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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.



LIST OF PARAGRAPHS 1. TJie ifibe derived from the 4. Marriage. Baigas. 5. Religious superstitio7is. 2. Closely connected with the 6. Admission of outsiders ajid Kawars. caste offences. 3. Internal structure. Totemism. 7. Social customs.


A primitive tribe peculiar to the Central i- The Provinces and found principally in the Bilaspur District and derived the adjoining area, that is, in the wild tract of forest country f'om the between the Satpura range and the south of the Chota ^'^^^' Nagpur plateau. In 191 1 about 17,000 members of the tribe were returned. The tribe is of mixed descent and appears to have been derived principally from the Baigas and Kawars, having probably served as a city of refuge to persons expelled from these and other tribes and the lower castes for irregular sexual relations.

Their connection with the Baigas is shown by the fact that in Mandla the Baigas have two subdivisions, which are known as Rai or Raj- Bhaina, and Kath, or catechu-making Bhaina. The name therefore would appear to have originated with the Baiga tribe, A Bhaina is also not infrequently found to be employed in the office of village priest and magician, which goes by the name of Baiga in Bilaspur. And a Bhaina has the same reputation as a Baiga for sorcery, it being said of him — Mainhar ki manjh Bhaina ki pang 1 This article is based principally by Mr. Syed Sher Ali, Naib-Tahsildar, on a paper by Panna Lai, Revenue Mr. Hira Lai and Mr. Aduram Chaud- Inspector, Bilaspur, and also on papers hri of the Gazetteer office. VOL. II 225 Q

or ' The magic of a Bhaina is as deadly as the powdered maiftkdr fruit,' this fruit having the property of stupefying fish when thrown into the water, so that they can easily be caught. This reputation simply arises from the fact that in his capacity of village priest the Bhaina performs the various magical devices which lay the ghosts of the dead, protect the village against tigers, ensure the prosperity of the crops and so on. But it is always the older residents of any locality who are employed by later comers in this office, because they are considered to have a more intimate acquaint- ance with the local deities.

And consequently we are entitled to assume that the Bhainas are older residents of the country where they are found than their neighbours, the Gonds and Kawars. There is other evidence to the same effect ; for instance, the oldest forts in Bilaspur are attributed to the Bhainas, and a chief of this tribe is remembered as having ruled in Bilaigarh ; they are also said to have been dominant in Pendra, where they are still most numerous, though the estate is now held by a Kawar ; and it is related that the Bhainas were expelled from Phuljhar in Raipur by the Gonds. Phuljhar is believed to be a Gond State of long standing, and the Raja of Raigarh and others claim to be descended from its ruling family. A manuscript history of the Phuljhar chiefs records that that country was held by a Bhaina king when the Gonds invaded it, coming from Chanda.

The Bhaina with his soldiers took refuge in a hollow underground chamber with two exits. But the secret of this was betrayed to the Gonds by an old Gond woman, and they filled up the openings of the chamber with grass and burnt the Bhainas to death. On this account the tribe will not enter Phuljhar territory to this day, and say that it is death to a Bhaina to do so.

The Binjhwars are also said to have been dominant in the hills to the east of Raipur District, and they too are a civilised branch of the Baigas. And in all this area the village priest is commonly known as Baiga, the deduction from which is, as already stated, that the Baigas were the oldest residents.^ It seems a legitimate conclusion, therefore, that prior to the immigration of the

  • For the meaning of the term Baiga and its application to the tribe, see also

article on Bhuiya.

Gonds and Kawars, the ancient Baiga tribe was spread over the whole hill country east and north of the Mahanadi basin. The Bhainas are also closely connected with the Kawars, = cioseiy who still own many large estates in the hills north of Bilas- wTtirthe pur. It is said that formerly the Bhainas and Kawars both Kawars. ate in common and intermarried, but at present, though the Bhainas still eat rice boiled in water from the Kawars, the latter do not reciprocate. But still, when a Kawar is cele- brating a birth, marriage or death in his family, or when he takes in hand to make a tank, he will first give food to a Bhaina before his own caste-men eat. And it may safely be assumed that this is a recognition of the Bhaina's position as having once been lord of the land.

