« PreviousContinue »
II SOCIAL CUSTOMS 425
marriage. In Sambalpur she is married to a flower. Sir H. Risley notes' the curious fact that in Bihār it is deemed less material that the bridegroom should be older than the bride than that he should be taller. “This point is of the first importance, and is ascertained by actual measurement. If the boy is shorter than the girl, or if his height is exactly the same as hers, it is believed that the union of the two would bring ill-luck, and the match is at once broken off.” The marriage is celebrated in the customary manner by walking round the sacred pole, after which the bridegroom marks the forehead of the bride seven times with vermilion, parts her hair with a comb, and then draws her cloth over her head. The last act signifies that the bride has become a married woman, as a girl never covers her head. In Bengal” a drop of blood is drawn from the fingers of the bride and bridegroom and mixed with rice, and each eats the rice containing the blood of the other. The anointing with vermilion is probably a substitute for this. Widow-remarriage and divorce are permitted. In Sambalpur a girl who is left a widow under ten years of age is remarried with full rites as a virgin. The Kewats worship the ordinary Hindu deities and believe that a special goddess, Chauräsi Devi, dwells in their boats and keeps them from sinking. She is propitiated at the beginning of the rains and in times of flood, and an image of her is painted on their boats. They bury the dead, laying the corpse with the feet to the south, while some clothes, cotton, til and salt are placed in the grave, apparently as a provision for the dead man's soul. They worship their ancestors at intervals on a Monday or a Saturday with an offering of a fowl. As is usual in Chhattisgarh, their rules as to food are very lax, and they will eat both fowls and pork. Nevertheless Brähmans will take water at their hands and eat the rice and gram which they have parched. The caste consider fishing to have been their original occupation, and tell a story to the effect that their ancestors saved the deity in their boat on the occasion of the Deluge, and in return were given the power of catching three or four times as many fish as ordinary persons in the same space of time. Some of them parch gram and rice, and others act as coolies and banghy-bearers. Kewats are usually in poor circumstances, but they boast that the town of Bilāspur is named after Bilāsa Keotin, a woman of their caste. She was married, but was sought after by the king of the country, so she held out her cloth to the sun, calling on him to set it on fire, and was burnt alive, preserving her virtue. Her husband burnt himself with her, and the pair ascended to heaven.
1 Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art. Kewat. * Tribes and Castes of Bengal, ibidem. .
3. Social custonis.
[Authorities: Colonel Dalton's Ethnology of Bengal; Sir H. Risley's Tribes and Castes of Bengal; Mr. Crooke's Tribes and Castes of the AV.-W.P. and Oudh.]
LIST OF PARAGRAPHS
1. Historical notice of the tribe. 5. Marriage.
9. The Khairwas of Damoh.
Khairwār, Kharwār, Khaira, Khairwa."—A primitive 1. Histori
tribe of the Chota Nagpur plateau and Bihar. Nearly 20,000 £" Khairwärs are now under the jurisdiction of the Central tribe. Provinces, of whom two-thirds belong to the recently acquired Sarguja State, and the remainder to the adjoining States and the Bilāspur District. A few hundred Khairwärs or Khairwas are also returned from the Damoh District in the Bundelkhand country. Colonel Dalton considers the Khairwärs to be closely connected with the Cheros. He relates that the Cheros, once dominant in Gorakhpur and Shāhābād, were expelled from these tracts many centuries ago by the Gorkhas and other tribes, and came into Palāmau. “It is said that the Palāmau population then consisted of Kharwärs, Gonds, Märs, Korwas, Parheyas and Kisäns. Of these the Kharwärs were the people of most consideration. The Cheros conciliated them and allowed them to remain in peaceful possession of the hill tracts bordering on Sargüja; all the Cheros of note who assisted in the expedition obtained military service grants of land, which they still retain. It is
* This article is based on Mr. and some notes taken by Mr. Hira Lal Crooke's and Colonel Dalton's accounts, at Raigarh.
