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



A famous tribe of dacoits i. intro- who flourished up to about 1850, and extended their depreda- ^^°l^ tions over the whole of Northern and Central India. The Bagris and Baorias or Bawarias still exist and are well known to the police as inveterate criminals ; but their operations are now confined to ordinary burglary, theft and cheating, and their more interesting profession of armed gang-robbery on a large scale is a thing of the past. The first part of this article is entirely compiled from the Report on their suppression drawn up by Colonel Sleeman/ who may be regarded as the virtual founder of the Thuggee and Dacoity Department, Some mention of the existing Bagri and Baoria tribes is added at the end.

The origin of the Badhaks is obscure, but they seem to 2. The have belonged to Gujarat, as their peculiar dialect, still in jj^coit^^ use, is a form of Gujarati. The most striking feature in it is the regular substitution of kh for s. They claimed to be ' Report on the Badhak or Bagri the Government of India for tlieir Dacoits and the Measjtres adopted Rajputs and were divided into clans with the well-known Rajput names of Solanki, Panwar, Dhundhel, Chauhan, Rathor, Gahlot, Bhatti and Charan.

Their ancestors were supposed to have fled from Chitor on one of the historical occasions on which it was assaulted and sacked. But as they spoke Gujarati it seems more probable that they be- longed to Gujarat, a fertile breeding-place of criminals, and they may have been descended from the alliances of Rajputs with the primitive tribes of this locality, the Bhils and Kolis. The existing Bagris are of short stature, one writer stating that none of them exceed five feet two inches in height ; and this seems to indicate that they have little Rajput blood. It may be surmised that the Badhaks rose into importance and found scope for their predatory instincts during the period of general disorder and absence of governing authority through which northern India passed after the decline of the Mughal Empire. And they lived and robbed with the connivance or open support of the petty chiefs and land- holders, to whom they gave a liberal share of their booty.

The principal bands were located in the Oudh forests, but they belonged to the whole of northern India including the Central Provinces ; and as Colonel Sleeman's Report, though of much interest, is now practically unknown, I have thought it not out of place to compile an article by means of short extracts from his account of the tribe. In 1822 the operations of the Badhaks were being conducted on such a scale that an officer wrote : " No District between the Brahmaputra, the Nerbudda, the Satlej and the Himalayas is free from them ; and within this vast field hardly any wealthy merchant or manufacturer could feel himself secure for a single night from the depredations of Badhak dacoits.

They had successfully attacked so many of the treasuries of our native Sub-Collectors that it was deemed necessary, all over the North-Western Provinces, to surround such buildings with extensive fortifications. In many cases they carried off our public treasure from strong parties of our regular troops and mounted police ; and none seemed to know whence they came or whither they fled with the booty acquired." '

Instances of dacoities

Colonel Sleeman thus described a dacoity in the town of 3. in- Narsinghpur when he was in charge of that District: "In February 1822, in the dusk of the evening, a party of about thirty persons, with nothing seemingly but walking-sticks in their hands, passed the piquet of sepoys on the bank of the rivulet which separates the cantonment from the town of Narsinghpur. On being challenged by the sentries they said they were cowherds and that their cattle were following close behind.

Tliey walked up the street ; and coming opposite the houses of the most wealthy merchants, they set their torches in a blaze by blowing suddenly on pots filled with combustibles, stabbed everybody who ventured to move or make the slightest noise, plundered the houses, and in ten minutes were away with their booty, leaving about twelve persons dead and wounded on the ground. No trace of them was discovered." Another well-known exploit of the Badhaks was the attack on the palace of the ex-Peshwa, Baji Rao, at Bithur near Cawnpore.

This was accomplished by a gang of about eighty men, who proceeded to the locality in the disguise of carriers of Ganges water. Having purchased a boat and a few muskets to intimidate the guard they crossed the Ganges about six miles below Bithur, and reached the place at ten o'clock at night ; and after wounding eighteen persons who attempted resistance they possessed themselves of property, chiefly in gold, to the value of more than two and a half lakhs of rupees ; and retiring without loss made their way in safety to their homes in the Oudh forests. The residence of this gang was known to a British police officer in the King of Oudh's service, Mr. Orr, and after a long delay on the part of the court an expedition was sent which recovered a portion of the treasure and captured two or three hundred of the Badhaks. But none of the recovered property reached the hands of Baji Rao and the prisoners were soon afterwards released.^ Again in 1S39, a gang of about fifty men under a well-known leader, Gajraj, scaled the walls of Jhansi and plundered the Surafa or bankers' quarter of the town for two hours, obtaining booty to the value of Rs. 40,000, which they carried off without the loss of a man. The following ^ Sleeman, p. 10. 2 Sleeman,

