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moustaches. He then sits beside a lighted pile of wood, being held to be purified by the proximity of the holy element, and afterwards bathes, and drinks some water into which the caste-fellows have dipped their toes. A woman has to undergo the same ceremony and have her head shaved. If an unmarried girl becomes with child by a member of the caste, she is married to him by the simple rite used for widow-remarriage. A Kolām must not swear by a dog or cat, and is expelled from caste for killing either of these two animals. A Kolām does not visit a friend's house in the evening, as he would be suspected in such an event of having designs upon his wife's virtue. The tribe are cultivators and labourers. They have not a very good reputation for honesty, and are said to be addicted to stealing the ripe cotton from the bolls. They never wear shoes, and the soles of their feet become nearly invulnerable and capable of traversing the most thorny ground without injury. They have an excellent knowledge of the medicinal and other uses of all trees, shrubs and herbs.
[Bibliography: Mr. Kitts’ Berār Census Report (1881); Major Gunthorpe's
Criminal Tribes of Bombay, Berar and the Central Provinces (Times Press,
LIST OF PARAGRAPHS
1. Introductory notice.
4. Funeral rites.
Kolhāti, Dandewāla, Bānsberia, Kabūtari. The name 1. Introby which the Beria caste of Northern and Central India is
notice. known in Berār. The Berias themselves, in Central India at any rate, are a branch of the Sānsias, a vagrant and criminal class, whose traditional occupation was that of acting as bards and genealogists to the Jāt caste. The main difference between the Sānsias and Berias is that the latter prostitute their women, or those of them who are not married.2 The Kolhātis of Berār, who also do this, appear to be a branch of the Beria caste who have settled in the Deccan and now have customs differing in several respects from those of the parent caste. It is therefore desirable to reproduce briefly the main heads of the information given about them in the works cited above. In 1901 the Kolhātis numbered 1300 persons in Berār.
In the Central Provinces they were not shown separately, but were included with the Nats. But in 1891 a total of 250 Kolhātis were returned. The word Kolbāti is said to be derived from the long bamboo poles which they use for jumping, known as Kolhāt. The other names, Dandewāla and Bānsberia, meaning those who perform feats with a stick or bamboo, also have reference to this
1 Based partly on papers by Mr. Gazetteer Office. Bihāri Lāl, Naib-Tahsildār, Bilāspur, 2 For further information the articles and Mr. Adurām Chaudhri of the on Sānsia and Beria may be consulted.
2. Internal structure,
pole. Kabūtari as applied to the women signifies that their dancing resembles the flight of a pigeon (kabūtar). They say that once on a time a demon had captured some Kunbis and shut them up in a cavern.
But the Kunbis besought Mahādeo to save them, and he created a man and a woman who danced before the demon and so pleased him that he promised them whatever they should ask; and they thus obtained the freedom of the Kunbis. The man and woman were named Kabūtar and Kabūtari on account of their skilful dancing, and were the ancestors of the Kolhātis. The Kolhātis of the Central Provinces appear to differ in several respects from those of Berār, with whom the following article is mainly concerned.
The caste has two main divisions in Berār, the Dukar Kolhātis and the Khām or Pāl Kolhātis. The name of the former is derived from dukar, hog, because they are accustomed to hunt the wild pig with dogs and spears when these animals become too numerous and damage the crops of the villagers. They also labour for themselves by cultivating land and taking service as village watchmen ; and they are daring criminals and commit dacoity, burglary and theft; but they do not steal cattle. The Khām Kolhātis, on the other hand, are a lazy, good-for-nothing class of men, who, beyond making a few combs and shuttles of bone, will set their hands to no kind of labour, but subsist mainly by the immoral pursuits of their women. At every large fair may be seen some of the portable huts of this tribe, made of rusa grass, the women decked in jewels and gaudy attire sitting at each door, while the men are lounging lazily at the back. The Dukar Kolhāti women, Mr. Kitts states, also resort to the same mode of life, but take up their abode in villages instead of attending fairs. Among the Dukar Kolhātis the subdivisions have Rājpūt names; and just as a Chauhān Rājpūt may not marry another Chauhān so also a Chauhān Dukar Kolhāti may not marry a person of his own clan.
