William Wilson Hunter.

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The Imperial Gazetteer of India.

W. W. HUNTER, C.S.I., CLE., LL.D.,










univ. c:




Prepared for DT H W Bunierfe


: —





Karens (or Karengs). — A semi-aboriginal tribe of Mongolian origin,
inhabiting Siam, Independent Burma, and the British Districts of
Lower Burma. They are scattered throughout British Burma, from
Mergui in the south to beyond Taung-ngu in the extreme north, and
from the Salwin (Salween) Hills in the east to as far as Arakan on the
west. They are found principally in Taung-ngu, Shwe-gyin, Amherst,
Tavoy, Mergui, Bassein, and Hanthawadi Districts. Among the race
themselves the word Karen (Burmese, ' aboriginal ') is not recognised as
a national appellation, and is only known to them as being their name
in Burmese. They are not the aboriginal inhabitants of the country
known as Burma. They point to forest-clad battlements of dilapidated
fortifications, and declare that 'these cities of our jungles were in ruins
when we came here ; this country is not our own. We came from the
north, where we were independent of the Burmese, and the Siamese,
and the Takings.'

From their traditions, it would seem that there have been three
great migrations of the Karens from the central plateau. They say :
'The Karens and Chinese in two companies, as elder and younger
brothers (the Karens the elder), wandered together from the West. The
journey was long, and continued for a long time. The two companies
were finally separated, as the younger brother went in advance of the
other. The company of the elder brother ceased to follow, and
founded cities and a kingdom of their own, but were conquered and
scattered by others who came after from the same quarter from which
they themselves came.' They refer to their ancestors having crossed
the River of Running Sand (the great Mongolian desert of Gobi), < that




fearful trackless region where the sands rolled before the wind like the
waves of the sea.' Again, from Northern China, perhaps about the
second century a.d., when they settled somewhere near Ava. And,
lastly, about the fifth or sixth century a.d., when they came southward
and spread over the mountains between the Irawadi, the Salwin, and
the Meinam, as far south as the seaboard. Here they have since
remained, a wild uncivilised race of mountaineers, broken up into
many petty clans and communities, jealous of and ceaselessly at war
with each other. Surrounded by Buddhist nations, they have retained
their primitive nature-worship, leavened with singular traces of a higher
but forgotten faith.

One feature that distinguishes the Karens from the peoples around
them is a tradition of their former possession of a more theistic religion
than the present worship of the spirits of nature, and the embodiment
of that religion in writings now lost. They are said to have traditions
of the creation and fall of man, coinciding minutely with the Scriptural
account, even preserving the names of Adam and Eve, of the Deluge,
the dispersion of nations, and the difference of languages. They have
a pure conception of a Supreme Being, whom they name Y'wah, and
who is perfect, good, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient. These
alleged traditions undoubtedly point to some former communication
with Christian missionaries. The belief in the immortality of the soul
and a future state, which is common to most of the Karen tribes, is
entirely rejected by others, who hold that the life of man, as of animals,
ends with death.

The doctrine of the tripartite nature of man — namely, his body,
soul, and spirit — is elaborately developed among them. The human
spirit or ka-Id exists, before the man is born, in some mysterious
region, whence it is sent forth by God ; ' it comes into the world with
him, it remains with him until death, and, for aught that appears to
the contrary, is immortal.' Not only man has this ka-Id, but animals,
trees, plants, as well as spears, knives, arrows, stones, have their
separate and individual ka-Id. When the ka-Id is absent the object
dies, or is destroyed, or does not come into existence. The human
soul or heart is thah, and to it alone is attributed praise or blame.
Besides his ka-Id, every man has another principle or spirit attendant
on him called tso (power or influence), which may be defined as

The Karen tradition respecting their lost books is that formerly God
gave them books written with one-sided letters on skins containing His
laws. These books the Karens carelessly lost, and then the knowledge
of God and how to worship Him departed from them, except as a
misty tradition among their ancient wise men. They do not any
longer profess to worship the Father, God, and Creator Y'wah; they


know not how to serve Him. As the whole world is filled with
demons and spiritual beings, more or less malevolent and powerful,
they must devote themselves to the never-ending task of propitiating
these spirits. They have no images, nor, properly speaking, any
visible object of devotion. The worship paid to the ' Nats,' or Spirits
of Nature, is not one of love or even veneration, but simply of
fear and propitiation. The Karen addresses these spirits with
prayers and propitiatory offerings, to entreat them not to afflict
him with sickness or other bodily calamity; or to remove those
afflictions which he believes have come from them. The Karen thus
lives in an atmosphere of intense spiritualism — the air, the water,
the woods around him teem with invisible, intangible, and generally
malicious beings.

