2. Dvitīyaṃ kāṇḍam

16. śūdravargaḥ

(Über Śūdras)

2. Vers 5 - 15: Handwerker

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Zitierweise | cite as: Amarasiṃha <6./8. Jhdt. n. Chr.>: Nāmaliṅgānuśāsana (Amarakośa) / übersetzt von Alois Payer <1944 - >. -- 2. Dvitīyaṃ kāṇḍam. -- 16. śūdravargaḥ  (Über Śūdras). -- 2. Vers 5 - 15: Handwerker.  -- Beispiele zu:  Barbier. -- Fassung vom 2018-01-09. --  URL:                                                       

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Dieser Text ist Teil der Abteilung Sanskrit von Tüpfli's Global Village Library

Meinem Lehrer und Freund

Prof. Dr. Heinrich von Stietencron

ist die gesamte Amarakośa-Übersetzung

in Dankbarkeit gewidmet.

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THE BARBER (Kuddymaken [குடிமகன்]). (Tamil)

"6. THE BARBER (Kuddymaken [குடிமகன்]).

The village barber, as well as the dhoby [டோபி], is known as the ‘son of the village.’ He has no shaving-saloon as the barber has in Western countries; he provides no chairs of any kind for his customers.

His appliances are very few; he has no soap or even brush; he never carries Rodger’s razors nor Sheffield scissors ; French perfumes are not used by him; German hair-oil is not in his stock ; he has neither hairbrush nor comb, but for all that he is the village barber, and he thinks that he knows his business well. He glories in his own skill; he has a few rough-made iron razors with very little of steel about them, a rusty pair of scissors, a tiny brass cup to hold water, a small piece of iron sharpened at the end to pare the nails of the fingers and toes, a thorn extractor, a coarse pincer, a rough bone, and an old piece of leather. These are the instruments which he uses for his work.

The barber, like the dhoby [டோபி], lives in a corner of the village. His house is also built at the cost of the inhabitants ; he gets about sixpence per annum from each house and a handful of food daily; he has his privileges and his annual corn at the time of harvest; he is not refused by any gardener when he asks for vegetables; he gets gifts of different kinds when there are festivals and pleasure days. A certain fee is allowed him when he shaves the hair of a firstborn child for the first time, and he also gets a cloth from the village bridegroom when he seeks the help of the barber to dress his hair and to shave his face just before his wedding. The village barber has no fixed place where he can take people for shaving; he is at the beck and call of anybody. He receives his customers or patients under the shade of a tree, or on the bank of a pool or a tank or at a stable, or in the veranda of a house.

The barber will go to the corner of the backyard of a house and there sit down conveniently with his customer. Then he begins to sharpen his razor on a small bone, finishing it off on a small piece of leather—this smooths the edge of the razor. He wets the head with water and rubs it well with his hand, and uses his razor at the spot he has rubbed, whether it be the head or the face. The Indian villagers do not wear beards as a rule, but the Mahomedans do. The barber has to make a clean shave of everything except the moustache. When a man submits himself to a barber he is cruelly tormented ; some parts are sure to be bleeding; there are several cuts on his face and head; every inch shaved by the barber will have a burning sensation for hours together. When a man is being shaved he cries out ‘ Appa ’[அப்பா] (‘O father !’) if he feels much pain ; but the barber goes on shaving, though the man still shrinks, and utters ‘ Annada ?' (‘ What do you mean, fellow ?’). Then the barber tries to sharpen the razor on the skin of his right leg or on the skin of his left hand. This is a very peculiar, and by no means successful, method of sharpening a knife. Then he applies it again, and if he still, finds that his razor is but a handsaw he commences to tell his customer some stories of young girls of the village, and with these the man forgets for the time his pain. If he belongs to that class which requires a clean shave from head to foot he has to exercise his patience for an hour or two.

When the barber shaves the neck-hair some men are accustomed to try and please the barber by promising to give him a pair of new cloths on the next festival day, or a sheep or a fowl to be killed at the next New Year’s Day. In this way they renew and multiply their promises without any intention of fulfilling them. The barber, too, takes his own turn and plays tricks. If he finds that a customer of his does not pay his annual allowance, or bestow his usual gifts, he dodges him by saying that he will come down to his house and shave him and his male children at a fixed time—on the 12th, Friday next; but he does not mean to go on that day. If the barber again be questioned he fixes another date, another, and yet another, till the man gets tired. Then the man brings a charge against the barber to the village court. The village ‘Court of Arbitration ’ settles the dispute between the barber and the villager.

If a barber finds a worse customer in the village he determines to disgrace him. He goes straight to the house of his bad customer and calls him out to be shaved. Both the villager and the barber then go to the shade of a tree a little way from the village. There they sit down, and the barber begins to shave the man. While one side of the head is being shaved the barber offers an insult to the customer, which the man cannot bear. So he begins to abuse the barber, and a regular quarrel takes place. The barber uses only some indecent expressions, and takes care not to hurt the man. The villager, being a man of higher caste than the barber, cannot control his passion, and so he strikes the barber. That is exactly the thing that the barber wanted. He leaves the villager there half-shaved and takes up his belongings and runs off to the village court house, where he lodges his complaint against the villager, whom he has left half-shaved. It is a great disgrace to be seen walking through the village half-shaved, and it is a very strange spectacle in any nation. The poor villager covers his head with his upper eloth and goes home filled with sorrow and shame.

The kuddymaken [குடிமகன்], or the ' son of the village,’ does not always keep himself to his profession. Sometimes he turns village surgeon. He has a peculiar lancet, and with this he performs his wonderful operations. If a villager happens to have some eruption upon him he seeks the aid of a barber. The manner in which he operates is altogether unscientific and troublesome. If he has to operate on a boil he cuts it in a cross form with his crude knife without any consideration of its fitness for opening. He does not know how to apply chloroform, but he puts the patient under the influence of alcoholic liquors. However clever he may think himself to be, his operation is neither more nor less than torturing and butchering ; but we must bear in mind that his charges are next to nothing.

The village barbers are wonderful fellows for cock-fighting ; they generally rear fighting cocks, often half a dozen of them. The privilege of getting food from their neighbours enables them to feed these cocks. Some of them are very skilful in handling the fighting cocks when the lancets are attached to their feet. They smartly catch their own cock when he flies against his rival. The barbers who delight in cock-fighting will carry their cocks even to a distance of ten miles, and there they will spend a whole day—without having any noontide meal—till nine or ten at night. If the cocks are wounded in fighting the men are full of anxiety concerning them. They chew a bit of dry ginger and blow into the mouth, nostrils and ears of the wounded and fainting birds ; they put a wet cloth on the head of the wounded creature and pour a few drops of water into its mouth in order to refresh it. If a barber happens to win with a bird it is a day of great joy and victory for him. When he approaches his village he sends for the parish drums, and to the deafening noise of these drums he marches through the dull streets of the village to his home. On the following day he runs down to the house of the goldsmith with a piece of silver, of which he wants a ring made to decorate the leg of his victorious bird.

We have said enough about the inefficiency of the barbers in shaving; but there is a story current which serves to show that there are honourable exceptions among them. It appears that a king happened to be on a visit to his country seat. While there, a barber was summoned to shave his face. When the barber arrived he found that the king was sleeping. He took courage, however, to approach the king, who was sleeping in the outer court of his country seat, and actually succeeded in shaving him without awaking him. Then the barber went away. When the king awoke he ordered his attendant to bring the barber in. The barber came in, and prostrated himself before the king, and informed his highness, with his body trembling, that he had already shaved him while he was sleeping. The king was highly pleased with his country barber, and loaded him with gifts.

The wives of barbers are nurses, and are useful in attending sick children. When children suffer from coughs or bronchitis the barber’s wife knows a herb with which to treat them. Throat complaints are cured by these women, who insert some mixture with the help of their fingers. Although this application of the finger seems a cruel kind of treatment, it certainly relieves the pain of the children, and causes them to sleep well.

The barber’s wife is also serviceable to the village Brahmin widows. She is called in by them twice a month or so in order that she may shave their heads.

She sometimes plays the part of the village fool by carrying messages to strange lovers, for which she is amply paid. Her services are very highly appreciated by profligate village women, to whom she is helpful in the carrying out of their unlawful schemes. The barber woman is also known as the midwife of the village. The mother of a barber, or a widowed sister of a barber, takes up this profession, but the midwife is too often an angel of death. She treats her patient with extreme, inconsiderateness, and even with cruelty. Not having the slightest knowledge of medical science, or instruments with which to meet cases of difficulty, many lives are lost in consequence of her rough and unskilful treatment. Reform in relation to these family exigencies is urgently needed to save the lives of the women of India."

[Quelle: Pandian, T. B. (Thomas B.) [பாண்டியன், தாமஸ் பி] <1863 - >: Indian village folk: their works and ways. -- London : Stock, 1898. -- 212 S. : Ill. ; 21 cm. -- S. 47 - 52]

Ambattan [அம்பட்டன் / അമ്പട്ടന്‍] (Tamil, Malayalam)

"Ambattan [அம்பட்டன் / അമ്പട്ടന്‍].For the following note I am indebted to Mr. C. Hayavadana Rao. The Ambattans [அம்பட்டன்] are the Tamil [தமிழ்] barbers, or barber-surgeons. The word is usually derived from the Sanskrit amba (near) and s’tha [sthā] (to stand), i.e., he who stands near to shave his clients, or treat his patients. In like manner, the Kāvutiyan caste of Malayālam [മലയാളം] barbers is called Aduttōn, signifying bystander. The Ambattan corresponds to the Mangala of the Telugu [తెలుగు] country, the Vilakkatālavan of Malabar [മലബാര്‍], the Kshauraka [ಕ್ಷೌರಿಕ] of the Canarese [ಕನ್ನಡ]Brāhmans, and the Hajām [هجام] of Muhammadans. Not improbably the name refers to the original occupation of medicine-man, to which were added later the professions of village barber and musician. This view seems to receive some support from the current tradition that the Ambattans are the descendants of the offspring of a Vaisya woman by a Brāhman, to whom the medical profession was allotted as a means of livelihood. In this connection, it may be noted that the Ambattan women are the recognised midwives of the Hindu community in the Tamil [தமிழ்] country. It is impossible to say how far the above tradition is based on the verse of Manu, the ancient law-giver, who says that 

“from a Brāhmana with the daughter of a Vaisya is born a son called an Ambashtha [ambaṣṭha].”

In a succeeding verse, he states that as children of a Brāhmana by a woman of one of the three lower castes, the Ambashthas [ambaṣṭha] are one of the six base-born castes or apasada. He says further that Brāhmans may eat of a barber’s food—a permission which, it is hardly necessary to say, they do not avail themselves of. A single exception is, however, noteworthy. At the temple of Jugganath [ଜଗନ୍ନାଥ ମନ୍ଦିର], within the temple precincts, neither the barber, nor the food which he prepares, and is partaken of by the higher classes, including Brāhmans, conveys pollution. The pūjāri, or officiating priest, at this famous temple is a barber, and Brāhmans, except those of the extreme orthodox section, partake of his preparations of rice, after they have been offered to the presiding deity. This is, apparently, the only case in which the rule laid down by Manu is followed in practice. It is not known how far the text of Manu is answerable for the popular Sanskrit saying, which calls the barber a “good Sūdra.” There is an opinion entertained in certain quarters that originally the barber’s touch did not pollute, but that his shaving did. It is an interesting fact that, though the Ambattans are one of Manu’s baseborn castes, whose touch causes pollution which requires the pouring of water over the head to remove it, they are one of the most Brāhmanised of the lower castes. Nothing, perhaps, shows this so well as their marriage ceremonies, throughout which a Brāhman officiates. On the first two days, hōmam or sacred fire, fed with ghī (clarified butter) is kindled. On the third day, the tāli [தாலி] (marriage badge) is placed in a circular silver or brass thattu [தட்டு] (dish), and touched with the forefinger of the right hand first by the presiding Brāhman, followed by other Brāhmans, men of superior castes, and the caste-men headed by the Perithanakkāran or head-man. It is then, amid weird music, tied to the bride’s neck before the sacred fire. During this ceremony no widows may be present. The relations of the bride and bridegroom scatter rice on the floor in front of the bridal pair, after the Brāhman priest and head-man. This rice, which is called sesham [சேஷம்] (remainder), is strictly the perquisite of the local washerman. But it is generally purchased by the headman of the family, in which the marriage is taking place, and handed over, not to the washerman, but to the Perithanakkāran. The Brāhman receives as his fee money and a pair of silk-bordered cloths ; and, till the latter are given to him, he usually refuses to pronounce the necessary mantras [மந்திரம்] (prayers). He also receives the first pān-supāri (betel leaves and areca nuts), plantains, and cocoanuts. Each day he has to get rid of the pollution caused by entering a barber’s house by bathing. During the fourth and fifth days, hōmam is burnt, and shadangu, or merry-making between the bride and bridegroom before the assembled spectators, takes place, during which the bride sings songs, in which she has been coached from infancy. On the fifth day the removal of the kankanam, or threads which have been tied round the wrists of the bride and bridegroom, is performed, after the priest’s account has been settled.

Among the Konga Vellālas [வேளாளர்] of the Salem [சேலம்] district, it is the Ambattan who officiates at the marriage rites, and ties the tāli [தாலி], after formally proclaiming to those present that he is about to do so. Brāhmans are invited to the wedding, and are treated with due respect, and presented with money, rice, and betel. It would appear that, in this case, the Brāhman has been ousted, in recent times, from his priestly functions by the Ambattan. The barber, when he ties the tāli [தாலி], mutters something about Brāhman and Vēdas in a respectful manner. The story goes that, during the days of the Chēra [சேரர்], Chōla [சோழர்], and Pāndya [பாண்டியர்] Kings, a Brāhman and an Ambattan were both invited to a marriage feast. But the Brāhman, on his arrival, died, and the folk, believing his death to be an evil omen, ruled that, as the Brāhman was missing, they would have an Ambattan ; and it has ever since been the custom for the Ambattan to officiate at weddings.

A girl, when she reaches puberty, has to observe pollution for eleven days, during which she bathes daily, and is presented with a new cloth, and adorned by a girl who is said to have “touched” her. This girl has to bathe before she can take her meals, or touch others. Every morning, a dose of pure gingelly (Sesamum indicum) oil, mixed with white of egg, is administered. The dietary must be strictly vegetarian. On the twelfth day, the girl who has been through the ceremonial has a final bath, and enters the house after it has been purified (punyāvāchanam).

