120. The most numerous castes in the District are Kunbis who constitute 24 per cent. of the population, Mahars 14 per cent. and Malis 9 per cent. The cultivating castes are the Kunbis, Marathas, Malis, Gaolis, Baris, Telis and a few Dhangars and others. The titles of Deshmukh and Deshpandia are borne by families who held pargana or subpargana revenue offices under native rule. The latter are generally Brahmans, but the former are almost coming to be regarded as a separate caste; and it is quite usual for a man on being asked his caste to reply not Maratha or Kunbi or Mali but simply Deshmukh, the historic title conveying more distinction than the common-place terms of every day. The primitive tribes are represented by the Gonds (23,245), Korkus (27,051) and Kolis (6903), Sonars number 9589 and Sutars 9628. Chambhars (9193), Mahars (105,306) and Mangs (17,325) are out-castes and their touch is considered by higher classes of Hindus to convey pollution. The descriptions which follow are founded on information supplied by members of these castes. They vary in some respects from other published accounts; but how far the differences are due to real local variations or to the ignorance or prejudice of the informants it is impossible to say.
121. Brahmans number about 21,500 persons or 3 percent. of the population. Though not very strong numerically yet they are by far the most influential caste owing to their hereditary priestly influence. Of the Maratha Brahmans the majority are Deshasthas, although a considerable minority belong to the Konkanastha and Karhada divisions. The word Deshastha literally means residents of the country and the name is given
to the Brahmans of that part of the Deccan which lies above the Ghats. Most of the Deshasthas pursue secular professions and are writers, accountants, merchants, etc. The posts of village patwaris are almost monopolised by them. As their name indicates, the original home of the Konkanasthas is the Konkan or the narrow strip of low-lying country from Broach to Ratnagiri, between the Ghats and the sea. The immigration of Konkanasthas into Berar probably dates from the time of the Konkanastha Peshwas (1714-1818) whom they followed as accountants, clerks, etc. They are also known as Chitpavan or Chittapavan, the story being told that Parasuram, enraged at the ungrateful conduct of the Brahmans of his day who refused to attend the shraddha of his father, provided himself with Brahmans by restoring to life some corpses which he found floating on the sea off the Konkan coast after a shipwreck. The story is indignantly denied by many modern Chitpavans as it is thought that the part played in it by a corpse is an insult to the dignity of the caste; but the fair, sometimes almost ruddy complexions, blue eyes, and light hair which are their distinguishing features, seem to point to some such arrival from overseas. The Karhada Brahmans are so called from Karhad, a town at the meeting of the Krishna and Koyna rivers. Another suggested explanation of the name is that it refers to the mountain country; the high summits which separate the home of the Kokanastha Brahmans on one side from the tableland of the Deshasthas on the other. The Karhadas are charged with having in former times offered human sacrifice, and even the murder of Brahmans to propitiate their deities. The accusation is said by them to be an invention of some Deshastha Brahman. Whatever room there may be for comment on the religion of the Karhadas, they are quite equal to the Kokanasthas and Deshasthas in every other respect. Besides the above three divisions which in practice are endogamous, the Maratha Brahmans are divided into Rigvedis and Yajurvedis who eat together but do not intermarry. The. Yajurvedis are the followers of the white Yajus and are further subdivided into two branches, called Kanvas and
Madhyandinas. The Kanvas are so called on account of their adopting the Kanva recension of the white Yajus. The Madhyandinas derive their name in the same manner from the Madhyandina branch of the white Yajus. They attach great importance to the recital of the Sandhya prayer at noon, i.e. after 11 A.M. But the Rigvedis might perform the mid-day prayer even at sunrise. As a class the Maratha Brahmans are well-to-do, their abilities leading them to success in almost every profession, Hindustani (or Pardesi) and Gujarati Brahmans are also met with. The former are generally employed as office peons or in similar unskilled work, and the latter as traders. In the villages the Brahman's exclusiveness is naturally modified. Brahman patwaris are more or less subordinate to Kunbi patels, and they with the schoolmasters and others in small villages, if they wish for any but the most limited society, must seek it among castes considerably lower than their own
122. Rajputs number 12,672 persons and constitute 2
per cent of the population. The
Rajputs of Berar may be divided into
two classes (1) those who are originally of foreign origin having come here before the Assignment to take military service with one or other of the petty powers who infested the land; and (2) those who have assumed the name of Rajputs, but are really of humbler birth. Bais
Rajputs occur in every taluk, being most plentiful in Chandur and Daryapur. Their original home is Baiswara in Oudh. The Rathor Rajputs are most numerous in the Amraoti and Eilichpur taluks, and come chiefly from Marwar. The Rajputs are mainly engaged in cultivation.