account of this raid was obtained by Colonel Sleeman from one of the robbers : ^ " The spy {hirrowd) having returned and reported that he had found a merchant's house in Jhansi which contained a good deal of property, we proceeded to a grove where we took the auspices by the process of akut (counting of grains) and found the omens favourable. We then rested three days and settled the rates according to which the booty should be shared. Four or five men, who were considered too feeble for the enter- prise, were sent back, and the rest, well armed, strong and full of courage, went on. In the evening of the fourth day we reached a plain about a mile from the town, where we rested to take breath for an hour ; about nine o'clock we got to the wall and remained under it till midnight, pre- paring the ladders from materials which we had collected on the road. They were placed to the wall and we entered and passed through the town without opposition. A mar- riage procession was going on before us and the people thought we belonged to it. We found the bankers' shops closed.

Thana and Saldewa, who carried the axes, soon broke them open, while Kulean lighted up his torch. Gajraj with twenty men entered, while the rest stood posted at the different avenues leading to the place. When all the pro- perty they could find had been collected, Gajraj hailed the god Hanuman and gave orders for the retreat. W^e got back safely to Mondegri in two days and a half, and then reposed for two or three days with the Raja of Narwar, with whom we left five or six of our stoutest men as a guard, and then returned home with our booty, consisting chiefly of diamonds, emeralds, gold and silver bullion, rupees and about sixty pounds of silver wire. None of our people were either killed or wounded, but whether any of the bankers' people were I know not."


Colonel Sleeman writes elsewhere " of the leader of the above exploit : " This Gajraj had risen from the vocation of a bandarwdla (monkey showman) to be the Robin Hood of Gwalior and the adjacent States ; he was the governor- general of banditti in that country of banditti and kept the whole in awe ; he had made himself so formidable that ^ Sleeman, p. 95. 2 Sleeman, p. 231.

the Durbar ap[)ointcd him to keep the g/idts or ferries over the Chambal, which he did in a very profitable manner to them and to himself, and none entered or quitted the country without paying blackmail." A common practice of the Badhaks, when in need of a little ready money, was to lie in wait for money-changers on their return from the markets. These men take their bags of money with them to the important bazars at a distance from their residence and return home with them after dusk.

The dacoits were accustomed to watch for them in the darkest and most retired places on the roads and fell them to the ground with their bludgeons. This device was often practised and usually succeeded.^ Of another Badhak chief, Meherban, it is stated " that he hired a discharged sepoy to instruct his followers in the European system of drill, that they might travel with him in the disguise of regular soldiers, well armed and accoutred. During the rains Meherban's spies (Jtirrowa) were sent to visit the great commercial towns and report any despatches of money or other valuables, which were to take place during the following open season. His own favourite disguise was that of a Hindu prince, while the remainder of the gang constituted his retinue and escort. On one occasion, assuming this character, he followed up a boat laden with Spanish dollars which was being sent from Calcutta to Benares ; and having attacked it at its moorings at Makrai, he killed one and wounded ten men of the guard and made off with 25,000 Spanish dollars and Rs. 2600 of the Company's coinage.

A part of the band were sent direct to the rendezvous previously arranged, while Meher- ban returned to the grove where he had left his women and proceeded with them in a more leisurely fashion to the same place. Retaining the character of a native prince he halted here for two days to celebrate the Holi festival. Marching thence with his women conveyed in covered litters by hired bearers who were changed at intervals, he proceeded to his bivouac in the Oudh forests ; and at Seosagar, one of his halting-places, he gave a large sum of money to a gardener to plant a grove of mango trees near a tank for the benefit of travellers, in the name of Raja Meherban Singh of Gaur ^ Sleeman, p. 217. '^ Sleeman, p. 20.

in Oudh ; and promised him further alms on future occa- sions of pilgrimage if he found the work progressing well, saying that it was a great shame that travellers should be compelled as he had been to halt without shade for them- selves or their families during the heat of the day. He arrived safely at his quarters in the forest and was received in the customary fashion by a procession of women in their best attire, who conducted him with dancing and music, like a victorious Roman Proconsul, to his fort.^ 5. Disguise But naturally not all the Badhaks could do things in mendF°"^ the Style of Meherban Singh. The disguise which they cants. most often assumed in the north was that of carriers of Ganges water, while in Central India they often pretended to be Banjaras travelling with pack-bullocks, or pilgrims, or wedding -parties going to fetch the bride or bridegroom. Sometimes also they took the character of religious mendicants, the leader being the high priest and all the rest his followers and disciples. One such gang, described by Colonel Sleeman," had four or five tents of white and dyed cloth, two or three pairs of 7iakkdras or kettle-drums and trumpets, with a great number of buffaloes, cows, goats, sheep and ponies. Some were clothed, but the bodies of the greater part were covered with nothing but ashes, paint and a small cloth waistband.

