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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 It has been archived for its historical value as well as for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.

Bhoyar/ Bhoir

(Honorific titles, Mahajan and Patel). A cultivating caste numbering nearly 60,000 persons in 191 1, and residing principally in the Betul and Chhindwara Districts. The Bhoyars are not found outside the Central Provinces, They claim to be the descendants of a band of Panwar Rajputs, who were defending the town of Dharanagri or Dhar in Central India when it was besieged by Aurangzeb. Their post was on the western part of the wall, but they gave way and fled into the town as the sun was rising, and it ' This article is mainly compiled man Bakre, pleader, Betul, and Munshi from papers by Mr. Pandurang Laksh- Pyare Lai, ethnographic clerk. and traditions.

shone on their faces. Hence they were called lihoyar from a word blior meaning morning, because they were seen running away in the morning. They were put out of caste by the other Rajputs, and fled to the Central Provinces. The name may also be a variant of that of the Bhagore Rajputs. And another derivation is from bhora, a simpleton or timid person. Their claim to be immigrants from Central India is borne out by the fact that they still speak a corrupt form of the Malvvi dialect of Rajputana, which is called after them Bhoyari, and their Bhats or genealogists come from Malwa. But they have now entirely lost their position as Rajputs. The Bhoyars are divided into the Panwari, Dholewar, 2. Suh- Chaurasia and Daharia subcastes. The Panwars are the '^^^'^^ ^^^ sections. most numerous and the highest, as claiming to be directly descended from Panwar Rajputs. They sometimes called themselves Jagdeo Panwars, Jagdeo being the name of the king under whom they served in Dharanagri.

The Dholewars take their name from Dhola, a place in Malwa, or from dJioL, a drum. They are the lowest subcaste, and some of them keep pigs. It is probable that these subcastes immigrated with the Malwa Rajas in the fifteenth century, the Dholewars being the earlier arrivals, and having from the first intermarried with the local Dravidian tribes. The Daharias take their name from Dahar, the old name of the Jubbulpore country, and may be a relic of the domination of the Chedi kings of Tewar. The name of the Chaurasias is probably derived from the Chaurasi or tract of eighty-four villages formerly held by the Betul Korku family of Chandu. The last two subdivisions are numerically unimportant. The Bhoyars have over a hundred kuls or exogamous sections.

The names of most of these are titular, but some are territorial and a few totemistic. Instances of such names are Onkar (the god Siva), Deshmukh and Chaudhari, headman, Hazari (a leader of 1000 horse). Gore (fair-coloured), Dongardiya (a lamp on a hill), Pinjara (a cotton -cleaner), Gadria (a shepherd), Khaparia (a tyler), Khawasi (a barber), Chiknya (a sycophant), Kinkar (a slave), Dukhi (penurious), Suplya toplya (a basket and fan maker), Kasai (a butcher), Gohattya (a cow -killer), and Kalebhut (black devil). Among the territorial sections may be mentioned Sonpuria, from Sonpur,

and Patharia, from the hill country.

The name Badnagrya is also really territorial, being derived from the town of Badnagar, but the members of the section connect it with the bad or banyan tree, the leaves of which they refrain from eating. Two other totemistic gotras are the Baranga and Baignya, derived from the bdraiig plant {Kydia calycind) and from the brinjal respectively. Some sections have the names of Rajput septs, as Chauhan, Parihar and Panwar. This curiously mixed list of family names appears to indicate that the Bhoyars originate from a small band of Rajputs who must have settled in the District about the fifteenth century as military colonists, and taken their wives from the people of the country.

They may have subsequently been recruited by fresh bands of immigrants who have preserved a slightly higher status. They have abandoned their old high position, and now rank below the ordinary cultivating castes like Kunbis and Kurmis who arrived later ; while the caste has probably in times past also been recruited to a considerable extent by the admission of families of outsiders. 3. Mar- Marriage within the kid or family group is forbidden, as also the union of first cousins. Girls are usually married young, and sometimes infants of one or two months are given in wedlock, while contracts of betrothal are made for unborn children if they should be of the proper sex, the mother's womb being touched with kunku or red powder to seal the agreement.

