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: Schauspieler / Tänzer. -- Fassung vom 2017-11-17. --  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

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 Dēva-dāsī / தேவதாசி / దేవదాసి / ଦେବଦାସୀ

"Dēva-dāsī.In old Hindu works, seven classes of Dāsīs are mentioned, viz.,
  1. Dattā, or one who gives herself as a gift to a temple ;
  2. Vikrītā, or one who sells herself for the same purpose;
  3. Bhrityā [bhṛtyā], or one who offers herself as a temple servant for the prosperity of her family;
  4. Bhaktā, or one who joins a temple out of devotion ;
  5. Hritā [hṛtā], or one who is enticed away, and presented to a temple ;
  6. Alankāra, or one who, being well trained in her profession, and profusely decked, is presented to a temple by kings and noblemen ;
  7. Rudraganika [rudragaṇikā] or Gopikā, who receive regular wages from a temple, and are employed to sing and dance.

For the following general account I am indebted to the Madras Census Report, 1901 :—

“Dāsīs or Dēva-dāsīs (handmaidens of the gods) are dancing-girls attached to the Tamil temples, who subsist by dancing and music, and the practice of ‘ the oldest profession in the world.’ The Dāsīs were probably in the beginning the result of left-handed unions between members of two different castes, but they are now partly recruited by admissions, and even purchases, from other classes. The profession is not now held in the consideration it once enjoyed. Formerly they enjoyed a considerable social position. It is one of the many inconsistencies of the Hindu religion that, though their profession is repeatedly and vehemently condemned by the Shāstras [śāstra], it has always received the countenance of the church. The rise of the caste, and its euphemistic name, seem both of them to date from about the ninth and tenth centuries A.D., during which much activity prevailed in Southern India in the matter of building temples, and elaborating the services held in them. The dancing-girls’ duties, then as now, were to fan the idol with chamaras [cāmara] (Tibetan ox tails), to carry the sacred light called kumbarti, and to sing and dance before the god when he was carried in procession. Inscriptions* show that, in A.D. 1004, the great temple of the Chōla [சோழர்] king Rājarāja [இராஜராஜ, 947 - 1014] at Tanjore [தஞ்சாவூர்] had attached to it four hundred talic’ chēri pendugal, or women of the temple, who lived in free quarters in the four streets round about it, and were allowed tax-free land out of the endowment. Other temples had similar arrangements. At the beginning of the last century there were a hundred dancing-girls attached to the temple at Conjeeveram [காஞ்சிபுரம], who were, Buchanan tells us,+

‘kept for the honour of the deities and the amusement of their votaries ; and any familiarity between these girls and an infidel would occasion scandal.’ 

At Madura [மதுரை], Conjeeveram [காஞ்சிபுரம], and Tanjore [தஞ்சாவூர்] there are still numbers of them, who receive allowances from the endowments of the big temples at these places. In former days, the profession was countenanced not only by the church, but also by the State. Abdur Razaak, a Turkish ambassador at the court of Vijayanagar in the fifteenth century, describes** women of this class as living in State-controlled institutions, the revenue of which went towards the upkeep of the police.

* South Indian Inscriptions, Vol. II, part 3, p. 259.

+ Journey from Madras through Mysore, Canara and Malabar, 1807.

** Elliott. History of India.

“At the present day they form a regular caste, having its own laws of inheritance, its own customs and rules of etiquette, and its own panchayats (councils) to see that all these are followed, and thus hold a position, which is perhaps without a parallel in any other country. Dancing-girls, dedicated to the usual profession of the caste, are formally married in a temple to a sword or a god, the tāli (marriage badge) being tied round their necks by some men of their caste. It was a standing puzzle to the census enumerators whether such women should be entered as married in the column referring to civil condition.

“Among the Dāsīs, sons and daughters inherit equally, contrary to ordinary Hindu usage. Some of the sons remain in the caste, and live by playing music for the women to dance to, and accompaniments to their songs, or by teaching singing and dancing to the younger girls, and music to the boys. These are called Nattuvans [ நட்டுவர்]. Others marry some girl of the caste, who is too plain to be likely to be a success in the profession, and drift out of the community. Some of these affix to their names the terms Pillai [பிள்ளை] and Mudali [முதலி], which are the usual titles of the two castes (Vellāla [வேளாளர்] and Kaikōla) from which most of the Dāsīs are recruited, and try to live down the stigma attaching to their birth. Others join the Mēlakkārans [மேளக்காரன்] or professional musicians. Cases have occurred, in which wealthy sons of dancing-women have been allowed to marry girls of respectable parentage of other castes, but they are very rare. The daughters of the caste, who are brought up to follow the caste profession, are carefully taught dancing, singing, the art of dressing well, and the ars amoris, and their success in keeping up their clientèle is largely due to the contrast which they thus present to the ordinary Hindu housewife, whose ideas are bounded by the day’s dinner and the babies. The dancing-girl castes, and their allies the Mēlakkārans [மேளக்காரன்], are now practically the sole repository of Indian music, the system of which is probably one of the oldest in the world. Besides them and the Brāhmans, few study the subject. The barbers’ bands of the villages usually display more energy than science. A notable exception, however, exists in Madras [மதராஸ்] city, which has been known to attempt the Dead March in Saul [Oratorium von Georg Friedrich Händel, 1739] at funerals in the Pariah [பறையர்] quarters.

“ There are two divisions among the Dāsis, called Valangai [வலங்கை] (right-hand) and Idangai [இடங்கை] (left-hand). The chief distinction between them is that the former will have nothing to do with the Kammālans [கம்மாளர்] (artisans) or any other of the left-hand castes, or play or sing in their houses. The latter division is not so particular, and its members are consequently sometimes known as the Kammāla Dāsīs. Neither division, however, is allowed to have any dealings with men of the lowest castes, and violation of this rule of etiquette is tried by a panchāyat of the caste, and visited with excommunication.

“In the Telugu [తెలుగు] districts, the dancing-girls are called Bōgams and Sānis. They are supposed to be dedicated to the gods, just as the Dāsīs are, but there is only one temple in the northern part of the Presidency which maintains a corps of these women in the manner in vogue further south. This exception is the shrine of Srī Kurmam [శ్రీ కూర్మం] in Vizagapatam [విశాఖపట్నం], the dancing-girls attached to which are known as Kurmapus. In Vizagapatam most of the Bogams and Sanis belong to the Nāgavāsulu and Palli [பள்ளி] castes, and their male children often call themselves Nāgavāsulus, but in Nellore [నెల్లూరు], Kurnool [కర్నూలు] and Bellary [ಬಳ್ಳಾರಿ] they are often Balijas [బలిజ] and Yerukalas [யெருக்குல]. In Nellore [నెల్లూరు] the Bōgams are said to decline to sing in the houses of Kōmatis. The men of the Sānis do not act as accompanists to their women at nautch parties, as Bōgam and Dāsī men do.

“In the Oriya [ଓଡ଼ିଆ] country the dancing-girl caste is called Guni, but there they have even less connection with the temples than the Bōgams and Sānis, not being even dedicated to the god.

“In the Canarese [ಕನ್ನಡ] (or western) tāluks of Bellary [ಬಳ್ಳಾರಿ], and in the adjoining parts of Dharwar [ಧಾರವಾಡ] and Mysore [ಮೈಸೂರು], a curious custom obtains among the Bōyas [ಬೊಯರ್], Bēdarus, and certain other castes, under which a family which has no male issue must dedicate one of its daughters as a Basavi. The girl is taken to a temple, and married there to the god, a tāli and toe-rings being put on her, and thenceforward she becomes a public woman, except that she does not consort with any one of lower caste than herself. She is not, however, despised on this account, and indeed at weddings she prepares the tāli (perhaps because she can never be a widow). Contrary to all Hindu Law, she shares in the family property as though she was a son, but her right to do so has not yet been confirmed by the Civil Courts. If she has a son, he takes her father’s name, but if only a daughter, that daughter again becomes a Basavi. The children of Basavis marry within their own caste, without restrictions of any kind.

“In Malabar [മലബാര്‍] there is no regular community of dancing-girls ; nor is there among the Mussalmans of any part of the Presidency.”

“No doubt,” Monier Williams writes,* “ Dāsīs drive a profitable trade under the sanction of religion, and some courtesans have been known to amass enormous fortunes. Nor do they think it inconsistent with their method of making money to spend it in works of piety. Here and there Indian bridges and other useful public works owe their existence to the liberality of the frail sisterhood.” 

* Brahmanism and Hinduism.

The large tank (lake) at Channarayapatna [ಚನ್ನರಾಯಪಟ್ಟಣ] in Mysore [ಮೈಸೂರು] was built by two dancing-girls.

In the Travancore Census Report, 1901, the Dāsīs of the Coromandel coast [கோரமண்டல் கரை] are compared, in the words of a Sanskrit poet, to walking flesh-trees bearing golden fruits. The observant Abbé Dubois [1776 - 1848] noticed that, of all the women in India, it is especially the courtesans who are the most decently clothed, as experience has taught them that for a woman to display her charms damps sensual ardour instead of exciting it, and that the imagination is more easily captivated than the eye.

It was noticed by Lord Dufferin [Frederick Temple Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, 1. Marquess of Dufferin and Ava, 1826 - 1902], on the occasion of a Viceregal visit to Madura [மதுரை], that the front part of the dress of the dancing-girls hangs in petticoats, but the back is only trousers.

The Rev. A. Margöschis [1852-1908] writes in connection with the practice of dilating the lobes of the ears in Tinnevelly [திருநெல்வேலி], that, as it was once the fashion and a mark of respectability to have long ears, so now the converse is true. Until a few years ago, if a woman had short ears, she was asked if she was a Dēva-dāsī, because that class kept their ears natural. Now, with the change of customs all round, even dancing-girls are found with long ears.

“The dancing-girls are,” the Rev. M. Phillips writes,* “the most accomplished women among the Hindus. They read, write, sing and play as well as dance. Hence one of the great objections urged at first against the education of girls was ‘ We don’t want our daughters to become dancing-girls'."

* Evolution of Hinduism, 1903.

It is on record* that, in 1791, the Nabob of the Carnatic [ಕನ್ನಡ] dined with the Governor of Madras [மதராஸ்], and that, after dinner, they were diverted with the dancing wenches, and the Nabob was presented with cordial waters, French brandy and embroidered China quilts. The story is told of a Governor of Madras in more recent times, who, ignorant of the inverse method of beckoning to a person to advance or retreat in the East, was scandalised when a nautch girl advanced rapidly, till he thought she was going to sit in his lap. At a nautch in the fort of the Mandasa [మందస] Zemindar in honour of Sir M. E. Grant Duff [1829 - 1906],+ the dancing-girls danced to the air of Malbrook se va t’en guerre [1781]. Bussy [Charles Joseph Patissier, Marquis de Bussy-Castelnau, 1718 – 1785] taught it to the dancing-girls, and they to their neighbours. In the Vizagapatam [విశాఖపట్నం] and Godavari [గోదావరి] jungles, natives apostrophise tigers as Bussy. Whether the name is connected with Bussy I know not.