In Bilaspur they are said to have four subcastes, the Marethi or those coming from the Marātha country, the Bānsberia or pole-jumpers, the Suarwāle or hunters of the wild pig, and the Muhammadan Kolhātis, none of whom
1 Andropagon Schoenanthus.
marry or take food with each other.
Each group is further subdivided into the Asal and Kamsal (Kam-asal), or the pure and mixed Kolhātis, who marry among themselves, outsiders being admitted to the Kamsal or mixed group.
The marriage ceremony in Berār? consists simply in a 3. Marfeast at which the bride and bridegroom, dressed in new
riage. clothes, preside. Much liquor is consumed and the dancinggirls of the tribe dance before them, and the happy couple are considered duly married according to Kolhāti rites. Married women do not perform in public and are no less moral and faithful than those of other castes, while those brought up as dancing-girls do not marry at all.
In Bilaspur weddings are arranged through the headman of the village, who receives a fee for his services, and the ceremony includes some of the ordinary Hindu rites. Here a widow is compelled to marry her late husband's younger brother on pain of exclusion from caste. People of almost any caste may become Kolhātis. When an outsider is admitted he must have a sponsor into whose clan he is adopted. A feast is given to the caste, and the applicant catches the right little finger of his sponsor before the assembly. Great numbers of Rājpūts and Muhammadans join them, and on the other hand a large proportion of the fair but frail Kolhātis embrace the Muhammadan faith.
The bodies of children are buried, and those of the adult 4. Funeral dead may be either buried or cremated. Mr. Kitts states that on the third day, if they can afford the ceremony, they bring back the skull and placing it on a bed offer to it powder, dates and betel-leaves; and after a feast lasting for three days it is again buried. According to Major Gunthorpe the proceedings are more elaborate : "Each division of the caste has its own burial-ground in some special spot, to which it is the heart's desire of every Kolhāti to carry, when he can afford it, the bones of his deceased relatives. After the cremation of an adult the bones are collected and buried pending such time as they can be conveyed to the appointed cemetery, if this be at a distance.
When the time comes, that is, when means can be found for the removal, the bones 1 Gunthorpe, loc. cit.
2 Ibidem, p. 49. VOL. III
are disinterred and placed in two saddle-bags on a donkey, the skull and upper bones in the right bag and the leg and lower bones in the left. The ass is then led to the deceased's house, where the bags of bones are placed under a canopy made ready for their reception. High festival, as for a marriage, is held for three days, and at the end of this time the bags are replaced on the donkey, and with tom-toms beating and dancing-girls of the tribe dancing in front, the animal is led off to the cemetery. On arrival, the bags, with the bones in them, are laid in a circular hole, and over it a stone is placed to mark the spot, and covered with oil and vermilion ; and the spirit of the deceased is then considered to be appeased.” They believe that the spirits of dead ancestors enter the bodies of the living and work evil to them, unless they are appeased with offerings. The Dukar Kolhātis offer a boar to the spirits of male ancestors and a sow to females. An offering of a boar is also made to Bhagwān (Vishnu), who is the principal deity of the caste and is worshipped with great ceremony every second year.
Although of low caste the Kolhātis refrain from eating customs. the flesh of the cow and other animals of the same tribe.
The wild cat, mongoose, wild and tame pig and jackal are considered as delicacies. The caste have the same ordeals as are described in the article on the Sānsias.
As might be expected in a class which makes a living by immoral practices the women considerably outnumber the men. No one is permanently expelled from caste, and temporary exclusion is imposed only for a few offences, such as an intrigue with or being touched by a member of an impure caste. The offender gives a feast, and in the case of a man the moustache is shaved, while a woman has five hairs of her head cut off. The women have names meant to indicate their attractions, as Panna emerald, Munga coral, Mehtab dazzling, Gulti a flower, Moti a pearl, and Kesar saffron. If a girl is detected in an intrigue with a castefellow they are fined seven rupees and must give a feast to the caste, and are then married. When, however, a girl is suspected of unchastity and no man will take the responsibility on himself, she is put to an ordeal. She
1 Kitts, loc. cit.