2. Dvitīyaṃ kāṇḍam

16. śūdravargaḥ

(Über Śūdras)

2. Vers 5 - 15: Handwerker

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Hrsg. von Alois Payer 

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: Wäscher. -- Fassung vom 2018-01-18. --  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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Dhōbi [धोबी / ଧୋବୀ / ಧೋಬಿ], Wārthi, Baretha [बरेठा], Chakla, Rajak [रजक], Parit.

"Dhōbi [धोबी / ଧୋବୀ / ಧೋಬಿ].A name used for washerman by Anglo-Indians all over India. The word is said to be derived from dhōha [धोना], Sanskrit, dhāv, to wash. A whitish grey sandy efflorescence, found in many places, from which, by boiling and the addition of quicklime, an alkali of considerable strength is obtained, is called Dhōbi’s earth. 

“The expression dhobie itch,” Manson writes (Tropical Diseases),“ although applied to any itching ringworm-like affection of any part of the skin, most commonly refers to some form of epiphytic disease of the crutch or axilla (armpit).” 

The disease is very generally supposed to be communicated by clothes from the wash, but Manson is of opinion that the belief that it is contracted from clothes which have been contaminated by the washerman is probably not very well founded.

Dhōbi [ଧୋବୀ] is the name, by which the washerman caste of the Oriyas []ଓଡ଼ିଆ is known.

“They are said,” Mr. Francis writes (Madras Census Report, 1901), “to have come originally from Orissa. Girls are generally married before maturity, and, if this is not possible, they have to be married to a sword or a tree, before they can be wedded to a man. Their ordinary marriage ceremonies are as follows. The bridal pair bathe in water brought from seven different houses. The bridegroom puts a bangle on the bride’s arm (this is the binding part of the ceremony) ; the left and right wrists of the bride and bridegroom are tied together ; betel leaf and nut are tied in a corner of the bride’s cloth, and a myrabolam (Terminalia fruit) in that of the bridegroom ; and finally the people present in the pandal (booth) throw rice and saffron (turmeric) over them. Widows and divorced women may marry again. They are Vaishnavites, but some of them also worship Kāli [କାଳୀ] or Durga [ଦୁର୍ଗା]. They employ Bairāgis, and occasionally Brāhmans, as their priests. They burn their dead, and perform srāddha (annual memorial ceremony). Their titles are Chetti (or Mahā Chetti) and Behara.”

The custom of the bridal pair bathing in water from seven different houses obtains among many Oriya castes, including Brāhmans. It is known by the name of pāni-tula. The water is brought by married girls, who have not reached puberty, on the night preceding the wedding day, and the bride and bridegroom wash in it before dawn. This bath is called koili pāni snāno, or cuckoo water-bath. The koil [କୋଇଲି] is the Indian koel or cuckoo (Eudynamis honorata) [Eudynamys scolopaceus],whose crescendo cry ku-il, ku-il, is trying to the nerves during the hot season.

The following proverbs (Rev. H. Jensen. Classified Collection of Tamil Proverbs, 1897)  relating to washermen may be quoted :—

  • Get a new washerman, and an old barber.
  • The washerman knows the defects of the village (i.e., he learns a good deal about the private affairs of the various families, when receiving and delivering the clothes).
  • When a washerman gets sick, his sickness must leave him at the stone. The stone referred to is the large stone, on which the washerman cleans cloths, and the proverb denotes that, however sick a washerman may be, his work must be done."

[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. 2. -- S. 168f.]

"Dhobi [धोबी], Wārthi, Baretha [बरेठा], Chakla, Rajak [रजक], Parit.

1 Character and structure of the caste.

The professional caste of washermen. The name is derived from the Hindi dhona [धोना], and the Sanskrit dhav [धाव्], to wash, Wārthi is the Marātha [मराठा] name for the caste, and Bareth [बरेठ] or Baretha [बरेठा] is an honorific or complimentary term of address.

Rajak [रजक] and Parit are synonyms, the latter being used in the Marātha [मराठा] Districts. The Chakla caste of Madras [மதராஸ்] are leather-workers, but in Chanda [चंदा] a community of persons is found who are known as Chakla and are professional washermen. In 1911 the Dhobis [धोबी] numbered 165,000 persons in the Central Provinces and Berār [वर्हाड], or one to every hundred inhabitants.

They are numerous in the Districts with large towns and also in Chhattisgarh [छत्तीसगढ़], where, like the Dhobas [ধোপা] of Bengal [বঙ্গ], they have to a considerable extent abandoned their hereditary profession and taken to cultivation and other callings. No account worth reproduction has been obtained of the origin of the caste. In the Central Provinces it is purely functional, as is shown by its subdivisions ; these are generally of a territorial nature, and indicate that the Dhobis [धोबी] like the other professional castes have come here from all parts of the country. Instances of the subcastes are :

  • Baonia and Berāria [वर्हाडिया] from Berār [वर्हाड] ;
  • Mālwi [माळवी] ,
  • Bundelkhandi [बुंदेलखंडी],
  • Nimāria [निमाडिया],
  • Kanaujia [कन्नौजिया], 
  • Udaipuria [उदयपुरिया] from Udaipur [उदयपुर] ;
  • Madrasi [मद्रासी],
  • Dharampuria from Dharampur [ધરમપુર],
  • and so on.

A separate subcaste is formed of Muhammadan Dhobis [धोबी]. The exogamous groups known as khero are of the usual low-caste type, taking their names from villages or titular or professional terms.

2. Marriage customs.

Marriage within the khero is prohibited and also the union of first cousins. It is considered disgraceful to accept a price for a bride, and it is said that this is not done even by the parents of poor girls, but the caste will in such cases raise a subscription to defray the expenses of her marriage. In the northern Districts the marriages of Dhobis [धोबी] are characterised by continuous singing and dancing at the houses of the bridegroom and bride, these performances being known as sajnai and birha [बिरहा]. Some man also puts on a long coat, tight down to the waist and loose round the hips, to have the appearance of a dancing-girl, and dances before the party, while two or three other men play. Mr. Crooke considers that this ritual, which is found also among other low castes, resembles the European custom of the False Bride and is intended to divert the evil eye from the real bride. He writes:1

1 Folklore of Northern India, vol. ii. p. 8.

“Now there are numerous customs which have been grouped in Europe under the name of the False Bride. Thus among the Esthonians the false bride is enacted by the bride’s brother dressed in woman’s clothes ; in Polonia by a bearded man called the Wilde Braut; in Poland by an old woman veiled in white and lame ; again among the Esthonians by an old woman with a brickwork crown ; in Brittany, where the substitutes are first a little girl, then the mistress of the house, and lastly the grandmother.

“ The supposition may then be hazarded in the light of the Indian examples that some one assumes on this occasion the part of the bride in order to divert on himself from her the envious glance of the evil eye.”

Any further information on this interesting custom would be welcome.

The remarriage of widows is allowed, and in Betūl [बैतूल] the bridegroom goes to the widow’s house on a dark night wrapped up in a black blanket, and presents the widow with new clothes and bangles, and spangles and red lead for the forehead. Divorce is permitted with the approval of the caste headman by the execution of a deed on stamped paper.

3. Other social customs.

After a birth the mother is allowed no food for some days except country sugar and dates. The child is given some honey and castor-oil for the first two days and is then allowed to suckle the mother. A pit is dug inside the lying-in room, and in this are deposited water and the first cuttings of the nails and hair of the child. It is filled up and on her recovery the mother bows before it, praying for similar safe deliveries in future and for the immunity of the child from physical ailments. After the birth of a male child the mother is impure for seven days and for five days after that of a female.

4. Religion.

The principal deity of the Dhobis [धोबी] is Ghatoia, the god of the ghāt [घाट] or landing-place on the river to which they go to wash their clothes. Libations of liquor are made to him in the month of Asārh [आषाढ़] (June), when the rains break and the rivers begin to be flooded. Before entering the water to wash the clothes they bow to the stone on which these are beaten out, asking that their work may be quickly finished ; and they also pray to the river deity to protect them from snakes and crocodiles. They worship the stone on the Dasahra [दशहर] festival, making an offering to it of flowers, turmeric and cooked food. The Dhobi’s [धोबी] washing-stone is believed to be haunted by the ghosts of departed Dhobis [धोबी] when revisiting the glimpses of the moon, and is held to have magical powers. If a man requires a love-charm he should steal a supāri [सुपारी] or areca-nut from the bazar at night or on the occasion of an eclipse. The same night he goes to the Dhobi’s [धोबी] stone and sets the nut upon it. He breaks an egg and a cocoanut over the stone and burns incense before it. Then he takes the nut away and gives it to the woman of his fancy, wrapped up in betel-leaf, and she will love him.

