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cherubs and winged horses, are most abundantly carved :
but domestic utensils in the shape of chembus, kinnis,
cups, plates, etc., are turned on the lathe. Large
vessels are sometimes made of the wood of vepi or
achamaram (Hardwickia binata), which resembles red
sanders wood, but is more liable to crack. The carved
figures are sold to pilgrims and others who visit Tiru-
pati, and are also taken to Conjeeveram, Madura, and
other places, at times when important temple festivals
are celebrated. Vessels made of red sanders wood carry
no pollution, and can be used by women during the
menstrual period, and taken back to the house without
any purification ceremony. For the same reason,
Sanyasis (ascetics) use such vessels for doing puja.

The name Balija is said to be derived from the
Sanskrit bali (a sacrifice) and ja (born), signifying that
the Balijas owe their origin to the performance of a
yagam. The legend is current that on one occasion
Siva wanted his consort Parvati to appear before him
in all her glory. But, when she stood before him, fully
decorated, he laughed, and said that she was not as
charming as she might be. On this, she prayed that
Siva would help her to become so. From his braid of
hair Siva created a being who descended on the earth,
bearing a number of bangles and turmeric paste, with
which Parvati adorned herself. Siva, being greatly
pleased with her appearance, told her to look at herself
in a looking-glass. The being, who brought the
bangles, is believed to have been the ancestor of the
Gazula Balijas. According to another version of the
legend, Parvati was not satisfied with her appearance
when she saw herself in the looking-glass, and asked her


father to tell her how she was to make herself more
attractive. He accordingly prayed to Brahma, who
ordered him to perform a severe penance (thapas).
From the sacrificial fire, kindled in connection therewith,
arose a being leading a donkey laden with heaps of
bangles, turmeric, palm leaf rolls for the ears, black
beads, sandal powder, a comb, perfumes, etc. From this
Maha Purusha who thus sprang from a sacrifice (bali),
the Balijas derived their origin and name. To him, in
token of respect, were given flags, torches, and certain
musical instruments.

The Desayis, or leaders of the right-hand faction,
are said to be Balijas by caste. In former days they had
very great influences, and all castes belonging to the
right-hand faction would obey the Desayi Ciietti. Even
at the present day, the Oddes and others refer their
disputes to the Desayi, and not to their own caste head-
man. In former times there were three principal
Desayis, who had their head-quarters at Conjeeveram,
Cuddalore, and Walajapet. The head Desayi possesses
a biruthu (insigne of office) in the form of a large brass
ladle with a bell attached to it. On the occasion of
Balija marriages and funerals, this is sent through the
Chalavathi (a pariah), who is the servant of the Desayi,
and has the right of allu eduththal (taking a handful)
when he goes to the bazaar, where he receives meat
from the butcher, vegetables, etc., as his perquisite.
The Desayi's ladle is kept in the custody of the
Chalavathi (See Desayi).

The Balijas, Mr. Stuart writes,* " employ Brahmans
and Satanis as their priests. The chief object of their
worship is Gauri, their caste deity. It is said that the

Madras Census Report, 1891.



Malas are the hereditary custodians of the idol of Gauri
and her jewels, which the Balijas get from them when-
ever they want to worship her. The following story
is told to account for this. The Kapus and Balijas,
molested by the Muhammadan invaders on the north of
the northern Pennar, migrated to the south when the
Pennar was in full flood. Being unable to cross the
river, they invoked their deity to make a passage for
them, for which it demanded the sacrifice of a first-born
child. While they stood at a loss what to do, the Malas
who followed them boldly offered one of their children
to the goddes-s. Immediately the river divided before
them, and the Kapus and the Balijas crossed it, and
were saved from the tyranny of the Muhammadans.
Ever since that time, the Malas have been respected by
the Kapus and Balijas, and the latter even deposited
the images of Gauri, the bull and Ganesa, which they
worshipped, in the house of a Mala. I am credibly
informed that the practice of leaving these images in the
custody of Malas is even now observed in some parts of
the Cuddapah district and elsewhere."

