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II

MARRIAGE

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between the children of brothers and sisters. Those 4. Marmembers of the caste who have become Kabirpanthis may

riage. also marry with the others. Marriages may be infant or adult. A girl who is seduced by a member of the caste is married to him by a simple ceremony, the couple standing before a twig of the ümarl tree, while some women sprinkle turmeric over them. If a girl goes wrong with an outsider she is permanently expelled and a feast is exacted from her parents. The boy and his relatives go to the girl's house for the betrothal, and a present of various articles of food and dress is made to her family, apparently as a sort of repayment for their expenditure in feeding and clothing her. A gift of clothes is also made to her mother, called dudh-sāri, and is regarded as the price of the milk with which the mother nourished the girl in her infancy. A goat, which forms part of the bride-price, is killed and eaten by the parties and their relatives. The binding portion of the marriage is the bhānwar ceremony, at which the couple walk seven times round the marriage-post, holding each other by the little fingers. When they return to the bridegroom's house, a cock or a goat is killed and the head buried before the door; the foreheads of the couple are marked with its blood and they go inside the house. If the bride is not adult, she goes home after a stay of two days, and the gauna or going-away ceremony is performed when she finally leaves her parents' house. The remarriage of widows is permitted, no restriction being imposed on the widow in her choice of a second husband. Divorce is permitted for infidelity on the part of the wife.

Children are named on the sixth day after birth, special 5. Relinames being given to avert ill-luck, while they sometimes gion and

superstigo through the ceremony of selling a baby for five cowries tions. in order to disarm the jealousy of the godlings who are hostile to children. They will not call any person by name when they think an owl is within hearing, as they believe that the owl will go on repeating the name and that this will cause the death of the person bearing it. The caste generally revere Dūlha Deo, the bridegroom god, whose altar stands near the cooking place, and the goddess Devi.

1 Ficus glomerata.

tion.

Once in three years they offer a white goat to Bura Deo, the great god of the Gonds. They worship the sickle, the implement of their trade, at Dasahra, and offer cocoanuts and liquor to Ghāsi Sādhak, a godling who lives by the peg to which horses are tied in the stable. He is supposed to protect the horse from all kinds of diseases. At Dasahra they also worship the horse. Their principal festival is called Karma and falls on the eleventh day of the second half of Bhādon (August). On this day they bring a branch of a tree from the forest and worship it with betel, arecanut and other offerings. All through the day and night the men and women drink and dance together. They both burn and bury the dead, throwing the ashes into water. For the first three days after a death they set out rice and pulse and water in a leaf cup for the departed spirit. They believe that the ghosts of the dead haunt the living, and to cure a person possessed in this manner they beat him with shoes and then bury lan effigy of the ghost outside the

village. 6. Occupa The Ghasias usually work as grass-cutters and grooms

to horses, and some of them make loom-combs for weavers. These last are looked down upon and called Madarchawa. They make the kūnch or brushes for the loom, like the Kūchbandhias, from the root of the babai or khas-khas grass, and the râchh or comb for arranging the threads on the loom from the stalks of the bharru grass. Other Ghasias make ordinary hair combs from the kathai, a grass which grows densely on the borders of streams and springs. The frame of the comb is of bamboo and the teeth are fixed in either by thread or wire, the price being one pice (farthing) in the former case and two in the latter.

The caste admit outsiders by a disgusting ceremony in which the candidate is shaved with urine and forced to eat a mixture of cowdung, basil leaves, dubl grass and water in which a piece of silver or gold has been dipped. The women do not wear the choli or breast-cloth nor the nose-ring, and in some localities they do not have spangles on the forehead. Women are tattooed on various parts of the body before marriage with the idea of enhancing their

i Cynodon dactylon.

7. Social

customs.

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GHASIAS AND KĀYASTHS

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and

beauty, and sometimes tattooing is resorted to for curing a pain in some joint or for rheumatism. A man who is temporarily put out of caste is shaved on readmission, and in the case of a woman a lock of her hair is cut. To touch a dead cow is one of the offences entailing temporary excommunication. They employ a Brāhman only to fix the dates of their marriages. The position of the caste is very low and in some places they are considered as impure. The Ghasias are very poor, and a saying about them is 'Ghasia ki jindagi hasia,' or 'The Ghasia is supported by his sickle,' the implement used for cutting grass. The Ghasias are perhaps the only caste in the Central Provinces outside those commonly returning themselves as Mehtar, who consent to do scavenger's work in some localities.