The rule, once a widow always a widow, is as true of Ambattans as of high-class Brāhmans. And, if asked whether the remarriage of widows is permitted, they promptly reply that they are not washermen.

The dead are cremated, with the exception of young children, who are buried. The death ceremonies are conducted by a Brāhman priest, who is remunerated for his services with money and a cloth. Gifts of money and cloths are also made to other Brāhmans, when the days of pollution are over. Annual memorial ceremonies (srādh [சிராத்தம்]) are performed, as by Brāhmans. It is a privilege (they consider it as such) of the Ambattans to cremate the bodies of village paupers other than Brāhmans. And, on ordinary occasions of death, they lead the son or person who is entitled to light the funeral pyre, with a brass pot in their hands, round the corpse, and indicate with a burning cinder the place to which the light must be applied.

As a community the Ambattans are divided into Saivites [சைவ] and Vaishnavites [வைணவ]. Members of the latter section, who have been branded by their Brāhman guru with the chank [சங்கு] and chakram, abstain from animal food, and intoxicating drinks. Intermarriage between the two sections is allowed, and commonly practised. They belong to the right-hand faction, and will not eat with Kōmatis, who belong to the left. They have, however, no objection to shaving Kōmatis. The Ambattans of the Chingleput [செங்கல்பட்டு] district are divided into four sections, each of which is controlled by a Perithanakkāran. One of these resides in Madras [மதராஸ்], and the other three live respectively at Poonamallee [பூந்தமல்லி], Chingleput [செங்கல்பட்டு], and Karunguzhi [கருங்குழி] in the Madurantakam [மதுராந்தகம்] tāluk of the Chingleput district. Ambattans are now-a-days found over the whole Tamil [தமிழ்] area of the Madras Presidency. Originally, free movement into the various parts of the Presidency was far from easy, and every Ambattan, wherever he might migrate to, retained his subjection to the chief or headman of his native village. Thus, perhaps, what was at first a tribal division gradually developed into a territorial one. Each Perithanakkāran has under him six hundred, or even a thousand Kudithalakkārans, or heads of families. His office being hereditary, he is, if only a minor, treated with respect and dignity. All the preliminaries of marriage are arranged by him. On important occasions, such as settling disputes, he is assisted by a panchāyat, or council of elders. In this way are settled quarrels, questions arising out of adultery, or non-payment of fines, which it is his duty to collect. He is further responsible for the marriage rice-money, which is added to a communal tax of 2½ annas per family, which is imposed annually for charitable purposes. The charities take the form of the maintenance of chattrams, or places where pilgrims are fed free of charge at holy places. Two such institutions are maintained in the Chingleput district, the centre of the Ambattan community, one at Tirupporūr [திருப்போரூர்], the other at Tirukalikundram [திருக்கழுகுன்றம்]. At these places Brāhmans are given free meals, and to other caste Hindus sadābāth, or things necessary for meals, are presented. Sometimes the money is spent in building adjuncts to holy shrines. At Srīrangam [ஸ்ரீரங்கம்], for example, the Ambattans, in days gone by, built a fine -stone mantapam for the local temple. If the Perithanakkāran cannot satisfactorily dispose of a case with the assistance of the usual panchāyat (council), it is referred to the higher authority of the Kavarai or Desāi Setti, or even to British Courts as a last resource.

The barber has been summed up by a district official (Madras Mail, 1906) as

“one of the most useful of the village servants. He leads an industrious life, his services being in demand on all occasions of marriages, feasts, and funerals. He often combines in himself the three useful vocations of hair-dresser, surgeon, and musician. In the early hours of the morning, he may be seen going his rounds to his employers’ houses in his capacity of shaver and hair-cutter. Later on, he will be leading the village band of musicians before a wedding procession, or playing at a temple ceremony. Yet again he may be observed paying his professional visits as Vythian or physician, with his knapsack of surgical instruments and cutaneous drugs tucked under his arm. By long practice the barber becomes a fairly skilful operator with the knife, which he uses in a rough and ready manner. He lances ulcers and carbuncles, and even essays his hand in affections of the eye, often with the most disastrous results. It is the barber who takes away cricks and sprains, procures leeches for those wishing to be bled, and otherwise relieves the physical ills of his patients. The barber woman, on the other hand, is the accoucheuse and midwife of the village matrons. It may be said without exaggeration that many of the uterine ailments which furnish patients to the maternity wards of the various hospitals in this country are attributable to the rude treatment of the village midwife.”

The Ambattan will cut the nails, and shave not only the head and face, but other parts of the body, whereas the Telugu [తెలుగు] barber will shave only down to the waist. The depilatory operations on women are performed by female hair-dressers. Barbers’ sons are taught to shave by taking the bottom of an old well-burnt clay cooking-pot, and, with a blunt knife, scraping off the collected carbon. They then commence to operate on pubescent youths. The barber who shaves Europeans must not be a caste barber, but is either a Muhammadan or a non-caste man. Quite recently, a youthful Ambattan had to undergo ceremonial purification for having unconsciously shaved a Paraiyan [பறையர்]. Paraiyans, Mālas, and other classes of the lower orders, have their own barbers and washermen. Razors are, however, sometime lent to them by the Ambattans for a small consideration, and cleansed in water when they are returned. Parasitic skin diseases are said to originate from the application of a razor, which has been used on a number of miscellaneous individuals. And well-to-do Hindus now keep their own razor, which the barber uses when he comes to shave them. In the southern districts, it is not usual for the Ambattans to go to the houses of their customers, but they have sheds at the backs of their own houses, where they attend to them from daybreak till about mid-day. Occasionally, when sent for, they will wait on Brāhmans and high-class non-Brāhmans at their houses. Numbers of them, besides, wait for customers near the riverside. Like the English hair-cutter, the Ambattan is a chatterbox, retails the petty gossip of the station, and is always posted in the latest local news and scandal. The barbers attached to British regiments are migratory, and, it is said, have friends and connections in all military cantonments, with whom they exchange news, and hold social intercourse. The Ambattan fills the role of negotiator and go-between in the arrangement of marriages, feasts, and funeral. He is, moreover, the village physician and surgeon, and, in the days when blood-letting was still in vogue, the operation of phlebotomy was part of his business. In modern times, his nose has, like that of the village potter, been put out of joint by civil hospitals and dispensaries. His medicines consist of pills made from indigenous drugs, the nature of which he does not reveal. His surgical instrument is the razor which he uses for shaving, and he does not resort to it until local applications, e.g., in a case of carbuncle, have failed.

In return for his multifarious services to the villagers, the Ambattan was given a free grant of land, for which he has even now to pay only a nominal tax. But, in the days when there was no survey or settlement, if the barber neglected his duties, he was threatened with confiscation of his lands. At the present day, however, he can sell, mortgage, or make a gift thereof. As the Ambattans became divided up into a number of families, their duties in the village were parcelled out among them, so that each barber family became attached to certain families of other castes, and was entitled to certain rights from them. Among other claims, each barber family became entitled to three or four marakkāls [மரக்கால்] of paddy (unhusked rice), which is the perquisite of the married members thereof. It may be noted that, in village communities, lands were granted not only to the barber, but also to village officials such as the blacksmith, carpenter, washerman, astrologer, priest, dancing-girl, etc.

In his capacity of barber, the Ambattan is called Nāsivan (unholy man), or, according to the Census Reports, Nāsuvan (sprung from the nose), or Nāvidan. He is also known as Panditan [பண்டிதன்] or Pariyāri (doctor), and Kudimaghan (son of the ryot). The last of these names is applied to him especially on occasions of marriage, when to call him Nāsivan would be inauspicious. The recognised insigne of his calling is the small lookingglass, which he carries with him, together with the razor, and sometimes tweezers and ear-pick. He must salute his superiors by prostrating himself on his stomach, folding his arms, and standing at a respectful distance. He may not attend at Brāhman houses on new or full-moon days, Tuesday, Saturday, and special days such as Ekādasi [ஏகாதசி] and Dwādasi. The most proper days are Sunday and Monday. The quality of the shave varies with the skill of the individual, and there is a Tamil [தமிழ்] proverb “ Go to an old barber and a new washerman.” Stories are extant of barbers shaving kings while they were asleep without waking them, and it is said that the last Rāja of Tanjore [தஞ்சாவூர்] used to be thus entertained with exhibitions of their skill. The old legend of the barber who, in return for shaving a Rāja without awakening him, requested that he might be made a Brāhman, and how the Court jester Tennali Raman [తెనాలి రామకృష్ణ, 15. Jhdt.] got the RAja to cancel his agreement, has recently been re-told in rhyme.(A. P. Smith, Madras Review, 1902).  It is there described how the barber lathered the head “with water, alone, for soap he had none.” The modern barber, however, uses soap, either a cheap quality purchased in the bazar, or a more expensive brand supplied by his client.

By a curious corruption, Hamilton’s bridge, which connects the Triplicane [திருவல்லிகேணி] and Mylapore [மயிலப்பூர்] divisions of the city of Madras [மதராஸ்], has become converted into Ambattan [அம்பட்டன்], or barber’s bridge. And the barber, as he shaves you, will tell how, in days before the bridge was built, the channel became unfordable during a north-east monsoon flood. A barber, who lived on the Triplicane side, had to shave an engineer, whose house was on the Mylapore side. With difficulty he swam across, and shaved the sahib while he was asleep without waking him, and, in return, asked that, in the public interests, a bridge should be built over the channel.

Ambattans [അമ്പട്ടന്‍] of Travancore [തിരുവിതാംകൂര്].—For the following note I am indebted to Mr. N. Subramani Aiyer. The barbers of Travancore are called by various designations, those in Central and South Travancore preferring to be known by the name of Kshaurakan [ക്ഷുരകന്] or Kshaurakkaran, a corruption of the Sanskrit kshuraka [kṣuraka], while Ambattan seems to find general favour in the south. A curious name given to the caste throughout Travancore is Prānopakāri [പ്രാണോപകാരീ], or one who helps the souls, indicating their priestly functions in the ceremonials of various castes. A contraction of this name found in the early settlement records is Prānu. The members of those families from which kings and noblemen have at any time selected their barbers are called Vilakkittalavan, or more properly Vilakkuttalayan, meaning literally those who shave heads. In North Travancore many families are in possession of royal edicts conferring upon them the title of Panikkar [പ്പണിക്കർ], and along with it the headmanship of the barber families of the village in which they reside. Others have the title of Vaidyan [വൈദ്യൻ] or doctor, from the secondary occupation of the caste.

Endless endogamous septs occur among the barbers, and, at Trivandrum [തിരുവനന്തപുരം], there are said to be four varieties called

  • Chala Vazhi,
  • Pandi Vazhi,
  • Attungal Vazhi, and
  • Peruntanni Vazhi.

But it is possible to divide all the Kshaurakans of Travancore into three classes, viz.,

  1. Malayālam [മലയാളം]-speaking Ambattans, who follow the makkathāyam [മക്കത്തായം] law of inheritance ;
  2. Malayālam [മലയാളം]-speaking Ambattans who follow the marumakkathāyam [മരുമക്കത്തായം] law of inheritance ;
  3. Tamil [தமிழ்]-speaking barbers, who have in many localities adopted Malayālam [മലയാളം] as their mother-tongue, and indicate their recent conversion in this direction by preserving unchanged the dress and ornaments of their womenkind.

In Pattanapūram [പത്തനാപുരം], for example, there is a class of Malayālam [മലയാളം]-speaking barbers known as Pūlāns who immigrated into that tāluk from the Tamil [தமிழ்] country about two hundred years ago, and reveal their kinship with the Tamil [தமிழ்]-speaking barbers in various ways. In Kottayam [കോട്ടയം] and some other North Travancore tāluks, a large number of barbers may be described as recent converts of this character. In theory at least, the makkathāyam and marumakkathāyam Ambattans may be said to form two distinct endogamous groups, of which the former regard themselves as far superior to the latter in social position. Sometimes the makkathāyam Ambattans give their girls in marriage to the marumakkathāyam Ambattans, though the converse can never hold good. But, in these cases, the girl is not permitted to re-enter the paternal home, and associate with the people therein.

A local tradition describes the Travancore Kshaurakans [ക്ഷുരകന്]  as pursuing their present occupation owing to the curse of Surabhi [സുരഭി], the divine calf. Whatever their origin, they have faithfully followed their traditional occupation, and, in addition, many study medicine in their youth, and attend to the ailments of the villagers, while the women act as midwives. When a high-caste Hindu dies, the duty of supplying the fuel for the funeral pyre, and watching the burning ground, devolves on the barber.

In their dress and ornaments the Travancore barbers closely resemble the Nāyars [നായര്‍], but some wear round gold beads and a conch-shaped marriage jewel round the neck, to distinguish their women from those of the Nāyars. This, however, does not hold good in South Travancore, where the women have entirely adopted the Nāyar type of jewelry. Tattooing prevails to a greater extent among the barbers than among other classes, but has begun to lose its popularity.

The barbers not only worship the ordinary Hindu deities, but also adore such divinities as Murti, Māden, and Yakshi [യക്ഷി]. The corpses of those who die as the result of accident or contagious disease, are buried, not burnt. A sorcerer is called on to raise the dead from the grave, and, at his instance, a kuryala or small thatched shed is erected, to provide a sanctum for the resurrected spirit. Every year, in the month of Makaram [മകരം] (January-February), the day on which the Utradam [ഉത്രാടം] star falls is taken as the occasion for making offerings to these spirits.

In every village certain families had bestowed on them by the chieftains of Kērala [കേരളം] the right of deciding all questions affecting the caste. All social offences are tried by them, and the decision takes the form of an order to celebrate ianangūttu or feast of the equals, at which the first article served on the leaf placed before the assembled guests is not food, but a sum of money.

The tāli-kettu and sambandham ceremonies are celebrated, the former before, and the latter after the girl has reached puberty. The preliminary rites of betrothal and kāpu-kettu (tying the string round the wrist) over, the bridegroom enters the marriage hall in procession. There are no Vedic rites ; nor is there any definite priest for the marriage ceremony. The conch-shell is blown at odd intervals, this being considered indispensable. The festivities last for four days. A niece and nephew are regarded as the most legitimate spouses of a son and daughter respectively.

