Maratha: 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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(Titles:— Ji, Patel, Rao.)

Maratha — the chief fighting, landholding and cuUivating caste of the Deccan, Berar and the Central Provinces, are confined, in Hyderabad Territory, to the Districts of Aurangabad, Bir, Parbhani and Usmanabad, parts of Nander and Bidar, and the Talukas of Sirpur and Rajura in the Adilabad district. Settlements of Marathas are also found in Telangana at Aregol (a colony of Ares or Marathas) in the Tekmal taluka and its neighbourhood, where they are supposed to have come with the armies of Raghoji Bhofala early in the eighteenth century.

The Term Maratha

The term Maratha, like the cognate terms Bengali, Telanga, Gujarathi and the like, is the titular designation of a people embracing all classes of society in Maharashtra, from the high caste Brahmans and Parbhus and the low caste Nhavis and Parits, to the lowest unclean classes of Mahars and Mangs. But within the people themselves the name is borne, as their special designation, by the large fighting and landholding community; while the name ' Kunbi ' is popularly applied to those among them who are actually engaged in agricultural operations.

Concerning the derivation and origin of the name Maratha there has been much discussion and the question cannot be considered as having been finally settled. Some authorities derive it from the words 'Mara hatta , occurring in Sanskrit dramas, and construe it as 'Marata' tab 'hatatha meaning 'repulsed after death' and having reference to the proverbial tenacity of the Maratha race. Others hold that it is a corruption of the word Maha Rathod and accordingly trace the origin of Marathas to the Rathod family of Rajputana; but this derivation seems to be fictitious, as among the Rajputs there is no such family or gotra as Maha Rathod. Dr. Bhagwanlal, followed by Mr. Fleet, derives it from Maharashtra, the great country, a name which the early Sanskrit-knowing settlers in Upper Indian are supposed to have given to the unknown land to the south of Hindusthan. On the other hand. Dr. John Wilson thinks that neither in iVs ancient geographical extent nor in its histjorical importance is any very good reason found for such a designation. He proposes to trace Maha- rashtra to Mahar-rashtra. the country of the Mahars (Indian caste ii • — 48). "But though the Mahars are a large and important class in the Marathi speaking country, their depressed state makes it unlikely that the country should have been called after them." According to Dr. Bhandarkar, Maharashtra is the Sanskritised form of Maharattah, that is the country of the Mahratthis or Maharatths (the great Ratthis), a tribe mentioned by Ashoka In the copy of his rock-cut edicts (B. C. 245) preserved at Girnar, in which the Mouryan Emperor states that he sent ministers of religion to the Rastikas or Rattas (Sansk : Rashtrikas), the people of Maharashtra. The suggestion that! a branch of the Rattas, in very early times, took the name of Maharatthas, or Great Rattas, is supported by the practice of the Bhoj'a rulers of the Konkan and West Deccan, who are styled Bhojas in Ashok's thirteenth edict (B. C. 240) and Mahabhojas in rock-cut inscriptions in the Bedsa caves in Poona of about the first century after Christ. In the Telugu and Canerese districts the Rattas seem to be now represented by the Reddis. one of the leading classes of husbandmen.