The caste have a peculiar aversion to Kāyasths and 8. Ghasias will not take food or water from them nor touch a Kāyasth's

Kāyasths. bedding or clothing. They say that they would not serve a Kāyasth as horse-keeper, but if by any chance one of them was reduced to doing so, he at any rate would not hold his master's stirrup for him to mount. To account for this hereditary enmity they tell the following story :

On one occasion the son of the Kāyasth minister of the Rāja of Ratanpur went out for a ride followed by a Ghasia. sais (groom). The boy was wearing costly ornaments, and the Ghasia's cupidity being excited, he attacked and murdered the child, stripped him of his ornaments and threw the body down a well. The murder was discovered and in revenge the minister killed every Ghasia, man, woman or child that he could lay his hands on. The only ones who escaped were two pregnant women who took refuge in the hut of a Gānda and were sheltered by him. To them were born a boy and a girl and the present Ghasias are descended from the pair. Therefore a Ghasia will eat even the leavings of a Gānda but will accept nothing from the hands of a Kāyasth.

This story is an instance of the process which has been called the transplantation of myth. Sir H. Risley tells a similar legend of the Ghasias of Orissa," but in their case it was a young Kāyasth bridegroom who was killed, and before dying he got leave from his murderers to write a

1 Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art. Ghāsi.

letter to his relatives informing them of his death, on condition that he said nothing as to its manner. But in the letter he disclosed the murder, and the Ghasias, who could not read, were duly brought to justice. In the Ratanpur story as reported from Bilāspur it was stated that “ Somehow, even from down the well, the minister's son managed to get a letter sent to his father telling him of the murder.” And this sentence seems sufficient to establish the fact that the Central Provinces story has merely been imported from Orissa and slightly altered to give it local colour. The real reason for the traditional aversion felt by the Ghasias and other low castes for the Kāyasths will be discussed in the article on that caste.

a

Ghosi. A caste of herdsmen belonging to northern India and found in the Central Provinces in Saugor and other Districts of the Jubbulpore and Nerbudda Divisions. In 1911 they numbered 10,000 persons in this Province out of a strength of about 60,000 in India. The name is said to be derived from the Sanskrit root ghush, to shout, the word ghosha meaning one who shouts as he herds his cattle. A noticeable fact about the caste is that, while in Upper India they are all Muhammadans—and it is considered to be partly on account of the difference in religion that they have become differentiated into separate caste from the Ahīrs—in the Central Provinces they are nearly all Hindus and show no trace of Muhammadan practices. A few Muhammadan Ghosis are found in Nimār and some Muhammadans who call themselves Gaddi in Mandla are believed to be Ghosis. And as the Ghosis of the northern Districts of the Central Provinces must in common with the bulk of the population be descended from immigrants from northern India, it would appear that they must have changed their religion, or rather abandoned one to which their ancestors had only been imperfectly proselytised, when it was no longer the dominant faith of the locality in which they lived. Sir D. Ibbetson says that in the Punjab the name Ghosi is used only for Muhammadans, and

1 This article is based partly on a paper by Khān Bahādur Imdād Ali, Pleader, Damoh.

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GHOSI

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is often applied to any cowherd or milkman of that religion, whether Gūjar, Ahir or of any other caste, just as Goāla is used for a Hindu cowherd. It is said that Hindus will buy pure milk from the Musalmān Ghosi, but will reject it if there is any suspicion of its having been watered by the latter, as they must not drink water at his hands. But in Berār Brāhmans will now buy milk and curds from Muhammadan milkmen. Mr. Crooke remarks that most of the Ghosis are Ahīrs who have been converted to Islām. To the east of the United Provinces they claim a Gūjar origin, and here they will not eat beef themselves nor take food with any Muhammadans who consume it. They employ Brāhmans to fix the auspicious times for marriage and other ceremonies. The Ghosis of Lucknow have no other employment but the keeping of milch cattle, chiefly buffaloes of all kinds, and they breed buffaloes. This is the case also in Saugor, where the Ghosis are said to rank below ordinary Ahīrs because they breed and tend buffaloes instead of cows. Those of Narsinghpur, however, are generally not herdsmen at all but ordinary cultivators. In northern India, owing to the large number of Muhammadans who, other things being equal, would prefer to buy their milk and ghi from co-religionists, there would be an opening for milkmen professing this faith, and on the facts stated above it may perhaps be surmised that the Ghosi caste came into existence to fill the position. Or they may have been forcibly converted as a number of Ahirs in Berār were forcibly converted to Islam, and still call themselves Muhammadans, though they can scarcely repeat the Kalma and only go to mosque once a year. But when some of the Ghosis migrated into the Central Provinces, they would find, in the absence of a Musalmān clientele, that their religion, instead of being an advantage, was a positive drawback to them, as Hindus would be reluctant to buy milk from a Muhammadan who might be suspected of having mixed it with water; and it would appear that they have relapsed naturally into Hinduism, all traces of their profession of Islām being lost. Even so, how

3

Ghosi.

1 Punjab Census Report (1881), para. 272. 2 Crooke's Tribes and Castes, art,

VOL. III

3 From a note by Mr. Hira Lāl.

D

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