None of the villages are walled or fenced. Those on the coast
are densely shaded by belts of cocoanut gardens, and the roads between the long lines of houses are usually paved with cut laterite stones. These raised causeways are called pakhadis. The village sites of the inland parts are well, though less densely, shaded with mango, jack, and tamarind trees, each house standing in its own yard. Chambhars, Mhars, and other people of low caste live in quarters apart from the main village site. These hamlets, vadas, are always as well shaded as the main village. In this district there is one village or town to about every three square miles, each village containing an average of 79.0 people and about 174 houses.
Except the people of seven towns numbering 64,505 souls, or 6.32 per cent of the entire inhabitants, the population of the' Ratnagiri district, according to the 1872 census, lived in 1242 villages, with an average of 768.62 souls to each village. Three towns had more than 10,000, and four more than 5000 inhabitants. Excluding the seven towns and 5114 hamlets, there were 1242 inhabited state and alienated villages, giving an average of 0.32 villages to each square mile. Of the whole number of villages, 104 had less than 200 people; 413 from 200 to 500; 460 from 500 to 1000; 200 from 1000 to 2000; 46 from 2000 to 3000; and 19 from 3000 to 5000.
As regards the number of houses, there was, in 1872, a total of
224,790, or on an average 59.32 houses to the square mile, showing, compared with 110,807 in 1843, an increase of 92.44 per cent. Of the total number, 3318 houses, lodging 27,699 persons or 2.72 per cent of the entire population at the rate of 4.15 souls to each house, were buildings with walls of stone or fire-baked bricks and roofs of tile. The remaining 221,472 houses, accommodating 991,437 persons or 97.28 per cent, with a population of 8.35 souls to each house,
included all buildings covered with thatch or leaves, or whose outer walls were of mud or sun-dried brick. In 1829, though some houses were large and comfortable, each village had, on an average, not more than one brick or stone house. The walls of the better houses were mud, and of the poorer, reed. The roofs were thatched, the better with rice straw and the rest with grass. [Lieut. Dowell, 1829. Bom. Rev. Rec. 225 of 1851, 273.] This state of things is now (1880) found only in the smaller villages and hamlets. All large trading towns and villages have a good number of substantial stone tile-roofed buildings, housing nearly three per cent of the population. The better sort of house, sqnare built, with an open central or front courtyard, has, round the courtyard, an eight feet deep verandah-like dais or platform, raised about three feet from the ground; its walls covered with grotesque bright colonred figures of gods and animals, and its cornices hung with Bombay or China pictures. From this verandah, the common family resort, doors lead into back rooms, mostly dark and windowless, or out into a cattle-yard with offices in the rear. Shopkeepers live in dark rooms behind their stalls, with a backyard for cattle, and offices in the rear entered through a back door. The hovels of the poor, a few feet square with one doorway, generally the sole opening for light or smoke, are divided by bamboo or palm leaf partitions into three or four small rooms into which a family of eight or ten are often crowded.
