The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India - Volume IV of IV - Kumhar-Yemkala
by R.V. Russell
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10. Worship of the spirits of those dying a violent death

When a man has been killed by a tiger (bagh) he is deified and worshipped as Bagh Deo. A hut is made in the yard of the house, and an image of a tiger is placed inside and worshipped on the anniversary of the man's death. The members of the household will not afterwards kill a tiger, as they think the animal has become a member of the family. A man who is bitten by a cobra (nag) and dies is similarly worshipped as Nag Deo. The image of a snake made of silver or iron is venerated, and the family will not kill a snake. If a man is killed by some other animal, or by drowning or a fall from a tree, his spirit is worshipped as Ban Deo or the forest god with similar rites, being represented by a little lump of rice and red lead. In all these cases it is supposed, as pointed out by Sir James Frazer, that the ghost of the man who has come to such an untimely end is especially malignant, and will bring trouble upon the survivors unless appeased with sacrifices and offerings. A good instance of the same belief is given by him in Psyche's Task [399] as found among the Karens of Burma: "They put red, yellow and white rice in a basket and leave it in the forest, saying: Ghosts of such as died by falling from a tree, ghosts of such as died of hunger or thirst, ghosts of such as died by the tiger's tooth or the serpent's fang, ghosts of the murdered dead, ghosts of such as died by smallpox or cholera, ghosts of dead lepers, oh ill-treat us not, seize not upon our persons, do us no harm! Oh stay here in this wood! We will bring hither red rice, yellow rice, and white rice for your subsistence."

That the same superstition is generally prevalent in the Central Provinces appears to be shown by the fact that among castes who practise cremation, the bodies of men who come to a violent end or die of smallpox or leprosy are buried, though whether burial is considered as more likely to prevent the ghost from walking than cremation, is not clear. Possibly, however, it may be considered that the bodies are too impure to be committed to the sacred fire.

11. Funeral rites

Cremation of the dead is the rule, but the bodies of those who have not died a natural death are buried, as also of persons who are believed to have been possessed of the goddess Devi in their lifetime. The bodies of small children are buried when the Khir Chatai ceremony has not been performed. This takes place when a child is about two years old: he is invited to the house of some member of the same section on the Diwali day and given to eat some Khir or a mess of new rice with milk and sugar, and thus apparently is held to become a proper member of the caste, as boys do in other castes on having their ears pierced. When a corpse is to be burnt a heap of cowdung cakes is made, on which it is laid, while others are spread over it, together with butter, sugar and linseed. The fire with which the pyre is kindled is carried by the son or other chief mourner in an earthen pot at the head of the corpse. After the cremation the ashes of the body are thrown into water, but the bones are kept by the chief mourner; his head and face are then shaved by the barber, and the hair is thrown into the water with most of the bones; he may retain a few to carry them to the Nerbudda at a convenient season, burying them meanwhile under a mango or pipal tree. A present of a rupee or a cow may be made to the barber. After the removal of a dead body the house is swept, and the rubbish with the broom and dustpan are thrown away outside the village. Before the body is taken away the widow of the dead man places her hands on his breast and forehead, and her bangles are broken by another widow. The shraddh ceremony is performed every year in the month of Kunwar (September) on the same day of the fortnight as that on which the death took place. On the day before the ceremony the head of the household goes to the houses of those whom he wishes to invite, and sticks some grains of rice on their foreheads. The guests must then fast up to the ceremony. On the following day, when they arrive at noon, the host, wearing a sacred thread of twisted grass, washes their feet with water in which the sacred kusa grass has been mixed, and marks their foreheads with sandal-paste and rice. The leaf-plates of the guests are set out inside the house, and a very small quantity of cooked rice is placed in each. The host then gathers up all this rice and throws it on to the roof of the house while his wife throws up some water, calling aloud the name of the dead man whose shraddh ceremony is being performed, and after this the whole party take their dinner.

12. Caste discipline

As has been shown, the Panwars have abandoned most of the distinctive Rajput customs. They do not wear the sacred thread and they permit the remarriage of widows. They eat the flesh of goats, fowls, wild pig, game-birds and fish, but abstain from liquor except on such ceremonial occasions as the worship of Narayan Deo, when every one must partake of it. Mr. Low states that the injurious habit of smoking madak (a preparation of opium) is growing in the caste. They will take water to drink from a Gond's hand and in some localities even cooked food. This is the outcome of their close association in agriculture, the Gonds having been commonly employed as farmservants by Panwar cultivators. A Brahman usually officiates at their ceremonies, but his presence is not essential and his duties may be performed by a member of the caste. Every Panwar male or female has a guru or spiritual preceptor, who is either a Brahman, a Gosain or a Bairagi. From time to time the guru comes to visit his chela or disciple, and on such occasions the chauk or sacred place is prepared with lines of wheat-flour. Two wooden stools are set within it and the guru and his chela take their seats on these. Their heads are covered with a new piece of cloth and the guru whispers some text into the ear of the disciple. Sweetmeats and other delicacies are then offered to the guru, and the disciple makes him a present of one to five rupees. When a Panwar is put out of caste two feasts have to be given on reinstatement, known as the Maili and Chokhi Roti (impure and pure food). The former is held in the morning on the bank of a tank or river and is attended by men only. A goat is killed and served with rice to the caste-fellows, and in serious cases the offender's head and face are shaved, and he prays, 'God forgive me the sin, it will never be repeated.' The Chokhi Roti is held in the evening at the offender's house, the elders and women as well as men of the caste being present. The Sendia or leader of the caste eats first, and he will not begin his meal unless he finds a douceur of from one to five rupees deposited beneath his leaf-plate. The whole cost of the ceremony of readmission is from fifteen to fifty rupees.

13. Social customs

The Panwar women wear their clothes tied in the Hindustani and not in the Maratha fashion. They are tattooed on the legs, hands and face, the face being usually decorated with single dots which are supposed to enhance its beauty, much after the same fashion as patches in England. Padmakar, the Saugor poet, Mr. Hira Lal remarks, compared the dot on a woman's chin to a black bee buried in a half-ripe mango. The women, Mr. Low says, are addicted to dances, plays and charades, the first being especially graceful performances. They are skilful with their fingers and make pretty grass mats and screens for the house, and are also very good cooks and appreciate variety in food. The Panwars do not eat off the ground, but place their dishes on little iron stands, sitting themselves on low wooden stools. The housewife is a very important person, and the husband will not give anything to eat or drink out of the house without her concurrence. Mr. Low writes on the character and abilities of the Panwars as follows: "The Panwar is to Balaghat what the Kunbi is to Berar or the Gujar to Hoshangabad, but at the same time he is less entirely attached to the soil and its cultivation, and much more intelligent and cosmopolitan than either. One of the most intelligent officials in the Agricultural Department is a Panwar, and several members of the caste have made large sums as forest and railway contractors in this District; Panwar shikaris are also not uncommon. They are generally averse to sedentary occupations, and though quite ready to avail themselves of the advantages of primary education, they do not, as a rule, care to carry their studies to a point that would ensure their admission to the higher ranks of Government service. Very few of them are to be found as patwaris, constables or peons. They are a handsome race, with intelligent faces, unusually fair, with high foreheads, and often grey eyes. They are not, as a rule, above middle height, but they are active and hard-working and by no means deficient in courage and animal spirits, or a sense of humour. They are clannish in the extreme, and to elucidate a criminal case in which no one but Panwars are concerned, and in a Panwar village, is usually a harder task than the average local police officer can tackle. At times they are apt to affect, in conversation with Government officials, a whining and unpleasant tone, especially when pleading their claim to some concession or other; and they are by no means lacking in astuteness and are good hands at a bargain. But they are a pleasant, intelligent and plucky race, not easily cast down by misfortune and always ready to attempt new enterprises in almost any direction save those indicated by the Agricultural Department.

"In the art of rice cultivation they are past masters. They are skilled tank-builders, though perhaps hardly equal to the Kohlis of Chanda. But they excel especially in the mending and levelling of their fields, in neat transplantation, and in the choice and adaptation of the different varieties of rice to land of varying qualities. They are by no means specially efficient as labourers, though they and their wives do their fair share of field work; but they are well able to control the labour of others, especially of aborigines, through whom most of their tank and other works are executed."


List of Paragraphs

1. General notice. 2. Tribal subdivisions. 3. Marriage. 4. Religion. 5. Social customs. 6. Methods of cheating among Patharis. 7. Musicians and priests.

1. General notice

Pardhan, Pathari, Panal.—An inferior branch of the Gond tribe whose occupation is to act as the priests and minstrels of the Gonds. In 1911 the Pardhans numbered nearly 120,000 persons in the Central Provinces and Berar. The only other locality where they are found is Hyderabad, which returned 8000. The name Pardhan is of Sanskrit origin and signifies a minister or agent. It is the regular designation of the principal minister of a Rajput State, who often fulfils the functions of a Mayor of the Palace. That it was applied to the tribe in this sense is shown by the fact that they are also known as Diwan, which has the same meaning. There is a tradition that the Gond kings employed Pardhans as their ministers, and as the Pardhans acted as genealogists they may have been more intelligent than the Gonds, though they are in no degree less illiterate. To themselves and their Gond relations the Pardhans are frequently not known by that name, which has been given to them by the Hindus, but as Panal. Other names for the tribe are Parganiha, Desai and Pathari. Parganiha is a title signifying the head of a pargana, and is now applied by courtesy to some families in Chhattisgarh. Desai has the same signification, being a variant of Deshmukh or the Maratha revenue officer in charge of a circle of villages. Pathari means a bard or genealogist, or according to another derivation a hillman. On the Satpura plateau and in Chhattisgarh the tribe is known as Pardhan Patharia. In Balaghat they are also called Mokasi. The Gonds themselves look down on the Pardhans and say that the word Patharia means inferior, and they relate that Bura Deo, their god, had seven sons. These were talking together one day as they dined and they said that every caste had an inferior branch to do it homage, but they had none; and they therefore agreed that the youngest brother and his descendants should be inferior to the others and make obeisance to them, while the others promised to treat him almost as their equal and give him a share in all the offerings to the dead. The Pardhans or Patharias are the descendants of the youngest brother and they accost the Gonds with the greeting 'Babu Johar,' or 'Good luck, sir.' The Gonds return the greeting by saying 'Pathari Johar,' or 'How do you do, Pathari.' Curiously enough Johar is also the salutation sent by a Rajput chief to an inferior landholder, [400] and the custom must apparently have been imitated by the Gonds. A variant of the story is that one day the seven Gond brothers were worshipping their god, but he did not make his appearance; so the youngest of them made a musical instrument out of a string and a piece of wood and played on it. The god was pleased with the music and came down to be worshipped, and hence the Pardhans as the descendants of the youngest brother continue to play on the kingri or lyre, which is their distinctive instrument. The above stories have been invented to account for the social inferiority of the Pardhans to the Gonds, but their position merely accords with the general rule that the bards and genealogists of any caste are a degraded section. The fact is somewhat contrary to preconceived ideas, but the explanation given of it is that such persons make their living by begging from the remainder of the caste and hence are naturally looked down upon by them; and further, that in pursuit of their calling they wander about to attend at wedding feasts all over the country, and consequently take food with many people of doubtful social position. This seems a reasonable interpretation of the rule of the inferiority of the bard, which at any rate obtains generally among the Hindu castes.