Traditions of Origin

The Marathas have no traditions which will throw light upon their origin. It would appear that the Maratha race was formed by the fusion of two great tribes represented, at the present day, by the Maratha (proper) and the 'Kunbi.' The high class Marathas are a fine manly race, as fair-skinned as Brahmans of the higher castes, of lofty stature, with the delicate Aryan type of features. They carry themselves with great native dignity and there is an indescribable air of refinement and high breeding in all they do or say. Their traditions are essentially warlike and the surnames they bear, Shirke, More, Mhosle, Mohite, recall many a stirring inci- dent in Maratha history. They claim to be of Rajput descent, a claim which is undoubtedly based on historical grounds. "In 1836 the Raja of Satara sent a Shastri to the Rana of Udaipur to make enquiries regag-ding the origin of the Bhosles, a leading Maratha family. The Rana sent word that the Bhosle and his family were one and despatchod with a messenger, Raghunath Sing Zaie, a letter to the same effect, written by Raja Shahu in 1726 A. D. to Vaghi Sisode of Pimple, in Mewar (Udaipur). Raghunath Sing is reported to have satisfied himself, by enquiry at Satara, of the purity of blood of certain Maratha families, viz : — TFie Bhosles, Savants, Khanvilkars, Surves, Ghorpades, Chavans, Mohites, Nimbalkars, Sirkes, Ahirraos, Salonkhes, Manes, Jadhavs and several others. They profess to be divided into 96 (ninety-six) families or k^ls, many of which, such as Chavan (Chohan),- Pavar (Parmar), Salonke (Solanki), are corruptions of the names of well known Rajput clans, while the families More, and Cholke seem to represent the Maurya and Chalukya dynasties of ancient history. The members of this class profess to practise infant marriage, forbid the remarriage of widows and wear the sacred thread, being entitled, as they say, to the rank of Kshatriyas. The common Kunbi, on the other hand, is of medium height, sturdy, with dark skin and irregular features. He does not claim to be a Kshatriya, allows both adult marriage and the remarriage of widows and wears no thread to indicate the twice born status." (Bombay Census Report 191 1).

The Kunbis, on the whole, represent those in whom the Scythian, (Rioley's People of India) and the Marathas those in whom the Aryan, element predominates. Although the distinction between high class Marathas and humble Kunbis is thus well marked, it gradually fades away and the ordinary Marathas cannot be distinguished from the Maratha Kunbis, with whom they interdine and intermarry freely. There is, in fact, no hard and fast line of demarkation between the two classes and there are instances of well-to-do Kunbis rising to the higher rank as their means increased and adopting finally the title of Kshatriya,

Early History

"The earliest mention of the name 'Maratha' occurs in an inscription of about 100 B. C, which runs Maratha graniko Viro meaning "the leader of the Marathas.' Four other inscriptions in the Poona district mention gifts by a Maratha queen and by persons who called themselves Maharathas. The country of the Maharatha was first mentioned in Mahavanso, a Ceyjon Chronicle of the 5th century (480). Hiwen Thsang, the Chinese pilgrim (629-645), describes the warlike Maharathas as tall, boastful and proud. 'Whoever does them service (he says) may count upon their gratitude, but no one who offends them will escape their vengence. If any one insults them, they risk their lives to wipe out the affront, if any one in trouble applies fo them, forgetful to them- selves they will hasten to help him. In battle they pursue fugitives, but do not slay those who give themselves •up.' About 1020 the Arab geographer, Ali Biruni, mentions Marath Des as a country south of the Narbada. In 1340 the famous Arab traveller Ibn Batuta notices that the people of Devgiri modern Daulatabad, were Marhatas." (Bombay Gazetteer).

It is not known under what form of Government the Marathas anciently dwelt. Early in the Christian era, Maharashtra is said to have been ruled by the great Shalivahan, whose capital was at Paithan on the Godavari. At a later period, a powerful dynasty of Chalukyas reigned over a large part of Maharashtra. The Chalukiyas rose to great power under Talap Dev in the 10th century and became extinct about the end of the 12th century, when the Yadav Rajas of Devgiri became supreme and were ruling a6 the time of the Mahomedan invasion in 1294. The Yadav dynasty was finally extinguished iti 1312.

The Marathas are often mentioned by the historian Ferishta in his history of the Deccan (1290-1600). In his account of the Musalman Turk conquest under Ala-uddin Khilji and his generals, Ferishta refers to the Marathas as the people of the province of Maharat or Mherat, dependent on Daulatabad and apparently con- sidered to centre in Paithan or, as it is written, Mheropatan. In 1318 Harpal, the son-in-law of the Devgiri chief, rebelled and forced the Musulmans to give up several districts of Marath. In 1370 Jadhav Maratha, the chief of the Naiks, revolted in Daulatabad and collected a great army at Paithan. Till the end of the Bahmani supremacy (1490), some Maratha chiefs, among them the Rajas of Jalna and Baglan in Nasik, were practically independent, paying no tribute for years at a time; and even after this period, under the Ahmadnagar and Bijapur Icings^, one or two Maratha chiefs remained nearly independent. It appears in fact that prior to the time of Shiva ji, the Maratha country was divided into little principalities and chief tanships, many of which were independent of the Mahomedan princes and never completely brought under subjection. Towards the close of the 17th century, they suddenly started on a career of conquest, during which they obtained contl-ol over a great portion of India and established governments of shorter and longer duration at Satara, Kolhapur, Gwalior, Nagpur, Indore, Gujarath and Tanjore.


