Communities which are economically, educationally and socially backward as compared with other communities in the district are included in three distinct groups, viz., (1) Scheduled Castes: Mahar, Mang, Chambhar, Dhor, etc. often known known as Harijans; (2) Scheduled Tribes: Katkaris, Kathodis, Mahadev Kolis, Thakurs, etc., known as Adivasis; and (3) other Backward Classes: Burud, Bhoi, Malhar Koli, Suryavahsi Koli, etc. Recently the Government of Maharastra has abolished the category of the other Backward Classes and the communities have been grouped under new classes based on income basis, i.e., 'Economically Backward Classes' who can now take the advantage of facilities of free education provided by the State.

Details as to the talukawise population of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the district based on Census of 1951 are given below; population details of other Backward Classes are not available.



Serial No.

Name of taluka or mahal

Total population of the taluka or mahal

Population of

Scheduled Castes

Scheduled Tribes
































Mhasla (Mahal)















Poladpur (Mahal)










Shrivardhan (Mahal)





Sudhagad (Mahal)





Uran (Mahal)





Murud (Mahal)








According to the enumeration of 1951 Census for Kolaba District the population pf the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes was 148,880 or 16.1 per cent of the total population of the district. Of these the Scheduled Castes consisted of 56,296 (m. 27,757; f. 28,539) persons or 6.19 per cent of the population, 53,098 (m. 26,135; f. 26,963) or 94.34 per cent of them being in the rural areas, and 3,198 (m. 1,622; f. 1,576) or 5.69 per cent in the urban areas. The Scheduled Tribes consisted of 92,584 (m. 45,304; f. 47,280) persons or 10.18 per cent of the population, of which 86,687 (m. 42,336; f. 44,351) or 93.63 per cent lived in rural areas and 5,897 (m. 2,968; f. 2,929) or 6.37 per cent in the urban areas. It could be generally said that although the Scheduled Castes were less urbanised than the general population, their proportion to the non-agricultural classes was greater than that to the general population. The high proportion of agricultural labourers and low proportion of owner-cultivators were characteristic of the Scheduled Castes. Generally the Scheduled Tribes in the district were not only primarily rural dwellers, but also primarily agriculturists, 33.61 per cent of them being tenants.

Each one of the backward communities has got its characteristic features and peculiarities in respect of customs and manners, and to some extent they have been already previously described. Descriptions in detail of the two major tribal communities, viz., the  Katkaris and the Thakurs in the district are given below.


[The latest account of the tribe is by Dr. L. N. Chapekar, The Thakurs of the Sahyadris, Bombay, 1960.]

The tribe of Thakurs is found in the hilly parts of Karjat. Khalapur, Panvel, Sudhagad and Pen talukas of this district. The opinion that there is a strain of Rajput blood in Thakurs is borne by no valid evidence. The tribe is at present divided into two endogamous sections, the Ma and Ka. Ma and Ka villages are distinct, members of the two sections not preferring to live in one hamlet. However, it is not likely that they are separate peoples. According to the 1941 Census their population in the district was 22,182.

The Thakurs are a small squat tribe, certainly better looking than their neighbours, the Katkaris. Most of them are of medium height. The general complexion is brown, best described as chocolate. Hair generally straight or wavy, curly hair being an exception. They have large, though not very prominent cheekbones, rather full lips and deep sunk eyes. Among the better sort the expression is sparkling and genial. The elderly men almost always shave the head except the top-knot which is carefully grown. The men wear loin-cloth, and occasionally a waistcloth and a blanket, and a piece of cloth tied round the head. The women wear a lugade (robe) very tightly wound round the waist so as to leave almost the whole leg bare. The end of the robe is always tucked at the waist and never drawn over the head. The only covering for the upper part of the body is a very scanty bodice and a heavy necklace of several rounds of white and blue glass beads. Earrings are worn both in the lobe and rim, and by men as well as by women and children. Bangles are found in abundance; noserings are rare.