123. The Wani or Bania castes, like the Rajputs, are chiefly
of foreign origin. They number 16,264
or 2 per cent. of the population. Wanis,
being strangers in the land, are generally distinguished among
Beraris by the name of their country or their sect. Hence
such entries in the Census Lists as Marwari or Gujarati on the
one hand; and Lingayat or Jain on the other, The Wanis
are the chief traders in Berar. The village Wani is a much abused individual but he is as a rule a quiet peaceable man, a necessary factor in the village economy. They are as a class respectable members of society and a large amount of commercial wealth passes through their hands.
124. The Kunbis number 193,255 or 24 per cent. of the population. They are
overwhelmingly the most important caste in the
District, and the Kunbi has come to be the accepted type
of all Maratha cultivators. He is in the apt words of the
Nagpur Settlement Report " a most patient plodding mortal
with a cat-like affection for his land" and the majority of
agricultural holdings are still in possession of Kunbis. Their
husbandry though careful and good of its kind is extremely conservative and they are more chary than most castes of
accepting new ideas. One may occasionally find a wealthy
Kunbi who has taken to moneylending, and they are seldom
seen in complete poverty, even though always ready to resort
to the moneylender.
Though now a peaceable folk they have furnished even in recent times very daring dacoits, and one sometimes sees it suggested that in old days the armies of Shivaji and of the Peshwas and Bhonslas were recruited mainly from Kunbis and similar castes who took to a warlike life; and that this is the origin of the Maratha caste. However this may be, a similar process is even now going on for the Tiroles, the highest division of Kunbis, to which most of the Deshmukhs and many of the leading patels belong, are to-day on the borderland between the two castes. One rung of the ladder of social advancement is to provide oneself with a Rajput origin, and the Marathas accordingly claim to be Kshattriyas while the Tiroles derive their name from Therol in Rajputana. But the ordinary Kunbi is confessedly a Sudra, and the pretensions just described are regarded with extreme suspicion both by pure Rajputs and by the Brahmans who are the ultimate arbiters. In religion the
Kunbi is a worshipper
of Maroti, Mahadeo, Ganpati and Vithoba, but especially of the first-named. He is also a firm believer in the efficacy of omens and of all manner of forms and ceremonies and goes in great dread of ghosts.
125. The Gaolis number 16,353 and constitute 2 per cent.
of the population. The Lingayat Gaolis
are found in the taluks of Amraoti, Morsi, Ellichpur and Chandur and are subdivided into Nagarkar and Wazarkar divisions. Among the Wazarkar Gaolis the bridegroom is brought to the village of the bride and married there. It is customary among them to marry some twenty or thirty couples under one mandwa at one and the same time, possibly from motives of economy.
126. Dhangars number 17,826 persons constituting 2 per cent. of the population.
They are hereditary herdsmen corresponding to the
Gadarias of Northern India, and ranking socially below Kunbis,
Gaolis, and similar castes. Their highest subcaste known
as Bangi Dhangars have now developed into a separate caste
called Hatkar or Hatgar. The Ain-i-Akbari calls them ' an
indigenous race for the most part proud and refractory.' They
were in military employ and therefore claim a higher status
than Dhangars. At a Dhangar marriage a Brahman officiates
and the ceremony is performed after the Maratha ritual.
