Street cries of the world

Street cries were once a popular subject of songs and literature in Britain, continental Europe and elsewhere. Each month from 2018 onwards I'll be scanning and transcribing publications to build this collection.



The Brahmans, giving up their former thirst for knowledge, lead a life of indolence, adducing as their plea that as their ancestors once begged, and thereby maintained themselves, they now make begging as a profession their birth-right. Hindus, whose great weakness is an inordinate love of praise, are easily induced by Brahman mendicants, who are apt flatterers, to give as much as they are able; their house and almost everything they have they will give to a Brahman, however wicked or wealthy he may be, as they think no dan has any other signification than bestowing gifts on Brahmans, who as a class are designated charity-receiving people;– authorized to receive alms of every one willing to bestow it. Compared with the vast sums showered upon these beggars, the dharma a Hindu makes to others is almost nothing. Brahman mendicants do not, like the other Hindu beggars go to the houses of others than Hindus for alms, for they are never patronized by them.


Sastribava – or the expounder of the Sastras – always a Brahman by caste, and a well-to-do person, dresses in white clothes, with a shawl over his left hand another wrapt round his shoulders, and accompanied by one or more followers. One of his followers goes inside a Hindu house, and tells the inmates that the Sastribava awaits and asks for a seat for him. He then says that the great man is on his way to the holy Banaras on pilgrimage, and requests to be paid to visit Kashivishceswar, or the lord of Banaras, and return. This gentleman assumes a grave demeanour, and seeing his pomp he is generally paid in silver.


Telanga Brahmans go about begging, and also offer for sale the sacred thread of the Hindus. They always roll round their waist a woollen cloth (dhabli), which they make use of to take dinner with, if they happen to see a dinner party at which Brahmans are invited to dine. They go in uninvited, and if they are not allowed to join they will depart, but not before invoking bitter curses on the heads of those who refuse them a share in the feast.

Then there are again others from Telangana, whose dress consists of a waist cloth, and pieces of coloured cloth tied to their arms with the ends hanging loose. They carry a square flat wooden box in which is kept the image of a Hindu god, covered over with a cloth which is removed only when the bearer is to be paid, or the inmates of a house wish him to show it to them. He pretends to foretell future events. He is a very quiet beggar, and asks for alms in a low tone and humble way. He goes away quietly if nothing is given him. He generally gives persons a pinch of turmeric to be rubbed on their brows, or touches their foreheads with it himself.

A third kind of beggars from Telangana are called Kavadyas. They carry over their shoulders a Kavad, or a bamboo stick with slings at each end; in these slings are hung bamboo baskets covered over with ochre-coloured cloth. They say that on that stick they once conveyed their aged parents to the holy city of Banaras, and as a sign of their having visited Banaras, they show a small glass bottle containing water which they say they brought from the sacred Ganga. Or they say that they are going to Banaras to bury the bones of their aged parents who died only a short time ago. People believe them, and give them money to defray their expenses on the way thither.


These are Hindus, mostly Brahmans, who deliver sermons (kirtans), especially during the Ganapati and Ramnavmi festivals and the four months of Chaturmas. Some of these men are very eloquent preachers, and their manner of delivery is most pleasing and impressive. A Haridas is always accompanied by a drummer, mridangya, a fiddler, and two or more players on metal cups, and sometimes a harmonium. Some of these musicians are little boys, and as their voices are sweet and musical, their singing is harmonious and very enjoyable.


The Nagas, as their name implies, go naked. Having eradicated the sense of shame they give free indulgence to all the vices which it might have helped them to cover, and are unquestionably the most worthless and profligate members of their respective religions. They are either Saivas or Vaishnavas, and the hatred they bear towards one another has often led to sanguinary conflicts, in one of which at Haridwar eighteen thousand of the Vaishnaca Nagas were left dead on the field (Beveridge’s History of India, Vol. 11, p. 69). In 1778 Goddard was attacked by a band of Saiva Nagas. They are sometimes to be found seated on the verandas of temples and edges of tanks where they are sumptuously fed.


Aghoris propitiate Siva by horrible and revolting austerities, and once offered human victims. Hence they assumed a corresponding appearance, and carried about for a wand and water pot, a staff set with bones and the upper half of a human skull. This worship has long been suppressed, but traces of it still exist among those who go about extorting alms. They are saptamakaris. They drink wine and eat carrion and ordure, and hence the practice among Hindus of not returning from the burning ground till the corpse is wholly burnt, and keeping a watch on the burning of little children. The Aghoris smear their body with ordure, and carry it about with them in a wooden cup or skull, either to swallow it, if by doing so they can gain a few pice, or to throw it on the persons or into the houses of those who refuse to comply with their demands. They also inflict gashes on their limbs, that the crime of blood may rest on those who deny them charity and by this and similar devices work upon the timid and credulous Hindus. These beggars are rare, but when they do come, they generally beg at noon, and visit houses the doors of which they find open; they frighten women, and walk away with clothes they see hanging on pegs.


Jangams are the Priests of the special form of Saiva worship that was founded or perhaps renewed by Basava a Brahman about the middle of the twelfth century. Basava’s doctrine was that any one who was taught the formula and wore the ling became one with the deity. It followed that among believers all castes and both sexes were equal, and as true believers could not be made unclean so long as he kept the rules of his faith, the whole Brahman doctrine of ceremonial impurity of purification and of sacrifice, fell to the ground. The most important relation was between the teacher and the learner of the formula. Women were as fit to teach the formula as men and so in theory were raised to be equal with the other sex. They were not married until they reached womanhood. At death the soul of the believer became one with the deity. Death was therefore a time not of mourning but of joy. Most of these rules if they were ever carried into practice, have been given up.

Among them the difference of caste is almost as strongly marked as among Brahmanic Hindus, and except that they are free from the rules about ceremonial impurity, there seems little difference in the position of women in a Lingait and in a Brahmanic family. Among them as soon as a child is born the priest rubs the mothers brow with ashes and ties a lingam enclosed in a casket to the child’s arm, hangs it from its neck or lays it under its pillow. The priest is feasted and sent away with a few coppers. The diksha or initiation ceremony of the child whether male or female is performed between twelve and fifteen. The teacher is asked and seated on a low stool, his hands and feet are washed and part of the water is sipped by the novice. Sweetmeats and bel leaves are offered to the teacher who whispers a mantra in the novice’s ear and is treated to a sumptuous dinner with the friends and relations of the house owner. Among them both men and women wear a lingam in a small metal box or shrine hung round the upper right arm, or hid in the folds of the head cloth or turban. Their religious peculiarities seem to tone down in districts where the bulk of the people are attached to Brahmanism. In some districts monthly sickness is considered impure, while in others they sit apart for three days.

All souls fortnight is observed in one place while it is not in another. They eat no flesh neither do they drink liquor. When they dine they set the plate on a three legged stool and eat the whole food served without leaving a particle and afterwards wash the plate with water and drink the water. They deem their food polluted if seen by a stranger. When they start to beg they dress in ochre-coloured clothes, blow a shell and sing in praise of Siva. On his shoulder rests a conch shell, and in his hands he carries metal cups. He begs singing hymns and when paid blows the shell for a few minutes. The Jangams also carry a bell in their hands, which begins to strike when the beggar turns a short stick round its edge. He holds the bell in a slanting position. He is satisfied with a handful of rice.


Gopichandas carry fiddles and sing in praise of Gopichand Raja. They dress in ochre-coloured clothes, and sing both in Hindustani and Marathi.


