NOTE : This book "The Tribes and caste of Central Provinces of India" is written and Published by Fireign writer RV Russeil on HEAR SAY basis and consists of many mistakes thus the author of This site is not responsible for any miscontents and added to this site just for awareness of the people about misconception of foreign writter about caste sytems in India which is mainly guided by Manu law need not be taken as reference, other than historical events. Mr Russeil has neither travelled India to study in depth of the Caste system nor he is expert in caste sytem. Satnami was never a caste rather it was a Sects like Kabirpanthi sects etc and was parallel and equivelant to Hindu, Muslim, Christan, sikh, Buddhist and other religion. Satnami movement is a casteless society developed by Guru Ghasidas and his son Raja Guru Balakdas especially in Central Provinces, Chhattisgarh and near by states such as Orissa, UP, Maharastra etc. It is true to say that Satnami and Satnam movement was initiated by Sant Kabir and Sant Ravidas at large and followed bu Guru Nanak later on converted to Sikhs religion in India. Sant Birbhan of Narnaul and Jagjivandas of Barabanki UP born on Kshatriya family also opted Satnami movement in there respective area are also matter of concern to study and know the basic principle of Satnam movement at large. This has not been taken care b Mr Russeil in his study and reference book published as under. The writer was influenced by Brahmin boys who are the root cause of social disorder in India and sufferrings of 90% True Indians. Every one is victims of Caste system and real cause of backwardness of this Country.
Regarding Satnami sects which is major cultivators and farming class of Chhattisgarh with more than 700 Malgujars at the time of Guru Ghasidas about whome the writer has used most fealthy language with mean mind on hear-say basis. Not only that he tried to misguide the real events which took place at Aurabandha and written on his book as Amabandha. It is possible that the name of village AMABANDHA is typographical error as the word "UR" has been placed by "M" in AURABANDHA or it is a mischievious action . Since there is no AMABANDHA near Raipur other than AMAPARA and also there was no guest house at Amapara - Raipur. Thus mentioning about Guru Balakdas assessination at Amabandha is totally untrue and appears to be pure typographical error . There are serries of evidence about the sad incident which took place at Aurabandha in the hands of Savarn Rajput, thickly populate in that area about 10 KM from Mungeli (Now new district of CG). Dr Sonkar has studied village to village in that area and published in his thisis about the sad incident. Thus this book is put on this site just to awaken the people to study carefully the history written by high handed people in absence of our own literature since Caste ridden society did not permitted to study the Shudras for thouisands of year. All the writing and literatures at that time have been written either by ill- brain Brahmin boys or other high caste people like Rai Bahadur Hiralal who are equally having pre-conceived notion. Mr Hiralal has given perverted version to suit his society only and not projected the true picture about Satnam movement which was a unique and historical nature at that time as casteless social movement towards equality.
Chairman SWAGAT

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The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India

Published Under the Orders of the Central Provinces Administration
In Four Volumes
Vol. I.
Macmillan and Co., Limited St. Martin’s Street, London.


Political Divisions of the Indian Empire

Political Divisions of the Indian Empire

Scale = 1 : 17,500,000

Central Provinces and Berar

Central Provinces and Berar

Scale = 1 : 4,000,000 or 63.1 Miles to an Inch

Main Linguistic or Ethnical Divisions of the Central Provinces with the Sambalpur District and Certain States now in Bihar and Orissa

Main Linguistic or Ethnical Divisions of the Central Provinces with the Sambalpur District and Certain States now in Bihar and Orissa

Scale = 1 : 4,000,000 or 63.1 Miles to an Inch


HINDI-speaking Districts.—The western tract includes the Saugor, Damoh, Jubbulpore, Narsinghpur, Hoshangabad, Nimar and Betul Districts which lie principally in the Nerbudda Valley or on the Vindhyan Hills north-west of the Valley. In most of this area the language is the Bundeli dialect of Western Hindi, and in Nimar and Betul a form of the Rajputana dialects. The eastern tract includes the Raipur, Bilaspur and Drug Districts and adjacent Feudatory States. This country is known as Chhattisgarh, and the language is the Chhattisgarhi dialect of Eastern Hindi.


MARATHI.—Amraoti, Akola, Buldana and Yeotmal Districts of Berar, and Nagpur, Bhandara, Wardha and Chanda Districts of the Nagpur Plain.


TELUGU.—Sironcha tahsil of Chanda District. Telugu is also spoken to some extent in the adjacent tracts of Chanda and Bastar States.


TRIBAL or Non-Aryan dialects.—Mandla, Seoni, Chhindwara, and part of Balaghat Districts on the Satpura Range in the centre. Sarguja, Jashpur, Udaipur, Korea, and Chang Bhakar States on the Chota Nagpur plateau to the north-east. Bastar and Kanker States and parts of Chanda and Drug Districts on the hill-ranges south of the Mahanadi Valley to the south-east. In these areas the non-Aryan or Kolarian and Dravidian tribes form the strongest element in the population but many of them have abandoned their own languages and speak Aryan vernaculars.


URIYA.—Sambalpur District and Sarangarh, Bamra, Rairakhol, Sonpur, Patna and Kalahandi Feudatory States. This area, with the exception of Sarangarh, no longer forms part of the Central Provinces, having been transferred to Bengal in 1905, and subsequently to the new Province of Bihar and Orissa. It was, however, included in the ethnographic survey for some years, and is often referred to in the text. [v]



This book is the result of the arrangement made by the Government of India, on the suggestion of the late Sir Herbert Risley, for the preparation of an ethnological account dealing with the inhabitants of each of the principal Provinces of India. The work for the Central Provinces was entrusted to the author, and its preparation, undertaken in addition to ordinary official duties, has been spread over a number of years. The prescribed plan was that a separate account should be written of each of the principal tribes and castes, according to the method adopted in Sir Herbert Risley’s Tribes and Castes of Bengal. This was considered to be desirable as the book is intended primarily as a work of reference for the officers of Government, who may desire to know something of the customs of the people among whom their work lies. It has the disadvantage of involving a large amount of repetition of the same or very similar statements about different castes, and the result is likely therefore to be somewhat distasteful to the ordinary reader. On the other hand, there is no doubt that this method of treatment, if conscientiously followed out, will produce more exhaustive results than a general account. Similar works for some other Provinces have already appeared, as Mr. W. Crooke’s Castes and Tribes of the North-Western Provinces and Oudh, Mr. Edgar Thurston’s Castes and Tribes of [vi]Southern India, and Mr. Ananta Krishna Iyer’s volumes on Cochin, while a Glossary for the Punjab by Mr. H.A. Rose has been partly published. The articles on Religions and Sects were not in the original scheme of the work, but have been subsequently added as being necessary to render it a complete ethnological account of the population. In several instances the adherents of the religion or sect are found only in very small numbers in the Province, and the articles have been compiled from standard works.

In the preparation of the book much use has necessarily been made of the standard ethnological accounts of other parts of India, especially Colonel Tod’s Annals and Antiquities of Rājasthān, Mr. J.D. Forbes’ Rasmāla or Annals of Gujarāt, Colonel Dalton’s Ethnology of Bengal, Dr. Buchanan’s Eastern India, Sir Denzil Ibbetson’s Punjab Census Report for 1881, Sir John Malcolm’s Memoir of Central India, Sir Edward Gait’s Bengal and India Census Reports and article on Caste in Dr. Hastings’ Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, Colonel (Sir William) Sleeman’s Report on the Badhaks and Rāmāseeāna or Vocabulary of the Thugs, Mr. Kennedy’s Criminal Classes of the Bombay Presidency, Major Gunthorpe’s Criminal Tribes of Bombay, Berār and the Central Provinces, the books of Mr. Crooke and Sir H. Risley already mentioned, and the mass of valuable ethnological material contained in the Bombay Gazetteer (Sir J. Campbell), especially the admirable volumes on Hindus of Gujarāt by Mr. Bhimbhai Kirpārām, and Pārsis and Muhammadans of Gujarāt by Khān Bahādur Fazlullah Lutfullah Faridi, and Mr. Kharsedji Nasarvānji Seervai, J.P., and Khān Bahādur Bāmanji Behrāmji Patel. Other Indian ethnological works from which I have made quotations are Dr. Wilson’s Indian Caste (Times Press and Messrs. Blackwood). [vii]Bishop Westcott’s Kabīr and the Kabīrpanth (Baptist Mission Press, Cawnpore), Mr. Rajendra Lāl Mitra’s Indo-Aryans (Newman & Co., Calcutta), The Jainas by Dr. J.G. Bühler and Mr. J. Burgess, Dr. J.N. Bhattachārya’s Hindu Castes and Sects (Thacker, Spink & Co., Calcutta), Professor Oman’s Mystics, Ascetics and Saints of India, Cults, Customs and Superstitions of India, and Brāhmans, Theists and Muslims of India (T. Fisher Unwin), Mr. V.A. Smith’s Early History of India (Clarendon Press), the Rev. T.P. Hughes’ Dictionary of Islām (W.H. Allen & Co., and Heffer & Sons, Cambridge), Mr. L.D. Barnett’s Antiquities of India, M. André Chevrillon’s Romantic India, Mr. V. Ball’s Jungle Life in India, Mr. W. Crooke’s Popular Religion and Folklore of Northern India, and Things Indian, Captain Forsyth’s Highlands of Central India (Messrs. Chapman & Hall), Messrs. Yule and Burnell’s Hobson-Jobson (Mr. Crooke’s edition), Professor Hopkins’ Religions of India, the Rev. E.M. Gordon’s Indian Folk-Tales (Elliot & Stock), Messrs. Sewell and Dikshit’s Indian Calendar, Mr. Brennand’s Hindu Astronomy, and the late Rev. Father P. Dehon’s monograph on the Oraons in the Memoirs of the Asiatic Society of Bengal.

Ethnological works on the people of the Central Provinces are not numerous; among those from which assistance has been obtained are Sir C. Grant’s Central Provinces Gazetteer of 1871, Rev. Stephen Hislop’s Notes on the Aboriginal Tribes of the Central Provinces, Colonel Bloomfield’s Notes on the Baigas, Sir Charles Elliott’s Hoshangābād Settlement Report, Sir Reginald Craddock’s Nāgpur Settlement Report, Colonel Ward’s Mandla Settlement Report, Colonel Lucie Smith’s Chānda Settlement Report, Mr. G.W. Gayer’s Lectures on Criminal Tribes, Mr. C.W. Montgomerie’s [viii]Chhindwāra Settlement Report, Mr. C.E. Low’s Bālāghāt District Gazetteer, Mr. E.J. Kitts’ Berār Census Report of 1881, and the Central Provinces Census Reports of Mr. T. Drysdale, Sir Benjamin Robertson and Mr. J.T. Marten.

The author is indebted to Sir J.G. Frazer for his kind permission to make quotations from The Golden Bough and Totemism and Exogamy (Macmillan), in which the best examples of almost all branches of primitive custom are to be found; to Dr. Edward Westermarck for similar permission in respect of The History of Human Marriage, and The Origin and Development of the Moral Ideas (Macmillan); to Messrs. A. & C. Black in respect of the late Professor Robertson Smith’s Religion of the Semites; to Messrs. Heinemann for those from M. Salomon Reinach’s Orpheus; and to Messrs. Hachette et Cie and Messrs. Parker of Oxford for those from La Cité Antique of M. Fustel de Coulanges. Much assistance has also been obtained from Sir E. B. Tylor’s Early History of Mankind and Primitive Culture, Lord Avebury’s The Origin of Civilisation, Mr. E. Sidney Hartland’s Primitive Paternity, and M. Salomon Reinach’s Cultes, Mythes et Religions. The labours of these eminent authors have made it possible for the student to obtain a practical knowledge of the ethnology of the world by the perusal of a small number of books; and if any of the ideas put forward in these volumes should ultimately be so fortunate as to obtain acceptance, it is to the above books that I am principally indebted for having been able to formulate them. Other works from which help has been obtained are M. Emile Senart’s Les Castes dans I’Inde, Professor W. E. Hearn’s The Aryan Household, and Dr. A.H. Keane’s The World’s Peoples. Sir George Grierson’s great work, The Linguistic Survey of India, has now given [ix]an accurate classification of the non-Aryan tribes according to their languages and has further thrown a considerable degree of light on the vexed question of their origin. I have received from Mr. W. Crooke of the Indian Civil Service (retired) much kind help and advice during the final stages of the preparation of this work. As will be seen from the articles, resort has constantly been made to his Tribes and Castes for filling up gaps in the local information.

Rai Bahādur Hīra Lāl was my assistant for several years in the taking of the census of 1901 and the preparation of the Central Provinces District Gazetteers; he has always given the most loyal and unselfish aid, has personally collected a large part of the original information contained in the book, and spent much time in collating the results. The association of his name in the authorship is no more than his due, though except where this has been specifically mentioned, he is not responsible for the theories and deductions from the facts obtained. Mr. Pyāre Lāl Misra, barrister, Chhindwāra, was my ethnographic clerk for some years, and he and Munshi Kanhya Lāl, late of the Educational Department, and Mr. Adurām Chandhri, Tahsīldār, gave much assistance in the inquiries on different castes. Among others who have helped in the work, Rai Bahādur Panda Baijnāth, Diwān of the Patna and Bastar States, should be mentioned first, and Bābu Kali Prasanna Mukerji, pleader, Saugor, Mr. Gopāl Datta Joshi, District Judge, Saugor, Mr. Jeorākhan Lāl, Deputy-Inspector of Schools, and Mr. Gokul Prasād, Tahsīldār, may be selected from the large number whose names are given in the footnotes to the articles. Among European officers whose assistance should be acknowledged are Messrs. C.E. Low, C.W. Montgomerie, A.B. Napier, A.E. Nelson, A.K. [x]Smith, R.H. Crosthwaite and H.F. Hallifax, of the Civil Service; Lt.-Col. W.D. Sutherland, I.M.S., Surgeon-Major Mitchell of Bastar, and Mr. D. Chisholm.

Some photographs have been kindly contributed by Mrs. Ashbrooke Crump, Mrs. Mangabai Kelkar, Mr. G.L. Corbett, C.S., Mr. R.L. Johnston, A.D.S.P., Mr. J.H. Searle, C.S., Mr. Strachey, Mr. H.E. Bartlett, Professor L. Scherman of Munich, and the Diwān of Raigarh State. Bishop Westcott kindly gave the photograph of Kabīr, which appears in his own book.

Finally I have to express my gratitude to the Chief Commissioner, Sir Benjamin Robertson, for the liberal allotment made by the Administration for the publication of the work; and to the publishers, Messrs. Macmillan & Co., and the printers, Messrs. R. & R. Clark, for their courtesy and assistance during its progress through the press.

September 1915. [xi]



Part I—Volume I

Part II—Volumes II, III and IV

Descriptive Articles on the Principal Castes and Tribes of the Central Provinces 1



Detailed List of Contents

Part I

Articles on Religions and Sects

The articles which are considered to be of most general interest are shown in capitals

Articles on Minor Castes and Miscellaneous Notices Included in the Glossary

Part II—Vol. II

Articles on Castes and Tribes of the Central Provinces in Alphabetical Order

Part II—Vol. III

Part II—Vol. IV

Note.—The Gonds are the most important of the non-Aryan or primitive tribes, and their social customs are described in detail. The Baiga, Bhīl, Kawar, Khond, Kol, Korku and Korwa are other important tribes. The two representative cultivating castes are the Kurmis and Kunbis, and the articles on them include detailed descriptions of Hindu social customs, and some information on villages, houses, dress, food and manner of life. Articles in which subjects of general interest are treated are Darzi (clothes), Sunār (ornaments), Kachera and Lakhera (bangles), Nai (hair), Kalār (veneration of alcoholic liquor), Bania (moneylending and interest), Kasai (worship and sacrifice of domestic animals), Joshi (the Hindu calendar and personal names), Bhāt (suicide), Dahait (significance of the umbrella), and Kanjar (connection of Indian and European gipsies). The articles on Badhak, Sānsia and Thug are compiled from Sir William Sleeman’s reports on these communities of dacoits and murderers, whose suppression he achieved. For further information the Subject Index may be consulted. [xxi]


Maps and Illustrations


Volume I

Volume II

  • 31. Aghori mendicant 14
  • 32. Ahīrs decorated with cowries for the Stick Dance at Diwāli 18
  • 33. Image of Krishna as Murlidhar or the flute-player, with attendant deities 28
  • 34. Ahīr dancers in Diwāli costume 32
  • 35. Pinjāra cleaning cotton 72
  • 36. Baiga village, Bālāghāt District 88
  • 37. Hindu mendicants with sect-marks 94
  • 38. Anchorite sitting on iron nails 98
  • 39. Pilgrims carrying water of the river Nerbudda 100
  • 40. Coloured Plate: Examples of Tilaks or sect-marks worn on the forehead 102
  • 41. Group of Mārwāri Bania women 112
  • 42. Image of the god Ganpati carried in procession 116
  • 43. The elephant-headed god Ganpati. His conveyance is a rat, which can be seen as a little blob between his feet 120
  • 44. Mud images made and worshipped at the Holi festival 126
  • 45. Bania’s shop 128
  • 46. Banjāra women with the singh or horn 184
  • 47. Group of Banjāra women 188
  • 48. Basors making baskets of bamboo 210
  • 49. Bhāt with his putla or doll 256
  • 50. Group of Bhīls 278
  • 51. Tantia Bhīl, a famous dacoit 282 [xxiii]
  • 52. Group of Bohras at Burhānpur (Nimār) 346
  • 53. Brāhman worshipping his household gods 380
  • 54. Brāhman bathing party 384
  • 55. Brāhman Pujāris or priests 390
  • 56. Group of Marātha Brāhman men 392
  • 57. Group of Nāramdeo Brāhman women 396
  • 58. Group of Nāramdeo Brāhman men 398
  • 59. Chamārs tanning and working in leather 416
  • 60. Chamārs cutting leather and making shoes 418
  • 61. Chhīpa or calico-printer at work 430
  • 62. Dhīmar or fisherman’s hut 502
  • 63. Fishermen in dug-outs or hollowed tree trunks 506
  • 64. Group of Gurujwāle Fakīrs 538

Volume III

  • 65. Gond women grinding corn 42
  • 66. Palace of the Gond kings of Garha-Mandla at Rāmnagar 46
  • 67. Gonds on a journey 62
  • 68. Killing of Rāwan, the demon king of Ceylon, from whom the Gonds are supposed to be descended 114
  • 69. Woman about to be swung round the post called Meghnāth 116
  • 70. Climbing the pole for a bag of sugar 118
  • 71. Gonds with their bamboo carts at market 122
  • 72. Gond women, showing tattooing on backs of legs 126
  • 73. Māria Gonds in dancing costume 136
  • 74. Gondhali musicians and dancers 144
  • 75. Gosain mendicant 150
  • 76. Alakhwāle Gosains with faces covered with ashes 152
  • 77. Gosain mendicants with long hair 154
  • 78. Famous Gosain Mahant. Photograph taken after death 156
  • 79. Gūjar village proprietress and her land agent 168
  • 80. Guraos with figures made at the Holi festival called Gangour 176
  • 81. Group of Gurao musicians with their instruments 180
  • 82. Ploughing with cows and buffaloes in Chhattīsgarh 182
  • 83. Halwai or confectioner’s shop 202
  • 84. Jogi mendicants of the Kanphata sect 244
  • 85. Jogi musicians with sārangi or fiddle 250
  • 86. Kaikāris making baskets 298
  • 87. Kanjars making ropes 332
  • 88. A group of Kasārs or brass-workers 370
  • 89. Dancing girls and musicians 374 [xxiv]
  • 90. Girl in full dress and ornaments 378
  • 91. Old type of sugarcane mill 494
  • 92. Group of Kol women 512
  • 93. Group of Kolams 520
  • 94. Korkus of the Melghāt hills 550
  • 95. Korku women in full dress 556
  • 96. Koshti men dancing a figure, holding strings and beating sticks 582

Volume IV

  • 97. Potter at his wheel 4
  • 98. Group of Kunbis 16
  • 99. Figures of animals made for Pola festival 40
  • 100. Hindu boys on stilts 42
  • 101. Throwing stilts into the water at the Pola festival 46
  • 102. Carrying out the dead 48
  • 103. Pounding rice 60
  • 104. Sowing 84
  • 105. Threshing 86
  • 106. Winnowing 88
  • 107. Women grinding wheat and husking rice 90
  • 108. Group of women in Hindustāni dress 92
  • 109. Coloured Plate: Examples of spangles worn by women on the forehead 106
  • 110. Weaving: sizing the warp 142
  • 111. Winding thread 144
  • 112. Bride and bridegroom with marriage crowns 166
  • 113. Bullocks drawing water with mot 170
  • 114. Māng musicians with drums 186
  • 115. Statue of Marātha leader, Bīmbāji Bhonsla, in armour 200
  • 116. Image of the god Vishnu as Vithoba 248
  • 117. Coolie women with babies slung at the side 256
  • 118. Hindu men showing the choti or scalp-lock 272
  • 119. Snake-charmer with cobras 292
  • 120. Transplanting rice 340
  • 121. Group of Pardhāns 350
  • 122. Little girls playing 400
  • 123. Gujarāti girls doing figures with strings and sticks 402
  • 124. Ornaments 524
  • 125. Teli’s oil-press 544
  • 126. The Goddess Kāli 574
  • 127. Wāghya mendicants 604




a has the sound of u in but or murmur.
ā has the sound of a in bath or tar.
e has the sound of é in écarté or ai in maid.
i has the sound of i in bit, or (as a final letter) of y in sulky
ī has the sound of ee in beet.
o has the sound of o in bore or bowl.
u has the sound of u in put or bull.
ū has the sound of oo in poor or boot.

The plural of caste names and a few common Hindustāni words is formed by adding s in the English manner according to ordinary usage, though this is not, of course, the Hindustāni plural.

Note.—The rupee contains 16 annas, and an anna is of the same value as a penny. A pice is a quarter of an anna, or a farthing. Rs. 1–8 signifies one rupee and eight annas. A lakh is a hundred thousand, and a krore ten million.


Part I.

Introductory Essay on Caste


Introductory Essay on Caste

List of Paragraphs

1. The Central Provinces.

The territory controlled by the Chief Commissioner of the Central Provinces and Berār has an area of 131,000 square miles and a population of 16,000,000 persons. Situated in the centre of the Indian Peninsula, between latitudes 17°47′ and 24°27′ north, and longitudes 76° and 84° east, it occupies about 7.3 per cent of the total area of British India. It adjoins the Central India States and the United Provinces to the north, Bombay to the west, Hyderābād State and the Madras Presidency to the south, and the Province of Bihār and Orissa to the east. The Province was constituted as a separate administrative unit in 1861 from territories taken from the Peshwa [6]in 1818 and the Marātha State of Nāgpur, which had lapsed from failure of heirs in 1853. Berār, which for a considerable previous period had been held on a lease or assignment from the Nizām of Hyderābād, was incorporated for administrative purposes with the Central Provinces in 1903. In 1905 the bulk of the District of Sambalpur, with five Feudatory States inhabited by an Uriya-speaking population, were transferred to Bengal and afterwards to the new Province of Bihār and Orissa, while five Feudatory States of Chota Nāgpur were received from Bengal. The former territory had been for some years included in the scope of the Ethnographic Survey, and is shown coloured in the annexed map of linguistic and racial divisions.

The main portion of the Province may be divided, from north-west to south-east, into three tracts of upland, alternating with two of plain country. In the north-west the Districts of Sangor and Damoh lie on the Vindhyan or Mālwa plateau, the southern face of which rises almost sheer from the valley of the Nerbudda. The general elevation of this plateau varies from 1500 to 2000 feet. The highest part is that immediately overhanging the Nerbudda, and the general slope is to the north, the rivers of this area being tributaries of the Jumna and Ganges. The surface of the country is undulating and broken by frequent low hills covered with a growth of poor and stunted forest. The second division consists of the long and narrow valley of the Nerbudda, walled in by the Vindhyan and Satpūra hills to the north and south, and extending for a length of about 200 miles from Jubbulpore to Handia, with an average width of twenty miles. The valley is situated to the south of the river, and is formed of deep alluvial deposits of extreme richness, excellently suited to the growth of wheat. South of the valley the Satpūra range or third division stretches across the Province, from Amarkantak in the east (the sacred source of the Nerbudda) to Asīrgarh in the Nimār District in the west, where its two parallel ridges bound the narrow valley of the Tapti river. The greater part consists of an elevated plateau, in some parts merely a rugged mass of hills hurled together by volcanic action, in others a succession of bare stony ridges and narrow fertile valleys, in which the soil has [7]been deposited by drainage. The general elevation of the plateau is 2000 feet, but several of the peaks rise to 3500, and a few to more than 4000 feet. The Satpūras form the most important watershed of the Province, and in addition to the Nerbudda and Tapti, the Wardha and Wainganga rivers rise in these hills. To the east a belt of hill country continues from the Satpūras to the wild and rugged highlands of the Chota Nāgpur plateau, on which are situated the five States recently annexed to the Province. Extending along the southern and eastern faces of the Satpūra range lies the fourth geographical division, to the west the plain of Berār and Nāgpur, watered by the Purna, Wardha and Wainganga rivers, and further east the Chhattīsgarh plain, which forms the upper basin of the Mahānadi. The Berār and Nāgpur plain contains towards the west the shallow black soil in which autumn crops, like cotton and the large millet juāri, which do not require excessive moisture, can be successfully cultivated. This area is the great cotton-growing tract of the Province, and at present the most wealthy. The valleys of the Wainganga and Mahānadi further east receive a heavier rainfall and are mainly cropped with rice. Many small irrigation tanks for rice have been built by the people themselves, and large tank and canal works are now being undertaken by Government to protect the tract from the uncertainty of the rainfall. South of the plain lies another expanse of hill and plateau comprised in the zarmīndāri estates of Chānda and the Chhattīsgarh Division and the Bastar and Kanker Feudatory States. This vast area, covering about 24,000 square miles, the greater part of which consists of dense forests traversed by precipitous mountains and ravines, which formerly rendered it impervious to Hindu invasion or immigration, producing only on isolated stretches of culturable land the poorer raincrops, and sparsely peopled by primitive Gonds and other forest tribes, was probably, until a comparatively short time ago, the wildest and least-known part of the whole Indian peninsula. It is now being rapidly opened up by railways and good roads.

2. Constitution of the population.

Up to a few centuries ago the Central Provinces remained outside the sphere of Hindu and Muhammadan conquest. To the people of northern India it was known as Gondwāna, [8]an unexplored country of inaccessible mountains and impenetrable forests, inhabited by the savage tribes of Gonds from whom it took its name. Hindu kingdoms were, it is true, established over a large part of its territory in the first centuries of our era, but these were not accompanied by the settlement and opening out of the country, and were subsequently subverted by the Dravidian Gonds, who perhaps invaded the country in large numbers from the south between the ninth and twelfth centuries. Hindu immigration and colonisation from the surrounding provinces occurred at a later period, largely under the encouragement and auspices of Gond kings. The consequence is that the existing population is very diverse, and is made up of elements belonging to many parts of India. The people of the northern Districts came from Bundelkhand and the Gangetic plain, and here are found the principal castes of the United Provinces and the Punjab. The western end of the Nerbudda valley and Betūl were colonised from Mālwa and Central India. Berār and the Nāgpur plain fell to the Marāthas, and one of the most important Marātha States, the Bhonsla kingdom, had its capital at Nāgpur. Cultivators from western India came and settled on the land, and the existing population are of the same castes as the Marātha country or Bombay. But prior to the Marātha conquest Berār and the Nimar District of the Central Provinces had been included in the Mughal empire, and traces of Mughal rule remain in a substantial Muhammadan element in the population. To the south the Chānda District runs down to the Godāvari river, and the southern tracts of Chānda and Bastar State are largely occupied by Telugu immigrants from Madras. To the east of the Nāgpur plain the large landlocked area of Chhattīsgarh in the upper basin of the Mahānadi was colonised at an early period by Hindus from the east of the United Provinces and Oudh, probably coming through Jubbulpore. A dynasty of the Haihaivansi Rājpūt clan established itself at Ratanpur, and owing to the inaccessible nature of the country, protected as it is on all sides by a natural rampart of hill and forest, was able to pursue a tranquil existence untroubled by the wars and political vicissitudes of northern India. The population of Chhattīsgarh thus constitutes to [10]some extent a distinct social organism, which retained until quite recently many remnants of primitive custom. The middle basin of the Mahānadi to the east of Chhattīsgarh, comprising the Sambalpur District and adjoining States, was peopled by Uriyas from Orissa, and though this area has now been restored to its parent province, notices of its principal castes have been included in these volumes. Finally, the population contains a large element of the primitive or non-Aryan tribes, rich in variety, who have retired before the pressure of Hindu cultivators to its extensive hills and forests. The people of the Central Provinces may therefore not unjustly be considered as a microcosm of a great part of India, and conclusions drawn from a consideration of their caste rules and status may claim with considerable probability of success to be applicable to those of the Hindus generally. For the same reason the standard ethnological works of other Provinces necessarily rank as the best authorities on the castes of the Central Provinces, and this fact may explain and excuse the copious resort which has been made to them in these volumes.

3. The word ‘Caste.’

The word ‘Caste,’ Dr. Wilson states,1 is not of Indian origin, but is derived from the Portuguese casta, signifying race, mould or quality. The Indian word for caste is jāt or jāti, which has the original meaning of birth or production of a child, and hence denotes good birth or lineage, respectability and rank. Jātha means well-born. Thus jāt now signifies a caste, as every Hindu is born into a caste, and his caste determines his social position through life.

4. The meaning of the term ‘Caste.’

The two main ideas denoted by a caste are a community or persons following a common occupation, and a community whose members marry only among themselves. A third distinctive feature is that the members of a caste do not as a rule eat with outsiders with the exception of other Hindu castes of a much higher social position than their own. None of these will, however, serve as a definition of a caste. In a number of castes the majority of members have abandoned their traditional occupation and taken to others. Less than a fifth of the Brāhmans of the Central Provinces are performing any priestly or religious functions, and [11]the remaining four-fifths are landholders or engaged in Government service as magistrates, clerks of public offices, constables and orderlies, or in railway service in different grades, or in the professions as barristers and pleaders, doctors, engineers and so on. The Rājpūts and Marāthas were originally soldiers, but only an infinitely small proportion belong to the Indian Army, and the remainder are ruling chiefs, landholders, cultivators, labourers or in the various grades of Government service and the police. Of the Telis or oil-pressers only 9 per cent are engaged in their traditional occupation, and the remainder are landholders, cultivators and shopkeepers. Of the Ahīrs or graziers only 20 per cent tend and breed cattle. Only 12 per cent of the Chamārs are supported by the tanning industry, and so on. The Bahnas or cotton-cleaners have entirely lost their occupation, as cotton is now cleaned in factories; they are cartmen or cultivators, but retain their caste name and organisation. Since the introduction of machine-made cloth has reduced the profits of hand-loom weaving, large numbers of the weaving castes have been reduced to manual labour as a means of subsistence. The abandonment of the traditional occupation has become a most marked feature of Hindu society as a result of the equal opportunity and freedom in the choice of occupations afforded by the British Government, coupled with the rapid progress of industry and the spread of education. So far it has had no very markedly disintegrating effect on the caste system, and the status of a caste is still mainly fixed by its traditional occupation; but signs are not wanting of a coming change. Again, several castes have the same traditional occupation; about forty of the castes of the Central Provinces are classified as agriculturists, eleven as weavers, seven as fishermen, and so on. Distinctions of occupation therefore are not a sufficient basis for a classification of castes. Nor can a caste be simply defined as a body of persons who marry only among themselves, or, as it is termed, an endogamous group; for almost every important caste is divided into a number of subcastes which do not marry and frequently do not eat with each other. But it is a distinctive and peculiar feature of caste as a social institution that it splits up the people into a multitude of these [12]divisions and bars their intermarriage; and the real unit of the system and the basis of the fabric of Indian society is this endogamous group or subcaste.

5. The subcaste.

The subcastes, however, connote no real difference of status or occupation. They are little known except within the caste itself, and they consist of groups within the caste which marry among themselves, and attend the communal feasts held on the occasions of marriages, funerals and meetings of the caste panchāyat or committee for the judgment of offences against the caste rules and their expiation by a penalty feast; to these feasts all male adults of the community, within a certain area, are invited. In the Central Provinces the 250 groups which have been classified as castes contain perhaps 2000 subcastes. Except in some cases other Hindus do not know a man’s subcaste, though they always know his caste; among the ignorant lower castes men may often be found who do not know whether their caste contains any subcastes or whether they themselves belong to one. That is, they will eat and marry with all the members of their caste within a circle of villages, but know nothing about the caste outside those villages, or even whether it exists elsewhere. One subdivision of a caste may look down upon another on the ground of some difference of occupation, of origin, or of abstaining from or partaking of some article of food, but these distinctions are usually confined to their internal relations and seldom recognised by outsiders. For social purposes the caste consisting of a number of these endogamous groups generally occupies the same position, determined roughly according to the respectability of its traditional occupation or extraction.

6. Confusion of nomenclature.

No adequate definition of caste can thus be obtained from community of occupation or intermarriage; nor would it be accurate to say that every one must know his own caste and that all the different names returned at the census may be taken as distinct. In the Central Provinces about 900 caste-names were returned at the census of 1901, and these were reduced in classification to about 250 proper castes.

In some cases synonyms are commonly used. The caste of pān or betel-vine growers and sellers is known indifferently as Barai, Pansāri or Tamboli. The great caste [13]of Ahīrs or herdsmen has several synonyms—as Gaoli in the Northern Districts, Rawat or Gahra in Chhattīsgarh, Gaur among the Uriyas, and Golkar among Telugus. Lohārs are also called Khāti and Kammāri; Masons are called Larhia, Rāj and Beldār. The more distinctly occupational castes usually have different names in different parts of the country, as Dhobi, Wārthi, Baretha, Chakla and Parit for washermen; Basor, Burud, Kandra and Dhulia for bamboo-workers, and so on. Such names may show that the subdivisions to which they are applied have immigrated from different parts of India, but the distinction is generally not now maintained, and many persons will return one or other of them indifferently. No object is gained, therefore, by distinguishing them in classification, as they correspond to no differences of status or occupation, and at most denote groups which do not intermarry, and which may therefore more properly be considered as subcastes.

Titles or names of offices are also not infrequently given as caste names. Members of the lowest or impure castes employed in the office of Kotwār or village watchmen prefer to call themselves by this name, as they thus obtain a certain rise in status, or at least they think so. In some localities the Kotwārs or village watchmen have begun to marry among themselves and try to form a separate caste. Chamārs (tanners) or Mahars (weavers) employed as grooms will call themselves Sais and consider themselves superior to the rest of their caste. The Thethwār Rāwats or Ahīrs will not clean household cooking-vessels, and therefore look down on the rest of the caste and prefer to call themselves by this designation, as ‘Theth’ means ‘exact’ or ‘pure,’ and Thethwār is one who has not degenerated from the ancestral calling. Sālewārs are a subcaste of Koshtis (weavers), who work only in silk and hence consider themselves as superior to the other Koshtis and a separate caste. The Rāthor subcaste of Telis in Mandla have abandoned the hereditary occupation of oil-pressing and become landed proprietors. They now wish to drop their own caste and to be known only as Rāthor, the name of one of the leading Rājpūt clans, in the hope that in time it will be forgotten that they ever were Telis, and they will be admitted into the community of Rājpūts. It [14]occurred to them that the census would be a good opportunity of advancing a step towards the desired end, and accordingly they telegraphed to the Commissioner of Jubbulpore before the enumeration, and petitioned the Chief Commissioner after it had been taken, to the effect that they might be recorded and classified only as Rāthor and not as Teli; this method of obtaining recognition of their claims being, as remarked by Sir Bampfylde Fuller, a great deal cheaper than being weighed against gold. On the other hand, a common occupation may sometimes amalgamate castes originally distinct into one. The sweeper’s calling is well-defined and under the generific term of Mehtar are included members of two or three distinct castes, as Dom, Bhangi and Chuhra; the word Mehtar means a prince or headman, and it is believed that its application to the sweeper by the other servants is ironical. It has now, however, been generally adopted as a caste name. Similarly, Darzi, a tailor, was held by Sir D. Ibbetson to be simply the name of a profession and not that of a caste; but it is certainly a true caste in the Central Provinces, though probably of comparatively late origin. A change of occupation may transfer a whole body of persons from one caste to another. A large section of the Banjāra caste of carriers, who have taken to cultivation, have become included in the Kunbi caste in Berār and are known as Wanjāri Kunbi. Another subcaste of the Kunbis called Mānwa is derived from the Māna tribe. Telis or oilmen, who have taken to vending liquor, now form a subcaste of the Kalār caste called Teli-Kalār; those who have become shopkeepers are called Teli-Bania and may in time become an inferior section of the Bania caste. Other similar subcastes are the Ahīr-Sunars or herdsmen-goldsmiths, the Kāyasth-Darzis or tailors, the Kori-Chamārs or weaver-tanners, the Gondi Lohārs and Barhais, being Gonds who have become carpenters and blacksmiths and been admitted to these castes; the Mahār Mhālis or barbers, and so on.

7. Tests of what a caste is.

It would appear, then, that no precise definition of a caste can well be formulated to meet all difficulties. In classification, each doubtful case must be taken by itself, and it must be determined, on the information available, whether any body of persons, consisting of one or more endogamous [15]groups, and distinguished by one or more separate names, can be recognised as holding, either on account of its traditional occupation or descent, such a distinctive position in the social system, that it should be classified as a caste. But not even the condition of endogamy can be accepted as of universal application; for Vidūrs, who are considered to be descended from Brāhman fathers and women of other castes, will, though marrying among themselves, still receive the offspring of such mixed alliances into the community; in the case of Gosains and Bairāgis, who, from being religious orders, have become castes, admission is obtained by initiation as well as by birth, and the same is the case with several other orders; some of the lower castes will freely admit outsiders; and in parts of Chhattīsgarh social ties are of the laxest description, and the intermarriage of Gonds, Chamārs and other low castes are by no means infrequent. But notwithstanding these instances, the principle of the restriction of marriage to members of the caste is so nearly universal as to be capable of being adopted as a definition.

8. The four traditional castes.

The well-known traditional theory of caste is that the Aryans were divided from the beginning of time into four castes: Brāhmans or priests, Kshatriyas or warriors, Vaishyas or merchants and cultivators, and Sūdras or menials and labourers, all of whom had a divine origin, being born from the body of Brahma—the Brāhmans from his mouth, the Kshatriyas from his arms, the Vaishyas from his thighs, and the Sudras from his feet. Intermarriage between the four castes was not at first entirely prohibited, and a man of any of the three higher ones, provided that for his first wife he took a woman of his own caste, could subsequently marry others of the divisions beneath his own. In this manner the other castes originated. Thus the Kaivarttas or Kewats were the offspring of a Kshatriya father and Vaishya mother, and so on. Mixed marriages in the opposite direction, of a woman of a higher caste with a man of a lower one, were reprobated as strongly as possible, and the offspring of these were relegated to the lowest position in society; thus the Chandāls, or descendants of a Sūdra father and Brāhman mother, were of all men the most base. It has been recognised that this genealogy, though in substance the [16]formation of a number of new castes through mixed descent may have been correct, is, as regards the details, an attempt made by a priestly law-giver to account, on the lines of orthodox tradition, for a state of society which had ceased to correspond to them.

9. Occupational theory of caste.

In the ethnographic description of the people of the Punjab, which forms the Caste chapter of Sir Denzil Ibbetson’s Census Report of 1881, it was pointed out that occupation was the chief basis of the division of castes, and there is no doubt that this is true. Every separate occupation has produced a distinct caste, and the status of the caste depends now mainly or almost entirely on its occupation. The fact that there may be several castes practising such important callings as agriculture or weaving does not invalidate this in any way, and instances of the manner in which such castes have been developed will be given subsequently. If a caste changes its occupation it may, in the course of time, alter its status in a corresponding degree. The important Kāyasth and Gurao castes furnish instances of this. Castes, in fact, tend to rise or fall in social position with the acquisition of land or other forms of wealth or dignity much in the same manner as individuals do nowadays in European countries. Hitherto in India it has not been the individual who has undergone the process; he inherits the social position of the caste in which he is born, and, as a rule, retains it through life without the power of altering it. It is the caste, as a whole, or at least one of its important sections or subcastes, which gradually rises or falls in social position, and the process may extend over generations or even centuries.

Hindu temple of the god Siva.

Hindu temple of the god Siva.

In the Brief Sketch of the Caste System of the North-Western Provinces and Oudh, Mr. J.C. Nesfield puts forward the view that the whole basis of the caste system is the division of occupations, and that the social gradation of castes corresponds precisely to the different periods of civilisation during which their traditional occupations originated. Thus the lowest castes are those allied to the primitive occupation of hunting, Pāsi, Bhar, Bahelia, because the pursuit of wild animals was the earliest stage in the development of human industry. Next above these come [17]the fishing castes, fishing being considered somewhat superior to hunting, because water is a more sacred element among Hindus than land, and there is less apparent cruelty in the capturing of fish than the slaughtering of animals; these are the Kahārs, Kewats, Dhīmars and others. Above these come the pastoral castes—Ghosi, Gadaria, Gūjar and Ahīr; and above them the agricultural castes, following the order in which these occupations were adopted during the progress of civilisation. At the top of the system stands the Rājpūt or Chhatri, the warrior, whose duty is to protect all the lower castes, and the Brāhman, who is their priest and spiritual guide. Similarly, the artisan castes are divided into two main groups; the lower one consists of those whose occupations preceded the age of metallurgy, as the Chamārs and Mochis or tanners, Koris or weavers, the Telis or oil-pressers, Kalārs or liquor-distillers, Kumhārs or potters, and Lunias or salt-makers. The higher group includes those castes whose occupations were coeval with the age of metallurgy, that is, those who work in stone, wood and metals, and who make clothing and ornaments, as the Barhai or worker in wood, the Lohār or worker in iron, the Kasera and Thathera, brass-workers, and the Sunār or worker in the precious metals, ranking precisely in this order of precedence, the Sunār being the highest. The theory is still further developed among the trading castes, who are arranged in a similar manner, beginning from the Banjāra or forest trader, the Kunjra or greengrocer, and the Bharbhūnja or grain-parcher, up to the classes of Banias and Khatris or shopkeepers and bankers.

It can hardly be supposed that the Hindus either consciously or unconsciously arranged their gradation of society in a scientific order of precedence in the manner described. The main divisions of social precedence are correctly stated by Mr. Nesfield, but it will be suggested in this essay that they arose naturally from the divisions of the principal social organism of India, the village community. Nevertheless Mr. Nesfield’s book will always rank as a most interesting and original contribution to the literature of the subject, and his work did much to stimulate inquiry into the origin of the caste system.

10. Racial Theory.

In his Introduction to the Tribes and Castes of Bengal [18]Sir Herbert Risley laid stress on the racial basis of caste, showing that difference of race and difference of colour were the foundation of the Indian caste system or division of the people into endogamous units. There seems reason to suppose that the contact of the Aryans with the indigenous people of India was, to a large extent, responsible for the growth of the caste system, and the main racial divisions may perhaps even now be recognised, though their racial basis has, to a great extent, vanished. But when we come to individual castes and subcastes, the scrutiny of their origin, which has been made in the individual articles, appears to indicate that caste distinctions cannot, as a rule, be based on supposed difference of race. Nevertheless Sir H. Risley’s Castes and Tribes of Bengal and Peoples of India will, no doubt, always be considered as standard authorities, while as Census Commissioner for India and Director of Ethnography he probably did more to foster this branch of research in India generally than any other man has ever done.

11. Entry of the Aryans into India. The Aryas and Dasyus.

M. Emile Senart, in his work Les Castes dans l’Inde, gives an admirable sketch of the features marking the entry of the Aryans into India and their acquisition of the country, from which the following account is largely taken. The institution of caste as it is understood at present did not exist among the Aryans of the Vedic period, on their first entry into India. The word varna, literally ‘colour,’ which is afterwards used in speaking of the four castes, distinguishes in the Vedas two classes only: there are the Arya Varna and the Dasa Varna—the Aryan race and the race of enemies. In other passages the Dasyus are spoken of as black, and Indra is praised for protecting the Aryan colour. In later literature the black race, Krishna Varna, are opposed to the Brāhmans, and the same word is used of the distinction between Aryas and Sūdras. The word varna was thus used, in the first place, not of four castes, but of two hostile races, one white and the other black. It is said that Indra divided the fields among his white-coloured people after destroying the Dasyus, by whom may be understood the indigenous barbarian races.2 The word Dasyu, which frequently recurs in the Vedas, [19]probably refers to the people of foreign countries or provinces like the Goim or Gentiles of the Hebrews. The Dasyus were not altogether barbarians, for they had cities and other institutions showing a partial civilisation, though the Aryas, lately from more bracing climes than those which they inhabited, proved too strong for them.3 To the Aryans the word Dasyu had the meaning of one who not only did not perform religious rites, but attempted to harass their performers. Another verse says, “Distinguish, O Indra, between the Aryas and those who are Dasyus: punishing those who perform no religious rites; compel them to submit to the sacrifices; be thou the powerful, the encourager of the sacrificer.”4

Rakshasa was another designation given to the tribes with whom the Aryans were in hostility. Its meaning is strong, gigantic or powerful, and among the modern Hindus it is a word for a devil or demon. In the Satapatha Brāhmana of the white Yajur-Veda the Rakshasas are represented as ‘prohibiters,’ that is ‘prohibiters of the sacrifice.’5 Similarly, at a later period, Manu describes Aryavarrta, or the abode of the Aryas, as the country between the eastern and western oceans, and between the Himalayas and the Vindhyas, that is Hindustān, the Deccan being not then recognised as an abode of the Aryans. And he thus speaks of the country: “From a Brāhman born in Aryavarrta let all men on earth learn their several usages.” “That land on which the black antelope naturally grazes, is held fit for the performance of sacrifices; but the land of Mlechchhas (foreigners) is beyond it.” “Let the three first classes (Brāhmans, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas) invariably dwell in the above-mentioned countries; but a Sūdra distressed for subsistence may sojourn wherever he chooses.”6

Another passage states: “If some pious king belonging to the Kshatriya or some other caste should defeat the Mlechchhas7 and establish a settlement of the four castes in their territories, and accept the Mlechchhas thus defeated as Chandālas (the most impure caste in ancient Hindu society) [20]as is the case in Aryavarrta, then that country also becomes fit for sacrifice. For no land is impure of itself. A land becomes so only by contact.” This passage is quoted by a Hindu writer with the same reference to the Code of Manu as the preceding one, but it is not found there and appears to be a gloss by a later writer, explaining how the country south of the Vindhyas, which is excluded by Manu, should be rendered fit for Aryan settlement.8 Similarly in a reference in the Brāhmanas to the migration of the Aryans eastward from the Punjab it is stated that Agni the fire-god flashed forth from the mouth of a priest invoking him at a sacrifice and burnt across all the five rivers, and as far as he burnt Brāhmans could live. Agni, as the god of fire by which the offerings were consumed, was addressed as follows: “We kindle thee at the sacrifice, O wise Agni, the sacrificer, the luminous, the mighty.”9 The sacrifices referred to were, in the early period, of domestic animals, the horse, ox or goat, the flesh of which was partaken of by the worshippers, and the sacred Soma-liquor, which was drunk by them; the prohibition or discouragement of animal sacrifices for the higher castes gradually came about at a later time, and was probably to a large extent due to the influence of Buddhism.

The early sacrifice was in the nature of a communal sacred meal at which the worshippers partook of the animal or liquor offered to the god. The Dasyus or indigenous Indian races could not worship the Aryan gods nor join in the sacrifices offered to them, which constituted the act of worship. They were a hostile race, but the hostility was felt and expressed on religious rather than racial grounds, as the latter term is understood at present.

12. The Sūdra.

M. Senart points out that the division of the four castes appearing in post-Vedic literature, does not proceed on equal lines. There were two groups, one composed of the three higher castes, and the other of the Sūdras or lowest. The higher castes constituted a fraternity into which admission was obtained only by a religious ceremony of initiation and investment with the sacred thread. The Sūdras were excluded and could take no part in sacrifices. The punishment [21]for the commission of the gravest offences by a Brāhman was that he became a Sūdra, that is to say an outcast. The killing of a Sūdra was an offence no more severe than that of killing certain animals. A Sūdra was prohibited by the severest penalties from approaching within a certain distance of a member of any of the higher castes. In the Sutras10 it is declared11 that the Sūdra has not the right (Adhikāra) of sacrifice enjoyed by the Brāhman, Kshatriya and Vaishya. He was not to be invested with the sacred thread, nor permitted, like them, to hear, commit to memory, or recite Vedic texts. For listening to these texts he ought to have his ears shut up with melted lead or lac by way of punishment; for pronouncing them, his tongue cut out; and for committing them to memory, his body cut in two.12 The Veda was never to be read in the presence of a Sūdra; and no sacrifice was to be performed for him.13 The Sūdras, it is stated in the Harivansha, are sprung from vacuity, and are destitute of ceremonies, and so are not entitled to the rites of initiation. Just as upon the friction of wood, the cloud of smoke which issues from the fire and spreads around is of no service in the sacrificial rite, so too the Sūdras spread over the earth are unserviceable, owing to their birth, to their want of initiatory rites, and the ceremonies ordained by the Vedas.14 Again it is ordained that silence is to be observed by parties of the three sacrificial classes when a Sūdra enters to remove their natural defilements, and thus the servile position of the Sūdra is recognised.15 Here it appears that the Sūdra is identified with the sweeper or scavenger, the most debased and impure of modern Hindu castes.16 In the Dharmashāstras or law-books it is laid down that a person taking a Sūdra’s food for a month becomes a Sudra and after death becomes a dog. Issue begotten after eating a Sūdra’s food is of the Sūdra caste. A person who dies with Sūdra’s food in his stomach becomes a village pig, or is reborn in a Sūdra’s family.17 An Arya who had sexual intimacy with a [22]Sūdra woman was to be banished; but a Sūdra having intimacy with an Arya was to be killed. If a Sūdra reproached a dutiful Arya, or put himself on equality with him on a road, on a couch or on a seat, he was to be beaten with a stick.18 A Brāhman might without hesitation take the property of a Sūdra; he, the Sūdra, had indeed nothing of his own; his master might, doubtless, take his property.19 According to the Mahābhārata the Sūdras are appointed servants to the Brāhmans, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas.20 A Brāhman woman having connection with a Sūdra was to be devoured by dogs, but one having connection with a Kshatriya or Vaishya was merely to have her head shaved and be carried round on an ass.21 When a Brāhman received a gift from another Brāhman he had to acknowledge it in a loud voice; from a Rājanya or Kshatriya, in a gentle voice; from a Vaishya, in a whisper; and from a Sūdra, in his own mind. To a Brāhman he commenced his thanks with the sacred syllable Om; to a king he gave thanks without the sacred Om; to a Vaishya he whispered his thanks; to a Sūdra he said nothing, but thought in his own mind, svasti, or ‘This is good.’22 It would thus seem clear that the Sūdras were distinct from the Aryas and were a separate and inferior race, consisting of the indigenous people of India. In the Atharva-Veda the Sudra is recognised as distinct from the Arya, and also the Dasa from the Arya, as in the Rig-Veda.23 Dr. Wilson remarks, “The aboriginal inhabitants, again, who conformed to the Brāhmanic law, received certain privileges, and were constituted as a fourth caste under the name of Sūdras, whereas all the rest who kept aloof were called Dasyus, whatever their language might be.”24 The Sūdras, though treated by Manu and Hindu legislation in general as a component, if enslaved, part of the Indian community, not entitled to the second or sacramental birth, are not even once mentioned in the older parts of the Vedas. They are first locally brought to notice in the Mahābhārata, along with [23]the Abhīras, dwelling on the banks of the Indus. There are distinct classical notices of the Sūdras in this very locality and its neighbourhood. “In historical times,” says Lassen, “their name reappears in that of the town Sudros on the lower Indus, and, what is especially worthy of notice, in that of the people Sudroi, among the Northern Arachosians.”25

“Thus their existence as a distinct nation is established in the neighbourhood of the Indus, that is to say in the region in which, in the oldest time, the Aryan Indians dwelt. The Aryans probably conquered these indigenous inhabitants first; and when the others in the interior of the country were subsequently subdued and enslaved, the name Sūdra was extended to the whole servile caste. There seems to have been some hesitation in the Aryan community about the actual religious position to be given to the Sūdras. In the time of the liturgical Brāhmanas of the Vedas, they were sometimes admitted to take part in the Aryan sacrifices. Not long afterwards, when the conquests of the Aryans were greatly extended, and they formed a settled state of society among the affluents of the Jumna and Ganges, the Sūdras were degraded to the humiliating and painful position which they occupy in Manu. There is no mention of any of the Sankara or mixed castes in the Vedas.”26

From the above evidence it seems clear that the Sūdras were really the indigenous inhabitants of India, who were subdued by the Aryans as they gradually penetrated into India. When the conquering race began to settle in the land, the indigenous tribes, or such of them as did not retire before the invaders into the still unconquered interior, became a class of menials and labourers, as the Amalekites were to the children of Israel. The Sūdras were the same people as the Dasyus of the hymns, after they had begun to live in villages with the Aryans, and had to be admitted, though in the most humiliating fashion, into the Aryan polity. But the hostility between the Aryas and the Dasyus or Sūdras, though in reality racial, was felt and expressed on religious grounds, and probably the Aryans had no real [24]idea of what is now understood by difference of race or deterioration of type from mixture of races. The Sūdras were despised and hated as worshippers of a hostile god. They could not join in the sacrifices by which the Aryans renewed and cemented their kinship with their god and with each other; hence they were outlaws towards whom no social obligations existed. It would have been quite right and proper that they should be utterly destroyed, precisely as the Israelites thought that Jehovah had commanded them to destroy the Canaanites. But they were too numerous, and hence they were regarded as impure and made to live apart, so that they should not pollute the places of sacrifice, which among the Aryans included their dwelling-houses. It does not seem to have been the case that the Aryans had any regard for the preservation of the purity of their blood or colour. From an early period men of the three higher castes might take a Sūdra woman in marriage, and the ultimate result has been an almost complete fusion between the two races in the bulk of the population over the greater part of the country. Nevertheless the status of the Sūdra still remains attached to the large community of the impure castes formed from the indigenous tribes, who have settled in Hindu villages and entered the caste system. These are relegated to the most degrading and menial occupations, and their touch is regarded as conveying defilement like that of the Sūdras.27 The status of the Sūdras was not always considered so low, and they were sometimes held to rank above the mixed castes. And in modern times in Bengal Sūdra is quite a respectable term applied to certain artisan castes which there have a fairly good position. But neither were the indigenous tribes always reduced to the impure status. Their fortunes varied, and those who resisted subjection were probably sometimes accepted as allies. For instance, some of the most prominent of the Rājpūt clans are held to have been derived from the aboriginal28 tribes. On the Aryan expedition to southern India, which is preserved in the legend of Rāma, as related in the Rāmāyana, it is stated that Rāma was assisted by [25]Hanumān with his army of apes. The reference is generally held to be to the fact that the Aryans had as auxiliaries some of the forest tribes, and these were consequently allies, and highly thought of, as shown by the legend and by their identification with the mighty god Hanumān. And at the present time the forest tribes who live separately from the Hindus in the jungle tracts are, as a rule, not regarded as impure. But this does not impair the identification of the Sūdras with those tribes who were reduced to subjection and serfdom in the Hindu villages, as shown by the evidence here given. The view has also been held that the Sūdras might have been a servile class already subject to the Aryans, who entered India with them. And in the old Pārsi or Persian community four classes existed, the Athornan or priest, the Rathestan or warrior, the Vasteriox or husbandman, and the Hutox or craftsman.29 The second and third of these names closely resemble those of the corresponding Hindu classical castes, the Rājanya or Kshatriya and the Vaishya, while Athornan, the name for a priest, is the same as Atharvan, the Hindu name for a Brāhman versed in the Atharva-Veda. Possibly then Hutox may be connected with Sūdra, as h frequently changes into s. But on the other hand the facts that the Sūdras are not mentioned in the Vedas, and that they succeeded to the position of the Dasyus, the black hostile Indians, as well as the important place they fill in the later literature, seem to indicate clearly that they mainly consisted of the indigenous subject tribes. Whether the Aryans applied a name already existing in a servile class among themselves to the indigenous population whom they subdued, may be an uncertain point.

13. The Vaishya.

In the Vedas, moreover, M. Senart shows that the three higher castes are not definitely distinguished; but there are three classes—the priests, the chiefs and the people, among whom the Aryans were comprised. The people are spoken of in the plural as the clans who followed the chiefs to battle. The word used is Visha. One verse speaks of the Vishas (clans) bowing before the chief (Rājan), who was preceded by a priest (Brāhman). Another verse says: “Favour the prayer [26](Brahma), favour the service; kill the Rakshasas, drive away the evil; favour the power (khatra) and favour the manly strength; favour the cow (dherm, the representative of property) and favour the people (or house, visha).”30

Hindu sculptures

Hindu sculptures

Similarly Wilson states that in the time of the Vedas, visha (related to vesha, a house or district) signified the people in general; and Vaishya, its adjective, was afterwards applied to a householder, or that appertaining to an individual of the common people. The Latin vicus and the Greek οἶκος are the correspondents of vesha.31 The conclusion to be drawn is that the Aryans in the Vedas, like other early communities, were divided by rank or occupation into three classes—priests, nobles and the body of the people. The Vishas or clans afterwards became the Vaishyas or third classical caste. Before they entered India the Aryans were a migratory pastoral people, their domestic animals being the horse, cow, and perhaps the sheep and goat. The horse and cow were especially venerated, and hence were probably their chief means of support. The Vaishyas must therefore have been herdsmen and shepherds, and when they entered India and took to agriculture, the Vaishyas must have become cultivators. The word Vaishya signifies a man who occupies the soil, an agriculturist, or merchant.32 The word Vasteriox used by the ancestors of the Pārsis, which appears to correspond to Vaishya, also signifies a husbandman, as already seen. Dr. Max Müller states: “The three occupations of the Aryas in India were fighting, cultivating the soil and worshipping the gods. Those who fought the battles of the people would naturally acquire influence and rank, and their leaders appear in the Veda as Rājas or kings. Those who did not share in the fighting would occupy a more humble position; they were called Vish, Vaishyas or householders, and would no doubt have to contribute towards the maintenance of the armies.33 According to Manu, God ordained the tending of cattle, giving alms, sacrifice, study, trade, usury, and also agriculture for [27]a Vaishya.”34 The Sūtras state that agriculture, the keeping of cattle, and engaging in merchandise, as well as learning the Vedas, sacrificing for himself and giving alms, are the duties of a Vaishya.35 In the Mahābhārata it is laid down that the Vaishyas should devote themselves to agriculture, the keeping of cattle and liberality.36 In the same work the god Vayu says to Bhishma: “And it was Brahma’s ordinance that the Vaishya should sustain the three castes (Brāhman, Kshatriya and Vaishya) with money and corn; and that the Sūdra should serve them.”37

In a list of classes or occupations given in the White Yajur-Veda, and apparently referring to a comparatively advanced state of Hindu society, tillage is laid down as the calling of the Vaishya, and he is distinguished from the Vāni or merchant, whose occupation is trade or weighing.38 Manu states that a Brāhman should swear by truth; a Kshatriya by his steed and his weapons; a Vaishya by his cows, his seed and his gold; and a Sūdra by all wicked deeds.39 Yellow is the colour of the Vaishya, and it must apparently be taken from the yellow corn, and the yellow colour of ghī or butter, the principal product of the sacred cow; yellow is also the colour of the sacred metal gold, but there can scarcely have been sufficient gold in the hands of the body of the people in those early times to enable it to be especially associated with them. The Vaishyas were thus, as is shown by the above evidence, the main body of the people referred to in the Vedic hymns. When these settled down into villages the Vaishyas became the householders and cultivators, among whom the village lands were divided; the Sūdras or indigenous tribes, who also lived in the villages or in hamlets adjoining them, were labourers and given all the most disagreeable tasks in the village community, as is the case with the impure castes at present.

14. Mistaken modern idea of the Vaishyas.

The demonstration of the real position of the Vaishyas [28]is important, because the Hindus themselves no longer recognise this. The name Vaishya is now frequently restricted to the Bania caste of bankers, shopkeepers and moneylenders, and hence the Banias are often supposed to be the descendants and only modern representatives of the original Vaishyas. Evidence has been given in the article on Bania to show that the existing Bania caste is mainly derived from the Rājpūts. The name Bāni, a merchant or trader, is found at an early period, but whether it denoted a regular Bania caste may be considered as uncertain. In any case it seems clear that this comparatively small caste, chiefly coming from Rājputāna, cannot represent the Vaishyas, who were the main body or people of the invading Aryans. At that time the Vaishyas cannot possibly have been traders, because they alone provided the means of subsistence of the community, and if they produced nothing, there could be no material for trade. The Vaishyas must, therefore, as already seen, have been shepherds and cultivators, since in early times wealth consisted almost solely of corn and cattle. At a later period, with the increased religious veneration for all kinds of life, agriculture apparently fell into some kind of disrepute as involving the sacrifice of insect life, and there was a tendency to emphasise trade as the Vaishya’s occupation in view of its greater respectability. It is considered very derogatory for a Brāhman or Rājpūt to touch the plough with his own hands, and the act has hitherto involved a loss of status: these castes, however, did not object to hold land, but, on the contrary, ardently desired to do so like all other Hindus. Ploughing was probably despised as a form of manual labour, and hence an undignified action for a member of the aristocracy, just as a squire or gentleman farmer in England might consider it beneath his dignity to drive the plough himself. No doubt also, as the fusion of races proceeded, and bodies of the indigenous tribes who were cultivators adopted Hinduism, the status of a cultivator sank to some extent, and his Vaishyan ancestry was forgotten. But though the Vaishya himself has practically disappeared, his status as a cultivator and member of the village community appears to remain in that of the modern cultivating castes, as will be shown subsequently. [29]

15. Mixed unions of the four classes.

The settlement of the Aryans in India was in villages and not in towns, and the Hindus have ever since remained a rural people. In 1911 less than a tenth of the population of India was urban, and nearly three-quarters of the total were directly supported by agriculture. Apparently, therefore, the basis or embryo of the gradation of Hindu society or the caste system should be sought in the village. Two main divisions of the village community may be recognised in the Vaishyas or cultivators and the Sūdras or impure serfs and labourers. The exact position held by the Kshatriyas and the constitution of their class are not quite clear, but there is no doubt that the Brāhmans and Kshatriyas formed the early aristocracy, ranking above the cultivators, and a few other castes have since attained to this position. From early times, as is shown by an ordinance of Manu, men of the higher castes or classes were permitted, after taking a woman of their own class for the first wife, to have second and subsequent wives from any of the classes beneath them. This custom appears to have been largely prevalent. No definite rule prescribed that the children of such unions should necessarily be illegitimate, and in many cases no doubt seems to exist that, if not they themselves, their descendants at any rate ultimately became full members of the caste of the first ancestor. According to Manu, if the child of a Brāhman by a Sūdra woman intermarried with Brāhmans and his descendants after him, their progeny in the seventh generation would become full Brāhmans; and the same was the case with the child of a Kshatriya or a Vaishya with a Sūdra woman. A commentator remarks that the descendants of a Brāhman by a Kshatriya woman could attain Brāhmanhood in the third generation, and those by a Vaishya woman in the fifth.40 Such children also could inherit. According to the Mahābhārata, if a Brāhman had four wives of different castes, the son by a Brāhman wife took four shares, that by a Kshatriya wife three, by a Vaishya wife two, and by a Sūdra wife one share.41 Manu gives a slightly different distribution, but also permits to the son by a Sūdra wife a share of the [30]inheritance.42 Thus the fact is clear that the son of a Brāhman even by a Sūdra woman had a certain status of legitimacy in his father’s caste, as he could marry in it, and must therefore have been permitted to partake of the sacrificial food at marriage;43 and he could also inherit a small share of the property.

16. Hypergamy.

The detailed rules prescribed for the status of legitimacy and inheritance show that recognised unions of this kind between men of a higher class and women of a lower one were at one time fairly frequent, though they were afterwards prohibited. And they must necessarily have led to much mixture of blood in the different castes. A trace of them seems to survive in the practice of hypergamy, still widely prevalent in northern India, by which men of the higher subcastes of a caste will take daughters in marriage from lower ones but will not give their daughters in return. This custom prevails largely among the higher castes of the Punjab, as the Rājpūts and Khatris, and among the Brāhmans of Bengal.44 Only a few cases are found in the Central Provinces, among Brāhmans, Sunārs and other castes. Occasionally intermarriage between two castes takes place on a hypergamous basis; thus Rājpūts are said to take daughters from the highest clans of the cultivating caste of Dāngis. More commonly families of the lower subcastes or clans in the same caste consider the marriage of their daughters into a higher group a great honour and will give large sums of money for a bridegroom. Until quite recently a Rājpūt was bound to marry his daughters into a clan of equal or higher rank than his own, in order to maintain the position of his family. It is not easy to see why so much importance should be attached to the marriage of a daughter, since she passed into another clan and family, to whom her offspring would belong. On the other hand, a son might take a wife from a lower group without loss of status, though his children would be the future representatives of the family. Another point, [31]possibly connected with hypergamy, is that a peculiar relation exists between a man and the family into which his daughter has married. Sometimes he will accept no food or even water in his son-in-law’s village. The word sāla, signifying wife’s brother, when addressed to a man, is also a common and extremely offensive term of abuse. The meaning is now perhaps supposed to be that one has violated the sister of the person spoken to, but this can hardly have been the original significance as sasur or father-in-law is also considered in a minor degree an opprobrious term of address.

17. The mixed castes. The village menials.

But though among the four classical castes it was possible for the descendants of mixed unions between fathers of higher and mothers of lower caste to be admitted into their father’s caste, this would not have been the general rule. Such connections were very frequent and the Hindu classics account through them for the multiplication of castes. Long lists are given of new castes formed by the children of mixed marriages. The details of these genealogies seem to be destitute of any probability, and perhaps, therefore, instances of them are unnecessary. Matches between a man of higher and a woman of lower caste were called anuloma, or ‘with the hair’ or ‘grain,’ and were regarded as suitable and becoming. Those between a man of lower and a woman of higher caste were, on the other hand, known as pratiloma or ‘against the hair,’ and were considered as disgraceful and almost incestuous. The offspring of such unions are held to have constituted the lowest and most impure castes of scavengers, dog-eaters and so on. This doctrine is to be accounted for by the necessity of safeguarding the morality of women in a state of society where kinship is reckoned solely by male descent. The blood of the tribe and clan, and hence the right to membership and participation in the communal sacrifices, is then communicated to the child through the father; hence if the women are unchaste, children may be born into the family who have no such rights, and the whole basis of society is destroyed. For the same reason, since the tribal blood and life is communicated through males, the birth and standing of the mother are of little importance, and children are, as has been seen, easily admitted to their father’s rank. But already in Manu’s [32]time the later and present view that both the father and mother must be of full status in the clan, tribe or caste in order to produce a legitimate child, has begun to prevail, and the children of all mixed marriages are relegated to a lower group. The offspring of these mixed unions did probably give rise to a class of different status in the village community. The lower-caste mother would usually have been taken into the father’s house and her children would be brought up in it. Thus they would eat the food of the household, even if they did not participate in the sacrificial feasts; and a class of this kind would be very useful for the performance of menial duties in and about the household, such as personal service, bringing water, and so on, for which the Sūdras, owing to their impurity, would be unsuitable. In the above manner a new grade of village menial might have arisen and have gradually been extended to the other village industries, so that a third group would be formed in the village community ranking between the cultivators and labourers. This gradation of the village community may perhaps still be discerned in the main social distinctions of the different Hindu castes at present. And an attempt will now be made to demonstrate this hypothesis in connection with a brief survey of the castes of the Province.

18. Social gradation of castes.

An examination of the social status of the castes of the Central Provinces, which, as already seen, are representative of a great part of India, shows that they fall into five principal groups. The highest consists of those castes who now claim to be directly descended from the Brāhmans, Kshatriyas or Vaishyas, the three higher of the four classical castes. The second comprises what are generally known as pure or good castes. The principal mark of their caste status is that a Brāhman will take water to drink from them, and perform ceremonies in their houses. They may be classified in three divisions: the higher agricultural castes, higher artisan castes, and serving castes from whom a Brāhman will take water. The third group contains those castes from whose hands a Brāhman will not take water; but their touch does not convey impurity and they are permitted to enter Hindu temples. They consist mainly of certain cultivating castes of low status, some of them recently [33]derived from the indigenous tribes, other functional castes formed from the forest tribes, and a number of professional and menial castes, whose occupations are mainly pursued in villages, so that they formerly obtained their subsistence from grain-payments or annual allowances of grain from the cultivators at seedtime and harvest. The group includes also some castes of village priests and mendicant religious orders, who beg from the cultivators. In the fourth group are placed the non-Aryan or indigenous tribes. Most of these cannot properly be said to form part of the Hindu social system at all, but for practical purposes they are admitted and are considered to rank below all castes except those who cannot be touched. The lowest group consists of the impure castes whose touch is considered to defile the higher castes. Within each group there are minor differences of status some of which will be noticed, but the broad divisions may be considered as representing approximately the facts. The rule about Brāhmans taking water from the good agricultural and artisan castes obtains, for instance, only in northern India. Marātha Brāhmans will not take water from any but other Brāhmans, and in Chhattīsgarh Brāhmans and other high castes will take water only from the hands of a Rāwat (grazier), and from no other caste. But nevertheless the Kunbis, the great cultivating caste of the Marātha country, though Brāhmans do not take water from them, are on the same level as the Kurmis, the cultivating caste of Hindustān, and in tracts where they meet Kunbis and Kurmis are often considered to be the same caste. The evidence of the statements made as to the origin of different castes in the following account will be found in the articles on them in the body of the work.

19. Castes ranking above the cultivators.

The castes of the first group are noted below:

  • Bania.
  • Bhāt.
  • Brāhman.
  • Gurao.
  • Karan.
  • Kāyasth and Prabhu.
  • Khātri.
  • Rajpūt.

The Brāhmans are, as they have always been, the highest caste. The Rājpūts are the representatives of the ancient Kshatriyas or second caste, though the existing Rājpūt clans are probably derived from the Hun, Gūjar and other invaders of the period before and shortly after the commencement of the Christian era, and in some cases from the indigenous or [34]non-Aryan tribes. It does not seem possible to assert in the case of a single one of the present Rājpūt clans that any substantial evidence is forthcoming in favour of their descent from the Aryan Kshatriyas, and as regards most of the clans there are strong arguments against such a hypothesis. Nevertheless the Rājpūts have succeeded to the status of the Kshatriyas, and an alternative name for them, Chhatri, is a corruption of the latter word. They are commonly identified with the second of the four classical castes, but a Hindu law-book gives Rājapūtra as the offspring of a Kshatriya father and a mother of the Karan or writer caste.45 This genealogy is absurd, but may imply the opinion that the Rājpūts were not the same as the Aryan Kshatriyas. The Khatris are an important mercantile caste of the Punjab, who in the opinion of most authorities are derived from the Rājpūts. The name is probably a corruption of Kshatri or Kshatriya. The Banias are the great mercantile, banking and shopkeeping caste among the Hindus and a large proportion of the trade in grain and ghī (preserved butter) is in their hands, while they are also the chief moneylenders. Most of the important Bania subcastes belonged originally to Rājputāna and Central India, which are also the homes of the Rājpūts, and reasons have been given in the article on Bania for holding that they are derived from the Rājpūts. They, however, are now commonly called Vaishyas by the Hindus, as, I think, under the mistaken impression that they are descended from the original Vaishyas. The Bhāts are the bards, heralds and genealogists of India and include groups of very varying status. The Bhāts who act as genealogists of the cultivating and other castes and accept cooked food from their clients may perhaps be held to rank with or even below them. But the high-class Bhāts are undoubtedly derived from Brāhmans and Rājpūts, and rank just below those castes. The bard or herald had a sacred character, and his person was inviolable like that of the herald elsewhere, and this has given a special status to the whole caste.46 The Kāyasths are the writer caste of Hindustān, and the Karans and Prabhus are [35]the corresponding castes of Orissa and Bombay. The position of the Kāyasths has greatly risen during the last century on account of their own ability and industry and the advantages they have obtained through their high level of education. The original Kāyasths may have been village accountants and hence have occupied a lower position, perhaps below the cultivators. They are an instance of a caste whose social position has greatly improved on account of the wealth and importance of its members. At present the Kāyasths may be said to rank next to Brāhmans and Rājpūts. The origin of the Prabhus and Karans is uncertain, but their recent social history appears to resemble that of the Kāyasths. The Guraos are another caste whose position has greatly improved. They were priests of the village temples of Siva, and accepted the offerings of food which Brāhmans could not take. But they also supplied leaf-plates for festivals, and were village musicians and trumpeters in the Marātha armies, and hence probably ranked below the cultivators and were supported by contributions of grain from them. Their social position has been raised by their sacred character as priests of the god Siva and they are now sometimes called Shaiva Brāhmans. But a distinct recollection of their former status exists.

Thus all the castes of the first group are derived from the representatives of the Brāhmans and Kshatriyas, the two highest of the four classical castes, except the Guraos, who have risen in status owing to special circumstances. The origin of the Kāyasths is discussed in the article on that caste. Members of the above castes usually wear the sacred thread which is the mark of the Dwija or twice-born, the old Brāhmans, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas. The thread is not worn generally by the castes of the second group, but the more wealthy and prominent sections of them frequently assume it.

20. Castes from whom a Brāhman can take water. Higher agriculturists.

The second group of good castes from whom a Brāhman can take water falls into three sections as already explained: the higher agricultural castes, the higher artisans, and the serving or menial castes from whom a Brāhman takes water from motives of convenience. These last do not properly [36]belong to the second group but to the next lower one of village menials. The higher agricultural castes or those of the first section are noted below:

  • Agharia.
  • Ahīr.
  • Bhilāla.
  • Bishnoi.
  • Chasa.
  • Daharia.
  • Dāngi.
  • Dumāl.
  • Gūjar.
  • Jādum.
  • Jāt.
  • Khandait.
  • Kirār.
  • Kolta.
  • Kunbi.
  • Kurmi.
  • Lodhi.
  • Māli.
  • Marātha.
  • Mīna or Deswāli.
  • Panwār Rājpūt.
  • Rāghuvansi.
  • Velama.

In this division the Kurmis and Kunbis are the typical agricultural castes of Hindustān or the plains of northern India, and the Bombay or Marātha Deccan. Both are very numerous and appear to be purely occupational bodies. The name Kurmi perhaps signifies a cultivator or worker. Kunbi may mean a householder. In both castes, groups of diverse origin seem to have been amalgamated owing to their common calling. Thus the Kunbis include a subcaste derived from the Banjāra (carriers), another from the Dhangars or shepherds, and a third from the Mānas, a primitive tribe. In Bombay it is considered that the majority of the Kunbi caste are sprung from the non-Aryan or indigenous tribes, and this may be the reason why Marātha Brāhmans do not take water from them. But they have now become one caste with a status equal to that of the other good cultivating castes. In many tracts of Berār and elsewhere practically all the cultivators of the village belong to the Kunbi caste, and there is every reason to suppose that this was once the general rule and that the Kunbis or ‘householders’ are simply the cultivators of the Marātha country who lived in village communities. Similarly Sir H. Risley considered that some Kurmis of Bihār were of the Aryan type, while others of Chota Nāgpur are derived from the indigenous tribes. The Chasas are the cultivating caste of Orissa and are a similar occupational group. The word Chasa has the generic meaning of a cultivator, and the caste are said by Sir H. Risley to be for the most part of non-Aryan origin, the loose organisation of the caste system among the Uriyas making it possible on the one hand for outsiders to be admitted into the caste, and on the other for wealthy Chasas, who gave up ploughing with their own hands and assumed the respectable title of Mahanti, to raise themselves to [37]membership among the lower classes of Kāyasths. The Koltas are another Uriya caste, probably an offshoot of the Chasas, whose name may be derived from the kulthi47 pulse, a favourite crop in that locality.

Similarly the Vellālas are the great cultivating caste of the Tamil country, to whom by general consent the first place in social esteem among the Tamil Sūdra castes is awarded. In the Madras Census Report of 1901 Mr. Francis gives an interesting description of the structure of the caste and its numerous territorial, occupational and other subdivisions. He shows also how groups from lower castes continually succeed in obtaining admission into the Vellāla community in the following passage: “Instances of members of other castes who have assumed the name and position of Vellālas are the Vettuva Vellālas, who are only Puluvāns; the Illam Vellālas, who are Panikkāns; the Karaiturai (lord of the shore) Vellālas, who are Karaiyāns; the Karukamattai (palmyra leaf-stem) Vellālas, who are Balijas; the Guha (Rama’s boatmen) Vellālas, who are Sembadavāns; and the Irkuli Vellālas, who are Vannāns. The children of dancing-girls also often call themselves Mudali, and claim in time to be Vellālas, and even Paraiyāns assume the title of Pillai and trust to its eventually enabling them to pass themselves off as members of the caste.”

This is an excellent instance of the good status attaching to the chief cultivating caste of the locality and of the manner in which other groups, when they obtain possession of the land, strive to get themselves enrolled in it.

The Jāts are the representative cultivating caste of the Punjab. They are probably the descendants of one of the Scythian invading hordes who entered India shortly before and after the commencement of the Christian era. The Scythians, as they were called by Herodotus, appear to have belonged to the Mongolian racial family, as also did the white Huns who came subsequently. The Gūjar and Ahīr castes, as well as the Jāts, and also the bulk of the existing Rājpūt clans, are believed to be descended from these invaders; and since their residence in India has been comparatively short in comparison with their Aryan predecessors, [38]they have undergone much less fusion with the general population, and retain a lighter complexion and better features, as is quite perceptible to the ordinary observer in the case of the Jāts and Rājpūts. The Jāts have a somewhat higher status than other agricultural castes, because in the Punjab they were once dominant, and one or two ruling chiefs belonged to the caste.48 The bulk of the Sikhs were also Jāts. But in the Central Provinces, where they are not large landholders, and have no traditions of former dominance, there is little distinction between them and the Kurmis. The Gūjars for long remained a pastoral freebooting tribe, and their community was naturally recruited from all classes of vagabonds and outlaws, and hence the caste is now of a mixed character, and their physical type is not noticeably distinct from that of other Hindus. Sir G. Campbell derived the Gūjars from the Khazars, a tribe of the same race as the white Huns and Bulgars who from an early period had been settled in the neighbourhood of the Caspian. They are believed to have entered India during the fifth or sixth century. Several clans of Rājpūts, as well as considerable sections of the Ahīr and Kunbi castes were, in his opinion, derived from the Gūjars. In the Central Provinces the Gūjars have now settled down into respectable cultivators. The Ahīrs or cowherds and graziers probably take their name from the Abhīras, another of the Scythian tribes. But they have now become a purely occupational caste, largely recruited from the indigenous Gonds and Kawars, to whom the business of tending cattle in the jungles is habitually entrusted. In the Central Provinces Ahīrs live in small forest villages with Gonds, and are sometimes scarcely considered as Hindus. On this account they have a character for bucolic stupidity, as the proverb has it: ‘When he is asleep he is an Ahīr and when he is awake he is a fool.’ But the Ahīr caste generally has a good status on account of its connection with the sacred cow and also with the god Krishna, the divine cowherd.

The Marāthas are the military caste of the Marātha country, formed into a caste from the cultivators, shepherds and herdsmen, who took service under Sivaji and subsequent [39]Marātha leaders. The higher clans may have been constituted from the aristocracy of the Deccan states, which was probably of Rājpūt descent. They have now become a single caste, ranking somewhat higher than the Kunbis, from whom the bulk of them originated, on account of their former military and dominant position. Their status was much the same as that of the Jāts in the Punjab. But the ordinary Marāthas are mainly engaged in the subordinate Government and private service, and there is very little distinction between them and the Kunbis. The Khandaits or swordsmen (from khanda, a sword) are an Uriya caste, which originated in military service, and the members of which belonged for the most part to the non-Aryan Bhuiya tribe. They were a sort of rabble, half military and half police, Sir H. Risley states, who formed the levies of the Uriya zamīndārs. They have obtained grants of land, and their status has improved. “In the social system of Orissa the Sreshta (good) Khandaits rank next to the Rājputs, who are comparatively few in number, and have not that intimate connection with the land which has helped to raise the Khandaits to their present position.”49 The small Rautia landholding caste of Chota Nāgpur, mainly derived from the Kol tribe, was formed from military service, and obtained a higher status with the possession of the land exactly like the Khandaits.

Peasant’s hut

Peasant’s hut

Several Rājput clans, as the Panwārs of the Wainganga Valley, the Rāghuvansis, the Jādums derived from the Yādava clan, and the Daharias of Chhattīsgarh, have formed distinct castes, marrying among themselves. A proper Rājpūt should not marry in his own clan. These groups have probably in the past taken wives from the surrounding population, and they can no longer be held to belong to the Rājpūt caste proper, but rank as ordinary agricultural castes. Other agricultural castes have probably been formed through mixed descent from Rājpūts and the indigenous races. The Agharias of Sambalpur say they are sprung from a clan of Rājpūts near Agra, who refused to bend their heads before the king of Delhi. He summoned all the Agharias to appear before him, and fixed a sword across the door at the [40]height of a man’s neck. As the Agharias would not bend their heads they were as a natural consequence all decapitated as they passed through the door. Only one escaped, who had bribed a Chamār to go instead of him. He and his village fled from Agra and came to Chhattīsgarh, where they founded the Agharia caste. And, in memory of this, when an Agharia makes a libation to his ancestors, he first pours a little water on the ground in honour of the dead Chamār. Such stories may be purely imaginary, or may contain some substratum of truth, as that the ancestors of the caste were Rājpūts, who took wives from Chamārs and other low castes. The Kīrārs are another caste with more or less mixed descent from Rājpūts. They are also called Dhākar, and this means one of illegitimate birth. The Bhilālas are a caste formed of the offspring of mixed alliances between Rājpūts and Bhīls. In many cases in Nimār Rājpūt immigrants appear to have married the daughters of Bhīl chieftains and landholders, and succeeded to their estates. Thus the Bhilālas include a number of landed proprietors, and the caste ranks as a good agricultural caste, from whom Brāhmans will take water. Among the other indigenous tribes, several of which have in the Central Provinces retained the possession of large areas of land and great estates in the wilder forest tracts, a subcaste has been formed of the landholding members of the tribe. Such are the Rāj-Gonds among the Gonds, the Binjhāls among Baigas, and the Tawar subtribe of the Kawar tribe of Bilāspur, to which all the zamīndārs50 belong. These last now claim to be Tomara Rājpūts, on the basis of the similarity of the name. These groups rank with the good agricultural castes, and Brāhmans sometimes consent to take water from them. The Dāngis of Saugor appear to be the descendants of a set of freebooters in the Vindhyan hills, much like the Gūjars in northern India. The legend of their origin is given in Sir B. Robertson’s Census Report of 1891: “The chief of Garhpahra or old Saugor detained the palanquins of twenty-two married women and kept them as his wives. The issue of the illicit intercourse were named Dāngis, and there are thus twenty-two subdivisions of these people. There are also three other subdivisions who claim [41]descent from pure Rājpūts, and who will take daughters in marriage from the remaining twenty-two, but will not give their daughters to them.” Thus the Dāngis appear to have been a mixed group, recruiting their band from all classes of the population, with some Rajpūts as leaders. The name probably means hillman, from dāng, a hill. Khet men bāmi, gaon men Dāngi or ‘A Dāngi in the village is like the hole of a snake in one’s field,’ is a proverb showing the estimation in which they were formerly held. They obtained estates in Saugor and a Dāngi dynasty formerly governed part of the District, and they are now highly respectable cultivators. The Mīnas or Deswālis belonged to the predatory Mīna tribe of Rājputāna, but a section of them have obtained possession of the land in Hoshangābād and rank as a good agricultural caste. The Lodhas of the United Provinces are placed lowest among the agricultural castes by Mr. Nesfield, who describes them as little better than a forest tribe. The name is perhaps derived from the bark of the lodh tree, which was collected by the Lodhas of northern India and sold for use as a dyeing agent. In the Central Provinces the name has been changed to Lodhi, and they are said to have been brought into the District by a Rāja of the Gond-Rājpūt dynasty of Mandla in the seventeenth century, and given large grants of waste land in the interior in order that they might clear it of forest. They have thus become landholders, and rank with the higher agricultural castes. They are addressed as Thākur, a title applied to Rājpūts, and Lodhi landowners usually wear the sacred thread.

