The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India - Volume IV of IV - Kumhar-Yemkala
by R.V. Russell
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

5. Return from an expedition

The return of the Pindaris from an expedition presented at one view their character and habits. When they recrossed the Nerbudda and reached their homes their camp became like a fair. After the claims of the chief of the territory (whose right was a fourth part of the booty, but who generally compounded for one or two valuable articles) had been satisfied, the usual share paid to their Luhbaria, or chosen leader for the expedition, and all debts to merchants and others who had made advances discharged, the plunder of each man was exposed for sale; traders from every part came to make cheap bargains; and while the women were busy in disposing of their husbands' property, the men, who were on such occasions certain of visits from all their friends, were engaged in hearing music, seeing dancers and drolls, and in drinking. This life of debauchery and excess lasted till their money was gone; they were then compelled to look for new scenes of rapine, or, if the season was favourable, were supported by their chiefs, or by loans at high interest from merchants who lived in their camps, many of whom amassed large fortunes. This worst part of the late population of Central India is, as a separate community, now extinct. [442]

6. Suppression of the Pindaris. Death of Chitu

The result of the Pindari raids was that Central India was being rapidly reduced to the condition of a desert, and the peasants, unable to support themselves on the land, had no option but to join the robber bands or starve. It was not until 1817 that Lord Hastings obtained authority from home to take regular measures for their repression; and at the same time he also forced or persuaded the principal chiefs of Central India to act vigorously in concert with him. When these were put into operation and the principal routes from Central India occupied by British detachments, the Pindaris were completely broken up and scattered in the course of a single campaign. They made no stand against regular troops, and their bands, unable to escape from the ring of forces drawn round them, were rapidly dispersed over the country. The people eagerly plundered and seized them in revenge for the wrongs long suffered at their hands, and the Bhil Grassias or border landholders gladly carried out the instructions to hunt them down. On one occasion a native havildar with only thirty-four men attacked and put a large body of them to flight. The principal chiefs, reduced to the condition of hunted outlaws in the jungles, soon accepted the promise of their lives, and on surrendering were either settled on a grant of land or kept in confinement. The well-known leader Chitu joined Apa Sahib, who had then escaped from Nagpur and was in hiding in the Pachmarhi hills. Being expelled from there in February 1819 he proceeded to the fort of Asirgarh in Nimar, but was refused admittance by Sindhia's commandant. He sought shelter in the neighbouring jungle, and on horseback and alone attempted to penetrate a thick cover known to be infested with tigers. He was missed for some days afterwards and no one knew what had become of him. His horse was at last discovered grazing near the margin of the forest, saddled and bridled, and exactly in the state in which it was when Chitu had last been seen upon it. Upon search a bag of Rs. 250 was found in the saddle; and several seal rings with some letters of Apa Sahib, promising future reward, served more completely to fix the identity of the horse's late master. These circumstances, combined with the known resort of tigers to the spot, induced a search for the body, when at no great distance some clothes clotted with blood, and farther on fragments of bones, and at last the Pindari's head entire with features in a state to be recognised, were successively discovered. The chief's mangled remains were given over to his son for interment, and the miserable fate of one who so shortly before had ridden at the head of twenty thousand horse gave an awful lesson of the uncertainty of fortune and drew pity even from those who had been victims of his barbarity when living. [443]

7. Character of the Pindaris

The Pindaris, as might be expected, were recruited from all classes and castes, and though many became Muhammadans the Hindus preserved the usages of their respective castes. Most of the Hindu men belonged to the Ladul or grass-cutter class, and their occupation was to bring grass and firewood to the camps. "Those born in the Durrahs or camps," Malcolm states, [444] "appear to have been ignorant in a degree almost beyond belief and were in the same ratio superstitious. The women of almost all the Muhammadan Pindaris dressed like Hindus and worshipped Hindu deities. From accompanying their husbands in most of their excursions they became hardy and masculine; they were usually mounted on small horses or camels, and were more dreaded by the villagers than the men, whom they exceeded in cruelty and rapacity." Colonel Tod notes that the Pindaris, like other Indian robbers, were devout in the observance of their religion:

"A short distance to the west of the Regent's (Kotah) camp is the Pindari-ka-chhaoni, where the sons of Karim Khan, the chief leader of those hordes, resided; for in those days of strife the old Regent would have allied himself with Satan, if he had led a horde of plunderers. I was greatly amused to see in this camp the commencement of an Id-Gah or place of prayer; for the villains, while they robbed and murdered even defenceless women, prayed five times a day!" [445]

8. The existing Pindaris

While the freebooting Pindaris had no regular caste organisation, their descendants have now become more or less of a caste in accordance with the usual tendency of a distinctive occupation, producing a difference in status, to form a fresh caste. The existing Pindaris in the Central Provinces are both Muhammadans and Hindus, the Muhammadans, as already stated, having been originally the children of Hindus who were kidnapped and converted. It is one of the very few merits of the Pindaris that they did not sell their captives to slavery. Their numerous prisoners of all ages and both sexes were employed as servants, made over to the chiefs or held to ransom from their relatives, but the Pindaris did not carry on like the Banjaras a traffic in slaves. [446] The Muhammadan Pindaris were said some time ago to have no religion, but with the diffusion of knowledge they have now adopted the rites of Islam and observe its rules and restrictions. In Bhandara the Hindu Pindaris are Garoris or Gowaris, They say that the ancestors of the Pindaris and Gowaris were two brothers, the business of the Pindari brother being to tend buffaloes and that of the Gowari brother to herd cows. These Pindaris will beg from the owners of buffaloes for the above reason. They revere the dog and will not kill it, and also worship snakes and tigers, believing that these animals never do them injury. They carry their dead to the grave in a sitting posture, seated in a jholi or wallet, and bury them in the same position. They wear their beards and do not shave. Some of these Pindaris are personal servants, others cultivators and labourers, and others snake-charmers and jugglers.

9. Attractions of a Pindari's life

The freebooting life of the Pindaris, unmitigated scoundrels though they were, no doubt had great charms, and must often have been recalled with regret by those who settled down to the quiet humdrum existence of a cultivator. This feeling has been admirably depicted in Sir Alfred Lyall's well-known poem, of which it will be permissible to quote a short extract:

When I rode a Dekhani charger with the saddle-cloth gold-laced, And a Persian sword and a twelve-foot spear and a pistol at my waist. It's many a year gone by now; and yet I often dream Of a long dark march to the Jumna, of splashing across the stream, Of the waning moon on the water and the spears in the dim starlight As I rode in front of my mother [447] and wondered at all the sight. Then the streak of the pearly dawn—the flash of a sentinel's gun, The gallop and glint of horsemen who wheeled in the level sun, The shots in the clear still morning, the white smoke's eddying wreath, Is this the same land that I live in, the dull dank air that I breathe? And if I were forty years younger, with my life before me to choose, I wouldn't be lectured by Kafirs or bullied by fat Hindoos; But I'd go to some far-off country where Musalmans still are men, Or take to the jungle like Chetoo, and die in the tiger's den.


1. Historical notice

Prabhu, Parbhu.—The Maratha caste of clerks, accountants and patwaris corresponding to the Kayasths. They numbered about 1400 persons in the southern Districts of the Central Provinces and Berar in 1911. The Prabhus, like the Kayasths, claim to be descendants of a child of Chandra Sena, a Kshatriya king and himself a son of Arjun, one of the five Pandava brothers. Chandra Sena was slain by Parasurama, the Brahman destroyer of the Kshatriyas, but the child was saved by a Rishi, who promised that he should be brought up as a clerk. The boy was named Somraj and was married to the daughter of Chitra Gupta, the recorder of the dead. The caste thus claim Kshatriya origin. The name Prabhu signifies 'lord,' but the Brahmans pretend that the real name of the caste was Parbhu, meaning one of irregular birth. The Prabhus say that Parbhu is a colloquial corruption used by the uneducated. The gotras of the Prabhus are eponymous, the names being the same as those of Brahmans. In the Central Provinces many of them have the surname of Chitnavis or Secretary. Child-marriage is in vogue and widow-remarriage is forbidden. The wedding ceremony resembles that of the Brahmans.