Their chief festivals are the Holi [होली] and Diwāli [दीवाली], at which they drink a great deal. The dead are buried or burnt as may be convenient, and mourning is observed for three days only, the family being purified on the Sunday or Wednesday following the death. They have a caste committee whose president is known as Mehtar [मेहतर], while other officials are the Chaudhri [चौधरी] or vice-president, and the Badkur [बडकुर], who appoints dates for the penal feasts and issues the summons to the caste-fellows. These posts are hereditary and their holders receive presents of a rupee and a cloth when members of the caste have to give expiatory feasts.

5. Occupation : washing clothes.

Before washing his clothes the Dhobi [धोबी] steams them,1 hanging them in a bundle for a time over a cauldron of boiling water. After this he takes them to a stream or pond and washes them roughly with fuller’s earth. The washerman steps nearly knee-deep into the water, and taking a quantity of clothes by one end in his two hands he raises them aloft in the air and brings them down heavily upon a huge stone slab, grooved, at his feet. This threshing operation he repeats until his clothes are perfectly clean. In Saugor [सागर] the clothes are rubbed with wood-ashes at night and beaten out in water with a stick in the morning. Silk clothes are washed with the nut of the rītha [
रीठा] tree (Sapindus emarginatus) which gives a lather like soap.

1 Sherring’s Hindu Castes, i. 342-3.   

Sir H. Risley writes of the Dacca washermen :2

2 Tribes and Castes, art. Dhobi.

“For washing muslins and other coloured garments well or spring water is alone used ; but if the articles are the property of a poor man or are commonplace, the water of the nearest tank or river is accounted sufficiently good. Indigo is in as general use as in England for removing the yellowish tinge and whitening the material. The water of the wells and springs bordering on the red laterite formation on the north of the city has been for centuries celebrated, and the old bleaching fields of the European factories were all situated in this neighbourhood. Various plants are used by the Dhobis [धोबी] to clarify water such as the nirmali [निर्मली] (Strychnos potatorum), the piu [पोई(Basella}, the nagphani [नागफनी] (Cactus indicus [Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill.]) and several plants of the mallow family. Alum, though not much valued, is sometimes used.”

In most Districts of the Central Provinces the Dhobi [धोबी] is employed as a village servant and is paid by annual contributions of grain from the cultivators. For ordinary washing he gets half as much as the blacksmith or carpenter, or 13 to 20 lbs. of grain annually from each householder, with about another 10 lbs. at seedtime or harvest. When he brings the clothes home he also receives a meal or a chapāti [चपाती], and well-to-do persons give him their old clothes as a present. In return for this he washes all the clothes of the family two or three times a month, except the loin-cloths and women’s bodices which they themselves wash daily. The Dhobi [धोबी] is also employed on the occasion of a birth or a death. These events cause impurity and hence all the clothes of all the members of the family must be washed when the impurity ceases. In Saugor [सागर] when a man dies the Dhobi [धोबी] receives eight annas and for a woman four annas, and similar rates in the ease of the birth of a male or female child. When the first son is born in a family the Dhobi [धोबी] and barber place a brass vessel on the top of a pole and tie a flag to it as a cloth and take it round to all the friends and relations of the family, announcing the event. They receive presents of grain and money which they expend on a drinking-bout.

6. Social position.

The Dhobi [धोबी] is considered to be impure, and he is not allowed to come into the houses of the better castes nor to touch their water-vessels. In Saugor [सागर] he may come as far as the veranda but not into the house. His status would in any case be low as a village menial, but he is specially degraded, Mr. Crooke states, by his task of washing the clothes of women after child-birth and his consequent association with puerperal blood, which is particularly abhorred. Formerly a Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] did not let the Dhobi [धोबी] wash his clothes, or, if he did, they were again steeped in water in the house as a means of purification. Now he contents himself with sprinkling the clean clothes with water in which a piece of gold has been dipped. The Dhobi [धोबी] is not so impure as the Chamār [चमार] and Basor, and if a member of the higher castes touches him inadvertently it is considered sufficient to wash the face and hands only and not the clothes.

Colonel Tod writes1 that in Rājputāna [राजपुताना] the washermen’s wells dug at the sides of streams are deemed the most impure of all receptacles. And one of the most binding oaths is that a man as he swears should drop a pebble into one of these wells, saying, “ If I break this oath may all the good deeds of my forefathers fall into the washerman’s well like this pebble.” Nevertheless the Dhobi [धोबी] refuses to wash the clothes of some of the lowest castes as the Māng, Mahār [महार] and Chamār [चमार]. Like the Teli [तेली] the Dhobi [धोबी] is unlucky, and it is a bad omen to see him when starting on a journey or going out in the morning. But among some of the higher castes on the occasion of a marriage the elder members of the bridegroom’s family go with the bride to the Dhobi [धोबी]’s house. His wife presents the bride with betel-leaf and in return is given clothes with a rupee. This ceremony is called sohāg [सोहाग] or good fortune, and the present from the Dhobin is supposed to be lucky. In Berār [बेरार] the Dhobi [धोबी] is also a Balūtedār or village servant.

1 Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan.

Mr. Kitts writes of him :1

1 Berār Census Report (1881), p. 155.

“At a wedding he is called upon to spread the clothes on which the bridegroom and his party alight on coming to the bride’s house ; he also provides the cloth on which the bride and bridegroom are to sit and fastens the kankan [कंकण] (bracelet) on the girl’s hand. In the Yeotmāl [यवतमाळ] District the barber and the washerman sometimes take the place of the maternal uncle in the jhenda dance ; and when the bridegroom, assisted by five married women, has thrown the necklace of black beads round the bride’s neck and has tied it with five knots, the barber and the washerman advance, and lifting the young couple on their thighs dance to the music of the wājantri, while the bystanders besprinkle them with red powder.”

In Chhattisgarh [छत्तीसगढ़] the Dhobis [धोबी] appear to have partly abandoned their hereditary profession and taken to agriculture and other callings. Sir Benjamin Robertson writes of them :

2 Central Provinces Census Report (1891), p. 202.

“The caste largely preponderates in Chhattisgarh [छत्तीसगढ़], a part of the country where, at least to the superficial observer, it would hardly seem as if its services were much availed of; the number of Dhobis [धोबी] in Raipur [रायपुर] and Bilāspur [बिलासपुर] is nearly 40,000. In both Districts the washerman is one of the recognised village servants, but as a rule he gets no fixed payment, and the great body of cultivators dispense with his services altogether. According to the Raipur  Settlement Report (Mr. Hewett), he is employed by the ryots only to wash the clothes of the dead, and he is never found among a population of Satnāmis [सतनामी]. It may therefore be assumed that in Chhattisgarh [छत्तीसगढ़] the Bareth [बरेठ] caste has largely taken to cultivation.”

In Bengal [বঙ্গ] Sir H. Risley states3 that

3 Loc. cit.

“the Dhobi [ধোপা] often gives up his caste trade and follows the profession of a writer, messenger or collector of rent (tahsīldār) and it is an old native tradition that a Bengali Dhobi [ধোপা] was the first interpreter the English factory at Calcutta [কলকাতা] had, while it is further stated that our early commercial transactions were carried on solely through the agency of low-caste natives. The Dhobi [ধোপা], however, will never engage himself as an indoor servant in the house of a European.”

7. Proverbs about the Dhobi [धोबी].

Like the other castes who supply the primary needs of the people, the Dhobi [धोबी] is not regarded with much favour by his customers, and they revenge themselves in various Dhobi [धोबी], sarcasms at his expense for the injury caused to their clothes by his drastic measures. The following are mentioned by Sir G. Grierson :1  ‘Dhobi par Dhobi base, tab kapre par sābun pare', or ‘ When many Dhobis [धोबी] compete, then some soap gets to the clothes,’ and ‘It is only the clothes of the Dhobi’s [धोबी] father that never get torn.’ The Dhobi’s  [धोबी] donkey is a familiar sight as one meets him on the road still toiling as in the time of Issachar [יִשָּׂשכָר] between two bundles of clothes each larger than himself, and he has also become proverbial, ‘ Dhobi ka gadha neh ghar ka neh ghāt ka'' ‘The Dhobi’s [धोबी] donkey is always on the move’ ; and ‘The ass has only one master (a washerman), and the washerman has only one steed (an ass).’