After the cremation or burial of a corpse, a rope is held by two of the relations between the dead person’s remains and the karta (chief mourner), and cut in two, as if to indicate that all connection between the karta and the deceased has ceased. This is called bandham aruppu, or severing of connection. Pollution lasts for sixteen days among all sections of the barbers, except the Tamils [தமிழ்], who regain their purity after a death in the family on the eleventh day."

[Quelle: Thurston, Edgar <1855-1935> ; Rangachari, K. (Kadambi) [கா. இரங்காச்சாரி] <1868 – 1934>: Castes and tribes of southern India / by Edgar Thurston ; assisted by K. Rangachari. -- Madras : Govt. Press, 1909. -- 7 Bde. : Ill. ; 24 cm. -- Bd. 1. -- S. 32 - 41]

Bhondāri (Oriya)

"Bhondāri.The Bhondāris are the barbers of the Oriya [ଓଡ଼ିଆ] country, living in Ganjam [ଗଞ୍ଜାମ].

“The name Bhondāri,” Mr. S. P. Rice writes, (Occasional Essays on Native South Indian Life.) is “ derived from bhondaram, treasure. The zamindars delivered over the guarding of the treasure to the professional barbers, who became a more important person in this capacity than in his original office of shaver in ordinary to His Highness.” 

The Bhondāris occupy a higher position than the Tamil [தமிழ்] and Telugu [తెలుగు] barbers. Though various Oriya castes bathe after being shaved, the touch of a Bhondāri at other times is not regarded as polluting. All over the Ganjam district, the Bhondāris are employed as domestic servants, and some are engaged as coolies, cart-drivers, etc. Others officiate as pūjāris (priests) at Takurāni (village deity) temples, grind sandalwood, or make flower garlands. On the occasion of ceremonial processions, the washing of the feet of the guests, carrying articles required for worship, and the jewels and cloths to be worn by the bridal couple on the wedding day, are performed by the Bhondāri. I am informed that a woman of this caste is employed by Karnams on the occasion of marriage and other ceremonials, at which her services are indispensable. It is said that in some places, where the Bhondāris do not shave castes lower than the Gudiyas, Oriya Brāhmans allow them to remove the leaf plates off which they have taken their food, though this should not be done by a non-Brāhman.

There are apparently three endogamous sub-divisions, named Godomalia, Odisi, and Bejjo. The word Godomalia means a group of forts, and it is said to be the duty of members of this section to serve Rājahs who live in forts. The Godomalias are most numerous in Ganjam, where they claim to be superior to the Odisi and Bejjo sections. Among exogamous septs, Mohiro (peacock), Dhippo (light), Oppomarango (Achyranthes aspera), and Nāgasira (cobra) may be noted. Members of the Oppomarango sept do not touch, or use the root of the plant as a tooth brush. Lights may not be blown out with the breath, or otherwise extinguished by members of the Dhippo sept ; and they do not light their lamps unless they are madi, i.e., wearing silk cloths, or cloths washed and dried after bathing. Nāgasira is a sept common to many Oriya castes, and is said to owe its origin to the influence of Oriya Brāhmans.

The hereditary headman of the caste is called Bēhara, and he is assisted by a Bhollobaya. Most of the Bhondāris follow the form of Vaishnavism inculcated by Chaithyana [Chaitanya - চৈতন্য, 1486 - 1533], and known as Paramartho matham. They wear as a necklace a string of tulsi (Ocimum sanctum} beads, without which they will not worship or take their food. Many Hindu deities, especially Jagannātha [ଜଗନ୍ନାଥ], and various local Tākurānis are also worshipped by them.

A man should not marry his maternal uncle’s or paternal aunt’s daughter. Infant marriage is the rule, and, if a girl has not secured a husband before she attains maturity, she has to go through a mock marriage ceremony called dharma bibha. She is taken to a Streblus asper (sahāda or shādi) tree, and married to it. She may not, during the rest of her life, touch the Streblus tree, or use its twigs as a tooth brush. Sometimes she goes through the ceremony of marriage with some elderly man, preferably her grandfather, or, failing him, her elder sister’s husband as bridegroom. A divorce agreement (tsado patro) is drawn up, and the pseudo-marriage thereby dissolved. Sometimes the bridegroom is represented by a bow and arrow, and the ceremony is called khando bibha.

The real marriage ceremonies last over seven days. On the day before the bibha [ବିବାହ] (wedding), a number of earthen pots are placed on a spot which has been cleaned for their reception, and some married women throw Zizyphus Jrijuba leaves and rice, apparently as an evil-eye removing and purificatory ceremony. While doing so, they cry “Ūlu, ulu” in a manner which recalls to mind the kulavi idal of the Maravans [மறவர்] and Kalians. A ceremony, called sokko bhondo, or wheel worship, is performed to a potter’s wheel. The bridegroom, who has to fast until the night, is shaved, after which he stands on a grindstone and bathes. While he is so doing, some women bring a grinding-mill stone, and grind to powder Vigna Catiang, Cajanus indicus and Cicer arietinum seeds, crying “Ūlu, ulu,” as they do so. The bridegroom then dresses himself, and sits on the marriage dais, while a number of married women crowd round him, each of whom touches an areca nut placed on his head seven times with a grinding stone. They also perform the ceremony called bhondaivaro, which consists in throwing Zizyphus Jujuba leaves, and rice dyed with turmeric, over the bridegroom, again calling out “Ūlu, ulu.” Towards evening, the bridegroom’s party proceed in procession to a temple, taking with them the various articles required on the morrow, such as the sacred thread, jewels, cloths, and mokkuto (forehead ornament). After worshipping the god, they return home, and on the way thither collect water in a vessel from seven houses, to be used by the bridegroom when he bathes next day. A ceremonial very similar to that performed by the bridegroom on the eve of the wedding is also performed by the bride and her party. On the wedding day, the bridegroom, after worshipping Vignēswara (Ganēsa) at the marriage dais with the assistance of a Brāhman purōhit, proceeds, dressed up in his marriage finery, mokkuto, sacred thread and wrist thread, to a temple in a palanquin, and worships there. Later on, he goes to the bride’s house in a palanquin. Just as he is about to start, his brother’s wife catches hold of the palanquin, and will not let him go till she has received a present of a new cloth. He is met en route by the bride’s father, and his feet are washed by her brother. His future father-in-law, after waving seven balls of coloured rice before him, escorts him to his house. At the entrance thereto, a number of women, including the bride’s mother, await his arrival, and, on his approach, throw Zizyphus Jujtiba, leaves, and cry “Ūlu, ulu.” His future mother-in-law, taking him by the hand, leads him into the house. As soon as he has reached the marriage dais, the bride is conducted thither by her maternal uncle, and throws some salt over a screen on to the bridegroom. Later on, she takes her seat by his side, and the Brāhman purōhit, after doing hōmam (making sacred fire), ties the hands of the contracting couple together with dharbha grass. This is called hastagonthi, and is the binding portion of the marriage ceremony. The bride and bridegroom then exchange ten areca nuts and ten myrabolams (Terminalia fruits). Two new cloths are thrown over them, and the ends thereof are tied together in a knot containing twenty-one cowry (Cyprcea Arabica) shells, a coin, and a few Zizyphus leaves. This ceremonial is called gontiyalo. The bride’s brother strikes the bridegroom with his fist, and receives a present of a cloth. At this stage, the couple receive presents from relations and friends. They then play seven times with cowry shells, and the ceremonial closes with the throwing of Zizyphus leaves, and the eating by the bride and bridegroom of rice mixed with jaggery (crude sugar) and curds. On the two following days, they sit on the dais, play with cowries, and have leaves and rice thrown over them. They wear the cloths given to them on the wedding day, and may not bathe in a tank (pond) or river. On the fourth day (chauti), the bride is received into the gōtra of the bridegroom. In token thereof, she cooks some food given to her by the bridegroom, and the pair make a show of partaking thereof. Towards the evening the bride is conducted by her maternal uncle to near the dais, and she stands on a grinding stone. Seven turns of thread dyed with turmeric are wound round the posts of the dais. Leading his wife thither, the bridegroom cuts the thread, and the couple stand on the dais, while four persons support a cloth canopy over their heads, and rice is scattered over them. On the fifth day, the newly-married couple and their relations indulge in throwing turmeric water over each other. Early on the morning of the sixth day, the bridegroom breaks a pot placed on the dais, and goes away in feigned anger to the house of a relation. Towards evening, he is brought back by his brother-in-law, and plays at cowries with the bride. The Bhondaivaro ceremony is once more repeated. On the seventh day, the sacred thread, wrist-threads and mokkuto are removed. Widows and divorcées are permitted to remarry. As among various other castes, a widow should marry her deceased husband’s younger brother.

The dead are cremated. When a person is on the point of death, a little Jagannatha [ଜଗନ୍ନାଥ] prasadam, i.e., rice from the temple at Puri [ପୁରୀ], is placed in his mouth. Members of many Oriya castes keep by them partially cooked rice, called nirmālyam, brought from this temple, and a little of this is eaten by the orthodox before meals and after bathing. The corpse is washed, anointed, and wrapped in a new cloth. After it has been secured on the bier, a new red cloth is thrown over it. At the head, a sheaf of straw, from the roof of the house, if it is thatched, is placed. The funeral pyre is generally prepared by an Oriya washerman. At the burning-ground, the corpse is placed close to the pyre, and the son puts into the mouth some parched rice, and throws rice over the eyes. Then, lighting the straw, he waves it thrice round the corpse, and throws it on the face. The corpse is then carried thrice round the pyre, and laid thereon. In the course of cremation, each mourner throws a log on the pyre. The son goes home, wet and dripping, after bathing. On the following day, the fire is extinguished, and two fragments of bone are placed in a small pot, and carefully preserved. The ashes are heaped up, and an image is drawn on the ground with a stick, to which food is offered. A meal, called pithapona (bitter food), consisting of rice and margosa (Media Azadirachta) leaves, is partaken of by agnates only. On the tenth day, the relatives and intimate friends of the deceased are shaved, the son last of all. The son and the agnates go to a tank bund (pond embankment), and cook food in a new pot within a shed which has been specially constructed for the occasion. The pot is then broken into ten fragments, on which food is placed, and offered to the dead person. The son takes the fragments, one by one, to the tank, bathing each time. The pot containing the two pieces of bone is generally buried beneath a pipal (Ficus religiosa) tree growing near a tank. On the tenth day, after the offering of food, the son proceeds to this spot, and, after pouring water ten times over the ground beneath which the pot is buried, takes the pot home, and buries it near the house. As he approaches his home, he goes ahead of those who accompany him, and, carrying a vessel filled with water, pours some of this three times on the ground, waving his hand in a circular manner. He then makes three marks with a piece of iron on the ground. A piece of hollow bamboo open at both ends, or other grain measure, is given to him, with which he measures rice or other grain seven times. He then throws the measure behind him between his legs, and, entering the house, puts a sect mark on his forehead with the aid of a broken looking-glass, which must be thrown away. Ghī (clarified butter) and meat may not be eaten by those under death pollution till the eleventh day, when a feast is held.

If an important elder of the community dies, a ceremony called jola-jola handi (pot drilled with holes) is performed on the night of the tenth day. Fine sand is spread over the floor of a room having two doors, and the surface is smoothed with a tray or plank. On the sand a lighted lamp is placed, with an areca nut by its side. The lamp is covered with an earthen cooking-pot. Two men carry on their shoulders a pot riddled with holes, suspended from a pole made of Diospyros Embryopteris [Diospyros malabarica
(Desr.) Kostel.
] wood, from inside the room into the street, as soon as the lamp is covered by the cooking-pot. Both doors of the room are then closed, and not opened till the return of the men. The pot which they carry is believed to increase in weight as they bear it to a tank, into which it is thrown. On their return to the house, they tap three times at the door, which then opens. All present then crowd into the room, and examine the sand for the marks of the foot-prints of a bull, cat or man, the trail of a centipede, cart-track, ladder, etc., which are believed to be left by the dead person when he goes to the other world.

Opprobrious names are very common among the Bhondāris, especially if a child is born after a succession of deaths among the offspring of a family. Very common among such names are those of low castes, e.g., Haddi, Bavuria, Dandāsi, etc."

[Quelle: Thurston, Edgar <1855-1935> ; Rangachari, K. (Kadambi) [கா. இரங்காச்சாரி] <1868 – 1934>: Castes and tribes of southern India / by Edgar Thurston ; assisted by K. Rangachari. -- Madras : Govt. Press, 1909. -- 7 Bde. : Ill. ; 24 cm. -- Bd. 1. -- S. 230 - 237]

Kāvuthiyan (Malayalam)

"Kāvuthiyan.The Kāvuthiyans are described as follows in the Gazetteer of Malabar [മലബാര്‍].

“They are barbers who serve the Tiyans [ടിയാൻ] and lower castes ; they are also sometimes given the title Kurup. Their females act as midwives. There seem to be several sections, distinguished by the affix of the name of the castes which they serve, as for instance Tacchakāvuthiyan or Tacchakurup, and Kanisakāvuthiyan, appropriated to the service of the Asaris [ആചാരി] and Kanisans respectively ; while the barbers who serve the Izhuvans are known both as Aduttōns, Vattis, or Izhuva Kāvuthiyans. But whether all these should be regarded as offshoots of one main barber caste, or as degraded sections of the castes which they serve, the Kāvuthiyans proper being only barbers to the Tiyans, it is difficult to determine. The fact that the Nāviyan or Kāvuthiyan section of the Veluttedans, as well as the Kāvuthiyan section of the Mukkuvans, are admittedly but degraded sections of these castes, makes the second the more probable view. It is also to be noticed that the Kāvuthiyans, in the north at least, follow marumakkathāyam [മരുമക്കത്തായം] (inheritance in the female line), while the Taccha and Kanisa Kāvuthiyans follow the other principle of descent.”"