In his Description of a Prabhu marriage [448] Rai Bahadur B.A. Gupte shows how the old customs are being broken through among the educated classes under the influence of modern ideas. Marriages are no longer arranged without regard to the wishes of the couple, which are thus ascertained: "The next step [449] is to find out the inclination of the hero of the tale. His friends and equals do that easily enough. They begin talking of the family and the girl, and are soon able to fathom his mind. They leave on his desk all the photographs of the girls offered and watch his movements. If he is sensible he quietly drops or returns all the likenesses except the one he prefers, and keeps this in his drawer. He dare not display it, for it is immodest to do so. The news of the approval by the boy soon reaches the parents of the girl." Similarly in her case: "The girl has no direct voice, but her likes and dislikes are carefully fathomed through her girl friends. If she says, 'Why is papa in such a hurry to get rid of me,' or turns her face and goes away as soon as the proposed family is mentioned, a sensible father drops the case and turns his attention to some other boy. This is the direct result of higher education under British rule, but among the masses the girl has absolutely no voice, and the boy has very little unless he revolts and disobediently declines to accept a girl already selected." Similarly the educated Prabhus are beginning to dispense with the astrologer's calculations showing the agreement of the horoscopes of the couple, which are too often made a cloak for the extortion of large presents. "It very often happens that everything is amicably settled except the greed of the priest, and he manages to find out some disagreement between the horoscopes of the marriageable parties to vent his anger. This trick has been sufficiently exposed, and the educated portion of this ultra-literary caste have in most cases discarded horoscopes and planetary conjunctions altogether. Under these restrictions the only thing the council of astrologers have to do is to draw up two documents giving diagrams based on the names of the parties—for names are presumably selected according to the conjunctions of the stars at birth. But they are often not, and depend on the liking of the father for a family god, a mythological hero, a patron or a celebrated ancestor in the case of the boy. In that of the girl the favourite deity or a character in the most recent fable or drama the father has just read."

According to custom the bridegroom should go to the bride's house to be married, but if it is more convenient to have the wedding at the bridegroom's town, the bride goes there to a temporary house taken by her father, and then the bridegroom proceeds to a temple with his party and is welcomed as if he had arrived on completion of a journey. Mr. Gupte thus describes the reception of the bride when she has come to be married: "But there comes an urgent telegram. The bride and her mother are expected and information is given to the bridegroom's father. In all haste preparations are made to give her a grand and suitable reception. Oh, the flutter among the girls assembled in the house of the bridegroom from all quarters. Every one is dressed in her best and is trying to be the foremost in welcoming the new bride, the Goddess Lakshmi. The numerous maidservants of the house want to prostrate themselves before their future queen on the Suna or borderland of the city, which is of course the railway station. Musicians have been already despatched and the platform is full of gaily dressed girls. The train arrives, the party assemble at the waiting-room, a maidservant waves rice and water to 'take off' the effects of evil eyes and they start amid admiring eyes of the passengers and onlookers. As soon as the bride reaches her father's temporary residence another girl waves rice and water and throws it away. The girls of the bridegroom's house run home and come back again with a Kalash (water-pot) full of water, with its mouth covered with mango-leaves and topped over with a cocoanut and a large tray of sugar. This is called Sakhar pani, sugar and water, the first to wash the mouth with and the second to sweeten it. The girls have by this time all gathered round the bride and are busy cheering her up with encouraging remarks: 'Oh, she is a Rati, the goddess of beauty,' says one, and another, 'How delicate,' 'What a fine nose' from a third, and 'Look at her eyes' from a fourth. All complimentary and comforting. 'We are glad it is our house you are coming to,' says a sister-in-law in prospect. 'We are happy you are going to be our malikin (mistress),' adds a maidservant. As soon as the elder ladies have completed their courteous inquiries pan-supari and attar are distributed and the party returns home. But on arrival the girls gather round the bridegroom to tease him. 'Oh, you Sudharak (reformer),' 'Oh, you Sahib (European), you have selected your bride.' 'You have seen her before marriage. You have broken the rule of the society. You ought to be excommunicated.' 'But,' says another, 'he will now have no time to speak to us. His Rati (goddess of beauty) and he! The Sahib and the Memsahib! We shall all be forgotten now. Who cares for sisters and cousins in these days of civilisation?' But all these little jokes of the little girls are meant as congratulations to him for having secured a good girl." At a wedding among the highest families such as is described here, the bridegroom is presented with drinking cups and plates, trays for holding sandalwood paste, betel-leaf and an incense-burner, all in solid silver to the value of about Rs. 1000; water-pots and cooking vessels and a small bath in German silver costing Rs. 300 to Rs. 400; and a set of brass vessels. [450]

2. General Customs

The Prabhus wear the sacred thread. In Bombay boys receive it a short time before their marriage without the ceremonies which form part of the regular Brahman investiture. On the fifth day after the birth of a child, the sword and also pens, paper and ink are worshipped, the sword being the symbol of their Kshatriya origin and the pens, paper and ink of their present occupation of clerks. [451] The funeral ceremonies, Mr. Enthoven writes, are performed during the first thirteen days after death. Oblations of rice are offered every day, in consequence of which the soul of the dead attains a spiritual body, limb by limb, till on the thirteenth day it is enabled to start on its journey. In twelve months the journey ends, and a shraddh ceremony is performed on an extensive scale on the anniversary of the death. Most of the Prabhus are in Government service and others are landowners. In the Bombay Presidency [452] they had at first almost a monopoly of Government service as English writers, and the term Prabhu was commonly employed to denote a clerk of any caste who could write English. Both men and women of the caste are generally of a fair complexion, resembling the Maratha Brahmans. The taste of the women in dress is proverbial, and when a Sunar, Sutar or Kasar woman has dressed herself in her best for some family festival, she will ask her friends, 'Prabhuin disto,' or 'Do I look like a Prabhu?'


1. Historical notice

Raghuvansi, Raghvi.—A class of Rajputs of impure descent, who have now developed in the Central Provinces into a caste of cultivators, marrying among themselves. Their first settlement here was in the Nerbudda Valley, and Sir C. Elliott wrote of them: [453] "They are a queer class, all professing to be Rajputs from Ajodhia, though on cross-examination they are obliged to confess that they did not come here straight from Ajodhia, but stopped in Bundelkhand and the Gwalior territory by the way. They are obviously of impure blood as they marry only among themselves; but when they get wealthy and influential they assume the sacred thread, stop all familiarity with Gujars and Kirars (with whom they are accustomed to smoke the huqqa and to take water) and profess to be very high-caste Rajputs indeed." From Hoshangabad they have spread to Betul, Chhindwara and Nagpur and now number 24,000 persons in all in the Central Provinces. Chhindwara, on the Satpura plateau, is supposed to have been founded by one Ratan Raghuvansi, who built the first house on the site, burying a goat alive under the foundations. The goat is still worshipped as the tutelary deity of the town. The name Raghuvansi is derived from Raja Raghu, king of Ajodhia and ancestor of the great Rama, the hero of the Ramayana. In Nagpur the name has been shortened to Raghvi, and the branch of the caste settled here is somewhat looked down upon by their fellows in Hoshangabad. Sir R. Craddock [454] states that their religion is unorthodox and they have gurus or priests of their own caste, discarding Brahmans. Their names end in Deo. Their origin, however, is still plainly discernible in their height, strength of body and fair complexion. The notice continues: "Whatever may happen to other classes the Raghvi will never give way to the moneylender. Though he is fond of comfort he combines a good deal of thrift with it, and the clannish spirit of the caste would prevent any oppression of Raghvi tenants by a landlord or moneylender of their own body." In Chhindwara, Mr. Montgomerie states, [455] they rank among the best cultivators, and formerly lived in clans, holding villages on bhaiachari or communal tenure. As malguzars or village proprietors, they are very prone to absorb tenant land into their home-farms.

2. Social customs

The Raghuvansis have now a set of exogamous groups of the usual low-caste type, designated after titles, nicknames or natural objects. They sometimes invest their sons with the sacred thread at the time of marriage instead of performing the proper thread ceremony. Some discard the cord after the wedding is over. At a marriage the Raghuvansis of Chhindwara and Nagpur combine the Hindustani custom of walking round the sacred pole with the Maratha one of throwing coloured rice on the bridal couple. Sometimes they have what is known as a gankar wedding. At this, flour, sugar and ghi [456] are the only kinds of food permissible, large cakes of flour and sugar being boiled in pitchers full of ghi, and everybody being given as much of this as he can eat. The guests generally over-eat themselves, and as weddings are celebrated in the hot weather, one or two may occasionally die of repletion. The neighbours of Raghuvansis say that the host considers such an occurrence as evidence of the complete success of his party, but this is probably a libel. Such a wedding feast may cost two or three thousand rupees. After the wedding the women of the bride's party attack those of the bridegroom's with bamboo sticks, while these retaliate by throwing red powder on them. The remarriage of widows is freely permitted, but a widow must be taken from the house of her own parents or relatives, and not from that of her first husband or his parents. In fact, if any members of the dead husband's family meet the second husband on the night of the wedding they will attack him and a serious affray may follow. On reaching her new house the woman enters it by a back door, after bathing and changing all her clothes. The old clothes are given away to a barber or washerman, and the presentation of new clothes by the second husband is the only essential ceremony. No wife will look on a widow's face on the night of her second marriage, for fear lest by doing so she should come to the same position. The majority of the caste abstain from liquor, and they eat flesh in some localities, but not in others. The men commonly wear beards divided by a shaven patch in the centre of the chin; and the women have two body-cloths, one worn like a skirt according to the northern custom. Mr. Crooke states [457] that "in northern India a tradition exists among them that the cultivation of sugar is fatal to the farmer, and that the tiling of a house brings down divine displeasure upon the owner; hence to this day no sugar is grown and not a tiled house is to be seen in their estates." These superstitions do not appear to be known at all in the Central Provinces.


