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.



Murlis, literary Flutes, as if instruments on which the gods may play. Many of them are pleasant looking and some of them handsome. They keep Waghyas in their houses to dance, to take care of them and as servants. They wear flowing robes and a tight fitting bodice; they mark their brows with red and turmeric wpoder and wear gold and silver ornaments. Their special ornament is a necklace of nine cowry shells. They are prostitutes and beggars, singing songs and dancing and playing on bells or ghols in their hands. They generally go with two or three Waghyas who beat drums or dafris. The Waghyas dance and if the Murli is clever and good looking, the entertainment is popular, otherwise Waghyas get very little. The Murli sings songs in praise of her god and ballads or lavnis for the entertainment of pleasure seekers. While singing, she suddenly seats herself on the lap of one the listeners, kisses him, and will not go till she is paid in silver.

Murlis like Waghyas are generally children whose parents have vowed them to Khandoba’s service. Others are married women who leave their husbands and even their children, saying they have made a vow to Khandoba, or who are warned in a dream that they should be the brides of Khandoba, not men. Middle and low class Hindus respect and bow before the true Murli who was wedded to the god as a girl; they look down on women who leave their husbands and children to play the Murli. Girls whose parents have vowed them to Khandoba are married to the god between one and twelve and always before they come of age. When she is to be married to Khandoba her parents take the girl to Jejuri some time in Chaitra. They bring turmeric, dry cocoa kernel, flower garlands, nosegays, a robe and bodice, a sash, turban, milk, curds, sugar, butter, honey and flowers, and with a Gurav priest and a band of Waghyas and Murlis and musicians go to the temple.

At the temple the girl is bathed, the god is rubbed with turmeric, and the rest of the turmeric is rubbed on the girl. The girl is dressed in the new robe and bodice, green glass bangles, are put round her wrists, and flower marriage ornaments or mundavalis are tied to her brow. The God is worshipped, the turban and sash are presented to him, and the Gurav taking in his hands a necklace or gatha of nine cowry shells, fastens it round the girls neck. This is called the gatha phodue of breaking cowry necklace and the Gurav is paid a rupee and a quarter as the price of the necklace. The girl is made to stand to the left of the god and the guests throw turmeric over the god-bridegroom and the bride calling out twice ELkot ghe, Elkot ghe, meaning Elkot take, Elkot take. Her parents give the Gurav who acts as priest five Rupees and each Waghya and Murli who is present receives a copper. The bride and her parents retire and at their house give a feast to Murlis and Waghyas.

When a Murli comes of age she sits for herself for four days, and looks for a patron, generally a low caste Hindu. When she succeeds in finding a patron she calls a meeting of her brethren the Waghyas and in their presence the patrons says, I will fill the Murlis lap, hichi oi mi bharin. The Waghya asks him what he will pay, and after some haggling, a sum of Rupees twenty-five to one hundred is fixed. If the sum is fifty Rupees or over, half the money goes to the Waghya-Murli community, who spend it in caste vessels and in feasts. With the balance the girl buys a robe and bodice for herself and bedding. She sets up a bamboo frame, puts green bangles on her wrists, and dressing in the new clothes sits in the frame and has her lap filled by Murlis, or if there are no Murlis, by married women. She is taken to the village Maruti with Murlis, Waghyas, and music, and presents the god with a copper, and a betel packet, returns home and feasts her caste fellows.

She lives with her patron fifteen days to a month, and afterwards if he wishes to keep her, he settles with her at eight Rupees or so a month. Or even for a few annas or so she will without the least shame take up quarters with any one not excepting a Musalman. The standard of morality among them, even in Jejuri, is very low indeed, so much so that a gentleman visiting Jejuri with his servants, has either to stay outside the place for the night with his servants, or to accommodate them in his own house, to keep them from mischief at the hands of these women. The males of these people marry the daughters of Murlis but the Murlis themselves cannot marry, they being the wedded wives of their god. “That a Murli should be a woman of abandoned character is understood to be a matter of course, even more than that a Kasbin should be so.” The term Murli is applied by the natives to a loose and flirting woman. The life of these Murlis is “openly a life of prostitution, prostitution under the supposed sanction of religion.” And a majority of diseased and hideous-looking Kasbins in Bombay are the Murlis of Jejuri and other such places.


Korvaru are a wild-looking Karnatik people whose women, called Karvanjis, rather than the men, are fortune-tellers. They are occasionally met with in Bombay, begging, telling fortunes and playing music. They travel from place to place, and speak a language peculiar to themselves. Their women, rising early in the morning, partake of the food begged the previous day. The husband cannot join his wife uncalled, as he is supposed to obtain his own food. Dressed in rags, she sallies forth at about eight in the morning, and tying her young ones on her back or chest, and with a basket on her head, she takes her stand in front of the house-door, begging for alms.

She does not offer to tell fortunes unless asked, but when questioned whether she knows fortune-telling, she readily answers in the affirmative. She puts down her basket and sits by it on the ground. Bringing a handful of grain or a piece, the householder gives it to the beggar and sits before her. The beggar takes his right hand in hers, opens it, and after examining it for some time, tells him the number of trials and difficulties he has had since birth, his present circumstances, his future luck, whether his wife is dead or alive, the number of children he already has or is to have, and other particulars. Only one must be prepared to ask questions, the beggar being always ready with her answers, and to the satisfaction of the questioner.