[Quelle: Thurston, Edgar <1855-1935> ; Rangachari, K. (Kadambi) [கா. இரங்காச்சாரி] <1868 – 1934>: Castes and tribes of southern India / by Edgar Thurston ; assisted by K. Rangachari. -- Madras : Govt. Press, 1909. -- 7 Bde. : Ill. ; 24 cm. -- Bd. 3. -- S. 266]

Kelasi [ಕೆಲಸಿ] (Kannada)

"Kelasi [ಕೆಲಸಿ].For the following account of the Kelasi [ಕೆಲಸಿ] or barber caste of South Canara, I am indebted to a note on the barbers of Tuluva [ತುಳುವ] by Mr. M. Bapu Rao (Madras Christ. Coll, Mag., 1894). The caste name is derived from kelasa [ಕೆಲಸ], work. In like manner, the Canarese barbers of Bellary [ಬಳ್ಳಾರಿ] and Dharwar [ಧಾರವಾಡ] call themselves Kashta Madovaru, or those who perform the difficult task.

The barbers of South Canara are of different castes or sub-castes according to the language they speak, or the people for whom they operate. Thus there are

  1. the Tulu [ತುಳು] Kelsi (Kutchidāye, man of the hair) or Bhandāri ;
  2. the Konkani [कोंकणी] Kelsi or Mhāllo, who must have migrated from the north;
  3. the Hindustani [हिंदुस्तानी / ہندوستانی] Kelsi or Hajāms [ಹಜಾಮ];
  4. the Lingāyat [ಲಿಂಗಾಯತ] Kelsi or Hadapavada (man of the wallet) ;
  5. the Māppilla [മാപ്പിള] (Moplah) barber Vasa ; 
  6. the Malayāli [മലയാളി] barber Kāvudiyan;
  7. and even Telugu [తెలుగు] and Tamil [தமிழ்] barbers imported by the sepoy [سپاهی] regiments until recently stationed at Mangalore [ಮಂಗಳೂರು].

Naturally the Tulus [ತುಳು] form the bulk of the class in Tuluva. There is among them a section known as Maddele, employed by palm-tappers, and hence considered socially inferior to the Bhandāri, who is employed by the higher classes. [The Billava [ಬಿಲ್ಲವ] barbers are called Parēl Madiali or Parēl Madivala.] If a high caste barber operates for a man of lower caste, he loses his caste thereby, and has to pay a fine, or in some other way expiate his offence before he gains re-admission into his community. Pariahs in these parts have no separate caste of barbers, but anyone among themselves may try his skill on any head. Māppilla [മാപ്പിള] barbers are employed only by the Muhammadans. Even in their own community, however, they do not live in commensality with other Māppillas though gradations of caste are not recognised by their religion.

The barber is not ambitious enough to claim equality of rank with the Bant [ಬಂಟ], the potter, the piper, the weaver, or the oilmonger; but he shows a decided disposition to regard himself as above the level of the fisherman or the palanquin-bearer. The latter often disclaim any such inferiority, and refer to the circumstance that they discharge the functions of carrying the huge umbrella in marriage processions, and shouldering the gods in religious processions. They argue that their rivals perform an operation, the defilement of which can only be wiped off by bathing the head with a solution of sacred earth taken from besides the roots of the tulsi plant (Ocimum sanctum) In justice to the barber, however, it must be mentioned that he has to perform certain priestly duties for most Sūdras. His presence is essential at two of the ceremonies observed by castes professing to be superior to his. At the name-giving ceremony a Tulu barber has to tie a thread round the waist of the child, and name it, among Sūdras of a higher caste than himself. [At the present day, the Bhandāri is said to receive his fee for tying the thread, though he does not actually perform the act.] Again, on the death of a high caste Sūdra, the barber has to carry the fire to the cremation ground, though the funeral pyre is lighted by the relations of the deceased. He also has to assist at certain other rites connected with funeral obsequies, such as purifying the house.

[The collection of fragments of bones from the ashes, heaping up the ashes, and cleaning the spot where the corpse was burnt, are the business of the Kelasi. These duties he performs for Morlis, Bants [ಬಂಟ], Gattis, and Vodaris. The Bhandāri or Kelasi is an object of intense hatred to Konkani [कोंकणी] women, who call them by abusive names, such as fellow with a burnt face, miserable wretch, widow-maker, etc.]

The barber in South Canara has invented several stories concerning the origin of his first progenitor. At a time when the barber had not yet been created, Siva was a bachelor, spending his time in austere devotions, and allowing his hair to grow into long matted locks. A time came when he became bent on matrimony, and he thought that the hirsute condition of his face would not be appreciated by his bride, the young daughter of the king of the mountains. It was at this juncture that the barber was created to make Siva a good-looking bridegroom, and the Brāhman to officiate at the marriage ceremony. According to another legend, a Gāndharva-born woman was on one occasion cast into the sea by irate Brahma, and doomed to be turned into a rock. Moved by her piteous entreaties, however, Brahma relented, and ordained that she should be restored to human form when Parasurāma should happen to set his foot upon the rock. This came to pass when Parasurāma thrust back the waters of the western sea in order to create the western coast. The re-humanised woman thereupon offered her thanksgivings in such winning words that the great Brāhman hero asked her to beg any boon she wished. She begged a son, who should in some way remind generations to come of the great Brāhman who had reclaimed her from her inanimate state. The boon was thereupon granted that she should give birth to sons, who would not indeed be Brāhmans, but who would perform functions analogous to those performed by Brāhmans. The barber thus discharges certain priestly duties for Sūdras, and cleanses the body even as the Brāhman cleanses the soul ; and the defilement caused by the razor can be removed only by the smearing of mud and water, because the barber’s female progenitor was a rock recovered out of water.

The primary occupation of the barber does not always bring in a sufficient income, while it leaves him a large amount of leisure. This he spends, if possible, in agricultural labour, in which he is materially assisted by his female relations. Barbers residing in towns hold no land to fall back upon, but their average monthly earnings range from five to seven rupees. Their brethren in the villages are not so busy plying the razor, so they cultivate land as tenants. One of the blessings conferred by Parasurāma is that the barber shall never starve.

When a child is born, a male member of the family has to tie a thread round its waist, and give it a name. The choice of a name often depends upon the day of the week on which the child was born.

  • If it is born on a Sunday it is called, if a boy, Aitha (Auditya, sun), or, if a girl, Aithe;
  • if on a Monday, Some or Somu;
  • if on a Tuesday, Angara or Angare;
  • if on a Wednesday, Budara or Budare, changed among Pariahs into Mudara or Mudaru ;
  • if on a Thursday, Guruva or Guruvu ;
  • if on a Friday, Tukra (Shukra) or Tukru ;
  • if on a Saturday, Taniya (Saniya) or Taniyaru.

Other names which are common are Lakkana (Lakshmana), Krishna, Subba, and Korapulu (Koraga woman). Those who can afford to do so often employ a Brāhman priest to ascertain whether the child is born lucky or unlucky; and, in the latter case, the barber is advised to offer something to the tutelary deity or the nine planets, or to propitiate the village deity, if it is found that the child is born under its evil eye. No lullaby should be sung while the child is being rocked for the first time in a cradle, perhaps because, if the very first rocking is done with a show of rejoicing, some evil spirit may be envious of the human joy, and mar the happiness.

The initiation of a boy into the mysteries of his hereditary profession takes place between the tenth and the fourteenth year. In very rare cases, nowadays, a boy is sent to school between the sixth and eighth year. These occasions are marked by offerings of cocoanuts and plantains to the village deity.

With boys marriage takes place between the sixteenth and twenty-fifth year, with girls before or after puberty. Matches are made by selection on the part of the parents. Lads are sometimes allowed to choose their own brides, but their choice is subject to the approval of the parents, as it must necessarily be in a joint family. Bridegrooms have to pay for their brides a dowry varying from twenty to fifty rupees, and sometimes as much as a hundred rupees. Deformed girls, however, fetch no price ; on the other hand, they have to pay some pecuniary inducement to the bridegroom. Widows are allowed, and, when young, encouraged to remarry. The most essential condition of a valid marriage is that the contracting parties should belong to different baris or balis (exogamous septs). As examples of the names of these balis, the following may be cited : Bangaru [ಬಂಗಾರು] (gold), Salia (weaver), Uppa [ಉಪ್ಪು] (salt), Kombara (cap made of areca palm leaf), Karimbara (sugar-cane). Horoscopes are not consulted for the suitability or future prosperity of a match, but the day and hour, or lagnam [ಲಗ್ನಂ] of a marriage are always fixed by a Brāhman priest with reference to the conjunction of stars. The marriage lasts for three days, and takes place in the house of the bridegroom. This is in accordance with the primitive conception of marriage as a bringing away by force or procuring a bride from her parents, rather than with the current Brāhman idea that the bridegroom should be invited, and the girl given away as a present, and committed to his custody and protection. The marriage ceremony takes place in a pandal (booth) on a raised or conspicuous place adorned with various figures or mandala. The pair are made to sit on a bench, and rice is sprinkled on their heads. A barber then shaves the chin and forehead of the bridegroom, the hair border being in the form of a broken pointed arch converging upwards. He also touches the bride’s cheeks with the razor, with the object of removing what is called monetha kale, the stain on the face. The full import of this ceremony is not clear, but the barbers look upon the act as purificatory. If a girl has not come of age at the time of marriage, it is done on the occasion of the nuptials. If she has, the barber, in addition to touching the cheeks with the razor, goes to her house, sprinkles some water over her with a betel leaf, and makes her touch the pot in which rice is to be cooked in her husband’s house. At the bridegroom’s house, before the assembled guests, elders, and headman of the caste, the man and the girl are linked together in the marriage bond by having water (dhāre) poured on their joined hands. Next, the right hands of the pair being joined (kaipattāvane), the bridegroom leads the bride to her future home.

Soon after a death occurs, a barber is summoned, who sprinkles water on the corpse, and touches it with a razor if it be of a male. In every ceremony performed by him, the barber must have recourse to his razor, even as the Brāhman priest cannot do without his kusa grass. The rich burn their dead, and the poor bury them. Persons dying of infectious diseases are always buried. Prior to the removal of the corpse to the cremation or burial ground, all the clothes on and about it, with the exception of one cloth to cover it from head to foot, are removed and distributed to Pariahs [പറയർ], who have prepared the pyre or dug the grave. Before the mourners return from the cemetery, they light four lamps in halves of cocoanuts, and leave them burning on the spot. Coming home, the chief mourner places in the hands of the Gurukāra [ಗುರುಕಾರ] or headman of the caste a jewel or other valuable article as a security that he will duly perform all the funeral rites. This is termed sāvuotti dipunā. The Gurukāra, in the presence of the relations and friends assembled, returns the same, enjoining its recipient to be prepared to perform the requisite rites, even with the proceeds of the sale of the pledged article if necessary. The eleventh day is the sāvu or principal mourning day, on which the headman and elders of the caste, as well as the friends and relations of the deceased ought to be present. On the spot where the deceased expired, or as near thereto as possible, an ornamental square scaffolding is erected, and covered with cloth coloured with turmeric. The ground below the scaffolding is covered with various figures, and flowers and green leaves are strewn on it. Each mourner throws on this spot handfuls of cooked rice, coloured yellow and red, and cries out “Oh ! uncle, I cry murrio,” or “Oh ! father, I cry murrio,” and so on, according to the relationship in which the deceased stood to the mourner. This ceremony is called murrio korpuna, or crying alas. In well-to-do families it is usual to accompany this with devil-dancing. On the twelfth day, rice is offered to crows, the original belief apparently being that the spirits of the deceased enter into birds or beasts, so that food given to these may happen to reach and propitiate them. On the night of the thirteenth day, the relations of the deceased set apart a plantain leaf for the spirit of the departed, serve cooked rice on it, and, joining their hands, pray that the soul may be gathered unto its ancestors, and rest in peace. The anniversary of the death, called agel, is celebrated by placing cooked rice on two plantain leaves placed over sacrificial twigs, and burning incense and waving lamps before it. This is called soma dipunā.

The family god of the barber is Krishna [ಕೃಷ್ಣ] of Udipi [ಉಡುಪಿ], and the high-priest to whom he pays homage is the Saniyāsi [ಸಂನ್ಯಾಸ] (religious ascetic), who for the time being worships that god. The same high-priest is also the final court of appeal from the decisions of the village council of the barbers in matters relating to caste and religion. The powers which are ever present to the barber’s mind, and which he always dreads and tries to propitiate, are the village demons, and the departed spirits of members of his own family. If a child falls ill, he hastens to the Brāhman seer, to learn who is offended, and how the spirit should be appeased. If his cow does not eat hay, he anxiously enquires to which demon he should carry a cock. If the rain fails or the crops are poor, he hies to the nearest deity with cocoanuts, plantains, and the tender spikes of areca. In case of serious illness, he undertakes a vow to beg from door to door on certain days, and convey the money thus accumulated to Tirupati [తిరుపతి]. In his house, he keeps a small closed box with a slit in the lid, through which he drops a coin at every pinch of misfortune, and the contents are eventually sent to that holy place.

The affairs of the community are regulated by a council of elders. In every village, or for every group of houses, there is an hereditary Gurukāra [ಗುರುಕಾರ] or headman of the barbers, who is assisted by four Moktesars. If any of these five authorities receives a complaint, he gives notice to the others, and a meeting is arranged to take place in some house. When there is a difference of opinion, the opinion of the majority decides the issue. When a decision cannot be arrived at, the question is referred to the council of another village. If this does not settle the point at issue, the final appeal lies to the Swāmi [ಸ್ವಾಮಿ] of the the Udipi [ಉಡುಪಿ] temple. The council inquires into alleged offences against caste, and punishes them. It declares what marriages are valid, and what not. It not only preserves discipline within the community itself, but takes notice of external affairs affecting the well-being of the community. Thus, if the pipers refuse to make music at their marriage processions, the council resolves that no barber shall shave a piper. Disputes concerning civil rights were once submitted to these councils, but, as their decisions are not now binding, aggrieved parties seek justice from courts of law.

Punishments consist of compensation for minor offences affecting individuals, and of fine or excommunication if the offence affects the whole community. If the accused does not attend the trial, he may be excommunicated for contempt of authority. If the person seeks re-admission into the caste, he has to pay a fine, which goes to the treasury of the temple at Udipi [ಉಡುಪಿ]. The presiding Swāmi [ಸ್ವಾಮಿ] at the shrine accepts the fine, and issues a writ authorising the re-admission of the penitent offender. The headman collects the fine to be forwarded to the Swāmi, and, if he is guilty of any malpractice, the whole community, generally called the ten, may take cognisance of the offence. Offences against marriage relations, shaving low caste people, and such like, are all visited with fine, which is remitted to the Swāmi, from whom purification is obtained. The power of the village councils, however, has greatly declined in recent years, as the class of cases in which their decision can be enforced is practically very small.

