2. Dvitīyaṃ kāṇḍam

16. śūdravargaḥ

(Über Śūdras)

2. Vers 5 - 15: Handwerker

Beispiele zu: Weber

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: Weber. -- Fassung vom 2017-12-11. --  URL:                                                        

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

Meinem Lehrer und Freund

Prof. Dr. Heinrich von Stietencron

ist die gesamte Amarakośa-Übersetzung

in Dankbarkeit gewidmet.

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Balāhi [बलाही] (Central Provinces)

Balāhi [बलाही].1

1 This article is based on papers by Mr. Habīb Ullah, Pleader, Burhānpur, Mr. W. Bagley, Subdivisional Officer, and Munsh Kanhya Lāl, of the Gazetteer office.

1. General notice

A low functional caste of weavers and village watchmen found in the Nimār [निमाड़] and Hoshangābād [होशंगाबाद] Districts and in Central India. They numbered 52,000 persons in the Central Provinces in 1911, being practically confined to the two Districts already mentioned. The name is a corruption of the Hindi bulāhi [बुलाही], one who calls, or a messenger.

The Balāhis [बलाही] seem to be an occupational group, probably an offshoot of the large Kori [कोरी] [कोरी] caste of weavers, one of whose subdivisions is shown as Balāhi [बलाही] in the United Provinces.

In the Central Provinces they have received accretions from the spinner caste of Katias, themselves probably a branch of the Koris [कोरी], and from the Mahārs [महार], the great menial caste of Bombay. In Hoshangābād [होशंगाबाद] they are known alternatively as Mahār [महार] , while in Burhānpur [बुढ़हानपुर] they are called Bunkar [बुनकर] or weaver by outsiders. The following story which they tell about themselves also indicates their mixed origin. They say that their ancestors came to Nimār [निमाड़] as part of the army of Rāja Mān [राजा मान सिंह, 1783 – 1843] of Jodhpur [जोधपुर], who invaded the country when it was under Muhammadan rule. He was defeated, and his soldiers were captured and ordered to be killed. One of the Balāhis [बलाही] among them won the favour of the Muhammadan general and asked for his own freedom and that of the other Balāhis [बलाही] from among the prisoners. The Musalman replied that he would be unable to determine which of the prisoners were really Balāhis [बलाही]. On this the Balāhi [बलाही], whose name was Ganga Kochla, replied that he had an effective test. He therefore killed a cow, cooked its flesh and invited the prisoners to partake of it. So many of them as consented to eat were considered to be Balāhis [बलाही] and liberated ; but many members of other castes thus obtained their freedom, and they and their descendants are now included in the community. The subcastes or endogamous groups distinctly indicate the functional character of the caste, the names given being Nimāri, Gannore, Katia, Kori [कोरी] and Mahār [महार]. Of these Katia, Kori [कोरी] and Mahār [महार] are the names of distinct castes, Nimāri [निमाड़ी] is a local subdivision indicating those who speak the peculiar dialect of this tract, and the Gannore are no doubt named after the Rājpūt [राजपूत] clan of that name, of whom their ancestors were not improbably the illegitimate offspring. The Nimāri [निमाड़ी] Balāhis [बलाही] are said to rank lower than the rest, as they will eat the flesh of dead cattle which the others refuse to do. They may not take water from the village well, and unless a separate one can be assigned to them, must pay others to draw water for them. Partly no doubt in the hope of escaping from this degraded position, many of the Nimāri [निमाड़ी] group became Christians in the famine of 1897. They are considered to be the oldest residents of Nimār [निमाड़]. At marriages the Balāhi [बलाही] receives as his perquisite the leaf-plates used for feasts with the leavings of food upon them ; and at funerals he takes the cloth which covers the corpse on its way to the burning-ghāt. In Nimār [निमाड़] the Korkus [कोरकू] and Balāhis [बलाही] each have a separate burying-ground which is known as Murghāta. The Katias weave the finer kinds of cloth and rank a little higher than the others. In Burhānpur [बुढ़हानपुर], as already stated, the caste are known as Bunkar [बुनकर], and they are probably identical with the Bunkars [बुनकर] of Khāndesh [ख़ानदेश] ; Bunkar [बुनकर] is simply an occupational term meaning a weaver.

2. Marriage.

The caste have the usual system of exogamous groups, some of which are named after villages, while the designations of others are apparently nicknames given to the founder of the clan, as Bagmār [बाघमार], a tiger-killer, Bhagoria [भगोडिय], a runaway, and so on. They employ a Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] to calculate the horoscopes of a bridal couple and fix the date of their wedding, but if he says the marriage is inauspicious, they merely obtain the permission of the caste panchāyat [पंचायत] and celebrate it on a Saturday or Sunday. Apparently, however, they do not consult real Brāhmans [ब्राह्मण], but merely priests of their own caste whom they call Balāhi Brāhmans [बलाही ब्राह्मण]. These Brāhmans [ब्राह्मण] are, nevertheless, said to recite the Satya Narāyan Katha [सत्य नारायण कथा]. They also have gurus [गुरु] or spiritual preceptors, being members of the caste who have joined the mendicant orders ; and Bhāts [भाट] or genealogists of their own caste who beg at their weddings. They have the practice of serving for a wife, known as Gharjamai or Lamjhana. When the pauper suitor is finally married at the expense of his wife’s father, a marriage-shed is erected for him at the house of some neighbour, but his own family are not invited to the wedding.

After marriage a girl goes to her husband’s house for a few days and returns. The first Diwāli [दीवाली] or Akha-tīj [आखा तीज] festival after the wedding must also be passed at the husband’s house, but consummation is not effected until the aina or gauna ceremony is performed on the attainment of puberty. The cost of a wedding is about Rs. 80 to the bridegroom’s family and Rs. 20 to the bride’s family. A widow is forbidden to marry her late husband’s brother or other relatives. At the wedding she is dressed in new clothes, and the foreheads of the couple are marked with cowdung as a sign of purification. They then proceed by night to the husband’s village, and the woman waits till morning in some empty building, when she enters her husband’s house carrying two water-pots on her head in token of the fertility which she is to bring to it.

3. Other customs

Like the Mahārs [महार], the Balāhis [बलाही] must not kill a dog or a cat under pain of expulsion ; but it is peculiar that in their case the bear is held equally sacred, this being probably a residue of some totemistic observance. The most binding form of oath which they can use is by any one of these animals. The Balāhis [बलाही] will admit any Hindu into the community except a man of the very lowest castes, and also Gonds and Korkus [कोरकू]. The head and face of the neophyte are shaved clean, and he is made to lie on the ground under a string-cot; a number of the Balāhis [बलाही] sit on this and wash themselves, letting the water drip from their bodies on to the man below until he is well drenched ; he then gives a feast to the caste-fellows, and is considered to have become a Balāhi [बलाही]. It is reported also that they will receive back into the community Balāhi [बलाही] women who have lived with men of other castes and even with Jains [जैन] and Muhammadans. They will take food from members of these religions and of any Hindu caste, except the most impure."

[Quelle: Russell, R. V. (Robert Vane) <1873-1915> ; Hīra Lāl <Rai Bahadur> [हीरालाल <राय बहादुर>] <1873 - 1923>: The tribes and castes of the Central Provinces of India. -- London: MacMillan, 1916. -- 4 Bde. : Ill. -- Bd. 2. -- S. 105 - 108]

Balāi [बलाई], Balāhi [बलाही] (NW Provinces und Oudh)

"Balāi [बलाई], Balāhi [बलाही]1.—A tribe of weavers and labourers in the Central Duāb [दोआब]. They have no exogamous or endogamous divisions. They marry only in their own caste, but not in the gotra [गोत्र] of their mother or grandmother. They can marry two sisters. There is no prohibition of marriage based on social position, occupation, or sectarial belief. They say themselves that they are the descendants of Panwār Rājputs [पंवार राजपूत], and that their original home is Kota Būndi [कोटा बूंदी] and Bikāner [बीकानेर]. They are settled and not nomadic. They do not admit outsiders into the caste. Marriage is both infant and adult, and sexual license both before and after marriage is not tolerated. Polyandry is prohibited, and polygamy to the extent of two wives is allowed.

2. Marriage.

The marriage is celebrated in the usual way, and the binding part of it is the seven perambulations (bhanwar [भांवर]) round the sacred fire. A Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] priest officiates. Marriage under the form known as Dharaicha is also permitted. This is the form used in widow marriage. The widow can, if she please, live with the younger brother of her late husband; but she can, if she chooses, marry an outsider to the family, and her right of choice is fully recognized. A woman can be expelled for infidelity, and she has the right of appeal to the tribal council. Such a divorced woman can marry again by the Dharaicha form.

3. Religion.   

They are Hindus of the Vaishnava [वैष्णव] sect, and their chief god is Bhagwān [भगवान]. They worship Hanumān [हनुमान] every Tuesday and Saturday, and Devi [देवी] in the months of Chait [चैत्र] and Kuār [क्वार]. Zāhir Pīr [ظاہر پیر] is venerated on the ninth of the first half of Bhādon [भादों], The offerings consist of flowers, sweetmeats, fruits, etc., and after presentation they are consumed by the worshippers. They employ Brāhmans [ब्राह्मण] as priests who do not incur any social discredit by serving them.

4. Disposal of the dead.

The dead are cremated. Poor people leave the ashes at the pyre; wealthier people send them to the Ganges [गंगा]. They perform the usual annual srāddha [श्राद्ध] in the month of Kuār [क्वार].

5. Occupation.

Weaving is their main occupation, but some of them work as masons and day-labourers.

6. Social rules.

They eat  pork and flesh of cloven-footed animals, except the cow. They drink spirits. They will not eat the flesh of monkeys, fish, fowls, crocodiles, lizards, snakes, rats or other vermin, or the leavings of other people. The lowest well known caste with which the caste will eat pakki [पक्की]  is the Nāi [नाई]. They eat kachchi [कच्ची] cooked by Kāyasths [कायस्थ], Gūjars [गूजर] or Ahīrs [अहीर]."

[Quelle: Crooke, William <1848-1923>: The tribes and castes of the North-western Provinces and Oudh. -- Calcutta : Office of the superintendent of government printing, 1896 - 4 Bde. : Ill. -- Bd. 1. -- S. 134f. ]

Bilimagga (Tamil)

"Bilimagga.The Bilimagga weavers of South Canara [ದಕ್ಷಿಣ ಕನ್ನಡ], who speak a very corrupt form of Tamil [தமிழ்], must not be confused with the Bilimaggas of Mysore [ಮೈಸೂರು], whose mother-tongue is Canarese. [ಕನ್ನಡ] In some places the Bilimaggas of South Canara call themselves Padma Sālēs [పద్మశాలీలు], but they have no connection with the Padma Sālē [పద్మశాలీలు] caste. There is a tradition that they emigrated from Pāndiya Maduradēsa in the Tamil country. The caste name Bilimagga (white loom [மக்கம்]) is derived from the fact that they weave only white cloths. In some places, for the same reason, Dēvāngas call themselves Bilimaggas, but the Dēvāngas also make coloured cloths. White cloths are required for certain gods and bhūthas [பூதம்] (devils) on occasions of festivals, and these are usually obtained from Bilimaggas.

The Bilimaggas follow the makkala santāna law of inheritance (from father to son). They are said to have seven gōtras [கோத்திரம்], and those of the Mangalore [ಮಂಗಳೂರು], Kundapur [ಕುಂದಾಪುರ, and Udipi [ಉಡುಪಿ] taluks [ತಾಲ್ಲೂಕು], are stated to belong respectively to the 800, 700, and 500 nagaras. The caste deities are Vīrabhadra [வீரபத்திரர் / ವೀರಭದ್ರ], Brahmalinga [பிரம்மாலிங்கம / ಬ್ರಹ್ಮಲಿಂಗ], and Ammanoru.

For the whole community, there is a chief headman called Paththukku Solra Settigar, or the Setti who advises the ten, and for every village there is an ordinary headman styled Gurikāra. The chief headman is usually the manager of some temple of the caste, and the Gurikāra has to collect the dues from the members of the community. Every married couple has to pay an annual tax of twelve annas, and every unmarried male over twelve years of age of six annas towards the temple fund.

Marriage of girls before puberty is the rule, and any girl who attains maturity without being married runs the risk of losing her caste. The remarriage of widows is permitted. The betrothal ceremony is important as being binding as a contract. It consists in the father of the girl giving betel leaves and areca nuts in a tray to the father of her future husband, before a number of people. If the contract is dissolved before the marriage is celebrated, betel and nuts must be presented to the father of the girl, in the presence of an assembly, as a sign that the engagement is broken off. On the day previous to the marriage ceremonial, the fathers of the contracting couple exchange betel leaves and areca nuts three times. On the following morning, they proceed to the house of the bridegroom, the bride’s father carrying a brass vessel containing water. From this vessel, water is poured into smaller vessels by an odd number of women (five or more). These women are usually selected by the wife of the headman. The pouring of the water must be carried out according to a recognised code of precedence, which varies with the locality. At Udipi [ಉಡುಪಿ], for example, the order is Mangalore [ಮಂಗಳೂರು], Barkūr [ಬಾರ್ಕೂರು], Udipi [ಉಡುಪಿ]. The women all pour water over the head of the bridegroom.

The rite is called mariyāthe nīru [ಮರ್ಯಾದೇ ನೀರು] (water for respect). The bridegroom is then decorated, and a bāshingam (chaplet) is placed on his forehead. He sits in front of a brass vessel, called Ganapathi [ಗಣಪತಿ] (the elephant god), which is placed on a small quantity of rice spread on the floor, and worships it. He is then conducted to the marriage pandal [ಪಾಂಡಲ್] (booth) by his sister’s husband, followed by his sister carrying the brass vessel and a gindi (vessel with a spout), to which the bride’s bāshingam and the tāli [ತಾಳಿ] (marriage badge) are tied. A red cloth, intended for the bride, must also be carried by her. Within the pandal [ಪಾಂಡಲ್], the bridegroom stands in front of a cot. The bride’s party, and the men in attendance on the bridegroom, stand opposite each other with the bridegroom between them, and throw rice over each other. All are then seated, except the bridegroom, his sister, and the bride’s brother. The bridegroom’s father waves incense in front of the cot and brass vessel, and hands over the gindi, and other articles, to the bridegroom’s sister, to be taken to the bride. Lights and ārathi [ಆರತಿ] water are waved before the bridegroom, and, while the bride’s father holds his hands, her brother washes his feet. He then goes seven times round the cot, after he has worshipped it, and broken cocoanuts, varying in number according to the nagara to which he belongs—seven if he is a member of the seven hundred nagara, and so on. He next takes his seat on the cot, and is joined by the bride, who has had the bāshingam put on her forehead, and the tāli [ತಾಳಿ] tied on her neck, by the bridegroom’s sister. Those assembled then call the maternal uncles of the bridal couple, and they approach the cot. The bridegroom’s uncle gives the red cloth already referred to to the uncle of the bride. The bride retires within the house, followed by her maternal uncle, and sits cross-legged, holding her big toes with her hands. Her uncle throws the red cloth over her head, and she covers her face with it. This is called dēvagiri udugarē. The uncle then carries her to the pandal [ಪಾಂಡಲ್], and she sits on the left of the bridegroom. The Gurikāra asks the maternal uncle of the bridegroom to hand over the bride’s money, amounting to twelve rupees or more. He then requests permission of the three nagara people, seven gōtra people, and the relatives of the bride and bridegroom to proceed with the dhāre ceremony. This being accorded, the maternal uncles unite the hands of the pair, and, after the cloth has been removed from the bride’s face, the dhāre water is poured over their hands, first by the bride’s father, and then by the Gurikāra, who, while doing so, declares the union of the couple according to the observances of the three nagaras. Those assembled throw rice on, and give presents to the bride and bridegroom. The presents are called moi, and the act of giving them moi baikradhu (Tamil). Some women wave ārathi [ಆರತಿ], and the pair go inside the house, and sit on a mat. Some milk is given to the bridegroom by the bride’s sister, and, after sipping a little of it, he gives it to the bride. They then return to the pandal [ಪಾಂಡಲ್], and sit on the cot. Rice is thrown over their heads, and ārathi [ಆರತಿ] waved in front of them. The bridegroom drops a ring into a tray, and turmeric-water is poured over it. The couple search for the ring. The wedding ceremonies are brought to a close by bathing in turmeric-water (vokli bath), after which the couple sit on the cot, and those assembled permit the handing over of the bride to the bridegroom’s family (pennu oppuchchu kodukradhu).

Any number of marriages, except three or seven, may be carried on simultaneously beneath a single pandal [ಪಾಂಡಲ್]. If there are more than a single bridal couple, the bāshingam is worn only by the pair who are the elder, or held in most respect. Sometimes, one couple is allowed to wear the bāshingam, and another to have the dhāre water first poured over them.

The dead are cremated. The corpse is carried to the burning-ground on a bier, with a tender plantain leaf placed beneath it. Fire is carried not by the son, but by some other near relative. The ashes are collected on the third day, and a mound (dhūpe) is made therewith. Daily until the final death ceremony, a tender cocoanut, and water in a vessel, are placed near it. In the final death ceremony (bojja), the Bilimaggas closely follow the Bants [ಬಂಟ], except as regards the funeral car. To get rid of death pollution, a Tulu [ತುಳುವ] Madivali (washerman caste) gives cloths to, and sprinkles water over those under pollution.

The caste title is Setti or Chetti."

[Quelle: Thurston, Edgar <1855-1935> ; Rangachari, K. (Kadambi) [கா. இரங்காச்சாரி] <1868 – 1934>: Castes and tribes of southern India / by Edgar Thurston ; assisted by K. Rangachari. -- Madras : Govt. Press, 1909. -- 7 Bde. : Ill. ; 24 cm. -- Bd. 1. -- S. 239 - 243]

Chāliyan (Malayālam)

"Chāliyan.The Chāliyans are a caste of Malayālam [മലയാളം] cotton weavers, concerning whom Mr. Francis writes as follows (Madras Census Report, 1901.):—

“In dress and manners they resemble the artisan castes of Malabar [മലബാര്‍], but, like the Pattar Brāhmans, they live in streets, which fact probably points to their being comparatively recent settlers from the east coast. They have their own barbers called Potuvāns, who are also their purōhits. They do not wear the sacred thread, as the Sālē [శాలీలు] weavers of the east coast do. They practise ancestor worship, but without the assistance of Brāhman priests. This is the only Malabar caste which has anything to do with the right and left-hand faction disputes, and both divisions are represented in it, the left hand being considered the superior. Apparently, therefore, it settled in Malabar some time after the beginnings of this dispute on the east coast, that is, after the eleventh century A.D. Some of them follow the marumakkatāyam [മരുമക്കത്തായം] and others the makkatāyam [മക്കത്തായം] law of inheritance, which looks as if the former were earlier settlers than the latter.”

The Chāliyans are so called because, unlike most of the west coast classes, they live in streets, and Teruvan (teru [തെരുവ്], a street) occurs as a synonym for the caste name. The right-hand section are said to worship the elephant god Ganēsa [ഗണേശ], and the left Bhagavāti.

The following account of the Chāliyans is given in the Gazetteer of the Malabar district:

“ Chāliyans are almost certainly a class of immigrants from the east coast. They live in regular streets, a circumstance strongly supporting this view. The traditional account is to the same effect. It is said that they were originally of a high caste, and were imported by one of the Zāmorins [സാമൂതിരി], who wished to introduce the worship of Ganapathi [ഗണപതി], to which they are much addicted. The latter’s minister, the Mangatt Acchan, who was entrusted with the entertainment of the new arrivals, and was nettled by their fastidiousness and constant complaints about his catering, managed to degrade them in a body by the trick of secretly mixing fish with their food. They do not, like their counterparts on the east coast, wear the thread ; but it is noticeable that their priests, who belong to their own caste, wear it over the right shoulder instead of over the left like the Brāhman’s pūnūl [പൂണൂൽ], when performing certain pūjas [പൂജാ] (worship). In some parts, the place of the regular pūnūl [പൂണൂൽ] is taken by a red scarf or sash worn in the same manner. They are remarkable for being the only caste in Malabar amongst whom any trace of the familiar east coast division into right-hand and left-hand factions is to be found. They are so divided ; and those belonging to the right-hand faction deem themselves polluted by the touch of those belonging to the left-hand sect, which is numerically very weak. They are much addicted to devil-dancing, which rite is performed by certain of their numbers called Kōmarams in honour of Bhagavathi and the minor deities Vettekkorumagan and Gulikan [ഗുളികൻ] (a demon). They appear to follow makkatāyam [മക്കത്തായം] (descent from father to son) in some places, and marumakkatāyam [മരുമക്കത്തായം] (inheritance in the female line) in others. Their pollution period is ten days, and their purification is performed by the Talikunnavan (sprinkler), who belongs to a somewhat degraded section of the caste.”

The affairs of the caste are managed by headmen called Urālans, and the caste barber, or Pothuvan, acts as the caste messenger. Council meetings are held at the village temple, and the fines inflicted on guilty persons are spent in celebrating pūja [പൂജാ] (worship) thereat.

When a girl reaches puberty, the elderly females of Urālan families take her to a tank, and pour water over her head from small cups made of the leaves of the jak (Artocarpus integrifolia [Artocarpus heterophyllus Lam.]) tree. She is made to sit apart on a mat in a room decorated with young cocoanut leaves. Round the mat raw rice and paddy (unhusked rice) are spread, and a vessel containing cocoanut flowers and cocoanuts is placed near her. On the third evening, the washerman (Peruvannān) brings some newly-washed cloths (māttu). He is presented with some rice and paddy, which he ties up in a leaf, and does pūja [പൂജാ]. He then places the cloths on a plank, which he puts on his head. After repeating some songs or verses, he sets it down on the floor. Some of the girl’s female relations take a lighted lamp, a pot of water, a measure of rice, and go three times round the plank. On the following day, the girl is bathed, and the various articles which have been kept in her room are thrown into a river or tank.

Like many other Malabar castes, the Chāliyans perform the tāli kettu ceremony  [താലികെട്ടുകല്യാണം]. Once in several years, the girls of the village who have to go through this ceremony are brought to the house of one of the Urālans, where a pandal [പന്തൽ] (booth) has been set up. Therein a plank, made of the wood of the pāla tree (Alstonia scholaris [(L.) R.Br.]), a lighted lamp, betel leaves and nuts, a measure of raw rice, etc., are placed. The girl takes her seat on the plank, holding in her right hand a mimic arrow (shanthulkōl). The Pothuvan, who receives a fanam (coin) and three bundles of betel leaves for his services, hands the tāli to a male member of an Urālan family, who ties it on the girl’s neck.

On the day before the wedding-day the bridegroom, accompanied by his male relations, proceeds to the house of the bride, where a feast is held. On the following day the bride is bathed, and made to stand before a lighted lamp placed on the floor. The bridegroom’s father or uncle places two gold fanams (coins) in her hands, and a further feast takes place.

In the seventh month of pregnancy, the ceremony called puli kudi [പുളി  കുടി] (or drinking tamarind) is performed. The woman’s brother brings a twig of a tamarind tree, and, after the leaves have been removed, plants it in the yard of the house. The juice is extracted from the leaves, and mixed with the juice of seven cocoanuts. The elderly female relations of the woman give her a little of the mixture. The ceremony is repeated during three days. Birth pollution is removed by a barber woman sprinkling water on the ninth day.

The dead are buried. The son carries a pot of water to the grave, round which he takes it three times. The barber makes a hole in the pot, which is then thrown down at the head of the grave. The barber also tears off a piece of the cloth, in which the corpse is wrapped. This is, on the tenth day, taken by the son and barber to the sea or a tank, and thrown into it. Three stones are set up over the grave.

Chāliyan also occurs as an occupational title or subdivision of Nāyars [നായര്‍], and Chāliannaya as an exogamous sept of Bant [ಬಂಟ]. In the Madras Census Report, 1901, Chāliyan is given as a sub-caste of Vāniyan (oil-pressers). Some Chāliyans are, however, cs by profession."

[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. 11 - 14]

Dēvānga (Telugu, Kannada)

"Dēvānga.The Dēvāngas are a caste of weavers, speaking Telugu [తెలుగు] or Canarese [ಕನ್ನಡ], who are found all over the Madras Presidency. Those whom I studied in the Bellary [ಬಳ್ಳಾರಿ] district connected my operations in a vague way with the pilāg (plague) tax, and collection of subscriptions for the Victoria Memorial. They were employed in weaving women’s sāris in pure cotton, or with a silk border, which were sold to rich merchants in the local bazaar, some of whom belong to the Dēvānga caste. They laughingly said that, though they are professional weavers, they find it cheapest to wear cloths of European manufacture.

Abb.:  Dēvānga

The Dēvāngas are also called Jādaru or Jāda (great men), Dēndra, Dēvara, Dēra, Sēniyan, and Sēdan. At Coimbatore [கோயம்புத்தூர], in the Tamil country [தமிழ் நாடு], they are called Settukkāran (economical people).

The following legend is narrated concerning the origin of the caste. Brahma, having created Manu, told him to weave clothes for Dēvas and men. Accordingly Manu continued to weave for some years, and reached heaven through his piety and virtuous life. There being no one left to weave for them, the Dēvas and men had to wear garments of leaves. Vexed at this, they prayed to Brahma that he would rescue them from their plight. Brahma took them to Siva, who at once created a lustrous spirit, and called him Dēvalan. Struck with the brilliancy thereof, all fled in confusion, excepting Parvati, who remained near Siva. Siva told her that Dēvalan was created to weave clothes, to cover the limbs and bodies of Dēvas and men, whose descendants are in consequence called Dēvāngas (Dēva angam, limb of god). Dēvalan was advised to obtain thread from the lotus stalks springing from the navel of Vishnu, and he secured them after a severe penance. On his way back, he met a Rākshasa, Vajradantan by name, who was doing penance at a hermitage, disguised as a Sanyāsi. Deceived by his appearance, Dēvalan paid homage to him, and determined to spend the night at the hermitage. But, towards the close of the day, the Rishi and his followers threw off their disguise, and appeared in their true colours as Asuras. Dēvalan sought the assistance of Vishnu, and a chakra was given to him, with which he attempted to overthrow the increasing number of Asuras. He then invoked the assistance of Chaudanāyaki or Chaudēswari, who came riding on a lion, and the Asuras were killed off. The mighty Asuras who met their death were Vajradantan (diamond-toothed), Pugainethran (smoke-eyed), Pugaimugan (smoke-faced), Chithrasēnan (leader of armies) and Jeyadrathan (owner of a victory-securing car). The blood of these five was coloured respectively yellow, red, white, green, and black. For dyeing threads of different colours, Dēvalan dipped them in the blood. The Dēvāngas claim to be the descendants of Dēvalan, and say that they are Dēvānga Brāhmans, on the strength of the following stanza, which seems to have been composed by a Dēvānga priest, Sambalinga Murti by name :—

Manu was born in the Brāhman caste.
He was surely a Brāhman in the womb.
There is no Sudraism in this caste.
Dēvānga had the form of Brāhma.

The legendary origin of the Dēvāngas is given as follows in the Baramahal Records (Section III, Inhabitants. Madras Government Press, 1907.

“When Brahma the creator created the charam and acharam, or the animate and inanimate creation, the Dēvatas or gods, Rākshasas or evil demons, and the human race, were without a covering for their bodies, which displeasing the god Narada or reason, he waited upon Paramēshwara or the great Lord at his palace on the Kailāsa Parvata or mount of paradise, and represented the indecent state of the inhabitants of the universe, and prayed that he would be pleased to devise a covering for their nakedness. Paramēshwara saw the propriety of Narada’s request, and thought it was proper to grant it. While he was so thinking, a male sprang into existence from his body, whom he named Dēva angam or the body of God, in allusion to the manner of his birth. Dēva angam instantly asked his progenitor why he had created him. The God answered ‘Repair to the pāla samudram or sea of milk, where you will find Sri Maha Vishnu or the august mighty god Vishnu, and he will tell thee what to do.’ Dēva angam repaired to the presence of Sri Maha Vishnu, and represented that Paramēshwara had sent him, and begged to be favoured with Vishnu’s commands. Vishnu replied ‘Do you weave cloth to serve as a covering to the inhabitants of the universe.’ Vishnu then gave him some of the fibres of the lotus flower that grew from his navel, and taught him how to make it into cloth. Dēva angam wove a piece of cloth, and presented it to Vishnu, who accepted it, and ordered him to depart, and to take the fibres of trees, and make raiment for the inhabitants of the Vishnu loka or gods. Dēva angam created ten thousand weavers, who used to go to the forest and collect the fibre of trees, and make it into cloth for the Dēvatas or gods and the human race. One day, Dēva angam and his tribe went to a forest in the Bhuloka or earthly world, in order to collect the fibre of trees, when he was attacked by a race of Rākshasas or giants, on which he waxed wroth, and, unbending his jata or long plaited hair, gave it a twist, and struck it once on the ground. In that moment, a Shakti, or female goddess having eight hands, each grasping a warlike weapon, sprang from the earth, attacked the Rākshasas, and defeated them. Dēva anga named her Chudēshwari or goddess of the hair, and, as she delivered his tribe out of the hands of the Rākshasas, he made her his tutelary divinity.”

The tribal goddess of the Dēvāngas is Chaudēswari, a form of Kāli or Durga, who is worshipped annually at a festival, in which the entire community takes part either at the temple, or at a house or grove specially prepared for the occasion. During the festival weaving operations cease ; and those who take a prominent part in the rites fast, and avoid pollution. The first day is called alagu nilupadam (erecting, or fixing of the sword). The goddess is worshipped, and a sheep or goat sacrificed, unless the settlement is composed of vegetarian Dēvāngas. One man at least from each sept fasts, remains pure, and carries a sword. Inside the temple, or at the spot selected, the pūjāri (priest) tries to balance a long sword on its point on the edge of the mouth of a pot, while the alagu men cut their chests with the swords. Failure to balance the sword is believed to be due to pollution brought by somebody to get rid of which the alagu men bathe. Cow’s urine and turmeric water are sprinkled over those assembled, and women are kept at a distance to prevent menstrual or other form of pollution. On the next day, called jothi-ārambam (jothi, light or splendour) as Chaudēswari is believed to have sprung from jothi, a big mass is made of rice flour, and a wick, fed with ghi (clarified butter) and lighted, is placed in a cavity scooped out therein. This flour lamp must be made by members of a pājāri’s family assisted sometimes by the alagu boys. In its manufacture, a quantity of rice is steeped in water, and poured on a plantain leaf. Jaggery (crude sugar) is then mixed with it, and, when it is of the proper consistency, it is shaped into a cone, and placed on a silver or brass tray. On the third day, called pānaka pūja or māhanēvedyam, jaggery water is offered, and cocoanuts, and other offerings are laid before the goddess. The rice mass is divided up, and given to the pūjāri, setti, alagu men and boys, and to the community, to which small portions are doled out in a particular order, which must be strictly observed. For example, at Tindivanam [திண்டிவனம்] the order is as follows:—

  • Setti (headman).
  • Dhondapu family. 
  • Bapatla family.
  • Kosanam family.
  • Modanam family.

Fire-walking does not form part of the festival, as the goddess herself sprang from fire.

In some places in the North Arcot [வடாற்காடு] district the festival lasts over ten days, and varies in some points from the above. On the first day, the people go in procession to a jammi (Prosopis spicigera [Prosopis cineraria (L.) Druce]) tree, and worship a decorated pot (kalasam [கலசம்]), to which sheep and goats are sacrificed. From the second to the sixth day, the goddess and pot are worshipped daily. On the seventh day, the jammi tree is again visited, and a man carries on his back cooked rice, which may not be placed on the ground, except near the tree, or at the temple. If the rice is not set down en route thereto, it is accepted as a sign that the festival may be proceeded with. Otherwise they would be afraid to light the joti on the ninth day. This is a busy day, and the ceremonies of sandhulu kattadam (binding the corners), alagu erecting, lighting the flour mass, and pot worship are performed. Early in the morning, goats and sheep are killed, outside the village boundary, in the north, east, south, and west corners, and the blood is sprinkled on all sides to keep off all foreign ganams or saktis. The sword business, as already described, is gone through, and certain tests applied to see whether the joti may be lighted. A lime fruit is placed in the region of the navel of the idol, who should throw it down spontaneously. A bundle of betel leaves is cut across with a knife, and the cut ends should unite. If the omens are favourable, the joti is lighted, sheep and goats are killed, and pongal (rice) is offered to the joti. The day closes with worship of the pot. On the last day the rice mass is distributed. All Dēvānga guests from other villages have to be received and treated with respect according to the local rules, which are in force. For this purpose, the community divide their settlements into Sthalams, Pāyakattulu, Galugrāmatulu, Pētalu, and Kurugrāmālu, which have a definite order of precedence.

Among the Dēvāngas the following endogamous sections occur :—

  1. Telugu [తెలుగు] ;
  2. Canarese [ಕನ್ನಡ] ;
  3. Hathinentu Manayavaru (eighteen house people);
  4. Sivachara;
  5. Ariya ;
  6. Kodekal Hatakararu (weavers).

They are practically divided into two linguistic sections, Canarese [ಕನ್ನಡ] and Telugu [తెలుగు], of which the former have adopted the Brāhmanical ceremonials to a greater extent than the latter, who are more conservative. Those who wear the sacred thread seem to preponderate over the non-thread weavers in the Canarese section. To the thread is sometimes attached metal charm-cylinder to ward off evil spirits.

The following are examples of exogamous septs in the Telugu [తెలుగు] section :—

  • Ākasam [ఆకాశం], sky.
  • Anumala, seeds of Dolichos lablab [Lablab purpureus (L.) Sweet].
  • Boggula [బొగ్గు], charcoal.
  • Bandla, rock or cart.
  • Chintakai, tamarind fruit. 
  • Challa, buttermilk. 
  • Chapparam [ಚಪ್ಪರ], pandal or booth. 
  • Dhoddi, cattle-pen, or courtyard.
  • Dhuggāni, money.
  • Yerra, red.
  • Konda, mountain.
  • Kaththi [కత్తి], knife.
  • Bandāri (treasurer).
  • Būsam, grain.
  • Dhondapu [దొండపు] (Cephalandra indica [Coccinia grandis (L.) Voigt]).
  • Elugoti, assembly.
  • Gattu, bank or mound.
  • Paidam, money. 
  • Gonapala, old plough. 
  • Gosu, pride.
  • Jigala, pith.
  • Katta, a dam.
  • Kompala, houses.
  • Kōnangi, buffoon.
  • Kātikala, collyrium.
  • Kaththiri, scissors.
  • Mōksham, heaven.
  • Pasupala, turmeric.
  • Pidakala, dried cow-dung cakes.
  • Pōthula, male.
  • Pachi powaku, green tobacco.
  • Padavala [పడవ], boat.
  • Pouzala, a bird.
  • Pammi, clay lamp.
  • Thalakōka, female cloth.
  • Thūtla, hole.
  • Utla, ropes for hanging pots.
  • Vasthrāla [వస్త్రాల], cloths.
  • Matam, monastery.
  • Madira, liquor or heap of earth.
  • Mēdam, fight.
  • Māsila, dirt.
  • Olikala, funeral pyre and ashes.
  • Prithvi, earth.
  • Peraka, tile.
  • Punjala, cock or male.
  • Pinjala, cotton-cleaning.
  • Pichchiga [పిచ్చిక], sparrow.
  • Sika (kudumi: tuft of hair).
  • Sandala [సందల], lanes.
  • Santha, a fair.
  • Sajje (Setaria italica [(L.) P. Beauvois]).

