MALE or Paharia are billmen of Rajmahal, whence their other designation Rajmahali. The Rajmahal hill country extends from the banks of the Ganges at Segrigalli, in lat. 25° 15' N., and long. 87° 3' E., to the Brahmani river and the boundary of the Birbhum district, a distance of 70 miles. To the south of the Brahmani, the hills continue to the river Dwaraka as the Ram garh Hills of the Birbhum district.
The Rajmahal Hills form a kind of knot at the extreme eastern point of the bill country of Central India, dividing Bengal from Behar, and the people are known as Male. They are to the east of the Orson, and are entirely different from their neighbours the Santal.
In the year 1832, the British Government, in order to protect the Male race, marked off by pillars their territory. The cordon or ring-fence encloses a tract called the Daman-i-Koh, and within it the Male dwell. It is 295 miles in circumference, containing 1366 square miles, of which 900 are said to be culturable. At the census of 1872, there were returned 53,866 Paharia, 191,462 Santal, and 18,985 of other races. The rest of the bill country is called the Santal Parganas, and, including the Daman-i Koh, its area is 5456 square miles, the popula tion aggregating 1,257,281 souls, of whom 455,513 were Santal. The bulk of the Santals are in the Bhagulpnr and Bardwan divisions (569,643). The total in all India, 1,087,202, of whom 203,264 aro semi-Hinduized.
The Rajmahali is less cheerful than the Santal, less industrious, and does not join in the dances to which the people of the Mundah stock are so devoted. The Male are better looking than the Santal. It was the Male race amongst whom Mr. Cleveland successfully laboured to impart to them settled habits. They are quiet cultivators, and formed the bulk of the corps formerly known as the Bhagulpur Hill Rangers. Ghatwal estates are particularly numerous in the Bhagulpur and Birbhum districts adjoining the Rajmahal Hills on either side. The estates pay no revenue, but are held on the condition of guarding the passes against hill robbers, murderers, and cattle-lifters.
The Male language abounds in terms common to the Tamil and Telugu, and contains so many Dravi dian roots of primary importance, though it also contains a large admixture of roots and forms belonging to the Kol dialects, that Dr. Caldwell considers it had originally belonged to the Dravidian family of languages. Test words show an identity of language among the Rajmaliali on the east, and the Dlaim in the remote jungles down to the Godavery, and the Gond, who live along the Satpura as far west as Nimar and Malwa.
The Paharia arrange themselves in three tribes, the Dialer, the Mal, and the Kumhar ; the first retain more of the habits of their ancestors than the others, and they eat the carcases of animals which die of disease.
The houses are built of wattled bamboo. A long bamboo is fixed in the ground in front of each house to ward off evil spirits.
The Maier call themselves the Asal Paharia, pure Paharia. The people of the southern or Ramgarh Ilills, called Mal, have another division called Kumbar, who abstain from cow's flesh, from flesh of animals which die a natural death, and will not partake of food that has not been cooked by themselves ; repudiating all notions of consanguinity with the impure feeding Northerners.
The Dialer is short of stature and alight of make, and wears his hair well oiled and combed in a knot on the top of his head. The features are of a mild Tamil type. The Orson custom of excluding the unmarried adults of both sexes from the family residence is followed by the Paharia, and the bachelors' hall and maidens' dormitories are institutions of the Rajmahal Hills, as well as of the Chutia Nagpur highlands, Colonel Dalton says the hill lads and lasses form very romantic attachments ; they work together, go to market together, eat together, and sleep together. But if they overstep the prescribed limits, a sacrifice of animals is enforced at their expense in atonement. But this is fanciful.
In their marriages, the groom, with the little finger of his right hand, marks the girl on the forehead with red lead, and then, linking the Mine finger with the little finger of her right hand, he leads her away to his own house. Colonel Dalton says polygamy is practised, and if a man leave several widows they can become the wives of his brothers or cousins, but only one to each.
The Maier have a firm belief in the trans migration of souls ; they call God Bedo, and the title affixed to the name of all their deities is Gosai. They have priests, Demonos, and priestesses, Khiendri, who, when officiating, become wildly excited. They make wooden images, which are honoured for a season as idols, and annually renewed, the old ones being thrown away as rubbish. In each village, as in nearly all Hindu villages, a shed is put up for the tutelary gosain, in which stones are placed to represent him and his attendants. There are two processes of divination. Lieutenant Shaw calls one Satani, the other Cherin. The former is a test by blood sprinkled on bel leaves. The Paharia bury their dead, but a priest's body is carried on a cot into the forest, and placed under the shade of a tree, where it is covered with leaves and branches, and left. The reason assigned by them for treat ing Demonos exceptionally, is that their ghosts are exceedingly troublesome if the bodies are laid in the village cemetery. The bodies of people who die of contagious diseases are similarly disposed of.—Logan ; Dalton's Bengal ; Tickell; Hodgson.'