Carrier and Pedlar Castes in Punjab, 1883

From Indpaedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Hindi English French German Italian Portuguese Russian Spanish

This article is an extract from



Being a reprint of the chapter on
The Races, Castes and Tribes of
the People in the Report on the
Census of the Panjab published
in 1883 by the late Sir Denzil
Ibbetson, KCSI


Printed by the Superintendent, Government Printing, Punjab,


Indpaedia is an archive. It neither agrees nor disagrees
with the contents of this article.
Secondly, this has been scanned from a book. You can help by
sending the corrected version to the Facebook page,
All information used will be duly acknowledged.


Carriers, Cattle-merchants, Pedlars, &c

I have said that the commerce of the Panjab was in the hands of the group just discussed, with the exception of the trade in meat, liquor, and vegetables, the traffic in cattle, the carrying trade, and petty pedling and hawking'. The sellers of meat and liquor will be discussed tinder the head of miscellaneous artisans ; and the group which I am now ahout to describe consists of the traders in cattle, the carriers, and the pedlars and hucksters of the Province. I have divided it into three sections, though I shall presently show that the first two overlap considerably, and that the third is incomplete. The first section includes the Banjaras, the Labanas, the Rahbaris, and the Untwals ; and these castes include most of the professional carriers and cattle-dealers, and some of the pedlars of the Panjab. The second class consists of the Maniars, the Bhatras, and the Kangars, and includes the rest of the pedlars of the Province save only such as belong to the Khoja and Paracha castes just discus-ed. The third class includes the Kunjras and the Tambolis, both Greengrocers.

But it must be understood that, though there are no castes in the Panjab besides those above mentioned whose hereditary occupation it is to trade in cattle and carry merchandise, yet an immense deal of traffic in cattle goes on quietly among the villagers without the intervention of any outsider ; while in the early months of the hot weather, when the spring harvest has been cut, and before the early rains of autumn have softened the ground sufficiently for ploughing to be possible, the plough oxen of the unirrigated Eastern Plains find employment in carrying the produce of their villages to the line of rail or to the great city marts, and in bringing back salt and other products not indigenous to the tract.

The Rahbari

Caste No. 122)

This is a camel-breeding caste found only in the eastern and south-eastern districts of the Panjab and in the ad joining Native States. In the extensive jungles of these tracts they pasture large herds of camels, while they also carry merchandise from place to place for hire. Their proper home appears to be Biknner and the Rajputana desert.


Caste No. 144

This is a purely occupational term and means nothing more than a camel-man. Under this head have been included Shutarban and Sarban, both words having the same meaning. But Malik has been classed as Biloch, as the title is chiefly confined to the Biloch camelman. Indeed many of the persons returned as Biloches in the Central Pan jab would probably have been more properly described as Untwals, since the term Biloch throughout the central districts is used of any Musalman camelman. It will be noticed that the Untwals are returned only from those parts of the Province where the real meaning of Biloch is properly understood. In those parts they are said to be all Jats ; But Jat means very little, or rather almost anything, on the Indus.

The Maniar

Caste No. 47

Here again we meet with an occu pational term, and with resulting confusion in the figures. The Maniar of the eastern districts is a man who works in glass and sells glass bangles, generally hawking them about the villages. But throughout the rest of the Panjab Maniar is any pedlar, maniibri bechhna being the common term for the occupation of carrying petty hardware about for sale. Thus we have Khojah, Paracha, Banjara, and Maniar, all used in different barts and some of them in the same part of the Province for a pedlar ; and the result is that the figures have probably been mixed up. The extraordinary number of Maniars returned for the Jahlam and Rawalpindi districts in Table VUI A is due to an unfortunate error, not detected till after the table was printed, by which Maliar was read Maniar. These people are really vegetable-growers, and have been classed in their proper place in the Abstracts of this chapter.

The Bhatra

Caste No. 174 The Bhatra is also a pedlar ; but he belongs to a true caste. He claims Brahman origin, and his claim would appear to be good, for he wears the sacred thread, applies the tilak or forehead mark, and receives offerings at eclipses in that capacity. He is probably a low class of Gujarati or Dakaut Brahman, and like them practises as an astrologer in a small way. The Bhatras of Gujurt are said to trace their origin to the south beyond Multan. The Bhatras hawk small hardware for sale, tell fortunes, and play on the native guitar, but do not beg for alms. It is their function to pierce the noses and ears of children to receive rings. Mr. Baden-Powell describes the instruments used at page 268 of his Panjab Manufactures. The Ramaiya of the east of the Panjab appears to correspond exactly with the Bhatra and to be the same

person under a different name, Ramaiya being used in Dehli and Hissar, Bhatra in Lahore and Pindi, and both in the Ambala division ; and I directed that both sets of figures should be in- cluded under the head Bhatra. Unfortunately the order was not carried out. The number of Ramaiyas returned is shown in the margin. But


in any case the figures are incomplete. the Bhatra is essentially a pedlar and has probably been returned by one of the names for pedlars just re fern^d to more often than by his caste name. He is said to be called Madho in Rawalpindi, but this is probably due to some confusion of BluUra with Bhat.

The Kangar

Caste No. 180 Tho Kangar is also a travelling hawker, but he confines his traffic to small articles of earthenware such as pipe-Bowls, and especially to those earthen images in which native children delight. These he makes himself and hawks about for sale. He is returned in the tables from the Amritsar division only. But Baden-Powell gives at pao-e 267 of Panjab Manufactures a long account of an operation for a new nose said to be succossfnlly performed by the Kangars of Kangra

The Kunjra

Caste No. 114

Here again is a purely occupational term, and again confusion as the consequence. Kunjra is nothing more or less than the Hindustani, as Snbzi far ash is the Persian for greengrocer. The big men generally use the latter term, the small costermongers the former. But in no case is it a caste. The Kunjra belongs as a rule to one of the castes of market gardeners wuch have been described under minor agricultural tribes. I do not know why Kunjra should have been returned under that name only in the east. It may be that in other parts of the Province it is more usual to call the seller of vegetables an Arain or Bugban as the case may be, and that the word Kunjra is little used. This pro bnbly is the true explanation, as the figures for Native States show the same peculiarity.

The Tamboli

Caste No. 165

A Tamboli is a man who sells pan and betel-nut ; but whether the sale of those commodities is confined to a real caste of that name I cannot say. It is probable that the term is only occupational. If Tamboli were a, real caste we should have it returned from every district, as the word seems to be in use throughout the Pro vince. Sherring, however, gives it as a separate caste in the neighbourhood of Benares. Tamhuli is the Sanskrit name of the betel plant.

SeeThe Banjara

Personal tools