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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 the original book. Therefore, footnotes have got inserted into the main text of the article, interrupting the flow. Readers who spot these footnotes gone astray might like to shift them to their correct place.


The tribe and its offshoots

A primitive Dravidian tribe whose home is i. The on the eastern Satpura hills in the Mandla, Balaghfit and jj^ l^^ Bilaspur Districts. The number of the Baigas proper was shoots. only 30,000 in 191 i. But the Binjhals or Binjhwars, a fairly numerous caste in the Chhattlsgarh Division, and especially in the Sambalpur District, appear to have been originally Baigas, though they have dropped the original caste name, become Hinduised, and now disclaim connection with the parent tribe.

A reason for this may be found in the fact that Sambalpur contains several Binjhwar zamlndars, or large landowners, whose families would naturally desire a more respectable pedigree than one giving them the wild Baigas of the Satpuras for their forefathers. And the evolu- tion 9f the Binjhwar caste is a similar phenomenon to the constitution of the Raj-Gonds, the Raj-Korkus, and other aristocratic subdivisions among the forest tribes, who have been admitted to a respectable position in the Hindu social community.

The Binjhwars, however, have been so success- ful as to cut themselves off almost completely from connec- tion with the original tribe, owing to their adoption of another name. But in Balaghat and Mandla the Binjhwar 1 This article is based largely on a Ali Haqqani, B.A., Tahsildar, Dindori. monograph by the Rev. J- Lampard, Some extracts have been made from missionary, Baihar, and also on papers Colonel Ward's Mandla Settlement by Muhammad Hanlf Siddlqi, forest Report (1869), and from Colonel ranger, Bilaspur, and Mr. Muhammad Bloomfield's Azotes on ike Baigas.

subtribe is still recognised as tiie most civilised subdivision of the Baigas. The Bhainas, a small tribe in Bilaspur, are probably another offshoot, Kath-Bhaina being the name of a subtribe of Baigas in that District, and Rai-Bhaina in Balaghat, though the Bhainas too no longer admit identity with the Baigas. A feature common to all three branches is that they have forgotten their original tongue, and now speak a more or less corrupt form of the Indo- Aryan vernaculars current around them.

Finally, the term Bhumia or ' Lord of the soil ' is used sometimes as the name of a separate tribe and sometimes as a synonym for Baiga. The fact is that in the Central Provinces ^ Bhumia is the name of an office, that of the priest of the village and local deities, which is held by one of the forest tribes. In the tract where the Baigas live, they, as the most ancient residents, are usually the priests of the indigenous gods ; but in Jubbulpore the same office is held by another tribe, the Bharias.

The name of the office often attaches itself to members of the tribe, who consider it as somewhat more respectable than their own, and it is therefore generally true to say that the people known as Bhumias in Jubbulpore are really Bharias, but in Mandla and Bilaspur they are Baigas. In Mandla there is also found a group called Bharia- Baigas. These are employed as village priests by Hindus, and worship certain Hindu deities and not the Gond gods. They may perhaps be members of the Bharia tribe of Jubbulpore, originally derived from the Bhars, who have obtained the designation of Baiga, owing to their employ- ment as village priests.

But they now consider themselves a part of the Baiga tribe and say they came to Mandla from Rewah. In Mandla the decision of a Baiga on a boundary dispute is almost always considered as final, and this authority is of a kind that commonly emanates from recognised priority of residence." There seems reason to suppose that the Baigas are really a branch of the primitive Bhuiya tribe of Chota Nagpur, and that they have taken or been given the name of Baiga, the designation of a village priest, on migration into the Central Provinces.

There is reason to ' In Bengal tlie Tihumia or BhumTj ^ Colonel Ward's Mandla Settlement are an iniportanl tribe. Report (1868-69), P- 'SS-


believe tluit the Haiijas were once dominant in the Clihat- tist^arh phu'n and the hills surrounding^ it wiiich adjoin Chota Nai;[)ur, the home of the Bhuiyas. The considera- tions in favour of this view are given in the article on Bhuiya, to which reference may be made. The Baigas, however, are not without some conceit of 2. rribai themselves, as the following legend will show. In the *^^'^" ^' beginning, they say, God created Nanga Baiga and Nangi Baigin, the first of the human race, and asked them by what calling they would choose to live.

