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.



Sanyasis are those who have abandoned all worldly possessions and earthly affections. When one quits all obligations to his mother by taking the sanyas, the mother by this sacrifice on the part of her son obtains regeneration as a male. Sanyasis are religious beggars and wander all over the country. When a person wishes to become a Sanyasi, he does so by the rules of Brahmacharya, the first of the four ashrams or states of life through which a Brahman has to pass viz:– that from the investiture with the sacrificial thread until marriage. The first rule being, that he should be ceremoniously girdled with the sacred thread. II. That he should study the particular Veda belonging to the shakha or section to which he belongs. III. That his Samavartan or sodmunj (the ceremony of loosening the munj from the loins about twelve years after binding it) should have been performed. IV. Santak, that is he should be able to understand the Sutras. V. That he is married. VI. That he has created offsprings upon his wife whether male or female, and has performed yadna or yaga. VII. And the Vanprastha which means that he should have made over all his property to his offsprings and gone with his wife to some forest and there lived till they had completely conquered their passions. Here in the first they should both live together, but not as husband and wife, and when they sleep to place a piece of wood between them so as to separate themselves. When they have so conquered their passions, the husband with the wife’s permission, embraces asceticism or becomes a Sanyasi. This kind of sanyas is called Ashramsamuchaya-sanyas. By the taking of which sanyas, all the four kinds of Ashrams are, as it were collectively taken.

To become a Sanyasi just after a Brahmacharya, that is, before the Sod-mung, or munj; before or after becoming the Snatak; before or after taking the Agnihotra, or leaving it abruptly; whatever the case may be, a person whenever he feels a desire of becoming a Sanyasi, is at liberty to do so. This kind of sanyas is called Ashramvikalpik meaning the non-observance of the first three, and the abrupt taking of the fourth sanyas.

When a person is a Brahmacharya, Grahastha, Vanprastha, Atur, that is, at the point of death; in some sorrow; in fear of a man or beast or a desire for becoming a sanyasi has sprung up in him; in such a case no ceremony or vidhi is prescribed. Only that his topknot should be plucked out and his sacred thread broken.

Only the learned Sanyasis are authorized to take up the dand and Kamandalu and no one else. Not only Brahmans, but Kshatryas, and Vaishas, are also allowed to take sanyas. It is said that, in the Kaliyuh, there is prohibition for taking the sanyas, but that is in the case of Tridand sanyas only.

Sanyasas are of four kinds: Kutichak, Bahudak, Hauns, and Paramhans. Each of these sanyasas is higher than the other. He who has to take the first sanyas, should go out of his dwelling house, and build for himself at some distance, a leaf hut but if not convenient his own dwelling house will do. He should wear red-ochre coloured clothes, carry tridand, keep topknot, and wear the sacred thread. He should dine at his brothers or other near relations house and live absorbed in the contemplation of Brahma. This sanyas is called Kutichak sanyas. In the second, he should as in the first, wear red-ochre coloured clothes, topknot and the sacred thread and carry a tridand, but he should renounce his children, and live only on what he gets by begging and that in seven houses only. This is what is called Bahudak sanyas. The third sanyas is the same as the former, two, but there is this one difference that he should carry only one dand. This is what is called Hauns sanyas; and the fourth and the last is the Paramhauns sanyas, in which case a person keeps no topknot, neither does he wear the sacred thread, but carries a staff or dand and wears the red-ochre coloured clothes. Now the difference between a Hauns and a Paramhauns is, only about the keeping or not of the topknot and the wearing of the sacred thread. The Hauns has shendi while the Paramhauns has not. A Paramhauns carries no dand, but if he be a learned man, he should have one. It does not however matter much if he does not carry the dand. Whether a Paramhauns or not a Sanyasi should not pluck his shendineither should he throw away his dand or his sacred thread until he is a perfect ascetic otherwise the act is sinful.

To become a Sanyasi for the sake of outward show, pomp, or for the sake of belly, that is with the object of getting food, raiment or money without working for it; or that he should be called by high names or titles, is to suffer in hell. Therefore a person who knows fully well what he is about; that he has renounced the world, and all its belongings, and becomes intent in contemplation upon the Deity; caring not at the same time whether cruel animals attack or devour him, and therefore flings away his staff, so also not minding in what he drinks or eats and flings away his bowl or Kamandalu; and not understanding the state he is in, whether dressed or nude and casts away his garments. When he attained such a state let him cast away his staff, his bowl and his loin cloth or schhati but not otherwise, for then he goes to hell.

There are others again who thinking highly of themselves, carry a staff, but such persons suffer in hell. The staff should not be of any other wood, but of kalak or venu; he should not eat or drink any thing that comes in his way, and should be an ignoramus, for such a person goes to dreadful hell in the end.

The rite of taking Sanyas is as follows. The lucky months for becoming a Sanyasi are from Paoshya to Ashadh January-July, but if a person be on the point of death, then it matters not in what month he takes the sanyas. The person who has just claims for asceticism is he who has an agnihotra in his house and whose wife is not living. Of these two the person who has to take the

should first look out for a guru of a clam and compassionate disposition and learned. When he has found one, he should learn from him for three months the sacred duties or dharm and conduct or achran of a Sanyasi; repeat the Gayatri verse from one and quarter lac to twenty-four lacs. The rudrasuktamantra, and perform the Kushwandi havan, or the burnt offering consisting of the mixture of til seed, kohole, cooked rice, ghi and samidha. It is offered from one thousand to one lac times. A pinchful is thrown at a time, and a pinch consists of the thumb and the first two fingers. After the performance of these three acts, he reaches the holy state essential for the taking of the sanyas.

Then on any one of the following rikta tithies, that is the 4th, 9th, or the 14th of a fortnight, he should bathe in the morning and having possessed himself with the due qualifications or merit, to the officiating guru offers four cows or in their stead money varying from two annas to a rupee as the price of a cow. Then on the Brahmaratra day which falls either on the eleventh or the twelfth of a fortnight, eight shradhas should be performed, (the details of which being very lengthy are omitted here). After the performance of the numerous shradhas on the same day a barber should be called, and the novice’s whole head shaved leaving only six hairs on the top or crown. He should shave his beard and mustachios, but not the armpits or the hair on the private part. He should bathe, and excepting a loin cloth, a cloth to cover his body, and articles necessary for the performance of the ceremony he should distribute all his belongings, among his wife, son or other relatives, as prescribed in the Shastras.