popularly asserted that at the commencement of the Chero rule in Palāmau they numbered twelve thousand families and the Kharwärs eighteen thousand, and if an individual of one or the other is asked to what tribe he belongs, he will say not that he is a Chero or a Kharwär, but that he belongs to the twelve thousand or the eighteen thousand, as the case may be. Intermarriages between Chero and Kharwār families have taken place. A relative of the Palāmau Rāja married a sister of Manināth Singh, Rāja of Rāmgarh, and this is among themselves an admission of identity of origin, as both claiming to be Rajputs they could not intermarry till it was proved to the satisfaction of the family priest that the parties belonged to the same class. . . . The Rājas of Rāmgarh and Jashpur are members of this tribe, who have nearly succeeded in obliterating their Turanian traits by successive intermarriages with Aryan families. The Jashpur Rāja is wedded to a lady of pure Rajput blood, and by liberal dowries has succeeded in obtaining a similar union for three of his daughters. It is a costly ambition, but there is no doubt that the liberal infusion of fresh blood greatly improves the Kharwār physique.”" This passage demonstrates the existence of a close connection between the Cheros and Khairwärs. Elsewhere Colonel Dalton connects the Santāls with the Khairwärs as follows: * “A wild goose coming from the great ocean alighted at Ahiri Pipri and there laid two eggs. From these two eggs a male and female were produced, who were the parents of the Santāl race. From Ahiri Pipri our (Santāl) ancestors migrated to Hara Dutti, and there they greatly increased and multiplied and were called Kharwär.” This also affords some reason for supposing that the Khairwärs are an offshoot of the Cheros and Santāls. Mr. Crooke remarks, “That in Mirzāpur the people themselves derive their name either from their occupation as makers of catechu (khair) or on account of their emigration from some place called Khairāgarh, regarding which there is a great difference of opinion. If the Santāl tradition is to be accepted, Khairāgarh is the place of that name in the Hazāribagh District; but the Mirzāpur tradition seems to point to some locality in the south or * Ethnology of Bengal, pp. 128, 129. * Ibidem, pp. 209, 2 Io.
11 AZ/STORICAL MVOTICE OF THE TRIBE 429
west, in which case Khairāgarh may be identified with the most important of the Chhattisgarh Feudatory States, or with the pargana of that name in the Allahābād District.”" According to their own traditions in Chota Nägpur, Sir H. Risley states that,” “The Kharwärs declare their original seat to have been the fort of Rohtās, so called as having been the chosen abode of Rohitäswa, son of Harischandra, of the family of the Sun. From this ancient house they also claim descent, calling themselves Sürajvansis, and wearing the Janeo or caste thread distinguishing the Rājputs. A less flattering tradition makes them out to be the offspring of a marriage between a Kshatriya man and a Bhar woman contracted in the days of King Ben, when distinctions of caste were abolished and men might marry whom they would.” A somewhat similar story of themselves is told by the tribe in the Bāmra State. Here they say that their original ancestors were the Sun and a daughter of Lakshmi,the goddess of wealth, who lived in the town of Sara. She was very beautiful and the Sun desired her, and began blowing into a conch-shell to express his passion. While the girl was gaping at the sight and sound, a drop of the spittle fell into her mouth and impregnated her. Subsequently a son was born from her arm and a daughter from her thigh, who were known as Bhujbalrai and Janghrai.” Bhujbalrai was given great strength by the Sun, and he fought with the people of the country, and became king of Rāthgarh. But in consequence of this he and his family grew proud, and Lakshmi determined to test them whether they were worthy of the riches she had given them. So she came in the guise of a beggar to the door, but was driven away without alms. On this she cursed them, and said that their descendants, the Khairwärs, should always be poor, and should eke out a scanty subsistence from the forests. And in consequence the Khairwärs have ever since been engaged in boiling wood for catechu. Mr. Hira Lål identifies the Räthgarh of this story with the tract of Ráth in the north of the Raigarh
" Tribes and Castes, art. Kharwär. the whole story is obviously a Brāh
* Tribes and Castes of Bengal. manical legend. Balrai seems a cor
* From bhū, an arm, and Jangh, a ruption of Balarām, the brother of thigh. These are Hindi words, and Krishna.