- Art Gallery -



Original Front Cover.

Original Title Page.


Superintendent, Madras Government Museum; Correspondant Étranger, Société d’Anthropologie de Paris; Socio Corrispondante, Societa, Romana di Anthropologia.
of the Madras Government Museum.

List of Illustrations.

I. Pallas performing Pongal ceremonies.
II. Palli worshipping Munēswara.
III. Mannarswāmi in front of shrine.
IV. Palli pū karagam.
V. Pandamutti (marriage pots).
VI. Paniyan.
VII. Paniyans making fire.
VIII. Paraiyan.
IX. Paraiyans.
X. Paraiyans.
XI. Paraiyans.
XII. Parava devil-dancer.
XIII. Parava devil-dancer.
XIV. Patnūkāran marriage procession.
XV. Patnūkāran marriage wall design.
XVI. Pattanavan.
XVII. Pulluvan casting out devils.
XVIII. Pulluvan with pot-drum.
XIX. Rāzu bridegroom.
XX. Telugu Brāhman with Rudrāksha coat.
XXI. Savara.
XXII. Savaras.
XXIII. Savara.
XXIV. Sembadavan Mayana Kollai.
XXV. Shōlaga.
XXVI. St. Thomas cross, Kōttayam.
XXVII. Mar Dionysius.
XXVIII. Syrian Christian bride.


Castes and Tribes of Southern India.

Volume VI.


P (Continued)

Palli or Vanniyan.—Writing concerning this caste the Census Superintendent, 1871, records that “a book has been written by a native to show that the Pallis (Pullies or Vanniar) of the south are descendants of the fire races (Agnikulas) of the Kshatriyas, and that the Tamil Pullies were at one time the shepherd kings of Egypt.” At the time of the census, 1871, a petition was submitted to Government by representatives of the caste, praying that they might be classified as Kshatriyas, and twenty years later, in connection with the census, 1891, a book entitled ‘Vannikula Vilakkam: a treatise on the Vanniya caste,’ was compiled by Mr. T. Aiyakannu Nayakar, in support of the caste claim to be returned as Kshatriyas, for details concerning which claim I must refer the reader to the book itself. In 1907, a book entitled Varuna Darpanam (Mirror of Castes) was published, in which an attempt is made to connect the caste with the Pallavas.

Kulasēkhara, one of the early Travancore kings, and one of the most renowned Ālwars reverenced by the Srī Vaishnava community in Southern India, is claimed by the Pallis as a king of their caste. Even now, at the Parthasārathi temple in Triplicane (in the city of Madras), which according to inscriptions is a Pallava [2]temple, Pallis celebrate his anniversary with great éclat. The Pallis of Kōmalēsvaranpettah in the city of Madras have a Kulasēkhara Perumāl Sabha, which manages the celebration of the anniversary. The temple has recently been converted at considerable cost into a temple for the great Ālwar. A similar celebration is held at the Chintādripettah Ādikēsava Perumāl temple in Madras. The Pallis have the right to present the most important camphor offering of the Mylapore Siva temple. They allege that the temple was originally theirs, but by degrees they lost their hold over it until this bare right was left to them. Some years ago, there was a dispute concerning the exercise of this right, and the case came before the High Court of Madras, which decided the point at issue in favour of the Pallis. One of the principal gōpuras (pyramidal towers) of the Ēkāmranātha temple at Big Conjeeveram, the ancient capital of the Pallavas, is known as Palligōpuram. The Pallis of that town claim it as their own, and repair it from time to time. In like manner, they claim that the founder of the Chidambaram temple, by name Swēta Varman, subsequently known as Hiranya Varman (sixth century A.D.) was a Pallava king. At Pichavaram, four miles east of Chidambaram, lives a Palli family, which claims to be descended from Hiranya Varman. A curious ceremony is even now celebrated at the Chidambaram temple, on the steps leading to the central sanctuary. As soon as the eldest son of this family is married, he and his wife, accompanied by a local Vellāla, repair to the sacred shrine, and there, amidst crowds of their castemen and others, a hōmam (sacrificial fire) is raised, and offerings are made to it. The couple are then anointed with nine different kinds of holy water, and the Vellāla places the temple crown on their heads. The Vellāla who officiates [3]at this ceremony, assisted by the temple priests, is said to belong to the family of a former minister of a descendant of Hiranya Varman. It is said that, as the ceremony is a costly one, and the expenses have to be paid by the individual who undergoes it, it often happens that the eldest son of the family has to remain a bachelor for half his lifetime. The Pallis who reside at St. Thomé in the city of Madras allege that they became Christians, with their King Kandappa Rāja, who, they say, ruled over Mylapore during the time of the visit of St. Thomas. In 1907, Mr. T. Varadappa Nayakar, the only High Court Vakil (pleader) among the Palli community practising in Madras, brought out a Tamil book on the history of the connection of the caste with the ancient Pallava kings.

In reply to one of a series of questions promulgated by the Census Superintendent, it was stated that “the caste is known by the following names:—Agnikulas and Vanniyas. The etymology of these is the same, being derived from the Sanskrit Agni or Vahni, meaning fire. The following, taken from Dr. Oppert’s article on the original inhabitants of Bharatavarsa or India, explains the name of the caste with its etymology:—‘The word Vanniyan is generally derived from the Sanskrit Vahni, fire. Agni, the god of fire, is connected with regal office, as kings hold in their hands the fire-wheel or Agneya-chakra, and the Vanniyas urge in support of their name the regal descent they claim.’ The existence of these fire races, Agnikula or Vahnikula (Vanniya), in North and South India is a remarkable fact. No one can refuse to a scion of the non-Aryan warrior tribe the title of Rajputra, but in so doing we establish at once Aryan and non-Aryan Rajaputras or Rajputs. The Vanniyan of South India may be accepted as a representative of the non-Aryan Rajput element.” [4]

The name Vanniyan is, Mr. H. A. Stuart writes,1 “derived from the Sanskrit vanhi (fire) in consequence of the following legend. In the olden times, two giants named Vātāpi and Māhi, worshipped Brahma with such devotion that they obtained from him immunity from death from every cause save fire, which element they had carelessly omitted to include in their enumeration. Protected thus, they harried the country, and Vātāpi went the length of swallowing Vāyu, the god of the winds, while Māhi devoured the sun. The earth was therefore enveloped in perpetual darkness and stillness, a condition of affairs which struck terror into the minds of the dēvatas, and led them to appeal to Brahma. He, recollecting the omission made by the giants, directed his suppliants to desire the rishi Jāmbava Mahāmuni to perform a yāgam, or sacrifice by fire. The order having been obeyed, armed horse men sprung from the flames, who undertook twelve expeditions against Vātāpi and Māhi, whom they first destroyed, and afterwards released Vāyu and the sun from their bodies. Their leader then assumed the government of the country under the name Rūdra Vanniya Mahārāja, who had five sons, the ancestors of the Vanniya caste. These facts are said to be recorded in the Vaidīswara temple in the Tanjore district.”

The Vaidīswara temple here referred to is the Vaidīswara kōvil near Shiyāli. Mr. Stuart adds that “this tradition alludes to the destruction of the city of Vāpi by Narasimha Varma, king of the Pallis or Pallavas.” Vāpi, or Vā-api, was the ancient name of Vātāpi or Bādāmi in the Bombay Presidency. It was the capital of the Chālukyas, who, during the seventh [5]century, were at feud with the Pallavas of the south. “The son of Mahēndra Varman I,” writes Rai Bahadur V. Venkayya, “was Narasimha Varman I, who retrieved the fortunes of the family by repeatedly defeating the Chōlas, Kēralas, Kalabhras, and Pāndyas. He also claims to have written the word victory as on a plate on Pulikēsin’s2 back, which was caused to be visible (i.e., which was turned in flight after defeat) at several battles. Narasimha Varman carried the war into Chālukyan territory, and actually captured Vātāpi their capital. This claim of his is established by an inscription found at Bādāmi, from which it appears that Narasimha Varman bore the title Mahāmalla. In later times, too, this Pallava king was known as Vātāpi Konda Narasingapottaraiyan. Dr. Fleet assigns the capture of the Chālukya capital to about A.D. 642. The war of Narasimha Varman with Pulikēsin is mentioned in the Sinhalese chronicle Mahāvamsa. It is also hinted at in the Tamil Periyapurānam. The well-known saint Siruttonda, who had his only son cut up and cooked in order to satisfy the appetite of the god Siva disguised as a devotee, is said to have reduced to dust the city of Vātāpi for his royal master, who could be no other than the Pallava king Narasimha Varman.”

I gather, from a note by Mr. F. R. Hemingway, that the Pallis “tell a long story of how they are descendants of one Vīra Vanniyan, who was created by a sage named Sambuha when he was destroying the two demons named Vātāpi and Enatāpi. This Vīra Vanniyan married a daughter of the god Indra, and had five sons, named Rūdra, Brahma, Krishna, Sambuha, and Kai, whose descendants now live respectively in the country north [6]of the Pālār in the Cauvery delta, between the Pālār and Pennar. They have written a Purānam and a drama bearing on this tale. They declare that they are superior to Brāhmans, since, while the latter must be invested with the sacred thread after birth, they bring their sacred thread with them at birth itself.”

“The Vanniyans,” Mr. Nelson states,3 “are at the present time a small and obscure agricultural caste, but there is reason to believe that they are descendants of ancestors who, in former times, held a good position among the tribes of South India. A manuscript, abstracted at page 90 of the Catalogue raisonné (Mackenzie Manuscripts), states that the Vanniyans belong to the Agnikula, and are descended from the Muni Sambhu; and that they gained victories by means of their skill in archery. And another manuscript, abstracted at page 427, shows that two of their chiefs enjoyed considerable power, and refused to pay the customary tribute to the Rayar, who was for a long time unable to reduce them to submission. Armies of Vanniyans are often mentioned in Ceylon annals. And a Hindu History of Ceylon, translated in the Royal As. Soc. Journal, Vol. XXIV, states that, in the year 3300 of the Kali Yuga, a Pandya princess went over to Ceylon, and married its king, and was accompanied by sixty bands of Vanniyans.”

The terms Vanni and Vanniyan are used in Tamil poems to denote king. Thus, in the classical Tamil poem Kallādam, which has been attributed to the time of Tiruvalluvar, the author of the sacred Kural, Vanni is used in the sense of king. Kamban, the author of the Tamil Rāmāyana, uses it in a similar sense. In [7]an inscription dated 1189 A.D., published by Dr. E. Hultzsch,4 Vanniya Nāyan appears among the titles of the local chief of Tiruchchūram, who made a grant of land to the Vishnu temple at Manimangalam. Tiruchchūram is identical with Tiruvidaichūram about four miles south-east of Chingleput, where there is a ruined fort, and also a Siva temple celebrated in the hymns of Tirugnāna Sambandhar, the great Saiva saint who lived in the 9th century. Local tradition, confirmed by one of the Mackenzie manuscripts,5 says that this place was, during the time of the Vijayanagar King Krishna Rāya (1509–30 A.D.), ruled over by two feudal chiefs of the Vanniya caste named Kāndavarāyan and Sēndavarāyan. They, it is said, neglected to pay tribute to their sovereign lord, who sent an army to exact it. The brothers proved invincible, but one of their dancing-girls was guilty of treachery. Acting under instructions, she poisoned Kāndavarāyan. His brother Sēndavarāyan caught hold of her and her children, and drowned them in the local tank. The tank and the hillock close by still go by the name of Kuppichi kulam and Kuppichi kunru, after Kuppi the dancing-girl. An inscription of the Vijayanagar king Dēva Rāya II (1419–44 A.D.) gives him the title of the lord who took the heads of the eighteen Vanniyas.6 This inscription records a grant by one Muttayya Nāyakan, son of Mūkkā Nāyakan of Vannirāya gōtram. Another inscription,7 dated 1456 A.D., states that, when one Rāja Vallabha ruled at Conjeeveram, a general, named Vanniya Chinna Pillai, obtained a piece of land at Sāttānkād near Madras. [8]Reference is made by Orme8 to the assistance which the Vaniah of Sevagherry gave Muhammad Yūsuf in his reduction of Tinnevelly in 1757. The Vaniah here referred to is the Zamindar of Sivagiri in the Tinnevelly district, a Vanniya by caste. Vanniyas are mentioned in Ceylon archives. Wanni is the name of a district in Ceylon. It is, Mr. W. Hamilton writes,9 “situated towards Trincomalee in the north-east quarter. At different periods its Wannies or princes, taking advantage of the wars between the Candian sovereigns and their European enemies, endeavoured to establish an authority independent of both, but they finally, after their country had been much desolated by all parties, submitted to the Dutch.” Further, Sir J. E. Tennent writes,10 that “in modern times, the Wanny was governed by native princes styled Wannyahs, and occasionally by females with the title of Wunniches.”

The terms Sambhu and Sāmbhava Rāyan are connected with the Pallis. The story goes that Agni was the original ancestor of all kings. His son was Sambhu, whose descendants called themselves Sambhukula, or those of the Sambhu family. Some inscriptions11 of the time of the Chōla kings Kulōttunga III and Rāja Rāja III record Sambukula Perumāl Sāmbuvarāyan and Alagiya Pallavan Ēdirili Sōla Sāmbuvarāyan as titles of local chiefs. A well-known verse of Irattayar in praise of Conjeeveram Ēkāmranāthaswāmi refers to the Pallava king as being of the Sambu race. The later descendants of the Pallavas apparently took Sāmbuvarāyar and its [9]allied forms as their titles, as the Pallis in Tanjore and South Arcot still do. At Conjeeveram there lives the family of the Mahānāttār of the Vanniyans, which calls itself “of the family of Vīra Sambu.”

Pallas performing Pongal ceremonies.

Pallas performing Pongal ceremonies.

“The name Vanniyan,” Mr. H. A. Stuart writes,12 seems to have been introduced by the Brāhmans, possibly to gratify the desire of the Pallis for genealogical distinction. Padaiyāchi means a soldier, and is also of late origin. That the Pallis were once an influential and independent community may be admitted, and in their present desire to be classed as Kshatriyas they are merely giving expression to this belief, but, unless an entirely new meaning is to be given to the term Kshatriya, their claim must be dismissed as absurd. After the fall of the Pallava dynasty, the Pallis became agricultural servants under the Vellālas, and it is only since the advent of British rule that they have begun to assert their claims to a higher position.” Further, Mr. W. Francis writes13 that “this caste has been referred to as being one of those which are claiming for themselves a position higher than that which Hindu society is inclined to accord them. Their ancestors were socially superior to themselves, but they do not content themselves with stating this, but in places are taking to wearing the sacred thread of the twice-born, and claim to be Kshatriyas. They have published pamphlets to prove their descent from that caste, and they returned themselves in thousands, especially in Godāvari, as Agnikula Kshatriyas or Vannikula Kshatriyas, meaning Kshatriyas of the fire race.” “As a relic,” it has been said,14 “of the origin of the Vannikula Kshatriyas from fire, the fire-pot, which comes in procession on a fixed [10]day during the annual festivities of Draupadi and other goddesses, is borne on the head of a Vanniya. Also, in dramatic plays, the king personæ (sic) has always been taken by a Kshatriya, who is generally a Vanniya. These peculiarities, however, are becoming common now-a-days, when privileges peculiar to one caste are being trenched upon by other caste men. In the Tirupporur temple, the practice of beating the mazhu (red-hot iron) is done by a dancing-girl serving the Vanniya caste. The privilege of treading on the fire is also peculiar to the Vanniyas.” It is recorded by Mr. Francis15 that, in the South Arcot district, “Draupadi’s temples are very numerous, and the priest at them is generally a Palli by caste, and Pallis take the leading part in the ceremonies at them. Why this should be so is not clear. The Pallis say it is because both the Pāndava brothers and themselves were born of fire, and are therefore related. Festivals to Draupadi always involve two points of ritual—the recital or acting of a part of the Mahābhārata and a fire-walking ceremony. The first of these is usually done by the Pallis, who are very fond of the great epic, and many of whom know it uncommonly well. [In the city of Madras there are several Draupadi Amman temples belonging to the Pallis. The fire-walking ceremony cannot be observed thereat without the help of a member of this caste, who is the first to walk over the hot ashes.]

Kūvvākkam is known for its festival to Aravān (more correctly Irāvān) or Kūttāndar, which is one of the most popular feasts with Sūdras in the whole district. Aravān was the son of Arjuna, one of the five Pāndava brothers. Local tradition says that, when the great war [11]which is described in the Mahābhārata was about to begin, the Kauravas, the opponents of the Pāndavas, sacrificed, to bring them success, a white elephant. The Pāndavas were in despair of being able to find any such uncommon object with which to propitiate the gods, until Arjuna suggested that they should offer up his son Aravān. Aravān agreed to yield his life for the good of the cause, and, when eventually the Pāndavas were victorious, he was deified for the self-abnegation which had thus brought his side success. Since he died in his youth, before he had been married, it is held to please him if men, even though grown up and already wedded, come now and offer to espouse him, and men who are afflicted with serious diseases take a vow to marry him at his annual festival in the hope of thereby being cured. The festival occurs in May, and for eighteen nights the Mahābhārata is recited by a Palli, large numbers of people, especially of that caste, assembling to hear it read. On the eighteenth night, a wooden image of Kūttāndar is taken to a tope (grove), and seated there. This is the signal for the sacrifice of an enormous number of fowls. Every one who comes brings one or two, and the number killed runs literally into thousands. Such sacrifices are most uncommon in South Arcot, though frequent enough in other parts of the Presidency—the Ceded Districts for example—and this instance is noteworthy. While this is going on, all the men who have taken vows to be married to the deity appear before his image dressed like women, make obeisance, offer to the priest (who is a Palli by caste) a few annas, and give into his hands the tālis (marriage badges) which they have brought with them. These the priest, as representing the God, ties round their necks. The God is brought back to his shrine that night, and when in front of the [12]building he is hidden by a cloth being held before him. This symbolises the sacrifice of Aravān, and the men who have just been married to him set up loud lamentations at the death of their husband. Similar vows are taken and ceremonies performed, it is said, at the shrines to Kūttāndar at Kottattai (two miles north-west of Porto Novo), and Ādivarāhanattum (five miles north-west of Chidambaram), and, in recent years, at Tiruvarkkulam (one mile east of the latter place); other cases probably occur.”

The Pallis, Mr. Francis writes further,16 “as far back as 1833 tried to procure a decree in Pondicherry, declaring that they were not a low caste, and of late years they have, in this (South Arcot) district, been closely bound together by an organisation managed by one of their caste, who was a prominent person in these parts. In South Arcot they take a somewhat higher social rank than in other places—Tanjore, for example—and their esprit de corps is now surprisingly strong. They are tending gradually to approach the Brāhmanical standard of social conduct, discouraging adult marriage, meat-eating, and widow re-marriage, and they also actively repress open immorality or other social sins, which might serve to give the community a bad name. In 1904 a document came before one of the courts, which showed that, in the year previous, the representatives of the caste in thirty-four villages in this district had bound themselves in writing, under penalty of excommunication, to refrain (except with the consent of all parties) from the practices formerly in existence of marrying two wives, and of allowing a woman to marry again during the lifetime of her first husband. Some of the caste [13]have taken to calling themselves Vannikula Kshatriyas or Agnikula Kshatriyas, and others even declare that they are Brāhmans. These last always wear the sacred thread, tie their cloths in the Brāhman fashion (though their women do not follow the Brāhman ladies in this matter), forbid widow remarriage, and are vegetarians.”

Palli worshipping Munēswara.

Palli worshipping Munēswara.

Some Palli Poligars have very high-sounding names, such as Agni Kudirai Eriya Rāya Rāvutha Minda Nainar, i.e., Nainar who conquered Rāya Rāvutha and mounted a fire horse. This name is said to commemorate a contest between a Palli and a Rāvutha, at which the former sat on a red-hot metal horse. Further names are Sāmidurai Surappa Sozhaganar and Anjāda Singam (fearless lion). Some Pallis have adopted Gupta as a title.

A few Palli families now maintain a temple of their own, dedicated to Srīnivāsa, at the village of Kumalam in the South Arcot district, live round the temple, and are largely dependent on it for their livelihood. Most of them dress exactly like the temple Battars, and a stranger would certainly take them for Battar Brāhmans. Some of them are well versed in the temple ritual, and their youths are being taught the Sandyavandhana (morning prayer) and Vēdas by a Brāhman priest. Ordinary Palli girls are taken by them in marriage, but their own girls are not allowed to marry ordinary Pallis; and, as a result of this practice of hypergamy, the Kumalam men sometimes have to take to themselves more than one wife, in order that their young women may be provided with husbands. These Kumalam Pallis are regarded as priests of the Pallis, and style themselves Kōvilar, or temple people. But, by other castes, they are nicknamed Kumalam Brāhmans. They claim to be Kshatriyas, and have adopted the title Rāyar. [14]

Other titles, “indicating authority, bravery, and superiority,” assumed by Pallis are Nāyakar, Varma, Padaiyāchi (head of an army), Kandar, Chēra, Chōla, Pāndya, Nayanar, Udaiyar, Samburāyar, etc.17 Still further titles are Pillai, Reddi, Goundan, and Kavandan. Some say that they belong to the Chōla race, and that, as such, they should be called Chembians.18 Iranya Varma, the name of one of the early Pallava kings, was returned as their caste by certain wealthy Pallis, who also gave themselves the title of Sōlakanar (descendant of Chōla kings) at the census, 1901.

In reply to a question by the Census Superintendent, 1891, as to the names of the sub-divisions of the caste, it was stated that “the Vanniyans are either of the solar and lunar or Agnikula race, or Ruthra Vanniyar, Krishna Vanniyar, Samboo Vanniyar, Brahma Vanniyar, and Indra Vanniyar.” The most important of the sub-divisions returned at the census were Agamudaiyan, Agni, Arasu (Rāja), Kshatriya, Nāgavadam (cobra’s hood, or ear ornament of that shape), Nattamān, Ōlai (palm leaf), Pandamuttu, and Perumāl gōtra. Pandamuttu is made by Winslow to mean torches arranged so as to represent an elephant. But the Pallis derive the name from panda muttu, or touching the pandal, in reference to the pile of marriage pots reaching to the top of the pandal. The lowest pot is decorated with figures of elephants and horses. At a marriage among the Pandamuttu Pallis, the bride and bridegroom, in token of their Kshatriya descent, are seated on a raised dais, which represents a simhāsanam or throne. The bride wears a necklace of glass beads with the tāli, and the officiating priest is a Telugu Brāhman. Other [15]sub-castes of the Pallis, recorded in the Census Report, 1901, are Kallangi in Chingleput, bearing the title Reddi, and Kallavēli, or Kallan’s fence, in the Madura district. The occupational title Kottan (bricklayer) was returned by some Pallis in Coimbatore. In the Salem district some Pallis are divided into Anju-nāl (five days) and Pannendū-nāl (twelve days), according as they perform the final death ceremonies on the fifth or twelfth day after death, to distinguish them from those who perform them on the sixteenth day.19 Another division of Pallis in the Salem district is based on the kind of ear ornament which is worn. The Ōlai Pallis wear a circular ornament (ōlai), and the Nāgavadam Pallis wear an ornament in shape like a cobra and called nāgavadam.

Mannarswāmi in front of shrine.

Mannarswāmi in front of shrine.

The Pallis are classed with the left-hand section. But the Census Superintendent, 1871, records that “the wives of the agricultural labourers (Pallis) side with the left hand, while the husbands help in fighting the battles of the right; and the shoe-makers’ (Chakkiliyan) wives also take the side opposed to their husbands. During these factional disturbances, the ladies deny to their husbands all the privileges of the connubial state.” This has not, however, been confirmed in recent investigations into the customs of the caste.

The Pallis are Saivites or Vaishnavites, but are also demonolaters, and worship Mutyālamma, Māriamma, Ayanar, Munēswara, Ankālamma, and other minor deities. Writing nearly a century ago concerning the Vana Pallis settled at Kolar in Mysore, Buchanan states20 that “they are much addicted to the worship of the saktis, or destructive powers, and endeavour to avert their wrath by bloody sacrifices. These are performed [16]by cutting off the animal’s head before the door of the temple, and invoking the deity to partake of the sacrifice. There is no altar, nor is the blood sprinkled on the image, and the body serves the votaries for a feast. The Pallivānlu have temples dedicated to a female spirit of this kind named Mutialamma, and served by pūjāris (priests) of their own caste. They also offer sacrifices to Māriamma, whose pūjāris are Kurubaru.”

Palli pū karagam.

Palli pū karagam.

Huge human figures, representing Mannarswāmi in a sitting posture, constructed of bricks and mortar, and painted, are conspicuous objects in the vicinity of the Lawrence Asylum Press, Mount Road, and in the Kottawāl bazar, Madras. At the village of Tirumalavāyal near Āvadi, there is a similar figure as tall as a palmyra palm, with a shrine of Pachaiamman close by. Mannarswāmi is worshipped mainly by Pallis and Bēri Chettis. An annual festival is held in honour of Pachaiamman and Mannarswāmi, in which the Bēri Chettis take a prominent part.

During the festivals of village deities, the goddess is frequently represented by a pile of seven pots, called karagam, decorated with garlands and flowers. Even when there is an idol in the temple, the karagam is set up in a corner thereof, and taken daily, morning and evening, in procession, carried on the head of a pūjāri or other person. On the last day of the festival, the karagam is elaborately decorated with parrots, dolls, flowers, etc., made of pith (Æschynomene aspera), and called pu karagam (flower pot).

The Pallis live in separate streets or quarters distinctively known as the Palli teru or Kudi teru (ryots’ quarter). The bulk of them are labourers, but many now farm their own lands, while others are engaged in trade or in Government service. The occupations of [17]those whom I have examined at Madras and Chingleput were as follows:—

  • Merchant.
  • Cultivator.
  • Bullock and pony cart driver.
  • Printer.
  • Lascar.
  • Sweetmeat vendor.
  • Flower vendor.
  • Fitter.
  • Sawyer.
  • Oil-presser.
  • Gardener.
  • Polisher.
  • Bricklayer.
  • Mason.

Some of the Chingleput Palli men were tattooed, like the Irulas, with a dot or vertical stripe on the forehead. Some Irulas, it may be noted en passant, call themselves Tēn (honey) Vanniyans, or Vana (forest) Pallis.

Like many other castes, the Pallis have their own caste beggars, called Nōkkan, who receive presents at marriages and on other occasions. The time-honoured panchāyat system still prevails, and the caste has headmen, entitled Perithanakkāran or Nāttamaikkāran, who decide all social matters affecting the community, and must be present at the ceremonial distribution of pānsupāri.

The Kōvilars, and some others who aspire to a high social status, practice infant marriage, but adult marriage is the rule. At the betrothal ceremony, the future bridegroom goes to the house of his prospective father-in-law, where the headman of the future bride must be present. The bridegroom’s headman or father places on a tray betel, flowers, the bride-price (pariyam) in money or jewels, the milk money (mulapāl kūli), and a cocoanut. Milk money is the present given to the mother of the bride, in return for her having given nourishment to the girl during her infancy. All these things are handed by the bridegroom’s headman to the father or headman [18]of the bride, saying “The money is yours. The girl is ours.” The bride’s father, receiving them, says “The money is mine. The girl is yours.” This performance is repeated thrice, and pān-supāri is distributed, the first recipient being the maternal uncle. The ceremony is in a way binding, and marriage, as a rule, follows close on the betrothal. If, in the interval, a girl’s intended husband dies, she may marry some one else. A girl may not marry without the consent of her maternal uncle, and, if he disapproves of a match, he has the right to carry her off even when the ceremony is in progress, and marry her to a man of his selection. It is stated, in the Vannikula Vilakkam, that at a marriage among the Pallis “the bride, after her betrothal, is asked to touch the bow and sword of the bridegroom. The latter adorns himself with all regal pomp, and, mounting a horse, goes in procession to the bride’s house where the marriage ceremony is celebrated.”

The marriage ceremony is, in ordinary cases, completed in one day, but the tendency is to spread it over three days, and introduce the standard Purānic form of ritual. On the day preceding the wedding-day, the bride is brought in procession to the house of the bridegroom, and the marriage pots are brought by a woman of the potter caste. On the wedding morning, the marriage dais is got ready, and the milk-post, pots, and lights are placed thereon. Bride and bridegroom go separately through the nalagu ceremony. They are seated on a plank, and five women smear them with oil by means of a culm of grass (Cynodon Dactylon), and afterwards with Phaseolus Mungo (green gram) paste. Water coloured with turmeric and chunām (ārathi) is then waved round them, to avert the evil eye, and they are conducted to the bathing-place. While they are bathing, five small [19]cakes are placed on various parts of the body—knees, shoulders, head, etc. When the bridegroom is about to leave the spot, cooked rice, contained in a sieve, is waved before him, and thrown away. The bridal couple are next taken three times round the dais, and they offer pongal (cooked rice) to the village and house gods and the ancestors, in five pots, in which the rice has been very carefully prepared, so as to avoid pollution of any kind, by a woman who has given birth to a first child. They then dress themselves in their wedding finery, and get ready for the tying of the tāli. Meanwhile, the milk-post, made of Odina Wodier, Erythrina indica, or the handle of a plough, has been set up. At its side are placed a grindstone, a large pot, and two lamps called kuda-vilakku (pot light) and alankara-vilakku (ornamental light). The former consists of a lighted wick in an earthenware tray placed on a pot, and the latter of a wooden stand with several branches supporting a number of lamps. It is considered an unlucky omen if the pot light goes out before the conclusion of the ceremonial. It is stated by Mr. H. A. Stuart21 that in the North Arcot district “in the marriage ceremony of the Vanniyans or Pallis, the first of the posts supporting the booth must be cut from the vanni (Prosopis spicigera), a tree which they hold in much reverence because they believe that the five Pandava Princes, who were like themselves Kshatriyas, during the last year of their wanderings, deposited their arms in a tree of this species. On the tree the arms turned into snakes, and remained untouched till the owners’ return.” The Prosopis tree is worshipped in order to obtain pardon from sins, success over enemies, and the realisation of the devotee’s wishes.

Pandamutti (marriage pots).

Pandamutti (marriage pots).


When the bride and bridegroom come to the wedding booth dressed in their new clothes, the Brāhman purōhit gives them the threads (kankanam), which are to be tied round their wrists. The tāli is passed round to be blessed by those assembled, and handed to the bridegroom, who ties it on the bride’s neck. While he is so doing, his sister holds a light called Kamākshi vilakku. Kamākshi, the goddess at Conjeeveram, is a synonym for Siva’s consort Parvathi. The music of the flute is sometimes accompanied by the blowing of the conch shell while the tāli is being tied, and omens are taken from the sounds produced thereby. The tāli-tying ceremony concluded, the couple change their seats, and the ends of their clothes are tied together. Rice is thrown on their heads, and in front of them, and the near relations may tie gold or silver plates called pattam. The first to do this is the maternal uncle. Bride and bridegroom then go round the dais and milk-post, and, at the end of the second turn, the bridegroom lifts the bride’s left foot, and places it on the grindstone. At the end of the third turn, the brother-in-law, in like manner, places the bridegroom’s left foot on the stone, and puts on a toe-ring. For so doing, he receives a rupee and betel. The contracting couple are then shown the pole-star (Arundhati), and milk and fruit are given to them. Towards evening, the wrist-threads are removed, and they proceed to a tank for a mock ploughing ceremony. The bridegroom carries a ploughshare, and the bride a small pot containing conji (rice gruel). A small patch of ground is turned up, and puddled so as to resemble a miniature field, wherein the bridegroom plants some grain seedlings. A miniature Pillayar (Ganēsa) is made with cow-dung, and betel offered to it. The bridegroom then sits down, feigning fatigue, and the bride gives him [21]a handful of rice, which his brother-in-law tries to prevent him from eating. The newly-married couple remain for about a week at the bride’s house, and are then conducted to that of the bridegroom, the brother-in-law carrying a hundred or a hundred and ten cakes. Before they enter the house, coloured water and a cocoanut are waved in front of them, and, as soon as she puts foot within her new home, the bride must touch pots containing rice and salt with her right hand. A curious custom among the Pallis at Kumbakōnam is that the bride’s mother, and often all her relatives, are debarred from attending her marriage. The bride is also kept gōsha (in seclusion) for all the days of the wedding.22

It is noted by Mr. Hemingway that some of the Pandamuttu Pallis of the Trichinopoly district “practice the betrothal of infant girls, the ceremony consisting of pouring cow-dung water into the mouth of the baby. They allow a girl to marry a boy younger than herself, and make the latter swallow a two-anna bit, to neutralise the disadvantages of such a match. Weddings are generally performed at the boy’s house, and the bride’s mother does not attend. The bride is concealed from view by a screen.”

It is said that, some years ago, a marriage took place at Panruti near Cuddalore on the old Svayamvara principle described in the story of Nala and Damayanti in the Mahābhārata. According to this custom, a girl selects a husband from a large number of competitors, who are assembled for the purpose.

Widow remarriage is permitted. At the marriage of a widow, the tāli is tied by a married woman, the bridegroom standing by the side, usually inside the house. [22]Widow marriage is known as naduvittu tāli, as the tāli-tying ceremony takes place within the house (naduvīdu).

To get rid of the pollution of the first menstrual period, holy water is sprinkled over the girl by a Brāhman, after she has bathed. She seats herself on a plank, and rice cakes (puttu), a pounding stone, and ārathi are waved in front of her. Sugar and betel are then distributed among those present.

The dead are sometimes burnt, and sometimes buried. As soon as an individual dies, the son goes three times round the corpse, carrying an iron measure (marakkal), wherein a lamp rests on unhusked rice. The corpse is washed, and the widow bathes in such a way that the water falls on it. Omission to perform this rite would entail disgrace, and there is an abusive phrase “May the water from the woman’s body not fall on that of the corpse.” The dead man and his widow exchange betel three times. The corpse is carried to the burning or burial-ground on a bamboo stretcher, and, on the way thither, is set down near a stone representing Arichandra, to whom food is offered. Arichandra was a king who became a slave of the Paraiyans, and is in charge of the burial-ground. By some Pallis a two-anna piece is placed on the forehead, and a pot of rice on the breast of the corpse. These are taken away by the officiating barber and Paraiyan respectively.23 Men who die before they are married have to go through a post-mortem mock marriage ceremony. A garland of arka (Calotropis gigantea) flowers is placed round the neck of the corpse, and mud from a gutter is shaped into cakes, which, like the cakes at a real marriage, are placed on various parts of the body. [23]

A curious death ceremony is said by Mr. Hemingway to be observed by the Arasu Pallis in the Trichinopoly district. On the day after the funeral, two pots of water are placed near the spot where the corpse was cremated. If a cow drinks of the water, they think it is the soul of the dead come to quench its thirst.

In some places, Palli women live in strict seclusion (Gōsha). This is particularly the case in the old Palaigar families of Ariyalūr, Udaiyarpālaiyam, Pichavaram, and Sivagiri.

The caste has a well-organised Sangham (association) called Chennai Vannikula Kshatriya Mahā Sangham, which was established in 1888 by leaders of the caste. Besides creating a strong esprit de corps among members of the caste in various parts of the Madras Presidency, it has been instrumental in the opening of seven schools, of which three are in Madras, and the others at Conjeeveram, Madhurantakam, Tirukalikundram and Kumalam. It has also established chuttrams (rest-houses) at five places of pilgrimage. Chengalvarāya Nāyakar’s Technical School, attached to Pachaiappa’s College in Madras, was founded in 1865 by a member of the Palli caste, who bequeathed a large legacy for its maintenance. There is also an orphanage named after him in Madras, for Palli boys. Gōvindappa Nāyakar’s School, which forms the lower secondary branch of Pachaiappa’s College, is another institution which owes its existence to the munificence of a member of the Palli caste. The latest venture of the Pallis is the publication of a newspaper called Agnikuladittan (the sun of the Agnikula), which was started in 1908.

