From Indpaedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Hindi English French German Italian Portuguese Russian Spanish

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
of all of India. It has been archived for its historical value as well as for
the insights it gives into British colonial writing about the various communities
of India. Indpaedia neither agrees nor disagrees with the contents of this
article. Readers who wish to add fresh information can create a Part II of this
article. The general rule is that if we have nothing nice to say about
communities other than our own it is best to say nothing at all.

Readers will be able to edit existing articles and post new articles directly
on their online archival encyclopædia only after its formal launch.

See examples and a tutorial.

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.


An agricultural caste found in the Uriya country and principally in the Sonpur State, recently trans- ferred to Bihar and Orissa. In 1901, 41,000 Dumals were enumerated in the Central Provinces, but only a few persons now remain. The caste originally came from Orissa. They themselves say that they were formerly a branch of the Gaurs, with whom they now have no special connection. They derive their name from a village called Dumba Hadap in the Athmalik State, where they say that they lived. Another story is that Dumal is derived from Duma, the name of a gateway in Baud town, near which they dwelt. Sir H. Risley says : " The Dumals or Jadupuria Gaura seem to be a group of local formation. They cherish the tradition that their ancestors came to Orissa from Jadupur, but this appears to be nothing more than the name of the Jadavas or Yadavas, the mythical progenitors of the Goala caste transformed into the name of an imaginary town." The Dumals have no subcastes, but they have a com- plicated system of exogamy.

This includes three kinds of divisions or sections, the got or sept, the barga or family title and the initti or earth from which they sprang, that is, the name of the original village of the clan. Marriage is prohibited only between persons who have the same got, barga and viitti ; if any one of these is different it is allowed. Thus a man of the Nag got, Padhan barga and Hindolsai initti may marry a girl of the Nag got, Padhan barga and ^ This article is taken almost entirely from a paper drawn up by Mr. HIra Lai, Extra Assistant Commissioner. SUBDIVISIONS 53' Kandhpadfi mitli\ or one of the Nag ^^/, K.irmi harga and Hindolsai ;////// ; or one of tlie Bud got, Padhan barga and llindolsai ;//////. The btDgas arc very numerous, but the gots and viittis are few and common to many bargas ; and many people have forgotten the name of their initti altogether. Marriage therefore usually depends on the bargas being different. The following table shows the got, barga and Diitti of a few families : Got.

before taking to their present occupation of agriculture were temple servants, household menials and cattle -herds, thus fulfilling the functions now performed by the Rawat or Gaur caste of graziers in Sambalpur. The names of the mittis or villages show that their original home was in the Orissa Tributary Mahals, while the totemistic names of gots indicate their Dravidian origin.

The marriage of first cousins is prohibited. 3. Mar- Girls must be married before adolescence, and in the "age. event of the parents failing to accomplish this, the following heavy penalty is imposed on the girl herself She is taken to the forest and tied to a tree with thread, this proceeding signifying her permanent exclusion from the caste. Any one belonging to another caste can then take her away and marry her if he chooses to do so. In practice, however, this penalty is very rarely imposed, as the parents can get out of it by marrying her to an old man, whether he is already married or not, the parents bearing all the expenses, while the husband gives two to four annas as a nominal con- tribution.

After the marriage the old man can either keep the girl as his wife or divorce her for a further nominal pay- ment of eight annas to a rupee. She then becomes a widow and can marry again, while her parents will get ten or twenty rupees for her. The boy's father makes the proposal for the marriage according to the following curious formula. Taking some fried grain he goes to the house of the father of the bride and addresses him . as follows in the presence of the neigh- bours and the relatives of both parties : " I hear that the tree has budded and a blossom has come out ; I intend to pluck it." To which the girl's father replies : " The flower is delicate ; it is in the midst of an ocean and very difficult to approach : how will you pluck it ? " To which the reply is : 'I shall bring ships and dongas (boats) and ply them in the ocean and fetch the flower.' And again : " If you do pluck it, can you support it ? Many difficulties may stand in the way, and the flower may wither or get lost ; will it be possible for you to steer the flower's boat in the ocean of time, as long as it is destined to be in this v/orld ? " To which the answer is : ' Yes, I shall, and it is with that

intention that I have come to you.' On which the girl's father finally says : ' Very well then, I have given you the flower.' The question of the bride's price is then discussed.