Chitrakathis or Picture showmen take their name from chitra or picture and katha a story, because they show pictures of heroes and gods and entertain their audience by telling them stories from the Purans. They carry with them their pictures rolled up and slung on their backs. The companion carries a drum, and goes about beating in now then and enquiring if people would like to hear of the exploits of the gods. If consent is given, the Chitrakathi opens his book and shows to the spectators each plate, sings and preaches. This beggar frequents only the Sudra quarters, as no high caste Hindu would think of hearing a sermon preached by a Sudra.

They also show wooden dolls whom they make to dance and fight, to represent the wars of the heroes and demons. These puppet shows have ceased to be popular, and they now seldom do any thing but show pictures by which they make about four or five Rupees a month. A boy begins to act as showman at twelve and in two years has mastered his work. A Chitrakathis stock generally includes forty pictures of Ram, worth about five or six Rupees; thirty-five of Babruvan the son of Arjun one of the five Pandavas, worth about four or five Rupees; thirty-five of Abhimanyu, another son of Arjun, worth about five or six Rupees; forty of Sita and Ravan worth about five or six Rupees; forty of Harischandra king of Oudh, worth about five or six Rupees; and forty of the Pandava brothers, worth about five or six Rupees. They paint these pictures themselves and offer them for sale, and they have a caste rule that on pain of fine every house must have a complete set of pictures.


Vaidus are both Physicians and beggars. They dress in red ochre-coloured clothes and carry bags of like coloured cloth. They inhabit forests and hills and are dealers in drugs and medicines and under the pretence of working cures deceive ignorant and simple minded people, especially women. Both men and women generally visit the chief towns and Bombay especially once a year and disappear after disposing of their drugs and medicines either retail to villagers or wholesale to shopkeepers. They pretend to heal any disease from a simple cold, cough or headache to hopeless dropsy or consumption. Besides gathering and hawking healing herbs, barks, and roots, they use many mineral medicines and poisons and they and their women beg for bread. The women, in addition as they walk plait date mats and sell them. On halting at a village or town the men and women walk through the streets and lanes with one or two ochre-coloured cloth bags, resting on the head, hung across their shoulders or on a bamboo pole, containing, besides drugs, the skins of lizards, porcupine quills, tigers claws, bears hair, and teeth, foxes heads, serpents bones and deadly poisons. The cloth sacks in which these articles are carried are tied either to both ends or to one end of a stick which is carried over the shoulders.

As they move about the Vaidus shout Nadiparaksha Vaid, the pulse feeling Doctor; Madur Vaid, the medicine selling vaid; Garmi Vaid, the heat curing Doctor; Pitta Vaid, the bile curing Doctor, and so on shouting the names of men and women’s diseases. They also bleed, both by cupping and applying leeches. They have a headman or Patel who settles social disputes at meetings of the caste men. If a person beats another with a shoe, he is fined from eight to ten annas; a daughter abusing her mother-in-law is fined three annas; and in addition has to wash her mother-in-law’s hands and feet, put a pinch of dust on her own head and beg for forgiveness; if she beats her mother-in-law she is fined twelve annas; and if she steals she is branded with a hot copper coin. If a man eats beef, he is put out of caste and not allowed to come back. If a woman commits adultery with a Brahman or other high caste Hindu she is fined five Rupees; her husband is fined three Rupees; and she is let back into caste. If she has intercourse with a Mahar or Mang or any other low caste man she is put out of caste and never let back. They are not allowed to work as labourers, and any one found working for hire is put out of caste and not allowed back until he feasts the whole caste. The establishment of Government and other charitable dispensaries, the increase in the number of medical practitioners and the growing trust in English drugs, have ruined the Vaidus. They also beg and are given both grain and cooked food and excepting the beef, like the Kathkaris, they eat almost any flesh that comes to them including frogs, rats, and serpents.


These are both Hindus and Musalmans, men and women. The former frequent Hindu localities, especially on Mondays and holidays, in hangs of two, four and six. With their hands on each other’s shoulders they are led by one or more guides who receive the alms. Some of them take musical instruments with them on which they play and sing. In localities occupied by Parsis, they do not use their instruments, and the Marathi singing is exchanged for Gujarati and Hindustani. The beggars stop at every house, and will not move until they either receive alms or are driven away. The money they collect is divided equally amongst them at the end of their performances for the day. If however they are not successful, they break their gangs, and such as have their wives or children with them take a different route from their other partners, and others by the help of their sticks steer on by the side of the road.

Some of these beggars have bells attached to their legs, and they jump and dance for the amusement of those from whom they extract charity. Others, again, beat their stomachs with their hands, and cry out in a peculiar way so as to excite the compassion of those who are looking at them. Some of these beggars are placed by the sides of much-frequented thoroughfares by their guides, but not before furnishing them with pieces of bread, betelnut and leaves, and tobacco and a match-box. Some go about leading a cow behind them, and asking Hindus and Parsis to give them a trifle to buy grass for the gai, which is held to be sacred. Some go about in the evening pretending to be blind, with either a stick in their hand, or led by others, whilst others go about asking for firewood only, and which they afterwards convert into money. Among all the beggars excepting the shawl-wearing Sastribava and a few others, the blind beggars are the best off.


Aradhis or Praying Beggars are a mixed class of men and women and include members of all castes of Hindus from Brahmans to Mahars and Mangs. Even Musalmans are Aradhis. The men are generally tall, thin and womanish, many of them either being eunuchs or copying eunuchs’ ways. Those who are well to do have to beg at least at five houses once a week on Tuesday, Friday or Sunday and such food as given them. A childless man prays to Bhavani and vows that if she hears his prayer and blesses him with a child, it will be set apart for a religious life. Others stricken with dropsy, leprosy, or consumption vow that if they recover, they will become Aradhis in honour of Bhavani. Men who are vowed to be Aradhis either by their fathers or by themselves marry with women of their own caste. Praying girls or Aradhinis are considered devoted to their patron goddesses and remain single.

When a man wishes to become an Aradhi, he goes to one of the brotherhood and tells him his wish. He is asked whose Aradhi he wishes to become, whether of the Bhawani of Tuljapur, of Kondanpur, of Rasan, of Kurkumb, of Nhyawar, or of Chatarsinhi. He names one of these Bhawanis and is advised to go and visit his patron goddess. If he is not able to undertake the journey, he is asked to bring about a pound of rice, turmeric, red powder, betelnut and leaves, flowers, and flower garlands, molasses, a yard of new white cloth, a cocoanut, five turmeric roots, five dry dates, five pieces of dry cocoa-kernal, five lemons, five sugarcanes or in their absence five stalks of Indian millet, five dough cakes, frankincense, camphor, and money. A few religious Aradhis both men and women are called, a spot of ground is cow-dunged, and a low wooden stool is set upon the sport. Over the stool the white cloth is spread and the rice is heaped on the cloth. On the rice is set a waterpot or ghat, filled with water, five betelnuts, ten betel-leaves and from a few copper pice to a Rupee or so in cash. The mouth is closed with cocoanut. Then five sugarcanes or five millet stalks are tied together and made to stand over the stool. At each corner of the stool are placed betel-nuts, lemons, dates, turmeric roots, dry cocoakernels, and one of each is laid in front of the water pot.

