Edgar Thurston.

Castes and tribes of southern India (Volume 1) online

. (page 23 of 33)
Online LibraryEdgar ThurstonCastes and tribes of southern India (Volume 1) → online text (page 23 of 33)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


flowers, betel leaves and areca nuts, and a vessel filled
with water, which are required for the ceremonial. He
joins the hands of the contracting couple, and their
parents, or the headman, place the nose-screw of the
bridesmaid on their hands, and pour the dhare water
over them. This is the binding part of the ceremony,
which is called kai (hand) dhare. Widow remarriage is
called bidu dhare, and the pouring of water is omitted.
The bride and bridegroom stand facing each other, and
a cloth is stretched between them. The headman
unites their hands beneath the screen.



BILLAVA 248

If a man has intercourse with a woman, and she
becomes pregnant, he has to marry her according to the
bidu dhare rite. Before the marriage ceremony is per-
formed, he has to grasp a plantain tree with his right
hand, and the tree is then cut down.

At the first menstrual period, a girl is under pollution
for ten or twelve days. On the first day, she is seated
within a square (muggu), and five or seven cocoanuts
are tied together so as to form a seat. A new earthen-
ware pot is placed at each corner of the square. Four
girls from the Gurikara's house sit at the corners close to
the pots. Betel leaves, areca nuts, and turmeric paste
are distributed among the assembled females, and the
girls pour water from the pots over the head of the girl.
Again, on the eleventh or the thirteenth day, the girl
sits within the square, and water is poured over her as
before. She then bathes.

The dead are usually cremated, though, in some
cases, burial is resorted to. The corpse is washed and
laid on a plantain leaf, and a new cloth is thrown over it.
Some paddy (unhusked rice) is heaped up near the head
and feet, and cocoanut cups containing lighted wicks
are placed thereon. All the relations and friends
assembled at the house dip leafy twigs of the tulsi
(Ocimum sanctum) in water, and allow it to drop into
the mouth of the corpse. The body is carried on a
plank to the burning-ground. The collection of wood
for the pyre, or the digging of the grave, is the duty of
Holeyas. The wood of Strychnos Ntix-vomica should
never be used for the pyre. This is lighted by placing
fire at the two ends thereof. When the flames meet in
the middle, the plantain leaf, paddy, etc., which have
been brought from the house, are thrown into them.
On the fifth day, the ashes are collected, and buried on



249 BILLAVA

the spot. If the body has been buried, a straw figure is
made, and burnt over the grave, and the ashes are
buried there. A small conical mound, called dhupe, is
made there, and a tulsi plant stuck in it. By the side
of the plant a tender cocoanut with its eyes opened,
tobacco leaf, betel leaves and areca nuts are placed.
On the thirteenth day, the final death ceremonies, or
bojja, are performed. On the evening of the previous
day, four poles, for the construction of the upparige or
gudikattu (car), are planted round the dhupe. At the
house, on or near the spot where the deceased breathed
his last, a small bamboo car, in three tiers, is con-
structed, and decorated with coloured cloths. This car
is called Nirneralu. A lamp is suspended from the car,
and a cot placed on the ground beneath it, and the
jewels and clothes of the dead person are laid thereon.
On the following morning, the upparige is constructed,
with the assistance of the caste barber. A small vessel,
filled with water, is placed within the Nirneralu. The
sons-in-law of the deceased receive a present of new
cloths, and, after bathing, they approach the Nirneralu.
The chief mourner takes the vessel from within it, and
pours the water at the foot of a cocoanut tree. The
chief Gurikara pours some water into the empty vessel
and the chief mourner places it within the Nirneralu.
Then seven women measure out some rice three times,
and pour the rice into a tray held by three women.
The rice is taken to a well, and washed, and then
brought back to the car. Jaggery (crude sugar) and
cocoanut scrapings are mixed with the rice, which is
placed in a cup by seven women. The cup is deposited
within the car on the cot. The wife or husband of the
deceased throws a small quantity of rice into the cup.
She turns the cup, and a ladle placed by its side, upside



