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which have been recorded as divisions of the Besthas,



BESTHA 220

it may be observed that, in some parts of the Telugu
country, the term Pakirithi is used as a substitute
for Vaishnava. This word has become converted into
Parigirti or Parikithi, denoting that the Besthas are
Vaishnavites, as opposed to Saivites. Some Besthas,
when questioned as to the origin of their caste, said
that they had no purandam to help them. The word
used by them is a corruption of puranam.

The Besthas are summed up, in the Mysore Census
Report, 1901, as "fishermen, boatmen, and palanquin-
bearers, who are known by different names according to
the localities they live in. In the eastern districts they
are called Bestha, in the southern Toraya, Ambiga and
Parivara (boatmen), while in the western parts their
names are Kabyara and Gangemakkalu. The Telugu-
speaking population call themselves Boyis. Their chief
occupations are fishing, palanquin-bearing, and lime-
burning. Some of them are employed by Government
as peons (orderlies), etc., while a large number are
engaged in agricultural pursuits. The Boyis obey a
headman called the Pedda (big) Boyi. The Toraya
does not intermarry either with the Kabyara or the
Boyi, whom he resembles in every way. The Kabyara
or Karnatic Besthas proper never carry the palanquin,
but live by either farming or lime-burning. They have
a headman known as the Yajaman."

I have often seen Besthas in Mysore fishing on
tanks from rafts, with floats made of cane or cork-wood
supporting their fish-baskets. The Besthas use small
cast-nets, and it is thought by them that the employ-
ment of drag-nets worked by several men would bring
bad luck to them. When a new net is used for the first
time, the first fish which is caught is cut, and the net
smeared with its blood. One of the meshes of the net



221 BESTHA

is burnt, after incense has been thrown into the fire. If
a snake becomes entangled in a net when it is first used,
it is rejected, and burnt or otherwise disposed of.

The tribal deity of the Telugu Besthas is Kamamma,
and, when this goddess is Worshipped, Mala Pambalas
are engaged to recite the legendary story relating to
her. They never offer the flesh of animals or liquor to
the goddess.

Like other Telugu castes, the Besthas have inti-
perulu or exogamous septs and gotras. In connection
with some of the latter, certain prohibitions are
observed. For example, the jasmine plant (malle) may
not be touched by members of the malle gotra, and
the ippa tree (Bassia latifolid] may not be touched or
used by members of the Ippala gotra. Writing at the
beginning of the last century, Buchanan * informs us
that " everywhere in Karnata the palanquin-bearers are
ofTelinga descent. In the language of Karnata they
are called Teliga Besthas, but in their own dialect they
are called Bai. Their proper occupations, beside that
of carrying the palanquin, are fishing, and distillation
of rum. Wealthy men among them become farmers,
but none of the caste hire themselves out as farm
servants. Their hereditary chiefs are called Pedde Bui,
which, among the Europeans of Madras, is bestowed on
the headman of every gentleman's set." In a note on
the Bestha Boyis, or fishermen bearers of Masulipatam
in the days of the East India Company, Mr. H. G.
Prendergast writes t that they were " found to be pecu-
liarly trustworthy servants. When their English masters
went on promotion to Madras, they were accompanied
by their trusty Boyis, and, from that day to this, Bestha



* Journey from Madras through Mysore, Canara and Malabar,
t Ind. Ant. XVIII, 1889.



BESYA 222

Boyis have been employed as attendants in public and
mercantile offices in Madras, and have continued to
maintain their good reputation."

Of the use of the word Boy (a corruption of Boyi)
for palanquin-bearer, numerous examples are quoted by
Yule and Burnell.* Thus Carraccioli, in his life of
Lord Clive, records that, in 1785, the Boys with Colonel
Lawrence's palankeen, having struggled a little out of
the time of march, were picked up by the Marattas.
Writing in 1563, Barras states t that "there are men
who carry the umbrella so dexterously to ward off the
sun that, although their master trots on his horse, the
sun does not touch any part of his body and such men
are called Boi."

The insigne of the Besthas, as recorded at Conjee-
veram, is a net. J

Besya (a prostitute). Recorded, in the Madras
Census Report, 1901, as a sub-caste of Oriya Gunis. It
is a form of the word Vesya.

Betta (hill). A sub-division of Kurumba.

Bevina. Bevina or Beva (nim or margosa : Melia
Azadirachta) has been recorded as an exogamous
sept of Kuruba, and a sub-division of Kadu Kurumba.
The nim tree is held sacred by Hindus, and takes an
important part in many of the ceremonials connected
with the small-pox goddess and other village deities.

