History of Badhak Community
According to the beliefs, Badhaks belonged to Gujarat and they claimed to be the ‘Rajputs’. They were divided into clans with the famous ‘Rajput’ names of Solanki, Panwar, Dhundhel, Chauhan, Rathore, Gahlot, Bhatti and Charan earlier. Their predecessors were believed to have fled from Chittore on one of the past times on which it was attacked and sacked. Badhak Community had effectively attacked so many of the treasuries of the native sub-collectors all over the North-Western Provinces.
It would have been impossible for the Badhaks to exist as they did without the defense of the landowners. When the chief of Karauli(Rajasthan) was called upon to dislocate a gang within his province, he was hesitated that the oppression of the Badhaks might cause a rebellion in the State. The son of the Raja exchanged the turbans with a Badhak leader, Mangal Singh. After the fortress and province of Garhakota in Saugor had been taken by the Maharaja Sindhia, Zalim Singh a cousin of the deprived Bundela chief, collected a force of Bundelas and Pindaris and ravaged the country round Garhakota in 1813. Colonel Jean Baptiste, Sindhia's general, obtained a number of picked Badhaks from Rajputs and offered them a wealthy reward for the head of Zalim Singh.
An attempt of the King of Oudh's to form a troop of Badhaks had ended in a failure, as after a short time they mutinied, beat their leader and other officers and turned them out of the troop. Colonel Sleeman noted that they were never recognized to offer any other violence or insult to females than to make them give up any gold ornaments that they might have. Badhaks stated that they could not stay in towns and they had always been accustomed to live in the jungles and commit dacoities upon the people of the towns as a kind of sport. Between 1837 and 1849 the suppression of the regular practice of armed dacoity was practically achieved by Colonel Sleeman. In 1825 it had been estimated that the Oudh forests alone contained from 4000 to 6000 dacoits, while the property stolen in 1811 from known dacoities was valued at ten lakhs of rupees.
Society of Badhak Community
The Badhaks have a regular caste establishment and members of different clans got married to each other like the Rajputs. They admitted liberally into the community members of any respectable Hindu caste, but not the impure castes. They were frequently known to the people as ‘Siarkhawa’ or jackal-eaters, or ‘Sabkhawa’, those who eat everything. Children were frequently adopted, being purchased in large numbers in time of famine and also irregularly kidnapped. They were brought up to the trade of dacoit, and if they showed enough ability for it then they are taken out on expeditions. The Badhak widows would go and find a second husband from among the regular population and as a rule would sooner or later persuade him to join the Badhaks. Like the religious Hindus, the Badhaks are accustomed to preserve the bones of their dead people after the body had been burnt and carry them to the Ganges.
Culture of Badhak Community
Badhaks are endogamous community and practice the principle of clan exogamy. They are Hindu and observe all the major Hindu festivals but do not have exclusive family or clan deities. Badhaks are a landless community, providing the bulk of the agricultural laborers in eastern Uttar Pradesh. Traditionally, the community was of hunters and gatherers, but now they are mainly butchers. Their subsidiary income is animalhusbandry, poultry and drying and tanning of skins. A small number are also employed as agricultural laborers. As a Dalit community, they often suffer from societal discrimination. Each of their settlement contains an informal caste council, known as a ‘biradari panchayat’. The ‘panchayat’ acts as instrument of social control, dealing with issues such as divorce and adultery.
Badhaks are very religious or superstitious and considered the Godsof the Hindu belief. For offerings to the Gods they purchase goats, sweet cakes and prepare a feast but no female but a virgin can participate. Badhaks believe that the spirits of their ancestors can easily observe. They have some Gods to be proud of among their ancestors. Their strength and powers of survival are great and they think that these qualities are obtained by eating of the ‘goh’ and ‘sandha’ or ‘iguana lizards’. They carry a box containing grains of wheat and the seeds of a creeper, both soaked in melted butter while wandering with their families. The box with a peacock's feather and a bell is wrapped in two white and then in two red cloths, one of the white cloths having the print of a man's hand dipped in goat's blood upon it. The grains of wheat are used for taking the omens.
Badhaks generally have one to three brands from a hot iron on the inside of their left wrist. Those of them who are hunters brand the muscles of the left wrist in order to steady the hand when firing their matchlocks. The customs of wearing a peculiar necklace of small wooden heads and a kind of gold pin fixed to the front teeth. When the Marwari Baorias want to indicate to others of their caste, who may follow in their footsteps, the route taken, a member of the gang, usually a woman, trails a stick in the dust as she walks along, leaving a spiral track on the ground.
Another method of indicating the route taken is to place leaves under stones at intervals along the road. The form of crime most in favor among the ordinary Baoris is housebreaking by night. Their common practice is to make a hole in the wall beside the door through which the hand passes to raise the latch and only occasionally they dig a hole in the base of the wall to admit the passage of a man, while another favored alternative is to break in through a barred window, the bars being quickly and forcibly bent and drawn out.
Badhak Community in Contemporary India
Badhaks still exist and are famous as one of the worst classes of criminals, practicing normal house-breaking and loot. The name ‘Badhak’ is now less usually used than those of ‘Bagri’ and ‘Baori’ or ‘Bawaria’, both of which were borne by the original ‘Badhaks’. The term ‘Badhak’ signifies a hunter therefore a robber or murderer. In Mumbai, the Bagris are known as ‘Vaghris’.
|More Articles in North Indian Tribes (24)|