The Kûnchband observe the Holi, Diwâli, Dasahra, and Janamashtami. At the Holi they drink, some bhang and charas, and sprinkle coloured powder about like Hindus. At the Diwâli they drink and gamble and their women make some figures on the walls of the house and at night offer boiled rice (khîl) and sweets (batâsha) to them. They have no special observance of the Dasahra and Janamashtami, except that they consider them to be holidays. On the ninth of the light half of Kuâr they make a present of food to the mân or relative on the female side who acts as their priest. This is done in the belief that the food thus offered passes through him to their deceased ancestors. They have a survival of grove worship in their worship of Nathiya, which is always done under some trees in which she is supposed to reside. The Jâllads make an offering to Kâli in the same way.
In cases of disease or trouble a Syâna or wizard is called in to settle the appropriate offering to the particular ghost which is the cause of the trouble. If a goat is to be offered its forehead is first marked with a tîka . The imli or tamarind tree is in particular believed to be the residence of the sacred dead. When the Kûnchband bury the dead they place a pice with the corpse as a viaticum; the Jallâds place two wheaten cakes with the same object. The technical name for this is tosha, which means "provisions for a journey." When a man is attacked by an evil spirit the Syâna first makes an offering to Devi, consisting of treacle, ghi, cloves, and incense, with some red-lead, which are thrown into a fire (agyâri). The Devi then "comes on the head" of the Syâna and he names the evil spirit who is afflicting the patient. Then a cup of liquor is placed under the head of the sick man and afterwards moved four times round his head (a process known as utâra or "removing"), when it is drunk by the Syâna, who is supposed in this way to remove the evil influence from the patient. Finally he describes the sacrifice which it is advisable to offer. In some more serious cases the Syâna fills a saucer with cooked rice, some cloves, batâsha sweetmeat and an egg, and places it where four roads meet; meanwhile the friends of the sick man sing and beat a brass tray over his head to scare the spirit. The disease is supposed to be communicated to some passer-by. The Churel or ghost of a woman who dies during her menses or at her confinement is much dreaded; children who die before the age of twelve return in the form of an evil spirit known as Masân. Those who die of snake-bite or any other form of unnatural death become an Aût, or a person for whom there is none to make the water oblation. All these have the same attributes, except Masân, which is dangerous only to the children. The Kûnchband Kanjars offer water to the Pitri or sainted dead on the eight or ninth of the light half of Kuâr; this is done by the Jallâds on the Holi and Diwâli.
Totemism, Omens, Etc.
The Bhains and Untwâr sub-castes are probably of totemistic origin. These will not kill or eat the buffalo or camel respectively. They respect the imli or tamarind tree as the abode of spirits. The khas grass in a sort of tribal totem and the leaves of the mango are fixed upon the marriage shed. The Kûnchbands believe Saturday to be an unlucky day. The jallâds have the same idea about Tuesday. As regards omens, a fox, tiger, wolf, ûsar-sânda lizard, tortoise, and the goh lizard or the sâras crane are lucky if they cross the road from right to
left; if from left to right it is an evil omen. So with a cat, jackal, or cobra passing from the right to the left. Their women do not wear a nose-ring; to the East they wear brass bangles (mâthi) and heavy anklets (pairi). The Jallâd women do not wear any gold ornaments. Their chief oaths are to stand in a river up to the neck; the man who stays longest in the water is believed. They also swear on the Ganges and on the pîpal tree, or by touching the head or arm of a son or other close relation. The Kûnchband Kanjars swear also by Mâna and Nathiya; the Jallâds by Guru Nânak. Some of them by the use of appropriate spells (mantra) obtain the power of controlling evil spirits. These are recited at night in burial-grounds, and specially on the night of the Holi or Diwâli. On such occasions a burnt offering (agyâri) is made with treacle, ghi, cloves, and incense.
Occupation And Social Status.