The presiding Aradhi is termed Guru, and worships the ghat. A dough cake and a flower garland are dropped from the sugarcanes over the water pot; cooked rice and wheat bread and molasses are offered to the god; frankincense and camphor are burnt before it; and the teacher and other Aradhis, four times repeat the word Udava or Arise. The officiating Aradhi places a thich lighted torch, soaked in oil in the novice’s hand, throws a shell necklace over his shoulder, so that it falls on his right side, marks his brow with ashes or angarika and gives him two baskets to hold in his right hand. After the novice has made a low bow before the goddess and the Aradhis, he presents the Guru with cash varying from a few annas to a rupee and quarter, feasts the brotherhood and is declared an Aradhi. The initiation costs the novice from a few annas to twenty or more Rupees.

When they beg the Aradhi women wear their ordinary dress. The men wear a waistcloth or trousers and a long coat reaching to the ankles besmeared with oil and a cap covered over with kavdi shells. They tie their hair in a knot behind the head like women, use false hair, and deck their heads with flowers and ornaments generally of brass. They wear nose and ear-rings of brass and false pearls, brass and shell bangles, and wristlets. They wear a garland of kavri shells hanging like sacred thread from the left shoulder down the right side. The shells which are known as Bhawani Kavyda or Bhavani cowries are yellow marked with patches of red. The necklane costs about three or four annas and is composed of thirty-five to forty shells.

Besides the necklace, they wear shell ornaments round the head, neck, arms, and fingers. They carry two bamboo baskets worth about two annas. One of the baskets is called Parashram with five shells stuck to it, the other is large and has no other name except basket or pardi. From one of their shell necklaces hangs a cloth bag stuck round with shells in which they carry ashes or angarika which they rub on the brows of the charitable. In their hands they carry a thick torch well soaked in oil and lighted. From their shoulder hangs a metal can in which they are given oil for their torch. Dressed in this way they start begging at six in the morning and beg until noon. Their chief begging days are Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. When they come near a house they call out Emnai Tukai cha jogva, that is alms in the name of Emnai and Tukai. Sometimes four or five go in a band with double drums or samel, metal cups or tal and the one stringed fiddle or tuntune, and baskets, and beg singing and dancing. They sing both in praise of the goddess and lavnis for the entertainment of the people who wish to hear them. When they go singing they do not get one pound of grain a day; when they go in bands with music they get three or four pounds besides old clothes and coppers. When Aradhis die their shell necklaces and bamboo baskets are laid near the head, and burnt or buried with them.


The Teliraja is a worshipper of the goddess Hinglaj. He is accompanied by one or more servants when moving about. He wears a piece of cloth round his waist and another round his head, puts on a long robe which hangs from his shoulders down to his feet. He pretends to be a fortune-teller, and tells events which have happened or will happen. He also pretends to tell the number of children one already has and how many more his wife will yet have, together with their sexes. He tells what a person wants and what he should do to obtain it. As soon as he approaches the house of a Hindu, his servant orders some oil to be brought and poured upon his master and when this is done, the business of foretelling commences. Having got a few pice, he, the king, goes to another place. This king, the oily raja, is so copiously smeared with oil that it keeps dropping as he goes along. Hindus think that the pouring of oil is pleasing to the king and his mistress – the goddess Hinglaj. He is not to be met with daily, but whenever he does appear, there are those who prostrate themselves before him and worship him.


Wasudev also called Dhukot claims descent from Sahadev, the son of a Brahman astrologer, and wears a long hat or crown on his head with a brass top adorned with peacock’s feathers. He also wears a long white coat having ample folds, trousers, and clothes which hang from his waist, arms, and shoulders. In one hand he carries two metal cups and in the other castanets or wooden chiplyas. Tied to the string round his neck is a wooden flute or pawa and to his feet are attached brass bells and jingling rings. He dances round and round and while so doing tells the lookers on what a man’s duties are as regards the giving of charity. He says, ‘alms were given by Raja Karna; alms were given by Dharmaraj; alms were given by the god Ramchandra; by Gopikabai; Changdev; Damajipant; Pundalika; Janabai’ &c., &c., and names some dozens of other Hindu gods, kings, and saints. He mostly frequents the houses of Marathas, by whom he is much liked. Although a noisy beggar, it is indeed a pleasing sight to see these beggars, when two, four or more dance together in a circle striking their instruments against each others with precision and regularity. They train their boys in the art from infancy and by fifteen they are expert dancers and singers.

Among them when a youth is invested with his begging robes, Brahmans officiate. And on the initiation day the priest dresses the boy in the long hat, coat and trousers repeating verses and marking his brow with sandal. By this he becomes a Vasudev fit to wear the hat and beg. The priest is dismissed with a small money present varying from one to two annas and a packet of betelnut and leaves. A feast to the castemen ends the ceremony. These Vasudevs are hereditary wandering beggars receiving alms in money, grain or old clothes. They rise early in the morning, wash their hands and feet, worship with sandal paste and rice the cornet, dress and wrap a piece of red cloth round the waist, throw a wallet over the left shoulder and move about the streets begging. They pride themselves on being beggars and nothing will tempt them to work for their maintenance.


Inamdars or High-fliers simulate broken-down gentlemen. These beggars come in pairs, or sometimes three or four together, men, women and children. The women cover themselves with a sheet from head to foot to show that they are ladies and their husbands gentlemen. The men put iron chains round their necks, hands, and feet, fastened by a padlock, and say that on account of debt due to the Sarkar they have been reduced to this state, and their lands, cattle, and jewelry confiscated, with everything else they were possessed of; also that they have been deprived of their children, and that in their present condition they are seeking the means to pay off their debts. They lay their grievance before the people in a song, and the women and children join them in the same. These beggars sometimes hold a half-open roll of paper in their hands written in Modi characters with a seal attached to it. Some have iron chains round their wrists only, with a padlock attached, the key of which, they say, lies with the Government (Sarkar). They call themselves Deshmukhs and Deshpandes. Others tie a miniature plough to their necks, and say they were land-holders or zamindars; and thus they beg to be freed from their bondage. These beggars invoke ill-luck on those who do not give them charity.


Bahurupis, or men of many faces and characters. These actors are generally Marathas. They carry no clothes or other stage property; but one day come dressed as a god, the next as a milkmaid, and again as a Rishi. The last of the scenes is generally the Murli or female-devotee, who comes provided with a vessel for collecting money. The number of these representations is not fixed, byt they do not generally exceed fifteen. When these beggars have done with one part of the town, they commence representations in another. In about a fortnight they collect in this way, in well-to-do localities, from five to ten and twenty rupees, and receive old clothes also. These behhars are excellent dancers and singers. Some of them are eunuchs.


Panguls or cripples are said to be the descendants of a lame man or pangul whose parents devoted him to the service of the god Shankar because the god blessed them with children after the usual time for child-bearing had passed. The Pangul is a wandering beggar who comes very early in the morning. His clothes consist of a piece of cloth round his loins, a langoti and a coarse black blanket over his head hanging downwards. Under his arm is a bag in which he stores his coin, and in his hand is a long bambu stick with an iron top to which is attached small rings which he stamps as he walks. He is the earliest beggar that appears, bawling out at the top of his voice something to the following effect:– “Oh give alms to a pavda in the early morning, the god Rama’s time; in the name of your ancestors, give alms to a pavda; in the name of your family gods, give alms to a pavda; in the name of the goddesses Bhavani of Kolhapur and Tuljapur, give alms to a pavda.”