But they always provided themselves with five or six real Bairagis, whose services they purchased at a very high price. These men were put forward to answer questions in case of difficulty and to bully the landlords and peasantry ; and if the people demurred to the demands of the Badhaks, to intimidate them by tricks calculated to play upon the fears of the ignorant. They held in their hands a preparation of gun- powder resembling common ashes ; and when they found the people very stubborn they repeated their viafttras over this and threw it upon the thatch of the nearest house, to which it set fire. The explosion was caused by a kind of fusee held in the hand which the people could not see, and taking it for a miracle they paid all that was demanded. Another method was to pretend to be carrying the bones of dead relatives to the Ganges. The bones or ashes of ' Sleeman, p. 21. - Sleeman, p. 81. II COUNTENANCE AND S(/P/'0/CT OE LANDOWNERS 55 the deceased, says ' Colonel Slceman, are carried to the Ganges in bags, coloured red for females and white for males. These bags are considered holy, and are not allowed to touch the ground upon the way, and during halts in the journey are placed on poles or triangles. The carriers are regarded with respect as persons engaged upon a pious duty, and seldom questioned on the road.

When a gang assumed this disguise they proceeded to their place of rendezvous in small parties, some with red and some with white bags, in which they carried the bones of animals most resembling those of the human frame. These were supported on triangles formed of the shafts on which the spear -heads would be fitted when they reached their destination and had prepared for action. It would have been impossible for the Badhaks to exist 6. Counte- and flourish as they did without the protection of the land- "l^lj'^sup. owners on whose estates they lived ; and this they received port of in full measure in return for a liberal share of their booty, o^wners. When the chief of Karauli was called upon to dislodge a gang witliin his territory, he expressed apprehension that the coercion of the Badhaks might cause a revolution in the State. He was not at all singular, says Colonel Sleeman, in his fear of exasperating this formidable tribe of robbers. It was common to all the smaller chiefs and the provincial governors of the larger ones. They everywhere protected and fostered the Badhaks, as did the landholders ; and the highest of them associated with the leaders of gangs on terms of equality and confidence. It was very common for a chief or the governor of a district in times of great difficulty and personal danger to require from one of the leaders of such gangs a night-guard or palmig ki chauki : and no less so to entertain large bodies of them in the attack and defence of forts and camps whenever unusual courage and skill were required. The son of the Raja of Charda exchanged turbans with a Badhak leader, Mangal Singh, as a mark of the most intimate friendship. This episode recalls an alliance of similar character in Lorna Doom ; and indeed it would not be difficult to find several points of resemblance between the careers of the more enterprising Badhak leaders and the

Doones of Bagworthy ; but India produced no character on the model of John Ridd, and it was reserved for an Englishman, Colonel Sleeman, to achieve the suppression of the Badhaks as well as that of the Thugs. After the fortress and territory of Garhakota in Saugor had been taken by the Maharaja Sindhia, Zalim Singh, a cousin of the dispossessed Bundela chief, collected a force of Bundelas and Pindaris and ravaged the country round Garhakota in 1 8 1 3. In the course of his raid he sacked and burnt the town of Deori, and i 5,000 persons perished in the flames. Colonel Jean Baptiste, Sindhia's general, obtained a number of picked Badhaks from Rajputana and offered them a rich reward for the head of Zalim Singh ; and after watching his camp for three months they managed to come on him asleep in the tent of a dancing-girl, who was following his camp, and stabbed him to the heart. For this deed they received Rs. 20,000 from Baptiste with other valuable presents.

Their reputa- tion was indeed such that they were frequently employed at this period both by chiefs who desired to take the lives of others and by those who were anxious for the preservation of their own. When it happened that a gang was caught after a robbery in a native State, the custom was not infre- quently to make them over to the merchant whose property they had taken, with permission to keep them in confinement until they should refund his money ; and in this manner by giving up the whole or a part of the proceeds of their robbery they were enabled to regain their liberty. Even if they were sent before the courts, justice was at that time so corrupt as to permit of easy avenues of escape for those who could afford to pay ; and Colonel Sleeman records the deposition of a Badhak describing their methods of briber}^ : " When police officers arrest Badhaks their old women get round them and give them large sums of money ; and they either release them or get their depositions so written that their release shall be ordered by the magistrates. If they are brought to court, their old women, dressed in rags, follow them at a distance of three or four miles with a thousand or two thousand rupees upon ponies ; and these rupees they distribute among the native officers of the court and get the Badhaks released. These old women first ascertain from the people of the villages

who are the Nazirs and Munshis of influence, and wait upon them at their houses and make their bargains. If the officials cannot effect their release, they take money from the old women and send them off to the Sadar Court, with letters of introduction to their friends, and advice as to the rate they shall pay to each according to his supposed influ- ence. This is the way that all our leaders get released, and hardly any but useless men are left in confinement." ^ It may be noticed that these robbers took the utmost