* J. T. Wheeler. Madras in the Olden Time.
Notes from a Diary, 1881 - 86.

Of Dēva-dasis at the Court of Tippoo Sultan [1750 - 1799] [ٹیپو سلطان], the following account was published in 1801.*  

*  J. Michaud. Histoire des Progrès et de la Chûte de l’Empire de Mysore, sons les Règnes d’Hyder-Aly et Tippoo Saib.   

Comme Souverain d’une partie du Visapour, Tippoo-Saïb jouissoit de la facilité d’avoir parmi ses bayadères celles qui étoient les plus renommées par leurs talens, leurs graces, leur beauté, etc. Ces bayadères sont des danseuses supérieures dans leur genre ; tout danse et tout joue en même-tems chez elles ; leur tête, leurs yeux, leurs bras, leurs pieds, tout leur corps, semblent ne se mouvoir que from enchanter ; elles sont d’une incroyable légèreté, et ont le jarret aussi fort que souple ; leur taille est des plus sveltes et des plus élégantes, et elles n’ont pas un mouvement qui ne soit une grace. La plus âgée de ces femmes n’avoit pas plus de seize à dix-sept ans. Aussi tôt qu’elles atteignoient cet âge, on les réformoit, et alors elles alloient courir les provinces, on s’attachoient à des pagodes, dans lesqueles elles étoient entretenues, et ou leurs charmes étoient un des meilleurs revenus des brames.”

General Burton narrates * how a civilian of the old school built a house at Bhavāni [பவானி], and established a corps de ballet, i.e., a set of nautch girls, whose accomplishments actually extended to singing God save the King, and this was kept up by their descendants, so that, when he visited the place in 1852, he was

“greeted by the whole party, bedizened in all their finery, and squalling the national anthem as if they understood it, which they did not.”

* An Indian Olio.

With this may be contrasted a circular from a modern European official, which states that

“during my jamabandy (land revenue settlement) tour, people have sometimes been kind enough to arrange singing or dancing parties, and, as it would have been discourteous to decline to attend what had cost money to arrange, I have accepted the compliment in the spirit in which it was offered. I should, however, be glad if you would let it be generally known that I am entirely in accord with what is known as the anti-nautch movement in regard to such performances.”

It was unanimously decided, in 1905, by the Executive Committee of the Prince and Princess of Wales’ reception fund, that there should be no performance by nautch girls at the entertainment to be given to Their Royal Highnesses at Madras [மதராஸ்].

In a note on Basavis, the Collector of the Bellary [ಬಳ್ಳಾರಿ] district writes that

“it is usual among Hindus to dedicate a bull for public use on the death of a member of their family. These are the breeding bulls of the village flock. Similarly, cows are dedicated, and are called Basavis. No stigma attaches to Basavis or their children, and they are received on terms of equality by other members of their caste. The origin of the institution, it has been suggested, may probably be traced to the time when the Bōyas, and other castes which dedicate Basavis, were soldiers, and the Basavis acted as camp-followers and nurses of the wounded in battle. According to Hindu custom, the wives of the men could not be taken from their homes, and, other women of the caste being required to attend to their comforts, the institution of Basavis might have been started ; or, if they existed before then as religious devotees attached to temples, they might have been pressed into their service, and the number added to as occasion required. In Narayandevarkeri [ನಾರಾಯಣದೇವರಕೆರಿ] there are many Bōyas and many Basavis. On the car-festival day, the Bōyas cannot take meals until the car is taken back to its original place after the procession. Sometimes, owing to some accident, this cannot be done the same day, and the car-drawing Bōyas sleep near the car, and do not go to their houses. Then it is their Basavis who bring them food, and not their wives.”

At Adoni [ఆదోని] I have seen a Basavi, who was working at a cotton press for a daily wage of three annas, in full dress on a holiday in honour of a local deity, wearing an elaborately chased silver waist belt and abundant silver jewelry.

The following are examples of petitions presented to a European Magistrate and Superintendent of Police by girls who are about to become Basavis:—

Petition of--aged about 17 or 18.

I have agreed to become a Basavi, and get myself stamped by my guru (priest) according to the custom of my caste. I request that my proper age, which entitles me to be stamped, may be personally ascertained, and permission granted to be stamped.

The stamping refers to branding with the emblems of the chank [śaṅkha] and chakram [cakra].

Petition of-wife of-.

I have got two daughters, aged 15 and 12 respectively. As I have no male issues, I have got to necessarily celebrate the ceremony in the temple in connection with the tying of the goddess’s tāli to my two daughters under the orders of the guru, in accordance with the customs of my caste. I, therefore, submit this petition for fear that the authorities may raise any objection (under the Age of Consent Act). I, therefore, request that the Honourable Court may be pleased to give permission to the tying of the tāli to my daughters.

Petition of two girls, aged 17 to 19.

Our father and mother are dead. Now we wish to be like prostitutes, as we are not willing to be married, and thus establish our house-name. Our mother also was of this profession. We. now request permission to be prostitutes according to our religion, after we are sent before the Medical Officer.

The permission referred to in the above petitions bears reference to a decision of the High Court that, a girl who becomes a Basavi being incapable of contracting a legal marriage, her dedication when a minor is an offence under the Penal Code.

At Adoni  [ఆదోని] the dead body of a new-born infant was found in a ditch, and a Basavi, working with others in a cotton factory, was suspected of foul play. The station-house officer announced his intention of visiting the factory, and she who was in a state of lactation, and could produce no baby to account for her condition, would be the culprit.

Writing concerning the Basavis of the Bellary [ಬಳ್ಳಾರಿ] district, ( Manual of the Bellary district) Mr. W. Francis tells us that 

“parents without male issue often, instead of adopting a son in the usual manner, dedicate a daughter by a simple ceremony to the god of some temple, and thenceforth, by immemorial custom, she may inherit her parents’ property, and perform their funeral rites as if she was a son. She does not marry, but lives in her parents’ house with any man of equal or higher caste whom she may select, and her children inherit her father’s name and bedagu [బెడగు] (sept), and not those of their own father. If she has a son, he inherits her property; if she has only a daughter, that daughter again becomes a Basavi. Parents desiring male issue of their own, cure from sickness in themselves or their children, or relief from some calamity, will similarly dedicate their daughter. The children of a Basavi are legitimate, and neither they nor their mothers are treated as being in any way inferior to their fellows. A Basavi, indeed, from the fact that she can never be a widow, is a most welcome guest at weddings. Basavis differ from the ordinary dancing-girls dedicated at temples in that their duties in the temples (which are confined to the shrine of their dedication) are almost nominal, and that they do not prostitute themselves promiscuously for hire. A Basavi very usually lives faithfully with one man, who allows her a fixed sum weekly for her maintenance, and a fixed quantity of new raiment annually, and she works for her family as hard as any other woman. Basavis are outwardly indistinguishable from other women, and are for the most part coolies. In places there is a custom by which they are considered free to change their protectors once a year at the village car-festival or some similar anniversary, and they usually seize this opportunity of putting their partner’s affections to the test by suggesting that a new cloth and bodice would be a welcome present. So poor, as a rule, are the husbands that the police aver that the anniversaries are preceded by an unusual crop of petty thefts and burglaries committed by them in their efforts to provide their customary gifts.” 

A recent report of a Police Inspector in the Bellary [ಬಳ್ಳಾರಿ] district states that

“crimes are committed here and there, as this is Nagarapanchami [ನಾಗರ ಪಂಚಮಿ] time. Nagarapanchami festival is to be celebrated at the next Ammavasya [ಅಮಾವಸ್ಯಾ] or new-moon day. It is at that time the people keeping the prostitutes should pay their dues on that day; otherwise they will have their new engagements.”

In the Kurnool [కర్నూలు] district, the Basavi system is practised by the Bōyas, but differs from that in vogue in Bellary [ಬಳ್ಳಾರಿ] and Mysore [ಮೈಸೂರು]. The object of making a Basavi, in these two localities, is to perpetuate the family when there is no male heir. If the only issue in a family is a female, the family becomes extinct if she marries, as by marriage she changes her sept. To prevent this, she is not married, but dedicated as a Basavi, and continues to belong to her father’s sept, to which also any male issue which is born to her belongs. In the Kurnool [కర్నూలు] district the motive in making Basavis is different. The girl is not wedded to an idol, but, on an auspicious day, is tied by means of a garland of flowers to the garuda kambham (lamp) of a Balija Dāsari [దాసరి]. She is released either by the man who is to receive her first favours, or by her maternal uncle. A simple feast is held, and a string of black beads tied round the girl’s neck. She becomes a prostitute, and her children do not marry into respectable Bōya families.

“Basava women,” Dr. E. Balfour writes, (Cyclopaedia of India)

“are sometimes married to a dagger, sometimes to an idol. In making a female child over to the service of the temple, she is taken and dedicated for life to some idol. A khanjar [خنجر], or dagger, is placed on the ground, and the girl who is to undergo the ceremony puts a garland thereon. Her mother then puts rice on the girl’s forehead. The officiating priest then weds the girl to the dagger, just as if he was uniting her to a boy in marriage, by reciting the marriage stanzas, a curtain being held between the girl and the dagger.”

In an account of the initiation ceremony of the Basavis of the Bellary [ಬಳ್ಳಾರಿ] district Mr. F. Fawcett (Journ. Anth. Soc, Bombay, Vol. II) writes as follows.

“A sword with a lime stuck on its point is placed upright beside the novice, and held in her right hand. It represents the bridegroom, who, in the corresponding ceremony of Hindu marriage, sits on the bride’s right. A tray, on which are a kalasyam (vessel of water) and a lamp, is then produced, and moved thrice in front of the girl. She rises, and, carrying the sword in her right hand, places it in the god’s sanctuary. Among the dancing-girls very similar ceremonies are performed. With them, the girl’s spouse is represented by a drum instead of a sword, and she bows to it. Her insignia consist of a drum and bells.”

 In a further note on the dedication of Basavis, Mr. Fawcett writes (Journ. Anth. Soc, Bombay, 1891) that

“a tāli, on which is depicted the nāmam of Vishnu, fastened to a necklace of black beads, is tied round her neck. She is given by way of insignia a cane as a wand carried in the right hand, and a gopālam or begging basket, which is slung on the left arm. She is then branded with the emblems of the chank and chakra.

In another account (Manual of the North Arcot district) of the marriage ceremony among dancing-girls, it is stated that the Bōgams, who are without exception prostitutes, though they are not allowed to marry, go through a marriage ceremony, which is rather a costly one. Sometimes a wealthy Native bears the expense, makes large presents to the bride, and receives her first favours. Where no such opportunity offers itself, a sword or other weapon represents the bridegroom, and an imaginary nuptial ceremony is performed. Should the Bōgam woman have no daughter, she invariably adopts one, usually paying a price for her, the Kaikōla (weaver) caste being the ordinary one from which to take a child.

