The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India - Volume IV of IV - Kumhar-Yemkala
by R.V. Russell
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6. Manufacture of ornaments

The Sunar makes all kinds of ornaments of gold and silver, being usually supplied with the metal by his customers. He is paid according to the weight of metal used, the rate varying from four annas to two rupees with an average of a rupee per tola weight of metal for gold, and from one to two annas per tola weight of silver. [643] The lowness of these rates is astonishing when compared with those charged by European jewellers, being less than 10 per cent on the value of the metal for quite delicate ornaments. The reason is partly that ornaments are widely regarded as a means for the safe keeping of money, and to spend a large sum on the goldsmith's labour would defeat this end, as it would be lost on the reconversion of the ornaments into cash. Articles of elaborate workmanship are also easily injured when worn by women who have to labour in the fields or at home. These considerations have probably retarded the development of the goldsmith's art, except in a few isolated localities where it may have had the patronage of native courts, and they account for the often clumsy form and workmanship of his ornaments. The value set on the products of skilled artisans in early times is nevertheless shown by the statement in M'Crindle's Ancient India that any one who caused an artisan to lose the use of an eye or a hand was put to death. [644] In England the jeweller's profit on his wares is from 33 to 50 per cent or more, in which, of course, allowance is made for the large amount of capital locked up in them and the time they may remain on his hands. But the difference in rates is nevertheless striking, and allowance must be made for it in considering the bad reputation which the Sunar has for mixing alloy with the metal. Gold ornaments are simply hammered or punched into shape or rudely engraved, and are practically never cast or moulded. They are often made hollow from thin plate or leaf, the interior being filled up with lac. Silver ones are commonly cast in Saugor and Jubbulpore, but rarely elsewhere. The Sunar's trade appears now to be fairly prosperous, but during the famines it was greatly depressed and many members of the caste took to other occupations. Many Sunars make small articles of brass, such as chains, bells and little boxes. Others have become cultivators and drive the plough themselves, a practice which has the effect of spoiling their hands, and also prevents them from giving their sons a proper training. To be a good Sunar the hands must be trained from early youth to acquire the necessary delicacy of touch. The Sunar's son sits all day with his father watching him work and handling the ornaments. Formerly the Sunar never touched a plough. Like the Pekin ivory painter—

From early dawn he works; And all day long, and when night comes the lamp Lights up his studious forehead and thin hands.

7. The sanctity of gold

As already stated, the Sunar obtains some social distinction from working in gold, which is a very sacred metal with the Hindus. Gold ornaments must not on this account be worn below the waist, as to do so would be considered an indignity to the holy material. Maratha and Khedawal Brahman women will not have ornaments for the head and arms of any baser metal than gold. If they cannot afford gold bracelets they wear only glass ones. Other castes should, if they can afford it, wear only gold on the head. And at any rate the nose-ring and small earrings in the upper ear should be of gold if worn at all. When a man is at the point of death, a little gold, Ganges water, and a leaf of the tulsi or basil plant are placed in his mouth, so that these sacred articles may accompany him to the other world. So valuable as a means of securing a pure death is the presence of gold in the mouth that some castes have small pieces inserted into a couple of their upper teeth, in order that wherever and whenever they may die, the gold may be present to purify them. [645] A similar idea was prevalent in Europe. Aurum potabile [646] or drinkable gold was a favourite nostrum of the Middle Ages, because gold being perfect should produce perfect health; and patients when in extremis were commonly given water in which gold had been washed. And the belief is referred to by Shakespeare:

Therefore, thou best of gold art worst of gold: Other, less fine in carat, is more precious, Preserving life in medicine potable. [647]

The metals which are used for currency, gold, silver and copper, are all held sacred by the Hindus, and this is easily explained on the grounds of their intrinsic value and their potency when employed as coin. It may be noted that when the nickel anna coinage was introduced, it was held in some localities that the coins could not be presented at temples as this metal was not sacred.

8. Ornaments. The marriage ornaments

It can scarcely also be doubted in view of this feeling that the wearing of both gold and silver in ornaments is considered to have a protective magical effect, like that attributed to charms and amulets. And the suggestion has been made that this was the object with which all ornaments were originally worn. Professor Robertson Smith remarks: [648] "Jewels, too, such as women wore in the sanctuary, had a sacred character; the Syriac word for an earring is c' dasha, 'the holy thing,' and generally speaking, jewels serve as amulets. As such they are mainly worn to protect the chief organs of action (the hands and feet), but especially the orifices of the body, as earrings; nose-rings hanging over the mouth; jewels on the forehead hanging down and protecting the eyes." The precious metals, as has been seen, are usually sacred among primitive people, and when made into ornaments they have the same sanctity and protective virtue as jewels. The subject has been treated [649] with great fullness of detail by Sir J. Campbell, and the different ornaments worn by Hindu women of the Central Provinces point to the same conclusion. The bindia or head ornament of a Maratha Brahman woman consists of two chains of silver or gold and in the centre an image of a cobra erect. This is Shesh-Nag, the sacred snake, who spreads his hood over all the lingas of Mahadeo and is placed on the woman's head to guard her in the same way. The Kurmis and other castes do not have Shesh-Nag, but instead the centre of the bindia consists of an ornament known as bija, which represents the custard-apple, the sacred fruit of Sita. The nathni or nose-ring, which was formerly confined to high-caste women, represents the sun and moon. The large hoop circle is the sun, and underneath in the part below the nose is a small segment, which is the crescent moon and is hidden when the ornament is in wear. On the front side of this are red stones, representing the sun, and on the underside white ones for the moon. The nathni has some mysterious connection with a woman's virtue, and to take off her nose-ring—nathni utdarna—signifies to dishonour a woman (Platts). In northern India women wear the nose-ring very large and sometimes cover it with a piece of cloth to guard it from view or keep it in parda. It is possible that the practice of Hindu husbands of cutting off the nose of a wife detected in adultery has some similar association, and is partly intended to prevent her from again wearing a nose-ring. The toe ornament of a high-caste woman is called bichhia and it represents a scorpion (bichhu). A ring on the big toe stands for the scorpion's head, a silver chain across the foot ending in another ring on the little toe is his body, and three rings with high projecting knobs on the middle toes are the joints of his tail folded back. It is of course supposed that the ornament protects the feet from scorpion bites. These three ornaments, the bindia, the nathni and the bichhia, must form part of the Sohag or wedding dowry of every high-caste Hindu girl in the northern Districts, and she cannot be married without them. But if the family is poor a laong or gold stud to be worn in the nose may be substituted for the nose-ring. This stud, as its name indicates, is in the form of a clove, which is sacred food and is eaten on fast-days. Burning cloves are often used to brand children for cold; a fresh one being employed for each mark. A widow may not wear any of these ornaments; she is always impure, being perpetually haunted by the ghost of her dead husband, and they could thus be of no advantage to her; while, on the other hand, her wearing them would probably be considered a kind of sacrilege or pollution of the holy ornaments.

9. Beads and other ornaments

In the Maratha Districts an essential feature of a wedding is the hanging of the mangal-sutram or necklace of black beads round the bride's neck. All beads which shine and reflect the light are considered to be efficacious in averting the evil eye, and a peculiar virtue, Sir J. Campbell states, attaches to black beads. A woman wears the mangalsutram or marriage string of beads all her life, and considers that her husband's life is to some extent bound up in it. If she breaks the thread she will not say 'my thread is broken,' but 'my thread has increased'; and she will not let her husband see her until she has got a new thread, as she thinks that to do so would cause his death. The many necklaces of beads worn by the primitive tribes and the strings of blue beads tied round the necks of oxen and ponies have the same end in view. A similar belief was probably partly responsible for the value set on precious stones as ornaments, and especially on diamonds, which sparkle most of all. The pearl is very sacred among the Hindus, and Madrasis put a pearl into the mouth at the time of death instead of gold. Partly at least for this purpose pearls are worn set in a ring of gold in the ear, so that they may be available at need. Coral is also highly esteemed as an amulet, largely because it is supposed to change colour. The coral given to babies to suck may have been intended to render the soft and swollen gums at teething hard like the hard red stone. Another favourite shape for beads of gold is that of grains of rice, rice being a sacred grain. The gold ornament called kantha worn on the neck has carvings of the flowers of the singara or water-nut This is a holy plant, the eating of which on fast-days gives purity. Hence women think that water thrown over the carved flowers of the ornament when bathing will have greater virtue to purify their bodies. Another favourite ornament is the hamel or necklace of rupees. The sanctity of coined metal would probably be increased by the royal image and superscription and also by its virtue as currency. Mr. Nunn states that gold mohur coins are still made solely for the purpose of ornament, being commonly engraved with the formula of belief of Islam and worn by Muhammadans as a charm. Suspended to the hamel or necklace of rupees in front is a silver pendant in the shape of a betel-leaf, this leaf being very efficacious in magic; and on this is carved either the image of Hanuman, the god of strength, or a peacock's feather as a symbol of Kartikeya, the god of war. The silver bar necklet known as hasli is intended to resemble the collar-bone. Children carried in their mother's cloth are liable to be jarred and shaken against her body, so that the collar-bone is bruised and becomes painful. It is thought that the wearing of a silver collar-bone will prevent this, just as silver eyes are offered in smallpox to protect the sufferer's eyes and a silver wire to save his throat from being choked. Little children sometimes have round the waist a band of silver beads which is called bora; these beads are meant to resemble the smallpox pustules and the bora protects the wearer from smallpox. There are usually 84 beads, this number being lucky among the Hindus. At her wedding a Hindu bride must wear a wristlet of nine little cones of silver like the kalas or pinnacle of a temple. This is called nau-graha or nau-giri and represents the nine planets which are worshipped at weddings—that is, the sun, moon and the five planets, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn, which were known to the ancients and gave their names to the days of the week in many of the Aryan languages; while the remaining two are said to have been Rahu and Ketu, the nodes of the moon and the demons which cause eclipses. The bonhta or bankra, the rigid circular bangle on the upper arm, is supposed to make a woman's arm stronger by the pressure exercised on the veins and muscles. Circular ornaments worn on the legs similarly strengthen them and prevent a woman from getting stiffness or pins and needles in her legs after long squatting on the ground. The chutka, a large silver ring worn by men on the big toe, is believed to attract to itself the ends of all the veins and ligaments from the navel downwards, and hold them all braced in their proper position, thus preventing rupture.

