Property and Inheritance.
In respect of inheritance the Hindus arc governed by the
Hindu law and the Muhammedans by the Muhammedan law
Prior to the passing of the Hindu Succession Act in 1956 the
Mitaksara School of Hindu law applied to this district according to which the succession was mostly agnate in the line, its general principle being that property devolved on the sons on the death of the father. According to Manu, the great law-giver, " to the nearest sapinda
the inheritance next belonged." As soon as the last owner of the property
passed away the property devolved upon his nearest sapinda, or the person connected
nearest. By stressing agnate succession, inheritance according to Hindu law became essentially patriarchal. Widows and son's widows were entitled to maintenance and daughters to maintenance before marriage and to expenses incurred at their marriage, out of the joint family funds.
In the past a person lost his right to property if he changed his religion but as early as 1850 this was rectified by the Caste Disabilities Removal Act. Similarly if a widow remarried, she lost her rights but the passing of the Hindu Widow's Re-marriage Act in 1856 this disability was removed. However, a
woman could own the personal property (streedhan) given to her at marriage. The agnate succession was also modified by the
passing of the Hindu Women's Right to Property Act of 1937
under which in certain cases, the widow became entitled to the
same share as a son and in the case of a joint family the widow
took the place of her deceased husband.
Legislation in recent years has included measures of reform affecting the law of inheritance among all classes of Hindus. The Hindu Succession Act of 1956 aims at simplifying the Hindu Law of Succession. The Act removes the inequality between man and woman in regard to rights of property. It does away with the distinction between Mitaksara and Daya-bhag Law of succession. However, special provision is made for regulating succession to the property of intestates. The Act has made the following changes, which are revolutionary, in the old Hindu Law. (1) All property held by a Hindu woman is now her absolute property and there are no restrictions on her rights. (2) The heirs of a deceased Hindu arc entitled to get a share even in the undivided interest in the coparcenery property. A Hindu can make a will even of his individual interest in the coparcenery property. In its clarification it could be said that before the passing of this Act, except streedhan, a woman was not supposed to be the last owner of the property, nor a married daughter could claim right in her father's property. But now a daughter has as good a claim over her father's property as the son, provided her father does not debar her by law. Secondly a widow has only life interest in the property and she was not legally entitled to dispose of her property as she liked. That disqualification is now removed.
Among the Muhammedans. the father has the absolute right in the property and he can debar any of the sons from inheritance if he was not satisfied with him. According to Muhammedan Law the daughter has as good a claim over her father's property as the son and there is a fixed ratio of the right of the son and the daughter.
Pilgrim centres and Jatras.
It is a common incidence to find a few score of holiday makers assembling at quite a number of insignificant tombs of
ascetics scattered up and down the country; almost every one
of these on some particular day in the year receive some religious attention of a group. But the more important are the gatherings at the twenty-two annual or half yearly fairs in the district. These are Marki, Ganoja and Rinmochan in the Amravati tahsil; Kaundinyapur, Bhiltek, and Savanga Vithobaca in Candur tahsil: Vadner Gangai, Yeoda. Murha and Uparai in the Daryapur tahsil; Ner Pinglai, Akhatvada, Rith-pur, Dhanora, Jivanpura (in Acalpur city), Acalpur city (Dula Rahman), Deurvada, and Bairamghat in Acalpur tahsil and Diva in Melghat. Most of these are, however, insignificant, one or two, such as Uprai, Rithpur and the annual urus of Dula Rahman at Acalpur, being notable not so much on account of the gathering as of the peculiar sanctity attaching to the shrine
venerated. Those at Salbardi, Kaundinyapur, Bhiltek and
Bairamghat, have something more than a local celebrity.
Of the fairs held in Amravati tahsil, the one at Marki is held
annually for three days in Caitra in honour of Sri Markinath;
thousands of coconuts are offered to the homa or fire worship
performed in front of the shrine and several bhajan melas wander over the fair singing enthusiastically religious songs to
the accompaniment of tomtoms, cymbals, and similar music.
At Ganoja a small fair is held on the 15th of Margasirs in
honour of Devi and is chiefly attended by Brahmans who come
here to perform their family rites, the devout spending three
nights at shrine. Rinmocan, a sacred place on the river Purna,
boasts of a well attended annual fair held on the four Sundays
in the month of Paus. The word Rin-mocan literally means
" release from debts" and it is believed that those who attend
the fair and bathe in the river attain considerable merit.