Kaolonganis pretend to know everything about futurity, what awaits mankind, what is to become of this world, and when there will be a deluge. They are on rare occasions met with in Bombay. They go about in bands of three, four or five. They have a leader who holds a book in his hands and recites verses; his followers also carry books and repeat verses after their leader, more from memory than from the books, and beat drums and other musical instruments to attract people’s attention and obtain grain, money, or other presents. Any one wishing to hear them sing, as they are supposed to be very good singers, calls them, and after hearing them for some time, pays them from a couple of annas to as many rupees.


Budlendes resemble the Joshis, they are fortune-tellers, and go about begging with a rattle in their hands, uttering something to the following effect:– ‘A fortnight hence wilt thou hear of prosperity, and in a palanquin wilt thou sit within a couple of month. But unfortunately a danger awaits thee. Thus did the morning bird Halaki whisper in my ear. Do thou therefore try to avert the danger, shouldst thou not do so in time, great loss will ensue. It is not a great thing to do, only an old waistcloth, and all will end ell.’ Thus does the Joshi go on repeating, keeping the rattle all the while at work. This is a very boisterous beggar, shrewd and designing.


(A large portion of this account is translated from the Prakrit Dictionary of Modern Bharatkhand, Poona, 1881, and here and there extracts are made from Mackintosh’s Blackclothed Mendicant Devotees, Madras Jour. of Scien. and Lit. for 1836.) The founder of this Manbhava sect for Krishnambhat Joshi, a worshipper of Vetal. Vetal pleased with his devotion asked Krishnambhat what his desire was and it should be satisfied. Krishnambhat said that as his name was Krishna, he would like to be transformed into the god of that name in outward appearance. Vetal was sorry at the request, but since he had promised he could not refuse, and therefore presented him with a crown, adding that when he put it on, he would look like the god Krishna. Vetal however advised him not to make a bad use of the gift, and to wear it only on proper occasions and for charitable purposes, and that any bad use made of it would ruin him and send him to perdition.

Having got the crown, he made over charge of his office and vatan to his relatives, and taking advantage of the gift, went on from house to house visiting and enticing away married women and grown-up girls. The fame of Krishna’s re-appearance having spread far and wide, brought many a woman to Krishnambhat’s arms, and he enjoyed them to the full extent of his depraved heart. When his fame was at its highest pitch it reached the ears of Hemadpant, minister to the raja of Devagiri, who tried to ascertain the cause of Krishna’s re-appearance. He propitiated his tutelary god Ganesa, who revealed to him the secret. Hemadapant, vexed at Krishnambhat’s wicked conduct, sent a confidential person, charged to spare no pains to induce Krishnambhat to accompany him to Paithan.

The clerk thus sent pretended to be a great believer in Krishnambhat, prostrated himself before him, and prayed that he would be graciously pleased to accompany him to his village, as the men and women were anxious to worship him and to place themselves at his service, that the women had given up tasting food until they saw his handsome and comely appearance. Flattered by the speech of the clerk, he accompanied him, little knowing the destruction that awaited him. Conducting him to a seat in Hemadpant’s house, Hemadpant, in accordance with the customs of the country, asked Krishnambhat to bathe, as the dinner was ready. The god of course would not do so, as he would require to remove his crown, but Hemadpant, persisting and showering abuse on him, made a sign to one of the bystanders, who took the crown off his head, and the would-be god stood in his original form. He was at once made a prisoner, along with his followers, their heads shaved, and as a mark of dishonour, they were given black clothes to wear and ultimately banished.

The Manbhavas however deny this, and say that they are the followers of Balarama, Krishna’s brother, and that the colour of the clothes which Balarama wore was black. On this plea they say that black clothes were not formerly regarded as a sign of dishonour by all, and hence their sect has not sprung from wickedness, but is as pure as any other. The name of the sect is derived from maha and anubhava, or men of great knowledge. The sect is said to have come into existence about the year 1125 Saka, when Hemadpant was minister to Ramchandra of Devagiri. If this be true (see Ind. Ant. Vol. VI, p. 366) the sect was formed about 650 years ago, that is, it originated about 75 years before Dayanesvara. Their head is called a Mahant, and their head-quarters is in the Berar provinces. They have five monasteries,– Narmath, Narayanamath, Reshimath, Pravaramath and Prakasamath. Subordinate to these are others.

Under each Mahant are a number of disciples, and a successor is appointed to him from amongst the disciples by votes. A Mahant has insignia of honour and state, a palanquin, seal, chaoris, and peacock-feather fly-flap. Manbhavas do not teach their religious doctrines to others than their own disciples. Their sacred books are written in a peculiar alphabet, and this, like their doctrines, they do not teacher to strangers. Capt. Mackintosh says they think it necessary that each and every member should be taught to read at least the Commentaries on the Bhagavat Gita. Their sacred books are the Bhagavat Gita, Limnidhi, Lilamrita-Sindhu (Sanskrit). Rukhminisvayamvara, Ballila, Gopivilas, and other Marathi books in verse. Some the Manbhavas assuming the name of Sopan, Nivruti, Dnyanoba and Muktabai have written abhangs, or verses describing and praising the light caused by the closing of the nose, the ears, and the eyes.

