Brahman: Sarwaria

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This article was written in 1916 when conditions were different. Even in
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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.

Brahman: Sarwaria

This is the highest class of the Kanaujia Brahmans, who take their name from the river Sarju or Gogra in Oudh, where they have their home. They observe strict rules of ceremonial purity, and do not smoke tobacco nor plough with their own hands. An orthodox Sarwaria Brahman will not give his daughter in marriage in a village from which his family has received a girl, and sometimes will not even drink the water of that village. The Sarwarias make widows dress in white and sometimes shave their heads. In some tracts they intermarry with the Kanaujia Brahmans, and in others take daughters in marriage but do not give their own daughters to them. In Dr.

Buchanan's time, a century ago, the Sarwaria Brahmans would not eat rice sold in the bazar which had been cleaned in boiling water, as they considered that it had thereby become food cooked with water ; and they carried their own grain to the grain-parcher to be prepared for them. When they ate either parched grain or sweetmeats from a confectioner in public they must purify the place on which they sat down with cowdung and water.^

This may be compared with a practice observed by very strict Brahmans even now, of adding water to the medicine which they obtain from a Government dispensary, to purify it before drinking it. Brahman, Utkal.—These are the Brahmans of Orissa and one of the Panch-Gaur divisions. They are divided into two groups, the Dakshinatya or southern and the Jajpuria or northern clan. The Utkal Brrdimans, who first settled in Sambalpur, are known as Jharia or jungly, and form a ' Eastern India, ii. 472, f|uoted in Mr. Crooke's art. Sarwaria.

separate subcastc, marrying amont^ themselves, as the later immigrants refuse to intermarry with them. Another group of Orissa Brahmans have taken to cultivation, and are known as IL'ilia, from Jial, a plough. They grow the betel-vine, and in Orissa the arcca and cocoanuts, besides doing ordinary cultivation. They have entirely lost their sacerdotal character, but glory in their occupation, and affect to despise the Bed or Veda Brahmans, who live upon alms.^ A third class of Orissa Brahmans are the Pandas, who serve as priests and cooks in the public temples and also in private houses, and travel about India touting for pilgrims to visit the temple at Jagannath. Dr. Bhattacharya describes the procedure of the temple-touts as follows :

^ " Their tours are so organised that during their cam- paigning season, which commences in November and is finished by the car-festival at the beginning of the rains, very few villages of the adjoining Provinces escape their visits and taxation. Their appearance causes a disturbance in every household. Those who have already visited ' The Lord of the World ' at Puri are called upon to pay an instalment towards the debt contracted by them while at the sacred shrine, which, though paid many times over, is never completely satisfied. That, however, is a small matter compared with the misery and distraction caused by the ' Jagannath mania,' which is excited by the preachings and pictures of the Panda.

A fresh batch of old ladies become determined to visit the shrine, and neither the wailings and protestations of the children nor the prospect of a long and toilsome journey can dissuade them. The arrangements of the family are for the time being altogether upset, and the grief of those left behind is heightened by the fact that they look upon the pilgrims as going to meet almost certain death. . . ."

This vivid statement of the objections to the habit of pilgrimage from a Brahman writer is very interesting. Since the opening of the railway to Puri the danger and expense as well as the period of absence have been greatly reduced ; but the pilgrimages are still responsible for a large 1 Stirling's description of Orissa in Hindu Castes and Sects. As. Res. vol, XV. p. 199, quoted in '- Hindu Castes and Sects, p. 63.

mortality, as cholera frequently breaks out among the vast assembly at the temple, and the pilgrims, hastily returning to all parts of India, carry the disease with them, and cause epidemics in many localities. All castes now eat the rice cooked at the temple of Jagannath together without defile- ment, and friendships are cemented by eating a little of this rice together as a sacred bond.

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