The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India - Volume IV of IV - Kumhar-Yemkala
by R.V. Russell
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4. Social customs

The principal deity of the Ramosis is Khandoba, the Maratha god of war. [586] He is the deified sword, the name being khanda-aba or sword-father. An oath taken on the Bhandar or little bag of turmeric dedicated to Khandoba is held by them most sacred and no Ramosi will break this oath. Every Ramosi has a family god known as Devak, and persons having the same Devak cannot intermarry. The Devak is usually a tree or a bunch of the leaves of several trees. No one may eat the fruit of or otherwise use the tree which is his Devak. At their weddings the branches of several trees are consecrated as Devaks or guardians of the wedding. A Gurao cuts the leafy branches of the mango, umar, [587] jamun [588] and of the rui [589] and shami [590] shrubs and a few stalks of grass and sets them in Hanuman's temple. From here the bridegroom's parents, after worshipping Hanuman with a betel-leaf and five areca-nuts, take them home and fasten them to the front post of the marriage-shed. When the bridegroom is taken before the family gods of the bride, he steals one of them in token of his profession, but afterwards restores it in return for a payment of money. In social position the Ramosis rank a little above the Mahars and Mangs, not being impure. They speak Marathi but have also a separate thieves' jargon of their own, of which a vocabulary is given in the account of Captain Mackintosh. When a Ramosi child is seven or eight years old he must steal something. If he is caught and goes to prison the people are delighted, fall at his feet when he comes out and try to obtain him as a husband for their daughters. [591] It is doubtful whether these practices obtain in the Central Provinces, and as the Ramosis are not usually reckoned here among the notorious criminal tribes they may probably have taken to more honest pursuits.


Rangrez.—The Muhammadan caste of dyers. The caste is found generally in the northern Districts, and in 1901 its members were included with the Chhipas, from whom, however, they should be distinguished as having a different religion and also because they practise a separate branch of the dyeing industry. The strength of the caste in the Central Provinces does not exceed a few hundred persons. The Rangrez is nominally a Muhammadan of the Sunni sect, but the community forms an endogamous group after the Hindu fashion, marrying only among themselves. Good-class Muhammadans will neither intermarry with nor even take food from members of the Rangrez community. In Sohagpur town of Hoshangabad this is divided into two branches, the Kheralawalas or immigrants from Kherala in Malwa and the local Rangrezes. These two groups will take food together but will not intermarry. Kheralawala women commonly wear a skirt like Hindu women and not Muhammadan pyjamas. In Jubbulpore the Rangrez community employ Brahmans to conduct their marriage and other ceremonies. Long association with Hindus has as usual caused the Rangrez to conform to their religious practices and the caste might almost be described as a Hindu community with Muhammadan customs. The bulk of them no doubt were originally converted Hindus, but as their ancestors probably immigrated from northern India their present leaning to that religion would perhaps be not so much an obstinate retention of pre-Islamic ritual as a subsequent lapse following on another change of environment. In northern India Mr. Crooke records them as being governed mainly by Muhammadan rules. There [592] they hold themselves to be the descendants of one Khwaja Bali, a very pious man, about whom the following verse is current:

Khwaja Bali Rangrez Range Khuda ki sez:

'Khwaja Bali dyes the bed of God.' The name is derived from rang, colour, and rez, rekhtan, to pour. In Bihar, Sir G. Grierson states [593] the word Rangrez is often confounded with 'Angrezi' or 'English'; and the English are sometimes nicknamed facetiously Rangrez or 'dyers,' The saying, 'Were I a dyer I would dye my own beard first,' in reference to the Muhammadan custom of dyeing the beard, has the meaning of 'Charity begins at home,' [594]

The art of the Rangrez differs considerably from that of the Chhipa or Rangari, the Hindu dyer, and he produces a much greater variety of colours. His principal agents were formerly the safflower (Carthamus tinctorius), turmeric and myrobalans. The fact that the brilliant red dye of safflower was as a rule only used by Muhammadan dyers, gives some ground for the supposition that it may have been introduced by them to India. This would account for the existence of a separate caste of Muhammadan dyers, and in support of it may be adduced the fact that the variety of colours is much greater in the dress of the residents of northern India and Rajputana than in those of the Maratha Districts. The former patronise many different shades, more especially for head-cloths, while the latter as a rule do not travel beyond red, black or blue. The Rangrez obtains his red shades from safflower, yellow from haldi or turmeric, green from a mixture of indigo and turmeric, purple from indigo and safflower, khaki or dust-colour from myrobalans and iron filings, orange from turmeric and safflower, and badami or almond-colour from turmeric and two wild plants kachora and nagarmothi, the former of which gives a scent. Cloths dyed in the badami shades are affected, when they can afford it, by Gosains and other religious mendicants, who thus dwell literally in the odour of sanctity. Muhammadans generally patronise the shades of green or purple, the latter being often used as a lining for white coats. Fakirs or Muhammadan beggars wear light green. Marwari Banias and others from Rajputana like the light yellow, pink or orange shades. A green or black head-cloth is with them a sign of mourning. Cloths dyed in yellow or scarlet are bought by Brahmans and other castes of Hindus for their marriages. Blue is not a lucky colour among the Hindus and is considered as on a level with black. It may be worn on ordinary occasions, but not at festivals or at auspicious periods. Muhammadans rather affect black and do not consider it an unlucky colour. I have seen a Rangrez dye a piece of cloth in about twenty colours in the course of two or three hours, but several of these dyes are fugitive and will not stand washing. The trade of the Rangrez is being undermined by the competition of cheap chemical dyes imported from Germany and sold in the form of powders; the process of dyeing with these is absolutely simple and can be carried out by any one. They are far cheaper than safflower, and this agent has consequently been almost driven from the market. People buy a little dyeing powder from the bazar and dye their own cloths. But men will only wear cloths dyed in this manner, and known as katcha kapra, on their heads and not on their bodies; women sometimes wear them also on their bodies. The decay in the indigenous art of dyeing must be a matter for regret.


1. Origin of the tribe

Rautia. [595]—A cultivating caste of the Chota Nagpur plateau. In 1911 about 12,000 Rautias were enumerated in the Province, nearly all of whom belong to the Jashpur State with a few in Sarguja. These states lie outside the scope of the Ethnographic Survey and hence no regular inquiry has been made on the Rautias. The following brief notice is mainly taken from the account of the caste in Sir H. Risley's Tribes and Castes of Bengal. He describes the caste as, "refined in features and complexion by a large infusion of Aryan blood. Their chief men hold estates on quit-rent from the Maharaja of Chota Nagpur, and the bulk of the remainder are tenants with occupancy right and often paying only a low quit-rent or half the normal assessment." These favourable tenures may probably be explained by the fact that they were held in former times on condition of military service, and were analogous to the feudal fiefs of Europe. The Rautias themselves say that this was their original occupation in Chota Nagpur. The name Rautia is a form of Rawat, and this latter word signifies a prince and is a title borne by relatives of a Raja. It may be noticed that Rawat is the ordinary name by which the Ahir caste is known in Chhattisgarh, the neighbouring country to Chota Nagpur in the Central Provinces; and further that the Rautias will take food from a Chhattisgarhi Rawat. This fact, coupled with the identity of the name, appears to demonstrate a relationship of the two castes. The Rautias will not take food from any other Hindu caste, but they will eat with the Kawar and Gond tribes, at least in Raigarh. The Kawars have a subtribe called Rautia as also have the Kols. In Sir H. Risley's list of the sept-names of the Rautias [596] we find two names, Aind the eel, and Rukhi a squirrel, which are also the names of Munda septs, and one, Karsayal or deer, which is the name of a Kawar sept. They have also a name Sanwani, which is probably Sonwani or 'gold-water,' and is common to many of the primitive tribes. The most plausible hypothesis of the origin of the Rautias on the above facts seems to be that they were a tribal militia in Chota Nagpur, the leaders being Ahirs or Rawats with possibly a sprinkling of the local Rajputs, while the main body were recruited from the Kawar and Kol tribes. The Khandaits or swordsmen of Orissa furnish an exact parallel to the Rautias, being a tribal militia, who have now become a caste, and are constituted mainly from the Bhuiya tribe with a proportion of Chasas or cultivators and Rajputs. They also have obtained possession of the land, and in Orissa the Sresta or good Khandaits rank next to the Rajputs. The history and position of the Rautias appears to be similar to that of the Khandaits. The Halbas of Bastar are probably another nearly analogous instance. They were Gonds, who apparently formed the tribal militia of the Rajas of Bastar and got grants of land and consequently a certain rise in status though not to the same level as the Khandaits and Rautias. It does not seem that the Rautias have any special connection with the Gonds, and their acceptance of food from Gonds may perhaps, as suggested by Mr. Hira Lal, be due to the fact that they served a Gond Raja.

2. Subdivisions

The Rautias had formerly three subdivisions, the Barki, Majhli and Chhotki Bhir or Gorhi, or the high, middle and low class Rautias. But it is related that the Barki group found that they could not obtain girls in marriage for their sons, so they extended the privileges of the connubium to the Majhli group after taking a caste feast. Possibly the Barki Rautias formerly practised hypergamy with the Majhli, taking daughters in marriage but not giving daughters, and in course of time this has led to the obliteration of the distinction between them. The different status of the three groups was based on their purity of descent. The Majhli and Chhotki were the descendants of Rautia fathers and mothers of other castes; the offspring going to the Majhli group if the mother was a Gond or Kawar or of respectable caste, while the children of impure Ganda and Ghasia women by Rautia fathers were admitted into the Chhotki group. These divisions confirm the hypothesis previously given of the genesis of the Rautia caste; and it is further worth noting that the Khandaits have also Bar and Chhot Gohir divisions or those of pure and mixed blood, and the Halbas of Bastar are similarly divided into the Purait or pure Halbas, and the Surait or descendants of Halba fathers by women of other castes. In a military society, where the men were frequently on the move or stationed in outlying forts and posts, temporary unions and illegitimate children would naturally be of common occurrence. And the mixed nature of the three castes affords some support to the hypothesis of their common origin from military service.