They at once said that they would make their living by felling trees in the jungle, and permission being accorded, have done so ever since. They had two sons, one of whom remained a Baiga, while the other became a Gond and a tiller of the soil. The sons married their own two sisters who were afterwards born, and while the elder couple are the ancestors of the Baigas, from the younger are descended the Gonds and all the remainder of the human race. In another version of the story the first Baiga cut down two thousand old sal^ trees in one day, and God told him to sprinkle a few grains of kutki on the ashes, and then to retire and sleep for some months, when on his return he would be able to reap a rich harvest for his children.

In this manner the habit of shifting cultivation is accorded divine sanction. According to Binjhwar tradition Nanga Baiga and Nangi Baigin dwelt on the kajli ban paJidr, which being interpreted is the hill of elephants, and may well refer to the ranges of Mandla and Bilaspur. It is stated in the Ain-i-Akbari~ that the country of Garha- Mandla abounded in wild elephants, and that the people paid their tribute in these and gold mohurs. In Mandla the Baigas sometimes hang out from their houses a bamboo mat fastened to a long pole to represent a flag which they say once flew from the palace of a Baiga king. It seems likely that the original home of the tribe may have been the Chhattlsgarh plain and the hill-ranges surrounding it. A number of estates in these hills are held by landowners of tribes which are offshoots of the Baigas, as the Bhainas and Binjhwars.

The point is

1 Skorea rohnsta. ^ Jarrett's Ain-i-Akbari, vol. ii. p. ig6.

further discussed in the article on Bhuiya. Most of the Baigas speak a corrupt form of the Chhattisgarhi dialect. When they first came under the detailed observation of English officers in the middle of the nineteenth century, the tribe were even more solitary and retired than at present. Their villages, it is said, were only to be found in places far removed from all cleared and cultivated country. No roads or well-defined paths connected them with ordinary lines of traffic and more thickly inhabited tracts, but perched away in snug corners in the hills, and hidden by convenient projecting spurs and dense forests from the country round, they could not be seen except when nearly approached, and were seldom visited unless by occasional enterprising Banias and vendors of country liquor.

Indeed, without a Baiga for a guide many of the villages could hardly be dis- covered, for nothing but occasional notches on the trees distineuished the tracks to them from those of the sambhar and other wild animals. The following seven subdivisions or subtribes are recog- nised : Binjhwar, Bharotia, Narotia or Nahar, Raibhaina, Kathbhaina, Kondwan or Kundi, and Gondwaina. Of these the Binjhwar, Bharotia and Narotia are the best -known. The name of the Binjhwars is probably derived from the Vindhyan range, which in turn comes from the Sanskrit vindliya, a hunter. The rule of exogamy is by no means strictly observed, and in Kawardha it is said that these three subcastes intermarry though they do not eat together, while in Balaghat the Bharotias and Narotias both eat together and intermarry.

In both places the Binjhwars occupy the highest position, and the other two subtribes will take food from them. The Binjhwars consider themselves as Hindus and abjure the consumption of buffalo's and cow's flesh and rats, while the other Baigas will eat almost any- thing. The Bharotias partially shave their heads, and in Mandla are apparently known as Mundia or Mudia, or " shaven." The Gondwainas eat both cow's flesh and monkeys, and are regarded as the lowest subcaste. As shown by their name they are probably the offspring of unions between Baigas and Gonds. Similarly the Kondwans apparently derive their name from the tract south of the

Mahfinadi which is tKuncd after tlic Khoiid tribe, and was formerly owned by them. Each sLibtribe is divided into a number of exogamous septs, the names of which are identical in many cases with those of the Gonds, as Markam, Maravi, Netam, Tekam and others. Gond names are found most frequently among the Gondwainas and Narotias, and these have adopted from the Gonds the prohibition of marriage between worshippers of the same number of gods. Thus the four septs above mentioned worship seven gods and may not intermarry. But they may marry among other septs such as the Dhurua, Pusam, Bania and Mawar who worship six gods. The Baigas do not appear to have assimilated the further division into worshippers of five, four, three and two gods which exists among the Gonds in some localities, and the system is confined to the lower subtribes.

