Introduction / History
The Koshtis are a Maratha and Telugu caste of weavers of silk and fine cotton cloth. Their standard occupation is weaving fine silk-bordered clothe, which are worn by well-to-do persons. The cloth is usually white with borders of red silk. They dye their own thread with lac or flower of the “palas” trees. They are located in Nagpur and Chhattisgarh area. They consider themselves to be descendants of a famous saint, named Markandi Rishi. It is said that he wove cloth from the fibers of the lotus flower to cover the nakedness of the gods. In appreciation for clothing them, he was married to the daughter of Surya, the sun and received a giant named Bhavani and a tiger as a dowry. The giant was disobedient so, Markandi killed him and from his bones fashioned the first weaver’s loom. The tiger remained obedient, so Koshtis think that the tiger still respects them as his descendants. For this reason a Koshti will never kill or injure a tiger. The caste has several subdivisions of different types such as Halbis, Lad Koshtis, Gadhewal, Deshkar, Onkule and Salewars.
What are Their Lives Like?
In Nagpur, during the marriage ceremony, the bride and the bridegroom sit in a circle with their parents, and around them a long hemp rope is drawn seven times. The bride’s mother holds a lamp, while the bridegroom’s mother pours water from a vessel on to the floor. Widow remarriage is freely permitted. Divorce is allowed but is very rare, as a wife is a big help to the man at his loom. A wife is in reality a factory hand and a well-to do Koshtis will buy or occasionally steal as many women as he can. The Lingayat and Kabirpanthi sects bury their dead while the others cremate them. Mourning is observed for five days for a married person and three for unmarried person. They do not have “shraddh” ceremony, instead on the Akhatij day (commencement of agricultural year); the family will invite a member of the same sex as the deceased person and feed him/her with good food in the name of the dead. A few of them wear the sacred thread. Women have a half-moon tattooed on the forehead, between the eyebrows. Their cheeks are marked with a small dot and arms adorned with a representation of sacred basil.
What are Their Beliefs?
The main deity is Ganpati whom they revere on the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi. They clean all their weaving implements, worship them, and make an image of Ganpati in cowdung to which they make offerings of flowers, rice and turmeric. On this day, they do not work and fast till evening when the image of Ganpati is thrown into a tank and they return home and eat delicacies. Some of them are followers of a saint named Koliba Baba. Other sects worship Vishnu, Shiva, Shakti and Mata Mai. They have several superstitious beliefs.
* For Church-planting teams to work among them as there are no known mission agencies/churches working among them.
* For setting up of income-generating projects.
* For Christian community development and literacy workers.
* For a good response to the Christian radio program and the “Jesus” film.
|Profile Source: India Missions Association Copyrighted © Used with permission|