Dhangar Dhanwâr Dharhi Dhoba Dholis



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Dhangar Dhanwâr Dharhi Dhoba Dholis Dhunia Dhuri Dom Domb Dóm

Dhangar.: - They are shepherds who live in the Himalayas. They make blankets and sell wool and milk.
Dhangar.: - The Marâtha caste of shepherds and blanket-weavers, numbering 1 96,000 persons in the Central Provinces and Berâr . They reside principally in the Nâgpur, Wardha, Chânda and Nimâr Districts of the Central Provinces and in all Districts of Berâr. The Dhangars are a very numerous caste in Bombay and Hyderâbâd. The name is derived 2 either from the Sanskrit dhenu, a cow, or more probably from dhan, wealth, a term which is commonly applied to flocks of sheep and goats. It is said that the first sheep and goats came out of an ant-hill and scattering over the fields began to damage the crops of the cultivators. They, being helpless, prayed to Mahâdeo to rescue them from this pest and he thereupon created the first Dhangar to tend the flocks. The Dhangars consequently revere an ant-hill, and never remove one from their fields, while they worship it on the Diwâli day with offerings of rice, flowers and part of the ear of a goat. When tending and driving sheep and goats they ejaculate 'Har, Har,' which is a name of Mahâdeo used by devotees in worshipping him. The Dhangars furnished a valuable contingent to Sivaji's guerilla soldiery, and the ruling family of Indore State belong to this caste. It is divided into the following subcastes: Varâdi or Barâde, belonging to Berâr; Kânore or Kânade, of Kanara; Jhâde, or those belonging to the Bhandâra, Bâlâghât and Chhindwâra Districts, called the Jhâdi or hill country; Lâdse, found in Hyderâbâd; Gâdri, from Gâdar, a sheep, a division probably consisting of northerners, as the name for the cognate caste of shepherds in Hindustân is Gadaria; Telange, belonging to the Telugu country; Marâthe, of the Marâtha country; Mâhurai from Mâhur in Hyderâbâd, and one or two others.

1 See Russel. Compiled mainly from a paper by Kanhya Lâl, clerk in the Gazetteer office.

2 Cr. The two meanings of the word 'stock' in English.

Eleven subcastes in all are reported. For the purposes of marriage a number of exogamous groups or septs exist which may be classified according to their nomenclature as titular and totemistic, many having also the names of other castes. Examples of sept names are: Powâr, a Râjpît sept; Dokra, and old man, an old Mârte, a murderer or slayer; Sarodi, the name of a caste of mendicants; Mhâli, a barber; Kaode, a crow; Chambhâde, a Chamâr, Gîjde, a Gîjar; Juâde, a gambler; Lamchote, long-haired; Bodke, bald-headed; Khatík, a butcher; Chândekar, from Chânda; Dambhâde, one having pimples on the body; Halle, a he-buffalo; Moya, a grass, and others. The sept names show that the caste is a functional one of very mixed composition, party recruited from members of other castes who have taken to sheep-tending and generally from the non-Aryan tribes.



Marriage A man must not marry within his own sept or that of his mother, nor may he marry a first cousin. He may wed a younger sister of his wife during her lifetime, and the practice of marrying a girl and boy into the same family, called Anta Sânta or exchange, is permitted. Occasionally the husband does service for his wife in his father-in-law's house. In Wardha the Dhangars measure the heights of a prospective bride and bridegroom with a piece of string and consider it a suitable match if the husband is taller than the wife, whether he be older or not. Marriages may be infant or adult, and polygamy is permitted, no stigma attaching to the taking of a second wife. Weddings may be celebrated in the rains up to the month of Kunwâr (September), this provision probably arising from the fact that many Dhangars wander about the country during the open season, and are only at home during the rainy months. Perhaps for the same reason the wedding may, if the officiating priest so directs, be held at the house of a Brâhman. This happens only when the Brâhman has sown an offering of rice, called Gâg, in the name of the goddess Râna Devi, the favourite deity of the Dhangars. On his way to the bride's house the bridegroom must be covered with a black blanket. Nowadays the wedding is sometimes held at the bridegroom's house and the bride comes for it. The caste say that this is done because there are not infrequently among the members of the bridegroom's family widows who have remarried or women who have been kept by men of higher castes or been guilty or adultery. The bride's female relatives refuse to wash the feet of these women and this provokes quarrels. To meet such cases the new rule has been introduced. At the wedding the priest sits on the roof of the house facing the west, and the bride and bridegroom stand below with a curtain between them. As the sun is half set he claps his hands and the bridegroom takes the clasped hands of the bride within his own, the curtain being withdrawn. the bridegroom ties round the bride's neck a yellow thread of seven strands, and when this is done she is married. Next morning a black bead necklace is substituted for the thread. The expenses of the bridegroom's party are about Rs. 50, and of the bride's about Rs. 30. The remaining procedure follows the customary usage of the Marâtha Districts. Widows are permitted to marry again, but must not take a second husband from the sept to which the first belonged. A considerable price is paid for a widow, and it is often more expensive to marry one than a girl. A Brâhman and the mâlguzâr (village proprietor) should be present at the ceremony. If a bachelor marries a widow he must first go through the ceremony with a silver ring, and if the ring is subsequently lost or broken, its funeral rites must be performed. Divorce is allowed in the presence of the caste panchâyat at the instance of either party for sufficient reason, as the misconduct or bad temper of the wife or the impotency of the husband.