The majority of Dēvāngas are Saivites [శైవము], and wear the lingam [లింగము]. They do not, however, wash the stone lingam with water, in which the feet of Jangams [జంగం] have been washed. They are not particular as to always keeping the lingam on the body, and give as an explanation that, when they are at work, they have to touch all kinds of people. Some said that merchants, when engaged in their business, should not wear the lingam, especially if made of spatikam [స్ఫటికము] (quartz), as they have to tell untruths as regards the value and quality of their goods, and ruin would follow if these were told while the lingam was on the body.

In some parts of Ganjam [ଗଞ୍ଜାମ], the country folk keep a large number of Brāhmini bulls. When one of these animals dies, very elaborate funeral ceremonies take place, and the dead beast is carried in procession by Dēvāngas, and buried by them. As the Dēvāngas are Lingāyats [లింగాయతి], they have a special reverence for Basavanna [బసవన్న], the sacred bull, and the burying of the Brāhmini bull is regarded by them as a sacred and meritorious act. Other castes do not regard it as such, though they often set free sacred cows or calves.

Dēvāngas and Padma Sālēs [పద్మశాలీలు] never live in the same street, and do not draw water from the same well. This is probably due to the fact that they belong to the left and right-hand factions respectively, and no love is lost between them. Like other left-hand castes, Dēvāngas have their own dancing-girls, called Jāthi-biddalu [జాతిపిల్లలు] (children of the castes), whose male offspring do achchupani, printing-work on cloth, and occasionally go about begging from Dēvāngas. In the Madras Census Report, 1901, it is stated that

“in Madura [மதுரை] and Tinnevelly [திருநெல்வேலி], the Dēvāngas, or Sēdans, consider themselves a shade superior to the Brāhmans, and never do namaskāram [నమస్కారం] (obeisance or salutation) to them, or employ them as priests. In Madura [மதுரை]  and Coimbatore [கோயம்புத்தூர], the Sēdans have their own dancing-girls, who are called Dēvānga or Seda Dāsis [தாசி] in the former, and Mānikkāttāl in the latter, and are strictly reserved for members of the caste under pain of excommunication or heavy fine.”

Concerning the origin of the Dēvānga beggars, called Singamvādu, the following legend is current. When Chaudēswari and Dēvālan were engaged in combat with the Asuras, one of the Asuras hid himself behind the ear of the lion, on which the goddess was seated. When the fight was over, he came out, and asked for pardon. The goddess took pity on him, and ordered that his descendants should be called Singamvāllu, and asked Dēvalan to treat them as servants, and support them. Dēvāngas give money to these beggars, who have the privilege of locking the door, and carrying away the food, when the castemen take their meals. In assemblies of Dēvāngas, the hand of the beggar serves as a spittoon. He conveys the news of death, and has as the insignia of office a horn, called thuththari or singam.

The office of headman, or Pattagar, is hereditary, and he is assisted by an official called Sesha-rāju or Umidisetti who is the servant of the community, and receives a small fee annually for each loom within his beat.

Widow remarriage is permitted in some places, and forbidden in others. There may be intermarriage between the flesh-eating and vegetarian sections. But a girl who belongs to a flesh-eating family, and marries into a vegetarian family, must abstain from meat, and may not touch any vessel or food in her husband’s family till she has reached puberty. Before settling the marriage of a girl, some village goddess, or Chaudēswari, is consulted, and the omens are watched. A lizard chirping on the right is a good omen, and on the left bad. Sometimes, red and white flowers, wrapped up in green leaves, are thrown in front of the idol, and the omen considered good or bad according to the flower which a boy or girl picks up. At the marriage ceremony which commences with distribution of pān-supāri (betel) and Vignēswara worship, the bride is presented with a new cloth, and sits on a three-legged stool or cloth-roller (dhonige). The maternal uncle puts round her neck a bondhu (strings of unbleached cotton) dipped in turmeric. The ceremonies are carried out according to the Purānic ritual, except by those who consider themselves to be Dēvānga Brāhmans. On the first day the milk post is set up being made of Odina Wodier [Lannea coromandelica (Houtt.) Merr.]in the Tamil [தமிழ்], and Mimusops hexandra [Manilkara hexandra (Roxb.) Dubard] in the Telugu [తెలుగు] country. Various rites are performed, which include tonsure, upanayanam (wearing the sacred thread), pāapūjā (washing the feet), Kāsiyātra (mock pilgrimage to Benares), dhārādhattam (giving away the bride), and māngalyadhāranam (tying the marriage badge, or bottu). The proceedings conclude with pot searching. A pap-bowl and ring are put into a pot. If the bride picks out the bowl, her firstborn will be a girl, and if the bridegroom gets hold of the ring, it will be a boy. On the fifth day, a square design is made on the floor with coloured rice grains. Between the contracting couple and the square a row of lights is placed. Four pots are set, one at each corner of the square, and eight pots arranged along each side thereof. On the square itself, two pots representing Siva and Uma, are placed, with a row of seedling pots near them. A thread is wound nine times round the pots representing the god and goddess, and tied above to the pandal [பந்தல்]. After the pots have been worshipped, the thread is cut, and worn, with the sacred thread, for three months. This ceremony is called Nāgavali.

When a girl reaches puberty, a twig of Alangium Lamarckii [Alangium salviifolium (L. f.) Wangerin] is placed in the menstrual hut to keep off devils.

The dead are generally buried in a sitting posture. Before the grave is filled in, a string is tied to the kudumi (hair knot) of the corpse, and, by its means, the head is brought near the surface. Over it a lingam is set up, and worshipped daily throughout the death ceremonies.

The following curious custom is described by Mr. C. Hayavadana Rao. Once in twelve years, a Dēvānga leaves his home, and joins the Padma Sālēs [పద్మశాలీలు]. He begs from them, saying that he is the son of their caste, and as such entitled to be supported by them. If alms are not forthcoming, he enters the house, and carries off whatever he may be able to pick up. Sometimes, if he can get nothing else, he has been known to seize a lighted cigar in the mouth of a Sālē [శాలీలు], and run off with it. The origin of this custom is not certain, but it has been suggested that the Dēvāngas and Sālēs [శాలీలు] were originally one caste, and that the former separated from the latter when they became Lingāyats. A Dēvānga only becomes a Chinērigādu when he is advanced in years, and will eat the remnants of food left by Padma Sālēs [పద్మశాలీలు] on their plates. A Chinērigādu is, on his death, buried by the Sālēs [శాలీలు].

Many of the Dēvāngas are short of stature, light skinned, with sharp-cut features, light-brown iris, and delicate tapering fingers. Those at Hospet [ಹೊಸಪೇಟೆ], in the Bellary [ಬಳ್ಳಾರಿ] district, carried thorn tweezers (for removing thorns of Acacia arabica [Vachellia nilotica (L.) P.J.H.Hurter & Mabb.] from the feet), tooth-pick and ear-scoop, suspended as a chatelaine from the loin-string. The more well-to-do had these articles made of silver, with the addition of a silver saw for paring the nails and cutting cheroots. The name Pampanna [पंपण्णा], which some of them bore, is connected with the nymph Pampa [ಪಂಪಾ], who resides at Hampi [ಹಂಪೆ], and asked Paramēswara [ಪರಮೇಶ್ವರ] to become her husband. He accordingly assumed the name of Pampāpathi [ಪಂಪಾಪತಿ], in whose honour there is a tank at Anagūndi [ಆನೆಗೊಂದಿ], and temple at Hampi [ಹಂಪೆ]. He directed Pampa to live in a pond, and pass by the name of Pampasarovara [ಪಂಪಾಸರೋವರ].

The Sēdans of Coimbatore [கோயம்புத்தூர], at the time of my visit in October, were hard at work making clothes for the Dīpāvali [தீபாவளி] festival. It is at times of festivals and marriages, in years of prosperity among the people, that the weavers reap their richest harvest.

In the Madras Census Report, 1901, Bilimagga (white loom) and Atagāra (weavers and exorcists) are returned as sub-castes of Dēvānga. The usual title of the Dēvāngas is Chetti.

The shortness of stature of some of the weaving classes which I have examined is brought out by the following average measurements :—

Padma Sālē [పద్మశాలీలు] 159ˈ9
Sūkūn Sālē 160ˈ3
Togata 160ˈ5
Suka Sālē 161ˈ1


[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. 154 - 166]

Julāha [جولاہا], Momin [مومن] (Central Provinces)

Julāha [جولاہا], Momin [مومن].—A low Muhammadan caste of weavers resident mainly in Saugor [सागर] and Burhānpur [बुढ़हानपुर]. They numbered about 4000 persons in 1911. In Nāgpur [नागपूर] District the Muhammadan weavers generally call themselves Momin [مومن], a word meaning ‘ orthodox.’ In northern India and Bengal [বঙ্গ] Julāhas [جولاہا] are very numerous and the bulk of them are probably converted Hindus. Mr. (Sir Denzil) Ibbetson remarks:

“We find Koli-Julāhas [جولاہا], Chamār [चमार]-Julāhas [جولاہا], Morhi-Julāhas [جولاہا], Ramdāsi [रामदासी]-Julāhas [جولاہا], and so forth ; and it is probable that after a few generations these men will drop the prefix which denotes their low origin and become Julāhas [جولاہا] pure and simple.” 2

2 Punjāb Ethnography, para. 612.

The Julāhas [جولاہا] claim Adam [آدم] as the founder of their craft, inasmuch as when Satan made him realise his nakedness he taught the art of weaving to his sons. And they say that their ancestors came from Arabia. In Nimār [निमाड़] the Julāhas [جولاہا] or Momins [مومن] assert that they do not permit outsiders to be admitted as members of the caste, but the accuracy of this is doubtful, while in Saugor [सागर] any Muhammadan who wishes to do so may become a Julāha [جولاہا]. They follow the Muhammadan laws of marriage and inheritance. Unions between relatives are favoured, but a man may not marry his sister, niece, aunt or foster-sister. The Julāha [جولاہا] or Momin [مومن] women observe no purda [پرده], and are said to be almost unique among Muhammadans in this respect.

“The Musalman weaver or Julāha [جولاہا],” Sir G. Grierson writes1, “ is the proverbial fool of Hindu stories and proverbs. He swims in the moonlight across fields of flowering linseed, thinking the blue colour to be caused by water. He hears his family priest reading the Koran, and bursts into tears to the gratification of the reader. When pressed to tell what part affected him most, he says it was not that, but that the wagging beard of the old gentleman so much reminded him of a favourite goat of his which had died. When forming one of a company of twelve he tries to count them and finding himself missing wants to perform his own funeral obsequies. He finds the rear peg of a plough and wants to set up farming on the strength of it. He gets into a boat at night and forgets to pull up the anchor. After rowing till dawn he finds himself where he started, and concludes that the only explanation is that his native village could not bear to lose him and has followed him. If there are eight weavers and nine huqqas [حقہ], they fight for the odd one. Once on a time a crow carried off to the roof of the house some bread which a weaver had given his child. Before giving the child any more he took the precaution of removing the ladder. Like the English fool he always gets unmerited blows. For instance, he once went to see a ram-fight and got butted himself, as the saying runs :

Karigah chhor tamāsa jay
Nahak chot
Julāha khay.

‘He left his loom to see the fun and for no reason got a bruising.’ Another story (told by Fallon) is that being told by a soothsayer that it was written in his fate that his nose would be cut off with an axe, the weaver was incredulous and taking up an axe, kept flourishing it, saying—

Yon karba ta gor kātbon
Yon karba ta hāth kātbon 
Aar yon karba tab nā-

‘ If I do so I cut off my leg, if I do so I cut off my hand, but
unless I do
so my no- and his nose was off.

Another proverb

Julāha jānathi jo katai,

‘Does a weaver know how to cut barley,’ refers to a story (in Fallon) that a weaver unable to pay his debt was set to cut barley by his creditor, who thought to repay himself in this way. But instead of reaping, the stupid fellow kept trying to untwist the tangled barley stems. Other proverbs at his expense are: ‘ The Julāha [جولاہا] went out to cut the grass at sunset, when even the crows were going home.’ ‘The Julāha [جولاہا]’s brains are in his backside.’ His wife bears an equally bad character, as in the proverb: ‘A wilful Julāhin will pull her own father’s beard.’ ”@

[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. 279ff.]

Julāha [جولاہا], Jolāha (NW Provinces und Oudh)

"Julāha [جولاہا], Jolāhathe Muhammadan weaving caste. It has been supposed that they represent some menial Hindu weaving caste who were converted wholesale to Islam. On the other hand, it is possible that they may have grown up among the Muhammadan body. But there seems good reason to believe that they are an occupational caste recruited from diverse sources. Thus as Mr. Ibbetson remarks

“we find Koli [कोली] Julāhas [جولاہا], Chamār [चमार] Julāhas [جولاہا], Mochi [मोची] Julāhas [جولاہا], Rāmdāsi [रामदासी] Julāhas [جولاہا], and so forth: and it is probable that after a few generations these men will drop the prefix which denotes their low origin and become Julāhas [جولاہا] pure and simple.'’1

1 Panjāb Ethnography, para. 612.

2. The Parsotiya [पारसोतिया] Julāha [جولاہا] of Rohilkhand [रोहिलखंड] is a Hindu and apparently only a variety of Kori [कोरी] Julāhas [جولاہا] at the last Census recorded themselves in 244 sections of the usual type. These seem to have no influence on marriage. Many of these suggest a connection with other tribes and sects, such as

  • Bais,
  • Banya [बनिया],
  • Bargūjar [वड़गूजर], 
  • Bhangi [भंगी],
  • Bhāt [भाट],
  • Bisen [बिसेन],
  • Chamār [चमार],
  • Chauhān [चौहान],
  • Gaur [गौर],
  • Koli [कोली],
  • Rājput [राजपूत], 
  • Tamoli [तमोली],
  • Teli [तेली],
  • Tomar [तोमर].

Others represent local settlements as

  • Bahrāichiya [बहराइचिया],
  • Chaurasiya [चौरसिया],
  • Faizābādi [फ़ैज़ाबादी],
  • Gangapāri [गंगापारी],
  • Haidarābādi [हैदराबादी],
  • Hasanpuri [हसनपुरी], 
  • Kanaujiya [कन्नौजिया],
  • Kānhpuriya,
  • Khairābādi [खैराबादी],
  • Mathuriya [मथुरिया],
  • Mirzapuri [मिर्ज़ापुरी],
  • Multāni [मुल्तानी],
  • Purabiya [पुरबीया],
  • Sarwariya [सरवाडिया],
  • Shahābādi [शाहाबादी] and
  • Uttarāha [उत्तराहा].

Others again are of the regular Muhammadan type :

  • Madāri [ماداري],
  • Muhammadi [محمدي], 
  • Momin [مؤمن],
  • Mughal [مغل],
  • Pathān [پٹھان],
  • Shaikh [شيخ],
  • Sadīqi [صديقي] and
  • Sunni [سُنِّي].

3.  The word Julāha [جولاہا] is of Persian origin (julāh [جولا], Julāha [جولاہا], a weaver, jula julla, a ball of thread). Julāhas [جولاہا] generally object to the name and call themselves Mumin [مؤمن] or Momin [مؤمن] or orthodox; Nūrbāf “ weavers in white.” Julāhas [جولاہا] are very clannish and usually intermarry in families with whom they have been accustomed to eat and smoke for generations. They say they are the direct descendants of Adam [אָדָם], who, when Satan [שָׂטָן] made him realise his nakedness, taught the art of weaving to his sons. They do not profess to admit outsiders into the caste, but this undoubtedly often occurs, and, as above stated, the caste is almost certainly recruited from persons who assume the name of Julāha [جولاہا] as an occupational title.

4. They follow the Muhammadan rules of marriage and inheritance. They are particularly careful in forbidding the intermarriage of foster children. A man cannot have two sisters to wife at the same time.1 Many of them in the villages revere the local gods, and some worship Māta [माता] Bhawāni [भवानी]. They also pay great respect to the tombs of saints and martyrs. They offer food, sweets and cakes to the sainted dead at the festivals of the Īd [عيد] and Shab-i-barāt [شبِ برات] and offer to them goats and rams at the Bakrīd [بقر عید].

1 Writing of Bengal [বঙ্গ], Mr. O'Donnel says "Although in Bengal proper the Shaikh [شيخ] is usually a petty cultivator, he ranks above the Jolāha [جولاہا] or weaver. In Eastern Bengal the Shaikh [شيخ] young man marries at about 21 years of age, and the Jolāha [جولاہا] two years earlier ; while the Jolāha [جولاہا] girl is married at 11 years and the Shaikh [شيخ] girl a month or two over 12 years. Ten per cent, of the former under ten years of age are given in marriage and less than five of the latter. Much the same state of things exists in other parts of Bengal proper ; but as noticed before, the age of wedlock is lower in Western Bengal, the local practice being probably influenced by Hindu example." Census Report, 210.

5. Occupation and social rules. 

The business of the Julāha [جولاہا] has sadly decreased in consequence of the introduction of foreign cloth. Many have now taken to cultivation and various forms of labour. The Julāha [جولاہا] generally bears the character of being cowardly, pretentious, factious and bigoted. They took a leading part in the recent Benares [वाराणसी] riots and some of the worst outrages in the Mutiny were their work. In the villages the Julāha [جولاہا] is looked on as a fool, and a butt of the agricultural classes who are always jeering at his ignorance of crops.

  • “The Julāha’s goat and given to viciousness” (Julāhē ki chheri markahi). 
  • “Eight weavers quarrelling over nine pipes” (āth Julāha nau huqqa, jis par bhi thukkam thkka).
  • “The Julāha [جولاہا] steals a reel of thread at a time, but God makes him lose all at once.” (Julāha chūravē nali nali, khuda chūravē ekke beri).
  • “The arrow of the weaver” (Julāhē ka tīr).
  • “ What the Kamboh wins the Julāha [جولاہا] eats” (Jitē Kamboh khāē Julāha)
  • “If you were going to turn Muhammadan you might do so in a less disreputable place than a Julāha’s house ” (Turk bhay to Julāhē ke ghar).
  • Julāhē ki’aql gudē men hoti hai. “The Julāha’s [جولاہا] brains are in his baekside.”
  • Khet khāē gadha, maral jāē Julāha —“ The ass eats the crop and the Julāha [جولاہا] gets thrashed.”

One proverb embodies a curious pieee of folklore. 

  • Julāha bhutiaile tīsi khet—“The Julāha [جولاہا] lost his way in a linseed field.”

A Julāha [جولاہا] is supposed to have taken the linseed field covered with blue flowers for a river and tried to swim in it. As a parallel, Mr. Christian1 quotes from Kingsley’s “ The Roman and the Teuton’’—“A madness from God came over the Herules, and when they came to a field of flax, they took the blue flowers for water and spread out their arms to swim through and were all slaughtered defencelessly.” He might have added that the same tale appears in No. 149 of Grimm’s German Stories.

1 Behar Proverbs, 137"

[Quelle: Crooke, William <1848-1923>: The tribes and castes of the North-western Provinces and Oudh. -- Calcutta : Office of the superintendent of government printing, 1896 - 4 Bde. : Ill. -- Bd. 3. -- S. 69ff.]

Kaikōlan [கைக்கோலர்] (Tamil)

"Kaikōlan [கைக்கோலர்],The Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்] are a large caste of Tamil [தமிழ்] weavers found in all the southern districts, who also are found in considerable numbers in the Telugu [తెలుగు] country, where they have adopted the Telugu [తెలుగు] language. A legend is current that the Nāyakkan [நாயக்கர்கள்] kings of Madura [மதுரை] were not satisfied with the workmanship of the Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்], and sent for foreign weavers from the north (Patnūlkārans), whose descendants now far out-number the Tamil weavers. The word Kaikōlan [கைக்கோலர்] is the Tamil [தமிழ்] equivalent of the Sanskrit Vīrabāhu, a mythological hero, from whom both the Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்] and a section of the Paraiyans [பறையர்] claim descent. The Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்] are also called Sengundar [செங்குந்தர்] (red dagger) in connection with the following legend.

“The people of the earth, being harassed by certain demons, applied to Siva [சிவன்] for help. Siva was enraged against the giants, and sent forth six sparks of fire from his eyes. His wife, Parvati [பார்வதி], was frightened, and retired to her chamber, and, in so doing, dropped nine beads from her anklets. Siva converted the beads into as many females, to each of whom was born a hero with full-grown moustaches and a dagger. These nine heroes, with Subramanya [சுப்பிரமணிய] at their head, marched in command of a large force, and destroyed the demons. The Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்] or Sengundar [செங்குந்தர்] are said to be the descendants of Vīrabāhu, one of these heroes. After killing the demon, the warriors were told by Siva that they should become musicians, and adopt a profession, which would not involve the destruction or injury of any living creature, and, weaving being such a profession, they were trained in it.” (Madras Census Report, 1891.)

According to another version, Siva [சிவன்] told Parvati [பார்வதி] that the world would be enveloped in darkness if he should close his eyes. Impelled by curiosity, Parvati closed her husband’s eyes with her hands. Being terrified by the darkness, Parvati ran to her chamber, and, on the way thither, nine precious stones fell from her anklets, and turned into nine fair maidens, with whom Siva became enamoured and embraced them. Seeing later on that they were pregnant, Parvati uttered a curse that they should not bring forth children formed in their wombs. One Padmasura was troubling the people in this world, and, on their praying to Siva to help them, he told Subramanya [சுப்பிரமணிய] to kill the Asura [அசுரர்]. Parvati requested Siva not to send Subramanya [சுப்பிரமணிய] by himself, and he suggested the withdrawal of her curse. Accordingly, the damsels gave birth to nine heroes, who, carrying red daggers, and headed by Subramanya [சுப்பிரமணிய], went in search of the Asura, and killed him. The word kaikōl is said to refer to the ratnavēl or precious dagger carried by Subramanya [சுப்பிரமணிய]. The Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்], on the Sura Samharam [சூரசம்ஹாரம்] day during the festival of Subramanya [சுப்பிரமணிய], dress themselves up to represent the nine warriors, and join in the procession.

The name Kaikōlan [கைக்கோலர்] is further derived from kai [கை] (hand), and koi (shuttle). The Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்] consider the different parts of the loom to represent various Dēvatas [தேவதா] and Rishis [இருஷி]. The thread is said to have been originally obtained from the lotus stalk rising from Vishnu’s [விஷ்ணு] navel. Several Dēvas [தேவன்] formed the threads, which make the warp; Nārada [நாரதர்] became the woof; and Vēdamuni the treadle. Brahma [பிரம்மா] transformed himself into the plank (padamaram), and Adisēsha [ஆதிசேஷன்] into the main rope.

In some places, the following sub-divisions of the caste are recognised :—

  • Sōzhia ;
  • Rattu ;
  • Siru-tāli [சிருதாலி] (small marriage badge);
  • Peru-tāli [பெருதாலி] (big marriage badge) ; 
  • Sirpādam, and
  • Sevaghavritti.

The women of the Siru [சிரு] and Peru-tāli [பெருதாலி] divisions wear a small and large tāli [தாலி] respectively.

In religion, most of the Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்] are Saivites [சைவ], and some have taken to wearing the lingam [லிங்கமும்], but a few are Vaishnavites [வைஷ்ணவ].

The hereditary headman of the caste is called Peridanakāran or Pattakāran, and is, as a rule, assisted by two subordinates entitled Sengili or Grāmani, and Ūral. But, if the settlement is a large one, the headman may have as many as nine assistants.

According to Mr. H. A. Stuart (Manual of the North Arcot district,),

 “the Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்] acknowledge the authority of a headman, or Mahānāttan, who resides at Conjeeveram [காஞ்சிபுரம], but itinerates among their villages, receiving presents, and settling caste disputes. Where his decision is not accepted without demur, he imposes upon the refractory weavers the expense of a curious ceremony, in which the planting of a bamboo post takes part. From the top of this pole the Mahānāttan pronounces his decision, which must be acquiesced in on pain of excommunication.”

From information gathered at Conjeeveram [காஞ்சிபுரம], I learn that there is attached to the Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்] a class of mendicants called Nattukattāda Nāyanmar. The name means the Nāyanmar [நாயன்மார்] who do not plant, in reference to the fact that, when performing, they fix their bamboo pole to the gōpuram [கோபுரம்] of a temple, instead of planting it in the ground. They are expected to travel about the country, and, if a caste dispute requires settlement, a council meeting is convened, at which they must be present as the representatives of the mahānādu [மஹாநாடு], a chief Kaikōlan [கைக்கோலர்] head-quarters at Conjeeveram. If the dispute is a complicated one, the Nattukattāda Nāyanmar goes to all the Kaikōlan [கைக்கோலர்] houses, and makes a red mark with laterite on the cloth in the loom, saying “ Āndvarānai,” as signifying that it is done by order of the headman. The Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்] may, after this, not go on with their work until the dispute is settled, for the trial of which a day is fixed. The Nattukattāda Nāyanmars set up on a gōpuram [கோபுரம்] their pole, which should have seventy-two internodes, and measure at least as many feet. The number of internodes corresponds to that of the nādus [நாடு] into which the Kaikōlan [கைக்கோலர்] community is divided. Kamātchiamma [காமாட்சி அம்மன்] is worshipped, and the Nattukattāda Nāyanmars climb up the pole, and perform various feats. Finally, the principal actor balances a young child in a tray on a bamboo, and, letting go of the bamboo, catches the falling child. The origin of the performance is said to have been as follows. The demon Sūran was troubling the Dēvas [தேவன் ] and men, and was advised by Karthikēya (Subramanya [சுப்பிரமணிய]) and Vīrabāhu to desist from so doing. He paid no heed, and a fight ensued. The demon sent his son Vajrabāhu to meet the enemy, and he was slain by Vīrabāhu, who displayed the different parts of his body in the following manner. The vertebral column was made to represent a pole, round which the other bones were placed, and the guts tightly wound round them. The connective tissues were used as ropes to support the pole. The skull was used as a jaya-mani (conquest bell), and the skin hoisted as a flag. The trident of Vīrabāhu was fixed to the top of the pole, and, standing over it, he announced his victory over the world. The Nattukattāda Nāyanmars claim to be the descendants of Vīrabāhu. Their head-quarters are at Conjeeveram [காஞ்சிபுரம]. They are regarded as slightly inferior to the Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்], with whom ordinarily they do not intermarry. The Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்] have to pay them as alms a minimum fee of four annas per loom annually.

Another class of mendicant, called Ponnambalaththar, which is said to have sprung up recently, poses as true caste beggars attached to the Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்], from whom, as they travel about the country, they solicit alms. Some Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்] gave Ontipuli as the name of their caste beggars. The Ontipulis, however, are Nokkans attached to the Pallis.

The Kaikōlan [கைக்கோலர்] community is, as already indicated, divided into seventy-two nādus [நாடு] or dēsams, viz., forty-four mēl [மேல்] (western) and twenty-eight kīl [கீழ்] (eastern) nādus. Intermarriages take place between members of seventy-one of these nādus. The great Tamil [தமிழ்] poet Ottaikuththar [ஒட்டக்கூத்தர், 12. Jhdt.] is said to have belonged to the Kaikōlan [கைக்கோலர்] caste and to have sung the praises of all castes except his own. Being angry on this account, the Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்] urged him to sing in praise of them. This he consented to do, provided that he received 1,008 human heads. Seventy-one nādus sent the first-born sons for the sacrifice, but one nādu (Tirumarudhal) refused to send any. This refusal led to their isolation from the rest of the community. 

All the nādus [நாடு] are subject to the authority of four thisai nādus, and these in turn are controlled by the mahānādu [மஹாநாடு] at Conjeeveram [காஞ்சிபுரம]. which is the residence of the patron deity Kamatchiamman [காமாட்சி அம்மன்].

The thisai nādus are

  1. Sivapuram (Walajabad [வாலாஜாபாத்]), east of Conjeeveram, where Kamatchiamman [காமாட்சி அம்மன்] is said to have placed Nandi [நந்தி] as a guard ;
  2. Thondipuram, where Thondi Vinayakar [தொண்டி விநாயகர்] was stationed;
  3. Virinjipuram to the west, guarded by Subramanya [சுப்பிரமணிய];
  4. Sholingipuram to the south, watched over by Bairava [பைரவர்].

Each of the seventy-one nādus is sub-divided into kilai grāmams [கிளை கிராமம்] (branch villages), perur (big) and sithur [சிட்டு] (little) grāmams.

In Tamil [தமிழ்] works relating to the Sengundar [செங்குந்தர்] caste, Conjeeveram  [காஞ்சிபுரம] is said to be the mahānādu [மஹாநாடு], and those belonging thereto are spoken of as the nineteen hundred, who are entitled to respect from other Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்]. Another name for Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்] of the mahānādu seems to be Andavar ; but in practice this name is confined to the headman of the mahānādu [மஹாநாடு], and members of his family. They have the privilege of sitting at council meetings with their backs supported by pillows, and consequently bear the title Thindusarndān (resting on pillows). At present there are two sections of Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்] at Conjeeveram, one living at Ayyampettai [அய்யம்பேட்டை], and the other at Pillaipālayam [பிள்ளை பாளையம்]. The former claim Ayyampettai as the mahānādu [மஹாநாடு], and refuse to recognise Pillaipālayam, which is in the heart of Conjeeveram, as the mahānādu [மஹாநாடு]. Disputes arose, and recourse was had to the Vellore [வேலூர்] Court in 1904, where it was decided that Ayyampettai possesses no claim to be called the mahānādu [மஹாநாடு].

Many Kaikōlan families have now abandoned their hereditary employment as weavers in favour of agriculture and trade, and some of the poorer members of the caste work as cart-drivers and coolies. At Coimbatore [கோயம்புத்தூர] some hereditary weavers have become cart-drivers, and some cart-drivers have become weavers de nécessité in the local jail.

In every Kaikōlan family, at least one girl should be set apart for, and dedicated to temple service. And the rule seems to be that, so long as this girl or her descendants, born to her or adopted, continue to live, another girl is not dedicated. But, when the line becomes extinct, another girl must be dedicated. All the Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்] deny their connection with the Dēva-dāsi [தேவதாசி] (dancing-girl) caste. But Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்] freely take meals in Dāsi houses on ceremonial occasions, and it would not be difficult to cite cases of genuine Dāsis who have relationship with rich Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்].

Kaikōlan girls are made Dāsis [தாசி] either by regular dedication to a temple, or by the headman tying the tāli [தாலி] (nāttu pottu). The latter method is at the present day adopted because it is considered a sin to dedicate a girl to the god after she has reached puberty, and because the securing of the requisite official certificate for a girl to become a Dāsi involves considerable trouble.

“It is said,” Mr. Stuart writes, “that, where the head of a house dies, leaving only female issue, one of the girls is made a Dāsi [தாசி] in order to allow of her working like a man at the loom, for no woman not dedicated in this manner may do so.”

Of the orthodox form of ceremonial in connection with a girl’s initiation as a Dāsi [தாசி], the following account was given by the Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்] of Coimbatore [கோயம்புத்தூர]. The girl is taught music and dancing. The dancing master or Nattuvan [நட்டுவர்], belongs to the Kaikōlan [கைக்கோலர்] caste, but she may be instructed in music by Brāhman Bhāgavathans [பாகவதர்]. At the tāli [தாலி]-tying ceremony, which should take place after the girl has reached puberty, 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 Dāsis [தாசி], 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 course of the day, relations and friends are entertained, and, in the evening, the girl, seated astride a pony, is taken to the temple, where a new cloth for the idol, the tāli [தாலி], and various articles required for doing pūja [பூசை], 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 [தாலி], which has been lying at the feet of the idol, round her neck. The tāli [தாலி] consists of a golden disc and black beads. Betel and flowers are then distributed among those present, and the girl is taken home through the principal streets. She continues to learn music and dancing, and eventually goes through a form of nuptial ceremony. The relations are invited for an auspicious day, and the maternal uncle, or his representative, ties a gold band on the girl’s forehead, and, carrying her, places her on a plank before the assembled guests. A Brāhman priest recites the mantrams [மந்திரம்], and prepares the sacred fire (hōmam [ஓமம்]). The uncle is presented with new cloths by the girl’s mother. 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. It is said that, when the man who is to receive her first favours, joins the girl, a sword must be placed, at least for a few minutes, by her side. When a Dāsi [தாசி] 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 pūja [பூசை] is performed in the temple till the body is disposed of, as the idol, being her husband, has to observe pollution.

Writing a century ago (1807) concerning the Kaikōlan [கைக்கோலர்] Dāsis [தாசி], Buchanan says (Journey through Mysore, Canara, and Malabar.) that

“these dancing women, and their musicians, now form a separate kind of caste ; and a certain number of them are attached to every temple of any consequence. The allowances which the musicians receive for their public duty is very small, yet, morning and evening, they are bound to attend at the temple to perform before the image. They must also receive every person travelling on account of the Government, meet him at some distance from the town, and conduct him to his quarters with music and dancing. All the handsome girls are instructed to dance and sing, and are all prostitutes, at least to the Brāhmans. In ordinary sets they are quite common ; but, under the Company’s government, those attached to temples of extraordinary sanctity are reserved entirely for the use of the native officers, who are all Brāhmans, and who would turn out from the set any girl that profaned herself by communication with persons of low caste, or of no caste at all, such as Christians or Mussulmans. Indeed, almost every one of these girls that is tolerably sightly is taken by some officer of revenue for his own special use, and is seldom permitted to go to the temple, except in his presence. Most of these officers have more than one wife, and the women of the Brāhmans are very beautiful ; but the insipidity of their conduct, from a total want of education or accomplishment, makes the dancing women to be sought after by all natives with great avidity. The Mussulman officers in particular were exceedingly attached to this kind of company, and lavished away on these women a great part of their incomes. The women very much regret their loss, as the Mussulmans paid liberally, and the Brāhmans durst not presume to hinder any girl who chose, from amusing an Asoph, or any of his friends. The Brāhmans are not near so lavish of their money, especially where it is secured by the Company’s government, but trust to their authority for obtaining the favour of the dancers. To my taste, nothing can be more silly and unanimated than the dancing of the women, nor more harsh and barbarous than their music. Some Europeans, however, from long habit, I suppose, have taken a liking to it, and have even been captivated by the women. Most of them I have had an opportunity of seeing have been very ordinary in their looks, very inelegant in their dress, and very dirty in their persons ; a large proportion of them have the itch, and a still larger proportion are most severely diseased.”

Though the Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்] are considered to belong to the left-hand faction, Dāsis [தாசி], except those who are specially engaged by the Bēri Chettis and Kammālans, are placed in the right-hand faction. Kaikōlan [கைக்கோலர்] Dāsis [தாசி], when passing through a Kammālan street, stop dancing, and they will not salute Kammālans or Bēri Chettis.

