2. Dvitīyaṃ kāṇḍam

16. śūdravargaḥ

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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: Götterdiener. -- Fassung vom 2017-11-15. --  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

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Nat [नट], Bādi [बादी], Dang-Charha, Karnati [कर्नाटी], Bāzigar [बाज़ीगर], Sapera [सपेरा] (Central Provinces)

"Nat [नट],1 Bādi [बादी], Dang-Charha, Karnati [कर्नाटी], Bāzigar [बाज़ीगर], Sapera [सपेरा].

1 This article is partly compiled from notes furnished by Mr. Adurām Chaudhri  and Mr. Jagannāth Prasad, Naib-Tahsildārs.

1. The Nats [नट] not a proper caste.

The term Nat [नट] (Sanskrit Nata [नट]—a dancer) appears to be applied indefinitely to a number of groups of vagrant acrobats and showmen, especially those who make it their business to do feats on the tight-rope or with poles, and those who train and exhibit snakes. Bādi [बादी] and Bāzigar [बाज़ीगर] mean a rope-walker, Dang-Charha a rope-climber, and Sapera [सपेरा] a snake-charmer. In the Central Provinces the Garudis [गरुडी] or snake-charmers, and the Kolhātis [कोल्हाटी], a class of gipsy acrobats akin to the Berias [बेड़िया] , are also known as Nat [नट], and these are treated in separate articles. It is almost certain that a considerable section, if not the majority, of the Nats [नट] really belong to the Kanjar [कंजर] or Beria [बेड़िया] gipsy castes, who themselves may be sprung from the Doms. Sir D. Ibbetson says:

"They wander about with their families, settling for a few days or weeks at a time in the vicinity of large villages or towns, and constructing temporary shelters of grass. In addition to practising acrobatic feats and conjuring of a low class, they make articles of grass, straw and reeds for sale ; and in the centre of the Punjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ] are said to act as Mirāsis [ਮਰਾਸੀ], though this is perhaps doubtful. They often practise surgery and physic in a small way and are not free from suspicion of sorcery.”1

1 Punjab Census Report (1881), para. 588.

This account would just as well apply to the Kanjar [कंजर] gipsies, and the Nat [नट] women sometimes do tattooing like Kanjar [कंजर] or Beria [बेड़िया] women. In Jubbulpore [जबलपुर] also the caste is known as Nat Beria [नट बेड़िया], indicating that the Nats [नट] there are probably derived from the Beria [बेड़िया] caste. Similarly Sir H. Risley gives Bāzigar [বাজীগর] and Kabūtari [কবূতরী] as groups of the Berias [बेड़िया] of Bengal [বঙ্গ], and states that these are closely akin to the Nats [नट] and Kanjars [कंजर] of Hindustān [हिन्दुस्तान].2 An old account of the Nats [नट] or Bāzigars [बाज़ीगर] would equally well apply to the Kanjars [कंजर] ; and in Mr. Crooke’s detailed article on the Nats [नट] several connecting links are noticed. The Nat [नट] women are sometimes known as Kabūtari [कबूतरी] or pigeon, either because their acrobatic feats are like the flight of the tumbler pigeon, or on account of the flirting manner with which they attract their male customers.4 In the Central Provinces the women of the small Gopal [गोपाल] caste of acrobats are called Kabūtari [कबूतरी], and this further supports the hypothesis that Nat [नट] is rather an occupational term than the name of a distinct caste, though it is quite likely that there may be Nats [नट] who have no other caste. The Bādi [बादी] or rope-dancer group again is an offshoot of the Gond [गोंड] tribe, at least in the tracts adjoining the Central Provinces. They have Gond [गोंड] septs as Marai, Netām [नेताम], Wika,5 and they have the damru [डमरू] or drum used by the Gaurias [गौरिया] or snake-charmers and jugglers of Chhattisgarh [छत्तीसगढ़], who are also derived from the Gonds [गोंड]. The Chhattlsgarhi [छत्तीसगढ़] Dang-Charhas are Gonds [गोंड] who say they formerly belonged to Panna [पन्ना] State and were supported by Rāja [राजा] Amān Singh [अमान सिंह, gest. 1758] of Panna [पन्ना], a great patron of their art. They sing a song lamenting his death in the flower of his youth.

2 Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art. Beria.
3 Asiatic Researches, vol. vii., 1803, Nats.