The meanings of the sept names have been forgotten and no instances of totemism are known. And the Binjhwars and Bharotias, who are more or less Hinduised, have now adopted territorial names for their septs, as Lapheya from Lapha zamlndari, Ghugharia from Ghughri village in Mandia, and so on. The adoption of Gond names and septs appears to indicate that Gonds were in former times freely admitted into the Baiga tribe ; and this continues to be the case at present among the lower subtribes, so far that a Gond girl marrying a Baiga becomes a regular member of the community. But the Binjhwars and Bharotias, who have a somewhat higher status than the others, refuse to admit Gonds, and are gradually adopting the strict rule" of endogamy within the subtribe. A Baiga must not take a wife from his own sept or from

4. Mar- another one worshipping the same number of gods. But he "^^^' may marry within his mother's sept, and in some localities the union of first cousins is permitted. Marriage is adult and the proposal comes from the parents of the bride, but in some places the girl is allowed to select a husband for herself A price varying from five to twenty rupees is usually paid to the bride's parents, or in lieu of this the prospective husband serves his father-in-law for a period of about two years, the marriage being celebrated after the first year if his conduct is satisfactory.

their marriages for them often take service for a wife. Three ceremonies should precede the marriage. The first, which may take place at any time after the birth of both children, consists merely in the arrangement for their betrothal. The second is only a ratification of the first, feasts being provided by the boy's parents on both occasions. While on the ap- proach of the children to marriageable age the final betrothal or barokhi is held. The boy's father gives a large feast at the house of the girl and the date of the wedding is fixed.

To ascertain whether the union will be auspicious, two grains of rice are dropped into a pot of water, after various preliminary solemnities to mark the importance of the occa- sion. If the points of the grains meet almost immediately it is considered that the marriage will be highly auspicious. If they do not meet, a second pair of grains are dropped in, and should these meet it is believed that the couple will quarrel after an interval of married life and that the wife will return to her father's house. While if neither of the two first essays are successful and a third pair is required, the regrettable conclusion is arrived at that the wife will run away with another man after a very short stay with her hus- band.

But it is not stated that the betrothal is on that account annulled. The wedding procession starts from the bridegroom's house ^ and is received by the bride's father out- side the village. It is considered essential that he should go out to meet the bride's party riding on an elephant. But as a real elephant is not within the means of a Baiga, two wooden bedsteads are lashed together and covered with blankets with a black cloth trunk in front, and this arrange- ment passes muster for an elephant. The elephant makes pretence to charge and trample down the marriage procession, until a rupee is paid, when the two parties embrace each other and proceed to the marriage-shed. Here the bride and bridegroom throw fried rice at each other until they are tired, and then walk three or seven times round the marriage-post with their clothes tied together.

It is stated by Colonel Ward that the couple always retired to the forest to spend ' Colonel Ward gives the bride's custom formerly existed it has been house as among the Gonds. But in- abandoned, (juiry in Mandla shows that if tliis

the wedding night, but this custom has now been abandoned. The expenditure on a marriage varies between ten and fifty rupees, of which only about five rupees fall on the bride's l)arents. The remarriage of widows is permitted, and the widow is expected, though not obliged, to wed her late hus- band's younger brother, while if she takes another husband he must pay her brother-in-law the sum of five rupees.

The ceremony consists merely of the presentation of bangles and new clothes by the suitor, in token of her acceptance of which the widow pours some tepid water stained with turmeric over his head. Divorce may be effected by the husband and wife breaking a straw in the presence of the caste panchdyat or committee. If the woman remains in the same village and does not marry again, the husband is responsible for her maintenance and that of her children, while a divorced woman may not remarry without the sanction of the pancJiayat so long as her husband is alive and remains single. Polygamy is permitted.

A woman is unclean for a month after childbirth, though 5. Birth the Binjhwars restrict the period to eight days. At the ceremony of purification a feast is given and the child is named, often after the month or day of its birth, as Chaitu, Phagu, Saoni, and so on, from the months of Chait, Phagun and Shrawan. Children who appear to be physically defective are given names accordingly, such as Langra (lame), or Bahira (deaf). The dead are usually buried, the bodies of old persons being burnt as a special honour and to save them from the risk of being devoured by wild animals. Bodies are laid naked in the grave with the head pointing to the south. In the grave of a man of im- portance two or three rupees and some tobacco are placed. In some places a rupee is thrust into the mouth of the dying man, and if his body is burnt, the coin is recovered from the pyre by his daughter or sister, who wears it as an amulet. Over the grave a platform is made on which a stone is erected.