Bhag (tiger). A sept of numerous classes in
Vizagapatam, e.g., Bhumia, Bottada, Domb, Gadaba,
Mattiya, Omanaito, Pentiya, and Rona. The equivalent
Bhago occurs among some classes in Ganjam.

Bhagavatulu. Recorded as play-actors in the
Telugu country. Their name is derived from the fact



* Hobson-Jobson. f Decadas da Asia.

|J. S. F. Mackenzie, Ind. Am. IV, 1875.



223 BHATRAZU

that they perform stories and episodes from the Bhaga-
vatam, one of the Puranas.

Bhakta. See Bagata.

Bhandari. See Kelasi.

Bhande. -Recorded, in the Madras Census Report,
1901, as "a class of potters in the Ganjam Maliahs, a
sub-division of Kumbharo. The name is derived from
the Sanskrit bhanda, a pot."

Bharadwaja. A Brahmanical gotra of Bhatrazus.
Bharadwaja was a rishi, the son of Brihaspati, and
preceptor of the Pandavas.

Bhatia. Nearly four hundred members of this
caste were returned at the Madras Census, 1901. It is
recorded in the Bombay Gazetteer, that " the Bhatias
claim to be Bhati Rajputs of the Yadav stock. As a
class they are keen, vigorous, enterprising, thrifty, subtle
and unscrupulous. Some of the richest men in Bombay
started life without a penny. A large number of
Bhatias are merchant traders and brokers, and within
the last fifty years they have become a very wealthy
and important class." Like the Nattukottai Chettis of
Southern India, the Bhatias undertake sea voyages to
distant countries, and they are to be found eastward as
far as China.

Bhatta. A sub-division of Gaudo.

Bhatkali. A class of Muhammadans on the west
coast, who are said to have originally settled at Bhatkal
in North Canara.

Bhatrazu. The Bhats, Bhatrazus, or Bhatrajus are
described, in the Mysore Census Reports, 1891 and
1901, as musicians and ballad-reciters, who " speak
Telugu, and are supposed to have come from the
Northern Circars. They were originally attached to the
courts of the Hindu princes as bards or professional



BHATRAZU 224

troubadours, reciting ballads in poetry in glorification of
the wondrous deeds of local princes and heroes. Hyder
AH, although not a Hindu, delighted to be constantly
preceded by them, and they are still an appendage to the
state of Hindu and Mussalman Chiefs. They have a
wonderful faculty in speaking improvisator e, on any
subject proposed to them, a declamation in measures,
which may be considered as a sort of medium between
blank verse and modulated verse. But their profession
is that of chanting the exploits of former days in front
of the troops while marshalling them for battle, and
inciting them to emulate the glory of their ancestors.
Now many of them are mendicants."

In the Madras Census Report, 1871, the Bhat
Rajahs are said to " wear the pavitra or sacred thread.
They are the bards and minstrels, who sing the praises
of the Kshatriya race, or indeed of great men in general,
and especially of those who liberally reward the singers.
They are a wandering class, gaining a living by attach-
ing themselves to the establishments of great men, or in
chanting the folklore of the people. They are mostly
Vishnu worshippers, and in only one district is it re-
ported that they worship village deities." In the Madras
Census Report, 1891, the Bhatrazus are summed up as
being " a class of professional bards, spread all over the
Telugu districts. They are the representatives of the
Bhat caste of other parts of India. They are called
Razus, because they are supposed to be the offspring of
a Kshatriya female by a Vaisya male. They are well
versed in folklore, and in the family histories and legends
of the ancient Rajahs. Under the old Hindu Rajahs
the Bhatrazus were employed as bards, eulogists, and
reciters of family genealogy and tradition. Most of them
are now cultivators, and only a few are ballad-reciters.



225 BHATRAZU

They will eat with the Kapus and Velamas. Their
ceremonies of birth, death and marriage are more or less
the same as those of the Kapus. Razu is the general
name of the caste."

The Bhatrazus, Mr. W. Francis writes,* " are also
called Bhats or Magadas. They have two endogamous
sub-divisions, called Vandi, Raja or Telaganya, and
Magada, Kani or Agraharekala. [Some Bhatrazus
maintain that Vandi and Magada were individuals who
officiated as heralds at the marriage of Siva.] Each of
these is again split up into several exogamous septs or
gotras, among which are Atreya, Bharadwaja, Gautama,
Kasyapa and Kaundinya. All of these are Brahmanical
gotras, which goes to confirm the story in Manu that
the caste is the offspring of a Vaisya father and a
Kshatriya mother. Bhatrazus nevertheless do not all
wear the sacred thread now-a-days, or recite the gayatri.f
They employ Brahman priests for their marriages, but
Jangams and Satanis for funerals, and in all these
ceremonies they follow the lower or Puranic instead of
the higher Vedic ritual. Widow marriage is strictly for-
bidden, but yet they eat fish, mutton and pork, though
not beef. These contradictions are, however, common
among Oriya castes, and the tradition is that the Bhat-
razus were a northern caste which was first invited south
by King Pratapa Rudra of the Kshatriya dynasty of
Warangal (1295-1323 A.D. ). After the downfall of
that kingdom they seem to have become court bards
and panegyrists under the Reddi and Velama feudal
chiefs, who had by that time carved out for themselves
small independent principalities in the Telugu country.
As a class they were fairly educated in the Telugu



