The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India - Volume IV of IV - Kumhar-Yemkala
by R.V. Russell
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7. Widow-marriage, divorce and polygamy

Widow-marriage is permitted. The widower, accompanied by his relatives and a horn-blower, goes to the house of the widow, and here a space is plastered with cowdung and the couple sit on two wooden boards while their clothes are knotted together. In Balaghat [168] the bridegroom and bride bathe in a tank and on emerging the widow throws away her old cloth and puts on a new one. After this they walk five times round a spear planted in the ground. Divorce is permitted and can be effected by mutual consent of the parties. Like other castes practising intensive cultivation the Malis marry several wives when they can afford it, in order to obtain the benefit of their labour in the vegetable garden; a wife being more industrious and honest than a hired labourer. But this practice results in large families and household dissensions, leading to excessive subdivision of property, and wealthy members of the caste are rare. The standard of sexual morality is low, and if an unmarried girl goes wrong her family conceal the fact and sometimes try to procure an abortion. If these efforts are unsuccessful a feast must be given to the caste and a lock of the woman's hair is cut off by way of punishment. A young hard-working wife is never divorced, however bad her character may be, but an old woman is sometimes abandoned for very little cause.

8. Disposal of the dead

The dead may be either buried or burnt; in the former case the corpse is laid with the feet to the north. Mourning is observed only for three days and propitiatory offerings are made to the spirits of the dead. If a man is killed by a tiger his family make a wooden image of a tiger and worship it.

9. Religion

Devi is the principal deity of the Malis. Weddings are celebrated before her temple and large numbers of goats are sacrificed to the favourite goddess at her festival in the month of Magh (January). Many of the Marars of Balaghat are Kabirpanthis and wear the necklace of that sect; but they appear none the less to intermarry freely with their Hindu caste-fellows. [169] After the birth of a child it is stated that all the members of the sept to which the parents belong remain impure for five days, and no one will take food or water from them.

10. Occupation

The Mali combines the callings of a gardener and nurseryman. "In laying out a flower-garden and in arranging beds," Mr. Shearing remarks, [170] "the Mali is exceedingly expert. His powers in this respect are hardly surpassed by gardeners in England. He lacks of course the excellent botanical knowledge of many English gardeners, and also the peculiar skill displayed by them in grafting and crossing, and in watching the habits of plants. Yet in manipulative labour, especially when superintended by a European, he is, though much slower in execution, almost if not quite equal to gardeners at home." They are excellent and very laborious cultivators, and show much skill in intensive cultivation and the use of water. Malis are the best sugarcane growers of Betul and their holdings usually pay a higher rental than those of other castes. "In Balaghat," Mr. Low remarks, [171] "they are great growers of tobacco and sugarcane, favouring the alluvial land on the banks of rivers. They mostly irrigate by a dhekli or dipping lift, from temporary wells or from water-holes in rivers. The pole of the lift has a weight at one end and a kerosene tin suspended from the other. Another form of lift is a hollowed tree trunk worked on a fulcrum, but this only raises the water a foot or two. The Marars do general cultivation as well; but as a class are not considered skilled agriculturists. The proverb about their cultivating status is:

Marar, Mali jote tali Tali margayi, dhare kudali

or, 'The Marar yokes cows; if the cow dies he takes to the pickaxe'; implying that he is not usually rich enough to keep bullocks." The saying has also a derogatory sense, as no good Hindu would yoke a cow to the plough. Another form of lift used by the Kachhis is the Persian wheel. In this two wheels are fixed above the well or tank and long looped ropes pass over them and down into the well, between which a line of earthen pots is secured. As the ropes move on the wheels the pots descend into the well, are filled with water, brought up, and just after they reach the apex of the wheel and turn to descend again, the water pours out to a hollow open tree-trunk, from which a channel conveys it to the field. The wheel which turns the rope is worked by a man pedalling, but he cannot do more than about three hours a day. The common lift for gardens is the mot or bag made of the hide of a bullock or buffalo. This is usually worked by a pair of bullocks moving forwards down a slope to raise the mot from the well and backwards up the slope to let it down when empty.

11. Traits and character

"It is necessary," the account continues, "for the Marar's business for one member at least of his family to go to market with his vegetables; and the Mararin is a noteworthy feature in all bazars, sitting with her basket or garment spread on the ground, full of white onions and garlic, purple brinjals and scarlet chillies, with a few handfuls of strongly flavoured green stuff. Whether from the publicity which it entails on their women or from whatever cause, the Mararin does not bear the best of reputations for chastity; and is usually considered rather a bold, coarse creature. The distinctive feature of her attire is the way in which she ties up her body-cloth so as to leave a tail sticking up behind; whence the proverb shouted after her by rude little boys: 'Jump from roof to roof, Monkey. Pull the tail of the Mararin, Monkey,' She also rejoices in a very large tikli or spangle on her forehead and in a peculiar kind of angia (waistcoat). The caste are usually considered rather clannish and morose. They live in communities by themselves, and nearly always inhabit a separate hamlet of the village. The Marars of a certain place are said to have boycotted a village carpenter who lost an axe belonging to one of their number, so that he had to leave the neighbourhood for lack of custom."

12. Other functions of the Mali

Many Malis live in the towns and keep vegetable- or flower-gardens just outside. They sell flowers, and the Mali girls are very good flower-sellers, Major Sutherland says, being famous for their coquetry. A saying about them is: "The crow among birds, the jackal among beasts, the barber among men and the Malin among women; all these are much too clever." The Mali also prepares the maur or marriage-crown, made from the leaves of the date-palm, both for the bride and bridegroom at marriages. In return he gets a present of a rupee, a piece of cloth and a day's food. He also makes the garlands which are used for presentation at entertainments, and supplies the daily bunches of flowers which are required as offerings for Mahadeo. The Mali keeps garlands for sale in the bazar, and when a well-to-do person passes he goes up and puts a garland round his neck and expects a present of a pice or two.

13. Physical appearance

"Physically," Mr. Low states, "the Marar is rather a poor-looking creature, dark and undersized; but the women are often not bad looking, and dressed up in their best at a wedding, rattling their castanets and waving light-coloured silk handkerchiefs, give a very graceful dance. The caste are not as a rule celebrated for their cleanliness. A polite way of addressing a Marar is to call him Patel."


Mallah, Malha. [172]—A small caste of boatmen and fishermen in the Jubbulpore and Narsinghpur Districts, which numbered about 5000 persons in 1911. It is scarcely correct to designate the Mallahs as a distinct caste, as in both these Districts it appears from inquiry that the term is synonymous with Kewat. Apparently, however, the Mallahs do form a separate endogamous group, and owing to many of them having adopted the profession of growing hemp, a crop which respectable Hindu castes usually refuse to cultivate, it is probable that they would not be allowed to intermarry with the Kewats of other Districts. In the United Provinces Mr. Crooke states that the Mallahs, though, as their Arabic name indicates, of recent origin, have matured into a definite social group, including a number of endogamous tribes. The term Mallah has nothing to do with the Mulla or Muhammadan priest among the frontier tribes, but comes from an Arabic word meaning 'to be salt,' or, according to another derivation, 'to move the wings as a bird.' [173] The Mallahs of the Central Provinces are also, in spite of their Arabic name, a purely Hindu caste. In Narsinghpur they say that their original ancestor was one Bali or Baliram, who was a boatman and was so strong that he could carry his boat to the river and back under his armpit. On one occasion he ferried Rama across the Ganges in Benares, and it is said that Rama gave him a horse to show his gratitude; but Baliram was so ignorant that he placed the bridle on the horse's tail instead of the head. And from this act of Baliram's arose the custom of having the rudder of a boat at the stern instead of at the bow. The Mallahs in the Central Provinces appear from their family names to be immigrants from Bundelkhand. Their customs resemble those of lower-class Hindus. Girls are usually married under the age of twelve years, and the remarriage of widows is permitted, while divorce may be effected in the presence of the panchayat or caste committee by the husband and wife breaking a straw between them. They are scantily clothed and are generally poor. A proverb about them says:

Jahan bethen Malao Tahan lage alao,

or, 'Where Mallahs sit, there is always a fire.' This refers to their custom of kindling fires on the river-bank to protect themselves from cold. In Narsinghpur the Mallahs have found a profitable opening in the cultivation of hemp, a crop which other Hindu castes until recently tabooed on account probably of the dirty nature of the process of cleaning out the fibre and the pollution necessarily caused to the water-supply. They sow and cut hemp on Sundays and Wednesdays, which are regarded as auspicious days. They also grow melons, and will not enter a melon-field with their shoes on or allow a woman during her periodical impurity to approach it. The Mallahs are poor and illiterate, but rank with Dhimars and Kewats, and Brahmans will take water from their hands.


Mana. [174]—A Dravidian caste of cultivators and labourers belonging to the Chanda District, from which they have spread to Nagpur, Bhandara and Balaghat. In 1911 they numbered nearly 50,000 persons, of whom 34,000 belonged to Chanda. The origin of the caste is obscure. In the Chanda Settlement Report of 1869 Major Lucie Smith wrote of them: "Tradition asserts that prior to the Gond conquest the Manas reigned over the country, having their strongholds at Surajgarh in Ahiri and at Manikgarh in the Manikgarh hills, now of Hyderabad, and that after a troubled rule of two hundred years they fell before the Gonds. In appearance they are of the Gond type, and are strongly and stoutly made; while in character they are hardy, industrious and truthful. Many warlike traditions still linger among them, and doubtless in days gone by they did their duty as good soldiers, but they have long since hung up sword and shield and now rank among the best cultivators of rice in Chanda." Another local tradition states that a line of Mana princes ruled at Wairagarh. The names of three princes are remembered: Kurumpruhoda, the founder of the line; Surjat Badwaik, who fortified Surjagarh; and Gahilu, who built Manikgarh. As regards the name Manikgarh, it may be mentioned that the tutelary deity of the Nagvansi kings of Bastar, who ruled there before the accession of the present Raj-Gond dynasty in the fourteenth century, was Manikya Devi, and it is possible that the chiefs of Wairagarh were connected with the Bastar kings. Some of the Manas say that they, as well as the Gowaris, are offshoots of the Gond tribe; and a local saying to the effect that 'The Gond, the Gowari and the Mana eat boiled juari or beans on leaf-plates' shows that they are associated together in the popular mind. Hislop states that the Ojhas, or soothsayers and minstrels of the Gonds, have a subdivision of Mana Ojhas, who lay claim to special sanctity, refusing to take food from any other caste. [175] The Gonds have a subdivision called Mannewar, and as war is only a Telugu suffix for the plural, the proper name Manne closely resembles Mana. It is shown in the article on the Parja tribe that the Parjas were a class of Gonds or a tribe akin to them, who were dominant in Bastar prior to the later immigration under the ancestors of the present Bastar dynasty. And the most plausible hypothesis as to the past history of the Manas is that they were also the rulers of some tracts of Chanda, and were displaced like the Parjas by a Gond invasion from the south.

