Notes on the text
These notes, edited by John Radcliffe, are partly new, and partly based on the notes on this tale in the ORG. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of The Day's Work, as published and frequently reprinted between 1898 and 1950.
Mewar was the leading Kingdom of Rajputana, in what is now called Rajasthan. The Mewar Bhil Corps was a special force set up in the early 1800s to control the criminal activities of the native Bhils . In the latter half of the 18th century, the hilly region of Rajputana, comprised of Mewar, Dungarpur, Banswara, and Pratapgarh, was in a state of perpetual disorder. The rulers' weak administration and their undisciplined army could not control the criminal activities of the local Bhil tribesmen. During the first half of the 19th century, the number of murders and robberies increased to an alarming extent.Roger Ayers writes:
The British Political Agents proposed setting up a special force to tackle this problem. Initially, the force that was deployed consisted of army officers drawn from the native infantry but that, too, proved ineffective. Then, in 1837, in the reign of Maharana Jawan Singh, Col. James Outram, the Political Agent of Mahikanta proposed the establishment of a Bhil corps under the command of a British officer. This policy of recruiting local people to help in the maintenance of order among their own people was a successful experiment. Initially the rulers of Mewar, Pratapgarh, Dungarpur, and Banswara funded the Mewar Bhil Corps, but before long the British Army totally took over the finance and administration. Efforts were made to enlist other tribals other than Bhils, such as the Grasias and Gametis, into the Corps.
By 1841, the entire hilly tracts of Mewar were put under the supervision of the Commandant of the Corps. This had a beneficial effect on the law and order situation in the southern region, and there was a fair state of discipline. The Mewar Bhil Corps remained a regular unit of the Indian Army until 1938 but was transferred to the Rajasthan Police in 1950. They were allowed to discharge the same duties and functions, which they did prior to the merger. Subsequently, uniform pay scales introduced by the government were also made applicable to them, bringing them on a par with the members of the Rajasthan Police Force
The key to the success of the irregular units and the attachment that the officers, both British and Indian, had to them lay in the fact that they had few British officers. Since the majority of officers considered that these units were not 'proper' units, there was plenty of scope for those willing to join to be given acting rank, with pay and allowances to match. In an extreme case an infantry battalion could be commanded by a major, with a captain as second-in-command and a lieutenant as adjutant, with all other officer posts, including company commanders, held by Indian officers. Anyone happy to serve in such a unit could stay there almost as long he wished and traditions, such as Kipling describes, could flourish.[Page 104, lines 29-30] pre-Aryan, aboriginal, Dravidian Kipling touches here on the highly complex story, much debated among scholars, of how peoples and their languages have spread across the Indian sub-continent over the past four or five thousand years. Over a hundred different languages are spoken in India.
Some irregular units continued to exist in the post-Mutiny Indian Army and Kipling's story of the transformation of 'Chinn's Irregular Bhil Levies of the old days', i.e. pre-Mutiny, into an Indian Army irregular infantry unit had a basis in fact in both the 1880s, when Kipling was working in India, and in the 1890s when he wrote the story. In addition to the Mewar Bhil Corps mentioned above there was a Malwa Bhil Corps, which had rifle-green uniforms and black leather belts as described by Kipling, up to at least 1902.
The Malwa plateau covers an area in western India (today western Madhya Pradesh and south-eastern Rajasthan) and the Bhils form one of the predominant tribes in the area. The local language is Malvi.
The Malwa Bhil Corps and the Mewar Bhil Corps were both set up in 1837 to deal with similar problems, one on the Malwa plateau which encroached on southeastern Rajasthan, the other centred on Mewar covering most of the rest of Rajasthan. Malwa was Muslim in the 15th and 16th centuries and became a traditional enemy of Rajput (and Hindu) Mewar. Hence the requirement for two separate forces. That the role of the Wuddars was control of the local area is the basis for the central theme of the story - the maintenance of Government authority and the suppression of banditry. It is also reflected in the Colonel's comment (page 146) 'I think we'll call ourselves a police force'. Kipling knew his Bhils if not his Fireworkers. [R.A.]
Small-pox is an acute infectious fever. The live virus of cow-pox, a related virus which infects cattle, is used for vaccination against smallpox. Smallpox vaccine is made by inoculating the skin of healthy animals, usually calves, with cow-pox virus. Lesions form at the sites of innoculation. The fluid obtained from these lesions is called ‘vaccine lymph’. [Information from Martindale’s Extra Pharmacopoeia, The Pharmaceutical Press, 25th edition, 1967, p.1481.][Page 128, line 27] 'if they should accidentally ... make asses of 'emselves' If Chinn were to come to harm, or death, which must have been a possibility.
The method of vaccination is as follows: a small area of skin on the upper arm is scratched with a lancet and a small amount of vaccine lymph applied to the scratched area. Vaccine made from calf lymph was introduced on an experimental basis in Bombay in the late 1850s. But there were many problems with smallpox vaccination in India. Initially there was considerable opposition from the Hindu population who saw this as a violation of their sacred animal.
[For more details see "Kipling and Medicine" ]
All things made he—Shiva the Preserver. Mahadeo ! Mahadeo ! He made allThe allusion here may be to the attribute of Siva as protector of cattle.
Thorn for the camel, fodder for the kine...