A Kawar may still be admitted into the Bhaina community, and it is said that the reason of the rupture of the former equal relations between the two tribes was the disgust felt by the Kawars for the rude and uncouth behaviour of the Bhainas. For on one occasion a Kawar went to ask for a Bhaina girl in marriage, and, as the men of the family were away, the women undertook to entertain him. And as the Bhainas had no axes, the daughter proceeded to crack the sticks on her head for kindling a fire, and for grass she pulled out a wisp of thatch from the roof and broke it over her thigh, being unable to chop it. This so offended the delicate susceptibilities of the Kawar that he went away without waiting for his meal, and from that time the Kawars ceased to marry with the Bhainas. It seems possible that the story points to the period when the primitive Bhainas and Baigas did not know the use of iron and to the introduction of this metal by the later-coming Kawars and Gonds. It is further related that when a Kawar is going to make a ceremonial visit he likes always to take with him two or three Bhainas, who are considered as his retainers, though not being so in fact.

This enhances his importance, and it is also said that the stupidity of the Bhainas acts as a foil, through which the superior intelligence of the Kawar is made more apparent. All these details point to the same con- clusion that the primitive Bhainas first held the country and were supplanted by the more civilised Kawars, and bears structure : Totemism.

out the theory that the settlement of the Munda tribes was prior to those of the Dravidian family. 3. Internal The tribe has two subdivisions of a territorial nature, Laria or Chhattlsgarhi, and Uriya. The Uriya Bhainas will accept food cooked without water from the Sawaras or Saonrs, and these also from them ; so that they have probably intermarried. Two other subdivisions recorded are the Jhalyara and Ghantyara or Ghatyara ; the former being so called because they live in jJidlas or leaf huts in the forest, and the latter, it is said, because they tie a glianta or bell to their doors.

This, however, seems very im- probable. Another theory is that the word is derived from ghdt^ a slope or descent, and refers to a method which the tribe have of tattooing themselves with a pattern of lines known as gJidt. Or it is said to mean a low or despised section. The Jhalyara and Ghatyara divisions comprise the less civilised portion of the tribe, who still live in the forests ; and they are looked down on by the Uriya and Laria sections, who belong to the open country. The exogamous divisions of the tribe show clearly enough that the Bhainas, like other subject races, have quite failed to preserve any purity of blood. Among the names of their gots or septs are Dhobia (a washerman), Ahera (cowherd), Gond, Mallin (gardener), Panika (from a Panka or Ganda) and others.

The members of such septs pay respect to any man belonging to the caste after which they are named and avoid picking a quarrel with him. They also worship the family gods of this caste. The tribe have also a number of totem septs, named after animals or plants. Such are Nag the cobra, Bagh the tiger, Chitwa the leopard, Gidha the vulture, Besra the hawk, Bendra the monkey, Kok or Lodha the wild dog, Bataria the quail, Durgachhia the black ant, and so on. Members of a sept will not injure the animal after which it is named, and if they see the corpse of the animal or hear of its death, they throw away an earthen cooking -pot and bathe and shave themselves as for one of the family. Members of the Baghchhal or tiger sept will, however, join in a beat for tiger though they are reluctant to do so. At weddings the Bhainas have a ceremony known as the goU-a worship. The bride's father

makes an image in clay of the bird or animal of the groom's sept and places it beside the marriage-post. The bride- groom worships the image, lighting a sacrificial fire before it, and offers to it the vermilion which he afterwards smears upon the forehead of the bride. At the bridegroom's house a similar image is made of the bride's totem, and on return- ing there after the wedding she worships this. Women are often tattooed with representations of their totem animal, and men swear by it as their most sacred oath.

