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II

GONDHALI

145

subcastes, the Kadamrai and Renurai, who do not intermarry In the Central Provinces, however, besides these two there are a number of other subcastes, most of which bear the names of distinct castes, and obviously consist of members of that caste who became Gondhalis, or of their descendants. Thus among the names of subcastes reported are the Brāhman, Marātha, Māne Kunbi, Khaire Kunbi, Teli, Mahār, Māng and Vidūr Gondhalis, as well as others like the Deshkars, or those coming from the Deccan, the Gangāpāre, or those from beyond the Ganges, and the Hijade or eunuchs. It is clear, therefore, that members of these castes becoming Gondhalis attempt to arrange their marriages with other converts from their own caste and to retain their relative social position. There is little doubt that all Gondhalis are theoretically meant to be equal, a principle which at their first foundation applies to nearly all sects and orders, but here as elsewhere the social feeling of caste has been too strong to permit of its retention. It may be doubted, however, whether in view of the small total numbers of the caste all these groups can be strictly endogamous. The Kunbi Gondhalis can take food from the ordinary Kunbis, but they rank below them, as being mendicants. The caste has also a number of exogamous groups or gotras, the

names of which may be classified titular or territorial. Instances of the former kind are Dokiphode or one who broke his head while begging, Sukt (thin, emaciated), Muke (dumb), Jabal (one with long hair like a Jogi), and Panchānge (one who has five limbs).

Girls are married

rule before adolescence, and the ceremony resembles that of the Kunbis, but a special prayer is offered to the deity Renuka, and the boy is invested with a necklace of cowries by five married men of the caste. Till this has been done he is not considered to be a proper Gondhali. Celibacy is not a tenet of the order. The remarriage of widows is allowed, and the ceremony consists in the husband placing a string of small black glass beads round the woman's neck, while she holds out a pair of new shoes for him to put his feet 1 In the Marātha Districts the term Ganges sometimes signifies the Wainganga. VOL. III

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into. The second wife often wears a small silver or golden image of the first wife round her neck, and worships it before she eats by touching it with food; she also asks its permission before going to sleep with her husband. The goddess Bhawāni or Devi is especially revered by the caste, and they fast in her honour on Tuesdays and Fridays. They worship their musical instruments at Dasahra with an offering of a goat, and afterwards sing and dance for the whole night, this being their principal festival. They also observe the nine days' fasts in honour of Devi in Chait (March) and Kunwār (September) and sow the Jawaras or pots of wheat. The Gondhalis are mendicant musicians, and are engaged on the occasion of marriages among the higher castes to perform their gondhal or dance accompanied by music. Four men are needed for it, one being the dancer who is dressed in a long white robe with a necklace of cowries and bells on his ankles, while the other three stand behind him, two of them carrying drums and the third a sacred torch called dioti. The torch-bearer serves butt for the witticisms of the dancer. Their instruments are the chonka, an open drum carrying an iron string which is beaten with a small wooden pin, and two sambals or double drums of iron, wood or earth, one of which emits a dull and the other a sharp sound. The dance is performed in honour of the goddess Bhawāni. They set up a wooden stool on the stage arranged for the performance, covered with a cloth on which wheat is spread, and over this is placed a brass vessel containing water and a cocoanut. sents the goddess. After the performance the Gondhalis take away and eat the cocoanut and wheat ; their regular fee for an engagement is Rs. 1-4, and the guests give them presents of a few pice (farthings). They are engaged for important ceremonies such as marriages, the Bārsa or name - giving of a boy, and the Shantik or maturity of a girl, and also merely for entertainment; but in this case the stool and cocoanut representing the goddess are not set up.

The following is a specimen of a Gondhali religious song:

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This repre

Where I come from and who am I,
This mystery none has solved ;
Father, mother, sister and brother, these are all illusions.

II

GOPAL

147

I call them mine and am lost in my selfish concerns.
Worldliness is the beginning of hell, man has wrapped himself in it with-

out reason. Remember your guru, go to him and touch his feet. Put on the shield of mercy and compassion and take the sword of

knowledge. God is in every human body.

The caste beg between dawn and noon, wearing a long white or red robe and a red turban folded from twisted strings of cloth like the Marāthas. Their status is somewhat low, but they are usually simple and honest. Occasionally a man becomes a Gondhali in fulfilment of a vow without leaving his own caste; he will then be initiated by a member of the caste and given the necklace of cowries, and on every Tuesday he will wear this and beg from five persons in honour of the goddess Devi ; while except for this observance he remains a member of his own caste and pursues his ordinary business.

Gopāl, Borekar. Bibliography : Major Gunthorpe's Criminal Tribes ; Mr. Kitt's Berār Census Report, 1881.

A small vagrant and criminal caste of Berār, where they numbered about 2000 persons in 1901. In the Central Provinces they were included among the Nats in 1901, but in 1891 a total of 681 were returned. Here they belong principally to the Nimār District, and Major Gunthorpe considers that they entered Berār from Nimār and Indore.

They are divided into five classes, the Marāthi, Vīr, Pangul, Pahalwān, or Khām, and Gujarāti Gopāls. The ostensible occupation of all the groups is the buying and selling of buffaloes. The word Gopāl means a cowherd and is a name of Krishna. The Marāthi Gopāls rank higher than the rest, and all other classes will take food from them, while the Vir Gopāls eat the flesh of dead cattle and are looked down upon by the others. The ostensible occupation of the Vir Gopāls is that of making mats from the leaves of the date-palm tree. They build their huts of date-leaves outside a village and remain there for one or two years or more until the headman tells them to move on. The name Borekar is stated to have the meaning of mat-maker. The Pāngul Gopāls also make mats, but in addition to this

they are mendicants, begging from off trees, and must be the same as the Harbola mendicants of the Central Provinces. The Pāngul spreads a cloth below a tree and climbing it sits on some high branch in the early morning. Here he sings and chants the praises of charitable persons until somebody throws a small present on to the cloth. This he does only between cock-crow and sunrise and not after sunrise. Others walk through the streets, ejaculating dam ! dam ! and begging from door to door. With the exception of shaving after a death they never cut the hair either of their head or face. Their principal deity is Dāwal Mālik, but they also worship Khandoba ; and they bury the bodies of their dead. The corpse is carried to the grave in a jholi or wallet and is buried in a sitting posture. In order to discover whether a dead ancestor has been reborn in

a child

they have recourse to magic. A lamp is suspended from a thread, and the upper stone of the grinding-mill is placed standing upon the lower one. If either of them moves when the name of the dead ancestor is pronounced they consider that he has been reborn. One section of the Pānguls has taken to agriculture, and these refuse to marry with the mendicants, though eating and drinking with them. The Pahalwān Gopāls live in small tents and travel about, carrying their belongings on buffaloes. They are wrestlers and gymnasts, and belong mainly to Hyderābād. The Khām Gopāls are a similar group also belonging to Hyderābād; and are so named because they carry about a long pole (khām) on which they perform acrobatic feats. They also have thick canvas bags, striped blue and white, in which they carry their property. The Gujarāti Gopāls are lower than the other divisions, who will not take food from them. They are tumblers and do feats of strength and also perform on the tight-rope. All five groups, Major Gunthorpe states, are inveterate cattlethieves; and have colonies of their people settled on the Indore and Hyderābād borders and between them along the foot of the Satpūra Hills. Buffaloes or other animals which they steal are passed along from post to post and taken to foreign territory in an incredibly short space of time. A

1 Dam apparently here means life or breath.

2 Gunthorpe, p. 91.

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