The Hindu community is divided into various socially differentiated groups, better known as castes. In consonance with the changes in Government policy the Census enumeration has ceased to take cognisance of these groups since 1941. However, the castes have not ceased to exist as exclusive social groups with their peculiar manners of behaviour, modes of speech and dress, and information regarding these is worth recording. They arc quite numerous but in important matters, they do have more similarities than differences as Hindus.
Of these the Brahmans are important because, traditionally, they have been literate and enlightened. They form, however, a small minority, not more than two per cent, even among Hindus. The majority of them in Candrapur belong to what is known as the Desastha sub-division. In physical appearance they approximate more closely to the Scytho-Dravidian type than to the pure Indo-Aryan races of upper India and probably there is a good deal of mixed blood in the race. They rose to prominence during the Bhosle rule so much so that the period is still referred to as Brahman raj. They are still influential enough by reason of their being educationally more advanced. As a race, they possess a marked intellectual ability and have courteous manners. At present, they are found in many walks of life but chiefly as traders, teachers, lawyers, physicians, priests, clerks, Government servants etc.: the Malguzaris having been abolished they are no more landlords. Brahmans of Telugu extraction enjoyed a reputation for being Sanskrt scholars. All orthodox practices among them have become a matter of the past.
Rajputs and Banias.
Rajputs and Banias claim to be twice-born and wear the sacred thread like the Brahmans. Rajputs or Thakurs are cultivators in the main, though even among them educated young men are now found in the professions and in Government service. The Banias are enterprising traders and moneylenders, especially Marwadis. They are respected as socially useful citizens.
Amongst the agricultural castes of the district, the Kunbis predominate so greatly in number that the term Kunbi in colloquial use means cultivator and even men of other castes engaged in agriculture describe themselves as Kunbis. The sub-castes which are endogamous are Tirole, Khaire, Dhanoje, Khedula, Jharia and Wandhekar. The Tirole Kunbis are settlers from Berar who have the reputation of being the most intelligent of the Kunbi sub-castes. They eat with Dhanojas but do not intermarry with them. The Dhanoje sub-caste is the wealthiest of
the Kunbi class. They grow any crop suitable to the soil, but
chiefly jowar and oilseeds and are noted for the quality of their
cattle. The Khaire Kunbi whose ancestors probably manufactured Kat or catechu, occupy the northern parts of the Wainganga
valley, and grow rice and jowar. They build excellent tanks and
are skilful cultivators. The Khedula, whose name is probably derived from Khede, a village, are mainly on the eastern bank of the Wainganga between Wairagad and Brahmapuri. The Baones are immigrants from Bhandara and the Jharias are probably aborigines. Their wild appearance justifies the hypothesis. A branch of the Kunbi caste that has migrated from the Telugu country is called Are, but they still retain these sub-castes and their distinctive names, In social status, these Kunbis rank next to the twice-born castes and employ Brahmans to perform their religious ceremonies. Widow's remarriage is permitted. They believe that the souls of their deceased ancestors are embodied in crows and are careful to invite them for all marriages. In the month of Aswin, an oblation of food is offered to them and if the crows do not eat it, the Kunbi is much disturbed and changes the food till they do. The respect in which the caste is held is shown by the proverb ' Kunbi matt is Dev Datt' i.e., the opinion of the Kunbi is God given. He is held to be a simple minded, just, straight forward man whose dealings are free from guile. They are charitable when they see a good cause but do not give very easily. They are the backbone of the Hindu agricultural operations in the district.
The Marar or Malis generally irrigate a little patch of garden
from an uncased well dug in the bed of a stream. They provide the vegetables and spices so largely consumed by all to give variety to the rather unappetising diet of pulse and rice. The great majority of Mails belong to the Kosri or Kosaria sub-division a name which recalls Kosala, the ancient kingdom of which Candrapur once formed a large part. The remaining sub-divisions are mainly distinguished by the plants they chiefly cultivate. These are the Phulmalis or flower-growers, Jarya who cultivate lasun or garlic, brinjals, bhang and Hardya and Ghase, turmeric. These last sub-divisions are immigrants from Berar. Phulmalis socially rank highest and turmeric growers lowest of the sub-castes. The Pahad sub-caste is almost a separate caste. The women of the caste are reputed to be pretty. The caste is industrious and of good status.