Concerning the Pallis, Pallilu, or Palles, who are settled in the Telugu country as fishermen, carpenters, [24]and agriculturists, Mr. H. A. Stuart writes24 that “it seems probable that they are a branch of the great Palli or Vanniya tribe, for Buchanan refers to the Mīna (fish) Pallis and Vana Pallis.” As sub-castes of these Pallis, Vada (boatmen), Marakkādu and Ēdakula are given in the Census Report, 1901. In the North Arcot Manual, Palli is given as a sub-division of the Telugu Kāpus. In some places the Pallis call themselves Palle Kāpulu, and give as their gōtram Jambumāharishi, which is a gōtram of the Pallis. Though they do not intermarry, the Palle Kāpulu may interdine with the Kāpus.

Concerning the caste-beggars of the Pallis, and their legendary history, I read the following account.25 “I came upon a noisy procession entering one of the main streets of a town not far from Madras. It was headed by spearmen, swordsmen, and banner-bearers, the last carrying huge flags (palempores) with representations of lions, tigers, monkeys, Brahmany kites, goblins and dwarfs. The centre of attraction consisted of some half dozen men and women in all the bravery of painted faces and gay clothing, and armed with swords, lances, and daggers. Tom-toms, trumpets, cymbals, and horns furnished the usual concomitant of ear-piercing music, while the painted men and women moved, in time with it, their hands and feet, which were encircled by rows of tiny bells. A motley following of the tag-rag and bob-tail of the population, which had been allured thither by the noise and clamour, brought up the rear of the procession, which stopped at each crossing. At each halt, the trumpeters blew a great and sonorous blast, while one of the central figures, with a conspicuous abdominal development, stepped forward, and, in a [25]stentorian voice, proclaimed the brave deeds performed by them in the days gone by, and challenged all comers to try conclusions with them, or own themselves beaten. I was told that the chief personages in the show were Jātipillays (literally, children of the caste), who had arrived in the town in the course of their annual tour of the country, for collecting their perquisites from all members of the Palli or Padiāchi caste, and that this was how they announced their arrival. The perquisite levied is known as the talaikattu vari (poll-tax, or literally the turban tax), a significant expression when it is borne in mind that only the adult male members of the caste (those who are entitled to tie a cloth round their heads) are liable to pay it, and not the women and children. It amounts to but one anna per head, and is easily collected. The Jātipillays also claim occult powers, and undertake to exhibit their skill in magic by the exorcism of devils, witchcraft and sorcery, and the removal of spells, however potent. This operation is called modi edukkirathu, or the breaking of spells, and sometimes the challenge is taken up by a rival magician of a different caste. A wager is fixed, and won or lost according to the superior skill of the challenger or challenged. Entering into friendly chat with one of the leading members of the class, I gleaned the following legend of its origin, and of the homage accorded to it by the Pallis. In remote times, when Salivahana was king of the Chōla country, with its capital at Conjeeveram, all the principal castes of South India had their head-quarters at the seat of government, where each, after its own way, did homage to the triple deities of the place, namely, Kamakshi Amman, Ekambrasvarar, and Sri Varadarājaswāmi. Each caste got up an annual car festival to these deities. [26]On one of these occasions, owing to a difference which had arisen between the Seniyans (weavers), who form a considerable portion of the population of Conjeeveram, on one side, and the Pallis or Vanniyans on the other, some members of the former caste, who were adepts in magic, through sheer malevolence worked spells upon the cars of the Pallis, whose progress through the streets first became slow and tedious, and was finally completely arrested, the whole lot of them having come to a stand-still, and remaining rooted on the spot in one of the much frequented thoroughfares of the city. The Pallis put on more men to draw the cars, and even employed elephants and horses to haul them, but all to no purpose. As if even this was not sufficient to satisfy their malignity, the unscrupulous Seniyars actually went to King Salivahana, and bitterly complained against the Pallis of having caused a public nuisance by leaving their cars in a common highway to the detriment of the public traffic. The king summoned the Pallis, and called them to account, but they pleaded that it was through no fault of theirs that the cars had stuck in a thoroughfare, that they had not been negligent, but had essayed all possible methods of hauling them to their destination by adding to the number of men employed in pulling them, and by having further tried to accelerate their progress with the aid of elephants, camels, and horses, but all in vain. They further declared their conviction that the Seniyars had played them an ill-turn, and placed the cars under a spell. King Salivahana, however, turned a deaf ear to these representations, and decreed that it was open to the Pallis to counteract the spells of their adversaries, and he prescribed a period within which this was to be effected. He also tacked on a threat that, in default of compliance with his mandate, the Pallis must leave his [27]kingdom for good and ever. The Pallis sought refuge and protection of the goddess Kamakshi Amman, whose pity was touched by their sad plight, and who came to their aid. She appeared to one of the elders of the caste in a dream, and revealed to him that there was a staunch devotee of hers—a member of their caste—who alone could remove the spells wrought by the Seniyars, and that this man, Ramasawmy Naikan, was Prime Minister in the service of the Kodagu (Coorg) Rāja. The desperate plight they were in induced the Pallis to send a powerful deputation to the Rāja, and to beg of him to lend them the services of Ramasawmy Naik, in order to save them from the catastrophe which was imminent. The Rāja was kind enough to comply. The Naik arrived, and, by virtue of his clairvoyant powers, took in the situation at a glance. He found myriads of imps and uncanny beings around each of the car-wheels, who gripped them as by a vice, and pulled them back with their sinewy legs and hands every time an attempt was made to drag them forwards. Ramasawmy Naik by no means liked the look of things, for he found that he had all his work cut out for him to keep these little devils from doing him bodily harm, let alone any attempt to cast them off by spells. He saw that more than common powers were needed to face the situation, and prayed to Kamakshi Amman to disclose a way of overcoming the enemy. After long fasting and prayers, he slept a night in the temple of Kamakshi Amman, in the hope that a revelation might come to him in his slumber. While he slept, Kamakshi Amman appeared, and declared to him that the only way of overcoming the foe was for the Pallis to render a propitiatory sacrifice, but of a most revolting kind, namely, to offer up as a victim a woman pregnant with her first [28]child. The Pallis trembled at the enormity of the demand, and declared that they would sooner submit to Salivahana’s decree of perpetual exile than offer such a horrible sacrifice. Ramasawmy Naik, however, rose to the occasion, and resolved to sacrifice his own girl-wife, who was then pregnant with her first child. He succeeded in propitiating the deity by offering this heroic sacrifice, and the spells of the Seniyars instantly collapsed, and the whole legion of imps and devils, who had impeded the progress of the Pallis’ car, vanished into thin air. The coast having thus been cleared of hostile influences, Ramasawmy Naik, with no more help than his own occult powers gave him, succeeded in hauling the whole lot of cars to their destination, and in a single trip, by means of a rope passed through a hole in his nose. The Pallis, whose gratitude knew no bounds, called down benedictions on his head, and, falling prostrate before him, begged him to name his reward for the priceless service rendered by him to their community. Ramasawmy Naik only asked that the memory of his services to the caste might be perpetuated by the bestowal upon him and his descendants of the title Jāti-pillay, or children of the caste, and of the privilege of receiving alms at the hands of the Pallis; and that they might henceforth be allowed the honour of carrying the badges of the caste—banners, state umbrellas, trumpets, and other paraphernalia—in proof of the signal victory they had gained over the Seniyars.”

Palli Dāsari.—A name for Tamil-speaking Dāsaris, as distinguished from Telugu-speaking Dāsaris.

Palli Īdiga.—A name given by Telugu people to Tamil Shānāns, whose occupation is, like that of Īdigas, toddy-drawing. [29]

Pallicchan.—A sub-division of Nāyars, the hereditary occupation of which is palanquin-bearing. In the Cochin Census Report, the Pallicchans are recorded as being palanquin-bearers for Brāhmans.

Pallikkillam.—An exogamous sept or illam of Tamil Panikkans.

Pālua.—A sub-division of Badhōyi.

Pambaikkāran.—An occupational name for Paraiyans, who play on a drum called pambai.

Pambala.—The Pambalas, or drum (pamba) people, are Mālas who act as musicians at Māla marriages and festivals in honour of their deities. They also take part in the recitation of the story of Ankamma, and making muggu (designs on the floor) at the peddadinamu death ceremony of the Gamallas.

Pammi (a common lamp).—An exogamous sept of Dēvānga.

Pāmula (snake people).—A name for snake-charming Koravas, and Jōgis, who, in the character of itinerant showmen, exhibit snakes to the public. The name also occurs as an exogamous sept of Māla and Yānādi.

Panam (palmyra palm: Borassus flabellifer.)—A sub-division of Shānān. It also occurs as a branch or kothu of Kondaiyamkotti Maravans.

Pānān.—The Tamil Pānāns are said, in the Census Report, 1901, to be also called Mēstris. They are “tailors among Tamils in Madura and Tinnevelly. They employ Brāhmans and Vellālas as purōhits. Though barbers and washermen will not eat food prepared by them, they are allowed to enter Hindu temples.” The Malayālam Pānāns are described in the same report as “exorcists and devil-dancers. The men also make umbrellas, and the women act as midwives. In parts they are called Malayans, and they may be [30]descendants of that hill tribe who have settled in the plains.” In the South Canara Manual, the Pānāns are said to be “the Malayālam caste corresponding to the Nalkes and Pombadas. They are numerous in Malabar, where they are also known by the name of Malayan. The devils whom they personify are supposed to have influence over crops, and at the time of harvest the Pānāns go about begging from house to house, dancing with umbrellas in their hands. On such occasions, however, it is only boys and girls who personify the demons.” “The village magician or conjurer,” Mr. Gopal Panikkar writes,26 “goes by different names, such as Pānān, Malayan, etc. His work consists in casting out petty devils from the bodies of persons (chiefly children) possessed, in writing charms for them to wear, removing the pernicious effects of the evil eye, and so on.” On certain ceremonial occasions, the Pānān plays on an hour-glass shaped drum, called thudi.

In an account of the funeral ceremonies of the Tīyans, Mr. Logan writes27 that “early on the morning of the third day after death, the Kurup or caste barber adopts measures to entice the spirit of the deceased out of the room in which he breathed his last. This is done by the nearest relative bringing into the room a steaming pot of savoury funeral rice. It is immediately removed, and the spirit, after three days’ fasting, is understood greedily to follow the odour of the tempting food. The Kurup at once closes the door, and shuts out the spirit. The Kurup belongs to the Pānān caste. He is the barber of the polluting classes above Cherumans, and by profession he is also an umbrella maker. But, curiously enough, though an umbrella [31]maker, he cannot make the whole of an umbrella. He may only make the framework; the covering of it is the portion of the females of his caste. If he has no female relative of his own capable of finishing off his umbrellas, he must seek the services of the females of other families in the neighbourhood to finish his for him. The basket-makers are called Kavaras. Nothing will induce them to take hold of an umbrella, as they have a motto, Do not take hold of Pānān’s leg.”

In an account of a ceremonial at the Pishāri temple near Quilandy in Malabar, Mr. F. Fawcett writes28 that “early on the seventh and last day, when the morning procession is over, there comes to the temple a man of the Pānān caste. He carries a small cadjan (palm leaf) umbrella which he has made himself, adorned all round the edges with a fringe of the young leaves of the cocoanut palm. The umbrella should have a long handle, and with this in his hand he performs a dance before the temple. He receives about 10 lbs. of raw rice for his performance.” It is further recorded by Mr. Fawcett that, when a Tīyan is cremated, a watch is kept at the burning-ground for five days by Pānāns, who beat drums all night to scare away the evil spirits which haunt such spots.

The following account of the Pānāns is given in the Gazetteer of Malabar. “The name is perhaps connected with pān, music. They follow the makkattāyam family system (of inheritance from father to son), and practice fraternal polyandry. In South Malabar there are said to be four sub-divisions, called Tirurengan, Kōdaketti (umbrella tying), Mīnpidi (fish catching), and Pulluvan, of which the last named is inferior in status to the other [32]three. They are also divided into exogamous illams or kiriyams. They worship Kāli, and inferior deities such as Parakutti, Karinkutti, Gulikan, and Kutti Chāttan. Their methods of exorcism are various. If any one is considered to be possessed by demons, it is usual, after consulting the astrologer, to ascertain what Murti (lit. form) is causing the trouble, to call in Pānāns, who perform a ceremony called Teyāttam, in which they wear masks, and, so attired, sing, dance, tom-tom, and play on rude and strident pipes. Other of their ceremonies for driving out devils called Ucchavēli seem to be survivals of imitations of human sacrifice, or instances of sympathetic magic. One of these consists of a mock living burial of the principal performer, who is placed in a pit which is covered with planks, on the top of which a sacrifice (hōmam) is performed with a fire kindled with jack (Artocarpus integrifolia) branches. In another variety, the Pānan cuts his left forearm, and smears his face with the blood thus drawn. Pānans also take part with Mannāns in various ceremonies at Badrakāli and other temples, in which the performers personate, in suitable costumes, some of the minor deities or demons, and fowls are sacrificed, while a Velicchapād dances himself into a frenzy, and pronounces oracles.” It is further noted, in the Gazetteer of Malabar, that “to constitute a valid divorce, the husband pulls a thread from his cloth, and gives it to his wife’s brother, saying ‘Your parisha is over.’ It is a traditional duty of the Pānans to furnish a messenger to announce to an Izhuvan (or Tandān) girl’s mother or husband (according to where she is staying) that she has attained puberty.”

In the Census Report, 1901, Anjūttān (men of the five hundred) and Munnūttān (men of the three [33]hundred) are returned as sub-castes of the Malayālan Pānāns.

For the following account of the Pānāns of Travancore, I am indebted to Mr. N. Subramani Aiyar. The word is of Tamil origin, and means a tailor. The title taken by them is Panikkan, the usual honorific appellation of most of the industrial castes of Malabar. They are supposed to be one with the Pānāns of the Tamil country, though much below them in the social scale. They observe a pollution distance of thirty-six feet, but keep Mannāns and Vēdans at a distance of eight, and Pulayas and Paraiyas at a distance of thirty-two feet from them. They are their own barbers and washermen. They will eat food prepared by Kammālans, of whom there is a tradition that they are a degraded branch. Tiruvarangan, one of the popular sages of Malabar, who are reputed to be the descendants of a Paraiya woman, is said to have been a Pānān, and the Pānāns pay him due reverence. In the Kēralolpatti, the traditional occupation of the Pānāns is said to be exorcism, and in British Malabar this occupation seems to be continued at the present day. Umbrella-making is a secondary occupation for the men. In Travancore, however, the only occupation pursued by the Pānāns is tailoring. The tāli-kettu celebration takes place before the girl attains puberty. If this ceremony is intended to signify a real marriage, the girl is taken to her husband’s house on the fourth day of the first menstrual period, and they remain thenceforth man and wife. Otherwise a sambandham ceremony has to be performed either by the tāli-tier or some one else, to establish conjugal relations. Inheritance is mostly paternal. The dead are buried, and death pollution lasts for sixteen days. The spirits of deceased ancestors are appeased once a year by the offering of cooked food [34]on the new-moon day in the month of Karkatakam (July-August). Ancestors who died from some untoward accident are propitiated in the month of Avani (August-September) by offerings of flesh and liquor. The latter ceremonial is termed vellamkuli or water drinking. Small earthen sheds, called gurusalas or kuriyalas and matams, are erected in memory of some ancestors.

The following account of the Pānāns of the Cochin State is extracted from a note by Mr. L. K. Ananta Krishna Aiyar.29

“The Pānāns give, as the traditional account of their origin, a distorted version of the tradition as to the origin of the Izhuvans, which is found in the Mackenzie Manuscripts. The Pānān version of the story is as follows. One day a washerman of Cheraman Perumāl chanced to wash his dress very clean. On being asked by the Perumāl as to the cause of it, the washerman said that it was due to the suggestion of a handsome carpenter girl, who saw him while washing. The Perumāl, pleased with the girl, desired her to be married to his washerman. The parents of the girl were duly consulted, and they could not refuse the offer, as it came from their sovereign. But his fellow carpenters resented it, for, if the proposal was accepted, and the marriage celebrated, it might not only place the members of her family under a ban, but would also bring dishonour to the castemen. To avert the contemplated union, they resorted to the following device. A pandal (marriage booth) was erected and tastefully decorated. Just at the auspicious hour, when the bridegroom and his party were properly seated on mats in the pandal, the carpenters brought a puppet exactly resembling the bride, and placed it by his side, [35]when suddenly, by a clever artifice, the carpenters caused the building to tumble down, and thereby killed all those who were in it. They immediately left the Perumāl’s country, and took refuge in the island of Ceylon. The ruler was much embarrassed by the disaster to the washerman, and by the flight of the carpenters, for he had none in his country to build houses. A few Pānāns were sent for, and they brought the carpenters back. On their return, they were given some fruit of the palmyra palm, which they ate. They sowed the seeds in their own places, and these grew into large fruit-bearing palms. The Pānāns possessed the privilege of keeping these trees as their own, but subsequently made them over to the Izhuvans, who, in memory of this, give even to-day two dishes of food to the Pānāns on all ceremonial occasions in their houses. They have been, on that account, called by the Izhuvans nettaries, for their having originally planted these trees.

“There are no titles among the Pānāns, but one, who was brought for examination at Trichūr, told me that one of his ancestors got the title of Panikkan, and that he had the privilege of wearing a gold ear-ring, carrying a walking-stick lined with silver, and using a knife provided with a style. Kapradan is a title given to the headman in the Palghat taluk. In Palghat, when the Kapradan dies, the Rāja is informed, and he sends to the chief mourner (the son) a sword, a shield, a spear, a few small guns with some gunpowder, a silver bangle, and a few necklaces. As the dead body is taken to the burial ground, the chief mourner, wearing the ornaments above mentioned, goes behind it. In front go a few persons armed with the weapons referred to. Three discharges are made (1) when the dead body is removed from the house, (2) when it is placed on the ground, (3) when [36]it is burnt. The next day, the chief mourner pays his respects to the Rāja, with an umbrella of his own making, when the Rāja bestows upon him the title of Kapradan.

“There are magicians and sorcerers among the Pānāns, who sometimes, at the request even of the high-caste men, practice the black art. Some of the Pānāns, like the Parayans, engage in magical rites of a repulsive nature, in order to become possessors of a powerful medicine, the possession of which is believed to confer the power of obtaining anything he wishes. They also believe in the existence of a demoniacal hierarchy. Changili Karuppan, Pechi, Oodara Karuppan, Kāli, Chotala Karuppan, Chotala Bhadrakāli, Yakshi, Gandharvan, and Hanumān are the names of the chief demons whom they profess to control with the aid of mantrams (consecrated formulæ) and offerings. They also profess that they can send one or more of these demons into the bodies of men, and cast them out when persons are possessed of them. They profess to cure all kinds of diseases in children with the aid of magic and medicines, and all the castemen believe that harm or even death may be caused to men with the aid of sorcerers. In such cases, an astrologer is consulted, and, according to his calculations, the aid of a magician is sought for. When a person is suffering from what are believed to be demoniacal attacks, he is relieved by the performance of the following ceremony, called pathalahōmam. A pit about six feet in length, three feet in depth, and a foot or two in breadth, is dug. A Pānān, covered with a new piece of cloth, is made to lie in the pit, which is filled in with earth, leaving a small hole for him to breathe. Over the middle of his body, the earth is raised and made level. A sacred fire (hōmam) is made over this with the branches of a [37]jack tree. Near it a large square is drawn with sixty-four small divisions, in each of which a small leaf, with some paddy (unhusked rice), rice, flour, and lighted torches, is placed. Gingelly (Sesamum) seeds, mustard seeds, grains of chama (Panicum miliaceum), horse gram (Dolichos biflorus), eight fragrant things, the skin of snakes, dung of the elephant, milk of the pala tree, twigs of the banyan tree, dharba grass, nila narakam (Naregamia alata) oil, and ghee (clarified butter) are put into it until it burns bright. The sick man is brought in front of it, and the sorcerer authoritatively asks him—or rather the demon residing in his body—to take these things. The sorcerer puts the above mentioned substances into the fire, muttering all the while his mantrams invoking the favour of Vīra Bhadra or Kandakaruna. The significance of these is ‘Oh! Kandakaruna, the King of the Dēvas, I have no body, that is, my body is getting weaker and weaker, and am possessed of some demon, which is killing me, kindly help me, and give me strength.’ This done, another operation is begun. A fowl is buried, and a small portion of the earth above it is raised and made level. The figure of a man is drawn by the side of it. Three hōmams (sacred fires) are raised, one at the head, one in the middle, and one at the feet. The above mentioned grains, and other substances, are put into the fire. A large square with sixty-four smaller squares in it is drawn, in each of which a leaf, with grains of paddy, rice, and flowers, is placed. Another mantram in praise of the demons already mentioned is uttered, and a song is sung. After finishing this, a small structure in the form of a temple is made. A small plantain tree is placed by the side of it. A padmam is drawn, and a pūja (worship) is performed for the [38]Paradēvatha, the queen of demons. The sorcerer makes offerings of toddy, beaten rice, plantains, and cocoanuts, and soon turns oracle, and, as one inspired, tells what the deity wishes, and gives information as regards the departure of the demons from the body. It is now believed that the patient is free from all demoniacal attacks. The buried man is exhumed, and allowed to go home.

“In the Palghat tāluk, the following form of sorcery is practiced, which is believed to relieve persons from demoniacal attacks and disease. If, in the house of any casteman, it is suspected that some malign influence is being exercised by demons, a Pānān is sent for, who comes in the evening with his colleagues. A hōmam is lighted with the branches of the trees already mentioned, and into it are thrown six kinds of grains, as well as oil and ghee. As this is being done, Kallatikode Nili, the presiding archdemon, is propitiated with songs and offerings. The next part of the ceremony consists in bringing a bier and placing a Pānān on it, and a measure of rice is placed at his head. He is, as in the case of a dead body, covered with a piece of new cloth, and a small plantain tree is placed between the thighs. At his head a sheep and at his feet a fowl are killed. He pretends gradually to recover consciousness. In this state he is taken outside the compound. The Pānān, lying on the bier, evidently pretends to be dead, as if killed by the attack of some demon. The propitiation with songs and offerings is intended to gratify the demons. This is an instance of sympathetic magic.

“Some among the Pānāns practice the oti (or odi) cult, like the Parayas. The following medicines, with the aid of magic, are serviceable to them in enticing pregnant women from their houses. Their preparation [39]is described as follows. A Pānān, who is an adept in the black art, bathes early in the morning, dresses in a cloth unwashed, and performs pūja to his deity, after which he goes in search of a Kotuveli plant (Manihot utilissima). When he finds such a one as he wants, he goes round it three times every day, and continues to do so for ninety days, prostrating himself every day before it. On the last night, which must be a new-moon night, at twelve o’clock he performs pūja to the plant, burning camphor, and, after going round it three times, prostrates himself before it. He then places three small torches on it, and advances twenty paces in front of it. With his mouth closed, and without any fear, he plucks the plant by the root, and buries it in the ashes on the cremation ground, on which he pours the water of seven green cocoanuts. He then goes round it twenty-one times, muttering all the while certain mantrams, after which he plunges himself in the water, and stands erect until it extends to his mouth. He takes a mouthful of water, which he empties on the spot, and then takes the plant with the root, which he believes to possess peculiar virtues. When it is taken to the closed door of a house, it has the power to entice a pregnant woman, when the fœtus is removed (cf. article Parayan). It is all secretly done on a dark midnight. The head, hands and legs are cut off, and the trunk is taken to a dark-coloured rock, on which it is cut into nine pieces, which are all burned until they are blackened. At this stage, one piece boils, and is placed in a new earthen pot, with the addition of the water of nine green cocoanuts. The pot is removed to the burial-ground. The Pānān performs a pūja here in favour of his favourite deity. Here he fixes two poles deep in the earth, at a distance of thirty feet from each other. [40]

The poles are connected by a strong wire, from which is suspended the pot to be heated and boiled. Seven fire-places are made, beneath the wire. The branches of bamboo, katalati (Achyranthes Emblica), conga (Bauhinea variegata), cocoanut palm, jack tree (Artocarpus integrifolia), and pavatta (Pavatta indica), are used in forming a bright fire. The mixture in the pot soon boils and becomes oily, at which stage it is passed through a fine cloth. The oil is preserved, and a mark made with it on the forehead enables the possessor to realise anything that is thought of. The sorcerer must be in a state of vow for twenty-one days, and live on a diet of chama kanji. The deity, whose aid is necessary, is propitiated with offerings.

“One of the ceremonies which the Pānāns perform is called Thukil Onarthuka (waking thukil, a kind of drum). In the month of Karkadakam (July-August), a Pānān, with his wife, provided with a drum and kuzhithalam (circular bell-metal cymbals), goes to the houses of Brāhmans and Nāyars after midnight, and sings sacred songs. During the week, they sing standing underneath a banyan tree near the western gate of the Trichūr temple. From the temple authorities they get five measures of paddy, half a measure of rice, some gingelly oil, and a cocoanut. For their services in other houses, they receive a similar remuneration. This is intended to drive evil spirits, if any, from houses. Another of their festivals is known as Pānān Kali. The traditional account therefor is as follows. Once, when a Pānān and his wife went to a forest to bring bamboos for the manufacture of umbrellas, they missed their way, night approached, and they could not return. They began to be frightened by the varieties of noise heard by them in the wilderness. They collected pieces [41]of dry bamboo and leaves of trees, and burned them. In the presence of the light thus obtained, the woman caught hold of a creeper hanging from a tree, and danced in honour of Bhagavathi, while her husband sang songs praising her. The day dawned at last, and they found their way home in safety. In memory of this incident, the Pānāns organise a party for a regular play. There are ten male and two female actors, and the play is acted during the whole night.

“The religion of the Pānāns consists of an all-pervading demonology. Their chief gods are Mukkan, Chāthan, Kappiri, Malankorathi, and Kali. Pūjas are performed to them on the first of Medom (April-May), Karkadakam (July-August), Desara, and on Tuesday in Makaram (January-February). These deities are represented by stones placed under a tree. They are washed with water on the aforesaid days, and offerings of sheep and fowls, malar (parched rice), plantains, cocoanuts, and boiled rice are made to them. Their belief is that these deities are ever prone to do harm to them, and should therefore be propitiated with offerings. The Pānāns also worship the spirits of their ancestors, who pass for their household gods, and whose help they seek in all times of danger. They fast on new-moon nights, and on the eleventh night after full-moon or new-moon.

“The Pānān is the barber of the polluting castes above Cherumans. By profession he is an umbrella-maker. Pānāns are also engaged in all kinds of agricultural work. In villages, they build mud walls. Their women act as midwives.

“As regards social status, the Pānāns eat at the hands of Brāhmans, Nāyars, Kammālans, and Izhuvans. They have to stand at a distance of thirty-two feet from [42]Brāhmans. Pānāns and Kaniyans pollute one another if they touch, and both bathe should they happen to do so. They are their own barbers and washermen. They live in the vicinity of the Izhuvans, but cannot live in the Nāyar tharas. Nor can they take water from the wells of the Kammālans. They cannot approach the outer walls of Brāhman temples, and are not allowed to enter the Brāhman streets in Palghat.”

In the Census Report, 1891, Pānān occurs as a sub-division of the Paraiyans. Their chief occupation as leather-workers is said to be the manufacture of drum-heads.30

Panasa.—The Panasas are a class of beggars in the Telugu country, who are said to ask alms only from Kamsalas. The word panasa means constant repetition of words, and, in its application to the Panasa, probably indicates that they, like the Bhatrāzu bards and panegyrists, make up verses eulogising those from whom they beg. It is stated in the Kurnool Manual (1886) that “they take alms from the Bēri Kōmatis and goldsmiths (Kamsalas), and no others. The story goes that, in Golkonda, a tribe of Kōmatis named Bacheluvāru were imprisoned for non-payment of arrears of revenue. Finding certain men of the artificer class who passed by in the street spit betel nut, they got it into their mouths, and begged the artificers to get them released. The artificers, pitying them, paid the arrears, and procured their release. It was then that the Kamsalis fixed a vartana or annual house-fee for the maintenance of the Panasa class, on condition that they should not beg alms from the other castes.” The Panasas appear every year in the Kurnool district to collect their dues. [43]

Pāncha.—Pāncha, meaning five, is recorded as a sub-division of the Linga Balijas, and Pānchachāra or Pānchamsāle as a sub-division of Lingāyats. In all these, pāncha has reference to the five ācharas or ceremonial observances of the Lingāyats, which seem to vary according to locality. Wearing the lingam, worshipping it before meals, and paying reverence to the Jangam priests, are included among the observances.

Pānchāla.—A synonym for Canarese Kammālans, among whom five (pānch) classes of workers are included, viz., gold and silver, brass and copper, iron, and stone.

Pānchalinga (five lingams).—An exogamous sept of Bōya. The lingam is the symbol of Siva.

Panchama.—The Panchamas are, in the Madras Census Report, 1871, summed up as being “that great division of the people, spoken of by themselves as the fifth caste, and described by Buchanan and other writers as the Pancham Bandam.” According to Buchanan,31 the Pancham Bandum “consist of four tribes, the Parriar, the Baluan, the Shekliar, and the Toti.” Buchanan further makes mention of Panchama Banijigaru and Panchama Cumbharu (potters). The Panchamas were, in the Department of Public Instruction, called “Paraiyas and kindred classes” till 1893. This classification was replaced, for convenience of reference, by Panchama, which included Chacchadis, Godāris, Pulayas, Holeyas, Mādigas, Mālas, Pallans, Paraiyans, Totis, and Valluvans. “It is,” the Director of Public Instruction wrote in 1902, “for Government to consider whether the various classes concerned should, for the sake of brevity, be described by one simple name. The terms Paraiya, low caste, outcaste, carry with them a [44]derogatory meaning, and are unsuitable. The expression Pancham Banda, or more briefly Panchama, seems more appropriate.” The Government ruled that there is no objection to the proposal that Paraiyas and kindred classes should be designated Panchama Bandham or Panchama in future, but it would be simpler to style them the fifth class.

The following educational privileges according to the various classes classified as Panchama may be noted:—

(1) They are admitted into schools at half the standard rates of fees.

(2) Under the result grant system (recently abolished), grants were passed for Panchama pupils at rates 50 per cent. higher than in ordinary cases, and 15 per cent. higher in backward localities.

(3) Panchama schools were exempted from the attendance restriction, i.e., grants were given to them, however small the attendance. Ordinary schools had to have an attendance of ten at least to earn grants.

(4) Panchama students under training as teachers get stipends at rates nearly double of those for ordinary Hindus.

An interesting account of the system of education at the Olcott Panchama Free Schools has been written by Mrs. Courtright.32

Panchama is returned, in the Census Reports, 1891 and 1901, as a sub-division of Balija and Banajiga.

Panchāramkatti.—A sub-division of Idaiyan, which derives its name from the neck ornament (panchāram) worn by the women.

Pandamuttu.—A sub-division of Palli. The name is made by Winslow to mean a number of torches [45]arranged so as to represent an elephant. The Pallis, however, explain it as referring to the pile of pots, which reaches to the top of the marriage pandal (pandal, booth, mutti, touching). The lowest pot is decorated with figures of elephants and horses.

Pandāram.—Pandāram is described by Mr. H. A. Stuart33 as being “the name rather of an occupation than a caste, and used to denote any non-Brāhmanical priest. The Pandārams seem to receive numerous recruits from the Saivite Sūdra castes, who choose to make a profession of piety, and wander about begging. They are in reality very lax in their modes of life, often drinking liquor and eating animal food furnished by any respectable Sūdra. They often serve in Siva temples, where they make garlands of flowers to decorate the lingam, and blow brazen trumpets when offerings are made, or processions take place. Tirutanni is one of the chief places, in which they congregate.”

It is recorded, in the Gazetteer of the Trichinopoly district, that “the water for the god’s bath at Ratnagiri is brought by a caste of non-Brāhmans known as Tirumanjana Pandārams, who fetch it every day from the Cauvery. They say that they are descended from an Āryan king, who came to the god with the hope of getting rubies from him. The god, in the guise of a Brāhman, tested his devotion by making him fill a magic vessel with Cauvery water. The vessel would not fill, and the Āryan stranger in a fit of anger cut off the Brāhman’s head. The dead body at once turned into a lingam, and the Āryan was ordered to carry water for the temple till eternity.”

Pandāram is used both as the name of a caste, and of a class composed of recruits from various castes (e.g., [46]Vellāla and Palli). The Pandāram caste is composed of respectable people who have settled down as land-holders, and of Sanyāsis and priests of certain matams (religious institutions), and managers of richly endowed temples, such as those at Tiruvādudurai in Tanjore and Mailām in South Arcot. The common name for these managers is Tambirān. The caste Pandārams are staunch Saivites and strict vegetarians. Those who lead a celibate life wear the lingam. They are said to have been originally Sōzhia Vellālas, with whom intermarriage still takes place. They are initiated into the Saivite religion by a rite called Dhīkshai, which is divided into five stages, viz., Samaya, Nirvāna, Visēsha, Kalāsothanai, and Achārya Abhishēkam. Some are temple servants, and supply flowers for the god, while others sing dēvaram (hymns to the god) during the temple service. On this account, they are known as Meikāval (body-guard of the god), and Ōduvar (reader). The caste Pandārams have two divisions, called Abhishēka and Dēsikar, and the latter name is often taken as a title, e.g., Kandasāmi Dēsikar. An Abhishēka Pandāram is one who is made to pass through some ceremonies connected with Saiva Āgama.

The mendicant Pandārams, who are recruited from various classes, wear the lingam, and do not abstain from eating flesh. Many villages have a Pandāram as the priest of the shrine of the village deity, who is frequently a Palli who has become a Pandāram by donning the lingam. The females are said to live, in some cases, by prostitution.

The Lingāyat Pandārams differ in many respects from the true Lingāyats. The latter respect their Jangam, and use the sacred water, in which the feet of the Jangam are washed, for washing their stone lingam. [47]To the Pandārams, and Tamil Lingāyats in general, this proceeding would amount to sacrilege of the worst type. Canarese and Telugu Lingāyats regard a Jangam as superior to the stone lingam. In the matter of pollution ceremonies the Tamil Lingāyats are very particular, whereas the orthodox Lingāyats observe no pollution. The investiture with the lingam does not take place so early among the Tamil as among the Canarese Lingāyats.

For the following note, I am indebted to Mr. C. Hayavadana Rao. “Dr. H. H. Wilson34 is of opinion that the word Pandāram is ‘more properly Pānduranga, pale complexioned, from their smearing themselves with ashes. It is so used in Hēmachandrā’s history of Mahāvīra, when speaking of the Saiva Brāhmans.’ A more popular derivation of the name is from Bandāram, a public treasury. A good many well-to-do Pandārams are managers of Siva temples in Southern India, and accordingly have the temple treasuries under their care. It is, however, possible that the name has been acquired by the caste by reason of their keeping a yellow powder, called pandāram, in a little box, and giving it in return for the alms which they receive.

