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portion of the marriage, and the polar star is called on to make it inviolable. The bridegroom’s party are then feasted, the women meantime singing obscene songs. The bride goes back to the bridegroom’s house and stays there for a few days, after which she returns to her parents’ house and does not leave it again until the gauna ceremony is performed. On this occasion the bridegroom’s party go to the girl’s house with a present of sweets and clothes which they present to her parents, and they then take away the girl. Even after this she is again sent back to her parents’ house, and the bridegroom comes a second time to fetch her, on which occasion the parents of the bride have to make a present in return for the sweets and clothes previously given to them. The marriage expenses are said to average between Rs. 50 and Rs. I00, but the extravagance of Kirars is notorious. Sir R. Craddock says1 that they are much given to display, the richer members of the caste being heavily weighted with jewellery, while a well-to-do Kirar will think nothing of spending Rs. I000 on his house, or if he is a landowner Rs. 5000. Extravagance ruins a great many of the Kirar community. This statement, however, perhaps applies to those of the Nagpur District rather than to their comrades of the Nerbudda valley and Satpfira highlands. The remarriage of widows is permitted, and the widow may marry either her husband’s younger brother or any other member of the caste at her choice. The ceremony takes place at night, the woman being brought to her husband’s house by the back door and given a new cloth and bangles. Turmeric is then applied to her body, and the clothes of the couple are tied together. When a bachelor marries a widow, he must first be married to an akau plant (swallow-wort). Divorce may be effected for infidelity on the part of the wife or for serious disagreement. A divorced woman may marry again. Polygamy is allowed, and in Chhindwara is said to be restricted to three wives, all living within the District, but elsewhere no such limitation is enforced. A man seldom, however, takes more than one wife, except for the sake of children. ‘
They worship the ordinary Hindu gods and especially
1 Ndgpur Settlemmt Rgtort, p. 24.
11 RELIGION 49 I
Devi, to whom they offer female kids. During the months of Baisakh and Jeth (April-June) those living in Betfil and Chhindwara make a pilgrimage to the Nag Deo or cobra god, who is supposed to have his seat somewhere on the border of the two Districts. Every third year they also take their cattle outside the village, and turning their faces in the direction of the Nag Deo sprinkle a little water and kill goats and fowls. They worship the Patel Deo or spirit of the deceased malguzar of the village only on the occasion of marriages. They consider the service of the village headman to be their traditional occupation besides agriculture, and they therefore probably pay this special compliment to the spirit of their employer. They worship their implements of husbandry on some convenient day, which must be a Wednesday or a Sunday, after they have sown the spring crops. Those who grow sugarcane offer a goat or a cocoanut to the crop before it is cut, and a similar offering is made to the stock of grain after harvest, so that its bulk may not decrease. They observe the ordinary festivals, and like other Hindus cease to observe one on which a death has occurred in the family, until some happy event such as
the birth of a child, or even of a calf, supervenes on the
same day. Unmarried children under seven and persons dying of smallpox, snake-bite or cholera are buried, and others are either buried or burnt according to the convenience of the family. Males are placed on the pyre or in the grave on their faces and females on their backs, with their feet pointing to the south in each case. In some places the corpse is buried stark naked, and in others with a piece of cloth wrapped round it, and two pice are usually placed in the grave to buy the site. When a corpse is burnt the head is touched with a bamboo before it is laid on the funeral pyre, by way of breaking it in and allowing the soul to escape if it has not already done so. For three days the mourners place food, water and tobacco in cups for the disembodied soul. Mourning is observed for children for three days and for adults from seven to ten days. During this period the mourners refrain from luxurious food such as flesh, turmeric, vegetables, milk and sweets; they do not wear shoes, nor change their clothes, and males
are not shaved until the last day of mourning. Balls of rice are then offered to the dead, and the caste people are feasted. Oblations of water are offered to ancestors in the month of Kunwar (September-October). 4. Social The caste do not admit outsiders. In the matter of food °“-s‘°ms‘ they eat flesh and fish, but abstain from liquor and from eating fowls, except in the Maratha country. They will take pakka food or that cooked without water from Gfijars, Raghuvansis and Lodhis. In the Nagpur country, where the difference between kate/za and pakka food is not usually observed, they will not take it from any but Maratha Brahmans. Ahirs and Dhimars are said to eat with them, and the northern Brahmans will take water from them. They have a caste gfianc/zdyat or committee with a hereditary president called Sethia, whose business it is to eat first when admitting a person who has been put out of caste. Killing a cat or a squirrel, selling a cow to a butcher, growing hemp or selling shoes are offences which entail temporary excommunication from caste. A woman who commits adultery with a man of another caste is permanently excluded. The Kirars are tall in stature and well and stoutly built. They have regular features and are generally of a fair colour. They are regarded as quarrelsome and untruthful, and as tyrannical landlords. As agriculturists they are supposed to be of encroaching tendencies, and the proverbial prayer attributed to them is, “O God, give me two bullocks, and I shall plough up the common way.” Another proverb quoted in Mr. Standen’s Betzil Settlement Report, in illustration of their avarice, is “ If you put a rupee between two Kirars, they become like mast buffaloes ‘in Kunwar.” The men always wear turbans, while the women may be distinguished in the Maratha country by their adherence to the dress of the northern Districts. Girls are tattooed on the back of their hands before they begin to live ‘ with their husbands. A woman may not name her husband’s ‘ elder brother or even touch his clothes or the vessels in which he has eaten food. They are not distinguished for cleanliness. 5_ Occupa_- Agriculture and the service of the village headman are “°“' the traditional occupations of Kirars. In Nagpur they are considered to be very good cultivators, but they have no
special reputation in the northern Districts. About a thousand of them are landowners, and the large majority are tenants. They grow garden crops and sugarcane, but abstain from the cultivation of hemp.