21. Status of the cultivator.

The above details have been given to show how the different agricultural castes originated. Though their origin is so diverse they have, to a great extent, the same status, and it seems clear that this status is dependent on their possession of the land. In the tracts where they reside they are commonly village proprietors and superior tenants. Those who rank a little higher than the others, as the Jāts, Marāthas, Dāngis and Lodhis, include in their body some ruling chiefs or large landed proprietors, and as a rule were formerly dominant in the territory in which they are found. In primitive agricultural communities the land is the principal, if not almost the sole, source of wealth. Trade in the [42]modern sense scarcely exists, and what interchange of commodities there is affects, as a rule, only a trifling fraction of the population. India’s foreign trade is mainly the growth of the last century, and the great bulk of the exports are of agricultural produce, yet in proportion to the population the trading community is still extremely small. It thus seems quite impossible that the Aryans could have been a community of priests, rulers and traders, because such a community would not have had means of subsistence. And if the whole production and control of the wealth and food of the community had been in the hands of the Sūdras, they could not have been kept permanently in their subject, degraded position. The flocks and herds and the land, which constituted the wealth of early India, must thus have been in the possession of the Vaishyas; and grounds of general probability, as well as the direct evidence already produced, make it clear that they were the herdsmen and cultivators, and the Sūdras the labourers. The status of the modern cultivators seems to correspond to that of the Vaishyas, that is, of the main body of the Aryan people, who were pure and permitted to join in sacrifices. The status, however, no longer attaches to origin, but to the possession of the land; it is that of a constituent member of the village community, corresponding to a citizen of the city states of Greece and Italy. The original Vaishyas have long disappeared; the Brāhmans themselves say that there are no Kshatriyas and no Vaishyas left, and this seems to be quite correct. But the modern good cultivating castes retain the status of the Vaishyas as the Rājpūts retain that of the Kshatriyas. The case of the Jāts and Gūjars supports this view. These two castes are almost certainly derived from Scythian nomad tribes, who entered India long after the Vedic Aryans. And there is good reason to suppose that a substantial proportion, if not the majority, of the existing Rājpūt clans were the leaders or aristocracy of the Jāts and Gūjars. Thus it is found that in the case of these later tribes the main body were shepherds and cultivators, and their descendants have the status of good cultivating castes at present, while the leaders became the Rājpūts, who have the status of the Kshatriyas; and it therefore seems a reasonable [43]inference that the same had previously been the case with the Aryans themselves. It has been seen that the word Visha or Vaishya signified one of the people or a householder. The name Kunbi appears to have the same sense, its older form being kutumbika, which is a householder or one who has a family,51 a pater familias.

22. The clan and the village.

It has been seen also that Visha in the plural signified clans. The clan was the small body which lived together, and in the patriarchal stage was connected by a tie of kinship held to be derived from a common ancestor. Thus it is likely that the clans settled down in villages, the cultivators of one village being of the same exogamous clan. The existing system of exogamy affords evidence in favour of this view, as will be seen. All the families of the clan had cultivating rights in the land, and were members of the village community; and there were no other members, unless possibly a Kshatriya headman or leader. The Sūdras were their labourers and serfs, with no right to hold land, and a third intermediate class of village menials gradually grew up.

The law of Mirāsi tenures in Madras is perhaps a survival of the social system of the early village community. Under it only a few of the higher castes were allowed to hold land, and the monopoly was preserved by the rule that the right of taking up waste lands belonged primarily to the cultivators of the adjacent holdings; no one else could acquire land unless he first bought them out. The pariahs or impure castes were not allowed to hold land at all. This rule was pointed out by Mr. Slocock, and it is also noticed by Sir Henry Maine: “There are in Central and Southern India certain villages to which a class of persons is hereditarily attached, in such a manner that they form no part of the natural and organic aggregate to which the bulk of the villagers belong. These persons are looked upon as essentially impure; they never enter the village, or only enter reserved portions of it; and their touch is avoided as contaminating. Yet they bear extremely plain marks of their origin. Though they are not included in the village, they are an appendage solidly connected with it; they have [44]definite village duties, one of which is the settlement of boundaries, on which their authority is allowed to be conclusive. They evidently represent a population of alien blood whose lands have been occupied by the colonists or invaders forming the community.”52 Elsewhere, Sir Henry Maine points out that in many cases the outsiders were probably admitted to the possession of land, but on an inferior tenure to the primary holders or freemen who formed the cultivating body of the village; and suggests that this may have been the ground for the original distinction between occupancy and non-occupancy tenants. The following extract from a description of the Marātha villages by Grant Duff53 may be subjoined to this passage: “The inhabitants are principally cultivators, and are now either Mirāsidars or Ooprees. These names serve to distinguish the tenure by which they hold their lands. The Oopree is a mere tenant-at-will, but the Mirāsidar is a hereditary occupant whom the Government cannot displace so long as he pays the assessment on his field. With various privileges and distinctions in his village of minor consequence, the Mirāsidar has the important power of selling or transferring his right of occupancy at pleasure. It is a current opinion in the Marātha country that all the lands were originally of this description.”

As regards the internal relations of clans and village groups, Sir H. Maine states: “The men who composed the primitive communities believed themselves to be kinsmen in the most literal sense of the word; and, surprising as it may seem, there are a multitude of indications that in one stage of thought they must have regarded themselves as equals. When these primitive bodies first make their appearance as landowners, as claiming an exclusive enjoyment in a definite area of land, not only do their shares of the soil appear to have been originally equal, but a number of contrivances survive for preserving the equality, of which the most frequent is the periodical redistribution of the tribal domain.”54 Similarly Professor Hearn states: “The settlement of Europe was made by clans. Each clan occupied a certain territory[45]—much, I suppose, as an Australian squatter takes up new country. The land thus occupied was distributed by metes and bounds to each branch of the clan; the remainder, if any, continuing the property of the clan.”55 And again: “In those cases where the land had been acquired by conquest there were generally some remains of the conquered population who retained more or less interest in the lands that had once been their own. But as between the conquerors themselves it was the clansmen, and the clansmen only, who were entitled to derive any advantage from the land that the clan had acquired. The outsiders, the men who lived with the clan but were not of the clan, were no part of the folk, and had no share in the folkland. No services rendered, no participation in the common danger, no endurance of the burden and heat of the day, could create in an outsider any colour of right. Nothing short of admission to the clan, and of initiation in its worship, could enable him to demand as of right the grass of a single cow or the wood for a single fire.”56

23. The ownership of land.

Thus it appears that the cultivating community of each village constituted an exogamous clan, the members of which believed themselves to be kinsmen. When some caste or tribe occupied a fresh area of land they were distributed by clans in villages, over the area, all the cultivators of a village being of one caste or tribe, as is still the case with the Kunbis in Berār. Sometimes several alien castes or groups became amalgamated into a single caste, such as the Kurmis and Kunbis; in others they either remained as a separate caste or became one. When the non-Aryan tribes retained possession of the land, there is every reason to suppose that they also were admitted into Hinduism, and either constituted a fresh caste with the cultivating status, or were absorbed into an existing one with a change of name. Individual ownership of land was probably unknown. The patel or village headman, on whom proprietary right was conferred by the British Government, certainly did not possess it previously. He was simply the spokesman and representative [46]of the village community in its dealings with the central or ruling authority. But it seems scarcely likely either that the village community considered itself to own the land. Cases in which the community as a corporate body has exercised any function of ownership other than that of occupying and cultivating the soil, if recorded at all, must be extremely rare, and I do not know that any instance is given by Sir Henry Maine. A tutelary village god is to be found as a rule in every Hindu village. In the Central Provinces the most common is Khermāta, that is the goddess of the village itself or the village lands. She is a form of Devi, the general earth-goddess. When a village is founded the first thing to be done is to install the village god. Thus the soil of the village is venerated as a goddess, and it seems doubtful whether the village community considered itself the owner. In the Marātha Districts, Hanumān or Mahābīr, the monkey god, is the tutelary deity of the village. His position seems to rest on the belief of the villagers that the monkeys were the lords and owners of the soil before their own arrival. For the worship of these and the other village gods there is usually a village priest, known as Bhumka, Bhumia, Baiga or Jhānkar, who is taken from the non-Aryan tribes. The reason for his appointment seems to be that the Hindus still look on themselves to some extent as strangers and interlopers in relation to the gods of the earth and the village, and consider it necessary to approach these through the medium of one of their predecessors. The words Bhumka and Bhumia both mean lord of the soil, or belonging to the soil. As already seen, the authority of some menial official belonging to the indigenous tribes is accepted as final in cases of disputed boundaries, the idea being apparently that as his ancestors first occupied the village, he has inherited from them the knowledge of its true extent and limits. All these points appear to tell strongly against the view that the Hindu village community considered itself to own the village land as we understand the phrase. They seem to have looked on the land as a god, and often their own tutelary deity and protector. What they held themselves to possess was a right of occupancy, in virtue of prescriptive settlement, not subject to removal or [47]disturbance, and transmitted by inheritance to persons born into the membership of the village community. Under the Muhammadans the idea that the state ultimately owned the land may have been held, but prior to them the existence of such a belief is doubtful. The Hindu king did not take rent for land, but a share of the produce for the support of his establishments. The Rājpūt princes did not call themselves after the name of their country, but of its capital town, as if their own property consisted only in the town, as Jodhpur, Jaipur and Udaipur, instead of Mārwār, Dhūndhār and Mewār. Just as the village has a priest of the non-Aryan tribes for propitiating the local gods, so the Rājpūt chief at his accession was often inducted to the royal cushion by a Bhīl or Mīna, and received the badge of investiture as if he had to obtain his title from these tribes. Indeed the right of the village community to the land was held sometimes superior to that of the state. Sir J. Malcolm relates that he was very anxious to get the village of Bassi in Indore State repopulated when it had lain waste for thirty-six years. He had arranged with the Bhīl headman of a neighbouring village to bring it under cultivation on a favourable lease. The plan had other advantages, and Holkar’s minister was most anxious to put it into execution, but said that this could not be done until every possible effort had been made to discover whether any descendant of the former patel or of any watandār or hereditary cultivator of Bassi was still in existence; for if such were found, he said, “even we Marāthas, bad as we are, cannot do anything which interferes with their rights.” None such being found at the time, the village was settled as proposed by Malcolm; but some time afterwards, a boy was discovered who was descended from the old patel’s family, and he was invited to resume the office of headman of the village of his forefathers, which even the Bhīl, who had been nominated to it, was forward to resign to the rightful inheritor.57 Similarly the Marātha princes, Sindhia, Holkar and others, are recorded to have set more store by the headship of the insignificant Deccan villages, which were the hereditary offices of their families, than by the great principalities which they had carved out for themselves with the [48]sword. The former defined and justified their position in the world as the living link and representative of the continuous family comprising all their ancestors and all their descendants; the latter was at first regarded merely as a transient, secular possession, and a source of wealth and profit. This powerful hereditary right probably rested on a religious basis. The village community was considered to be bound up with its village god in one joint life, and hence no one but they could in theory have the right to cultivate the lands of that village. The very origin and nature of this right precluded any question of transfer or alienation. The only lands in which any ownership, corresponding to our conception of the term, was held to exist, were perhaps those granted free of revenue for the maintenance of temples, which were held to be the property of the god. In Rome and other Greek and Latin cities the idea of private or family ownership of land also developed from a religious sentiment. It was customary to bury the dead in the fields which they had held, and here the belief was that their spirits remained and protected the interests of the family. Periodical sacrifices were made to them and they participated in all the family ceremonies. Hence the land in which the tombs of ancestors were situated was held to belong to the family, and could not be separated from it.58 Gradually, as the veneration for the spirits of ancestors decayed, the land came to be regarded as the private property of the family, and when this idea had been realised it was made alienable, though not with the same freedom as personal property. But the word pecunia for money, from pecus a flock, like the Hindi dhan, which means wealth and also flocks of goats and sheep, and feudal from the Gaelic fiu, cattle, point to conditions of society in which land was not considered a form of private property or wealth. M. Fustel de Coulanges notices other primitive races who did not recognise property in land: “The Tartars understand the term property as applying to cattle, but not as applying to land. According to some authors, among the ancient Germans there was no ownership of land; every year each member of the tribe received a holding to cultivate, and the holding was changed in the following year. The German [49]owned the crop; he did not own the soil. The same was the case among a part of the Semitic race and certain of the Slav peoples.”59 In large areas of the Nigeria Protectorate at present, land has no exchangeable value at all; but by the native system of taxation a portion of the produce is taken in consideration of the right of use.60 In ancient Arabia ‘Baal’ meant the lord of some place or district, that is, a local deity, and hence came to mean a god. Land naturally moist was considered as irrigated by a god and the special place or habitation of the god. To the numerous Canaanite Baalims, or local deities, the Israelites ascribed all the natural gifts of the land, the corn, the wine, and the oil, the wool and the flax, the vines and fig trees. Pasture land was common property, but a man acquired rights in the soil by building a house, or, by ‘quickening’ a waste place, that is, bringing it under cultivation.61 The Israelites thought that they derived their title to the land of Canaan from Jehovah, having received it as a gift from Him. The association of rights over the land with cultivation and building, pointed out by Professor Robertson Smith, may perhaps explain the right over the village lands which was held to appertain to the village community. They had quickened the land and built houses on it, establishing the local village deity on their village sites, and it was probably thought that their life was bound up with that of the village god, and only they had a right to cultivate his land. This would explain the great respect shown by the Marāthas for hereditary title to land, as seen above; a feeling which must certainly have been based on some religious belief, and not on any moral idea of equity or justice; no such deep moral principle was possible in the Hindu community at the period in question. The Hindu religious conception of rights to land was thus poles apart from the secular English law of proprietary and transferable right, and if the native feeling could have been, understood by the early British administrators the latter would perhaps have been introduced only in a much modified form. [50]

24. The cultivating status that of the Vaishya.

The suggested conclusion from the above argument is that the main body of the Aryan immigrants, that is the Vaishyas, settled down in villages by exogamous clans or septs. The cultivators of each village believed themselves to be kinsmen descended from a common ancestor, and also to be akin to the god of the village lands from which they drew their sustenance. Hence their order had an equal right to cultivate the village land and their children to inherit it, though they did not conceive of the idea of ownership of land in the sense in which we understand this phrase.

The original status of the Vaishya, or a full member of the Aryan community who could join in sacrifices and employ Brāhmans to perform them, was gradually transferred to the cultivating member of the village communities. In process of time, as land was the chief source of wealth, and was also regarded as sacred, the old status became attached to castes or groups of persons who obtained or held land irrespective of their origin, and these are what are now called the good cultivating castes. They have now practically the same status, though, as has been seen, they were originally of most diverse origin, including bands of robbers and freebooters, cattle-lifters, non-Aryan tribes, and sections of any castes which managed to get possession of an appreciable quantity of land.

25. Higher professional and artisan castes.

The second division of the group of pure or good castes, or those from whom a Brāhman can take water, comprises the higher artisan castes:

  • Barhai.
  • Bharbhūnja.
  • Halwai.
  • Kasār.
  • Komti.
  • Sānsia.
  • Sunār.
  • Tamera.
  • Vidūr.

The most important of these are the Sunār or goldsmith; the Kasār or worker in brass and bell-metal; the Tamera or coppersmith; the Barhai or carpenter; and the Halwai and Bharbhūnja or confectioner and grain-parcher. The Sānsia or stone-mason of the Uriya country may perhaps also be included. These industries represent a higher degree of civilisation than the village trades, and the workers may probably have been formed into castes at a later period, when the practice of the handicrafts was no longer despised. The metal-working castes are now [51]usually urban, and on the average their members are as well-to-do as the cultivators. The Sunārs especially include a number of wealthy men, and their importance is increased by their association with the sacred metal, gold; in some localities they now claim to be Brāhmans and refuse to take food from Brāhmans.62 The more ambitious members abjure all flesh-food and liquor and wear the sacred thread. But in Bombay the Sunār was in former times one of the village menial castes, and here, before and during the time of the Peshwas, Sunārs were not allowed to wear the sacred thread, and they were forbidden to hold their marriages in public, as it was considered unlucky to see a Sunār bridegroom. Sunār bridegrooms were not allowed to see the state umbrella or to ride in a palanquin, and had to be married at night and in secluded places, being subject to restrictions and annoyances from which even Mahārs were free. Thus the goldsmith’s status appears to vary greatly according as his trade is a village or urban industry. Copper is also a sacred metal, and the Tameras rank next to the Sunārs among the artisan castes, with the Kasārs or brass-workers a little below them; both these castes sometimes wearing the sacred thread. These classes of artisans generally live in towns. The Barhai or carpenter is sometimes a village menial, but most carpenters live in towns, the wooden implements of agriculture being made either by the blacksmith or by the cultivators themselves. Where the Barhai is a village menial he is practically on an equality with the Lohār or blacksmith; but the better-class carpenters, who generally live in towns, rank higher. The Sānsia or stone-mason of the Uriya country works, as a rule, only in stone, and in past times therefore his principal employment must have been to build temples. He could not thus be a village menial, and his status would be somewhat improved by the sanctity of his calling. The Halwai and Bharbhūnja or confectioner and grain-parcher are castes of comparatively low origin, especially the latter; but they have to be given the status of ceremonial purity in order that all Hindus may be able to take sweets and parched grain from their hands. Their position resembles that of the barber [52]and waterman, the pure village menials, which will be discussed later. In Bengal certain castes, such as the Tānti or weaver of fine muslin, the Teli or oil-presser, and the Kumhār or potter, rank with the ceremonially pure castes. Their callings have there become important urban industries. Thus the Tāntis made the world-renowned fine muslins of Dacca; and the Jagannāthia Kumhārs of Orissa provide the earthen vessels used for the distribution of rice to all pilgrims at the temple of Jagannāth. These castes and certain others have a much higher rank than that of the corresponding castes in northern and Central India, and the special reasons indicated seem to account for this. Generally the artisan castes ranking on the same or a higher level than the cultivators are urban and not rural. They were not placed in a position of inferiority to the cultivators by accepting contributions of grain and gifts from them, and this perhaps accounts for their higher position. One special caste may be noticed here, the Vidūrs, who are the descendants of Brāhman fathers by women of other castes. These, being of mixed origin, formerly had a very low rank, and worked as village accountants and patwāris. Owing to their connection with Brāhmans, however, they are a well-educated caste, and since education has become the door to all grades of advancement in the public service, the Vidūrs have taken advantage of it, and many of them are clerks of offices or hold higher posts under Government. Their social status has correspondingly improved; they dress and behave like Brāhmans, and in some localities it is said that even Marātha Brāhmans will take water to drink from Vidūrs, though they will not take it from the cultivating castes. There are also several menial or serving castes from whom a Brāhman can take water, forming the third class of this group, but their real rank is much below that of the cultivators, and they will be treated in the next group.

26. Castes from whom a Brāhman cannot take water; the village menials.

The third main division consists of those castes from whom a Brāhman cannot take water, though they are not regarded as impure and are permitted to enter Hindu temples. The typical castes of this group appear to be the village artisans and menials and the village priests. The annexed list shows the principal of these. [53]

Village menials.

  • Lohār—Blacksmith.
  • Barhai—Carpenter.
  • Kumhār—Potter.
  • Nai—Barber.
  • Dhimar—Waterman.
  • Kahār—Palanquin-bearer.
  • Bāri—Leaf-plate maker.
  • Bargāh—Household servant.
  • Dhobi—Washerman.
  • Darzi—Tailor.
  • Basor or Dhulia—Village musician.
  • Bhāt and Mirāsi—Bard and genealogist.
  • Halba—House-servant and farm-servant.

Castes of village watchmen.

  • Khangār.
  • Chadār.
  • Chauhān.
  • Dahāit.
  • Panka.

Village priests and mendicants.

  • Joshi—Astrologer.
  • Gārpagāri—Hail-averter.
  • Gondhali—Musician.

  • Mānbhao
  • Jangam
  • Basdewa
  • Sātani
  • Waghya
Wandering priests and mendicants.


  • Māli—Gardener and maker of garlands.
  • Barai—Betel-vine grower and seller.

Other village traders and artisans.

  • Kalār—Liquor-vendor.
  • Teli—Oil-presser.

  • Hatwa
  • Manihār


  • Bahelia
  • Pārdhi
Fowlers and hunters.

  • Bahna—Cotton-cleaner.
  • Chhīpa—Calico-printer and dyer.
  • Chitrakathi—Painter and picture-maker.
  • Kachera—Glass bangle-maker.
  • Kadera—Fireworks-maker.
  • Nat—Acrobat.

  • Gadaria
  • Dhangar
  • Kuramwār

  • Beldār
  • Murha
  • Nunia
Diggers, navvies, and salt-refiners.

The essential fact which formerly governed the status of this group of castes appears to be that they performed various services for the cultivators according to their different vocations, and were supported by contributions of grain made to [54]them by the cultivators, and by presents given to them at seed-time and harvest. They were the clients of the cultivators and the latter were their patrons and supporters, and hence ranked above them. This condition of things survives only in the case of a few castes, but prior to the introduction of a metal currency must apparently have been the method of remuneration of all the village industries. The Lohār or blacksmith makes and mends the iron implements of agriculture, such as the ploughshare, axe, sickle and goad. For this he is paid in Saugor a yearly contribution of 20 lbs. of grain per plough of land held by each cultivator, together with a handful of grain at sowing-time and a sheaf at harvest from both the autumn and spring crops. In Wardha he gets 50 lbs. of grain per plough of four bullocks or 40 acres. For new implements he must either be paid separately or at least supplied with the iron and charcoal. In Districts where the Barhai or carpenter is a village servant he is paid the same as the Lohār and has practically an equal status. The village barber receives in Saugor 20 lbs. of grain annually from each adult male in the family, or 22½ lbs. per plough of land besides the seasonal presents. In return for this he shaves each cultivator over the head and face about once a fortnight. The Dhobi or washerman gets half the annual contribution of the blacksmith and carpenter, with the same presents, and in return for this he washes the clothes of the family two or three times a month. When he brings the clothes home he also receives a meal or a wheaten cake, and well-to-do families give him their old clothes as a present. The Dhīmar or waterman brings water to the house morning and evening, and fills the earthen water-pots placed on a wooden stand or earthen platform outside it. When the cultivators have marriages he performs the same duties for the whole wedding party, and receives a present of money and clothes according to the means of the family, and his food every day while the wedding is in progress. He supplies water for drinking to the reapers, receiving three sheaves a day as payment, and takes sweet potatoes and boiled plums to the field and sells them. The Kumhār or potter is not now paid regularly by dues from the cultivators like other village menials, as the ordinary system of sale has been found to be more convenient [55]in his case. But he sometimes takes for use the soiled grass from the stalls of the cattle and gives pots free to the cultivator in exchange. On Akti day, at the beginning of the agricultural year, the village Kumhār in Saugor presents five pots with covers on them to each cultivator and is given 2½ lbs. of grain. He presents the bride with seven new pots at a wedding, and these are filled with water and used in the ceremony, being considered to represent the seven seas. At a funeral he must supply thirteen vessels which are known as ghāts, and must replace the household earthen vessels, which are rendered impure on the occurrence of a death in the house, and are all broken and thrown away. In the Punjab and Marātha country the Kumhār was formerly an ordinary village menial.

27. The village watchmen.

The office of village watchman is an important one, and is usually held by a member of the indigenous tribes. These formerly were the chief criminals, and the village watchman, in return for his pay, was expected to detect the crimes of his tribesmen and to make good any losses of property caused by them. The sections of the tribes who held this office have developed into special castes, as the Khangārs, Chadārs and Chauhāns of Chhattīsgarh. These last are probably of mixed descent from Rājpūts and the higher castes of cultivators with the indigenous tribes. The Dahāits were a caste of gatekeepers and orderlies of native rulers who have now become village watchmen. The Pankas are a section of the impure Gānda caste who have embraced the doctrines of the Kabīrpanthi sect and formed a separate caste. They are now usually employed as village watchmen and are not regarded as impure. Similarly those members of the Mahār servile caste who are village watchmen tend to marry among themselves and form a superior group to the others. The village watchman now receives a remuneration fixed by Government and is practically a rural policeman, but in former times he was a village menial and was maintained by the cultivators in the same manner as the others.

28. The village priests. The gardening castes.

The village priests are another class of this group. The regular village priest and astrologer, the Joshi or Parsai, is a Brāhman, but the occupation has developed a [56]separate caste. The Joshi officiates at weddings in the village, selects auspicious names for children according to the constellations under which they were born, and points out the auspicious moment or mahūrat for weddings, name-giving and other ceremonies, and for the commencement of such agricultural operations as sowing, reaping, and threshing. He is also sometimes in charge of the village temple. He is supported by contributions of grain from the villagers and often has a plot of land rent-free from the proprietor. The social position of the Joshis is not very good, and, though Brāhmans, they are considered to rank somewhat below the cultivating castes. The Gurao is another village priest, whose fortune has been quite different. The caste acted as priests of the temples of Siva and were also musicians and supplied leaf-plates. They were village menials of the Marātha villages. But owing to the sanctity of their calling, and the fact that they have become literate and taken service under Government, the Guraos now rank above the cultivators and are called Shaiva Brāhmans. The Gondhalis are the village priests of Devi, the earth-goddess, who is also frequently the tutelary goddess of the village. They play the kettle-drum and perform dances in her honour, and were formerly classed as one of the village menials of Marātha villages, though they now work for hire. The Gārpagāri, or hail-averter, is a regular village menial, his duty being to avert hail-storms from the crops, like the χαλαζοφύλαξ in ancient Greece. The Gārpagāris will accept cooked food from Kunbis and celebrate their weddings with those of the Kunbis. The Jogis, Mānbhaos, Sātanis, and others, are wandering religious mendicants, who act as priests and spiritual preceptors to the lower classes of Hindus.

Group of religious mendicants

Group of religious mendicants

With the village priests may be mentioned the Māli or gardener. The Mālis now grow vegetables with irrigation or ordinary crops, but this was not apparently their original vocation. The name is derived from māla, a garland, and it would appear that the Māli was first employed to grow flowers for the garlands with which the gods and also their worshippers were adorned at religious ceremonies. Flowers were held sacred and were an essential adjunct to worship in India as in Greece and Rome. The sacred flowers of [57]India are the lotus, the marigold and the champak63 and from their use in religious worship is derived the custom of adorning the guests with garlands at all social functions, just as in Rome and Greece they wore crowns on their heads. It seems not unlikely that this was the purpose for which cultivated flowers were first grown, at any rate in India. The Māli was thus a kind of assistant in the religious life of the village, and he is still sometimes placed in charge of the village shrines and is employed as temple-servant in Jain temples. He would therefore have been supported by contributions from the cultivators like the other village menials and have ranked below them, though on account of the purity and sanctity of his occupation Brāhmans would take water from him. The Māli has now become an ordinary cultivator, but his status is still noticeably below that of the good cultivating castes and this seems to be the explanation. With the Māli may be classed the Barai, the grower and seller of the pān or betel-vine leaf. This leaf, growing on a kind of creeper, like the vine, in irrigated gardens roofed with thatch for protection from the sun, is very highly prized by the Hindus. It is offered with areca-nut, cloves, cardamom and lime rolled up in a quid to the guests at all social functions. It is endowed by them with great virtues, being supposed to prevent heartburn, indigestion, and other stomachic and intestinal disorders, and to preserve the teeth, while taken with musk, saffron and almonds, the betel-leaf is held to be a strong aphrodisiac. The juice of the leaf stains the teeth and mouth red, and the effect, though repulsive to Europeans, is an indispensable adjunct to a woman’s beauty in Hindu eyes. This staining of the mouth red with betel-leaf is also said to distinguish a man from a dog. The idea that betel preserves the teeth seems to be unfounded. The teeth of Hindus appear to be far less liable to decay than those of Europeans, but this is thought to be because they generally restrict themselves to a vegetable diet and always rinse out their mouths with water after taking food. The betel-leaf is considered sacred; a silver ornament is made in its shape and it is often invoked in spells and [58]magic. The original vine is held to have grown from a finger-joint of Bāsuki, the Queen of the Serpents, and the cobra is worshipped as the tutelary deity of the pān-garden, which this snake is accustomed to frequent, attracted by the moist coolness and darkness. The position of the Barai is the same as that of the Māli; his is really a low caste, sometimes coupled with the contemned Telis or oil-pressers, but he is considered ceremonially pure because the betel-leaf, offered to gods and eaten by Brāhmans and all Hindus, is taken from him. The Barai or Tamboli was formerly a village menial in the Marātha villages.

29. Other village traders and menials.

The castes following other village trades mainly fall into this group, though they may not now be village menials. Such are the Kalār or liquor-vendor and Teli or oil-presser, who sell their goods for cash, and having learnt to reckon and keep accounts, have prospered in their dealings with the cultivators ignorant of this accomplishment. Formerly it is probable that the village Teli had the right of pressing all the oil grown in the village, and retaining a certain share for his remuneration. The liquor-vendor can scarcely have been a village menial, but since Manu’s time his trade has been regarded as a very impure one, and has ranked with that of the Teli. Both these castes have now become prosperous, and include a number of landowners, and their status is gradually improving. The Darzi or tailor is not usually attached to the village community; sewn clothes have hitherto scarcely been worn among the rural population, and the weaver provides the cloths which they drape on the body and round the head.64 The contempt with which the tailor is visited in English proverbial lore for working at a woman’s occupation attaches in a precisely similar manner in India to the weaver.65 But in Gujarāt the Darzi is found living in villages and here he is also a village menial. The Kachera or maker of the glass bangles which every Hindu married woman wears as a sign of her estate, ranks with the village artisans; his is probably an urban trade, but he has never become [59]prosperous or important. The Banjāras or grain-carriers were originally Rājpūts, but owing to the mixed character of the caste and the fact that they obtained their support from the cultivators, they have come to rank below these latter. The Wanjāri cultivators of Berār have now discarded their Banjāra ancestry and claim to be Kunbis. The Nat or rope-dancer and acrobat may formerly have had functions in the village in connection with the crops. In Kumaon66 a Nat still slides down a long rope from the summit of a cliff to the base as a rite for ensuring the success of the crops on the occasion of a festival of Siva. Formerly if the Nat or Bādi fell to the ground in his course, he was immediately despatched with a sword by the surrounding spectators, but this is now prohibited. The rope on which he slid down the cliff is cut up and distributed among the inhabitants of the village, who hang the pieces as charms on the eaves of their houses. The hair of the Nat is also taken and preserved as possessing similar virtues. Each District in Kumaon has its hereditary Nat or Bādi, who is supported by annual contributions of grain from the inhabitants. Similarly in the Central Provinces it is not uncommon to find a deified Nat, called Nat Bāba or Father Nat, as a village god. A Natni, or Nat woman, is sometimes worshipped; and when two sharp peaks of hills are situated close to each other, it is related that there was once a Natni, very skilful on the tight-rope, who performed before the king; and he promised her that if she would stretch a rope from the peak of one hill to that of the other, and walk across it, he would marry her and make her wealthy. Accordingly the rope was stretched, but the queen from jealousy went and cut it nearly through in the night, and when the Natni started to walk, the rope broke, and she fell down and was killed. Having regard to the Kumaon rite, it may be surmised that these legends commemorate the death of a Natni or acrobat during the performance of some feat of dancing or sliding on a rope for the magical benefit of the crops. And it seems possible that acrobatic performances may have had their origin in this manner. The point bearing on the present argument [60]is, however, that the Nat performed special functions for the success of the village crops, and on this account was supported by contributions from the villagers, and ranked with the village menials.

30. Household servants.

Some of the castes already mentioned, and one or two others having the same status, work as household servants as well as village menials. The Dhīmar is most commonly employed as an indoor servant in Hindu households, and is permitted to knead flour in water and make it into a cake, which the Brāhman then takes and puts on the girdle with his own hands. He can boil water and pour pulse into the cooking-pot from above, so long as he does not touch the vessel after the food has been placed in it. He will take any remains of food left in the cooking-pot, as this is not considered to be polluted, food only becoming polluted when the hand touches it on the dish after having touched the mouth. When this happens, all the food on the dish becomes jūtha or leavings of food, and as a general rule no caste except the sweepers will eat these leavings of food of another caste or of another person of their own. Only a wife, whose meal follows her husband’s, will eat his leavings. As a servant, the Dhīmar is very familiar with his master; he may enter any part of the house, including the cooking-place and the women’s rooms, and he addresses his mistress as ‘Mother.’ When he lights his master’s pipe he takes the first pull himself, to show that it has not been tampered with, and then presents it to him with his left hand placed under his right elbow in token of respect. Maid-servants frequently belong also to the Dhīmar caste, and it often happens that the master of the household has illicit intercourse with them. Hence there is a proverb: ‘The king’s son draws water and the water-bearer’s son sits on the throne,’—similar intrigues on the part of high-born women with their servants being not unknown. The Kahār or palanquin-bearer was probably the same caste as the Dhīmar. Landowners would maintain a gang of Kahārs to carry them on journeys, allotting to such men plots of land rent-free. Our use of the word ‘bearer’ in the sense of a body-servant has developed from the palanquin-bearer who became a personal attendant on his master. Well-to-do families often have a Nai or barber [61]as a hereditary family servant, the office descending in the barber’s family. Such a man arranges the marriages of the children and takes a considerable part in conducting them, and acts as escort to the women of the family when they go on a journey. Among his daily duties are to rub his master’s body with oil, massage his limbs, prepare his bed, tell him stories to send him to sleep, and so on. The barber’s wife attends on women in childbirth after the days of pollution are over, and rubs oil on the bodies of her clients, pares their nails and paints their feet with red dye at marriages and on other festival occasions. The Bāri or maker of leaf-plates is another household servant. Plates made of large leaves fastened together with little wooden pins and strips of fibre are commonly used by the Hindus for eating food, as are little leaf-cups for drinking; glazed earthenware has hitherto not been commonly manufactured, and that with a rougher surface becomes ceremonially impure by contact with any strange person or thing. Metal vessels and plates are the only alternative to those made of leaves, and there are frequently not enough of them to go round for a party. The Bāris also work as personal servants, hand round water, and light and carry torches at entertainments and on journeys. Their women are maids to high-caste Hindu ladies, and as they are always about the zenana are liable to lose their virtue.

31. Status of the village menials.

The castes of village and household menials form a large group between the cultivators on the one hand and the impure and servile labourers on the other. Their status is not exactly the same. On the one hand, the Nai or barber, the Kahār and Dhīmar or watermen, the household servants, the Bāri, Ahīr, and others, some of the village priests and the gardening castes, are considered ceremonially pure and Brāhmans will take water from them. But this is a matter of convenience, as, if they were not so held pure, they would be quite useless in the household. Several of these castes, as the Dhīmars, Bāris and others, are derived from the primitive tribes. Sir H. Risley considered the Bāris of Bengal as probably an offshoot from the Bhuiya or Mūsahar tribe: “He still associates with the Bhuiyas at times, and if the demand for leaf-plates and cups is greater than he [62]can cope with himself, he gets them secretly made up by his ruder kinsfolk and passes them off as his own production. Instances of this sort, in which a non-Aryan or mixed group is promoted on grounds of necessity or convenience to a higher status than their antecedents would entitle them to claim, are not unknown in other castes, and must have occurred frequently in outlying parts of the country, where the Aryan settlements were scanty and imperfectly supplied with the social apparatus demanded by the theory of ceremonial purity. Thus the undoubtedly non-Aryan Bhuiyas have in parts of Chota Nāgpur been recognised as Jal-Acharani (able to give water to the higher castes) and it may be conjectured that the Kahārs themselves only attained this privilege in virtue of their employment as palanquin-bearers.”67 The fact that Brāhmans will take water from these castes does not in any way place them on a level with the cultivators; they remain menial servants, ranking, if anything, below such castes as Lohār, Teli and Kalār, from whom Brāhmans will not take water; but these latter are, as corporate bodies, more important and prosperous than the household menial castes, because their occupation confers a greater dignity and independence.

On the other hand, one or two of the village menials, such as the Dhobi or washerman, are considered to some extent impure. This is due to specially degrading incidents attaching to their occupation, as in the case of the Dhobi, the washing of the clothes of women in childbirth.68 And the Sungaria subcaste of Kumhārs, who keep pigs, are not touched, because the impurity of the animal is necessarily communicated to its owner’s house and person. Still, in the village society there is little real difference between the position of these castes and those of the other village menials.

32. Origin of their status

The status of the village menial castes appears to be fixed by their dependent position on the cultivators. The latter are their patrons and superiors, to whom they look for a livelihood. Before the introduction of a currency in the rural tracts (an event of the last fifty to a hundred years) the village artisans and menials were supported by [63]contributions of grain from the cultivators. They still all receive presents, consisting of a sowing-basketful of grain at seed-time and one or two sheaves at harvest. The former is known as Bīj phūtni, or ‘The breaking of the seed,’ and the latter as Khanvār, or ‘That which is left’ Sometimes, after threshing, the menials are each given as much grain as will fill a winnowing-fan. When the peasant has harvested his grain, all come and beg from him. The Dhīmar brings some water-nut, the Kāchhi or market-gardener some chillies, the Barai betel-leaf, the Teli oil and tobacco, the Kalār liquor (if he drinks it), the Bania some sugar, and all receive grain in excess of the value of their gifts. The Joshi or village priest, the Nat or acrobat, the Gosain or religious mendicant and the Fakīr or Muhammadan beggar solicit alms. On that day the cultivator is said to be like a little king in his fields, and the village menials constitute his court. In purely agricultural communities grain is the principal source of wealth, and though the average Hindu villager may appear to us to be typical of poverty rather than wealth, such standards are purely relative. The cultivator was thus the patron and supporter of the village artisans and menials, and his social position was naturally superior to theirs. Among the Hindus it is considered derogatory to accept a gift from another person, the recipient being thereby placed in a position of inferiority to the donor. Some exception to this rule is made in the case of Brāhmans, though even with them it partly applies. Generally the acceptance of a gift of any value among Hindus is looked upon in the same manner as the taking of money in England, being held to indicate that the recipient is in an inferior social position to the giver. And the existence of this feeling seems to afford strong support to the reason suggested here for the relative status of the cultivating and village menial castes.

The group of village menial and artisan castes comes between the good cultivating castes who hold the status of the Vaishyas or body of the Aryans, and the impure castes, the subjected aborigines. The most reasonable theory of their status seems to be that it originated in mixed descent. As has already been seen, it was the common practice of [64]members of the higher classes to take lower-caste women either as wives or concubines, and a large mixed class would naturally result. Such children, born and brought up in the households of their fathers, would not be full members of the family, but would not be regarded as impure. They would naturally be put to the performance of the menial household duties, for which the servile castes were rendered unsuitable through their impure status. This would correspond with the tradition of the large number of castes originating in mixed descent, which is given in the Hindu sacred books. It has been seen that where menial castes are employed in the household, classes of mixed descent do as a matter of fact arise. And there are traces of a relationship between the cultivators and the menial castes, which would be best explained by such an origin. At a betrothal in the great Kunbi cultivating caste of the Marāthas, the services of the barber and washerman must be requisitioned. The barber washes the feet of the boy and girl and places vermilion on the foreheads of the guests; the washerman spreads a sheet on the ground on which the boy and girl sit. At the end of the ceremony the barber and washerman take the bride and bridegroom on their shoulders and dance to music in the marriage-shed, for which they receive small presents. After a death has occurred at a Kunbi’s house, the impurity is not removed until the barber and washerman have eaten in it. At a Kunbi’s wedding the Gurao or village priest brings the leafy branches of five trees and deposits them at Māroti’s69 temple, whence they are removed by the parents of the bride. Before a wedding, again, a Kunbi bride must go to the potter’s house and be seated on his wheel, while it is turned round seven times for good luck. Similarly at a wedding among the Hindustāni cultivating castes the bride visits the potter’s house and is seated on his wheel; and the washerman’s wife applies vermilion to her forehead. The barber’s wife puts red paint on her feet, the gardener’s wife presents her with a garland of flowers and the carpenter’s wife gives her a new wooden doll. At the wedding feast the barber, the washerman and the Bāri or personal servant also eat with the guests, though sitting [65]apart from them. Sometimes members of the menial and serving castes are invited to the funeral feast as if they belonged to the dead man’s caste. In Madras the barber and his wife, and the washerman and his wife, are known as the son and daughter of the village. And among the families of ruling Rājpūt chiefs, when a daughter of the house is married, it was customary to send with her a number of handmaidens taken from the menial and serving castes. These became the concubines of the bridegroom and it seems clear that their progeny would be employed in similar capacities about the household and would follow the castes of their mothers. The Tamera caste of coppersmiths trace their origin from the girls so sent with the bride of Dharam-Pāl, the Haihaya Rājpūt Rāja of Ratanpur, through the progeny of these girls by the Raja.

33. Other castes who rank with the village menials.

Many other castes belong to the group of those from whom a Brāhman cannot take water, but who are not impure. Among these are several of the lower cultivating castes, some of them growers of special products, as the Kāchhis and Mowārs or market-gardeners, the Dāngris or melon-growers, and the Kohlis and Bhoyars who plant sugarcane. These subsidiary kinds of agriculture were looked down upon by the cultivators proper; they were probably carried out on the beds and banks of streams and other areas not included in the regular holdings of the village, and were taken up by labourers and other landless persons. The callings of these are allied to, or developed from, that of the Māli or gardener, and they rank on a level with him, or perhaps a little below, as no element of sanctity attaches to their products. Certain castes which were formerly labourers, but have now sometimes obtained possession of the land, are also in this group, such as the Rajbhars, Kīrs, Mānas, and various Madras castes of cultivators. Probably these were once not allowed to hold land, but were afterwards admitted to do so. The distinction between their position and that of the hereditary cultivators of the village community was perhaps the original basis of the different kinds of tenant-right recognised by our revenue law, though these now, of course, depend solely on length of tenure and other incidents, and make [66]no distinction of castes. The shepherd castes who tend sheep and goats (the Gadarias, Dhangars and Kuramwārs) also fall into this group. Little sanctity attached to these animals as compared with the cow, and the business of rearing them would be left to the labouring castes and non-Aryan tribes. The names of all three castes denote their functional origin, Gadaria being from gādar, a sheep, Dhangar from dhan or small-stock, the word signifying a flock of sheep or goats and also wealth; and Kuramwār from kurri, the Telugu word for sheep. Others belonging to this group are the digging and earth-working castes, the Beldārs, Murhas, Nunias and so on, practically all derived from the indigenous tribes, who wander about seeking employment from the cultivators in the construction and repair of field embankments and excavation of wells and tanks; and various fishing and boating castes, as the Injhwārs, Naodas, Murhas and Kewats, who rank as equal to the Dhīmars, though they may not be employed in household or village service. Such castes, almost entirely derived from the non-Aryan tribes, may have come gradually into existence as the wants of society developed and new functions were specialised; they would naturally be given the social status already attaching to the village menial castes.

34. The non-Aryan tribes.

The fourth group in the scheme of precedence comprises the non-Aryan or indigenous tribes, who are really outside the caste system when this is considered as the social organisation of the Hindus, so long at least as they continue to worship their own tribal deities, and show no respect for Brāhmans nor for the cow. These tribes have, however, entered the Hindu polity in various positions. The leaders of some of them who were dominant in the early period were admitted to the Kshatriya or Rājpūt caste, and the origin of a few of the Rājput clans can be traced to the old Bhar and other tribes. Again, the aristocratic or landholding sections of several existing tribes are at present, as has been seen, permitted to rank with the good Hindu cultivating castes. In a few cases, as the Andhs, Halbas and Mānas, the tribe as a whole has become a Hindu caste, when it retained possession of the land in the centre [67]of a Hindu population. These have now the same or a slightly higher position than the village menial castes. On the other hand, those tribes which were subjugated and permitted to live with a servile status in the Hindu villages have developed into the existing impure castes of labourers, weavers, tanners and others, who form the lowest social group. The tribes which still retain their distinctive existence were not enslaved in this manner, but lived apart in their own villages in the forest tracts and kept possession of the land. This seems to be the reason why they rank somewhat higher than the impure castes, even though they may utterly defile themselves according to Hindu ideas by eating cow’s flesh. Some tribes, such as the Gonds, Binjhwārs and Kawars, counted amongst them the owners of large estates or even kingdoms, and consequently had many Hindu cultivators for their subjects. And, as the Hindus themselves say, they could not regard the Gonds as impure when they had a Gond king. Nevertheless, the Gond labourers in Hindu villages in the plains are more despised than the Gonds who live in their own villages in the hill country. And the conversion of the tribes as a whole to Hinduism goes steadily forward. At each census the question arises which of them should be classed as Hindus, and which as Animists or worshippers of their own tribal gods, and though the classification is necessarily very arbitrary, the process can be clearly observed. Thus the Andhs, Kolis, Rautias and Halbas are now all Hindus, and the same remark applies to the Kols, Bhīls and Korkus in several Districts. By strict abstention from beef, the adoption of Hindu rites, and to some extent of child-marriage, they get admission to the third group of castes from whom a Brāhman cannot take water. It will be desirable here to digress from the main argument by noticing briefly the origin and affinities of the principal forest tribes of the Central Provinces.

35. The Kolarians and Dravidians.

These tribes are divided into two families, the Munda or Kolarian, named after the Kol tribe, and the Dravidian, of which the former are generally held to be the older and more primitive. The word Kol is probably the Santāli hār, a man. “This word is used under various forms, such [68]as hār, hāra, ho and koro by most Munda tribes in order to denote themselves. The change of r to l is familiar and presents no difficulty.”70 The word is also found in the alternative name Ho for the Kol tribe, and in the names of the cognate Korwa and Korku tribes. The word Munda is a Sanskrit derivative meaning a head, and, as stated by Sir H. Risley, is the common term employed by the Kols for the headman of a village, whence it has been adopted as an honorific title for the tribe. In Chota Nāgpur those Kols who have partly adopted Hinduism and become to some degree civilised are called Munda, while the name Ho or Larka (fighting) Kol is reserved for the wilder section of the tribe.

36. Kolarian tribes.

The principal tribes of the Munda or Kolarian family in the Central Provinces are shown below:

  • Kol, Munda, Ho.
  • Bhumij.
  • Santāl.
  • Kharia.
  • Korwa.
  • Korku.
  • Nāhal
  • Savar or Saonr.
  • Māl, Māle.
  • Gadba.
  • Khairwār.
  • Baiga.
  • Bhuiya.
  • Bhaina.
  • Bhunjia.
  • Binjhwār.
  • Probable: Bhar, Koli, Bhīl, Chero.

One large group includes the Kol, Munda or Ho tribe itself and the Bhumij and Santāls, who appear to be local branches of the Kols called by separate names by the Hindus. The Kharias seem to be the earliest Kol settlers in Chota Nāgpur, who were subjugated by the later comers. The name Kol, as already seen, is probably a form of the Santali hār, a man. Similarly the name of the Korku tribe is simply a corruption of Koraku, young men, and that of the Korwa tribe is from the same root. The dialects of the Korku and Korwa tribes closely approximate to Mundāri. Hence it would seem that they were originally one tribe with the Kols, but have been separated for so long a period that their direct connection can no longer be proved. The disintegrating causes which have split up what was originally one into a number of distinct tribes, are probably no more than distance and settlement in different parts of the country, leading to cessation of intermarriage and social intercourse. The tribes have then obtained some variation in the original names or been given separate territorial or occupational designations by the Hindus, [69]and their former identity has gradually been forgotten. Both the Korwas of the Chota Nāgpur plateau and the Korkus of the Satpūra hills were known as Muāsi, a term having the meaning of robber or raider. The Korwas have also a subtribe called Korāku, and Mr. Crooke thinks that they were originally the same tribe. Sir G. Grierson states that the Korwa dialect is closely allied to Kharia. Similarly the resemblance of the name raises a presumption that the great Koli tribe of Gujarāt and western India may be a branch of the Kols who penetrated to the western coast along the Satpūlra and Central India hill ranges. The Kolis and Bhīls are tribes of the same country and are commonly spoken of together. Both have entirely lost their own language and cannot therefore be classified definitely either as Kolarian or Dravidian, but there is a probability that they are of the Kolarian family. The Nāhals, another tribe of the western Satpūra range, are an offshoot of the Korkus. They are coupled with the Bhīls and Kolis in old Hindu accounts.

The Savars, Sawaras or Saonrs are also a widely distributed tribe, being found as far west as Bundelkhand and east in Orissa and Ganjām. In the Central Provinces they have lost their own language and speak Hindi or Uriya, but in Madras they still retain their original speech, which is classified by Sir G. Grierson with Gadba as a Munda or Kolarian dialect. The name occurs in Vedic literature, and the tribe is probably of great antiquity. In the classical stories of their origin the first ancestor of the Savars is sometimes described as a Bhīl. The wide extension of the Savar tribe east and west is favourable to the hypothesis of the identity of the Kols and Kolis, who have a somewhat similar distribution. The Gadbas of Ganjām, and the Māl or Māle Pahāria tribe of Chota Nāgpur seem to be offshoots of the Savars. The Khairwārs or Kharwārs are an important tribe of Mīrzāpur and Chota Nāgpur. There is some reason for supposing that they are an occupational offshoot of the Kols and Cheros, who have become a distinct group through taking to the manufacture of edible catechu from the wood of the khair tree.71

Another great branch of the Kolarian family is that [70]represented by the Bhuiya and Baiga tribes and their offshoots, the Bhunjias, Bhainas and Binjhwārs. The Kolarian origin of the Bhuiyas has been discussed in the article on that tribe, and it has also been suggested that the Baiga tribe of the Central Provinces are an offshoot of the Bhuiyas. These tribes have all abandoned their own languages and adopted the local Aryan vernaculars. The name Bhuiya is a Sanskrit derivative from bhu, earth, and signifies ‘belonging to the soil.’ Bhumij, applied to a branch of the Kol tribe, has the same origin. Baiga is used in the sense of a village priest or a sorcerer in Chota Nāgpur, and the office is commonly held by members of the Bhuiya tribe in that locality, as being the oldest residents. Thus the section of the tribe in the Central Provinces appears to have adopted, or been given, the name of the office. The Bharias or Bharia-Bhumias of Jubbulpore seem to belong to the great Bhar tribe, once dominant over large areas of the United Provinces. They also hold the office of village priest, which is there known as Bhumia, and in some tracts are scarcely distinguished from the Baigas. Again, in Sambalpur the Bhuiyas are known as Bhumia Kol, and are commonly regarded as a branch of the Kol tribe. Thus it would seem that two separate settlements of the Kolarian races may have occurred; the earlier one would be represented by the Bhars, Bhuiyas, Baigas and kindred tribes who have entirely lost their own languages and identity, and have names given to them by the Hindus; and a later one of the Kols or Mundas and their related tribes, whose languages and tribal religion and organisation, though in a decaying state, can be fully recognised and recorded. And the Dravidian immigration would be subsequent to both of them. To judge from the cases in which the fissure or subdivision of single tribes into two or more distinct ones can still be observed, it seems quite a plausible hypothesis that the original immigrants may have consisted only of a single tribe on each occasion, and that the formation of new ones may have occurred after settlement. But the evidence does not warrant any definite assertion.

37. Dravidian tribes.

The principal Dravidian tribes are the Gonds, Khonds and Oraons. The Gonds were once dominant over the greater part of the Central Provinces, which was called Gondwana [71]after them. The above three names have in each case been given to the tribes by the Hindus. The following tribes are found in the Province:

Gond, Oraon or Kurukh, Khond, Kolām, Parja, Kamār. Tribal Castes: Bhatra, Halba, Dhoba. Doubtful: Kawar, Dhanwār.

The Gonds and Khonds call themselves Koi or Koitur, a word which seems to mean man or hillman. The Oraon tribe call themselves Kurukh, which has also been supposed to be connected with the Kolarian horo, man. The name Oraon, given to them by the Hindus, may mean farmservant, while Dhangar, an alternative name for the tribe, has certainly this signification.

There seems good reason to suppose that the Gonds and Khonds were originally one tribe divided through migration.72 The Kolāms are a small tribe of the Wardha Valley, whose dialect resembles those of the Gonds and Khonds. They may have split off from the parent tribe in southern India and come northwards separately. The Parjas appear to represent the earliest Gond settlers in Bastar, who were subjugated by later Gond and Rāj-Gond immigrants. The Halbas and Bhatras are mixed tribes or tribal castes, descended from the unions of Gonds and Hindus.

38. Origin of the Kolarian tribes

The Munda languages have been shown by Sir G. Grierson to have originated from the same source as those spoken in the Indo-Pacific islands and the Malay Peninsula. “The Mundas, the Mon-Khmer, the wild tribes of the Malay Peninsula and the Nicobarese all use forms of speech which can be traced back to a common source though they mutually differ widely from each other.”73 It would appear, therefore, that the Mundas, the oldest known inhabitants of India, perhaps came originally from the south-east, the islands of the Indian Archipelago and the Malay Peninsula, unless India was their original home and these countries were colonised from it.

Sir Edward Gait states: “Geologists tell us that the Indian Peninsula was formerly cut off from the north of Asia by sea, while a land connection existed on the one side with Madagascar and on the other with the Malay Archipelago; and though there is nothing to show that India was then [72]inhabited, we know that it was so in palaeolithic times, when communication was probably still easier with the countries to the north-east and south-west than with those beyond the Himalayas.”74 In the south of India, however, no traces of Munda languages remain at present, and it seems therefore necessary to conclude that the Mundas of the Central Provinces and Chota Nāgpur have been separated from the tribes of Malaysia who speak cognate languages for an indefinitely long period; or else that they did not come through southern India to these countries but by way of Assam and Bengal or by sea through Orissa. There is good reason to believe from the names of places and from local tradition that the Munda tribes were once spread over Bihār and parts of the Ganges Valley; and if the Kolis are an offshoot of the Kols, as is supposed, they also penetrated across Central India to the sea in Gujarāt and the hills of the western Ghāts. The presumption is that the advance of the Aryans or Hindus drove the Mundas from the open country to the seclusion of the hills and forests. The Munda and Dravidian languages are shown by Sir G. Grierson to be distinct groups without any real connection.

Drawing water from the village well

Drawing water from the village well

Though the physical characteristics of the two sets of tribes display no marked points of difference, the opinion has been generally held by ethnologists who know them that they represent two distinct waves of immigration, and the absence of connection between their languages bears out this view. It has always been supposed that the Mundas were in the country of Chota Nāgpur and the Central Provinces first, and that the Dravidians, the Gonds, Khonds and Oraons came afterwards. The grounds for this view are the more advanced culture of the Dravidians; the fact that where the two sets of tribes are in contact those of the Munda group have been ousted from the more open and fertile country, of which, according to tradition, they were formerly in possession; and the practice of the Gonds and other Dravidian tribes of employing the Baigas, Bhuiyas and other Munda tribes for their village priests, which is an acknowledgment that the latter as the earlier residents have a more familiar acquaintance with the local deities, and can solicit their favour and [73]protection with more prospect of success. Such a belief is the more easily understood when it is remembered that these deities are not infrequently either the human ancestors of the earliest residents or the local animals and plants from which they supposed themselves to be descended.

39. Of the Dravidian tribes.

The Dravidian languages, Gondi, Kurukh and Khond, are of one family with Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Canarese, and their home is the south of India. The word Dravida comes from an older form Damila or Dramila, and was used in ancient Pali and Jain literature as a name for the people of the Tamil country.75 Afterwards it came to signify generally the people of southern India as opposed to Gaur or northern India.

As stated by Sir Edward Gait there is at present no evidence to show that the Dravidians came to southern India from any other part of the world, and for anything that is known to the contrary the languages may have originated there. The existence of the small Brahui tribe in Baluchistān who speak a Dravidian language but have no physical resemblance to other Dravidian races cannot be satisfactorily explained, but, as he points out, this is no reason for holding that the whole body of speakers of Dravidian languages entered India from the north-west, and, with the exception of this small group of Brahuis, penetrated to the south and settled there without leaving any traces of their passage.

The Dravidian languages occupy a large area in Madras, Mysore and Hyderābād, and they extend north into the Central Provinces and Chota Nāgpur where they die out, practically not being found west and north of this tract. As the languages are more highly developed and the culture of their speakers is far more advanced in the south, it is justifiable to suppose, pending evidence to the contrary, that the south is their home and that they have spread thence as far north as the Central Provinces. The Gonds and Oraons, too, have stories to the effect that they came from the south. The belief has hitherto been, at least in the Central Provinces, that both the Gonds and Baigas have been settled in this territory for an indefinite period, that is, from prior to any [74]Aryan or Hindu immigration. Mr. H.A. Crump, C.S., has however pointed out that if this was the case the Munda or Kolarian tribes, which have lost their own languages, should have adopted Dravidian and not Hindu forms of speech. As already seen, numerous Kolarian tribes, as the Binjhwār, Bhaina, Bhuiya, Baiga, Bhumij, Chero, Khairwār and the Kols themselves in the Central Provinces have entirely lost their own languages, as well as the Bhīls and Kolis, if these are held to be Kolarian tribes. None of them have adopted a Dravidian language, but all speak corrupt forms of the ancient Aryan vernaculars derived from Sanskrit. The fact seems to indicate that at the time when they abandoned their own languages these tribes were in contact with Hindus, and were not surrounded by Gonds, as several of them are at present. The history of the Central Provinces affords considerable support to the view that the Gond immigration occurred at a comparatively late period, perhaps in the ninth or tenth century, or even later, after a considerable part of the Province had been governed for some centuries by Rājpūt dynasties.76 The Gonds and Oraons still have well-defined legends about their immigration, which would scarcely be the case if it had occurred twenty centuries or more ago.

Any further evidence or argument as to the date of the Dravidian immigration would be of considerable interest.

40. Origin of the impure castes.

The fifth or lowest group in the scheme of precedence is that of the impure castes who cannot be touched. If a high-caste Hindu touches one of them he should bathe and have his clothes washed. These castes are not usually allowed to live inside a Hindu village, but have a hamlet to themselves adjoining it. The village barber will not shave them, nor the washerman wash their clothes. They usually have a separate well assigned to them from which to draw water, and if the village has only one well, one side of it is allotted to them and the Hindus take water from the other side. Formerly they were subjected to more humiliating restrictions. In Bombay a Mahār might not spit on the ground lest a Hindu should be polluted by touching it with his foot, but had to hang an earthen pot round his neck to hold his spittle. He was [75]made to drag a thorny branch with him to brush out his footsteps, and when a Brāhman came by had to lie at a distance on his face lest his shadow might fall on the Brāhman.77 Even if the shadow of a Mahār or Māng fell on a Brāhman he was polluted and dare not taste food and water until he had bathed and washed the impurity away. In Madras a Paraiyān or Pariah pollutes a high-caste Hindu by approaching within a distance of 64 feet of him.78 The debased and servile position of the impure castes corresponds to that which, as already seen, attached to the Sūdras of the classical period. The castes usually regarded as impure are the tanners, bamboo-workers, sweepers, hunters and fowlers, gipsies and vagrants, village musicians and village weavers. These castes, the Chamārs, Basors, Mahārs, Koris, Gāndas and others are usually also employed as agricultural and casual labourers. Formerly, as already seen, they were not allowed to hold land. There is no reason to doubt that the status of impurity, like that of the Sūdra, was originally the mark of a subjugated and inferior race, and was practically equivalent to slavery. This was the position of the indigenous Indians who were subjugated by the Aryan invaders and remained in the country occupied by them. Though they were of different races, and the distinction was marked and brought home to themselves by the contrast in the colour of their skins, it seems probable that the real basis for their antagonism was not social so much as religious. The Indians were hated and despised by the immigrants as the worshippers of a hostile god. They could not join in the sacrifices by which the Aryans held communion with their gods, and the sacrifice itself could not even be held, in theory at least, except in those parts of India which were thoroughly subdued and held to have become the dwelling-place of the Aryan gods. The proper course prescribed by religion towards the indigenous residents was to exterminate them, as the Israelites should have exterminated the inhabitants of Canaan. But as this could not be done, because their numbers were too great or the conquerors not sufficiently ruthless, they were reduced to the servile condition [76]of impurity and made the serfs of their masters like the Amalekites and the plebeians and helots.

If the whole of India had been thoroughly subjugated and settled like the Punjab and Hindustān, it may be supposed that the same status of impurity would have been imposed upon all the indigenous races; but this was very far from being the case. In central and southern India the Aryans or subsequent immigrants from Central Asia came at first at any rate only in small parties, and though they may have established territorial states, did not regularly occupy the land nor reduce the indigenous population to a condition of servitude. Thus large bodies of these must have retained a free position, and on their acceptance of the new religion and the development of the caste system, became enrolled in it with a caste status on the basis of their occupation. Their leaders were sometimes admitted to rank as Kshatriyas or Rājpūts, as has been stated.

Subsequently, as the racial distinction disappeared, the impure status came to attach to certain despised occupations and to customs abhorrent to Hinduism, such as that of eating beef. But, as already seen, the tribes which have continued to live apart from the Hindus are not usually regarded as impure, though they may eat beef and even skin animals. The Dhīmars, who keep pigs, still have a higher status than the impure castes because they are employed as water-bearers and household servants. It is at least doubtful whether at the time when the stigma of impurity was first attached to the Sūdras the Hindus themselves did not sacrifice cows and eat beef.79 The castes noted below are usually regarded as impure in the Central Provinces.

The Dhobi (washerman) and Kumhār (potter) are sometimes included among the impure castes, but, as already noted, their status is higher than that of the castes in this list.

Audhelia: Labouring caste of mixed descent who keep pigs.

Balāhi: Weavers and village messengers and watchmen.

Basor: Bamboo basket-makers and village musicians.

Chamār: Tanners and labourers.

Gānda: Weavers and village musicians. [77]

Ghasia: Grass-cutters, labourers and sweepers.

Kaikāri: Vagrant basket-makers.

Kanjar, Beria, Sānsia: Gipsies and thieves.

Katia: Cotton-spinners.

Kori: Weavers and labourers.

Mādgi: Telugu tanners and hide-curriers.

Mahār: Weavers and labourers.

Māla: Telugu weavers and labourers.

Māng: Broom- and mat-makers and village musicians. They also castrate cattle.

Mehtar: Sweepers and scavengers.

Certain occupations, those of skinning cattle and curing hides, weaving the coarse country cloth worn by the villagers, making baskets from the rind of the bamboo, playing on drums and tom-toms, and scavenging generally are relegated to the lowest and impure castes. The hides of domestic animals are exceedingly impure; a Hindu is defiled even by touching their dead bodies and far more so by removing the skins. Drums and tom-toms made from the hides of animals are also impure. But in the case of weaving and basket-making the calling itself entails no defilement, and it would appear simply that they were despised by the cultivators, and as a considerable number of workers were required to satisfy the demand for baskets and cloth, were adopted by the servile and labouring castes. Basket- and mat-making are callings naturally suited to the primitive tribes who would obtain the bamboos from the forests, but weaving would not be associated with them unless cloth was first woven of tree-cotton. The weavers of the finer cotton and silk cloths, who live in towns, rank much higher than the village weavers, as in the case of the Koshtis and Tāntis, the latter of whom made the famous fine cotton cloth, known as abrawān, or ‘running water,’ which was supplied to the imperial Zenāna at Delhi. On one occasion a daughter of Aurāngzeb was reproached on entering the room for her immodest attire and excused herself by the plea that she had on seven folds of cloth over her body.80 In Bengal Brāhmans will take water from Tāntis, and it seems clear that their higher status is a consequence of the lucrative and important nature of their occupation.

The Katias are a caste of cotton-spinners, the name being derived from kātna, to cut or spin. But hand-spinning is now practically an extinct industry and the [78]Katias have taken to weaving or ordinary manual labour for a subsistence. The Kanjars and Berias are the gipsy castes of India. They are accustomed to wander about carrying their grass-matting huts with them. Many of them live by petty thieving and cheating. Their women practise palmistry and retail charms for the cure of sickness and for exorcising evil spirits, and love-philtres. They do cupping and tattooing and also make reed mats, cane baskets, palm-leaf mats and fans, ropes from grass- and tree-fibre, brushes for the cotton-loom, string-net purses and balls, and so on; and the women commonly dance and act as prostitutes. There is good reason for thinking that the Kanjars are the parents of the European gipsies, while the Thugs who formerly infested the high-roads of India, murdering solitary travellers and small parties by strangulation, may also have been largely derived from this caste.81

41. Derivation of the impure castes from the indigenous tribes.

It can only be definitely shown in a few instances that the existing impure occupational castes were directly derived from the indigenous tribes. The Chamār and Kori, and the Chuhra and Bhangi, or sweepers and scavengers of the Punjab and United Provinces, are now purely occupational castes and their original tribal affinities have entirely disappeared. The Chamārs and Mehtars or sweepers are in some places of a superior physical type, of comparatively good stature and light complexion;82 this may perhaps be due to a large admixture of Hindu blood through their women, during a social contact with the Hindus extending over many centuries, and also to the fact that they eat flesh when they can obtain it, including carrion. Such types are, however, exceptional among the impure castes, and there is no reason to doubt their general origin from the non-Aryan tribes, which in a few instances can be directly traced. Thus it seems likely that the Kanjars, Berias, Sānsias and other gipsy groups, as well as the Mirāsis, the vagrant bards and genealogists of the lower classes of Hindus, are derived from the Dom caste or tribe of Bengal, who are largely employed as sweepers and scavengers as well as on ordinary labour. The evidence for the origin [79]of the above groups from the Doms is given in the article on Kanjar. Sir H.M. Elliot considered the Doms to be one of the original tribes of India. Again, there is no doubt that the impure Gānda caste, who are weavers, labourers and village musicians in the Uriya country and Chhattīsgarh Districts of the Central Provinces, are derived from the Pān tribe of Chota Nāgpur. The Pāns or Pābs are a regular forest tribe, and are sometimes called Gānda, while the Gāndas may be alternatively known as Pān. But the section of the tribe who live among the Hindus and are regarded as impure have now become a distinct caste with a separate name. The Bhuiya tribe were once the rulers of Chota Nāgpur; they still install the Rāja of Keonjhar, and have a traditional relation to other ruling families. But in parts of Chota Nāgpur and southern Bihār the Bhuiyas living in Hindu villages have become a separate impure caste with the opprobrious designation of Mūsahar or rat-eater. The great Mahār caste of the Marātha country or Bombay are weavers and labourers, and formerly cured hides, like the Chamārs and Koris of northern India. They are regarded as impure and were the serfs or villeins of the Kunbis, attached to the land. An alternative name for them is Dher, and this is supposed to be a corruption of Dharada a hillman, a name applied in Manu to all the indigenous races of India. Though the connection cannot be traced in all cases, there is thus no reason to doubt that the existing impure castes represent the subjected or enslaved section of the primitive non-Aryan tribes.

42. Occupation the basis of the caste system.

It has been seen that the old Aryan polity comprised four classes: the Brāhmans and Kshatriyas or priestly and military aristocracy; the Vaishyas or body of the Aryans, who were ceremonially pure and could join in sacrifices; and the Sūdras or servile and impure class of labourers. The Vaishyas became cultivators and herdsmen, and their status of ceremonial purity was gradually transferred to the cultivating members of the village community, because land was the main source of wealth. Between the last two there arose another class of village menials and craftsmen, originating principally from the offspring of fathers of the Aryan classes and Sūdra women, to whom [80]was left the practice of the village industries, despised by the cultivators. In spite of the almost complete fusion of races which the intercourse of centuries has effected, and the multiplication and rearrangement of castes produced by the diversity of occupation and other social factors, the divisions of the village community can still be recognised in the existing social gradation.

It has been seen also that occupation is the real basis of the division and social precedence of castes in India, as in all communities which have made any substantial progress in civilisation and social development. Distinctions of race, religion and family gradually disappear, and are merged in the gradation according to wealth or profession. The enormous majority of castes are occupational and their social position depends on their caste calling. Thus in the case of an important industry like weaving, there are separate castes who weave the finer kinds of cloth, as the Tāntis and Koshtis, while one subcaste of Koshtis, the Sālewārs, are distinguished as silk-weavers, and a separate caste of Patwas embroider silk and braid on cloth; other castes, as the Mahārs, Gāndas and Koris, weave coarse cloth, and a distinct caste of Katias existed for the spinning of thread, and the Muhammadan caste of Bahnas for cleaning cotton. The workers in each kind of metal have formed a separate caste, as the Lohārs or blacksmiths, the Kasārs or brass-workers, the Tameras or coppersmiths, and the Sunārs or gold- and silversmiths, while the Audhia subcaste of Sunārs83 and the Bharewas, an inferior branch of the Kasārs, work in bell-metal. Each of these castes makes ornaments of its own metal, while the Kachera caste84 make glass bangles, and the Lakheras make bangles from lac and clay. In the case of agriculture, as has been seen, there is usually a functional cultivating caste for each main tract of country, as the Jāts in the Punjab, the Kurmis in Hindustān, the Kunbis in the Deccan, the Chasas in Orissa, the Kāpus in the Telugu country and the Vellālas in the Tamil country. Except the Jāts, who were perhaps originally a racial caste, the above castes appear to include a number of heterogeneous [81]groups which have been welded into a single body through the acquisition of land and the status which it confers. Various other cultivating castes also exist, whose origin can be traced to different sources; on obtaining possession of the land they have acquired the cultivating status, but retained their separate caste organisation and name. Other agricultural castes have been formed for the growing of special products. Thus the Mālis are gardeners, and within the caste there exist such separate groups as the Phūlmālis who grow flowers, the Jire Mālis cumin and the Halde Mālis turmeric.85 Hindus generally object to cultivate sān-hemp,86 and some special castes have been formed from those who grew it and thus underwent some loss of status; such are the Lorhas and Kumrawats and Pathinas, and the Santora subcaste of Kurmis. The āl87 or Indian madder-dye is another plant to which objection is felt, and the Alia subcastes of Kāchhis and Banias consist of those who grow and sell it. The Dāngris and Kāchhis are growers of melons and other vegetables on the sandy stretches in the beds of rivers and the alluvial land on their borders which is submerged in the monsoon floods. The Barais are the growers and sellers of the betel-vine.

Several castes have been formed from military service, as the Marāthas, Khandaits, Rautias, Taonlas and Pāiks. All of these, except the Marāthas, are mainly derived from the non-Aryan tribes; since they have abandoned military service and taken as a rule to agriculture, their rank depends roughly on their position as regards the land. Thus the Marāthas and Khandaits became landowners, receiving grants of property as a reward for, or on condition of, military service like the old feudal tenures; they rank with, but somewhat above, the cultivating castes. The same is the case, though to a less degree, with the Rautias of Chota Nāgpur, a military caste mainly formed from the Kol tribe. On the other hand, the Pāiks or foot-soldiers and Taonlas have not become landholders and rank below the cultivating [82]castes. The Hatkars are a caste formed from Dhangars or shepherds who entered the Marātha armies. They are now called Bangi Dhangars or shepherds with the spears, and rank a little above other Dhangars.

43. Other agents in the formation of castes.

The great majority of castes have been formed from occupation, but other sources of origin can be traced. Several castes are of mixed descent, as the Vidūrs, the descendants of Brāhman fathers and mothers of other castes; the Bhilālas, by Rajpūt fathers and Bhīl mothers; the Chauhāns, Audhelias, Khangārs and Dhākars of Bastar, probably by Hindu fathers and women of various indigenous tribes; the Kirārs of mixed Rajpūt descent, and others. These also now generally take rank according to their occupation and position in the world. The Vidūrs served as village accountants and ranked below the cultivators, but since they are well educated and have done well in Government service their status is rapidly improving. The Bhilālas are landholders and rank as a good cultivating caste. The Chauhāns and Khangārs are village watchmen and rank as menials below the cultivators, the Dhākars are farmservants and labourers with a similar position, while the Audhelias are labourers who keep pigs and are hence regarded as impure. The Halbas or ‘ploughmen’ are another mixed caste, probably the descendants of house-servants of the Uriya Rājas, who, like the Khandaits, formed a sort of militia for the maintenance of the chiefs authority. They are now mainly farmservants, as the name denotes, but where they hold land, as in Bastar, they rank higher, almost as a good cultivating caste.

Again, very occasionally a caste may be formed from a religious sect or order. The Bishnois were originally a Vaishnava sect, worshipping Vishnu as an unseen god, and refusing to employ Brāhmans. They have now become cultivators, and though they retain their sectarian beliefs, and have no Brāhman priests, are generally regarded as a Hindu cultivating caste. The Pankas are members of the impure Gānda caste who adhered to the Kabīrpanthi sect. They are now a separate caste and are usually employed as village watchmen, ranking with menials above the Gāndas and other similar castes. The Lingāyats are a large sect of [83]southern India, devoted to the worship of Siva and called after the lingam or phallic emblem which they wear. They have their own priests, denying the authority of Brāhmans, but the tendency now is for members of those castes which have become Lingāyats to marry among themselves and retain their relative social status, thus forming a sort of inner microcosm of Hinduism.

44. Caste occupations divinely ordained.

Occupation is the real determining factor of social status in India as in all other societies of at all advanced organisation. But though in reality the status of occupations and of castes depends roughly on the degree to which they are lucrative and respectable, this is not ostensibly the case, but their precedence, as already seen, is held to be regulated by the degree of ceremonial purity or impurity attaching to them. The Hindus have retained, in form at any rate, the religious constitution which is common or universal in primitive societies. The majority of castes are provided with a legend devised by the Brāhmans to show that their first ancestor was especially created by a god to follow their caste calling, or at least that this was assigned to him by a god. The ancestors of the bearer-caste of Kahārs were created by Siva or Mahādeo from the dust to carry his consort Parvati in a litter when she was tired; the first Māng was made by Mahādeo from his own sweat to castrate the divine bull Nandi when he was fractious, and his descendants have ever since followed the same calling, the impiety of mutilating the sacred bull in such a manner being thus excused by the divine sanction accorded to it. The first Māli or gardener gave a garland to Krishna. The first Chamār or tanner made sandals for Siva from a piece of his own skin; the ancestor of the Kāyasth or writer caste, Chitragupta, keeps the record of men’s actions by which they are judged in the infernal regions after death; and so on.

45. Subcastes. local type.

All important castes are divided into a number of subordinate groups or subcastes, which as a rule marry and take food within their own circle only. Certain differences of status frequently exist among the subcastes of the occupational or social type, but these are usually too minute to be recognised by outsiders. The most common type of [84]subcaste is the local, named after the tract of country in which the members reside or whence they are supposed to have come. Thus the name Kanaujia from the town of Kanauj on the Ganges, famous in ancient Indian history, is borne by subcastes of many castes which have immigrated from northern India. Jaiswār, from the old town of Jais in the Rai Bareli District, is almost equally common. Pardeshi or foreign, and Pūrabia or eastern, are also subcaste names for groups coming from northern India or Oudh. Mahobia is a common name derived from the town of Mahoba in Central India, as are Bundeli from Bundelkhand, Narwaria from Narwar and Mārwāri from Mārwār in Rājputāna. Groups belonging to Berār are called Berāri, Warade or Baone; those from Gujarāt are called Lād, the classical term for Gujarāt, or Gujarāti, and other names are Deccani from the Deccan, Nimāri of Nimar, Havelia, the name of the wheat-growing tracts of Jubbulpore and Damoh; Chhattīsgarhia, Kosaria, Ratanpuria (from the old town of Ratanpur in Bilāspur), and Raipuria (from Raipur town), all names for residents in Chhattīsgarh; and so on. Brāhmans are divided into ten main divisions, named after different tracts in the north and south of India where they reside;88 and these are further subdivided, as the Mahārāshtra Brāhmans of the Marātha country of Bombay into the subcastes of Deshasth (belonging to the country) applied to those of the Poona country above the western Ghāts; Karhāra or those of the Satara District, from Karhar town; and Konkonasth or those of the Concan, the Bombay coast; similarly the Kanaujia division of the Pānch-Gaur or northern Brāhmans has as subdivisions the Kanaujia proper, the Jijhotia from Jajhoti, the old name of the Lalitpur and Saugor tract, which is part of Bundelkhand; the Sarwaria or those dwelling round the river Sarju in the United Provinces; the Mathuria from Muttra; and the Prayāgwāls or those of Allahabad (Prayāg), who act as guides and priests to pilgrims who come to bathe in the Ganges at the sacred city. The creation of new local subcastes seems to arise in two ways: when different groups of a caste settle in different tracts of country and are prevented from attending [85]the caste feasts and assemblies, the practice of intermarriage and taking food together gradually ceases, they form separate endogamous groups and for purposes of distinction are named after the territory in which they reside; this is what has happened in the case of Brāhmans and many other castes; and, secondly, when a fresh body of a caste arrives and settles in a tract where some of its members already reside, they do not amalgamate with the latter group, but form a fresh one and are named after the territory from which they have come, as in the case of such names as Pardeshi, Pūrabia, Gangapāri (‘from the other side of the Ganges’), and similar ones already cited. In former times, when the difficulties of communication were great, these local subcastes readily multiplied; thus the Kanaujia Brāhmans of Chhattīsgarh are looked down upon by those of Saugor and Damoh, as Chhattīsgarh has been for centuries a backward tract cut off from the rest of India, and they may be suspected of having intermarried with the local people or otherwise derogated from the standard of strict Hinduism. Similarly the Kanaujia Brāhmans of Bengal are split into several local subcastes named after tracts in Bengal, who marry among themselves and neither with other Kanaujias of Bengal nor with those of northern India. Since the opening of railways people can travel long distances to marriage and other ceremonies, and the tendency to form new subcastes is somewhat checked; a native gentleman said to me, when speaking of his people, that when a few families of Khedāwāl Brāhmans from Gujarāt first settled in Damoh they had the greatest difficulty in arranging their marriages; they could not marry with their caste-fellows in Gujarāt because their sons and daughters could not establish themselves, that is, could not prove their identity as Khedāwāl Brāhmans; but since the railway has been opened intermarriage takes place freely with other Khedāwāls in Gujarāt and Benāres. Proposals are on foot to authorise the intermarriage of the three great subcastes of Marātha Brāhmans: Deshasth, Konkonasth and Karhāra. As a rule, there is no difference of status between the different local subcastes, and a man’s subcaste is often not known except to his own caste-fellows. But occasionally a [86]certain derogatory sense may be conveyed; in several castes of the Central Provinces there is a subcaste called Jharia or jungly, a term applied to the oldest residents, who are considered to have lapsed in a comparatively new and barbarous country from the orthodox practices of Hinduism. The subcaste called Deshi, or ‘belonging to the country,’ sometimes has the same signification. The large majority of subcastes are of the local or territorial type.

46. Occupational subcastes.

Many subcastes are also formed from slight differences of occupation, which are not of sufficient importance to create new castes. Some instances of subcastes formed from growing special plants or crops have been given. Audhia Sunārs (goldsmiths) work in brass and bell-metal, which is less respectable than the sacred metal, gold. The Ekbeile Telis harness one bullock only to the oil-press and the Dobeile two bullocks. As it is thought sinful to use the sacred ox in this manner and to cover his eyes as the Telis do, it may be slightly more sinful to use two bullocks than one. The Udia Ghasias (grass-cutters) cure raw hides and do scavengers’ work, and are hence looked down upon by the others; the Dingkuchia Ghasias castrate cattle and horses, and the Dolboha carry dhoolies and palanquins. The Māngya Chamārs are beggars and rank below all other subcastes, from whom they will accept cooked food. Frequently, however, subcastes are formed from a slight distinction of occupation, which connotes no real difference in social status. The Hathgarhia Kumhārs (potters) are those who used to fashion the clay with their own hands, and the Chakarias those who turned it on a wheel. And though the practice of hand pottery is now abandoned, the divisions remain. The Shikāri or sportsmen Pardhis (hunters) are those who use firearms, though far from being sportsmen in our sense of the term; the Phanse Pardhis hunt with traps and snares; the Chitewale use a tame leopard to run down deer, and the Gayake stalk their prey behind a bullock. Among the subcastes of Dhīmars (fishermen and watermen) are the Singaria, who cultivate the singāra or water-nut in tanks, the Tānkiwālas or sharpeners of grindstones, the Jhīngars or prawn-catchers, the Bansias and Saraias or anglers (from bansi or sarai, a bamboo fishing-rod), the Kasdhonias who wash the [87]sands of the sacred rivers to find the coins thrown or dropped into them by pious pilgrims, and the Sonjharas who wash the sands of auriferous streams for their particles of gold.89 The Gāriwān Dangris have adopted the comparatively novel occupation of driving carts (gāri) for a livelihood, and the Pānibhar are water-carriers, while the ordinary occupation of the Dāngris is to grow melons in river-beds. It is unnecessary to multiply instances; here, as in the case of territorial subcastes, the practice of subdivision appears to have been extended from motives of convenience, and the slight difference of occupation is adopted as a distinguishing badge.

47. Subcastes formed from social or religious differences, or from mixed descent.

Subcastes are also occasionally formed from differences of social practice which produce some slight gain or loss of status. Thus the Biyāhut or ‘Married’ Kalārs prohibit the remarriage of widows, saying that a woman is married once for all, and hence rank a little higher than the others. The Dosar Banias, on the other hand, are said to take their name from dūsra, second, because they allow a widow to marry a second time and are hence looked upon by the others as a second-class lot. The Khedāwāl Brāhmans are divided into the ‘outer’ and ‘inner’: the inner subdivision being said to exist of those who accepted presents from the Rāja of Kaira and remained in his town, while the outer refused the presents, quitted the town and dwelt outside. The latter rank a little higher than the former. The Suvarha Dhīmars keep pigs and the Gadhewāle donkeys, and are considered to partake of the impure nature of these animals. The Gobardhua Chamārs wash out and eat the undigested grain from the droppings of cattle on the threshing-floors. The Chungia group of the Satnāmi Chamārs are those who smoke the chongi or leaf-pipe, though smoking is prohibited to the Satnāmis. The Nāgle or ‘naked’ Khonds have only a negligible amount of clothing and are looked down upon by the others. The Makaria Kamārs eat monkeys and are similarly despised.

Subcastes are also formed from mixed descent. The Dauwa Ahīrs are held to be the offspring of Ahīr women who were employed as wet-nurses in the houses of Bundela Rājpūts and bore children to their masters. The Halbas and [88]Rautias are divided into subcastes known as Puraīt or ‘pure,’ and Surāit or of ‘mixed’ descent. Many castes have a subcaste to which the progeny of illicit unions is relegated, such as the Dogle Kāyasths, and the Lahuri Sen subcaste of Barais, Banias and other castes. Illegitimate children in the Kasār (brass-worker) caste form a subcaste known as Tākle or ‘thrown out,’ Vidur or ‘illegitimate,’ or Laondi Bachcha, the issue of a kept wife. In Berār the Mahādeo Kolis, called after the Mahādeo or Pachmarhi hills, are divided into the Khas, or ‘pure,’ and the Akarāmāse or ‘mixed’; this latter word means gold or silver composed of eleven parts pure metal and one part alloy. Many subcastes of Bania have subcastes known as Bīsa or Dasa, that is ‘Twenty’ or ‘Ten’ groups, the former being of pure descent or twenty-carat, as it were, and the latter the offspring of remarried widows or other illicit unions. In the course of some generations such mixed groups frequently regain full status in the caste.

Subcastes are also formed from members of other castes who have taken to the occupation of the caste in question and become amalgamated with it; thus the Korchamārs are Koris (weavers) adopted into the Chamār (tanner) caste; Khatri Chhīpas are Khatris who have become dyers and printers; the small Dāngri caste has subcastes called Teli, Kalār and Kunbi, apparently consisting of members of those castes who have become Dāngris; the Bāman Darzis or tailors will not take food from any one except Brāhmans and may perhaps be derived from them, and the Kaith Darzis may be Kāyasths; and so on.

Occasionally subcastes may be formed from differences of religious belief or sectarian practice. In northern India even such leading Hindu castes as Rājpūts and Jāts have large Muhammadan branches, who as a rule do not intermarry with Hindus. The ordinary Hindu sects seldom, however, operate as a bar to marriage, Hinduism being tolerant of all forms of religious belief. Those Chamārs of Chhattīsgarh who have embraced the doctrines of the Satnāmi reforming sect form a separate endogamous subcaste, and sometimes the members of the Kabīrpanthi sect within a caste marry among themselves.