2. Tribal Subdivisions

The tribe have several endogamous divisions, of which the principal are the Raj Pardhans, the Ganda Pardhans and the Thothia Pardhans. The Raj Pardhans appear to be the descendants of alliances between Raj Gonds and Pardhan women. They say that formerly the priests of Bura Deo lived a celibate life, and both men and women attended to worship the god; but on one occasion the priests ran away with some women and after this the Gonds did not know who should be appointed to serve the deity. While they were thus perplexed, a kingri (or rude wooden lyre) fell from heaven on to the lap of one of them, and, in accordance with this plain indication of the divine will, he became the priest, and was the ancestor of the Raj Pardhans; and since this contretemps the priests are permitted to marry, while women are no longer allowed to attend the worship of Bura Deo. The Thothia subtribe are said to be the descendants of illicit unions, the word Thothia meaning 'maimed'; while the Gandas are the offspring of intermarriages between the Pardhans and members of that degraded caste. Other groups are the Mades or those of the Mad country in Chanda and Bastar, the Khalotias or those of the Chhattisgarh plain, and the Deogarhias of Deogarh in Chhindwara; and there are also some occupational divisions, as the Kandres or bamboo-workers, the Gaitas who act as priests in Chhattisgarh, and the Arakhs who engage in service and sell old clothes. A curious grouping is found in Chanda, where the tribe are divided into the Gond Patharis and Chor or 'Thief' Patharis. The latter have obtained their name from their criminal propensities, but they are said to be proud of it and to refuse to intermarry with any families not having the designation of Chor Pathari. In Raipur the Patharis are said to be the offspring of Gonds by women of other castes, and the descendants of such unions. The exogamous divisions of the Pardhans are the same as those of the Gonds, and like them they are split up into groups worshipping different numbers of gods whose members may not marry with one another.

3. Marriage

A Pardhan wedding is usually held in the bridegroom's village in some public place, such as the market or cross-roads. The boy wears a blanket and carries a dagger in his hand. The couple walk five times round in a circle, after which the boy catches hold of the girl's hand. He tries to open her fist which she keeps closed, and when he succeeds in this he places an iron ring on her little finger and puts his right toe over that of the girl's. The officiating priest then ties the ends of their clothes together and five chickens are killed. The customary bride-price is Rs. 12, but it varies in different localities. A widower taking a girl bride has, as a rule, to pay a double price. A widow is usually taken in marriage by her deceased husband's younger brother.

4. Religion

As the priests of the Gonds, the Pardhans are employed to conduct the ceremonial worship of their great god Bura Deo, which takes place on the third day of the bright fortnight of Baisakh (April). Many goats or pigs are then offered to him with liquor, cocoanuts, betel-leaves, flowers, lemons and rice. Bura Deo is always enshrined under a tree outside the village, either of the mahua or saj (Terminalia tomentosa) varieties. In Chhattisgarh the Gonds say that the origin of Bura Deo was from a child born of an illicit union between a Gond and a Rawat woman. The father murdered the child by strangling it, and its spirit then began to haunt and annoy the man and all his relations, and gradually extended its attentions to all the Gonds of the surrounding country. It finally consented to be appeased by a promise of adoration from the whole tribe, and since then has been installed as the principal deity of the Gonds. The story is interesting as showing how completely devoid of any supernatural majesty or power is the Gond conception of their principal deity.

5. Social Customs

Like the Gonds, the Pardhans will eat almost any kind of food, including beef, pork and the flesh of rats and mice, but they will not eat the leavings of others. They will take food from the hands of Gonds, but the Gonds do not return the compliment. Among the Hindus generally the Pardhans are much despised, and their touch conveys impurity while that of a Gond does not. Every Pardhan has tattooed on his left arm near the inside of the elbow a dotted figure which represents his totem or the animal, plant or other natural object after which his sept is named. Many of them have a better type of countenance than the Gonds, which is perhaps due to an infusion of Hindu blood. They are also generally more intelligent and cunning. They have criminal propensities, and the Patharias of Chhattisgarh are especially noted for cattle-lifting and thieving. Writing forty years ago Captain Thomson [401] described the Pardhans of Seoni as bearing the very worst of characters, many of them being regular cattle-lifters and gang robbers. In some parts of Seoni they had become the terror of the village proprietors, whose houses and granaries they fired if they were in any way reported on or molested. Since that time the Pardhans have become quite peaceable, but they still have a bad reputation for petty thieving.

6. Methods of cheating among Patharis

In Chhattisgarh one subdivision is said to be known as Sonthaga (sona, gold, and thag, a cheat), because they cheat people by passing counterfeit gold. Their methods were described as follows in 1872 by Captain McNeill, District Superintendent of Police: [402] "They procure a quantity of the dry bark of the pipal, [403] mahua, [404] tamarind or gular [405] trees and set it on fire; when it has become red-hot it is raked into a small hole and a piece of well-polished brass is deposited among the glowing embers. It is constantly moved and turned about and in ten or fifteen minutes has taken a deep orange colour resembling gold. It is then placed in a small heap of wood-ashes and after a few minutes taken out again and carefully wrapped in cotton-wool. The peculiar orange colour results from the sulphur and resin in the bark being rendered volatile. They then proceed to dispose of the gold, sometimes going to a fair and buying cattle. On concluding a bargain they suddenly find they have no money, and after some hesitation reluctantly produce the gold, and say they are willing to part with it at a disadvantage, thereby usually inducing the belief that it has been stolen. The cupidity of the owner of the cattle is aroused, and he accepts the gold at a rate which would be very advantageous if it were genuine. At other times they join a party of pilgrims, to which some of their confederates have already obtained admission in disguise, and offer to sell their gold as being in great want of money. A piece is first sold to the confederates on very cheap terms and the other pilgrims eagerly participate." It would appear that the Patharis have not much to learn from the owners of buried treasure or the confidence or three-card trick performers of London, and their methods are in striking contrast to the guileless simplicity usually supposed to be a characteristic of the primitive tribes. Mr. White states that "All the property acquired is taken back to the village and there distributed by a panchayat or committee, whose head is known as Mokasi. The Mokasi is elected by the community and may also be deposed by it, though he usually holds office for life; to be a successful candidate for the position of Mokasi one should have wealth and experience and it is not a disadvantage to have been in jail. The Mokasi superintends the internal affairs of the community and maintains good relations with the proprietor and village watchman by means of gifts."

7. Musicians and priests

The Pardhans and Patharis are also, as already stated, village musicians, and their distinctive instrument the kingri or kingadi is described by Mr. White as consisting of a stick passed through a gourd. A string or wire is stretched over this and the instrument is played with the fingers. Another kind possesses three strings of woven horse-hair and is played with the help of a bow. The women of the Ganda Pardhan subtribe act as midwives. Mr. Tawney wrote of the Pardhans of Chhindwara: [406] "The Raj-Pardhans are the bards of the Gonds and they can also officiate as priests, but the Bhumka generally acts in the latter capacity and the Pardhans confine themselves to singing the praises of the god. At every public worship in the Deo-khalla or dwelling-place of the gods, there should, if possible, be a Pardhan, and great men use them on less important occasions. They cannot even worship their household gods or be married without the Pardhans. The Raj-Pardhans are looked down on by the Gonds, and considered as somewhat inferior, seeing that they take the offerings at religious ceremonies and the clothes of the dear departed at funerals. This has never been the business of a true Gond, who seems never happier than when wandering in the jungle, and who above all things loves his axe, and next to that a tree to chop at. There is nothing in the ceremonies or religion of the Pardhans to distinguish them from the Gonds."


List of Paragraphs

1. General notice of the caste. 2. Subdivisions. 3. Marriage and funeral customs. 4. Religion. 5. Dress, food and social customs. 6. Ordeals. 7. Methods of catching birds. 8. Hunting with leopards. 9. Decoy stags. 10. Hawks. 11. Crocodile fishing. 12. Other occupations and criminal practices.

