Page images





» 2

Rājpūt, Bābhan, Kāyasth or Agarwāl, will only eat his master's leavings so long as he is himself unmarried.' seems that the marriage feast may be considered as the sacrificial meal conferring full membership of the caste, after which the rules against taking food from other castes must be strictly observed. Slaves were commonly employed as indoor servants, and hence the term Kahār came to be almost synonymous with a slave. “ In the eighteenth century the title Kahār was at Patna the distinctive appellation of a Hindu slave, as Maulazādah was of a Muhammadan, and the tradition in 1774 was that the Kahār slavery took its rise when the Muhammadans first invaded northern India.”

As the Kahār was the common indoor servant in Hindu houses so apparently he came to be employed in the same capacity by the English. But he was of too high a caste to serve the food of a European, which would have involved touching the cooked flesh of the cow, and thus lost him his comparatively good status and social purity among the Hindus. Hence arose the anomaly of a body servant who would not touch his master's food, and confined himself to the duties of a valet; while the name of bearer given to this servant indicates clearly that he is the successor of the old-time Kahār or palanquin-bearer. The Uriya bearers of Bengal were well known as excellent servants and most faithful; but in time the inconvenience of their refusal to wait at table has led to their being replaced by low-caste Madrasis and by Muhammadans. The word 'boy' as applied to Indian servants is no doubt of English origin, as it is also used in China and the West Indies ; but the South Indian term boyi or Hindi bhoi for a palanquin-bearer also appears to have been corrupted into boy and to have made this designation more common. The following instances of the use of the word ‘boy' from Hobson-Johnson : may be quoted in conclusion : “ The real Indian ladies lie on a sofa, and if they drop their handkerchief they just lower their voices and say

Boy,' in a very gentle tone" (Letters from Madras in 1826). 'Yes, Sahib, I Christian Boy. Plenty poojah do. Sunday time never no work do' (Trevelyan, The Dawk Bungalow,

[ocr errors]

1 Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art. Kahăr.

2 Tribes and Castes of Bengal, ibidem, 3 S.v. Boy.

in 1866). The Hindu term Bhoi or bearer is now commonly applied to the Gonds, and is considered by them as an honorific name or title. The hypothesis thus appears to be confirmed that the Kahār caste of palanquin-bearers was constituted from the non-Aryan tribes, who were practically in the position of slaves to the Hindus, as were the Chamārs and Mahārs, the village drudges and labourers. But when the palanquin-bearer developed into an indoor servant, his social status was gradually raised from motives of convenience, until he grew to be considered as ceremonially pure, and able to give his master water and prepare food for cooking. Thus the Kahārs or Dhīmars came to rank considerably above the primitive tribes from whom they took their origin, their ceremonial purity being equal to that of the Hindu cultivating castes, while the degrading status of slavery which had at first attached to them gradually fell into abeyance. And thus one can understand why the Gonds should consider the name of Bhoi or bearer as a designation of honour.

1. Origin and traditions.

Kaikāri, Kaikādi (also called Bargandi by outsiders). — A disreputable wandering tribe, whose ostensible profession is to make baskets. They are found in Nimār and the Marātha Districts, and number some 2000 persons in the Central Provinces. The Kaikāris here, as elsewhere, claim to have come from Telingāna or the Deccan, but there is no caste of this name in the Madras Presidency. They may not improbably be the caste there known as Korva or Yerūkala, whose occupations are similar. Mr. Kitts 2 has stated that the Kaikāris are known as Korāvars in Arcot and as Korvas in the Carnatic. The Kaikāris speak a gipsy language, which according to the specimen given by Hislop contains Tamil and Telugu words. One derivation of Kaikāri is from the Tamil kai, hand, and kude, basket, and if this is correct it is in favour of their identification with the Korvas, who always carry their tattooing and other implements in a basket in the hand.4 The Kaikāris of the

1 This article is partly compiled 2 Berār Census Report (1881), p. from papers by Mr. G. Falconer Taylor, 141. Forest Divisional Officer, and by Kanhyā Lāl, Clerk in the Gazetteer