Because the hereditary occupation of this caste is oil-pressing,
they are known as Telis, but a large majority of them have abandoned it and taken to cultivation. They arc divided into Ekbaila, Dobaila, Erandia, Sao-Teli and Gondhi. Ekbaila Tells use only one bullock in their oil-mill while Dohailas use two. Sao-Telis are mainly cultivators and grow sugarcane and rice. Sao. meaning banker is a term of respect. The Gondhis are land owners, traders and moneylenders and aspire to he classed as Banias. Some of them have adopted the sacred thread of the
twice-born. They appear to have raised their social status by
chance of occupation and in their case this was perhaps rendered
easier by the tact that they are Telugus by race and immigrants
to the district. Erandia Telis are usually in easy circumstances,
being an industrious and enterprising caste.
Dhimars or fishermen are sub-divided into three sub-castes- Bhanare, Bendare and Machhinde. Also the Palewars or Bhois, though of Telugu race and the Kewats are locally classed as sub-castes. The women of the sub-castes are distinguished by the bangles they wear. Bhanare women wear iron and Bendare women wear brass bangles on both arms and if married one lac bangle. No Dhimar may wear shoes, only open work sandals and caste penalty is exacted for any breach of this rule. The ancestral occupation is fishing and they are the boatmen of the district and in former times were palanquin-bearers also. They cultivate the singada nut in tanks, grow water-melons, turmeric, hemp and tobacco on the slopes of river banks and alluvial islets. They also breed the tusser silk-worm. The men are usually of excellent physique, clean-limbed and muscular.
In most villages there is a Mahar quarter where they have been living apart. There is little doubt that they are descendants of an aboriginal race. They say that their original home was in Poona and their first forefather, a great sage. The sub-divisions of the caste are numerous but none are of much importance except the Somsi who claim a higher rank, through some connection which they trace with the Rajput dynasty of Somavansi. Their caste rules are complicated and strict. The dog seems to be a totem in the caste. They do not swear by its name nor injure one. The majority of the caste are day labourers, some of the more enterprising being cultivators. A large number are weavers who provide a strong coarse cloth which finds ready sale among labourers because of its durability. The Kotvals or village watchmen are mainly drawn from this caste. They are not unintelligent and a good many of the cultivators and weavers have abandoned caste and joined the Kabirpanth. Of late many have become Nav-buddhists under Dr. Ambedkar's influence. They have started educating their children and look forward to a better life in times to come. Malas are a Telugu caste who have the same status as Mahars. They probably have been pariahs but in Candrapur they have been calling themselves Telangi Sadar Bhois. They were distinguished till recently by the loose method they have of tying their dhoti and the squarish shape of their head-wear.
Kapewars are a Telugu caste of cultivators like Kunbis. They are also skilled stone masons and Major Lucie Smith's conjecture is that they may have been previously employed in building the Candrapur walls and took to cultivation later. They have some peculiar marriage customs. On the 4th night of the ceremony, the bridegroom, bearing portions of a plough, followed by the bride, carrying cooked food in a cloth, walks to the edge of the marriage booth and drills five furrows with an ox goad in which
he sows mixed cotton-seed and jowar. The cooked food is then
eaten by the pair who share it with all prescnt and the seed is watered by the company washing their hands over it.
Komtis are a Telugu caste corresponding to the Banias. They claim to he Vaisya and wear the sacred thread, but their caste customs and marriage regulations, especially the rule to compel a
boy to marry his paternal uncle's daughter indicate a Dravidian origin. So the claim is doubtful. They do not permit widows to remarry. Women are scarce in the caste and so the bride-price is high. The caste is wealthy and industrious and has considerable influence in the district.
Dhangar and Kurumwars.
Dhangars (Maratha) and Kurumwars (Kannada) are shepherds.
The latter feed their flock in the Wainganga valley. They mix little with local people and do not even learn their language but speak their own tongue. They worship Hindu gods but their special gods are Mallana Deva and Mallani Devi who are the guardians of their herds. The shrines of these gods are generally placed under banyan trees and in form are very like Scythian cromlechs for which they are sometimes mistaken, but a Kurumwar shrine is always open to the east. Both Dhangars and Kurumwars manufacture kambals or woollen blankets which are in great demand among labourers and field workers.
