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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
of all of India. It has been archived for its historical value as well as for
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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.


The class of Muhanimadan beggars. In the i. Gencmi Central Provinces the name is practically confined to "° "^^' Muhammadans, but in Upper India Hindus also use it. Nearly 9000 Fakirs were returned in 191 1, being residents mainly of Districts with large towns, as Jubbulpore, Nagpur and Amraoti. Nearly two-fifths of the Muhammadans of the Central Provinces live in towns, and Muhammadan beggars would naturally congregate there also.

The name is derived from the Arabic fakr, poverty. The Fakirs are often known as Shah, Lord, or Sain, a corruption of the Sanskrit Swami, master, Muhammad did not recognise religious ascetism, and expressly discouraged it. But even during his lifetime his companions Abu Bakr and Ali estab- lished religious orders with Zikrs or special exercises, and all Muhammadan Fakirs trace their origin to Abu Bakr or Ali subsequently the first and fourth Caliphs.- The Fakirs are divided into two classes, the Ba Shara or those who live according to the rules of Islam and marry ; and the Be Shara or those without the law. These latter have no wives or homes ; they drink intoxicating liquor, and neither fast, pray nor rule their passions. But several of the orders contain both married and celibate groups. The principal classes of Fakirs in the Central Provinces 2. Prin- are the Madari, Gurujwale or Rafai, Jalali, Mewati, Sada or^^gj-s. Sohagal and Nakshbandia. All of these except the Nakshbandia are nominally at least Be Shara, or without the law, and celibate.

The Madari are the followers of one Madar Shah, a converted Jew of Aleppo, whose tomb is supposed to be at Makhanpur in the United Provinces. Their characteristic badge is a pair of pincers. Some, in order to force people to give them alms, go about dragging a chain or lashing their legs with a whip. Others are monkey- and bear- ' This article is mainly compiled Hughes' Dictionary of Islam, and the from Sir E. D. Maclagan's Punjab volume on Muhannnadans of Giijai-dt Cefisus Report (i?><ji), pp. 192-196, the in the Bombay Gazetteer, pp. 20-24. article on Fakir in the Rev. T. P. ^ Hughes, p. 116.

trainers and rope-dancers. The Madaris are said to be proof against snakes and scorpions, and to have power to cure their bites. They will leap into a fire and trample it down, crying out, ' Aain Madar, Aam Madar! ^ The Gurujwale or Rafai have as their badge a spiked iron club with small chains attached to the end. The Fakir rattles the chains of his club to announce his presence, and if the people will not give him alms strikes at his own cheek or eye with the sharp point of his club, making the blood flow. They make prayers to their club once a year, so that it may not cause them serious injury when they strike themselves with it.

The Jalalias are named after their founder, Jalal-ud-din of Bokhara, and have a horse-whip as their badge, with which they sometimes strike themselves on the hands and feet. They are said to consume large quantities of bhang, and to eat snakes and scorpions ; they shave all the hair on the head and face, including the eyebrows, except a small scalp-lock on the right side. The IMewati appear to be a thieving order. They are also known as Kulchor or thieves of the family, and appear to have been originally a branch of the Madari, who were perhaps expelled on account of their thieving habits.


Their distinguishing mark is a double bag like a pack-saddle, which they hang over their shoulders.

The Sada or Musa Sohag are an order who dress like women, put on glass bangles, have their ears and noses pierced for ornaments, and wear long hair, but retain their beards and moustaches. They regard themselves as brides of God or of Hussan, and beg in this guise. The Nakshbandia are the disciples of Khwaja Mir Muhammad, who was called Nakshband or brocade-maker. They beg at night-time, carrying an open brass lamp with a short wick. Children are fond of the Nakshband, and go out in numbers to give him money. In return he marks them on the brow with oil from his lamp. They are quiet and well behaved, belonging to the Ba Shara class of Fakirs, and having homes and families. The Kalandaria or wandering dervishes, who are 1 Punjab Census Report (1891), p. 196.

occasionally met with, were founded by Kalandar Yusuf- ul-Andalusi, a native of Spain. Having been dismissed from another order, he founded this as a new one, with the obligation of perpetual travelling.

