Page images






In Raigarh the Kharias have only two subtribes, the 3. SubDūdh, or milk Kharias, and the Delki. Of these the Delki are said to be of mixed origin. They take food from Brāhmans, and explain that they do so because an ancestress went wrong with a Brāhman. It seems likely that they may be descended from the offspring of immigrant Hindus in Chota Nāgpur with Kharia women, like similar subdivisions in other tribes. The Delkis look down on the Dūdh Kharias, saying that the latter eat the flesh of tigers and monkeys, from which the Delkis abstain.

In Bengal the tribe have two other divisions, the Erenga and Munda Kharias.

The tribe is divided, like others, into totemistic exogamous 4. Exosepts, which pay reverence to their totems. Thus members gamy and of the Kulu (tortoise), Kiro (tiger), Nāg (cobra), Kankul (leopard) and Kuto (crocodile) septs abstain from killing their totem animal, fold their hands in obeisance when they meet it, and taking up some dust from the animal's track place it on their heads as a mark of veneration. Certain septs cannot wholly abstain from the consumption of their sept totem, so they make a compromise. Thus members of the Baa, or rice sept, cannot help eating rice, but they will not eat the scum which gathers over the rice as it is being boiled. Those of the Bilum or salt sept must not take up a little salt on one finger and suck it, but must always use two or more fingers for conveying salt to the mouth, presumably as a mark of respect. Members of the Suren or stone sept will not make ovens with stones but only with clods of earth. The tribe do not now think they are actually descended from their totems, but tell stories accounting for the connection. Thus the Katang Kondai or bamboo sept say that a girl in the family of their ancestors went to cut bamboos and never came back. Her parents went to search for her and heard a voice calling out from the bamboos, but could not find their daughter. Then they understood that the bamboo was of their own family and must not be cut by them. The supposition is apparently that the girl was transformed into a bamboo.

Marriage between members of the same sept is forbidden, 5. Marbut the rule is not always observed. A brother's daughter riage.

may marry a sister's son, but not vice versa. Marriage is always adult, and overtures come from the boy's father. The customary bride-price is twelve bullocks, but many families cannot afford this, and resort is then made to a fiction. The boy's party make twelve models of bullocks in earth, and placing each in a leaf-plate send them to the girl's party, who throw away two, saying that one has been eaten by a tiger, and the other has fallen into a pit and died. The remaining ten are returned to the bridegroom's party, who throw away two, saying that they have been sold to provide liquor for the Panch. For two of the eight now left real animals are substituted, and for the other six one rupee each, and the two cattle and six rupees are sent back to the bride's party as the real bride-price. Poor families, however, give four rupees instead of the two cattle, and ten rupees is among them considered as the proper price, though even this is reduced on occasion. The marriage party goes from the bride's to the bridegroom's house, and consists of women only. The men do not go, as they say that on one occasion all the men of a Kharia wedding procession were turned into stones, and they fear to undergo a similar fate. The real reason may probably be that the journey of the bride is a symbolic reminiscence of the time when she was carried off by force, and hence it would be derogatory for the men to accompany her. The bridegroom comes out to meet the bride riding on the shoulders of his brother-in-law or paternal aunt's husband, who is known as Dherha. He touches the bride, and both of them perform a dance. the wedding the bridegroom stands on a plough-yoke, and the bride on a grinding-slab, and the Dherha walks seven times round them sprinkling water on them from a mangoleaf. The couple are shut up alone for the night, and next morning the girl goes to the river to wash her husband's clothes. On her return a fowl is killed, and the couple drink two drops of its blood in water mixed with turmeric, as a symbol of the mixing of their own blood. A goat is killed, and they step in its blood and enter their houses. The caste-people say to them, “Whenever a Kharia comes to your house, give him a cup of water and tobacco and food if you have it," and the wedding is over.





as to food.

thrown away.

After a girl is married her own mother will not eat food 6. Taboos cooked by her, aš no two Kharias will take food together unless they are of the same sept. When a married daughter goes back to the house of her parents she cooks her food separately, and does not enter their cook-room ; if she did all the earthen pots would be defiled and would have to be

A similar taboo marks the relations of a woman towards her husband's elder brother, who is known as Kura Sasur. She must not enter his house nor sit on a cot or stool before him, nor touch him, nor cook food for him. If she touches him a fine of a fowl with liquor is imposed by the caste, and for his touching her a goat and liquor. This idea may perhaps have been established as a check on the custom of fraternal polyandry, when the idea of the eldest brother taking the father's place as head of the joint family became prevalent.

Widow-marriage is permitted at the price of a feast to 7. Widowthe caste, and the payment of a small sum to the woman's marriage family. A widow must leave her children with her first divorce. husband's family if required to do so. If she takes them with her they become entitled to inherit her second husband's property, but receive only a half-share as against a full share taken by his children. Divorce is permitted by mutual agreement or for adultery of the woman. But the practice is not looked upon with favour, and a divorced man or woman rarely succeeds in obtaining another mate.

