regular square formed of the bags of grain of which they construct a breastwork. They and their families are in the centre, and the oxen are made fast outside. Guards with matchlocks and spears are placed at the corners, and their dogs do duty as advanced posts. I have seen them with droves of 5000 bullocks. They do not move above two miles an hour, as their cattle are allowed to graze as they proceed on the march."

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



3. Charan Ranjarans employed with the Mughal armies.

The Charan Banjaras, Mr. Cumberlege states, [189] first came to the Deccan with Asaf Khan in the campaign which closed with the annexation by the Emperor Shah Jahan of Ahmadnagar and Berar about 1630. Their leaders or Naiks were Bhangi and Jhangi of the Rathor [190] and Bhagwan Das of the Jadon clan. Bhangi and Jhangi had 180,000 pack-bullocks, and Bhagwan Das 52,000. It was naturally an object with Asaf Khan to keep his commissariat well up with his force, and as Bhangi and Jhangi made difficulties about the supply of grass and water to their cattle, he gave them an order engraved on copper in letters of gold to the following effect:

Ranjan ka pani Chhappar ka ghas Din ke tin khun muaf; Aur jahan Asaf Jah ke ghore Wahan Bhangi Jhangi ke bail,

which may be rendered as follows: "If you can find no water elsewhere you may even take it from the pots of my followers; grass you may take from the roofs of their huts; and I will pardon you up to three murders a day, provided that wherever I find my cavalry, Bhangi and Jhangi's bullocks shall be with them." This grant is still in the possession of Bhangi Naik's descendant who lives at Musi, near Hingoli. He is recognised by the Hyderabad Court as the head Naik of the Banjara caste, and on his death his successor receives a khillat or dress-of-honour from His Highness the Nizam. After Asaf Khan's campaign and settlement in the Deccan, a quarrel broke out between the Rathor clan, headed by Bhangi and Jhangi, and the Jadons under Bhagwan Das, owing to the fact that Asaf Khan had refused to give Bhagwan Das a grant like that quoted above. Both Bhangi and Bhagwan Das were slain in the feud and the Jadons captured the standard, consisting of eight thans (lengths) of cloth, which was annually presented by the Nizam to Bhangi's descendants. When Mr. Cumberlege wrote (1869), this standard was in the possession of Hatti Naik, a descendant of Bhagwan Das, who had an estate near Muchli Bunder, in the Madras Presidency. Colonel Mackenzie states [191] that the leaders of the Rathor clan became so distinguished not only in their particular line but as men of war that the Emperors recognised their carrying distinctive standards, which were known as dhal by the Rathors themselves. Jhangi's family was also represented in the person of Ramu Naik, the patel or headman of the village of Yaoli in the Yeotmal District. In 1791-92 the Banjaras were employed to supply grain to the British army under the Marquis of Cornwallis during the siege of Seringapatam, [192] and the Duke of Wellington in his Indian campaigns regularly engaged them as part of the commissariat staff of his army. On one occasion he said of them: "The Banjaras I look upon in the light of servants of the public, of whose grain I have a right to regulate the sale, always taking care that they have a proportionate advantage." [193]



4. Internal structure.

Mr. Cumberlege gives four main divisions of the caste in Berar, the Charans, Mathurias, Labhanas and Dharis. Of these the Charans are by far the most numerous and important, and included all the famous leaders of the caste mentioned above. The Charans are divided into the five clans, Rathor, Panwar, Chauhan, Puri and Jadon or Burthia, all of these being the names of leading Rajput clans; and as the Charan bards themselves were probably Rajputs, the Banjaras, who are descended from them, may claim the same lineage. Each clan or sept is divided into a number of subsepts; thus among the Rathors the principal subsept is the Bhurkia, called after the Bhika Rathor already mentioned; and this is again split into four groups, Mersi, Multasi, Dheda and Khamdar, named after his four sons. As a rule, members of the same clan, Panwar, Rathor and so on, may not intermarry, but Mr. Cumberlege states that a man belonging to the Banod or Bhurkia subsepts of the Rathors must not take a wife from his own subsept, but may marry any other Rathor girl. It seems probable that the same rule may hold with the other subsepts, as it is most unlikely that intermarriage should still be prohibited among so large a body as the Rathor Charans have now become. It may be supposed therefore that the division into subsepts took place when it became too inconvenient to prohibit marriage throughout the whole body of the sept, as has happened in other cases. The Mathuria Banjaras take their name from Mathura or Muttra and appear to be Brahmans. "They wear the sacred thread, [194] know the Gayatri Mantra, and to the present day abstain from meat and liquor, subsisting entirely on grain and vegetables. They always had a sufficiency of Charans and servants (Jangar) in their villages to perform all necessary manual labour, and would not themselves work for a remuneration otherwise than by carrying grain, which was and still is their legitimate occupation; but it was not considered undignified to cut wood and grass for the household. Both Mathuria and Labhana men are fairer than the Charans; they wear better jewellery and their loin-cloths have a silk border, while those of the Charans are of rough, common cloth." The Mathurias are sometimes known as Ahiwasi, and may be connected with the Ahiwasis of the Hindustani Districts, who also drive pack-bullocks and call themselves Brahmans. But it is naturally a sin for a Brahman to load the sacred ox, and any one who does so is held to have derogated from the priestly order. The Mathurias are divided according to Mr. Cumberlege into four groups called Pande, Dube, Tiwari and Chaube, all of which are common titles of Hindustani Brahmans and signify a man learned in one, two, three and four Vedas respectively. It is probable that these groups are exogamous, marrying with each other, but this is not stated. The third division, the Labhanas, may derive their name from lavana, salt, and probably devoted themselves more especially to the carriage of this staple. They are said to be Rajputs, and to be descended from Mota and Mola, the cowherds of Krishna. The fourth subdivision are the Dharis or bards of the caste, who rank below the others. According to their own story [195] their ancestor was a member of the Bhat caste, who became a disciple of Nanak, the Sikh apostle, and with him attended a feast given by the Mughal Emperor Humayun. Here he ate the flesh of a cow or buffalo, and in consequence became a Muhammadan and was circumcised. He was employed as a musician at the Mughal court, and his sons joined the Charans and became the bards of the Banjara caste. "The Dharis," Mr. Cumberlege continues, "are both musicians and mendicants; they sing in praise of their own and the Charan ancestors and of the old kings of Delhi; while at certain seasons of the year they visit Charan hamlets, when each family gives them a young bullock or a few rupees. They are Muhammadans, but worship Sarasvati and at their marriages offer up a he-goat to Gaji and Gandha, the two sons of the original Bhat, who became a Muhammadan. At burials a Fakir is called to read the prayers."

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