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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 cultivating caste found almost exclusively i- Oris in the Saugor District, which contained 23,000 persons out ^"aditic of a total of 24,000 of the caste in the Central Provinces in 191 I. There are also considerable numbers of them in Rajputana and Central India, from which localities they probably immigrated into the Saugor District during the eleventh century. The Dangis were formerly dominant in Saugor, a part of which was called Dangiwara after them. The kings of Garhpahra or old Saugor were Dangis, and their family still remains at the village of Bilehra, which with a few other villages they hold as a revenue-free grant.
The name of the caste is variously derived. The traditional story is that the Rajput king of Garhpahra detained the palanquins of twenty-two married women of different castes and kept them as his wives.
The issue of the illicit inter- course were named Dangis, and there are thus twenty-two subdivisions of the caste, besides three other subdivisions who are held to be descended from pure Rajputs. The name is said to be derived from dd7ig\ fraud, on account of the above deception. A more plausible derivation is from the Persian dang, a hill, the Dangis being thus hillmen ; and they may not improbably have been a set of robbers and freebooters in the Vindhyan Hills, like the Gujars and Mewatis in northern India, naturally recruiting their band from all classes of the population, as is shown by ingenious implication in this story itself ' Khet men bdmi, gaon men Ddngil or ' A Dangi in the village is like the hole of a snake in one's field ' is a proverb which shows the estimation in which they were formerly held. The three higher septs may have been their leaders and may well have been Rajputs. Since they have settled down as respectable cultivators and enjoy a good repute among their neighbours, the Dangis have disowned the above story, and now say that they are descended from Raja Dang, a Kachhwaha Rajput king of Narwar in Central India. Nothing is known of Raja Dang except a rude couplet which records how he was cheated by a horse-dealer :
Jitki ghori tit gayi Dd}ig hath knryari ?'ahi, ' The mare bolted to the seller again, leaving in Dang's hand nothing except the reins.' The Dangis have a more heroic version of this story to the effect that the mare was a fairy of Indra's court, who for some reason had been transformed into this shape and was captured by Raja Dang. He refused to give her up to Indra and a battle was about to ensue, when the mare besought them to place her on a pyre and sacrifice her instead of fighting. They agreed to do this, and out of the flames of the pyre the fairy emerged and floated up to heaven, leaving only the reins and bridle of the mare in Raja Dang's hand.
Yet a third story is that their original ancestor was Raja Nipal Singh of Narwar, and when he was fighting- with Indra over the fairy, Krishna came to Indra's assistance.
But Nipal Singh refused to bow down to Krishna, and being annoyed at this and wishing to teach him a lesson the god summoned him to his court. At the gate through which Nipal Singh had to pass, Krishna fixed a sword at the height of a man's neck, so that he must bend or have his head cut off. But Nipal Singh saw the trick, and, sitting down, propelled himself through the doorway with his head erect. The outwitted god remarked, * Turn bare dd>idl ho', or ' You are very cunning,' and the name Dandi stuck to Nipal Singh and was afterwards corrupted to Dangi. There can be little doubt that the caste are an offshoot of Rajputs of impure blood, and with a large admixture of other classes of the population. Some of their sept names indicate their mixed descent, as Rakhya, born of a potter woman, Dhoniya, born of a washerwoman, and Pavniya, born of a weaver woman. In past times the Dangis served in the Rajput and Maratha armies, and a small isolated colony of them is found in one village of Indora in the Nagpur District, the descendants of Dangis who engaged in military service under the Rhonsla kings.
The Dangis have no subcastes distinguished by separate 2. Caste names, but they are divided into three classes, among whom ^"fyisions the principle of hypergamy prevails. As already seen, there were formerly twenty-five clans, of whom the three highest, the Nahonias, Bhadonias and Nadias, claimed to be pure Rajputs. The other twenty- two clans are known as Balsa (22) or Prithwipat Dangis, after the king who is supposed to have been the ancestor of all the clans. Each of his twenty-two wives is said to have been given a village for her maintenance, and the clans are named after these villages. But there are now only thirteen of these local clans left, and below them is a miscellaneous group of clans, representing apparently later accretions to the caste. Some of them are named from the places from which they came, as Mahobia, from Mahoba, Narwaria, from Narwar, and so on. The Solakhia sept is named after the Solanki Rajputs, of whom they may be the partly illegitimate descendants. The Parnami sept are
apparently those who have the creed of the Dhamis, the followers of Prannath of Panna.
And as already seen, some are named from women of low caste, from whom by Dangi fathers they are supposed to be descended. The whole number of septs is thus divided into three groups, the highest containing the three quasi -Rajput septs already mentioned, the next highest the thirteen septs of Prithwipat Dangis, and the lowest all the other septs. Pure Rajpijts will take daughters in marriage from the highest group, and this in turn takes girls of the Prithwipat Dangis of the thirteen clans, though neither will give daughters in return ; and the Prithwipat Dangis will similarly accept the daughters of the miscellaneous septs below them in marriage with their sons. Matches are, however, not generally arranged according to the above system of hypergamy, but each group marries among its own members. Girls who are married into a higher group have to be given a larger dowry, the fathers often being willing to pay Rs. 500 or Rs. 1000 for the social distinction which such an alliance confers on the family. Among the highest septs there is a further difference between those whose ancestors accepted food from Raja Jai Singh, the founder of Jaisinghnagar, and those who refused it.
The former are called Sakrodia or those who ate the leavings of others, and the latter Deotaon ki saiisdr, or the divine Dangis. Pure P-ajputs will take daughters only from the members of the latter group in each sept. Marriage within the sept or baink is prohibited, and as a rule a man does not marry a wife belonging to the same sept as his mother or grandmother. Marriage by exchange also is not allowed, that is, a girl cannot be married into the same family as that in which her brother has married. Girls are generally married between seven and twelve and boys between ten and twenty, but no stigma attaches to a family allowing an unmarried girl to exceed the age of puberty.