Opinions are divided as to whether the Pandārams are Lingāyats or not. The opinion held by F. W. Ellis, the well-known Tamil scholar and translator of the Kural of Tiruvalluvar, is thus summarised by Colonel Wilks.35 “Mr. Ellis considers the Jangam of the upper countries, and the Pandāram of the lower, to be of the same sect, and both deny in the most unequivocal terms the doctrine of the metempsychosis. A manuscript in the Mackenzie collection ascribes the origin of the Pandārams as a [48]sacerdotal order of the servile caste to the religious disputes, which terminated in the suppression of the Jain religion in the Pāndian (Madura) kingdom, and the influence which they attained by the aid which they rendered to the Brāhmans in that controversy, but this origin seems to require confirmation. In a large portion, perhaps in the whole of the Brāhmanical temples dedicated to Siva in the provinces of Arcot, Tanjore, Trichinopoly, Madura and Tinnevelly, the Pandāram is the highest of the temple, and has the entire direction of the revenues, but allows the Brāhmans to officiate in the ceremonial part according to their own good pleasure, as a concern altogether below his note. He has generally the reputation of an irreproachable life, and is treated by the Brāhmans of the temple with great reverence, while on his part he looks with compassion at the absurd trifles which occupy their attention. These facts seem to point to some former revolution, in which a Jangam government obtained a superiority over the Brāhmanical establishments, and adopted this mode of superseding the substantial part of their authority. It is a curious instance of the Sooder (Sūdra) being the spiritual lord of the Brāhman, and is worthy of further historical investigation.” Dr. Wilson36 also thinks that the Pandārams are Lingāyats. Mr. H. A. Stuart37 says that they are a class of priests who serve the non-Brāhman castes. They have returned 115 sub-divisions, of which only two are sufficiently large to require mention, Āndi of Tinnevelly and Malabar, and Lingadāri of Chingleput and Tinnevelly. Āndi is a quasi-caste of beggars recruited from all castes, and the Lingadāri Pandārams are the same as Jangams. [49]Pandāram is, in fact, a class name rather than the name of a caste, and it consists of priests and beggars. Mr. C. P. Brown38 thinks that the Pandārams are not Lingāyats. ‘The Saiva worshippers among the Tamils are called Pandārams: these are not Vira Saivas, nor do they wear the linga or adore Basava. I name them here chiefly because they are often mentioned as being Vira Saivas, whereas in truth they are (like the Smartas) Purva Saivas, and worship the image of Siva in their houses.’ It must be remarked that Mr. Brown appears to have had a confused idea of Pandārams. Pandārams wear the linga on their bodies in one of the usual modes, are priests to others professing the Lingāyat religion, and are fed by them on funeral and other ceremonial occasions. At the same time, it must be added that they are—more especially the begging sections—very lax as regards their food and drink. This characteristic distinguishes them from the more orthodox Lingāyats. Moreover, Lingāyats remarry their widows, whereas the Pandārams, as a caste, will not.

“Pandārams speak Tamil. They are of two classes, the married and celibate. The former are far more numerous than the latter, and dress in the usual Hindu manner. They have the hind-lock of hair known as the kudumi, put on sacred ashes, and paint the point between the eyebrows with a sandal paste dot. The celibates wear orange-tawny cloths, and daub sacred ashes all over their bodies. They allow the hair of the head to become matted. They wear sandals with iron spikes, and carry in their hands an iron trisūlam (the emblem of Siva), and a wooden baton called dandāyudha (another emblem of Siva). When they go about the [50]streets, they sing popular Tamil hymns, and beat against their begging bowl an iron chain tied by a hole to one of its sides. Married men also beg, but only use a bell-metal gong and a wooden mallet. Most of these help pilgrims going to the more famous Siva temples in the Madras Presidency, e.g., Tirutani, Palni, Tiruvānnāmalai, or Tirupparankunram. Among both sections, the dead are buried in the sitting posture, as among other Lingāyats. A samādhi is erected over the spot where they are buried. This consists of a linga and bull in miniature, which are worshipped as often as may be found convenient.

“The managers of temples and mutts (religious institutions), known as Pandāra Sannadhis, belong to the celibate class. They are usually learned in the Āgamas and Purānas. A good many of them are Tamil scholars, and well versed in Saiva Siddhānta philosophy. They call themselves Tambirāns—a title which is often usurped by the uneducated beggars.”

In the Census Report, 1901, Vairāvi is returned as a sub-caste of Pandāram, and said to be found only in the Tinnevelly district, where they are measurers of grains and pūjāris in village temples. Vairāvi is further used as a name for members of the Mēlakkāran caste, who officiate as servants at the temples of the Nāttukōttai Chettis.

Pandāram is a title of the Panisavans and Valluvan priests of the Paraiyans.

A class of people called hill Pandārams are described39 by the Rev. S. Mateer as “miserable beings without clothing, implements, or huts of any kind, living in holes, rocks, or trees. They bring wax, ivory (tusks), and other [51]produce to the Arayans, and get salt from them. They dig roots, snare the ibex (wild goat, Hemitragus hylocrius) of the hills, and jungle fowls, eat rats and snakes, and even crocodiles found in the pools among the hill streams. They were perfectly naked and filthy, and very timid. They spoke Malayālam in a curious tone, and said that twenty-two of their party had been devoured by tigers within two monsoons.” Concerning these hill Pandārams, Mr. N. Subramani Aiyar writes that they live on the banks of streams in crevices of rocks, caves, and hollows of trees. They are known to the dwellers on the plains as Kāttumanushyar, or forest men. They clad themselves in the bark of trees, and, in the rainy and cold seasons, protect their bodies with plantain leaves. They speak a corrupt form of Tamil. They fear the sight of other men, and try to avoid approaching them. A former European magistrate of the Cardamom Hills took some of them to his residence, but, during their three days’ stay there, they refused to eat or talk. There is a chieftain for every four hills, but his authority is little more than nominal. When women are married, the earth and hills are invoked as witnesses. They have Hindu names, such as Rāman, Kittan (Krishna), and Govindan.

In a lecture delivered some years ago at Trivandrum, Mr. O. H. Bensley described the hill Pandārams as being “skilful in catching fish, their mode of cooking which is to place the fish on roots on a rock, and cover them with fire. They keep dogs, and, by their aid, replenish their larder with rats, mungooses, iguanas (lizard, Varanus), and other delicacies. I was told that the authority recognised by these people is the head Arayan, to whom they give a yearly offering of jungle produce, receiving in exchange the scanty clothing required by them. We had an opportunity of examining their stock-in-trade, [52]which consisted of a bill-hook similar to those used by other hillmen, a few earthen cooking-pots, and a good stock of white flour, which was, they said, obtained from the bark of a tree, the name of which sounded like āhlum. They were all small in stature, with the exception of one young woman, and, both in appearance and intelligence, compared favourably with the Urālis.”

Pandāriyar.—Pandāriyar or Pandārattar, denoting custodians of the treasury, has been returned as a title of Nattamān, Malaimān, and Sudarmān.

Pāndava-kulam.—A title, indicative “of the caste of the Pāndava kings,” assumed by Jātapus and Konda Doras, who worship the Pāndavas. The Pāndava kings were the heroes of the Mahābhārata, who fought a great battle with the Kauravas, and are said to have belonged to the lunar race of Kshatriyas. The Pāndavas had a single wife named Draupadi, whom the Pallis or Vanniyans worship, and celebrate annually in her honour a fire-walking festival. The Pallis claim to belong to the fire race of Kshatriyas, and style themselves Agnikula Kshatriyas, or Vannikula Kshatriyas.

Pandi (pig).—Recorded as an exogamous sept of Asili, Bōya, and Gamalla. Pandipattu (pig catchers) and Pandikottu (pig killers) occur as exogamous septs of Oddē.

Pandito.—Pandit or Pundit (pandita, a learned man) has been defined40 as “properly a man learned in Sanskrit lore. The Pundit of the Supreme Court was a Hindu law-officer, whose duty it was to advise the English Judges when needful on questions of Hindu law. The office became extinct on the constitution of the High Court (in 1862). In the Mahratta and Telugu [53]countries, the word Pandit is usually pronounced Pant (in English colloquial Punt).” In the countries noted, Pant occurs widely as a title of Brāhmans, who are also referred to as Pantulu vāru. The titles Sanskrit Pundit, Telugu Pundit, etc., are still officially recognised at several colleges in the Madras Presidency. Pandit sometimes occurs as an honorific prefix, e.g., Pandit S. M. Natesa Sastri, and Panditan is a name given to Tamil barbers (Ambattan). In some parts of the Tamil country, Panditar is used as a name for Mādhva Brāhmans, because, it is said, many of them were formerly engaged as pandits at the Law Courts.

Pandito is further the name of “an Oriya caste of astrologers and physicians. They wear the sacred thread, and accept drinking water only from Brāhmans and Gaudos. Infant marriage is practiced, and widow marriage is prohibited.”41 I am informed that these Panditos engage Brāhmans for their ceremonials, do not drink liquor, and eat fish and mutton, but not fowls or beef. The females wear glass bangles. They are known by the name of Khodikāro, from khodi, a kind of stone, with which they write figures on the floor, when making astrological calculations. The stone is said to be something like soapstone.

Pandita occurs as an exogamous sept of Stānikas.

Pāndya.—The territorial name Pāndya, Pāndiya, Pāndiyan, or Pāndi has been returned, at recent times of census, as a sub-division of various Tamil classes, e.g., Ambattan, Kammālan, Ōcchan, Pallan, Vannān, and Vellāla. Pāndiya is further a title of some Shānāns. In Travancore, Pāndi has been returned by some Izhavans. The variant Pāndiangal occurs as an exogamous sept of [54]the Tamil Vallambans, and Pāndu as a Tamil synonym for Kāpu or Reddi.

Panikkar.—Panikkar, meaning teacher or worker, has been recorded, in the Malayālam country, as a title of barbers, Kammālan, Mārān, Nāyar, Pānān, and Paraiyan. In former times, the name was applied, in Malabar, to fencing-masters, as the following quotations show :—

1518. “And there are very skilful men who teach this art (fencing), and they are called Panicars.”—Barbosa.

1553. “And when the Naire comes to the age of 7 years, he is obliged to go to the fencing-school, the master of which (whom they call Panical) they regard as a father, on account of the instruction he gives them.”—Barros.

1583. “The maisters which teach them be graduates in the weapons which they teach, and they be called in their language Panycaes.”—Castaneda.

A class of people called Panikkan are settled in the Madura and Tinnevelly districts. Some of them are barbers to Shānāns. Others have taken to weaving as a profession, and will not intermarry with those who are employed as barbers. “The Panikkans are,” Mr. Francis writes,42 “weavers, agriculturists, and traders. They employ Brāhmans as priests, but these are apparently not received on terms of equality by other Brāhmans. The Panikkans now frequently call themselves Illam Vellālas, and change their title in deeds and official papers from Panikkan to Pillai. They are also taking to wearing the sacred thread and giving up eating meat. The caste is divided into three vagais or endogamous classes, namely, Mitāl, Pattanam, and Malayālam, and [55]each of these again has five partly exogamous septs or illams (families), namely, Mūttillam, Tōranattillam, Pallikkillam, Manjanāttillam, and Sōliya-illam. It is stated that the Mitāl and Pattanam sections will eat together though they do not intermarry, but that the Malayālam section can neither dine with nor marry into the other two. They are reported to have an elaborate system of caste government, under which eleven villages form a gadistalam (or stage), and send representatives to its council to settle caste matters; and eleven gadistalams form a nādu (or country), and send representatives to a chief council, which decides questions which are beyond the competence of the gadistalams.” The occurrence of Malayām as the name of a sub-division, and of the Malayālam word illam as that of the exogamous septs, would seem to indicate that the Panikkans are immigrants from the westward into the Tamil country.

Panimagan (work children).—A name for Mukkuvans who are employed as barbers for members of their caste.

Panisavan.—Panisavan is defined in the Salem Manual as “a corruption of paniseygiravan (panisaivon), literally meaning one who works (or does service), and is the caste name of the class, whose business it is to carry news of death to the relations of the deceased, and to blow the thārai or long trumpet.” According to Mr. H. A. Stuart,43 Panisavan appears to answer among the Tamilians to the Dāsaris or Tādas of the Telugus. It is a mendicant caste, worshipping Siva. Unlike the Tādas, however, they often employ themselves in cultivation, and are, on the whole, a more temperate and [56]respectable class. Their priests are Brāhmans, and they eat flesh, and drink alcoholic liquor very freely. The dead are generally burned.

There are two classes of Panisavans, of which one works for the right-hand section, and the other for the left. This division is purely professional, and there is apparently no bar to intermarriage between the two classes. The insignia of a Panisavan are the conch-shell (Turbinella rapa) and thārai, which he supports from the ground by means of a bamboo pole while he blows it. At marriage processions, it is his duty to go in front, sounding the thārai from time to time. On such occasions, and at festivals of the village goddesses, the thārai is decorated with a string bearing a number of small triangular pieces of cloth, and tufts of yak’s hair. The cloth should be white for the right-hand section, and of five different colours for the left. At the present day, the Panisavan is more in request for funerals than for weddings. In the city of Madras, all the materials necessary for the bier are sold by Panisavans, who also keep palanquins for the conveyance of the corpse in stock, which are let out on hire. At funerals, the Panisavan has to follow the corpse, blowing his conch-shell. The thārai is only used if the deceased was an important personage. When the son goes round the corpse with a pot of water, the Panisavan accompanies him, and blows the conch. On the last day of the death ceremonies (karmāndhiram), the Panisavan should be present, and blow his conch, especially when the tāli (marriage badge) is removed from a widow’s neck. In some places, the Panisavan conveys the news of death, while in others this duty is carried out by a barber. In the Chingleput and North Arcot districts, the Panisavans constitute a separate [57]caste, and have no connection with the Nōkkans, who are beggars attached to the Palli or Vanniyan caste. In South Arcot and Tanjore, on the other hand, the name Nōkkan is used to signify the caste, which performs the duties of the Panisavan, for which it seems to be a synonym. The Panisavans of the Tinnevelly district have nothing in common with those of the northern districts, e.g., Chingleput and North Arcot, whose duty it is to attend to the funeral ceremonies of the non-Brāhman castes. The main occupations of the Tinnevelly Panisavans are playing in temples on the nāgasaram (reed instrument), and teaching Dēva-dāsis dancing. Another occupation, which is peculiar to the Tinnevelly Panisavans, is achu vēlai, i.e., the preparation of the comb to which the warp threads of a weaving loom are tied. Socially the Panisavans occupy a lowly position, but they use the title Pulavar. Their other titles are Pandāram, Pillai, and Mudali.

Paniyan.—The Paniyans are a dark-skinned tribe, short in stature, with broad noses, and curly or wavy hair, inhabiting the Wynād, and those portions of the Ernād, Calicut, Kurumbranād and Kottayam tāluks of Malabar, which skirt the base of the ghāts, and the Mudanād, Cherangōd, and Namblakōd amshams of the Nīlgiri district.



A common belief, based on their general appearance, prevails among the European planting community that the Paniyans are of African origin, and descended from ancestors who were wrecked on the Malabar coast. This theory, however, breaks down on investigation. Of their origin nothing definite is known. The Nāyar Janmis (landlords) say that, when surprised in the act of some mischief or alarmed, the Paniyan calls out ‘Ippi’! ‘Ippi’! as he runs away, and they believe this to have [58]been the name of the country whence they came originally; but they are ignorant as to where Ippimala, as they call it, is situated. Kapiri (Africa or the Cape?) is also sometimes suggested as their original habitat, but only by those who have had the remarks of Europeans communicated to them. The Paniyan himself, though he occasionally puts forward one or other of the above places as the home of his forefathers, has no fixed tradition bearing on their arrival in Malabar, beyond one to the effect that they were brought from a far country, where they were found living by a Rāja, who captured them, and carried them off in such a miserable condition that a man and his wife only possessed one cloth between them, and were so timid that it was only by means of hunting nets that they were captured.

The number of Paniyans, returned at the census, 1891, was 33,282, and nine sub-divisions were registered; but, as Mr. H. A. Stuart, the Census Commissioner, observes:—“Most of these are not real, and none has been returned by any considerable number of persons.” Their position is said to be very little removed from that of a slave, for every Paniyan is some landlord’s ‘man’; and, though he is, of course, free to leave his master, he is at once traced, and good care is taken that he does not get employment elsewhere.

In the fifties of the last century, when planters first began to settle in the Wynād, they purchased the land with the Paniyans living on it, who were practically slaves of the land-owners. The Paniyans used formerly to be employed by rich receivers as professional coffee thieves, going out by night to strip the bushes of their berries, which were delivered to the receiver before morning. Unlike the Badagas of the Nīlgiris, who are also coffee thieves, and are afraid to be out after dark, the Paniyans [59]are not afraid of bogies by night, and would not hesitate to commit nocturnal depredations. My friend, Mr. G. Romilly, on whose estate my investigation of the Paniyans was mainly carried out, assures me that, according to his experience, the domesticated Paniyan, if well paid, is honest, and fit to be entrusted with the responsible duties of night watchman.

In some localities, where the Janmis have sold the bulk of their land, and have consequently ceased to find regular employment for them, the Paniyans have taken kindly to working on coffee estates, but comparatively few are thus employed. The word Paniyan means labourer, and they believe that their original occupation was agriculture as it is, for the most part, at the present day. Those, however, who earn their livelihood on estates, only cultivate rice and rāgi (Eleusine coracana) for their own cultivation; and women and children may be seen digging up jungle roots, or gathering pot-herbs for food. They will not eat the flesh of jackals, snakes, vultures, lizards, rats, or other vermin. But I am told that they eat land-crabs, in lieu of expensive lotions, to prevent baldness and grey hairs. They have a distinct partiality for alcohol, and those who came to be measured by me were made more than happy by a present of a two-anna piece, a cheroot, and a liberal allowance of undiluted fiery brandy from the Meppādi bazār. The women are naturally of a shy disposition, and used formerly to run away and hide at the sight of a European. They were at first afraid to come and see me, but confidence was subsequently established, and all the women came to visit me, some to go through the ordeal of measurement, others to laugh at and make derisive comments on those who were undergoing the operation. [60]

Practically the whole of the rice cultivation in the Wynād is carried out by the Paniyans attached to edoms (houses or places) or dēvasoms (temple property) of the great Nāyar landlords; and Chettis and Māppillas also frequently have a few Paniyans, whom they have bought or hired by the year at from four to eight rupees per family from a Janmi. When planting paddy or herding cattle, the Paniyan is seldom seen without the kontai or basket-work protection from the rain. This curious, but most effective substitute for the umbrella-hat of the Malabar coast, is made of split reeds interwoven with ‘arrow-root’ leaves, and shaped something like a huge inverted coal-scoop turned on end, and gives to the individual wearing it the appearance of a gigantic mushroom. From the nature of his daily occupation the Paniyan is often brought in contact with wild animals, and is generally a bold, and, if excited, as he usually is on an occasion such as the netting of a tiger, a reckless fellow. The young men of the villages vie with each other in the zeal which they display in carrying out the really dangerous work of cutting back the jungle to within a couple of spear-lengths of the place where the quarry lies hidden, and often make a show of their indifference by turning and conversing with their friends outside the net.

Years ago it was not unusual for people to come long distance for the purpose of engaging Wynād Paniyans to help them in carrying out some more than usually desperate robbery or murder. Their mode of procedure, when engaged in an enterprise of this sort, is evidenced by two cases, which had in them a strong element of savagery. On both these occasions the thatched homesteads were surrounded at dead of night by gangs of Paniyans carrying large bundles of rice straw. After carefully piling up the straw on all sides of the building [61]marked for destruction, torches were, at a given signal, applied, and those of the wretched inmates who attempted to escape were knocked on the head with clubs, and thrust into the fiery furnace.

The Paniyans settle down happily on estates, living in a settlement consisting of rows of huts and detached huts, single or double storied, built of bamboo and thatched. During the hot weather, in the unhealthy months which precede the advent of the south-west monsoon, they shift their quarters to live near streams, or in other cool, shady spots, returning to their head quarters when the rains set in.

They catch fish either by means of big flat bamboo mats, or, in a less orthodox manner, by damming a stream and poisoning the water with herbs, bark, and fruit, which are beaten to a pulp and thrown into the water. The fish, becoming stupified, float on the surface, and fall an easy and unfairly earned prey.

It is recorded by Mr. H. C. Wilson44 that the section of the Moyar river “stretching from the bottom of the Pykara falls down to the sheer drop into the Mysore ditch below Teppakadu is occupied principally by Carnatic carp. In the upper reaches I found traces of small traps placed across side runners or ditches, which were then dry. They had evidently been in use during the last floods, and allowed to remain. Constructed of wood in the shape of a large rake head with long teeth close together, they are fastened securely across the ditch or runner at a slight angle with teeth in the gravel. The object is to catch the small fry which frequent these side places for protection during flood times. Judging by their primitive nature and poor construction, they are [62]not effective, but will do a certain amount of damage. The nearest hamlet to this place is called Torappalli, occupied by a few fisher people called Paniyans. These are no doubt the makers of the traps, and, from information I received, they are said to possess better fry and other traps. They are also accredited with having fine-mesh nets, which they use when the waters are low.”

In 1907, rules were issued, under the Indian Fisheries Act, IV of 1897, for the protection of fish in the Bhavāni and Moyar rivers. These rules referred to the erection and use of fixed engines, the construction of weirs, and the use of nets, the meshes of which are less than one and a half inches square for the capture or destruction of fish, and the prohibition of fishing between the 15th March and 15th September annually. Notice of the rules was given by beat of tom-tom (drum) in the villages lying on the banks of the rivers, to which the rules applied.

The Paniyan language is a debased Malayālam patois spoken in a curious nasal sing-song, difficult to imitate; but most of the Paniyans employed on estates can also converse in Kanarese.

Wholly uneducated and associating with no other tribes, the Paniyans have only very crude ideas of religion. Believing in devils of all sorts and sizes, and professing to worship the Hindu divinities, they reverence especially the god of the jungles, Kād Bhagavadi, or, according to another version, a deity called Kūli, a malignant and terrible being of neither sex, whose shrines take the form of a stone placed under a tree, or sometimes a cairn of stones. At their rude shrines they contribute as offerings to the swāmi (god) rice boiled in the husk, roasted and pounded, half-a-cocoanut, and small coins. The banyan and a lofty tree, apparently of [63]the fig tribe, are reverenced by them, inasmuch as evil spirits are reputed to haunt them at times. Trees so haunted must not be touched, and, if the Paniyans attempt to cut them, they fall sick.

Some Paniyans are believed to be gifted with the power of changing themselves into animals; and there is a belief among the Paniyan dwellers in the plains that, if they wish to secure a woman whom they lust after, one of the men gifted with this special power goes to her house at night with a hollow bamboo, and encircles the house three times. The woman then comes out, and the man, changing himself into a bull or dog, works his wicked will. The woman, it is believed, dies in the course of two or three days.

In 1904 some Paniyans were employed by a Māppilla (Muhammadan) to murder his mistress, who was pregnant, and threatened that she would noise abroad his responsibility for her condition. He brooded over the matter, and one day, meeting a Paniyan, promised him ten rupees if he would kill the woman. The Paniyan agreed to commit the crime, and went with his brothers to a place on a hill, where the Māppilla and the woman were in the habit of gratifying their passions. Thither the man and woman followed the Paniyans, of whom one ran out, and struck his victim on the head with a chopper. She was then gagged with a cloth, carried some distance, and killed. The two Paniyans and the Māppilla were sentenced to be hanged.

Monogamy appears to be the general rule among the Paniyans, but there is no obstacle to a man taking unto himself as many wives as he can afford to support.

Apparently the bride is selected for a young man by his parents, and, in the same way that a wealthy European sometimes sends his betrothed a daily present [64]of a bouquet, the more humble Paniyan bridegroom-elect has to take a bundle of firewood to the house of the fiancée every day for six months. The marriage ceremony (and the marriage knot does not appear to be very binding) is of a very simple nature. The ceremony is conducted by a Paniyan Chemmi (a corruption of Janmi). A present of sixteen fanams (coins) and some new cloths is given by the bridegroom to the Chemmi, who hands them over to the parents of the bride. A feast is prepared, at which the Paniyan women (Panichis) dance to the music of drum and pipe. The tāli (or marriage badge) is tied round the neck of the bride by the female relations of the bridegroom, who also invest the bride with such crude jewelry as they may be able to afford. The Chemmi seals the contract by pouring water over the head and feet of the young couple. It is said45 that a husband has to make an annual present to his wife’s parents; and failure to do so entitles them to demand their daughter back. A man may, I was told, not have two sisters as wives; nor may he marry his deceased wife’s sister. Remarriage of widows is permitted. Adultery and other forms of vice are adjudicated on by a panchāyat (or council) of headmen, who settle disputes and decide on the fine or punishment to be inflicted on the guilty. At nearly every considerable Paniyan village there is a headman called Kūttan, who has been appointed by Nāyar Janmi to look after his interests, and be responsible to him for the other inhabitants of the village. The investiture of the Kūttan with the powers of office is celebrated with a feast and dance, at which a bangle is presented to the Kūttan as a badge of authority. Next in rank to the Kūttan is the Mudali [65]or head of the family, and they usually constitute the panchāyat. Both Kūttan and Mudali are called Mūppanmar or elders. The whole caste is sometimes loosely spoken of as Mūppan. In a case of proved adultery, a fine of sixteen fanams (the amount of the marriage fee), and a sum equal to the expenses of the wedding, including the present to the parents of the bride, is the usual form of punishment.

The Chemmi or Shemmi is, I am informed, a sort of priest or minister. He was appointed, in olden days, by the chieftains under whom the Paniyans worked, and each Chemmi held authority over a group of villages. The office is hereditary, but, should a Chemmi family fail, it can be filled up by election.

No ceremony takes place in celebration of the birth of children. One of the old women of the village acts as midwife, and receives a small present in return for her services. As soon as a child is old enough to be of use, it accompanies its parents to their work, or on their fishing and hunting expeditions, and is initiated into the various ways of adding to the stock of provisions for the household.

The dead are buried in the following manner. A trench, four or five feet deep, and large enough to receive the body to be interred, is dug, due north and south, on a hill near the village. At the bottom of this excavation the earth is scooped out from the western side on a level with the floor throughout the length of the grave, so as to form a receptacle for the corpse, which, placed on a mat, is laid therein upon its left side with the head pointing to the south and the feet to the north. After a little cooked rice has been put into the grave for the use of the departed spirit, the mat, which has been made broad enough for the purpose, is folded up and tucked in under [66]the roof of the cavity, and the trench filled up. It has probably been found by experience that the corpse, when thus protected, is safe from the ravages of scavenger jackals and pariah dogs. For seven days after death, a little rice gruel is placed at distance of from fifty to a hundred yards from the grave by the Chemmi, who claps his hands as a signal to the evil spirits in the vicinity, who, in the shape of a pair of crows, are supposed to partake of the food, which is hence called kāka conji or crow’s rice.

The noombu or mourning ceremonies are the tī polay, seven days after death; the kāka polay or karuvelli held for three years in succession in the month of Magaram (January-February); and the matham polay held once in every three or four years, when possible, as a memorial service in honour of those who are specially respected. On all these occasions the Chemmi presides, and acts as a sort of master of the ceremonies. As the ceremonial carried out differs only in degree, an account of the kāka polay will do for all.

In the month of Magaram, the noombukarrans or mourners (who have lost relatives) begin to cook and eat in a pandal or shed set apart from the rest of the village, but otherwise go about their business as usual. They wash and eat twice a day, but abstain from eating meat or fish. On the last day of the month, arrangements are made, under the supervision of the Chemmi, for the ceremony which brings the period of mourning to a close. The mourners, who have fasted since daybreak, take up their position in the pandal, and the Chemmi, holding on his crossed arms two winnowing sieves, each containing a seer or two of rice, walks round three times, and finally deposits the sieves in the centre of the pandal. If, among the male relatives of the deceased, [67]one is to be found sufficiently hysterical, or actor enough, to simulate possession and perform the functions of an oracle, well and good; but, should they all be of a stolid temperament, there is always at hand a professional corresponding to the Komāran or Vellichipād of other Hindus. This individual is called the Patalykāran. With a new cloth (mundu) on his head, and smeared on the body and arms with a paste made of rice flour and ghī (clarified butter), he enters on the scene with his legs girt with bells, the music of which is supposed to drive away the attendant evil spirits (payanmar). Advancing with short steps and rolling his eyes, he staggers to and fro, sawing the air with two small sticks which he holds in either hand, and works himself up into a frenzied state of inspiration, while the mourners cry out and ask why the dead have been taken away from them. Presently a convulsive shiver attacks the performer, who staggers more violently and falls prostrate on the ground, or seeks the support of one of the posts of the pandal, while he gasps out disjointed sentences, which are taken to be the words of the god. The mourners now make obeisance, and are marked on the forehead with the paste of rice flour and ghī. This done, a mat is spread for the accommodation of the headmen and Chemmi; and the Patalykāran, from whose legs the bells have been removed and put with the rice in the sieves, takes these in his hands, and, shaking them as he speaks, commences a funeral chant, which lasts till dawn. Meanwhile food has been prepared for all present except the mourners, and when this has been partaken of, dancing is kept up round the central group till daybreak, when the pandal is pulled down and the kāka polay is over. Those who have been precluded from eating make up for lost time, and relatives, who have [68]allowed their hair to grow long, shave. The ordinary Paniyan does not profess to know the meaning of the funeral orations, but contents himself with a belief that it is known to those who are initiated. The women attend the ceremony, but do not take part in the dance. In fact, the nearest approach to a dance that they ever attempt (and this only on festive occasions) resembles the ordinary occupation of planting rice, carried out in dumb show to the music of a drum. The bodies of the performers stoop and move in time with the music, and the arms are swung from side to side as in the act of placing the rice seedlings in their rows. To see a long line of Paniyan women, up to their knees in the mud of a rice field, bobbing up and down and putting on the pace as the music grows quicker and quicker, and to hear the wild yells of Hou! Hou! like a chorus of hungry dogs, which form the vocal accompaniment as they dab the green bunches in from side to side, is highly amusing.

The foregoing account of the Paniyan death ceremonies was supplied by Mr. Colin Mackenzie, to whom, as also to Mr. F. Fawcett, Mr. G. Romilly, and Martelli, I am indebted for many of the facts recorded in the present note. From Mr. Fawcett the following account of a further ceremony was obtained:—

At a Paniyan village, on a coffee estate where the annual ceremony was being celebrated, men and boys were dancing round a wooden upright to the music of a small drum hanging at the left hip. Some of the dancers had bells round the leg below the knee. Close to the upright a man was seated, playing a pipe, which emitted sounds like those of a bagpipe. In dancing, the dancers went round against the sun. At some little distance a crowd of females indulged in a dance by themselves. A characteristic of the dance, specially noticeable among [69]the women, was stooping and waving of the arms in front. The dancers perspired freely, and kept up the dance for many hours to rhythmic music, the tune of which changed from time to time. There were three chief dancers, of whom one represented the goddess, the others her ministers. They were smeared with streaks on the chest, abdomen, arms and legs, had bells on the legs, and carried a short stick about two feet in length in each hand. The sticks were held over the head, while the performers quivered as if in a religious frenzy. Now and again, the sticks were waved or beaten together. The Paniyans believe that, when the goddess first appeared to them, she carried two sticks in her hands. The mock goddess and her attendants, holding the sticks above the head and shivering, went to each male elder, and apparently received his blessing, the elder placing his hand on their faces as a form of salutation, and then applying his hand to his own face. The villagers partook of a light meal in the early morning, and would not eat again until the end of the ceremony, which concluded by the man-goddess seating himself on the upright, and addressing the crowd on behalf of the goddess concerning their conduct and morality.

The Paniyans “worship animistic deities, of which the chief is Kūli, whom they worship on a raised platform called Kulitara, offering cocoanuts, but no blood.”46 They further worship Kāttu Bhagavati, or Bhagavati of the woods. “Shrines in her honour are to be found at most centres of the caste, and contain no image, but a box in which are kept the clothing and jewels presented to her by the devout. An annual ceremony lasting a week is held in her honour, at which the Komāran and [70]a kind of priest, called Nolambukāran, take the chief parts. The former dresses in the goddess’ clothing, and the divine afflatus descends upon him, and he prophesies both good and evil.”

Games.—A long strip of cane is suspended from the branch of a tree, and a cross-bar fixed to its lower end. On the bar a boy sits, and swings himself in all directions. In another game a bar, twelve to fourteen feet in length, is balanced by means of a point in a socket on an upright reaching about four feet and-a-half above the ground. Over the end of the horizontal bar a boy hangs, and, touching the ground with the feet, spins himself round.

Some Paniyans have a thread tied round the wrist, ankle, or neck, as a charm to ward off fever and other diseases. Some of the men have the hair of the head hanging down in matted tails in performance of a vow. The men wear brass, steel, and copper rings on their fingers and brass rings in the ears.

The women, in like manner, wear finger rings, and, in addition, bangles on the wrist, and have the lobes of the ears widely dilated, and plugged with cadjan (palm leaf) rolls. In some the nostril is pierced, and plugged with wood.

The Paniyans, who dwell in settlements at the base of the ghāts, make fire by what is known as the Malay or sawing method. A piece of bamboo, about a foot in length, in which two nodes are included, is split longitudinally into two equal parts. On one half a sharp edge is cut with a knife. In the other a longitudinal slit is made through about two-thirds of its length, which is stuffed with a piece of cotton cloth. It is then held firmly on the ground with its convex surface upwards, and the cutting edge drawn, with a gradually quickening [71]sawing motion, rapidly to and fro across it by two men, until the cloth is ignited by the incandescent particles of wood in the groove cut by the sharp edge. The cloth is then blown with the lips into a blaze, and the tobacco or cooking fire can be lighted.

Paniyans making fire.

Paniyans making fire.

At Pudupādi an elephant mahout was jealously guarding a bit of bamboo stick with notches cut in it, each notch representing a day for which wages were due to him. The stick in question had six notches, representing six days’ wages.

Average height 157.4 cm. Nasal index 95 (max. 108.6). The average distance from the tip of the middle finger to the top of the patella was 4.6 cm. relative to stature = 100, which approximates very closely to the recorded results of measurement of long-limbed African negroes.

Panjai.—Recorded, in the Madras Census Report, 1901, as a sub-division of Pāndya Vellāla. The name Panjai, indicating a poverty-stricken individual, is usually applied to mendicant Pandārams.

Panjāram.—Panjāram or Panchāramkatti is the name of a sub-division of the Idaiyans, derived from the peculiar gold ornament, which the women wear. It is said that, in this division, widow marriage is commonly practiced, because Krishna used to place a similar ornament round the necks of Idaiyan widows of whom he became enamoured, and that this sub-division was the result of his amours with them.

Panjukkāra (cotton-man).—An occupational name of a sub-division of Vellālas, who are not at the present day connected with the cotton trade. They call themselves Panjukkāra Chettis. The equivalent panjāri (pinjāri) or Panjukotti occurs as a Tamil synonym for Dūdēkula (Muhammadan cotton-cleaners). [72]

Pannādai (sheath of the cocoanut leaf).—A sub-division of Vēttuvan.

Pannaiyān.—A title of Alavan.

Pannara.—A sub-division of Māli.

Pannendu Nāl (twelve days).—A name for those Pallis who, like Brāhmans, perform the final death ceremonies on the twelfth day.

Pannirendām (twelfth) Chetti.—A section of the Chettis.