The Karen people are composed of three distinct tribes, the Sgau,
the Pwo, and the Bghai ; differing somewhat in their customs and
traditions, and considerably in their language. Each clan is sub-
divided into septs or clans, which also differ from each other in some
of their customs and idioms, and particularly in their dress. There are
three clans of Sgau, five of the Pwo, and six of the Bghai ; but these
only include the tribes and sub-tribes whose representatives are found
in British Burma. In the Shan districts beyond the British frontier are
the Ranlang, the Reng-ban, the Reng-tsaik, and others.

The Sgau tribe is found from Mergui to Prome and Taung-ngu.
On the east, a few have wandered over the watershed which separates
the Meinam from the Salwin, to the eastward of Zimme in Siam. On
the west, some of them have migrated into Arakan. They are foul
feeders. No animal food comes amiss with them : they eat vermin
and reptiles, such as rats, lizards, and snakes. They eat none of the
monkey tribe save the black monkey (Semnopithecus obscurus), which
is considered a great delicacy. The Pwo tribe is found scattered
along the coast from Mergui, up to and within the deltas of the Salwin,
Sittaung (Tsit-taung), and Irawadi rivers. They prefer the banks of
the creeks for their houses. They are very muscular, powerful men,
and make capital boatmen. The Bghai tribe inhabits the elevated
plateau of Karen-ni (q.v.).

Of the Karens, those who live in the plains are strongly built, with
large limbs ; while the mountaineers are a weaker people, with smaller
muscles and limbs. The men are about five feet five inches in height,
and the women not more than four feet nine. In general, they are
fairer than the Burmese, and the obliquity of the eyes and the cast
of the countenance more nearly approach the Chinese. * The head is
pyramidal, wider across the cheek-bones than across the temples, and
the bridge of the nose rises slightly above the face.' The houses vary
in shape, size, and construction. Some tribes live in comparatively


permanent houses, some in temporary sheds ; some have separate
structures for each family, others one for the whole village.

The villages of those who live among the hills are generally built in
the middle of the jungle, and remote from any frequented track. The
houses are of the poorest description j all the inhabitants in a village
form really one large family, being all connected by blood or marriage ;
no stranger can settle among them. Many large villages have never
seen a European face. Some few even manage to keep the Burmese
tax-gatherer outside by sending their revenue to him. This life of
freedom and independence is dearer to them than all the luxuries of
the plains. The only domestic animals they have are fowls, dogs, and
pigs ; dogs are eaten by the Bghai only.

The marriage tie is held in greater reverence than among the
Burmans. Divorce is only permitted in cases of adultery; and after
payment of the fine settled by the elders, the offending party is at
liberty to marry. Polygamy is not permitted, but is practised by some
of those who live near the Burmese. Children are generally betrothed
by their parents in infancy, and heavy damages are exacted for the
non-fulfilment of this obligation. A damsel thus jilted is entitled to
a kyi-zi for her head, another for her body, and a 'gong' to hide the
shame of her face. A kyi-zi is an enormous metal drum with only
one head, and varies in value from three up to one hundred pounds,
and is the standard of wealth among the Karens, as herds and flocks
are among pastoral nations.

Infanticide is rarely practised, but sometimes if a mother dies, her
infant is buried with her. Some of the tribes bury and some burn
their dead ; but those who ' resort to cremation state that it is com-
paratively a new practice, and that formerly they buried their dead. The
Karens are nominally bound to temperance by their religion ; but the
highest pleasure they can conceive is to get drunk. The price of blood is
still demanded. Slavery is common among all the tribes, and a clan of
the Bghai often sell their relations. The belief in witchcraft is strong.

Their language is monosyllabic, and has consequently no inflexions,
but is amply provided with suffixes and affixes; resembling the Chinese in
possessing six tones besides the simple root. The American Baptist
missionaries have reduced their language to writing, adopting a
modification of the Burmese alphabet to express it.