Statistics of the subcastes are not available, but their [89]numbers are very extensive in proportion to the population, and even in the same subcaste the members living within a comparatively small local area often marry among themselves and attend exclusively at their own caste feasts, though in the case of educated and well-to-do Hindus the construction of railways has modified this rule and connections are kept up between distant groups of relatives. Clearly therefore differences of occupation or social status are not primarily responsible for the subcastes, because in the majority of cases no such differences really exist. I think the real reason for their multiplication was the necessity that the members of a subcaste should attend at the caste feasts on the occasion of marriages, deaths and readmission of offenders, these feasts being of the nature of a sacrificial or religious meal. The grounds for this view will be given subsequently.

48. Exogamous groups.

The caste or subcaste forms the outer circle within which a man must marry. Inside it are a set of further subdivisions which prohibit the marriage of persons related through males. These are called exogamous groups or clans, and their name among the higher castes is gotra. The theory is that all persons belonging to the same gotra are descended from the same male ancestor, and so related. The relationship in the gotra now only goes by the father’s side; when a woman marries she is taken into the clan of her husband and her children belong to it. Marriage is not allowed within the clan and in the course of a few generations the marriage of persons related through males or agnates is prohibited within a very wide circle. But on the mother’s side the gotra does not serve as a bar to marriage and the union of first cousins would be possible, other than the children of two brothers. According to Hindu law, intermarriage is prohibited within four degrees between persons related through females. But generally the children of first cousins are allowed to marry, when related partly through females. And several castes allow the intermarriage of first cousins, that of a brother’s daughter to a sister’s son and in a less degree of a brother’s son to a sister’s daughter being specially favoured. One or two Madras castes allow a man to marry his niece, and the small Dhoba caste of Mandla permit the union of children of the same mother but different fathers. [90]

Sir Herbert Risley classed the names of exogamous divisions as eponymous, territorial or local, titular and totemistic. In the body of this work the word clan is usually applied only to the large exogamous groups of the Rājpūts and one or two other military castes. The small local or titular groups of ordinary Hindu castes are called ‘section,’ and the totemic groups of the primitive tribes ‘sept.’ But perhaps it is simpler to use the word ‘clan’ throughout according to the practice of Sir J.G. Frazer. The vernacular designations of the clans or sections are gotra, which originally meant a stall or cow-pen; khero, a village; dih, a village site; baink, a title; mul or mur, literally a root, hence an origin; and kul or kuri, a family. The sections called eponymous are named after Rishis or saints mentioned in the Vedas and other scriptures and are found among the Brāhmans and a few of the higher castes, such as Vasishta, Garga, Bhāradwāj, Vishvamitra, Kashyap and so on. A few Rājpūt clans are named after kings or heroes, as the Rāghuvansis from king Rāghu of Ajodhia and the Tilokchandi Bais from a famous king of that name. The titular class of names comprise names of offices supposed to have been held by the founder of the clan, or titles and names referring to a personal defect or quality, and nicknames. Instances of the former are Kotwār (village watchman), Chaudhri, Meher or Māhto (caste headman), Bhagat (saint), Thākuria and Rawat (lord or prince), Vaidya (physician); and of titular names and nicknames: Kuldip (lamp of the family), Mohjaria (one with a burnt mouth), Jāchak (beggar), Garkata (cut-throat), Bhātpagar (one serving on a pittance of boiled rice), Kangāli (poor), Chīkat (dirty), Petdukh (stomach-ache), Ghunnere (worm-eater) and so on. A special class of names are those of offices held at the caste feasts; thus the clans of the Chitrakathi caste are the Atak or Mānkari, who furnish the headman of the caste panchāyat or committee; the Bhojin who serve the food at marriages and other ceremonies; the Kākra who arrange for the lighting; the Gothārya who keep the provisions, and the Ghorerao (ghora, a horse) who have the duty of looking after the horses and bullock-carts of the caste-men who assemble. Similarly the five principal clans of the small Turi caste are [91]named after the five sons of Singhbonga or the sun: the eldest son was called Mailuar and his descendants are the leaders or headmen of the caste; the descendants of the second son, Chardhagia, purify and readmit offenders to caste intercourse; those of the third son, Suremār, conduct the ceremonial shaving of such offenders, and those of the fourth son bring water for the ceremony and are called Tirkuār. The youngest brother, Hasdagia, is said to have committed some caste offence, and the four other brothers took the parts which are still played by their descendants in his ceremony of purification. In many cases exogamous clans are named after other castes or subcastes. Many low castes have adopted the names of the Rājpūt clans, either from simple vanity as people may take an aristocratic surname, or because they were in the service of Rājpūts, and have adopted the names of their masters or are partly descended from them. Other names of castes found among exogamous groups probably indicate that an ancestor belonging to that caste was taken into the one in which the group is found. The Bhaina tribe have clans named after the Dhobi, Ahīr, Gond, Māli and Panka castes. The members of such clans 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 the caste.

Territorial names are very common, and are taken from that of some town or village in which the ancestor of the clan or the members of the clan themselves resided.90 The names are frequently distorted, and it seems probable that the majority of the large number of clan names for which no meaning can be discovered were those of villages. These unknown names are probably more numerous than the total of all those classes of names to which a meaning can be assigned.

49. Totemistic clans.

The last class of exogamous divisions are those called totemistic, when the clan is named after a plant or animal or other natural object. These are almost universal among the non-Aryan or primitive tribes, but occur also in most Hindu castes, including some of the highest. The commonest totem names are those of the prominent animals, including several which are held sacred by the Hindus, as bāgh or [92]nāhar, the tiger; bachās, the calf; morkuria, the peacock; kachhwāha or limuān, the tortoise; nāgas, the cobra; hasti, the elephant; bandar, the monkey; bhainsa, the buffalo; richharia, the bear; kuliha, the jackal; kukura, the dog; karsayāl, the deer; heran, the black-buck, and so on. The utmost variety of names is found, and numerous trees, as well as rice, kodon and other crops, salt, sandalwood, cucumber, pepper, and some household implements, such as the pestle and rolling-slab, serve as names of clans. Names which may be held to have a totemistic origin occur even in the highest castes. Thus among the names of eponymous Rishis or saints, Bhāradwāj means a lark, Kaushik may be from the kūsha grass, Agastya from the agasti flower, Kashyap from kachhap, a tortoise; Taittiri from tītar, a partridge, and so on. Similarly the origin of other Rishis is attributed to animals, as Rishishringa to an antelope, Mandavya to a frog, and Kanāda to an owl.91 An inferior Rājpūt clan, Meshbansi, signifies descendants of the sheep, while the name of the Baghel clan is derived from the tiger (bāgh), that of the Kachhwāha clan perhaps from kachhap, a tortoise, of the Haihaivansi from the horse, of the Nāgvansi from the cobra, and of the Tomara clan from tomar, a club. The Karan or writer caste of Orissa, similarly, have clans derived from the cobra, tortoise and calf, and most of the cultivating and other middle castes have clans with totemistic names. The usual characteristics of totemism, in its later and more common form at any rate, are that members of a clan regard themselves as related to, or descended from, the animal or tree from which the clan takes its name, and abstain from killing or eating it. This was perhaps not the original relation of the clan to its clan totem in the hunting stage, but it is the one commonly found in India, where the settled agricultural stage has long been reached. The Bhaina tribe have among their totems the cobra, tiger, leopard, vulture, hawk, monkey, wild dog, quail, black ant, and so on. Members of a clan 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. At a wedding the bride’s [93]father makes an image in clay of the bird or animal of the groom’s sept and places it beside the marriage-post. The bridegroom worships the image, lighting a sacrificial fire before it, and offers to it the vermilion which he afterwards smears on the forehead of the bride. 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 clan will not burn cowdung cakes for fuel; and those of the Mircha clan do not use chillies. One clan is named after the sun, and when an eclipse occurs they perform the same formal rites of mourning as others do on the death of their totem animal. The Bāghani clan of Majhwārs, named after the tiger, think that a tiger will not attack any member of their clan unless he has committed an offence entailing temporary excommunication from caste. Until this offence has been expiated his relationship with the tiger as head of the clan is in abeyance, and the tiger will eat him as he would any other stranger. If a tiger meets a member of the clan who is free from sin, he will run away. Members of the Khoba or peg clan will not make a peg nor drive one into the ground. Those of the Dūmar or fig-tree clan say that their first ancestor was born under this tree. They consider the tree to be sacred and never eat its fruit, and worship it once a year. Sometimes the members of the clan do not revere the object after which it is named but some other important animal or plant. Thus the Markām clan of Gonds, named after the mango-tree, venerate the tortoise and do not kill it. The Kathotia clan of Kols is named after kathota, a bowl, but they revere the tiger. Bāgheshwar Deo, the tiger-god, resides on a little platform in their verandas. They may not join in a tiger-beat nor sit up for a tiger over a kill. In the latter case they think that the tiger would not come and would be deprived of his food, and all the members of their family would get ill. The Katharia clan take their name from kathri, a mattress. A member of this sept must never have a mattress in his house, nor wear clothes sewn in crosspieces as mattresses are sewn. The name of the Mudia or Mudmudia clan is said to mean shaven head, but they [94]apparently revere the white kumhra or gourd, perhaps because it has some resemblance to a shaven head. They give a white gourd to a woman on the day after she has borne a child, and her family then do not eat this vegetable for three years. The Kumraya sept revere the brown kumhra or gourd. They grow this vegetable on the thatch of their house-roof and from the time of planting it till the fruits have been plucked they do not touch it, though of course they afterwards eat the fruits. The Bhuwar sept are named after bhu or bhumi, the earth. They must always sleep on the earth and not on cots. The Nūn (salt) and Dhān (rice) clans of Oraons cannot dispense with eating their totems or titular ancestors. But the Dhān Oraons content themselves with refusing to consume the scum which thickens on the surface of the boiled rice, and the Nūn sept will not lick a plate in which salt and water have been mixed. At the weddings of the Vulture clan of the small Bhona caste one member of the clan kills a small chicken by biting off the head and then eats it in imitation of a vulture. Definite instances of the sacrificial eating of the totem animal have not been found, but it is said that the tiger and snake clans of the Bhatra tribe formerly ate their totems at a sacrificial meal. The Gonds also worship the cobra as a household god, and once a year they eat the flesh of the snake and think that by doing so they will be immune from snake-bite throughout the year. On the festival of Nāg-Panchmi the Mahārs make an image of a snake with flour and sugar and eat it. It is reported that the Singrore Dhīmars who work on rivers and tanks must eat the flesh of a crocodile at their weddings, while the Sonjharas who wash the sands of rivers for gold should catch a live crocodile for the occasion of the wedding and afterwards put it back into the river. These latter customs may probably have fallen into abeyance owing to the difficulty of catching a crocodile, and in any case the animals are tribal gods rather than totems.

50. Terms of relationship.

Exogamy and totemism are found not only in India, but are the characteristics of primitive social groups over the greater part of the world. Totemism establishes a relation of kinship between persons belonging to one clan who are not related by blood, and exogamy prescribes that [95]the persons held to be so related shall not intermarry. Further, when terms of relationship come into existence it is found that they are applied not to members of one family, but to all the persons of the clan who might have stood in each particular relationship to the person addressing them. Thus a man will address as mother not only his own mother, but all the women of his clan who might have stood to him in the relation of mother. Similarly he will address all the old men and women as grandfather or grandmother or aunt, and the boys and girls of his own generation as brother and sister, and so on. With the development of the recognition of the consanguineous family, the use of terms of relationship tends to be restricted to persons who have actual kinship; thus a boy will address only his father’s brothers as father, and his cousins as brothers and sisters; but sufficient traces of the older system of clan kinship remain to attest its former existence. But it seems also clear that some, at least, of the terms of relationship were first used between persons really related; thus the word for mother must have been taught by mothers to their own babies beginning to speak, as it is a paramount necessity for a small child to have a name by which to call its mother when it is wholly dependent on her; if the period of infancy is got over without the use of this term of address there is no reason why it should be introduced in later life, when in the primitive clan the child quickly ceased to be dependent on its mother or to retain any strong affection for her. Similarly, as shown by Sir J.G. Frazer in Totemism and Exogamy, there is often a special name for the mother’s brother when other uncles or aunts are addressed simply as father or mother. This name must therefore have been brought into existence to distinguish the mother’s brother at the time when, under the system of female descent, he stood in the relation of a protector and parent to the child. Where the names for grandfather and grandmother are a form of duplication of those for father and mother as in English, they would appear to imply a definite recognition of the idea of family descent. The majority of the special names for other relatives, such as fraternal and maternal uncles and aunts, must also have been devised to designate those relatives in particular, and hence there is a [96]probability that the terms for father and brother and sister, which on a priori grounds may be considered doubtful, were also first applied to real or putative fathers and brothers and sisters. But, as already seen, under the classificatory system of relationship these same terms are addressed to members of the same clan who might by age and sex have stood in such a relationship to the person addressing them, but are not actually akin to him at all. And hence it seems a valid and necessary conclusion that at the time when the family terms of relationship came into existence, the clan sentiment of kinship was stronger than the family sentiment; that is, a boy was taught or made to feel that all the women of the clan of about the same age as his mother were as nearly akin to him as his own mother, and that he should regard them all in the same relation. And similarly he looked on all the men of the clan of an age enabling them to be his fathers in the same light as his own father, and all the children of or about his own age as his brothers and sisters. The above seems a necessary conclusion from the existence of the classificatory system of relationship, which is very widely spread among savages, and if admitted, it follows that the sentiment of kinship within the clan was already established when the family terms of relationship were devised, and therefore that the clan was prior to the family as a social unit. This conclusion is fortified by the rule of exogamy which prohibits marriage between persons of the same clan between whom no blood-relationship can be traced, and therefore shows that some kind of kinship was believed to exist between them, independent of and stronger than the link of consanguinity. Further, Mr. Hartland shows in Primitive Paternity92 that during the period of female descent when physical paternity has been recognised, but the father and mother belong to different clans, the children, being of the mother’s clan, will avenge a blood-feud of their clan upon their own father; and this custom seems to show clearly that the sentiment of clan-kinship was prior to and stronger than that of family kinship.

51. Clan kinship and totemism.

The same argument seems to demonstrate that the idea of kinship within the clan was prior to the idea of descent [97]from a common ancestor, whether an animal or plant, a god, hero or nicknamed ancestor. Because it is obvious that a set of persons otherwise unconnected could not suddenly and without reason have believed themselves to be descended from a common ancestor and hence related. If a number of persons not demonstrably connected by blood believe themselves to be akin simply on account of their descent from a common ancestor, it can only be because they are an expanded family, either actually or by fiction, which really had or might have had a common ancestor. That is, the clan tracing its descent from a common ancestor, if this was the primary type of clan, must have been subsequent to the family as a social institution. But as already seen the sentiment of kinship within the clan was prior to that within the family, and therefore the genesis of the clan from an expanded family is an impossible hypothesis; and it follows that the members of the clan must first have believed themselves to be bound together by some tie equivalent to or stronger than that of consanguineous kinship, and afterwards, when the primary belief was falling into abeyance, that of descent from a common ancestor came into existence to account for the clan sentiment of kinship already existing. If then the first form of association of human beings was in small groups, which led a migratory life and subsisted mainly by hunting and the consumption of fruits and roots, as the Australian natives still do, the sentiment of kinship must first have arisen, as stated by Mr. M’Lennan, in that small body which lived and hunted together, and was due simply to the fact that they were so associated, that they obtained food for each other, and on occasion protected and preserved each other’s lives.93 These small bodies of persons were the first social units, and according to our knowledge of the savage peoples who are nearest to the original migratory and hunting condition of life, without settled habitations, domestic animals or cultivated plants, they first called themselves after some animal or plant, usually, as Sir J.G. Frazer has shown in Totemism and Exogamy,94 after some edible animal or plant. The most probable theory of totemism on a priori grounds [98]seems therefore to be that the original small bodies who lived and hunted together, or totem-clans, called themselves after the edible animal or plant from which they principally derived their sustenance, or that which gave them life. While the real tie which connected them was that of living together, they did not realise this, and supposed themselves to be akin because they commonly ate this animal or plant together. This theory of totemism was first promulgated by Professor Robertson Smith and, though much disputed, appears to me to be the most probable. It has also been advocated by Dr. A.C. Haddon, F.R.S.95 The Gaelic names for family, teadhloch and cuedichc or coedichc, mean, the first, ‘having a common residence,’ the second, ‘those who eat together.’96 The detailed accounts of the totems of the Australian, Red Indian and African tribes, now brought together by Sir J.G. Frazer in Totemism and Exogamy, show a considerable amount of evidence that the early totems were not only as a rule edible animals, but the animals eaten by the totem-clans which bore their names.97 But after the domestication of animals and the culture of plants had been attained to, the totems ceased to be the chief means of subsistence. Hence the original tie of kinship was supplanted by another and wider one in the tribe, and though the totem-clans remained and continued to fulfil an important purpose, they were no longer the chief social group. And in many cases, as man had also by now begun to speculate on his origin, the totems came to be regarded as ancestors, and the totem-clans, retaining their sentiment of kinship, accounted for it by supposing themselves to be descended from a common ancestor. They thus also came to base the belief in clan-kinship on the tie of consanguinity recognised in the family, which had by now come into existence. This late and secondary form of totemism is that which obtains in India, where the migratory and hunting [99]stage has long been passed. The Indian evidence is, however, of great value because we find here in the same community, occasionally in the same caste, exogamous clans which trace their descent sometimes from animals and plants, or totems, and sometimes from gods, heroes, or titular ancestors, while many of the clans are named after villages or have names to which no meaning can be attached. As has been seen, there is good reason to suppose that all these forms of the exogamous clan are developed from the earliest form of the totem-clan; and since this later type of clan has developed from the totem-clan in India, it is a legitimate deduction that wherever elsewhere exogamous clans are found tracing their descent from a common ancestor or with unintelligible names, probably derived from places, they were probably also evolved from the totem-clan. This type of clan is shown in Professor Hearn’s Aryan Household to have been the common unit of society over much of Europe, where no traces of the existence of totemism are established.98 And from the Indian analogy it is therefore legitimate to presume that the totem-clan may have been the original unit of society among several European races as well as in America, Africa, Australia and India. Similar exogamous clans exist in China, and many of them have the names of plants and animals.99

52. Animate Creation.

In order to render clear the manner in which the clan named after a totem animal (or, less frequently, a plant) came to hold its members akin both to each other and their totem animals, an attempt may be made to indicate, however briefly and imperfectly, some features of primitive man’s conception of nature and life. Apparently when they began dimly to observe and form conscious mental impressions of the world around them, our first ancestors made some cardinal, though natural and inevitable, mistakes. In the first place they thought that the whole of nature was animate, and that every animal, plant, or natural object which they saw around them, was alive and self-conscious like themselves. They had, of course, no words or ideas connoting life or consciousness, or distinguishing animals, vegetables or lifeless [100]objects, and they were naturally quite incapable of distinguishing them. They merely thought that everything they saw was like themselves, would feel hurt and resentment if injured, and would know what was done to it, and by whom; whenever they saw the movement of an animal, plant, or other object, they thought it was volitional and self-conscious like their own movements. If they saw a tree waving in the wind, having no idea or conception of the wind, they thought the tree was moving its branches about of its own accord; if a stone fell, they, knowing nothing of the force of gravity, thought the stone projected itself from one place to another because it wished to do so. This is exactly the point of view taken by children when they first begin to observe. They also think that everything they see is alive like themselves, and that animals exercise volition and have a self-conscious intelligence like their own. But they quickly learn their mistakes and adopt the point of view of their elders because they are taught. Primitive man had no one to teach him, and as he did not co-ordinate or test his observations, the traces of this first conception of the natural world remain clearly indicated by a vast assortment of primitive customs and beliefs to the present day. All the most prominent natural objects, the sun and moon, the sky, the sea, high mountains, rivers and springs, the earth, the fire, became objects of veneration and were worshipped as gods, and this could not possibly have happened unless they had been believed to have life. Stone images and idols are considered as living gods. In India girls are married to flowers, trees, arrows, swords, and so on. A bachelor is married to a ring or a plant before wedding a widow, and the first ceremony is considered as his true marriage. The Saligrām, or ammonite stone, is held to represent the god Vishnu, perhaps because it was thought to be a thunderbolt and to have fallen from heaven. Its marriage is celebrated with the tulsi or basil-plant, which is considered the consort of Vishnu. Trees are held to be animate and possessed by spirits, and before a man climbs a tree he begs its pardon for the injury he is about to inflict on it. When a tank is dug, its marriage is celebrated. To the ancient Roman his hearth was a god; the walls and doors and threshold of his house were gods; [101]the boundaries of his field were also gods.100 It is precisely the same with the modern Hindu; he also venerates the threshold of his house, the cooking-hearth, the grinding-mill, and the boundaries of his field. The Jains still think that all animals, plants and inanimate objects have souls or spirits like human beings. The belief in a soul or spirit is naturally not primitive, as man could not at first conceive of anything he did not see or hear, but plants and inanimate objects could not subsequently have been credited with the possession of souls or spirits unless they had previously been thought to be alive. “The Fijians consider that if an animal or a plant dies its soul immediately goes to Bolotoo; if a stone or any other substance is broken, immortality is equally its reward; nay, artificial bodies have equal good luck with men and hogs and yams. If an axe or a chisel is worn out or broken up, away flies its soul for the service of the gods. If a house is taken down or any way destroyed, its immortal part will find a situation on the plains of Bolotoo. The Finns believed that all inanimate objects had their haltia or soul.”101 The Malays think that animals, vegetables and minerals, as well as human beings, have souls.102 The Kawar tribe are reported to believe that all articles of furniture and property have souls or spirits, and if any such is stolen the spirit will punish the thief. Theft is consequently almost unknown among them. All the fables about animals and plants speaking and exercising volition; the practice of ordeals, resting on the belief that the sacred living elements, fire and water, will of themselves discriminate between the innocent and guilty; the propitiatory offerings to the sea and to rivers, such incidents as Xerxes binding the sea with fetters, Ajax defying the lightning, Aaron’s rod that budded, the superstitions of sailors about ships: all result from the same primitive belief. Many other instances of self-conscious life and volition being attributed to animals, plants and natural objects are given by Lord Avebury in Origin of Civilisation, by Dr. Westermarck in The Origin and Development [102]of the Moral Ideas,103 and by Sir J.G. Frazer in The Golden Bough104

Thus primitive man had no conception of inanimate matter, and it seems probable that he did not either realise the idea of death. Though it may be doubtful whether any race exists at present which does not understand that death is the cessation of life in the body, indications remain that this view was not primary and may not have been acquired for some time. The Gonds apparently once thought that people would not die unless they were killed by magic, and similar beliefs are held by the Australian and African savages. Several customs also point to the belief in the survival of some degree of life in the body after death, apart from the idea of the soul.

53. The distribution of life over the body.

Primitive man further thought that life, instead of being concentrated in certain organs, was distributed equally over the whole of the body. This mistake appears also to have been natural and inevitable when it is remembered that he had no name for the body, the different limbs and the internal organs, and no conception of their existence and distribution, nor of the functions which they severally performed. He perceived that sensation extended over all parts of the body, and that when any part was hurt or wounded the blood flowed and life gradually declined in vigour and ebbed away. For this reason the blood was subsequently often identified with the life. During the progress of culture many divergent views have been held about the source and location of life and mental and physical qualities, and the correct one that life is centred in the heart and brain, and that the brain is the seat of intelligence and mental qualities has only recently been arrived at. We still talk about people being hard-hearted, kind-hearted and heartless, and about a man’s heart being in the right place, as if we supposed that the qualities of kindness and courage were located in the heart, and determined by the physical constitution and location of the heart. The reason for this is perhaps that the soul was held to be the source of mental qualities, and to be somewhere in the [103]centre of the body, and hence the heart came to be identified with it. As shown by Sir J.G. Frazer in The Golden Bough many peoples or races have thought that the life and qualities were centred in the whole head, not merely in the brain. And this is the reason why Hindus will not appear abroad with the head bare, why it is a deadly insult to knock off a man’s turban, and why turbans or other head-gear were often exchanged as a solemn pledge of friendship. The superstition against walking under a ladder may have originally been based on some idea of its being derogatory or dangerous to the head, though not, of course, from the fear of being struck by a falling brick. Similarly, as shown in the article on Nai, the belief that the bodily strength and vigour were located in the hair, and to a less extent in the nails and teeth, has had a world-wide prevalence. But this cannot have been primary, because the hair had first to be conceived of apart from the rest of the body, and a separate name devised for it, before the belief that the hair was the source of strength could gradually come into existence. The evolution of these ideas may have extended over thousands of years. The expression ‘white-livered,’ again, seems to indicate that the quality of courage was once held to be located in the liver, and the belief that the liver was the seat of life was perhaps held by the Gonds. But the primary idea seems necessarily to have been that the life was equally distributed all over the body. And since, as will be seen subsequently, the savage was incapable of conceiving the abstract idea of life, he thought of it in a concrete form as part of the substance of the flesh and blood.

And since primitive man had no conception of inanimate matter it followed that when any part of the body was severed from the whole, he did not think of the separate fraction as merely lifeless matter, but as still a part of the body to which it had originally belonged and retaining a share of its life. For according to his view of the world and of animate nature, which has been explained above, he could not think of it as anything else. Thus the clippings of hair, nails, teeth, the spittle and any other similar products all in his view remained part of the body from which they had been severed and retained part of its life. In the case of the elements, earth, [104]fire and water, which he considered as living beings and subsequently worshipped as gods, this view was correct. Fractional portions of earth, fire and water, when severed from the remainder, retained their original nature and constitution, and afforded some support to his generally erroneous belief. And since he had observed that an injury done to any part of the body was an injury to the whole, it followed that if one got possession of any part of the body, such as the severed hair, teeth or nails, one could through them injure that body of which they still formed a part. It is for this reason that savages think that if an enemy can obtain possession of any waste product of the body, such as the severed hair or nails, that he can injure the owner through them. Similarly the Hindus thought that the clippings of the hair or nails, if buried in fertile ground, would grow into a plant, through the life which they retained, and as this plant waxed in size it would absorb more and more of the original owner’s life, which would consequently wane and decline. The worship of relics, such as the bones or hair of saints, is based on the same belief that they retain a part of the divine life and virtue of him to whom they once belonged.

54. Qualities associated with animals.

It is probable that qualities were first conceived of by being observed in animals or natural objects. Prior to the introduction of personal names, the individuality of human beings could neither be clearly realised nor remembered after they were dead. But man must have perceived at an early period that certain animals were stronger or swifter than he was, or more cunning, and since the same quality was reproduced in every animal of the species, it could easily become permanently associated with the animal. But there were no names for qualities, nor any independent conception of them apart from the animal or animals in which they were observed. Supposing that strength and swiftness were mainly associated with the horse, as was often the case, then they would be necessarily conceived of as a part or essence of the horse and his life, not in the way we think of them, as qualities appertaining to the horse on account of the strength of his muscles and the conformation of his limbs. When names were devised for these qualities, they would be something equivalent to horsey or horse-like. The association of [105]qualities with animals is still shown in such words as asinine, owlish, foxy, leonine, mulish, dogged, tigerish, and so on; but since the inferiority of animals to man has long been recognised, most of the animal adjectives have a derogatory sense.105 It was far otherwise with primitive man, who first recognised the existence of the qualities most necessary to him, as strength, courage, swiftness, sagacity, cunning and endurance, as being displayed by certain animals in a greater degree than he possessed them himself. Birds he admired and venerated as being able to rise and fly in the air, which he could not do; fish for swimming and remaining under water when he could not; while at the same time he had not as yet perceived that the intelligence of animals was in any way inferior to his own, and he credited many of them with the power of speech. Thus certain animals were venerated on account of the qualities associated with them, and out of them in the course of time anthropomorphic gods personifying the qualities were evolved. The Australian aborigines of the kangaroo totem, when they wish to multiply the number of kangaroos, go to a certain place where two special blocks of stone project immediately one above the other from the hillside. One is supposed to represent an ‘old man’ kangaroo and the other a female. The stones are rubbed and then painted with alternate red and white stripes, the red stripes representing the red fur of the kangaroos, and the white ones its bones. After doing this some of them open veins in their arms and allow the blood to spurt over the stones. The other men sing chants referring to the increase in the numbers of the kangaroos, and they suppose that this ceremony will actually result in producing an increased number of kangaroos and hence an additional supply of food.106 Here the inference seems to be that the stones represent the centre or focus of the life of kangaroos, and when they are quickened by the painting, and the supply of blood, they will manifest their creative activity and increase the kangaroos. If we suppose that some similar stone existed on the Acropolis and was considered by the owl clan as the centre [106]of the life of the owls which frequented the hill, then when the art of sculpture had made some progress, and the superiority of the human form and intellect began to be apprehended, if a sculptor carved the stone into the semblance of a human being, the goddess Athena would be born.

55. Primitive language.

It has been seen that primitive man considered the life and qualities to be distributed equally over the body in a physical sense, so that they formed part of the substance and flesh. The same view extended even to instrumental qualities or functions, since his mental powers and vision were necessarily limited by his language. Language must apparently have begun by pointing at animals or plants and making some sound, probably at first an imitation of the cry or other characteristic of the animal, which came to connote it. We have to suppose that language was at the commencement a help in the struggle for life, because otherwise men, as yet barely emerged from the animal stage, would never have made the painful mental efforts necessary to devise and remember the words. Words which would be distinctly advantageous in the struggle would be names for the animals and plants which they ate, and for the animals which ate them. By saying the name and pointing in any direction, the presence of such animals or plants in the vicinity would be intimated more quickly and more accurately than by signs or actions. Such names were then, it may be supposed, the first words. Animals or plants of which they made no use nor from which they apprehended any danger, would for long be simply disregarded, as nothing was to be gained by inventing names for them. The first words were all nouns and the names of visible objects, and this state of things probably continued for a long period and was the cause of many erroneous primitive conceptions and ideas. Some traces of the earliest form of language can still be discerned. Thus of Santāli Sir G. Grierson states: “Every word can perform the function of a verb, and every verbal form can, according to circumstances, be considered as a noun, an adjective or a verb. It is often simply a matter of convenience which word is considered as a noun and which as an adjective ... Strictly speaking, in Santāli there is no real verb as distinct from the other classes of words. Every [107]independent word can perform the function of a verb, and every verbal form can in its turn be used as a noun or adjective.”107 And of the Dravidian languages he says: “The genitive of ordinary nouns is in reality an adjective, and the difference between nouns and adjectives is of no great importance ... Many cases are both nouns and verbs. Nouns of agency are very commonly used as verbs.”108 Thus if it be admitted that nouns preceded verbs as parts of speech, which will hardly be disputed, these passages show how the semi-abstract adjectives and verbs were gradually formed from the names of concrete nouns. Of the language of the now extinct Tasmanian aborigines it is stated: “Their speech was so imperfectly constituted that there was no settled order or arrangement of words in the sentence, the sense being eked out by face, manner and gesture, so that they could scarcely converse in the dark, and all intercourse had to cease with nightfall. Abstract forms scarcely existed, and while every gum-tree or wattle-tree had its name, there was no word for ‘tree’ in general, nor for qualities such as hard, soft, hot, cold, etc. Anything hard was ‘like a stone,’ anything round ‘like the moon,’ and so on, the speaker suiting the action to the word, and supplementing the meaning to be understood by some gesture.”109 Here the original concrete form of language can be clearly discerned. They had a sufficiency of names for all the objects which were of use to them, and apparently verbal ideas were largely conveyed by gesture. Captain Forsyth states110 that though the Korkus very seldom wash themselves, there exist in their language eight words for washing, one for washing the face, another for the hands and others for different parts of the body. Thus we see that the verbal idea of washing was originally conceived not generally, but separately with reference to each concrete object or noun, for which a name existed and to which water was applied.

56. Concrete nature of primitive ideas.

The primitive languages consisted only of nouns or the names of visible objects, possibly with the subsequent addition [108]of a few names for such conceptions as the wind and the voice, which could be heard, but not seen. There were no abstract nor semi-abstract terms nor parts of speech. The resulting inability to realise any abstract conception and the tendency to make everything concrete is a principal and salient characteristic of ethnology and primitive religion.111 All actions are judged by their concrete aspect or effects and not by the motives which prompted them, nor the results which they produce. For a Hindu to let a cow die with a rope round its neck is a grave caste offence, apparently because an indignity is thus offered to the sacred animal, but it is no offence to let a cow starve to death. A girl may be married to inanimate objects as already seen, or to an old man or a relative without any intention that she shall live with him as a wife, but simply so that she may be married before reaching puberty. If she goes through the ceremony of marriage she is held to be married. Yet the motive for infant-marriage is held to be that a girl should begin to bear children as soon as she is physically capable of doing so, and such a marriage is useless from this point of view. Some castes who cannot afford to burn a corpse hold a lighted brand to it or kindle a little fire on the grave and consider this equivalent to cremation. Promises are considered as concrete; among some Hindus promises are tied up in knots of cloth, and when they are discharged the knots are untied. Mr. S.C. Roy says of the Oraons: “Contracts are even to this day generally not written but acted. Thus a lease of land is made by the lessor handing over a clod of earth (which symbolises land) to the lessee; a contract of sale of cattle is entered into by handing over to the buyer a few blades of grass (which symbolise so many heads of cattle); a contract of payment of bride-price is made by the bridegroom’s father or other relative handing over a number of baris or small cakes of pulse (which symbolise so many rupees) to the bride’s father or other relative; and a contract of service is made by the mistress of the house anointing the head of the intended servant with oil, and making a present of a few pice, and entertaining him to a feast, thus signifying that he would receive food, lodging and some [109]pay.”112 Thus an abstract agreement is not considered sufficient for a contract; in each case it must be ratified by a concrete act.

Gāyatri or sacred verse personified as a goddess

Gāyatri or sacred verse personified as a goddess

The divisions of time are considered in a concrete sense. The fortnight or Nakshatra is presided over by its constellation, and this is held to be a nymph or goddess, who controls events during its course. Similarly, as shown in The Golden Bough,113 many kinds of new enterprises should be begun in the fortnight of the waxing moon, not in that of the waning moon. Days are also thought to be concrete and governed by their planets, and from this idea come all the superstitions about lucky and unlucky days. If a day had been from the beginning realised as a simple division of time no such superstitions could exist. Events, so far as they are conceived of, are also considered in a concrete sense. The reason why omens were so often drawn from birds114 is perhaps that birds fly from a distance and hence are able to see coming events on their way; and the hare and donkey were important animals of augury, perhaps because, on account of their long ears, they were credited with abnormally acute hearing, which would enable them to hear the sound of coming events before ordinary people. The proverb ‘Coming events cast their shadows before,’ appears to be a survival of this mode of belief, as it is obvious that that which has no substance cannot cast a shadow.

The whole category of superstitions about the evil eye arises from the belief that the glance of the eye is a concrete thing which strikes the person or object towards which it is directed like a dart. The theory that the injury is caused through the malice or envy of the person casting the evil eye seems to be derivative and explanatory. If a stranger’s glance falls on the food of a Rāmānuji Brāhman while it is being cooked, the food becomes polluted and must be buried in the ground. Here it is clear that the glance of the eye is equivalent to real contact of some part of the stranger’s body, which would pollute the food. In asking for leave in order [110]to nurse his brother who was seriously ill but could obtain no advantage from medical treatment, a Hindu clerk explained that the sick man had been pierced by the evil glance of some woman.

57. Words and names concrete.

Similarly words were considered to have a concrete force, so that the mere repetition of words produced an effect analogous to their sense. The purely mechanical repetition of prayers was held to be a virtuous act, and this idea was carried to the most absurd length in the Buddhist’s praying-wheel, where merit was acquired by causing the wheel with prayers inscribed on its surface to revolve in a waterfall. The wearing of strips of paper, containing sacred texts, as amulets on the body is based on this belief, and some Muhammadans will wash off the ink from paper containing a verse of the Korān and drink the mixture under the impression that it will do them good. Here the belief in the concrete virtue and substance of the written word is very clear. The Hindus think that the continued repetition of the Gayatri or sacred prayer to the sun is a means of acquiring virtue, and the prayer is personified as a goddess. The enunciation of the sacred syllable Aum or Om is supposed to have the most powerful results. Homer’s phrase ‘winged words’ perhaps recalls the period when the words were considered as physical entities which actually travelled through the air from the speaker to the hearer and were called winged because they went so fast. A Korku clan has the name lobo which means a piece of cloth. But the word lobo also signifies ‘to leak.’ If a person says a sentence containing the word lobo in either signification before a member of the clan while he is eating, he will throw away the food before him as if it were contaminated and prepare a meal afresh. Here it is clear that the Korku pays no regard to the sense but solely to the word or sound. This belief in the concrete force of words has had the most important effects both in law and religion. The earliest codes of law were held to be commands of the god and claimed obedience on this ground. The binding force of the law rested in the words and not in the sense because the words were held to be those of the god and to partake of his divine nature. In ancient Rome the citizen had to take [111]care to know the words of the law and to state them exactly. If he used one wrong word the law gave him no assistance. “Gaius tells a story of a man whose neighbour had cut his vines; the facts were clear; he stated the law applying to his case, but he said vines, whereas the law said trees; he lost his suit.”115 The divine virtue attached to the sacred books of different religions rests on the same belief. Frequently the books themselves are worshipped, and it was held that they could not be translated because the sanctity resided in the actual words and would be lost if other words were used. The efficacy of spells and invocations seems to depend mainly on this belief in the concrete power of words. If one knows an efficacious form of words connoting a state of physical facts and repeats it with the proper accessory conditions, then that state of facts is actually caused to exist; and if one knows a man’s name and calls on him with a form of words efficacious to compel attendance, he has to come and his spirit can similarly be summoned from the dead. When a Malay wishes to kill an enemy he makes an image of the man, transfixes or otherwise injures it, and buries it on the path over which the enemy will tread. As he buries it with the impression that he will thereby cause the enemy to die and likewise be buried, he says:

It is not I who am burying him,

It is Gabriel who is burying him,

and thinks that the repetition of these words produces the state of facts which they denote so that the guilt of the murder is removed from his own shoulders to those of the archangel Gabriel. Similarly when he has killed a deer and wishes to be free from the guilt of his action, or as he calls it to cast out the mischief from the deer, he says:

It is not I who cast out these mischiefs,

It is Michael who casts them out.

It is not I who cast out these mischiefs,

It is Israfel who casts them out,

and so on, freeing himself in the same manner from responsibility for the death of the deer.116 Names also are regarded as concrete. Primitive man could not regard a [112]name as an abstract appellation, but thought of it as part of the person or thing to which it was applied and as containing part of his life, like his hair, spittle and the rest of his body. He would have used names for a long period before he had any word for a name, and his first idea of the name as a part of the substantive body to which it is applied has survived a more correct appreciation. Thus if one knew a person’s name one could injure him by working evil on it and the part of his life contained in it, just as one could injure him through the clippings of his hair, his spittle, clothes or the earth pressed by his foot. This is the reason for the common custom of having two names, one of which, the true name, is kept secret and only used on ceremonial occasions when it is essential, as at a wedding, while the other is employed for everyday life. The latter, not being the man’s true name, does not contain part of his life, and hence there is no harm in letting an enemy know it. Similarly the Hindus think that a child’s name should not be repeated at night, lest an owl might hear it, when this bird could injure the child through its name, just as if it got hold of a piece of cloth worn or soiled by the child. The practice of euphemism rests on this belief, as it was thought that if a person’s name was said and a part of him was thus caused to be present the rest would probably follow. Hence the rule of avoiding the use of the names of persons or things of which one does not desire the presence. Thus Sir E.B. Tylor says: “The Dayak will not speak of the smallpox by name, but will call it ‘The Chief,’ or ‘Jungle leaves,’ or say, ‘Has He left you?’ The euphemism of calling the Furies the Eumenides, or ‘Gracious Ones,’ is the stock illustration of this feeling, and the euphemisms for fairies and for the devil are too familiar to quote.”117 Similarly the name of a god was considered as part of him and hence partaking of his divine nature. It was thus so potent that it could not be mentioned on ordinary occasions or by common persons. Allah is only an epithet for the name of God among the Muhammadans and his True or Great Name is secret. Those who know it have power over all created things. Clearly then the [113]divine power is held to reside in the name itself. The concealment of the name of the tutelary deity of Rome, for divulging which Valerius Soranus is said to have paid the penalty of death, is a case in point.118 Sir E.B. Tylor gives many other interesting examples of the above ideas and points out the connection clearly existing in the savage mind between the name and the object to which it is applied. The Muhammadans think that Solomon’s name is very efficacious for casting out devils and evil spirits. The practice of naming children after gods or by the epithets or titles applied to the divine being, or after the names of saints, appears to be due to the belief that such names, by reason of their association with the god or saint, acquire a part of his divine life and virtue, which when given to children the names will in turn convey to them.119 On the other hand, when a Hindu mother is afraid lest her child may die, she sometimes gives it an opprobrious name as dirt, rubbish, sweepings, or sold for one or two cowries, so that the evil spirits who take the lives of children may be deceived by the name and think that such a valueless child is not worth having. The voice was also held to be concrete. The position of the Roman tribune was peculiar, as he was not a magistrate chosen by divine authority and hence could not summon people to his court; but the tribune had been dedicated to the city gods, and his person was sacrosanct. He could therefore lay hands on a man, and once the tribune touched him, the man was held to be in the magistrate’s power, and bound to obey him. This rule extended even to those who were within hearing of his voice; any one, even a patrician or consul, who heard the tribune’s voice was compelled to obey him. In this case it is clear that the voice and spoken words were held to be concrete, and to share in the sanctity attaching to the body.120 When primitive man could not think of a name as an abstraction but had to think of it as an actual part of the body and life of the person or visible object to which it belonged, it will be realised how impossible it was for him during a long period to conceive of any abstract [114]idea, which was only a word without visible or corporal reality.

58. The soul or spirit.

Thus he could not at first have had any conception of a soul or spirit, which is an unseen thing. Savages generally may have evolved the conception of a soul or spirit as an explanation of dreams, according to the view taken by Mr. E. Clodd in Myths and Dreams,121 Mr. Clodd shows that dreams were necessarily and invariably considered as real events, and it could not have been otherwise, as primitive man would have been unable to conceive the abstract idea of a vision or fantasy. And since during dreams the body remained immobile and quiescent, it was thought that the spirit inside the body left it and travelled independently. Hence the reluctance often evinced to waking a sleeper suddenly from fear lest the absent spirit might not have time to return to the body before its awakening and hence the man might die. Savages, not having the conception of likeness or similarity,122 would confuse death and sleep, because the appearance of the body is similar in death and in sleep. Legends of the type of Rip Van Winkle and the Sleeping Beauty, and of heroes like King Arthur and Frederick Barbarossa lying asleep through the centuries in some remote cave or other hiding-place, from which they will one day issue forth to regenerate the world, perpetuate the primitive identification of death and sleep. And the belief long prevailed that after death the soul or spirit remained with the body in the place where it lay, leaving the body and returning to it as the spirit was held to do in sleep. The spirit was also thought to be able to quit the body and enter any other body, both during life and after death; most of the beliefs in spirit-possession and many of those about the power of witches arise from this view. The soul or spirit was commonly conceived of in concrete form; the Egyptians, Greeks and Hindus thought of it as a little mannikin inside the body. After death the Hindus often break the skull in order to allow the soul to escape. Often an insect or a stone is thought to harbour the spirit. As shown by Sir E. B. Tylor in Primitive Culture,123 the [115]breath, the shadow and the pupil of the eye were sometimes held to be or to represent the soul or spirit. Disembodied spirits are imprisoned in a tree or hole by driving nails into the tree or ground to confine them and prevent their exit. When a man died accidentally or a woman in childbirth and fear was felt that their spirits might annoy or injure the living, a stake might be driven through the body or a cairn of stones piled over it in order to keep the ghost down and prevent it from rising and walking. The genii of the Arabian Nights were imprisoned in sealed bottles, and when the bottle was opened they appeared in a cloud of vapour.

There seems every reason to suppose, as the same author suggests, that man first thought he had a spirit himself and as a consequence held that animals, plants and inanimate objects also contained spirits. Because the belief that the human body had a spirit can easily be accounted for, but there seems to be no valid reason why man should have thought that all other visible objects also contained spirits, except that at the period when he conceived of the existence of a soul or spirit he still held them to be possessed of life and self-conscious volition like himself. But certain beliefs, such as the universal existence of life, and of its distribution all over the body and transmission by contact and eating, the common life of the species, and possibly totemism itself, appear to have been pre-animistic or prior to any conception of or belief in a soul or spirit either in man himself or in nature.

59. The tranmission of qualities.

Primitive man thought that the life and all qualities, mental and physical, were equally distributed over the body as part of the substance of the flesh. He thus came to think that they could be transferred from one body or substance to another in two ways: either by contact of the two bodies or substances, or by the eating or assimilation of one by the other. The transmission of qualities by contact could be indicated through simply saying the two names of the objects in contact together, and transmission by eating through saying the two names with a gesture of eating. Thus if one ate a piece of tiger’s flesh, one assimilated an equivalent amount of strength, ferocity, cruelty, yellowness, and any other qualities which might be attributed to the tiger. Warriors and youths are sometimes forbidden [116]to eat deer’s flesh because it will make them timid, but they are encouraged to eat the flesh of tigers, bears, and other ferocious animals, because it will make them brave. The Gonds, if they wish a child to be a good dancer, cause it to eat the flesh of a kind of hawk, which hangs gracefully poised over the water, with its wings continually flapping, on the look-out for its prey. They think that by eating the flesh the limbs of the child will become supple like the wings of the bird. If a child is slow in learning to speak, they give it to eat the leaves of the pīpal tree, which rustle continually in the wind and are hence supposed to have the quality of making a noise. All qualities, objective and instrumental, were conceived of in the same manner, because in the absence of verbs or abstract terms their proper relation to the subject and object could not be stated or understood. Thus if a woman’s labour in child-birth is prolonged she is given to drink water in which the charred wood of a tree struck by lightning has been dipped. Here it is clear that the quality of swiftness is held to have been conveyed by the lightning to the wood, by the wood to the water, and by the water to the woman, so as to give her a swift delivery. By a similar train of reasoning she is given to drink the water of a swiftly-flowing stream which thus has the quality of swiftness, or water poured through a gun-barrel in which the fouling of a bullet is left. Here the quality of swiftness appertaining to the bullet is conveyed by the soiling to the barrel and thence to the water and to the woman who drinks the water. In the above cases all the transfers except that to the woman are by contact. The belief in the transfer of qualities by contact may have arisen from the sensations of the body and skin, to which heat, cold and moisture are communicated by contact. It was applied to every kind of quality. A familiar instance is the worship of the marks on rocks or stone which are held to be the footprints left by a god. Here a part of the god’s divine virtue and power has been communicated through the sole of his foot to the rock dented by the latter. Touching for the king’s evil was another familiar case, when it was thought that a fraction of the king’s divine life and virtue was communicated by contact to the person touched and cured him of his ailment. [117]The wearing of amulets where these consist of parts of the bodies of animals is based on the same belief. When a man wears on his person the claws of a tiger in an amulet, he thinks that the claws being the tiger’s principal weapon of offence contain a concentrated part of his strength, and that the wearer of the claws will acquire some of this by contact. The Gonds carry the shoulder-bone of a tiger, or eat the powdered bone-dust, in order to acquire strength. The same train of reasoning applies to the wearing of the hair of a bear, a common amulet in India, the hair being often considered as the special seat of strength.124 The whole practice of wearing ornaments of the precious metals and precious stones appears to have been originally due to the same motive, as shown in the article on Sunār.

Image of the god Jagannāth, a form of Vishnu

Image of the god Jagannāth, a form of Vishnu

If the Gonds want a child to become fat, they put it in a pigsty or a place where asses have rolled, so that it may acquire by contact the quality of fatness belonging to the pigs or asses. If they wish to breed quarrels in an enemy’s house, they put the seeds of the amaltās or the quills of the porcupine in the thatch of the roof. The seeds in the dried pods of this tree rattle in the wind, while the fretful porcupine raises its quills when angry. Hence the seeds will impart the quality of noise to the house, so that its inmates will be noisy, while the quills of the porcupine will similarly breed strife between them. The effects produced by weapons and instruments are thought of in the same manner. We say that an arrow is shot from a bow with such force as to penetrate the body and cause a wound. The savage could not think or speak in this way, because he had no verbs and could not think of nouns in the objective case. He thought of the arrow as an animate thing having a cutting or piercing quality. When placed in a suitable position to exercise its powers, it flew, of its own volition, through the air to the target, and communicated to it by contact some of the above quality. The idea is more easily realised in the case of balls, pieces of bone or other missiles thrown by magicians. Here the person whom it is intended to injure may be miles away, so that the object could not possibly strike him merely through the force imparted to [118]it by the thrower. But when the magician has said charms over the missile, communicating to it the power and desire to do his will, he throws it in the proper direction and savages believe that it will go of its own accord to the person against whom it is aimed and penetrate his body. To pretend to suck pieces of bone out of the body, which are supposed to have been propelled into the victim by an enemy, is one of the commonest magical methods of curing an illness. The following instances of this idea are taken from the admirable collection in The Golden Bough125: “(In Suffolk) if a man cuts himself with a bill-hook or a scythe he always takes care to keep the weapon bright, and oils it to prevent the wound from festering. If he runs a thorn or, as he calls it, a bush into his hand, he oils or greases the extracted thorn. A man came to a doctor with an inflamed hand, having run a thorn into it while he was hedging. On being told that the hand was festering, he remarked: ‘That didn’t ought to, for I greased the bush well after I pulled it out’ If a horse wounds its foot by treading on a nail, a Suffolk groom will invariably preserve the nail, clean it and grease it every day to prevent the wound from festering.” Here the heat and festering of the wounds are held to be qualities of the axe, thorn or nail, which have been communicated to the person or animal wounded by contact. If these qualities of the instrument are reduced by cleaning and oiling it, then that portion of them communicated to the wound, which was originally held to be a severed part of the life and qualities of the instrument, will similarly be made cool and easy. It is not probable that the people of Suffolk really believe this at present, but they retain the method of treatment arising from the belief without being able to explain it. Similarly the Hindus must have thought that the results produced by the tools of artisans working on materials, and by the plough on the earth, were communicated by these instruments volitionally through contact; and this is why they worship once or twice a year the implements of their profession as the givers of the means of subsistence. All the stories of magic swords, axes, impenetrable shields, sandals, lamps, carpets and so on originally arose from the same belief. [119]

60. The faculty of counting. Confusion of the individual and the species.

But primitive man not only considered the body as a homogeneous mass with the life and qualities distributed equally over it. He further, it may be suggested, did not distinguish between the individual and the species. The reason for this was that he could not count, and had no idea of numbers. The faculty of counting appears to have been acquired very late. Messrs. Spencer and Gillan remark of the aborigines of Central Australia:126 “While in matters such as tracking, which are concerned with their everyday life, and upon efficiency in which they actually depend for their livelihood, the natives show conspicuous ability, there are other directions in which they are as conspicuously deficient. This is perhaps shown most clearly in the matter of counting. At Alice Springs they occasionally count, sometimes using their fingers in doing so, up to five, but frequently anything beyond four is indicated by the word oknira, meaning ‘much’ or ‘great.’ One is nintha, two thrama or thera, three mapitcha, four therankathera, five therankathera-nintha.” The form of these words is interesting, because it is clear that the word for four is two and two, or twice two, and the word for five is two and two and one. These words indicate the prolonged and painful efforts which must have been necessary to count as far as five, and this though in other respects the Australian natives show substantial mental development, having a most complicated system of exogamy, and sometimes two personal names for each individual. Again, the Andamanese islanders, despite the extraordinary complexity of their agglutinative language, have no names for the numerals beyond two.127 It is said that the Majhwār tribe can only count up to three, while among the Bhatras the qualification for being a village astrologer, who foretells the character of the rainfall and gives auspicious days for sowing and harvest, is the ability to count a certain number of posts. The astrologer’s title is Meda Gantia, or Counter of Posts. The above facts demonstrate that counting is a faculty acquired with difficulty after considerable mental progress, and primitive man apparently did not feel the necessity for [120]it.128 But if he could not count, it seems a proper deduction that his eye would not distinguish a number of animals of the same species together, because the ability to do this, and to appraise distinct individuals of like appearance appears to depend ultimately on the faculty of counting. Major Hendley, a doctor and therefore a skilled observer, states that the Bhīls were unable to distinguish colours or to count numbers, apparently on account of their want of words to express themselves.129 Now it seems clearly more easy for the eye to discriminate between opposing colours than to distinguish a number of individuals of the same species together. There are a few things which we still cannot count, such as the blades of grass, the ears of corn, drops of rain, snowflakes, and hailstones. All of these things are still spoken of in the singular, though this is well known to be scientifically incorrect. We say an expanse of grass, a field of corn, and so on, as if the grass and corn were all one plant instead of an innumerable quantity of plants. Apparently when primitive man saw a number of animals or trees of the same species together, the effect on him must have been exactly the same as that of a field of grass or corn on us. He could be conscious only of an indefinite sense of magnitude. But he did not know, as we do in the cases cited, that the objects he saw were really a collection of distinct individuals. He would naturally consider them as all one, just as children would think a field of grass or corn to be one great plant until they were told otherwise. But there was no one to tell him, nor any means by which he could find out his mistake. He had no plural number, and no definite or indefinite articles. Whether he saw one or a hundred tigers together, he could only describe them by the one word tiger. It was a long time before he could even say ‘much tiger,’ as the Australian natives still have to do if they see more animals than five together, and the Andamanese if they see more than two. The hypothesis therefore seems reasonable that at first man considered each species of animals or plants which he distinguished to have a separate single life, [121]of which all the individuals were pieces or members. The separation of different parts of one living body presented no difficulties to his mind, since, as already seen, he believed the life to continue in severed fractions of the human body.

A connection between individuals, apparently based on the idea that they have a common life, has been noticed in other cases. Thus at the commencement of the patriarchal state of society, when the child is believed to derive its life from its father, any carelessness in the father’s conduct may injuriously affect the child. Sir E.B. Tylor notes this among the tribes of South America. After the birth of a child among the Indians of South America the father would eat no regular cooked food, not suitable for children, as he feared that if he did this his child would die.130 “Among the Arawaks of Surinam for some time after the birth of a child the father must fell no tree, fire no gun, hunt no large game; he may stay near home, shoot little birds with a bow and arrow, and angle for little fish; but his time hanging heavy on his hands the only comfortable thing he can do is to lounge in his hammock.”131 On another occasion a savage who had lately become a father, refused snuff, of which he was very fond, because his sneezing would endanger the life of his newly-born child. They believed that any intemperance or carelessness of the father, such as drinking, eating large quantities of meat, swimming in cold weather, riding till he was tired and sweated, would endanger the child’s life, and if the child died, the father was bitterly reproached with having caused its death by some such indiscretion.132 Here the idea clearly seems to be that the father’s and child’s life are one, the latter being derived from and part of the former. The custom of the Couvade may therefore perhaps be assigned to the early patriarchal stage. The first belief was that the child derived its life from its mother, and apparently that the weakness and debility of the mother after childbirth were due to the fact that she had given up a part of her life to the child. When the system of female descent changed to male descent, the woman was taken from another clan into her husband’s; the child, being born in its father’s clan, [122]obviously could not draw its life from its mother, who was originally of a different clan. The inference was that it drew its life from its father; consequently the father, having parted with a part of his life to his child, had to imitate the conduct of the mother after childbirth, abstain from any violent exertion, and sometimes feign weakness and lie up in the house, so as not to place any undue strain on the severed fraction of his life in his child, which would be simultaneously affected with his own, but was much more fragile.

61. Similarity and identity.

Again, primitive man had no conception of likeness or similarity, nor did he realise an imitation as distinct from the thing imitated. Likeness or similarity and imitation are abstract ideas, for which he had no words, and consequently did not conceive of them. And clearly if one had absolutely no term signifying likeness or similarity, and if one wished to indicate say, that something resembled a goat, all one could do would be to point at the goat and the object resembling it and say ‘goat,’ ‘goat.’ Since the name was held to be part of the thing named, such a method would strengthen the idea that resemblance was equivalent to identity. This point of view can also be observed in children, who have no difficulty in thinking that any imitation or toy model is just as good as the object or animal imitated, and playing with it as such. Even to call a thing by the name of any object is sufficient with children to establish its identity with that object for the purposes of a game or mimicry, and a large part of children’s games are based on such pretensions. They also have not yet clearly grasped the difference between likeness and identity, and between an imitation of an object and the object itself. A large part of the category of substituted ceremonies and sacrifices are based on this confusion between similarity and identity. Thus when the Hindus put four pieces of stick into a pumpkin and call it a goat, they do not mean to cheat the god to whom it is offered, but fancy that when they have made a likeness of a goat and called it a goat, it is a goat, at any rate for the purpose of sacrifice. And when the Jains, desiring to eat after sunset against the rule of their religion, place a lamp under a sieve and call it the [123]sun, and eat by it, they are acting on the same principle and think they have avoided committing a sin. A Baiga should go to his wedding on an elephant, but as he cannot obtain a real elephant, two wooden cots are lashed together and covered with blankets, with a black cloth trunk in front, and this arrangement passes muster for an elephant. A small gold image of a cat is offered to a Brāhman in expiation for killing a cat, silver eyes are offered to the goddess to save the eyes of a person suffering from smallpox, a wisp of straw is burnt on a man’s grave as a substitute for cremating the body, a girl is married to an image of a man made of kusha grass, and so on. In rites where blood is required vermilion is used as a substitute for blood; on the other hand castes which abstain from flesh sometimes also decline to eat red vegetables and fruits, because the red colour is held to make them resemble and be equivalent to blood. These beliefs survive in religious ceremonial long after the hard logic of facts has dispelled them from ordinary life.133 Thus when an image of a god was made it was at once the god and contained part of his life. Primitive man had no idea of an imitation or an image nor of a lifeless object, and therefore could not conceive of the representation being anything else than the god. Only in later times was some ceremony of conveying life to the image considered requisite. The prohibition of sculpture among the Jews and of painting among the Muhammadans was based on this view,134 because sculptures and paintings were not considered as images or representations, but as living beings or gods, and consequently false gods. The world-wide custom of making an image of a man with intent to injure him arises from the same belief. Since primitive man could conceive neither of an imitation nor of an inanimate object, the image of a man was to his view the man; there was nothing else which it could be. And thus it contained part of the man’s life, just as every idol of a god was the god himself and contained part of the god’s life. Since the man’s life was common to himself and the image, by injuring or destroying the image it was held [124]that the man’s life would similarly be injured or destroyed, on the analogy already explained of injury to life being frequently observed to follow a hurt or wound of any part of the body. Afterwards the connection between the man and the image was strengthened by working into the material of the latter some fraction of his body, such as severed hair or the earth pressed by his foot. But this was not necessary to the original belief. The objection often raised by savages to having their photographs taken or pictures painted may be explained in the same manner. Here the photograph or picture cannot be realised as a simple imitation; it is held to be the man himself, and must therefore contain part of his life. Hence any one in whose possession it is can do him harm by injuring or destroying the photograph or picture, according to the method of reasoning already explained. The superstitions against looking in a mirror, especially after dark, or seeing one’s reflection in water, are analogous cases. Here the reflection in the mirror or water is held to be the person himself, because savages do not understand the nature of the reflected image. It is the person himself, but has no corporeal substance; therefore the reflection must be his ghost or spirit. But if the spirit appears once it is an omen that it will appear again; and in order that it may do so the man will have to die so that the spirit may be set free from the body in order to appear. The special reason for not looking into a mirror at night would thus be because the night is the usual time for the appearance of spirits. The fable of Narcissus, who fell in love with his own image reflected in the water and was drowned, probably arose from the superstition against seeing one’s image reflected in water. And similarly the belief was that a man’s clothes and other possessions contained part of his life by contact; this is the explanation of the custom of representing a person by some implement or article of clothing, such as performing the marriage ceremony with the bridegroom’s sword instead of himself, and sending the bride’s shoes home with the bridegroom to represent her. A barren woman will try to obtain a piece of a pregnant woman’s breast-cloth and will burn it and eat the ashes, thinking thereby to transfer the pregnant [125]woman’s quality of fertility to herself. When a Hindu widow is remarried her clothes and ornaments are sometimes buried on the boundary of her second husband’s village and she puts on new clothes, because it is thought that her first husband’s spirit will remain in the old clothes and give trouble.

62. The recurrence of events.

A brief digression may be made here in order to suggest an explanation of another important class of primitive ideas. These arise from the belief that when something has happened, that same event, or some other resembling it, will again occur, or, more briefly, the belief in the recurrence of events. This view is the origin of a large class of omens, and appears to have been originally evolved simply from the recurring phenomena of day and night and of the months and climatic seasons. For suppose that one was in the position of primitive man, knowing absolutely nothing of the nature and constitution of the earth and the heavenly bodies, or of the most elementary facts of astronomy; then, if the question were asked why one expected the sun to rise to-morrow, the only possible answer, and the answer which one would give, would be because it had risen to-day and every day as long as one could remember. The reason so stated might have no scientific value, but would at any rate establish a strong general probability. But primitive man could not have given it in this form, because he had no memory and could not count. Even now comparatively advanced tribes like the Gonds have a hopelessly inaccurate memory for ordinary incidents; and, as suggested subsequently, the faculty of memory was probably acquired very slowly with the development of language. And since he could not count, the continuous recurrence of natural phenomena had no cumulative force with him, so that he might distinguish them from other events. His argument was thus simply “the sun will rise again because it rose before; the moon will wax and wane again because she waxed and waned before”; grass and leaves and fruit would grow again because they did so before; the animals which gave him food would come again as before; and so on. But these were the only events which his brain retained at all, and [126]that only because his existence depended upon them and they continually recurred. The ordinary incidents of life which presented some variation passed without record in his mind, as they still do very largely in those of primitive savages. And since he made no distinction between the different classes of events, holding them all to be the acts of volitional beings, he applied this law of the recurrence of events to every incident of life, and thought that whenever anything happened, reason existed for supposing that the same thing or something like it would happen again. It was sufficient that the second event should be like the first, since, as already seen, he did not distinguish between similarity and identity. Thus, to give instances, the Hindus think that if a man lies full length inside a bed, he is lying as if on a bier and will consequently soon be dead on a real bier; hence beds should be made so that one’s feet project uncomfortably over the end. By a similar reasoning he must not lie with his feet to the south because corpses are laid in this direction. A Hindu married woman always wears glass bangles as a sign of her state, and a widow may not wear them. A married woman must therefore never let her arms be without bangles or it is an omen that she will become a widow. She must not wear wholly white clothes, because a widow wears these. If a man places one of his shoes over the other in the house, it is an omen that he will go on a journey when the shoes will be in a similar position as he walks along. A Kolta woman who desires to ascertain whether she will have a son, puts a fish into a pot full of water and spreads her cloth by it. If the fish jumps into her lap, it is thought that her lap will shortly hold another living being, that is a son. At a wedding, in many Hindu castes, the bride and bridegroom perform the business of their caste or an imitation of it. Among the Kuramwār shepherds the bride and bridegroom are seated with the shuttle which is used for weaving blankets between them. A miniature swing is put up and a doll is placed in it in imitation of a child and swung to and fro. The bride then takes the doll out and gives it to the bridegroom, saying:—“Here, take care of it, I am now going to cook food”; while, after a time, the boy returns the doll to the [127]girl saying, “I must now weave the blanket and go to tend the flock.” Thus, having performed their life’s business at their wedding, it is thought that they will continue to do so happily as long as they live. Many castes, before sowing the real crop, make a pretence of sowing seed before the shrine of the god, and hope thus to ensure that the subsequent sowing will be auspicious. The common stories of the appearance of a ghost, or other variety of apparition, before the deaths of members of a particular family, are based partly on the belief in the recurrence of associated events. The well-known superstition about sitting down thirteen to dinner, on the ground that one of the party may die shortly afterwards, is an instance of the same belief, being of course based on the Last Supper. But the number thirteen is generally unlucky, being held to be so by the Hindus, Muhammadans and Persians, as well as Europeans, and the superstition perhaps arose from its being the number of the intercalary month in the soli-lunar calendar, which is present one year and absent the next year. Thirteen is one more than twelve, the auspicious number of the months of the year. Similarly seven was perhaps lucky or sacred as being the number of the planets which gave their names to the days of the week, and three because it represented the sun, moon and earth. When a gambler stakes his money on a number such as the date of his birth or marriage, he acts on the supposition that a number which has been propitious to him once will be so again, and this appears to be a survival of the belief in the recurrence of events.

63. Controlling the future.

But primitive man was not actuated by any abstract love of knowledge, and when he had observed what appeared to him to be a law of nature, he proceeded to turn it to advantage in his efforts for the preservation of his life. Since events had the characteristic of recurrence, all he had to do in order to produce the recurrence of any particular event which he desired, was to cause it to happen in the first instance; and since he did not distinguish between imitation and reality, he thought that if he simply enacted the event he would thus ensure its being brought to pass. And so he assiduously set himself to influence the course of nature to [128]his own advantage. When the Australian aborigines are performing ceremonies for the increase of witchetty grubs, a long narrow structure of boughs is made which represents the chrysalis of the grub. The men of the witchetty grub totem enter the structure and sing songs about the production and growth of the witchetty grub. Then one after another they shuffle out of the chrysalis, and glide slowly along for a distance of some yards, imitating the emergence and movements of the witchetty grubs. By thus enacting the production of the grubs they think to cause and multiply the real production.135 When the men of the emu totem wish to multiply the number of emus, they allow blood from their arms, that is emu blood, to fall on the ground until a certain space is covered. Then on this space a picture is drawn representing the emu; two large patches of yellow indicate lumps of its fat, of which the natives are very fond, but the greater part shows, by means of circles and circular patches, the eggs in various stages of development, some before and some after laying. Then the men of the totem, placing on their heads a stick with a tuft of feathers to represent the long neck and small head of the bird, stand gazing about aimlessly after the manner of the emu. Here the picture itself is held to be a living emu, perhaps the source or centre from which all emus will originate, and the men, pretending to be emus, will cause numbers of actual emus to be produced.136 Before sowing the crops, a common practice is to sow small quantities of grain in baskets or pots in rich soil, so that it will sprout and grow up quickly, the idea being to ensure that the real crop will have a similarly successful growth. These baskets are the well-known Gardens of Adonis fully described in The Golden Bough. They are grown for nine days, and on the tenth day are taken in procession by the women and deposited in a river. The women may be seen carrying the baskets of wheat to the river after the nine days’ fasts of Chait and Kunwār (March and September) in many towns of the Central Provinces, as the Athenian women carried the Gardens of Adonis to the sea on the day that the expedition under Nicias set sail for Syracuse.137 The fire [129]kindled at the Holi festival in spring is meant, as explained by Sir J.G. Frazer, to increase the power of the sun for the growth of vegetation. By the production of fire the quantity and strength of the heavenly fire is increased. He remarks:138—“The custom of throwing blazing discs, shaped like suns, into the air, is probably also a piece of imitative magic. In these, as in so many cases, the magic force is supposed to take effect through mimicry or sympathy; by imitating the desired result you actually produce it; by counterfeiting the sun’s progress through the heavens you really help the luminary to pursue his celestial journey with punctuality and despatch. The name ‘fire of heaven,’ by which the midsummer fire is sometimes popularly known, clearly indicates a consciousness of the connection between the earthly and the heavenly flame.” The obscene songs of the Holi appear to be the relic of a former period of promiscuous sexual debauchery, which, through the multiplied act of reproduction, was intended to ensure that nature should also reproduce on a generous scale. The red powder thrown over everybody at the Holi is said to represent the seed of life. The gifts of Easter eggs seem to be the vestige of a rite having the same object. At a wedding in the Lodhi caste the bride is seated before the family god while an old woman brings a stone rolling-pin wrapped up in a piece of cloth, which is supposed to be a baby, and the old woman imitates a baby crying. She puts the roller in the bride’s lap, saying, “Take this and give it milk.” The bride is abashed and throws it aside. The old woman picks it up and shows it to the assembled women, saying, “The bride has just had a baby,” amid loud laughter. Then she gives the stone to the bridegroom, who also throws it aside. This ceremony is meant to induce fertility, and it is supposed that by making believe that the bride has had a baby she will quickly have one. Similar rites are performed in several other castes, and when a girl becomes adult her lap is filled with fruits with the idea that this will cause it subsequently to be filled with the fruit of her womb. The whole custom of giving dolls to girls to play with, perhaps originated in the belief that by doing so they would afterwards come to play with children. [130]

The dances of the Kol tribe consist partly of symbolical enactments of events which they desired to be successfully accomplished. Some variations of the dance, Colonel Dalton states, represent the different seasons and the necessary acts of cultivation that each brings with it. In one the dancers, bending down, make a motion with their hands, as though they were sowing the grain, keeping step with their feet all the time. Then comes the reaping of the crop and the binding of the sheaves, all done in perfect time and rhythm, and making, with the continuous droning of the voices, a quaint and picturesque performance.139 The Karma dance of the Gonds and Oraons is also connected with the crops, and probably was once an enactment of the work of cultivation.140 The Bhīls danced at their festivals and before battles. The men danced in a ring, holding sticks and striking them against one another. Before a battle they had a war-dance in which the performers were armed and imitated a combat. To be carried on the shoulders of one of the combatants was a great honour, perhaps because it symbolised being on horseback. The object was to obtain success in battle by going through an imitation of a successful battle beforehand. This was also the common custom of the Red Indians, whose war-dances are well known; they brandished their weapons and killed their foe in mimicry in order that they might soon do so in reality. The Sela dance of the Gonds and Baigas, in which they perform the figure of the grand chain of the lancers, only that they strike their sticks together instead of clasping hands as they pass, was probably once an imitation of a combat. It is still sometimes danced before their communal hunting and fishing parties. In these mimetic rehearsals of events with the object of causing them to occur we may perhaps discern the origin of the arts both of acting and dancing. Another, and perhaps later form, was the reproduction of important events, or those which had influenced history. For to the primitive mind, as already seen, the results were not conceived of as instrumentally caused by the event, but as part of the event itself and of [131]its life and personality. Hence by the re-enactment of the event the beneficial results would be again obtained or at least preserved in undiminished potency and vigour. This was perhaps the root idea of the drama and the representation of sacred or heroic episodes on the stage.

64. The common life.

Thus, resuming from paragraph 61, primitive man had no difficulty in conceiving of a life as shared between two or more persons or objects, and it does not seem impossible that he should have at first conceived it to extend through a whole species.141 A good instance of the common life is afforded by the gods of the Hindu and other pantheons. Each god was conceived of as performing some divine function, guiding the chariot of the sun, manipulating the thunder and so on; but at the same time thousands of temples existed throughout the country, and in each of these the god was alive and present in his image or idol, able to act independently, receive and consume sacrifices and offerings, protect suppliants and punish transgressors. No doubt at all can be entertained that each idol was in itself held to be a living god. In India food is offered to the idol, it goes through its ablutions, is fanned, and so on, exactly like a human king. The ideas of sanctuary and sacrilege appear to depend primarily on the belief in the actual presence of the god in his shrine. And in India no sanctity at all attaches to a temple from which the idol has been removed. Thus we see the life of the god distributed over a multitude of personalities. Again, the same god, as Vishnu or the sun, is held to have had a number of incarnations, as the boar, the tortoise, a man-lion, a dwarf, Rāma and Krishna, and these are venerated simultaneously as distinct deities. The whole Brāhman caste considered itself divine or as partaking in the life of the god, the original reason for this perhaps being that the Brāhmans obtained the exclusive right to perform sacrifices, and hence the life of the sacrificial animal or food passed to them, as in other societies it passed to the king who performed the sacrifice. A Brāhman further holds that the five gods, Indra, Brahma, Siva, Vishnu and Ganesh, are present in different parts of his body,142 and here again the [132]life of the god is seen to be divided into innumerable fragments. The priests of the Vallabhachārya sect, the Gokulastha Gosains, were all held to be possessed by the god Krishna, so that it was esteemed a high privilege to perform the most menial offices for them, because to touch them was equivalent to touching the god, and perhaps assimilating by contact a fragment of his divine life and nature.143 The belief in a common life would also explain the veneration of domestic animals and the prohibition against killing them, because to kill one would injure the whole life of the species, from which the tribe drew its subsistence. Similarly in a number of cases the first idea of seasonal fasts is that the people abstain from the grain or fruit which is growing or sown in the ground. Thus in India during the rains the vegetables growing at this period are not eaten, and are again partaken of for the first time after the sacrificial offering of the new crop. This rule could not possibly be observed in the case of grain, but instead certain single fast-days are prescribed, and on these days no cultivated grain or fruit, but only those growing wild, should be eaten. These rules seem to indicate that the original motive of the fast was to avoid injuring the common life of the grain or fruit, which injury would be caused by a consumption of any part of it, at a time when the whole of the common life and vigour was required for its reproduction and multiplication. This idea may have operated to enable the savage to restrain himself from digging up and eating the grain sown in the ground, or slaughtering his domestic animals for food, and a taboo on the consumption of grain and fruits during their period of ripening may have first begun in their wild state. The Intichiuma ceremonies of the Australian natives are carried out with the object of increasing the supply of the totem for food purposes. In the Ilpirla or Manna totem the members of the clan go to a large boulder surrounded by stones, which are held to represent masses of Ilpirla or the manna of the mulga tree. A Churinga stone is dug up, which is supposed to represent another mass of manna, and this is rubbed over the boulder, and the smaller stones are also rubbed over it. While the [133]leader does this, the others sing a song which is an invitation to the dust produced by the rubbing of the stones to go out and produce a plentiful supply of Ilpirla on the mulga trees.144 Then the dust is swept off the surface of the stones with twigs of the mulga tree. Here apparently the large boulder and other stones are held to be the centre or focus of the common life of the manna, and from them the seed issues forth which will produce a crop of manna on all the mulga trees. The deduction seems clear that the trees are not conceived of individually, but are held to have a common life. In the case of the hakea flower totem they go to a stone lying beneath an old tree, and one of the members lets his blood flow on to the stone until it is covered, while the others sing a song inciting the hakea tree to flower much and to the blossoms to be full of honey.145 The blood is said to represent a drink prepared from the hakea flowers, but probably it was originally meant to quicken the stone with the blood of a member of the totem, that is its own blood or life, in order that it might produce abundance of flowers. Here again the stone seems to be the centre of the common life of the hakea flower. The songs are sung with the idea that the repetition of words connoting a state of facts will have the effect of causing that state of facts to exist, in accordance with the belief already explained in the concrete virtue of words.

Sir E. B. Tylor states: “In Polynesia, if a village god were accustomed to appear as an owl, and one of his votaries found a dead owl by the roadside, he would mourn over the sacred bird and bury it with much ceremony, but the god himself would not be thought to be dead, for he remains incarnate in all existing owls. According to Father Geronimo Boscana, the Acagchemen tribe of Upper California furnish a curious parallel to this notion. They worshipped the panes bird, which seems to have been an eagle or vulture, and each year, in the temple of each village, one of them was solemnly killed without shedding blood, and the body buried. Yet the natives maintained and believed that it was the same individual bird they sacrificed each year, and more than this, that the same bird was slain by each of the villages.”146 An [134]account of the North American Indians quoted by the same author states that they believe all the animals of each species to have an elder brother, who is as it were the principle and origin of all the individuals, and this elder brother is marvellously great and powerful. According to another view each species has its archetype in the land of souls; there exists, for example, a manitu or archetype of all oxen, which animates all oxen.147

Generally in the relations between the totem-clan and its totem-animal, and in all the fables about animals, one animal is taken as representing the species, and it is tacitly assumed that all the animals of the species have the same knowledge and qualities and would behave in the same manner as the typical one. Thus when the Majhwār says that the tiger would run away if he met a member of the tiger-clan who was free from sin, but would devour any member who had been put out of caste for an offence, he assumes that every tiger would know a member of the clan on meeting him, and also whether that member was in or out of caste. He therefore apparently supposes a common knowledge and intelligence to exist in all tigers as regards the clan, as if they were parts of one mind or intelligence. And since the tigers know instinctively when a member of the clan is out of caste, the mind and intelligence of the tigers must be the same as that of the clan. The Kols of the tiger clan think that if they were to sit up for a tiger over a kill the tiger would not come and would be deprived of his food, and that they themselves would fall ill. Here the evil effects of the want of food on one tiger are apparently held to extend to all tigers and also to all members of the tiger clan.

65. The common life of the clan.

The totem-clan held itself to partake of the life of its totem, and on the above hypothesis one common life would flow through all the animals and plants of the totem and all the members of the clan. An Australian calls his totem his Wingong (friend) or Tumang (flesh), and nowadays expresses his sorrow when he has to eat it.148 If a man wishes to injure any man of a certain totem, he kills any [135]animal of that man’s totem.149 This clearly shows that one common life is held to bind together all the animals of the totem-species and all the members of the totem-clan, and the belief seems to be inexplicable on any other hypothesis. The same is the case with the sex-totems of the Kurnai tribe. In addition to the clan-totems all the boys have the Superb Warbler bird as a sex-totem, and call it their elder brother; and all the girls the Emu-wren, and call it their elder sister. If the boys wish to annoy the girls, or vice versa, each kills or injures the other’s totem-bird, and such an act is always followed by a free fight between the boys and girls.150 Sex-totems are a peculiar development which need not be discussed here, but again it would appear that a common life runs through the birds of the totem and the members of the sex. Professor Robertson Smith describes the clan or kin as follows: “A kin was a group of persons whose lives were so bound up together, in what must be called a physical unity, that they could be treated as parts of one common life. The members of one kindred looked on themselves as one living whole, one single animated mass of blood, flesh and bones, of which no member could be touched without all the members suffering. This point of view is expressed in the Semitic tongue in many familiar forms of speech. In case of homicide Arabian tribesmen do not say, ‘The blood of M. or N. has been spilt’ (naming the man): they say, ‘Our blood has been spilt.’ In Hebrew the phrase by which one claims kinship is, ‘I am your bone and your flesh.’ Both in Hebrew and in Arabic flesh is synonymous with ‘clan’ or kindred group.”151 The custom of the blood-feud appears to have arisen from the belief in a common life of the clan. “The blood-feud is an institution not peculiar to tribes reckoning descent through females; and it is still in force. By virtue of its requirements every member of a kin, one of whom had suffered at the hands of a member of another kin, was bound to avenge the wrong upon the latter kin. Such is the solidarity between members of a kin that vengeance might be taken upon any member [136]of the offending kin, though he might be personally quite innocent. In the growth of civilisation vengeance has gradually come to be concentrated upon the offender only.”152 Thus the blood-feud appears to have originated from the idea of primary retributive justice between clan and clan. When a member of a clan had been killed, one of the offending clan must be killed in return. Who he might be, and whether the original homicide was justifiable or not, were questions not regarded by primitive man; motives were abstract ideas with which he had no concern; he only knew that a piece of the common life had been lopped off, and the instinct of self-preservation of the clan demanded that a piece of the life of the offending clan should be cut off in return. And the tie which united the kin was eating and drinking together. “According to antique ideas those who eat and drink together are by this very act tied to one another by a bond of friendship and mutual obligation.”153 This was the bond which first united the members of the totem-clan both among themselves and with their totem. And the relationship with the totem could only have arisen from the fact that they ate it. The belief in a common life could not possibly arise in the totem-clan towards any animal or plant which they did not eat or otherwise use. These they would simply disregard. Nor would savages, destitute at first of any moral ideas, and frequently on the brink of starvation, abstain from eating any edible animal from sentimental considerations; and, as already seen, the first totems were generally edible. They could not either have in the first place eaten the totem ceremonially, as there would be no reason for such a custom. But the ceremonial eating of the domestic animal, which was the tie subsequently uniting the members of the tribe,154 cannot be satisfactorily explained except on the hypothesis that it was evolved from the customary eating of the totem-animal. Primitive savages would only feel affection towards the animals which they ate, just as the affection of animals is gained by feeding them. The objection might be made that savages could not feel [137]affection and kinship for an animal which they killed and ate, but no doubt exists that they do.

“In British Columbia, when the fishing season commenced and the fish began coming up the rivers, the Indians used to meet them and speak to them. They paid court to them and would address them thus: ‘You fish, you fish; you are all chiefs, you are; you are all chiefs.’ Among the Northas when a bear is killed, it is dressed in a bonnet, covered with fine down, and solemnly invited to the chiefs presence.”155 And there are many other instances.156 Savages had no clear realisation of death, and they did not think that the life of the animal was extinguished but that it passed to them with the flesh. Moreover they only ate part of the life. In many cases also the totem-animal only appeared at a certain season of the year, in consequence of the habit of hibernation or migration in search of food, while trees only bore fruit in their season. The savage, regarding all animals and plants as possessed of self-conscious life and volition, would think that they came of their own accord to give him subsistence or life. Afterwards, when they had obtained the idea of a soul or spirit, and of the survival of the soul after death, and when, on the introduction of personal names, the personality of individuals could be realised and remembered after death, they frequently thought that the spirits of ancestors went back to the totem-animal, whence they derived their life. The idea of descent from the totem would thus naturally arise. As the means of subsistence increased, and especially in those communities which had domesticated animals or cultivated plants, the conception of the totem as the chief source of life would gradually die away and be replaced by the belief in descent from it; and when they also thought that the spirits of ancestors were in the totem, they would naturally abstain from eating it. Perhaps also the Australians consider that the members of the totem-clan should abstain from eating the totem for fear of injuring the common life, as more advanced communities abstained from eating the flesh of domestic [138]animals. This may be the ground for the rule that they should only eat sparingly of the totem. To the later period may be ascribed the adoption of carnivorous animals as totems; when these animals came to be feared and also venerated for their qualities of strength, ferocity and courage, warriors would naturally wish to claim kinship with and descent from them.

66. Living and eating together.

When the members of the totem-clan who lived together recognised that they owed something to each other, and that the gratification of the instincts and passions of the individual must to a certain degree be restrained if they endangered the lives and security of other members of the clan, they had taken the first step on the long path of moral and social progress. The tie by which they supposed themselves to be united was quite different from those which have constituted a bond of union between the communities who have subsequently lived together in the tribe, the city-state and the country. These have been a common religion, common language, race, or loyalty to a common sovereign; but the real bond has throughout been the common good or the public interest. And the desire for this end on the part of the majority of the members of the community, or the majority of those who were able to express their opinions, though its action was until recently not overt nor direct, and was not recognised, has led to the gradual evolution of the whole fabric of law and moral feeling, in order to govern and control the behaviour and conduct of the individual in his relations with his family, neighbours and fellow-citizens for the public advantage. The members of the totem-clan would have been quite unable to understand either the motives by which they were themselves actuated or the abstract ideas which have united more advanced communities; but they devised an even stronger bond than these, in supposing that they were parts or fractions of one common body or life. This was the more necessary as their natural impulses were uncontrolled by moral feeling. They conceived the bond of union in the concrete form of eating together. As language improved and passing events were recorded in speech and in the mind, the faculty of memory was perhaps concurrently developed. Then man began to realise the [139]insecurity of his life, the dangers and misfortunes to which he was subject, the periodical failure or irregularity of the supply of food, and the imminent risks of death. Memory of the past made him apprehensive for the future, and holding that every event was the result of an act of volition, he began to assume an attitude either of veneration, gratitude, or fear towards the strongest of the beings by whom he thought his destinies were controlled—the sun, moon, sky, wind and rain, the ocean and great rivers, high mountains and trees, and the most important animals of his environment, whether they destroyed or assisted to preserve his life. The ideas of propitiation, atonement and purification were then imparted to the sacrifice, and it became an offering to a god.157 But the primary idea of eating or drinking together as a bond of union was preserved, and can be recognised in religious and social custom to an advanced period of civilisation.