In Bhandara, where the Manas hold land, it is related that in former times a gigantic kite lived on the hill of Ghurkundi, near Sakoli, and devoured the crops of the surrounding country by whole fields at a time. The king of Chanda proclaimed that whoever killed the kite would be granted the adjoining lands. A Mana shot the kite with an arrow and its remains were taken to Chanda in eight carts, and as his reward he received the grant of a zamindari. In appearance the Manas, or at least some of them, are rather fine men, nor do their complexion and features show more noticeable traces of aboriginal descent than those of the local Hindus. But their neighbours in Chanda and Bastar, the Maria Gonds, are also taller and of a better physical type than the average Dravidian, so that their physical appearance need not militate against the above hypothesis. They retained their taste for fighting until within quite recent times, and in Katol and other towns below the Satpura hills, Manas were regularly enlisted as a town guard for repelling the Pindari raids. Their descendants still retain the ancestral matchlocks, and several of them make good use of these as professional shikaris or hunters. Many of them are employed as servants by landowners and moneylenders for the collection of debts or the protection of crops, and others are proprietors, cultivators and labourers, while a few even lend money on their own account. Manas hold three zamindari estates in Bhandara and a few villages in Chanda; here they are considered to be good cultivators, but have the reputation as a caste of being very miserly, and though possessed of plenty, living only on the poorest and coarsest food. [176] The Mana women are proverbial for the assistance which they render to their husbands in the work of cultivation.

Owing to their general adoption of Maratha customs, the Manas are now commonly regarded as a caste and not a forest tribe, and this view may be accepted. They have two subcastes, the Badwaik Manas, or soldiers, and the Khad Manas, who live in the plains and are considered to be of impure descent. Badwaik or 'The Great Ones' is a titular term applied to a person carrying arms, and assumed by certain Rajputs and also by some of the lower castes. A third group of Manas are now amalgamated with the Kunbis as a regular subdivision of that caste, though they are regarded as somewhat lower than the others. They have also a number of exogamous septs of the usual titular and totemistic types, the few recognisable names being Marathi. It is worth noticing that several pairs of these septs, as Jamare and Gazbe, Narnari and Chudri, Wagh and Rawat, and others are prohibited from intermarriage. And this may be a relic of some wider scheme of division of the type common among the Australian aborigines. The social customs of the Manas are the same as those of the other lower Maratha castes, as described in the articles on Kunbi, Kohli and Mahar. A bride-price of Rs. 12-8 is usually paid, and if the bridegroom's father has the money, he takes it with him on going to arrange for the match. Only one married woman of the bridegroom's family accompanies him to the wedding, and she throws rice over him five times. Four days in the year are appointed for the celebration of weddings, the festivals of Shivratri and of Akhatij, and a day each in the months of Magh (January) and Phagun (February). This rule, however, is not universal. Brahmans do not usually officiate at their ceremonies, but they employ a Brahman to prepare the rice which is thrown over the couples. Marriage within the sept is forbidden, as well as the union of the children of two sisters. But the practice of marrying a brother's daughter to a sister's son is a very favourite one, being known as Mahunchar, and in this respect the Manas resemble the Gonds. When a widow is to be remarried, she stops on the way by the bank of a stream as she is proceeding to her new husband's house, and here her clothes are taken off and buried by an exorcist with a view to laying the first husband's spirit and preventing it from troubling the new household. If a woman goes wrong with a man of another caste she is not finally cast out, but if she has a child she must first dispose of it to somebody else after it is weaned. She may then be re-admitted into caste by having her hair shaved off and giving three feasts; the first is prepared by the caste and eaten outside her house, the second is prepared by her relatives and eaten within her house, and at the third the caste reinstate her by partaking of food cooked by herself. The dead are either buried or burnt; in the former case a feast is given immediately after the burial and no further mourning is observed; in the latter the period of mourning is three days. As among the Gonds, the dead are laid with feet to the north. A woman is impure for seven days after child-birth.

The Manas have Bhats or genealogists of their own caste, a separate one being appointed for each sept. The Bhat of any sept can only accept gifts from members of that sept, though he may take food from any one of the caste. The Bhats are in the position of beggars, and the other Manas will not take food from them. Every man must have a Bhat for his family under penalty of being temporarily put out of caste. It is said that the Bhats formerly had books showing the pedigrees of the different families, but that once in a spirit of arrogance they placed their shoes upon the books; and the other Manas, not brooking this insolence, burnt the books. The gravity of such an act may be realised when it is stated that if anybody even threatens to hit a Mana with a shoe, the indignity put upon him is so great that he is temporarily excluded from caste and penalised for readmission. Since this incident the Bhats have to address the Manas as 'Brahma,' to show their respect, the Mana replying 'Ram, Ram.' Their women wear short loin-cloths, exposing part of the thigh, like the Gonds. They eat pork and drink liquor, but will take cooked food only from Brahmans.


1. History and nature of the sect

Manbhao. [177]—A religious sect or order, which has now become a caste, belonging to the Maratha Districts of the Central Provinces and to Berar. Their total strength in India in 1911 was 10,000 persons, of whom the Central Provinces and Berar contained 4000. The name would appear to have some such meaning as 'The reverend brothers.' The Manbhaos are stated to be a Vaishnavite order founded in Berar some two centuries ago. [178] They themselves say that their order is a thousand years old and that it was founded by one Arjun Bhat, who lived at Domegaon, near Ahmadnagar. He was a great Sanskrit scholar and a devotee of Krishna, and preached his doctrines to all except the Impure castes. Ridhpur, in Berar, is the present headquarters of the order, and contains a monastery and three temples, dedicated to Krishna and Dattatreya, [179] the only deities recognised by the Manbhaos. Each temple is named after a village, and is presided over by a Mahant elected from the celibate Manbhaos. There are other Mahants, also known after the names of villages or towns in which the monasteries over which they preside are located. Among these are Sheone, from the village near Chandur in Amraoti District; Akulne, a village near Ahmadnagar; Lasorkar, from Lasor, near Aurangabad; Mehkarkar, from Mehkar in Buldana; and others. The order thus belongs to Berar and the adjoining parts of India. Colonel Mackenzie describes Ridhpur as follows: "The name is said to be derived from ridh, meaning blood, a Rakshas or demon having been killed there by Parasurama, and it owes its sanctity to the fact that the god lived there. Black stones innumerable scattered about the town show where the god's footsteps became visible. At Ridhpur Krishna is represented by an ever-open, sleeplessly watching eye, and some Manbhaos carry about a small black stone disk with an eye painted on it as an amulet." Frequently their shrines contain no images, but are simply chabutras or platforms built over the place where Krishna or Dattatreya left marks of their footprints. Over the platform is a small veranda, which the Manbhaos kiss, calling upon the name of the god. Sukli, in Bhandara, is also a headquarters of the caste, and contains many Manbhao tombs. Here they burn camphor in honour of Dattatreya and make offerings of cocoanuts. They make pilgrimages to the different shrines at the full moons of Chait (March) and Kartik (October). They pay reverence to no deities except Krishna and Dattatreya, and observe the festivals of Gokul Ashtami in August and Datta-Jayantri in December. They consider the month of Aghan (November) as holy, because Krishna called it so in the Bhagavat-Gita. This is their sacred book, and they reject the other Hindu scriptures. Their conception of Krishna is based on his description of himself to Arjun in the Bhagavat-Gita as follows: "'Behold things wonderful, never seen before, behold in this my body the whole world, animate and inanimate. But as thou art unable to see with these thy natural eyes, I will give thee a heavenly eye, with which behold my divine connection.'

"The son of Pandu then beheld within the body of the god of gods standing together the whole universe divided forth into its vast variety. He was overwhelmed with wonder and every hair was raised on end. 'But I am not to be seen as thou hast seen me even by the assistance of the Vedas, by mortification, by sacrifices, by charitable gifts: but I am to be seen, to be known in truth, and to be obtained by that worship which is offered up to me alone: and he goeth unto me whose works are done for me: who esteemeth me supreme: who is my servant only: who hath abandoned all consequences, and who liveth amongst all men without hatred.'"

Again: "He my servant is dear to me who is free from enmity, the friend of all nature, merciful, exempt from all pride and selfishness, the same in pain and in pleasure, patient of wrong, contented, constantly devout, of subdued passions and firm resolves, and whose mind and understanding are fixed on me alone."