The tribe have totemistic septs, and retain some veneration for their totems. Those of the Bagh or tiger sept throw away their earthen pots on hearing of the death of a tiger. Those of the Sand or bull sept will not castrate bullocks themselves, and must have this operation performed on their plough-bullocks by others. Those of the Kansi sept formerly, according to their own account, would not root up the kans grass [597] growing in their fields, but now they no longer object to do so. Other septs are Tithi a bird, Bira a hawk, Barwan a wild dog, and so on.

3. Marriage

Marriage is forbidden within the sept, but is permitted between the children of a brother and a sister or of two sisters. Matches are arranged at the caste feasts and the usual bride-price is four rupees with six or seven pieces of cloth and some grain. When the procession arrives at the bride's village her party go out to meet it, and the Gandas or musicians on each side try to break each other's drums, but are stopped by their employers. At the wedding two wooden images of the bridegroom and bride are made and placed in the centre of the marriage-shed. A goat is led round these and killed, and the bride and bridegroom walk round them seven times. They rub vermilion on the wooden images and then on each other's foreheads. It is probable that the wooden images are made and set up in the centre of the shed to attract the evil eye and divert it from the real bride and bridegroom, and the goat may be a substituted sacrifice on their behalf. Divorce and the remarriage of widows are permitted.

4. Funeral rites

In the forest tracts the tribe bury the dead, placing the corpse with the feet to the south. Before being placed in the grave the corpse is rubbed with oil and turmeric and carried seven times round the grave according to the ritual of a wedding. This is called the Chhed vivah or marriage to the grave. The Kabirpanthi Rautias are placed standing in the grave with the face turned to the north. Well-to-do members of the caste burn their dead and employ Brahmans to perform the shraddh ceremony.

5. Inheritance

The tribe have some special rules of inheritance. In Bengal [598] the eldest son of the legitimate wife inherits the whole of the father's property, subject to the obligation of making grants for the maintenance of his younger brothers. These grants decrease according to the standing of the brothers, the elder ones getting more and the younger less. Sons of a wife married by the ceremony used for widows receive smaller grants. But the widow of an elder brother counts as the regular wife of a younger brother and her sons have full rights of succession. In the Central Provinces the eldest son does not succeed to the whole property but obtains a share half as large again as the other sons. And if the father divides the property in his lifetime and participates in it he himself takes only the share of a younger son.


1. A band of criminals

Sanaurhia, Chandravedi. [599]—A small but well-known community of criminals in Bundelkhand. They claim to be derived from the Sanadhya Brahmans, and it seems possible that this may in fact have been their origin; but at present they are a confraternity recruited by the initiation of promising boys from all castes except sweepers and Chamars; [600] and a census taken of them in northern India in 1872 showed that they included members of the following castes: Brahman, Rajput, Teli, Kurmi, Ahir, Kanjar, Nai, Dhobi, Dhimar, Sunar and Lodhi. It is said, however, that they do not form a caste or intermarry, members of each caste continuing their relations with their own community. Their regular method of stealing is through the agency of a boy, and no doubt they pick up a likely urchin whenever they get the chance, as only selected boys would be clever enough for the work. Their trade is said to possess much fascination, and Mr. Crooke quotes a saying, 'Once a Sanaurhia always a Sanaurhia'; so that unless the increased efficiency of the police has caused the dangers of their calling to outweigh its pleasures they should have no difficulty in obtaining recruits.

2. Traditions of origin

Mr. Seagrim [601] states that their home is in the Datia State of Bundelkhand, and some of them live in the adjoining Alamgarh tract of Indore State. Formerly they also resided in the Orchha and Chanderi States of Bundelkhand, having six or eight villages in each state [602] in their sole occupation, with colonies in other villages. In 1857 it was estimated that the Tehri State contained 4000 Sanaurhias, Banpur 300 and Datia 300. They occupied twelve villages in Tehri, and an officer of the state presided over the community and acted as umpire in the division of the spoils. The office of Mukhia or leader was hereditary in the caste, and in default of male issue descended to females. If among the booty there happened to be any object of peculiar elegance or value, it was ceremoniously presented to the chief of the state. They say that their ancestors were two Sanadhya Brahmans of the village of Ramra in Datia State. They were both highly accomplished men, and one had the gift of prophecy, while the other could understand the language of birds. One day they met at a river a rich merchant and his wife, who were on a pilgrimage to Jagannath. As they were drinking water a crow sitting on a tree commenced cawing, and the Sanadhya heard him say that whoever got hold of the merchant's walking-stick would be rich. The two Brahmans then accompanied the merchant until they obtained an opportunity of making off with his stick; and they found it to be full of gold mohurs, the traveller having adopted this device as a precaution against being robbed. The Brahmans were so pleased at their success that they took up stealing as a profession, and opened a school where they taught small boys of all castes the art of stealing property in the daytime. Prior to admission the boys were made to swear by the moon that they would never commit theft at night, and on this account they are known as Chandravedi or 'Those who observe the moon.' In Bombay and Central India this name is more commonly used than Sanaurhia. Another name for them is Uthaigira or 'A picker-up of that which has fallen,' corresponding to the nickname of Uchla or 'Lifter' applied to the Bhamtas. Mr. Seagrim described them as going about in small gangs of ten to twenty persons without women, under a leader who has the title of Mukhia or Nalband. The other men are called Upardar, and each of these has with him one or two boys of between eight and twelve years old, who are known as Chauwa (chicks) and do the actual stealing. The Nalband or leader trains these boys to their work, and also teaches them a code vocabulary (Parsi) and a set of signals (teni) by which the Upardar can convey to them his instructions while business is proceeding. The whole gang set out at the end of the rains and, arriving at some distant place, break up into small parties; the Nalband remains at a temporary headquarters, where he receives and disposes of the spoil, and arranges for the defence of any member of the gang who is arrested, and for the support of his wife and children if he is condemned to imprisonment.

3. Methods of stealing

The methods of the Sanaurhias as described by Mr. Seagrim show considerable ingenuity. When they desire to steal something from a stall in a crowded market two of the gang pretend to have a violent quarrel, on which all the people in the vicinity collect to watch, including probably the owner of the stall. In this case the Chauwa or boy, who has posted himself in a position of vantage, will quickly abstract the article agreed upon and make off. Or if there are several purchasers at a shop, the man will wait until one of them lays down his bundle while he makes payment, and then pushing up against him signal to the Chauwa, who snatches up the bundle and bolts. If he is caught, the Sanaurhia will come up as an innocent member of the crowd and plead for mercy on the score of his youth; and the boy will often be let off with a few slaps. Sometimes three or four Sanaurhias will proceed to some place of resort for pilgrims to bathe, and two or three of them entering the water will divert the attention of the bather by pointing out some strange object or starting a discussion. In the meantime the Chauwas or chicks, under the direction of another on the bank, will steal any valuable article left by the bather. The attention of any one left on shore to watch the property is diverted by a similar device. If they see a man with expensive clothes the Chauwa will accidentally brush against him and smear him with dirt or something that causes pollution; the victim will proceed to bathe, and one of the usual stratagems is adopted. Or the Sanaurhia will engage the man in conversation and the Chauwa will come running along and collide with them; on being abused by the Sanaurhia for his clumsiness he asks to be pardoned, explaining that he is only a poor sweeper and meant no harm; and on hearing this the victim, being polluted, must go off and bathe. [603] Colonel Sleeman relates the following case of such a theft: [604] "While at Saugor I got a note one morning from an officer in command of a treasure escort just arrived from Narsinghpur stating that the old Subahdar of his company had that morning been robbed of his gold necklace valued at Rs. 150, and requesting that I would assist him in recovering it. The old Subahdar brought the note, and stated that he had undressed at the brook near the cantonments, and placed the necklace with his clothes, about twenty yards from the place where he bathed; that on returning to his clothes he could not find the necklace, and the only person he saw near the place was a young lad who was sauntering in the mango grove close by. This lad he had taken and brought with him, and I found after a few questions that he belonged to the Sanaurhia Brahmans of Bundelkhand. As the old Subahdar had not seen the boy take the necklace or even approach the clothes, I told him that we could do nothing, and he must take the boy back to camp and question him in his own way. The boy, as I expected, became alarmed, and told me that if I would not send him back with the angry old Subahdar he would do anything I pleased. I bade him tell me how he had managed to secure the necklace; and he told me that while the Subahdar turned his back upon his clothes in prayer, he had taken it up and made it over to one of the men of his party; and that it must have been taken to their bivouac, which was in a grove about three miles from the cantonments. I sent off a few policemen, who secured the whole party, but could not find anything upon them. Seeing some signs of a hole having been freshly made under one of the trees they dug up the fresh earth and discovered the necklace, which the old man was delighted to recover so easily." Another device which they have is to beat the Chauwa severely in the sight of a rich stranger. The boy runs crying and clings to the stranger asking him for help, and in the meantime picks his pocket. When the Sanaurhias are convicted in Native States and put into jail they refuse to eat, pleading that they are poor Brahmans, and pretend to starve themselves to death, and thus often get out of jail. In reply to a letter inquiring about these people from the Superintendent of Chanderi about 1851, the Raja of Banpur wrote:

"I have to state that from former times these people following their profession have resided in my territory and in the states of other native princes; and they have always followed this calling, but no former kings or princes or authority have ever forbidden the practice. In consequence of these people stealing by day only, and that they do not take life or distress any person by personal ill-usage, and that they do not break into houses by digging walls or breaking door-locks, but simply by their smartness manage to abstract property; owing to such trifling thefts I looked upon their proceedings as a petty matter and have not interfered with them." [605] This recalls another famous excuse.


