132. The long Muhammadan dominion has left its mark
deep in the nomenclature of the District, large numbers of villages bearing
Islamic names. Instances of such are:-Afzalpur, Aurangpur,
Ilahiabad, Ashrafpur, Adampur, Azmatpur, Ismailpur, Khanzaman nagar and Peth Muhammadabad. Among villages
named after trees or plants may be mentioned Chinchpur
from chinch (a tamarind), Kekatpur from kekat (a flower), Ghosali from ghosali (a creeper), Ghol from ghol (a vegetable),
Palaskher and Palasmandal from palas (Buteafrondosa),
from bor (plum), Umari from the umar tree, Karanja from
the karanj plant, Kumbhi from kumbhi (a plant), Nimkhed
and Nimbori from the nim tree, Mochkhed from moch (a
plantain), Amla from am (mango), Pimpalgaon from the pimpal or pipal tree, Mogra from the mogra plant, Lashnapur
from lasan (garlic), Yerandgaon and Yerandi from yerandi (castor seed), Sirasgaon from the siras tree. Some are named after animals as Ghuikhed from ghui (an insect), Titiwa from titiwa (a bird), Shidori (from an insect generally found in the rainy season). Harni is from ham (an antelope). Dhamangaon means the village of the water-snake, Manjarkhed, the abode of cats, and Mhaispur, the town of the buffalo.
A few villages are named after deities as Asra (a Devi), Krishnapur, Tuljapur, Ramgaon. Among miscellaneous names may be mentioned Ghota (an ankle), Godri (a latrine), Dahigaon (dahi curds), Budhli (a cruse of oil), Dongargaon (dongar, a hill).
133. Just as in mediaeval Europe the village blacksmith, the miller and other artificers were provided for by the field work of the remainder, and the parson got his tithes; so in former times a Berar village had its balutedars who were entitled at harvest time to their hah; a share in return for their services of the crop that had been raised by the cultivators. They might in a fully equipped village be as many as twelve in number, and include (1) the carpenter, Wadhi; (2) the blacksmith, Khati; (3) the Garpagari, a person who by white magic was supposed to be able to ward off hail storms from the crop; (4) the Mahar or village menial; (5) the Chambhar or leather currier;(6) the potter, Kumbhar;(7) the barber, Mhali; (8) the washerman, Warthi; (9) the Gurao whose business it is to clean the temple; (10) the Joshi or Brahman priest and astrologer; (11) the Bhat or bard and (12) in villages with Musalman inhabitants, the Mullah who officiated at their ceremonies and performed the halal of animals killed for food. The carpenter made and repaired field tools and the wooden stools used at marriages; the blacksmith the iron work of ploughs and carts. In former times at GalPuja, the hook-swinging festival, it was his duty to force the iron hook into the muscles of the devotee's back. The Mahar besides being a watchman castrated young cattle; and a Mahar woman acted as midwife. The Mahali at marriages was a torch
bearer; or led the bridegroom's horse; or escorted the patel's daughter to her husband's house. The Warthi spread white cloths for the bridegroom's relations to walk on. The Gurao beat the drum at the time of worship in the temples. The Joshi prepared the almanac, pointing out lucky days for marriages, for ploughing, for seed time and harvest, calculated eclipses, drew up horoscopes and officiated at marriages and funerals. At the last and at all village festivities the Bhat attended and recited, may be invented, the genealogy of his host. The Mullah in the absence of the Kazi was the spiritual guide of the Muhammadans.
But besides its balutedars, a prosperous village might have also ten alutedars. These represent a later stage of economic development, for notions of ownership have begun to appear in the village. They get no share of right in the crops but are paid like a modern workman for what they do. They are (i) the Sonar or goldsmith who assayed coin paid to Government and made ornaments; (2) the Jangam or Lingayat guru; (3) the Mang who beat the tomtom at marriages and performed various menial services; (4) the Shimpi, or tailor; (5) the Teli or oilman; (6) the Koli, or water carrier (whence our Anglo-Indian word." cooly "); (7) the Gosawi, a village ascetic living by alms; (8) the Korki or piper and snake-charmer; (9) the Bari, the cultivator and seller of pan; (10) the Gondhali, or drummer.
The system, if system it may be called, was probably simple enough in practice; but with the vast economic development of the last fifty years it has gone the way of all such primitive arrangements, and retains its place only as a memory An atmosphere of romance has gathered about it, and its details are dwelt on in a manner which would speedily have made them unworkable, had they had any but a traditional reality. To-day they are impossible. The village blacksmith has become a stamp-vendor, or a publican, the Shimpi leaves his work to speculate in cotton, and the village Brahmans have taken to the higher education and departed to the nearest town to seek a living. Even the low caste Mahar is moving with the rest, and will be found to vie with Kunbis in the; care of the soil, and perhaps to have become a prosperous
landholder in some other village than his own. The ghagar in which the village women carry their household water is being replaced by the ubiquitous kerosine oil tin, and even the ' three card trick' is not unknown.