Of the numerous sub-divisions of the Balijas, the
following may be noticed :

Gazula, glass bangles. Valaiyal or vala (bangle) Chetti is
the Tamil equivalent. By some the sight of a Gazula Balija
with his pile of bangles on his back is considered a good
omen. In recent years, a scare has arisen in connection
with an insect, which is said to take up its abode in imported
German glass bangles, which compete with the indigenous
industry of the Gazulas. The insect is believed to lie low in
the bangle till it is purchased, when it comes out and nips
the wearer, after warning her to get her affairs in order
before succumbing. A specimen of a broken bangle, from
which the insect is stated to have burst forth and stung a
girl in the wrist, was sent to me. But the insect was not


Gandavallu, or Gundapodi vandlu. Go about the villages,
hawking turmeric, kunkumam (colour powder), kamela
(Mallotus philippinensis) dye powder, beads, combs, cos-
metics and other articles. Supposed to have been originally

Kavarai, Tamil synonym for Balija.



Telugu or Telaga. A synonym for Balija in the Northern

Rajamahendram or Musu Kamma. The former denotes
the town of Rajahmundry, and the latter a special ear-
ornament worn by women.

Tota, garden.

Ralla, precious stones.

Pagadala, coral.

Pusa, beads.

Racha, royal.

Vyasa. A sage (rishi) or hunter, whom the hunting classes
claim as their ancestor.

Other sub-divisions, classified as Balijas at the
census, 1901, were:

Jakkulas, among whom it was, at Tenali in the Kistna district,
formerly customary for each family to give up one girl for
prostitution. Under the influence of social reform, a written
agreement was a few years ago entered into to give up the

Adapapa. Female attendants on the ladies of the families of
Zamindars, who, as they are not allowed to marry, lead a life
of prostitution. Their sons call themselves Balijas. In
some places, e.g,, the Kistna and Godavari districts, this
class is known as Khasa or Khasavandlu.

Santa Kavarai. Returned as Balijas in the Chingleput district.

Ravut. Returned in the Salem district. Said to have been
formerly soldiers under the Poligars.

Like other Telugu castes, the Balijas have exoga-
mous septs (intiperu) and gotras. Of the former, the
following are examples :


Tupakala, musket.
Samudram, ocean.
Pappu, split pulse.
Gantla, bell.
Puli, tiger.
Balli, lizard.
Avula, cow.

Gandham, sandal paste
or powder.


Miriyala, pepper.
Mutyala, pearls.
Narikella, cocoanut.
Nemili, peacock.
Pagadala, coral.
Pattindla, silk house.
Ratnala, precious stones.
Ungarala, rings.
Yenumala, buffalo.

Jilakara, cummin seeds.

There is a saying that a Balija who has no gotra
must take the name of the Pasuleti, or Pasupuleti gotra.
In like manner, a Brahman orphan, whose gotra cannot
be traced, is made to adopt the Vathsa gotra.

Among the Musu Kammas, the consent of both the
maternal uncle and elder sister's husband must be
obtained before a girl is given in marriage. At the
betrothal ceremony, the future bridegroom's relations
proceed to the house of the girl, carrying the following
articles on an odd number of trays beneath a cloth canopy
(ulladam) : mustard, fenugreek (Trigonella Fcenum-
(rreecum), cummin seeds, curds, jaggery, dhal (Cajanus
indicus], balls of condiments, tamarinds, pepper, twenty-
one cakes, eleven cocoanuts, salt, plantains, flowers, a
new cloth, black beads, a palm-leaf roll for the ear lobe,
turmeric, a comb, and kunkumam (colour powder). A
few rupees, called kongu mudi, to be given to the future
mother-in-law, are also placed on the tray. The
contracting parties exchange betel and a cocoanut, of
which the latter is taken away by a member of the
bridegroom's party, tied up in his body-cloth. The
girl is seated on a plank, goes through the ceremony
(nalagu) of being anointed with oil and paste, and is
presented with a new cloth. Wearing this, she sits on
the plank, and betel, flowers, jewels, etc., are placed in


her lap. A near female relation then ties a string
of black beads round her neck. Among the Musu
Kammas, the milk-post, consisting of a green bamboo,
with sometimes a branch of Odina Wodier, must be set
up two days before the commencement of the marriage
ceremonies. It is worshipped, and to it are tied an iron
ring, and a string of cotton and wool twisted together
(kankanam). A small framework, called dhornam, made
of two sticks, across which cotton threads or pieces of
cloth are stretched, is brought by a washerwoman, and
given to the maternal uncle of the bridegroom, who
ties it to the marriage booth. The marriage pots are
brought from a potter's house beneath a cloth canopy
(ulladam), and given to married couples, closely related
to the bridegroom, who fetch water, and place the pots
on the dais. Some married women pour rice on a clean
white cloth spread on the floor, and rub off the bran with
their hands, while they sing songs. The cloth to be
worn by the bridegroom is dipped in turmeric water by
these women and dried. The Balijas are very particular
about the worship of their female ancestors (perantalu)
and no auspicious ceremony can be commenced until
perantalu puja has been performed. Among the Musu
Kammas, five women, who are closely related to the
bridal couple, take only one meal a day, and try to keep
free from pollution of all sorts. They go through the
nalagu ceremony, and are presented with new cloths.
Among other sections, the wall is simply painted with
turmeric dots to represent the ancestors. The ancestor
worship concluded, the finger and toe-nails of the
bridegroom are cut, and a Musu Kamma bridegroom is
conducted to a temple of Vigneswara (Ganesa), if there
is one near at hand. By other sections it is considered
sufficient, if Vigneswara worship is performed at the