* Madras Census Report, 1901.

f Sanskrit hymn repeated a number of times during daily ablutions.

'5



BHATRAZU 226

literature, and even produced poets such as Ramaraja
Bhushana, the author of the well-known Vasu-Charitram.
Their usual title is Bhat, sometimes with the affix Razu
or Murti."

Of the Bhatrazus in the North Arcot district, Mr. H. A.
Stuart states* that "they now live by cultivation, and
by singing the fabulous traditions current regarding the
different Sudra castes at their marriages and other cere-
monies, having probably invented most of them. They
profess to be Kshatriyas. But it is known that several
are Musalmans or members of other castes, who, possess-
ing an aptitude for extempore versification, were taken
by Rajahs to sing their praises, and so called themselves
Bhatturazus. They resemble the Razus in their customs,
but are said to bury their dead." In the Gazetteer of
Anantapur, the Bhatrazus are described as touring round
the villages, making extempore verses in praise of the
principal householders, and being rewarded by gifts of
old clothes, grain, and money. It is stated in the Kurnool
Manual that " the high-caste people (Kammas) are bound
to pay the Batrajulu certain fees on marriage occasions.
Some of the Batrajas have shotriems and inams."
Shotriem is land given as a gift for proficiency in the
Vedas or learning, and inam is land given free of
rent.

In connection with the special attachment of the
Bhatrazus to the Velama, Kamma, and Kapu castes, the
following story is narrated. Once upon a time there was
a man named Pillala Marri Bethala Reddi, who had three
sons, of whom two took to cultivation. The third son
adopted a military life, and had seventy-four sons, all of
whom became commanders. On one occasion, during



* Manual of the North Arcot district.



227 BHATRAZU

the reign of Pratapa Rudra, when they were staying at
the fort of Warangal, they quarrelled among themselves,
and became very rebellious. On learning this, the king
summoned them to his court. He issued orders that a
sword should be tied across the gate. The commanders
were reluctant to go under a sword, as it would be a
sign of humiliation. Some of them ran against the
sword, and killed themselves. A Bhatrazu, who wit-
nessed this, promised to help the remaining commanders
to gain entrance without passing under the sword. He
went to the king, and said that a Brahman wished to
pay him a visit. An order was accordingly issued that
the sword should be removed. The services of the
Bhatrazu greatly pleased the commanders, and they
came to regard the Bhatrazus as their dependants, and
treated them with consideration. Even at the present
day, at a marriage among the Kapus, Kammas, and
Velamas, a Bhatrazu is engaged. His duties are to
assist the bridegroom in his wedding toilette, to paint
sectarian marks on his forehead, and to remain as his
personal attendant throughout the marriage ceremonies.
He further sings stanzas from the Ramayana or Maha-
bharata, and songs in praise of Brahmans and the caste
to which the bridal couple belong. The following was
sung at a Kapu wedding. "Anna Vema Reddi piled
up money like a mountain, and, with his brother Pinna
Brahma Reddi, constructed agraharams. Gone Buddha
Reddi spent large sums of money for the reading of the
Ramayana, and heard it with much interest. Panta
Malla Reddi caused several tanks to be dug. You, their
descendants, are all prosperous, and very charitable."
In the houses of Kammas, the following is recited.
" Of the seventy-seven sons, Bobbali Narasanna was a
very brave man, and was told to go in search of the
15*



BHATRAZU 228

kamma (an ornament) without using abusive language.
Those who ran away are Velamas, and those who
secured it Kammas."

In their ceremonial observances, the Bhatrazus
closely follow the standard Telugu type. At marriages,
the bridal couple sit on the dais on a plank of juvvi
(Ficus Tsiela] wood. They have the Telugu Janappans
as their disciples, and are the only non- Brahman caste,
except Jangams and Pandarams, which performs the
duties of guru or religious instructor. The badge of
the Bhatrazus at Conjeeveram is a silver stick.*

In the Madras Census Report, 1901, Bhato, Kani
Razu, Kannaji Bhat and Padiga Raju appear as syno-
nyms, and Annaji Bhat as a sub-caste of Bhatrazus.

