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15. Occu

pation.

as Khatris and certain classes of Banias, will take pakki food from Kāyasths. Kāyasths of different subcastes will sometimes also take it from each other. They will give the huqqa with the reed in to members of their own subcaste, and without the reed to any Kāyasth. The caste eat the flesh of goats, sheep, fish, and birds. They were formerly somewhat notorious for drinking freely, but a great reform has been effected in this respect by the community itself through the agency of their caste conference, and many are now total abstainers.

The occupations of the Kāyasths have been treated in discussing the origin of the caste. They set the greatest store by their profession of writing and say that the son of a Kāyasth should be either literate or dead. The following is the definition of a Lekhak or writer, a term said to be used for the Kāyasths in Purānic literature :

"In all courts of justice he who is acquainted with the languages of all countries and conversant with all the Shāstras, who can arrange his letters in writing in even and parallel lines, who is possessed of presence of mind, who knows the art of how and what to speak in order to carry out an object in view, who is well versed in all the Shāstras, who can express much thought in short and pithy sentences, who is apt to understand the mind of one when one begins to speak, who knows the different divisions of countries and of time, who is not a slave to his passions, and who is faithful to the king deserves the name and rank of a Lekhak or writer."

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I. General notice.

Kewat, Khewat, Kaibartta. _A A caste of fishermen, boatmen, grain-parchers, and cultivators, chiefly found in the Chhattisgarh Districts of Drūg, Raipur, and Bilāspur. They numbered 170,000 persons in 1911.

The Kewats or Kaibarttas, as they

called in

in Bengal, are the modern representatives of the Kaivartas, a caste mentioned in Hindu classical literature. Sir H. Risley explains the

are

2

1 Geography and Astronomy.

Quoted from the Matsapūrān in a criticism by Babu Krishna Nāg Verma.

3 This article is based on papers by

Mr. Mahfuz Ali, tahsildār, Rājnandgaon, Mr.

wāhir ngh, Settlement Superintendent, Sambalpur, and Mr. Adurām Chaudhri of the Gazetteer Office.

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GENERAL NOTICE

423

origin of the name as follows:1 “Concerning the origin of the name Kaibartta there has been considerable difference of opinion. Some derive it from ka, water, and vartta, livelihood; but Lassen says that the use of ka in this sense is extremely unusual in early Sanskrit, and that the true derivation is Kivarta, a corruption of Kimvarta, meaning a person following a low or degrading occupation. This, he adds, would be in keeping with the pedigree assigned to the caste in Manu, where the Kaivarta, also known as Mārgava or Dāsa, is said to have been begotten by a Nishāda father and an Ayogavi mother, and to subsist by his labour in boats. On the other hand, the Brāhma-Vaivarta Purāna gives the Kaibartta a Kshatriya father and a Vaishya mother, a far more distinguished parentage ; for the Ayogavi having been born from a Sūdra father and a Vaishya mother is classed as pratiloma, begotten against the hair, or in the inverse order of the precedence of the castes." The Kewats are a mixed caste. Mr. Crooke says that they merge on one side into the Mallāhs and on the other into the Binds. In the Central Provinces their two principal subdivisions are the Laria and Uriya, or the residents of the Chhattisgarh and Sambalpur plains respectively. The Larias are further split up into the Larias proper, the Kosbonwas, who grow kosa or tasar silk cocoons, and the Binjhwārs and Dhuris (grain-parchers). The Binjhwārs are a Hinduised group of the Baiga tribe, and in Bhandāra they have become a separate Hindu caste, dropping the first letter of the name, and being known as Injhwār. The Binjhwār Kewats are a group of the same nature. The Dhuris are grain-parchers, and there is a separate Dhuri caste; but as grain-parching is also a traditional occupation of the Kewats, the Dhuris may be an offshoot from them. The Kewats are so closely connected with the Dhīmars that it is difficult to make any distinction ; in Chhattisgarh it is said that the Dhīmars will not act as ferrymen, while the Kewats will not grow or sell singāra or water-nut. The Dhīmars worship their fishingnets on the Akti day, which the Kewats will not do. Both the Kewats and Dhīmars are almost certainly derived from the primitive tribes. The Kewats say that formerly the

1 Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art. Kaibartta.

