Brief Details of Rathwa


The name of the tribe has been derived from the term "rathbistar" which means the forest and hilly areas. Thus the people who are the inhabitants of the rathbistar are called Rathwas. They are also known as Rathawa Koli. They recall their migration from the adjoining state of Madhya Pradesh. They are mainly distributed in the Chhota Udaipur, Jabugam and Nasvadi talukas of Vadodara district and also in Halol, Kalol and Baria talukas of Panchmahal district. According to 1981 Census, their total population was 3,08,640. According census 2001 the population of Rathwa was 5,35,284 out which 273296 were male and 2,61,988 female. The Rathvi is the medium of communication within the family and with kin members while Gujarati in relation to others and for writing Gujarati script is used. They communicate with the outsiders in Hindi also. The traditional dress of the adult male members are langoti (loin cloth), kachuta and the phenta (headgear). Now young people wear pant and shirt. The female members dress up with the ghagaro (lower garment) and cholia (upper garment). The women wear kala (armlet) made up of chandi (silver) but kala, (armlet) of men is of iron. They also wear fasi at the wrist which is made up of silver. They wear biti (finger ring). They have tattoo marks on their body. They have been included in the list of the scheduled tribes.

The Rathwa are occasionally non-vegetarian. They take meat fish, eggs and chicken. They take rotla (homemade bread), rice, dal (pulses) and sabji (vegetables) as a staple food. Pamolin oil is the cooking medium. Seasonally available vegetables are consumed. They take non-alcoholic beverages kadhi (buttermilk) and chhas (butter-milk with spices). They also take home brewed alcoholic drinks, and smoke tobacco.

The community has various petha (clans) like Hamania, Thebaria, Mahania, Kothari Baka, Fadia etc. which are exogamous. The Rathwa perceive them as having the middle order rank in the local social hierarchy but other communities place them at a lower level. They suffix father's name and the community's name to their names.

The Rathwas are endogamous. A man can not marry his maternal uncle's daughter and father's brother's daughter. Child marriages were practiced in the past, but now-a-days, the average age at marriage has increased to twelve to twenty years in case of girls and twenty to twenty-four years in case of boys. Marriage alliances are negotiated by the parents or by the elder members. Marriage by elopement is also practiced. Sometimes, they also choose their life partners in the fair. Monogamy is the common form of marriage. Sindur (vermilion) on the forehead is the symbol of married women. The bride-price is given to bride's father at the time of marriage. They follow patrilocal residence after the marriage, sometimes new residences are also formed, immediately after the marriage. The major reasons behind the divorce cases are either mal-adjustment between spouses or impotency. Divorce compensation is given to wife. Children are liability of mother in divorce cases. Only the husband can divorce. Widower-widow and divorcee remarriages are permissible, but elaborate rituals of actual marriage ceremony is not performed.

Nuclear families predominate over extended type of families. Avoidance relationship exists between bahu (daughter-in-law) and sasur (husband's father). Joking relationship is permitted between elder sister's husband and wife's younger sister. Sometimes the conflicts in families arise on the division of ancestral property. Male equigeniture is the rule of inheritance. The eldest son succeeds the father as head of the family. Inter-family linkages are based on the mutual co-operation.

The Rathwa women have a role in agricultural operations. Besides they have a significant role in animal husbandry, collection of fuel and bringing potable water. They also have a role in religious sphere but in the political sphere they have hardly any role. The overall family expenditure is controlled by the male members of the household. Women have a status lower than that of their men.

The first delivery takes place at the pregnant woman's natal home. Pre-delivery restrictions are observed and she is not permitted to do hard work in the advanced stages of pregnancy. Forty to forty five days pollution period is observed after the delivery of the child. Naming is done after one year. The mundan (shaving of head-hair) ceremony is performed after one year only in case of male child. The actual marriage ceremony is preceded by sagai betrothal). The marriage rituals take place at bride's residence in a mandop (marriage booth). The Pujara (sacred specialist) officiates at the rituals. Four /eras (clockwise circumambulation) are performed by the couple around the sacred fire. A feast is arranged for the groom's party by the bride's father after the completion of marriage rituals. The marriage is consummated at the groom's residence.

The dead are cremated. The widow moves around the bier of the deceased in an anti-clockwise direction thereby setting the soul of her husband free from marital ties. On, the third day after cremation the eldest son gets his head shaved. The egarma, barma and terma (11th, 12th, and 13th day) day rituals are organised after cremation. On the day of terma a feast is given to the kin members. The economy of the Rathwa is mainly based on cultivation. They are mostly small and marginal land-holders. Some landless people earn their livelihood as daily labourers and agricultural labourers. The agricultural labourers get remuneration in cash every day. They also collect forest products and sell them in the market. Occasionally they go to hunt rabbit and other game.

The Rathawa have their traditional council. Knowledgeable persons are the members of this council, who are elected by a voice-vote. The Sarpanch is the panchayat President. The Police Patel settles the disputes in the presence of the community elders. The Police Patel holds a very important position at the local level. If the disputes are not settled amicably, then the Police Patel informs the police station for further action. It is customary that the police patel must be present in each and every major event of the village.

The Rathwa are the followers of folk religion. It has the elements of Hindu religion. They believe in their supreme deity, God Baba Deb who is also their village deity. They worship the objects like horse, tiger, elephant and camel which are prepared by the Kumbhar. The Pujara (sacred specialist), also called Gor performs the rituals. They have priests from their own community. They also participate in the festivals of Diwali, Holi, Dashera, Ujani and Pithora with great enthusiasm. A section of the Rathawa community, influenced by the Swaminarayan movement, is called Bhagat. They are purely vegetarian. The other section is called Jagat who are non-vegetarians. These divisions are due to the impact of socio-religious movements, which have changed as Bhagats from non-vegetarians to vegetarians. They sacrifice fowls before their gods at the time of festivals.

The community people are famous for their tattooing marks on their body and Pithora paintings. They use the motifs of tiger, camel, elephant etc. on the walls of their homes. A festival is observed on Pithora before Holi in the month of January-February in each and every village. A goat is sacrificed and other rituals are observed. This is known as the festival of Pithora paintings. They have their own folk-songs and folk-tales. The folk songs are sung by them at the time of marriage ceremony. They perform dance and play music at the time of festivals and marriages.

Traditionally the Rathawas neither accept nor exchange water and food from Vankar and Harijans but Harijans, Vankars, Masaba, Dhanka and Bhilalas accept water and food from the Rathawa. The Kolis, Patels, Rajputs and the Brdhmans are considered superior to them; so they do not accept water and food from Rathawas. The ritual based kinship like dharambhai and dharambahin exists among the community members. A few are engaged in police service, Border Security Force and as clerks in the government departments. The traditional restrictions have been reduced to some extent. Now-a-days, every community member shares the same water sources and have easy access to the facilities of road, schools etc. Cultivator-labourer relationships also exists in the form of contract labourers and these relationships came into existence for the last four or five years.

The community's attitude towards the formal education is partly favorable for the boys. The boys study up to secondary level whereas the girls study up to primary level. The girls drop-out from studies due to the socio-economic reasons, and the boys drop-out due to economic reasons. Their attitude is favorable towards allopathic Medicare. The children get mid-day meals from the schools. Lakri (fire wood), cow dung-cakes and kerosene oil are the main fuel resources. They use organic manure as well as chemical fertilizers to increase the agricultural production. Their attitude towards savings is not favorable owing to their poor economic condition.

Population Data

Details of population data of Rathwa
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Rathwa Life
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