As a class, the Marathas are simple, frank, independent, liberal and courteous and, when kindly treated, trustful. They are a manly and intelligent race, proud of their former great- ness, fond of display and show and careful to hide poverty. Maratha women are kind, affable and simple and, with few exceptions, are good wives and managers.

Internal Structure

The Marathas have no endogamous divi- sions, but a sort of loose, not properly developed, hypergamy prevails among the caste. The Marathas proper are allowed to many the daughters of Kunbis, but the latter could on no account secure a girl in marriage from their social superiors. The line between these is not, however, well defined and, excepting the rich Marathas and poorer Kunbis, intermarriages among them are freely allowed. For the purpose of exogamy the Marathas are divided into ninety-six ' kuls ' each of which is further sub-divided into a number of surnames. Besides these surnames, Maratha families have 'Devaks', or sacred symbols, which appear to have been originally totems and affect maniage to the extent that a man cannot marry a woman whose 'Devak', reckoned on the male side, is the same as his own. They are totems, worshipped during marriage and other important ceremonies.


A man may marry his maternal uncle's daughter. He may also marry two sisters, provided that he does not marry the younger first. Polygamy is permitted and, in theory, a man may marry as many wives as he can afford to maintain. Practically, how- ever, the standard of living of the caste limits him to two.

The Marathas marry their daughters either as infants or as adults; but the former usage is regarded as more respectable from the social point of view. The marriage ceremony is of the orthodox type. The first step towards initiating proposals for marriage is taken by the father or guardian of the bridegroom. After the preliminary negotiations, as regcirds the bride or bridegroom price have been completed, both parties being satisfied with their mutual inspection, it is ascertained whether the horoscopes of the bridal pair agree and that there are no objections to the marriage on the ground of the sameness of Devak; auspicious days are then fixed by consulting a Brahmin for —

1. Besmearmg the bride and bridegroom with turmeric and oil.

2. The wedding rite.

3. 'Sade' or procession to bring the bridal pair to the

bridegroom's hojise.

The wedding takes place at the girl's house and the boy is conducted in procession from his own to the girl's village. The mm(kp, or marriage pandal, made of Mango, Umbar and Jambul leaves and supported on five pillars, is erected at the houses of both parties, with the difference that at the girl's house an earthen platform (Bohola) is built under the marriage booth.

The following observances make up the marriage ceremony as celebrated by the Marathas : —

1 Kunku Lavne: — (betrothal) the boy's father goes to the girl's house and presents her with two pieces of bodice cloth and jewels, smears her forehead with Kunku (red aniline powder) and puts sweetmeat in her mouth.

2.On the next day the girl's father and friends visit the boy and is entertained by his father.

3.Turmeric ceremony : — Two or three days previous to the wedding the bride and her mother are besmeared with tur- meric powder mixed with fragrant oil and are bathed by five married women whose husbands are living. The bride is then dressed in yellow clothes and presented with jewels by the boy's mother. TTie ' Muhurta Medh,' or wedding post, is planted at the entrance of the marriage pandal. A part of the turmeric prepared for the bride is sent, accom- panied by music, for the use of the bridegroom, who has to undergo the same process of besmearing as the bride.

4. Worship of the Devak, or marriage guardian : — This cere- mony is performed by both parties each in their own house. A day or two previous to the wedding a branch of the tree, representing the ' Devak ' of the family, is placed in a

winnowing fan and brought in procession to the house. It is placed near the family gods and worshipped with offerings of flowers. In the meanwhile girls wash a grinding stone (jate), daub it with sandal paste and offer flowers and sweetmeats to it.