2. Exogamous divisions and marriage.

Hindus would not take water from them ; but on one occasion during his exile Rāma came to them and asked them to ferry him across a river ; before doing so they washed his feet and drank the water, and since that time the Hindus have considered them pure and take water from their hands. This story has no doubt been invented to explain the fact that Brāhmans will take water from the non-Aryan Kewats, the custom having in reality been adopted as a convenience on account of their employment as palanquin-bearers and indoor servants. But in Saugor, where they are not employed as servants, and also grow san-hemp, their position is distinctly lower and no high caste will take water from them.

The caste have also a number of exogamous groups, generally named after plants or animals, or bearing some nickname given to the reputed founder. Instances of the first class are Tūma, a gourd, Karsāyal, a deer, Bhalwa, a bear, Ghughu, an owl, and so on. Members of such a sept abstain from injuring the animal after which the sept is named or eating its flesh; those of the Tūma sept worship a gourd with offerings of milk and a cocoanut at the Holi festival. Instances of titular names are Garhtod, one who destroyed a fort, Jhagarha quarrelsome, Dehri priest, Kāla black, and so on. One sept is named Rāwat, its founder having probably belonged to the grazier caste. Members of this sept must not visit the temple of Mahādeo at Rājim during the annual fair, but give no explanation of the prohibition. Others are the Ahira, also from the Ahir (herdsman) caste; the Rautele, which is the name of a subdivision of Kols and other tribes; and the Sonwāni or 'gold water' sept, which is often found among the primitive tribes. In some localities these three have now developed into separate subcastes, marrying among themselves; and if any of their members become Kabīrpanthis, the others refuse to eat and intermarry with them. The marriage of members of the same sept is prohibited, and also the union of first cousins. Girls are generally married under ten years of age, but if a suitable husband cannot be found for a daughter, the parents will make her over to any member of the caste who offers himself on condition that he bears the expenses of the

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SOCIAL CUSTOMS

425

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marriage. In Sambalpur she is married to a flower. Sir
H. Risley notes the curious fact that in Bihār it is deemed
less material that the bridegroom should be older than the
bride than that he should be taller. “This point is of the
first importance, and is ascertained by actual measurement.
If the boy is shorter than the girl, or if his height is exactly
the same as hers, it is believed that the union of the two
would bring ill-luck, and the match is at once broken off.”
The marriage is celebrated in the customary manner by
walking round the sacred pole, after which the bridegroom
marks the forehead of the bride seven times with vermilion,
parts her hair with a comb, and then draws her cloth over
her head. The last act signifies that the bride has become a
married woman, as a girl never covers her head. In Bengal
a drop of blood is drawn from the fingers of the bride and
bridegroom and mixed with rice, and each eats the rice
containing the blood of the other. The anointing with ver-
milion is probably a substitute for this. Widow-remarriage
and divorce are permitted. In Sambalpur a girl who is left
a widow under ten years of age is remarried with full rites
as a virgin.

The Kewats worship the ordinary Hindu deities and 3. Social believe that a special goddess, Chaurāsi Devi, dwells in their customs. boats and keeps them from sinking. She is propitiated at the beginning of the rains and in times of flood, and an image of her is painted on their boats. They bury the dead, laying the corpse with the feet to the south, while some clothes, cotton, til and salt are placed in the grave, apparently as a provision for the dead man's soul. They worship their ancestors at intervals on a Monday or a Saturday with an offering of a fowl. As is usual in Chhattisgarh, their rules as to food are very lax, and they will eat both fowls and pork. Nevertheless Brāhmans will take water at their hands and eat the rice and gram which they have parched. The caste consider fishing to have been their original occupation, and tell a story to the effect that their ancestors saved the deity in their boat on the occasion of the Deluge, and in return were given the power of catching three or four times

1 Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art. Kewat.

2 Tribes and Castes of Bengal, ibidem. .

as many fish as ordinary persons in the same space of time. Some of them parch gram and rice, and others act as coolies and banghy-bearers.) Kewats are usually in poor circumstances, but they boast that the town of Bilāspur is named after Bilāsa Keotin, a woman of their caste.

She was married, but was sought after by the king of the country, so she held out her cloth to the sun, calling on him to set it on fire, and was burnt alive, preserving her virtue. Her husband burnt himself with her, and the pair ascended to heaven.

1 A curved stick carried across the shoulders, from which are suspended two panniers.

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