A small dej or price is usually paid for the bride, amounting to Rs. 5 with 240 lbs. of grain, and 8 seers of ght and oil. At the betrothal the Joshi or astrologer is consulted to see whether the names of the couple make an auspicious conjunction. He asks for the names of the bride and bridegroom, and if these are found to be inimical another set of names is given, and the experiment is continued until a union is obtained which is astrologically auspicious. In order to provide for this contingency some Bhoyars give their children ten or twelve names at birth. If all the names fail, the Joshi invents new ones of his own, and in some way brings about the auspicious union to the satisfaction of both parties, who consider it no business of theirs to pry into the Joshi's calculations or to question his methods. After the marriage-shed is erected nage.

the family god must be invoked to be present at the ceremony. He is asked to come and take his seat in an earthen pot containing a h'ghted wick, the pot being sup- ported on a toy chariot made of sticks. A thread is coiled round the neck of the jar, and the Bhoyars then place it in the middle of the house, confident that the god has entered it, and will ward off all calamities during the marriage. This is performed by the bJidtnvar ceremony, seven earthen pots being placed in a row, while the bride and bridegroom walk round in a circle holding a basket with a lighted lamp in it. As each circle is completed, one pot is removed. This always takes place at night.

The Dholewars do not perform the hJiCunvar ceremony, and simply throw sacred rice on the couple, and this is also done in Wardha. Sometimes the Bhoyars dispense with the presence of the Brahman and merely get some rice and juari consecrated by him beforehand, which they throw on the heads of the couple, and thereupon consider the marriage complete. Weddings are generally held in the bright fortnight of Baisakh (April—May), and sometimes can be completed in a single day. Widow-marriage is allowed, but it is considered that the widow should marry a widower and not a bachelor.

The regular occupation of the Bhoyars is agriculture, 4. Occupa- and they are good cultivators, growing much sugar-cane °"- with well - irrigation. They are industrious, and their holdings on the rocky soils of the plateau Districts are often cleared of stones at the cost of much labour. Their women work in the fields. In Betijl they have the reputation of being much addicted to drink. They do not now admit outsiders, but their family 5. Social names show that at one time they probably did so, and this ^^-'^tus. laxity of feeling survives in the toleration with which they readmit into caste a woman who has gone wrong with an outsider. They eat flesh and fowls, and the Dholewars eat pork, while as already stated they are fond of liquor. To have a shoe thrown on his house by a caste-fellow is a serious degradation for a Bhoyar, and he must break his earthen pots, clean his house and give a feast. To be beaten with a shoe by a low caste like Mahar entails shaving the moustaches and paying a heavy fine, which is spent on a


The Bhoyars do not take food from any caste but Brahmans, but no caste higher than Kunbis and Mails will take water from them. In social status they rank somewhat below Kunbis. In appearance they are well built, and often of a fair complexion. Unmarried girls generally wear skirts instead of sdj'is or cloths folding between the legs ; they also must not wear toe-rings. Women of the Panwar subcaste wear glass bangles on the left hand, and brass ones on the right. All women are tattooed. They both burn and bury the dead, placing the corpse on the pyre with its head to the south or west, and in Wardha to the north. Here they have a peculiar custom as regards mourning, which is observed only till the next Monday or Thursday whichever falls first. Thus the period of mourning may extend from one to four days.

The Bhoyars are considered in Wardha to be more than ordinarily timid, and also to be considerable simpletons, while they stand in much awe of Government officials, and consider it a great misfortune to be brought into a court of justice. Very few of them can read and write. tribe and its name.


(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, All information used will be gratefully acknowledged in your name.)

Synonyms: Pawar [Madhya Pradesh and/or Chhattisgarh] Subcastes: Chaurasia, Daharia, Dholewar, Panwari [Russell & Hiralal] Titles: Deshmukh [Madhya Pradesh and/or Chhattisgarh] Surnames: Exogamous units/clans: Baignya, Baranga, Chaudhari, Chauhan, Chiknya, Deshmukh, Dongardiya, Dukhi, Gadria, Gohattya, Gore, Hazari, Kalebhut, Kasai, Khaparia, Khawasi, Kinkar, Onkar, Panwar, Parihar, Pinjara, Suplya [Russell & Hiralal] Exogamous units/clans (gotia/kuri): Borange, Chowhan, Deshmukh, Dongerdia, Gorae, Parihur, Potaria, Sonpuria [Madhya Pradesh and/or Chhattisgarh]

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