67. The origin of exogamy.

Again, Dr. Westermarck shows that the practice of exogamy or the avoidance of intermarriage did not at first arise between persons recognised as blood relations, but between those who lived together. “Facts show that the extent to which relatives are not allowed to intermarry is nearly connected with their close living together. Generally speaking the prohibited degrees are extended much further among savage and barbarous peoples than in civilised societies. As a rule the former, if they have not remained in the most primitive social condition of man, live not in separate families but in large households or communities, all the members of which dwell in very close contact with each other.”158 And later, after adducing the evil results of self-fertilisation in plants and close interbreeding in animals, Dr. Westermarck continues: “Taking all these facts into consideration, I cannot but believe that consanguineous marriages, in some way or other, are more or less detrimental to the species. And here I think we may find a quite sufficient explanation of the horror of incest; not because man at an early stage recognised the injurious influence of close intermarriage, but because the law of natural selection must [140]inevitably have operated. Among the ancestors of man, as among other animals, there was no doubt a time when blood relationship was no bar to sexual intercourse. But variations here, as elsewhere, would naturally present themselves; and those of our ancestors who avoided in-and-in breeding would survive, while the others would gradually decay and ultimately perish. Thus an instinct would be developed, which would be powerful enough as a rule to prevent injurious unions. Of course it would display itself simply as an aversion on the part of individuals to union with others with whom they lived; but these as a matter of fact would be blood relations, so that the result would be the survival of the fittest.”

68. Promiscuity and female descent.

The instinct of exogamy first developed in the totem-clan when it was migratory and lived by hunting, at least among the Australians and probably the American Indians.

The first condition of the clan was one of sexual promiscuity, and in Totemism and Exogamy Sir J.G. Frazer has adduced many instances of periodical promiscuous debauchery which probably recall this state of things.159 The evil results which would accrue from in-breeding in the condition of promiscuity may have been modified by such incidents as the expulsion of the young males through the spasmodic jealousy of the older ones, the voluntary segregation of the old males, fights and quarrels leading to the rearrangement of groups, and the frequent partial destruction of a group, when the survivors might attach themselves to a new group. Primitive peoples attached the utmost importance to the rule of exogamy, and the punishments for the breach of it were generally more severe than those for the violation of the laws of affinity in civilised countries. The Australians say that the good spirit or the wise men prescribed to them the rule that the members of each totem-clan should not marry with each other.160 Similarly the Gonds say that their divine hero, Lingo, introduced the rule of exogamy and the division into clans before he went to the gods.

At first, however, the exogamous clan was not constituted by descent through males, but through females. [141]The hypothesis that female everywhere preceded male descent is strongly supported by natural probability. In the first instance, the parentage of children was no more observed and remembered than that of animals. When first observed, it was necessarily through the mother, the identity of the father being wholly uncertain. The mother would also be the first parent to remember her children, her affection for them being based on one of the strongest natural instincts, whereas the father neither knew nor cared for his children until long afterwards. Sir J.G. Frazer has further shown that even now some of the Australian aborigines are ignorant of the physical fact of paternity and its relation to sexual intercourse. That such ignorance could have survived so long is the strongest evidence in favour of the universal priority of female to male descent. It is doubtful, however, whether even the mother could remember her children after they had become adult, prior to the introduction of personal names. Mr. M’Lennan states: “The tie between mother and child, which exists as a matter of necessity during infancy, is not infrequently found to be lost sight of among savages on the age of independence being reached.”161 Personal names were probably long subsequent to clan-names, and when they were first introduced the name usually had some reference to the clan. The Red Indians and other races have totem-names which are frequently some variant of the name of the totem.162 When personal names came to be generally introduced, the genesis of the individual family might soon follow, but the family could scarcely have come into existence in the absence of personal names. As a rule, in the exogamous clan with female descent no regard was paid to the chastity of women, and they could select their partners as they pleased. Mr. Hartland has shown in Primitive Paternity that in a large number of primitive communities the chastity of women was neither enforced nor desired by the men, this state of things being probably a [142]relic of the period of female descent. Thus exogamy first arose through the women of the clan resorting to men outside it. When we consider the extreme rigour of life and the frequent danger of starvation to which the small clans in the hunting stage must have been exposed, it does not seem impossible that the evil effects of marriage within the clan may have been noticed. At that time probably only a minority even of healthy children survived, and the slight congenital weakness produced by in-breeding might apparently be fatal to a child’s chance of life. Possibly some dim perception may have been obtained of the different fates of the children of women who restricted their sexual relations to men within the clan and those who resorted to strangers, even though the nature of paternity may not have been understood. The strength of the feeling and custom of exogamy seems to demand some such recognition for its satisfactory explanation, though, on the other hand, the lateness of the recognition of the father’s share in the production of children militates against this view. The suggestion may be made also that the belief that the new life of a child must be produced by a spirit entering the woman, or other extraneous source, does not necessarily involve an ignorance of the physical fact of paternity; the view that the spirits of ancestors are reborn in children is still firmly held by tribes who have long been wholly familiar with the results of the commerce of the sexes. The practice of exogamy was no doubt, as shown by Dr. Westermarck, favoured and supported by the influence of novelty in sexual attraction, since according to common observation and experience sexual love or desire is more easily excited between strangers or slight acquaintances than between those who have long lived together in the same household or in familiar intercourse. In the latter case the attraction is dulled by custom and familiarity.

69. Exogamy with female descent.

The exogamous clan, with female descent, was, however, an unstable social institution, in that it had no regular provision for marriage nor for the incorporation of married couples. The men who associated with the women of the clan were not necessarily, nor as a rule, admitted to it, but [143]remained in their own clans. How this association took place is not altogether clear. At a comparatively late period in Arabia, according to Professor Robertson Smith,163 the woman would have a tent, and could entertain outside men for a shorter or longer period according to her inclination. The practice of serving for a wife also perhaps dates from the period of female descent. The arrangement would have been that a man went and lived with a woman’s family and gave his services in return for her conjugal society. Whether the residence with the wife’s family was permanent or not is perhaps uncertain. When Jacob served for Leah and Rachel, society seems to have been in the early patriarchal stage, as Laban was their father and he was Laban’s sister’s son. But it seems doubtful whether his right was then recognised to take his wives away with him, for even after he had served fourteen years Laban pursued him, and would have taken them back if he had not been warned against doing so in a vision. The episode of Rachel’s theft of the images also seems to indicate that she intended to take her own household gods with her and not to adopt those of her husband’s house. And Laban’s chief anxiety was for the recovery of the images. A relic of the husband’s residence with his wife’s family during the period of female descent may perhaps be found in the Banjāra caste, who oblige a man to go and live with his wife’s father for a month without seeing her face. Under the patriarchal system this rule of the Banjāras is meaningless, though the general practice of serving for a wife survives as a method of purchase.

The god Rāma, an incarnation of Vishnu, with attendant deities

The god Rāma, an incarnation of Vishnu, with attendant deities

Among the Australian aborigines apparently the clans, or sections of them, wander about in search of food and game, and meet each other for more or less promiscuous intercourse. This may perhaps be supposed to have been the general primitive condition of society after the introduction of exogamy combined with female descent. And its memory is possibly preserved in the tradition of the Golden Age, golden only in the sense that man was not troubled either by memory or anticipation, and lived only for the day. The entire insecurity of life and its frequent end by [144]starvation or a violent death did not therefore trouble him any more than is the case with animals. He took no thought for the morrow, nor did the ills of yesterday oppress his mind. As when one of a herd of deer is shot by a hunter and the others stand by it pityingly as it lies dying on the ground, uncertain of its mishap, though they would help it if they could; yet when they perceive the hunter they make quickly off and in a few minutes are again grazing happily a mile or two away: little or no more than this can primitive man be supposed to have been affected by the deaths of his fellows. But possibly, since he was carnivorous, the sick and old may have been killed for food, as is still the practice among some tribes of savages. In the natural course, however, more or less permanent unions, though perhaps not regular marriages, must have developed in the female exogamous clan, which would thus usually have men of other clans living with it. And since identification of individuals would be extremely difficult before the introduction of personal names, there would be danger that when two clans met, men and women belonging to the same totem-clan would have sexual intercourse. This offence, owing to the strength of the feeling for exogamy, was frequently held to entail terrible evils for the community, and was consequently sometimes punished with death as treason. Moreover, if we suppose a number of small clans, A, B, C, D and E, to meet each other again and again, and the men and women to unite promiscuously, it is clear that the result would be a mixture of relationships of a very incestuous character. The incest of brothers and sisters by the same father would be possible and of almost all other relations, though that of brothers and sisters by the same mother would not be caused. This may have been the reason for the introduction of the class system among the Australians and Red Indians, by which all the clans of a certain area were divided into two classes, and the men of any clan of one class could only marry or have intercourse with the women of a clan of the other class. By such a division the evil results of the mixture of totems in exogamous clans with female descent would be avoided. The class system was sometimes further strengthened by [145]the rule, in Australia, that different classes should, when they met, encamp on opposite sides of a creek or other natural division164; whilst among the Red Indians, the classes camp on opposite sides of the road, or live on different sides of the same house or street.165 In Australia, and very occasionally elsewhere, the class system has been developed into four and eight sub-classes. A man of one sub-class can only marry a woman of one other, and their children belong to one of those different from either the father’s or mother’s. This highly elaborate and artificial system was no doubt, as stated by Sir J. G. Frazer, devised for the purpose of preventing the intermarriage of parents and children belonging to different clans where there are four sub-classes, and of first cousins where there are eight sub-classes.166 The class system, however, would not appear to have been the earliest form of exogamy among the Australian tribes. Its very complicated character, and the fact that the two principal classes sometimes do not even have names, seem to preclude the idea of its having been the first form of exogamy, which is a strong natural feeling, so much so that it may almost be described as an instinct, though of course not a primitive animal instinct. And just as the totem clan, which establishes a sentiment of kinship between people who are not related by blood, was prior to the individual family, so exogamy, which forbids the marriage of people who are not related by blood, must apparently have been prior to the feeling simply against connections of persons related by blood or what we call incest. If the two-class system was introduced in Australia to prohibit the marriage of brothers and sisters at a time when they could not recognise each other in adult life, then on the introduction of personal names which would enable brothers and sisters to recognise and remember each other, the two-class system should have been succeeded by a modern table of prohibited degrees, and not by clan exogamy at all. It is suggested that the two-class system was a common and natural form of evolution of a society divided into exogamous totem clans with female descent, when a man was not taken into [146]the clan of the woman with whom he lived. The further subdivision into four and eight sub-classes is almost peculiar to the Australian tribes; its development may perhaps be attributed to the fact that these tribes have retained the system of female descent and the migratory hunting method of life for an abnormally long period, and have evolved this special institution to prevent the unions of near relatives which are likely to occur under such conditions. The remains of a two-class system appear to be traceable among the Gonds of the Central Provinces. In one part of Bastar all the Gond clans are divided into two classes without names, and a man cannot marry a woman belonging to any clan of his own class, but must take one from a clan of the other class. Elsewhere the Gonds are divided into two groups of six-god and seven-god worshippers among whom the same rule obtains. Formerly the Gonds appear in some places to have had seven groups, worshipping different numbers of gods from one to seven, and each of these groups was exogamous. But after the complete substitution of male for female kinship in the clan, and the settlement of clans in different villages, the classes cease to fulfil any useful purpose. They are now disappearing, and it is very difficult to obtain any reliable information about their rules. The system of counting kinship through the mother, or female descent, has long been extinct in the Central Provinces and over most of India. Some survival of it, or at least the custom of polyandry, is found among the Nairs of southern India and in Thibet. Elsewhere scarcely a trace remains, and this was also the condition of things with the classical races of antiquity; so much so, indeed, that even great thinkers like Sir Henry Maine and M. Fustel de Coulanges, with the examples only of India, Greece and Rome before them, did not recognise the system of female descent, and thought that the exogamous clan with male descent was an extension of the patriarchal family, this latter having been the original unit of society. The wide distribution of exogamy and the probable priority of the system of female to that of male descent were first brought prominently to notice by Mr. M’Lennan. Still a distinct trace of the prior form survives here in the special relationship sometimes found to [147]exist between a man and his sister’s children. This is a survival of the period when a woman’s children, under the rule of female descent, belonged to her own family and her husband or partner in sexual relations had no proprietary right or authority over them, the place and authority of a father belonging in such a condition of society to the mother’s brother or brothers. Among the Halbas a marriage is commonly arranged when practicable between a brother’s daughter and a sister’s son. And a man always shows a special regard and respect for his sister’s son, touching the latter’s feet as to a superior, while whenever he desires to make a gift as an offering of thanks and atonement, or as a meritorious action, the sister’s son is the recipient. At his death he usually leaves a substantial legacy, such as one or two buffaloes, to his sister’s son, the remainder of the property going to his own family. Similarly among the Kamārs the marriage of a man’s children with his sister’s children is considered the most suitable union. If a man’s sister is poor, he will arrange for the weddings of her children. He will never beat his sister’s children however much they may deserve it, and he will not permit his sister’s son or daughter to eat from the dish from which he eats. The last rule, it is said, also applies to the maternal aunt. The Kunbis, and other Marātha castes, have a saying: ‘At the sister’s house the brother’s daughter is a daughter-in-law.’ The Gonds call the wedding of a brother’s daughter to a sister’s son Dūdh lautāna, or ‘bringing back the milk.’ The reason why a brother was formerly anxious to marry his daughter to his sister’s son was that the latter would be his heir under the matriarchal system; but now that inheritance is through males, and girls are at a premium for marriage, a brother is usually more anxious to get his sister’s daughter for his son, and on the analogy of the opposite union it is sometimes supposed, as among the Gonds, that he also has a right to her. Many other instances of the special relation between a brother and his sister’s children are given by Sir J.G. Frazer in Totemism and Exogamy. In some localities also the Korkus build their villages in two long lines of houses on each side of the road, and it may be the case that this is a relic of the period when two or more clans with female [148]descent lived in the same village, and those belonging to each class who could not marry or have sexual relations among themselves occupied one side of the road.

70. Marriage.

The transfer of the reckoning of kinship and descent from the mother’s to the father’s side may perhaps be associated with the full recognition of the physical fact of paternity. Though they may not have been contemporaneous in all or even the majority of societies, it would seem that the former was in most cases the logical outcome of the latter, regard being had also to the man’s natural function as protector of the family and provider of its sustenance. But this transition from female to male kinship was a social revolution of the first importance. Under the system of female descent there had been generally no transfer of clanship; both the woman and her partner or husband retained their own clans, and the children belonged to their mother’s clan. In the totemic stage of society the totem-clan was the vital organism, and the individual scarcely realised his own separate existence, but regarded himself as a member of his totem-clan, being a piece or fraction of a common life which extended through all the members of the clan and all the totem animals of the species. They may have thought also that each species of animals and plants had a different kind of life, and consequently also each clan whose life was derived from, and linked to, that of its totem-species. For the name, and life, and qualities, and flesh and blood were not separate conceptions, but only one conception; and since the name and qualities were part of the life, the life of one species could not be the same as that of another, and every species which had a separate name must have been thought to have a different kind of life. Nor would man have been regarded as a distinct species in the early totem-stage, and there would be no word for man; but each totem-clan would regard itself as having the same life as its totem-species. With the introduction of the system of male kinship came also the practice of transferring a woman from her own clan to that of her husband. It may be suggested that this was the origin of the social institution of marriage. Primitive society had no provision for such a procedure, which was opposed to its one fundamental idea of its own constitution, and involved [149]a change of the life and personality of the woman transferred.

71. Marriage by capture.

The view seems to have been long held that this transfer could only be effected by violence or capture, the manner in which presumably it was first practised. Marriage by capture is very widely prevalent among savage races, as shown by Mr. M’Lennan in Primitive Marriage, and by Dr. Westermarck in The History of Human Marriage. Where the custom has given place to more peaceable methods of procuring a wife, survivals commonly occur. In Bastar the regular capture of the girl is still sometimes carried out, though the business is usually arranged by the couple beforehand, and the same is the case among the Kolāms of Wardha. A regular part of the marriage procedure among the Gonds and other tribes is that the bride should weep formally for some hours, or a day before the wedding, and she is sometimes taught to cry in the proper note. At the wedding the bride hides somewhere and has to be found or carried off by the bridegroom or his brother. This ritualistic display of grief and coyness appears to be of considerable interest. It cannot be explained by the girl’s reluctance to marriage as involving the loss of her virginity, inasmuch as she is still frequently not a virgin at her wedding, and to judge from the analogy of other tribes, could seldom or never have been one a few generations back. Nor is affection for her family or grief at the approaching separation from them a satisfactory motive. This would not account for the hiding at all, and not properly for the weeping, since she will after all only live a few miles away and will often return home; and sometimes she does not only weep at her own house but at all the houses of the village. The suggestion may be made that the procedure really indicates the girl’s reluctance to be severed from her own clan and transferred to another; and that the sentiment is a survival of the resistance to marriage by capture which was at first imposed on the women by the men from loyalty to the clan totem and its common life, and had nothing to do with the conjugal relationship of marriage. But out of this feeling the sexual modesty of women, which had been non-existent in the matriarchal [150]condition of society, was perhaps gradually developed. The Chamārs of Bilāspur have sham fights on the approach of the wedding party, and in most Hindu castes the bridegroom on his arrival performs some militant action, such as striking the marriage-shed or breaking one of its festoons. After the marriage the bride is nearly always sent home with the bridegroom’s party for a few days, even though she may be a child and the consummation of the marriage impossible. This may be in memory of her having formerly been carried off, and some analogous significance may attach to our honeymoon. When the custom of capture had died down it was succeeded by the milder form of elopement, or the bride was sold or exchanged against a girl from the bridegroom’s family or clan, but there is usually a relic of a formal transfer, such as the Hindu Kanyadān or gift of the virgin, the Roman Traditio in manum or her transfer from her father’s to her husband’s power, and the giving away of the bride.

72. Transfer of the bride to her husband’s clan.

These customs seem to mark the transfer of the woman from her father’s to her husband’s clan, which was in the first instance effected forcibly and afterwards by the free gift of her father or guardian, and the change of surname would be a relic of the change of clan. Among the Hindus a girl is never called by her proper name in her husband’s house, but always by some other name or nickname. This custom seems to be a relic of the period when the name denoted the clan, though it no longer has any reference either to the girl’s clan or family. Another rite portraying the transfer in India is the marking of the bride’s forehead with vermilion, which is no doubt a substitute for blood. The ceremony would be a relic of participation in the clan sacrifice when the bride would in the first place drink the blood of the totem animal or tribal god with the bridegroom in sign of her admission to his clan and afterwards be marked with the blood as a substitute. This smear of vermilion a married woman always continues to wear as a sign of her state, unless she wears pink powder or a spangle as a substitute.167 Where this pink powder (kunku) or spangles are used they must always be given by the bridegroom [151]to the bride as part of the Sohāg or trousseau. At a Bhaina wedding 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 bridegroom worships the image, lighting a sacrificial fire before it, or offers to it the vermilion which he afterwards smears upon the forehead of the bride. The Khadāls at their marriages worship their totem animal or tree, and offer to it flowers, sandalwood, vermilion, uncooked rice, and the new clothes and ornaments intended for the bride, which she may not wear until this ceremony has been performed. Again, the sacrament of the Meher or marriage cakes is sometimes connected with the clan totem in India. These cakes are cooked and eaten sacramentally by all the members of the family and their relatives, the bride and bridegroom commencing first. Among the Kols the relatives to whom these cakes are distributed cannot intermarry, and this indicates that the eating of them was formerly a sacrament of the exogamous clan. The association of the totem with the marriage cakes is sometimes clearly shown. Thus in the Dahāit caste members of the clans named after certain trees, go to the tree at the time of their weddings and invite it to be present at the ceremony. They offer the marriage cakes to the tree. Those of the Nāgotia or cobra clan deposit the cakes at a snake’s hole. Members of the Singh (lion) and Bāgh (tiger) clans draw images of these animals on the wall at the time of their weddings and offer the cakes to them. The Basors of the Kulatia or somersault clan do somersaults at the time of eating the cakes; those of the Karai Nor clan, who venerate a well, eat the cakes at a well and not at home. Basors of the Lurhia clan, who venerate a grinding-stone, worship this implement at the time of eating the marriage cakes. M. Fustel de Coulanges states that the Roman Confarreatio, or eating of a cake together by the bride and bridegroom in the presence of the family gods of the latter, constituted their holy union or marriage. By this act the wife was transferred to the gods and religion of her husband.168 Here the gods referred to are clearly held to be the family gods, and in the historical period it [152]seems doubtful whether the Roman gens was still exogamous. But if the patriarchal family developed within the exogamous clan tracing descent through males, and finally supplanted the clan as the most important social unit, then it would follow that the family gods were only a substitute for the clan gods, and the bride came to be transferred to her husband’s family instead of to his clan. The marriage ceremony in Greece consisted of a common meal of a precisely similar character,169 and the English wedding cake seems to be a survival of such a rite. At their weddings the Bhīls make cakes of the large millet juāri, calling it Juāri Māta or Mother Juāri. These cakes are eaten at the houses of the bride and bridegroom by the members of their respective clans, and the remains are buried inside the house as sacred food. Dr. Howitt states of the Kurnai tribe: “By and by, when the bruises and perhaps wounds received in these fights (between the young men and women) had healed, a young man and a young woman might meet, and he, looking at her, would say, for instance, ‘Djiitgun!170 What does the Djiitgun eat?’ The reply would be ‘She eats kangaroo, opossum,’ or some other game. This constituted a formal offer and acceptance, and would be followed by the elopement of the couple as described in the chapter on Marriage.”171 There is no statement that the question about eating refers to the totem, but this must apparently have been the original bearing of the question, which otherwise would be meaningless. Since this proposal of marriage followed on a fight between the boys and girls arising from the fact that one party had injured the other party’s sex-totem, the fight may perhaps really have been a preliminary to the proposal and have represented a symbolic substitute for or survival of marriage by capture. Among the Santāls, Colonel Dalton says, “the social meal that the boy and girl eat together is the most important part of the ceremony, as by the act the girl ceases to belong to her father’s tribe and becomes a member of the husband’s family.” Since the terms tribe and family [153]are obviously used loosely in the above statement, we may perhaps substitute clan in both cases. Many other instances of the rite of eating together at a wedding are given by Dr. Westermarck.172 If, therefore, it be supposed that the wedding ceremony consisted originally of the formal transfer of the bride to the bridegroom’s clan, and further that the original tie which united the totem-clan was the common eating of the totem animal, then the practice of the bride and bridegroom eating together as a symbol of marriage can be fully understood. When the totem animal had ceased to be the principal means of subsistence, bread, which to a people in the agricultural stage had become the staff or chief support of life, was substituted for it, as argued by Professor Robertson Smith in The Religion of the Semites. If the institution of marriage was thus originally based on the forcible transfer of a woman from her own to her husband’s clan, certain Indian customs become easily explicable in the light of this view. We can understand why a Brāhman or Rājpūt thought it essential to marry his daughter into a clan or family of higher status than his own; because the disgrace of having his daughter taken from him by what had been originally an act of force, was atoned for by the superior rank of the captor or abductor. And similarly the terms father-in-law and brother-in-law would be regarded as opprobrious because they originally implied not merely that the speaker had married the sister or daughter of the person addressed, but had married her forcibly, thereby placing him in a position of inferiority. A Rājpūt formerly felt it derogatory that any man should address him either as father-or brother-in-law. And the analogous custom of a man refusing to take food in the house of his son-in-law’s family and sometimes even refusing to drink water in their village would be explicable on precisely the same grounds. This view of marriage would also account for the wide prevalence of female infanticide. Because in the primitive condition of exogamy with male descent, girls could not be married in their own clan, as this would transgress the binding law of exogamy, and they could not be transferred from their own totem-clan and [154]married in another except by force and rape. Hence it was thought better to kill girl children than to suffer the ignominy of their being forcibly carried off. Both kinds of female infanticide as distinguished by Sir H. Risley173 would thus originally be due to the same belief. The Khond killed his daughter because she could not be married otherwise than by forcible abduction; not necessarily because he was unable to protect her, but because he could not conceive of her being transferred from one totem-clan to another by any other means; and he was bound to resist the transfer because by acquiescing in it, he would have been guilty of disloyalty to his own totem, whose common life was injured by the loss of the girl. The Rājpūt killed his daughter because it was a disgrace to him to get her married at all outside his clan, and she could not be married within it. Afterwards the disgrace was removed by marrying her into a higher clan than his own and by lavish expenditure on the wedding; and the practice of female infanticide was continued to avoid the ruinous outlay which this primitive view of marriage had originally entailed. The Hindu custom of the Swayamvāra or armed contest for the hand of a Rājpūt princess, and the curious recognition by the Hindu law-books of simple rape as a legitimate form of marriage would be explained on the same ground.

73. The exogamous clan with male descent and the village.

It has been seen that the exogamous clan with female descent contained no married couples, and therefore it was necessary either that outside men should live with it, or that the clans should continually meet each other, or that two or more should live in the same village. With the change to male descent and the transfer of women to their husbands’ clans, this unstable characteristic was removed. Henceforth the clan was self-contained, having its married couples, both members of it, whose children would also be born in and belong to it. Since the clan was originally a body of persons who wandered about and hunted together, its character would be maintained by living together, and there is reason to suppose that the Indian exogamous clan with male descent took its special character because its [155]members usually lived in one or more villages. This fact would account for the large number and multiplication of clans in India as compared with other places. As already seen one of the names of a clan is khera, which also means a village, and a large number of the clan names are derived from, or the same, as those of villages. Among the Khonds all the members of one clan live in the same locality about some central village. Thus the Tupa clan are collected about the village of Teplagārh in Patna State, the Loa clan round Sindhekala, the Borga clan round Bangomunda and so on. The Nunias of Mīrzāpur, Mr. Crooke remarks,174 have a system of local subdivisions called dīh, each subdivision being named after the village which is supposed to be its home. The word dīh itself means a site or village. Those who have the same dīh do not intermarry. In the villages first settled by the Oraons, Father Dehon states,175 the population is divided into three khunts or branches, the founders of the three branches being held to have been sons of the first settler. Members of each branch belong to the same clan or got. Each khunt or branch has a share of the village lands. The Mochis or cobblers have forty exogamous sections or gotras, mostly named after Rājpūt clans, and they also have an equal number of kheras or groups named after villages. The limits of the two groups seem to be identical; and members of each group have an ancestral village from which they are supposed to have come. Marriage is now regulated by the Rājpūt sept-names, but the probability is that the kheras were the original divisions, and the Rājpūt gotras have been more recently adopted in support of the claims already noticed. The Parjas have totemistic exogamous clans and marriage is prohibited in theory between members of the same clan. But as the number of clans is rather small, the rule is not adhered to, and members of the same clan are permitted to marry so long as they do not come from the same village. The Mīnas of Rājputāna are divided into twelve exogamous pāls or clans; the original meaning of the word pāl was a [156]defile or valley suitable for defence, where the members of the clan would live together as in a Scotch glen.

Thus among the cultivating castes apparently each exogamous clan consisted originally of the residents of one village, though they afterwards spread to a number of villages. The servile labouring castes may also have arranged their clans by villages as the primitive forest-tribes did. How the menial castes formed exogamous clans is not altogether clear, as the numbers in one village would be only small. But it may be supposed that as they gradually increased, clans came into existence either in one large village or a number of adjacent ones, and sometimes traced their descent from a single family or from an ancestor with a nickname. As a rule, the artisan castes do not appear to have formed villages of their own in India, as they did in Russia, though this may occasionally have happened. When among the cultivating castes the lands were divided, separate joint families would be constituted; the head only of each family would be its representative in the clan, as he would hold the share of the village land assigned to the family, which was their joint means of subsistence, and the family would live in one household. Thus perhaps the Hindu joint family came into existence as a subdivision of the exogamous clan with male descent, on which its constitution was modelled. In Chhattīsgarh families still live together in large enclosures with separate huts for the married couples. A human ancestor gradually took the place of the totem as the giver of life to the clan. The members thought themselves bound together by the tie of his blood which flowed through all their veins, and frequently, as in Athens, Rome and Scotland, every member of the clan bore his name. In this capacity, as the source of the clan’s life, the original ancestor was perhaps venerated, and on the development of the family system within the clan, the ancestors of the family were held in a similar regard, and the feeling extended to the living ancestor or father, who is treated with the greatest deference in the early patriarchal family. Even now Hindu boys, though they may be better educated and more intelligent than their father, will not as a rule address him at meals unless he speaks to them first, on account of their [157]traditional respect for him. The regard for the father may be strengthened by his position as the stay and support of the family, but could scarcely have arisen solely from this cause.

Dr. Westermarck’s view that the origin of exogamy lay in the feeling against the marriage of persons who lived together, receives support from the fact that a feeling of kinship still subsists between Hindus living in the same village, even though they may belong to different castes and clans. It is commonly found that all the households of a village believe themselves in a manner related. A man will address all the men of the generation above his own as uncle, though they may be of different castes, and the children of the generation below his own as niece and nephew. When a girl is married, all the old men of the village call her husband ‘son-in-law.’ This extends even to the impure castes who cannot be touched. Yet owing to the fact that they live together they are considered by fiction to be related. The Gowāri caste do not employ Brāhmans for their weddings, but the ceremony is performed by the bhānja or sister’s son either of the girl’s father or the boy’s father. If he is not available, any one whom either the girl’s father or the boy’s father addresses as bhānja or nephew in the village, even though he may be no relation and may belong to another caste, may perform the ceremony as a substitute. Among the Oraons and other tribes prenuptial intercourse between boys and girls of the same village is regularly allowed. It is not considered right, however, that these unions should end in marriage, for which partners should be sought from other villages.176 In the Marātha country the villagers have a communal feast on the occasion of the Dasahra festival, the Kunbis or cultivators eating first and the members of the menial and labouring castes afterwards.

74. The large exogamous clans of the Brāhmans and Rājpūts. The Sapindas, the gens and the γένος.

The Brāhmans and Rājpūts, however, and one or two other military castes, as the Marāthas and Lodhis, do not have the small exogamous clans (which probably, as has been seen, represented the persons who lived together in a village), but large ones. Thus the Rājpūts were divided into thirty-six royal races, and theoretically all these should [158]have been exogamous, marrying with each other. Each great clan was afterwards, as a rule, split into a number of branches, and it is probable that these became exogamous; while in cases where a community of Rājpūts have settled on the land and become ordinary cultivators, they have developed into an endogamous subcaste containing small clans of the ordinary type. It seems likely that the Rājpūt clan originally consisted of those who followed the chief to battle and fought together, and hence considered themselves to be related. This was, as a matter of fact, the case. Colonel Tod states that the great Rāthor clan, who said that they could muster a hundred thousand swords, spoke of themselves as the sons of one father. The members of the Scotch clans considered themselves related in the same manner, and they were probably of similar character to the Rājpūt clans.177 I do not know, however, that there is any definite evidence as to the exogamy of the Scotch clans, which would have disappeared with their conversion to Christianity. The original Rājpūt clan may perhaps have lived round the chiefs castle or headquarters and been supported by the produce of his private fief or demesne. The regular Brāhman gotras are also few in number, possibly because they were limited by the paucity of eponymous saints of the first rank. The word gotra means a stall or cow-pen, and would thus originally signify those who lived together in one place like a herd of cattle. But the gotras are now exceedingly large, the same ones being found in most or all of the Brāhman subcastes, and it is believed that they do not regulate marriage as a rule. Sometimes ordinary surnames have taken the place of clan names, and persons with the same surname consider themselves related and do not marry. But usually Brāhmans prohibit marriage between Sapindas or persons related to each other within seven degrees from a common ancestor. The word Sapinda signifies those who partake together of the pindas or funeral cakes offered to the dead. The Sapindas are also a man’s heirs in the absence of closer relations; the group of the Sapindas is thus an exact replica within the gotra of the primitive totem clan which [159]was exogamous and constituted by the tie of living and eating together. Similarly marriage at Rome was prohibited to seven degrees of relationship through males within the gens,178 and this exogamous group of kinsmen appear to have been the body of agnatic kinsmen within the gens who are referred to by Sir H. Maine as a man’s ultimate heirs.179 At Athens, when a contest arose upon a question of inheritance, the proper legal evidence to establish kinship was the proof that the alleged ancestor and the alleged heir observed a common worship and shared in the same repast in honour of the dead.180 The distant heirs were thus a group within the Athenian γένος corresponding to the Sapindas and bound by the same tie of eating together. Professor Hearn states that there is no certain evidence that the Roman gens and Greek γένος were originally exogamous, but we find that of the Roman matrons whose names are known to us none married a husband with her own Gentile name; and further, that Plutarch, in writing of the Romans, says that in former days men did not marry women of their own blood or, as in the preceding sentence he calls them, kinswomen συγγενίδας, just as in his own day they did not marry their aunts or sisters; and he adds that it was long before they consented to wed with cousins.181 Professor Hearn’s opinion was that the Hindu gotra, the Roman gens and the Greek γένος were originally the same institution, the exogamous clan with male descent, and all the evidence available, as well as the close correspondence in other respects of early Hindu institutions with those of the Greek and Latin cities would tend to support this view.

Hindu bathing party

Hindu bathing party

75. Comparison of Hindu society with that of Greece and Rome. The gens.

In the admirable account of the early constitution of the city-states of Greece and Italy contained in the work of M. Fustel de Coulanges, La Cité Antique, a close resemblance may be traced with the main strata of Hindu society given earlier in this essay. The Roman state was composed of a number of gentes or clans, each gens tracing its descent [160]from a common ancestor, whose name it usually bore. The termination of the Gentile name in ius signified descendant, as Claudius, Fabius, and so on. Similarly the names of the Athenian γένη or clans ended in ides or ades, as Butades, Phytalides, which had the same signification.182 The Gentile or clan name was the nomen or principal name, just as the personal names of the members of the totem-clans were at first connected with the totems. The members of the gens lived together on a section of the city land and cultivated it under the control of the head of the gens. The original ager Romanus is held to have been 115 square miles or about 74,000 acres,183 and this was divided up among the clans. The heads of clans originally lived on their estates and went in to Rome for the periodical feasts and other duties. The principal family or eldest branch of the gens in the descent from a common ancestor ranked above the others, and its head held the position of a petty king in the territory of the gens. In Greece he was called ἄναξ or βασιλεύς.184 Originally the Roman Senate consisted solely of the heads of gentes, and the consuls, flamens and augurs were also chosen exclusively from them; they were known as patres; after the expulsion of the kings, fresh senators were added from the junior branches of the gentes, of which there were at this period 160, and these were known as patres conscripti185. The distinction between the eldest and junior branches of the gentes may have corresponded to the distinction between the Kshatriyas and Vaishyas, though as practically nothing is known of the constitution of the original Kshatriyas, this can only be hypothetical.

76. The clients.

Within the gens, and living in the household or households of its members, there existed a body of slaves, and also another class of persons called clients.186 The client was a servant and dependant; he might be assigned a plot of land by his patron, but at first could not transmit it nor hold it against his patron. It is probable that originally he had no right of property of his own, but he gradually acquired it. First he obtained a right of occupancy in his land and of its [161]devolution to his son if he had one. Finally he was given the power of making a will. But he was still obliged to contribute to such expenses of the patron as ransom in war, fines imposed by the courts, or the dowry of a daughter.187 The client was considered as a member of the family and bore its name.188 But he was not a proper member of the family or gens, because his pedigree never ascended to a pater or the head of a gens.189 It was incumbent on the patron to protect the client, and guard his interests both in peace and war. The client participated in the household and Gentile sacrifices and worshipped the gods of the gens.190 At first the people of Rome consisted of three classes, the patricians, the clients and the plebeians. In course of time, as the rights and privileges of the plebeians increased after the appointment of tribunes, their position, from having originally been much inferior, became superior to that of the clients, and the latter preferred to throw off the tie uniting them to their patrons and become merged in the plebeians. In this manner the intermediate class of clients at length entirely disappeared.191 These clients must not be confused with the subsequent class of the same name, who are found during the later period of the republic and the empire, and were the voluntary supporters or hangers-on of rich men. It would appear that these early clients corresponded very closely to the household servants of the Indian cultivators, from whom the village menial castes were developed. The Roman client was sometimes a freed slave, but this would not have made him a member of the family, even in a subordinate position. Apparently the class of clients may have to a great extent originated in mixed descent, as the Indian household and village menials probably did. This view would account satisfactorily for the client’s position as a member of the family but not a proper one. From the fact that they were considered one of the three principal divisions of the people it is clear that the clients must at one time have been numerous and important.

77. The plebeians.

Below the clients came the plebeians, whose position, as [162]M. Fustel de Coulanges himself points out, corresponded very closely to that of the Sūdras. The plebeians had no religion and no ancestors; they did not belong to a family or a gens.192 They were a despised and abject class, who lived like beasts outside the proper boundary of the city. The touch of the plebeian was impure.193 “When tribunes were created a special law was necessary to protect their life and liberty, and it was promulgated as follows: ‘It is forbidden to strike or kill a tribune, as if he was an ordinary plebeian.’ It would appear then that a patrician had the right to strike or kill an ordinary plebeian, or at least that he was amenable to no legal punishment for doing so.”194 Similarly in the ancient Greek cities the citizens were known as ἀγαθοί or good, and the plebeians as κακοί or bad. This latter class is described by the poet Theognis as having had aforetime neither tribunals nor laws; they were not allowed even to enter the town, but lived outside like wild beasts. They had no part in the religious feasts and could not intermarry with the proper citizens.195

This position corresponds exactly with that of the Sūdras and the existing impure castes, who have to live outside the village and cannot enter or even approach Hindu temples.

M. de Coulanges considers that the plebeians were to a large extent made up of conquered and subjected peoples. An asylum was also established at Rome for broken men and outlaws from other cities, with a view to increasing the population and strength of the state. Subsequently the class of clients became absorbed among the plebeians.

78. The binding social tie in the city-states.

Thus the gradation of society in the city-states of Greece and Italy, the account given above being typical of them all, is seen to correspond fairly closely with that of the Hindus, as exemplified in the Hindu classics and the microcosm of Hindu society, the village community. It is desirable, therefore, to inquire what was the tie which united the members of the gens, the curia or phratry, and the city, and which distinguished the patricians from the plebeians. [163]On this point M. Fustel de Coulanges leaves us in no doubt at all. The bond of union among all these bodies was a common sacrifice or sacrificial meal, at which all the members had to be present. “The principal ceremony of the religion of the household was a meal, which was called a sacrifice. To eat a meal prepared on an altar was, according to all appearance, the first form of religious worship.”196 “The principal ceremony of the religion of the city was also a public feast; it had to be partaken of communally by all the citizens in honour of the tutelary deities. The custom of holding these public feasts was universal in Greece; and it was believed that the safety of the city depended on their accomplishment.”197 M. de Coulanges quotes from the Odyssey an account of one of these sacred feasts at which nine long tables were set out for the people of Pylos; five hundred citizens were seated and nine bulls were slaughtered for each table. When Orestes arrived at Athens after the murder of his mother, he found the people, assembled round their king, about to hold the sacred feast. Similar feasts were held and numerous victims were slaughtered in Xenophon’s time.198 At these meals the guests were crowned with garlands and the vessels were of a special form and material, such as copper or earthenware, no doubt dating from the antique past.199 As regards the importance and necessity of being present at the Gentile sacrificial feast, the same author states: “The Capitol was blockaded by the Gauls; but Fabius left it and passed through the hostile lines, clad in religious garb, and carrying in his hand the sacred objects; he was going to offer a sacrifice on the altar of his gens which was situated on the Quirinal. In the second Punic war another Fabius, he who was called the buckler of Rome, was holding Hannibal in check; it was assuredly of the greatest importance to the Republic that he should not leave his army; he left it, however, in the hands of the imprudent Minucius; it was because the anniversary day of the sacrifice of his gens had come and it was necessary that he should hasten to Rome to perform the sacred rite.” In Greece the members of the gens were [164]known by the fact that they performed communal sacrifices together from a remote period.200 As already seen, a communal sacrifice meant the eating together of the sacred food, whether the flesh of a victim or grain.

79. The Suovetaurilia.

The Roman city sacrifice of the Suovetaurilia, as described by M. de Coulanges, is of the greatest interest. The magistrate whose duty it was to accomplish it, that is in the first place the king, after him the consul, and after him the censor, had first to take the auspices and ascertain that the gods were favourable. Then he summoned the people through a herald by a consecrated form of words. On the appointed day all the citizens assembled outside the walls; and while they stood silent the magistrate proceeded three times round the assembly, driving before him three victims—a pig, a ram and a bull. The combination of these three victims constituted with the Greeks as well as the Romans an expiatory sacrifice. Priests and attendants followed the procession: when the third round had been accomplished, the magistrate pronounced a prayer and slaughtered the victims. From this moment all sins were expiated, and neglect of religious duties effaced, and the city was at peace with its gods.

There were two essential features of this ceremony: the first, that no stranger should be present at it; and the second, that no citizen should be absent from it. In the latter case the whole city might not have been freed from impurity. The Suovetaurilia was therefore preceded by a census, which was conducted with the greatest care both at Rome and Athens. The citizen who was not enrolled and was not present at the sacrifice could no longer be a member of the city. He could be beaten and sold as a slave, this rule being relaxed only in the last two centuries of the Republic. Only male citizens were present at the sacrifice, but they gave a list of their families and belongings to the censor, and these were considered to be purified through the head of the family.201

This sacrifice was called a lustratio or purification, and in the historical period was considered to be expiatory. But it does not seem probable that this was its original [165]significance. For there would not in that case have been the paramount necessity for every citizen to be present. All females and children under power were purified through the list given to the censor, and there seems no reason why absent citizens could not have been purified in the same manner. But participation in this sacrifice was itself the very test and essence of citizenship. And it has been seen that a public meal was the principal religious rite of the city. The conclusion therefore seems reasonable that the Suovetaurilia was originally also a sacrificial meal of which each citizen partook, and that the eating of the deified domestic animals in common was the essence of the rite and the act which conferred the privilege of citizenship. The driving of the sacrificial animals round the citizens three times might well be a substitute for the previous communal meal, if for any reason, such as the large number of citizens, the practice of eating them had fallen into abeyance. The original ground for the taking of a census was to ensure that all the citizens were present at the communal sacrifice; and it was by the place which a man occupied on this day that his rank in the city was determined till the next sacrifice. If the censor counted him among the senators, he remained a senator; if among the equites, he remained a knight; if as a simple member of a tribe, he belonged henceforward to the tribe in which he was counted. If the censor refused to enumerate him, he was no longer a citizen.202 Such was the vital importance of the act of participation in the sacrifice.

80. The sacrifice of the domestic animal.

The Roman sacrifice of the Suovetaurilia was in no way peculiar, similar rites being found in other Greek and Latin cities. Some instances are recorded in the article on Kasai, and in Themis203 Miss Jane Harrison gives an account of a sacrifice at Magnesia in which a bull, ram and he- and she-goats were sacrificed to the gods and partaken of communally by the citizens. As already seen, the act of participation in the sacrifice conferred the status of citizenship. The domestic animals were not as a rule eaten, but their milk was drunk, and they were used for transport, and [166]clothes were perhaps sometimes made from their hair and skins. Hence they were the principal source of life of the tribe, as the totem had been of the clan, and were venerated and deified. One common life was held to run through all the members of the tribe and all the domestic animals of the species which was its principal means of support. In the totem or hunting stage the clan had necessarily been small, because a large collection of persons could not subsist together by hunting and the consumption of roots and fruits. When an additional means of support was afforded by the domestication of an important animal, a much larger number of persons could live together, and apparently several clans became amalgamated into a tribe. The sanctity of the domestic animals was much greater than that of the totem because they lived with man and partook of his food, which was the strongest tie of kinship; and since he still endowed them with self-consciousness and volition, he thought they had come voluntarily to aid him in sustaining life. Both on this account and for fear of injuring the common life they were not usually killed. But it was necessary to primitive man that the tie should take a concrete form and that he should actually assimilate the life of the sacred animal by eating its flesh, and this was accordingly done at a ceremonial sacrifice, which was held annually, and often in the spring, the season of the renewal and increase of life. Since this renewal of the communal life was the concrete tie which bound the tribe together, any one who was absent from it could no longer be a member of the tribe. The whole of this rite and the intense importance attached to it are inexplicable except on the supposition that the tie which had originally constituted the totem-clan was the eating of the totem-animal, and that this tie was perpetuated in the tribe by the communal eating of the domestic animal. The communal sacrifice of the domestic animal was, as already seen, typical of society in the tribal or pastoral stage. But one very important case, in addition to those given above and in the article on Kasai, remains for notice. The Id-ul-Zoha or Bakr-Id festival of the Muhammadans is such a rite. In pre-Islamic times this sacrifice was held at Mecca and all the Arab tribes went to Mecca to celebrate it. The month in which the [167]sacrifice was held was one of those of truce, when the feuds between the different clans were in abeyance so that they could meet at Mecca. Muhammad continued the sacrifice of the Id-ul-Zoha and it is this sacrifice which a good Muhammadan takes the pilgrimage to Mecca to perform. He must be at Mecca on the tenth day of the month of Z’ul Hijjah and perform the sacrifice there, and unless he does this there is no special merit in making the journey to Mecca. It is incumbent on every Muhammadan who can afford it to make the pilgrimage to Mecca or the Hajj once in his life and perform the sacrifice there; and though as a matter of fact only a very small minority of Muhammadans now carry out the rule, the pilgrimage and sacrifice may yet be looked upon as the central and principal rite of the Muhammadan religion. All Muhammadans who cannot go to Mecca nevertheless celebrate the sacrifice at home at the Indian festival of the Id-ul-Zoha and the Turkish and Egyptian Idu-Bairām. At the Id-ul-Zoha any one of four domestic animals, the camel, the cow, the sheep or the goat, may be sacrificed; and this rule makes it a connecting link between the two great Semitic sacrifices described in the article on Kasai, the camel sacrifice of the Arabs in pre-Islamic times and the Passover of the Jews. At the present time one-third of the flesh of the sacrificial animal should be given to the poor, one-third to relations, and the remainder to the sacrificer’s own family.204 Though it has now become a household sacrifice, the communal character thus still partly survives.

81. Sacrifices of the gens and phratry.

Both in Athens and Rome there was a division known as phratry or curia. This apparently consisted of a collection of gentes, γένη, or clans, and would correspond roughly to a Hindu subcaste. The evidence does not show, however, that it was endogamous. The bond which united the phratry or curia was precisely the same as that of the gens or clan and the city. It consisted also in a common meal, which was prepared on the altar, and was eaten with the recitation of prayers, a part being offered to the god, who was held to be present. At Athens on feast-days the members [168]of the phratry assembled round their altar. A victim was sacrificed and its flesh cooked on the altar, and divided among the members of the phratry, great care being taken that no stranger should be present. A young Athenian was presented to the phratry by his father, who swore that the boy was his son. A victim was sacrificed and cooked on the altar in the presence of all the members of the phratry; if they were doubtful of the boy’s legitimacy, and hence wished to refuse him admittance, as they had the right to do, they refused to remove the flesh from the altar. If they did not do this, but divided and partook of the flesh with the candidate, he was finally and irrevocably admitted to the phratry. The explanation of this custom, M. de Coulanges states, is that food prepared on an altar and eaten by a number of persons together, was believed to establish between them a sacred tie which endured through life.205 Even a slave was to a certain degree admitted into the family by the same tie of common eating of food. At Athens he was made to approach the hearth; he was purified by pouring water on his head, and ate some cakes and fruit with the members of the family. This ceremony was analogous to those of marriage and adoption. It signified that the new arrival, hitherto a stranger, was henceforth a member of the family and participated in the family worship.206

82. The Hindu caste-feasts.

The analogy of Greece and Rome would suggest the probability that the tie uniting the members of the Indian caste or subcaste is also participation in a common sacrificial meal, and there is a considerable amount of evidence to support this view. The Confarreatio or eating together of the bride and bridegroom finds a close parallel in the family sacrament of the Meher or marriage cakes, which has already been described. This would appear formerly to have been a clan rite, and to have marked the admission of the bride to the bridegroom’s clan. It is obligatory on relations of the families to attend a wedding and they proceed from great distances to do so, and clerks and other officials are much aggrieved if the exigencies of Government business prevent them from obtaining leave. The obligation seems to be of the same character as that which caused Fabius to leave the [169]army in order to attend his Gentile sacrifice at Rome. If he did not attend the Gentile sacrifice he was not a member of the gens, and if a Hindu did not attend the feast of his clan in past times perhaps he did not remain a member of the clan. Among the Marātha Brāhmans the girl-bride eats with her husband’s relations on this day only to mark her admission into their clan, and among the Bengali Brāhmans, when the wedding guests are collected, the bride comes and puts a little sugar on each of their leaf-plates, which they eat in token of their recognition of her in her new status of married woman. The members of the caste or subcaste also assemble and eat together on three occasions: at a marriage, which will have the effect of bringing new life into the community; at a death, when a life is lost; and at the initiation of a new member or the readmission of an offender temporarily put out of caste. It is a general rule of the caste feasts that all members of the subcaste in the locality must be invited, and if any considerable number of them do not attend, the host’s position in the community is impugned. For this reason he has to incur lavish expenditure on the feast, so as to avoid criticism or dissatisfaction among his guests. These consider themselves at liberty to comment freely on the character and quality of the provisions offered to them. In most castes the feast cannot begin until all the guests have assembled; the Maheshri Banias and one or two other castes are distinguished by the fact that they allow the guests at the pangat or caste feast to begin eating as they arrive. Those who bear the host a grudge purposely stay away, and he has to run to their houses and beg them to come, so that his feast can begin. When the feast has begun it was formerly considered a great calamity if any accident should necessitate the rising of the guests before its conclusion. Even if a dog or other impure animal should enter the assembly they would not rise. The explanation of this rule was that it would be disrespectful to Um Deo, the food-god, to interrupt the feast. At the feast each man sits with his bare crossed knees actually touching those of the men on each side of him, to show that they are one brotherhood and one body. If a man sat even a few inches apart from his fellows, people would say he was out of caste; [170]and in recent times, since those out of caste have been allowed to attend the feasts, they sit a little apart in this manner. The Gowāris fine a man who uses abusive language to a fellow-casteman at a caste feast, and also one who gets up and leaves the feast without the permission of the caste headman. The Hatkars have as the names of two exogamous groups Wakmār, or one who left the Pangat or caste feast while his fellows were eating; and Polya, or one who did not take off his turban at the feast. It has been seen also207 that in one or two castes the exogamous sections are named after the offices which their members hold or the duties they perform at the caste feast. Among the Halbas the illegitimate subcaste Surāit is also known as Chhoti Pangat or the inferior feast, with the implication that its members cannot be admitted to the proper feast of the caste, but have an inferior one of their own.

83. Taking food at initiation.

When an outsider is admitted to the caste the rite is usually connected with food. A man who is to be admitted to the Dahāit caste must clean his house, break his earthen cooking-vessels and buy new ones, and give a feast to the caste-fellows in his house. He sits and takes food with them, and when the meal is over he takes a grain of rice from the leaf-plate of each guest and eats it, and drinks a drop of water from his leaf-cup. After this he cannot be readmitted to his own caste. A new Mehtar or sweeper gives water to and takes bread from each casteman. In Mandla a new convert to the Panka caste vacates his house and the caste panchāyat or committee go and live in it, in order to purify it. He gives them a feast inside the house, while he himself stays outside. Finally he is permitted to eat with the panchāyat in his own house in order to mark his admission into the caste. A candidate for admission in the Mahli caste has to eat a little of the leavings of the food of each of the castemen at a feast. The community of robbers known as Badhak or Baoria formerly dwelt in the Oudh forests. They were accustomed to take omens from the cry of the jackal, and they may probably have venerated it as representing the spirit of the forest and as a fellow-hunter. They were called jackal-eaters, and it was [171]said that when an outsider was admitted to one of their bands he was given jackal’s flesh to eat.

Again, the rite of initiation or investiture with the sacred thread appears to be the occasion of the admission of a boy to the caste community. Before this he is not really a member of the caste and may eat any kind of food. The initiation is called by the Brāhmans the second birth, and appears to be the birth of the soul or spirit. After it the boy will eat the sacrificial food at the caste feasts and be united with the members of the caste and their god. The bodies of children who have not been initiated are buried and not burnt. The reason seems to be that their spirits will not go to the god nor be united with the ancestors, but will be born again. Formerly such children were often buried in the house or courtyard so that their spirits might be born again in the same family. The lower castes sometimes consider the rite of ear-piercing as the initiation and sometimes marriage. Among the Panwār Rājpūts a child is initiated when about two years old by being given cooked rice and milk to eat. The initiation cannot for some reason be performed by the natural father, but must be done by a guru or spiritual father, who should thereafter be regarded with a reverence equal to or even exceeding that paid to the natural father.

84. Penalty feasts.

When a man is readmitted to caste after exclusion for some offence, the principal feature of the rite is a feast at which he is again permitted to eat with his fellows. There are commonly two feasts, one known as the Maili Roti or impure meal, and the other as Chokhi or pure, both being at the cost of the offender. The former is eaten by the side of a stream or elsewhere on neutral ground, and by it the offender is considered to be partly purified; the latter is in his own house, and by eating there the castemen demonstrate that no impurity attaches to him, and he is again a full member. Some castes, as the Dhobas, have three feasts: the first is eaten at the bank of a stream, and at this the offender’s hair is shaved and thrown into the stream; the second is in his yard; and the third in his house. The offender is not allowed to partake of the first two meals himself, but he joins in the third, and before it [172]begins the head of the panchāyat gives him water to drink in which gold has been dipped as a purificatory rite. Among the Gonds the flesh of goats is provided at the first meal, but at the second only grain cooked with water, which they now, in imitation of the Hindus, consider as the sacred sacrificial food. Frequently the view obtains that the head of the caste panchāyat takes the offender’s sins upon himself by commencing to eat, and in return for this a present of some rupees is deposited beneath his plate. Similarly among some castes, as the Bahnas, exclusion from caste is known as the stopping of food and water. The Gowāris readmit offenders by the joint drinking of opium and water. One member is especially charged with the preparation of this, and if there should not be enough for all the castemen to partake of it, he is severely punished. Opium was also considered sacred by the Rājpūts, and the chief and his kinsmen were accustomed to drink it together as a pledge of amity.208

85. Sanctity of grain-food.

Grain cooked with water is considered as sacred food by the Hindus. It should be eaten only on a space within the house called chauka purified with cowdung, and sometimes marked out with white quartz-powder or flour. Before taking his meal a member of the higher castes should bathe and worship the household gods. At the meal he should wear no sewn clothes, but only a waist-cloth made of silk or wool, and not of cotton. The lower castes will take food cooked with water outside the house in the fields, and are looked down upon for doing this, so that those who aspire to raise their social position abandon the practice, or at least pretend to do so. Sir J.G. Frazer quotes a passage showing that the ancient Brāhmans considered the sacrificial rice-cakes cooked with water to be transformed into human bodies.209 The Urdu word bali means a sacrifice or offering, and is applied to the portion of the daily meal which is offered to the gods and to the hearth-fire. Thus all grain cooked with water is apparently looked upon as sacred or sacramental food, and it is for this reason that it can only be eaten after the purificatory rites already described. The grain is [173]venerated as the chief means of subsistence, and the communal eating of it seems to be analogous to the sacrificial eating of the domestic animals, such as the camel, horse, ox and sheep, which is described above and in the article on Kasai. Just as in the hunting stage the eating of the totem-animal, which furnished the chief means of subsistence, was the tie which united the totem-clan: and in the pastoral stage the domestic animal which afforded to the tribe its principal support, not usually as an article of food, but through its milk and its use as a means of transport, was yet eaten sacrificially owing to the persistence of the belief that the essential bond which united the tribe was the communal eating of the flesh of the animal from which the tribe obtained its subsistence: so when the community reaches the agricultural stage the old communal feast is retained as the bond of union, but it now consists of grain, which is the principal support of life.

86. The corn-sprit.

The totem-animal was regarded as a kinsman, and the domestic animal often as a god.210 But in both these cases the life of the kinsman and god was sacrificed in order that the community might be bound together by eating the body and assimilating the life. Consequently, when grain came to be the sacrificial food, it was often held that an animal or human being must be sacrificed in the character of the corn-god or spirit, whether his own flesh was eaten or the sacred grain was imagined to be his flesh. Numerous instances of the sacrifice of the corn-spirit have been adduced by Sir J.G. Frazer in The Golden Bough, and it was he who brought this custom prominently to notice. One of the most important cases in India was the Meriah-sacrifice of the Khonds, which is described in the article on that tribe.

Two features of the Khond sacrifice of a human victim as a corn-spirit appear to indicate its derivation from the sacrifice of the domestic animal and the eating of the totem-animal, the ties uniting the clan and tribe: first, that the flesh was cut from the living victim, and, second, that the sacrifice was communal. When the Meriah-victim was bound the Khonds hacked at him with their knives while life remained, leaving only the head and bowels untouched, so [174]that each man might secure a strip of flesh. This rite appears to recall the earliest period when the members of the primitive group or clan tore their prey to pieces and ate and drank the raw flesh and blood. The reason for its survival was apparently that it was the actual life of the divine victim, existing in concrete form in the flesh and blood which they desired to obtain, and they thought that this end was more certainly achieved by cutting the flesh off him while he was still alive. In the sacrifice of the camel in Arabia the same procedure was followed; the camel was bound on an altar and the tribesmen cut the flesh from the body with their knives and swallowed it raw and bleeding.211 M. Salomon Reinach shows how the memory of similar sacrifices in Greece has been preserved in legend:212 “Actaeon was really a great stag sacrificed by women devotees, who called themselves the great hind and the little hinds; he became the rash hunter who surprised Artemis at her bath and was transformed into a stag and devoured by his own dogs. The dogs are a euphemism; in the early legend they were the human devotees of the sacred stag who tore him to pieces and devoured him with their bare teeth. These feasts of raw flesh survived in the secret religious cults of Greece long after uncooked food had ceased to be consumed in ordinary life. Orpheus (ophreus, the haughty), who appears in art with the skin of a fox on his head, was originally a sacred fox devoured by the women of the fox totem-clan; these women call themselves Bassarides in the legend, and bassareus is one of the old names of the fox. Hippolytus in the fable is the son of Theseus who repels the advances of Phaedra, his stepmother, and was killed by his runaway horses because Theseus, deceived by Phaedra, invoked the anger of a god upon him. But Hippolytus in Greek means ‘one torn to pieces by horses.’ Hippolytus is himself a horse whom the worshippers of the horse, calling themselves horses and disguised as such, tore to pieces and devoured.” All such sacrifices in which the flesh was taken from the living victim may thus perhaps be derived from the common origin of totemism. The second point about the Khond sacrifice is that it was communal; every householder [175]desired a piece of the flesh, and for those who could not be present at the sacrifice relays of messengers were posted to carry it to them while it was still fresh and might be supposed to retain the life. They did not eat the strips of flesh, but each householder buried his piece in his field, which they believed would thereby be fertilised and caused to produce the grain which they would eat. The death of the victim was considered essential to the life of the tribe, which would be renewed and strengthened by it as in the case of the sacrifice of the domestic animal. Lord Avebury gives in The Origin of Civilisation213 an almost exact parallel to the Khond sacrifice in which the flesh of the victim actually was eaten. This occurred among the Marimos, a tribe of South Africa much resembling the Bechuanas. The ceremony was called ‘the boiling of the corn.’ A young man, stout but of small stature, was usually selected and secured by violence or by intoxicating him with yaala. “They then lead him into the fields, and sacrifice him in the fields, according to their own expression, for seed. His blood, after having been coagulated by the rays of the sun, is burned along with the frontal bone, the flesh attached to it and the brain. The ashes are then scattered over the fields to fertilise them and the remainder of the body is eaten.” In other cases quoted by the same author an image only was made of flour and eaten instead of a human being:214 “In Mexico at a certain period of the year the priest of Quetzalcoatl made an image of the Deity, of meal mixed with infants’ blood, and then, after many impressive ceremonies, killed the image by shooting it with an arrow, and tore out the heart, which was eaten by the king, while the rest of the body was distributed among the people, every one of whom was anxious to procure a piece to eat, however small.” Here the communal sacrificial meal, the remaining link necessary to connect the sacrifice of the corn-spirit with that of the domestic animal and clan totem, is present. Among cases of animals sacrificed as the corn-spirit in India that of the buffalo at the Dasahra festival is the most important. The rite extends over most of India, and a full and interesting account of it has recently been published [176]by Mr. W. Crooke.215 The buffalo is probably considered as the corn-spirit because it was the animal which mainly damaged the crops in past times. Where the sacrifice still survives the proprietor of the village usually makes the first cut in the buffalo and it is then killed and eaten by the inferior castes, as Hindus cannot now touch the flesh. In the Deccan after the buffalo is killed the Mahārs rush on the carcase and each one secures a piece of the flesh. This done they go in procession round the walls, calling on the spirits and demons, and asking them to accept the pieces of meat as offerings, which are then thrown to them backwards over the wall.216 The buffalo is now looked upon in the light of a scape-goat, but the procedure described above cannot be satisfactorily explained on the scape-goat theory, and would appear clearly to have been substituted for the former eating of the flesh. In the Marātha Districts the lower castes have a periodical sacrifice of a pig to the sun; they eat the flesh of the pig together, and even the Panwār Rājpūts of the Waringanga Valley join in the sacrifice and will allow the impure caste of Mahars to enter their houses and eat of this sacrifice with them, though at other times the entry of a Mahār would defile a Panwār’s house.217 The pig is sacrificed either as the animal which now mainly injures the crops or because it was the principal sacrificial animal of the non-Aryan tribes, or from a combination of both reasons. Probably it may be regarded as the corn-spirit because pigs are sacrificed to Bhanisasur or the buffalo demon for the protection of the crops.

87. The king.

When the community reached the national or agricultural stage some central executive authority became necessary for its preservation. This authority usually fell into the hands of the priest who performed the sacrifice, and he became a king. Since the priest killed the sacrificial animal in which the common life of the community was held to be centred, it was thought that the life passed to him and centred in his person. For the idea of the extinction of life was not properly understood, and the life of a human being or animal [177]might pass by contact, according to primitive ideas, to the person or even the weapon which killed it, just as it could pass by assimilation to those who ate the flesh. In most of the city-states of Greece and Italy the primary function of the kings was the performance of the communal or national sacrifices. Through this act they obtained political power as representing the common life of the people, and its performance was sometimes left to them after their political power had been taken away.218 After the expulsion of the kings from Rome the duty of performing the city sacrifices devolved on the consuls. In India also the kings performed sacrifices. When a king desired to be paramount over his neighbours he sent a horse to march through their territories. If it passed through them without being captured they became subordinate to the king who owned the horse. Finally the horse was sacrificed at the Ashva-medha, the king paramount making the sacrifice, while the other kings performed subordinate parts at it.219 Similarly the Rāja of Nāgpur killed the sacrificial buffalo at the Dasahra festival. But the common life of the people was sometimes conveyed from the domestic animal to the king by other methods than the performance of a sacrifice. The king of Unyoro in Africa might never eat vegetable food but must subsist on milk and beef. Mutton he might not touch, though he could drink beer after partaking of meat. A sacred herd was kept for the king’s use, and nine cows, neither more nor less, were daily brought to the royal enclosure to be milked for his majesty. The boy who brought the cows from the pasture to the royal enclosure must be a member of a particular clan and under the age of puberty, and was subject to other restrictions. The milk for the king was drawn into a sacred pot which neither the milkman nor anybody else might touch. The king drank the milk, sitting on a sacred stool, three times a day, and any which was left over must be drunk by the boy who brought the cows from pasture. Numerous other rules and restrictions are detailed by Sir J.G. Frazer, and it may be suggested that their object was to ensure that the life of the domestic animal and with [178]it the life of the people should be conveyed pure and undefiled to the king through the milk. The kings of Unyoro had to take their own lives while their bodily vigour was still unimpaired. When the period for his death arrived the king asked his wife for a cup of poison and drank it. “The public announcement of the death was made by the chief milkman. Taking a pot of the sacred milk in his hands he mounted the house-top and cried, ‘Who will drink the milk?’ With these words he dashed the pot on the roof; it rolled off and falling to the ground was broken in pieces. That was the signal for war to the death between the princes who aspired to the throne. They fought till only one was left alive. He was the king.”220 After completing the above account, of which only the principal points have been stated, Sir J.G. Frazer remarks: “The rule which obliged the kings of Unyoro to kill themselves or be killed before their strength of mind and body began to fail through disease or age is only a particular example of a custom which appears to have prevailed widely among barbarous tribes in Africa and to some extent elsewhere. Apparently this curious practice rests on a belief that the welfare of the people is sympathetically bound up with the welfare of their king, and that to suffer him to fall into bodily or mental decay would be to involve the whole kingdom in ruin.”221 Other instances connecting the life of the king with the ox or other domestic animal are given in Totemism and Exogamy and The Golden Bough222 Among the Hereros the body of a dead chief was wrapped up in the hide of an ox before being buried.223 In the Vedic horse-sacrifice in India the horse was stifled in robes. The chief queen approached him; a cloak having been thrown over them both, she performed a repulsively obscene act symbolising the transmission to her of his fructifying powers.224 In other cases the king was identified with the corn-spirit, and in this manner he also, it may be suggested, represented the common life of the people.

The belief that the king was the incarnation of the [179]common life of the people led to the most absurd restrictions on his liberty and conduct, a few instances of which from the large collection in The Golden Bough have been quoted in the article on Nai. Thus in an old account of the daily life of the Mikado it is stated: “In ancient times he was obliged to sit on the throne for some hours every morning, with the imperial crown on his head, but to sit altogether like a statue, without stirring either hands or feet, head or eyes, nor indeed any part of his body, because, by this means, it was thought that he could preserve peace and tranquillity in his empire; for if, unfortunately, he turned himself on one side or the other, or if he looked a good while towards any part of his dominions, it was apprehended that war, famine, fire or some great misfortune was near at hand to desolate the country.”225 Here it would appear that by sitting absolutely immobile the king conferred the quality of tranquillity on the common life of his people incarnate in his person; but by looking too long in any one direction he would cause a severe disturbance of the common life in the part to which he looked. And when the Israelites were fighting with the Amalekites, so long as Moses held up his hands the Israelites prevailed; but when his hands hung down they gave way before the enemy. Here apparently the common life was held to be centred in Moses, and when he held his arms up it was vigorous, but declined as he let them down. Similarly it was often thought that the king should be killed as soon as his bodily strength showed signs of waning, so that the common life might be renewed and saved from a similar decay. Even the appearance of grey hair or the loss of a tooth were sometimes considered sufficient reasons for putting the king to death in Africa.226 Another view was that any one who killed the king was entitled to succeed him, because the life of the king, and with it the common life of the people, passed to the slayer, just as it had previously passed from the domestic animal to the priest-king who sacrificed it. One or two instances of succession by killing the king are given [180]in the article on Bhīl. Sometimes the view was that the king should be sacrificed annually, or at other intervals, like the corn-spirit or domestic animal, for the renewal of the common life. And this practice, as shown by Sir J.G. Frazer, tended to result in the substitution of a victim, usually a criminal or slave, who was identified with the king by being given royal honours for a short time before his death. Sometimes the king’s son or daughter was offered as a substitute for him, and such a sacrifice was occasionally made in time of peril, apparently as a means of strengthening or preserving the common life. When Chitor, the home of the Sesodia clan of Rājpūts, was besieged by the Muhammadans, the tradition is that the goddess of their house appeared and demanded the sacrifice of twelve chiefs as a condition of its preservation. Eleven of the chiefs sons were in turn crowned as king, and each ruled for three days, while on the fourth he sallied out and fell in battle. Lastly, the Rāna offered himself in order that his favourite son, Ajeysi, might be spared and might perpetuate the clan. In reality the chief and his sons seem to have devoted themselves in the hope that the sacrifice of the king might bring strength and victory to the clan. The sacrifice of Iphigenia and possibly of Jephthah’s daughter appear to be parallel instances. The story of Alcestis may be an instance of the substitution of the king’s wife. The position of the king in early society and the peculiar practices and beliefs attaching to it were brought to notice and fully illustrated by Sir J.G. Frazer. The argument as to the clan and the veneration of the domestic animal follows that outlined by the late Professor Robertson Smith in The Religion of the Semites.

88. Other instances of the common meal as a sacrificial rite.

Some other instances of the communal eating of grain or other food as a sacramental rite and bond of union have been given in the articles. Thus at a Kabīrpanthi Chauka or religious service the priest breaks a cocoanut on a stone, and the flesh is cut up and distributed to the worshippers with betel-leaf and sugar. Each receives it on his knees, taking the greatest care that none falls on the ground. The cocoanut is commonly regarded by the Hindus as a substituted offering for a human head. The betel-leaves [181]which are distributed have been specially consecrated by the head priest of the sect, and are held to represent the body of Kabīr.227

Similarly, Guru Govind Singh instituted a prasād or communion among the Sikhs, in which cakes of flour, butter and sugar are made and consecrated with certain ceremonies while the communicants sit round in prayer, and are then distributed equally to all the faithful present, to whatever caste they may belong. At a Guru-Māta or great council of the Sikhs, which was held at any great crisis in the affairs of the state, these cakes were laid before the Sikh scriptures and then eaten by all present, who swore on the scriptures to forget their internal dissensions and be united. Among the Rājpūts the test of legitimacy of a member of the chief’s family was held to depend on whether he had eaten of the chief’s food. The rice cooked at the temple of Jagannāth in Orissa may be eaten there by all castes together, and, when partaken of by two men together, is held to establish a bond of indissoluble friendship between them.

Members of several low castes of mixed origin will only take food with their relatives, and not with other families of the caste with whom they intermarry.228 The Chaukhutia Bhunjias will not eat food cooked by other members of the same community, and will not take it from their own daughters after the latter are married. At a feast among the Dewars uncooked food is distributed to the guests, who cook it for themselves; parents will not accept cooked food either from married sons or daughters, and each family with its children forms a separate commensal group. Thus the taking of food together is a more important and sacred tie than intermarriage. In most Hindu castes a man is not put out of caste for committing adultery with a woman of low caste, but for taking cooked food from her hands; though it is assumed that if he lives with her openly he must necessarily have accepted cooked food from her. Opium and alcoholic liquor or wine, being venerated on account of their intoxicating qualities, were sometimes regarded [182]as substitutes for the sacrificial food and partaken of sacramentally.229

89. Funeral feasts.

An important class of communal meals remaining for discussion consists in the funeral feasts. The funeral feast seems a peculiar and unseasonable observance, but several circumstances point to the conclusion that it was originally held in the dead man’s own interest. He or his spirit was indeed held to participate in the feast, and it seems to have been further thought that unless he did so and ate the sacred food, his soul would not proceed to the heaven or god, but would wander about as an unquiet spirit or meet with some other fate. Many of the lower Hindu castes, such as the Kohlis and Bishnois, take food after a funeral, seated by the side of the grave. This custom is now considered somewhat derogatory, perhaps in consequence of a truer realisation of the fact of death. At a Baiga funeral the mourners take one white and one black fowl to a stream and kill and eat them there, setting aside a portion for the dead man. The Gonds also take their food and drink liquor at the grave. The Lohārs think that the spirit of the dead man returns to join in the funeral feast. Among the Telugu Koshtis the funeral party go to the grave on the fifth day, and after the priest has worshipped the image of Vishnu on the grave, the whole party take their food there. After a Panka funeral the mourners bathe and then break a cocoanut over the grave and distribute it among themselves. On the tenth day they go again and break a cocoanut, and each man buries a little piece of it in the earth over the grave. Among the Tameras, at the feast with which mourning is concluded, a leaf-plate containing a portion for the deceased is placed outside the house with a pot of water and a burning lamp to guide his spirit to the food. On the third day after death the Kolhātis sometimes bring back the skull of a corpse and, placing it on the bed, offer to it powder, dates and betel-leaves, and after a feast lasting for three days it is again buried. It is said that the members of the Lingāyat sect formerly set up the corpse in their midst at the funeral feast and sat round it, taking their food, but the custom is not known to exist at present. [183]Among the Bangalas, an African negro tribe, at a great funeral feast lasting for three days in honour of the chief’s son, the corpse was present at the festivities tied in a chair.230

90. The Hindu deities and the sacrificial meal.

Thus there seems reason to suppose that the caste-tie of the Hindus is the same as that which united the members of the city-states of Greece and Italy, that is the eating of a sacramental food together. Among the Vedic Aryans that country only was considered pure and fit for sacrifice in which the Aryan gods had taken up their residence.231 Hindustān was made a pure country in which Aryans could offer sacrifices by the fact that Agni, the sacrificial god of fire, spread himself over it. But the gods have changed. The old Vedic deities Indra, the rain-god, Varuna, the heaven-god, the Marūts or winds, and Soma, the divine liquor, have fallen into neglect. These were the principal forces which controlled the existence of a nomad pastoral people, dependent on rain to make the grass grow for their herds, and guiding their course by the sun and stars. The Soma or liquor apparently had a warming, exhilarating effect in the cold climate of the Central Asian steppes, and was therefore venerated. Since in the hot plains of India abstinence from alcoholic liquor has become a principal religious tenet of high-caste Hindus, Soma is naturally no more heard of. Agni, the fire-god, was also one of the greatest deities to the nomads of the cold uplands, as the preserver of life against cold. But in India, except as represented by the hearth, for cooking, little regard is paid to him, since fires are not required for warmth. New gods have arisen in Hinduism. The sun was an important Vedic deity, both as Mitra and under other names. Vishnu as the sun, or the spirit of whom the sun is the visible embodiment, has become the most important deity in his capacity of the universal giver and preserver of life. He is also widely venerated in his anthropomorphic forms of Rāma, the hero-prince of Ajodhia and leader of the Aryan expedition to Ceylon, and Krishna, the divine cowherd, perhaps some fabled hero sprung from the indigenous tribes. Siva is the mountain-god of the Himalayas and a moon-deity, [184]and in his character of god of destruction the lightning and cobra are associated with him. But he is really worshipped in his beneficent form of the phallic emblem as the agent of life, and the bull, the fertiliser of the soil and provider of food. Devi, the earth, is the great mother goddess. Sprung from her are Hanumān, the monkey-god, and Ganpati, the elephant-god, and in one of her forms, as the terrible goddess Kāli, she is perhaps the deified tiger.232 Lachmi, the goddess of wealth, and held to have been evolved from the cow, is the consort of Vishnu. It was thus not the god to whom the sacrifice was offered, but the sacrifice itself that was the essential thing, and participation in the common eating of the sacrifice constituted the bond of union. In early times a sacrifice was the occasion for every important gathering or festivity, as is shown both in Indian history and legend. And the caste feasts above described seem to be the continuation and modern form of the ancient sacrifice.

Pilgrims carrying Ganges water

Pilgrims carrying Ganges water

91. Development of the occupational caste from the tribe.

The Roman population, as already seen, consisted of a set of clans or gentes. The clans were collected in tribal groups such as the curia, but it does not appear that these latter were endogamous. The rite which constituted a Roman citizen was participation in the Suovetaurilia, the communal sacrifice of the domestic animals, the pig, the ram, and the bull. Since all the Roman citizens at first lived in a comparatively small area, they were all able to be present at the sacrifice. The other states of Greece and Italy had an analogous constitution, as stated by M. Fustel de Coulanges. It may be supposed that the Aryans were similarly divided into clans and tribes. The word visha, the substantive root of Vaishya, originally meant a clan.233 But as pointed out by M. Senart, they did not form city-states in India, but settled in villages over a large area of country. Their method of government was by small states under kings, and probably they had a kind of national constitution, of which the king was the centre and embodiment. But these states gradually lost their individuality, [185]and were merged in large empires, where the king could no longer be the centre of the state or of the common life of his people, nor perform a sacrifice at which they could all be present, as the Roman kings did. This religious idea of nationality, based on participation in a common sacrifice, was the only one which existed in early times. Thus apparently the Aryans retained their tribal constitution instead of expanding it into a national one, and the members of clans within a certain local area gathered for a communal sacrifice. But there was a great class, that of the Sūdras or indigenous inhabitants, who could not join in the sacrifices at all. And between the Sūdras and the Vaishyas or main body of the Aryans there gradually grew up another mixed class, which also could not properly participate in them. The priests and rulers, Brāhmans and Kshatriyas, tended to form exclusive bodies, and in this manner a classification by occupation gradually grew up, the distinction being marked by participation in separate sacrificial feasts. The cause which ultimately broke down the religious distinctions of the Roman and Greek states was the development of a feeling of nationality. In the common struggle for the preservation of the city the prejudices of the patricians weakened, and after a long internal conflict, the plebeians were admitted to full rights of citizenship. The plebeians were employed as infantry in the Roman armies, while the patricians rode, and the increased importance of infantry in war was one great cause of the improvement in the position of the plebeians.234 In India, in the absence of any national feeling, and with the growth of a large and powerful priestly order, religious barriers and prejudices became accentuated rather than weakened. The class distinctions grew more rigid, and gradually, as the original racial line of cleavage was fused by intermarriage and the production of groups of varying status, these came to arrange themselves on a basis of occupation. This is the inevitable and necessary rule in all societies whose activities and mode of life are at all complicated. Racial distinctions cannot be preserved unless in the most exceptional cases, where they are accentuated by [186]the difference of colour, and such a moral and social gulf as that which exists between the whites and negroes in North America. In primitive society there is no such mental cleavage to render the idea of fusion abhorrent to the superior race; the bar is religious, and while it places the inferior race in a despised and abject position, there is no prohibition of illicit unions nor any such moral feeling or principle as would tend to restrict them. The ideas of the responsibilities and duties of parentage in connection with heredity, or the science of eugenics, are entirely modern, and have no place at all in ancient society. As racial and religious distinctions fade away, and social progress takes place, a fresh set of divisions by wealth and occupation grows up. But though this happened also in the Greek and Italian cities, the old religious divisions were not transferred to the new occupational groups, but fell slowly into abeyance, and the latter assumed the simply social character which they have in modern communities. The main reason for the obliteration of religious barriers, as already stated, was the growth of the idea of nationality and the public interest. But in India the feeling of nationality never arose. The Hindu states and empires had no national basis, since at the period in question the only way in which the idea of nationality could be conceived, was by participation of the citizens in a common sacrifice, and this participation is only possible to persons living in a small local area. Hence Hindu society developed on its own lines independently of the form of government to which it was subject, and in the new grouping by occupation the old communal sacrifices were preserved and adapted to the fresh divisions. The result was the growth of the system of occupational castes which still exists. But since the basis of society was the participation of each social group in a communal meal, the group could not be extended to take in persons of the same occupation over a large area, and as a result the widely ramified system of subcastes came into existence. The subcaste or commensal group was the direct evolutionary product of the pre-existing tribe. Its size was limited by the fact that its members had to meet at the periodical sacrificial feasts, by which their unity and the tie which bound them [187]together was cemented and renewed. As already seen, when members of a subcaste migrated to a fresh local area, and were cut off from communication with those remaining behind, they tended as a rule to form a fresh endogamous and commensal group. Since the tie between the members of the subcaste was participation in a sacrificial meal of grain cooked with water, and as this food was held to be sacred, the members of the subcaste came to refuse to eat it except with those who could join in the communal feast; and as the idea gradually gained acceptance, that a legitimate child must be the offspring of a father and mother both belonging to the commensal group, the practice of endogamy within the subcaste became a rule.

92. Veneration of the caste implements.

Since all the citizens of the Roman State participated in a common sacrifice, they might be considered as a single caste, or even a subcaste or commensal group. The Hindu castes have a common ceremony which presents some analogy to that of the Roman state. They worship or pay homage once or twice a year to the implements of their profession. The occasions for this rite are usually the Dasahra festival in September and the fast after the Holi festival in March. Both these are festivals of the goddess Devi or Mother Earth, when a fast is observed in her honour, first before sowing the spring crops and secondly before reaping them. On each occasion the fast lasts for nine days and the Jawaras or pots of wheat corresponding to the Gardens of Adonis are sown. The fasts and festivals thus belong primarily to the agricultural castes, and they worship the earth-mother, who provides them with subsistence. But the professional and artisan castes also take the occasion to venerate the implements of their profession. Thus among the Kasārs or brass-workers, at the festival of Mando Amāwas or the new moon of Chait (March), every Kasār must return to the community of which he is a member and celebrate the feast with them. And in default of this he will be expelled from the caste until the next Amāwas of Chait comes round. They close their shops and worship the implements of their profession on this day. The rule is thus the same as that of the Roman Suovetaurilia. He who does not join in the sacrificial feast ceases to be a member of the community. [188]And the object of veneration is the same; the Romans venerated and sacrificed the domestic animals which in the pastoral stage had been their means of subsistence. The Kasārs and other occupational castes worship the implements of their profession which are also their means of livelihood, or that which gives them life. Formerly all these implements were held to be animate, and to produce their effect by their own power and volition. The Nats or acrobats of Bombay say that their favourite and only living gods are those which give them their bread: the drum, the rope and the balancing-pole. The Murha or earth-digger invokes the implements of his trade as follows: “O, my lord the basket, my lord the pickaxe shaped like a snake, and my lady the hod! Come and eat up those who do not pay me for my work!” Similarly the Dhīmar venerates his fishing-net, and will not wear shoes of sewn leather, because he thinks that the sacred thread which makes his net is debased if used for shoes. The Chamār worships his currier’s knife; the Ghasia or groom his horse and the peg to which the horse is secured in the stable; the Rājpūt his horse and sword and shield; the writer his inkpot, and so on. The Pola festival of the Kunbis has a feature resembling the Suovetaurilia. On this occasion all the plough-bullocks of the cultivators are mustered and go in procession to a toran or arch constructed of branches and foliage. The bullock of the village proprietor leads the way, and has flaming torches tied to his horns. The bullocks of the other cultivators follow according to the status of each cultivator in the village, which depends upon hereditary right and antiquity of tenure, and not on mere wealth. A Kunbi feels bitterly insulted if his bullocks are not awarded the proper place in the procession. A string across the arch is broken by the leading bullock, and the cattle are then all driven helter-skelter through the arch and back to the village. The rite would appear to be a relic of the communal sacrifice of a bullock, the torches tied to the proprietor’s bullock signifying that he was formerly killed and roasted. It is now said that this bullock is full of magic, and that he will die within three years. The rite may be compared to the needfire as practised in Russia when all the horses of the village were driven between [189]two fires, or through fire, and their bridles thrown into the fire and burnt. The burning of the bridles would appear to be a substitute for the previous sacrifice of the horse.235 The Pola ceremony of the Kunbis resembles the Roman Suovetaurilia inasmuch as all the cultivators participate in it according to their status, just as the rank of Roman citizens was determined by their position at the ceremony. Formerly, if a bull was sacrificed and eaten sacramentally it would have been practically an exact parallel to the Roman rite.