A peculiar method of selecting a bride, called siru tāli kattu (tying the small tāli [தாலி]), is said to be in vogue among some Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்]. A man, who wishes to marry his maternal uncle’s or paternal aunt’s daughter, has to tie a tāli [தாலி], or simply a bit of cloth torn from her clothing, round her neck, and report the fact to his parents and the headman. If the girl eludes him, he cannot claim her, but, should he succeed, she belongs to him. In some places, the consent of the maternal uncle to a marriage is signified by his carrying the bride in his arms to the marriage pandal [பந்தல்] (booth). The milk-post is made of Erythrina indica [Erythrina variegata L.]. After the tāli [தாலி] has been tied, the bridegroom lifts the bride’s left leg, and places it on a grinding-stone. Widows are stated by Mr. Stuart to be

“allowed to remarry if they have no issue, but not otherwise ; and, if the prevalent idea that a Kaikōlan [கைக்கோலர்] woman is never barren be true, this must seldom take place.”

On the final day of the death ceremonies, a small hut is erected, and inside it stones, brought by the barber, are set up, and offerings made to them.

The following proverbs are current about or among the Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்] :—

  • Narrate stories in villages where there are no Kaikōlans.
  • Why should a weaver have a monkey ?

    This, it has been suggested (
    Rev, H. Jensen. Classified Collection of Tamil Proverbs, 1897.),* implies that a monkey would only damage the work.
  • On examining the various occupations, weaving will be found to be the best.
  • A peep outside will cut out eight threads.
  • The person who was too lazy to weave went to the stars.
  • The Chetti (money-lender) decreases the money, and the weaver the thread.

The titles of the Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்] are Mūdali [முதலி] and Nāyanar [நாயனார்].

Among the Kaikōlan [கைக்கோலர்] musicians, I have seen every gradation of colour and type, from leptorhine men with fair skin and chiselled features, to men very dark and platyrhine, with nasal index exceeding 90.

The Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்] take part in the annual festival at Tirupati [తిరుపతి] in honour of the goddess Gangamma [గంగమ్మ].

“It is,” Mr. Stuart writes (Manual of the North Arcot district.), “distinguished from the majority of similar festivals by a custom, which requires the people to appear in a different disguise (vēsham) every morning and evening. The Mātangi [மாதங்கி] vēsham of Sunday morning deserves special mention. The devotee who consents to undergo this ceremony dances in front of an image or representation of the goddess, and, when he is worked up to the proper pitch of frenzy, a metal wire is passed through the middle of his tongue. It is believed that this operation causes no pain, or even bleeding, and the only remedy adopted is the chewing of a few margosa (Melia Azadirachta [Azadirachta indica A.Juss.]) leaves, and some kunkumam (red powder) of the goddess. This vēsham is undertaken only by a Kaikōlan [கைக்கோலர்] (weaver), and is performed only in two places—the house of a certain Brāhman and the Mahant’s math. The concluding disguise is that known as the pērantālu vēsham. Pērantālu signifies the deceased married women of a family who have died before their husbands, or, more particularly, the most distinguished of such women. This vēsham is accordingly represented by a Kaikōlan [கைக்கோலர்] disguised as a female, who rides round the town on a horse, and distributes to the respectable inhabitants of the place the kunkumam, saffron paste, and flowers of the goddess.”

For the following account of a ceremony, which took place at Conjeeveram [காஞ்சிபுரம] in August, 1908, I am indebted to the Rev. J. H. Maclean.

“On a small and very lightly built car, about eight feet high, and running on four little wheels, an image of Kāli [காளி] was placed. It was then dragged by about thirty men, attached to it by cords passed through the flesh of their backs. I saw one of the young men two days later. Two cords had been drawn through his flesh, about twelve inches apart. The wounds were covered over with white stuff, said to be vibūthi [விபூதி ] (sacred ashes). The festival was organised by a class of weavers calling themselves Sankunram (Sengundar [[செங்குந்தர்]) Mudaliars [முதலியார்], the inhabitants of seven streets in the part of Conjeeveram known as Pillaipalyam [Pillaipālayam - பிள்ளை பாளையம்] . The total amount spent is said to have been Rs. 500. The people were far from clear in their account of the meaning of the ceremony. One said it was a preventive of small-pox, but this view did not receive general support. Most said it was simply an old custom : what good it did they could not say. Thirty years had elapsed since the last festival. One man said that Kāli [காளி]had given no commands on the subject, and that it was simply a device to make money circulate. The festival is called Pūntēr (flower car).”

In September, 1908, an official notification was issued in the Fort St. George Gazette to the following effect.

“Whereas it appears that hook-swinging, dragging of cars by men harnessed to them by hooks which pierce their sides, and similar acts are performed during the Mariyamman [மாரியம்மன்] festival at Samayapuram [சமயபுரம்] and other places in the Trichinopoly[திருச்சிராப்பள்ளி] division, Trichinopoly district, and whereas such acts are dangerous to human life, the Governor in Council is pleased, under section 144, subsection (5), of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, to direct that the order of the Sub-divisional Magistrate, dated the 7th August, 1908, prohibiting such acts, shall remain in force until further orders.”

It is noted by Mr. F. R. Hemingway (Gazetteer of the Trichinopoly district.)  that, at Ratnagiri, in the Trichinopoly district, the Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்], in performance of a vow, thrust a spear through the muscles of the abdomen in honour of their god Sāhānayanar."

[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. 31 - 44]

Karnabattu (Telugu)

"Karnabattu.The Karnabattus, or Karnabhatus, are a Telugu [తెలుగు] weaving caste, found chiefly in the Godāvari [గోదావరి] district. The story goes that there once lived a king, who ruled over a portion of the country now included in this district, and was worried by a couple of demons, who carried off some of his subjects for their daily food. The king prayed Siva [శివుడు] for deliverance from them, and the god, being gratified at his devotion to him, produced nine persons from his ears, and ordered them to slay the demons. This they did, and their descendants are the Karnabhatus, or ear soldiers. By religion, the Karnabattus are either ordinary Saivites [శైవము] or Lingāyats [లింగాయతి]. When a girl reaches maturity, she remains under a pollution for sixteen days. Early marriage is the rule, and a Brāhman officiates at weddings. The dead, as among other Lingāyats, are buried in a sitting posture. The caste is organised in the same manner as the Sālēs [శాలీలు], and, at each place, there is a headman called Kulampedda or Jātipedda, corresponding to the Sēnāpathi [సేనాపతి] of the Sālēs [శాలీలు]. They weave coarse cloths, which are inferior in texture to those manufactured by Patta Sālēs and Silēvantas.

In a note on the Karnabattus, Mr. F. R. Hemingway writes that

“though a low caste, they forbid the remarriage of widows. But the remark in the Census Report (1901) that they abstain from meat is not true of the Karnabattus questioned, who admitted that they would eat even pork. Their special deity is Somēsvara, whom they unite to worship on the new-moon day of Pushyam [పుష్యమి] (January-February). The god is represented by a mud idol made for the occasion. The pūjāri [పూజారి] (priest) throws flowers over it in token of adoration, and sits before it with his hands outstretched and his mouth closed until one of the flowers falls into his hands.”

The Karnabattus have no regular caste titles, but sometimes the elders add Ayya or Anna as a suffix to their name."

[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. 251f.]

Khatri [கத்ரி / खत्री]

"Khatri [கத்ரி ].The Khatris are described by Mr. Lewis Rice (Mysore and Coorg Gazetteer.) as

“silk weavers, who in manners, customs, and language are akin to Patvēgars [पटवेगार / पटवेगर], but they do not intermarry with them, although the two castes eat together. The Katris claim to be Kshatriyas, and quote Rēnuka Purāna  [रेणुकापुराण] as their authority. The legend is that, during the general massacre of the Kshatriyas by Parasu Rāma [परशुराम], five women, each of whom was big with child, escaped, and took refuge in a temple dedicated to Kāli [काली]. When the children came of age, their marriages were celebrated, and their mothers prayed to Kāli to point out some means of livelihood. In answer to their supplications, the goddess gave them looms, and taught them weaving and dyeing. The Katris claim descent from these refugees, and follow the same trades.”

The following note relates to the Khatris [கத்ரி / खत्री] of Conjeeveram [காஞ்சிபுரம], where most of them trade in silk thread, silk sashes, and dye-stuffs. Some deal in human hair, which is used by native females as a chignon. By reason of their connection with the silk industry, the Khatris are called Patnūlkāran by other castes. The true Patnūlkārans are called Kōshta by the Khatris. The Khatris give Bhuja Rāja Kshatriya as their caste name, and some say that they are the descendants of one Karta Virya Arjuna of the human race. Their tribal deity is Renukāmba [रेणुकाम्बा], the mother of Parasu Rāma [परशुराम], to whom pongal (boiled rice) is offered, and a goat sacrificed in the month of Thai [தை] (January-February). They have exogamous septs, such as

  • Sulēgar,
  • Powar,
  • Mudugal, 
  • Sonappa,
  • Bojagiri,
  • etc.,

and have adopted the same Brāhmanical gōtras [गोत्र] as the Bhāts [भाट] or Bhatrāzus, eg., 

  • Gautama [गौतम],
  • Kāsyapa [काश्यप],
  • Vasishta [वसिष्ठ], and
  • Bhāradwāja [भरद्वाज] .

Attached to them is a caste beggar, called Bhāt [भाट], who comes round at long intervals. He is said to keep the genealogies of the Khatri families. He ties a flag to a post of the house at which he intends to claim a meal, and, after partaking thereof, he receives information concerning the births and marriages, which have taken place in the family since his last visit. Girls are married both before and after puberty, and infant marriage is fashionable at the present day. The remarriage of widows is permitted, but a divorced woman may not marry again so long as her husband is alive. A man may not marry the widow of his brother, or of an agnate. The custom of mēnarikam [మేనరికం], by which a man may marry his maternal uncle’s daughter, is prohibited. Families belonging to one sept may give their daughters in marriage to men of another sept, from which, however, they are not allowed to receive girls as wives for their sons. For example, a man of a Sulēgar sept may give his daughters in marriage to men of the Powar sept, but may not take Powar girls as wives for his sons. But a certain elasticity in the rule is allowed, and the prohibition ceases after a certain number of generations by arrangement with the Bhāt. The marriage ceremonies last over seven days. On the first day, the deity Bharkodēv, who is represented by seven quartz pebbles placed in a row on plantain leaves, is worshipped with offerings of fruit, etc., and a goat is sacrificed. The blood which flows from its cut neck is poured into a vessel containing cooked rice, of which seven balls are made, and offered to the pebbles. Towards evening some of the rice is thrown to the four cardinal points of the compass, in order to conciliate evil spirits. On the second day, the house is thoroughly cleansed with cow-dung water, and the walls are whitewashed. The eating of meat is forbidden until the marriage ceremonies are concluded. The third day is devoted to the erection of the marriage pandal [பந்தல்] (booth) and milk-post, and the worship of female ancestors (savāsne). Seven married women are selected, and presented with white rāvikes [ரவிக்கை ] (bodices) dyed with turmeric. After bathing, they are sumptuously fed. Before the feast, the bridegroom’s and sometimes the bride’s mother, goes to a well, tank (pond) or river, carrying on a tray a new woman’s cloth, on which a silver plate with a female figure embossed on it is placed. Another silver plate of the same kind, newly made, is brought by a goldsmith, and the two are worshipped, and then taken to the house, where they are kept in a box. The bridegroom and his party go in procession through the streets in which their fellow castemen live. When they reach the house of the bride, her mother comes out and waves coloured water to avert the evil eye, washes the bridegroom’s eyes with water, and presents him with betel and a vessel filled with milk. The bride is then conducted to the bridegroom’s house, where she takes her seat on a decorated plank, and a gold or silver ornament called sari or kanti is placed on her neck. She is further presented with a new cloth. A Brāhman purōhit [புரோகிதன் / पुरोहित] then writes the names of the contracting parties, and the date of their marriage, on two pieces of palm leaf or paper, which he hands over to their fathers. The day closes with the performance of gondala pūjā, for which a device (muggu) is made on the ground with yellow, red, and white powders. A brass vessel is set in the centre thereof, and four earthen pots are placed at the corners. Pūja [பூசை / पूजा] (worship) is done, and certain stanzas are recited amid the beating of a pair of large cymbals. On the fourth day, the bridal couple bathe, and the bridegroom is invested with the sacred thread. They then go to the place where the metal plates representing the ancestors are kept, with a cloth thrown over the head like a hood, and some milk and cooked rice are placed near the plates. On their way back they, in order to avert the evil eye, place their right feet on a pair of small earthen plates tied together, and placed near the threshold. The bride’s mother gives the bridegroom some cakes and milk, after partaking of which he goes in procession through the streets, and a further ceremony for averting the evil eye is performed in front of the bride’s house. This over, he goes to the pandal [பந்தல்], where his feet are washed by his father-in-law, who places in his hands a piece of plantain fruit, over which his mother-in-law pours some milk. The bride and bridegroom then go into the house, where the latter ties the tāli [தாலி] on the neck of the former. During the tying ceremony, the couple are separated by a cloth screen, of which the lower end is lifted up. The screen is removed, and they sit facing each other with their bashingams (forehead chaplets) in contact, and rice is thrown over their heads by their relations. The Brāhman hands the contracting couple the wrist-threads (kankanams), which they tie on. These threads are, among most castes, tied at an earlier stage in the marriage ceremonies. On the fifth day, seven betel nuts are placed in a row on a plank within the pandal [பந்தல்], round which the bride and bridegroom go seven times. At the end of each round, the latter lifts the right foot of the former, and sweeps off one of the nuts. For every marriage, a fee of Rs. 12-5-0 must be paid to the headman of the caste, and the money thus accumulated is spent on matters such as the celebration of festivals, which affect the entire community. If the fee is not paid, the bride and bridegroom are not permitted to go round the plank the seventh time. On the sixth day, the bride receives presents from her family, and there is a procession at night. On the last day of the ceremonies, the bride is handed over to her mother-in-law by her mother, who says “ I am giving you a melon and a knife. Deal with them as you please.” The bride is taken inside the house by the mother-in-law and shown some pots containing rice into which she dips her right hand, saying that they are full. The mother-in-law then presents her with a gold finger-ring, and the two eat together as a sign of their new relationship.

The dead are cremated, and, when a married man dies, his corpse is carried on a palanquin to the burning-ground, followed by the widow. Near the pyre it is laid on the ground, and the widow places her jewelry and glass bangles on the chest. The corpse should be carried by the sons-in-law if possible, and the nomination of the bearers is indicated by the eldest son of the deceased person making a mark on their shoulders with ashes. On the third day after death, the milk ceremony takes place. Three balls of wheat-flour, mixed with honey and milk, are prepared, and placed respectively on the spot where the deceased breathed his last, where the bier was laid on the ground, and at the place where the corpse was burnt, over which milk is poured. The final death ceremonies (karmāndhiram) are observed on the seventh or tenth day, till which time the eating of flesh is forbidden.

The headman of the Khatris, who is called Grāmani [கிராமணி / ग्रामनी], is elected once a month, and he has an assistant called Vanja, who is appointed annually.

The Khatris are Saivites [சைவியம் / शैव], and wear the sacred thread, but also worship various grāma dēvatas [கிராமம தேவதா /  ग्रामदेवता] (village deities). They speak a dialect of Marathi [मराठी]. The caste title is Sā, eg., Dharma Sā (धर्मसा).

Kethree is described, in the Vizagapatam [విశాఖపట్నం] Manual, as

“the caste of the Zamindar’s family in Jeypore [ଜୟପୁର]. It is divided into sixteen classes. They wear the paieta (sacred thread), and the Zamindar used formerly to sell the privilege of wearing it to any one who could afford to pay him twelve rupees. Pariahs were excluded from purchasing the privilege.”

The Khatri agriculturists of the Jeypore [ଜୟପୁର] Agency tracts in Vizagapatam are, Mr. C. Hayavadana Rao informs me, entirely distinct from the weaving Khatris of the south. They are divided into four septs, viz., 

  • Surya (Sun),
  • Bhag (tiger),
  • Kochchimo (tortoise), and 
  • Nag (cobra).

Girls are married before puberty, and an Oriya Brāhman officiates at their marriages, instead of the customary Dēsāri. They do not, like other castes in the Agency tracts, give fermented liquor (madho) as part of the jholla tonka or bride-price, which consists of rice, a goat, cloths, etc. The marriage ceremonies are performed at the bride’s house. These Khatris put on the sacred thread for the first time when they are married, and renew it from time to time throughout life. They are fair skinned, and speak the Oriya [ଓଡ଼ିଆs] language. Their usual title is Patro [ପତ୍ରୋ]."

[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. 282 - 287.]

Kōliyan [கோலியர்] (Tamil)

"Kōliyan [கோலியர்].—The Kōliyans [கோலியர்] are summed up, in the Madras Census Report, 1901, as

“a weaver caste, the members of which were originally Paraiyans [பறையர்], but now do not eat or intermarry with that caste.”

They are largely found in the Tanjore [தஞ்சாவூர்] and Madura [மதுரை] districts, and are divided into various nādus [நாடு] (territories) and kuppams (settlements). Those at Pattukottai [பட்டுக்கோட்டை], for example, belong to Ambu Nādū, and are sub-divided into five kuppams. Many of the Kōliyans [கோலியர்] are engaged in weaving coarse white cloths, while some work as field labourers. As some Paraiyans [பறையர்] have Samban [சாம்பன்] (Siva) as their title, so the title of the Kōliyans [கோலியர்] is Īsan [ஈசன் ] (god). At times of marriage, the names of persons must not be mentioned without this title, eg. one who is, in everyday life, called Ponnan is addressed as Īsa Ponnan.

An interesting point in connection with the first puberty ceremonial of a girl is that, on the sixteenth day, when she bathes, a withe of a creeper (Dalbergia, sp.) made into a loop, is passed round her body by a barber from head to foot thrice, without touching her. If this is not done, it is believed that the girl is not free from pollution.

There are two forms of marriage ceremony, called chinna [சின்ன] (little) and periya [பெரிய] (big) kalyānam [கலியாணம்]. The former is resorted to by those who cannot afford the more elaborate ceremonial. The sister of the bridegroom is sent to the house of the bride on an auspicious day. She there ties the tāli [தாலி] (marriage badge) on the bride’s neck, and conducts her to the house of the bridegroom. Women who are thus married may not take part in the marriage of their children. More especially, they may not decorate them with garlands and flowers, unless they have themselves performed the sadangu [சடங்கு] rite. In this, which is usually carried out a day or two before the child’s marriage, the husband and wife sit on planks, and, after being decorated, and the performance of wave offerings (ārathi [ஆலத்தி ]), the former ties the tāli [தாலி] on his wife’s neck.

In the periya kalyānam [பெரிய கலியாணம்], the bridegroom goes on a horse to the bride’s house, where he is met by her brother, who is also on horseback. They exchange garlands, and proceed to the marriage pandal [பந்தல்] (booth). The bridegroom receives from the bride’s father a cocoanut, and the bride seats herself on a bench. The bridegroom gives her the cocoanut, and ties the tāli [தாலி] on her neck. They then exchange garlands, and their finders are linked together. All these items must be performed as quickly as possible, in accordance with a saying that the tāli [தாலி] should be tied without dismounting from the horse, which one is riding. Before the tāli [தாலி] is tied, the contracting couple go through the sadangu  [சடங்கு] ceremony, in which a loop of cotton thread is passed over them from head to foot, without touching them. Then the kankanams, or wrist threads, are tied on their wrists. The milk-post and marriage pots are set up within the pandal [பந்தல்], and the bride and bridegroom prostrate themselves before them, and salute their maternal uncles, parents and relations, and lastly the musicians. The day’s proceedings terminate with a feast, at the conclusion of which hands are washed within the house. For six days the bride and bridegroom pay visits to each other alternately, and, on the seventh day, the wrist-threads, marriage pots, and milk-post are removed. During marriage and other auspicious ceremonies, coloured water, into which leaves of Bauhinia variegata are thrown, are waved (ārathi [ஆலத்தி ]).

On ceremonial occasions, and at times of worship, the Kōliyans [கோலியர்] put on Saivite [சைவியம்] sect marks. Among other deities, they worship Aiyanar [ஐயனார்], Pattavanswāmi, and Pothiamman.

The dead are burnt, and the body is placed in a seated posture with fingers and toes tied together. On the way to the burning-ground, a widow goes round the corpse, and breaks a pot containing water. On the day after the funeral, the calcined bones are collected, and arranged so as to represent a human figure, to which food is offered. The final death ceremonies (karmāndhiram) are performed on the sixteenth day. A mass of cooked rice, vegetables, and meat, is placed within an enclosure, round which the relations go in tears."

[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. 302ff.]

Kori [कोरी] (Central Provinces)

Kori [कोरी].—

1. Description of the caste.

The Hindu weaving caste of northern India, as distinct from the Julāhas [جولاہا] or Momins [مومن] who are Muhammadans. In 1911 the Koris [कोरी] numbered 35,000 persons, and resided mainly in Jubbulpore [जबलपुर], Saugor [सागर] and Damoh [दमोह]. Mr. Crooke states that their name has been derived from that of the Kol caste, of whom they have by some been assumed to be an offshoot.

2 Tribes and Castes of the North-West Provinces, iii. 316.

The Koris [कोरी] themselves trace their origin from Kabīr [कबीर, 1440 - 1518], the apostle of the weaving castes. He, they say, met a Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] girl on the bank of a tank, and, being saluted by her, replied, ‘May God give you a son.’ She objected that she was a virgin and unmarried, but Kabīr [कबीर, 1440 - 1518] answered that his word could not fail ; and a boy was born out of her hand, whom she left on the bank of the tank. He was suckled by a heifer and subsequently adopted by a weaver and was the ancestor of the Koris [कोरी]. Therefore the caste say of themselves : “He was born of an undefiled vessel, and free from passion ; he lowered his body and entered the ocean of existence.” This legend is a mere perversion of the story of Kabīr [कबीर, 1440 - 1518] himself, designed to give the Koris [कोरी] a distinguished pedigree. In the Central Provinces the caste appears to be almost entirely a functional group, made up of members of other castes who were either expelled from their own community or of their own accord adopted the profession of weaving. The principal subdivision is the Ahirwār [अहिरवार], taking its name from the old town of Ahar in the Bulandshahr [बुलन्दशहर] District. Among the others are Kushta (Koshta), Chadār, Katia, Mehra [मेहरा], Dhīmar and Kotwār, all of which, except the last, are the names of distinct castes ; while the Kotwārs represent members of the caste who became village watchmen, and considering themselves somewhat superior to the others, have formed a separate subcaste. None of the subcastes will eat together or intermarry, and this fact is in favour of the supposition that they are distinct groups amalgamated into a caste by their common profession of weaving. The caste seem to have a fairly close connection with Chamārs [चमार] in some localities. A number of Koris [कोरी] belong to the sect of Rohidās [रविदास, 15. Jhdt.], and some of their family names are the same, while a Chamār [चमार] will often call himself a Kori [कोरी] to conceal his identity. For the purposes of marriage they are divided into a number of bainks or septs, the names of which are territorial or totemistic. Among the latter may be mentioned the Kulhariya from kulhāri [कुल्हाड़ी], an axe, and the Barmaiya from the bar [बड़] or banyan tree ; members of these septs pay reverence to an axe and a banyan tree respectively at weddings.

2. Marriages

 The marriage of persons belonging to the same sept and also of first cousins is prohibited, while a family will not, if they can help it, marry a daughter into the sept from which a son has taken a wife. The rule of exogamy is thus rather wide in its action, as is often found to be the case among the lowest and most primitive castes. At the betrothal the father of the girl produces a red cloth folded up, and on this the boy’s father lays a rupee. This is passed round to five members of the caste who cry, ‘So-and-so’s daughter and So-and-so’s son, Har bolo (In the name of Vishnu [विष्णु]).’ This completes the betrothal, the father of the boy giving three rupees for a feast to the caste-fellows. A girl who is made pregnant by a man of the caste or any higher caste may be disposed of in marriage as a widow, but if the man is of a lower caste than the Koris [कोरी] she is finally expelled. The lagan or paper fixing the date of the marriage is written by a Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] and must not be shown to the bridegroom in the interval, lest he should grow as thin as the paper bearing his name. While he is being anointed and rubbed with turmeric the bridegroom is wrapped in a black blanket, and his bridal dress consists of a yellow shirt, pyjamas of red cloth, and red shoes, while he carries in his hand a dagger, nut-cracker or knife. As he leaves his house to proceed to the bride’s village he steps on two clay lamp-saucers, crushing them with his foot. When the party arrives the fathers of the bride and bridegroom sit together with a pot full of curds between them and give each other to drink from it as a mark of amity. The binding portion of the marriage consists in walking round the sacred pole and the other ceremonies customary in the northern Districts are performed. The bride does not return with her husband unless she is adult; otherwise the usual gauna ceremony is held subsequently. When she arrives at her husband’s house she makes prints of her hands smeared with turmeric on the wall before entering it for the first time. The remarriage of widows is freely permitted ; the second husband takes the widow to his house after sunset, and here she is washed by the barber’s wife and puts on glass bangles again, and new jewellery and clothes, if any are provided. No married woman may see her as she enters the house. The husband must give a feast to the caste-fellows, or at least to the panchāyat [पंचायत] or committee. Divorce is freely permitted on payment of a fine to the panchāyat [पंचायत]. When a man takes a second wife a sot or silver image of the deceased first wife is hung round her neck when she enters his house, and is worshipped on ceremonial occasions.

3. Customs at birth and death

A child is named on the day after its birth by some woman of the caste ; a Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] is asked whether the day is auspicious, and he also chooses the name. If this is the same as that of any living relation or one recently dead, another name is given for ordinary use. A daughter-in-law is usually given a new name when she goes to her husband’s house, such as Badi [बडी] (elder), Manjhli (second son’s wife), Bāri (innocent or simple), Jabalpurwāli (belonging to Jubbulpore [जबलपुर]). and so on. If a woman has borne only female children, the umbilical cord is sometimes put in a small earthen pot and buried at a place where three cross-roads meet, and it is supposed that the birth of a male child will follow. Children whose shaving ceremony has not been performed, and adults dying from snake-bite, cholera, smallpox or leprosy, are buried, while others are burnt. Children are carried to the grave in their parents’ arms. On the return of a funeral party, liquor, provided by the relatives of the family, is drunk at the house of the deceased.

4. Religion.

The Koris [कोरी] worship the ordinary Hindu deities and especially Devi [देवी]. They become inspired by this goddess at the Jawara festival and pierce their cheeks with iron needles and tridents. Every family has a household god or Kul-Deo [कुलदेव] to whom a small platform is erected ; offerings other than animal sacrifices are made to him on festivals and on the celebration of a marriage.

5. Occupation and social status.

Those of the caste who are Kabīrpanthis [कबीरपंथी] abstain from animal food, but the others eat the flesh of most animals except tame pig, and also drink liquor. Their social status is very low, but they are not usually considered as impure. Their women are tattooed on the right arm before marriage, and on the left after arrival at their husband’s house. Like several other low castes, they do not wear nose-rings. The principal occupation of the caste is the weaving of coarse country cloth, but as the trade of the hand-weaver is nowadays precarious and unprofitable many of them have forsaken it and taken to cultivation or daily labour. Mr. Nesfield says of them:

“The material used by the Kori [कोरी] is the thread supplied by the Dhunia (Bahna) ; and thus the weaver caste has risen imperceptibly out of that of the cotton-carder, in the same way as the cobbler caste has risen out of the tanner. The art of weaving and plaiting threads is very much the same process as that of plaiting osiers, reeds and grass, and converting them into baskets and mats. This circumstance explains the puzzle why the weaver caste in India stands at such a low social level. He, however, ranks several degrees above the Chamār [चमार] or tanner; as, among Hindus, herbs and their products (cotton being of course included) are invariably considered pure, while the hides of dead animals are regarded as a pollution.”

This argument is part of Mr. Nesfield’s theory that the rank of each caste depends on the period of civilisation at which its occupation came into being, which is scarcely tenable. The reason why the weavers rank so low may, perhaps, be that the Aryans when they settled in villages in northern India despised all handicrafts as derogatory to their dignity. These were left to the subject tribes, and as a large number of weavers would be required, the industry would necessarily be embraced by the bulk of those who formed the lowest stratum of the population, and has ever since remained in their hands. If cloth was first woven from the tree-cotton plant growing wild, the business of picking and weaving it would naturally have fallen to the non-Aryan jungle tribes, who afterwards became the impure menial and labouring castes of the villages.

The weaver is the proverbial butt of Hindu ridicule, like the tailor in England. ‘One Gadaria will account for ten weavers ’; ‘Four weavers will spoil any business.’ The following story also illustrates their stupidity: Twenty weavers got into a field of kāns grass. They thought it was a tank and began swimming. When they got out they said, “Let us all count and see how many we are, in case anybody has been left in the tank.” They counted and each left out himself, so that they all made out nineteen. Just then a Sowār [सवार] came by, and they cried to him, ‘Oh, Sir, we were twenty, and one of us has been drowned in this tank.’ The Sowār [सवार] seeing that there was only a field of grass, counted them and found there were twenty ; so he said, ‘ What will you give me if I find the twentieth ? ’ They promised him a piece of cloth, on which the Sowār [सवार], taking his whip, lashed each of the weavers across the shoulders, counting as he did so. When he had counted twenty he took the cloth and rode away. Another story is that a weaver bought a buffalo for twenty rupees. His brother then came to him and wanted a share in the buffalo. They did not know how he should be given a share until at last the weaver said, “You go and pay the man who sold me the buffalo twenty rupees ; and then you will have given as much as I have and will be half-owner of the buffalo.” Which was done. The ridicule attaching to the weaver’s occupation is due to its being considered proper for a woman rather than a man, and similar jests were current at the tailor’s expense in England. In India the weaver probably takes the tailor’s place because woven and not sewn clothes have hitherto been generally worn, as explained in the article on Darzi [درزی]."

[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. 545 - 549]

Kori [कोरी] (NW Provinces und Oudh)

"Kori [कोरी].1The Hindu weaver caste. Their name has been derived from that of the Kol [कोल]  caste, of whom they have by some been assumed to be an offshoot. In Sanskrit, kaulika [कौलिक], in the sense of “ancestral,” has also come to mean “a weaver.” According to their own story, the Saint Kabīr [कबीर, 1440 - 1518] was one day going to bathe in the Ganges [गंगा], and met a Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] girl who saluted him. He said in reply—“ May God give you a son.” She objected that she was a virgin and unmarried; but he answered that his word could not fail. So she immediately got a blister on her hand, out of which a boy was born. She was ashamed and left the child on the banks v of the river, where a heifer that had never calved gave him milk, and he was adopted by a weaver who taught him his trade. He got his name because he was born of a virgin kuārī  [क्वांरी] or of a girl untouched by man (Kori [कोरी]). Hence the verse popular among them—

Kori korē kalas kē, nirgun kā jāya ;
Kāya dhānk
ē apni bhava sāgar aya,

“ Born of an undefiled jar, of him free from passion, he lowers his body and enters the ocean of existence.”

1 Based on enquiries at Mirzapur and notes by Munshi Rām Saran Dās, Faizābād ; Munshi Rām Sahāy, Teacher, Tahsili School, Mahoba, Hamīrpur ; Munshi Mai Dāyāl Sinh, Deputy Collector, Shāhjahānpur ; and Munshi Gopāl Prasād, Nāib Tahsildār, Phaphānd, Etāwah.

They are probably an occupational caste derived from various sources.

2. Internal structure.

At the last Census the Koris [कोरी] were recorded in a large number of principal sub-castes :—

  • Aharwār [अहारवार], taking their name from the old town or Ahār [अहार] in the Bulandshahr [बुलन्दशहर] District;
  • Bais [बैस], the name of a well-known Rājput [राजपूत] sept;
  • Ballāi [बल्लाई];
  • Bhadauriya [भडौरिया], which is also another Rājput [राजपूत] sept;
  • Bhainhar [भाइनहार] ; 
  • Bunkar [बंकार] (bunna [बुनना], “to weave”);
  • Dhaman [धामन];
  • Jaiswār [जइसवार], from the town of Jais [जैस]  in the Rāē Bareli [रायबरेली] District;
  • Jatua [जाटवा], who say they have some connection with the Jāts [जाट] or were born direct from the matted hair (jata [जट]) of Siva [शिव];
  • Juriya [ज्यूरिया];
  • Kabīrbansi [करीरवंसी], called after Kabīr [कबीर, 1440 - 1518], the forefather of the caste;
  • Kaithiya [कैथिया], who spring from the Kāyasths [कायस्थ]; 
  • Kamariha [कामारिहा] or Kamariya [कामारिया];
  • Kanaujiya [कन्नौजिया], from Kanauj [कन्नौज] [कन्नौज];
  • Katua; 
  • Korchamra [कोरचामरा], who spring from Chamārs [चमार];
  • Kushta [कुष्टा];
  • Mahurē [माहुटे];
  • Odh [ओढ] or Orh [ओढ];
  • Parsutiya [परसूतिया] (Sanskrit, prasava [प्रसव], “procreation”);
  • Sakarwār [साकरवार], or those from Fatehpur Sikri [फ़तेहपुर सीकरी];
  • Sankhwār [संखवार,].

There are many other sub-eastes spread over the province. Thus in Shāhjahānpur [शाहजहाँपुर] we find

  • Jaiswār [जइसवार],
  • Kanaujiya [कन्नौजिया],
  • Kachhwār [कच्छवार],
  • Manwār [मनवार],
  • Gangapāri [गंगापारी], or “those from beyond the Ganges [गंगा],
  • Banswār,
  • Baiswār [बैसवार],
  • Katyār [कट्यार], 
  • Patra [पत्रा],
  • Gujarāti [गुजराती],
  • Khatiya, and
  • Chapar.

In Hamīrpur [हमीरपुर] are the 

  • Kutar,
  • Kamariha [कामारिहा],
  • Jaiswār [जइसवार],
  • Sakhwār,
  • Dhiman, and
  • Sunwāni. 

In Bijnor [बिजनौर] those who practise the occupation of applying leeches on patients are called Jonkiyāra [जोंकियार] (jonk [जोंक], “a leech”).

In Etāwah [इटावा] are the

  • Mahur,
  • Sakhwār,
  • Bhandauliya, and
  • Chandauliya [चन्दौलिया].

In Mirzapur [मिर्ज़ापुर] they class themselves as Chamār-Kori [चमार-कोरी] who follow the usages of Chamārs [चमार] and the Kori [कोरी] who connect themselves with Kahārs [कहार]. Here they say that they are emigrants from Udaypur [उदयपुर].

The Juriya [ज्यूरिया] or Joriya of Faizābād [फ़ैज़ाबाद] claim to be Brāhmans [ब्राह्मण] and immigrants from a place called Katwi in the Jaunpur [जौनपुर] District. They admit Brāhmans [ब्राह्मण], Kshatriyas [क्सत्रिय], Vaisyas [वैश्य], Ahīrs [अहीर] Kurmis [कुर्मी], Murāos [मुराओ], and similar people into their caste. This generally occurs when they have contracted illicit intercourse with women of the tribe. They are worshippers of Mahābīr [महावीर] and Bhāgawati [भागवती], to whom they offer sacrifices of sheep and goats. Formerly they used only to weave in silk ; now they make cotton cloths and do masonry.