Thakurs are known to be truthful, honest, teachable, and harmless. They neither borrow nor steal, almost never appear either in civil and criminal courts, and are neat and cleanly in their ways. They keep their houses thoroughly clean, and have all the ordinary brass and copper pots and pans. The well-to-do live in good houses with a separate cooking room and cattle shed. The poor Thakurs live in a square hut of wattle and daub, the walls four or five feet high and fourteen or sixteen feet long, and the roof of palm leaves. Near their houses, if there is an open space and water, they grow plantains and vegetables. If they do not earn enough to support themselves, they do not take to evil courses but live on wild vegetables, roots and herbs. They are very particular about their drinking water, always choosing a spring or a good well, and taking great pains to keep the water pure.

The community lives in exclusive hamlets located on high altitudes known as Thakurvadis. They hold aloof from other castes, and as much as possible live by themselves. In bygone days it was their practice to shift the location of the village on the outbreak of an epidemic but this nomadic tendency is now practically obsolete. The residents of a hamlet are usually related to each other, though not necessarily. A Thakurvadi has a hereditary Thakur headman patil who is otherwise known as padekhot. He acts as a social functionary for the community and has special duties as well as privileges.

Though they call themselves Hindus, the Thakurs are more or less animists believing in magic and witch-craft. They worship the leading Hindu gods, but the chief objects of their devotion are Ceda, Hirva, Bhavani, Supli, Khanddba Kanhoba, Vaghya and Vetal. Images of these, embossed on silver plates, are kept by them in their houses. They have a strong faith in ghosts and are often possessed by Vaghya. Like other tribals they are fond of dancing.

The home tongue of Thakurs is Marathi, spoken with a long drawl. Though respectful in their manners they almost always use the singular even in addressing a superior. The names in common use among men are Bango, Bhadya, Budhya, Dhavlu, Goma, Nema, Jan, Kamb, Maidya, Mangya, Nana, Padu, Pashya, Sakroo, Soma, and Valu; and among women, Ahili, Bali, Dhani, Gomi, Nemi, Kanhi, Nagi, Nami, Padi, Pali, and Thani. Apart from the two main endogamous divisions the Thakurs have several surnames which are grouped under a number of exogamous divisions called kuls.

Birth Ceremonies.

Among Thakurs the midwife, who is of their own caste, stays for five days. On the fifth day is observed the pachora rite at which goddess Satavai represented by heaps of rice grains is worshipped. Yekkhand (orris-root) is tied round the child's neck and the mother's purification is over. On the eighth day, the mother of the child visits the well, bows to it, and fetches water. When the child grows old, its hair are clipped by its maternal uncle and collected by its paternal aunt.

Marriage Ceremonies.

Marriage in the same kul or with mother's sister's daughter and sister's daughter is not allowed. The custom of bride-price is current and is fixed at Rs. 10 besides a quantity of grain. Girls are generally married between twelve and fifteen and boys between twenty and twenty-five. The offer of the marriage comes from the boy's father and if it is accepted the girl is presented with a rupee and a black glass bead necklace in a caste meeting. Payment of the bride-price on a later day confirms the marriage relations and from thenceforth the girl visits the house of the prospective husband and vice-versa. Among the Ka-Thakurs a Dhavalekarin (priestess-cum-songstress) officiates over the lagan ceremony. She besmears the person of the bridegroom with turmeric powder, a portion of which is then sent to the bride with a basing (marriage-coronet); she also ties into a knot the ends of the garments of the boy and the girl and then sings songs while all the assembled shower rice grains over the marrying couple. Among Ma-Thakurs at the time of lagan, the bride and bridegroom stand opposite each other with a curtain of cloth held between them, a Brahman priest, who presides over the rites, chants hymns and throws rice grains over the couple. When the curtain is removed the bride and bride-groom exchange their places and the priest ties into a knot the ends of the couple's garments. Next, he asks the couple to move five times round the homa fire kindled by him or round the copper pot of water placed between their seats and fastens mangalsutra round the bride's neck. This over, the bride goes inside and comes with an arati and waves it round the bridegroom's face. In case the boy is poor, he may choose to serve his prospective father-in-law for a fixed period of time in lieu of the bride-price and at the end of the period get married to the girl at her father's expense. If a youth and a girl take a liking for each other they may start leading a married life and hold the lagan ceremony after the birth of children. Divorce is allowed and so also a widow marriage. Thakurs either bury or cremate their dead.

