Chadar: Kotwap

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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
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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.

Chadar: Kotwap

A small caste of weavers and village watchmen resident in the Districts of Saugor, Damoh, Jub- bulpore and Narsinghpur. They numbered 28,000 persons in 191 1. The caste is not found outside the northern Districts of the Central Provinces. The name is derived from the Sanskrit chirkar, a weaver, and belongs to Bundel- khand, but beyond this the Chadars have no knowledge or traditions of their origin. They are probably an occupa- tional group formed from members of the Dravidian tribes and others who took to the profession of village watchmen.

A number of other occupational castes of low status are found in the northern Districts, and their existence is prob- ably to be accounted for by the fact that the forest tribes were subjected and their tribal organisation destroyed by the invading Bundelas and other Hindus some centuries ago. They were deprived of the land and relegated to the performance of menial and servile duties in the village, and they have formed a new set of divisions into castes arising from the occupations they adopted. The Chadars have two subcastcs based on differences of religious practice, the Par- mesuria or worshippers of Vishnu, and Athia or devotees of Devi.

It is doubtful, however, whether these are strictly endogamous. They have a large number of exogamous septs or bainks, which are named after all sorts of animals, plants and natural objects. Instances of these names are Dhana (a leaf of the rice plant), Kasia (bell-metal), Gohia (a kind of lizard), Bachhulia (a calf), Gujaria (a milkmaid), Moria (a peacock), Laraiya (a jackal), Khatkira (a bug), Sugaria (a pig), Barraiya (a wasp), Neora (a mongoose), Bhartu Chiraiya (a sparrow), and so on. Thirty-nine names 1 This article is compiled from Tahsildar of Khurai, and Kanhya Lai, papers liy Mr. Wali Muhammad, clerk in the Gazetteer oflfice.

in all are reported. Members of each sept draw the figure of the animal or plant after which it is named on the wall at marriages and worship it. They usually refuse to kill the totem animal, and the members of the Sugaria or pig sept throw away their earthen vessels if a pig should be killed in their sight, and clean their houses as if on the death of a member of the family. Marriage between members of the same sept is forbidden and also between first cousins and other near relations.

The Chadars say that the marriages of persons nearly related by blood are unhappy, and occasion serious consequences to the parties and their families. Girls are usually wedded in the fifth, seventh, ninth, or eleventh year of their age and boys between the ages of eight and sixteen. If an unmarried girl is seduced by a member of the caste she is married to him by the simple form adopted for the wedding of a widow. Rut if she goes wrong with an outsider of low caste she is permanently expelled. The remarriage of widows is permitted and divorce is also allowed, a deed being executed on stamped paper before the panchdyat or caste committee. If a woman runs away from her husband to another man he must repay to the husband the amount expended on her wedding and give a feast to the caste.

A Brahman is employed to fix the date of a wedding and sometimes for the naming of children, but he is only consulted and is never present at the ceremony. The caste venerate the goddess Devi, offering her a virgin she-goat in the month of Asarh (June-July). They worship their weaving implements at the Diwali and HoH festivals, and feed the crows in Kunwar (September-October) as representing the spirits of their ancestors. This custom is based on the superstition that a crow does not die of old age or disease, but only when it is killed. To cure a patient of fever they tie a blue thread, irregularly knotted, round his wrist. They believe that thunder-bolts are the arrows shot by Indra to kill his enemies in the lower world, and that the rainbow is Indra's bow ; any one pointing at it will feel pain in his finger. The dead are mourned for ten days, and during that time a burning lamp is placed on the ground at some distance from the house, while on the tenth day a tooth-stick and water and food are set out for the VOL. II 2D

soul of the dead. They will not throw the first teeth of a child on to a tiled roof, because they believe that if this is done his next teeth will be wide and ugly like the tiles. But it is a cominon practice to throw the first teeth on to the thatched roof of the house. The Chadars will admit members of most castes of good standing into the com- munity, and they eat flesh, including pork and fowls, and drink liquor, and will take cooked food from most of the good castes and from Kalars, Khangars and Kumhars.

The social status of the caste is very low, but they rank above the impure castes and are of cleanly habits, bathing daily and cleaning their kitchens before taking food. They are employed as village watchmen and as farmservants and field-labourers, and a

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