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GADARIA

LIST OF PARAGRAPHS

I. General notice. 5. Social customs.
2. Subdivisions. 6. Goats and sheep.
3. Marriage customs. 7. Blanket-weaving.
4. Religion and funeral rites. 8. Sanctity of wool.

Gadaria, Gädri."—The occupational shepherd caste of 1. General northern India. The name is derived from the Hindigadar " and the Sanskrit gandhāra, a sheep, the Sanskrit name being taken from the country of Gandhāra or Kandahār, from which sheep were first brought. The three main shepherd castes all have functional names, that of the Dhangars or Marātha shepherds being derived from dhan, small stock, while the Kuramwars or Telugu shepherds take their name like the Gadarias from kuruba, a sheep. These three castes are of similar nature and status, and differ only in language and local customs. In 19 II the Gadarias numbered 41,000 persons. They are found in the northern Districts, and appear to have been amongst the earliest settlers in the Nerbudda valley, for they have given their name to several villages, as Gadariakheda and Gādarwāra. The Gadarias are a very mixed caste. They themselves 2. Sub

say that their first ancestor was created by Mahādeo to tend " his rams, and that he married three women who were fascinated by the sight of him shearing the sheep. These belonged to the Brähman, Dhimar and Barai castes respectively, and became the ancestors of the Nikhar, Dhengar and Barmaiyan subcastes of Gadarias. The Nikhar subcaste are the highest, their name meaning pure. Dhengar is probably, in reality, a corruption of Dhangar, the name of the Marātha shepherd

1 This article is based on information collected by Mr. Hira Lål in Jubbulpore, and the author in Mandla.

4 : . . . :::::... GADARIA PART caste: Fhty haya;other subdivisions of the common territorial type, as Jheria or jungly, applied to the Gadarias of Chhattisgarh ; Desha from desh, country, meaning those who came from northern India; Purvaiya or eastern, applied to immigrants from Oudh, and Mälvi or those belonging to Mälwa. Nikhar and Dhengar men take food together, but not the women; and if a marriage cannot be otherwise arranged these subcastes will sometimes give daughters to each other. A girl thus married is no longer permitted to take food at her father's house, but she may eat with the women of her husband's subcaste. Many of their exogamous groups are named after animals or plants, as Hiranwär, from hiran, a deer; Sapha from the cobra, Moria from the peacock, Nähar from the tiger, Phulsungha, a flower, and so on. Others are the names of Rājpüt septs and of other castes, as Ahirwār (Ahir) and Bamhania (Brähman). Another more ambitious legend derives their origin from the Bania caste. They say that once a Bania was walking along the road with a cocoanut in his hand when Vishnu met him and asked him what it was. The Bania answered that it was a cocoanut. Vishnu said that it was not a cocoanut but wool, and told him to break it, and on breaking the cocoanut the Bania found that it was filled with wool. The Bania asked what he should do with it, and Vishnu told him to make a blanket out of it for the god to sit on. So he made a blanket, and Vishnu said that from that day he should be the ancestor of the Gadaria caste, and earn his bread by making blankets from the wool of sheep. The Bania asked where he should get the sheep from, and the god told him to go home saying “Ehān, Ehán, Ehān, all the way, and when he got home he would find a flock of sheep following him; but he was not to look behind him all the way. And the Bania did so, but when he had almost got home he could not help looking behind him to see if there were really any sheep. And he saw a long line of sheep following him in single file, and at the very end was a ram with golden horns just rising out of the ground. But as he looked it sank back again into the ground, and he went back to Vishnu and begged for it, but Vishnu said that as he had looked behind him he had lost it. And this was

II MARA'IAGE CUSTOMS 5

the origin of the Gadaria caste, and the Gadarias always say
‘Ehān, Ehān, as they lead their flocks of sheep and goats
to pasture.
Marriage within the clan is forbidden and also the union
of first cousins. Girls may be married at any age, and are
sometimes united to husbands much younger than themselves.
Four castemen of standing carry the proposal of marriage
from the boy's father, and the girl's father, being forewarned,
sends others to meet them. One of the ambassadors opens
the conversation by saying, ‘We have the milk and you have
the milk-pail; let them be joined. To which the girl's
party, if the match be agreeable, will reply, “Yes, we have
the tamarind and you have the mango; if the panches agree
let there be a marriage.” The boy's father gives the girl's
father five areca-nuts, and the latter returns them and they
clasp each other round the neck. When the wedding pro-
cession reaches the bride's village it is met by their party,
and one of them takes the sarota or iron nut-cutter, which
the bridegroom holds in his hand, and twirls it about in the
air several times. The ceremony is performed by walking
round the sacred pole, and the party return to the bride-
groom's lodging, where his brother-in-law fills the bride's lap
with sweetmeats and water-nut as an omen of fertility. The
maihar or small wedding-cakes of wheat fried in sesamum
oil are distributed to all members of the caste present at the
wedding. While the bridegroom's party is absent at the
bride's house, the women who remain behind enjoy amuse-
ments of their own. One of them strips herself naked, tying
up her hair like a religious mendicant, and is known as Bāba
or holy father. In this state she romps with her companions
in turn, while the others laugh and applaud. Occasionally
some man hides himself in a place where he can be a witness
of their play, but if they discover him he is beaten severely
with belnas or wooden bread-rollers. Widow-marriage and
divorce are permitted, the widow being usually expected
to marry her late husband's younger brother, whether he
already has a wife or not. Sexual offences are not severely
reprobated, and may be atoned for by a feast to the caste-
fellows.
The Gadarias worship the ordinary Hindu deities and

3. Marriage customs.

4. Religion and funeral rites.

5. Social customs.

also Dishai Devi, the goddess of the sheep-pen. No Gadaria may go into the sheep-pen with his shoes on. On entering

it in the morning they make obeisance to the sheep, and these customs seem to indicate that the goddess Dishai Devi 1 is the deified sheep. When the sheep are shorn and the fleeces are lying on the ground they take some milk from one of the ewes and mix rice with it and sprinkle it over the wool. This rite is called Jimai, and they say that it is feeding the wool, but it appears to be really a sacrificial offering to the material. The caste burn the dead when they can afford to do so, and take the bones to the Ganges or Nerbudda, or if this is not practicable, throw them into the nearest stream.

Well-to-do members of the caste employ Brahmans for ceremonial purposes, but others dispense with their services. The Gadarias eat flesh and drink liquor, but abstain from fowls and pork. They will take food cooked with water from a Lodhi or a Dangi, members of these castes having formerly been their feudal chieftains in the Vindhyan Districts and Nerbudda valley. Brahmans and members of the good cultivating castes would be permitted to become Gadarias if they should so desire. The head of the caste committee has the title of Mahton and the office is hereditary, the holder being invariably consulted on caste questions even if he should be a mere boy. The Gadarias rank with those castes from whom a Brahman cannot take water, but above the servile and labouring castes. They are usually somewhat stupid, lazy and good-tempered, and are quite uneducated. Owing to their work in cleaning the pens and moving about among the sheep, the women often carry traces of the peculiar smell of these animals. This is exemplified in the saying, ‘Ek to Gadaria, dusre la/zsan k/zae,’ or ‘Firstly she is a Gadaria and then she has eaten garlic’ ; the inference being that she is far indeed from having the scent of the rose.

The regular occupations of the Gadarias are the breeding and grazing of sheep and goats, and the weaving of country blankets from sheep’s wool. The flocks are usually

6. Goats and sheep.

probable that she was originally the sheep itself.

1 The word Dishai really means direction or cardinal point, but as the goddess dwells in the sheep-pen it is

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