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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 belonging solely to the Bastar i. Origin State. In 191 i they numbered 5500 persons in Bastar, and it is noticeable that there were nearly twice as many women as men. The term Dhakar connotes a man of illegitimate descent and is applied to the Kirars of the Central Provinces and perhaps to other castes of mixed RajpQt origin. But in Bastar it is the special designation of a considerable class of persons who are the descendants of alliances between Brahman and Rajpiit immigrants and women of the indigenous tribes. They are divided, like the Halbas, into two groups—Purait or pure, and Surait or mixed.
The son of a Brahman or Rajput father by a Rawat (herds- man) or Halba mother is a Purait, but one born from a woman of the Muria, Marar, Nai or Kalar castes is a Surait. But these latter can become Puraits after two or three generations, and the same rule applies to the son of a Dhakar father by a Halba or Rawat woman, who also ranks in the first place as a Surait. Descendants of a Dhakar father by a Muria or other low -caste woman, however, always remain Suraits. 1 This article is based entirely on a paper by Rai Bahadur Panda Baijnath, Superintendent, Bastar State. and sub- divisions.
The Puraits and Suraits form endogamous groups, and the latter will accept cooked food from the former. The more respectable Dhakars round Jagdalpur are now tending, how- ever, to call themselves Rajputs and refuse to admit any one of mixed birth into their community. One legend of their origin is that the first Dhakar was the offspring of a Brahman cook of the Raja of Bastar with a Kosaria Rawat woman ; and though this is discredited by the Dhakars it is probably a fairly correct version of the facts.
An inferior branch of the caste exists which is known as Chikrasar ; it is related of them that their ancestors once went out hunting and set the forest on fire as a method of driving the game, as they occasionally do still. They came across the roasted body of a dog in the forest and ate it without knowing what animal it was. In the stomach, how- ever, some cooked rice was found, and hence it was known as a dog and they were branded as dog-eaters. As a penalty the Raja imposed on them the duty of thatching a hut for him at the Dasahra festival, which their descendants still perform. The other Dhakars refuse to marry or eat with them, and it is clear from the custom of thatching the Raja's hut that they are a primitive and jungly branch of the caste. If a girl becomes with child by a member of the caste she is made over to him without a marriage, or to the man to whom she was previously betrothed if he is still willing to take her. Neither is she expelled if the same event occurs with a man of any higher caste, but if he be of lower caste she is thrown out.
Marriages are usually arranged by the parents but an adult girl may choose her own husband, and she is then wedded to him with abbreviated rites so that her family may avoid the disgrace of her entering his house like a widow or kept woman. Formerly a Dhakar might marry his grand- daughter, but this is no longer done. When the signs of puberty first appear in a girl she is secluded and must not see or be seen by any man. They think that the souls of dead ancestors are reborn in children, and if a child refuses to suck they ask which of their ancestors he is and what he wants, or they offer it some present such as a silver bangle, and if the child then takes to the breast they give away the bangle to a Brahman. The sixth dav after a child is born
the paternal aunt prepares lamp-black from a lamp fed with melted butter and rubs it on the child's eyes and receives a small present. The period of mourning or impurity after a death must 3. Funeral terminate with a feast to the caste-men, and it continues until '^""' this is given. Consequently the other caste-men subscribe for a poor member, so that he may give the feast and resume his ordinary avocations. On this occasion one of the guests puts a small fish in a leaf-cup full of water, which no doubt represents the spirit of the deceased, and all the mourners touch this cup and are freed from their impurity. A Brahman is also invited, who lights a lamp fed with melted butter and then asks for a cow or some other valuable present as a recompense for his service of blowing out the lamp. Until this is done the Dhakars think that the soul of the departed is tortured by the flame of the lamp. If the Brahman is pleased, he pours some curds over the lamp and this acts as a cooling balm to the soul. When a member of the family dies the mourners shave the whole head with beard and moustache.
The Dhakars are mainly engaged in cultivation as farm- 4. Occupa- servants and labourers. Like the Halbas, they consider it a "°" ^J^^ ^ social sin to heat or forge iron, looking upon the metal as sacred, status. They eat the flesh of clean animals, but abstain from both pigs and chickens, and some also do not eat the peacock, A man as well as a woman is permanently expelled for adultery with a person of lower caste, the idea of this rule being no doubt to prevent degradation in the status of the caste from the admission of the offspring of such unions.
If one Dhakar beats another with a shoe, both are temporarily put out of caste. But if a man seduces a caste-man's wife and is beaten with a shoe by the husband, he is permanently expelled, while the husband is readmitted after a feast. On being received back into caste intercourse an offender is purified by drinking water in which the image of a local god has been dipped or the Raja of Bastar has placed his toe. Like other low castes of mixed origin, they are very particular about each other's status and will only accept cooked food from families who are well known to them. At caste feasts each family or group of families cooks for
itself, and in some cases parents refuse to eat with the family into which their daughter has married and hence cannot do so with the girl herself.