The novice’s clothes should be of the kav or red ochre colour, and he should have a dand of the Kalak wood, with the bark on. It should be straight and of his height reaching his head, brow or eyelids. It should have its roots and be as thick as the fingers of the hand. It should be dug out of the ground by a Brahman and have 11,9, or 4 joints or pere, and each joint to have the sprouting or mod. When such a staff is got water from a conch shell should be sprinkled on it with the repetition of the mantras. Then the kamandalu or the water pot, kaopin or the loin clothing and schhati or the red coloured clothing; Kantha or necklace and paduka or wooden shoes should be made ready and placed near by. Some think there should also be a shinke or sling for suspending things and a vessel to eat from. The novice should declare that in order that he may be washed completely of his sorrows, and that transcendent joy, a joy than which there is no other great, may arise in him and that he may go to the Almighty, he performs the sanyas vidhi. Saying so, he performs the worship of Shri Ganpati, Punyahavachan, Matrikapujan, Nandi Shradha, and makes a bow in the name of Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, Surya, Soma, Atma, Antaratma and Paramatma. He should then repeat verses from the Vedas, and mixing java flower with water, drinking it off beholding it with one hand while with the other hand he touches his own navel. Then he drinks a mixture of milk and water or ghi, or merely water and fasts that day. He keeps awake that whole night near the sacrificial fire, and on the morning of the second day he rekindles the fire. He then lifts the virja hom, and burns in it if he be an agnihotri, the thirteen vessels of the agnihotra, saying I have by this act finished my agnihotra.

If the vessel be of silver or gold they are presented to the Guru and not cast in fire. Throwing a little ghi on fire he says I make over my soul to you and taking his mouth near to the fire, inhales as it were the flames. He takes a piece of deers skin, and goes out of the house, and says to his son, relatives, and Brahmans present, let all those who know the Vedas and consume the Som juice, see their sons face and turn ascetics, even as I have this day done. Looking to his sons, Brahmans, and other relatives present, he says, I am henceforth nobody’s, and nobody is mine, and drives them away. All retire weeping. The sight of separation is indeed most affecting. The novice is henceforth lost to the family and the family to him, and the tearing away of the children from the father, is too horrible to describe. The novice accompanied by the Guru goes to the river side, repeats verses, and returns. Going to the fire and standing before it he says in order that I may obtain the invisible Brahma, let my life mix with this sacrificial fire, or the dazzling sun, return from whence it came or go into the waters. I have henceforth cast off the wish for son, wealth, people and all other wishes. I am fearless of all devils, I abandon ignorance, pride, sloth and whatever actions I may have committed by their means. Having now left every thing and become holy, I throw off every thing belonging to this world, whether good or bad. In like manner do I cast off lust, enjoyment, happiness, anger, joy, quarrel producing speech, sweet smell, flowers, sandal paste, ornaments, dance, songs, charity, honour, disgrace, bow, repeating of the verses from the Vedas, religious austerity, daily and ceremonial religious observances and other ceremonies; actions, passions and caste distinction, and make over all these to themselves. My hands and feet may err, but not my mind, speech or body. Let all creatures be fearless. I shall hurt them not. He then meditates upon gods and Brahmans, and asks them to be witness to what he uttered then. Going into waters as deep as his navel, and standing with his face to the north he repeats verses.

He then says ‘I who have become liberated from the affections of a son, wealth and people shall live on alms.’ He then plucks his topknot, tears his sacred thread and taking them in his hands throws them into water, saying, O thou Sanatan, O thou Vasudev, O thou God of all people, protect me. O thou giver of final and eternal happiness, I have embraced asceticism, do thou O Purshotam have pity upon me, I humble myself before thee, therefore do thou protect me.’ After having so prayed, he becomes entirely nude, not allowing a piece of thread to remain on his body, and looking towards the north, walks about five paces out of water. If the novice be a learned man, the guru first makes a bow to him and hands him a red-ochre coloured clothing; a piece of cloth to wear over the privities and a staff. The novice while wearing the body cloth repeats a verse, then he takes up the staff and repeats the Gayatri verse, and then wears the Kaopin and repeating a verse sits down. He then takes a samidha in both his joined hands and takes up the garudasas, or one of the eighty-four asans or seats of a Vairagi, and prays ‘O thou Jana-Nath Guru the priest of the whole universe, I who am reduced to ashes with the fire of the affairs of life, and bitten by death in the form of a serpent, am come supplicant for protection before thee, to such a one do thou protect.’ Then rising on his right thigh he lays both his hands on the Guru’s feet and begs ‘Maharaj, teach me Brahma.’ The Guru takes a conch shell filled with water and twelve times sprinkles water therefrom on the novices head and repeats verses; then he lays his hand on the novices head and repeats verses; then he lays his hand on the novices head and breast, and in his right ear repeats the sacred verse and explains to him its meaning. Then in accordance with whatever kind of sampradaya he may have taken, the same as whatever, Tirtha, Ashram, Yati, Sarasvati or Indra, that kind of name is whispered in his ear.

Then comes the Parayankasouchavidhi. On a lucky day the novice is called by a villager to his house and seated on a stool in his front. He places five balls of earth to the right of the novice and five to the left, as also two water jars, one to the right and the other to the left side near the earthen balls.

The villager takes up a left side half ball and mixing it with water rubs it five times to the Yati’s thighs and hands and in this way finishes the other half. Then taking the half of the right hand first ball he rubs it to his own left hand ten times and with the remaining half rubs to his own both hands seven times.

Taking the half, of the second left side ball, he rubs it four times to his both thighs and the half of the right side ball he rubs to his left hand seven times. The remaining right and left side balls he rubs four times to his hands.

