Page images




is brought back, cooked and eaten. The bride goes home in a day or two, and the Bandāpana ceremony is performed when she finally departs to live with her husband on arrival at maturity. The Koltas allow widow-marriage, but the husband has to pay a sum of about Rs. 100 to the castepeople, the bulk of which is expended in feasting. Divorce may be effected in the presence of the caste committee.

The caste worship the goddess Rāmchandi, whose 4. Reliprincipal shrine is at Sarsara in Baud State. In order to

gion. establish a local Rāmchandi, a handful of earth must be brought from her shrine at Sarsara and made into a representation of the goddess. Some consider

consider that Rāmchandi is the personification of Mother Earth, and the Koltas will not swear by the earth. They worship the plough in the month of Shrāwan, washing it with water and milk, and applying sandal-paste with offerings of flowers and food. The Puājiuntia festival is observed in Kunwar for the well-being of a On this occasion barren women try to ascertain whether they will get a son. A hole is made in the ground and filled with water, and a living fish is placed in it. The woman sits by the hole holding her cloth spread out, and if the fish in struggling jumps into her cloth, it is held to prognosticate the birth of a son. The caste worship their family gods and totems on the roth day of Asārh, Bhādon, Kārtik and Māgh, which are called the pure months. They employ Brāhmans for religious ceremonies. Every man has a guru who is a Bairāgi, and he must be initiated by his guru before he is allowed to marry.

The caste both burn and bury the dead. They eat flesh and fish, but generally abstain from liquor and the flesh of unclean animals, though in some places they are known to eat rats and crocodiles, and also the leavings of Brāhmans. Brāhmans will take water from Koltas, and their social standing is equal to that of the good agricultural castes. The Koltas are skilful cultivators and have the usual

5. Occupacharacteristics belonging to the cultivating castes, of frugality, tion. industry, hunger for land, and readiness to resort to any degree of litigation rather than relinquish a supposed right to it. They strongly appreciate the advantages of

irrigation and show considerable public spirit in constructing tanks which will benefit the lands of their tenants as well as their own. Nevertheless they are not popular, probably because they are generally more prosperous than their neighbours. The rising of the Khonds of Kālāhandi in 1882 was caused by their discontent'at being ousted from their lands by the Koltas. The Rāja of Kālāhandi had imported a number of Kolta cultivators, and these speedily got the Khond headmen and ryots into their debt, and possessed themselves of all the best land in the Khond villages. In May 1882 the Khonds rose and slaughtered more than 80 Koltas, while 300 more were besieged in the village of Norla, the Khonds appearing with portions of the scalp and hair of the murdered victims hanging to their bows. On the arrival of a body of police which had been summoned from Vizagapatam, they dispersed, and the outbreak was soon afterwards suppressed, seven of the ringleaders being arrested, tried and hanged by the Political Officer. A settlement was made of the grievances of the Khonds and tranquillity was restored.

Komti, Komati. The Madras caste of traders corresponding to

to Banias. In 1911 they numbered 11,000 persons in the Central Provinces, principally in the Chānda and Yeotmāl Districts. The Komtis claim to be of the same status as Banias and to belong to the Vaishya division of the Aryans, but this is a very doubtful pretension. Mr. Francis remarks of them : 1 “Three points which show them to be of Dravidian origin are their adherence to the custom of obliging a boy to marry his paternal uncle's daughter, however unattractive she may be, a practice which is condemned by Manu; their use of the Purānic or lower ritual instead of the Vedic rites in their ceremonies; and the fact that none of the 102 gotras into which the caste is divided are those of the twice-born, while some at any rate seem to be totemistic as they are the names of trees and plants, and the members of each gotra abstain from touching or using the plant or tree after which their gotra is called.” They are also of noticeably dark complexion. Komati is

1 Madras Census Report (1901), p. 162.




said to be a corruption of Gomati, a tender of cows. The caste have, however, a great reputation for cunning and astuteness, and hence have arisen the popular derivations of ko-mati, fox-minded, and go-mati, cow-minded. The real meaning of the word is obscure. In Mysore the caste have the title of Setti or Chetty, which is a corruption of the Sanskrit Sreshtha, good, and in the Central Provinces their names often terminate with Appa.

