Chauhan, village watchmen
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.
A small caste of village watchmen and labourers in the Chhattisgarh Division. They are also known as Chandel by outsiders. In 191 i the Chauhans numbered 7000 persons in the Raipur and Bilaspur Districts, and the adjoining Feudatory States. The caste claim themselves to be of Rajput origin, and say that their ancestors came from Mainpuri, which is the home of the Chauhan clan of Rajputs. A few of their section names are taken from those of Rajput clans, but the majority are of a totemistic nature, being called after animals and plants, as Nag the cobra, Neora the mongoose, Kolhia the jackal, Kamal the lotus, Pat silk, Chanwar rice, Khanda a sword, and so on. Members of each sept worship the object after which it is named at the time of marriage, and if the tree or animal itself is not readily available, they make a representa- tion of it in flour and pay their respects to that.
Thus members of the Bedna or sugarcane sept make a stick of flour and worship it. They will not kill or eat their sept totem, but in some cases, as in that of the Chanwar or rice sept, this rule is impossible of observance, so the members of this sept content themselves with abstaining from a single variety of rice, the kind called Nagkesar. Families who belong to septs named after heroic ancestors make an image in flour of the ancestral saint or hero and worship it. The caste employ Brahmans for their marriage and other cere- monies, and will not take food from any caste except Brahmans and their Bairagi gurus or spiritual preceptors. But their social position is very low, as none except the most debased castes will take food or water from their hands, and their hereditary calling of village watchman would not be practised by any respectable caste. By outsiders they are considered little, if at all, superior to the Pankas and Gandas, and the most probable theory of their origin is that they are the descendants of irregular alliances between immigrant Rajput adventurers and the women of the country.
Their social customs resemble those of other low castes in Chhattls- garh. Before the bridegroom starts for a wedding, they have a peculiar ceremony known as. Naodori. Seven small earthen cups full of water are placed on the boy's head, and ^ This article is based principally on notes taken by Mr. Hira Lai at Bhatgaon. 438 CHA UHAN part then poured over him in succession. A piece of new cloth is laid on his head, and afterwards placed seven times in contact with the earth. During this ritual the boy keeps his eyes shut, and it is believed that if he should open them before its completion, his children would be born blind.
When the bride leaves her father's house she and all her relatives mourn and weep noisily, and the bride continues doing so until she is well over a mile from her own village. Similarly on the first three or four visits which she pays to her parents after her wedding, she begins crying loudly a mile away from their house, and continues until she reaches it. It is the etiquette also that women should cry whenever they meet relatives from a distance. In such cases when two women see each other they cry together, each placing her head on the other's shoulder and her hands at her sides. While they cry they change the position of their heads two or three times, and each addresses the other according to their relationship, as mother, sister, and so on. Or if any member of the family has recently died, they call upon him or her, exclaiming ' O my mother ! O my sister ! O my father ! Why did not I, unfortunate one, die instead of thee ? ' A woman \\hen weeping with a man holds to his sides and rests her head against his breast.
The man exclaims at intervals, ' Stop crying, do not cry,' When two women are weeping together it is a point of etiquette that the elder should stop first and then beg her companion to do so, but if it is doubtful which is the elder, they some- times go on crying for an hour at a time, exciting the younger spectators to mirth, until at length some elder steps forward and tells one of them to stop. The Chauhans permit the remarriage of widows, and a woman is bound by no restrictions as to her choice of a second husband.
The goddess Durga or Devi is chiefly revered by the caste, who observe fasts in her honour in the months of Kunwar (September) and Chait (March). When they make a badna or vow, they usually offer goats to the goddess, and sow the Jaivaras or Gardens of Adonis in her name, but except on such occasions they present less costly articles, as cocoanuts, betel-leaves, areca-nuts and flowers. On the Dasahra festival they worship the lathi or stick which is the H cumPA 429 badge of office of the village watchman. They were formerly addicted to petty theft, and it is said that they worshipped the khunta or pointed rod for digging through the wall of a house. The caste usually burn the dead, but children whose cars or noses have not been pierced are buried.
Children who die before they have begun to eat grain are not mourned at all, while for older children the period of mourning is three to seven days, and for adults ten days. On the tenth day they clean their houses, shave themselves and offer balls of rice to the dead under the direction of a Brahman, to whom they present eating and drinking vessels, clothes, shoes and cattle with the belief that the articles will thus become available for the use of the dead man in the other world. The Chauhans will not eat fowls, pork or beef, and in some places they abstain from drinking liquor.