To-day the most striking feature of the country-side is its monotonous prosperity. The level plain stretches out to the horizon without an acre of waste land, its flatness relieved only by the mango trees scattered here and there, which lend a touch of variety to the view even at the close of the hot weather. The people speak of their cultivated fields as " the jungle," but the only trees therein are a few babul and mango, and almost the only wild things, the antelope, of which large herds levy toll on the fatness of the harvest. On one
side, may be, a line of scrub marks the course of some half-dry nullah, and on rising ground, if there be any rising ground, beside it, the trees grow thicker, and a cluster of brown roofs and mud walls declare the village. As one approaches it the thing most conspicuous is probably the garhi or fort, a great square erection of mud with projecting towers at the corners: reminiscent of the uglier aspect of times not very long gone by, when ' Free Companies' of Pindaris and dacoits roamed through Berar and treated the villager with scant consideration, To-day the walls are tumbling down and the site taken up perhaps by a primary school, or a police station, perhaps by the houses of the leading inhabitants; or these may be grouped around it. Among them will be one somewhat more conspicuous than the rest. It will have two stories and a flat sleeping place on top; its front will be whitewashed, and its verandah (baithak,ota) and gallery ornamented, perhaps with blackwood carved in primitive fashion before carving became a lost art in Berar, perhaps with more modern twisted iron railings and corrugated roof. This should be, if it has not passed into the hands of the Marwari moneylender, the house of the Patelki family; and like all the better houses it will have a small enclosure attached to it. In this part of the village too will be the chawri or office of the patel and patwari which is also the village club, a musafirkhana or traveller's rest house, and any Government buildings that the place boasts
of. The chief temple too will probably be there, its dedication being a joint one either to Maroti and Vithoba or Mahadeo and Ganpati; also perhaps a mosque if there are sufficient Muhammadans to support it. Further away will be the gothan, an open space used as a cattle stand; perhaps a market place; and separated by these from the houses of the better class the Maharpeth or quarter of the village servants, over which flies a strip of white or red rag to warn high caste folk away from this place of defilement. On the outskirts will be the wells, that for the low caste being in a different spot to the rest; one or two small shrines of Maroti or lingas of Mahadeo; and the trees and shapeless heaps of stone daubed red which represent the village gods and low caste deities, relics of earlier animistic belief. Last of all is the idgah, its scrupulous whiteness as strange a contrast to the prevailing dirt, as is the faith for which it stands to the rude superstitions which in this part of India have been grafted upon it.
Villages in this District are large, a hundred houses with
six hundred inhabitants being a usual figure, while many can
boast of a population numbered by thousands. The large
majority of the inhabitants, including the patel, will probably
be Kunbis; though villages of. Malis, Baris and similar
castes are not uncommon. There are one or two Brahmans
and a few Muhammadans; in some places Muhammadan
villages may be found. The usual low caste village servants
are there. A number of Pardesis make up the foreign
element; and are employed as casual labourers on such jobs as
watching the crops and scaring away wild beasts. Commerce
will be represented by the Marwari moneylender, the local
equivalent of the Irish " gombeen man"; or perhaps by a
few Rohillas or Afghans whose objects are the same though
their methods are somewhat more violent and their dealings pettier.
Of the old village community little remains. Those parts,
of it necessary to government have been upheld-the patel,;
the patwari, the menial servants. But the balutedars no longer
exist; a Garpagari here and there gets a precarious livelihood;
from such as still believe him; the Bhat is still in great request
at marriages and adoptions; the Joshi and the Mullah have probably obtained inam fields-we may almost say 'glebe land' on which to support themselves and the worship they perform. But the Mahar alone, the lowest of all the twelve, can enforce his right to a share in the harvest.
All that is picturesque in village life centres now round the patel. He is, as mentioned elsewhere, the representative of the village in its dealings with Government: he is also in internal matters its acknowledged head, and on four important occasions in the year its leader in the relation with the Gods. His privileges are summed up as being the Man and the Pan, or in one word Manpan. The latter are sundry presents of pansupari and cocoanut and services of a ceremonial nature on such occasions as the marriage of his daughter: the former the position taken by him at the four great festivals of Holi, Dasahra, Tulsilagna and Pola. At Dasahra a hela, or male buffalo is provided at the village expense for a solemn sacrifice to Durga Devi, It is taken in procession up to the jhanda or flag in front of the chawri where in former days it was slaughtered by the patel with his own hand. Now he makes merely a ceremonial cut and the Mahars who complete the work carry away the body and eat it. At
Holi the patel and Joshi meet; and make an invocation to the Rakshas or demons in whose honour it is held. It is then the patel's privilege to light the sacred pile; and he likewise provides the gulal or red powder and the other accessories of
the festival, Tulsilagna is the marriage ceremony of the sacred basil plant, which is performed once a year by the patel and the Joshi and signalises the commencement of the auspicious season for matrimony.