1. General notice

Rajjhar, Rajbhar, Lajjhar.—A caste of farmservants found in the northern Districts. In 1911 they numbered about 8000 persons in the Central Provinces, being returned principally from the Districts of the Satpura plateau. The names Rajjhar and Rajbhar appear to be applied indiscriminately to the same caste, who are an offshoot of the great Bhar tribe of northern India. The original name appears to have been Raj Bhar, which signifies a landowning Bhar, like Raj-Gond, Raj-Korku and so on. In Mandla all the members of the caste were shown as Rajbhar in 1891, and Rajjhar in 1901, and the two names seem to be used interchangeably in other Districts in the same manner. Some section or family names, such as Bamhania, Patela, Barhele and others, are common to people calling themselves Rajjhar and Rajbhar. But, though practically the same caste, the Rajjhars seem, in some localities, to be more backward and primitive than the Rajbhars. This is also the case in Berar, where they are commonly known as Lajjhar and are said to be akin to the Gonds. A Gond will there take food from a Lajjhar, but not a Lajjhar from a Gond. They are more Hinduised than the Gonds and have prohibited the killing or injuring of cows by some caste penalties. [458]

2. Origin and subdivisions

The caste appears to be in part of mixed origin arising from the unions of Hindu fathers with women of the Bhar tribe. Several of their family names are derived from those of other castes, as Bamhania (from Brahman), Sunarya (from Sunar), Baksaria (a Rajput sept), Ahiriya (an Ahir or cowherd), and Bisatia from Bisati (a hawker). Other names are after plants or animals, as Baslya from the bans or bamboo, Mohanya from the mohin tree, Chhitkaria from the sitaphal or custard-apple tree, Hardaya from the banyan tree, Richhya from the bear, and Dukhania from the buffalo. Members of this last sept will not drink buffalo's milk or wear black cloth, because this is the colour of their totem animal. Members of septs named after other castes have also adopted some natural object as a sept totem; thus those of the Sunarya sept worship gold as being the metal with which the Sunar is associated. Those of the Bamhania sept revere the banyan and pipal trees, as these are held sacred by Brahmans. The Bakraria or Bagsaria sept believe their name to be derived from that of the bagh or tiger, and they worship this animal's footprints by tying a thread round them.

3. Marriage

The marriage of members of the same sept, and also that of first cousins, is forbidden. The caste do not employ Brahmans at their marriage and other ceremonies, and they account for this somewhat quaintly by saying that their ancestors were at one time accustomed to rely on the calculations of Brahman priests; but many marriages which the Brahman foretold as auspicious turned out very much the reverse; and on this account they have discarded the Brahman, and now determine the suitability or otherwise of a projected union by the common primitive custom of throwing two grains of rice into a vessel of water and seeing whether they will meet. The truth is probably that they are too backward ever to have had recourse to the Brahman priest, but now, though they still apparently have no desire for his services, they recognise the fact to be somewhat discreditable to themselves, and desire to explain it away by the story already given. In Hoshangabad the bride still goes to the bridegroom's house to be married as among the Gonds. A bride-price is paid, which consists of four rupees, a khandi [459] of juari or wheat, and two pieces of cloth. This is received by the bride's father, who, however, has in turn to pay seven rupees eight annas and a goat to the caste panchayat or committee for the arrangement and sanction of the match. This last payment is known as Skarab-ka-rupaya or liquor-money, and with the goat furnishes the wherewithal for a sumptuous feast to the caste. The marriage-shed must be made of freshly-cut timber, which should not be allowed to fall to the ground, but must be supported and carried off on men's shoulders as it is cut. When the bridegroom arrives at the marriage-shed he is met by the bride's mother and conducted by her to an inner room of the house, where he finds the bride standing. He seizes her fist, which she holds clenched, and opens her fingers by force. The couple then walk five times round the chauk or sacred space made with lines of flour on the floor, the bridegroom holding the bride by her little finger. They are preceded by some relative of the bride, who walks round the post carrying a pot of water, with seven holes in it; the water spouts from these holes on to the ground, and the couple must tread in it as they go round the post. This forms the essential and binding portion of the marriage. That night the couple sleep in the same room with a woman lying between them. Next day they return to the bridegroom's house, and on arriving at his door the boy's mother meets him and touches his head, breast and knees with a churning-stick, a winnowing-fan and a pestle, with the object of exorcising any evil spirits who may be accompanying the bridal couple. As the pair enter the marriage-shed erected before the bridegroom's house they are drenched with water by a man sitting on the roof, and when they come to the door of the house the bridegroom's younger brother, or some other boy, sits across it with his legs stretched out to prevent the bride from entering. The girl pushes his legs aside and goes into the house, where she stays for three months with her husband, and then returns to her parents for a year. After this she is sent to her husband with a basket of fried cakes and a piece of cloth, and takes up her residence with him. When a widow is to be married, the couple pour turmeric and water over each other, and then walk seven times round in a circle in an empty space, holding each other by the hand. A widow commonly marries her deceased husband's younger brother, but is not compelled to do so. Divorce is permitted for adultery on the part of the wife.

4. Social Customs

The caste bury their dead with the head pointing to the west. This practice is peculiar, and is also followed, Colonel Dalton states, by the hill Bhuiyas of Bengal, who in so doing honour the quarter of the setting sun. When a burial takes place, all the mourners who accompany the corpse throw a little earth into the grave. On the same day some food and liquor are taken to the grave and offered to the dead man's spirit, and a feast is given to the caste-fellows. This concludes the ceremonies of mourning, and the next day the relatives go about their business. The caste are usually petty cultivators and labourers, while they also collect grass and fuel for sale, and propagate the lac insect. In Seoni they have a special relation with the Ahirs, from whom they will take cooked food, while they say that the Ahirs will also eat from their hands. In Narsinghpur a similar connection has been observed between the Rajjhars and the Lodhi caste. This probably arises from the fact that the former have worked for several generations as the farm-servants of Lodhi or Ahir employers, and have been accustomed to live in their houses and partake of their meals, so that caste rules have been abandoned for the sake of convenience. A similar intimacy has been observed between the Panwars and Gonds, and other castes who stand in this relation to each other. The Rajjhars will also eat katcha food (cooked with water) from Kunbis and Kahars. But in Hoshangabad some of them will not take food from any caste, even from Brahmans. Their women wear glass bangles only on the right hand, and a brass ornament known as mathi on the left wrist. They wear no ornaments in the nose or ears, and have no breast-cloth. They are tattooed with dots on the face and patterns of animals on the right arm, but not on the left arm or legs. A liaison between a youth and maiden of the caste is considered a trifling matter, being punished only with a fine of two to four annas or pence. A married woman detected in an intrigue is mulcted in a sum of four or five rupees, and if her partner be a man of another caste a lock of her hair is cut off. The caste are generally ignorant and dirty, and are not much better than the Gonds and other forest tribes.


[The following article is based mainly on Colonel Tod's classical Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, 2nd ed., Madras, Higginbotham, 1873, and Mr. Crooke's articles on the Rajput clans in his Tribes and Castes of the North-Western Provinces and Oudh. Much information as to the origin of the Rajput clans has been obtained from inscriptions and worked up mainly by the late Mr. A.M.T. Jackson and Messrs. B.G. and D.R. Bhandarkar; this has been set out with additions and suggestions in Mr. V.A. Smith's Early History of India, 3rd ed., and has been reproduced in the subordinate articles on the different clans. Though many of the leading clans are very weakly represented in the Central Provinces, some notice of them is really essential in an article treating generally of the Rajput caste, on however limited a scale, and has therefore been included. In four cases, Panwar, Jadum, Raghuvansi and Daharia, the original Rajput clans have now developed into separate cultivating castes, ranking well below the Rajputs; separate articles have been written on these as for independent castes.]

List of Paragraphs

1. Introductory notice. 2. The thirty-six royal races. 3. The origin of the Rajputs. 4. Subdivisions of the clans. 5. Marriage customs. 6. Funeral rites. 7. Religion. 8. Food. 9. Opium. 10. Improved training of Rajput chiefs. 11. Dress. 12. Social customs. 13. Seclusion of women. 14. Traditional character of the Rajputs. 15. Occupation.

List of Subordinate Articles

1. Baghel. 2. Bagri. 3. Bais. 4. Baksaria. 5. Banaphar. 6. Bhadauria. 7. Bisen. 8. Bundela. 9. Chandel. 10. Chauhan. 11. Dhakar. 12. Gaharwar, Gherwal. 13. Gaur, Chamar-Gaur. 14. Haihaya, Haihaivansi, Kalachuri. 15. Huna, Hoon. 16. Kachhwaha, Cutchwaha. 17. Nagvansi. 18. Nikumbh. 19. Paik. 20. Parihar. 21. Rathor, Rathaur. 22. Sesodia, Gahlot, Aharia. 23. Solankhi, Solanki, Chalukya. 24. Somvansi, Chandravansi. 25. Surajvansi. 26. Tomara, Tuar, Tunwar. 27. Yadu, Yadava, Yadu-Bhatti, Jadon.