93. The caste panchāyat and its code of offences.

The tribunal for the punishment of caste offences is known as the panchāyat, because it usually consists of five persons (pānch, five). As a rule a separate panchāyat exists for every subcaste over an area not too large for all the members of it to meet. In theory, however, the panchāyat is only the mouthpiece of the assembly, which should consist of all the members of the subcaste. Some castes fine a member who absents himself from the meeting. The panchāyat may perhaps be supposed to represent the hand acting on behalf of the subcaste, which is considered the body. The panchāyat, however, was not the original judge. It was at first the god before whom the parties pleaded their cause, and the god who gave judgment by the method of trial by ordeal. This was probably the general character of primitive justice, and in some of the lower castes the ordeal is still resorted to for decisions. The tribe or subcaste attended as jurors or assessors, and carried out the proceedings, perhaps after having united themselves to the god for the purpose by a sacrificial meal. The panchāyat, having succeeded the god as the judge, is held to give its decisions by divine inspiration, according to the sayings: ‘God is on high and the panch on earth,’ and ‘The voice of the panchāyat is the voice of God.’236 The headship of the panchāyat and the subcaste commonly descends in one family, or did so till recently, and the utmost deference is shown to the person holding it, even though he may be only a boy for the above reason. The offences involving [190]temporary or permanent excommunication from caste are of a somewhat peculiar kind. In the case of both a man and woman, to take food from a person of a caste from whom it is forbidden to do so, and especially from one of an impure caste, is a very serious offence, as is also that of being beaten by a member of an impure caste, especially with a shoe. It is also a serious offence to be sent to jail, because a man has to eat the impure jail food. To be handcuffed is a minor offence, perhaps by analogy with the major one of being sent to jail, or else on account of the indignity involved by the touch of the police. As regards sexual offences, there is no direct punishment for a man as a rule, but if he lives with a low-caste woman he is temporarily expelled because it is assumed that he has taken food from her hands. Sometimes a man and woman of the caste committing adultery together are both punished. A married woman who commits adultery should in the higher and middle castes, in theory at least, be permanently expelled, but if her husband does not put her away she is sometimes readmitted with a severe punishment. A girl going wrong with an outsider is as a rule expelled unless the matter can be hushed up, but if she becomes pregnant by a man of the caste, she can often be readmitted with a penalty and married to him or to some other man. There are also some religious crimes, such as killing a cow or a cat or other sacred domestic animal; and in the case of a woman it is a very serious offence to get the lobe of her ear torn apart at the large perforation usually made for earrings;237 while for either a man or a woman to get vermin in a wound is an offence of the first magnitude, entailing several months’ exclusion and large expenditure on readmission. Offences against ordinary morality are scarcely found in the category of those entailing punishment. Murder must sometimes be expiated by a pilgrimage to the Ganges, but other criminal offences against the person and property are not taken cognisance of by the caste committee unless the offender is sent to jail. Both in its negative and positive aspects the category of offences affords interesting deductions on the basis of the explanation of the caste system already given. The reason why there is [191]scarcely any punishment for offences against ordinary morality is that the caste organisation has never developed any responsibility for the maintenance of social order and the protection of life and property. It has never exercised the function of government, because in the historical Hindu period India was divided into large military states, while since then it has been subject to foreign domination. The social organisation has thus maintained its pristine form, neither influenced by the government nor affording to it any co-operation or support. And the aims of the caste tribunal have been restricted to preserving its own corporate existence free from injury or pollution, which might arise mainly from two sources. If a member’s body was rendered impure either by eating impure food or by contact with a person of impure caste it became an unfit receptacle for the sacred food eaten at the caste feast, which bound its members together in one body. This appears to be the object of the rules about food. And since the blood of the clan and of the caste is communicated by descent through the father under the patriarchal system, adultery on the part of a married woman would bring a stranger into the group and undermine its corporate existence and unity. Hence the severity of the punishment for the adultery of a married woman, which is a special feature of the patriarchal system. It has already been seen that under the rule of female descent, as shown by Mr. Hartland in Primitive Paternity, the chastity of women was as a rule scarcely regarded at all or even conceived of. After the change to the patriarchal system a similar laxity seems to have prevailed for some period, and it was thought that any child born to a man in his house or on his bed was his own, even though he might not be the father. This idea obtained among the Arabs, as pointed out by Professor Robertson Smith in Kinship and Marriage in Early Arabia, and is also found in the Hindu classics, and to some extent even in modern practice. It was perhaps based on the virtue assigned to concrete facts; just as the Hindus think that a girl is properly married by going through the ceremony with an arrow or a flower, and that the fact of two children being suckled by the same woman, though she is not their mother, establishes a tie akin to consanguinity [192]between them, so they might have thought that the fact of a boy being born in a man’s house constituted him the man’s son. Subsequently, however, the view came to be held that the clan blood was communicated directly through the father, to whom the life of the child was solely assigned in the early patriarchal period. And the chastity of married women then became of vital importance to the community, because the lack of it would cause strangers to be born into the clan, which now based its tie of kinship on descent from a common male ancestor. Thus the adultery of women became a crime which would undermine the foundations of society and the state, and as such was sometimes punished with death among communities in the early patriarchal stage. It is this view, and not simply moral principle, which has led to the severe caste penalties for the offence. Some of the primitive tribes care nothing about the chastity of unmarried girls, but punish unfaithful wives rigorously. Among the Māria Gonds a man will murder his wife for infidelity, but girls are commonly unchaste. Another rule sometimes found is that an unmarried girl becoming with child by an outsider is put out of caste for the time. When her child, which does not belong to the caste, has been born, she must make it over to some outside family, and she herself can then be readmitted to the community. Out of the view of adultery as a religious and social offence, a moral regard for chastity is however developing among the Hindus as it has in other societies.

94. The status of impurity.

It has been seen that the Sūdras as well as the plebeians were regarded as impure, and the reason was perhaps that they were considered to belong to a hostile god. By their participation in the sacrifice and partaking of the sacrificial food, the Indian Aryans and other races considered that they were not only in fellowship with, but actually a part of the god. And similarly their enemies were part of the substance of a hostile god, whose very existence and contact were abhorrent to their own. Hence their enemies should as far as possible be completely exterminated, but when this was impossible they must dwell apart and not pollute by contact of their persons, or in any other way, the sacred soil on which the gods dwelt, nor the persons of those who [193]became part of the substance of the god by participation in the sacrificial meal. For this reason the plebeians had to live outside the Roman city, which was all sacred ground, and the Sūdras and modern impure castes have to live outside the village, which is similarly sacred as the abode of the earth-goddess in her form of the goddess of the land of that village. For the same reason their contact had to be avoided by those who belonged to the village and were united to the goddess by partaking of the crops which she brought forth on her land. As already seen, the belief existed that the life and qualities could be communicated by contact, and in this case the worshippers would assimilate by contact the life of a god hostile to their own. In the same manner, as shown by M. Salomon Reinach in Cults, Myths and Religions, all the weapons, clothes and material possessions of the enemy were considered as impure, perhaps because they also contained part of the life of a hostile god. As already seen,238 a man’s clothing and weapons were considered to contain part of his life by contact, and since the man was united to the god by partaking of the sacrificial feast, all the possessions of the enemy might be held to participate in the life of the hostile god, and hence they could not be preserved, nor taken by the victors into their own houses or dwellings. This was the offence which Achan committed when he hid in his tent part of the spoils of Jericho; and in consequence Jehovah ceased to be with the children of Israel when they went up against Ai, that is ceased to be in them, and they could not stand before the enemy. Achan and his family were stoned and his property destroyed by fire and the impurity was removed. For the same reason the ancient Gauls and Germans destroyed all the spoils of war or burned them, or buried them in lakes where they are still found. At a later stage the Romans, instead of destroying the spoils of war, dedicated them to their own gods, perhaps as a visible sign of the conquest and subjection of the enemy’s gods; and they were hung in temples or on oak-trees, where they could not be touched except in the very direst need, as when Rome was left without arms after Cannae. Subsequently the spoils were [194]permitted to decorate the houses of the victorious generals, where they remained sacred and inviolable heirlooms.239

95. Caste and Hinduism.

In The Religions of India M. Barth defined a Hindu as a man who has a caste: ‘The man who is a member of a caste is a Hindu; he who is not, is not a Hindu.’ His definition remains perhaps the best. There is practically no dogma which is essential to Hinduism, nor is the veneration of any deity or sacred object either necessary or heretical. As has often been pointed out, there is no assembly more catholic or less exclusive than the Hindu pantheon. Another writer has said that the three essentials of a Hindu are to be a member of a caste, to venerate Brāhmans, and to hold the cow sacred. Of the latter two, the veneration of Brāhmans cannot be considered indispensable; for there are several sects, as the Lingāyats, the Bishnois, the Mānbhaos, the Kabīrpanthis and others, who expressly disclaim any veneration for Brāhmans, and, in theory at least, make no use of their services; and yet the members of these sects are by common consent acknowledged as Hindus. The sanctity of the bull and cow is a more nearly universal dogma, and extends practically to all Hindus, except the impure castes. These latter should not correctly be classed as Hindus; the very origin of their status is, as has been seen, the belief that they are the worshippers of gods hostile to Hinduism. But still they must now practically be accounted as Hindus. They worship the Hindu gods, standing at a distance when they are not allowed to enter the temples, perform their ceremonies by Hindu rites, and employ Brāhmans for fixing auspicious days, writing the marriage invitation and other business, which the Brāhman is willing to do for a consideration, so long as he does not have to enter their houses. Some of the impure castes eat beef, while others have abandoned it in order to improve their social position. At the other end of the scale are many well-educated Hindu gentlemen who have no objection to eat beef and may often have done so in England, though in India they may abstain out of deference to the prejudices of their relatives, especially the women. And Hindus of all [195]castes are beginning to sell worn-out cattle to the butchers for slaughter without scruple—an offence which fifty years ago would have entailed permanent expulsion from caste. The reverence for the cow is thus not an absolutely essential dogma of Hinduism, though it is the nearest approach to one. As a definition or test of Hinduism it is, however, obviously inadequate. Caste, on the other hand, regulates the whole of a Hindu’s life, his social position and, usually, his occupation. It is the only tribunal which punishes religious and social offences, and when a man is out of caste he has, for so long as this condition continues, no place in Hinduism. Theoretically he cannot eat with any other Hindu nor marry his child to any Hindu. If he dies out of caste the caste-men will not bury or burn his body, which is regarded as impure. The binding tie of caste is, according to the argument given above, the communal meal or feast of grain cooked with water, and this, it would therefore seem, may correctly be termed the chief religious function of Hinduism. Caste also obtains among the Jains and Sikhs, but Sikhism is really little more than a Hindu sect, while the Jains, who are nearly all Banias, scarcely differ from Vaishnava Hindu Banias, and have accepted caste, though it is not in accordance with the real tenets of their religion. The lower industrial classes of Muhammadans have also formed castes in imitation of the Hindus. Many of these are however the descendants of converted Hindus, and nearly all of them have a number of Hindu practices.

96. The Hindu reformers.

There have not been wanting reformers in Hinduism, and the ultimate object of their preaching seems to have been the abolition of the caste system. The totem-clans, perhaps, supposed that each species of animals and plants which they distinguished had a different kind of life, the qualities of each species being considered as part of its life. This belief may have been the original basis of the idea of difference of blood arising from nobility of lineage or descent, and it may also have been that from which the theory of caste distinctions was derived. Though the sacrificial food of each caste is the same, yet its members may have held themselves to be partaking of a different sacrificial feast and absorbing a different life; just as the sacrificial feasts and the gods of [196]the different Greek and Latin city-states were held to be distinct and hostile, and a citizen of one state could not join in the sacrificial feast of another, though the gods and sacrificial animals might be as a matter of fact the same. And the earth-goddess of each village was a separate form or part of the goddess, so that her land should only be tilled by the descendants of the cultivators who were in communion with her. The severe caste penalties attached to getting vermin in a wound, involving a long period of complete ostracism and the most elaborate ceremonies of purification, may perhaps be explained by the idea that the man so afflicted has in his body an alien and hostile life which is incompatible with his forming part of the common life of the caste or subcaste. The leading feature of the doctrines of the Hindu reformers has been that there is only one kind of life, which extends through the whole of creation and is all equally precious. Everything that lives has a spark of the divine life and hence should not be destroyed. The belief did not extend to vegetable life, perhaps because the true nature of the latter was by then partly realised, while if the consumption of vegetable life had been prohibited the sect could not have existed. The above doctrine will be recognised as a comparatively simple and natural expansion of the beliefs that animals have self-conscious volitional life and that each species of animals consists of one common life distributed through its members. If the true nature of individual animals and plants had been recognised from the beginning, it is difficult to see how the idea of one universal life running through them all could have been conceived and have obtained so large a degree of acceptance. As the effect of such a doctrine was that all men were of the same blood and life, its necessary consequence was the negation of caste distinctions. The transmigration of souls followed as a moral rule apportioning reward and punishment for the actions of men. The soul passed through a cycle of lives, and the location or body of its next life, whether an animal of varying importance or meanness, or a human being in different classes of society, was determined by its good or evil actions in previous lives. Finally, those souls which had been purified of all the gross qualities appertaining to the [197]body were released from the cycle of existence and reabsorbed into the divine centre or focus of life. In the case of the Buddhists and Jains the divine centre of life seems to have been conceived of impersonally. The leading authorities on Buddhism state that its founder’s doctrine was pure atheism, but one may suggest that the view seems somewhat improbable in the case of a religion promulgated at so early a period. And on such a hypothesis it is difficult to understand either the stress laid on the escape from life as the highest aim or the sanctity held to attach to all kinds of animal life. But these doctrines follow naturally on the belief in a divine centre or focus of life from which all life emanates for a time, to be ultimately reabsorbed. The Vaishnava reformers, who arose subsequently, took the sun or the spirit of the sun as the divine source of all life. They also preached the sanctity of animal life, the transmigration of souls, and the final absorption of the purified soul into the divine centre of life. The abolition of caste was generally a leading feature of their doctrine and may have been its principal social aim. The survival of the individual soul was not a tenet of the earlier reformers, though the later ones adopted it, perhaps in response to the growing perception of individuality. But even now it is doubtful how far the separate existence of the individual soul after it has finally left the world is a religious dogma of the Hindus. The basis of Hindu asceticism is the necessity of completely freeing the soul or spirit from all the appetites and passions of the body before it can be reabsorbed into the god. Those who have so mortified the body that the life merely subsists in it, almost unwillingly as it were, and absolutely unaffected by human desires or affections or worldly events, have rendered their individual spark of life capable of being at once absorbed into the divine life and equal in merit to it, while still on earth. Thus Hindu ascetics in the last or perfect stage say, ‘I am God,’ or ‘I am Siva,’ and are revered by their disciples and the people as divine. Both the Buddhists and Jains lay the same stress on the value of asceticism as enabling the soul to attain perfection through complete detachment from the appetites and passions of the body and the cares of the world; and the deduction therefore seems warranted that the end of the [198]perfect soul would be a similar reabsorption in the divine soul.

97. Decline of the caste system.

The caste system has maintained its vigour unimpaired either by the political vicissitudes and foreign invasions of India or by Muhammadan persecution. Except where it has been affected by European education and inventions, Hindu society preserved until recently a remarkably close resemblance to that of ancient Greece and Rome in the classical period. But several signs point to the conclusion that the decay of caste as the governing factor of Indian society is in sight. The freedom in selection of occupation which now obtains appears to strike at the root of the caste system, because the relative social status and gradation of castes is based on their traditional occupations. When in a large number of the principal castes the majority of the members have abandoned their traditional occupation and taken freely to others, the relative status of castes becomes a fiction, which, though it has hitherto subsisted, cannot apparently be indefinitely maintained. The great extension of education undertaken by Government and warmly advocated by the best Indian opinion exercises an analogous influence. Education is free to all, and, similarly, in the careers which it opens to the most successful boys there is no account of caste. Thus members of quite low castes obtain a good social position and, as regards them personally, the prejudices and contempt for their caste necessarily fall into abeyance. The process must, probably, in time extend to general social toleration. The educated classes are also coming to regard the restrictions on food and drink, and on eating and drinking with others, as an irksome and unnecessary bar to social intercourse, and are gradually abandoning them. This tendency is greatly strengthened by the example and social contact of Europeans. Finally, the facilities for travelling and the democratic nature of modern travel have a very powerful effect. The great majority of Hindus of all castes are obliged by their comparative poverty to avail themselves of the cheap third-class fares, and have to rub shoulders together in packed railway carriages. Soon they begin to realise that this does them no harm, and get accustomed to it, with the result [199]that the prejudices about bodily contact tend to disappear. The opinion has been given that the decline of social exclusiveness in England was largely due to the introduction of railway travelling. Taking account of all these influences, and assuming their continuance, the inference may safely be drawn that the life of the Indian caste system is limited, though no attempt can be made to estimate the degree of its vitality, nor to predict the form and constitution of the society which will arise on its decay. [200]

1 Indian Caste, p. 12.

2 Dr. Wilson’s Indian Caste (Times Press and Messrs. Blackwood), 1875, p. 88, quoting from Rig-Veda.

3 Dr. Wilson’s Indian Caste (Times Press and Messrs. Blackwood), 1875, p. 88, quoting from Rig-Veda.

4 Rig-Veda, i. 11. Wilson, ibidem, p. 94.

5 Wilson, ibidem, p. 99.

6 Manu, ii. 17, 24.

7 Barbarians or foreigners.

8 See Burnett and Hopkins, Ordinances of Manu, s.v.

9 Wilson, Indian Caste, p. 170, quoting Weber, Indische Studien, i. 170.

10 A collection of rules for sacrifices and other rites, coming between the Vedas and the law-books, and dated by Max Müller between 600–200 B.C.

11 Wilson, Indian Caste, p. 182.

12 Wilson, p. 184, quoting from Shrauta-sūtra of Kātyayana, 1. 1. 6.

13 Manu, iv. 99; iii. 178.

14 Wilson, pp. 421, 422.

15 Wilson, p. 187, quoting from Hiranyakeshi Sūtra.

16 See article Mehtar in text.

17 Wilson, p. 363, quoting from Smriti of Angira.

18 Wilson, Indian Caste, p. 195, from Hiranyakeshi Sūtra.

19 Manu, viii. 417.

20 Wilson, p. 260, quoting Mahābhārata, viii. 1367 et seq.

21 Wilson, p. 403, quoting from Vyavahāra Mayūkha.

22 Wilson, p. 400, from Parāshara Smriti.

23 Wilson, p. 140, quoting from Atharva Veda, iv. 32. 1.

24 Wilson, p. 211.

25 Wilson, Indian Caste, referring to Ptolemy, vii. 1. 61 and vi. 120. 3.

26 Wilson, pp. 113, 114.

27 See for the impure castes para. 40 post.

28 The word “aboriginal” is used here for convenience and not as conveying any assertion as to the origin of the pre-Aryan population.

29 Bombay Gazetteer, Pārsis of Gujarāt, p. 213.

30 Rig-Veda, 6. 3. 16, quoted by Wilson, Indian Caste, p. 110.

31 Wilson, p. 109.

32 Monier-Williams, Sanskrit Dictionary, pointed out by Mr. Crooke.

33 Quoted by Wilson, p. 209. It would seem probable, however, that the Vaishyas must themselves have formed the rank and file of the fighting force, at least in the early period.

34 Manu, i. 90.

35 Wilson, Indian Caste, p. 193, quoting from Hiranyakeshi Sūtra.

36 Wilson, p. 260, quoting Mahābhārata, viii. 1367 et seq.

37 Mahābhārata, xii. 2749 et seq.

38 List of classes of Indian society given in the Purusha-Medha of the White Yajur-Veda, Wilson, pp. 126–135.

39 Manu, viii. 113.

40 Hopkin’s and Burnett’s Code of Manu, x. 64, 65, and footnotes.

41 Mahābhārata, xiii. 2510 et. seq., quoted by Wilson, p. 272.

42 Manu, ix. 149, 157.

43 Manu indeed declares that such children could not be initiated (x. 68), but it is clear that they must, as a matter of fact, have been capable of initiation or they could not possibly have been married in the father’s caste.

44 See article on Brāhman for some further details.

45 Wilson, Indian Caste, i. 440, quoting Brahma Vaivarrta Purāna.

46 See article Bhāt for further discussion of this point.

47 Dolichos uniflorus.

48 See article Jāt for a more detailed discussion of their status.

49 Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art. Khandait.

50 Proprietors of large landed estates.

51 See article on Kunbi, para. 1.

52 Village Communities, p. 127.

53 History of the Marāthas, vol. i. p. 25.

54 Village Communities, pp. 226, 227.

55 The Aryan Household, ed. 1891, p. 190.

56 Ibidem, p. 228. Professor Hearn followed Sir Henry Maine in thinking that the clan was an expansion of the patriarchal joint family; but the reasons against this view are given subsequently.

57 Memoir of Central India, vol. ii. p. 22.

58 La Cité antique, 21st ed. pp. 66, 68.

59 La Cité antique, 21 st ed. pp. 66, 68.

60 Nigeria, quoted in Saturday Review, 6th April 1912.

61 Religion of the Semites, p. 96.

62 See article Sunār for a discussion of the sanctity of gold and silver, and the ornaments made from them.

63 Michelia champaka, a variety of the jack or bread-fruit tree.

64 See article Darzi for further discussion of the use of sewn clothes in India.

65 See articles on Bhulia, Panka, Kori and Julāha.

66 Traill’s Account of Kumaon, Asiatic Researches, vol. xvi. (1828) p. 213.

67 Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art. Bāri.

68 Pointed out by Mr. Crooke.

69 The Marāthi name for the god Hanumān.

70 Linguistic Survey, vol. iv., Munda and Dravidian Languages, p. 7.

71 Acacia catechu.

72 See article on Gond.

73 Linguistic Survey, p. 15.

74 Introduction to The Mundas and their Country, p. 9.

75 Linguistic Survey, p. 277.

76 See for this the article on Kol, from which the above passage is abridged.

77 Bombay Gazetteer, vol. xii. p. 175.

78 Cochin Census Report, 1901, quoted in Sir H. Risley’s Peoples of India, 2nd ed. p. 115.

79 This was permissible in the time of Asoka, circa 250 B.C. Mr. V.A. Smith’s Asoka, pp. 56, 58.

80 Sir H. Risley’s Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art. Tānti.

81 See article Kanjar for a discussion of the connection of the gipsies and Thugs with the Kanjars.

82 See article Chamār, para. 1.

83 Loha, iron; tamba, copper; kānsa, brass or bell-metal; sona, gold.

84 Kānch, glass.

85 Phul, flower; haldi,turmeric; jira, cumin.

86 Crotalaria juncea. See article Lorha for a discussion of the objections to this plant.

87 Morinda citrifolia. The taboo against the plant is either because the red dye resembles blood, or because a number of insects are destroyed in boiling the roots to extract the dye.

88 See article on Brāhman.

89 Sonjhara is a separate caste as well as a subcaste of Dhīmar.

90 See article Kurmi, appendix, for some instances of territorial names.

91 Wilson’s Indian Caste, p. 439.

92 Vol. i. pp. 272, 276.

93 Studies in Ancient History, p. 123.

94 See lists of totems of Australian and Red Indian tribes. Sir J.G. Frazer notes that the majority are edible animals or plants.

95 Address to the British Association, 1902. I had not had the advantage of reading the address prior to the completion of this work.

96 M’Lennan, Studies in Ancient History, p. 123, quoting from Grant’s Origin and Descent of the Gael.

97 Totemism and Exogamy, i. pp. 112, 120, ii. p. 536, iii. pp. 100, 162; Native Tribes of Central Australia, pp. 209–10; Native Tribes of South-East Australia p. 145; Native Tribes of Northern Australia (Professor Baldwin Spencer), pp. 21, 197; J.H. Weeks, Among the Primitive Bakongo, p. 99.

98 See pp. II, 138, 190 (Edition 1891).

99 Totemism and Exogamy, ii. pp. 338, 339.

100 La Cité Antique, p. 254.

101 The Origin of Civilisation, 7th ed. p. 246.

102 W.W. Skeat, Malay Magic, pp. 52, 53.

103 I. p. 253.

104 2nd ed. vol. i. pp. 169, 174. See also Sir E.B. Tylor’s Primitive Culture, i. pp. 282, 286, 295; ii. pp. 170, 181, etc.

105 See also Primitive Culture, i. pp. 119, 121, 412, 413, 514.

106 Messrs. Spencer and Gillan, Native Tribes of Central Australia (London, Macmillan), p. 201.

107 Linguistic Survey of India, vol. iv., Munda and Dravidian Languages, pp. 40, 41, 45.

108 Linguistic Survey of India, vol. iv., Munda and Dravidian Languages, pp. 292, 294.

109 Dr. A.H. Keane, The World’s Peoples, London, Hutchinson, 1908, p. 50.

110 Nimār Settlement Report.

111 See also Primitive Culture, i. p. 408.

112 The Oraons, pp. 408, 409.

113 2nd ed. vol. ii. p. 457 et seq.

114 For instances of omens see article Thug and Index. Also Miss Harrison’s Themis, pp. 98, 99.

115 La Cité Antique, p. 225.

116 W.W. Skeat, Malay Magic, pp. 178, 571.

117 Early History of Mankind, 3rd ed. p. 143.

118 Ibidem, p. 125.

119 See article Joshi for examples of Hindu names.

120 La Cité Antique, p. 357.

121 p. 182, et seq.

122 See para. 61.

123 I. p. 430.

124 See article on Nai.

125 2nd ed. vol. i. p. 57.

126 Native Tribes of Central Australia, Introduction, p. 25.

127 Dr. A. H. Keane, The Worlds Peoples, p. 62.

128 For counting, see Primitive Culture, 5th ed. pp. 240, 254, 265, 266.

129 Account of the Mewār Bhils, J.A.S.B., vol. xxiv. (1875) p. 369.

130 Early History of Mankind, p. 293.

131 Ibidem, p. 294.

132 Ibidem, p. 295.

133 See also Primitive Culture, i. p. 493, ii. p. 431.

134 See article on Mochi for the Muhammadan reference. The Jewish reference is of course to the Second Commandment.

135 Native Tribes of Central Australia, p. 176.

136 Ibidem, pp. 181, 182.

137 The Golden Bough, 2nd ed. ii. p. 120.

138 The Golden Bough, 2nd ed. iii. p. 301.

139 Section on the Kol tribe in Dalton’s Ethnology of Bengal.

140 Mr. S.C. Roy, The Oraons, p. 262.

141 See also Primitive Culture, 5th ed. ii. pp. 243, 244, 246.

142 See article on Brāhman.

143 See article Bairāgi.

144 Native Tribes of Central Australia, pp. 185, 186.

145 Ibidem, pp. 154, 155.

146 Primitive Culture, 5th ed. ii. pp. 243, 244.

147 Primitive Culture, 5th ed. ii. pp. 243, 244.

148 Dr. A.W. Howitt, Native Tribes of South-East Australia, p. 146. In this case the reference seems to be to any one of several totems of a sub-class.

149 Dr. A.W. Howitt, Native Tribes of South-East Australia, p. 145.

150 Ibidem, pp. 148, 149.

151 The Religion of the Semites, pp. 273, 274.

152 Primitive Paternity, vol. i. pp. 272, 273.

153 The Religion of the Semites, p. 265.

154 See paragraph 80 below and the article on Kasai.

155 The Origin of Civilisation, p. 240.

156 See The Golden Bough, ii. p. 396 et seq.

157 This view of sacrifice was first enunciated by Professor Robertson Smith in the article on Sacrifice in the Encyclopædia Britannica, and The Religion of the Semites.

158 History of Human Marriage, p. 324.

159 Many instances are also given by Mr. Hartland in Primitive Paternity.

160 Native Tribes of South-East Australia, p. 481.

161 Primitive Marriage, p. 135, footnote.

162 Totemism and Exogamy, ii. p. 473, iii. pp. 34, 76, 101, 225, 272, 308, 360. The Australians have secret Churinga names, the Churingas apparently representing the spirits of ancestors which have returned to the totem. (Spencer and Gillan, ibidem, Appendix A.)

163 Kinship and Marriage in Early Arabia, pp. 198, 200.

164 Native Tribes of Central Australia, p. 70; Natives of Australia, Mr. N.W. Thomas, p. 75.

165 Totemism and Exogamy, iii. pp. 93, 120, 122, 124, 226, ii. p. 6.

166 Totemism and Exogamy, vol. iv.

167 See article Lakhera for further discussion of the marking with vermilion and its substitutes.

168 La Cité Antique, Paris, Librairie Hachette, 21st ed. p. 4.

169 La Cité Antique, p. 45.

170 This word seems to mean elder sister, and is applied by the girls to their sex-totem, the emu-wren.

171 Native Tribes of S.-E. Australia, p. 149.

172 History of Human Marriage, pp. 418–420.

173 The People of India (Thacker & Co.), pp. 171, 173.

174 Tribes and Castes of the N.-W.P. and Oudh, art. Nunia.

175 Religion and Customs of the Oraons, Memoirs, As. Socy. of Bengal, vol. i. No. 9.

176 Mr. S.C. Roy, The Oraons, p. 247.

177 See article on Rājpūt, para. 9.

178 Professor W. E. Hearn’s Aryan Household (London, Longmans, Green & Co.), p. 160.

179 At first the whole gens were the heirs, Ancient Law, p. 221. The group of agnatic kinsmen are mentioned in Early Law and Custom, pp. 238, 239, but not directly as heirs.

180 Aryan Household, p. 28, quoting Becker’s Charicles, p. 394.

181 Aryan Household, p. 160, quoting Plutarch, Quaestiones Romanae, c. 6.

182 La Cité Antique, 21st ed. Paris, Hachette et Cie.

183 Aryan Household, p. 215.

184 La Cité Antique, p. 299.

185 La Cité Antique, p. 304.

186 Ibidem, pp. 128, 129.

187 Ibidem, p. 318.

188 Ibidem, p. 129.

189 Ibidem, p. 273.

190 Ibidem, p. 129.

191 Ibidem, p. 320.

192 La Cité Antique, p. 279.

193 Ibidem, pp. 281, 282.

194 Ibidem, p. 281.

195 Ibidem, p. 320.

196 La Cité Antique, p. 179.

197 Ibidem.

198 Ibidem.

199 Ibidem, p. 181.

200 La Cité Antique, p. 113.

201 Ibidem, pp. 186–188.

202 La Cité Antique, ibidem.

203 Pp. 151, 154.

204 The above account of the festival and pilgrimage is taken from the Rev. T.P. Hughes’ Dictionary of Islām, articles Idu-l-Azha and Hajj.

205 La Cité Antique, p. 134.

206 Ibidem, p. 127.

207 Para. 48 above.

208 See article on Rājpūt, para. 9.

209 The Magic Art, ii. p. 89, quoting Satapatha Brāhmana.

210 See article on Kasai.

211 See account in article on Kasai.

212 Orpheus, pp. 123, 125.

213 7th ed. p. 300.

214 Origin of Civilisation, 7th ed. p. 299.

215 The Dasahra: an Autumn Festival of the Hindus, Folk-lore, March 1915. Some notice of the Dasahra in the Central Provinces is contained in the article on Kumhār.

216 Crooke, loc. cit. p. 41.

217 See also article Mahār.

218 La Cité Antique, pp. 202, 204.

219 Imperial Gazetteer of India, ii. p. 312.

220 Totemism and Exogamy, vol. ii. pp. 528, 530.

221 Ibidem.

222 Totemism and Exogamy, vol. ii. p. 608; The Golden Bough, 2nd ed. vol. iii. p. 407.

223 Dr. A.H. Keane, The World’s Peoples, p. 138.

224 Mr. L.D. Barnett’s Antiquities of India, p. 171.

225 The Golden Bough, 2nd ed. vol. i. pp. 234, 235.

226 Ibidem, vol. ii. pp. 9, 10.

227 Other features of the sacramental rite, strengthening this hypothesis, are given in the article Kabīrpanthi Sect. The account is taken from Bishop Westcott’s Kabīr and the Kabīrpanth.

228 See articles Dewar, Bhunjia, Gauria, Sonjhara, Malyār.

229 Some instances are given in the article on Kalār and on Rājpūt, para. 9.

230 Dr. A.H. Keane, The World’s Peoples, pp. 129, 130.

231 Para. 11.

232 For further notice of Vishnu and Siva see articles Vaishnava and Saiva sects; for Devi see article Kumhār, and for Kāli, article Thug; for Krishna, article Ahīr; for Ganpati, article Bania.

233 See above, para. 13.

234 La Cité Antique, p. 341.

235 Early History of Mankind, pp. 259, 260. The needfire, as described by Sir E.B. Tylor, had the character of a purificatory rite, but it may be doubted whether this was its original form, any more than in the case of the Suovetaurilia or Pola ceremonies.

236 Mr. J.T. Marten’s Central Provinces Census Report, p. 238.

237 For further notice of this offence see article Sunār under Ear-piercing.

238 Para. 61.

239 “Tarpeia” in M. Salomon Reinach’s Cults, Myths and Religions (English edition, London, David Nutt, 1912).

Articles on Religions and Sects


Arya Samāj

[Bibliography: Sir E.D. Maclagan’s Punjab Census Report of 1891; Mr. R. Burn’s United Provinces Census Report of 1901; Professor J. C. Oman’s Cults, Customs and Superstitions of India.]

List of Paragraphs

1. The founder of the sect, Dayānand Sāraswati.

Arya Samāj Religion.—This important reforming sect of Hinduism numbered nearly 250,000 persons in India in 1911, as against 92,000 in 1901. Its adherents belong principally to the Punjab and the United Provinces. In the Central Provinces 974 members were returned. The sect was founded by Pandit Dayānand Sāraswati, a Gujarāti Brāhman, born in 1824. According to his own narrative he had been carefully instructed in the Vedas, which means that he had been made to commit a great portion of them to memory, and had been initiated at an early age into the Saiva sect to which his family belonged; but while still a mere boy his mind had revolted against the practices of idolatry. He could not bring himself to acknowledge that the image of Siva seated on his bull, the helpless idol, which, as he himself observed in the watches of the night, allowed the mice to run over it with impunity, ought to be worshipped as the omnipotent deity.1 He also conceived an intense aversion to marriage, and fled from home in order to avoid the match which had been arranged for him. He was attracted by the practice of Yoga, or ascetic philosophy, and [202]studied it with great ardour, claiming to have been initiated into the highest secrets of Yoga Vidya. He tells in one of his books of his many and extensive travels, his profound researches in Sanskritic lore, his constant meditations and his ceaseless inquirings. He tells how, by dissecting in his own rough way a corpse which he found floating on a river, he finally discerned the egregious errors of the Hindu medical treatises, and, tearing up his books in disgust, flung them into the river with the mutilated corpse. By degrees he found reason to reject the authority of all the sacred books of the Hindus subsequent to the Vedas. Once convinced of this, he braced himself to a wonderful course of missionary effort, in which he formulated his new system and attacked the existing orthodox Hinduism.2 He maintained that the Vedas gave no countenance to idolatry, but inculcated monotheism, and that their contents could be reconciled with all the results of modern science, which indeed he held to be indicated in them. The Arya Samāj was founded in Lahore in 1877, and during the remainder of his life Dayānand travelled over northern India continually preaching and disputing with the advocates of other religions, and founding branches of his sect. In 1883 he died at Ajmer, according to the story of his followers, from the effects of poison administered to him at the instigation of a prostitute against whose profession he had been lecturing.3

A meeting of the Arya Samāj for investing boys with the sacred thread

A meeting of the Arya Samāj for investing boys with the sacred thread

2. His methods and the scientific interpretation of the Vedas.

Dayānand’s attempt to found a sect which, while not going entirely outside Hinduism, should prove acceptable to educated Hindus desiring a purer faith, appears to have been distinctly successful. The leaders of the Brahmo Samāj were men of higher intelligence and ability than he, and after scrupulously fair and impartial inquiry were led to deny the infallibility of the Vedas, while they also declined to recognise caste. But by so doing they rendered it impossible for a man to become a Brahmo and remain a Hindu, and their movement has made little headway. By retaining the tenet of the divine authority of the Vedas, Dayānand made it possible for educated Hindus to join his sect without absolutely cutting themselves adrift from their old faith. [203]But Dayānand’s contention that the Vedas should be figuratively interpreted, and are so found to foreshadow the discoveries of modern science, will naturally not bear examination. The following instances of the method are given by Professor Oman: “At one of the anniversary meetings of the society a member gravely stated that the Vedas mentioned pure fire, and as pure fire was nothing but electricity, it was evident that the Indians of the Vedic period were acquainted with electricity. A leading member of the sect, who had studied science in the Government college, discovered in two Vedic texts, made up of only eighteen words in all, that oxygen and hydrogen with their characteristic properties were known to the writers of the Rig Veda, who were also acquainted with the composition of water, the constitution of the atmosphere, and had anticipated the modern kinetic theory of gases.”4 Mr. Burn gives the following parallel versions of a verse of the Rig Veda by Professor Max Müller and the late Pandit Guru Datt, M.A., of the Arya Samaj:

Professor Max Müller.—“May Mitra, Varūna, Aryaman, Ayu, Indra, the Lord of the Ribhus, and the Marūts not rebuke us because we shall proclaim at the sacrifice the virtues of the swift horse sprung from the Gods.”

Pandit Guru Datt.—“We shall describe the power-generating virtues of the energetic horses endowed with brilliant properties (or the virtues of the vigorous force of heat) which learned or scientific men can evoke to work for purposes of appliances. Let not philanthropists, noble men, judges, learned men, rulers, wise men and practical mechanics ever disregard these properties.” In fact, the learned Pandit has interpreted horse as horse-power.

3. Tenets of the Samāj.

Nevertheless the Arya Samāj does furnish a haven for educated Hindus who can no longer credit Hindu mythology, but do not wish entirely to break away from their religion; a step which, involving also the abandonment of caste, would in their case mean the cessation to a considerable extent of social and family intercourse. The present tenets and position of the Arya Samāj as given to Professor Oman by Lāla Lājpat Rai5 indicate that, while tending towards the [204]complete removal of the over-swollen body of Hindu ritual and the obstacles to social progress involved in the narrow restrictions of the caste system, the sect at present permits a compromise and does not require of its proselytes a full abjuration. In theory members of any religion may be admitted to the Samāj, and a few Muhammadans have been initiated, but unless they renounce Islam do not usually participate in social intercourse. Sikhs are freely admitted, and converts from any religion who accept the purified Hinduism of the Samāj are welcome. Such converts go through a simple ceremony of purification, for which a Brāhman is usually engaged, though not required by rule. Those who, as Hindus, wore the sacred thread are again invested with it, and it has also been conferred on converts, but this has excited opposition. A few marriages between members of different subcastes have been carried out, and in the case of orphan girls adopted into the Samāj caste, rules have been set aside and they have been married to members of other castes. Lavish expenditure on weddings is discouraged. Vishnu and Siva are accepted as alternative names of the one God; but their reputed consorts Kāli, Durga, Devi, and so on, are not regarded as deities. Brāhmans are usually employed for ceremonies, but these may also, especially birth and funeral ceremonies, be performed by non-Brāhmans. In the Punjab members of the Samāj of different castes will take food together, but rarely in the United Provinces. Dissension has arisen on the question of the consumption of flesh, and the Samāj is split into two parties, vegetarians and meat-eaters. In the United Provinces, Mr. Burn states, the vegetarian party would not object to employ men of low caste as cooks, excepting such impure castes as Chamārs, Doms and sweepers, so long as they were also vegetarians. The Aryas still hold the doctrine of the transmigration of souls and venerate the cow, but they do not regard the cow as divine. In this respect their position has been somewhat modified from that of Dayānand, who was a vigorous supporter of the Gaoraksha or cow-protection movement.

4. Modernising tendencies.

Again Dayānand enunciated a very peculiar doctrine on Niyoga or the custom of childless women, either married or [205]widows, resorting to men other than their husbands for obtaining an heir. This is permitted under certain circumstances by the Hindu lawbooks. Dayānand laid down that a Hindu widow might resort in succession to five men until she had borne each of them two children, and a married woman might do the same with the consent of her husband, or without his consent if he had been absent from home for a certain number of years, varying according to the purpose for which he was absent.6 Dayānand held that this rule would have beneficial results. Those who could restrain their impulses would still be considered as following the best way; but for the majority who could not do so, the authorised method and degree of intimacy laid down by him would prevent such evils as prostitution, connubial unfaithfulness, and the secret liaisons of widows, resulting in practices like abortion. The prevalence of such a custom would, however, certainly do more to injure social and family life than all the evils which it was designed to prevent, and it is not surprising to find that the Samāj does not now consider Niyoga an essential doctrine; instead of this they are trying in face of much opposition to introduce the natural and proper custom of the remarriage of widows. The principal rite of the Samāj is the old Hom sacrifice of burning clarified butter, grain, and various fragrant gums and spices on the sacred fire, with the repetition of Sanskrit texts. They now explain this by saying that it is a sanitary measure, designed to purify the air.

The Samāj does not believe in any literal heaven and hell, but considers these as figurative expressions of the state of the soul, whether in this life or the life to come. The Aryas therefore do not perform the shrādhh ceremony nor offer oblations to the dead, and in abolishing these they reduce enormously the power and influence of the priesthood.

5. Aims and educational institutions.

The above account indicates that the Arya Samāj is tending to become a vaguely theistic sect. Its religious observances will probably fall more and more into the background, and its members will aspire to observe in their conduct the code of social morality obtaining in Europe, and to regulate their habit of life by similar considerations [206]of comfort and convenience. Already the principal aims of the Samāj tend mainly to the social improvement of its members and their fellow-Indians. It sets its face against child-marriage, and encourages the remarriage of widows. It busies itself with female education, with orphanages and schools, dispensaries and public libraries, and philanthropic institutions of all sorts.7 Its avowed aim is to unite and regenerate the peoples of Aryavārrta or India.

As one of its own poets has said:8

Ah! long have ye slept, Sons of India, too long!

Your country degenerate, your morals all wrong.

Its principal educational institutions are the Dayānand Anglo-Vedic College at Lahore and the Anglo-Vedic School at Meerut, a large orphanage at Bareilly, smaller ones at Allahabad and Cawnpore, and a number of primary schools. It employs a body of travelling teachers or Upadeshaks to make converts, and in the famine of 1900 took charge of as many famine orphans as the Local Governments would entrust to it, in order to prevent them from being handed over to Christian missionaries. All members of the Samāj are expected to contribute one per cent of their incomes to the society, and a large number of them do this. The Arya Samāj has been accused of cherishing political aims and of anti-British propaganda, but the writers quoted in this article unite in acquitting it of such a charge as an institution, though some of its members have been more or less identified with the Extremist party. From the beginning, however, and apparently up to the present time, its religious teaching has been directed to social and not to political reform, and so long as it adheres to this course its work must be considered to be useful and praiseworthy. Nevertheless some danger may perhaps exist lest the boys educated in its institutions may with youthful intemperance read into the instruction of their teachers more than it is meant to convey, and divert exhortations for social improvement and progress to political ends.

6. Prospects of the sect.

The census of 1911 showed the Arya Samāj to be in a flourishing and progressive condition. There seems good [207]reason to suppose that its success may continue, as it meets a distinct religious and social requirement of educated Hindus. Narsinghpur is the principal centre of the sect in the Central Provinces, and here an orphanage is maintained with about thirty inmates; the local members have an āta fund, to which they daily contribute a handful of flour, and this accumulates and is periodically made over to the orphanage. There is also a Vedic school at Narsinghpur, and a Sanskrit school has been started at Drūg.9 [208]

1 Cults, Customs, p. 130.

2 Maclagan, Punjab Census Report, p. 174.

3 Burn, United Provinces Census Report, p. 82.

4 Cults, Customs, p. 144.

5 Ibidem, pp. 176, 177.

6 Cults, Customs, pp. 148, 149.

7 Maclagan, l.c.

8 Ibidem.

9 J. T. Marten, Census Report (1911).


Brahmo Samāj

[Bibliography: Professor J. C. Oman’s Brāhmans, Theists and Muslims of India (1907); Cults, Customs and Superstitions of India (1908); Rev. F. Lillingston’s Brahmo Samāj and Arya Samāj (1901). The following brief account is simply compiled from the above works and makes no pretence to be critical.]

List of Paragraphs

1. Ram Mohan Roy, founder of the sect.

Brahmo Samāj Religion.—This monotheistic sect of Bengal numbered only thirty-two adherents in the Central Provinces in 1911, of whom all or nearly all were probably Bengalis. Nevertheless its history is of great interest as representing an attempt at the reform and purification of Hinduism under the influence of Christianity. The founder of the sect, Rām Mohan Roy, a Brāhman, was born in 1772 and died in England in 1833. He was sent to school at Patna, where under the influence of Muhammadan teachers he learnt to despise the extravagant stories of the Purānas. At the age of sixteen he composed a tract against idolatry, which stirred up such a feeling of animosity against him that he had to leave his home. He betook himself first to Benares, where he received instruction in the Vedas from the Brāhmans. From there he went to Tibet, that he might learn the tenets of Buddhism from its adherents rather than its opponents; his genuine desire to form a fair judgment of the merits of every creed being further evidenced by his learning the language in which each of these finds its expression: thus he learnt Sanskrit that he might rightly [209]understand the Vedas, Pāli that he might read the Buddhist Tripitaka, Arabic as the key to the Korān, and Hebrew and Greek for the Old and New Testaments.1 In 1819, after a diligent study of the Bible, he published a book entitled The Precepts of Jesus, the Guide to Peace and Happiness. Although this work was eminently appreciative of the character and teaching of Christ, it gave rise to an attack from the missionaries of Serampore. Strange to say, Rām Mohan Roy so far converted his tutor Mr. Adam (himself a missionary) to his own way of thinking that that gentleman relinquished his spiritual office, became editor of the Indian Gazette, and was generally known in Calcutta as ‘The second fallen Adam.’2

2. Much esteemed by the English.

Rām Mohan Roy was held in great esteem by his English contemporaries in India. He dispensed in charities the bulk of his private means, living himself with the strictest economy in order that he might have the more to give away. It was to a considerable extent due to his efforts, and more especially to his demonstration that the practice of Sati found no sanction in the Vedas, that this abominable rite was declared illegal by Lord William Bentinck in 1829. The titular emperor of Delhi conferred the title of Rāja upon him in 1830 and induced him to proceed to England on a mission to the Home Government. He was the first Brāhman who had crossed the sea, and his distinguished appearance, agreeable manners, and undoubtedly great ability, coupled with his sympathy for Christianity, procured him a warm welcome in England, where he died in 1833.3

3. Foundation of the Brahmo Samāj.

Rām Mohan Roy, with the help of a few friends and disciples, founded, in 1830, the Brahmo Samāj or Society of God. In the trust deed of the meeting-house it was laid down that the society was founded for “the worship and adoration of the eternal, unsearchable and immutable Being who is the Author and Preserver of the Universe, but not by [210]any other name, designation or title peculiarly used by any men or set of men; and that in conducting the said worship and adoration, no object, animate or inanimate, that has been or is or shall hereafter become ... an object of worship by any men or set of men, shall be reviled or slightingly or contemptuously spoken of or alluded to either in preaching, or in the hymns or other mode of worship that may be delivered or used in the said messuage or building.”4 This well exemplifies the broad toleration and liberality of the sect. The service in the new theistic church consisted in the recital of the Vedas by two Telugu Brāhmans, the reading of texts from the Upanishads, and the expounding of the same in Bengali. The Samāj, thus constituted, based its teaching on the Vedas and was at this time, though unorthodox, still a Hindu sect, and made no attempt at the abolition of caste. “Indeed, in establishing this sect, Rām Mohan Roy professed to be leading his countrymen back to the pure, uncorrupted, monotheistic religion of their Vedic ancestors; but his monotheism, based, as it was, essentially upon the Vedanta philosophy, was in reality but a disguised Pantheism, enriched as regards its ethics by ideas derived from Muslim and Christian literature and theology.”5

4. Debendra Nāth Tagore.

After the death of its founder the sect languished for a period of ten years until it was taken in hand by Debendra Nāth Tagore, whose father Dwārka Nāth had been a friend and warm admirer of Rām Mohan Roy, and had practically maintained the society by paying its expenses during the interval. In 1843 Debendra drew up a form of initiation which involved the renunciation of idolatry. He established branches of the Brahmo Samāj in many towns and villages of Bengal, and in 1845 he sent four Pandits to Benāres to copy out and make a special study of the Vedas. On their return to Calcutta after two years Debendra Nāth devoted himself with their aid to a diligent and critical study of the sacred books, and eventually, after much controversy and even danger of disruption, the Samāj, under his guidance, came to the important decision that the teaching of the Vedas could not be reconciled with the conclusions of modern science or with the religious convictions [211]of the Brāhmos, a result which soon led to an open and public denial of the infallibility of the Vedas.

“There is nothing,” Professor Oman remarks, “in the Brāhmic movement more creditable to the parties concerned than this honest and careful inquiry into the nature of the doctrines and precepts of the Vedas.”6

5. Keshub Chandar Sen.

The tenets of the Brahmo Samāj consisted at this time of a pure theism, without special reliance on the Hindu sacred books or recognition of such Hindu doctrines as the transmigration of souls. But in their ordinary lives its members still conformed generally to the caste practices and religious usages of their neighbours. But a progressive party now arose under the leadership of Keshub Chandar Sen, a young man of the Vaidya caste, which desired to break altogether with Hinduism, abolish the use of sect marks and the prohibition of intermarriage between castes, and to welcome into the community converts from all religions. Meanwhile Debendra Nāth Tagore had spent three years in seclusion in the Himalayas, occupied with meditation and prayer; on his return he acceded so far to the views of Keshub Chandar Sen as to celebrate the marriage of his daughter according to a reformed theistic ritual; but when his friend pressed for the complete abolition of all caste restrictions, Debendra Nāth refused his consent and retired once more to the hills.7 The result was a schism in the community, and in 1866 the progressive party seceded and set up a Samāj of their own, calling themselves the Brahmo Samāj of India, while the conservative group under Debendra Nāth Tagore was named the Adi or original Samāj. In 1905 the latter was estimated to number only about 300 persons.8

Keshub Chandar Sen had been educated in the Presidency College, Calcutta, and being more familiar with English and the Bible than with the Sanskrit language and Vedic literature, he was filled with deep enthusiastic admiration of the beauty of Christ’s character and teaching.9 He had shown a strong passion for the stage and loved nothing better than the plays of Shakespeare. He was [212]fond of performing himself, and especially delighted in appearing in the role of a magician or conjurer before his family and friends. The new sect took up the position that all religions were true and worthy of veneration. At the inaugural meeting, texts from the sacred scriptures of the Christians, Hindus, Muhammadans, Parsis and Chinese were publicly read, in order to mark and to proclaim to the world the catholicity of spirit in which it was formed.10 Keshub by his writings and public lectures kept himself prominently before the Indian world, enlisting the sympathies of the Viceroy (Sir John Lawrence) by his tendencies towards Christianity.

6. The Civil Marriage Act.

By this time several marriages had been performed according to the revised ritual of the Brāhmic Church, which had given great offence to orthodox Hindus and exposed the participators in these novel rites to much obloquy. The legality of marriages thus contracted had even been questioned. To avoid this difficulty Keshub induced Government in 1872 to pass the Native Marriage Act, introducing for the first time the institution of civil marriage into Hindu society. The Act prescribed a form of marriage to be celebrated before the Registrar for persons who did not profess either the Hindu, the Muhammadan, the Parsi, the Sikh, the Jaina or the Buddhist religion, and who were neither Christians nor Jews; and fixed the minimum age for a bridegroom at eighteen and for a bride at fourteen. Only six years later, however, Keshub Chandar Sen committed the fatal mistake of ignoring the law which he had himself been instrumental in passing: he permitted the marriage of his daughter, below the age of fourteen, to the young Mahārāja of Kuch Bihār, who was not then sixteen years of age.11 This event led to a public censure of Keshub Chandar Sen by his community and the secession of a section of the members, who formed the Sādhāran or Universal Brahmo Samāj. The creed of this body consisted in the belief in an infinite Creator, the immortality of the soul, the duty and necessity of the spiritual worship of God, and disbelief in any infallible book or man as a means of salvation.12 [213]

7. Keshub Chandar’s relapse into mysticism.

From about this period, or a little before, Keshub Chandar Sen appears to have attempted to make a wider appeal to Indians by developing the emotional side of his religion. And he gradually relapsed from a pure unitarian theism into what was practically Hindu pantheism and the mysticism of the Yogis. At the same time he came to consider himself an inspired prophet, and proclaimed himself as such. The following instances of his extravagant conduct are given by Professor Oman.13

“In 1873 he brought forward the doctrine of Adesh or special inspiration, declaring emphatically that inspiration is not only possible, but a veritable fact in the lives of many devout souls in this age. The following years witnessed a marked development of that essentially Asiatic and perhaps more especially Indian form of religious feeling, which finds its natural satisfaction in solitary ecstatic contemplation. As a necessary consequence an order of devotees was established in 1876, divided into three main classes, which in ascending gradation were designated Shabaks, Bhaktas and Yogis. The lowest class, divided into two sections, is devoted to religious study and the practical performance of religious duties, including doing good to others. The aspiration of the Bhakta is ... ‘Inebriation in God. He is most passionately fond of God and delights in loving Him and all that pertains to Him.... The very utterance of the divine name causes his heart to overflow and brings tears of joy to his eyes.’ As for the highest order of devotees, the Yogis, ‘They live in the spirit-world and readily commune with spiritual realities. They welcome whatever is a help to the entire subjugation of the soul, and are always employed in conquering selfishness, carnality and worldliness. They are happy in prayer and meditation and in the study of nature.’

“The new dispensation having come into the world to harmonise conflicting creeds and regenerate mankind, must have its outward symbol, its triumphal banner floating proudly on the joyful air of highly-favoured India. A flag was therefore made and formally consecrated as ‘The Banner of the New Dispensation.’ This emblem of ‘Regenerated [214]and saving theism’ the new prophet himself formed with a yak’s tail and kissed with his own inspired lips. In orthodox Hindu fashion his missionaries—apostles of the new Dispensation—went round it with lights in their hands, while his less privileged followers respectfully touched the sacred pole and humbly bowed down to it. In a word, the banner was worshipped as Hindu idols are worshipped any day in India. Carried away by a spirit of innovation, anxious to keep himself prominently before the world, and realising no doubt that since churches and sects do not flourish on intellectual pabulum only, certain mystic rites and gorgeous ceremonials were necessary to the success of the new Dispensation, Keshub introduced into his Church various observances which attracted a good deal of attention and did not escape criticism. On one occasion he went with his disciples in procession, singing hymns, to a stagnant tank in Calcutta, and made believe that they were in Palestine and on the side of the Jordan. Standing near the tank Keshub said, ‘Beloved brethren, we have come into the land of the Jews, and we are seated on the bank of the Jordan. Let them that have eyes see. Verily, verily, here was the Lord Jesus baptised eighteen hundred years ago. Behold the holy waters wherein was the Son of God immersed.’ We learn also that Keshub and his disciples attempted to hold communication with saints and prophets of the olden time, upon whose works and teaching they had been pondering in retirement and solitude. On this subject the following notice appeared in the Sunday Mirror:

“‘It is proposed to promote communion with departed saints among the more advanced Brāhmos. With a view to achieve this object successfully ancient prophets and saints will be taken one after another on special occasions and made the subject of close study, meditation and prayer. Particular places will also be assigned to which the devotees will resort as pilgrims. There for hours together they will try to draw inspiration from particular saints. We believe a spiritual pilgrimage to Moses will be shortly undertaken. Only earnest devotees ought to join.’”

8. Recent history of the Samāj.

Keshub Chandar Sen died in 1884, and the Brahmo [215]Samāj seems subsequently to have returned more or less to its first position of pure theism coupled with Hindu social reform. His successor in the leadership of the sect was Bābu P.C. Mazumdār, who visited America and created a favourable impression at the Parliament of Religions at Chicago. Under his guidance the Samāj seems to have gradually drifted towards American Unitarianism, and to have been supported in no slight degree by funds from the United States of America.14 He died in 1905, and left no one of prominent character and attainments to succeed to the leadership. In 1911 the adherents of the different branches of the Samāj numbered at the census only 5500 persons.

9. Character of the movement.

The history of the Brahmo Samāj is of great interest, because it was the first attempt at the reform and purification of Hinduism made under the influence of Christianity, the long line of Vaishnavite reformers who strove to abrogate Hindu polytheism and the deadening restrictions of caste, having probably been inspired by the contemplation of Islam. The Samāj is further distinguished by the admirable toleration and broadness of view of its religious position, and by having had for its leaders three men of exceptional character and attainments, two of whom, and especially Keshub Chandar Sen, made a profound impression in England among all classes of society. But the failure of the Samāj to attract any large number of converts from among the Hindus was only what might have been expected. For it requires its followers practically to cut themselves adrift from family and caste ties and offers nothing in return but an undefined theism, not calculated to excite any enthusiasm or strong feeling in ordinary minds. Its efforts at social reform have probably, however, been of substantial value in weakening the rigidity of Hindu rules on caste and marriage.

1 Lillingston, p. 45, on the authority of Max Mullet. Professor Oman states, however, that he had but little acquaintance with the Vedas (Brāhmans, Tkeists, p. 103), and if this was so it would seem likely that his knowledge of the other ancient languages was not very profound. But he published a book in Persian and knew English well.

2 Oman, quoting from Dr. George Smith’s Life of Dr. Alexander Duff, vol. i. p. 118.

3 Oman, quoting Mary Carpenter’s Last Days in England of the Rāja Rām Mohan Roy, p. 67.

4 Lillingston, p. 51.

5 Brāhmans, Theists, p. 105.

6 Brāhmans, Theists, p. 111.

7 Lillingston, p. 73.

8 Brāhmans, Theists, p. 116.

9 Ibidem, p. 113.

10 Brāhmans, Theists, p. 118.

11 Lillingston, p. 96.

12 Brāhmans, Theists, p. 133.

13 Brāhmans, Theists, pp. 131, 139, 140.

14 Brāhmans, Theists, p. 148.


Dādupanthi Sect.1

Dādupanthi Sect.—One of the sects founded by Vaishnava reformers of the school of Kabīr; a few of its members are found in the western Districts of the Central [216]Provinces. Dādu was a Pinjāra or cotton-cleaner by caste. He was born at Ahmadabād in the sixteenth century, and died at Nārāyana in the Jaipur State shortly after A.D. 1600. He is said to have been the fifth successor in spiritual inspiration from Kabīr, or the sixth from Rāmānand. Dādu preached the unity of God and protested against the animistic abuses which had grown up in Hinduism. “To this day,” writes Mr. Coldstream, “the Dādupanthis use the words Sat Rām, the True God, as a current phrase expressive of their creed. Dādu forbade the worship of idols, and did not build temples; now temples are built by his followers, who say they worship in them the Dādubani or Sacred Book.” This is what has been done by other sects such as the Sikhs and Dhāmis, whose founders eschewed the veneration of idols; but their uneducated followers could not dispense with some visible symbol for their adoration, and hence the sacred script has been enthroned in a temple. The worship of the Dādupanthis, Professor Wilson says, is addressed to Rāma, but it is restricted to the Japa or repetition of his name, and the Rāma intended is the deity negatively described in the Vedanta theology. The chief place of worship of the sect is Nārāyana, where Dādu died. A small building on a hill marks the place of his disappearance, and his bed and the sacred books are kept there as objects of veneration.

Like other sects, the Dādupanthis are divided into celibate or priestly and lay or householder branches. But they have also a third offshoot, consisting in the Nāga Gosains of Jaipur, nearly naked ascetics, who constituted a valuable part of the troops of Jaipur and other States. It is said that the Nāgas always formed the van of the army of Jaipur. The sect have white caps with four corners and a flap hanging down at the back, which each follower has to make for himself. To prevent the destruction of animal life entailed by cremation, the tenets of the sect enjoin that corpses should be laid in the forests to be devoured by birds and beasts. This rule, however, is not observed, and their dead are burnt at early dawn.

1 This article is compiled from the notices in Wilson’s Hindu Sects, As. Res. vol. xvi. pp. 79–81; Sir E. Maclagan’s Punjab Census Report, 1891; and Mr. Bhimbhai Kirpārām’s Hindus of Gujarāt, Bombay Gazetteer, vol. ix.


Dhāmi, Prannāthi Sect.

Dhāmi, Prannāthi Sect.—A small religious sect or order, [217]having its headquarters in the Panna State of Bundelkhand. A few members of the sect are found in the Saugor and Damoh Districts of the Central Provinces. The name Dhāmi is simply a derivative from dhām, a monastery, and in northern India they are called Prannāthi after their founder. They are also known as Sāthi Bhai, brothers in religion, or simply as Bhai or brothers. The sect takes its origin from one Prannāth, a Rājpūt who lived in the latter part of Aurāngzeb’s reign towards the end of the seventeenth century. He is said to have acquired great influence with Chatra Sāl, Rāja of Panna, by the discovery of a diamond mine there, and on this account Panna was made the home of the sect. Prannāth was well acquainted with the sacred books of Islam, and, like other Hindu reformers, he attempted to propagate a faith which should combine the two religions. To this end he composed a work in Gujarāti called the Kulzam Sarup, in which texts from the Korān and the Vedas are brought together and shown not to be incompatible. His creed also proclaimed the abolition of the worship of idols, and apparently of caste restrictions and the supremacy of Brāhmans. As a test of a disciple’s assent to the real identity of the Hindu and Muhammadan creeds, the ceremony of initiation consists in eating in the society of the followers of both religions; but the amalgamation appears to be carried no further, and members of the sect continue to follow generally their own religious practices. Theoretically they should worship no material objects except the Founder’s Book of Faith, which lies on a table covered with gold cloth in the principal temple at Panna. But in fact they adore the boy Krishna as he was at Mathura, and in some temples there are images of Rādha and Krishna, while in others the decorations are so arranged as to look like an idol from a distance. All temples, however, contain a copy of the sacred book, round which a lighted lamp is waved in the morning and evening. The Dhāmis now say also that their founder Prannāth was an incarnation of Krishna, and they observe the Janam-Ashtami or Krishna’s birthday as their principal festival. They wear the Rādha Vallabhi tilak or sect-mark, consisting of two white lines [218]drawn down the forehead from the roots of the hair, and curving to meet at the top of the nose, with a small red dot between them. On the cheeks and temples they make rosette-like marks by bunching up the five fingers, dipping them in a solution of sandalwood and then applying them to the face.1 They regard the Jumna as a sacred river and its water as holy, no doubt because Mathura is on its banks, but pay no reverence to the Ganges. Their priests observe celibacy, but do not practise asceticism, and all the Dhāmis are strict vegetarians.

There is also a branch of the sect in Gujarāt, where the founder is known as Meherāj Thākur. He appears to have been identical with Prannāth, and instituted a local headquarters at Surat.2 It is related by Mr. Bhimbhai Kirpārām that Meherāj Thākur was himself the disciple of one Deo Chand, a native of Amarkot in Sind. The latter was devoted to the study of the Bhāgwat Purān, and came to Jāmnagar in Kāthiāwār, where he founded a temple to Rādha and Krishna. As there is a temple at Panna consecrated to Deo Chand as the Guru or preceptor of Prannāth, and as the book of the faith is written in Gujarāti, the above account would appear to be correct, and it follows that the sect originated in the worship of Krishna, and was refined by Prannāth into a purer form of faith. A number of Cutchis in Surat are adherents of the sect, and usually visit the temple at Panna on the full-moon day of Kārtik (October). Curiously enough the sect has also found a home in Nepāl, having been preached there, it is said, by missionary Dhāmis in the time of Rāja Rām Bahādur Shāh of Nepāl, about 150 years ago. Its members there are known as Pranāmi or Parnāmi, a corruption of Prannāthi and they often come to Panna to study the sacred book. It is reported that there are usually about forty Nepālis lodging in the premises of the great temple at Panna.3 [219]

1 Captain C.E. Luard, in Central India Census Report (1901), p. 88.

2 Bombay Gazetteer, Hindus of Gujarāt (Mr. Bhimbhai Kirpārām), p. 545.

3 This information was kindly furnished by the Diwān of Panna, through the Political Agent at Bundelkhand.


Jain Religion

[Bibliography: The Jainas, by Dr. J.G. Bühler and J. Burgess, London, 1903; The Religions of India, Professor E.W. Hopkins; The Religions of India, Professor A. Barth; Punjab Census Report (1891), Sir E.D. Maclagan; article on Jainism in Dr. Hastings’ Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics.]

List of Paragraphs

1. Numbers and distribution.

Jain.—The total number of Jains in the Central Provinces in 1911 was 71,000 persons. They nearly all belong to the Bania caste, and are engaged in moneylending and trade like other Banias. They reside principally in the Vindhyan Districts, Saugor, Damoh and Jubbulpore, and in the principal towns of the Nāgpur country and Berār.

2. The Jain religion. Its connection with Buddhism.

The Jain tenets present marked features of resemblance to Buddhism, and it was for some time held that Jainism was merely a later offshoot from that religion. The more generally accepted view now, however, is that the Jīna or prophet of the Jains was a real historical personage, who lived in the sixth century B.C., being a contemporary of Gautama, the Buddha. Vardhamāna, as he was commonly called, is said to have been the younger son of a small chieftain in the province of Videha or Tirhūt. Like Sakya-Muni the Buddha or enlightened, Vardhamāna became an ascetic, and after twelve years of a wandering life he appeared as a prophet, proclaiming a modification of the [220]doctrine of his own teacher Pārsva or Pārasnāth. From this time he was known as Mahāvīra, the great hero, the same name which in its familiar form of Mahābīr is applied to the god Hanumān. The title of Jīna or victorious, from which the Jains take their name, was subsequently conferred on him, his sect at its first institution being called Nirgrantha or ascetic. There are very close resemblances in the traditions concerning the lives of Vardhamāna and Gautama or Buddha. Both were of royal birth; the same names recur among their relatives and disciples; and they lived and preached in the same part of the country, Bihār and Tirhūt.1 Vardhamāna is said to have died during Buddha’s lifetime, the date of the latter’s death being about 480 B.C.2 Their doctrines also, with some important differences, present, on the whole, a close resemblance. Like the Buddhists, the Jains claim to have been patronised by the Maurya princes. While Asoka was mainly instrumental in the propagation of Buddhism over India, his grandfather Chandragupta is stated to have been a Jain, and his grandson Sampadi also figures in Jain tradition. A district which is a holy land for one is almost always a holy land for the other, and their sacred places adjoin each other in Bihār, in the peninsula of Gujarāt, on Mount Abu in Rājputāna and elsewhere.3 The earliest of the Jain books belongs to the sixth century A.D., the existence of the Nirgrantha sect in Buddha’s lifetime being proved by the Cingalese books of the Buddhists, and by references to it in the inscriptions of Asoka and others.4 While then M. Barth’s theory that Jainism was simply a later sect of Buddhism has been discarded by subsequent scholars, it seems likely that several of the details of Vardhamāna’s life now recorded in the Jain books are not really authentic, but were taken from that of Buddha with necessary alterations, when the true facts about their own prophet had been irrevocably lost.

Jain temples at Muktagiri, Betul

Jain temples at Muktagiri, Betul

3. The Jain tenets. The Tirthakars.

Like the Buddhists, the Jains recognise no creator of the world, and suppose it to have existed from eternity. Similarly, they had originally no real god, but the Jīna or [221]victor, like the Buddha or Enlightened One, was held to have been an ordinary mortal man, who by his own power had attained to omniscience and freedom, and out of pity for suffering mankind preached and declared the way of salvation which he had found.5 This doctrine, however, was too abstruse for the people, and in both cases the prophet himself gradually came to be deified. Further, in order perhaps to furnish objects of worship less distinctively human and to whom a larger share of the attributes of deity could be imputed, in both religions a succession of mythical predecessors of the prophet was gradually brought into existence. The Buddhists recognise twenty-five Buddhas or divine prophets, who appeared at long epochs of time and taught the same system one after another; and the Jains have twenty-four Tirthakārs or Tirthānkars, who similarly taught their religion. Of these only Vardhamāna, its real founder, who was the twenty-fourth, and possibly Pārsva or Pārasnāth, the twenty-third and the founder’s preceptor, are or may be historical. The other twenty-two Tirthakārs are purely mythical. The first, Rishaba, was born more than 100 billion years ago, as the son of a king of Ajodhya; he lived more than 8 million years, and was 500 bow-lengths in height. He therefore is as superhuman as any god, and his date takes us back almost to eternity. The others succeeded each other at shorter intervals of time, and show a progressive decline in stature and length of life. The images of the Tirthakārs are worshipped in the Jain temples like those of the Buddhas in Buddhist temples. As with Buddhism also, the main feature of Jain belief is the transmigration of souls, and each successive incarnation depends on the sum of good and bad actions or karman in the previous life. They hold also the primitive animistic doctrine that souls exist not only in animals and plants but in stones, lumps of earth, drops of water, fire and wind, and the human soul may pass even into these if its sins condemn it to such a fate.6

4. The transmigration of souls.

The aim which Jainism, like Buddhism, sets before its disciples is the escape from the endless round of successive [222]existences, known as Samsāra, through the extinction of the karman or sum of actions. This is attained by complete subjection of the passions and destruction of all desires and appetites of the body and mind, that is, by the most rigid asceticism, as well as by observing all the moral rules prescribed by the religion. It was the Jīna or prophet who showed this way of escape, and hence he is called Tirthakār or ‘The Finder of the Ford,’ through the ocean of existence.7 But Jainism differs from Buddhism in that it holds that the soul, when finally emancipated, reaches a heaven and there continues for ever a separate intellectual existence, and is not absorbed into Nirvāna or a state of blessed nothingness.

5. Strict rules against taking life.

The moral precepts of the Jains are of the same type as those of Buddhism and Vaishnavite Hinduism, but of an excessive rigidity, at any rate in the case of the Yatis or Jatis, the ascetics. They promise not to hurt, not to speak untruths, to appropriate nothing to themselves without permission, to preserve chastity and to practise self-sacrifice. But these simple rules are extraordinarily expanded on the part of the Jains. Thus, concerning the oath not to hurt, on which the Jains lay most emphasis: it prohibits not only the intentional killing or injuring of living beings, plants or the souls existing in dead matter, but requires also the utmost carefulness in the whole manner of life, and a watchfulness also over all movements and functions of the body by which anything living might be hurt. It demands, finally, strict watch over the heart and tongue, and the avoidance of all thoughts and words which might lead to disputes and quarrels, and thereby do harm. In like manner the rule of sacrifice requires not only that the ascetic should have no houses or possessions, but he must also acquire a complete unconcern towards agreeable or disagreeable impressions, and destroy all feelings of attachment to anything living or dead.8 Similarly, death by voluntary starvation is prescribed for those ascetics who have reached the Kewalin or brightest stage of knowledge, as the means of entering their heaven. Owing to the late date of the Jain scriptures, any or all of its doctrines may have been adopted from Buddhism between the commencement of the two religions [223]and the time when they were compiled. The Jains did not definitely abolish caste, and hence escaped the persecution to which Buddhism was subjected during the period of its decline from the fifth or sixth century A.D. On account of this trouble many Buddhists became Jains, and hence a further fusion of the doctrines of the rival sects may have ensued. The Digambara sect of Jains agree with the Buddhists in holding that women cannot attain Nirvāna or heaven, while the Swetambara sect say that they can, and also admit women as nuns into the ascetic order. The Jain scripture, the Yogashāstra, speaks of women as the lamps that burn on the road that leads to the gates of hell.

6. Jain sects.

The Jains are divided into the above two principal sects, the Digambara and the Swetambara. The Digambara are the more numerous and the stricter sect. According to their tenets death by voluntary starvation is necessary for ascetics who would attain heaven, though of course the rule is not now observed. The name Digambara signifies sky-clad, and Swetambara white-clad. Formerly the Digambara ascetics went naked, and were the gymnosophists of the Greek writers, but now they take off their clothes, if at all, only at meals. The theory of the origin of the two sects is that Pārasnāth, the twenty-third Tirthakār, wore clothes, while Mahāvīra the twenty-fourth did not, and the two sects follow their respective examples. The Digambaras now wear ochre-coloured cloth, and the Swetambaras white. The principal difference at present is that the images in Digambara temples are naked and bare, while those of the Swetambaras are clothed, presumably in white, and also decorated with jewellery and ornaments. The Digambara ascetics may not use vessels for cooking or holding their food, but must take it in their hands from their disciples and eat it thus; while the Swetambara ascetics may use vessels. The Digambara, however, do not consider the straining-cloth, brush, and gauze before the mouth essential to the character of an ascetic, while the Swetambara insist on them. There is in the Central Provinces another small sect called Channāgri or Samaiya, and known elsewhere as Dhundia. These do not put images in their temples at all, but only copies of the Jain sacred books, and pay reverence [224]to them. They will, however, worship in regular Jain temples at places where there are none of their own.

Jain ascetics with cloth before mouth and sweeping-brush

Jain ascetics with cloth before mouth and sweeping-brush

7. Jain ascetics.

The initiation of a Yati or Jati, a Jain ascetic, is thus described: It is frequent for Banias who have no children to vow that their first-born shall be a Yati. Such a boy serves a novitiate with a guru or preceptor, and performs for him domestic offices; and when he is old enough and has made progress in his studies he is initiated. For this purpose the novice is carried out of the tower with music and rejoicing in procession, followed by a crowd of Srāvakas or Jain laymen, and taken underneath the banyan, or any other tree the juice of which is milky. His hair is pulled out at the roots with five pulls; camphor, musk, sandal, saffron and sugar are applied to the scalp; and he is then placed before his guru, stripped of his clothes and with his hands joined. A text is whispered in his ear by the guru, and he is invested with the clothes peculiar to Yatis; two cloths, a blanket and a staff; a plate for his victuals and a cloth to tie them up in; a piece of gauze to tie over his mouth to prevent the entry of insects; a cloth through which to strain his drinking-water to the same end; and a broom made of cotton threads or peacock feathers to sweep the ground before him as he walks, so that his foot may not crush any living thing. The duty of the Yati is to read and explain the sacred books to the Srāvakas morning and evening, such functions being known as Sandhya. His food consists of all kinds of grain, vegetables and fruit produced above the earth; but no roots such as yams or onions. Milk and ghī are permitted, but butter and honey are prohibited. Some strict Yatis drink no water but what has been first boiled, lest they should inadvertently destroy any insect, it being less criminal to boil them than to destroy them in the drinker’s stomach. A Yati having renounced the world and all civil duties can have no family, nor does he perform any office of mourning or rejoicing.9 A Yati was directed to travel about begging and preaching for eight months in the year, and during the four rainy months to reside in some village or town and observe a fast. The rules of conduct to be observed by him were extremely [225]strict, as has already been seen. Those who observed them successfully were believed to acquire miraculous powers. He who was a Siddh or victor, and had overcome his Karma or the sum of his human actions and affections, could read the thoughts of others and foretell the future. He who had attained Kewalgyan, or the state of perfect knowledge which preceded the emancipation of the soul and its absorption into paradise, was a god on earth, and even the gods worshipped him. Wherever he went all plants burst into flower and brought forth fruit, whether it was their season or not. In his presence no animal bore enmity to another or tried to kill it, but all animals lived peaceably together. This was the state attained to by each Tirthakār during his last sojourn on earth. The number of Jain ascetics seems now to be less than formerly and they are not often met with, at least in the Central Provinces. They do not usually perform the function of temple priest.

8. Jain subcastes of Banias.

Practically all the Jains in the Central Provinces are of the Bania caste. There is a small subcaste of Jain Kalārs, but these are said to have gone back to Hinduism.10 Of the Bania subcastes who are Jains the principal are the Parwār, Golapūrab, Oswāl and Saitwāl. Saraogi, the name for a Jain layman, and Charnāgar, a sect of Jains, are also returned as subcastes of Jain Banias. Other important subcastes of Banias, as the Agarwāl and Maheshri, have a Jain section. Nearly all Banias belong to the Digambara sect, but the Oswāl are Swetambaras. They are said to have been originally Rājpūts of Os or Osnagar in Rājputāna, and while they were yet Rājpūts a Swetambara ascetic sucked the poison from the wound of an Oswāl boy whom a snake had bitten, and this induced the community to join the Swetambara sect of the Jains.11

9. Rules and customs of the laity.

The Jain laity are known as Shrāwak or Saraogi, learners. There is comparatively little to distinguish them from their Hindu brethren. Their principal tenet is to avoid the destruction of all animal, including insect life, but the Hindu Banias are practically all Vaishnavas, and observe [226]almost the same tenderness for animal life as the Jains. The Jains are distinguished by their separate temples and method of worship, and they do not recognise the authority of the Vedas nor revere the lingam of Siva. Consequently they do not use the Hindu sacred texts at their weddings, but repeat some verses from their own scriptures. These weddings are said to be more in the nature of a civil contract than of a religious ceremony. The bride and bridegroom walk seven times round the sacred post and are then seated on a platform and promise to observe certain rules of conduct towards each other and avoid offences. It is said that formerly a Jain bride was locked up in a temple for the first night and considered to be the bride of the god. But as scandals arose from this custom, she is now only locked up for a minute or two and then let out again. Jain boys are invested with the sacred thread on the occasion of their weddings or at twenty-one or twenty-two if they are still unmarried at that age. The thread is renewed annually on the day before the full moon of Bhādon (August), after a ten days’ fast in honour of Anānt Nāth Tirthakār. The thread is made by the Jain priests of tree cotton and has three knots. At their funerals the Jains do not shave the moustaches off as a rule, and they never shave the choti or scalp-lock, which they wear like Hindus. They give a feast to the caste-fellows and distribute money in charity, but do not perform the Hindu shrāddh or offering of sacrificial cakes to the dead. The Agarwāl and Khandelwāl Jains, however, invoke the spirits of their ancestors at weddings. Traces of an old hostility between Jains and Hindus survive in the Hindu saying that one should not take refuge in a Jain temple, even to escape from a mad elephant; and in the rule that a Jain beggar will not take alms from a Hindu unless he can perform some service in return, though it may not equal the value of the alms.

10. Connection with Hinduism.

In other respects the Jains closely resemble the Hindus. Brāhmans are often employed at their weddings, they reverence the cow, worship sometimes in Hindu temples, go on pilgrimages to the Hindu sacred places, and follow the Hindu law of inheritance. The Agarwāl Bania Jains and Hindus will take food cooked with water together and intermarry in Bundelkhand, although it is doubtful whether they do this [227]in the Central Provinces. In such a case each party pays a fine to the Jain temple fund. In respect of caste distinctions the Jains are now scarcely less strict than the Hindus. The different Jain subcastes of Banias coming from Bundelkhand will take food together as a rule, and those from Marwār will do the same. The Khandelwāl and Oswāl Jain Banias will take food cooked with water together when it has been cooked by an old woman past the age of child-bearing, but not that cooked by a young woman. The spread of education has awakened an increased interest among the Jains in their scriptures and the tenets of their religion, and it is quite likely that the tendency to conform to Hinduism in caste matters and ceremonies may receive a check on this account.12

11. Temple and car festival.

The Jains display great zeal in the construction of temples in which the images of the Tirthakārs are enshrined. The temples are commonly of the same fashion as those of the Hindus, with a short, roughly conical spire tapering to a point at the apex, but they are frequently adorned with rich carved stone and woodwork. There are fine collections of temples at Muktagiri in Betūl, Kundalpur in Damoh, and at Mount Abu, Girnar, the hill of Parasnāth in Chota Nāgpur, and other places in India. The best Jain temples are often found in very remote spots, and it is suggested that they were built at times when the Jains had to hide in such places to avoid Hindu persecution. And wherever a community of Jain merchants of any size has been settled for a generation or more several fine temples will probably be found. A Jain Bania who has grown rich considers the building of one or more temples to be the best method of expending his money and acquiring religious merit, and some of them spend all their fortune in this manner before their death. At the opening of a new temple the rath or chariot festival should be held. Wooden cars are made, sometimes as much as five stories high, and furnished with chambers for the images of the Tirthakārs. In these the idols of the hosts and all the guests are placed. Each car should be drawn by two elephants, and the procession of cars moves seven times round the temple or pavilion erected for the ceremony. For building a temple [228]and performing this ceremony honorary and hereditary titles are conferred. Those who do it once receive the designation of Singhai; for carrying it out twice they become Sawai Singhai; and on a third occasion Seth. In such a ceremony performed at Khurai in Saugor one of the participators was already a Seth, and in recognition of his great liberality a new title was devised and he became Srimant Seth. It is said, however, that if the car breaks and the elephants refuse to move, the title becomes derisive and is either ‘Lule Singhai,’ the lame one, or ‘Arku Singhai,’ the stumbler. If no elephants are available and the car has to be dragged by men, the title given is Kadhore Singhai.

Jain gods in attitude of contemplation

Jain gods in attitude of contemplation

12. Images of the Tirthakārs.

In the temples are placed the images of Tirthakārs, either of brass, marble, silver or gold. The images may be small or life-size or larger, and the deities are represented in a sitting posture with their legs crossed and their hands lying upturned in front, the right over the left, in the final attitude of contemplation prior to escape from the body and attainment of paradise. There may be several images in one temple, but usually there is only one, though a number of temples are built adjoining each other or round a courtyard. The favourite Tirthakārs found in temples are Rishab Deva, the first; Anantnāth, the fourteenth; Santnāth, the sixteenth; Nemnāth, the twenty-second; Pārasnāth, the twenty-third; and Vardhamāna or Mahāvīra, the twenty-fourth.13 As already stated only Mahāvīra and perhaps Parasnāth, his preceptor, were real historical personages, and the remainder are mythical. It is noticeable that to each of the Tirthakārs is attached a symbol, usually in the shape of an animal, and also a tree, apparently that tree under which the Tirthakār is held to have been seated at the time that he obtained release from the body. And these animals and trees are in most cases those which are also revered and held sacred by the Hindus. Thus the sacred animal of Rishab Deva is the bull, and his tree the banyan; that of Anantnāth is the falcon or bear, and his tree the holy Asoka;14 that of Santnāth is the black-buck or Indian antelope, and his tree the tun or cedar;15 the symbol of Nemnāth is the conch [229]shell (sacred to Vishnu), but his tree, the vetasa, is not known; the animal of Pārasnāth is the serpent or cobra and his tree the dhātaki;16 and the animal of Mahāvīra is the lion or tiger and his tree the teak tree. Among the symbols of the other Tirthakārs are the elephant, horse, rhinoceros, boar, ape, the Brāhmani duck, the moon, the pīpal tree, the lotus and the swastik figure; and among their trees the mango, the jāmun17 and the champak.18 Most of these animals and trees are sacred to the Hindus, and the elephant, boar, ape, cobra and tiger were formerly worshipped themselves, and are now attached to the principal Hindu gods. Similarly the asoka, pīpal, banyan and mango trees are sacred, and also the Brāhmani duck and the swastik sign. It cannot be supposed that the Tirthakārs simply represent the deified anthropomorphic emanations from these animals, because the object of Vardhamāna’s preaching was perhaps like that of Buddha to do away with the promiscuous polytheism of the Hindu religion. But nevertheless the association of the sacred animals and trees with the Tirthakārs furnished a strong connecting link between them and the Hindu gods, and considerably lessens the opposition between the two systems of worship. The god Indra is also frequently found sculptured as an attendant guardian in the Jain temples. The fourteenth Tirthakār, Anantnāth, is especially revered by the people because he is identified with Gautama Buddha.

13. Religious observances.

The priest of a Jain temple is not usually a Yati or ascetic, but an ordinary member of the community. He receives no remuneration and carries on his business at the same time. He must know the Jain scriptures, and makes recitations from them when the worshippers are assembled. The Jain will ordinarily visit a temple and see the god every morning before taking his food, and his wife often goes with him. If there is no temple in their own town or village they will go to another, provided that it is within a practicable distance. The offerings made at the temple consist of rice, almonds, cocoanuts, betel-leaves, areca, dates, cardamoms, cloves and similar articles. These are appropriated by the Hindu Māli or gardener, who is the menial servant employed [230]to keep the temple and enclosures clean. The Jain will not take back or consume himself anything which has been offered to the god. Offerings of money are also made, and these go into the bhandār or fund for maintenance of the temple. The Jains observe fasts for the last week before the new moon in the months of Phāgun (February), Asārh (June) and Kārtik (October). They also fast on the second, fifth, eighth, eleventh and fourteenth days in each fortnight of the four months of the rains from Asārh to Kārtik, this being in lieu of the more rigorous fast of the ascetics during the rains. On these days they eat only once, and do not eat any green vegetables. After the week’s fast at the end of Kārtik, at the commencement of the month of Aghan, the Jains begin to eat all green vegetables.

Jain temple in Seoni

Jain temple in Seoni

14. Tenderness for animal life.

The great regard for animal life is the most marked feature of the Jain religion among the laity as well as the clergy. The former do not go to such extremes as the latter, but make it a practice not to eat food after sunset or before sunrise, owing to the danger of swallowing insects. Now that their beliefs are becoming more rational, however, and the irksome nature of this rule is felt, they sometimes place a lamp with a sieve over it to produce rays of light, and consider that this serves as a substitute for the sun. Formerly they maintained animal hospitals in which all kinds of animals and reptiles, including monkeys, poultry and other birds were kept and fed, and any which had broken a limb or sustained other injuries were admitted and treated. These were known as pinjrapol or places of protection.19 A similar institution was named jivuti, and consisted of a small domed building with a hole at the top large enough for a man to creep in, and here weevils and other insects which the Jains might find in their food were kept and provided with grain.20 In Rājputāna, where rich Jains probably had much influence, considerable deference was paid to their objections to the death of any living thing. Thus a Mewār edict of A.D. 1693 directed that no one might carry animals for slaughter past their temples or houses. Any man or [231]animal led past a Jain house for the purpose of being killed was thereby saved and set at liberty. Traitors, robbers or escaped prisoners who fled for sanctuary to the dwelling of a Jain Yati or ascetic could not be seized there by the officers of the court. And during the four rainy months, when insects were most common, the potter’s wheel and Teli’s oil-press might not be worked on account of the number of insects which would be destroyed by them.21

15. Social condition of the Jains.

As they are nearly all of the Bania caste the Jains are usually prosperous, and considering its small size, the standard of wealth in the community is probably very high for India, the total number of Jains in the country being about half a million. Beggars are rare, and, like the Pārsis and Europeans, the Jains feeling themselves a small isolated body in the midst of a large alien population, have a special tenderness for their poorer members, and help them in more than the ordinary degree. Most of the Jain Banias are grain-dealers and moneylenders like other Banias. Cultivation is prohibited by their religion, owing to the destruction of animal life which it involves, but in Saugor, and also in the north of India, many of them have now taken to it, and some plough with their own hands. Mr. Marten notes22 that the Jains are beginning to put their wealth to a more practical purpose than the lavish erection and adornment of temples. Schools and boarding-houses for boys and girls of their religion are being opened, and they subscribe liberally for the building of medical institutions. It may be hoped that this movement will continue and gather strength, both for the advantage of the Jains themselves and the country generally. [232]

1 Barth, p. 148.

2 Hopkins, p. 310, and The Jains, p. 40.

3 Barth, p. 149.

4 The Jainas, pp. 38–47.

5 The writer is inclined to doubt whether either Buddhism or Jainism were really atheistic, and to think that they were perhaps rather forms of pantheism; but the above is the view of the best authorities.