5. Srmant Pujan, or the ceremonial reception of the bridegroom at the boundary of the girl's village : — A procession is formed conducting the bridegroom on horse hack to the girl's village where, on arrival, they stop at the temple of the village Maruti. One of the company, a relative of the boy and known for the occasion as Wardhava, is sent to the girl's house to intimate to her father that the boy and his party have arrived. Thereupon the girl's fatlier, with friends and music, goes to meet the bridegroom's party. The combined parties then proceed to the girl's house.

6. On arrival the boy dismounts; a ball of cooked rice is waved over his head and thrown aside and his eyelids are touched with water. After this he is conducted to a seat under the wedding canopy and near the earthen platform (Bohola). At the auspicious moment the bride Joins him 'and is seated on the left of the bridegroom.

7. Antarpat : — The bridal pair are made to stand in bamboo baskets facing each other and a curtain is held between them. The priest repeats mantras, or sacred texts, and the guests throw red coloured rice over them. This is deemed to be the binding and essential portion of the ceremony.

8. Kanyddan : — The girl's maternal uncle puts the girl's right hand into those of the bridegroom and her father pours water over their hands. This symbolises the giving away of the bride by her father and the acceptance of the gift by the bridegroom. After Kanyadan has been performed, the bridegroom ties the Mangal sutra, or the string of black beads, round the girl's neck.

9. Horn, or sacred fire : — The bridal pair, with their garments knotted, are seated on the earthen platform, the bride to the left cA her husband. Horn, or sacred fire, is kindled before them and ghi is thrown over it. When the fire is well ablaze, the bridal pair walk round it seven times, keeping it always to their right.

10. Kankan bandhanam : — Thread bracelets are tied on the wrists of the bridal, pair.

The next three daye are spent in feasting and merry-making. On the fourth day Sade taj^es place, that is the bridal pair return in proTjsssion to the bridegroom's house. This ends the marriage.

Even though a girl has attained puberty, the consum- mation does not form part of the marriage ceremony. The consum- mation ceremony is put off till the girl's first menopause after the marriage. In performing the ceremony of puberty the girl is seated in a separate room. She is dressed in a new sari and bodice, her fore- head is besmeared with vermilion on which rice grains are stuck and lines of vermilion ar,e drawn on her feet. Female friends and rela- tives present, her with sweet dishes, and musicians are engaged to play at the house, while the ceremony lasts. The girl is unclean for three days. On the fourth she is smeared with turmeric and oil and bathed and a lucky day between the fourth and the sixteenth is named for the performance of the Garbhadan ceremony (purifica- tion of the womb). On the morning of the auspicious day, the girl and her husband are besmeared with turmeric and fragrant oil and bathed while music plays. After exchanging clothes the couple make obeisance to the family gods and the elders. At noon a feast is given to women. In the evening the ceremony called Otibharan, or lap filling, is performed. The pair are seated on two low wooden stools set in a square of rice or wheat, the girl to ! .e left of the boy, and the foreheads of both are bedaubed with vermilion. Grains of rice are stuck on the vermilion and married women fill a fold of the girl's sari with a bodice cloth, wheat, cocoanut, fruit ar.d betelnuts. The couple are presented with clothes and jewels by their respective fathers-in-law, after which they retire.

The remarriage of widows is strictly forbidden nor is divorce permitted among the high class Marathas ; but the Kunbis allow their widows to marry again. The ceremony is very simple. The bride is presented with one rupee by the bridegroom for the purchase of bangles. On a dark night the bridal pair are seated side by side and the Brahmin officiating at the ceremony »ies their garments in a knot and daubs their foreheads with Kunkum (red powder). Divorce is permitted with the sanction of the caste panchayat and divorced wives may marry again by the same form as widows.