2. Divisions of the order

The Manbhaos are now divided into three classes: the Brahmachari; the Gharbari; and the Bhope. The Brahmachari are the ascetic members of the sect who subsist by begging and devote their lives to meditation, prayer and spiritual instruction. The Gharbari are those who, while leading a mendicant life, wearing the distinctive black dress of the order and having their heads shaved, are permitted to get married with the permission of their Mahant or guru. The ceremony is performed in strict privacy inside a temple. A man sometimes signifies his choice of a spouse by putting his jholi or beggar's wallet upon hers; if she lets it remain there, the betrothal is complete. A woman may show her preference for a man by bringing a pair of garlands and placing one on his head and the other on that of the image of Krishna. The marriage is celebrated according to the custom of the Kunbis, but without feasting or music. Widows are permitted to marry again. Married women do not wear bangles nor toe-rings nor the customary necklace of beads; they put on no jewellery, and have no choli or bodice. The Bhope or Bhoall, the third division of the caste, are wholly secular and wear no distinctive dress, except sometimes a black head-cloth. They may engage in any occupation that pleases them, and sometimes act as servants in the temples of the caste. In Berar they are divided into thirteen bas or orders, named after the disciples of Arjun Bhat, who founded the various shrines. The Manbhaos are recruited by initiation of both men and women from any except the impure castes. Young children who have been vowed by their parents to a religious life or are left without relations, are taken into the order. Women usually join it either as children or late in life. The celibate members, male or female, live separately in companies like monks and nuns. They do not travel together, and hold services in their temples at different times. A woman admitted into the order is henceforward the disciple of the woman who initiated her by whispering the guru mantra or sacred verse into her ear. She addresses her preceptress as mother and the other women as sisters. The Manbhaos are intelligent and generally literate, and they lead a simple and pure life. They are respectable and are respected by the people, and a guru or spiritual teacher is often taken from them in place of a Brahman or Gosain. They often act as priests or gurus to the Mahars, for whom Brahmans will not perform these services. Their honesty and humility are proverbial among the Kunbis, and are in pleasing contrast to the character of many of the Hindu mendicant orders. They consider it essential that all their converts should be able to read the Bhagavat-Gita or a commentary on it, and for this purpose teach them to read and write during the rainy season when they are assembled at one of their monasteries.

3. Religious observances and customs

One of the leading tenets of the Manbhaos is a respect for all forms of animal and even vegetable life, much on a par with that of the Jains. They strain water through a cloth before drinking it, and then delicately wipe the cloth to preserve any insects that may be upon it. They should not drink water in, and hence cannot reside in, any village where animal sacrifices are offered to a deity. They will not cut down a tree nor break off a branch, or even a blade of grass, nor pluck a fruit or an ear of corn. Some, it is said, will not even bathe in tanks for fear of destroying insect-life. For this reason also they readily accept cooked food as alms, so that they may avoid the risk of the destruction of life involved in cooking. The Manbhaos dislike the din and noise of towns, and live generally in secluded places, coming into the towns only to beg. Except in the rains they wander about from place to place. They beg in the morning, and then return home and, after bathing and taking their food, read their religious books. They must always worship Krishna before taking food, and for this purpose when travelling they carry an image of the deity about with them. They will take food and water from the higher castes, but they must not do so from persons of low caste on pain of temporary excommunication. They neither smoke nor chew tobacco. Both men and women shave the head clean, and men also the face. This is first done on initiation by the village barber. But the sendhi or scalp-lock and moustaches of the novice must be cut off by his guru, this being the special mark of his renunciation of the world. The scalp-locks of the various candidates are preserved until a sufficient quantity of hair has been collected, when ropes are made of it, which they fasten round their loins. This may be because Hindus attach a special efficacy to the scalp-lock, perhaps as being the seat of a man's strength or power. The nuns also shave their heads, and generally eschew every kind of personal adornment. Both monks and nuns usually dress in black or ashen-grey clothes as a mark of humility, though some have discarded black in favour of the usual Hindu mendicant colour of red ochre. The black colour is in keeping with the complexion of Krishna, their chief god. They dye their cloths with lamp-black mixed with a little water and oil. They usually sleep on the ground, with the exception of those who are Mahants, and they sometimes have no metal vessels, but use bags made of strong cloth for holding food and water. Men's names have the suffix Boa, as Datto Boa, Kesho Boa, while those of boys end in da, as Manoda, Raojida, and those of women in Bai, as Gopa Bai, Som Bai. The dead are buried, not in the common burial-grounds, but in some waste place. The corpse is laid on its side, facing the east, with head to the north and feet to the south. A piece of silk or other valuable cloth is placed on it, on which salt is sprinkled, and the earth is then filled in and the ground levelled so as to leave no trace of the grave. No memorial is erected over a Manbhao tomb, and no mourning nor ceremony of purification is observed, nor are oblations offered to the spirits of the dead. If the dead man leaves any property, it is expended on feeding the brotherhood for ten days; and if not, the Mahant of his order usually does this in his name.

4. Hostility between Manbhaos and Brahmans

The Manbhaos are dissenters from orthodox Hinduism, and have thus naturally incurred the hostility of the Brahmans. Mr. Kitts remarks of them: [180] "The Brahmans hate the Manbhaos, who have not only thrown off the Brahmanical yoke themselves, but do much to oppose the influence of Brahmans among the agriculturists. The Brahmans represent them as descended from one Krishna Bhat, a Brahman who was outcasted for keeping a beautiful Mang woman as his mistress. His four sons were called the Mang-bhaos or Mang brothers." This is an excellent instance of the Brahman talent for pressing etymology into their service as an argument, in which respect they resemble the Jesuits. By asserting that the Manbhaos are descended from a Mang woman, one of the most despised castes, they attempt to dispose of these enemies of a Brahman hegemony without further ado.

Another story about their wearing black or ashen-coloured clothes related by Colonel Mackenzie is that Krishna Bhat's followers, refusing to believe the aspersions cast on their leader by the Brahmans, but knowing that some one among them had been guilty of the sin imputed to him, determined to decide the matter by the ordeal of fire. Having made a fire, they cast into it their own clothes and those of their guru, each man having previously written his name on his garments. The sacred fire made short work of all the clothes except those of Krishna Bhat, which it rejected and refused to burn, thereby forcing the unwilling disciples to believe that the finger of God pointed to their revered guru as the sinner. In spite of the shock of thus discovering that their idol had feet of very human clay, they still continued to regard Krishna Bhat's precepts as good and worthy of being followed, only stipulating that for all time Manbhaos should wear clothes the colour of ashes, in memory of the sacred fire which had disclosed to them their guru's sin.

Captain Mackintosh also relates that "About A.D. 1780, a Brahman named Anand Rishi, an inhabitant of Paithan on the Godavari, maltreated a Manbhao, who came to ask for alms at his door. This Manbhao, after being beaten, proceeded to his friends in the vicinity, and they collected a large number of brethren and went to the Brahman to demand satisfaction; Anand Rishi assembled a number of Gosains and his friends, and pursued and attacked the Manbhaos, who fled and asked Ahalya Bai, Rani of Indore, to protect them; she endeavoured to pacify Anand Rishi by telling him that the Manbhaos were her gurus; he said that they were Mangs, but declared that if they agreed to his proposals he would forgive them; one of them was that they were not to go to a Brahman's house to ask for alms, and another that if any Brahman repeated Anand Rishi's name and drew a line across the road when a Manbhao was advancing, the Manbhao, without saying a word, must return the road he came. Notwithstanding this attempt to prevent their approaching a Brahman's house, they continue to ask alms of the Brahmans, and some Brahmans make a point of supplying them with provisions."

This story endeavours to explain a superstition still observed by the caste. This is that when a Manbhao is proceeding along a road, if any one draws a line across the road with a stick in front of him the Manbhao will wait without passing the line until some one else comes up and crosses it before him. In reality this is probably a primitive superstition similar to that which makes a man stop when a snake has crossed the road in front of him and efface its track before proceeding. It is said that the members of the order also carry their sticks upside down, and a saying is repeated about them:

Manbhao hokar kale kapre darhi muchi mundhata hai, Ulti lakri hath men pakri woh kya Sahib milta hai;

or, "The Manbhao wears black clothes, shaves his face and holds his stick upside down, and thinks he will find God that way."

This saying is attributed to Kabir.


List of Paragraphs

1. Origin and traditions. 2. Subdivisions. 3. Marriage. 4. Widow-marriage. 5. Burial. 6. Occupation. 7. Religion and social status.

1. Origin and traditions

Mang. [181]—A low impure caste of the Maratha Districts, who act as village musicians and castrate bullocks, while their women serve as midwives. The Mangs are also sometimes known as Vajantri or musician. They numbered more than 90,000 persons in 1911, of whom 30,000 belonged to the Nagpur and Nerbudda Divisions of the Central Provinces, and 60,000 to Berar. The real origin of the Mangs is obscure, but they probably originated from the subject tribes and became a caste through the adoption of the menial services which constitute their profession. In a Maratha book called the Shudra Kamlakar [182], it is stated that the Mang was the offspring of the union of a Vaideh man and an Ambashtha woman. A Vaideh was the illegitimate child of a Vaishya father and a Brahman mother, and an Ambashtha of a Brahman father and a Vaishya mother. The business of the Mang was to play on the flute and to make known the wishes of the Raja to his subjects by beat of drum. He was to live in the forest or outside the village, and was not to enter it except with the Raja's permission. He was to remove the dead bodies of strangers, to hang criminals, and to take away and appropriate the clothes and bedding of the dead. The Mangs themselves relate the following legend of their origin as given by Mr. Sathe: Long ago before cattle were used for ploughing, there was so terrible a famine upon the earth that all the grain was eaten up, and there was none left for seed. Mahadeo took pity on the few men who were left alive, and gave them some grain for sowing. In those days men used to drag the plough through the earth themselves. But when a Kunbi, to whom Mahadeo had given some seed, went to try and sow it, he and his family were so emaciated by hunger that they were unable, in spite of their united efforts, to get the plough through the ground. In this pitiable case the Kunbi besought Mahadeo to give him some further assistance, and Mahadeo then appeared, and, bringing with him the bull Nandi, upon which he rode, told the Kunbi to yoke it to the plough. This was done, and so long as Mahadeo remained present, Nandi dragged the plough peaceably and successfully. But as soon as the god disappeared, the bull became restive and refused to work any longer. The Kunbi being helpless, again complained to Mahadeo, when the god appeared, and in his wrath at the conduct of the bull, great drops of perspiration stood upon his brow. One of these fell to the ground, and immediately a coal-black man sprang up and stood ready to do Mahadeo's bidding. He was ordered to bring the bull to reason, and he went and castrated it, after which it worked well and quietly; and since then the Kunbis have always used bullocks for ploughing, and the descendants of the man, who was the first Mang, are employed in the office for which he was created. It is further related that Nandi, the bull, cursed the Mang in his pain, saying that he and his descendants should never derive any profit from ploughing with cattle. And the Mangs say that to this day none of them prosper by taking to cultivation, and quote the following proverb: 'Keli kheti, Zhali mati,' or, 'If a Mang sows grain he will only reap dust.'