BILLAVA 250

down, and covers them with a plantain leaf. The various
articles are collected, and tied up in a bundle, which is
placed in a palanquin, and carried in procession, by two
men to the upparige, which has been constructed over
the dhupe. Nalkes and Paravas (devil-dancers), dressed
up as bhutas, may follow the procession. Those present
go thrice round the upparige, and the chief mourner
unties the bundle, and place its contents on the car.
The near relations put rice, and sometimes vegetables,
pumpkins, and plantains, on the plantain leaf. All
present then leave the spot, and the barber removes
the cloths from the car, and pulls it down. Sometimes, if
the dead person has been an important member of the
community, a small car is constructed, and taken in
procession round the upparige. On the fourteenth day,
food is offered to crows, and the death ceremonies are
at an end.

If a death occurs on an inauspicious day, a ceremony
called Kale deppuni (driving away the ghost) is per-
formed. Ashes are spread on the floor of the house,
and the door is closed. After some time, or on the
following day, the roof of the house is sprinkled with
turmeric water, and beaten with twigs of Zizypkus
(Enoplia. The door is then opened, and the ashes are
examined, to see if the marks of the cloven feet of the
ghost are left thereon. If the marks are clear, it is a
sign that the ghost has departed ; otherwise a magician
is called in to drive it out. A correspondent naively
remarks that, when he has examined the marks, they
were those of the family cat.

In some cases, girls who have died unmarried are
supposed to haunt the house, and bring trouble thereto,
and they must be propitiated by marriage. The girl's
relations go in search of a dead boy, and take from the



251 BILLAVA

house where he is a quarter of an anna, which is tied up
between two spoons. The spoons are tied to the roof
of the girl's house. This represents the betrothal
ceremony. A day is fixed for the marriage, and, on the
appointed day, two figures, representing the bride and
bridegroom, are drawn on the floor, with the hands lying
one on the other. A quarter-anna, black beads, bangles,
and a nose-screw, are placed on the hands, and water
is poured on them. This is symbolical of the dhare
ceremony, and completes the marriage.

The pujaris of all the bhuthasthanas and garidis are
Billavas. The bhutha temples called garidis belong to
the Billavas, and the bhuthas are the Baiderukulu (Koti
and Chennayya), Brimmeru (or Brahmeru) Gunda, Okka
Ballala, Kujumba Ganja, and Devanajiri. The Baider-
kulu are believed to be fellow castemen of the Billavas,
and Koti and Chennayya to be descended from an
excommunicated Brahman girl and a Billava. The
legend of Koti and Chennayya is recorded at length
by Mr. A. C. Burnell in the Indian Antiquary.* The
bhuthas are represented by idols. Brimmeru is the most
important, and the others are subordinate to him. He
is represented by a plate of silver or other metal, bearing
the figure of a human being, which is kept within a
car-like stone structure within the shrine. On its left
are two human figures made of clay or stone, which
represent the Baiderukulu. On the right are a man on
horseback, and another figure, representing Okka Ballala
and Kujumba Ganja. Other idols are also set up at the
garidi, but outside the main room. They seem to vary
in different localities, and represent bhuthas such as
Jumadi, Pancha Jumadi, Hosabhutha, Kallurti, etc.



* Devil worship of the Tuluvas, Ind, Ant. XXIII, XXIV, and XXV, 1894-96.