This is called the Bhiri of the deceased and is worshipped by his relatives in time of trouble. If one of the family has to be buried elsewhere, the relatives go to the BhIri of the great dead and consign his spirit to be kept in their company. At a funeral the mourners take one black and funeral rites.

and one white fowl to a stream and kill and eat them there, setting aside a portion for the dead man. Mourning is observed for a period of from two to nine days, and during this time labour and even household work are stopped, food being supplied by the friends of the family. When a man is killed by a tiger the Baiga priest goes to the spot and there makes a small cone out of the blood-stained earth. This must represent a man, either the dead man or one of his living relatives. His companions having retired a few paces, the priest goes on his hands and knees and performs a series of antics which are supposed to represent the tiger in the act of destroying the man, at the same time seizing the lump of blood-stained earth in his teeth. One of the party then runs up and taps him on the back with a small stick. This perhaps means that the tiger is killed or other- wise rendered harmless ; and the Baiga immediately lets the mud cone fall into the hands of one of the party.

It is then placed in an ant-hill and a pig is sacrificed over it. The next day a small chicken is taken to the place, and after a mark supposed to be the dead man's name is made on its head with red ochre, it is thrown back into the forest, the priest exclaiming, ' Take this and go home.' The ceremony is supposed to lay the dead man's spirit and at the same time to prevent the tiger from doing any further damage. The Baigas believe that the ghost of the victim, if not charmed to rest, resides on the head of the tiger and incites him to further deeds of blood, rendering him also secure from harm by his preternatural watchfulness.^ They also think that they can shut up the tiger's ddr or jaws, so that he cannot bite them, by driving a nail into a tree.

The forest track from Kanha to Kisli in the Banjar forest reserve of Mandla was formerly a haunt of man- eating tigers, to whom a number of the wood-cutters and Baiga coolies, clearing the jungle paths, fell victims every year. In a large tree, at a dangerous point in the track, there could recently be seen a nail, driven into the trunk by a Baiga priest, at some height from the ground. It was said that this nail shut the mouth of a famous man-eating tiger of the locality and prevented him from killing any ' VorayiWs Hig/iiands of Central India, p. 377. II 85 more victims. As evidence of the truth (;f the story there were shown on the trunk the marks of the timer's chiws, where he had been jumpinfT up the tree in the effort to pull the nail out of the trunk and get his man-eating powers restored. Although the IMnjhwar subcaste now profess Hinduism, 6. Rcii^'ion the religion of the Baigas is purely animistic. Their prin- cipal deity is Bura Deo/ who is supposed to reside in a sdj tree {Teriiiinalia touientosci) ; he is worshipped in the month of Jeth (May), when goats, fowls, cocoanuts, and the liquor of the new mahua crop are offered to him. Thakur Deo is the god of the village land and boundaries, and is propi- tiated with a white goat.

The Baigas who plough the fields have a ceremony called Bidri, which is performed before the breaking of the rains. A handful of each kind of grain sown is given by each cultivator to the priest, who mixes the grains together and sows a little beneath the tree where Thakur Deo lives. After this he returns a little to each cultivator, and he sows it in the centre of the land on which crops are to be grown, while the priest keeps the remainder. This ceremony is believed to secure the success of the har- vest. Dulha Deo is the god who averts disease and accident, and the offering made to him should consist of a fowl or goat of reddish colour. Bhimsen is the deity of rainfall, and Dharti Mata or Mother Earth is considered to be the wife of Thakur Deo, and must also be propitiated for the success of the crops.

