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THE KHAIRWAS OF DAMOH
brothers. Daughters can never inherit, but are entitled to live in the ancestral home till they are married.” 1 The Khairwas or Khairwārs of the Kaimur hills. are 9. The
Khairwas derived, as already seen, from the Gonds and Savars, and of Damoh. therefore are ethnologically a distinct group from those of the Chota Nāgpur plateau, who have been described above. But as nearly every caste is made up of diverse ethnological elements held together by the tie of a common occupation, it does not seem worth while to treat these groups separately. Colonel Dalton, who also identifies them with the main tribe, records an interesting notice of them at an earlier period : 2
“ There is in the seventh volume of the Asiatic Researches a notice of the Kharwārs of the Kaimur hills in the Mirzāpur District, to the north of the Son river, by Captain J. P. Blunt, who in his journey from Chunār to Ellora in A.D. 1794, met with them and describes them as a very primitive tribe. He visited one of their villages consisting of half a dozen poor huts, and though proceeding with the utmost caution, unattended, to prevent alarm, the inhabitants fled at his approach. The women were seen, assisted by the men, carrying off their children and moving with speed to hide themselves in the woods. It was observed that they were nearly naked, and the only articles of domestic use found in the deserted huts were a few gourds for water-vessels, some bows and arrows, and some fowls as wild as their masters. With great difficulty, by the employment of Kols as mediators, some of the men were induced to return. They were nearly naked, but armed with bows and arrows and a hatchet.”
In Damoh the Khairwārs are said to come from Panna State. During the working season they live in temporary sheds in the forest, and migrate from place to place as the supply of trees is exhausted. Having cut down a tree they strip off the bark and cut the inner and tender wood into small pieces, which are boiled for two or three days until a thick black paste is obtained. From this the water is allowed to drain off, and the residue is made into cakes and dried in the sun.
It is eaten in small pieces with betel-leaf and areca-nut. Duty is levied by the Forest Department at the 1 Risley, loc. cit.
2 Ethnology of Bengal, pp. 128, 129.
rate of a rupee per handi or pot in which boiling is carried
In Bombay various superstitious observances are connected with the manufacture of catechu; and Mr. Crooke quoted the following description of them from the Bombay Gazetteer: 1
“Every year on the day after the Holi the chülha ceremony takes place. In a trench seven feet long by three, and about three deep, khair logs are carefully stacked and closely packed till they stand in a heap about three feet above ground. The pile is then set on fire and allowed to burn to the level of the ground. The village sweeper breaks a cocoanut, kills a couple of fowls and sprinkles a little liquor near the pile. Then, after washing their feet, the sweeper and the village headman walk barefoot hurriedly across the fire. After this strangers come to fulfil vows, and giving one anna and a half cocoanut to the sweeper, and the other half cocoanut to the headman, wash their feet, and turning to the left, walk over the pile. The fire seems to cause none of them any pain.” The following description of the Kathkāris as hunters of monkeys is also taken by Mr. Crooke from the Bombay Gazetteer: “The Kathkāris represent themselves as descended from the monkeys of Rāma. Now that their legitimate occupation of preparing catechu (kath) has been interfered with, they subsist almost entirely by hunting, and habitually kill and eat monkeys, shooting them with bows and arrows. In order to approach within range they are obliged to have recourse to stratagems, as the monkeys at once recognise them in their ordinary costume. The ruse usually adopted is for one of the best shots to put on a woman's robe (sāri), under the ample folds of which he conceals his murderous weapons. Approaching the tree in which the monkeys are seated, the sportsman affects the utmost unconcern, and busies himself with the innocent occupation of picking up twigs and leaves, and thus disarming suspicion he is enabled to get a sufficiently close shot to render success a certainty."
Khandait, Khandayat.—The military caste of Orissa, the word Khandait meaning 'swordsman,' and being derived
1 Crooke's Tribes and Castes, art. Khairwa. Quoting from Bombay
Gazetteer, x. 48 and iii. 310.
2 Loc. cit.
from the Uriya khanda, a sword. Sir H. Risley remarks of the Khandaits : 1 “ The caste is for the most part, if not entirely, composed of Bhuiyas, whose true affinities have been disguised under a functional name, while their customs, their religion and in some cases even their complexion and features have been modified by long contact with Hindus of relatively pure Aryan descent.
The ancient Rājas of Orissa kept up large armies and partitioned the land on strictly military tenures. These armies consisted of various castes and races, the upper ranks being officered by men of good Aryan descent, while the lower ones were recruited from the low castes alike of the hills and the plains. In the social system of Orissa, the Sresta or 'best' Khandaits rank next to the Rājpūts, who have not the intimate connection with the land which has helped to raise the Khandaits to their present position.” The Khandaits are thus like the Marāthas, and the small body of Paiks in the northern Districts, a caste formed from military service; and though recruited for the most part originally from the Dravidian tribes, they have obtained a considerable rise in status owing to their occupation and the opportunity which has been afforded to many of them to become landholders. The best Khandaits now aspire to Rājpūt rank, while the bulk of them have the position of cultivators, from whom Brāhmans" will take water, or a much higher one than they are entitled to by descent. In the Central Provinces the Khandaits have no subcastes, and only two gotras or clans, named after the Kachhap or tortoise and the Nāgas or cobra respectively. These divisions appear, however, to be nominal, and do not regulate marriage, as to which the only rule observed is that persons whose descent can be traced from the same parent should not marry each other. Early marriage is usual, and if a girl arrives at adolescence without a husband having been found for her, she goes through the ceremony of wedlock with an arrow. Polygamy is permitted, but a person resorting to it is looked down on and nicknamed Maipkhia or wife-eater. The essential portion of the marriage ceremony is the bandan or
1 Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art. 2 The following particulars are from Khandait. In 1911, after the transfer a paper by Mr. Kāshināth Bohidār, of Sambalpur, only 18 Khandaits Assistant Settlement Superintendent, remained in the Central Provinces.
tying of the hands of the bride and bridegroom together with
The bridegroom must lift up the bride and walk seven times round the marriage altar carrying her. Widow-marriage and divorce are permitted in the Central Provinces, and Brāhmans are employed for religious and ceremonial purposes.
LIST OF PARAGRAPHS
1. Origin and traditions.
Khangār, called also Kotwal, Jemādār or Darbānia 1. Origin (gatekeeper).—A low caste of village watchmen and field- and labourers belonging to Bundelkhand, and found in the Saugor, Damoh, Narsinghpur and Jubbulpore Districts. They numbered nearly 13,000 in 1915. The Khangārs are also numerous in the United Provinces. Hindu ingenuity has evolved various explanations of the word Khangār, such as 'khand, a pit, and 'gar,' maker, digger, because the Khangār digs holes in other people's houses for the purposes of theft. The caste is, however, almost certainly of nonAryan origin, and there is little doubt also that Bundelkhand was its original home. It may be noted that the Munda tribe have a division called Khangār with which the caste may have some connection. The Khangārs themselves relate the following story of their origin. Their ancestors were formerly the rulers of the fort and territory of Kurār in Bundelkhand, when a Bundela Rājpūt came and settled there. The Bundela had a very pretty daughter whom the Khangār Rāja demanded in marriage. The Bundela did not wish to give his daughter to the Khangār, but could not refuse the Rāja outright, so he said that he would consent if all the Khangārs would agree to adopt Bundela practices. This the Khangārs readily agreed to do, and the Bundela thereupon invited them all to a wedding feast, and having
1 Compiled principally from a paper by Kanhyā Lāl, clerk in the Gazetteer Office.