The Tulu [ತುಳು] barbers, like many other castes on the western coast, follow the aliya santāna system of inheritance (in the female line). The tradition in South Canara is that this, and a number of other customs, were imposed upon certain castes by Bhūtāla Pāndya. The story relates that Deva Pandya, a merchant of the Pandya kingdom, once had some new ships built, but before they put to sea, the demon Kundodara [ಕುಣ್ಡೋದರ] demanded a human sacrifice. The merchant asked his wife to spare one of her seven sons for the purpose, but she refused to be a party to the sacrifice, and went away with her sons to her father’s house. The merchant’s sister thereupon offered her son. Kundodara, however, was so very pleased with the appearance of this son that he spared his life, and made him a king, whose sway extended over Tuluva [ತುಳುವ]. This king was called Bhūtāla Pandya, and he, being directed by Kundodara, imposed upon the people the system of nephew inheritance.

The barber is changing with the times. He now seldom uses the old unfoldable wooden-handled razor forged by the village blacksmith, but has gone in for what he calls Rāja sri [ರಾಜಶ್ರೀ] (royal fortune ; corruption of Rodgers) razors. He believes that he is polluted by the operation which it is his lot to perform, and, on his return home from his morning round, he must bathe and put on washed clothes."

[Quelle: Thurston, Edgar <1855-1935> ; Rangachari, K. (Kadambi) [கா. இரங்காச்சாரி] <1868 – 1934>: Castes and tribes of southern India / by Edgar Thurston ; assisted by K. Rangachari. -- Madras : Govt. Press, 1909. -- 7 Bde. : Ill. ; 24 cm. -- Bd. 3. -- S. 268 - 278]

Mangala [మంగళ] (Telugu, Tamil)

"Mangala [మంగళ].

The Mangalas [మంగళ] and Ambattans [அம்பட்டன்],” Mr. H. A. Stuart writes (Manual of the North Arcot district), “are the barber castes, and are probably of identical origin, but, like the potters, they have, by difference of locality, separated into Telugu [తెలుగు]s and Tamilians [தமிழ்], who do not intermarry. Both are said to be the offspring of a Brāhman by a Vaisya woman. The Telugu [తెలుగు] name is referred to the word mangalam [మంగళం], which means happiness and also cleansing, and is applied to barbers, because they take part in marriage ceremonies, and add to the happiness on the occasion by the melodious sounds of their flutes (nāgasaram [నాదస్వరం]), while they also contribute to the cleanliness of the people by shaving their bodies. The Telugus [తెలుగు] are divided into the Reddibhūmi, Murikinādu, and Kurichinādu sub-divisions, and are mostly Vaishnavites. They consider the Tamilians [தமிழ்] as lower than themselves, because they consent to shave the whole body, while the Telugus [తెలుగు] only shave the upper portions. Besides their ordinary occupation, the members of this caste pretend to some knowledge of surgery and of the properties of herbs and drugs. Their females practice midwifery in a barbarous fashion, not scrupling also to indulge largely in criminal acts connected with their profession. Flesh-eating is allowed, but not widow marriage.”

“Mangalas,” Mr. Stuart writes further (Madras Census Report, 1891), “are also called Bajantri (in reference to their being musicians), Kalyānakulam [కల్యానకులం] (marriage people), and Angārakudu. The word angāramu means fire, charcoal, a live coal, and angārakudu is the planet Mars. Tuesday is Mars day, and one name for it is Angārakavāramu, but the other and more common name is Mangalavāramu [మంగళవారం]. Now mangala is a Sanskrit word, meaning happiness, and mangala, with the soft l, is the Telugu [తెలుగు] for a barber. Mangalavāramu and Angarakavāramu being synonymous, it is natural that the barbers should have seized upon this, and given themselves importance by claiming to be the caste of the planet Mars. As a matter of fact, this planet is considered to be a star of ill omen, and Tuesday is regarded as an inauspicious day. Barbers are also considered to be of ill omen owing to their connection with deaths, when their services are required to shave the heads of the mourners. On an auspicious occasion, a barber would never be called a Mangala, but a Bajantri, or musician. Their titles are Anna and Gādu.”

Anna means brother, and Gādu is a common suffix to the names of Telugus [తెలుగు], e.g., Rāmigādu, Subbigādu. A further title is Ayya (father).

For the following note on the Mangalas, I am indebted to Mr. C. Hayavadana Rao. The caste is divided into two endogamous divisions, Telaga and Kāpu, the ancestors of which were half brothers, by different mothers. They will eat together, but will not intermarry, as they regard themselves as cousins. The primary occupation of the caste is shaving the heads of people belonging to the non-polluting castes, and, for a small consideration, razors are lent to Mādigas and Mālas. A Mangala, in the Vizagapatam [విశాఖపట్నం] district, carries no pollution with him, when he is not actually engaged in his professional duties, and may often be found as storekeeper in Hindu households, and occupying the same position as the Bhondāri, or Oriya [ଓଡ଼ିଆ] barber, does in the Oriya country. Unlike the Tamil Ambattan [அம்பட்டன்], the Mangala has no objection to shaving Europeans. He is one of the village officials, whose duties are to render assistance to travellers, and massage their limbs, and, in many villages, he is rewarded for his services with a grant of land. He is further the village musician, and an expert at playing on the flute. Boys are taught the art of shaving when they are about eight years old. An old chatty (earthen pot) is turned upside down, and smeared with damp earth. When this is dry, the lad has to scrape it off under the direction of an experienced barber."

[Quelle: Thurston, Edgar <1855-1935> ; Rangachari, K. (Kadambi) [கா. இரங்காச்சாரி] <1868 – 1934>: Castes and tribes of southern India / by Edgar Thurston ; assisted by K. Rangachari. -- Madras : Govt. Press, 1909. -- 7 Bde. : Ill. ; 24 cm. -- Bd. 4. -- S. 448 - 451]

Nai [नाई], Nao [नाऊ], Mhāli [महाली], Hajjām [हज्जाम], Bhandāri [ଭଣ୍ଡାରୀ], Mangala [మంగల] (Central Provinces)

"Nai [नाई], Nao [नाऊ], Mhāli [महाली], Hajjām [हज्जाम], Bhandāri [ଭଣ୍ଡାରୀ], Mangala [మంగల].1

1 This article is compiled from papers by Mr. Chatterji, retired E.A.C., Jubbulpore ; Professor Sadāshiva Jairām, M.A., Hislop College, Nāgpur ; and Mr. C. Shrinivās Naidu, First Assistant Master, Sironcha, Chānda; and from the Central Provinces District Gazetteers.

1. Structure of the caste.

The occupational caste of barbers. The name is said to be derived from the Sanskrit nāpita [नापित], according to some a corruption of snāpitri [स्नापितृ], one who bathes. In Bundelkhand [बुंदेलखंड] he is also known as Khawās [खवास], which was a title for the attendant on a grandee ; and Birtiya [बिरतिया], or ‘He that gets his maintenance (vritti [वृत्ति]) from his constituents.’2 Mhāli [महाली] is the Marathi [मराठी] name for the caste, Bhandāri [ଭଣ୍ଡାରୀ] the Uriya [ଓଡ଼ିଆ] name and Mangala [మంగల] the Telugu [తెలుగు] name. The caste numbered nearly 190,000 persons in the Central Provinces in 1911, being distributed over all Districts. Various legends of the usual type are related of its origin, but, as Sir. H. Risley observes, it is no doubt wholly of a functional character.

2 Mr. Crooke’s Tribes and Castes, art. Nai.

The subcastes in the Central Provinces entirely bear out this view, as they are very numerous and principally of the territorial type:

  • Telange [तेलंगे] of the Telugu [తెలుగు] country,
  • Marāthe [मराठे],
  • Pardeshi [परदेशी] or northerners,
  • Jhāria [झारिया] or those of the forest country of the Wainganga [वैनगंगा] Valley,
  • Bandhaiya or those of Bāndhogarh [बांधवगढ],
  • Barāde of Berār [बेरार],
  • Bundelkhandi [बुंदेलखंडी],
  • Mārwāri [मारवाडी],
  • Mathuria [मथुरिया] from Mathura [मथुरा],
  • Gadhwaria from Garha [गरहा] near Jubbulpore [जबलपुर],
  • Lānjia [लांजिया] from Lānji [लांजी] in Bālāghāt [बालाघाट],
  • Mālwi [माळवी] from Mālwa [माळवा],
  • Nimāri [निमाड़ी] from Nimār [निमाड़],
  • Deccane [दख्खने],
  • Gujarāti [गुजराती],
  • and so on.

Twenty-six divisions in all are given. The exogamous groups are also of different types, some of them being named after Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] saints, as 

  • Gautam [गौतम],
  • Kashyap [कश्यप],
  • Kosil,
  • Sandil [शाण्डिल्य] and
  • Bharadwāj [भरद्वाज] ;

others after Rājpūt [राजपूत] clans as

  • Sūrajvansi [सूरजवंशी],
  • Jāduvansi [जादूवंशी],
  • Solanki [સોલંકી] and 
  • Panwār [पंवार];

while others are titular or totemistic, as

  • Nāik [नाईक], leader ;
  • Seth [सेठ], banker;
  • Rāwat [रावत], chief;
  • Nāgesh [नागेश], cobra ;
  • Bāgh [बाघ], a tiger;
  • Bhādrawa, a fish.

2. Marriage and other customs.

The exogamous groups are known as khero [खेडो] or kul [कुल], andmarriage between members of the same group is prohibited. Girls are usually wedded between the ages of eight and twelve and boys between fifteen and twenty. A girl who goes wrong before marriage is finally expelled from the caste. The wedding ceremony follows the ritual prevalent in the locality as described in the articles on Kurmi [कुर्मी] and Kunbi [कुणबी]. At an ordinary wedding the expenses on the girl’s side amount to about Rs. 150, and on the boy’s to Rs. 200. The remarriage of widows is permitted. In the northern Districts the widow may wed the younger brother of her deceased husband, but in the Marātha [मराठा] country she may not be married to any of his relatives. Divorce may be effected at the instance of the husband before the caste committee, and a divorced woman is at liberty to marry again. The Nais [नाई] worship all the ordinary Hindu deities. On the Dasahra [दशहर] and Diwāli [दीवाली] festivals they wash and revere their implements, the razor, scissors and nail-pruners. They pay regard to omens. It is unpropitious to sneeze or hear the report of a gun when about to commence any business ; and when a man is starting on a journey, if a cat, a squirrel, a hare or a snake should cross the road in front of him he will give it up and return home. The bodies of the dead are usually burnt. In Chhattisgarh [छत्तीसगढ़] the poor throw the corpses of their dead into the Mahānadi [महानदी], and the bodies of children dying under one year of age were until recently buried in the courtyard of the house. The period of mourning for adults is ten days and for children three days. The chief mourner must take only one meal a day, which he cooks himself until the ceremony of the tenth day is performed.

3. Occupation.

“The barber’s trade,” Mr. Crooke states,1 “ is undoubtedly of great antiquity. In the Veda we read, ‘Sharpen us like the razor in the hands of the barber ’; and again, ‘ Driven by the wind, Agni [अग्नि] shaves the hair of the earth like the barber shaving a beard.’”

1 Tribes and Castes, art. Nai, para. 5.

In early times they must have enjoyed considerable dignity ; Upali [उपालि] the barber was the first propounder of the law of the Buddhist church. The village barber’s leather bag contains a small mirror (ārsi [आरसी]), a pair of iron pincers (chimta), a leather strap, a comb (kanghi [कंघी]), a piece of cloth about a yard square and some oil in a phial. He shaves the faces, heads and armpits of his customers, and cuts the nails of both their hands and feet. He uses cold water in summer and hot in winter, but no soap, though this has now been introduced in towns. For the poorer cultivators he does a rapid scrape, and this process is called ‘asūdhal' or a ‘ tearful shave,’ because the person undergoing it is often constrained to weep. The barber acquires the knowledge of his art by practice on the more obliging of his customers, hence the proverb, ‘The barber’s son learns his trade on the heads of fools.’ The village barber is usually paid by a contribution of grain from the cultivators, calculated in some cases according to the number of ploughs of land possessed by each, in others according to the number of adult males in the family. In Saugor [सागर] he receives 20 lbs. of grain annually for each adult male or 22½ lbs. per plough of land, besides presents of a basket of grain at seed-time and a sheaf at harvest. Cultivators are usually shaved about once a fortnight. In towns the barber’s fee may vary from a pice to two annas for a shave, which is, as has been seen, a much more protracted operation with a Hindu than with a European. It is said that Berār [बेरार] is now so rich that even ordinary cultivators can afford to pay the barber two annas (2d.) for a single shave, or the same price as in the suburbs of London.

4. Other services.

After he has shaved a client the barber pinches and rubs his arms, presses his fingers together and cracks the joints of each finger, this last action being perhaps meant to avert evil spirits. He also does massage, a very favourite method of treatment in India, and also inexpensive as compared with Europe. For one rupee a month in towns the barber will come and rub a man’s legs five or ten minutes every day. Cultivators have their legs rubbed in the sowing season, when the labour is intensely hard owing to the necessity of sowing all the land in a short period. If a man is well-to-do he may have his whole head and body rubbed with scented oil. Landowners have often a barber as a family servant, the office descending from father to son. Such a man will light his master’s chilam [चिलम] (pipe-bowl) or huqqa [हुक़्क़ा] (water-pipe), clean and light lamps, prepare his bed, tell his master stories to send him to sleep, act as escort for the women of the family when they go on a journey and arrange matches for the children. The barber’s wife attends on women in child-birth after the days of pollution are over, and rubs oil on the bodies of her clients, pares their nails and paints their feet with red dye at marriages and on other festival occasions.

