The book and the whole collection is
inspired on the Indian Tribe "MURIA"
Muria and Their Ghotul
Verrier Elwin's Kingdom of The Young
n Sender Baray
..."All the unmarried boys and girls of the
tribe had to be members of the
ghotul. This membership was
elaborately organized; after a period of
probabtion, boys and girls were initiated and
given special titles which carried with them
graded ranks and social duties. Leaders were
appointed to lead and discipline the society...
Boy members were known as 'cheliks,' and girls
"The cheliks and motiaris had important duties
to perform on all social occasions. The boys
acted as acolytes at festivals, the girls as
bridesmaids at weddings. They danced together
before the clan-gods and ... formed a choir at
funerals. Their games and dances enlivened and
enriched village life, and redeemed it from that
crushing monotony which was its normal
characteristic in other parts of India.
"It was natural that the ghotul... should foster
every kind of art... The boys made and decorated
charming little combs for the girls, and
elaborate tobacco-boxes for themselves; the
girls made necklaces, pendants and belts of
beads and cowries. The boys carved the pillars
and doors of their ghotul building, which was
often the finest house in the village... And
above all they danced. "But this is common to
What gave the ghotul its unique interest was the
approved and recognized relationship between the
boys and girls.
"There were two types of ghotul. In the first,
and probably the oldest... the rule was that of
fidelity to a single partner during the whole of
the pre-marital period. Each chelik was paired
off with a motiari; he was formally 'married' to
her and she took the feminine form of his title
as her own. Divorce was allowed, though
'infidelity' was punished. "In the second type,
any kind of lasting attachment between chelik
and motiari was forbidden. No one could say that
such and such a motiari was 'his' girl; his
attachment was rationed to three days at a time.
"Although outwardly both types of ghotul were
the same... the cutoms and atmosphere of the
more modern latter type were entirely distinct.
Here everything was arranged to prevent
long-drawn intense attachments, to eliminate
jealousy and possessiveness, to deepen the sense
of communal property and action. There was no
ghotul marriage, there were no ghotul partners.
Everyone belonged to everyone else' in the very
spirit of Brave New World. A chelik and motiari
might sleep together for three nights; after
that they were warned; if they persisted they
"This was sometimes called the 'changing ring'
ghotul; because in it you changed from girl to
girl just as you changed your rings from finger
"...At any time after supper, the cheliks began
to assemble. They came one by one, carrying
their sleeping mats and perhaps their drums. The
little boys brought their daily 'tribute' of
wood, 'clocked in' by showing it to the official
responsible... The elder boys gathered round the
fire; one took a half-smoked leaf-pipe from his
turban and ignited it..., another played a few
notes on his flute... Then the girls came in
with a rush, all together, and gathered round
their own fire. After a while they scattered,
some sitting with the boys, others singing in a
The others occupied the time in pleasant
harmony; sometimes they danced for an hour or
two; the smaller children played rampageous
games; sometimes they just sat around the fire
and talked... Often they sang lying down, two by
two, chelik with motiari, or in little groups.
I shall never forget the sight in some of the
larger ghotuls of sixty or seventy youngsters
"After an hour or two of dancing, singing, games
or storytelling, certainly not much after ten
o'clock, the serious business of the evening
began. The little boys went round saluting their
elders, a ritual then repeated by the girls. One
of them distributed finely-powdered tobacco from
the ghotul store, to which all the parents
contributed. Then the girls each went to her
partner of the day and sat down behind him.
First of all, she shook out and arranged his
hair and then combed it. When this was done, she
massaged him, sometimes with oilseed, sometimes
rubbing his back with her comb, and then she
cracked his fingers one by one.
Yet there was much to be said on the Murias'
side. In the first place, the cheliks and
motiaris were wonderfully happy. Their life was
full, interesting, exciting, useful. The ghotul
was, as they often said, 'a little school.' The
cheliks were 'like Boy Scouts,' as I was told in
a village which had a troop in the local school.
There was no comparison between these children
and the sad-eyed, dirty ragamuffins in villages
at a similar cultural level elsewhere. In the
ghotul, the children were taught lessons of
cleanliness, discipline and hard work that
remained with them throughout their lives. They
were taught to take pride in their appearance,
to respect themselves and their elders; above
all, they were taught the spirit of service.
These boys and girls worked very hard for the
public good. They were immediately available for
the service of State officials or for labor on
the roads. They had to be ready to work at a
wedding or funeral. (In contrast) in most tribal
villages of the Central Provinces, the children
were slack, dirty, undisciplined and with no
sense of public spirit. The Murias were very
"The village dormitory is a symptom of a certain
stage of cultural development. We ourselves
consider that we have outgrown it; we may grow
into it again.
In the days when I shared the free and happy
life of the Murias, I used sometimes to wonder
whether I was a hundred years behind the times
or a hundred years ahead.
I do not suggest we replace our Public Schools
by ghotuls and turn out own children into
cheliks and motiaris, but I do suggest that
there are elements in ghotul life and teaching
which we should do well to ponder, and that an
infection of the Muria spirit would do few of us
"The message of the ghotul -- that youth must be
served, that freedom and happiness are more to
be treasured than any material gain, that
friendliness and sympathy, hospitalty and unity
are of the first importance, and above all that
human love - and its physical expression - is
beautiful, clean and precious, is typically
Elwin published his study of the Muria as a
750-page book entitled 'The Muria And Their
Ghotul,' later translated in a abridged edition
into French and Italian.
In 1968, an abridged English edition was
published by Oxford University Press under the
title 'The Kingdom Of The Young.
He became a citizen of India in 1954, and died
in 1964, a few months after finishing his
autobiography. Altogether, he was another of
those erudite, charming and somewhat unusual
types that England seems to produce.