Dhami Sect, Bundelkhand

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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.

Dhami, Prannathi Sect

A small religious sect or order.

having its headquarters in the Panna State of Bundelkhand. A few members of the sect are found in the Saugor and Damoh Districts of the Central Provinces. The name Dhami is simply a derivative from dlidm, a monastery, and in northern India they are called Prannathi after their founder. They are also known as Sathi Bhai, brothers in religion, or simply as Bhai or brothers.

The sect takes its origin from one Prannath, a Rajpiit who lived in the latter part of Aurangzeb's reign towards the end of the seventeenth century. He is said to have acquired great influence with Chatra Sal, Raja of Panna, by the discovery of a diamond mine there, and on this account Panna was made the home of the sect.

Prannath was well acquainted with the sacred books of Islam, and, like otlier Hindu reformers, he attempted to propagate a faith which should combine the two religions. To this end he composed a work in Gujarati called the Kulzam Sarup, in which texts from the Koran and the Vedas are brought together and shown not to be incompatible. His creed also proclaimed the abolition of the worship of idols, and apparently of caste restrictions and the supremacy of Brahmans. As a test of a disciple's assent to the real identity of the Hindu and Muhammadan creeds, the ceremony of initiation consists in eating in the society of the followers of both religions ; but the amalgamation appears to be carried no further, and members of the sect continue to follow generally their own religious practices.

Theoretically they should worship no material objects except the Founder's Book of Faith, which lies on a table covered with gold cloth in the principal temple at Panna. But in fact they adore the boy Krishna as he was at Mathura, and in some temples there are images of Radha and Krishna, while in others the decorations are so arranged as to look like an idol from a distance. All temples, however, contain a copy of the sacred book, round which a lighted lamp is waved in the morning and evening. The Dhamis now say also that their founder Prannath was an incarnation of Krishna, and they observe the Janam-Ashtami or Kri.shna's birth- day as their principal festival. They wear the Radha Vallabhi tilak or sect-mark, consisting of two white lines

drawn down the forehead from the roots of the hair, and curving to meet at the top of the nose, with a small red dot between them. On the cheeks and temples they make rosette-like marks by bunching up the five fingers, dipping them in a solution of sandalwood and then applying them to the face.^ They regard the Jumna as a sacred river and its water as holy, no doubt because Mathura is on its banks, but pay no reverence to the Ganges.

Their priests observe celibacy, but do not practise asceticism, and all the Dhamis are strict vegetarians. There is also a branch of the sect in Gujarat, where the founder is known as Meheraj Thakur. He appears to have been identical with Prannath, and instituted a local headquarters at Surat." It is related by Mr. Bhimbhai Kirparam that Meheraj Thakur was himself the disciple of one Deo Chand, a native of Amarkot in Sind. The latter was devoted to the study of the Bhagvvat Puran, and came to Jamnagar in Kathiawar, where he founded a temple to Radha and Krishna.

As there is a temple at Panna consecrated to Deo Chand as the Guru or preceptor of Prannath, and as the book of the faith is written in Gujarati, the above account would appear to be correct, and it follows that the sect originated in the worship of Krishna, and was refined by Prannath into a purer form of faith. A number ot Cutchis in Surat are adherents of the sect, and usually visit the temple at Panna on the full -moon day of Kartik (October).

Curiously enough the sect has also found a home in Nepal, having been preached there, it is said, by missionary Dhamis in the time of Raja Ram Bahadur Shah of Nepal, iibout 150 years ago. Its members there are known as Pranami or Parnami, a corruption of Pran- nathi, and they often come to Panna to study the sacred book. It is reported that there are usually about forty Nepalis lodging in the premises of the great temple at Panna.^ ' Captain C. E. Luard, in Cetttral p. 545. India Census Report {\<)o\), p. 88. •' This information was kindly fur- 2 Bombay Gazetteer, Hindus of nished l)y the Diwan of Panna, through Gujarat (Mr. Bhimbhai Kirparam), the Political Agent at Bundelkhand.

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