On their feet children and young girls wear the paijan or hollow anklet with tinkling balls inside. But when a married woman has had two or three children she leaves off the paijan and wears a solid anklet like the tora or kasa. It is now said that the reason why girls wear sounding anklets is that their whereabouts may be known and they may be prevented from getting into mischief in dark corners. But the real reason was probably that they served as spirit scarers, which they would do in effect by frightening away snakes, scorpions and noxious insects; for it is clear that the bites of such reptiles and insects, which often escape unseen, must be largely responsible for the vast imaginative fabric of the belief in evil spirits, just as Professor Robertson Smith demonstrates that the jins or genii of Arabia were really wild animals. [650] In India, owing to the early age of marriage and the superstitious maltreatment of women at child-birth, the mortality among girls at this period is very high; and the Hindus, ignorant of the true causes, probably consider them especially susceptible to the attacks of evil spirits.

10. Ear-piercing

Before treating of ear-ornaments it will be convenient to mention briefly the custom of ear-piercing. This is universal among Hindus and Muhammadans, both male and female, and the operation is often performed by the Sunar. The lower Hindu castes and the Gonds consider piercing the ears to be the mark of admission to the caste community. It is done when the child is four or five years old, and till then he or she is not considered to be a member of the caste and may consequently take food from anybody. The Raj-Gonds will not have the ears of their children pierced by any one but a Sunar; and for this they give him sidha or a seer [651] of wheat, a seer of rice and an anna. Hindus employ a Sunar when one is available, but if not, an old man of the family may act. After the piercing a peacock's feather or some stalks of grass or straw are put in to keep the hole open and enlarge it. A Hindu girl has her ear pierced in five places, three being in the upper ear, one in the lobe and one in the small flap over the orifice. Muhammadans make a large number of holes all down the ear and in each of these they place a gold or silver ring, so that the ears are dragged down by the weight. Similarly their women will have ten or fifteen bangles on the legs. The Hindus also have this custom in Bhopal, but if they do it in the Central Provinces they are chaffed with having become Muhammadans. In the upper ear Hindu women have an ornament in the shape of the genda or marigold, a sacred flower which is offered to all the deities. The holes in the upper and middle ear are only large enough to contain a small ring, but that in the lobe is greatly distended among the lower castes. The tarkhi or Gond ear-ornament consists of a glass plate fixed on to a stem of ambari fibre nearly an inch thick, which passes through the lobe. As a consequence the lower rim is a thin pendulous strip of flesh, very liable to get torn. But to have the hole torn open is one of the worst social mishaps which can happen to a woman. She is immediately put out of caste for a long period, and only readmitted after severe penalties, equivalent to those inflicted for getting vermin in a wound. When a woman gets her ear torn she sits weeping in her house and refuses to be comforted. At the ceremony of readmission a Sunar is sometimes called in who stitches up the ear with silver thread. [652] Low-caste Hindu and Gond women often wear a large circular embossed silver ornament over the ear which is known as dhara or shield and is in the shape of an Indian shield. This is secured by chains to the hair and apparently affords some support to the lower part of the ear, which it also covers. Its object seems to be to shield and protect the lobe, which is so vulnerable in a woman, and hence the name. A similar ornament worn in Bengal is known as dhenri and consists of a shield-shaped disk of gold, worn on the lobe of the ear, sometimes with and sometimes without a pendant. [653]

11. Origin of ear-piercing

The character of the special significance which apparently attaches to the custom of ear-piercing is obscure. Dr. Jevons considers that it is merely a relic of the practice of shedding the blood of different parts of the body as an offering to the deity, and analogous to the various methods of self-mutilation, flagellation and gashing of the flesh, whose common origin is ascribed to the same custom. "To commend themselves and their prayers the Quiches pierced their ears and gashed their arms and offered the sacrifice of their blood to their gods. The practice of drawing blood from the ears is said by Bastian to be common in the Orient; and Lippert conjectures that the marks left in the ears were valued as visible and permanent indications that the person possessing them was under the protection of the god with whom the worshipper had united himself by his blood offering. In that case earrings were originally designed, not for ornament, but to keep open and therefore permanently visible the marks of former worship. The marks or scars left on legs or arms from which blood had been drawn were probably the origin of tattooing, as has occurred to various anthropologists." [654] This explanation, while it may account for the general custom of ear-piercing, does not explain the special guilt imputed by the Hindus to getting the lobe of the ear torn. Apparently the penalty is not imposed for the tearing of the upper part of the ear, and it is not known whether men are held liable as well as women; but as large holes are not made in the upper ear at all, nor by men in the lobe, such cases would very seldom occur. The suggestion may be made as a speculation that the continuous distension of the lobe of the ear by women and the large hole produced is supposed to have some sympathetic effect in opening the womb and making child-birth more easy. The tearing of the ear might then be considered to render, the women incapable of bearing a child, and the penalties attached to it would be sufficiently explained.

12. Ornaments worn as amulets

The above account of the ornaments of a Hindu woman is sufficient to show that her profuse display of them is not to be attributed, as is often supposed, to the mere desire for adornment. Each ornament originally played its part in protecting some limb or feature from various dangers of the seen or unseen world. And though the reasons which led to their adoption have now been to a large extent forgotten and the ornaments are valued for themselves, the shape and character remain to show their real significance. Women as being weaker and less accustomed to mix in society are naturally more superstitious and fearful of the machinations of spirits. And the same argument applies in greater degree to children. The Hindus have probably recognised that children are very delicate and succumb easily to disease, and they could scarcely fail to have done so when statistics show that about a quarter of all the babies born in India die in the first year of age. But they do not attribute the mortality to its real causes of congenital weakness arising from the immaturity of the parents, insanitary treatment at and after birth, unsuitable food, and the general frailty of the undeveloped organism. They ascribe the loss of their offspring solely to the machinations of jealous deities and evil spirits, and the envy and admiration of other people, especially childless women and witches, who cast the evil eye upon them. And in order to guard against these dangers their bodies are decorated with amulets and ornaments as a means of protection. But the result is quite other than that intended, and the ornaments which are meant to protect the children from the imaginary terrors of the evil eye, in reality merely serve as a whet to illicit cupidity, and expose them a rich, defenceless prey to the violence of the murderer and the thief.

13. Audhia Sunars

The Audhia Sunars usually work in bell-metal, an alloy of copper or tin and pewter. When used for ornaments the proportion of tin or pewter is increased so as to make them of a light colour, resembling silver as far as may be. Women of the higher castes may wear bell-metal ornaments only on their ankles and feet, and Maratha and Khedawal Brahmans may not wear them at all. In consequence of having adopted this derogatory occupation, as it is considered, the Audhia Sunars are looked down on by the rest of the caste. They travel about to the different village markets carrying their wares on ponies; among these, perhaps, the favourite ornament is the kara or curved bar anklets, which the Audhia works on to the purchaser's feet for her, forcing them over the heels with a piece of iron like a shoe-horn. The process takes time and is often painful, the skin being rasped by the iron. The woman is supported by a friend as her foot is held up behind, and is sometimes reduced to cries and tears. High-caste women do not much affect the kara as they object to having their foot grasped by the Sunar. They wear instead a chain anklet which they can work on themselves. The Sunars set precious stones in ornaments, and this is also done by a class of persons called Jadia, who do not appear to be a caste. Another body of persons accessory to the trade are the Niarias, who take the ashes and sweepings from the goldsmith's shop, paying a sum of ten or twenty rupees annually for them. [655] They wash away the refuse and separate the grains of gold and silver, which they sell back to the Sunars. Niaria also appears to be an occupational term, and not a caste.

14. The Sunar as money-changer

Formerly Sunars were employed for counting and testing money in the public treasuries, and in this capacity they were designated as Potdar and Saraf or Shroff. Before the introduction of the standard English coinage the money-changer's business was important and profitable, as the rupee varied over different parts of the country exactly as grain measures do now. Thus the Pondicherry rupee was worth 26 annas, while the Gujarat rupee would not fetch 12 1/2 annas in the bazar. In Bengal, [656] at the beginning of the nineteenth century, people who wished to make purchases had first to exchange their rupees for cowries. The Potdar carried his cowries to market in the morning on a bullock, and gave 5760 cowries for a new kaldar or English rupee, while he took 5920 cowries in exchange for a rupee when his customers wanted silver back in the evening to take away with them. The profit on the kaldar rupee was thus one thirty-sixth on the two transactions, while all old rupees, and every kind of rupee but the kaldar, paid various rates of exchange or batta, according to the will of the money-changers, who made a higher profit on all other kinds of money than the kaldar. They therefore resisted the general introduction of these rupees as long as possible, and when this failed they hit on a device of marking the rupees with a stamp, under pretext of ascertaining whether they were true or false; after which the rupee was not exchangeable without paying an additional batta, and became as valuable to the money-changers as if it were foreign coin. As justification for their action they pretended to the people that the marks would enable those who had received the rupees to have them changed should any other dealer refuse them, and the necessities of the poor compelled them to agree to any batta or exchange rather than suffer delay. This was apparently the origin of the 'Shroff-marked rupees,' familiar to readers of the Treasury Manual; and the line in a Bhat song, 'The English have made current the kaldar (milled) rupee,' is thus seen to be no empty praise.

