Edgar Thurston.

Castes and tribes of southern India (Volume 1) online

. (page 22 of 33)
Online LibraryEdgar ThurstonCastes and tribes of southern India (Volume 1) → online text (page 22 of 33)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


bride's father, and his feet are washed by her brother.
His future father-in-law, after waving seven balls of
coloured rice before him, escorts him to his house. At



BHONDARI 234

the entrance thereto, a number of women, including the
bride's mother, await his arrival, and, on his approach,
throw Zizyphus Jujuba leaves, and cry " Ulu, ulu."
His future mother-in-law, taking him by the hand, leads
him into the house. As soon as he has reached the
marriage dais, the bride is conducted thither by her
maternal uncle, and throws some salt over a screen on
to the bridegroom. Later on, she takes her seat by his
side, and the Brahman purohit, after doing homam
(making sacred fire), ties the hands of the contracting
couple together with dharbha grass. This is called
hastagonthi, and is the binding portion of the marriage
ceremony. The bride and bridegroom then exchange
ten areca nuts and ten myrabolams (Terminalia fruits).
Two new cloths are thrown over them, and the ends
thereof are tied together in a knot containing twenty-
one cowry (Cyprcea Arabicd) shells, a coin, and a few
Zizyphus leaves. This ceremonial is called gontiyalo.
The bride's brother strikes the bridegroom with his fist,
and receives a present of a cloth. At this stage, the
couple receive presents from relations and friends.
They then play seven times with cowry shells, and the
ceremonial closes with the throwing of Zizyphus leaves,
and the eating by the bride and bridegroom of rice
mixed with jaggery (crude sugar) and curds. On the
two following days, they sit on the dais, play with
cowries, and have leaves and rice thrown over them.
They wear the cloths given to them on the wedding day,
and may not bathe in a tank (pond) or river. On the
fourth day (chauti), the bride is received into the gotra
of the bridegroom. In token thereof, she cooks some
food given to her by the bridegroom, and the pair make
a show of partaking thereof. Towards the evening the
bride is conducted by her maternal uncle to near the



?35 BHONDARI

dais, and she stands on a grinding stone. Seven turns
of thread dyed with turmeric are wound round the posts
of the dais. Leading his wife thither, the bridegroom
cuts the thread, and the couple stand on the dais, while
four persons support a cloth canopy over their heads, and
rice is scattered over them. On the fifth day, the newly-
married couple and their relations indulge in throwing
turmeric water over each other. Early on the morning
of the sixth day, the bridegroom breaks a pot placed on
the dais, and goes away in feigned anger to the house
of a relation. Towards evening, he is brought back by
his brother-in-law, and plays at cowries with the bride.
The Bhondaivaro ceremony is once more repeated. On
the seventh day, the sacred thread, wrist-threads and
mo kkuto are removed. Widows and divorcees are per-
mitted to remarry. As among various other castes, a
widow should marry her deceased husband's younger
brother.

The dead are cremated. When a person is on the
point of death, a little Jagannatha prasadam, i.e., rice
from the temple at Puri, is placed in his mouth. Members
of many Oriya castes keep by them partially cooked rice,
called nirmalyam, brought from this temple, and a little
of this is eaten by the orthodox before meals and after
bathing. The corpse is washed, anointed, and wrapped
in a new cloth. After it has been secured on the bier, a
new red cloth is thrown over it. At the head, a sheaf
of straw, from the roof of the house, if it is thatched, is
placed. The funeral pyre is generally prepared by an
Oriya washerman. At the burning-ground, the corpse
is placed close to the pyre, and the son puts into the
mouth some parched rice, and throws rice over the eyes.
Then, lighting the straw, he waves it thrice round the
corpse, and throws it on the face. The corpse is then