Pāno.—In the Madras Census Report, 1891, the Pānos are described as “a caste of weavers found in the Ganjam district. This caste is no doubt identical with the Pāns, a weaving, basket-making, and servile caste of Orissa and Chota Nagpore. The Pānos occupy the same position among the Khonds of Ganjam as the Dombs hold among the inhabitants of the Vizagapatam hills, and the words Pāno and Dombo are generally regarded as synonyms [See Dōmb]. The members of the Sitra sub-division are workers in metal.” It is further noted, in the Census Report, 1901, that the Pānos are “an extensive caste of hill weavers found chiefly in the Ganjam Agency. The Khond synonym for this word is Domboloko, which helps to confirm the connection between this caste and the Dombas of Vizagapatam. They speak Khond and Oriya.” In a note on the Pānos, I read that “their occupations are trading, weaving, and theft. They live on the ignorance and superstition of the Khonds as brokers, pedlars, sycophants, and cheats. In those parts where there are no Oriyas, they possess much influence, and are always consulted by the Khonds in questions of boundary disputes.” In a brief account of the Pānos, Mr. C. F. MacCartie writes47 that “the [73]Pānos, also known by the title of Dombo or Sitra in some parts, are supposed to be Paraiya [Telugu Mala] emigrants from the low country. Their profession is weaving or brass work, the monotony of which they vary by petty trading in horns, skins and live cattle, and occasionally enliven by house-breaking and theft at the expense of the Khonds, who have an incautious trick of leaving their habitations utterly unguarded when they go off to the hills to cultivate. [In the Madras Census Report, 1901, the Sitras are said to be supposed to be the progeny of a Khond man and a Haddi woman, who manufacture the brass rings and bangles worn by the Khonds.] The Pānos are drunken, immoral, and dirty in their habits. The Khonds refuse to eat with them, but I do not find that this objection extends to drinking, at which both Khond and Pāno display surprising capabilities. Pānos are also the professional musicians of the country, and attend weddings, deaths and sacrifices in this character, for which they are recompensed with food, liquor, and cloths. The generality of Khond and Pāno houses are constructed of broad sâl (Shorea robusta) logs, hewn out with the axe and thatched with jungle grass, which is impervious to white-ants. In bamboo jungles, of course, bamboo is substituted for sâl. The Pānos generally affect a detached quarter, known as Dombo sai. Intermarriage between Khonds, Pānos, and Uriyas is not recognised, but cases do occur when a Pāno induces a Khond woman to go off with him. She may live with him as his wife, but no ceremony takes place. [A few years ago, a young Khond was betrothed to the daughter of another Khond, and, after a few years, managed to pay up the necessary number of gifts. He then applied to the girl’s father to name the day for the marriage. Before the wedding took place however, a [74]Pāno went to the girl’s father, and said that she was his daughter (she had been born before her parents were married), and that he was the man to whom the gifts should have been paid. The case was referred to a council, which decided in favour of the Pāno.] If a Pāno commits adultery with a Khond married woman, he has to pay a paronjo, or a fine of a buffalo to the husband (who retains his wife), and in addition a goat, a pig, a basket of paddy (rice), a rupee, and a load of pots. There is close communication between the Pānos and the Khonds, as the former act as the advisers of the latter in all cases of doubt or difficulty. The Uriyas live apart from both, and mix but little with either, except on the occasion of sacrifices or other solemn assemblages, when buffaloes are slaughtered for Pānos and Khonds, and goats or sheep for Uriya visitors. [It is noted, in the Ganjam Manual, in connection with Khond death ceremonies, that “if a man has been killed by a tiger, purification is made by the sacrifice of a pig, the head of which is cut off with a tangi (axe) by a Pāno, and passed between the legs of the men in the village, who stand in a line astraddle. It is a bad omen to him, if the head touches any man’s legs.] Among the products of the jungles may be included myrabolams (Terminalia fruits), tasar silk cocoons, and dammer, all of which are bartered by the finders to trading Pānos in small quantities, generally for salt.” In the Ganjam Māliahs, the jungles are said to be searched by Pānos for tasar cocoons, and, just across the border in Boad, the collection of these cocoons is a regular industry among them. Small portions of jungle are regularly reserved, and divided up into small allotments. Each of these is given to a Pāno for rent, and here he cultivates the silkworms, and collects the [75]silk, which is sent to Berhampur and Sambalpur for manufacture.

The Pānos are divided into two distinct sections, viz., the Khonda Pānos who live amidst the Khonds, and the Dēsa Pānos of the plains. The former have adopted some of the customs of the Khonds, while the latter follow the customs of the Uriya castes which dwell in the lowland. The Khond Pānos are governed by the Molikos (headmen) of the Khonds. In some cases, the fines inflicted for breach of caste rules are rather severe. For example, in the neighbourhood of Baliguda, a man who is convicted of adultery has to pay two rupees, and give two buffaloes to the council which tries the case. Further south, for a similar offence twelve buffaloes are demanded, and the culprit has to pay twice the amount of the bride-price to the injured husband. The Dēsa Pānos conform to the standard Uriya type of caste council, and have a headman called Bēhara, who is assisted by a Nāyako, and caste servants entitled Bhollobaya or Gonjāri.

The marriage ceremonies of the Dēsa Pānos are closely allied to those of the Dandāsis and Haddis, whereas those of the Khonda Pānos bear a close resemblance to the ceremonies of the Khonds. Like Khond girls, unmarried Khond Pāno girls sleep in quarters (dhangadi) specially set apart for them, and, as among the Khonds, wedding presents in the form of gontis are given. It is noted with reference to the Khonds, in the Ganjam Manual, that “the bride is looked upon as a commercial speculation, and is paid for in gontis. A gonti is one of anything, such as a buffalo, a pig, or a brass pot; for instance, a hundred gontis might consist of ten bullocks, ten buffaloes, ten sacks of corn, ten sets of brass, twenty sheep, ten pigs, and thirty fowls.” At [76]a Khond Pāno marriage, the fingers of the contracting couple are linked together, and an important item of the ceremonial, which adds dignity thereto, is placing in front of the house at which a marriage is being celebrated a big brass vessel containing water, with which the guests wash their feet.

The Pānos pay reverence to ancestors, to whom, when a death occurs in a family, food is offered. In some Pāno villages, when a child is born, it is customary to consult a pūjāri (priest) as to whether the grandfather or great-grandfather is re-born in it. If the answer is in the affirmative, pigs are sacrificed to the ancestors. Some Pānos have adopted the worship of Tākurānis (village deities), to whom rice and turmeric are offered by placing them before the image in the form of a figure-of-eight. A fowl is sacrificed, and its blood allowed to flow on to one loop of the figure. In some places, Dharmadēvata and Gagnasuni are worshipped, a castrated goat being sacrificed annually to the former, and fowls and an entire goat to the latter.

Pāno women, who live among the Khonds, tattoo their faces in like manner, and in other respects resemble Khond women.

I am informed that, on more than one occasion, Pānos have been known to rifle the grave of a European, in the belief that buried treasure will be found.

Panta (a crop).—A sub-division of Kāpu and Yānādi. In the Gazetteer of South Arcot, Pan Reddi is recorded as a caste of Telugu-speaking ryots (Kāpus).

Pantala.—Recorded, in Travancore, as a sub-division of Sāmantan. The name is said to be derived from Bhandārattil, or belonging to the royal treasury.

Pantāri.—Recorded, in the Travancore Census Report, as synonymous with the Idacheri sub-division [77]of Nāyar. Pantrantu Vītan is also there recorded as a sub-division of Nāyar.

Pappadam.—People calling themselves Pappadam Chetti are largely found in Malabar, living by the manufacture and sale of cakes called pappadam, which are purchased by all classes, including Nambūtiri Brāhmans.

Pappini.—A name for Brāhmanis, a class of Ambalavāsi.

Pappu (split pulse).—An exogamous sept of Balija.

Paradēsi.—Recorded, in the Madras Census Report, 1901, as a class of Malayālam beggars. The name indicates strangers (paradēsa, a foreign country), and is applied to the White Jews of Cochin, in connection with whom it occurs in Sirkar (State) accounts and royal writs granted to them.

Paraiya Tāda.—Recorded, in the North Arcot Manual, as a name for those who are considered impure Valluvans. The name literally means Paraiya Tādan or Dāsari.

Paraiyan.—The Paraiyans or, as they are commonly termed, Pariahs of the Tamil country number, according to recent census returns, over two million souls, and a large proportion of those who returned themselves as Native Christians are said also to belong to this class. For the following note I am mainly indebted to an account of the Paraiyans by the Rev. A. C. Clayton.48

The late Bishop Caldwell derived the name Paraiyan from the Tamil word parai a drum, as certain Paraiyans act as drummers at marriages, funerals, village festivals, and on occasions when Government or commercial announcements are proclaimed. Mr. H. A. Stuart, [78]however, seems to question this derivation, remarking49 that “it is only one section of Paraiyans that act as drummers. Nor is the occupation confined to Paraiyans. It seems in the highest degree improbable that a large, and at one time powerful, community should owe its name to an occasional occupation, which one of its divisions shares with other castes. The word Paraiyan is not found in Divākaram, a Tamil dictionary of the eleventh century A.D., and the word Pulayan was then used to denote this section of the population, as it is still in Malayālam to this day.” In the legend of the Saivite saint, Nandan is, in the prose version of the Periya Purānam, called a Pulayan, though a native of Shōlamandalam, which was a distinctly Tamil kingdom. Mr. W. Francis writes50 that “the old Tamil poems and works of the early centuries of the Christian era do not mention the name Paraiyan, but contain many descriptions of a tribe called the Eyinas, who seem to have been quite distinct from the rest of the population, and did not live in the villages, but in forts of their own. Ambūr and Vellore are mentioned as the sites of two of these. They may perhaps have been the ancestors of the Paraiyans of to-day.”

In a note on the Paraiyans, Sonnerat, writing51 in the eighteenth century, says that “they are prohibited from drawing water from the wells of other castes; but have particular wells of their own near their inhabitations, round which they place the bones of animals, that they may be known and avoided. When an Indian of any other caste permits a Paraiya to speak to him, this unfortunate being is obliged to hold his hand before his mouth, lest the Indian may be contaminated with his [79]breath; and, if he is met on the highway, he must turn on one side to let the other pass. If any Indian whatever, even a Choutre, by accident touches a Paraiya, he is obliged to purify himself in a bath. The Brāhmans cannot behold them, and they are obliged to fly when they appear. Great care is taken not to eat anything dressed by a Paraiya, nor even to drink out of the vessel he has used; they dare not enter the house of an Indian of another caste; or, if they are employed in any work, a door is purposely made for them; but they must work with their eyes on the ground; for, if it is perceived they have glanced at the kitchen, all the utensils must be broken. The infamy of the Paraiyas is reflected on the Europeans: last are held in more detestation, because, setting aside the little respect they have for the cow, whose flesh they eat, the Indians reproach them with spitting in their houses, and even their temples: that when drinking they put the cup to their lips, and their fingers to their mouths in such a manner that they are defiled with the spittle.”

Paraiyans are to be found throughout the Tamil districts from North Arcot to Tinnevelly, and in the southern extremity of the Native State of Travancore. In the Telugu country the Mālas and Mādigas and in the Canarese country the Holeyas take their place.

Some of the most common names of Paraiyan males are—

  • Kanni or Kanniyappan.
  • Rāman or Rāmaswāmi.
  • Rāju.
  • Vēlu.
  • Muttan.
  • Māri.
  • Kanagan.
  • Subban.
  • Nondi.
  • Tambiran.
  • Perumāl.
  • Vīran.
  • Sellan.
  • Amāvāsi.


Among females the most common names are Tai, Parpathi, Ammai, Kanni, Muttammāl, Rājammāl, Ammani, Selli, Gangammāl. In one village, where the Paraiyans were almost all Vaishnavas, by profession not by practice, Mr. Clayton found the inhabitants all named after heroes of the Mahābhārata, and dirty naked children answered to the names of Ikshvākan, Karnan, Bhīman, and Draupadi. It is usual to give the father’s name when distinguishing one Paraiyan from another, e.g., Tamburan, son of Kannan. In legal documents the prefix Para denotes a Paraiyan, e.g., Para Kanni, the Paraiyan Kanni, but this is a purely clerical formula. The Paraiyan delights in nicknames, and men sometimes grow so accustomed to these that they have almost forgotten their real names. The following nicknames are very common :—

  • Nondi, lame.
  • Kallan, thief.
  • Kullan, dwarf.
  • Vellei, white or light complexioned.
  • Kannan, with eyes.
  • Muthalai, crocodile.
  • Kudiyan, drunkard.

No name, indicating virtue or merit, is given, lest the wrath of malevolent spirits should be aroused.

At the census, 1891, 348 sub-divisions were returned, of which the following were strongest in point of numbers :—Amma found chiefly in Tanjore and Madura; Katti in Salem and Trichinopoly; Kīzhakkatti (eastern) in Salem; Kōliyan (weavers) in Chingleput, Tanjore and Trichinopoly; Konga in Salem; Korava in Coimbatore; Kōttai (fort) in South Arcot; Morasu (drum) in Salem; Mottai in Madura; Pacchai (green) in Coimbatore; Sāmbān in South Arcot; Sangidum (sanku, conch, or chank shell) in Coimbatore; Sōzhia (natives of the Sōzha or Chōla country) in Tanjore and Madura; [81]Tangalān in North and South Arcot, Chingleput, Salem, and Trichinopoly; and Valangamattu in South Arcot. The members of the various sub-divisions do not intermarry.



It has been suggested to me that the Morasu Paraiyans, included in the above list, are Canarese Holeyas, who have settled in the Tamil country. In the south their women, like the Kallans, wear a horsehair thread round the neck. As additional sub-divisions, the following may be noted :—

Aruththukattātha, or those who, having once cut the tāli-string, do not tie it a second time, i.e., those who do not permit remarriage of widows.

Valai (a net).—Paraiyans who hunt.

Sanku (conch-shell).—Those who act as conch-blowers at funerals.

Thātha.—Thāthan is the name given to mendicants who profess Vaishnavism. Such Paraiyans are Vaishnavites, and some are beggars.

In the Census Report, 1901, Mr. Francis notes that the term Paraiyan “is now almost a generic one, and the caste is split up into many sub-divisions, which differ in manners and ways. For example, the Kōliyans, who are weavers, and the Valluvans, who are medicine men and priests and wear the sacred thread, will not intermarry or eat with the others, and are now practically distinct castes.” As occupational titles of Paraiyans Mr. Francis gives Urumikkāran and Pambaikkāran, or those who play on drums (urumi and pambai), and Podarayan or Podara Vannān, who are washermen. The title Valangamattān, or people of the right-hand division, is assumed by some Paraiyans.

Mr. Clayton states that he knows of no legend or popular belief among the Paraiyans, indicating that [82]they believe themselves to have come from any other part of the country than that where they now find themselves. There is, however, some evidence that the race has had a long past, and one in which they had independence, and possibly great importance in the peninsula. Mr. Stuart mentions52 that the Valluvans were priests to the Pallava kings before the introduction of the Brāhmans, and even for some time after it. He quotes an unpublished Vatteluttu inscription, believed to be of the ninth century, in which it is noted that “Srī Valluvam Puvanavan, the Uvacchan (or temple ministrant), will employ six men daily, and do the temple service.” The inference is that the Valluvan was a man of recognised priestly rank, and of great influence. The prefix Srī is a notable honorific. By itself this inscription would prove little, but the whole legendary history of the greatest of all Tamil poets, Tiruvalluvar, “the holy Valluvan,” confirms all that can be deduced from it. His date can only be fixed approximately, but it is probable that he flourished not later than the tenth century A.D. It is safe to say that this extraordinary sage could not have attained the fame he did, or have received the honours that were bestowed upon him, had not the Valluvans, and therefore the Paraiyans, been in the circle of respectable society in his day. This conjecture is strengthened by the legend that he married a Vellāla girl. The same hypothesis is the only one that will account for the education and the vogue of the sister of the poet, the aphoristic poetess Avvei.

In the Census Report, 1901, Mr. Francis mentions an inscription of the Chōla King Rāja Rāja, dated about the eleventh century A.D., in which the Paraiyan caste is [83]called by its own name. It had then two sub-divisions, the Nesavu or weavers, and Ulavu or ploughmen. The caste had even then its own hamlets, wells and burning-grounds.

There are certain privileges possessed by Paraiyans, which they could never have gained for themselves from orthodox Hinduism. They seem to be survivals of a past, in which Paraiyans held a much higher position than they do now. It is noted by Mr. M. J. Walhouse53 that “in the great festival of Siva at Trivalūr in Tanjore the headman of the Parēyars is mounted on the elephant with the god, and carries his chauri (yak-tail fly fan). In Madras, at the annual festival of Egatta, the goddess of the Black,54 now George, Town, when a tāli is tied round the neck of the idol in the name of the entire community, a Parēyan is chosen to represent the bridegroom. At Mēlkotta in Mysore, the chief seat of the followers of Rāmānuja Achārya, and at the Brāhman temple at Bēlur, the Holēyas or Parēyars have the right of entering the temple on three days in the year specially set apart for them.” At Mēlkote, the Holeyas and Mādigas are said to have been granted the privilege of entering the sanctum sanctorum along with Brāhmans and others on three days by Rāmānuja. In 1799, however, the right to enter the temple was stopped at the dhvajastambham, or consecrated monolithic column. At both Bēlur and Mēlkote, as soon as the festival is over, the temples are ceremonially purified. At Srīperumbudūr in the Chingleput district, the Paraiyans enjoy a similar privilege to those at Tiruvalūr, in return for having sheltered an image of the locally-worshipped [84]incarnation of Vishnu during a Muhammadan raid. It is noted by Mr. Stuart that the lower village offices, the Vettiyan, Taliāri, Dandāsi or Bārike, and the Tōti, are, in the majority of Madras villages, held by persons of the Paraiyan caste. Paraiyans are allowed to take part in pulling the cars of the idols in the great festivals at Conjeeveram, Kumbakōnam, and Srīvilliputtūr. Their touch is not reckoned to defile the ropes used, so that other Hindus will pull with them. With this may be compared the fact that the Telugu Mālas are custodians of the goddess Gauri, the bull Nandi, and Ganēsa, the chief gods of the Saiva Kāpus and Balijas. It may also be noted that the Kōmatis, who claim to be Vaisyas, are bound to invite Mādigas to their marriages, though they take care that the latter do not hear the invitation. Mr. Clayton records that he has heard well-authenticated instances of Brāhman women worshipping at Paraiyan shrines in order to procure children, and states that he once saw a Paraiyan exorciser treating a Brāhman by uttering mantrams (consecrated formulæ), and waving a sickle up and down the sufferer’s back, as he stood in a threshing floor.

In a note on the Paraiyans of the Trichinopoly district, Mr. F. R. Hemingway writes as follows. “They have a very exalted account of their lineage, saying that they are descended from the Brāhman priest Sāla Sāmbavan, who was employed in a Siva temple to worship the god with offerings of beef, but who incurred the anger of the god by one day concealing a portion of the meat, to give it to his pregnant wife, and was therefore turned into a Paraiyan. The god appointed his brother to do duty instead of him, and the Paraiyans say that Brāhman priests are their cousins. For this reason they wear a sacred thread at their marriages and funerals. [85]At the festival of the village goddesses, they repeat an extravagant praise of their caste, which runs as follows. ‘The Paraiyans were the first creation, the first who wore the sacred thread, the uppermost in the social scale, the differentiators of castes, the winners of laurels. They have been seated on the white elephant, the Vīra Sāmbavans who beat the victorious drum.’ It is a curious fact that, at the feast of the village goddess, a Paraiyan is honoured by being invested with a sacred thread for the occasion by the pūjāri (priest) of the temple, by having a turmeric thread tied to his wrists, and being allowed to head the procession. This, the Paraiyans say, is owing to their exalted origin.”

In times of drought some of the lower orders, instead of addressing their prayers to the rain god Varuna, try to induce a spirit or dēvata named Kodumpāvi (wicked one) to send her paramour Sukra to the affected area. The belief seems to be that Sukra goes away to his concubine for about six months, and, if he does not then return, drought ensues. The ceremony consists in making a huge figure of Kodumpāvi in clay, which is placed on a cart, and dragged through the streets for seven to ten days. On the last day, the final death ceremonies of the figure are celebrated. It is disfigured, especially in those parts which are usually concealed. Vettiyans (Paraiyan grave-diggers), who have been shaved, accompany the figure, and perform the funeral ceremonies. This procedure is believed to put Kodumpāvi to shame, and to get her to induce Sukra to return, and stay the drought. Paraiyans are said55 to wail as though they were at a funeral, and to beat drums in the funeral time. [86]

The Paraiyans are said by Mr. Francis56 to have a curious share in the ceremonies in connection with the annual buffalo sacrifice at the Kāli shrine at Mangalam in South Arcot. “Eight men of this community are chosen from eight adjoining villages, and one of them is selected as leader. His wife must not be with child at the’ time, and she is made to prove that she is above all suspicion by undergoing the ordeal of thrusting her hand into boiling gingelly (Sesamum) oil. On each of ten days for which the festival lasts, this Paraiyan has to go round some part of the boundaries of the eight villages, and he is fed gratis by the villagers during this time. On the day of the sacrifice itself, he marches in front of the priest as the latter kills the buffaloes. The Paraiyans of the eight villages have the right to the carcases of the slaughtered animals.”

The Paraiyans know the village boundaries better than anyone else, and are very expert in this matter, unerringly pointing out where boundaries should run, even when the Government demarcation stones are completely overgrown by prickly-pear, or have been removed. Mr. Stuart records a custom which prevails in some parts of making a Paraiyan walk the boundaries of a field with a pot of water on his head, when there is any dispute about their exact position. He thinks that the only satisfactory explanation of this is that the connection of the Paraiyans with the soil is of much longer standing than that of other castes. The admitted proprietary right which Paraiyans have in the site known as chēri-nattam, on which their huts stand, is a confirmation of this. These sites are entered as such on the official village maps. They cannot be taken from the [87]Paraiyans, and date from time immemorial. Throughout the whole of the Tamil country it is usual to find that the land allotted for house-site (nattam) is in two portions in every village (Ūr). One part is known by the Sanskrit name grāmam (village), the inhabited place. The other is called by the Dravidian name chēri (gathering place).

Sometimes the latter is called by the fuller title parachēri (Anglice parcheri, parcherry), i.e., the gathering place of the Paraiyans. In the grāmam live the Brāhmans, who sometimes dwell, in a quarter by themselves known as the agrahāra, and also other Hindus. In the parachēri live the Paraiyans. The parachēri and the grāmam are always separated, at least by a road or lane, and often by several fields. And not only is it usual thus to find that, in every village, the Paraiyans as a community possess a house-site, but there are many cases in which more than one chēri is attached to a grāmam. This seems to repudiate the suggestion that at some period or periods the higher castes relegated the Paraiyans to these chēris. Indeed, in some cases, the very names of the chēris suggest what appears to be the more correct view, viz., that the chēris had a distinct origin. For instance, the whole revenue village of Teiyar near Chingleput consists of one Sūdra grāmam and seven Paraiyan chēris, each with a name of its own, Periyapillēri, Komanchēri, etc. In other cases, e.g., Ideipālayam in the north of the district, and Varadarājapuram near Vandalūr, only Paraiyan hamlets exist; there is no grāmam. In South Arcot there are at least two villages, Govindanallūr and Andapet, inhabited only by Paraiyans, where even the Maniyakkāran (munsiff or village headman) is a Paraiyan. Other instances might be quoted in proof of the same opinion. And, when the ceremonial [88]antipathy between Brāhman and Paraiyan is examined, it points in the same direction. It is well known that a Brāhman considers himself polluted by the touch, presence, or shadow of a Paraiyan, and will not allow him to enter his house, or even the street in which he lives, if it is an agrāhāra. But it is not so well known that the Paraiyans will not allow a Brāhman to enter the chēri. Should a Brāhman venture into the Paraiyan’s quarter, water with which cow-dung has been mixed is thrown on his head, and he is driven out. It is stated57 by Captain J. S. F. Mackenzie that “Brāhmans in Mysore consider that great luck will await them if they can manage to pass through the Holeya quarter of a village unmolested, and that, should a Brāhman attempt to enter their quarters, they turn out in a body and slipper him, in former times it is said to death.” Some Brāhmans consider a forsaken parachēri an auspicious site for an agrāhāra. A very peculiar case is that of the grāmam founded for, and occupied by the clerks of the earliest Collectors (district magistrates) of the jagir of Karunguli from 1795 to 1825 A.D. These clerks were Brāhmans, and it was called the agrāhāram. It was deserted when the head-quarters of the Collector were removed to Conjeeveram. It is now occupied by Paraiyans, but is still called the agrāhāram.

The facts, taken together, seem to show that the Paraiyan priests (Valluvans), and therefore the Paraiyans as a race, are very ancient, that ten centuries ago they were a respectable community, and that many were weavers. The privileges they enjoy are relics of an exceedingly long association with the land. The institution of the parachēri points to original independence, [89]and even to possession of much of the land. If the account of the colonisation of Tondeimandalam by Vellālans in the eighth century A.D. is historic, then it is possible that at that time the Paraiyans lost the land, and that their degradation as a race began.

The Paraiyans have long been a settled race. And, though a number of them emigrate to Ceylon, Mauritius, South Africa, the West Indies, the Straits Settlements, and even to Fiji, the vast majority live and die within a mile or two of the spot where they were born. The houses in which they live are not temporary erections, or intended for use during certain seasons of the year only. The rudest form is a hut made by tying a few leaves of the palmyra palm on to a framework of poles or bamboos. The better class of houses are a series of rooms with low mud walls and thatched roof, but generally without doors, surrounding a small courtyard, in which the family goats, buffaloes, and fowls have their homes. The cooking is done anywhere where it is convenient either indoors or out, as there is no fear of pollution from the glance or shadow of any passer-by. Very occasionally the walls of the house, especially those facing the street, are whitewashed, or decorated with variegated patterns or figures in red and white. Paraiya women, like higher caste women, are much given to tracing exceedingly intricate symmetrical designs (kōlam) with rice flour on the smooth space or pathway immediately before the doors of their houses, it is said, to prevent the entrance of evil spirits. Mr. S. P. Rice writes to me that the patterns on the floor or threshold are generally traced with white powder, e.g., chalk, as rice is too costly; and that the original object of the custom was not to drive away evil spirits, but to provide food for the lowest creatures of creation—ants, insects, etc. [90]

Admissions to the Paraiyan caste from higher castes sometimes occur. Mr. Clayton records having met an Aiyangar Brāhman who was working as a cooly with some Paraiyan labourers at Kodaikānal on the Palni hills. He had become infatuated with a Paraiya woman, and had consequently been excommunicated, and became a Paraiyan.

In every Paraiya settlement a small number of the more important men are known as Panakkāran (money-man). The application of the term may, Mr. Clayton suggests, be due to their comparative opulence, or may have arisen from the custom of paying them a small sum (panam) for various services to the community. But Panikkar or Panakkar is usually said to be derived from pani, meaning work. They form a committee or council to decide ordinary quarrels, and to amerce the damages in cases of assault, seduction, rape, and adultery. They have power to dissolve marriages on account of the wife, or if the husband has deserted his wife. In these cases their authority is really based on the public opinion of the parachēri, and goes no further than that public opinion will enforce it. There is no headman in a Paraiya hamlet corresponding to the munsiff or village magistrate of the Hindu village (grāma). In modern practice the Paraiyans are, for police purposes, under the authority of the munsiff of the grāma, and there is a growing tendency on their part to refer all disputes and assaults to the munsiff, or even directly to the police. On the other hand, cases of a more domestic nature, such as disputes about betrothals, seduction, etc., are still dealt with, generally acutely and fairly, by the village council. It should be added that the rank of Panakkāran is hereditary, and is regarded as honourable. [91]

The Paraiyans, like all the other right-hand castes, come under the jurisdiction of the Dēsāyi Chettis, who have held a sort of censorship since the days of the Nawābs of Arcot over some twenty-four of these right-hand castes, chiefly in North Arcot. The Dēsāyi Chetti has nominal power to deal with all moral offences, and is supposed to have a representative in every village, who reports every offence. But, though his authority is great in North Arcot, and the fines levied there bring in an income of hundreds of rupees yearly, it is not so much dreaded in other districts. The punishment usually inflicted is a fine, but sometimes a delinquent Paraiyan will be made to crawl on his hands and knees on the ground between the legs of a Paraiya woman as a final humiliation. The punishment of excommunication, i.e., cutting off from fire and water, is sometimes the fate of the recalcitrant, either before the council or the Dēsāyi Chetti, but it is seldom effective for more than a short time. Mr. K. Rangachari adds that, in certain places, the Dēsāyi Chetti appoints the Panakkāran, who is subordinate to the Dēsāyi, and that a man called the Variyan or Shalavāthi is sometimes appointed as assistant to the Panakkāran. He also mentions some other punishments. The fine for adultery is from 7 pagodas 14 fanams to 11 pagodas, when the wronged woman is unmarried. If she is married, the amount ranges from 12 pagodas 14 fanams to 16 pagodas. The fine is said to be divided between the woman, her husband, the members of council, and the Panakkārans. Formerly an offender against the Paraiyan community was tied to a post at the beginning of his trial, and, if found guilty, was beaten. He might escape the flogging by paying a fine of two fanams per stripe. Sometimes a delinquent is paraded through the hamlet, carrying a rubbish basket, [92]or is ordered to make a heap of rubbish at a certain spot. Or a cord is passed from one big toe over the bowed neck of the culprit, and tied to his other big toe, and then a stone is placed on his bent back. In some places, when an unmarried woman is convicted of adultery, she is publicly given a new cloth and a bit of straw or a twig, apparently in mockery. It is said that formerly, if the chastity of a bride was suspected, she had to pick some cakes out of boiling oil. This she had to do just after the tāli had been tied in the wedding ceremony. Her hair, nails, and clothes were examined, to see that she had no charm concealed. After lifting the cakes from the oil, she had to husk some rice with her bare hand. If she could do this, her virtue was established. In the South Arcot district, according to Mr. Francis,58 the Paraiyans “have caste headmen called the Periya (big) Nattān and the Chinna (little) Nattān or Tangalān (our man), whose posts are usually hereditary. The Tangalān carries out the sentence of caste panchayats, administering a thrashing to the accused for example, if such be the order of the court. Of the fines inflicted by these assemblies, a fifth is usually handed over to the local Māriamma shrine, and the remaining four-fifths are laid out in drinks for the panchayatdars. Until recently, a part of the fine was in some cases, in these parts, paid to the local poligar.”

Excommunicated Paraiyans are said to go to a mythical place called Vinnamangalam. In some documents signed by Paraiyans, the words “If I fail to fulfil the conditions of our agreement, I shall go to Vinnamangalam” are inserted. In all enquiries by the [93]police, the council, or the Dēsāyi Chetti, the Paraiyan only tells what in his opinion it is expedient to tell. But evidence given after burning a piece of camphor is said to be reliable.

The attainment of puberty by girls is a subject of greedy curiosity to most of the women in a Paraiya village. This has been said to be due to the fact that “the menstrual fluid is held in horror, dire consequences being supposed to result from not merely the contact, but even the very sight of it. Hence the isolation and purification of women during the menstrual period, and the extreme care and anxiety with which the first approach of puberty in a girl is watched.” The girl at once begins to wear a covering of some sort, even it be the most pathetic rag, over her left shoulder and breast. Till this time, a bit of cotton cloth round her waist has been considered sufficient. Among the Tangalān Paraiyans, when a girl attains puberty, she is kept apart either in the house or in a separate hut. Pollution is supposed to last eight days. On the ninth day, the girl is bathed, and seated in the courtyard. Ten small lamps of flour paste (called drishti māvu vilakku), to avert the evil eye, are put on a sieve, and waved before her three times. Then coloured water (ārati or alam) and burning camphor are waved before her. Some near female relatives then stand behind her, and strike her waist and sides with puttu (flour cake) tied in a cloth. This is believed to make her strong. At the same time other women strike the ground behind the girl with a rice-pestle. Then presents are given to the girl. In some places the girl is beaten within the house by her mother-in-law or paternal aunt. The latter repeatedly asks the girl to promise that her daughter shall marry her paternal aunt’s son. [94]

In marriages among the Paraiyans, difference in religion is of little moment. A Christian Paraiyan will marry a heathen girl, though it should be said that she is usually baptised at or about the time of the marriage. A Christian girl is sometimes married to a heathen Paraiyan. Mr. Clayton thinks that the fact that certain Paraiyans paint the nāmam of Vishnu on their foreheads, while others smear their foreheads with the ashes of Siva, prevents marriages between them.

The bridegroom must be older than the bride. Subject to this condition, it is usual for a youth to marry his father’s sister’s daughter, or his mother’s brother’s daughter. A girl should be married to her mother’s brother’s son if he is old enough, but not, as among the Konga Vellālas and some Reddis, if he is a child. In short, Paraiyans follow the usual Tamil custom, but it is often neglected.

Marriage contracts are sometimes made by parents while the parties most concerned are still infants, often while they are still children; in the majority of cases when the girl attains the marriageable age. The bridegroom may be many years older than the bride, especially when custom, as noted above, settles who shall be his bride. The bride has absolutely no choice in the matter; but, if the bridegroom is a man of some years or position, his preferences are consulted. The elder sister should be given in marriage before her younger sisters are married. The arrangements are more or less a bargain. Presents of clothes, paltry jewels, rice, vegetables, and perhaps a few rupees, are exchanged between the families of the bride and bridegroom. The household that seeks the marriage naturally gives the larger gifts. The actual marriage ceremony is very simple. The essential part is the tying of a small token [95]or ornament (tāli), varying in value from a few annas to four or five rupees by a turmeric-stained string, round the neck of the bride. This is done by the bridegroom in the presence of a Valluvan, who mutters some kind of blessing on the marriage. A series of feasts, lasting over two or three days, is given to all the relatives of both parties by the parents of the newly-married couple. The bride and bridegroom do not live together immediately, even if the girl is old enough. The exact date at which their life together may begin is settled by the bride’s mother. The occasion, called soppana muhurtham, is celebrated by another feast and much merry-making, not always seemly.