The rich and high class Marathas follow the Brahmanic religious usages, observing qlmost all the sixteen sacra- ments (Samkaras) and conducting their daily worship in a Brihmanic fashion. The religion of kunbis in general is a sort of Animism with a veneer of Hinduism. Their chief objects of worship are Bhairav, Bhavani, Khandoba, Mhasoba, Maroti, Vaghoba, Vithoba, Munja, Vir, and the sisters Jokhai, Janai, Kalkai, Metisai, Mukai and Navlai.

Bhairav, the usual village guardian, has two forms, ' Kal Bhairav ' and ' Bai Bhairav.' Kal Bhairav is represented as a man standing with a damaru (drum shaped hour glass) in one hand acid a trident in the other. A slab of stone daubed with vermilion and oil repre- sents Bal Bhairav. Bhairav is supposed to cure snakebite and foretell, by signs, whether an undertaking will prosper or fail. Twice a year, at the time of reaping and sowing, he is worshipped with offerings of goats and cocks. Children are dedicated to this god by Kunbis in fulfilment of a vow and enrolled subsequently into the Bharadi caste. Bhavani (consort of Shiv) is worshipped in the form of a rude image, sword in hand, with offerings of goats and cocks. The goddess is the tutelary deity of all Marathas, high as well as low, and has a shrine at Tuljapur in the Usmanabad District, to which all her devotees have to make pilgrimage at least once in their lives.

Khandoba, an incarnation of Shiv and guardian deity of the Deccan, has a three-fold aspect. As a horseman, with sword in hand and his wife Mhalsabai sitting by his side, he is Malhari, the form he took when he destroyed the demons Mani and Malla. As an animal, he is the dog who runs besides his horse and is called Khandi. As a plant, he is turmeric powder, under the name of Bhandar. The god is universally worshipped in fhe Deccan and has a temple at Jejuri which is said to be very rich. 50,000 rupees being expended yearly in the expenses and establishment for the deity. The god and his spouse are bathed in Ganges water, perfumed with I'tr of roses, and decorated with gems. The revenues are derived from houses and lands given by pious people and from presents and offerings constantly made by all descriptions of votaries and visitors, according to their means. Tp this god, as to Bhavani, children are devoted, the bovs after dedication being called 'Waghes' and the girls 'Murlis'. The image of hiij horse is made of metal and not of stone or wocJ.

Mhasoba, or Mhaskoba, the most widely feared of all the evil spirits, is represented by an unhewn stone smeared with vermilion and oil. He is believed to be instigated, by evil minded men, to terrorise and black-mail people and a kunbi fearing the wrath of the deity will make any offering to appease him.

Maroti, also called Hanuman, is worshipped in the form of a rudely engraved figure of a monkey. No village in Marathawada is without a tejnple of Maroti, which is situated either inside or outside the village, but generally at the gate. He is a kindly god, saviour of those possessed by evil spirits and very fond of cocoanuts.

Vaghoba, the tiger god, is worshipped as the guardian of village cattle from the attacks of tigers.

Munjas are the spirits of male ancestors who die unmarried, while the spirits of the married are called ' Vir' . These are wor- shipped in every Maratha household.

The sisters, Jokhai, Janai, etc., or local mothers as they are called, represent the terrible character of Bhavani and are sup- posed to do much mischief. They blast crops, plague men with sickness and carry off travellers.

When cholera breaks out, the members of the caste make a variety of offerings to Mari Ai, while Sitala, or the goddess presidmg over small pox, is propitiated when an epidemic rages. Besides these minor deities, the Marathas reverence the greater gods of the Hindu pantheon, such as Shiv, Ramachandra, Ganpati, Krishna, Dattatraya and others. Brahmans are employed for reli- gious and ceremonial purposes. The tools of the craft are honoured

on Dasera, or the 10th of the light half of Asin (October). The principal festivals observed are : —

1. Holi or Shimga : — This begins on the full moon of Falguna

(March) and ends on Rangapanchmi, or the 5th of the dark half. At night a great bonfire of cowdung cakes is made and men and children gather round it vocifera- ting violently and making a great noise. The night is spent in singing and dancing, in which boys, dressed like dancing girls, play tfie part of' women. Next day the people give themselves up to boisterous mirth, giving full vent to their passions and a regular satur- nalia ensues, during which boys forget their reverence for elders and men their respect for women. Women take no part in these proceedings.

