Origin and traditions
important agricultural caste residing principally
in the Vindhyan Districts and Nerbudda valley, whence
they have spread to the Wainganga valley and the Khairagarh
State of Chhattisgarh.
Their total strength in
the Province is 300,000 persons.
The Lodhis are
immigrants from the United Provinces, in whose Gazetteers
it is stated that they belonged originally to the
Ludhiana District and took their name from it.
Their proper designation is Lodha, but it has become
corrupted to Lodhi in the Central Provinces.
number of persons resident in the Harda tahsil of Hoshangabad
are called Lodha and say that they are distinct from
There is nothing to support their
statement, however, and it is probable that they simply
represent the separate wave of immigration which took
place from Central India into the Hoshangabad and Betul
Districts in the fifteenth century.
a different dialect of the group known as Rajasthani,
and hence perhaps the caste-name did not get corrupted.
The Lodhis of the Jubbulpore Division probably came
here at a later date from northern India.
Mandla Lodhis are said to have been brought to the
District by Raja Hirde
of the Gond-Rajput
dynasty of Garha-Mandla in the seventeenth century,
and they were given large grants of the waste land
in the interior in order that they might clear it
of forest. The Lodhis are a good instance of
a caste who have obtained a great rise in social status
on migrating to a new area.
In northern India
Mr. Nesfield places them lowest among the agricultural
castes and states that they are little better than
a forest tribe.
He derives the name from
a clod, according to which Lodhi would mean clodhopper.
Another suggestion is that the name is derived
from the bark of the
is collected by the Lodhas in northern India and sold
for use as a dyeing agent.
In Bulandshahr they
are described as “Of short stature and uncouth
appearance, and from this as well as from their want
of a tradition of immigration from other parts they
appear to be a mixed class proceeding from aboriginal
and Aryan parents.
In the Districts below Agra
they are considered so low that no one drinks water
touched by them; but this is not the case in the Districts
above Agra.” In Hamirpur they appear to
have some connection with the Kurmis, and a story
told of them in Saugor is that the first Lodhi was
created by Mahadeo from a scarecrow in a Kurmi woman’s
field and given the vocation of a farmservant But
the Lodhis themselves claim Rajput ancestry and say
that they are descended from Lava, the eldest of the
two sons of Raja Ramchandra of Ajodhya.
Position in the central Provinces
In the Central Provinces they have
become landholders and are addressed by the honorific
title of Thakur, ranking with the higher cultivating
Several Lodhi landholders in Damoh and
Saugor formerly held a quasi-independent position
under the Muhammadans, and subsequently acknowledged
the Raja of Panna as their suzerain, who conferred
on some families the titles of Raja and Diwan.
They kept up a certain amount of state, and small
contingents of soldiery, attended by whom they went
to pay their respects to the representative of the
“It would be difficult,”
says Grant, “to recognise the descendants
of the peaceful cultivators of northern India in the
strangely accoutred Rajas who support their style and
title by a score of ragged matchlock-men and a ruined
mud fort on a hill-side.”
Sir B. Fuller’s
Damoh Settlement Report
says of them:
“A considerable number of villages had been for
long time past in the possession of certain important
families, who held them by prescription or by a grant
from the ruling power, on a right which approximated
as nearly to the English idea of proprietorship as
native custom permitted.
The most prominent of
these families were of the Lodhi caste.
have developed tastes for sport and freebooting and
have become decidedly the most troublesome item in
During the Mutiny the Lodhis
as a class were openly disaffected, and one of their
proprietors, the Talukdar of Hindoria, marched on the
District headquarters and looted the treasury.”
Similarly the Ramgarh family of Mandla took to arms
and lost the large estates till then held by them.
On the other hand the village of Imjhira in Narsinghpur
belonging to a Lodhi malguzar was gallantly defended
against a band of marauding rebels from Saugor.
Sir R. Craddock describes them as follows:
are men of strong character, but their constant family
feuds and love of faction militate against their prosperity.