BILVA 252

Brimmeru has been transformed, by Brahman ingenuity,
into Brahma, and all the bhuthas are converted into
Gonas, or attendants on Siva. In the pardhanas (devil
songs) Brimmeru is represented as the principal bhutha,
and the other bhuthas are supposed to visit his sthana.
A bhuthasthana never contains idols, but cots are
usually found therein. A sthana may be dedicated to a
single bhutha, or to several bhuthas, and the number
may be ascertained by counting the number of cots, of
which each is set apart for a single bhutha. If the
sthana is dedicated to more than one bhutha, the bhuthas
are generally Kodamanithaya, Kukkinathaya, and Daiva.
All the arrangements for the periodical kola, or festival
of the bhuthasthana, are made by the pujari. During
the festival, he frequently becomes possessed. Only
such Billavas as are liable to be possessed are recognised
as pujaris. As a sign of their office, they wear a gold
bangle on the right wrist. Further details in connec-
tion with bhutha worship will be found in the articles
on Bants, Nalkes, and Paravas.

Bilva (jackal). An exogamous sept of Kondra.

Bindhollu (brass water-pot). An exogamous sept
of Jogi.

Binu (roll of woollen thread). An exogamous sept
of Kuruba.

Bissoyi. The Parlakimedi Maliahs are, I am
informed, divided up into muttahs, and each muttah
contains many villages, all ruled over by a Bissoyi, a
sort of feudal chief, who is responsible for keeping them
in order. Concerning the Bissoyis, Mr. S. P. Rice
writes * that in the Maliahs " are a number of forts, in
which the Bissoyis, or hill chieftains, reside. Each of



* Occasional Essays on Native South Indian Life.



253 BODA

them holds a small court of his own ; each has his
armed retainers, and his executive staff. They were set
to rule over the hill tracts, to curb the lawlessness of the
aboriginal tribes of the mountains, the Khonds and the
Savaras. They were, in fact, lords of the marches, and
were in a measure independent, but they appear to have
been under the suzerainty of the Raja of Kimedi, and
they were also generally responsible to Government.
Such men were valuable friends and dangerous enemies.
Their influence among their own men was complete ;
their knowledge of their own country was perfect. It
was they, and they only, who could thread their way
through the tangled and well-nigh impenetrable jungle
by foot-paths known only to themselves. Hence, when
they became enemies, they could entrench themselves
in positions which were almost impenetrable. Now a
road leads to every fort ; the jungles have disappeared ;
the Bissoyis still have armed retainers, and still keep
a measure of respect ; but their sting is gone, and the
officer of Government goes round every year on the
peaceful, if prosaic occupation of examining schools and
inspecting vaccination." The story of the Parlakimedi
rebellion, " a forgotten rebellion " as he calls it, in the
last century, and the share which the Bissoyis took in it,
is graphically told by Mr. Rice.

At times of census, Bissoyi has been returned as a
title of Doluva, Kalingi, Kurumo, and Sondi.

Biswalo. A title of various Oriya castes.

Bochchu (hairs). An exogamous sept of Odde.

Boda. Recorded, in the Madras Census Report,
1901, as a small cultivating class in Ganjam. Boda is
the name of a sub-division of the Gadabas, who use the
fibre of boda luvada (Ficus glomerata) in the manufac-
ture of their female garments.



BOD A DASARI 254

Boda Dasari (bald-headed mendicant). An exo-
gamous sept of Jogi.

Boddu (navel). An exogamous sept, or sub-division
of Idigas and Asilis. It is recorded in the Gazetteer
of the Bellary district, that " in the middle of the
threshold of nearly all the gateways of the ruined
fortifications round the Bellary villages will be noticed
a roughly cylindrical or conical stone, something like a
lingam. This is the Boddu-rayi, literally the navel
stone, and so the middle stone. Once a year, in May,
just before the sowing season begins, a ceremony takes
place in connection with it." (See Bariki.)

Bodo (big). A sub-division of Bottada, Mali,
Omanaito, Pentia, and other castes. Bodo Nayak is a
title among the Gadabas, and Bodo Odiya occurs as a
sub-division of Sondi.

Bogam. See Deva-dasi and Sani.