The grain itself is worshipped at the thresh- ing floor by sprinkling water and liquor on to it. Certain Hindu deities are also worshipped by the Baigas, but not in orthodox fashion. Thus it would be sacrilege on the part of a Hindu to offer animal sacrifices to Narayan Deo, the sun-god, but the Baigas devote to him a special oblation of the most unclean animal, the pig. The animal to be sacri- ficed is allowed to wander loose for two or three years, and is then killed in a most cruel manner. It is laid across the threshold of a doorway on its back, and across its stomach is placed a stout plank of sdj-wooA. Half a dozen men sit or stand on the ends of this, and the fore and hind feet of the pig are pulled backwards and forwards alternately over ' The Great God. The Gonds also worship Bura Deo, resident in a sdj tree.'

the plank until it is crushed to death, while all the men sing or shout a sacrificial hymn. The head and feet are cut off and offered to the deity, and the body is eaten. The forests are believed to be haunted by spirits, and in certain localities pats or shrines are erected in their honour, and occasional offerings are made to them. The spirits of married persons are supposed to live in streams, while trees afford a shelter to the souls of the unmarried, who become bJiuts or malignant spirits after death. Nag Deo or the cobra is supposed to live in an ant-hill, and offerings are made to him there. Demoniacal possession is an article of faith, and a popular remedy is to burn human hair mixed with chillies and pig's dung near the person possessed, as the horrible smell thus produced will drive away the spirit. Many and weird, Mr. Low writes, are the simples which the Baiga's travelling scrip contains. Among these a dried bat has the chief place ; this the Baiga says he uses to charm his nets with, that the prey may catch in them as the bat's claws catch in w^hatever it touches. As an instance of the Baiga's pantheism it may be mentioned that on one occasion when a train of the new Satpura railway ^ had pulled up at a way- side forest station, a Baiga was found offering a sacrifice to the engine. Like other superstitious people they are great believers in omens. A single crow bathing in a stream is a sign of death.

A cock which crows in the night should be instantly killed and thrown into the darkness, a custom which some would be glad to see introduced into much more civilised centres. The woodpecker and owl are birds of bad omen. The Baigas do not appear to have anj- idea of a fresh birth, and one of their marriage songs says, " O girl, take your pleasure in going round the marriage-post once and for all, for there is no second birth." The Baigas are generally the priests of the Gonds, probably because being earlier resi- dents of the country they are considered to have a more intimate acquaintance with the local deities. They have a wide knowledge of the medicinal properties of jungle roots and herbs, and are often successful in effecting cures when the regular native doctors have failed.

Their village priests have consequently a considerable reputation as skilled ' Opened in 1905. II APPEARANCE AND MODE Oh' I.Il'E 87 sorcerers and persons conversant with the unseen world. A case is known of a Brahman transferred to a jungle station, who immediately after his arrival called in a Baiga priest and asked what forest gods he should worship, and what other steps he should take to keep well and escape calamity. Colonel Ward states that in his time Baigas were commonly called in to give aid when a town or village was attacked by cholera, and further that he had seen the greatest benefit to result from their visit. For the people had so much con- fidence in their powers and ceremonies that they lost half their fright at once, and were consequently not so much pre- disposed to an attack of the disease. On such an occasion the Baiga priest goes round the village and pulls out a little straw from each house-roof, afterwards burning the whole before the shrine of Khermata, the goddess of the village, to whom he also offers a chicken for each homestead. If this remedy fails goats are substituted for chickens, and lastly, as a forlorn hope, pigs are tried, and, as a rule, do not fail, because by this time the disease may be expected to have worked itself out.

It is suggested that the chicken represents a human victim from each house, while the straw stands for the house itself, and the offering has the common idea of a substituted victim. In stature the Baigas are a little taller than most other 7. Appear- tribes, and though they have a tendency to the flat nose of ^^^^^^^^ the Gonds, their foreheads and the general shape of their life. heads are of a better mould. Colonel Ward states that the members of the tribe inhabiting the Maikal range in Mandla are a much finer race than those living nearer the open country.

Their figures are very nearly perfect, says Colonel Bloomfield,^ and their wiry limbs, unburdened by superfluous flesh, will carry them over very great distances and over places inaccessible to most human beings, while their com- pact bodies need no other nutriment than the scanty fare afforded by their native forests. They are born hunters, hardy and active in the chase, and exceedingly bold and courageous. In character they are naturally simple, honest and truthful, and when their fear of a stranger has been 1 Mandla Settlement Jieport {l?>6S-6()), Y>- 153-

2 Notes on the Baigas, p. 4.

dissipated are most companionable folk. A small hut, 6 or 7 feet high at the ridge, made of split bamboos and mud, with a neat veranda in front thatched with leaves and grass, forms the Baiga's residence, and if it is burnt down, or abandoned on a visitation of epidemic disease, he can build another in the space of a day, A rough earthen vessel to hold water, leaves for plates, gourds for drinking-vessels, a piece of matting to sleep on, and a small axe, a sickle and a spear, exhaust the inventory of the Baiga's furniture, and the money value of the whole would not exceed a rupee.^ The Baigas never live in a village with other castes, but have their huts some distance away from the village in the jungle.