The Kanjars, in their occupations and mode of life, closely approximate to the European gypsy. Of the vagrant branch or the tribe Mr. Nesfield writes "Their natural home is the forest, where they subsist by hunting wolves, hares, and any kind of animal they can kill or catch, by gathering such roots and vegetable products as require no cultivation, and by extracting juice from the palm tree, which, after it has become fermented, is the favourite beverage of almost all the wandering and low-caste tribes of India. They are clever at trapping birds and squirrels, and any other kind or vermin which chance may throw in their way, all of which they eat indiscriminately. They are never seen in groups of more than 1 twenty or forty persons of all ages at a time, and the number is sometimes even less. These little groups may unite sometimes for special and temporary objects; but large groups are never permanently formed. Among the Kanjars there are some groups or clans which make a habit of keeping within easy reach of towns and villages, while others seldom or never leave the forest. But even among the former it is not merely the proximity of settled communities which prevents the formation of larger groups. For even in wide forest tracts, where there is ample space and no impediment from higher races, the same law of petty, non associative hordes prevails, and it would be a rare thing to find an encampment of more than, or even as many as, fifty persons."
"The arts of the Kanjar are making mats of the sirki reed baskets of wattled cane, fans of palm leaves, and rattles of plaited straw, the last of which are now sold to Hindu children as toys, though originally they were used by the Kanjars themselves (if we are to trust to the analogies of other backward races) as sacred and mysterious instruments. From the stalks of the mûnj grass and from the roots of the palâsa tree they make ropes, which are sold or bartered to villagers in exchange for grain, milk, pigs, etc. They prepare the skins out of which drums are made, and sell them to Hindu musicians, though probably, as in the case of the rattle, the drum was originally used by the Kanjars themselves and worshipped as a fetish: for even the Aryan tribes, who are said to have been far more advanced than the indigenous races, sung hymns in honour of the drum or dundubhi as if it were something sacred. They make plates of broad leaves which are ingeniously stitched together by the stalks; and plates of this kind are very widely used by the inferior Indian castes and by confectioners and sellers of sweetmeats. The mats of sirki reed, with which they cover their own temporary sheds, are largely used by cart-drivers to protect their goods and themselves against rain. The toddy or juice of the palm tree, which they extract and ferment by methods of their own, and partly for their own use, finds a ready sale among low-caste Hindus in villages and market towns. They are among the chief stonecutters of Upper India, especially in the manufacture of the grinding stone, which is largely used. They gather the white woollike fibre which grows in the pods of the salmali or Indian cotton tree, and twist it into thread for the use of weavers. In the manufacture of brushes for the cleaning of cotton yarn, they enjoy an almost entire monopoly, and another complete or almost complete monopoly enjoyed by Kanjars is the collection and sale of the roots of khaskhas grass, which are afterwards made up by others into door screens and used as refrigerators during the hottest months of the year.
1On this see Spencer's principles of Sociology, I., 432.
The roots of this wild grass, which grows in most abundance on the outskirts of forests or near the banks of rivers, are dug out of the earth by an instrument called khanti . The same implement serves as a dagger or short spear for killing wolves and jackals, as a tool for carving a secret entrance through the clay wall of a villager's hut in which a burglary is meditated, as a spade or hoe for digging snakes, field mice, lizards, etc., out of their holes, and edible roots out of the earth, and as a hatchet for chopping wood." Mr. Nesfield sees in these arts and industries the germs of many functions which have now become hereditary in the Baheliya, Bâri, Behna or Dhuniya, Chamâr, Kori, Kalwâr and others. But we know too little of the evolution of Indian handicrafts to accept such ingenious speculations with perfect confidence.
In his diet the Kanjar is orthodox to a degree. He will eat almost anything, except beef, monkeys, crocodiles, and snakes. The Kûnchband Kanjar will not eat, drink or smoke with any caste but his own; but he will eat kachchi cooked by a Chamâr. The Jallâds eat kachchi, drink and smoke with sweepers. To quote Mr. Nesfield again, "Whatever a Kanjar kills, from a wolf to a reptile, he eats. The weapon with which they kill little birds is nothing but a pole pointed with a thin, sharp piece of iron. The man lies motionless on a patch of ground which he has first sprinkled with grain, and as the birds come hopping round him to pick up the grain, he fascinates one of them with the pole, by giving it a serpent-like motion, and then spikes it through the body. Kanjars seldom or never use the bow and arrow, but they use the pellet-bow, which requires much greater skill. The pellet in nothing but a little clay marble dried in the sun. With this they not infrequently shoot a bird in mid-flight. The khanti or short spear is merely used in close combat, but is thrown with almost unerring effect against wolves and jackals as they run. For catching a wolf in the earth they place a net and a light at one end of the hole and commence digging at the other end. The wolf, attracted by the light, runs into the net, and the Kanjar batters his head with a club and kills it."