2. Subdivisions

The caste is divided into the following subcastes: Dakhne, Khandeshe and Berarya, or those belonging to the Deccan, Khandesh and Berar; Ghodke, those who tend horses; Dafle, tom-tom players; Uchle, pickpockets; Pindari, descendants of the old freebooters; Kakarkadhe, stone-diggers; Holer, hide-curers; and Garori. The Garoris [183] are a sept of vagrant snake-charmers and jugglers. Many are professional criminals.

3. Marriage

The caste is divided into exogamous family groups named after animals or other objects, or of a titular nature. One or two have the names of other castes. Members of the same group may not intermarry. Those who are well-to-do marry their daughters very young for the sake of social estimation, but there is no compulsion in this matter. In families which are particularly friendly, Mr. Sathe remarks, children may be betrothed before birth if the two mothers are with child together. Betel is distributed, and a definite contract is made, on the supposition that a boy and girl will be born. Sometimes the abdomen of each woman is marked with red vermilion. A grown-up girl should not be allowed to see her husband's face before marriage. The wedding is held at the bride's house, but if it is more convenient that it should be in the bridegroom's village, a temporary house is found for the bride's party, and the marriage-shed is built in front of it. The bride must wear a yellow bodice and cloth, yellow and red being generally considered among Hindus as the auspicious colours for weddings. When she leaves for her husband's house she puts on another or going-away dress, which should be as fine as the family can afford, and thereafter she may wear any colour except white. The distinguishing marks of a married woman are the mangal-sutram or holy thread, which her husband ties on her neck at marriage; the garsoli or string of black beads round the neck; the silver toe-rings and glass bangles. If any one of these is lost, it must be replaced at once, or she is likely soon to be a widow. The food served at the wedding-feast consists of rice and pulse, but more essential than these is an ample provision of liquor. It is a necessary feature of a Mang wedding that the bridegroom should go to it riding on a horse. The Mahars, another low caste of the Maratha Districts, worship the horse, and between them and the Mangs there exists a long-standing feud, so that they do not, if they can help it, drink of the same well. The sight of a Mang riding on a horse is thus gall and wormwood to the Mahars, who consider it a terrible degradation to the noble animal, and this fact inflaming their natural enmity, formerly led to riots between the castes. Under native rule the Mangs were public executioners, and it was said to be the proudest moment of Mang's life when he could perform his office on a Mahar.

The bride proceeds to her husband's house for a short visit immediately after the marriage, and then goes home again. Thereafter, till such time as she finally goes to live with him, she makes brief visits for festivals or on other social occasions, or to help her mother-in-law, if her assistance is required. If the mother-in-law is ill and requires somebody to wait on her, or if she is a shrew and wants some one to bully, or if she has strict ideas of discipline and wishes personally to conduct the bride's training for married life, she makes the girl come more frequently and stay longer.

4. Widow marriage

The remarriage of widows is permitted, and a widow may marry any one except persons of her own family group or her husband's elder brother, who stands to her in the light of a father. She is permitted, but not obliged, to marry her husband's younger brother, but if he has performed the dead man's obsequies, she may not marry him, as this act has placed him in the relation of a son to her deceased husband. More usually the widow marries some one in another village, because the remarriage is always held in some slight disrepute, and she prefers to be at a distance from her first husband's family. Divorce is said to be permitted only for persistent misconduct on the part of the wife.

5. Burial

The caste always bury the dead and observe mourning only for three days. On returning from a burial they all get drunk, and then go to the house of the deceased and chew the bitter leaves of the nim tree (Melia indica). These they then spit out of their mouths to indicate their complete severance from the dead man.

6. Occupation

The caste beat drums at village festivals, and castrate cattle, and they also make brooms and mats of date-palm and keep leeches for blood-letting. Some of them are village watchmen and their women act as midwives. As soon as a baby is born, the midwife blows into its mouth, ears and nose in order to clear them of any impediments. When a man is initiated by a guru or spiritual preceptor, the latter blows into his ear, and the Mangs therefore say that on account of this act of the midwife they are the gurus of all Hindus. During an eclipse the Mangs beg, because the demons Rahu and Ketu, who are believed to swallow the sun and moon on such occasions, were both Mangs, and devout Hindus give alms to their fellow-castemen in order to appease them. Those of them who are thieves are said not to steal from the persons of a woman, a bangle-seller, a Lingayat Mali or another Mang. [184] In Maratha villages they sometimes take the place of Chamars, and work in leather, and one writer says of them: "The Mang is a village menial in the Maratha villages, making all leather ropes, thongs and whips, which are used by the cultivators; he frequently acts as watchman; he is by profession a thief and executioner; he readily hires himself as an assassin, and when he commits a robbery he also frequently murders." In his menial capacity he receives presents at seed-time and harvest, and it is said that the Kunbi will never send the Mang empty away, because he represents the wrath of Mahadeo, being made from the god's sweat when he was angry.

7. Religion and social status

The caste especially venerate the goddess Devi. They apparently identify Devi with Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom, and they have a story to the effect that once Brahma wished to ravish his daughter Saraswati. She fled from him and went to all the gods, but none of them would protect her for fear of Brahma. At last in despair she came to a Mang's house, and the Mang stood in the door and kept off Brahma with a wooden club. In return for this Saraswati blessed him and said that he and his descendants should never lack for food. They also revere Mahadeo, and on every Monday they worship the cow, placing vermilion on her forehead and washing her feet. The cat is regarded as a sacred animal, and a Mang's most solemn oath is sworn on a cat. A house is defiled if a cat or a dog dies or a cat has kittens in it, and all the earthen pots must be broken. If a man accidentally kills a cat or a dog a heavy penance is exacted, and two feasts must be given to the caste. To kill an ass or a monkey is a sin only less heinous. A man is also put out of caste if kicked or beaten with a shoe by any one of another caste, even a Brahman, or if he is struck with the kathri or mattress made of rags which the villagers put on their sleeping-cots. Mr. Gayer remarks [185] that "The Mangs show great respect for the bamboo; and at a marriage the bridal couple are made to stand in a bamboo basket. They also reverence the nim tree, and the Mangs of Sholapur spread hariali [186] grass and nim leaves on the spot where one of their caste dies." The social status of the Mangs is of the lowest. They usually live in a separate quarter of the village and have a well for their own use. They may not enter temples. It is recorded that under native rule the Mahars and Mangs were not allowed within the gates of Poona between 3 P.M. and 9 A.M., because before nine and after three their bodies cast too long a shadow; and whenever their shadow fell upon a Brahman it polluted him, so that he dare not taste food or water until he had bathed and washed the impurity away. So also no low-caste man was allowed to live in a walled town; cattle and dogs could freely enter and remain but not the Mahar or Mang. [187] The caste will eat the flesh of pigs, rats, crocodiles and jackals and the leavings of others, and some of them will eat beef. Men may be distinguished by the senai flute which they carry and by a large ring of gold or brass worn in the lobe of the ear. A Mang's sign-manual is a representation of his bhall-singara or castration-knife. Women are tattooed before marriage, with dots on the forehead, nose, cheeks and chin, and with figures of a date-palm on the forearm, a scorpion on the palm of the hand, and flies on the fingers. The caste do not bear a good character, and it is said of a cruel man, 'Mang-Nirdayi,' or 'Hardhearted as a Mang.'


Mang-Garori.—This is a criminal subdivision of the Mang caste, residing principally in Berar. They were not separately recorded at the census. The name Garori appears to be a corruption of Garudi, and signifies a snake-charmer. [188] Garuda, the Brahminy kite, the bird on which Vishnu rides, was the great subduer of snakes, and hence probably snake-charmers are called Garudi. Some of the Mang-Garoris are snake-charmers, and this may have been the original occupation of the caste, though the bulk of them now appear to live by dealing in cattle and thieving. The following notice of them is abstracted from Major Gunthorpe's Notes on Criminal Tribes. [189] They usually travel about with small pals or tents, taking their wives, children, buffaloes and dogs with them. The men are well set up and tall. Their costume is something like that worn by professional gymnasts, consisting of light and short reddish-brown drawers (chaddi), a waistband with fringe at either end (katchhe), and a sheet thrown over the shoulders. The Naik or headman of the camp may be recognised by his wearing some red woollen cloth about his person or a red shawl over his shoulders. The women have short saris (body-cloths), usually of blue, and tied in the Telugu fashion. They are generally very violent when any attempt is made to search an encampment, especially if there is stolen property concealed in it. Instances have been known of their seizing their infants by the ankles and swinging them round their heads, declaring they would continue doing so till the children died, if the police did not leave the camp. Sometimes also the women of a gang have been known to throw off all their clothing and appear in a perfect state of nudity, declaring they would charge the police with violating their modesty. Men of this tribe are expert cattle-lifters, but confine themselves chiefly to buffaloes, which they steal while out grazing and very dexterously disguise by trimming the horns and firing, so as to avoid recognition by their rightful owners. To steal goats and sheep is also one of their favourite occupations, and they will either carry the animals off from their pens at night or kill them while out grazing, in the following manner: having marked a sheep or goat which is feeding farthest away from the flock, the thief awaits his opportunity till the shepherd's back is turned, when the animal is quickly captured. Placing his foot on the back of the neck near the head, and seizing it under the chin with his right hand, the thief breaks the animal's neck by a sudden jerk; he then throws the body into a bush or in some dip in the ground to hide it, and walks away, watching from a distance. The shepherd, ignorant of the loss of one of his animals, goes on leisurely driving his flock before him, and when he is well out of sight the Mang-Garori removes the captured carcase to his encampment. Great care is taken that the skin, horns and hoofs should be immediately burnt so as to avoid detection. Their ostensible occupation is to trade in barren half-starved buffaloes and buffalo calves, or in country ponies. They also purchase from Gaoli herdsmen barren buffaloes, which they profess to be able to make fertile; if successful they return them for double the purchase-money, but if not, having obtained if possible some earnest-money, they abscond and sell the animals at a distance. [190] Like the Bhamtas, the Mang-Garoris, Major Gunthorpe states, make it a rule not to give a girl in marriage until the intended husband has proved himself an efficient thief. Mr. Gayer [191] writes as follows of the caste: "I do not think Major Gunthorpe lays sufficient emphasis on the part taken by the women in crimes, for they apparently do by far the major part of the thieving, Sherring says the men never commit house-breaking and very seldom rob on the highway: he calls them 'wanderers, showmen, jugglers and conjurors,' and describes them as robbers who get their information by performing before the houses of rich bankers and others. Mang-Garori [192] women steal in markets and other places of public resort. They wait to see somebody put down his clothes or bag of rupees and watch till his attention is attracted elsewhere, when, walking up quietly between the article and its owner, they drop their petticoat either over or by it, and manage to transfer the stolen property into their basket while picking up the petticoat. If an unfavourable omen occurs on the way when the women set out to pilfer they place a stone on the ground and dash another on to it saying, 'If the obstacle is removed, break'; if the stone struck is broken, they consider that the obstacle portended by the unfavourable omen is removed from their path, and proceed on their way; but if not, they return. Stolen articles are often bartered at liquor-shops for drink, and the Kalars act as receivers of stolen property for the Mang-Garoris."