Unlike the other tribes also, the Baiga prefers his house to stand alone and at some little distance from those of his fellow-tribesmen. While nominally belonging to the village near which they dwell, so separate and distinct are they from the rest of people that in the famine of 1897 cases were found of starving Baiga hamlets only a few hundred yards away from the village proper in which ample relief was being given. On being questioned as to why they had not caused the Baigas to be helped, the other villagers said, ' We did not remember them ' ; and when the Baigas were asked why they did not apply for relief, they said, ' We did not think it was meant for Baigas.' Their dress is of the most simple description, a small strip of rag between the legs and another wisp for a head- covering sufficing for the men, though the women are decently covered from their shoulders to half-way between the thighs and knees.

A Baiga may be known by his scanty clothing and tangled hair, and his wife by the way in which her single garment is arranged so as to provide a safe sitting- place in it for her child. Baiga women have been seen at work in the field transplanting rice with babies comfortably seated in their cloth, one sometimes supported on either hip with their arms and legs out, while the mother was stooping low, hour after hour, handling the rice plants. A girl is tattooed on the forehead at the age of five, and over her whole body before she is married, both for the sake of ornament and because the practice is considered beneficial to the health. 1 Mr. T.ampard's monograph.

The Baif]^as arc usually without blankets ox warm clothint^, and in the cold season they sleep round a wood fire kept burning or smouldering all night, stray sparks from which may alight on their tough skins without being felt. Mr. Lampard relates that on one occasion a number of Baiga men were supplied by the Mission under his charge with large new cloths to cover their bodies with and make them pre- sentable on appearance in church. On the second Sunday, however, they came with their cloths burnt full of small holes ; and they explained that the damage had been done at night while they were sleeping round the fire. A Baiga, Mr. Lampard continues, is speedily discerned in a forest village bazar, and is the most interesting object in it.

His almost nude figure, wild, tangled hair innocent of such inventions as brush or comb, lithe wiry limbs and jungly and uncivilised appearance, mark him out at once. He generally brings a few mats or baskets which he has made, or fruits, roots, honey, horns of animals, or other jungle products which he has collected, for sale, and with the sum obtained (a few pice or annas at the most) he proceeds to make his weekly purchases, changing his pice into cowrie shells, of which he receives eighty for each one. He buys tobacco, salt, chillies and other sundries, besides as much of kodon, kutki, or perhaps rice, as he can afford, always leaving a trifle to be expended at the liquor shop before departing for home. The various purchases are tied up in the corners of the bit of rag twisted round his head. Unlike pieces of cloth known to civilisation, which usually have four corners, the l^aiga's headgear appears to be nothing but corners, and when the shopping is done the strip of rag may have a dozen minute bundles tied up in it.

In Baihar of Balaghat buying and selling are conducted on perhaps the most minute scale known, and if a Baiga has one or two pice ^ to lay out he will spend no inconsiderable time over it. Grain is sold in small measures holding about four ounces called baraiyas, but each of these has a layer of mud at the bottom of varying degrees of thickness, so as to reduce its capacity. Before a purchase can be made it must be settled by whose baraiya the grain is to be measured, and ^ Farthings.

the seller and purchaser each refuse the other's as being unfair to himself, until at length after discussion some neutral person's baraiya is selected as a compromise. Their food consists largely of forest fruits and roots with a scanty allowance of rice or the light millets, and they can go without nourishment for periods which appear extraordinary to civilised man. They eat the flesh of almost all animals, though the more civilised abjure beef and monkeys. They will take food from a Gond but not from a Brahman. The Baiga dearly loves the common country liquor made from the mahua flower, and this is consumed as largely as funds will permit of at weddings, funerals and other social gatherings, and also if obtainable at other times.

