Page images
PDF
EPUB

II

FUNERAL RITES--SOCIAL RULES

387

The couple stand before the caste committee and each takes a stick, breaks it in two halves, and throws them apart, saying, "I have no further connection with my husband (or wife), and I break my marriage with him (or her) as I break this stick.”

The dead may be either buried or burnt, as convenient, 4. Funeral and mourning is always observed for three days. Before the rites. corpse is removed a new earthen pot filled with rice is placed on the bier. The chief mourner raises it, and addressing the deceased informs him that after a certain period he will be united to the sainted dead, and until that day his spirit should abide happily in the pot and not trouble his family. The mouth of the pot is then covered, and after the funeral the mourners take it home with them. When the day appointed for the final ceremony has come, a miniature platform is made from sticks tied together, and garlands and offerings of cakes are hung on to it. A small heap of rice is made on the platform, and just above it a clove is suspended from a thread. Songs are sung, and the principal relative opens the pot in which the spirit of the deceased has been enclosed. The spirit is called upon to join the sacred company of the dead, and the party continue to sing and to adjure it with all their force. The thread from which the clove is suspended begins to swing backwards and forwards over the rice; and a pig and two or three chickens are crushed to death as offerings to the soul of the deceased. Finally the clove touches the rice, and it is believed that the spirit of the dead man has departed to join the sainted dead. The Katias consider that after this he requires nothing more from the living, and so they do not make the annual offerings to the souls of the departed.

The caste sometimes employ a Brāhman for the marriage 5. Social ceremony ; but generally his services are limited to fixing an auspicious date, and the functions of a priest are undertaken by members of the family. They invite a Brāhman to give a name to a boy, and call him by this name. They think that if they changed the name they would not be able to get a wife for the child. They will eat any kind of flesh, including pork and fowls, but they are not considered to be impure. They are generally illiterate, and dirty in appearance. Unmarried girls wear glass bangles on both hands, but married

rules.

women wear metal bracelets on the right hand and glass on the left. Girls are twice tattooed : first in childhood, and a second time after marriage. The proper avocations of the Katias were the spinning of cotton thread and the weaving of the finer kinds of cloth ; but most of them have had to abandon their ancestral calling from want of custom, and they are now either village watchmen or cultivators and labourers. A few of them own villages. The Katias think themselves rather knowing ; but this opinion is not shared by their neighbours, who say ironically of them, “A Katia is eight times as wise as an ordinary man, and a Kāyasth thirteen times. Any one who pretends to be wiser than these must be an idiot.”

LIST OF PARAGRAPHS

1. Tribal legend.
2. Tribal subdivisions.
3. Exogamous groups.
4. Betrothal and marriage.
5. Other customs connected with

marriage. 6. Childbirth.

7. Disposal of the dead.
8. Laying spirits.
9. Religion.
10. Magic and witchcraft.
II. Dress.
12. Occupation and social rules.

Kawar, Kanwar, Kaur (honorific title, Sirdār). — A 1. Tribal primitive tribe living in the hills of the Chhattisgarh Dis- legend. tricts north of the Mahānadi. The hill-country comprised in the northern zamīndāri estates of Bilāspur and the adjoining Feudatory States of Jashpur, Udaipur, Sargūja, Chāng Bhakār and Korea is the home of the Kawars, and is sometimes known after them as the Kamrān. Eight of the Bilāspur zamīndārs are of the Kawar tribe. The total numbers of the tribe are nearly 200,000, practically all of whom belong to the Central Provinces. In Bilāspur the name is always pronounced with a nasal as Kanwar. The Kawars trace their origin from the Kauravas of the Mahābhārata, who were defeated by the Pāndavas at the great battle of Hastinā pur. They say that only two pregnant women survived and fled to the hills of Central India, where they took refuge in the houses of a Rāwat (grazier) and a Dhobi (washerman) respectively, and the boy and girl children who were born to them became the ancestors of the Kawar tribe. Consequently, the Kawars will take food from the hands of Rāwats, especially those of the Kauria subcaste, who are in all probability descended from Kawars. And when a Kawar

1 This article is based almost entirely on a monograph contributed by Mr. Hira Lāl.

2. Tribal subdivisions.

is put out of caste for having maggots in a wound, a Dhobi is always employed to readmit him to social intercourse. These facts show that the tribe have some close ancestral connection with the Rāwats and Dhobis, though the legend of descent from the Kauravas is, of course, a myth based on the similarity of the names. The tribe have lost their own language, if they ever had one, and now speak a corrupt form of the Chhattīsgarhi dialect of Hindi. It is probable that they belong to the Dravidian tribal family.