Then taking up the first half of the left side third ball he rubs to his ankle bone thrice and the first half of the right side ball he rubs to his left hand six times, and with the remaining left and right side ball he rubs four times to both the hands.

Taking the half of the Yati’s left side fourth ball he twice rubs to his back and feet and with the half of the right side ball he rubs his own left hand four times, and both the hands twice with the remaining half of the fourth right and left side balls.

Taking part of the earth of the fifth left hand ball he rubs to the Yati’s soles once, and part of the right ball he rubs to his left foot and soles twice, and with remaining half of the left side ball he rubs the Yatis soles once, and with the remaining right half ball he rubs the Yati’s left sole twice.

Henceforth a Yati sits not on a cot or other like seat, neither does he ride. This sin is of such a magnitude, that a person who sees a Yati ride or sit on a like seat, should immediately bathe with the clothes on at the time.

Then comes the Katisochavidhi, when a piece of thread is tied round the novices waist and a Kaopin given him to wear, and his body covered with schhati, and with the permission of the Guru he is seated on a raised seat, and asked to discuss on a Vedantic subject with the learned Yatis then present. In the meantime the Guru repeating verses pours water on the head of the Yati, from a conch shell, and he is worshipped with flowers, food offered him and lighted lamps waved before his face. A cloth is held in his front and from behind it verses from the Bhagvatgita are repeated and his new name whispered in his ears. He is told he is at liberty to give advice to any one he thinks to be a fit and proper person to become an ascetic with all the ceremonies attached thereto. He then makes a bow to the ascetics present. The Guru hands the Yati a thread to wind round his loins and a staff ornamented with five mudras and makes a bow to the Yati with fisted hands and thumbs upraised, joined to each other, which he points out to the Guru’s heart, then to his own, then to the Yati’s head and then to his own. This to show the unity of both the souls from that time and this kind of bow is made by no one else but by Paramhans only. Then the Sanyasis and others present make a bow to the Yati and he repeats ‘Narayan’ and leaves his seat, and seats the Guru thereon. He makes a bow to the Guru and the Yatis present.

When a Sanyasi dies his disciples or son bathes, shaves his moustachios, beard, and head excepting the topknot. He then fills and earthen or metal jar with cold water and pours it upon the body of the deceased. He wipes the body dry and worships it. It is then seated in a wooden frame or viman and is carried on the shoulders of four men for burial. If the body is given land burial, water is sprinkled on the spot of ground under which it is to be buried. A hole, as long as the deceased’s staff, is dug and another about a hand and a half is dug under it and thrice sprinkled over with water. If the body is to be thrown into the water, panchagavya and blades of the darbha grass are spread thereon, and water from a conch-shell is sprinkled over the deceased one hundred and eight times and worshipped. The body is then decorated with garlands of flowers and sandal paste rubbed to it, and it is either drowned or buried as the case may be. The deceased’s staff is broken in three pieces and placed in his right hand. The mourner with the full belief that the deceased has gone to heaven, touches the spot between the deceased’s eyebrows, and the skull broken with one blow of the conch-shell or pierced by a cow or a buffalo with their horns. If the disciple or son through love for the deceased or fear does not wish to allow the cruelty, he places a sugar cake or a piece of molasses on the skull of the deceased and lightly touches it with the conch-shell. If the deceased be a highly meritorious or holy personage, and if he should get unwell or think his end is drawing night he expresses his desire of going to heaven. In that case he makes his intention known to his disciple, ‘I am going to be Samadhist.’

The disciple invites the villagers and musicians to be present, and after worshipping the ascetic, is seated in the inner hole, and as it is considered highly sinful that a dying ascetic’s moans and groans should be heard by the bye-standers, and in order to drown them, musicians raise a blast of music and the villagers repeat in a loud voice God’s names or sing accompanied by music religious songs. While this is in its height the disciple taking up the conch-shell, with one blow breaks the ascetic’s skull. The hole is then filled up. If it be a water samadhi, after the breaking of the skull, the body is covered with the darbha grass and water sprinkled over it, and tying heavy stones, it is let into the water and drowned. As the burial of a Sanyasi is considered highly meritorious, the mourners bathe, rub sandal to their brows and return to their respective houses full of joy. To a Paramhans land burial is the best, and water burial middle. No mourning is observed and no Shraddha performed. Only a little water or milk is offered for the pacification of the deceased’s huger and thirst.

Of the seven kind of Sanyasis, a Kutichak is burnt, a Bahudhak buried, a Hans thrown in water and Paramhans buried in earth.


Vishnu-Swamis are Bairagis, worshippers of Shaligram. They wear the sacred thread, Tulsi bead necklace, topknot, trace their sect mark according to their sampradaya, and bury their dead. Instead of the bow, namaskar or dandwat, they say Jeya Gopal, Jeya Shitaram, or Jeya Shrikrishna. Their monasteries or Maths are at Allahabad, Mathura, Jagannath, Dakorji and many other places. Their chief places of pilgrimage are Dwarka, Jagannath, Badrikedar and Rameshwar and such of the Vishnu-Swamis who perform pilgrimages to their four places are considered holy. The annual fairs at Hardiwar, Prayag, Ujjain and Trimbak are attended by thousands of these people. They brand their bodies with red hot iron or tapta-mudra when they go on pilgrimage to Dwarka and this idea originated it is said with Pipaji a Rajput bhagat whom the God Krishna himself branded with gold red hot nudra.


Joharis or Jewellers are hereditary beggars who deal in old lace and ribands and profess a knowledge of physic. Their women offer metal pots in exchange for old clothes, hawking them from door to door. They sell pearls, corals, diamonds, and other precious stones and glass beads. They buy old gold and silver lace and embroidered clothes, burn them and extract the gold and silver. Their women keep small haberdashery shops, selling wooden and tin boxes, combs, glass beads of different sizes colours, needles, thread, buttons, marbles, looking glasses, tops, whistles, dolls, and small brass cups and dishes.