7. Pride in pleasure in their calling, and were most averse to the idea of profession. giving it up and taking to honest pursuits. " Some of the men with me," one magistrate wrote," " have been in jail for twenty, and one man for thirty years, and still do not appear to have any idea of abandoning their illegal vocation ; even now, indeed, they look on what we consider an honest means of livelihood with the most marked contempt ; and in relating their excursions talk of them with the greatest pleasure, much in the way an eager sportsman describes a boar-chase or fox-hunt. While talking of their excursions, which were to me really very interesting, their eyes gleamed with pleasure ; and beating their hands on their foreheads and breasts and muttering some ejaculation they bewailed the hardness of their lot, which now ensured their never again being able to participate in such a joyous occupation." Another Badhak, on being examined, said he could not recall a case of one of the community having ever given up the trade of dacoity. " None ever did, I am certain of it, " he continued.^ " After having been arrested, on our release we frequently take lands, to make it appear we have left off dacoity, but we never do so in reality ; it is only done as a feint and to enable our zamindars (landowners) to screen us." They sometimes paid rent for their land at the rate of thirty rupees an acre, in return for the countenance and protection afforded by the zamindars. " Our profession," another Badhak remarked,'* " has been a PadsJidhi Kdin (a king's trade) ; we have attacked and seized boldly the thousands and hundreds of thousands that we have freely

1 Sleeman, p. 152. Mr. Ramsay. ^ Sleeman, p. 127. This passage is -^ Sleeman, p. 129. from a letter written by a magistrate, * Sleeman, p. 112.

and nobly spent ; we have been all our lives wallowing in wealth and basking in freedom, and find it hard to manage with the few copper pice a day we get from you," At the time when captures were numerous, and the idea was enter- tained of inducing the dacoits to settle in villages and sup- porting them until they had been trained to labour, several of them, on being asked how much they would require to support themselves, replied that they could not manage on less than two rupees a day, having earned quite that sum by dacoity.

This amount would be more than twenty times the wages of an ordinary labourer at the same period. Another witness put the amount at one to two rupees a day, remark- ing, ' We are great persons for eating and drinking, and we keep several wives according to our means.' Of some of them Colonel Sleeman had a high opinion, and he mentions the case of one man, Ajit Singh, who was drafted into the native army and rose to be commander of a company. " I have seldom seen a man," he wrote,^ " whom I would rather have with me in scenes of peril and difficulty." An attempt of the King of Oudh's, however, to form a regiment of Badhaks had ended in failure, as after a short time they mutinied, beat their commandant and other officers and turned them out of the regiment, giving as their reason that the officers had refused to perform the same duties as the men.

And they visited with the same treatment all the other officers sent to them, until they were disbanded by the British on the province of Allahabad being made over to the Company. Colonel Sleeman notes that they were never known to offer any other violence or insult to females than to make them give up any gold ornaments that they might have about their persons. " In all my inquiries into the character, habits and conduct of these gangs, I have never found an instance of a female having been otherwise dis- graced or insulted by them. They are all Hindus, and this reverence for the sex pervades all Hindu society." " Accord- ing to their own account also they never committed murder ; if people opposed them they struck and killed like soldiers, but this was considered to be in fair fight. It may be noted, nevertheless, that they had little idea of clan loyalty, and


informed very freely against their fellows when this course was to their advantage. They also stated that they could not settle in towns ; they had always been accustomed to live in the jungles and commit dacoitics upon the people of the towns as a kind of shikar (sport) ; they delighted in it, and they felt living in towns or among other men as a kind of prison, and got quite confused {ghabrdye), and their women even more than the men. The Badhaks had a regular caste organisation, and 8. Caste I H members of the different clans married with each other like I^'^^^ig^"^,, the Rajputs after whom they were named. They admitted ofout- freely into the community members of any respectable Hindu caste, but not the impure castes or Muhammadans. But at least one instance of the admission of a Muham- madan is given.^

The Badhaks were often known to the people as Siarkhavva or jackal-eaters, or Sabkhawa, those who eat everything. And the Muhammadan in question was given jackal's flesh to eat, and having partaken of it was considered to have become a member of the com- munity. This indicates that the Badhaks were probably accustomed to eat the flesh of the jackal at a sacrificial meal, and hence that they worshipped the jackal, revering it probably as the deity of the forests where they lived. Such a veneration would account for the importance attached to the jackal's cry as an omen.