6 The Jainas, p. 10.

7 The Jainas, p. 6.

8 Ibidem, p. 10.

9 Moor’s Hindu Infanticide, pp. 175–176.

10 Marten, C.P. Census Report (1911), p. 67.

11 Maclagan, Punjab Census Report (1891), p. 183.

12 Mr. Marten’s Central Provinces Census Report, 1911.

13 The particulars about the Tirthakārs and the animals and trees associated with them are taken from The Jainas.

14 Jonesia Asoka.

15 Cedrela toona.

16 Grislea tomentosa.

17 Eugenia jambolana.

18 Michelia champaka.

19 Crooke, Things Indian, art. Pinjrapol.

20 Moor, Hindu Infanticide, p. 184.

21 Rājasthān, vol. i. p. 449, and pp. 696, 697, App.

22 Central Provinces Census Report, 1911.



[Bibliography: Right Reverend G. H. Westcott, Kabīr and the Kabīrpanth, Cawnpore, 1907; Asiatic Researches, vol. xvi. pp. 53–75 (Wilson’s Hindu Sects); Mr. Crooke’s Tribes and Castes, article Kabīrpanthi; Central Provinces Census Report (1891), Sir B. Robertson.]

List of Paragraphs

1. Life of Kabīr.

Kabīrpanthi Sect.—A well-known religious sect founded by the reformer Kabīr, who flourished in the fifteenth century, and is called by Dr. Hunter the Luther of India. The sect has now split into two branches, the headquarters of one of these being at Benāres, and of the other at Kawardha, or Dāmākheda in Raipur. Bishop Westcott gives the date of Kabīr’s life as A.D. 1440—1518, while Mr. Crooke states that he flourished between 1488 and 1512. Numerous legends are now told about him; thus, according to one of these, he was the son of a virgin Brāhman widow, who had been taken at her request to see the great reformer Rāmānand. He, unaware of her condition, saluted her with the benediction which he thought acceptable to all women, and wished her the conception of a son. His words could not be recalled, and the widow conceived, but, in order to escape the disgrace which would attach to her, exposed the child, who was Kabīr. He was found by a Julāha or Muhammadan weaver and his wife, and brought up by them. The object of this story is probably to connect Kabīr with Rāmānand as his successor in reformation and spiritual heir; because the Rāmānandis are an orthodox Vaishnava [233]sect, while the Kabīrpanthis, if they adhered to all Kabīr’s preaching, must be considered as quite outside the pale of Hinduism. To make out that Kabīr came into the world by Rāmānand’s act provides him at any rate with an orthodox spiritual lineage. For the same reason1 the date of Kabīr’s birth is sometimes advanced as early as 1398 in order to bring it within the period of Rāmānand’s lifetime (circa 1300–1400). Another story is that the deity took mortal shape as a child without birth, and was found by a newly-married weaver’s wife lying in a lotus flower on a tank, like Moses in the bulrushes. Bishop Westcott thus describes the event: “A feeling of thirst overcame Nīma, the newly-wedded wife of Nīru, the weaver, as after the marriage ceremony she was making her way to her husband’s house. She approached the tank, but was much afraid when she there beheld the child. She thought in her heart, ‘This is probably the living evidence of the shame of some virgin widow.’ Nīru suggested that they might take the child to their house, but Nīma at first demurred, thinking that such action might give rise to scandal. Women would ask, ‘Who is the mother of a child so beautiful that its eyes are like the lotus?’ However, laying aside all fears, they took pity on the child. On approaching the house they were welcomed with the songs of women, but when the women saw the child dark thoughts arose in their heads, and they began to ask, ‘How has she got this child?’ Nīma replied that she had got the child without giving birth to it, and the women then refrained from asking further questions.” It is at any rate a point generally agreed on that Kabīr was brought up in the house of a Muhammadan weaver. It is said that he became the chela or disciple of Rāmānand, but this cannot be true, as Rāmānand was dead before his birth. It seems probable that he was married, and had two children named Kamāl and Kamāli. Bishop Westcott states2 that the Kabīr Kasauti explains the story of his supposed marriage by the fact that he had a girl disciple named Loi, a foundling brought up by a holy man; she followed his precepts, and coming to Benāres, passed her time in the service of the saints. Afterwards Kabīr raised two children [234]from the dead and gave them to Loi to bring up, and the ignorant suppose that these were his wife and children. Such a statement would appear to indicate that Kabīr was really married, but after his sect had become important, this fact was felt to be a blot on his claim to be a divine prophet, and so was explained away in the above fashion.



The plain speaking of Kabīr and his general disregard for religious conventions excited the enmity of both Hindus and Muhammadans, and he was accused before the Emperor Sikandar Lodi, by whose orders various attempts were made to kill him; but he was miraculously preserved in each case, until at last the Emperor acknowledged his divine character, asked his forgiveness, and expressed his willingness to undergo any punishment that he might name. To this Kabīr replied that a man should sow flowers for those who had sown him thorns. Bishop Westcott continues:—“All accounts agree that the earthly life of Kabīr came to a close at Maghar, in the District of Gorakhpur. Tradition relates that Kabīr died in extreme old age, when his body had become infirm and his hands were no longer able to produce the music with which he had in younger days celebrated the praises of Rāma.

“A difficulty arose with regard to the disposal of his body after death. The Muhammadans desired to bury it and the Hindus to cremate it. As the rival parties discussed the question with growing warmth Kabīr himself appeared and bade them raise the cloth in which the body lay enshrouded. They did as he commanded, and lo! beneath the cloth there lay but a heap of flowers. Of these flowers the Hindus removed half and burnt them at Benāres, while what remained were buried at Maghar by the Muhammadans.”

2. Kabīr’s teachings.

The religion preached by Kabīr was of a lofty character. He rejected the divine inspiration of the Vedas and the whole Hindu mythology. He taught that there was no virtue in outward observances such as shaving the head, ceremonial purity and impurity, and circumcision among Muhammadans. He condemned the worship of idols and the use of sect-marks and religious amulets, but in all ordinary matters allowed his followers to conform to usage [235]in order to avoid giving offence. He abolished distinctions of caste. He enjoined a virtuous life, just conduct and kindly behaviour and much meditation on the virtues of God. He also condemned the love of money and gain. In fact, in many respects his creed resembles Christianity, just as the life of Kabīr contains one or two episodes parallel to that of Christ. He prescribed obedience to the Guru or spiritual preceptor in all matters of faith and morals. His religion appears to have been somewhat of a pantheistic character and his idea of the deity rather vague. But he considered that the divine essence was present in all human beings, and apparently that those who freed themselves from sin and the trammels of worldly desires would ultimately be absorbed into the godhead. It does not seem that Kabīr made any exact pronouncement on the doctrine of the transmigration of souls and re-birth, but as he laid great stress on avoiding the destruction of any animal life, a precept which is to some extent the outcome of the belief in transmigration, he may have concurred in this tenet. Some Kabīrpanthis, however, have discarded transmigration. Bishop Westcott states that they do believe in the re-birth of the soul after an intervening period of reward or punishment, but always apparently in a human body.

3. His sayings

He would seem never to have promulgated any definite account of his own religion, nor did he write anything himself. He uttered a large number of Sākhis or apothegms which were recorded by his disciples in the Bījak, Sukhanidhān and other works, and are very well known and often quoted by Kabīrpanthis and others. The influence of Kabīr extended beyond his own sect. Nānak, the founder of the Nānakpanthis and Sikhs, was indebted to Kabīr for most of his doctrine, and the Adi-Granth or first sacred book of the Sikhs is largely compiled from his sayings. Other sects such as the Dādupanthis also owe much to him. A small selection of his sayings from those recorded by Bishop Westcott may be given in illustration of their character:

1. Adding cowrie to cowrie he brings together lakhs and crores.

At the time of his departure he gets nothing at all, even his loin-cloth is plucked away. [236]

2. Fire does not burn it, the wind does not carry it away, no thief comes near it; collect the wealth of the name of Rāma, that wealth is never lost.

3. By force and love circumcision is made, I shall not agree to it, O brother. If God will make me a Turk by Him will I be circumcised; if a man becomes a Turk by being circumcised what shall be done with a woman? She must remain a Hindu.

4. The rosaries are of wood, the gods are of stone, the Ganges and Jumna are water. Rāma and Krishna are dead. The four Vedas are fictitious stories.

5. If by worshipping stones one can find God, I shall worship a mountain; better than these stones (idols) are the stones of the flour-mill with which men grind their corn.

6. If by immersion in the water salvation be obtained, the frogs bathe continually. As the frogs so are these men, again and again they fall into the womb.

7. As long as the sun does not rise the stars sparkle; so long as perfect knowledge of God is not obtained, men practise rites and ceremonies.

8. Brahma is dead with Siva who lived in Kāshi; the immortals are dead. In Mathura, Krishna, the cowherd, died. The ten incarnations (of Vishnu) are dead. Machhandranāth, Gorakhnāth, Dattātreya and Vyās are no longer living. Kabīr cries with a loud voice, All these have fallen into the slip-knot of death.

9. While dwelling in the womb there is no clan nor caste; from the seed of Brahm the whole of creation is made.

Whose art thou the Brāhman? Whose am I the Sūdra? Whose blood am I? Whose milk art thou?

Kabīr says, ‘Who reflects on Brahm, he by me is made a Brāhman.’

10. To be truthful is best of all if the heart be truthful. A man may speak as much as he likes; but there is no pleasure apart from truthfulness.

11. If by wandering about naked union with Hari be obtained; then every deer of the forest will attain to God. If by shaving the head perfection is achieved, the sheep is saved, no one is lost.

If salvation is got by celibacy, a eunuch should be the [237]first saved. Kabīr says, ‘Hear, O Man and Brother; without the name of Rāma no one has obtained salvation.’

The resemblance of some of the above ideas to the teaching of the Gospels is striking, and, as has been seen, the story of Kabīr’s birth might have been borrowed from the Bible, while the Kabīrpanthi Chauka or religious service has one or two features in common with Christianity. These facts raise a probability, at any rate, that Kabīr or his disciples had some acquaintance with the Bible or with the teaching of Christian missionaries. If such a supposition were correct, it would follow that Christianity had influenced the religious thought of India to a greater extent than is generally supposed. Because, as has been seen, the Nānakpanthi and Sikh sects are mainly based on the teaching of Kabīr. Another interesting though accidental resemblance is that the religion of Kabīr was handed down in the form of isolated texts and sayings like the Logia of Jesus, and was first reduced to writing in a connected form by his disciples. The fact that Kabīr called the deity by the name of Rāma apparently does not imply that he ascribed a unique and sole divinity to the hero king of Ajodhia. He had to have some name which might convey a definite image or conception to his uneducated followers, and may have simply adopted that which was best known and most revered by them.

4. The Kabīrpanthi Sect in the Central Provinces.

The two principal headquarters of the Kabīrpanthi sect are at Benaires and at Kawardha, the capital of the State of that name, or Dāmākheda in the Raipur District. These appear to be practically independent of each other, the head Mahants exercising separate jurisdiction over members of the sect who acknowledge their authority. The Benāres branch of the sect is known as Bāp (father) and the Kawardha branch as Mai (mother). In 1901 out of 850,000 Kabīrpanthis in India 500,000 belonged to the Central Provinces. The following account of the practices of the sect in the Province is partly compiled from local information, and it differs in some minor, though not in essential, points from that given by Bishop Westcott. The Benāres church is called the Kabīrchaura Math and the Kawardha one the Dharam Dās Math. [238]

One of the converts to Kabīr’s teaching was Dharam Dās, a Kasaundhan Bania, who distributed the whole of his wealth, eighteen lakhs of rupees, in charity at his master’s bidding and became a mendicant. In reward for this Kabīr promised him that his family should endure for forty-two generations. The Mahants of Kawardha claim to be the direct descendants of Dharam Dās. They marry among Kasaundhan Banias, and their sons are initiated and succeed them. The present Mahants Dayāram and Ugranām are twelfth and thirteenth in descent from Dharam Dās. Kabīr not only promised that there should be forty-two Mahants, but gave the names of each of them, so that the names of all future Mahants are known.3 Ugranām was born of a Marār woman, and, though acclaimed as the successor of his father, was challenged by Dhīrajnām, whose parentage was legitimate. Their dispute led to a case in the Bombay High Court, which was decided in favour of Dhīrajnām, and he accordingly occupied the seat at Kawardha. Dayārām is his successor. But Dhīrajnām was unpopular, and little attention was paid to him. Ugranām lives at Dāmākheda, near Simga,4 and enjoys the real homage of the followers of the sect, who say that Dhīraj was the official Mahant but Ugra the people’s Mahant. Of the previous Mahants, four are buried at Kawardha, two at Kudarmāl in Bilāspur, the site of a Kabīrpanthi fair, and two at Mandla. Under the head Mahant are a number of subordinate Mahants or Gurus, each of whom has jurisdiction over the members of the sect in a certain area. The Guru pays so much a year to the head Mahant for his letter of jurisdiction and takes all the offerings himself. These subordinate Mahants may be celibate or married, and about two-thirds of them are married. A dissenting branch called Nadiapanthi has now arisen in Raipur, all of whom are celibate. The Mahants have a high peaked cap somewhat of the shape of a mitre, a long sleeveless white robe, a chauri or whisk, chauba or silver stick, and a staff called kuari or aska. It is said that on one occasion there was a very high flood at Puri and the sea threatened to submerge Jagannāth’s temple, but Kabīr planted a stick in the sand and said, ‘Come thus far and [239]no further,’ and the flood was stayed. In memory of this the Mahants carry the crutched staff, which also serves as a means of support. When officiating they wear a small embroidered cap. Each Mahant has a Diwān or assistant, and he travels about his charge during the open season, visiting the members of the sect. A Mahant should not annoy any one by begging, but rather than do so should remain hungry. He must not touch any flesh, fish or liquor. And if any living thing is hungry he should give it of his own food.

5. The religious service.

A Kabīrpanthi religious service is called Chauka, the name given to the space marked out for it with lines of wheat-flour, 5 or 7½ yards square.5 In the centre is made a pattern of nine lotus flowers to represent the sun, moon and seven planets, and over this a bunch of real flowers is laid. At one corner is a small hollow pillar of dough serving as a candle-stick, in which a stick covered with cotton-wool burns as a lamp, being fed with butter. The Mahant sits at one end and the worshippers sit round. Bhajans or religious songs are sung to the music of cymbals by one or two, and the others repeat the name of Kabīr counting on their kanthi or necklace of beads. The Mahant lights a piece of camphor and waves it backwards and forwards in a dish. This is called Arti, a Hindu rite. He then breaks a cocoanut on a stone, a thing which only a Mahant may do. The flesh of the cocoanut is cut up and distributed to the worshippers with betel-leaf and sugar. Each receives it on his knees, taking the greatest care that none fall on the ground. If any of the cocoanut remain, it is kept by the Mahant for another service. The Hindus think that the cocoanut is a substitute for a human head. It is supposed to have been created by Viswāmitra and the būch or tuft of fibre at the end represents the hair. The Kabīrpanthis will not eat any part of a cocoanut from other Hindus from which this tuft has been removed, as they fear that it may have been broken off in the name of some god or spirit. Once the būch is removed the cocoanut is not an acceptable offering, as its likeness to a human head is considered to be [240]destroyed. After this the Mahant gives an address and an interval occurs. Some little time afterwards the worshippers reassemble. Meanwhile, a servant has taken the dough candle-stick and broken it up, mixing it with fragments of the cocoanut, butter and more flour. It is then brought to the Mahant, who makes it into little puris or wafers. The Mahant has also a number of betel-leaves known as parwāna or message, which have been blessed by the head guru at Kawardha or Dāmākheda. These are cut up into small pieces for delivery to each disciple and are supposed to represent the body of Kabīr. He has also brought Charan Amrita or Nectar of the Feet, consisting of water in which the feet of the head guru have been washed. This is mixed with fine earth and made up into pills. The worshippers reassemble, any who may feel unworthy absenting themselves, and each receives from the Mahant, with one hand folded beneath the other, a wafer of the dough, a piece of the parwāna or betel-leaf, and a pill of the foot-nectar. After partaking of the sacred food they cleanse their hands, and the proceedings conclude with a substantial meal defrayed either by subscription or by a well-to-do member. Bishop Westcott states that the parwāna or betel-leaf is held to represent Kabīr’s body, and the Kabīrpanthis say that the flame of the candle is the life or spirit of Kabīr, so that the dough of the candle-stick might also be taken to symbolise his body. The cocoanut eaten at the preliminary service is undoubtedly offered by Hindus as a substitute for a human body, though the Kabīrpanthis may now disclaim this idea. And the foot-nectar of the guru might be looked upon as a substitute for the blood of Kabīr.

6. Initiation.

The initiation of a proselyte is conducted at a similar service, and he is given cocoanut and betel-leaf. He solemnly vows to observe the rules of the sect, and the Mahant whispers a text into his ear and hangs a necklace of wooden beads of the wood of the tulsi or basil round his neck. This kanthi or necklace is the mark of the Kabīrpanthi, but if lost, it can be replaced by any other necklace, not necessarily of tulsi. One man was observed with a necklace of pink beads bought at Allahābād. Sometimes only a [241]single tulsi bead is worn on a string. The convert is also warned against eating the fruit of the gūlar6 fig-tree, as these small figs are always full of insects. Kabīr condemned sect-marks, but many Kabīrpanthis now have them, the mark usually being a single broad streak of white sandalwood from the top of the forehead to the nose.

7. Funeral rites.

The Kabīrpanthis are usually buried. Formerly, the bodies of married people both male and female were buried inside the compound of the house, but this is now prohibited on sanitary grounds. A cloth is placed in the grave and the corpse laid on it and another cloth placed over it covering the face. Over the grave a little platform is made on which the Mahant and two or three other persons can sit. On the twenty-first day after the death, if possible, the Mahant should hold a service for the dead. The form of the service is that already described, the Mahant sitting on the grave and the chauka being made in front of it. He lays a cocoanut and flowers on the grave and lights the lamp, afterwards distributing the cocoanut. The Kabīrpanthis think that the soul of the dead person remains in the grave up to this time, but when the lamp is burnt the soul mingles with the flame, which is the soul of Kabīr, and is absorbed into the deity. When breaking a cocoanut over the grave of the dead the Kabīrpanthis say, ‘I am breaking the skull of Yama,’ because they think that the soul of a Kabīrpanthi is absorbed into the deity and therefore is not liable to be taken down to hell and judged by Chitragupta and punished by Yama. From this it would appear that some of them do not believe in the transmigration of souls.

8. Idol worship.

Ordinarily the Kabīrpanthis have no regular worship except on the occasion of a visit of the guru. But sometimes in the morning they fold their hands and say ‘Sat Sāhib,’ or the ‘True God,’ two or three times. They also clean a space with cowdung and place a lighted lamp on it and say ‘Jai Kabīr Ki,’ or ‘Victory to Kabīr.’ They conceive of the deity as consisting of light, and therefore it seems probable that, like the other Vaishnava sects, they really take him to be the Sun. Kabīr prohibited the worship [242]of all idols and visible symbols, but as might be expected the illiterate Kabīrpanthis cannot adhere strictly to this. Some of them worship the Bījak, the principal sacred book of their sect. At Rudri near Dhamtari on the Mahānadi one of the Gurus is buried, and a religious fair is held there. Recently a platform has been made with a footprint of Kabīr marked on it, and this is venerated by the pilgrims. Similarly, Kudarmāl is held to contain the grave of Churāman, the first guru after Dharam Dās, and a religious fair is held here at which the Kabīrpanthis attend and venerate the grave. Dharam Dās himself is said to be buried at Puri, the site of Jagannāth’s temple, but it seems doubtful whether this story may not have been devised in order to give the Kabīrpanthis a valid reason for going on pilgrimage to Puri. Similarly, an arch and platform in the court of the temple of Rāma at Rāmtek is considered to belong to the Kabīrpanthis, though the Brāhmans of the temple say that the arch was really made by the daughter of a Sūrajvansi king of the locality in order to fasten her swing to it. Once in three years the Mahār Kabīrpanthis of Mandla make a sacrificial offering of a goat to Dulha Deo, the bridegroom god, and eat the flesh, burying the remains beneath the floor. On this occasion they also drink liquor. Other Kabīrpanthis venerate Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, and light a lamp and burn camphor in their names, but do not make idols of them. They will accept the cooked food offered to Vishnu as Satnārāyan and a piece of the cocoanut kernel offered to Devi, but not the offerings to any other deities. And a number even of illiterate Kabīrpanthis appear to abstain from any kind of idol-worship.

9. Statistics of the sect.

About 600,000 Kabīrpanthis were returned in the Central Provinces in 1911, this being equivalent to an increase of 19 per cent since the previous census. As this was less than the increase in the total population the sect appears to be stationary or declining in numbers. The weaving castes are usually Kabīrpanthis, because Kabīr was a weaver. The Brāhmans call it ‘The weaver’s religion.’ Of the Panka caste 84 per cent were returned as members of the sect, and this caste appears to be of sectarian formation, [243]consisting of Pāns or Gāndas who have become Kabīrpanthis. Other weaving castes such as Balāhis, Koris, Koshtis and Mahārs belong to the sect in considerable numbers, and it is also largely professed by other low castes as the Telis or oilmen, of whom 16 per cent adhere to it, and by Dhobis and Chamārs; and by some castes from whom a Brāhman will take water, as the Ahīrs, Kurmis, Lodhis and Kāchhis. Though there seems little doubt that one of the principal aims of Kabīr’s preaching was the abolition of the social tyranny of the caste system, which is the most real and to the lower classes the most hateful and burdensome feature of Hinduism, yet as in the case of so many other reformers his crusade has failed, and a man who becomes a Kabīrpanthi does not cease to be a member of his caste or to conform to its observances. And a few Brāhmans who have been converted, though renounced by their own caste, have, it is said, been compensated by receiving high posts in the hierarchy of the sect. Formerly all members of the sect took food together at the conclusion of each Chauka or service conducted by a Mahant. But this is no longer the case, and presumably different Chaukas are now held for communities of different castes. Only on the 13th day of Bhādon (August), which was the birthday of Kabīr, as many Kabīrpanthis as can meet at the headquarters of the Guru take food together without distinction of caste in memory of their Founder’s doctrine. Otherwise the Kabīrpanthis of each caste make a separate group within it, but among the lower castes they take food and marry with members of the caste who are not Kabīrpanthis. These latter are commonly known as Saktāha, a term which in Chhattīsgarh signifies an eater of meat as opposed to a Kabīrpanthi who refrains from it. The Mahārs and Pankas permit intermarriage between Kabīrpanthi and Saktāha families, the wife in each case adopting the customs and beliefs of her husband. Kabīrpanthis also wear the choti or scalp-lock and shave the head for the death of a relative, in spite of Kabīr’s contempt of the custom. Still, the sect has in the past afforded to the uneducated classes a somewhat higher ideal of spiritual life than the chaotic medley of primitive superstitions and beliefs in witchcraft and [244]devil worship, from which the Brāhmans, caring only for the recognition of their social supremacy, made no attempt to raise them.

1 Westcott, Op. cit. p. 3.

2 Op. cit. p. 12.

3 Kabīr and the Kabīrpanth, pp. 115 and 116.

4 Raipur District.

5 The description of the Chauka service is mainly taken from Bishop Westcott’s full and detailed account.

6 Ficus glomerata.


Lingāyat Sect

Lingāyat Sect.—A sect devoted to the worship of Siva which has developed into a caste. The Lingāyat sect is supposed1 to have been founded in the twelfth century by one Bāsava, a Brāhman minister of the king of the Carnatic. He preached the equality of all men and of women also by birth, and the equal treatment of all. Women were to be treated with the same respect as men, and any neglect or incivility to a woman would be an insult to the god whose image she wore and with whom she was one. Caste distinctions were the invention of Brāhmans and consequently unworthy of acceptance. The Madras Census Report2 of 1871 further states that Bāsava preached the immortality of the soul, and mentions a theory that some of the traditions concerning him might have been borrowed from the legends of the Syrian Christians, who had obtained a settlement in Madras at a period not later than the seventh century. The founder of the sect thus took as his fundamental tenet the abolition of caste, but, as is usual in the history of similar movements, the ultimate result has been that the Lingāyats have themselves become a caste. In Bombay they have two main divisions, Mr. Enthoven states:3 the Panchamsālis or descendants of the original converts from Brāhmanism and the non-Panchamsālis or later converts. The latter are further subdivided into a number of groups, apparently endogamous. Converts of each caste becoming Lingāyats form a separate group of their own, as Ahīr Lingāyats, Bania Lingāyats and so on, severing their connection with the parent caste. A third division consists of members of unclean castes attached to the Lingāyat community by reason of performing to it menial service. A marked tendency has recently been displayed by the community in Bombay to revert to the original Brāhmanic configuration of society, from which its founder sought to [245]free it. On the occasion of the census a complete scheme was supplied to the authorities professing to show the division of the Lingāyats into the four groups of Brāhman, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sūdra.

In the Central Provinces Lingāyats were not shown as a separate caste, and the only return of members of the sect is from the Bania caste, whose subcastes were abstracted. Lingāyat was recorded as a subcaste by 8000 Banias, and these form a separate endogamous group. But members of other castes as Gaolis, Mālis, Patwas and the Telugu Balijas are also Lingāyats and marry among themselves. A child becomes a Lingāyat by being invested with the lingam or phallic sign of Siva, seven days after its birth, by the Jangam priest. This is afterwards carried round the neck in a small casket of silver, brass or wood throughout life, and is buried with the corpse at death. The corpse of a Lingāyat cannot be burnt because it must not be separated from the lingam, as this is considered to be the incarnation of Siva and must not be destroyed in the fire. If it is lost the owner must be invested with a fresh one by the Jangam in the presence of the caste. It is worshipped three times a day, being washed in the morning with the ashes of cowdung cakes, while in the afternoon leaves of the bel tree and food are offered to it. When a man is initiated as a Lingāyat in after-life, the Jangam invests him with the lingam, pours holy water on to his head and mutters in his ear the sacred text, ‘Aham so aham,’ or ‘I and you are now one and the same.’ The Lingāyats are strict vegetarians, and will not expose their drinking water to the sun, as they think that by doing this insects would be bred in it and that by subsequently swallowing them they would be guilty of the destruction of life. They are careful to leave no remains of a meal uneaten. Their own priests, the Jangams, officiate at their weddings, and after the conclusion of the ceremony the bride and bridegroom break raw cakes of pulse placed on the other’s back, the bride with her foot and the bridegroom with his fist. Widow-marriage is allowed. The dead are buried in a sitting posture with their faces turned towards the east. Water sanctified by the Jangam having dipped his toe into it is placed in the [246]mouth of the corpse. The Jangam presses down the earth over the grave and then stands on it and refuses to come off until he is paid a sum of money varying with the means of the man, the minimum payment being Rs. 1–4. In some cases a platform with an image of Mahādeo is made over the grave. When meeting each other the Lingāyats give the salutation Sharnāt, or, ‘I prostrate myself before you.’ They address the Jangam as Mahārāj and touch his feet with their head. The Lingāyat Banias of the Central Provinces usually belong to Madras and speak Telugu in their houses. As they deny the authority of Brāhmans, the latter have naturally a great antipathy for them, and make various statements to their discredit. One of these is that after a death the Lingāyats have a feast, and, setting up the corpse in the centre, arrange themselves round it and eat their food. But this is not authenticated. Similarly the Abbe Dubois stated:4 “They do not recognise the laws relating to defilement which are generally accepted by other castes, such, for instance, as those occasioned by a woman’s periodical ailments, and by the death and funeral of relations. Their indifference to all such prescriptive customs relating to defilement and cleanliness has given rise to a Hindu proverb which says, ‘There is no river for a Lingāyat,’ meaning that the members of the sect do not recognise, at all events on many occasions, the virtues and merits of ablutions.” The same author also states that they entirely reject the doctrine of migration of souls, and that, in consequence of their peculiar views on this point, they have no tithis or anniversary festivals to commemorate the dead. A Lingāyat is no sooner buried than he is forgotten. In view of these remarks it must be held to be doubtful whether the Lingāyats have the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. [247]

1 Sherring, Hindu Castes and Tribes, iii. pp. 96, 123.

2 By Surgeon-Major Cornish.

3 Bombay Census Report, 1901, pp. 181–183.

4 Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies, p. 117.


Muhammadan Religion

[Bibliography: Rev. T.P. Hughes, Notes on Muhammadanism, and Dictionary of Islām, London, W.H. Allen, 1895; Bombay Gazetteer, vol. ix. Part II. Muhammadans of Gujarāt, by Khān Bahādur Fazalullah Lutfullah Farīdi; Qāun-i-Islām, G.A. Herklots, Madras, Higginbotham, reprint 1895; Muhammadanism and Early Developments of Muhammadanism, by Professor D.S. Margoliouth; Life of Mahomet, by Sir. W. Muir; Mr. J.T. Marten’s Central Provinces Census Report, 1911. This article is mainly compiled from the excellent accounts in the Bombay Gazetteer and the Dictionary of Islām.]

List of Paragraphs

1. Statistics and distribution.

Muhammadan Religion.—The Muhammadans numbered nearly 600,000 persons in the Central Provinces in 1911, or about 3 per cent of the population. Of these about two-fifths belong to Berār, the Amraoti and Akola Districts containing [248]more than 70,000 each; while of the 350,000 returned from the Central Provinces proper, about 40,000 reside in each of the Jubbulpore, Nāgpur and Nimār Districts. Berār was for a long period governed by the Muhammadan Bahmani dynasty, and afterwards formed part of the Mughal empire, passing to the Mughal Viceroy, the Nizām of Hyderābād, when he became an independent ruler. Though under British administration, it is still legally a part of Hyderābād territory, and a large proportion of the official classes as well as many descendants of retired soldiers are Muhammadans. Similarly Nimār was held by the Muhammadan Farūki dynasty of Khāndesh for 200 years, and was then included in the Mughal empire, Burhānpur being the seat of a viceroy. At this period a good deal of forcible conversion probably took place, and a considerable section of the Bhīls nominally became Muhammadans.

Beggar on artificial horse at the Muharram festival

Beggar on artificial horse at the Muharram festival

When the Gond Rāja of Deogarh embraced Islām after his visit to Delhi, members of this religion entered his service, and he also brought back with him various artificers and craftsmen. The cavalry of the Bhonsla Rāja of Nāgpur was largely composed of Muhammadans, and in many cases their descendants have settled on the land. In the Chhattīsgarh Division and the Feudatory States the number of Muhammadans is extremely small, constituting less than one per cent of the population.

2. Occupations.

No less than 37 per cent of the total number of Muhammadans live in towns, though the general proportion of urban population in the Provinces is only 7½ per cent. The number of Muhammadans in Government service excluding the police and army, is quite disproportionate to their small numerical strength in the Provinces, being 20 per cent of all persons employed. In the garrison they actually outnumber Hindus, while in the police they form 37 per cent of the whole force. In the medical and teaching professions also the number of Muhammadans is comparatively large, while of persons of independent means a proportion of 29 per cent are of this religion. Of persons employed in domestic services nearly 14 per cent of the total are Muhammadans, and of beggars, vagrants and prostitutes 23 per cent. Muhammadans are largely engaged [249]in making and selling clothes, outnumbering the Hindus in this trade; they consist of two entirely different classes, the Muhammadan tailors who work for hire, and the Bohra and Khoja shopkeepers who sell all kinds of cloth; but both live in towns. Of dealers in timber and furniture 36 per cent are Muhammadans, and they also engage in all branches of the retail trade in provisions. The occupations of the lower-class Muhammadans are the manufacture of glass bangles and slippers and the dyeing of cloth.1

3. Muhammadan castes.

About 14 per cent of the Muhammadans returned caste names. The principal castes are the Bohra and Khoja merchants, who are of the Shiah sect, and the Cutchis or Memans from Gujarāt, who are also traders; these classes are foreigners in the Province, and many of them do not bring their wives, though they have now begun to settle here. The resident castes of Muhammadans are the Bahnas or cotton-cleaners; Julāhas, weavers; Kacheras, glass bangle-makers; Kunjras, greengrocers; Kasais, butchers; and the Rangrez caste of dyers who dye with safflower. As already stated, a section of the Bhīls are at least nominally Muhammadans, and the Fakīrs or Muhammadan beggars are also considered a separate caste. But no caste of good standing such as the Rājpūt and Jāt includes any considerable number of Muhammadans in the Central Provinces, though in northern India large numbers of them belong to this religion, while retaining substantially their caste usages. The Muhammadan castes in the Central Provinces probably consist to a large extent of the descendants of Hindu converts. Their religious observances present a curious mixture of Hindu and Muhammadan rites, as shown in the separate articles on these castes. Proper Muhammadans look down on them and decline to take food or intermarry with them.

4. The four tribal divisions.

The Muhammadans proper are usually divided into four classes, Shaikh, Saiyad, Mughal and Pathān. Of these the Shaikhs number nearly 300,000, the Pathāns nearly 150,000, the Saiyads under 50,000, and the Pathāns about 9000 in the Central Provinces. The term Saiyad properly means a descendant of Ali, the son-in-law, and the lady Fātimah, the [250]daughter of the Prophet. They use the title Saiyad or Mir2 before, and sometimes Shāh after, their name, while women employ that of Begum. Many Saiyads act as Pīrs or spiritual guides to other Muhammadan families. The external mark of a Saiyad is the right to wear a green turban, but this is of course no longer legally secured to them. The title Shaikh properly belongs only to three branches of the Quraish tribe or that of Muhammad: the Siddīkis, who claim descent from Abu Bakr Siddīk,3 the father-in-law of the Prophet and the second Caliph; the Fārūkis claiming it from Umar ul Fārūk, the third Caliph, and also the father-in-law of the Prophet; and the Abbāsis, descended from Abbas, one of the Prophet’s nine uncles. The Fārūkis are divided into two families, the Chistis and Fāridīs. Both these titles, however, and especially Shaikh, are now arrogated by large numbers of persons who cannot have any pretence to the above descent. Sir D. Ibbetson quotes a proverb, ‘Last year I was a butcher; this year I am a Shaikh; next year if prices rise I shall become a Saiyad.’ And Sir H. M. Elliot relates that much amusement was caused in 1860 at Gujarāt by the Sherishtadār or principal officer of the judicial department describing himself in an official return as Saiyad Hashimi Quraishi, that is, of the family and lineage of the Prophet. His father, who was living in obscurity in his native town, was discovered to be a Lohār or blacksmith.4 The term Shaikh means properly an elder, and is freely taken by persons of respectable position. Shaikhs commonly use either Shaikh or Muhammad as their first names. The Pathans were originally the descendants of Afghān immigrants. The name is probably the Indian form of the word Pushtūn (plural Pushtānah), now given to themselves by speakers of the Pushtu language.5 The men add Khān to their names and the women Khātun or Khātū. It is not at all likely either that the bulk of the Muhammadans who returned themselves as Pathāns in the Central Provinces are really of Afghān descent. The [251]Mughals proper are of two classes, Irāni or Persian, who belong to the Shiah sect, and Turāni, Turkish or Tartar, who are Sunnis. Mughals use the title Mīrza (short for Amīrzāda, son of a prince) before their names, and add Beg after them. It is said that the Prophet addressed a Mughal by the title of Beg after winning a victory, and since then it has always been used. Mughal women have the designation Khānum after their names.6 Formerly the Saiyads and Mughals constituted the superior class of Muhammadan gentry, and never touched a plough themselves, like the Hindu Brāhmans and Rājpūts. These four divisions are not proper subcastes as they are not endogamous. A man of one group can marry a woman of any other and she becomes a member of her husband’s group; but the daughters of Saiyads do not usually marry others than Saiyads. Nor is there any real distinction of occupation between them, the men following any occupation indifferently. In fact, the divisions are now little more than titular, a certain distinction attaching to the titles Saiyad and Shaikh when borne by families who have a hereditary or prescriptive right to use them.

5. Marriage.

The census returns of 1911 show that three-fourths of Muhammadan boys now remain unmarried till the age of 20; while of girls 31 per cent are unmarried between 15 and 20, but only 13 per cent above that age. The age of marriage of boys may therefore be taken at 18 to 25 or later, and that of girls at 10 to 20. The age of marriage both of girls and boys is probably getting later, especially among the better classes.

Marriage is prohibited to the ordinary near relatives, but not between first cousins. A man cannot marry his foster-mother or foster-sister, unless the foster-brother and sister were nursed by the same woman at intervals widely separated. A man may not marry his wife’s sister during his wife’s lifetime unless she has been divorced. A Muhammadan cannot marry a polytheist, but he may marry a Jewess or a Christian. No specific religious ceremony is appointed, nor are any rites essential for the contraction of a valid marriage. If both persons are legally competent, and contract marriage with each other in the presence of two male or one male and [252]two female witnesses, it is sufficient. And the Shiah law even dispenses with witnesses. As a rule the Kāzi performs the ceremony, and reads four chapters of the Korān with the profession of belief, the bridegroom repeating them after him. The parties then express their mutual consent, and the Kāzi, raising his hands, says, “The great God grant that mutual love may reign between this couple as it existed between Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Joseph and Zuleika, Moses and Zipporah, His Highness Muhammad and Ayesha, and His Highness Ali and Fātimah.”7 A dowry or meher must be paid to the wife, which under the law must not be less than ten silver dirhams or drachmas; but it is customary to fix it at Rs. 17, the dowry of Fātimah, the Prophet’s favourite daughter, or at Rs. 750, that of the Prophet’s wife, Ayesha.8 The wedding is, however, usually accompanied by feasts and celebrations not less elaborate or costly than those of the Hindus. Several Hindu ceremonies are also included, such as the anointing of the bride and bridegroom with oil and turmeric, and setting out earthen vessels, which are meant to afford a dwelling-place for the spirits of ancestors, at least among the lower classes.9 Another essential rite is the rubbing of the hands and feet of the bridegroom with mehndi or red henna. The marriage is usually arranged and a ceremony of betrothal held at least a year before it actually takes place.

Carrying the horse-shoe at the Muharram festival

Carrying the horse-shoe at the Muharram festival

6. Polygamy, divorce and widow-remarriage.

A husband can divorce his wife at pleasure by merely repeating the prescribed sentences. A wife can obtain divorce from her husband for impotence, madness, leprosy or non-payment of the dowry. A woman who is divorced can claim her dowry if it has not been paid. Polygamy is permitted among Muhammadans to the number of four wives, but it is very rare in the Central Provinces. Owing to the fact that members of the immigrant trading castes leave their wives at home in Gujarāt, the number of married women returned at the census was substantially less than that of married men. A feeling in favour of the legal prohibition of polygamy is growing up among educated Muhammadans, and many of them sign a contract at marriage not to take [253]a second wife during the lifetime of the first. There is no prohibition on the remarriage of widows in Muhammadan law, but the Hindu rule on the subject has had considerable influence, and some Muhammadans of good position object to the marriage of widows in their family. The custom of the seclusion of women also, as Mr. Marten points out, operates as a bar to a widow finding a husband for herself.

7. Devices for procuring children, and beliefs about them.

Women who desire children resort to the shrines of saints, who are supposed to be able to induce fertility. “Blochmann notes that the tomb of Saint Salīm-i-Chishti at Fatehpur-Sikri, in whose house the Emperor Jahāngīr was born, is up to the present day visited by childless Hindu and Musalmān women. A tree in the compound of the saint Shāih Alam of Ahmedābād yields a peculiar acorn-like fruit, which is sought after far and wide by those desiring children; the woman is believed to conceive from the moment of eating the fruit. If the birth of a child follows the eating of the acorn, the man and woman who took it from the tree should for a certain number of years come at every anniversary of the saint and nourish the tree with a supply of milk. In addition to this, jasmine and rose-bushes at the shrines of certain saints are supposed to possess issue-giving properties. To draw virtue from the saint’s jasmine the woman who yearns for a child bathes and purifies herself and goes to the shrine, and seats herself under or near the jasmine bush with her skirt spread out. As many flowers as fall into her lap, so many children will she have. In some localities if after the birth of one child no other son is born, or being born does not live, it is supposed that the first-born child is possessed by a malignant spirit who destroys the young lives of the new-born brothers and sisters. So at the mother’s next confinement sugar and sesame-seed are passed seven or nine times over the new-born infant from head to foot, and the elder boy or girl is given them to eat. The sugar represents the life of the young one given to the spirit who possesses the first-born. A child born with teeth already visible is believed to exercise a very malignant influence over its parents, and to render the early death of one of them almost certain.”10 [254]

8. Pregnancy rites.

In the seventh or ninth month of pregnancy a fertility rite is performed as among the Hindus. The woman is dressed in new clothes, and her lap is filled with fruit and vegetables by her friends. In some localities a large number of pots are obtained, and a little water is placed in each of them by a fertile married woman who has never lost a child. Prayers are repeated over the pots in the names of the male and female ancestors of the family, and especially of the women who have died in childbirth. This appears to be a propitiation of the spirits of ancestors.11

9. Childbirth and naming children.

A woman goes to her parents’ home after the last pregnancy rite and stays there till her confinement is over. The rites performed by the midwife at birth resemble those of the Hindus. When the child is born the azān or summons to prayer is uttered aloud in his right ear, and the takbīr or Muhammadan creed in his left. The child is named on the sixth or seventh day. Sometimes the name of an ancestor is given, or the initial letter is selected from the Korān at a venture and a name beginning with that letter is chosen. Some common names are those of the hundred titles of God combined with the prefix abd or servant. Such are Abdul Azīz, servant of the all-honoured; Ghani, the everlasting; Karīm, the gracious; Rahīm, the pitiful; Rahmān, the merciful; Razzāk, the bread-giver; Sattār, the concealer; and so on, with the prefix Abdul, or servant of, in each case. Similarly Abdullah, or servant of God, was the name of Muhammad’s father, and is a very favourite one. Other names end with Baksh or ‘given by,’ as Haidar Baksh, given by the lion (Ali); these are similar to the Hindu names ending in Prasād. The prefix Ghulām, or slave of, is also used, as Ghulām Hussain, slave of Hussain; and names of Hebrew patriarchs mentioned in the Korān are not uncommon, as Ayūb Job, Hārūn Aaron, Ishāq Isaac, Mūsa Moses, Yakūb Jacob, Yūsaf Joseph, and so on.12

10. The Ukīka sacrifice.

After childbirth the mother must not pray or fast, touch the Korān or enter a mosque for forty days; on the expiry of this period she is bathed and dressed in good clothes, and her relatives bring presents for the child. Some people do [255]not let her oil or comb her hair during these days. The custom would seem to be a relic of the period of impurity of women after childbirth. On the fortieth day the child is placed in a cradle for the first time. In some localities a rite called Ukīka is performed after the birth of a child. It consists of a sacrifice in the name of the child of two he-goats for a boy and one for a girl. The goats must be above a year old, and without spot or blemish. The meat must be separated from the bones so that not a bone is broken, and the bones, skin, feet and head are afterwards buried in the earth. When the flesh is served the following prayer is said by the father: “O, Almighty God, I offer in the stead of my own offspring life for life, blood for blood, head for head, bone for bone, hair for hair, and skin for skin. In the name of God do I sacrifice this he-goat.” This is apparently a relic of the substitution of a goat for Ishmael when Abraham was offering him as a sacrifice. The Muhammadans say that it was Ishmael instead of Isaac who was thus offered, and they think that Ishmael or Ismail was the ancestor of all the Arabs.13

11. Shaving the hair and ear-piercing.

Either on the same day as the Ukīka sacrifice or soon afterwards the child’s hair is shaved for the first time. By the rich the hair is weighed against silver and this sum is distributed to beggars. It is then tied up in a piece of cloth and either buried or thrown into a river, or sometimes set afloat on a little toy raft in the name of a saint. Occasionally tufts of hair or even the whole head may be left unshaven in the name of a saint, and after one or more years the child is taken to the saint’s tomb and the hair shaved there; or if this cannot be done it is cut off at home in the name of the saint.14

When a girl is one or two years old the lobes of her ears are bored. By degrees other holes are bored along the edge of the ear and even in the centre, till by the time she has attained the age of two or three years she has thirteen holes in the right ear and twelve in the left. Little silver rings and various kinds of earrings are inserted and worn in the holes. But the practice of boring so many holes has now been abandoned by the better-class Muhammadans.

Tāzia or tombs of Hussain at the Muharram festival

Tāzia or tombs of Hussain at the Muharram festival


12. Birthdays.

The child’s birthday is known as sāl-girah and is celebrated by a feast. A knot is tied in a red thread and annually thereafter a fresh knot to mark his age, and prayers are offered in the child’s name to the patriarch Noah, who is believed to have lived to five hundred or a thousand years, and hence to have the power of conferring longevity on the child. When a child is four years, four months and four days old the ceremony of Bismillah or taking the name of God is held, which is obligatory on all Muhammadans. Friends are invited, and the child is dressed in a flowered robe (sahra) and repeats the first chapters of the Korān after his or her tutor.15

13. Circumcision, and maturity of girls.

A boy is usually circumcised at the age of six or seven, but among some classes of Shiahs and the Arabs the operation is performed a few days after birth. The barber operates and the child is usually given a little bhāng or other opiate. Some Muhammadans leave circumcision till an age bordering on puberty, and then perform it with a pomp and ceremony almost equalling those of a marriage. When a girl arrives at the age of puberty she is secluded for seven days, and for this period eats only butter, bread and sugar, all fish, flesh, salt and acid food being prohibited. In the evening she is bathed, warm water is poured on her head, and among the lower classes an entertainment is given to friends.16

14. Funeral rites.

The same word janāzah is used for the corpse, the bier and the funeral. When a man is at the point of death a chapter of the Korān, telling of the happiness awaiting the true believer in the future life, is read, and some money or sherbet is dropped into his mouth. After death the body is carefully washed and wrapped in three or five cloths for a male or female respectively. Some camphor or other sweet-smelling stuff is placed on the bier. Women do not usually attend funerals, and the friends and relatives of the deceased walk behind the bier. There is a tradition among some Muhammadans that no one should precede the corpse, as the angels go before. To carry a bier is considered a very meritorious act, and four of the relations, relieving each other in turn, bear it on their shoulders. Muhammadans carry [257]their dead quickly to the place of interment, for Muhammad is stated to have said that it is good to carry the dead quickly to the grave, so as to cause the righteous person to attain the sooner to bliss; and, on the other hand, in the case of a bad man it is well to put wickedness away from one’s shoulders. Funerals should always be attended on foot, for it is said that Muhammad once rebuked people who were following a bier on horseback, saying, “Have you no shame, since God’s angels go on foot and you go upon the backs of quadrupeds?” It is a highly meritorious act to attend a funeral whether it be that of a Muslim, a Jew or a Christian. The funeral service is not recited in the cemetery, this being too polluted a place for so sacred an office, but either in a mosque or in some open space close to the dwelling of the deceased person or to the graveyard. The nearest relative is the proper person to recite the service, but it is usually said by the family priest or the village Kāzi. The grave sometimes has a recess at the side, in which the body is laid to prevent the earth falling upon it, or planks may be laid over the body slantwise or supported on bricks for the same purpose. Coffins are only used by the rich. When the body has been placed in the grave each person takes up a clod of earth and pronouncing over it a verse of the Korān, ‘From earth we made you, to earth we return you and out of earth we shall raise you on the resurrection day,’ places it gently in the grave over the corpse.17 The building of stone or brick tombs and writing verses of the Korān on them is prohibited by the Traditions, but large masonry tombs are common in all Muhammadan countries and very frequently they bear inscriptions. On the third day a feast is given in the morning and after it trays of flowers with a vessel containing scented oil are handed round and the guests pick flowers and dip them into the oil. They then proceed to the grave, where the oil and flowers are placed. Maulvis are employed to read the whole of the Korān over the grave, which they accomplish by dividing it into sections and reading them at the same time. Rich people sometimes have the whole Koran read several times over in this manner. A sheet of white or red cloth is spread over the [258]grave, green being usually reserved for Fakīrs or saints. On the evening of the ninth day another feast is given, to which friends and neighbours, and religious and ordinary beggars are invited, and a portion is sent to the Fakīr or mendicant in charge of the burying-ground. Some people will not eat any food from this feast in their houses but take it outside.18 On the morning of the tenth day they go again to the grave and repeat the offering of flowers and scented oil as before. Other feasts are given on the fortieth day, and at the expiration of four, six and nine months, and one year from the date of the death, and the rich sometimes spend large sums on them. None of these observances are prescribed by the Korān but have either been retained from pre-Islamic times or adopted in imitation of the Hindus. For forty days all furniture is removed from the rooms and the whole family sleep on the bare ground. Sometimes a cup of water and a wheaten cake are placed nightly for forty days on the spot where the deceased died, and a similar provision is sent to the mosque. When a man dies his mother and widow break their glass bangles. The mother can get new ones, but the widow does not wear glass bangles or a nose-ring again unless she takes a second husband. For four months and ten days the widow is strictly secluded and does not leave the house. Prayers for ancestors are offered annually at the Shab-i-Bārat or Bakr-Id festival.19 The property of a deceased Muhammadan is applicable in the first place to the payment of his funeral expenses; secondly, to the discharge of his debts; and thirdly, to the payment of legacies up to one-third of the residue. If the legacies exceed this amount they are proportionately reduced. The remainder of the property is distributed by a complicated system of shares to those of the deceased’s relatives who rank as sharers and residuaries, legacies to any of them in excess of the amount of their shares being void. The consequence of this law is that most Muhammadans die intestate.20

15. Muhammadan sects. Shiah and Sunni.

Of the two main sects of Islam, ninety-four per cent of the Muhammadans in the Central Province were returned as being Sunnis in 1911 and three per cent as Shiahs, while [259]the remainder gave no sect. Only the Cutchi, Bohra and Khoja immigrants from Gujarāt are Shiahs and practically all other Muhammadans are Sunnis. With the exception of Persia, Oudh and part of Gujarāt, the inhabitants of which are Shiahs, the Sunni sect is generally prevalent in the Muhammadan world. The main difference between the Sunnis and Shiahs is that the latter think that according to the Korān the Caliphate or spiritual headship of the Muhammadans had to descend in the Prophet’s family and therefore necessarily devolved on the Lady Fātimah, the only one of his children who survived him, and on her husband Ali the fourth Caliph. They therefore reject the first three Caliphs after Muhammad, that is Abu Bakr, Omar and Othman. After Ali they also hold that the Caliphate descended in his family to his two sons Hasan and Hussain, and the descendants of Hussain. Consequently they reject all the subsequent Caliphs of the Muhammadan world, as Hussain and his children did not occupy this position. They say that there are only twelve Caliphs, or Imāms, as they now prefer to call them, and that the twelfth has never really died and will return again as the Messiah of whom Muhammad spoke, at the end of the world. He is known as the Mahdi, and the well-known pretender of the Soudan, as well as others elsewhere, have claimed to be this twelfth or unrevealed Imām. Other sects of the Shiahs, as the Zaidiyah and Ismailia, make a difference in the succession of the Imāmate among Hussain’s descendants. The central incident of the Shiah faith is the slaughter of Hussain, the son of Ali, with his family, on the plain of Karbala in Persia by the sons of Yazīd, the second Caliph of the Umaiyad dynasty of Damascus, on the 10th day of the month Muharram, in the 61st year of the Hijra or A.D. 680. The martyrdom of Hussain and his family at Karbala is celebrated annually for the first ten days of the month of Muharram by the Shiahs. Properly the Sunnis should take no part in this, and should observe only the tenth day of Muharram as that on which Adam and Eve and heaven and hell were created. But in the Central Provinces the Sunnis participate in all the Muharram celebrations, which now have rather the character of a festival than of a season of [260]mourning. The Shiahs also reject the four great schools of tradition of the Sunnis, and have separate traditional authorities of their own. They count the month to begin from the full moon instead of the new moon, pray three instead of five times a day, and in praying hold their hands open by their sides instead of folding them below the breast. The word Shiah means a follower, and Sunni one proceeding on the sunnah, the path or way, a term applied to the traditions of the Prophet. The two words have thus almost the same signification. Except when otherwise stated, the information in this article relates to the Sunnis. [xxii]

Famous Tāzia at Khandwa

Famous Tāzia at Khandwa

16. Leading religious observances. Prayer.

The five standard observances of the Muhammadan religion are the Kalima, or creed; Sula, or the five daily prayers; Roza, or the thirty-day fast of Ramazān; Zakāb, the legal alms; and Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, which should be performed once in a lifetime. The Kalima, or creed, consists simply in the sentence, ‘There is but one God and Muhammad is His prophet,’ which is frequently on the lips of Muhammadans. The five periods for prayer are Fajr ki namāz, in the morning before sunrise; Zohar, or the midday prayer, after the sun has begun to decline; Asur, or the afternoon prayer, about four; Maghrib, or the evening prayer, immediately after sunset; and Aysha, or the evening prayer, after the night has closed in. These prayers are repeated in Arabic, and before saying them the face, hands and feet should be washed, and, correctly speaking, the teeth should also be cleaned. At the times of prayer the Azān or call to prayer is repeated from the mosque by the muezzan or crier in the following terms: “God is great, God is great, God is great, God is great! I bear witness that there is no God but God! (twice). I bear witness that Muhammad is the Apostle of God! (twice). Come to prayers! Come to prayers! Come to salvation! Come to salvation! God is great! There is no other God but God.” In the early morning the following sentence is added, ‘Prayers are better than sleep.’21

17. The fast of Ramazān.

The third necessary observance is the fast in the month of Ramazān, the ninth month of the Muhammadan year. The fast begins when the new moon is seen, or if the sky is [261]clouded, after thirty days from the beginning of the previous month. During its continuance no food or water must be taken between sunrise and sunset, and betel-leaf, tobacco and conjugal intercourse must be abjured for the whole period. The abstention from water is a very severe penance during the long days of the hot weather when Ramazān falls at this season. Mr. Hughes thinks that the Prophet took the thirty days’ fast from the Christian Lent, which was observed very strictly in the Eastern Church during the nights as well as days. In ordaining the fast he said that God ‘would make it an ease and not a difficulty,’ but he may not have reflected that his own action in discarding the intercalary month adopted by the Arabs and reverting to the simple lunar months would cause the fast to revolve round the whole year. During the fast people eat before sunrise and after sunset, and dinner-parties are held lasting far into the night.

It is a divine command to give alms annually of money, cattle, grain, fruit and merchandise. If a man has as much as eighty rupees, or forty sheep and goats, or five camels, he should give alms at specified rates amounting roughly to two and a half per cent of his property. In the case of fruit and grain the rate is one-tenth of the harvest for unirrigated, and a twentieth for irrigated crops. These alms should be given to pilgrims who desire to go to Mecca but have not the means; and to religious and other beggars if they are very poor, debtors who have not the means to discharge their debts, champions of the cause of God, travellers without food and proselytes to Islām. Religious mendicants consider it unlawful to accept the zakāt or legal alms unless they are very poor, and they may not be given to Saiyads or descendants of the Prophet.

18. The pilgrimage to Mecca.

The Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca is incumbent on all men and women who have sufficient means to meet the expenses of the journey and to maintain their families at home during their absence. Only a very small proportion of Indian Muhammadans, however, now undertake it. Mecca is the capital of Arabia and about seventy miles from the Red Sea. The pilgrimage must be performed during the month Zu’l Hijjah, so that the pilgrim may be [262]at Mecca on the festival of Id-ul-Zoha or the Bakr-Id. At the last stage near Mecca the pilgrims assume a special dress, consisting of two seamless wrappers, one round the waist and the other over the shoulders. Sandals of wood may also be worn. Formerly the pilgrim would take with him a little compass in which the needle in the shape of a dove pointed continually towards Mecca in the west. On arrival at Mecca he performs the legal ablutions, proceeds to the sacred mosque, kisses the black stone, and encompasses the Kaaba seven times. The Kaaba or ‘Cube’ is a large stone building and the black stone is let into one of its walls. He drinks the water of the sacred well Zem-Zem from which Hagar and Ishmael obtained water when they were dying of thirst in the wilderness, and goes through various other rites up to the day of Id-ul-Zoha, when he performs the sacrifice or kurbān, offering a ram or he-goat for every member of his family, or for every seven persons a female camel or cow. The flesh is distributed in the same manner as that of the ordinary Bakr-Id sacrifice.22 He then gets himself shaved and his nails pared, which he has not done since he assumed the pilgrim’s garb, and buries the cuttings and parings at the place of the sacrifice. The pilgrimage is concluded after another circuit of the Kaaba, but before his departure the pilgrim should visit the tomb of Muhammad at Medina. One who has performed the pilgrimage to Mecca thereafter has the title of Hāji.

19. Festivals. The Muharram.

The principal festivals are the Muharram and the two Ids. The month of Muharram is the first of the year, and the first ten days, as already stated, are devoted to mourning for the death of Hussain and his family. This is observed indifferently by Sunnis and Shiahs in the Central Provinces, and the proceedings with the Sunnis at any rate have now rather the character of a festival than a time of sorrow. Models of the tomb of Hussain, called tāzia, are made of bamboo and pasteboard and decorated with tinsel. Wealthy Shiahs have expensive models, richly decorated, which are permanently kept in a chamber of the house called the Imāmbāra or Imām’s place, but this [263]is scarcely ever done in the Central Provinces. As a rule the tāzias are taken in procession and deposited in a river on the last and great day of the Muharram. Women who have made vows for the recovery of their children from an illness dress them in green and send them to beg; and men and boys of the lower classes have themselves painted as tigers and go about mimicking a tiger for what they can get from the spectators. It seems likely that the representations of tigers may be in memory of the lion which is said to have kept watch over the body of Hussain after he had been buried. In Persia a man disguised as a tiger appears on the tomb of Hussain in the drama of his murder at Karbala, which is enacted at the Muharram. In Hindu mythology the lion and tiger appear to be interchangeable. During the tragedy at Karbala, Kāsim, a young nephew of Hussain, was married to his little daughter Sakīnah, Kāsim being very shortly afterwards killed. It is supposed that the cast shoe of Kāsim’s horse was brought to India, and at the Muharram models of horse-shoes are made and carried fixed on poles. Men who feel so impelled and think that they will be possessed by the spirit of Kāsim make these horse-shoes and carry them, and frequently they believe themselves to be possessed by the spirit, exhibiting the usual symptoms of a kind of frenzy, and women apply to them for children or for having evil spirits cast out.23

20. Id-ul-Fitr.

The Id-ul-Fitr, or the breaking of the fast, is held on the first day of the tenth month, Shawwal, on the day after the end of the fast of Ramazān. On this day the people assemble dressed in their best clothes and proceed to the Id-Gāh, a building erected outside the town and consisting of a platform with a wall at the western end in the direction of Mecca. Here prayers are offered, concluding with one for the King-Emperor, and a sermon is given, and the people then return escorting the Kāzi or other leading member of the community and sometimes paying their respects in a body to European officers. They return to their homes and spend the rest of the day in feasting and merriment, a kind of vermicelli being a special dish eaten on this day.

21. Id-ul-Zoha

The Idu-l-Azha or Id-ul-Zoha, the feast of sacrifice, [264]also called the Bakr-Id or cow-festival, is held on the tenth day of the last month, Zu’l Hijjah. It is the principal day of the Muhammadan year, and pilgrims going to Mecca keep it there.24 At this time also the Arabs were accustomed to go to Mecca and offer animal sacrifices there to the local deities. According to tradition, when Abraham (Ibrahim) founded Mecca the Lord desired him to prepare a feast and to offer his son Ishmael (Ismail). But when he had drawn the knife across his son’s throat the angel Gabriel substituted a ram and Ishmael was saved, and the festival commemorates this. As already stated, the Arabs believe themselves to be descended from Ishmael or Ismail. According to a remarkable Hadīs or tradition, related by Ayesha, Muhammad said: “Man hath not done anything on the Id-ul-Zoha more pleasing to God than spilling blood in sacrifice; for, verily, its blood reacheth the acceptance of God before it falleth upon the ground, therefore be joyful in it.”25 On this day, as on the other Id, the people assemble for prayers at the Id-Gāh. On returning home the head of a family takes a sheep, cow or camel to the entrance of his house and sacrifices it, repeating the formula, ‘In the name of God, God is great,’ as he cuts its throat. The flesh is divided, two-thirds being kept by the family and one-third given to the poor in the name of God. This is the occasion on which Muhammadans offend Hindu feeling by their desire to sacrifice cows, as camels are unobtainable or too valuable, and the sacrifice of a cow has probably more religious merit than that of a sheep or goat. But in many cases they abandon their right to kill a cow in order to avoid stirring up enmity.

22. Mosques.

The entrance to a Muhammadan mosque consists of a stone gateway, bearing in verse the date of its building; this leads into a paved courtyard, which in a large mosque may be 40 or 50 yards long and about 20 wide. The courtyard often contains a small tank or cistern about 20 feet square, its sides lined with stone seats. Beyond this lies the building itself, open towards the courtyard, which is on its eastern side, and closed in on the other three sides, with a roof. The floor is raised about a foot above the level of the [265]courtyard. In the back wall, which is opposite the courtyard to the west in the direction of Mecca, is an arched niche, and close by a wooden or masonry pulpit raised four or five feet from the ground. Against the wall is a wooden staff, which the preacher holds in his hand or leans upon according to ancient custom.26 The walls are bare of decorations, images and pictures having been strictly prohibited by Muhammad, and no windows are necessary; but along the walls are scrolls bearing in golden letters the name of the Prophet and the first four Caliphs, or a chapter of the Korān, the Arabic script being especially suitable for this kind of ornamental writing.27 The severe plainness of the interior of a mosque demonstrates the strict monotheism of Islam, and is in contrast to the temples and shrines of most other religions. The courtyard of a mosque is often used as a place of resort, and travellers also stay in it.

23. The Friday service.

A service is held in the principal mosque on Fridays about midday, at which public prayers are held and a sermon or khutbak is preached or recited. Friday is known as Jumah, or the day of assembly. Friday was said by Muhammad to have been the day on which Adam was taken into paradise and turned out of it, the day on which he repented and on which he died. It will also be the day of Resurrection. The Prophet considered that the Jews and Christians had erred in transferring their Sabbath from Friday to Saturday and Sunday respectively.28

24. Priests, Mulla and Maulvi.

The priest in charge of a mosque is known as Mulla. Any one can be a Mulla who can read the Korān and say the prayers, and the post is very poorly paid. The Mulla proclaims the call to prayer five times a day, acts as Imām or leader of the public prayers, and if there is no menial servant keeps the mosque clean. He sometimes has a little school in the courtyard in which he teaches children the Korān. He also sells charms, consisting of verses of the Korān written on paper, to be tied round the arm or hung on the neck. These have the effect of curing disease and keeping off evil spirits or the evil eye. Sometimes there is a mosque servant who also acts as sexton of the local [266]cemetery. The funds of the mosque and any endowment attached to it are in charge of some respectable resident, who is known as Mutawalli or churchwarden. The principal religious officer is the Maulvi, who corresponds to the Hindu Guru or preceptor. These men are frequently intelligent and well-educated. They are also doctors of law, as all Muhammadan law is based on the Korān and Traditions and the deductions drawn from them by the great commentators. The Maulvi thus acts as a teacher of religious doctrine and also of law. He is not permanently attached to a mosque, but travels about during the open season, visiting his disciples in villages, teaching and preaching to them, and also treating the sick. If he knows the whole of the Korān by heart he has the title of Hāfiz, and is much honoured, as it is thought that a man who has earned the title of Hāfiz frees twenty generations of his ancestors and descendants from the fires of hell. Such a man is much in request during the month of Ramazān, when the leader of the long night prayers is expected to recite nightly one of the thirty sections of the Korān, so as to complete them within the month.29

25. The Kāzi.

The Kāzi was under Muhammadan rule the civil and criminal judge, having jurisdiction over a definite local area, and he also acted as a registrar of deeds. Now he only leads the public prayers at the Id festivals and keeps registers of marriages and divorces. He does not usually attend marriages himself unless he receives a special fee, but pays a deputy or nāib to do so.30 The Kāzi is still, however, as a rule the leading member of the local Muhammadan community, the office being sometimes elective and sometimes hereditary.

26. General features of Islām.

In proclaiming one unseen God as the sole supernatural being, Muhammad adopted the religion of the Jews of Arabia, with whose sacred books he was clearly familiar. He looked on the Jewish prophets as his predecessors, he himself being the last and greatest. The Koran says, “We believe in God, and that which hath been sent down to us, and that which was sent down unto Abraham, and Ishmael and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which was delivered unto [267]Moses, and Jesus and the prophets from the Lord, and we make no distinction between any of them.” Thus Muhammad accepted the bulk of the Old but not of the New Testament, which the Jews also do not receive. His deity was the Jewish Jehovah of the Old Testament, though called Allah after the name of a god worshipped at Mecca. The six prophets who brought new laws were Adam, the chosen of God; Noah, the preacher of God; Abraham, the friend of God; Moses, one who conversed with God; Jesus, the Spirit of God; and Muhammad, the Messenger of God. His seven heavens and his prophecy of a Messiah and Day of Judgment were Jewish beliefs, though it is supposed that he took the idea of the Sirat or narrow bridge over the midst of hell, sharper than the edge of a sword, over which all must pass, while the wicked fall from it into hell, from Zoroastrianism. Muhammad recognised a devil, known as Iblis, while the Jinns or Genii of pagan Arabia became bad angels. The great difference between Islām and Judaism arose from Muhammad’s position in being obliged continually to fight for his own existence and the preservation of his sect This circumstance coloured the later parts of the Korān and gave Islām the character of a religious and political crusade, a kind of faith eminently fitted to the Arab nature and training. And to this character may be assigned its extraordinary success, but, at the same time, probably the religion itself might have been of a somewhat purer and higher tenor if its birth and infancy had not had place in a constant state of war. Muhammad accomplished most beneficent reforms in abolishing polytheism and such abuses as female infanticide, and at least regulating polygamy. In forbidding both gambling and the use of alcohol he set a very high standard to his disciples, which if adhered to would remove two of the main sources of vice. His religion retained fewer relics of the pre-existing animism and spirit-worship than almost any other, though in practice uneducated Indian Muhammadans, at least, preserve them in a large measure. And owing to the fact that the Muhammadan months revolve round the year, its festivals have been dissociated from the old pagan observances of the changes of the sun and seasons and the growth of vegetation. At the [268]same time the religious sanction given to polygamy and slavery, and the sensual nature of the heaven promised to true believers after death, must be condemned as debasing features; and the divine authority and completeness ascribed to the Korān and the utterances of the Prophet, which were beyond criticism or question, as well as the hostility towards all other forms of religion and philosophy, have necessarily had a very narrowing influence on Muhammadan thought. While the formal and lifeless precision of the religious services and prayers, as well as the belief in divine interference in the concerns of everyday life, have produced a strong spirit of fatalism and resignation to events.

27. The Korān.

The word Kurān is derived from kuraa, to recite or proclaim. The Muhammadans look upon the Koran as the direct word of God sent down by Him to the seventh or lowest heaven, and then revealed from time to time to the Prophet by the angel Gabriel. A few chapters are supposed to have been delivered entire, but the greater part of the book was given piecemeal during a period of twenty-three years. The Korān is written in Arabic prose, but its sentences generally conclude in a long-continued rhyme. The language is considered to be of the utmost elegance and purity, and it has become the standard of the Arabic tongue. Muhammadans pay it the greatest reverence, and their most solemn oath is taken with the Korān placed on the head. Formerly the sacred book could only be touched by a Saiyad or a Mulla, and an assembly always rose when it was brought to them. The book is kept on a high shelf in the house, so as to avoid any risk of contamination, and nothing is placed over it. Every chapter in the Korān except one begins with the invocation, ‘Bismillah-nirrahmān-nirrahīm,’ or ‘In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful’; and nearly all Muhammadan prayers and religious writings also begin with this. As the Korān is the direct word of God, any statement in it has the unquestioned and complete force of law. On some points, however, separate utterances in the work itself are contradictory, and the necessity then arises of determining which is the later and more authoritative statement.31 [269]

28. The Traditions.

Next to the Korān in point of authority come the Traditions of the sayings and actions of the Prophet, which are known as Hadīs or Sunnah. These were eagerly collected as the jurisdiction of Islam was extended, and numerous cases arose for decision in which no ruling was provided by the Korān. For some time it was held necessary that a tradition should be oral and not have been reduced to writing. When the necessity of collecting and searching for the Traditions became paramount, indefatigable research was displayed in the work. The most trustworthy collection of traditions was compiled by Abu Abdullah Muhammad, a native of Bokhara, who died in the Hijra year 256, or nearly 250 years after Muhammad. He succeeded in amassing no fewer than 600,000 traditions, of which he selected only 7275 as trustworthy. The authentic traditions of what the Prophet said and did were considered practically as binding as the Korān, and any case might be decided by a tradition bearing on it. The development of Moslem jurisdiction was thus based not on the elucidation and exposition of broad principles of law and equity, but on the record of the words and actions of one man who had lived in a substantially less civilised society than that existing in the countries to which Muhammadan law now came to be applied. Such a state of things inevitably exercised a cramping effect on the Moslem lawyers and acted as a bar to improvement. Thus, because the Korān charged the Jews and Christians with having corrupted the text of their sacred books, it was laid down that no Jew or Christian could be accepted as a credible witness in a Moslem lawsuit; and since the Prophet had forbidden the keeping of dogs except for certain necessary purposes, it was ruled by one school that there was no property in dogs, and that if a man killed a dog its owner had no right to compensation.32

29. The schools of law.

After the Korān and Traditions the decisions of certain lawyers during the early period of Islām were accepted as authoritative. Of them four schools are recognised by the Sunnis in different countries, those of the Imāms Abu Hanifa, Shafei, Malīk, and Hambal. In northern India [270]the school of Abu Hanifa is followed. He was born at Kufa, the capital of Irāk, in the Hijra year 80, when four of the Prophet’s Companions were still alive. He is the great oracle of jurisprudence, and with his two pupils was the founder of the Hanifi code of law. In southern India the Shafei school is followed.33 The Shiahs have separate collections of traditions and schools of law, and they say that a Mujtahid or doctor of the law can still give decisions of binding authority, which the Sunnis deny. Except as regards marriage, divorce and inheritance and other personal matters, Muhammadan law is of course now superseded by the general law of India.

30. Food.

An animal only becomes lawful food for Muhammadans if it is killed by cutting the throat and repeating at the time the words, ‘Bismillah Allaho Akbar,’ or ‘In the name of God, God is great.’ But in shooting wild animals, if the invocation is repeated at the time of discharging the arrow or firing the gun, the carcase becomes lawful food. This last rule of Sunni law is, however, not known to, or not observed by, many Muhammadans in the Central Provinces, who do not eat an animal unless its throat is cut before death. Fish and locusts may be eaten without being killed in this manner. The animal so killed by Zabh is lawful food when slain by a Moslem, Jew or Christian, but not if slaughtered by an idolater or an apostate from Islām. Cloven-footed animals, birds that pick up food with their bills, and fish with scales are lawful, but not birds or beasts of prey. It is doubtful whether the horse is lawful. Elephants, mules, asses, alligators, turtles, crabs, snakes and frogs are unlawful, and swine’s flesh is especially prohibited. Muhammadans eat freely of mutton and fish when they can afford it, but some of them abstain from chickens in imitation of the Hindus. Their favourite drink is sherbet, or sugar and water with cream or the juice of some fruit. Wine is forbidden in the Korān, and the prohibition is held to include intoxicating drugs, but this latter rule is by no means observed. According to his religion a Muhammadan need have no objection to eat with a Christian if the food eaten is of a lawful kind; but he should not eat with Hindus, [271]as they are idolaters. In practice, however, many Muhammadans have adopted the Hindu rule against eating food touched by Christians, while owing to long association together they will partake of it when cooked by Hindus.34

31. Dress.

The most distinctive feature of Muhammadan dress is that the men always wear trousers or pyjamas of cotton, silk or chintz cloth, usually white. They may be either tight or loose below the knee, and are secured by a string round the waist. A Muhammadan never wears the Hindu dhoti or loin-cloth. He has a white, sleeved muslin shirt, made much like an English soft-fronted shirt, but usually without a collar, the ends of which hang down outside the trousers. Over these the well-to-do have a waistcoat of velvet, brocade or broadcloth. On going out he puts on a long coat, tight over the chest, and with rather full skirts hanging below the knee, of cotton cloth or muslin, or sometimes broadcloth or velvet. In the house he wears a small cap, and on going out puts on a turban or loose headcloth. But the fashion of wearing the small red fez with a tassel is now increasing among educated Muhammadans, and this serves as a distinctive mark in their dress, which trousers no longer do, as the Hindus have also adopted them. The removal of the shoes either on entering a house or mosque is not prescribed by Muhammadan law, though it has become customary in imitation of the Hindus. The Prophet in fact said, ‘Act the reverse of the Jews in your prayers, for they do not pray in boots or shoes.’ But he himself sometimes took his shoes off to pray and sometimes not. The following are some of the sayings of the Prophet with regard to dress: ‘Whoever wears a silk garment in this world shall not wear it in the next.’ ‘God will not have compassion on him who wears long trousers (below the ankle) from pride.’ ‘It is lawful for the women of my people to wear silks and gold ornaments, but it is unlawful for the men.’ ‘Wear white clothes, because they are the cleanest and the most agreeable, and bury your dead in white clothes.’ Men are prohibited from wearing gold ornaments and also silver ones other than a signet ring. A silver ring, of value sufficient to produce a day’s food in [272]case of need, should always be worn. The rule against ornaments has been generally disregarded, and gold and silver ornaments have been regularly worn by men, but the fashion of wearing ornaments is now going out, both among Muhammadan and Hindu men. A rich Muhammadan woman has a long shirt of muslin or net in different colours, embroidered on the neck and shoulders with gold lace, and draping down to the ankles. Under it she wears silk pyjamas, and over it an angia or breast-cloth of silk, brocade or cloth of gold, bordered with gold and silver lace. On the head she has a shawl or square kerchief bordered with lace. A poor woman has simply a bodice and pyjamas, with a cloth round the waist to cover their ends. Women as a rule always wear shoes, even though they do not go out, and they have a profusion of ornaments of much the same character as Hindu women.35

Representing a tiger at the Muharram festival

Representing a tiger at the Muharram festival

32. Social rules. Salutations.

There are certain social obligations known as Farz or imperative, but if one person in eight or ten perform them it is as if all had done so. These are, to return a salutation; to visit the sick and inquire after their welfare; to follow a bier on foot to the grave; to accept an invitation; and that when a person sneezes and says immediately, ‘Alhamd ul lillah’ or ‘God be praised,’ one of the party must reply, ‘Yar hamak Allah’ or ‘God have mercy on you.’ The Muhammadan form of salutation is ‘Salām u alaikum’ or ‘The peace of God be with you,’ and the reply is ‘Wo alaikum as salām’ or ‘And on you also be peace.’36 From this form has come the common Anglo-Indian use of the word Salaam.

When invitations are to be sent for any important function, such as a wedding, some woman who does not observe parda is employed to carry them. She is dressed in good clothes and provided with a tray containing betel-leaf biras or packets, cardamoms wrapped in red paper, sandalwood and sugar. She approaches any lady invited with great respect, and says: “So-and-so sends her best compliments to you and embraces you, and says that ‘as to-morrow there is a little gaiety about to take place in my [273]house, and I wish all my female friends by their presence to grace and ornament with their feet the home of this poor individual, and thereby make it a garden of roses, you must also positively come, and by remaining a couple of hours honour my humble dwelling with your company.’” If the invitation is accepted the woman carrying it applies a little sandalwood to the neck, breast and back of the guest, puts sugar and cardamoms into her mouth, and gives her a betel-leaf. If it is declined, only sandalwood is applied and a betel-leaf given.37

Next day dhoolies or litters are sent for the guests, or if the hostess is poor she sends women to escort them to the house before daybreak. The guests are expected to bring presents. If any ceremony connected with a child is to be performed they give it clothes or sweets, and similar articles of higher value to the bride and bridegroom in the case of a wedding.

33. Customs.

Certain customs known as Fitrah are supposed to have existed among the Arabs before the time of the Prophet, and to have been confirmed by him. These are: To keep the moustache clipped short so that food or drink cannot touch them when entering the mouth; not to cut or shave the beard; to clean the teeth with a mismak or wooden toothbrush; this should really be done at all prayers, but presumably once or twice a day are held sufficient; to clean the nostrils and mouth with water at the time of the usual ablutions; to cut the nails and clean the finger-joints; and to pull out the hair from under the armpits and the pubic hair. It is noticeable that though elaborate directions are given for washing the face, hands and feet before each prayer, there is no order to bathe the whole body daily, and this may probably not have been customary in Arabia owing to the scarcity of water.38 And while many Muhammadans have adopted the Hindu custom of daily bathing, yet others in quite a respectable position have not, and only bathe once a week before going to the mosque. Gambling as well as the drinking of wine is prohibited in the Koran according to the text: “O believers! Surely wine and [274]games of chance and statues and the divining-arrows are an abomination of Satan’s work.” Statues as well as pictures were prohibited, because at this time they were probably made only as idols to be worshipped, the prohibition being exactly analogous to that contained in the Second Commandment. The Korān enjoins a belief in the existence of magic, but forbids its practice. Magic is considered to be of two kinds, that accomplished with the help of the Korān and the names of prophets and saints, which is divine or good, and evil magic practised with the aid of genii and evil spirits which is strongly condemned. Divining-rods apparently belong to the latter class. Perfection in divine magic consists in the knowledge of the Ismi Aazam or Great Name, a knowledge first possessed by the prophet Sulaiman or Solomon, and since Solomon transmitted only to those who are highly favoured by Providence. This appears to be the true name of God, which is too awful and potent to be known or used by the commonalty; hence Allah, really an epithet, is used instead. It was in virtue of engraving the great name on his ring that Solomon possessed dominion over men and genii, and over the winds and birds and beasts. The uttering of Solomon’s own name casts out demons, cures the sick, and raises the dead. The names of certain prophets and holy men have also a special virtue, and written charms of mysterious numerical combinations and diagrams have power for good.39 Both kinds of magic are largely practised by Muhammadans. Muhammad disapproved of whistling, apparently because whistling and clapping the hands were part of the heathen ritual at Mecca. Hence it is considered wrong for good Muhammadans to whistle.40

34. Position of women.

The inferior status of women in Islām is inherited from Arabian society before the time of Muhammad. Among the pagan Arabs a woman was a mere chattel, and descended by inheritance. Hence the union of men with their step-mothers and mothers-in-law was common. Muhammad forbade these incestuous marriages, and also the prevalent practice of female infanticide. He legalised polygamy, [275]but limited it to four wives, and taught that women as well as men could enter paradise. It would have been quite impossible to abolish polygamy in Arabia at the time when he lived, nor could he strike at the practice of secluding women even if he had wished to do so. This last custom has shown an unfortunate persistence, and is in full force among Indian Muhammadans, from whom the higher castes of Hindus in northern India have perhaps imitated it. Nor can it be said to show much sign of weakening at present. It is not universal over the Islamic world, as in Afghanistan women are not usually secluded. As a matter of fact both polygamy and divorce are very rare among Indian Muhammadans. Mr. Hughes quotes an interesting passage against polygamy from a Persian book on marriage customs: “That man is to be praised who confines himself to one wife, for if he takes two it is wrong and he will certainly repent of his folly. Thus say the seven wise women:

Be that man’s life immersed in gloom

Who weds more wives than one,

With one his cheeks retain their bloom,

His voice a cheerful tone;

These speak his honest heart at rest,

And he and she are always blest;

But when with two he seeks his joy,

Together they his soul annoy;

With two no sunbeam of delight

Can make his day of misery bright.”

Adultery was punished by stoning to death in accordance with the Jewish custom.

35. Interest on money.

Usury or the taking of interest on loans was prohibited by the Prophet. This precept was adopted from the Mosaic law and emphasised, and while it has to all appearance been discarded by the Jews, it is still largely adhered to by Moslems. In both cases the prohibition was addressed to a people in the pastoral stage of culture when loans were probably very rare and no profit could as a rule be made by taking a loan, as it would not lead to any increase. Loans would only be made for subsistence, and as the borrower was probably always poor, he would frequently be unable to pay the principal much less the interest, and [276]would ultimately become the slave of the creditor in lieu of his debt. Usury would thus result in the enslavement of a large section of the free community, and would be looked upon as an abuse and instrument of tyranny. As soon as the agricultural stage is reached usury stands on a different footing. Loans of seed for sowing the land and of cattle or money for ploughing it then become frequent and necessary, and the borrower can afford to pay interest from the profit of the harvest. It is clearly right and proper also that the lender should receive a return for the risk involved in the loan and the capacity of gain thus conferred on the borrower, and usury becomes a properly legitimate and necessary institution, though the rate, being probably based on the return yielded by the earth to the seed, has a tendency to be very excessive in primitive societies. The prohibition of interest among Muhammadans is thus now a hopeless anachronism, which has closed to those who observe it some of the most important professions. A tendency is happily visible towards the abrogation of the rule, and Mr. Marten notes that the Berār Muhammadan Council has set an example by putting out its own money at interest.41

36. Muhammadan education.

The Indian Muhammadans have generally been considered to be at a disadvantage in modern India as compared with the Hindus, owing to their unwillingness to accept regular English education for their sons, and their adherence to the simply religious teaching of their own Maulvis. However this may have been in the past, it is doubtful whether it is at all true of the present generation. While there is no doubt that Muhammadans consider it of the first importance that their sons should learn Urdu and be able to read the Korān, there are no signs of Muhammadan boys being kept away from the Government schools, at least in the Central Provinces. The rationalising spirit of Sir Saiyad Ahmad, the founder of the Aligarh College, and the general educational conference for Indian Muhammadans has, through the excellent training given by the College, borne continually increasing fruit. A new class of educated and liberal-minded Muhammadan gentlemen has grown up whose influence on [277]the aims and prejudices of the whole Muhammadan community is gradually becoming manifest. The statistics of occupation given at the commencement of this article show that the Muhammadans have a much larger share of all classes of administrative posts under Government than they would obtain if these were awarded on a basis of population. Presumably when it is asserted that Muhammadans are less successful than Hindus under the British Government, what is meant is that they have partly lost their former position of the sole governing class over large areas of the country. The community are now fully awake to the advantages of education, and their Anjumāns or associations have started high schools which educate students up to the entrance of the university on the same lines as the Government schools. Where these special schools do not exist, Muhammadan boys freely enter the ordinary schools, and their standard of intelligence and application is in no way inferior to that of Hindu boys.

1 Mr. Marten’s C.P. Census Report (1911), Subsidiary Table, ix., Occupation, p. 276.

2 Short for Amīr or Prince.

3 Siddīk means veracious or truthful, and he was given the name on account of his straightforward character (Bombay Gazetteer.)