On the third day of marriage they boil wheat and serve it to the
assembled guests. This is called Panchgat. They bury their
dead with leaves of akao plant strewn over the face of the
corpse, but those who die in a specially honourable way, a
woman in childbirth or a man in battle, are burned after the
manner of high caste Hindus. Each caste fellow is expected
to bring some cooked food to the mourner's house, and when all
have assembled they will take food with him. On the eleventh
day a caste feast is given. The mourner seats himself on the
ground and each guest should drop a pice in his lap. The pice
are counted and the number of guests is roughly ascertained
as the basis for preparing food. This ceremony is called Vahti. They sometimes claim Khandoba or Khande Rao, the chief
who overcame Malla and Mani, the oppressors of the Brahmans, as their caste-man and progenitor. They have a special ceremony called
Vari in the month of Poush. The image of Khandoba is placed in a brass plate and the Dhangars all in a body beg alms from other people of their village. Cakes are prepared from flour of the grain received in alms and the spirit of Khandoba takes possession of one of them who exhibits the usual signs of
demonolepsy especially that of unnatural strength. The caste has a tribal council headed by an elder called Mehtar.
At the time of marriage a mark should be affixed to his forehead as a token of
respect. He is entitled to receive a sum of three or four annas at every marriage and should give in return a caste feast once a year. It is said that a Dhangar will not scruple to eat the carcase
of his sheep or goat dying a natural death. It will be a pollution for him to
sit on a camel or a creaking swing or to wear shoes which may touch the ankles
of his feet. This caste is traditionally held to be most successful in the education of its watch dogs. The pups are taken from the mother and suckled by an ewe, which at first is held down and soon takes to them as to its own offspring. The dog when grown never leaves the flock, nor does it shrink from defending it against the attack of any animal.
127. The Korkus are of Kolarian origin and are strongly
represented in the District. In language
and general type they are said to be identical with the Kols and Santals; but the habits of the Korkus of the Tapti valley, says Forsyth, are a great advance on those of the Korkus inhabiting the Mahadeo hills further east. The Korkus who first came to Berar found the Nihals in possession of the Melghat hills. Gradually the latter caste lost their power and became the village drudges of the former. The Nihals are now fast losing their language also; the younger generation speak Korku or Marathi. The Nihals were once much addicted to cattle lifting, but they have held this propensity in check of late years. The Korkus are divided into the following classes:-Mawasi or Bhowavaya, Bawaria, Ruma
and Bondoyas. The term Mowas signifies the troubled country, [The derivation is not by any means certain; a less complimentary theory connects the word with the mahua tree, whose flowers form an item of Korku food and whose liquor they are given to consuming rather;
and the subcaste ranks the highest probably on account of the
gentlemanly calling of armed robbery formerly practised by its
members. The names of the other subcastes also seem to be
territorial but their exact meanings are not known. They
have also gotras, the story running that their ancestors were
assembled by the gods and that to each was assigned the name
of the object-animal, tree or whatever it might be-near
which he took up his position. Another tale is that the Korkus
were defeated in a great battle and that the objects in question
are those behind which they succeeded in hiding themselves.
In either case the legend is a typical example of the way in
which totemistic clan names have been clothed in a Hindu
respectability. I believe, says Mr. Ballantyne, once a
Forest Officer in the Melghat, that the Korkus were originally worshippers of the sun and moon; their most solemn oath is
by the sun and in the act of worship they turn their faces
towards it, and point to it with their hands. But now-a-days
their whole creed is so much tainted with Hinduism that their
original beliefs are well nigh lost. In support of this opinion it
may be mentioned that the Korku word for god (Gomaj) is also
the word for sun and moon; and that on the side of their
memorials to the dead which faces east they invariably carve a
representation of those bodies. Mr. Ward, indeed, who spent
many years as a missionary in these hills and was one of the
few who have made a detailed study of their inhabitants, is
far more categorical. Their chief objects of worship, he
says, are the sun and moon whom they regard as male and
female deities. But they do not, so far as I have been able
to learn, offer regular or special worship to those celestial
bodies. Once in a great while, however, in the month of
April, a goat or a fowl is sacrificed to the sun while the face
is turned to the east.' As a whole, he continues, their
particular hopes and fears seem to lie in the direction of the