At the same time many Kanjars are now taking to a more settled life; some are cultivators and field labourers; others live in towns and make door-screens, baskets, sieves, and the like, and some of them in this way have considerably raised their social status.
Kanjars are particularly careful to protect any member of the tribe from being assaulted without reason by another clansman or have his goods robbed. Such cases form the subject of a most elaborate enquiry. The tribal council sits at least fifteen days in succession, and the guilty person has to pay the whole cost of their entertainment. The offender is excommunicated until he pays a fine and the whole expenses of the proceedings. When, in Etah, a woman is accused of immorality, she is subjected to the ordeal of holding a hot iron weeding spud in her hand. If the skin is not burnt, she is acquitted.
Kanjar.: -Derivation of the kanjars from the Domes1. A name applied somewhat loosely to various small communities of a gipsy character who wander about the country. In 1911, about 1000 Ku¡¡chbandhia Kanjars were returned in the Province. In Berâr the Kanjars 2 seem to be practically identical with the Sânsias; Major Gunthorpe gives Kanjar and Sânsia as alternative names of the same caste of criminals, and this is also done by Mr. Kennedy in 3 4 Bombay Mr. Kitts writes of them: "The Deccani and Mârwâri Kanjars were originally Bhâts (bards) of the Jât tribe; and as they generally give themselves out to be Bhâts are probably not included at all among the Kanjars returned at the census. They are a vagrant people, living in tents and addicted to crime. 1See Russell.
2Criminal Tribes , P. 78.
3 Criminal Classes .
4 Berâr Census Report (1881), P. 140.
The women are good-looking some are noted for their obscene songs, filthy alike in word and gesture; while others, whose husbands play on the sârangi, lead a life of immorality. The men are often skilful acrobats." And in another passage: "The Sânsia family or the 'Long Firm' of India includes two principal divisions represented in Berâr by the Kanjars and Kolhâtis respectively. They will eat, drink and smoke together, and occasionally join in committing dacoity. They eat all kinds of meat and drink all liquors; they are lax of morals and loose of life." Now in northern India the business of acting as bards to the Jâts and begging from them is the traditional function of the Sânsias; and we may therefore conclude that so far as Berâr and the Marâtha Districts are concerned the Kanjars are identical with the Sânsias, while the Kolhâtis mentioned by Mr. Kitts are the same people as the Berias, as shown in the article on Kolhâti, and the Berias themselves are another branch of the Sânsias 2 There seems some reason to suppose that these four closely allied groups, the Kanjar or Sânsia, and the Kolhâti or Beria, may have their origin from the great Dom caste of menials and scavengers in Hindustân and Bengal. In the Punjab the Doms are the regular bards and genealogists of the lower castes, being known also as Mirâsi: "The two words are used throughout the Province as absolutely synonymous. The word Mirâsi is derived from the Arabic mirâs or inheritance; and the Mirâsi is to the inferior agricultural castes and the outcaste tribes what the Bhât is to the Râjputs." 3 In the article on Sânsia it is shown that the primary calling of the Sânsias was to act as bards and genealogists of the Jâts; and this common occupation is to some extent in favour of the original identity of the two castes Dom and Sânsia, though Sir D. Ibbetson was not of this opinion. In the United Provinces Mr. Crooke gives the Jallâd or executioners as one of the main divisions of the Kanjars; 5 and the Jallâds of Umballa are said to be the descendants of a Kanjar family who were attached to the Delhi Court as executioners. But the Jallâd or Supwâla is also a name of the Doms. "The term Jallâd, which is an Arabic name for 'A public flogger,' is more especially applied to those Doms who are employed in cities to kill ownerless dogs and to act as public executioners." 7 Mr. Gayer states that as the result of special inquiries made by an experienced police-officer it would appear that these Jallâd Kanjars are really Doms. 8 In Gujarât the Mírs or Mirâsis are also known as Doms after the tribe of that name; they were originally of two classes, one the descendants, of Bhât descent and partly connected with the Doms. The Sânsias and Berias in Bombay when accompanied by their families usually pass themselves off as Gujarâti Bhâts, that is, bards of the Jât caste from Mârwâr or of the Kolis from Gujarât. Major Gunthorpe states that the Kolhâtis or Berias of Berâr appear to be the same as the Domras of Bengal, 11 and Mr. Kitts finds that the Khâm Kolhâtis are the Domarus of Telingâna. In writing of the Kanjar bards Sherring also says: "These are the Kanjars of Gondwâna, the Sânsis of northern India; they are the most desperate of all dacoits and wander about the country as though belonging to the Gujarâti Domtaris or showmen." The above evidence seems sufficient to establish a prima facie case in favour of the Dom origin of these gypsy castes. It may be noticed further that the Jallâd Kanjars of the United Provinces are also known as Sîpwâla or makers of sieves and winnowing-fans, a calling which belongs specially to the Doms, Bhangis, and other sweeper castes.
