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II WIDO W REMA RAAGE 8I
the union with the younger brother is also prohibited. In Mandla, if she will not wed the younger brother, on the eleventh day after the husband's death he puts the tarkhi or palm-leaf earrings in her ears, and states that if she marries anybody else he will claim dawa-bunda or compensation. Similarly in Bastar, if an outsider marries the widow, he first goes through a joint ceremony with the younger brother, by which the latter relinquishes his right in favour of the former. The widow must not marry any man whom she could not have taken as her first husband. After her husband's death she resides with her parents, and a price is usually paid to them by any outsider who wishes to marry her. In Bastar there is a fixed sum of Rs. 24, half of which goes to the first husband's family and half to the caste panchāyat. The payment to the panchāyat perhaps comes down from the period when widows were considered the property of the state or the king, and sold by auction for the benefit of the treasury. It is said that the descendants of the Gond Rājas of Chānda still receive a fee of Rs. 1-8 from every Gond widow who is remarried in the territories over which their jurisdiction extended. In Bastar when a widow marries again she has to be transferred from the gods of her first husband's sept to those of her second husband. For this two leaf-cups are filled with water and mahua liquor respectively, and placed with a knife between them. The liquor and water are each poured three times from one cup to the other and back until they are thoroughly mixed, and the mixture is then poured over the heads of the widow and her second husband. This symbolises her transfer to the god of the new sept. In parts of Bastar when a man has been killed by a tiger and his widow marries again, she goes through the ceremony not with her new husband but with a lance, axe or sword, or with a dog. It is thought that the tiger into which her first husband's spirit has entered will try to kill her second husband, but owing to the precaution taken he will either simply carry off the dog or will himself get killed by an axe, sword or lance. In most localities the ceremony of widow-marriage is simple. Turmeric is rubbed on the bodies of the couple and they may exchange a pair of rings or their clothes. VOL. III G
2 5. Divorce.
Divorce is freely allowed on various grounds, as for adultery on the wife’s part, a quarrelsome disposition, carelessness in the management of household affairs, or if a woman’s children continue to die, or she is suspected of being a witch. Divorce is, however, very rare, for in order to get a fresh wife the man would have to pay for another wedding, which few Gonds can afford, and he would also have difficulty in getting a girl to marry him. Therefore he will often overlook even adultery, though a wife’s adultery not infrequently leads to murder among the Gonds. In order to divorce his wife the husband sends for a few castemen, takes a piece of straw, spits on it, breaks it in two and throws it away, saying that he has renounced all further connection with his wife. If a woman is suspected of being a witch she often has to leave the village and go to some place where she is not known, and in that case her husband must either divorce her or go with her. There is no regular procedure for a wife divorcing her husband, but she can, if sufficiently young and attractive, take matters into her own hands, and simply leave her husband’s house and go and live with some one else. In such a case the man who takesher has to repay to the husband the sum expended by the latter on his marriage, and the panc/zdyat may even decree that he should pay double the amount. When a man divorces his wife he has no liability for her maintenance, and often takes back any ornaments he may have given her. And a man who marries a divorced woman may be expected to pay her husband the expenses of his marriage. Instances are known of a bride disappearing even during the wedding, if she dislikes her partner ; and Mr. Lampard of the Baihir Mission states that one night a Gond wedding party came to his house and asked for the loan of a lantern to look for the bride who had vanished.
Polygamy is freely allowed, and the few Gonds who can afford the expense are fond of taking a number of wives. Wives are very useful for cultivation as they work better than hired servants, and to have several wives is a sign of wealth and dignity. A man who has a number of wives will take them all to the bazar in a body to display his importance. A Gond who had seven wives in Balaghat
n MENSTRUATION 83
was accustomed always to take them to the bazar like this, walking in a line behind him.
(d) BIRTH AND PREGNANCY 1/
In parts of Mandla the first appearance of the signs of 27- M_en
puberty in a girl is an important occasion. She stays apart s"“a“°“' for four days, and during this time she ties up one of her body-cloths to a beam in the house in the shape of a cradle, and swings it for a quarter or half an hour every day in the name of Jhulan Devi, the cradle goddess. On the fifth day she goes and bathes, and the Baiga priest and his wife go with her. She gives the Baiga a hen and five eggs and a bottle of wine, and he offers them to Jhulan Devi at her shrine. To the Baigan she gives a hen and ten eggs and a bottle of liquor, and the Baigan tattoos the image of Jhulan Devi on each side of her body. A black hen with feathers spotted with white is usually chosen, as they say that this hen’s blood is of a darker colour and that she lays more eggs. All this ceremonial is clearly meant to induce fertility in the girl. The Gonds regard a woman as impure for as long as the menstrual period lasts, and during this time she cannot draw water nor cook food, nor go into a cowshed or touch cowdung. In the wilder Maria tracts there is, or was till lately, a building out of sight of the village to which women in this condition retired. Her relatives brought her food and deposited it outside the hut, and when they had gone away she came out and took it. It was considered that a great evil would befall any one who looked on the face of a woman during the period of this impurity. The Raj-Gonds have the same rules as Hindus regarding the menstrual periods of women.1
No special rites are observed during pregnancy, and the 28_._Supersuperstitions about women in this condition resemble those stmons
of the Hindus.2 A pregnant woman must not go near a pregnancy
horse or elephant, as they think that either of these animals :,?,?§hiid'
would be excited by her condition and would assault her.