1 Bihar Peasant Life, s.v. Dhobi.

The resentment felt for the Dhobi [धोबी] by his customers is not confined to his Indian clients, as may be seen from Eha’s excellent description of the Dhobi [धोबी] in Behind the Bungalow; and it may perhaps be permissible to introduce here the following short excerpt, though it necessarily loses in force by being detached from the context :

“Day after day he has stood before that great black stone and wreaked his rage upon shirt and trouser and coat, and coat and trouser and shirt. Then he has wrung them as if he were wringing the necks of poultry, and fixed them on his drying line with thorns and spikes, and finally he has taken the battered garments to his torture chamber and ploughed them with his iron, longwise and crosswise and slantwise, and dropped glowing cinders on their tenderest places. Son has followed father through countless generations in cultivating this passion for destruction, until it has become the monstrous growth which we see and shudder at in the Dhobi [धोबी].”

8. Wearing and lending the clothes of customers.

It is also currently believed that the Dhobi [धोबी] wears the clothes of his customers himself. Thus, ‘The Dhobi [धोबी] looks smart in other people’s clothes ’ ; and ‘ Rājāche shiri, Paritāche tiri,' or ‘ The king’s headscarf is the washerman’s loin-cloth.’ On this point Mr. Thurston writes of the Madras [மதராஸ்] washerman :

“It is an unpleasant reflection that the Vannans [வண்ணான்] or washermen add to their income by hiring out the clothes of their customers for funeral parties, who lay them on the path before the pall-bearers, so that they may not step upon the ground. On one occasion a party of Europeans, when out shooting near the village of a hill tribe, met a funeral procession on its way to the burial-ground. The bier was draped in many folds of clean cloth, which one of the party recognised by the initials as one of his bed-sheets. Another identified as his sheet the cloth on which the corpse was lying. He cut off the corner with the initial, and a few days later the sheet was returned by the Dhobi, who pretended ignorance of the mutilation, and gave as an explanation that it must have been done in his absence by one of his assistants.” 1

1 Ethnographic Notes in Southern India, p. 226.

And Eha describes the same custom in the following amusing manner :

"Did you ever open your handkerchief with the suspicion that you had got a duster into your pocket by mistake, till the name of De Souza blazoned on the corner showed you that you were wearing some one else’s property ? An accident of this kind reveals a beneficent branch of the Dhobi’s [धोबी] business, one in which he comes to the relief of needy respectability. Suppose yourself (if you can)  to be Mr. Lobo, enjoying the position of first violinist in a string band which performs at Parsi [پارسیان,] weddings and on other festive occasions. Noblesse oblige; you cannot evade the necessity for clean shirt-fronts, ill able as your precarious income may be to meet it. In these circumstances a Dhobi [धोबी] with good connections is what you require. He finds you in shirts of the best quality at so much an evening, and you are saved all risk and outlay of capital ; you need keep no clothes except a greenish-black surtout and pants and an effective necktie. In this way the wealth of the rich helps the want of the poor without their feeling it or knowing it—an excellent arrangement. Sometimes, unfortunately, Mr. Lobo has a few clothes of his own, and then, as I have hinted, the Dhobi [धोबी] may exchange them by mistake, for he is uneducated and has much to remember ; but if you occasionally suffer in this way you gain in another, for Mr. Lobo’s family are skilful with the needle, and I have sent a torn garment to the wash which returned carefully repaired.” 1

1 Behind the Bungalow."

[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. 2. -- S. 519 - 527]

Dhobi [धोबी] (NW Provinces und Oudh)

"Dhobi [धोबी]1the washerman caste who take their name from the Hindi [हिन्दी] dhona [धोना] (Sans. dhāv [धाव्]), to wash.

1 Based to some extent on notes by Pandit Bhān Pratāp ṭiwāri of Chunār.

Dhobis [धोबी] have no very-distinct traditions of their origin. In Bihār [बिहार], according to Mr. Risley,2 they trace their descent from Gāri Bhuiya—one of the local gods of that part of the country. Another account makes them out to he the offspring of a Kshatriya [क्सत्रिय] father and a Chamār [चमार] woman. In Mirzāpur [मिर्ज़ापुर] they name as their ancestor a personage named Rāwat [रावत], and say that Mahādeva [महादेव] and Pārvati [पार्वती], disgusted at the filth of the people of the world, created the Dhobi [धोबी] to keep their clothes clean in future.

2 Tribes and Castes, I, 233.

Mr. Nesfield suggests that

“the washerman represents an impure caste, but is many degrees higher than that of the Bhangi [भंगी], from whom he has sprung. Both are descended from the Dom [डोम], whose sole wealth, according to Manu [मनु], must be dogs and asses. The Indian washerman has always been associated with the indigenous ass, which carries the soiled clothes down to the bank of the river or tank, and takes them back clean to the house. No Hindu of any caste, even the lowest, will wash his own clothes, and so the Dhobi [धोबी] has been formed into a caste which shall bear the impurities of all."

Mr. Risley disputes this connection of Doms [डोम] and Dhobis [धोबी] through the common use of the donkey on various grounds.

“In the first place the use of donkeys by the Dhobi [धोबी] caste is so far from being universal that it has given rise to the formation of a slightly inferior sub-caste called Gadhaiya [गधाइया]. Secondly, beyond the highly conjectural identification of the Doms [डोम] with the Chandals [चाण्डाल] spoken of by Manu [मनु], there is nothing to show that the Doms [डोम] have the faintest partiality for the donkey. On the contrary the Magahiya [मगहिय] Doms [मगहीया डोम] of Bihār [बिहार] will not touch a donkey and regard the Dhobi [धोबी] with very special aversion.”

It does not appear necessary to connect the Dhobi [धोबी] with either the Dom [डोम] or Bhangi [भंगी] in order to account for the low social rank which he holds. One of his chief tasks, except among the Dravidian tribes who do the work themselves, is to wash the clothing of women after child-birth, and his association with blood of tह्is kind, which is particularly abhorred, stamps him as specially impure. Like the Kumhār [कुंहार] he keeps asses ; but every Dhobi [धोबी] does not necessarily do so, and may use oxen for carrying clothes to and from the river.

2. Internal organisation.

Like many castes of the same social grade Dhobis [धोबी] assert that there are seven endogamous divisions or subcastes. Thus Sir H. M. Elliot gives the sub-castes as

  • Kanaujiya [कन्नौजिया],
  • Magahiya [मगहिय],
  • Pagahiya,
  • Belwār [बेलवार],
  • Batham, and
  • Sribatham (who take their name from Srāvasti [श्रावस्ती]) and
  • Bharka.

The last Census gives eleven—

  • Ajudhyabasi,
  • Bais [बैस],
  • Chithoriya,
  • Deswar, 
  • Kaithiya [कैथिया],
  • Kanaujiya [कन्नौजिया],
  • Kathariya,
  • Mathuriya [मथुरिया],
  • Purbiya or Purabiya [पुरबिया], and
  • Sribāstab [श्रीवास्तव].

A list from Mirzāpur [मिर्ज़ापुर] gives them as

  • Kanaujiya [कन्नौजिया], 
  • Belwār [बेलवार],
  • Magahiya [मगहिय],
  • Sribāstab [श्रीवास्तव],
  • Musalmān Dhobi [मुसलमान धोबी],
  • Baiswāra [बैसवारा], and 
  • Bhojpuriya [भोजपुरिया].

Another from Agra [आगरा] gives—

  • Mathuriya [मथुरिया],
  • Bharka, 
  • Mārwāri [मारवाड़ी],
  • Purbiya [पुरबिया], and
  • Purbiya Kampu.

In Bareilly [बरेली] we find 

  • Kathariya,
  • Dehliwāla [दिल्लीवाला],
  • Kampūwāla, and
  • Musalmān [मुसलमान].