A similar respect is paid to the inanimate objects after which certain septs are named. Thus members of the Gawad or cowdung sept will not burn cowdung cakes for fuel ; and those of the Mircha sept do not use chillies. One sept is named after the sun, and when an eclipse occurs these perform the same formal rites of mourning as the others do on the death of their totem animal. Some of the groups have two divisions, male and female, which practically rank as separate septs. Instances of these are the Nagbans Andura and the Nagbans Mai or male and female cobra septs ; the Karsayal Singhara and Karsayal Mundi or stag and doe deer septs ; and the Baghchhal Andura and Baghchhal Mai or tiger and tigress septs. These may simply be instances of subdivisions arising owing to the boundaries of the sept having become too large for convenience. The tribe consider that a boy should be married when 4. Mar- he has learnt to drive the plough, and a girl when she is "^^^" able to manage her household affairs.

When a father can afford a bride for his son, he and his relatives go to the girl's village, taking with them ten or fifteen cakes of bread and a bottle of liquor. He stays with some relative and sends to ask the girl's father if he will give his daughter to the inquirer's son. If the former agrees, the bread and liquor are sent over to him, and he drinks three cups of the spirit as a pledge of the betrothal, the remainder being distributed to the company. This is known as Tatia kJiobia or ' the opening of the door,' and is followed some days afterwards by a similar ceremonial which constitutes the regular betrothal. On this occasion the father agrees to marry his daughter within a year and demands the bride- price, which consists of rice, cloth, a goat and other articles,

the total value being about five rupees. A date is next fixed for the wedding, the day selected being usually a Monday or Friday, but no date or month is forbidden. The number of days to the wedding are then counted, and two knotted strings are given to each party, with a knot for each day up to that on which the anointings with oil and turmeric will commence at the bridegroom's and bride's houses.

Every day one knot is untied at each house up to that on which the ceremonies begin, and thus the correct date for them is known. The invitations to the wedding are given by distributing rice coloured yellow with turmeric to all members of the caste in the locality, with the intima- tion that the wedding procession will start on a certain day and that they will be pleased to attend. During the four days that they are being anointed the bride and bridegroom dance at their respective houses to the accompaniment of drums and other instruments. For the wedding ceremony a number of Hindu rites have been adopted.

The eldest sister of the bridegroom or bride is known as the sawdsin and her husband as the sawdsa, and these persons seem to act as the representatives of the bridal couple throughout the marriage and to receive all presents on their behalf. The custom is almost universal among the Hindus, and it is possible that they are intended to act as substitutes and to receive any strokes of evil fortune which may befall the bridal pair at a season at which they are peculiarly liable to it. The couple go round the sacred post, and afterwards the bridegroom daubs the bride's forehead with red lead seven times and covers her head with her cloth to show that she has become a married woman. After the wedding the bridegroom's parents say to him, " Now your parents have done everything they could for you, and you must manage your own house." The expenditure on an average wedding is about fifteen or twenty rupees. A widow is usually taken in marriage by her late husband's younger brother or Dewar, or by one of his relatives.

If she marries an outsider, the Dewar realises twelve rupees from him in compensation for her loss. But if there is no Dewar this sum is not payable to her first husband's elder brother or her own father, because they could not have married her

and hence arc not held to be injured by a stranger doing so. If a woman is divorced and another man wishes to marry her, he must make a similar payment of twelve rupees to the first husband, together with a goat and liquor for the penal feast. The Bhainas bury or burn the dead according as their means permit.

Their principal deit)^ in Bilaspur is Nakti Devi ^ or the s- i<t;i'- ' Noseless Goddess.' For her ritual rice is placed on a suuersti- square of the floor washed with cowdung, and ghl or tio"s. preserved butter is poured on it and burnt. A hen is made to eat the rice, and then its head is cut off and laid on the square. The liver is burnt on the fire as an offering to the deity and the head and body of the animal are then eaten. After the death of a man a cock is offered to Nakti Devi and a hen after that of a woman. The fowl is made to pick rice first in the yard of the house, then on the threshold, and lastly inside the house.

Thakur Deo is the deity of cultivation and is worshipped on the day before the autumn crops are sown. On this day all the men in the village go to his shrine taking a measure of rice and a ploughshare.