The tribe maintains itself by agriculture and forest labour as well as by selling forest produce. Though many live in hamlets and work as labourers, some Thakur villages are well built and the people are as well clothed as in a Kunbi village. Though generally very backward in education some have passed the vernacular final examination and got employment as school teachers and forest guards.


The tribe of Katkari, also known as Kathodi, getting its name perhaps from the occupation of making kath or catechu, the thickened juice of Khair (Acacia catechu), it once extensively followed is returned as numbering 39,167 (1941) in Kolaba and as found in the hilly tracts of the country. Their peculiar dialect which contains certain words common among the Bhils and their customs to some extent indicate probably a Bhil origin. However, from their appearance, culture, customs and religion it would appear that they are an aboriginal tribe little influenced by Brahmanism.

The Katkaris are divided into two main divisions, namely, the Sons or Maratha and the Dhors. The Son or Maratha Katkaris do not eat cow's flesh and are allowed to draw water at the village well and to enter Kunbi's houses and temples. The Dhors are considered degraded as they eat beef. The two divisions do not intermarry or interdine. The Katkaris in Kolaba are mainly Sons, the Thana district consisting of many Dhors. The people are much darker and slimmer than the other forest tribes. The men, generally shave the face and head, and wear a very marked top-knot, some growing long matted hair. The women are tall and slim and those living in the interior singularly dirty and unkempt. They are strong, healthy and hardy, and pass through child-birth with little trouble or pain. The peculiarity of the dress of Katkari women is the number of bead necklaces they wear, and the glass and metal bangles which cover almost the whole of the forearm. They wear the lugade (robe) tightly wound round the waist and drawn up between the thighs. They also wear long hanging ear-rings. The dress of the male is extremely simple. A langoti (a square piece of cloth passed over the waist-cord and drawn between the legs tightly and tucked behind), a loin-cloth rolled round the waist so as to cover the loins, a jakit or kopri (a waist-coat with short sleeves), a cloth to wind round the head as turban and a ghongadi (blanket) to defy the sun, wind, and rain are the simple items of the Katkari dress.

Formerly the Katkaris chose their settlements in the forests to suit their convenience, selecting a spot that promised good hunting or tillage, and leaving it as convenience dictated. Even to the present day, an epidemic or sickness occasionally induce the people of a vadi to vacate it and settle elsewhere in the neighbourhood. Their settlements are known as Katavadi each vadi having a headman, called Naik who is the social head of the community and is assisted by a Karbhari or Pradhan. Besides the two main endogamous divisions, namely, the Sons and the Dhors the tribe has several exogamous divisions represented by surnames known as kuls such as: Ahir, Bhoi, Gaikvad, Gotarna, Kamdi, More, Mukne, Selar, Valvi and Vagh. It is commonly alleged that some of these surnames such as More, Vaghmare, etc., are totemistic in origin, though reverence for the totem is no longer observable.

Dhors have no restrictions on intermarriage among different families. But amongst Sons marriage between members bearing the same surname or kul is not allowed. First cousins are not allowed to marry, though cross cousins may; marriage with mother's sister's daughter and sister's daughter is taboo. Girls are generally married between 12 and 15 and boys between 18 and 25. The custom of bride-price is current in the tribe and the amount varies from Rs. 7 to Rs. 25. A girl's father may keep in his house a youth, with a view to have him as his son-in-law. This youth has to serve his father-in-law for five years.

Marriage Ceremonies.