5. Duties at weddings.

The barber has also numerous and important duties 1 in  connection with marriages and other festival occasions. Heacts as the Brāhman’s [ब्राह्मण] assistant, and to the lower castes, who cannot employ a Brāhman [ब्राह्मण], he is himself the matrimonial priest. The important part which he plays in marriage ceremonies has led to his becoming the matchmaker among all respectable castes. He searches for a suitable bride or bridegroom, and is often sent to inspect the other party to a match and report his or her defects to his clients. He may arrange the price or dowry, distribute the invitations and carry the presents from one house to the other. He supplies the leaf-plates and cups which are used at weddings, as the family’s stock of metal vessels is usually quite inadequate for the number of guests. The price of these is about 4 annas (4d.) a hundred. He also provides the torans [तोरण] or strings of leaves which are hung over the door of the house and round the marriage-shed. At the feast the barber is present to hand to the guests water, betel-leaf and pipes as they may desire. He also partakes of the food, seated at a short distance from the guests, in the intervals of his service. He lights the lamps and carries the torches during the ceremony. Hence he was known as Masālchi [मशालची] or torch-bearer, a name now applied by Europeans to a menial servant who lights and cleans the lamps and washes the plates after meals. The barber and his wife act as prompters to the bride and bridegroom, and guide them through the complicated ritual of the wedding ceremony, taking the couple on their knees if they are children, and otherwise sitting behind them. The barber has a prescriptive right to receive the clothes in which the bridegroom goes to the bride’s house, as on the latter’s arrival he is always presented with new clothes by the bride’s father. As the bridegroom’s clothes may be an ancestral heirloom, a compact is often made to buy them back from the barber, and he may receive as much as Rs. 50 in lieu of them. When the first son is born in a family the barber takes a long bamboo stick, wraps it round with cloth and puts an earthen pot over it and carries this round to the relatives, telling them the good news. He receives a small present from each household.

1 The following account is largely taken from Mr. Nesfield’s Brief View of the Caste System, pp. 42, 43.

6. The barber-surgeon.

The barber also cleans the ears of his clients and cuts their nails, and is the village surgeon in a small way. He cups and bleeds his patients, applies leeches, takes out teeth and lances boils. In this capacity he is the counterpart of the barber-surgeon of mediaeval Europe. The Hindu physicians are called Baid [वैद्य], and are, as a rule, a class of Brāhmans [ब्राह्मण]. They derive their knowledge from ancient Sanskrit treatises on medicine, which are considered to have divine authority. Consequently they think it unnecessary to acquire fresh knowledge by experiment and observation, as they suppose the perfect science of medicine to be contained in their sacred books. As these books probably do not describe surgical operations, of which little or nothing was known at the time when they were written, and as surgery involves contact with blood and other impure substances, the Baids [वैद्य] do not practise it, and the villagers are left to get on as best they can with the ministrations of the barber. It is interesting to note that a similar state of things appears to have prevailed in Europe. [...]

7. A barber at the court of Oudh [अवध].

Perhaps the most successful barber known to Indian history was not a Hindu at all, but a Peninsular and Oriental Company’s cabin-boy, who became the barber of one of the court last kings of Oudh [अवध], Nasir-ud-Din [1803 - 1837] [ناصر الدیں حیدر شاہ], in the early part of the nineteenth century, and rose to the position of a favourite courtier. He was entrusted with the supply of every European article used at court, and by degrees became a regular guest at the royal table, and sat down to take dinner with the king as a matter of right ; nor would his majesty taste a bottle of wine opened by any other hands than the barber’s.2 This was, however, a wise precaution as it turned out, since after he had finally been forced to part with the barber the king was poisoned by his own relatives. The barber was also made keeper of the royal menagerie, for which he supplied the animals and their food, and made enormous profits.

2 Private Life of an Eastern King, p. 17.

The following is an account of the presentation of the barber’s monthly bill of expenses:3

3 Ibidem, p. 107.

“It was after tiffin, or lunch, when we usually retired from the palace until dinner-time at nine o’clock, that the favourite entered with a roll of paper in his hand. In India, long documents, legal and commercial, are usually written, not in books or on successive sheets, but on a long roll, strip being joined to strip for that purpose, and the whole rolled up like a map.

“ ‘ Ha, Khan ! ’ said the king, observing him ;    ‘ the monthly bill, is it ? ’
“ ‘ It is, your majesty,’ was the smiling reply.
“ ‘ Come, out with it ; let us see the extent. Unrol it, Khan.’

“ The king was in a playful humour ; and the barber was always in the same mood as the king. He held the end of the roll in his hand, and threw the rest along the floor, allowing it to unrol itself as it retreated. It reached to the other side of the long apartment—a goodly array of items and figures, closely written too. The king wanted it measured. A measure was brought and the bill was found to be four yards and a half long. I glanced at the amount ; it was upwards of Rs. 90,000, or £9000!”    

The barber, however, encouraged the king in every form of dissipation and excess, until the state of the Oudh [अवध] court became such a scandal that the king was forced by the British Government to dismiss him.1 He retired, it was said, with a fortune of £240,000.

1 Private Life of an Eastern King, p. 330.

8. Character and position of the barber.

The barber is also, Mr. Low writes,2 the scandal-bearer and gossip-monger of the village.

2 In the Bhālāghāt District Gazetteer.

His cunning is proverbial, and he is known as Chhattīsa [छत्तीसा] from the saying—

Nai hai chhattīsa
Khai an ka pīsa,

or ‘ A barber has thirty-six talents by which he eats at the expense of others.’ His loquacity is shown in the proverb, ‘As the crow among birds so the barber among men.’ The barber and the professional Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] are considered to be jealous of their perquisites and unwilling to share with their caste-fellows, and this is exemplified in the proverb, “The barber, the dog and the Brāhman [ब्राह्मण], these three snarl at meeting one of their own kind.” The joint association of the Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] priest and the barber with marriages and other ceremonies has led to the saying, “As there are always reeds in a river so there is always a barber with a Brāhman [ब्राह्मण].” The barber’s astuteness is alluded to in the saying, ‘Nine barbers are equal to seventy-two tailors.’ The fact that it is the barber’s duty to carry the lights in marriage processions has led to the proverb, “At the barber’s wedding all are gentlemen and it is awkward to have to ask somebody to carry the torch.” The point of this is clear, though no English equivalent occurs to the mind. And a similar idea is expressed by ‘The barber washes the feet of others but is ashamed to wash his own.’ It would appear from these proverbs that the Nai [नाई] is considered to enjoy a social position somewhat above his deserts. Owing to the nature of his duties, which make him a familiar inmate of the household and bring him into contact with the persons of his high-caste clients, the caste of the Nai [नाई] is necessarily considered to be a pure one and Brāhmans [ब्राह्मण] will take water from his hands. But, on the other hand, his calling is that of a village menial and has also some elements of impurity, as in cupping which involves contact with blood, and in cutting the nails and hair of the corpse before cremation. He is thus looked down upon as a menial and also considered as to some extent impure. No member of a cultivating caste would salute a barber first or look upon him as an equal, though Brāhmans [ब्राह्मण] put them on the same level of ceremonial purity by taking water from both. The barber’s loquacity and assurance have been made famous by the Arabian Nights, but they have perhaps been affected by the more strenuous character of life, and his conversation does not flow so freely as it did. Often he now confines himself to approving and adding emphasis to any remarks of the patron and greeting any of his little witticisms with bursts of obsequious laughter. In Madras [மதராஸ்], Mr. Pandiān states, the village barber, like the washerman, is known as the son of the village. If a customer does not pay him his dues, he lies low, and when he has begun to shave the defaulter engages him in a dispute and says something to excite his anger. The latter will then become abusive to the barber, whom he regards as a menial, and perhaps strike him, and this gives the barber an opportunity to stop shaving him and rush off to lay a complaint at the village courthouse, leaving his enemy to proceed home with half his head shaved and thus exposed to general ridicule.1

1 D. B. Pandiān, Indian Village Life, under Barber.

9. Beliefs about hair.

Numerous customs appear to indicate that the hair was regarded as the special seat of bodily strength. The Rājpūt [राजपूत] warriors formerly wore their hair long and never cut it, but trained it in locks over their shoulders. Similarly the Marātha [मराठा] soldiers wore their hair long. The Hatkars [
हाटकर], a class of Marātha [मराठा] spearmen, might never cut their hair while engaged on military service. A Sikh [ਸਿੱਖੀ] writer states of Guru Govind [ਗੁਰੂ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਸਿੰਘ, 1666 - 1708], the founder of the militant Sikh [ਸਿੱਖੀ] confederacy :

“He appeared as the tenth Avatār [अवतार]  (incarnation of Vishnu [विष्णु]). He established the Khālsa [ਖ਼ਾਲਸਾ], his own sect, and by exhibiting singular energy, leaving the hair on his head, and seizing the scimitar, he smote every wicked person.”2

2 Quoted in Malcolm's Sketch of the Sikhs [ਸਿੱਖੀ], Asiatic Researches, vol. xi., 1810 p. 289

As is well known, no Sikh [ਸਿੱਖੀ] may cut his hair, and one of the five marks of the Sikh [ਸਿੱਖੀ] is the kanga   [ਕੰਘਾ] or comb, which he must always carry in order to keep his hair in proper order. A proverb states that ‘The origin of a Sikh [ਸਿੱਖੀ] is in his hair.’

3 Quoted in Sir D. Ibbetson’s account of the Sikhs [ਸਿੱਖੀ] in Punjab Census Report (1881).

The following story, related by Sir J. Malcolm, shows the vital importance attached by the Sikh [ਸਿੱਖੀ] to his hair and beard :

“Three inferior agents of Sikh [ਸਿੱਖੀ] chiefs were one day in my tent. I was laughing and joking with one of them, a Khālsa [ਖ਼ਾਲਸਾ] Sikh [ਸਿੱਖੀ], who said he had been ordered to attend me to Calcutta [কলকাতা]. Among other subjects of our mirth I rallied him on trusting himself so much in my power. ‘Why, what is the worst,’ he said,  'that you can do to me ?’ I passed my hand across my chin, imitating the act of shaving. The man’s face was in an instant distorted with rage and his sword half-drawn. ‘You are ignorant,’ he said to me, ‘ of the offence you have given ; I cannot strike you who are above me, and the friend of my master and the state; but no power,’ he added, indicating the Khālsa [ਖ਼ਾਲਸਾ] Sikhs [ਸਿੱਖੀ], ‘shall save these fellows who dared to smile at your action.’ It was with the greatest difficulty and only by the good offices of some Sikh [ਸਿੱਖੀ] Chiefs that I was able to pacify his wounded honour.”4

4 Sketch of the Sikhs [ਸਿੱਖੀ], ibidem, pp. 284, 285.

These instances appear to show clearly that the Sikhs [ਸਿੱਖੀ] considered their hair of vital importance ; and as fighting was their object in life, it seems most probable that they thought their strength in war was bound up in it. [...]

When the Bhīls [भील] turned out to fight they let down their long hair prior to beginning the conflict with their bows and arrows.3 The pirates of Surat [સુરત], before boarding a ship, drank bhāng [भांग] and hemp-liquor, and when they wore their long hair loose they gave no quarter.4 The Mundas [मुण्डा] appear to have formerly worn their hair long and some still do. Those who are converted to Christianity must cut their hair, but a non-Christian Munda [मुण्डा] must always keep the chundi or pigtail. If the chundi is very long it is sometimes tied up in a knot.5 Similarly the Oraons [उरांव] wore their hair long like women, gathered in a knot behind, with a wooden or iron comb in it. Those who are Christians can be recognised by the fact that they have cut off their pigtails. A man of the low Pārdhi [पारधी] caste of hunters must never have his hair touched by a razor after he has once killed a deer. As already seen, every orthodox Hindu wore till recently a choti [चोटी] or scalp-lock, which should theoretically be as long as a cow’s tail. Perhaps the idea was that for those who were not warriors it was sufficient to retain this and have the rest of the head shaved. The choti [चोटी] was never shaved off in mourning for any one but a father. The lower castes of Muhammadans, if they have lost several children, will allow the scalp-lock to grow on the heads of those subsequently born, dedicating it to one of their Muhammadan saints. The Kanjars [कंजर] relate of their heroic ancestor Māna [मान] that after he had plunged a bow so deeply into the ground that no one could withdraw it, he was set by the Emperor of Delhi [दिल्ली] to wrestle against the two most famous Imperial wrestlers. These could not overcome him fairly, so they made a stratagem, and while one provoked him in front the other secretly took hold of his choti [चोटी] behind. When Māna [मान] started forward his choti [चोटी] was thus left in the wrestler’s hands, and though he conquered the other wrestler, showing him the sky as it is said, the loss of his choti [चोटी] deprived him for ever after of his virtue as a Hindu and in no small degree of his renown as an ancestor.6 Thus it seems clear that a special virtue attaches to the choti [चोटी]. [...]

3 Hendley, Account of the Bhīls, J.A.S.B. vol. xxxiv., 1875, p. 360.
BombayGazetteer, Hindus of Gujarāt , p. 520.
S. C. Roy,
The Mundas and their Country, p. 369.
6 W. Kirkpatrick in J.A.S.B., July 1911, p. 438.


10. Hair of kings and priests.

If the hair was considered to be the special source of strength and hence frequently of life, that of the kings and priests, in whose existence the primitive tribe believed its own communal life to be bound up, would naturally be a matter of peculiar concern. That it was so has been shown in the Golden Bough. [...]

In the Māle Pahāria tribe from the time that any one devoted himself to the profession of priest and augur his hair was allowed to grow like that of a Nazarite ; his power of divination entirely disappeared if he cut it.Among the Bawarias [बावरिया] of India the Bhuva or priest of Devi [देवी] may not cut or shave his hair under penalty of a fine of Rs. 10. A Parsi [پارسیان,] priest or Mobed [موبد] must never be bare-headed and never shave his head or face.5

4  Dalton, Ethnology of Bengal , p. 270
Bombay Gazetteer, Parsis of Gujarāt, p. 226.

11. The beard.

The importance attached by other races to the hair of the head seems among the Muhammadans to have been concentrated specially in the beard. [...]

Among the Hindus, Rājpūts [राजपूत] and Marāthas [मराठा], as well as the Sikhs [ਸਿੱਖੀ], commonly wore beards, all of these being military castes. Both the beard and hair were considered to impart an aspect of ferocity to the countenance, and when the Rājpūts [राजपूत] and Muhammadans were going into battle they combed the hair and trained the beard to project sideways from the face. When a Muhammadan wears a beard he must have hair in the centre of his chin, whereas a Hindu shaves this part. [...]