All these are endogamous. Their rule of exogamy, as stated by them, at Mirzāpur [मिर्ज़ापुर] is that they will not marry in the family of their maternal uncle, father’s sister or their own family (kul [कुल]) as long as any connection by marriage is remembered. The complete Census Return shows no less than 925 sub-divisions of the Hindu and 216 of the Muhammadan branch. Of these the most important locally are the

  • Chauhān [चौहान], Chhonkar [छोंकर] and Gaur [गौर] of Muzaffarnagar [मुज़फ़्फ़रनगर],
  • the Chhonkar [छोंकर] of Meerut [मेरठ],
  • the Purabīya [पुरबिया] of Agra [आगरा],
  • the Deswāli [देशवाली] of Farrukhābād [फ़र्रूख़ाबाद], 
  • the Sakarwār [साकरवार] of Mainpuri [मैनपुरी],
  • the Bakhar, Jalchhatri, Magadhiya [मगधिया], Mangasha and Pāthak [पाठक] of Bareilly [बरेली],
  • the Rājput [राजपूत] of Morādābād [मुरादाबाद],
  • the Bhadauriya [भडौरिया], Jalkhatri, and Mahadwār [महाद्वार] of Shāhjahānpur [शाहजहाँपुर],
  • the Deswāli [देशवाली] and Purbiya [पुरबिया] of Pilibhīt [पीलीभीत],
  • the Amethiya and Belwār [बेलवार] of Cawnpur [कानपुर],
  • the Māthur [माथुर] of Fatehpur [फ़तेहपुर],
  • the Belwār [बेलवार] and Māthur [माथुर] of Bānda [बांदा],
  • the Dakkhināha [दक्खिनाहा], Sarwariya [सरवाडिया] and Uttarāha [उत्तराहा] of Basti [बस्ती],
  • the Dakkhināha [दक्खिनाहा], Deswāli [देशवाली], Sarwariya [सरवाडिया] and Uttarāha [उत्तराहा] of Azamgarh [आज़ामगढ़], 
  • the Purabiya [पुरबिया] of Lucknow [लखनऊ],
  • the Jalpachhar, Magaraha and Sarwariya [सरवाडिया] of Rāē Bareli [रायबरेली],
  • the Jaiswār [जइसवार] of Faizābād [फ़ैज़ाबाद],
  • the Ujjaini [उज्जैनी] of Gonda [गोंडा],
  • the Bahrāichiya [बहराइचिया] of Bahrāich [बहराइच],
  • the Jaiswār [जइसवार] of Sultānpur [सुल्तानपुर], and
  • the Mangaraha of Bārabanki [बाराबंकी].

3. Marriage ceremonies.

To the east of the Province the age for marriage is twelve for girls and fourteen for boys. A matchmaker (agua [अगुआ]) at the request of the girl's father looks out for a suitable match. When the auspicious time (sa’at) has been fixed by the Brāhman [ब्राह्मण], he casts the horoscopes (ganna girāna [गनना गिराना]) when these are found to correspond, the parents meet and the rite of Kori katori is performed. In this the girl’s father fills a glass full of liquor, puts into it a silver coin and passes it over to the boy’s father with the wordsm ! Rām ! [राम ! राम!]  When he has drunk he hands it back to the girl’s father, who also drinks out of it, and then liquor is served to the clansmen present. This constitutes the betrothal (mangni [मंगनी]). Then a Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] is called in for the dhān pān [धान पान]. In this the girl’s father takes one ser [सेर]  of paddy, two packets of betel and two betel-nuts. Both fathers hold a cloth in their hands. The Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] first throws one packet of betel and one betel-nut into the cloth where it is held by the boy’s father, and does the same for the girl’s father. He next throws a handful of paddy five times into each side of the cloth. Both parents tie this up, and it is parched and used for throwing over the pair at the wedding. Then the Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] explains to both the fathers the lucky days for the collection of the sacred earth (matmangara) and for the anointing (tel hardi ), and the proper date for the wedding. For this service each gives the Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] a pice and a ration of uncooked grain. The girl is feasted that night and returns home the following morning.

4. On the day of the matmangara the women assemble and sing after they have anointed their heads with oil. Then the sacred earth is collected in the way already described in the case of the Bhuiyas [भुइया]. On the day of the anointing five men of the tribe erect the marriage pavilion in the usual manner. The barber's wife rubs the boy with a sprig of dūb [दूब] grass soaked in oil and turmeric. No Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] attends. On the bhatwān day the clansmen are fed on rice and pulse, and at night they get drunk and sing the song known as birha. When the bridegroom, dressed in his wedding garments, starts with his procession, he is carried out as far as the door in the arms of his brother-in-law. When he gets outside the village his wedding clothes are taken off, and he does the rest of the journey on foot until he approaches the house of the bride, when he is dressed again. His brother-in-law again carries him in his arms to the door of the bride's house, where the wave ceremony (parachhan [परछन]) is done by his future mother-in-law, who moves a rice pounder, sieve and a lota [लोटा] full of water round his head. During this time a Dhārhi plays the mridang [मृदंग] or double drum, and the women beat earthen saucers (thiliya [ठिलिया]) with pieces of stone. Then men sing the birha and the women the lāchāri [लाचारी] songs. The wedding party then retire to the reception place (janwānsa [जनवासा]) where all the clansmen assemble. There some food is sent for the bridegroom from the bride. Then the bridegroom and another boy who acts as his best man (shābāla) eat together. This food is brought by the girl's brother-in-law, who receives one anna [आना] as his perquisite. Then the clansmen have a drink and salute each other. When the lucky time arrives for the marriage, they take the bridegroom to the pavilion and seat him on a stool facing the east. The friends sit on each side. A piece of mango wood is lighted and some clarified butter dropped on it with mango leaves (tallo). The men recite the auspicious marriage songs (sumangala swāha [सुमंगल स्वाह]) and then the bride is brought into the pavilion by her sister or sister-in-law and she knots together the clothes of the pair. Then the bride's father washes the great toes of the pair in a tray full of Ganges [गंगा] water, which he drinks, and throws a little of the water on his head. Then behind the shelter of a sheet which is held up before them the boy applies red lead to the parting of the girl's hair, and they walk five times round the marriage pavilion. The boy’s elder brother throws parched rice over them, and puts a necklace round the bride’s neck. Then her sister-in-law escorts the pair into the retiring room (kohabar) and makes them bow to the family god. After this the boy’s wedding crown is removed and he returns to the wedding party.

5.    Next comes the wedding feast (byāh ka bhāt [ब्याह का भात]). Unmarried boys among Dhobis [धोबी] do not eat boiled rice (bhāt [भात]). They taste it first after they are married. The next day the bride goes off with her husband. On the third day is the panwpheri [पांवफेरी], when, if the two houses are near, the bride goes alone back to her father’s house and comes home by herself to her husband. Widows are married in the ordinary way by the sagāi [सगाई] or dharauna form and the levirate is allowed, but it is not compulsory on the widow to take the younger brother of her late husband.

6. Birth and death ceremonies.

The ceremonies at birth and death are of the usual type common among tribes of the same social standing. The ceremonial shaving (mūnran [मूंडन]) is not usually done unless the parents have been blessed with a son in answer to a vow (manauti [मनौती]).

7. Religion.

Dhobis [धोबी] usually worship the Pānchonpīr [पांचों पीर] and Devi [देवी]. They are much given to the worship of ghosts, one of whom named Ghatoriya [घटोरिया] has a great reputation in Bundelkhand [बुंदेलखंड]. They have a very strong tribal council and are very severe on breaches of caste custom. They rank of course very low in the social scale, and no respectable Hindu will take anything from their hands. He is the subject of many proverbs :

Nai dhobiniya aweli,
Chirkutwe sābun laweli.

“The new washerwoman will apply soap even to rags.” @
new broom sweeps clean.”

Dhobi par Dhobi base, tab kapre par sābun pare.

“When many Dhobis [धोबी] compete, then only does soap reach the clothes.”"

[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. 2. -- S. 288 - 292]

Dhoby [டோபி] (Tamil)


WESTERN people have very imperfect ideas of the Indian washerman. Most of the families in the West either do their own washing at home, or send it out to a laundry. There is no separate class or caste of people that does the work of cleaning the clothes and ironing them. Anyone who takes to this work may take his place in society if he has the necessary learning and accomplishments. The son of a washerman may freely move in good society, and take his stand among men of light and learning. Nobody will look down upon him because he happens to be the son of a washerman. He may marry the daughter of a wealthy merchant, and even become a member of Parliament in England, or a Senator or a Congressman in the United States of America. In the course of years his children may become members of the best society in the land in which they live. Sufficient wealth and advanced education, together with a certain amount of knowledge of the ‘art of living ’ with others, can make the descendants of a washerman take rank as ladies or gentlemen ; but nothing of this kind can happen in the case of the washermen of the villages of India. The term vannan [வண்ணான்] is taken from the Sanscrit varnam [वर्ण], which means ‘ colour ’ or ‘ beauty.’ There are 140,000 washermen in Southern India alone. In Malabar [മലബാര്‍] the females of this class wash the clothes, and the men have taken to the trade of tailoring, or to the profession of devil-dancer.

