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for killing him, and the Raja said, No. So the next day as the Rajpfit boy was entering his house to get at his sister, the Kalar boy killed him, though he was his dearest friend. Then the Rajpfits attacked the Kalars, but they were led only by the queen, as the king had said that the Kalar boy might kill the dog. But the Rajpfits were being defeated and so the Raja intervened, and the Kalars then ceased fighting as the Raja had broken his word. But they left Balod, saying that they would drink no more of its waters, which they have not done to this day.”1 And the Kalars are called Dandsena, because in this fight sticks were their only weapons.
The marriage customs of the caste follow the ordinary Hindu ritual prevalent in the locality and are not of special interest. Before a Kalar wedding procession starts a ceremony known as marrying the well is performed. The mother or aunt of the bridegroom goes to the well and sits in the mouth with her legs hanging down inside it and asks what the bridegroom will give her. He then goes round the well seven times, and a stick of kdns2 grass is thrown into it at each turn. Afterwards he promises the woman some handsome present and she returns to the house. Another explanation of the story is that the woman pretends to be overcome with grief at the bridegroom’s departure and threatens to throw herself into the well unless he will give her something. The well-to-do marry their daughters at an early age, but no stigma attaches to those who have to postpone the ceremony. A bride-price is not customary, but if the girl’s parents are poor they sometimes receive help from those of the boy in order to carry out the wedding. Matches are usually arranged at the caste feasts, and a Brahman officiates at the ceremony. Divorce is recognised and widows are allowed to marry again except by the Byahut subcaste. The Kalars worship the ordinary Hindu deities, and those who sell liquor revere an earthen jar filled with wine at the Holi festival. The educated are usually Vaishnavas by sect, and as already stated a few of them belong to the Jain religion. The social status of the Kalars is equiva
4. Social customs.
1 This story is only transplanted, a similar one being related by Colonel Tod in the Annals of the Bundi State‘
(Rfijastfifin, ii. p. 441).
2 Saeeharum spontaneum.
11 _ SOCIAL CUSTOMS 309 _
lent to that of the village menials, ranking below the good cultivating castes. Brahmans do not take water from their hands. But in Mandla, where the Kalars are important and prosperous, certain Sarwaria Brahmans who were their household priests took water from them, thus recognising them as socially pure. This has led to a split among the local Sarwaria Brahmans, the families who did not take water from the Kalars refusing to intermarry with those who did so.
While the highest castes of Hindus eschew spirituous liquor‘ the cultivating and middle classes are divided, some drinking it and others not ; and to the menial and labouring classes, and especially to the forest tribes, it is the principal luxury of their lives. Unfortunately they have not learnt to indulge in moderation and nearly always drink to excess if they have the means, while the intoxicating effect of even a moderate quantity is quickly perceptible in their behaviour.
In the Central Provinces the liquor drunk is nearly all distilled from the flowers of the mahua tree (Bassia latzfolia), though elsewhere it is often made from cane sugar. The smell of the fermented mahua and the refuse water lying about make the village liquor-shop an unattractive place. But the trade has greatly profited the Kalars by the influence which it has given them over the lower classes. “With the control of the liquor-supply in their hands,” Mr. Montgomerie writes, “they also controlled the Gonds, and have played a more important part in the past history of the Chhindwara District than their numbers would indicate.”1 The Kalar and Teli (oil-presser) are usually about on the same standing; they are the creditors of the poorer tenants and labourers, as the Bania is of the landowners and substantial cultivators. These two of the village trades are not suited to the method of payment by annual contributions of grain, and must from an early period have been conducted by single transactions of barter. Hence the Kalar and Teli learnt to keep accounts and to appreciate the importance of the margin of profit. This knowledge and the system of dealing on credit with the exaction of interest have stood
1 Settlement Report, p. 26.
them in good stead and they have prospered at the expense of their fellow-villagers. The Kalars have acquired substantial property in several Districts, especially in those mainly populated by Gonds, as Mandla, Betfl and Chhindwara. In British Districts of the Central Provinces they own 7 50 villages, or about 4 per cent of the total. In former times when salt was highly taxed and expensive the Gonds had no salt. The Kalars imported rock-salt and sold it t0 the Gonds in large pieces. These were hung up in the Gond houses just as they are in stables, and after a meal every one would go up to the lump of salt and lick it as ponies do. When the Gonds began to wear cloth instead of leaves and beads the Kalars retailed them thin strips of cloth just sufficient for decency, and for the cloth and salt a large proportion of the Gond’s harvest went to the Kalar. When a Gond has threshed his grain the Kalar takes round liquor to the threshing-floor and receives a present of grain much in excess of its value. Thus the Gond has sold his birthright for a mess of pottage and the Kalar has taken his heritage. Only a small proportion of the caste are still supported by the liquor traffic, and a third of the whole are agriculturists. Others have engaged in the timber trade, purchasing teak timber from the Gonds in exchange for liquor, a form of commerce which has naturally redounded to their great advantage. A few are educated and have risen to good positions in Government service. Sir D. Ibbetson describes them as ‘Notorious for enterprise, energy and obstinacy. Death may budge, but a Kalar won’t.’ The Sikh Kalars, who usually call themselves Ahluwalia, contain many men who have attained to high positions under Government, especially as soldiers, and the general testimony is that they make brave soldiers.1 One of the ruling chiefs of the Punjab belongs to this caste. Until quite recently the manufacture of liquor, except in the large towns, was conducted in small pot-stills, of which there was one for a circle of perhaps two dozen villages with subordinate shops. The right of manufacture and vend in each separate one of these stills was sold annually by auction at the District headquarters, and the Kalars assembled to bid for it. And here instances of their