Jogis or Meditators take their name from the Sanskit yog or meditation. The founder of their sect is said to be Machhindar Bawa. They are divided into Muradker-Jogi, Jogai-Jogi, Kindri-Jogi, Davarji-Jogi, Balgar-Jogi, Mendar-Jogi, Are-Jogi, Marathi-Jogi, Kurub-Jogi, Berak-Jogi, Bhorpi-Jogi, and Dombar-Jogi. Of these the Balgar and Jogai-Jogis rank highest. These Jogis act as showmen to curiously or misformed animals, are prophets telling what is going to happen, and as doctors carry about a stock of roots for the cure of diseases. They make and deal in fine smooth stone vessels, are peddlers dealing in glass and lacquered beads, knives, needles, corals, bells, metal vessels, scents, and other articles of country and European manufacture. They move from place to place, attend local fairs or jatras, laying out their wares in booths. The women help the men and their little children beg and after twelve, boys begin to help their fathers.


Joshis are persistent beggars who refuse all regular work. They object to be classed as beggars and say that as astrologers they have a claim on the public alms. They call themselves Joshis or astrologers because they foretell events. They beg from door to door in the morning from six or seven to one or two in the noon. They sometimes carry a small drum which they beat in front of a house and offer to tell what has happened to the family and what is in store for it. In answer to questions, he tells how the head of the house had once a narrow escape and that another misfortune hangs over his head and will fall on him unless he walks a certain number of times round a certain god or keeps a lamp in the temple lighted for certain number of days or pours oil over a Maruti. In return for this advice the people of the house give him money or clothes. Joshis generally carry a set of small square pictures of a tulsi pot, Mahadev and Parvati, Maruti, and Ram as good omens. They believe Tuesdays and Fridays as lucky days and the rest as unlucky. When telling fortunes they look on the lines of the palm and speak in tones so serious, solemn and respectful, that the listener is greatly impressed. Their begging dress is a rather long white coat, waistcloth, shoulder cloth, generally a loose white turban, shoes or sandals and daub their brows with white sandal lines.


Kolhatis or Tumblers and rope dancers are a good looking class particularly the women. They are a wandering tribe. The men wear a pair of short breeches or chaddis, a waist cloth, shoulder cloth and a waist coat and roll a scarf or a Maratha turban round the head. The women tie the hair in a knot at the back of the head and those who are prostitutes wear false hair and decorate their heads with flowers. All wear a tight fitting bodice with sleeves and back and the full Maratha robe with the skirt passed between the feet and fastened with the waist band behind. Those who act as prostitutes have a store of rich clothes and gold, silver and pearl ornaments. Some maintain by showing feats of strength and by rope dancing and begging. They are taught to jump and tumble from the age of eight and at sixteen are good gymnasts. If a girl chooses to become a prostitute her choice is respected. She puts herself under the protection of someone not of the caste, who keeps her for a time paying from five to one hundred Rupees.

On reaching womanhood every Kolhat girl is called on to choose between marriage and prostitution. If she prefers marriage, she is jealously watched and is usually well behaved. If she chooses to be a prostitute and a tumbler, her parents take her before the tribe council, get their leave and give them a dinner. Such women are under Police surveillance as they are suspected of kidnapping high caste girls to bring up as prostitutes. Kolhatis take their name from Kolhat a term usually applied to the long bamboo pole on which they display their feats. According to their story the founder of their sect was a man who was named Nat or dancer and nicknamed Kola. They make the small buffalo horn pulleys which are used with cart ropes in fastening loads. Their women besides make and sell rag dolls.


Kshetradas and Devidas are the one and the same meaning the servants of the Kshetra or of Deva. They are a class of wandering beggars. A Kshetradas may be known by his strange dress. A streak of gopichandon stretches from the tip of the nose to the middle of the brow, with a red mark in the middle of the white streak. He wears a turban of two long strips of cloth twisted together like a rope, a long coat falling to the knee, a pair of trousers, brass earrings containing false pearls, brass wristlets and several necklaces made of sweet basil wood. He holds three or four handkerchiefs and a bundle of peacocks feathers in his left hand, covers his back with the skin of a tiger or deer, and hands round his neck a circular plate about three inches in diameter and a quarter of an inch thick containing an image of Hanuman, a leather wallet on his shoulder to receive the alms given to him and a conch shell on his right shoulder. From his right wrist hangs a gong about a quarter of an inch thick and nine inches in diameter and in his right hand he golds a round piece of wood about six inches long and one in diameter to strike the gong. He goes from house to house, striking the gong, blowing the shell, repeating the names of his god and begging alms.


Masalars are wandering beggars and have no fixed home. Whenever they go to a village they put up at a Mang’s for a week or two and then go to another village. They say that the Mangs are their parents and that they have every right to live on them and hence their chief calling is begging especially from Mangs. Every Mang family feeds them and gives them a copper pice or two in cash. They occasionally make a few coppers by practising rope dancing, but they will not dance unless a goldsmith, a carpenter or a blacksmith is present. Their food and clothing costs them nothing as they live by begging. Among them when a woman commits adultery her husband and caste people meet together, abuse her, lay a stone on her head, and tell her that she may go wherever she chooses. At the same time they allow women who have committed adultery to marry again in the caste.


Sitapadris are a class of beggars who when pressed by hunger do a little bed tape weaving. Their brick coloured or bhagva dress consists of a loin cloth, a cap, a blanket, and a waistcloth. From their left arm hangs a wallet, and when they go begging, they carry a stick in the right hand and a pale coloured gourd in the left. They wear huge earrings and the ceremony of ear-slitting by which a man publicly assumes his calling and becomes eligible for marriage is performed by a priest or guru belonging to the Dorvike Gosavi sect, who fixes a trident or trishul in the ground and after worshipping it and offering it a hen, with a sharp knife pierces the lobes of the young disciple’s ears. The blood is allowed to fall on the ground, while the disciple repeats the words, Shri Gorakh, Shri Gorakh. A wallet with a pot in it is tied to his left arm and the priest enjoins him henceforth to live by begging. He starts at once on his new calling collecting from the guests plantains, dates and cocoanuts. The ceremony ends with a dinner.