The vannan [ வண்ணான்] is called, in consideration of his innumerable and unscrupulous services, ‘the son of the village.’ He washes all the clothes of both the men and women, his wife assisting him in some parts of his work. When she goes to fetch the clothes from the women’s apartments, the women of the house receive the ‘daughter of the village’ warmly, and entertain her with interesting conversation for a few minutes; then they give her a little oil with which to anoint her head, and feed her with a cold meal. Sometimes they also give her some home-made cakes to take back with her to her children. The washerwoman leaves the house highly pleased. She carries the soiled clothes of the women hooked on a stick, lest she should be contaminated by the touch of them. She takes the things to the fuller’s ground, at a pool, or river, or tank, and submits them to a regular process of cleansing. First she throws each article into the water and sets it aside. Then she herself plunges into the water, in order to remove any defilement which she may have contracted in the process. She then places all she has collected in the heap of other soiled clothes from the village which her husband has brought. The dhoby [டோபி] (washerman), as a rule, does not consider himself to be polluted in ordinary cases when he carries the soiled clothes.

The dhoby [டோபி] has his house in some corner of the village, and it is built on a piece of ground belonging to the village. The walls of his house are raised at the expense of the village people, and they themselves pay for the thatched roof. They also contribute to the purchase of a spirited donkey or two. Of useful household articles the dhoby [டோபி] has hardly any ; only a few earthen vessels in which to cook his food, and to serve for washing purposes. His business apparatus consists of only a few large earthen pots, and these are filled with water and placed on an oven, which is built of mud, and in a triangular shape. This oven is heated whenever he wants the soiled clothes to be steamed. Before they are steamed he dips them over and over again in alkaline water, which is obtained by him at very little cost. This alkaline water is nothing more than a mixture of pure water with fuller’s earth, or washing-soda. When the process of steaming is done, the dhoby [டோபி] and his children start off at about four o’clock in the morning to the fuller’s ground. The poor, uncared-for donkeys move about in the dull streets and waste lands of the village all the other days and nights except the night in which the dhoby [டோபி] intends to start for his work. The unfed beasts are then made to carry the heavy loads of wet clothes. The moment they are loaded they start off in advance from the house of their unkind master, as they know well the place of destination, and the way to it is quite familiar to them. The dhoby [டோபி] with his children follow them, each carrying a heavy load on his back, and even on his head. As the dhoby [டோபி] passes through the streets he cheers his beasts by whistling, and uttering encouraging words such as these: ‘Poda sami,’ i.e., ‘Go, master’; ‘Manum kappata,’ i.e., ‘Save my reputation’; ‘Kartua thoraya,’ i.e., ‘ black gentleman’; ‘ Addyada singar,’ i.e., ‘ Walk as a lion.’ When he reaches the water-side—and this is often a good distance away—first he throws off his own load, and removes the loads off the backs of his beasts, and then the donkeys are left to find their own pasture.

In cases where there are fields in cultivation, one of the grown-up children of the dhoby [டோபி] minds the brutes while they are grazing. Then the dhoby [டோபி] unties the bundle of clothes, and keeps them within his reach near water, where the rough stones are kept, for bleaching. He takes up a cloth in his hand and dips it in the water, and beats it against the stone, with an invocation to his God, the common Father. Then he places the cloth on the stone, and raises his right hand to his forehead, as he stands in a bending attitude, in order to indicate that he seeks the benediction of Heaven to rest upon the labours of the day.

The work of a dhoby [டோபி] in an Indian village is tedious and difficult. He has to cleanse from two to three hundred cloths of various lengths and breadths, many of them in an exceedingly dirty state. He beats cloth after cloth with his full strength on the coarse stones. His children also share the work of their father, taking for their part the tiny clothes of children like themselves.

While he is beating the cloths he sings songs of his own making, or that were made by his forefathers. These are very peculiar in their composition, and they are quite uninteresting to anyone beside himself. There is in them no melody, and there is not even any beating of time. He sings in praise of his ass, or of his wife, or he narrates his love, patience, earnestness, in relation to his sweetheart before his marriage. Sometimes he sings in praise of his father-in-law. Sometimes it is a mournful song about an old and faithful ass which he has recently lost.

While the dhoby [டோபி] is busily engaged with the washing of the clothes, his wife will turn up carrying a potful of cold food, which she has been obtaining from the village folk during the previous night. Every house in the village is bound to give twice daily a handful of cooked food, either made of rice, millet, maize, or some other Indian grain. She also carries a second small vessel, which is filled with cooked Indian vegetables and greens. These have also been given to her by the villagers.

A dhoby [டோபி] receives as wages from every village house an average of sixpence per annum. If in the house there is a large family the wages are increased to a shilling per annum. Besides this allowance, he gets a small gift of grains, probably a few measures, at the time of harvest. If he goes to the fields when they gather the crops, he also will get a small bundle of ears. At wedding festivities and at funerals he is entitled to a fee of fourpence. When the villagers offer a blood-sacrifice to the bloodthirsty gods, they generally kill a fat ram by severing the head from the body, and this head goes to the waiting dhoby [டோபி] as a part of his wages. In some villages the dhoby [டோபி] is used as a messenger to communicate ominous intelligence to the parties concerned. For this he gets, in the form of gold and silver bangles, or a pair of new cloths, or a pagoda, about the value of four shillings. This is all that the dhoby [டோபி] receives in the form of wages.

Now let us turn back to the place where we left the dhoby [டோபி] washing the clothes. He has been beating them against the stone, one after another, from early morning until 10 a.m., and he is now quite exhausted, and quite ready for his morning meal. The wife, who has brought his meal, joins her husband, and the children also partake of it. They all sit on the grassy slope of the riverside or pool. The dhoby [டோபி] and his children sit facing the woman, who holds the earthen pot in her hand. They fold their hands together, so as to serve them instead of a cup, and the watery meal is poured into their hands. The woman first stirs up the contents of the earthen pot with her right hand, and adds some butter-milk and salt. This luxurious food satisfies the tired and hungry dhoby [டோபி] and his children, and refreshes them so that they cheerfully resume their work. The woman, after serving the meal to her husband and children, supplies her husband with betel-nut, and chunam [சுண்ணாம்] and tobacco to chew. The dhoby [டோபி], having received these, sits beside his wife, and gossips with her, while she helps herself to the remaining food. When she has done the dhoby [டோபி] lays his head on her lap and rests awhile. She relates to him some incidents of the village life which have recently come to her knowledge. In half an hour the dhoby [டோபி] and his wife, with their children, get up to resume their work. They hurry on the bleaching of the clothes till 2 p.m. ; then they begin to wash the beaten clothes in a large earthen pot, which is filled with pure water. In this a small portion of indigo is dissolved, or a little piece of lime. In this mixture all the clothes are dipped and rinsed well. Then they undergo another process of dipping in a similar pot filled with water, in which a small quantity of starch, prepared from rice or other Indian grain, has been put. This process makes the clothes somewhat stiff. All these processes cleanse the clothes very thoroughly. If the clothes are new they have to go twice through all these processes, and in addition to this they are also dipped in water mixed with cow-dung or goat-dung. This process gives the clothes a smart appearance.

Most of the villagers wear white clothes, consisting of a pair of cloths of three or three and a half yards each. Some of them have also turbans or headpieces.

As the day is getting on the dhoby [டோபி] and his wife and children now hurry off to dry the clothes, either on grassy meads or on sandy banks. At about three o’clock the dhoby [டோபி] and his family go up together to some shady banyan or tulip or margosa or tamarind-tree ; one or other of these is sure to be found near an Indian village. Here they partake of the remainder of the meal, seated in the manner which has been described. At about five o’clock they gather together the clothes and fold them up. Now the children go to find the donkeys, who are to carry the loads of bleached clothes back again to their home. The dhoby [டோபி] and his wife themselves carry bundles of the clothes on their heads and on their backs; they go slowly back to their village.

The following morning the dhoby [டோபி] and his wife unloose the bundles of washed clothes, and arrange them for delivery ; both of them are very busy making up the piles according to the marks on the clothes. As a rule, the dhobys [டோபி] in India are very skilful in sorting the clothes according to the marks given them. There is no such thing as the marking of the clothes by their owners with coloured threads or the initials of their names. All marks on clothes are made by the dhobys [டோபி] themselves, and they cannot usually write their own names. If any one of the villagers is in a hurry for his bleached clothes he has to go to the door of the dhoby [டோபி] and fetch them for himself. Generally, the dhoby [டோபி] delivers at each house.

The Indian villagers never use linen or any form of dress that is made by tailors, and therefore there is no need for ironing.