They have a tribal panchayat or committee which imposes penalties for social offences, one punishment being the abstention from meat for a fixed period. A girl going wrong with a man of the caste is punished by a fine, but cases of unchastity among unmarried Baiga girls are rare. xA.mong their pastimes dancing is one of the chief, and in their favourite dance, known as karma., the men and women form long lines opposite to each other with the musicians between them. One of the instruments, a drum called nidndar, gives out a deep bass note which can be heard for miles. The two lines advance and retire, every- body singing at the same time, and when the dancers get fully into the time and swing, the pace increases, the drums beat furiously, the voices of the singers rise higher and higher, and by the light of the bonfires which are kept burning the whole scene is wild in the extreme.

The Baigas formerly practised only shifting cultivation, burning down patches of jungle and sowing seed on the ground fertilised by the ashes after the breaking of the rains. Now that this method has been prohibited in Government forest, attempts have been made to train them to regular cultivation, but with indifferent success in Balaghat. An idea of the difficulties to be encountered may be obtained from the fact that in some villages the Baiga cultivators, if left unwatched, would dig up the grain which they had themselves sown as seed in their fields and eat it ; while the plough -cattle which were given to them invariably developed diseases in spite of all precautions, as a result of n OCCUPATION 91 which they fcniiul their way sooner or later to the l')ai^a'.s cookinL;-pot. lUit they arc f;rachially ucloptiiiL; settled habits, arul in MancHa, where a considerable block of forest was allotted to them in which they might continnc their destruc- tive practice of shifting sowings, it is reported that the majority have now become regular cultivators. One explana- tion of their refusal to till the ground is that they consider it a sin to lacerate the breast of their mother earth with a ploughshare.

They also say that God made the jungle to produce everything necessary for the sustenance of men and made the Raigas kings of the forest, giving them wisdom to discover the things provided for them. To Gonds and others who had not this knowledge, the inferior occupation of tilling the land was left. The men never become farmservants, but during the cultivating season they work for hire at uprooting the rice seedlings for transplantation ; they do no other agricultural labour for others. Women do the actual trans- plantation of rice and work as harvesters. The men make bamboo mats and baskets, which they sell in the village weekly markets.

They also collect and sell honey and other forest products, and are most expert at all work that can be done with an axe, making excellent woodcutters. But they show no aptitude in acquiring the use of any other implement, and dislike steady continuous labour, preferring to do a few days' work and then rest in their homes for a like period before beginning again. Their skill and dexterity in the use of the axe in hunting is extraordinary. Small deer, hares and peacocks are often knocked over by throwing it at them, and panthers and other large animals are occasionally killed with a single blow.

If one of two Baigas is carried off by a tiger, the survivor will almost always make a determined and often successful attempt to rescue him with nothing more formidable than an axe or a stick. They are expert trackers, and are also clever at setting traps and snares, while, like Korkus, they catch fish by damming streams in the hot weather and throwing into the pool thus formed some leaf or root which stupefies them. Even in a famine year, Mr. Low says, a Baiga can collect a large basketful of roots in a single day ; and if the bamboo seeds he is amply provided for. Nowadays Baiga cultivators may occasionally be met

with who have taken to regular cultivation and become quite prosperous, owning a number of cattle. 10. Lan- As already stated, the Baigas have completely fongotten guage. their own language, and in the Satpura hills they speak a broken form of Hindi, though they have a certain number of words and expressions peculiar to the caste.


(From People of India/ National Series Volume VIII. Readers who wish to share additional information/ photographs may please send them as messages to the Facebook community, All information used will be gratefully acknowledged in your name.)

Synonyms: Panda [Madhya Pradesh and/or Chhattisgarh] Groups/subgroups: Bharoti, Binjhwar, Nahar or Narotia [Madhya Pradesh and/or Chhattisgarh]

  • Sub-divisions: Bharotia, Binjwar, Gondwaina, Kathbhania Kondwan

or Kundi, Narotia or Nahar, Raibhania [Russell & Hiralal] Surnames: Baiga (old), Lai, Ram (new) [Madhya Pradesh and/or Chhattisgarh]

  • Exogamous septs: Ghugharia, Lapheya, Makam, Maravi, Netam, Tekam [Russell & Hiralal]

Exogamous units/clans (bedagu): Amthuria, Kathodia, Kulharia [Madhya Pradesh and/or Chhattisgarh]

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