The Koris [कोरी] have been extraordinarily fertile in the development of sub-divisions. The complete Census lists contain no less than 1,040 names.

3. Manners and customs.

In their manners and customs Koris [कोरी] agree very closely with the Chamārs [चमार] and people of a similar social grade, which it is unnecessary to repeat. In Hamīrpur [हमीरपुर], they are reported to have a special form of introducing the bride into her husband’s house. The oldest man of the household prepares some cakes fried in butter, known as māēn, and offers them with the sacrifice of a pig to a local godling known as Baltai. Then comes the nihāran ceremony, when three wheaten cakes are baked, which the newly-married pair tread under foot, and are then allowed to enter the house. There are regular marriage brokers in Hamīrpur [हमीरपुर], each of whom receives a pair of loin-cloths (dhoti [धोती]) contributed by the parents of the pair at betrothal, marriage, and the coming home of the bride, should she not have arrived at puberty when the wedding takes place. In most eases, however, the marriage is arranged by the sister’s husband of the boy—apparently a survival of the matriarchate. A woman married by the Karāo ceremony is not allowed to enter her husband’s house in the day-time; she must do so secretly and at night. Hence of such marriages the proverb runs—Kāla munh, andhiyārē pākh, “with a black face and in the dark fortnight of the month.” A widow cannot re-marry by the Karāo form until at least the thirteen days of mourning for her late husband are over. Authorities differ as to whether they admit outsiders into the caste. A correspondent from Etāwah [इटावा] asserts that it is a well-known fact that they admit Brāhmans [ब्राह्मण], Rājputs [राजपूत], Banyas [बनिया], Kāyasths [कायस्थ], Ahīrs [अहीर], Gadariyas, Kāchhis [काछी], Kahārs [कहार], Bhurjis, Barhais [बढ़ई], Khātis [खाती], and Kurmis [कुर्मी] into their community, but draw the line at Chamārs [चमार], Telis [तेली], Dhobis [धोबी], and Bāris, as well as sweepers and Dhānuks [धानुक]. This is said not to take place in other districts. The same correspondent also asserts that in Etāwah [इटावा] it is well ascertained that in the levirate the widow is allowed to marry the elder as well as the younger brother of her late husband. This, if correct, is very remarkable, as it is totally opposed to the usage of all other castes of the same social status.

4. Religion.    

The Koris [कोरी] are all Hindus. In Faizābād [फ़ैज़ाबाद] they are said to follow the Rāēdāsi or Sivanārāyani [शिवनारायणी] sect, of which some account has been given in connection with Chamārs [चमार]. In Bijnor [बिजनौर] they are Kabīrpanthis [कबीरपंथी]. This is also the case in Hamīrpur [हमीरपुर], where their religious ceremonies are performed by the daughter’s husband, another relic of the matriarchate. To the West they also worship Zāhirpīr [ظاہر پیر] and the Miyān of Amroha] [अमरोहा] and Jalesar [जलेसर], and to the East the Pānchonpīr [पांचों पीर] and Sītala Māta [शीतला माता].

5. Occupation and social status.

The status of the Kori [कोरी] is very low. In Mirzapur [मिर्ज़ापुर] it is said that Brāhmans [ब्राह्मण] will drink water from the hands of the Kahār Koris [कहार कोरी], but not from the Chamār Koris [चमार कोरी]. Only Dhobis [धोबी] and Chamārs [चमार] will eat kachchi [कच्ची] or pakki [पक्की]  cooked by the latter; Koris [कोरी] will, to the East, eat kachchi [कच्ची] cooked by Brāhmans [ब्राह्मण] and Kshatriyas [क्सत्रिय] and pakki [पक्की]  prepared by all Vaisyas [वैश्य], except Kalwārs [कलवार]. Their occupation is weaving coarse country cloth, but some take to service and field labour or hold land as tenants. Kushta [कुष्टा] or Koshta [कोष्टा], one of their sub-castes, is the general name for a weaver in the Dakkhin [दक्खिन]."

[Quelle: Crooke, William <1848-1923>: The tribes and castes of the North-western Provinces and Oudh. -- Calcutta : Office of the superintendent of government printing, 1896 - 4 Bde. : Ill. -- Bd. 3. -- S. 316ff.]

Koshti [कोष्टी], Koshta  [कोष्ट], Sālewār [సాలివాడు] (Central Provinces, Telugu)

"Koshti [कोष्टी], Koshta  [कोष्ट], Sālewār [సాలివాడు]1

1 This article is based on a good paper by Mr. Raghunāth Wāman Vaidya, schoolmaster, Hinganghāt, and others by Mr. M. E. Hardās, Tahsildar, Umrer [उमरेड], and Messrs. Adurām Chaudhri and Pyāre Lāl Misra of the Gazetteer Office.

1. General notice.

The Marātha [मराठा] and Telugu [తెలుగు] caste of weavers of silk and fine cotton cloth. They belong principally to the Nāgpur [नागपूर] and Chhattisgarh [छत्तीसगढ़] Divisions of the Central Provinces, where they totalled 157,000 persons in 1901, while 1300 were returned from Berār [बेरार]. Koshti [कोष्टी] is the Marathi [मराठी] and Sālewār [సాలివాడు] the Telugu [తెలుగు] name. Koshti [कोष्टी] may perhaps have something to do with kosa [कोश] or tasar [तसर] silk ; Sālewār [సాలివాడు] is said to be from the Sanskrit Sālika, a weaver,2 and to be connected with the common word sāri [साड़ी], the name for a woman’s cloth; while the English ‘shawl’ may be a derivative from the same root. The caste suppose themselves to be descended from the famous Saint Mārkandi Rishi [मार्कण्‍डेय ऋषि], who, they say, first wove cloth from the fibres of the lotus flower to clothe the nakedness of the gods. In reward for this he was married to the daughter of Sūrya [सूर्य], the sun, and received with her as dowry a giant named Bhavāni [भवानी] and a tiger. But the giant was disobedient, and so Mārkandi [मार्कण्‍डेय] killed him, and from his bones fashioned the first weaver’s loom.3 The tiger remained obedient to Mārkandi [मार्कण्‍डेय], and the Koshtis [कोष्टी] think that he still respects them as his descendants ; so that if a Koshti [कोष्टी] should meet a tiger in the forest and say the name of Mārkandi [मार्कण्‍डेय], the tiger will pass by and not molest him ; and they say that no Koshti [कोष्टी] has ever been killed by a tiger. On their side they will not kill or injure a tiger, and at their weddings the Bhāt [भाट] or genealogist brings a picture of a tiger attached to his sacred scroll, known as Padgia, and the Koshtis [कोष्टी] worship the picture. A Koshti [कोष्टी] will not join in a beat for tiger for the same reason ; and other Hindus say that if he did the tiger would single him out and kill him, presumably in revenge for his breaking the pact of peace between them. They also worship the Singhwāhini Devi [सिंहवाहिनी देवी], or Devi [देवी] riding on a tiger, from which it may probably be deduced that the tiger itself was formerly the deity, and has now developed into an anthropomorphic goddess.

2    V. Nanjundayya, Monograph on the Sāle Caste (Mysore Ethnographical Survey).
3    With this may be compared the tradition of the sweeper caste that winnowing fans and sieves were first made out of bones and sinews.

2. Subdivisions.

The caste have several subdivisions of different types. The Halbis [
हल्बी] appear to be an offshoot of the primitive Halba [हल्बा] tribe, who have taken to weaving ; the Lād Koshtis [लाड़ कोष्टी] come from Gujarāt [ગુજરાત], the Gadhewāl [गढ़वाल] from Garha or Jubbulpore [जबलपुर], the Deshkar and Martha from the Marātha [मराठा] country, while the Dewangan probably take their name from the old town of that name on the Wardha [वर्धा] river. The Patwis are dyers, and colour the silk thread which the weavers use to border their cotton cloth. It is usually dyed red with lac. They also make braid and sew silk thread on ornaments like the separate Patwa caste. And the Onkule are the offspring of illegitimate unions. In Berār [बेरार] there is a separate subcaste named Hatghar, which may be a branch of the Dhangar [धनगर] or shepherd caste. Berār [बेरार] also has a group known as Jain Koshtis [जैन कोष्टी], who may formerly have professed the Jain [जैन] religion, but are now strict Sivites [शैव].1 The Sālewārs [సాలివాడు] are said to be divided into the Sutsale or thread-weavers, the Padmasale or those who originally wove the lotus flower and the Sagunsale, a group of illegitimate descent. The above names show that the caste is of mixed origin, containing a large Telugu [తెలుగు] element, while a body of the primitive Halbas [हल्बा] has been incorporated into it. Many of the Marātha Koshtis [मराठा कोष्टी] are probably Kunbis [कुणबी] (cultivators) who have taken up weaving. The caste has also a number of exogamous divisions of the usual type which serve to prevent the marriage of near relatives.

1 Kitts, Berār Census Report (1881), p. 127.


3. Marriage.

At a Koshti [कोष्टी] wedding in Nāgpur [नागपूर], the bride and bridegroom with their parents sit in a circle, and round them a long hempen rope is drawn seven times ; the bride’s mother then holds a lamp, while the bridegroom’s mother pours water from a vessel on to the floor. The Sālewārs [సాలివాడు] perform the wedding ceremony at the bridegroom’s house, to which the bride is brought at midnight for this purpose. A display of fireworks is held and the thūn [थून] or log of wood belonging to the loom is laid on the ground between the couple and covered with a black blanket. The bridegroom stands facing the east and places his right foot on the thūn [थून], and the bride stands opposite to him with her left foot upon it. A Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] holds a curtain between them and they throw rice upon each other’s heads five times and then sit on the log. The bride’s father washes the feet of the bridegroom and gives him a cloth and bows down before him. The wedding party then proceed with music and a display of fireworks to the bridegroom’s house and a round of feasts is given continuously for five days.

The remarriage of widows is freely permitted. In Chanda [चंद्रपूर] if the widow is living with her father he receives Rs. 40 from the second husband, but if with her father-in-law no price is given. On the day fixed for the wedding he fills her lap with nuts, cocoanuts, dates and rice, and applies vermilion to her forehead. During the night she proceeds to her new husband’s house, and, emptying the fruit from her lap into a dish which he holds, falls at his feet. The wedding is completed the next day by a feast to the caste-fellows. The procedure appears to have some symbolical idea of transferring the fruit of her womb to her new husband. Divorce is allowed, but is very rare, a wife being too valuable a helper in the Koshti’s [कोष्टी] industry to be put away except as a last resort. For a Koshti [कोष्टी] who is in business on his own account it is essential to have a number of women to assist in sizing the thread and fixing it on the loom. A wife is really a factory-hand and a well-to-do Koshti [कोष्टी] will buy or occasionally steal as many women as he can. In Bhandāra [भंडारा] a recent case is known where a man bought a girl and married her to his son and eight months afterwards sold her to another family for an increased price. In another case a man mortgaged his wife as security for a debt and in lieu of interest, and she lived with his creditor until he paid off the principal. Quarrels over women not infrequently result in cases of assault and riot.

4. Funeral customs.

Members of the Lingāyat [लिंगायत] and Kabīrpanthi [कबीरपंथी] sects bury their dead and the others cremate them. With the Tirmendār Koshtis on the fifth day the Ayawār priest goes to the cremation-ground accompanied by the deceased’s family and worships the image of Vishnu [विष्णु] and the tulsi [तुलसी] or basil upon the grave ; and after this the whole party take their food at the place. Mourning is observed during five days for married and three for unmarried persons ; and when a woman has lost her husband she is taken on the fifth day to the bank of some river or tank and her bangles are broken, her bead necklace is taken off, the vermilion is rubbed off her forehead, and her foot ornaments are removed; and these things she must not wear again while she is a widow. On the fourth day the Panch [पांच] or caste elders come and place a new turban on the head of the chief mourner or deceased’s heir ; they then take him round the bazar and seat him at his loom, where he weaves a little. After this he goes and sits with the Panch [पांच] and they take food together. This ceremony indicates that the impurity caused by the death is removed, and the mourners return to common life. The caste do not perform the shrāddh [श्राद्ध] ceremony, but on the Akhātij [आखातीज] day or commencement of the agricultural year a family which has lost a male member will invite a man from some other family of the caste, and one which has lost a female member a woman, and will feed the guest with good food in the name of the dead. In Chhindwāra [छिंदवाडा] during the fortnight of Pitripaksh [पितृ पक्ष]  or the worship of ancestors, a Koshti [कोष्टी] family will have a feast and invite guests of the caste. Then the host stands in the doorway with a pestle and as the guest comes he bars his entrance, saying: ‘Are you one of my ancestors ; this feast is for my ancestors ?’ To which the guest will reply : ‘Yes, I am your great-grandfather ; take away the pestle.’ By this ingenious device the resourceful Koshti [कोष्टी] combines the difficult filial duty of the feeding of his ancestors with the entertainment of his friends.

5. Religion.

The principal deity of the Koshtis [कोष्टी] is Gajānand [गजानन्द] or Ganpati [गणपति], whom they revere on the festival of Ganesh Chathurthi [गणेश चतुर्थी] or the fourth day of the month of Bhādon [भादों] (August). They clean all their weaving implements and worship them and make an image of Ganpati [गणपति] in cowdung to which they make offerings of flowers, rice and turmeric. On this day they do not work and fast till evening, when the image of Ganpati [गणपति] is thrown into a tank and they return home and eat delicacies. Some of them observe the Tīj [तीज] or third day of every month as a fast for Ganpati [गणपति], and when the moon of the fourth day rises they eat cakes of dough roasted on a cowdung fire and mixed with butter and sugar, and offer these to Ganpati [गणपति]. Some of the Sālewārs [సాలివాడు] are Vaishnavas [वैष्णव] and others Lingāyats [लिंगायत] : the former employ Ayawārs for their gurus [गुरु] or spiritual preceptors and are sometimes known as Tirmendआr ; while the Lingāyats [लिंगायत], who are also called Woheda, have Jangams [जंगम] as their priests. In Bālāghāt [बालाघाट] and Chhattisgarh [छत्तीसगढ़] many of the Koshtis [कोष्टी] belong to the Kabīrpanthi [कबीरपंथी] sect, and these revere the special priests of the sect and abstain from the use of flesh and liquor. They are also known as Ghātibandhia, from the ghāt or string of beads of basil-wool (tulsi [तुलसी]) which they tie round their necks. In Mandla [मन्द्ला] the Kabīrpanthi Koshtis [कबीरपंथी कोष्टी] eat flesh and will intermarry with the others, who are known distinctively as Saktaha. The Gurmukhis [गुरमुखी] are a special sect of the Nāgpur [नागपूर] country and are the followers of a saint named Koliba Bāba, who lived at Dhāpewāra [धापेवाड़ा] near Kalmeshwar [कळमेश्वर].  He is said to have fed five hundred persons with food which was sufficient for ten and to have raised a Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] from the dead in Umrer [उमरेड]. Some Brāhmans [ब्राह्मण] wished to test him and told him to perform a miracle, so he had a lot of brass pots filled with water and put a cloth over them, and when he withdrew it the water had changed into curded milk. The Gurmukhis [गुरमुखी] have a descendant of Koliba Baba for their preceptor, and each of them keeps a cocoanut in his house, which may represent Koliba Bāba or else the unseen deity. To this he makes offerings of sandalwood, rice and flowers. The Gurmukhis [गुरमुखी] are forbidden to venerate any of the ordinary Hindu deities, but they cannot refrain from making offerings to Māta Mai [माता माई] when smallpox breaks out, and if any person has the disease in his house they refrain from worshipping the cocoanut so long as it lasts, because they think that this would be to offer a slight to the smallpox goddess who is sojourning with them. Another sect is that of the Matwāles [मतवाले] who worship Vishnu [विष्णु] as Nārāyan [नारायण], as well as Siva [शिव] and Sakti [शक्ति]. They are so called because they drink liquor at their religious feasts. They have a small platform on which fresh cowdung is spread every day, and they bow to this before taking their food. Once in four or five years after a wedding offerings are made to Nārāyan Deo [नारायण देव] on the bank of a tank outside the village ; chickens and goats are killed and the more extreme of them sacrifice a pig, but the majority will not join with these. Offerings of liquor are also made and must be drunk by the worshippers. Mehras [मेहरा] and other low castes also belong to this sect, but the Koshtis [कोष्टी] will not eat with them. But in Chhindwāra [छिंदवाडा] it is said that on the day after the Pola [पोळा] festival in August, when insects are prevalent and the season of disease begins, the Koshtis [कोष्टी] and Māngs go out together to look for the nārbod shrub,1 and here they break a small piece of bread and eat it together. In Bhandāra [भंडारा] the Koshtis [कोष्टी] worship the spirit of one Kadu, patel [पटेल] or headman of the village of Mohali, who was imprisoned in the fort of Ambāgarh [अम्बागढ] under an accusation of sorcery in Marātha [मराठा] times and died there. He is known as Ambagarhia Deo [अम्बाढिय देव], and the people offer goats and fowls to him in order to be cured of diseases. The above notice indicates that the caste are somewhat especially inclined to religious feeling and readily welcome reformers striving against Hindu polytheism and Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] supremacy. This is probably due in part to the social stigma which attaches to the weaving industry among the Hindus and is resented as an injustice by the Koshtis [कोष्टी], and in part also to the nature of their calling, which leaves the mind free for thought during long hours while the fingers are playing on the loom ; and with the uneducated serious reflection must almost necessarily be of a religious character. In this respect the Koshti [कोष्टी] may be said to resemble his fellow-weavers of Thrums. In Nāgpur [नागपूर] District the Koshtis [कोष्टी] observe the Muharram [محرم] festival, and many of them go out begging on the first day with a green thread tied round their body and a beggar’s wallet. They cook the grain which is given to them on the tenth day of the festival, giving a little to the Muhammadan priest and eating the rest. This observance of a Muhammadan rite is no doubt due to their long association with followers of that religion in Berār [बेरार].

1 Bauhinia Rusa [???].

6. Superstitions.

Before beginning work for the day the Sālewār [సాలివాడు] makes obeisance to his loom and implements, nor may he touch them without having washed his face and hands. A woman must not approach the loom during her periodical impurity, and if anybody sneezes as work is about to be begun, they wait a little time to let the ill luck pass off. In Nāgpur [नागपूर] they believe that the posts to which the ends of the loom are fastened have magical powers, and if any one touches them with his leg he will get ulcers up to the knee. If a woman steps on the kūchi [कूची] or loom-brush she is put out of caste and a feast has to be given to the community before she is readmitted. To cure inflammation in the eyes they take a piece of plaited grass and wrap it round with cotton soaked in oil. Then it is held before the sufferer’s eyes and set on fire and the drops of oil are allowed to fall into water, and as they get cold and congeal the inflammation is believed to abate. Among some classes of Koshtis [कोष्टी] the killing of a cat is a very serious offence, almost equivalent to killing a cow. Even if a man touches a dead cat he has to give two feasts and be fully purified. The sanctity of the cat among Hindus is sometimes explained on the ground that it kills rats, which attract snakes into the house. But the real reason is probably that primitive people regard all domestic animals as sacred. The Koshti [कोष्टी] also reveres the dog and jackal.

7. Clothes, etc.

The Sālewārs [సాలివాడు] of the Godāvari [गोदावरी] tract wrap a short rectangular piece of cloth round their head as a turban. Formerly, Mr. Raghunāth Wāman states, the caste had a distinctive form of turban by which it could be recognised, but under British administration these rules of dress are falling into abeyance. A few of the Sālewārs [సాలివాడు] put on the sacred thread, but it is not generally worn. Sālewār [సాలివాడు] women have a device representing a half-moon tattooed on the forehead between the ends of the eyebrows ; the checks are marked with a small dot and the arms adorned with a representation of the sacred tulsi [तुलसी] or basil.

8. Social rules and status.

The caste eat flesh and fish and drink liquor, and in the Marātha [मराठा] Districts they will eat chickens like most castes of this country. In Mandla [मन्द्ला] they have recently prohibited the keeping of fowls, under pain of temporary expulsion. Those who took food in charity-kitchens during the famine of 1900 were readmitted to the community with the penalty of shaving the beard and moustaches in the case of a man, and cutting a few hairs from the head in that of a woman. In Berār [बेरार] the Lād [लाड़, Jain [जैन] and Katghar  Koshtis [कोष्टी] are all strict vegetarians. The Koshtis [कोष्टी] employ Brāhmans [ब्राह्मण] for their ceremonies, but their social status is about on a level with the village menials, below the cultivating castes. This, however, is a very good position for weavers, as most of the weaving castes are stigmatised as impure. But the Koshtis [कोष्टी] live in towns and not in villages and weave the finer kinds of cloth for which considerable skill is required, while in former times their work also yielded a good remuneration. These facts probably account for their higher status ; similarly the Tāntis [তাঁতী] or weavers of Bengal [বঙ্গ] who produce the fine muslins of Dacca [ঢাকা], so famous in Mughal times, have obtained such a high rank there that Brāhmans [ब्राह्मण] will take water from their hands;while the few Tāntis [तांती] who are found in the Central Provinces are regarded as impure and are not touched. The caste are of a turbulent disposition, perhaps on account of their comparatively light work, which does not tire their bodies like cultivation and other manual labour. One or two serious riots have been caused by the Koshtis [कोष्टी] in recent years.

1 Sir H. Risley’s Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art. Tānti.

9. Occupation.

The standard occupation of the caste is the weaving of the fine silk-bordered cloths which are universally worn on the body by Brāhmans [ब्राह्मण] and other well-to-do persons of the Marātha [मराठा] country. The cloth is usually white with borders of red silk. They dye their own thread with lac or the flowers of the palās [पलाश] tree (Butea frondosa [Butea monosperma (Lam.) Taub.]) The price of a pair of loin-cloths of this kind is Rs. 14, and of a pair of dupattas [दुपट्टा] or shoulder-cloths Rs. 10, while women’s sāris [साड़ी] also are made. Each colony of Koshtis [कोष्टी] in a separate town usually only weave one kind of cloth of the size for which their looms are made. The silk-bordered loin-cloths of Umrer [उमरेड] and Pauni are well known and are sent all over India. The export of hand-woven cloth from all towns of the Nāgpur [नागपूर] plain has been estimated at Rs. 5 lakhs a year. The rich sometimes have the cloths made with gold lace borders. The following account of the caste is given in Sir R. Craddock’s Nāgpur Settlement Report:

“The Koshti [कोष्टी] is an inveterate grumbler, and indeed from his point of view he has a great deal to complain of. On the one hand the price of raw cotton and the cost of his living have increased very largely ; on the other hand, the product of his loom commands no higher price than it did before, and he cannot rely on selling it when the market is slack. He cannot adapt himself to the altered environment and clings to his loom. He dislikes rough manual labour and alleges, no doubt with truth, that it deprives him of the delicacy of touch needed in weaving the finer cloths. If prices rise he is the first to be distressed, and on relief works he cannot perform the requisite task and has to be treated with special indulgence. The mills have been established many years in Nāgpur [नागपूर], but very few of the older weavers have sought employment there. They have begun to send their children, but work at home themselves, though they really all use machine - spun yarn. The Koshtis [कोष्टी] are quarrelsome and addicted to drink, and they have generally been the chief instigators of grain riots when prices rise. They often marry several wives and their houses swarm with a proportionate number pf children. But although the poorer members of the community are in struggling circumstances and are put to great straits when prices of food rise, those who turn out the fine silk-bordered work are fairly prosperous in ordinary times.”"

[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. 581 - 589]

Kurni [ಕುರ್ನಿ / కుర్ని] (Kannada, Telugu)

"Kurni .The name [ಕುರ್ನಿ / కుర్ని] is, according to the Census Report, 1901,

“a corruption of kuri [ಕುರಿ] (sheep) and vanni (wool), the caste having been originally weavers of wool. They now weave cotton and silk, and also cultivate. They have two main sub-divisions, Hirē (big) and Chikka (small). The Hirēs are all Lingāyats, and are said to have sixty-six totemistic septs or gōtras. They employ Jangams [జంగం] as priests, and also men of their own caste, who are called Chittikāras. They will mess with the non-Lingāyat section, and with Lingāyats of other castes. They do not eat meat, or smoke or drink alcohol, but the Chikkas do all three. Marriage before puberty is the rule in the caste. Divorces are permitted. Widows may marry again, but have to spend two nights alone at two different temples. Their wedding ceremonies are carried out by widows only, and the woman is not afterwards allowed to take part in religious or family observances.”

A synonym of both Kurnis [ಕುರ್ನಿ / కుర్ని]  and Dēvāngas is Jāda or Jandra, meaning great men. A further synonym of the Kurnis is said to be Kunigiri. The term Nēse [நெசவு], meaning weaver, is applied to several of the weaving castes, including the Kurnis.

The following extract is taken from an appeal for subscriptions in aid of the publication of the Bhavishyottara Purāna [ಭವಿಶ್ಯೋತ್ತರಪುರಾಣ] by the Kurnis [ಕುರ್ನ] in a village in the Bellary [ಬಳ್ಳಾರಿ] district.

“Greetings from all the Kuruhine Setti Vīrasaivas [ವೀರಽಐವ] residing in Hirihala village of Bellary taluk. The wish of the writers is that all, old and young, should rejoice in the sixty-six gōtras [ಗೋತ್ರ], sixty-six rudras [ರುದ್ರ], and sixty-six rishis [ಋಷಿ]. He who reads the order of these sixty-six gōtras of the Kuruhina Settis will enter Sivaloka [ಽಇವಲೋಕ]. His twenty-one generations will attain to the position of ganas [ಗಣ] (attendants) of Sivaloka. Such was the order of Īswara [ಈಽವರ]. This is the end of the chapter in the Nilakantha Mallikarjuna Bhavishyat purāna acquired by Shanmukha [ಶಣ್ಮುಖ] from the Īswara shruti [ಈಽವರಽರುತಿ] of the Haravātula.”

The gōtras [ಗೋತ್ರ] are described as being of the Brāhman, Kshatriya, and Vaisya sub-divisions of the caste, and of Shanmukha’s [ಶಣ್ಮುಖ] Sudra caste:—


  • Anasu, ferrule.
  • Anchu [అంచు], edge or border.
  • Arashina [ಅರಿಶಿನ], turmeric.
  • Āre [ఆరె], Bauhinia racemosa [Lam.].
  • Ārya [ಆರ್ಯ], venerable.
  • Banaju, trade or painted wooden toys. 
  • Bandi [ಬಂಡಿ], cart.
  • Banni [ಬನ್ನಿ], Prosopis spicigera [Prosopis cineraria (L.) Druce].
  • Basari, fig tree.
  • Bennē [ಬೆಣ್ಣೆ], butter.
  • Bīlē [ಬಿಳಿ], white.
  • Dharma [ಧರ್ಮ], conduct.
  • Durga [ದುರ್ಗ], fort.
  • Gaduge [ಗದ್ದುಗೆ], throne.
  • Gauda, headman.
  • Gikkili, rattle.
  • Gorige [ಗೋರಿಕಾಯಿ], Cyamopsis psoralioides.
  • Gullu, Solanum ferox.
  • Gundu, cannon-ball. 
  • Halige [ಹಲಗೆ], plank.
  • Hālu [ಹಾಲು], milk.
  • Heggu, nape of the neck.
  • Hemmē, vanity.
  • Hittu [ಹಿಟ್ಟು], flour.
  • Hon [ಹೊನ್ನು], gold.
  • Hullu [ಹುಲ್ಲು], grass.
  • Īmē, eyelid.
  • In, sweet.
  • Inichi [ಇಣಚಿ], squirrel.
  • Irāni, earthen vessel used at marriages.
  • Jāli [ಜಾಲಿ], Acacia arabica [Vachellia nilotica (L.) P.J.H.Hurter & Mabb.].
  • Jīrige, cummin seed.
  • Jīva [ಜೀವ], life.
  • Junju, cock’s comb.
  • Kādi, blade of grass.
  • Kātige, collyrium.
  • Kadlē [ಕಡಲೆ] (Bengal gram, Cicer arietinum).
  • Kādu [ಕಾಡು], wild.
  • Kakkē [ಕಕ್ಕೆ], Cassia Fistula.
  • Kamādi, tortoise.
  • Kanni, rope.
  • Kattē [ಕಟ್ಟೆ], embankment.
  • Ken, red.
  • Kenja, red ant.
  • Kere, tank.
  • Kēsari [ಕೇಸರಿ], lion.
  • Kinkila, Indian cuckoo, Eudynamis honorata [Eudynamys scolopaceus].
  • Koti, dagger.
  • Kudure [ಕುದುರೆ], horse.
  • Kunte, pond.
  • Kurivi, sparrow.
  • Malligē [ಮಲ್ಲಿಗೆ], jasmine.
  • Maralu [ಮರಳು], sand.
  • Menasu [ಮೆಣಸು], pepper or chillies.
  • Midichi, locust.
  • Mini, leather rope.
  • Muchchu, broken rice.
  • Muddu [ಮುತ್ತು], kiss or love.
  • Mullu [ಮುಳ್ಳು], thorn.
  • Nāga [ನಾಗ], snake.
  • Nellu, unhusked rice.
  • Parama [ಪರಮ], highest.
  • Raksha [ರಕ್ಷ], protecting.
  • Rāma [ರಾಮ], lovely.
  • Rikki, feather ?
  • Salige, wire.
  • Sampigē, Michelia Champaca [Magnolia champaca (L.) Baill. ex Pierre].
  • Samsāra [ಸಂಸಾರ], family.
  • Sara, string.
  • Sindhu [ಸಿಂಧು], sea or flag ?
  • Swarabha, sound.
  • Tikkē, gem.
  • Uttama [ಉತ್ತಮ], best.
  • Vanki, armlet.
  • Vattē, camel.
Some of the above names also occur as exogamous septs, or sub-divisions of other Canarese [ಕನ್ನಡ] or Telugu [తెలుగు] classes, e.g.—
  • Arashina  [ಅರಿಶಿನ], turmeric: Agasa, Kuruba, Oddē.
  • Bandi [ಬಂಡಿ], cart: Kāpu, Kavarai, Kuruba, Kuravan, Māla, Oddē, Yānādi.
  • Hālu [ಹಾಲು], milk> Holeya, Kuruba, Vakkaliga.
  • Hon, gold: Kuruba, Oddē.
  • Jīrige, cummin: Kuruba.
  • Kudure [ಕುದುರೆ], horse: Vakkaliga.
  • Mallige [ಮಲ್ಲಿಗೆ], Malli [ಮಲ್ಲಿ], or Mallela, jasmine: Holeya, Kamma, Kuruba, Kuravan, Mādiga, Māla, Oddē, Tsākala.
  • Menasu [ಮೆಣಸು], pepper or chillies: Kuruba.
  • Sampigi or Sampangi, Michelia Champaca  [Magnolia champaca (L.) Baill. ex Pierre]: Oddē."

[Quelle: Thurston, Edgar <1855-1935> ; Rangachari, K. (Kadambi) [கா. இரங்காச்சாரி] <1868 – 1934>: Castes and tribes of southern India / by Edgar Thurston ; assisted by K. Rangachari. -- Madras : Govt. Press, 1909. -- 7 Bde. : Ill. ; 24 cm. -- Bd. 4. -- S. 130 - 133.]

Mahār [महार], Mehra [मेहरा], Dhed [ढेड] (Central Provinces)

"Mahār [महार], Mehra [मेहरा], Dhed [ढेड].

1. General notice.

The impure caste of menials, labourers and village watchmen of the Marātha [मराठा] country, corresponding to the Chamārs [चमार] and Koris [कोरी] of northern India. They numbered nearly 1,200,000 persons in the combined Province in 1911, and are most numerous in the Nāgpur [नागपूर], Bhandāra [भंडारा], Chanda [चंद्रपूर] and Wardha [वर्धा] Districts of the Central Provinces, while considerable colonies are also found in Bālāghāt [बालाघाट], Chhindwāra [छिंदवाडा] and Betūl [बैतूल]. Their distribution thus follows largely that of the Marathi [मराठी] language and the castes speaking it. Berār [बेरार] contained 400,000, distributed over the four Districts. In the whole Province this caste is third in point of numerical strength. In India the Mahārs [महार] number about three million persons, of whom a half belong to Bombay [मुंबई]. I am not aware of any accepted derivation for the word Mahār [महार], but the balance of opinion seems to be that the native name of Bombay [मुंबई], Mahārāshtra [महाराष्ट्], is derived from that of the caste, as suggested by Wilson. Another derivation which holds it to be a corruption of Maha Rāshtrakūta [महाराष्ट्रकूट], and to be so called after the Rāshtrakūta [राष्ट्रकूट] Rājpūt [राजपूत] dynasty of the eighth and ninth centuries, seems less probable because countries are very seldom named after ruling dynasties.1 Whereas in support of Mahārāshtra [महाराष्ट्] as ‘The country of the Mahārs [महार],’ we have Gujarāshtra or Gujarāt [ગુજરાત], the country of the Gūjars [गूजर], and Saurāshtra [સૌરાષ્ટ્] or Surat [સુરત], the country of the Sauras [સૌર]. According to Platts’ Dictionary, however, Mahārāshtra [महाराष्ट्] means ‘ the great country,’ and this is what the Marātha [मराठा] Brāhmans [ब्राह्मण] themselves say. Mehra [मेहरा] appears to be a variant of the name current in the Hindustāni [हिंदुस्तानी / ہندوستانی] Districts, while Dheda [ढेड]  [ढेड], or Dhada [ढड], is said to be a corruption of Dharadas or hillmen.2 In the Punjab [ਪੰਜਾਬ] it is said to be a general term of contempt meaning ‘Any low fellow.’ 3

1 This derivation is also negatived by the fact that the name Mahāratta was known in the third century B.C. or long before the Rāstrakūtas became prominent.
2 Bombay [मुंबई] Gazetteer, Gujarāt Hindus, p. 338.
Punjab Census Report (1881).

Wilson considers the Mahārs [महार] to be an aboriginal or pre-Aryan tribe, and all that is known of the caste seems to point to the correctness of this hypothesis. In the Bombay Gazetteer the writer of the interesting Gujarāt [ગુજરાત] volume suggests that the Mahārs [महार] are fallen Rājpūts [राजपूत] ; but there seems little to support this opinion except their appearance and countenance, which is of the Hindu rather than the Dravidian type. In Gujarāt [ગુજરાત] they have also some Rājpūt [राजपूत] surnames, as Chauhān [चौहान] , Panwār [पंवार], Rāthor [राठौड़], Solanki [સોલંકી] and so on, but these may have been adopted by imitation or may indicate a mixture of Rājpūt [राजपूत] blood. Again, the Mahārs [મહાર] of Gujarāt [ગુજરાત] are the farm-servants and serfs of the Kunbis [कुणबी]. 