At present the Karens of British Burma can be divided into two
classes — those who have permanently settled in the plains and betaken
themselves to a regular system of agriculture, and those who still
remain in their primitive freedom on the hills. Although the former
still to a great extent retain their peculiar dress and language, they
have been greatly influenced by the Burmans both in manners and in
religion. Most of them now profess Buddhism.


The wild denizens of the hills and forests have preserved their
ancient customs ; except that blood-feuds, robbing, killing, and
kidnapping have to a great extent ceased. Their life is unsettled and
ever changing. To raise their scanty crops, the virgin forests on the
steep slopes of the hills are cleared and burnt. But the excessive
rainfall washes the soil off the surface, so that only one crop can be
raised on the same spot until it has again become overgrown with
jungle, and a fresh deposit of earth has formed. In two or three years
all the cultivable patches near a large village become exhausted. The
whole community then moves off to new localities, perhaps 30 or 40
miles away, since they may not trespass on what is regarded as the
range of another village.

Every year the dense forest must be attacked, and with infinite
labour large trees six feet in girth, and 100 to 150 feet in height,
felled, cut up, and burnt with the undergrowth, to clear the ground.
The crop usually consists of rice, maize, esculent roots of different
kinds, betel vines, and various pot herbs, with a small patch of cotton
to supply the housewife's loom. The Karen has to guard his patch
of cultivation against elephants, deer, hogs, and birds. But there is
one enemy against whom all his precautions are useless when it appears
in any number— the hill rat. Fortunately the visitations of this pest
occur only at long intervals of forty or fifty years; the rats generally settle
on a tract of country for two or three years in succession, till they have
reduced it to a desert. The Karens during such visitations kill and
salt the rats by thousands and eat them. From 1870 to 1874 the hill
country east of the Sittaung river was devastated by one of these rat-
invasions, and ^10,000 was expended by the British Government in
relieving the Karen tribe.

The customs, traditions, and beliefs that have been mentioned are
not found universally among all the tribes in the same degree.
According to the tradition of the most civilised Karens, they have
retrograded from a higher state. There are certainly some branches
who seem to have reached the extreme of barbarous debasement. In
one part of the Province between the Sittaung river and Karen-ni is
situated a mass of precipitous mountains. Here the Karens may be
found in the wildest and most degraded state ; knowing no arts, not
even how to weave their own garments, and too lazy or proud to
cultivate more than absolute necessity compels them.

In 1857, at the time of the Sepoy Mutiny in India, there arose among
the Karens a leader, named Meng-Laung, a mysterious character, who
affected to be an incarnation of the deity. He proclaimed that he had
appeared on earth to drive the British out of Burma and to establish a
Karen dynasty in Pegu. Many of the simple-minded Karens believed
in his divine mission. They joined him in large numbers from the


remotest villages. The rising was promptly suppressed in Bassein
District, but assumed a threatening character in Martaban and the
interior. After giving considerable trouble to the authorities, it was
eventually put down ; but excitement prevailed for months afterwards
among the Hill Karens. Every attempt to capture the leader proved
fruitless. At last he made his escape from British territory, and found
a refuge in the remote region of Eastern Karen-ni.

When the members of the American Baptist Mission first came to
the Karens in 1828 with a Book out of which they taught words
strangely agreeing with the Karen tradition, they were respectfully
listened to. The results of missionary labours among the Karens
have been excellent. The cessation of blood-feuds, and the peaceable
way in which the various tribes are living together, is more due to the
influence of the missionaries than to measures adopted by the British
Government. The missionaries have a well-graded system of schools,
both in the jungles and in the towns. In 1881, the American Baptist
Mission had among the Karens 16 foreign ordained and 91 native
ordained agents, 19 foreign lay agents (of whom 18 were females), 252
native preachers, 173 native male and 41 native female teachers. The
native Karen Christians in 1871 numbered 35,876; in 1881, their
numbers were estimated at about 64,200. The American Baptist
Mission in 1881 maintained 3 theological and training schools, with 58
pupils; 20 Anglo-vernacular schools, with 457 pupils; and 230 ver-
nacular schools, with 6073 pupils.