The following account of a criminal class, calling
themselves Batturajas or Battu Turakas, was published
in the Police Weekly Circular, Madras, in i88i.t "They
are known to the Cuddapah and North Arcot Police as
criminals, and a note is made whenever an adult leaves
his village; but, as they commit their depredations far
from home, and convert their spoil into hard cash before
they return, it is difficult to get evidence against them.
Ten or twelve of these leave home at once ; they usually
work in parties of three or four, and they are frequently
absent for months together. They have methods of
communicating intelligence to their associates when
separated from them, but the only one of these methods
that is known is by means of their leaf plates, which
they sew in a peculiar manner, and leave after use in
certain places previously agreed upon. These leaf plates
can be recognised by experts, but all that these experts
can learn from them is that Battu Turakas have been in



* J. S. F. Mackenzie, Ind. Ant. IV, 1875.

t See F. S. Mullaly. Notes on Criminal Classes of the Madras Presidency.



229 BHATRAZU

the neighbourhood recently. On their return to their
village, an account of their proceedings is rendered, and
their spoil is divided equally among the whole com-
munity, a double share being, however, given to the
actual thief or thieves. They usually disguise them-
selves as Brahmans, and, in the search of some of their
houses lately, silk cloths worn only by Brahmans were
found together with other articles necessary for the
purpose (rudraksha necklaces, salagrama stones, etc.).
They are also instructed in Sanskrit, and in all the
outward requisites of Brahmanism. A Telugu Brahman
would soon find out that they are not Brahmans, and it
is on this account that they confine their depredations to
the Tamil country, where allowance is made for them
as rude uncivilized Telugus. They frequent choultries
(travellers' resting-places), where their very respectable
appearance disarms suspicion, and watch for opportuni-
ties of committing thefts, substituting their own bags or
bundles (filled with rubbish) for those they carry off."
To this account Mr. M. Paupa Rao Naidu adds* that
" it is during festivals and feasts that they very often
commit thefts of the jewels and cloths of persons
bathing in the tanks. They are thus known as Kolam-
chuthi Papar, meaning that they are Brahmins that live
by stealing around the tanks. Before the introduction
of railways, their depredations were mostly confined to
the choultries and tanks."

Concerning the Bhattu Turakas of the North Arcot
district, Mr. H. A. Stuart writes t that "a few of this
very intelligent and educated criminal class are found
in the north-west of the Chendragiri taluk, and in the
north of Punganur. They are really Muhammadans, but



* History of Railway Thieves, Madras, 1904.
t Manual of the North Arcot district.



BHAYIPUO 230

never worship according to the rules of that religion,
and know little about its tenets. They have no employ-
ment save cheating, and in this they are incomparably
clever. They speak several languages with perfect
fluency, have often studied Sanskrit, and are able to
personate any caste. Having marked down a well-to-do
householder, they take an opportunity of entering his
service, and succeed at last in gaining his confidence.
They then abuse it by absconding with what they can
lay hands upon. They often take to false coining and
forgery, pretend to know medicine, to have the power of
making gold or precious stones, or of turning currency
notes into others of higher value."

Bhayipuo.- Bhayipuo is returned, in the Census
Report, 1901, as an Oriya caste, the members of which
claim to be Kshatriyas. The word means brother's
son, in which sense it is applied to the issue of the
brothers of Rajahs by concubines. The illegitimate
children of Rajahs are also classed as Bhayipuo.

Bhima. A section of Savaras, named after Bhima,
one of the Pandava brothers.

Bholia (wild dog). An exogamous sept of Kondra.

Bhondari. The Bhondaris are the barbers of the
Oriya country, living in Ganjam. " The name Bhondari,"
Mr. S. P. Rice writes,* is " derived from bhondaram,
treasure. The zamindars delivered over the guarding of
the treasure to the professional barbers, who became
a more important person in this capacity than in his
original office of shaver in ordinary to His Highness."
The Bhondaris occupy a higher position than the Tamil
and Telugu barbers. Though various Oriya castes
bathe after being shaved, the touch of a Bhondari at



* Occasional Essays on Native South Indian Life.