The ancient temple of Amba Devi in Amravati town is held in great reverence by the Hindu community. An annual Navaratra fair is held for ten days, starting from the first of Asvin sud and visitors come in great number on the 8th, 9th and 10th days, for a darsan of the goddess. There is a homa (fire sacrifice) at the temple and on the 10th i.e. the Dasara day the goddess seated in a palanquin crosses the border of the town. Amidst great festivities huge effigies of Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Surpanakha are set fire to, and by night a pyrotechnic display is held.
Of the other places famous for their fairs, Kaundinyapur, a village situated on the banks of the Wardha in the Candur tahsil boasts of an annual fair in honour of the hero Vitthal Rukmaya [As the anecdote goes king Rukmaya, father of Rukmini had his capital at Dewalvada which is buried beneath the present village; princess Rukmini had been to Amravati for the darshana of Amba Devi, and she was thence abducted by Krishna and married.] held on Kartik Paurnima and is said to be attended by more than fifty thousand persons.
The village of Rithpur, Dabheri and Akhatvada are particularly famous in connection with the sect of Mahanubhava. Rithpur which is the headquarters of the sect has two fairs held yearly on Caitra Paurnima and Asadh Paurnima which though primarily Mahanubhava festivals, are attended by people of all castes. It is said that Rithpur was the headquarters of Sri Govindprabhu the guru of Mahanubhava sect established by Cakradhar Svami. Dabheri, not far from Rithpur, has a temple of Dabhesvar held in reverence by the Mahanubhava. A member of the sect making the pilgrimage to Rithpur is supposed to visit Dabheri and so also Akhatvada, a small village close by with its temple of Rokdesvar which is also a Mahanubhava shrine.
Salbardi, an insignificant village about five miles north of Morsi and situated on the Maru river has an annual fair in March lasting for three days and is attended by a large number
of persons. The place holds an important position in Hindu
mythology, as it is said that it was here that Sita had come when
she was deserted by Rama and had given birth to her sons Lava
and Kusa; the twins are then said to have caught the horse
Syamkarn let loose by their father and in the fight that ensued
defeated him and his three brothers, and then there was the happy union. Another plate worthy of mention on account of great fair held is Bairamghat about 14 miles east of Acalpur. A shrine there is frequented by the lower classes both of Muhammedans and Hindus and in October each year a fair is held, which, on account of its sanctity, is attended by more than 50,000 persons coming from all parts.
Some places in the district have attained importance only recently because of the martyrs who succumbed there to the police firing in the freedom movement of 1942. As for instance, a procession is held at Beoda (Morsi tahsil) on the 16th August and at Yavali (Amravati tahsil) a fair on the 18th of February, each year when people gather to pay homage to the memory of the freedom martyrs.
In former times a Berar village had its balutedars who were entitled at harvest time to their hakk (prescriptive claim) to 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 or Vadhi; (2) the blacksmith or 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 Cambhar or leather currier; (6) the potter or Kumbhar; (7) the barber or Mhali ; (8) the washerman or Varthi; (9) the Gurav whose business was to clean the temple: (10) the Josi or Brahman, priest and astrologer; (11) the Bhat or bard, and (12) the Mullah who officiated at Muslim 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 blacksmiths prepared the iron accessories of ploughs and carts. In former times at Gal Puja, 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 Mhali at marriages was a torch bearer, or led the bridegroom's horse. The Varthi spread white cloth for the bridegroom's relations to walk on. The Gurav beat the drum at the time of worship in the temples. The Josi 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, the genealogy of his host. The Mullah in the absence of the Kazi was the spiritual guide of the Muhammedans.