1. Introductory notice

Rajput, Kshatriya, Chhatri, Thakur.—The Rajputs are the representatives of the old Kshatriya or warrior class, the second of the four main castes or orders of classical Hinduism, and were supposed to have been made originally from the arms of Brahma. The old name of Kshatriya is still commonly used in the Hindi form Chhatri, but the designation Rajput, or son of a king, has now superseded it as the standard name of the caste. Thakur, or lord, is the common Rajput title, and that by which they are generally addressed. The total number of persons returned as Rajputs in the Province in 1911 was about 440,000. India has about nine million Rajputs in all, and they are most numerous in the Punjab, the United Provinces, and Bihar and Orissa, Rajputana returning under 700,000 and Central India about 800,000.

The bulk of the Rajputs in the Central Provinces are of very impure blood. Several groups, such as the Panwars of the Wainganga Valley, the Raghuvansis of Chhindwara and Nagpur, the Jadams of Hoshangabad and the Daharias of Chhattisgarh, have developed into separate castes and marry among themselves, though a true Rajput must not marry in his own clan. Some of them have abandoned the sacred thread and now rank with the good cultivating castes below Banias. Reference may be made to the separate articles on these castes. Similarly the Surajvansi, Gaur or Gorai, Chauhan, and Bagri clans marry among themselves in the Central Provinces, and it is probable that detailed research would establish the same of many clans or parts of clans bearing the name of Rajput in all parts of India. If the definition of a proper Rajput were taken, as it should be correctly, as one whose family intermarried with clans of good standing, the caste would be reduced to comparatively small dimensions. The name Dhakar, also shown as a Rajput clan, is applied to a person of illegitimate birth, like Vidur. Over 100,000 persons, or nearly a quarter of the total, did not return the name of any clan in 1911, and these are all of mixed or illegitimate descent. They are numerous in Nimar, and are there known as chhoti-tur or low-class Rajputs. The Bagri Rajputs of Seoni and the Surajvansis of Betal marry among themselves, while the Bundelas of Saugor intermarry with two other local groups, the Panwar and Dhundhele, all the three being of impure blood. In Jubbulpore a small clan of persons known as Paik or foot-soldier return themselves as Rajputs, but are no doubt a mixed low-caste group. Again, some landholding sections of the primitive tribes have assumed the names of Rajput clans. Thus the zamindars of Bilaspur, who originally belonged to the Kawar tribe, call themselves Tuar or Tomara Rajputs, and the landholding section of the Mundas in Chota Nagpur say that they are of the Nagvansi clan. Other names are returned which are not those of Rajput clans or their offshoots at all. If these subdivisions, which cannot be considered as proper Rajputs, and all those who have returned no clan be deducted, there remain not more than 100,000 who might be admitted to be pure Rajputs in Rajputana. But a close local scrutiny even of these would no doubt result in the detection of many persons who have assumed and returned the names of good clans without being entitled to them. And many more would come away as being the descendants of remarried widows. A Rajput of really pure family and descent is in fact a person of some consideration in most parts of the Central Provinces.

2. The thirty-six royal races

Traditionally the Rajputs are divided into thirty-six great clans or races, of which Colonel Tod gives a list compiled from different authorities as follows (alternative names by which the clan or important branches of it are known are shown in brackets):

1. Ikshwaka or Surajvansi. 2. Indu, Somvansi or Chandravansi. 3. Gahlot or Sesodia (Raghuvansi). 4. Yadu (Bhatti, Jareja, Jadon, Banaphar). 5. Tuar or Tomara. 6. Rathor. 7. Kachhwaha (Cutchwaha). 8. Pramara or Panwar (Mori). 9. Chauhan (Hara, Khichi, Nikumbh, Bhadauria). 10. Chalukya or Solankhi (Baghel). 11. Parihar. 12. Chawara or Chaura. 13. Tak or Takshac (Nagvansi, Mori). 14. Jit or Gete. 15. Huna. 16. Kathi. 17. Balla. 18. Jhalla. 19. Jaitwa or Kamari. 20. Gohil. 21. Sarweya. 22. Silar. 23. Dhabi. 24. Gaur. 25. Doda or Dor. 26. Gherwal or Gaharwar (Bundela). 27. Badgujar. 28. Sengar. 29. Sikarwal. 30. Bais. 31. Dahia. 32. Johia. 33. Mohil. 34. Nikumbh. 35. Rajpali. 36. Dahima.

And two extra, Hul and Daharia.

Several of the above races are extinct or nearly so, and on the other hand some very important modern clans, as the Gautam, Dikhit and Bisen, and such historically important ones as the Chandel and Haihaya, are not included in the thirty-six royal races at all. Practically all the clans should belong either to the solar and lunar branch, that is, should be descended from the sun or moon, but the division, if it ever existed, is not fully given by Colonel Tod. Two special clans, the Surajvansi and Chandra or Somvansi, are named after the sun and moon respectively; and a few others, as the Sesodia, Kachhwaha, Gohil, Bais and Badgujar, are recorded as being of the solar race, descended from Vishnu through his incarnation as Rama. The Rathors also claimed solar lineage, but this was not wholly conceded by the Bhats, and the Dikhits are assigned to the solar branch by their legends. The great clan of the Yadavas, of whom the present Jadon or Jadum and Bhatti Rajputs are representatives, was of the lunar race, tracing their descent from Krishna, though, as a matter of fact, Krishna was also an incarnation of Vishnu or the sun; and the Tuar or Tomara, as well as the Jit or Gete, the Rajput section of the modern Jats, who were considered to be branches of the Yadavas, would also be of the moon division, The Gautam and Bisen clans, who are not included in the thirty-six royal races, now claim lunar descent. Four clans, the Panwar, Chauhan, Chalukya or Solankhi, and Parihar, had a different origin, being held to have been born through the agency of the gods from a firepit on the summit of Mount Abu. They are hence known as Agnikula or the fire races. Several clans, such as the Tak or Takshac, the Huna and the Chaura, were considered by Colonel Tod to be the representatives of the Huns or Scythians, that is, the nomad invading tribes from Central Asia, whose principal incursions took place during the first five centuries of the Christian era.

At least six of the thirty-six royal races, the Sarweya, Silar, Doda or Dor, Dahia, Johia and Mohil, were extinct in Colonel Tod's time, and others were represented only by small settlements in Rajputana and Surat. On the other hand, there are now a large number of new clans, whose connection with the thirty-six is doubtful, though in many cases they are probably branches of the old clans who have obtained a new name on settling in a different locality.