I The information on child-birth is of Chhindwira, and from notes taken in obtained from papers by Mr. Durga Mandla. Prasad Pinde, Extra Assistant Com- 2 See articles on Kunbi, Kurmi, missioner, and the Rev. Mr. Franzen and Mehtar.
In cases where labour is prolonged they give the woman water to drink from a swiftly flowing stream, or they take pieces of wood from a tree struck by lightning or by a thunder-bolt, and make a necklace of them and hang it round her neck. In these instances the swiftness of the running water, or of the lightning or thunder-bolt, is held to be communicated to the woman, and thus she will obtain a quick delivery. Or else they ask the Gunia or sorcerer to discover what ancestor will be reborn in the child, and when he has done this he calls on the ancestor to come and be born quickly. If a woman is childless they say that she should worship Bura Deo and fast continually, and then on the termination of her monthly impurity, after she has bathed, if she walks across the shadow of a man she will have a child. It is thus supposed that the woman can be made fertile by the man's shadow, which will be the father of the child. Or she should go on a Sunday night naked to a så tree" and pray to it, and she may have a child. The sã is the tree in which Bura Deo resides, and was probably in the beginning itself the god. Hence it is supposed that the woman is impregnated by the spirit of the tree, as Hindu women think that they can be made fertile by the spirits of unmarried Brähman boys living in pipal trees. Or she may have recourse to the village priest, the Bhumka or the Baiga, who probably finds that her barren condition is the work of an evil spirit and propitiates him. If a woman dies in the condition of pregnancy they cut her belly open before burial, so that the spirit of the child may escape. If she dies during or soon after delivery they bury her in some remote jungle spot, from which her spirit will find it difficult to return to the village. The spirit of such a woman is supposed to become a Churel and to entice men, and especially drunken men, to injury by causing them to fall into rivers or get shut up in hollow trees. The only way they can escape her is to offer her the ornaments which a married woman wears. Her enmity to men is due to the fact that she was cut off when she had just had the supreme happiness of bearing a child, and the present of these ornaments appeases her. The spirit of a woman whose engagement for marriage has
1 Boswellia serrata.
II PROCEDURE ATA BIRTH;;. g 85
been broken off, or who has deserted her husband’s house for another man’s, is also supposed to become a Churel. If an abortion occurs, or a child is born dead or dies very shortly after birth, they put the body in an earthen pot, and bury it under the heap of refuse behind the house. They say that this is done to protect the body from the witches, who if they get hold of it will raise the child’s spirit, and make it a Bir or familiar spirit. Witches have special power over the spirits of such children, and can make them enter the body of an owl, a cat, a dog, or a headless man, and in this form cause any injury which the witch may desire to inflict on a human being. The real reason for burying the bodies of such children close to the house is probably, however, the belief that they will thus be born again in the same family. If the woman is fat and well during pregnancy they think a girl will be born, but if she is ailing and thin, that the child will be a boy. If the nipples of her breasts are of a reddish colour they think the birth of a boy is portended, but if of blackish colour, a girl. When a birth occurs another woman carefully observes the knots or protuberances on the navel-cord. It is supposed that the number of them indicates the further number of children which will be born to the mother. A blackish knot inclining downwards portends a boy, and a reddish one inclining upwards a girl. It is supposed that an intelligent midwife can change the order of these knots, and if a woman has only borne girl-children can arrange that the next one shall be a boy.
Professional midwives are not usually employed at childbirth, and the women look after each other. Among the Maria Gonds of Bastar the father is impure for a month after the birth of a child and does not go to his work. A Muria Gond father is impure until the navel-cord drops ; he may reap his crop, but cannot thresh or sow. This is perhaps a relic of the custom of the Couvade. The rules for the treatment of the mother resemble those of the Hindus, but they do not keep her so long without food. On some day from the fifth to the twelfth after the birth the mother is purified and the child is named. On this day its hair is shaved by the son-in-law or husband’s or wife’s brother-in
29. Procedure at a birth.