"UNDER one appellation or other the Dhair belongs to every village community; and, though an outcast according to the Hindoo faith, is indispensable to all ; and in every Deccan village holds a respectable station as one of the barah balootay, or village council. The Dhair also is a wutundar, or hereditary occupant and office holder, and, in truth, is an eminently useful person. He is the protector of the village boundary, in regard to which all particulars are transmitted from father to son. In cases of boundary disputes his evidence is very valuable, and also true, for to give false evidence in respect to it would be to court death at the hands of the local divinities. He is also an authority in reference to sites of houses in villages, and in regard to the divisions of lands and the possessions of each hereditary holder, and can point out their boundaries. The Dhair is also the watchman, in a general sense, of the village and its crops. He has to go his rounds at night among the fields, and warn farmers of depredations whether by men or wild animals. He has to carry letters from one village to another, and it is his office to convey the collections made in the village or town to the head receiver of the district, which he does with celerity and faithfulness. He has to remove the carcasses of dead cattle from the village, and obtains the horns and skin as a perquisite. If a traveller arrives he has to procure lodgings for him, and forage and firewood, for which he receives a gratuity ; then one of the Dhairs has to cany the traveller's baggage, and act as guide to the next village. For these services the Dhairs receive rent free lands, of which they divide the produce, and they can cultivate lands if they please. They have also a right to a certain proportion of grain or other produce from all cultivators, and certain dues at village festivals, marriages, burials, or cremations, in the shape of money, shoes, a turban and waistcloth, &c. As a rule the Dhairs are very industrious. They and their women alone spin the finest thread which is used for the highest class muslins, which is produced from cotton treated in a peculiar manner, and spun in a close room kept lightly watered. In some instances they weave coarse cloth, but indifferently. With all these useful qualifications, however, the Dhairs are outcasts. They are not allowed to live inside a village, but have a suburb of their own, at some little distance from, or even adjoining the walls, where they have, in many instances, their own temples, generally of Hunooman, the monkey god, or of some form of Devi or Bhowanee. They profess to follow Brahmins, by whom many of their ceremonies are performed ; but they have priests of their own, who conduct sacrifices on great occasions. Formerly, under Hindoo rule, Dhairs were much oppressed : they could not wear decent clothing, nor take water, except from certain places ; and they were obliged to carry loads without payment. This, however, is altered now. The Dhair is free to do as he pleases ; he may even send his children, if he chooses, to school. He can enlist into the infantry or cavalry of the line — and Dhairs make excellent soldiers — or into the police, and many are grooms and officers' servants. Although Dhairs are meanly clad, and look miserably poor, yet they are not unfrequently very well off. They can always obtain a livelihood by work, whether in the fields or at home ; and their women, on gala days, arc not unfrequently gaily dressed, and wear gold and silver ornaments. They are as industrious as the men, both in the field and at home. Dhairs eat everything — flesh, fowl, and grain ; but their ordinary food is simple, and their wives are very good cooks. None of them object to ardent spirits, whether men or women ; but, except at some festivals, they do not drink to excess. There can be no doubt that the Dhairs are descended from an aboriginal race ; but what it was, or how they became subject to the Aryans, in the capacity they now are, there exists not even a tradition. In the population of the Central Provinces alone, the Dhairs represent 561,438 souls."
"The People of India" volume-7 cited earlier
Publication year 1874
("THE PEOPLE OF INDIA."
A SERIES OF PHOTOGRAPHIC ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE RACES AND TRIBES OF HINDUSTSN,
ORIGINALLY PREPARED UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA,
REPRODUCED BY ORDER OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA
BY COL. MEADOWS TAYLOR, C.S.I., M.R.A.S.,
EDITED BY J. FORBES WATSON, I.A., M.D., 4c., AND SIR JOHN WILLIAM KAYE, K.C.S.I., F.R.S., 4c.
LONDON : INDIA MUSEUM,
ALLEN AND CO., 13, WATERLOO PLACE, S.W.)