The following detailed account of the marriage ceremonies among the Tangalān Paraiyans was furnished by Mr. K. Rangachari. The parents or near relations of the contracting parties meet, and talk over the match. If an agreement is arrived at, an adjournment is made to the nearest liquor shop, and a day fixed for the formal exchange of betel leaves, which is the sign of a binding engagement. A Paraiyan, when he goes to seek the hand of a girl in marriage, will not eat at her house if her family refuse to consider the alliance, to which the consent of the girl’s maternal uncle is essential. The Paraiyan is particular in the observation of omens, and, if a cat or a valiyan (a bird) crosses his path when he sets out in quest of a bride, he will give her up. The betrothal ceremony, or pariyam, is binding as long as the contracting couple are alive. They may live together as man and wife without performing the marriage ceremony, and children born to them are considered as legitimate. But, when their offspring marry, the parents must first go through the marriage rites, and the children are then married in the same pandal on the same day. [96]At the betrothal ceremony, the headman, father, maternal uncle, and two near relations of the bridegroom-elect, proceed to the girl’s house, where they are received, and sit on seats or mats. Drink and plantain fruits are offered to them. Some conversation takes place between the headmen of the two parties, such as “Have you seen the girl? Have you seen her house and relations? Are you disposed to recommend and arrange the match?” If he assents, the girl’s headman says “As long as stones and the Kāveri river exist, so that the sky goddess Akāsavāni and the earth goddess Bhūmadēvi may know it; so that the water-pot (used at the marriage ceremony), and the sun and moon may know it; so that this assembly may know it; I ... give this girl.” The headman of the bridegroom then says “The girl shall be received into the house by marriage. These thirty-six pieces of gold are yours, and the girl is mine.” He then hands betel leaves and areca nuts to the other headman, who returns them. The exchange of betel is carried out three times. Near the headmen is placed a tray containing betel nuts, a rupee, a turmeric-dyed cloth in which a fanam (2½ annas) is tied, a cocoanut, flowers, and the bride’s money varying in amount from seven to twenty rupees. The fanam and bride’s money are handed to the headman of the girl, and the rupee is divided between the two headmen. On the betrothal day, the relations of the girl offer flowers, cocoanuts, etc., to their ancestors, who are supposed to be without food or drink. The Paraiyans believe that the ancestors will be ill-disposed towards them, if they are not propitiated with offerings of rice and other things. For the purpose of worship, the ancestors are represented by a number of cloths kept in a box made of bamboo or other material, to which [97]the offerings are made. On the conclusion of the ancestor worship, the two headmen go to a liquor shop, and exchange drinks of toddy. This exchange is called mel sambandham kural, or proclaiming relationship. After the lapse of a few days, the girl’s family is expected to pay a return visit, and the party should include at least seven men. Betel is again exchanged, and the guests are fed, or presented with a small gift of money. When marriage follows close on betrothal, the girl is taken to the houses of her relations, and goes through the nalugu ceremony, which consists of smearing her with turmeric paste, an oil bath, and presentation of betel and sweets. The auspicious day and hour for the marriage are fixed by the Valluvan, or priest of the Paraiyans. The ceremonial is generally carried through in a single day. On the morning of the wedding day, three male and two married female relations of the bridegroom go to the potter’s house to fetch the pots, which have been already ordered. The potter’s fee is a fowl, pumpkin, paddy, betel, and a few annas. The bride, accompanied by the headman and her relations, goes to the bridegroom’s village, bringing with her a number of articles called petti varisai or box presents. These consist of a lamp, cup, brass vessel, ear-ornament called kalāppu, twenty-five betel leaves and areca nuts, onions, and cakes, a lump of jaggery (crude sugar), grass mat, silver toe-ring, rice, a bundle of betel leaves and five cocoanuts, which are placed inside a bamboo box. The next item in the proceedings is the erection of the milk-post, which is made of a pestle of tamarind or Soymida febrifuga wood, or a green bamboo. To the post leafy twigs of the mango or pīpal (Ficus religiosa) are tied. In some places, a pole of the Odina Wodier tree is said to be set up, and afterwards planted near the house, to see if it will grow. [98]Near the marriage dais a pit is dug, into which are thrown nine kinds of grain, and milk is poured. The milk-post is supported on a grindstone painted with turmeric stripes, washed with milk and cow’s urine, and worshipped, with the Valluvan as the celebrant priest. The post is then set up in the pit by three men and two women. A string with a bit of turmeric (kankanam) is tied to the milk-post, and to it and the dais boiled rice is offered. Kankanams are also tied round the wrists of the bride and bridegroom. The bridegroom’s party go to the temple or house where the bride is awaiting them, bringing with them a brass lamp, vessel and cup, castor and gingelly oil, combs, confectionery, turmeric, and betel leaves. The procession is headed by Paraiyans beating tom-toms, and blowing on trumpets. When their destination is reached, all take their seats on mats, and the various articles which they have brought are handed over to the headman, who returns them. The bride is then taken in procession to the marriage house, which she is the first to enter. She is then told to touch with her right hand some paddy, salt, and rice, placed in three pots inside the house. Touching them with the left hand would be an evil omen, and every mishap which might occur in the family would be traced to the new daughter-in-law. The bride and bridegroom next go through the nalugu ceremony, and some of the relations proceed with the ceremony of bringing sand (manal vāri sadangu). A cousin of the bridegroom and his wife take three pots called sāl karagam and kūresāl, and repair to a river, tank (pond) or well, accompanied by a few men and women. The pots are set on the ground, and close to them are placed a lamp, and a leaf with cakes, betel leaves and nuts set on it. Pūja (worship) is made to the pots by burning camphor and breaking cocoanuts. [99]The Vettiyan then says “The sun, the moon, the pots, and the owner of the girl have come to the pandal. So make haste and fill the pot with water.” The woman dips a small pot in water, and, after putting some sand or mud into a big pot, pours the water therein. The pots are then again worshipped. After the performance of the nalugu, the bridal couple go through a ceremony for removing the evil eye, called “sige kazhippu.” A leaf of Ficus religiosa, with its tail downwards, is held over their foreheads, and all the close relations pour water over it, so that it trickles over their faces; or seven cakes are placed by each of the relations on the head, shoulders, knees, feet, and other parts of the body of the bridegroom. The cakes are subsequently given to a washerman. The parents of the bridal couple, accompanied by some of their relations, next proceed to an open field, taking with them the cloths, tāli, jewels, and other things which have been purchased for the wedding. A cloth is laid on the ground, and on it seven leaves are placed, and cooked rice, vegetables, etc., heaped up thereon. Pūja is done, and a goat is sacrificed to the ancestors (Tangalanmar). By some the offerings are made to the village goddess Pidāri, instead of to the ancestors. Meanwhile the bridegroom has been taken in procession round the village on horseback, and the headmen have been exchanging betel in the pandal. On the bridegroom’s return, he and the bride seat themselves on planks placed on the dais, and are garlanded by their maternal uncle with wreaths of Nerium odorum flowers. The maternal uncle of the bride presents her with a ring. In some places, the bride is carried to the dais on the shoulders or in the arms of the maternal uncle. While the couple are seated on the dais the Valluvan priest lights the sacred fire (hōmam), and, repeating some words in corrupt Sanskrit, pours gingelly [100]oil into the fire. He then does pūja to the tāli, and passes it round, to be touched and blessed by those assembled. The bridegroom, taking up the tāli, shows it through a hole in the pandal to the sky or sun, and, on receipt of permission from those present, ties it round the neck of the bride. Thin plates of gold or silver, called pattam, are then tied on the foreheads of the contracting couple, first by the mother-in-law and sister-in-law. With Brāhman and non-Brāhman castes it is customary for the bride and bridegroom to fast until the tāli has been tied. With Paraiyans, on the contrary, the rite is performed after a good meal. Towards the close of the marriage day, fruit, flowers, and betel are placed on a tray before the couple, and all the kankanams, seven in number, are removed, and put on the tray. After burning camphor, the bridegroom hands the tray to his wife, and it is exchanged between them three times. It is then given to the washerman. The proceedings terminate by the two going with linked hands three times round the pandal. On the following day, the bride’s relatives purchase some good curds, a number of plantains, sugar and pepper, which are mixed together. All assemble at the pandal, and some of the mixture is given to the headman, the newly married couple, and all who are present. All the articles which constitute the bride’s dowry are then placed in the pandal, and examined by the headman. If they are found to be correct, he proclaims the union of the couple, and more of the mixture is doled out. This ceremony is known as sambandham kūral or sambandham piriththal (proclaiming relationship). Two or three days after the marriage, the bridegroom goes to the house of the bride, and remains there for three days. He is stopped at the entrance by his brother-in-law, who washes his feet, puts rings on [101]the second toe, and keeps on pinching his feet until he has extracted a promise that the bridegroom will give his daughter, if one is born to him, in marriage to the son of his brother-in-law. The ring is put on the foot of the bride by her maternal uncle at the time of the marriage ceremony, after the wrist threads have been removed. In some places it is done by the mother-in-law or sister-in-law, before the tāli is tied, behind a screen.

Polygamy is not common among the Paraiyans, but Mr. Clayton has known a few instances in which a Paraiyan had two regularly married wives, each wearing a tāli. But it is very common to find that a Paraiyan has, in addition to his formally married wife, another woman who occupies a recognised position in his household. The first wears the tāli. The other woman does not, but is called the second wife. She cannot be dismissed without the sanction of the parachēri council. The man who maintains her is called her husband, and her children are recognised as part of his family. Mr. Clayton believes that a second wife is usually taken only when the more formally married wife has no children, or when an additional worker is wanted in the house, or to help in the daily work. Thus a horsekeeper will often have two wives, one to prepare his meals and boil the gram for the horse, the other to go out day by day to collect grass for the horse. The Tamil proverb “The experience of a man with two wives is anguish” applies to all these double unions. There are constant quarrels between the two women, and the man is generally involved, often to his own great inconvenience. It is quite common for a Paraiyan to marry his deceased wife’s sister, if she is not already married.

A Paraiya woman usually goes to her mother’s house a month or two before she expects the birth of her first [102]child, which is born there. Sometimes a medicine woman (maruttuvacchi), who possesses or professes some knowledge of drugs and midwifery, is called in, if the case is a bad one. Generally her barbarous treatment is but additional torture to the patient. Immediately after the birth of the child, the mother drinks a decoction called kashāyam, in which there is much ginger. Hence the Tamil proverb “Is there any decoction without ginger in it?” About a week after the birth, the mother, as a purificatory ceremony, is rubbed with oil and bathed.

Among Sūdras there is a family ceremony, to which the Sanskrit name Simanta has been assigned, though it is not the true Simanta observed by Brāhmans. It occurs only in connection with a first pregnancy. The expectant mother stands bending over a rice mortar, and water or human milk is poured on her back by her husband’s elder or younger sister. Money is also given to buy jewels for the expected child. The ceremony is of no interest to anyone outside the family. Hence the proverb “Come, ye villagers, and pour water on this woman’s back.” This is used when outsiders are called in to do for a member of a family what the relatives ought to do. This ceremony is sometimes observed by Paraiyans. Among Brāhmans it is believed to affect the sex of the child. It should be added that it is firmly believed that, if a woman dies during pregnancy or in childbed, her spirit becomes an exceedingly malignant ghost, and haunts the precincts of the village where she dies.

A widow does not wear the tāli, which is removed at a gathering of relatives some days after her husband’s death. “The removal of the tāli of a widow,” Mr. Francis writes,59 “is effected in a curious manner. On [103]the sixteenth day after the husband’s death, another woman stands behind the widow, who stoops forward, and unties the tāli in such a way that it falls into a vessel of milk placed to receive it. Adoption ceremonies are also odd. The adoptee’s feet are washed in turmeric water by the adopter, who then drinks a little of the liquid. Adoption is accordingly known as manjanīr kudikkiradu, or the drinking of turmeric water, and the adopted son as the manjanīr pillai, or turmeric water boy.” Paraiya women do not wear any distinctive dress when they are widows, and do not shave their heads. But they cease to paint the vermilion mark (kunkumam) on their foreheads, which married women who are living with their husbands always wear, except at times when they are considered ceremonially unclean. The widow of a Paraiyan, if not too old to bear children, generally lives with another man as his wife. Sometimes she is ceremonially married to him, and then wears the tāli. A widow practically chooses her own second husband, and is not restricted to any particular relative, such as her husband’s elder or younger brother. The practice of the Levirate, by which the younger brother takes the widow of the elder, is non-existent as a custom among Paraiyas, though instances of such unions may be found. Indeed the popular opinion of the Tamil caste credits the Paraiyan with little regard for any of the restrictions of consanguinity, either prohibitive or permissive. “The palmyra palm has no shadow: the Paraiyan has no regard for seemliness” is a common Tamil proverb.

It is stated, in the Madras Census Report, 1891, that “the Paraiyans have been but little affected by Brāhmanical doctrines and customs, though in respect to ceremonies they have not escaped their influence. Paraiyans are nominally Saivites, but in reality they are demon [104]worshippers.” The Hōmakulam tank in the South Arcot district is reputed to be the place where Nanda, the Paraiyan saint, bathed before he performed sacrifice preparatory to his transfiguration to Brāhmanhood.60 Brāhman influence has scarcely affected the Paraiyan at all, even in ceremonial. No Paraiyan may enter any Vaishnava or Saiva temple even of the humblest sort, though of course his offerings of money are accepted, if presented by the hands of some friendly Sūdra, even in such exclusive shrines as that of Srī Vīra Rāghava Swāmi at Tiruvallūr. It is true that Paraiyans are often termed Saivites, but there are many nominal Vaishnavas among them, who regularly wear the nāmam of Vishnu on their foreheads. The truth is that the feminine deities, commonly called dēvata, have been identified by Hindus with the feminine energy of Siva, and thus the Paraiyans who worship them have received the sectarian epithet. As a matter of fact, the wearing of the nāmam of Vishnu, or the smearing of the ashes of Siva, is of no meaning to a Paraiyan. They are neither Saivites nor Vaishnavites.



Like all other Dravidians, the Paraiyans acknowledge the existence of a supreme, omnipresent, personal spiritual Being, the source of all, whom they call Kadavul (He who is). Kadavul possesses no temples, and is not worshipped, but he is the highest conception of Paraiya thought. Paraiyans worship at least three classes of godlings or dēvata, generally called the mothers (ammā). Sometimes they are worshipped as the virgins (Kanniyammā) or the seven virgins. These mothers may be worshipped collectively in a group. They are then symbolised by seven stones or bricks, perhaps within a little enclosure, or on a little platform [106]in the Paraiya hamlet, or under a margosa (Melia Azadirachta) tree, or sheltered by a wattle hut, or even by a small brick temple. This temple is universally known as the Amman Koil. More usually, one particular mother is worshipped at the Paraiya shrine. She is then called the grāma dēvata, or village goddess, of the particular hamlet. The names of these goddesses are legion. Each village claims that its own mother is not the same as that of the next village, but all are supposed to be sisters. Each is supposed to be the guardian of the boundaries of the chēri or grāmam where her temple lies, sometimes of both grāmam and chēri. She is believed to protect its inhabitants and its livestock from disease, disaster and famine, to promote the fecundity of cattle and goats, and to give children. In a word, she is called the benefactress of the place, and of all in it who worship her. The following are a few of the names of these village tutelary deities:—

Ellammā, goddess of the boundary, worshipped by Tamil and Telugu Paraiyans.

Mūngilammā, bamboo goddess.

Padeiyattāl or Padeiyācchi.

Parrapotammā, a Telugu goddess supposed to cure cattle diseases.

Pīdarīyammā, sometimes called Ellei Pidāri.

The symbol of the goddess may be a conical stone, or a carved idol. Occasionally a rude figure of the bull Nandi, and an iron trident mark the shrine. A lamp is often lighted before it at night.

The ceremonial of worship of all classes of dēvata is very simple. The worshipper prostrates himself before the symbol of the deity, whether one stone, seven stones, or an image. He anoints it with oil, smears it with saffron, daubs it with vermilion, garlands it with flowers [107](Nerium odorum by preference), burns a bit of camphor, and circumambulates the shrine, keeping his right side towards it. On special occasions he breaks cocoanuts, kills fowls, goats or sheep, of which the two last must be killed at one blow, pours out their blood, perhaps offers a little money, and goes his way, satisfied that he has done his best to propitiate the dēvata whom he has honoured.

Special shrines attain very great fame. Thus the goddess Bāvaniyammāl of Periyapālayam, some sixteen miles from Madras, is well known, and crowds come to her annual festival. Paraiyans, Pallis, and Chakkilians form the majority of the worshippers, but of late years Sūdras and even Brāhmans are to be found at her shrine. The homage rendered to her is twofold. Her worshippers sacrifice some thousands of sheep on the river bank outside her temple, and, entirely divesting themselves of their garments, and covering themselves with bunches of margosa leaves, go round the temple. Except on the five Sundays, usually in July and August, on which the festival is held, the shrine is forsaken, and the goddess is said to be a vegetarian; but on the five festival Sundays she is said to be as greedy for flesh as a leather-dresser’s (Chakkiliyan) wife.

Two goddesses hold a position distinct from the mothers as a group, or as tutelary goddesses. These are Gangammāl and Māriyattāl, and their peculiarity is that they are itinerant deities. Gangammāl is often described as the goddess of cholera, and Māriyattāl, as the goddess of small-pox, though both diseases are frequently ascribed to the latter. Māriyattāl is worshipped under the names of Poleramma and Ammavāru by Telugus. For instance, near Arcotkuppam in the North Arcot district, a festival is held in honour of Gangammāl in the Tamil month Vaikasi (May-June), in which Sūdras join. [108]The main feature of the festival is the boiling of new rice as at Pongal. Men also put on women’s clothes, and perform grotesque dances. In the same way, in the ten days’ festival in honour of Māriyattāl held at Uttaramallūr during the Tamil month Avani (August), the goddess is carried about by washermen (Vannān), who perform a kind of pantomime (vilas) in her honour. There is a curious belief that these goddesses (or Gangammāl, if they are distinguished) must travel along roads and paths, and cannot go across country, and that they cannot pass over the leaves of the margosa or the stems of the plant called in Tamil perandei (Vitis quadrangularis). Consequently, when cholera is about, and the goddess is supposed to be travelling from village to village seeking victims, branches of margosa and long strings of perandei are placed on all the paths leading into the grāmam or chēri. Sometimes, also, leaves of the margosa are strung together, and hung across the village street. These are called toranam.

Besides the deities already referred to, there are a number of ghosts, ghouls, and goblins (pey or pisāsu), whom Paraiyans propitiate. Mathureivīran and Vīrabadran are, for example, two well-known demons.

Among Tamil Paraiyans there are families in almost every village, who hold a kind of sacerdotal rank in the esteem of their fellows. They are called Valluvans, Valluva Pandārams, or Valluva Paraiyans. Their position and authority depend largely on their own astuteness. Sometimes they are respected even by Brāhmans for their powers as exorcists. It is often impossible to see any difference between the Valluvans and the ordinary Paraiyans, except that their houses are usually a little apart from other houses in the chēri. They take a leading part in local Paraiya festivals. At marriages [109]they pronounce the blessing when the tāli is tied round the bride’s neck.

In cases of supposed possession by demons, or by the mothers, the Valluvan is consulted as to the meaning of the portent, and takes part in driving the spirit out of the victim, sometimes using violence and blows to compel the spirit to deliver its message and be gone. The Census Report, 1901, states that Valluvans do not eat or intermarry with other sections of the Paraiyans. Mr. Clayton is unable to confirm this, and is inclined to doubt whether it is generally true.

The dead are buried as a rule, but sometimes the corpses are burnt. A portion of the village waste land is allotted for the purpose. Only Paraiyans are buried in it. The funeral rites are very simple. The corpse is carried on a temporary litter of palm leaf mats and bamboos, wrapped in a cotton cloth, which is a new one if it can be afforded, and interred or burnt. About the third or fifth day after death, the pāl sadangu, or milk ceremony, should take place, when some milk is poured out by the next-of-kin as an offering to the spirit of the deceased. This spirit is then supposed to assume a sort of corporeity, and to depart to the place of respite till fate decrees that it be re-born. This ceremony is accompanied by a family feast. On the fifteenth day after death, another family gathering is held, and food is offered to the spirit of the dead person. This ceremony is called Karumāntaram, or expiatory ceremony. Occasionally, for some months after the death, a few flowers are placed on the grave, and a cocoanut is broken over it; and some attempt is even made to recognise the anniversary of the date. But there is no regular custom and it is probably an imitation of Brāhmanical usages. The ordinary Paraiyan’s conception of life after death is [110]merely a vague belief that the departed soul continues its existence somewhere. He has no ordered eschatology. If a first-born male child dies, it is buried close to or even within the house, so that its corpse may not be carried off by a witch or sorcerer, to be used in magic rites, as the body of a first-born child is supposed to possess special virtues. It is noted by Mr. H. A. Stuart61 that “the Tangalāns profess to have once been a very respectable class, and wear the sacred thread at weddings and funerals, while the other divisions never assume it.”

The following note on the death ceremonies of the Paraiyans at Coimbatore was supplied by Mr. V. Govindan. If the deceased was a married man, the corpse is placed in a sitting posture in a booth made of twigs of margosa and milk-hedge (Euphorbia Tirucalli), and supported behind by a mortar. The widow puts on all her ornaments, and decorates her hair with flowers. She seats herself on the left side of the corpse, in the hands of which some paddy (unhusked rice) or salt is placed. Taking hold of its hands, some one pours the contents thereof into the hands of the widow, who replaces them in those of the corpse. This is done thrice, and the widow then ties the rice in her cloth. On the way to the burial ground (sudukadu), the son carries a new pot, the barber a pot of cooked rice and brinjal (Solanum Melongena) fruits and other things required for doing pūja. The Paraiyan in charge of the burial ground carries a fire-brand. The mats and other articles used by the deceased, and the materials of which the booth was made, are carried in front by the washerman, who deposits them at a spot between the house of the deceased and the burial ground called the idukādu, which [111]is made to represent the shrine of Arichandra. Arichandra was a king, who became a slave of the Paraiyans, and is in charge of the burial ground. At the idukādu the corpse is placed on the ground, and the son, going thrice round it, breaks the pot of rice near its head. The barber makes a mark at the four corners of the bier, and the son places a quarter anna on three of the marks, and some cowdung on the mark at the north-east corner. The widow seats herself at the feet of the corpse, and another widowed woman breaks her tāli string, and throws it on the corpse. Arrived at the grave, the gurukal (priest) descends into it, does pūja and applies vibhūti (sacred ashes) to its sides. The body is lowered into it, and half a yard of cloth from the winding-sheet is given to the Paraiyan, and a quarter of a yard to an Āndi (religious mendicant). The grave is filled in up to the neck of the corpse, and bael (Ægle Marmelos) leaves, salt, and vibhūti are placed on its head by the gurukal. The grave is then filled in, and a stone and thorny branch placed at the head end. As the son goes, carrying the water-pot, three times round the grave, the barber makes a hole in the pot, which is thrown on the stone. The son and other relations bathe and return to the house, where a vessel containing milk is set on a mortar, and another containing water placed at the door. They dip twigs of the pīpal (Ficus religiosa) into the milk, and throw them on the roof. They also worship a lighted lamp. On the third day, cooked rice, and other food for which the deceased had a special liking, are taken to the grave, and placed on plantain leaves. Pūja is done, and the crows are attracted to the spot. If they do not turn up, the gurukal prays, and throws up water three times. On the seventeenth day, the son and others, accompanied by the gurukal, carry [112]a new brick and articles required for pūja to the river. The brick is placed under water, and the son bathes. The articles for pūja are spread on a plantain leaf, before which the son places the brick. Pūja is done to it, and a piece of new cloth tied on it. It is then again carried to the water, and immersed therein. The ceremonial concludes with the lighting of the sacred fire (hōmam).

The death ceremonies of the Paraiyan, as carried out in the Chingleput district, are thus described by Mr. K. Rangachari. The corpse is washed, dressed, and carried on a bier to the burning or burial ground. Just before it is placed on the bier, all the relations, who are under pollution, go round it three times, carrying an iron measure round which straw has been wrapped, and containing a light. On the way to the burial ground, the son or grandson scatters paddy, which has been fried by the agnates. A pot of fire is carried by the Vettiyan. At a certain spot the bier is placed on the ground, and the son goes round it, carrying a pot of cooked rice, which he breaks near the head of the corpse. This rice should not be touched by man or beast, and it is generally buried. When the corpse has been placed on the pyre, or laid in the grave, rice is thrown over it by the relations. The son, carrying a pot of water, goes thrice round it, and asks those assembled if he may finish the ceremony. On receiving their assent, he again goes three times round the corpse, and, making three holes in the pot, throws it down, and goes home without looking back. If the dead person is unmarried, a mock marriage ceremony, called kanni kaziththal (removing bachelorhood), is performed before the corpse is laid on the bier. A garland of arka (Calotropis gigantea) flowers and leaves is placed round its neck, and balls of mud from a gutter are laid on the head, knees, and other parts of the body. In some [113]places a variant of the ceremony consists in the erection of a mimic marriage booth which is covered with leaves of the arka plant, flowers of which are placed round the neck as a garland. On the third day after death, cooked rice, milk, fruits, etc., are offered to the soul of the departed on two leaves placed one near the head, the other near the feet of the corpse. Of these, the former is taken by men, and the latter by women, and eaten. The karmānthiram, or final ceremony, takes place on the twelfth or sixteenth day. All concerned in it proceed to a tank with cooked rice, cakes, etc. A figure of Ganēsa (Pillayar) is made with mud, and five kalasam (vessels) are placed near it. The various articles which have been brought are set out in front of it. Two bricks, on which the figures of a man and woman are drawn, are given to the son, who washes them, and does pūja to them after an effigy has been made at the waterside by a washerman. He then says “I gave calves and money. Enter Kailāsam (the abode of Siva). Find your way to paralōkam (the other world). I gave you milk and fruit. Go to the world of the dead. I gave gingelly (Sesamum) and milk. Enter yamalōkam (abode of the god of death). Eleven descendants on the mother’s side and ten on the father’s, twenty-one in all, may they all enter heaven.” He then puts the bricks into the water. On their return home, the sons of the deceased are presented with new clothes.



It is recorded, in the Gazetteer of the Tanjore district, that, when a man dies, camphor is not burnt in the house, but at the junction of three lanes. Some Paraiyans, on the occurrence of a death in a family, put a pot filled with dung or water, a broomstick and a fire-brand at some place where three roads meet, or in front of the house, in order to prevent the ghost from returning. An impression of the dead man’s palm is taken in [114]cow-dung, and stuck on the wall. In some places, e.g., at Tirutturaippūndi, the Paraiyans observe a ceremony rather like that observed by Valaiyans and Karaiyans on the heir’s return from the burning-ground on the second day. Three rice-pounders and a chembu (vessel) of water are placed outside the door, and the heir sits on these, chews a piece of fish, spits thrice, and then goes and worships a light burning in the house.

Tattooing is practiced on women and children of both sexes, but not on grown men. With children it is confined to a simple line drawn down the forehead. Among Paraiyans who have become Roman Catholics, the device is sometimes a cross. Women, like those of other Tamil castes, frequently have their arms elaborately tattooed, and sometimes have a small pattern between the breasts. A legend runs to the effect that, many years ago, a Paraiyan woman wished her upper arms and chest to be tattooed in the form of a bodice. The operation was successfully carried out till the region of the heart was reached, and then a vulnerable part was punctured by the needles, with the result that the woman died. Whence has arisen a superstitious objection to tattooing of the breasts.

Sometimes an arei-mūdi, shaped like the leaf of the pūvarasa tree (Thespesia populnea), made of silver or silvered brass, is tied round the waist of female infants as an ornament. Small, flat plates of copper, called takudu, are frequently worn by children. One side is divided into sixteen squares, in which, what look like the Telugu numerals nine, ten, eleven and twelve are engraved. On the other side a circle is drawn, which is divided into eight segments, in each of which a Telugu letter is inscribed. This charm is supposed to protect the wearer from harm coming from any of the eight [115]cardinal points of the Indian compass. Charms, in the form of metal cylinders, are worn for the same purpose by adults and children, and procured from some exorcist. Similar or the same charms are worn to avoid the baneful influence of the evil eye. To prevent this from affecting their crops, Paraiyans put up scarecrows in their fields. These are usually small broken earthen pots, whitewashed or covered with spots of whitewash, or even adorned with huge clay noses and ears, and made into grotesque faces. They are set up on the end of poles, to attract the eye of the passer-by from the crop. For the same reason more elaborate figures, made of mud and twigs, in human shape, are sometimes set up. Before wells are sunk, a charmer (mantirakkāran) is called in to recite spells and find a likely spot, cocoanuts are broken, and the milk thereof poured out to propitiate the gods of the place.

The Paraiyans are very largely employed as domestic servants by Europeans. And it has been said that “so necessary to the comfort of the public is the Paraiya that orthodox Brāhman gentlemen may be seen employing Paraiya coachmen and syces (footmen). The Christian Paraiya has become ‘Native Christian’ caste, and has achieved, among other things, University honours, the wearing of the surplice, and the rod of the pedagogue.”62 Vast numbers of Paraiyans are agricultural labourers. Till a score or so of years ago some were actually bond serfs, and there are instances on record in quite recent years, which show that it was no infrequent thing for a Paraiyan to mortgage his son as security for the repayment of a loan. Some Paraiya families own much land. [116]

It is noted by Mr. Francis63 that in the South Arcot district, “their numbers, and the comparative wealth which ground-nut (Arachis hypogæa) cultivation has brought them, have caused them to take a rather better social position here than elsewhere, and they are actually beginning to copy the social ways of the higher castes, sometimes burning their dead (though those who have died of cholera or small-pox are still always buried), marrying their children when infants, and looking with disfavour on the remarriage of widows.”

Current Tamil speech and custom divide the landless labouring Paraiyans into padiyāl and kūliyāl. The padiyāl is definitely and hereditarily attached to some land-holding family in the Hindu grāma. He can work for no one else, and cannot change masters. His privilege is that in times of drought and famine his master must support him. The kūliyāl is a mere day labourer, only employed, and therefore only receiving pay (kūli) when required. He has no claim for maintenance in seasons of scarcity, and, though no man’s serf, is worse off than the padiyāl.

Three communal servants, the grave-digger (Vettiyān), watchman (Talaiyāri), and scavenger (Tōti) are all Paraiyans. The Vettiyān officiates when a corpse is buried or burned. Hence the proverb against meddling in what ought to be left to some one else:—“Let the Vettiyān and the corpse struggle together.” The Rev. H. Jensen notes64 in connection with this proverb that “when fire is applied to the pyre at the burning-ground, it sometimes happens that the muscles of the corpse contract in such a fashion that the body moves, and the grave-digger has to beat it down into the fire. It looks [117]as if the two were engaged in a struggle. But no one else should interfere. The grave-digger knows his own work best.”

It is noted by Mr. H. A. Stuart65 that “among the lower class of Vellām Paraiyans, who are the village tōtis, the following legend is current, accounting for the perquisites which they get for performing the menial work of the village. When Adi Sēsha was supporting the earth, he became weary, and prayed to Siva for assistance. Siva ordered a Paraiyan to beat upon his drum, and cry ‘Let the ripe decay.’ The Paraiyan enquired what should be his reward, and was granted the following privileges, viz., mankūli (reward for burning corpses), sān tuni (a span cloth), vāykkarisi (the rice in the corpse’s mouth), pinda sōru (morsel of boiled rice), and sūttu kūli (fee for bringing firewood). This seemed to the Paraiya very little, and so, to increase the death-rate and consequently his perquisites, he cried ‘Let the ripe and the unripe decay.’ The swāmi (god) remonstrated with him, for the result of his cry was that children and the middle-aged among men died. The man pleaded poverty, and was given four additional privileges, viz., a merkal to measure grain, a rod to measure the ground, a scythe to cut grass, and the privilege of carrying the karagam-pot when annually running over the village boundary. All the above privileges still belong to the village vettis, who receive fees for performing the duties referred to in the legend.”

Some Paraiyans eat carrion, and Mr. Clayton has known them dig up a buffalo which had been buried some hours, and eat its flesh. It is said that even the lowest Paraiyans will not eat the flesh of cows, but leave [118]that to the leather-dressers (Chakkiliyans). Mr. Stuart, however, states66 that “the Konga Paraiyans and the Vellām Paraiyans, who do scavenging work, will eat cows that have died a natural death, while Tangalāns only eat such as have been slaughtered.” In time of famine, the Paraiyans dig into ant-hills to rob the ants of their store of grass seed. This is called pillarisi or grass rice.

There are many proverbs in Tamil, which refer to Paraiyans, from which the following are selected:—

  • (1) If a Paraiyan boils rice, will it not reach God? i.e., God will notice all piety, even that of a Paraiyan.
  • (2) When a Paraiya woman eats betel, her ten fingers (will be daubed with) lime. The Paraiya woman is a proverbial slut.
  • (3) Though a Paraiya woman’s child be put to school, it will still say Ayyē. Ayyē is vulgar Tamil for Aiyar, meaning Sir.
  • (4) The palmyra palm has no shadow; the Paraiyan has no decency. A contemptuous reference to Paraiya morality.
  • (5) The gourd flower and the Paraiyan’s song have no savour. Paraiyans use this saying about their own singing.
  • (6) Though seventy years of age, a Paraiyan will only do what he is compelled.
  • (7) You may believe a Paraiyan, even in ten ways; you cannot believe a Brāhman. Almost the only saying in favour of the Paraiyan.
  • (8) Is the sepoy who massacred a thousand horse now living in disgrace with the dogs of the parachēri?
  • (9) Paraiyan’s talk is half-talk. A reference to Paraiya vulgarisms of speech.[119]
  • (10) Like Paraiya and Brāhman, i.e., as different as possible.
  • (11) Not even a Paraiyan will plough on a full moon day.
  • (12) Parachēri manure gives a better yield than any other manure.
  • (13) The drum is beaten at weddings, and also at funerals. Said, according to the Rev. H. Jensen, of a double-dealing unreliable person, who is as ready for good as for evil.
  • (14) The harvest of the Paraiya never comes home.

The term Paraiya, it may be noted, is applied to the common dog of Indian towns and villages, and to the scavenger kite, Milvus Govinda.

The Paraiyans are included by Mr. F. S. Mullaly in his ‘Notes on Criminal Classes of the Madras Presidency.’ “The local criminals,” he writes, “throughout the Presidency in all villages are the Paraiyas, and, though they cannot be considered de facto a criminal tribe, yet a very large proportion of the criminals of the Presidency are of this caste, notable among them being the Vēpūr Paraiyas of South Arcot.” For an account of these Vēpur Paraiyas and their methods I must refer the reader to Mr. Mullaly’s description thereof. Concerning these criminal Paraiyans, Mr. Francis writes as follows.67 “There is one branch of them in Suttukulam, a hamlet of Cuddalore. They are often known as the Tiruttu (thieving) Paraiyans. The crimes to which they are most addicted are house-breaking and the theft of cattle, sheep and goats, and the difficulty of bringing them to book is increased by the organised manner in which they carry on their depredations. They are, for example, commonly in [120]league with the very heads of villages, who ought to be doing their utmost to secure their arrest, and they have useful allies in some of the Udaiyans of these parts. It is commonly declared that their relations are sometimes of a closer nature, and that the wives of Vēpur Paraiyans who are in enforced retirement are cared for by the Udaiyans. To this is popularly attributed the undoubted fact that these Paraiyans are often much fairer in complexion than other members of that caste.” It is said to be traditional among the Vēpur Paraiyans that the tālis (marriage badges) of Hindu women and lamps should not be stolen from a house, and that personal violence should not be resorted to, except when unavoidably necessary for the purpose of escape or self-defence.

In a kindly note on the Paraiya classes, Surgeon-Major W. R. Cornish sums them up as follows.68 “A laborious, frugal, and pleasure-loving people, they are the very life-blood of the country, in whatever field of labour they engage in. The British administration has freed them, as a community, from the yoke of hereditary slavery, and from the legal disabilities under which they suffered; but they still remain in the lowest depths of social degradation. The Christian missionaries, to their undying honour be it said, have, as a rule, persevered in breaking through the time-honoured custom of treating the Paraiya as dirt, and have admitted him to equal rights and privileges in their schools and churches, and, whatever may be the present position of the Paraiya community in regard to education, intelligence, and ability to hold a place for themselves, they owe it almost wholly to the Christian men and women who have given up their lives to win souls for their great Master.” [121]

Paraiyans of Malabar, Cochin and Travancore.—For the following note on the Paraiyans or Paraiyas of Cochin I am indebted to Mr. L. K. Anantha Krishna Aiyar.69 Paraiyas belong to a very low caste of the agrestic serfs of Cochin, next to Pulayas in order of social precedence. They will eat at the hands of all castes, save Ullādans, Nāyādis, and Pulayas. But orthodox Pulayas have to bathe five times, and let blood flow, in order to be purified from pollution if they touch a Paraiya. In rural parts, a Paraiya’s hut may be seen far away on the hill-side. At the approach of a member of some higher caste, the inmates run away to the forest. They cannot walk along the public roads, or in the vicinity of houses occupied by the higher castes. It is said that they at times steal the children of Nāyars, and hide them in the forest, to bring them up as their own. They are extremely filthy in person and habits. They very rarely bathe, or wash their bodies, and a cloth, purchased at harvest time, is worn till it falls to pieces. They will eat the flesh of cattle, and are on this account despised even by the Pulayas. They are their own barbers and washermen.