2. Nag Panchami, observed in honour of the cobra snake on the

fifth of the light half of Shravan (July). The women of the village, after feasting, resort in the afternoon with music to a white-ant hill in which a Gobra is believed to be and offer milk and sugar before the hill* while the priest recites prayers. They join hands and dance round the ant-hill in a ring, alternately stooping and rising and keeping time to a song sung in chorus. At intervals they take parched rice and throwing it on each other's heads inquire their husband's name. Note. — In most castes a woman will not pronounce her husband's name.

3. Mahalaxmi festival : This takes place in Bhadrapad

(August-September). A figure of Laxmi is painted on paper and worshipped by women with offerings of flowers, fruit and sweetmeats.

4. Pola : — This also takes place in August. The oxen

are allowed rest on this day and worshipped by their masters. Their horns are decked with tassels of Palas fibre (Buiea jrondosa), garlands of flowers are put round their necks and they are fed with sugar. In the evening bhey are driven round the village Maroti's temple. The day ends with a feast.

5. Pitra Puksha : — Feast to the manes of male ancestors.

6. Dasera : — Commemoration of the fight between Ram and

Ravan, or of the defeat of the buffalo-demon Mahisasur ' by the goddess Bhavani. Horses are bathed and de- corated with flowers, a sheep is sacrificed and its blood is sprinkled over them. In the evening the villagers cross in a body the village boundary, worship the Apta- tree (Bauhmjfi racemosa), offer its leaves to the village gods, exchange them among friends and then return home.

7. Divali : — Illuminations in honour of the event of Mahadev

killing the demon Narkasur. It continues for three days, spent in feasting, illuminations and fireworks.

8. Shivratra : — Fast in honour of Shiv.

9. Padva : — New year's day.

10. Akshatritiya : — Offerings of water are made to three gene- rations of dead ancestors and field operations for the new year begin.

In the Holi, tfie Pola and Dasera festivals, one great point is the acknowledgment of seniority in the village. At Holi, a heap of cow-dung cakes is made and the senior man worships before it first and then tiie others in turn. At Pola, a rope is held up and the cattle pass in procession underneath it according to the position of their owners. At the Dasera the senior man in the village tells the Mang to bring a male buffalo or sheep. He then wounds it on the neck and puts some of the blood on the threshold of the village temple; the buffalo or sheep is then taken before the idol and decapitated and its head is buried in front of the idol.

Spirits, Sorcery and Suiperstitions — The Kunbis have a strong belief in spirits (Bhut) and the black art. Women who die in childbirth, persons who are murdered, or die a violent death or with their desires in this world unfulfilled, are liable, after death, to re- appear as ' Bhuts,' or malevolent ghosts, and trouble the living. The male ghosts are called 'Zotings' and the female ghosts 'Hadal'. Among the worst female ghosts are the seven water nymphs called Jaldevatas, or Asras, who cany off handsome youths. The Asras are the ghosts of young women, who, after giving birth to one or more children, commit suicide by drowning themselves. Their favourite offerings are cooked rice, turmeric, red powder (kpnku^) and bodice cloth. Ghosts haunt large trees, lonely places, empty houses and old wells and are generally seen or heard at noon or midnight. They take many forms — a deer, a tail figure, or a strange ox or goat. The ghost enters into the body of a person, maddens him, destroys his cattle, kills his family and turns his joy into sorrow. In such cases an exorcist (Jhanta) (wise 'man) is called in to identify the spirit at work and to appease it by gifts of money, goats and fowls. Gethal, the leader of ghosts, is also approached by the patient and promised a fowl or a goat if he will order his spirits to cease troubling. The services of Jhantas (exorcists) are also lied in to ascertain whether the misfortunes or ailments from which man is suffering are due to the displeasure of deities or to witch- craft and to prescribe the cure. The evil eye is believed in and its fluence is attributed to inordinate appetite on the part of the person ho has overlooked any object. Its effects may be averted by mixing red mustard seeds and salt, waving the 'mixture round the head three times and then throwing it into the fire. To ward off the evil from the crops, a blackened earthen pot, with rude devices scrawled on it in white paint, is stuck up in the fields. A Kunbi will never congratulate a friend on his prosperity, his fine oxen or his handsome wife. If he does, ill luck may befall, and the friend be deprived of his good fortune.