The founder of the sect is held in great respect and worshipped as the true incarnation of Vishnu. They worship also Dattatraya. The Krishnacharitramrita, written by him, is held in the highest esteem. They abhor the rough stone or timber blocks besmeared with red paint and stuck up in fields or under trees, and if they know that there is one in the road they are travelling they will make a circuit to avoid it. They consider it meritorious to make converts to their faith, but they exercise a very considerable degree of caution in guarding against persons of improper character being admitted to their society. They are always anxious to avoid giving the least umbrage to the relatives and friends of a candidate. Margasirsha is their sacred month, and Krishnajanmashtmi and Gokalashtami are their festivals. They are considered by Brahmans as most degraded and heretical. At meals, food is served out only once, and before sitting to dine they loudly repeat Krishna’s name and then eat.

The secular class among them marry and do not shave the head. A man wishing to marry, places his bag on that of the woman’s he loves, and if she does not remove it, her consent is understood as obtained and the marriage settled. After this the man and woman lie on separate beds, and the man repeating, Shri Krishnacha galbadgunda ala, meaning ‘Krishna’s confusion is come,’ the woman answers, Khushal evundya, meaning ‘you are welcome,’ when the man and woman roll towards each other, and embracing one another are husband and wife. The Manbhavas bury their dead at some distance from the usual burning ground, heaping round the body a quantity of salt. They perform no funeral ceremonies, observe no mourning, sutak, and perform no shraddh. Cruelty to life they abhor to such an extent that on Dasara holidays, when goats, sheep, and buffaloes are offered, they leave their houses, and live for a couple of days or so in jungles. They never drink water without straining it, and, turning the cloth upside down float it in a running stream to restore the insects to water. They go begging with a wallet in one hand, and a staff in the other. They never take anything not put in their hands nor pluck a fruit from a tree though the owner tells them to do so.

Manbhavs or highly respectables say that the Manbhavs and class of Gorjis formed one brotherhood. At that time a certain Dharmaparayan or ascetic had two disciples named Divakar and Munindra. Munindra took to eating flesh and Bhatacharya a disciple of Diwakar quarrelled and separated; a part of the brotherhood followed Bhatacharya. He ordered his followers to change their ochre or bhagva robes to black and called them Mahanubhavs or men of high mind which use has worn to Manbhavs. The sect of Manbhavs includes a Bairagi or religious celibate, and a married or householding or Gharvasi division. Celibate Manbhavs are both monks and nuns. Married Manbhavs are divided into those who do not keep caste distinctions, and Bhole or nominal Manbhavs who accept the principles of the order so far as they do not interfere with the rules of their caste.

They are recruited from all Hindus except the depressed classes. Among religious or celibate Manbhavs, the monks shave the whole head and face not even allowing the moustache to grow and the nuns also have their heads shaved by a male barber. They live either in monasteries or wander in bands from place to place. They eat no flesh and drink no water in presence of an idol. Both men and women wear black clothes and they are not allowed to use any colour but black. They do not grind corn in case it should cause the loss of insect life. Neither do they bathe regularly. The monks dress is a short waistcloth, a head scarf and a shoulder cloth and the nun’s a robe the end of which they do not pass back between the feet and no bodice. The monks sometimes wear silver armlets and finger rings.

To take no life is one of their chief rules. They are careful to avoid a place where murder has been committed and will not eat food for three days in any place where an accident or a violent death has happened. They generally wander in bands visiting sacred places, receiving into their order grown men, women and children devoted to the Manbhav life by their parents, making converts and begging. Though they reject all Brahmanic and non-Brahmanic gods they keep images of Dattatriya and Krishna in their monasteries and celebrate feasts on the anniversaries of those gods. They have no images of saints and their hatred for all other Brahmanical gods has made them unpopular among Brahmans though they are respected by lower caste Hindus. They profess not to believe in ghosts and spirits. They say that the ailments which others suppose to be caused by spirits they hold to be bodily sickness or plagues sent by God to punish secret sins in this or in a former life.

Both men and women study the revered Bhagwat Gita and the learned among them whether men or women are termed Pandits. These Pandits preach and expound separately to the members who are of their own sex. They have only one Mahant or Pontiff whose seat is at Ridhpur in Berar. The reward which stirs the best of them to strict holy living is the hope of a seat near the throne of God. The sect is recruited from young children who have been devoted by their parents, or have no one to care for them, or have themselves renounced the world and entered the monastery. The mums either begin as children or late in life; young women seldom join. The Monks and the Nuns never live together, and the nuns never serve the monks however high their position may be.

The nuns and the monks travel separately. If a band of nuns meets a band of monks and travels with them they put up at a great distance, generally in a separate village. The women hold a separate service for themselves, visiting the temple at noon, or other fixed hours, when no mean are allowed to attend. Women and men never hold a joint service. On her admission as a sister a woman whether she is a Brahman or a low caste woman by birth, is a disciple and pupil of the nun who whispers the sacred verse or guru Mantra into her ear, and continues her follower so long as the teacher lives. Manbhav nuns attend the funeral both of monks and of nuns. At a monk’s funeral they walk far behind. The body is carried to the grave by nuns seated in a makhar, the monks walking at a distance behind. When they reach the grave the nuns take the body out of the palanquin, strip it of its clothes except a waistcloth, lay it in the grave, cover it with earth and walk away. When the nuns retire the monks who followed at distance come and fill the grave.

DAKOT-JOSHIS wander about the streets early in the morning to raise people. They are astrologers, fortune-tellers and beggars.

BANAMATHIS are beggars and tricksters. They live chiefly on the earnings of their wives, whom they attend as musicians.

JETHIS are beggars and wrestlers.

TAPODHANS are beggars whose austerities and devotion constitute their wealth.

DANGLIS are worshippers of Siva, and beggars.

VOTARIS are Gosavis, who prepare and deal in stone pots or dagdis and beg.

