Otari: Deccan

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This article is an extract from






Of Merton College, Oxford, Trinity College, Dublin, and

Middle Temple, London.

One of the Judges of H. E. H. the Nizam's High Court

of Judicature : Lately Director of Public Instruction.




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Otari, Watari — a very small caste of. smelters, found scattered all over the Dominions. They take their name 'from the .Marathi verb otane which means to pour or to smelt. They are a functional group, probably recruited from the respectable middle classes, but 'now hardened into a rigid caste. The caste was known, under the name 'Uttarak,' to the ancient Hindu Legislators, by whom they are des- cribed to be the offspring of a Karmar father and a Chitrakar mother. According to this account, the Otaris are Pratilomaja (born against the heir) the father being of a lov>'er caste than the mother. They look like Maratha Kunbis and speak the Marathi language.

Internal Structure

Six sub-castes of Otaris we found in these Dominions :— They are (1) Bedari, (2) Ghatoli, (3) Nilamsi, (4) Yadali, (5) Kanchali and (6) Kolwana. These are tAostly territorial groups, based upon the names of the countries they occupy. As, for example, Bedaris are found in the District of Bidar, Ghatolis dwell on the Ghats, or in the District of Aurangabad, Nizamsis are to be found in the Districts of Bir and Parbhani, and Kanchalas in the Gulbarga Dis- trict, Kolwans are said to be Akarmasis, or illegitimate descendants of the abovementioned sub-castes, and are to be met with in the Deglur Taluka of the Nander District. Neither interdining nor intermarriage is allowed among members of these different groups. Their exoga- mous sections bear witness to their Maratha origin. Some of them are as follows : —


bidden to marry within his section or outside his sub-caste. He may marry the daughter of his sister or of his maternal uncle, but he cannot marry the daughter of his mother's sister. Two sisters may have the same husband, provided the elder is married first. Adoptive brotherhood is practised by the caste.

Daughters are married before they have attained the age of puberty. Polygamy is permitted without any limit being imposed upon the number of wives?


The marriage ceremony closely resembles that in vogue among the other Maratha castes. An earthen platform is built under a booth made of five posts. To the Muhurta Medha (wedding post, usually of the Umbar or Ficus glomerata) is tied a piece of tur- meric with raw cotton thread. After the bride and the bridegroom have been smeared with turmeric paste and oil and bathed, each separately in their houses, 'warlis,' or earthen vessels are ceremonially brought from a potter's house by married females whose husbands are living, and deposited under the wedding pandal. One of the pots is placed close to the MuTiurta Medha and covered witJi a lamp, which con- tinues to burn throughout the ceremony. As the auspicious moment for the wedding draws near, the boy is taken, on a bullock, to the Maruti's temple where he is formally welcomed by the bride's party. A grand procession, formed of the members of both parties, conducts the bridegroom to the bride's house. Under the marriage booth the bride and the bridegroom are made to stand facing each other, a clotJi is held between, and the family priest chants mantras and sprinkles rice over their heads. The curtain is withdrawn and the couple exchange garlands of flowers and become husband and wife. Kanyadan, Kankan-bandhanam, Horn and Sade follow and on the performance of the last rite the ceremony is brought to a close.


Otaris allow their widows to marry again, recognise divorce and follow the Hindu Law of inheritance. Their favourite god- dess is Kalika-devi, to whom goats and sheep are offered at the Dasera festival. The image of the goddess is kept in the house and worshipped daily by each member of the house-hold. Their other gods are Bhairoba, Bhavanai, Danai, Janai, Khandoba, Maruti and Nagoba. The animistic deities Mari Ai and Sitala are appeased when sn epidemic of cholera or small-pox breaks out. They observe all Hindu fasts and festivals and make pilgrimages to Alandi, Jejuri and Pandharpur. Deshastha Brahmans are engaged for religious and ceremonial purposes.


When a child is born, its navel cord is cut, laid in an earthen pot and buried somewhere in the house. For the first two days after birth the child is fed on honey and castor oil and th^ mother on rice and butter. On the fifth, day the knife with which the navel cord was cut is placed on a 'Pata" (stone-skab) and wor- shipped with offerings of rice, pulse and .cakes. On the 1 2th day the mother becomes free from child-impurity and the child is named after being presented to Satwai, represented by seven pebbles arranged in a row. The mother worships the pebbles and invokes their bless- ing upon the child.

Disposal of the Dead

Otaris burn their adult dead in a lying posture and if burial is resorted to, poverty is the cause. On the third day after death the ashes of the burnt are collected and thrown into a stream or pond, while the bones are enclosed in arf earthen jar and buried. Mourning is observed for ten days and the chief 'mourners shave tTie head and moustaches. On the 12th day relatives are feasted. 'Sradha' is performed in the latter half of the month of Bhadrapad. Children under five years old are buried.

Social Status

Otaris claim for themselves a higher social standing than the IViaratha Kunbis. They eat only from the hands of Brahmans, Komatis, Jangams and Rajputs, while Maratha Kunbis eat Kachi' from the hands of these people. They eat fish and the flesh of sheep, goats, hare, deer and fowl and drink spirituous and fermented liquors.


The principal occupation of the caste has been the making of toe rings or 'jodavis,' from bell metal, which they cany for sale on an iron ring or leather band. A few make molten images of Hindu Gods. The men and women hawk the jodavis (toe-rings) from door to door and village to village or they squat along the road-side and find customers generally in women of low castes. The implements of their craft are ' Hatodi ' (hammer), 'Sandsi' (pincers), 'Kanas' (file) and 'Danda' (rod). Both men and women are very hard-working, the women preparmg earthen moulds and blowing the bellows. ,

Otaris have a caste Panchayat presided over by a headman called Chaudhari, or Naik, who settles social disputes in consultation with the members of the caste council.

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