1 Mr. (Sir E.) Maclagan’s Punjab Census Report (1891).
dogged perseverance could often be noticed; when a man would bid up for a licence to a sum far in excess of the profits which he could hope to acquire from it, rather than allow himself to be deprived of a still which he desired to retain.
Though alcoholic liquor is now eschewed by the higher castes of Hindus and forbidden by their religion, this has by no means always been the case. In Vedic times the liquor known as Soma was held in so much esteem by the Aryans that it was deified and worshipped as one of their principal gods. Dr. Hopkins summarises 1 the attributes of the divine wine, Soma, as follows, from passages in the Rig-Veda: “This offering of the juice of the Soma-plant in India was performed thrice daily. It is said in the Rig-Veda that Soma grows upon the mountain Mfijawat, that its or his father is Parjanya, the rain-god, and that the waters are his sisters. From this mountain, or from the sky, accounts differ, Soma was brought by a hawk. He is himself represented in other places as a bird; and as a divinity he shares in the praise given to Indra. It was he who helped Indra to slay Vritra, the demon that keeps back the rain. Indra, intoxicated by Soma, does his great deeds, and indeed all the gods depend on Soma for immortality. Divine, a weapon-bearing god, he often simply takes the place of Indra and other gods in Vedic eulogy. It is the god Soma himself who slays Vritra, Soma who overthrows cities, Soma who begets the gods, creates the sun, upholds the sky, prolongs life, sees all things, and is the one best friend of god and man, the divine drop (indu), the friend of Indra. As a god he is associated not only with Indra but also with Agni, Rudra and Pushan. A few passages in the later portion of the Rig-Veda show that Soma already was identified with the moon before the end of this period. After this the lunar yellow god was regularly regarded as the visible and divine Soma of heaven represented on earth by the plant.” Mr. Hopkins discards the view advanced by some commentators that it is the moon and not the beverage to which the Vedic hymns and worship are addressed, and there is no reason to doubt that he is right.
1 Re/z:g2'on: of India, p. II 3.
5. Liquor held divine in Vedic times.
The soma plant has been thought to be the Asele_;7z'as aeida,1 a plant growing in Persia and called /eom in Persian. The early Persians believed that the /zom plant gave great energy to body and mind.2 An angel is believed to preside over the plant, and the Hom Yast is devoted to its praises. Twigs of it are beaten in water in the smaller Agr'arz' or firetemple, and this water is considered sacred, and is given to newborn children to drink.3 Dr. Hopkins states, however, that the /zone or Aselepias aeida was not the original soma, as it does not grow in the Punjab region, but must have been a later substitute. Afterwards again another kind of liquor, sura, became the popular drink, and soma, which was now not so agreeable, was reserved as the priests’ (gods’) drink, a sacrosanct beverage not for the vulgar, and not esteemed by the priests except as it kept up the rite.4
Soma is said to have been prepared from the juice of the creeper already mentioned, which was diluted with water, mixed with barley meal, clarified butter and the flour of wild rice, and fermented in a jar for nine days.5 Sura was simply arrack prepared from rice-flour, or rice-beer.
Though in the cold regions of Central Asia the cheering and warming liquor had been held divine, in the hot plains of India the evil effects of alcohol were apparently soon realised. “ Even more bold is the scorn of the gods in Hymn x. II9 of the Rig-Veda, which introduces Indra in his merriest humour, ready to give away everything, ready to destroy the earth and all that it contains, boasting of his greatness in ridiculous fashion—all this because, as the refrain tells us, he is in an advanced state of intoxication caused by excessive appreciation of the so1na offered to him. Another Hymn (vii. I03) sings of the frogs, comparing their voices to the noise of a Brahmanical school and their hopping round the tank to the behaviour of drunken priests celebrating a nocturnal offering of so1na.”6 It seems clear, therefore, that the evil effects of drunkenness were early realised,
6. Subsequent prohibition of alcohol.
4 Hopkins, Zoe. zit. p. 213.
5 Rajendra Lal Mitra, Indo-Aryans, ii. p. 419.
6 Deussen, Outline: of Indian Philosophy, p. 12.
1 Apparently also called Sareostemrna vimz'nalz's.
2 Bombay Gazetteer, Parris of Guiarzit, by Messrs. Nasarvanji Girvai and Behramji Patel, p. 228, footnote.