BAGDIS are wandering beggars.

BATUKS wander from place to place without any settled habitation.

BHOJAKS are temple servants and both worship and beg.

BIJMARGIS are the same as Vaishnavs and are to be found in numbers at Kathiawad. They live on alms.

DADUPANTHIS are Vedantis. They beg.

GANDHARPS are songsters and beggars.


Budbudkis are wandering fortune tellers and beggars. A Budbudki may be known by his curious dress. He wears a loin-cloth, a long coat reaching to his ankles, a large and round turban, and two or three shoulder cloths and hangs all over the body several handkerchiefs to the ends of which brass bells and shells are tied. He holds in his right hand a small double drum to each side of which two strings each two inches long with a knob at the end are tied, and two hollow brass rings containing pebbles are fastened. The Budbudki turns the drum right and left in quick succession and the knobs strike the sides of the drum making a bubbling noise and the pebbles in the hollow brass rings jingle together. On his chest is fastened the skin of some bright coloured bird and on his brow is a round sandal paste mark.

Their fortunes are generally so full of nonsense and lies that Budbudki is a regular Dharwad term for a liar. They rise about three in the morning go to some ruined buildings or some large trees outside of the village, and consult the spotted owlet or pingala whose notes they understand. About four or five o’clock they come back into the village, and standing at the door of each house, and sounding their double drum awaken the people and tell their fortunes. Their forecast sometimes includes one or two not unlikely misfortunes and the inmates growing uneasy come out and ask the Budbudki how the misfortunes can be avoided. He tells them what to do, receives a money fee and wanders on from house to house till nine in the morning and then goes home.


Balsantoshis or children-pleasers are fortune tellers and weather prophets. They wander about the streets in the early morning rousing people for the days work and turning into some house, shower blessings on the children always ending with Balsantosh or bless the babies.

BHORPIS or Strolling Players are a class of wandering beggars and strolling dramatic players.


Bhat according to the legend were created from the sweat of Shiva’s brow and driven out of heaven because of their persistence in singing Parvati’s, instead of Shiva’s praise. They are divided into Brahman Bhats, Muratha Bhats, Thakur Bhats, and Joshi Bhats. There are also Gujarati as well as Musalman Bhats. Bhats are hereditary beggars who go begging and singing from morning to seven or eight in the night. They recite stories, compose songs, have a minute knowledge of their patron’s family tree and compose and repeat poems with much spirit and gesture. They are as a class good linguists.

Their children of seven and over, help them in their calling. They praise any one they meet and many of their cloths they get by begging. In addition to the topknot they wear the moustache, whiskers, and some let their beards grow. They carry a long spear in their hand with five or six pieces of coloured cloth tied to the point. Their religious head whispers a sacred verse into the candidates ear at the time of the initiation. They are asked to join in the thirteenth day death feasts when they call out the names of those who make presents to the chief mourner.


Bhutes or spirit men are devotees of goddesses. They are followers of the goddess Bhavani and go begging from door to door with a lighted torch in their hands and playing metal cups, the one stringed fiddle and the pair of drums. They wear a long and filthy begging coat and cover themselves with shells from head to foot, marking their brows with red powder and have a square breast plate or tak hung from their necks. While begging they dance, sing songs and touch their bodies with the lighted torch.


Bharadis are said to be descended from a Kunbi who after being long childless, vowed that if he was blessed with sons he would debote one of them to the gods. The Bharadis are a class of wandering beggars who chant verses in honour of Ambabai of Saptashringi, playing on a hour glass-shaped drum, called damaru or daur and dancing with lighted torches in their hands. When they perform the mean wear a long and loose coat falling to the heels and smeared with oil with a light scarf or shela, a string of cowry shells about their neck and jingling bells about their feet. They are professional beggars going about beating their drum. They perform the gondhal or confusion dance chanting songs in honour of Tulja Bhavani, accompanied by the double drum and the one stringed fiddle. Among them every child between five and eight must go through the ceremony of wearing mudras that is brass or horn earings, the lobe is cut with a knife, so that the drops of the blood fall on the ground apparently to satisfy the evil spirits, and a ring or mudra is passed through the lobe so made.


Bairagis properly Vairagis, meaning free from or void of passion or ascetics are drawn from all classes of Hindus leading a celibate life. They smear their bodies with ashes and grow their hair long, wearing it either dishevelled or coiled round the head. They are religious beggars and wander all over the country sometimes in bands and sometimes singly. When a Hindu wishes to become a Bairagi he tells a distinguished Bairagi that he wishes to become his chela or disciple. A day is fixed on which the novice is stripped of his clothes and is given a loin cloth to wear and a hom or burnt offering is made. The novice then takes a vow of poverty, celibacy and pilgrimage to all holy places in India. The vow is not always kept. Only a few of them refrain from cutting their hair and nails and undergo bodily tortures. They bury their dead and do not mourn.


Chudbudke-Joshis or hour glass drum astrologers take their name from the hour-glass shaped drum or chudbudke. A Chudbudke Joshi got up for his begging tour is quaint figure. He is dressed in a large dirty white turban with a red cloth turned over it a long white coat reaching below his knees, and a tattered silk bordered shoulder cloth. In one hand is a book by referring to which they pretend to fore-tell fortunes and in the other is the name giving hourglass-shaped drum. As they are generally unable to read they do not tell fortunes by almanacs and books, but judge by the face and the lines on the hands. They have good fortune in store for every one who asks them. Their usual blessing is, brother thy belly will grow large, that is, you will become a big man, tuze dvand mothe hoil ga dada. They beg from morning to evening.


