Brief Details of Kotwalia


The Kotwalia are also called Vitolias. Enthoven (1920) while writing about Vitolia says 'that they are also, known as Kotwalia and Wansphodia. They are known for their.skill of preparing bamboo articles. One of their traditional expert craftsmen prepared a coat from bamboo material and presented the same to a British Officer. That Officer called him by the name of Kotwalia or coat, wala. Due to their nomadic nature they had been identified locally as Vadi (migrating group). In Census reports, the Vitolia, Vansfodia and Barodia have been clubbed with Kotwalias and their combined population in Gujarati is 21,411 (TRTI Survey). The Vitolia, and Barodia also subsist on the skills of making bamboo articles, but they are different from Kotwalias (Bhati & Sharma, 1977). They have been listed under the category of scheduled tribes.

Kotwalia live in the forest regions -so as to get a regular supply of sufficient raw materials, i.e. bamboo. They speak in their own dialect, Kotwalia, among themselves and with their kin groups. With outsiders they speak in Gujarati and use Gujarati script. In these days the bamboo is not easy to get. Therefore they try to find various new occupations.

They are non-vegetarian and eat fish, meat, even of dead animals. Their staple food is nagali, coarse millet. They use rice and wheat. They also consume pulses and-vegetables. They purchase all these from the local market. They grow vegetables and also eat. They make use of fruits only on some special occasion. Tea is a common beverage to them. They purchase milk only on an essential need, but now many Kotwalia families keep buffalos and supply milk to Gujarat Dairy. Alcoholic drink is quite common to them. Both males and females are used to it. Even children are allowed to drink, when offered to Kuldevl (clan goddess).

There are four endogamous groups and exogamous kuls among the Kotowalia the kuls are Gamiti, Choudhary, Dhobi and Nai. The Kul members consider their origin from the same legendary ancestor. The kuls are of equal status, kul members help each other at the time of crisis. According to their perception, they are Lower than Rajput, Kunbi, Koli, etc but higher than the Bhangi or Chamar. They consider themselves equal to other tribal communities such as Kokana. Marriage is locally called lagan. The Kotwalia are endogamous at the community level and they also practice kul endogamy. They practice cross-cousin marriage i.e. with father's sister's daughter and daughter of mother's brother. The marriage age for the girl varies from 17 to 18 years, and for the boy, it is from 18 to 25 years. Mode of acquiring a mate is through negotiation. Ghar jamai (marriage by service) system of marriage is also prevalent among them. Monogamy is the norm. Surreal polygyny is also permitted in their community. Junior surrogate is permitted in their community. Symbol of marriage is vermillion dot on the forehead. Payment of bride-price is prevalent among them. Rule of residence after marriage is patrilocal. But in case of marriage by service, the boy, during the period of service lives at the girl's house -and sometimes settles there after marriage. Divorce is permitted. Either party may seek divorce on account of impotency, adultery, or maladjustment. If the wife seeks divorce, the total expenditure incurred during marriage is returned to her husband by her family members. While gharjamai has to return the total expenditure of marriage incurred by his in-laws if he seeks divorce. Remarriage (natra) for widow, widower and divorcee is permitted. Marriages within the same kul are sometimes' ignored but never community endogamy.

Nuclear type of family is prevalent though extended families also co-exist. The property is inherited equally by sons while the eldest son succeeds to the authority. Joking relationships exists between grandparents and grand children. Their society does not allow a woman to hold the property. Woman is considered equal in domestic, economic, and ritual matters and also in case of family affairs, marriage alliances and in social gatherings of their community. They also have an equal participation in ancestor-worship. Women contribute to the family income by making basket etc. They collect fuel wood from the forest. Actually they are the main work force in their family.

Delivery takes place within their house. The pregnant mother is attended by a local dayan (mid-wife). Post-delivery pollution period for the woman is for forty days, and for the child, it is for twelve days. On the sixth day, a puja is performed for the well being of the child, called as chhattpuja.