4 Supplemental Glossary, vol. i. p. 195.

5 Mr. A. M. T. Jackson in Bomb. Gaz. Muh. Guj;, p. 10.

6 Bombay Gazetteer, ibidem.

7 Hughes’ Dictionary of Islām, s. v. Marriage.

8 Bomb. Gaz. Muh. Guj. p. 166.

9 Ibidem, p. 66.

10 Bomb. Gaz. Muh. Guj. pp. 147,148, from which the whole paragraph is taken.

11 Bomb. Gas. Muh. Guj. p. 150.

12 Temple’s Proper Names of the Punjābis, pp. 41, 43.

13 Qānūn-Islām, p. 20.

14 Ibidem.

15 Qānūn-i-Islām, pp. 26, 27.

16 Ibidem, pp. 30, 35.

17 Hughes, Notes on Muhammadanism, pp. 122, 131.

18 Qānūn-i-Islām, p. 286.

19 Bomb. Gaz. Muh. Guj. pp. 168, 170.

20 Dictionary of Islām, art. Inheritance.

21 Hughes, Notes on Muhammadanism, pp. 63, 75.

22 See post. The account is compiled mainly from the Dictionary of Islām, articles Idu-l-Azha and Hājj.

23 Bomb. Gas. Muh. Guj. p. 138.

24 Hughes, Dictionary of Islām, s.v. Idu-l-Azha.

25 Hughes, ibidem.

26 Bomb. Gaz. Muh. Guj. p. 131.

27 Professor Margoliouth’s Muhammadanism.

28 Bomb. Gaz. Muh. Guj. p. 131.

29 Bomb. Gaz. Muh. Guj. pp. 132, 135.

30 Bomb. Gaz., ibidem.

31 Professor Margoliouth’s Muhammadanism and the Dictionary of Islām.

32 Early Developments of Muhammadanism, pp. 87, 97.

33 Notes on Muhammadanism, p. 168.

34 Dictionary of Islām, s.v. Food.

35 Bomb. Gaz. Muh. Guj. pp. 100–103, and Dictionary of Islam, art. Dress and Ornaments.

36 Hughes, Notes on Muhammadanism.

37 Qānūn-i-Islām, pp. 24, 25. This account is a very old one, and the elaborate procedure may now have been abandoned.

38 Hughes, Dictionary of Islām, s.v. Fitrah.

39 Bomb. Gaz. Muh. Guj. pp. 143, 144.

40 Hughes, Dictionary of Islām, s.v. Whistling.

41 C.P. Census Report, 1911, p. 66.



1. Account of the sect.

Nānakpanthi1 Sect, Nānakshahi, Udāsi, Suthra Shahi.—The Nānakpanthi sect was founded by the well-known Bāba Nānak, a Khatri of the Lahore District, who lived between 1469 and 1538–39. He is the real founder of Sikhism, but this development of his followers into a military and political organisation was the work of his successors, Har Govind and Govind Singh. Nānak himself was a religious reformer of the same type as Kabīr and others, who tried to abolish the worship of idols and all the body of Hindu superstition, and substitute a belief in a single unseen deity without form or special name. As with most of the other Vaishnava reformers, Nānak’s creed was largely an outcome of his observation of Islām. “There is nothing in his doctrine,” Sir E.D. Maclagan says, “to distinguish it in any marked way from that of the other saints who taught the higher forms of Hinduism in northern India. The unity of God, the absence of any real distinction between Hindus and Musalmans, the uselessness of ceremonial, the vanity of earthly wishes, [278]even the equality of castes, are topics common to Nānak and the Bhagats; and the Adi-Granth or sacred book compiled by Nānak is full of quotations from elder or contemporary teachers, who taught essentially the same doctrine as Nānak himself.” It was partly, he explains, because Nānak was the first reformer in the Punjab, and thus had the field practically to himself, and partly in consequence of the subsequent development of Sikhism, that his movement has been so successful and his adherents now outnumber those of any other reformer of the same period. Nānak’s doctrines were also of a very liberal character. The burden of his teaching was that there is no Hindu and no Muhammadan. He believed in transmigration, but held that the successive stages were but purifications, and that at last the soul, cleansed from sin, went to dwell with its maker. He prescribed no caste rules or ceremonial observances, and indeed condemned them as unnecessary and even harmful; but he made no violent attack on them, he insisted on no alteration in existing civil and social institutions, and was content to leave the doctrine of the equality of all men in the sight of God to work in the minds of his followers. He respected the Hindu veneration of the cow and the Muhammadan abhorrence of the hog, but recommended as a higher rule than either total abstinence from flesh. Nothing could have been gentler or less aggressive than his doctrine, nothing more unlike the teaching of his great successor Govind.2 Two other causes contributed to swell the numbers of the Nānakpanthis. The first of these was that during the late Mughal Empire the Hindus of the frontier tracts of the Punjab were debarred by the fanaticism of their Muhammadan neighbours from the worship of idols; and they therefore found it convenient to profess the faith of Nānak which permitted them to declare themselves as worshippers of one God, while not forcing them definitely to break with caste and Hinduism. The second was that Guru Govind Singh required the absolute abandonment of caste as a condition of the initiation of a Sikh; and hence many who would not consent to this remained Nānakpanthis [279]without adopting Sikhism. The Nānakpanthis of the present day are roughly classified as Sikhs who have not adopted the term Singh, which is attached to the names of all true Sikhs; they also do not forbid smoking or insist on the adoption of the five Kakkas or K’s which are in theory the distinguishing marks of the Sikh; the Kes or uncut hair and unshaven beard; the Kachh or short drawers ending above the knee; the Kara or iron bangle; the Khanda or steel knife; and the Kanga or comb. The Nānakpanthi retains the Hindu custom of shaving the whole head except the choti or scalp-lock, and hence is often known as a Munda or shaven Sikh.3 The sect do not prohibit the consumption of meat and liquor, but some of them eat only the flesh of animals killed by the Sikh method of Jatka, or cutting off the head by a blow on the back of the neck. Their only form of initiation is the ordinary Hindu practice of drinking the foot-nectar or sugar and water in which the toe of the guru has been dipped, and this is not very common. It is known as the Charan ka pāhul or foot-baptism, as opposed to the Khande ka pāhul or sword-baptism of the Govindi Sikhs.4 Bāba Nānak himself, Sir E. Maclagan states, is a very favourite object of veneration among Sikhs of all kinds, and the picture of the guru with his long white beard and benevolent countenance is constantly met with in the sacred places of the Punjab.

2. Nānakpanthis in the Central Provinces.

In 1901 about 13,000 persons returned themselves as Nānakpanthis in the Central Provinces, of whom 7000 were Banjāras and the remainder principally Kunbis, Ahīrs and Telis. The Banjāras generally revere Nānak, as shown in the article on that caste. A certain number of Mehtars or sweepers also profess the sect, being attached to it, as to the Sikh religion, by the abolition of caste restrictions and prejudices advocated by their founders; but this tolerance has not been perpetuated, and the unclean classes, such as the Mazbi or scavenger Sikhs, are as scrupulously avoided and kept at a distance by the Sikh as by the Hindu, and are even excluded from communion, and from the rites and holy places of their religion.5 [280]

3. Udasis.

The Udāsis are a class of ascetics of the Nānakpanthi or Sikh faith, whose order was founded by Sri Chand, the younger son of Nānak. They are recruited from all castes and will eat food from any Hindu. They are almost all celibates, and pay special reverence to the Adi-Granth of Nānak, but also respect the Granth of Govind Singh and attend the same shrines as the Sikhs generally. Their service consists of a ringing of bells and blare of instruments, and they chant hymns and wave lights before the Adi-Granth and the picture of Bāba Nānak. In the Central Provinces members of several orders which have branched off from the main Nānakpanthi community are known as Udāsi. Thus some of them say they do not go to any temples and worship Nirankal or the deity without shape or form, a name given to the supreme God by Nānak. In the Punjab the Nirankaris constitute a separate order from the Udāsis.6 These Udāsis wear a long rope of sheep’s wool round the neck and iron chains round the wrist and waist. They carry half a cocoanut shell as a begging-bowl and have the chameta or iron tongs, which can also be closed and used as a poker. Their form of salutation is ‘Matha Tek,’ or ‘I put my head at your feet.’ They never cut their hair and have a long string of wool attached to the choti or scalp-lock, which is coiled up under a little cap. They say that they worship Nirankal without going to temples, and when they sit down to pray they make a little fire and place ghī or sweetmeats upon it as an offering. When begging they say ‘Alakh,’ and they accept any kind of uncooked and cooked food from Brāhmans.

4. Suthra Shāhis.

Another mendicant Nānakpanthi order, whose members visit the Central Provinces, is that of the Suthra Shāhis. Here, however, they often drop the special name, and call themselves simply Nānakshahi. The origin of the order is uncertain, and Sir E. Maclagan gives various accounts. Here they say that their founder was a disciple of Nānak, who visited Mecca and brought back the Seli and Syahi which are their distinctive badges. The Seli is a rope of black wool which they tie round their heads like a turban, and [281]Syāhi the ink with which they draw a black line on their foreheads, though this is in fact usually made with charcoal. They carry a wallet in which these articles are kept, and also the two small ebony sticks which they strike against each other as an accompaniment to their begging-songs. The larger stick is dedicated to Nānak and the smaller to the Goddess Kāli. They are most importunate beggars, and say that the privilege of levying a pice (farthing) was given to them by Aurāngzeb. They were accustomed in former times to burn their clothes and stand naked at the door of any person who refused to give them alms. They also have a bahi or account-book in which the gifts they receive, especially from Banias, are recorded. Mr. Crooke states that “They indulge freely in intoxicants and seldom cease from smoking. Their profligacy is notorious, and they are said to be composed mainly of spendthrifts who have lost their wealth in gambling. They are recruited from all castes and always add the title Shāh to their names. A proverb says in allusion to their rapacity:

Kehu mare, Kehu jīye,

Suthra gur batāsa piye;

or, ‘Others may live or die, but the Suthra Shāhi must have his drink of sugar and water.’7

1 This article is compiled from Sir Denzil Ibbetson’s Punjab Census Report of 1881, and Sir E.D. Maclagan’s Punjab Census Report of 1891.

2 Ibbetson, para. 260.

3 Maclagan, para. 88.

4 Maclagan, loc. cit.

5 Ibbetson, para. 265.

6 Maclagan, para. 95.

7 Tribes and Castes, article Suthra Shāhi.


Parmārthi Sect

Parmārthi Sect.—A Vishnuite sect of which 26,000 persons were returned as members in the census of 1901. Nearly all of these belonged to the Uriya State of Kālāhandi, since transferred to Bihār and Orissa. The following account of the sect has been furnished by Rai Bahādur Panda Baijnāth, formerly Diwān of Kālāhandi State.

This sect penetrated the State from the Orissa side, and seems to belong to Bengal. In the beginning it consisted only in pure devotion to the worship of Krishna, but later it has been degraded by sexual indulgence and immorality, and this appears to be the main basis of its ritual at present. Outwardly its followers recite the Bhāgavad Gīta and pretend to be persons of very high morals. Their secret practices were obtained from one of his officials who had entered [282]the sect in the lowest grade. On the day of initiation there is a great meeting of members at the cost of the neophyte. A text is taught to him, and the initiation is completed by all the members partaking together of a feast without distinction of caste. The food eaten at this is considered to be Mahāprasād, or as if offered to Vishnu in his form of Jagannāth at Puri, and to be therefore incapable of defilement. The mantra or text taught to the disciple is as follows:

O Hari, O Krishna, O Hari, O Krishna,

O Krishna, O Krishna, O Hari, O Hari,

O Hari, O Rāmo, O Hari, O Rāmo,

O Rāmo, O Rāmo, O Hari, O Hari.

The disciple is enjoined to repeat this text a prescribed number of times, 108 or more, every day. To those pupils who show their devotional ardour by continual repetition of the first text others are taught.

The next step is that the disciple should associate himself or herself with some other Parmārthi of the opposite sex and tend and serve them. This relation, which is known as Asra-patro, cannot exist between husband and wife, some other person having to be chosen in each case, and it results of course in an immoral connection. Following this is the further rite of Almo-Samarpana or offering of oneself, in which the disciple is required to give his wife to the Guru or preceptor as the acme of self-sacrifice. The guru calls the disciple by a female name of one of the milkmaids of Brindāban to indicate that the disciple regards Krishna with the same devotion as they did. Sometimes the guru and a woman personate Krishna and Rādha, but reverse the names, the guru calling himself Rādha and the woman Krishna. The other disciples wait upon and serve them, and they perform an immoral act in public. Parmārthi women sometimes have the mantra or text, ‘O Hari, O Krishna,’ tattooed on their breasts.

The Parmārthis often deny the accusation of immorality, and the above statements may not be true of all of them; but they are believed to be true as regards a considerable part of the sect at any rate. “With all his cleanliness, vegetarianism and teetotalism,” one writer remarks, “the Vaishnava is perhaps the most dangerous in the whole list [283]of Hindu sects. He has done very good service in civilising the lower classes to some extent and in suppressing the horrors of the Tāntric worship. But the moral laxity which the Vaishnava encourages by the stories of the illicit loves between the God and Goddess, and by the strong tendency to imitate them which his teachings generate, outweigh the good done by him.” This statement applies, however, principally to one or two sects devoted to Krishna, and by no means to all nor to the majority of the Vaishnava sects. [284]


Pārsi or Zoroastrian Religion

[Bibliography of works quoted: Dr. Martin Haug’s Essays on the Pārsis, Trübner’s Oriental Series; Bombay Gazetteer, vol. ix. part ii., Pārsis of Gujarāt. by the late Mr. Kharsedji Nasarvanji Seervai, J.P., and Khān Bahādur Bāmanji Behrāmji Patel; M. Salomon Reinach’s Orphéus; Rev. J. Murray Mitchell’s Great Religions of India. The whole account of the customs and social life of the Pārsis is taken from the excellent description in the Bombay Gazetteer.]

List of Paragraphs

1. Introductory.

The number of Pārsis in the Central Provinces in 1911 was about 1800. They are immigrants from Bombay, and usually reside in large towns, where they are engaged in different branches of trade, especially in the manufacture and vend of liquor and the management of cotton mills and factories.1 The word Pārsi means a resident of the province of Fārs or Pārs in Persia, from which the name of the country is also derived.

2. The Zoroastrian religion.

Also known as Mazdaism, the Zoroastrian religion was that of the ancient Magi or fire-worshippers of Persia, mentioned in Scripture. It is supposed that Zoroaster or Spitama Zarathustra, if he was a historical personage, effected [285]a reformation of this religion and placed it on a new basis at some time about 1100 B.C. It is suggested by Haug2 that Zarathustra was the designation of the high priests of the cult, and Spitama the proper name of that high priest who carried out its distinctive reformation, and perhaps separated the religion of the Persian from the Indian Aryans. This would account for the fact that the sacred writings, which, according to the testimony of Greek and Roman authors, were of great extent, their compilation probably extending over several centuries, were subsequently all ascribed to one man, or to Zarathustra alone. The Zend-Avesta or sacred book of the Pārsis does not mention the fire priests under the name of Magi, but calls them Athravan, the same word as the Sanskrit Atharva-Veda. The reason for this, M. Reinach suggests, is that the Magi had rebelled against Cambyses, the son of Cyrus, in the sixth century B.C., during his absence in Egypt, and placed a rival creature of their own on the throne. Darius, the son of Hystaspes, overthrew him and re-established the Persian kingdom in 523 B.C., and this may have discredited the Magian priests and caused those of the reformed religion to adopt a new name.3 It is certain that Cyrus conformed to the precept of the Avesta against the pollution of the sacred element water, when he diverted the course of the river Gyndanes in order to recover the body of a horse which had been drowned in it, and that Darius I. invokes in his inscriptions Ormazd or Ahura Mazda, the deity of the Avesta.4 On the subversion of the Persian empire by Alexander, and the subsequent conquest of Persia by the Arsacid Parthian dynasty, the religion of the fire-worshippers fell into neglect, but was revived on the establishment of the Sassanian dynasty of Ardeshir Bābegan or Artaxerxes in A.D. 226, and became the state religion, warmly supported by its rulers, until the Arab conquest in A.D. 652. It was at the beginning of this second period of prosperity that the Zend-Avesta as it still exists was collected and reduced to writing, but it is thought that the greater part of the remains of the ancient texts recovered at the time were again lost during the Arab invasion, as the original literature is believed to have been very extensive. [286]

3. The Zend-Avesta.

The language of the Zend-Avesta is the ancient east Iranian or Bactrian dialect, which probably died out finally in the third century B.C., modern Persian being descended from the west Iranian or Median tongue. The Bactrian language of the Zend-Avesta is, Haug states, a genuine sister of Sanskrit, Greek, Latin and Gothic. “The relationship of the Avesta language to the most ancient Sanskrit, the so-called Vedic dialect, is as close as that of the different dialects of the Greek language, Aeolic, Ionic, Doric or Attic, to each other. The languages of the sacred hymns of the Brāhmans, and of those of the Pārsis, are only the two dialects of two separate tribes of one and the same nation. As the Ionians, Dorians, Aetolians, etc., were different tribes of the Greek nation whose general name was Hellenes, so the ancient Brāhmans and Pārsis were two tribes of the nation which is called Aryas both in the Veda and Zend-Avesta.”5 The sections of the Zend-Avesta which remain are about equal in size to the Bible. They consist of sacrificial hymns, prayers and accounts of the making of the world, in the form of conversations between Ahura Mazda and Zoroaster. The whole arrangement is, however, very fragmentary and chaotic, and much of the matter is of a trivial character. It cannot be compared in merit with the Old Testament.

4. The Zend Avesta and the Vedas.

A cuneiform inscription discovered in the centre of Asia Minor at Ptorium proves that about 1400 B.C. certain tribes who had relations with the Hittite empire had for their deities Mitra, Indra, Varūna and the Nasātyas. The first two names are common to the Persian and Indian Aryans, while the last two are found only in India. It appears then that at this time the ancestors of the Hindus and Iranians were not yet separated.6 Certain important contrasts between the ancient Zoroastrian and Vedic religions have led to the theory that the separation was the result of a religious and political schism. The words Deva and Asura have an exactly opposite significance in the two religions. Deva7 is the term invariably used for the gods of the Hindus in the whole Vedic and Brahmānical literature. In the Zend-Avesta, on the other hand, Deva (Pers. div) is the general name of an evil spirit, a fiend, demon or devil, who [287]is inimical to all that is good and comes from God. The part of the Avesta called the Vendidād, consisting of a collection of spells and incantations, means vī-daevo-dāta or given against the Devas or demons. The Devas, Dr. Haug states, are the originators of all that is bad, of every impurity, of death; and are constantly thinking of causing the destruction of the fields and trees, and of the houses of religious men. “Asura, occurring as Ahura in the first part of Ahura-Mazda (Hormazd), is the name of God among the Pārsis; and the Zoroastrian religion is distinctly called the Ahura religion, in strict opposition to the Deva religion. But among the Hindus Asura has assumed a bad meaning, and is applied to the bitterest enemies of their Devas (gods), with whom the Asuras are constantly waging war. This is the case throughout the whole Purānic literature and as far back as the later parts of the Vedas; but in the older parts of the Rig-Veda Sanhita we find the word Asura used in as good and elevated a sense as in the Zend-Avesta. The chief gods, such as Indra, Varūna, Agni, Savitri, Rudra or Siva, are honoured with the epithet ‘Asura,’ which means ‘living, spiritual,’ and signifies the divine in its opposition to human nature.

“In a bad sense we find Asura only twice in the older parts of the Rig-Veda, in which passages the defeat of the ‘sons or men of the Asura’ is ordered or spoken of; but we find the word more frequently in this sense in the last book of the Rig-Veda (which is only an appendix to the whole made in later times), and in the Atharva-Veda, where the Rishis are said to have frustrated the tricks of the Asuras and to have the power of putting them down. In the Brāhmanas or sacrificial books belonging to each of the Vedas we find the Devas always fighting with the Asuras. The latter are the constant enemies of the Hindu gods, and always make attacks upon the sacrifices offered by devotees. To defeat them, all the craft and cunning of the Devas were required; and the means of checking them was generally found in a new sacrificial rite.”8

Professor Haug adduces other arguments in this connection from resemblance of metres. Again the principal [288]Vedic God, Indra, is included in the list of Devas or demons in the Zoroastrian scripture, the Vendidād. Siva and the Nasātyas or Ashvins, the divine horsemen of the Vedas, are also said to be found in the list of Devas or demons. Others of the Vedic gods as Mitra the sun, Aryaman, either another name for the sun or his constant associate and representative, Vayu the wind, and one or two more are found as Yazatas or angels in the Zend-Avesta.9

5. Reasons for the schism between the Persian and Indian Aryans.

Professor Haug’s suggestion as to the cause of the schism between the Iranian and Indian branches of the Aryans is very interesting. He thinks that the Aryan tribes after they had left their original home, which was in all likelihood a cold country, led mainly a pastoral life, and cultivated only occasionally some patches of land for their own support. But when they arrived in the tract between the Oxus and Jaxartes rivers, and the highlands of Bactria, which were suitable for permanent settlement, certain of them, who were the ancestors of the Iranian branch, forsook the pastoral life of their ancestors and became agriculturists. Others, the ancestors of the Indian Aryans, retained their nomadic habits, and took to the practice of making predatory incursions into the territories of the settled communities. Hence arose a bitter hostility between them; and as the success of the raiders was attributed to their religious spells and incantations, and especially to the consumption of the Soma liquor under the auspices of the God Indra, this part of their joint religion became hateful to the Iranians and led to the founding of the reformed Zoroastrian religion, in which special stress is laid on the virtue obtained from bringing land under cultivation, making enclosures and permanent settlements and protecting agricultural cattle. This is forcibly expressed in the saying, ‘He who cultivates barley cultivates righteousness,’ and others.10 Finally the nomadic tribes left the common residence in the Central Asian highlands and migrated into India. It is not certain that scholars generally accept the above hypothesis.

6. The dual principles and the conflict between good and evil.

The most prominent feature of the religion of Zarathustra is the dual principle of good and evil and the [289]conflict between them. Ahura Mazda is the supreme deity, the creator of the world, and Ahriman or Angro Mainyush is the evil one, his constant opponent. A perpetual struggle proceeds between them, extending over the whole of creation, and will continue for a period of 12,000 years. The virtuous lives and prayers and sacrifices of men help the cause of Ahura Mazda, while every bad action and all kinds of ceremonial impurity constitute an assistance rendered by them to Ahrimān. Not only virtue, courage, charity humility and kindness to animals, when displayed by men, are held to reinforce Ahura Mazda, but also such useful acts as cleaning a field for cultivation, digging a canal or building a bridge. The animals are also divided into good and bad, the latter being considered the creation of Ahrimān and designated the seed of the serpent. The bad animals include tigers, snakes, cats, wolves, frogs, mice, ants and others, and to kill them is to perform a virtuous act in the cause of Ahura Mazda. Among good animals dogs and agricultural cattle appear to be the chief. The division is very imperfect, and it would seem that the classification does not extend to birds and fish. Most trees are good, but their bark is evil. Hail, snow and all kinds of diseases are believed to be the work of Ahrimān and his evil spirits.11 As all ceremonial impurity renders assistance to the evil one, the Pārsis are very careful in such matters, as will be noticed subsequently. Ahura Mazda is assisted in his struggle for the good by six Amesha-Spentas or good spirits, who are something like archangels. They consist of the spirits of cattle, fire, metals, the earth, health and immortality. With the first four of these some moral quality or attribute as truth, wisdom and the curing of diseases is now associated. Another great spirit Sraosha is the judge of the dead. Similarly Ahrimān is assisted by six arch-fiends and a whole host of evil spirits (Deva and Druj) of all kinds, against whom men have to be perpetually on their guard. One of the principal bad spirits is Aeshma Deva, the roaring demon, who appears to be the Asmodeus mentioned in the Apocrypha. At the end of the period of struggle Ahura Mazda will engage in a final contest with Ahrimān and will [290]conquer with the help of the Archangel Sraosha, who will overcome the demon Aeshma. A virgin will then conceive and bring forth the second Zoroaster as a Messiah, who will cause the resurrection of the dead. The good will be separated from the bad, but the punishment of the latter will not be eternal; and after the purification of the world by a general conflagration all humanity will unite in the adoration of Ahura Mazda.12 Meanwhile after death the souls of all men are weighed and have to pass over a narrow bridge called Chinvad. The good souls, lightened by the absence of sin, find it a broad and easy path to heaven, while to the bad ones, weighed down with their sins, it becomes narrow as a razor’s edge, and they fall over into hell. M. Salomon Reinach points out that their beliefs have several points of resemblance with those of Judaism, but it is not easy to say which religion has borrowed from the other.13 The word paradise, according to Dr. Haug, comes from pairidaesa in the Zend-Avesta and means a park or beautiful garden protected by a fence.

7. The dual principle derived from the antagonism of light and darkness.

It is noticeable that Ahura Mazda is considered as luminous and good, and Ahrimān as gloomy and bad. Ahura Mazda, according to Darmesteter, can be traced back to Asura, the supreme god of Indo-Iranian times, and is the representative of Varūna, Zeus or Jupiter, that is the sky or heavens. Similarly Ahura Mazda is described in the Zend-Avesta as righteous, brilliant, glorious, the originator of the spirit of nature, of the luminaries and of the self-shining brightness which is in the luminaries. Again he is the author of all that is bright and shining, good and useful in nature, while Ahrimān called into existence all that is dark and apparently noxious. Both are complementary as day and night, and though opposed to each other, are indispensable for the preservation of creation. The beneficent spirit appears in the blazing flame, the presence of the hurtful one is marked by the wood converted into charcoal. Ahura Mazda created the light of day and Ahrimān the darkness of night; the former awakens men to their duties and the latter lulls them to sleep. These features of the good and evil spirits seem to point to the conclusion that [291]the original antithesis which is portrayed in the conflict between the principles of good and evil is that of night and day or darkness and light. The light of day and all that belongs to it is good, and the darkness of night and that which belongs to it evil. As already seen, Ahura Mazda is considered to be equivalent to Varūna or Zeus, that is the god of the sky or heavens. Originally it seems likely that this deity also comprised the sun, but afterwards the sun was specialised, so to speak, into a separate god, perhaps in consequence of a clearer recognition of his distinctive attributes and functions in nature. Thus in the Zoroastrian religion Mithra became the special sun-god, and may be compared with Vishnu and Surya in India and Apollo in Greece. In the Avesta the sun is addressed as the king.14 Ahura Mazda speaks of the sun-deity Mithra as follows to Zoroaster: “I created Mithra, who rules over large fields, to be of the same rank and dignity as I myself am (for purposes of worship).” The only visible emblem of Ahura Mazda worshipped by the Pārsis is fire, and it would seem that the earthly fire, which is called Ahura Mazda’s son, is venerated as the offspring and representative of the heavenly fire or the sun. Thus Ahura Mazda may have been originally an old god of the heavens, and may have become the abstract spirit of light from whom the sun in turn was derived. If, as is now supposed, the original home of the Aryan race was somewhere in northern Europe, whence the Iranian and Indian branches migrated to the east, the religious tenets of the Pārsis may perhaps have arisen from the memory of this journey. Their veneration of fire would be more easily understood if it was based on the fact that they owed their lives to this element during their wanderings across the steppes of eastern Europe. The association of cold, darkness and snow with Ahrimān or the evil one supports this hypothesis. Similarly among the Indian Aryans the god of fire was one of the greatest Vedic gods, and fire was essential to the preservation of life in the cold hilly regions beyond the north-west of India. But in India itself fire is of far less importance and Agiri has fallen into the background in modern Hinduism, except for the domestic reverence of the [292]hearth-fire. But Zoroastrianism has preserved the old form of its religion without change. The narrow bridge which spans the gulf leading to heaven and from which the wicked fall into hell, may have originally been suggested by the steep and narrow passes by which their ancestors must have crossed the mountain ranges lying on their long journey, and where, no doubt, large numbers had miserably perished; while their paradise, as already seen, was the comparatively warm and fertile country to which they had so hardly attained, where they had learnt to grow corn and where they wanted to stay thenceforth and for ever.

8. The Zoroastrians in Persia.

In Persia itself the Zoroastrian faith is now almost extinct, but small colonies still survive in the towns of Yezd and Kermān. They are in a miserable and oppressed condition and are subjected to various irritating restrictions, as being forbidden to make wind towers to their houses for coolness, to wear spectacles or to ride horses. In 1904 their number was estimated at 9000 persons.15

9. Their migration to India and settlement there.

The migration of the Pārsis to India dates from the Arab conquest of Persia in A.D. 638–641. The refugees at first fled to the hills, and after passing through a period of hardship moved down to the coast and settled in the city of Ormuz. Being again persecuted, a party of them set sail for India and landed in Gujarāt. There were probably two migrations, one immediately after the Arab conquest in 641, and the second from Ormuz as described above in A.D. 750. Their first settlement was at Sanjān in Gujarāt, and from here they spread to various other cities along the coast. During their period of prosperity at Sanjān they would seem to have converted a large section of the Hindu population near Thāna. The first settlers in Gujarāt apparently took to tapping palm trees for toddy, and the Pārsis have ever since been closely connected with the liquor traffic. The Portuguese writer Garcia d’Orta (A.D. 1535) notices a curious class of merchants and shopkeepers, who were called Coaris, that is Gaurs, in Bassein, and Esparis or Pārsis in Cambay. The Portuguese called them Jews; but they were no Jews, for they were uncircumcised and ate pork. Besides they came from Persia and had a curious [293]written character, strange oaths and many foolish superstitions, taking their dead out by a special door and exposing the bodies till they were destroyed. In 1578, at the request of the Emperor Akbar, the Pārsis sent learned priests to explain to him the Zoroastrian faith. They found Akbar a ready listener and taught him their peculiar rites and ceremonies. Akbar issued orders that the sacred fire should be made over to the charge of Abul Fazl, and that after the manner of the kings of Persia, in whose temples blazed perpetual fires, Abul Fazl should take care that the sacred fire was never allowed to go out either by night or day, for that it was one of the signs of god and one light from among the many lights of his creation. Akbar, according to Portuguese accounts, was invested with the sacred shirt and girdle, and in return granted the Gujarāt priest Meherji Rāna an estate near Naosari, where his descendants have ever since been chief priests.16

10. Their wealth and prosperity.

The Pārsis had begun to settle in Bombay under the Portuguese (A.D. 1530–1666). One of them, Dorābji Nānābhai, held a high position in the island before its transfer to the British in the latter year, and before the end of the seventeenth century several more families, of whom the Modis, Pāndes, Banājis, Dādiseths and Vādias were among the earliest, settled in the island. To the Gujarāt Pārsis more than to any class of native merchants was due the development of the trade of Bombay, especially with China. Though many Pārsis came to Bombay, almost all continued to consider Surat or Naosāri their home; and after its transfer to the British in 1759 the Surat Pārsis rose greatly in wealth and position. They became the chief merchants of Surat, and their leading men were the English, Portuguese and Dutch brokers. Shortly afterwards, owing to the great development of the opium and cotton trade with China, the Pārsis made large profits in commerce both at Surat and Bombay. After the great fire at Surat in 1857 Bombay became the headquarters of the Parsis, and since then has had as permanent settlers the largest section of the community. The bulk of the native foreign trade fell into their hands, and the very great liberality of some of [294]the leading Pārsis has made their name honourable. They secured a large share of the wealth that was poured into western India by the American War and the making of railways, and have played a leading part in starting and developing the great factory industry of Bombay. Many of the largest and best managed mills belong to Pārsis, and numbers of them find highly paid employment as mechanical engineers, and weaving, carding and spinning masters. Broach ranks next to Bombay in the prosperity of its Pārsis; they deal extensively in cotton, timber, fuel and the manufacture of spirit from the flowers of the mahua tree.17 From the Bombay Presidency the Pārsis have spread to other parts of India, following the same avocations; they are liquor and timber contractors, own and manage weaving mills and ginning factories, and keep shops for retailing European stores, and are the most prosperous and enterprising section of the native population. Two Pārsis have become members of Parliament, and others have risen to distinction in Government service, business and the professions. The sea-face road in Bombay in the evening, thronged with the carriages and motor-cars of Pārsi men and ladies, is strong testimony to the success which the ability and industry of this race have achieved under the encouragement of peace, the protection of property and the liberty to trade. Though they have a common Aryan ancestry and their religion is so closely connected with Hinduism, the Pārsis feel themselves a race alien to the Hindus and probably have no great sympathy with them. Their wealth and position have been mainly obtained under British rule, and the bulk of them are believed to be its warm adherents. The Pārsis now make no proselytes, and no regular provision exists for admitting outsiders to their religion, though it is believed that, in one or two cases, wives taken from outside the community have been admitted. They object strongly to the adoption of any other religion, such as Christianity, by members of their body. The Pārsis are notable for the fact that their women are very well educated and appear quite freely in society. This is a comparatively recent reform and may be ascribed to the [295]English example, though the credit they deserve for having broken through prejudice and tradition is in no way diminished on that account. The total number of Pārsis in India in 1911 was just 100,000 persons.

11. Marriage customs.

Polygamy among the Pārsis has been forbidden by the Pārsi Marriage and Divorce Act of 1865. The remarriage of widows is allowed but is celebrated at midnight. If a bachelor is to marry a widow, he first goes through a sham rite with the branch of a tree, as among the Hindus. Similarly before the wedding the bride and bridegroom are rubbed with turmeric, and for the ceremony a marriage-shed is erected. At a feast before the wedding one of the women beats a copper dish and asks the ancestral spirits to attend, calling them by name. Another woman comes running in, barking like a dog. The women drive her away, and with fun and laughing eat all the things they can lay their hands on. Prior to the rite the bride and bridegroom are purified in the same manner as when invested with the sacred shirt and cord. The bridegroom wears a long white robe reaching to his ankles and a white sash round his waist; he has a garland of flowers round his neck, a red mark on his forehead, and carries a bunch of flowers and a cocoanut in his right hand. At every street corner on his way to the bride’s home a cocoanut is waved round his head, broken and thrown away. He sets his right foot in the house first, and as he enters rice and water are thrown under his feet and an egg and cocoanut are broken. At the wedding the couple throw rice on each other, and it is supposed that whoever is quickest in throwing the rice will rule the other. They are then seated side by side, and two priests stand before them with a witness on each side, holding brass plates full of rice. The two priests pronounce the marriage blessing in old Persian and Sanskrit, at each sentence throwing rice on the bride’s and bridegroom’s heads. At intervals in the midst of the blessing the bridegroom and bride are asked in Persian, ‘Have you chosen her?’ and ‘Have you chosen him?’ They answer in Persian, or if they are too young their mothers answer for them, ‘I have chosen.’18 [296]

12. Religion. Worship of fire.

The religious ritual of the Pārsis consists of the worship of fire. The fire temples are of a single storey and contain three rooms. On reaching the outer hall the worshipper washes his face, hands and feet, and recites a prayer. Then, carrying a piece of sandalwood and some money for the officiating priest, he passes to the inner hall, in which a carpet is spread. He takes off his shoes and rings one of four brass bells hanging at the corners of the room. The priest also rings one of these bells at each watch when he performs worship. He then proceeds to the threshold of the central fire-room, kneels there, and again standing begins to recite prayers. None may enter the fire-room except the priests. Here the fire is kept always blazing in a silver or copper urn on a solid stone pedestal, and is fed day and night with sandal and other commoner woods. A priest is always present, dressed in long white robes, his hands covered with white cloths and his face veiled. The worshipper lays down his offering of sandalwood at the entrance, and the priest takes it up with a pair of tongs, and gives him some ashes from the urn in a silver or brass ladle. These the worshipper rubs on his forehead and eyebrows. On concluding his prayers, which are in the Avesta language, he walks backward to where he left his shoes and goes home. A Pārsi man never allows his hearth fire to go out, and if he changes his residence he carries it with him to the next place of abode.

13. The Homa liquor.

Like the Hindus, the Iranian ancestors of the Pārsis revered the sacred liquor made from the Soma or Homa plant. It was considered a panacea for all diseases, and many stories about the miraculous effects obtained from drinking the juice are contained in a hymn of the Zend-Avesta composed in its honour. According to Dr. Mitchell19 the offering of Homa is still made at Pārsi temples, though apparently some substitute must have been obtained for the original plant, which does not grow in the plains of India. At any rate the offering and sacrificial drinking of the liquor were probably continued so long as the Pārsis remained in Persia. As this is a comparatively cool country, the bad effects of alcohol did not perhaps become apparent to the [297]Pārsis as they did to the Hindus in the plains of India, and hence the sanctity attaching to the liquor underwent no similar decline. From this it perhaps results that the Pārsis have no feeling at all against alcohol, and drink it for pleasure, like Europeans. Both the toddy of the date-palm and mahua spirit are freely consumed at their feasts, while the rich members of the community drink European wines and spirits. As any dealing in alcohol is practically prohibited to high-caste Hindus and also to Muhammadans, and low-caste Hindus have hitherto scarcely ever been literate, the Pārsis on account of this peculiarity have found a profitable opening in the wholesale liquor trade, and until recently have had very little effective competition to face. This is perhaps a reason for their special addiction to it, and also for their engaging in the sale of European stores and wines.

14. Pārsi priests.

The Pārsi priests form a hereditary caste, and are all supposed to be descended from one Shāpur Sheheriār, who with his sons and grandsons, one of whom translated the Zend-Avesta into Sanskrit, are believed to have been among the first Pārsi settlers of the priestly caste at Sanjān in north Thāna. The training of a priest consists of learning substantial portions of the Zend-Avesta by heart, and in going through elaborate ceremonies of purification, in which the drinking of nerang and nerangdin, or cow’s and bull’s urine, being bathed, chewing pomegranate leaves and rubbing the same urine and sand on his body are leading features. Priests always dress in white and wear a full beard. They must never shave the head or face, and never allow the head to be bare nor wear coloured clothes. If a priest’s turban happens to fall off, or if he travels by rail or sea, his state of purity ends, and he must go through the whole ceremony of purification again and pass nine days in retreat at a temple.20 The principal business of a priest, as already seen, is the tending of the sacred fire in the temples, and he also conducts marriage and other ceremonies.

15. The sacred shirt and cord.

Pārsi boys and girls are received into the Zoroastrian faith between the ages of seven and nine. The child is purified by being bathed, sipping bull’s urine and chewing a [298]pomegranate leaf, and makes the profession of belief in the faith. He or she is then invested with the sacred shirt, sadra, and the sacred cord or thread called kusti. The shirt is of thin muslin, with short sleeves and falling a little below the hip. The sacred cord is of wool, and can be made only by the wives and daughters of Pārsi priests.21

16. Disposal of the dead.

The Pārsi method of exposing the dead in Dakhmas or towers of silence to be devoured by vultures has often been described. It has objectionable features, and the smaller communities in the interior of India do not as a rule erect towers of silence, and are content simply to bury the dead. It seems probable that the original custom was simply to expose the dead on waste land, the towers of silence being a substitute which became necessary when the Pārsis began to live in towns. This hypothesis would explain some points in their funeral customs recorded in the Bombay Gazetteer. The dead body is washed, dressed in an old clean cloth and laid on the floor of the house, the space being marked off. If the floor is of earth the surface of this enclosed space is broken up. If the floor is of cement or stone one or two stone slabs are set on it and the body laid on them; it is never laid on a wooden floor, nor on stone slabs placed on such a floor. The space where the body was laid is marked off, and is not used for a month if the death occurs between the eighth and twelfth months of the year, and for ten days if the death occurs between the first and seventh months. The last are said to be the hottest months.22 It would appear that these rules are a reminiscence of the time when the body was simply exposed. It was then naturally always laid on earth or rock, and never on wood, hence the prohibition of a wooden floor. The fact that the spot where the body is now laid in the house is held impure for a shorter period during the summer months may be explained on the ground that all traces of the decaying corpse, after it had been devoured by wild animals and vultures, would have been dried up by the sun more quickly at this time than during the winter months. In the latter period, as the [299]process would take longer, the place in the home is similarly held impure for a month, as against ten days in summer, though at present neither the sun nor weather can possibly affect a site inside the house. The fact that when the floor is of earth the site for the corpse is broken up may indicate that it was formerly laid on rough waste ground, and not on a floor beaten smooth, though it might also be simply a means of avoiding contamination of the floor. But if this was the object it would be simpler to avoid letting the body come into contact with the floor at all. The corpse may still be wrapped in an old cloth because it was originally exposed in the cloth worn at death. The body is carried to the tower on an iron bier by special bearers; if the journey is a long one a bullock cart may be used, but in this case the cart must be broken up and the pieces buried near the tower. Before the funeral starts a number of priests attend at the house and recite the prayers for the dead. During the service a dog is brought in to look on the face of the dead. The mourners follow in the usual manner, and on arrival at the tower the bearers alone take the corpse inside and lay it naked on one of the slabs, which are built in circular terraces in the interior. The mourners must be purified at the tower by pouring a little cow’s urine into their hands, and on returning home they wash their face and hands, and recite a prayer before entering the house. They must bathe and have their clothes washed before these are again used. When a married man dies his widow breaks her glass bangles and wears only metal bracelets, and so long as she remains a widow she takes no part in any festal celebrations. Every morning for three days after a death rice is cooked and laid in the veranda for dogs to eat. No other food is cooked in the house of death, the family being supplied by their friends. During these three days prayers are said for the dead several times a day by priests, and kinsmen pay short visits of condolence. On the third day a meeting is held in the house and prayers are said for the dead; trays of flowers and burning incense are placed before the spot where the body lay, and a list of charitable gifts made by the family in memory of the dead man is read. On the fourth day a feast is held specially [300]for priests, and friends are also asked to join in it. A little of the food cooked on this day is sent to all relations and friends, who make a point of eating or at least of tasting it. On the tenth and thirtieth days after death, and on monthly anniversaries for the first year, and subsequently on annual anniversaries, ceremonies in honour of the dead are performed.23

17. Previous exposure of the dead, and migration of souls.

Some of these customs are peculiar and interesting. It has been seen that for three days the home is impure, and no food is cooked in it except what is given to dogs; and since on the third day offerings are made on the spot where the body lay, it seems to be supposed that the dead man’s spirit is still there. On the fourth day is the funeral feast, in which all relations and friends join, and after this the house becomes pure, it being presumably held that the dead man’s spirit has taken its departure. For these three days food is cooked in the house and given to dogs, and immediately after the man is dead a dog is brought in to look at his face. It has been suggested that the manner of laying out the body recalls the time when it was simply exposed. But when it was exposed the body would have been devoured principally by dogs and vultures, and the customs connected with dogs seem to arise from this. The cooked food given to dogs for three days is perhaps a substitute for the flesh of the dead man which they would have eaten, and the display of the body to a dog is in substitution for its being devoured by these animals, who now that it is exposed in a tower of silence no longer have access to it. It has further been seen how during the marriage rites, after an invitation has been issued to the ancestors to attend, a woman comes in barking like a dog. The other women drive her away and laughingly eat everything they can lay their hands on, perhaps in imitation of the way dogs devour their food. This custom seems to indicate that the Pārsis formerly believed that the spirits of their ancestors went into the dogs which devoured their bodies, a belief which would be quite natural to primitive people. Such a hypothesis would explain the peculiar customs mentioned, and also the great sanctity which the Pārsis attach to dogs. On the same analogy they should apparently also have believed [301]that the spirits of ancestors went into vultures; but it is not recorded that they show any special veneration for these birds, though it must be almost certain that they do not kill them. The explanation given for the custom of the exposure of the dead is that none of the holy elements, earth, fire or water, can be polluted by receiving dead bodies. But, as already stated, towers of silence cannot be a primitive institution, and the bodies in all probability were previously exposed on the ground. The custom of exposure probably dates from a period prior to the belief in the extreme sanctity of the earth. It may have been retained in order that the spirits of ancestors might find a fresh home in the animals which devoured their bodies; and some platform, from which the towers of silence subsequently developed, may have been made to avoid defilement of the earth; while in after times this necessity of not defiling the earth and other elements might be advanced as a reason justifying the custom of exposure.

18. Clothes, food and ceremonial observances.

Pārsi men usually wear a turban of dark cloth spotted with white, folded to stand up straight from the forehead, and looking somewhat as if it was made of pasteboard. This is very unbecoming, and younger men often abandon it and simply wear the now common felt cap. They usually have long coats, white or dark, and white cotton trousers. Well-to-do Pārsi women dress very prettily in silks of various colours. The men formerly shaved the head, either entirely, or leaving a scalp-lock and two ear-locks. But now many of them simply cut their hair short like the English. They wear whiskers and moustaches, but with the exception of the priests, not usually beards. Neither men nor women ever put off the sacred shirt or the thread. They eat the flesh only of goats and sheep among animals, and also consume fish, fowls and other birds; but they do not eat a cock after it has begun to crow, holding the bird sacred, because they think that its crowing drives away evil spirits. If Ahura Mazda represented the sun and the light of day, the cock, the herald of the dawn, might be regarded as his sacred bird. Sometimes when a cock or parrot dies the body is wrapped in a sacred shirt or thread and carefully buried. Palm-juice toddy is a favourite drink at almost all meals in Gujarāt, and mahua [302]spirit is also taken. Parsis must never smoke, as this would be derogatory to the sacred element fire.24

Temple of Siva at Bāndakpur, near Damoh

Temple of Siva at Bāndakpur, near Damoh

1 C.P. Census Report (1911), p. 69.

2 P. 276.

3 Orphéus, p. 94.

4 Ibidem.

5 Haug, loc. cit. pp. 69, 70.

6 Orphéus, pp. 91, 92.

7 Haug, pp. 267, 268.

8 Haug, p. 269.

9 Haug, pp. 272, 273.

10 Great Religions of India.

11 Great Religions of India.

12 Orphéus, p. 96.

13 Ibidem, p. 98.

14 Haug, p. 199.

15 Sykes’ Persia and its People, p. 180; Great Religions of India, p. 173.

16 Bombay Gazetteer, vol. ix. part ii., Pārsis of Gujarāt p. 190.

17 Bombay Gazetteer, ibidem.

18 Bombay Gazetteer, vol. ix. part ii., Pārsis of Gujarāt, pp. 233, 237.

19 P. 133.

20 Bombay Gazetteer, vol. ix. part ii., Pārsis of Gujarāt, pp. 221–226.

21 Bombay Gazetteer, vol. ix. part ii., Pārsis of Gujarāt, p. 231.

22 Ibidem, pp. 239–242.

23 Bombay Gazetteer, vol. ix. part ii., Pārsis of Gujarāt, pp. 241, 243.

24 Bombay Gazetteer, Pārsis of Gujarāt, pp. 205, 207, 219, 220.


Saiva, Shaiva, Sivite Sect

Saiva, Shaiva, Sivite Sect.—The name given to Hindus who venerate Siva as their special god. Siva, whose name signifies ‘The Propitious,’ is held to have succeeded to the Vedic god Rudra, apparently a storm-god. Siva is a highly composite deity, having the double attributes of destroyer and creator of new life. His heaven, Kailās, is in the Himalayas according to popular belief. He carries the moon on his forehead, and from the central one of his three eyes the lightning flashes forth. He has a necklace of skulls, and snakes are intertwined round his waist and arms. And he has long matted hair (jata), from which the Ganges flows. It seems likely that the matted locks of the god represent the snow on the Himalayas, as the snow is in reality the source of the Ganges; the snow falling through the air and covering the peaks of the mountains might well suggest the hair of a mountain-god; and this interpretation seems to be accepted in Mr. Bain’s In the Great God’s Hair. Siva has thus three components from which the idea of death might be derived: First, his residence on the Himalaya mountains, the barren, lifeless region of ice and snow, and the cause of death to many pilgrims and travellers who ventured into it. Secondly, he is the god of the moon, and hence of darkness and night, which are always associated with death. In this light he might well be opposed to Vishnu, the god of the sun and day, and the source of growth and life; their association as the two supreme deities representing the preservation and destruction of life, would thus, to some extent, correspond to the conflict of good and bad deities representing light and darkness among the Zoroastrians. Thirdly, Siva is a snake-god, and the sudden death dealt out by the poisonous snake has always excited the greatest awe among primitive people. The cobra is widely revered in India, and it is probably this snake which is associated with the god. In addition the lightning, a swift, death-dealing power, is ascribed to Siva, and this may have been one of his earliest attributes, as it was probably associated with his Vedic prototype Rudra. Whether Siva obtained his character as a god of destruction [303]from one only of the above associations, or from a combination of them, is probably not known. Two great forces lend the deity his character of a god of reproduction, the bull and the phallic emblem. The bull tills the soil and renders it fertile and capable of bringing forth the crops which form the sustenance of mankind; while the phallic emblem is worshipped as the instrument of generation. It is believed that there is a natural tendency to associate these two objects, and to ascribe to the bull the capacity of inducing human fertility as well as the increase of the earth. It is in these two attributes that Siva is worshipped in the rural tract; he is represented by the emblem referred to standing on a circular grooved stone, which is the yoni, and in front of him is a stone bull. And he is revered almost solely as a beneficent deity under the name of Mahādeo or the Great God. Thus his dual qualities of destruction and reproduction appear to be produced by the combination in him of different objects of worship; the Himalayas, the moon, the cobra and the lightning on the one hand, and the bull and the emblem of regeneration on the other. Other interesting characteristics of Siva are that he is the first and greatest of ascetics and that he is immoderately addicted to the intoxicating drugs gānja and bhāng, the preparations of Indian hemp. It may be supposed that the god was given his character as an ascetic in order to extend divine sanction and example to the practice of asceticism when it came into favour. And the drugs,1 first revered themselves for their intoxicating properties, were afterwards perpetuated in a sacred character by being associated with the god. Siva’s throat is blue, and it is sometimes said that this is on account of his immoderate consumption of bhāng. The nilkanth or blue-jay, which was probably venerated for its striking plumage, and is considered to be a bird of very good omen, has become Siva’s bird because its blue throat resembles his. His principal sacred tree is the bel tree,2 which has trifoliate leaves, and may have been held sacred on this account. The practice of Sati or the self-immolation of widows has also been given divine authority by the story that Sati was Siva’s first wife, and that she committed suicide because she and her husband were not [304]invited to Daksha’s sacrifice.3 Siva’s famous consort is the multiform Devi, Kāli or Pārvati, of whom some notice is given elsewhere.4 The cult of Siva has produced the important Sākta sect, who, however, venerate more especially the female principle of energy as exemplified in his consort.5 Another great sect of southern India, the Lingāyats, worship him in the character of the lingam or phallic emblem, and are noticeable as being a Sivite sect who have abolished caste. The Sivite orders of Gosains or Dasnāmis and Jogis also constitute an important feature of Hinduism. All these are separately described. Apart from them the Hindus who call themselves Saivas because they principally venerate Siva, do not appear to have any very special characteristics, nor to be markedly distinguished from the Vaishnavas. They abstain from the consumption of flesh and liquor, and think it objectionable to take life. Their offerings to the god consist of flowers, the leaves of the bel tree which is sacred to him, and ripe ears of corn, these last being perhaps intended especially for the divine bull. The sect-mark of the Saivas consists of three curved lines horizontally drawn across the forehead, which are said to represent the tirsūl or trident of the god. A half-moon may also be drawn. The mark is made with Ganges clay, sandalwood, or cowdung cakes, these last being considered to represent the disintegrating force of the deity.6

Images of Siva and his consort Devi, or Pārvati, with the bull and tiger

Images of Siva and his consort Devi, or Pārvati, with the bull and tiger

1 See also article on Kalar.

2 Aegle marmelos.

3 Dr. Bhattachārya’s Hindu Castes and Sects, p. 371.

4 See articles Kumhār, Thug and Sākta sect.

5 See art. Sākta Sect.

6 Mr. Marten’s C. P. Census Report, 1911.


Sākta, Shakta Sect

Sākta, Shakta Sect.—The name of a Hindu sect, whose members worship the female principle of energy, which is the counterpart of the god Siva. The metaphysical ideas of Sāktism are thus described by Sir Edward Gait:1

“Sāktism is based on the worship of the active producing principle, Prākriti, as manifested in one or other of the goddess wives of Siva (Durga, Kāli, Pārvati) the female energy or Sakti of the primordial male, Purusha or Siva. In this cult the various forces of nature are deified under separate personalities, which are known as the divine mothers [305]or Mātrigan. The ritual to be observed, the sacrifices to be offered, and the mantras or magic texts to be uttered, in order to secure the efficacy of the worship and to procure the fulfilment of the worshipper’s desire, are laid down in a series of religious writings known as Tāntras. The cult is supposed to have originated in East Bengal or Assam about the fifth century.”

Dr. Bhattachārya states2 that the practical essence of the Sākta cult is the worship of the female organ of generation. According to a text of the Tāntras the best form of Sākti worship is to adore a naked woman, and it is said that some Tāntrics actually perform their daily worship in their private chapels by placing before them such a woman. A triangular plate of brass or copper may be taken as a substitute, and such plates are usually kept in the houses of Tāntric Brāhmans. In the absence of a plate of the proper shape a triangle may be painted on a copper dish. In public the veneration of the Sāktas is paid to the goddess Kāli. She is represented as a woman with four arms. In one hand she has a weapon, in a second the hand of the giant she has slain, and with the two others she is encouraging her worshippers. For earrings she has two dead bodies, she wears a necklace of skulls, and her only clothing is a garland made of men’s skulls. In the Kālika Purān3 the immolation of human beings is recommended, and numerous animals are catalogued as suitable for sacrifice. At the present time pigeons, goats, and more rarely buffaloes, are the usual victims at the shrine of the goddess. The ceremony commences with the adoration of the sacrificial axe; various mantras are recited, and the animal is then decapitated at one stroke. As soon as the head falls to the ground the votaries rush forward and smear their foreheads with the blood of the victim. It is of the utmost importance that the ceremony should pass off without any hitch or misadventure,4 and special services are held to supplicate the goddess to permit of this. If in spite of them the executioner fails to sever the head of the animal [306]at one stroke, it is thought that the goddess is angry and that some great calamity will befall the family in the next year. If a death should occur within the period, they attribute it to the miscarriage of the sacrifice, that is to the animal not having been killed with a single blow. If any such misfortune should happen, Dr. Bhattachārya states, the family generally determine never to offer animal sacrifices again; and in this way the slaughter of animals, as part of the religious ceremony in private houses, is becoming more and more rare. If a goat is sacrificed, the head is placed before the goddess and the flesh cooked and served to the invited guests; but in the case of a buffalo, as respectable Hindus do not eat the flesh of this animal, it is given to the low-caste musicians employed for the occasion. Wine is also offered to the goddess, and after being consecrated is sprinkled on every kind of uncooked food brought before her. But the worshipper and his family often drink only a few drops. The Sāktas are divided into the Dakshinachāris and Bāmachāris, or followers of the right- and left-handed paths respectively. The Dakshinachāris have largely abandoned animal sacrifices, and many of them substitute red flowers or red sandalwood as offerings, to represent blood. An account of those Bāmachāris who carry sexual practices to extreme lengths, has been given in the article on Vām-Mārgi. The sect-mark of the Sāktas is three horizontal lines on the forehead made with a mixture of charcoal and butter. Some of them have a single vertical line of charcoal or sandalwood. In the Central Provinces Sākta is a general term for a Hindu who eats meat, as opposed to the Vaīshnavas and Kabīrpanthis, who abjure it. The animals eaten are goats and chickens, and they are usually sacrificed to the goddess Devi prior to being consumed by the worshippers.

Devotees, possessed, embracing each other, while supported on tridents, at Siva’s fair at Pachmarhi

Devotees, possessed, embracing each other, while supported on tridents, at Siva’s fair at Pachmarhi


1 India Census Report (1901), p. 360.

2 Hindu Castes and Sects (Thacker, Spink & Co., Calcutta), pp. 407–413.

3 Sir E. Gait’s note, India Census Report.

4 Hindu Castes and Sects.



List of Paragraphs

1. Origin of the sect.

Satnāmi Sect1 (A worshipper of the true name of God).—A dissenting sect founded by a Chamār (This word is objectionable since he was cultivator) reformer in the Chhattīsgarh country of the Central Provinces. It is practically confined to members of the Chamār caste, about half of whom belong to it. In 1901 nearly 400,000 persons (not matching with 1881 Census report) returned themselves as adherents of the Satnāmi sect, of whom all but 2000 were Chamārs. The Satnāmi sect of the Central Provinces, which is here described, is practically confined to the Chhattīsgarh plain, and the handful of persons who returned themselves as Satnāmis from the northern Districts are believed to be adherents of the older persuasion of the same name in Northern India. The Satnāmi movement in Chhattīsgarh was originated by one Ghāsi Dās, a native of the Bilāspur District, between A.D. 1820 and 1830. But it is probable that Ghāsi Dās, as suggested by Mr. Hīra Lāl, got his inspiration from a follower of the older Satnāmi sect of northern India. This was inaugurated by a Rājpūt, Jagjīwan Dās of the Bara Banki District, who died in 1761. He preached the worship of the True Name of the one God, the cause and creator of all things, void of sensible qualities and without beginning [308]or end. He prohibited the use of meat, lentils (on account of their red colour suggesting blood) of the brinjal or eggplant, which was considered, probably on account of its shape, to resemble flesh, and of intoxicating liquors. The creed of Ghāsi Dās enunciated subsequently was nearly identical with that of Jagjīwan Dās, and was no doubt derived from it, though Ghāsi Dās never acknowledged the source of his inspiration.

2. Ghāsi Dās, founder of the Satnāmi sect.

Ghāsi Dās was a poor farmservant in Girod, a village formerly in Bilaspur and now in Raipur, near the Sonakān forests. On one occasion he and his brother started on a pilgrimage to the temple at Puri, but only got as far as Sārangarh, whence they returned ejaculating ‘Satnām, Satnām.’ From this time Ghāsi Dās began to adopt the life of an ascetic, retiring all day to the forest to meditate. On a rocky hillock about a mile from Girod is a large tendu tree (Diospyros tomentosa) under which it is said that he was accustomed to sit. This is a favourite place of pilgrimage of the Chamārs, and two Satnāmi temples have been built near it, which contain no idols. Once these temples were annually visited by the successors of Ghāsi Dās. But at present the head of the sect only proceeds to them, like the Greeks to Delphi, in circumstances of special difficulty. In the course of time Ghāsi Dās became venerated as a saintly character, and on some miracles, such as the curing of snake-bite, being attributed to him, his fame rapidly spread. The Chamārs began to travel from long distances to venerate him, and those who entertained desires, such as for the birth of a child, believed that he could fulfil them. The pilgrims were accustomed to carry away with them the water in which he had washed his feet, in hollow bamboos, and their relatives at home drank this, considering it was nectar. Finally, Ghāsi Dās retired to the forests for a period, and emerged with what he called a new Gospel for the Chamārs; but this really consisted of a repetition of the tenets of Jagjīwan Dās, the founder of the Satnāmi sect of Upper India, with a few additions. Mr. Chisholm2 gave a graphic account of the retirement of Ghāsi Dās to the Sonakān forests for a period of six months, and of his reappearance [309]and proclamation of his revelation on a fixed date before a great multitude of Chamārs, who had gathered from all parts to hear him. An inquiry conducted locally by Mr. Hīra Lāl in 1903 indicates that this story is of doubtful authenticity, though it must be remembered that Mr. Chisholm wrote only forty years after the event, and forty more had elapsed at the time of Mr. Hīra Lāl’s investigation.3 Of the Chamār Reformer himself Mr. Chisholm writes:4 “Ghāsi Dās, like the rest of his community, was unlettered. He was a man of unusually fair complexion and rather imposing appearance, sensitive, silent, given to seeing visions, and deeply resenting the harsh treatment of his brotherhood by the Hindus. He was well known to the whole community, having travelled much among them; had the reputation of being exceptionally sagacious and was universally respected.”

3. The message of Ghāsi Dās.

The seven precepts of Ghāsi Dās included abstinence from liquor, meat and certain red vegetables, such as lentils chillies and tomatoes, because they have the colour of blood, the abolition of idol worship, the prohibition of the employment of cows for cultivation, and of ploughing after midday or taking food to the fields, and the worship of the name of one solitary and supreme God. The use of taroi5 is said to have been forbidden on account of its fancied resemblance to the horn of the buffalo, and of the brinjal6 from its likeness to the scrotum of the same animal. The prohibition against ploughing after the midday meal was probably promulgated out of compassion for animals and was already in force among the Gonds of Bastar. This precept is still observed by many Satnāmis, and in case of necessity they will continue ploughing from early morning until the late afternoon without taking food, in order not to violate it. The injunction against the use of the cow for ploughing was probably a sop to the Brāhmans, the name of Gondwāna having been historically associated with this practice to its [310]disgrace among Hindus.7 The Satnāmis were bidden to cast all idols from their homes, but they were permitted to reverence the sun, as representing the deity, every morning and evening, with the ejaculation ‘Lord, protect me.’ Caste was abolished and all men were to be socially equal except the family of Ghāsi Dās, in which the priesthood of the cult was to remain hereditary.

4. Subsequent history of the Satnāmis.

The creed enunciated by their prophet was of a creditable simplicity and purity, of too elevated a nature for the Chamārs of Chhattīsgarh. The crude myths which are now associated with the story of Ghāsi Dās and the obscenity which distinguishes the ritual of the sect furnish a good instance of the way in which a religion, originally of a high order of morality, will be rapidly degraded to their own level when adopted by a people who are incapable of living up to it. It is related that one day his son brought Ghāsi Dās a fish to eat. He was about to consume it when the fish spoke and forbade him to do so. Ghāsi Dās then refrained, but his wife and two sons insisted on eating the fish and shortly afterwards they died.8 Overcome with grief Ghāsi Dās tried to commit suicide by throwing himself down from a tree in the forest, but the boughs of the tree bent with him and he could not fall. Finally the deity appeared, bringing his two sons, and commended Ghāsi Dās for his piety, at the same time bidding him go and proclaim the Satnāmi doctrine to the world. Ghāsi Dās thereupon went and dug up the body of his wife, who arose saying ‘Satnām.’ Ghāsi Dās lived till he was eighty years old and died in 1850, the number of his disciples being then more than a quarter of a million. He was succeeded in the office of high priest by his eldest son Bālak Dās. This man soon outraged the feelings of the Hindus by assuming the sacred thread and parading it ostentatiously on public occasions. So bitter was the hostility aroused by him, that he was finally assassinated at night by a party of Rājpūts at the rest-house of Amābāndha(may be rea as Aurabandha since it appears to be typographical error and as such there is no Amabandha village near Raipur) as he was travelling to Raipur. The murder was committed in 1860 and its perpetrators were never [311]discovered. Bālak Dās had fallen in love with the daughter of a Chitāri (painter) and married her, proclaiming a revelation to the effect that the next Chamār Guru should be the offspring of a Chitāri girl. Accordingly his son by her, Sāhib Dās, succeeded to the office, but the real power remained in the hands of Agar Dās, brother of Bālak Dās, who married his Chitāri widow. By her Agar Dās had a son Ajab Dās; but he also had another son Agarman Dās by a legitimate wife, and both claimed the succession. They became joint high priests, and the property has been partitioned between them. The chief guru formerly obtained a large income by the contributions of the Chamārs on his tours, as he received a rupee from each household in the villages which he visited on tour. He had a deputy, known as Bhandār, in many villages, who brought the commission of social offences to his notice, when fines were imposed. He built a house in the village of Bhandār of the Raipur District, having golden pinnacles, and also owned the village. But he has been extravagant and become involved in debt, and both house and village have been foreclosed by his creditor, though it is believed that a wealthy disciple has repurchased the house for him. The golden pinnacles were recently stolen. The contributions have also greatly fallen off.

Formerly an annual fair was held at Bhandār to which all the Satnāmis went and drank the water in which the guru had dipped his big toe. Each man gave him not less than a rupee and sometimes as much as fifty rupees. But the fair is no longer held and now the Satnāmis only give the guru a cocoanut when he goes on tour. The Satnāmis also have a fair in Ratanpur, a sacred place of the Hindus, where they assemble and bathe in a tank of their own, as they are not allowed to bathe in the Hindu tanks.

5. Social profligacy.

Formerly, when a Satnāmi Chamār was married, a ceremony called Satlok took place within three years of the wedding, or after the birth of the first son, which Mr. Durga Prasād Pānde describes as follows: it was considered to be the initiatory rite of a Satnāmi, so that prior to its performance he and his wife were not proper members of the sect. When the occasion was considered ripe, a committee of men in the village would propose the holding of the ceremony [312]to the bridegroom; the elderly members of his family would also exert their influence upon him, because it was believed that if they died prior to its performance their disembodied spirits would continue a comfortless existence about the scene of their mortal habitation, but if afterwards that they would go straight to heaven. When the rite was to be held a feast was given, the villagers sitting round a lighted lamp placed on a water-pot in the centre of the sacred chauk or square made with lines of wheat-flour; and from evening until midnight they would sing and dance. In the meantime the newly married wife would be lying alone in a room in the house. At midnight her husband went in to her and asked her whom he should revere as his guru or preceptor. She named a man and the husband went out and bowed to him and he then went in to the woman and lay with her. The process would be repeated, the woman naming different men until she was exhausted. Sometimes, if the head priest of the sect was present, he would nominate the favoured men, who were known as gurus. Next morning the married couple were seated together in the courtyard, and the head priest or his representative tied a kanthi or necklace of wooden beads round their necks, repeating an initiatory text.9 This silly doggerel, as shown in the footnote, is a good criterion of the intellectual capacity of the Satnāmis. It is also said that during his annual progresses it was the custom for the chief priest to be allowed access to any of the wives of the Satnāmis whom he might select, and that this was considered rather an honour than otherwise by the husband. But the Satnāmis have now become ashamed of such practices, and, except in a few isolated localities, they have been abandoned.

6. Divisions of the Satnāmis.

Ghāsi Dās or his disciples seem to have felt the want of a more ancient and dignified origin for the sect than one dating only from living memory. They therefore say that [313]it is a branch of that founded by Rohi Dās, a Chamār disciple of the great liberal and Vaishnavite reformer Rāmānand, who flourished at the end of the fourteenth century. The Satnāmis commonly call themselves Rohidāsi as a synonym for their name, but there is no evidence that Rohi Dās ever came to Chhattīsgarh, and there is practically no doubt, as already pointed out, that Ghāsi Dās simply appropriated the doctrine of the Satnāmi sect of northern India. One of the precepts of Ghāsi Dās was the prohibition of the use of tobacco, and this has led to a split in the sect, as many of his disciples found the rule too hard for them. They returned to their chongis or leaf-pipes, and are hence called Chungias; they say that in his later years Ghāsi Dās withdrew the prohibition. The Chungias have also taken to idolatry, and their villages contain stones covered with vermilion, the representations of the village deities, which the true Satnāmis eschew. They are considered lower than the Satnāmis, and intermarriage between the two sections is largely, though not entirely, prohibited. A Chungia can always become a Satnāmi if he ceases to smoke by breaking a cocoanut in the presence of his guru or preceptor or giving him a present. Among the Satnāmis there is also a particularly select class who follow the straitest sect of the creed and are called Jaharia from jahar, an essence. These never sleep on a bed but always on the ground, and are said to wear coarse uncoloured clothes and to eat no food but pulse or rice.

7. Customs of the Satnāmis.

The social customs of the Satnāmis resemble generally those of other Chamārs. They will admit into the community all except members of “the impure castes, as Dhobis (washermen), Ghasias (grass-cutters) and Mehtars (sweepers), whom they regard as inferior to themselves. Their weddings must be celebrated only during the months of Māgh (January), Phāgun (February), the light half of Chait (March) and Baisākh (April). No betrothal ceremony can take place during the months of Shrāwan (August) and Pūs (January). They always bury the dead, laying the body with the face downwards, and spread clothes in the grave above and below it, so that it may be warm and comfortable [314]during the last long sleep. They observe mourning for three days and have their heads shaved on the third day with the exception of the upper lip, which is never touched by the razor. The Satnāmis as well as the Kabīrpanthis in Chhattīsgarh abstain from spirituous liquor, and ordinary Hindus who do not do so are known as Saktaha or Sakta (a follower of Devi) in contradistinction to them. A Satnāmi is put out of caste if he is beaten by a man of another caste, however high, and if he is touched by a sweeper, Ghasia or Mahār. Their women wear nose-rings, simply to show their contempt for the Hindu social order, as this ornament was formerly forbidden to the lower castes. Under native dynasties any violation of a rule of this kind would have been severely punished by the executive Government, but in British India the Chamār women can indulge their whim with impunity. It was also a rule of the sect not to accept cooked food from the hands of any other caste, whether Hindu or Muhammadan, but this has fallen into abeyance since the famines. Another method by which the Satnāmis show their contempt for the Hindu religion is by throwing milk and curds at each other in sport and trampling it under foot. This is a parody of the Hindu celebration of the Janam-Ashtami or Krishna’s birthday, when vessels of milk and curds are broken over the heads of the worshippers and caught and eaten by all castes indiscriminately in token of amity. They will get into railway carriages and push up purposely against the Hindus, saying that they have paid for their tickets and have an equal right to a place. Then the Hindus are defiled and have to bathe in order to become clean.

8. Character of the Satnāmi movement.

Several points in the above description point to the conclusion that the Satnāmi movement is in essence a social revolt on the part of the despised Chamārs or tanners. The fundamental tenet of the gospel of Ghāsi Dās, as in the case of so many other dissenting sects, appears to have been the abolition of caste, and with it of the authority of the Brāhmans; and this it was which provoked the bitter hostility of the priestly order. It has been seen that Ghāsi Dās himself had been deeply impressed by the misery and debasement of the Chamār community; how his successor [315]Bālak Dās was murdered for the assumption of the sacred thread; and how in other ways the Satnāmis try to show their contempt for the social order which brands them as helot outcastes. A large proportion of the Satnāmi Chamārs are owners or tenants of land, and this fact may be surmised to have intensified their feeling of revolt against the degraded position to which they were relegated by the Hindus. Though slovenly cultivators and with little energy or forethought, the Chamārs have the utmost fondness for land and an ardent ambition to obtain a holding, however small. The possession of land is a hall-mark of respectability in India, as elsewhere, and the low castes were formerly incapable of holding it; and it may be surmised that the Chamār feels himself to be raised by his tenant-right above the hereditary condition of village drudge and menial. But for the restraining influence of the British power, the Satnāmi movement might by now have developed in Chhattīsgarh into a social war. Over most of India the term Hindu is contrasted with Muhammadan, but in Chhattīsgarh to call a man a Hindu conveys primarily that he is not a Chamār, or Chamara according to the contemptuous abbreviation in common use. A bitter and permanent antagonism exists between the two classes, and this the Chamār cultivators carry into their relations with their Hindu landlords by refusing to pay rent. The records of the criminal courts contain many cases arising from collisions between Chamārs and Hindus, several of which have resulted in riot and murder. Faults no doubt exist on both sides, and Mr. Hemingway, Settlement Officer, quotes an instance of a Hindu proprietor who made his Chamār tenants cart timber and bricks to Rājim, many miles from his village, to build a house for him during the season of cultivation, their fields consequently remaining untilled. But if a proprietor once arouses the hostility of his Chamār tenants he may as well abandon his village for all the profit he is likely to obtain from it. Generally the Chamārs are to blame, as pointed out by Mr. Blenkinsop who knows them well, and many of them are dangerous criminals, restrained only by their cowardice from the worst outrages against person and property. It may be noted in conclusion that the spread [316]of Christianity among the Chamārs is in one respect a replica of the Satnāmi movement, because by becoming a Christian the Chamār hopes also to throw off the social bondage of Hinduism. A missionary gentleman told the writer that one of the converted Chamārs, on being directed to perform some menial duty of the village, replied: ‘No, I have become a Christian and am one of the Sāhibs; I shall do no more bigār (forced labour).’ [317]

1 This article is based principally on a paper by Mr. Durga Prasād Pānde, Tahsīldār, Raipur.

2 Bilaspur Settlement Report (1888), p. 45.

3 Some of Mr. Chisholm’s statements are undoubtedly inaccurate. For instance, he says that Ghāsi Dās decided on a temporary withdrawal into the wilderness, and proceeded for this purpose to a small village called Girod near the junction of the Jonk and Mahānadi rivers. But it is an undoubted fact, as shown by Mr. Hīra Lāl and others, that Ghāsi Dās was born in Girod and had lived there all his life up to the time of his proclamation of his gospel.

4 Ibidem.

5 Luffa acutangula.

6 Solanum melangenum.

7 Some of the Bundela raids in the north of the Province were made on the pretext of being crusades for the protection of the sacred animal.

8 From Mr. Durga Prasād Pānde’s paper.

9 This text is recorded by Mr. Durga Prasād Pānde as follows:


“Bhāji chhurai bhānta chhurdi

Gondli karat chhonka

Lai bhāji ke chhurawate

Gaon la marai chauka.

Sahib ke Satnāmia; ‘Thonka.’”


“We have given up eating vegetables, we eat no brinjals: we eat onions with more relish; we eat no more red vegetables. The chauka has been placed in the village. The true name is of God; (to which the pair replied) ‘Amen.’”


Sikh Religion

List of Paragraphs

1. Foundation of Sikhism—Bāba Nānak.

Sikh, Akāli.—The Sikh religion and the history of the Sikhs have been fully described by several writers, and all that is intended in this article is a brief outline of the main tenets of the sect for the benefit of those to whom the more important works of reference may not be available. The Central Provinces contained only 2337 Sikhs in 1911, of whom the majority were soldiers and the remainder probably timber or other merchants or members of the subordinate engineering service in which Punjabis are largely employed. The following account is taken from Sir Denzil Ibbetson’s Census Report of the Punjab for 1881:

“Sikhism was founded by Bāba Nānak, a Khatri of the Punjab, who lived in the fifteenth century. But Nānak was not more than a religious reformer like Kabīr, Rāmānand, and the other Vaishnava apostles. He preached the unity of God, the abolition of idols, and the disregard of caste distinctions.1 His doctrine and life were eminently gentle and unaggressive. He was succeeded by nine gurus, the last and most famous of whom, Govind Singh, died in 1708.

“The names of the gurus were as follows:

1. Bāba Nānak 1469–1538–9
2. Angad 1539–1552
3. Amar Dās 1552–1574 [318]
4. Rām Dās 1574–1581
5. Arjun 1581–1606
6. Har Govind 1606–1645
7. Har Rai 1645–1661
8. Har Kishen 1661–1664
9. Teg Bahadur 1664–1675
10. Govind Singh 1675–1708

2. The earlier Gurus.

“Under the second Guru Angad an intolerant and ascetic spirit began to spring up among the followers of the new tenets; and had it not been for the good sense and firmness displayed by his successor, Amar Dās, who excommunicated the Udāsis and recalled his followers to the mildness and tolerance of Nānak, Sikhism would probably have merely added one more to the countless orders of ascetics or devotees which are wholly unrepresented in the life of the people. The fourth guru, Rām Dās, founded Amritsar; but it was his successor, Arjun, that first organised his following. He gave them a written rule of faith in the Granth or Sikh scripture which he compiled, he provided a common rallying-point in the city of Amritsar which he made their religious centre, and he reduced their voluntary contributions to a systematic levy which accustomed them to discipline and paved the way for further organisation. He was a great trader, he utilised the services and money of his disciples in mercantile transactions which extended far beyond the confines of India, and he thus accumulated wealth for his Church.

“Unfortunately he was unable wholly to abstain from politics; and having become a political partisan of the rebel prince Khusru, he was summoned to Delhi and there imprisoned, and the treatment he received while in confinement hastened, if it did not cause, his death. And thus began that Muhammadan persecution which was so mightily to change the spirit of the new faith. This was the first turning-point in Sikh history; and the effects of the persecution were immediately apparent. Arjun was a priest and a merchant; his successor, Har Govind, was a warrior. He abandoned the gentle and spiritual teaching of Nānak for the use of arms and the love of adventure. He encouraged his followers to eat flesh, as giving them strength and daring; he substituted zeal in the cause for saintliness of life as the price of salvation; and he developed the organised discipline which Arjun [319]had initiated. He was, however, a military adventurer rather than an enthusiastic zealot, and fought either for or against the Muhammadan empire as the hope of immediate gain dictated. His policy was followed by his two successors; and under Teg Bahādur the Sikhs degenerated into little better than a band of plundering marauders, whose internal factions aided to make them disturbers of the public peace. Moreover, Teg Bahādur was a bigot, while the fanatical Aurāngzeb had mounted the throne of Delhi. Him therefore Aurāngzeb captured and executed as an infidel, a robber and a rebel, while he cruelly persecuted his followers in common with all who did not accept Islām.

3. Guru Govind Singh.

“Teg Bahādur was succeeded by the last and greatest guru, his son Govind Singh; and it was under him that what had sprung into existence as a quietist sect of a purely religious nature, and had become a military society of by no means high character, developed into the political organisation which was to rule the whole of north-western India, and to furnish the British arms their stoutest and most worthy opponents. For some years after his father’s execution Govind Singh lived in retirement, and brooded over his personal wrongs and over the persecutions of the Musalmān fanatic which bathed the country in blood. His soul was filled with the longing for revenge; but he felt the necessity for a larger following and a stronger organisation, and, following the example of his Muhammadan enemies, he used his religion as the basis of political power. Emerging from his retirement he preached the Khālsa, the pure, the elect, the liberated. He openly attacked all distinctions of caste, and taught the equality of all men who would join him; and instituting a ceremony of initiation, he proclaimed it as the pāhul or ‘gate’ by which all might enter the society, while he gave to its members the prasād or communion as a sacrament of union in which the four castes should eat of one dish. The higher castes murmured and many of them left him, for he taught that the Brāhman’s thread must be broken; but the lower orders rejoiced and flocked in numbers to his standard. These he inspired with military ardour, with the hope of social freedom and of national independence, and with abhorrence of the hated Muhammadan. He gave [320]them outward signs of their faith in the unshorn hair, the short drawers, and the blue dress; he marked the military nature of their calling by the title of Singh or ‘lion,’ by the wearing of steel, and by the initiation by sprinkling of water with a two-edged dagger; and he gave them a feeling of personal superiority in their abstinence from the unclean tobacco.

“The Muhammadans promptly responded to the challenge, for the danger was too serious to be neglected; the Sikh army was dispersed, and Govind’s mother, wife and children were murdered at Sirhind by Aurāngzeb’s orders. The death of the emperor brought a temporary lull, and a year later Govind himself was assassinated while fighting the Marāthas as an ally of Aurāngzeb’s successor. He did not live to see his ends accomplished, but he had roused the dormant spirit of the people, and the fire which he lit was only damped for a while. His chosen disciple Banda succeeded him in the leadership, though never recognised as guru. The internal commotions which followed upon the death of the emperor, Bahādur Shah, and the attacks of the Marāthas weakened the power of Delhi, and for a time Banda carried all before him; but he was eventually conquered and captured in A.D. 1716, and a period of persecution followed so sanguinary and so terrible that for a generation nothing more was heard of the Sikhs. How the troubles of the Delhi empire thickened, how the Sikhs again rose to prominence, how they disputed the possession of the Punjab with the Mughals, the Marāthas and the Durāni, and were at length completely successful, how they divided into societies under their several chiefs and portioned out the Province among them, and how the genius of Ranjīt Singh raised him to supremacy and extended his rule beyond the limits of the Punjab, are matters of political and not of religious history. No formal alteration has been made in the Sikh religion since Govind Singh gave it its military shape; and though changes have taken place, they have been merely the natural result of time and external influences.

4. Sikh initiation and rules.

“The word Sikh is said to be derived from the common Hindu term Sewak and to mean simply a disciple; it may be applied therefore to the followers of Nānak who held [321]aloof from Govind Singh, but in practice it is perhaps understood to mean only the latter, while the Nānakpanthis are considered as Hindus. A true Sikh always takes the termination Singh to his name on initiation, and hence they are sometimes known as Singhs in distinction to the Nānakpanthis. A man is also not born a Sikh, but must always be initiated, and the pāhul or rite of baptism cannot take place until he is old enough to understand it, the earliest age being seven, while it is often postponed till manhood. Five Sikhs must be present at the ceremony, when the novice repeats the articles of the faith and drinks sugar and water stirred up with a two-edged dagger. At the initiation of women a one-edged dagger is used, but this is seldom done. Thus most of the wives of Sikhs have never been initiated, nor is it necessary that their children should become Sikhs when they grow up. The faith is unattractive to women owing to the simplicity of its ritual and the absence of the feasts and ceremonies so abundant in Hinduism; formerly the Sikhs were accustomed to capture their wives in forays, and hence perhaps it was considered of no consequence that the husband and wife should be of different faith. The distinguishing marks of a true Sikh are the five Kakkas or K’s which he is bound to carry about his person: the Kes or uncut hair and unshaven beard; the Kachh or short drawers ending above the knee; the Kasa or iron bangle; the Khanda or steel knife; and the Kanga or comb. The other rules of conduct laid down by Guru Govind Singh for his followers were to dress in blue clothes and especially eschew red or saffron-coloured garments and caps of all sorts, to observe personal cleanliness, especially in the hair, and practise ablutions, to eat the flesh of such animals only as had been killed by jatka or decapitation, to abstain from tobacco in all its forms, never to blow out flame nor extinguish it with drinking-water, to eat with the head covered, pray and recite passages of the Granth morning and evening and before all meals, reverence the cow, abstain from the worship of saints and idols and avoid mosques and temples, and worship the one God only, neglecting Brāhmans and Mullas, and their scriptures, teaching, rites and religious [322]symbols. Caste distinctions he positively condemned and instituted the prasād or communion, in which cakes of flour, butter and sugar are made and consecrated with certain ceremonies while the communicants sit round in prayer, and then distributed equally to all the faithful present, to whatever caste they may belong. The above rules, so far as they enjoin ceremonial observances, are still very generally obeyed. But the daily reading and recital of the Granth is discontinued, for the Sikhs are the most uneducated class in the Punjab, and an occasional visit to the Sikh temple where the Granth is read aloud is all that the villager thinks necessary. Blue clothes have been discontinued save by the fanatical Akāli sect, as have been very generally the short drawers or Kachh. The prohibition of tobacco has had the unfortunate effect of inducing the Sikhs to take to hemp and opium, both of which are far more injurious than tobacco. The precepts which forbid the Sikh to venerate Brāhmans or to associate himself with Hindu worship are entirely neglected; and in the matter of the worship of local saints and deities, and of the employment of and reverence for Brāhmans, there is little, while in current superstitions and superstitious practices there is no difference between the Sikh villager and his Hindu brother.”2

5. Character of the Nānakpanthis and Sikh sects.

It seems thus clear that if it had not been for the political and military development of the Sikh movement, it would in time have lost most of its distinctive features and have come to be considered as a Hindu sect of the same character, if somewhat more distinctive than those of the Nānakpanthis and Kabīrpanthis. But this development and the founding of the Sikh State of Lahore created a breach between the Sikhs and ordinary Hindus wider than that caused by their religious differences, as was sufficiently demonstrated during the Mutiny. In their origin both the Sikh and Nānakpanthi sects appear to [323]have been mainly a revolt against the caste system, the supremacy of Brāhmans and the degrading mass of superstitions and reverence of idols and spirit-worship which the Brāhmans encouraged for their own profit. But while Nānak, influenced by the observation of Islamic monotheism, attempted to introduce a pure religion only, the aim of Govind was perhaps political, and he saw in the caste system an obstacle to the national movement which he desired to excite against the Muhammadans. So far as the abolition of caste was concerned, both reformers have, as has been seen, largely failed, the two sects now recognising caste, while their members revere Brāhmans like ordinary Hindus.

6. The Akālis.

The Akālis or Nihangs are a fanatical order of Sikh ascetics. The following extract is taken from Sir E. Maclagan’s account of them:3

“The Akālis came into prominence very early by their stout resistance to the innovations introduced by the Bairāgi Banda after the death of Guru Govind; but they do not appear to have had much influence during the following century until the days of Mahārāja Ranjit Singh. They constituted at once the most unruly and the bravest portion of the very unruly and brave Sikh army. Their headquarters were at Amritsar, where they constituted themselves the guardians of the faith and assumed the right to convoke synods. They levied offerings by force and were the terror of the Sikh chiefs. Their good qualities were, however, well appreciated by the Mahārāja, and when there were specially fierce foes to meet, such as the Pathāns beyond the Indus, the Akālis were always to the front.

“The Akāli is distinguished very conspicuously by his dark-blue and checked dress, his peaked turban, often surmounted with steel quoits, and by the fact of his strutting about like Ali Bāba’s prince with his ‘thorax and abdomen festooned with curious cutlery.’ He is most particular in retaining the five Kakkas, and in preserving every outward form prescribed by Guru Govind Singh. Some of the Akālis wear a yellow turban underneath the blue one, leaving a yellow band across the forehead. The yellow turban is [324]worn by many Sikhs at the Basant Panchmi, and the Akālis are fond of wearing it at all times. There is a couplet by Bhai Gurdās which says:

Siah, Sufed, Surkh, Zardae,

Jo pahne, sot Gurbhai;

or, ‘Those that wear black (the Akālis), white (the Nirmalas), red (the Udāsis) or yellow, are all members of the brotherhood of the Sikhs.’

“The Akālis do not, it is true, drink spirits or eat meat as other Sikhs do, but they are immoderate in the consumption of bhāng. They are in other respects such purists that they will avoid Hindu rites even in their marriage ceremonies.