List of Paragraphs

1. Historical notice of the caste. 2. Social customs. 3. Taboos of relationship. 4. Organisation for dacoity. 5. Description of a dacoity. 6. Omens. 7. Ordeals. 8. Sansias at the present time.

1. Historical notice of the caste

Sansia. [606]—A small caste of wandering criminals of northern India, who live by begging and dealing in cattle. They also steal and commit dacoities, house-breaking and thefts on railway trains. The name Sansia is borne as well by the Uriya or Od masons of the Uriya country, but these are believed to be quite a distinct group from the criminal Sansias of Central India and are noticed in another short article. Separate statistics of the two groups were not obtained at the census. The Sansias are closely connected with the Berias, and say that their ancestors were two brothers Sains Mul and Sansi, and that the Berias are descended from the former and the Sansias from the latter. They were the bards of the Jat caste, and it was their custom to chronicle the names of the Jats and their ancestors, and when they begged from Jat families to recite their praises. The Sansias, Colonel Sleeman states, had particular families (of the Jats) allotted to them, from whom they had not only the privilege of begging, but received certain dues; some had fifty, some a hundred houses appointed to them, and they received yearly from the head of each house one rupee and a quarter and one day's food. When the Jats celebrated their marriages they were accustomed to invite the Sansias, who as their minstrels recited the praises of the ancestors of the Jats, tracing them up to the time of Punya Jat; and for this they received presents, according to the means of the parties, of cows, ponies or buffaloes. Should any Jat demur to paying the customary dues the Sansias would dress up a cloth figure of his father and parade with it before the house, when the sum demanded was generally given; for if the figure were fastened on a bamboo and placed over the house the family would lose caste and no one would smoke or drink water with them. [607]

The Sansias say that their ancestors have always resided in Marwar and Ajmer. About twenty-four miles distant from Ajmer are two towns, Pisangan and Sagun; on their eastern side is a large tank, and the bones of all persons of the Sansia tribe who died in any part of the country were formerly buried there, being covered by a wooden platform with four pillars. [608] On one occasion a quarrel had arisen over a Sansia woman, and a large number of the caste were killed in this place. So they left Marwar, and some of them came to the Deccan, where they took to house-breaking and dacoity; and so successful were they that the other Sansias followed them and gave up all their former customs, even those of reciting the praises of and begging from the Jats.

2. Social customs

The Sansias are divided into two groups, Kalkar and Malha; and these two are further subdivided into eight and twelve sections respectively. No one belonging to the Kalkar group may marry another person of that group, but he may marry anybody belonging to any section of the Malha group. Thus the two groups being exogamous the sections do not serve any purpose, but it is possible that the rules are really more complicated. In the Punjab their marriage ceremony is peculiar, the bride being covered by a basket, on which the bridegroom sits while the nuptial rites are being performed. [609] According to Colonel Sleeman, after the arrangement of a match the caste committee assemble to determine the price to be paid to the father of the girl, which may amount to as much as Rs. 2000. When this is settled some liquor is spilt on the ground in the name of Bhagwan or Vishnu, and an elder pronounces that the two have become man and wife; a feast is given to the caste, and the ceremony is concluded. After child-birth a woman cannot wash herself for five days, but on the sixth she may go to a stream and wash. Even on ordinary occasions a woman must never wash herself inside the house, but must always go to a stream, which rule does not apply to men. When the hair of a child begins to grow it is all shaved except the scalp-lock, which is dedicated to Bhagwan; and at ten or twelve years of age this lock is also shaved off and a dinner is given to members of the caste. The last ceremony is of the nature of a puberty-rite, and if children die prior to its performance their bodies are buried, whereas after it they have a right to cremation. After a body has been burnt the bones are buried on the spot in an earthen vessel, over the mouth of which a large stone is placed. Some pig's flesh is cooked and sweet cakes prepared, portions of which are placed upon the stone; and the deceased is then called upon, by reason of the usual ceremonies having been performed at his death, to watch over his surviving relatives. If any Sansia happened to commit a murder when engaged in a dacoity he was afterwards obliged to make an offering for forgiveness, and to spend a rupee and a quarter in liquor for the caste-fellows. If a dacoit had himself been killed and his body abandoned, his clothes, with some new clothes, were put upon a sleeping-cot, and his companions of the same caste carried it to a convenient spot, where it was either burnt or buried in the ground.

3. Taboos of relationship

Colonel Sleeman records some curious taboos among relations. [610] A man cannot go into the hut of his mother-in-law or of his son's wife; for if their petticoat should touch him he would be turned out of his caste and would not be admitted into it until he had paid a large sum. "If we quarrel with a woman," said a Sansia, "and she strikes us with her petticoat we lose our caste; we should be allowed to eat and drink with our tribe, but not to perform worship with them nor to assist in burial rites. If a woman piles up a heap of stones and puts her petticoat upon it and throws filth upon it and says to any other, 'This disgrace fell upon your ancestors for seven generations back,' both are immediately expelled from our caste, and cannot return to it until they have paid a large sum of money."

4. Organisation for dacoity

As in the case of the Badhaks the arrangements for a dacoity were carefully organised. Each band had a Jemadar or leader, while the others were called Sipahis or soldiers. A tenth of all the booty taken was given to the Jemadar in return for the provision of the spears, torches and other articles, and of the remainder the Jemadar received two shares and the Sipahis one each. But no novice was permitted to share in the booty or carry a spear until he had participated in two or three successful dacoities; and inasmuch as outsiders, with the exception of the impure Dhers and Mangs, were freely admitted to the Sansia community in return for a small money payment, some such apprenticeship as this was no doubt necessary. If a Sipahi was killed in a dacoity his wife was entitled to a sum of Rs. 350 and half an ordinary share in future dacoities as long as she remained with the gang. The Sansias never pitched their camp in the vicinity of the place in which they contemplated an enterprise, but despatched their scouts to it, themselves remaining some twenty miles distant.

5. Description of a dacoity

The scouts, [611] having prospected the town and determined the house to be exploited, usually that of the leading banker, would then proceed to it in the early morning before business began and ask to purchase some ornaments or change some money; by this request they often induced the banker to bring out his cash chest from the place of security where he was accustomed to deposit it at night, and learnt where it should be looked for. Having picked up as much information as possible, the scouts would purchase some spear-heads, bury them in a neighbouring ravine, and rejoin the main body. The party would arrive at the rendezvous in the evening, and having fitted their spears to bamboo shafts, would enter the town carrying them concealed in a bundle of karbi or the long thick stalks of the large millet, juari. [612] One man was appointed to carry the torch, [613] and the oil to be poured on this had always to be purchased in the town or village where the dacoity was to take place, the use of any other oil being considered most unlucky. The vessel containing the oil was not allowed to touch the earth until its contents had been poured upon the torch, when it was dashed upon the ground. From this time until the completion of the dacoity no one might spit or drink water or relieve himself under penalty of putting a stop to the enterprise. The Jemadar invoked Khandoba, an incarnation of Mahadeo, and said that if by his assistance the box of money was broken at the first or second stroke of the axe, a chain of gold weighing one and a quarter tolas would be made over to him. The party then approached the shop, the roads surrounding it being picketed to guard against a rescue, and the Jemadar, accompanied by four or five men and the torch-bearer, rushed into the shop crying Din, Din. The doors usually gave way under a few heavy blows with the axe, which they wielded with great expertness, and the scout pointed out the location of the money and valuables. Once in possession of the property the torch was extinguished and the whole party made off as rapidly as possible. During their retreat they tried to avoid spearing people who pursued them, first calling out to them to go away. If any member of the party was killed or so desperately wounded that he could not be removed, the others cut off his head and carried it off so as to prevent recognition; a man who was slightly wounded would be carried off by his companions, but if the pursuit became hot and he had to be left, they cut off his head also and took it with them, escaping by this drastic method the risk of his turning approver with the consequent danger of conviction for the rest of the gang. About a mile from the place of the dacoity they stopped and mustered their party, and the Jemadar called out to the god Bhagwan to direct any pursuers in the wrong direction and enable them to reach their families. If any dacoit had ever been killed at this particular town they also called upon his spirit to assist them, promising to offer him a goat or some liquor; and so, throwing down a rupee or two at any temple or stream which they might pass on their way, they came to their families. When about a mile away from the camp they called out 'Cuckoo' to ascertain if any misfortune had occurred during their absence; if they thought all was well they went nearer and imitated the call of the partridge; and finally when close to the encampment made a hissing noise like a snake. On arrival at the camp they at once mounted their ponies and started off, marching fifty or sixty miles a day, for two or three days.

6. Omens

The Sansias never committed a dacoity on moonlight nights, but had five appointed days during the dark half of the month, the seventh, ninth, eleventh, thirteenth and the night of the day on which the new moon was first seen. If they did not meet with a favourable omen on any of these nights, no dacoity was committed that month. The following is a list of omens given by one of the caste: [614] "If we see a cat when we are near the place where we intend to commit a dacoity, or we hear the relations of a dead person lamenting, or hear a person sneeze while cooking his meal, or see a dog run away with a portion of any person's food, or a kite screams while sitting on a tree, or a woman breaks the earthen vessel in which she may have been drawing water, we consider the omens unfavourable. If a person drops his turban or we meet a corpse, or the Jemadar has forgotten to put some bread into his waistbelt, or any dacoit forgets his axe or spear or sees a snake whether dead or alive; these omens are also considered unfavourable and we do not commit the dacoity. Should we see a wolf and any one of us have on a red turban, we take this and tear it into seven pieces and hang each piece upon a separate tree. We then purchase a rupee's worth of liquor and kill a goat, which is cut up into four pieces. Four men pretend that they are wolves and rushing on the four quarters of the meat seize them, imitating the howl of these animals, while the rest of the dacoits pelt them with the entrails; the meat is afterwards cooked and eaten in the name of Bhagwan."

