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I. General notice. 8. Religion.

2. Legend of origin. 9. Funeral rites.

3. Subcastes. Io. Bringing back the souls of the
4. Exogamy and totemism. dead.

5. Marriage. II. Social customs.
6. Taboos as to food. 12. Caste rules and organisation.
7. Widow-marriage and divorce. 13. Occupation and character.

14. Language.

Kharia."—A primitive Kolarian tribe, of which about 9oo persons were returned from the Central Provinces in 1911. They belong to the Bilāspur District and the Jashpur and Raigarh States. The Kharias are one of the most backward of the Kolarian tribes, and appear to be allied to the Mundas and Savars. Colonel Dalton says of them : “In the Chota Nägpur estate they are found in large communities, and the Kharias belonging to these communities are far more civilised than those who live apart. Their best settlements lie near the southern Koel river, which stream they venerate as the Santāls do the Dāmudar, and into it they throw the ashes of their dead.” Chota Nägpur is the home of the Kharias, and their total strength is over a lakh. They are found elsewhere only in Assam, where they have probably migrated to the tea-gardens.

The Kharia legend of origin resembles that of the Mundas, and tends to show that they are an elder branch of that tribe. They say that a child was born to a woman in the jungle, and she left it to fetch a basket in which to carry it home. On her return she saw a cobra spreading its hood

I. General notice.

1 This article is mainly based on Dalton's and Sir H. Risley's accounts notes taken by Rai Bahādur Hira Lāl of the tribe. at Raigarh, with extracts from Colonel

2. Legend of origin.

over the child to protect it from the sun. On this account the child was called Någvansi (of the race of the cobra), and became the ancestor of the Nāgvansi Rājas of Chota Nāgpur. The Kharias say this child had an elder brother, and the two brothers set out on a journey, the younger riding a horse and the elder carrying a kāwar or banghy with their luggage. When they came to Chota Nägpur the younger was made king, on which the elder brother also asked for a share of the inheritance. The people then put two caskets before him and asked him to choose one. One of the caskets contained silver and the other only some earth. The elder brother chose that which contained earth, and on this he was told that the fate of himself and his descendants would be to till the soil, and carry banghys as he had been doing. The Kharias say that they are descended from the elder brother, while the younger was the ancestor of the Nägvansi Rājas, who are really Mundas. They say that they can never enter the house of the Nāgvansi Rājas because they stand in the relation of elder brother-in-law to the Rānis, who are consequently prohibited from looking on the face of a Kharia. This story is exactly like that of the Parjas in connection with the Rājas of Bastar. And as the Parjas are probably an older branch of the Gonds, who were reduced to subjection by the subsequent Rāj-Gond immigrants under the ancestors of the Bastar Rājas, so it seems a reasonable hypothesis that the Kharias stood in a similar relationship to the Mundas or Kols. This theory derives some support from the fact that, according to Sir H. Risley, the Mundas will take daughters in marriage from the Kharias, but will not give their daughters to them, and the Kharias speak of the Mundas as their elder brethren." Mr. Hira Lal suggests that the name Kharia is derived from kharkhari, a palanquin or litter, and that the original name Kharkharia has been contracted into Kharia. He states that in the Uriya country Oraons, who carry litters, are also called Kharias. This derivation is in accordance with the tradition of the Kharias that their first ancestor carried a banghy, and with the fact that the Kols are the best professional dhoolie-bearers. 1 Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art. Kharia.

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In Raigarh the Kharias have only two subtribes, the Düdh, or milk Kharias, and the Delki. Of these the Delki are said to be of mixed origin. They take food from Brähmans, and explain that they do so because an ancestress went wrong with a Brähman. It seems likely that they may be descended from the offspring of immigrant Hindus in Chota Nägpur with Kharia women, like similar subdivisions in other tribes. The Delkis look down on the Dudh Kharias, saying that the latter eat the flesh of tigers and monkeys, from which the Delkis abstain. In Bengal the tribe have two other divisions, the Erenga and Munda Kharias.