Religion. Mahâdeo is the special deity of the Dhangars, and they also observe the ordinary Hindu festivals. At Diwâli they worship their goats by dyeing their horns and touching their feet. One Bahrâm of Nâchangaon near Pulgaon is the tutelary deity of the Wardha Dhangars and the protector of their flocks. On the last day of the month of Mâgh they perform a special ceremony called the Deo Pîja. A Dhímar acts as priest to the caste on this occasion and fashions some figures of idols out of rice to which vermilion and flowers are offered. He then distributes the grains of rice to the Dhangars who are present, pronouncing a benediction. The Dhímar receives his food and a present, and it is essential that the act of worship should be performed by one of this caste. In their houses they have Kul-Devi and Khandoba the Marâtha hero, who are the family deities. But in large families they are kept only in the house of the eldest brother. Kul-Devi or the goddess of the family is worshipped at weddings, and a goat is offered to her in the month of Cahit (March). The head is buried beneath her shrine inside the house and the body is consumed by members of the family only. Khandoba is worshipped on Sundays and they identify him with the sun. Vithoba, a form of Vishnu, is revered on Wednesdays, and Bâlâji, the younger brother of Râma, on Fridays. Many families also make a representation of some deceased bachelor relative, which they call Munjia, and of some married woman who is known as Mairni or Sâsin, and worship them daily.

Birth Death And Social Status. The Dhangars burn their dead unless they are too poor to purchase wood for fuel, in which case burial is resorted to. Unmarried children and persons dying form smallpox, leprosy, cholera and snake-bite are also buried. At the pyre the widow breaks her bangles and throws her glass beads onto her husband's body. On returning from the burning ghât the funeral party drink liquor. Some gânja, tobacco and anything else which the deceased may have been fond of during his life are left near the grave on the first day. Mourning is observed during ten days on the death of an adult and for three days for a child. Children are usually named on the twelfth day after birth, the well-to-do employing a Brâhman for the purpose. On this day the child must not see a lamp, as it feared that if he should do so he will afterwards have a squint. Only one name is given as a rule, but when the child comes to be married, if the Brâhman finds that its name does not make the marriage auspicious, he substitutes another and the child is afterwards known by this new name. The caste employs Brâhmans for ceremonies at birth and marriage. They eat flesh including fowls and wild pig, and drink liquor, but abstain from other unclean food. They will take food from a Kunbi, Phîlmâli or a Sunâr. and water from any of the good cultivating castes. A Kunbi will take water from them. The women of the caste wear bracelets of lead or brass on the right wrist and glass bangles on the left. Permanent or temporary excommunication from caste is imposed for the usual offences, and among those visited with the minor penalty are selling shoes, touching the carcass of a dog or cat, killing a cow or buffalo. or allowing one to die with a rope round its neck. No food is cooked for five weeks in a house in which a cat has died. The social standing of the caste is low.

