Wednesday, July 8, 2015

123 - Kutch and Megh


"GAZETTEER OF THE BOMBAY PRESIDENCY. VOLUME V. CUTCH, PALANPUR, AND MAHI KANTHA."

PRINTED AT THE GOVERNMENT CENTRAL PRESS. Bombay

PUBLICATION: 1880.

MEGHVALS IN KUTCH(CUTCH)

"Of Depressed Castes there were four with a strength of 36,306 souls or 9.85 per cent of the whole Hindu population. Of these 35,142 were Meghvals, 837 Paradhis and 161 Mes, and 166 Bhangias. Meoghva'ls, also found in Sind, the Ganges Provinces, and Central Himalayas, ( 1 Vivien de St. Martin Geog.Grec. et Latine de l'lnde, 209. The Meghs, probably the Magians of Timur, are a large part of the population of Riyasi, Jammu and Aknur, a pure race of low caste, apparently outcaste in other places. They are perhaps the Mekei of the Aryans and to them belong the Mekhowal (Makvanas). They claim to be Sarasvat Brahmans. Cunningham, Arch. Rep. II. 13. Burnes (Royal Geog. Soc. IV. 93) speaks of the Megvars of South Thar as an aboriginal or Jat race. They are probably connected with the Mehars of lower Sind and the Megharis of Baluchistan, and are, perhaps, Pliny's (77) Megari or Megalloe and the Mokars of the Rajput chronicles. Vivien de St. Martin, 198. Burton (Sind 323) speaks of Sind Meghawars as Dheds or Meghvals, tanners, shoemakers and weavers, found in many parts of Sind. The Umarkot Meghawars were very well-to-do, with priests, guraras, and sacred books, polhit of their own. They were said to come from Malwa.) state that in a twelve years' drought in Kathiawar they became degraded by carrying and skinning dead cattle. Of nine branches, Bhuchiya, Bhuringya, Dhua, Dhopra, Gora, Kopal, Rhola, Runnal, and Rosya, they weave cloth, labour, and carry dead cattle. They worship goddesses. They have no headman, but the farmer of the tax on skinners of dead cattle is acknowledged as their head. Breakers of caste rules are required to give a dinner to their priests, gors. These priests Garudas enjoy the revenue and are the pujdris of the snake temple at Bhujia fort (see p. 64). On his accession a Garuda pujdri marks the new Rao's brow with saffron and ties a turban on his head. Bhangia's, scavengers, are said to be sprung from a certain Valam, who about 2000 years ago started the profession of sweeping. There are six branches, Dhori, Makvana, Parmar, Rathod, Solanki, and Vaghela. They worship goddesses, different families having different guardian deities. The Paradhis and Mes half Hindu, half Musalman, are hunters and weavers of leaf mats. . .." Page-83

"Village: In the province of Cutch there is one village or town to about every six square miles, each village containing on an average 475 inhabitants and about 163 houses. With the exception of the people of six towns, numbering 91,085 souls or 18"69 per cent of the entire inhabitants, the population of Cutch, according to the 1872 census returns, lived in 1019 villages, with an average of 388 souls to each village." Page 100

"Cutch villages are, as a rule, small and fenced by thorn hedges with one or two openings facing the east. The gates, made of thorns and moving on wooden hinges, are during harvest time closed at night. Some villages have high round watch-towers, kothds, generally out of repair. Outside the gate is a Hanuman, a large shapeless stone, a Mahadev's, and sometimes a Shitladevi's, temple, and a pond generally dry in the hot season, except a hole dug in its bed. To meet the cost of repairs, some ponds and wells have lands and Acacia arabica, babul, groves attached. At the entrance gate are the houses of the Meghval, the Kathodia, the Pinjara, the Kumbhar, and other low caste non-cultivating classes. Then follow, in the case of large villages, the houses of the barber, the tailor, the carpenter, the black smith, and the cultivators. In the centre are the houses of the village shopkeeper, the Brahman, the devotee, atit or gorji in Jain villages, a temple generally dedicated to Ram or Krishna, and sometimes a Musalman mosque. The houses, built of stone and mud, have, except in the Kora sub-division and in Pachham and a few other places on the Ran, tiled roofs. Near the gate is a large fold, vada, for sheep and goats, of which every village has one or two flocks. Fodder and cattle are kept in separate enclosures, where a member of the family usually sleeps."
"There was, in 1872, a total of 167,378 houses, or, on an average, 25' 75 houses to the square mile. Of the total number, 37,785 houses lodging 99,790 persons or 20-47 per cent of the entire population, at the rate of 2.64 souls to each house, were buildings with walls of fire-baked bricks and roofs of tile. The remaining 129,593 houses, accommodating 387,515 persons or 79'52 per cent with a population per house of 2-99 souls, included all buildings covered with thatch or leaves or whose outer walls were of mud or sun-dried brick." Page 101