4  Tribes and Castes, art. Nat.
5 Crooke, l.c., art. Nat .

The Karnatis [कर्नाटी] or Karnataks [कर्नाटक] are a class of Nats [नट] who are supposed to have come from the Carnatic [ಕರ್ನಾಟಕ]. Mr. Crooke notes that they will eat the leavings of all high castes, and are hence known as Khushhaliya [कुशलिया] or 'Those in prosperous circumstances.’ 6

6 Ibidem.

2. Muhammadan Nats [नट].

One division of the Nats [नट] are Muhammadans and seem to be to some extent a distinctive group. They have seven gotras [गोत्र]

  • Chicharia,
  • Damaria,
  • Dhalbalki,
  • Pūrbia [पूरबिया],
  • Dhondabalki, 
  • Karimki and
  • Kalasia.

They worship two Birs [پیر‎‎,] or spirits, Halaila Bir and Sheikh Saddu, to whom they sacrifice fowls in the months of Bhādon [भादों] (August) and Baisākh [बैसाख] (April). Hindus of any caste are freely admitted into their community, and they can marry Hindu girls.

3. Social customs of the Nats [नट]. Their low status.

Generally the customs of the Nats [नट] show them to be the dregs of the population. There is no offence which entails permanent expulsion from caste. They will eat any kind of food including snakes, crocodiles and rats, and also take food from the hands of any caste, even it is said from sweepers. It is not reported that they prostitute their women, but there is little doubt that this is the case; in the Punjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ]1 when a Nat [ਨਟ] woman marries, the first child is either given to the grandmother as compensation for the loss of the mother’s gains as a prostitute, or is redeemed by a payment of Rs. 30. Among the Chhattisgarhi [छत्तीसगढ़] Dang-Charhas a bride-price of Rs. 40 is paid, of which the girl’s father only keeps ten, and the remaining sum of Rs. 30 is expended on a feast to the caste. Some of the Nats [नट] have taken to cultivation and become much more respectable, eschewing the flesh of unclean animals. Another group of the caste keep trained dogs and hunt the wild pig with spears like the Kolhātis [कोल्हाटी] of Berār [बेरार]. The villagers readily pay for their services in order to get the pig destroyed, and they sell the flesh to the Gonds [गोंड] and lower castes of Hindus. Others hunt jackals with dogs in the same manner. They eat the flesh of the jackals and dispose of any surplus to the Gonds [गोंड], who also eat it. The Nats [नट] worship Devi [देवी] and also Hanumān [हनुमान], the monkey god, on account of the acrobatic powers of monkeys. But in Bombay [मुंबई] they say that their favourite and only living gods are their bread-winners and averters of hunger, the drum, the rope and the balancing-pole.2

1 Ibbetson, Punjab Census Report  (18S6), para. 588.
Bombay Gazetteer,
vol. xx. p. 186, quoted in Mr. Crooke’s article.

4. Acrobatic performances.

The tight-rope is stretched between two pairs of bamboos, each pair being fixed obliquely in the ground and crossing each other at the top so as to form a socket over which the rope passes. The ends of the rope are taken over the crossed bamboos and firmly secured to the ground by heavy pegs. The performer takes another balancing-pole in his hands and walks along the rope between the poles which are about 12 feet high. Another man beats a drum, and a third stands under the rope singing the performer’s praises and giving him encouragement. After this the performer ties two sets of cow or buffalo horns to his feet, which are secured to the back of the skulls so that the flat front between the horns rests on the rope, and with these he walks over the rope, holding the balancing-rod in his hands and descends again. Finally he takes a brass plate and a cloth and again ascends the rope. He places the plate on the rope and folds the cloth over it to make a pad. He then stands on his head on the pad with his feet in the air and holds the balancing-rod in his hands ; two strings are tied to the end of this rod and the other ends of the strings are held by the man underneath. With the assistance of the balancing-rod the performer then jerks the plate along the rope with his head, his feet being in the air, until he arrives at the end and finally descends again. This usually concludes the performance, which demands a high degree of skill. Women occasionally, though rarely, do the same feats. Another class of Nats [नट] walk on high stilts and the women show their confidence by dancing and singing under them. A saying about the Nats [नट] is : Nat ka bachcha to kalābazi hi karega ; or ‘ The rope-dancer’s son is always turning somersaults.’1

1 Temple and Fallon’s Hindustāni Proverbs, p. 171.

5. Sliding or walking on ropes as a charm for the crops.

The feats of the Nats [नट] as tight-rope walkers used apparently to make a considerable impression on the minds of the people, as it is not uncommon to find a deified Nat [नट], called Nat Baba [नट बाबा] or Father Nat, as a village god. A Natni [नटनी] or Nat woman is also sometimes worshipped, and where two sharp peaks of hills are situated close to each other, it is related that in former times there was a Natni [नटनी], very skilful on the tight-rope, who performed before the king ; and he promised her that if she would stretch a rope from the peak of one hill to that of the other and walk across it he would marry her and make her wealthy. Accordingly the rope was stretched, but the queen from jealousy went and cut it half through in the night, and when the Natni [नटनी] started to walk the rope broke and she fell down and was killed. She was therefore deified and worshipped. It is probable that this legend recalls some rite in which the Nat [नट] was employed to walk on a tight-rope for the benefit of the crops, and, if he failed, was killed as a sacrifice ; for the following passage taken from Traill’s account of Kumaon [कुमाऊँ]seems clearly to refer to some such rite:

1 As. Res. vol. xvi., 1828, p. 213.

“Drought, want of fertility in the soil, murrain in cattle, and other calamities incident to husbandry are here invariably ascribed to the wrath of particular gods, to appease which recourse is had to various ceremonies. In the Kumaon [कुमाऊँ] District offerings and singing and dancing are resorted to on such occasions. In Garhwāl [गढ़वाल] the measures pursued with the same view are of a peculiar nature, deserving of more particular notice. In villages dedicated to the protection of Mahādeva [महादेव] propitiatory festivals are held in his honour. At these Bādis [बादी] or rope-dancers are engaged to perform on the tight-rope, and slide down an inclined rope stretched from the summit of a cliff to the valley beneath and made fast to posts driven into the ground. The Bādi [बादी] sits astride on a wooden saddle, to which he is tied by thongs ; the saddle is similarly secured to the bast or sliding cable, along which it runs, by means of a deep groove ; sandbags are tied to the Bādi’s [बादी] feet -sufficient to secure his balance, and he is then, after various ceremonies and the sacrifice of a kid, started off; the velocity of his descent is very great, and the saddle, however well greased, emits a volume of smoke throughout the greater part of his progress. The length and inclination of the bast necessarily vary with the nature of the cliff, but as the Bādi [बादी] is remunerated at the rate of a rupee for every hundred cubits, hence termed a tola [तोला], a correct measurement always takes place ; the longest bast which has fallen within my observation has been twenty-one tolas [तोला], or 2100 cubits in length. From the precautions taken as above mentioned the only danger to be apprehended by the Bādi [बादी] is from breaking of the rope, to provide against which the latter, commonly from one and a half to two inches in diameter, is made wholly by his own hand ; the material used is the bhābar [भाबर] grass. Formerly, if a Bādi [बादी] fell to the ground in his course, he was immediately despatched with a sword by the surrounding spectators, but this practice is now, of course, prohibited. No fatal accident has occurred from the performance of this ceremony since 1815, though it is probably celebrated at not less than fifty villages in each year. After the completion of the sliding, the bast or rope is cut up and distributed among the inhabitants of the village, who hang the pieces as charms on the caves of their houses. The hair of the Bādi [बादी] is also taken and preserved as possessing similar virtues. He being thus made the organ to obtain fertility for the lands of others, the Bādi [बादी] is supposed to entail sterility on his own ; and it is firmly believed that no grain sown with his hand can ever vegetate. Each District has its hereditary Bādi [बादी], who is supported by annual contributions of grain from the inhabitants.”

It is not improbable that the performance of the Nat [नट] is a reminiscence of a period when human victims were sacrificed for the crops, this being a common practice among primitive peoples, as shown by Sir J. G. Frazer in Attis, Adonis, Osiris. Similarly the spirits of Nats [नट] which are revered in the Central Provinces may really be those of victims killed during the performance of some charm for the good of the crops, akin to that still prevalent in the Himalayas. The custom of making the Nat [नट] slide down a rope is of the same character as that of swinging a man in the air by a hook secured in his flesh, which was formerly common in these Provinces. But in both cases the meaning of the rite is obscure.