Among the Kaikōlan musicians of Coimbatore [கோயம்புத்தூர], at least one girl in every family should be set apart for the temple service, and she is instructed in music and dancing. At the tāli-tying ceremony she is decorated with jewels, and made to stand on a heap of paddy (unhusked rice). A folded cloth is held before her by two Dāsīs, who also stand on heaps of paddy. The girl catches hold of the cloth, and her dancing master, who is seated behind her, grasping her legs, moves them up and down in time with the music which is played. In the evening she is taken, astride a pony, to the temple, where a new cloth for the idol, the tāli, and other articles required for doing pūjā (worship) have been got ready. The girl is seated facing the idol, and the officiating Brāhman gives sandal and flowers to her, and ties the tāli, which has been lying at the feet of the idol, round her neck. The tāli consists of a golden disc and black beads. She continues to learn music and dancing, and eventually goes through the form of a nuptial ceremony. The relations are invited on an auspicious day, and the maternal uncle, or his representative, ties a golden band on the girl’s forehead, and, carrying her, places her on a plank before the assembled guests. A Brāhman priest recites mantrams (prayers), and prepares the sacred fire (homam). For the actual nuptials a rich Brāhman, if possible, and, if not, a Brāhman of more lowly status is invited. A Brāhman is called in, as he is next in importance to, and the representative of, the idol. As a Dāsī can never become a widow, the beads in her tāli are considered to bring good luck to women who wear them. And some people send the tāli required for a marriage to a Dāsī, who prepares the string for it, and attaches to it black beads from her own tāli. A Dāsī is also deputed to walk at the head of Hindu marriage processions. Married women do not like to do this, as they are not proof against evil omens, which the procession may meet. And it is believed that Dāsīs, to whom widowhood is unknown, possess the power of warding off the effects of inauspicious omens. It may be remarked, en passant, that Dāsīs are not at the present day so much patronised at Hindu marriages as in olden times. Much is due in this direction to the progress of enlightened ideas, which have of late been strongly put forward by Hindu social reformers. When a Kaikōlan Dāsī dies, her body is covered with a new cloth removed from the idol, and flowers are supplied from the temple, to which she belonged. No pūjā is performed in the temple till the corpse is disposed of, as the idol, 'being her husband, has to observe pollution.

“In former times, dancing-girls used to sleep three nights at the commencement of their career in the inner shrine of the Koppēsvara temple at Palivela in the Godāvari [గోదావరి] district, so as to be embraced by the god. But one of them, it is said, disappeared one night, and the practice .has ceased. The funeral pyre of every girl of the dancing girl (Sāni) caste dying in the village should be lit with fire brought from the temple. The same practice is found in the Srīrangam [ஸ்ரீரங்கம்] temple near Trichinopoly [திருச்சிராப்பள்ளி].” (Gazetteer of the Godavari district.)

The following account of Dāsīs in Travancore [തിരുവിതാംകൂര്], where their total strength is only about four hundred, is taken from a note by Mr. N. Subramani Aiyer.

“While the Dāsīs of Kartikappalli, Ambalapuzha [അമ്പലപ്പുഴ], and Shertallay [ചേർത്തല] belonged originally to the Konkan [കൊങ്കൺ] coast, those of Shenkottah [செங்கோட்டை] belonged to the PAndian [பாண்டியர்] country. But the South Travancore [[തിരുവിതാംകൂര്] Dāsīs are an indigenous class. The female members of the caste are, besides being known by the ordinary name of Tēvadiyāl and Dāsī [ദാസി], both meaning servant of God, called Kudikkar, meaning those belonging to the house (i.e., given rent free by the Sirkar), and Pendukal, or women, the former of these designations being more popular than the latter. Males are called Tēvadiyan, though many prefer to be known as Nanchināt Vellālas [വെള്ളാളർ]. Males, like these Vellālas, take the title of Pillai [പിള്ള]. In ancient days Dēva-dasis, who became experts in singing and dancing, received the title of Rāyar (king) which appears to have been last conferred in 1847 A.D. The South Travancore Dāsīs neither interdine nor intermarry with the dancing-girls of the Tamil-speaking districts. They adopt girls only from a particular division of the Nāyars [നായര്‍], Tamil Padam [தமிழ் படம்], and dance only in temples. Unlike their sisters outside Travancore, they do not accept private engagements in houses on the occasion of marriage. The males, in a few houses, marry the Tamil Padam  and Padamangalam Nāyars [പാദമംഗലം നായർ], while some Padamangalam Nāyars and Nanchināt Vellālas in their turn take their women as wives.

“When a dancing-woman becomes too old or diseased, and thus unable to perform her usual temple duties, she applies to the temple authorities for permission to remove her ear-pendants (todus). The ceremony takes place at the palace of the Mahārāja. At the appointed spot the officers concerned assemble, and the woman, seated on a wooden plank, proceeds to unhook the pendants, and places them, with a nuzzur (gift) of twelve fanams [பணம்] (coins), on the plank. Directly after this she turns about, and walks away without casting a second glance at the ear-ornaments which have been laid down. She becomes immediately a taikkizhavi or old mother, and is supposed to lead a life of retirement and resignation. By way of distinction, a Dāsī in active service is referred to as ātumpātram. Though the ear-ornaments are at once returned to her from the palace, the woman is never again permitted to put them on, but only to wear the pampadam, or antiquated ear-ornament of Tamil Sūdra women. Her temple wages undergo a slight reduction, consequent on her proved incapacity.

“In some temples, as at Kēralapuram [കേരളപുരം], there are two divisions of dancing-girls, one known as the Murakkudi to attend to the daily routine, the other as the Chirappukuti to serve on special occasions. The special duties that may be required of the South Travancore [തിരുവിതാംകൂര്] Dāsīs are:—

  1. to attend the two Utsavas [ഉത്സവം] at Sri Padmanābhaswāmi’s [ശ്രീപത്മനാഭസ്വാമി] temple, and the Dusserah [ദസ്റ] at the capital;
  2. to meet and escort members of the royal family at their respective village limits;
  3. to undertake the prescribed fasts for the Apamargam ceremony in connection with the annual festival of the temple. On these days strict continence is enjoined, and they are fed at the temple, and allowed only one meal a day.

“The principal deities of the dancing-girls are those to whom the temples, in which they are employed, are dedicated. They observe the new and full-moon days, and the last Friday of every month as important. The Onam [ഓണം], Sivarātri [ശിവരാത്രി], Tye-Pongal [പൊങ്കൽ / தை பொங்கல], Dīpāvali [ദീപാവലി], and Chitrapurnami are the best recognised religious festivals. Minor deities, such as Bhadrakāli [ഭദ്രകാളി ], Yakshi [യക്ഷി], and Gandharva [ഗന്ധർവൻ] are worshipped by the figure of a trident or sword being drawn on the wall of the house, to which food and sweetmeats are offered on Fridays. The priests on these occasions are Ōcchans. There are no recognized headmen in the caste. The services of Brāhmans are resorted to for the purpose of purification, of Nampiyans and Saiva Vellālas [വെള്ളാളർ] for the performance of funeral rites, and of Kurukkals on occasions of marriage, and for the final ceremonies on the sixteenth day after death.

“Girls belonging to this caste may either be dedicated to temple service, or married to a male member of the caste. No woman can be dedicated to the temple after she has reached puberty. On the occasion of marriage, a sum of from fifty to a hundred and fifty rupees is given to the bride’s house, not as a bride-price, but for defraying the marriage expenses. There is a preliminary ceremony of betrothal, and the marriage is celebrated at an auspicious hour. The Kurukkal recites a few hymns, and the ceremonies, which include the tying of the tāli, continue for four days. The couple commence joint life on the sixteenth day after the girl has reached puberty. It is easy enough to get a divorce, as this merely depends upon the will of one of the two parties, and the woman becomes free to receive clothes from another person in token of her having entered into a fresh matrimonial alliance.

“All applications for the presentation of a girl to the temple are made to the temple authorities by the senior dancing-girl of the temple, the girl to be presented being in all cases from six to eight years of age. If she is closely related to the applicant, no enquiries regarding her status and claim need be made. In all other cases, formal investigations are instituted, and the records taken are submitted to the chief revenue officer of the division for orders. Some paddy (rice) and five fanams [பணம்] are given to the family from the temple funds towards the expenses of the ceremony. The practice at the Suchindrum [ശുചീന്ദ്രം] temple is to convene, on an auspicious day, a yōga or meeting, composed of the Valiya Sri-kariyakkar, the Yogattil Potti, the Vattappalli Muttatu, and others, at which the preliminaries are arranged. The girl bathes, and goes to the temple on the morning of the selected day with two new cloths, betel leaves and nuts. The temple priest places the cloths and the tāli at the feet of the image, and sets apart one for the divine use. The tāli consists of a triangular bottu, bearing the image of Ganēsa, with a gold bead on either side. Taking the remaining cloth and the tāli, and sitting close to the girl, the priest, facing to the north, proceeds to officiate. The girl sits, facing the deity, in the inner sanctuary. The priest kindles the fire, and performs all the marriage ceremonies, following the custom of the Tirukkalyānam festival, when Siva is represented as marrying Parvati. He then teaches the girl the Panchakshara [പഞ്ചാക്ഷരി] hymn if the temple is Saivite, and Ashtakshara if it is Vaishnavite, presents her with the cloth, and ties the tāli round her neck. The Nattuvan [ நட்டுவர்], or dancing-master, instructs her for the first time in his art, and a quantity of raw rice is given to her by the temple authorities. The girl, thus married, is taken to her house, where the marriage festivities are celebrated for two or three days. As in Brāhmanical marriages, the rolling of a cocoanut to and fro is gone through, the temple priest or an elderly Dāsī, dressed in male attire, acting the part of the bridegroom. The girl is taken in procession through the streets.

“The birth of male children is not made an occasion for rejoicing, and, as the proverb goes, the lamp on these occasions is only dimly lighted. Inheritance is in the female line, and women are the absolute owners of all property earned. When a dancing-girl dies, some paddy and five fanams [பணம்] are given from the temple to which she was attached, to defray the funeral expenses. The temple priest gives a garland, and a quantity of ashes for decorating the corpse. After this, a Nampiyan, an Ōcchan, some Vellāla [[വെള്ളാളർ]] headmen, and a Kudikkari, having no pollution, assemble at the house of the deceased. The Nampiyan consecrates a pot of water with prayers, the Ōcchan plays on his musical instrument, and the Vellālas [വെള്ളാളർ] and Kudikkari powder the turmeric to be smeared over the corpse. In the case of temple devotees, their dead bodies must be bathed with this substance by the priest, after which alone the funeral ceremonies may proceed. The Kartā (chief mourner), who is the nearest male relative, has to get his whole head shaved. When a temple priest dies, though he is a Brāhman, the dancinggirl, on whom he has performed the vicarious marriage rite, has to go to his death-bed, and prepare the turmeric powder to be dusted over his corpse. The anniversary of the death of the mother and maternal uncle are invariably observed.