Bogara. Recorded, in the Madras Census Report,
1901, as " Canarese brass and copper-smiths: a sub-
division of Panchala." From a note on the Jains of the
Bellary district * I gather that " there is a class of
people called Bogaras in the Harpanahalli taluk, and in
the town of Harpanahalli itself, side by side with the
Jains. They are a thriving class, and trade in brass and
copper wares. The Bogaras practice the Jaina religion,
have the same gotras, freely worship in Jain temples,
and are accepted into Jaina society. Evidently they
are a sub-division of the Jains, though now excluded
from inter-marriage." It is said that "arrangements are
now being made (through the Jaina Bhattacharya at
Kolhapur) to enable Bogaras to intermarry with the
Jains."



* Madras Mail, 1905.



255 BOKSHA

BOgarlu.- Occurs as the name of a class of agri-
cultural labourers in the Vizagapatam Agency, who
are probably workers in metal who have taken to
agriculture.

Boggula (charcoal). An exogamous sept of Boya
and Devanga.

Bohora. The Bohoras or Boras are " Musalman
converts from the Bombay side. They are traders. In
Madras they have their own high priest and their own
mosque (in Georgetown). It is said that, when one of
them dies, the high priest writes a note to the archangels
Michael, Israel and Gabriel, asking them to take care
of him in Paradise, and that the note is placed in the
coffin." * They consider themselves as a superior class,
and, if a member of another section enters their mosque,
they clean the spot occupied by him during his prayers.
They take part in certain Hindu festivals, e.g., Dipavali,
or feast of lights, at which crackers are let off.

Boidyo. Recorded under the name Boyidyo, in the
Madras Census Report, 1901, as "literally a physi-
cian : a sub-caste of Pandito." There is said to be no
difference between Panditos and Boidyos. In Ganjam
they are known by the former, elsewhere by the latter
name.

Boipari. A synonym of Lambadi. (See Bepari.)

Boishnobo. - The Boishnobos have been defined
as a class of Oriya religious mendicants and priests to
Sudras. The name means worshippers of Bishnu or
Vishnu. Most of them are followers of Chaitanya, the
great Bengali reformer.

Boksha. Boksha or Boksham (treasury) is the
name of a sub-division of Gollas, indicating their



* Madras Census Report, 1901,



BOLASI



256



employment as treasury servants in guarding and carrying
treasure. In some places, those who are employed in
packing and lifting bags of money in district treasuries
are still called Gollas, though they may belong to some
other caste. In the Census Report, 1901, Bokkisha
Vadugar (treasury northerner) was returned as a Tamil
synonym for Golla.

Bolasi. The Bolasis are a caste of Oriya culti-
vators, who are largely found in the Gumsur taluk of
Ganjam. Many of them serve as paiks or peons. The
original name of the caste is said to have been Thadia,
which has been changed in favour of Bolasi (Bayalisi,
forty-two) in reference to the caste being one of the
recognized forty-two Oriya Sudra castes. It is also
suggested that the name is derived from bola (anklets),
as the women wear heavy brass anklets.

Their ceremonial rites connected with marriage,
death, etc., are similar to those of the Doluvas, Gaudos,
Badhoyis, and other castes. Marriage is infant, and, if
a girl does not secure a husband before she reaches
maturity, she goes through a form of marriage with an
arrow or a grinding stone. The Bolasis are Vaishna-
vites, and observe the Paramartho or Chaitanya form
thereof. The caste titles are Podhano, Nayako, Daso,
Mahanti, Patro, Sahu, Jenna, and Konhoro.

Gudiyas who are engaged in agriculture are some-
times known as Bolasi Gudiyas.

Bolodia. The name of a section of Tellis, who use
pack-bullocks (bolodo, an ox) for carrying grain about
the country. Some Gaudos, at times of census, have
also returned Bolodia as their sub-division.

Bombadai (a fish). A gotra of Medara. The equi-
valent Bomidi occurs as an exogamous sept of Mala.
Members of the Vamma gotra of the Janappans abstain



257 BONDILI

from eating this fish, because, when some of their ances-
tors went to fetch water in a marriage pot, they found
a number of this fish in the water collected in the pot.