3. The origin of the Rajputs

It was for long the custom to regard the Rajputs as the direct descendants and representatives of the old Kshatriya or warrior class of the Indian Aryans, as described in the Vedas and the great epics. Even Colonel Tod by no means held this view in its entirety, and modern epigraphic research has caused its partial or complete abandonment Mr. V.A. Smith indeed says: [460] "The main points to remember are that the Kshatriya or Rajput caste is essentially an occupational caste, composed of all clans following the Hindu ritual who actually undertook the act of government; that consequently people of most diverse races were and are lumped together as Rajputs, and that most of the great clans now in existence are descended either from foreign immigrants of the fifth or sixth century A.D. or from indigenous races such as the Gonds and Bhars." Colonel Tod held three clans, the Tak or Takshac, the Huna and the Chaura, to be descended from Scythian or nomad Central Asian immigrants, and the same origin has been given for the Haihaya. The Huna clan actually retains the name of the White Huns, from whose conquests in the fifth century it probably dates its existence. The principal clan of the lunar race, the Yadavas, are said to have first settled in Delhi and at Dwarka in Gujarat. But on the death of Krishna, who was their prince, they were expelled from these places, and retired across the Indus, settling in Afghanistan. Again, for some reason which the account does not clearly explain, they came at a later period to India and settled first in the Punjab and afterwards in Rajputana. The Jit or Jat and the Tomara clans were branches of the Yadavas, and it is supposed that the Jits or Jats were also descended from the nomad invading tribes, possibly from the Yueh-chi tribe who conquered and occupied the Punjab during the first and second centuries. [461] The legend of the Yadavas, who lived in Gujarat with their chief Krishna, but after his defeat and death retired to Central Asia, and at a later date returned to India, would appear to correspond fairly well with the Saka invasion of the second century B.C. which penetrated to Kathiawar and founded a dynasty there. In A.D. 124 the second Saka king was defeated by the Andhra king Vilivayakura II. and his kingdom destroyed. [462] But at about the same period, the close of the first century, a fresh horde of the Sakas came to Gujarat from Central Asia and founded another kingdom, which lasted until it was subverted by Chandragupta Vikramaditya about A.D. 390. [463] The historical facts about the Sakas, as given on the authority of Mr. V.A. Smith, thus correspond fairly closely with the Yadava legend. And the later Yueh-chi immigrants might well be connected by the Bhats with the Saka hordes who had come at an earlier date from the same direction, and so the Jats [464] might be held to be an offshoot of the Yadavas. This connection of the Yadava and Jat legends with the facts of the immigration of the Sakas and Yueh-chi appears a plausible one, but may be contradicted by historical arguments of which the writer is ignorant. If it were correct we should be justified in identifying the lunar clans of Rajputs with the early Scythian immigrants of the first and second centuries. Another point is that Buddha is said to be the progenitor of the whole Indu or lunar race. [465] It is obvious that Buddha had no real connection with these Central Asian tribes, as he died some centuries before their appearance in India. But the Yueh-chi or Kushan kings of the Punjab in the first and second centuries A.D. were fervent Buddhists and established that religion in the Punjab. Hence we can easily understand how, if the Yadus or Jats and other lunar clans were descended from the Saka and Yueh-chi immigrants, the legend of their descent from Buddha, who was himself a Kshatriya, might be devised for them by their bards when they were subsequently converted from Buddhism to Hinduism. The Sakas of western India, on the other hand, who it is suggested may be represented by the Yadavas, were not Buddhists in the beginning, whether or not they became so afterwards. But as has been seen, though Buddha was their first progenitor, Krishna was also their king while they were in Gujarat, so that at this time they must have been supposed to be Hindus. The legend of descent from Buddha arising with the Yueh-chi or Kushans might have been extended to them. Again, the four Agnikula or fire-born clans, the Parihar, Chalukya or Solankhi, Panwar and Chauhan, are considered to be the descendants of the White Hun and Gujar invaders of the fifth and sixth centuries. These clans were said to have been created by the gods from a firepit on the summit of Mount Abu for the re-birth of the Kshatriya caste after it had been exterminated by the slaughter of Parasurama the Brahman. And it has been suggested that this legend refers to the cruel massacres of the Huns, by which the bulk of the old aristocracy, then mainly Buddhist, was wiped out; while the Huns and Gujars, one at least of whose leaders was a fervent adherent of Brahmanism and slaughtered the Buddhists of the Punjab, became the new fire-born clans on being absorbed into Hinduism. [466] The name of the Huns is still retained in the Huna clan, now almost extinct. There remain the clans descended from the sun through Rama, and it would be tempting to suppose that these are the representatives of the old Aryan Kshatriyas. But Mr. Bhandarkar has shown [467] that the Sesodias, the premier clan of the solar race and of all Rajputs, are probably sprung from Nagar Brahmans of Gujarat, and hence from the Gujar tribes; and it must therefore be supposed that the story of solar origin and divine ancestry was devised because they were once Brahmans, and hence, in the view of the bards, of more honourable origin than the other clans. Similarly the Badgujar clan, also of solar descent, is shown by its name of bara or great Gujar to have been simply an aristocratic section of the Gujars; while the pedigree of the Rathors, another solar clan, and one of those who have shed most lustre on the Rajput name, was held to be somewhat doubtful by the Bhats, and their solar origin was not fully admitted. Mr. Smith gives two great clans as very probably of aboriginal or Dravidian origin, the Gaharwar or Gherwal, from whom the Bundelas are derived, and the Chandel, who ruled Bundelkhand from the ninth to the twelfth centuries, and built the fine temples at Mahoba, Kalanjar and Khajaraho as well as making many great tanks. This corresponds with Colonel Tod's account, which gives no place to the Chandels among the thirty-six royal races, and states that the Gherwal Rajput is scarcely known to his brethren in Rajasthan, who will not admit his contaminated blood to mix with theirs, though as a brave warrior he is entitled to their fellowship. [468] Similarly the Kathi clan may be derived from the indigenous Kathi tribe who gave their name to Kathiawar. And the Surajvansi, Somvansi and Nagvansi clans, or descendants of the sun, moon and snake, which are scarcely known in Rajputana, may represent landholding sections of lower castes or non-Aryan tribes who have been admitted to Rajput rank. But even though it be found that the majority of the Rajput clans cannot boast a pedigree dating farther back than the first five centuries of our era, this is at any rate an antiquity to which few if any of the greatest European houses can lay claim.

4. Subdivisions of the clans

Many of the great clans are now split up into a number of branches. The most important of these were according to locality, the different sachae or branches being groups settled in separate areas. Thus the Chalukya or Solankhi had sixteen branches, of which the Baghels of Rewah or Baghelkhand were the most important. The Panwars had thirty-five branches, of which the Mori and the Dhunda, now perhaps the Dhundele of Saugor, are the best known. The Gahlot had twenty-four branches, of which one, the Sesodia, became so important that it has given its name to the whole clan. The Chamar-Gaur section of the Gaur clan now claim a higher rank than the other Gaurs, though the name would apparently indicate the appearance of a Chamar in their family tree; while the Tilokchandi Bais form an aristocratic section of the Bais clan, named after a well-known king, Tilokchand, who reigned in upper India about the twelfth century and is presumably claimed by them as an ancestor. Besides this the Rajputs have gotras, named after eponymous saints exactly like the Brahman gotras, and probably adopted in imitation of the Brahmans. Since, theoretically, marriage is prohibited in the whole clan, the gotra divisions would appear to be useless, but Sir H. Risley states that persons of the same clan but with different gotras have begun to intermarry. Similarly it would appear that the different branches of the great clans mentioned above must intermarry in some cases; while in the Central Provinces, as already stated, several clans have become regular castes and form endogamous and not exogamous groups. In northern India, however, Mr. Crooke's accounts of the different clans indicate that marriage within the clan is as a rule not permitted. The clans themselves and their branches have different degrees of rank for purposes of marriage, according to the purity of their descent, while in each clan or subclan there is an inferior section formed of the descendants of remarried widows, or even the offspring of women of another caste, who have probably in the course of generations not infrequently got back into their father's clan. Thus many groups of varying status arise, and one of the principal rules of a Rajput's life was that he must marry his daughter, sometimes into a clan of equal, or sometimes into one of higher rank than his own. Hence arose great difficulty in arranging the marriages of girls and sometimes the payment of a price to the bridegroom; while in order to retain the favour of the Bhats and avoid their sarcasm, lavish expenditure had to be incurred by the bride's father on presents to these rapacious mendicants. [469] Thus a daughter became in a Rajput's eyes a long step on the road to ruin, and female infanticide was extensively practised. This crime has never been at all common in the Central Provinces, where the rule of marrying a daughter into an equal or higher clan has not been enforced with the same strictness as in northern India. But occasional instances formerly occurred in which the child's neck was placed under one leg of its mother's cot, or it was poisoned with opium or by placing the juice of the akra or swallow-wort plant on the mother's nipple.

5. Marriage customs

Properly the proposal for a Rajput marriage should emanate from the bride's side, and the customary method of making it was to send a cocoanut to the bridegroom. 'The cocoanut came,' was the phrase used to intimate that a proposal of marriage had been made. [470] It is possible that the bride's initiative was a relic of the Swayamwara or maiden's choice, when a king's daughter placed a garland on the neck of the youth she preferred among the competitors in a tournament, and among some Rajputs the Jayamala or garland of victory is still hung round the bridegroom's neck in memory of this custom; but it may also have been due to the fact that the bride had to pay the dowry. One tenth of this was paid as earnest when the match had been arranged, and the boy's party could not then recede from it. At the entrance of the marriage-shed was hung the toran, a triangle of three wooden bars, having the apex crowned with the effigy of a peacock. The bridegroom on horseback, lance in hand, proceeded to break the toran, which was defended by the damsels of the bride. They assailed him with missiles of various kinds, and especially with red powder made from the flowers of the palas [471] tree, at the same time singing songs full of immoral allusions. At length the toran was broken amid the shouts of the retainers, and the fair defenders retired. If the bridegroom could not attend in person his sword was sent to represent him, and was carried round the marriage-post, with the bride, this being considered a proper and valid marriage. At the rite of hatleva or joining the hands of the couple it was customary that any request made by the bridegroom to the bride's father should meet with compliance, and this usage has led to many fatal results in history. Another now obsolete custom was that the bride's father should present an elephant to his son-in-law as part of the dowry, but when a man could not afford a real elephant a small golden image of the animal might be substituted. In noble families the bride was often accompanied to her husband's house by a number of maidens belonging to the servant and menial castes. These were called Devadhari or lamp-bearers, and became inmates of the harem, their offspring being golas or slaves. In time of famine many of the poor had also perforce to sell themselves as slaves in order to obtain subsistence, and a chiefs household would thus contain a large number of them. They were still adorned in Mewar, Colonel Tod states, like the Saxon slaves of old, with a silver ring round the left ankle instead of the neck. They were well treated, and were often among the best of the military retainers; they took rank among themselves according to the quality of the mothers, and often held confidential places about the ruler's person. A former chief of Deogarh would appear at court with three hundred golas or slaves on horseback in his train, men whose lives were his own. [472] These special customs have now generally been abandoned by the Rajputs of the Central Provinces, and their weddings conform to the usual Hindu type as described in the article on Kurmi. The remarriage of widows is now recognised in the southern Districts, though not in the north; but even here widows frequently do marry and their offspring are received into the caste, though with a lower status than those who do not permit this custom. Among the Baghels a full Rajput will allow a relative born of a remarried widow to cook his food for him, but not to add the salt nor to eat it with him. Those who permit the second marriage of widows also allow a divorced woman to remain in the caste and to marry again. But among proper Rajputs, as with Brahmans, a wife who goes wrong is simply put away and expelled from the society. Polygamy is permitted and was formerly common among the chiefs. Each wife was maintained in a separate suite of rooms, and the chief dined and spent the evening alternately with each of them in her own quarters. The lady with her attendants would prepare dinner for him and wait upon him while he ate it, waving the punkah or fan behind him and entertaining him with her remarks, which, according to report, frequently constituted a pretty severe curtain lecture.