local deities nearer at hand. They build no temples nor
fashion images, after the manner of the Hindus but daub' red paint on certain stones in or about the village and the adjacent forest, and endow them with the names of their divinities. Thus Dongargomaj, god of the hills and forests; Kullagomaj, god of the tiger; Mutiyagomaj, special village god or penates; Hardoligomaj, the cholera god; Matagomaj, goddess of small pox; besides Panchigomaj,Kur
gomaj and the Hindu god Hanuman.' Many of those are but Korku names for deities that have been adopted by the low caste Hindu in other parts of India; Kullagomaj for instance is simply Waghdeo; and Matagomaj,MaraiMata; the Hindu god Mahadeo tends more and more to fill the principal place in the Korku theogony. As a rule the Korkus bury their dead. ' A year or so after the decease of a person of note, a, ceremony called
sidoli is performed which much resembles the Irish custom of waking the dead. A memorial post is carved the next day and planted under a mahua tree where those in memory of the same kin or got (Hind, gotra) have been planted before. These posts are called in the Korku language munda; are two to three feet in height and about 6 inches square at the base. They are always pointed at the top, often arrow headed and usually rudely but elaborately carved on the four sides. The carvings consist of representations of the sun and moon, men on horseback, dancers, apes, peacocks, fowls, crabs, spiders and trees, besides zig zag scrawls, scollops, flutings and cuneiform cuts. With the exception of the man on horseback which may be an emblem of the sun, Mr. Ward finds no special significance in any of these figures. It is believed, however, that they may be a record by totems of the family and ancestry of the deceased. The post itself is suggestive of phallic worship, and the rude cut of the sun and moon is not without its significance in this connection. The Korkus are also worshippers of the dead (ancestors Pitar); and the ceremony above referred to as
sidoli appears to be one also known by the name ofphuljagni [The Word is connected with the verb jagne to wake,]
and to be intended more as a species of ghost-laying than anything else. The ceremony has all the usual accompaniments of primitive necromancy, the elaborate formalism by which, for instance, five
bits of bamboo or five crabs' legs represent the dead man's limbs. It probably varies very much from village to village according to the fancy of the local Bhumka and dancing and intoxication are the only unaltering elements in the performance. The following account [Freely translated from the Marathi.] of the Korkus by Mr. P. S. Agnihotri, formerly Clerk of Court in Ellichpur, is sufficiently interesting to be quoted at length. ' They are ugly in appearance, (though with rare exceptions) and in their manner less sophisticated than the people of Berar; their language is Korku but Hindi is also common among them. Their villages are built in two equal rows flanking a straight street, and are placed half a mile or more away from water. They wear very dirty clothes; sometimes only a dhoti, and a rag on the head; and the poorest keep a fire in their houses beside which, when they have cooked and eaten their food, they lie down to sleep at night, wearing nothing but a langoti: their women also wear such langotis and sleep close to the fire. In a large family, when the food is ready, they sometimes divide it into equal portions; but they have also a custom by which it is placed in a heap in their midst, and they sit with their backs to it each reaching out a hand behind him for what he requires without looking at it. They are flesh-eaters but will not touch cocks or sparrows; in spite of the uncertainty of their food they are stronger and stouter than the people of the plains. They do not, like the Beraris, protect their crops with a fencing of thorns, or by throwing stones from a sling; but camp out in the open till the corn is ready for use. They surround their fields with bamboo matting and think to frighten away wild beasts with scare-crows of rags and wood placed at intervals. They build high platforms in their fields with roofs called malas and in these they live, lighting a fire there and cooking their food. In the middle of the field, two logs of wood tied together with small pieces of bamboo between them, and worked by a rope, are made to give a clapping noise and to scare wild animals. After the threshing is over they take the corn to
villages and give it to the money-lenders in return for money borrowed at the rate of 24 or 32 seers of corn to the rupee (i.e. 100 to 150 per cent, interest). Sometimes this money had only been lent two months before the harvest; and thus the moneylenders get the whole crop into their possession and the Korku seldom keeps more than a two or three months' supply. Few Korkus are rich; and those few in stores of corn rather than in money. Their system of heaping kadba, etc., in the fields differs from that of Berar where it is stacked close to the village and a thorn hedge put round it; the Korkus store it on a platform in their fields resembling a mala.