The fact of their eating jackals also points to the conclusion that the Badhaks were not Rajputs, but a low hunting caste like the Pardhis and Bahelias. The Pardhis have Rajput sept names as well as the Badhaks. No doubt a few outcaste Rajputs may have joined the gangs and become their leaders. Others, however, said that they abstained from the flesh of jackals, snakes, foxes and cows and buffaloes. Children were frequently adopted, being purchased in large numbers in time of famine, and also occasionally kidnapped. They were brought up to the trade of dacoity, and if they showed sufficient aptitude for it were taken out on expeditions, but otherwise left at home to manage the household affairs. They were married to other adopted children and were known as Ghulami or Slave Badhaks, like the Jangar ^ Sleeman, p. 147.

==Banjaras== Banjaras

and like them also, after some generations, when their real origin had been forgotten, they became full Badhaks. It was very advantageous to a Badhak to have a number of children, because all plunder obtained was divided in regularly apportioned shares among the whole community. Men who were too old to go on dacoity also received their share, and all children, even babies born during the absence of the expedition. The Badhaks said that this rule was enforced because they thought it an advantage to the community that families should be large and their numbers should increase ; from which statement it must be concluded that they seldom suffered any strin- gency from lack of spoil. They also stated that Badhak widows would go and find a second husband from among the regular population, and as a rule would sooner or later persuade him to join the Badhaks. 9. Reii- Like other Indian criminals the Badhaks were of a very ^!?".' . religious or superstitious disposition. They considered the offerings to •=• ^ ^ _ ' _ ancestors, gods of the Hindu creed as favouring their undertakings so long as they were suitably propitiated by offering to their temples and priests, and the spirits of the most distinguished of their ancestors as exercising a vicarious authority under these deities in guiding them to their prey and warning them of danger.^ The following is an account of a Badhak sacrifice given to Colonel Sleeman by the Ajit Singh already mentioned. It was in celebration of a dacoity in which they had obtained Rs. 40,000, out of which Rs. 4500 were set aside for sacrifices to the gods and charity to the poor. AjTt Singh said : " For offerings to the gods we purchase goats, sweet cakes and spirits ; and having prepared a feast we throw a handful of the savoury food upon the fire in the name of the gods who have most assisted us ; but of the feast so consecrated no female but a virgin can partake. The offering is made through the man who has successfully invoked the god on that particular occasion ; and, as my god had guided us this time, I was employed to prepare the feast for him and to throw the offering upon the fire.

The offering must be taken up before the feast is touched and put upon the ' Sleeman, p. 104. II Ol'FERINGS TO ANCESTORS 6i fire, and a little water must be sprinkled on it. The savoury smell of the food as it burns feaches the nostrils of the j^od and delights him. On this as on most occasions I invoked the spirit of Ganga Singh, my grandfather, and to him I made the offering. I considered him to be the greatest of all my ancestors as a robber, and him I invoked on this solemn occasion. He never failed me when I invoked him, and I had the greatest confidence in his aid. The spirits of our ancestors can easily see whether we shall succeed in what we are about to undertake ; and when we are to succeed they order us on, and when we are not they make signs to us to desist." Their mode ^ of ascertaining which of their ancestors interested himself most in their affairs was commonly this, that whenever a person talked inco- herently in a fever or an epileptic fit, the spirit of one or other of his ancestors was supposed to be upon him. If they were in doubt as to whose spirit it was, one of them threw down some grains of wheat or coloured glass beads, a pinch at a time, saying the name of the ancestor he supposed the most likely to be at work and calling odd or even as he pleased. If the number proved to be as he called it several times running while that name was repeated, they felt secure of their family god, and proceeded at once to sacrifice a goat or something else in his name. When they were being hunted down and arrested by Colonel Sleeman and his assistants, they ascribed their misfortunes to the anger of the goddess Kali, because they had infringed her rules and disregarded her signs, and said that their forefathers had often told them they would one day be punished for their disobedience." Whenever one of the gang was wounded and was taken lo.

The with his wounds bleeding near a place haunted by a spirit, hTumed'^b they believed the spirit got angry and took hold of him,^ spirits. in the manner described by Ajit Singh as follows: "The spirit comes upon him in all kinds of shapes, sometimes in that of a buffalo, at others in that of a woman, some- times in the air above and sometimes from the ground below ; but no one can see him except the wounded person 1 Sleeman, p. no. - Sleeman, p. 131. ^ Sleeman, p. 205.