A legend runs to the effect that Vararuchi, the famous astrologer, and son of a Brāhman named Chandragupta and his Brāhman wife, became the King of Avanthi, and ruled till Vikramāditya, the son of Chandragupta by his Kshatriya wife, came of age, when he abdicated in his favour. Once, when he was resting under an ashwastha tree (Ficus religiosa), invoking the support of the deity living therein, he overheard the conversation of two Gandarvas on the tree, to the effect that he would marry a Paraiya girl. This he prevented by requesting the [122]king to have her enclosed in a box, and floated down a river with a nail stuck into her head. The box was taken possession of by a Brāhman, who was bathing lower down, and, on opening it, he found a beautiful girl, whom he considered to be a divine gift, and regarded as his own daughter. One day the Brāhman, seeing Vararuchi passing by, invited him to mess with him, and his invitation was accepted on condition that he would prepare eighteen curries, and give him what remained after feeding a hundred Brāhmans. The Brāhman was puzzled, but the maiden, taking a long leaf, placed thereon a preparation of ginger corresponding to eighteen curries, and with it some boiled rice used as an offering at the Vaiswadēva ceremony, as the equivalent of the food for Brāhmans. Knowing this to be the work of the maiden, Vararuchi desired to marry her, and his wish was acceded to by the Brāhman. One day, while conversing with his wife about their past lives, he chanced to see a nail stuck in her head, and he knew her to be the girl whom he had caused to be floated down the stream. He accordingly resolved to go on a pilgrimage with his wife, bathing in rivers, and worshipping at temples. At last they came to Kērala, where the woman bore him twelve sons, all of whom, except one, were taken care of by members of different castes. They were all remarkable for their wisdom, and believed to be the avatar (incarnation) of Vishnu, gifted with the power of performing miracles. One of them was Pakkanar, the great Malayālam bard. Once, it is said, when some Brāhmans resolved to go to Benares, Pakkanar tried to dissuade them from so doing by telling them that the journey to the sacred city would not be productive of salvation. To prove the fruitlessness of their journey, he plucked a lotus flower from a stagnant pool, and gave [123]it to them with instructions to deliver it to a hand which would rise from the Ganges, when they were to say that it was a present for the goddess Ganga from Pakkanar. They did as directed, and returned with news of the miracle. Pakkanar then led them to the stagnant pool, and said “Please return the lotus flower, Oh! Ganga,” when it appeared in his hand. Pakkanar is said to have earned his living by the sale of the wicker-work, which he made. One day he could not sell his baskets, and he had to go starving. A neighbour, however, gave him some milk, which Pakkanar accepted, and told the donor to think of him if ever he was in danger. The neighbour had a married daughter living with him, who, some time after, was dying of snake-bite. But her father remembered the words of Pakkanar, who came to the rescue, and cured her. One of Pakkanar’s brothers was named Narayana Branthan, who pretended to be a lunatic, and whose special delight was in rolling huge stones up a hill, for the pleasure of seeing them roll down. Though the son of a Brāhman, he mixed freely with members of all castes, and had no scruple about dining with them. A Nambūtiri Brāhman once asked him to choose an auspicious day for the performance of his son’s upanayanam (thread ceremony). He selected a most inauspicious day and hour, when the boy’s family assembled and asked Narayana whether the rite should be celebrated. He told the father to look at the sky, which became brilliantly illuminated, and a Brāhman was seen changing his sacred thread. The omen being considered favourable, the investiture ceremony was proceeded with.

The Paraiyas of Malabar and Cochin are celebrated for their knowledge of black magic, and are consulted in matters relating to theft, demoniacal influence, and the killing of enemies. Whenever anything is stolen, the [124]Paraiya magician is consulted. Giving hopes of the recovery of the stolen article, he receives from his client some paddy (rice) and a few panams (money), with which he purchases plantain fruits, a cocoanut or two, toddy, camphor, frankincense, and rice flour. After bathing, he offers these to his favourite deity Parakutti, who is represented by a stone placed in front of his hut. Rattling an iron instrument, and singing till his voice almost fails, he invokes the god. If the lost property does not turn up, he resorts to a more indignant and abusive form of invocation. If the thief has to be caught, his prayers are redoubled, and he becomes possessed, and blood passes out of his nose and mouth. When a person is ill, or under the influence of a demon, an astrologer and a magician named by the former are consulted. The magician, taking a cadjan (palm) leaf or copper or silver sheet, draws thereon cabalistic figures, and utters a mantram (prayer). Rolling up the leaf or sheet, he ties it to a thread, and it is worn round the neck in the case of a woman, and round the loins in the case of a man. Sometimes the magician, taking a thread, makes several knots in it, while reciting a mantram. The thread is worn round the neck or wrist. Or ashes are thrown over a sick person, and rubbed over the forehead and breast, while a mantram is repeated. Of mantrams, the following may be cited as examples. “Salutation to god with a thousand locks of matted hair, a thousand hands filling the three worlds and overflowing the same. Oh! Goddess mother, out of the supreme soul, descend. Oh! Sundara Yaksha (handsome she-devil), Swaha (an efficacious word).” “Salutation to god. He bears a lion on his head, or is in the form of a lion in the upper part of his body. In the mooladhara sits Garuda, the lord of birds, enemy of serpents, and vāhana (vehicle) of [125]Vishnu. He has Lakshmana to the left, Rāma to the right, Hanumān in front, Rāvana behind, and all around, above, below, everywhere he has Srī Narayana Swaha. Mayst thou watch over or protect me.”

The Paraiyans are notorious for the performance of marana kriyakal, or ceremonies for the killing of enemies. They resort to various methods, of which the following are examples:—

(1) Make an image in wax in the form of your enemy. Take it in your right hand, and your chain of beads in your left hand. Then burn the image with due rites, and it shall slay your enemy in a fortnight.

(2) Take a human bone from a burial-ground, and recite over it a thousand times the following mantra:—“Oh, swine-faced goddess! seize him, seize him as a victim. Drink his blood; eat, eat his flesh. Oh, image of imminent death! Malayala Bhagavathi.” The bone, thrown into the enemy’s house, will cause his ruin.

Odi or oti cult (breaking the human body) is the name given to a form of black magic practiced by the Paraiyans, who, when proficient in it, are believed to be able to render themselves invisible, or assume the form of a bull, cat, or dog. They are supposed to be able to entice pregnant women from their houses at dead of night, to destroy the fœtus in the womb, and substitute other substances for it; to bring sickness and death upon people; and so to bewitch people as to transport them from one place to another. A Paraiya who wishes to practice the cult goes to a guru (preceptor), and, falling at his feet, humbly requests that he may be admitted into the mysteries of the art. The master first tries to dissuade him, but the disciple persists in the desire to learn it. He is then tried by various tests as to his fitness. He follows his master to the forests [126]and lonely places at midnight. The master suddenly makes himself invisible, and soon appears before him in the form of a terrible bull, a ferocious dog, or an elephant, when the novice should remain calm and collected. He is also required to pass a night or two in the forest, which, according to his firm belief, is full of strange beings howling horribly. He should remain unmoved. By these and other trials, he is tested as to his fitness. Having passed through the various ordeals, the guru initiates him into the brotherhood by the performance of pūja on an auspicious day to his favourite Nīli, called also Kallatikode Nīli, through whose aid he works his black art. Flesh and liquor are consumed, and the disciple is taught how to prepare pilla thilam and angola thilam, which are the potent medicines for the working of his cult. The chief ingredient in the preparation of pilla thilam, or baby oil, is the sixth or seventh month’s fœtus of a primipara, who should belong to a caste other than that of the sorcerer. Having satisfied himself that the omens are favourable, he sets out at midnight for the house of the woman selected as his victim, and walks several times round it, waving a cocoanut shell containing a mixture of lime and turmeric water (gurusi), and muttering mantrams to secure the aid of the deity. He also draws yantrams (cabalistic devices) on the ground. The woman is compelled to come out of her house. Even if the door is locked, she will bang her head against it, and force it open. The sorcerer leads her to a retired spot, strips her naked, and tells her to lie flat on the ground. This she does, and a vessel made of a gourd (Lagenaria) is placed close to her vagina. The uterus then contracts, and the fœtus emerges. Sometimes, it is said, the uterus is filled with some rubbish, and the woman instantly dies. [127]Care is taken that the fœtus does not touch the ground, as the potency of the drug would thereby be ruined. The fœtus is cut to pieces, and smoked over a fire. It is then placed in a vessel provided with a few holes, below which is another vessel. The two are placed in a larger receptacle filled with water, which is heated over a fire. From the fœtus a liquid exudes, which is collected in the lower vessel. A human skull is then reduced to a fine powder, which is mixed with a portion of the liquid (thilam). With the mixture a mark is made on the forehead of the sorcerer, who rubs some of it over various parts of his body, and drinks a small quantity of cow-dung water. He then thinks that he can assume the form of any animal he likes, and achieve his object in view, be it murder or bodily injury. The magic oil, called angola thilam, is extracted from the angola tree (Alangium Lamarckii), which bears a very large number of fruits. One of these is believed to be endowed with life and power of motion, and to be capable of descending and returning to its original position on dark nights. Its possession can be attained by demons, or by an expert watching at the foot of the tree. When it has been secured, the extraction of the oil involves the same operations as those for extracting the pilla thilam, and they must be carried out within seven hours. A mark made on the forehead with the oil enables its wearer to achieve his desires, and to transform himself into some animal.

When a person has an enemy whom he wishes to get rid of, the Paraiya magician is consulted, and the name of the enemy given to him. Identifying his residence, the Paraiya starts off on a dark night, and anyone whom he comes across is at once dispatched with a blow. The victim comes out of his house in a state of stupefaction, and the magician puts him to death either by a [128]blow on the head, or by suffocating him with two sticks applied to his neck. Odi cult is said to have been practiced till only a few years ago in the rural parts of the northern part of the State, and in the tāluks of Palghāt and Walluvanād in Malabar, and even now it has not entirely died out. But cases of extracting fœtuses and putting persons to death are not heard of at the present day, owing to the fear of Government officials, landlords, and others. The story is current of a Nāyar village official, who had two fine bullocks, which a Māppila wished to purchase. The Nāyar, however, was unwilling to part with them. The Māppila accordingly engaged some men to steal the animals. Availing themselves of the absence of the Nāyar from home, the robbers went to his house, where they saw a Paraiya and his wife practicing the odi cult, and compelling a young woman to come out of the house, and lie on the ground. Catching hold of the Paraiya, the robbers tied him to a tree, and secured him. The man and his wife were beaten, and the would-be robbers rewarded with a present of the bullocks.

The Paraiyans have no temples of their own, but worship Siva or Kāli. According to a legend, in Tretayūga (the second age), a Paraiya named Samvara, and his wife Pulini were living in a forest, and one day came across a Sivalinga (stone lingam) at a dilapidated temple, which they kept, and worshipped with offerings of flesh, and by smearing it with ashes from the burial-ground. On a certain day, no ashes were available, and the woman offered to have her body burnt, so that the ashes thereof might be used. With much reluctance her husband sacrificed her, and performed pūja. Then he turned round to offer, as usual, the prasadam to his wife forgetting that she was dead, and he was surprised to see her standing before him, receiving his offering [129](prasadam), in flesh and blood. Highly pleased with their conduct, Siva appeared in person before them, and gave them absolution.

In every small village in the rural parts, is a small Bhagavati temple, to the deity of which the Paraiyas are devotedly attached, and look to it for protection in times of cholera, small-pox, or other calamities. Kodungallūr Bhagavati is their guardian deity, and they take part in the festivals (yēla) at the shrine. A few days before the festival, a piece of cloth is given to the Velichapād (oracle), who dresses himself in it, wears a piece of red cloth round his neck, a peculiar dress around his loins, and ties a few small bells (chelamba) round his legs. Accompanied by others with drums and fife and a basket, he goes to every Nāyar house daily for seven days, and receives presents of paddy, wherewith to defray the expenses of the festival. During the celebration thereof, the Velichapād and others go to a shed at a distance from the temple (kavu), some dressed up as ghosts, and dance and sing, to the accompaniment of a band, in honour of the deity.

In a note on the Paraiyans of Malabar, Mr. T. K. Gopaul Panikkar writes70 that “at certain periods of the year the Paraiyas have to assume the garb of an evil deity, with large head-dresses and paintings on the body and face, and tender cocoanut leaves hanging loose around their waists, all these embellishments being of the rudest patterns. With figures such as these, terror-striking in themselves, dancing with tom-toms sounding and horns blowing, representing the various temple deities, they visit the Nair houses, professing thereby to drive off any evil deities that may be haunting their [130]neighbourhood. After their dues have been given to them, they go their ways; and, on the last day, after finishing their house-to-house visits, they collect near their special temples to take part in the vēla tamāsha (spectacle).”

On the first of every month, a ceremony called kalasam is performed on behalf of the spirits of the departed. Fish, cooked meat, rice, parched grain, plantain fruits, cocoanuts, toddy, and other things, are placed on a leaf with a lighted lamp in front of it. A prayer is then uttered, expressing a hope that the ancestors will partake of the food which has been procured for them with much difficulty, and protect the living. One man, becoming inspired, acts the part of an oracle, and addresses those assembled.

The following story is narrated concerning the origin of the Elankunnapuzha temple on the island of Vypīn. When some Paraiyas were cutting reeds, one of them discovered a remarkable idol and fell into a trance, under the influence of which he informed the Rāja of Cochin that the idol originally belonged to the Trichendur temple in Tinnevelly, and that he must build a shrine for it. This was accordingly done, and to the Paraiyan who discovered the idol a daily allowance of rice, and a larger quantity of rice during the annual temple festival were given. In return, he had to supply cadjan (palm leaf) umbrellas used at the daily procession, and bamboo baskets required for washing the rice offered to the idol. These allowances were received by the Perum or big Paraiyan up to a recent date, even if he is not receiving them at the present day.

When a Paraiyan woman is delivered, she is secluded for two weeks in a temporary hut erected at a short distance from the dwelling hut. On the tenth day, some male [131]member of the family goes to his Brāhman or Nāyar landlord, from whom he receives some milk, which is sprinkled over the woman and her infant. She can then come to the verandah of her home, and remains there for five days, when she is purified by bathing. The temporary hut is burnt down.

The dead are buried, and the corpse, after being laid in the grave, is covered with a mat.

The Paraiyas are engaged in the manufacture of wicker baskets, bamboo mats, and cadjan umbrellas. They also take part in all kinds of agricultural work, and, when ploughing, will not use buffaloes, which are regarded as unclean beasts, the touch of which necessitates a ceremonial ablution.

Many Paraiyans become converts to Christianity, and thereby receive a rise in the social scale, and a freedom from the disabilities under which their lowly position in the social scale places them.

In 1829 several natives of Malabar were charged with having proceeded, in company with a Paraiyan, to the house of a pregnant woman, who was beaten and otherwise ill-treated, and with having taken the fœtus out of her uterus, and introduced in lieu thereof the skin of a calf and an earthen pot. The prisoners confessed before the police, but were acquitted, mainly on the ground that the earthen pot was of a size which rendered it impossible to credit its introduction during life.

In 1834 the inhabitants of several villages in Malabar attacked a village of Paraiyans on the alleged ground that deaths of people and cattle, and the protracted labour of a woman in childbed, had been caused by the practice of sorcery by the Paraiyans. They were beaten inhumanely, with their hands tied behind their backs, so that several died. The villagers were driven, bound, into [132]a river, immersed under water so as nearly to produce suffocation, and their own children were forced to rub sand into their wounds. Their settlement was then razed to the ground and they were driven into banishment.

The following extract is taken from a note on the Paraiyans of Travancore by Mr. N. Subramani Aiyar. The Paraiyas may be broadly divided into two classes, viz., the Tamil-speaking Paraiyas of the east coast who are found in considerable numbers in the southern tāluks, and the indigenous Paraiyas, who mostly abound in Central Travancore, avoiding the sea-coast tāluks. The latter only are considered here. The titles owned by some are Vēlan conferred upon certain families for their skill in magic; Panikkan; and Mūppan. The Paraiyas may be mainly divided into four divisions, viz., Vellam (water or jaggery?), Vēl (a lance), Natuvile (middle), and Pani (work). The last is considered to be the lowest in the social scale, and members thereof are not admitted into the houses of the other divisions. One theory of the origin of the Paraiyas is that they were formerly one with the Pulayas, from whom they separated on account of their eating beef. The Paraiyas have a dialect of their own, with which the Pulayas are not familiar, and which would seem to be worthy of study. In the Kēralolpathi, they are classed as one of the sixteen hill tribes. Concerning their origin the following tradition is current. They were originally Brāhmans, but, on certain coparceners partitioning the common inheritance, the carcase of a cow, which was one of the articles to be partitioned, was burnt as being useless. A drop of oil fell from the burning animal on to one of the parties, and he licked it up with his tongue. For this act he was cast out of society, and his descendants, under the name of Paraiyas, became [133]cow-eaters. Pakkanar is said to have been born a Paraiyan, though subsequent tradition honours him with Brāhmanical parentage.

The houses of the Paraiyas are, like those of the Pulayas, mean thatched sheds, with a couple of cocoanut leaves often serving as the wall between one room and another. The village sites are shifted from place to place, according to the exigencies of the inhabitants thereof. The Paraiyas imbibe freely, and toddy is the drink most scrupulously prescribed for those who are under a vow. Like the Pulayas, the Paraiyas work in the rice fields and cocoanut gardens, and are employed in hill cultivation, and the manufacture of wicker baskets. The sun god is their principal deity, and in his name all solemn oaths are uttered. It is believed that the Brāhman who originally became a Paraiya cursed Brahma. To remove the evil effects of the curse, the sun gave to his descendants as objects of worship forty-eight thousand gods and eight special deities. A certain portion of the house is regarded as their own, and to them offerings of beaten rice and toddy are made on the first of every month, and, if convenient, every Tuesday and Friday. To these deities small shrines are dedicated, whereat the priests, on the 28th of Makaram (January-February), become inspired, and answer questions concerning the future put to them by the assembled Paraiyas. The priests are known as Kaikkārans, and belong ordinarily to the lowest or Pani division.

Adultery, be it said to the credit of the Paraiyas, is an offence which is severely punished. The man is fined, and the erring woman has to jump over a fire which is blazing in a deep pit. This ordeal recalls to mind the smarthavicharam of the Nambūri Brāhman. [134]

Pollution, on the occurrence of the first monthly period, lasts for seven days. The headmen and elders, called Jajamanmar and Karanavanmar, are invited to attend, and direct four women of the village to take the girl to a hut erected at a considerable distance from the house. This hut is called pachchakottilil kutiyiruttuka, or seating a person within a hut made of green leaves. On the fourth day the girl has a bath, and the Kaikkāran waves paddy and flowers in front of her. On the morning of the eighth day the shed is burnt down, and the place occupied by it cleansed with water and cow-dung. The girl bathes, and is thus rendered free from pollution. A woman, during her menses, should remain at a distance of sixty-four feet from others.

The Paraiyas observe two marriage rites, the tāli-kettu and sambandham. The former ceremony must be performed before the girl reaches puberty, and the tāli-tier is her maternal uncle’s or paternal aunt’s son. The Kaikkāran invites at least four headmen to be present, and they prescribe the manner in which the ceremony is to be performed. The auspicious time for the marriage celebration is fixed by a Kaniyan (astrologer), and, on the day before the wedding, the Kaikkāran invites the Paraiyas of the village to be present at the tunniruttal, or erection of the pandal (booth). All those who attend are presented with betel, tobacco, and a liberal allowance of toddy. The next item in the programme is the vachchorukkal, or placing beaten and cooked rice, flowers, toddy, and other things in the pandal, under the direction of the Kaikkāran. Some of the assembled males then sing a song called maranpattu, or song of the god of love. The bride then becomes inspired, and dances, while the sorcerer rolls out mystic hymns. On the following morning, the bridegroom goes to the home of [135]the bride in procession, and is led to a wooden seat in the centre of the pandal, where he is joined by the bride, who seats herself on his left. He then ties the minnu (marriage badge) round her neck, and retires with her to the maniyara, or bedroom, where they remain together for some minutes. On the final day of the ceremonies, the bride is bathed.

When a Kaikkāran dies, a conch shell is buried with the corpse. Once a year, and on some new moon day, offerings are made to all the deceased ancestors.

The Paraiyas have a dramatic entertainment called Paraiyan Kali, in which the performer plays his part, standing on a mortar, to the accompaniment of music.

Paraiyas are required to keep at a distance of 128 feet from Brāhmans, i.e., double the distance required of a Pulaya. But they will not receive food at the hands of the Pulayas.

In a further note on the “Paraiya Caste in Travancore,” the Rev. S. Mateer writes as follows.71 “They were formerly bought and sold like cattle, starved, flogged ‘like buffaloes,’ made to work all day for a little rice, and kept at a distance as polluted; and they still are in a position of subservience and deep degradation, not vitally differing from that of the Pulayas and Vēdars. One particular characteristic of this caste, and most offensive to others, is that they eat the flesh of bullocks and cows left dead by the roadside. They cut it up, and bear it away; what they leave the vultures and dogs devour. This disgusting practice is to a great extent disappearing among the Christian castes. The Paraiyas of Nevandrum (Trivandrum?) district live in clusters of huts, and eat the putrid flesh of dead cattle, tigers, and [136]other animals. Their girls are ‘married’ when very young for mere form to their cousins, but, when grown up, are selected by others, who give them a cloth, and live with them in concubinage. Cases of polygamy occur, and sometimes also of polyandry. They eat the seed of Ochlandra Rheedii, which abounds in an unusually dry season, as does also the bamboo. Jungle roots, land crabs, and snails form part of their food. Some of them have enough of rice at harvest time, but seldom at any other period of the year. They are zealous devil worshippers, their chief demons being Mādan (the cow one), Rathachāmandy Mallan (the giant) and Mūvaratta Mallan, Karunkāli (black kāli), Chāvus (departed spirits), Bhūtham, Mantramūrtti, and other Murttis (ghosts), with many other evil beings, to whom groves and altars are dedicated. The souls of their deceased ancestors are called Maruttā (ghosts), for whose worship young cocoanut leaves are tied at the bottom of a tree, and a small shed is erected on poles, and decorated with garlands of flowers. Presents of cocoanuts, parched rice, and arrack are offered, and cocks killed in sacrifice. In the devil-dancing they use clubs and rattans, bells, handkerchiefs, and cloths dedicated to their deities. Other castes generally dread incurring the displeasure and malice of these deities. Sūdras and Shānars frequently employ the Paraiya devil-dancers and sorcerers to exorcise demons, search for and dig out magical charms buried in the earth by enemies, and counteract their enchantments; and, in cases of sickness, send for them to beat the drum, and so discover what demon has caused the affliction, and what is to be done to remove it. Sometimes a present of a cow is given for those services. These pretended sorcerers are slightly acquainted with a few medicines, profess to cure snake-bite, and can [137]repeat some tales of the Hindu gods. They also profess to discover thieves, who sometimes indeed through fear actually take ill, confess, and restore the property. One priest whom I knew used to pretend that he had a ‘bird devil’ in his possession, by which he could cast out other devils. On one occasion, however, when he made the attempt in the presence of a large concourse of Sūdras and others, he utterly failed, and hurt himself severely by beating his chest with a cocoanut and leaping into the fire. He soon after resolved to abandon this course of life, and became a Christian.

“After the wife’s confinement, the husband is starved for seven days, eating no cooked rice or other food, only roots and fruits, and drinking only arrack or toddy. The shed, in which she was confined, is burnt down.

“In cases of sickness, the diviner is first consulted as to its cause. He names a demon, and offerings are demanded of rice, fruits, flowers, and fowls. Being daily supplied with these articles, the diviner spreads cow-dung thinly over a small space in the yard, where he places the offerings on three plantain leaves, invokes the presence of the demons, dances and repeats mantras, looking towards the east. He catches the demon that is supposed to come in an old piece of cloth filled with flowers and parched rice, and carries both demon and offerings into the jungle, where, again preparing a spot as before, two torches are set, the food arranged, and, after further mantras, a fowl is sacrificed. He takes the whole afterwards for himself, gets a good meal, and is also paid twelve chuckrams (small silver coins) for the service.

“In cases of small-pox, one who has had this disease is called in to attend. He takes the patient to a temporary hut in a lonely place, and is well paid, and [138]supplied with all that he requires. Through fear, none of the relatives will go near. Should the patient die, the attendant buries him on the spot, performing the ceremonies himself, then comes to the house, repeats mantras, and waves his hands round the head of each to remove further alarm. If a woman with child dies, she is buried at a great distance away. Occasionally the remains of an aged man are burnt on a funeral pile, as being more honourable than burial, and providing some merit to the soul.

“Let us pay a visit to one of the rural hamlets of the Kōlām Paraiyans, a considerable sub-division of this caste. The cattle manure is saved, but handed over to the Sūdra farmers. The Paraiyas plant a few trees around their settlement as otti (mortgage) and kurikānam (a kind of tenant right), then pay a sum to the Sūdra landowner to permit them to enjoy the produce, as it is so difficult for them to get waste lands registered in their own name. Some have cleared lands, and possess a few cocoanut and betel-nut palms, mangoes, etc. They may have a few cattle also, and let out a milch cow to the shepherds at one rupee per month. They grow some vegetables, etc., in waste valley lands temporarily cleared and cultivated. They work in the rice fields, sowing, planting, and reaping, for which they are paid in paddy. During the slack season they work at making mats of Ochlandra Rheedii, for which the men bring loads of the reeds from the hills, and the women do the work of plaiting. This art they are said to have learnt from the Kanikar hill-men.

“Some Paraiyas in Nanjinād have enjoyed ancestral property for six generations, and a few still have good properties. Titles were purchased for money of the Rājas of Travancore, e.g., Sāmbavan, an old name for [139]Pāndi Paraiyas. The Rāja gave to such a headman a cane, and authority to claim a double allowance of betel, etc. He, however, had in his turn to give double at funerals and festivals to his visitors. This head Paraiyan would be met with drums and marks of honour by his people, and the arrangement would enable the Government to rule the Paraiyas more easily. It is said that some Rāja, fleeing in war, hid himself in Paraiya huts at Changankadei, and was thereby saved, for which he gave them a small grant of land producing a few fanams annually, which they still enjoy. They have a tradition that, in M.E. 102 (A.D. 927), one Vanji Mannan Rāja granted privileges to Paraiyas. During the war with Tippu, proclamation was made that every Paraiyan in this district must have a Nāyar or master, and belong to some one or other. All who were not private property would be made slaves of the Sirkar (Government), which was greatly dreaded on account of the merciless oppression, and obliged to cut grass for the troops, and do other services. Many, therefore, became nominally slaves to some respectable man, asking it as a kindness to free them from Government slavery. Several respectable families begged the Nambūri high priest, visiting Suchindram and other temples, to call them his slaves, for which they paid him one fanam a head per annum. This payment is still kept up. This priest conferred upon them additional benefits, for in their troubles and oppressions, he wrote to the Government, requiring from them justice and proper treatment. The slaves of the Nambūri would also be treated with consideration on account of his sacred position and rank. These families, ‘Potty slaves,’ still intermarry only among themselves, as in this case the wife could not be claimed by a different owner from the husband’s.

Parava devil-dancer.

Parava devil-dancer.


“Lastly, as to the Paraiyas of North Travancore. Their condition seems lowest of all, as they enter further into the Malayālam country, and enjoy fewer opportunities of escape from caste degradation and from bitter servitude. ‘Their own tradition,’ the Rev. G. Matthan writes,72 ‘has it that they were a division of the Brāhmans, who were entrapped into a breach of caste by their enemies, through making them eat beef. They eat carrion and other loathsome things. The carcases of all domestic animals are claimed by them as belonging to them by right. They frequently poison cows, and otherwise kill them for the sake of their flesh. They are also charged with kidnapping women of the higher castes, whom they are said to treat in the most brutal manner. It is their custom to turn robbers in the month of February, in which month they pretend the wrong was done them, to break into the houses of the Brāhmans and Nairs, and to carry away their women, children, and property, to which they are actuated more by motives of revenge than of interest, and to justify which they plead the injury their caste had received from these parties. In former times, they appear to have been able to perpetrate these cruelties almost with impunity, from the fear of which the people still betray great uneasiness, though the custom has now grown into disuse.’”

Pārasaivan.—A title of Ōcchans, who are Saivites, and priests at temples of Grāma Dēvatas (village deities). In the Malayālam country Pārasāva occurs as a title of Variyar, a section of Ambalavāsi. The word indicates the son of a Brāhman by a Sūdra woman.

Parava.—The Tulu-speaking Paravas of South Canara are, like the Nalkes and Pombadas, devil-dancers, [141]and are further employed in the manufacture of baskets and umbrellas. Socially, they occupy a higher position than the Nalkes, but rank below the Pombadas. The bhūthas (devils) whose disguise they assume are Kodamanitaya and the Baiderukalu, who may not be represented by Nalkes; and they have no objection to putting on the disguise of other bhūthas. Paravas are engaged for all kinds of devil-dances when Nalkes are not available. (See Nalke.)

Parava devil-dancer.

Parava devil-dancer.

Paravan.—Concerning the origin of the Parava fishing community of the south-east coast, the following legends are current.73 The author of the Historia Ecclesiastica (published in Tamil at Tranquebar in 1735) identifies them with the Parvaim of the Scriptures, and adds that, in the time of Solomon, they were famous among those who made voyages by sea; but it does not appear that there is any solid foundation for this hypothesis. It is the general belief among the Paravas that their original country was Ayodhya, or Oudh; and it appears that, previously to the war of Mahābhārata, they inhabited the territory bordering on the river Yamuna or Jumna. At present they are chiefly found in the seaport towns of the Tinnevelly district in the south of India, and also in some of the provinces on the north-west coast of Ceylon. With regard to their origin, there is a variety as well as discordancy of opinions. Some of the Tantras represent them to be descended from a Brāhman by a Sūdra woman, while the Jātībēdi Nūl (a work of some celebrity among the Tamils) states them to be the offspring of a Kurava (or basket-maker) begotten clandestinely on a female of the Chetty (or merchant) tribe. But the Paravas have among themselves quite a different [142]tradition concerning their origin, which is founded on mythological fable. They relate that their progenitors were of the race Varuna (god of the sea), and on the occasion, when Siva had called Kartikēya (god of arms) into existence, for destroying the overwhelming power of the Asuras (evil spirits), they sprang up with him from the sacred lake Sarawana, and were like him nursed by the constellation Kartika. At the close of the last kalpa, when the whole earth was covered with a deluge, they constructed a dhōni or boat, and by it escaped the general destruction; and, when dry land appeared, they settled on the spot where the dhōni rested; hence it is called Dhōnipura, or the city of the boat. The Paravas were once a very powerful people, and no doubt derived much of their ascendancy over other tribes from their knowledge of navigation. They had a succession of kings among them, distinguished by the title of Adīyarāsen, some of whom seem to have resided at Uttara Kōsamangay, called at that time the city of Mangay, a famous place of Hindu pilgrimage in the neighbourhood of Rāmnād. In the Purāna entitled Valēvīsū Purānam we meet with the following fable. Parvati, the consort of Siva, and her son Kartikēya, having offended the deity by revealing some ineffable mystery, were condemned to quit their celestial mansions, and pass through an infinite number of mortal forms, before they could be re-admitted to the divine presence. On the entreaty of Parvati, however, they were allowed, as a mitigation of the punishment, each to undergo but one transmigration. And, as about this time, Triambaka, King of the Paravas, and Varuna Valli his consort were making tapas (acts of devotion) to obtain issue, Parvati condescended to be incarnated as their daughter under the name of Tīrysēr Madentē. Her son Kartikēya, [143]transforming himself into a fish, was roaming for some time in the north sea. It appears, however, that he left the north, and made his way into the south sea, where, growing to an immense size, he attacked the vessels employed by the Paravas in their fisheries, and threatened to destroy their trade. Whereupon the King Triambaka made a public declaration that whoever would catch the fish should have his daughter to wife. Siva, now assuming the character of a Parava, caught the fish, and became re-united to his consort. In that section of the Mahābhārata entitled Ādiparva it is said that the King of the Paravas, who resided on the banks of the Jumna, having found an infant girl in the belly of a fish, adopted her as his own daughter, giving her the name of Machchakindi, and that, when she grew up, she was employed, as was customary with the females of the Parava tribe, to ferry passengers over the river. On a certain day, the sage Parāsara having chanced to meet her at the ferry, she became with child by him, and was subsequently delivered of a son, the famous Vyāsa who composed the Purānas. Her great personal charms afterwards induced King Santanu of the lunar race to admit her to his royal bed, and by him she became the mother of Vichitravīrya, the grandsire of the Pāndavas and Kauravas, whose contentions for the throne of Hastināpūra form the subject of the Mahābhārata. Hence the Paravas boast of being allied to the lunar race, and call themselves accordingly, besides displaying at their wedding feasts the banners and emblems peculiar to it. In the drama of Alliarasāny, who is supposed to have resided at Kudremallē on the north-west coast of Ceylon, the Paravas act a conspicuous part. We find them employed by the princess in fishing for pearls off the coast, and that under a severe penalty they were [144]obliged to furnish her with ten kalams of pearls every season.

It is noted, in the Madras Census Report, 1901, that “there are in reality three castes which answer to the name Paravan, and which speak Tamil, Malayālam, and Canarese respectively. Probably all three are descended from the Tamil Paravans or Paratavans. The Tamil Paravans are fishermen on the sea coast. Their head-quarters is Tuticorin, and their headman is called Talavan. They are mostly Native Christians. They claim to be Kshatriyas of the Pāndyan line of kings, and will eat only in the houses of Brāhmans. The Malayālam Paravans are shell collectors, lime burners and gymnasts, and their women act as midwives. Their titles are Kurup, Vārakurup, and Nūrankurup (nūru, lime). The Canarese Paravas are umbrella-makers and devil-dancers.” It has been suggested that the west coast Paravas are the descendants of those who fled from Tinnevelly, in order to avoid the oppression of the Muhammadans.

In the Census Report, 1871, the Paravas are summed up as being a fishing caste on the Madura and Tinnevelly coast, who “were found by the Portuguese, on their arrival in India, to be groaning under the Muhammadan yoke, and were assisted by the Portuguese on condition of their becoming Christians. This general conversion, for political ends, explains why the fishing population of the present day along the south-east coast is to a considerable extent Roman Catholic.” It is noted by Mr. S. P. Rice74 that the fishermen “who live in the extreme south are devout Catholics, and have preserved the Portuguese names by which their fathers [145]were baptized into the Church, so that, incongruous as it sounds, Josē Fernandez and Maria Santiago are but humble folk, catching fish in a primitive way, with no more clothing on than a small loin cloth and a picture of the Virgin.”