The following are some particulars taken from an old account of the criminal Mangs; [193] Their leader or headman was called the naik and was elected by a majority of votes, though considerable regard was paid to heredity. The naik's person and property were alike inviolable; after a successful foray each of the gang contributed a quarter of his share to the naik, and from the fund thus made up were defrayed the expenses of preparation, religious offerings and the triumphal feast. A pair of shoes were usually given to a Brahman and alms to the poor. To each band was attached an informer, who was also receiver of the stolen goods. These persons were usually bangle- or perfume-sellers or jewellers. In this capacity they were admitted into the women's apartments and so enabled to form a correct notion of the topography of a house and a shrewd guess as to the wealth of its inmates. Like all barbarous tribes and all persons addicted to criminal practices the Mangs were extremely superstitious. They never set out on an expedition on a Friday. After the birth of a child the mother and another woman stood on opposite sides of the cradle, and the former tossed her child to the other, commending it to the mercy of Jai Gopal, and waited to receive it back in like manner in the name of Jai Govind. Both Gopal and Govind are names of Krishna, The Mangs usually married young in life. If a girl happened to hang heavy on hand she was married at the age of puberty to the deity. In other words, she was attached as a prostitute to the temple of the god Khandoba or the goddess Yellama. Those belonging to the service of the latter were wont in the month of February to parade the streets in a state of utter nudity. When a bachelor wished to marry a widow he was first united to a swallow-wort plant, and this was immediately dug up and transplanted, and withering away left him at liberty to marry the widow. If a lady survived the sorrow caused by the death of two or three husbands she could not again enter the holy state unless she consented to be married with a fowl under her armpit; the unfortunate bird being afterwards killed to appease the manes of her former consorts.


Manihar. [194]—A small caste of pedlars and hawkers. In northern India the Manihars are makers of glass bangles, and correspond to the Kachera caste of the Central Provinces. Mr. Nesfield remarks [195] that the special industry of the Manihars of the United Provinces is the making of glass bangles or bracelets. These are an indispensable adjunct to the domestic life of the Hindu woman; for the glass bangle is not worn for personal ornament, but as the badge of the matrimonial state, like the wedding-ring in Europe. But in the Central Provinces glass bangles are made by the Kacheras and the Muhammadan Turkaris or Sisgars, and the Manihars are petty hawkers of stationery and articles for the toilet, such as miniature looking-glasses, boxes, stockings, needles and thread, spangles, and imitation jewellery; and Hindu Jogis and others who take to this occupation are accustomed to give their caste as Manihar. In 1911 nearly 700 persons belonging to the caste were returned from the northern Districts of the Central Provinces. The Manihars are nominally Muhammadans, but they retain many Hindu customs. At their weddings they erect a marriage-tent, anoint the couple with oil and turmeric and make them wear a kankan or wrist-band, to which is attached a small purse containing a little mustard-seed and a silver ring. The mustard is intended to scare away the evil spirits. When the marriage procession reaches the bride's village it is met by her people, one of whom holds a bamboo in his hands and bars the advance of the procession. The bridegroom's father thereupon makes a present of a rupee to the village panchayat, and his people are allowed to proceed. When the bridegroom reaches the bride's house he finds her younger sister carrying a kalas or pot of water on her head; he drops a rupee into it and enters the house. The bride's sister then comes holding above her head a small frame like a tazia [196] with a cocoanut core hanging inside. She raises the frame as high as she can to prevent the bridegroom from plucking out the cocoanut core, which, however, he succeeds in doing in the end. The girl applies powdered mehndi or henna to the little finger of the boy's right hand, in return for which she receives a rupee and a piece of cloth. The Kazi then recites verses from the Koran which the bridegroom repeats after him, and the bride does the same in her turn. This is the Nikah or marriage proper, and before it takes place the bridegroom's father must present a nose-ring to the bride. The parents also fix the Meher or dowry, which, however, is not a dowry proper, but a stipulation that if the bridegroom should put away his wife after marriage he will pay her a certain agreed sum. After the Nikah the bridegroom is given some spices, which he grinds on a slab with a roller. He must do the grinding very slowly and gently so as to make no noise, or it is believed that the married life of the couple will be broken by quarrels. A widow is permitted to marry the younger brother of her deceased husband, but not his elder brother. The caste bury their dead with the head to the north. The corpse is first bathed and wrapped in a new white sheet, with another sheet over it, and is then laid on a cot or in a janaza or coffin. While it is being carried to the cemetery the bearers are changed every few steps, so that every man who accompanies the funeral may carry the corpse for a short distance. When it is lowered into the grave the sheet is taken off and given to a Fakir or beggar. When the body is covered with earth the priest reads the funeral verses at a distance of forty steps from the grave. Feasts are given to the caste-fellows on the third, tenth, twentieth and fortieth days after the death. The Manihars observe the Shabrat festival by distributing to the caste-fellows halua or a mixture of melted butter and flour. The Shabrat is the middle night of the month Shaban, and Muhammad declared that on this night God registers the actions which every man will perform during the following year, and all those who are fated to die and the children who are to be born. Like Hindu widows the Manihar women break their bangles when their husband's corpse is removed to the burial-ground. The Manihars eat flesh, but not beef or pork; and they also abstain from alcoholic liquor. If a girl is seduced and made pregnant before marriage either by a man of the caste or an outsider, she remains in her father's house until her child has been born, and may then be married either to her paramour or any other man of the caste by the simple repetition of the Nikah or marriage verses, omitting all other ceremonies. The Manihars will admit into their community converted Hindus belonging even to the lowest castes.


Mannewar. [197]—A small tribe belonging to the south or Telugu-speaking portion of the Chanda District, where they mustered about 1600 persons in 1911. The home of the tribe is the Hyderabad State, where it numbers 22,000 persons, and the Mannewars are said to have once been dominant over a part of that territory. The name is derived from a Telugu word mannem, meaning forest, while war is the plural termination in Telugu, Mannewar thus signifying 'the people of the forest.' The tribe appear to be the inferior branch of the Koya Gonds, and they are commonly called Mannewar Koyas as opposed to the Koya Doras or the superior branch, Dora meaning 'lord' or master. The Koya Doras thus correspond to the Raj-Gonds of the north of the Province and the Mannewar Koyas to the Dhur or 'dust' Gonds. [198] The tribe is divided into three exogamous groups: the Nalugu Velpulu worshipping four gods, the Ayidu Velpulu worshipping five, and the Anu Velpulu six. A man must marry a woman of one of the divisions worshipping a different number of gods from his own, but the Mannewars do not appear to know the names of these gods, and consequently no veneration can be paid to them at present, and they survive solely for the purpose of regulating marriage. When a betrothal is made a day is fixed for taking an omen. In the early morning the boy who is to be married has his face washed and turmeric smeared on his feet, and is seated on a wooden seat inside the house. The elders of the village then proceed outside it towards the rising sun and watch for any omen given by an animal or bird crossing their path. If this is good the marriage is celebrated, and if bad the match is broken off. In the former case five of the elders take their food on returning from the search for the omen and immediately proceed to the bride's village. Here they are met by the Pesamuda or village priest, and stay for three days, when the amount of the dowry is settled and a date fixed for the wedding. The marriage ceremony resembles that of the low Telugu castes. The couple are seated on a plough-yoke, and coloured rice is thrown on to their heads, and the bridegroom ties the mangalya or bead necklace, which is the sign of marriage, round the neck of the bride. If a girl is deformed, or has some other drawback which prevents her from being sought in marriage, she is given away with her sister to a first cousin [199] or some other near relative, the two sisters being married to him together. A widow may marry any man of the tribe except her first husband's brothers. If a man takes a widow to his house without marrying her he is fined three rupees, while for adultery with a married woman the penalty is twenty rupees. A divorce can always be obtained, but if the husband demands it he is mulcted of twenty rupees by the caste committee, while a wife who seeks a divorce must pay ten rupees. The Mannewars make an offering of a fowl and some liquor to the ploughshare on the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi. After the picking of the flowers of the mahua [200] they worship that tree, offering to it some of the liquor distilled from the new flowers, with a fowl and a goat. This is known as the Burri festival. At the Holi feast the Mannewars make two human figures to represent Kami and Rati, or the god of love and his wife. The male figure is then thrown on to the Holi fire with a live chicken or an egg. This may be a reminiscence of a former human sacrifice, which was a common custom in many parts of the world at the spring festival. The caste usually bury the dead, but are beginning to adopt cremation. They do not employ Brahmans for their ceremonies and eat all kinds of food, including the flesh of pigs, fowls and crocodiles, but in view of their having nominally adopted Hinduism, they abstain from beef.