marriage booth. The Musu Kamma bridegroom is
dressed up at the temple, and a bashingam (chaplet) tied
on his forehead. An old-fashioned turban (paghai) is
placed on his head, and a dagger (jimthadu) stuck into
his waist-cloth. It is said that, in olden times, the
Balijas used to worship the dagger, and sacrifice sheep
or goats at marriages. The bridegroom is next brought
to the house where the wedding is being celebrated, and
his brother-in-law washes his feet, and, after throwing
flowers and rice over them, puts toe-rings and shoes
thereon. The Brahman purohit lights the sacred fire
(homam), and pours ghl (clarified butter) therein, while
he utters some verses, Vedic or other. He then ties
the kankanam (thread) on the bridegroom's wrist. The
parents of the bride next proceed with the dharadhattam
(gift of the girl) by pouring water and grains of rice
into the hands of the bridegroom. Vigneswara is then
worshipped, and the bottu (marriage badge) is blessed by
those assembled, and handed to the bridegroom. He,
placing his right foot on that of the bride, who is
separated from him by a screen, ties it round her neck.
The couple then exchange seats, and rice is thrown in
front of them. They next go thrice round the dais and
milk-post, and, at the end of the first and second rounds,
the foot of the bride is placed on a grinding stone.
After the third round they gaze at the pole-star
(Arundati). Into one of the marriage pots are put a
pap-bowl, ring, and bracelet, which are picked out by
the couple. If the pap-bowl is first got hold of by the
bridegroom, the first-born child will be a boy ; if the ring,
it will be a girl This rite concluded, the bridegroom
makes a mark on the bride's forehead with collyrium.
On the second day, the bridegroom makes a pretence of
being angry, and stays in a garden or house near that


in which the marriage ceremonies are conducted. The
bride, and some of her relations, go to him in procession,
and, treating him with great respect, bring him back.
The sacred fire is lighted, and the bride enters the room
in which the marriage pots (araveni) are kept. The
bridegroom is stopped at the entrance thereto by a
number of married women, and has to call his wife by
her name, and pay a small sum of money for the arathi
(coloured water), which is waved by the women, to ward
off the evil eye. In some places, the sister of the
bridegroom extracts a promise that his coral (daughter)
shall be given in marriage to her pearl (son). He is
then permitted to enter the room. On the third day,
after homam has been performed by the Brahman priest,
the newly married couple go through a burlesque
imitation of domestic life, after they have worshipped
the posts of the booth, and perform a mimic ploughing
ceremony, the bridegroom stirring up some earth in a
basket with a stick or miniature plough. This, in some
places, his sister tries to prevent him from doing by
covering the basket with a cloth, and he has to say " I
will give my coral to your pearl." His brother-in-law
tries to squeeze his fingers between a pair of sticks
called kitti, which was, in former times, a very popular
form of torture as a means of extracting confession.
The bride gives her husband some conji (rice-gruel) to
refresh him after his pretended labour.

At a marriage among the Perikes (q.v.}, a gunny-
bag is said to be worshipped before the bottu is tied. A
quantity of rice is measured on the first day of the
ceremonies and tied up in a cloth. On the third day,
the cloth is opened, and it is considered an auspicious
sign if the quantity of rice exceeds that which was
originally put into it. Among the Rajamahendram

I 45 BAN A

Balijas, just before the nalagu ceremony, the knees,
shoulders, and cheeks of the bride and bridegroom are
touched with a pestle, while the names of their septs
are called out. On the third day, the same process is
repeated, but in the reverse order. A Gazula Balija
bride must, when the bottu is tied, be dressed in a white
cloth with red stripes, called sanna pappuli. With other
sections, a white cloth dyed with turmeric is de rigeur.