Dasaris or slaves are the same as Dasarus. The men wear short drawers reaching to the knee or a short waistcloth, a turban, head scarf, a coat and a blanket resting on the shoulders. Some wear gold finger rings and silver wristlets. The women dress in a robe and bodice and have a number of gold and silver ornaments for the neck, nose, ear, wrists, and toes. They are beggars moving from place to place chanting prayers and blowing a horn. They are also musicians, and dancers and their women prostitutes. When they beg they wear bells round their feet and carry a drum and two metal cups or cymbals in their hands.


Dombaris are the same as Kolhatis. Their women who tumble are careful about their dress and appearance. They are a wandering tribe of tumblers and rope dancers of bad character, the women prostitutes, and all when they get the chance, thieves.


Davris or the daur drum beaters have the peculiar practice of hanging a wooden whistle about an inch and half long round their necks fastened to a wooden string which reaches to the navel. They are beggars, beg, sing and perform the gondhal dance, with a daur drum in their hand. Boys between five and six years old have their ears slit and a ceremony called kanchiri is performed. The lobes of the child’s ears are torn with a small knife, and a clove shaped gold or brass ornament is put in the hole. A wooden thread is worn round the neck generally reaching to the navel to which is fastened a whistle or shingi made either of takli wood or deers horn one and a half inch long, and as thick as the little finger. Their women retail wooden combs, needles, and beads.


Dasarus apparently the servants or dasas of the god Maruti, are wandering beggars, singers and musicians. The Karnatic Dasarus in addition performing plays and allowing their wives to act as courtezans. Before starting to beg they pray to Maruti and Vishnu for a bagful of grain. The Telang Desarus who are also called Vakalgerus, carry a lamp at the end of a long pole and rest a gong and a conchshell on the right shoulder. They beg on Saturdays only. When a person is sick it is common to vow that if he recover, Dasarus will be feasted.

The men dress like Kunbis and the women like dancing girls braiding the hair and tying it in a knot behind the head as if resting on the neck. They wear rich robes with broad silk borders, sometimes with gold ends, drawing one end over the head and bringing the lower end back between the feet. They wear a light bodice of fine cotton or silk cloth and mark the eyebrows with red-powder. They wear a profusion of gold and silver ornaments and like dancing girls are fond of show and pleasure. When a Telang Dasaru dies a conchshell and discus are tied to his arm, and again united when he is buried. They are kept in some safe place and brought out for worship on the fifth day by the chief mourner. If they are lost the person responsible for them is put out of caste.


Dandig-Dasarus are the same as Dasarus. The only difference between the Dasarus and the Dandid Dasarus is that the former are Shaivas and the latter Vaishnavs.


Dasas or Slaves a class of religious beggars, like the Gosavis are recruited from different castes, but are known by the name of dasas or slaves because they are devoted to the service of Venkatraman of Tirupati. A man is either an hereditary servant of the god or he becomes on vowing to devote himself to the god if some sick member of his family recovers. He does not therefore cease to belong to his own family. A man who has made such a promise goes to Tirupati and is initiated and makes a pilgrimage to the god every year unless he is prevented by sickness. When a Das dies the yearly pilgrimage is kept up by his heir. Though the Dasas form one religious order the members who belong to different castes neither eat together nor intermarry. The only point of difference between the Dasas and the lay members of their caste is that the Dasas support themselves by begging. They keep from flesh and liquor on Saturdays, new moons, and fast days. When they go to beg the men wear a long white coat reaching to the ankle, a head scarf, and a number of scarves and other articles of dress thrown across their shoulders and hanging from their arms and waistband. They also carry a conch shell in their hands. They go about singing hymns called Salves’ songs in praise of their god with a bell and conch accompaniment.

DORVIKE-GOSAVIS are the priests or Gurus of Nath Gosavis.

GOPALS or Cowherds are the half caste Makar ascetics. They are wandering beggars and are honoured as priests by Mahars with whom they do not eat, but they take wheat flour and other alms from Mahars and make their own bread. They wear a necklace of sheeps hair and dance, sing, wrestle and beg, clashing little cymbals and invoking blessings on the almsgiver. They wear conical hats trimmed with peacock’s feathers and a large tunic. They keep and deal in cows and buffaloes and their women beg.


Gollars are wandering beggars. When they go begging they carry a round basket with their God, a live cobra which they show to people and ask for alms. Among them when a bride is sent to her husband’s house her father presents his son-his-law with a dog. Should the bride ever afterwards wish to visit her parents she is not allowed to go alone or even with some member of the bridegroom’s family. The husband must himself go with her, stay for three days and return with her. Gollar women are said almost never to commit adultery, and even for adultery a man may not divorce his wife. If a woman is taken in adultery, a hole about two feet deep is dug in the ground, and the adulteress is made to stand in the hole. Thorns are spread round the edge of the hole and the woman is made to sit on the thorns with her feet in the hole, as if on a chair. A grind stone is set on her head and she is made to drink three small spoonfuls of cowdung mixed with water. The people of the caste lecture her and she is considered to be purified and her husband continues to live with her.