Concerning the Paravas, Baldæus75 writes as follows. “The kingdom of Trevancor borders upon that of Coulang: All along the Sea-shore inhabit the Paruas, who being for the most part Christians, you see the Shore all along as far as Comoryn, and even beyond it to Tutecoryn, full of little Churches, some of Wood, others of Stone. These People owe their Conversion to Franciscus Xaverius, he being the first who planted the Principles of Christianity among them; they being so much taken with the reasonableness of the Ten Commandments, that they receiv’d Baptism in great numbers, tho an accidental Quarrel between a Parua and a Mahometan prov’d a strong Motive to their Conversion.... The Paruas being sorely oppress’d by the Mahometans, one John de Crus, a Native of Malabar, but who had been in Portugal, and honourably treated by John, the then king of Portugal, advised them to seek for Aid at Cochin against the Moors, and to receive Baptism. Accordingly some of the chief Men among them (call’d Patangatays in their Language) were sent upon that Errand to Cochin, where being kindly receiv’d, they (in honour of him who had given His Advice) took upon them the Sirname of Crus, a name still retain’d by most Persons of Note among the Paruas. In short, being deliver’d from the Moorish Yoke, and the Pearl-fishery (which formerly belong’d to them) restor’d to the right Owners, above 20,000 of them receiv’d Baptism.” [146]

“The commencement of the Roman Catholic Mission in Tinnevelly,” Bishop Caldwell writes,76 “dates from 1532, when certain Paravas, representatives of the Paravas or fishing caste, visited Cochin for the purpose of supplicating the aid of the Portuguese against their Muhammadan oppressors, and were baptized there by Michael Vaz, Vicar-General of the Bishop of Goa. The same ecclesiastic, with other priests, accompanied the fleet which sailed for the purpose of chastising the Muhammadans, and, as soon as that object was accomplished, set about baptizing the Paravas all along the coast, in accordance with the agreement into which their representatives had entered. The entire Parava caste adopted the religion of their Portuguese deliverers and most of them received baptism. Some, however, did not receive baptism for some cause till Xavier’s time, ten years afterwards. Xavier, on his arrival in the south, could not speak Tamil, and spent some months in committing to memory Tamil translations of the Creed, Lord’s Prayer, Ave Maria, and Decalogue. He then proceeded to visit all the villages of the coast, bell in hand, to collect the inhabitants, and gave them Christian instruction. The Paravas thus christianised—called generally at that time the Comorin Christians—inhabited thirty villages, and numbered, according to the most credible account, twenty thousand souls. These villages extended all the way along the coast at irregular intervals from Cape Comorin to the island promontory of Rāmēsvaram, if not beyond. It does not appear that any village in the interior joined in the movement.” “It appears,” Mr. Casie Chitty states, “that the Portuguese treated the Paravas with great [147]kindness, permitted intermarriages, and even allowed them to assume their surnames, so that we find among them many Da Limas, Da Cruzs, Da Andrados, Da Canhas, etc. They gave the chief of the Paravas the title of Dom, and allowed him the exclusive right of wearing a gold chain with a cross as a badge of nobility. [The name of a recent hereditary chief or Jāti Talaivan or Talaivamore of the Paravas was Gabriel de Cruz Lazarus Motha Vas.] As soon as the Dutch took possession of Tutocoryn (Tuticorin) and other adjacent towns where the Paravas are found, they employed Dr. Baldæus and a few other ministers of their persuasion to suppress the Roman Catholic faith, and to persuade the Paravas to adopt their own in its stead; but in this they met with a total failure, and were once very nearly bringing on a general revolt. Notwithstanding the intolerance of the Dutch with regard to the Romish Church, the Paravas still remember them with gratitude, as they afforded them the means of extensive livelihood by establishing in their principal town (Tutocoryn) a public manufactory of cloth, and thus maintaining a considerable working capital.”

Concerning the history of the Paravas, and their connection with the pearl-fisheries on the Indian side of the Gulf of Manaar, much information is given by Mr. J. Hornell,77 from whose account the following extracts are taken. “When the Portuguese rounded Cape Comorin, they found the pearl fisheries of the Gulf of Manaar in the hands of the Paravas, whom tradition shows to have had control of this industry from time immemorial. Of the origin of these people we know extremely little. We know, however, that in [148]the old days, from 600 B.C. and for 1,500 years or more thereafter, the country now comprehended in the districts of Madura and Tinnevelly formed the great Tamil kingdom of Pāndya. And, in the old Tamil work called the Kalveddu, the position of the pearl-fishing caste to this monarchy is incidentally mentioned in the following extract: ‘Vidanarayanen Cheddi and the Paravu men who fished pearls by paying tribute to Alliyarasani, daughter of Pandya, king of Madura, who went on a voyage, experienced bad weather in the sea, and were driven to the shores of Lanka, where they founded Karainerkai and Kutiraimalai. Vidanarayanen Cheddi had the treasures of his ship stored there by the Paravas, and established pearl fisheries at Kadalihilapam and Kallachihilapam, and introduced the trees which change iron into gold.’ In the Maduraik-kanchi the Paravas are described as being most powerful in the country round Korkai. ‘Well fed on fish and armed with bows, their hordes terrified their enemies by their dashing valour.’ The Maduraik-kanchi describes Korkai as the chief town in the country of Parathavar and the seat of the pearl fishery, with a population consisting chiefly of pearl divers and chank cutters.78 When the Pandyan kingdom was powerful, the Paravas had grants of certain rights from the monarchy, paying tribute from the produce of the fisheries, and receiving protection and immunity from taxation in return. The conditions under which the Paravas lived at the opening of the sixteenth century are graphically set forth in a report, dated 19th December, 1669, written by Van Reede and Laurens Pyh, respectively Commandant of the coast of Malabar and Canara and senior merchant and Chief of [149]the sea-ports of Madura. Under the protection of those Rājas there lived a people, which had come to these parts from other countries79—they are called Paravas—they lived a seafaring life, gaining their bread by fishing and by diving for pearls; they had purchased from the petty Rājas small streaks of the shore, along which they settled and built villages, and they divided themselves as their numbers progressively increased. In these purchased lands they lived under the rule of their own headmen, paying to the Rājas only an annual present, free from all other taxes which bore upon the natives so heavily, looked upon as strangers, exempt from tribute or subjection to the Rājas, having a chief of their own election, whose descendants are still called kings of the Paravas, and who drew a revenue from the whole people, which in process of time has spread itself from Quilon to Bengal. Their importance and power have not been reduced by this dispersion, for they are seen at every pearl fishery (on which occasions the Paravas assemble together) surpassing in distinction, dignity and outward honours all other persons there. The pearl fishery was the principal resource and expedient from which the Paravas obtained a livelihood, but as from their residence so near the sea they had no manner of disposing of their pearls, they made an agreement with the Rājas that a market day should be proclaimed throughout their dominions, when merchants might securely come from all parts of India, and at which the divers and sutlers necessary to furnish provisions for the multitude might also meet; and, as this assemblage would consist of two different races, namely, the Paravas and [150]subjects of the Rājas, as well as strangers and travellers, two kinds of guards and tribunals were to be established to prevent all disputes and quarrels arising during this open market, every man being subject to his own judge, and his case being decided by him; all payments were then also divided among the headmen of the Paravas, who were the owners of that fishery, and who hence became rich and powerful; they had weapons and soldiers of their own, with which they were able to defend themselves against the violence of the Rājas or their subjects. The Moors who had spread themselves over India, and principally along the coasts of Madura, were strengthened by the natives professing Muhammadanism, and by the Arabs, Saracens, and the privateers of the Sammoryn,80 and they began also to take to pearl-diving as an occupation, but being led away by ill-feeling and hope of gain, they often attempted to outreach the Paravas, some of whom even they gained to their party and to their religion, by which means they obtained so much importance, that the Rājas joined themselves to the Moors, anticipating great advantages from the trade which they carried on, and from their power at sea; and thus the Paravas were oppressed, although they frequently rose against their adversaries, but they always got the worst of it, until at last in a pearl fishery at Tutucoryn, having purposely raised a dispute, they fell upon the Moors, and killed some thousands of them, burnt their vessels, and remained masters of the country, though much in fear that the Moors, joined by the pirates of Calicut, would rise against them in revenge. The Portuguese arrived about this time with one ship at Tutucoryn; the Paravas requested them for assistance, [151]and obtained a promise of it, on conditions that they should become Christians; this they generally agreed to, and, having sent Commissioners with some of the Portuguese to Goa, they were received under the protection of that nation, and their Commissioners returned with priests, and a naval force conveying troops, on which all the Paravas of the seven ports were baptized, accepted as subjects of the King of Portugal, and they dwindled thus from having their own chiefs and their own laws into subordination to priests and Portuguese, who however settled the rights and privileges of the Paravas so firmly that the Rājas no longer dared interfere with them, or attempt to impede or abridge their prerogative; on the contrary they were compelled to admit of separate laws for the Paravas from those which bound their own subjects. The Portuguese kept for themselves the command at sea, the pearl fisheries, the sovereignty over the Paravas, their villages and harbours, whilst the Naick of Madura, who was a subject of the King of the Carnatic, made himself master at this time of the lands about Madura, and in a short time afterwards of all the lower countries from Cape Comoryn to Tanjore, expelling and rooting out all the princes and land proprietors, who were living and reigning there; but, on obtaining the sovereignty of all these countries, he wished to subject the Paravas to his authority, in which attempt he was opposed by the Portuguese, who often, not being powerful enough effectually to resist, left the land with the priests and Paravas, and went to the islands of Manaar and Jaffnapatam, from whence they sent coasting vessels along the Madura shores, and caused so much disquiet that the revenue was ruined, trade circumscribed, and almost annihilated, for which reasons the Naick himself was obliged to solicit the Portuguese to come [152]back again. The Political Government of India, perceiving the great benefit of the pearl fishery, appointed in the name of the King of Portugal military chiefs and captains to superintend it, leaving the churches and their administration to the priests. Those captains obtained from the fisheries each time a profit of 6,000 rix-dollars for the king, leaving the remainder of the income from them for the Paravas; but, seeing they could not retain their superiority in that manner over the people, which was becoming rich, luxurious, drunken, with prosperity, and with the help of the priests, who protected them, threatening the captains, which often occasioned great disorders, the latter determined to build a fort for the king at Tutucoryn, which was the chief place of all the villages; but the priests who feared by this to lose much of their consequence as well as of their revenue, insisted that, if such a measure was proceeded with, they would all be ruined, on which account they urged on the people to commit irregularities, and made the Paravas fear that the step was a preliminary one to the making all of them slaves; and they therefore raised such hindrances to the work that it never could be completed.

“The Paravas,” Mr. Hornell continues, “although the original holders of the fishery rights, had begun, prior to the arrival of the Portuguese, to feel the competition of the restless Muhammadan settlers on the coast, who, coming, as many must have done, from the coast of the Persian Gulf, knew already all there was to know of pearl-fishing. The descendants of these Arabs and their proselytes, known as Moros to the Portuguese, are the Moormen or Lubbais of to-day. Their chief settlement was Kayal, a town situated near the mouth of the river Tambrapurni, and which in Marco Polo’s time (1290–91) was a great and noble city. It shared [153]with Tuticorin for fully 500 years the honour of being one of the two great pearl markets of the coast—the one being the Moor, the other the Parava, head-quarters.... Menezes, writing in 1622, states that for many years the fisheries had become extinct because of the great poverty into which the Paravas had fallen. Tuticorin, and the sovereignty of the pearl banks and of the Paravas, passed to the Dutch in 1658.

In the report of the pearl fishery, 1708, the following entries occur in the list of free stones according to ancient customs:—

  • 96½ to the Naick of Madura—4 Xtian, 92½ Moorish;
  • 10 to Head Moorman of Cailpatnam—5 Xtian, 5 Moorish.
  • 60 to Theuver—60 Moorish.
  • 185 to the Pattangatyns of this coast—all Xtian stones.

“The 185 stones,” Mr. Hornell writes, “given to the Pattangatyns or headmen of the Paravas was in the nature of remuneration to these men for assistance in inspecting the banks, in guarding any oyster banks discovered, in recruiting divers, and in superintending operations during the course of the fishery.... In 1889, the Madras Government recorded its appreciation of the assistance rendered by the Jati Talaivan, and directed that his privilege of being allowed the take of two boats be continued. Subsequently, in 1891, the Government, while confirming the general principle of privilege remuneration to the Jati Talaivan, adopted the more satisfactory regulation of placing the extent of the remuneration upon the basis of a sliding scale, allowing him but one boat when the Government boats numbered 30 or less, two for 31 to 60 boats, three for 61 to 90 [154]boats employed, and so on in this ratio. The value of the Jati Talaivan’s two privilege boats in the 1890 fishery was Rs. 1,424, in that of 1900 only Rs. 172.” The Jādi Talaivān is said to have been denominated by the Dutch the prince of the seven havens. It is noted in the pearl fishery report, 1900, that “the Paravas are a constant source of trouble, both on the banks and in the kottoo (shed), where they were constantly being caught concealing oysters, which of course were always confiscated. Only one Arab was caught doing this, and his companions abused him for disgracing them.”

According to Mr. Casie Chitty, the Paravas are divided into thirteen classes, viz.:—

  • Headmen.
  • Dealers in cloth.
  • Divers for corals.
  • Sailors.
  • Divers for pearl-oysters.
  • Divers for chanks.
  • Packers of cloth.
  • Fishers who catch tortoises (turtles).
  • Fishers who catch porpoises.
  • Fishers who catch sharks and other fish.
  • Palanquin bearers.
  • Peons, who wait about the person of the Chief.
  • Fishers, who catch crabs.

It is noted by Canon A. Margoschis that the Parava females are famous for the excessive dilatation of the lobes of the ears, and for wearing therein the heaviest and most expensive gold ear jewels made of sovereigns. Ordinary jewels are said to cost Rs. 200, but heavy jewels are worth Rs. 1,000 and even more. The longer the ears, the more jewels can be used, and this appears to be the rationale of elongated ears. [155]

In a recent account of a Parava wedding in high life, I read81 that “the bride and bridegroom proceeded to the church at the head of an imposing procession, with music and banners. The service, which was fully choral, was conducted by a priest from their own community, after which the newly wedded couple went in procession to the residence of the Jāti Talavamore, being escorted by their distinguished host in person. The Jāti Talavamore, who wore a picturesque, if somewhat antiquated, robe, rode in a gorgeously upholstered palanquin, with banners, trophies, elephants, and other emblems of his high office. The bride, who was resplendent with diamonds, was becomingly attired in a purple Benares sāri with gold floral designs, and wore a superb kincob bodice.”

In a note on the Paravans of Travancore, Mr. N. Subramani Aiyar writes that “they are found in most tāluks of the State. The title sometimes used by them is Kuruppu. The Paravans of Chengannūr and Tiruvella call themselves Chakka, a word supposed by the castemen to be derived from slaghya or praiseworthy, but perhaps more correctly from Chakku, the basket carried by them in their hands. The Paravans are divided into numerous sections. In the south, the Tamil-speaking division follows the makkathāyam, while all the Malayālam-speaking sections follow the marumakathāyam law of inheritance. There is also a difference in the dress and ornaments of the two sections, the former adopting the fashion of the east coast, and the latter that of the west. The Travancore Paravas are really one with the Tamil-speaking Paravas of the east coast. While most of them became converts to [156]Christianity, in Travancore they have tried to preserve their separate existence, as they had already spread into the interior of the country before the proselytism of St. Xavier had made its enduring mark on the sea-coast villages. There is a curious legend about the settlement of the Chakkas in Central Travancore. Formerly, it would appear, they were Sūdras, but, for some social offence committed by them, they were outcasted by the Edappalli chieftain. They were once great devotees of Srī Krishna, the lord of Tiruvaranmulai in the Tiruvella tāluk. The Paravas say further that they are descended from a high-caste woman married to an Izhava. The word Parava is accordingly derived from para, which in Sanskrit means foreign. The Paravas engage in various occupations, of which the most important in Central Travancore are climbing palm trees, catching fish, and washing clothes for Christians, Muhammadans, and depressed classes of Hindus. In South Travancore they make wicker baskets, rattan chairs, and sofas. Women, in all parts of the State, are lime and shell burners. They worship at the Aranmula temple, and pay special worship to Bhadrakāli. Their priest is known as Parakuruppu, who, having to perform four different functions, is also entitled Nālonnukāran. It is his duty to preside at marriage and other rites, to be caste barber, to carry the news of death to the relations, and to perform the priestly functions at funerals. The Paravas perform both the tāli-kettu and sambandham ceremonies.”

Parēl Maddiyala.—Barbers of the Billavas.

Pārenga.—A sub-division of Gadaba.

Pariah.—See Paraiyan.

Parikimuggula.—Professional tattooing women in the Telugu country. The name refers to the patterns [157](parika or muggu), which they carry about with them, as designs for tattooing or to be drawn on the floor on occasions of festival and ceremonial.

Parivāra.—A sub-division of Bant.

Parivāram.—It is noted, in the Census Report, 1891, that “this is a caste, which presents some difficulty. Parivāram means ‘an army, a retinue,’ and it is alleged that the people of this caste were formerly soldiers. Parivāram is found as a sub-division of Maravan and Agamudaiyan, and the Parivāras of Madura and Tinnevelly are probably either a sub-division or an offshoot of the Maravans. In Coimbatore, the only other district in which the Parivāras are numerous, they seem to be a sub-division of Toreyas, a fishing caste, and Mr. Rice, in his Gazetteer (of Mysore), says that Parivāra is a synonym of Besta.” Further, in the Census Report, 1901, it is stated that “the word Parivāram means ‘a retinue,’ and was probably originally only an occupational term. It is now-a-days applied to the domestic servants and the Tottiya zamindars in the districts of Coimbatore, Trichinopoly, Madura, and Tinnevelly, who are recruited from several castes, but have come to form a caste by themselves. The Kōtāris of South Canara are a somewhat parallel case, and probably in time the Paiks among the Oriyas, and the Khāsas, who are servants to the Telugu zamindars, will similarly develop into separate castes. The caste is said to require all its members of both sexes to do such service for its masters as they may require. Persons of any caste above the Paraiyas are admitted into its ranks, and the men in it may marry a woman of any other caste with the permission of the zamindar under whom they serve. They do not habitually employ Brāhmans as priests, and in places the head of the Tottiyan caste [158]conducts their ceremonies. Their titles are Maniyagāran and Sērvaigāran. The latter is also used by the Agamudaiyans.”

The title Sērvaigāran or Servaikāran indicates that members of the caste do servai, or service, and the further title ūliyakkāran is a sign that they do ūliyam, or menial work. Sērvaikāran is also a title of the Tamil Ambalakārans, Agamudaiyans, Kallans, and Maravans, and the Canarese Toreyas, some of whom have settled in the Tamil districts of Madura and Coimbatore. It also occurs as a synonym of the Canarese Kōtēgaras.

The illegitimate offspring of Maravans, Kallans, and Agamudaiyans, are said to become members of the mixed Parivāram caste.

It is recorded, in the Gazetteer of the Madura district, that the Parivāram caste “is divided into two endogamous sections; the Chinna Ūliyam (little services) who are palanquin-bearers, and have the title Tēvan, and the Periya Ūliyam (big services), who are called Maniyakāran. The Kōmbai Parivārams, who are the servants of the Kāppiliyan Zamindars of Kōmbai and Tēvāram in the Periyakulam tāluk, are a separate community, and do not intermarry with the others. When a girl attains maturity, she is kept for sixteen days in a hut, which is guarded at night by her relations. This is afterwards burnt down, and the pots she used are broken into very small pieces, as there is an idea that, if rain-water collects in any of them, the girl will be childless. Some of the ceremonies at weddings are unusual. On the first day, a man takes a big pot of water with a smaller empty pot on top of it, and marches three times round the open space in front of the bride’s house. With him march the happy couple carrying a bamboo, to which are tied in a turmeric-coloured cloth [159]the nine kinds of grain. After the third journey round, these things are put down at the north-east corner, and the marriage pandal is made by bringing three more poles of the same size. Afterwards the wrists of the couple are tied together, and bridegroom’s brother carries the pair a short distance. They plunge their hands into a bowl of salt. Next the husband takes an ordinary stone rolling-pin, wraps it in a bit of cloth, and gives it to his wife, saying ‘Take the child; I am going to the palace.’ She takes it, replying ‘Yes, give me the child, the milk is ready.’ This has to be repeated three times in a set formula. Several other odd rites are observed. Brāhmans officiate, and the bridegroom’s sister, as usual, ties the tāli. Divorce is allowed to both sides. Adultery within the caste, or with the Zamindar, is tolerated. The husbands accept as their own any children their wives may bear to the Zamindar. Such children are called Chinna Kambalattar, and may marry with Tottiyans. But adultery outside the caste is most rigorously prohibited, and sternly punished with excommunication. A mud image of the girl who so offends is made, two thorns are poked into its eyes, and it is thrown away outside the village.”

Pariyāri (doctor).—A name given to Tamil barbers (Ambattan), who practice as barber-surgeons.

Pariyāta.—Five individuals were recorded, at the census, 1901, under the name Pariyāta or Parit, as members of a Bombay caste of washermen in South Canara.

Parvatha.—Parvatha or Parvathāla, meaning hill or mountain, has been recorded as an exogamous sept of Gamalla, Kāpu, Māla, and Mēdara.

Pāsi.—A few members of this Bengal caste of toddy-drawers were returned at the Madras census, 1901. The name is said to be derived from pāsa, a noose or cord, [160]probably in reference to the sling used by them in climbing palm trees.82 Pāsi, meaning coloured glass beads, occurs as a sub-division of Idaiyan, and the equivalent Pāsikatti as a sub-division of Valaiyan.

Pasu.—Pasu (cow) or Pasula has been recorded as an exogamous sept of Bōya, Māla and Mādiga, and a sub-division of west coast Pulayans, who eat beef.

Pasupula (turmeric).—Pasula or Pasupula is an exogamous sept of Bōya and Dēvanga. Pasupulēti occurs as a sub-division of Balija. See Arashina.

Patābonka.—A sub-division of Bonka.

Pātāli.—An occupational name applied to priests of temples and bhūthasthanas (devil shrines), and Stānikas in South Canara.

Pātha (old).—A sub-division of Īdiga, and a sept of Togata.

Pathanchitannāya (green pea sept).—An exogamous sept of Bant.

Pathi (cotton).—A sub-division of Kurubas, who use a wrist-thread made of cotton and wool mixed during the marriage ceremony. Also an exogamous sept of Gūdala and Padma Sālē.

Pathinettan.—The Pathinettan or eighteen are carpenters in Malabar, who “are said to be the descendants of the smiths who remained to attend to the repairs to the eighteen temples, when the rest of the community fled to Ceylon, as related in the tradition of the origin of the Tiyans”.83

Paththar.—A section of Saivite Chettis, who wear the lingam, and have separated from the Acharapākam Chettis. They bury their dead in a sitting posture. A bamboo stick is tied to the kudumi (hair-knot) of the [161]corpse, and the head pulled by its means towards the surface of the grave. Paththar is also a name given to goldsmiths by other castes.

Patnaik.—A title of Karnam.

Patnūlkāran.—The Patnūlkārans are described, in the Madras Census Report, 1901, as “a caste of foreign weavers found in all the Tamil districts, but mainly in Madura town, who speak Patnūli or Khatri, a dialect of Gujarāti, and came originally from Gujarāt. They have always been known here as Patnūlkārans, or silk thread people. They are referred to in the inscriptions of Kumāra Gupta (A.D. 473) at Mandasōr, south of Gujarāt, by the name of Pattavāyaka, which is the Sanskrit equivalent of Patnūlkāran, and the sāsanam of Queen Mangammāl of Madura, mentioned below, speaks of them by the same name, but lately they have taken to calling themselves Saurāshtras from the Saurāshtra country from which they came. They also claim to be Brāhmans. They thus frequently entered themselves in the schedules as Saurāshtra Brāhmans. They are an intelligent and hard-working community, and deserve every sympathy in the efforts which they are making to elevate the material prosperity of their members and improve their educational condition, but a claim to Brāhmanhood is a difficult matter to establish. They say that their claim is denied because they are weavers by profession, which none of the Southern Brāhmans are, and because the Brāhmans of the Tamil country do not understand their rites, which are the northern rites. The Mandasōr inscriptions, however, represent them as soldiers as well as weavers, which does not sound Brāhmanical, and the Tamil Brāhmans have never raised any objections to the Gauda Brāhmans calling themselves such, different as their ways are from those current in [162]the south. In Madura their claim to Brāhmanhood has always been disputed. As early as 1705 A.D. the Brāhmans of Madura called in question the Patnūlkarans’ right to perform the annual upākarma (or renewal of the sacred thread) in the Brāhman fashion. [Eighteen members of the community were arrested by the Governor of Madura for performing this ceremony.] The matter was taken to the notice of the Queen Mangammāl, and she directed her State pandits to convene meetings of learned men, and to examine into it. On their advice, she issued a cadjān (palm leaf) sāsanam (grant) which permitted them to follow the Brāhmanical rites. But all the twice-born—whether Brāhmans, Kshatriyas, or Vaisyas—are entitled to do the same, and the sāsanam establishes little. The Patnūls point out that, in some cases, their gōtras are Brāhmanical. But, in many instances which could be quoted, Kshatriyas had also Brāhmanical gōtras.”

It is stated, in the Gazetteer of the Madura district, that the inscription at Mandasōr in Western Mālwa “relates how the Pattavāyas, as the caste was then called, were induced to migrate thither from Lāta on the coast of Gujarāt by king Kumāra Gupta (or one of his lieutenants), to practice there their art of silk-weaving. The inscription says many flattering things about the community, and poetically compares the city to a beautiful woman, and the immigrants to the silk garments in which she decks herself when she goes to meet her lover. [The inscription further records that, while the noble Bandhuvarman was governing this city of Dasapura, which had been brought to a state of great prosperity, a noble and unequalled temple of the bright-rayed (sun) was caused to be built by the silk-cloth weavers (pattavāyair) as a guild with the stores of [163]wealth acquired by (the exercise of their) craft.] On the destruction of Mandasōr by the Mussalmans, the Pattavāyas seem to have travelled south to Dēvagiri, the modern Daulatābād, the then capital of the Yādavas, and thence, when the Mussalmans again appeared on the scene at the beginning of the fourteenth century, to Vijayanagar, and eventually to Madura. A curious ceremony confirming this conjecture is performed to this day at Patnūlkāran weddings in South India. Before the date of the wedding, the bridegroom’s party go to the bride’s house, and ask formally for the girl’s hand. Her relations ask them in a set form of words who they are, and whence they come, and they reply that they are from Sōrath (the old name for Saurāshtra or Kathiawar), resided in Dēvagiri, travelled south (owing to Mussalman oppression) to Vijayanagar, and thence came to Madura. They then ask the bride’s party the same question, and receive the same reply. A Marāthi MS., prepared in 1822 at Salem under the direction of the then Collector, Mr. M. D. Cockburn, contains the same tradition. Mr. Sewell’s ‘A Forgotten Empire: Vijayanagar’ shows how common silk clothing and trappings were at Vijayanagar in the days of its glory. Most of the Patnūlkārans can still speak Telugu, which raises the inference that they must have resided a long time in the Telugu country, while their Patnūli contains many Canarese and Telugu words, and they observe the feast of Basavanna (or Boskanna), which is almost peculiar to the Bellary country. After the downfall of Vijayanagar, some of the caste seem to have gone to Bangalore, for a weaving community called Patvēgars, who speak a dialect similar to Patnūli, still reside there.” Concerning the Patnūlis who have settled in the Mysore Province, it is noted, in the Mysore Census Report, 1891, that “with silk they [164]manufacture a fine stuff called katni, which no other weavers are said to be able to prepare. It is largely used by Mussalmans for trousers and lungas (gowns). It is said that Haider Ali, while returning from his expeditions against Madras, forcibly brought with him some twenty-five families of these weavers, who were living in the Tanjore district, and established them at Ganjam near Seringapatam, and, in order to encourage silk and velvet weaving, exempted them from certain taxes. The industry flourished till the fall of Seringapatam, when most of the class fled from the country, a few only having survived those troublous times. At present there are only 254 souls returned to these people, employed in making carpets in Bangalore.”

“The Patnūlkārs,” Mr. H. A. Stuart writes,84 “say that they were originally Brāhmans, living in a town of Surat called Dēvagiri, in which twelve streets were entirely peopled by them. For some reason, of which they profess themselves to be ignorant, the residents of one of these streets were excommunicated by the rest of the caste, and expelled. They travelled southwards, and settled in Tirupati, Arni, and Vellore, as well as in Trichinopoly, Tanjore, Madura, and other large towns, where they carried on their trade of silk-weaving. Another story is to the effect that they were bound to produce a certain number of silken cloths at each Dīpāvali feast in Dēvagiri for the goddess Lakshmi. One year their supply fell short, and they were cursed by the goddess, who decreed that they should no longer be regarded as Brāhmans. They, however, still claim to be such, and follow the customs of that caste, though they refuse to eat with them. They acknowledge priests [165]from among themselves, as well as from among Brāhmans, and profess to look down upon all other castes. In religion they are divided into Smartas, Vaishnavas, and Vyāpāris, some among the Smartas being Lingayats. Those who can write usually employ the Telugu characters in writing their language.”

The Patnūlkārans, according to one tradition, claim descent from a certain Brāhman sage, known as Tantuvardhanar, meaning literally a person who improves threads, i.e., manufactures and weaves them into cloths. This is, it is suggested, probably only an eponymous hero.

In the Manual of the Madura district, the Patnūlkārans are described as “a caste of Surat silk-weavers, whose ancestors were induced to settle in Madura by one of the earlier Nāyakkan kings, or in response to an invitation from Tirumala Naik, and who have thriven so well that they now form by far the most numerous of all the castes resident in the town of Madura. They are very skilful and industrious workmen, and many of them have become very wealthy. They keep altogether aloof from other castes, and live independently of general society, speaking a foreign tongue, and preserving intact the customs of the land of their origin. They are easily distinguished in appearance from Tamils, being of a light yellowish colour, and having handsomer and more intelligent features. They are called Chettis or merchants by Tamils.” In a recent note,85 the Patnūlkārans of Madura are described as being “exceedingly gregarious; they live together in large numbers in small houses, and their social status in the country is quite unsettled. Though they delight to call themselves Saurāshtra [166]Brāhmans, the Tamils consider them to be a low caste. Like the Brāhmans, they wear the sacred thread, and tack on to their names such titles as Iyengar, Iyer, Rao, Bhagavather, Sastrigal, and so forth, though the conservatives among them still cling to the time-honoured simple Chetti. Child marriage is the rule, and widow marriage is never practiced. Hindus by religion, they worship indiscriminately both the Siva and Vaishnava deities, but all of them wear big Iyengar nāmams on their foreheads, even more prominently than do the real Iyengars themselves. All of them pass for pure vegetarians. The proud position of Madura to this day as second city in the Presidency is mainly, if not solely, due to her prosperous and industrious community of Saurāshtra merchants and silk-weavers, who have now grown into nearly half her population, and who have also come to a foremost place among the ranks of her citizens. They have their representatives to-day in the Municipal Councils and in the Local and District Boards. Their perseverance has won for them a place in the Dēvastānam Committee of one of the most prosperous temples in the district. But, in spite of their affluence and leading position it must be confessed that they are essentially a ‘backward class’ in respect of English education and enlightenment. They are, however, making steady progress. An English high school for Saurāshtra boys, and a number of elementary schools for girls, are now maintained by the Saurāshtra Sabha for the proper education of their children.” In 1906, a member of the community was appointed a member of the committee of the Srī Kalla Alagar temple in the Madura district.

In an order of the Director of Public Instruction, in 1900, it was laid down that “Saurāshtras having been [167]recognised (in 1892) as a backward class falling under Pattunulgars, the manager cannot continue to enjoy the privileges accorded under the grant-in-aid code to schools intended for backward classes, if he returns his pupils as Brāhmans. If the pupils have been returned as Saurāshtra Brāhmans, the manager should be requested to revise, as no such caste is recognised.” A deputation had an interview with the Director, and it was subsequently ruled that “Saurāshtras will continue to be treated as a backward class. Pupils belonging to the above class should invariably be returned in future as Saurāshtras, whether the word Brāhman is added or not.”

In a “History of the Saurāshtras in Southern India”86 it is recorded that “when the Saurāshtras settled in the south, they reproduced the institutions of their mother country in the new land; but, owing to the influence of the Southern Dravidians, some of the institutions became extinct. During their migrations, the men were under the guidance of their leader, and the process of migration tended to increase the power of kinship. The people were divided into four heads, called Goundas (chiefs), Saulins (elders), Vōyddoos (physicians), and Bhoutuls (religious men). Some traces of the division still survive in the now neglected institution of Goundans. The Goundans were supposed to be responsible for the acts and doings of their men. The masses enjoyed the property under the joint undivided Hindu family system as prescribed in the Code of Manu. The chiefs were the judges in both civil and criminal affairs. They were aided in deciding cases by a body of nobles called Saulins. The office of the Saulins is to make [168]enquiries, and try all cases connected with the community, and to abide by the decision of the chiefs. The Vōyddoos (pandits) and Bhoutuls (Josis and Kavis also ranked with Vōyddas and Bhoutuls) had their honours on all important occasions, and they are placed in the same rank with the elders. The Karestuns, or the Commons, are the whole body of the masses. Their voice is necessary on certain important occasions, as during the ceremonies of excommunication, and prayaschittas for admitting renegades, and during periodical meetings of the community. The Goundans at present are not exercising any of their powers, except in some religious matters. Saurāshtra Brāhmans were originally leading a purely religious life, but now they have begun to do business of different descriptions fitted to their position. Their chief occupation is agriculture, but some are trading, dyeing and weaving; however, it can be safely affirmed that their business interferes in no way with their religious creed and ceremonies. The name Patnulgar means silk weavers, and is sometimes erroneously applied to the Saurāshtras too; but, on the contrary, the term strictly applies to all classes of weavers in Southern India, called Seniyars, Kaikkolars, Dēvāngas, Kshatris (Khattris), Parayas, Sengundas, Mudaliars, Saliyurs, Padmasalays, but not to the Saurāshtras in any way. The Saurāshtras are now seen as a mercantile community. They are brave but humble, god-fearing, hospitable, fond of festivities and amusement. The Saurāshtras, it is said, were originally a class of sun worshippers, from sourā meaning sun, but the term Saurāshtra means inhabitants of the fruitful kingdom. Their religion is Hinduism, and they were originally Madhvās. After their settlement in Southern India, some of them, owing to the preachings of Sankaracharya [169]and Ramanujacharya, were converted into Saivites and Vaishnavites respectively. The Saurāshtras belong to the Aksobhya and Sankaracharya Matas. The Saurāshtras, like other nations of India, are divided into four great divisions, viz., Brahma, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Sūdra. The Vaisyas and Sūdras are to be found in almost all towns and villages, and especially at Tirupati, Nagari, Naranavanam, Arni, Kottar, Palani, Palamcottah, Vilangudi, and Viravanallur.”

The affairs of the Patnūlkārans at Madura are managed by a Saurāshtra Sabha, which was started in 1895. Among the laudable objects for which the Sabha was established, the following may be noted:—

(a) To manage the Madura Saurāshtra school, and establish reading-rooms, libraries, etc., with a view to enable members of the Saurāshtra community to receive, on moderate terms, a sound, liberal, general and technical education.

(b) To manage the temple known as the Madura Srī Prasanna Venkatēswara Swāmi’s temple, and contribute towards its maintenance by constructing, repairing and preserving buildings in connection therewith, making jewels, vehicles and other things necessary therefor, and conducting the festivals thereof.

(c) To found charitable institutions, such as orphanages, hospitals, poor-houses, choultries (resting-places for travellers), water-sheds, and other things of a like nature for the good of the Saurāshtra community.

(d) To give succour to the suffering poor, and the maimed, the lame, and the blind in the Saurāshtra community.

(e) To give pecuniary grants in aid of upanayanams (thread marriages) to the helpless in the Saurāshtra community. [170]

(f) To erect such works of utility as bathing ghauts, wells, water fountains, and other works of utility for the benefit of the Saurāshtra community.

(g) To fix and raise subscriptions known as mahamais (a sort of income-tax).

Among the subjects of the lectures delivered in connection with the Saurāshtra Upanyasa Sabha at Madura in 1901 were the life of Mrs. Annie Besant, the Paris Exhibition of 1900, Mr. Tata and higher education, Saurāshtra bank, Columbus, and the Saurāshtra reform hotel.