A cluster of Lodhi villages forms a hotbed of strife
and the nearest relations are generally divided by
The Revenue Officer who visits
them is beset by reckless charges and counter-charges
and no communities are less amenable to conciliatory
Agrarian outrages are only too common
in some of the Lodhi villages.” The high
status of the Lodhi caste in the Central Provinces
as compared with their position in the country of
their origin may be simply explained by the fact that
they here became landholders and ruling chiefs.
In the northern Districts the landholding
Lodhis are divided into a number of exogamous clans
who marry with each other in imitation of the Rajputs.
These are the Mahdele, Kerbania, Dongaria, Narwaria,
Bhadoria and others.
The name of the Kerbanias
is derived from Kerbana, a village in Damoh, and the
Balakote family of that District are the head of the
The Mahdeles are the highest clan and have
the titles of Raja and Diwan, while the others hold
those of Rao and Kunwar, the terms Diwan and Kunwar
being always applied to the younger brother of the
head of the house.
These titles are still occasionally
conferred by the Raja of Panna, whom the Lodhi clans
looked on as their suzerain.
The name of the
Mahdeles is said to be derived from the
or henna plant.
The above clans sometimes practise
hypergamy among themselves and also with the other
Lodhis, taking daughters from the latter on receipt
of a large bridegroom-price for the honour conferred
by the marriage.
This custom is now, however,
tending to die out.
There are also several endogamous
subcastes ranking below the clans, of whom the principal
are the Singrore, Jarha, Jangra and Mahalodhi.
The Singrore take their name from the old town of Singraur
or Shrengera in northern India, Singrore, like Kanaujia,
being a common subcaste name among several castes.
It is also connected more lately with the Singram
Ghat or ferry of the Ganges in Allahabad District,
and the title of Rawat is said to have been conferred
on the Singrore Lodhis by the emperor Akbar on a visit
The Jarha Lodhis belong to Mandla.
The name is probably a form of Jharia or jungly, but
since the leading members of the caste have become
large landholders they repudiate this derivation.
The Jangra Lodhis are of Chhattisgarh, and the Mahalodhis
or ‘Great Lodhis’ are an inferior group
to which the offspring of irregular unions are or
The Mahalodhis are said to condone
adultery either by a man or woman on penalty of a
feast to the caste.
Other groups are the Hardiha,
who grow turmeric (
), and the Gwalhare
The Lodhas of Hoshangabad may also
be considered a separate subcaste.
connection with the Lodhis, but the fact that the
parent caste in the United Provinces is known as Lodha
appears to establish their identity.
from flesh and liquor, which most Lodhis consume.
This division of the superior branch
of a caste into large exogamous clans and the lower
one into endogamous subcastes is only found, so far
as is known, among the Rajputs and one or two landholding
castes who have imitated them.
Its origin is
discussed in the Introduction.
The subcastes are as usual divided
into exogamous groups of the territorial, titular
and totemistic classes.
Among sections named
after places may be mentioned the Chandpuria from Chandpur,
the Kharpuria from Kharpur, and the Nagpuriha, Raipuria,
Dhamonia, Damauha and Shahgariha from Nagpur, Raipur,
Dhamoni, Damoh and Shahgarh.
Two-thirds of the
sections have the names of towns or villages.
Among titular names are Saulakhia, owner of 100 lakhs,
Bhainsmar, one who killed a buffalo, Kodonchor, one
who stole kodon, Kumharha perhaps from Kumhar
a potter, and Rajbhar and Barhai (carpenter), names
Among totemistic names are Baghela,
tiger, also the name of a Rajput sept; Kutria, a dog;
Khajuria, the date-palm tree; Mirchaunia, chillies;
Andwar, from the castor-oil plant; Bhainsaiya, a buffalo;
and Nak, the nose.
A man must not marry in his own section
nor in that of his mother.
He may marry two sisters.
The exchange of girls between families is only in
force among the Bilaspur Lodhis, who say, ’Eat
with those who have eaten with you and marry with
those who have married with you.’
are usually wedded before puberty, but in the northern
Districts the marriage is sometimes postponed from
desire to marry into a good family or from want of
funds to pay a bridegroom-price, and girls of twenty
or more may be unmarried.