It [Contributed by Mr. G. W. Vidal, C. S.] is probable that in early times there was a more or less complete village system. Certain, Maratha and Kunbi families were, as appears from ancient deeds, styled patels, and ranked as the headmen of their villages. The revenue system was then kularg or rayatvar, each cultivator being an independent hereditary holder, who stood assessed at a fixed rental in the public accounts, beyond which nothing could be levied from him. The creation of village renters, khots, introduced a new element. The khots in course of time acquired hereditary rights by grant or prescription. In a small proportion of the villages, less than a tenth of the whole district, the older holders have succeeded in keeping their rights intact. These are the pure peasant-held, nivaldharekari, villages of the north of the district, and the peasant-held, kulargi, villages of the south. In another class of villages, while some of the old peasant-holders continue to keep their lands, the khots. either by lapses, or spread of tillage, gained rights in the land. These are the mixed, khichdi, half rented half peasant-held villages. In many instances the original holders have entirely disappeared, and all the lands are either in the hands of the khots themselves, or of tenants who cultivate under them. These are called nival or pure khoti villages. In all these villages, by their superior power and authority, the khots have gradually and entirely replaced the ancient patels as headmen of villages. There are in fact at the present time no hereditary patels in the district, and were it not for the modern appointments of police patels, nominated by Government from among the most intelligent villagers, for life or shorter periods, the very name of patel would have been forgotten. Though the khots have never been recognised as Government servants, in villages where the survey settlement has been introduced, they are paid a percentage of the assessment collected by them on behalf of Government from the peasant-holders, dharekaris. Elsewhere they receive no direct remuneration either in cash or in land. Except in a very few villages, where there are still hereditary officers styled mahajans and vartaks, appointed or recognized by former Governments, the khots are invariably the headmen of their respective villages. Where there are mahajans or vartaks, the khots yield precedence to them, and the former are entitled to preside at meetings of the villagers. Khots are found of many castes, but a large majority are Brahmans. The earliest khots were chosen from a few old influential Maratha families, who peopled the villages at the foot of the Sahyadri range in the Khed and Chiplun sub-divisions. These Maratha khots are distinguished by the title of mokasakhots, [Mokasa was a part' of the chauth granted to Maratha officers by Shivaji in payment for military service.] which would seem to imply that they originally held their villages on condition of some military service. The powerful sub-division of Chitpavan Brahmans holds most villages in Khed, Chiplun, and Dapoli. Further south, in Sangameshvar and Ratnagiri, the Devrukha Brahmans take the place of the Chitpavans. A few villages in Dapoli are held by the Javal Brahmans. Here and there Shenvi, Prabhu, and Musalman khots are found, and there are also cases of Kunbi, Gavli, and even Mhar khots. In the south the khot is usually called the Gavkar. The village headman is always the first to receive the betel leaf, pansupari, at the celebration of any public religious ceremony, and until this formality has been observed, the ceremony cannot proceed. His leave has also to be formally asked and granted before, on festive days, the palanquin of the village god can be carried in procession through the village. The precedence granted to the headman on all public and religious occasions does not necessarily extend to social gatherings, although, as a matter of courtesy, the headman when invited to a wedding or feast will be the first to receive the pansupari. When an event of any importance, such as a wedding, happens in his own family, the headman is expected to entertain the village. On such occasions he gives cooked food to guests of his own and lower castes, and the guests of each caste eat separately. When the host is of low caste, he can either employ a cook of the highest caste, from whose hands all the guests will eat, or else he can give the raw materials for the feast to all the guests of higher caste than himself. When his circumstances allow, the khot secures the monopoly of the village moneylending and grain-dealing business. His position gives him a great advantage over professional usurers such as Marvadis who, as a consequence, have little inducement to settle in the district. Though some are rich, a great many of the hereditary khots are more or less involved in debt, and have been compelled to mortgage their estates to capitalists, who
in turn act as moneylenders. As might be expected, the hereditary khots are, as moneylenders, more lenient than the mortgagees, who, having no permanent interest in the villagers, strive to make as much as possible out of them during their temporary management. Still the opposition of cultivators to unpopular moneylenders seldom takes the form of active resentment.
Compared with the Deccan, the number of village servants that
hold service land, or receive cash from the state, is very small. The village establishments are more or less complete; but the remuneration of the office bearers is for the most part left to the community. This is probably the result of the introduction of the khoti system., The Government having interposed a middleman between itself and the cultivators, as a rule, saw no necessity for dealing directly with the inferior village servants. The chief exception to this rule is the case of the village accountants, kulkarnis, who, being hereditary holders, vatandars, with grants for the most part older than the introduction of the khots, have been allowed to keep their cash allowances in the few villages where the vatans exist. The Mhars or village watchmen were also, in consideration of their useful and necessary services, granted small cash allowances in a few villages in the Rajapur, Malvan, and Devgad sub-divisions. A few instances also occur of lands or allowances being paid to special village officers, such as the mahajan, the vartak, the mukadam,, and the desdi. It frequently happens that these offices, the number of which is very small indeed, are united to the khotship. In some villages also, where there are no Mhars, the temple attendant, ghadi or gurav, receives an allowance for performing menial services in the village. In the Sangameshvar sub-division, there are two instances of service lands being held by shetias, and there is a solitary instance in the Malvan sub-division of an allowance being granted to the village astrologer, joshi. In some cases too, allowances would seem to have been granted to certain servants on the representations of khots, and as a mark of favour to the latter. Such are the appointments of the messengers, sipais, of the Malvan sub-division. The organization of the village establishments differs little in different parts of the district; but the full staff of office bearers is found only in the more populous villages.