One elderly experienced member presides over the rituals in marriage. Tuesday and Thursday are considered -auspicious days for celebrating marriage. Marriage ceremony starts with sagai or chandla (engagement). Three days before the marriage, holdi is anointed first on the body of 'the boy, then some portion of the used haldi (turmeric) is sent to the house of the bride to anoint her. Marriage is solemnized at the bride's house. Previously it used to be held at groom's house. Jan (wedding procession) goes to the bride's house. The groom reaches the house of the bride with Jan. The brother of the bride puts a knot in the cloth of the bride and the bride groom. Thereafter, they are taken into the inner compartment. A plate of cooked rice and pulses is put before the bridegroom who takes first and then he passes the plate to the bride for eating. Acceptance of that food means acceptance of the bridegroom as husband. Next, they exchange flower garlands. The bridegroom returns to his father's house along with the bride. Three days after she comes back to her father's house along with her husband. After five days the couple returns to groom's house.

The Kotwalia cremate their dead. They practice burial in case of death of minors. The dead body is first bathed, and then placed on a bamboo bier to be carried to the cremation ground. After the cremation, the participants of the funeral procession gather at the house of the deceased. There they have tea or alcoholic drinks. Women of the family prepare khichari (gruel of pulse & rice) and share the same with relatives. On the twelfth day, they install a memorial pillar in the name of dead and perform some rituals and offer food to the members of the community.

Bamboo work has been their traditional occupation and they still continue to pursue the same occupation. They manufacture bamboo articles and sell the same into the local' market. In the past they faced no restriction in getting bamboo from the forest. But after independence, the situation has changed in this respect. Forest department has taken complete control over the forest products. Now, the Kotwalias are not allowed to enter into the forest without prior permission of the Divisional Forest Officer. But since the Kotwalia are considered a primitive group, they are getting benefits from different development programmes especially meant for them such as (i) rehabilitation programmes (ii) Bamboo workers' co-operatives under the guidance of the Forest Department (iii) providing at least eight hundred bamboos to each family living in the project area. Such programmes for their development have been implemented in the Dangs district and in Songadh taluka of Surat district.

They have no community panchayat as such, but they settle their disputes with the help of elderly members of the community. Sometimes, if the elderly members of the community, fails to settle any case, they approach the Police Patel of the village for the settlement of the disputes. In no case, they go to court to settle their disputes. They have very little idea about panchayat system. They do not show any interest to participate in politics.

Kotwalia profess their own religious beliefs. Their community goddess is Sagya. They worship her at the time of Dussehra. They also observe Holi and Diwali festivals. They show great devotion to Kaka Baita, deity of small pox. Similarly they also worship Hindu gods and goddesses such as Ganesh, Kali, Siva and Krishna. Kotwalia has reputation as a community of sorcerers. Almost all the male members have expertise in magic-religious rituals. It is believed that they know black magic and they have the power to inflict diseases to others. A sorcerer has some status in their community. Even other community people, such as Kokna and Kolcha show respect to a Kotwalia for his expertise in witch-craft and sorcery.

They are expert craftsmen in bamboo basketry. They have folksongs. They sing songs at the time of Holy, Dassehra, Diwali, etc. Both males and females take part in dance. They have linkages with other communities. Members of other communities do not accept water from their hands. In general, they don't participate in other community's functions. They accept food from other communities.

Education has not made any imprint among them. In year 2001 literacy percentage was only 31.68. Now-a-days, educational development is taking place among them. Their children are now getting education in recently set up Balvadis and ashram schools. General health is good. If there is any disease they first consult their community sorcerer. Some of them are enjoying medical facilities. They are enjoying road facilities. They have also taken family welfare programmes. Most of the Kotwalia women undergo operation after having two or three children. Electricity is available in the new colonies set up for them. Drinking water facilities are available through wells. But they also collect water from springs.

The co-operatives are providing assistance to the members in selling their products at appropriate prices. They are supplied bamboo from the forest department. Kotwalia has to deposit their manufactured goods to the forest co-operative. The co-operative immediately pays them one third of the actual cost of the products in advance. The balance is to be given after the sale of their products. It is the responsibility of the co-operative to sell their crafts. Life of the Kotwalia is changing owing to the rehabilitation programme which has helped to check and put a halt to their migratory habits though not completely but to a great extent. But in the other project areas, each Kotwalia family is getting hundred bamboos at subsidized rate from the forest department. They sell their crafts in the local market.

Population Data

Details of population data of Kotwalia
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Kotwalia Life
1 of Kotwalia Life
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