A case is known of a
man who had two daughters unmarried at twenty-two and
twenty-three years old, because he had been waiting
, with the result that one of
them went and lived with a man and he then married
off the other in the Singhast year, which is forbidden
among the Lodhis, and was put out of caste.
marriage and other ceremonies of the Lodhis resemble
those of the Kurmis, except in Chhattisgarh where
the Maratha fashion is followed.
Here, at the
wedding, the bride and bridegroom hold between them
a doll made of dough with 21 cowries inside, and as
the priest repeats the marriage texts they pull it
apart like a cracker and see how many cowries each
It is considered auspicious if the bridegroom
has the larger number.
The priest is on the roof
of the house, and before the wedding he cries out:
‘Are the king and queen here?’
And a man below answers, ‘Yes.’
‘Have they shoes on their feet?’ ‘Yes.’
‘Have they bracelets on their hands?’
‘Have they rings in their ears?’ ‘Yes.’
‘Have they crowns on their heads?’ ‘Yes.’
‘Has she glass beads round her neck?’
‘Have they the doll in their hands?’ ‘Yes.’
And the priest then repeats the marriage
texts and beats a brass dish while the doll is pulled
apart In the northern Districts after the wedding
the bridegroom must untie one of the festoons of the
marriage-shed, and if he refuses to do this, it is
an indelible disgrace on the bride’s party.
Before doing so he requires a valuable present, such
as a buffalo.
The gauna ceremoney.
When the girl becomes mature the Gauna
or going-away ceremony is performed.
before leaving her home the bride goes out with her
sister and worships a
tree. Her sister
waves a lighted lamp seven times over it, and the
bride goes seven times round it in imitation of the
At her husband’s house
seven pictures of the family gods are drawn on a wall
inside the house and the bride worships these, placing
a little sugar and bread on the mouth of each and
bowing before them.
She is then seated before
the family god while an old woman brings a stone rolling-pin
wrapped up in a piece of cloth, which is supposed
to be a baby, and the old woman imitates a baby crying.
She puts the roller in the bride’s lap saying,
‘Take this and give it milk.’
bride is abashed and throws it aside.
woman picks it up and shows it to the assembled women
saying, ‘The bride has just had a baby,’
amid loud laughter.
Then she gives the stone to
the bridegroom who also throws it aside.
ceremony is meant to induce fertility, and it is supposed
that by making believe that the bride has had a baby
she will quickly have one.
Widow-marriage and puberty rite
The higher clans of Lodhis in Damoh
and Saugor prohibit the remarriage of widows, but
instances of it occur.
It is said that a man who
marries a widow is relegated to the Mahalodhi subcaste
or the Lahuri Sen, an illegitimate group, and the
Lodhis of his clan no longer acknowledge his family.
But if a girl’s husband dies before she has lived
with him she may marry again.
The other Lodhis
freely permit widow-marriage and divorce.
a girl first becomes mature she is secluded, and though
she may stay in the house cannot enter the cook-room.
At the end of the period she is dressed in red cloth,
and a present of cocoanuts stripped of their shells,
sweetmeats, and a little money, is placed in her lap,
while a few women are invited to a feast.
rite is also meant to induce fertility, the kernel
of the cocoanut being held to resemble an unborn baby.
The higher clans consider themselves
impure for a period of 12 days after a birth, and
if the birth falls in the Mul asterism or Nakshatra,
for 27 days.
After death they observe mourning
for 10 days; on the 10th day they offer ten
or funeral cakes, and on the 11th day make one large
or cake and divide it into eleven parts;
on the 12th day they make sixteen
unite the spirit of the dead man with the ancestors;
and on the 13th day they give a feast and feed Brahmans
and are clean.
The lower subcastes only observe
impurity for three days after a birth and a death.
Their funeral rites are the same as those of the Kurmis.
The caste employ Brahmans for weddings,
but not necessarily for birth and death ceremonies.
