Chanchu: Deccan

From Indpaedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Hindi English French German Italian Portuguese Russian Spanish



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.




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/ additional information to
the Facebook page,
All information used will be duly acknowledged.

Chanchu, Chanchukulam, Chanchalwad — a non-Aryan tribe dwelling in the hilly tracts which run parallel to the Kistna river and form the southern boundary of the Hyderabad Dominions. They are a well-built race, shorter than the neighbouring Hindus, with com- plexions varying from dark brown to black and rather coarse and frizzly hair. Their physical characteristics are high and prominent cheek bones, broad noses with spreading nostrils, and black and piercing eyes.

Customs and Manners

The habits of the tribe are of the most primitive character. The men are almost nude, wearing merely a piece of cloth round their loins, while the more savage members of the tribe are said to cover their nakedness with aprons made of leaves. They make clearings in the forest and live in bee-hive shaped huts. They are still in a half savage state and are engaged as watchmen and guides in the mountain passes. They speak Telugu with a peculiar intonation.


Regarding their origin, they have a tradition which states that their first ancestor had seven sons and one daughter. From the sons sprang seven forest tribes, one of them being the Chanchus. The daughter was given in marriage to the god Krishna and had a son by the deity, who became the progenitor of the Krishna Chanchus.

Internal Structure

The Chanchus ate divided into four endogamous groups : (1) Telugu Chanchus, (2) Adavi Chanchus, (3) Krishna Chanchus, and (4) Bonta Chanchus. The Telugu Chanchus and Krishna Chanchus are beggars, and collect alms by dancing and singing songs before the Hindus of the plains. The chief distinc- tion between the two is that, while the former beg by blowing a long horn, the latter obtain alrrs by ringing bells and playing on a bamboo flute. Both these sub-castes live by hunting as well. When begging, the Krishna Chanchus wear crowns of peacock feathers and garlands of beads. The Adavi Chanchus form the savage portion of the tribe and are to be found in large numbers in the neighbourhood of Shri Shailya on the river Kistna. They are confined to the secluded parts of the forest clad hills and obtain their living by hunting deer, wild hog and hare with their bamboo bows and arrows. Some of them visit the villages of the plains and live in patch-work tents, which explains their name Bonta Chanchus. They bring for sale bamboo seed and bamboo flutes, which they barter for grain to the villagers. ^'

The information regarding the exogamous system of the tribe is rather incomplete. The section names appear to be partly totemislic and partly territorial. The following specimens may serve as an illustration : —


A man may not marry a woman of his own section ; but he may marry the daughters of his maternal uncle, paternal aunt or sister.


Chanchu girls are married after they have attained the age of puberty, and free courtship is said to prevail among them. Infant marriages, however, are not entirely unknown though, as a general rule, they are practised only by those who have come into contact with the Hindus of the plains. Girls are occasionally forcibly carried away and married. Sexual license before marriage is tolerated, and if a girl becomes pregnant her lover is required to marry her; if, however, he declines to do so she is married to some other man, provided that the rule of exogamy is carefully observed in the previous liaison as well as in the subsequent marriage. The marriage ceremony is a simple one. The bridegroom's father proposes for the girl and, if his offer is accepted,; the wedding day is fixed and a hundred and one peacock feathers are delivered as the bride-price.

The bride is brought by her friends and relations to the bridegroom's house, where both the bride and bridegroom are dressed in white and seated opposite to each other, while the intervening space is filled by drummers who beat the tribal drums in honour of the occasion. A great deal of drinking and dancing follows, after which the bride- groom ties a string of black beads round the bride's neck. The bridal pair then retire into a separate hut to consummate their union. The bridegroom first re-appears, and after him the bride ; the pair are then greeted by the company as husband and wife.


A widow may marry again, but she is not expected to marry her late husband's younger or elder brother. No special ritual is ordained for the marriage of a widow. The bride- groom brings the widow to his house and provides a feast for his tribal brethren.


Divorce is permitted for adultery and a divorced woman is allowed to marry again.


The favourite deity of the Chanchus is Ganga, repre- sented by a small stone set up under a tamarind tree outside the village. A sheep is sacrificed to the deity, one of its legs is suspended from the tree and the rest of the carcase is taken by the votaries. The deity is worshipped only once a year. The Chanchus firmly believe in evil spirits and ascribe every sickness or calamity to their malevolent action. Brahmans have not yet been introduced and all religious functions are discharged by a member of the tribe.

Disposal of the Dead

The dead are buried in a lying pos- ture with the head to the south and the face downwards. Mourning is observed for 10 days. On the 1 0th day after death a goat is sacrificed, the flesh is offered at the grave and, after it has been touched by a crow, the mourners bathe, drink liquor and return home. No Sradha is performed nor are any funeral rites observed afterwards.

Social Status

The social rank of the tribe cannot be precisely stated. They are still beyond the pale of Hinduism. No castes, except Malas and Madigas, will eat from their hands. The influence of the great Hindu sects has already reached them and they are divided into Tirmanidharis and Vibhutidharis. These will not accept food from the hands of Mangalas,? Chaklas and the lowest unclean classes. They eat the flesh of goats, swine, fowl, field rats, mice and jackals, and drink liquor distilled from the flowers of the mahua (Bassia latifolia).


The wildest of the Chanchus subsist by hunting and also live on forest produce and roots. Their weapons are a bamboo bow and reed arrow tipped with iron. They collect honey, tamarind, wood apples, mahua flowers and herbs, which they barter for grain and cloth. Those who are settled on the outskirts of villages earn a livelihood by guarding the crops and cattle of the village farmers. A few only have taken to cultivation.

Personal tools