The Komtis have the following story about themselves : Long ago, in the Kaliyuga era, there lived a Rājpūt king of Rājahmundry, who on his travels saw a beautiful Vaishya girl and fell in love with her. Her father refused him, saying that they were of different castes. But the king persisted and would not be denied. On which the maiden determined to sacrifice herself to save her honour, and her clansmen resolved to die with her. So she told the king that she would marry him if he would agree to the hom sacrifice being performed at the ceremony. When the fire was kindled the girl threw herself on it and perished, followed by a hundred and two of her kinsmen. But the others were cowardly and fled from the fire. Before she died the girl cursed the king and her caste-fellows who had fled, and they and their families were cut off from the earth. But from those who died the hundred and two clans of the Komtis are descended, and they worship the maiden as Kanika Devi. She is considered to have been an incarnation of Pārvati and is the heroine of the Kānikya Purān. It is also said that she ordained that henceforth all Komtis should be black, so that none of their women might come to harm by being desired for their beauty as she had been. It is said that the caste look out for a specially dark girl as a bride, and think that she will bring luck to her husband and cause him to make money. 'Another explanation of their dark colour is that they originally lived in Ceylon, and when the island was set on fire by Rāma their faces were blackened in the smoke. The hundred and two clans have each a particular kind of flower or tree which they do not grow, eat, touch or burn, and the explanation they give of this custom is that their ancestors who went into the fire

1 Mysore Ethnographic Survey, Komati caste (H, V, Nanjundayya).

were transformed into these trees and plants.

The names of the plants revered by each clan in the Central Provinces appear to be the same as in Mysore. They include the brinjal, the mango, the cotton-plant, wheat, linseed and others.

The caste have several subcastes, among which are the Yajna, or those whose ancestors went into the fire; the Patti, who are apparently thread-sellers; the Jaina, or those who follow the Jain faith; and the Vidūrs, a half-caste section, who are the offspring of a Yajna father and a mother of some low caste. There is a scarcity of girls, and a bride-price of Rs. 200 to Rs. 500 is often paid. Perhaps for the same reason the obligation to give a daughter to a sister's son is strictly enforced, and a man who refuses to do this is temporarily put out of caste. The gotras of the mothers of the bride and bridegroom should not be the same, and there should be no ‘Turning back of the creeper,' as they say, that is, when a girl has married into a family, the latter cannot give a girl in marriage to that girl's family ever afterwards. Before the regular betrothal when a girl has been selected, they appoint a day and the bridegroom's party proceed outside the village to take the omens. bad omen occurs, they give up the idea of the match and choose another girl. When the bridegroom has arrived at the bride's village, before the marriage takes place, he performs the Kāshi-Yātra or Going to Benares. He is dressed as for a journey and carries a small handful of rice and other provisions tied up in packages in his upper garment. Thus accoutred, he sets out with a stick and umbrella on a pretended visit to Benares, for the purpose of devoting his life to study. The parents of the bride meet him and beg him to give up the journey, promising him their daughter in marriage. The binding function of the marriage is the tying of the mangal-sūtram or piece of gold strung on a thread round the bride's neck by the bridegroom. This gold piece is called pushti and must never be taken off. If a woman loses it, she should hide herself from everybody until it is replaced. On the way to her husband's house, the bride should upset with her foot a measure of rice kept

1 H. V. Nanjundayya, loc. cit.

If a




on purpose in the way, perhaps with the idea of showing that there will be so much grain in her household that she can afford to waste it. The Komtis did not eat in kitchens in the famines, but accepted dry rations of food with great reluctance. They wear the sacred thread and have castemarks on their foreheads. They usually rub powdered turmeric on their face and hands, and this lends an unpleasant greenish tinge to the skin.


He was

Kori. — The Hindu weaving caste of northern India, as 1. Descripdistinct from the Julāhas or Momins who are Muhammadans. tion of the In 1911 the Koris numbered 35,000 persons, and resided mainly in Jubbulpore, Saugor and Damoh. Mr. Crooke states that their name has been derived from that of the Kol caste, of whom they have by some been assumed to be an offshoot.” The Koris themselves trace their origin from Kabir, the apostle of the weaving castes. He, they say, met a Brāhman girl on the bank of a tank, and, being saluted by her, replied, “May God give you a son.' She objected that she was a virgin and unmarried, but Kabir answered that his word could not fail; and a boy was born out of her hand, whom she left on the bank of the tank. suckled by a heifer and subsequently adopted by a weaver and was the ancestor of the Koris. Therefore the caste say of themselves : “He was born of an undefiled vessel, and free from passion; he lowered his body and entered the ocean of existence.” This legend is a mere perversion of the story of Kabir himself, designed to give the Koris a distinguished pedigree. In the Central Provinces the caste appears to be almost entirely a functional group, made up of members of other castes who were either expelled from their own community or of their own accord adopted the profession of weaving. The principal subdivision is the Ahirwār, taking its name from the old town of Ahar in the Bulandshahr District. Among the others are Kushta (Koshta), Chadār, Katia, Mehra, Dhimar and Kotwār, all of which, except the last, are the names of distinct castes; while the Kotwārs represent members of the caste who became village

1 H. V. Nanjundayya, loc. cit. 2 Tribes and Castes of the North-West Provinces, iii. 316. VOL. III

2 N

« PreviousContinue »