It would appear that the explanation of this curious ceremony must be that the Sansias thought the appearance of the wolf to be an omen that one of them would furnish a meal for him. The turban is venerated on account of its close association with the head, a sacred part of the body among Hindus, and in this case it probably served as a substituted offering for the head, while its red colour represented blood; and the mimic rite of the goat being devoured by men pretending to be wolves fulfilled the omen which portended that the wolves would be provided with a meal, and hence averted the necessity of one of the band being really devoured. In somewhat analogous fashion the Gonds and Baigas placate or drive away a tiger who has killed a man in order to prevent him from obtaining further victims. Some similar idea apparently underlay the omen of the dog running away with food. Perhaps the portent of hearing the kite scream on a tree also meant that he looked on them with a prescient eye as a future meal. On the other hand, meeting a corpse and seeing a snake are commonly considered to be lucky omens, and their inclusion in this list is curious. [615] The passage continues: "Among our favourable omens are meeting a woman selling milk; or a person carrying a basket of grain or a bag of money; or if we see a calf sucking its mother, or meet a person with a vessel of water, or a marriage procession; or if any person finds a rupee that he has lost; or we meet a bearer carrying fish or a pig or a blue-jay; if any of these occur near our camp on the day we contemplate a dacoity, we proceed forthwith to commit it and consider that these signs assure us a good booty. If a Fakir begs from us while we are on our way to the place of dacoity we cannot give him anything." Another Sansia said: "We think it very favourable if, when on the way to commit a dacoity we hear or see the jackal; it is as good as gold and silver to us; also if we hear the bray of the ass in a village we consider it to be lucky."

7. Ordeals

The following is a description given by a Sansia of their ordeals: [616] If a Jemadar suspects a Sipahi of secreting plunder a panchayat is assembled, [617] the members of which receive five rupees from both parties. Seven pipal [618] leaves are laid upon his hand and bound round with thread, and upon these a heated iron tawa or plate is set; he is then ordered to walk seven paces and put the plate down upon seven thorns; should he be able to do so he is pronounced innocent, but if he is burnt by the plate and throws it down he is considered guilty. Another ordeal is by fixing arrows, two of which are shot off at once from one bow, one in the name of Bhagwan (god), and the other in the name of the panchayat; the place being on the bank of the river. The arrow that flies the farthest is stuck upright into the ground; upon which a man carrying a long bamboo walks up to his breast in the water and the suspected person is desired to join him. One of the panchayat then claps his hands seven times and runs off to pick up the arrow; at this instant the suspected person is obliged to put his head under water, and if he can hold his breath until the other returns to the bank with the arrow and has again clapped his hands seven times he is pronounced innocent. If he cannot do so he is declared guilty and punished. A third form of ordeal was as follows: The Jemadar and the gang assemble under a pipal tree, and after knocking off the neck of an earthen pitcher they kill a goat and collect its blood in the pitcher, and put some glass bangles in it. Four lines are drawn on the pitcher with vermilion (representing blood), and it is placed under a tree and 1 1/4 seers [619] of gur (sugar) are tied up in a piece of cloth 1 1/4 cubits in length and hung on to a branch of the tree. The Jemadar then says, 'I will forgive any person who has not secreted more than fifteen or twenty rupees, but whoever has stolen more than that sum shall be punished.' The Jemadar dips his finger in the pitcher of blood, and afterwards touches the sugar and calls out loudly, 'If I have embezzled any money may Bhagwan punish me'; and each dacoit in turn pronounces the same sentence. No one who is guilty will do this but at once makes his confession. The oath pronounced on 1 1/4 seers of sugar tied up in 1 1/4 cubits of cloth was considered the most solemn and binding which a Sansia could take.

8. Sansias at the present time

At present, Mr. Kennedy states, [620] the Sansias travel about in gangs of varying strength with their families, bullocks, sheep, goats and dogs. The last mentioned of these animals are usually small mongrels with a terrier strain, mostly stolen or bred from types dishonestly obtained during their peregrinations. Dacoity is still the crime which they most affect, and they also break into houses and steal cattle. Men usually have a necklace of red coral and gold beads round the neck, from which is suspended a square piece of silver or gold bearing an effigy of a man on horseback. This represents either the deity Ramdeo Pir or one of the wearer's ancestors, and is venerated as a charm. They are very quarrelsome, and their drinking-bouts in camp usually end in a free fight, in which they also beat their women, and the affray not infrequently results in the death of one of the combatants. When this happens the slayer makes restitution to the relatives by defraying the expenses of a fresh drinking-bout. [621] During the daytime men are seldom to be found in the encampment, as they are in the habit of hiding in the ditches and jungle, where the women take them their food; at night they return to their tents, but are off again at dawn.

Sansia, Uria

1. The caste and its subdivisions

Sansia, Uria. [622]—A caste of masons and navvies of the Uriya country. The Sansias are really a branch of the great migratory Ud or Odde caste of earth-workers, whose name has been corrupted into various forms. [623] Thus in Chanda they are known as Wadewar or Waddar. The term Uria is here a corruption of Odde, and it is the one by which the caste prefer to be known, but they are generally called Sansia by outsiders. The caste sometimes class the Sansias as a subcaste of Urias, the others being Benatia Urias and Khandait Urias. Since the Uriya tract has been transferred to Bengal, and subsequently to Bihar and Orissa, there remain only about 1000 Sansias in the Chhattisgarh Districts and States. Although it is possible that the name of the caste may have been derived from some past connection, the Sansias of the Uriya country have at present no affinities with the outcaste and criminal tribe of Sansis or Sansias of northern India. They enjoy a fairly high position in Sarnbalpur, and Brahmans will take water from them.

They are divided into two subcastes, the Benetia and Khandait. The Benetia are the higher and look down on the Khandaits, because, it is said, these latter have accepted service as foot-soldiers, and this is considered a menial occupation. Perhaps in the households of the Uriya Rajas the tribal militia had also to perform personal services, and this may have been considered derogatory., In Orissa, on the other hand, the Khandaits have become landholders and occupy a high position next to Rajputs. The Benetia Sansias practise hypergamy with the Khandait Sansias, taking their daughters in marriage, but not giving daughters to them. When a Benetia is marrying a Khandait girl his party will not take food with the bride's relatives, but only partake of some sugar and curds and depart with the bride. The Sansias have totemistic exogamous septs, usually derived from the names of sacred objects, as Kachhap, tortoise, Sankh, the conch-shell, Tulsi, basil, and so on.

2. Marriage customs

Girls are married between seven and ten, and after she is twelve years old a girl cannot go through the proper ceremony, but can only be wedded by a simple rite used for widows, in which vermilion is rubbed on her forehead and some grains of rice stuck on it. The marriage procession, as described by Mr. Rama Prasad Bohidar, is a gorgeous affair: "The drummers, all drunk, head the procession, beating their drums to the tune set by the piper. Next in order are placed dancing-boys between two rows of lights carried on poles adorned with festoons of paper flowers. Rockets and fireworks have their proper share in the procession, and last of all comes the bridegroom in his wedding apparel, mounted on a horse. His person is studded with various kinds of gold necklaces borrowed for the occasion, and the fingers of his right hand are covered with rings. Bangles and chains of silver shine on his wrists and arms. His forehead is beautifully painted with ground sandalwood divided in the centre by a streak of vermilion. His head carries a crown of palm-leaves overlaid with bright paper of various colours. A network of malti flowers hangs loosely from the head over the back and covers a portion of the loins of the steed. The eyes are painted with collyrium and the feet with red dye. The lips and teeth are also reddened by the betel-leaf, which the bridegroom chews in profusion. A silk cloth does the work of a belt, in which is fixed a dagger on the right side." Here the red colour which predominates in the bridegroom's decorations is lucky for the reasons given in the article on Lakhera; the blacking of the eyes is also considered to keep off evil spirits; betel-leaf is itself a powerful agent of magic and averter of spirits, and to the same end the bridegroom carries iron in the shape of the dagger. The ceremony is of the customary Uriya type. On the seventh day of the wedding the husband and wife go to the river and bathe, throwing away the sacred threads worn at the time of marriage, and also those which have been tied round their wrists. On returning home the wife piles up seven brass vessels and seven stools one above the other and the husband kicks them over, this being repeated seven times. The husband then washes his teeth with water brought from the river, breaks the vessel containing the water in the bride's house, and runs away, while the women of her family throw pailfuls of coloured water over him. On the ninth day the bride comes and smears a mixture of curds and sugar on the forehead of each member of the bridegroom's family, probably as a sign of her admission to their clan, and returns home. Divorce and the remarriage of widows are permitted.

3. Religion and worship of ancestors

The caste worship Viswakarma, the celestial architect, and on four principal festivals they revere their trade-implements and the book on architecture, by which they work. At Dasahra a pumpkin is offered to these articles in lieu of a goat. They observe the shraddh ceremony, and first make two offerings to the spirits of ancestors who have died a violent death or have committed suicide, and to those of relatives who died unmarried, for fear lest these unclean and malignant spirits should seize and defile the offerings to the beneficent ancestors. Thereafter pindas or sacrificial cakes are offered to three male and three female ancestors both on the father's and mother's side, twelve cakes being offered in all. The Sansias eat the flesh of clean animals, but the consumption of liquor is strictly forbidden, on pain, it is said, of permanent exclusion from caste.