Occupation. The traditional occupation of the Dhangars is to tend sheep and goats, and they also sell goats' milk make blankets from the wool of sheep, and sometimes breed and sell stock for slaughter. they generally live near tracts of wasteland where grazing is available. Sheep are kept in the open and goats in roofed folds. Like English shepherds. they carry sticks or staffs and have dogs to assist in driving the flocks, and they sometimes hunt hares with their dogs. Their dress consists frequently only of a loin-cloth and a blanket, and having to bear exposure to all weathers, they are naturally strong and hardy. In appearance they are dark and of medium size. They eat three times a day and bathe in the evening on returning from work, though their ablutions are sometimes omitted in the cold weather.

Dhanwâr.: -Dhanuhâr. 1 -A primitive tribe living in the wild hilly country of the Bilâspur zamíndâri estates, adjoining Chota Nâgpur. They numbered only 19,000 persons in 1911. The name Dhanuhâr means a bowman, and the bulk of the tribe have until recently been accustomed to obtain their livelihood by hunting with bow and arrows.



1 . See Russell. This article is bases almost entirely on a monograph by Mr. Jeorâkhan Lâl, Deputy Inspector of Schools, Bilâspur.

The name is thus merely a functional term and is analogous to those of Dhângar, or labourer, and Kisân, or cultivator, which are applied to the Oraons, and perhaps Halba or farmservant, by which another tribe is known. The Dhanwârs are almost certainly not connected with the Dhânuks of northern India, though the names have the same meaning. They are probably an offshoot of either the Gond or the Kawar tribe or a mixture of both. Their own legend of their origin is nearly the same as that of the Gonds, while the bulk of their sept or family names are identical with those of the Kawars. Like the Kawars, the Dhanwârs have no language of their own and speak a corrupt form of Chhattísgarhi Hindi. Mr. Jeorâkhan Lâl writes of them: "The word Dhanuhâr is a corrupt form of Dhanusdhâr, or 'a holder of a bow.' The bow 1 consists of a piece of bamboo and the arrow is made of wood from the dhâman tree. The pointed end is furnished with a piece or a nail of iron called phani, while to the other end are attached feathers of the vulture or peacock with a tasar silk. Dhanuhâr boys learn the use of the bow at five years of age, and kill birds with it when they are seven or eight years old. At their marriage ceremony the bridegroom carries an arrow with him in place of a dagger as among the Hindus, and each household has a bow which is worshipped at every festival." Origin According to their own legend the ancestors of the Dhanuhârs were two babies whom a tigress unearthed from the ground when scratching a hole in her den, and brought up with her own young. They were named Nâga Lodha and Nâga Lodhi, Nâga meaning naked and Lodha being the Chhattísgarhi word for a wild dog. Growing up they lived for some time as brother and sister, until the deity enjoined them to marry. But they had no children until Nâga Lodha, in obedience to the god's instructions, gave his wife the fruit of eleven trees to eat. From these she had eleven sons at a birth, and as she observed a fortnight's impurity for each of them the total period was five and a half months. In memory of this, Dhanuhâr women still remain impure for five months after delivery, and do not worship the gods for that period. Afterwards the couple had a twelfth son, who was born with a bow and arrows in his hand, and is now the ancestral hero of the tribe, being named Karankot. One day in the forest when Karankot was not with them, the eleven brothers came upon a wooden palisade, inside which were many deer and antelope tended by twelve Gaoli (herdsmen) brothers with their twelve sisters. The Lodha brothers attacked the place, but were taken prisoners by the Gaolis and forced to remove dung and other refuse form the enclosure. After a time Karankot went in search of his brothers and, coming to the place, defeated the Gaolis and rescued them and carried off the twelve sisters. The twelve brothers subsequently married the twelve Gaoli girls, Karankot himself being wedded to the youngest and most beautiful, whose name was Maswâsi. From each couple is supposed to be descended one of the tribes who live in this country, as the Binjhwâr, Bhumia, Korwa, Mâjhi, Kol, Kawar and others, the Dhanuhârs themselves being the progeny of Karankot and Maswâsi. The bones of the animals killed by Karankot were thrown into ditches dug round the village and form the pits of chhui mithi or white clay now existing in this tract.