1. General notice of the caste

Pardhi, [407] Bahelia, Mirshikar, Moghia, Shikari, Takankar.—A low caste of wandering fowlers and hunters. They numbered about 15,000 persons in the Central Provinces and Berar in 1911, and are found scattered over several Districts. These figures include about 2000 Bahelias. The word Pardhi is derived from the Marathi paradh, hunting. Shikari, the common term for a native hunter, is an alternative name for the caste, but particularly applied to those who use firearms, which most Pardhis refuse to do. Moghia is the Hindustani word for fowler, and Takankar is the name of a small occupational offshoot of the Pardhis in Berar, who travel from village to village and roughen the household grinding-mills when they have worn smooth. The word is derived from takna, to tap or chisel. The caste appears to be a mixed group made up of Bawarias or other Rajput outcastes, Gonds and social derelicts from all sources. The Pardhis perhaps belong more especially to the Maratha country, as they are numerous in Khandesh, and many of them talk a dialect of Gujarati. In the northern Districts their speech is a mixture of Marwari and Hindi, while they often know Marathi or Urdu as well. The name for the similar class of people in northern India is Bahelia, and in the Central Provinces the Bahelias and Pardhis merge into one another and are not recognisable as distinct groups. The caste is recruited from the most diverse elements, and women of any except the impure castes can be admitted into the community; and on this account their customs differ greatly in different localities. According to their own legends the first ancestor of the Pardhis was a Gond, to whom Mahadeo taught the art of snaring game so that he might avoid the sin of shooting it; and hence the ordinary Pardhis never use a gun.

2. Subdivisions

Like other wandering castes the Pardhis have a large number of endogamous groups, varying lists being often given in different areas. The principal subcastes appear to be the Shikari or Bhil Pardhis, who use firearms; the Phanse Pardhis, who hunt with traps and snares; the Langoti Pardhis, so called because they wear only a narrow strip of cloth round the loins; and the Takankars. Both the Takankars and Langotis have strong criminal tendencies. Several other groups are recorded in different Districts, as the Chitewale, who hunt with a tame leopard; the Gayake, who stalk their prey behind a bullock; the Gosain Pardhis, who dress like religious mendicants in ochre-coloured clothes and do not kill deer, but only hares, jackals and foxes; the Shishi ke Telwale, who sell crocodile's oil; and the Bandarwale who go about with performing monkeys. The Bahelias have a subcaste known as Karijat, the members of which only kill birds of a black colour. Their exogamous groups are nearly all those of Rajput tribes, as Sesodia, Panwar, Solanki, Chauhan, Rathor, and soon; it is probable that these have been adopted through imitation by vagrant Bawarias and others sojourning in Rajputana. There are also a few groups with titular or other names, and it is stated that members of clans bearing Rajput names will take daughters from the others in marriage, but will not give their daughters to them.

3. Marriage and funeral customs

Girls appear to be somewhat scarce in the caste and a bride-price is usually paid, which is given as Rs. 9 in Chanda, Rs. 35 in Bilaspur, and Rs. 60 or more in Hoshangabad and Saugor. If a girl should be seduced by a man of the caste she would be united to him by the ceremony of a widow's marriage: but her family will require a bride from her husband's family in exchange for the girl whose value he has destroyed. Even if led astray by an outsider a girl may be readmitted into the caste; and in the extreme case of her being debauched by her brother, she may still be married to one of the community, but no one will take food from her hands during her lifetime, though her children will be recognised as proper Pardhis. A special fine of Rs. 100 is imposed on a brother who commits this crime. The ceremony of marriage varies according to the locality in which they reside; usually the couple walk seven times round a tanda or collection of their small mat tents. In Berar a cloth is held up by four poles as a canopy over them and they are preceded by a married woman carrying five pitchers of water. Divorce and the marriage of widows are freely permitted. The caste commonly bury their dead, placing the head to the north. They do not shave their heads in token of mourning.

4. Religion

In Berar their principal deity is the goddess Devi, who is known by different names. Every family of Langoti Pardhis has, Mr. Gayer states, [408] its image in silver of the goddess, and because of this no Langoti Pardhi woman will wear silver below the waist or hang her sari on a peg, as it must never be put on the same level as the goddess. They also sometimes refuse to wear red or coloured clothes, one explanation for this being that the image of the goddess is placed on a bed of red cloth. In Hoshangabad their principal deity is called Guraiya Deo, and his image, consisting of a human figure embossed in silver, is kept in a leather bag on the west side of their tents; and for this reason women going out of the encampment for a necessary purpose always proceed to the east. They also sleep with their feet to the east. Goats are offered to Guraiya Deo and their horns are placed in his leather bag. In Hoshangabad they sacrifice a fowl to the ropes of their tents at the Dasahra and Diwali festivals, and on the former occasion clean their hunting implements and make offerings to them of turmeric and rice. They are reported to believe that the sun and moon die and are reborn daily. The hunter's calling is one largely dependent on luck or chance, and, as might be expected, the Pardhis are firm believers in omens, and observe various rules by which they think their fortune will be affected. A favourite omen is the simple device of taking some rice or juari in the hand and counting the grains. Contrary to the usual rule, even numbers are considered lucky and odd ones unlucky. If the first result is unsatisfactory a second or third trial may be made. If a winnowing basket or millstone be let fall and drop to the right hand it is a lucky omen, and similarly if a flower from Devi's garland should fall to the right side. The bellowing of cows, the mewing of a cat, the howling of a jackal and sneezing are other unlucky omens. If a snake passes from left to right it is a bad omen and if from right to left a good one. A man must not sleep with his head on the threshold of a house or in the doorway of a tent under penalty of a fine of Rs. 2-8; the only explanation given of this rule is that such a position is unlucky because a corpse is carried out across the threshold. A similar penalty is imposed if he falls down before his wife even by accident. A Pardhi, with the exception of members of the Sesodia clan, must never sleep on a cot, a fine of five rupees being imposed for a breach of this rule. A man who has once caught a deer must not again have the hair of his head touched by a razor, and thus the Pardhis may be recognised by their long and unkempt locks. A breach of this rule is punished with a fine of fifteen rupees, but it is not observed everywhere. A woman must never step across the rope or peg of a tent, nor upon the place where the blood of a deer has flowed on to the ground. During her monthly period of impurity a woman must not cross a river nor sit in a boat. A Pardhi will never kill or sell a dog and they will not hunt wild dogs even if money is offered to them. This is probably because they look upon the wild dog as a fellow-hunter, and consider that to do him injury would bring ill-luck upon themselves. A Pardhi has also theoretically a care for the preservation of game. When he has caught a number of birds in his trap, he will let a pair of them loose so that they may go on breeding. Women are not permitted to take any part in the work of hunting, but are confined strictly to their household duties. A woman who kicks her husband's stick is fined Rs. 2-8. The butt end of the stick is employed for mixing vegetables and other purposes, but the meaning of the rule is not clear unless one of its uses is for the enforcement of conjugal discipline. A Pardhi may not swear by a dog, a cat or a squirrel. Their most solemn oath is in the name of their deity Guraiya Deo, and it is believed that any one who falsely takes this oath will become a leper. The Phans Pardhis may not travel in a railway train, and some of them are forbidden even to use a cart or other conveyance.

5. Dress, food and social customs

In dress and appearance the Pardhis are disreputable and dirty. Their features are dark and their hair matted and unkempt. They never wear shoes and say that they are protected by a special promise of the goddess Devi to their first ancestor that no insect or reptile in the forests should injure them. The truth is, no doubt, that shoes would make it impossible for them to approach their game without disturbing it, and from long practice the soles of their feet become impervious to thorns and minor injuries. Similarly the Langoti Pardhis are so called because they wear only a narrow strip of cloth round the loins, the reason probably being that a long one would impede them by flapping and catching in the brushwood. But the explanation which they themselves give, [409] a somewhat curious one in view of their appearance, is that an ordinary dhoti or loin-cloth if worn might become soiled and therefore unlucky. Their women do not have their noses pierced and never wear spangles or other marks on the forehead. The Pardhis still obtain fire by igniting a piece of cotton with flint and iron. Mr. Sewell notes that their women eat at the same time as the men, instead of after them as among most Hindus. They explain this custom by saying that on one occasion a woman tried to poison her husband and it was therefore adopted as a precaution against similar attempts; but no doubt it has always prevailed, and the more orthodox practice would be almost incompatible with their gipsy life. Similar reasons of convenience account for their custom of celebrating marriages all the year round and neglecting the Hindu close season of the four months of the rains. They travel about with little huts made of matting, which can be rolled up and carried off in a few minutes. If rain comes on they seek shelter in the nearest village. [410] In some localities the caste eat no food cooked with butter or oil. They are usually considered as an impure caste, whose touch is a defilement to Hindus. Brahmans do not officiate at their ceremonies, though the Pardhis resort to the village Joshi or astrologer to have a propitious date indicated for marriages. They have to pay for such services in money, as Brahmans usually refuse to accept even uncooked grain from them. After childbirth women are held to be impure and forbidden to cook for their families for a period varying from six weeks to six months. During their periodical impurity they are secluded for four, six or eight days, the Pardhis observing very strict rules in these matters, as is not infrequently the case with the lowest castes. Their caste meetings, Mr. Sewell states, are known as Deokaria or 'An act performed in honour of God'; at these meetings arrangements for expeditions are discussed and caste disputes decided. The penalty for social offences is a fine of a specified quantity of liquor, the liquor provided by male and female delinquents being drunk by the men and women respectively. The punishment for adultery in either sex consists in cutting off a piece of the left ear with a razor, and a man guilty of intercourse with a prostitute is punished as if he had committed adultery. The Pardhi women are said to be virtuous.

6. Ordeals

The Pardhis still preserve the primitive method of trial by ordeal. If a woman is suspected of misconduct she is made to pick a pice coin out of boiling oil; or a pipal leaf is placed on her hand and a red-hot axe laid over it, and if her hand is burnt or she refuses to stand the test she is pronounced guilty. Or, in the case of a man, the accused is made to dive into water; and as he dives an arrow is shot from a bow. A swift runner fetches and brings back the arrow, and if the diver can remain under water until the runner has returned he is held to be innocent. In Nimar, if an unmarried girl becomes pregnant, two cakes of dough are prepared, a piece of silver being placed in one and a lump of coal in the other. The girl takes one of the cakes, and if it is found to contain the coal she is expelled from the community, while if she chooses the piece of silver, she is pardoned and made over to one of the caste. The idea of the ordeal is apparently to decide the question whether her condition was caused by a Pardhi or an outsider.