23' BHONDARI

other times is not regarded as polluting. All over the
Ganjam district, the Bhondaris are employed as domestic
servants, and some are engaged as coolies, cart-drivers,
etc. Others officiate as pujaris (priests) at Takurani
(village deity) temples, grind sandalwood, or make flower
garlands. On the occasion of ceremonial processions,
the washing of the feet of the guests, carrying articles
required for worship, and the jewels and cloths to be
worn by the bridal couple on the wedding day, are per-
formed by the Bhondari. I am informed that a woman
of this caste is employed by Karnams on the occasion of
marriage and other ceremonials, at which her services
are indispensable. It is said that in some places, where
the Bhondaris do not shave castes lower than the Gudi-
yas, Oriya Brahmans allow them to remove the leaf
plates off which they have taken their food, though this
should not be done by a non- Brahman.

There are apparently three endogamous sub-divisions,
named Godomalia, Odisi, and Bejjo. The word Godo-
malia means a group of forts, and it is said to be the
duty of members of this section to serve Rajahs who
live in forts. The Godomalias are most numerous in
Ganjam, where they claim to be superior to the Odisi
and Bejjo sections. Among exogamous septs, Mohiro
(peacock), Dhippo (light), Oppomarango (Achyranthes
aspera), and Nagasira (cobra) may be noted. Members
of the Oppomarango sept do not touch, or use the root
of the plant as a tooth brush. Lights may not be blown
out with the breath, or otherwise extinguished by mem-
bers of the Dhippo sept ; and they do not light their
lamps unless they are madi, i.e., wearing silk cloths, or
cloths washed and dried after bathing. Nagasira is a
sept common to many Oriya castes, and is said to owe
its origin to the influence of Oriya Brahmans.



BHONDARI 232

The hereditary headman of the caste is called Be-
hara, and he is assisted by a Bhollobaya. Most of the
Bhondaris follow the form of Vaishnavism inculcated
by Chaithyana, and known as Paramartho matham.
They wear as a necklace a string of tulsi (Ocimum
sanctum) beads, without which they will not worship or
take their food. Many Hindu deities, especially Jagan-
natha, and various local Takuranis are also worshipped
by them.

A man should not marry his maternal uncle's or
paternal aunt's daughter. Infant marriage is the rule,
and, if a girl has not secured a husband before she
attains maturity, she has to go through a mock marriage
ceremony called dharma bibha. She is taken to a
Streblus asper (sahada or shadi) tree, and married to it.
She may not, during the rest of her life, touch the Streb-
lus tree, or use its twigs as a tooth brush. Sometimes
she goes through the ceremony of marriage with some
elderly man, preferably her grandfather, or, failing him,
her elder sister's husband as bridegroom. A divorce
agreement (tsado patro) is drawn up, and the pseudo-
marriage thereby dissolved. Sometimes the bridegroom
is represented by a bow and arrow, and the ceremony is
called khando bibha.

The real marriage ceremonies last over seven days.
On the day before the bibha (wedding), a number of
earthen pots are placed on a spot which has been
cleaned for their reception, and some married women
throw Zizyphus Jujuba leaves and rice, apparently as an
evil-eye removing and purificatory ceremony. While
doing so, they cry " Ulu, ulu " in a manner which recalls
to mind the kulavi idal of the Maravans and Kalians.
A ceremony, called sokko bhondo, or wheel worship, is
performed to a potter's wheel. The bridegroom, who



233 BHONDARI

has to fast until the night, is shaved, after which he
stands on a grindstone and bathes. While he is so
doing, some women bring a grinding-mill stone, and
grind to powder Vigna Catiang, Cajanus indicus and
Cicer arietinum seeds, crying " Olu, ulu," as they do so.
The bridegroom then dresses himself, and sits on the
marriage dais, while a number of married women crowd
round him, each of whom touches an areca nut placed
on his head seven times with a grinding stone. They
also perform the ceremony called bhondaivaro, which
consists in throwing Zizyphus Jujuba leaves, and rice
dyed with turmeric, over the bridegroom, again calling
out " Olu, ulu." Towards evening, the bridegroom's
party proceed in procession to a temple, taking with them
the various articles required on the morrow, such as the
sacred thread, jewels, cloths, and mokkuto (forehead
ornament). After worshipping the god, they return
home, and on the w r ay thither collect w T ater in a vessel
from seven houses, to be used by the bridegroom when
he bathes next day. A ceremonial very similar to that
performed by the bridegroom on the eve of the wedding
is also performed by the bride and her party. On the
wedding day, the bridegroom, after worshipping Vignes-
wara (Ganesa) at the marriage dais with the assistance
of a Brahman purohit, proceeds, dressed up in his marri-
age finery, mokkuto, sacred thread and wrist thread, to
a temple in a palanquin, and worships there. Later on,
he goes to the bride's house in a palanquin. Just as he
is about to start, his brother's wife catches hold of the
palanquin, and will not let him go till she has received
a present of a new cloth. He is met en route by the



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