In this way he names one after another about two dozen or more Bhavanis and an equal number of Ganapatis, then Mahadevas, and so on. He is given a pice, and the name of the deceased male ancestor of the family told him, when he repeats aloud the name saying, pavud pavada in Raghoba’s name, and invoking a blessing on the deceased ancestor, he cries in the same loud tone, ‘the pavda has visited the goddess Ambabai of Jogai, the goddess Mahalakshmi of Kolhapur, the goddess Bhavani of Tuljapur, Khandoba of Jejuri, Vithoba of Pandharpur, Narsoba of Wadi, Ahilyabai of Indur, Tukoba of Dehu, Mhasoba of Rajapur, Satwai of Chambhargaon, Dhopesvar of Indapur,’ &c., &c., and is off. This person generally frequents the houses of Sudras, and the idea of their ancestor’s name being blessed by a pavda and in the god Rama’s time, gladdens their hearts. They also climb trees calling out the name of some deity and shouting for alms to passers by.


This beggar, who is a Hindu Maratha by caste, goes about with a bullock (Nandibail) behind him, covered all over, not excepting the horns, with clothes of different kinds, shapes, and colours, with bells tinkling round his neck and feet, and an image of Ganapati or Maruti fastened to the animal’s forehead. The beggar has a drum hanging from his waist, which he keeps both rubbing and striking as he goes along the streets, and approaching a Hindu house commands the bullock to point out the charitably-disposed person in the crowd, which is done by the bullock going to some one on the verandah of the house and standing with his face towards him. The beggar then tells the animal to show the right hand with which charity is made, which the bullock does by raising his right forefoot. After this is done, the beggar offers his neck to the bullock, which the bullock holds in his mouth, and either walks a few paces or stands keeping it hanging therefrom.

Last of all the man spreads a cloth on the ground, and lying down on his back tells the bullock to stand upon it, which the bullock does by placing his four feet on the man’s stomach and dancing upon it for some minutes. This feat closes the beggar’s exhibition, and the people throw the man some coin. A few pice satisfy him, and he then hoes on beating his drum to the next house. If it happens that a female in the family at whose door he stops is pregnant, and wishes to know what the issue will be, whether male or female, they place before the animal a pound or so of rice in which they have already put a whole betelnet and if after the animal has eaten the whole of the rice, including the nut, he throws down the nut unbroken, then this is deemed a sign that the issue will be a son, but if he drops it broken, then a daughter may be expected.


The Warekari is generally a Maratha by caste. He carries an ochre-coloured flag and a bag containing his goods. He wears a tulsi necklace round his neck and arms, and begs of the passers by to help him on his way to Pandharpur.


These beggars go about on ponies or bullocks that are little better than skeletons, or get themselves taken about from door to door in a small hand-cart. They employ persons to drag them about from place to place, promising them from one to two annas per day.


Ventriloquists are either Musalmans or Hindus. They imitate thunder, the sound of running water, roaring waves, the cries of beasts, the whistling of birds, and the speech of men. The other day one of these beggars put the inmates of a house into much alarm, where there was a woman near her confinement, by imitating the cries of a new-born child. These men make from six to eight annas a day by their profession, and are surrounded by a number both of children and grown-up persons.


Kaikadis are of two divisions. Gavranis, who make baskets and other articles of ‘tur’ (cajanus indicus) stalks and Kunchekaris, who makes weavers’ starch-brushes. They do not eat together nor intermarry, some are settled, others are wanderers and known to the police as thieves and vagabonds. They sing and bed, receiving remains of food and money. Their women generally go about half-naked, winding a bit of cloth round their waist, and leaving their breasts bare.


Jarimari or Cholera beggars, are a class who take every pains to assume a hideous and uncouth appearance, and the more they succeed in this the more they are pleased. Their hair is all matted and tangled, and in this too the more the confusion the greater the approbation. They paint their foreheads with red-lead, and on their legs, waist and fingers they wear brass rings which jingle when they move. It is a characteristic of these beggars to wear a long coat and trousers, and to their waist and arms are tied clothes and pieces of cloth of different colours and shapes one over the other. As they go along they dance and twirl round, which expands the folds of these loose garments into a round flowing shape. They go about either singly or in groups of two and three, and are accompanied by servants.

They make their presence known by a loud and prolonged cry. They take about with them a twisted hemp cord or rope three to four inches in diameter at one end, and terminating in a point, korda. When these beggars strike themselves with this cord, the crack or noise it makes is far from pleasant to hear. It is the belief however of many that although the blows they inflict on themselves are apparently severe, they yet have a knack of doing it so as not to harm themselves. But they assert that it is because the goddess Jarimari, who is in them, that it does not hurt them. They generally frequent places where low caste Hindus reside. They do not always go begging from house to house, but dance and yell in front of people’s dwellings. They belong to the Mahar, Mang and other low castes. If the rice be given in a winnowing fan, he dances with it, rolling the contents into another held beside it or holding the winnowing fan upside down without letting a single grain fall on the ground.


These are Mang and other low caste females, who beg only on Saturdays during the month of Sravan, crying out – Sanavar vadha. They carry baskets on their heads and earthen pots or glass bottles for oil in their hands. Hindus consider it meritorious to give alms to a Mangin on these days. The oil is given in a cocoanut shell, and it is first waved from the head downwards in the case of each person, and given to the woman, by which is meant that all the ills of the man are given to the Mangin, who only can bear up under them.


The Navaratras are nine nights sacred to Durga, the wife of Siva, and the Dasara or tenth follows; during these days married women of the Vadval or cart-keeper caste, with a hollow dried gourd wrapped in cloth hanging from their right arm, beg in Bhavani’s name from house to house. Each day they are given a handful of rice, and on one of the nine days an elderly married woman of each household worships the hollow gourd. A Vadvalin and her husband are called, a quartz square traced, and the hollow gourd placed in it on a low wooden stool. The worshipper draws lines on the outside of the gourd with turmeric and red powder and a few grains of rice, fastens a spangle on it, and filling it with rice, waves a lighted lamp before it. The Jogin rubs her own hands with turmeric, and fastens on her brow red powder and a spangle, and before her and her gourd the worshipper waves a lighted lamp. The Sankhya – called so from his carrying a conch shell with him – is given some rice and oil, and blessing the worshipper he blows the conch shell.


Saktas (from sakti, force or power) worship an invisible power or force represented by emblems. They are found among all classes, but can only be traced by keeping a strict watch over the movements of suspected Saktas. If they are Vaishnavas, their worship is offered to Lakshmi; if they are Saivas, the worship is offered to Parvati, Jagadatuba, Bhavani, Kali or Durga.

The Kararis, who are also Saktas, inflict upon themselves bodily tortures, and pierce their flesh with hooks or spits, run sharp-pointed instruments through their tongues and cheeks, gash themselves with knives, or lie upon beds of sharp-pointed spikes. The Saktas perform initiatory ceremonies on the admission of a new member, or as often as any one of the society succeeds in getting a female to act as a goddess for the worship. Preference, however, is given to a black-complexioned woman. Solitude and secrecy being strictly enjoined, they perform the worship at midnight in most unfrequented and private places, and even in the burning-grounds in honour of the goddess Bhavani.