The Velamas are a cultivator caste of Telugus. They have a
fairly high social status and one sub-division secludes their women. They appear to be originally a cultivating caste some of whom took to military service and others became dyers. The former are now of high rank, zamindars and landlords while their less ambitious brethren dyers and weavers.
The artisan castes of Candrapur have a reputation for considerable skill in their various trades. Their customs do not differ markedly from those of similar castes elsewhere and do not call for special notice. Sonars (Maratha) and Pancal (Telugu) are goldsmiths. They are skilful but do not differ much from conventional patterns of making jewellery. The Pancals sometimes work in iron as well as in precious metals. Kostis (Maratha) and Salewars (Telugu) are weavers. They prepare silk-bordered saris and finer fabrics. Their work is artistic but they are not able to compete with mills. Lohars are blacksmiths; Nais are barbers; Vanjaris are cattle dealers and traders; Dhobis are washermen. All these are only counterparts of their fellowmen in other districts. Telugu washermen are called Warthi. Sutars
are carpenters and are famed for their skill in carving. Camars (Maratha) and Madgis (Telugu) are leather workers, who make pretty embroidered slippers which are locally much appreciated. Bestas are a caste of Telugu fishermen akin to Palewars. They were also formerly palanquin-bearers. They are a sturdy and muscular people like the other fishing castes. Gurav, and Satani are castes of temple servants and temple keepers. Many Guravs officiate as village pujaris. Satanis are marked by the fact that they do not wear the sacred thread.
Among the many tribes and races which inhabit Candrapur district, the most interesting ethnologically and historically are the Gonds who were for centuries the dominant race in the district and far beyond its bounds. The prestige of the race is still
kept up by Scions of the ancient royal line whose last descendant
was a political pensioner of the British and the Gond nobility who are now in rather straightened circumstances. The Gonds still constitute 15 per cent of the total population. They are divided into four endogamous tribes, viz., Raj-Gonds, Madia, Dhurve and Khatulwar Gonds. There are also other minor sub-tribes who would not class themselves with any of the above tribes but they are few. The most notable of these are the Koyas and the Gaitas. These sub-tribes all speak dialects of the Gondi language which differ considerably but the difference is mainly due to the fact that the limited vocabulary of the Gondi language is supplemented by words from the language of their nearest Hindu neighbours. In the south of the district, the language thus drawn upon is Telugu, in the west and the north Marathi and in the eastern and northern parts Hindi. It thus happens that the Dhurve Gond from Raipur border would have some difficulty in understanding the language of a Madia from Ahiri. The Dhurve and Khatulwar Gonds are found in what were the northern zamindaris along the Drug district border. The Dhurve Gonds or at least a portion of them call themselves Naik Gonds and their dialect Naiki. They hold themselves to be descendants of the soldiers of the Gond King's army and still prefer service as police or peons to agricultural work.
The Khatulwar Gonds have adopted many Hindu customs. They wear the sacred thread of the twice born castes, use the title Thakur, and, as Major Lucie Smith says, try hard to believe that they have Rajput blood in their veins. The Koya dialect of Gondi is nearly Telugu. The name Koya may be connected with the name by which the Gonds still call themselves 'Koitur' (Man). The Gaita Gonds are remarkable because they are almost alone in retaining the old Gondi custom, once universal, of building their village in two long barracks lying east and west facing each other about 80 feet apart. In these barracks the married people dwell, while the bachelors of the tribe are relegated to a barrack at one end of the village. In some cases, unmarried girls have a barrack at the opposite end of the village, but usually they live in the house of the Gaital or headman. The two main sects of Gonds in Candrapur are Raj-Gonds and the Madias who divide the bulk of the Gond population between them.
The Madias inhabit the wilder tracts of what once were the zamindaris and in their unsophisticated state are a very attractive people. The villages are usually situated deep in the jungle near some wide shallow stream, which offers facilities for cultivation and the surrounding jungles supplement the fruits of their agricultural efforts. The Madias are a lithe, active lookin
well-built set of men. Their good looks are often marred by the
ravages of small-pox and skin-diseases and a mild form of eprosy callled Gondi rog
is fairly frequently seen. What struck European officers working among them
during the British rule was the open hearty manner and the cheerful smile of
good fellowship markedly different from the schooled politeness of the Hindu.
