Page images
PDF
EPUB

II

MARRIAGE

539

girl, despite the protests of the caste. The ancestor of the Hinmiya Bhoi barga had a mistress of the Khond tribe, who left him some property, and is still worshipped in the family. The number of gotras is smaller than that of the bargas, and some gotras, as the Nāg or cobra, the tortoise and the pīpal tree, are common to many bargas. Marriage is forbidden between members of the same barga, and between first cousins on the father's side. To have the same gotra is no bar to marriage.

Girls should be wedded before maturity, as among most 3. Marof the Uriya castes, and if no suitable husband is forth- riage. coming a nominal marriage is sometimes arranged with an old man, and the girl is afterwards disposed of as a widow. The boy's father makes the proposal for the marriage, and if this is accepted the following formal ceremony takes place. He goes to the girl's village, accompanied by some friends, and taking a quantity of gur (raw sugar), and staying at some other house, sends a messenger known as Jalangia to the girl's father, intimating that he has a request to make. The girl's father pretends not to know what it is, and replies that if he has anything to say the elders of the village should be called to hear it. These assemble, and the girl's father informs them that a stranger from another village has come to ask something of him, and as he is ignorant of its purport, he has asked them to do him the favour of being present.

The boy's father then opens a parable, saying that he was carried down a river in flood, and saved himself by grasping a tree on the bank. The girl's father replies that the roots of a riverside tree are weak, and he fears that the tree itself would go down in the flood. The boy's father replies that in that case he would be content to perish with the tree. Thereupon the caste priest places a nut and some sacred rice cooked at Jagannāth's temple in the hands of the parties, who stand together facing the company, and the girl's father says he has no objection to giving his daughter in marriage, provided that she may not be abandoned if she should subsequently become disfigured. The nut is broken and distributed to all present in ratification of the agreement. After this, other visits and a formal interchange of presents

take place prior to the marriage proper. This is performed with the customary ceremonial of the Criya castes. The marriage altar is made of earth brought from outside the village by seven married women. Branches of the mahua tree are placed on the altar, and after the conclusion of the ceremony are thrown into a tank. The women also take a jar of water to a tank and, emptying it, fill the jar with the tank water. They go round to seven houses, and at each empty and refill the jar with water from the house. The water finally brought back is used for bathing the bride and bridegroom, and is believed to protect them from all supernatural dangers. An image of the family totem made from powdered rice is anointed with oil and turmeric, and worshipped daily while the marriage is in progress. If the boy or girl is the eldest child, the parents go through a mock marriage ceremony which the child is not allowed to see. When the couple are brought into the marriageshed, they throw seven handfuls of rice mixed with mung1 and salt on each other. The priest ties the hands of the couple with thread spun by virgins, and the relatives then pour water over the knot. The bride's brother comes up and unties the knot, and gives the bridegroom a blow on the back. This is meant to show his anger at being deprived of his sister. He is given a piece of cloth and goes away.

Presents are made to the pair, and the women throw rice on them. They are then taken inside the house and set to gamble with cowries. If the bridegroom wins he promises an ornament to the bride. If she wins she promises to serve him. The boy then asks her to sit with him on a bench, and she at first refuses, and agrees when he promises her other presents. Next day the bride's mother singes the cheeks of the bridegroom with betel-leaves heated over a lamp, and throws cowdung and rice over the couple to protect them from evil. The party takes its departure for the bridegroom's village, and on arrival there his sisters hold a cloth over the door of the house and will not let the couple in till they are given a present. The bridegroom then shoots an arrow at an image of a monkey or a deer, made of powdered rice, which

1 Phaseolus mungo.

II

RELIGION-OCCUPATION

541

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

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 Kunwār for the well-being of a son. 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, 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

tion,

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 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.

II

KOMTI

543

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 Devī. 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).

« PreviousContinue »