“Each family is closely connected with the house of some landholder or pattidār [पट्टीदार] (sharer). For his master he brings in loads from the fields and cleans out the stable, receiving in return daily allowances of buttermilk and the carcases of any cattle that die. This connection seems to show traces of a form of slavery. Rich pattidārs [पट्टीदार] have always a certain number of Dheda [ढेड] families whom they speak of as ours (hamard), and when a man dies he distributes along with his lands a certain number of Dheda [ढेड] families to each of his sons. An old tradition among Dhedas [ढेड] points to some relation between the Kunbis [कुणबी] and Dhedas [ढेड]. Two brothers, Leva and Deva [देव], were the ancestors, the former of the Kunbis [कुणबी], the latter of the Dhedas [ढेड].” 4

4 Bombay Gazetteer, l.c. text and footnote by R. v. J. S. Taylor.

Such a relation as this in Hindu society would imply that many Mahār [महार] women held the position of concubines to their Kunbi [कुणबी] masters, and would therefore account for the resemblance of the Mahār [महार] to Hindus rather than the forest tribes. But if this is to be regarded as evidence of Rājpūt [राजपूत] descent, a similar claim would have to be allowed to many of the Chamārs [चमार] and sweepers. Others of the lowest castes also have Rājpūt [राजपूत] sept names, as the Pārdhis and Bhīls ; but the fact can at most be taken, I venture to think, to indicate a connection of the ‘Droit de Seigneur’ type. On the other hand, the Mahārs [महार] occupy the debased and impure position which was the lot of those non-Aryan tribes who became subject to the Hindus and lived in their villages ; they eat the flesh of dead cattle and this and other customs appear to point decisively to a non-Aryan origin.

2. Length of residence in the Central Provinces.

Several circumstances indicate that the Mahār [महार] is recognised as the oldest resident of the plain country of Berār [बेरार] and Nāgpur [नागपूर]. In Berār [बेरार] he is a village servant and is the the Central referee on village boundaries and customs, a position implying that his knowledge of them is the most ancient. At the Holi [होली] festival the fire of the Mahārs [महार] is kindled first and that of the Kunbis [कुणबी] is set alight from it. The Kāmdār Mahār [कामदार महार], who acts as village watchman, also has the right of bringing the toran [तीरण] or rope of leaves which is placed on the marriage-shed of the Kunbis [कुणबी] ; and for this he receives a present of three annas. In Bhandāra [भंडारा] the Telis [तेली], Lohārs [लोहार], Dhīmars [धीमर] and several other castes employ a Mahār [महार] Mohtūria or wise man to fix the date of their weddings. And most curious of all, when the Panwār Rājpūts [पंवार राजपूत] of this tract celebrate the festival of Nārāyan  Deo [नारायण देव], they call a Mahār [महार] to their house and make him the first partaker of the feast before beginning to eat themselves. Again in Berāर् [बेरार] 1 the Mahār [महार] officiates at the killing of the buffalo on Dasahra [दशहर]. On the day before the festival the chief Mahār [महार] of the village and his wife with their garments knotted together bring some earth from the jungle and fashioning two images set one on a clay elephant and the other on a clay bullock. The images are placed on a small platform outside the village site and worshipped ; a young he-buffalo is bathed and brought before the images as though for the same object The Patel [पटेल] wounds the buffalo in the nose with a sword and it is then marched through the village. In the evening it is killed by the head Mahār [महार], buried in the customary spot, and any evil that might happen during the coming year is thus deprecated and, it is hoped, averted. The claim to take the leading part in this ceremony is the occasion of many a quarrel and an occasional affray or riot. Such customs tend to show that the Mahārs [महार] were the earliest immigrants from Bombay [मुंबई] into the Berār [बेरार] and Nāgpur [नागपूर] plain, excluding of course the Gonds and other tribes, who have practically been ousted from this tract. And if it is supposed that the Panwārs [पंवार] came here in the tenth century, as seems not improbable, the Mahārs [महार], whom the Panwārs [पंवार] recognise as older residents than themselves, must have been earlier still, and were probably numbered among the subjects of the old Hindu kingdoms of Bhāndak [भद्रावती] and Nagardhan [नगरधन].

3. Legend of origin.

The Mahārs [महार] say they are descended from Mahamuni [महामुनि], who was a foundling picked up by the goddess Pārvati [पार्वती] on the banks of the Ganges. At this time beef had not become a forbidden food; and when the divine cow, Tripād Gayatri [त्रिपाद गायत्री], died, the gods determined to cook and eat her body and Mahamuni [महामुनि] was set to watch the pot boiling. He was as inattentive as King Alfred, and a piece of flesh fell out of the pot. Not wishing to return the dirty piece to the pot Mahamuni [महामुनि] ate it ; but the gods discovered the delinquency, and doomed him and his descendants to live on the flesh of dead cows.2

2 Berār Census Report (1881), p.144.

4. Subcastes.

The caste have a number of subdivisions, generally of a local or territorial type, as Daharia, the residents of Dāhar or the Jubbulpore [जबलपुर] country, Baonia (52) of Berār [बेरार], Nemādya or from Nimār [निमाड़], Khāndeshi [ख़ानदेशी] from Khāndesh [ख़ानदेश], and so on ; the Katia group are probably derived from that caste, Katia meaning a spinner ; the Bārkias are another group whose name is supposed to mean spinners of fine thread ; while the Lonārias are salt-makers. The highest division are the Somvansis [सोमवंशी] or children of the moon ; these claim to have taken part with the Pāndavas [पाण्डव] against the Kauravas [कौरव] in the war of the Mahābhārata [महाभारत], and subsequently to have settled in Mahārāshtra [महाराष्ट्].1 But the Somvansi Mahārs [सोमवंशी महार] consent to groom horses, which the Baone and Kosaria subcastes will not do. Baone and Somvansi Mahārs [सोमवंशी महार] will take food together, but will not intermarry. The Ladwān subcaste are supposed to be the offspring of kept women of the Somvansi Mahārs [सोमवंशी महार] ; and in Wardha [वर्धा] the Dharmik [धर्मिक] group are also the descendants of illicit unions and their name is satirical, meaning ‘virtuous.’ As has been seen, the caste have a subdivision named Katia, which is the name of a separate Hindustāni [हिंदुस्तानी / ہندوستانی] caste ; and other subcastes have names belonging to northern India, as the Mahobia [महोबिय], from Mahoba [महोबा] in the United Provinces, the Kosaria or those from Chhattisgarh [छत्तीसगढ़], and the Kanaujia [कन्नौजिय] from Kanauj [कन्नौज]. This may perhaps be taken to indicate that bodies of the Kori [कोरी] and Katia weaving castes of northern India have been amalgamated with the Mahārs [महार] in Districts where they have come together along the Satpura [सतपुड़ा] Hills and Nerbudda [नर्मदा] Valley.

1 Kitts' Berār Census Report, p. 144.

5. Exogamous groups and marriage customs.

The caste have also a large number of exogamous groups, the names of which are usually derived from plants, animals, and natural objects. A few may be given as examples out of fifty-seven recorded in the Central Provinces, though this is far from representing the real total ; all the common animals have septs named after them, as the tiger, cobra, tortoise, peacock, jackal, lizard, elephant, lark, scorpion, calf, and so on ; while more curious names are—

  • Darpan [दर्पण], a mirror ;
  • Khānda Phari, sword and shield ;
  • Undrimāria, a rat-killer ;
  • Aglāvi, an incendiary ;
  • Andhāre, a blind man ; 
  • Kutramāria, a dog-killer ;
  • Kodu Dūdh, sour milk ;
  • Khobragāde, cocoanut-kernel ;
  • Bhājikhai, a vegetable eater,
  • and so on.

A man must not marry in his own sept, but may take a wife from his mother’s or grandmother’s. A sister’s son may marry a brother’s daughter, but not vice versa. A girl who is seduced before marriage by a man of her own caste or any higher one can be married as if she were a widow, but if she has a child she must first get some other family to take it off her hands. The custom of Lamjhana or serving for a wife is recognised, and the expectant bridegroom will live with his father-in-law and work for him for a period varying from one to five years. The marriage ceremony follows the customary Hindustāni [हिंदुस्तानी / ہندوستانی] or Marātha [मराठा] ritual1 as the case may be. In Wardha [वर्धा] the right foot of the bridegroom and the left one of the bride are placed together in a new basket, while they stand one on each side of the threshold. They throw five handfuls of coloured rice over each other, and each time, as he throws, the bridegroom presses his toe on the bride’s foot; at the end he catches the girl by the finger and the marriage is complete. In the Central Provinces the Mohtūria or caste priest officiates at weddings, but in Berār [बेरार], Mr. Kitts states, the caste employ the Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] Joshi [जोशी] or village priest. But as he will not come to their house they hold the wedding on the day that one takes place among the higher castes, and when the priest gives the signal the dividing cloth (Antarpat) between the couple is withdrawn, and the garments of the bride and bridegroom are knotted, while the bystanders clap their hands and pelt the couple with coloured grain. As the priest frequently takes up his position on the roof of the house for a wedding it is easy for the Mahārs [महार] to see him. In Mandla [मन्द्ला] some of the lower class of Brāhmans [ब्राह्मण] will officiate at the weddings of Mahārs [महार]. In Chhindwāra [छिंदवाडा] the Mahārs [महार] seat the bride and bridegroom in the frame of a loom for the ceremony, and they-worship the hide of a cow or bullock filled with water. They drink together ceremoniously, a pot of liquor being placed on a folded cloth and all the guests sitting round it in a circle. An elder man then lays a new piece of cloth on the pot and worships it. He takes a cup of the liquor himself and hands round a cupful to every person present.

In Mandla [मन्द्ला] at a wedding the barber comes and cuts the bride’s nails, and the cuttings are rolled up in dough and placed in a little earthen pot beside the marriage-post. The bridegroom’s nails and hair are similarly cut in his own house and placed in another vessel. A month or two after the wedding the two little pots are taken out and thrown into the Nerbudda [नर्मदा]. A wedding costs the bridegroom’s party about Rs. 40 or Rs. 50 and the bride’s about Rs. 25. They have no going-away ceremony, but the occasion of a girl’s coming to maturity is known as Bolāwan. She is kept apart for six days and given new clothes, and the caste-people are invited to a meal. When a woman’s husband dies the barber breaks her bangles, and her anklets are taken off and given to him as his perquisite. Her brother-in-law or other relative gives her a new white cloth, and she wears this at first, and afterwards white or coloured clothes at her pleasure. Her hair is not cut, and she may wear patelas or flat metal bangles on the forearm and armlets above the elbow, but not other ornaments. A widow is under no obligation to marry her first husband’s younger brother; when she marries a stranger he usually pays a sum of about Rs. 30 to her parents. When the price has been paid the couple exchange a ring and a bangle respectively in token of the agreement. When the woman is proceeding to her second husband’s house, her old clothes, necklace and bangles are thrown into a river or stream and she is given new ones to wear. This is done to lay the first husband’s spirit, which may be supposed to hang about the clothes she wore as his wife, and when they are thrown away or buried the exorcist mutters spells over them in order to lay the spirit. No music is allowed at the marriage of a widow except the crooked trumpet called singāra [सिंगार]. A bachelor who marries a widow must first go through a mock ceremony with a cotton-plant, a sword or a ring. Divorce must be effected before the caste panchāyat  [पंचायत] or committee, and if a divorced woman marries again, her first husband performs funeral and mourning ceremonies as if she were dead. In Gujarāt [ગુજરાત] the practice is much more lax and 

“divorce can be obtained almost to an indefinite extent. Before they finally settle down to wedded life most couples have more than once changed their partners.” 1

1 Bombay Gazetteer, Gujarāt Hindus, loc. cit.

But here also, before the change takes place, there must be a formal divorce recognised by the caste.

6. Funeral rites.

The caste either burn or bury the dead and observe mourning for three days,2 having their houses whitewashed and their faces shaved. On the tenth day they give a feast  to the caste-fellows. On the Akshaya Tritia1 [अक्षय तृतीया] and the 30th day of Kunwār (September) they offer rice and cakes to the crows in the names of their ancestors. In Berār [बेरार] Mr. Kitts writes:

“If a Mahār [महार]’s child has died, he will on the third day place bread on the grave ; if an infant, milk ; if an adult, on the tenth day, with five pice in one hand and five betel-leaves in the other, he goes into the river, dips himself five times and throws these things away ; he then places five lighted lamps on the tomb, and after these simple ceremonies gets himself shaved as though he were an orthodox Hindu.”

 2 In Berār [बेरार] for ten clays-—Kilts’  Berār Census Report, l.c.
1 3rd Baisakh (April) Sudi, commencement of agricultural year.
Berār Census Report, I. c.

7. Childbirth.

In Mandla [मन्द्ला] the mother is secluded at childbirth in a separate house if one is available, and if not they fence in a part of the veranda for her use with bamboo screens. After the birth the mother must remain impure until the barber comes and colours her toe-nails and draws a line round her feet with red mahur powder. This is indispensable, and if the barber is not immediately available she must wait until his services can be obtained. When the navel-string drops it is buried in the place on which the mother sat while giving birth, and when this has been done the purification may be effected. The Dhobi [धोबी] is then called to wash the clothes of the household, and their earthen pots are thrown away. The head of the newborn child is shaved clean, as the birth-hair is considered to be impure, and the hair is wrapped up in dough and thrown into a river.

8. Names.

A child is named on the seventh or twelfth day after its birth, the name being chosen by the Mohtūria or caste headman. The ordinary Hindu names of deities for men and sacred rivers or pious and faithful wives for women are employed ; instances of the latter being

  • Ganga [गंगा],
  • Godāvari [गोदावरी], 
  • Jamuna [जमुना],
  • Sīta [सीता],
  • Laxmi [लक्ष्मी] and
  • Rādha [राधा].

Opprobrious names are sometimes given to avert ill-luck, as

  • Damdya (purchased for eight cowries),
  • Kauria (a cowrie),
  • Bhikāria [भिखारिय] (a beggar),
  • Ghusia (from ghus, a mallet for stamping earth),
  • Harchatt (refuse),
  • Akāli [अकाली] (born in famine-time),
  • Langra [लंगड़ा] (lame),
  • Lula [लूला] (having an arm useless) ;

or the name of another low caste is given, as 

  • Bhangi [भंगी] (sweeper),
  • Domari (Dom sweeper),
  • Chamra [चमड़ा] (tanner), 
  • Basori (basket-maker).

Not infrequently children are named after the month or day when they were born, as

  • Pusan, born in Pus [पूस] (December),
  • Chaitu, born in Chait [चैत्र] (March),
  • Manglu [मंगलु] (born on Tuesday),
  • Buddhi [बुधि] (born on Wednesday),
  • Sukka [सुक्क] (born on Friday),
  • Sanichra [सनिच्चर] (born on Saturday).

One boy was called Mulua or ‘Sold’ (mol-dena). His mother had no other children, so sold him for one pice (farthing) to a Gond woman. After five or six months, as he did not get fat, his name was changed to Jhuma or ‘lean,’ probably as an additional means of averting ill-luck. Another boy was named Ghurka, from the noise he made when being suckled. A child born in the absence of its father is called Sonwa, or one born in an empty house.

9. Religion.

The great body of the caste worship the ordinary deitiesDevi [देवी], Hanumān [हनुमान], Dulha Deo [दुल्हादेव] , and others, though of course they are not allowed to enter Hindu temples. They principally observe the Holi [होली] and Dasahra [दशहर] festivals and the days of the new and full moon. On the festival of Nāg-Panchmi [नाग पंचमी] they make an image of a snake with flour and sugar and eat it. At the sacred Ambāla [अंबाला]  tank at Rāmtek [रामटेक] the Mahārs [महार] have a special bathing-ghāt [घाट] set apart for them, and they may enter the citadel and go as far as the lowest step leading up to the temples ; here they worship the god and think that he accepts their offerings. They are thus permitted to traverse the outer enclosures of the citadel, which are also sacred. In Wardha [वर्धा] the Mahārs [महार] may not touch the shrines of Mahādeo [महादेओ / महादेव], but must stand before them with their hands joined. They may sometimes deposit offerings with their own hands on those of Bhīmsen [भीमसेन], originally a Gond god, and Māta Devi [माता देवी], the goddess of smallpox.

10. Adoption of foreign religions.

In Berār [बेरार] and Bombay [मुंबई] the Mahārs [महार] have some curious forms of belief.

“Of the confusion which obtains in the Mahār [महार] theogony the names of six of their gods will afford a striking example. While some Mahārs [महार] worship Vithoba [विठोबा], the god of Pandharpur [पंढरपूर], others revere Varuna’s [वरुण] twin sons, Meghoni and Deghoni, and his four messengers, Gabriel [גַּבְרִיאֵל / गब्रीएल], Azrael [عزرائیل], Michael [מיכאל] and Anādin [अनादिन], all of whom they say hail from Pandharpur [पंढरपूर].” 1

1 Berār Census Report, l.c.

The names of archangels thus mixed up with Hindu deities may most probably have been obtained from the Muhammadans, as they include Azrael [عزرائیل]; but in Gujarāt [ગુજરાત] their religion appears to have been borrowed from Christianity.

“The Karia Dhedas [ढेड] have some rather remarkable beliefs. In the Satya Yug [सत्य युग] the Dhedas [ढेड] say they were called Satyas [सत्य]; in the Dvāpar Yug [द्वापर युग] they were called Meghas; in the Treta Yug [त्रेता युग], Elias; and in the Kali Yug [कलि युग], Dhedas [ढेड]. The name Elias came, they say, from a prophet Elia, and of him their religious men have vague stories ; some of them especially about a famine that lasted for three years and a half, easily fitting into the accounts of Elijah [אֵלִיָּהוּ] in the Jewish Scriptures. They have also prophecies of a high future in store for their tribe. The king or leader of the new era, Kuyām Rai by name, will marry a Dheda [ढेड] woman and will raise the caste to the position of Brāhmans [ब्राह्मण]. They hold religious meetings or ochhavas, and at these with great excitement sing songs full of hope of the good things in store for them. When a man wishes to hold an ochhava he invites the whole caste, and beginning about eight in the evening they often spend the night in singing. Except perhaps for a few sweetmeats there is no eating or drinking, and the excitement is altogether religious and musical. The singers are chiefly religious Dhedas [ढेड] or Bhagats [भगत], and the people join in a refrain 'Avore Kuyām Rai Rāja, Oh ! come Kuyām Rai, our king.’ ” 1

 1  Bombav Gazetteer, Gujarāt Hindus.

It seems that the attraction which outside faiths exercise on the Mahārs [महार] is the hope held out of ameliorating the social degradation under which they labour, itself an outcome of the Hindu theory of caste. Hence they turn to Islam, or to what is possibly a degraded version of the Christian story, because these religions do not recognise caste, and hold out a promise to the Mahār [महार] of equality with his co-religionists, and in the case of Christianity of a recompense in the world to come for the sufferings which he has to endure in this one. Similarly, the Mahārs [महार] are the warmest adherents of the Muhammadan saint Sheikh Farīd [12. Jhdt.] [بابا فرید الدین گنج شکر], and flock to the fairs held in his honour at Girar in Wardha [वर्धा] and Partāpgarh [प्रतापगढ़] in Bhandāra [भंडारा], where he is supposed to have slain a couple of giants. In Berār [बेरार]1 also they revere Muhammadan tombs. The remains of the Muhammadan fort and tank on Pimpardol hill in Jalgaon [जळगाव] tāluk  are now one of the sacred places of the Mahārs [महार], though to the Muhammadans they have no religious associations. Even at present Mahārs [महार] are inclined to adopt Islām, and a case was recently reported when a body of twenty of them set out to do so, but turned back on being told that they would not be admitted to the mosque.2 A large proportion of the Mahārs [महार] are also adherents of the Kabīrpanthi [कबीरपंथी] sect, one of the main tenets of whose founder was the abolition of caste. And it is from the same point of view that Christianity appeals to them, enabling European missionaries to draw a large number of converts from this caste. But even the Hindu attitude towards the Mahārs [महार] is not one of unmixed intolerance. Once in three or four years in the southern Districts, the Panwārs [पंवार], Mahārs [महार], Pankas [पनका] and other castes celebrate the worship of Nārāyan Deo [नारायण देव] or Vishnu [विष्णु], the officiating priest being a Mahār [महार]. Members of all castes come to the Panwār’s [पंवार] house at night for the ceremony, and a vessel of water is placed at the door in which they wash their feet and hands as they enter ; and when inside they are all considered to be equal, and they sit in a line and eat the same food, and bind wreaths of flowers round their heads. After the cock crows the equality of status is ended, and no one who goes out of the house can enter again. At present also many educated Brāhmans [ब्राह्मण] recognise fully the social evils resulting from the degraded position of the Mahārs [महार], and are doing their best to remove the caste prejudices against them.

1 From Mr. C. Browm’s notes.
2 C. P. Police Gazette.

11. Superstitions.

They have various spells to cure a man possessed of an evil spirit, or stung by a snake or scorpion, or likely to be in danger from tigers or wild bears ; and in the Morsi [मोर्शी] tāluk  of Berār [बेरार] it is stated that they so greatly fear the effect of an enemy writing their name on a piece of paper and tying it to a sweeper’s broom that the threat to do this can be used with great effect by their creditors. To drive out the evil eye they make a small human image of powdered turmeric and throw it into boiled water, mentioning as they do so the names of any persons whom they suspect of having cast the evil eye upon them. Then the pot of water is taken out at midnight of a Wednesday or a Sunday and placed upside down on some cross-roads with a shoe over it, and the sufferer should be cured. Their belief about the sun and moon is that an old woman had two sons who were invited by the gods to dinner. Before they left she said to them that as they were going out there would be no one to cook, so they must remember to bring back something for her. The elder brother forgot what his mother had said and took nothing away with him ; but the younger remembered her and brought back something from the feast. So when they came back the old woman cursed the elder brother and said that as he had forgotten her he should be the sun and scorch and dry up all vegetation with his beams ; but the younger brother should be the moon and make the world cool and pleasant at night. The story is so puerile that it is only worth reproduction as a specimen of the level of a Mahār [महार]’s intelligence. The belief in evil spirits appears to be on the decline, as a result of education and accumulated experience. Mr. C. Brown states that in Malkāpur [मल्कापुर] of Berār [बेरार] the Mahārs [महार] say that there are no wandering spirits in the hills by night of such a nature that people need fear them. There are only tiny pari [परी] or fairies, small creatures in human form, but with the power of changing their appearance, who do no harm to any one.

12. Social rules.

When an outsider is to be received into the community all the hair on his face is shaved, being wetted with the urine of a boy belonging to the group to which he seeks admission. Mahārs [महार] will eat all kinds of food including the flesh of crocodiles and rats, but some of them abstain from beef. There is nothing peculiar in their dress except that the men wear a black woollen thread round their necks. The women may be recognised by their bold carriage, the absence of nose-rings and the large irregular dabs of vermilion on the forehead. Mahār [महार] women do not, as a rule, wear the choli [चोली] or breast-cloth. An unmarried girl does not put on vermilion nor draw her cloth over her head. Women must be tattooed with dots on the face, representations of scorpions, flowers and snakes on the arms and legs, and some dots to represent flies on the hands. It is the custom for a girl’s father or mother or father-in-law to have her tattooed in one place on the hand or arm immediately on her marriage. Then when girls are sitting together they will show this mark and say, ‘ My mother or father-in-law had this done,’ as the case may be. Afterwards if a woman so desires she gets herself tattooed on her other limbs. If an unmarried girl or widow becomes with child by a man of the Mahār [महार] caste or any higher one she is subjected after delivery to a semblance of the purification by fire known as Agnikāsht [अग्निकाष्ठ]. She is taken to the bank of a river and there five stalks of juāri are placed round her and burnt. Having fasted all day, at night she gives a feast to the caste-men and eats with them. If she offends with a man of lower caste she is finally expelled. Temporary exclusion from caste is imposed for taking food or drink from the hands of a Māng or Chamār [चमार] or for being imprisoned in jail, or on a Mahār [महार] man if he lives with a woman of any higher caste ; the penalty being the shaving of a man’s face or cutting off a lock of a woman’s hair, together with a feast to the caste. In the last case it is said that the man is not readmitted until he has put the woman away. If a man touches a dead dog, cat, pony or donkey, he has to be shaved and give a feast to the caste. And if a dog or cat dies in his house, or a litter of puppies or kittens is born, the house is considered to be defiled ; all the earthen pots must be thrown away, the whole house washed and cleaned and a caste feast given. The most solemn oath of a Mahār [महार] is by a cat or dog and in Yeotmāl [
यवतमाळ] by a black dog. In Berār [बेरार], the same paper states, the pig is the only animal regarded as unclean, and they must on no account touch it. This is probably owing to Muhammadan influence. The worst social sin which a Mahār [महार] can commit is to get vermin in a wound, which is known as Deogan or being smitten by God. While the affliction continues he is quite ostracised, no one going to his house or giving him food or water; and when it is cured the Mahārs [महार] of ten or twelve surrounding villages assemble and he must give a feast to the whole community. The reason for this calamity being looked upon with such peculiar abhorrence is obscure, but the feeling about it is general among Hindus.

13. Social subjection.

The social position of the Mahārs [महार] is one of distressing degradation. Their touch is considered to defile and they live in a quarter by themselves outside the village. They usually have a separate well assigned to them from which to draw water, and if the village has only one well the Mahārs [महार] and Hindus take water from different sides of it. Mahār [महार] boys were not until recently allowed to attend school with Hindu boys, and when they could not be refused admission to Government schools, they were allotted a small corner of the veranda and separately taught. When Dher  [ढेड] [ढेड] boys were first received into the Chanda [चंद्रपूर] High School a mutiny took place and the school was boycotted for some time. The people say, ‘ Mahār sarva jātīcha bahār' or ‘ The Mahār [महार] is outside all castes.’ Having a bad name, they are also given unwarrantably a bad character ; and ‘ Mahār jātīcha ’ is a phrase used for a man with no moral or kindly feelings. But in theory at least, as conforming to Hinduism, they were supposed to be better than Muhammadans and other unbelievers, as shown by the following story from the Rasmala [रासमाला] :

A Muhammadan sovereign asked his Hindu minister which was the lowest caste. The minister begged for leisure to consider his reply and, having obtained it, went to where the Dhedas [ढेड] lived and said to them : “You have given offence to the Pādishāh [پادشاه ]. It is his intention to deprive you of caste and make you Muhammadans.” The Dhedas [ढेड], in the greatest terror, pushed off in a body to the sovereign’s palace, and standing at a respectful distance shouted at the top of their lungs : “ If we’ve offended your majesty, punish us in some other way than that. Beat us, fine us, hang us if you like, but don’t make us Muhammadans.” The Pādishāh [پادشاه ] smiled, and turning to his minister who sat by him affecting to hear nothing, said, ‘ So the lowest caste is that to which I belong.’

1 Vol. ii. p. 237.

But of course this cannot be said to represent the general view of the position of Muhammadans in Hindu eyes ; they, like the English, are regarded as distinguished foreigners, who, if they consented to be proselytised, would probably in time become Brāhmans [ब्राह्मण] or at least Rājpūts [राजपूत]. A repartee of a Mahār [महार] to a Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] abusing him is : The Brāhman [ब्राह्मण], ‘ Jāre Mahārya' or ‘Avaunt, ye Mahār [महार]’ ; the Mahār [महार], ‘ Kona dīushi neīn tumchi goburya' or ‘Some day I shall carry cow-dung cakes for you (at his funeral)’; as in the Marātha [मराठा] Districts the Mahār [महार] is commonly engaged for carrying fuel to the funeral pyre. Under native rule the Mahār [महार] was subjected to painful degradations. He might not spit on the ground lest a Hindu should be polluted by touching it with his foot, but had to hang an earthen pot round his neck to hold his spittle.1 He was made to drag a thorny branch with him to brush out his footsteps, and when a Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] came by had to lie at a distance on his face lest his shadow might fall on the Brāhman [ब्राह्मण]. In Gujarat2 they were not allowed to tuck up the loin-cloth but had to trail it along the ground. Even quite recently in Bombay [मुंबई] a Mahār [महार] was not allowed to talk loudly in the street while a well-to-do Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] or his wife was dining in one of the houses. In the reign of Sidhrāj [સિદ્ધરાજ જયસિંહ, 12. Jhdt.], the great Solanki [સોલંકી] Rāja [રાજા] of Gujarāt [ગુજરાત], the Dheras [ढेड] were for a time at any rate freed from such disabilities by the sacrifice of one of their number.3 The great tank at Anhilvāda Pātan [પાટણ] in Gujarāt [ગુજરાત] had been built by the Ods (navvies), but Sidhrāj [સિદ્ધરાજ જયસિંહ, 12. Jhdt.] desired Jusma Odni, one of their wives, and sought to possess her. But the Ods fled with her and when he pursued her she plunged a dagger into her stomach, cursing Sidhrāj [સિદ્ધરાજ જયસિંહ, 12. Jhdt.] and saying that his tank should never hold water. The Rāja [राजा], returning to Anhilvada, found the tank dry, and asked his minister what should be done that water might remain in the tank. The Pardhān, after consulting the astrologers, said that if a man’s life were sacrificed the curse might be removed. At that time the Dhers  [ढेड] or outcastes were compelled to live at a distance from the towns ; they wore untwisted cotton round their heads and a stag’s horn as a mark hanging from their waists so that people might be able to avoid touching them. The Rāja [राजा] commanded that a Dher [ढेड] named Māyo should be beheaded in the tank that water might remain. Māyo died, singing the praises of Vishnu [विष्णु], and the water after that began to remain in the tank. At the time of his death Māyo had begged as a reward for his sacrifice that the Dhers  [ढेड] should not in future be compelled to live at a distance from the towns nor wear a distinctive dress. The Rāja [राजा] assented and these privileges were afterwards permitted to the Dhers  [ढेड] for the sake of Māyo.

14. Their position improving.

From the painful state of degradation described above the Mahārs [महार] are gradually being rescued by the levelling and liberalising tendency of British rule, which must be to these depressed classes an untold blessing. With the right of acquiring property they have begun to assert themselves, and the extension of railways more especially has a great effect in abolishing caste distinctions. The Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] who cannot afford a second-class fare must either not travel or take the risk of rubbing shoulders with a Mahār [महार] in a third-class carriage, and if he chooses to consider himself defiled will have to go hungry and thirsty until he gets the opportunity of bathing at his journey’s end. The observance of the rules of impurity thus becomes so irksome that they are gradually falling into abeyance.

15. Occupation.

Abb.: Weaving sizing the warp

Abb.: Winding thread

The principal occupations of the Mahārs [महार] are the weaving of coarse country cloth and general labour. They formerly spun their own yarn, and their fabrics were preferred by the cultivators for their durability. But practically all thread is now bought from the mills ; and the weaving industry is also in a depressed condition. Many Mahārs [महार] have now taken to working in the mills, and earn better wages than they could at home. In Bombay [मुंबई] a number of them are employed as police-constables.1 They are usually the village watchmen of the Marātha [मराठा] Districts, and in this capacity were remunerated by contributions of grain from the tenants, the hides and flesh of animals dying in the village, and plots of rent-free land. For these have now been substituted in the Central Provinces a cash payment fixed by Government. In Berār [बेरार] the corresponding official is known as the Kāmdār Mahār [कामदार महार]. Mr. Kitts writes of him :1

1 Bombay Gazetteer, vol. xi. p. 73.

As fourth balutedār on the village establishment the Mahār [महार] holds a post of great importance to himself and convenience to the village. To the Patel [पटेल] (headman), patwāri [पटवारी] and big men of the village he acts often as a personal servant and errand-runner; for a smaller cultivator he will also at times carry a torch or act as escort. He had formerly to clean the horses of travellers, and was also obliged, if required, to carry their baggage.For the services which he thus renders as pāndhevār the Mahār [महार] receives from the cultivators certain grain-dues. When the cut juari is lying in the field the Mahārs [महार] go round and beg for a measure of the ears (bhīk payāli). But the regular payment is made when the grain has been threshed. Another duty performed by the Mahār [महार] is the removal of the carcases of dead animals. The flesh is eaten and the skin retained as wage for the work. The Patel [पटेल] and his relatives, however, usually claim to have the skins of their own animals returned ; and in some places where half the agriculturists of the village claim kinship with the Patel [पटेल] the Mahārs [महार] feel and resent the loss. A third duty is the opening of grain-pits, the noxious gas from which sometimes produces asphyxia. For this the Mahārs [महार] receive the tainted grain. They also get the clothes from a corpse which is laid on the pyre, and the pieces of the burnt wood which remain when the body has been consumed.

2 Grant Duff, History of the Marāthas, vol. i. p. 24.

Recent observations in the Nāgpur [नागपूर] country show that the position of the Mahārs [महार] is improving. In Nāgpur [नागपूर] it is stated :3

“Looked down upon as outcastes by the Hindus they are hampered by no sense of dignity or family prejudice. They are fond of drink, but are also hard workers. They turn their hands to anything and everything, but the great majority are agricultural labourers. At present the rural Mahār [महार] is in the background. If there is only one well in the village he may not use it, but has to get his water where he can. His sons are consigned to a corner in the village school, and the schoolmaster, if not superior to caste prejudices, discourages their attendance. Nevertheless, Mahārs [महार] will not remain for years downtrodden in this fashion, and are already pushing themselves up from this state of degradation. In some places they have combined to dig wells, and in Nāgpur [नागपूर] have opened a school for members of their own community. Occasionally a Mahār [महार] is the most prosperous man in the village. Several of them are moneylenders in a small way, and a few are mālguzārs [मालगुजार].”

Similarly in Bhandāra [भंडारा] Mr. Napier writes that a new class of small creditors has arisen from the Mahār [महार] caste. These people have given up drinking, and lead an abstemious life, wishing to raise themselves in social estimation. Twenty or more village kotwārs were found to be carrying on moneylending transactions on a small scale, and in addition many of the Mahārs [महार] in towns were exceedingly well off.

3 Nāgpur Settlement Report (1899), p. 29"

[Quelle: Russell, R. V. (Robert Vane) <1873-1915> ; Hīra Lāl <Rai Bahadur> [हीरालाल <राय बहादुर>] <1873 - 1923>: The tribes and castes of the Central Provinces of India. -- London: MacMillan, 1916. -- 4 Bde. : Ill. -- Bd. 4. -- S. 129 - 146] 

Panka [पनक / पंका] (Central Provinces)

"Panka [पनका / पंका].1A Dravidian caste of weavers and labourers found in Mandla [मन्द्ला], Raipur [रायपुर]  and Bilāspur [बिलासपुर], and numbering 215,000 persons in 1911.

1 This article is compiled from papers by Pyāre Lāl Misra, Ethnographic clerk, and Hazāri Lāl, Manager, Court of Wards, Chānda.

1. Origin of the caste.

The name is a variant on that of the Pan tribe of Orissa [ଓଡ଼ିଶା] and Chota Nāgpur [छोटा नागपुर], who are also known as Panika [पनिका], Chik, Gānda and by various other designations. In the Central Provinces it has, however, a peculiar application ; for while the Pan tribe proper is called Gānda in Chhattisgarh [छत्तीसगढ़] and the Uriya [ଓଡ଼ିଆ] country, the Pankas [पनका] form a separate division of the Gāndas, consisting of those who have become members of the Kabīrpanthi [कबीरपंथी] sect. In this way the name has been found very convenient, for since Kabīr [कबीर, 1440 - 1518], the founder of the sect, was discovered by a weaver woman lying on the lotus leaves of a tank, like Moses in the bulrushes, and as a newly initiated convert is purified with water, so the Pankas [पनका] hold that their name is pāni ka [पानी का]or ‘from water.’ As far as possible then they disown their connection with the Gāndas, one of the most despised castes, and say that they are a separate caste consisting of the disciples of Kabīr [कबीर, 1440 - 1518]. This has given rise to the following doggerel rhyme about them :

Pāni se Panka bhae, bundan rāche sharīr,
Age age Panka bhae, pāchhe Dās Kabīr.

