This article is an extract from
THE TRIBES and CASTES of BENGAL.
Printed at the Bengal Secretariat Press.
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Bindu, Bhin, Bindu a large non-Aryan caste of Behar an Upper India, employed in agriculture, earthwork, fishing hunting, making saltpetre, and collecting indigenous drugs. Tradi¬tions ;'urrent among the caste profess to trace their origin to the Vindhya Hills of Central India; and one of these legends tells how a traveller passing by the foot of the hills heard a strange flute• like sound coming out of a clump of bamboos.
He cut a shoot and took from it a fleshy substanoe, which afterwards grew into a man, the supposed anoestor of the Binds. The myth seems to be of a totemistic oharacter, but other traces of totem ism are not forthcoming. Another story says that the Binds and Nunias were formerly all Binds, and that the present N unias are the desoendants of a Bind who consented to dig-a grave for a Mahomedan king and was outcasted for doing so. MI'. Sherring treats the Binds as a branch of the Nunias; others regard the Nunias as a sub-caste of the Binds. The two castes are probably related in some way, but the evidence at present available does not enable us to determine with any approach to certainty which should be considered the parent group. It seems not improbable that the Binds may be a true aboriginal tribe, and the Nunias a functional group cliiIerentiated by taking to the manufac¬ture of earth-salt. But this is mainly conjecture.
The Binds of Behar are divided into two sub-castes-Khariat f),nd Gondh. These again are broken up into the mu/s or sections shown in the Appendix. The sections go by the male side, and the rule which forbids a man to marry a woman of his own section is supple¬mented by the standard formula marneI'd, chacherd, etc., prohibiting intermarriage within certain degrees of collateral relationship. Binds admit both infant and adult-marriage, but the former is deemed more respectable, and all who can afford to doso enden.vour to get their daughters married before they attain the age of puberty. Polygamy is permitted, but only to the limited extent that a man may marry a second wife in the event of the first proving barren.
A widow is allowed to marry again by the sctgai form, but is expected to marry her deceased husband's younger brother or younger oousin, should such a relative exist. Under no oircumstances may she marry her late husband's elder brother or elder cousin. For the rest she is subject to the same table of prohibited degrees that would have regulated her marriage as a virgin. Divoroe is not allowed. 1£ a woman goes wrong with a man of another caste, she is summarily turned adrift and becomes a prostitute, turns Mahomedan, or joins some religious sect . of dubious morality. Indisoretions within the caste are, however, more leniently dealt with, and admit of being atoned for by certain modes of penance. In such oases the woman, after having made amends for her offenoe, returns to bel' husband. It should be added that the morals of the Bind woman are said to be by no means above reproach.
The marriage ceremony of the Binds presents no features of speoial interest, and has obviously been modelled in most points on the orthodox Hindu ritual. After the first negotiations have passed between the parents of the bride and bridegroom, the headman (mmu•an) and the caste oouncil (panchayat) are oonsulted on the importn.nt question of prohibited degrees. This being settled, the next step is ghatdekhi, an exchange of visits, at which the bride¬groom's people see the bride, and vice vel'sa. In the course of the gltarclekhi a date is fixed for tz:lak, when the brida's relatives come to the bridegroom's house and presont to him a rupee, a new cloth, some cooking utensils, some betel leaves and areoa-nut, and fix in the presence of the headman and some representatives of the caste oounoil an auspioious date for the celebration of the marriage. The oeremony itself is substantially the same as that described by Mr. Grierson at pages 362 seq. of Bihu1' Peasant Life.
1'he religion of the Binds, so far at least as it is oonoerned with the greater gods of the Hindu pantheon, is equally wanting in individual oharaoter, and differs in no material partioulars from the vulgar Hinduism of the lower castes of Behar. The external observanoes of Brahmanism have been copied more or less aconrately, while the esoterio dootrine, on which the whole body of symbolism depends, is entirely unknown to the votaries of the popular religion. Brahmans of the Maithil sub-caste preside at the worship of Siva as Bhagavat and of his consort as Jagadamba. Hanuman and the Narsingh avatar of Vishnu are also held in reverenoe. But these greater gods are worshipped at oomparatively rare intervals, and far greater atten¬tion is paid to rural godlings, suoh as Bandi, Sokha. and Goraiya, to whom goats, boiled rioe, oakes, and sweetmeats of various kinds are offered every Wednesday by the men of eaoh household; the offerings being eaten afterwards by the members of the family and the deodi relatives who are conneoted with the family by reason of their sharing in the same domestic worship. On Mondays and Fridays. in the months of Baisakh and Asar, the earth-god Bhuia is appeased with saorifioes of goats, sheep, and rioe boiled in milk.