List of Paragraphs

1. Numerical statistics. 2. Double meaning of the term Maratha. 3. Origin and position of the caste. 4. Exogamous clans. 5. Other subdivisions. 6. Social customs. 7. Religion. 8. Present position of the caste. 9. Nature of the Maratha insurrection. 10. Maratha women in past times. 11. The Maratha horseman. 12. Cavalry in the field. 13. Military administration. 14. Sitting Dharna. 15. The infantry. 16. Character of the Maratha armies.

1. Numerical statistics

Maratha, Mahratta.—The military caste of southern India which manned the armies of Sivaji, and of the Peshwa and other princes of the Maratha confederacy. In the Central Provinces the Marathas numbered 34,000 persons in 1911, of whom Nagpur contained 9000 and Wardha 8000, while the remainder were distributed over Raipur, Hoshangabad and Nimar. In Berar their strength was 60,000 persons, the total for the combined province being thus 94,000. The caste is found in large numbers in Bombay and Hyderabad, and in 1901 the India Census tables show a total of not less than five million persons belonging to it.

2. Double meaning of the term Maratha

It is difficult to avoid confusion in the use of the term Maratha, which signifies both an inhabitant of the area in which the Marathi language is spoken, and a member of the caste to which the general name has in view of their historical importance been specifically applied. The native name for the Marathi-speaking country is Maharashtra, which has been variously interpreted as 'The great country' or 'The country of the Mahars.' [201] A third explanation of the name is from the Rashtrakuta dynasty which was dominant in this area for some centuries after A.D. 750. The name Rashtrakuta was contracted into Rattha, and with the prefix of Maha or Great might evolve into the term Maratha. The Rashtrakutas have been conjecturally identified with the Rathor Rajputs. The Nasik Gazetteer [202] states that in 246 B.C. Maharatta is mentioned as one of the places to which Asoka sent an embassy, and Maharashtraka is recorded in a Chalukyan inscription of A.D. 580 as including three provinces and 99,000 villages. Several other references are given in Sir J. Campbell's erudite note, and the name is therefore without doubt ancient. But the Marathas as a people do not seem to be mentioned before the thirteenth or fourteenth century. [203] The antiquity of the name would appear to militate against the derivation from the Rashtrakuta dynasty, which did not become prominent till much later, and the most probable meaning of Maharashtra would therefore seem to be 'The country of the Mahars.' Maharatta and Maratha are presumably derivatives from Maharashtra.

3. Origin and position of the caste

The Marathas are a caste formed from military service, and it seems probable that they sprang mainly from the peasant population of Kunbis, though at what period they were formed into a separate caste has not yet been determined. Grant-Duff mentions several of their leading families as holding offices under the Muhammadan rulers of Bijapur and Ahmadnagar in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, as the Nimbhalkar, Gharpure and Bhonsla; [204] and presumably their clansmen served in the armies of those states. But whether or no the designation of Maratha had been previously used by them, it first became prominent during the period of Sivaji's guerilla warfare against Aurangzeb. The Marathas claim a Rajput origin, and several of their clans have the names of Rajput tribes, as Chauhan, Panwar, Solanki and Suryavansi. In 1836 Mr. Enthoven states, [205] the Sesodia Rana of Udaipur, the head of the purest Rajput house, was satisfied from inquiries conducted by an agent that the Bhonslas and certain other families had a right to be recognised as Rajputs. Colonel Tod states that Sivaji was descended from a Rajput prince Sujunsi, who was expelled from Mewar to avoid a dispute about the succession about A.D. 1300. Sivaji is shown as 13th in descent from Sujunsi. Similarly the Bhonslas of Nagpur were said to derive their origin from one Bunbir, who was expelled from Udaipur about 1541, having attempted to usurp the kingdom. [206] As Rajput dynasties ruled in the Deccan for some centuries before the Muhammadan conquest, it seems reasonable to suppose that a Rajput aristocracy may have taken root there. This was Colonel Tod's opinion, who wrote: "These kingdoms of the south as well as the north were held by Rajput sovereigns, whose offspring, blending with the original population, produced that mixed race of Marathas inheriting with the names the warlike propensities of their ancestors, but who assume the names of their abodes as titles, as the Nimalkars, the Phalkias, the Patunkars, instead of their tribes of Jadon, Tuear, Puear, etc." [207] This statement would, however, apply only to the leading houses and not to the bulk of the Maratha caste, who appear to be mainly derived from the Kunbis. In Sholapur the Marathas and Kunbis eat together, and the Kunbis are said to be bastard Marathas. [208] In Satara the Kunbis have the same division into 96 clans as the Marathas have, and many of the same surnames. [209] The writer of the Satara Gazetteer says: [210] "The census of 1851 included the Marathas with the Kunbis, from whom they do not form a separate caste. Some Maratha families may have a larger strain of northern or Rajput blood than the Kunbis, but this is not always the case. The distinction between Kunbis and Marathas is almost entirely social, the Marathas as a rule being better off, and preferring even service as a constable or messenger to husbandry." Exactly the same state of affairs prevails in the Central Provinces and Berar, where the body of the caste are commonly known as Maratha Kunbis. In Bombay the Marathas will take daughters from the Kunbis in marriage for their sons, though they will not give their daughters in return. But a Kunbi who has got on in the world and become wealthy may by sufficient payment get his sons married into Maratha families, and even be adopted as a member of the caste. [211] In 1798 Colonel Tone, who commanded a regiment of the Peshwa's army, wrote [212] of the Marathas: "The three great tribes which compose the Maratha caste are the Kunbi or farmer, the Dhangar or shepherd, and the Goala or cowherd; to this original cause may perhaps be ascribed that great simplicity of manner which distinguishes the Maratha people."

It seems then most probable that, as already stated, the Maratha caste was of purely military origin, constituted from the various castes of Maharashtra who adopted military service, though some of the leading families may have had Rajputs for their ancestors. Sir D. Ibbetson thought that a similar relation existed in past times between the Rajputs and Jats, the landed aristocracy of the Jat caste being gradually admitted to Rajput rank. The Khandaits or swordsmen of Orissa are a caste formed in the same manner from military service. In the Imperial Gazetteer Sir H. Risley suggests that the Maratha people were of Scythian origin:

"The physical type of the people of this region accords fairly well with this theory, while the arguments derived from language and religion do not seem to conflict with it.... On this view the wide-ranging forays of the Marathas, their guerilla methods of warfare, their unscrupulous dealings with friend and foe, their genius for intrigue and their consequent failure to build up an enduring dominion, might well be regarded as inherited from their Scythian ancestors."

4. Exogamous clans

In the Central Provinces the Marathas are divided into 96 exogamous clans, known as the Chhanava Kule, which marry with one another. During the period when the Bhonsla family were rulers of Nagpur they constituted a sort of inner circle, consisting of seven of the leading clans, with whom alone they intermarried; these are known as the Satghare or Seven Houses, and consist of the Bhonsla, Gujar, Ahirrao, Mahadik, Sirke, Palke and Mohte clans. These houses at one time formed an endogamous group, marrying only among themselves, but recently the restriction has been relaxed, and they have arranged marriages with other Maratha families. It may be noted that the present representatives of the Bhonsla family are of the Gujar clan to which the last Raja of Nagpur, Raghuji III., belonged prior to his adoption. Several of the clans, as already noted, have Rajput sept names; and some are considered to be derived from those of former ruling dynasties; as Chalke, from the Chalukya Rajput kings of the Deccan and Carnatic; More, who may represent a branch of the great Maurya dynasty of northern India; Salunke, perhaps derived from the Solanki kings of Gujarat; and Yadav, the name of the kings of Deogiri or Daulatabad. [213] Others appear to be named after animals or natural objects, as Sinde from sindi the date-palm tree, Ghorpade from ghorpad the iguana; or to be of a titular nature, as Kale black, Pandhre white, Bhagore a renegade, Jagthap renowned, and so on. The More, Nimbhalkar, Ghatge, Mane, Ghorpade, Dafle, Jadav and Bhonsla clans are the oldest, and held prominent positions in the old Muhammadan kingdoms of Bijapur and Ahmadnagar. The Nimbhalkar family were formerly Panwar Rajputs, and took the name of Nimbhalkar from their ancestral village Nimbalik. The Ghorpade family are an offshoot of the Bhonslas, and obtained their present name from the exploit of one of their ancestors, who scaled a fort in the Konkan, previously deemed impregnable, by passing a cord round the body of a ghorpad or iguana. [214] A noticeable trait of these Maratha houses is the fondness with which they clung to the small estates or villages in the Deccan in which they had originally held the office of a patel or village headman as a watan or hereditary right, even after they had carved out for themselves principalities and states in other parts of India. The present Bhonsla Raja takes his title from the village of Deor in the Poona country. In former times we read of the Raja of Satara clinging to the watans he had inherited from Sivaji after he had lost his crown in all but the name; Sindhia was always termed patel or village headman in the revenue accounts of the villages he acquired in Nimar; while it is said that Holkar and the Panwar of Dhar fought desperately after the British conquest to recover the pateli rights of Deccan villages which had belonged to their ancestors. [215]

5. Other subdivisions

Besides the 96 clans there are now in the Central Provinces some local subcastes who occupy a lower position and do not intermarry with the Marathas proper. Among these are the Deshkar or 'Residents of the country'; the Waindesha or those of Berar and Khandesh; the Gangthade or those dwelling on the banks of the Godavari and Wainganga; and the Ghatmathe or residents of the Mahadeo plateau in Berar. It is also stated that the Marathas are divided into the Khasi or 'pure' and the Kharchi or the descendants of handmaids. In Bombay the latter are known as the Akarmashes or 11 mashas, meaning that as twelve mashas make a tola, a twelfth part of them is alloy.