6. Funeral rites

The dead are burnt, except infants, whose bodies are buried. Mourning is observed for thirteen days for a man, nine days for a woman, and three days for a child. The shraddh ceremony or offering of sacrificial cakes to the spirit is performed either during the usual period in the month of Kunwar (September), or on the anniversary day of the death. It was formerly held that if a Kshatriya died on the battlefield it was unnecessary to perform his funeral rites because his spirit went straight to heaven, and thus the end to which the ceremonies were directed was already attained without them. It was also said that the wife of a man dying such a death should not regard herself as a widow nor undergo the privations imposed on widowhood. But this did not apply so far as self-immolation was concerned, since the wives of warriors dying in battle very frequently became sati. In the case of chiefs also it was sometimes the custom, probably for political reasons, that the heir should not observe mourning; because if he did so he would be incapable of appearing in an assembly for thirteen days, or of taking the public action which might be requisite to safeguard his succession. The body of the late chief would be carried out by the back door of the house, and as soon as it left his successor would take his seat on the gaddi or cushion and begin to discharge the public business of government.

7. Religion

The principal deity of the Rajputs is the goddess Devi or Durga in her more terrible form as the goddess of war. Their swords were sacred to her, and at the Dasahra festival they worshipped their swords and other weapons of war and their horses. The dreadful goddess also protected the virtue of the Rajput women and caused to be enacted the terrible holocausts, not infrequent in Rajput history, when some stronghold was besieged and could hold out no longer. A great furnace was then kindled in the citadel and into this the women, young and old, threw themselves, or else died by their husbands' swords, while the men, drunk with bhang and wearing saffron-coloured robes, sallied out to sell their lives to the enemy as dearly as possible. It is related that on one occasion Akbar desired to attempt the virtue of a queen of the Sesodia clan, and for that purpose caused her to lose herself in one of the mazes of his palace. The emperor appeared before her suddenly as she was alone, but the lady, drawing a dagger, threatened to plunge it into her breast if he did not respect her, and at the same time the goddess of her house appeared riding on a tiger. The baffled emperor gave way and retired, and her life and virtue were saved.

The Rajputs also worship the sun, whom many of them look upon as their first ancestor. They revere the animals and trees sacred to the Hindus, and some clans show special veneration to a particular tree, never cutting or breaking the branches or leaves. In this manner the Bundelas revere the kadamb tree, the Panwars the nim [473] tree, the Rathors the pipal [474] tree, and so on. This seems to be a relic of totemistic usage. In former times each clan had also a tribal god, who was its protector and leader and watched over the destinies of the clan. Sometimes it accompanied the clan into battle. "Every royal house has its palladium, which is frequently borne to battle at the saddle-bow of the prince. Rao Bhima Hara of Kotah lost his life and protecting deity together. The celebrated Khichi (Chauhan) leader Jai Singh never took the field without the god before him. 'Victory to Bujrung' was his signal for the charge so dreaded by the Maratha, and often has the deity been sprinkled with his blood and that of the foe." [475] It is said that a Rajput should always kill a snake if he sees one, because the snake, though a prince among Rajputs, is an enemy, and he should not let it live. If he does not kill it, the snake will curse him and bring ill-luck upon him. The same rule applies, though with less binding force, to a tiger.

8. Food

The Rajputs eat the flesh of clean animals, but not pigs or fowls. They are, however, fond of the sport of pig-sticking, and many clans, as the Bundelas and others, will eat the flesh of the wild pig. This custom was perhaps formerly universal. Some of them eat of male animals only and not of females, either because they fear that the latter would render them effeminate or that they consider the sin to be less. Some only eat animals killed by the method of jatka or severing the head with one stroke of the sword or knife. They will not eat animals killed in the Muhammadan fashion by cutting the throat. They abstain from the flesh of the nilgai or blue bull as being an animal of the cow tribe. Among the Brahmans and Rajputs food cooked with water must not be placed in bamboo baskets, nor must anything made of bamboo be brought into the rasoya or cooking-place, or the chauka, the space cleaned and marked out for meals. A special brush of date-palm fibre is kept solely for sweeping these parts of the house. At a Rajput banquet it was the custom for the prince to send a little food from his own plate or from the dish before him to any guest whom he especially wished to honour, and to receive this was considered a very high distinction. In Mewar the test of legitimacy in a prince of the royal house was the permission to eat from the chief's plate. The grant of this privilege conferred a recognised position, while its denial excluded the member in question from the right to the succession. [476] This custom indicates the importance attached to the taking of food together as a covenant or sacrament.

9. Opium

The Rajputs abstain from alcoholic liquor, though some of the lower class, as the Bundelas, drink it. In classical times there is no doubt that they drank freely, but have had to conform to the prohibition of liquor imposed by the Brahmans on high-caste Hindus. In lieu of liquor they became much addicted to the noxious drugs, opium and ganja or Indian hemp, drinking the latter in the form of the intoxicating liquid known as bhangs, which is prepared from its leaves. Bhang was as a rule drunk by the Rajputs before battle, and especially as a preparation for those last sallies from a besieged fortress in which the defenders threw away their lives. There is little reason to doubt that they considered the frenzy and carelessness of death produced by the liquor as a form of divine possession. Opium has contributed much to the degeneration of the Rajputs, and their relapse to an idle, sensuous life when their energies were no longer maintained by the need of continuous fighting for the protection of their country. The following account by Forbes of a Rajput's daily life well illustrates the slothful effeminacy caused by the drug: [477] "In times of peace and ease the Rajput leads an indolent and monotonous life. It is usually some time after sunrise before he bestirs himself and begins to call for his hookah; after smoking he enjoys the luxury of tea or coffee, and commences his toilet and ablutions, which dispose of a considerable part of the morning. It is soon breakfast-time, and after breakfast the hookah is again in requisition, with but few intervals of conversation until noon. The time has now arrived for a siesta, which lasts till about three in the afternoon. At this hour the chief gets up again, washes his hands and face, and prepares for the great business of the day, the distribution of the red cup, kusumba or opium. He calls together his friends into the public hall, or perhaps retires with them to a garden-house. Opium is produced, which is pounded in a brass vessel and mixed with water; it is then strained into a dish with a spout, from which it is poured into the chief's hand. One after the other the guests now come up, each protesting that kusumba is wholly repugnant to his taste and very injurious to his health, but after a little pressing first one and then another touches the chief's hand in two or three places, muttering the names of Deos (gods), friends or others, and drains the draught. Each after drinking washes the chief's hand in a dish of water which a servant offers, and after wiping it dry with his own scarf makes way for his neighbour. After this refreshment the chief and his guests sit down in the public hall, and amuse themselves with chess, draughts or games of chance, or perhaps dancing-girls are called in to exhibit their monotonous measures, or musicians and singers, or the never-failing favourites, the Bhats and Charans. At sunset the torch-bearers appear and supply the chamber with light, upon which all those who are seated therein rise and make obeisance towards the chief's cushion. They resume their seats, and playing, singing, dancing, story-telling go on as before. At about eight the chief rises to retire to his dinner and his hookah, and the party is broken up." There is little reason to doubt that the Rajputs ascribed a divine character to opium and the mental exaltation produced by it, as suggested in the article on Kalar in reference to the Hindus generally. Opium was commonly offered at the shrines of deified Rajput heroes. Colonel Tod states: "Umul lar khana, to eat opium together, is the most inviolable, pledge, and an agreement ratified by this ceremony is stronger than any adjuration." [478] The account given by Forbes of the manner in which the drug was distributed by the chief from his own hand to all his clansmen indicates that the drinking of it was the renewal of a kind of pledge or covenant between them, analogous to the custom of pledging one another with wine, and a substitute for the covenant made by taking food together, which originated from the sacrificial meal. It has already been seen that the Rajputs attached the most solemn meaning and virtue to the act of partaking of the chief's food, and it is legitimate to infer that they regarded the drinking of a sacred drug like opium from his hand in the same light. The following account [479] of the drinking of healths in a Highland clan had, it may be suggested, originally the same significance as the distribution of opium by the Rajput chief: "Lord Lovat was wont in the hall before dinner to have a kind of herald proclaiming his pedigree, which reached almost up to Noah, and showed each man present to be a cadet of his family, whilst after dinner he drank to every one of his cousins by name, each of them in return pledging him—the better sort in French claret, the lower class in husky (whisky)." Here also the drinking of wine together perhaps implied the renewal of a pledge of fealty and protection between the chief and his clansmen, all of whom were held to be of his kin. The belief in the kinship of the whole clan existed among the Rajputs exactly as in the Scotch clans. In speaking of the Rathors Colonel Tod states that they brought into the field fifty thousand men, Ek bap ka beta, the sons of one father, to combat with the emperor of Delhi; and remarks: "What a sensation does it not excite when we know that a sentiment of kindred pervades every individual of this immense affiliated body, who can point out in the great tree the branch of his origin, of which not one is too remote from the main stem to forget his pristine connection with it." [480]