The bridegroom should always be older than the bride. Matches are arranged by the parents, the horoscopes of the children being compared among the well-to-do. The zodiacal sign of the boy's horoscope should be stronger than that of the girl's, so that she may be submissive to
him in after-life. Thus a <jirl whose zodiac sign is the lion should not be married to a boy whose sign is the ram, because in that case the wife would dominate the husband. There is no special rule as to the time of the betrothal, and the ceremony is very simple, consisting in the presentation of a cocoanut by the bride's father to the bridegroom's father, and the distribution of sweets to the caste-fellows. The betrothal is not considered to have any particularly binding force and either party may break through it. Among the Dangis a bridegroom -price is usually paid, which varies according to the social respectability of the boy's sept, as much as Rs. 2000 having been given for a bridegroom of higher class according to the rule of hypergamy already described. But no value is placed on educational qualifications, as is the case among Brahmans and Kayasths.
The marriage ceremony is conducted accord- ing to the ritual prevalent in the northern Districts, and presents no special features. Two feasts are given by the bride's father to the caste-fellows, one consisting of katcJii food or that which is cooked with vv^ater, and another of pakki food cooked with ghl (butter). If the bride is of marriageable age the gauna or sending away ceremony is performed at once, otherwise it takes place in the third or fifth year after marriage. At the gauna ceremony the bride's cloth is tied to that of the bridegroom, and they change seats. Widow-marriage is not fashionable, and the caste say that it is not permitted, but several instances are known of its having occurred. Divorce is not allowed, and a woman who goes wrong is finally expelled from the caste. Polygamy is allowed, and many vv^ell-to-do persons have more than one wife. The Dangis pay special reverence to the goddess Durga 4. Reii- or Devi as the presiding deity of war. They worship her ^'°1^^ ^"^ during the months of Kunwar (September) and Chait (March), customs. and at the same time pay reverence to their weapons of war, their swords and guns, or if they have not got these, to knives and spears.
They burn their dead, but children are usually buried. They observe mourning for three days for a child and for ten days for an adult, and on the i 3th day the caste-fellows are feasted. Their family priests, who are
Jijhotia Brahmans, used formerly to shave the head and beard when a death occurred among their clients as if they belonged to the family, but this practice was considered derogatory by other Brahmans, and they have now stopped it. The Dangis perform the shrddhh ceremony in the month of Kunwar. The caste wear the sacred thread, but it is said that they were formerly not allowed to do so in Bundelkhand. They eat fish and flesh, including that of wild boars, but not fowls or beef, and they do not drink liquor. They take pakki food or that cooked without water from Kayasths and Gahoi Banias, and katchi food, cooked with water, from Jijhotia and Sanadhya Brahmans. Jijhotia Brahmans formerly took pakki food from Dangis, but have now ceased to do so. The Dangis require the services of Brahmans at all ceremonies. They have a caste panchdyat or committee. A person who changes his religion or eats with a low caste is permanently expelled, while temporary exclusion is awarded for the usual delinquencies. In the case of the more serious offences, as murder or killing of a cow, the culprit must purify himself by a pilgrimage to a sacred river.
The Dangis were formerly, as already stated, of a quarrelsome temperament, but they have now settled down and, though spirited, are of a good disposition, and hard- working cultivators. They rank slightly above the repre- sentative cultivating castes owing to their former dominant position, and are still considered to have a good conceit of themselves, according to the saying : Tin men neh terak men, Mirdang bajawe dere inen, or ' Though he belong neither to the three septs nor the thirteen septs, yet the Dangi blows his own trumpet in his own house.' They are still, too, of a fiery disposition, and it is said that the favourite dish of gram-flour cooked with curds, which is known as km'Jii, is never served at their weddings. Because the word karJii also signifies the coming out of a sword from its sheath, and when addressed to another man has the equivalent of the English word ' Draw ' in the duelling days. So if one Dangi said it to another, meaning to ask him for the dish, it might result in
a fight. They arc very backward in respect of education and set no store by it. They consider their traditional occupa- tion to be miUtary service, but nearly all of them are now engaged in agriculture. At the census of 1901 over 2000 were returned as supported by the ownership of land and 3000 as labourers and farmservants. Practically all the remainder are tenants. They are industrious, and their women work in the fields. The only crops which they object to grow are kusum or safflower and j^«-hemp. The Nahonia Dangis, being the highest subcaste, refuse to sell milk or ghi. The men usually have Singh as a termination to their names, like Rajpiats. Their dress and ornaments are of the type common in the northern Districts. The women tattoo their bodies.
(From People of India/ National Series Volume VIII. Readers who wish to share additional information/ photographs may please send them as messages to the Facebook community, Indpaedia.com. All information used will be gratefully acknowledged in your name.)
Surnames: Thakur [Madhya Pradesh and/or Chhattisgarh] Exogamous units/clans: Mahobia, Narwar, Narwaria, Parmami, Sakrodia, Solakhia [Russell & Hiralal] Exogamous units/clans (banik): Aspheria, Basha, Bhadenia, Mahobia, Metolia, Nahonia, Nandha, Naretya, Narwaria, Solankhia, Zirha [Madhya Pradesh and/or Chhattisgarh] Gotra: Basoniya, Chakauriya, Dhauriya, Disauriya, Luniya, Madhyauriya, Nirveriya, Niyariya, Pahriya, Parija, Patra, Sarwariya [W. Crooke]