Their dress is scanty consisting of a compromise between a langoti and a dhoti, a strip of cloth wound tightly round
the waist in rope like folds and passed between the legs with the spare end hanging down in front below the knees. Often this garment diminishes to the scantiest rag. They adorn their necks with handsome strings of beads and their arms occasionally with metal and glass bangles. Their ears are pulled out of shape by the weight of numerous brass rings with which they are usually garnished and occasionally they wear turbans. A curved knife with a brass mounted handle is stuck into the waist-cloth and from the shoulder dangles the ever handy axe without which a Gond seldom moves. Madia women wear a lugda of strong cloth usually white with a coloured strip in the border. They wear no coli, no Gond woman ever does and their necks, like their husbands' are garnished with beads. They frequently tattoo their faces and limbs in intricate patterns.
All Gonds and especially Madias, are very fond of dancing. It is the great amusement of the people. Night after night in the eastern tracts in the cool, moon-lit nights of the hot weather, the sojourner in the camp is lulled to sleep by the rhythmic lilt of a Gondi chorus as the villagers dance round a fire in some open space near the hamlet. The favourite dance is a peculiar rippling step forward with the foot dragged, not very graceful when done by a single individual, but looking quite different when done in unison by a great circle of dancers singing a 're-la', 're-la', chorus to which the step keeps time. In some villages, where the headman is an enthusiast for the pastime, a trained band performs weird and wonderful step dances to the sound of the drum. At a big dance, the trained band occupies the inner ring round the fire, while the common folk, men and maids, in separate rings move round in great circles in opposite ways. All are dressed for the occasion in their best, bearing in their hands weird ornaments of wicker work, with garlands of flowers on their necks and in their hair, feather ornaments humorously or coquettishly placed. Seen in the glow of a huge log fire, glinting on the shining beads and barbaric ornaments of the dancers, with the throb of the drums and the beat of many feet moving in unison to the wild music of the voices in chorus, a Madia dance is a spectacle not easily forgotten, but lingers as a characteristic scene when other details have faded out of the memory. Men and women ordinarily dance in separate circles but in the dances where the young men choose their brides, they dance in couples.
The Raj Gonds are to be found on both sides of the Wainganga but few of them are found in the wilder tracts where the
Madias dwell. They are more sophisticated than the Madias and from intercourse
with Hindus have adopted a larger number of Hindu customs. Major Lucie Smith suggests that they
acquired the term Raj Gond as being the sub-tribe connected
with the royal house or perhaps because they first rose to power
when Candrapur passed under Gond rule. They are as a rule shorter and perhaps darker than the Madia but resemble him in features. They are tough fellows and like the Madias "wise all manner of venary". They are mostly tenants and farm labourers but prefer if possible to do jungle work and many of them are found in Government forest villages.
Verrier Elvin who worked for many years among the Central India Hill Tribes says the following about the Gonds in his The Tribal World (1964): -
" We have little knowledge of how they lived until in the fourteenth century, we find them established as Rajas in different parts of Central India which at that time was known as Gondvana. Their Government seems to have been tolerant and kindly; the country prospered; forts, tanks and wells were built; the palaces were filled with wealth. Akbar found a hundred jars of gold coins, much jewellery and a thousand elephants in the fort Cauragadh. The Kings of Candrapur built royal tombs, lakes and palaces and surrounded their city for seven miles with a great wall. Herds and flocks increased and even the peasants, it is said, paid tributes in elephants and gold mohurs".