6. Snake-charmers.


The groups who practise snake-charming are known as Sapera [सपेरा] or Garudi [गरुडी] and in the Marātha [मराठा] Districts as Madāri [मदारी]. Another name for them is Nāg-Nathi [नागनाथी], or one who seizes a cobra. They keep cobras, pythons, scorpions, and the iguana or large lizard, which they consider to be poisonous. Some of them when engaged with their snakes wear two pieces of tiger-skin on their back and chest, and a cap of tiger-skin in which they fix the eyes of various birds. They have a hollow gourd on which they produce a kind of music and this is supposed to charm the snakes. When catching a cobra they pin its head to the ground with a stick and then seize it in a cleft bamboo and prick out the poison-fangs with a large needle. They think that the teeth of the iguana are also poisonous and they knock them out with a stick, and if fresh teeth afterwards grow they believe them not to contain poison. The python is called Ajgar [अजगर], which is said to mean eater of goats. In captivity the pythons will not eat of themselves, and the snake-charmers chop up pieces of meat and fowls and placing the food in the reptile’s mouth massage it down the body. They feed the pythons only once in four or five days. They have antidotes for snake-bite, the root of a creeper called kalipār and the bark of the karheya tree. When a patient is brought to them they give him a little pepper, and if he tastes the pungent flavour they think that he has not been affected by snake-poison, but if it seems tasteless that he has been bitten. Then they give him small pieces of the two antidotes already mentioned with tobacco and 2½- leaves of the m [नीम Azadirachta indica A. Juss] tree which is sacred to Devi [देवी]. On the festival of Nāg-Panchmi [नाग पंचमी] (Cobra’s Fifth) they worship their cobras and give them milk to drink and then take them round the town or village and the people also worship and feed the snakes and give a present of a few annas to the Sapera [सपेरा]. In towns much frequented by cobras, a special adoration is paid to them. Thus in Hatta [हटा] in the Damoh [दमोह] District a stone image of a snake, known as Nāg-Baba [नाग बाबा] or Father Cobra is worshipped for a month before the festival of Nāg -Panchmi [नाग पंचमी]. During this period one man from every house in the village must go to Nāg-Baba’s [नाग बाबा] shrine outside and take food there and come back. And on Nāg-Panchmi [नाग पंचमी] the whole town goes out in a body to pay him reverence, and it is thought that if any one is absent the cobras will harass him for the whole year. But others say that cobras will only bite men of low caste. The Saperas [सपेरा] will not kill a snake as a rule, but occasionally it is said that they kill one and cut off the head and eat the body, this being possibly an instance of eating the divine animal at a sacrificial meal. The following is an old account of the performances of snake-charmers in Bengal [বঙ্গ] :2

2  Bengali Festivals and Holidays, Review, vol. v. pp. 59, 60.

“ Hence, on many occasions throughout the year, the dread Manasa Devi [মনসা‎ দেৱী], the queen of snakes, is propitiated by presents, vows and religious rites. In the month of Shrābana [শ্রাবণ] the worship of the snake goddess is celebrated with great éclat. An image of the goddess, seated on a water-lily, encircled with serpents, or a branch of the snake-tree (a species of Euphorbia), or a pot of water, with images of serpents made of clay, forms the object of worship. Men, women and children, all offer presents to avert from themselves the wrath of the terrific deity. The Māls [মাল] or snake-catchers signalise themselves on this occasion. Temporary scaffolds of bamboo work are set up in the presence of the goddess. Vessels filled with all sorts of snakes are brought in. The Māls [মাল], often reeling with intoxication, mount the scaffolds, take out serpents from the vessels, and allow them to bite their arms. Bite after bite succeeds ; the arms run with blood ; and the Māls [মাল] go on with their pranks, amid the deafening plaudits of the spectators. Now and then they fall off from the scaffold and pretend to feel the effects of poison, and cure themselves by their incantations. But all is mere pretence. The serpents displayed on the occasion and challenged to do their worst, have passed through a preparatory state. Their fangs have been carefully extracted from their jaws. But most of the vulgar spectators easily persuade themselves to believe that the Māls [মাল] are the chosen servants of Siva [শিৱ] and the favourites of Manasa [মনসা]. Although their supernatural pretensions are ridiculous, yet it must be confessed that the Māls [মাল] have made snakes the subject of their peculiar study. They are thoroughly acquainted with their qualities, their dispositions, and their habits. They will run down a snake into its hole, and bring it out thence by main force. Even the terrible cobra is cowed down by the controlling influence of a Māls [মাল]. When in the act of bringing out snakes from their subterranean holes, the Māls [মাল] are in the habit of muttering charms, in which the names of Manasa [মনসা] and Mahadeva [মহাদেৱ] frequently occur ; superstition alone can clothe these unmeaning words with supernatural potency. But it is not inconsistent with the soundest philosophy to suppose that there may be some plants whose roots are disagreeable to serpents, and from which they instinctively turn away. All snake-catchers of Bengal [বঙ্গ] are provided with a bundle of the roots of some plant which they carefully carry along with them, when they set out on their serpent-hunting expeditions. When a serpent, disturbed in its hole, comes out furiously hissing with rage, with its body coiled, and its head lifted up, the Mai has only to present before it the bundle of roots above alluded to, at the sight of which it becomes spiritless as an eel. This we have ourselves witnessed more than once.”

These Māls [মাল] appear to have been members of the aboriginal Māle [মাল] or Māle Pahāria [মাল পাহাড়ি] tribe of Bengal [বঙ্গ]."

[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. 286 - 294]