The taking of opium and wine together, as already described, thus appear to be ceremonies of the same character, both symbolising the renewal of a covenant between kinsmen.

10. Improved training of Rajput chiefs

The temptations to a life of idleness and debauchery to which Rajput gentlemen were exposed by the cessation of war have happily been largely met and overcome by the careful education and training which their sons now receive in the different chiefs' colleges and schools, and by the fostering of their taste for polo and other games. There is every reason to hope that a Rajput prince's life will now be much like that of an English country gentleman, spent largely in public business and the service of his country, with sport and games as relaxation. Nor are the Rajputs slow to avail themselves of the opportunities for the harder calling of arms afforded by the wars of the British Empire, in which they are usually the first to proffer their single-hearted and unselfish assistance.

11. Dress

The most distinctive feature of a Rajput's dress was formerly his turban; the more voluminous and heavy this was, the greater distinction attached to the bearer. The cloth was wound in many folds above the head, or cocked over one ear as a special mark of pride. An English gentleman once remarked to the minister of the Rao of Cutch on the size and weight of his turban, when the latter replied, 'Oh, this is nothing, it only weighs fifteen pounds.' [481] A considerable reverence attached to the turban, probably because it was the covering of the head, the seat of life, and the exchanging of turbans was the mark of the closest friendship. On one occasion Shah Jahan, before he came to the throne of Delhi, changed turbans with the Rana of Mewar as a mark of amity. Shah Jahan's turban was still preserved at Udaipur, and seen there by Colonel Tod in 1820. They also wore the beard and moustaches very long and full, the moustache either drooping far below the chin, or being twisted out stiffly on each side to impart an aspect of fierceness. Many Rajputs considered it a disgrace to have grey beards or moustaches, and these were accustomed to dye them with a preparation of indigo. Thus dyed, however, after a few days the beard and moustache assumed a purple tint, and finally faded to a pale plum colour, far from being either deceptive or ornamental. The process of dyeing was said to be tedious, and the artist compelled his patient to sit many hours under the indigo treatment with his head wrapped up in plantain leaves. [482] During the Muhammadan wars, however, the Rajputs gave up their custom of wearing beards in order to be distinguished from Moslems, and now, as a rule, do not retain them, while most of them have also discarded the long moustaches and large turbans. In battle, especially when they expected to die, the Rajputs wore saffron-coloured robes as at a wedding. At the same time their wives frequently performed sati, and the idea was perhaps that they looked on their deaths as the occasion of a fresh bridal in the warrior's Valhalla. Women wear skirts and shoulder-cloths, and in Rajputana they have bangles of ivory or bone instead of the ordinary glass, sometimes covering the arm from the shoulders to the wrist. Their other ornaments should be of gold if possible, but the rule is not strictly observed, and silver and baser metals are worn.

12. Social customs

The Rajputs wear the sacred thread, but many of them have abandoned the proper upanayana or thread ceremony, and simply invest boys with it at their marriage. In former times, when a boy became fit to bear arms, the ceremony of kharg bandai, or binding on of the sword, was performed, and considered to mark his attainment of manhood. The king himself had his sword thus bound on by the first of his vassals. The Rajputs take food cooked with water (katchi) only from Brahmans, and that cooked without water (pakki) from Banias, and sometimes from Lodhis and Dhimars. Brahmans will take pakki food from Rajputs, and Nais and Dhimars katchi food. When a man is ill, however, he may take food from members of such castes as Kurmi and Lodhi as a matter of convenience without incurring caste penalties. The large turbans and long moustaches and beards no longer characterise their appearance, and the only point which distinguishes a Rajput is that his name ends with Singh (lion). But this suffix has also been adopted by others, especially the Sikhs, and by such castes as the Lodhis and Raj-Gonds who aspire to rank as Rajputs. A Rajput is usually addressed as Thakur or lord, a title which properly applies only to a Rajput landholder, but has now come into general use. The head of a state has the designation of Raja or Rana, and those of the leading states of Maharaja or Maharana, that is, great king. Maharana, which appears to be a Gujarati form, is used by the Sesodia family of Udaipur. The sons of a Raja are called Kunwar or prince. The title Rao appears to be a Marathi form of Raj or Raja; it is retained by one or two chiefs, but has now been generally adopted as an honorific suffix by Maratha Brahmans. Rawat appears to have been originally equivalent to Rajput, being simply a diminutive of Rajputra, the Sanskrit form of the latter. It is the name of a clan of Rajputs in the Punjab, and is used as an honorific designation by Ahirs, Saonrs, Kols and others.

13. Seclusion of women

Women are strictly secluded by the Rajputs, especially in Upper India, but this practice does not appear to have been customary in ancient times, and it would be interesting to know whether it has been copied from the Muhammadans. It is said that a good Rajput in the Central Provinces must not drive the plough, his wife must not use the rehnta or spinning-wheel, and his household may not have the kathri or gudri, the mattress made of old pieces of cloth or rag sewn one on top of the other, which is common in the poorer Hindu households.

14. Traditional character of the Rajputs

The Rajputs as depicted by Colonel Tod resembled the knights of the age of chivalry. Courage, strength and endurance were the virtues most highly prized. One of the Rajput trials of strength, it is recorded, was to gallop at full speed under the horizontal branch of a tree and cling to it while the horse passed on. This feat appears to have been a common amusement, and it is related in the annals of Mewar that the chief of Bunera broke his spine in the attempt; and there were few who came off without bruises and falls, in which consisted the sport. Of their martial spirit Colonel Tod writes: "The Rajput mother claims her full share in the glory of her son, who imbibes at the maternal fount his first rudiments of chivalry; and the importance of this parental instruction cannot be better illustrated than in the ever-recurring simile, 'Make thy mother's milk resplendent.' One need not reason on the intensity of sentiment thus implanted in the infant Rajput, of whom we may say without metaphor the shield is his cradle and daggers his playthings, and with whom the first commandment is 'Avenge thy father's feud.' [483] A Rajput yet loves to talk of the days of chivalry, when three things alone occupied him, his horse, his lance and his mistress; for she is but third in his estimation after all, and to the first two he owed her." [484] And of their desire for fame: "This sacrifice (of the Johar) accomplished, their sole thought was to secure a niche in that immortal temple of fame, which the Rajput bard, as well as the great minstrel of the West peoples 'with youths who died to be by poets sung.' For this the Rajput's anxiety has in all ages been so great as often to defeat even the purpose of revenge, his object being to die gloriously rather than to inflict death; assured that his name would never perish, but, preserved in immortal rhyme by the bard, would serve as the incentive to similar deeds." [485] He sums up their character in the following terms: "High courage, patriotism, loyalty, honour, hospitality and simplicity are qualities which must at once be conceded to them; and if we cannot vindicate them from charges to which human nature in every clime is obnoxious; if we are compelled to admit the deterioration of moral dignity from continual inroads of, and their consequent collision with rapacious conquerors; we must yet admire the quantum of virtue which even oppression and bad example have failed to banish. The meaner vices of deceit and falsehood, which the delineators of national character attach to the Asiatic without distinction, I deny to be universal with the Rajputs, though some tribes may have been obliged from position to use these shields of the weak against continuous oppression." [486] The women prized martial courage no less than the men: they would hear with equanimity of the death of their sons or husbands in the battlefield, while they heaped scorn and contumely on those who returned after defeat. They were constantly ready to sacrifice themselves to the flames rather than fall into the hands of a conqueror; and the Johar, the final act of a besieged garrison, when the women threw themselves into the furnace, while the men sallied forth to die in battle against the enemy, is recorded again and again in Rajput annals. Three times was this tragedy enacted at the fall of Chitor, formerly the capital fortress of the Sesodia clan; and the following vivid account is given by Colonel Tod of a similar deed at Jaisalmer, when the town fell to the Muhammadans: [487] "The chiefs were assembled; all were unanimous to make Jaisalmer resplendent by their deeds and preserve the honour of the Yadu race. Muhaj thus addressed them: 'You are of a warlike race and strong are your arms in the cause of your prince; what heroes excel you who thus tread in the Chhatri's path? For the maintenance of my honour the sword is in your hands; let Jaisalmer be illumined by its blows upon the foe.' Having thus inspired the chiefs and men, Muhaj and Ratan repaired to the palace of their queens. They told them to take the sohag [488] and prepare to meet in heaven, while they gave up their lives in defence of their honour and their faith. Smiling the Rani replied, 'This night we shall prepare, and by the morning's light we shall be inhabitants of heaven'; and thus it was with all the chiefs and their wives. The night was passed together for the last time in preparation for the awful morn. It came; ablutions and prayers were finished and at the royal gate were convened children, wives and mothers. They bade a last farewell to all their kin; the Johar commenced, and twenty-four thousand females, from infancy to old age, surrendered their lives, some by the sword, others in the volcano of fire. Blood flowed in torrents, while the smoke of the pyre ascended to the heavens: not one feared to die, and every valuable was consumed with them, so that not the worth of a straw was preserved for the foe. The work done, the brothers looked upon the spectacle with horror. Life was now a burden and they prepared to quit it They purified themselves with water, paid adoration to the divinity, made gifts to the poor, placed a branch of the tulsi [489] in their casques, the saligram [490] round their neck; and having cased themselves in armour and put on the saffron robe, they bound the marriage crown around their heads and embraced each other for the last time. Thus they awaited the hour of battle. Three thousand eight hundred warriors, their faces red with wrath, prepared to die with their chiefs." In this account the preparation for the Johar as if for a wedding is clearly brought out, and it seems likely that husbands and wives looked on it as a bridal preparatory to the resumption of their life together in heaven.