he is angry with and wants to punish. Upon such a wounded person we always ^lace a naked sword or some other sharp steel instrument, as spirits are much afraid of weapons of this kind. If there be any good conjurer at hand to charm away the spirits from the person wounded he recovers, but nothing else can save him." In one case a dacoit named Ghlsa had been severely wounded in an encounter and was seized by the spirit of a banyan tree as he was being taken away : " We made a litter with our ropes and cloaks thrown over them and on this he was carried off by four of our party ; at half a mile distant the road passed under a large banyan tree and as the four men carried him along under the tree, the spirit of the place fell upon him and the four men who carried him fell down with the shock. They could not raise him again, so much were they frightened, and four other men were obliged to lift him and carry him off." The man died of his wounds soon after they reached the halting-place, and in commenting on this Ajit Singh continued : " When the spirit seized Ghisa under the tree we had unfortunately no conjurer, and he, poor fellow, died in consequence. It was evident that a spirit had got hold of him, for he could not keep his head upright ; it always fell down upon his right or left shoulder as often as we tried to put it right ; and he complained much of a pain in the region of the liver. We therefore concluded that the spirit had broken his neck and was consuming his liver." II. Pious Like pious Hindus as they were, the Badhaks w^ere funeral ob- accustomcd, whcncvcr it was possible, to preserve the bones servances. r > r of their dead after the body had been burnt and carry them to the Ganges, If this was not possible, however, and the exigencies of their profession obliged them to make away with the body without the performance of due funeral rites, they cut off two or three fingers and sent these to the Ganges to be deposited instead of the whole body.^ In one case a dacoit, Kundana, was killed in an affray, and the others carried off his body and thrust it into a porcupine's hole after cutting off three of the fingers. " We gave Kundana's fingers to his mother," Ajit Singh stated, " and she sent them ' Sleeman, p. io6.

with due offerings and ceremonies to the Ganges by the hands of the family priest. She gave this priest money to purchase a cow, to be presented to the priests in the name of her deceased son, and to distribute in charity to the poor and to holy men. She got from us for these purposes eighty rupees over and above her son's share of the booty, while his widow and children continued to receive their usual share of the takings of the gang so long as they remained with us." Before setting out on an expedition it was their regular 12- Taking custom to take the omens, and the following account may be quoted of the preliminaries to an expedition of the great leader, Meherban Singh, who has already been mentioned : " In the latter end of that year, Meherban and his brother set out and assembled their friends on the bank of the Bisori river, where the rate at which each member of the party should share in the spoil was determined in order to secure to the dependants of any one who should fall in the enter- prise their due share, as well as to prevent inconvenient disputes during and after the expedition. The party assembled on this occasion, including women and children, amounted to two hundred, and when the shares had been determined the goats were sacrificed for the feast. Each leader and member of the gang dipped his finger in the blood and swore fidelity to his engagements and his asso- ciates under all circumstances.

The v^hole feasted together and drank freely till the next evening, when Meherban advanced with about twenty of the principal persons to a spot chosen a little way from the camp on the road they proposed to take in the expedition, and lifting up his hands in supplication said aloud, ' If it be thy will, O God, and thine, Kali, to prosper our undertaking for the sake of the blind and the lame, tJie widoiv and tJie orpJian, who depend upon our exertions for subsistence, vouchsafe, we pray thee, the call of the female jackal.' All his followers held up their hands in the same manner and repeated these words after him. All then sat down and waited in silence for the reply or spoke only in whispers. At last the cry of the female jackal was heard three times on the left, and believing her to have been inspired by the deity for

their guidance they were all much rejoiced." The follow- ing was another more elaborate method of taking omens described by Ajit Singh : " When we speak of seeking omens from our gods or Devi Deota, we mean the spirits of those of our ancestors who performed great exploits in dacoity in their day, gained a great name and established lasting reputations. For instance, Mahajit, my grandfather, and Sahiba, his father, are called gods and admitted to be so by us all.

We have all of us some such gods to be proud of among our ancestors ; we propitiate them and ask for favourable omens from them before we enter upon any enterprise. We sometimes propitiate the Suraj Deota (sun god) and seek good omens from him. We get tv/o or three goats or rams, and sometimes even ten or eleven, at the place where we determine to take the auspices, and having assembled the principal men of the gang we put water into the mouth of one of them and pray to the sun and to our ancestors thus : ' O thou Sun God ! And O all ye other Gods ! If we are to succeed in the enter- prise we are about to undertake we pray you to cause these goats to shake their bodies.' If they do not shake them after the gods have been thus duly invoked, the enter- prise must not be entered upon and the goats are not sacrificed. We then try the auspices with wheat. We burn frankincense and scented wood and blow a shell ; and taking out a pinch of wheat grains, put them on the cloth and count them. If they come up odd the omen is favour- able, and if even it is bad. After this, which we call the auspices of the Akut, we take that of the Siarni or female jackal. If it calls on the left it is good, but if on the right bad. If the omens turn out favourable in all three trials then we have no fear whatever, but if they are favour- able in only one trial out of the three the enterprise must be given up." 13. Sup- Between 1837 and 1849 the suppression of the regular dacoTt°" °^ practice of armed dacoity was practically achieved by Colonel Sleeman. A number of officers were placed under his orders, and with small bodies of military and police were set to hunt down different bands of dacoits, following them all over India when necessary. And special Acts were passed to II HA 1)11AKS OR liAORlS AR TllJi J'RKSJiNI' 77/1//:' 65 enable the offence of dacoity, wherever committed, to be tried by a com[)ctent magistrate in any part of India as had been done in the case of the Thugs. Many of the Badhaks received conditional pardons, and were drafted into the police in different stations, and an agricultural labour colony was also formed, but does not seem to have been altogether successful.