7. Methods of catching birds

The Phans Pardhis hunt all kinds of birds and the smaller animals with the phanda or snare. Mr. Ball describes their procedure as follows: [411] "For peacock, saras crane and bustard they have a long series of nooses, each provided with a wooden peg and all connected with a long string. The tension necessary to keep the nooses open is afforded by a slender slip of antelope's horn (very much resembling whalebone), which forms the core of the loop. Provided with several sets of these nooses, a trained bullock and a shield-like cloth screen dyed buff and pierced with eye-holes, the bird-catcher sets out for the jungle, and on seeing a flock of pea-fowl circles round them under cover of the screen and the bullock, which he guides by a nose-string. The birds feed on undisturbed, and the man rapidly pegs out his long strings of nooses, and when all are properly disposed, moves round to the opposite side of the birds and shows himself; when they of course run off, and one or more getting their feet in the nooses fall forwards and flap on the ground; the man immediately captures them, knowing that if the strain is relaxed the nooses will open and permit of the bird's escape. Very cruel practices are in vogue with these people with reference to the captured birds, in order to keep them alive until a purchaser is found. The peacocks have a feather passed through the eyelids, by which means they are effectually blinded, while in the case of smaller birds both the legs and wings are broken." Deer, hares and even pig are also caught by a strong rope with running nooses. For smaller birds the appliance is a little rack about four inches high with uprights a few inches apart, between each of which is hung a noose. Another appliance mentioned by Mr. Ball is a set of long conical bag nets, which are kept open by hooks and provided with a pair of folding doors. The Pardhi has also a whistle made of deer-horn, with which he can imitate the call of the birds. Tree birds are caught with bird-lime as described by Sir G. Grierson. [412] The Bahelia has several long shafts of bamboos called nal or nar, which are tied together like a fishing rod, the endmost one being covered with bird-lime. Concealing himself behind his bamboo screen the Bahelia approaches the bird and when near enough strikes and secures it with his rod; or he may spread some grain out at a short distance, and as the birds are hopping about over it he introduces the pole, giving it a zig-zag movement and imitating as far as possible the progress of a snake. Having brought the point near one of the birds, which is fascinated by its stealthy approach, he suddenly jerks it into its breast and then drawing it to him, releases the poor palpitating creature, putting it away in his bag, and recommences the same operation. This method does not require the use of bird-lime.

8. Hunting with leopards

The manner in which the Chita Pardhis use the hunting leopard (Felis jubata) for catching deer has often been described. [413] The leopard is caught full-grown by a noose in the manner related above. Its neck is first clasped in a wooden vice until it is half-strangled, and its feet are then bound with ropes and a cap slipped over its head. It is partially starved for a time, and being always fed by the same man, after a month or so it becomes tame and learns to know its master. It is then led through villages held by ropes on each side to accustom it to the presence of human beings. On a hunting party the leopard is carried on a cart, hooded, and, being approached from down wind, the deer allow the cart to get fairly close to them. The Indian antelope or black-buck are the usual quarry, and as these frequent cultivated land, they regard country carts without suspicion. The hood is then taken off and the leopard springs forward at the game with extreme velocity, perhaps exceeding that which any other quadruped possesses. The accounts given by Jerdon say that for the moment its speed is greater than that of a race-horse. It cannot maintain this for more than three or four hundred yards, however, and if in that distance the animal has not seized its prey, it relinquishes the pursuit and stalks about in a towering passion. The Pardhis say that when it misses the game the leopard is as sulky as a human being and sometimes refuses food for a couple of days. If successful in the pursuit, it seizes the antelope by the throat; the keeper then comes up, and cutting the animal's throat collects some of the blood in the wooden ladle with which the leopard is always fed; this is offered to him, and dropping his hold he laps it up eagerly, when the hood is cleverly slipped on again.

The conducting of the cheetah from its cage to the chase is by no means an easy matter. The keeper leads him along, as he would a large dog, with a chain; and for a time as they scamper over the country the leopard goes willingly enough; but if anything arrests his attention, some noise from the forest, some scented trail upon the ground, he moves more slowly, throws his head aloft and peers savagely round. A few more minutes perhaps and he would be unmanageable. The keeper, however, is prepared for the emergency. He holds in his left hand a cocoanut shell, sprinkled on the inside with salt; and by means of a handle affixed to the shell he puts it at once over the nose of the cheetah. The animal licks the salt, loses the scent, forgets the object which arrested his attention, and is led quietly along again. [414]

9. Decoy stags

For hunting stags, tame stags were formerly used as decoys according to the method described as follows: "We had about a dozen trained stags, all males, with us. These, well acquainted with the object for which they were sent forward, advanced at a gentle trot over the open ground towards the skirt of the wood. They were observed at once by the watchers of the herd, and the boldest of the wild animals advanced to meet them. Whether the intention was to welcome them peacefully or to do battle for their pasturage I cannot tell; but in a few minutes the two parties were engaged in a furious contest. Head to head, antlers to antlers, the tame deer and the wild fought with great fury. Each of the tame animals, every one of them large and formidable, was closely engaged in contest with a wild adversary, standing chiefly on the defensive, not in any feigned battle or mimicry of war but in a hard-fought combat. We now made our appearance in the open ground on horseback, advancing towards the scene of conflict. The deer on the skirts of the wood, seeing us, took to flight; but those actually engaged maintained their ground and continued the contest. In the meantime a party of native huntsmen, sent for the purpose, gradually drew near to the wild stags, getting in between them and the forest. What their object was we were not at the time aware; in truth it was not one that we could have approved or encouraged. They made their way into the rear of the wild stags, which were still combating too fiercely to mind them; they approached the animals, and with a skilful cut of their long knives the poor warriors fell hamstrung. We felt pity for the noble animals as we saw them fall helplessly on the ground, unable longer to continue the contest and pushed down of course by the decoy-stags. Once down, they were unable to rise again." [415]

10. Hawks

Hawks were also used in a very ingenious fashion to prevent duck from flying away when put upon water: "The trained hawks were now brought into requisition, and marvellous it was to see the instinct with which they seconded the efforts of their trainers. The ordinary hawking of the heron we had at a later period of this expedition; but the use now made of the animal was altogether different, and displayed infinitely more sagacity than one would suppose likely to be possessed by such an animal. These were trained especially for the purpose for which they were now employed. A flight of ducks—thousands of birds—were enticed upon the water as before by scattering corn over it. The hawks were then let fly, four or five of them. We made our appearance openly upon the bank, guns in hand, and the living swarm of birds rose at once into the air. The hawks circled above them, however, in a rapid revolving flight and they dared not ascend high. Thus was our prey retained fluttering in mid-air, until hundreds had paid the penalty with their lives. Only picture in your mind's eye the circling hawks above gyrating monotonously, the fluttering captives in mid-air, darting now here, now there to escape, and still coward-like huddling together; and the motley group of sportsmen on the bank and you have the whole scene before you at once." [416]

11. Crocodile fishing

For catching crocodile, a method by which as already stated one group of the Pardhis earn their livelihood, a large double hook is used, baited with a piece of putrid deer's flesh and attached to a hempen rope 70 or 80 feet long. When the crocodile has swallowed the hook, twenty or thirty persons drag the animal out of the water and it is despatched with axes. Crocodiles are hunted only in the months of Pus (December), Magh (January) and Chait (March), when they are generally fat and yield plenty of oil. The flesh is cut into pieces and stewed over a slow fire, when it exudes a watery oil. This is strained and sold in bottles at a rupee a seer (2 lbs.). It is used as an embrocation for rheumatism and for neck galls of cattle. The Pardhis do not eat crocodile's flesh.

12. Other occupations and criminal practices

A body of Pardhis are sometimes employed by all the cultivators of a village jointly for the purpose of watching the spring crops during the day and keeping black-buck out of them. They do this perhaps for two or three months and receive a fixed quantity of grain. The Takankars are regularly employed as village servants in Berar and travel about roughening the stones of the household grinding-mills when their surfaces have worn smooth. For this they receive an annual contribution of grain from each household. The caste generally have criminal tendencies and Mr. Sewell states, that "The Langoti Pardhis and Takankars are the worst offenders. Ordinarily when committing dacoity they are armed with sticks and stones only. In digging through a wall they generally leave a thin strip at which the leader carefully listens before finally bursting through. Then when the hole has been made large enough, he strikes a match and holding it in front of him so that his features are shielded has a good survey of the room before entering.... As a rule, they do not divide the property on or near the scene of the crime, but take it home. Generally it is carried by one of the gang well behind the rest so as to enable it to be hidden if the party is challenged." In Bombay they openly rob the standing crops, and the landlords stand in such awe of them that they secure their goodwill by submitting to a regular system of blackmail. [417]


List of Paragraphs

1. General notice of the tribe. 2. Exogamous septs. 3. Kinship and marriage. 4. Marriage dance. 5. Nuptial ceremony. 6. Widow-marriage and divorce. 7. Religion and festivals. 8. Disposal of the dead. 9. Occupation and social customs.

1. General notice of the tribe

Parja.—A small tribe, [418] originally an offshoot of the Gonds, who reside in the centre and east of the Bastar State and the adjoining Jaipur zamindari of Madras. They number about 13,000 persons in the Central Provinces and 92,000 in Madras, where they are also known as Poroja. The name Parja appears to be derived from the Sanskrit Parja, a subject. The following notice of it is taken from the Madras Census Report [419] of 1871: "The term Parja is, as Mr. Carmichael has pointed out, merely a corruption of a Sanskrit term signifying a subject; and it is understood as such by the people themselves, who use it in contradistinction to a free hillman. Formerly, says a tradition that runs through the whole tribe, Rajas and Parjas were brothers, but the Rajas took to riding horses or, as the Barenja Parjas put it, sitting still, and we became carriers of burdens and Parjas. It is quite certain in fact that the term Parja is not a tribal denomination, but a class denomination; and it may be fitly rendered by the familiar epithet of ryot. There is no doubt, however, that by far the greater number of these Parjas are akin to the Khonds of the Ganjam Maliahs. They are thrifty, hardworking cultivators, undisturbed by the intestinal broils which their cousins in the north engage in, and they bear in their breasts an inalienable reverence for their soil, the value of which they are rapidly becoming acquainted with. Their ancient rights to these lands are acknowledged by colonists from among the Aryans, and when a dispute arises about the boundaries of a field possessed by recent arrivals a Parja is usually called in to point out the ancient landmarks. Gadbas are also represented as indigenous from the long lapse of years that they have been in the country, but they are by no means of the patriarchal type that characterises the Parjas."