15. Malpractices of lower-class Sumars

As the bulk of the capital of the poorer classes is hoarded in the shape of gold and silver ornaments, these are regularly pledged when ready money is needed, and the Sunar often acts as a pawnbroker. In this capacity he too often degenerates into a receiver of stolen property, and Mr. Nunn suggested that his proceedings should be supervised by license. Generally, the Sunar is suspected of making an illicit profit by mixing alloy with the metal entrusted to him by his customers, and some bitter sayings are current about him. One of his customs is to filch a little gold from his mother and sister on the last day of Shrawan (July) and make it into a luck-penny. [657] This has given rise to the saying, 'The Sunar will not respect even his mother's gold'; but the implication appears to be unjust. Another saying is: 'Sona Sunar ka, abharan sansar ka,' or, 'The ornament is the customer's, but the gold remains with the Sunar.' [658] Gold is usually melted in the employer's presence, who, to guard against fraud, keeps a small piece of the metal called chasni or maslo, that is a sample, and when the ornament is ready sends it with the sample to an assayer or Chokshi who, by rubbing them on a touchstone, tells whether the gold in the sample and the ornament is of the same quality. Further, the employer either himself sits near the Sunar while the ornament is being made or sends one of his family to watch. In spite of these precautions the Sunar seldom fails to filch some of the gold while the spy's attention is distracted by the prattling of the parrot, by the coquetting of a handsomely dressed young woman of the family or by some organised mishap in the inner rooms among the women of the house. [659] One of his favourite practices is to substitute copper for gold in the interior, and this he has the best chance of doing with the marriage ornaments, as many people consider it unlucky to weigh or test the quality of these. [660] The account must, however, be taken to apply only to the small artisans, and well-to-do reputable Sunars would be above such practices.

The goldsmith's industry has hitherto not been affected to any serious extent by the competition of imported goods, and except during periods of agricultural depression the Sunar continues to prosper.

A Persian couplet said by a lover to his mistress is, 'Gold has no scent and in the scent of flowers there is no gold; but thou both art gold and hast scent.'

Sundi, Sundhi, Sunri or Sondhi. [661]—The liquor-distilling caste of the Uriya country. The transfer of Sambalpur and the Uriya States to Bihar and Orissa has reduced their strength in the Central Provinces to about 5000, found in the Raipur District and the Bastar and Chota Nagpur Feudatory States. The caste is an important one in Bengal, numbering more than six lakhs of persons and being found in western Bengal and Bihar as well as in Orissa. The word Sundi is derived from the Sanskrit Shaundik, a spirit-seller. The caste has various genealogies of differing degrees of respectability, tracing their origin to cross unions between other castes born of Brahmans, Kshatriyas, and Vaishyas. The following story is told of them in Madras. [662] In ancient times a certain Brahman was famous for his magical attainments. The king of the country sent for him one day and asked him to cause the water in a tank to burn. The Brahman saw no way of doing this, and returned homewards uneasy in his mind. On the way he met a distiller who asked him to explain what troubled him. When the Brahman told his story the distiller promised to cause the water to burn on condition that the Brahman gave him his daughter in marriage. This the Brahman agreed to do, and the distiller, after surreptitiously pouring large quantities of liquor into the tank, set fire to it in the presence of the king. In accordance with the agreement he married the daughter of the Brahman and the pair became the ancestors of the Sundi caste. In confirmation of the story it is alleged that up to the present day the women of the caste maintain the recollection of their Brahman ancestors by refusing to eat fowls or the remains of their husbands' meals. Nor will they take food from the hands of any other caste. Sir H. Risley relates the following stories current about the caste in Bengal, where its status is very low: "According to Hindu ideas, distillers and sellers of strong drink rank among the most degraded castes, and a curious story in the Vaivarta Purana keeps alive the memory of their degradation. It is said that when Sani, the Hindu Saturn, failed to adapt an elephant's head to the mutilated trunk of Ganesh who had been accidentally slain by Siva, Viswakarma, the celestial artificer, was sent for, and by careful dissection and manipulation he fitted the incongruous parts together, and made a man called Kedara Sena from the slices cut off in fashioning his work. This Kedara Sena was ordered to fetch a drink of water for Bhagavati, weary and athirst. Finding on the river's bank a shell full of water he presented it to her, without noticing that a few grains of rice left in it by a parrot had fermented and formed an intoxicating liquid. Bhagavati, as soon as she had drunk, became aware of the fact, and in her anger condemned the offender to the vile and servile occupation of making spirituous liquors for mankind." Like other castes in Sambalpur the Sundis have two subcastes, the Jharua and the Utkal or Uriya, of whom the Jharuas probably immigrated from Orissa at an earlier period and adopted some of the customs of the indigenous tribes; for this reason they are looked down on by the more orthodox Utkalis. The caste say that they belong to the Nagas or snake gotra, because they consider themselves to be descended from Basuki, the serpent with a thousand heads who formed a canopy for Vishnu. They also have bargas or family titles, but these at present exercise no influence on marriage. The Sundis have in fact outgrown the system of exogamy and regulate their marriages by a table of prohibited degrees in the ordinary manner, the unions of sapindas or persons who observe mourning together at a death being prohibited. The prohibition does not extend to cognatic relationship, but a man must not marry into the family of his paternal aunt. The fact that the old bargas or exogamous groups are still in existence is interesting, and an intermediate step in the process of their abandonment may be recognised in the fact that some of them are subdivided. Thus the Sahu (lord) group has split into the Gaj Sahu (lord of the elephant), Dhavila Sahu (white lord), and Amila Sahu sub-groups, and it need not be doubted that this was a convenient method adopted for splitting up the Sahu group when it became so large as to include persons so distantly connected with each other that the prohibition of marriage between them was obviously ridiculous. As the number of Sundis in the Central Provinces is now insignificant no detailed description of their customs need be given, but one or two interesting points may be noted. Their method of observing the pitripaksh or worship of ancestors is as follows: A human figure is made of kusha grass and placed under a miniature straw hut. A lamp is kept burning before it for ten days, and every day a twig for cleaning the teeth is placed before it, and it is supplied with fried rice in the morning and rice, pulse and vegetables in the evening. On the tenth day the priest comes, and after bathing the figure seven times, places boiled rice before it for the last meal, and then sets fire to the hut and burns it, while repeating sacred verses. On the eleventh day after a death, when presents for the use of the deceased are made to a priest as his representative, the priest lies down in the new bed which is given to him, and the members of the family rub his feet and attend on him as if he were the dead man. He is also given a present sufficient to purchase food for him for a year. The Sundis worship Suradevi or the goddess of wine, whom they consider as their mother, and they refuse to drink liquor, saying that this would be to enjoy their own mother. They worship the still and all articles used in distillation at the rice-harvest and when the new mango crop appears. Large numbers of them have taken to cultivation.


1. The Tamera and Kasar

Tamera, Tambatkar. [663]—The professional caste of coppersmiths, the name being derived from tamba, copper. The Tameras, however, like the Kasars or brass-workers, use copper, brass and bell-metal indifferently, and in the northern Districts the castes are not really distinguished, Tamera and Kasar being almost interchangeable terms. In the Maratha country, however, and other localities they are considered as distinct castes. Copper is a sacred metal, and the copper-smith's calling would be considered somewhat more respectable than that of the worker in brass or bell-metal, just as the Sunar or goldsmith ranks above both; and probably, therefore, the Tameras may consider themselves a little better than the Kasars. As brass is an alloy made from copper and zinc, it seems likely that vessels were made from copper before they were made from brass. But copper being a comparatively rare and expensive metal, utensils made from it could scarcely have ever been generally used, and it is therefore not necessary to suppose that either the Tamera or Kasar caste came into being before the adoption of brass as a convenient material for the household pots and pans.

2. Social traditions and customs

In 1911 the Tameras numbered about 5000 persons in the Central Provinces and Berar. They tell the same story of their origin which has already been related in the article on the Kasar caste, and trace their descent from the Haihaya Rajput dynasty of Ratanpur. They say that when the king Dharampal, the first ancestor of the caste, was married, a bevy of 119 girls were sent with his bride in accordance with the practice still occasionally obtaining among royal Hindu families, and these, as usual, became the concubines of the husband or, as the Tameras say, his wives: and from the bride and her companions the 120 exogamous sections of the caste are sprung. As a fact, however, many of the sections are named after villages or natural objects. A man is not permitted to marry any one belonging to his own section or that of his mother, the union of first cousins being thus prohibited. The caste also do not favour Anta santa or the practice of exchanging girls between families, the reason alleged being that after the bride's father has acknowledged the superiority of the bridegroom's father by washing his feet, it is absurd to require the latter to do the same, that is, to wash the feet of his inferior. So they may not take a girl from a family to which they have given one of their own. The real reason for the rule lies possibly in an extension of the principle of exogamy, whether based on a real fear of carrying too far the practice of intermarriage between families or an unfounded superstition that intermarriage between families already connected may have the same evil results on the offspring as the union of blood-relations. When the wedding procession is about to start, after the bridegroom has been bathed and before he puts on the kankan or iron wristlet which is to protect him from evil spirits, he is seated on a stool while all the male members of the household come up with their choti or scalp-lock untied and rub it against that of the bridegroom. Again, after the wedding ceremonies are over and the bridegroom has, according to rule, untied one of the fastenings of the marriage-shed, he also turns over a tile of the roof of the house. The meaning of the latter ceremony is not clear; the significance attaching to the choti has been discussed in the article on Nai.