During these twelve years more than 1200 dacoits in all were brought to trial, while some were killed during the operations, and no doubt many others escaped and took to other avocations, or became ordinary criminals when their armed gangs were broken up. In 1825 it had been estimated that the Oudh forests alone contained from 4000 to 6000 dacoits, while the property stolen in 1 8 i i from known dacoities was valued at ten lakhs of rupees. The Badhaks still exist, and are well known as one m- The of the worst classes of criminals, practising ordinary o'rBaori's house-breaking and theft. The name Badhak is now less at the commonly used than those of Bagri and Baori or Bawaria, time!" both of which were borne by the original Badhaks. The word Bagri is derived from a tract of country in Malwa which is known as the Bagar or ' hedge of thorns,' because it is surrounded on all sides by wooded hills.^ There are Bagri Jats and Bagri Rajputs, many of whom are now highly respectable landholders. Bawaria or Baori is derived from bdnwar, a creeper, or the tendril of a vine, and hence a noose made originally from some fibrous plant and used for trapping animals, this being one of the primary occupa- tions of the tribe.

The term Badhak signifies a hunter or fowler, hence a robber or murderer (Platts). The Bagris and Bawarias are sometimes considered to be separate communities, but it is doubtful whether there is any real distinction between them. In Bombay the Bagris are known as Vaghris by the common change of b into v. A good description of them is contained in Appendix C to Mr. Bhimbhai Kirparam's volume Hindus of Gujarat in the Bombay Gazetteer. He divides them into the Chunaria or lime-burners, the Datonia or sellers of twig tooth-brushes, and two other groups, and states that, " They also keep ^ Malcolm's Memoir of Central ^ Ciooke's Tribes and Castes, art. India, ii. p. 479. Bawaria. VOL. II F hunting

fowls and sell eggs, catch birds and go as shikaris or hunters. They traffic in green parrots, which they buy from Bhils and sell for a profit." 15. Lizard- Their strength and powers of endurance are great, the same writer states, and they consider that these qualities are obtained by the eating of the goh and sdndJia or iguana lizards, which a Vaghri prizes very highly. This is also the case with the Bawarias of the Punjab, who go out hunting lizards in the rains and may be seen returning with baskets full of live lizards, which exist for days without food and are killed and eaten fresh by degrees. Their metnod of hunting the lizard is described by Mr. Wilson as follows : ^ " The lizard lives on grass, cannot bite severely, and is sluggish in his movements, so that he is easily caught. He digs a hole for himself of no great depth, and the easiest way to take him is to look out for the scarcely perceptible airhole and dig him out ; but there are various ways of saving oneself this trouble. One, which I have seen, takes advantage of a habit the lizard has in cold weather (when he never comes out of his hole) of coming to the mouth for air and warmth.

The Chuhra or other sportsman puts off his shoes and steals along the prairie till he sees signs of a lizard's hole. This he approaches on tiptoe, raising over his head with both hands a mallet with a round sharp point, and fixing his eyes intently upon the hole. When close enough he brings down his mallet with all his might on the ground just behind the mouth of the hole, and is often successful in breaking the lizard's back before he awakes to a sense of his danger. Another plan, which I have not seen, is to tie a wisp of grass to a long stick and move it over the hole so as to make a rustling noise. The lizard within thinks, * Oh here's a snake ! I may as well give in,' and comes to the mouth of the hole, putting out his tail first so that he may not see his executioner. The sportsman seizes his tail and snatches him out before he has time to learn his mistake." This common fondness for lizards is a point in favour of a connection between the Gujarat Vaghris and the Punjab Bawarias.

In Sirsa the great mass of the Bawarias are not given to ^ Sirsa Settlement Report. II SOCIAL OUSERVA NCES—CRIM1NA I. I'NACl'lCliS 67 crime, and in Gujarat also they do not appear to have s[)ccial )'>. Suti.ii criminal tendencies. It is a curious point, however, that ^^^l^' Mr. Bhimbhai Kirparam emphasises the chastity of the women of the Gujarat Vagjhris.^ " When a family returns home after a money-making tour to Bombay or some other city, the women are taken before Vihat (Devi), and with the women is brought a buffalo or a sheep that is tethered in front of Vihat's shrine. They must confess all, even their slightest shortcomings, such as the following : ' Two weeks ago, when begging in Parsi Bazar-street, a drunken sailor caught me by the hand. Another day a Miyan or Musalmiin ogled me, and forgive me, Devi, my looks encouraged him.' If Devi is satisfied the sheep or buffalo shivers, and is then sacrificed and provides a feast for the caste. " "" On the other hand, Mr. Crooke states^ that in northern India, "The standard of morality is very low because in Muzaffarnagar it is extremely rare for a Bawaria woman to live with her husband. Almost invariably she lives with another man : but the official husband is responsible for the children." The great difference in the standard of morality is certainly surprising.