In Bastar the caste are also known as Dhurwa, which may be derived from Dhur, the name applied to the body of Gonds as opposed to the Raj-Gonds. In Bastar, Dhurwa now conveys the sense of a headman of a village. The tribe have three divisions, Thakara or Tagara, Peng and Mudara, of which only the first is found in Bastar. Thakara appears to be a corruption of Thakur, a lord, and the two names point to the conclusion that the Parjas were formerly dominant in this tract. They themselves have a story, somewhat resembling the one quoted above from Madras, to the effect that their ancestor was the elder brother of the first Raja of Bastar when he lived in Madras, to the south of Warangal. From there he had to flee on account of an invasion of the Muhammadans, and was accompanied by the goddess Danteshwari, the tutelary deity of the Rajas of Bastar. In accordance with the command of the goddess the younger brother was considered as the Raja and rode on a horse, while the elder went before him carrying their baggage. At Bhadrachallam they met the Bhatras, and further on the Halbas. The goddess followed them, guiding their steps, but she strictly enjoined on the Raja not to look behind him so as to see her. But when they came to the sands of the rivers Sankani and Dankani, the tinkle of the anklets of the goddess could not be heard for the sand. The Raja therefore looked behind him to see if she was following, on which she said that she could go no more with him, but he was to march as far as he could and then settle down. The two brothers settled in Bastar, where the descendants of the younger became the ruling clan, and those of the elder were their servants, the Parjas. The story indicates, perhaps, that the Parjas were the original Gond inhabitants and rulers of the country, and were supplanted by a later immigration of the same tribe, who reduced them to subjection, and became Raj-Gonds. Possibly the first transfer of power was effected by the marriage of an immigrant into a Parja Raja's family, as so often happened with these old dynasties. The Parjas still talk about the Rani of Bastar as their Bohu or 'younger brother's wife,' and the custom is probably based on some such legend. The Madras account of them as the arbiters of boundary disputes points to the same conclusion, as this function is invariably assigned to the oldest residents in any locality. The Parjas appear to be Gonds and not Khonds. Their sept names are Gondi words, and their language is a form of Gondi, called after them Parji. Parji has hitherto been considered a form of Bhatri, but Sir G. Grierson [420] has now classified the latter as a dialect of the Uriya language, while Parji remains 'A local and very corrupt variation of Gondi, considerably mixed with Hindi forms.' While then the Parjas, in Bastar at any rate, must be held to be a branch of the Gonds, they may have a considerable admixture of the Khonds, or other tribes in different localities, as the rules of marriage are very loose in this part of the country. [421]

2. Exogamous septs

The tribe have exogamous totemistic septs, as Bagh a tiger, Kachhim a tortoise, Bokda a goat, Netam a dog, Gohi a big lizard, Pandki a dove and so on. If a man kills accidentally the animal after which his sept is named, the earthen cooking-pots of his household are thrown away, the clothes are washed, and the house is purified with water in which the bark of the mango or jamun [422] tree has been steeped. This is in sign of mourning, as it is thought that such an act will bring misfortune. If a man of the snake sept kills a snake accidentally, he places a piece of new yarn on his head, praying for forgiveness, and deposits the body on an anthill, where snakes are supposed to live. If a man of the goat sept eats goat's flesh, it is thought that he will become blind at once. A Parja will not touch the body of his totem-animal when dead, and if he sees any one killing or teasing it when alive, he will go away out of sight. It is said that a man of the Kachhim sept once found a tortoise while on a journey, and leaving it undisturbed, passed on. When the tortoise died it was reborn in the man's belly and troubled him greatly, and since then every Parja is liable to be afflicted in the same way in the side of the abdomen, the disease which is produced being in fact enlarged spleen. The tortoise told the man that as he had left it lying by the road, and had not devoted it to any useful purpose, he was afflicted in this way. Consequently, when a man of the Kachhim sept finds a tortoise nowadays, he gives it to somebody else who can cut it up. The story is interesting as a legend of the origin of spleen, but has apparently been invented as an excuse for killing the sacred animal.

3. Kinship and marriage

Marriage is prohibited in theory between members of the same sept. But as the number of septs is rather small, the rule is not adhered to, and members of the same sept are permitted to marry so long as they do not come from the same village; the original rule of exogamy being perhaps thus exemplified. The proposal for a match is made by the boy's father, who first offers a cup of liquor to the girl's father in the bazar, and subsequently explains his errand. If the girl's father, after consulting with his family, disapproves of the match, he returns an equal quantity of liquor to the boy's father in token of his decision. The girl is usually consulted, and asked if she would like to marry her suitor, but not much regard is had to her opinion. If she dislikes him, however, she usually runs away from him after a short interlude of married life. If a girl becomes pregnant with a caste-fellow before marriage, he is required to take her, and give to the family the presents which he would make to them on a regular marriage. The man can subsequently be properly married to some other woman, but the girl cannot be married at all. If a girl is seduced by a man outside the caste, she is made over to him. It is essential for a man to be properly married at least once, and an old bachelor will sometimes go through the form of being wedded to his maternal uncle's daughter, even though she may be an infant. If no proposal for marriage is made for a girl, she is sometimes handed over informally to any man who likes to take her, and who is willing to give as much for her as the parents would receive for a regular marriage. A short time before the wedding, the boy's father sends a considerable quantity of rice to the girl's father, and on the day before he sends a calf, a pot of liquor, fifteen annas worth of copper coin, and a new cloth. The bridegroom's expenses are about Rs. 50, and the bride's about Rs. 10.

4. Marriage dance

At weddings the tribe have a dance called Surcha, for which the men wear a particular dress consisting of a long coat, a turban and two or three scarves thrown loosely over the shoulders. Strings of little bells are tied about the feet, and garlands of beads round the neck; sometimes men and women dance separately, and sometimes both sexes together in a long line or a circle. Music is provided by bamboo flutes, drums and an iron instrument something like a flute. As they dance, songs are sung in the form of question and answer between the lines of men and women, usually of a somewhat indecent character. The following short specimen may be given:—

Man. If you are willing to go with me we will both follow the officer's elephant. If I go back without you my heart can have no rest.

Woman. Who dare take me away from my husband while the Company is reigning. My husband will beat me and who will pay him the compensation?

Man. You had better make up your mind to go with me. I will ask the Treasurer for some money and pay it to your husband as compensation.

Woman. Very well, I will make ready some food, and will run away with you in the next bright fortnight.

These dialogues often, it is said, lead to quarrels between husband and wife, as the husband cannot rebuke his wife in the assembly. Sometimes the women fall in love with men in the dance, and afterwards run away with them.

5. Nuptial ceremony

The marriage takes place at the boy's house, where two marriage-sheds are made. It is noticeable that the bride on going to the bridegroom's house to be married is accompanied only by her female relatives, no man of her family being allowed to be with her. This is probably a reminiscence of the old custom of marriage by capture, as in former times she was carried off by force, the opposition of her male relatives having been quelled. In memory of this the men still do not countenance the wedding procession by their presence. The bridal couple are made to sit down together on a mat, and from three to seven pots of cold water are poured over them. About a week after the wedding the couple go to a market with their friends, and after walking round it they all sit down and drink liquor.

6. Widow-marriage and divorce

The remarriage of widows is permitted, and a widow is practically compelled to marry her late husband's younger brother, if he has one. If she persistently refuses to do so, in spite of the strongest pressure, her parents turn her out of their house. In order to be married the woman goes to the man's house with some friends; they sit together on the ground, and the friends apply the tika or sign by touching their foreheads with dry rice. A man can divorce his wife if she is of bad character, or if she is supposed to be under an unfavourable star, or if her children die in infancy. A divorced woman can marry again as if she were a widow.

7. Religion and festivals

The Parjas worship the class of divinities of the hills and forests usually revered among primitive tribes, as well as Danteshwari, the tutelary goddess of Bastar. On the day that sowing begins they offer a fowl to the field, first placing some grains of rice before it. If the fowl eats the rice they prognosticate a good harvest, and if not the reverse. A few members of the tribe belong to the Ramanandi sect, and on this account a little extra attention is paid to them. If such a one is invited to a feast he is given a wooden seat, while others sit on the ground. It is said that a few years ago a man became a Kabirpanthi, but he subsequently went blind and his son died, and since this event the sect is absolutely without adherents. Most villages have a Sirha or man who is possessed by the deity, and his advice is taken in religious matters, such as the detection of witches. Another official is called Medha Gantia or 'The Counter of posts.' He appoints the days for weddings, calculating them by counting on his fingers, and also fixes auspicious days for the construction of a house or for the commencement of sowing. It is probable that in former times he kept count of the days by numbering posts or trees. When rain is wanted the people fix a piece of wood into the ground, calling it Bhimsen Deo or King of the Clouds. They pour water over it and pray to it, asking for rain. Every year, after the crops are harvested, they worship the rivers or streams in the village. A snake, a jackal, a hare and a dog wagging its ears are unlucky objects to see when starting on a journey, and also a dust devil blowing along in front. They do not kill wild dogs, because they say that tigers avoid the forests where these reside, and some of them hold that a tiger on meeting a wild dog climbs a tree to get out of his way. Wednesday and Thursday are lucky days for starting on a journey, and the operations of sowing, reaping and threshing should be commenced and completed on one of these days. When a man intends to build a house he places a number of sets of three grains of rice, one resting on the other two, on the ground in different places. Each set is covered by a leaf-cup with some earth to hold it down. Next morning the grains are inspected, and if the top one has fallen down the site is considered to be lucky, as indicating that the earth is wishful to bear the burden of a house in this place. A house should face to the east or west, and not to the north or south. Similarly, the roads leading out of the village should run east or west from the starting-point. The principal festivals of the Parjas are the Hareli [423] or feast of the new vegetation in July, the Nawakhani [424] or feast of the new rice crop in August or September, and the Am Nawakhani or that of the new mango crop in April or May. At the feasts the new season's crop should be eaten, but if no fresh rice has ripened, they touch some of the old grain with a blade of a growing rice-plant, and consider that it has become the new crop. On these occasions ancestors are worshipped by members of the family only inside the house, and offerings of the new crops are made to them.