3 Hislop papers. Vocabulary. office.

4 North Arcot Manual, p. 247.





Central Provinces say that their original ancestor was one Kānoba Ramjān who handed a twig to his sons and told them to earn their livelihood by it. Since then they have subsisted by making baskets from the stalks of the cottonplant, the leaves of the date-palm and grass. They themselves derive their name from Kai, standing for Kānoba Ramjān and kādi, a twig, an etymology which may be dismissed with that given in the Berār Census Report that they are the remnants of the Kaikeyas, who before the Christian era dwelt north of the Jalandhar Doāb. Two subcastes exist in Nimār, the Marāthas and the Phirasti or wandering Kaikāris, the former no doubt representing recruits from Marātha castes, not improbably from the Kunbis. The Marātha Kaikāris look down on the Phirastis as the latter take cooked food from a number of castes including the Telis, while the Marāthas refuse to do this. In the Nāgpur country there are several divisions which profess to be endogamous, as the Kāmāthis or those selling toys made of palm-leaves, the Bhāmtis or those who steal from bazārs, the Kunbis or cultivators, the Tokriwālas or makers and sellers of baskets and the Boriwālas or those who carry bricks, gravel and stone. Kunbi and Bhāmti are the names of other castes, and Kāmāthi is a general term applied in the Marātha country to Telugu immigrants ; the names thus show that the Kaikāris, like other vagrant groups, are largely recruited from persons expelled from their own caste for social offences. These groups cannot really be endogamous as yet, but as in the case of several other wandering tribes they probably have a tendency to become

In Berār? an entirely different set of 121 subcastes is recorded, several of which are territorial, and two, the Pungis or blowers of gourds, and the Wājantris or village musicians, are occupational. In Nimār as in Khāndesh the Kaikāris have only two exogamous clans, Jādon and Gaikwār, who must marry with each other. In the southern Districts there are a number of exogamous divisions, as Jādon, Māne, Kūmre, Jeshti, Kāde, Dāne and others. Jādon is a well-known Rājpūt sept, and the Kaikāris do not explain

[ocr errors]


1 1881, p. 141.

2 Ibidem.
3 Bombay Gazetteer (Campbell), vol. xii. p. 120.

2. Mar


how they came by the name, but claim to have fought as soldiers under several kings, during which occasions the name may have been adopted from some Rājpūt leader in accordance with the common practice of imitation. Māne and Gaikwār are family names of the Marātha caste. The names and varied nomenclature of the subdivisions show that the Kaikāris, as at present constituted, are a very mixed caste, though they may not improbably have been originally connected with the Korvas of Madras.

Marriage within the same gotra or section is prohibited, but with one or two exceptions there are no other restrictions on intermarriage between relatives. A sister's son may marry a brother's daughter, but not vice versa.

A man may not marry his wife's elder sister either during his wife's lifetime or after her death, and he may marry her younger sister, but not the younger but one. Girls are generally married between 8 and 12 years of age. If a girl cannot get a partner nothing is done, but when the marriage of a boy has not been arranged, a sham rite is performed with an akao plant (swallow-wort) or with a silver ring, all the ceremonies of a regular marriage being gone through. The tree is subsequently carefully reared, or the ring worn on the finger. Should the tree die or the ring be lost, funeral obsequies are performed for it as for a member of the family. A bride-price is paid which may vary from Rs. 20 to Rs. 100. In the southern Districts the following custom is in vogue at weddings. After the ceremony the bridegroom pretends to be angry and goes out of the mandap or shed, on which the bride runs after him, and throwing a piece of cloth round his neck, drags him back again. Her father then gives him some money or ornaments to pacify him. After this the same performance is gone through with the bride. The bride is taken to her husband's house, but is soon brought back by her relatives. On her second departure the husband himself does not go to fetch her, and she is brought home by his father and other relations, her own family presenting her with new clothes on this occasion. Widow-marriage is permitted, and the widow is expected to marry the next younger brother of the deceased husband. She may not marry any except the next younger, and if

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »