Bania: Parwar

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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 It has been archived for its historical value as well as for
the insights it gives into British colonial writing about the various communities
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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.

Bania, Parwar

This Jain subcaste numbered nearly 29,000 persons in 191 1. They belong almost entirely to the Jubbulpore and Nerbudda Divisions, and the great bulk are found in the Saugor, Damoh and Jubbulpore Districts. The origin of the Parwars and of their name is not known, but there is some reason to suppose that they are from Rajputana. Their women wear on the head the bij\ a Rajputana ornament, and use the chdru, a deep brass plate for drinking, which also belongs there.

Their songs are said to be in the Rajasthani dialect. It seems likely that the Parwars may be identical with the Porawal subcaste found in other Provinces, which, judging from the name, may belong to Rajputana. In the northern Districts the Parwars 1 Bombay Gazetteer, vol. xvii. p. 51. ^ This article is based on papers 2 Ibidem. by Mr. Pancham Lai, Naib-Tahslldar 3 Bhattacharya, Hindu Castes and Sihora, and Munshi Kanhya Lai, of Sects, p. 207. the Gazetteer office.

speak Bundeli, but in the south their language is said to be Marwari. Among the Parwars the Samaiya or Channagri form a separate sectarian Jain group. They do not worship the images of the Jain Tirthakars, but enshrine the sacred books of the Jains in their temples, and worship these. The Parwars will take daughters in marriage from the Chan- nagris, and sometimes give their daughters in consideration of a substantial bride-price.

Among the Parwars themselves there is a social division between the Ath Sake and the Chao Sake ; the former will not permit the marriage of persons related more nearly than eight degrees, while the latter permit it after four degrees. The Ath Sake have the higher position, and if one of them marries a Chao Sake he is degraded to that group. Besides this the Parwars have an inferior division called Benaikia, which consists of the offspring of irregular unions and of widows who have remarried. Persons who have committed a caste offence and cannot pay the fine imposed on them for it also go into this subcaste. The Benaikias ^ themselves are distributed into four groups of varying degrees of respectability, and families who live correctly and marry as well as they can tend to rise from one to the other until after several generations they may again be recognised as Parwars proper. The Parwars have twelve gotras or main sections, and each gotra has, or is supposed to have, twelve inuls or subsections.

A Parwar must not marry in his own gotra nor in the mul of his mother, or any of his grandmothers or greatgrandmothers. This practically bars marriage within seven degrees of relationship. But a man's sister and daughter may be married in the same family, and even to two brothers, and a man can marry two sisters. As a rule no bride-price is paid, but occasionally an old man desiring a wife will give something substantial to her father in secret. There are two forms of marriage, called Thinga and Dajanha ; in the former, women do not accompany the wedding procession, and they have a separate marriage-shed at the bridegroom's house for their own celebrations ; while in the latter, they accompany it ' See also notice of Benaikias in article on Vidur.

and erect such a shed at the house in the bridegroom's village or town where they have their lodging. Before the wedding, the bridegroom, mounted on a horse, and the bride, carried in a litter, proceed together round the mar- riage-shed.

The bridegroom then stands by the sacred post in the centre and the bride walks seven times round him. In the evening there was a custom of dressing the principal male relatives of the bridegroom in women's clothes and making them dance, but this is now being discarded. On the fifth day is held a rite called Palkachar. A new cot is provided by the bride's father, and on it is spread a red cloth. The couple are seated on this with their hands entwined, and their relations come and make them presents. If the bridegroom catches hold of the dress of his mother- or father-in-law, they are expected to make him a handsome present. In other respects the wedding follows the ordinary Hindu ritual. Widow-marriage and divorce are forbidden among the Farwars proper, and those who practise them go into the lower Benaikia group. The Parwars are practically all Jains of the Digambari ^ Reii- sect. They build costly and beautiful temples for their 5'°": Tirthakars, especially for their favourite Parasnath. They observ- have also many Hindu practices.

They observe the Diwali, Rakshabandhan and Holi festivals ; they say that at the Diwali the last Tirthakar Mahavira attained beatitude and the gods rained down jewels ; the little lamps now lighted at Diwali are held to be symbolic of these jewels. They tie the threads round the wrist on Rakshabandhan to keep off evil spirits. They worship Sitala Devi, the Hindu goddess of smallpox, and employ Brahmans to choose names for their children and fix the dates of their wedding and other ceremonies, though not at the ceremonies themselves. The caste burn the dead, with the exception of the 6. Dis- bodies of young children, which are buried. The corpse p°^^! °^ is sometimes placed sitting in a car to be taken to the cremation ground, but often laid on a bier in the ordinary manner. The sitting posture is that in which all the Tirthakars attained paradise, and their images always repre- sent them in this posture. The corpse is naked save for

a new piece of cloth round the waist, but it is covered with a sheet. The Jains do not shave their hair in token of mourning, nor do they offer sacrificial cakes to the dead. When the body is burnt they bathe in the nearest water and go home. Neither the bearers nor the mourners are held to be impure. Next day the mourning family, both men and women, visit Parasnath's temple, lay two pounds of Indian millet before the god and go home.

But in the Central Provinces they whitewash their houses, get their clothes washed, throw away their earthen pots and give a feast to the caste.

The Parwars abstain from eating any kind of flesh and from drinking liquor. They have a panchdyat and impose penalties for offences against caste rules like the Hindus. Among the offences are the killing of any living thing, unchastity or adultery, theft or other bad conduct, taking cooked food or water from a caste from which the Parwars do not take them, and violation of any rule of their religion. To get vermin in a wound, or to be beaten by a low-caste man or with a shoe, incidents which entail serious penalties among the Hindus, are not offences with the Parwars. When an offender is put out of caste the ordinary depriva- tion is that he is not allowed to enter a Jain temple, and in serious cases he may also not eat nor drink with the caste. The Parwars are generally engaged in the trade in grain, ghi^ and other staples. Several of them are well-to-do and own villages.

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