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 or so, 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. The
village blacksmith has become a stamp-vendor or a publican;
the Shimpi leaves his work to speculate in cotton; the Bhat may
still be in request at marriages and adoptions; the Josi and the
Mullah have probably obtained inam fields on which to support
themselves and the worship they perform. The Mahar alone,
the lowest of all the twelve, can claim his right to a share in the
harvest. But at places moving with the rest, he may 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
AS usual each village has a number of petty deities at whose
shrines worship is offered on special occasions. Of all the gods
of the Hindu pantheon Mahadeo and Maruti (Hanuman) probably receive the most attention in the district. Mahadeo or Siva is represented by his phallic emblem, the ling or stone pyramid; a representation of his sacred animal, the bull Nandi, is usually placed before him. " The cult of Siva", says Dr. Barnett [Hinduism (Religions Ancient and Modern series, p. 40.)] affects the two poles of society. At one end he is favoured by many high class Brahmans and ascetics who are devoted to metaphysical studies ", and at the other " he is popular with the lowest classes who favour the yoga system in its practical side which is largely based upon vulgar ideas of magic and Shamanism, and hence many of its professors have always been vulgar charlatans and worse". Maruti is the monkey god whose shrine is found in every village. If a large number of temples and shrines were any test of the popularity of a god, Maruti would certainly bear off the palm. He is represented by an image of a monkey coloured with vermilion. The face of the image must always be to the south because Lanka (Ceylon) is situated on the south of India. Maruti's services to Rama as related in the Ramayana were great and many. He fought most valiantly in the great expedition against Rawan the demon king of the island for the recovery of Sita. The exploits of Maruti are favourite topics among Hindus from childhood to age, and paintings of them are common. On Saturdays people fast in his honour. Vermilion mixed with oil is applied to the image, a garland of rui (Calatropis gigantea) leaves placed on its neck and arad grains on its head.
In almost every village of Berar there is a temple of Siva with Ganapati, as presiding over the troop of deities (gana) attendant on Siva. Ganes is represented by an elephant-headed human figure, in a sitting posture, with a large belly. He is the god of good luck and learning and remover of difficulties and obstacles. He is addressed by orthodox Hindus at the commencement of all undertakings, and the opening of all compositions. Even the
yearly account books commence with his sacred symbol and with the phrase "Sri Ganesaya namah' (I bow to the illustrious
The deity held in much reverence by Kunbis, as also by Dhangars and many lower castes is Khandoba. The Vaghyas beg in the name of Khandoba and it was once a custom to dedicate Murali girls to him. In many houses, there is a small silver image of the god, mounted, with sword in hand, before which on the Campa Sashi is waved a copper platter bearing coconut, jaggery, turmeric and sixteen small lamps made of floured wheat. His votaries also offer him brinjals and onions, his favourite diet, which they may not use themselves before this day. The black dog of Khandoba is also worshipped. Sunday is the day sacred to the deity (who is also known as Martand), and alms are solicited on this day in his name.
other village deities.
Sakti, or deified energy, is worshipped by all classes of Hindus
as Laksmi by the followers of Visnu; and as Parvati, Bhavani,
and Durga by the Saivas. The favourite incarnation of Devi in the district is probably Bhavani, to whom large temples at Amravati and Mahur are dedicated, and in whose service the Gondhalis are enrolled. She is worshipped for the nine days, Bhavanl Navaratra, preceding the Dasara, the idol being placed on a basket crowned every day with fresh flowers. The basket rests on a pot full of water, and for the whole period of nine days a light is kept burning on a stand before the image. On the tenth day or the Dasara it was once a practice for the head of the village to slay a buffalo in remembrance of the victory of Devi over the demon god Mhasoba or Mahisasur. On this day also an unmarried girl used to be placed beside the image of Bhavani and worshipped, the ceremony being possibly a relic of the 'left handed ritual' of the pancmakar or vama-margis. Bhavani is also worshipped on the new and the full moon.
Sitala or Mara Mai is the goddess of small-pox. She is represented by a few stones rubbed with vermilion and worshipped only during the attack of small-pox. Cooked rice and curds are offered to the goddess when the small-pox has subsided. Sometimes fowls or goats are sacrificed to her.
Meskai is a deity enshrined on the boundary of a village. He-buffaloes used to be once sacrificed to her annually on Dasara day. She has to be propitiated at the time of marriage by the offer of turmeric and vermilion, the remainder of the former article being brought home and applied to the bride and bridegroom. Mhasoba is a buffalo-god known to live under water of large rivers, and requiring propitiation. Vaghdev must be appeased by those who run risk from tigers. Satavi is a goddess who cures children; and Mariai Mata regulates the spread of cholera in accordance with the attention she receives.
Cindhia Deva, or the divinity of tatters is represented by a heap of stones daubed with red, and fluttering with rags under a tree; they say if you present it a rag in season you may chance to get good clothes.
Asra is the goddess of water inhabiting tanks, rivers and wells. She is represented by a stone rubbed with vermilion.