Page images
PDF
EPUB

4. Reli

Diwān receives a smaller cloth. These offices are hereditary. The Kaderas have no purda system, and a wife may speak freely to her father-in-law. They bury the milk-teeth of children below the ghinochi, or stand for water-pots, with the idea probably of preventing heat and inflammation in the gums. A child's jhāla or birth-hair is usually cut for the first time on the occasion of some marriage in the family, and is thrown into the Nerbudda or buried at a temple. Names are given by the Brāhman on the day of birth or soon afterwards, and a second pet name is commonly used in the family. If a child sees a lamp on the chhati or sixth day after its birth they think that it will squint.

The caste employ Brāhmans for religious ceremonies, gion and

but their social position is low, and they rank with castes occupation.

from whom a Brāhman cannot take water. On the tenth day of Jeth (May) they worship Lukmān Hakim, a personage whom they believe to have been the inventor of gunpowder. He is popularly identified with Solomon, and is revered with Muhammadan rites in the shop and not in the house. A Fakir is called in who sacrifices a goat, and makes an offering of the head, which becomes his perquisite; sugarcakes and sweet rice are also offered and given away to children, and the flesh of the goat is eaten by the family of the worshipper. Since the worship is paid only in the shop it would appear that Lukmān Hakim is considered a deity foreign to the domestic religion, and is revered as having invented the substance which enables the caste to make their livelihood ; and since he is clearly a Muhammadan deity, and is venerated according to the ritual of this religion by the Kaderas, who are otherwise Hindus, a recognition seems to be implied that as far at least as the Kaderas are concerned the introduction of gunpowder into India is attributed to the Muhammadans. It is not stated whether or not the month of May was selected of set purpose for the worship of the inventor of gunpowder, but it is at any rate a most appropriate season in India.

At present the Kadera makes his own gunpowder and manufactures fireworks, and in this capacity he is also known as Atashbāz. The ingredients for gunpowder in Narsinghpur are a pound of saltpetre, two ounces of sulphur, and four ounces of char

II

KAHĀR

291

coal of a light wood, such as sāleh? or the stalks of arhar.? Water is sprinkled on the charcoal and the ingredients are pounded together in a mortar, a dangerous proceeding which is apt to cause occasional vacancies in the family circle. Arsenic and potash are also used for different fireworks, and sesamum oil is added to prevent smoke. Fireworks form a very popular spectacle in India, and can be obtained of excellent quality even in small towns. Bharbhūnjas or grain-parchers now also deal in them.

Kahār, Bhoi.—The caste of palanquin-bearers and 1. Origin watermen of northern India. No scientific distinction can

and sta

tistics. be made between the Kahārs and Dhimars, both names being applied to the same people. In northern India the term Kahār is generally used, and Mr. Crooke has an article on Kahār, but none on Dhīmar. In the Central Provinces the latter is the more common name for the caste, and in 1911 23,000 Kahārs were returned as against nearly 300,000 Dhimars. Berār had also 27,000 Kahārs. The social customs of the caste are described in the article on Dhīmar, but a short separate notice is given to the Kahārs on account of their special social interest. Some Kahārs refuse to clean household cooking-vessels and hence occupy a slightly higher social position than the Dhīmars generally. Mr. Crooke derives the name of the caste from the Sanskrit Skandha-kāra, or ‘One who carries things on his shoulder.' The Brāhmanical genealogists represent the Kahār as descended from a Brāhman father and a Chandāl or sweeper mother, and this is typical of the position occupied by the caste, who, though probably derived from the primitive nonAryan tribes, have received a special position on account of their employment as household servants, so that all classes may take water and cooked food at their hands. of Mr. Crooke's correspondents remarks : “This caste is so low that they clean the vessels of almost all castes except menials like the Chamār and Dhobi, and at the same time so high that, except Kanaujia Brāhmans, all other castes eat

As one

1 Boswellia serrata.
2 Sesamum indicum.
3 This article is compiled from papers

by Mr. Sarat Chandra Sanyāl, Sessions
Judge, Nāgpur, and Mr. Abdul Samād,
Tahsildār, Sohāgpur.

pakki and drink water at their hands." Sir D. Ibbetson says of the Kahār: “He is a true village menial, receiving customary dues and performing customary service. His social standing is in one respect high ; for all will drink water at his hands. But he is still a servant, though the highest of his class.”