Exogamous Septs. The Dhanuhârs, being a small tribe, have no endogamous divisions, but are divided into a number of totemistic exogamous septs. Many of the septs are called after plants or animals, and members of the sept refrain from killing or destroying the animal or plant after which it is named. The names of the septs are generally Chhattísgarhi words, though a few are Gondi. Out of fifty names returned twenty are also found in the Kawar tribe and four among the Gonds. This makes it probable that the Dhanuhârs are mainly an offshoot from the Kawars with a mixture of Gonds and other tribes. A peculiarity worth noticing is that one or two of the septs have been split up into a number of others. The best instance of this is the Sonwâni sept, which is found among several castes and tribes in Chhattísgarh; its name is perhaps derived from Sona pâni (Gold water), and its members have the function of readmitting those temporarily expelled from social intercourse by pouring on them a little water into which a piece of gold has been dipped.

1 . Grewia vestita.



Among the Dhanuhârs the Sonwâni sept has become divided into the Son-Sonwâni, who pour the gold water over the penitent; the Rakat Sonwâni, who give him to drink a little of the blood of the sacrificial fowl; the Hardi Sonwâni, who give turmeric water to the mourners when they come back from a funeral; the Kâri Sonwâni, who assist at this ceremony; and one or two others. The totem of the Kâri Sonwâni sept is a black cow, and when such an animal dies in the village members of the sept throw away their earthen pots. All these are now separate exogamous septs. The Deswârs are another sept which has been divided in the same manner. They are, perhaps, a more recent accession to the tribe, and are looked down on by the others because they will eat the flesh of bison. The other Dhanwârs refuse to do this because they say that when Síta, Râma's wife, was exiled in the jungles, she could not find a cow to worship and so revered a bison in its stead.. And they say that the animal's feet are grey because of the turmeric water Síta poured on them, and that the depression on its forehead is the mark of her hand when she placed a tíka or sign there with coloured rice. The Deswârs are also called Dui Duâria or 'Those having two doors,' because they have a back door to their huts which is used only by women during their monthly period of impurity and kept shut at all other times. One of the septs is named Manakhia, which means 'man-eater,' and it is possible that its members formerly offered human sacrifices. Similarly, the Rakat-bund or 'Drop of blood Deswârs' may be so called because they shed human blood. A member of the Telâsi or 'Oil ' sept, when he has killed a deer, will cut off the head and bring it home; placing it in his courtyard, he suspends a burning lamp over the head and places grains of rice on the forehead of the deer; and he then considers that he is revering the oil in the lamp. Members of the Sîrajgoti or sun sept are said to have stood as representatives of the sun in the rite of the purification of an offender.

Marriage. Marriage within the sept is prohibited, and usually also between first cousins. Girls are commonly married a year or two after they arrive at maturity. The father of the boy looks out for a suitable girl for his son and sends a friend to make the proposal. If this is accepted a feast is given, and is known as Phîl Phulwâri or 'The bursting of the flower.' The betrothal itself is called Phaldân or 'The gist of the fruit'; on this occasion the contract is ratified and the usual presents are exchanged. Yet a third ceremony, prior to the marriage, is that of the Barokhi or inspection, when the bride and bridegroom are taken to see each other. On this occasion they exchange copper rings, placing them on each other's finger, and the boy offers vermilion to the earth, and then rubs it on the bride's forehead. When the girl is mature the date of the wedding is fixed, a small brideprice of six rupees and a piece of cloth being usually paid. If the first signs of puberty appear in the girl during the bright fortnight of the month, the marriage is held during the dark fortnight and vice versa. The marriage-shed is built in the form of a rectangle and must consist of either seven or nine posts in three lines. the bridegroom's party comprises from twenty to forty persons of both sexes. When they arrive at the bride's village her father comes out to meet them and gives them leaf-pipes to smoke. He escorts them inside the village where a lodging has been prepared for them. The ceremony is based on that of the local Hindus with numerous petty variations in points of detail. In the actual ceremony the bride and bridegroom are first supported on the knees of two relatives. A sheet is held between them and each throws seven handfuls of parched rice over the other. They are then made to stand side by side; a knot is made of their cloths containing a piece of turmeric, and the bride's left hand is laid over the bridegroom's right one, and on it a sendhaura or wooden box for vermilion is placed. The bride's mother moves seven times round the pair holding a lighted lamp, at which she warms her hand and then touches the marriage-crowns of the bride and bridegroom, seven times in succession. And finally the couple walk seven times round the marriage-post, the bridegroom following the bride. The marriage is held during the day, and not, as is usual, at night or in the early morning. Afterwards, the pair are seated in the marriage-shed, the bridegroom's leg being placed over that of the bride, with their feet in a brass dish. The bride's mother then washes their great toes with milk and the rest of their feet with water. The bridegroom applies vermilion seven times to the marriage-post and to his wife's forehead and the parting of her hair. The couple are fed with rice and pulses one after the other out of the same leaf-plates, and the parties have a feast. Next morning, before their departure, the father of the bride asks the bridegroom to do his best to put up with his daughter, who is thievish, gluttonous and so slovenly that she lets her food drop on to the floor; but if he finds he cannot endure her, to send her home. In the same manner the father of the boy apologises for his son, saying that he cares only for mischief and pleasure. The party then returns to the bridegroom's house.

