Memorials of Service in India


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In the worship paid to Tari Pennu by her sect, the chief rite is human sacrifice. It is celebrated as a public oblation by tribes, branches of tribes, or villages, both at social festivals held periodically, and when special occasions demand extraordinary propitiations. And besides these social offerings, the rite is performed by individuals to avert the wrath of Tari from themselves and their families.

The periodical common sacrifices are generally so arranged by tribes and divisions of tribes, that each head of a family is enabled, at least once a year, to procure a shred of flesh for his fields, and usually about the time when his chief crop is laid down. When a tribe is composed of several branches, the victims for the fixed offerings are provided by the branches in turn, the cost being defrayed by contributions borne by each person according to his means. And such contributions are imperative not only upon members of the tribe, but also upon persons of every race and creed that may be permanently associated with it, as, through receiving its protection, or by employment in it, or by possessing land within its boundaries, the express tenure of which is the discharge of a share of the public religious burdens.

Special common offerings by a tribe are considered necessary upon the occurrence of an extraordinary number of deaths by disease, or by tigers; or should very many die in childbirth; or should the flocks or herds suffer largely from disease, or from wild beasts; or should the greater crops threaten to fail: while the occurrence of any marked calamity to the families of the chiefs, whose fortunes are regarded as the principal index to the disposition of Tari towards their tribes, is held to be a token of wrath which cannot be too speedily averted. And that victims may be readily forthcoming when such special occasions for sacrifice arise, whoever then gives one for public use receives its value, and is, besides, exempted from contribution to the three next public offerings. . . .

A victim is acceptable to Tari only if he has been acquired by the Khonds by purchase; or was born a victim, that is, the son of a victim father; or if he was devoted as a child to the gods by his father or natural guardian. The principle is, that the victim must be, either naturally or by purchase, the full property of the person who devotes him; and thence, should the full right of that person be interrupted or weakened in any way—as, for example, by the escape of a victim to an asylum amongst the sect of Boora, or by his being carried off by force, or his being delivered up to a British magistrate—his acceptableness is at an end, and it cannot be renewed unless full property in him be reacquired, and he be again dedicated by a Khond.

Victims are generally supplied to the Khonds by men of the two races called "Panwa," or "Dombango," and "Gahinga," apparently aborigines like themselves, and attached in small numbers to almost every Khond village for the discharge of this and other peculiar offices. The Panwas purchase the victims without difficulty, or kidnap them in the low country from the poorer classes of Hindus, procuring them either to the order of the Khonds, or on speculation; and they, moreover, constantly sell as victims their own children, and children of whom, as relatives, they are the guardians. Khonds when in distress, as in times of famine, also frequently sell their children for victims, considering the beatification of their souls certain, and their death for the benefit of mankind the most honorable possible. . . .

The meriah is brought blindfolded to the village by the procurer, and is lodged in the house of the mullicko or chief—in fetters if grown up, at liberty if a child. He is regarded during life as a consecrated being, and, if at large, is eagerly welcomed at every threshold. Victims are not unfrequently permitted to attain to years of maturity, and should one then have intercourse with the wife or daughter of a Khond, thankfulness is expressed to the deity for the distinction. To a meriah youth who has thus grown up, a wife is generally given, herself also usually a victim, and a portion of land and of farm stock is presented with her. The family which springs from their union is held to be born to the condition of the father; and although the sacrifice of lives so bound to existence is often postponed, and sometimes foregone, yet, should propitiations be required not easy to be afforded, the whole household is immolated without hesitation. . . .

When the victim is cut to pieces, the persons who have been deputed by each village to bring its share of the flesh instantly return home. There the village priest and everyone else who has stayed at home fast rigidly until their arrival. The bearer of the flesh carries it rolled up in leaves of the googlut tree, and when he approaches the village, lays it out on a cushion formed of a handful of grass, and then deposits it in the place of public meeting, to give assurance to all of its arrival. The fasting heads of families then go with their priest to receive the flesh. He takes and divides it into two portions, and subdivides one of these into as many shares as there are heads of families present. He then says to the earth goddess: "O Tari Pennu! our village offered such a person as a sacrifice, and divided the flesh among all the people in honor of the gods. Now, such a village has offered such a one, and has sent us flesh for you. Be not displeased with the quantity, we could only give them as much. If you will give us wealth, we will repeat the rite." The janni then seats himself on the ground, scrapes a hole in it, and taking one of the two portions into which he divided the flesh, places it in the hole, but with his back turned, and without looking. Then each man adds a little earth to bury it, and the janni pours water on the spot from a hill gourd. Each head of a house now rolls his shred of flesh in leaves, and all raise a shout of exultation at the work done. . . . Finally, each man goes and buries his particle of flesh in his favorite field, placing it in the earth behind his back without looking. And here may be noticed the idea which secures the distribution of the flesh of every victim to the greatest possible extent—that, instead of advantage arising to anyone from the possession of a large share of the flesh, all are benefited by a sacrifice in proportion to the number of shares into which the flesh is subdivided.1

Behind the attitudes and practices of this kind we find the concept of the residence of power in certain objects and persons which is capable of transfer by contact or ritual. The power may be conceived as impersonal and generally diffused through nature, but capable of being manipulated by magical rites, or it may be personalized and hierarchized in pantheons. There is found also the independent concept that a spirit world exists above and around the human world, but notably in America and Polynesia we find the initial emphasis apparently on the diffused aspect of mystic power with a tendency to personalize it in several directions.

1Macpherson, S.C.n/an/an/an/a, , 113–130, passim.


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Chicago: "Memorials of Service in India," Memorials of Service in India in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed September 22, 2023,

MLA: . "Memorials of Service in India." Memorials of Service in India, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 22 Sep. 2023.

Harvard: , 'Memorials of Service in India' in Memorials of Service in India. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 22 September 2023, from