“The adoption of a dancing-girl is a lengthy ceremony. The application to the temple authorities takes the form of a request that the girl to be adopted may be made heir to both kuti and pati, that is, to the house and temple service of the person adopting. The sanction of the authorities having been obtained, all concerned meet at the house of the person who is adopting, a document is executed, and a ceremony, of the nature of the Jātakarma, performed. The girl then goes through the marriage rite, and is handed over to the charge of the music teacher to be regularly trained in her profession.”

As bearing on the initiation, laws of inheritance, etc., of Dēva-dāsīs, the following cases, which have been argued in the Madras [மதராஸ்] High Court, may be quoted:—

  1. In a charge against a dancing-girl of having purchased a young girl, aged five, with the intent that she would be used for the purpose of prostitution, or knowing it to be likely that she would be so used, evidence was given of the fact of purchase for sixty rupees, and that numerous other dancing-girls, residing in the neighbourhood, were in the habit of obtaining girls and bringing them up as dancing-girls or prostitutes, and that there were no instances of girls brought up by dancing-girls ever having been married. One witness stated that there were forty dancing-girls’ houses in the town (Adōni [ఆదోని]), and that their chief source of income was prostitution, and that the dancing-girls, who have no daughters of their own, get girls from others, bring them up, and eventually make them dancing-girls or prostitutes. He added that the dancing-girls get good incomes by bringing up girls in preference to boys. Another witness stated that dancing-girls, when they grow old, obtain girls and bring them up to follow their profession, and that good-looking girls are generally bought.
  2. The evidence showed that two of the prisoners were dancing-girls of a certain temple, that one of them took the two daughters of the remaining prisoner to the pagoda, to be marked as dancing-girls, and that they were so marked, and their names entered in the accounts of the pagoda. The first prisoner (the mother of the girls) disposed of the children to the third prisoner for the consideration of a neck ornament and thirty-five rupees. The children appeared to be of the ages of seven and two years, respectively. Evidence was taken, which tended to prove that dancing-girls gain their livelihood by the performance of certain offices in pagodas, by assisting in the performance of ceremonies in private houses, by dancing and singing upon the occasion of marriage, and by prostitution.
  3. The first prisoner presented an application for the enrolment of his daughter as a dancing-girl at one of the great pagodas. He stated her age to be thirteen. She attained puberty a month or two after her enrolment. Her father was the servant of a dancing-girl, the second prisoner, who had been teaching the minor dancing for some five years. The evidence showed that the second prisoner brought the girl to the pagoda, that both first and second prisoners were present when the bottu (or tāli) was tied, and other ceremonies of the dedication performed ; that third prisoner, as Battar of the temple, was the person who actually tied the bottu, which denotes that the Dāsī is wedded to the idol. There was the usual evidence that dancing-girls live by prostitution, though occasionally kept by the same man for a year or more.
  4. The plaintiff, a Dēva-dāsī, complained that, when she brought offerings according to custom and placed them before the God at a certain festival, and asked the Archakas (officiating priests) to present the offerings to the God, burn incense, and then distribute them, they refused to take the offerings on the ground that the Dēva-dāsī had gone to a Kōmati’s house to dance. She claimed damages, Rs. 10, for the rejected offerings, and Rs. 40 for loss of honour, and a perpetual injunction to allow her to perform the mantapa hadi (sacrifice) at the Chittrai [சித்திரை] Vasanta festival. The priests pleaded that the dancing-girl had, for her bad conduct in having danced at a Kōmati’s house, and subsequently refused to expiate the deed by drinking panchagavyan [பஞ்சகவ்யம்] (five products of the cow) according to the shastras [śāstra], been expelled both from her caste and from the temple.
  5. In a certain temple two dancing-girls were dedicated by the Dharmakarta to the services of the temple without the consent of the existing body of dancing-girls, and the suit was instituted against the Dharmakarta and these two Dēva-dasis, asking that the Court should ascertain and declare the rights of the Dēva-dasis of the pagoda in regard
    1. to the dedication of Dēva-dasis,
    2. to the Dharmakarta’s power to bind and suspend them ;

    and that the Court should ascertain and declare the rights of the plaintiff, the existing Dēva-dasis, as to the exclusion of all other Dēva-dasis, save those who are related to or adopted by some one of the Dēva-dasis for the time being, or those who, being approved by all, are elected and proposed to the Dharmakarta for dedication. That the new Dāsīs may be declared to have been improperly dedicated, and not entitled to any of the rights of Dēva-dasis, and restrained from attending the pagoda in that character, and from interfering with the duly dedicated Dēva-dasis in the exercise of their office. That first defendant be restrained from stamping and dedicating other Dēva-dasis but such as are duly approved. The Judge dismissed the case on the ground that it would be contrary to public policy to make the declaration prayed for, as, in so doing, the Court would be lending itself to bringing the parties under the criminal law. In the appeal, which was dismissed, one of the Judges remarked that the plaintiffs claimed a right exclusive to themselves and a few other dancing-women, professional prostitutes, to present infant female children for dedication to the temple as dancing-girls to be stamped as such, and so accredited to become at maturity professional prostitutes, private or public.

  6. A Dēva-dāsī sued to establish her right to the mirāsi (fees) of dancing-girls in a certain pagoda, and to be put in possession of the said mirāsi together with the honours and perquisites attached thereto, and to recover twenty-four rupees, being the value of said perquisites and honours for the year preceding. She alleged that the Dharmakarta of the pagoda and his agents wrongfully dismissed her from the office because she had refused to acquiesce in the admission by the Dharmakarta of new dancing-girls into the pagoda service, of which she claimed the monopoly for herself and the then existing families of dancing-girls. The District Judge dismissed the suit, but the High Court ordered a re-investigation as to the question of the existence of an hereditary office with endowments or emoluments attached to it.
  7. A girl, aged seventeen, instituted a suit against the trustees of a pagoda. It was alleged that a woman who died some years previously was one of the dancing-women attached to the pagoda, and, as such, entitled to the benefit of one of the temple endowments ; that she had taken in adoption the plaintiff, who was accordingly entitled to succeed to her office and the emoluments attached to it; that the plaintiff could not enter on the office until a bottu-tāli had been tied on her in the temple ; and that the trustees did not permit this to be done. The prayer of the plaint was that the defendants be compelled to allow the tāli to be tied in the temple in view to the girl performing the dancing service, and enjoying the honours and endowments attached thereto. The Judge dismissed the suit on the ground that the claim was inadmissible, as being in effect a claim by the plaintiff to be enlisted as a public prostitute.
  8. On the death of a prostitute dancing-girl, her adopted niece, belonging to the same class, succeeds to her property, in whatever way it is acquired, in preference to a brother remaining in his caste. The general rule is that the legal relation between a prostitute dancing-girl and her undegraded relations remaining in caste be severed.
  9. A pauper sued his sister for the partition of property valued at Rs. 34,662. The parties belonged to the Bōgam caste in the Godāvari [గోదావరి] district. The woman pleaded that the property had been acquired by her as a prostitute, and denied her brother’s claim to it. He obtained a decree for only Rs. 100, being a moiety of the property left by their mother. The High Court held, on the evidence as to the local custom of the caste, that the decree was right.
  10. The accused, a Mādiga of the Bellary [ಬಳ್ಳಾರಿ] district, dedicated his minor daughter as a Basavi by a form of marriage with an idol. It appeared that a Basavi is incapable of contracting a lawful marriage, and ordinarily practices promiscuous intercourse with men, and that her sons succeed to her father’s property. It was held that the accused had committed an offence under the Penal Code, which lays down that

    “whoever sells, lets to hire, or otherwise disposes of any minor under the age of sixteen years, with intent that such minor shall be employed or used for the purpose of prostitution, or for any unlawful and immoral purpose, shall be punished, etc.”

    The Sessions judge referred to evidence that it was not a matter of course for Basavis to prostitute themselves for money, and added : “ The evidence is very clear that Basavis are made in accordance with a custom of the Mādiga caste. It is also in evidence that one of the effects of making a girl Basavi is that her male issue becomes a son of her father, and perpetuates his family, whereas, if she were married, he would perpetuate her husband’s family. In this particular case, the girl was made a Basavi that she might be heir to her aunt, who was a Basavi, but childless. Siddalingana Gowd says that they and their issue inherit the parents’ property. There is evidence that Basavis are made on a very large scale, and that they live in their parents’ houses. There is no evidence that they are regarded otherwise than as respectable members of the caste. It seems as if the Basavi is the Mādiga and Bēdar equivalent of the “ appointed daughter ” of Hindu law (Mitakshara [mitākṣara], Chap. I, s. xi, 3). Upon the whole, the evidence seems to establish that, among the Mādigas, there is a widespread custom of performing, in a temple at Uchangidurgam, a marriage ceremony, the result of which is that the girl is married without possibility of widowhood or divorce; that she is at liberty to have intercourse with men at her pleasure; that her children are heirs to her father, and keep up his family; and that Basavi’s nieces, being made Basavis, become their heirs. The Basavis seem in some cases to become prostitutes, but the language used by the witnesses generally points only to free intercourse with men, and not necessarily to receipt of payment for use of their bodies. In fact, they seem to acquire the right of intercourse with men without more discredit than accrues to the men of their caste for intercourse with women who are not their wives.

It may be observed that Dēva-dāsīs are the only class of women, who are, under Hindu law as administered in the British Courts, allowed to adopt girls to themselves. Amongst the other castes, a widow, for instance, cannot adopt to herself, but only to her husband, and she cannot adopt a daughter instead of a son. A recent attempt by a Brāhman at Poona [पुणे] to adopt a daughter, who should take the place of a natural-born daughter, was held to be invalid by general law, and not sanctioned by local usage. The same would be held in Madras [மதராஸ்].

“But among dancing-girls,” Mayne writes, (Hindu Law and Usage) “it is customary in Madras [மதராஸ்] and Western India to adopt girls to follow their adoptive mother’s profession, and the girls so adopted succeed to their property. No particular ceremonies are necessary, recognition alone being sufficient. In the absence, however, of a special custom, and on the analogy of an ordinary adoption, only one girl can be adopted.”

In Calcutta [কলকাতা] and Bombay [मुंबई] these adoptions by dancing-girls have been held invalid.

Of proverbs relating to dancing-girls, the following may be quoted :—

  1. The dancing-girl who could not dance said that the hall was not big enough. The Rev. H. Jensen gives  as an equivalent (Classified Collection of Tamil Proverbs, 1897)  “When the devil could not swim, he laid the blame on the water.”
  2. If the dancing-girl be alive, and her mother dies, there will be beating of drums ; but, if the dancing girl dies, there will be no such display. This is explained by Jensen as meaning that, to secure the favour of a dancing-girl, many men will attend her mother’s funeral; but, if the dancing-girl herself dies, there is nothing to be gained by attending the funeral.
  3. Like a dancing-girl wiping a child. Jensen remarks that a dancing-girl is supposed to have no children, so she does not know how to keep them clean. Said of one who tries to mend a matter, but lacks experience, and makes things worse than they were before.
  4. As when a boy is born in a dancing-girl’s house. Jensen notes that, if dancing-girls have children, they desire to have girls, that they may be brought up to their own profession.
  5. The dancing-girl, who was formerly more than filled with good food in the temple, now turns a somersault to get a poor man’s rice.
  6. If a matron is chaste, she may live in the dancing-girl’s street.