BHONDARI 236

carried thrice round the pyre, and laid thereon. In the
course of cremation, each mourner throws a log on the
pyre. The son goes home, wet and dripping, after
bathing. On the following day, the fire is extinguished,
and two fragments of bone are placed in a small pot, and
carefully preserved. The ashes are heaped up, and an
image is drawn on the ground with a stick, to which food
is offered. A meal, called pithapona (bitter food), con-
sisting of rice and margosa (Melia Azadirachta] leaves,
is partaken of by agnates only. On the tenth day, the
relatives and intimate friends of the deceased are shaved,
the son last of all. The son and the agnates go to a
tank bund (pond embankment), and cook food in a new
pot within a shed which has been specially constructed
for the occasion. The pot is then broken into ten frag-
ments, on which food is placed, and offered to the dead
person. The son takes the fragments, one by one, to
the tank, bathing each time. The pot containing the
two pieces of bone is generally buried beneath a pipal
(Ficus religiosa] tree growing near a tank. On the tenth
day, after the offering of food, the son proceeds to this
spot, and, after pouring water ten times over the ground
beneath which the pot is buried, takes the pot home, and
buries it near the house. As he approaches his home,
he goes ahead of those who accompany him, and, carrying
a vessel filled with water, pours some of this three times
on the ground, waving his hand in a circular manner.
He then makes three marks with a piece of iron on the
ground. A piece of hollow bamboo open at both ends,
or other grain measure, is given to him, with which he
measures rice or other grain seven times. He then
throws the measure behind him between his legs, and,
entering the house, puts a sect mark on his forehead
with the aid of a broken looking-glass, which must be



237 BHU RAZU

thrown away. Ghi (clarified butter) and meat may not
be eaten by those under death pollution till the eleventh
day, when a feast is held.

If an important elder of the community dies, a cere-
mony called jola-jola handi (pot drilled with holes) is
performed on the night of the tenth day. Fine sand is
spread over the floor of a room having two doors, and
the surface is smoothed with a tray or plank. On the
sand a lighted lamp is placed, with an areca nut by its
side. The lamp is covered with an earthen cooking-pot.
Two men carry on their shoulders a pot riddled with
holes, suspended from a pole made of Diospyros Embry-
opteris wood, from inside the room into the street, as
soon as the lamp is covered by the cooking-pot. Both
doors of the room are then closed, and not opened till
the return of the men. The pot which they carry is
believed to increase in weight as they bear it to a tank,
into which it is thrown. On their return to the house,
they tap three times at the door, which then opens.
All present then crowd into the room, and examine the
sand for the marks of the foot-prints of a bull, cat or
man, the trail of a centipede, cart-track, ladder, etc.,
which are believed to be left by the dead person when
he goes to the other world.

Opprobrious names are very common among the
Bhondaris, especially if a child is born after a succession
of deaths among the offspring of a family. Very common
among such names are those of low castes, e.g., Haddi,
Bavuria, Dandasi, etc.

Bhonjo. The title of the Raja of Gumsur in Ganjam.

Bhumanchi (good earth). A sub-division of Kapu.

Bhu (earth) Razu. A name for Razus who live in
the plains, in contradistinction to the Konda Razus who
live in the hills.



BHU VAISYA 238

Bhu Vaisya (earth Vaisya). A name returned by
some Nattukottai Chettis and Vellalas.

Bhu mi Dhompthi.- The name, meaning earth
marriage offering, of a sub-division of Madigas, at whose
marriages the offering of food is placed on the ground.

Bhumi Razulu (kings of the earth). A name
assumed by some Koyis.

Bhumia. The Bhumias are an Oriya caste of hill
cultivators, found in the Jeypore Zamindari. According
to a tradition, they were the first to cultivate the land
on the hills. In the Central Provinces they are said to
be known as Baigas, concerning whom Captain Ward
writes * that " the decision of the Baiga in a boundary
dispute is almost always accepted as final, and, from this
right as children of the soil and arbiters of the land
belonging to each village, they are said to have derived
their title of Bhumia, the Sanskrit bhumi meaning the
earth."

For the following note I am indebted to Mr. C. Haya-
vadana Rao. The Bhumias have septs, e.g., bhag
(tiger) and naga (cobra). A man can claim his paternal
aunt's daughter in marriage. The marriage ceremonial
is much the same as among the Bottadas. The jholla
tonk (presents) consist of liquor, rice, a sheep or fowl,
and cloths for the parents of the bride. A pandal (booth),
made of poles of the sorghi tree, is erected in front of
the bridegroom's house, and a Desari officiates. The
remarriage of widows is permitted and a younger brother
usually marries his elder brother's widow. If a man
divorces his wife, it is customary for him to give her a
rupee and a new cloth in compensation. The dead are
burned, and pollution lasts for nine days. On the tenth



* Gazetteer of the Central Provinces, 1870.



239 BILIMAGGA

day a ceremonial bath is taken, and a feast, with copious
supplies of liquor, is held. In parts of the Central
Provinces the dead are buried, and two or three flat
stones are set up over the grave.*

Bhuri. A sub-division of Gond.

Bijam (seed). An exogamous sept of Boya.

Bilpathri (bael : sEgle Marmelos). An exogamous
sept of Boya.

Bindhani (workman). A title of Oriya Badhoyis,
and sometimes used as the name of the caste.