At the same time the Baiga or village priest goes and bathes in the tank and is afterwards carried to the assembly on a man's shoulders. Here he makes an offering and repeats a charm, and then kneeling down strikes the earth seven times with the ploughshare, and sows five handfuls of rice, sprinkling water over the seed. After him the villagers walk seven times round the altar of the god in pairs, one man turning up the earth with the ploughshare and the other sowing and watering the seed. While this is going on the Baiga sits with his face covered with a piece of cloth, and at the end the villagers salute the Baiga and go home.

When a man wishes to do an injury to another he makes an image of him with clay and daubs it with vermilion and worships it with an offering of a goat or a fowl and liquor. Then he prays the image that his enemy may die. Another way of injuring an enemy is to take rice coloured with turmeric, and after 1 It is or was, of course, a common application of the epithet to the goddess practice for a husband to cut off his should he taken to imply anything wife's nose if he suspected her of being against her moral character is not unfaithful to him. But whether the known.

muttering charms throw it in the direction in which the enemy hves. Outsiders are not usually admitted, but if a Bhaina forms a connection with a woman of another tribe, they will admit the children of such a union, though not the woman herself. For they say : ' The seed is ours and what matters the field on which it was sown.' But a man of the Kawar tribe having intimacy with a Bhaina woman may be taken into the community. He must wait for three or four months after the matter becomes known and will beg for admission and offer to give the penalty feast. A day is fixed for this and invitations are sent to members of the caste. On the appointed day the women of the tribe cook rice, pulse, goat's flesh and urad cakes fried in oil, and in the evening the people assemble and drink liquor and then go to take their food.

The candidate for admission serves water to the men and his prospective wife to the women, both being then permitted to take food with the tribe. Next morning the people come again and the woman is dressed in a white cloth with bangles. The couple stand together supported by their brother-in-law and sister-in-law respectively, and turmeric dissolved in water is poured over their heads. They are now considered to be married and go round together and give the salutation or Johar to the people, touching the feet of those who are entitled to this mark of respect, and kissing the others. Among the offences for which a man is temporarily put out of caste is getting the ear torn either accidentally or otherwise, being beaten by a man of very low caste, growing san-hemp {Crotalariajunced), rearing tasar silk-worms or getting maggots in a wound.

This last is almost as serious an offence as killing a cow, and, in both cases, before an offender can be reinstated he must kill a fowl and swallow a drop or two of its blood with turmeric. Women commonly get the lobe of the ear torn through the heavy ear-rings which they wear ; and in a squabble another woman will often seize the ear-ring maliciously in order to tear the ear. A woman injured in this way is put out of caste for a year in Janjgir. To grow turmeric or garlic is also an offence against caste, but a man is permitted to do this for his own use and not for sale. A man who gets leprosy is M SOCIAL CUSTOMS 233 said to be permanently expelled from caste. The purifica- tion of delinquents is conducted by members of the Sonwani (gold-water) and Patel (headman) septs, whose business it is to give the offender water to drink in which gold has been dipped and to take over the burden of his sins by first eating food with him. But others say that the Ilathi or elephant sept is the highest, and to its members are delegated these duties. And in Janjgir again the president of the committee gives the gold-water, and is hence known as Sonwan ; and this office must always be held by a man of the l^andar or monkey sept. The Bhainas are a comparatively civilised tribe and have 7- Social largely adopted Hindu usages.

They employ Brahmans to fix auspicious days for their ceremonies, though not to officiate at them. They live principally in the open country and are engaged in agriculture, though very iew of them hold land and the bulk are farm-labourers. They now disclaim any connection with the primitive Baigas, who still prefer the forests. But their caste mark, a symbol which may be affixed to documents in place of a signature or used for a brand on cattle, is a bow, and this shows that they retain the recollection of hunting as their traditional occupation. Like the Baigas, the tribe have forgotten their native dialect and now speak bad Hindi. They will eat pork and rats, and almost anything else they can get, eschewing only beef But in their intercourse with other castes they are absurdly strict, and will take boiled rice only from a Kawar, or from a Brahman if it is cooked in a brass and not in an earthen vessel, and this only from a male and not from a female Brahman ; while they will accept baked cJiapdtis and other food from a Gond and a Rawat. But in Sambalpur they will take this from a Savar and not from a Gond. They rank below the Gonds, Kawars and Savars or Saonrs. Women are tattooed with a representation of their sept totem

and on the knees and ankles they have some figures of lines which are known as ghats. These they say will enable them to climb the mountains leading to heaven in the other world, while those who have not such marks will be pierced with spears on their way up the ascent. It has already been suggested that these marks may have given rise to the name of the Ghatyara division of the tribe.