Which may be rendered,

‘The Panka [पनका] indeed is born of water, and his body is made of drops of water, but there were Pankas [पनका] before Kabīr [कबीर, 1440 - 1518].’

Or another rendering of the second line is,

‘First he was a Panka [पनका], and afterwards he became a disciple of Kabīr [कबीर, 1440 - 1518].’

Nevertheless the Pankas [पनका] have been successful in obtaining a somewhat higher position than the Gāndas, in that their touch is not considered to convey impurity. This is therefore an instance of a body of persons from a low caste embracing a new religion and thereby forming themselves into a separate caste and obtaining an advance in social position.

2. Caste subdivisions.

Of the whole caste 84 per cent are Kabīrpanthis [कबीरपंथी] and  these form one subcaste; but there are a few others. The Mānikpuria say that their ancestors came from Mānikpur [मानिकपुर] in Darbhanga [दरभंगा] State about three centuries ago ; the Saktaha are those who profess to belong to the Sākta [शाक्त] sect, which simply means that they eat flesh and drink liquor, being unwilling to submit to the restrictions imposed on Kabīrpanthis [कबीरपंथी] ; the Bajania [बजनिया] are those who play on musical instruments, an occupation which tends to lower them in Hindu eyes ; and the Dom Pankas are probably a section of the Dom or sweeper caste who have somehow managed to become Pankas [पनका]. The main distinction is however between the Kabirha [कबीरहा], who have abjured flesh and liquor, and the Saktaha, who indulge in them ; and the Saktaha group is naturally recruited from backsliding Kabīrpanthis [कबीरपंथी]. Properly the Kabirha [कबीरहा] and Saktaha do not intermarry, but if a girl from either section goes to a man of the other she will be admitted into the community and recognised as his wife, though the regular ceremony is not performed. The Saktaha worship all the ordinary village deities, but some of the Kabirha [कबीरहा] at any rate entirely refrain from doing so, and have no religious rites except when a priest of their sect comes round, when he gives them a discourse and they sing religious songs.

3. Endogamous divisions.

The caste have a number of exogamous septs, many of which are named after plants and animals : as

  • Tandia an earthen pot,
  • Chhura [क्षुर] a razor,
  • Neora [नेवला] the mongoose,
  • Parewa [परेवा] the wild pigeon,
  • and others.

Other septs are

  • Panaria the bringer of betel-leaf,
  • Kuldīp the lamp-lighter,
  • Pandwār the washer of feet,
  • Ghughua one who cats the leavings of the assembly, and
  • Khetgarhia, one who watches the fields during religious worship.

The Sonwānia or ‘Gold-water’ sept has among the Pankas [पनका], as with several of the primitive tribes, the duty of readmitting persons temporarily put out of caste ; while the Naurang or nine-coloured sept may be the offspring of some illegitimate unions. The Sati [सती] sept apparently commemorate by their name an ancestress who distinguished herself by self-immolation, naturally a very rare occurrence in so low a caste as the Pankas [पनका]. Each sept has its own Bhāt [भाट] or genealogist who begs only from members of the sept and takes food from them.

4. Marriage.

Marriage is prohibited between members of the same sept and also between first cousins, and a second sister may not be married during the lifetime of the first. Girls are usually wedded under twelve years of age. In Mandla [मन्द्ला] the father of the boy and his relatives go to discuss the match, and if this is arranged each of them kisses the girl and gives her a piece of small silver. When a Saktaha is going to look for a wife he makes a fire offering to Dūlha Deo [
दूल्हादेव], the young bridegroom god, whose shrine is in the cook-room, and prays to him saying, ‘I am going to such and such a village to ask for a wife ; give me good fortune.’ The father of the girl at first refuses his consent as a matter of etiquette, but finally agrees to let the marriage take place within a year. The boy pays Rs. 9, which is spent on the feast, and makes a present of clothes and jewels to the bride. In Chanda [चंद्रपूर] a chauka [चौक] or consecrated space spread with cow-dung with a pattern of lines of flour is prepared and the fathers of the parties stand inside this, while a member of the Pandwār sept cries out the names of the gotras [गोत्र] of the bride and bridegroom and says that the everlasting knot is to be tied between them with the consent of five caste-people and the sun and moon as witnesses. Before the wedding the betrothed couple worship Mahādeo [महादेव] and Pārvati [पार्वती] under the direction of a Brāhman [ब्राह्मण], who also fixes the date of the wedding. This is the only purpose for which a Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] is employed by the caste. Between this date and that of the marriage neither the boy nor girl should be allowed to go to a tank or cross a river, as it is considered dangerous to their lives. The superstition has apparently some connection with the belief that the Pankas [पनका] are sprung from water, but its exact meaning cannot be determined. If a girl goes wrong before marriage with a man of the caste, she is given to him to wife without any ceremony. Before the marriage seven small pitchers full of water are placed in a bamboo basket and shaken over the bride’s head so that the water may fall on her. The principal ceremony consists in walking round the sacred pole called magrohan, the skirts of the pair being knotted together. In some localities this is done twice, a first set of perambulations being called the Kunwāri (maiden) Bhānwar, and the second one of seven, the Byāhi (married) Bhānwar. After the wedding the bride and her relations return with the bridegroom to his house, their party being known as Chauthia. The couple are taken to a river and throw their tinsel wedding ornaments into the water. The bride then returns home if she is a minor, and when she subsequently goes to live with her husband the gauna ceremony is performed. Widow-marriage is permitted, and divorce may be effected for bad conduct on the part of the wife, the husband giving a sort of funeral feast, called Marti jīti ka bhāt, to the caste-fellows. Usually a man gives several warnings to his wife to amend her bad conduct before he finally casts her off.

5. Religion.

The Pankas [पनका] worship only Kabīr [कबीर, 1440 - 1518]. They prepare a chauka [चौक] and, sitting in it, sing songs in his praise, and a cocoanut is afterwards broken and distributed to those who are present. The assembly is presided over by a Mahant [महंत] or priest and the cauka [चौक] is prepared by his subordinate called the Dīwān [दीवान]. The offices of Mahant [महंत] and Dīwān [दीवान] are hereditary, and they officiate for a collection of ten or fifteen villages. Otherwise the caste perform no special worship, but observe the full moon days of Māgh [माघ] (January), Phāgun [फाल्गुन] (February) and Kārtik [कार्तिक] (October) as fasts in honour of Kabīr [कबीर, 1440 - 1518]. Some of the Kabirhas [कबीरहा] observe the Hindu festivals, and the Saktahas, as already stated, have the same religious practices as other Hindus. They admit into the community members of most castes except the impure ones. In Chhattisgarh [छत्तीसगढ़] a new convert is shaved and the other Pankas [पनका] wash their feet over him in order to purify him. He then breaks a stick in token of having given up his former caste and is invested with a necklace of tulsi [तुलसी]beads. A woman of any such caste who has gone wrong with a man of the Panka [पनका] caste may be admitted after she has lived with him for a certain period on probation, during which her conduct must be satisfactory, her paramour also being put out of caste for the same time. Both are then shaved and invested with the necklaces of tulsi [तुलसी] beads. In Mandla [मन्द्ला] a new convert must clean and whitewash his house and then vacate it with his family while the Panch [पांच] or caste committee come and stay there for some time in order to purify it. While they are there neither the owner nor any member of his family may enter the house. The Panch [पांच] then proceed to the riverside and cook food, after driving the new convert across the river by pelting him with cowdung. Here he changes his clothes and puts on new ones, and coming back again across the stream is made to stand in the chauk [चौक] and sip the urine of a calf. The chauk [चौक] is then washed out and a fresh one made with lines of flour, and standing in this the convert receives to drink the dal, that is, water in which a little betel, raw sugar and black pepper have been mixed and a piece of gold dipped. In the evening the Panch [पांच] again take their food in the convert’s house, while he eats outside it at a distance. Then he again sips the dal, and the Mahant [महंत] or priest takes him on his lap and a cloth is put over them both the Mahant [महंत] whispers the mantra [मन्त्र] or sacred verse into his ear, and he is finally considered to have become a full Kabirha Panka [कबीरहा पनका] and admitted to eat with the Panch [पांच].

6. Other customs.

The Pankas [पनका] are strict vegetarians and do not drink liquor. A Kabirha Panka [कबीरहा पनका] is put out of caste for eating flesh meat. Both men and women generally wear white clothes, and men have the garland of beads round the neck. The dead are buried, being laid on the back with the head pointing to the north. After a funeral the mourners bathe and then break a cocoanut over the grave and distribute it among themselves. On the tenth day they go again and break a cocoanut and each man buries a little piece of it in the earth over the grave. A little cup made of flour containing a lamp is placed on the grave for three days afterwards, and some food and water are put in a leaf cup outside the house for the same period. During these days the family do not cook for themselves but are supplied with food by their friends. After childbirth a mother is supposed not to eat food during the time that the midwife attends on her, on account of the impurity caused by this woman’s presence in the room.

7. Occupation.

The caste are generally weavers, producing coarse country cloth, and a number of them serve as village watch-men, while others are cultivators and labourers. They will not grow sān-hemp [सनई] nor breed tasar [तसर] silk cocoons. They are somewhat poorly esteemed by their neighbours, who say of them, ‘Where a Panka [पनका] can get a little boiled rice and a pumpkin, he will stay for ever,’ meaning that he is satisfied with this and will not work to get more. Another saying is, ‘The Panka [पनका] felt brave and thought he would go to war ; but he set out to fight a frog and was beaten’ ; and another, ‘Every man tells one lie a day ; but the Ahīr [अहीर] tells sixteen, the Chamār [चमार] twenty, and the lies of the Panka [पनका] cannot be counted.’ Such gibes, however, do not really mean much. Owing to the abstinence of the Pankas [पनका] from flesh and liquor they rank above the Gāndas and other impure castes. In Bilāspur [बिलासपुर] they are generally held to be quiet and industrious. In Chhattisgarh [छत्तीसगढ़] the Pankas [पनका] are considered above the average in intelligence and sometimes act as spokesmen for the village people and as advisers to zamindars and village proprietors. Some of them become religious mendicants and act as gurus [गुरु] or preceptors to Kabīrpanthis [कबीरपंथी]."

[Quelle: Russell, R. V. (Robert Vane) <1873-1915> ; Hīra Lāl <Rai Bahadur> [हीरालाल <राय बहादुर>] <1873 - 1923>: The tribes and castes of the Central Provinces of India. -- London: MacMillan, 1916. -- 4 Bde. : Ill. -- Bd. 4. -- S. 324 - 329]

Panka [पंका], Panika [पनिका] (NW Provinces und Oudh)

"Panka [पंका], Panika [पनिका].—A low weaving and watchman tribe in South Mirzapur [मिर्ज़ापुर]. They are the same people who are known in Bengal [বঙ্গ] as Pān [পান], Panwa, Paur, Pāb, Panika [পনিকা], Chik, Chik Baraik, Ganda, Mahato [মহতো], Sawāsi or Tānti [তান্তী]. In Mirzapur [मिर्ज़ापुर] they are known as Panka [पंका], Panika [पनिका] or Pankiya [पंकिया] and Kotwār [कोटवार], the last of which, in relation to their occupation as village watchmen, means  keeper or porter of a castle ” (Sanskrit kota [कोट-] or koshtha pāla [कोष्ठपाल]), The name Panka [पंका] or Panika [पनिका] is usually taken from panik, which means the elastic bow which the weaver uses to extend the cloth as it is woven; but the Bengali [বাংলা] synonyms for the caste make this uncertain. Colonel Dalton was disposed from their appearance to believe them of Aryan or Hindu, rather than Dravidian origin, and describes them as

“ in all probability remnants of the Aryan colonies that the Hos [हो] subjugated.1

1 Descriptive Ethnology, 185.

This is disputed by Mr. Risley,2 who remarks that

2 Tribes and Castes, II, 156.

“the most cursory examination of the exogamous divisions of the Pans [পান] affords convincing evidence of their Dravidian origin.”

Though they have lost in Mirzapur [मिर्ज़ापुर] their totemistic septs, still their appearance clearly indicates their connection with the Dravidian races like the Majhwārs [मझवार]. They say that Parameswar [परमेश्वर] created the first man of the caste out of water (pāni [पानी]) and appointed him his water-carrier. One day Parameswar [परमेश्वर] sent him to bring fire. He went in search of fire to a place where the Majhwārs [मझवार] were eating, and they gave him a share of their food. He returned to Parameswar [परमेश्वर], who taxed him with eating with such degraded people. He denied the charge, but Parameswar [परमेश्वर] gave him a blow on his back and he immediately vomited up a quantity of rice and pulse. So Parameswar [परमेश्वर] turned him out of Heaven, and the Pankas [पंका] have since then gone down in the world and eat with Majhwārs [मझवार]. The Mirzapur [मिर्ज़ापुर] Pankas [पंका] describe themselves as emigrants from Bāhmandeva [बाह्मणदेव] in Rīwa [रीवा], and fix the date of their arrival some eight or ten generations ago.

2. Tribal organization and exogamy.

They have lost, if they ever possessed, the elaborate scheme of totemistic septs which are found among the Pāns [পান] of Bengal [বঙ্গ]. Their rules of exogamy prohibit marriage with the daughter of the maternal uncle or of their father's sister, and they also do not marry in their own family as long as the members are united and live together, no matter how distant relatives may reside under the same roof. This abhorrence of marriage between persons residing closely together from early youth is, according to one theory, the basis of the rule of exogamy. They have a tribal council known as kutumāyat or kabildāri.1 There is no permanent president, but at each meeting the most respectable person present takes the chair.

1 The first name means “family council,” Sanskrit kutumba [क्तुम्ब]— the household; the latter an importation from the Arabic qabīl= kindred.

3. Rules of marriage.

Differences of wealth or social position (except the practice of degrading' employments, such as shoe-making) are not a bar to marriage. Polygamy is permitted, but they can seldom afford more than one wife. If there are more wives than one, the head wife alone is mistress of the household and shares in the family worship. If an unmarried girl is detected in an intrigue with a clansman, her parents have to give a tribal feast and she is then restored to caste : but if her lover be an outsider, she is permanently expelled. The bride price amounts to five rupees in cash and two maunds of rice and pulse. The rules as to physical defects in bride and bridegroom agree with those of the allied tribes.

4. Divorce.

Divorce is permitted in case of adultery in either party or if either eat with a low caste person like a Dom [डोम], Chamār [चमार] or Dusādh [दुसाध]. But the intention to divorce must be announced before, and sanctioned by, the tribal council.

5. Widow marriage and the levirate.

Widow marriage and the levirate are permitted on the usual conditions.

6. Succession, adoption and relationship.

The rules on these subjects correspond in every way with those of the Majhwārs [मझवार].

7. Birth customs.   

The woman is delivered on a cot and is attended by a Chamāin [चमाइन] midwife, who cuts the cord and buries it under the cot. The woman receives no food for two days : on the third she gets rice and cakes made of pulse and pumpkin (konhrauri). They have the usual sixth day (chhathi [ठी]and twelfth day (barahi [बारी]) ceremonies, after which the woman is clean and resumes her household work. A husband does not cohabit with his wife for three or four months after her confinement.

8. Adoption ceremony.

The only ceremony in adoption is the announcement of the fact and the exchange of mutual promises before the leader of the council.

9. Marriage ceremonies.

The marriage ceremonies do not appreciably differ from those of the cognate tribes. The betrothal is clenched by the boy's father sending to the bride's house five rupees and three or five sers of coarse sugar (gur [गुड़]). This is called neg bharna. Three days before marriage is the matmangar ceremony (see Bhuiya). When the procession reaches the door of the bride, the relatives of the bridegroom distribute betel-nut among those of the bride, who return the compliment. After the procession returns to the reception place (janwānsa), the bride's mother goes there with five sers of coarse sugar and three tooth brushes (datuan) : with these the bridegroom has to clean his teeth and she makes him smell the sugar. His father then sends the “ offering" (charhaua) to the bride—two sheets (sāri) and five sers of sugar. At the actual ceremony the bride's sister fills the hands of the bride and bridegroom with rice and dried mangoes. Then the bridegroom rubs some red lead (sendur [सेंदूर]) on the branch of the cotton tree (semal [सेमल]) fixed up in the marriage shed (mānro) and then smears it over the nose, forehead and parting of the bride's hair. This is the binding part of the ceremony. After this they are taken into the retiring room (kohabar) (for the significance of which, see Majhwār [मझवार]. There the bridegroom has again to smell some sugar. On returning home there is the usual feast, and a day or two afterwards the bride and bridegroom go to "drown the nuptial jars" (kalsa [कलसा]) in a neighbouring stream, and on their way home they worship every pīpal [पीपल - Ficus religiosa]and banyan tree they meet, and rub red lead on their trunks. This form of marriage is called charhanwa.

10. Marriage by sagāi [सगाई].

The form of marrying a widow by sagāi [सगाई] is very simple. The man has to pay three rupees as the bride price to her relations, then he brings her home, and as she enters the house he rubs red lead on the parting of her hair and puts palm leaf ornaments (tarki [तरकी]) in her ears. On that day he feasts the clansmen.

11. Death ceremonies.

Unmarried children and people who die of epidemic disease are buried : others are cremated. When the mourners return home they pour a little oil on the ground and sit down and console the chief mourner. He goes to the riverside and fixes a bundle of reed grass into the ground, which he and the women of the household water every day at noon until the obsequies are completed. The death impurity lasts ten days, when the obsequies are concluded by a tribal feast.

12. Religion.

They profess a sort of bastard Hinduism. They are much afraid of evil spirits (bhūt [भूत]) which commonly reside in mahua [महुआ - Madhuca longifolia (J. Konig) J.F.Macbr.], pīpal [पीपल - Ficus religiosa] or banyan trees. These are periodically propitiated by offerings of goats and fowls performed by the Baiga [बाइगा]. They do not employ Brāhmans [ब्राह्मण] in any of their religious ceremonies. Their two great festivals are the Holi [होली] and Dasami [दशमी] (Dasahra [दशहरा] [दशहरा]) ; but they in no way follow Hindu usage on these festivals, and offer a burnt offering to the marriage god Dulha Deva [दूल्हा देवा], who is represented by a piece of rudely cut stone on a mud platform. His worship is performed by the Baiga [बाइगा]. They observe the Nāgpanchami [नाग पंचमी] festival, but do not appear to have as is the case in Bengal [বঙ্গ], any special worship of the snake as the ancestor of the tribe.

13. Demonology and ancestor worship.

They believe that old wells, streams and trees are haunted by evil spirits. The Baiga [बाइगा] raises a regular yearly subscription to provide tor their worship ; and offers to them young pigs, fowls and goats, with a burnt offering (hom [होम]) of sugar and butter. The tenth day of the second half of the month of Kuār [क्वार] is devoted to the worship of the dead, to whom food and a burnt sacrifice are offered. On the tenth day after a man or woman dies a young pig is sacrificed. At the end of the proceedings they invoke the spirits of the dead in a low voice in these words—“Now live for ever in this house and do not trouble our children.” Every day till the tenth day they lay out food at night for the dead along the road by which the corpse was taken to cremation or burial. They are constantly in the fear of the spirits of the dead, and whenever they have a bad dream or a nightmare they offer a burnt sacrifice (hom [होम]) to them.

14. Various superstitions.

Women tattoo themselves on the arms in some conventional Pattern· If they fail to do this, a woman in the next life is reborn as a Turkin [तुर्किन] or the wife of a Muhammadan, on whom they look with special abhorrence. They have the usual omens. They swear by putting a piece of iron in a drinking vessel of water which is held in the hand. No Panka [पंका] will violate such an oath. They have a firm belief in witchcraft, and think that a witch can kill a man by looking at him ; hence old women suspected of witchcraft are carefully avoided. They also believe that a witch can turn meat into a mass of blood and maggots merely by looking at it. Most diseases are due to demoniacal influence, which is treated by the Baiga [बाइगा]. They have a firm belief in the Evil Eye which is avoided by the use of sundry amulets.

15. Social customs.   

They regard the cow as Lakshmi [लक्ष्मी], the goddess of wealth, and will not eat beef. Any one eating it is put out of caste. Besides the flesh of the cow and buffalo, they will not eat the horse, ass, camel, jackal, lizard or crocodile. They eat pigs, fowls, fish and all kinds of jungle game. The men eat first and women after them. Some men wear a special religious necklace (kanthi [कंठी]), and these, when they eat, throw a little bread and water on the ground as an offering to the earth goddess Dharti Māta [धरती माता]. They use liquor and tobacco freely. They salute elders in the form pāēlagi, and the reply is asīs [आशीष], or a blessing. They respect their women, who work at spinning thread which the men weave. They are very hospitable to clansmen but fear strangers. They will not touch a Chamār [चमार] or Dharkār [धरकार], nor the wife of the younger brother. The father-in-law and mother-in-law of a married couple do not touch or speak to each other. They will eat food cooked by a Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] and no one else. None but a Dom [डोम] or Ghasiya [घसिया] will touch their leavings.

16. Occupation.

   They work as weavers and village watchmen. The loom is known as dongi. The main kinds of cloth which they make are the darap, charas and bhagua. The darap is a woman’s thick sheet worth about two rupees. The charas  is a loin cloth for men like the Hindu dhoti [धोटी];  the bhagua a small cloth worn under the loin cloth only by Majhwār [मझवार] women, for which they get a fancy price. They often work up cotton into cloth for their customers, and for weaving a dhoti [धोटी] receive three sers of kodo [कोदो - Paspalum scrobiculatum] or sānwān [साँवा - Echinochloa frumentacea Link] millet. Their dress presents no peculiarities. The women wear pewter anklets (pairi [पैरी]), glass wrist bangles (chūri [चूडी]), a wristlet (berawa) and a nose-ring (nath [नथ]). As may be anticipated from their customs, they are regarded as pure village menials and their social status is very low."

[Quelle: Crooke, William <1848-1923>: The tribes and castes of the North-western Provinces and Oudh. -- Calcutta : Office of the superintendent of government printing, 1896 - 4 Bde. : Ill. -- Bd. 4. -- S. 113 - 118]

Pāno (Oriya, Khond)

"Pāno.In the Madras Census Report, 1891, the Pānos are described as

“a caste of weavers found in the Ganjam [ଗଞ୍ଜାମ] district. This caste is no doubt identical with the Pāns, a weaving, basket-making, and servile caste of Orissa [ଓଡ଼ିଶା] and Chota Nagpore [छोटा नागपुर]. The Pānos occupy the same position among the Khonds of Ganjam [ଗଞ୍ଜାମ] as the Dombs hold among the inhabitants of the Vizagapatam [విశాఖపట్నం] hills, and the words Pāno and Dombo are generally regarded as synonyms [See Dōmb]. The members of the Sitra sub-division are workers in metal.”

It is further noted, in the Census Report, 1901, that the Pānos are 

“an extensive caste of hill weavers found chiefly in the Ganjam [ଗଞ୍ଜାମ] Agency. The Khond synonym for this word is Domboloko, which helps to confirm the connection between this caste and the Dombas of Vizagapatam [విశాఖపట్నం]. They speak Khond and Oriya [ଓଡ଼ିଆ].”

In a note on the Pānos, I read that

“their occupations are trading, weaving, and theft. They live on the ignorance and superstition of the Khonds as brokers, pedlars, sycophants, and cheats. In those parts where there are no Oriyas [ଓଡ଼ିଆ], they possess much influence, and are always consulted by the Khonds in questions of boundary disputes.”

In a brief account of the Pānos, Mr. C. F. MacCartie writes (Madras Census Beport, 1881.) that

“the Pānos, also known by the title of Dombo or Sitra in some parts, are supposed to be Paraiya [Telugu [తెలుగు] Mala [మల]] emigrants from the low country. Their profession is weaving or brass work, the monotony of which they vary by petty trading in horns, skins and live cattle, and occasionally enliven by house-breaking and theft at the expense of the Khonds, who have an incautious trick of leaving their habitations utterly unguarded when they go off to the hills to cultivate. [In the Madras Census Report, 1901, the Sitras are said to be supposed to be the progeny of a Khond man and a Haddi woman, who manufacture the brass rings and bangles worn by the Khonds.] The Pānos are drunken, immoral, and dirty in their habits. The Khonds refuse to eat with them, but I do not find that this objection extends to drinking, at which both Khond and Pāno display surprising capabilities. Pānos are also the professional musicians of the country, and attend weddings, deaths and sacrifices in this character, for which they are recompensed with food, liquor, and cloths. The generality of Khond and Pāno houses are constructed of broad sāl (Shorea robusta) logs, hewn out with the axe and thatched with jungle grass, which is impervious to white-ants. In bamboo jungles, of course, bamboo is substituted for sāl. The Pānos generally affect a detached quarter, known as Dombo sai. Intermarriage between Khonds, Pānos, and Uriyas [ଓଡ଼ିଆ] is not recognised, but cases do occur when a Pāno induces a Khond woman to go off with him. She may live with him as his wife, but no ceremony takes place. [A few years ago, a young Khond was betrothed to the daughter of another Khond, and, after a few years, managed to pay up the necessary number of gifts. He then applied to the girl’s father to name the day for the marriage. Before the wedding took place however, a Pāno went to the girl’s father, and said that she was his daughter (she had been born before her parents were married), and that he was the man to whom the gifts should have been paid. The case was referred to a council, which decided in favour of the Pāno.] If a Pāno commits adultery with a Khond married woman, he has to pay a paronjo, or a fine of a buffalo to the husband (who retains his wife), and in addition a goat, a pig, a basket of paddy (rice), a rupee, and a load of pots. There is close communication between the Pānos and the Khonds, as the former act as the advisers of the latter in all cases of doubt or difficulty. The Uriyas [ଓଡ଼ିଆ] live apart from both, and mix but little with either, except on the occasion of sacrifices or other solemn assemblages, when buffaloes are slaughtered for Pānos and Khonds, and goats or sheep for Uriya [ଓଡ଼ିଆ] visitors. [It is noted, in the Ganjam [ଗଞ୍ଜାମ] Manual, in connection with Khond death ceremonies, that “ if a man has been killed by a tiger, purification is made by the sacrifice of a pig, the head of which is cut off with a tangi (axe) by a Pāno, and passed between the legs of the men in the village, who stand in a line astraddle. It is a bad omen to him, if the head touches any man’s legs.] Among the products of the jungles may be included myrabolams (Terminalia fruits), tasar silk cocoons, and dammer, all of which are bartered by the finders to trading Pānos in small quantities, generally for salt.”

In the Ganjam [ଗଞ୍ଜାମ] Māliahs, the jungles are said to be searched by Pānos for tasar cocoons, and, just across the border in Boad, the collection of these cocoons is a regular industry among them. Small portions of jungle are regularly reserved, and divided up into small allotments. Each of these is given to a Pāno for rent, and here he cultivates the silkworms, and collects the silk, which is sent to Berhampur [ବ୍ରହ୍ମପୁର] and Sambalpur [ସମ୍ବଲପୁର] for manufacture.

The Pānos are divided into two distinct sections, viz.,

  • the Khonda Pānos who live amidst the Khonds, and 
  • the Dēsa Pānos of the plains.

The former have adopted some of the customs of the Khonds, while the latter follow the customs of the Uriya [ଓଡ଼ିଆ] castes which dwell in the lowland.

The Khond Pānos are governed by the Molikos (headmen) of the Khonds. In some cases, the fines inflicted for breach of caste rules are rather severe. For example, in the neighbourhood of Baliguda [ବାଲିଗୁଡ଼ା], a man who is convicted of adultery has to pay two rupees, and give two buffaloes to the council which tries the case. Further south, for a similar offence twelve buffaloes are demanded, and the culprit has to pay twice the amount of the bride-price to the injured husband.

The Dēsa Pānos conform to the standard Uriya [ଓଡ଼ିଆ] type of caste council, and have a headman called Bēhara, who is assisted by a Nāyako, and caste servants entitled Bhollobaya or Gonjāri.

The marriage ceremonies of the Dēsa Pānos are closely allied to those of the Dandāsis and Haddis, whereas those of the Khonda Pānos bear a close resemblance to the ceremonies of the Khonds. Like Khond girls, unmarried Khond Pāno girls sleep in quarters (dhangadi) specially set apart for them, and, as among the Khonds, wedding presents in the form of gontis are given. It is noted with reference to the Khonds, in the Ganjam [ଗଞ୍ଜାମ] Manual, that

“the bride is looked upon as a commercial speculation, and is paid for in gontis. A gonti is one of anything, such as a buffalo, a pig, or a brass pot; for instance, a hundred gontis might consist of ten bullocks, ten buffaloes, ten sacks of corn, ten sets of brass, twenty sheep, ten pigs, and thirty fowls.”

At a Khond Pāno marriage, the fingers of the contracting couple are linked together, and an important item of the ceremonial, which adds dignity thereto, is placing in front of the house at which a marriage is being celebrated a big brass vessel containing water, with which the guests wash their feet.

The Pānos pay reverence to ancestors, to whom, when a death occurs in a family, food is offered. In some Pāno villages, when a child is born, it is customary to consult a pūjāri (priest) as to whether the grandfather or great-grandfather is re-born in it. If the answer is in the affirmative, pigs are sacrificed to the ancestors. Some Pānos have adopted the worship of Tākurānis (village deities), to whom rice and turmeric are offered by placing them before the image in the form of a figure-of-eight. A fowl is sacrificed, and its blood allowed to flow on to one loop of the figure. In some places, Dharmadēvata and Gagnasuni are worshipped, a castrated goat being sacrificed annually to the former, and fowls and an entire goat to the latter.

Pāno women, who live among the Khonds, tattoo their faces in like manner, and in other respects resemble Khond women.

I am informed that, on more than one occasion, Pānos have been known to rifle the grave of a European, in the belief that buried treasure will be found."

[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. 72 - 76.]

Patnūlkāran (Tamil)

"Patnūlkāran.The Patnūlkārans are described, in the Madras Census Report, 1901, as

“a caste of foreign weavers found in all the Tamil [தமிழ்] districts, but mainly in Madura [மதுரை] town, who speak Patnūli or Khatri, a dialect of Gujarati [ગુજરાતી], and came originally from Gujarat [ગુજરાત]. They have always been known here as Patnūlkārans, or silk thread people. They are referred to in the inscriptions of Kumāra Gupta (A.D. 473) at Mandasōr [मंदसौर], south of Gujarat, by the name of Pattavāyaka [paṭṭavāyaka], which is the Sanskrit equivalent of Patnūlkāran, and the sāsanam of Queen Mangammāl [இராணி மங்கம்மாள், gest. 1705] of Madura [மதுரை], mentioned below, speaks of them by the same name, but lately they have taken to calling themselves Saurāshtras  [સૌરાષ્ટ્ર] from the Saurashtra [સૌરાષ્ટ્ર] country from which they came. They also claim to be Brāhmans. They thus frequently entered themselves in the schedules as Saurāshtra Brāhmans. They are an intelligent and hard-working community, and deserve every sympathy in the efforts which they are making to elevate the material prosperity of their members and improve their educational condition, but a claim to Brāhmanhood is a difficult matter to establish. They say that their claim is denied because they are weavers by profession, which none of the Southern Brāhmans are, and because the Brāhmans of the Tamil [தமிழ்] country do not understand their rites, which are the northern rites. The Mandasōr [मंदसौर] inscriptions, however, represent them as soldiers as well as weavers, which does not sound Brāhmanical, and the Tamil [தமிழ்] Brāhmans have never raised any objections to the Gauda Brāhmans calling themselves such, different as their ways are from those current in the south. In Madura  [மதுரை] their claim to Brāhmanhood has always been disputed. As early as 1705 A.D. the Brāhmans of Madura  [மதுரை] called in question the Patnūlkārans’ right to perform the annual upakarma (or renewal of the sacred thread) in the Brāhman fashion. [Eighteen members of the community were arrested by the Governor of Madura for performing this ceremony.] The matter was taken to the notice of the Queen Mangammāl [இராணி மங்கம்மாள், gest. 1705] , and she directed her State pandits [பண்டிதன்] to convene meetings of learned men, and to examine into it. On their advice, she issued a cadjān (palm leaf) sāsanam [சாசனம்] (grant) which permitted them to follow the Brāhmanical rites. But all the twice-born—whether Brāhmans, Kshatriyas, or Vaisyas—are entitled to do the same, and the sāsanam establishes little. The Patnūls point out that, in some cases, their gōtras [கோத்திரம்] are Brāhmanical. But, in many instances which could be quoted, Kshatriyas had also Brāhmanical gōtras.”

It is stated, in the Gazetteer of the Madura [மதுரை] district, that the inscription at Mandasōr [मंदसौर] in Western Malwa [माळवा

“relates how the Pattavāyas [पट्टवाय], as the caste was then called, were induced to migrate thither from Lāta [લાટ] on the coast of Gujarat [ગુજરાત] by king Kumāra Gupta [r. 473 - 476] (or one of his lieutenants), to practice there their art of silk-weaving. The inscription says many flattering things about the community, and poetically compares the city to a beautiful woman, and the immigrants to the silk garments in which she decks herself when she goes to meet her lover. [The inscription further records that, while the noble Bandhuvarman was governing this city of Dasapura, which had been brought to a state of great prosperity, a noble and unequalled temple of the bright-rayed (sun) was caused to be built by the silk-cloth weavers (pattavāyair) as a guild with the stores of wealth acquired by (the exercise of their) craft.] On the destruction of Mandasōr [मंदसौर] by the Mussalmans, the Pattavāyas seem to have travelled south to Dēvagiri [देवगिरि], the modern Daulatābād [दौलताबाद], the then capital of the Yādavas [यादव], and thence, when the Mussalmans again appeared on the scene at the beginning of the fourteenth century, to Vijayanagar [ವಿಜಯನಗರ], and eventually to Madura [மதுரை]. A curious ceremony confirming this conjecture is performed to this day at Patnūlkāran weddings in South India. Before the date of the wedding, the bridegroom’s party go to the bride’s house, and ask formally for the girl’s hand. Her relations ask them in a set form of words who they are, and whence they come, and they reply that they are from Sōrath (the old name for Saurāshtra [સૌરાષ્ટ્ર] or Kathiawar [કાઠીયાવાડ]), resided in Dēvagiri [દેવગિરિ], travelled south (owing to Mussalman oppression) to Vijayanagar [ವಿಜಯನಗರ], and thence came to Madura [மதுரை]. They then ask the bride’s party the same question, and receive the same reply. A Marāthi [मराठी] MS., prepared in 1822 at Salem [சேலம்] under the direction of the then Collector, Mr. M. D. Cockburn, contains the same tradition. Mr. Sewell’s ‘A Forgotten Empire : Vijayanagar ’ shows how common silk clothing and trappings were at Vijayanagar [ವಿಜಯನಗರ] in the days of its glory. Most of the Patnūlkārans can still speak Telugu [తెలుగు], which raises the inference that they must have resided a long time in the Telugu [తెలుగు] country, while their Patnūli contains many Canarese [ಕನ್ನಡ] and Telugu [తెలుగు] words, and they observe the feast of Basavanna [బసవన్న, 1134–1196] (or Boskanna), which is almost peculiar to the Bellary [ಬಳ್ಳಾರಿ] country. After the downfall of Vijayanagar [ವಿಜಯನಗರ], some of the caste seem to have gone to Bangalore [ಬೆಂಗಳೂರು], for a weaving community called Patvēgars, who speak a dialect similar to Patnūli, still reside there.”