The dhoby [டோபி] not only washes the clothes of the villagers, but he also provides them with torches, made out of the rags which he gathers and stores up from the worn-out clothes given to him. These torches are generally used in festival and marriage processions ; and he also renders service by holding the torches on such occasions. The poor people of the village, by courting his friendship, get from him marthu, i.e., the loan of cloths for little or nothing. At the time of funeral processions he spreads cloths on the way leading to the cremation ground. His services are also sought to decorate with cloths the roof of the marriage pandal [பந்தல்] or booth. On all these occasions he uses the cloths of the villagers. When the village dramas are held in the· open-air at night he spreads on the ground a few bleached white cloths for the more respectable men of the village to sit upon.

The 'son of the village,’ who is fed by the villagers, has also the privilege of clothing himself, as well as his family, with the clothes of the villagers. To-day he turns up in a new attire which he has got from Mr. A-- for washing; similarly his wife shines in the borrowed feathers of Mrs. C--. To-morrow he walks in the street with the clothes of Mr. C--; and likewise his wife appears smart and tidily dressed with a beautiful sari  [சேலை] or draping belonging to Mrs. R--. On the following day the husband and wife will carry all the clothes in which they dressed themselves on the previous day to the fuller’s ground, and will cover themselves with their worn-out ordinary clothes in a state next to rags. If any of the owners see these common children of the village wearing their clothes they take no notice of it. The village dhoby [டோபி], who has this privilege of wearing other people’s clothes, has also the free use of the village clothes as his bedding. It is evident, therefore, that it costs little or nothing to maintain himself and his family.

The fuller’s ground becomes the centre for several village dhobys [டோபி], and to it the young unmarried men and the young maids go to wash the clothes of their respective villages. These young people have thus fine opportunities of knowing one another better, and of forming close friendships. They cannot, however, have private conversations about their matrimonial affairs. Supposing the young man A-- has a tender regard for the young maid C--, he sings some love songs while beating the clothes, and in these he describes to the best of his abilities the position, parentage, and beauty of the girl who probably stands close beside him, also beating clothes. These love-songs of the young dhoby [டோபி], who is quite taken up with the girl whom he has in his mind, have a charming effect upon the girl, and she in return raises her sweet voice with songs of allurements. She assures him in an indirect way of her appreciation, alluding to his personal beauty: ‘O thou young man, black as oil, strong as stone, sweet as sugar-cane, I cannot ever forget thy face. Thou hast become the subject of my night-dreams. Whenever I think of thee I become useless to do the work of my parents. Thy love makes me uneasy in the day and restless in the night. My mother has promised to give me the young and beautiful colt as my dowry, and my father has promised me the right of washing the clothes of the whole village when he gets old and helpless, as I am the only daughter to my father. I saw thy foot-print and the foot-print of thy black donkey. When will the day come in which I may get a handful of betel-nuts from thy hands?’

When the young man hears these songs it is enough to break his heart, and he sings out loudly, assuring her of his burning love for her, calling her thana (honey); mana [மான்] (deer); annama (O swan !); purava [புறாவா ]( O dove !).  ‘Thy love kills me. I can give my four donkeys as a price for thee. I will work for thy father and for thee all the days of my life. If I have thee in my house there is no need for a light. O thou dove ! in still waters on my left-hand side show me thy face to remove the gloom of my thoughts.’ Thus the young dhoby [டோபி] and the maid sing out the songs of love at their meetings at the washing-ground. When the parents of these young folk see their attachment to each other, they arrange to have them settled in marriage, and to follow the profession of a village dhoby [டோபி].

The washermen are a distinct class or caste. The son of a washerman is a washerman by compulsion. He cannot follow any other trade but the trade of his forefathers. He cannot intermingle with other classes of people, as this would be opposed to the social customs of the country."

[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. 23 - 32]

Tsākala / Sākala / Chākalas

"Tsākala.The Tsākalas, Sākalas, or Chākalas, who derive their name from chaku (to wash), are the washermen of the Telugu [తెలుగు] country, and also act as torch and palanquin bearers. In the Census Report, 1901, Tellakula (the white class) is given as a synonym.

The Rev. J. Cain writes (Ind. Ant., VIII, 1879)  that the

“Tellakulavandlu are really washermen who, in consequence of having obtained employment as peons (orderlies) in Government offices, feel themselves to be superior to their old caste people. In their own towns or villages they acknowledge themselves to be washermen, but in other places they disclaim all such connection.”

It is noted in the Kurnool [కర్నూలు] Manual (1886) that, in the Cumbum [కంభం] division,

“they serve as palanquin-bearers, and are always at the mercy of Government officials, and are compelled to carry baggage for little or no wage. Some are Inamdars (landholders), while others work for wages. ”

The ordinary Tsākalas are called Bāna Tsākala, in contradistinction to the Gūna or Velama Tsākala. Bāna is the Telugu name for the large pot, which the washermen use for boiling the clothes. The Gūna Tsākalas are dyers. In a note on the Velamas, Mr. H. A. Stuart writes (Manual of the North Arcot district) that

“some say they form a sub-division of the Balijas, but this they themselves most vehemently deny, and the Balijas derisively call them Gūni Sākalavāndlu (hunchbacked washermen). The pride and jealousy of Hindu castes was amusingly illustrated by the Velamas of Kālahasti [శ్రీకాళహస్తి]. The Deputy Tahsildar of that town was desired to ascertain the origin of the name Gūni Sākalavāndlu, but, as soon as he asked the question, a member of the caste lodged a complaint of defamation against him before the District Magistrate. The nickname appears to have been applied to them because in the northern districts some print chintz, and, carrying their goods in a bundle on their backs, walk stooping like a laden washerman. This derivation is more than doubtful, for, in the Godāvari [గోదావరి] district, the name is Gūna Sākalavāndlu, gūna being the large pot in which they dye the chintzes. ”

Like other Telugu castes, the Tsākalas have exogamous septs or intipēru, among which chimala [చీమల] (ant) is of common occurrence. Members of the gummadi sept do not cultivate, or eat the fruit of Cucurbita maxima (gummadi), and those of the magili pula gōtra avoid the fruit of Pandanus fascicularis [Pandanus odorifer]. In like manner, sword beans (Canavalia ensiformis) may not be eaten by those who belong to the thamballa gōtra.

Among the sub-divisions of the caste are Reddi Bhūmi (Reddi earth), Murikināti, Pākanāti (eastern country), Dēsa [దేశ], and Golkonda [గోల్కొండ]. Of these, some are also sub-divisions of other Telugu classes, as follows :—

  • Dēsa or Dēsur Balija—Kāpu.
  • Murikināti or Murikinādu—Kamsala, Mangala, Māla and Rāzu.
  • Pākanāti—Balija, Golla, Kamsala, Kāpu, and Māla.
  • Reddi Bhūmi—Māla, Mangala.

At the census, 1891, Odde was recorded as a subdivision of the Tsākalas, and it is noted in the Vizagapatam [విశాఖపట్నం] Manual (1869) that the Vadde or Odde Cakali wash clothes, and carry torches in that district. The name Odde Tsākala refers to Oriya-speaking washermen. Telugus call the Oriya [ଓଡ଼ିଶା] country Ōdra or Odde dēsam and Oriyas Ōdra or Odde Vāndlu.

Like the Tamil Vannāns [வண்ணார்] [வண்ணார்], the Tsākalas prepare for various castes torches for processional or other ceremonial occasions, and the face cloth, and paddy piled up at the head of a corpse, are their perquisite. The Reddi Bhūmi and other sub-divisions wash the clothes of all classes, except Mālas and Mādigās, while the Dēsa [దేశ] and Golkonda [గోల్కొండ] sub-divisions will wash for both Mālas and Mādigās, provided that the clothes are steeped in water, and not handed to them, but left therein, to be taken by the washerman. Every village has its families of washermen, who, in return for their services, receive an allowance of grain once a year, and may have land allotted to them. Whenever a goat or fowl has to be sacrificed to a deity, it is the privilege of the Tsākala to cut off the head, or wring the neck of the animal. When Kāpu women go on a visit to a distant village, they are accompanied by a Tsākala. At a Kāpu wedding, a small party of Kāpus, taking with them some food and gingelly (Sesamum) oil, proceed in procession to the house of a Tsākala, in order to obtain from him a framework made of bamboo or sticks, over which cotton threads (dhornam) are wound, and the Ganga idol, which is kept in his custody. The food is presented to him, and some rice poured into his cloth. Receiving these things, he says that he cannot find the dhornam and idol without a torch-light, and demands gingelly oil. This is given to him, and the Kāpus return with the Tsākala carrying the dhornam and idol to the marriage house. The Tsākala is asked to tie the dhornam to the pandal (marriage booth) or roof of the house, and he demands some paddy (unhusked rice) which is heaped up on the ground. Standing thereon, he ties the dhornam. At a Panta Kāpu wedding, the Ganga idol, together with a goat and kāvadi (bamboo pole), with baskets of rice, cakes, betel leaves and areca nuts, is carried in procession to a pond or temple. The washerman, dressed up as a woman, heads the procession, and keeps on dancing and singing till the destination is reached. At the conclusion of the ceremonial, he takes charge of the idol, and goes his way. Among the Panta Reddis of the Tamil country, the idol is taken in procession by the washerman, who goes to every Reddi house, and receives a present of money. At a wedding among the Īdigas (Telugu toddy-drawers), the brother of the bride is fantastically dressed, with margosa (Melia Azadirachta) leaves in his turban, and carries a bow and arrow. This kodangi (buffoon) is conducted in procession to the temple by a few married women, and made to walk over cloths spread on the ground by the village washerman. The cloth worn by a Kāpu girl at the time of her first menstrual ceremony is the perquisite of the washerwoman.

