The groups known as castes, with varying degrees of
respectability and circles of social intercourse into which the Hindu society is divided, are quite famous. In recent decades, however, the rigidity of the caste barriers has abated considerably, and caste as an institution perpetuating social exclusiveness has lost its former significance. Moreover the necessity or advisability of retaining a return of caste at the Census is now being questioned. And with a view to discourage caste consciousness there has been no caste-wise enumeration since the Census of 1951. However, the hold of caste on Indian life is still found to be so deep that a working knowledge of the important caste groups in the district may be considered useful on the part of any sincere student of the Indian society.
In 1901 castes were classified according to their social precedence, but in 1911 and 1921 the procedure of 1891 was followed
according to which the traditional occupation of the caste was the basis or classification. An analysis of the caste groups in the
district according to the traditional division of occupation is given in the following pages.
Classified according to their traditional occupation the castes in the district, as enumerated in the Census of 1931, were found in their group strength as follows: -
Group No. I: Land Holders:-Rajput, 13,667 (m. 7,396; f. 6,271); Maratha, 30,081 (m. 1,5,524; f. 14,557). Total 43,748.
Group No. II: Cultivators (including growers of special products):-Kunbi, 119,818 (m. 102,327; f. 97,491); Mali, 76,166 (m. 38,431; f. 37,735); Barai, 14,002 (m. 7,101; f. 6,901), Lodhi, 1,316 (m. 685; f. 631); Kirar, 1,024 (m. 532; f. 492); Kacchi, 452 (m. 349; f. 103); Mana, 434 (m. 212; f. 222); Jat, 397 (m. 255; f. 142); Kurmi, Bhoyar, Rajbhor, Kohli and Kir, 230 (in. 118; f. 112). Total 293,439.
Group No. III : Labourers:- Rajjhar or Lajjhar, 1,730 (m. 834: f. 896); Bedar, 1,118 (m. 586: f. 532); Mala, 106 (m. 64; f. 42); Rajvar or Movar, 22 (m. 14; f. 8). Total 2,976.
Group No. IV: Forest and Hill tribes:-Korku, 38,827 (m. 19,070; f. 19.757); Gond, 24,079 (m. 12,008; f. 12,071); Koli, 8.211 (m. 4,170; f. 4,041): Halba, 2,201 (m. 1,066; f. 1,135); Pardhan, 897 (m. 450; f. 447); Binjhvar, 130 (m. 66; f. 64). Total 74,345.
Group No. V: Graziers and Dairymen:-Dhangar, 19,277 (m. 9,910; i. 9.367); Govari, 12,317 (m. 6,167; f. 6,150); Ahir, 6,284 (m. 3,446: f. 2,838); Gotur, 1.905 (m. 953; f. 952); Hatgar, 439 (m. 231; f. 208); and Gadaria, 100 (m, 71; f. 29). Total 40,322.
Group No. VI: Fishermen. Boatmen and Palkhi-bearers: - Dhimar, 12,547 (m. 6,509; f. 6,038); Kahar, 419 (m. 249; f. 170); and Kevat, 61 (m. 47; f. 14). Total 13,027.
Group No. VII: Hunters and Fowlers:-Pardhis, 2,849 (m. 1,455; f. 1,394); and Bahelia, 57 (m. 35; f. 22). Total 2,906.
Group No. VIII: Priests and Devotees:-Brahman. 24.331 (m. 13.915; f. 10,416): Gosain, 3.242 (m. 1,838: f. 1,404): Fakir, 2,133 (m. 1,078; f. 1,057); Garpagari, 1,437 (m. 756: f. 681); Jogi, 808 (m. 416; f. 392); Bairagi. 540 (m. 308 f. 232): Gondhali, 364 (m. 198; f. 166); and Jangam, 319 (m. 164: f. 155). Total 33,176.
Group No. IX: Temple servants. X and XI: Geneologists, Bards and Astrologers, XII : Writers, and XIII : Musician, Singers, Dancers. Mimes and Singers were represented in the district sometimes by individual castes. The Guravs who numbered 2.390 (m. 1.655; f. 1.635) were originally servants of the temples of Mahadeo in the Maratha country. The
Bhats, 2,231 (m. 1,213; f. 1,018) or Raos were known in Berar
as Thakurs. Many castes had their own Bhats. Every caste-
Bhat are at the hands of the caste of which he was the geneologist, but the caste would not take food from his hands.
Bhats were also bards and were doubtless the repositories of a
good deal of oral tradition and folklore. The Josi, 434
(m. 221; f. 213) derived his name from Jyotis or astrology;
but Josis now mostly made a living by acceptance of gifts for
the propitiation of the evil planet Saturn. It was doubtful
whether the Census figures for Josis were correct, as in Berar
a village priest was usually designated as Josi who was really
a Brahman, and the so-called Brahman Josis may have been
included in the Josi caste. The Kayasth 399 (m. 203; f. 196)
was the writer par excellence, the corresponding caste in the
Maratha districts being that of the Prabhus. Bidurs, 3,521
(m. 1,829; f. 1,692) were said to be the illegitimate descendants
of Brahmans of the Maratha country, and had also taken to
Group No. XIV: Traders and Pedlars:-There were in the district Bania, 16.530 (m. 8,631; f. 7,899); Khatri, 844 (m. 458: f. 386): Bohra, 653 (m. 390; f. 263), and Komti, 151 (m. 80; f. 71). Total 18,178.