3. Disposal of the dead

The caste burn their dead except children, who can be buried, and observe mourning for ten days in the case of an adult and for three days for a child. A cake of flour containing two pice (farthings) is buried or burnt with the corpse. When a death takes place among the community all the members of it stop making vessels for that day, though they will transact retail sales. When mourning is over, a feast is given to the caste-fellows and to seven members of the menial and serving castes. These are known as the 'Sattiho Jat' or Seven Castes, and it may be conjectured that in former times they were the menials of the village and were given a meal in much the same spirit as prompts an English landlord to give his tenants a dinner on occasions of ceremony. Instances of a similar custom are noted among the Kunbis and other castes. Before food is served to the guests a leaf-plate containing a portion for the deceased is placed outside the house with a pot of water, and a burning lamp to guide his spirit to the food.

4. Religion

The caste worship the goddess Singhbahani. or Devi riding on a tiger. They make an image of her in the most expensive metal they can afford, and worship it daily. They will on no account swear by this goddess. They worship their trade implements on the day of the new moon in Chait (March) and Bhadon (August). A trident, as a symbol of Devi, is then drawn with powdered rice and vermilion on the furnace for casting metal. A lamp is waved over the furnace and a cocoanut is broken and distributed to the caste-fellows, no outsider being allowed to be present. They quench their furnace on the new moon day of every month, the Ramnaomi and Durgapuja or nine days' fasts in the months of Chait and Kunwar, and for the two days following the Diwali and Holi festivals. On these days they will not prepare any new vessels, but will sell those which they have ready. The Tameras have Kanaujia Brahmans for their priests, and the Brahmans will take food from them which has been cooked without water and salt. On this account other Kanaujia Brahmans require a heavy payment before they will marry with the priests of the Tameras. The caste abstain from liquor, and some of them have abjured all flesh food while others partake of it. They usually wear the sacred thread. Brahmans will take water from their hands, and the menial castes will eat food which they have touched. They work in brass, copper and bell-metal in exactly the same manner as the Kasars, and have an equivalent social position.


Taonla.—A small non-Aryan caste of the Uriya States. They reside principally in Bamra and Sonpur, and numbered about 2000 persons in 1901, but since the transfer of these States to Bengal are not found in the Central Provinces. The name is said to be derived from Talmul, a village in the Angul District of Orissa, and they came to Bamra and Sonpur during the Orissa famine of 1866. The Taonlas appear to be a low occupational caste of mixed origin, but derived principally from the Khond tribe. Formerly their profession was military service, and it is probable that like the Khandaits and Paiks they formed the levies of some of the Uriya Rajas, and gradually became a caste. They have three subdivisions, of which the first consists of the Taonlas whose ancestors were soldiers. These consider themselves superior to the others, and their family names as Naik (leader), Padhan (chief), Khandait (swordsman), and Behra (master of the kitchen) indicate their ancestral profession. The other subcastes are called Dangua and Khond; the Danguas, who are hill-dwellers, are more primitive than the military Taonlas, and the Khonds are apparently members of that tribe of comparatively pure descent who marry among themselves and not with other Taonlas. In Orissa Dr. Hunter says that the Taonlas are allied to the Savaras, and that they will admit a member of any caste, from whose hands they can take water, into the community. This is also the case in Bamra. The candidate has simply to worship Kalapat, the god of the Taonlas, and after drinking some water in which basil leaves have been dipped, to touch the food prepared for a caste feast, and his initiation is complete. As usual among the mixed castes, female morality is very lax, and a Taonla woman may have a liaison with a man of her own or any other caste from whom a Taonla can take water without incurring any penalty whatsoever. A man committing a similar offence must give a feast to the caste. In Sonpur the Taonlas admit a close connection with Chasas, and say that some of their families are descended from the union of Chasa men and Taonla women. They will eat the leavings of Chasas. The custom may be accounted for by the fact that the Taonlas are now generally farmservants and field-labourers, and the Chasas, as cultivators, would be their employers. A similar close connection is observable among other castes standing in the same position towards each other as the Panwars and Gonds and the Rajbhars and Lodhis.

The Taonlas have no exogamous divisions as they all belong to the same gotra, that of the Nag or cobra. Their marriages are therefore regulated by relationship in the ordinary manner. If two families find that they have no common ancestor up to the third generation they consider it lawful to intermarry. The marriage ritual is of the usual Uriya form. After the marriage the bride and the bridegroom have a ceremony of throwing a mahua branch into a river together. Divorce and widow remarriage are permitted. When a woman is divorced she returns her bangles to her husband, and receives from him a chhor-chitthi or letter severing connection. Then she goes before the caste panchayat and pronounces her husband's name aloud. This shows that she is no longer his wife, since so long as she continued to be so, she would never mention his name.

The tutelary deity of the caste is Kalapat, who resides at Talmul in Angul District. They offer him a goat at the festival of Nawakhai when the new rice is first eaten. On this day they also worship a cattle-goad as the symbol of their vocation. They revere the cobra, and will not wear wooden sandals because they think that the marks on a cobra's head are in the form of a sandal. They believe in re-birth, and when a child is born they proceed to ascertain what ancestor has become reincarnate by dropping rice grains coloured with turmeric into a pot of water. As each one is dropped they repeat the name of an ancestor, and when the first grain floats conclude that the one named has been born again. The dead are both buried and burnt. At the head of a grave they plant a bough of the jamun tree (Eugenia jambolana) so that the departed spirit may dwell under this cool and shady tree in the other world or in his next birth. They have also a ceremony for bringing back the soul. An earthen pot is placed upside down on four legs outside the village, and on the eleventh day after a death they proceed to the place, ringing a bell suspended to an iron rod. A cloth is spread before the spot on which the spirit of the deceased is supposed to be sitting, and they wait till an insect alights on it. This is taken to be the soul of the dead person, and it is carefully wrapped up in the cloth and carried to the house. There the cloth is unfolded and the insect allowed to go, while they proceed to inspect some rice-flour which has been spread on the ground under another pot in the house. If any mark is found on the surface of the flour they think that the dead man's spirit has returned to the house. The carrying back of the insect is thus an act calculated to assist their belief, by the simple performance of which they are able to suppose more easily that the invisible spirit has returned to the house. As already stated, the Taonlas are now generally farmservants and labourers, and their social position is low, though they rank above the impure castes and the forest tribes.


List of Paragraphs

1. Strength and distribution of the caste. 2. Origin and traditions. 3. Endogamous subcastes. 4. Exogamous divisions. 5. Marriage customs. 6. Widow-remarriage. 7. Religion. Caste deities. 8. Driving out evil. 9. Customs at birth and death. 10. Social status. 11. Social customs and caste penalties. 12. The Rathor Telis. 13. Gujarati Telis of Nimar. 14. The Teli an unlucky caste. 15. Occupation. Oil-pressing. 16. Trade and agriculture. 17. Teli beneficence.

1. Strength and distribution of the caste

Teli. [664]—The occupational caste of oil-pressers and sellers. The Telis numbered nearly 900,000 persons in 1911, being the fifth caste in the Province in point of population. They are numerous in the Chhattisgarh and Nagpur Divisions, nearly 400,000 belonging to the former and 200,000 to the latter tract; while in Berar and the north of the Province they are sparsely represented. The reason for such a distribution of the caste is somewhat obscure. Vegetable oil is more largely used for food in the south and east than in the north, but while this custom might explain the preponderance of Telis in Nagpur and Chhattisgarh it gives no reason to account for their small numbers in Berar. In Chhattisgarh again nearly all the Telis are cultivators, and it may be supposed that, like the Chamars, they have found opportunity here to get possession of the land owing to its not being already taken up by the cultivating castes proper; but in the Nagpur Division, with the exception of part of Wardha, the Telis have had no such opening and are not large landholders. Their distribution thus remains a somewhat curious problem. But all over the Province the Telis have generally abandoned their hereditary trade of pressing oil, and have taken to trade and agriculture, the number of those returned as oil-pressers being only about seven per cent of the total strength of the caste. The name comes from the Sanskrit tailika or taila, oil, and this word, is derived from the tilli or sesamum plant.