12. Significance of removal of the hair and shaving the head.

If the hair was considered to be the source of a man’s strength and vigour, the removal of it would involve the loss of this and might be considered especially- to debar him the hair from fighting or governing. The instances given from the Golden Bough have shown the fear felt by many people of head, the consequences of the removal of their hair. The custom of shaving the head might also betoken the renunciation of the world and of the pursuit of arms. This may be the reason why monks shaved the head, a practice which was followed by Buddhist as well as Christian monks. [...]

When a member of the religious order of the Mānbhaos [मानभाव] is initiated his head is shaved clean by the village barber, and the scalp-lock and moustache must be cut off by his guru [गुरु] or preceptor, this being perhaps the special mark of his renunciation of the world. The scalp-locks are preserved and made into ropes which some of them fasten round their loins. Members of the Hindu orders generally shave their scalp-locks and the head on initiation, probably for the same reason as the Mānbhaos [मानभाव]. But afterwards they often let the whole of their hair grow long. These men imagine that by the force of their austerities they will obtain divine power, so their religious character appears to be of a different order from monasticism. Perhaps, therefore, they wear their hair long in order to increase their spiritual potency. They themselves now say that they do it in imitation of the god Siva [शिव] and the ancient ascetics who had long matted locks. The common Hindu practice of shaving the heads of widows may thus be interpreted as a symbol of their complete renunciation of the world and of any idea of remarriage. It was accompanied by numerous other rules designed to make a widow’s life a continual penance. This barbarous custom was formerly fairly general, at least among the higher castes, but is rapidly being abandoned except by one or two of the stricter sections of Brāhmans [ब्राह्मण]. Shaving the head might also be imposed as a punishment. Thus in the time of the reign of the Emperor Chandraguptra Maurya [चन्द्रगुप्तमौर्य] in the fourth century B.C. it is stated that ordinary wounding by mutilation was punished by the corresponding mutilation of the offender, in addition to the amputation of his hand. The crime of giving false evidence was visited with mutilation of the extremities ; and in certain unspecified' cases, serious offences were punished by the shaving of the offender’s hair, a penalty regarded as specially infamous. The cutting off of some or all of the hair is at the present time a common punishment for caste offences. Among the Korkus [कोरकू] a man and woman caught in adultery have each a lock of hair cut off. If a Chamār [चमार] man and woman are detected in the same offence, the heads of both are shaved clean of hair. A Dhīmar [धीमर] girl who goes wrong before marriage has a lock of her hair cut off as a penalty, the same being done in several other castes.

13. Shaving the head by mourners.

The exact significance which is to be attached to the removal by mourners of their hair after a death is perhaps doubtful. [...] Whether the Hindu custom of shaving the heads of mourners was also originally a sacrifice and offering appears to be uncertain. [...] As the father of a child is also shaved after its birth, and the shaving must here apparently be a rite of purification, it probably has the same significance in the case of mourners ; it is not clear whether any element of sacrifice is also involved. The degree to which the Hindu mourner parts with his hair varies to some extent with the nearness of the relationship, and for females or distant relatives they do not always shave. The mourners are shaved on the last day of the impurity, when presents are given to the Maha-Brāhman [महाब्राह्मण], and the latter, representing the dead man, is also shaved with them. When a Hindu is at the point of death, before he makes the gifts for the good of his soul the head is shaved with the exception of his choti [चोटी] or scalp-lock, the chin and upper lip. Often the corpse is also shaved after death.

14. Hair offerings.

Another case of the hair offering is that made in fulfilment of a vow or at a temple. In this case the hair appears to be a gift-offering which is made to the god as representing the life and strength of the donor ; owing to the importance attached to the hair as the source of life and strength, it was a very precious sacrifice. Sir James Frazer also suggests that the hair so given would impart life and strength to the god, of which he stood in need, just as he needed food to nourish him. Among the Hindus it is a common practice to take a child to some well-known temple to have its hair cut for the first time, and to offer the clippings of hair to the deity. If they cannot go to the temple to have the hair cut they have it cut at home, and either preserve the whole hair or a lock of it, until an opportunity occurs to offer it at the temple. In some castes a Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] is invited at the first cutting of a child’s hair, and he repeats texts and blesses the child ; the first lock of hair is then cut by the child’s maternal uncle, and its head is shaved by the barber. A child’s hair is cut in the first, third or fifth year after birth, but not in the second or fourth year. Among the Muhammadans when a child’s hair is cut for the first time, or at least on one occasion in its life, the hair should be weighed against silver or gold and the amount distributed in charity. In these cases also it would appear that the hair as a valuable part of the child is offered to the god to obtain his protection for the life of the child. If a woman has no child and desires one, or if she has had children and lost them, she will vow her next child’s hair to some god or temple. A small patch known as chench is then left unshorn on the child’s head until it can be taken to the temple.

15. Keeping hair unshorn during a vow.


Similarly, Hindu religious mendicants keep their hair long while they are journeying on a pilgrimage, and when they arrive at the temple which is their goal they shave it all off and offer it to the god. In this case, as the hair is vowed as an offering, it clearly cannot be cut during the performance of the vow, but must be preserved intact. When the task to be accomplished for the fulfilment of a vow is a journey or the slaying of enemies, the retention of the hair is probably also meant to support and increase the wearer’s strength for the accomplishment of his purpose.

16. Disposal of cut hair and nails.

If the hair contained a part of the wearer’s life and strength its disposal would be a matter of great importance, because, according to primitive belief, these qualities would and nails remain in it after it had been severed. Hence, if an enemy obtained it, by destroying the hair or some analogous action he might injure or destroy the life and strength of the person to whom it belonged. The Hindus usually wrap up a child’s first hair in a ball of dough and throw it into a running stream, with the cuttings of his nails. Well-to-do people also place a rupee in the ball, so that it is now regarded as an offering. The same course is sometimes followed with the hair and nails cut ceremoniously at a wedding, and possibly on one or two other occasions, such as the investiture with the sacred thread ; but the belief is decaying, and ordinarily no care is taken of the shorn hair. In Berār [बेरार] when the Hindus cut a child’s hair for the first time they sometimes bury it under a water-pot where the ground is damp, perhaps with the idea that the child’s hair will grow thickly and plentifully like grass in a damp place. It is a common belief that if a barren woman gets hold of a child’s first hair and wears it round her waist the fertility of the child’s mother will be transferred to her. The Sarwaria Brāhmans [सरवरिया ब्राह्मण] shave a child’s hair in its third year. A small silver razor is made specially for the occasion, costing a rupee and a quarter, and the barber first touches the child’s hair with this and then shaves it ceremoniously with his own razor.1 The Halbas [हल्बा] think that the severed clippings of hair are of no use for magic, but if a witch can cut a lock of hair from a man’s head she can use it to work magic on him. In making an image of a person with intent to injure or destroy him, it was customary to put a little of his hair into the image, by-which means his life and strength were conveyed to it. [...]

1 Mr. Crooke’s Tribes and Castes, art. Sarwaria.

In the Parsi [پارسیان,] Zend-Avesta it is stated that if the clippings of hair or nails are allowed to fall in the ground or ditches, evil spirits spring up from them and devour grain and clothing in the house. It was therefore ordained for the Parsis [پارسیان,] through their prophet Zarathustra that the cuttings of hair or nails should be buried in a deep hole ten paces from a dwelling, twenty paces from fire, and fifty paces from the sacred bundles called baresmān. Texts should be said over them and the hole filled in. Many Parsis [پارسیان,] still bury their cut hair and nails four inches under ground, and an extracted tooth is disposed of in the same manner.2

2 Orphéus, p. 99, and Bombay Gazetteer, Parsis of Gujarāt , p. 220.

Some Hindus think that the nail-parings should always be thrown into a frequented place, where they will be destroyed by the traffic. If they are thrown on to damp earth they will grow into a plant which will ruin the person from whose body they came. It is said that about twenty years ago a man in Nāgpur [नागपूर] was ruined by the growth of a piece of finger-nail, which had accidentally dropped into a flower-pot in his house. Apparently in this case the nail is supposed to contain a portion of the life and strength of the person to whom it belonged, and if the nail grows it gradually absorbs more and more of his life and strength, and he consequently becomes weaker and weaker through being deprived of it. [...] Among some Hindus it is said that the toe-nails should not be cut at all until a child is married, when they are cut ceremoniously by the barber.

17. Superstitions about shaving the hair.

Since the removal of the hair is held to involve a certain loss of strength and power, it should only be effected at certain seasons and not on auspicious days. A man who has male children should not have his head shaved on Monday, as this may cause his children to die. On the other hand, a man who has no children will fast on Sunday in the hope of getting them, and therefore he will neither shave his head nor visit his wife on that day. A Hindu must not be shaved on Thursday, because this is the day of the planet Jupiter, which is also known as guru [गुरु], and his act would be disrespectful to his own guru [गुरु] or preceptor. Tuesday is Devi’s [देवी] day, and a man will not get shaved on that day ; nor on Saturday, because it is Hanumān’s [हनुमान] day.1 On Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays he may be shaved, but not if the day happens to be the new moon, full moon, or the Ashtami [अष्ठमी] or Ekadashi [एकादशी], that is the eighth or eleventh day of the fortnight. He should not shave on the day that he is going on a journey. If all these rules were strictly observed there would be very few days on which one could get shaved but many of them are necessarily more honoured in the breach. Wednesdays and Fridays are the best days for shaving, and by shaving on these days a man will see old age. Debtors are shaved on Wednesdays, as they think that this will help them to pay off their debts. Some Brāhmans [ब्राह्मण] are not shaved during the month of Shrāwan [श्रावण] (July), when the crops are growing, nor during the nine days of the months of Kunwār [कुंवार] (September) and Chait [चैत्र] (March), when a fast is observed and the jawaras2 [जवारा] are sown. After they have been shaved high-caste Hindus consider themselves impure till they have bathed. They touch no person or thing in the house, and sometimes have the water thrown on them by a servant so as to avoid contact with the vessels. They will also neither eat, drink nor smoke until they have bathed. Sometimes they throw so much water over the head in order to purify themselves as to catch a bad cold. In this case, apparently, the impurity accrues from the loss of the hair, and the man feels that virtue has gone out of him. Women never shave their hair with a razor, as they think that to do so would make the body so heavy after death that it could not be carried to the place of cremation. They carefully pluck out the hair under the armpits and the pubic hair with a pair of pincers. A girl’s hair may be cut with scissors, but not after she is ten years old or is married. Sometimes a girl’s hair is not cut at all, but her father will take a pearl and entwine it into her hair, where it is left until she is married. It is considered very auspicious to give away a girl in marriage with hair which has never been cut, and a pearl in it. After marriage she will take out the pearl and wear it in an ornament.

1 Hanumān [हनुमान] is worshipped on this day in order to counteract the evil influence of the planet saturn, whose day it really is.
Pots in which wheat-stalks are sown and tended for nine days, corresponding to the Gardens of Adonis."

[Quelle: Russell, R. V. (Robert Vane) <1873-1915> ; Hīra Lāl <Rai Bahadur> [हीरालाल <राय बहादुर>] <1873 - 1923>: The tribes and castes of the Central Provinces of India. -- London: MacMillan, 1916. -- 4 Bde. : Ill. -- Bd. 4. -- S. 262 - 283]

Nāi [नाई], Nāo [नाओ], Nāu [नाऊ] (NE Provinces und Oudh)

"Nāi [नाई],1 Nāo [नाओ], Nāu [नाऊ].—

1 Based on enquiries at Mirzapnr and notes by Pandit Baldeo Prasād, Deputy Collector, Cawnpur ; Mr. W. Cockburn, Jālaun ; M. Chhote Lāl, Archaeological Survey, Lucknow ; Mr. W. H. O. N. Seagrave, District Superintendent of Police, Basti, and the Deputy Inspector of Schools, Bareilly and Agra.

(Sanskrit nāpita [नापित], according to some a corruption of snāpitri [स्नापितृ], “one who bathes ") the Hindu barber caste. In Bundelkhand [बुंदेलखंड] he is also known as Khawās [खवास] which was a title for the attendant on a grandee; and Birtiya [बिरतीया] or “ he that gets his maintenance (vritti [वृत्त्त्]) from his constituents. ” When he is a Muhammadan he usually calls himself Hajjām [حجام], which means in Arabic “a scarifier. ” It is curious that the Nāi [नाई], who is the great gossip-monger of the country side, has so little in the way of traditions about his own caste. According to one account they are descended from a Kshatriya [क्सत्रिय] father and a Sūdra [शूद्र] mother ; according to Parāsara [पराशर] from a Kuveri [कुवेरी] father and a Pattikāra [पट्टिकार] mother. Another tradition is that Siva [शिव] ereated them to cut the nails of Pārvati [पार्वती]. The tribal saint of barbers is Sen [सेन] or Sain [सैन] Bhagat [भगत], whose name according to Muhammadan tradition was really Husain [حسين]. He is said to have been a resident of Partābpura [ਪ੍ਰਤਾਬਪੁਰਾ], a village in the Phillaur [ਫਿਲੌਰ] Tahsil of Jalandhar [ਜਲੰਧਰ] District. According to Prof. Wilson, whose authority was the Bhaktimāla [भक्तिमाला], he was a devout worshipper of Vishnu [विष्णु] and his descendants were for some time the family Gurus [गुरु] of the Rājas [राजा] of Bandhugarh. One day he was so entranced in his devotion that he forgot to attend the Rāja [राजा] to shave him; when he च्ame later on in the day to apologise he found to his amazement that the Rāja [राजा] had been shaved as usual. It then became clear that the deity had really come in person and officiated for his absent votary. His votaries are mostly barbers and are found in the Western Panjāb [ਪੰਜਾਬ ].

2. Internal structure.

At the last Census the barbers were enumerated in a Hindu and Muhammadan branch.

