« PreviousContinue »
5. Social status.
only a sheaf of corn at harvest. Some members of the caste have taken to weaving newār or broad tape for beds, and others have become cultivators.
The Gārpagāris eat flesh and drink liquor. They will take cooked food from a Kunbi, though the Kunbis will not take even water from them. They are a village menial caste and rank with others of the same position, though on a somewhat lower level because they beg and accept cooked food at the weddings of Kunbis. Their names usually end in nāth, as Rāmnāth, Kisannāth and so on.
Gauria. - A small caste of snake-charmers and jugglers who are an offshoot of the Gond tribe. They number about 500 persons and are found only in Chhattisgarh. They have the same exogamous septs as the Gonds, as Markām, Marai, Netām, Chhedaiha, Jagat, Purteti, Chichura and others. But they are no doubt of very mixed origin, as is shown by the fact that they do not eat together at their feasts, but the guests all cook their own food and eat it separately. And after a daughter has been married her own family even will not take food from her hand because they are doubtful of her husband's status. It is said that the Gaurias were accustomed formerly to beg only from the Kewat caste, though this restriction is no longer maintained. The fact may indicate that they are partly descended from the unions of Kewats with Gond women.
Adult marriage is the general rule of the caste and a fixed bride-price of sixteen rupees is paid. The couple go away together at once and six months afterwards return to visit the bride's parents, when they are treated as outsiders and not allowed to touch the food cooked for the family, while they reciprocally insist on preparing their own. Male Gaurias will take food from any of the higher castes, but the women will eat only from Gaurias. They will admit outsiders belonging to any caste from whom they can take food into the community. And if a Gauria woman goes wrong with a member of any of these castes they overlook the matter and inflict only a feast as a penalty.
1 This article is based on papers by Mr. Jeorākhān Lāl, Deputy Inspector
of Schools, Bilaspur, and Bhagwān Singh, Court of Wards Clerk, Bilāspur.
Their marriage ceremony consists merely in the placing of bangles on the woman's wrists, which is the form by which a widow is married among other castes. If a widow marries a man other than her husband's younger brother, the new husband must pay twelve rupees to her first husband's family, or to her parents if she has returned to them. If she takes with her a child born of her first husband with permission to keep it, the second husband must pay eight rupees to the first husband's family as the price of the child. But if the child is to be returned as soon as it is able to shift for itself the second husband receives eight rupees instead of paying it, as remuneration for his trouble in rearing the baby. The caste bury their dead with the feet to the south, like the Hindus. The principal business of the Gaurias is to catch and exhibit snakes, and they carry a damru or rattle in the shape of an hour-glass, which is considered to be a distinctive badge of the caste. If a Gauria saw an Ojha snake-charmer carrying a damru he would consider himself entitled to take it from the Ojha forcibly if he could. A Gauria is forbidden to exhibit monkeys under penalty of being put out of caste. Their principal festival is the Nāg-Panchmi, when the cobra is worshipped. They also profess to know charms for curing persons bitten by snakes. The following incantation is cried by a Gauria snake-doctor three times into the ears of his patient in a loud voice :
“ The bel tree and the bel leaves are on the other side of the river. All the Gaurias are drowned in it. The breast of the koil ; over it is a net. Eight snakes went to the forest. They tamed rats on the green tree.
The snakes are flying, causing the parrots to fly. They want to play, but who can make them play? After finishing their play they stood up; arise thou also, thou sword. I am waking you (the patient) up by crying in your ear, I conjure you by the name of Dhanvantari' to rise carefully."
Similar meaningless charms are employed for curing the bites of scorpions and for exorcising bad spirits and the influence of the evil eye.
The Gaurias will eat almost all kinds of flesh, including pigs, rats, fowls and jackals, but they abstain from beef.
1 The Celestial Physician.
Their social status is so low that practically no caste will take food or water from them, but they are not considered as impure. They are great drunkards, and are easily known by their damrus or rattles and the baskets in which they carry their snakes.
LIST OF PARAGRAPHS
1. Description of the caste.
5. Religion and superstitions,
Ghasia, Sais. A low Dravidian caste of Orissa and 1. Descrip
tion of Central India who cut grass, tend horses and act as village musicians at festivals. In the Central Provinces they numbered 43,000 in 1911, residing principally in the Chhattisgarh Division and the adjoining Feudatory States. The word Ghasia is derived from ghās (grass) and means a grass-cutter. Sir H. Risley states that they are a fishing and cultivating caste of Chota Nāgpur and Central India, who attend as musicians at weddings and festivals and also perform menial offices of all kinds. In Bastar they are described as an inferior caste who serve as horse-keepers and also make and mend brass vessels. They dress like the Māria Gonds and subsist partly by cultivation and partly by labour. Dr. Ball describes them in Singhbhūm as gold-washers and musicians. Colonel Dalton speaks of them as “ An extraordinary tribe, foul parasites of the Central Indian hill tribes and submitting to be degraded even by them. If the Chandāls of the Purānas, though descended from the union of a Brāhmini and a Sūdra, are the lowest of the low, the Ghasias are Chandāls and the people further south who are called Pariahs are no doubt of the same distinguished lineage.” 4
1 This article is compiled partly from 3 Central Provinces Gazetteer (1871), papers by Munshis Pyāre Lāl Misra and
p. 273. Kanhya Lāl of the Gazetteer Office. 4 Descriptive Ethnology of Bengal, 2 Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art.
p. 325. Ghāsi.
The Ghasias generally, however, appear now to be a harmless caste of labourers without any specially degrading or repulsive traits. In Mandla their social position and customs are much on a par with those of the Gonds, from whom a considerable section of the caste seems to be derived. In other localities they have probably immigrated into the Central Provinces from Bundelkhand and Orissa. Among their subdivisions the following may be mentioned : the Udia, who cure raw hides and do the work of sweepers and are generally looked down on; the Dingkuchia, who castrate cattle and ponies; the Dolboha, who carry dhoolies or palanquins ; the Nagārchi, who derive their name from the nakkāra or kettle-drum and are village musicians; the Khaltaha or those from Raipur ; the Laria, belonging to Chhattīsgarh, and the Uria of the Uriya country; the Rāmgarhia, who take their name from Rāmgarh in the Mandla District, and the Mahobia from Mahoba in Bundelkhand. Those members of the caste who work as grooms have become a separate group and call themselves Sais, dropping the name of Ghasia. They rank higher than the others and marry among themselves, and some of them have become cultivators or work as village watchmen. They are also called Thānwar by the Gonds, the word meaning stable or stall. In Chota Nāgpur a number of Ghasias have become tailors and are tending to form a separate subcaste under the name of Darzi.
Their septs are of the usual low-caste type, being named gamous after animals, inanimate objects or nicknames of ancestors. sections.
One of them is Pānch-biha or "He who had five wives, and another Kul-dip or “The sept of the lamp. Members of this sept will stop eating if a lamp goes out. The Janta Ragda take their name from the mill for grinding corn and will not have a grinding-mill in their houses. They say that a female ancestor was delivered of a child when sitting near a grinding-mill and this gave the sept its name. Three septs are named after other castes : Kumhārbans, descended from a potter ; Gāndbans, from a Gānda ; and Luha, from a Lohār or blacksmith, and which names indicate that members of these castes have been admitted into the community.
Marriage is forbidden within the sept, but is permitted