Swami-Narayans are ascetics or Brahmacharis who live by begging. They wear the sacred thread and keep topknot. They recruit from Vanis, Rajputs and Kunbis and term their disciples Sadhus. Their Brahman converts are termed Brahmacharis and the family men Satsangis. Two vertical white lines on the brow is their sectarian mark with a red kunku dot in the middle represents Shri. They believe that when they die their Guru Swami-Narayan comes down to take them. The Sadhus avoid money and women, and if they should happen to do so they bathe and observe a fast. They maintain chiefly on alms.


Sayeds are the descendants of the prophet and trace their descent from him. They are divided into Nakhvis and Alvis. Nakhvis are the descendants of the prophet’s daughter Bib Fatma, who was married to Hazrat Ali. Alvis are the descendants of Hazrat Ali by his other wives and hence the superiority of the Sayeds over the other Musalmans.


Also called Dakujis are wandering beggars. They wear trousers, a long coat, and white Maratha turban, and Brahman shoes or sandals. When begging they carry a small drum called hudki slung on their back and an old almanac in their pocket which do not know how to read. They are a poor, patient, sober, thrifty and orderly class of beggars and tell fortunes with great solemnity. They do not admit that they beg. In the Satyayug they told the gods their fortunes and what they now get is in reward for this and not given in charity. They are astrologers and fortune tellers and travel with their whole families, sometimes buying and selling cows and she-buffaloes. They teach their boys their craft from the age of eight and say they are daily growing poorer as people are not so liberal as they used to be in giving them alms. They seldom get old clothes or money and grain is given them by pinches instead of by handfuls. Their prophesies are not believed and they are driven from door to door.


Sahadev Joshis or Hussaini Brahmans say they are descended from Sahadev the grandson of Kalidas, the great poet. Kalidas is said to have had by a Maratha husbandman’s daughter, a son named Devidas who married one Bhadli by whom he had a son named Sahadev, the father of the Sahadev Joshis. They are divided into Dadhivales, or beard wearers also called Mankars that is respectables and Kudmudes or rattle box plaers also called Gadvals that is fortune-tellers. The Dadhivale Joshis keep a large bull, deck him with coloured clothes and brass bells and ornaments and beg by showing him to the people. Kudmude Joshis play upon a sand glass shaped double drum called daur and beg from door to door; Mankar Joshis throw a wallet round their shoulders and move from door to door, pleasing the house owners by wishing them well and foretelling good things.


Tirmalis also called Kashikapdis are wandering beggars. Their chief and hereditary calling is door to door begging and a few bullock showmen. They also sell sacred threads, holy rudraksha berries, whetstones, pieces of sandal wood, metal boxes, glass beads and sweat basil rosaries. They deal in sandal wood dolls and offer their wares in exchange either for cash or clothes. The women darn second hand clothes and mind the shop when the men are away. Men go begging from six to eleven, dine at noon either at home or at some rich Brahmans, rest till two and sit in their shops till dark.


Uchles or pickpockets literally Lifters, also called Bhamtas and Ganthachors or bundle thieves; adopt many disguises, one dresses as a Marwad Vani, another as a Gujarat Shravak or Jain, a third as a Brahman, a fourth as a Rajput. They keep to some particular disguise for years and often travel hundreds of miles entering and stealing from the houses of the class of people whose dress they adopt. They sometimes give a false name for themselves and their village and take service with a merchant or trader of the caste to which they profess to belong. They act honestly for a time and take advantage of their employer’s trust in them to make away with some large amount of property. Sometimes two or three Bhamtas visit a large fair and go to the river-side which is crowded with bathers and worshippers. One of the party dresses as a Brahman. He chooses a spot near the person whom he means to rob and while washing and repeating verses keeps his eye on the ornament he intends to steal. When the chance comes he moves close to the ornament and begins to spread out a cloth to dry.

When he is near enough he catches the ornament in his toes, drags it with him, and buries it in the sand some distance off. The accomplices who are in waiting, walk close by, loiter about for a time, and move on. When his victim misses his ornament and raises an outcry the Bhamta questions and grieves with him. He points out the accomplices and says he noticed them loitering about, perhaps it may be as well to look after them. The victim starts in pursuit, and the Bhamta digs the ornament out of the sand and makes off. At these holy bathing places women generally tie their ornaments in a bundle or put them in a box and sit close bye and take their meals. When they see a woman sitting with a bundle close to her a couple of Bhamtas come up. One of them walks close to the woman, the other stops a few yards off and sits down as if to ease himself. The woman turns in the other direction and the comrade whips off the bundle and buries it in the sand. If a Bhamta is caught nothing is found and he has to be set free.

In well known cases, Brahmans, Marwad Vanis, Sonars, Shimpis, and other upper and middle class Hindus have joined the Uchlias. If a good-caste Hindu or a Musalman wishes to become an Uchlia he makes a friend of some leading member of the caste and tells him that he wishes to become an Uchlia. If the Uchlia cares to have the candidate as a member of his family he takes him himself or he makes him over to any person who cares to have him. The candidate passes through two ceremonies, admission to the caste and adoption into a family of the caste. If an Uchlia who is a Jadhav takes the man who is to be initiated into his family, the newcomer claims to be and becomes a Jadhav; if the newcomer is taken into a Gaikvad family he claims to be and becomes a Gaikvad. They cannot explain how they came to be divided into Gaikvads and Jadhavs. Their forefathers, they say, may have been Maratha members of those two clans, or they may have taken service with Gaikvad and Jadhav Maratha chiefs and adopted their patrons’ clan names. When an Uchlia agrees to adopt an outsider he calls a caste meeting and tells the castemen that if they allow the outsider to become an Uchlia he will adopt him into his family. The castmen fix the admission fee which generally varies from Rupees fifteen to twenty five and retire.