There are three recognised scales—Rs. 7 and 7 pieces of cloth, Rs. 9 and 9 pieces of cloth, and Rs. i 8 and i 8 pieces of cloth. The rupees in question are those of Orissa, and each of them is worth only two-thirds of a Government rupee. In cases of extreme poverty Rs. 2 and 2 pieces of cloth are accepted. The price being fixed, the boy's father goes to pay it after an interval ; and on this occasion he holds out his cloth, and a cocoanut is placed on it and broken by the girl's father, which confirms the betrothal. Before the marriage seven married girls go out and dig earth after worshipping the ground, and on their return let it all fall on to the head of the bridegroom's mother, which is protected only by a cloth.

On the next day offerings are made to the ancestors, who are invited to attend the ceremony as village gods. The bridegroom is shaved clean and bathed, and the Brahman then ties an iron ring to his wrist, and the barber puts the turban and marriage- crown on his head. The procession then starts, but any barber who meets it on the way may put a fresh marriage- crown on the bridegroom's head and receive eight annas or a rupee for it, so that he sometimes arrives at his destination wearing four or five of them. The usual ceremonies attend the arrival. At the marriage the couple are blindfolded and seated in the shed, while the Brahman priest repeats mantras or verses, and during this time the parents and the parties must continue placing nuts and pice all over the shed. These are the perquisites of the Brahman.

The hands of the couple are then tied together with kusha grass {Eragrostis cynosu- roides), and water is poured over them. After the ceremony the couple gamble with seven cowries and seven pieces of turmeric. The boy then presses a cowrie on the ground with his little finger, and the girl has to take it away, which she easily does. The girl in her turn holds a cowrie inside her clenched hand, and the boy has to remove it with his little finger, which he finds it impossible to do. Thus the boy always loses and has to promise the girl something, either to give her an ornament or to take her on a pilgrimage, or to

make her the mistress of his house. On the fifth or last day of the ceremony some curds are placed in a small pot, and the couple are made to churn them ; this is probably symbolical of the caste's original occupation of tending cattle.

The bride goes to her husband's house for three days, and then returns home. When she is to be finally brought to her husband's house, his father with some relatives goes to the parents of the girl and asks for her. It is now strict etiquette for her father to refuse to send her on the first occasion, and they usually have to call on him three or four times at intervals of some days, and selecting the days given by the astrologer as auspicious. Occasionally they have to go as many as ten times ; but finally, if the girl's father proves very troublesome, they send an old woman who drags away the girl by force. If the father sends her away willingly he gives her presents of several basket-loads of grain, oil, turmeric, cooking-pots, cloth, and if he is well off a cow and bullocks, the value of the presents amounting to about Rs. 50.

The girl's brother takes her to her husband's house, where a repetition of the marriage ceremony on a small scale is performed. Twice again after the consummation of the marriage she visits her parents for periods of one and six months, but after this she never again goes to their house unaccompanied by her husband. Widow-marriage is allowed, and the widow may marry the younger brother of her late husband or not as she pleases. But if she marries another man he must pay a sum of Rs. 10 to Rs. 20 for her, of which Rs. 5 go to the Panua or headman of the caste, and Rs. 2 to their tutelary goddess Parmeshwari. The children by the first husband are kept either by his relatives or the widow's parents, and do not go to the new husband. When a bachelor marries a widow, he is first married to a flower or Sahara tree. A widow who has remarried cannot take part in any worship or marriage ceremony in her house, not even in the marriage of her own sons. Divorce is allowed, and is effected in the presence of the caste panchdyat or committee. A divorced woman may marr}^ again.

The caste worship the goddess Parmeshwari, the wife of Vishnu, and Jagannath, the Uriya incarnation of Vishnu. Parmeshwari is worshipped by Brahmans, who offer bread

and klilr or rice and milk- to her ; goats are also offered by the Dehri or Mahakul, the caste priest, who receives the heads of the goats as his remuneration. They believe in witches, who they think drink the blood of children, and employ sorcerers to exorcise them. They worship a stick on Dasahra day in remembrance of their old profession of herding cattle, and they worship cows and buffaloes at the full moon of Shrawan (July-August). During Kunwar, on the eighth day of each fortnight, two festivals are held. At the first each girl in the family wears a thread containing eighteen knots twisted three times round her neck.