A Brahman is usually the chief mover, but sometimes Sudras are the movers or accomplices, and are previously initiated in the mysteries. If the Sakta who knows the formula belongs to the right hand party (Dakshanachari), he takes his own wife, but if one of the left-hand party (Vamachari), the daughter of a Mang or Mahommadan prostitute. He asks the other members to join him at the appointed place. The five makars necessary for the worship are,– mamsa, flesh; matsya, fish; madya, liquor; maithuna, women; and mudra, certain mystical gesticulations. At the meeting place, lines are traced with quartz powder on the floor, on which a mat is spread. The Mang woman or prostitute is seated on the mat with her hair loose and the whole of her forehead daubed with red powder or kunku. (Dr. Wilson says, they prefer for their worship a female devotee, a harlot, a washer-woman, a barber’s wife, a Brahmani, a Sudra, a flower-girl, a milk-maid, and a Chandalin.) Then, repeating verses she is worshipped by all the members with flowers, the waving of lights in the manner they worship their family gods, and liquor sprinkled over her. Then, placing before her beef, liquor, fish, and sweetmeats, she is prayed to partake of the same. After she has eaten to satisfaction, the remains are collected and mixed with the remaining food and liquor, which are freely eaten and drunk by the members.

If she should not drink liquor, however much pressed, she is seated on an earthen pot with her tongue stretched out, and the worshippers pour liquor over the tongue, so that it falls from her body into the pot on which she sits, and about a tea-spoon is drunk by the worshippers, and the rest mixed with the other liquor in the pot. Dubois says, in the meetings which they hold, all castes are invited, without excepting even the Parwari. Not only are all distinctions abolished and the Parwari is as welcome as the Brahman, but they call themselves vris, heroes, and those that do not join them, pashus, beasts. They hold the patra, skull, says Dr. Wilson, on the ends of the three fingers of the left hand, viz;– the thumb, the little finger, and the one next to the thumb, closing the two other fingers. The woman is then liberally rewarded and dismissed.

The other ceremony performed on the admission of a new member is nearly the same. On the first night only the worship, by repeating verses in honour of Bhavani, is performed, and the flesh, fish, and sweetmeats are eaten and liquor drunk. But on the second night, women corresponding to the number of members present on the previous night, are brought. These women may be of any caste, from the Brahman down to the Mang, Dhed, and Musalman. But it is necessary that one at least of them should be a Brahman. These women are seated on a mat, within a quartz drawing, side by side, and opposite them the worshippers sit each with a cocoanut shell in his hand. The chief among them, who is always well versed in the incantations, offers the several goddesses beef, fish, sweetmeats, and liquor, and then collecting the remains of the food and mixing them with more, he puts it in a human skull. It is then well stirred and each one, calling on the goddess Ai Bhavani! takes a sip of it.

Then the whole night is spent in debauchery, the men exchanging the women and the women the men, and at the same time eating and drinking to excess. Dubois says “the least detestable of the sacrifices made to the Saktas are those in which the votaries content themselves with eating and drinking of everything without regard to the usage of the country; and where men and women, huddled promiscuously together, shamelessly violate the sacred laws of decency and modesty.” Then, again, he adds, “In some varieties of these mysteries of iniquity, the conspicuous objects of the sacrifice to the Saktis are a large vase filled with arak and a young girl, quite naked, placed in the most shameful attitude. He who sacrifices calls upon the Sakti, who is supposed, by this avocation, to come and take up her residence in those two objects.

After the offering has been made of all that was prepared for the festival, Brahmans, Sudras, Pariahs, men and women, swill the arak which was the offering to the Saktis, regardless of the same glass being used by them all, which, in ordinary cases, would excite abhorrence. Here it is a virtuous act to participate in the same morsel, and to receive from each other’s mouths the half-gnawed flesh. The fanatical impulse drives them to excesses which modesty will not permit to be named. It cannot well be doubted that these enthusiasts endeavour, by their infamous sacrifices, to cover with the veil of religion the two ruling passions – lust and the love of intoxicating liquor. It is also certain that the Brahmans, and particularly certain women of the caste, are the directors of these horrible mysteries of iniquity. (Description of the People of India, 1817, pp. 171, 172. See also Ward’s Mythology, Vol. 1. p. 247.)


Some of these unfortunate sufferers were once trusted servants and good stewards in respectable Hindu and other families. They are other miserable creatures covered with loathsome diseases, whom one feels both pity and repugnance to look at, may be seen perambulating our streets in large numbers, especially in Khetwadi, or standing at the doors of houses clamouring for alms. None of these beggars penetrate the native town, yet they are not prevented from loitering or wandering about in the public streets or lying down by the roadside.


Waghari dancing beggars are either boys or girls from Gujarat, both dressed alike in a long red flowing coat and a cap of the same colour, and to their ankles are tied strings of bells. These youngsters are accompanied by their parents, who play upon a musical one-stringed instrument. These small beggars both dance and sing after the fashion of dancing girls. The person standing behind them may be either a man or a woman; sometimes both attend; they both play and sing along with the dancer. A pice or a handful of grain or old clothes satisfies them.


Men, women, and children exhibit their skill in balancing on the rope. It is hardly possible for one who has not seen them to form any conception of the agility, distortion of limb and pliability of body of these people. They represent almost all kinds of animals, in doing which several bodies are so interlaced that the different individuals can scarcely be distinguished. They all perform feats of strength, and one man will bear on his shoulders six others standing two and two above each other. We quote the following:–

A pole is raised to the height of about 25 feet, topped by a slender spindle, capped by a small brass ball. A yard is tied across the pole. About three feet below the yard-arm hangs a bamboo bent into the shape of a crescent. A woman ascends the pole by one of its corded stays, as easily as by a ladder, fixes the ball into a brass socket inserted within her girdle and then extending herself along upon her belly, with legs and arms spread out, she turns round with a considerable degree of celerity. She then descends to the crescent and descends from it, first by one hand, then by the bend of one knee, and lastly by one foot only, her head downwards, and her arm and other spread abroad, swinging all the while, till she catches the bow with other foot, and then so high as again to recover her hold of the crescent (by bending up her body at the same time,) with both hands.

A man balances a pole about sixteen feet long, the bottom of which is fixed into a thick linen sash or girdle. Another man gets upon his back and from thence runs up the pole, his hands aiding his feet with the nimbleness of a squirrel. He then proceeds, first to extend himself on the pole upon his belly, and then upon his back, his arms, and legs both times spread out. Next he flings himself out horizontally from the pole, which is all the time balanced upon the girdle, holding only by his arms. This attitude is called by the tumblers the flag. Thirdly, he stands upon his head on the top of the pole, holding the pole below the summit with his hands. Finally he throws himself backwards from the last position, down the pole, holding by his hands, then turns over again holding by his feet, and thus over and over, till he lights upon the ground. He hangs also from the bend of one knee, with his head downwards.

A woman stands upright, and stride, upon a man’s shoulders. Another girl is placed with her head downwards, upon the head of the same man, and her legs crossed between the arms of the woman, the man dances with both of them, in that attitude, for a minute or two.

Three girls stand upright upon a man’s shoulders whilst he dances round the room; one stands astride over his head, the other two, with each a foot upon shoulders and their other feet upon his arms stretched out to support them.

A man places upon his head two pieces of wood, like double headed shot, each a foot in length, one over the other; upon the highest piece he places a brash; dish upon the dish four wooden pillars, each about five inches in height, upon the pillars a small plank; upon the plank stands a girl upright; with all this apparatus, in due balance he dances three or four times round the room.

A wooden fork is produced with a handle about five feet long; a girl is lad upon her back between the fork, with her head and heels depending on either side of it; the main raises and balances the fork in one hand then tosses the girl up into the air, flings down the fork and catches the girl in his arms.