Next day musicians are called, the candidate is bathed and dressed in new clothes, and in proof of admission into the caste, one of the elders without repeating any text or verse, drops turmeric and sugar into the candidate’s mouth. A feast follows during which two or three of the caste elders sit with the novice and eat from the same plate with him. This completes the admission ceremony. Unless the new member is adopted into some family no Uchlia will give him his daughter in marriage. If the new-comer is adopted by a Jadhav, a Gaikvad will give him his daughter, and if a Gaikvad adopts him he will get a wife from the Jadhavs, for Uchlias of the same clan-name may not intermarry. The adoption ceremony is performed by the person who adopts. He calls the caste to his house and in their presence seats the new-comer on his knee. The caste elders drop a pinch of turmeric powder or bhandar into his mouth and each of the other guests drops a little sugar into his mouth. Music is played and the guests retire with betel and leaves.

People who know them say that their bodies are stiff from frequent beatings and that the water has been drained out of the eyes so that they cannot shed a tear. They have this saying regarding Uchlias because, even when caught in the act of thieving, no amount of kicking or slippering will draw a tear from the eye or a word from the tongue of an Uchlia except a profession of innocence.

When rich and successful they make no show of wealth. Their aim is to seem fairly off, so as neither to attract the special notice of the police nor to arouse the jealousy of their neighbours. They eat the usual kinds of animal food including the flesh both of the tame pig and of the wild boar. They rear pigs. Each Uchlia keeps a few pigs within walled enclosures or straying about the village. Pork is not used at caste feasts nor on religious or festive occasions; it is kept as a delicacy for small feasts. They catch wild pig either by noosing them or with the help of dogs. When the pig is secured its legs are tied and it is killed either by stoning or by blows of a club below the ear. It is roasted over a slow fire, skinned, cut in small pieces, and serve with salt and chillies. They drink liquor to excess. They copy the dress and manners of the villagers among whom they live, so that strangers may take them for ordinary husbandmen. The Uchlias show an honourable loyalty to one another. They never rob each other or tell on each other. If the police find stolen property in an Uchlia’s house and the property does not belong to the owner of the house, the real Uchlia owner will come forward and take the blame on himself. Another rule they are careful to keep is that if an Uchlia manages to escape from prison he must not come back among his friends lest he should bring them in trouble. An Uchlia is never guilty of house-breaking or of gang-robbery with arms. These forms of crime he leaves to the Mangs and Ramoshis.

If an Uchlia takes part in an armed gang robbery he is at once put out of caste. They are professional thieves and pocket-slitters stealing between sunrise and sunset. They do not rob or steal after nightfall. They will not steal from a man when he is asleep in a house nor will they steal by breaking into a house at night. At fairs and other large gatherings they mix with the crowd and thieve. They are not particular as to what they steal. They pick an ornament off the wearer’s body either by cutting it or opening it. They slip it away so light-fingeredly that some time passes before the owner knows that his ornament is gone. A favourite find is a bundle in front of a booth, laid down by some one close by, whose energies are centered in beating the booth-keeper in bargaining. However poor and unpromising the bundle, the Uchlia does not despise it. His principle is to neglect nothing that fortune throws in his way. Before a party of Uchlias start on a thieving trip they consult and follow the advice of their headman who is called Patil or Thelungya, apparently the head of the thal or sthal that is the camping ground, for the Uchlias used to be wanderers. On their return they hand him an eighth of the spoil or two annas in the rupee.

If everything goes well and the theft is not traced the headman spends his share on a caste feast with plenty of liquor, or if one of the thieves is caught the headman’s share is spent on feeing a pleader to defend the accused. Sundays and Tuesdays are bad days for thieving. Uchlias often let them pass without attempting a theft. If any friend of the tribe happens to be robbed he will get his property back if he satisfies the headman that he has befriended some one of the tribe. The man’s plea of friendship is laid before a jury or panchayat. The jury will not admit the pleas unless one of the tribe comes forward and declares that the claimant is a friend of the tribe. If some one comes forward the property is handed to the claimant, and the thief’s loss is made good from public funds. Their code of honour is extremely high. Any breach of loyalty, any tale-telling against a brother Uchlia meets with the sharpest punishment. If one Uchlia charges another with telling against him the headman calls the castemen together. The accused is brought before the meeting and asked what he has done. If he can prove that the man he told was a friend of the tribe, even though the friend may be a constable, no notice is taken. If the tale-bearing is traced to spite, ill-will, or jealousy, the informer is forced to pay the value of the property stolen and is marked as a traitor. If the accused denies that he told any one, his innocence is tested by the oil-caldron or tel-kadai.

Before the heads of the caste agree to refer the dispute to the oil-caldron they make the accused enter into a written agreement that if the ordeal proves him a traitor he will pay a fine to be fixed by the head of the caste. The fine is generally heavy, sometimes as much as Rs. 1000. When the caste-leaders agree to refer the matter to the caldron they ask a potter to make a kadai that is a large earthen caldron with a bowl-shaped body and a broad flat rim. For one kadai the potter is paid as much as Rs. 1½. The reason of this high price is that the sacred caldron has to be made with the greatest care. The potter must wash before he begins to make it. He must bake it in a special kiln and see that nothing impure touches it. When the jar is ready the potter sends word and the caste-council go to his yard and take it from his hands. The potter does not perform anything round its neck. He is not recognized by the Uchlias as a priest nor does he perform any ceremonies for them in times of cholera. When the jar has been taken to the Uchlia’s hamlet a quantity of sesamum-seed or til is brought and seven married women of good character are called. They are made to bathe, are dressed in new clothes, and have their brows marked with red powder, and their arms with turmeric powder.

They sit in a line and clean the oil-seed fasting the whole day. When the seed is clean it is handed to the oil-presser or Teli. The oilman is made to wash himself, to clean his mill, and put in a new crusher, and for this he is paid Rs. 7. When the oil is crushed the crusher is taken out, broken in pieces, and used as firewood for boiling the oil. The caste-leaders choose some lonely spot at which to hold the ordeal and a large body of the caste perhaps fifty friends of the accused and fifty friends of the accuser, both men and women, go to the spot accompanied by the accused, the umpires, and music. When the spot is reached the accused is seated by himself fasting in a tent or booth. A fire is kindled, the caldron is set on the fire, and the oil, which is never less than 5 shers is poured in. When the oil begins to boil the accused is called. He comes from the tent with music accompanied by the umpires. When the accused comes out of the tent, he bathes, but worships no god nor is any image of any god put near the caldron. When the accused comes close to the boiling caldron a round stone of the size of a pigeon’s egg is dropped into the oil. The accused calls in a loud voice, ‘If I have spoken the truth may the oil be to me as milk.’ The accuser answers in a loud voice, ‘If he has told a lie may the boiling oil be to him as fire or as worse than fire.’ The accused plunges his arm into the oil and draws out the stone. He shows the stone to the head of the caste and throws it behind his own back.