Village servants may be divided into three classes: those rendering service to the state; those useful to the villagers; and those whose services are not required either by Government or by the villagers. In the first class are the headman, khot ox gavkar; the police head, patel; the accountant, kulkarni; the watchman, mhar; the messenger, sipai; and, where he performs other than, temple service, the temple ministrant, gurav or ghadi. In the absence of an independent mahajan or vartak the khot, as already stated, is the headman of the village. Frequently these latter offices are united to that of the khot, as also are those of the desai and mukadam. The khot from his position enjoys many privileges. In former times he was allowed by eustom, as part of their rental, to exact without payment one day's labour in eight from all cultivators in his village, except hereditary holders, dharekaris. When this forced labour was agricultural, it was styled plough service, nangarvet. When the labour exacted was of any other description, such as carrying grain to market, or carrying the khot's palanquin, it was called labour service, vetbigar. Forced labour of this description has now been abolished, but so patient and submissive are the villagers, that it may be doubted whether the system is entirely dead. The police patels, not being hereditary officers, are selected for life or shorter periods from the most eligible candidates. Influential Marathas are usually chosen in preference to members of the khot families. In the settled sub- divisions, the police patels are paid by cash allowances fixed according to the population and importance of the villages. These allowances vary from 8s. to £4 8s. (Rs. 4-44) a year. Where the survey settlement has not been introduced, the post is purely honorary. Hereditary village accountants, kulkarnis, are found only in a few villages in the Dapoli, Chiplun, Sangameshvar, Ratnagiri, Rajapur, Devgad, and Malvan sub-divisions. The creation of khots has, in nearly every instance, rendered their services superfluous. The kulkarnis belong mostly to the Brahman, Prabhu, and Shenvi castes. They are paid by cash allowances, the only exception being Achra in the Malvan sub-division, where lands have been assigned for this service.
Except in a few of the coast villages, Mhars are found throughout the district. They perform various useful services, acting as village messengers and scavengers, and except in Chiplun, where alone there are Ramosis, as village watchmen. They help both the khot and the police patel, and attend to the wants of travellers. The Mhar families are usually of very old standing, and are not without some influence. If of longer standing in the village than the khot, they are called vatandars and mirasis. InMalvi in the Dapoli sub-division, the Mhars have a Persian copper plate grant of considerable age. The vatandar Mhars were all originally independent landholders, and being exceedingly jealous of their rights, have systematically and, in many cases, successfully withstood the khots' attempts to rackrent them. For their services to the state they receive, in the surveyed sub-divisions, cash allowances varying from 4s. to £2 4s. (Rs. 2-22) according to a scale fixed in proportion to the population of the village. In the unsurveyed sub-divisions, except in fifteen villages in Rajapur, sixteen in Devgad, and fourteen in Malvan, they receive no state remuneration. Nowhere, except in the Chiplun sub-division, have any service lands been assigned to Mhars. The 'village messenger, sipai, is found only in the Malvan sub-division. The gurav, as he is called in the north, and ghadi, in the south, is usually a Maratha or Kunbi, whose chief duty is connected with the village temple. In a few villages in the south, he performs general village service like that performed elsewhere by Mhars, and in these cases is considered a useful servant to Government and paid by the state. In some cases the allowances for this office are paid to the khot himself.