The principal deity of the Kharias is a hero called 8. ReliBanda.

. They say that an Oraon had vowed to give his gion. daughter to the man who would clear the kāns 1 grass off a hillock. Several men tried, and at last Banda did it by cutting out the roots. He then demanded the girl's hand, but the Oraon refused, thinking that Banda had cleared the grass by magic. Then Banda went away and the girl died, and on learning of this Banda went and dug her out of her grave, when she came to life and they were married. Since then Banda has been worshipped. The tribe also venerate their ploughs and axes, and on the day of Dasahra they make offerings to the sun.

1 Saccharum spontaneum. This grass infests cultivated fields and is very difficult to eradicate. VOL. III

2 G

9. Funeral The tribe bury the dead, placing the head to the north. rites.

When the corpse is taken out of the house two grains of rice are thrown to each point of the compass to invite the ancestors of the family to the funeral.

And on the way, where two roads meet, the corpse is set down and a little rice and cotton-seed sprinkled on the ground as a guidingmark to the ancestors. Before burial the corpse is anointed with turmeric and oil, and carried seven times round the grave, probably as a symbol of marriage to it. Each relative puts a piece of cloth in the grave, and the dead man's cooking and drinking-pots, his axe, stick, pipe and other belongings, and a basketful of rice are buried with him. The mourners set three plants of orai or khas-khas grass on the grave over the dead man's head, middle and feet, and then they go to a tank and bathe, chewing the roots of this grass. It would appear that the orai grass may be an agent of purification or means of severance from the dead man's ghost,

like the leaves of the sacred nim 1 tree. 10. Bring On the third day they bathe and are shaved, and catch the souls va fish, which is divided among all the relatives, however

small it may be, and eaten raw with salt, turmeric and garlic.
It seems likely that this fish may be considered to represent »
the dead man's spirit, and is eaten in order to avoid being
haunted by his ghost or for some other object, and the fish
may be eaten as a substitute for the dead man's body, itself
consumed in former times. On the tenth night after the
death the soul is called back, a lighted wick being set in a
vessel at the cross-roads where the rice and cotton had been
sprinkled. They call on the dead man, and when the flame of
the lamp wavers in the wind they break the vessel holding the
lamp, saying that his soul has come and joined them, and go
home. On the following Dasahra festival, when ancestors are
worshipped, the spirit of the deceased is mingled with the
ancestors. A cock and hen are fed and let loose, and the
headman of the sept calls on the soul to come and join the
ancestors and give his protection to the family. When a
man is killed by a tiger the remains are collected and burnt
on the spot. A goat is sacrificed and eaten by the caste, and
thereafter, when a wedding takes place in that man's family,

1 Melia indica.

of the dead.





a goat is offered to his spirit. The Kharias believe that the spirits of the dead are reborn in children, and on the Bārhi day, a month after the child's birth, they ascertain which ancestor has been reborn by the usual method of divination with grains of rice in water.

The strict taboos practised by the tribe as regards food 11. Social have already been mentioned. Men will take food from one another, but not women. Men will also accept food cooked without water from Brāhmans, Rājputs and Bhuiyas. The Kharias will eat almost any kind of flesh, including crocodile, rat, pig, tiger and bear; they have now generally abandoned beef in deference to Hindu prejudice, and also monkeys, though they formerly ate these animals, the Topno sept especially being noted on this account.

Temporary expulsion from caste is imposed for the usual 12. Caste offences, and also for getting shaved or having clothes washed rules and

organisaby a barber or washerman other than a member of the caste. tion. This rule seems to arise either from an ultra-strict desire for social purity or from a hostile reaction against the Hindus for the low estimation in which the Kharias are held. Again it is a caste offence to carry the palanquin of a Kāyasth, a Muhammadan, a Koshta (weaver) or a Nai (barber), or to carry the tāzias or representations of the tomb of Husain in the Muharram procession. The caste have a headman who has the title of Pardhān, with an assistant called Negi and a messenger who is known as Gānda. The headman must always be of the Samer sept, the Negi of the Suren sept, and the Gānda of the Bartha or messenger sept.

The headman's duty is to give water for the first time to caste offenders on readmission, the Negi must make all arrangements for the caste feast, and the Gānda goes and summons the tribesmen. In addition to the penalty feast a cash fine is imposed on an erring member; of this rather more than half is given to the assembled tribesmen for the purpose of buying murra or fried grain on their way home on the following morning. The remaining sum is divided between the three officers, the Pardhān and Negi getting two shares each and the Gānda one share. But the division is only approximate, as the Kharias are unable to do the necessary calculation for an odd number of rupees. The men have their hair tied in a

« PreviousContinue »