A Maratha woman is unclean for ten days after childbirth, during which time no one except the midwife is allowed to touch her. When labour approaches, a detached room in the house is prepared for her, to which she retires and from which fresh air is excluded as far as possible. The duty of the midwife is to make the patient walk to and fro so as to increase the pains and, when the child is bom, to cut the navel string with a knife and announce the event to the relatives of the woman. After the cord has been passed over the face of the child and buried, the mother and child are smeared with turmeric and oil and bathed in hot water. The mother is given butter and myrrh pills and the child is dosed with three or four drops of castor oil The mother is fumigated by burning ' Vavading ' {Embelia Rihes), ' Owa ' or Ajwan {Carum copticum) and 'Baluntshcp or Soya, Dill (Peucedanum graveolens), in the room and is laid, with her child, on a cot with a small fire of live coal set under it. That no evil , spirit may enter the room, an earthen pot of cow's urine is placed at the door and ail visitors are required to sprinkle a few drops of the urine on their feet before they enter. An oil lamp, placed within the room, is ' kept burning throughout the night. On the fifth and the sixth days after birth. Mother Satwai" is worshiped, in the form of an armless image, with offering of flowers, fruit ahd cooked food and invoked to protect the child from evil influences. On the 10th day the house is plastered with cowdung, the mother bathes and is free from child impurity. On the 12th day after birth the child is named and a feast is given to relatives and members of the caste in honour of lihe event. The ceremony is called Barsi. The child receives two names, one after the star under which it is supposed to have been born, and the other a familiar name by which it is called. Prayers for the child are offered to Kul Swami and to the household gods and Brahmins are sometimes feasted. In the second year the child's hair is cut, the ceremony being called 'Jaiwal'.

Disposal of the Dead

When a Maratha dies, a small piece of gold is put in the mouth of the deceased. The body is bathed, dressed in a white sheet and laid on a bier, to which it is tied fast with strings. After betel leaves, flowers and red powder have been thrown upon it, it is carried to the burning ground on the shoulders of relatives and friends. On arrival there, the corpse is again bathed and laid head southward on the funeral pyre, which is composed generally of cowdung cakes. When the body is nearly consumed, the party bathe and return home. In the meanwhile the women smear the whole house of the deceased with cowdung, spread rice flour on the spot where the deceased breathed his last, set a burning lamp on it and cover the lamp with a bamboo basket. On their return the funeral party examine the spot where the rice flour is spread to see if there are any marks resembling the prints of an animal's foot. If any marfc bearing resemblance to an animal's foot print is seen, it is believed that the spirit of the dead has passed into the animal indicated by the foot- print. On the third day after death, the ashes are collected and, ex- cept a few bones which are buried somewhere near the burning ground, are taken to a river and thrown into the water. Sradha is performed on the 1 0th day after death when pinias, o»i balls of rice, are offered to the spirit of the deceased. On the eleventh day the mourners, who have been impure since the death, are cleansed and present Brahmins with money and clothes. A feast, on the thirteenth day, to the relatives and members of the caste concludes the funeral ceremony. Libations of water are offered for' the benefit of departed ancestors in general in the dark half of the month of Bhadrapad (August-September) and on the third day of the light half of Vaishak (May).

Social Status

The social status of Marathas differs according to the different grades of society. The high class Marathas, espe- cially those related to ruling families, claim to be Kshatriyas, profess to follow Vedic rites and eat cooked food only from the hands of Brahmins and from no other castes. The middle classes among the Marathas are not so punctilious in their observances and will eat from those castes who abstain from flesh and strong drinks. The ordinary Kunbi, on the other hand, has no scruples to eat with a Mali, Koli, Dhangar, Hatkar or with other communities holding the same social posi- tion. As regards diet, a Maratha will eat fowl and fish and the flesh of goats, deer, hare, pigeon and quail and indulge occasionally in strong drink.