8. Disposal of the dead

The dead are invariably buried, the corpse being laid in the ground with head to the east and feet to the west. This is probably the most primitive burial, it being supposed that the region of the dead is towards the west, as the setting sun disappears in that direction. The corpse is therefore laid in the grave with the feet to the west ready to start on its journey. Members of the tribe who have imbibed Hindu ideas now occasionally lay the corpse with the head to the north in the direction of the Ganges. Rice-gruel, water and a tooth-stick are placed on the grave nightly for some days after death. As an interesting parallel instance, near home, of the belief that the soul starts on a long journey after death, the following passage may be quoted from Mr. Gomme's Folklore: "Among the superstitions of Lancashire is one which tells us of a lingering belief in a long journey after death, when food is necessary to support the soul. A man having died of apoplexy at a public dinner near Manchester, one of the company was heard to remark, 'Well, poor Joe, God rest his soul! He has at least gone to his long rest wi' a belly full o' good meat, and that's some consolation!' And perhaps a still more remarkable instance is that of the woman buried in Curton Church, near Rochester, who directed by her will that the coffin was to have a lock and key, the key being placed in her dead hand, so that she might be able to release herself at pleasure." [425]

After the burial a dead fish is brought on a leaf-plate to the mourners, who touch it, and are partly purified. The meaning of this rite, if there be any, is not known. After the period of mourning, which varies from three to nine days, is over, the mourners and their relatives must attend the next weekly bazar, and there offer liquor and sweets in the name of the dead man, who upon this becomes ranked among the ancestors.

9. Occupation and social customs

The Parjas are cultivators, and grow rice and other crops in the ordinary manner. Many of them are village headmen, and to these the term Dhurwa is more particularly applied. The tribe will eat fowls, pig, monkeys, the large lizard, field-rats, and bison and wild buffalo, but they do not eat carnivorous animals, crocodiles, snakes or jackals. Some of them eat beef while others have abjured it, and they will not accept the leavings of others. They are not considered to be an impure caste. If any man or woman belonging to a higher caste has a liaison with a Parja, and is on that account expelled from their own caste, he or she can be admitted as a Parja. In their other customs and dress and ornaments the tribe resemble the Gonds of Bastar. Women are tattooed on the chest and arms with patterns of dots. The young men sometimes wear their hair long, and tie it in a bunch behind, secured by a strip of cloth.


List of Paragraphs

1. The nature and origin of the caste. 2. Brahmanical legends. 3. Its mixed composition. 4. Marriage and other customs. 5. Religion, superstitions and social customs. 6. Occupation. 7. Criminal tendencies.

1. The nature and origin of the caste

Pasi, Passi. [426]—A Dravidian occupational caste of northern India, whose hereditary employment is the tapping of the palmyra, date and other palm trees for their sap. The name is derived from the Sanskrit pashika, 'One who uses a noose,' and the Hindi, pas or pasa, a noose. It is a curious fact that when the first immigrant Parsis from Persia landed in Gujarat they took to the occupation of tapping palm trees, and the poorer of them still follow it. The resemblance in the name, however, can presumably be nothing more than a coincidence. The total strength of the Pasis in India is about a million and a half persons, nearly all of whom belong to the United Provinces and Bihar. In the Central Provinces they number 3500, and reside principally in the Jubbulpore and Hoshangabad Districts. The caste is now largely occupational, and is connected with the Bhars, Arakhs, Khatiks and other Dravidian groups of low status. But in the past they seem to have been of some importance in Oudh. "All through Oudh," Mr. Crooke states, "they have traditions that they were lords of the country, and that their kings reigned in the Districts of Kheri, Hardoi and Unao. Ramkot, where the town of Bangarmau in Unao now stands, is said to have been one of their chief strongholds. The last of the Pasi lords of Ramkot, Raja Santhar, threw off his allegiance to Kanauj and refused to pay tribute. On this Raja Jaichand gave his country to the Banaphar heroes Alha and Udal, and they attacked and destroyed Ramkot, leaving it the shapeless mass of ruins which it now is." Similar traditions prevail in other parts of Oudh. It is also recorded that the Rajpasis, the highest division of the caste, claim descent from Tilokchand, the eponymous hero of the Bais Rajputs. It would appear then that the Pasis were a Dravidian tribe who held a part of Oudh before it was conquered by the Rajputs. As the designation of Pasi is an occupational term and is derived from the Sanskrit, it would seem that the tribe must formerly have had some other name, or they may be an occupational offshoot of the Bhars. In favour of this suggestion it may be noted that the Bhars also have strong traditions of their former dominance in Oudh. Thus Sir C. Elliott states in his Chronicles of Unao [427] that after the close of the heroic age, when Ajodhya was held by the Surajvansi Rajputs under the great Rama, we find after an interval of historic darkness that Ajodhya has been destroyed, the Surajvansis utterly banished, and a large extent of country is being ruled over by aborigines called Cheros in the far east, Bhars in the centre and Rajpasis in the west. Again, in Kheri the Pasis always claim kindred with the Bhars, [428] and in Mirzapur [429] the local Pasis represent the Bhars as merely a subcaste of their own tribe, though this is denied by the Bhars themselves. It seems therefore a not improbable hypothesis that the Pasis and perhaps also the kindred tribe of Arakhs are functional groups formed from the Bhar tribe. For a discussion of the early history of this important tribe the reader must be referred to Mr. Crooke's excellent article.

2. Brahmanical legends

The following tradition is related by the Pasis themselves in Mirzapur and the Central Provinces: One day a man was going to kill a number of cows. Parasurama was at that time practising austerities in the jungles. Hearing the cries of the sacred animals he rushed to their assistance, but the cow-killer was aided by his friends. So Parasurama made five men out of kusha grass and brought them to life by letting drops of his perspiration fall upon them. Hence arose the name Pasi, from the Hindi pasina, sweat. The men thus created rescued the cows. Then they returned to Parasurama and asked him to provide them with a wife. Just at that moment a Kayasth girl was passing by, and her Parasurama seized and made over to the Pasis. From them sprang the Kaithwas subcaste. Another legend related by Mr. Crooke tells that during the time Parasurama was incarnate there was an austere devotee called Kuphal who was asked by Brahma to demand of him a boon, whereupon he requested that he might be perfected in the art of thieving. His request was granted, and there is a well-known verse regarding the devotions of Kuphal, the pith of which is that the mention of the name of Kuphal, who received a boon from Brahma, removes all fear of thieves; and the mention of his three wives—Maya (illusion), Nidra (sleep), and Mohani (enchantment)—deprives thieves of success in their attempts against the property of those who repeat these names. Kuphal is apparently the progenitor of the caste, and the legend is intended to show how the position of the Pasis in the Hindu cosmos or order of society according to the caste system has been divinely ordained and sanctioned, even to the recognition of theft as their hereditary pursuit.

3. Its mixed composition

Whatever their origin may have been the composition of the caste is now of a very mixed nature. Several names of other castes, as Gujar, Gual or Ahir, Arakh, Khatik, Bahelia, Bhil and Bania, are returned as divisions of the Pasis in the United Provinces. Like all migratory castes they are split into a number of small groups, whose constitution is probably not very definite. The principal subcastes in the Central Provinces are the Rajpasis or highest class, who probably were at one time landowners; the Kaithwas or Kaithmas, supposed to be descended from a Kayasth, as already related; the Tirsulia, who take their name from the trisula or three-bladed knife used to pierce the stem of the palm tree; the Bahelia or hunters, and Chiriyamar or fowlers; the Ghudchadha or those who ride on ponies, these being probably saises or horse-keepers; the Khatik or butchers and Gujar or graziers; and the Mangta or beggars, these being the bards and genealogists of the caste, who beg from their clients and take food from their hands; they are looked down on by the other Pasis.

4. Marriage and other customs

In the Central Provinces the tribe have now no exogamous groups; they avoid marriage with blood relations as far back as their memory carries them. At their weddings the couple walk round the srawan or heavy log of wood, which is dragged over the fields before sowing to break up the larger clods of earth. In the absence of this an ordinary plough or harrow will serve as a substitute, though why the Pasis should impart a distinctively agricultural implement into their marriage ceremony is not clear. Like the Gonds, the Pasis celebrate their weddings at the bridegroom's house and not at the bride's. Before the wedding the bridegroom's mother goes and sits over a well, taking with her seven urad cakes [430] and stalks of the plant. The bridegroom walks seven times round the well, and at each turn the parapet is marked with red and white clay and his mother throws one of the cakes and stalks into the well. Finally, the mother threatens to throw herself into the well, and the bridegroom begs her not to do so, promising that he will serve and support her. Divorce and the remarriage of widows are freely permitted. Conjugal morality is somewhat lax, and Mr. Crooke quotes a report from Pertabgarh to the effect that if a woman of a tribe become pregnant by a stranger and the child be born in the house of her father or husband, it will be accepted as a Pasi of pure blood and admitted to all tribal privileges. The bodies of adults may be buried or burnt as convenient, but those of children or of persons dying from smallpox, cholera or snake-bite are always buried. Mourning is observed during ten days for a man and nine days for a woman, while children who die unmarried are not mourned at all.