" But the Gond Kings had no organisation, no ability for war and faced with the invasion of Maharatta Chieftains in the eighteenth century, their Kingdoms collapsed almost without resistance and they were driven deep into the recesses of the forest. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, they had split up into a number of wild and warlike groups, making a living by plundering caravans and raiding the smaller towns from their mountain strongholds. Under British rule, they grew pacific and settled on the land and took to their present occupation of farming. But now they suffered oppression and exploitation, for there soon came merchants and liquor-vendors, cajoling, tricking, swindling them in their ignorance and simplicity until, bit by bit, their broad acres dwindled and they sank into the poverty in which many of them still live to-day. This poverty was not only material; at the same there came a poverty of culture. For this reason it is not easy to speak of the culture of the Gonds. for it varies greatly from area to area and what there is today is only a shadow of what must have been. The Gonds have few arts or crafts, they do not weave and only rarely carve in wood. Their pots and their baskets are usually made for them by others. They have adopted to a considerable degree the religion of their Hindu neighbours. Their language which is a Dravidian tongue, is now spoken by less than half their
" Their culture survives in their memories of the past, for
they have an extensive mythology, in the legendary history of
their old kings and heroes and in the dance and song at which
they are still expert. There is a story that long ago, at the
heginning of all things, there were seven Gond brothers who
made a feast in honour of Bura Pen, their great god. They
spread sumptuous offerings before him, then they asked their
youngest brother to make music for them but he refused and
it was only when they heaped gifts upon him, gold and silver,
jewellery and all manner of ornaments, that he consented.
Then with a gourd and a piece of wood and a strand of wire
(some say it was a hair of his own head) he made the first
fiddle and played so exquisitely on it that the god came down
to bless the feast ".
" Gond poetry is simple and symbolic, free of all literary conventions and allusions. It is poetry of earth and sky, of forest, hill and river, of the changing seasons and the varied passions of men, a poetry of love, naked and unashamed, unchecked by any inhibition or restraint. The bulk of the poems are songs of the dance and the most poetic of them are perhaps the songs of the great Karma dance which is common to many of the primitive tribes of Central India. This dance symbolises the growth of the green branches of the forest in the spring: sometimes a tree is set up in the village and the people dance around it. The men leap forward to a rapid roll of drums and the women sway back before them. Then bending low to the ground, the women dance, their feet moving in perfect rhythm until the group of singers advances towards them like the steady urge of wind coming and going among the tree tops and the girls swing to and fro in answer. They often dance all night until lost in a lapture of movement, they surprise the secret of Lila, the ecstasy of creation, that ancient zest in the glory of which God made all things ".
" This is the one great cultural interest of the people. A girl dancer is compared by the Gonds to a lovely tree moving to the unseen power of nature and one of their riddles asks, "There is a dumb bird that sits on a beautiful tree; shake the tree and the bird awakes and sings ". The answer is, " The anklets on the feet of a girl who goes to the dance" ".
Internal social structure of Gonds.
Certain institutions are common to all sects of Gonds. Their ceremonies at births, marriages and deaths do not vary greatly and the description that follows applies, perhaps, with very slight modifications to all Gonds of Candrapur.
All tribes of Gonds are divided into exogamous groups which still bear traces of a half-forgotten totemism. For instance, the Raj Gonds are divided into four groups each with a totem sacred to it. As given by Major Lucie Smith these are: For the four God Gonds the totems are Tortoise and Crocodile; for the five God Gonds, Iguana; for the six God Gonds, Tiger; for the seven God Gonds, Porcupine. But the only group which has retained any
trace of these totems in the six god group is the one which still venerates the tiger and the Gond tiger is used as the crest of the royal house. These groups are again sub-divided into 'Houses' or families distinguished by their family name or padi. Among the Raj Gonds, there are 28 such houses or families, among the Madias 24, and among the Dhurve Gonds 17. The others have not been ascertained. The padi of the Gond Kings is Atram. The exogamous unit is the group. No Gond may marry within his own group but must mate with a woman belonging to a group with a different member of Gods from his own. Commonly, therefore, in a village, one finds the Gonds divided into two groups, say, seven god Gonds and five god Gonds. The children belong to the father's group. Madias do not intermarry with Raj-Gonds, but the records of the Aheri family show that once they did so.
The Gond religion is described as animism, but the attitude
of mind, which animism here connotes, is a tendency to attribute
personality to every object, animate or inanimate which influences the Gond at any time. It is the theory by which he
explains the phenomena of the world around him and is rather
a crude form of primitive science than a primitive religion. A
current Hindu sarcastic tale against the Gond in this district
illustrates this attitude of mind. A Gond was sent to a neighbouring village with a basket of mangoes and a letter. On the
way he carefully buried the letter and ate two mangoes.
Thoughtfully covering the basket and removing all traces of his
delinquency, he unearthed the letter and proceeded on his way.
On arrival he was intensely chagrined to find that the letter, in
spite of his precautions, still gave him away. This story which
is probably true enough, shows that when a Gond personifies a
thing, he does not necessarily deify or worship it. He only
imagines that it has a personality similar or inferior to his own.