1 Page 139.
2 See art. Beria, para. 1.
3 Ibbetson, Punjab Census Report (1881), para. 527.
4 Ibidem .
5 Art. Kanjar, para. 3.
7 Crooke, art. Dom, para, 21.
8 Lectures , P. 59.
9 Bombay Gazetteer , Muhammadans of Gujarât , P. 83
10 Kennedy, Criminal Tribes of Bimtay , P. 257
11 Criminal Tribes , P. 46
12Berâr Census Report (1881), P. 140.
Both Doms and Bhangis have divisions
known as Bânsphor or 'breaker of bamboos,' a name which has the same signification as 1 Sîpwâla. Again, the deity of the criminal Doms of Bengal is known as Sânsari Mai.
The Kanjars And The Gipsies. The Kanjars and Berias are the typical gypsy castes of India, and have been supposed to be the parents of the European gypsies. On this point Mr. Nesfield writes: "The commonly received legend is that multitudes of Kanjars were driven out of India by the oppressions of Tamerlane, and it is inferred that the gypsies of Europe are their direct descendants by blood, 2 3 because they speak like them a form of the Hindi language." Sir G. Grierson states: "According to the Shâh-nâma, the Persian monarch Bahrâm Gaur received in the fifth century from an Indian king 12,000 musicians who were known as Lîris, and the Lîris or Lîlis, that is gypsies, and the gypsies of modern Persia are the descendants of these." These people were also called Lutt, and hence it was supposed that they were the Indian Jâts. Sir G. Grierson, however, shows it to be highly improbable that the Jâts, one of the highest castes of cultivators, could ever have furnished a huge band of professional singers and dancers. He 4 on the contrary derives the gypsies from the Dom tribe: "Mr. Leland has made a happy suggestion that the original gypsies may have been Doms of India. He points out that Romany is almost letter for letter the same as Domni, the plural of Dom. Domni is the plural form in the Bhojpuri dialect of the Bihâri language. It was originally a genitive plural; so that Romany-Rye, 'A gypsy gentleman,' may be well compared with the Bhojpuri Domni Rai, 'A king of the Doms.' The Bhojpuri-speaking Doms are a famous race, and they have many points of resemblance with the gypsies of Europe. Thus they are darker in complexion than the surrounding Bihâris, are great thieves, live by hunting, dancing and telling fortunes, their women have a reputation for making love-philtres and medicines to procure abortion, they keep fowls (which no orthodox Hindu will do), and are said to eat carrion. They are also great musicians and horsemen. The gypsy grammar is closely connected with Bhojpuri, and the following mongrel, half-gypsy, half-English rhyme will show the extraordinary similarity 5 of the two vocabularies: Gypsy.
1 Tribes and Castes of Bengal, art . Dom
2 Nesfield, l . c . P. 393.
3 Ind . Ant . xvi, P. 37
4 Ind. Ant . xv. P. 15
5 In sir G. Grierson's account the Bhojpuri version is printed in the Nâgari character ; but this cannot be reproduced. It is possible that one or two mistakes have been made in transliteration.
Gypsy. The Rye (squire) he mores (hunts) adrey the wesh (wood)
Bhojpuri, Rai mare andal besh (Pers).
Gypsy. The kaun-engro (ear-fellow, har) and chiriclo (bird).
Bhojpuri. Kânwâla chirin
Gypsy. You sovs (sleep) with leste (him) drey (within) the wesh (wood)
Bhojpuri soe andal besh
Gypsy. and rigs (carry) for leste (him) the gono (sack, game-bag).
Gypsy Oprey (above) the rukh (tree) adrey (within) the wesh (wood).