5. Religion, superstitions and social customs

The Pasis worship all the ordinary Hindu deities. All classes of Brahmans will officiate at their marriages and other ceremonies, and do anything for them which does not involve touching them or any article in their houses. In Bengal, Sir H. Risley writes, the employment of Brahmans for the performance of ceremonies appears to be a very recent reform for, as a rule, in sacrifices and funeral ceremonies, the worshipper's sister's son performs the functions of a priest. "Among the Pasis of Monghyr this ancient custom, which admits of being plausibly interpreted as a survival of female kinship, still prevails generally." The social status of the Pasis is low, but they are not regarded as impure. At their marriage festivals, Mr. Gayer notes, boys are dressed up as girls and made to dance in public, but they do not use drums or other musical instruments. They breed pigs and cure the bacon obtained from them. Marriage questions are decided by the tribal council, which is presided over by a chairman (Chaudhri) selected at each meeting from among the most influential adult males present. The council deals especially with cases of immorality and pollution caused by journeys across the black water (kala pani) which the criminal pursuits of the tribe occasionally necessitate.

6. Occupation

The traditional occupation of the Pasis, as already stated, is the extraction of the sap of palm trees. But some of them are hunters and fowlers like the Pardhis, and like them also they make and mend grindstones, while others are agriculturists; and the caste has also strong criminal propensities, and includes a number of professional thieves. Some are employed in the Nagpur mills and others have taken small building contracts. Pasis are generally illiterate and in poor circumstances, and are much addicted to drink. In climbing [431] palm trees to tap them for their juice the worker uses a heel-rope, by which his feet are tied closely together. At the same time he has a stout rope passing round the tree and his body. He leans back against this rope and presses the soles of his feet, thus tied together, against the tree. He then climbs up the tree by a series of hitches or jerks of his back and feet alternately. The juice of the palmyra palm (tar) and the date palm (khajur) is extracted by the Pasi. The tar trees, Sir H. Risley states, [432] are tapped from March to May, and the date palm in the cold season. The juice of the former, known as tari or toddy, is used in the manufacture of bread, and an intoxicating liquor is obtained from it by adding sugar and grains of rice. Hindustani drunkards often mix dhatura with the toddy to increase its intoxicating properties. The quantity of juice extracted from one tree varies from five to ten pounds. Date palm tari is less commonly drunk, being popularly believed to cause rheumatism, but is extensively used in preparing sugar.

7. Criminal tendencies

Eighty years ago, when General Sleeman wrote, the Pasis were noted thieves. In his Journey through Oudh [433] he states that in Oudh there were then supposed to be one hundred thousand families of Pasis, who were skilful thieves and robbers by profession, and were formerly Thugs and poisoners as well. They generally formed the worst part of the gangs maintained by refractory landowners, "who keep Pasis to fight for them, as they pay themselves out of the plunder and cost little to their employers. They are all armed with bows and are very formidable at night. They and their refractory employes keep the country in a perpetual state of disorder." Mr. Gayer notes [434] that the criminally disposed members of the caste take contracts for the watch and sale of mangoes in groves distant from habitations, so that their movements will not be seen by prying eyes. They also seek employment as roof-thatchers, in which capacity they are enabled to ascertain which houses contain articles worth stealing. They show considerable cunning in disposing of their stolen property. The men will go openly in the daytime to the receiver and acquaint him with the fact that they have property to dispose of; the receiver goes to the bazar, and the women come to him with grass for sale. They sell the grass to the receiver, and then accompany him home with it and the stolen property, which is artfully concealed in it.


Patwa, Patwi, Patra, Ilakelband.—The occupational caste of weavers of fancy silk braid and thread. In 1911 the Patwas numbered nearly 6000 persons in the Central Provinces, being returned principally from the Narsinghpur, Raipur, Saugor, Jubbulpore and Hoshangabad Districts. About 800 were resident in Berar. The name is derived from the Sanskrit pata, woven cloth, or Hindi pat, silk. The principal subcastes of the Patwas are the Naraina; the Kanaujia, also known as Chhipi, because they sew marriage robes; the Deobansi or 'descendants of a god,' who sell lac and glass bangles; the Lakhera, who prepare lac bangles; the Kachera, who make glass bangles; and others. Three of the above groups are thus functional in character. They have also Rajput and Kayastha subcastes, who may consist of refugees from those castes received into the Patwa community. In the Central Provinces the Patwas and Lakheras are in many localities considered to be the same caste, as they both deal in lac and sell articles made of it; and the account of the occupations of the Lakhera caste also applies largely to the Patwas. The exogamous groups of the caste are named after villages, or titles or nicknames borne by the reputed founder of the group. They indicate that the Patwas of the Central Provinces are generally descended from immigrants from northern India. The Patwa usually purchases silk and colours it himself. He makes silk strings for pyjamas and coats, armlets and other articles. Among these are the silk threads called rakhis, used on the Rakshabandhan festival, [435] when the Brahmans go round in the morning tying them on to the wrists of all Hindus as a protection against evil spirits. For this the Brahman receives a present of one or two pice. The rakhi is made of pieces of raw silk fibre twisted together, with a knot at one end and a loop at the other. It goes round the wrist, and the knot is passed through the loop. Sisters also tie it round their brothers' wrists and are given a present. The Patwas make the phundri threads for tying up the hair of women, whether of silk or cotton, and various threads used as amulets, such as the janjira, worn by men round the neck, and the ganda or wizard's thread, which is tied round the arm after incantations have been said over it; and the necklets of silk or cotton thread bound with thin silver wire which the Hindus wear at Anant Chaudas, a sort of All Saints' Day, when all the gods are worshipped. In this various knots are made by the Brahmans, and in each a number of deities are tied up to exert their beneficent influence for the wearer of the thread. These are the bands which Hindus commonly wear on their necks. The Patwas thread necklaces of gold and jewels on silk thread, and also make the strings of cowries, slung on pack-thread, which are tied round the necks of bullocks when they race on the Pola day, and on ponies, probably as a charm. After a child is born in the family of one of their clients, the Patwas make tassels of cotton and hemp thread coloured red, green and yellow, and hang them to the centre-beam of the house and the top of the child's cradle, and for this they get a present, which from a rich man may be as much as ten rupees. The sacred thread proper is usually made by Brahmans in the Central Provinces. Some of the Patwas wander about hawking their wares from village to village. Besides the silk threads they sell the tiklis or large spangles which women wear on their foreheads, lac bangles and balls of henna, and the large necklaces of lac beads covered with tinsel of various colours which are worn in Chhattisgarh. A Patwa must not rear the tasar silkworm nor boil the cocoons on pain of expulsion from caste.


List of Paragraphs

1. Origin of the name. 2. Rise of the Pindaris. 3. Their strength and sphere of operations. 4. Pindari expeditions and methods. 5. Return from an expedition. 6. Suppression of the Pindaris. Death of Chitu. 7. Character of the Pindaris. 8. The existing Pindaris. 9. Attractions of a Pindari's life.

1. Origin of the name

Pindari, Pindara, Pendhari. [436]—The well-known professional class of freebooters, whose descendants now form a small cultivating caste. In the Central Provinces they numbered about 150 persons in 1911, while there are about 10,000 in India. They are mainly Muhammadans but include some Hindus. The Pindaris of the Central Provinces are for the most part the descendants of Gonds, Korkus and Bhils whose children were carried off in the course of raids, circumcised, and brought up to follow the profession of a Pindari. When the bands were dispersed many of them returned to their native villages and settled down. Malcolm considered that the name Pindari was derived from pinda, an intoxicating drink, and was given to them on account of their dissolute habits. He adds that Karim Khan, a famous Pindari leader, had never heard of any other reason for the name, and Major Henley had the etymology confirmed by the most intelligent of the Pindaris of whom he inquired. [437] In support of this may be adduced the name of Bhangi, given to the sweeper caste on account of their drinking bhang or hemp. Wilson again held the most probable derivation to be from the Marathi pendha, in the sense of a bundle of rice-straw, and hara one who takes, because the name was originally applied to horsemen who hung on to an army and were employed in collecting forage. The fact that the existing Pindaris are herdsmen and tenders of buffaloes and thus might well have been employed for the collection of forage may be considered somewhat to favour the above view; but the authors of Hobson-Jobson, after citing these derivations, continue: "We cannot think any of the etymologies very satisfactory. We venture another as a plausible suggestion merely. Both pind-parna in Hindi and pindas-basnen in Marathi signify 'to follow,' the latter being defined as 'to stick closely; to follow to the death; used of the adherence of a disagreeable fellow.' Such phrases could apply to these hangers-on of an army in the field looking out for prey." Mr. W. Irvine [438] has suggested that the word comes from a place or region called Pandhar, which is referred to by native historians and seems to have been situated between Burhanpur and Handia on the Nerbudda; and states that there is good evidence to prove that a large number of Pindaris were settled in this part of the country. Mr. D. Chisholm reports from Nimar that "Pandhar or Pandhar is the name given to a stream which rises in the Gularghat hills of the Asir range and flows after a very circuitous course into the Masak river by Mandeva. The name signifies five, as it is joined by four other small streams. The Asir hills were the haunts of the Pindaris, and the country about these, especially by the banks of the Pandhar, is very wild; but it is not commonly known that the Pindaris derived their name from this stream." And as the Pindaris are first heard of as hangers-on of the Maratha armies in the Deccan prior to A.D. 1700, it seems unlikely also that their name can be taken from a place in the Nimar District, where it is not recorded that they were settled before 1794. Nor does the Pandhar itself seem sufficiently important to have given a name to the whole body of freebooters. Malcolm's or Wilson's derivations are perhaps on the whole the most probable. Prinsep writes: "Pindara seems to have the same reference to Pandour that Kuzak has to Cossack. The latter word is of Turkish origin but is commonly used to express a mounted robber in Hindustan." Though the Pandours were the predatory light cavalry of the Austrian army, and had considerable resemblance to the Pindaris, it does not seem possible to suppose that there is any connection between the two words. The Pendra zamindari in Bilaspur is named after the Pindaris, the dense forests of the Rewah plateau which includes Pendra having been one of their favourite asylums of refuge.