Bhamta Or Bhamtya

A caste numbering 4000 tion. persons in the Central Provinces, nearly all of whom reside in the Wardha, Nagpur and Chanda Districts of the Nagpur Division. The Bhamtas are also found in Bombay, Berar and Hyderabad. In Bombay they are known by the names of Uchla or ' Lifter ' and Gantha- chor or ' Bundle-thief,' "^ The Bhamtas were and still are notorious thieves, but many of the caste are now engaged in the cultivation of hemp, from which they make ropes, mats and gunny-bags. Formerly it was said in Wardha that a Bhamta girl would not marry unless her suitor had been arrested not less than fourteen times by the police, when she considered that he had qualified as a man. The following description of their methods does not necessarily apply to the whole caste, though the bulk of them are believed to have criminal tendencies. But some colonies of Bhamtas who have taken to the manufacture of sacking and gunny-bags from hemp-fibre may perhaps be excepted. They steal only during the daytime, and divide that part of the Province which they frequent into regular beats or ranges.

They adopt many disguises. Even in their own cottages one dresses as a Marwari Bania, another as a Gujarat Jain, a third as a Brahman and a fourth as a Rajput. They keep to some particular disguise for years and often travel hundreds of miles, enter- ing and stealing from the houses of the classes of persons whose dress they adopt, or taking service with a merchant or trader, and having gained their employer's confidence, seizing an opportunity to abscond with some valuable property. Sometimes two or three Bhamtas visit a large fair, and one of them dressed as a Brahman mingles with the crowd of bathers and worshippers. The false Brahman notices some ornament deposited by a bather, and while himself entering the water and repeating sacred verses, watches his opportunity and spreads out his cloth near the ornament, which he then catches with his toes, and drag- ging it with him to a distance as he walks away buries ' This article is mainly compiled ^ Bombay Gazetteer (Campbell), from a paper by Pyare Lai Misra, xviii. p. 464. Ethnographic Clerk.

it in the sand. The accomplices meanwhile loiter near, and when the owner discovers his loss the Brahman sympathises with him and points out the accomplices as likely thieves, thus diverting suspicion from himself. The victim follows the accomplices, who make off, and the real thief meanwhile digs the ornament out of the sand and escapes at his leisure. Women often tie their ornaments in bundles at such bathing-fairs, and in that case two Bhamtas will go up to her, one on each side, and while one distracts her attention the other makes off with the bundle and buries it in the sand.

A Bhamta rarely retains the stolen property on his person while there is a chance of his being searched, and is therefore not detected. They show considerable loyalty to one another, and never steal from or give information against a member of the caste. If stolen property is found in a Bhamta's house, and it has merely been deposited there for security, the real thief comes forward. An escaped prisoner does not come back to his friends lest he should get them into trouble. A Bhamta is never guilty of house-breaking or gang- robbery, and if he takes part in this offence he is put out of caste. He does not steal from the body of a person asleep. He is, however, expert at the theft of ornaments from the person. He never steals from a house in his own village, and the villagers frequently share directly or indirectly in his gains. The Bhamtas are now expert railway thieves.^ Two of them will get into a carriage, and, engaging the other passengers in conversation, find out where they are going, so as to know the time available for action. When it gets dark and the travellers go to sleep, one of the Bhamtas lies down on the floor and covers himself with a large cloth. He begins feeling some bag under the seat, and if he cannot open it with his hands, takes from his mouth the small curved knife which all Bhamtas carry concealed between their gum and upper lip, and with this he rips up the seams of the bag and takes out what he finds ; or they exchange bags, accord- ing to a favourite device of English railway thieves, and then quickly either leave the train or get into another carriage. 1 The following particulars are taken from Colonel Portman's Report on the Bhamtas of the Deccan (Bombay, 1887).