In Kolaba, the marriage ceremonies of both the Son and Dhor Katkaris are identical; in Thana, they greatly differ. The father of the boy takes the initiative in arranging his son's marriage. The betrothal is followed by the settlement of dej (bride-price), and if the wedding is to be deferred the boy fastens a necklace on the girl's neck in the presence of the panch. The marriage is performed by a Katkari, who from his virtuous life has been chosen by the tribe to be the marriage priest or Gotarni. The wedding day is fixed by the boy's father in consultation with the panch. The months for weddings are Margasirsa, Magh, Vaisakh and Phalguna. On the day, marriage pandal is erected, one of its post being of Umber. The wedding take place at the bride's village. On the arrival of the bridegroom and his party at the bride's pandal, the bridegroom and the bride are together given a ceremonial bathing, and at the time the bridegroom presents the bride a robe (lugade). The bride then goes into the house, puts on the new robe and comes out and sits beside the bridegroom. In front of the couple five married women make a pattern of rice in which each woman mixes a pice and a betelnut. The bride and the bridegroom are then told to grasp their great toes and five men lift them in this position and deposit them on the rice pattern. The bridemaids place a brass tray behind the bride. The men then throw rice on the heads of the couple and what is left is thrown into the tray. Of the money three pice are given to the bride and two pice to the bridegroom, and with this the marriage ceremony is complete. Following this, however, the bridegroom has to fasten a necklace of black beads on the brides neck. Next day the married couple goes to the bridegroom's village escorted by a party of musicians, and the day after, the bridegroom bathes the bride, and washes off the turmeric powder. For five days the couple remains at home and on the sixth day some rice flour balls cooked by the bride are sent to her parents who then distribute the balls one to each house-hold. This terminates the marriage ceremonies.

Among Katkaris remarriage of widows is permitted. Should a bachelor desire to marry a widow he has first to marry a rui bush. Divorce which is known as dava is allowed with the permission of the headman of the tribe, if the husband and wife do not agree. Wives who have been divorced may marry again by the widow re-marriage forms. Adultery is usually compounded by the payment of a fine.

Death and Funeral.

Katkaris generally cremate their dead. When a person dies of cholera, he is buried until the outbreak of cholera is over; the body is then dug up and burnt. If the death occurs at night, the funeral is put off till the next day, the corpse being watched all night with the singing of special dirges. On the third day after cremation the mourners visit the burning ground and gather the ashes and on the top of the ash-heap place some cooked rice. On the twelfth day, the chief mourner puts some food on the roof as an offering to the dead.


The religion of the Katkaris, so far as they have any, is animism. What worship there is among the Katkaris is paid to the Kunbi village god, gamdev, and to such minor gods as Muslya, Mhasa, Vetal, Jarimari and Hirva.

The Katkaris in Kolaba district are more or less a settled tribe. Many of them, both men and women have found permanent employment as rice-cleaners in Panvel and Karjat or as charcoal-makers with forest contractors; some partly support themselves by tillage, nearly 20% of their population being agriculturist. When their supply of grain is finished, they gather and sell firewood and wild honey and, with their bows and arrows, kill small deer, rabbits, hares and monkeys. When these fail they dig old threshing floors for rats. The Katkari admits the rodents, as well to their grain store, as his bill of fare. Katkari women work hard, acting as labourers and bringing into market the headloads of wood their husbands have gathered in the forests. The percentage of literacy among the tribe is extremely low. Efforts were made to open social schools for their children and give them doles of food, but these have not attracted them appreciably. The Jesuit Mission in Kolaba District is working for the welfare of this tribe, and runs a Katkari settlement at Kune near Khandala. There is no Muslim proselytisation but there exists some Christian proselytisation among Katkaris in Kolaba, just a few hundreds.

The present day Katkari is not culturally the same that he was fifty years ago. He is not quite so imperceptibly tending towards the standards of the Kunbi and the Kunbi in his turn is inclined to admit him to association with him. The Katkari and Kunbi participating in the same village festival is not now an uncommon sight. Holi and Gokulastami are such festivals in point. Katkarls freely move about even in Brahman households as domestic servants. Attendance at Ramnavami or Shivratri Kirtans by Katkari men and women is by no means rare. The process of their assimilation in Hindu society has begun. They themselves hold Satyanarayan pujas and Brahman priest helps at the performance of it. With the spread of literacy among them this process may be expected to be accelerated.