This comparatively high degree of social purity appears to have been conferred on the Kahārs and Dhīmars from motives of convenience, as it would be intolerable to have a palanquin-bearer or indoor servant from

whom one could not take a drink of water. 2. The doli The proper occupation of the Kahār is that of doli or or palan- litter-bearer. When carts could not travel owing to the quin.

absence of roads this was the regular mode of conveyance of
those who could afford it and did not ride. Buchanan re-
marks: “ Few or none except some chief native officers of
Government keep bearers in constant pay; but men of large
estates give farms at low rents to their bearers, who are ready
at a call and receive food when employed.” 1 A superior kind
of litter used by rich women had a domed roof supported on
eight pillars with side-boards like venetian blinds; and was
carried on two poles secured to the sides beneath the roof.
This is perhaps the progenitor of the modern Calcutta ghāri
or four-wheeler, just as the body of the hansom-cab was
modelled on the old sedan-chair. It was called Kharkhariya
in imitation of the rattling of the blinds when in motion.?
The põlki or ordinary litter consisted of a couch slung under
a long bamboo, which formed an arch over it. Over the
arch was suspended a tilt made of cloth, which served to
screen the passenger from sun and rain. A third kind was
the Chaupala or square box open at the sides and slung on
a bamboo; the passenger sat doubled up inside this.
was sometimes the case the Chaupala was hung considerably
beneath the bamboo the passenger was miserably draggled by
dust and mud. Nowadays regular litters are so little used
that they are not to be found in villages; but when required
because one cannot ride or for travelling at night they are
readily improvised by slinging a native wooden cot from
two poles by strings of bamboo-fibre. Most of the Kahārs and
Dhīmars have forgotten how to carry a litter, and proceed very
1 Eastern India, ii. 426.

2 Ibidem, iii. pp. 119, 120.

If as

THE DOLI OR PALANQUIN

II

293

slowly with frequent stops to change shoulders or substitute other bearers. But the Kols of Mandla still retain the art, and will do more than four miles an hour for several hours if eight men are allowed. Under native governments the privilege of riding in a palanquin was a mark of distinction; and a rule was enforced that no native could thus enter into the area of the forts in Madras and Bombay without the permission of the Governor; such permission being recorded in the order book at the gates of the fort and usually granted only to a few who were lame or otherwise incapacitated. When General Medows assumed the office of Governor of Bombay in 1788 some Parsis waited on him and begged for the removal of this restriction ; to which the Governor replied, “So long as you do not force me to ride in this machine he may who likes it"; and so the rule was abrogated. A passage from Hobson-Jobson, however, shows that the Portuguese were much stricter in this respect : "In 1591 a proclamation of the Viceroy, Matthias d’Alboquerque, ordered : ‘That no person of what quality or condition soever, shall go in a palanquy without my express licence, save they be over sixty years of age, to be first proved before the Auditor-General of Police . . . and those who contravene this shall pay a penalty of 200 cruzados, and persons of mean estate the half, the palanquys and their belongings to be forfeited, and the bois or mouços who carry such palanquys shall be condemned to His Majesty's galleys.'” 2 The meaning of the last sentence appears to be that the bearers were considered as slaves, and were forfeited to the king's service as a punishment to their

As the unauthorised use of this conveyance was so severely punished it would appear that riding in a palanquin must have been a privilege of nobility. Similarly to ride on a horse was looked upon in something of the same light; and when a person of inferior consequence met a superior or a Government officer while riding, he had to dismount from his horse as a mark of respect until the other had passed. This last custom still obtains to some extent, though it is rapidly disappearing.

As a means of conveyance the litter would be held sacred

owner.

1 Moor, Hindu Infanticide, p. 91.
2 Yule and Burnell's Hobson-Jobson, Crooke's edition, s.v. Boy.

1 رو

[ocr errors]

3. Female bearers.

by primitive people, and Mr. Crooke gives an instance of the regard paid to it : “At the Holi festival eight days before Diwāli in the western Districts the house is plastered with cowdung and figures of a litter (doli) and bearers are made on the walls with four or five colours, and to them offerings of incense, lights and flowers are given.” 1

Even after passable roads were made tongas or carts drawn by trottingbullocks were slow in coming into general use owing to the objection felt by the Hindus to harnessing the sacred ox.

At royal courts women were employed to carry the litters of the king and the royal ladies into the inner precincts of the palace, the male bearers relinquishing their charge outside. “Another class of attendants at the palace peculiar to Lucknow were the female bearers. Their occupation was to carry the palanquins and various covered conveyances of the king and his ladies into the inner courts of the harein. These female bearers were also under military discipline. They had their officers, commissioned and non-commissioned. The head of them, a great masculine woman of pleasing countenance, was an especial favourite of the king. The badinage which was exchanged between them was of the freest possible character—not fit for ears polite, of course ; but the extraordinary point in it was that no one hearing it or witnessing such scenes could have supposed it possible that a king and a slave stood before him as the two chief disputants.” 2 Similarly female sepoys were employed to guard the harem, dressed in ordinary uniform and regularly drilled and taught to shoot. A battalion of female troops for guarding the zenāna is still maintained in Hyderābād.

From being a palanquin-bearer the Kahār became the regular indoor servant of Hindu households. Originally of low caste, and derived from the non-Aryan tribes, they did not object to eat the leavings of food of their masters, a relation which is naturally very convenient, if not essential, in poor Hindu houses. Sir H. Risley notes, however, that in Bengal a Kahār engaged in personal service with a Brāhman,

4. Indoor servants.

1 Tribes and Castes of the N.W.P., art. Kahār.

2 Private Life of an Eastern King,

p. 207.

3 Ibidem, pp. 200, 202.
4 Stevens, In India, p. 313.

« PreviousContinue »