Bingi. The Bingivandlu are described, in the
Kurnool Manual, as a class of mendicants, who play
dramas. Some of them have shrotiyam villages, as
Lingineni Doddi in Pattikonda. " Shrotiyam " has
been defined t as " lands, or a village, held at a favour-
able rate, properly an assignment of land or revenue
to a Brahman learned in the Vedas, but latterly applied
generally to similar assignments to native servants of
the government, civil or military, and both Hindus and
Muhammadans, as a reward for past services."

Bhutiannaya (ashes). An exogamous sept of Bant.

Bidaru (wanderers). A sub-division of Odde.

Bilimagga. The Bilimagga weavers of South
Canara, who speak a very corrupt form of Tamil, must
not be confused with the Bilimaggas of Mysore, whose
mother-tongue is Canarese. In some places the Bili-
maggas of South Canara call themselves Padma Sales,
but they have no connection with the Padma Sale caste.
There is a tradition that they emigrated from Pandiya
Maduradesa in the Tamil country. The caste name
Bilimagga (white loom) is derived from the fact that
they weave only white cloths. In some places, for the



* Report of the Ethnological Committee of the Central Provinces,
t Wilson. Glossary of Judicial and Revenue Terms.



BILIMAGGA 240

same reason, Devangas call themselves Bilimaggas, but
the Devangas also make coloured cloths. White cloths
are required for certain gods and bhuthas (devils) on
occasions of festivals, and these are usually obtained
from Bilimaggas.

The Bilimaggas follow the makkala santana law of
inheritance (from father to son). They are said to have
seven gotras, and those of the Mangalore, Kundapur,
and Udipi taluks, are stated to belong respectively to
the 800, 700, and 500 nagaras. The caste deities are
Virabhadra, Brahmalinga, and Ammanoru.

For the whole community, there is a chief headman
called Paththukku Solra Settigar, or the Setti who
advises the ten, and for every village there is an
ordinary headman styled Gurikara. The chief headman
is usually the manager of some temple of the caste, and
the Gurikara has to collect the dues from the members
of the community. Every married couple has to pay
an annual tax of twelve annas, and every unmarried
male over twelve years of age of six annas towards
the temple fund.

Marriage of girls before puberty is the rule, and any
girl who attains maturity without being married runs the
risk of losing her caste. The remarriage of widows is
permitted. The betrothal ceremony is important as
being binding as a contract. It consists in the father of
the girl giving betel leaves and areca nuts in a tray to
the father of her future husband, before a number of
people. If the contract is dissolved before the marriage
is celebrated, betel and nuts must be presented to the
father of the girl, in the presence of an assembly, as a
sign that the engagement is broken off. On the day
previous to the marriage ceremonial, the fathers of the
contracting couple exchange betel leaves and areca nuts



241 BILIMAGGA

three times. On the following morning, they proceed
to the house of the bridegroom, the bride's father carry-
ing a brass vessel containing water. From this vessel,
water is poured into smaller vessels by an odd number
of women (five or more). These women are usually
selected by the wife of the headman. The pouring of
the water must be carried out according to a recognised
code of precedence, which varies with the locality. At
Udipi, for example, the order is Mangalore, Barkur,
Udipi. The women all pour water over the head of the
bridegroom.

The rite is called mariyathe nlru (water for respect).
The bridegroom is then decorated, and a bashingam
(chaplet) is placed on his forehead. He sits in front
of a brass vessel, called Ganapathi (the elephant god),
which is placed on a small quantity of rice spread on the
floor, and worships it. He is then conducted to the
marriage pandal (booth) by his sister's husband, followed
by his sister carrying the brass vessel and a gindi (vessel
with a spout), to which the bride's bashingam and the
tali (marriage badge) are tied. A red cloth, intended
for the bride, must also be carried by her. Within the
pandal, the bridegroom stands in front of a cot. The
bride's party, and the men in attendance on the bride-
groom, stand opposite each other with the bridegroom
between them, and throw rice over each other. All are
then seated, except the bridegroom, his sister, and the
bride's brother. The bridegroom's father waves incense
in front of the cot and brass vessel, and hands over
the gindi, and other articles, to the bridegroom's sister,
to be taken to the bride. Lights and arathi water are
waved before the bridegroom, and, while the bride's
father holds his hands, her brother washes his feet.
He then goes seven times round the cot, after he has
16