The second class of village servants, who, though they render no service to the state, are useful to the villagers, includes (1) the
priest, joshi,upadhia, or bhat; (2) the temple minister, gurav or ghadi; (3) the Lingayat priest, jangam; (4) the carpenter, sutar; (5) the blacksmith, lohar; (6) the shoemaker, chambhar; (7) the potter, kumbhar; and where there is a Musalman population, (8) the judge, kazi; (9) the priest, mulla; (10) the beadle, mujavar; and (11) the preacher, khatib. The priest, joshi,upadhia, or bhat, also sometimes styled the Sanskrit scholar, shastri, or the religious head, dharmadhikari, is the chief Hindu religious officer. He officiates at thread, janvn, investments, and at marriage and death ceremonies. It is also his business to name lucky days, and, if required, to cast nativities. The village priest has no vested right to perform any particular ceremony, and the parties are free to employ any eligible person, resident either in or out of the village. The joshis are paid by fees, varying according to, the wealth of their employers; they usually supplement their incomes by begging. Only one man of this class, a Malvan joshi, who, exclusive of quit-rent, judi, receives £3 6s. (Rs. 33) a year, is paid by the state. The business of the temple ministrant, gurav or ghadi, found in almost every village, is to attend at the village temple, to clean the ornaments and minister to the wants of the idol. He also prepares the leaves, patravalis, used on feast days as plates, and at stated intervals plays the trumpet in front of the village temple. The Lingayat priest, jangam, is found only in a very few villages, where are settlements of Lingayat Vanis. There is no instance of jangam receiving state remuneration. The carpenter, sutar, and blacksmith, lohar, are of the same caste, eating together and intermarrying. The carpenter, found in all but the very smallest villages, holds neither land nor allowances, and is supported entirely by fees for work perfurmed for the villagers. Except that he is found only in the more populous villages, the position of the blacksmith is the same as that of the carpenter. The potter, kumbhar, and the shoemaker, chambhar, sometimes paid in grain and sometimes in cash, suffer little from competition. If they can get their work done at home, villagers seldom employ outside workmen. In villages with a Muhammadan population, the establishment usually includes a kazi, who is the religious and temporal head of the Musalman community, settling all disputes, and exercising a general superintendence over his followers. He also solemnizes marriages and keeps the registers. The kazi is not necessarily a village officer. He is usually appointed to a large district, and may reside anywhere within the limits of his authority. Next in importance to the kazi is the mulla, who acts as a deputy of the kazi, and has charge of the mosques and burial grounds. The mujavar is the servant who cleans and sweeps the mosques and shrines, and the khatib is the public preacher. None of these Muhammadan officials are paid by the state, nor is it, as in the Deccan, the custom for Hindus to employ Musalman office-bearers to slaughter their sacrificial sheep and goats. This work is in Ratnagiri performed by the gurav.
The third class of village servants includes all not directly useful either to Government or to the villagers. These are: (1) the trade superintendent, mahajan; (2) the overman, vartak; (3) the headman, mukadam; (4) the revenue superintendent, desai; (5) the goldsmith, sonar; (6) the washerman, parit; (7) the barber, nhavi; (8) the tailor, shimpi; (9) the oilman, teli; (10) the assayer, potdar; (11) the superintendent of weights and measures, shetia; (12) the coppersmith, kasar; (13) the cotton cleaner, pinjari; and (14) the betel leaf dealer, tamboli. Of the above, the mahajans,vartaks,mukadams,desais,potdars, and shetias are usually hereditary holders, vatandars, under regular deeds. The summary settlement has been applied to their allowances and lands, except where they are held by village khots. Although included in the village staff, none of the remaining servants hold service lands or receive allowances. All are paid by customary fees.