Besides the American Baptist Mission, there is a ' Home Mission '
among the Karens. No returns are available for 1SS1, but in 1871
this mission included 5500 native Christians. And the Society for the
Propagation of the Gospel established a Karen mission in 1872, with
3 foreign ordained and 5 native ordained agents. In 1SS1, the mission
consisted of 53 native preachers, 3 native teachers, 4800 native
Christians. The mission maintains 2 vernacular schools, with 82 pupils
in 1 88 1. In the Sal win Hill Tracts the Karens are taking to police
work, nearly 200 having joined the force there. But they will not serve
for long; as soon as they make enough money wherewith to meet
marriage expenses, they withdraw — without permission, if there is any
delay in answering their request to be allowed to retire.

The Census of 188 1 returned the Karens in British Burma at 518,294,
namely, 264,288 males and 254,006 females. Owing to the imperfect
entries in the Census schedules, it was not found practicable to classify
the Karens by tribes and clans. The Census returns the native
converts of the American Baptist Mission at 55,322, almost entirely

A pleasing feature in connection with the Karen Baptist Mission is
the increasing tendency to self-support among the communities. In


1 88 1, the Karens themselves contributed no less than ^"6066 towards
the maintenance of the Baptist Mission churches and schools. At
the Decennial Missionary Conference held in Calcutta in December

1882, one of the Baptist missionaries stated that among the Karens 'in
Bassein District, there was not a single pastor receiving foreign pay;
not a single school that was not supporting its own teacher.'

Kareng-le-chin. — Village in Taung-ngu (Toungoo) District, Tenas-
serim Division, British Burma. Situated 5 miles south of the boundary
of Upper Burma and 7 miles west of the Sittaung river. Frontier
police post.

Karen-ni. — An elevated plateau, extending from the eastern slope
of the Paung-laung range, immediately joining British Burma on the
north-east, to the Salwin river on the east. It consists chiefly of high
table-land, about 3000 to 4000 feet above the level of the sea ; is well
cultivated, and in parts very fertile. Inhabited by the Red Karens
(Karen-ni), a clan of the Bghai tribe ; so named by the Burmese
from the colour of the bright red turban they wear. The red Karens
originally acknowledged the supremacy of one chieftain ; but within
the last hundred years they have split into two separate tribes, Western
and Eastern Karen-nis. The western tribe has been always friendly
disposed towards the British Government, and has given every assist-
ance in its power in keeping peace on the frontier, and in opening
out trade. The eastern tribe has kept aloof from communication with
the British, and lately acknowledged the suzerainty of the Burmese

In 1864, the old chief of Western Karen-ni requested the British
Government to undertake the government and protection of his
country. He was informed in reply, that while the Government placed
a high value on the friendship of the Karens, it had no desire to extend
its frontier in the direction of their country. On the death of the old
chief in 1869, this request was renewed by his two sons, on the ground
that the Burmese and the Eastern Karen-nis were encroaching on their
territory ; and that, unless helped, they would have to succumb. The
British again declined to annex the territory of the western tribe, but
made representations to the Burmese Government. Notwithstanding
a formal disclaimer on the part of the Burmese king to any claim
to authority over the Western Karen-nis, his continued menaces and
assumptions of authority over the Karen-ni country obliged the British
Government in 1875 to exact an effective guarantee. A survey party
was therefore despatched under the orders of the Government of India,
to survey and lay down a boundary between W T estern Karen-ni and
Native Burma. This boundary has been formally recognised by all
parties, and the independence of Western Karen-ni secured.

Karhal. — Central southern tahsil of Mainpuri District, North-


Western Provinces, comprising the pargands of Karhal and Barnahal ;
traversed by the Etawah branch of the Ganges Canal. x\rea, 221
square miles, of which no are returned as cultivated, 34 square miles
as cultivable, and 76 square miles as waste and barren. Population
(1872) 88,850; (1881) 100,031, namely, males 55,720, and females
44,311. Hindus number 93,445 ; Muhammadans, 5534; Jains, 1049;
and 'others,' 3. Land revenue, ,£17,384 ; total Government revenue,
.£19,473; rental paid by cultivators, £26,836. The tahsil contains
1 criminal court and 3 police circles (thdnds) ; strength of regular
police, 31 men; village watchmen (chaukiddrs), 286.