The insigne of courtesans, according to the Conjee-veram records, is a Cupid, that of a Christian, a currycomb."

[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. 125 - 153]


Jakkula.Described as an inferior class of prostitutes, mostly of the Balija caste ; and as wizards and a dancing and theatrical caste. At Tenali [తెనాలి], in the Kistna [కృష్ణా] district, it was customary for each family to give up one girl for prostitution. She was “married” to any chance comer for one night with the usual ceremonies. Under the influence of social reform, the members of the caste, in 1901, entered into a written agreement to give up the practice. A family went back on this, so the head of the caste prosecuted the family and the “husband” for disposing of a minor for the purpose of prostitution. The records state that it was resolved, in 1901, that they should not keep the females as girls, but should marry them before they attain puberty.

“As the deeds of the said girls not only brought discredit on all of us, but their association gives our married women also an opportunity to contract bad habits, and, as all of our castemen thought it good to give up henceforth the custom of leaving girls unmarried now in vogue, all of us convened a public meeting in the Tenali [తెనాలి] village, considered carefully the pros and cons, and entered into the agreement herein mentioned. If any person among us fail to marry the girls in the families before puberty, the managing members of the families of the girls concerned should pay Rs. 500 to the three persons whom we have selected as the headmen of our caste, as penalty for acting in contravention of this agreement. If any person does not pay the headmen of the caste the penalty, the headmen are authorised to recover the amount through Court. We must abstain from taking meals, living, or intermarriage with such of the families as do not now join with us in this agreement, and continue to keep girls unmarried. We must not take meals or intermarry with those that are now included in this agreement, but who hereafter act in contravention of it. If any of us act in contravention of the terms of the two last paragraphs, we should pay a penalty of Rs. 50 to the headmen.”"

[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. 438f.]

Kasbi [कसबी], Tawāif [طوائف], Devadāsi [देवदासी] (Central Provinces)

"Kasbi [कसबी],1 Tawāif [طوائف], Devadāsi [देवदासी].—

1 A part of the information contained in this article is furnished by Mr. Adurām Chaudhri [चौधरी] of the Gazetteer Office.

Abb.: Dancing girls and musicians

1. General notice.

The caste of dancing-girls and prostitutes. The name Kasbi [कसबी] is derived from the Arabic kasab, prostitution, and signifies rather a profession than a caste. In India practically all female dancers and singers are prostitutes, the Hindus being still in that stage of the development of intersexual relations when it is considered impossible that a woman should perform before the public and yet retain her modesty. It is not so long that this idea has been abandoned by Western nations, and the fashion of employing women actors is perhaps not more than two or three centuries old in England. The gradual disappearance of the distinctive influence of sex in the public and social conduct of women is presumably a sign of advancing civilisation, and is greatest in the West, the old standards retaining more and more vitality as we proceed Eastward. Among the Anglo-Saxon races women are almost entirely emancipated from any handicap due to their sex, and direct their lives with the same freedom and independence as men. Among the Latin races many people still object to girls walking out alone in towns, and in Italy the number of women to be seen in the streets is so small that it must be considered improper for a young and respectable woman to go about alone. Here also survives the mariage de convenance or arrangement of matches by the parents ; the underlying reason for this custom, which also partly accounts for the institution of infant-marriage, appears to be that it is not considered safe to permit a young girl to frequent the society of unmarried men with sufficient freedom to be able to make her own choice. And, finally, on arrival in Egypt and Turkey we find the seclusion of women still practised, and only now beginning to weaken before the influence of Western ideas. But again in the lowest scale of civilisation, among the Gonds [गोंड] and other primitive tribes, women are found to enjoy great freedom of social intercourse. This is partly no doubt because their lives are too hard and rude to permit of any seclusion of women, but also partly because they do not yet consider it an obligatory feature of the institution of marriage that a girl should enter upon it in the condition of a virgin.

2. Girls dedicated to temples.

In the Deccan [दक्खिन] girls dedicated to temples are called Devadāsis [देवदासी] or ‘Hand-maidens of the gods.’ They are thus described by Marco Polo:

“In this country,” he says, “ there are certain abbeys in which are gods and goddesses, and here fathers and mothers often consecrate their daughters to the service of the deity. When the priests desire to feast their god they send for those damsels, who serve the god with meats and other goods, and then sing and dance before him for about as long as a great baron would be eating his dinner. Then they say that the god has devoured the essence of the food, and fall to and eat it themselves.”

Mr. Francis writes of the Devadāsis [देवदासी] as follows:

“It is one of the many inconsistences of the Hindu religion that though their profession is repeatedly and vehemently condemned by the Shastras [शास्त्र] it has always received the countenance of the church. The rise of the caste and its euphemistic name seem both of them to date from the ninth and tenth centuries of our era, during which much activity prevailed in southern India in the matter of building temples and elaborating the services held in them. The dancing-girls’ duties then as now were to fan the idol with chamaras [चमर] or Thibetan ox-tails, to hold the sacred light called Kumbarti and to sing and dance before the god when he was carried in procession. Inscriptions show that in A.D. 1004 the great temple of the Chola [சோழர்] king Rajaraja [இராஜராஜ] at Tanjore [தஞ்சாவூர்]had attached to it 400 women of the temple who lived in free quarters in the surrounding streets, and were given a grant of land from the endowment. Other temples had similar arrangements. At the beginning of last century there were a hundred dancing-girls attached to the temple at Conjeeveram [காஞ்சிபுரம], and at Madura [மதுரை], Conjeeveram [காஞ்சிபுரம] and Tanjore [தஞ்சாவூர்] there are still numbers of them who receive allowances from the endowments of the big temples at those places. In former days the profession was countenanced not only by the church but by the state. Abdur Razak, a Turkish ambassador to the court of Vijayanagar [ವಿಜಯನಗರ] in the fifteenth century, describes women of this class as living in state-controlled institutions, the revenue of which went towards the upkeep of the police.”


A secondary idea of religious prostitution may have been to afford to the god the same sexual pleasures as delighted an earthly king. Thus the Skanda Purāna [स्कन्दपुराण] relates that Kārtikeya [कार्त्तिकेय], the Hindu god of war, was sent by his father to frustrate the sacrifice of Daksha [दक्ष], and at the instigation of the latter was delayed on his way by beautiful damsels, who entertained him with song and dance. Hence it is the practice still for dancing-girls who serve in the pagodas to be betrothed and married to him, after which they may prostitute themselves but cannot marry a man. Similarly the Murlis or dancing-girls in Marātha [मराठा] temples are married to  Khandoba [खंडोबा], the Marātha [मराठा] god of war. Sometimes the practice of prostitution might begin by the priests of the temple as representatives of the god having intercourse with the women. This is stated to have been the custom at the temple of Jagannāth [ଜଗନ୍ନାଥ] in Orissa [ଓଡ଼ିଶା], where the officiating Brāhmans [ବ୍ରାହ୍ମଣ] had adulterous connection with the women who danced and sang before the god.

3. Music and dancing.

Both music and dancing, like others of the arts, probably originated as part of a religious or magical service or ritual, and hence would come to be practised by the women attached to temples. And it would soon be realised what potent attractions these arts possessed when displayed by women, and in course of time they would be valued as accomplishments in themselves, and either acquired independently by other courtesans or divorced from a sole application to religious ritual. In this manner music, singing and dancing may have grown to be considered as the regular attractions of the courtesan and hence immoral in themselves, and not suitable for display by respectable women. The Emperor Shāh Jahān [
شهاب الدین محمّد شاه جهان] [1592 - 1666] is said to have delighted in the performances of the Tawāif [طوائف] or Muhammadan singing and dancing girls, who at that time lived in bands and occupied mansions as large as palaces. Aurāngzeb [اورنگ‌زیب] [1618 - 1707] ordered them all to be married or banished from his dominions, but they did not submit without a protest ; and one morning as the Emperor was going to the mosque he saw a vast crowd of mourners marching in file behind a bier, and filling the air with screams and lamentations. He asked what it meant, and was told that they were going to bury Music ; their mother had been executed, and they were weeping over her loss. ‘Bury her deep,’ the Emperor cried, ‘she must never rise again.’

4. Education of courtesans.


The possession of these attractions naturally gave the courtesan an advantage over ordinary women who lacked them, and her society was much sought after, as shown in the following description of a native court:2

2 Forbes, Rāsmāla, i. p. 247.

“Nor is the courtesan excluded, she of the smart saying, famed for the much-valued cleverness which is gained in ‘the world,’ who when the learned fail is ever ready to cut the Gordian knot of solemn question with the sharp blade of her repartee, for—The sight of foreign lands ; the possession of a Pandit [पंडित] for a friend ; a courtesan ; access to the royal court ; patient study of the Shastras [शास्त्र] ; the roots of cleverness are these five.”

Mr. Crooke also remarks on the tolerance extended to this class of women:

“The curious point about Indian prostitutes is the tolerance with which they are received into even respectable houses, and the absence of that strong social disfavour in which this class is held in European countries. This feeling has prevailed for a lengthened period. We read in the Buddhist histories of Ambapāta [Ambapāli], the famous courtesan, and the price of her favours fixed at two thousand masurans. The same feeling appears in the folktales and early records of Indian courts.”3

3 Crookes Tribes and Castes, art. Tawāif

It may be remarked, however, that the social ostracism of such women has not always been the rule in Europe, while as regards conjugal morality Indian society would probably appear to great advantage beside that of Europe in the Middle Ages. But when the courtesan is alone possessed of the feminine accomplishments, and also sees much of society and can converse with point and intelligence on public affairs, her company must necessarily be more attractive than that of the women of the family, secluded and uneducated, and able to talk about nothing but the petty details of household management Education so far as women were concerned was to a large extent confined to courtesans, who were taught all the feminine attainments on account of the large return to be obtained in the practice of their profession. This is well brought out in the following passage from a Hindu work in which the mother speaks:1

1 Extract from the Dasa Kumara Charita or Adventures of the Ten Youths, in A Group of Hindu Stories, p. 72.

“Worthy Sir, this daughter of mine would make it appear that I am to blame, but indeed I have done my duty, and have carefully prepared her for that profession for which by birth she was intended. From earliest childhood I have bestowed the greatest care upon her, doing everything in my power to promote her health and beauty. As soon as she was old enough I had her carefully instructed in the arts of dancing, acting, playing on musical instruments, singing, painting, preparing perfumes and flowers, in writing and conversation, and even to some extent in grammar, logic and philosophy. She was taught to play various games with skill and dexterity, how to dress well and show herself off to the greatest advantage in public ; yet after all the time, trouble and money which I have spent upon her, just when I was beginning to reap the fruit of my labours, the ungrateful girl has fallen in love with a stranger, a young Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] without property, and wishes to marry him and give up her profession (of a prostitute), notwithstanding all my entreaties and representations of the poverty and distress to which all her family will be reduced if she persists in her purpose ; and because I oppose this marriage, she declares that she will renounce the world and become a devotee.”