Group No. XV: Carriers by Pack Animals:-In the district this group consisted of Banjara, 3,059 (m. 1,598; f. 1,461); and Vanjari, 322 (m. 167; f. 155). Total 3,381.
Group No. XVIII: Weavers, Carders and Dyers. A number of castes represented the group, but those that were located in the district were mainly: Mehra or Mahar, 130,272 (m. 64,329; f. 65,943); Kosti, 7,981 (m. 4,207; f. 3,774); Bahna, 3,606 (m. 1,893; f. 1,713); Sali, 2,748 (m. 1,416; f. 1,332); Rangari, 2,699 (m. 1,351; f. 1,348); Balahi, 1,195 (m. 568; f. 627); Kari, 540 (m. 312; f. 228), Julaha, 302 (m. 158; f. 144); Patva, 274 (m. 144; f. 130); Cippa, 181 (m. 94; f. 87); and Citari, 92 (m. 52; f. 40). Total 149,890.
A number of other castes in the district belonged to distinct occupational groups. Group No. XIX, consisted of the Darjis, 4,168 (m. 2,122; f. 2,046), who were tailors. This occupation not being derogatory was taken up by any caste for purpose of profit. The Barhais or carpenters, 9,998 (m. 5,197; f. 4,801), of Group No. XX, some times combined their work with that of the Lohars or blacksmiths and the latter reciprocated. Group No. XXI, Masons, was represented in the district by Takaris, 2,189 (m. 1,104; f. 1,085), who were really grinding stone menders but occasionally worked as masons. Group XXII, Potters: Kumbhars, 6,886 (m. 3,873; f. 3,013).
Group No. XXIII: Glass and Lac workers, consisted of Kacera, 204 (m. 84; f. 120); and Lakhera, 61 (m. 30; f. 31). Blacksmiths or Lohars, who formed Group No. XXIV, numbered 5.514 (m. 2.929; f. 2,585) in the district. The Sonars numbering 10,037 (m. 5,149; f. 4,888), under Group No. XXV, Gold and Silver Smiths belonged to several endogamous divisions. The allied Group No. XXVI, Brass and Copper Smiths,
consisted of Kasar, 1,814 (m. 966; f. 848); Tamera, 209
(m. 102; f. 107); and Otari, 423 (m. 182; f 241) Group No. XXVII, Confectioners and Parchers, included Bhadbhunja,
438 (m. 253; f 185); and Halvai, 65 (m. 40; f 25). Group
No. XXVIII, Oil Pressers, consisted of Telis, 30,680 (m. 15,715; f. 14,965). Group No. XXIX, Toddy Drawers and Distillers; Kalars, 7,947 (m. 4,067; f. 3,880). Group No. XXX, Butchers; Khatik, 3,591 (m. 1,825; f. 1,766); and Kasai, 718 (m. 377; f. 341). Total 4,309. Group No. XXXI, Leather Workers; Camar, 7,767 (m. 3,946; f. 3,821); Dhor, 1,533 (m. 774; f. 759); Moci, 477 (m. 201; f. 276); and Juigar 315 (m. 169; f. 146).
The other groups consisted of Group No. XXXII, Basket makers and Mat-makers: Basor 948 (m. 455; f. 494); and Group No. XXXIII, Earth, Salt Workers and Quarriers: Beldar, 3,295 (m. 1,652; f. 1,643); and Vaddar, 746 (m. 382; f. 364), Group No. XXXV, Village Watchmen and Menials: Khangar 105 (m. 50; f. 55); and Dahayat 12 (m. 6: f. 6); Group No. XXXV1; Sweepers: Mehtar, 896 (m. 455; f. 441).
There could not be any returns in the Group No. XXXIV, Domestic Servants, as many in the class who served as domestic servants were classed in their traditional occupation, e.g., Dhimars.
The Amravati District Gazetteer [Central Provinces District Gazetteers, Amravati District, Vol. A, 1911.], published in 1911, has given a very vivid description of various castes in the district. The value of this analytical description has in no way dwindled due to the mere passage of time. From the sociological point of view the description is of immense interest. A few passages from the old edition are given below.