Outside the village one may find a hut with some painted logs thrust in the
ground; these are their gods. They worship also the goddess Devi, and offer to
her rice, lemons and wild flowers with cooked meat; a goat is her sacrifice; and
at night also in their houses they worship her. On the third day of the month
Ashvin a great festival begins. They assemble together by night, and some dance
and sing. Presently one of their number becomes possessed by a spirit; he trembles and breathes heavily, the hair of his head stands up and his look grows wild. The inspiring deity is Baital (a demon) or ghoting. Next, anyone afflicted with grief or pain asks the possessed a remedy therefor. The latter takes some juar or rice in his hand and throws over him, uttering incantations; the sufferer picks up the grains. After this has been done two or three times, he is told to retire, and the man possessed presently falls headlong to the ground and the god leaves him. At holiday time the people of the village assemble together and dance, singing Korku songs, beating on a drum called
dholki and blowing a pipe called pungi. Their women too assemble together in one place for the dance. They wear each two or three brass anklets on their feet and to the clang of these they keep step. The dholki beater stands in the midst and they dance round. Another man stands by playing thepungi, and both men and women adorn themselves with bunches of wild flowers in their ears. As in Berar they have a custom by which the bridegroom lives with and
works for his father-in-law; and such a bridegroom is called lamjhana. After a fixed period, sometimes twelve years, is over, he marries the woman for whom he has worked; but even within that time while he lives in her father's house, he is allowed the rights of a husband. If a man marries a woman without serving for her then he or his father gives to her fat her an ox as well as a sum of money agreed upon. This gift is called peja. In like manner if a Korku woman is found to be living with a man of another caste, ten or twenty of her caste fellows will go to his house and demand peja; and will beat him if they do not get it. If a woman not known to be of loose character should lapse from virtue, she is taken by the panch
to a river is rubbed with cowdung and urine, washed in the river and shaved.
Then when her father or husband has provided a caste dinner and much liquor has
been drunk, she is again considered clean.
Among them the village priest is expected to ward off and cure diseases, and to defend them from wild beasts. If a tiger come near the place, he indents on the villagers for a he-buffalo, or a cock, and a few small iron nails. At midnight he goes round the village boundary, with one hand leading the animal, and in the other carrying the nails. These he drives into the ground, and sacrifices the victim. This rite ought, he considers, to keep off the tiger for a whole year. The power of magic they hold to be imparted by a tree of knowledge. The aspirant takes counsel with other wise men and then bathes, a very unusual observance among Korkus. After this he wanders alone in the jungle for three days and nights, plucking leaves from the trees with his teeth, after the manner of a goat. Among the trees are serpents; if he fears them, or put forth his hand, he will surely die. But if his faith and courage fail not, he will light upon the tree of knowledge. Then he returns to his village, bathes and offers a goat. Thus until his teeth drop out he becomes endowed with the power of magic.
138. The impure castes are Mahar, Mang and Chambhar.
The old local religion as might be
expected survives more markedly among
these castes than among those higher in the social scale, although the Brahmans have impressed the mark of their creed upon the more important occasions of life. The auspicious day for marriage is ascertained from the village Joshi, a Brahman, who receives a fee for his information. And although some peculiar custom may here and there be kept up, as when a Mahar bridegroom drops a ring into a bowl of water, which the bride picks out and wears, or when a Chambhar bride twice or thrice opens a small box which her future spouse each time smartly shuts again, still the ceremony is conducted as far as possible according to the ordinary Hindu rites. Furthermore as the Joshi will not come to the marriage it can only take place on the same day as a marriage among some higher castes, so that the Mahars may watch for the priest's signal and may know the exact moment at which the dividing cloth (antarpat) should be withdrawn, and the garments of the bride and bride-groom knotted, while the bystanders clap their hands and pelt the couple with coloured grain.