Of the Hindus the following sub-castes were recorded :

  • Banbheru, which is said to mean “quarrelsome;"
  • Bāri [बारी], which is the name of a caste who have been separately described ;
  • Golē [गोळे], which is also a sub-caste of Kumhārs;
  • Kanaujiya [कन्नौजिया] and Mathuriya [मथुरिया], “ residents of Kanauj [कन्नौज] and Mathura [मथुरा] " respectively ;
  • Sainbhagat [सैनभगत], who take their name from the tribal saint;
  • Sribāstab [श्रीवास्तव] from the city of Srāvasti [श्रावस्ती], and 
  • Ummara [ઉંમર / उंमर], which is the name of one of the Banya [बनिया] tribes.

But besides these there are many others.

Thus to the east of the Province we find the

  • Sribāstab [श्रीवास्तव],
  • Kanaujiya [कन्नौजिया],
  • Bhojpuriya [भोजपुरिया], or “residents of Western Bengal [বঙ্গ];"
  • Audhiya or Awadhiya [अवधिया] from Ajudhya [अयुध्या];
  • Magahiya [मगहिया] from Magadha [मगध] or Bihār [बिहार];
  • Byāhta [ब्याहता] who pride themselves on prohibiting widow-marriage and taking only virgin brides (byāhta [ब्याहता]), and 
  • Musalmāni [मुसलमानी] which is another term for the Hajjām [حجام].

In Lucknow [लखनऊ] we have the

  • Sribāstab [श्रीवास्तव];
  • Chamarmunda [चमारमुंडा] or “ those who shave Chamārs [चमार];" 
  • the Kumhra [कुंहरा] who do the same service for Kumhārs [कुंहार], and
  • the Usarha [उसरहा]. 

In Jālaun [जालौन] are

  • the Sribāstab [श्रीवास्तव];
  • Ummarē [उंमरे];
  • Husrentē;
  • Bawar, and
  • Bheniya.

In Bijnor [बिजनौर] are

  • the Golē [गोळे],
  • Pachhāhi [पच्छाही] or “ Western” and
  • the Purbiya [पूरबिया] or “ Eastern ;” and
  • the Bhimbru who are apparently the same as the Banbheru.

In Basti [बस्ती] are found

  • the Sarwariya [सरवाडिया], which is the name of a well-known Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] tribe and means “a resident of Sarūjpar [सर्यूपर] or the land beyond the river Sarju [सरयू] :”
  • the Kanaujiya [कन्नौजिया] and
  • the Turkiya [तुर्किया] or Turkish Muhammadan branch.

Lastly, in Cawnpur [कानपुर] we find

  • the Sribāstab [श्रीवास्तव];
  • Ummar [ઉંમર / उंमर] and
  • Rāthaur [राठौड़], the name of a famous Rājput [राजपूत] sept, 

Here the barbers refer their origin to Srinagar [سِری نَگَر] or Kashmīr [کشمیر].

In the Hills again they are reported to have regular gotras [गोत्र] like the higher classes, such as

  • Chanwal [चनवाल],
  • Kasyapa [कश्यप] and
  • Bharadwaja [भरद्वाज].

The complete returns of the last Census show 888 sub-divisions of the Hindu and 197 of the Musalmān branch of the tribe. Those of most local importance are

  • the Bahlīmi, Deswāla [देशवाला] and Gaur [गौर] of Sahāranpur [सहारनपुर], 
  • the Bulehra and Deswāla [देशवाला] of Muzaffarnagar [मुज़फ़्फ़रनगर];
  • the Turkiya [तुर्किया] of Bareilly [बरेली] and Gorakhpur [गोरखपुर] ;
  • the Golē [गोळे] of Bijnor [बिजनौर];
  • the Bais [बैस], Sulaimāni [सुलैमानी] and Turkiya [तुर्किया] of Basti [बस्ती];
  • the Purabiya [पुरबिया] and Turkiya [तुर्किया] of Kheri [खीरी], and 
  • the Pirzāda of Gonda [गोंडा].

3. Marriage rules.

The Nāis [नाई] generally observe the usual rule of exogamy which bars marriages in their own family, and those of the maternal uncle and father’s sister as long as relationship is remembered. To the East of the province the marriage age is ten or eleven, and a man may marry as many wives as he can afford to keep. They have the usual triple form of marriage—Charhana, dola [दोला], and sagāi [सगाई] ; the last for widows. In the first two the binding part of the ceremony is the worshipping of the feet of the bridegroom (pānwpūja [पांवपूजा], pair pūja [पैर पूजा]} by the father of the bride and the Sendurdān [सेंदूरदान] or marking of the forehead of the bride by the bridegroom with red lead. The dola [दोला] form is adopted only by poor people. Widows are remarried by all the sub-castes except the Byāhta [ब्याहता]. The ceremony merely consists in dressing the woman in a suit of new clothes provided by her lover who also gives her a set of jewelry. From Jālaun [जालौन] it is reported that Nāis [नाई] will not marry in their own village because they consider residents of the same village brothers and sisters. One origin of this feeling may be the desire so strongly felt by barbers to keep the constituents or persons they serve (jajman [जजमान]) in the same family ; but at the same time it illustrates an important principle which is at the bottom of one plausible theory of the origin of exogamy. Thus Dr. Westermarck1 maintains

1 History of Human Marriage, 320.

“that there is an innate aversion to sexual intercourse between people livig very closely together from early youth, and that, as such people are in most cases related, this feeling displays itself chiefly as a horror of intercourse between near kin.”

4. Religion.

Nāis [नाई] belong to all the recognised Hindu sects—some being Vaishnavas [वैष्णव], some Saivas [शैव] and some Saktas [शक्त]. As we have seen, to the West of the province their tribal saint is Sain Bhagat [सैन भगत]. To the East their clan deities are Phūlmati [फूलमती], a form of Devi [देवी], Bhairon Bāba [भैरों बाबा], who is a genuine village godling and has been adopted, as has been shown elsewhere, into the Brahmanical pantheon as Bhairava [भैरव], one of the most terrible forms of Siva [शिव], and Birtiya [बिरतीया] or Birtiha [बिरतीहा]. These deities are worshipped on any lucky day in the month of Chait [चैत्र] --

  • Phūlmati [फूलमती] with the sacrifice of a ram or chicken and the offering of a piece of cloth dyed with turmeric ;
  • Bhairon Bāba [भैरों बाबा] with only a ram ,·
  • Birtiha [बिरतीहा], who is a low class godling, with a young pig and an oblation of spirits.

Their marriage and other domestic ceremonies are regulated by Brāhmans [ब्राह्मण], who to the West are drawn from the Kanaujiya [कन्नौजिया] or Sanādh [सनाढ्य] tribes and to the East from the Sarwariya [सरवाडिया]. In Basti [बस्ती] they worship Mahābīr [महावीर] and Bhāgawati [भागवती] and to the West Sain Bhagat [सैन भगत] and some Muhammadan saints like the Miyān of Amroha [अमरोहा] or Jalesar [जलेसर] and Zāhirpīr [ظاہر پیر]. They cremate their married dead and dispose of the ashes in the Ganges [गंगा] or one of its tributaries. The unmarried dead are either buried or thrown into a river after a sort of perfunctory cremation (jal pravāh [जल प्रवाह]). They perform the usual srāddha [श्राद्ध], but in a less complete way than as is usual among the higher and more orthodox castes.

5. Occupation and social status.

The barber’s trade is undoubtedly of great antiquity. In the Veda [वेद] we read: --

"Sharpen us like the razor in the hands of the barber,"

and again,

“Driven by the wind, Agni [अग्नि] shaves the hair of the earth like a barber shaving a beard.”

In early times they must have enjoyed considerable dignity ; Upāli [उपालि] the barber was the first propounder of the law of the Buddhist Church.

6. A village song from Bundelkhand [बुंदेलखंड] gives a very graphic description of his functions.

Sabsē Nāi bara khilāri ;
Lekar sil naharni, chhura kari tayyār churānri;
Choti pakar sabon komūnda, baghal, muchh aur dārhi ;
Gola phirra sir men rakhkar kalam nukīli kārhi ;
Mūnd mūnd kār pet chalāvai, kheti karē na bāri ;
Peti baghal dabākar lota hāth liyē rujgāri.

“Of all men the barber is the greatest trickster. With hiṣ whetstone, nail parer and razor he gets ready his tool wallet, he catches people by the topknot and clean shaves them, arm-pit, moustache and beard. Leaving a round tonsure on the head, he points off the side-locks. By clean shaving he fills his belly. Neither field nor garden has he. With his wallet under his arm and his brass water pot in his hand, he makes his living."

This, however, describes only one and perhaps not the most important function of the barber. Besides shaving and shampooing his constituents, he acts as a village menial; prepares the tobacco at the chaupāl [चौपाल] or village rest-house and waits on strangers and guests. As we have seen in dealing with various castes, his duties in connection with marriages and other similar functions are numerous and important. He acts as the general village matchmaker, a duty which his wandering habits of life and his admittance into respectable households admirably fit him to discharge, he is always on the look-out for a suitable match for the children of his employers, and his powers of lying and exaggerating the beauty of a girl and the qualities of a marriageable youth are highly developed. He also acts as confidential envoy and carries announcements of marriages, invitations and congratulations at pregnancy and child-birth. In the absence of a Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] he takes up the duties of a hedge priest and can bring a wedding or a funeral to a successful issue. But he will not bear news which is inauspicious, such as that of a death. This is carried by the Bhangi [भंगी], Chamār [चमार], Balāhar [बलाहर], Dusādh [दुसाध] or other village drudge. Besides this he is the rural leech, bone setter, tooth drawer and performer of petty operations, such as lancing boils and the like. For this business he takes the name of Jarrāh [जर्राह] who is usually a Nāi [नाई]. If a Muhammadan he usually performs circumcision ; but some Hindu Nāis [नाई] perform this operation for their Musalmān neighbours. Akin to him are the Jonkāra [जोंकर] or leech applier, which is the name of one of the Kori [कोरी] sub-castes, the Kānmailiya [कानमैलिया] or ear cleaner and the Mahāwat [महावत] who is a Nat [नट] and does cupping with a cow’s horn and carries some rude lancets and a bamboo pipe with which he sucks the matter out of abscesses and sore cars. The functions of these craftsmen all more or less closely trench upon those of the Nāi [नाई].

7. It is rather surprising then, that with all these important and confidential duties intrusted to him, his social position is not hiग्her than it is. We have seen that menial tribes have their own Nāis [नाई] and most of the barbers who serve Europeans are Muhammadans, because this employment would offend his high caste Hindu clients. The Nāi [नाई] is not much higher in the social scale than one of the minor grades of handicraftsmen. The reason of this is that his duty of surgery brings him in contact with blood, and he has not only to cut the first hair of the child and thus contracts some of the parturition impurity, but he also has to shave and cut the nails of the corpse before cremation. He also shaves the heads of the mourners, and his wife, as we have seen in dealing with the birth customs of various castes, succeeds the Chamārin [चमारिन] midwife and acts as a sort of monthly nurse. She also brings out the bride at the marriage ceremony where she is very much in evidence. All this tends to procure for her a somewhat doubtful reputation.

8. Nāis [नाई] drink spirits and eat the flesh of goats, sheep and deer. They eat the leavings of Brāhmans [ब्राह्मण], Kshatriyas [क्सत्रिय], Vaisyas [वैश्य] and Kāyasths [कायस्थ]. All Hindus will drink water at their hands, and part of their trade is to attend feasts, wash the feet of the guests, hand round the dishes and remove the leavings. Chamārs [चमार] and other out-caste tribes will eat kachchi [कच्ची] cooked by them and many high castes will eat pakki [पक्की]  prepared by them.

9. The barber is one of the most important members of the village community. His wandering habits and his right of entry into households give him great facilities for the collection of gossip, and the place where he carries on his business, usually in the open air, becomes, like the Roman tonstrina or the Florentine barber's shop immortalised in “Romola," the centre of village talk and intrigue. He is a prosperous craftsman, receiving not only annual dues from his constituents, but special fees for marriages, confinements, circumcisions, and so on. The wit and wisdom of the country side is much devoted to the Nāi [नाई].

“These four are always foul—the barber, the midwife, the leech and the butcher ”
(Nāi , dāi, baid, quassāi, in ka suluk kadhi na jāē).

“ In a barber's wedding every one is a Thākur [ठाकुर]."
(Nāu kē bārāt men Thākurē Thākur).

Hence he gets the mock honorific title of Thākurji [

"The barber washes others’ feet but is ashamed to wash his own."
(Ān kā, qorna dhoē naunya, āpan dhovat lajāē),

and lastly,

“Every one must bow his head to the barber "
(Hajjām ke āge sab kā sir jhukta hai)."

[Quelle: Crooke, William <1848-1923>: The tribes and castes of the North-western Provinces and Oudh. -- Calcutta : Office of the superintendent of government printing, 1896 - 4 Bde. : Ill. -- Bd. 4. -- S. 40 - 45]

Velakkattalavan (Malayalam)

"Velakkattalavan.Velakkattalavan or Vilakkattalavan is stated in the Travancore [തിരുവിതാംകൂര്] Census Report, 1901, to indicate chieftains among barbers, and to be the name for members of families, from which persons are selected to shave kings or nobles. In the Madras Census Report, 1891, Velakkattalavan is said to be

“the name in South Malabar [മലബാര്‍] of the caste that shaves Nāyars [നായര്‍] and higher castes. The same man is called in North Malabar Valinchiyan, Nāvidan, or Nāsiyan. In dress and habits the caste resembles Nāyars, and they call themselves Nāyars in the south. Many returned their main caste as Nāyar. The females of this caste frequently act as midwives to Nāyars. In North Malabar, the Valinchiyan and Nāsiyan follow the Nāyar system of inheritance, whereas the Nāvidan has inheritance in the male line ; but, even amongst the latter, tāli-kettu and sambandham are performed separately by different bridegrooms. In South Malabar the caste generally follows descent in the male line, but in some places the other system is also found.”

Sūdra Kāvutiyan is recorded, in the Madras Census Report, 1901, as a synonym of Velakkatalavan."

[Quelle: Thurston, Edgar <1855-1935> ; Rangachari, K. (Kadambi) [கா. இரங்காச்சாரி] <1868 – 1934>: Castes and tribes of southern India / by Edgar Thurston ; assisted by K. Rangachari. -- Madras : Govt. Press, 1909. -- 7 Bde. : Ill. ; 24 cm. -- Bd. 7. -- S. 336]