Bhojpuri Upri rukh andal besh
Gypsy. Are chiriclo (male-bird) and chiricli (female-bird).
Bhojpuri. chirin chirin
Gypsy. Tuley (below) the rukh (tree) adrey(within) the wesh (wood).
Bhojpuri Tule rukh andal besh
Gypsy Are pireno (lover) and pireni (lady-love).
Bhojpuri pyara pyâri
In the above it must be remembered that the verbal termination of the gypsy text are English and not gypsy." Sir G. Grierson also adds (in the passage first quoted): "I may note here a word which lends a singular confirmation to the theory. It is the gypsy term for bread, which is mânró or manro . This is usually connected either with the Gaudian mânr 'rice-gruel' or with manrua, the millet (Eleusine corucana). Neither of these agrees with the idea of bread, but in the Magadhi dialect of Bihâri, spoken south of the Ganges in the native land of these Maghiya Doms, there is a peculiar word Mânda or mânra which means wheat, whence the transition to the gypsy mânró, bread, is eminently natural." The above argument renders it probable that the gypsies are derived from the Doms; and as Mr. Nesfield gives it as a common legend that they originated from the Kanjars, this is perhaps another connecting link between the Doms and Kanjars. The word gypsy is probably and abbreviation of 'Egyptian,' The country assigned as the home of the gypsies in mediaeval times. It has already been seen that the Doms are the bards and minstrels of the lower castes in the Punjab, and that the Kanjars and Sânsias, originally identical or very closely connected, were in particular the bards of the Jâts. It is a possible speculation that they may have been mixed up with the lower classes of Jâts or have taken their name, and that this has led to the confusion between the Jâts and gypsies. Some support is afforded to this suggestion by the fact that the Kanjars of Jubbulpore say that they have three divisions, the Jât Multâni and Kîchbandia. The Jât Kanjars are, no doubt, those who acted as bards to the Jâts, and hence took the name; and if the ancestors of these people emigrated from India they may have given themselves out as Jât.
The Thugs Derived From The Kanjars. In the article on Thugs it is suggested that a large, if not the principal, section of the Thugs were derived from the Kanjars. At the Thug marriages an old matron would sometimes repeat, "Here's to the spirits of those who once led bears and monkeys; to those who drove bullocks and marked with the godini (tattooing-needle); and those who made baskets for the head." And these are the occupations of the Kanjars and Berias. The Goyandas of Jubbulpore, descendants of Thug collaborators, are considered to be a class of gypsy Muhammadans, akin to or identical with the Kanjars, of whom the Multâni subdivision are also Muhammadans. Like the Kanjar women the Goyandas make articles of net and string. There is also a colony of Berias in Jubbulpore, and these are admittedly the descendants of Thugs who were located there. If the above argument is well founded, we are led to the interesting conclusion that four of the most important vagrant and criminal castes of India, as well as the Mirâsis or low-class Hindu bards, the gypsies, and a large section of the Thugs, are all derived from the great Dom caste.
The Doms. The Doms appear to be one of the chief aboriginal tribes of northern India, who were reduced to servitude like the Mahârs and Chamârs. Sir H.M. Elliot considered them to be "One of the original tribes of India. Tradition fixes their residence to the north of the Ghâgra, touching the Bhars on the east in the vicinity of the Rohini. Several old forts testify to their former importance, and still retain the names of their founders, as, for instance, Domdiha and Domingarh in the Gorakhpur district. Râmgarh and Sahukot on the Rohini are also Dom 1 forts." Sir G. Grierson quotes Dr. Fleet as follows: "In a south Indian inscription a king Rudradeva is said to have subdued a certain Domma, whose strength evidently lay in his cavalry.
1. Quoted in Mr. Crooke's article on Dom.
No clue is given as to who this Domma was, but he may have been the leader of
some aboriginal tribe which had not then lost all its power"; and suggests that this Domma may have been a leader of the Doms, who would then be shown to have been dominant in southern India. As already seen there is a Domâru caste of Telingâna, with whom Mr. Kitts identified the Berias or Kolhâtis. In northern India the Doms were reduced to a more degraded condition than the other pre-Aryan tribes as they furnished a large section of the sweeper caste. As has been seen also they were employed as public executioners like the Mângs. This brief mention of the Doms has been made in view of the interest attached to them on account of the above suggestions, and because there will be no separate article on the caste.