His gods are quite different to his personification of natural objects.
The chief god is called Pharsa Pen, who is worshipped under the
form of a nail and sometimes a piece of iron chain. These nails
are prepared only by Madia Gonds and are kept for sale enclosed in bamboo tubes. Such nails are quite costly. Along with the long nail or the spearhead which is the emblem of Pharsa Pen, the Gond would place a number of arrow heads equal in number to the number of gods in his group, less one, that is a six god Gond would put beside the large spearhead five arrow heads to make up the number six. These were put in a bag or pot and hung from the roof tree or from a branch of a tree overhanging the door of the hut.
Besides Pharsa Pen, the Gonds worship a considerable number of other gods some of whom like Mariai, the goddess of plagues, diseases and death and Bhimsen, the Hindu demi-god that they have borrowed from their neighbours; others are local like Tadoba, who dwells in the beautiful lake of that name and Waghoba whose image is so often seen on the outskirts of any village marking the place where a man has been slain by a tiger.
One Gond belief is that the soul of the slain will inhibit the
image of the tiger thus set up, and being inimical to his slayer
will attack tiger at every opportunity and thus act as a village guardian. Once a year, a great pilgrimage of Gonds and other. Hindus is made to Sat Bahini, the great flat-topped hill near Nagbhir; concerning which there are confused legends. The Gond believes in the immortality of the soul, but his faith is a very vague one. Amongst some transmigration is dimly held and a curious ceremony is performed which tends to define this belief. A Gond like most Indians must not die on a bed but stretched on Mother Earth. On the place where a man's head rested at the moment of death, a small head of grain is made and covered with a basket on which a lighted lamp is extinguished, the basket lifted and the wise among the Gond discern on the heap of grain, the foot-print of the animal which the soul of the departed will inhabit in next life.
The position of women among Gonds is practically that of
equality with the other sex. Normally a Gond maid is free to be wooed by the man of her choice and hardly any girl is under sixteen at the time of marriage. The young couple generally first agree to be married but the negotiations are carried on by their elders. When a betrothal has been arranged, the bridegroom's party comes and plants a spear in the courtyard of the bride's house which none may pull up. If the bride's party consent, water is poured over the spear by the father of the girl and the ceremony may then proceed. Should the bride's father fail to do this, the bridegroom's party considers itself insulted and the father of the bride is heavily fined. A platform of cowdung cakes is built on which a blanket is spread; on this the couple takes its stand and exchange vows. The bridegroom puts an iron ring on the finger of the bride and the ceremony is complete. The pair then leaves the wedding party and betakes itself to a temporary but previously prepared rendezvous in the forest.
When a man is unable to pay the bride-price demanded by the
parent, it is sometimes arranged that he serves the parent for his bride. A parent may demand five, eight or ten year's service. If during the first three years the bride is not known to have lost her chastity, the full marriage ceremony then takes place, but it the contrary is proved the marriage takes place by pat ceremony. In pat or widow marriage the pair stands under the eaves of the bridegroom's house with an upright spear between them. A mixture of turmeric and oil is applied to the bridegroom's fore-head and to the iron spearhead. A string of beads is then tied round the neck of the bride by the bridegroom and the pair walks into the house man and wife.
In marriage by capture, the bridegroom collects a party of friends and carries off the bride from her village. When they arrive at the bridegroom's house, a pot of water is poured over their heads and they become man and wife but are supposed to live apart until the full marriage ceremony can be performed.
Marriage by capture has fallen into disuse as it was apt to
lead to complications with the Indian Penal Code. But irrespective of the Code, it was not free from difficulty. Major Lucie
Smith records a case wherein a fascinating Gond maid of 16 was
carried off from her village and married to suitor No. I. Next
night a disappointed rival's party appeared and carried her off
and married her to suitor No. II. Then her own village party
arose to ask as to whose wife she was and the young woman
solved the difficulty by declaring for suitor No. I. There
remained the delicate question as to whether she was to be married
with marmi, the full wedding ceremony or pat, second marriage,
rites. It was finally decided by the elders that only pat rites could
be granted, which was certainly very hard on the young woman.