2. Origin and traditions

The caste have few traditions of origin. Their usual story is that during Siva's absence the goddess Parvati felt nervous because she had no doorkeeper to her palace, and therefore she made the god Ganesh from the sweat of her body and set him to guard the southern gate. But when Siva returned Ganesh did not know him and refused to let him enter; on which Siva was so enraged that he cut off the head of Ganesh with a stroke of his sword. He then entered the palace, and Parvati, observing the blood on his sword, asked him what had happened, and reproached him bitterly for having slain her son. Siva was distressed, but said that he could not replace the head as it was already reduced to ashes. But he said that if any animal could be found looking towards the south he could put its head on Ganesh and bring him to life. As it happened a trader was then resting outside the palace and had with him an elephant, which was seated with its head to the south. So Siva quickly struck off the head of the elephant and placed it on the body of Ganesh and brought him to life again, and thus Ganesh got his elephant's head. But the trader made loud lamentation about the loss of his elephant, so to pacify him Siva made a pestle and mortar, utensils till then unknown, and showed him how to pound oil-seeds in them and express the oil, and enjoined him to earn a livelihood in future by this calling, and his descendants after him; and so the merchant became the first Teli. And the pestle was considered to be Siva and the mortar Parvati. This last statement affords some support to Mr. Marten's suggestion [665] that a certain veneration attaching to the pestle and mortar and their use in marriage ceremonies may be due to the idea of their typifying the male and female organs. The fact that Ganesh was set to guard the southern gate, and that the animal whose head could be placed on his body must be looking to the south, probably hinges in some way on the south being the abode of Yama, the god of death, but the connection has been forgotten by the teller of the story; it may also be noted that if the palace was in the Himalayas, the site of Kailas or Siva's heaven, the whole of India would be to the south. Another story related by Mr. Crooke [666] from Mirzapur is that a certain man had three sons and owned fifty-two mahua [667] trees. When he became aged and infirm he told his sons to divide the trees, but after some discussion they decided to divide not the trees themselves but their produce. One of them fell to picking up the leaves, and he was the ancestor of the Bharbhunjas or grain-parchers, who still use leaves in their ovens; the second collected the flowers and corollas, and having distilled liquor from them became a Kalar; while the third took the kernels or fruit and crushed the oil out of them, and was the founder of the Teli caste. The country spirit generally drunk is distilled from the flowers of the mahua tree, and a cheap vegetable oil in common use is obtained from its seeds. The Telis and Kalars are also castes of about the same status and have other points of resemblance; and the legend connecting them is therefore of some interest Some groups of Telis who have become landed proprietors or prospered in trade have stories giving them a more exalted origin. Thus the landholding Rathor Telis of Mandla say that they were Rathor Rajputs who fled from the Muhammadans and threw away their swords and sacred threads; and the Telis of Nimar, several of whom are wealthy merchants, give out that their ancestors were Modh Banias from Gujarat who had to take to oil-pressing for a livelihood under Muhammadan rule. But these legends may perhaps be considered a natural result of their rise in the world.

3. Endogamous subcastes

The caste has a large number of subdivisions. The principal groups in Chhattisgarh are the Halia, Jharia and Ekbahia Telis. The Halias, who perhaps take their name from hal, a plough, are considered to be the best cultivators, and are said to have immigrated from Mandla some generations ago. Probably the bulk of the Hindu population of Chhattisgarh came from this direction. The name Jharia means jungly or savage, and is commonly applied to the oldest residents, but the Jharia Telis are the highest local subcaste. They require the presence of a Brahman at their weddings, and abstain generally from liquor, fowls and pork, to which the Halias are not averse. They also bathe the corpse before it is burnt or buried, an observance omitted by the Halias. The Jharias yoke only one bullock to the oil-press, and the Halias two, a distinction which is elsewhere sufficient of itself to produce separate subcastes. The Ekbahia (one-armed) Telis are so called because their women wear glass bangles only on the right hand and metal ones on the left. This is a custom of several castes whose women do manual labour, and the reason appears to be one of convenience, as glass bangles on the working arm would be continually getting broken. Among the Ekbahia Telis it is said that a woman considers it a point of honour to have these metal bangles as numerous and heavy as her arm can bear; and at a wedding a present of three bracelets from the bridegroom to the bride is held to be indispensable. The Madpotwa are a small subcaste living near the hills, who in former times distilled liquor; they keep pigs and poultry, and rank below the others. Other groups are the Kosarias, who are called after Kosala, the old name of Chhattisgarh, and the Chhote or Little Telis, who are of illegitimate descent. Children born out of wedlock are relegated to this group.

In the Nagpur country the principal subdivisions are the Ekbaile and Dobaile, so called because they yoke one and two bullocks respectively to the oil-press; the distinction is still maintained, the Dobaile being also known as Tarane. This seems a trivial reason for barring intermarriage, but it must be remembered that the yoking of the bullock to the oil-press, coupled as it is with the necessity of blindfolding the animal, is considered a great sin on the Teli's part and a degrading incident of his profession; the Teli's worst fear is that after death his soul will pass into one of his own bullocks. The Yerande Telis are so called because they formerly pressed only the erandi or castor-oil seed, but the rule is no longer maintained. The Yerande women leave off wearing the choli or breast-cloth after they have had one child, and have nothing under the sari or body-cloth, but they wear this folded double. The Ruthia group are said to be so called from the noise rut, rut made by the oil-mill in turning. They say they are descended from the Nag or cobra. They salute the snake when they see it and refrain from killing it, and they will not make any drawing or sign having the semblance of a snake or use any article which may be supposed to be like it. The Sao Telis are the highest group in Wardha, and have eschewed the pressing of oil. The word Sao or Sahu is the title of a moneylender, but they are usually cultivators or village proprietors. A Brahman will enter a Sao Teli's house, but not the houses of any other subcaste. Their women wear silver bangles on the right hand and glass ones on the left. The Batri subcaste are said to be so called from their growing the batar, a kind of pea, and the Hardia from raising the haldi or turmeric. The Teli-Kalars appear to be a mixed group of Kalars who have taken to the oilman's profession, and the Teli-Banias are Telis who have become shopkeepers, and may be expected in the course of time to develop either into a plebeian group of Banias or an aristocratic one of Telis. In Nimar the Gujarati Telis, who have now grown wealthy and prosperous, claim, as already seen, to be Modh Banias, and the same pretension is put forward by their fellow-castemen in Gujarat itself. "The large class of oilmen known in Gujarat as Modh-Ghanelis were originally Modh Banias, who by taking to making and selling oil lost their position as Banias"; [668] it seems doubtful, however, whether the reverse process has not really taken place. The Umre Telis also have the name of a subcaste of Banias. The landholding Rathor Telis of Mandla, who now claim to be Rathor Rajputs, will be more fully noticed later. There are also several local subcastes, as the Mattha or Maratha Telis, who say they came from Patan in Gujarat, the Sirwas from the ancient city of Sravasti in Gonda District, and the Kanaujia from Oudh.

4. Exogamous divisions

Each subcaste is divided into a number of exogamous groups for the regulation of marriages. The names of the groups appear to be taken either from villages or titles or nicknames. Most of them cannot be recognised, but the following are a few: Baghmare, a tiger-killer; Deshmukh, a village officer; Vaidya, a physician; Bawankule, the fifty-two septs; Badwaik, the great ones; Satpute, seven sons; Bhajikhaya, an eater of vegetables; Satapaise, seven pice; Ghoremadia, a horse-killer; Chaudhri, a caste headman; Ardona, a kind of gram; Malghati, a valley; Chandan-malagar, one who presented sandalwood; and Sanichara, born on Saturday. Three septs, Dhurwa, Besram, a hawk, and Sonwani, gold-water, belong to the Gonds or other tribes. The clans of the Rathor Telis of Mandla are said to be named after villages in Jubbulpore and Maihar State.

5. Marriage customs

The marriage of persons of the same sept and of first cousins is usually forbidden. A man may marry his wife's younger sister while she herself is alive, but never her elder sister. An unmarried girl becoming pregnant by a man of the caste is married to him by the ceremony used for a widow, and she may be readmitted even after a liaison with an outsider among most Telis. In Chanda the parents of a girl who is not married before puberty are fined. The proposal comes from the boy's side and a bride-price is usually paid, though not of large amount. The Halia Telis of Chhattisgarh, like other agricultural castes, sometimes betroth their children when they are five or six months old, but as a rule no penalty attaches to the breaking of the betrothal. The betrothal is celebrated by the distribution of one or two rupees' worth of liquor to the neighbours of the caste. As among other low castes, on the day before the wedding procession starts, the bridegroom goes round to all the houses in the village and his sister dances round him with her head bent, and all the people give him presents. This is known as the Binaiki or Farewell, and the bride does the same in her village. Among the Jharia Telis the women go and worship the marriage-post at the carpenter's house while it is being made. In this subcaste the bridegroom goes to the wedding in a cart and not on horseback or in a litter as among some castes. The rule may perhaps be a recognition of their humble station. The Halia subcaste can dispense with the presence of a Brahman at the wedding, but not the Jharias. In Wardha the bridegroom's head is covered with a blanket, over which is placed the marriage-crown. On the arrival of the bridegroom's party they are regaled with sherbet or sugar and water by the bride's relatives, and sometimes red pepper is mixed with this by way of a joke. At a wedding of the Gujarati Tells in Nimar the caste-priest carries the tutelary goddess Kali in procession, and in front of her a pot filled with burning cotton-seeds and oil. A cloth is held over the pot, and it is believed that the power of the goddess prevents the cloth from taking fire. If this should happen some great calamity would be portended. Rathor Teli girls, whether married or unmarried, go with their heads bare, and a woman draws her cloth over her head for the first time when she begins to live in her husband's house.

6. Widow-remarriage

Divorce and widow-marriage are permitted. In Chhattisgarh a widow is always kept in the family if possible, and if her late husband's brother be only a boy she is sometimes induced to put on the bangles and wait for him. If a barandi widow, that is one who has been married but has not lived with her husband, desires to marry again out of his family, the second husband must repay to them the amount spent on her first marriage. In Chanda, on the other hand, some Telis do not permit a widow to marry her late husband's younger brother at all, and others only when he is a bachelor or a widower. Here the minimum period for which a widow must remain single after her husband's death is one month. The engagement with a widow is arranged by the suitor's female relatives, and they pay her a rupee as earnest money. On the day fixed she goes with one or two other widows to the bridegroom's house, and from there to the bazar, where she buys two pairs of bell-metal rings, to be worn on the second toe of each foot, and some glass bangles. She remains sitting in the bazar till well after dark, when some widow goes to fetch her on behalf of her suitor. They bring her to his house, where the couple sit together, and red powder is applied to their foreheads. They then bathe and present their clothes to the washerman, putting on new clothes. The idea in all this is clearly to sever the widow as completely as possible from her old home and prevent her from being accompanied to the new one by the first husband's spirit. In some localities when a Teli widow remarries it is considered most unlucky for any one to see the face of the bride or bridegroom for twenty-four hours, or as some say for three days after the wedding. The ceremony is therefore held at night, and for this period the couple either remain shut up in the house or retire to the jungle.

