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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
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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 melon and vegetable growers, whose name is derived from ddngar or dmtgra, a water-melon. They reside in the Wardha and Bhandara Districts, and numbered about 1800 persons in 191 i. The caste is a mixed one of functional origin, and appears to be an offshoot from the Kunbis with additions from other sources. In Wardha they say that their ancestor was one of two brothers to whom Mahadeo gave the seeds of a juari plant and a water-melon respectively for sowing.

The former became the ancestor of the Kunbis and the latter of the Dangris. On one occasion when Mahadeo, assuming the guise of a beggar, asked the Dangri brother for a water- melon, he refused to give it, and on this account his descend- ants were condemned to perpetual poverty. In fact, the Dangris, like the other market-gardening castes, are badly off, possibly on account of their common habit of marrying a number of wives, whom they utilise as labourers in their vegetable gardens ; for though a wife is better than a hired labourer for their particular method of cultivation, where supervision is difficult and the master may be put to serious loss from bad work and petty pilfering, while there is also much scope for women workers ; yet on the other hand polygamy tends to the breeding of family quarrels and to ^ This article is based on notes taken by Pandit Pyare Lai Misra in Wardha, and Mr. Hira Lai in Bhandara.

excessive subdivision of property.

The close personal super- vision which is requisite perhaps also renders it especially- difficult to carry on the business of market-gardening on a large scale. In any case the agricultural holdings of the Malis and Dangris are as a rule very small. The conclusion indicated by the above story that the Dangris are an offshoot from the Kunbi caste of cultivators appears to be correct ; and it is supported by the fact that they will accept food cooked with water from the Baone Kunbis. But their sub- castes show that even this small body is of very heterogene- ous composition ; for they are divided into the Teli, the Kalar, the Kunbi and the Gadiwan Dangris, thus showing that the caste has received recruits from the Telis or oilmen and the Kalars or liquor-sellers.

The Gadiwan, as their name denotes, are a separate section who have adopted the comparatively novel occupation of cart-driving for a liveli- hood. In Wardha there is also a small class of Panibhar or waterman Dangris who are employed as water-bearers, this occupation arising not unnaturally from that of growing melons and other crops in river-beds. And a {Q.\^f members of the caste have taken to working in iron.

The bulk of the Dangris, however, grow melons, chillies and brinjals on the banks or in the beds of rivers ; but as the melon crop is raised in a period of six weeks during the hot season, they can also undertake some ordinary cultivation. When the melons ripen the first fruits are offered to Mahadeo and given to a Brahman to ensure the success of the crop. When the melon plants are in flower, a woman must not enter the field during the period of her monthly impurity, as it is believed that she would cause the crop to wither. While it may safely be assumed that the Dangris originated from the great Kunbi caste, it may be noted that some of them tell a story to the effect that their original home was Benares, and that they came from there into the Central Provinces ; hence they call themselves Kashi Dangri, Kashi being the classical name for Benares. This legend appears to be entirely without foundation, as their family names, speech and customs are alike of purely Marathi origin.

But it is found among other castes also that they like to pretend that they came from Benares, the most sacred centre of Hin-

duism. The social customs of the Dangris resemble those of the Kuiibis, and it is unnecessary to describe them in detail. Before their weddings they have a curious ceremony known as Devvat Puja. 1 he father of the bridegroom, with an axe over his shoulder and accompanied by his wife, goes to a well or a stream.

Here they clean a small space with cow- dung and make an offering of rice, flowers, turmeric and incense, after which the man, breaking his bangle from off his wrist, throws it into the water, apparently as a pro- pitiatory offering for tiie success of the marriage. It is not stated what the bangle is made of, but it may be assumed that a valuable one would not thus be thrown away. As among some of the other Maratha castes, the bridegroom must be wrapped in a blanket on his journey to the bride's village. If a bachelor desires to espouse a widow he must first go through the ceremony of marriage with a swallow- wort plant. Polygamy is freely permitted, and some Dangris are known to have as many as five wives. As already stated, wives are of great assistance in gardening work, which demands much hand-labour.

Divorce and the remarriage of widows are allowed. The Dangris commonly bury the dead, and they place cotton leaves over the eyes and ears of the corpse. In Bhandara they say that this is done when it is believed the dead person was possessed by an evil spirit, and there is possibly some idea of preventing the escape of the spirit from the body. In Wardha the Dangris have rather a bad reputation, and a saying current about them is ' Ddngri beta piiha chor' or ' A Dangri will steal even a shred of cotton ' ; but this may be a libel. VOL. 11 2 H notice.


(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.)

Groups/subgroups: Gadhe Dangri, Gadwan, Kalar Dangri, Teli Dangri [Maharashtra] DANUA BRAHMAN Synonyms: Sasanl Brahman [Orissa] Titles: Bahinipari, Khadanga [Orissa] Surnames: Acharya, Dash, Mahapatra, Mishra, Radia [Orissa] Gotra: Atri, Bharadwaja, Goutam, Harita, Kautasa, Koushika, Parasara [Orissa]

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