If attention is aroused they throw the stolen property out of the window, marking the place and afterwards going back to recover it. Another device is to split open and pick the pockets of people in a crowd. Besides the knife they often have a needle and thread and an iron nut-cutter. Members of other castes, as Chhatri, Kanjar, Rawat and others, who have taken to stealing, are frequently known as Bhamtas, but unless they have been specially initiated do not belong to the caste. The Bhamtas proper have two main divisions, the Chhatri Bhamtas, who are usually immi- grants from Gujarat, and those of the Maratha country, who are often known as Bhamtis.

The former have a dialect which is a mixture of Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati, while the latter speak the local form of Marathi. The sections of the Chhatri Bhamtas are named after Rajput septs, as Badgujar, Chauhan, Gahlot, Bhatti, Kachhwaha and others. They may be partly of Rajput descent, as they have regular and pleasing features and a fair complexion, and are well built and sturdy. The sections of the Bhamtis are called by Maratha surnames, as Gudekar, Kaothi, Bailkhade, Satbhaia and others. The Chhatri Bhamtas have northern customs, and the Bhamtis those of the Maratha country. Marriage between persons of the same gotra or surname is prohibited. The Chhatris avoid marriage between rela- tions having a common greatgrandparent, but among the Bhamtis the custom of Mehunchar is prevalent, by which the brother's daughter is married to the sister's son. Girls are usually married at ten and eleven years of age or later. The betrothal and marriage customs of the two subcastes differ, the Chhatris following the ceremonial of the northern Districts and the Bhamtis that of the Maratha country.

The Chhatris do not pay a bride-price, but the Bhamtis usually do. Widow -marriage is allowed, and while the Chhatris expect the widow to marry her deceased husband's brother, the Bhamtis do not permit this. Among both subdivisions a price is paid for the widow to her parents. Divorce is only permitted for immoral conduct on the part of the wife. A divorced woman may remarry after giving a feast to the caste panchdyat or committee, and obtaining their consent.

The goddess Devi is the tutelary deity of the caste, as 3- ^di- of all those who ply a disreputable profession. Animals are sociLr" sacrificed to her or let loose to wander in her name. The tustoms. offerings are appropriated by the village washerman. In Bombay the rendezvous of the Bhamtis is the temple of Devi at Konali, in Akalkot State, near Sholapur, and here the gangs frequently assemble before and after their raids to ask the goddess that luck may attend them and to thank her for success obtained.^

They worship their rope-making imple- ments on the Dasahra day. They both bury and burn the dead. Ghosts and spirits are worshipped. If a man takes a second wife after the death of his first, the new wife wears a putli or image of the first wife on a piece of silver on her neck, and offers it the Jioni sacrifice by placing some ghl on the fire before taking a meal. In cases of doubt and difficulty she often consults the putli by speak- ing to it, while any chance stir of the image due to the movement of her body is interpreted as approval or dis- approval. In the Central Provinces the Bhamtis say that they do not admit outsiders into the caste, but this is almost certainly untrue. In Bombay they are said to admit all Hindus^ except the very lowest castes, and also Muhammadans.

The candidate must pass through the two ceremonies of admission into the caste and adop- tion into a particular family. For the first he pays an admission fee, is bathed and dressed in new clothes, and one of the elders drops turmeric and sugar into his mouth. A feast follows, during which some elders of the caste eat out of the same plate with him. This completes the admis- sion ceremony, but in order to marry in the caste a candidate must also be adopted into a particular family. The Bhamta who has agreed to adopt him invites the caste people to his house, and there takes the candidate on his knee while the guests drop turmeric and sugar into his mouth. The Bham- tas eat fish and fowl but not pork or beef, and drink liquor. This last practice is, however, frequently made a caste offence by the Bhamtis. They take cooked food from Brahmans and Kunbis and water from Gonds. The keeping of con- cubines is also an offence entailing temporary excommuni- 1 Portman, loc. cit. ^ Bombay Gazetteer (Campbell), xviii. p. 465. notice,

