Arakh

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This article was written in 1916 when conditions were different. Even in
1916 its contents related only to Central India and did not claim to be true
of all of India. It has been archived for its historical value as well as for
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From The Tribes And Castes Of The Central Provinces Of India

By R. V. Russell

Of The Indian Civil Service

Superintendent Of Ethnography, Central Provinces

Assisted By Rai Bahadur Hira Lal, Extra Assistant Commissioner

Macmillan And Co., Limited, London, 1916.

NOTE 1: The 'Central Provinces' have since been renamed Madhya Pradesh.

NOTE 2: While reading please keep in mind that all articles in this series have been scanned from a book. During scanning some errors are bound to occur. Some letters get garbled. Footnotes get inserted into the main text of the article, interrupting the flow. Readers who spot errors might like to correct them, and shift footnotes gone astray to their rightful place.

General notice

A small caste of cultivators and labourers found principally in the Chanda District and Berar and scattered over other localities. The Arakhs are considered to be an offshoot of the Pasi or Bahelia caste of hunters and fowlers. Mr. Crooke ^ writes of them : " All their tradi- tions connect them with the Pasis and Parasurama, the sixth Avatara of Vishnu. One story runs that Parasurama was bathing in the sea, when a leech bit his foot and caused it to bleed. He divided the blood into two parts ; out of one part he made the first Pasi and out of the second the first Arakh. Another story is that the Pasis were made out of the sweat {paslna) of Parasurama. While Para- surama was away the Pasi shot some animals with his bow, and the deity was so enraged that he cursed the Pasi, and swore that his descendants should keep pigs. This accounts ^ Tribes and Castes, art. Arakh.

for the degradation of the Pfisis. Subsequently Parasurama sent for some Pfisis to help him in one of his wars ; but they ran away and hid in an arhar ' field and were hence called Arakhs." This connection with the Pasis is also recognised in the case of the Arakhs of Bcriir, of whom Mr. Kitts writes : " " The Arakhs found in Morsi are a race akin to the Bahelias. Their regular occupation is bird-catching and shikar (hunting). They do not follow Hindu customs in their marriages, but although they keep pigs, eat flesh and drink spirits, they will not touch a Chamar. They appear to be a branch of the Pasi tribe, and are described as a semi-Hinduised class of aborigines." In the Chanda District, however, the Arakhs are closely connected with the Gond tribe, as is evident from their system of exogamy. Thus they say that they are divided into the Matia, Tekam, Tesli, Godam, Madai, Sayam and Chorliu septs, worshipping respectively three, four, five, six, seven, eight and twelve gods ; and persons who worship the same number of gods cannot marry with one another. This system of divisions according to the different number of gods worshipped is found in the Central Provinces only among the Gonds and one or two other tribes like the Baigas, who have adopted it from them, and as some of the names given above are also Gondi words, no doubt need be entertained that the Arakhs of Chanda are largely of Gond descent. They are probably, in fact, the offspring of irregular connections between the Gonds and Pasis, who, being both frequenters of the forests, would naturally come much into contact with each other. And being disowned by the true Pasis on account of their defective pedigree, they have apparently set up as a separate caste and adopted the name of Arakh to hide the deficiencies of their ancestry.

The social customs of the Arakhs resemble those of other low Hindu castes, and need not be given in detail. Their weddings are held near a temple of Maroti, or if there be none such, then at the place where the Holi fire was lit in the preceding year. A bride-price varying from Rs. 25 to Rs. 40 is usually paid. In the case of the ' Cajanus indiciis. '^ BerCir Census Report (1881), p. 157.

marriage of a widow, the second husband goes to the house of the woman, where the couple are bathed and seated on two wooden boards, a branch of a cotton-plant being placed near them. The bridegroom then ties five strings of black glass beads round the woman's neck.


The dead are mourned for one day only, and a funeral feast is given to the caste- fellows. The Arakhs are a very low caste, but their touch does not convey impurity.

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