All the girls fast and receive presents of cloths and grain from their brothers. This is called Bhaijiuntia, or the ceremony for the welfare of the brothers. On the second day the mother of the family does the same, and receives presents from her sons, this being Puajiuntia, or the ceremony for the welfare of sons. The Dumals believe that in the beginning water covered the earth. They think that the sun and moon are the eyes of God, and that the stars are the souls of virtuous men, who enjoy felicity in heaven for the period measured by the sum of their virtuous actions, and when this has expired have to descend again to earth to suffer the agonies of human life. When a shooting star is seen they think it is the soul of one of these descending to be born again on earth.

They both burn and bury their dead according to their means. After a body is buried they make a fire over the grave and place an empty pot on it. Mourning is observed for twelve days in the case of a married and for seven in the case of an unmarried person. Children dying when less than six days old are not mourned at all. During mourning the persons of the household do not cook for themselves. On the third day after the death three leaf- plates, each containing a little rice, sugar and butter, are offered to the spirit of the deceased. On the fourth day four such plates are offered, and on the fifth day five, and so on up to the ninth day when the Pindas or sacrificial cakes are offered, and nine persons belonging to the caste are invited, food and a new piece of cloth being given to each. Should only one attend, nine plates of food would be served to him, and he would be given nine pieces of

cloth. If two or more persons in a family are killed by a tiger, a Sulia or magician is called in, and he pretends to be the tiger and to bite some one in the family, who is then carried as a corpse to the burial-place, buried for a short time and taken out again.

the ceremonies of mourning are observed for him' for one day. This proceeding is be- lieved to secure immunity for the family from further attacks. In return for his services the Sulia gets a share of every- thing in the house corresponding to what he would receive, supposing he were a member of the family, on a partition. Thus if the family consisted of only two persons he would get a third part of the whole property. The Dumals eat meat, including wild boar's flesh, but not beef, fowls or tame pigs. They do not drink liquor. They will take food cooked with water from Brahmans and Sudhs, and even the leavings of food from Brahmans. This is probably because they were formerly the household servants of Brahmans, though they have now risen some- what in position and rank, together with the Koltas and Sudhs, as a good cultivating caste.

Their women and girls can easily be distinguished, the girls because the hair is shaved until they are married, and the women because they wear bangles of glass on one arm and of lac on the other. They never wear nose-rings or the ornament called pairi on the feet, and no ornaments are worn on the arm above the elbow. They do not wear black clothing. The women are tattooed on the hands, feet and breast. Morality within the caste is lax. A woman going wrong with a man of her own caste is not punished, because the Dumals live generally in Native States, where it is the business of the Raja to find the seducer. But she is permanently excom- municated for a liaison with a man of another caste.

Eating with a very low caste is almost the only offence which entails permanent exclusion for both sexes. The Dumals have a bad reputation for fidelity, according to a saying : 'You cannot call the jungle a plain, and you should not call the Dumal a brother,' that is, do not trust a Dumal. Like the Ahirs they are somewhat stupid, and when enquiry was being made from them as to what crops they did not grow, one of them replied that they did not sow salt. They are

good cultivators, and will grow anything except hemp and turmeric. In some places they still follow their traditional occupation of grazing cattle.


(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: Churia, Kheti, Merlly, Padhan [Orissa]

  • Exogamous sections (got): Bichhu, Bud, Kachhap, Limb, Nag, Uluk [Russell & Hiralal]

Exogamous units/clans: Baraha, Kashyapa, Nageswara (snake), Singha [Orissa] Exogamous units/lineages (barga): Baghar, Barik, Behra, Chaulia, Chhand, Dang, Dehri, Gadua, Gaigariya, Gejo, Ghusri, Gurandi, Kamp, Karan, Karmi, Kolta, Mahakul, Mesua or Mendli, Padhan [Russell & Hiralal]

Personal tools