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Bemrose, Collo., Derby. KORKUS OF THE MELGHĀT HILLS.

PART II

DISTRIBUTION AND ORIGIN

551

which are in many cases identical with those of the Kols and Korwas. There is little reason to doubt then that the Korkus are the same tribe as the Korwas, and both of these may be taken to be offshoots of the great Kol or Munda tribe.

The Korkus have come much further west than their kinsmen, and between their residence on the Mahādeo or western Satpūra hills and the Korwas and Kols, there lies a large expanse mainly peopled by the Gonds and other Dravidian tribes, though with a considerable sprinkling of Kols in Mandla, Jubbulpore and Bilaspur. These latter may have immigrated in comparatively recent times, but the Kolis of Bombay may not improbably be another offshoot of the Kols, who with the Korkus came west at a period before the commencement of authentic history. One of the largest subdivisions of the Korkus is termed Mowāsi, and this name is sometimes applied to the whole tribe, while the tract of country where they dwell was formerly known as the Mowās. Numerous derivations of this term have been given, and the one commonly accepted is that it signifies 'The troubled country,' and was applied to the hills at the time when bands of Koli or Korku freebooters, often led by dispossessed Rājpūt chieftains, harried the rich lowlands of Berār from their hill forts on the Satpūras, exacting from the Marāthas, with poetical justice, the payments known as *Tankha Mowāsi' for the ransom of the settled and peaceful villages of the plains. The fact, however, that the Korkus found in Chota Nāgpur are also known as Mowāsi militates against this supposition, for if the name was applied only to the Korkus of the Satpūra plateau it would hardly have travelled as far east as Chota Nāgpur. Mr. Hislop derived it from the mahua tree. But at any rate Mowāsi meant a robber to Marātha ears, and the forests of Kalībhīt and Melghāt are known as the Mowās.

According to their own traditions the Korkus like so 2. Tribal many other early people were born from the soil. They legends. state that Rāwan, the demon king of Ceylon, observed that the Vindhyan and Satpūra ranges were uninhabited and besought Mahādeo 2 to populate them. Mahādeo despatched his messenger, the crow Kāgeshwar, to find for him an ant1 See also art. Kol.

2 The local term for the god Siva.

2

hill made of red earth, and the crow discovered such an anthill between the Saolīgarh and Bhānwargarh ranges of Betūl. Mahādeo went to the place, and, taking a handful of red earth, made images in the form of a man and a woman, but immediately two fiery horses sent by Indra rose from the earth and trampled the images to dust. For two days Mahādeo persisted in his attempts, but as often as the images were made they were destroyed in a similar manner. But at length the god made an image of a dog and breathed into it the breath of life, and this dog kept off the horses of Indra. Mahādeo then made again his two images of a man and woman, and giving them human life, called them Mūla and Mūlai with the surname of Pothre, and these two became the ancestors of the Korku tribe. Mahādeo then created various plants for their use, the mahull from whose strong and fibrous leaves they could make aprons and head-coverings, the wild plantain whose leaves would afford other clothing, and the mahua, the chironji, the sewan and kullu to provide them with food. Time went on and Mūla and Mūlai had children, and being dissatisfied with their condition as compared with that of their neighbours, besought Mahādeo to visit them once more. When he appeared Mūla asked the god to give him grain to eat such as he had heard of elsewhere on the earth. Mahādeo sent the crow Kāgeshwar to look for grain, and he found it stored in the house of a Māng named Japre who lived at some distance within the hills. Japre on hearing what was required besought the honour of a visit from the god himself. Mahādeo went, and Japre laid before him an offering of 12 khandis: of grain, 12 goats and 12 buckets of water, and invited Mahādeo to eat and drink. The god was pleased with the offering and unwilling to reject it, but considered that he could not eat food defiled by the touch of the outcaste Māng, so Pārvati created the giant Bhīmsen and bade him eat up the food offered to Mahādeo. When Bhīmsen had finished the offering, however, it occurred to him that he also had been defiled by taking food from a

1 Bauhinia Vahlii.

folia, Gmelina arborea and Sterculia

urens.

2 Bassia latifolia, Buchanania lati

3 Nearly 3} tons.

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Māng, and in revenge he destroyed Japre's house and covered the site of it with débris and dirt. Japre then complained to Mahādeo of this sorry requital of his offering and prayed to have his house restored to him. Bhīmsen was ordered to do this, and agreed to comply on condition that Mūla should pay to him the same honour and worship as he accorded to Rāwan, the demon king. Mūla promised to do so, and Bhīmsen then sent the crow Kāgeshwar to the tank Daldal, bidding him bring thence the pig Buddu, who being brought was ordered to eat up all the dirt that covered Japre's house. Buddu demurred except on condition that he also should be worshipped by Mūla and his descendants for ever.

Mūla agreed to pay worship to him every third year, whereupon Buddu ate up all the dirt, and dying from the effects received the name of Mahābissum, under which he is worshipped to the present day. Mahādeo then took some seed from the Māng and planted it for Mūla's use, and from it sprang the seven grains-kodon, kutki, gurgi, mandgi, barai, rāla and dhān? which the Korkus principally cultivate. It may be noticed that the story ingeniously accounts for and sheds as it were an orthodox sanction on the custom of the Korkus of worshipping the pig and the local demon Bhimsen, who is placed on a sort of level with Rāwan, the opponent of Rāma. After recounting the above story Mr. Crosthwaite remarks: “This legend given by the Korkus of their creation bears a curious analogy to our own belief as set forth in the Old Testament. They even give the tradition of a flood, in which a crow plays the part of Noah's dove. There is a most curious similarity between their belief in this respect and that found in such distant and widely separated parts as Otaheite and Siberia. Remembering our own name 'Adam,' which I believe means in Hebrew 'made of red earth,' it is curious to observe the stress that is laid in the legend on the necessity for finding red earth for the making of man.” Another story told by the Korkus with the object of providing themselves with Rājpūt ancestry is to the effect that their forefathers dwelt in the city of Dhārānagar, the modern Dhār. It happened one day that

Paspalum scrobiculatum, Panicum psilopodium, Coix Lachryma, Eleusine

coracana, Saccharum officianarum Setaria italica, Oryza sativa.

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