A man places the point of a lance upon his breast, upon his chin and upon his forehead, and there balances it for some time.

A man spins a peg top, then he takes it up, and places it spinning at the end of a thin bamboo lath, bent in the form of a bow, which he balances all the while.

A man puts five or six wooden birds on a small wooden tree, which he balances upon his forehead, and then knocks the bird off the branches one by one with pellets, shot through a small wooden tube from his mouth.

One of the man balanced three camp bedsteads, piled upon each other, by a leg of one of them placed upon his chin. He then balances a very heavy broad sword, by the point, upon his chin. He next places a straw on his nose, in the open air, balanced it first there, and then on a very little bit of stick in his mouth, removing it several times from one place to the other.

He lastly puts a thin tile upon his nose and tossing up a pebble caught it upon the tile, which was shivered in pieces by the stroke.

One man stands up right first upon anothers shoulders, and then upon his head.


A man thrusts a flat piece of iron, about an inch and a half broad, and one eighth of an inch thick, down the throat, into his stomach that it went into the thorax. For the sake of rendering this fete more surprising, the iron is shaped like a sword and both the edges and point are all rounded off.

A man takes a small brass pan, and twirls in round upon the end of a short-pointed stick then tosses it high in the air, catches it again, in any part upon the point of the stick, still continuing to twirl it round, he then ties another stick to the first, and a third to the second, each tie forming a kind of circular hinge, then rests the bottom stick upon his nose or chin, each stick moving round upon its joint and the pan still twirling round its centre on the top of all, the whole keeping in equilibrio.

Four, and sometimes six according the skill of the performer, light brass balls are tossed into the air; first straight up from his hands, then either behind his back, under his arms, or between his legs so as to return again over his head; they are struck next in different forms from one hand to the other sometimes with his elbow and sometimes with his knees, in wonderful order and facility. He moreover keeps up four balls continually in the air, tossing them round his back, hitting them with his elbows, his wrists, and his hands, and throwing them in various forms, he also tossed up one ball, and caught it in the hollow of his arm.

In like manner he throws up four daggers, in a variety of shapes, catching them all as they descended by their handles.

To both ends of a flat board about three inches wide and three feet long, are fixed a couple of other pieces of flat board of the same breadth and about three inches high, through holes in these end pieces are string two pack threads much in the same manner as strings to a fiddle. Three balls are placed upon the two strings; a man then takes this instrument holding it up at an angle of about forty-five degrees, and turning round quickly the balls rise one by one, or all together from the lower to the upper end of it, or to the middle part only, as he chooses to manage it.

A man takes three flutes of different tones applying to two to his nostrils, and one to his mouth, and blows them at one time; one of the flutes from his nostrils has three curvatures, at the extremity of those curvatures he holds a single handed fife which thus receiving his breath, he plays upon it with his vacant hand.

A ring is moulded up in clay and put into a hole eighteen inches deep; filled up with water, a girl bends back her head in to the water and brings the ring out the mud in her mouth. The same girl puts into her mouth a number of beads as also one end of a horse hair, then placing her hands behind her, she strings the beads on the horse hair with her mouth alone.

A cap with a broad stiff rim, is fitted to a man’s head to which are tied about twenty strings terminated each by small nooses, in his left hand is held a small basket or brass pan containing twenty eggs, then turning round with a quick bent regular motion he fastens successively, with his right hand, an egg into each of the nooses, still turning round. When they are all fastened he accelerates his rotation till the egg circulates swiftly; after this, he rather slackens his motion, unties the egg, one by one, and returns them to the basket and stops, the strings measure from three to four feet, they are of unequal lengths, lest the eggs should accidentally clash. To put the twenty eggs into the nooses takes up as many minutes but they are taken out in less than three.

Two men throw spears at each other, at about fifteen feet distance, as forcibly as they can; one wards off his adversary’s dart by another which he carries upright in both hands, the other receives his opponents, javelin, every through, under one of his arms.

Four person held slightly a linen cloth stretched out; the same man run over it so lightly as not to force it our of the holder’s hands.

Another got upon stilts, fourteen or fifteen feet high and walked about, and gave several jumps backwards and forwards on them.

Two sabres being placed parallel upon the ground, with their edges upwards, a man ran over their edges so lightly as not to cut himself.

The same man stepped over upon the point of a sword fixed upright. He then jumped through a barrel; held horizontally about five feet high.

Four daggers and two swords are placed in a loose frame, and he jumps through the whole without being cut.

A sword and four daggers are placed upon the ground, their edges and points upwards no further distant from each other than will admit the breadth of a man’s head, a man then fits his cimiter upright, sets down behind it and at a bound throws himself over the cimeter pitches his head exactly in the space between the daggers and turns over clear of them.

A boy fixes a cimiter upright before him, with a bit of rag upon its point; he sits down and bounding over the cimeter strikes off the rag with the tip of his nose.

The same boy running pitches a single stilt, of about ten feet in length, and rises on it upon a step fashioned about half way up the stilt; then hops and jumps about balancing the stilt the whole time.

Another, seizing with his teeth the end of a cord, tied round the middle of a very heavy log of wood, nearly six feet long, raised up the leg with his teeth, and cast it over his head.


A common rope is stretched upon two pairs of crossed spars, about twenty feet distant, and fourteen feet from the ground. A man piles six water pots upon his head accoutred, ascends the rope by means of the spars or of the sloping cord on the outside of them, the rope is not quite tight but left with a stack, with a balance pole in his hand, walks backwards and forwards, and swings the rope to its extent without letting a single pot fall.

The same person mounts again upon the rope, with his left foot in slipper and the other in a flat brass pan about one-third of which is cut off. Thus incommodiously shod he moves along the rope; first shoving the slippered foot onwards and then sliding the pan by means of the rim, and aid of his right foot, close along the left heel, ankle and slipper, till the right foot gets foremost, and so alternately onwards, till the feat be completed.

To conclude he fixes crooked stilts upon his legs, made of buffalo horn, bent inwardly nearly six inches; these incumbrances are no impediments, however; to his walking on the ground, climbing up the spars, nor to his proceeding backward and forward upon the rope with his wanted agility.

A man figures upon the rope on his knees, and with a cimeter in his hand by way of balance. I conceive proceeds from one end of it to the other. The brass-pan is again placed upon the rope, the above person places his head upon it and casts his heels, into the air; first behind his head the rope is crossed by a bamboo, either end of which is held with strings by assistants, in order to keep it even; he then shoves the pan forward on the rope with his head; and draws the cross bamboo after it with his hands, repeating the same till he reaches the other end.


One man puts his feet over another’s shoulders. His head downwards between his knees, and his hands upon his legs; the other man over him, and thus becomes himself in the position of the first, thus they continue throwing each other alternately over, for five or six times.

All the tumblers cut summersets from the bare ground with as much seeming facility, and apparent ease, as the vaulters on a theatre.

The same people, women as well as men, perform likewise all the usual feats of tumblers, such as walking upon their hands, turning over like a wheel, and bending their bodies back, till their hands appear reversed between their feet, their chins resting upon the ground.

Three women lie down upon the floor; they throw their arms, take hold of their heels with their hands, and in that posture roll over and over several times.

A girl takes a sabre in her two hands, and then throws her hands, thus joined round and round her head without cutting herself.