On the 9th day after the birth of a child, a feast is given and the naming ceremony takes place. It may he named after the month or the season as Wanja from Wanji, rice i.e., one born in the rice harvest or Irpa trom irpu, the mahua flower. Should a difficulty occur about a name, a little rice is tied in a piece of cloth and swung in trout of the child while a list of names is shouted out. At whatever name the child clutches the cloth that name is chosen. After the birth of the first son, the names of the parents are merged in the name of the son. Thus if the son be called Reka, the father is known as Rekaltapa and the mother as Rekaltanni.
Persons who die of cholera or small-pox and young children are buried but others are usually burnt. The body is borne by the mourners to the burning place and laid on the pile of fire wood which is lighted. The skull of the deceased is broken with a stake which is specially placed for the purpose. The mourners then leave the pile and wash in a stream. An ox is sometimes killed, but more often a goat or fowl and the flesh eaten by the mourners. The animal must be slain by a single blow from a heavy wooden axe. After the feast the mourners return home and refrain for three days from their usual occupations. A small cromlech is built on the spot where the body was burnt and usually a pot with a few small coins is placed within it. Amongst the Madias, in the case of man. a stone or a carved post about five feet high is usually put up to mark the spot. Sometimes one comes across a forest glade strewn with these memorials, the only sign of some deserted village, the very name of which has perished.
The intense hatred of the Gond for witchcraft in which he is a firm believer, is mainly due to the fact that he conceives of it as the unlawful propitiation of supernatural powers, who are enemies of the village and of the racial gods to induce them to bring evil on members of the tribe. When a person is suspected of witchcraft - the victim is usually a woman - she is taken to the nearest stream or pool, in which three men stand. The woman is immersed in the pool while the first man throws an arrow on the second who gathers it and throws it on the third who throws
it to the bank. If the woman remains under water while this is being done, she is innocent, if she comes up she is a witch. Her head is shaved, her front teeth knocked out and she is banished from the village.
A curious ceremony was performed at the funeral of the zamindar of Khutganv whose widow suspected that he was done to death by witchcraft. Three Madias who knew the ancient rites were sent for. They laid the body on a bier which was borne by the usual bearers. In front of the body, one of the Madias, repeating the necessary spells, crushed a chicken to death. The life then entered into the corpse which impelled the bearers to visit the usual places frequented by the deceased and finally hurried them towards the neighbouring village where he had breathed his last. This last movement, the bearers endeavoured to resist but could not and finally some fifty persons were required to force the bier to the burning ghat. Here three yen leaves were placed, one named witchcraft, the other ghost or spirits, the third natural death. The bearers were impelled forward and stopped at the leaf named ' natural death '. The positions of the leaves were changed repeatedly without Acknowledge of the bearers but invariably they stopped at the leaf named natural death. Had they stopped at the leaf named ' witchcraft', the spirit of the departed would then have impelled the bearers to search out the delinquent from the assembled villagers and the usual punishment would have followed. Such superstitions are now dying out but not long ago they greatly influenced the Gonds.
There are a number of forest sub-tribes or castes in small
numbers who appear to have been subjugated by the Gonds. They are inferior to them in social rank and used to perform the usual village services exacted from subject races, though during the last many decades they have now taken to agriculture and have greatly raised their status. In features and general physique they bear a strong resemblance to the Gond type. The Pardhans were formerly the musicians and bards attached to Gond families of distinction. In many Gond villages, the Pardhan also performs priestly functions like blessing the cattle and the fields. Now, as a caste, their occupation is spinning and weaving. In former days, they were able to recite the genealogies of the Gond chiefs and sing ballads in praise of their valour. Some still follow their ancestral profession of village musicians and a few may relate somewhat haltingly legendary tales of ancient days. Locally they are classed with Mahars as a caste.
About the Manas, there is a legend that previous to the rise of the Gond kingdom, they were the dominant race in Candrapur and ruled from the fortresses of Manigad and Suriyagad. Thakur Dev on the summit of Suriyagad is still their tutelary deity. They seem, however, to have lost this tradition among themselves and only remember that once they were soldiers and the sword is one of the objects of worship. The true origin of the caste has not been discovered but they are supposed to be
an offshoot of the Gonds who have greatly raised their status by becoming cultivators and adopting the whole of the Hindu
pantheon. They are skilful farmers. They both burn and bury
their dead, but the corpse must be laid on the pyre or in the
grave with Us feet to the north.