The Kalandar is a well- known figure in Eastern stories.^ The Maulawiyah are the well-known dancing dervishes of Constantinople and Cairo, but do not belong to India. The different orders of Fakirs are not strictly endogamous, and marriages can take place between their members, though the Madaris prefer to confine marriage to their own order. Fakirs as a body are believed to marry among themselves, and hence to form something in the nature of a caste, but they freely admit outsiders, whether Muhammadans or proselytised Hindus.

Every Fakir must have a Murshid or preceptor, and be 3- Rules initiated by him. This applies also to boys born in the customs. order, and a father cannot initiate his son. The rite is usually simple, the novice having to drink sherbet from the same cup as his preceptor and make him a present of Rs. 1-4 ; but some orders insist that the whole body of a novice should be shaved clean of hair before he is initiated. The principal religious exercise of Fakirs is known as Zikr, and consists in the continual repetition of the names of God by various methods, it being supposed that they can draw the name from different parts of the body. The exercise is so exhausting that they frequently faint under it, and is varied by repetition of certain chapters of the Koran.

The Fakir has a tasbih or rosary, often consisting of ninety-nine beads, on which he repeats the ninety-nine names of God. The Fakirs beg both from Hindus and Muhammadans, and are sometimes troublesome and importunate, inflicting wounds on themselves as a means of extorting alms. One beggar in Saugor said that he would give every one who gave him alms five strokes with his whip, and attracted considerable custom by this novel expedient. Some of them are in charge of Muhammadan cemeteries and receive fees for a burial, while others live at the tombs of saints. They keep the tomb in good repair, cover it with a green cloth and keep a lighted lamp on it, and appropriate the ^ Hughes' Dictionary of Islam, art. Fakir.

offerings made by visitors. Owing to their solitude and continuous repetition of prayers many Fakirs fall into a distraught condition, when they are known as mast, and are believed to be possessed of a spirit. At such a time the people attach the greatest importance to any utterances which fall from the Fakir's lips, believing that he has the gift of prophecy, and follow him about with presents to induce him to make some utterance. END OF VOL. II Printed ly R. & R. Clakk, Limited, Edinburgh.

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This section has been extracted from


Ethnographic Glossary.

Printed at the Bengal Secretariat Press.
1891. .

NOTE 1: 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.

NOTE 2: While reading please keep in mind that all posts in this series have been scanned from a very old book. Therefore, footnotes have got inserted into the main text of the article, interrupting the flow. Readers who spot scanning errors are requested to report the correct spelling to the Facebook page, Indpaedia.com. All information used will be gratefully acknowledged in your name.

An Arabic word, pro¬perly denoting a Mahomedan religious mendicant, but vaguely used to denote beggars of all kinds. Of fakirs in the strict sense of the word, the following classes are enumerated by Wilson:

" 1. The Kadaria or Banawa, who profess to be the spiritual descendants of tlaiad A. bd ul-Radir Jilani, of Bagdad. 2. The Ohish¬tia, followers of Banda-nawaz, whose shrine is at Kalbarga; they are usually Shias. 3. Shu¬taria, descendants of Abdul-shu¬tar-i-nak. 4. TabHtia, or Ma¬daria, followers of Shah :Madar; many of these are jugglers, and bear or monkey-leaders. 5. Ma¬lang, descended from J aman J ati, one of Shah Madar's disciples.

6. Rarai, or Gurz-mar, descended h'om Saiad Ahmed Kabir Harai, who appear to beat, cut, and wound themselves without sulfer¬ing inconvenience, and who, in the belief of the faithful, can cut off their own heads and put them on again. 7. J ahUia, fol¬lowers of Saiad Jalal-ud-din BokMri. 8. SoMgia, from Musa Sohag, who dress like women, wear female ornaments, play upon musical instruments, and sing aud dance. 9. Naksh-bandia, followers of BaM-ud-din, of Nakshband, distinguished by begging at night and carrying a lighted lamp. 10. Ba,wa pii.ri ka fakiran, who dress in white. There are other distinctions; and at the Mubarram a number of the lower olasses assume the oharacter and garb of faklrs, of different ridiculous personations, for the amusement of the popu¬lace and the collection of contri¬butions."

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