Similarly the education of another dancing-girl is thus described:2

2 S. M. Edwardes. By-was of Bombay,, p. 31.

“Gauhar Jān did her duty by the child according to her lights. She engaged the best ‘Gawayyas ’ [गवैया] to teach her music, the best ‘ Kathaks’ [कथक] to teach her dancing, the best  'Ustāds’ [استاد][उस्ताद] to teach her elocution and deportment, and the best of Munshis [مُنشی] to ground her in Urdu [اردو] and Persian [فارسی] belles lettres; so that when Imtiazān reached her fifteenth year her accomplishments were noised abroad in the bazār.”

It is still said to be the custom for the Hindus in large towns, as among the Greeks of the time of Pericles [Περικλῆς, 490 - 429 v.], to frequent the society of courtesans for the charm of their witty and pointed conversation. Betel-nut is provided at such receptions, and at the time of departure each person is expected to deposit a rupee in the tray. Of course it is in no way meant to assert that the custom is at all generally prevalent among educated men, as this would be quite untrue.

The association of all feminine charms and intellectual attainments with public women led to the belief that they were incompatible with feminine modesty; and this was even extended to certain ornamental articles of clothing such as shoes. The Abbe Dubois remarks :1

1 Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies, p. 93.

“The courtesans are the only women in India who enjoy the privilege of learning to read, to dance and to sing. A well-bred respectable woman would for this reason blush to acquire any one of these accomplishments.”

Buchanan says :2

2 Eastern India, i. p. 119

“The higher classes of Hindu women consider every approach to wearing shoes as quite indecent ; so that their use is confined to Muhammadans, camp trulls and Europeans, and most of the Muhammadans have adopted the Hindu notion on this subject ; women of low rank wear sandals.”

And again :

3 Ibidem, iii., p. 107

“A woman who appears clean in public on ordinary occasions may pretty confidently be taken for a prostitute ; such care of her person would indeed be considered by her husband as totally incompatible with modesty.”

And as regards accomplishments: 4

4 Ibidem, ii., p. 930.

“It is considered very disgraceful for a modest woman to sing or play on any musical instrument ; the only time when such a practice is permitted is among the Muhammadans at the Muharram [محرم], when women are allowed to join in the praises of Fatima [فاطمة] [609 - 632] and her son.”

And a current saying is :

“A woman who sings in the house as she goes about her work and one who is fond of music can never be a Sati [सती] ” ; a term which is here used as an equivalent for a virtuous woman.

Buchanan wrote a hundred years ago, and things have no doubt improved since his time, but this feeling appears to be principally responsible for much of the prejudice against female education, which has hitherto been so strong even among the literate classes of Hindus ; and is only now beginning to break down as the highly cultivated young men of the present day have learned to appreciate and demand a greater measure of intelligence from their wives.

5. Caste customs.

Among the better class of Kasbis [कसबी] a certain caste feeling and organisation exists. When a girl attains adolescence her mother makes a bargain with some rich man to be her first consort. Oil and turmeric are rubbed on her body for five days as in the case of a bride. A feast is given to the caste and the girl is married to a dagger, walking seven times round the sacred post with it. Her human consort then marks her forehead with vermilion and covers her head with her head-cloth seven times. In the evening she goes to live with him for as long as he likes to maintain her, and afterwards takes up the practice of her profession. In this case it is necessary that the man should be an outsider and not a member of the Kasbi [कसबी] caste, because the quasi-marriage is the formal commencement on the part of the woman of her hereditary trade. As already seen, the feeling of shame and degradation attaching to this profession in Europe appears to be somewhat attenuated in India, and it is counterbalanced by that acquiescence in and attachment to the caste-calling which is the principal feature of Hindu society. And no doubt the life of the dancing-girl has, at any rate during youth, its attractions as compared with that of a respectable married woman. Tavernier tells the storyof a Shah of Persia who, desiring to punish a dancing-girl for having boxed the ears of one of her companions within his hearing (it being clearly not the effect of the operation on the patient which annoyed his majesty) made an order thatshe should be married.

1 Persian Travels, book iii. chap. xvii.

And a more curious instance still is the following from a recent review:1

1 From a review of A German Staff Officer in India, written by Sir Evelyn Wood in the Saturday Review,  5th February 1910.

“The natives of India are by instinct and custom the most conservative race in the world. When I was stationed at Aurangābād [औरंगाबाद]—fifty years ago it is true, but that is but a week in regard to this question—a case occurred within my own knowledge which shows the strength of hereditary feeling. An elderly wealthy native adopted two baby girls, whose mother and family had died during a local famine. The children grew up with his own girls and were in all respects satisfactory, and apparently quite happy until they arrived at the usual age for marriage. They then asked to see their papa by adoption, and said to him, ‘We are very grateful to you for your care of us, but we are now grown up. We are told our mother was a Kasbi [कसबी] (prostitute), and we must insist on our rights, go out into the world, and do as our mother did.’ ”

6.    First pregnancy.

In the fifth or seventh month of the first pregnancy of a Kasbi [कसबी] woman 108 fried wafers of flour and sugar, known as gūjahs, are prepared, and are eaten by her as well as distributed to friends and relatives who are invited to the house. After this they in return prepare similar wafers and send them to the pregnant woman. Some little time before the birth the mother washes her head with gram flour, puts on new clothes and jewels, and invites all her friends to the house, feasting them with rice boiled in milk, cakes and sweetmeats.

7. Different classes of women.

Though the better-class Kasbis [कसबी] appear to have a sort of caste union, this is naturally quite indefinite, inasmuch as marriage, at present the essential bond of caste-organisation, is absent. The sons of Kasbis [कसबी] take up any profession that they choose ; and many of them marry and live respectably with their wives. Others become musicians and assist at the performances of the dancing-girls, as the Bhadua [भडुआ] who beats the cymbals and sings in chorus and also acts as a pimp, and the Sārangia [सारंगिया], one who performs on the sārangi [सारंगी] or fiddle. The girls themselves are of different classes, as the Kasbi [कसबी] or Gāyan [गायन] who are Hindus, the Tawāif [طوائف] who are Muhammadans, and the Bogam or Telugu [తెలుగు] dancing-girls. Gond [गोंड] women are known as Deogarhni [देवगढ़नी], and are supposed to have come from Deogarh [देवगढ़] in Chhindwāra [छिंदवाडा], formerly the headquarters of a Gond [गोंड] dynasty. The Sārangias [सारंगिया] or fiddlers are now a separate caste. In the northern Districts the dancing-girls are usually women of the Beria [बेड़िया] caste and are known as Berni [बेडनी]. After the spring harvest the village headman hires one or two of these girls, who dance and do acrobatic feats by torchlight. They will continue all through the night, stimulated by draughts of liquor, and it is said that one woman will drink two or three bottles of the country spirit. The young men of the village beat the drum to accompany her dancing, and take turns to see how long they can go on doing so without breaking down. After the performance each cultivator gives the woman one or two pice (farthings) and the headman gives her a rupee. Such a celebration is known as Rai, and is distinctive of Bundelkhand [बुंदेलखंड].

In Bengal [বঙ্গ] this class of women often become religious mendicants and join the Vaishnava [ৱৈষ্ণৱ] or Bairāgi [বাইরাগী] community, as stated by Sir H. Risley :1

1 Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art. Vaishnava. The notice, as stated, refers only to the lowest section of  Bairāgis.

“The mendicant members of the Vaishnava [ৱৈষ্ণৱ] community are of evil repute, their ranks being recruited by those who have no relatives, by widows, by individuals too idle or depraved to lead a steady working life, and by prostitutes. Vaishnavi [ৱৈষ্ণৱী], or Baishtabi [বৈষ্টবী] according to the vulgar pronunciation, has come to mean a courtesan. A few undoubtedly join from sincere and worthy motives, but their numbers are too small to produce any appreciable effect on the behaviour of their comrades. The habits of these beggars are very unsettled. They wander from village to village and from one akhāra (monastery) to another, fleecing the frugal and industrious peasantry on the plea of religion, and singing songs in praise of Hari [হরি] beneath the village tree or shrine. Members of both sexes smoke Indian hemp (gānja [গাঁজা]), and although living as brothers and sisters are notorious for licentiousness. There is every reason for suspecting that infanticide is common, as children are never seen. In the course of their wanderings they entice away unmarried girls, widows, and even married women on the pretence of visiting Sri Kshetra (Jagannāth [ଜଗନ୍ନାଥ]) Brindāban [वृन्दावन] or Benares [वाराणसी], for which reason they are shunned by all respectable natives, who gladly give charity to be rid of them.”

In large towns prostitutes belong to all castes. An old list obtained by Rai Bahadur Hira Lāl of registered prostitutes in Jubbulpore [जबलपुर] showed the following numbers of different castes :

  • Barai [वरई] six,
  • Dhīmar [धीमर] four,


  • Nai [नाई],
  • Khangār [खंगार],
  • Kāchhi [काछी],
  • Gond [गोंड],
  • Teli [तेली],
  • Brāhman [ब्राह्मण],
  • Rājpūt [राजपूत] and
  • Bania [बनिया]

three each.

Each woman usually has one or two girls in training if she can obtain them, with a view to support herself by their earnings in the same method of livelihood when her own attractions have waned. Fatherless and orphan girls run a risk of falling into this mode of life, partly because their marriages cannot conveniently be arranged, and also from the absence of strict paternal supervision. For it is to be feared that a girl who is allowed to run about at her will in the bazār has little chance of retaining her chastity even up to the period of her arrival at adolescence. This is no doubt one of the principal considerations in favour of early marriage. The caste-people often subscribe for the marriage of a girl who is left without support, and it is said that in former times an unmarried orphan girl might go and sit dharna [धरना], or starving herself, at the king’s gate until he arranged for her wedding. Formerly the practice of obtaining young girls was carried on to a much greater extent than at present. Malcolm remarks :1

1 Memoir of Central India.

“Slavery in Mālwa [माळवा] and the adjoining provinces is chiefly limited to females ; but there is perhaps no part of India where there are so many slaves of this sex. The dancing - girls are all purchased, when young, by the Nakins [नाकिन] or heads of the different sets or companies, who often lay out large sums in these speculations, obtaining advances from the bankers on interest like other classes.”

But the attractions of the profession and the numbers of those who engage in it have now largely declined.