Meghvals are Sober and Hard working:

"Of Leather Workers there was one class with a strength of 1237 souls or 0-33 per cent of the whole Hindu population. The Mochis came from Gujarat about 200 years ago, and from their family names Dabhi, Parmar, Chohan, Jhala, Makvana, Chudasma, and Solanki seem to have once been Rajputs. Their home language is Gujarati. They are generally rather fair and dress like other Cutchis. They used to drink liquor and eat flesh, but since they adopted the religion of Svaminarayan they have given them up. They are clean, sober, well-behaved, and rather idle. They make shoes in native and European fashion, saddles, water-bags, and bottles. Four houses work as gold and silver carvers, forty as embroiderers on wool and silk, making table cloths, caps, shoes, slippers, and handkerchiefs, and five as arm-polishers and gilders. They do not clean or tan hides. They earn enough for ordinary expenses and as a rule are well-dressed. They belong to the Svaminarayan sect. Their marriage, birth, and death customs do not differ from those of other Hindus. Their family goddesses are Ashapura, Chavan, and Brahmani. They have a headman, but disputes are decided at mass meetings. Besides the Mochis, the Meghvals and Turiyas clean, tan, and dye leather. The Meghvals also make shoes and are cobblers. The Turiyas are Muhammadans, generally earning their living as tanners and leather dyers." Page-83

"There are five hundred families of Gujarat Hindu shoemakers, settled chiefly at Bhuj. The Meghvals, another class of Hindu shoemakers do not mix with them. About seventy-five of them have capital, varying from £10 to £50 (Rs. 100-500) invested in ornaments or lent at interest. They earn from 9d. to Is. 3d., (as. 6 - 10) a day. They keep sixteen holidays in the year, and are sober and hardworking." Page 128