4. Occupation

In Sambalpur the caste are usually stone-workers, making cups, mortars, images of idols and other articles. They also build tanks and wander from place to place for this purpose in large companies. It is related that on one occasion they came to dig a tank in Drug, and the Raja of that place, while watching their work, took a fancy to one of the Odnis, as their women were called, and wanted her to marry him. But as she was already married, and was a virtuous woman, she refused. The Raja persisted in his demand, on which the whole body of Sansias from Chhattisgarh, numbering, it is said, nine lakhs of persons, left their work and proceeded to Wararbandh, near Raj-Nandgaon. Here they dug the great tank of Wararbandh [624] in one night to obtain a supply of water for themselves. But the Raja followed them, and as they could not resist him by force, the woman whom he was pursuing burnt herself alive, and thus earned undying fame in the caste. This legend is perpetuated in the Odni Git, a popular folk-song in Chhattisgarh. But it is a traditional story of the Sansias in connection with large tanks, and in another version the scene is laid in Gujarat. [625]


List of Paragraphs

1. Distribution and historical notices. 2. Tribal legends. 3. Tribal subdivisions. 4. Marriage. 5. Death ceremonies. 6. Religion. 7. Occupation.

1. Distribution and historical notices

Savar, [626] Sawara, Savara, Saonr, Sahra (and several other variations. In Bundelkhand the Savars, there called Saonrs, are frequently known by the honorific title of Rawat).—A primitive tribe numbering about 70,000 persons in the Central Provinces in 1911, and principally found in the Chhattisgarh Districts and those of Saugor and Damoh. The eastern branch of the tribe belongs chiefly to the Uriya country. The Savars are found in large numbers in the Madras Districts of Ganjam and Vizagapatam and in Orissa. They also live in the Bundelkhand Districts of the United Provinces. The total number of Savars enumerated in India in 1911 was 600,000, of which the Bundelkhand Districts contained about 100,000 and the Uriya country the remainder. The two branches of the tribe are thus separated by a wide expanse of territory. As regards this peculiarity of distribution General Cunningham says: "Indeed there seems good reason to believe that the Savaras were formerly the dominant branch of the great Kolarian family, and that their power lasted down to a comparatively late period, when they were pushed aside by other Kolarian tribes in the north and east, and by the Gonds in the south. In the Saugor District I was informed that the Savaras had formerly fought with the Gonds and that the latter had conquered them by treacherously making them drunk." [627] Similarly Cunningham notices that the zamindar of Suarmar in Raipur, which name is derived from Savar, is a Gond. A difference of opinion has existed as to whether the Savars were Kolarian or Dravidian so far as their language was concerned, Colonel Dalton adopting the latter view and other authorities the former and correct one. In the Central Provinces the Savars have lost their own language and speak the Aryan Hindi or Uriya vernacular current around them. But in Madras they still retain their original speech, which is classified by Sir G. Grierson as Mundari or Kolarian. He says: "The most southerly forms of Munda speech are those spoken by the Savars and Gadabas of the north-east of Madras. The former have been identified with the Suari of Pliny and the Sabarae of Ptolemy. A wild tribe of the same name is mentioned in Sanskrit literature, even so far back as in late Vedic times, as inhabiting the Deccan, so that the name at least can boast great antiquity." [628] As to the origin of the name Savar, General Cunningham says that it must be sought for outside the language of the Aryans. "In Sanskrit savara simply means 'a corpse.' From Herodotus, however, we learn that the Scythian word for an axe was sagaris, and as 'g' and 'v' are interchangeable letters savar is the same word as sagar. It seems therefore not unreasonable to infer that the tribe who were so called took their name from their habit of carrying axes. Now it is one of the striking peculiarities of the Savars that they are rarely seen without an axe in their hands. The peculiarity has been frequently noticed by all who have seen them." [629] The above opinion of Cunningham, which is of course highly speculative, is disputed by Mr. Crooke, who says that "The word Savara, if it be, as some believe, derived from sava a corpse, comes from the root sav 'to cause to decay,' and need not necessarily therefore be of non-Aryan origin, while on the other hand no distinct inference can be drawn from the use of the axe by the Savars, when it is equally used by various other Dravidian jungle tribes such as the Korwas, Bhuiyas and the like." [630] In the classical stories of their origin the first ancestor of the Savars is sometimes described as a Bhil. The word Savar is mentioned in several Sanskrit works written between 800 B.C. and A.D. 1200, and it seems probable that they are a Munda tribe who occupied the tracts of country which they live in prior to the arrival of the Gonds. The classical name Savar has been corrupted into various forms. Thus in the Bundeli dialect 'ava' changes into 'au' and a nasal is sometimes interpolated. Savar has here become Saunr or Saonr. The addition of 'a' at the end of the word sometimes expresses contempt, and Savar becomes Savara as Chamar is corrupted into Chamra. In the Uriya country 'v' is changed into 'b' and an aspirate is interpolated, and thus Savara became Sabra or Sahara, as Gaur has become Gahra. The word Sahara, Mr. Crooke remarks, [631] has excited speculation as to its derivation from Arabic, in which Sahara means a wilderness; and the name of the Savars has accordingly been deduced from the same source as the great Sahara desert. This is of course incorrect.

2. Tribal legends

Various stories of the origin of the Savars are given in Sanskrit literature. In the Aitareya Brahmana they are spoken of as the descendants of Vishwamitra, while in the Mahabharat they are said to have been created by Kamdhenu, Vasishtha's wonder-working cow, in order to repel the aggression of Vishwamitra. Local tradition traces their origin to the celebrated Seori of the Ramayana, who is supposed to have lived somewhere near the present Seorinarayan in the Bilaspur District and to have given her name to this place. Ramchandra in his wanderings met her there, ate the plums which she had gathered for him after tasting each one herself, and out of regard for her devotion permitted her name to precede his own of Narayan in that given to the locality. Another story makes one Jara Savar their original ancestor, who was said to have shot Krishna in the form of a deer. Another states that they were created for carrying stones for the construction of the great temple at Puri and for dragging the car of Jagannath, which they still do at the present time. Yet another connecting them with the temple of Jagannath states that their ancestor was an old Bhil hermit called Sawar, who lived in Karod, two miles from Seorinarayan. The god Jagannath had at this time appeared in Seorinarayan and the old Sawar used to worship him. The king of Orissa had built the great temple at Puri and wished to install Jagannath in it, and he sent a Brahman to fetch him from Seorinarayan, but nobody knew where he was except the old hermit Sawar. The Brahman besought him in vain to be allowed to see the god and even went so far as to marry his daughter, and finally the old man consented to take him blindfold to the place. The Brahman, however, tied some mustard seeds in a corner of his cloth and made a hole in it so that they dropped out one by one on the way. After some time they grew up and served to guide him to the spot. This story of the mustard seeds of course finds a place in the folklore of many nations. The Brahman then went to Seorinarayan alone and begged the god to go to Puri. Jagannath consented, and assuming the form of a log of wood floated down the Mahanadi to Puri, where he was taken out and placed in the temple. A carpenter agreed to carve the god's image out of the log of wood on condition that the temple should be shut up for six months while the work was going on. But some curious people opened the door before the time and the work could not proceed, and thus the image of the god is only half carved out of the wood up to the present day. As a consolation to the old man the god ordained that the place should bear the hermit's name before his own as Seorinarayan. Lastly the Saonrs of Bundelkhand have the following tradition. In the beginning of creation Mahadeo wished to teach the people how to cultivate the ground, and so he made a plough and took out his bull Nandi to yoke to it But there was dense forest on the earth, so he created a being whom he called Savar and gave him an axe to clear the forest. In the meantime Mahadeo went away to get another bullock. The Savar after clearing the forest felt very hungry, and finding nothing else to eat killed Nandi and ate his flesh on a teak leaf. And for this reason the young teak leaves when rubbed give out sap which is the colour of blood to the present day. After some time Mahadeo returned, and finding the forest well cleared was pleased with the Savar, and as a reward endowed him with the knowledge of all edible and medicinal roots and fruits of the forest. But on looking round for Nandi he found him lying dead with some of his flesh cut off. The Savar pleaded ignorance, but Mahadeo sprinkled a little nectar on Nandi, who came to life again and told what had happened. Then Mahadeo was enraged with the Savar and said, 'You shall remain a barbarian and dwell for ever in poverty in the jungles without enough to eat.' And accordingly this has always been the condition of the Savar's descendants.

Other old authors speak of the Parna or leaf-clad Savars; and a Savar messenger is described as carrying a bow in his hand "with his hair tied up in a knot behind with a creeper, black himself, and wearing a loin-cloth of bhilawan leaves"; [632] an excellent example of 'a leaf-fringed legend.'