“The Akāli is full of memories of the glorious day of the Khālsa; and he is nothing if he is not a soldier, a soldier of the Guru. He dreams of armies, and he thinks in lakhs. If he wishes to imply that five Akālis are present, he will say that ‘five lakhs are before you’; or if he would explain he is alone, he will say that he is with ‘one and a quarter lakhs of the Khālsa.’ You ask him how he is, and he replies that ‘The army is well’; you inquire where he has come from, and he says, ‘The troops marched from Lahore.’ The name Akāli means ‘immortal.’ When Sikhism was politically dominant, the Akālis were accustomed to extort alms by accusing the principal chiefs of crimes, imposing fines upon them, and in the event of their refusing to pay, preventing them from performing their ablutions or going through any of the religious ceremonies at Amritsar.”

7. The Sikh Council or Guru-Māta. Their communal meal.

The following account was given by Sir J. Malcolm of the Guru-Māta or great Council of the Sikhs and their religious meal:4 “When a Guru-Māta or great national Council is called on the occasion of any danger to the country, all the Sikh chiefs assemble at Amritsar. The assembly is convened by the Akālis; and when the chiefs meet upon this solemn occasion it is concluded that all private animosities cease, and that every man sacrifices his personal feelings at the shrine of the general good. [325]

“When the chiefs and principal leaders are seated, the Adi-Granth and Dasama Pādshāh Ka Granth5 are placed before them. They all bend their heads before the Scriptures and exclaim, ‘Wah Guruji ka Khālsa! wah Guruji ka Fateh!6 A great quantity of cakes made of wheat, butter and sugar are then placed before the volumes of their sacred writings and covered with a cloth. These holy cakes, which are in commemoration of the injunction of Nānak to eat and to give to others to eat next receive the salutation of the assembly, who then rise, while the Akālis pray aloud and the musicians play. The Akālis, when the prayers are finished, desire the Council to be seated. They sit down, and the cakes are uncovered and eaten by all classes of the Sikhs, those distinctions of tribe and caste which are on other occasions kept up being now laid aside in token of their general and complete union in one cause. The Akālis proclaim the Guru-Māta, and prayers are again said aloud. The chiefs after this sit closer and say to each other, ‘The sacred Granth is between us, let us swear by our Scriptures to forget all internal disputes and to be united.’ This moment of religious fervour is taken to reconcile all animosities. They then proceed to consider the danger with which they are threatened, to devise the best plans for averting it and to choose the generals who are to lead their armies against the common enemy.” The first Guru-Māta was assembled by Guru Govind, and the latest was called in 1805, when the British Army pursued Holkar into the Punjab. The Sikh Army was known as Dal Khālsa, or the Army of God, khālsa being an Arabic word meaning one’s own.7 At the height of the Sikh power the followers of this religion only numbered a small fraction of the population of the Punjab, and its strength is now declining. In 1911 the Sikhs were only three millions in the Punjab population of twenty-four millions.

1 See article Nānakpanthi for an account of Nānak’s creed.

2 Here again, Sir D. Ibbetson notes, it is often the women who are the original offenders: “I have often asked Sikhs how it is that, believing as they do in only one God, they can put any faith in and render any obedience to Brāhmans who acknowledge a large number of deities, and their answer in every case has been that they do not themselves believe in them; but their women do, and to please them they are obliged to pay attention to what the Brāhmans say.”

3 Punjab Census Report (1891), para. 107.

4 Account of the Sikhs, Asiatic Researches.

5 Apparently the Scripture of Govind, the tenth guru.

6 ‘Hurrah for the Guru’s Khālsa, Victory to the Guru.’

7 Sir Lepel Griffin’s Life of Ranjīt Singh.


Smārta Sect

Smārta Sect.—This is an orthodox Hindu sect, the members of which are largely Brāhmans. The name is [326]derived from Smriti or tradition, a name given to the Hindu sacred writings, with the exception of the Vedas, which last are regarded as a divine revelation. Members of the sect worship the five deities, Siva, Vishnu, Sūraj or the sun, Ganpati and Sakti, the divine principle of female energy corresponding to Siva. They say that their sect was founded by Shankar Achārya, the great Sivite reformer and opponent of Buddhism, but this appears to be incorrect. Shankar Achārya himself is said to have believed in one unseen God, who was the first cause and sole ruler of the universe; but he countenanced for the sake of the weaker brethren the worship of orthodox Hindu deities and of their idols.

Image of the prophet Swāmi Nārāyan in the Teli temple at Burhānpur

Image of the prophet Swāmi Nārāyan in the Teli temple at Burhānpur


Swāmi-Nārāyan Sect

1. The founder.

Swāmi-Nārāyan Sect.1—This, one of the most modern Vaishnava sects, was founded by Sahajānand Swāmi, a Sarwaria Brāhman, born near Ajodhia in the United Provinces in A.D. 1780. At an early age he became a religious mendicant, and wandered all over India, visiting the principal shrines. When twenty years old he was made a Sādhu of the Rāmānandi order, and soon nominated as his successor by the head of the order. He preached with great success in Gujarāt, and though his tenets do not seem to have differed much from the Rāmānandi creed, his personal influence was such that his followers founded a new sect and called it after him. He proclaimed the worship of one sole deity, Krishna or Nārāyana, whom he identified with the sun, and apparently his followers held, and he inclined to believe himself, that he was a fresh incarnation of Vishnu. It is said that he displayed miraculous powers before his disciples, entrancing whomsoever he cast his eyes upon, and causing them in this mesmeric state (Samādhi) to imagine they saw Sahajānand as Krishna with yellow robes, weapons of war, and other characteristics of the God, and to behold him seated as chief in an assembly of divine beings.

2. Tenets of the sect.

His creed prohibited the destruction of animal life; the use of animal food and intoxicating liquors or drugs on any occasion; promiscuous intercourse with the other sex; [327]suicide, theft and robbery, and false accusations. Much good was done, the Collector testified, by his preaching among the wild Kolis of Gujarāt;2 his morality was said to be far better than any which could be learned from the Shāstras; he condemned theft and bloodshed; and those villages and Districts which had received him, from being among the worst, were now among the best and most orderly in the Province of Bombay. His success was great among the lower castes, as the Kolis, Bhīls and Kāthis. He was regarded by his disciples as the surety of sinners, his position in this respect resembling that of the Founder of Christianity. To Bishop Heber he said that while he permitted members of different castes to eat separately here below, in the future life there would be no distinction of castes.3 His rules for the conduct of the sexes towards each other were especially severe. No Sādhu of the Swāmi-Nārāyan sect might ever touch a woman, even the accidental touching of any woman other than a mother having to be expiated by a whole-day fast. Similarly, should a widow-disciple touch even a boy who was not her son, she had to undergo the same penalty. There were separate passages for women in their large temples, and separate reading and preaching halls for women, attended by wives of the Achāryas or heads of the sect. These could apparently be married, but other members of the priestly order must remain single; while the lay followers lived among their fellows, pursuing their ordinary lives and avocations. The strictness of the Swāmi on sexual matters was directed against the licentious practices of the Mahārāj or Vallabhachārya order. He boldly denounced the irregularities they had introduced into their forms of worship, and exposed the vices which characterised the lives of their clergy. This attitude, as well as the prohibition of the worship of idols, earned for him the hostility of the Peshwa and the Marātha Brāhmans, and he was subjected to a considerable degree of persecution; his followers were taught the Christian doctrine of suffering [328]injury without retaliation, and the devotees of hostile sects took advantage of this to beat them unmercifully, some being even put to death.

3. Meeting with Bishop Heber.

In order to protect the Swāmi, his followers constituted from themselves an armed guard, as shown by Bishop Heber’s account of their meeting: “About eleven o’clock I had the expected visit from Swāmi-Nārāyan. He came in a somewhat different guise from all which I expected, having with him near 200 horsemen, mostly well-armed with matchlocks and swords, and several of them with coats of mail and spears. Besides them he had a large rabble on foot with bows and arrows, and when I considered that I had myself an escort of more than fifty horses and fifty muskets and bayonets, I could not help smiling, though my sensations were in some degree painful and humiliating, at the idea of two religious teachers meeting at the head of little armies, and filling the city which was the scene of their interview with the rattling of gunners, the clash of shields and the tramp of the war-horse. Had our troops been opposed to each other, mine, though less numerous, would have been doubtless far more effective from the superiority of arms and discipline. But in moral grandeur what a difference was there between his troop and mine. Mine neither knew me nor cared for me; they escorted me faithfully and would have defended me bravely, because they were ordered by their superiors to do so. The guards of Swāmi-Nārāyan were his own disciples and enthusiastic admirers, men who had voluntarily repaired to hear his lessons, who now took a pride in doing him honour, and would cheerfully fight to the last drop of blood rather than suffer a fringe of his garment to be handled roughly.... The holy man himself was a middle-aged, thin and plain-looking person, about my own age, with a mild expression of countenance, but nothing about him indicative of any extraordinary talent. I seated him on a chair at my right hand and offered two more to the Thākur and his son, of which, however, they did not avail themselves without first placing their hands under the feet of their spiritual guide and then pressing them reverently to their foreheads.”

4. Meeting with Governor of Bombay.

Owing, apparently, to the high moral character of his [329]preaching and his success in reducing to order and tranquillity the turbulent Kolis and Bhīls who accepted his doctrines, Swāmi-Nārāyan enjoyed a large measure of esteem and regard from the officers of Government. This will be evidenced from the following account of his meeting with the Governor of Bombay:4 “On the receipt of the above two letters, Swāmi-Nārāyan Mahārāj proceeded to Rājkote to visit the Right Honourable the Governor, and on the 26th February 1830 was escorted as a mark of honourable reception by a party of troops and military foot-soldiers to the Political Agent’s bungalow, when His Excellency the Governor, the Secretary, Mr. Thomas Williamson, six other European gentlemen, and the Political Agent, Mr. Blane, having come out of the bungalow to meet the Swāmi-Nārāyan, His Excellency conducted the Swāmi, hand in hand, to a hall in the bungalow and made him sit on a chair. His Excellency afterwards with pleasure enquired about the principles of his religion, which were communicated accordingly. His Excellency also made a present to Swāmi-Nārāyan of a pair of shawls and other piece-goods. Swāmi-Nārāyan was asked by the Governor whether he and his disciples have had any harm under British rule; and His Excellency was informed in reply that there was nothing of the sort, but that on the contrary every protection was given them by all the officers in authority. His Excellency then asked for a code of the religion of Swāmi-Nārāyan, and the book called the Shiksapatri was presented to him accordingly. Thus after a visit extending to an hour Swāmi-Nārāyan asked permission to depart, when he was sent back with the same honours with which he had been received, all the European officers accompanying him out of the door from the bungalow.”

5. Conclusion.

The author of the above account is not given, and it apparently emanates from a follower of the saint, but there seems little reason to doubt its substantial accuracy, and it certainly demonstrates the high estimation in which he was held. After his death his disciples erected Chauras or resthouses and monuments to his memory in all the villages and beneath all the trees where he had at any time made [330]any stay in Gujarāt; and here he is worshipped by the sect. In 1901 the sect had about 300,000 adherents in Gujarāt. In the Central Provinces a number of persons belong to it in Nimār, principally of the Teli caste. The Telis of Nimār are anxious to improve their social position, which is very low, and have probably joined the sect on account of its liberal principles on the question of caste.

Images of Rāma, Lachman and Sīta, with attendants

Images of Rāma, Lachman and Sīta, with attendants

1 Based on the account of the sect in the volume, Hindus of Gujarāt, of the Bombay Gazetteer, and The Swāmi-Nārāyan Sect pamphlet, printed at the Education Society’s Press, Bombay, 1887.

2 Bishop Heber’s Narrative of a Journey through the Upper Provinces, pp. 143, 153.

3 The Swāmi-Nārāyan Sect, pp. 4, 22. The above details are given, because in the Bombay Gazetteer the Swāmi is said to have prohibited the taking of food with low-caste people, and caste pollution; and this appears incorrect.

4 The Swāmi-Nārāyan Sect, p. 25.


Vaishnava, Vishnuite Sect

1. Vishnu as representing the sun.

Vaishnava, Vishnuite Sect.—The name given to Hindus whose special deity is the god Vishnu, and to a number of sects which have adopted various special doctrines based on the worship of Vishnu or of one of his two great incarnations, Rāma and Krishna. Vishnu was a personification of the sun, though in ancient literature the sun is more often referred to under another name, as Savitri, Surya and Aditya. It may perhaps be the case that when the original sun-god develops into a supreme deity with the whole heavens as his sphere, the sun itself comes to be regarded as a separate and minor deity. His weapon of the chakra or discus, which was probably meant to resemble the sun, supports the view of Vishnu as a sun-god, and also his vāhan, the bird Garūda, on which he rides. This is the Brāhminy kite, a fine bird with chestnut plumage and white head and breast, which has been considered a sea-eagle. Mr. Dewar states that it remains almost motionless at a great height in the air for long periods; and it is easy to understand how in these circumstances primitive people mistook it for the spirit of the sky, or the vehicle of the sun-god. It is propitious for a Hindu to see a Brāhminy kite, especially on Sunday, the sun’s day, for it is believed that the bird is then returning from Vishnu, whom it has gone to see on the previous evening.1 A similar belief has probably led to the veneration of the eagle in other countries and its association with the god of the sky or heavens, as in the case of Zeus. Similarly the Gayatri, the most sacred Hindu prayer, is addressed to the sun, and it could hardly have been considered so important unless the luminary was identified with one of the greatest Hindu gods. Every Brāhman prays to the sun daily when he bathes in the morning. Vishnu’s character as the preserver [331]and fosterer of life is probably derived from the sun’s generative power, so conspicuous in India.

As the sun is seen to sink every night into the earth, so it was thought that he could come down to earth, and Vishnu has done this in many forms for the preservation of mankind.

2. His incarnations.

He is generally considered to have had ten incarnations, of which nine are past and one is still to come. The incarnations were as follows:

1. As a great fish he guided the ark in which Manu the primeval man escaped from the deluge.

2. As a tortoise he supported the earth and poised it in its present position; or according to another version he lay at the bottom of the sea while the mountain Meru was set on its peak on his back, and with the serpent Vāsuki as a rope round the mountain the ocean was churned by the gods for making the divine Amrit or nectar which gives immortality.

3. As a boar he dived under the sea and raised the earth on his tusks after it had been submerged by a demon.

4. As Narsingh, the man-lion, he delivered the world from the tyranny of another demon.

5. As Wāman or a dwarf he tricked the King Bali, who had gained possession over the earth and nether world and was threatening the heavens, by asking for as much ground as he could cover in three steps. When his request was derisively granted he covered heaven and earth in two steps, but on Bali’s intercession left him the nether regions and refrained from making the third step which would have covered them.

6. As Parasurama2 he cleared the earth of the Kshatriyas, who had oppressed the Brāhman hermits and stolen the sacred cow, by a slaughter of them thrice seven times repeated.

7. As Rāma, the divine king of Ajodhia or Oudh, he led an expedition to Ceylon for the recovery of his wife Sīta, who had been abducted by Rawan, the demon king of [332]Ceylon. This story probably refers to an early expedition of the Aryans to southern India, in which they may have obtained the assistance of the Munda tribes, represented by Hanumān and his army of apes.

8. As Krishna he supported the Pāndavas in their war against the Kauravas, and at the head of the Yādava clan founded the city of Dwārka in Gujarāt, where he was afterwards killed. The popular group of legends about Krishna in his capacity of a cowherd in the forests of Mathura was perhaps at first distinct and afterwards combined with the story of the Yādava prince.3 But it is in this latter character as the divine cowherd that Krishna is most generally known and worshipped.

9. As Buddha he was the great founder of the religion known by his name; the Brāhmans, by making Buddha an incarnation of Vishnu, have thus provided a connecting link between Buddhism and Hinduism.

In his tenth incarnation he will come again as Nishka-lanki or the stainless one for the final regeneration of the world, and his advent is expected by some Hindus, who worship him in this form.

Image of Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth, the consort of Vishnu, with attendant

Image of Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth, the consort of Vishnu, with attendant

3. Worship of Vishnu and Vaishnava doctrines.

In the Central Provinces Vishnu is worshipped as Nārāyan Deo, who is identified with the sun, or as Parmeshwar, the supreme beneficent god. He is also much worshipped in his incarnations as Rāma and Krishna, and their images, with those of their consorts, Sīta and Rādha, are often to be found in his temples as well as in their own. These images are supposed to be subject to all the conditions and necessities incident to living humanity. Hence in the daily ritual they are washed, dressed, adorned and even fed like human beings, food being daily placed before them, and its aroma, according to popular belief, nourishing the god present in the image.

The principal Vishnuite sects are described in the article on Bairāgi, and the dissenting sects which have branched off from these in special articles.4 The cult of Vishnu and his two main incarnations is the most prominent feature of modern Hinduism. The orthodox Vaishnava sects mainly [333]differed on the point whether the human soul or spirit was a part of the divine soul or separate from it, and whether it would be reabsorbed into the divine soul, or have a separate existence after death. But they generally regarded all human souls as of one quality, and hence were opposed to distinctions of caste. Animals also have souls or spirits, and the Vishnuite doctrine is opposed to the destruction of animal life in any form. In the Bania caste the practices of Vaishnava Hindus and Jains present so little difference that they can take food together, and even intermarry. The creed is also opposed to suicide.

Faithful worshippers of Vishnu will after his death be transported to his heaven, Vaikuntha, or to Golaka, the heaven of Krishna. The sect-mark of the Vaishnavas usually consists of three lines down the forehead, meeting at the root of the nose or below it. All three lines may be white, or the centre one black or red, and the outside ones white. They are made with a kind of clay called Gopichandan, and are sometimes held to be the impress of Vishnu’s foot. To put on the sect-mark in the morning is to secure the god’s favour and protection during the day.

1 Bombay Ducks, p. 194.

2 For a suggested explanation of the myth of Parasurāma see article Panwār Rājpūt.

3 See also article Ahīr.

4 Kabīrpanthi, Nānakpanthi, Dādupanthi, Swāmi-Nārāyan, etc.


Vām-Mārgi, Bām-Mārgi, Vāma-Chari Sect.

Vām-Mārgi, Bām-Mārgi, Vāma-Chari Sect.1—A sect who follow the worship of the female principle in nature and indulge in sensuality at their rites according to the precepts of the Tāntras. The name signifies ‘the followers of the crooked or left-handed path.’ Their principal sacred text is the Rudra-Yamal-Damru Tāntra, which is said to have been promulgated by Rudra or Siva through his Damru or drum at the end of his dance in Kailās, his heaven in the Himalayas. The Tāntras, according to Professor Monier-Williams, inculcate an exclusive worship of Siva’s wife as the source of every kind of supernatural faculty and mystic craft. The principle of female energy is known as Sakti, and is personified in the female counterparts of all the Gods of the Hindu triad, but is practically concentrated in Devi or Kāli. The five requisites for Tantra worship are said to be the five Makāras or words beginning with M: Madya, wine; Mānsa, [334]flesh; Matsya, fish; Mudra, parched grain and mystic gesticulation; and Maithuna, sexual indulgence. Among the Vām-Mārgis both men and women are said to assemble at a secret meeting-place, and their rite consists in the adoration of a naked woman who stands in the centre of the room with a drawn sword in her hand. The worshippers then eat fish, meat and grain, and drink liquor, and thereafter indulge in promiscuous debauchery. The followers of the sect are mainly Brāhmans, though other castes may be admitted. The Vām-Mārgis usually keep their membership of the sect a secret, but their special mark is said to be a semicircular line or lines of red powder or vermilion on the forehead, with a red streak half-way up the centre, and a circular spot of red at the root of the nose. They use a rosary of rudrāksha or of coral beads, but of no greater length than can be concealed in the hand, or they keep it in a small purse or bag of red cloth. During worship they wear a piece of red silk round the loins and decorate themselves with garlands of crimson flowers. In their houses they worship a figure of the double triangle drawn on the ground or on a metal plate and make offerings of liquor to it.

Image of the boar incarnation of Vishnu

Image of the boar incarnation of Vishnu

They practise various magical charms by which they think they can kill their enemies. Thus fire is brought from the pyre on which a corpse has been burnt, and on this the operator pours water, and with the charcoal so obtained he makes a figure of his enemy in a lonely place under a pīpal tree or on the bank of a river. He then takes an iron bar, twelve finger-joints long, and after repeating his charms pierces the figure with it. When all the limbs have been pierced the man whose effigy has been so treated will die. Other methods will procure the death of an enemy in a certain number of months or cause him to lose a limb. Sometimes they make a rosary of 108 fruits of the dhatūra2 and pierce the figure of the enemy through the neck after repeating charms, and it is supposed that this will kill him at once. [335]

1 This article is based on Professor Wilson’s Hindu Sects, M. Chevrillon’s Romantic India, and some notes collected by Munshi Kanhya Lal of the Gazetteer Office.

2 Dhatura alba, a plant sacred to Siva, whose seed is a powerful narcotic, and is used to poison travellers.


Wahhābi Sect

Wahhābi Sect.1—A puritan sect of Muhammadans. The sect was not recorded at the census, but it is probable that it has a few adherents in the Central Provinces. The Wahhābi sect is named after its founder, Muhammad Abdul Wahhāb, who was born in Arabia in A.D. 1691. He set his face against all developments of Islām not warranted by the Korān and the traditional utterances of the Companions of the Prophet, and against the belief in omens and worship at the shrines of saints, and condemned as well all display of wealth and luxury and the use of intoxicating drugs and tobacco. He denied any authority to Islamic doctrines other than the Korān itself and the utterances of the Companions of the Prophet who had received instruction from his lips, and held that in the interpretation and application of them Moslems must exercise the right of private judgment. The sect met with considerable military success in Arabia and Persia, and at one time threatened to spread over the Islamic world. The following is an account of the taking of Mecca by Saud, the grandson of the founder, in 1803: “The sanctity of the place subdued the barbarous spirit of the conquerors, and not the slightest excesses were committed against the people. The stern principles of the reformed doctrines were, however, strictly enforced. Piles of green huqqas and Persian pipes were collected, rosaries and amulets were forcibly taken from the devotees, silk and satin dresses were demanded from the wealthy and worldly, and the whole, piled up into a heterogeneous mass, were burnt by the infuriated reformers. So strong was the feeling against the pipes and so necessary did a public example seem to be, that a respectable lady, whose delinquency had well-nigh escaped the vigilant eye of the Muhtasib, was seized and placed on an ass, with a green pipe suspended from her neck, and paraded through the public streets—a terrible warning to all of her sex who might be inclined to indulge in forbidden luxuries. When the usual hour of prayer arrived the myrmidons of the law sallied forth, and with leathern whips drove all slothful Moslems to their devotions. [336]The mosques were filled. Never since the days of the Prophet had the sacred city witnessed so much piety and devotion. Not one pipe, not a single tobacco-stopper, was to be seen in the streets or found in the houses, and the whole population of Mecca prostrated themselves at least five times a day in solemn adoration.”

The apprehensions of the Sultan of Turkey were aroused and an army was despatched against the Wahhābis, which broke their political power, their leader, Saud’s son, being executed in Constantinople in 1818. But the tenets of the sect continued to be maintained in Arabia, and in 1822 one Saiyad Ahmad, a freebooter and bandit from Rai Bareli, was converted to it on a pilgrimage to Mecca and returned to preach its doctrines in India. Being a Saiyad and thus a descendant of the Prophet, he was accepted by the Muhammadans of India as the true Khalīfa or Mahdi, awaited by the Shiahs. Unheeded by the British Government, he traversed our provinces with a numerous retinue of devoted disciples and converted the populace to his reformed doctrine by thousands, Patna becoming a centre of the sect. In 1826 he declared a jihād or religious war against the Sikhs, but after a four years’ struggle was defeated and killed. The sect gave some trouble in the Mutiny, but has not since taken any part in politics. Its reformed doctrines, however, have obtained a considerable vogue, and still exercise a powerful influence on Muhammadan thought. The Wahhābis deny the authority of Islamic tradition after the deaths of the Companions of the Prophet, do not illuminate or pay reverence to the shrines of departed saints, do not celebrate the birthday of Muhammad, count the ninety-nine names of God on their fingers and not on a rosary, and do not smoke. [337]

1 This article consists entirely of extracts from the article on the Wahhābi sect in the Rev. T. P. Hughes’ Dictionary of Islām.

Part I

Glossary of Minor Castes and Other Articles, Synonyms, Subcastes, Titles and Names of Exogamous Septs or Clans

Note.—In this Glossary the references under each heading are to the detailed articles on castes, religions and sects, in Part I. and Part II. of the work. The synonyms, subcastes and titles have been taken from the main articles and are arranged here in index form as an aid to identification. Section or clan names, however, will not usually be found in the main articles. They have been selected from an alphabetical list prepared separately, and are included as being of some interest, in addition to those contained in the articles. The Glossary also serves the purpose of indicating how subcaste and clan names are common to several castes and tribes. [339]



Abhimanchkul.—A section of Komti in Chānda. They abstain from using a preparation of lead which is generally ground to powder and applied to wounds.

Abhīra.—An immigrant nomad tribe from which the modern Ahīr caste is believed to have originated. A division of Marātha and Gujarāti Brāhmans, so called because they are priests of the Abhīras or the modern Ahīrs.

Abdhūt.—Name for a religious mendicant. Applied to Gosains, q.v.

Achārya, Achāraj.—(Superintendent of ceremonies.) Title of the heads of the Swāmi-Nārāyan sect. A surname of Adi Gaur Brāhmans in Saugor.

Adhia.—(Half.) A subcaste of Telis considered to be illegitimate in Betūl.

Adhaighar, Arhaighar.—(2½ houses.) A subdivision of Sāraswat Brāhmans.

Adhāli.—A name given to Malyārs by outsiders.

Adigaur.—A subdivision of Brāhman, probably a branch of the Gaur Brāhmans, though in Saugor they are considered to be Kanaujias.

Adkandh, Adikandh.—(Superior Khonds.) A subcaste of Khonds, being the most Hinduised section of this tribe. A title of Khond.

Adnath, Adinath.—A subdivision of Jogi. Adināth was the father of Matsyendranāth and grandfather of Gorakhnāth, the first great Jogi.

Agamudayan.—A large Tamil cultivating caste, of which a few members reside in the Central Provinces in Jubbulpore and Raipur. They are the families of Madras sepoys who have retired from regiments stationed in these places. The Agamudayans sometimes call themselves by the title of Pillai, which means ‘Son of a god’ and was formerly reserved to Brāhmans.

Agarwāla, Agarwāl.—A subcaste of Bania. See Bania-Agarwāla.

Agastya.—An eponymous section of Brāhmans.

Aghorpanthi.—Synonym for Aghori.

Agnihotri.—A surname of Kanaujia and Jijhotia Brāhmans in Saugor. (One who performs the sacrifice to Agni or the god of fire.)

Agnikula.—A name given to four clans of Rājpūts said to have been born from the fire-pit on Mount Abu. See article Panwār Rājpūt.

Agrahari.—A subcaste of Bania found chiefly in Jubbulpore District and Raigarh State. Their name has been connected with the cities of Agra and Agroha.

Agrajanma.—(First-born.) A synonym for Brāhmans.

Ahāria.—Clan of Rājpūt. Synonym for Sesodia.

Ahīr.—The professional caste of herdsmen. A clan of Marātha. A subcaste of Rāwat and Sālewār Koshti in Nimār. A subcaste of Bishnoi, Gurao, and Sunār.

Ahīrwār.—A resident of the old town of Ahar in the Bulandshahr district. Subcaste of Kori.

Ahivāsi, Ahiwāsi.—(From Ahiwās, ‘The abode of the dragon,’ the hermitage of Sanbhari Rishi in Mathura.) A Brāhmanical or pseudo-Brāhmanical tribe. They are said to be sprung from a Brāhman father and a Kshatriya mother, and were formerly pack-carriers. Found in Jubbulpore and the Nerbudda Valley.

Ahke.—(Seduced.) A sept of the [340]Uika clan of Gonds in Betūl. They are said to be so named because their priests once seduced a Dhurwa girl, and her son was given this name.

Aithāna.—A subcaste of Kāyasth.

Ajodhia.—Subcaste of Jādam.

Ajudhiabāsi.—See Audhia.

Akāli.—Order of Sikh devotees. See article Sikh.

Akhādewāle.—A class of Bairāgis who do not marry. Also known as Nihang.

Akhroti.—A subdivision of Pathāns. (From akhrot, walnut.)

Akre.—A bastard Khatīk. Title of a child a Khatīk gets by a woman of another caste.

Alia.—A grower of the āl plant. A subcaste of Bania and Kāchhi, a synonym of Chasa.

Alia, Alkari.—These terms are derived from the āl or Indian mulberry (Morinda citrifolia). The Alias are members of the Kāchhi caste who formerly grew the āl plant in Nimār for sale to the dyers. Its cultivation then yielded a large profit and the Alias devoted themselves solely to it, while they excommunicated any of their members who were guilty of selling or giving away the seed. The imported alizarin has now almost entirely superseded the indigenous dye, and āl as a commercial product has been driven from the market. Alkari is a term applied to Banias and others in the Damoh District who were formerly engaged in the cultivation of the āl plant. The members of each caste which took to the cultivation of this plant were somewhat looked down upon by the others and hence became a distinct group. The explanation generally given of the distaste for the crop is that in the process of boiling the roots to extract the dye a number of insects have to be killed. A further reason is that the red dye is considered to resemble or be equivalent to blood, the second idea being a necessary consequence of the first in primitive modes of thought, and hence to cause a certain degree of pollution to those who prepare it. A similar objection is held to the purveying of lac-dye as shown in the article on Lakhera. Notwithstanding this, clothes dyed red are considered lucky, and the āl dye was far more commonly used by Hindus than any other, prior to the introduction of aniline dyes. Tents were also coloured red with this dye. The tents of the Mughal Emperors and royal princes were of red cloth dyed with the roots of the āl plant.1 Similarly Nādir Shāh, the victor of Pānipat, had his field headquarters and lived in one small red tent. In these cases the original reason for colouring the tents red may probably have been that it was a lucky colour for battles, and the same belief may have led to the adoption of red as a royal and imperial colour.

Alkari.—Synonym for Alia.

Alua.—A subcaste of Uriya Brāhmans, so named because their forefathers grew the ālu or potato.

Amal.—A section of Komti. The members of this section do not eat the plantain.

Ambadār.—(Mango-branch.) A section of Rāwat (Ahīr).

Ambashta.—A subcaste of Kāyasth.

Amethia.—(From Amethi, a pargana in Lucknow District.) A sept of Rājpūts, who are Chauhāns according to Sir H.M. Elliott, but others say they are a branch of the Chamār Gaur.

Amisht.—A subcaste of Kāyasth.

Amnāit.—Subcaste of Bhatra.

Amrite.—(From Amrit nectar.) A section of Kirār.

Anapa.—(Leather-dealers.) Subcaste of Mādgi.

Anavala.—A subdivision of Gujarāti or Khedāwāl Brāhmans. They derive their name from the village Anaval in Baroda. They are otherwise known as Bhatela, Desai or Mastān.

Andhra, Tailanga.—One of the five orders of the Pānch Dravid Brāhmans inhabiting the Telugu country.

Antarvedi.—A resident of Antarved or the Doāb, the tract of land between the Ganges and the Jumna rivers. Subcaste of Chamār.

Apastambha.—A Sutra of the Vedas. [341]A subdivision of Brāhmans following that Sutra and forming a caste subdivision. But they marry with Rig-Vedis, though the Sutra belongs to the Black Yajur-Vedi.

Athārvarvedi, Anthārwarvedi.—A subcaste of Brāhmans who follow the Athārvar-Veda and are very rarely met with.

Arab.—This designation is sometimes returned by the descendants of the Arab mercenaries of the Bhonsla kings. These were at one time largely employed by the different rulers of southern India and made the best of soldiers. In the Marātha armies2 their rate of pay was Rs. 12 a month, while the ordinary infantry received only Rs. 5. General Hislop stated their character as follows:3

“There are perhaps no troops in the world that will make a stouter or more determined stand at their posts than the Arabs. They are entirely unacquainted with military evolutions, and undisciplined; but every Arab has a pride and heart of his own that never forsakes him as long as he has legs to stand on. They are naturally brave and possess the greatest coolness and quickness of sight: hardy and fierce through habit, and bred to the use of the matchlock from their boyhood: and they attain a precision and skill in the use of it that would almost exceed belief, bringing down or wounding the smallest object at a considerable distance, and not unfrequently birds with a single bullet. They are generally armed with a matchlock, a couple of swords, with three or four small daggers stuck in front of their belts, and a shield. On common occasions of attack and defence they fire but one bullet, but when hard pressed at the breach they drop in two, three, and four at a time, from their mouths, always carrying in them from eight to ten bullets, which are of a small size. We may calculate the whole number of Arabs in the service of the Peshwa and the Berār Rāja at 6000 men, a loose and undisciplined body, but every man of them a tough and hardy soldier. It was to the Arabs alone those Provinces looked, and placed their dependence on. Their own troops fled and abandoned them, seldom or never daring to meet our smallest detachment. Nothing can exceed the horror and atarm with which some of our native troops view the Arab. At Nāgpur in November 1817 the Arabs alone attacked us on the defence and reduced us to the last extremity, when we were saved by Captain Fitzgerald’s charge. The Arabs attacked us at Koregaon and would have certainly destroyed us had not the Peshwa withdrawn his troops on General Smith’s approach. The Arabs kept General Doveton at bay with his whole army at Nāgpur for several days, repulsing our attack at the breach, and they gained their fullest terms. The Arabs worsted us for a month at Mālegaon and saved their credit. They terrified the Surat authorities by their fame alone. They gained their terms of money from Sir John Malcolm at Asīrgarh. They maintained to the last for their prince their post at Alamner and nobly refused to be bought over there. They attacked us bravely, but unfortunately at Tālner. They attacked Captain Spark’s detachment on the defence and destroyed it. They attacked a battalion of the 14th Madras Infantry with 26-pounders and compelled them to seek shelter in a village; and they gave us a furious wind-up at Asīrgarh. Yet the whole of these Arabs were not 6000.”

There is no doubt that the Arabs are one of the finest fighting races of the world. Their ancestors were the Saracens who gained a great empire in Europe and Asia. Their hardihood and powers of endurance are brought to the highest pitch by the rigours of desert life, while owing to their lack of nervous sensibility the shock and pain of wounds affect them less than civilised troops. And in addition their religion teaches that all who die in [342]battle against the infidel are transported straight to a paradise teeming with material and sensual delights. Arab troops are still employed in Hyderābād State. Mr. Stevens notices them as follows in his book In India: “A gang of half-a-dozen, brilliantly dishevelled, a faggot of daggers with an antique pistol or two in each belt, and a six-foot matchlock on each shoulder. They serve as irregular troops there, and it must be owned that if irregularity is what you want, no man on earth can supply it better. The Arab irregulars are brought over to serve their time and then sent back to Arabia; there is one at this moment, who is a subaltern in Hyderābād, but as soon as he crosses the British border gets a salute of nine guns; he is a Sheikh in his own country near Aden.”

The Arabs who have been long resident here have adopted the ways and manners of other Musalmāns. Their marriages are in the Nikāh form and are marked by only one4 dinner, following the example of the Prophet, who gave a dinner at the marriage of his daughter the Lady Fātimah and Ali. In obedience to the order of the Prophet a death is followed by no signs of mourning. Arabs marry freely with other Sunni Muhammadans and have no special social or religious organisation. The battle-cry of the Arabs at Sitabaldi and Nāgpur was ‘Dīn, Dīn, Muhammad.’

Arakh.—A caste. A subcaste of Dahāit, Gond and Pāsi.

Aranya.—Name of one of the ten orders of Gosains.

Are.—A cultivating caste of the Chānda District, where they numbered 2000 persons in 1911. The caste are also found in Madras and Bombay, where they commonly return themselves under the name of Marāthi; this name is apparently used in the south as a generic term for immigrants from the north, just as in the Central Provinces people coming from northern India are called Pardeshi. Mr. (Sir H.) Stuart says5 that Are is a synonym for Arya, and is used as an equivalent of a Marātha and sometimes in a still wider sense, apparently to designate an immigrant Aryan into the Dravidian country of the south. The Ares of the Central Provinces appear to be Kunbis who have migrated into the Telugu country. The names of their subcastes are those of the Kunbis, as Khaire, Tirelle, a form of Tirole, and Dhanoj for Dhanoje. Other subdivisions are called Kāyat and Kattri, and these seem to be the descendants of Kāyasth and Khatri ancestors. The caste admit Brāhmans, Banias, and Komtis into the community and seem to be, as shown by Mr. Stuart, a mixed group of immigrants from Mahārāshtra into the Telugu country. Some of them wear the sacred thread and others do not. Some of their family names are taken from those of animals and plants, and they bury persons who die unmarried, placing their feet towards the north like the forest tribes.

Arka.—A sept of Gonds in Chānda who worship the sāras crane.

Armachi.—(The dhaura tree.) A totemistic sept of Gonds.

Arora, Rora.—An important trading and mercantile caste of the Punjab, of which a few persons were returned from the Nimār District in 1901. Sir D. Ibbetson was of opinion that the Aroras were the Khatris of Aror, the ancient capital of Scinde, represented by the modern Rori. He described the Arora as follows:6 “Like the Khatri and unlike the Bania he is no mere trader; but his social position is far inferior to theirs, partly no doubt because he is looked down upon simply as being a Hindu in the portions of the Province which are his special habitat. He is commonly known as a Kirār, a word almost synonymous with coward, and even more contemptuous than is the name Bania in the east of the province. The Arora is active and enterprising, industrious and thrifty.... ‘When an Arora girds up his [343]loins he makes it only two miles from Jhang to Lāhore.’ He will turn his hand to any work, he makes a most admirable cultivator, and a large proportion of the Aroras of the lower Chenāb are purely agricultural in their avocations. He is found throughout Afghanistan and even Turkistan and is the Hindu trader of those countries; while in the western Punjab he will sew clothes, weave matting and baskets, make vessels of brass and copper and do goldsmith’s work. But he is a terrible coward, and is so branded in the proverbs of the countryside: The thieves were four and we eighty-four; the thieves came on and we ran away; and again: To meet a Rāthi armed with a hoe makes a company of nine Kirārs (Aroras) feel alone. Yet the peasant has a wholesome dread of the Kirār when in his proper place: Vex not the Jāt in his jungle, nor the Kirār at his shop, nor the boatman at his ferry; for if you do they will break your head. Again: Trust not a crow, a dog or a Kirār, even when asleep. So again: You can’t make a friend of a Kirār any more than a sati of a prostitute.”

Asāthi.—A subcaste of Bania. They are both Jains and Hindus.

Ashrām.—Name of one of the ten orders of Gosains.

Ashthāna.—A subcaste of Kāyasth.

Athāradesia.—(A man of eighteen districts.) Subcaste of Banjāra.

Athbhaiya.—(Eight brothers.) A subdivision of Sāraswat Brāhman in Hoshangābād. An Athbhaiya cannot take a wife from the Chaubhaiya subdivision, to whom the former give their daughters in marriage.

Athia.—A subcaste of Chadār, so named because they worship their goddess Devi on the 8th day (Athain) of Kunwār (September), and correspond to the Brāhmanical Sākta sect, as opposed to the other Chadār subcaste Parmasuria, who correspond to the Vaishnavas.

Audhalia.—Synonym for Audhelia.

Audhia, Ajudhiabāsi.—A resident of Oudh. Subcaste of Bania and of Kasār and Sunār.

Audichya.—A subcaste of Brāhmans coming from Oudh.

Aughad.—A subdivision of Jogi. They resemble the Aghoris with the difference that they may not eat human flesh.

Aughar.—A subdivision of Jogi.

Aukule.—A subcaste of Koshtis. They are also called Vidurs, being of mixed descent from Koshtas and other castes.

Aulia.—(A favourite of God.) Title of Muhammadan saints.

Bāba.—Synonym of Gosain.

Bābhan.—Synonym for Bhuinhār, being the name of a landholding caste in Bengal. Used as a title by Bhuiyas.

Bābuān.—Title for the descendants of the former ruling families of the Chero tribe.

Bachhalya, Bachhap, Bachhilia.—(From bachha, a calf.) A section of Bania, Chadār and Khangār. A section of Patwa in Raipur. They do not castrate bullocks.

Bad.—(High or great.) Subcaste of Agharia and Sudh.

Bād or Bhānd.—A caste. Title of Khatīk.

Bad.—(Banyan tree.) A section of Joshi.

Badaria.—(From badar, cloud.) A section of Kandera.

Badgainya.—(From Badgaon (bara gaon), a large village.) A surname of Sarwaria Brāhmans. A section of Basdewa, Gadaria and Kurmi.

Badgūjar.—(From bada, great.) One of the thirty-six royal races of Rājpūts. A subcaste of Gūjar, also of Gaur Brāhman. A section of Mehtar.

Badhaiya.—(Barhai, carpenter.) A subcaste of Lohār and Kol. A sept of Savar.

Badhāria.—A resident of Badhās in Mirzapur. Subcaste of Bahna and Dhuri.

Bādi.—(A rope-walker.) Synonym of Nat.

Badkur.—Title used in the Dhobi caste.

Badwāik.—(The great ones.) A subcaste of Māna. A title of Dhobi and Pān or Gānda.

Bagaria.—(A young buffalo.) A sept of Dhanwār and Sonkar.

Bāgh, Bāghwa.—(Tiger.) A totemistic sept of Ahīr, Bhatra, Kawar, [344]Munda, Oraon, Sonkar, Teli and Turi.

Baghel, Baghela.—(A tiger or tiger-cub.) A clan of Rājpūts which has given its name to Baghelkhand. A subcaste of Audhia Sunār and Chamār. A section of Bhilāla, Dhanwār, Gond, Lodhi, Māli, and Panwār Rājpūt.

Bāghmār, Bāghmārya, Bāgmār.—(A tiger-slayer.) A section of Oswāl Bania, Basor, Chamār, Dhīmar, Koilabhuti Gond, and Teli. A subsept of Nika Gonds in Betūl, who abstain from killing tigers.

Bāgri.—A clan of Rājpūts. A subcaste of Jāt. One of the 72½ sections of Maheshri Banias. People belonging to the Badhak or Bawaria, and Pārdhi castes are sometimes known by this name.

Bāhargainyān.—(From Bāhar gaon, outside the village.) A subcaste of Kurmi.

Baharketu.—(Bush-cutter.) A subcaste of Korwa.

Bahelia.—The caste of fowlers and hunters in northern India. In the Central Provinces the Bahelias are not to be distinguished from the Pārdhis, as they have the same set of exogamous groups named after the Rājpūt clans, and resemble them in all other respects. The word Bahelia is derived from the Sanskrit Vyādha, ‘one who pierces or wounds,’ hence a hunter. Pārdhi is derived from the Marāthī pāradh, hunting. The latter term is more commonly used in the Central Provinces, and has therefore been chosen as the title of the article on the caste.

Bāhre.—(Outside the walls.) A subdivision of Khedāwāl Brāhmans.

Bahrūp.—Subcaste of Banjāra.

Bahrūpia.—A small class of mendicant actors and quick-change artists. They are recruited from all classes of the population, and though a distinct caste of Bahrūpias appears to exist, people of various castes also call themselves Bahrūpia when they take to this occupation. In Berār the Mahār, Māng and Marātha divisions of the Bahrūpias are the most common:7 the former two begging only from the castes from which they take their name. In Gujarāt they appear to be principally Muhammadans. Sir D. Ibbetson says of them:8 “The name is derived from the Sanskrit bahu, many, and rūpa, form, and denotes an actor, a mimic or one who assumes many forms or characters. One of their favourite devices is to ask for money, and when it is refused to ask that it may be given if the Bahrūpia succeeds in deceiving the person who refused it. Some days later the Bahrūpia will again visit the house in the disguise of a pedlar, a milkman or what not, sell his goods without being detected, throw off his disguise and claim the stipulated reward.” In Gujarāt “they are ventriloquists and actors with a special skill of dressing one side of their face like a man and the other side like a woman, and moving their head about so sharply that they seem to be two persons.”9 Mr. Kitts states that “the men are by profession story-tellers and mimics, imitating the voices of men and the notes of animals; their male children are also trained to dance. In payment for their entertainment they are frequently content with cast-off clothes, which will of course be of use to them in assuming other characters.”10 Occasionally also they dress up in European clothes and can successfully assume the character of a Eurasian.

Bahrūpia impersonating the goddess Kāli

Bahrūpia impersonating the goddess Kāli

Baid.—(Physician.) A surname of Sanadhia and Marātha Brāhmans in Saugor. A section of Oswāl Bania, and Darzi.

Bairāgi.—A caste or religious order. Subcaste of Bhāt.

Bais.—A clan of Rājpūts.

Bajania.—(One who plays on musical instruments.) Subcaste of Panka.

Bajanya.—(Drummer.) A subcaste of Panka in Bālāghāt.

Bajārha.—(Bazār.) A section of Daraiha in Bilāspur. [345]

Bajna, Bajgari.—(Musicians at feasts and marriages.) Subcaste of Gānda.

Bājpai.—(A priest officiating at the horse sacrifice.) A surname of Kanaujia Brāhmans. A section of Brāhmans. Title of some old families whose ancestors were sacrificial priests.

Bakar Kasai.—(Goat-butcher.) A subcaste of Khatīk.

Bakra.—(Goat.) A totemistic sept of Bhatra and Halba.

Baksaria.—From Buxar in Bengal. A clan of Rājpūts. A section of Daraiha and Lodhi.

Balla.—One of the 36 Rājkuls or royal clans of Rājpūts noted in Tod’s Rājasthān.

Balnīk.—Subcaste of Kāyasth.

Bālūsudia.—(Shaven.) Title of Khond.

Bālutedār.—Name for a village menial in Berār. Title of Dhobi.

Balwanda.—(Quarrelsome.) A section of Teli.

Bām-Mārgi.—Synonym for the Vām-Mārgi sect.

Bāman or Brāhman. Subcaste of Bishnoi, Darzi and Gondhali.

Bāmania.—(From Brāhman.) A section of Ahīr. They do not touch the pīpal tree. A section of Mahār and of Rājjhar in Hoshangābād.

Bāmhan Gour or Brāhman Gour.—A clan of Rājpūts in Saugor and Narsinghpur.

Bāmhania.—A subcaste of Kasar, from Bāmhan or Brāhman. A section of Katia.

Bāmnaiha.—(Belonging to a Brāhman.) A section of Basor.

Banāphar, Banāfar.—A clan of Rājpūts. A section of Daharia.

Banbhainsa.—(Wild buffalo.) A section of Rāwat (Ahīr).

Bānda.—(Tailless.) A section of Kirar.

Bānda Bāgh.—(Tailless tiger.) A section of Teli.

Bāndar.—(A rocket-thrower.) Synonym of Kadera.

Bandarwāle.—(One who catches monkeys.)—Subcaste of Pārdhi.

Bandesia.—(A man of 52 districts.) Subcaste of Banjāra.

Bandhaiya.—A subcaste of Nunia who confine themselves to the excavation of tanks and wells. Also a subcaste of Dhīmar.

Bandhaiya.—(From Bāndhogarh.) Subcaste of Nai.

Bandhia—(From bāndh, an embankment.) A subcaste of Darzi and Dhīmar. A section of Chamār.

Bandrele.—(Monkey.) A section of Basor, and Barai.

Banghore.—(Wild horses.) A section of Dom (Mehtar).

Bania.—A caste. Subcaste of Bishnoi. A synonym of Sunār in Sambalpur. A subcaste of Banjāra. A section of Nāndvansi Gauli.

Bānka.—A small caste found principally in the Kālāhandī State which now forms part of Bengal. The caste was formed from military service like the Khandaits, Pāiks and Marāthas, and some families bear the names of different castes, as Brāhman Bānka, Kumhār Bānka, and so on. They were formerly notorious freebooters, but have now settled down to cultivation. Each man, however, still carries a sword or knife on his person, and in Kālāhandī they are permitted to do this without taking out a licence.

Banku.—(One who frequents sequestered parts of forests.) A sept of Korku.

Bānsberia.—(One who performs acrobatic feats on a stick or bamboo.) Synonym of Kolhāti.

Bansia.—(Angler.) From bansi, a fishing-hook. Subcaste of Dhīmar.

Bānsphor.—(A breaker of bamboos.) Synonym of Basor. Subcaste of Mehtar and Mahli.

Bānstalai.—(A tank with bamboo trees on its bank.) A section of Teli.

Bant.—Subcaste of Dhīmar.

Bantia.—(From banāt, a red woollen blanket.) A section of Oswāl Bania.

Baone or Baonia.—From the phrase Bāwan Berār, a term applied to the Province by the Mughals, because it paid fifty-two lakhs of revenue, as against only eight lakhs realised from the adjoining Jhādi or hilly country in the Central Provinces. Subcaste of Kunbi, Mahār and Māli.

Baoria.—Synonym of Badhak.

Bāra-hazār.—(Twelve thousand.) Subcaste of Chero.

Barāde, Berāri.—A resident of Berār. [346]Subcaste of Bahna, Barhai, Chamār, Dhangar, Dhobi, Khatīk, Māng and Nai.

Baram or Birm.—Subcaste of Bhāt.

Barapatre.—(A large leaf-plate.) A section of Koshti.

Baraua.—(A fisherman.) Synonym of Dhīmar; title of Dhīmar.

Bardhia.—(From bārdh, a term for the edge of a weapon.) Synonym of Sikligār.

Bardia.—One who uses bullocks for transport. Subcaste of Kumhār.

Baretha.—(A washerman.) Synonym for Dhobi.

Barga.—Subcaste of Oraon.

Bargāh,11 Bargāha, Barghāt.—A small caste of cultivators belonging principally to the Bilāspur District. They appear to be immigrants from Rewah, where the caste is numerically strong, and they are also found in the adjacent Districts of the United Provinces and Bengal. In the United Provinces they are employed as higher domestic servants and make leaf-plates, while their women act as midwives.12 Here they claim kinship with the Goāla Ahīrs, but in the Central Provinces and Bengal they advance pretensions to be Rājpūts. They have a story, however, which shows their connection with the Ahīrs, to the effect that on one occasion Brahma stole Krishna’s cows and cowherds. Krishna created new ones to replace them, exactly similar to those lost, but Brahma subsequently returned the originals, and the Bargāhas are the descendants of the artificial cowherds created by Krishna. In Sargūja, Bargāha is used as a title by Ahīrs, while in Rewah the Bargāhs are looked on as the bastard offspring of Baghel Rājpūts. Dr. Buchanan writes of them as follows:13 “In Gorakhpur the Rājpūt chiefs have certain families of Ahīrs, the women of which act as wet-nurses to their children, while the men attend to their persons. These families are called Bargāha; they have received, of course, great favours and many of them are very rich, but others look down upon them as having admitted their women to too great familiarity with their chiefs.” In the United Provinces they also claim to be Rājpūts, as they returned themselves as a clan of Rājpūts in 1881.14 Their position as described by Buchanan is precisely the same as that of the Dauwa Ahīrs, who are the household servants of Bundela Rājpūts in Bundelkhand, and the facts set forth above leave little or no doubt that the Bargāhs are a mixed caste, arising from the connection of Rājpūts with the Ahīr women who were their personal servants. In the Central Provinces no subdivisions of the caste exist at present, but a separate and inferior subcaste is in process of formation from those who have been turned out of caste. They are divided for the purpose of marriage into exogamous gotras or clans, the names of which correspond to those of Rājpūts, as Kaunsil, Chandel, Rāna, Bundela, Rāthor, Baghel, Chauhān and others. Marriage between members of the same clan and also between first cousins is prohibited. The custom of gurānwat or exchanging girls in marriage between families is very prevalent, and as there is a scarcity of girls in the caste, a man who has not got a daughter must pay Rs. 100 to Rs. 200 to obtain a bride for his son. On the arrival of the marriage procession the bridegroom touches with a dagger a grass mat hung in front of the marriage-shed. During the marriage the bridegroom’s father presents him with a grass ring, which he places on his wrist. The hands of the bridegroom and bride are tied one over the other with a piece of thread, and the bride’s parents catching the hands say to the bridegroom, ‘We have given you our daughter; protect her.’ The couple then walk seven times round a sacrificial fire and a pestle and slab containing seven pieces of turmeric, nuts and heaps of coloured rice, the bride leading and kicking over [347]a heap of rice from the slab at each turn. The other common ceremonies are also performed. The Bargāhs do not tolerate sexual offences and expel a girl or married woman who goes wrong. The Bargāhs are usually cultivators in the Central Provinces, but they consider it beneath their dignity to touch the plough with their own hands. Many of them are mlguzrs or village proprietors. They take food cooked without water from a Brāhman, and water only from a Rājpūt. Rājpūts take water from their hands, and their social position is fairly high.

Bargandi,—Synonym for Kaikāri.

Barghāt.—Synonym of Bargāh.

Barki.—High. Subcaste of Rautia.

Bārkia.—(A spinner of fine thread.) Subcaste of Mahār.

Barmaiyan, Barmian, Malaiya.—Subcaste of Basor, Dhīmar and Gadaria.

Baroni.—Title of a female Dhīmar.

Barora or Warkara.—(Wild cat.) A subsept of the Uika clan of Gonds in Betūl.

Barpaihi.—(Bar, banyan tree.) A sept of the Uika clan of Gonds in Betūl, so named because their priest offered food to their gods on the leaves of a banyan tree.

Barwa.—Synonym for Gārpagāri. One who wards off hailstones from the standing crops. Subcaste of Jogi.

Bashishta.—See Vasishta. A section of Vidūr.

Bastarha.—A resident of Bastar State. Subcaste of Halba.

Bathri.—(From batkur, a vegetable.) A subcaste of Dhobi and Teli.

Bāthudia.—Subcaste of Bhuiya.

Batri.—A grower of batar, a kind of pea. Subcaste of Teli.

Batti.—(A ball.) A subsept of the Uika clan of Gonds in Betūl, so named because their priest stole balls of cooked mahua. They do not kill or eat goats or sheep, and throw away anything smelt by them.

Bāwan, Bāwanjaye.—(Bāwan-52.) A subcaste of Sāraswat Brāhmans.

Bāwaria.—A dweller of Bhānwargarh tract in Betūl district. Subcaste of Korku.

Bāwisa.—(Twenty-two.) A subcaste of Gujarāti Brāhmans in Hoshangābād and Makrai State.

Bayar, Biyar, Biar.—A small caste of labourers belonging to the eastern Districts of the United Provinces, of whom about 200 persons were returned from Bilāspur in 1891. They are found in the Korba zamīndāri, and are professional diggers or navvies, like the Murhas. They are apparently a mixed caste derived from the primitive tribes with some Hindu blood. They eat fowls and pork, but will not take food from any other caste. They work by contract on the dangri system of measurement, a dangri being a piece of bamboo five cubits long. For one rupee they dig a patch 8 dangris long by one broad and a cubit in depth, or 675 cubic feet. But this rate does not allow for lift or lead.

Bāzigar.—(An acrobat.) Synonym of Nat.

Behār.—(Cat.) A totemistic sept of Kawar.

Behera.—A subcaste of Taonla. A section of Tiyar. A title of Khadāl.

Belwār, Bilwār.—A small caste of carriers and cattle-dealers belonging to Oudh, whose members occasionally visit the northern Districts of the Central Provinces. They say that their ancestors were Sanādhya Brāhmans, who employed bullocks as pack-animals, and hence, being looked down on by the rest of the caste, became a separate body, marrying among themselves.

Benaika, Binaika.—A subcaste of Parwār Bania, consisting of the offspring of remarried widows or illegitimate unions. Probably also found among other subcastes of Bania.

Benatia.—A subcaste of Sānsia in Sambalpur.

Bendiwāla.—Name of a minor Vishnuite order. See Bairāgi.

Benetiya, Benātia.—Subcaste of Chasa and Sānsia.

Bengali.—Bengali immigrants are usually Brāhmans or Kāyasths.

Bengani.—(Brinjal.) One of the 1444 sections of Oswāl Bania. [348]

Benglāh.—An immigrant from Bengal. Subcaste of Bharbhūnja.

Beora Basia.—(Hawk.) A totemistic sept of Bhatra.

Berāria, Berādia.—(Belonging to Berār.) A subcaste of Bahna, Barai, Barhai, Chamār, Dhangar, Dhīmar, Kasār and Kunbi.

Beria.—A caste of gipsies and vagrants, whose women are prostitutes. Hence sometimes used generally to signify a prostitute. A subcaste of Nat.

Besra.—(Hawk.) A totemistic sept of Bhatra and Rāwat (Ahīr).

Besta.—A Telugu caste of fishermen. They are also called Bhoi and Machchnāik, and correspond to the Dhīmars. They are found only in the Chānda District, where they numbered 700 persons in 1911, and their proper home is Mysore. They are a low caste and rear pigs and eat pork, crocodiles, rats and fowls. They are stout and strong and dark in colour. Like the Dhīmars they also act as palanquin-bearers, and hence has arisen a saying about them, ‘The Besta is a great man when he carries shoes,’ because the head of a gang of palanquin-bearers carries the shoes of the person who sits in it. At their marriages the couple place a mixture of cummin and jaggery on each other’s heads, and then gently press their feet on those of the other seven times. Drums are beaten, and the bridegroom places rings on the toes of the bride and ties the mangal-sūtram or necklace of black beads round her neck. They are seated side by side on a plough-yoke, and the ends of their cloths are tied together. They are then taken outside and shown the Great Bear, the stars of which are considered to be the spirits of the seven principal Hindu Saints, and the pole-star, Arundhāti, who represents the wife of Vasishtha and is the pattern of feminine virtue. On the following two days the couple throw flowers at each other for some time in the morning and evening. Before the marriage the bridegroom’s toe-nails are cut by the barber as an act of purification. This custom, Mr. Thurston15 states, corresponds among the Sūdras to the shaving of the head among the Brāhmans. The Bestas usually take as their principal deity the nearest large river and call it by the generic term of Ganga. On the fifth day after a death they offer cooked food, water and sesamum to the crows, in whose bodies the souls of the dead are believed to reside. The food and water are given to satisfy the hunger and thirst of the soul, while the sesamum is supposed to give it coolness and quench its heat. On the tenth day the ashes are thrown into a river. The beard of a boy whose father is alive is shaved for the first time before his marriage. Children are tattooed with a mark on the forehead within three months of birth, and this serves as a sect mark. A child is named on the eleventh day after birth, and if it is subsequently found to be continually ailing and sickly, the name is changed under the belief that it exercises an evil influence on the child.

Betala.—(Goblin.) One of the 1444 sections of Oswāl Bania.

Bhadauria.—(From Bhadāwar in Gwalior State.) A clan of Rājpūts. A clan of Dāngi in Saugor from whom Rājpūts take daughters in marriage, but do not give daughters to them. A surname of Sanādhia Brāhman.

Bhadonia.—Subcaste of Dāngi.

Bhadoria.—(A drum-beater.) Subcaste of Chamār.

Bhadri, Bhaddari.—A synonym for Joshi, having a derogatory sense, as of one who begs with deceit or fraud.

Bhadune.—(From the month Bhādon.) A section of Kalār.

Bhagat.—(Devotee.) A section of Ahīr or Gaoli, Barai and Panwār Rājpūt.

Bhains-Māra.—(Killer of the buffalo.) A section of Kanjar.

Bhainsa.—(Buffalo.) A section of Chamār, Dhanwār, Gānda, Kawar, Kanjar, Māli, Panka and Rāwat (Ahīr).

Bhairon.—(The god Bhairon.) A [349]section of Pānwar Rājpūt.

Bhaiya.—(Brother.) One of the 72½ sections of Maheshri Bania.

Bhala.—(Spear.) One of the 72½ sections of Maheshri Bania.

Bhaldār.—(A spear-man.) A class of Dahāits, who have commonly been employed as village watchmen.

Bhale Sultān.—(Lords of the spear.) A clan of Rājpūts.

Bhāmti, Bhāmtia.—Synonyms of Bhāmta.

Bhanāre.—Named after the town of Bhandāra in the Central Provinces. Subcaste of Dhīmar.

Bhānd, Bhānr.16—A small caste of story-tellers and buffoons. The name is derived from the Sanskrit Bhānda, a jester, and the caste are also known as Naqqāl or actor. Only a trifling number of Bhānds are shown by the census as belonging to the Central Provinces. Mr. Crooke remarks: “The Bhānd is sometimes employed in the courts of Rājas and native gentlemen of rank, where he amuses the company at entertainments with buffoonery and a burlesque of European and native manners, much of which is of a very coarse nature. The Bhānd is quite separate from and of a lower professional rank than the Bahrūpia. The bulk of the caste are Muhammadans, but they have exogamous sections, some of which, as Kaithela (Kāyasth), Bamhaniya (Brāhman), Gujartha (Gūjar), Nonela (Lunia), and so on, are derived from those of Hindu castes, and indicate that the caste is a heterogeneous community recruited from different sources. There are two recognised endogamous subcastes—the Chenr, which seems to mean little (Hindi, Chenra), and the Kashmīri. The former trace their origin to the time of Tamarlane, who, on the death of his son, gave himself over to mourning for twelve years. Then one Sayyid Hasan, a courtier of the Emperor, composed a humorous poem in Arabic, which gained him the title of Bhānr. Sayyid Hasan is regarded as the founder of the caste. Though he was a Sayyid the present Bhānrs are either Shaikhs or Mughals; and the difference of faith, Sunni and Shiah, is a bar to intermarriage. The Kashmīri Bhānrs are said to be of quite recent origin, having been invited from Kashmīr by Nasīr-ud-Dīn Haidar, king of Oudh.” The Bhānds perform their marriages by the Nikāh form, in which a Kāzi officiates. In virtue of being Muhammadans they abstain from pork and liquor. Dr. Buchanan17 quaintly described them as “Impudent fellows, who make long faces, squeak like pigs, bark like dogs, and perform many other ludicrous feats. They also dance and sing, mimicking and turning into ridicule the dancing boys and girls, on whom they likewise pass many jokes, and are employed on great occasions.” The Bhānd, in fact, seems to correspond very nearly to the court jester of the Middle Ages.

Bhandāri.—(A barber, also a cook in the Uriya country.) A synonym for Nai. A subcaste of Gondhali. A section of Oswāl Bania and Halba. Title of the deputies of the chief guru of the Satnāmi sect.

Bhangi.—(Hemp-smoker.) Synonym of Mehtar.

Bhānr.—Synonym of Bhānd, a story-teller.

Bhānwar.—(A bee, also honey.) A section of Gadaria and Kawar.

Bhaosar.—Synonym of Chhīpa.

Bhāradwāj.—(A skylark. Name of a great Brāhman Rishi or saint.) One of the common eponymous sections of Brāhmans. Also a section of Joshi, Lohār, Prabhu, Sunār, and of several clans of Rājpūts.

Bharewa.—(From bharat, a mixture of copper and lead.) A group of brass or bell-metal workers classed with the Kasār caste, but of lower social standing than the Kasārs. A subcaste of Sunār in Raipur.

Bhārgava.—(Born of Bhrigu Rishi.) A subcaste of Kanaujia Brāhmans. A section of Marātha Brāhmans. Bhārgava Dhusar is a subcaste of Bania. See Bania-Dhusar.

Bharia.—(From the Bhar tribe.) A tribe. A subcaste of Baiga in [350]Mandla, and of Kol.

Bharia-Bhumia.—Synonym of Bharia.

Bharotia or Mudia.—(Shaven.) Subcaste of Baiga, also of Ahīr.

Bhārthi.—Name of one of the ten orders of Gosains.

Bhātia.—A commercial caste of Sind and Gujarāt, a few of whom settle temporarily in the Central Provinces. Sir D. Ibbetson writes of them:18 “The Bhātias are a class of Rājpūts, originally coming from Bhatner, Jaisalmer and the Rājpūtāna desert, who have taken to domestic pursuits. The name would seem to show that they were Bhātis (called Bhatti in the Punjab); but be that as it may, their Rājpūt origin seems to be unquestioned. They stand distinctly below the Khatri, and perhaps below the Arora, and are for the most part engaged in petty shopkeeping, though the Bhātias of Dera Ismail Khān are described as belonging to a widely-spread and enterprising mercantile community. They are very strict Hindus, far more so than the other trading classes of the western Punjab; and eschew meat and liquor. They do not practise widow-marriage.”

Mr. Crooke’s account19 leaves little doubt that the Bhātias are a branch of the Bhatti or Yāduvansi Rājpūts of Jaisalmer who have gone into trade; and Colonel Tod expresses the same view: “The Bhattiah is also one of the equestrian order converted into the commercial, and the exchange has been to his advantage. His habits are like those of the Arora, next to whom he ranks as to activity and wealth.”20 “The chief occupation of the Bhātias,” Mr. Crooke states, “is moneylending, and to this they add trade of all kinds, agriculture, landholding and Government service. Many of them go on expeditions to Arabia, Kābul, Bokhāra and other distant places of business. Many in Bombay carry on trade with Zanzibar, Java and the Malay Peninsula.”

Bhatnāgar.—A subcaste of Kāyasth.

Bhātpagār.—(Wage of rice.) A section of Katia.

Bhīkshakunti.—(Bhīksha, begging; kunti, lame.) A subcaste of Kāpewār who are the Bhāts or bards of the caste.

Bhīl.—A tribe. A subcaste of Pārdhi.

Bhilaophod.—(Those who extract oil from the bhilawa nut, Semecarpus anacardium.) Subcaste of Kol.

Bhīlsaiyan, Bhīlsia, Bhīlasia.—(From Bhīlsa, a town in Gwalior State.) A section and surname of Jijhotia Brāhmans. A section of Purānia Sunār and of Rāthor Teli and Teli.

Bhima.—A small caste belonging to the Mandla and Seoni Districts. They are musicians of the Gond tribe and dance and beg at their weddings. The caste are an offshoot of the Gonds, their exogamous septs having Gond names, as Marābi, Markām, Dhurwa, Parteti, Tekām and so on; but they now marry among themselves. They worship the Gond god, Bura Deo, their own elders serving as priests. At their performances the men play and dance, wearing hollow anklets of metal with little balls of iron inside to make them tinkle. The women are dressed like Hindu women and dance without ornaments. Their instrument is called Tūma or gourd. It consists of a hollow piece of bamboo fixed horizontally over a gourd. Over the bamboo a string is stretched secured to a peg at one end and passing over a bridge at the other. Little knobs of wax are made on the bamboo so that the string touches them during its vibrations. The gourd acts as a sounding-board.

Bhogta.—Subcaste of Khairwār.

Bhoi.—(One who carries litters or palanquins.) Synonym of Dhīmar and Kahār. A title or honorific name for Gonds and one by which they are often known. See article Kahār. A section of Binjhāl.

Bhoir.—Synonym for Bhoyar.

Bhojni.—Subcaste of Chitrakathi. They serve the food at marriage and other ceremonies.

Bholia.—(From bhūlna, to forget.) Synonym of Bhulia. [351]

Bhona.—A small caste of labourers in the Mandla District. They are practically all employed by the local Pansāris (Barai) or pān-growers in tending their barejas or betel-vine gardens. There is some ground for supposing that the Bhonas are an offshoot of the Bharia or Bharia-Bhumia tribe of Jubbulpore, which is itself derived from the Bhars. One of the sections of the Bhonas is named after the vulture, and at their weddings a man of this section catches a young chicken and bites off the head in imitation of a vulture.

Bhondih.—(From bhond, dung-beetle.) A section of Ahīr.

Bhonsla.—A clan of Marāthas to which the Rājas of Nāgpur belong.

Bhope or Bhoall.—Subcaste of Mānbhao.

Bhoriya.—Synonym of Bhulia.

Bhoyar.—A caste. A subcaste of Koshti and Marār.

Bhudes.—(The gods on earth.) Title of Brāhmans.

Bhuinhār.—Name of a landholding caste in Benāres and Bengal who claim to be Brāhmans or Rājpūts. They are also known as Bābhan. A title of the Bhuiya tribe. See article Bhuiya. A title of the Bhaina tribe.

Bhumia.—(Born from the land, or aboriginal.) A title of the Bharia tribe in Jubbulpore, also a title of Baiga and Korku. A synonym of Bhuiya. A subdivision of Gond. A section of Kurmi.

Bhūra.—(Grey.) One of the sections of Oswāl Bania. A proper name.

Bhusar.—(Lord of the earth.) A title of Brāhman.

Bhusārjīn.—(From bhūsa, the chaff of wheat.) Subcaste of Banjāra.

Bhuskate.—(From bhūsa, fodder, one who supplies fodder.) A family name.

Bhūta.—A subtribe of Gond in Betūl, the same as Koilabhūta. They are said to be of immoral character.

Biar.—Synonym of Bayar.

Bichhuwa, Bichhi.—(From bichhu, scorpion.) A section of Dhobi and Kawar.

Bidur.—Synonym of the Vidūr caste.

Biloria.—(From bilori, marble stone.) A section of Chhipa.

Bilwār.—Synonym of Belwār, a carrier and cattle-dealer.

Bind.—A large non-Aryan caste of Bihār and the United Provinces, of which 380 persons were returned in 1911. Sir H. Risley says of them:21 “They are a tribe employed in agriculture, earthwork, fishing, hunting, making saltpetre and collecting indigenous drugs. Traditions current among the caste profess to trace their origin to the Vindhya hills, and one of these legends tells how a traveller, passing by the foot of the hills, heard a strange flute-like sound coming out of a clump of bamboos. He cut a shoot and took from it a fleshy substance which afterwards grew into a man, the supposed ancestor of the Binds. Another story says that the Binds and Nunias were formerly all Binds and that the present Nunias are the descendants of a Bind who consented to dig a grave for a Muhammadan king and was outcasted for doing so.” A third legend tells how in the beginning of all things Mahādeo made a lump of earth and endowed it with life. The creature thus produced asked Mahādeo what he should eat. The god pointed to a tank and told him to eat the fish in it and the wild rice which grew near the banks. Mr. Crooke22 says that they use fish largely except in the fortnight (Pitripaksh) sacred to the dead in the month of Kunwār, and Sir H. Risley notes that after the rice harvest the Binds wander about the country digging up the stores of rice accumulated by field rats in their burrows. From four to six pounds of grain are usually found, but even this quantity is sometimes exceeded. The Binds also feast on the rats, but they deny this, saying that to do so would be to their own injury, as a reduction of the next year’s find of grain would thus be caused.

Binjhāl.—Synonym of Binjhwār.

Binjhwār.—A caste derived from the [352]Baiga tribe. A subtribe of Baiga and Gond. A subcaste of Gowāri.

Birchheya.—(A dweller in the forest.) Subcaste of Ghosi.

Birchkia.—(From birchka, a tree.) A subcaste of Ghosi.

Birhor.—A small Kolarian tribe of whom about 150 persons were returned in 1911 from the Chota Nāgpur States. The name means a dweller in the forest. Sir H. Risley states that the Birhors live in tiny huts made of branches of trees and leaves, and eke out a miserable living by snaring hares and monkeys, and collecting jungle products, especially the bark of the chob creeper,23 from which a coarse kind of rope is made. They are great adepts at ensnaring monkeys and other small animals, and sell them alive or eat them. Colonel Dalton described them as,24 “A small, dirty, miserable-looking race, who have the credit of devouring their parents, and when I taxed them with it they did not deny that such a custom had once obtained among them. But they declared they never shortened lives to provide such feasts and shrank with horror from the idea of any bodies but those of their own blood-relatives being served up to them.” It would appear that this custom may be partly ceremonial, and have some object, such as ensuring that the dead person should be born again in the family or that the survivors should not be haunted by his ghost. It has been recorded of the Bhunjias that they ate a small part of the flesh of their dead parents.25 Colonel Dalton considered the Birhors to be a branch of the Kharia tribe, and this is borne out by Dr. Grierson’s statement that the specimen of the Birhor dialect returned from the Jashpur State was really Kharia.26 Elsewhere the Birhor dialect resembles Mundāri.

Birjhia, Birjia. (One who practises bewar or shifting cultivation in a forest.) Subcaste of Binjhwār, Baiga and Korwa.

Bīrkhandia.—From Bīrkhand (Sand of heroes), a name for Rājputāna. A section of Teli.

Birtiya. Title of Nai or barber.

Bisen, Bisān.—A clan of Rājpūt. A section of Daharia and of Panwār Rājpūt. A section of Marār.

Bobaiaya.—(From Bobbili, a town in Madras.) A section of Teli in Chānda.

Bogam.—A name for Madrāsi prostitutes, perhaps a separate caste. Their honorific title is Sani.

Bohra.—A Muhammadan caste. A section of Oswāl Bania.

Bombay.—A subdivision of Vālmiki Kāyasth.

Bondoya—A resident of Jītgarh and the Pachmarhi tract of the Central Provinces. Subcaste of Korku.

Bopchi.—A section of Pānwar Rājpūt.

Bopchi—A small caste in the Wardha District numbering a few hundred persons. They are in reality Korkus, the name being a corruption of that of the Bendoya subtribe, but they have discarded their proper tribal name and formed a separate caste. They retain some of the Korku sept names, while others are derived from the Marāthi words or from the names of other castes, and these facts indicate that the Bopchis are of mixed descent from Korkus and other low Marātha castes with which unions have taken place. As might be expected, they are very tolerant of sexual and social offences, and do not expel a woman who has a liaison with a man of another caste or takes food from him. She is readmitted to caste intercourse, but has to undergo the penalty of washing her body with cowdung and having a lock of her hair cut off. A man committing a similar offence has his upper lip shaved. They employ Gosains for their gurus and their social position is very low.

Borākar.(A mat-maker.) Synonym of Gopāl.

Borjharia.—(Bor-plum.) A sept of Halba.

Brahmachare.—(A celibate.) Subcaste of Manbhao. [353]

Brāhman Gaur, or Bāmhan Gaur.—A branch of the Gaur clan of Rājpūts. A subcaste of Bhāt.

Brid-dhari.—Begging Bhāts. Subcaste of Bhāt.

Brihaspati, Brahaspati.—An eponymous section of Brāhmans.

Buchar.—A corruption of the English word ‘butcher.’ Subcaste of Khatīk in Agra.

Budālgir.—(From budla, a leathern bag made for the transport and storage of oil and ghī (butter).) Subcaste of Chamār.

Bukekari.—(A seller of scented powder (bukka).) Synonym of Atāri.

Bundela.—A clan of Rājpūts of mixed descent. Name probably from the Vindhya hills. A subcaste of Basor. A sept of Manihār and Rāwat.

Bundelkhandi.—A resident of Bundelkhand. Subcaste of Basdewa, Barai, Basor, Chamār, Darzi, Dhobi, Kumhār, Lohār, Nai and Sunār.

Bundhrajia.—Subcaste of Kamār.

Bunkar.—(A weaver.) Title of Balāhi.

Burad.—A synonym for the Basor caste of bamboo-workers. A section of Koshti and Oswāl Bania.

Burthia.—Subcaste of Chāran Banjāra.

Burud.—(A bamboo-worker.) Synonym for Basor in the Marātha country.

Butka.—(One who brings leaves.) Subcaste of Chasa.

Byahūt.—(Married.) Subcaste of Kalār.

Chadār.—A caste. A subcaste of Kori.

Chakere.—(One who uses the potter’s wheel in localities where other Kumhārs do not use it.) Subcaste of Kumhār.

Chakla.—(A professional washerman.) Synonym for Dhobi.

Chalukya.—A synonym for Solanki Rājpūts. (Perhaps from chhullu or challu, hollow of the hand.) A subcaste of Panwār Rājpūt.

Chamār, Chamara.—(From chamra, a hide.) The well-known caste of tanners. A subcaste of Banjāra, Barhai and Darzi.

Chamār Gaur.—(Chamār and Gaur.) A well-known clan of Rājpūts. See Rājpūt-Gaur.

Chambhār.—Name of the Chamār caste in Berār.

Chamra.—A contemptuous diminutive for the Chamār caste in Chhattīsgarh.

Chandan, Chandania.—(Sandalwood.) A section of Chamār, Kawar, Khangār and Kurmi.

Chandel.—A famous clan of Rājpūts. See Rājpūt-Chandel.

Chāndewār.—(Belonging to Chānda.) Subcaste of Injhwār.

Chandi.—(One who hides behind a fishing-net.) A sept of Korku.

Chandra, Chandrāha. (From chanda, the moon.) A section of Gūjar and Teli.

Chandravansi or Somvansi.—(Descended from the moon.) A clan of Rājpūts.

Chandravedi.—Synonym of Sanaurhia, meaning ‘One who observes the moon.’

Chankhatia.—A subcaste of Bhuiya and Chamār.

Channāgri.—A small Jain sect. A subcaste of Bania.

Chanti.—Name derived from chiti, an ant. Subcaste of Kawar. A section of Kumhār.

Chānwar.—(Whisk.) A totemistic sept of Kawar and Pābia.

Charak.—A subdivision of Marātha Brāhman; a section of Brāhman.

Chāran.—Subcaste of Banjāra and Bhāt. Title of Bhāt in Rājputāna.

Chārdeve.—A clan of Gonds worshiping four gods and paying special reverence to the tortoise.

Chārghar.—(Four houses.) A subdivision of Sāraswat Brāhmans.

Chārnāgri.—A Jain sect or subcaste of Bania.

Chatrapati.—(Lord of the umbrella.) Title of the ancient Indian kings.

Chatri, Chhatri.—A common synonym for a Rājpūt. A subcaste of Bhāmta.

Chatūrbhuji.—(Four-armed.) An epithet of Vishnu. A title of the Chauhān clan of Rājpūts. A class of Bairāgis or religious mendicants.

Chaube, Chaturvedi.—(From Chaturvedi, or one learned in the four Vedas.) A surname for Kanaujia, Jijhotia and other Hindustāni Brāhmans. Subcaste of Banjara.

Chaubhaiya.—(Four brothers.) A subdivision of Sāraswat Brāhmans. They take wives from the Athbhaiya [354]subdivision, but do not give girls to them in marriage.

Chaudhri, Chaudhari, Choudhri.—(A headman, the first person.) Title of Kalār Panwār, Rājpūt and other castes; title of Dhobi, vice-president of the caste committee. A section of Ahīr, Maheshri Bania, Gadaria, Gūjar, Halba and Marār (Māli). A subdivision of Kāpewār.

Chauhān.—A famous clan of Rājpūts. Name of a low caste of village watchmen in Chhattīsgarh, perhaps the illegitimate descendants of Panwār Rājpūts.

Chauka.—Title of the Kabīrpanthi religious service. The chauk is a sanctified place on the floor of the house or yard, plastered with cowdung and marked out with lines of wheat-flour or quartz-dust within which ceremonies are performed.

Chaukhūtia.—A term which signifies a bastard in Chhattīsgarh. Subcaste of Bhunjia.

Chauske.—Subcaste of Kalār. They are so called because they prohibit the marriage of persons having a common ancestor up to four generations.

Chaurāsia.—Resident of a Chaurāsi or estate of eighty-four villages. Subcaste of Barai and Bhoyar. A section of Dhīmar and Kumhār. Many estates are called by this name, grants of eighty-four villages having been commonly made under native rule.

Chawara, Chaura.—One of the thirty-six royal races of Rājpūts.

Chenchuwār, Chenchuwād or Chenchu—A forest tribe of the Telugu country of whom a few persons were returned from the Chānda District in 1911. In Madras the tribe is known as Chenchu, and the affix wād or wādu merely signifies person or man.27 The marriage ceremony of the Chenchus may be mentioned on account of its simplicity. The couple sometimes simply run away together at night and return next day as husband and wife, or, if they perform a rite, walk round and round a bow and arrow stuck into the ground, while their relations bless them and throw rice on their heads. Each party to a marriage can terminate it at will without assigning any reason or observing any formality. The bodies of the dead are washed and then buried with their weapons.

Chenr.—(Little.) Subcaste of Bhānd.

Cheorākuta.—(One who prepares cheora or pounded rice.) Subcaste of Dhuri.

Chero.28—A well-known tribe of the Munda or Kolarian family, found in small numbers in the Chota Nāgpur Feudatory States. They are believed to have been at one time the rulers of Bihār, where numerous monuments are attributed, according to the inquiries of Buchanan and Dalton, to the Kols and Cheros. “In Shāhābād29 also most of the ancient monuments are ascribed to the Cheros, and it is traditionally asserted that the whole country belonged to them in sovereignty. An inscription at Budh Gaya mentions one Phudi Chandra who is traditionally said to have been a Chero. The Cheros were expelled from Shāhābād, some say by the Sawaras (Saonrs), some say by a tribe called Hariha; and the date of their expulsion is conjectured to be between the fifth and sixth centuries of the Christian era. Both Cheros and Sawaras were considered by the Brāhmans of Shāhābād as impure or Mlechchas, but the Harihas are reported good Kshatriyas.

“The overthrow of the Cheros in Mithila and Magadha seems to have been complete. Once lords of the Gangetic provinces, they are now found in Shāhābād and other Bihār Districts only holding the meanest offices or concealing themselves in the woods skirting the hills occupied by their [355]cousins, the Kharwārs; but in Palāmau they retained till a recent period the position they had lost elsewhere. A Chero family maintained almost an independent rule in that pargana till the accession of the British Government; they even attempted to hold their castles and strong places against that power, but were speedily subjugated, forced to pay revenue and submit to the laws. They were, however, allowed to retain their estates; and though the rights of the last Rāja of the race were purchased by Government in 1813, in consequence of his falling into arrears, the collateral branches of the family have extensive estates there still. According to their own traditions (they have no trustworthy annals) they have not been many generations in Palāmau. They invaded that country from Rohtās, and with the aid of Rājpūt chiefs, the ancestors of the Thakurais of Ranka and Chainpur drove out and supplanted a Rājpūt Rāja of the Raksel family, who retreated into Sargūja and established himself there.

“All the Cheros of note who assisted in the expedition obtained military service grants of land, which they still retain. The Kharwārs were then the people of most consideration in Palāmau, and they allowed the Cheros to remain in peaceful possession of the hill tracts bordering on Sargūja. It is popularly asserted that at the commencement of the Chero rule in Palāmau they numbered twelve thousand families, and the Kharwārs eighteen thousand; and if an individual of one or the other is asked to what tribe he belongs, he will say, not that he is a Chero or a Kharwār, but that he belongs to the twelve thousand or to the eighteen thousand, as the case may be. The Palāmau Cheros now live strictly as Rājpūts and wear the paita or caste thread.”

It has been suggested in the article on Khairwār that the close connection between the two tribes may arise from the Kharwārs or Khairwārs having been an occupational offshoot of the Cheros and Santāls.

In Palāmau30 the Cheros are now divided into two subcastes, the Bāra-hazār or twelve thousand, and the Terah-hazār or thirteen thousand, who are also known as Birbandhi. The former are the higher in rank and include most of the descendants of former ruling families, who assume the title Bābuān. The Terah-hazār are supposed to be the illegitimate offspring of the Bāra-hazār.

“The distinctive physical traits of the Cheros,” Colonel Dalton states, “have been considerably softened by the alliances with pure Hindu families, which their ancient power and large possessions enabled them to secure; but they appear to me still to exhibit an unmistakable Mongolian physiognomy. They vary in colour, but are usually of a light brown. They have, as a rule, high cheek-bones, small eyes obliquely set, and eyebrows to correspond, low broad noses, and large mouths with protuberant lips.”

Cherwa.—Subcaste of Kawar.

Chetti.—Subcaste of Gandli.

Chhachān.—(A hawk.) A section of Rāwat (Ahīr).

Chhadesia.—(A man of six districts.) Subcaste of Banjāra.

Chhadīdār or Darwān.—Title of the Dahaits, who were door-keepers of the Rājas of Mahoba in former times.

Chhanava Kule.—(The ninety-six houses.) A subcaste of Marātha.

Chhatakia.—An illegitimate group of the Kumhār caste.

Chhattīsgarhi, Chhattīsgarhia.—Resident of Chhattīsgarh or the region of the thirty-six forts, a name given to the eastern tract of the Central Provinces. Subcaste of Bahna, Darzi and Halba.

Chhehghar (Chhenghar).—(Members of the six houses.) A hypergamous division of Kanaujia Brāhmans. They take daughters from the other two divisions, but do not give their daughters to them.

Chhīpa.—(A dyer.) Synonym of Darzi. [356]

Chhoha or Saroria.—A subcaste of Agharia of mixed descent.

Chholia.—(Rubbish.) A section of Rājjhar.

Chhote.—(Inferior.) Subcaste of Agharia and Teli.