8. Dancing and singing.

The better class of Kasbi [कसबी] women, when seen in public, are conspicuous by their wealth of jewellery and their shoes of patent leather or other good material. Women of other castes do not commonly wear shoes in the streets. The Kasbis [कसबी] are always well and completely clothed, and it has been noticed elsewhere that the Indian courtesan is more modestly dressed than most women. No doubt in this matter she knows her business. A well-to-do dancing-girl has a dress of coloured muslin or gauze trimmed with tinsel lace, with a short waist, long straight sleeves, and skirts which reach a little below the knee, a shawl falling from the head over the shoulders and wrapped round the body, and a pair of tight satin trousers, reaching to the ankles. The feet are bare, and strings of small bells are tied round them. They usually dance and sing to the accompaniment of the tabla [तबला], sārangi [सारंगी] and majīra [मजीरा]. The tabla [तबला] or drum is made of two half-bowls—one brass or clay for the bass, and the other of wood for the treble. They are covered with goat-skin and played together. The sārangi [सारंगी] is a fiddle. The majīra [मजीरा] (cymbals) consist of two metallic cups slung together and used for beating time. Before a dancing-girl begins her performance she often invokes the aid of Saraswati [सरस्वती], the goddess of music. She then pulls her ear as a sign of remembrance of Tānsen [तानसेन, 1506 - 1589], India’s greatest musician, and a confession to his spirit of the imperfection of her own sense of music. The movements of the feet are accompanied by a continual opening and closing of henna-dyed hands ; and at intervals the girl kneels at the feet of one or other of the audience. On the festival of Basant Panchmi [वसंत पंचमी] or the commencement of spring these girls worship their dancing-dress and musical instruments with offerings of rice, flowers and a cocoanut.@

[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. 3. -- S. 373 - 384]

Killēkyāta / सिल्लेकयता / ಕಿಳ್ಳೆಕ್ಯಾತರು

"Killēkyāta.  -The Killēkyātas [सिल्लेकयता / ಕಿಳ್ಳೆಕ್ಯಾತರು] are a Marāthi-speaking [मराठी] people, who amuse villagers with their marionette shows in the Telugu [తెలుగు] and Canarese [ಕನ್ನಡ] countries.

“They travel round the villages, and give a performance wherever they can secure sufficient patronage. Contributions take the form of money, or oil for the foot-lights.” (Gazetteer of the Anantapur [అనంతపురం] district.

“Their profession,” Mr. S. M. Natesa Sastri writes, (Indian Review, VII, 1906) “is enacting religious dramas before the village public (whence their name, meaning buffoon). The black kambli [कांबळे] (blanket) is their screen, and any mandapa [मण्डप] or village chāvadi, or open house is their stage. Night is the time for giving the performance. They carry with them pictures painted in colours on deer skins, which are well tanned, and made fine like parchment. The several parts of the picture representing the human or animal body are attached to each other by thin iron wires, and the parts are made to move by the assistance of thin bamboo splits, and thus the several actions and emotions are represented to the public, to the accompaniment of songs. Their pictures are in most cases very fairly painted, with variety and choice of colours. The stories chosen for representation are generally from the Rāmāyana and the Mahābhārata, which they however call Rāvanyakatha and Pāndavakathā—the stories of Rāvana and the Pāndavas.”

The dead are buried in a seated posture.

Some of the women are engaged as professional tattooers."

[Quelle: Thurston, Edgar <1855-1935> ; Rangachari, K. (Kadambi) [கா. இரங்காச்சாரி] <1868 – 1934>: Castes and tribes of southern India / by Edgar Thurston ; assisted by K. Rangachari. -- Madras : Govt. Press, 1909. -- 7 Bde. : Ill. ; 24 cm. -- Bd. 3. -- S. 293.]

Kolhāti [कोल्हाटी], Dandewāla [दांडेवाला], Bānsberia [बांसबेरिया], Kabūtari [कबुतरी] (Central Provinces)

"Kolhāti [कोल्हाटी], Dandewāla [दांडेवाला], Bānsberia [बांसबेरिया], Kabūtari [कबुतरी].1

Bibliography: Mr. Kitts’ Berār Census Report (1881) ; Major Gunthorpe’s Criminal Tribes of Bombay, Berār and the Central Provinces (Times Press, Bombay).

1 Based partly on papers by Mr. Bihāri Lāl, Naib-Tahsīldār, Bilāspur, and Mr. Adurām Chaudhri of the Gazetteer Office.

 1. Introductory notice.

The name by which the Beria [बेड़िया] caste of Northern and Central India is known in Berār [बेरार]. The Berias [बेड़िया] themselves, in Central India at any rate, are a branch of the Sānsias [सांसिया], a vagrant and criminal class, whose traditional occupation was that of acting as bards and genealogists to the Jāt [जाट]  caste. The main difference between the Sānsias [सांसिया] and Berias [बेड़िया] is that the latter prostitute their women, or those of them who are not married. The Kolhātis [कोल्हाटी] of Berār [बेरार], who also do this, appear to be a branch of the Beria [बेड़िया] caste who have settled in the Deccan [दक्खिन] and now have customs differing in several respects from those of the parent caste. It is therefore desirable to reproduce briefly the main heads of the information given about them in the works cited above. In 1901 the Kolhātis [कोल्हाटी] numbered 1300 persons in Berār [बेरार]. In the Central Provinces they were not shown separately, but were included with the Nats [नट]. But in 1891 a total of 250 Kolhātis [कोल्हाटी] were returned. The word Kolhāti [कोल्हाटी] is said to be derived from the long bamboo poles which they use for jumping, known as Kolhāt. The other names, Dandewāla [दांडेवाला] and Bānsberia [बांसबेरिया], meaning those who perform feats with a stick or bamboo, also have reference to this pole. Kabūtari [कबुतरी] as applied to the women signifies that their dancing resembles the flight of a pigeon (kabūtar [कबूतर]). They say that once on a time a demon had captured some Kunbis [कुणबी] and shut them up in a cavern. But the Kunbis [कुणबी] besought Mahadco to save them, and he created a man and a woman who danced before the demon and so pleased him that he promised them whatever they should ask ; and they thus obtained the freedom of the Kunbis [कुणबी]. The man and woman were named Kabūtar [कबूतर] and Kabūtari [कबुतरी] on account of their skilful dancing, and were the ancestors of the Kolhātis [कोल्हाटी]. The Kolhātis [कोल्हाटी] of the Central Provinces appear to differ in several respects from those of Berār [बेरार], with whom the following article is mainly concerned.

2. Internal structure.

The caste has two main divisions in Berār [बेरार], the Dukar Kolhātis [डुकर कोल्हाटी] and the Khām [काण] or Pāl Kolhātis [पाल कोल्हाटी]. The name of the former is derived from dukar [डुक्कर], hog, because they are accustomed to hunt the wild pig with dogs and spears when these animals become too numerous and damage the crops of the villagers. They also labour for themselves by cultivating land and taking service as village watchmen ; and they are daring criminals and commit dacoity, burglary and theft ; but they do not steal cattle. The Kham Kolhātis [काण कोल्हाटी], on the other hand, are a lazy, good-for-nothing class of men, who, beyond making a few combs and shuttles of bone, will set their hands to no kind of labour, but subsist mainly by the immoral pursuits of their women. At every large fair may be seen some of the portable huts of this tribe, made of rusa grass [रूसा - Cymbopogon schoenanthus (L.) Spreng.], the women decked in jewels and gaudy attire sitting at each door, while the men are lounging lazily at the back. The Dukar Kolhāti [डुकर कोल्हाटी] women, Mr. Kitts states, also resort to the same mode of life, but take up their abode in villages instead of attending fairs. Among the Dukar Kolhātis [डुकर कोल्हाटी] the subdivisions have Rājpūt [राजपूत] names ; and just as a Chauhān [चौहान] Rājpūt [राजपूत] may not marry another Chauhān [चौहान] so also a Chauhān [चौहान] Dukar Kolhāti [डुकर कोल्हाटी] may not marry a person of his own clan. In Bilāspur [बिलासपुर] they are said to have four subcastes, the Marethi or those coming from the Marātha [मराठा] country, the Bānsberia [बांसबेरिया] or pole-jumpers, the Suarwale [सूअरवाले] or hunters of the wild pig, and the Muhammadan Kolhātis [कोल्हाटी], none of whom marry or take food with each other. Each group is further subdivided into the Asal [असल] and Kamsal  (Kam-asal), or the pure and mixed Kolhātis [कोल्हाटी], who marry among themselves, outsiders being admitted to the Kamsal or mixed group.

3. Marriage.

The marriage ceremony in Berār [बेरार]1 consists simply in a feast at which the bride and bridegroom, dressed in new clothes, preside. Much liquor is consumed and the dancing-girls of the tribe dance before them, and the happy couple are considered duly married according to Kolhāti [कोल्हाटी] rites. Married women do not perform in public and are no less moral and faithful than those of other castes, while those brought up as dancing-girls do not marry at all. In Bilāspur [बिलासपुर] weddings are arranged through the headman of the village, who receives a fee for his services, and the ceremony includes some of the ordinary Hindu rites. Here a widow is compelled to marry her late husband’s younger brother on pain of exclusion from caste. People of almost any caste may become Kolhātis [कोल्हाटी]. When an outsider is admitted he must have a sponsor into whose clan he is adopted. A feast is given to the caste, and the applicant catches the right little finger of his sponsor before the assembly. Great numbers of Rājpūts [राजपूत] and Muhammadans join them, and on the other hand a large proportion of the fair but frail Kolhātis [कोल्हाटी] embrace the Muhammadan faith.2

1 Gunthorpe, loc. cit.    
p. 49.

4. Funeral rites.

The bodies of children are buried, and those of the adult dead may be either buried or cremated. Mr. Kitts states that on the third day, if they can afford the ceremony, they bring back the skull and placing it on a bed offer to it powder, dates and betel-leaves ; and after a feast lasting for three days it is again buried. According to Major Gunthorpe the proceedings are more elaborate:

“Each division of the caste has its own burial-ground in some special spot, to which it is the heart’s desire of every Kolhāti [कोल्हाटी] to carry, when he can afford it, the bones of his deceased relatives. After the cremation of an adult the bones are collected and buried pending such time as they can be conveyed to the appointed cemetery, if this be at a distance. When the time comes, that is, when means can be found for the removal, the bones are disinterred and placed in two saddle-bags on a donkey, the skull and upper bones in the right bag and the leg and lower bones in the left. The ass is then led to the deceased’s house, where the bags of bones are placed under a canopy made ready for their reception. High festival, as for a marriage, is held for three days, and at the end of this time the bags are replaced on the donkey, and with tom-toms beating and dancing-girls of the tribe dancing in front, the animal is led off to the cemetery. On arrival, the bags, with the bones in them, are laid in a circular hole, and over it a stone is placed to mark the spot, and covered with oil and vermilion ; and the spirit of the deceased is then considered to be appeased.”