Concerning the Patnūlis who have settled in the Mysore [ಮೈಸೂರು] Province, it is noted, in the Mysore Census Report, 1891, that

“with silk they manufacture a fine stuff called katni, which no other weavers are said to be able to prepare. It is largely used by Mussalmans for trousers and lungas (gowns). It is said that Haider Ali [ಹೈದರಾಲಿ, 1721 - 1782], while returning from his expeditions against Madras [மதராஸ்], forcibly brought with him some twenty-five families of these weavers, who were living in the Tanjore [தஞ்சாவூர்] district, and established them at Ganjam [ಗಂಜಾಂ] near Seringapatam [ಶ್ರೀರಂಗಪಟ್ಟಣ], and, in order to encourage silk and velvet weaving, exempted them from certain taxes. The industry flourished till the fall of Seringapatam, when most of the class fled from the country, a few only having survived those troublous times. At present there are only 254 souls returned to these people, employed in making carpets in Bangalore [ಬೆಂಗಳೂರು].”

“The Patnūlkārs,” Mr. H. A. Stuart writes (Manual of the North Arcot district.), “say that they were originally Brāhmans, living in a town of Surat [સુરત] called Dēvagiri [દેવગિરિ], in which twelve streets were entirely peopled by them. For some reason, of which they profess themselves to be ignorant, the residents of one of these streets were excommunicated by the rest of the caste, and expelled. They travelled southwards, and settled in Tirupati [తిరుపతి], Arni, and Vellore [வேலூர்], as well as in Trichinopoly [திருச்சிராப்பள்ளி ], Tanjore [தஞ்சாவூர்], Madura [மதுரை], and other large towns, where they carried on their trade of silk-weaving. Another story is to the effect that they were bound to produce a certain number of silken cloths at each Dīpāvali [દીપાવલી] feast in Dēvagiri [દેવગિરિ] for the goddess Lakshmi [લક્ષ્મી]. One year their supply fell short, and they were cursed by the goddess, who decreed that they should no longer be regarded as Brāhmans. They, however, still claim to be such, and follow the customs of that caste, though they refuse to eat with them. They acknowledge priests from among themselves, as well as from among Brāhmans, and profess to look down upon all other castes. In religion they are divided into Smartas [ಸ್ಮಾರ್ತ], Vaishnavas [ವೈಷ್ಣವ], and Vyāpāris, some among the Smartas being Lingāyats [ಲಿಂಗಾಯತ]. Those who can write usually employ the Telugu [తెలుగు] characters in writing their language.”

The Patnūlkārans, according to one tradition, claim descent from a certain Brāhman sage, known as Tantuvardhanar, meaning literally a person who improves threads, i.e., manufactures and weaves them into cloths. This is, it is suggested, probably only an eponymous hero.

In the Manual of the Madura [மதுரை] district, the Patnūlkārans are described as

“a caste of Surat [સુરત] silk-weavers, whose ancestors were induced to settle in Madura [மதுரை] by one of the earlier Nāyakkan [நாயக்க] kings, or in response to an invitation from Tirumala Naik [திருமலை நாயக்கர், r. 1623 - 1659], and who have thriven so well that they now form by far the most numerous of all the castes resident in the town of Madura [மதுரை]. They are very skilful and industrious workmen, and many of them have become very wealthy. They keep altogether aloof from other castes, and live independently of general society, speaking a foreign tongue, and preserving intact the customs of the land of their origin. They are easily distinguished in appearance from Tamils [தமிழர்], being of a light yellowish colour, and having handsomer and more intelligent features. They are called Chettis [செட்டி] or merchants by Tamils.”

In a recent note (Madras Mail, 1907.), the Patnūlkārans of Madura [மதுரை] are described as being

“exceedingly gregarious ; they live together in large numbers in small houses, and their social status in the country is quite unsettled. Though they delight to call themselves Saurāshtra [સૌરાષ્ટ્ર] Brāhmans, the Tamils [தமிழர்] consider them to be a low caste. Like the Brāhmans, they wear the sacred thread, and tack on to their names such titles as Iyengar [அய்யங்கார்], Iyer [ஐயர்‍], Rao, Bhagavather [பாகவதர்], Sastrigal [சாஸ்திரிகள்], and so forth, though the conservatives among them still cling to the time-honoured simple Chetti [செட்டி]. Child marriage is the rule, and widow marriage is never practiced. Hindus by religion, they worship indiscriminately both the Siva [சைவ] and Vaishnava [வைஷ்ணவ] deities, but all of them wear big Iyengar [அய்யங்கார்] nāmams [நாமம் ] on their foreheads, even more prominently than do the real Iyengars themselves. All of them pass for pure vegetarians. The proud position of Madura [மதுரை] to this day as second city in the Presidency is mainly, if not solely, due to her prosperous and industrious community of Saurāshtra [સૌરાષ્ટ્ર] merchants and silk-weavers, who have now grown into nearly half her population, and who have also come to a foremost place among the ranks of her citizens. They have their representatives to-day in the Municipal Councils and in the Local and District Boards. Their perseverance has won for them a place in the Devastānam Committee of one of the most prosperous temples in the district. But, in spite of their affluence and leading position it must be confessed that they are essentially a ‘backward class’ in respect of English education and enlightenment. They are, however, making steady progress. An English high school for Saurāshtra boys, and a number of elementary schools for girls, are now maintained by the Saurāshtra Sabha for the proper education of their children.”

In 1906, a member of the community was appointed a member of the committee of the Sri Kalla Alagar temple [கள்ளழகர் திருக்கோயில்] in the Madura [மதுரை] district.

In an order of the Director of Public Instruction, in 1900, it was laid down that

“Saurāshtras  [સૌરાષ્ટ્ર] having been recognised (in 1892) as a backward class falling under Pattunulgars, the manager cannot continue to enjoy the privileges accorded under the grant-in-aid code to schools intended for backward classes, if he returns his pupils as Brāhmans. If the pupils have been returned as Saurāshtra [સૌરાષ્ટ્ર] Brāhmans, the manager should be requested to revise, as no such caste is recognised.”

A deputation had an interview with the Director, and it was subsequently ruled that

“Saurāshtras  [સૌરાષ્ટ્ર] will continue to be treated as a backward class. Pupils belonging to the above class should invariably be returned in future as Saurāshtras  [સૌરાષ્ટ્ર], whether the word Brāhman is added or not.”

In a “History of the Saurāshtras  [સૌરાષ્ટ્ર] in Southern India” (By the Saurashtra Literary Societies of Madura and Madras, 1891.) it is recorded that

“when the Saurāshtras  [સૌરાષ્ટ્ર] settled in the south, they reproduced the institutions of their mother country in the new land; but, owing to the influence of the Southern Dravidians, some of the institutions became extinct. During their migrations, the men were under the guidance of their leader, and the process of migration tended to increase the power of kinship. The people were divided into four heads, called

  • Goundas (chiefs),
  • Saulins (elders),
  • Vōyddoos (physicians), and 
  • Bhoutuls (religious men).

Some traces of the division still survive in the now neglected institution of Goundans. The Goundans were supposed to be responsible for the acts and doings of their men. The masses enjoyed the property under the joint undivided Hindu family system as prescribed in the Code of Manu. The chiefs were the judges in both civil and criminal affairs. They were aided in deciding cases by a body of nobles called Saulins. The office of the Saulins is to make enquiries, and try all cases connected with the community, and to abide by the decision of the chiefs. The Voyddoos (pandits) and Bhoutuls (Josis and Kavis also ranked with Vōyddas and Bhoutuls) had their honours on all important occasions, and they are placed in the same rank with the elders. The Karestuns, or the Commons, are the whole body of the masses. Their voice is necessary on certain important occasions, as during the ceremonies of excommunication, and prayaschittas for admitting renegades, and during periodical meetings of the community. The Goundans at present are not exercising any of their powers, except in some religious matters. Saurāshtra [સૌરાષ્ટ્ર] Brāhmans were originally leading a purely religious life, but now they have begun to do business of different descriptions fitted to their position. Their chief occupation is agriculture, but some are trading, dyeing and weaving ; however, it can be safely affirmed that their business interferes in no way with their religious creed and ceremonies. The name Patnulgar means silk weavers, and is sometimes erroneously applied to the Saurāshtras  [સૌરાષ્ટ્ર] too ; but, on the contrary, the term strictly applies to all classes of weavers in Southern India, called Seniyars, Kaikkolars, Dēvāngas, Kshatris (Khattris), Parayas, Sengundas, Mudaliars, Saliyurs, Padmasalays, but not to the Saurāshtras  [સૌરાષ્ટ્ર] in any way. The Saurāshtras  [સૌરાષ્ટ્ર] are now seen as a mercantile community. They are brave but humble, god-fearing, hospitable, fond of festivities and amusement. The Saurāshtras  [સૌરાષ્ટ્ર], it is said, were originally a class of sun worshippers, from soura meaning sun, but the term Saurāshtra [સૌરાષ્ટ્ર] means inhabitants of the fruitful kingdom. Their religion is Hinduism, and they were originally Mādhvas. After their settlement in Southern India, some of them, owing to the preachings of Sankaracharya [ശങ്കരാചാര്യർ, 8. Jhdt.] and Ramanujacharya [இராமானுசர், 12. Jhdt.], were converted into Saivites and Vaishnavites respectively. The Saurāshtras  [સૌરાષ્ટ્ર] belong to the Aksobhya [ಅಕ್ಷೋಭ್ಯ ತೀರ್ಥ ಮಠ] and Sankaracharya Matas [ಶೃಂಗೇರಿ ಶಾರದಾಪೀಠ]. The Saurāshtras  [સૌરાષ્ટ્ર], like other nations of India, are divided into four great divisions, viz., Brāhma, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Sūdra. The Vaisyas and Sūdras are to be found in almost all towns and villages, and especially at Tirupati [తిరుపతి], Nagari [నగరి], Naranavanam, Arni, Kottar [கோட்டாறு], Palani [பழனி], Palamcottah [பாளையங்கோட்டை], Vilangudi [விளாங்குடி], and Viravanallur [வீரவநல்லுர்].”

The affairs of the Patnūlkārans at Madura [மதுரை] are managed by a Saurāshtra [સૌરાષ્ટ્ર] Sabha, which was started in 1895. Among the laudable objects for which the Sabha was established, the following may be noted :—

  1. To manage the Madura [மதுரை] Saurāshtra school, and establish reading-rooms, libraries, etc., with a view to enable members of the Saurāshtra community to receive, on moderate terms, a sound, liberal, general and technical education.
  2. To manage the temple known as the Madura Sri Prasanna Venkateswara Swami’s temple [in: திருமலை வையாவூர்], and contribute towards its maintenance by constructing, repairing and preserving buildings in connection therewith, making jewels, vehicles and other things necessary therefor, and conducting the festivals thereof.
  3. To found charitable institutions, such as orphanages, hospitals, poor-houses, choultries (resting-places for travellers), water-sheds, and other things of a like nature for the good of the Saurāshtra  community.
  4. To give succour to the suffering poor, and the maimed, the lame, and the blind in the Saurāshtra  community.
  5. To give pecuniary grants in aid of upanayanams (thread marriages) to the helpless in the Saurāshtra community.
  6. To erect such works of utility as bathing ghauts, wells, water fountains, and other works of utility for the benefit of the Saurāshtra community.
  7. To fix and raise subscriptions known as mahamais (a sort of income-tax).

Among the subjects of the lectures delivered in connection with the Saurāshtra Upanyasa Sabha at Madura [மதுரை] in 1901 were the life of Mrs. Annie Besant [1847 - 1933], the Paris Exhibition of 1900, Mr. Tata [Jamshedji Nasarwanji Tata - જમશેદજી તાતા, 1839 - 1904] and higher education, Saurāshtra bank, Columbus, and the Saurāshtra reform hotel.

A few years ago, the Saurāshtra [સૌરાષ્ટ્ર] community submitted a memorial to the Governor of Madras [மதராஸ்] to the effect that

“as the backward Saurāshtra [સૌરાષ્ટ્ર] community have not the requisite capital of half a lakh of rupees for imparting to their members both general and technical education, the Saurāshtra Sabha, Madura [மதுரை], suggests that a lottery office may be kept for collecting shares at one rupee each from such of the public at large as may be willing to give the same, on the understanding that, every time the collections aggregate to Rs. 6,250, Rs. 250 should be set apart for the expenses of working the said office, and two-thirds of the remainder for educational purposes, and one-third should be awarded by drawing lots among the subscribers in the shape of five prizes, ranging from Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 125.”

In passing orders on this sporting scheme, the Government stated that it was not prepared to authorise the lottery. It has been well said (Gazetteer of the Madura district.) that the Patnūlkārans have a very strong esprit de corps, and this has stood them in good stead in their weaving, which is more scientifically carried on, and in a more flourishing condition than is usual elsewhere.

For the following note on the Patnūlkāran weavers of Madura [மதுரை], I am indebted to Mr. A. Chatterton, Director of Technical Enquiries :—

“ As a general rule, they are in a flourishing condition, and much better off than the Saurāshtra [સૌરાષ્ટ્ર] weavers in Salem [சேலம்]. This is probably due to the fact that the bulk of the Madura [மதுரை] trade is in a higher class of cloth than at Salem [சேலம்], and the weavers are consequently less affected by fluctuations in demand for their goods due to seasonal variations. In various ways the Saurāshtras  [સૌરાષ્ટ્ર] of Madura [மதுரை] have furnished evidence that they are a progressive community, particularly in the attention which they pay to education, and the keenness with which they are on the look-out for improvements in the methods of carrying out their hereditary craft. Nearly all the so-called improvements have been tried at Madura [மதுரை], and the fact that they have rejected most of them may be taken to some extent as evidence of their unsuitability for Indian conditions. Some time ago, one A. A. Kuppusawamy Iyer [குப்புசாமி ஐயர்‍] invented certain improvements in the native shedding apparatus, whereby ornamental patterns are woven along the borders, and on the ends of the better class of silk and cotton cloths. This apparatus was undoubtedly a material improvement upon that which is ordinarily used by the weaver, and it has been taken up extensively in the town. It is said that there are 350 looms fitted with this shedding apparatus, and the inventor, who has obtained a patent for it, is trying to collect a royalty of Rs. 1-4-0 a month on each loom. But this claim is resisted by a combination of the weavers using this shedding apparatus, and a suit is at the present time (1907) pending in the District Court. One of the most important weaving enterprises at Madura [மதுரை] is the Meenakshi Weaving Company, the partners of which are Ramachandra Iyer [ராமச்சந்திர ஐயர்], Muthurama Iyer, and Kuppusawmy Iyer [குப்புசாமி ஐயர்‍]. Their subscribed capital is Rs. 1,00,000, of which they are spending no less than Rs. 40,000 on building a weaving shed and office. The Madura [மதுரை] dyeing industry is in the hands of the Saurāshtras [સૌરાષ્ટ્ર], and the modern phase dates back only as far as 1895, when Mr. Tulsiram started dyeing grey yarn with alizarine red, and, in the twelve years which have since elapsed, the industry has grown to very large proportions. The total sales at Madura [மதுரை] average at present about 24 lakhs a year. There are from 30 to 40 dye-houses, and upwards of 5,000 cwt. of alizarine red is purchased every year from the Badische Aniline Soda Fabrik [Badische Anilin- & Soda-Fabrik]. The yarn is purchased locally, mainly from the Madura [மதுரை] Mills, but, to some extent, also from Coimbatore [கோயம்புத்தூர] and Tuticorin [தூத்துக்குடி]. The mordanting is done entirely with crude native earths, containing a large percentage of potassium salts. Drying the yarn presents considerable difficulty, especially in the wet weather. To secure a fast even colour, the yarn is mordanted about ten times, and dyed twice, or for very superior work three times, and between each operation it is essential that the yarn should be dried. The suburbs of Madura [மதுரை] are now almost entirely covered with drying yards.”

Patnūlkāran marriage procession

In a note on the Patnūlkārans who  have settled in Travancore [തിരുവിതാംകൂര്], Mr. N. Subramani Aiyar writes as follows. 

“The Patnūlkārans are generally of yellowish tinge, and in possession of handsomer and more intellectual features than the Tamil [தமிழ்] castes, from which they may be easily differentiated by even a casual observer. They are, however, more fair than cleanly. They keep in Travancore [തിരുവിതാംകൂര്], as elsewhere, aloof from other castes, and live independently of general society, speaking a foreign language. This they have preserved with astonishing attachment, and recently a Saurāshtra [ꢱꣃꢬꢵꢯ꣄ꢡ꣄ꢬꢵ] alphabet has been invented, and elementary books have begun to be written in that dialect. They are a very conservative class, religious enthusiasts of a very remarkable order, and skilful and industrious workmen. They take a peculiar pleasure in music, and many of them are excellent songsters. There are many kinds of amusement for both men and women, who generally spend their leisure in singing songs of a devotional nature. They believe largely in omens, of which the following may be noted :—

  • Good.—A pot full of water, a burning light, no Brāhmans, a Sudra, a cow, a married woman, and gold.
  • Bad.—A barber, a patient, a person with some bodily defect, fuel, oil, a donkey, a pick-axe, a broom, and a fan.

“On entering a Patnūlkāran’s house, we are led to a courtyard, spacious and neat, where all the necessary arrangements are made for weaving purposes. The Patnūlkārans live in streets. A male Patnūlkāran resembles a Tamil [தமிழ்] Vaishnava Brāhman in outward appearance, but the women follow the custom of the Telugu [తెలుగు] Brāhmans alike in their costume and ornaments. Their jewels exactly resemble those of the Telugu [తెలుగు] Brāhman women, and indicate a temporary residence of the caste in the Telugu [తెలుగు] country on the way from Gujarat to Madura [மதுரை]. There is a Tamil [தமிழ்] proverb to the effect that, if a male Patnūlkāran is seen without his wife, he will be taken for a Vaishnava Brāhman, whereas, in the case of the Tātan caste, a woman without her husband will be taken for an Aiyangar [ஐயங்கார்]. Children wear the kārai round the neck. Tattooing prevails on a very large scale.

“The Patnūlkārans may be divided into three classes on a religious basis, viz.,

  1. pure Vaishnavites [വൈഷ്ണവ], who wear the vertical Vaishnavite mark, and call themselves Vadakalas [വടക്കൻ] or northerners ;
  2. those who are mainly Smartas ;
  3. Sankara Vaishnavas, who wear gōpi (sandal paste) as their sect-mark.

It is to the last of these religious sects that the Travancore [തിരുവിതാംകൂര്] Patnūlkārans belong, though, in recent times, a few Smartas have settled at Kottar [கோட்டாறு]. All these intermarry and interdine, and the religious difference does not create a distinction in the caste. The chief divinity of the Patnūlkārans is Venkatāchalapati [వేంకటాచలపతి] of Tirupati [తిరుపతి]. The month in which he is most worshipped is Kanni [കന്നി] (September-October), and all the Saturdays and the Tiruvonam [திருவோணம்] star of the month are particularly devoted to his adoration. One of their men becomes possessed on any of these days, and, holding a burning torch-light in his hand, touches the foreheads of the assembled devotees therewith. The Patnūlkārans fast on those days, and take an image of Garuda [ഗരുഡ] in procession through the street. The Dīpāvali [ദീപാവലി], Pannamasi in Chittiray [சித்திரை], and the Vaikuntha Ekadasi [വൈകുണ്ഠ ഏകാദശി] are other important religious days. The Dusserah [ദസ്റ] is observed, as also are the festivals of Sri Rama Navami [രാമനവമി], Ashtami [அட்டமி], Rohini, Avani Avittam [ஆவணி அவிட்டம்], and Vara Lakshmivratam. Formal worship of deities is done by those who have obtained the requisite initiation from a spiritual preceptor. Women who have husbands fast on full-moon days, Mondays, and Fridays. The serpent and the banyan tree are specially worshipped. Women sing songs in praise of Lakshmi [ലക്ഷ്മി], and offer fruits and cocoanuts to her. The Patnūlkārans have a temple dedicated to Srī Rāma [ஸ்ரீ ராம] at Kottar [கோட்டாறு]. This temple is visited even by Brāhmans, and the priests are Aiyangars [ஐயங்கார்]. The Āchārya, or supreme religious authority of the Patnūlkārans, in Travancore [തിരുവിതാംകൂര്] is a Vaishnava Brāhman known as Ubhaya Vēdānta Kōti Kanyakādāna Tātāchariyar, who lives at Aravankulam [= நாரணம்மாள்புரம் ] near Tinnevelly [திருநெல்வேலி], and possesses a large number of disciples. Once a year he visits his flock in Travancore [തിരുവിതാംകൂര്], and is highly respected by them, as also by the Mahārāja, who makes a donation of money to him. Elders are appointed to decide social disputes, and manage the common property of the caste. In Travancore [തിരുവിതാംകൂര്] there are said to be only three families of Patnūlkāran priests. For the higher ceremonies, Brāhman priests are employed.

"A girl’s marriage is usually celebrated before puberty, and sometimes when she is a mere child of four or five. Great importance is attached to gōtras [ഗോത്രം] or exogamous septs, and it is said that the septs of the bride and bridegroom are conspicuously inscribed on the walls of a marriage house. In the selection of an auspicious hour (muhurtam [മിഹൂര്തം]) for a marriage, two favourable planetary situations, one closely following the other, are necessary ; and, as such occasions are rare, a number of marriages take place at one time. A man may claim his maternal uncle’s daughter as his wife, and polygamy is permitted. The marriage ceremonial resembles the Brāhmanical rites in many points. On the fourth day, a ceremonial observed by Telugu [తెలుగు] Brāhmans, called Nagabali [నాగబలి], is performed. The marriage badge, which is tied on the bride’s neck, is called bottu. [From a note on the marriage ceremonies among the Patnūlkārans of Madura [மதுரை], I gather that, as among Telugu [తెలుగు] and Canarese [ಕನ್ನಡ] castes, a number of pots are arranged, and worshipped. These pots are smaller and fewer in number than at a Telugu [తెలుగు] or Canarese [ಕನ್ನಡ] wedding. A figure of a car is drawn on the wall of the house with red earth or laterite. On it the name of the gōtra of the bridegroom is written. On the fourth day, the nāgavali (or offering to Dēvas) is performed. The contracting couple sit near the pots, and a number of lights are arranged on the floor. The pots, which represent the Dēvas, are worshipped.]

“The nāmakarana, or name-giving ceremony, is performed on the eleventh day after birth. An eighth child, whether male or female, is called Krishna, owing to the tradition that Krishna was born as the eighth child of Vasudēva. Babies are affectionately called Duddu (milk) or Pilla (child). The annaprāsana, or first feeding of the child, is sometimes celebrated at the end of the first year, but usually as a preliminary to some subsequent ceremony. Sometimes, in performance of a vow, boys are taken to the shrine at Tirupati [తిరుపతి] for the tonsure ceremony. The upanayana is performed between the seventh and twelfth years, but neither brahmacharya nor samāvartana is observed.

“The dead are burnt, and the remains of the bones are collected and deposited under water. Death pollution lasts only for ten days. The srādh, or annual ceremony, when oblations are offered to ancestors, is observed. Widows are allowed to retain their hair, but remove the bottu. Unlike Brāhman women, they chew betel, and wear coloured cloths, even in old age.”

The Patnūlkārans have a secret trade language, concerning which Mr. C. Hayavadana Rao writes as follows.

“The most remarkable feature about it is the number of terms and phrases borrowed from the craft, to which special meanings are given. Thus a man of no status is stigmatised as a rikhta khandu, i.e., a spindle without the yarn. Similarly, a man of little sense is called a mhudha, the name of a thick peg which holds one side of the roller. Likewise, a talkative person is referred to as a rhetta, or roller used for winding the thread upon spindles, which makes a most unpleasant creaking noise. Kapinikēr, from kapini, a technical term used for cutting the loom off, means to make short work of an undesirable person. A man who is past middle age is called porkut phillias, which, in weavers’ parlance, means that half the loom is turned.”

[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. 160 - 176.]

Patwa [पटवा], Patwi [पटवी], Patra, Ilākeband (Central Provinces)

"Patwa [पटवा], Patwi [पटवी], Patra, Ilākeband.—The occupational caste of weavers of fancy silk braid and thread. In 1911 the Patwas [पटवा] numbered nearly 6000 persons in the Central Provinces, being returned principally from the Narsinghpur [नरसिंहपुर], Raipur [रायपुर], Saugor [सागर], Jubbulpore [जबलपुर] and Hoshangābād [होशंगाबाद] Districts. About 800 were resident in Berār [बेरार]. The name is derived from the Sanskrit pata [पट], woven cloth, or Hindi pat [पट], silk. The principal subcastes of the Patwas [पटवा] are
  • the Naraina ;
  • the Kanaujia [कन्नौजिया], also known as Chhīpi, because they sew marriage robes ;
  • the  Deobansi [देववंशी] or ‘descendants of a god,’ who sell lac and glass bangles ;
  • the Lakhera [लखेरा], who prepare lac bangles ; 
  • the Kachera [काचेरा], who make glass bangles ;
  • and others.

Three of the above groups are thus functional in character. They have also Rājpūt [राजपूत] and Kayastha subcastes, who may consist of refugees from those castes received into the Patwa [पटवा] community. In the Central Provinces the Patwas [पटवा] and Lakheras [लखेरा] are in many localities considered to be the same caste, as they both deal in lac and sell articles made of it; and the account of the occupations of the Lakhera [लखेरा] caste also applies largely to the Patwas [पटवा]. The exogamous groups of the caste are named after villages, or titles or nicknames borne by the reputed founder of the group. They indicate that the Patwas [पटवा] of the Central Provinces are generally descended from immigrants from northern India. The Patwa [पटवा] usually purchases silk and colours it himself. He makes silk strings for pyjamas and coats, armlets and other articles. Among these-are the silk threads called rakhis [राखी], used on the Rakshābandhan [रक्शा बंधन] festival, when the Brāhmans [ब्राह्मण] go round in the morning tying them on to the wrists of all Hindus as a protection against evil spirits. For this the Brāhman [ब्राह्मण] receives a present of one or two pice. The rakhi [राखी] is made of pieces of raw silk fibre twisted together, with a knot at one end and a loop at the other. It goes round the wrist, and the knot is passed through the loop. Sisters also tie it round their brothers’ wrists and are given a present. The Patwas [पटवा] make the phundri threads for tying up the hair of women, whether of silk or cotton, and various threads used as amulets, such as the janjīra [जंजीर], worn by men round the neck, and the ganda [गंडा] or wizard’s thread, which is tied round the arm after incantations have been said over it ; and the necklets of silk or cotton thread bound with thin silver wire which the Hindus wear at Anant Chaudas [अनंत चौदस], a sort of All Saints’ Day, when all the gods are worshipped. In this various knots are made by the Brāhmans [ब्राह्मण], and in each a number of deities are tied up to exert their beneficent influence for the wearer of the thread. These are the bands which Hindus commonly wear on their necks. The Patwas [पटवा] thread necklaces of gold and jewels on silk thread, and also make the strings of cowries, slung on pack-thread, which are tied round the necks of bullocks when they race on the Pola [पोळा]  day, and on ponies, probably as a charm. After a child is born in the family of one of their clients, the Patwas [पटवा] make tassels of cotton and hemp thread coloured red, green and yellow, and hang them to the centre-beam of the house and the top of the child’s cradle, and for this they get a present, which from a rich man may be as much as ten rupees. The sacred thread proper is usually made by Brāhmans [ब्राह्मण] in the Central Provinces. Some of the Patwas [पटवा] wander about hawking their wares from village to village. Besides the silk threads they sell the tiklis or large spangles which women wear on their foreheads, lac bangles and balls of henna, and the large necklaces of lac beads covered with tinsel of various colours which are worn in Chhattisgarh [छत्तीसगढ़]. A Patwa [पटवा] must not rear the tasar [तसर] silkworm nor boil the cocoons on pain of expulsion from caste."

[Quelle: Russell, R. V. (Robert Vane) <1873-1915> ; Hīra Lāl <Rai Bahadur> [हीरालाल <राय बहादुर>] <1873 - 1923>: The tribes and castes of the Central Provinces of India. -- London: MacMillan, 1916. -- 4 Bde. : Ill. -- Bd. 4. -- S. 385ff.]

Perike (Telugu)

"Perike.—This word is defined, in the Madras Census Report, 1901, as meaning literally a gunny bag, and the Perikes are summed up as being a Telugu [తెలుగు] caste of gunny bag (goni) weavers, corresponding to the Janappans [சணப்பர] of the Tamil [தமிழ்] districts. Gunny bag is the popular and trading name of the coarse sacking and sacks made from the fibre of jute, much used in Indian trade. It is noted, in the Census Report, 1891, that 

“the Perikes claim to be a separate caste, but they seem to be in reality a sub-division, and not a very exalted sub-division', of Balijas [బలిజ], being in fact identical with the Uppu [ఉప్పు] (salt) Balijas. Their hereditary occupation is carrying salt, grain, etc., on bullocks and donkeys in perikes or packs. Perike is found among the sub-divisions of both Kavarai and Balija [బలిజ]. Some of them, however, have attained considerable wealth, and now claim to be Kshatriyas [క్షత్రియ], saying that they are the descendants of the Kshatriyas who ran away (piriki [పిరికి], a coward) from the persecution of Parasurāma [పరశురాముడు]. Others again say they are Kshatriyas who went into retirement, and made hills (giri [గిరి]) their abode (puri [పురి]).”

These Perike ‘Kshatriyas’ are known as Puragiri Kshatriya and Giri Razu. The Periki Balijas are described, in the Vizagapatam Manual, as chiefly carrying on cultivation and trade, and some of them are said to hold a high position at ‘the Presidency’ (Madras [மதராஸ்]) and in the Vizagapatam [విశాఖపట్నం] district.

Perike women appear to have frequently committed sati [సతీ] (or suttee) on the death of their husbands in former days, and the names of those who thus sacrificed their lives are still held in reverence. A peculiar custom among the Perikes is the erection of big square structures (brindāvanam [బృందావనం]), in which a tulsi [తులసి] (Ocimum sanctum [Ocimum tenuiflorum]) is planted, on the spot where the ashes of the dead are buried after cremation. I am informed that a fine series of these structures may be seen at Chipurapalli [చీపురుపల్లి], close to Vizianagram [విజయనగరం]. As a mark of respect to the dead, passers-by usually place a lac bangle or flowers thereon. The usual titles of the Perikes are Anna and Ayya, but some style themselves Rao [రావు] (= Raya, king) or Rayadu [రాయుడు], in reference to their alleged Kshatriya [క్షత్రియ] origin.

For the following note on the Perikes of the Godavari [గోదావరి] district, I am indebted to Mr. F. R. Hemingway. “

Like some of the Kammas, they be of Kshatriya [క్షత్రియ] stock, and say they are of the lineage of Parasu Rāma [పరశురాముడు], but were driven out by him for kidnapping his sister, while pretending to be gunny-bag weavers. They say that they were brought to this country by king Nala of the Mahābhārata, in gratitude for their having taken care of his wife Damayanti when he quitted her during his misfortunes. They support the begging caste of Varugu Bhattas, who, they say, supported them during their exile, and to whom they gave a sanad (deed of grant) authorising them to demand alms. These people go round the Perike houses for their dues every year. The Pisu Perikes, who still weave gunny-bags, are said not to belong to the caste proper, members of which style themselves Rācha Perikes.

“The Perikes say that, like the Kōmatis, they have 101 gotras. Their marriage ceremonies are peculiar. On the day of the wedding, the bride and bridegroom are made to fast, as also are three male relatives, whom they call suribhaktas. At the marriage, the couple sit on a gunny-bag, and another gunny, on which a representation of the god Mailar is drawn or painted, is spread between them. The same god is drawn on two pots, and these, and also a third pot, are filled with rice and dhal (Cajanus indicus [Cajanus cajan (L.) Millsp.]), which are cooked by two married women. The food is then offered to Mailar. Next, the three suribhaktas take 101 cotton threads, fasten them together, and tie seven knots in them. The bride and bridegroom are given cloths which have been partly immersed in water coloured with turmeric and chunam (lime), and the suribhaktas are fed with the rice and dhal cooked in the pots. The couple are then taken round the village in procession, and, on their return, the knotted cotton threads are tied round the bride’s neck instead of a tāli."

Some Perikes style themselves Sāthu vāndlu, meaning a company of merchants or travellers.

Perike Muggula is the name of a class of Telugu [తెలుగు] mendicants and exorcists."

[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. 191 - 194.]

Sālē [శాలీలు] (Telugu)

"Sālē [శాలీలు]. —The Sālēs [శాలీలు] are the great weaver class among the Telugus [తెలుగు ప్రజలు], for the following note on whom I am indebted to Mr. C. [Conjeevaram] Hayavadana Rao [1865 – 1946].

The name is derived from Sanskrit, Sālika [?], a weaver. The Sālēs [శాలీలు] call themselves Sēnāpati [సేనాపతి] (commander-in-chief), and this is further the title of the caste headman. They are divided into two main endogamous sections, Padma [పద్మ] or lotus, and Pattu [పట్టు] or silk. Between them there are three well-marked points of difference, viz.,

  1. the Pattu Sālēs [పట్టుశాలీలు] wear the sacred thread, whereas the Padma Sālēs [పద్మశాలీలు] do not;
  2. the Pattu Sālēs [పట్టుశాలీలు] do not take food or water at the hands of any except Brāhmans, whereas the Padma Sālēs [పద్మశాలీలు] will eat in Kāpu [కాపు], Golla, Telaga, Gavara, etc., houses;
  3. the Pattu Sālēs [పట్టుశాలీలు] weave superfine cloths, and, in some places, work in silk, whereas Padma Sālēs [పద్మశాలీలు] weave only coarse cloths.

Each section is divided into a number of exogamous septs or intiperulu. Both speak Telugu [తెలుగు], and are divided into Vaishnavites [వైష్ణవ] and Saivites [శైవ]. These religious distinctions are no bar to intermarriage and interdining.