129. Mahars or Dheds number 105,300 persons constituting 14 per cent. of the population. They
are divided, they say into " twelve and a half" subcastes, each of which is endogamous. Of these, one division is called Somas or Somavanshi, and claims to have taken part with the Pandavas against the Kauravas in the war of Mahabharata and subsequently to have settled in the Maharashtra. After the Somas Mahars other important divisions are the Ladwan or Ladsi, the Andhwan, the Baone and the Kosre. The word Baone is sometimes said to be a corruption of Bhawani, and the sept claims to rank highest among the caste. As a balutedar on the village establishment the Mahar holds a post of great importance to himself and convenience to the village. The knowledge gained in his official position renders him a referee on matters affecting the village boundaries and customs. To the patel, patwari and the big men of the village he acts often as a personal servant and errand runner, for a small cultivator he will also at times carry a torch or act as
escort. To the latter class however the Mahar is an indirect rather than a direct boon, inasmuch as his presence saves them from the liability of being called upon to render the patel or the village personal service. For the services which he thus renders as pandyawar the Mahar receives from the cultivators certain grain dues. When the cut juari is lying in the field the Mahars go round and beg for a measure of the ears, bhikpaili. But the regular payment is made when the grain has been threshed. A chief duty performed by Mahars is the removal of the carcases of dead animals. The flesh is eaten and the skin retained as a wage for the work. The patel and his relatives however usually claim to have the skins of their animals returned; and in some places where half of the agriculturists of the village claim kinship with the patel, the Mahars feel and resent the loss. The village Mahars take a prominent position in the Dasahra sacrifice (see page 151).
The Ladsi Mahars also called Bunkars in the Ellichpur tahsil, are worshippers of Shah Dawal, the Baones of Narayan Deo, and the Kosres of Chand Shah Wali. A Ladsi or a Kosre Mahar will be polluted if a dog or a donkey dies at his house. He will have to throw away the earthen pots of his house and provide a caste feast before readmission into the caste. A Baone Mahar will be similarly outcasted if a cat enters his house and he will have to undergo the same penalties; and the Somavanshi have a corresponding aversion to pigs. The women of Somas Mahars draw the end of their lugda over the right shoulder, those of Ladsi over the left. The women of Somas and Baone have glass bangles on both hands but those of Ladsi and Kosre have glass bangles on the left hand and kathil bracelets (mathas) on the right hand. Ladsi and Kosre women will not wear nose-rings while those of Somas and Baone have them.
Mangs number 17,325 or 2 per cent. of the population. The subdivisions in the caste are Ghatole hailing from Melghat, Pungiwalas who play on the fife and Daphlewalas on the tomtom. The Berari Mangs make baskets of bamboo and use a knife known as the
bhal while the Dakhani Mangs
will not touch this knife, and work with date-palm leaves. Mangs are socially inferior to Mahars, whose food they can eat. They eat the leavings of other people. They beg during an eclipse. Rahu the demon who swallows the moon and thus causes her eclipse and his companion Ketu were both Mangs, and it is to appease them that grain is given to their caste men. A Mang is the born enemy of the village Mahar whose grain dues are many times his own and are much more certain of collection and who disdains to beat the drum in his funeral procession.
The Chambhars are a leather working caste, their number in the District being about 9200 or 1 per cent. of the population. The Harale (or Marathe) Chambhars claim the highest rank. When Maha Muni's supply of hides ran short Haralya, the primeval Chambhar, rather than disappoint Mahadeo, stripped off a piece of his own skin to make the god shoes withal. In religion they are devoted to Mahadeo, whom they worship on a Sunday in the month of Shrawan. The sadhu who acts as their guru, makes a visitation once in every four or five years.
The other important divisions are the Mochis of northern origin and the Dabgars. The Dabgars are tanners and formerly used to prepare the receptacles for storing ghi. The Harale Chambhar dyes leather, and makes shoes, mots [A mot is the large leathern bucket and funnel used for drawing water from a well.] and pakhals. [A pakhal is a waterman's goat-skin in which he carries water.] He will not use untanned leather, nor will he work for Mahars, Mangs, Jingars, or Kolis. If one of these buy a pair of shoes from him he asks no indiscreet questions but he will not mend the pair as he would for a man of higher caste.