The tribal deity of the Tsākalas is Madivālayya, in whose honour a feast, called Mailar or Mailar Pandaga, is held in January immediately after the Pongal [பொங்கல] festival. Small models of pots, slabs of stone such as are used for beating the wet clothes on, and other articles used in their work, are made in rice and flour paste. After they have been worshipped, fruits, cooked vegetables, etc., are offered, and a sheep or goat is sacrificed. Some of its blood is mixed with the food, of which a little is sprinkled over the pots, stones, etc., used during washing operations. If this ceremonial was not observed, it is believed that the clothes, when boiling in the water pot, would catch fire, and be ruined. The festival, which is not observed by the Dēsa and Golkonda Tsākalas, lasts for five or seven days, and is a time of holiday.

At the first menstrual ceremony, the maternal uncle of the girl has to erect a hut made of seven different kinds of sticks, of which one must be from a Strychnos Nux-vomica tree. The details of the marriage ceremony are very similar to those of the Balijas and Kammas. The distribution of pān-supāri, and the tying of the dhornam to the pandal must be carried out by an assistant headman called Gatamdar. On the last day, a goat or sheep is sacrificed to the marriage pots. Liberal potations of toddy are given to those who attend the wedding.

The Tsākalas have a caste beggar called Mailāri, or Patam, because he carries a brass plate (patam) with the figure of a deity engraved on it. He is said to be a Lingāyat [లింగాయతి]."

[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. 197 - 202.]

Vannān [வண்ணார்]

"Vannān [வண்ணார்].The Vannāns [வண்ணார்] are washermen in the Tamil [தமிழ்] and Malayalam [മലയാളം] countries.

The name Vannān [வண்ணார்] is, Mr. H. A. Stuart writes (Manual of the North Arcot district ; Madras Census Report, 1891),

“derived from vannam [வண்ணம்], beauty. There is a tradition that they are descendants of the mythological hero Vīrabadra [வீரபத்திரர்], who was ordered by Siva to wash the clothes of all men, as an expiation of the sin of putting many people to death in Daksha’s Yāga [தக்கன் யாகம்]. Hence the Tamil washermen are frequently called Vīrabadran. Having to purify all the filthy linen of the villagers, they are naturally regarded as a low, unclean class of Sūdras, and are always poor. They add to their income by hiring out the clothes of their customers to funeral parties, who lay them on the ground before the pall-bearers, so that these may not step upon the ground, and by letting them out on the sly to persons wishing to use them without having to purchase for themselves. In social standing the Vannāns [வண்ணார்] are placed next below the barbers. They profess to be Saivites in the southern districts, and Vaishnavites in the north. The marriage of girls generally takes place after puberty. Widow remarriage is permitted among some, if not all, sub-divisions. Divorce may be obtained by either party at pleasure on payment of double the bride-price, which is usually Rs. 10-8-0. They are flesh-eaters, and drink liquor. The dead are either burned or buried. The Pothara (or Podora) Vannāns are of inferior status, because they wash only for Paraiyans [பறையர்], Pallans [மள்ளர்], and other inferior castes.”

It is noted, in the Madura [மதுரை] Manual, that those who have seen the abominable substances, which it is the lot of the Vannāns [வண்ணார்] to make clean, cannot feel any surprise at the contempt with which their occupation is regarded. In the Tanjore [தஞ்சாவூர்] Manual, it is recorded that, in the rural parts of the district, the Vannāns [வண்ணார்] are not allowed to enter the house of a Brāhman or a Vellāla [வேளாளர்]; clothes washed by them not being worn or mixed up with other clothes in the house until they have undergone another wash by a caste man.

It is on record that, on one occasion, a party of Europeans, when out shooting, met a funeral procession on its way to the burial-ground. The bier was draped in many folds of clean cloth, which one of the party recognised by the initials as one of his bed-sheets. Another identified as his sheet the cloth on which the corpse was lying. He cut off the corner with the initials, and a few days later the sheet was returned by the washerman, who pretended ignorance of the mutilation, and gave as an explanation that it must have been done, in his absence, by one of his assistants. On another occasion, a European met an Eurasian, in a village not far from his bungalow, wearing a suit of clothes exactly similar to his own, and, on close examination, found they were his. They had been newly washed and dressed.

The most important divisions numerically returned by Vannāns at times of census are Pāndiyan, Peru [பெரு] (big), Tamil [தமிழ்], and Vaduga [வடக்கு] (notherner).

It is recorded, in the Gazetteer of the Madura [மதுரை] district, that Vannān  [வண்ணார்]

“is rather an occupational term than a caste title, and, besides the Pāndya Vannāns or Vannāns proper, includes the Vaduga Vannāns or Tsākalas of the Telugu [తెలుగు] country, and the Palla, Pudara, and Tulukka Vannāns, who wash for the Pallans [மள்ளர்], Paraiyans [பறையர்], and Musalmans respectively. The Pāndya Vannāns have a headman called the Periya Manishan (big man). A man can claim the hand of his paternal aunt’s daughter. At weddings, the bridegroom’s sister ties the tāli (marriage badge). Nambis officiate. Divorce is freely allowed to either party on payment of twice the bride-price, and divorcées may marry again. The caste god is Gurunāthan, in whose temples the pūjāri (priest) is usually a Vannān. The dead are generally burnt, and, on the sixteenth day, the house is purified from pollution by a Nambi.”

Some Vannāns have assumed the name Irkuli Vellāla, and Rājakan and Kāttavarāya vamsam have also been recorded as synonyms of the caste name.

The Vannāns of Malabar [മലബാര്‍] are also called Mannān or Bannān. They are, Mr. Francis writes (Madras Census Report, 1901),

“a low class of Malabar washermen, who wash only for the polluting castes, and for the higher castes when they are under pollution following births, deaths, etc. It is believed by the higher castes that such pollution can only be removed by wearing clothes washed by MannAns, though at other times these cause pollution to them. The washing is generally done by the women, and the men are exorcists, devil-dancers and physicians, even to the higher castes. Their women are mid wives, like those of the Velakkatalavan and Vēlan castes. This caste should not be confused with the Mannān hill tribe of Travancore [തിരുവിതാംകൂര്].”

It is recorded, in the Gazetteer of Malabar [മലബാര്‍], that

“the Mannāns, a makkattayam [മക്കത്തായം] caste of South Malabar, apparently identical with the marumakkattayam [മരുമക്കത്തായം] Vannāns of the north, are a caste of washermen; and their services are indispensable to the higher castes in certain purificatory ceremonies when they have to present clean cloths (mattu). They are also devil-dancers and tailors. They practice fraternal polyandry in the south. Mannāns are divided into two endogamous classes, Peru-mannāns (peru, great), and Tinda-mannṣns (tinda, pollution); and, in Walavanṣd, into four endogamous classes called Chōppan, Peru-mannān, Punnekādan, and Puliyakkōdam. The Tinda-mannān and Puliyakkōdam divisions perform the purificatory sprinklings for the others.”

The services of the Mannān, Mr. T. K. Gopal Panikkar writes (Malabar and its Folk, 1900),

“are in requisition at the Nāyar [നായര്‍] [നായര്‍] Thirandukaliānam ceremonies on the attainment of puberty by a girl, when they sing ballads, and have to bring, for the girl’s use, the mattu or sacred dress. Then, on occasions of death pollution, they have a similar duty to perform. Among the Nāyars [നായര്‍], on the fourth, or rarely the third day after the menses, the woman has to use, during her bath, clothes supplied by Mannān females. The same duty they have to perform during the confinement of Nāyar [നായര്‍] females. All the dirty cloths and bed sheets used, these Mannān females have to wash.”

