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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
of all of India. It has been archived for its historical value as well as for
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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.

Chhipa, Rangari, Bhaosar, Nirali, Nilgar

The Hindu i. consti- tution of the caste. caste of cotton printers and dyers. They are commonly ^"°" ° known as Chhipa in the northern Districts and Rangari or Bhaosar in the Maratha country. The Chhipas and Rangaris together number about 23,000 persons. In the south of the Central Provinces and Berar cotton is a staple crop, and the cotton-weaving industry is much stronger than in the north, and as a necessary consequence the dyers also would be more numerous.

Though the Chhipas and Ran- garis do not intermarry 6r dine together, no essential distinction exists between them. They are both of func- tional origin, pursue exactly the same occupation, and relate the same story about themselves, and no good reason therefore exists for considering them as separate castes. Nilgar or Nirali is a purely occupational term applied to Chhipas or Rangaris who work in indigo («J/) ; while Bhaosar is another name for the Rangaris in the northern Districts. The Rangaris say that when Parasurama, the Brahman, 2. its was slaying the Kshatriyas, two brothers of the warrior caste °"?'" ^"^ . position.

took refuge in a temple of Devi. One of them^r called Bhaosar, threw himself upon the image, while the other hid behind it. The goddess saved them both and told them to adopt the vocation, of dyers. The Rangaris are descended

from the brother who was called Bhaosar and the Chhipas from the other brother, because he hid behind the image {chhipna, to hide). The word is really derived from chhdpna, to print, because the Chhipas print coloured patterns on cotton cloths with wooden stamps. Rangari comes from the common word rang or colour.

The Chhipas have a slightly different version of the same story, according to which the goddess gave one brother a needle and a piece of thread, and the other some red betel-leaf which she spat at him out of her mouth ; and told one to follow the vocation of a tailor, and the other that of a dyer. Hence the first was called Chhlpi or Shimpi and the second Chhipa. This story indicates a connection between the dyeing and tailoring castes in the Maratha Districts, which no doubt exists, as one subcaste of the Rangaris is named after Namdeo, the patron saint of the Shimpis or tailors. Both the dyeing and tailoring industries are probably of considerably later origin than that of cotton- weaving, and both are urban rather than village industries. And this consideration perhaps accounts Tor the fact that the Chhipas and Rangaris rank higher than most of the weaving castes, and no stigma or impurity attaches to them.

The caste have a number of subdivisions, such as the Malaiyas or immigrants from Malwa, the Gujrati who come from Gujarat, the Golias or those who dye cloth with goli ka rang, the fugitive aniline dyes, the Namdeos who belong to the sect founded by the Darzi or tailor of that name, and the Khatris, these last being members of the Khatri caste who have adopted the profession. Marriage is forbidden between persons so closely con- nected as to have a common ancestor in the third genera- tion. In Bhandara it is obligatory on all members of the caste, who know the bride or bridegroom, to ask him or her to dine.

The marriage rite is that prevalent among the Hindustani castes, of walking round the sacred post. Divorce and the marriage of widows are permitted. In Narsinghpur, when a bachelor marries a widow, he first goes through a mock dftremony by walking seven times round an earthen vessel filled with cakes ; this rite being known as Langra Biyah or the lame marriage. The caste burn their dead, placing the head to the north. On the day of Dasahra the

ChhTpas worship their wooden stamps, first washing them and then making an offering to them of a cocoanut, flowers and an image consisting of a bottle-gourd standing on four sticks, which is considered to represent a goat. The Chhipas rank with the lower artisan castes, from whose hands Brahmans will not take water. Nevertheless some of them wear the sacred thread and place sect - marks on their foreheads. The bulk of the ChhTpas dye cloths in red, blue or black, s- Occupa- with ornamental patterns picked out on them in black and white. Formerly their principal agent was the al or Indian mulberry {Morinda citrifolia), from which a rich red dye is obtained. But this indigenous product has been ousted by alizarin, a colouring agent made from coal-tar, which is im- ported from Germany, and is about thirty per cent cheaper than the native dye.


Chhipas prepare saris or women's wearing-cloths, and floor and bed cloths. The dye stamps are made of teakwood by an ordinary carpenter, the flat surface of the wood being hollowed out so as to leave ridges which form either a design in curved lines or the outlines of the figures of men, elephants and tigers. There is a great variety of patterns, as many as three hundred stamps having been found in one Chhipa's shop. The stamps are usually covered with a black ink made of sulphate of iron, and this is fixed by myrobalans ; the Nllgars usually dye a plain blue with indigotin. No great variety or brilliancy of colours is obtained by the Hindu dyers, who are much excelled in this branch of the art by the Muhammadan Rangrez. In Gujarat dyeing is strictly forbidden by the caste rules of the Chhipas or Bhaosars during the four rainy months, because the slaughter of insects in the dyeing vat adds to the evil and ill-luck of that sunless

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