130. The most common criminal castes of the District are
the Pardhis, Kaikaris, Bhamtas, Mang
Garodis and Takaris; though Banjaras,
Ramosis and many other wanderers of doubtful reputation
are also met with. These classes at least have a bad
reputation, but in many cases their propensity to crime has decreased, if not vanished, and they have settled down to respectable callings. Pardhis [Reference, Mr. Sewell, D.S. P, of Amraoti, Appendix I to
Kennedy's Criminal Tribes,] are frequently classed with Takaris (Takenkars) as if they were a tribe of much the same kind but are now quite distinct. Pardhis have two sub-divisions, Phans Pardhis and Langoti Pardhis. The Phans Pardhis take their name from the Phans (noose) which they use in catching birds and animals. They lead a nomadic life and live under tents. They do not normally commit crime. The Langoti Pardhis derive their name from wearing the
langoti (a strip of cloth about two feet long and six or eight inches broad, passed between the legs and the ends tucked in to a waist-band before and behind) because of their fear that a dhoti if worn might become soiled and therefore unlucky. The Langoti Pardhis are also called Gaon Pardhis and are further subdivided into Chauhan, Ponwar and and Solanki, all three being names of well-known Rajput clans. As a rule they marry girls from another class, thus a Chauhan would marry a Ponwar girl and so on. In religion, besides worshipping their ancestors, they worship goddesses who are now identified with the Hindu goddess Devi but who are known in the caste by different names. Chauhans worship Amba, Ponwars worship Marai Mata, and Solankis Kali or Kalanka. The pipal tree is held specially sacred. The chief religious ceremony at which many gather together, is Deo Karia which is performed in the month of Chait. The idol of Kalanka
Bhawani is taken to a tree two or three miles from a village and placed with its
face to the east. In front of it a fire-place of earth is made, on which wheaten
cakes or sweetmeats are prepared in a large fry-pan. These are taken barehanded
out of the boiling oil by any Pardhi who is possessed by the goddess. A. young buffalo or a goat is brought to the spot and stabbed in the left side of the neck; the idol; is besmeared with the blood which spouts out, and the worshippers then taste it themselves. The animal is then killed. To the north of the idol a small mound is raised, On
the third day, by which the flesh has all been eaten, the skull of the animal is placed on the mound, ghi and country liquor is poured on it, and fire is applied. This burnt offering closes the ceremony These are the meetings at which ways and means for committing crime are discussed as well as caste disputes settled, and results of past offences related. In committing burglary they do not take any pride in the hole they make, nor have they any particular mode of breaking through walls from which the work could be recognised as theirs. They sometimes will dig nearly through a wall, leaving only a thin partition against which the leader will carefully listen before finally - bursting through. Then when a hole is made big enough to get through, the leader strikes a match which he holds between finger and thumb, with his fingers stretched out so as to form a shade, and holding this in front of him so that his features are shielded, he has a good survey of the room before entering. Pardhis do not as a rule injure the people they attack in committing dacoity. If all goes well and the victims give no trouble, then they do not hurt them, but they are quite ready and if people resist, they will not hesitate to beat them. If an accomplice reveals the names of others he is outcasted and it is said that he can only be admitted into the caste on drinking a little of his wife's urine. The penalty for nearly every offence is a fine of so much liquor; that resulting from a man's sin is drunk by men and that paid up by the women is drunk by the women. The lobe of the left ear of both men and women guilty of adultery is cut with a razor. A Pardhi guilty of sexual intercourse with a prostitute is punished as if he had committed adultery. Like all such people Pardhis have their ordeals and omens. One test is as follows. An accused person having taken oath is told to take out a rupee and a knife from a vessel of water placed within a space marked off with a circle called a kund. He delivers these to the panch. There is no direct manifestation, but if the man be guilty he will be afraid to touch the knife as his conscience tells him the goddess will punish him if he does. Another test is for the accused to take a knife and going into water up to
his chest or neck to take the oath of the goddess. Yet another is for two men to stand within circles drawn in the sand of a river bank and about seven bamboos distance from one another. Accused stands near one of them while a friend goes into the water. Accused touches one man and runs to the other, touches him and returns. When the accused touches the first man the friend dives under water and if he can remain below the surface till accused finishes the run, the latter is judged as innocent, but if not, then he is guilty; accused is then expected to vomit blood and die. There is also the ordeal of the red-hot axe-head. If a woman is suspected of adultery some pipal leaves are placed on her hand and a red hot axe on them. If she is burnt, or refuses to stand the test she is pronounced guilty. A favourite omen with them is the simple device of taking some rice or juari in the hand and counting the grains. An even number is lucky; an odd number is un-lucky. If dissatisfied with the first result a second or a third pinch is taken and the grains counted. A winnowing basket or a mill stone falling to the right when dropped on the ground is lucky, as is also a flower falling on the right side from the garland with which they crown their goddess. The Phans Pardhis never use the railway; and are forbidden the use of any conveyance whatever. The Gaon Pardhis are polluted if their women happen to throw their lugdas on the roof of their house. They generally keep an earthern pot for washing clothes and any cattle touching this pot are polluted and must be sold away or given in charity at once. It is said that Chauhan women will not ride in a cart, drink liquor or wear red cloth. Ponwar women may not ride in a cart, but may drink liquor; and they will not touch gold or eat anything which lives in water.