In Gujarat"* the Vaghris have gurus or religious pre- ceptors of their own. These men take an eight-anna silver piece and whisper in the ear of their disciples " Be immortal." . . . "The Bhuvas or priest- mediums play an important part in many Vaghri ceremonies. A Bhuva is a male child born after the mother has made a vow to the goddess Vihat or Devi that if a son be granted to her she will devote him to the service of the goddess. No Bhuva may cut or shave his hair on pain of a fine of ten rupees, and no Bhuva may eat carrion or food cooked by a Muhammadan." The criminal Bagris still usually travel about in the 17- Crim- disguise of Gosains and Bairagis, and are very difficult of practices, detection except to real religious mendicants. Their house- breaking implement or jemmy is known as Gjdn, but in speaking of it they always add Das, so that it sounds like

1 It would appear that the Gujarat ^ Ajj-, Bawaria, quoting from North Vaghris are a distinct class from the Indian Notes and Queries, i. 5 1 . criminal section of the tribe. 2 Bombay Gazetteer, Gujarat Hin- •* Bombay Gazetteer, Hindus of dtis, p. 514. Gujarat, p. 574.

the name of a Bairagi.^ They are usually very much afraid of the gydn being discovered on their persons, and are careful to bury it in the ground at each halting-place, while on the march it may be concealed in a pack-saddle. The means of identifying them, Mr. Kennedy remarks,'^ is by their family dco or god, which they carry about when wandering with their families. It consists of a brass or copper box contain- ing grains of wheat and the seeds of a creeper, both soaked in ghi (melted butter). The box with a peacock's feather and a bell is wrapped in two white and then in two red cloths, one of the white cloths having the print of a man's hand dipped in goat's blood upon it. The grains of wheat are used for taking the omens, a few being thrown up at sun- down and counted afterwards to see whether they are odd or even. When even, two grains are placed on the right hand of the omen -taker, and if this occurs three times running the auspices are considered to be favourable.

Mr. Gayer ^ notes that the Badhaks have usually from one to three brands from a hot iron on the inside of their left wrist. Those of them who are hunters brand the muscles of the left wrist in order to steady the hand when firing their matchlocks. The customs of wearing a peculiar necklace of small wooden beads and a kind of gold pin fixed to the front teeth, which Mr. Crooke ^ records as having been prevalent some years ago, have apparently been since abandoned, as they are not mentioned in more recent accounts. The Dehliwal and Malpura Baorias have, Mr. Kennedy states,^ an interesting system of signs, which they mark on the walls of buildings at important corners, bridges and cross- roads and on the ground by the roadside with a stick, if no building is handy. The commonest is a loop, the straight line indicating the direction a gang or individual has taken : IIL

' Gunlhorpe's Criminal Tribes. * C. P. Police Lccliircs, art. Badhak. '^ Criminal Classes in ike Bombay ^ ^ ^ -,^- n J J' ^^[_ hawaria, i)aia. 12. Presidency, p. 151. ' ^ Gunthorpe's Criminal Tribes, art. " Criminal Classes in the Bombay Badhak. Presidency, p. 179.

Tlic addition of a number of vertical strokes inside the loop sii^nifics the luiinber of males in a gang. If these strokes are enclosed by a circle it means that the gang is encamped in the vicinity ; while a square inside a circle and line as below means that property has been secured by friends who © have left in the direction pointed by the line. It is said that Baorias will follow one another up for fifty or even a hundred miles by means of these hieroglyphics. The signs are bold marks, sometimes even a foot or more in length, and are made where they will at once catch the eye. When the Murwari Baorias desire to indicate to others of their caste, who may follow in their footsteps, the route taken, a member of the gang, usually a woman, trails a stick in the dust as she walks along, leaving a spiral track on the ground. Another method of indicating the route taken is to place leaves under stones at intervals along the road.^ The form of crime most in favour among the ordinary Baoris is house- breaking by night.

Their common practice is to make a hole in the wall beside the door through which the hand passes to raise the latch ; and only occasionally they dig a hole in the base of the wall to admit of the passage of a man, while another favoured alternative is to break in through a barred window, the bars being quickly and forcibly bent and drawn out.^ One class of Marwari Bagris are also expert coiners.

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