BILIMAGGA 242

worshipped it, and broken cocoanuts, varying in number
according to the nagara to which he belongs seven if
he is a member of the seven hundred nagara, and so on.
He next takes his seat on the cot, and is joined by the
bride, who has had the bashingam put on her forehead,
and the tali tied on her neck, by the bridegroom's sister.
Those assembled then call the maternal uncles of the
bridal couple, and they approach the cot. The bride-
groom's uncle gives the red cloth already referred to
to the uncle of the bride. The bride retires within the
house, followed by her maternal uncle, and sits cross-
legged, holding her big toes with her hands. Her uncle
throws the red cloth over her head, and she covers her
face with it. This is called devagiri udugare. The
uncle then carries her to the pandal, and she sits on the
left of the bridegroom. The Gurikara asks the maternal
uncle of the bridegroom to hand over the bride's money,
amounting to twelve rupees or more. He then requests
permission of the three nagara people, seven gotra
people, and the relatives of the bride and bridegroom to
proceed with the dhare ceremony. This being accorded,
the maternal uncles unite the hands of the pair, and,
after the cloth has been removed from the bride's face,
the dhare water is poured over their hands, first by the
bride's father, and then by the Gurikara, who, while
doing so, declares the union of the couple according to
the observances of the three nagaras. Those assembled
throw rice on, and give presents to the bride and bride-
groom. The presents are called moi, and the act of
giving them moi baikradhu (Tamil). Some women wave
arathi, and the pair go inside the house, and sit on a
mat. Some milk is given to the bridegroom by the
bride's sister, and, after sipping a little of it, he gives it
to the bride. They then return to the pandal, and sit on



243 BILLAVA

the cot. Rice is thrown over their heads, and arathi
waved in front of them. The bridegroom drops a ring
into a tray, and turmeric-water is poured over it. The
couple search for the ring. The wedding ceremonies are
brought to a close by bathing in turmeric-water (vokli
bath), after which the couple sit on the cot, and those
assembled permit the handing over of the bride to the
bridegroom's family (pennu oppuchchu kodukradhu).

Any number of marriages, except three or seven,
may be carried on simultaneously beneath a single
pandal. If there are more than a single bridal couple,
the bashingam is worn only by the pair who are the
elder, or held in most respect. Sometimes, one couple is
allowed to wear the bashingam, and another to have the
dhare water first poured over them.

The dead are cremated. The corpse is carried to
the burning-ground on a bier, with a tender plantain
leaf placed beneath it. Fire is carried not by the son,
but by some other near relative. The ashes are collected
on the third day, and a mound (dhupe) is made there-
with. Daily until the final death ceremony, a tender
cocoanut, and water in a vessel, are placed near it. In
the final death ceremony (bojja), the Bilimaggas closely
follow the Bants, except as regards the funeral car. To
get rid of death pollution, a Tulu Madivali (washerman
caste) gives cloths to, and sprinkles water over those
under pollution.

The caste title is Setti or Chetti.

Billai-kavu (cat-eaters). Said to be Mala Paidis,
who eat cats.

Billava. The Billavas are the Tulu-speaking toddy-
drawers of the South Canara district. It is noted, in the
Manual, that they are " the numerically largest caste
in the district, and form close upon one-fifth of the total
16*



BILLAVA 244

population. The derivation of the word Billava, as
commonly accepted in the district, is that it is a contrac-
tion of Billinavaru, bowmen, and that the name was
given as the men of that caste were formerly largely
employed as bowmen by the ancient native rulers of the
district. There is, however, no evidence whatever,
direct or indirect, to show that the men of the toddy-
drawing caste were in fact so employed. It is well
known that, both before and after the Christian era,
there were invasions and occupations of the northern
part of Ceylon by the races then inhabiting Southern
India, and Malabar tradition tells that some of these
Dravidians migrated from I ram or Ceylon northwards to
Travancore and other parts of the West Coast of India,
bringing with them the cocoanut or southern tree
(tenginamara], and being known as Tivars (islanders)
or Iravars, which names have since been altered to
Tiyars and Ilavars. This derivation would also explain
the name Divaru or Halepaik Divaru borne by the same
class of people in the northern part of the district, and
in North Canara. In Manjarabad above the ghauts,
which, with Tuluva, was in olden days under the rule of
the Humcha family, known later as the Bairasu Wodears
of Karakal, they are called Devaru Makkalu, literally
God's children, but more likely a corruption of Tivaru
Makkalu, children of the islanders. In support of this
tradition, Mr. Logan has pointed out * that, in the list
of exports from Malabar given in the Periplus, in the
first century A.D., no mention is made of the cocoanut.
It was, however, mentioned by Cosmos Indico Pleustes
(522 to 547 A.D.), and from the Syrian Christians'
copper-plate grants, early in the ninth century, it



* Manual of Malabar.