Gondhalis or performers of the Gondhal or confused dance. They say the founders of their caste were from the sage Jamdagni and his spouse Renuka. They beg from door to door for grain, clothes and money, singing, dancing and playing on a double drum, the one stringed fiddle and metal cups. They also perform the gondhal dance and entertain people with their songs. The gondhal dance is performed in honour of the goddess Tulja Bhavani on the occasion of a thread ceremony and a marriage, and on the seventh month of a woman’s first pregnancy. The dance takes place at night. During the day a feast is given generally of puranpolis or sweet cakes the dancers who generally perform in companies of three to five being the chief guests. At night the dancers come back bringing their musical instruments, a torch or dirti and the dress of the chief dancer. On a wooden stool in the largest room of the house they spread a bodice cloth and on it lay thirty six pinches of rice and sprinkle the rice with turmeric and red powder. In the middle of the pinches of rice, a water pot is set and filled with milk and water, and lines of sandal are drawn over the pot. In the mouth of the jar betel-leaves are laid and the whole is closed with a cocoanut. Over the cocoanut a flower garland hangs from a triangle formed of three sugar canes. On the stool in front of the pot are laid betelnuts, plantains, dates, and lemons.

With the help of the chief Gondhli the head of the family worships the water pot as the goddess Tuljabhavani, offering it flowers and rice, waving before it a lighted butter lamp and burning camphor and frankincense. Then he worships the torch and lights it. Five male members of the family light five torches and go five times round the goddess shouting, Ai Bhavani, Jagadamba, or mother Bhavani, mother of the world. The head dancer, dressed in a long white coat besmeared with oil and lamp soot reaching to his ankles, and wearing cowry shell necklaces and jingling bell anklets, takes his stand in front of the goddess. A second of the troop stands to the right of the headman holding a lighted torch and three others stand behind him playing on a drum, a fiddle and cymbals. On either side of the Gondhali troop sit the house people, men on one side, women on the other. The head dancer touches the lighted torch with sandal paste, bows low before it, and calls, O thou Khandoba of Jejuri come to the Gondhal dance, Tukai, Yamai, mother Bhavani come to the Gondhal dance. He begins singing and dancing going forwards and backwards, the musicians play their drum, fiddle and cymbals and the torch bearer serves as a butt for the dancers jokes.

The chief after dancing at a slow pace without turning round and with little movement of the feet repeats a story from the Ramayan and explains it meaning. The performance lasts from a few minutes to several hours, it sometimes is kept with frantic enthusiasm till day-break. Occasionally one of the Gondhalis becomes possessed and a spirit in him says, why he has entered his body. He dashes from one place to another, jumps, and dances with frantic energy and foretells future events. The people fall at his feet one by one and make him a present of copper. He then takes a lighted torch and touches his own body all over with the lighted end, but without doing himself any harm. He rubs the brows of all present with the turmeric powder offered to the goddess. At the close of the dance the leading Gondhali takes an unsewn bodice and holds two ends of it in front of the image of the goddess and asks the hostess who will hold the other two ends. To hold the ends of the bodice is considered a high honour and the host and his wife discuss whether she or one of her daughters-in-law is to enjoy it. At last one of them is told to step forward and holds the two ends of the bodice between the Gondhali and herself. The bodice is then formed into the shape of a cradle and in this cradle a wooden doll is laid and rocked for a few seconds. The Gondhali then takes the doll out of the bodice and lays it with a little turmeric powder in the girl’s lap. He asks for her husband’s name and she bashfully hanging down her head obligingly gives it, and after falling before the goddess she retires. This ceremony ensures the birth of a son before the year is over.

After this the torch is put out in a cup of milk and clarified butter and the gondhal ends and the dancers retire with a fee of a rupee and four annas. On a lucky day, when a Gondhali boy is about ten years old the men of the caste come and fasten a cowry garland round his neck. The guests after witnessing the ceremony retire each with a handful of sugar and a betel packet. Gondhalis are a set of wandering beggars recruited from all castes. Two or three of them go begging daily, carrying with them a lighted torch and wallet. They daub the whole of their brow with red powder and on their head wear either a long flowing turban or a cap covered with rows and tassels of cowries. They wear a long white coat puckered a little above the waist and cowry shell necklaces, wristlets and jingling bell anklets. A pair of tight fitting trousers or waistcloth completes their dress. They carry an oil can hung from their shoulders.

VALABHIS are Gosavis who live on alms and in places have fixed revenues. Their heads are called ‘Gosavijis.’

UDASIS are the same as Nanakshahis. They live on alms.

SHARBHANGIS are mendicants who receive cooked food from almost all castes.

PARAMHANS observe no caste distinction, pray to no image and like the Aughads act as they like, eat anything and from any one. They say that the God and the soul are one, and believe not in good or bad actions. One may act as he pleases. They say there is neither hell nor heaven.

RADHAVALABHIS are Gosavis and their heads are called Maharajas. They live on alms in some places they have fixed revenues.

RAMSANEHIS are an offshoot of Ramanandis who make no brow mark, count no beads, cook not either for themselves or others, keep no money with them, and do not marry.

RAMDASIS are the followers of Ramdas Swami preceptor of Shivaji. They beg.


Gidbudkis or Gidbidis, that is players on the small drum, also called Pinglis. The gidbidi a small drum three or four inches in diameter, is played as an accompaniment to the songs which they sing as they walk begging from door to door. They belong to no caste being recruited from Marathi speaking people. On entering the order the novice has to learn by heart certain secret texts or mantras. Like the Dasas they wear a long white coat reaching to the ankle, a head-scarf and a number of clothes thrown over their shoulders and hanging from their arms and waistband. They are professional beggars and soothsayers, moving in bands of two or three, singing as they walk from door to door. Their songs are for the most part in praise of Krishna, Radha, and other characters in the Mahabharat.


