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Imperial Gazetteer of India, v. 6, p. 215.


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BAIGA


215


arrangement passes muster for an elephant. A widow is expected to
marry her husband's younger brother, and if she marries anybody else
without his consent, he must be compensated by a payment of Rs. 5.
Divorce is effected by the husband and wife jointly breaking a straw.
The dead are usually buried, old persons alone being burnt as
a special honour, and to save them from the risk of being devoured
by wild animals. The bodies are laid naked in the grave with their
heads pointing to the south. In the grave of a man of importance
two or three rupees and some tobacco are placed. Over the grave
a platform is made on which a stone is erected. This is called
the bhiri of the deceased, and is worshipped by his relations in time
of trouble.
Their religion presents no special features; but a Baiga is frequently
the priest in a Gond village, probably because as an earlier resident of
the country he is considered to have a more intimate knowledge of the
local deities and is therefore called in to lay spirits. Even a Brahman
has been known to consult a Baiga priest and ask what forest gods he
should worship, and what other steps he should take to keep well and
escape calamity. The knowledge which the Baigas possess of the medi-
cinal properties of jungle roots and herbs enables them to sustain their
reputation among the other tribes as medicine men.
The Baigas are the wildest of all the forest tribes, and formerly
practised only shifting cultivation, by burning down patches of jungle
and sowing seed on the ground fertilized by the ashes after the breaking
of the rains. Now that this practice has been prohibited in Govern-
ment forests, attempts have been made to train them to regular culti-
vation, but with indifferent success in B.laghat. One explanation of their
refusal to cultivate is that they consider it a sin to lacerate the breast of
their mother earth with a plough-share. They also say that God caused
the jungle to produce everything necessary for the sustenance of man
and made the Baigas kings of the forest, giving them wisdom to discover
the things provided for them. To Gonds and others who had not this
wisdom the inferior occupation of tilling the land was left. Men
never become farm-servants, but during the cultivating season they work
for hire at uprooting the rice seedlings for transplantation; they do no
other agricultural labour for others. Women do the actual transplan-
tation of rice, and work as harvesters. The men make bamboo mats
and baskets, which they sell in the weekly village markets; they also
collect and sell honey and other forest products, and are most expert at
all work that can be done with an axe, making excellent wood-cutters.
But they show no aptitude in acquiring the use of any other implement
and dislike continuous labour, preferring to do a few days' work and
then rest in their homes for a like period before beginning again. They
hunt all kinds of wild animals with spears, poisoned arrows, and axes,



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