 Mr. S. Appadorai Iyer informs us that those Mannāns who are employed by the Kammālan, or artisan class, as barbers, are not admitted into the Mannān caste, which follows the more honourable profession of washing clothes. The Mannāns perform certain ceremonies in connection with Mundian, the deity who is responsible for the weal or woe of cattle ; and, at Pūram [പൂരം] festivals, carry the vengida koda or prosperity umbrella, composed of many tiers of red, green, orange, black and white cloth, supported on a long bamboo pole, before the goddess.

It is recorded by Bishop Whitehead (Madras Dioc : Magazine, 1906) that, in various places in Malabar, there are temples in honour of Bhagavati [ഭഗവതി], at which the pūjāris (priests) are of the Vannān caste.

“There is an annual feast called gurusi tarpanam (giving to the guru) about March, when the hot weather begins, and the people are at leisure. Its object is to appease the wrath of the goddess. During the festival, the pūjāri sits in the courtyard outside the temple, thickly garlanded with red flowers, and with red kunkuma marks on his forehead. Goats and fowls are then brought to him by the devotees, and he kills them with one blow of the large sacrificial sword or chopper. It is thought auspicious for the head to be severed at one blow, and, apparently, pūjāris who are skilful in decapitation are much in request. When the head is cut off, the pūjāri takes the carcase, and holds it over a large copper vessel partly filled with water, turmeric, kunkuma, and a little rice, and lets the blood flow into it. When all the animals are killed, the pūjāri bales out the blood and water on the ground, uttering mantrams (sacred lines or verses) the while. The people stand a little way off. When the vessel is nearly empty, the pūjāri turns it upside down as a sign that the ceremony is ended. During these proceedings, a number of Vannāns, dressed in fantastic costumes, dance three times round the temple. During the festival, processions are held round the various houses, and special swords with a curved hook at the end, called palli val (great or honourable sword), are carried by the worshippers. These swords are worshipped during the Dusserah [ദസ്റ] festival in October, and, in some shrines, they form the only emblem of the deity. The Tiyans [ടിയാൻ] have small shrines in their own gardens sacred to the family deity, which may be Bhagavati, or some demon, or the spirit of an ancestor. Once a year, Vannāns  come dressed in fancy costume, with crowns on their heads, and dance round the courtyard to the sound of music and tom-toms, while a Tiyan priest presents the family offerings, uncooked rice and young cocoanuts, with camphor and incense, and then rice fried with sugar and ghī (clarified butter).”

In an account of the Tiyans [ടിയാൻ], Mr. Logan writes (Manual of Malabar) that

“this caste is much given to devil-charming, or devil-driving as it is often called. The washermen (Vannān) are the high priests of this superstition, and with chants, ringing cymbals, magic figures, and waving lights, they drive out evil spirits from their votaries of this caste at certain epochs in their married lives. One ceremony in particular, called teyyattam [തെയ്യാട്ടം]—a corrupt form of Dēva and attam, that is, playing at gods—takes place occasionally in the fifth month of pregnancy. A leafy arbour is constructed, and in front of it is placed a terrible figure of Chāmundi [ചാമുണ്ഡി], the queen of the demons, made of rice flour, turmeric powder, and charcoal powder. A party of not less than eighteen washermen is organized to represent the demons and furies—Kutti-chāttan (a mischievous imp), and many others. On being invoked, these demons bound on to the stage in pairs, dance, caper, jump, roar, fight, and drench each other with saffron (turmeric) water. Their capers and exertions gradually work up their excitement, until they are veritably possessed of the devil. At this juncture, fowls and animals are sometimes thrown to them, to appease their fury. These they attack with their teeth, and kill and tear as a tiger does his prey. After about twenty minutes the convulsions cease, the demon or spirit declares its pleasure, and, much fatigued, retires to give place to others ; and thus the whole night is spent, with much tom-tomming and noise and shouting, making it impossible, for Europeans at least, to sleep within earshot of the din.”@

[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. 315 - 321.]

"Veluttēdan.The Veluttēdan is defined in the Madras Census Report, 1891, as

“the washerman of the Nāyars [നായര്‍] and higher castes in Malabar [മലബാര്‍]. He calls himself a Nāyar [നായര്‍], and, in many cases, was returned as of that main caste, but these have been separated in abstraction. The caste is called Vannattān in North Malabar. The Veluttēdans follow the marumakkatayam [മരുമക്കത്തായം] law of inheritance in the north, and makkatayam [മക്കത്തായം] in the south. They have tāli-kettu and sambandham separately. Their dress and habits are the same as those of Nāyars.”

In the Madras Census Report, 1901, Bannata is given as a Canarese [ಕನ್ನಡ] synonym for the caste name. In the Travancore [തിരുവിതാംകൂര്] and Cochin [കൊച്ചി] Census Reports, 1901, Veluttētan and Veluthēdan are given respectively as an occupational title and sub-division of Nāyars.

For the following note on the Veluttēdans of Travancore [തിരുവിതാംകൂര്], I am indebted to Mr. N. Subramani Aiyar. The name is believed to signify a place where clothes are bleached. In the early Settlement Records the designation recorded is Ayavu, in all probability an old synonym for washing. The South Travancore Veluttēdans are said to be divided into two endogamous septs, Paravūr and Attingal, with four exogamous septs in each ; but these distinctions may be said to have now lost their vigour and force. There is a current tradition that once upon a time a Brāhman was washing cloths for a friend, and was on that account thrown out of caste by Parasurāma [പരശുരാമൻ]. The occupation of the Veluttēdans is washing cloths for all high-caste Hindus down to the Sūdras, in which profession, for neatness and purity at any rate, if not for promptitude, they stand above the Vannāns [வண்ணார்] and Chayakkārans [ചായക്കാരന്‍] of the east coast, both of whom have now entered the field in competition with them, and, at least in the most civilised parts of the State, not entirely without success. In no case do the castemen receive cloths from classes lower in social rank than the Sūdras, and this is pointed to with pride as one of the causes which keep them in their present elevated scale. It need hardly be said that, in their traditional occupation, the Veluttēdans are largely and materially assisted by their females, the Veluttēdathis. They do not live in a group together, but are conveniently scattered about, so as to avoid competition one with another. Their main profession is, in many cases, supplemented by agriculture. There are absolutely no educated men among them, and, as long as machine-laundries are not introduced into the country, they have no reason to abandon the profession of their forefathers in pursuit of alien ones. In the matter of food and drink, as also in their dress and ornaments, they resemble the Nāyars. Clothes, it may be mentioned, are never bought by Veluttēdans, as they are always in possession, though temporarily, of other peoples’ apparel. Tattooing prevails only in South Travancore. They cannot enter Brāhmanical shrines, but are permitted to stand outside the talakkal or stone-paved walk round the inner sanctuary, by which the image is taken in daily procession. Besides standing here and worshipping the higher Hindu deities, they also engage in the propitiation of the minor village deities. There are two headmen in each village, who punish social delinquents, and preside over caste ceremonials. On the twenty-eighth day after the birth of a child, the name-giving ceremony is performed, and a thread is tied round the infant’s neck. Those who can afford it celebrate the first food-giving. The tāli-tying and sambandham ceremonies are performed separately, just like Nāyars. The former is known as muhurtham or auspicious occasion. The marriage badge is called unta minnu or puliyilla minnu. The details of the marriage ceremony do not differ from those of the Nāyars. The ayani unu, bhūtakkalam, appam poll, and avaltitti are all important items, and, at least in South Travancore, seldom failed to be gone through. In poor families the mother, without any formal ceremonial, ties the tāli of the girl before she is twelve years old, after an oblation of cooked food to the rising sun. This is called Bhagavan tāli, or god’s marriage ornament. Freedom of divorce and remarriage exist. The pulikuti (tamarind) is an indispensable ceremonial, to be gone through by a pregnant woman. Inheritance devolves in the female line (marumakkattayam [മരുമക്കത്തായം]). The clothes washed by Veluttēdans are used by Nambūtiri [നമ്പൂതിരി] Brāhmans, without previous washing as on the east coast, for all religious purposes; and clothes polluted by a member of a low caste are purified by the Veluttēdan sprinkling ashes and water over them.@

[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. 389 - 392.]