Holars are musicians and songsters and play upon a bamboo pipe or alguj, a sanai of wood with brass top and bottom, a sur or long wooden pipe and a drum or daf. A band of these musicians includes a drummer and three pipers of whom two play the brass pipe or sanai and the third the wooden pipe or sur. Or sometimes they dance with a stick ornamented with peacock’s feathers and hung with bells. They play at marriages and go about playing, singing and begging. Their songs are much patronized by the people who are fond of amusement, and their playing on the alguj or bamboo pipe is very popular. Their boys above twelve go with them playing the sur pipe which is easier to play than either the drum or the brass pipe.


The founder of this class is said to have been a lame beggar, who went about riding on a bullock. He held a bell in his hand, which he rang in front of every house in the street, repeated the genealogy of each family and in return got alms. The present Helavars though not lame follow their founder’s example.


Jogtins are recruited from all classes and castes of Hindus. If a man in childless or has a child sick of some serious disease he vows that if Yelamma gives him a child or curses the child he will dedicate it to her. Boys who have been dedicated to Yelamma in this way are called Jogtis. When they come of age they are allowed to marry girls of their own caste. But dedicated girls who are called Jogtis are not allowed to marry. They are beggars, begging in the name of the goddess Yelamma and mark their brows with red powder.


Kanphates or slit eared Gosavis are wandering beggars, earning a living by singing and playing on a one-stringed guitar. They sing both Hindustani and Marathi songs in praise of the gods. Raja Gopichand being generally the hero of their songs. They pretend to tell fortunes and cure diseases. They teach animals tricks and carry about a monkey or snakes. They dress in ochre coloured frock, a loin and waistcloth, a shoulder cloth, and Maratha turban or scarf. They wear huge ivory, clay, bone or fish scale ear-rings in the lobes of their ears and a necklace of rudraksha beads. They smear themselves with ashes. They are religious and their chief gods are Goraknath and Machhindranath. They worship Shiva and carry a Ling in their head-dress. They are given to smoking hump and ganza. When a boy is about three years old, an elderly man or guru puts metal rings or mudras in their ears and teaches them prayers or mantras. When this is over the guests are treated to a feast.


Killiketars or Katabus are picture showmen. The men wear the topknot about three inches long, whiskers, and moustache. Their women comb the hair once a fortnight and tie it in a knot on the back of the head. Besides cattle keeping their chief occupation is showing pictures of the Pandavs and Kavravs and other heroes. The pictures are drawn on deer skins and cost two to four annas. They always show them at night. One of them sits behind a curtain with a lighted torch and shows from one to two hundred pictures. Another man sits outside and explains. The women beat a drum. The shows lasts from five to seven hours beginning about nine or ten at night. The villagers club together and pay them about two Rupees, half in cash and half in grain and oil. At harvest time they go from village to village, collecting grain which the husbandmen give them in charity. Their women are expert tattooers and are paid in grain and old clothes. They tattoo women of all castes. The figures are traced with ink before they picked into skin. The figures which they generally tattoo are a line with a crescent above it and a small circle below called chandram or moon, and generally tattooed on the brow of Brahman women. The head ornament, a line with an ornament of eight pearls, a central pearl, and seven round it above the line and a small circle below the line tattooed on the forehead of women of all castes except Brahmans.

A pair of plain or ornamental brackets or outer eye-corners, and worn, by all women except Brahmans at the outer corner of the eyes. A slender oval mark called the wheat grain worn by Rajput women on the left side of the nose. A circle about the size of a pea called nasal worn by Dombari women between the eyes and by women of other castes on the cheek or chin. Sitecha padar or Sitas fringe, a line like fore-teeth of a saw, worn on the arm. Besides these emblems figures of the Tulsi plant or sacred basil and of the incense tree are worn on the fore-arm. Lotuses, snakes, and scorpions are tattooed on the back of the hand and small spots are worn even on the backs of the fingers. Shri Ram; Shri Ram jaya Ram jayajaya Ram, and other names of household or favourite gods are tattooed on the fore-arm of Brahman women.

KAPDIS like the Vasudevs besides their clothes, load themselves with hanging pieces of cloth, kerchiefs, and other articles of dress. When begging they draw their wastclothes &c., over their heads.


Kabaligars are hot tempered and ill behaved beggars. If nothing is given them they cut their arms and other parts of their body till blood blows and threaten to kill themselves. In addition to wearing a turban, a waistcoat and a loincloth, they gather human hair and plait it into ropes. They pass one rope of hair several times over their left shoulder and under the right arm and tie a second rope round the right arm and fasten to it several strips of coloured cloth.


Kanjaris make and sell the brushes or Kunchas used by weavers in cleaning wool. Their women beg through the streets singing songs and clapping their hands. Though the songs they sing are indecent, the Kanjari women are said to be chaste. They worship the images of Mariai and Muhammadan saints or pirs but not keep holidays or fasts.


Kudbude-Joshis or Kudbud-playing astrologers, are a class of Maratha astrologers and beggars who wander playing on an hour-glass shaped drum called the Kudbud. They generally wear a white turban and rather a long coat, a waist coat, and mark their brows with white sandal. They wander from door to door beating a drum. They know to read and write, foretell events by referring to a Maratha calendar which they carry rolled in their turbans and tell fortunes from lines on the hands.

MAIRALS are ministrants at Khandoba’s temple and live by begging alms at the houses of the rich worshippers of the god.