2. Rise of the Pindaris

The Pindari bands appear to have come into existence during the wars of the late Muhammadan dynasties in the Deccan, and in the latter part of the seventeenth century they attached themselves to the Marathas in their revolt against Aurangzeb. The first mention of the name occurs at this time. During and after the Maratha wars many of the Pindari leaders obtained grants in Central India from Sindhia and Holkar, and were divided into two parties owing a nominal allegiance to these princes and designated as the Sindhia Shahi and Holkar Shahi. In the period of chaos which reigned at this time outside British territories their raids in all directions attended by the most savage atrocities became more and more intolerable. These outrages extended from Bundelkhand to Cuddapah south of Madras and from Orissa to Gujarat.

When attached to the Maratha armies, Malcolm states, the Pindaris always camped separately and were not permitted to plunder in the Maratha territories; they were given an allowance averaging four annas each a day, and further supported themselves by employing their small horses and bullocks in carrying grain, forage and wood, for which articles the Pindari bazar was the great mart. When let loose to pillage, which was always the case some days before the army entered an enemy's country, all allowances stopped; no restraint whatever was put upon these freebooters till the campaign was over, when the Maratha commander, if he had the power, generally seized the Pindari chiefs or surrounded their camps and forced them to yield up the greater part of their booty. A knowledge of this practice led the Pindaris to redouble their excesses, that they might be able to satisfy without ruin the expected rapacity of their employers.

In 1794, Grant-Duff writes, Sindhia assigned some lands to the Pindaris near the banks of the Nerbudda, which they soon extended by conquests from the Grassias or original independent landholders in their neighbourhood. Their principal leaders at that time were two brothers named Hiru and Burun, who are said to have been put to death for their aggressions on the territory of Sindhia and of Raghuji Bhonsla. The sons of Hiru and Burun became Pindari chiefs; but Karim Khan, a Pindara who had acquired great booty at the plunder of the Nizam's troops after the battle of Hurdla, and was distinguished by superior cunning and enterprise, was the principal leader of this refuse of the Maratha armies. Karim got the district of Shujahalpur from Umar Khan which, with some additions, was afterwards confirmed to him by Sindhia. During the war of 1803 and the subsequent disturbed state of the country Karim contrived to obtain possession of several districts in Malwa belonging to Sindhia's jagirdars; and his land revenue at one time is said to have amounted to fifteen lakhs of rupees a year. He also wrested some territory from the Nawab of Bhopal on which he built a fort as a place of security for his family and of deposit for his plunder. Karim was originally a Sindhia Shahi, but like most of the Pindaris, except about 5000 of the Holkar Shahis who remained faithful, he changed sides or plundered his master whenever it suited his convenience, which was as often as he found an opportunity. Sindhia, jealous of his encroachments, on pretence of lending him some gems inveigled him to an interview, made him prisoner, plundered his camp, recovered the usurped districts and lodged Karim in the fort of Gwalior.

A number of leaders started up after the confinement of Karim, of whom Chitu, Dost Muhammad, Namdar Khan and Sheikh Dullah became the most conspicuous. They associated themselves with Amir Khan in 1809 during his expedition to Berar; and in 1810, when Karim Khan purchased his release from Gwalior, they assembled under that leader a body of 25,000 horse and some battalions of newly raised infantry with which they again proposed to invade Berar; but Chitu, always jealous of Karim's ascendency, was detached by Raghuji Bhonsla from the alliance, and afterwards co-operated with Sindhia in attacking him; Karim was in consequence driven to seek an asylum with his old patron Amir Khan, but by the influence of Sindhia Amir Khan kept him in a state of confinement until 1816.

When the Marathas ceased to spread themselves over India, the Pindaris who had attended their armies were obliged to plunder the territories of their former protectors for subsistence. To the unemployed soldiery of India, particularly to the Muhammadans, the life of a Pindara had many allurements; but the Maratha horsemen who possessed hereditary rights or had any pretensions to respectability did not readily join them. One of the above leaders, Sheikh Dullah or Abdullah, apparently became a dacoit after the Pindaris had been dispersed, and he is still remembered in Hoshangabad and Nimar in the following saying:

Niche zamin aur upar Allah, Aur bich men phiren Sheikh Dullah,

or 'God is above and the earth beneath, and Sheikh Dullah ranges at his will between.'

3. Their strength and sphere of operations

In 1814, Prinsep states, [439] the actual military force at the disposal of the Pindaris amounted to 40,000 horse, inclusive of the Pathans, who though more orderly and better disciplined than the Pindaris of the Nerbudda, possessed the same character and were similarly circumstanced in every respect, supporting themselves entirely by depredations whenever they could practise them. Their number would be doubled were we to add the remainder of Holkar's troops of the irregular kind, which were daily deserting the service of a falling house in order to engage in the more profitable career of predatory enterprise; and the loose cavalry establishments of Sindhia and the Bhonsla, which were bound by no ties but those of present entertainment, and were always in great arrears of pay. The presence of this force in the centre of India and able to threaten each of the three Presidencies imposed the most extensive annual precautions for defence, in spite of which the territories of our allies were continually overrun. On two occasions, once when they entered Gujarat in 1808-9 and again in 1812 when the Bengal provinces of Mirzapur and Shahabad were devastated, they penetrated into our immediate territories. Grant-Duff records that in one raid on the coast from Masulipatam northward they in ten days plundered 339 villages, burning many, killing and wounding 682 persons, torturing 3600 and carrying off or destroying property to the amount of two lakhs and a half. Indeed their reputation was such that the mere rumour of an incursion caused a regular panic at Madras in 1816, of which General Hislop gives an amusing account: [440] "In the middle of this year the troops composing the garrison of Fort St. George were moved out and encamped on the island outside Black Town wall. This imprudent step was taken, as was affirmed, to be in readiness to meet the Pindaris, who were reported to be on their road to Madras, although it was well known that not half a dozen of them were at that time within 200 miles of the place. The native inhabitants of all classes throughout Madras and its vicinity were in the utmost alarm, and looked for places of retreat and security for their property. It brought on Madras all the distresses in imagination of Hyder Ali's invasion. It was about this period that an idle rumour reached Madras of the arrival of the Pindaris at the Mount; all was uproar, flight and despair to the walls of Madras. This alarm originated in a few Dhobis and grass-cutters of the artillery having mounted their tattus and, in mock imitation of the Pindaris, galloped about and played with long bamboos in their hands in the vicinity of the Mount. The effect was such, however, that many of the civil servants and inhabitants of the Mount Road packed up and moved to the Fort for protection. Troopers, messengers, etc., were seen galloping to the Government House and thence to the different public authorities. Such was the alarm in the Government House that on the afternoon of that day an old officer, anxious to offer some advice to the Governor, rode smartly to the Government gardens, and on reaching the entrance observed the younger son of the Governor running with all possible speed into the house; who having got to a place of security ventured to look back and then discovered in the old officer a face which he had before seen; when turning back again he exclaimed, 'Upon my word, sir, I was so frightened I took you for a Pindari.'"

4. Pindari expeditions and methods

A Pindari expedition [441] usually started at the close of the rains, as soon as the rivers became fordable after the Dasahra festival in October. Their horses were then shod, having previously been carefully trained to prepare them for long marches and hard work. A leader of tried courage having been chosen as Luhbaria, all who were so inclined set forth on a foray, or Luhbar as it was called in the Pindari nomenclature, the strength of the party often amounting to several thousands. In every thousand Pindaris about 400 were tolerably well mounted and armed; of this number about every fifteenth man carried a matchlock, but their favourite weapon was the ordinary bamboo spear of the Marathas, from 12 to 18 feet long. Of the remaining 600 two-thirds were usually common Lootais or plunderers, indifferently mounted and armed with every variety of weapon; and the rest slaves, attendants and camp-followers, mounted on tattus or wild ponies and keeping up with the Luhbar in the best manner they could. They were encumbered neither by tents nor baggage; each horseman carried a few cakes of bread for his own subsistence and some feeds of grain for his horse. They advanced at the rapid rate of forty or fifty miles a day, neither turning to the right nor to the left till they arrived at their place of destination. They then divided, and made a sweep of all the cattle and property they could find; committing at the same time the most horrid atrocities and destroying what they could not carry away. They trusted to the secrecy and suddenness of the irruption for avoiding those who guarded the frontiers of the countries they invaded; and before a force could be brought against them they were on their return. Their chief strength lay in their being intangible. If pursued they made marches of extraordinary length, sometimes upwards of sixty miles, by roads almost impracticable for regular troops. If overtaken they dispersed and reassembled at an appointed rendezvous; if followed to the country from which they issued they broke into small parties. The cruelties they perpetrated were beyond belief. As it was impossible for them to remain more than a few hours on the same spot the utmost despatch was necessary in rifling any towns or villages into which they could force an entrance; every one whose appearance indicated the probability of his possessing money was immediately put to the most horrid torture till he either pointed out his hoard or died under the infliction. Nothing was safe from the pursuit of Pindari lust or avarice; it was their common practice to burn and destroy what they could not carry away; and in the wantonness of barbarity to ravish and murder women and children under the eyes of their husbands and parents. The ordinary modes of torture inflicted by these miscreants were to apply red-hot irons to the soles of the feet; or to throw the victim on the ground and place a plank or beam across his chest on which two men pressed with their whole weight; and to throw oil on the clothes and set fire to them, or tie wisps of rag soaked in oil to the ends of all the victim's fingers and set fire to these. Another favourite method was to put hot ashes into a horse-bag, which they tied over a man's mouth and nostrils and thumped him on the back until he inhaled the ashes. The effect on the lungs of the sufferer was such that few long survived the operation.

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