Balija, it may be noted, is, in the North Arcot
Manual, returned as a division of Dasaris and Idigas.
The better classes of Medaras (cane-splitters and mat-
makers) are also taking to calling themselves Balijas,
and assume the title Chetti. Oddes and Upparas
sometimes style themselves Odde Balija and Uppara
Balija. They belong to the right-hand section, which is
headed by the Desayi, who is a Balija, and so describe
themselves as belonging to the Setti or Chetti samayam
(section). Some members of the Mila and Vada fishing
castes have adopted Oda or Vada (boat) Balija as their
caste name.

Ballala. Ballala, or Bellala, was returned, at the
census, 1901, as the caste name of a number of indivi-
duals, indicating their claim to descent from the Hoysal
Ballal kings of Mysore. Ballal is a title assumed by
Bant families of position. There is a proverb that,
when a Bant becomes powerful, he becomes a Ballal.*

Ballem (spear). An exogamous sept of Mala.

Balli (lizard). An exogamous sept of Balija.

Balolika. A synonym of Rajapuri.

Balu (bear). A sept of Domb.

Bana (big pot). An exogamous sept of Togatas,
and a name for Telugu washermen, who are sometimes

* Manual of the S. Canara district.


called Bana Tsakala. Bana is the Telugu name for the
pot which they use for boiling the clothes in.

Banajiga (vanik, tradesman). Canarese traders,
many of whom are Lingayats. See Linga Balija.

Banda.- Banda, as applied to the Mondi mendicant
class, seems to be used in the sense of an obstinate
fellow. Some, however, maintain that it refers to a
beggar who carries about a stone, and threatens to beat
his brains out, if alms are not forthcoming. Banda,
meaning a rock, also occurs as an exogamous sept of

Bandari. Bandari, denoting apparently the shrub
Dodondcea viscosa, is an exogamous sept of Odde. It
further occurs, in the sense of a temple treasurer, as an
exogamous sept of Devangas and Padma Sales, for
whom the Bandari acts as caste messenger. It is also
the name of the assistant to the headman, or Pattakar,
of the Okkiliyans, a title of Konkani Brahmans, and a
synonym of Kelasis.

Bandekara. A synonym for Konkani Vanis
(traders), who are said, in the Madras Census Report,
1901, to ape the Brahmanical customs, and call them-
selves by the curious hybrid name of Vasiya (or Vaisya)

Bandi (cart). An exogamous sept of Kapu, Kavarai,
Korava, Kumbara, Kurni, Kuruba, Mala, Odde, Stanika,
and Yanadi. It further occurs as a name for Koravas,
who drag the temple car at times of religious festival.
Vandikkaran (cartmen) is an occupational name for
Nayars, who work as cartmen for carrying fuel.

Bangaru Mukkara (gold nose ornament). A sub-
division of Kamma.

Baniya. The Baniyas or Bunyas are immigrant
traders and money-lenders (so wears) from Northern

147 BANT

India, who have settled down in the southern bazars,
where they carry on a lucrative business, and wax sleek
and wealthy. Bania also occurs as a synonym for the
South Indian trading caste, the Komatis.

It may be noted, as a little matter of history, that,
in 1677, the Court of Directors, in a letter to Fort St.
George, offered " twenty pounds reward to any of our
servants or soldiers as shall be able to speak, write,
and translate the Banian language, and to learn their

Banjari. A synonym of Lambadi.

Banka (gum). An exogamous sept of Motati Kapu.

Bannagara (a painter). A synonym of Chitrakara.

Bannan. A synonym of Vannan or Mannan, re-
corded at times of census. In like manner Bannata
occurs as a Canarese form of the Malayalam Veluttedan
or Vannattan.

Banni or Vanni (Prosopis spicigera). An exoga-
mous sept of Kuruba and Kurni. The tree is worship-
ped because on it " the five Pandava princes hung up
their arms when they entered Virat Nagra in disguise.
On the tree the arms turned to snakes, and remained
untouched till the owners returned." (Lisboa.)