" Brahmans number about 21,500 persons or 3 per cent 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 Desasthas, although a considerable minority belong to the Konkanastha and Karhada divisions. The word Desastha 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 Desasthas pursue secular professions and are writers, accountants, merchants, etc. The posts of village patvaris 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 Pesve (1714-1818) whom they followed as accountants, clerks, etc. They are also known as Citpavan or Cittapavan, the story being told that Parasuram, enraged at the ungrateful conduct of the Brahmans of his day who refused to
attend the sraddha of his father, provided himself with Brahmans by restoring to life some corpses which he found floating on the sea off the Korikan coast after a shipwreck. The
story is indignantly denied by many modern Citpavans 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 Krisna and Koyna rivers. Another suggested explanation of the name is that it refers to the mountain country; the high summits of which separate the home of the Konkanastha Brahmans on one side from the tableland of the Desasthas 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 Desastha Brahman. Whatever room there may be for comment on the religion of the Karhadas, they are quite equal to the Konkanas-thas and Desasthas 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 patvaris 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. "
"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 Candur and Daryapur. Their original home is Baiswara in Oudh. The Rathor Rajputs are most numerous in the Amraoti and Ellicpur taluks, and come chiefly from Marvar. The Rajputs are mainly engaged in cultivation. "
Vani or Bania
" The Vani or Bania castes, like the Rajputs, are chiefly of
foreign origin. They number 16,264 or 2 per cent of the population. Vanis, 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 Marvari
or Gujarati on the one hand; and Lingayat or Jain on the
other. The Vanis are the chief traders in Berar. They are as a
class respectable members of society and a large amount of
commercial wealth passes through their hands."
" 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 catlike 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 in old days the armies of Sivaji and of the Pesvas 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 Desmukhs 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 Ksattriyas while the Tiroles derive their name from Therol in Rajputana. In religion the Kunbi is a worshipper of Maroti, Mahadev, 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 ".
" The Gaolis number 16,353 and constitute 2 per cent of the
population. The Lingayat Gaolis are found in the taluks of Amraoti, Morsi, Ellicpur and Candur and are subdivided info Nagarkar and Vazarkar divisions. Among the Vazarkar 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 mandava at one and the same time, possibly from motives of economy."
" Dhangars number 17,826 persons constituting 2 per cent of
the population. They are hereditary herdsmen corresponding to tbe 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 Pancgat. 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 Pans. 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 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".
" 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 Tapi 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: Mavasi or Bhowavaya, Bavaria, Ruma and Bondoyas. The term Movas signifies the troubled country [The derivation is not by any means certain, a less complimentary theory connects the word with the mahu tree whose flowers form an item of Korku food.],
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 gatras 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 sacrified 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 Dongar gomaj, god of the hills and forests; Kulla gomaj, god of the tiger; Mutiya Gomaj, special village god or penates; Hardoli gomaj, the cholera god; Mata gomaj, goddess of smallpox; besides Panci gomaj, Kuf 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; Kulla gomaj for instance is simply Vagh deo; and Mata gomaj, Mardi Mata; the Hindu god Mahadeo tends more and more to fill the principal place in the Korku the ogony. 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 (gotra) have been planted before. These posts are called in the Korku language munda". 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 of phuljagni [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 Ellicpur, is
sufficiently interesting to be quoted at length. "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 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 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 moneylenders in return for money
borrowed at the rate of 24 or 32 seers of com 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 plat-
form 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 Asvin a great festival begins. They assemble together by night, and some dance and sing. 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. 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 the pungi 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. If a man marries a woman without serving for her then he or his father gives to her father an ox as well as a sum of money agreed upon. This gift is called peja.
Among them the village priest is expected to ward off and cure diseases, and to defend them from wild beasts. If a tiger comes 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 oft 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 puts 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 ".
Mahar, Mang and Cambhar.
" The old local religion as might be expected survives more markedly among these castes than among those higher in the social scale. The auspicious day for marriage is ascertained from the village Josi, 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 Cambhar 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 Josi 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 bridegroom knotted, while the bystanders clap their
hands and pelt the couple with coloured grain ".
" 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 Somavansi, and claims to have taken part with the Pandavas against the Kauravas in the war of Mahabharata and subsequently to have settled in the Maharastra. After the Somas Mahars other important divisions are the Ladwan or Ladsi, the Andhavan, the Baone and the Kosre. The word Baone is sometimes said to be a corruption of Bhavani, 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, patvari 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 pandyavar 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, bhik paili. But the regular payment is made when the grain has been threshed. The village Mahars take a prominent position in the Dasara sacrifice.
The Ladsi Mahars also called Bunkars in the Ellicpur tahsil, are worshippers of Sah Daval, the Baones of Narayan Deo, and the Kosres of Cand Sah Vali. 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 Somavansi 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 sub-divisions in the caste are Ghatole hailing from Melghat,
Pungivalas who play on the fife and Daphlevalas on the
tomtom. The Berari Mangs make baskets of bamboo and use
a knife known as the bhat while the Dakhani Mangs will not
touch this knife, and work with date-palm leaves.
The Cambhars are a leather working caste, their number in the
district being about 9,200 or 1 per cent of the population. The Harale (or Marathe) Cambhars claim the highest rank. When Maha Muni's supply of hides ran short Haralya, the primeval Cambhar, 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 Sravan. The sadhu who acts as their guru, makes a visitation once in every four or five years.
The other important divisions are the Mocis of northern origin and the Dabgars. The Dabgars are tanners and formerly used to prepare the receptacles for string ghi. The Harale Cambhar dyes leather, and makes shoes, mot's [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".