A man ascends upon a yard crossed upon a pole, about twenty-five feet from the ground. The earth under him is a little loosened; he first descends from the yard by his feet, and drops upon the loosened earth, without being hurt by the fall.

A boy sits down, and places his head on another’s legs, who stands upright, taking hold of the legs of the first, they then roll over and over on the ground dozen times or more like a ball, with their faces downward.

They all cut summersets three or four times running, either backwards or forwards or side ways upon the bare ground.

The most active man of the set cuts a summerset twice in the air from one bound, in a manner exceedingly surprising.

The same person stands upon a board, about eighteen inches square, and cuts a summerset backwards, his feet lighting upon the same board. The board is then placed upon the summit of a pole raised about twenty-five feet high, the same man gets upon the board and cuts a summerset upon it in the same manner as when he was upon the ground, two sticks, however are tied to the top of the pole for him to catch at, should his feet happen to miss the board. Lastly, a plank of about five feet long, in placed sloping on the ground, at an angle of about forty-five degrees close to the plank is placed, first a very tall elephant, two of the men run at full speed up the spring board, and vaulted a summerset clear over the elephants back; five camels were then placed abreast, over which they vaulted in like manner. They also leap and turn in a similar way, over the point of a sword held by a tall man, as high as he can extend it.

A girl places a sword in her mouth, two in her hands and five in the form of raddle with their edges upwards on the ground; after tumbling in sundry postures. She rests her head backwards upon a turban as a centre and thus moves her feet round the circumference of the five swords, without touching them.

With a sword in her mouth, and another in one hand she lays hold of one of her feet with the remaining hand, then brings her foot round her back and over her head, without touching the sabres.

She fixes a sword in the ground, with the point upwards and covered with a small rag of cloth, then bending backwards, she first takes off the cloth with her mouth and afterwards with her eyelid.

Five cimiters fixed upright in the ground, the girl is placed horizontally upon them, and then lies along for a considerable time, thick clothes are wound over the point of the swords to prevent their penetrating through her clothes.

Three of the men throw themselves through the arms of ten pairs of men whose extended arms form a long kind of hoop.

The old fellow at the head of these tumblers though past his grand climacteric deemed it expedient after springing over an enormous elephant, and then over five camels abreast to apologize for his inability; lamenting with a sigh, that there was a time, when in the presence of Nadirshah, he could vault indeed. But now, alas, age and infirmity (having since broke a leg and an arm) and nearly incapacitated him, which reminds me of an anecdote of Marshal Saxe, made his excuses to the lady for imbecility on account of sickness.


A man plays very curiously upon four stones, or marbles, each about seven feet, inch and a half broad, and as much thick, flattened, but with a little curvature on the lower or under side, but rounded off to an edge on the upper part. Holding two of these between each of his four fingers and thumbs, something in the manner in which castanets are held; he accompanied the music of a guitar, violin, and drum, in a surprising manner. The under side of the stones being a little inflated only the ends of every pair hit against each other, sometimes with a clacking noise, but when quickened to their utmost with a quivering far more tremulous and accelerated than the vibration of castanets, or the roll of a drum. And this shake or trill he executed with no apparent labour or motion of his hands or finger, but all by the exertion of the muscle of his arms, brought to perfection by long continued practice.


Gosavis or Passion Lords, include Bairagis or hermits. Most members of their order or school of brotherhood belong to Upper India. They are recruited from all classes of Hindus and are divided into classes, regular Gosavis and secular Gosavis. The regular Gosavis are a class of wandring beggars who make pilgrimages to all sacred places in India and are not allowed to marry on pain of expulsion; the secular Gosavis can marry. They are again divided into Giri, Puri, Bharti, Van, Aranya, Sarasvati, Tirth, Ashram, Sagar and Parvat. When a man wishes to become a Gosavi, he fasts the day before the initiation. Next morning a barber shaves his whole head, bathes him and smears his whole body with ashes. His Guru blows into his ears and says ‘Om Soham’ that is, ‘I am he,’ meaning that the soul and the universe are one and he becomes a Gosavi and gives him molasses to sweeten his mouth, and salt that he may prove true to his faith.

He is clothed in a red ochre dress and molasses are handed among guests, neighbours, and acquaintances as a sign of joy. A feast is held and the new disciple cooks and serves some dishes. After dinner the sacrificial fire or bij-hom is lit and the novice is a complete Gosavi. The chelas are either voluntary converts, or they are children who have been given by their parents in fulfilment of a vow, bought by them or given away. They are usually low caste Hindus who have left their regular community or been excommunicated. They admit members of both sexes and of any caste. The women who join them are generally prostitutes whose youth has passed or who have run away from their husbands. When a woman joins the order, she marries one of the men, the chief ceremony being the exchange of a necklace by the bride and bridegroom. After marriage she wanders about with her husband. Of the children some of the girls become prostitutes and others marry boys belonging to the order.

The chief observances of the Gosavis are to live in celibacy, to feed the hungry, to earn their living by begging and to visit holy places. On entering the brotherhood the novice becomes free from caste rules. He removes the thread or silk girdle which is worn by all Hindus and to which when worn the langoti or loincloth is fastened, and in its place, he puts a piece of cloth. For a time a novice is free to withdraw, but after the time of grace is ended, he takes a solemn oath which cannot be recalled. The Gosavis are either Shaivas or Vaishnvas and strict vegetarians. Though at the initiation they take a vow of poverty and celibacy most of them are traders, money-lenders, soldiers and a few inam or rent-free landholders. They formerly wandered in armed bands, waged war with Bairagis or Vaishnav Gosavis and plundered the country they passes through. Some marry and some keep mistresses. Those who live a single life are generally attended by a disciple who is their heir and successor.

They practise such austerities as sitting in the sun surrounded by fire, exposing themselves to pinching cold, standing for a long period on one leg and holding one or both their hands over their head. They are generally emaciated and given to smoking hemp flower and opium and drinking hemp water and country liquor. They rub ashes over their bodies and wear the hair dishevelled and sometimes curled round the head. They wander about begging and visiting places of pilgrimage. They eat of the hands of all. They beg from door to door and some sing and play on a lyre while begging. Formerly they took service as soldiers and had good name for bravery and loyalty. In 1789 Mahadaji Sindia enlisted large numbers of these people, formed them into a distinct body and placed them under the command of Himat Bahadur who was both their captain and religious teacher. Some are retail sellers of perfumes, fragrant ointments and asafoetida. Others are rich, dealing in pearls, cloth, shawls, musk, and jewellery; owning land, lending money, and trading on a large scale in grain. They bury the dead dressing the body in an ochre coloured cloth and burying it sitting with a quantity of salt, and on the head bel leaves if the dead was a Shaiva or tulsi leaves if a Vaishnav. They never mourn the dead.

In Poona they live in Gosavipura, a street called after them where they own indeed large mansions which they call maths or religious houses. They are beggars merely in name, many of them being traders and a few bankers. They recruit freely from all castes. They admit their children from their mistresses and children vowed to be Gosavis. They are divided into gharbari or house holders and nishprahis or celebrates who eat together. Most of them are celebates in name and many of them have mistresses. Formerly they used to travel in armed bands pretending to seek charity but really to levy contributions, and when they were unsuccessfully resisted, they plundered and committed great enormities. Under the Peshwas, they were great jewellers and shawl merchants and traded in varieties. In 1832, Jacquemont described them as bankers and traders, all with a religious character. Though vowed to celibacy they were known to have zenanas where their children were killed at their birth. They had most of the riches of Poona in their hands.