Bomma (a doll). An exogamous sept of Padma
Sale. The equivalent Bommala occurs as an exoga-
mous sept of Mala. The Bommalatavallu are said * to
exhibit shows in the Vizagapatam district.

Bommali. A sub-division of the Koronos of
Ganjam.

Bonda. A sub-division of Poroja.

Bondia. A small class, inhabiting Ganjam. The
name is said to be derived from bondono, meaning praise,
as the Bondias are those who praise and flatter Rajas.

Bondili. In the Madras Census Report, 1891, the
Bondilis are " said to derive their name from Bundel-
kund. They claim to be Rajputs, but appear to have
degenerated. The Sivaites of this sect are said to bury
their dead, while the Vishnavaites burn. In the Kadri
taluk of Cuddapah all are said to bury. The custom
in this respect appears to differ in different localities.
Besides Siva and Vishnu worship, three of the eight
authorities who give particulars of this section agree
that they worship village deities as well. All state that
remarriage of widows is not permitted. They are
generally cultivators, peons, or the body-guards of
Zemindars." The Bondilis of the North Arcot district
are described by Mr. H. A. Stuart f as being " foreign-
ers from Bundelkund, from which fact their name
originates, and of various Vaisya and Sudra castes ; the
former having the termination Lala to their names, and
the latter that of Ram. Many of the Sudra Bondilis,



* Manual of the Vizagapatam district.
f Manual of the North Arcot district.



BONIYA 258

however, improperly take the title Singh, and say they
are Kshatriyas, that is, Rajputs. The Vaisya Bondilis
are few i n number, and only found in Vellore, Chittoor
and Arni, where they are usually money-lenders. The
Sudras are mostly sepoys, constables, or revenue peons.
Some say that they are not even Sudras, but the
descendants of Rajputs by women of the country, and
probably many of them are such. All are very particular
with respect to eating with an other professed Bondili,
and refuse to do so unless they are quite certain that
he is of their class. In their marriage customs they
resemble the Rajputs."

I am informed that one section of the Bondilis is
named Toli, in reference to their being workers in
leather. There is, at Venkatagiri, a street called Toli
mitta, or Toli quarters, and, in former days, the inha-
bitants thereof were not allowed to enter the temples.

In the Census Report, 1901, Guvalo, or traders from
Sambalpur, is returned as a sub-caste of Bondili.

Boniya. The Oriya name for Baniya (trader).
Boniya Korono appears^ as the name for traders and
shopkeepers in Ganjam.

Bonka. -Recorded, in the Vizagapatam Manual,
as cultivators in the Jeypore hills, and, in the Madras
Census Report, 1901, as a small Oriya caste of hill
cultivators, which has three sub-divisions, Bonka, Pata
Bonka, and Goru Bonka.

Bonthuk. The Bonthuks or Bonthuk Savaras are
scattered about the Kistna and Guntur districts, and
lead a nomad life, carrying their small dwelling-huts with
them as they shift from place to place. They are called
Bonthuk Savaras to distinguish them from the Pothra



* Manual of the Ganjam district.



259 BONTHUK

(stone) Savaras, who dwell further north. By Telugu
people they are called Chenchu or Bontha Chenchu,
though they have no connection with the Chenchus who
inhabit the hills in Kurnool, and other parts of the
Telugu country. The Bonthuks, however, like the
Chenchus, claim Ahobila Narasimha as their tribal
deity. The Bonthuks speak the Oriya language, and
they have a Mongoloid type of features, such as are
possessed by the Savaras of Ganjam and Vizagapatam.
Their house-names, or intiperalu, however are Telugu.
These constitute exogamous septs, and seem to be as
follows : Pasupuretti, Simhadri (the god at Simha-
chalam near Vizagapatam), Koneti, Dasapatri, Gedala
(buffaloes), Kudumala (cakes), Akula (leaves), Sunkara,
and Tota (garden). At marriages, individuals of the
Pasupuretti sept officiate as priests, and members of
the Koneti sept as drummers and musicians. Men
belonging to the Gedalu sept are considered as
equivalent to shepherds.