7. Religion: Caste deities

The caste especially revere Mahadeo or Siva, who gave them the oil-mill. In the Nagpur country they do not work the mill on Monday, because it is Mahadeo's day, he having the moon on his forehead. They revere the oil-mill, and when the trunk is brought to be set up in the house, if there is difficulty in moving it they make offerings to it of a goat or wheat-cakes or cocoanuts, after which it moves easily. When a Teli first sets the trunk-socket of the oil-press in the ground he buries beneath it five pieces of turmeric, some cowries and an areca-nut In the northern Districts the Telis worship Masan Baba, who is supposed to be the ghost of a Teli boy. He is a boy about three feet in height, black-coloured, with a long black scalp-lock. Some Telis have Masan Baba in their possession, and when they are turning the oil-press they set him on top of it, and he makes the bullocks keep on working, so that the master can go away and leave the press. But in order to prevent him from getting into mischief a cake of flour mixed with human hair must be placed in front of the press; he will eat this, but will first pick out all the hairs one by one, and this will occupy him the whole night; but if no cake is put for him he will eat all the food in the house. A Teli who has not got Masan must go to one who has and hire him for Rs. 1-4 a night. They then both go to the owner's oil-press, and the hirer says, 'I have hired you to-night,' and the owner says, 'Yes, I have let you for to-night'; and then the hirer goes away, and Masan Baba follows him and will turn the oil-mill all night. A Teli who has not got Masan Baba puts a stone on the oil-mill, and then the bullock thinks that his master Masan is sitting on it, and will go on turning the press; but this is not so good as having Masan Baba. Some say that he will repay his hirer the sum of Rs. 1-4 by stealing something during the year and giving it to him. Masan may perhaps be considered as a divine personification of the oil-press, and as being the Teli's explanation of the fact that the bullock goes on turning the press without being driven, which he does not attribute simply to the animal's docility. In Chhattisgarh Dulha Deo is the household god of the caste, and he is said not to have any visible image or symbol, but is considered to reside in a cupboard in the house. When any member of the family falls ill it is thought that Dulha Deo is angry, and a goat is offered to appease him. Like the other low castes the Telis of the Nagpur country make the sacrifice of a pig to Narayan Deo or the Sun at intervals.

8. Driving out evil

Here on the third day after the Pola festival in the rains the women of the caste bring the branches of a thorny creeper, with very small leaves, and call it Marbod, and sweep out the whole house with it, saying:

'Ira, pira, khatka, khatkira, Khansi, kokhala, rai, rog, Murkuto gheunja ga Marbod,'

or, 'Oh Marbod! sweep away all diseases, pains, coughs, bugs, flies and mosquitoes.' And then they take the pot of sweepings and throw it outside the village. Marbod is the deity represented by the branch of the creeper. This rite takes place in the middle of the rainy season, when all kinds of insects infest the house, and colds and fever are prevalent Mr. H.R. Crosthwaite sends the following explanation given by a Teli cultivator of an eclipse of the sun: "The Sun is indebted to a sweeper. The sweeper has gone to collect the debt and the Sun has refused to pay. The sweeper is in need of the money and is sitting dharna at the Sun's door; you can see his shadow across the Sun's threshold. Presently the debt will be paid and the sweeper will go away." The Telis of Nimar observe various Muhammadan practices. They fast during the month of Ramazan, taking their food in the morning before sunrise; and at Id they eat the vermicelli and dates which the Muhammadans eat in memory of the time when their forefathers lived on this food in the Arabian desert. Such customs are a relic of the long period of Muhammadan dominance in Nimar, when the Hindus conformed partly to the religion of their masters. Many Telis are also members of the Swami-Narayan reforming sect, which may have attracted them by its disregard of the distinctions of caste and of the low status which attaches to them under Hinduism.

9. Customs at birth and death

In Patna State a pregnant woman must not cross a river nor eat any fruit or vegetables of red colour, nor wear any black cloth. These taboos preserve her health and that of her unborn child. After the birth of a child a woman is impure for seven or nine days in Chhattisgarh, and is then permitted to cook. The dead are either buried or burnt, cremation being an honour reserved for the old. The body is placed in both cases with the head to the north and face downwards or upwards for a male or female respectively.

10. Social status

The social status of the Telis is low, in the group of castes from which Brahmans will not take water, and below such menials as the blacksmith and carpenter. Manu classes them with butchers and liquor-vendors: "From a king not born in the military class let a Brahman accept no gift nor from such as keep a slaughter-house, or an oil-press, or put out a vintner's flag or subsist by the gains of prostitutes." This is much about the position which the Telis have occupied till recently. Brahmans will not usually enter their houses, though they have begun to do so in the case of the landholding subcastes. It is noticeable that the Teli has a much better position in Bengal than elsewhere. Sir H. Risley says: "Their original profession was probably oil-pressing, and the caste may be regarded as a functional group recruited from the respectable middle class of Hindu society. Oil is used by all Hindus for domestic and ceremonial purposes, and its manufacture could only be carried on by men whose social purity was beyond dispute." This is, however, quite exceptional, and Mr. Crooke, Mr. Nesfield and Sir D. Ibbetson are agreed as to his inferior, if not partly impure, status. This is only one of several instances, such as those of the barber, the potter and the weaver, of menial castes which in Bengal have now obtained a position above the agricultural castes. It may be suggested in explanation that the old fabric of Hindu society, that is the village community, has long decayed in Bengal owing to Muhammadan dominance, the concentration of estates in the hands of large proprietors and the weakening or lapse of the customary rights of tenants. Coupled with this has been the growth of an important urban population, in which the castes mentioned have raised themselves from their menial position in the villages and attained wealth and influence, just as the Gujarati Telis are now doing in Burhanpur, while the agricultural castes of Bengal have been comparatively depressed. Hence the urban industrial castes have obtained a great rise in status. Sir H. Risley's emphasis of the importance of oil in Hindu domestic ceremonial is no doubt quite true, though it is perhaps little used in sacrifices, butter being generally preferred as a product of the sacred cow. But the inference does not seem necessarily to follow that the producer of any article shares exactly in the estimation attaching to the thing itself. Turmeric, for instance, is a sacred plant and indispensable at every wedding; but those who grow turmeric always incur a certain stigma and loss in social position. The reason for the impurity of the Teli's calling seems somewhat doubtful. That generally given is his sinful conduct in harnessing the sacred ox and blindfolding the animal's eyes to make it work continuously on the tread-mill. The labour is said to be very severe, and the bullocks often die after two or three years. As already seen, the Teli fears that after death his soul may pass into one of his own bullocks in retribution for his treatment of them during life. Another reason which may be suggested is that the crushing of oil-seeds must involve a large destruction of insect life, many of the seeds being at times infested with insects. The Teli's occupation would naturally rank with the other village industries, that is below agriculture; and prior to the introduction of cash coinage he must have received contributions of grain from the tenants for supplying them with oil like the other village menials. He still takes his oil to the fields at harvest-time and gets his sheaf of grain from each holding.

11. Social customs and caste penalties

The Telis will take cooked food from Kurmis and Kunbis, and in some localities from a Lohar or Barhai. Dhimars are the highest caste which will take food from them. In Mandla if a man does not attend the meeting of the panchayat when summoned for some special purpose, he is fined. In Chanda a Teli beaten with a shoe by any other caste has to have his head shaved and pay a rupee or two to the priest. In Mandla the Telis have made it a rule that not less than four puris or wheat-cakes fried in butter [669] must be given to each guest at a caste-feast, besides rice and pulse. But if an offender is poor only four or five men go to his feast, while if he is rich the whole caste go.

12. The Rathor Telis

The Rathor Telis of Mandla hold a number of villages. They now call themselves Rathor, and entirely disown the name of Teli. They say that they came from the Maihar State near Panna, and that the title of Mahto, from mahat, great, which is borne by the leading men of the caste, was conferred on them by the Raja of Maihar. Another story is that, as already related, they are debased Rathor Rajputs. Recently they have given up eating fowls and drinking liquor. They are good cultivators, borrowing among themselves at low interest and avoiding debt, and their villages are generally prosperous.

13. Gujarati Telis of Nimar

Again, as has been seen, the Gujarati Telis of Burhanpur have taken to trade, and some of them have become wealthy merchants and capitalists from their dealings in cotton. The position of Telis in Burhanpur was apparently one of peculiar degradation under Muhammadan rule. According to local tradition they had to remove the corpses of dead elephants, which no other caste would consent to do, and also to dig the graves of Muhammadans. It is also said that even now a Hindu becomes impure by passing under the eaves of a Teli's house, and that no dancing-girl may dance before a Teli, and if she does so will incur a penalty of Rs. 50 to her caste. The Telis, on the other hand, vigorously repudiate these allegations, which no doubt are due partly to jealousy of their present prosperity and consequent attempts to better their status. The Telis allege that they were Modh Banias in Gujarat and when they came to Burhanpur adopted the occupation of oil-pressing, which is also countenanced by the Shastras for a Vaishya. They say that formerly they did not permit widow-marriage, but when living under Muhammadan rule they were constrained to get their widows married in the caste, or the Muhammadans would have taken them. The Muhammadan practices already noticed as prevalent among them are being severely repressed, and they are believed to have made a caste rule that any Teli who goes to the house of a Muhammadan will have his hair and beard shaved and be fined Rs. 50. They are also supposed to have made offers to Brahmans of sums of Rs. 500 to Rs. 1000 to come and take their food in the verandas of the Telis' houses, but hitherto these have not been accepted.

