Page images

2. Tribal subdivisions.

is put out of caste for having maggots in a wound, a Dhobi is always employed to readmit him to social intercourse. These facts show that the tribe have some close ancestral connection with the Rāwats and Dhobis, though the legend of descent from the Kauravas is, of course, a myth based on the similarity of the names. The tribe have lost their own language, if they ever had one, and now speak a corrupt form of the Chhattisgarhi dialect of Hindi. It is probable that they belong to the Dravidian tribal family.

The Kawars have the following eight endogamous divisions : Tanwar, Kamalbansi, Paikara, Dūdh-Kawar, Rathia, Chānti, Cherwa and Rautia. The Tanwar group, also known as Umrao, is that to which the zamīndārs belong, and they now claim to be Tomara Rājpūts, and wear the sacred thread. They prohibit widow-remarriage, and do not eat fowls or drink liquor ; but they have not yet induced Brāhmans to take water from them or Rājpūts to accept their daughters in marriage. The name Tanwar is not improbably simply a corruption of Kawar, and they are also altering their sept names to make them resemble those of eponymous Brāhmanical gotras. Thus Dhangur, the name of a sept, has been altered to Dhananjaya, and Sarvaria to Sāndilya. Telāsi is the name of a sept to which four zamīndārs belong, and is on this account sometimes returned as their caste by other Kawars, who consider it as a distinction. The zamīndāri families have now, however, changed the name Telāsi to Kairava. The Paikaras are the most numerous subtribe, being three-fifths of the total. They derive their name from Pāik, a foot-soldier, and formerly followed this occupation, being employed in the armies of the Haihaivansi Rājas of Ratanpur. They still worship a two-edged sword, known as the Jhagra Khand, or 'Sword of Strife,' on the day of Dasahra. The Kamalbansi, or 'Stock of the Lotus,' may be so called as being the oldest subdivision ; for the lotus is sometimes considered the root of all things, on account of the belief that Brahma, the creator of the world, was himself born from this flower. In Bilaspur the Kamalbansis are considered to rank next after the Tanwars or zamīndārs' group. Colonel Dalton states that the term Dūdh or ‘Milk' Kawar has the signification of 'Cream of the Kawars,' and

[ocr errors]





he considered this subcaste to be the highest. The Rathias are a territorial group, being immigrants from Rāth, a wild tract of the Raigarh State. The Rautias are probably the descendants of Kawar fathers and mothers of the Rāwat (herdsman) caste. The traditional connection of the Kawars with a Rāwat has already been mentioned, and even now if a Kawar marries a Rāwat girl she will be admitted into the tribe, and the children will become full Kawars. Similarly, the Rāwats have a Kauria subcaste, who are also probably the offspring of mixed marriages; and if a Kawar girl is seduced by a Kauria Rāwat, she is not expelled from the tribe, as she would be for a liaison with


other man who was not a Kawar. This connection is no doubt due to the fact that until recently the Kawars and Rāwats, who are themselves a very mixed caste, were accustomed to intermarry. At the census persons returned as Rautia were included in the Kol tribe, which has a subdivision of that

But Mr. Hīra Lāls inquiries establish the fact that in Chhattisgarh they are undoubtedly Kawars. The Cherwas are probably another hybrid group descended from connections formed by Kawars with girls of the Chero tribe of Chota Nāgpur. The Chānti, who derive their name from the ant, are considered to be the lowest group, as that insect is the most insignificant of living things. Of the above subcastes the Tanwars are naturally the highest, while the Chānti, Cherwa and Rautia, who keep pigs, are considered as the lowest. The others occupy an intermediate position. None of the subcastes will eat together, except at the houses of their zamīndārs, from whom they will all take food. But the Kawars of the Chhuri estate no longer attend the feasts of their zamindār, for the following curious reason. One of the latter's village thekādārs or farmers had got the hide taken off a dead buffalo so as to keep it for his own use, instead of making the body over to a Chamār (tanner). The castefellows saw no harm in this act, but it offended the zamīndār's more orthodox Hindu conscience. Soon afterwards, at some marriage-feast of his family, when the Kawars of his zamīndāri attended in accordance with the usual custom, he remarked, • Here come our Chamārs,' or words to that effect. The Chhuri Kawars were insulted, and the more so because the

3. Exo

gamous groups.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]




[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]



[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Pendra zamindār and other outsiders were present. So they declined to take food any longer from their zamīndār. They continued to accept it, however, from the other zamīndārs, until their master of Chhuri represented to them that this would result in a slur being put upon his standing among his fellows. So they have now given up taking food from any zamīndār.

The tribe have a large number of exogamous septs,
which are generally totemistic or named after plants and
animals. The names of 117 septs have been recorded, and
there are probably even more. The following list gives a
selection of the names :
Born from an egg.

Hundār A wolf.

Jānta. Grinding-mill.
Bichhi Scorpion

Kothi . A store-house.
Bilwa. Wild cat.