They eat flesh and fish, and the bulk of the caste
eat fowls and drink liquor, but the landowning section
abjures these practices.
They will take food cooked
with water from Brahmans, and that cooked without
water also from Rajputs, Kayasths and Sunars.
In Narsinghpur they also accept cooked food from such
a low caste as Rajjahrs, probably because the
Rajjhars are commonly employed by them as farmservants,
and hence have been accustomed to carry their master’s
A similar relation has been found to exist
between the Panwar Rajputs and their Gond farmservants.
The higher class Lodhis make an inordinate show of
hospitality at their weddings.
The plates of
the guests are piled up profusely with food, and these
latter think it a point of honour never to refuse it
or say enough.
When melted butter is poured out
into their cups the stream must never be broken as
it passes from one guest to the other, or it is said
that they will all get up and leave the feast.
Apparently a lot of butter must be wasted on the ground.
The higher clans seclude their women, and these when
they go out must wear long clothes covering the head
and reaching to the feet.
The women are not allowed
to wear ornaments of a cheaper metal than silver, except
of course their glass bangles.
will eat food cooked with water in the cook-room and
carried to the fields, which the higher clans will
Their women wear the
through the legs and knotted behind according to the
Maratha fashion, but whenever they meet their husband’s
elder brother or any other elder of the family they
must undo the knot and let the cloth hang down round
their legs as a mark of respect.
They wear no
Girls are tattooed before adolescence
with dots on the chin and forehead, and marks on one
Before she is tattooed the girl is given
sweets to eat, and during the process the operator
sings songs in order that her attention may be diverted
and she may not feel the pain.
After she has
finished the operator mutters a charm to prevent evil
spirits from troubling the girl and causing her pain.
Greetings and method of address
The caste have some strict taboos
on names and on conversation between the sexes.
A man will only address his wife, sister, daughter,
paternal aunt or niece directly.
If he has occasion
to speak to some other woman he will take his daughter
or other female relative with him and do his business
He will not speak even to his own
women before a crowd.
A woman will similarly only
speak to her father, son or nephew, and father-, son-
or younger brother-in-law.
She will not speak
to her elder brother-in-law, and she will not address
her husband in the presence of his father, elder brother
or any other relative whom he reveres.
will never call her husband by his name, but always
address him as father of her son, and, if she has no
son, will sometimes speak to him through his younger
Neither the father nor mother will call
their eldest son by his name, but will use some other
Similarly a daughter-in-law is given a fresh
name on coming into the house, and on her arrival her
mother-in-law looks at her for the first time through
or ring of baked gram-flour.
man meeting his father or elder brother will touch
his feet in silence.
One meeting his sister’s
husband, sister’s son or son-in-law, will touch
his feet and say, ‘
Sacred thread and social status
The higher clans invest boys with
the sacred thread either when they are initiated by
a Guru or spiritual preceptor, or when they are married.
The thread is made by a Brahman and has five knots.
Recently a large landholder in Mandla, a Jarha Lodhi,
has assumed the sacred thread himself for the first
time and sent round a circular to his caste-men enjoining
them also to wear it.
His family priest has produced
a legend of the usual type showing how the Jarha Lodhis
are Rajputs whose ancestors threw away their sacred
threads in order to escape the vengeance of Parasurama.
Generally in social position the Lodhis may be considered
to rank with, but slightly above, the ordinary cultivating
castes, such as the Kurmis.
in no way arises from their origin, since, as already
seen, they are a very low caste in their home in northern
India, but from the fact that they have become large
landholders in the Central Provinces and in former
times their leaders exercised quasi-sovereign powers.
Many Lodhis are fine-looking men and have still some
appearance of having been soldiers.
passionate and quarrelsome, especially in the Jubbulpore
This is put forcibly in the saying that
’A Lodhi’s temper is as crooked as the
stream of a bullock’s urine.’
are generally cultivators, but the bulk of them are
not very prosperous as they are inclined to extravagance
and display at weddings and on other ceremonial occasions.