Bhatraja: Deccan

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This article is an extract from






Of Merton College, Oxford, Trinity College, Dublin, and

Middle Temple, London.

One of the Judges of H. E. H. the Nizam's High Court

of Judicature : Lately Director of Public Instruction.




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Bhatraja, Bhab Murti, Bhatwandlu— a caste largely to be found in the Telugu Districts of H. H. the Nizam's Dominions. They are hereditary bards of the Velma and Kapu castes and once had the honour, like the Bhats of Northern India, of attending the courts of the Vijayanagar and Warangal kings, whose deeds they charited through- out the country. The title of Raja is said to have been given to them on this account. They are a very intelligent class of people and have produced some of the most eminent poets in Telugu literature.


The Bhatrajas seem to be a mixed caste, recruited from among Brahmans and Velmas. Their legends tend to support this view. One of the legends tells how Velma fugitives were given asylum by the Raja Prataprudra of Warangal and raised by him to high commands in his army. The Velmas were wifeless, and the local Brahmans, who entertained doubts regarding their caste, declined to perform any religious ceremonies at their houses. Prataprudra, who was appealed to, offered large sums of money, which induced some of the Brahmans to undertake the work, but these Brahmans were degraded by the rest of their community and had to take wives from Kapus and other low classes and became the ancestors of the present Bhatraja caste.

Internal Structure

The caste is divided into two endogamous divisions, Vandi Bhats and Are Bhats, the latter being said to be the illegitimate progeny of the former ; but the term is generally applied to the Marathas, and Are Bhats may be Maratha Bhats who have been described in a separate article, and have probably no relation with the Bhatrajas, who form the subject of this report. Members of these sub-castes do not eat together ncr intermarry. - It is stated by a Bhatraja of Adilabad that girls, for whom husbands are not procurable, serve as ddsis (hand-maids) in rich Brahman or Komti families and the children, born of such women, are termed ' Krishna Pakshi ' and admitted freely into the Bhatraja caste.

The exogamous system of the caste is of two different types, the one consisting of Brahmanical gotras, and the other also of eponymous names, the eponym probably being the progenitor of the family. Both the types are in vogue at present, but the latter appears to be of recent origin and is gradually displacing the Brahmanical gotras. If the theory of a Brahmanical origin of Bhatrajas be true, the Brahmanical gotras were transmitted by the degraded Brahmans to their progeny. Section names of both types are given as follows : —



Marriage within the section, and outside the sub- caste is prohibited.

A man may marry two sisters, but two brothers cannot marry two sisters. Marriage with the daughter of a sister is allowed. A man cannot marry any of his first cousins, except the daughter of his maternal uncle or paternal aunt. Outsiders are not admitted into the caste.

Bhatraja girls are married either as infants or as adults. It is not customary to offer girls to temples or trees. A girl committing herself is excommunicated. A second wife is only taken in case the first wife is barren or incurably diseased. The marriage ceremony does not differ materially from that in vogue among Komtis. Kanyadan (the formal gift of the bride to the bridegroom), and Pusti Mittalu (the tying of an auspicious bead necklace around the bride's neck) form the essential portions of the ceremony. A Brahman is consulted in fixing an auspicious date for the wedding. The bride- groom, at the time of the Poh, is presented with guntam (an iron pan and a book of palm-leaves), which symbolises the hereditary occupation of the caste.

Widows are not allowed to marry again, nor is divorce recognised. An adulterous wife is expelled from the caste. In matters of inheritance the caste is guided by the Hindu law. Failing male issue, females are entitled to inherit. The eldest son receives a cow or a bullock as jethang.


The Bhatrajas are almost all Vaishnavas, worshipping Vishnu in the form of Venkateshwar, and following the guidance of Shri Vaishnava Brahmans in spiritual matters. Every member of the caste is required to be invested with the AshtakShari Mantra (eight-syllabled mystic formula) of Vishnu, and marked with Mudras (sankha — conch and chakra — wheel) on his arms. Females worship the Gouri goddess at the Diwali festival. The favourite deity of children is the god Ganesh, who presides over Arts and Learning. Members of the caste have a strong belief in magic and ghosts ; malignant deities, such as Maisamma and Pochamma, are appeased on Sundays by sacrificing fowls. Brahmans are employed on ceremonial and religious occasions.

Disposal of the Dead

The dead are burnt in a lying posture with the head towards the south, and the ashes are collected on the 3rd day after death and thrown into a river. Burial is resorted to only when the family of the deceased is too poor to bear the cremation expenses. Mourning is observed 12 days for the married and 3 days for the unmarried. On the 3rd day after death, birds are fed, and on the llth day libations of til water (tilodak) and balls of rice (pindas) are offered in the names of the dead. The Sradha ceremony is performed once every year on the anniversary day.

On the third day after the birth of a child the Pamd ceremony is performed. On the 12th day, the barber pares the nails of the mother, on the 21st day she becomes ceremonially pure by bathing and performing the Gangd puja, and the child is named.


The Bhatrajas are beggars by profession, reciting the deeds of heroes, and maintaining the genealogy of the Kapu and Velma families. Of late, many of them have taken to cultivation and hold lands on various tenures. A few have entered Government service. Some hold Inam lands (rent free), which are mostly grants of an ancient date.

Social Status

In point of social status the Bhatrajas rank below Kapus and Velmas. They eat kfichi from the hands of Brahmaijs, Komtis, Ayyawars, Belmas, Jangams, Satanis and Gollas. »Kurma, Telaga Dhobi, and Mutrasis eat from their hands. They eat the flesh of sheep, pig, fowl and fish, and drink spirits.

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