14. The Teli an unlucky caste

The Teli is considered a caste of bad omen. The proverb says, 'God protect me from a Teli, a Chamar and a Dhobi'; and the Teli is considered the most unlucky of the three. He is also talkative: 'Where there is a Teli there is sure to be contention.' The Teli is thought to be very close-fisted, but occasionally his cunning overreaches itself: 'The Teli counts every drop of oil as it issues from the press, but sometimes he upsets the whole pot.' The reason given for his being unlucky is his practice of harnessing and blindfolding bullocks already mentioned, and also that he presses urad [670] a black-coloured pulse, the oil from which is offered to the unlucky planet Saturn on Saturdays. 'Teli ka bail,' or 'A Teli's bullock,' is a proverbial expression for a man who has to slave very hard for small pay. [671] The Teli is believed to have magical powers. A good magician in search of an attendant spirit will, it is said, prefer to raise the corpse of a Teli who died on a Tuesday. He proceeds to the burning-ghat with chickens, eggs, some vermilion and red cloth. He seats himself near to where the corpse was burnt, and after repeating some spells offers up the chickens and eggs and breaks the cocoanut. Then it is believed that the corpse will gradually rise and take shape and be at the magician's service so long as the latter may desire. The following prescription is given for a love-charm: take the skull of a Teli's wife and cook some rice in it under a babul [672] tree on a Sunday. This if given to a girl to eat will make her fall in love with him who gives it to her.

15. Occupation. Oil-pressing

The Teli's oil-press is a very primitive affair. It consists of a hollowed tree-trunk in which a post is placed with rounded lower end. The top of this projects perhaps three feet above the hollow trunk and is secured by two pieces of wood to a horizontal bar, one end of which presses against the trunk, while the bullock is harnessed to the outer end. The yoke-bar hangs about a foot from the ground, the inner end resting in a groove of the trunk, while the outer is supported by the poles connecting it with the churning-post. From the top of this latter a rope is also tied to the bullock's horn to keep the animal in position. The press is usually set up inside a shed, and it is said that if the bullock were not blindfolded it would quickly become too giddy to work. The bullock drags the yoke-bar round the trunk and this gives a circular movement to the top of the churning-post, causing the lower end of the latter to move as on a pivot inside the trunk. The friction thus produced crushes the oil-seed, and the oil trickles out through a hole in the lower part of the trunk. The oil of ramtilli or jagni is commonly burnt for lighting in villages, and also that of the mahua-seed. Linseed-oil is generally exported, but if used at home it is mainly as an illuminant. It is mixed with food by the Maratha castes but not in northern India. All the vegetable oils are rapidly being supplanted by kerosene, even in villages; but the inferior quality generally purchased, burnt as it is in small open saucers, gives out a great deal of smoke and is said to be very injurious to the eyesight, and students especially sustain permanent injury to the sight by working with these lamps. This want is, however, being met, and cheap lamp-burners can be bought in Bombay for about twelve annas. Owing to their having until recently supplied the only means of illumination the Telis sometimes call themselves Dipabans, or 'Sons of the lamp.' Tilli or sesamum is called sweet oil; it is much eaten by Brahmans and others in the Maratha country, and is always used for rubbing on the hair and body. On the festivals of Diwali and Til Sankrant all Hindus rub sesamum oil on their bodies; otherwise they put it on their hair once or twice a week, and on their bodies if they get a chill, or as a protective against cold twice or thrice a month in the winter. The Uriya castes rub oil on the body if they can afford it every day after bathing and say that it keeps off malaria. Castor-oil is used as a medicine, and by some people even as ordinary food. It is also a good lubricant, being applied to cart-wheels and machinery. Other oils mentioned by Mr. Crooke are poppy-seed, mustard, cocoanut and safflower, and those prepared from almond and the berries of the nim [673] tree. The Teli's occupation is a dirty one, his house being filled with the refuse of oil and oil-seed, and Mr. Gordon notes that leprosy is very prevalent in the caste. [674]

16. Trade and agriculture

The Telis are a very enterprising caste, and the great bulk of them have abandoned their traditional occupation and taken to others which are more profitable and respectable. In their trade, like that of the Kalar, cash payment by barter must have been substituted for customary annual contributions at an early period, and hence they learnt to keep accounts when their customers were ignorant of this accomplishment. The knowledge has stood them in good stead. Many of them have become moneylenders in a small way, and by this means have acquired villages. In the Raipur and Bilaspur Districts they own more than 200 villages and 700 in the Central Provinces as a whole. They are also shopkeepers and petty traders, travelling about with pack-bullocks like the Banjaras. Mr. A. K. Smith notes that formerly the Teli hired Banjaras to carry his goods through the jungle, as he would have been killed by them if he had ventured to do so himself. But now he travels with his own bullocks. Even in Mughal times Mr. Smith states Telis occasionally rose to important positions; Kawaji Teli was sutler to the Imperial army, and obtained from the Emperor Jahangir a grant of Ashti in Wardha and an order that no one should plant betel-vine gardens in Ashti without his permission. This rule is still observed and any one wishing to have a betel-vine garden makes a present to the patel. Krishna Kanta Nandi or Kanta Babu, the Banyan of Warren Hastings, was a Teli by caste and did much to raise their position among the Hindus. [675]

17. Teli beneficence

Colonel Tod gives instances in Udaipur of works of beneficence executed by Telis. "The Teli-ki-Sarai or oilman's caravanserai is not conspicuous for magnitude; but it is remarkable not merely for its utility but even for its elegance of design. The Teli-ka-Pul or Oilman's Bridge at Nurabad is a magnificent memorial of the trade and deserves preservation. These Telis perambulate the country with skins of oil on a bullock and from hard-earned pence erect the structures which bear their name." [676] Similarly the temple of Vishnu at Rajim is said to be named after one Rajan Telin, who discovered the image lying abandoned by the roadside. She placed her skin of oil on it to rest herself and on that day her oil never decreased, and when she had finished selling in the market she had all her oil as well as the money. Her husband suspected her of evil practices, but, when next day her mother-in-law laid a skinful of oil on the image and the same thing happened, it was seen that the god had made himself manifest to her, and a temple was built and named after her and the image enshrined in it. Similarly the image of Mahadeo at Pithampur in Bilaspur was seen buried by a Teli in a dream, and he dug it up and made a shrine to it and was cured of dysentery. So an annual fair is held and many people go there to be healed of their diseases.


[This article is based almost entirely on Colonel (Sir William) Sleeman's Ramaseeana or Vocabulary of the Thugs (1835). A small work, Hutton's Thugs and Dacoits, has been quoted for convenience, but it is compiled entirely from Colonel Sleeman's Reports. Another book by Colonel Sleeman, Reports on the Depredations of the Thug Gangs, is mainly a series of accounts of the journeys of different gangs and contains only a very brief general notice.]

List of Paragraphs

1. Historical notice. 2. Thuggee depicted in the caves of Ellora. 3. Origin of the Thugs. 4. Methods of assassination. 5. Account of certain murders. 6. Special incidents (continued). 7. Disguises of the Thugs. 8. Secrecy of their operations. 9. Support of landholders and villagers. 10. Murder of sepoys. 11. Callous nature of the Thugs. 12. Belief in divine support. 13. Theory of Thuggee as a religious sect. 14. Worship of Kali. 15. The sacred pickaxe. 16. The sacred gur (sugar). 17. Worship of ancestors. 18. Fasting. 19. Initiation of a novice. 20. Prohibition of murder of women. 21. Other classes of persons not killed. 22. Belief in omens. 23. Omens and taboos. 24. Nature of the belief in omens. 25. Suppression of Thuggee.

1. Historical notice

Thug, Phansigar.—The famous community of murderers who were accustomed to infest the high-roads and strangle travellers for their property. The Thugs are, of course, now extinct, having been finally suppressed by measures taken under the direction of Colonel Sleeman between 1825 and 1850. The only existing traces of them are a small number of persons known as Goranda or Goyanda in Jubbulpore, the descendants of Thugs employed in the school of industry which was established at that town. These work honestly for their living and are believed to have no marked criminal tendencies. In the course of his inquiries, however, Colonel Sleeman collected a considerable mass of information about the Thugs, some of which is of ethnological interest, and as the works in which this is contained are out of print and not easily accessible, it seems desirable to record a portion of it here. The word Thug signifies generically a cheat or robber, while Phansigar, which was the name used in southern India, is derived from phansi, a noose, and means a strangler. The form of robbery and murder practised by these people was probably of considerable antiquity, and is referred to as follows by a French traveller, Thevenot, in the sixteenth century:

"Though the road I have been speaking of from Delhi to Agra be tolerable yet it hath many inconveniences. One may meet with tigers, panthers and lions upon it, and one can also best have a care of robbers, and above all things not to suffer anybody to come near one upon the road. The cunningest robbers in the world are in that country. They use a certain slip with a running noose which they can cast with so much sleight about a man's neck, when they are within reach of him, that they never fail, so that they can strangle him in a trice. They have another cunning trick also to catch travellers with. They send out a handsome woman upon the road, who with her hair dishevelled seems to be all in tears, sighing and complaining of some misfortune which she pretends has befallen her. Now, as she takes the same way that the traveller goes he falls easily into conversation with her, and finding her beautiful, offers her his assistance, which she accepts; but he hath no sooner taken her up behind him on horseback, but she throws the snare about his neck and strangles him, or at least stuns him until the robbers who lie hid come running to her assistance and complete what she hath begun. But besides that, there are men in those quarters so skilful in casting the snare, that they succeed as well at a distance as near at hand; and if an ox or any other beast belonging to a caravan run away, as sometimes it happens, they fail not to catch it by the neck." [677]

This passage seems to demonstrate an antiquity of three centuries for the Thugs down to 1850. But during the period over which Sir William Sleeman's inquiries extended women never accompanied them on their expeditions, and were frequently even, as a measure of precaution, left in ignorance of the profession of their husbands.

