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Agaria – A small Dravidian caste, who are an offshoot of the Gond tribe. The Agarias have adopted the profession of iron-smelting and form a separate caste. They numbered 9500 persons in 1911 and live on the Maikal range in the Mandla, Raipur and Bilāspur Districts.

The name probably signifies a worker with āg or fire. An Agaria subcaste of Lohars also exists, many of whom are quite probably Gonds, but they are not included in the regular caste. Similar Dravidian castes of Agarias are to be found in Mīrzapur and Bengal. The Agarias are quite distinct from the Agharia cultivating caste of the Uriya country. The Raipur Agarias still intermarry with the Rawanbansi Gonds of the District. The Agarias think that their caste has existed from the beginning of the world, and that the first Agaria made the ploughshare with which the first bullocks furrowed the primeval soil. The caste has two endogamous divisions, the Patharia and the Khuntia Agarias. The Patharias place a stone on the mouth of the bellows to fix them in the ground for smelting, while the Khuntias use a peg. The two subcastes do not even take water from one another.

Their exogamous sections have generally the same names as those of the Gonds, as Sonwani, Dhurua, Tekam, Markam, Uika, Purtai, Marai, and others. A few names of Hindi origin are also found, as Ahindwar, Ranchirai and Rathoria, which show that some Hindus have probably been amalgamated with the caste. Ahindwar or Aindwar and Ranchirai mean a fish and a bird respectively in Hindi, while Rathoria is a gotra both of Rajpūts and Telis. The Gond names are probably also those of animals, plants or other objects, but their meaning has now generally been forgotten. Tekam or teka is a teak tree. Sonwani is a sept found among several of the Dravidian tribes, and the lower Hindu castes. A person of the Sonwani sept is always chosen to perform the ceremony of purification and readmission into caste of persons temporarily excommunicated. His duty often consists in pouring on such a person a little water in which gold has been placed to make it holy, and hence the name is considered to mean Sonapani or gold-water. The Agarias do not know the meanings of their section names and therefore have no totemistic observances. But they consider that all persons belonging to one gotra are descended from a common ancestor, and marriage within the gotra is therefore prohibited. As among the Gonds, first cousins are allowed to marry.

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