In Bombay, Gosavis and Bairagis are usually without any fixed habitation, living in dharmasalas, or on the banks of tanks attached to Hindu temples. At particular seasons there is a great influx of wandering beggars, who doubtless find it profitable to take Bombay on their way to Haridwar, Rameswar, Dwarka, Jagannath, and other places of pilgrimage. Many of these have entered the British army. They make excellent hamals or palanquin-bearers, a considerable number of them being in the service of Europeans. They are degraded idolators being regarded as outside the pale of Hinduism, and are not allowed to pass the threshold of the temples. These beggars, even at this moment, are greatly feared, and it is seldom that one leaves a Hindu house without receiving alms.

Varthema makes mention of Jogi fights. The Jogi king (1450–1510) went about every three or four years with three or four thousand of his followers carrying a little horn suspended from their necks, and which they blew when demanding alms. They also carried an iron-ring or chakra, which they hurled from a string at any person they wished to hurt, and hence whenever they arrived at a city every one tried to give them more than his neighbour. When Varthema came across the Jogi the second time, he had with him three thousand followers. They slew two Portuguese with the chakra, and are said to have ‘ran upon them and cut open the veins of their throats, and with their hands they drank their blood.’ Niebuhr says, the Gosavis travel about armed and in troops of several thousands. Forbes, in his Memoirs, says, the Gosavis march in large bodies and levy heavy contributions. They are sometimes hired as auxiliaries being an athletic race, brave, and hardy, seldom encumbered with drapery and often entirely naked. In 1789, Mahadji Sindia, among other changes in the constitution of his army, enlisted large numbers of Gosavis, formed them in a distinct body, and placed them under the charge of Himat Bahadur, who was both their commander and priest.

Some of the Gosavis carry a mendicant’s staff in their hands, and at their initiation are said to inflict a small incision on the inner part of their knee, and present the blood as an offering to Shiva. They call themselves Brahmans and are notorious as sturdy beggars.


Waghyas are children of Marathas, Dhangars, and Mahars, whose parents have vowed them to the service of the god Khandoba. Both boys and girls are devoted as Waghyas; only girls become Murlis. Waghya girls and boys can marry; a Murli cannot marry as she is Khandoba’s bridge. Waghyas generally marry into their father’s caste, but there is no objection to the intermarriage of a Waghya boy and a Waghya girl. Their children are Waghyas and marry with their father’s caste. The child is always dedicated in Khandoba’s temple at Jejuri in Poona on any day in the month of Chaitra. When parents have to dedicate a boy to Khandoba, they go to Jejuri, stay at Gurav’s house, and tell him the object of their visit. The boys father buys turmeric, dry cocoa kernel, a cocoanut, some milk, curds, honey, sugar, a flower garland and nosegay, some sandal paste and a turban and sash. Then taking the boy, the Gurav, Waghyas, and Murlis go in procession with music to Khandoba’s temple.

At the temple the Gurav bathes and worships the God, offering him the turban and sash and about a rupee or two in cash. He then marks the boy’s brow with turmeric, throws turmeric over his head, fastens round his neck a deer or tiger skin wallet hung from a black woollen string and thrice throws turmeric and dry cocoa kernel over the God, twice repeating the word ‘Elkot ghe’ that is ‘O Elkot take.’ All who are present in turn throw turmeric on the God and the ceremony is over. The Gurav is paid about five rupees as his fee and about a rupee and quarter as the price of the wallet and each of the Waghya and Murli guests is presented with a copper. When the parents return home, cooked food is offered to the house Khandoba and a feast is held costing about five to ten rupees the hundred guests. Waghyas are considered Khandoba’s disciples, and Marathas and other middle and low caste Hindus bow down to them. They have to go to Jejuri once every three years. They beg loitering the streets ringing small bells in their left hand, singing and rubbing turmeric on the brows of passers by with their right hand.

In Dharwad when a man in pursuance of a vow wishes to become a Waghya he goes and tells his wish to the chief worshipper of the god Malhar. The worshipper invests him with the dress of a Waghya, takes him before the god Malhar and gives him bhandar or turmeric powder. From that day the devotee is called a Waghya, barks at people like a dog and begs for alms. The Dharwad Waghya can be known by his dress. He wears a blanket, a loincloth, and a head scarf. He ties one or two bells and pieces of tiger and bear skin round his waist and hangs from one of his shoulders a deer bag to hold bhandar. They give the powder to the people they meet and in return ask for money. They wear cowry-shell necklaces and hold in their hands a brass or wooden bowl to receive alms. The main calling of these Waghyas is to bark like dogs at all who come on pilgrimage to the shrine of the god Malhar and to beg for alms. Brahmans who in the fulfilment of a vow become Waghyas dress like other Waghyas, but do not bark in public, and when the term of their vow is over they doff the Waghya dress and go home. Except Brahman Waghyas all have some special Waghya ceremonies.

On the bright tenth of Ashvin a great festival with thousands of pilgrims is held in honour of the god Malhar at Gudguddapur. On these occasions the Waghyas calling themselves horsemen come to the temple trotting, jumping, and running like horses with large whips in their hands. Each gives himself several smart cuts with his whip at each cut calling Malhari’s name and through the power of his name feeling no pain. On the same day some of the Waghyas take a long iron chain, fasten one end to a post in the temple, and the other end round their own neck, and giving a violent jerk snap the chain by the might of Malhar.

In Gudguddapur five families of Holaya Waghyas have a round bar of solid iron about four feet long and one-third of an inch thick. One end of the bar is beaten flat till it is about an inch broad and is made very sharp. A member of the officiating family for the families take the duty in turn, forces the sharp point of the bar into one of his calves and draws the bar through the hole. He next forces into the wound a round wooden peg about nine inches long and three quarters of an inch thick and draws it through to the other side. He binds the wound with a little bhandar or turmeric powder, and pierces his left palm near the wrist with an iron needle about a tenth of an inch thick and a foot long. The point of the needle is passed about two inches through the back of the hand. To the upper end of the needle a cross bar is fastened, and in the cross bar five upright bars are set.

Each of the uprights is wrapped in a piece of cloth dipped in oil, and lighted, and the Waghya standing at the entrance of Malhari’s temple waves the five lights round the god. When the waving is over he falls before the god, pulls the needle from his left hand, and says that, through the might of Malhar, he feels no pain. These ceremonies are performed three times a year, on the bright tenth of Ashvin, on the dark ninth of the same month or about a fortnight later, and on the Magh full-moon. On the dark ninth of Ashvin the god is taken to a post at some distance from the temple, on a brass or wooden horse, with lighted torches, and drums and horns. Thousands follow the god throwing at him plantains, flowers, and dates, and Waghyas surround him barking at the top of their voice.

On all the three festivals hundreds of women, especially of the lower class, go to the temple to fulfill their vows. They bring a Chanchi or many-roomed wallet with betelnuts, leaves, cardamoms, lime, and catechu and tell the Pujari or chief worshipper that they have vowed to offer the bag and its contents to the god and that they wish to fulfill their vow. The ministrant demands from each a fee of eight annas, and after receiving the fee, takes each of them one after the other into the idol’s room and seats her on Malhari’s cot. The woman offers the bag and its contents to Malhar, falls before him, and comes out. As this vow is a breach of the Hindu rule that a woman must give betel to no one but her husband, strict women think it disgraceful and never make it.