2. Thuggees depicted in the caves of Ellora

The Thugs themselves believed that the operations of their trade were depicted in the carvings of the Ellora caves, and a noted leader, Feringia, and other Thugs spoke of these carvings as follows: "Every one of the operations is to be seen there: in one place you see men strangling; in another burying the bodies; in another carrying them off to the graves. Whenever we passed near we used to go and see these caves. Every man will there find his trade described and they were all made in one night.

"Everybody there can see the secret operations of his trade; but he does not tell others of them; and no other person can understand what they mean. They are the works of God. No human hands were employed on them. That everybody admits."

Another Thug: "I have seen there the Sotha (inveigler) sitting upon the same carpet as the traveller, and in close conversation with him, just as we are when we worm out their secrets. In another place the strangler has got his rumal (handkerchief) over his neck and is strangling him; while another, the Chamochi, is holding him by the legs." I do not think there is any reason to suppose that these carvings really have anything to do with the Thugs.

3. Origin of the Thugs

The Thugs did not apparently ever constitute a distinct caste like the Badhaks, but were recruited from different classes of the population. In northern and southern India three-fourths or more, and in Central India about a half, were Muhammadans, whether genuine or the descendants of converted Hindus. The Muhammadan Thugs consisted of seven clans, Bhais, Barsote, Kachuni, Hattar, Garru, Tandel and Rathur: "And these, by the common consent of all Thugs throughout India, whether Hindus or Muhammadans, are admitted to be the most ancient and the great original trunk upon which all the others have at different times and in different places been grafted." [678] These names, however, are of Hindu and not of Muhammadan origin; and it seems probable that many of the Thugs were originally Banjaras or cattle-dealers and Kanjars or gipsies. One of the Muhammadan Thugs told Colonel Sleeman that, "The Arcot gangs will never intermarry with our families, saying that we once drove bullocks and were itinerant tradesmen, and consequently of lower caste." [679] Another man said [680] that at their marriages an old matron would sometimes repeat as she threw down the tulsi or basil, "Here's to the spirits of those who once led bears and monkeys; to those who drove bullocks and marked with the godini (tattooing-needle); and those who made baskets for the head." These are the regular occupations of the Kanjars and Berias, the gipsy castes who are probably derived from the Doms. And it seems not unlikely that these people may have been the true progenitors of the Thugs. There is at present a large section of Muhammadan Kanjars who are recognised as members of the caste by the Hindu section. Colonel Sleeman was of opinion that the Kanjars also practised murder by strangling, but not as a regular profession; for this would have been too dangerous, as they were accustomed to wander about with their wives and all their belongings, and the disappearance of many travellers in the locality of their camps would naturally excite suspicion. Whereas the true Thugs resided in villages and towns and many of them had other ostensible occupations, their periodical excursions for robbery and murder being veiled under the pretence of some necessary journey. But the Kanjars may have changed their mode of life on taking to this profession, and their adroitness in other forms of crime, such as killing and carrying off cattle, would make them likely persons to have discovered the advantages of a system of murder of travellers by strangulation. The existing descendants of the Thugs at Jubbulpore appear to be mainly Kanjars and Berias. For such a life it is clear that the profession of the Muhammadan religion would be of much assistance in maintaining the disguise; for it set a man free from many caste obligations and ties and also from a host of irksome restrictions as to eating and drinking with others. We may therefore conjecture, though without certain knowledge, that many of the Thugs may originally have become Muhammadans for convenience; and this is supported by the well-known fact that the principal deity of all of them was the Hindu goddess Kali. Many bodies of Thugs were also recruited from other Hindu castes, of whom the Lodhas or Lodhis were perhaps the most numerous; others of the fraternity were Rajputs, Brahmans, Tantis or weavers, Goalas or cowherds, Multanis or Muhammadan Banjaras, as well as the Sansias and Kanjars or criminal vagrants and gipsies. These seem to have observed their caste rules and to have intermarried among themselves; sometimes they obtained wives from other families who had no connection with Thuggee and kept their wives in ignorance of their nefarious trade; occasionally a girl would be spared from a murdered party and married to a son of one of the Thugs; while boys were more frequently saved and brought up to the business. The Thugs said [681] that the fidelity of their wives was proverbial and they were not less loving and dutiful than those of other men, while several instances are recorded of the strong affection borne by fathers to their children.

4. Methods of assassination

As is well known the method of the Thugs was to attach themselves to travellers, either single men or small parties, and at a convenient opportunity to strangle them, bury the bodies and make off with the property found on them. The gangs of Thugs usually contained from ten to fifty men and were sometimes much larger; on one occasion as many as three hundred and sixty Thugs accomplished the murder of a party of forty persons in Bilaspur. [682] They pretended to be traders, soldiers or cultivators and usually went without weapons in order to disarm suspicion; and this practice also furnished them with an excuse for seeking for permission to accompany parties travelling with arms. There was nothing to excite alarm or suspicion in the appearance of these murderers; but on the contrary they are described as being mild and benevolent of aspect, and peculiarly courteous, gentle and obliging. In their palmy days the leader of the gang often travelled on horseback with a tent and passed for a person of consequence or a wealthy merchant. They were accustomed to get into conversation with travellers by doing them some service or asking permission to unite their parties as a measure of precaution. They would then journey on together, and strive to win the confidence of their victims by a demeanour of warm friendship and feigned interest in their affairs. Sometimes days would elapse before a favourable opportunity occurred for the murder; an instance is mentioned of a gang having accompanied a family of eleven persons for twenty days during which they had traversed upwards of 200 miles and then murdered the whole of them; and another gang accomplished 160 miles in twelve days in company with a party of sixty men, women and children, before they found a propitious occasion. [683] Their favourite time for the murder was in the evening when the whole party would be seated in the open, the Thugs mingled with their victims, talking, smoking and singing. If their numbers were sufficient three Thugs would be allotted to every victim, so that on the signal being given two of them could lay hold of his hands and feet, while the Bhurtot or strangler passed the rumal over his head and tightened it round his neck, forcing the victim backwards and not relaxing his hold till life was extinct. The rumal or 'handkerchief,' always employed for throttling victims, was really a loin-cloth or turban, in which a loop was made with a slip-knot. The Thugs called it their sikka or 'ensign,' but it was not held sacred like the pickaxe. When the leader of the gang cleared his throat violently it was a sign to prepare for action, and he afterwards gave the jhirni or signal for the murder, by saying either 'Tamakhu kha lo,' 'Begin chewing tobacco'; 'Bhanja ko pan do,' 'Give betel to my nephew'; or 'Ayi ho to ghiri chalo,' 'If you are come, pray descend.' Their adroitness was such that their victims seldom or never escaped nor even had a chance of making a fight for their lives. But if several persons were to be killed some men were detached to surround the camp and cut down any one who tried to escape. The Thugs do not therefore appear to have had any religious objection to the shedding of blood, but they preferred murder by strangling as being safer. After the murder the bodies were at once buried, being first cut about to prevent them from swelling on decomposition, as this might raise the surface of the earth over the grave and so attract attention. If the ground was too hard they were thrown into a ravine or down one of the shallow irrigation wells which abound in north India; and it was stated that the discovery of a body in one of these wells was so common an occurrence that the cultivators took no notice of it. If there were people in the vicinity so that it was dangerous to dig the graves in the open air, the Thugs did not scruple to inter the bodies of victims inside their own tents and to eat their food sitting on the soil above. For the attack of a horseman three men were always detailed, if practicable, so that one could seize the bridle and the other two pull him out of the saddle and strangle him; but if, as happened occasionally, a single Thug managed to kill a man on horseback, he obtained a great reputation, which even descended to his children. On the other hand, if a strangler was unlucky or clumsy, so that the cloth fell on the victim's head or face, or he got blood on his clothes or other suspicious signs, and these accidents recurred, he was known as Bisul, and was excluded from the office of strangler on account of presumed unfitness for the duty. When it was necessary for some reason to murder a party on the march, some belhas or scouts were sent on ahead to choose a beil or suitable place for the business, and see that no one was coming in the opposite direction; and when the leader said, 'Wash the cup,' it was a signal for the scouts to go forward for this purpose. If a traveller had a dog with him the dog was also killed, lest he might stay beside his master's grave and call attention to it. Another device in case of difficulty was for one of the Thugs to feign sickness. The Garru or man who did this fell down on a sudden and pretended to be taken violently ill. Some of his friends raised and supported him, while others brought water and felt his pulse; and at last one of them pretended that a charm would restore him. All were then requested to sit down, the pot of water being in the centre; all were desired to take off their belts, if they had any, and uncover their necks, and lastly to look up and see if they could count a certain number of stars. While they were thus occupied intently gazing at the sky to carry out the charm for the recovery of the sick man, the cloths were passed round their necks and they were strangled.

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