The fire is allowed to burn out and the accused is led to his tent and watched to see if he is suffering. After twenty-four hours the caste-leaders call on him to wash his hand with cow’s urine, cowdung, and sand. When his hand has been washed it is closely examined. If it has taken no harm the accused is acquitted and brought back to the village. If the accuser is not satisfied that the hand has escaped unhurt a goat is killed and the accused is made to use his hand in pulling off the skin. During the time of the ordeal, which generally lasts ten to fifteen days, the accuser feeds one-half of the company and the accused feeds the other half of the company. At the end, the person who wins the ordeal is paid all his expenses by the person who loses, and at the same time, is presented with a lace-bordered shouldercloth and a turban together worth Rs. 120–240. The loser further pays the caste council a fine of Rs. 60, which is spent on a caste feast. Oil-ordeals come off sometimes in twice sometimes as often as ten times in the year according as disputes happen to be many or few. Cases of injury from the boiling oil are rare. The accused almost always comes off unhurt.

Uchlias go thieving in couples or in bands of six to twelve, sometimes all men, sometimes all women, and sometimes half men and half women. They do not wait to strip a victim of all his ornaments. Even if it is a child one ornament only is taken. The stolen property is never kept by the man who stole it. It is at once made over to the thief’s partner, and with the least possible delay, without stipulating any value, is left by him with some Marwad Vani or Brahman receiver of stolen goods. After a time the Uchlia comes to the receiver and takes what he gives him without a grumble, even though he is paid less than one-tenth of its value. Tjhis is the road which leads many a Marwadi to wealth. Widows and other women who have no man to support them thieve. Women thieves, sometimes three or four together, attend fairs and big markets. They mark some child with ornaments and watch till the child’s parents are in a throng watching a show or driving a bargain. Two or three Uchlia women come pressing up watching the show with their eyes, and with their hands, or the lancet they carry in their mouths, loosening the ornament. The thief passes the ornament to her friend who makes off while the thief loiters about safe and unconcerned for is she is caught nothing is found. When they see no one about Uchlia women sometimes go into houses and take away clothes left to dry. If they find some one in the house they ask if so-and-so does not live her or where so-and-so lives.

Uchlias are not considered impure. In moving about on their thieving trips they never disguise themselves. They travel by rail as far as Madras or Calcutta and often rob their fellow-passengers. At a station an Uchlia watches the passengers. When he sees any likely person with property he buys a ticket for the place the likely passenger is going to. His comrades buy tickets for intermediate stations, choosing a station which the train will reach after dark. If the theft is committed sooner than was intended the Uchlia alights at the first station and makes over the property to his comrade or he takes his seat in a fresh carriage, or he gets out and lets the train go and follows by the next train. In picking or rather slitting pockets the Uchlia uses a small very carefully sharpened sickle-shaped knife. The knife, which is called ullimukh, is carried under the tongue or in the cheek, the flesh being first toughened by carrying a lump of salt in the mouth. An expert pocket-slitter will talk, eat, and sleep with his lancet in his mouth.

They are careful occasionally to wipe out the sin of theft by occasional grants of bread to the poor.


They are a class of wandering beggars and strolling dramatic players, but many of them rear and deal in cattle.

Besides there are many more, the names of some of which are Bhands, Deolis, Jatis or Yatis, Joglis, Kalsutris, Kangniwalas, Khamsutris, Kalbeles, Parvates, Rauls, and Triandes.


Bombay being the principal port of embarkation for the Red Sea, there is annually a large concourse of Musalman pilgrims going to Makka, from different provinces, and on their return they are fed, clothed and helped on their way back to their homes. Besides those pilgrims who make their stay for a time in Bombay, there is already a large number of Musalman faqirs in Bombay inhabiting Mosques, verandas of godowns and Muhammadan houses or who squat on vacant ground employing themselves during the day as labourers, and in the evening sallying forth as beggars, some with lanterns in their hands adorned with flower-garlands, while other go waving burning incense and return with a full scrip. These beggars frequent the houses of all. Hindus give these preference to their own beggars. To give charity to a faquir is in their estimation meritorious. They do not look at the corpse of a Hindu, but at a Musalman’s they will try to have a glance, as he becomes, they say, a pir after death, and that no evil spirit (pisacha) enters his body; while others become devils, bhats, and go to heaven or hell according to their deeds here on earth. But whatever the notions of the Hindus regarding Musalman beggars may be, many of the latter are reputed to be drunkards, smokers of ganja, chandol, smugglers of opium and it is generally believed that not a few are addicted to pilfering.


Dandivalas strike two wooden bats together, and curse and abuse if one does not present them with a copper.

Then there are the Urimars, Schharimars, and Gajmars who carry a knife or a club with spikes on it. With these they wound themselves if one does not pay them.


Dorivalas spread a line, and from the houses coming within the length of this line they demand money, and then go to other houses, repeating the process. In case of refusal the beggar forms the line into a noose, and threatens to hang himself. Then there is another who has no particular name assigned to him, but who stands abusing the shopkeeper, and at last puts his hand in his mouth and pulls out, as he says, his stomach, all bloody. This is a horrible sight to look at.

The DANDUKAVALA carries a club loaded with a number of small iron chains, and shaking the club he stands in front of shops.