cation. The morality of the caste is somewhat low and their women are addicted to prostitution. The occupation of the Bhamta is also looked down on, and it is said, BJidinta ka kdm sub se iiikdiii, or ' The Bhamta's work is the worst of all.' This may apply either to his habits of stealing or to the fact that he supplies a bier made of twine and bamboo sticks at a death. In Bombay the showy dress of the Bhamta is proverbial. Women are tattooed before marriage on the forehead and lower lip, and on other parts of the body for purposes of adornment. The men have the head shaved for three inches above the top of the forehead in front and an inch higher behind, and they wear the scalp- lock much thicker than Brahmans do. They usually have red head-cloths. General


The occupational caste of grain-parchers. The name is derived from the Sanskrit hJirdstra, a frying-pan, and bhdrjaka, one who fries. The Bharbhunjas numbered 3000 persons in 191 i, and belong mainly to the northern Districts, their headquarters being in Upper India. In Chhattlsgarh the place of the Bharbhunjas is taken by the Dhuris. Sir H. Elliot " remarks that the caste are tradition- ally supposed to be descended from a Kahar father and a Sudra mother, and they are probably connected with the Kahars.

In Saugor they say that their ancestors were Kankubja Brahmans who were ordered to parch rice at the wedding of the great Rama, and in consequence of this one of their subcastes is known as Kanbajia. But Kankubja is one of the commonest names of subcastes among the people of northern India, and merely indicates that the bearers belong to the tract round the old city of Kanauj ; and there is no reason to suppose that it means anything more in the case of the Bharbhunjas. Another group are called Kaitha, and they say that their ancestors were Kayasths, who adopted the profession of grain-parching.

It is said that in Bhopal proper Kayasths will take food from Kaitha Bharbhunjas and smoke from their huqqa ; and it is noticeable that in ' This article contains some informa- Saugor. tion from a paper by Mr. Gopal Par- ^ Memoirs of the Races of the manand, Deputy Inspector of Schools, N. W.P. vol. i. p. 35.

northern India Mr. Crooke gives ^ not only the Kaitha sub- caste, but other groups called Saksena and Srivastab, which arc the names of well-known Kayasth subdivisions. It is possible, therefore, that the Kaitha group may really be connected with the Kayasths. Other subcastes are the Benglah, who are probably immigrants from Bengal ; and the Kandu, who may also come from that direction, Kandu being the name of the corresponding caste of grain-parchers in Bengal.

The social customs of tlxp Bharbhunjas resemble those 2. Social of Hindustani castes of fairly good position." They employ ^"^'°"'^- Brahmans for their ceremonies, and the family priest receives five rupees for officiating at a wedding, three rupees for a funeral, one rupee for a birth, and four annas on ordinary occasions. No price is paid for a bride, and at their marriages the greater part of the expense falls on the girl's father, who has to give three feasts as against two provided by the bridegroom's father. After the wedding the bride- groom's father puts on women's clothes given by the bride's father and dances before the family. Rose-coloured water and powder are sprinkled over the guests and the proceeding is known as Phag, because it is considered to have the same significance as the Holi festival observed in Phagun.

This is usually done on the bank of a river or in some garden outside the village. At the gauna or going-away ceremony the bride and bridegroom take their seats on two wooden boards and then change places. Divorce and the remarriage of widows are permitted. The union of a widow with her deceased husband's younger brother is considered a suitable match, but is not compulsory. When a bachelor marries a widow, he first goes through the proper ceremony either with a stick or an ear-ring, and is then united to the widow by the simple ritual employed for widow remarriage. A girl who is seduced by a member of the caste may be married to him as if she were a widow, but if her lover is an outsider she is permanently expelled from the caste. The Bharbhunjas occupy a fairly high social position, 3. Occupa- tion.