It is recorded, in the Gazetteer of the Vizagapatam [విశాఖపట్నం] district (1907), that

“on the plains, cotton cloths are woven in hundreds of villages by Sālēs [శాలీలు], Padma Sālēs [పద్మశాలీలు], Pattu Sālēs [పట్టుశాలీలు], Dēvāngas, and Sālāpus. The ryots often spin their own cotton into thread, and then hand it over to the weavers to be made into cloths, but large quantities of machine-made yarn are used. In the south, the chief weaving centres are Nakkapalli and Pāyakaraopēta [పాయకరావుపేట] in Sarvasiddhi [సర్వసిద్ధి] taluk, the Pattu Sālēs [పట్టుశాలీలు] in the latter of which turn out fabrics of fine thread, enriched with much gold and silver ‘lace,’ which are in great demand in the Godavari [గోదావరి] and Ganjam [ଗଞ୍ଜାମ] districts. At Rāzām [రాజాం], coloured cloths for women are the chief product, and in the country round this place the white garments so universal everywhere give place to coloured dress. The cloths are sold locally, and also sent in large quantities to Berhampur [ବ୍ରହ୍ମପୁର], Cuttack [କଟକ], and even Calcutta [কলকাতা]. Most of the weaving is in the hands of Dēvāngas, but the dyeing of the thread is done with imported aniline and alizarine colours by the Balijas of Sigadam [సిగడాం] in Chīpurupalle tāluk and Balijapēta [బలిజిపేట] in Bobbili [బొబ్బిలి]. In Siripuram [సిరిపురం] and Pondūru [పొందూరు], the Pattu Sālēs [పట్టుశాలీలు] make delicate fabrics from especially fine thread, called Pattu Sālē nūlu [పట్టుశాలీలు నూలు], or silk-weaver’s thread, which the women of their caste spin for them, and which is as fine as imported 1508. These are much valued by well-to-do natives for their softness and durability. The weaving industry is on the decline throughout the district, except perhaps in Rāzām [రాజాం], and the weaver castes are taking to other means of livelihood. Round Chīpurupalle, for example, the Pattu Sālēs [పట్టుశాలీలు] have become experts in tobacco-curing, and have made such profits that they are able to monopolise much of the trade and money-lending of the locality.”

Concerning the origin of the Sālē [శాలీలు] caste, it is stated, in the Āndhrapada Pārijātamu [ఆన్ధ్రపదపారిజాతము], that it is the result of an union between a Kamsala man and a potter woman. According to a current legend, the celestials (dēvatas [దేవతా]), being desirous of securing clothing for themselves and their dependents, asked Markandēya Rishi [మార్కండేయుడు ఋషి] to supply them with it. He went to Vishnu [విష్ణువు], and prayed to him. The god directed him to make a sacrificial offering to Indra [ఇంద్రుడు], the celestial king. Markandēya accordingly performed a great sacrifice, and from the fire issued Bhāvana Rishi [భావనఋషి], with a ball of thread in his hands, which he had manufactured, under Vishnu’s [విష్ణువు]  direction, from the fibre of the lotus which sprang from the god’s navel. With this ball of thread he proceeded to make cloths for the celestials. He subsequently married Bhadravathi [ಭದ್ರಾವತಿ], the daughter of Sūrya [సూర్య] (the sun), who bore him a hundred and one sons, of whom a hundred became the ancestors of the Padma Sālēs [పద్మశాలీలు], while the remaining man was the ancestor of the Pattu Sālēs [పట్టుశాలీలు].

The caste worships Bhāvana Rishi [భావనఋషి]. At the close of the year, the caste occupation is stopped before the Sankramanam [సఙ్క్రమణం] for ten days. Before they start work again, the Pattu Sālēs [పట్టుశాలీలు] meet at an appointed spot, where they burn camphor, and wave it before a ball of thread, which represents Bhāvana Rishi [భావనఋషి]. A more elaborate rite is performed by the Padma Sālēs [పద్మశాలీలు]. They set apart a special day for the worship of the deified ancestor, and hold a caste feast. A special booth is erected, in which a ball of thread is placed. A caste-man acts as pūjāri [పూజారి] (priest), and fruits, flowers, camphor, etc., are offered to the thread.

The Telugu [తెలుగు] Padma Sālēs [పద్మశాలీలు], and Marāthi-speaking [मराठी] Sukūn and Suka Sālēs, are, as will be seen from the following table, short of stature, with high cephalic index :—

  Stature. cm. Cephalic index.
Padma Sālē [పద్మశాలీలు] 159ˈ9 78ˈ7
Suka Sālē 161ˈ1 81ˈ8
Sukūn Sālē 160ˈ3 82ˈ2

The Padma [పద్మశాలీలు] and Karna Sālēs are dealt with in special articles.

Writing in the eighteenth century, [Pierre ] Sonnerat [1748 - 1814] remarks that the weaver fixes his loom under a tree before his house in the morning, and at night takes it home. And this observation holds good at the present day. Weaving operations, as they may be seen going on at weaving centres in many parts of Southern India, are thus described by Mr. H. A. Stuart (Manual of the North Arcot district.).

“The process of weaving is very simple. The thread is first turned off upon a hand-spindle, and then the warp is formed. Bamboo sticks, 120 in number, are fixed upright in the ground, generally in the shade of a tope or grove, at a distance of a cubit from one another, and ten women or children, carrying rātnams (spindles) in their hands, walk up and down this line, one behind the other, intertwining the thread between the bamboos, until 1,920 threads of various colours, according to the pattern desired, are thus arranged. For this work each gets half an anna— a small renumeration for walking four miles. To form a warp sufficient for eight women’s cloths, forty miles have thus to be traversed. In weaving silk cloths or the finer fabrics, the length of the warp is less than sixty yards. As soon as the threads have been arranged, the bamboos are plucked up, and rolled together with the threads upon them. Trestles are then set out in the tope, and upon them the warp with the bamboos is stretched horizontally, and sized by means of large long brushes with rāgi starch, and carried along by two men. This having dried, the whole is rolled up, and placed in the loom in the weaver’s house. The weaving room is a long, narrow, dark chamber, lighted by one small window close to where the workman sits. The loom is constructed on the simplest principles, and can be taken to pieces in a few minutes, forming a light load for a man. The alternate threads of the warp are raised and depressed, to receive the woof in the following manner. Two pairs of bamboos are joined together by thin twine loops, and, being suspended from the roof, are also joined to two pedals near the floor. Through the joining loops of one pair of bamboos run half the threads, and through those of the other run the other half. Thus, by depressing one pedal with the foot and raising the other, one set of threads is depressed, and the other raised so as to admit of the woof thread being shot across. This thread is forced home by a light beam suspended from the roof, and then, the position of the pedals being reversed, the woof thread is shot back again between the reversed threads of the warp. In this way about three yards can be woven in a day.”

Further Mr. J. D. Rees writes as follows (Twelfth Tour of Lord Connemara, 1890.).

“As you enter a weaver’s grove, it appears at first sight as if those occupied in this industry were engaged in a pretty game. Rows of women walk up and down the shady aisles, each holding aloft in the left hand a spindle, and in the right a bamboo wand, through a hook at the end of which the thread is passed. Alongside are split bamboos reaching as high as their hips, and, as they pass, they unwind the thread from the spindle by means of the wand, and pass it over each alternate upright. The threads, thus separated, are subsequently lifted with their bamboo uprights from the ground, and, while extended from tree to tree in a horizontal position, are washed with rice-water, and carefully brushed. The threads are now ready to be made into cloth, and the actual weaving is carried on by means of primitive hand looms inside the houses.”

Weavers, like many other classes in Southern India, are eminently conservative. Even so trifling an innovation as the introduction of a new arrangement for maintaining tension in the warp during the process of weaving gave rise a short time ago to a temporary strike among the hand-loom weavers at the Madras [மதராஸ்] School of Arts.

For the following note on the weaving industry, I am indebted to Mr. A. Chatterton.

“The hand-weavers may be divided into two great classes—

  1. plain weavers, who weave cloths or fabrics with a single shuttle, which carries the weft from selvage to selvage ; 
  2. bordered cloth weavers, who weave cloths in which the threads of the weft of the portion of the fabric forming the borders are distinct from the threads of the weft of the main body of the cloth. To manufacture these cloths, three shuttles are employed, and as yet no successful attempt has been made to imitate them on the power loom. The bordered cloth weavers do not suffer from the direct competition of machine-made piecegoods, and the depression in their branch of the industry is due to changes in the tastes of the people. (See Thurston. Monograph on the Cotton Industry of the Madras Presidency, 1897.)

In the manufacture of a cloth from the raw material there are three distinct processes : spinning, warping, and weaving. Modern machinery has absolutely and completely ousted hand-spinning ; the primitive native methods of warping have been to a large extent replaced by improved hand-machines, and power looms have displaced hand looms to some extent; but there is still an enormous hand-loom industry, some branches of which are in by no means an unsatisfactory condition. In our efforts to place the hand-weaving industry on a better footing, we are endeavouring to improve the primitive methods of indigenous weavers both in regard to warping and weaving. In respect to weaving we have met with considerable success, as we have demonstrated that the output of the fly-shuttle loom is fully double that of the native hand loom, and it is in consequence slowly making its way in the weaving centres of Southern India. In respect to warping, no definite solution has yet been effected, and we are still experimenting. The problem is complicated by the fact that the output of a warping mill must necessarily be sufficient to keep at least a hundred hand looms at work, and at the present time the hand-weaving industry is not organised on any basis, which gives promise of development into co-operative working on so large a scale as would give employment to this number of looms. In Madura [மதுரை], Coimbatore [கோயம்புத்தூர], Madras [மதராஸ்] and Salem [சேலம்], attempts are being made to establish organised hand-loom weaving factories, and these represent the direction in which future development must take place. At present all these factories are running with fly-shuttle looms, and various modifications of the old types of hand-warping machinery. The only experiments in warping and sizing are now being conducted, at Government expense, in the Government weaving factory at Salem [சேலம்], and in a small factory established privately at Tondiarpet [தண்டையார்பேட்டை] (Madras [மதராஸ்]). A warping machinery, suited to Indian requirements, has been specially designed for us in England, and there is no doubt but that it will provide a solution to the warping question, but whether it will be satisfactory or not depends upon the efficiency of hank sizing. The superiority of native cloths is commonly attributed to the fact that they are made in hand looms, but in reality it is largely due to the methods of sizing employed by native weavers, and it is still doubtful whether we can attain the same results by any process which involves the production of continuous warps of indefinite length. The ordinary native warp is short, and it is stretched out to its full length in the street, and the size carefully and thoroughly brushed into it. The warps which our machines will produce may be thousands of yards in length, and, if they are successful, will almost entirely do away with the enormous waste of time involved in putting new warps into a loom at frequent intervals. That they will be successful in a sense there is no reasonable doubt, but whether the goods produced in our hand-weaving factories will be what are now known as hand-woven goods, or whether they will partake more of the nature of the power-loom productions, remains to be seen. With the cheap labour available in Southern India, there is probably a future for hand-weaving factories, but it will depend almost entirely upon the successful training of the weavers, and experience shows that they are not easily amenable to discipline, and have very rigid objections to anything approaching a factory system.”

In a speech delivered at Salem [சேலம்] in 1906, Sir Arthur Lawley [1860 - 1932], Governor of Madras [மதராஸ்], spoke as follows.

“I know something of the prosperity of the weaving industry in days gone by, and I regret exceedingly to learn that it is not in so flourishing a condition as at one time it well claimed to be. Now, we have all of us heard a good deal of Swadēshi [சுதேசி], and the Government is being constantly urged, from time to time, to do something to foster the industries of this country. We made a beginning here by setting up a Weaving Institute. We believed that by doing so we should put within the knowledge of the weavers of this district methods whereby their output of cloth would be greater, while the cost was reduced, and that thus their material prosperity would be considerably advanced. Now it is somewhat of a surprise, and considerable disappointment to me to learn that this effort which we have made is regarded with suspicion, if not with hostility. I am afraid our motives have been misunderstood, because I need hardly assure you that the idea that the Government should enter into competition with any of the industries of the country never suggested itself to us. We desired simply and solely to infuse some fresh spirit into an industry which was languishing.”

In a note on the weaving industry, Mr. E. B. Havell writes thus (East and West, VI, 70, 1907.).

“The principle of the Danish co-operative system as applied to dairy-farming is the combination of a number of small proprietors for sending their products to a central factory, in which each of them has a share proportionate to the quantity of his contributions. In the management of the factory, each member has an absolutely equal voice, irrespective of his holdings. Adapting such a system to the Indian weaving industry, each weaving community would have a central establishment under its own control, which would arrange the purchase of material at wholesale rates, prepare warps for the weavers’ looms, and organise the sale of the finished products. The actual weaving would be carried on as at present in the weavers’ houses by the master weavers and their apprentices. If a system of this kind would retain the economic advantages of the factory system, and eliminate its many evils, it is obvious that a factory, owned and controlled by the weavers themselves, and worked only for their advantage, is a very different thing to a factory controlled by capitalists only for the purpose of exploiting the labour of their employees.”

As bearing on the general condition of the weaving community, the following extract from the Report of the Famine in the Madras Presidency, 1896-97, may be quoted.

“Among the people who felt the distress at the beginning were the weavers. It is a well-known fact that the people of the weaver castes, as well as Mussalman weavers, are generally improvident, and consequently poor. In favourable times, the weavers generally earn fair wages. They, however, spend all they earn without caring to lay by anything, so that very few of their caste are in well-to-do circumstances. The same is the case with the Mussalman weavers. All these weavers are entirely in the hands of the sowcars [சௌகார்] (money-lenders), who make advances to them, and get cloths in return. The cloths thus obtained by the sowcars are exported to other parts of the country. It may be taken as a general fact that most of the professional weavers are indebted to the sowcars, and are bound to weave for them. So long as the seasons are favourable, and sowcars get indents for cloths from their customers, they continue their advances to their dependent weavers. But when, owing to any cause, the demand decreases, the sowcars curtail their advances proportionately, and the weavers are at once put to difficulty. According to the fineness and kind of fabrics turned out by the weavers, they may be divided into fine cloth weavers and silk weavers, and weavers of coarse cloths. It is the coarse cloth weavers that would be affected with the first appearance of distress. The consumers of their manufactures are the poorer classes, and, with the appearance of scarcity and high prices, the demand for the coarser kinds of cloths would cease. Such was actually the case at the beginning of the recent distress. The weavers are, as a class, not accustomed to hard manual labour, nor are they able to work exposed to heat and sun. If such people are put on earth-work, they would certainly fail to turn out the prescribed task, and consequently earn insufficient wages. They would thus be, as it were, punished for no fault of theirs. This state of things would last at least for some time, until the weavers got accustomed to earth-work. Again, these people have, by constant work at their own craft, attained to a certain degree of skill and delicacy, and, if compelled to do earth-work during the temporary unfavourable season, they would certainly lose, to some extent, their skill and delicacy of hand, and would become unfit, in that degree, for their accustomed work when favourable season returns. They would thus be put to inconvenience doubly. During the first part of the distress, their skill of hand, and delicacy of constitution would stand in their way, and, after the return of good season, the loss of manual skill and delicacy would place them at a disadvantage. It can be easily seen that giving relief to the weavers in their own calling is the most economical form of relief. In this form of special relief, Government advances materials to the weavers to be woven into different kinds of cloths. Government has no doubt to incur a large initial expenditure in the shape of value of materials, and wages for weavers for making these materials into cloths. But all the materials are returned woven into cloths, so that, at the close of the operations, Government has a stock of cloths, which can be disposed of without difficulty on the return of favourable times, and the cost incurred recovered. In this way, Government not only administers relief to a pretty large section of its poor subjects, but keeps up, with little or no cost to itself, the industrial skill of this section of the people.”

Of proverbs relating to the weaver, one runs to the effect that,

“if you want to narrow the breadth of a river, you should plant reeds on its margin ; and, if you desire to destroy the sanitation of a village, you should bring weavers to it, and settle them there.”

When the dyes have to be fixed, and the dyed twist has to be washed, the weavers generally resort to running water, and pollute it. The several processes of twisting and untwisting threads, preparing skeins, etc., make combined labour a necessity in the weaving industry; and, wherever one finds a weaver settlement, he must find there a large number of these people, as is explained by the proverb that

“the Chetti [செட்டி] (merchant) lost by partnership, while the weaver came to grief by isolation.”

When plying shuttles in the weaving process, the weavers always use their feet in shifting the warp, by treading on a press. Thus, if a weaver unfortunately happens to have a sore on his foot, it means loss to him ; or, as the proverb says,

“If a dog gets a sore on its head, it never recovers from it; and even so a weaver who gets a sore on his foot.” (Madras Mail, 1904.)

[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. 265 - 277.]

Karna Sālē (Telugu)

"Karna Sālē.The Karna Sālēs Sālēs [శాలీలు] are a caste of Telugu [తెలుగు] weavers, who are called Sēniyans in the Tamil [தமிழ்] country, e.g., at Madura [மதுரை] and Tanjore [தஞ்சாவூர்]. They seem to have no tradition as to their origin, but the name Karna would seem to have its origin in the legend relating to the Karnabattus. These are, in the community, both Saivites [శైవము] and Vaishnavites [వైష్ణవ], and all members of the Illabaththini sept are Vaishnavites. They are said to have only one gōtra [గోత్రం], Kāsi [కాశీ] (Benares), and numerous exogamous septs, of which the following are examples:—
  • Vasthrala [వస్త్రాల], cloth.
  • Rudrakshala [రుద్రాక్ష], seeds of Elaeocarpus Ganitrus [Roxb. ex G.Don].
  • Mandha [మంద], village common or herd.
  • Kodavili [కొడవలి], sickle.
  • Thadla, rope.
  • Thatichettu, palmyra palm.
  • Dhoddi, court-yard. 
  • Thippa, rubbish-heap.

In some places, the office of headman, who is called Setti, is hereditary. He is assisted by a Pedda Kāpu, and Nela Setti, of whom the latter is selected monthly, and derives his name from the Telugu [తెలుగు] nela [నెల] (month). In their marriage ceremonial, the Karna Sālēs closely follow the Padma Sālēs [పద్మశాలీలు], but they have no upanayanam [ఉపనయనము] (sacred thread rite), or Kāsiyathrē [కాశీయాత్ర] (mock pilgrimage to Benares), have twelve pots brought for worship, and no pot-searching.

As among other Telugu [తెలుగు] castes, when a girl reaches puberty, twigs of Strychnos Nux-vomica are placed in the special hut erected for the occasion. On the third or fifth day, the girl’s relations come to her house under a cloth canopy (ulladam), carrying rice soaked in jaggery (crude sugar) water. This rice is called dhadibiyam [తడి బియ్యం] (wet rice), and is placed in a heap, and, after the waving of coloured water, distributed, with pan-supari (betel leaves and areca nuts), among those present.

The dead are carried to the burial-ground in a car, and buried, after the manner of Lingāyats [లింగాయతి], in a sitting posture. Jangams [జంగం] officiate at funerals.

The caste deity is Somēsvara [సోమేశ్వర]. Some Karna Sālēs wear the lingam [లింగం], but are not particular about keeping it on their person, leaving it in the house, and wearing it when at meals, and on important occasions. Concerning the Lingāyat [లింగాయతి] section of the community, Mr. H. A. Stuart writes, as follows (Manual of the North Arcot district.).

“The Lingāyats [లింగాయతి] resemble the Linga Balijas [లింగబలిజ] in all their customs, in all respects, except that they recognise sūtakam, or pollution, and bathe to remove it. They freely eat in the houses of all Linga Balijas  [లింగబలిజ], but the latter will not eat with them. They entirely disregard the spiritual authority of the Brāhmans, recognising priests among the Linga Balijas, Jangams [జంగం], or Pandarams. In the exercise of their trade, they are distinguished from the Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்] in that they sometimes weave in silk, which the Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்] never do.”

Like the Padma Sālēs [పద్మశాలీలు], the Karna Sālēs usually only weave coarse cotton cloths."

[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. 252f.]

Padma Sālē [పద్మశాలీలు] (Telugu)

"Padma Sālē [పద్మశాలీలు].The Padma [పద్మ] (lotus) Sālēs [శాలీలు] are a Telugu [తెలుగు]-speaking caste of weavers, who are scattered all over the Madras Presidency. The majority are engaged in their hereditary occupation, but only the minority possess looms of their own, and they work, for the most part, for the more prosperous owners of hand-looms. As a class they are poor, being addicted to strong drinks, and in the hands of the money-lenders, who take care that their customers always remain in debt to them. Like the Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்], the Padma Sālēs [పద్మశాలీలు] weave the coarser kinds of cotton cloths, and cannot compete with the Patnūlkārans and Khātres [கத்ரி / खत्री] in the manufacture of the finer kinds.

The Padma Sālēs [పద్మశాలీలు] have only one gōtra [గోత్రం], Markandēya [మార్కండేయుడు]. But, like other Telugu [తెలుగు] castes, they have a number of exogamous septs or intiperus, of which the following are examples :—

  • Bandāri, treasurer.
  • Bomma, an idol.
  • Canji [గంజి !], gruel.
  • Chinthaginjala, tamarind seeds.
  • Gōrantla, Lawsonia alba.
  • Jinka, gazelle.
  • Kālava [కాలువ], ditch.
  • Kāsulu, copper coins.
  • Kongara, crane.
  • Kadavala, pots.
  • Manchi [మంచి], good.
  • Nīli [నీలి], indigo.
  • Nūkalu, flour of grain or pulse.
  • Nyāyam [న్యాయం], justice.
  • Ūtla, rope for hanging pots.
  • Pōthu, male.
  • Paththi [పత్తి], cotton.
  • Putta [పుట్ట], ant-hill.
  • Thēlu [తేలు], scorpion.
  • Tangedla [తంగేడుల], Cassia auriculata [Senna auriculata (L.) Roxb.].
  • Tumma [తుమ్మ], Acacia arabica [Vachellia nilotica (L.) P.J.H.Hurter & Mabb.]
  • Avari, indigo plant. 
  • Chinnam, gold ?
  • Gurram [గుర్రం], horse.
  • Geddam [గడ్డం], beard.
  • Kōta [కోట], fort.
  • Mēda, raised mound.
  • Middala, storeyed house. 
  • Māmidla [మామిడ], mango.
  • Narāla [నరాల], nerves.
  • Pūla [పూల], flowers.
  • Sādhu [సాధు], quiet or meek.
The Padma Sālēs [పద్మశాలీలు] profess to be Vaishnavites [వైష్ణవ], but some are Saivites [శైవ]. All the families of the exogamous sept Sādhu [సాధు] are said to be lingam-wearing [లింగం] Saivites. In addition to their house-god Venkatēswara [వెంకటేశ్వర], they worship
  • Pulikondla Rangaswāmi,
  • Maremma,
  • Durgamma,
  • Narasappa,
  • Sunkālamma,
  • Urukundhi Vīranna,
  • Gangamma, 
  • Kinkiniamma,
  • Mutyālamma,
  • Kālelamma,
  • Ankamma, and 
  • Padvetiamma.

Their caste deity is Bhāvana Rishi [భావనాఋషి], to whom, in some places, a special temple is dedicated. A festival in honour of this deity is celebrated annually, during which the god and goddess are represented by two decorated pots placed on a model of a tiger (vyagra vāhanam [వాఘ్రవాహనం]), to which, on the last day of the ceremonial, large quantities of rice and vegetables are offered, which are distributed among the loom-owners, pūjāri [పూజారి], headman, fasting celebrants, etc.

The Padma Sālēs [పద్మశాలీలు] belong to the right-hand, and the Dēvāngas to the left-hand faction, and the latter aver that the Padma Sālēs [పద్మశాలీలు] took away the body of the goddess Chaudēswari, leaving them the head.

Three kinds of beggars are attached to the Padma Sālēs [పద్మశాలీలు], viz., Sādhana Sūrulu, Padiga Rājulu or Koonapilli vāndlu, and Inaka-mukku Bhatrāzus. Concerning the Sādhana Sūrulu, Buchanan writes as follows (Journey through Mysore, Canara and Malabar, 1807.).

“The Vaishnavite [వైష్ణవ] section of the Samay Sālē is called Padma Sālē [పద్మశాలీలు]. The whole Shalay formerly wore the linga [లింగం], but, a house having been possessed by a devil, and this sect having been called on to cast him out, all their prayers were of no avail. At length ten persons, having thrown aside their linga [లింగం], and offered up their supplications to Vishnu [విష్ణువు], they succeeded in expelling the enemy, and ever afterwards they followed the worship of this god, in which they have been initiated by their brethren. The descendants of these men, who are called Sadana Asholu (Sādana Sūrulu), or the celebrated heroes, never work, and, having dedicated themselves to god, live upon the charity of the industrious part of the caste, with whom they disdain to marry.”

The Padiga Rājulu are supposed to be the descendants of three persons, Adigadu, Padigadu and Baludu, who sprang from the sweat of Bhāvana Rishi [భావనాఋషి], and the following legend is current concerning the origin of the Padma Sālēs [పద్మశాలీలు] and Padiga Rājulu. At the creation of the world, men were naked, and one Markandēya [మార్కండేయుడు], who was sixteen years old, was asked to weave cloths. To enable him to do so, he did thapas [తపస్] (penance), and from the sacred fire arose Bhāvana Rishi [భావనాఋషి], bearing a bundle of thread obtained from the lotus which sprang from Vishnu’s navel. Bhāvana Rishi made కైలాసcloths, and presented them to the Dēvatas [దేవతా], and offered a cloth to Bhairava [భైరవ] also. This he refused to accept, as it was the last, and not the first, which is usually rolled up, and kept on the loom. Finding it unsuitable for wearing, Bhairava [భైరవ] uttered a curse that the cloths made should wear out in six months. Accordingly, Siva [శివ] asked Bhāvana to procure him a tiger’s skin for wearing. Narada [నారద] came to the assistance of Bhāvana, and told him to go to Udayagiri [ଉଦୟଗିରି], where Bhadravati [భద్రవతీ], the daughter of Sūrya [సూర్య], was doing penance to secure Bhāvana as her husband. She promised to secure a skin, if he would marry her. To this he consented, and, in due course, received the tiger’s skin. Making the tiger his vāhanam [వాహన] (vehicle), he proceeded to the abode of Siva (Kailāsam [కైలాస]), and on his way thither met a Rakshasa [రక్షస], whom he killed in a fight, in the course of which he sweated profusely. From the sweat proceeded Adigadu, Padigadu, and Baludu. When he eventually reached Siva, the tiger, on the sacred ashes being thrown over it, cast its skin, which Siva appropriated. In consequence of this legend, tigers are held in reverence by the Padma Sālēs [పద్మశాలీలు], who believe that they will not molest them.

The legendary origin of the Padma Sālēs [పద్మశాలీలు] is given as follows in the Baramahal Records (Section III. Inhabitants. Madras Government Press, 1907.).

“In former days, the other sects of weavers used annually to present a piece of cloth to a rishi [ఋషి] or saint, named Markandēyulu [మార్కండేయుడు]. One year they omitted to make their offering at the customary period, which neglect enraged the rishi, who performed a yāga [యాగ] or sacrifice of fire, and, by the power of mantras [మంత్రం] or prayers, he caused a man to spring up out of the fire of the sacrifice, and called him Padma Saliwarlu, and directed him to weave a piece of cloth for his use. This he did, and presented it to the rishi, saying ‘ Oh ! Swāmi, who is thy servant to worship, and how is he to obtain moksham [మోక్షం] or admittance to the presence of the Supreme?’ The rishi answered ‘Pay adoration to me, and thou wilt obtain moksham.’ ”

The office of headman (Setti or Gaudu) is hereditary. The headman has under him an assistant, called Ummidi Setti or Ganumukhi, who is the caste messenger, and is exempt from the various subscriptions for temple festivals, etc.

When a girl reaches puberty, she is forbidden to eat meat or Amarantus during the period of ceremonial pollution. In settling the preliminaries of a marriage, a Brāhman purohit [పురోహిత] takes part. With some Padma Sālēs [పద్మశాలీలు] it is etiquette not to give direct answers when a marriage is being fixed up. For example, those who have come to seek the hand of a girl say “We have come for a sumptuous meal, ” to which the girl’s parents, if consenting to the match, will reply “We are ready to feed you. You are our near relations.” The marriage rites are a blend of the Canarese [ಕನ್ನಡ] and Telugu [తెలుగు] types. In the Ceded districts, the bride is conveyed to the house of the bridegroom, seated on a bull, after worship has been done to Hanumān [హనుమాన్]. As she enters the house, a cocoanut is waved, and thrown on the ground. She then bathes in an enclosure with four posts, round which cotton thread has been wound nine times. Wrist-threads of cotton and wool are tied on the bride and bridegroom. The bottu (marriage badge) is tied round the bride’s neck, and she stands on a pile of cholum (Sorghum vulgare : millet) on the floor or in a basket. The bridegroom stands on a mill-stone. While the bottu is being tied, a screen is interposed between the contracting couple. The bride’s nose-screw ornament is dropped into a plate of milk, from which she has to pick it out five times. Towards evening, the bridal couple go in procession through the streets, and to the temple, if there is one. On their return to the house, the bridegroom picks up the bride, and dances for a short time before entering. This ceremony is called dēga-āta, and is performed by several Telugu [తెలుగు] castes.

Some Padma Sālēs [పద్మశాలీలు] bury their dead in the usual manner, others, like the Lingāyats [లింగాయత్], in a sitting posture. It is customary, in some places, to offer up a fowl to the corpse before it is removed from the house, and, if a death occurs on a Saturday or Sunday, a fowl is tied to the bier, and burnt with the corpse. This is done in the belief that otherwise another death would very soon take place. The Tamilians [தமிழர்], in like manner, have a proverb “A Saturday corpse will not go alone.” On the way to the burial-ground, the corpse is laid down, and water poured into the mouth. The son takes a pot of water round the grave, and holes are made in it by the Ummidi Setti, through which the water trickles out. On the fifth day, a sheep is killed, and eaten. During the evening the Sātāni comes, and, after doing pūja [పూజా] (worship), gives the relatives of the deceased sacred arrack (liquor) in lieu of holy water (thirtham [తీర్థం]) and meat, for which he receives payment. On the last day of the death ceremonies (karmāndiram), the Sātāni again comes with arrack, and, according to a note before me, all get drunk. (See Sālē.)"

[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. 5. -- S. 448 - 453.]

Sāliyan (Tamil)

"Sāliyan.—The Sāliyan weavers of Kornād and Ayyampet [அய்யம்பேட்டை], in the Tanjore [தஞ்சாவூர்] district, are a Tamil [தமிழ்]-speaking class, who must not be confused with the Telugu [తెలుగు] Sālēs [శాలీలు]. They afford an interesting example of how a limited number of families, following the same occupation, can crystallise into a separate caste. They claim to have a Purānam [புராணம்] relating to their origin, which is said to be found in the Sthalapurānam [தல புராணம்] of the Nalladai [நல்லாடை] temple. They believe that they are the descendants of one Sāliya Mahā Rishi, a low-caste man, who did service for one Visākar, who was doing penance near Nalladai [நல்லாடை]. Through the grace of the rishi Visākar, Sāliya became a rishi, and married two wives. The Sāliyans are said to be descended from the offspring of the first wife, and the Mottai Sāliyans from the offspring of the second.

The Sāliyans have taken to wearing the sacred thread, engage Brāhman purōhits [புரோகிதன்], and are guided by Brāhman priests. They are said to have had their own caste priests until a Brāhman from Sendangudi, near Mayāvaram [மாயவரம்], accepted the office of priest. It is reported that, in former days, the Sāliyans were not allowed to sell their goods except in a fixed spot called māmarath-thumēdu, where they set out their cloths on bamboos. High-caste people never touched the cloths, except with a stick. At the present day the Sāliyans occupy a good position in the social scale, and employ Brāhman cooks, though no other castes will eat in their houses.

A curious feature in connection with the Sāliyans is that, contrary to the usual rule among Tamil [தமிழ்] castes, they have exogamous septs or vīdu [வீடு] (house), of which the following are examples :—

  • Mandhi [மந்தி], black monkey.
  • Kottāngkachchi [கொட்டங்கச்சி ], cocoanut shell.
  • Thuniyan, cloth.
  • Kachchandhi, gunny-bag.
  • Vellai parangi, white vegetable marrow.
  • Ettadiyan, eight feet.
  • Thadiyan, stout.
  • Kazhudhai [கழுதை], donkey.
  • Thavalai [தவளை], frog.
  • Sappaikālan, crooked-legged.
  • Malaiyan, hill.
  • Kāththan, an attendant on Aiyanar [ஐயனார்].
  • Ozhakkan, a measure.
  • Thondhi [தொந்தி], belly.
  • Mungināzhi, bamboo measure.
  • Ōdakkazhinjan, one who defaecated when running.
  • Kamban [கம்பன்], the Tamil poet. 
  • Ōttuvīdu [ஓடுவீடு], tiled house.
  • Kalli [கல்லி], Euphorbia Tirucalli.
  • Sirandhān, a noble person. 
  • Thambirān, master or lord. 
  • Kollai [கொல்லை], backyard.
  • Mādivīdu [மாடிவீடு], storeyed house.
  • Murugan [முருகன்], name of a person.

The Sāliyans have further acquired gōtras [ கோத்திரம் ] named after rishis [இருஷி], and, when questioned as to their gōtra, refer to the Brāhman purōhits [புரோகிதன்].

The Sāliyan weavers of silk Kornād women’s cloths, who have settled at Mayāvaram [மாயவரம்] in the Tanjore [தஞ்சாவூர் ] district, neither intermarry nor interdine with the Sāliyans of the Tinnevelly [திருநெல்வேலி] district, though they belong to the same linguistic division. The Tinnevelly Sāliyans closely follow the Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்] in their various ceremonials, and in their social organisation, and interdine with them. Sāliya women wear three armlets on the upper arm, whereas Kaikōla women only wear a single armlet. The Sāliyans may not marry a second wife during the lifetime of the first wife, even if she does not bear children. They may, however, adopt children. Some of the Tinnevelly Sāliyans have taken to trade and agriculture, while others weave coarse cotton cloths, and dye cotton yarn.

In the Census Report, 1901, Ataviyar is recorded as

“a synonym for, or rather title of the Tinnevelly [திருநெல்வேலி] Sālēs [శాలీలు].” 

Further, Pattāriyar is described as a Tamil [தமிழ்] corruption of Pattu Sāliyan, returned by some of the Tinnevelly Sālēs [శాలీలు]. The Adaviyar or Pattalia Settis are Tamilians, probably an offshoot of the Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்], and have no connection with the Telugu [తెలుగు] Pattu Sālēs [పట్టుశాలీలు], who, like the Padma Sālēs [పద్మశాలీలు], retain their mother-tongue wherever they settle. It is recorded (Manual of the Chingleput district,) in connection with the Sāliyar of the Chingleput [செங்கல்பட்டு] district, many of whom are Kaikōlans [கைக்கோலர்], that

“a story is current of their persecution by one Salva Naik (said to have been a Brāhman). The result of this was that large bodies of them were forced to flee from Conjeeveram [காஞ்சிபுரம] to Madura [மதுரை], Tanjore [தஞ்சாவூர்], and Tinnevelly [திருநெல்வேலி], where their representatives are still to be found.”

The Adaviyars follow the Tamil [தமிழ்] Puranic type of marriage ceremonies, and have a sirutāli [சிருதாலி] (small tāli) as a marriage badge. The caste deity is Mukthākshiamman. The dead are always cremated."

[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. 277ff.]