6. Social customs

A man must not marry in his own clan or that of his mother. A sister's son may be married to a brother's daughter, but not vice versa. Girls are commonly married between five and twelve years of age, and the ceremony resembles that of the Kunbis. The bridegroom goes to the bride's house riding on horseback and covered with a black blanket When a girl first becomes mature, usually after marriage, the Marathas perform the Shantik ceremony. The girl is secluded for four days, after which she is bathed and puts on new clothes and dresses her hair and a feast is given to the caste-fellows. Sometimes the bridegroom comes and is asked whether he has visited his wife before she became mature, and if he confesses that he has done so a small fine is imposed on him. Such cases are, however, believed to be rare. The Marathas proper forbid widow-marriage, but the lower groups allow it. If a maiden is seduced by one of the caste she may be married to him as if she were a widow, a fine being imposed on her family; but if she goes wrong with an outsider she is finally expelled. Divorce is not ostensibly allowed but may be concluded by agreement between the parties. A wife who commits adultery is cast off and expelled from the caste. The caste burn their dead when they can afford it and perform the shraddh ceremony in the month of Kunwar (September), when oblations are offered to the dead and a feast is given to the caste-fellows. Sometimes a tomb is erected as a memorial to the dead, but without his name, and is surmounted usually by an image of Mahadeo. The caste eat the flesh of clean animals and of fowls and wild pig, and drink liquor. Their rules about food are liberal like those of the Rajputs, a too great stringency being no doubt in both cases incompatible with the exigencies of military service. They make no difference between food cooked with or without water, and will accept either from a Brahman, Rajput, Tirole Kunbi, Lingayat Bania or Phulmali.

The Marathas proper observe the parda system with regard to their women, and will go to the well and draw water themselves rather than permit their wives to do so. The women wear ornaments only of gold or glass and not of silver or any baser metal. They are not permitted to spin cotton as being an occupation of the lower classes. The women are tattooed in the centre of the forehead with a device resembling a trident. The men commonly wear a turban made of many folds of cloth twisted into a narrow rope and large gold rings with pearls in the upper part of the ear. Like the Rajputs they often have their hair long and wear beards and whiskers. They assume the sacred thread and invest a boy with it when he is seven or eight years old or on his marriage. Till then they let the hair grow on the front of his head, and when the thread ceremony is performed they cut this off and let the choti or scalp-lock grow at the back. In appearance the men are often tall and well-built and of a light wheat-coloured complexion.

7. Religion

The principal deity of the Marathas is Khandoba, a warrior incarnation of Mahadeo. He is supposed to have been born in a field of millet near Poona and to have led the people against the Muhammadans in early times. He had a watch-dog who warned him of the approach of his enemies, and he is named after the khanda or sword which he always carried. In Bombay [216] he is represented on horseback with two women, one of the Bania caste, his wedded wife, in front of him, and another, a Dhangarin, his kept mistress, behind. He is considered the tutelary deity of the Maratha country, and his symbol is a bag of turmeric powder known as bhandar. The caste worship Khandoba on Sundays with rice, flowers and incense, and also on the 21st day of Magh (January), which is called Champa Sashthi and is his special festival. On this day they will catch hold of any dog, and after adorning him with flowers and turmeric give him a good feed and let him go again. The Marathas are generally kind to dogs and will not injure them. At the Dasahra festival the caste worship their horses and swords and go out into the field to see a blue-jay in memory of the fact that the Maratha marauding expeditions started on Dasahra. On coming back they distribute to each other leaves of the shami tree (Bauhinia racemosa) as a substitute for gold. It was formerly held to be fitting among the Hindus that the warrior should ride a horse (geldings being unknown) and the zamindar or landowner a mare, as more suitable to a man of peace. The warriors celebrated their Dasahra, and worshipped their horses on the tenth day of the light fortnight of Kunwar (September), while the cultivators held their festival and worshipped their mares on the ninth day. It is recorded that the great Raghuji Bhonsla, the first Raja of Nagpur, held his Dasahra on the ninth day, in order to proclaim the fact that he was by family an agriculturist and only incidentally a man of arms. [217]

8. Present position of the caste

The Marathas present the somewhat melancholy spectacle of an impoverished aristocratic class attempting to maintain some semblance of their former position, though they no longer have the means to do so. They flourished during two or three centuries of almost continuous war, and became a wealthy and powerful caste, but they find a difficulty in turning their hands to the arts of peace. Sir R. Craddock writes of them in Nagpur:

"Among the Marathas a large number represent connections of the Bhonsla family, related by marriage or by illegitimate descent to that house. A considerable proportion of the Government political pensioners are Marathas. Many of them own villages or hold tenant land, but as a rule they are extravagant in their living; and several of the old Maratha nobility have fallen very much in the world. Pensions diminish with each generation, but the expenditure shows no corresponding decrease. The sons are brought up to no employment and the daughters are married with lavish pomp and show. The native army does not much attract them, and but few are educated well enough for the dignified posts in the civil employ of Government. It is a question whether their pride of race will give way before the necessity of earning their livelihood soon enough for them to maintain or regain some of their former position. Otherwise those with the largest landed estates may be saved by the intervention of Government, but the rest must gradually deteriorate till the dignities of their class have become a mere memory. The humbler members of the caste find their employment as petty contractors or traders, private servants, Government peons, sowars and hangers-on in the retinue of the more important families.

"What [218] little display his means afford a Maratha still tries to maintain. Though he may be clad in rags at home, he has a spare dress which he himself washes and keeps with great care and puts on when he goes to pay a visit. He will hire a boy to attend him with a lantern at night, or to take care of his shoes when he goes to a friend's house and hold them before him when he comes out. Well-to-do Marathas have usually in their service a Brahman clerk known as divanji or minister, who often takes advantage of his master's want of education to defraud him. A Maratha seldom rises early or goes out in the morning. He will get up at seven or eight o'clock, a late hour for a Hindu, and attend to business if he has any or simply idle about chewing or smoking tobacco and talking till ten o'clock. He will then bathe and dress in a freshly-washed cloth and bow before the family gods which the priest has already worshipped. He will dine, chew betel and smoke tobacco and enjoy a short midday rest. Rising at three, he will play cards, dice or chess, and in the evening will go out walking or riding or pay a visit to a friend. He will come back at eight or nine and go to bed at ten or eleven. But Marathas who have estates to manage lead regular, fairly busy lives."

9. Nature of the Maratha insurrection

Sir D. Ibbetson drew attention to the fact that the rising of the Marathas against the Muhammadans was almost the only instance in Indian history of what might correctly be called a really national movement. In other cases, as that of the Sikhs, though the essential motive was perhaps of the same nature, it was obscured by the fact that its ostensible tendency was religious. The gurus of the Sikhs did not call on their followers to fight for their country but for a new religion. This was only in accordance with the Hindu intellect, to which the idea of nationality has hitherto been foreign, while its protests against both alien and domestic tyrannies tend to take the shape of a religious revolt. A similar tendency is observable even in the case of the Marathas, for the rising was from its inception largely engineered by the Maratha Brahmans, who on its success hastened to annex for themselves a leading position in the new Poona state. And it has been recorded that in calling his countrymen to arms, Sivaji did not ask them to defend their hearths and homes or wives and children, but to rally for the protection of the sacred persons of Brahmans and cows.

10. Maratha women in past times

Although the Marathas have now in imitation of the Rajputs and Muhammadans adopted the parda system, this is not a native custom, and women have played quite an important part in their history. The women of the household have also exercised a considerable influence and their opinions are treated with respect by the men. Several instances occur in which women of high rank have successfully acted as governors and administrators. In the Bhonsla family the Princess Baka Bai, widow of Raghuji II., is a conspicuous instance, while the famous or notorious Rani of Jhansi is another case of a Maratha lady who led her troops in person, and was called the best man on the native side in the Mutiny.

11. The Maratha horseman

This article may conclude with one or two extracts to give an idea of the way in which the Maratha soldiery took the field. Grant Duff describes the troopers as follows:

"The Maratha horsemen are commonly dressed in a pair of light breeches covering the knee, a turban which many of them fasten by passing a fold of it under the chin, a frock of quilted cotton, and a cloth round the waist, with which they generally gird on their swords in preference to securing them with their belts. The horseman is armed with a sword and shield; a proportion in each body carry matchlocks, but the great national weapon is the spear, in the use of which and the management of their horse they evince both grace and dexterity. The spearmen have generally a sword, and sometimes a shield; but the latter is unwieldy and only carried in case the spear should be broken. The trained spearmen may always be known by their riding very long, the ball of the toe touching the stirrup; some of the matchlockmen and most of the Brahmans ride very short and ungracefully. The bridle consists of a single headstall of cotton-rope, with a small but very severe flexible bit"

12. Cavalry in the field

The following account of the Maratha cavalry is given in General Hislop's Summary of the Maratha and Pindari Campaigns of 1817-1819:

"The Marathas possess extraordinary skill in horsemanship, and so intimate an acquaintance with their horses, that they can make their animals do anything, even in full speed, in halting, wheeling, etc.; they likewise use the spear with remarkable dexterity, sometimes in full gallop, grasping their spears short and quickly sticking the point in the ground; still holding the handles, they turn their horse suddenly round it, thus performing on the point of a spear as on a pivot the same circle round and round again. Their horses likewise never leave the particular class or body to which they belong; so that if the rider should be knocked off, away gallops the animal after its fellows, never separating itself from the main body. Every Maratha brings his own horse and his own arms with him to the field, and possibly in the interest they possess in this private equipment we shall find their usual shyness to expose themselves or even to make a bold vigorous attack. But if armies or troops could be frightened by appearances these horses of the Marathas would dishearten the bravest, actually darkening the plains with their numbers and clouding the horizon with dust for miles and miles around. A little fighting, however, goes a great way with them, as with most others of the native powers in India."