They believe that the spirits of dead ancestors enter the bodies of the living and work evil to them, unless they are appeased with offerings. The Dukar Kolhātis [डुकर कोल्हाटी] offer a boar to the spirits of male ancestors and a sow to females. An offering of a boar is also made to Bhagwan [भागवान] (Vishnu [विष्णु]), who is the principal deity of the caste and is worshipped with great ceremony every second year.1

1 Kitts, loc. cit.

5. Other customs.

Although of low caste the Kolhātis [कोल्हाटी] refrain from eating the flesh of the cow and other animals of the same tribe. The wild cat, mongoose, wild and tame pig and jackal are considered as delicacies. The caste have the same ordeals as are described in the article on the Sānsias [सांसिया]. As might be expected in a class which makes a living by immoral practices the women considerably outnumber the men. No one is permanently expelled from caste, and temporary exclusion is imposed only for a few offences, such as an intrigue with or being touched by a member of an impure caste. The offender gives a feast, and in the case of a man the moustache is shaved, while a woman has five hairs of her head cut off. The women have names meant to indicate their attractions, as Panna [पन्ना] emerald, Munga [
मूंगा] coral, Mehtāb [महताब] dazzling, Gulti [गुलती] a flower, Moti [मोती] a pearl, and Kesar [केसर] saffron. If a girl is detected in an intrigue with a caste-fellow they are fined seven rupees and must give a feast to the caste, and are then married. When, however, a girl is suspected of unchastity and no man will take the responsibility on himself, she is put to an ordeal. She fasts all night, and next morning is dressed in a white cloth, and water is poured over her head from a new earthen pot. A piece of iron is heated red hot between cowdung cakes, and she must take up this in her hand and walk five steps with it, also applying it to the tip of her tongue. If she is burnt her unchastity is considered to be proved, and the idea is therefore apparently that if she is innocent the deity will intervene to save her.

6. Occupation.

The Dukar Kolhāti [डुकर कोल्हाटी] males, Major Gunthorpe states, are a fine manly set of fellows. They hunt the wild boar with dogs, the men armed with spears following on foot. They show much pluck in attacking the boar, and there is hardly a man of years who does not bear scars received in fights with these animals. The villagers send long distances for a gang to come and rid them of the wild pig, which play havoc with the crops, and pay them in grain for doing so. But they are also much addicted to crime, and when they have decided on a dacoity or house-breaking they have a good drinking-bout and start off with their dogs as if to hunt the boar. And if they are successful they bury the spoil, and return with the body of a pig or a hare as evidence of what they have been doing. Stolen property is either buried at some distance from their homes or made over to the safe keeping of men with whom the women of the caste may be living. Such men, who become intimate with the Kolhātis [कोल्हाटी] through their women, are often headmen of villages or hold other respectable positions, and are thus enabled to escape suspicion. Boys who are to become acrobats are taught to jump from early youth. The acrobats and dancing-girls go about to fairs and other gatherings and make a platform on a cart, which serves as a stage for their performances. The dancing-girl is assisted by her admirers, who accompany her with music. Some of them are said now to have obtained European instruments, as harmoniums or gramophones. They do not give their performances on Thursdays and Mondays, which are considered to be unlucky days. In Bombay [मुंबई] they are said to make a practice of kidnapping girls, preferably of high caste, whom they sell or bring up as prostitutes.1

1 Ind. Ant. iii. p. 185, Satāra Gazetteer, p. 119."

[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. 3. -- S. 527 - 531]

Sāni [సాని] / Sānivāllu [సానివాళ్లు]

"Sāni [సాని].--The Sanivallu [సానివాళ్లు], who are a Telugu [తెలుగు] dancing-girl caste, are described, in the Vizagapatam [విశాఖపట్నం] Manual, as women who have not entered into matrimony, gain money by prostitution, and acting as dancers at feasts. 

Sāni is also a title of the Oriya [ଓଡ଼ିଆ] Doluvas in Ganjam [ଗଞ୍ଜାମ], who are said to be descended from Puri Rājas by their concubines. The streets occupied by Sānis are, in Ganjam, known as Sani vidhi. I have heard of missionaries, who, in consequence of this name, insist on their wives being addressed as Ammāgaru instead of by the customary name Dorasāni.

In a note on the Sānis [సాని] of the Godāvari [గోదావరి] district, Mr. F. R. Hemingway writes as follows.

“In this district, dancing-girls and prostitutes are made up of six perfectly distinct castes, which are in danger of being confused. These are the Sānis proper, Bōgams, Dommara Sānis, Turaka Sānis, Mangala Bōgams, and Madiga Bōgams. Of these, the Bōgams claim to be superior, and will not dance in the presence of, or after a performance by any of the others. The Sānis do not admit this claim, but they do not mind dancing after the Bōgams, or in their presence. All the other classes are admittedly inferior to the Sānis and the Bōgams The Sānis would scorn to eat with any of the other dancing castes. The Sāni women are not exclusively devoted to their traditional profession. Some of them marry male members of the caste, and live respectably with them. The men do not, as among the dancing castes of the south, assist in the dancing, or by playing the accompaniments or forming a chorus, but are cultivators and petty traders. Like the dancing-girls of the south, the Sānis keep up their numbers by the adoption of girls of other castes. They do service in the temples, but they are not required to be formally dedicated or married to the god, as in the Tamil country. Those of them who are to become prostitutes are usually married to a sword on attaining puberty.”

Sāni, meaning apparently cow-dung, occurs as a subdivision of the Tamil Agamudaiyans [அகமுடையார்]."

[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. 6. -- S. 292f..]

THE DEVIL-DANCER (Payade). (Tamil)

"7. THE DEVIL-DANCER (Payade).

The devil-dancers should be regarded as a third class of village priests. But, as their vulgarity and peculiarity need particular consideration, it is better to treat them under this distinct heading.

There is no sect or class of people who take to this calling; but the most ignorant, vulgar, well built and lazy scoundrels act this part. The temples which are consecrated to devils are often arranged without a roof, being only an enclosure of bare walls. In some cases they have a small covered building attached. There is no special endowment for the support of these devil temples, nor any regular establishment. One or two villagers will unite in undertaking the work of devil-dancing. On a fixed day of the year, a certain section of the villagers, if not all, assemble together, and bring their offerings and their vows to the devil-temple. They erect a temporary shed to accommodate them for one night, and decorate this temporary building with plantain-trees, evergreen-leaves, flowers, and tender cocoanuts. They also engage a party to play that peculiar drum which helps the devil-dancer to go mad. Men and women who come to the festival commence by boiling rice in a number of vessels—each vessel representing a family. The images which are in the devil temple have each before them heaps of plantains, broken cocoanuts, sugar-canes, flowers, limes, and arrack bottles. Lambs or cocks are sacrificed, and placed at the sides of the images. At about ten o’clock the devil-dancers appear before the people with peculiar long caps on their heads, brass bangles on their hands and legs ; they wear a peculiar pandalam, full of bells, and devil-images and garlands of flowers are round their necks. These monsters help themselves freely to the bottles of arrack placed before the images, and then they dance like devils. They bawl out ‘Ho ! ho!’ with all their strength; the beaters of the drum get tipsy, and then all join together and dance till one o’clock in the morning, at which time the devil-dancers pretend to show the manifestation of the devils to the people. The cleverest and strongest and youngest among them steps forward with a chutty full of rice and blood of lambs. He mixes these well together, and makes the substance into large and small balls. Holding the vessel in his left hand, he bawls out again ‘Hai! hai! hai!’ and starts off immediately for the cremation-ground. A man holding a torchlight in his hand and another man beating a drum follow the devil-dancer. He runs hither and thither on the cremation-ground, pretending that he throws off the balls of rice into the sky so that they may be devoured by the devils. In reality he simply dodges the two fellows by saying, ‘There is the devil !’ or ‘Here is the devil !’ ‘Lo, an army of devils in the sky !’ These statements, and the tremendous noise made by the devil-dancers, stupefy the two fellows who run along with him. The devil-dancer, seeing the frightened condition of his companions, turns his back to them, and throws some balls of rice into his mouth, and some on the ground, and then returns to the devil-temple. Here all the congregation are lying prostrate before the images, with closed eyes, lest they should be killed by their devil-gods, who are supposed to have gone to the cremation-ground to receive the bloody offerings. When the devil-dancer comes in they all rise and stand on their feet; then he distributes to them the sacred ashes and flowers, and the remaining part of the night is spent in dancing and singing in praise of the devils, by the devil-dancers. On the following morning several rams are slain as a sacrifice to the devils, and after this the people disperse to their respective homes.

The devil-dancers make an income from the villagers. Whenever they come to pay their vows and offerings to the demi-gods, the devil-dancers extract a good deal from them. Sometimes they play the part of sorcerers and fortune-tellers among the most ignorant classes ; sometimes they act as devil-drivers, and on such occasions they receive a cock, some measures of rice, cocoanuts, fruits, and money. The devil-dancer knows how to further his own interests. If he sees anybody sick in the village, he tells that person that a little devil is the cause of the sickness, and he attempts to give a history of the devil which has got hold of that sick person. Immediately the sick person requests the devil-dancer to drive out the devil. In such ways he obtains an income sufficient to keep himself and his family alive. Some of these men have been known to grow rich by frightening the people, and threatening them with the anger, displeasure, and cruelty of the devils.

Some of the devil-dancers of the Indian villages have, in late years, left their old occupation, and embraced the ennobling and reforming religion of Jesus Christ. Among these men there is one who is well known to us, and whose character and later career are in every way remarkable. In the year 1877 there was a great famine in South India, and during this time of strain many poor villagers embraced Christianity. It is not for us to discuss the merit or demerit of their conversions. There was one among them who was a famous devil-dancer, and he knew all the tricks of the trade, and had never been backward in performing the tricks. When he was told of a religion which could make even a devil-dancer a good man, and that this religion destroys the works of the devil, and helps those who believe in it to lead a profitable and happy life under all circumstances, he readily embraced it, along with several other villagers; and he gave away to the missionary all his devil-dancer’s dress, and the articles which he had used during his dark days. The famine passed, and plenty and prosperity re-visited the land, and then many of the villagers who embraced Christianity went back to their old religion, but this devil-dancer was not among them. He too well understood the emptiness and the falsehood of the religion which he had once professed. In refusing to go back to his old profession of a devil-dancer, and following his conviction in relation to the new religion, he lost a good living. Poor Joseph ! Although he is a loser in one sense, he keeps a pure mind, a clear conscience, a happy soul, and a sound body, and he works hard as a gardener to support himself and his family. He is the only Christian man in his village. He does not work on Sundays, and he goes five miles every Sunday to attend a Christian service. We have recorded this fact here because we know the man personally; we spoke to him when he was a devil-dancer; we prayed with him for his conversion ; we rejoiced with him after his conversion ; and we make inquiries concerning him whenever we see a man from his village. We take a deep interest in him, as he is not only a fellow Christian but also a native of our own birth-place. We hope that the time will soon arrive when the devil-dancers of the villages will become worshippers of the one and holy God, in spirit and in truth."

[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. 139 - 142]