OSHTAMS are Madrasi beggars. Their home speech is Telegu, but speak Marathi out of doors. They look like Kunbis and get their clothes by begging.


Pingales foretell events by the help of the pingala, a little spotted owl. They wear a waist cloth, a head cloth, a long coat, a waist coat, and a silk bordered shoulder cloth. They get their clothes by begging. They are wandering fortune-tellers and go begging from door to door. They believe in spirits, ghosts, sooth-saying, lucky and unlucky numbers sights and events.


Pichatis look like Kunbis and speak Marathi. The men wear the waist cloth, shoulder cloth, and turban and the women a robe whose lower end they do not pass back between the feet. They get their clothes by begging. Both men and women beg and in addition the women sew quilts.


Satanis mark their brow with a narrow yellow upright line between two broad yellow lines. They eat from no one but Brahmans. They live on alms and do no work. It is considered very unlucky to meet a Satani. And any one starting on business who meets a Satani in Dharwar, goes home, bows before the guardian deity, sits for a time, and makes a fresh start.


Thakurs. Though some of them twist woollen threads for blankets, they live chiefly on begging and ballad singing. At times they perform plays representing events mentioned in the Purans and Ramayan and showing wooden puppets moved by strings. They also make nets and catch sweet water fish and crocodiles on which they feed and spin woollen wigs called charvis worn by women.

TAKARIS are hand mill makers belonging to the class of Uchles or pickpockets whose movements are strictly watched by the Police. Both men and women beg.

VIRS are hereditary beggars. They take their seats at Khandoba’s temple at Jejuri and beg alms from pilgrims visiting the place, offering them the turmeric or bhandar.


Ramanandi Sahusare Bairagis, and called so after the founder of the sect Nimanand. They worship Radha-Krishna and make a vertical red or yellow brow mark between two white lines. They term the middle line Shri from which they take their name ‘Shri Sampradayi’ or Ramanandi Bairagis. Nimanand was followed by Ramanand Swami whose father’s name was Keshavacharya and his mother’s Bhimadeva. He built seven hundred monasteries in Kanchi, Maysur and Rameshwar of which seventy-four are the chief ones. They count their disciples by thousands. Ramanand had twelve disciples whose names are:– 1. Ashagir, 2. Kabirsaheb, 3. Sehidas-chamar, 4. Pipahakt Rajput, 5. Dharmadas Sajeit, 6. Shenobhakt Hajam, 7. Shriyanand, 8. Suranand, 9. Sukhanand, 10. Bhavanand, 11. Mahanand, 12. Purnanand. Their books are all in Sanskrit and their great motive is to worship God as long as there is life in them and after death be absorbed in Him. Such of them as maintain themselves by begging are termed Sadhus.


Naths are Gosavi wandering beggars and divided into nine Naths and eighty four Siddhis. They are Shaivas. They wear a woollen sacred thread from which hangs a saili or horn, which they blow when alms is given them. Besides which they wear rings in their slit ears. The names of the Siddhis are given at length in the Yogashastrapradipika. The names of the Naths are:– 1. Adinath who is also called Aughadnath professed that Shiva exists in the form of wind. 2. Udenath who was a worshipper of Parvati, professed that the earth is her form. 3. Satyanath worshipped Brahma in the form of water. 4. Santoshnath worshipped Vishnu in the form of fire. 5. Achobenath worshipped Shiv in the form of a mountain. 6. Gajkanthannath worshipped Ganesh in the form of an elephant. 7. Satchoranginath worshipped Shiv in the form of vegetation. 8. Wachhandranath worshipped Shiv in the form of sky. 9. Goraknath worshipped Shiv in the form of light. These Naths have many followers and their maths or monasteries are situated in such places as Delhi, Jodhpur, and Edepur. The head of the math is called Nathbava. Bharthari and Ravalia Jogis are also included among them. All the Nathpanthis wear orange-coloured clothes, make a horizontal brow mark and say ‘adesh’ instead of making obeisance to persons they meet. Those who do not slit their ears are called Aughads. Some shave their heads, while others do not. But they bury their dead.

HANS count the beads and carry a dand.


Kabirpanthis are the followers of Kabir a Taimusalman of Benaras. His followers do not worship idols neither do they observe caste distinctions. They make a vertical brow mark from the tip of their nose upwards. Kabir is said to be the disciple of Ramanand. They use the word Bandagi instead of namaskar when they meet one another. They say that God is without form and that God and soul are one. That the highest duty of man is benevolence and sympathy with his fellow-brethren. They live on alms.

KUTICHAKS confine themselves to one place such as a temple or monastery.

MIRASHIS play on the tamborine and beg.

MALUKDASI are Vedantmargis, that is followers of the Vedas. They beg.


Madhavacharya Sampradayis are Bairagis and beggars. The founder of the sect Mahij Bhat was a great worshipper of Vishnu and his spouse Lakshumi. They maintain that God and soul are not one and will not be one even after death. They do not respect the Lingam but take Shiva to be the worshipper of Vishnu whose image they worship. They make a black vertical line between two white ones and never dine in the presence of one who does not belong to their sect. When they dine they screen themselves with curtains from the gaze of a stranger, be he a human being, dog, or a crow.

NANAKSHAIS are Panjabis and their followers Seikhs. They accost each other when they meet with ‘Blessed be the Guru.’ They beg.

SHILAVANTS are Khandesh beggars.

TARGALS are players and beggars.

VALHARS play on flutes and drums and beg.