K0hli.—A small caste of cultivators found in the Marathi-speaking tracts of the Wainganga Valley, comprised in the Bhandara and Chanda Districts. They numbered about 26,000 persons in 1911. The Kohlis are a notable caste as being the builders of the great irrigation reservoirs or tanks, for which the Wainganga Valley is celebrated. The water is used for irrigating rice and sugarcane, the latter being the favourite crop of the Kohlis. The origin of the caste is somewhat doubtful. The name closely resembles that of the Koiri caste of market-gardeners in northern India; and the terms Kohiri and Kohli are used there as variations of the caste name Koiri. The caste themselves have a tradition that they were brought to Bhandara from Benares by one of the Gond kings of Chanda on his return from a visit to that place ;1 and the Kohlis of Bhandara say that their first settlement in the Central Provinces was at Lanji, which lies north of Bhandara in Balaghat. But on the other hand all thatis known of their language, customs, and sept or family names points to a purely Maratha origin, the caste being in all these respects closely analogous to the Kunbis. The Settlement Officer of Chanda, Colonel Lucie Smith, stated that they thought their forefathers came from the south. They tie their head-cloths in a similar fashion to the Gandlis, who are oilmen from the Telugu country. If they belonged to the south of India they might be an offshoot from the wellknown Koli tribe of Bombay, and this hypothesis appears the more probable. As a general rule castes from northern India settling in the Maratha country have not completely abandoned their ancestral language and customs even after a residence of several centuries. In the case of such castes as the Panwars and Bhoyars their foreign extraction can be detected at once; and if the Kohlis had come from Hindustan the rule would probably hold good with them. On the other hand the Kolis have in some parts of Bombay now taken to cultivation and closely resemble the Kunbis. In Satara it is said 1 that they associate and occasionally eat with Kunbis, and their social and religious customs resemble those of the Kunbi caste. They are quiet, orderly, settled and hard-working. Besides fishing they work ferries along the Krishna, are employed in villages as watercarriers, and grow melons in river-beds with much skill. The Kolis of Bombay are presumably the same tribe as the Kols of Chota Nagpur, and they probably migrated to ‘Gujarat along the Vindhyan plateau, where they are found in considerable numbers, and over the hills of Rajputana and Central India. The Kols are one of the most adaptive of all the non-Aryan tribes, and when they reached the sea they may have become fishermen and boatmen, and practised these callings also in rivers. From plying on rivers they might take to cultivating melons and garden-crops on the stretches of silt left uncovered in their beds in the dry season, which is the common custom of the boating and fishing castes. And from this, as seen in Satara, some of them attained to regular cultivation and, modelling themselves on the Kunbis, came to have nearly the same status. They may thus have migrated to Chanda and Bhandara with the Kunbis, as their language and customs would indicate, and retaining their preference for irrigated and gardencrops have become expert growers of sugarcane. The description which has been received of the Kohlis of Bhandara would be rather favourable than otherwise to the hypothesis of their ultimate origin from the K0l tribe, allowing for their having acquired the Maratha language and customs from a lengthened residence in Bombay. It has been mentioned above that the Kohlis have a legend of their ancestors having come from Benares, but this story appears to be not infrequently devised as a means of obtaining increased social estimation, Benares being the principal centre of orthodox Hinduism. Thus the Dangris, a small caste of vegetable- and melon-growers who are certainly an offshoot of the Kunbis, and therefore of Maratha extraction, have the same story. As regards the tradition
1 Mr. Lawrence’s B/mndzira Settlement Report (1867), p. 46.
I . General notice.