On this account the Marathas were called razah-bazan or lance-wielders. One Muhammadan historian says: "They so use the lance that no cavalry can cope with them. Some 20,000 or 30,000 lances are held up against their enemy so close together as not to leave a span between their heads. If horsemen try to ride them down the points of the spears are levelled at the assailants and they are unhorsed. While cavalry are charging them they strike their lances against each other and the noise so frightens the horses of the enemy that they turn round and bolt." [219] The battle-cries of the Marathas were, 'Har, Har Mahadeo,' and 'Gopal, Gopal.' [220]

13. Military administration

An interesting description of the internal administration of the Maratha cavalry is contained in the letter on the Marathas by Colonel Tone already quoted. But his account must refer to a period of declining efficiency and cannot represent the military system at its best:

"In the great scale of rank and eminence which is one peculiar feature of Hindu institutions the Maratha holds a very inferior situation, being just removed one degree above those castes which are considered absolutely unclean. He is happily free from the rigorous observances as regards food which fetter the actions of the higher castes. He can eat of all kinds of food with the exception of beef; can dress his meal at all times and seasons; can partake of all victuals dressed by any caste superior to his own; washing and praying are not indispensable in his order and may be practised or omitted at pleasure. The three great tribes which compose the Maratha caste are the Kunbi or farmer, the Dhangar or shepherd and the Goala or cowherd; to this original cause may perhaps be ascribed that great simplicity of manner which distinguishes the Maratha people. Homer mentions princesses going in person to the fountain to wash their household linen. I can affirm having seen the daughters of a prince who was able to bring an army into the field much larger than the whole Greek confederacy, making bread with their own hands and otherwise employed in the ordinary business of domestic housewifery. I have seen one of the most powerful chiefs of the Empire, after a day of action, assisting in kindling a fire to keep himself warm during the night, and sitting on the ground on a spread saddle-cloth dictating to his secretaries.

"The chief military force of the Marathas consists in their cavalry, which may be divided into four distinct classes: First the Khasi Pagah or household forces of the prince; these are always a fine well-appointed body, the horses excellent, being the property of the Sirkar, who gives a monthly allowance to each trooper of the value of about eight rupees. The second class are the cavalry furnished by the Silladars, [221] who contract to supply a certain number of horse on specified terms, generally about Rs. 35 a month, including the trooper's pay. The third and most numerous description are volunteers, who join the camp bringing with them their own horse and accoutrements; their pay is generally from Rs. 40 to Rs. 50 a month in proportion to the value of their horse. There is a fourth kind of native cavalry called Pindaris, who are mere marauders, serve without any pay and subsist but by plunder, a fourth part of which they give to the Sirkar; but these are so very licentious a body that they are not employed but in one or two of the Maratha services.

"The troops collected in this manner are under no discipline whatever and engage for no specific period, but quit the army whenever they please; with the exception of furnishing a picquet while in camp, they do no duty but in the day of battle.

"The Maratha cavalry is always irregularly and badly paid; the household troops scarcely ever receive money, but are furnished with a daily allowance of coarse flour and some other ingredients from the bazar which just enable them to exist. The Silladar is very nearly as badly situated. In his arrangements with the State he has allotted to him a certain proportion of jungle where he pastures his cattle; here he and his family reside, and his sole occupation when not on actual service is increasing his Pagah or troop by breeding out of his mares, of which the Maratha cavalry almost entirely consist. There are no people in the world who understand the method of rearing and multiplying the breed of cattle equal to the Marathas. It is by no means uncommon for a Silladar to enter a service with one mare and in a few years be able to muster a very respectable Pagah. They have many methods of rendering the animal prolific; they back their colts much earlier than we do and they are consequently more valuable as they come sooner on the effective strength.

"When called upon for actual service the Silladar is obliged to give muster. Upon this occasion it is always necessary that the Brahman who takes it should have a bribe; and indeed the Hazri, as the muster is termed, is of such a nature that it could not pass by any fair or honourable means. Not only any despicable tattus are substituted in the place of horses but animals are borrowed to fill up the complement. Heel-ropes and grain-bags are produced as belonging to cattle supposed to be at grass; in short every mode is practised to impose on the Sirkar, which in turn reimburses itself by irregular and bad payments; for it is always considered if the Silladars receive six months' arrears out of the year that they are exceedingly well paid. The Volunteers who join the camp are still worse situated, as they have no collective force, and money is very seldom given in a Maratha State without being extorted. In one word, the native cavalry are the worst-paid body of troops in the world. But there is another grand error in this mode of raising troops which is productive of the worst effects. Every man in a Maratha camp is totally independent; he is the proprietor of the horse he rides, which he is never inclined to risk, since without it he can get no service. This single circumstance destroys all enterprise and spirit in the soldier, whose sole business, instead of being desirous of distinguishing himself, is to keep out of the way of danger; for notwithstanding every horseman on entering a service has a certain value put upon his horse, yet should he lose it even in action he never receives any compensation or at least none proportioned to his loss. If at any time a Silladar is disgusted with the service he can go away without meeting any molestation even though in the face of an enemy. In fact the pay is in general so shamefully irregular that a man is justified in resorting to any measure, however apparently unbecoming, to attain it. It is also another very curious circumstance attending this service that many great Silladars have troops in the pay of two or three chiefs at the same time, who are frequently at open war with each other.

14. Sitting Dharna

"To recover an arrear of pay there is but one known mode which is universally adopted in all native services, the Mughal as well as the Maratha; this is called Dharna, [222] which consists in putting the debtor, be he who he will, into a state of restraint or imprisonment, until satisfaction be given or the money actually obtained. Any person in the Sirkar's service has a right to demand his pay of the Prince or his minister, and to sit in Dharna if it be not given; nor will he meet with the least hindrance in doing so; for none would obey an order that interfered with the Dharna, as it is a common cause; nor does the soldier incur the slightest charge of mutiny for his conduct, or suffer in the smallest manner in the opinion of his Chief, so universal is the custom. The Dharna is sometimes carried to very violent lengths and may either be executed on the Prince or his minister indifferently, with the same effect; as the Chief always makes it a point of honour not to eat or drink while his Diwan is in duress; sometimes the Dharna lasts for many days, during which time the party upon whom it is exercised is not suffered to eat or drink or wash or pray, or in short is not permitted to move from the spot where he sits, which is frequently bare-headed in the sun, until the money or security be given; so general is this mode of recovery that I suppose the Maratha Chiefs may be said to be nearly one-half of their time in a state of Dharna.

15. The infantry

"In the various Maratha services there are very little more than a bare majority who are Marathas by caste, and very few instances occur of their ever entering into the infantry at all. The sepoys in the pay of the different princes are recruited in Hindustan, and principally of the Rajput and Purbia caste; these are perhaps the finest race of men in the world for figure and appearance; of lofty stature, strong, graceful and athletic; of acute feelings, high military pride, quick, apprehensive, brave, prudent and economic; at the same time it must be confessed they are impatient of discipline, and naturally inclined to mutiny. They are mere soldiers of fortune and serve only for their pay. There are also a great number of Musalmans who serve in the different Maratha armies, some of whom have very great commands.

16. Character of the Maratha armies

"The Maratha cavalry at times make very long and rapid marches, in which they do not suffer themselves to be interrupted by the monsoon or any violence of weather. In very pressing exigencies it is incredible the fatigue a Maratha horseman will endure; frequently many days pass without his enjoying one regular meal, but he depends entirely for subsistence on the different corn-fields through which the army passes: a few heads of juari, which he chafes in his hands while on horseback, will serve him for the day; his horse subsists on the same fare, and with the addition of opium, which the Marathas frequently administer to their cattle, is enabled to perform incredible marches."

The above analysis of the Maratha troops indicates that their real character was that of freebooting cavalry, largely of the same type as, though no doubt greatly superior in tone and discipline to the Pindaris. Like them they lived by plundering the country. "The Marathas," Elphinstone remarked, "are excellent foragers. Every morning at daybreak long lines of men on small horses and ponies are seen issuing from their camps in all directions, who return before night loaded with fodder for the cattle, with firewood torn down from houses, and grain dug up from the pits where it had been concealed by the villagers; while other detachments go to a distance for some days and collect proportionately larger supplies of the same kind." [223] They could thus dispense with a commissariat, and being nearly all mounted were able to make extraordinarily long marches, and consequently to carry out effectively surprise attacks and when repulsed to escape injury in the retreat. Even at Panipat where their largest regular force took the field under Sadasheo Rao Bhao, he had 70,000 regular and irregular cavalry and only 15,000 infantry, of whom 9000 were hired sepoys under a Muhammadan leader. The Marathas were at their best in attacking the slow-moving and effeminate Mughal armies, while during their period of national ascendancy under the Peshwa there was no strong military power in India which could oppose their forays. When they were by the skill of their opponents at length brought to a set battle, their fighting qualities usually proved to be distinctly poor. At Panipat they lost the day by a sudden panic and flight after Ibrahim Khan Gardi had obtained for them a decided advantage; while at Argaon and Assaye their performances were contemptible. After the recovery from Panipat and the rise of the independent Maratha states, the assistance of European officers was invoked to discipline and train the soldiery. [224]


[Bibliography: Mr. R. Greeven's Knights of the Broom, Benares 1894 (pamphlet); Mr. Crooke's Tribes and Castes, art. Bhangi; Sir H. Risley's Tribes and Castes, art. Hari; Sir E. Maclagan's Punjab Census Report, 1891 (Sweeper Sects); Sir D. Ibbetson's Punjab Census Report, 1881 (art. Chuhra); Bombay Gazetteer, Hindus of Gujarat, Mr. Bhimbhai Kirparam.]

List of Paragraphs

1. Introductory notice. 2. Caste subdivisions. 3. Social organisation. 4. Caste punishments. 5. Admission of outsiders. 6. Marriage customs. 7. Disposal of the dead. 8. Devices for procuring children. 9. Divination of sex. 10. Childbirth. 11. Treatment of the mother. 12. Protecting the lives of children. 13. Infantile diseases. 14. Religion. Valmiki. 15. Lalbeg. 16. Adoption of foreign religions. 17. Social status. 18. Occupation. 19. Occupation (continued).

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