But the occasion of the patel's greatest importance is the Pola: and as it is also the festival of all others most typical of this part of India, it deserves a fuller description. It is a religious holiday held on the new moon day of Shrawan or Bhadrapad, after the ploughing and sowing has been done, by the cultivator in honour of his greatest helper the bullock. On that day all the bullocks of the village will be gaily painted in various colours and their horns and necks covered with
garlands. They assemble in one place, where stands the gudi a sacred " maypole " of the patel; the Mahars beating drums in front of it, and a twisted rope of mol grass covered with mango leaves being stretched from it to a smaller pole on the right. This rope is known as the toran and is dedicated to Maroti. Under this stand the patel's bullocks, which should be a pair without spot or blemish, all white or all red, according to the custom of the village. To the left of the pole a long line is formed of the other bullocks, those of the Patelki family first, then a pair chosen to represent the Deshmukh, a pair to represent the Sarkar, the Patwari's pair and finally those of the other villagers. Bitter indeed are the disputes as to precedence on these occasions, and by no means the less so that the village does not always recognise as patel the man whom Government has appointed, and sometimes takes this opportunity to restore the precedence of a senior member of the family. All now do puja to the pair of bullocks under the toran. At a given signal from the patel, his pair are led forward, the toran is broken and the remaining pairs follow in order through the place where it has been. With this procession the ceremony ends, but no bullock can be put to work this day; for once in the year they are free from their masters.
When the patel dies, there will be great excitement in the village. Probably the watan or right to succeed to the office in not held by one family alone but divided among several in different proportions. These different families are known as the khels or taksims of the watan; the test of a khel being the observance by its members of sutak and devak or common mourning and religious rites. They will now vie with one another to produce a successor to the deceased; and even within each khel different candidates will appear against one another in a fashion that makes it easy to realise how the word bhaobandi (the affection of kinsmen) has come to be the local synonym for deadly hatred. Each will produce a genealogical tree twenty or thirty generations long with infinite ramifications, and will be prepared to swear to the truth of it though he bought it from the Joshi or the Bhat or from some wandering sadhu not so very long before. But
the cultivators of Berar are peaceable enough and though agricultural riots are frequent, it is but seldom that serious damage is done.
134. The villager has few amusements beyond his family;
the village gossip in the chawri or the temple, a weekly trip to the nearest
market, an occasional visit to jatra or religious fair such as that at Bairam, or more rarely a pilgrimage to a shrine of more than local celebrity. Occasionally a troupe of Nats or Gopals (strolling acrobats) visit a village, and the people collect to see the exhibition. The boys have their games, Gillidanda, (Marathi WitiDandu),Lonpat, and ArdahPurdah. The first is not unlike the English Bat Trap and Ball' or ' Tipcat.' A small stick is placed with one end projecting over a hole in the ground; one player strikes it smartly with a longer stick, and the others then endeavour to catch it in mid-air. If any of them does so, he has his innings and the former striker joins the field. Lonpat is a kind of Tom Tiddler's Ground or Prisoner's Base, and is generally played by moonlight. The ground is marked out in squares to each of which a boy of the defending party is posted. Their opponents then try to pass through these squares and back again without being touched. If they do so they win the game. ArdahPurdah may be compared to " Blind Man's Buff," or perhaps to " Forfeits." The players form equal sides and a curtain is held up between them. One boy then hides close up to the curtain; and the opposite party is asked to guess his name. If they reply correctly he is blindfolded and sent off on some errand, the fun of the game consisting in watching him stumble over and knock his head against the various obstacles placed in his path. Girls have their dolls and play at housekeeping, as they do all the world over, and their amusements are naturally more of an indoor nature. Deshi Kasrat, an Indian ' Swedish exercise,' has been introduced in the schools; and in one or two also cricket. Among men, the games most in favour are chausar (a kind of draughts) and cards. Races of trotting bullocks
are held on Til-Sankrant and wrestling matches, very much of the '' catch-as-catch-can " order, on Nag-Panchami. Cock fighting and also ram fighting are favoured by the lower classes; and among Gaolis he-buffalo fighting on Diwali is a common diversion. The beasts are fed up beforehand with sarki (cotton seed) and green grass and on the day of the contest are given tari,ganja and other intoxicants. Cricket, tennis, and similar games are only played where they have been introduced by English officials, in the large towns, among the police and in a few schools.