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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.
Cutchi or Meman, Kachhi, Muamin
A class of Muhammadan merchants who come every year from Gujarat and Cutch to trade in the towns of the Central Provinces, where they reside for eight months, returning to their houses during the four months of the rainy season. In 19 1 1 they numbered about 2000 persons, of whom five-sixths were men, this fact indicating the temporary nature of their settle- ments. Nevertheless a large proportion of the trade of the Province is in their hands. The caste is fully and excellently described by Khan Bahadur Fazalullah Lutfullah Faridi, Assistant Collector of Customs, Bombay, in the Bombay Gazetteer} He remarks of them : " As shopkeepers and miscellaneous dealers Cutchis are considered to be the most successful of Muhammadans.
They owe their success in commerce to their freedom from display and their close and personal attention to and keen interest in business. The richest Meman merchant does not disdain to do what a Parsi in his position would leave to his clerks. Their hope and courage are also excellent endowments. They engage without fear in any promising new branch of trade and are daring in their ventures, a trait partly inherited from their Lohana ancestors, and partly due to their faith in the luck which the favour of their saints secures them." Another great advantage arises from their method of trading in small corporations or companies of a number of persons either relations or friends. Some of these will have shops in the great centres of trade, Bombay and Calcutta, and others in ' Vol. ix. part. ii. Muhanimadcuts of Gujarat, p. 57.
different places in the interior. Each member then acts as correspondent and agent for all the others, and puts what business he can in their way. Many are also employed as assistants and servants in the shops ; but at the end of the season, when all return to their native Gujarat, the profits from the different shops are pooled and divided among the members in varying proportion. By this method they obtain all the advantages which are recognised as attaching to co-operative trading. According to Mr. Farldi, from whose description the 2. Origin remainder of this article is mainly taken, the Memans or ^^^^^^ more correctly Muamins or ' Believers ' are converts from the Hindu caste of Lohanas of Sind. They venerate especially Maulana Abdul Kadir Gilani who died at Baghdad in A.D. 1 165.
His sixth descendant, Syed Yusufuddln Kordiri, was in 1421 instructed in a dream to proceed to Sind and guide its people into the way of Islam. On his arrival he was received with honour by the local king, who was converted, and the ruler's example was followed by one Manikji, the head of one of the nukhs or clans of the Lohana community. He with his three sons and seven hundred families of the caste embraced Islam, and on their conversion the title of Muamin or ' Believer ' was conferred on them by the saint. It may be noted that Colonel Tod derives the Lohanas from the Rajputs, remarking of them
This tribe is numerous both in Dhat and Talpura ; formerly they were Rajputs, but betaking themselves to commerce have fallen into the third class. They are scribes and shopkeepers, and object to no occupation that will bring a subsistence ; and as to food, to use the expressive idiom of this region where hunger spurns at law, ' Excepting their cats and their cows they will eat anything.' " In his account of Sind, Postans says of the Lohanas : " The Hindu merchants and bankers have agents in the most remote parts of Central Asia and could negotiate bills upon Candahar, Khelat, Cabul, Khiva, Herat, Bokhara or any other marts of that country. These agents, in the pursuit of their calling, leave Sind for many years, quitting their families to locate themselves among the most savage and intolerant
This account could equally apply to the Khatris, who also travel over Central Asia, as shown in the article on that caste ; and if, as seems not improbable, the Lohanas and Khatris are connected, the hypothesis that the former, like the latter, are derived from Rajputs would receive some support. The present Pir or head of the community is Sayyid Jafir Shah, who is nineteenth in descent from Yusufuddin and lives partly in Bombay and partly in Mundra of South Cutch. " At an uncertain date," Mr. Farldi continues, " the Lohana or Cutchi Memans passed from Cutch south through Kathiawar to Gujarat. They are said to have been strong and wealthy in Surat during the period of its prosperity (i 580—1680). As Surat sank the Cutchi Memans moved to Bombay. Outside Cutch and Kathiawar, which may be con- sidered their homes, the Memans are scattered over the cities of north and south Gujarat and other Districts of Bombay.
Beyond that Presidency they have spread as traders and merchants and formed settlements in Calcutta, Madras, the Malabar Coast, South Burma, Siam, Singapore and Java ; in the ports of the Arabian Peninsula, except Muscat, where they have been ousted by the Khojas ; and in Mozambique, Zanzibar and the East African Coast." ^ They have two divisions in Bombay, known as Cutchi or Kachhi and Halai. Cutchis and Memans retain some non-Muhammadan usages. The principal of these is that they do not allow their daughters and widows to inherit according to the rule of Muhammadan law.^ They conduct their weddings by the Nikah form and the Jiiehar or dowry is always the same sum of a hundred and twenty-five rupees, whatever may be the position of the parties and in the case of widows also.
^ Bombay Gazetteer, I.e. Court, in spite of the ridicule of other 2 In recording this point Mr. Faridi Sunnis, the elders of the Cutchi Memans gives the following note: "In 1847 declared that their caste rules denied a case occurred which shows how firmly the widow's claim. The matter caused the Memans cling to their original and is still (1896) causing agitation, as tribal customs. The widow of Haji the doctors of the Sunni law at Mecca Nur Muhammad of the Lakariya family have decided that as the law of inherit- demanded a share of her deceased hus- ance is laid down by the holy Koran, band's property according to Muham- a wilful departure from it is little madan law. The Jawd-at or commun- short of apostasy. The Memans are ity decided that a widow had no claim contemplating a change, but so far they to share her husband's estates under have not found themselves able to the Hindu law. Before the High depart from their tribal practices."
They say that eitlicr i)arty ma)' be divorced hy the other for conjugal infidehty^ but the vic/iar or dowry must always be paid to the wife in the case of a divorce. The caste eat flesh and fowls and abstain from licjuor. Most of them also decline to eat beef as a consecjuence of their Hindu ancestry, and the}' will not take food from Hindus of low caste.