The Bonthuks have a very interesting way of naming
their children. If a child is born when an official or
person of some distinction happens to be near their
encampment, it is named after him. Thus such names
as Collector, Tahsildar, Kolnol (Colonel), Governor,
Innes, Superintendent, and Acharlu (after one Sukra-
charlu) are met with. Sometimes children are named
after a town or village, either because they were born
there, or in the performance of a vow to some place of
pilgrimage. In this way, such names as Hyderabad,
Channapatam (Madras), Bandar (Masulipatam), Nellore,
and Tirupati arise. A boy was named Tuyya (parrot),
because a parrot was brought into the settlement at
the time of his birth. Another child was called Beni
because, at its birth, a bamboo flute (beni) was played.
17*



BONTHUK 260

Every settlement is said to have a headman, called
Bichadi, who, in consultation with several elders of the
tribe, settles disputes and various affairs affecting the
community. If an individual has been fined, and does
not accept the punishment, he may appeal to another
Bichadi, who may enhance the fine. Sometimes those
who do not agree to abide by the decision of the
Bichadi have to undergo a trial by ordeal, by taking out
an areca nut from a pot of boiling cowdung water. The
dimensions of the pot, in height and breadth, should not
exceed the span of the hand, and the height of the cow-
dung water in the pot should be that of the middle
finger from the base to the tip. If, in removing the
nut from the pot, the hand is injured, the guilt of the
individual is proved. Before the trial by ordeal, a sum
of ten rupees is deposited by both complainant and
accused with the Bichadi, and the person under trial
may not live in his dwelling-hut. He lives in a grove
or in the forest, watched by two members of the
Pasupuretti sept.

The Bonthuks are engaged in collecting bamboos,
and selling them after straightening them by heating
them in the fire. Before the bamboos are placed in
carts, for conveyance to the settlement, a goat and fowls
are sacrificed to Satyamma, Dodlamma, Muthyalamma,
and Pothuraju, who are represented by stones.

Girls are married before puberty, and, if a girl
happens to be mated only after she has reached maturity,
there is no marriage ceremonial. The marriage rites
last over five days, on the first of which a brass vessel,
with a thread tied round its neck, and containing turmeric
water and the oyila tokka or tonko (bride's money), is
carried in procession to the bride's hut on the head of a
married girl belonging to a sept other than those of the



261 BONTHUK

contracting couple. She has on her head a hood deco-
rated with little bells, and the vessel is supported on a
cloth pad. When the hut is reached, the bride's money
is handed over to the Bichadi, and the turmeric water is
poured on the ground. The bride's money is divided
between her parents and maternal uncle, the Bichadi,
and the caste men. A pig is purchased, and carried by
two men on a pole to the scene of the marriage. The
caste people, and the married girl carrying a brass vessel,
go round the animal, to the accompaniment of music.
The girl, as she goes round, pours water from the vessel
on the ground. A thread is tied round the neck of the
pig, which is taken to the bridegroom's hut, and cut up
into two portions, for the parties of the bridegroom and
bride, of which the former is cooked and eaten on the
same day. At the homes of the bride and bridegroom,
a pandal (booth) and dais are erected. The materials
for the former are brought by seven women, and for the
latter by nine men. The pandal is usually decorated
with mango and Eiigenia Arnottiana leaves. After
supper, some relations of the contracting couple go to
an open space, where the Bichadi, who has by him two
pots and two bashingams (chaplets) of arka (Calotropis
gigantea) flowers, is seated with a few men. The fathers
of the bride and bridegroom ask the Bichadi to give
them the bashingams, and this he does after receiving
an assurance that the wedding will not be attended by
quarrelling. The bride and bridegroom take their seats



Online LibraryEdgar ThurstonCastes and tribes of southern India (Volume 1) → online text (page 23 of 33)