3. Tribal subdivisions

The Bundelkhand Savars have been so long separated from the others that they have sometimes forgotten their identity and consider themselves as a subtribe of Gonds, though the better informed repudiate this. They may be regarded as a separate endogamous group. The eastern branch have two main divisions called Laria and Uriya, or those belonging to Chhattisgarh and Sambalpur respectively. A third division known as the Kalapithia or 'Black Backs' are found in Orissa, and are employed to drag the car of Jagannath. These on account of their sacred occupation consider themselves superior to the others, abstain from fowls and liquor, and sometimes wear the sacred thread. The Larias are the lowest subdivision. Marriage is regulated by exogamous septs or bargas. The northern Savars say that they have 52 of these, 52 being a number frequently adopted to express the highest possible magnitude, as if no more could be imagined. The Uriya Savars say they have 80 bargas. Besides the prohibition of marriage within the same barga, the union of first cousins is sometimes forbidden. Among the Uriya Savars each barga has the two further divisions of Joria and Khuntia, the Jorias being those who bury or burn their dead near a jor or brook, and the Khuntias those who bury or burn them near a khunt or old tree. Jorias and Khuntias of the same barga cannot intermarry, but in the case of some other subdivisions of the barga, as between those who eat rice at one festival in the year and those eating it at two, marriage is allowed between members of the two subdivisions, thus splitting the exogamous group into two. The names of the bargas are usually totemistic, and the following are some examples: Badaiya, the carpenter bird; Bagh, the tiger; Bagula, the heron; Bahra, a cook; Bhatia, a brinjal or egg-plant; Bisi, the scorpion; Basantia, the trunk of the cotton tree; Hathia, an elephant; Jancher, a tree (this barga is divided into Bada and Kachcha, the Bada worshipping the tree and the Kachcha a branch of it, and marriage between the two subdivisions is allowed); Jharia (this barga keeps a lock of a child's hair unshaved for four or five years after its birth); Juadi, a gambler; Karsa, a deer; Khairaiya, the khair or catechu tree; Lodhi, born from the caste of that name (in Saugor); Markam, the name of a Gond sept; Rajhans, a swan; Suriya Bansia, from the sun (members of this barga feed the caste-fellows on the occasion of a solar eclipse and throw away their earthen pots); Silgainya from sil, a slate; and Tiparia from tipari, a basket (these two septs are divided into Kachcha and Pakka groups which can marry with each other); Sona, gold (a member of this sept does not wear gold ornaments until he has given a feast and a caste-fellow has placed one on his person).

4. Marriage

Marriage is usually adult, but in places where the Savars live near Hindus they have adopted early marriage. A reason for preferring the latter custom is found in the marriage ceremony, when the bride and bridegroom must be carried on the shoulders of their relatives from the bride's house to the bridegroom's. If they are grown up, this part of the ceremony entails no inconsiderable labour on the relatives. In the Uriya country, while the Khuntia subdivision of each barga see nothing wrong in marrying a girl after adolescence, the Jorias consider it a great sin, to avoid which they sometimes marry a girl to an arrow before she attains puberty. An arrow is tied to her hand, and she goes seven times round a mahua branch stuck on an improvised altar, and drinks ghi and oil, thus creating the fiction of a marriage. The arrow is then thrown into a river to imply that her husband is dead, and she is afterwards disposed of by the ceremony of widow-marriage. If this mock ceremony has not been performed before the girl becomes adult, she is taken to the forest by a relative and there tied to a tree, to which she is considered to be married. She is not taken back to her father's house but to that of some relative, such as her brother-in-law or grandfather, who is permitted to talk to her in an obscene and jesting manner, and is subsequently disposed of as a widow. Or in Sambalpur she may be nominally married to an old man and then again married as a widow. The Savars follow generally the local Hindu form of the marriage ceremony. On the return of the bridal pair seven lines are drawn in front of the entrance to the bridegroom's house. Some relative takes rice and throws it at the persons returning with the marriage procession, and then pushes the pair hastily across the lines and into the house. They are thus freed from the evil spirits who might have accompanied them home and who are kept back by the rice and the seven lines. A price of Rs. 5 is sometimes paid for the bride. In Saugor if the bride's family cannot afford a wedding feast they distribute small pieces of bread to the guests, who place them in their head-cloths to show their acceptance of this substitute. To those guests to whom it is necessary to make presents five cowries are given. Widow-marriage is allowed, and in some places the widow is bound to marry her late husband's younger brother unless he declines to take her. If she marries somebody else the new husband pays a sum by way of compensation either to her father or to the late husband's family. Divorce is permitted on the husband's initiative for adultery or serious disagreement. If the wife wishes for a divorce she simply runs away from her husband. The Laria Savars must give a marti-jiti ka bhat or death-feast on the occasion of a divorce. The Uriyas simply pay a rupee to the headman of the caste.

5. Death ceremonies

The Savars both burn and bury their dead, placing the corpse on the pyre with its head to the north, in the belief that heaven lies in that direction. On the eleventh day after the death in Sambalpur those members of the caste who can afford it present a goat to the mourners. The Savars believe that the souls of those who die become ghosts, and in Bundelkhand they used formerly to bury the dead near their fields in the belief that the spirits would watch over and protect the crops. If a man has died a violent death they raise a small platform of earth under a teak or saj tree, in which the ghost of the dead man is believed to take up its residence, and nobody thereafter may cut down that tree. The Uriya Savars take no special measures unless the ghost appears to somebody in a dream and asks to be worshipped as Baghiapat (tiger-eaten) or Masan (serpent-bitten). In such cases a gunia or sorcerer is consulted, and such measures as he prescribes are taken to appease the dead man's soul. If a person dies without a child a hole is made in a stone, and his soul is induced to enter it by the gunia. A few grains of rice are placed in the hole, and it is then closed with melted lead to imprison the ghost, and the stone is thrown into a stream so that it may never be able to get out and trouble the family. Savars offer water to the dead. A second wife usually wears a metal impression of the first wife by way of propitiation to her.

6. Religion

The Savars worship Bhawani under various names and also Dulha Deo, the young bridegroom who was killed by a tiger. He is located in the kitchen of every house in some localities, and this has given rise to the proverb, 'Jai chulha, tai Dulha,' or 'There is a Dulha Deo to every hearth.' The Savars are considered to be great sorcerers. 'Sawara ke pange, Rawat ke bandhe,' or 'The man bewitched by a Savar and the bullock tied up by a Rawat (grazier) cannot escape'; and again, 'Verily the Saonr is a cup of poison.' Their charms, called Sabari mantras, are especially intended to appease the spirits of persons who have died a violent death. If one of their family was seriously ill they were accustomed formerly to set fire to the forest, so that by burning the small animals and insects which could not escape they might propitiate the angry gods.

7. Occupation

The dress of the Savars is of the scantiest. The women wear khilwan or pith ornaments in the ear, and abstain from wearing nose-rings, a traditional method of deference to the higher castes. The proverb has it, 'The ornaments of the Sawara are gumchi seeds.' These are the red and black seeds of Abrus precatorius which are used in weighing gold and silver and are called rati. Women are tattooed and sometimes men also to avoid being pierced with a red-hot iron by the god of death. Tattooing is further said to allay the sexual passion of women, which is eight times more intense than that of men. Their occupations are the collection of jungle produce and cultivation. They are very clever in taking honeycombs: 'It is the Savar who can drive the black bees from their hive.' The eastern branch of the caste is more civilised than the Saonras of Bundelkhand, who still sow juari with a pointed stick, saying that it was the implement given to them by Mahadeo for this purpose. In Saugor and Damoh they employ Brahmans for marriage ceremonies if they can afford it, but on other occasions their own caste priests. In some places they will take food from most castes but in others from nobody who is not a Savar. Sometimes they admit outsiders and in others the children only of irregular unions; thus a Gond woman kept by a Savar would not be recognised as a member of the caste herself but her children would be Savars. A woman going wrong with an outsider of low caste is permanently excommunicated.


List of Paragraphs

1. Origin and constitution of the caste. 2. Totemism. 3. Marriage. 4. Customs at birth 5. Funeral rites. 6. Religion. 7. Social customs. 8. Occupation.

1. Origin and constitution of the caste

Sonjhara, Jhara, Jhora, Jhira.—A small occupational caste who wash for gold in river-beds, belonging to the Sambalpur, Mandla, Balaghat and Chanda Districts and the Chota Nagpur Feudatory States. In 1911 they numbered about 1500 persons. The name probably comes from sona, gold, and jharna, to sweep or wash, though, when the term Jhara only is used, some derive it from jhori a streamlet. Colonel Dalton surmised that the Sonjharas were an offshoot of the Gonds, and this appears to be demonstrated by the fact that the names of their exogamous septs are identical with Gond names as Marabi, Tekam, Netam, Dhurwa and Madao. The Sonjharas of Bilaspur say that their ancestors were Gonds who dwelt at Lanji in Balaghat. The caste relate the tradition that they were condemned by Mahadeo to perpetual poverty because their first ancestor stole a little gold from Parvatis crown when it fell into the river Jamuna (in Chota Nagpur) and he was sent to fetch it out. The metal which is found in the river sands they hold to be the remains of a shower of gold which fell for two and a half days while the Banaphar heroes Alha and Udal were fighting their great battle with Prithvi Raj, king of Delhi. The caste is partly occupational, and recruited from different sources. This is shown by the fact that in Chanda members of different septs will not eat together, though they are obliged to intermarry. In Sambalpur the Behra, Patar, Naik and Padhan septs eat together and intermarry. Two other septs, the Kanar and Peltrai who eat fowls and drink liquor, occupy a lower position, and members of the first four will not take food from them nor give daughters to them in marriage, though they will take daughters from these lower groups for their sons. Here they have three subcastes, the Laria or residents of Chhattisgarh, the Uriya belonging to the Uriya country, and the Bhuinhar, who may be an offshoot from the Bhuiya tribe.

2. Totemism

They have one recorded instance of totemism, which is of some interest. Members of the sept named after a tree called kausa revere the tree and explain it by saying that their ancestor, when flying from some danger, sought protection from this tree, which thereupon opened and enfolded him in its trunk. No member of the sept will touch the tree without first bathing, and on auspicious occasions, such as births and weddings, they will dig up a little earth from the roots of the tree and taking this home worship it in the house. If any member of the sept finds that he has cut off a branch or other part of this tree unwittingly he will take and consign it to a stream, observing ceremonies of mourning. Women of the Nag or cobra sept will not mention the name of this snake aloud, just as they refrain from speaking the names of male relatives.

