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From The Tribes And Castes Of The Central Provinces Of India
By R. V. Russell
Of The Indian Civil Service
Superintendent Of Ethnography, Central Provinces
Assisted By Rai Bahadur Hira Lal, Extra Assistant Commissioner
Macmillan And Co., Limited, London, 1916.
NOTE 1: The 'Central Provinces' have since been renamed Madhya Pradesh.
NOTE 2: While reading please keep in mind that all articles in this series have been scanned from the original book. Therefore, footnotes have got inserted into the main text of the article, interrupting the flow. Readers who spot these footnotes gone astray might like to shift them to their correct place.
A class of Gujarati Brahmans found in the Nimar District. The name is said to be derived from the town of Vadnagar of Gujarat, now in Baroda State.
According to one account they accepted grants of land from a Rajput king, and hence were put out of caste by their fellows. Another story is that the Nagar Brahman women were renov^ned for their personal beauty and also for their skill in music. The emperor Jahangir, hearing of their fame, wished to see them and sent for them, but they refused ^ Hhaltaclifirya, Hindu CaUes and Sects, p. 47. '^ Ibidon, p. 48.
to go. The emperor then ordered that all the men sliould be killed and the women be taken to his Court. A terrible struggle ensued, and many women threw themselves into tanks and rivers and were drowned, rather than lose their modesty by appearing before the emperor. A body of Brahmans numbering 7450 (or j d^}, hundred) threw away their sacred threads and became Sudras in order to save their lives. Since this occurrence the figure 74-^- is con- sidered very unlucky.
Banias write 74^ in the beginning of their account-books, by which they are held to take a vow that if they make a false entry in the book they will be guilty of the sin of having killed this number of Brahmans. The same figure is also written on letters, so that none but the person to whom they are addressed may dare to open them.^ The above stories seem to show that the Nagar Brahmans are partly of impure descent. In Gujarat it is said that one section of them called Barud are the descendants of Nagar Brahman fathers who were unable to get wives in their own caste and took them from others. The Barud section also formerly permitted the remarriage of widows." This seems a further indication of mixed descent. The Nagars settled in the Central Provinces have for a long time ceased to marry with those of Gujarat owing to difficulties in com- munication. But now that the railway has been opened they have petitioned the Rao of Bhaunagar, who is the head of the caste, and a Nagar Brahman, to introduce inter- marriage again between the two sections of the caste. Many Nagar Brahmans have taken to secular occupations and are land-agents and cultivators.
Formerly the Nagar Brahmans observed very strict rules about defilement when in the state called Ntcven, that is, having bathed and purified themselves prior to taking food. A Brahman in this condition was defiled if he touched an earthen vessel unless it was quite new and had never held water. If he sat down on a piece of cotton cloth or a scrap of leather or paper he became impure unless Hindu letters had been written on the paper ; these, as being the goddess 1 From Mr. Gopal Datta Joshi's paper. - Hasmdla, ii. p. 233.
Saraswati, would preserve it from defilement. But cloth or leather could not be purified through being written on. Thus if the Brahman wished to read any book before or at his meal it had to be bound with silk and not with cotton ; leather could not be used, and instead of paste of flour and water the binder had to employ paste of pounded tamarind seed. A printed book could not be read, because printing-ink contained impure matter. Raw cotton did not render the Brahman impure, but if it had been twisted into the wick of a lamp by any one not in a state of purity he became impure. Bones defiled, but women's ivory armlets did not, except in those parts of the country where they were not usually worn, and then they did.
The touch of a child of the same caste who had not learned to eat grain did not defile, but if the child ate grain it did. The touch of a donkey, a dog or a pig defiled ; some said that the touch of a cat also defiled, but others were inclined to think it did not, because in truth it was not easy to keep the cat out.^ If a Brahman was defiled and rendered impure by any of the above means he could not proceed with his meal.