131.Bhamtis or Bhamtas number 653 persons in the District, their total number being 1697 in Berar. Their ordinary rural avocations are the making of rope and twine and the preparation and sale of gunny bags, but most of them are noted as bazar or railway thieves and pick-pockets. There is no limit to the Bhamti's field of operations; he is said to travel and work all over India, But he confines his
attentions almost entirely to railways, markets, temples and fairs, in fact
anywhere where crowds collect, though he is not averse, while making a road
journey, to plying his calling among fellow-travellers. The railway however is
the most lucrative, and safest field for his activities. The numerous disguises
he makes use of, and the variety of methods he has recourse to for
accomplishing his purpose, make him difficult to recognise. Both sexes are
early trained to follow the profession of crime and soon become experts. Children are first taught to pilfer shoes, cocoanuts, etc., and are liberally chastised for want of proficiency in the course of their education. The women are as adept as the men, and boys are expert at removing ornaments off the persons of children. These juvenile thieves entice their victims away to a quiet spot, by displaying sweetmeats, copper coins or grasshoppers tied to a thread, and then relieve them of their ornaments.
Another more distinctly criminal division are the Mang-Garodis. They generally travel about with small pals, taking their wives and children, buffaloes and dogs with them. They are under the orders of a headman, who is distinguished by his wearing a red cloth or shawl in addition to the short drawers (chaddi) and fringed waist clothes (kachha), which form the ordinary male attire. They never do a hard day's work. Begging, performing childish conjuring tricks before villagers, trading in barren half-starved buffaloes and buffalo-calves, sometimes in country ponies, are their ostensible means of subsistence. They also purchase from Gaolis barren buffaloes which they are said to be able to make fertile, returning them when pregnant for double the purchase money; and they shave buffaloes for villagers. Men, women and children are habitual thieves and pilferers. They specialize in stealing agricultural produce from and grazing their animals in ryots' fields; remonstrance is met with abuse and often violence. The women steal in the day and the men at night, the former being very clever at pilfering clothes put out to dry, picking pockets in bazars, sneaking fowls, shoes, and other things.
The Takaris [Musalman Takaris are not classed as a criminal tribe.] take their name from the verb
takne, to reset or rechisel. They mend handmills (chakkis) used for grinding corn, an occupation however which is sometimes shared with them by the Langoti Pardhis. The Takari's avocation of rechiselling grinding stones gives him excellent opportunities for examining the interior economy of houses, the position of boxes, cupboards, etc., and gauging the wealth of the inmates. They are the most inveterate house-breakers and dangerous criminals. A form of crime which the Takari
indulges in, in common with many other criminal classes, is that of decoying into a secluded spot outside the village, the would-be receiver of stolen property and robbing him of his cash-a trick which carries a wholesome lesson with it.
Finally may be mentioned the Kolhatis, a criminal tribe who numbered at the last census 215 in the District, chiefly in the Daryapur taluk. They are nomads, the men of the tribe being thieves, while the women are hereditary prostitutes. The information which the latter obtain from their admirers is communicated to their husbands and made use of in their depredations.