The tribe is divided, like others, into totemistic exogamous septs, which pay reverence to their totems. Thus members of the Kulu (tortoise), Kiro (tiger), Näg (cobra), Kankul (leopard) and Kuto (crocodile) septs abstain from killing their totem animal, fold their hands in obeisance when they meet it, and taking up some dust, from the animal's track place it on their heads as a mark of veneration. Certain septs cannot wholly abstain from the consumption of their sept totem, so they make a compromise. Thus members of the Baa, or rice sept, cannot help eating rice, but they will not eat the scum which gathers over the rice as it is being boiled. Those of the Bilum or salt sept must not take up a little salt on one finger and suck it, but must always use two or more fingers for conveying salt to the mouth, presumably as a mark of respect. Members of the Suren or stone sept will not make ovens with stones but only with clods of earth. The tribe do not now think they are actually descended from their totems, but tell stories accounting for the connection. Thus the Katang Kondai or bamboo sept say that a girl in the family of their ancestors went to cut bamboos and never came back. Her parents went to search for her and heard a voice calling out from the bamboos, but could not find their daughter. Then they understood that the bamboo was of their own family and must not be cut by them. The supposition is apparently that the girl was transformed into a bamboo.

Marriage between members of the same sept is forbidden, but the rule is not always observed. A brother's daughter

3. SubCastes.

4. Exogamy and totemism.

5. Marriage.

may marry a sister's son, but not vice versa. Marriage is always adult, and overtures come from the boy's father. The customary bride-price is twelve bullocks, but many families cannot afford this, and resort is then made to a fiction. The boy's party make twelve models of bullocks in earth, and placing each in a leaf-plate send them to the girl's party, who throw away two, saying that one has been eaten by a tiger, and the other has fallen into a pit and died. The remaining ten are returned to the bridegroom's party, who throw away two, saying that they have been sold to provide liquor for the Panch. For two of the eight now left real animals are substituted, and for the other six one rupee each, and the two cattle and six rupees are sent back to the bride's party as the real bride-price. Poor families, however, give four rupees instead of the two cattle, and ten rupees is among them considered as the proper price, though even this is reduced on occasion. The marriage party goes from the bride's to the bridegroom's house, and consists of women only. The men do not go, as they say that on one occasion all the men of a Kharia wedding procession were turned into stones, and they fear to undergo a similar fate. The real reason may probably be that the journey of the bride is a symbolic reminiscence of the time when she was carried off by force, and hence it would be derogatory for the men to accompany her. The bridegroom comes out to meet the bride riding on the shoulders of his brother-in-law or paternal aunt's husband, who is known as Dherha. He touches the bride, and both of them perform a dance. At the wedding the bridegroom stands on a plough-yoke, and the bride on a grinding-slab, and the Dherha walks seven times round them sprinkling water on them from a mangoleaf. The couple are shut up alone for the night, and next morning the girl goes to the river to wash her husband's clothes. On her return a fowl is killed, and the couple drink two drops of its blood in water mixed with turmeric, as a symbol of the mixing of their own blood. A goat is killed, and they step in its blood and enter their houses. The caste-people say to them, “Whenever a Kharia comes to your house, give him a cup of water and tobacco and food if you have it,” and the wedding is over.


After a girl is married her own mother will not eat food cooked by her, as no two Kharias will take food together unless they are of the same sept. When a married daughter goes back to the house of her parents she cooks her food separately, and does not enter their cook-room ; if she did all the earthen pots would be defiled and would have to be thrown away. A similar taboo marks the relations of a woman towards her husband's elder brother, who is known as Kura Sasur. She must not enter his house nor sit on a cot or stool before him, nor touch him, nor cook food for him. If she touches him a fine of a fowl with liquor is imposed by the caste, and for his touching her a goat and liquor. This idea may perhaps have been established as a check on the custom of fraternal polyandry, when the idea of the eldest brother taking the father's place as head of the joint family became prevalent.

Widow-marriage is permitted at the price of a feast to the caste, and the payment of a small sum to the woman's family. A widow must leave her children with her first husband's family if required to do so. If she takes them with her they become entitled to inherit her second husband's property, but receive only a half-share as against a full share taken by his children. Divorce is permitted by mutual agreement or for adultery of the woman. But the practice is not looked upon with favour, and a divorced man or woman rarely succeeds in obtaining another mate.

The principal deity of the Kharias is a hero called Banda. They say that an Oraon had vowed to give his daughter to the man who would clear the käns' grass off a hillock. Several men "tried, and at last Banda did it by cutting out the roots. He then demanded the girl's hand, but the Oraon refused, thinking that Banda had cleared the grass by magic. Then Banda went away and the girl died, and on learning of this Banda went and dug her out of her grave, when she came to life and they were married. Since then Banda has been worshipped. The tribe also venerate their ploughs and axes, and on the day of Dasahra they make offerings to the sun.

6. Taboos as to food.

7. Widowmarriage and divorce.

* Saccharum spontaneum. This grass infests cultivated fields and is very difficult to eradicate.


8. Religion.

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