^ Tribes and Castes, art. Bhar- mainder of this section is taken from bhunja. ]Mr. Gopal Parmanand's notes. 2 See article on Kurmi. The re-

analogous to that of the Barais, Kahars and other serving castes, the explanation being that all Hindus require the grain parched by them ; this, as it is not cooked with water, may be eaten abroad, on a journey or in the market-place. This is known as pakki food, and even Brahmans will take it from their hands. But Mr. Crooke notes ^ that the work they do, and particularly the sweeping up of dry leaves for fuel, tends to lower them in the popular estimation, and it is a favourite curse to wish of an enemy that he may some day come to stoke the kiln of a grain-parcher. Of their occupation Sir H. Risley states that " Throughout the caste the actual work of parching grain is usually left to the women. The process is a simple one. A clay oven is built, somewhat in the shape of a bee-hive, with ten or twelve round holes at the top. A fire is lighted under it and broken earthen pots containing sand are put on the holes.

The grain to be parched is thrown in with the sand and stirred with a flat piece of wood or a broom until it is ready. The sand and parched grain are then placed in a sieve, through which the former escapes. The wages of the parcher are a proportion of the grain, varying from one-eighth to one-fourth. In Bengal the caste was spoken of by early English travellers under the quaint name of the frymen." " In the Central Provinces also grain-parching is distinctly a woman's industry, only twenty- two per cent of those shown as working at it being men. There are two classes of tradesmen, those who simply keep ovens and parch grain which is brought to them, and those who keep the grain and sell it ready parched. The rates for parching are a pice a seer or an eighth part of the grain. Gram and rice, husked or unhusked, are the grains usually parched. When parched, gram is called phutdna (broken) and rice Idhi.

The Bharbhunjas also prepare sathu, a flour made by grinding parched gram or wheat, which is a favourite food for a light morning meal, or for travellers. It can be taken without preparation, being simply mixed with water and a little salt or sugar. The following story is told about sathii to emphasise its convenience in this respect. Once two travellers were about to take some food before ' Ibidem. - Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art. Kandu.

starting in the morning, of whom one had satku and the other dhdn (unhusked rice). The one with the dhdn knew that it would take him a long time to pound, and then cook and eat it, so he said to the other, " My poor friend, I perceive that you only have sathu, which will delay you because you must find water, and then mix it, and find salt, and put it in, before your sat/m can be ready, while rice—pound, eat and go. But if you like, as you are in a greater hurry than I am, I will change my rice for your sathu.

" The other traveller unsuspectingly consented, thinking he was getting the best of the bargain, and while he was still looking for a mortar in which to pound his rice, the first traveller had mixed and eaten the sathu and proceeded on his journey. In the vernacular the point is brought out by the onoma- topoeic character of the lines, which cannot be rendered in English, The caste are now also engaged in selling tobacco and sweetmeats and the manufacture of fireworks. They stoke their ovens with any refuse they can collect from the roads, and hence comes the saying, ' Bhdr inen ddlnal ' To throw into the oven,' meaning to throw away something or to make ducks and drakes with it ; while Bhdr-jhokna sig- nifies to light or heat the oven, and, figuratively, to take up a mean occupation (Platts). Another proverb quoted by Mr. Crooke is, ^ Bharbhunja ka larki kesar ka tikal or ' The Bharbhunja's slut with saffron on her forehead,' meaning one dressed in borrowed plumes.

Another saying is, ' To tiiin kya abhi tak bhdr bhunjte rake,' or ' Have you been stoking the oven all this time ? '—meaning to imply that the person addressed has been wasting his time, because the profits from grain-parching are so small. The oven of the Psalmist into which the grass was cast no doubt closely resembled that of the Bharbhunjas. VOL. II R I. Origin and tribal


Synonyms: Sidar [Madhya Pradesh and/or Chhattisgarh]

  • Sub-divisions: Ghatyara, Ghantyara, Jhalyara, Laria, Uriya [Russell & Hiralal]

Surnames: Sidar [Madhya Pradesh and/or Chhattisgarh]

  • Exogamous divisions: Ahera, Dhobia, Gond, Mallin, Panika [Russell

& Hiralal] Exogamous units/clans: Bagh (tiger), Bendra (monkey), Chechan (bird), Oeur, Hathi (elephant) [Madhya Pradesh and/or Chhattisgarh] Exogamous units/lineages (bansh): [Madhya Pradesh and/or Chhattisgarh]

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