Garudis are Muhammadan jugglers, who perform feats with snakes, which are taught to dance to the sound of a shrill musical instrument. They then produce cobras out of bambu baskets; the reptiles hissing fiercely, raise their eyes and hooded crests, and rear on end as if to strike the charmer. The snakes dance to the music of the gourd pipe, not with pleasure, but with rage and fear; the jugglers twist these snakes round their necks, keeping the mouth of the snake under their chin. They have no elaborate apparatus, but are generally accompanied by an assistant. They are almost naked, and their whole stock in trade consists of a few bambu baskets. They exhibit some extraordinary tricks;– thus, a boy aged ten or so is strongly tied up with a twisted cord or string, hands, feet, and all. Then a sack of strong netting is slipped over the boy, and he is squeezed down on his haunches so that the cords can be tied fast over the captive’s head. He is then lifted from the ground to show how securely the sack is fastened. The boy is put into a basket about eighteen inches high and three feet long with a cover, and there appears to be a difficulty in fitting the lid on the top. The basket then in turn is tied up with another strong cord. Presently the lid is agitated, the cord and net jerked out.

This done, the basket is pierced on all sides with a sword or foil which goes right through, and the juggler then calls out to the boy, but no answer comes from him, he then tells the spectators that the boy is dead. This scene excites the people, and the juggler profits by this opportunity to collect a few annas; as soon as this is done he lifts up the lid, but the basket is empty! He calls out to the boy, when he answers from a distance, and comes running towards the juggler. Then the performer throws up into the air an earthen jar, which he receives on the back of the right hand, where it is kept dancing for a moment, and then on the extended arm. He dances with two double-bladed swords which he tosses in the air, catching them in the hand opposite to that from which they had been thrown, at the same time dancing to the rapid beating of the drum. A third and fourth, up to five or six, are kept in motion, the bells on his ankles jingling in time to the music. They swallow and spit out fire, exhibit an inexhaustible water vessel, and walk on pattens, held on by the feet making a vacuum with the soles. A mango seed is placed in the earth and covered with a basket, and by and by the old fellow, in an interval of snake-charming, exposes a bright green sprout, some eight or ten inches high, where he had apparently put in a seed. After a while it is uncovered, when it appears hung with tiny fruit. Then he puts down a small basket, chatters at it, and lo! there is an egg! He covers the egg with a basket, chatters at it and turn it over, out walks a pigeon. Next he places another egg under the basket, and another pretty pigeon comes out.

There are various other sleights of hand performed by these people, such as thrusting spears and knives deep into their mouths, and pulling them out covered with blood. They also pull out of their mouths cotton thread several hundred yards long, quite dry, and by a clever trick, apparently change a pinchful of dust into copper, silver, or gold coin, &c.

The TASMIVALA binds a strap of leather round his neck as if strangling himself, and flutters his hands and feet like one in the agonies of death.

The APE MEN show off their favourites, which are trained to go through the manual and platoon exercise in a reckless manner, winding up with a general quarrel.


Hijdes or eunuchs come in groups of four or five, of all Hindu and Musalman classes, they are either castrates or born so. In Native States fine looking youths, for whom the wives of the Native princes take a liking, are castrated and made over to them as their keepers. Both the Hindu and Muhammadan eunuchs dress in robes and bodices, and the Musalman eunuchs dress in robes and bodices, the Musalman eunuchs being generally in white, and the Hindu eunuchs in clothes of different colours. Musalman eunuchs do not pray nor observe fasts or feasts, but the Hindu eunuchs apply red powder to their brows, and pray to Hindu goddesses. Excepting from the eyebrows, the eunuchs remove all hair from the face and wear the hair of the head in a back-knot like women. They generally speak Hindustani. Besides committing sodomy, the Musalman eunuchs dance and sing on occasions of births, of which they learn from midwives, or they go about the lanes, calling out ‘Where is a son born?’ If they should not be sent for, they contrive to find out the house, and exact money. Should they be handsomely rewarded, well and good; if not, they raise a clamour and load the owner with curses. A good-looking person among them is selected to dance, and the rest play on a drum and pipe, and sing.

Towards the conclusion of the dance the dancer presses out his abdomen by inserting a cloth pad under his dress to represent a pregnant woman. After a little while, as if in actual labour he screams and roars out lustily, and ultimately drops the pad as if bringing forth the infant. Then the pretended mother rocks it in a cradle or dandles it in her arms. After dancing and singing awhile they receive betelnut, rice, and money and depart. These creatures frequent the Marvadi and other shops, and stand clapping their hands, and using filthy language till the shop-keepers give them a pice. They do not feel ashamed to raise their waist cloth before shop-keepers if they do not pay them. When they die they are buried by their own people without any ceremony being performed either at their graves or afterwards. Hindus consider it a sin to look at them, but during the Holi holidays they are encouraged and their dances attended by low class people.


Sidhis, both men and women, carry a cocoanut shell filled with small pebbles and covered over with a cloth, which they go on shaking, and at the same time singing songs. At other times they carry a long guitar on which they play, and beg. The men sometimes smear their bodies with a mixture of oil and soot, and frequent Marwadi shops.

The PALANQUIN BEGGAR is a Musalman, who rises in a palanquin with a snake in his hand. Before him walk musicians. These together with the palanquin he hires for about three rupees a day.

MUSALMAN ASTROLOGERS squatting under trees on the Esplanade with books before them, pretend to foretell events. A pice satisfies them.


Chhatapanis are damaged characters, squatting on the ground in a corner of a lane or street where fairs are held, with three cards placed before them endeavouring to induce the onlookers to stake their money, and use some amusing flattery. But excepting one or two low castes, and damaged characters, the spectators are generally too cautious to venture anything on the famous three card trick, which has cost many a bumpkin his whole store of available cash.

The PEHELVAN, or athletic, is a Musalman. He first throws a large knife into the air, and then follows it up by some half a dozen more one after another, and keeps them in the air by constant movement. He takes up a large stone ball, and keeps it rolling up and down on one of his arms for a little while, and then by a jerk sends it on to the other arm, and so on. He next flings it up in the air, and allows it to fall heavily on his breast and back. He then pulls a long knife from his side and catching it with both his hands forces it down his throat and after allowing it to remain there for a few minutes, as he says, to suck his blood, he pulls it out covered with blood, and shows it to each of the spectators, and asks for a pice.