The Kawars have the following eight endogamous divisions : Tanwar, Kamalbansi, Paikara, Dūdh-Kawar, Rathia, Chānti, Cherwa and Rautia.

The Tanwar group, also known as Umrao, is that to which the zamīndārs belong, and they now claim to be Tomara Rājpūts, and wear the sacred thread. They prohibit widow-remarriage, and do not eat fowls or drink liquor ; but they have not yet induced Brāhmans to take water from them or Rājpūts to accept their daughters in marriage. The name Tanwar is not improbably simply a corruption of Kawar, and they are also altering their sept names to make them resemble those of eponymous Brāhmanical gotras. Thus Dhangur, the name of a sept, has been altered to Dhananjaya, and Sarvaria to Sāndilya. Telāsi is the name of a sept to which four zamīndārs belong, and is on this account sometimes returned as their caste by other Kawars, who consider it as a distinction. The zamindāri families have now, however, changed the name Telāsi to Kairava. The Paikaras are the most numerous subtribe, being three-fifths of the total. They derive their name from Pāik, a foot-soldier, and formerly followed this occupation, being employed in the armies of the Haihaivansi Rājas of Ratanpur. They still worship a two-edged sword, known as the Jhagra Khand, or Sword of Strife,' on the day of Dasahra. The Kamalbansi, or' Stock of the Lotus,' may be so called as being the oldest subdivision ; for the lotus is sometimes considered the root of all things, on account of the belief that Brahma, the creator of the world, was himself born from this flower. In Bilaspur the Kamalbansis are

onsidered to rank next ter the Tanwars or zamīndārs' group. Colonel Dalton states that the term Dūdh or ‘Milk' Kawar has the signification of Cream of the Kawars,' and

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

he considered this subcaste to be the highest. The Rathias are a territorial group, being immigrants from Rāth, a wild tract of the Raigarh State. The Rautias are probably the descendants of Kawar fathers and mothers of the Rāwat (herdsman) caste. The traditional connection of the Kawars with a Rāwat has already been mentioned, and even now if a Kawar marries a Rāwat girl she will be admitted into the tribe, and the children will become full Kawars. Similarly, the Rāwats have a Kauria subcaste, who are also probably the offspring of mixed marriages ; and if a Kawar girl is seduced by a Kauria Rāwat, she is not expelled from the tribe, as she would be for a liaison with any other man who was not a Kawar. This connection is no doubt due to the fact that until recently the Kawars and Rāwats, who are themselves a very mixed caste, were accustomed to intermarry. At the census persons returned as Rautia were included in the Kol tribe, which has a subdivision of that name. But Mr. Hira Lāls inquiries establish the fact that in Chhattisgarh they are undoubtedly Kawars. The Cherwas are probably another hybrid group descended from connections formed by Kawars with girls of the Chero tribe of Chota Nāgpur. The Chānti, who derive their name from the ant, are considered to be the lowest group, as that insect is the most insignificant of living things. Of the above subcastes the Tanwars are naturally the highest, while the Chānti, Cherwa and Rautia, who keep pigs, are considered as the lowest. The others occupy an intermediate position. None of the subcastes will eat together, except at the houses of their zamīndārs, from whom they will all take food. But the Kawars of the Chhuri estate no longer attend the feasts of their zamīndār, for the following curious reason. One of the latter's village thekādārs or farmers had got the hide taken off a dead buffalo so as to keep it for his own use, instead of making the body over to a Chamār (tanner). The castefellows saw no harm in this act, but it offended the zamīndār's more orthodox Hindu conscience. Soon afterwards, at some marriage-feast of his family, when the Kawars of his zamindāri attended in accordance with the usual custom, he remarked, · Here come our Chamārs,' or words to that effect. The Chhuri Kawars were insulted, and the more so because the

« PreviousContinue »