The bulk of the Marathas follow agriculture as their chief occupation. They are occupancy and non-occupancy rai- ats, some have acquired substantial tenures, while a few earn a live- lihood as landless day labourers. Many of the caste are employed as personal servants in the households of the higher castes. Many of them are Patels, or village headmen, holding service lands. Some of them are Deshmukhs who were formerly the superior officers of Par- gana or revenue divisions. They were employed by the earliest Mohamedan governments and acted as middlemen between the culti- vators and the State. In course of time they rose to great local import- ance and became landed proprietors and Zamindars. The Deshmukhs nave now no official duties ; but their families enjoy certain allowances which are charged against the land revenue. A small proportion of the Maratkas have taken to other pursuits and are either members of learned professions or of Government service. The Maratha regi- ments of 'the Indian army are mainly recruited from the members of this caste.

Maratha Kunbis are excellent cultivators and in the management of the staple food crops they^ show remarkable talents. In gardening, they are less skilful thqn the Malis. To ensure an abundant crop of sugarcane the following custom is observed by the Maratha Kunbis. Someipieces of cane are arranged in the form of a tiger and the planter, squatting before the figure, worships it with offerings of flowers, sandal paste, wheat-cakes and pjurched rice.

The Marathi speaking cultivators, found in the northern part of the Adilabad district, are popularly supposed to be an offshoot from the Maratha Kunbis. Very little is, however, known concerning their origin, nor have they any traditions which will throw light upon the subject. They are divided into three sub-castes. Khaira, Dha- nojia and T'role, who interdine but do not intermarry. The Dha- nojias are dark in complexion and coarse featured while the physical characteristics of the other two are much the same as those of Maratha Kunbis.

Their exogamous sections are mostly of the territorial character with a little admixture of totemistic names. The following are given as specimens : —


Rajurkar (Rajura).


Lonare (Lonar in Berar).

Nagpurya (Nagpur).





Gadgya (earthen pot).

Pippal Shendya (Pipal tree).

Kakdya (cucumber).

Aswalya (bear).

Maske (butter).

Marriage within the same section is forbidden. Infant, marriage is in full force, girls being married between the ages of one and five and the boys between three and ten years. Polygamy is permitted without limit, but a man cannot marry more than one unmarried girl, the others must be widows or divorced wives.

The marriage ceremony is partly of the Maratha, and partly of the Telugu type. After the inspection of the bride and the bridegroom by their respective parents, the question of brideprice to be paid to parents is settled. The amount varies from fifteen rupees to thirty rupees according to the circumstances of the bridegroom's party. Marriage pandals are erected at the houses of both parties, with the exception that at the girl's house a circular earthen platform, with a post of Sal planted in the centre, is built under the wedding booth. The wedding takes place at sunset. As among Maratha Kunbis, Antarpat is deemed to be the binding portion of the ceremony. Widows may marry again and are bound by no conditions in their choice of a second husband, except that they must not infringe the rules regarding prohibit?ed degrees. The ceremony in use at the remarriage of a widow is the same as is described in the article on the Barai caste. Divorce is permitted on various grounds, and divorced women are allowed to marry again by the same form as widows. In matters of religion the members of the community affect to be orthodox Hindus, and regard Kudbhan with special rever- ence. Among their other gods are Bhavani and Balaji. Ancestral worship is in full force and the souls of all departed ancestors are worshipped in the form of silver plates with embossed figures. The dead are burned and libations of water are poured forth for the propitiation of ancestors in the month of Bhadrapad. Brahmans are employed for religious and ceremonial purposes. Agriculture is believed to be their original occupation and in point of social status they hold the same position in Adilabad as Maratha Kunbis in the Maiathawada districts, ranking below the Brahman, Komti, Lingayat, Marwadi and other castes who abstain from flesh and drink. The following statement shows the number and distribution of Marathas in, 1911 : —

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