Majal Math and Meghwals
"Majal, or Manjal, a village seventeen miles west of Bhuj, has, about two miles to the north-west, in a low country surrounded by hills and overgrown with bushes, the ruins of Punvaranogad, Padhargad, Chapter XIII. or Patan, still showing traces of having once been a large well -peopled piaeeg oTlnterest city. Here, in 1830, a great number of Indo-Sassanian coins were found buried in a copper vessel.1 The walls, 2385 yards round, are easily traced, though all the masonry, except one narrow gateway on the west, has gone to decay.3 Within the walls are the ruins of two palaces, a mint, and a temple of Mahadev, all of stone without any trace of wood. In style they closely resemble the Kera ruins. Pun varanogad' s story is that it was built about a thousand years ago (878) by one Punvar son of Ghaa or Ghav, the chief of Kera in Cutch.3 Quarrelling with his family, Punvar, whose chief characteristic seems to have been cruelty, resolved to found a city and call it after his own name. When the city was finished, the architect was rewarded by having both his hands chopped off that he might not do work like it for any one else. Soon after, seven devotees renowned for their virtues and miracles came from Rum-Sham (Anatolia and Syria), and settled in a high hill near Punvaranogad. Hearing of their fame Punvar's childless queen had an underground passage dug from the palace to the devotees' hill. Helping them in the service of their god Yaksh,or Jakh,she after six months prayed them to ask the god to give her a son. But, for her husband's sins, until a sacrifice was offered in the palace, the prayer could not be granted. By the underground passage the holy men entered the palace and were performing their rites when Punvar, hearing there were strange men in the women's rooms, forced his way in, seized the devotees, and set them with bare feet to tread out corn in a threshing floor bristling with harrow-spikes. Pitying their sufferings a friendly barber offered to take the place of one of them, while he went to call Yaksh to their aid. Yaksh, from western Asia, heard the prayer, and, with an earthquake that shook the hills, appeared with seventy-one brothers and a sister, Sayari.4 Called on to give up the holy men, Punvar refused and by the help of the gods and a magic amulet suffered nothing from the arrows of Yaksh' s brothers. Then Sayari, taking the form of a mosquito, bit Punvar on the arm so that he drew off his amulet, and, in the siege, a stone falling from the roof broke his head. Yaksh cursed the town and it has since lain desolate.6 Another story is that in the eighth century of the Christian era, King Punvar oppressing the Sanghars, they sought the aid of some foreigners from western Asia. Seventy-two horsemen came, and, establishing themselves on a hill three miles from Punvaranogad, took the fort and killed the chief. The Sanghars named this hill Kakad- gad in honour of the strange leader Kakad, and, out of respect for the saviours, called them Yakshas after the fair-skinned horse-riding demi-gods of that name.1 In their honour the Sanghars made images Places oFlnterest. °^ tne seventy-two horsemen, set them on a railed platform on Punvaranogad, with their faces towards the south, and instituted a Masjau* a fair on the second Monday of Bhddrapad (September -October). This fair lasting two days is attended by about 16,000 pilgrims, mostly Cutch Hindus. Except the Sanghars, who are staunch devotees of the Yakshas and believe in no other gods, most of the pilgrims attend either for trade or pleasure. The trade, in rice, sugar, oil, almonds, cardamoms, pulses, cocoanuts, groceries, cloth, wood, bullocks, horses, camels, goats, sheep, cows, buffaloes, and other articles, is valued at from £5000 to £7500 (Rs. 50,000 - 75,000). The large palace, upper storied and surrounding an open quadrangle, about fifty-five feet square and twenty high, tastefully built of very large blocks of stone, stands on the north side of the city. The front porch and colonnade are ornamented with carving. The upper story and the very heavy stone terraced roof are each supported by eighty -four pillars, each pillar one block of stone, round, and with capitals carved into figures of men and animals. The small, or half -day palace, addho tiro, for it was only twelve hours building, one storied, of stone, and with rather poor carving, is forty feet long by thirty-three broad. There are two rooms in the back with two verandahs. The roof is a flat terrace of massive stone slabs, joined with dove-tails of iron and plastered with cement 1 \ inches thick. It seems to have stood in a garden watered by a well now filled with earth and stones and overgrown with trees. In the centre of a platform, 7 feet 9 inches high 160 feet long and 41 wide, stands a temple of Mahadev, 50 feet 9 inches long and 22 feet 3 inches wide. In each corner of the platform is a small ruined shrine. Between the ruined entrance and the porch is a hollow for sacrificial fire, agnikund. The temple, facing the west, of blocks of grey and black iron sandstone put together without cement, must have stood about fifty feet high. The porch, 26 i feet long and 18 wide, has 16 pilasters and 8 square, 12 feet high, pillars forming two aisles. In the brackets are figures of men and lions. The dome has fallen, but an upper floor, with rosettes in the middle of the ceiling and a cornice of creeping plants cut in the stone, is entire. Above the lintel are large figures of musicians. The upper part of the shrine has fallen and been rebuilt. Near the temple are some tombstones apparently of later date, but without any writing.
"At some distance west of the fort are two ruined Mahadev temples. Chapter XIII. They are said to have been built by Dheds or Meghvals, but Places of Interest, the richness of the sculpture and the size and style of the materials Majal or make this doubtful. One of them, of the same stone as the ' half- day Manjal. palace,' stands on a platform 70 feet long 50 wide and 15 high, built of large blocks ornamented with bands of carving and with a ruined shrine at each corner. In front of the central shrine were two domed porches, one of which is still standing. In this porch, ten feet high pillars support a dome of excellent workmanship with, under its centre, a sacred fire hollow, agnikund. The shrine, with a richly carved doorway, is ten feet square. The other temple, smaller and standing on a platform twenty feet broad, is all in ruins.1 Of the mint the only trace is a low stone wall enclosing a space of 1 20 by 80 feet. Inside of the enclosure is a small building apparently once a temple." Pages 234-237
Reference:

"GAZETTEER OF THE BOMBAY PRESIDENCY. VOLUME V. CUTCH, PALANPUR, AND MAHI KANTHA."

PRINTED AT THE GOVERNMENT CENTRAL PRESS. Bombay

PUBLICATION: 1880.

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