In Sravan the Ptmoh Pir receive cakes and rioe from the men, women, and children of the caste. Widows, however, may take no part in this rite. Mira Sahib, a Mahomedan saint, and Lukmayi, a vengeful goddess, who burns men's houses with fire, are also worshipped in due season. Twice a year the entire caste make offerings to Tarturwara of aclwMat rioe, flowers, betel leaves, and sweetmeats, whioh are afterwards divided among the caste brethren. The leul devata, or patron deity of all Binds, is Kasi Ba.ba, about whom the following story is told :-3.. mysterious epidemio was oarrying off the herds on the banks of the Ganges, and the ordinary expiatory saorifioes were iueffeotual. One evening a olownish Ahu: on going to the river saw a figure rinsing its mouth from time to time and making an unearthly sound with a conch shell. The lout, concluding that this must be the demon cauRing the epidemio, orept up and olubbed the unsuspooting bather. Kasl Nath was the name of the murdered
Brahman; and as the oessation of the murrain coinoided with his death, the low Hindustani castes have ever sinoe regarded Kasi Baba as the malefioent spirit that sends disease among their oattle . Now-a-days he is propitiated by the following ourious ceremony :-As soon as an infeotious disease breaks forth, the village oattle are massed together and ootton seed sprinkled over them. The fattest and sleekest animal being singled out is severely beaten with rods. The hElrd, soared by the noise, soamper off to the nearest shelter, followed by the soape bull; and by this means it is thought the murrain is stayed. In ordinary' times the Binds worship Kasi Baba in a simpl~r fashion, eaoh man in bis own house, by presenting flowers, perfumes, and sweetmeats. The latter, after having done duty before the god, are eaten by his votary. Kisi BaM no doubt was an aotual person who oame by his end, if not exaotly as told in the legend, at least in some tragio fashion whioh led to his being elevated to the rank of a god. In some of the other objects of the rural worship we may perhaps see survivals of the primitive animism whioh formed the religion of the aborigines of India before their insensible oonversion to Brahmanism. 80me of the tribal deities were, as we know, promoted to seats in the Hindu pantheon; others, whose position was less prominent and whose hold on the mind of the people was weaker, got thrust into the baokground as patrons of various rural events.
Some of the Binds in Behar possess oooupanoy holdings, but for the most part they are non-oooupancy or an ess ay-a ourers pal m oas or kind. Fishing, well-sinking, building mud walls, mat and .basket-making, preparing saltpetre, and doing earthwork on roads and tanks, are among their ohief oooupations. A few of the more enter¬prising members of the caste have risen to be traders, and visit Bengal dUTing the oold season with boat-loads of wheat, pulse, and gram. Binds, or Riwats as they are oommonly addressed, rank sooially with KOll'is, Gangotas, eto., and have Maithil Brahmans for their priests. In Ghazipur, says Dr. Wise, they are oonsidered a pure caste, and in Shahabad they are employed by Brahmans as water-oarriers. rrheir status, however, in relation to Brahmans as regards water and pakki artioles of food seems to vary in different distriots. In Ohampal'an and Chota N agpUT, for example, I am informed that Brahmans will take water and sweetmeats from the hands of a Bind, while in Shahabad and Gya this appears not to be the case. In view of the fact that Binds freely indulge in spll'it-drinking, eat crooodiles and field-rats like the Musahars, and are very fond of pork when they can get it, I think it likely that the rule is for them to be deemed impure.
Binds in Eastern Bengal
Scattered colonies of Binds are also found along the great rivers of Central and Eastern Bengal. In Daoca they in Eastern recognise three subdivisions-Jutaut Binds, N un Binds, and Bin. The first is the most aristocratic, while those belonging to the seoond are degraded from working as palanquin-bearers, manufacturers of salt (nun), diggers, and, it is said, grave-diggers. Representatives of the Bin division are rarely met with, and I am inclined to doubt its existence. These settlers, who are distinguished by the title Ohaudhri, lead an irregular life, eating pork and drinking spll'its freely. Being debarred by reason of having settled in Bengal trom intermarriage with the Binds of Behar and Upper India, they often find it difficult to procure wives from the small expatriated communities alon g the Padma. Some cultivate the soil, others kill mullet with the harpoon or oatch them with sil'ki screens, like the benuL. Another occupation is cutting tamarisk (jMm) on the sandbanks of the Padma and selling it for .fire¬ wood. By Binds, too, are made the bost mud brasiors or ellulluis, used on board all native boats for cooking. Many are cunning sportsmen, and during December and January net great numbers of wild fowl and snipe. After the rice harvest the Binds wander about the country, digging up the stores of rice accumulated by field-rats in their burrows. ]l'om four to six pounds of grain are usually found, but even this quantity is sometimes exceeded. It is said that the Binds feast on the rats; but this they deny, explaining that to do so would be to reduc(l the next year's find of grain.
A Dasnami Gosain periodically visits the Dacca Binds.. acting as their Guru, while a degraded Kanaujia Brahman officiates as purohit. Many of the Bengali Binds belong to the Panch Piriya sect, others worship Siva, and at the MaMball festival sacrifice a ram instead of the u ual he-goat. At the GaDO'a Puja a swine is offered to J alb Devi, the popular goddess of the Ohamars. Karamat Ali and the Farazl Maulavls have of late years converted many of these outcaste Binds, but the village Muhammadans will not as yet associate with them. These converts are usually styled by the peasantry Ohayli, from the Bengali word for the ben]" or fish-trap.
The following statement shows the number and distribution of the Bind caste iQ, 1872 and 1881 :¬