245



BILLAVA



appears that the Tiyans were at that time an organised
guild of professional planters. Although the cocoanut
tree may have been introduced by descendants of immi-
grants from Ceylon moving up the coast, the practice
of planting and drawing toddy was no doubt taken up
by the ordinary Tulu cultivators, and, whatever the origin
of the name Billava may be, they are an essentially Tulu
class of people, following the prevailing rule that prop-
erty vests in females, and devolves in the female line."

It is worthy of note that the Billavas differ from the
Tiyans in one very important physical character the
cranial type. For, as shown by the following table,
whereas the Tiyans are dolichocephalic the Billavas are,
like other Tulu classes, sub-brachycephalic :

Cephalic Index.






Average.


Maximum.


Minimum.


Number of times
exceeding 80.


40 Tiyans


73


787


68'S


I


50 Billavas


80


91-5


7i


28



Some Billavas about Udipi call themselves either
Billavaru or Halepaikaru. But the Halepaiks proper
are toddy-drawers, who are found in the Kundapur taluk,
and speak Kanarese. There are said to be certain differ-
ences between the two classes in the method of carrying
out the process of drawing toddy. For example,
the Halepaiks generally grasp the knife with the
fingers directed upwards and the thumb to the right,
while the Billavas hold the knife with the fingers directed
downwards and the thumb to the left. A Billava at Udipi
had a broad iron knife with a round hole at the base,
by which it -was attached to an iron hook fixed on to a
rope worn round the loins. For crushing the flower-buds



BILLAVA 246

within the spathe of the palm, Billavas generally use
a stone, and the Halepaiks a bone. There is a belief
that, if the spathe is beaten with the bone of a buffalo
which has been killed by a tiger, the yield of toddy
will, if the bone has not touched the ground, be greater
than if an ordinary bone is used. The Billavas gener-
ally carry a long gourd, and the Halepaiks a pot, for
collecting the toddy in.

Baidya and PQjari occur as caste names of the
Billavas, and also as a suffix to the name, e.g., Saiyina
Baidya, Bomma Pujari. Baidya is said to be a form of
Vaidya, meaning a physician. Some Billavas officiate
as priests (pujaris) at bhutasthanas (devil shrines) and
garidis. Many of these pujaris are credited with the
power of invoking the aid of bhutas, and curing disease.
The following legend is narrated, to account for the use
of the name Baidya. A poor woman once lived at Ullal
with two sons. A Sanyasi (religious ascetic), pitying
their condition, took the sons as his sishyas, with a view
to training them as magicians and doctors. After some
time, the Sanyasi went away from Ullal for a short time,
leaving the lads there with instructions that they should
not be married until his return. In spite of his instruc-
tions, however, they married, and, on his return, he was
very angry, and went away again, followed by his two
disciples. On his journey, the Sanyasi crossed the ferry
near Ullal on foot. This the disciples attempted to do,
and were on the point of drowning when the Sanyasi
threw three handfuls of books on medicine and magic.
Taking these, the two disciples returned, and became
learned in medicine and magic. They are supposed to
be the ancestors of the Billavas.

The Billavas, like the Bants, have a number of
exogamous septs (balis) running in the female line.



,_

'"




BILLAVA TODDY-TAPPER.



247 BILLAVA

There is a popular belief that these are sub-divisions
of the twenty balis which ought to exist according to the
Aliya Santana system (inheritance in the female line).

The caste has a headman called Gurikara, whose
office is hereditary, and passes to the aliya (sister's son).
Affairs which affect the community as a whole are
discussed at a meeting held at the bhutasthana or
garidi.

At the betrothal ceremony, the bride-price (sirdach-
chi), varying from ten to twenty rupees, is fixed. A few
days before the wedding, the maternal uncle of the bride,
or the Gurikara, ties a jewel on her neck, and a pandal
(booth) is erected, and decorated by the caste barber
(parel maddiyali) with cloths of different colours. If the
bridegroom is an adult, the bride has to undergo a
purificatory ceremony a day or two before the marriage
(dhare) day. A few women, usually near relations of the
girl, go to a tank (pond) or well near a Bhutasthana or
garidi, and bring water thence in earthenware pots.
The water is poured over the head of the girl, and she
bathes. On the wedding day, the bride and bridegroom
are seated on two planks placed on the dais. The
barber arranges the various articles, such as lights, rice,



Online LibraryEdgar ThurstonCastes and tribes of southern India (Volume 1) → online text (page 22 of 33)