Colonel Tod gives the following account of a Rajput's arms: [491] "No prince or chief is without his silla-khana or armoury, where he passes hours in viewing and arranging his arms. Every favourite weapon, whether sword, dagger, spear, matchlock or bow, has a distinctive epithet. The keeper of the armoury is one of the most confidential officers about the person of the prince. These arms are beautiful and costly. The sirohi or slightly curved blade is formed like that of Damascus, and is the greatest favourite of all the variety of weapons throughout Rajputana. The long cut-and-thrust sword is not uncommon, and also the khanda or double-edged sword. The matchlocks, both of Lahore and the country, are often highly finished and inlaid with mother-of-pearl and gold; those of Boondi are the best. The shield of the rhinoceros-hide offers the best resistance, and is often ornamented with animals beautifully painted and enamelled in gold and silver. The bow is of buffalo-horn, and the arrows of reed, which are barbed in a variety of fashions, as the crescent, the trident, the snake's tongue, and other fanciful forms." It is probable that the forms were in reality by no means fanciful, but were copied from sacred or divine objects; and similarly the animals painted on the shields may have been originally the totem animals of the clan.

15. Occupation

The traditional occupation of a Rajput was that of a warrior and landholder. Their high-flown titles, Bhupal (Protector of the earth), Bhupati (Lord of the earth), Bhusur (God of the earth), Bahuja (Born from the arms), indicate, Sir H. Risley says, [492] the exalted claims of the tribe. The notion that the trade of arms was their proper vocation clung to them for a very long time, and has retarded their education, so that they have perhaps lost status relatively to other castes under British supremacy. The rule that a Rajput must not touch the plough was until recently very strictly observed in the more conservative centres, and the poorer Rajputs were reduced by it to pathetic straits for a livelihood, as is excellently shown by Mr. Barnes in the Kangra Settlement Report: [493] "A Mian or well-known Rajput, to preserve his name and honour unsullied, must scrupulously observe four fundamental maxims: first, he must never drive the plough; second, he must never give his daughter in marriage to an inferior nor marry himself much below his rank; thirdly, he must never accept money in exchange for the betrothal of his daughter; and lastly, his female household must observe strict seclusion. The prejudice against the plough is perhaps the most inveterate of all; that step can never be recalled; the offender at once loses the privileged salutation; he is reduced to the second grade of Rajputs; no man will marry his daughter, and he must go a step lower in the social scale to get a wife for himself. In every occupation of life he is made to feel his degraded position. In meetings of the tribe and at marriages the Rajputs undefiled by the plough will refuse to sit at meals with the Hal Bah or plough-driver as he is contemptuously styled; and many to avoid the indignity of exclusion never appear at public assemblies.... It is melancholy to see with what devoted tenacity the Rajput clings to these deep-rooted prejudices. Their emaciated looks and coarse clothes attest the vicissitudes they have undergone to maintain their fancied purity. In the quantity of waste land which abounds in the hills, a ready livelihood is offered to those who will cultivate the soil for their daily bread; but this alternative involves a forfeiture of their dearest rights, and they would rather follow any precarious pursuit than submit to the disgrace. Some lounge away their time on the tops of the mountains, spreading nets for the capture of hawks; many a day they watch in vain, subsisting on berries and on game accidentally entangled in their nets; at last, when fortune grants them success, they despatch the prize to their friends below, who tame and instruct the bird for the purpose of sale. Others will stay at home and pass their time in sporting, either with a hawk or, if they can afford it, with a gun; one Rajput beats the bushes and the other carries the hawk ready to be sprung after any quarry that rises to the view. At the close of the day if they have been successful they exchange the game for a little meal and thus prolong existence over another span. The marksman armed with a gun will sit up for wild pig returning from the fields, and in the same manner barter their flesh for other necessaries of life. However, the prospect of starvation has already driven many to take the plough, and the number of seceders daily increases. Our administration, though just and liberal, has a levelling tendency; service is no longer to be procured, and to many the stern alternative has arrived of taking to agriculture and securing comparative comfort, or enduring the pangs of hunger and death. So long as any resource remains the fatal step will be postponed, but it is easy to foresee that the struggle cannot be long protracted; necessity is a hard task-master, and sooner or later the pressure of want will overcome the scruples of the most bigoted." The objection to ploughing appears happily to have been quite overcome in the Central Provinces, as at the last census nine-tenths of the whole caste were shown as employed in pasture and agriculture, one-tenth of the Rajputs being landholders, three-fifths actual cultivators, and one-fifth labourers and woodcutters. The bulk of the remaining tenth are probably in the police or other branches of Government service.

Rajput, Baghel

Rajput, Baghel.—The Baghel Rajputs, who have given their name to Baghelkhand or Rewah, the eastern part of Central India, are a branch of the Chalukya or Solankhi clan, one of the four Agnikulas or those born from the firepit on Mount Abu. The chiefs of Rewah are Baghel Rajputs, and the late Maharaja Raghuraj Singh has written a traditional history of the sept in a book called the Bhakt Mala. [494] He derives their origin from a child, having the form of a tiger (bagh) who was born to the Solankhi Raja of Gujarat at the intercession of the famous saint Kabir. One of the headquarters of the Kabirpanthi sect are at Kawardha, which is close to Rewah, and the ruling family are members of the sect; hence probably the association of the Prophet with their origin. The Bombay Gazetteer [495] states that the founder of the clan was one Anoka, a nephew of the Solankhi king of Gujarat, Kumarpal (A.D. 1143-1174). He obtained a grant of the village Vaghela, the tiger's lair, about ten miles from Anhilvada, the capital of the Solankhi dynasty, and the Baghel clan takes its name from this village. Subsequently the Baghels extended their power over the whole of Gujarat, but in A.D. 1304 the last king, Karnadeva, was driven out by the Muhammadans, and one of his most beautiful wives was captured and sent to the emperor's harem. Karnadeva and his daughter fled and hid themselves near Nasik, but the daughter was subsequently also taken, while it is not stated what became of Karnadeva. Mr. Hira Lal suggests that he fled towards Rewah, and that he is the Karnadeva of the list of Rewah Rajas, who married a daughter of the Gond-Rajput dynasty of Garha-Mandla. [496] At any rate the Baghel branch of the Solankhis apparently migrated to Rewah from Gujarat and founded that State about the fourteenth century, as in the fifteenth they became prominent. According to Captain Forsyth, the Baghels claim descent from a tiger, and protect it when they can; and, probably, as suggested by Mr. Crooke, [497] the name is really totemistic, or is derived from some ancestor of the clan who obtained the name of the tiger as a title or nickname, like the American Red Indians. The Baghels are found in the Hoshangabad District, and in Mandla and Chhattisgarh which are close to Rewah. Amarkantak, at the source of the Nerbudda, is the sepulchre of the Maharajas of Rewah, and was ceded to them with the Sohagpur tahsil of Mandla after the Mutiny, in consideration of their loyalty and services during that period.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15     Next Part
Home - Random Browse