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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 It has been archived for its historical value as well as for
the insights it gives into British colonial writing about the various communities
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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.

Chitrakathi, Hardas

A small caste of religious mendi- cants and picture showmen in the Maratha Districts. In 1 90 1 they numbered 200 persons in the Central Provinces and 1500 in Berar, being principally found in the Amraoti District. The name, Mr. Enthoven writes,^ is derived from chitra^ a picture, and kat/ia, a story, and the professional occupation of the caste is to travel about exhibiting pictures of heroes and gods, and telling stories about them. The community is probably of mixed functional origin, for in Bombay they have exogamous section -names taken from those of the Marathas, as Jadhow, More, Powar and so on, while in the Central Provinces and Berar an entirely different set is found.

Here several sections appear to be named after certain offices held or functions performed by their members at the caste feasts. Thus the Atak section are the caste headmen ; the Mankari appear to be a sort of substitute for the Atak or their grand viziers, the word 1 Commencement of the agricultural Tahsildar, Balaghat. year. 2 This article is partly Imsed on a Bombay Ethnogi-apJiic Sn->~i<ey, paper by Mr. Bijai Bahadur, Naib- draft article on Chitrakathi.

Mankar being primarily a title applied to Maratha noblemen, who held an official position at court ; the Bhojni section serve the food at marriage and other ceremonies ; the Kakra arrange for the lighting ; the Kotharya are store-keepers ; and the Ghoderao (from ghoda, a horse) have the duty of looking after the horses and bullock-carts of the castemen who assemble.

The Chitrakathis are really no doubt the same caste as the Chitaris or Chitrakars (painters) of the Central Provinces, and, like them, a branch of the Mochis (tanners), and originally derived from the Chamars. But as the Berar Chitrakathis are migratory instead of settled, and in other respects differ from the Chitaris, they are treated in a separate article. Marriage within the section is forbidden, and, besides this, members of the Atak and Mankari sections cannot intermarry as they are considered to be related, being divisions of one original section. The social customs of the caste resemble those of the Kunbis, but they bury their dead in a sitting posture, with the face to the east, and on the eighth day erect a platform over the grave.

At the festival of Akhatlj (3rd of light Baisakh) ^ they worship a vessel of water in honour of their dead ancestors, and in Kunwar (September) they offer oblations to them. Though not impure, the caste occupy a low social position, and are said to prostitute their married women and tolerate sexual licence on the part of unmarried girls, Mr. Kitts ^ describes them as " Wandering mendicants, sometimes suspected of associat- ing with Kaikaris for purposes of crime ; but they seem nevertheless to be a comparatively harmless people. They travel about in little huts like those used by the Waddars ; the men occasionally sell buffaloes and milk ; the women beg, singing and accompanying themselves on the tJidli. The old men also beg, carrying a flag in their hand, and shouting the name of their god, Hari Vithal (from which they derive their name of Hardas).

They are fond of spirits, and, when drunk, become pot-valiant and troublesome." The thdli or plate on which their women play is also known as sarthdda, and consists of a small brass dish coated with 1 May-June. The Akhatij is the graph 206. The passage is slightly beginning of the agricultural year. altered and abridged in reproduc- ^ Berdr Census Report {i^Si), \)a.x3^- tion.

wax in the centre ; this is held on the thigh and a pointed stick is moved in a circle so as to produce a droning sound. The men sometimes paint their own pictures, and in Bombay they have a caste rule that every Chitrakathi must have in his house a complete set of sacred pictures ; this usually includes forty representations of Rama's life, thirty-five of that of the sons of Arjun, forty of the Pandavas, forty of Sita and Rawan, and forty of Harishchandra.

The men also have sets of puppets representing the above and other deities, and enact scenes with them like a Punch and Judy show, sometimes aided by ventriloquism.

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