The village population usually includes families of more than one
caste. A few Rajapur villages are all of one caste, peopled some by Marathas, others by Kunbis, and others by Musalmans. No distinct and separate settlements of aboriginal tribes are found. The whole body of villagers hold few rights in common. There are no common pasture lands, except in one or twovillages held directly by the state where lands have been set apart for grazing. In such cases no restriction is laid on the number of cattle any individual may graze. Everywhere else the people graze their cattle in their own fields. There are no common forests. Here and there beautiful temple groves are carefully preserved, and save for the temple, no cutting of timber or branches is allowed. The people obtain what fuel they consume from trees standing in their own fields. The water of the village ponds and wells is free to all, except Mhars, Chambhars, and other low castes. But many villages have separate wells and ponds for low caste people. The villagers have no fixed system of distributing the cost of any charitable or usefulworks undertaken by the community. Heads of families are expected to contribute according to their means, paying so much in cash, or supplying so many days' labour. Large landholders and influential personsare expected to entertain the whole village on the celebration of marriages and other important domestic events. Guests are also invited from neighbouring villages; but on such occasions, ordinary cultivators, artisans, and petty shopkeepers are not expected to do more than entertain a few of their own relations and caste fellows. At death ceremonies it is not usual to entertain guests of a different caste to the master of the house. As distinguished from old cultivators, vatandars, new settlers are called badhekaris, or cultivators of waste-land, badhen. The same name, though for this the correct term is dulandis, is also applied to persons living in one village and cultivating land in another. Settlements of badhekaris are found in nearly every khoti village. In former times movements of cultivators from one village to another were very frequent, and the competition amongst the khots to attract settlers was very keen. If satisfied with the terms offered them, the new comers became permanent settlers, and intermarried with the older cultivators. If dissatisfied, they moved to other villages in quest of more favourable terms. In some villages all the cultivators belong to this class, and through many generations keep the name of badhekaris, even where they have acquired permanent
occupancy rights. In all communal matters, the badhekaris enjoy equal rights and privileges with the older cultivators, and are not now liable to pay any special fees for the privilege of belonging to the village. The changes that have taken place under British rule have left their mark on the village communities. Disputes are now rarely referred to the village councils, and the headman is seldom called on to give his advice on doubtful questions. The gradual spread of education, their better knowledge of law and procedure, improved communications, and new markets, have made the cultivators more self-reliant and independent.
The pressure of population is relieved by the readiness with which the people leave their homes in search of work. The better class of Christians and Brahmans find openings as clerks, and in the civil branches of Government service; Musalmans, Marathas, and Mhars are such favourite and willing recruits, that Ratnagiri is the nursery
of the Bombay army, and to a large extent of its police, and from Ratnagiri the labour market of the city of Bombay is in great measure supplied. Three large classes of workers go to Bombay from Ratnagiri. Yearly, when the rice harvest is over, bands of husbandmen and field labourers, numbering altogether not less than 100,000 souls, find their way, some on foot, others by sea, to Bombay, and working there during the fair season, return to their fields in time for the rice sowing. The second class, almost all Mhars, take service as municipal street sweepers, keeping their places for years, but every season arranging for a short holiday to carry their savings to their Ratnagiri homes. The third and most important class are the mill-workers who belong to two divisions, Bankotis from the north and Malvanis from the south. These people settle in Bombay, the northerners and southerners generally keeping separate, working in different mills. Though wages have by competition and dull trade greatly fallen, as all the members can find work, every family still earns a large sum. With little comfort in their crowded houses, they are well fed and well clothed, and save large sums which they generally take to Ratnagiri, spending much on their marriages and other family events, but investing a part in ornaments and in buying land. Besides these movements to Bombay, a considerable, and with improved communications, an increasing number of Musalmans, Kunbis, and Mhars go for work to Aden and the Mauritius. Sometimes whole families emigrate, but as a rule the greater number are young men. All of them leave, meaning to come back when they have made some money, and except those who die abroad, all come back after serving from five to twenty years. Men never settle abroad or bring home foreign wives. When away most of them keep up a correspondence with their families. In Aden they work as labourers and in the Mauritius in the sugarcane and potato fields. Their savings, sometimes as much as £50 (Rs. 500) and generally about £20 (Rs. 200), are brought back in cash or in ornaments. Though their health does not seem to suffer from the change of climate, men never pay a second visit to Aden or the Mauritius.