Karhal. — Town in Mainpuri District, North- Western Provinces, and
head-quarters of Karhal tahsil, situated on the Etawah and Mainpuri
road, in lat. 27 o' 5" n., and long. 78 58' 45" e. The principal street
winds off at right angles to the road and forms the bazar. The
shops here are poor, and the houses mean ; but at the back of the
bazar some of the private dwellings are substantial and well-built.
Irregular narrow lanes connect these houses with the bazar, and serve
as imperfect drains during the rainy season. Population (1872) 5574 ',
(1881) 7885, namely, Hindus, 4630; Muhammadans, 2420; Jains,
832 ; Christian, 1 ; 'others,' 2. Area of town site, 85 acres. A brisk
local trade is carried on in ghi, cotton, and indigo ; and for police and
conservancy purposes a small house-tax is levied. The principal
buildings are the tahsil, police station, sardi or native inn, and school.
The town is the residence of a Sayyid family of considerable note and

Karharbari. — Coal-field in Hazaribagh District, Bengal, situated
between 24 10' and 24 14' n. lat., and between 86° 16' and 86° 23' e.
long. Area, n square miles, of which 8^- miles are coal-bearing.
The probable amount of available fuel (excluding small seams and
those of inferior quality, such as could not be worked at a profit, also
making allowance for waste, etc.) is estimated at an aggregate of 70
million tons.

The existence of the field was first brought to notice in 1848, and
some coal was raised at the outcrop of several of the seams to test their
excellence. Systematic working was introduced in 1851 by Mr. Inman,
and in 1855 by Messrs. Ward & Company, railway contractors at
Monghyr. In 1856-57, the property held by this firm at Kuldiha
and Ramnadi was transferred to the Bengal Coal Company, who now
own 6 other mining villages in addition. In 1862, the company
discontinued their workings till 1868, since which time they have been
vigorously prosecuted. The East Indian Railway Company commenced
working the Karharbari mine in 1858, and a large quantity of coal was
annually carted away to Lakhisarai. In 1862, work was suspended
chiefly on account of difficulties of carriage. In 1870, a branch line


of the East Indian Railway was constructed to their mines at Karhar-
bari and Srirampur, and working has been carried on uninterruptedly
ever since. The total output up to June 1875 amounted to nearly
350,000 tons. At Karharbari, the railway company hold 2465 acres
on a lease from Government for 82 years, at a yearly rent of ^5072.
At Srirampur, they have 1408 acres on a perpetual lease from the
Raja, and pay an annual rent of ^494. The company work the coal
for their own consumption, and not for sale. The out-turn from the
Karharbari and Srirampur mines in 1883 was 208,000 tons. The
miners are chiefly Bhuiyas, Bauris, and Santals.

The quality of the coal of the Karharbari field has been tested by
several assays of the mineral from different localities. The best seams
disclose from 4*2 and 4*8 to 6*6 per cent, of ash ; from 71-8 to 73' 1 and
68 # 6 per cent, of fixed carbon; and from 24 to 22-1 and 24*8 per cent,
of volatile matter, respectively. The inferior seams show from 26*5 to
34 and 39 per cent, of ash ; from 57*1 to 50*9 and 48*2 per cent, of
carbon; and from 16*4 to i5'i and 12*6 per cent, of volatile matter.
The specimens which gave the best results were obtained from localities
in the east of the field ; the inferior quality being obtained from the
south-west. The results from a series of experiments prove that the
Karharbari coals are better in quality than those obtained from the
Raniganj field in the ratio of 113 to 100. The principal advantage,
however, of the Karharbari field is one of position, as a supplying area
for the Upper Provinces and the railway stations west of Lakhisarai,
there being a saving of 23 miles of carriage as compared with the
Raniganj mines.

Kariana. — Petty State in the Gohelwar Division of Kathiawar,
Bombay Presidency; consisting of 10 villages, including Kariana, with
seven separate shareholders. Area, 10 square miles. Population of
Kariana village (1872), 1429 ; (1881) 1063. Kariana village is 12 miles

Online LibraryWilliam Wilson HunterThe imperial gazetteer of India (Volume 8) → online text (page 1 of 64)