The grazier castes of the district are Gowaris, Gavlis, Golkars and Ahirs. The Gowaris are believed to be of Gond extraction although a considerable number of them calling themselves Gai-Gowaris have risen in the social scale and designate their less ambitious brethren Gond-Gowaris. They have a legend that their first ancestor was a foundling and set to tend the cattle, which became the hereditary occupation of his descendants. They revere the green pigeon because its call is similar to the low whistle they use to call their herds and have legends telling how by its call it rescued their cattle from thieves who were carrying them off. The Gowaris observe a marriage ceremonial very similar to that of the Gonds and like them are divided into exogamous sects, but besides this, they recognise certain other sects as Dudhbhais, milk brothers, with whom also marriage is forbidden. This is regarded as a relic of polyandry, the dudhbhais being probably the off-springs of the same mother by different fathers. The Gowaris are distinguished by a caste mark which is a vertical line tattooed on the forehead for males and a vertical line standing on the horizontal one for females. Without this mark denoting caste a Gowari's legitimacy is doubted and he is not admitted to caste privileges. The Golkars are cow-keepers of Telugu origin and mostly tend herds of milch buffaloes. They are divided among Yera and Nana i.e., black and white Golkars. The Ahirs have come from North India and the Gavjis are immigrants from the Maratha country. All these castes breed and sell cattle and deal in milk and Ghee.
The Kohlis are a small caste but noted for their skill in tank building and irrigation and they take great pride in their work. The status of a Kohli is measured by the size of his tank and the length of his embankment. They cultivate rice and sugarcane and are the chief gur manufacturers of the district. Tradition says that they were brought by a Gond King from Banaras on his return from a visit to that city on pilgrimage. Sherring, following Major Lucie Smith holds that they are Hinduised aborigines and the latter points to their physical resemblance to the Gond as a proof. The Kohlis themselves say they came from Bhandara and the Bhandara Kohlis say they emigrated from Lanji in Balaghat, Mr. Marten suggests that they might be connected with Ponvars of that district as they have similar characteristics. This rather points to a northern origin as does the similarity of their names to the Kohlis, a gardening caste of Hindustan, but neither in their speech nor in their family names can any trace of Hindustani origin be detected. Their caste discipline is very efficient. All quarrels are settled by the caste pancayat and courts of law are seldom resorted to. Brides
are costly and a widow of full age commands double the ordinary price. Divorce is seldom resorted to as it entails heavy penalties
on both parties. The erring spouse is taken hack by her husband
and a trifling fine is imposed by the caste. Marriage ceremonies
are rather peculiar. 1 he status or the caste permits them to employ a Brahman, but for the sake of economy all the marriages in a village are celebrated on the same day once in a year. The officiating Brahman ascends the roof of a house and beats a brass vessel to attract the attention of the different parties and repeats the marriage mantras as the sun goes down. Simultaneously, the various couples garland each other. The bridegroom ties the mangala-sutra (a necklace of black beads) round the neck of the bride and the ceremony is complete. Subsidiary ceremonies also take place. The bride's brother ties a thread round the marriage crowns and receives a present for untying it. One unexplained ceremonial is the presentation of wooden models of a shoemaker's knife and Khurpa or scraper. A widow is married to a sword which represents her second husband who never attends the ceremony in person. Kohlis eat flesh but abstain from drink. They enjoy a fairly high social status.
The remaining forest tribes are Kavars, Halbis, Thotis, Jharias,
Araks, Pardhis and others. They are mostly of the servant class or tenants. The Halbis appear to have been formerly soldiers but are now a cultivating class of good status, though they are only a few in Candrapur. The Thotis are a small tribe of bamboo workers who formerly were wandering musicians. The Pardhis are a tribe of wandering hunters and trappers. They are a black, diminutive race who live in tiny tents. Their traps and snares are very ingenious and are often manufactured from the sinews of birds' wings but brass wire has come into vogue during the last many decades. Major Lucie Smith says of the aboriginal races that " they are not a whit below the Hindus in intellectual capacity, while in simplicity and manliness of character they are really superior. " The progress of education and cultivation among them is much slower than among Hindus. Rut there has been considerable improvement in this respect also during the last few decades.