Bant. For the following account of the Bants I am
mainly indebted to Mr. H. A. Stuart's description of
them in the Manual of South Canara. The name Bant,
pronounced Bunt, means in Tulu a powerful man or
soldier, and indicates that the Bants were originally a
military class corresponding to the Nayars of Malabar.
The term Nadava instead of Bant in the northern portions
of South Canara points, among other indications, to a
territorial organisation by nads similar to that described

* Yule and Burnell. Hobson-Jobson.
IO *

BANT 148

by Mr. Logan as prevailing in Malabar. " The Nayars,"
he writes, " were, until the British occupied the country,
the militia of the district. Originally they seem to have
been organised into 'Six Hundreds,' and each six
hundred seems to have had assigned to it the protection
of all the people in a nad or country. The nad was in
turn split up into taras, a Dravidian word signifying
originally a foundation, the foundation of a house, hence
applied collectively to a street, as in Tamil teru, in
Telugu teruvu, and in Canarese and Tulu teravu. The
tara was the Nayar territorial unit for civil purposes."
It has been stated that " the Malabar Nair chieftain of
old had his nad or barony, and his own military class ;
and the relics of this powerful feudal system still survive
in the names of some of the taluks (divisions) of modern
Malabar, and in the official designations of certain Nair
families, whose men still come out with quaint-looking
swords and shields to guard the person of the Zamorin
on the occasion of the rice-throwing ceremony, which
formally constitutes him the ruler of the land. Corre-
spondingly, the Bants of the northern parts of Canara
still answer to the territorial name of Nad Bants, or war-
riors of the nad or territory. It is necessary to explain
that, in both ancient Keralam and Tulu, the functions
of the great military and dominant classes were so dis-
tributed that only certain classes were bound to render
military service to the ruling prince. The rest were
lairds or squires, or gentleman farmers, or the labourers
and artisans of their particular community, though all
of them cultivated a love of manly sports."*

Few traces of any such organisation as has been
indicated now prevail, great changes having been made

* Calcutta Review.

149 BANT

when the Vijayanagar Government introduced, more than
five hundred years ago, a system of administration under
which the local Jain chiefs, though owing allegiance to
an overlord, became more independent in their relations
with the people of the country. Under the Bednur kings,
and still more under the Mysore rule, the power of the
chiefs was also swept away, but the old organisation
was not reverted to.

The Bants are now the chief land-owning and culti-
vating class in South Canara, and are, with the exception
of the Billavas or toddy-drawers, the most numerous
caste in the district. " At the present day, the Bants
of Canara are largely the independent and influential
landed gentry, some would say, perhaps, the substantial
yeomanry. They still retain their manly independence
of character, their strong and well developed physique,
and they still cany their heads with the same haughty
toss as their forefathers did in the stirring fighting days
when, as an old proverb had it, ' The slain rested in the
yard of the slayer,' and when every warrior constantly
carried his sword and shield. Both men and women of
the Bant community are among the comeliest of Asiatic
races, the men having high foreheads and well-turned
aquiline noses."

In a note on the agricultural economy of South
Canara, Rao Sahib T. Raghaviah writes* that "the
ryot (cultivator) of South Canara loves to make his land
look attractive, and every field is lined with the lovely
areca, and the stately palm. The slopes adjoining the
rich fields are studded with plantations of jack, mango,
cashew, plantain and other fruit and shade trees, and the
ryot would not even omit to daub his trees with the

* Indian Review, VII, 1906.

BANT 150

alternate white and red bands, with which the east coast
women love to adorn a marriage house or temple wall.
These, with the regularly laid out and carefully embanked
water-courses and streams, lend an air of enchantment to
the whole scene. The ignorance prevailing among the
women of the richer section of the landed classes (on the
east coast) is so great that it is not uncommon to ridicule a
woman by saying that what she knows about paddy (rice)
is that it grows on a tree. But, in a district like South
Canara, the woman that does not know agriculture is the
exception. I have often come across respectable women
of the landed classes like the Bants, Shivallis, and Nairs,
managing large landed estates as efficiently as men.
The South Canara woman is born on the land, and lives
on it. She knows when to sow, and when to reap ; how
much seed to sow, and how much labour to employ to
plough, to weed, or to reap. She knows how to prepare
her seed, and to cure her tobacco, to garner her grain,
and to preserve her cucumbers through the coming mon-
soon. She knows further how to feed her cow, and to
milk it, to treat it when sick, and to graze it when hale.
She also knows how to make her manure, and how to use
it without wasting a bit of it. She knows how to collect
green leaves for her manure, and to help the fuel reserve
on the hill slope above her house grow by a system of
lopping the branches and leaving the standards. She
knows also how to collect her areca nuts, and to prepare
them for the market, and to collect her cocoanuts, and
haggle for a high price for them with her customers.
There is, in fact, not a single thing about agriculture
which the South Canara man knows, and which the
South Canara woman does not know. It is a common
sight, as one passes through a paddy flat or along the
adjoining slope, to see housewives bringing out handfuls

151 BANt

of ashes collected in the oven over night, and deposit-

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