3. Marriage

Marriage within the sept is forbidden, and they permit the intermarriage of the children of a brother and sister, but not of those of two sisters, though their husbands may be of different septs. Marriage is usually adult except in Sambalpur, where a girl must be provided with a husband before reaching maturity in accordance with the general rule among the Uriya castes. In Chhindwara it is said that the Sonjharas revere the crocodile and that the presence of this animal is essential at their weddings. They do not, however, kill and eat it at a sacrificial feast as the Singrore Dhimars are reported to do, but catch and keep it alive, and when the ceremony is concluded take it back again and deposit it in a river. After a girl has been married neither her father nor any of her own near relatives will ever take food again in the house of her husband's family, saying that they would rather starve. Each married couple also becomes a separate commensal group and will not eat with the parents of either of them. This is a common custom among low castes of mixed origin where every man is doubtful of his neighbour's parentage. Divorce and the remarriage of widows are permitted, and a woman may be divorced merely on the ground of incompetence in household management or because she does not please her husband's parents.

4. Customs at birth

At child-birth they make a little separate hut for the mother near the river where they are encamped, and she remains in it for two days and a half. During this time her husband does no work; he stays a few paces distant from his wife's hut and prepares her food but does not go to the hut or touch her, and he kindles a fire between them. During the first two days the woman gets three handfuls of rice boiled thin in water, and on the third day she receives nothing until the evening, when the Sendia or head of the sept takes a little cowdung, gold and silver in his hand, and pouring water over this gives her of it to drink as many times as the number of gods worshipped by her family up to seven. Then she is pure. On this day the father sacrifices a chicken and gives a meal with liquor to the caste and names the child, calling it after one of his ancestors who is dead. Then an old woman beats on a brass plate and calls out the name which has been given in a loud voice to the whole camp so that they may all know the child's name. In Bilaspur the Sonjharas observe the custom of the Couvade, and for six days after the birth of a child the husband lies prone in his house, while the wife gets up and goes to work, coming home to give suck to the child when necessary. The man takes no food for three days and on the fourth is given ginger and raw sugar, thus undergoing the ordinary treatment of a woman after childbirth. This is supposed by them to be a sort of compensation for the labours sustained by the woman in bearing the child. The custom obtains among some other primitive races, but is now rapidly being abandoned by the Sonjharas.

5. Funeral rites

The bodies of the old are cremated as a special honour, and those of other persons are buried. No one other than a member of the dead man's family may touch his corpse under a penalty of five rupees. A relative will remove the body and bury it with the feet pointing to the river or burn it by the water's edge. They mourn a child for one day and an adult for four days, and at the end the mourner is shaved and provides liquor for the community. If there be no relative, since no other man can touch the corpse, they fire the hut over it and burn it as it is lying or bury hut and body under a high mound of sand.

6. Religion

Their principal deities are Dulha Deo, the boy bridegroom, Nira his servant, and Kauria a form of Devi. Nira lives under an umar [633] tree and he and Dulha Deo his master are worshipped every third year in the month of Magh (January). Kauria is also worshipped once in three years on a Sunday in the month of Magh with an offering of a cocoanut, and in her honour they never sit on a cot nor sleep on a stool because they think that the goddess has her seat on these articles. The real reason, however, is probably that the Sonjharas consider the use of such furniture an indication of a settled life and permanent residence, and therefore abjure it as being wanderers. Some analogous customs have been recorded of the Banjaras. They also revere the spirit of one of their female ancestors who became a Sati. They sacrifice a goat to the genius loci or spirit haunting the spot where they decide to start work; and they will leave it for fear of angering this spirit, which is said to appear in the form of a tiger, should they make a particularly good find. [634] They never keep dogs, and it is said that they are defiled by the touch of a dog and will throw away their food if one comes near them during their meal. The same rule applies to a cat, and they will throw away an earthen vessel touched by either of these animals. On the Diwali day they wash their implements, and setting them up near the huts worship them with offerings of a cocoanut and vermilion.

7. Social customs

Their rule is always to camp outside a village at a distance of not less than a mile. In the rains they make huts with a roof of bamboos sloping from a central ridge and walls of matting. The huts are built in one line and do not touch each other, at least a cubit's distance being left between each. Each hut has one door facing the east. As a rule they avoid the water of village wells and tanks, though it is not absolutely forbidden. Each man digs a shallow well in the sand behind his hut and drinks the water from it, and no man may drink the water of his neighbour's well; if he should do so or if any water from his well gets into his neighbour's, the latter is abandoned and a fresh one made. If the ground is too swampy for wells they collect the water in their wooden washing-tray and fill their vessels from it. In the cold weather they make little leaf-huts on the sand or simply camp out in the open, but they must never sleep under a tree. When living in the open each family makes two fires and sleeps together between them. Some of them have their stomachs burned and blackened from sleeping too near the fire. The Sonjharas will not take cooked food from the hands of any other caste, but their social status is very low, about equivalent to that of the parent Gond tribe. They have no fear of wild animals, not even the children. Perhaps they think that as fellow-denizens of the jungle these animals are kin to them and will not injure them.

8. Occupation

The traditional occupation of the caste is to wash gold from the sandy beds of streams, while they formerly also washed for diamonds at Hirakud on the Mahanadi near Sambalpur and at Wairagarh in Chanda. The industry is decaying, and in 1901 only a quarter of the total number of Sonjharas were still employed In it. Some have become cultivators and fishermen, while others earn their livelihood by sweeping up the refuse dirt of the workshops of goldsmiths and brass-workers; they wash out the particles of metal from this and sell it back to the Sunars. The Mahanadi and Jonk rivers in Sambalpur, the Banjar In Mandla, the Son and other rivers in Balaghat, and the Wainganga and the eastern streams of Chanda contain minute particles of gold. The washers earn a miserable and uncertain livelihood, and indeed appear not to desire anything beyond a bare subsistence. In Bhandara [635] it is said that they avoid any spot where they have previously been lucky, while in Chanda they have a superstition that a person making a good find of gold will be childless, and hence many dread the search. [636] When they set out to look for gold they wash three small trayfuls at three places about five cubits apart. If they find no appreciable quantity of gold they go on for one or two hundred yards and wash three more trayfuls, and proceed thus until they find a profitable place where they will halt for two or three days. A spot [637] in the dry river-bed is usually selected at the outside of a bend, where the finer sediment is likely to be found; after removing the stones and pebbles from above, the sand below is washed several times in circular wooden cradles, shaped like the top of an umbrella, of diminishing sizes, until all the clay is removed and fine particles of sand mixed with gold are visible. A large wooden spoon is used to stir up the sediment, which is washed and rubbed by hand to separate the gold more completely from the sand, and a blackish residue is left, containing particles of gold and mercury coloured black with oxide of iron. Mercury is used to pick up the gold with which it forms an amalgam. This is evaporated in a clay cupel called a ghariya by which the mercury is got rid of and the gold left behind.


Sudh, [638] Sudha, Sudho, Suda.—A cultivating caste in the Uriya country. Since the transfer of Sambalpur to Bengal only a few Sudhs remain in the Central Provinces. They are divided into four subcastes—the Bada or high Sudhs, the Dehri or worshippers, the Kabat-konia or those holding the corners of the gate, and the Butka. These last are the most primitive and think that Rairakhol is their first home. They relate that they were born of the Pandava hero Bhimsen and the female demon Hedembiki, and were originally occupied in supplying leaves for the funeral ceremonies of the Pandava brothers, from which business they obtained their name of Butka or 'one who brings leaves.' They are practically a forest tribe and carry on shifting cultivation like the Khonds. According to their own story the ancestors of the Butka Sudhs once ruled In Rairakhol and reclaimed the land from the forest, that is so far as it has been reclaimed. The following story connects them with the ruling family of Rairakhol. In former times there was constant war between Bamra and Rairakhol, and on one occasion the whole of the Rairakhol royal family was destroyed with the exception of one boy who was hidden by a Butka Sudh woman. She placed him in a cradle supported on four uprights, and when the Bamra Raja's soldiers came to seek for him the Sudhs swore, "If we have kept him either in heaven or earth may our god destroy us." The Bamra people were satisfied with this reply and the child was saved, and on coming to manhood he won back his kingdom. He received the name of Janamani or 'Jewel among men,' which the family still bear. In consequence of this incident, the Butka Sudhs are considered by the Rairakhol house as relations on their mother's side; they have several villages allotted to them and perform sacrifices for the ruling family. In some of these villages nobody may sleep on a cot or sit on a high chair, so as to be between heaven and earth in the position in which the child was saved. The Bada Sudhs are the most numerous subdivision and have generally adopted Hindu customs, so that the higher castes will take water from their hands. They neither drink liquor nor eat fowls, but the other subcastes do both. The Sudhs have totemistic gotras as Bhalluka (bear), Bagh (tiger), Ulluka (owl), and others. They also have bargas or family names as Thakur (lord), Danaik, Amayat and Bishi. The Thakur clan say that they used to hold the Baud kings in their lap for their coronation, and the Danaik used to tie the king's turban. The Bishi were so named because of their skill in arms, and the Amayat collected materials for the worship of the Panch Khanda or five swords. The bargas are much more numerous than the totemistic septs, and marriage either within the barga or within the sept is forbidden. Girls must be married before adolescence; and in the absence of a suitable husband, the girl is married to an old man who divorces her immediately afterwards, and she may then take a second husband at any time by the form for widow-remarriage. A betrothal is sealed by tying an areca-nut in a knot made from the clothes of a relative of each party and pounding it seven times with a pestle. After the marriage a silver ring is placed in a pot of water, over the mouth of which a leaf-plate is bound. The bridegroom pierces the leaf-plate with a knife, and the bride then thrusts her hand through the hole, picks out the ring and puts it on. The couple then go inside the house and sit down to a meal. The bridegroom, after eating part of his food, throws the leavings on to the bride's plate. She stops eating in displeasure, whereupon the bridegroom promises her some ornaments, and she relents and eats his leavings. It is customary for a Hindu wife to eat the leavings of food of her husband as a mark of her veneration for him. Divorce and the remarriage of widows are permitted. The Sudhs worship the Panch Khanda or five swords, and in the Central Provinces they say that these are a representation of the five Pandava brothers, in whose service their first ancestors were engaged. Their tutelary goddess is Khambeshwari, represented by a wooden peg (khamba). She dwells in the wilds of the Baud State and is supposed to fulfil all the desires of the Sudhs. Liquor, goats, buffaloes, vermilion and swallow-wort flowers are offered to her, the last two being in representation of blood. The Dehri Sudhs worship a goddess called Kandrapat who dwells always on the summits of hills. It is believed that whenever worship is concluded the roar of her tiger is heard, and the worshippers then leave the place and allow the tiger to come and take the offerings. The goddess would therefore appear to be the deified tiger. The Bada Sudhs rank with the cultivating castes of Sambalpur, but the other three subcastes have a lower position.