Festivities of the women of the bridegroom's party. During the absence of the wedding party the women of the bridegroom's house with others in the village sing songs at night in the marriage-shed constructed at his house. These are known as Dindwa, a term applied to a man who has no wife, whether widower or bachelor. As they sing, the women dance in two lines with their arms interlaced, clapping their hands as they move backwards and forwards. the songs are of a lewd character, treating intrigues in love mingled with abuse of their relatives and of their men who may be watching the proceedings by stealth. No offence is taken on such occasions, whatever may be said. In Upper India, Mr. Jeorâkhân, Lâl states such songs are sung at the time of the marriage and are called Naktoureki louk or the ceremony of the useless or shameless ones, because women, however shy and modest, become at this time as bold and shameless as men are at the Holi festival. The following are a few lines from one of these songs: The wheat-cake is below and the urad-cake is above. Do you see my brother' s brother-in-law 1 watching the dance in the narrow lane. A sweetmeat is placed on the wheat-cake; a handsome young blackguard has climbed on to the top of the wall to see the dance. When a woman sees a man from afar he looks beautiful and attractive: but when he comes near she sees that he is not worth the trouble. I went to the market and came back with my salt. Oh, I looked more at you than at my husband who is wedded to me. Conclusion Of The Marriage. Several of the ceremonies are repeated at the bridegroom's house after the return of the wedding party. On the day following them the couple are taken to a tank walking under a canopy held up by their friends. Here they throw away their marriage-crowns, and play at hiding a vessel under the water. When they return to the house a goat is sacrificed to Dulha Deo and the bride cooks food in her new house for the first time, her husband helping her, and their relatives and friends in the village are invited to partake of it. After this the conjugal chamber is prepared by the women of the household, and the bride is taken to it and told to consider her husband's house as her own. The couple are then left together and the marriage is consummated.

Widow-Marriage And Divorce. The remarriage of widows is permitted but it is not considered as a real marriage, according to the saying: "A woman cannot be anointed twice with the marriage oil., as a wooden cooking-vessel cannot be put twice on the fire." A widow married again is called a Churiyâhi Dauki or 'Wife made by bangles,' as the ceremony may be completed by putting bangles on her wrists. When a woman is going to marry again she leaves her late husband's house and goes and lives with her own people or in a house by herself. The second husband makes his proposal to her through some other women. If accepted, he comes with a party of his male friends, taking with him a new cloth and some bangles.

1. The term brother's brother-in-law is abusive in the same sense as brother-in-law (sâla ) said by a man.



They are received by the widow's guardian, and they sit in her house smoking and chewing tobacco while some woman friend retires with her and invests her with the new cloth and bangles. She comes out and the new husband and wife bow to all the Dhanwârs, who are subsequently regaled with liquor and goats' flesh, and the marriage is completed. Polygamy is permitted but is not common. A husband may divorce his wife for failing to bear him issue, for being ugly, thievish, shrewish or a witch, or for an intrigue with another man. If a married woman commits adultery with another man of the tribe they are pardoned with the exaction of one feast. If her paramour is a Gond, Râwat, Binjhwâr or Kawar, he is allowed to become a Dhanwâr and marry her on giving several feasts, the exact number being fixed by the village Baiga or priest in a panchâyat or committee. With these exceptions a married woman having an intrigue with a man of another caste is finally expelled. A wife who desires to divorce her husband without his agreement is also turned out of the caste like a common woman.



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