Khumari. A leaf-umbrella.


A wild dog.
Chandrama Moon.


Maternal uncle.
Chanwar. A whisk.

Mahādeo The deity.
Chīta. Leopard.

Nūnmutaria. A packet of salt.
A well.

Sendur Vermilion,
A sweet-scented Sua

A parrot.

Dhenki A pounding-lever. Thath Murra Pressed in a sugar-
Darpan A mirror.

cane press.

A dung insect. Generally it may be said that every common animal or bird and even articles of food or dress and household implements have given their names to a sept.

In the Paikara subcaste a figure of the plant or animal after which the sept is named is made by each party at the time of marriage. Thus a bridegroom of the Bāgh or tiger sept prepares a small image of a tiger with four and bakes it in oil; this he shows to the bride's family to represent, as it were, his pedigree, or prove his legitimacy ; while she on her part, assuming that she is, say, of the Bilwa or cat sept, will bring a similar image of a cat with her in proof of her origin. The Andīl sept make a representation of a hen sitting on eggs. They do not worship the totem animal or plant, but when they learn of the death of one of the species, they throw away an earthen cooking-pot as a sign of mourning. They generally think themselves descended from the totem animal or plant, but

. Oily.

[ocr errors]




4. Be

A trothal and

when the sept is called after some inanimate object, such as a grinding-mill or pounding-lever, they repudiate the idea of descent from it, and are at a loss to account for the origin of the name.

Those whose septs are named after plants or animals usually abstain from injuring or cutting them, but where this rule would cause too much inconvenience it is transgressed : thus the members of the Karsāyal or deer sept find it too hard for them to abjure the flesh of that animal, nor can those of the Bokra sept abstain from eating goats. In some cases new septs have been formed by a conjunction of the names of two others, as Bāgh-Daharia, GauriyaSonwāni, and so on. These may possibly be analogous to the use of double names in English, a family of one sept when it has contracted a marriage with another of better position adding the latter's name to its own as a slight distinction. But it may also simply arise from the constant tendency to increase the number of septs in order to remove difficulties from the arrangement of matches. Marriage within the same sept is

the same sept is prohibited and also between the children of brothers and sisters.

marriage. man may not marry his wife's elder sister but he can take her younger one in her lifetime. Marriage is usually adult and, contrary to the Hindu rule, the proposal for a match always comes from the boy's father, as a man would think it undignified to try and find a husband for his daughter. The Kawar says, 'Shall my daughter leap over the wall to get a husband.' In consequence of this girls not infrequently remain unmarried until a comparatively late age, especially in the zamīndāri families where the provision of a husband of suitable rank may be difficult.

Having selected a bride for his son the boy's father sends some friends to her village, and they address a friend of the girl's family, saying, “So-and-so (giving his name and village) would like to have a cup of pej (boiled rice-water) from you ; what do you say ? ” The proposal is communicated to the girl's family, and if they approve of it they commence preparing the rice-water, which is partaken of by the parties and their friends. If the bride's people do not begin cooking the pej, it is understood that the proposal is rejected. The ceremony of betrothal comes next, when the boy's party go to

the girl's house with a present of bangles, clothes, and fried cakes of rice and urad carried by a Kaurai Rāwat. They also take with them the bride-price, known as Suk, which is made up of cash, husked or unhusked rice, pulses and oil. It is a fixed amount, but differs for each subcaste, and the average value is about Rs. 25. To this is added three or four goats to be consumed at the wedding. If a widower marries a girl, a larger bride-price is exacted. The wedding follows, and in many respects conforms to the ordinary Hindu ritual, but Brāhmans are not employed. The bridegroom's party is accompanied by tomtom-players on its way to the wedding, and as each village is approached plenty of noise is made, so that the residents may come out and admire the dresses, a great part of whose merit consists in their antiquity, while the wearer delights in recounting to any who will listen the history of his garb and of his distinguished ancestors who have worn it. The marriage is performed by walking round the sacred pole, six times on one day and once on the following day. After the marriage the bride's parents wash the feet of the couple in milk, and then drink it in atonement for the sin committed in bringing their daughter into the world. The couple then return home to the bridegroom's house, where all the ceremonies are repeated, as it is said that otherwise his courtyard would remain unmarried. On the following day the couple go and bathe in a tank, where each throws five pots full of water over the other. And on their return the bridegroom shoots

at seven straw images of deer over his wife's shoulder, and after each shot she puts a little sugar in his mouth. This is common ceremony among the forest tribes, and symbolises the idea that the man will support himself and his wife by hunting. On the fourth day the bride returns to her father's house. She visits her husband for two or

or three months in the following month of Asārh (June-July), but again goes home to play what is known as 'The game of Gauri,' Gauri being the name of Siva's consort. The young men and girls of the village assemble round her in the evening, and the girls sing songs while the men play on drums. An obscene representation of Gauri is made, and some of them pretend to be possessed by the



« PreviousContinue »