List of Paragraphs

1. General notice of the caste. 2. Internal structure. 3. Marriage and other customs. 4. Religion. 5. Social position. 6. Manufacture of ornaments. 7. The sanctity of gold. 8. Ornaments. The marriage ornaments. 9. Beads and other ornaments. 10. Ear-piercing. 11. Origin of ear-piercing. 12. Ornaments worn as amulets. 13. Audhia Sunars. 14. The Sunar as money-changer. 15. Malpractices of lower-class Sunars.

1. General notice of the caste

Sunar, [639] Sonar, Soni, Hon-Potdar, Saraf.—The occupational caste of goldsmiths and silversmiths. The name is derived from the Sanskrit Suvarna kar, a worker in gold. In 1911 the Sunars numbered 96,000 persons in the Central Provinces and 30,000 in Berar. They live all over the Province and are most numerous in the large towns. The caste appears to be a functional one of comparatively recent formation, and there is nothing on record as to its origin, except a collection of Brahmanical legends of the usual type. The most interesting of these as related by Sir H. Risley is as follows: [640]

"In the beginning of time, when the goddess Devi was busy with the construction of mankind, a giant called Sonwa-Daitya, whose body consisted entirely of gold, devoured her creations as fast as she made them. To baffle this monster the goddess created a goldsmith, furnished him with the tools of his art, and instructed him how to proceed. When the giant proposed to eat him, the goldsmith suggested to him that if his body were polished his appearance would be vastly improved, and asked to be allowed to undertake the job. With the characteristic stupidity of his tribe the giant fell into the trap, and having had one finger polished was so pleased with the result that he agreed to be polished all over. For this purpose, like Aetes in the Greek legend of Medea, he had to be melted down, and the goldsmith, who was to get the body as his perquisite, giving the head only to Devi, took care not to put him together again. The goldsmith, however, overreached himself. Not content with his legitimate earnings, he must needs steal a part of the head, and being detected in this by Devi, he and his descendants were condemned to be for ever poor." The Sunars also have a story that they are the descendants of one of two Rajput brothers, who were saved as boys by a Saraswat Brahman from the wrath of Parasurama when he was destroying the Kshatriyas. The descendants of the other brother were the Khatris. This is the same story as is told by the Khatris of their own origin, but they do not acknowledge the connection with Sunars, nor can the Sunars allege that Saraswat Brahmans eat with them as they do with Khatris. In Gujarat they have a similar legend connecting them with Banias. In Bombay they also claim to be Brahmans, and in the Central Provinces a caste of goldsmiths akin to the Sunars call themselves Vishwa Brahmans. On the other hand, before and during the time of the Peshwas, Sunars were not allowed to wear the sacred thread, and they were forbidden to hold their marriages in public, as it was considered unlucky to see a Sunar bridegroom. Sunar bridegrooms were not allowed to see the state umbrella or to ride in a palanquin, and had to be married at night and in secluded places, being subject to restrictions and annoyances from which even Mahars were free. [641] Their raison d'etre may possibly be found in the fact that the Brahmans, all-powerful in the Poona state, were jealous of the pretensions of the Sunars, and devised these rules as a means of suppressing them. It may be suggested that the Sunars, being workers at an important urban industry, profitable in itself and sanctified by its association with the sacred metal gold, aspired to rank above the other artisans, and put forward the pretensions already mentioned, because they felt that their position was not commensurate with their deserts. But the Sunar is included in Grant-Duff's list of the twenty-four village menials of a Maratha village, and consequently he would in past times have ranked below the cultivators, from whom he must have accepted the annual presents of grain.

2. Internal structure

The caste have a number of subdivisions, nearly all of which are of the territorial class and indicate the various localities from which it has been recruited in these Provinces. The most important subcastes are the Audhia from Ajodhia or Oudh; the Purania or old settlers; the Bundelkhandi from Bundelkhand; the Malwi from Malwa; the Lad from Lat, the old name for the southern portion of Gujarat; and the Mair, who appear to have been the first immigrants from Upper India and are named after Mair, the original ancestor, who melted down the golden demon. Other small groups are the Patkars, so called because they allow pat or widow-marriage, though, as a matter of fact, it is permitted by the great majority of the caste; the Pandhare or 'White Sunars'; and the Ahir Sunars, whose ancestors must presumably have belonged to the caste whose name they bear. The caste have also numerous bainks or exogamous septs, which differ entirely from the long lists given for Bengal and the United Provinces, and show, as Mr. Crooke remarks, the extreme fertility with which sections of this kind spring up. In the Central Provinces the names are of a titular or territorial nature. Examples of the former kind, that is, a title or nickname supposed to have been borne by the sept's founder, are: Dantele, one who has projecting teeth; Kale, black; Munde, bald; Kolhimare, a killer of jackals; and Ladaiya, a jackal or a quarrelsome person. Among the territorial names are Narwaria from Narwar; Bhilsainyan from Bhilsa; Kanaujia from Kanauj; Dilliwal from Delhi; Kalpiwal from Kalpi. Besides the bainks or septs by which marriage is regulated, they have adopted the Brahmanical eponymous gotra-names as Kashyap, Garg, Sandilya, and so on. These are employed on ceremonial occasions as when a gift is made for the purpose of obtaining religious merit, and the gotra- name of the owner is recorded, but they do not influence marriage. The use of them is a harmless vanity analogous to the assumption of distinguished surnames by people who were not born to them.

3. Marriage and other customs

Marriage is forbidden within the sept. In some localities persons descended from a common ancestor may not intermarry for five generations, but in others a brother's daughter may be wedded to a sister's son. A man is forbidden to marry two sisters while both are alive, and after his wife's death he may espouse her younger sister, but not her elder one. Girls are usually wedded at a tender age, but some Sunars have hitherto had a rule that neither a girl nor a boy should be married until they had had smallpox, the idea being that there can be no satisfactory basis for a contract of marriage while either party is still exposed to such a danger to life and personal appearance; just as it might be considered more prudent not to buy a young dog until it had had distemper. But with the spread of vaccination the Sunars are giving up this custom. The marriage ceremony follows the Hindustani or Maratha ritual according to locality. [642] In Betul the mother of the bride ties the mother of the bridegroom to a pole with the ropes used for tethering buffaloes and beats her with a piece of twisted cloth, until the bridegroom's mother gives her a present of money or cloth and is released. The ceremony may be designed to express the annoyance of the bride's mother at being deprived of her daughter. Polygamy is permitted, but people will not give their daughter to a married man if they can find a bachelor husband for her. Well-to-do Sunars who desire increased social distinction prohibit the marriage of widows, but the caste generally allow it.

4. Religion

The caste venerate the ordinary Hindu deities, and many of them have sects and return themselves as Vaishnavas, Saivas or Saktas. In some places they are said to make a daily offering to their melting-furnace so that it may bring them in a profit. When a child has been born they make a sacrifice of a goat to Dulha Deo, the marriage-god, on the following Dasahra festival, and the body of this must be eaten by the family only, no outsider being allowed to participate. In Hoshangabad it is stated that on the night before the Dasahra festival all the Sunars assemble beside a river and hold a feast. Each of them is then believed to take an oath that he will not during the coming year disclose the amount of the alloy which a fellow-craftsman may mix with the precious metals. Any Sunar who violates this agreement is put out of caste. On the 15th day of Jeth (May) the village Sunar stops work for five days and worships his implements after washing them. He draws pictures of the goddess Devi on a piece of paper and goes round the village to affix them to the doors of his clients, receiving in return a small present.

The caste usually burn their dead and take the ashes to the Nerbudda or Ganges; those living to the south of the Nerbudda always stop at this river, because they think that if they crossed it to go to the Ganges, the Nerbudda would be offended at their not considering it good enough. If a man meets with a violent death and his body is lost, they construct a small image of him and burn this with all the proper ceremonies. Mourning is observed for ten or thirteen days, and the shraddh ceremony is performed on the anniversary of a death, while the usual oblations are offered to the ancestors during the fortnight of Pitr Paksh in Kunwar (September).

5. Social position

The more ambitious members of the caste abjure all flesh and liquor, and wear the sacred thread. These will not take cooked food even from a Brahman. Others do not observe these restrictions. Brahmans will usually take water from Sunars, especially from those who wear the sacred thread. Owing to their association with the sacred metal gold, and the fact that they generally live in towns or large villages, and many of their members are well-to-do, the Sunars occupy a fairly high position, ranking equal with, or above the cultivating castes. But, as already stated, the goldsmith was a village menial in the Maratha villages, and Sir D. Ibbetson thinks that the Jat really considers the Sunar to be distinctly inferior to himself.

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