A few years ago, the Saurāshtra community submitted a memorial to the Governor of Madras to the effect that “as the backward Saurāshtra community have not the requisite capital of half a lakh of rupees for imparting to their members both general and technical education, the Saurāshtra Sabha, Madura, suggests that a lottery office may be kept for collecting shares at one rupee each from such of the public at large as may be willing to give the same, on the understanding that, every time the collections aggregate to Rs. 6,250, Rs. 250 should be set apart for the expenses of working the said office, and two-thirds of the remainder for educational purposes, and one-third should be awarded by drawing lots among the subscribers in the shape of five prizes, ranging from Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 125.” In passing orders on this sporting scheme, the Government stated that it was not prepared to authorise the lottery. It has been well said87 that the Patnūlkārans have a very strong esprit de corps, and this has stood them in good stead in their weaving, which is more scientifically carried on, and in a more flourishing condition than is usual elsewhere. [171]

For the following note on the Patnūlkāran weavers of Madura, I am indebted to Mr. A. Chatterton, Director of Technical Enquiries:—“As a general rule, they are in a flourishing condition, and much better off than the Saurāshtra weavers in Salem. This is probably due to the fact that the bulk of the Madura trade is in a higher class of cloth than at Salem, and the weavers are consequently less affected by fluctuations in demand for their goods due to seasonal variations. In various ways the Saurāshtras of Madura have furnished evidence that they are a progressive community, particularly in the attention which they pay to education, and the keenness with which they are on the look-out for improvements in the methods of carrying out their hereditary craft. Nearly all the so-called improvements have been tried at Madura, and the fact that they have rejected most of them may be taken to some extent as evidence of their unsuitability for Indian conditions. Some time ago, one A. A. Kuppusawmy Iyer invented certain improvements in the native shedding apparatus, whereby ornamental patterns are woven along the borders, and on the ends of the better class of silk and cotton cloths. This apparatus was undoubtedly a material improvement upon that which is ordinarily used by the weaver, and it has been taken up extensively in the town. It is said that there are 350 looms fitted with this shedding apparatus, and the inventor, who has obtained a patent for it, is trying to collect a royalty of Rs. 1–4–0 a month on each loom. But this claim is resisted by a combination of the weavers using this shedding apparatus, and a suit is at the present time (1907) pending in the District Court. One of the most important weaving enterprises at Madura is the Meenakshi Weaving Company, the partners of which are Ramachandra Iyer, Muthurama [172]Iyer, and Kuppusawmy Iyer. Their subscribed capital is Rs. 1,00,000, of which they are spending no less than Rs. 40,000 on building a weaving shed and office. The Madura dyeing industry is in the hands of the Saurāshtras, and the modern phase dates back only as far as 1895, when Mr. Tulsiram started dyeing grey yarn with alizarine red, and, in the twelve years which have since elapsed, the industry has grown to very large proportions. The total sales at Madura average at present about 24 lakhs a year. There are from 30 to 40 dye-houses, and upwards of 5,000 cwt. of alizarine red is purchased every year from the Badische Aniline Soda Fabrik. The yarn is purchased locally, mainly from the Madura Mills, but, to some extent, also from Coimbatore and Tuticorin. The mordanting is done entirely with crude native earths, containing a large percentage of potassium salts. Drying the yarn presents considerable difficulty, especially in the wet weather. To secure a fast even colour, the yarn is mordanted about ten times, and dyed twice, or for very superior work three times, and between each operation it is essential that the yarn should be dried. The suburbs of Madura are now almost entirely covered with drying yards.”

In a note on the Patnūlkārans who have settled in Travancore, Mr. N. Subramani Aiyar writes as follows. “The Patnūlkārans are generally of yellowish tinge, and in possession of handsomer and more intellectual features than the Tamil castes, from which they may be easily differentiated by even a casual observer. They are, however, more fair than cleanly. They keep in Travancore, as elsewhere, aloof from other castes, and live independently of general society, speaking a foreign language. This they have preserved with astonishing attachment, and recently a Saurāshtra alphabet has been invented, and [173]elementary books have begun to be written in that dialect. They are a very conservative class, religious enthusiasts of a very remarkable order, and skilful and industrious workmen. They take a peculiar pleasure in music, and many of them are excellent songsters. There are many kinds of amusement for both men and women, who generally spend their leisure in singing songs of a devotional nature. They believe largely in omens, of which the following may be noted:—

Good.—A pot full of water, a burning light, no Brāhmans, a Sūdra, a cow, a married woman, and gold.

Bad.—A barber, a patient, a person with some bodily defect, fuel, oil, a donkey, a pick-axe, a broom, and a fan.

Patnūkāran marriage procession.

Patnūkāran marriage procession.

“On entering a Patnūlkāran’s house, we are led to a courtyard, spacious and neat, where all the necessary arrangements are made for weaving purposes. The Patnūlkārans live in streets. A male Patnūlkāran resembles a Tamil Vaishnava Brāhman in outward appearance, but the women follow the custom of the Telugu Brāhmans alike in their costume and ornaments. Their jewels exactly resemble those of the Telugu Brāhman women, and indicate a temporary residence of the caste in the Telugu country on the way from Gujarat to Madura. There is a Tamil proverb to the effect that, if a male Patnūlkāran is seen without his wife, he will be taken for a Vaishnava Brāhman, whereas, in the case of the Tātan caste, a woman without her husband will be taken for an Aiyangar. Children wear the kārai round the neck. Tattooing prevails on a very large scale.

“The Patnūlkārans may be divided into three classes on a religious basis, viz., (1) pure Vaishnavites, who wear the vertical Vaishnavite mark, and call themselves [174]Vadakalas or northerners; (2) those who are mainly Smartas; (3) Sankara Vaishnavas, who wear gōpi (sandal paste) as their sect-mark. It is to the last of these religious sects that the Travancore Patnūlkārans belong, though, in recent times, a few Smartas have settled at Kottar. All these intermarry and interdine, and the religious difference does not create a distinction in the caste. The chief divinity of the Patnūlkārans is Venkatāchalapati of Tirupati. The month in which he is most worshipped is Kanni (September-October), and all the Saturdays and the Tiruvonam star of the month are particularly devoted to his adoration. One of their men becomes possessed on any of these days, and, holding a burning torch-light in his hand, touches the foreheads of the assembled devotees therewith. The Patnūlkārans fast on those days, and take an image of Garuda in procession through the street. The Dīpāvali, Pannamasi in Chittiray, and the Vaikuntha Ēkādasi are other important religious days. The Dusserah is observed, as also are the festivals of Srī Rāma Navami, Ashtami, Rohini, Avani Avittam, and Vara Lakshmivratam. Formal worship of deities is done by those who have obtained the requisite initiation from a spiritual preceptor. Women who have husbands fast on full-moon days, Mondays, and Fridays. The serpent and the banyan tree are specially worshipped. Women sing songs in praise of Lakshmi, and offer fruits and cocoanuts to her. The Patnūlkārans have a temple dedicated to Srī Rāma at Kottar. This temple is visited even by Brāhmans, and the priests are Aiyangars. The Achārya, or supreme religious authority of the Patnūlkārans, in Travancore is a Vaishnava Brāhman known as Ubhaya Vēdānta Kōti Kanyakādāna Tātāchāriyar, who lives at Aravankulam near Tinnevelly, [175]and possesses a large number of disciples. Once a year he visits his flock in Travancore, and is highly respected by them, as also by the Mahārajā, who makes a donation of money to him. Elders are appointed to decide social disputes, and manage the common property of the caste. In Travancore there are said to be only three families of Patnūlkāran priests. For the higher ceremonies, Brāhman priests are employed.

“A girl’s marriage is usually celebrated before puberty, and sometimes when she is a mere child of four or five. Great importance is attached to gōtras or exogamous septs, and it is said that the septs of the bride and bridegroom are conspicuously inscribed on the walls of a marriage house. In the selection of an auspicious hour (muhurtam) for a marriage, two favourable planetary situations, one closely following the other, are necessary; and, as such occasions are rare, a number of marriages take place at one time. A man may claim his maternal uncle’s daughter as his wife, and polygamy is permitted. The marriage ceremonial resembles the Brāhmanical rites in many points. On the fourth day, a ceremonial observed by Telugu Brāhmans, called Nāgabali, is performed. The marriage badge, which is tied on the bride’s neck, is called bottu. [From a note on the marriage ceremonies among the Patnūlkārans of Madura, I gather that, as among Telugu and Canarese castes, a number of pots are arranged, and worshipped. These pots are smaller and fewer in number than at a Telugu or Canarese wedding. A figure of a car is drawn on the wall of the house with red earth or laterite.88 On it the name of the gōtra of the bridegroom is written. On the fourth day, the [176]nāgavali (or offering to Dēvas) is performed. The contracting couple sit near the pots, and a number of lights are arranged on the floor. The pots, which represent the Dēvas, are worshipped.]

“The nāmakarana, or name-giving ceremony, is performed on the eleventh day after birth. An eighth child, whether male or female, is called Krishna, owing to the tradition that Krishna was born as the eighth child of Vasudēva. Babies are affectionately called Duddu (milk) or Pilla (child). The annaprāsana, or first feeding of the child, is sometimes celebrated at the end of the first year, but usually as a preliminary to some subsequent ceremony. Sometimes, in performance of a vow, boys are taken to the shrine at Tirupati for the tonsure ceremony. The upanayana is performed between the seventh and twelfth years, but neither brāhmacharya nor samāvartana is observed.

“The dead are burnt, and the remains of the bones are collected and deposited under water. Death pollution lasts only for ten days. The srādh, or annual ceremony, when oblations are offered to ancestors, is observed. Widows are allowed to retain their hair, but remove the bottu. Unlike Brāhman women, they chew betel, and wear coloured cloths, even in old age.”

The Patnūlkārans have a secret trade language, concerning which Mr. C. Hayavadana Rao writes as follows. “The most remarkable feature about it is the number of terms and phrases borrowed from the craft, to which special meanings are given. Thus a man of no status is stigmatised as a rikhta khandu, i.e., a spindle without the yarn. Similarly, a man of little sense is called a mhudha, the name of a thick peg which holds one side of the roller. Likewise, a talkative person is referred to as a rhetta, or roller used for winding the [177]thread upon spindles, which makes a most unpleasant creaking noise. Kapinikēr, from kapini, a technical term used for cutting the loom off, means to make short work of an undesirable person. A man who is past middle age is called porkut phillias, which, in weavers’ parlance, means that half the loom is turned.”

Patnūkāran marriage wall design.

Patnūkāran marriage wall design.

Patrā.—The Patrās are an Oriya caste, which is divided into two sections, one of which is engaged in the manufacture of silk (pata) waist-threads, tassels, etc., and the other in weaving silk cloths. The members of the two sections do not interdine. The former have exogamous septs or bamsams, the names of which are also used as titles, e.g., Sāhu, Pātro, and Prushti. The latter have exogamous septs, such as Tenga, Jaggali, Telaga, and Mahānāyako, and Bēhara and Nāyako as titles. The chief headman of the cloth-weaving section is called Mahānāyako, and there are other officers called Bēhara and Bhollobaya. The headman of the other section is called Sēnāpati, and he is assisted by a Dhanapati. Infant marriage is the rule, and, if a girl does not secure a husband before she reaches maturity, she must, if she belongs to the cloth-weaving section, go through a form of marriage with an old man, and, if to the other section, with an arrow.

The Telugu Patrās are summed up, in the Madras Census Report, 1901, as “a Telugu caste of hunters and cultivators, found chiefly in the districts of Cuddapah and Kurnool. It has two divisions, the Doras (chiefs), and Gurikalas (marksmen), the former of which is supposed to be descended from the old Poligars (feudal chiefs), and the latter from their followers and servants. This theory is supported by the fact that, at the weddings of Gurikalas, the Doras receive the first pān-supāri (betel leaf and areca nut). Widows may not remarry, nor [178]is divorce recognised. They usually employ Brāhmans at marriages, and Sātānis at funerals. Though they are Vaishnavites, they also worship village deities, such as Gangamma and Ellamma. They bury their dead, and perform annual srāddhas (memorial services for the dead). They will eat with Gollas. Their title is Naidu.”

Pātramēla.—Pātramēla, or Pātradēva, is the name of a class of dancing girls in South Canara. Pātramēla, Mr. H. A. Stuart writes,89 is the name by which the Konkani Kalāvants (courtezans) are known above the ghauts.

Pātro.—The title of the head of a group of villages in Ganjam, and also recorded, at times of census, as a title of Alia, Kālinga Kōmati, Dolai, and Jaggala. The conferring of a cloth (sādhi) on a Pātro is said to be emblematic of conferring an estate. The Pātro, among other perquisites, is entitled to a fee on occasions of marriage. I am informed that, in the Ganjam Māliahs, if a Kondh was unable to pay the fee, he met his love at night beneath two trysting trees, and retired with her into the jungle for three days and nights.

Pātrudu.—The title, meaning those who are fit to receive a gift, of Aiyarakulu and Nagarālu.

Pāttadhikāri.—A class of Jangams, who have settled head-quarters.

Pattan.—The equivalent of the Brāhman Bhatta. A name by which some Kammālans, especially goldsmiths, style themselves.

Pattanavada.—A synonym for the Mogēr fishing caste, the settlements of which are called pattana.

Pattanavan.—The fishermen on the east coast, from the Kistna to the Tanjore district, are popularly [179]called Karaiyān, or sea-shore people. Some Karaiyāns have, at times of census, returned themselves as Taccha (carpenter) Karaiyāns.

Pattanavan means literally a dweller in a town or pattanam, which word occurs in the names of various towns on the sea-coast, e.g., Nāgapattanam (Negapatam), Chennapattanam (Madras). The Pattanavans have two main divisions, Periya (big) and Chinna (small), and, in some places, for example, at Nadukuppam in the Nellore district, exogamous septs, e.g., Gengananga, Pēyananga, Kathananga (children of Ganga, Pēyan, and Kathanar), and Kullananga (children of dwarfs). In the Telugu country, they go by the name of Pattapu or Tūlivāndlu.

Some Pattanavans give themselves high-sounding caste titles, e.g., Āriyar, Ayyayiraththalaivar (the five thousand chiefs), Āriya Nāttu Chetti (Chettis of the Ariyar country), Acchu Vellāla, Karaiturai (sea-coast) Vellāla, Varunakula Vellāla or Varunakula Mudali after Varuna, the god of the waters, or Kurukula vamsam after Kuru, the ancestor of the Kauravas. Some Pattanavans have adopted the title Pillai.

The Pattanavans are said to be inferior to the Sembadavans, who will not accept food at their hands, and discard even an earthen pot which has been touched by a Pattanavan.

Concerning the origin of the caste, there is a legend that the Pattanavans were giving silk thread to Siva, and were hence called Pattanavar, a corruption of Pattanaivor, meaning knitters of silk thread. They were at the time all bachelors, and Siva suggested the following method of securing wives for them. They were told to go out fishing in the sea, and make of their catch as many heaps as there were bachelors. Each of them [180]then stood before a heap, and called for a wife, who was created therefrom. According to another story, some five thousand years ago, during the age of the lunar race, there was one Dasa Rāja, who was ruling near Hastināpura, and was childless. To secure offspring, he prayed to god, and did severe penance. In answer to his prayer, God pointed out a tank full of lotus flowers, and told the king to go thither, and call for children. Thereon, five thousand children issued forth from the flowers, to the eldest of whom the king bequeathed his kingdom, and to the others money in abundance. Those who received the money travelled southward in ships, which were wrecked, and they were cast ashore. This compelled them to make friends of local sea fishermen, whose profession they adopted. At the present day, the majority of Pattanavans are sea-fishermen, and catch fish with nets from catamarans. “Fancy,” it has been written,90 “a raft of only three logs of wood, tied together at each end when they go out to sea, and untied and left to dry on the beach when they come in again. Each catamaran has one, two or three men to manage it; they sit crouched on it upon their heels, throwing their paddles about very dexterously, but remarkably unlike rowing. In one of the early Indian voyager’s log-books there is an entry concerning a catamaran: ‘This morning, 6 A.M., saw distinctly two black devils playing at single stick. We watched these infernal imps about an hour, when they were lost in the distance. Surely this doth portend some great tempest.’ It is very curious to watch these catamarans putting out to sea. They get through the fiercest surf, sometimes dancing at their ease on the top of the waters, sometimes hidden under [181]the waters; sometimes the man completely washed off his catamaran, and man floating one way and catamaran another, till they seem to catch each other again by magic.” In 1906, a fisherman was going out in his catamaran to fish outside the Madras harbour, and was washed off his craft, and dashed violently against a rock. Death was instantaneous. Of the catamaran, the following account is given by Colonel W. Campbell.91 “Of all the extraordinary craft which the ingenuity of man has ever invented, a Madras catamaran is the most extraordinary, the most simple, and yet, in proper hands, the most efficient. It is merely three rough logs of wood, firmly lashed together with ropes formed from the inner bark of the cocoanut tree. Upon this one, two, or three men, according to the size of the catamaran, sit on their heels in a kneeling posture, and, defying wind and weather, make their way through the raging surf which beats upon the coast, and paddle out to sea at times when no other craft can venture to face it. At a little distance, the slight fabric on which these adventurous mariners float becomes invisible, and a fleet of them approaching the land presents the absurd appearance of a host of savage-looking natives wading out towards the ship, up to their middle in water.” “A catamaran,” Lady Dufferin writes,92 in an account of a state arrival at Madras, “is two logs of wood lashed together, forming a very small and narrow raft. The rower wears a ‘fool’s cap,’ in which he carries letters (also betel and tobacco), and, when he encounters a big wave, he leaves his boat, slips through the wave himself, and picks up his catamaran on the other side of it. Some very large deep barges (masūla boats), the planks of which are [182]sewn together to give elasticity, and the interstices stuffed with straw, came out for us, with a guard of honour of the mosquito fleet, as the catamarans are called, on either side of them; two of the fool’s cap men, and a flag as big as the boat itself, on each one.” The present day masūla or mussoola boat, or surf boat of the Coromandel Coast, is of the same build as several centuries ago. It is recorded,93 in 1673, that “I went ashore in a Mussoola, a boat wherein ten men paddle, the two aftermost of whom are the Steers-men, using their Paddles instead of a Rudder: The Boat is not strengthened with knee-timber, as ours are; the bended Planks are sowed together with Rope-yarn of the Cocoe, and calked with Dammar so artificially that it yields to every ambitious surf. Otherwise we could not get ashore, the Bar knocking in pieces all that are inflexible.” The old records of Madras contain repeated references to Europeans being drowned from overturning of masūla boats in the surf, through which a landing had to be effected before the harbour was built.

In 1907, two Madras fishermen were invested with silver wrist bangles, bearing a suitable inscription, which were awarded by the Government in recognition of their bravery in saving the lives of a number of boatmen during a squall in the harbour.

The following are the fishes, which are caught by the fishermen off Madras and eaten by Europeans:—

  • Cybium guttatum, Bl. Schn. Seir.
  • Cybium Commersonii, Lacep. Seir.
  • Cybium lanceolatum, Cuv. & Val. Seir.
  • Sillago sihama, Forsk. Whiting. [183]
  • Stromateus cinereus, Bloch.—
    • Immature, silver pomfret.
    • Adult, grey pomfret.
  • Stromateus niger, Bloch. Black pomfret.
  • Mugal subviridis, Cuv. & Val. Mullet.
  • Psettodes erumei, Bl. Schn. ‘Sole.’
  • Lates calcarifer, Bloch. Cock-up; the begti of Calcutta.
  • Lutjanus roseus, Day.
  • Lutjanus marginatus, Cuv. & Val.
  • Polynemus tetradactylus, Shaw.
  • Chorinemus lysan, Forsk.
  • ‘Whitebait.’

The Pattanavans are Saivites, but also worship various minor gods and Grāma Dēvatas (village deities). In some places, they regard Kuttiyāndavan as their special sea god. To him animal sacrifices are not made, but goats are sacrificed to Sembu Vīrappan or Mīnnodum Pillai, an attendant on Kuttiyāndavan. In Tanjore, the names of the sea gods are Pāvadairāyan and Padaithalaidaivam. Before setting out on a fishing expedition, the Pattanavans salute the god, the sea, and the nets. In the Tanjore district, they repair their nets once in eight days, and, before they go out fishing, pray to their gods to favour them with a big catch. On a fixed day, they make offerings to the gods on their return from fishing. The gods Pāvadairāyan and Padaithalaidaivam are represented by large conical heaps of wet sand and mud, and Ayyanar, Ellamma, Kuttiyāndavar, Muthyālrouthar and Kiliyēndhi by smaller heaps. At the Māsimakam festival, the Pattanavans worship their gods on the sea-shore. The names Jāttan and Jātti are given to children during the Jātre or periodic festival of the village goddesses. [184]

The Pattanavans afford a good example of a caste, in which the time-honoured village council (panchāyat) is no empty, powerless body. For every settlement or village there are one or more headmen called Yejamānan, who are assisted by a Thandakāran and a Paraiyan Chalavāthi. All these offices are hereditary. Questions connected with the community, such as disrespect to elders, breach of social etiquette, insult, abuse, assault, adultery, or drinking or eating with men of lower caste, are enquired into by the council. Even when disputes are settled in courts of law, they must come before the council. Within the community, the headman is all powerful, and his decision is, in most instances, considered final. If, however, his verdict is not regarded as equitable, the case is referred to a caste headman, who holds sway over a group of villages. No ceremony may be performed without the sanction of the local headman, and the details of ceremonies, except the feasting, are arranged by the headman and the Thandakāran. In the case of a proposed marriage, the match is broken off if the headman objects to it. He should be present at the funeral rites, and see that the details thereof are properly carried out. It is the duty of the Chalavāthi to convey the news of a death to the relations. Should he come to the shore when the fishes are heaped up, he has the right to take a few thereof as his perquisite. The Thandakāran, among other duties, has to summon council meetings. When the members of council have assembled, he ushers in the parties who have to appear before it, and salutes the assembly by prostrating himself on the floor. The parties take a bit of straw, or other object, and place it before the headman in token that they are willing to abide by the decision of the council. This formality is called placing the agreement (muchchilika). [185]

The consent of the maternal uncles is necessary before a pair can be united in matrimony. When the wedding day has been fixed, the bridegroom’s party distribute grāma thāmbūlam (village pān-supāri or betel) to the headman and villagers. The marriage milk-post is made of Mimusops hexandra, Erythrina indica, Casuarina equisetifolia, the green wood of some other tree, or even a pestle. In one form of the marriage ceremony, which varies in detail according to locality, the bridegroom, on the arrival of the bride at the pandal (booth), puts on the sacred thread, and the Brāhman purōhit makes the sacred fire, and pours ghī (clarified butter) into it. The bridegroom ties the tāli round the bride’s neck, and the maternal uncles tie flat silver or gold plates, called pattam, on the foreheads of the contracting couple. Rings are put on their second toes by the brother-in-law of the bridegroom and the maternal uncle of the bride. Towards evening, the sacred thread, the threads which have been tied to the marriage pots and the milk-post, and grain seedlings used at the ceremony, are thrown into the sea. Some Pattanavans allow a couple to live together as man and wife after the betrothal, but before the marriage ceremony. This is, however, on condition that the latter is performed as soon as it is convenient. The remarriage of widows is freely permitted. No marriage pandal is erected, and the bridegroom, or a female relation, ties the tāli on the bride’s neck within the house. Such marriage is, therefore, called naduvīttu (interior of the house) tāli. When a woman, who has been guilty of adultery, is remarried, a turmeric string is substituted for the golden tāli, and is tied on the bride’s neck by a woman.



Some Pattanavans have adopted the custom of burying their dead in a seated posture (samathi). If a [186]corpse is cremated, fire is carried to the burning-ground by a barber. When the corpse has been laid on the pyre, rice is thrown over it. The son, accompanied by a barber and a Panisavan or washerman, and carrying a pot of water on his shoulder, goes thrice round the pyre. At the third round, the Panisavan or washerman makes holes in the pot, and it is thrown away. On the day of the funeral, all the agnates shave their heads. On the following day, they go to the burial or burning ground with tender cocoanuts, milk, cakes, etc., and Arichandra, who presides over the burial-ground, is worshipped. Milk is then poured over the grave, or the remains of the bones, which are thrown into the sea. On the night of the fifteenth day, Panisavans blow the conch and horn, and red cloths are presented to the widow of the deceased by her relations. At about 4 A.M., a white cloth is thrown on her neck, and the tāli string is cut by an old woman. The tāli is removed therefrom, and dropped into a new pot filled with water. Hence, a form of abuse among Pattanavan women is, May your tāli be snapped, and thrown into water. The tāli is removed from the pot, which is thrown into the sea. The tāli is laid on a dish containing milk, and all those who visit the widow must set eyes on it before they see her.

In the city of Madras, the Pattanavans have the privilege of supplying bearers at temples, and the atmosphere surrounding them as they carry the idols on their sturdy shoulders through Triplicane is said to be “redolent of brine and the toddy shop.”

In a judgment of the High Court of Judicature, Madras, it is recorded that, in the eighteenth century, some boat-owners and boatmen belonging to the Curukula Vamsha or Varunakula Mudali caste, who [187]were residing at Chepauk in the city of Madras, had embraced Christianity, and worshipped in a chapel, which had been erected by voluntary contributions. In 1799 the site of their village was required for public purposes, and they obtained in lieu of it a grant of land at Royapuram, where a chapel was built. Partly by taxes levied on boatmen, and partly by tolls they were allowed to impose on persons for frequenting the Royapuram bazar, a fund was formed to provide for their spiritual wants, and this fund was administered by the Marine Board. In 1829, a portion of the fund was expended in the erection of the church of St. Peter, Royapuram, and the fund was transferred to Government. The administration of the fund has been the source of litigation in the High Court.94

It is noted by Mrs. F. E. Penny that some of the fisherfolk “adopted Xavier as their special patron saint, and, as time passed, almost deified him. In the present day, they appeal to him in times of danger, crying ‘Xavier! Xavier! Xavier!’ in storm and peril. Even if they are unfortunate in their catch when fishing, they turn to their saint for succour.”

As a numismatist, I resent the practice resorted to by some fishermen of melting old lead coins, and converting them into sinkers for their nets.

Pattapu.—Pattapu for Tulivāndlu is a name for Tamil Pattanavans, who have migrated to the Telugu country. Pattapu also occurs as a sub-division of Yerukala.

Pattar.—The Pattars are Tamil Brāhmans, who have settled in Malabar. The name is said to be derived from the Sanskrit bhatta. It is noted, in the [188]Madras Census Report, 1901, that Pattar (teacher) has been recently assumed as a title by some Nōkkans in Tanjore. (See Brāhman.)

Pattariar.—Recorded, in the Madras Census Report, 1901, as a Tamil corruption of Pattu Sāliyan (silk-weaver). Pattariar or Pattalia is a synonym of Tamil-speaking Sāliyans.

Pattegāra (headman).—An exogamous sept of Okkiliyan.

Pattindla (silk house).—An exogamous sept of Tōta Balija.

Pattola Mēnōn.—Recorded, in the Cochin Census Report, 1901, as a sub-caste of Nāyars, who are accountants in aristocratic families.

Pāttukuruppu.—Recorded in the Travancore Census Report, 1901, as synonymous with Vātti, a sub-division of Nāyar.

Pattu Sālē.—A sub-division of Sālēs, who weave silk (pattu) fabrics.

Pattuvitan.—Recorded, in the Travancore Census Report, 1901, as a sub-division of Nāyar.

Patvēgāra.—The Patvēgāras or Pattēgāras (pattu, silk) of South Canara are described by Mr. H. A. Stuart95 as “a Canarese caste of silk weavers. They are Hindus, and worship both Siva and Vishnu, but their special deity is Durga Paramēsvari at Barkūr. They wear the sacred thread, and employ Brāhmans for ceremonial purposes. They are governed by a body called the ten men, and pay allegiance to the guru of the Rāmachandra math (religious institution). They are divided into balis (septs) and a man may not marry within his own bali. Polygamy is allowed only when a [189]wife is barren, or suffers from some incurable disease, such as leprosy. The girls are married in infancy, and the binding portion of the ceremony is called dhāre (see Bant). Widow marriage is not permitted, and divorce is only allowed in the case of an adulterous wife. They follow the ordinary Hindu law of inheritance. The dead are cremated. The srādha (memorial) ceremony is in use, and the Mahālaya ceremony for the propitiation of ancestors in general is performed annually. Female ancestors are also worshipped every year at a ceremony called vaddap, when meals are given to married women. They eat fish but not meat, and the use of alcohol is not permitted.”

In the Mysore Census Report, 1891, the Patvēgārs are described as “silk weavers who speak a corrupt Marāthi conglomerate of Guzarāti and Hindi. They worship all the Hindu deities, especially the female energy under the name of Sākti, to which a goat is sacrificed on the night of the Dasara festival, a Musalman slaughtering the animal. After the sacrifice, the family of the Patvēgār partake of the flesh. Many of their females are naturally fair and handsome, but lose their beauty from early marriage and precocity.” A few Pattēgāras, who speak a corrupt form of Marāthi, are to be found in the Anantapur district.

Pavalamkatti (wearers of corals).—A sub-division of Konga Vellāla.

Pavini.—See Vayani.

Payyampāti.—Recorded, in the Travancore Census Report, 1901, as a sub-division of Nāyar.

Pedakanti.—Pedakanti or Pedaganti is the name of a sub-division of Kāpu. It is said by some to be derived from a place called Pedagallu. By others it is derived from peda, turned aside, and kamma, eye, [190]indicating one who turns his eyes away from a person who speaks to him. Yet another suggestion is that it means stiff-necked.

Pedda (big).—A sub-division of Bōya, Bagata, Konda Dora, Pattapu, and Velama.

Peddammavāndlu.—A fancy name taken by some Telugu beggars.

Pedditi.—A sub-division of Golla, some members of which earn a livelihood by begging and flattery.

Pēgula (intestines).—An exogamous sept of Bōya.

Pekkan.—A division of Toda.

Pendukal (women).—A name applied to Dēva-dāsis in Travancore.

Pengu.—A sub-division of Poroja.

Pennēgāra.—Konkani-speaking rice-beaters in South Canara.

Pentiya.—The Pentiyas also call themselves Holuva and Halabā or Halbā. In the Madras Census Report, 1901, they are called Pantia as well as Pentiya, and described as Oriya betel-leaf (panno) sellers. Their occupation, in the Jeypore Agency tracts, is that of cultivators. According to Mr. C. Hayavadana Rao, to whom I am indebted for the following note, numbers of them migrated thither from Bustar, and settled at Pentikonna, and are hence called Pentikonaya or Pentiya. Their language is Halba, which is easily understood by those who speak Oriya. They are divided into two endogamous sections, called Bodo (big or genuine), and Sanno (little), of whom the latter are said to be illegitimate descendants of the former. The Bodos are further sub-divided into a series of septs, e.g., Kurum (tortoise), Bhāg (tiger), Nāg (cobra), and Sūrya (sun). The caste is highly organized, and the head of a local centre is [191]called Bhatha Nāyako. He is assisted by a Pradhāni, an Umriya Nāyako, and Dolāyi. The caste messenger is called Cholāno, and he carries a silver baton when he summons the castemen to a meeting. An elaborate ceremony is performed when a person, who has been tried by the caste council, is to be received back into the caste. He is accompanied to the bank of a stream, where his tongue is burnt with a gold or silver wire or ornament by the Bhatha Nāyako, and some offerings from the Jagannātha temple at Pūri are given to him. He is then taken home, and provides a feast, at which the Nāyako has the privilege of eating first. He has further to make a present of cloths to the assembled elders, and the four heads of the caste receive a larger quantity than the others. The feast over, he is again taken, carrying some cooked rice, to the stream, and with it pushed therein. This ceremonial bath frees him from pollution.

Girls are married either before or after puberty. A man can claim his paternal aunt’s daughter in marriage. The bridegroom’s party proceed, with the bridegroom, to the bride’s village, and take up their abode in a separate house. They then take three cloths for the bride’s mother, three rupees for her father, and a cloth and two annas for each of her brothers, and present them together with rice, liquor, and other articles. Pandals (booths) are erected in front of the quarters of the bridal couple, that of the bridegroom being made of nine, and that of the bride of five sāl (Shorea robusta) poles, to which a pot containing myrabolams (Terminalia fruits) and rice is tied. The couple bathe, and the bridegroom proceeds to the house of the bride. The Dēsāri, who officiates, dons the sacred thread, and divides the pandal into two by means of a screen or curtain. The couple [192]go seven times round the pandal, and the screen is removed. They then enter the pandal, and the Dēsāri links their little fingers together. The day’s ceremony concludes with a feast. On the following day, the bride is conducted to the house of the bridegroom, and they sprinkle each other with turmeric water. They then bathe in a stream or river. Another feast is held, with much drinking, and is followed by a wild dance. The remarriage of widows is permitted, and a younger brother may marry the widow of his elder brother. The dead are burnt, and death pollution is observed for ten days, during which the relatives of the deceased are fed by members of another sept. On the tenth day a caste feast takes place.

The Pentiyas are said96 to distribute rice, and other things, to Brāhmans, once a year on the new-moon day in the month of Bhādrapadam (September-October), and to worship a female deity named Kāmilli on Saturdays. No one, I am informed, other, I presume, than a Pentiya, would take anything from a house where she is worshipped, lest the goddess should accompany him, and require him to become her devotee.

The caste title is Nāyako.

Peraka (tile).—An exogamous sept of Dēvānga.

Perike.—This word is defined, in the Madras Census Report, 1901, as meaning literally a gunny bag, and the Perikes are summed up as being a Telugu caste of gunny bag (goni) weavers, corresponding to the Janappans of the Tamil districts. Gunny bag is the popular and trading name of the coarse sacking and sacks made from the fibre of jute, much used in Indian trade. It is noted, in the Census Report, 1891, that [193]“the Perikes claim to be a separate caste, but they seem to be in reality a sub-division, and not a very exalted sub-division, of Balijas, being in fact identical with the Uppu (salt) Balijas. Their hereditary occupation is carrying salt, grain, etc., on bullocks and donkeys in perikes or packs. Perike is found among the sub-divisions of both Kavarai and Balija. Some of them, however, have attained considerable wealth, and now claim to be Kshatriyas, saying that they are the descendants of the Kshatriyas who ran away (piriki, a coward) from the persecution of Parasurāma. Others again say they are Kshatriyas who went into retirement, and made hills (giri) their abode (puri).” These Perike ‘Kshatriyas’ are known as Puragiri Kshatriya and Giri Rāzu. The Periki Balijas are described, in the Vizagapatam Manual, as chiefly carrying on cultivation and trade, and some of them are said to hold a high position at ‘the Presidency’ (Madras) and in the Vizagapatam district.

Perike women appear to have frequently committed sati (or suttee) on the death of their husbands in former days, and the names of those who thus sacrificed their lives are still held in reverence. A peculiar custom among the Perikes is the erection of big square structures (brindāvanam), in which a tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) is planted, on the spot where the ashes of the dead are buried after cremation. I am informed that a fine series of these structures may be seen at Chīpurapalli, close to Vizianagram. As a mark of respect to the dead, passers-by usually place a lac bangle or flowers thereon. The usual titles of the Perikes are Anna and Ayya, but some style themselves Rao (= Rāya, king) or Rāyadu, in reference to their alleged Kshatriya origin. [194]

For the following note on the Perikes of the Godāvari district, I am indebted to Mr. F. R. Hemingway. “Like some of the Kammas, they claim to be of Kshatriya stock, and say they are of the lineage of Parasu Rāma, but were driven out by him for kidnapping his sister, while pretending to be gunny-bag weavers. They say that they were brought to this country by king Nala of the Mahābhārata, in gratitude for their having taken care of his wife Damayanti when he quitted her during his misfortunes. They support the begging caste of Varugu Bhattas, who, they say, supported them during their exile, and to whom they gave a sanad (deed of grant) authorising them to demand alms. These people go round the Perike houses for their dues every year. The Pīsu Perikes, who still weave gunny-bags, are said not to belong to the caste proper, members of which style themselves Rācha Perikes.

“The Perikes say that, like the Kōmatis, they have 101 gōtras. Their marriage ceremonies are peculiar. On the day of the wedding, the bride and bridegroom are made to fast, as also are three male relatives, whom they call suribhaktas. At the marriage, the couple sit on a gunny-bag, and another gunny, on which a representation of the god Mailar is drawn or painted, is spread between them. The same god is drawn on two pots, and these, and also a third pot, are filled with rice and dhāl (Cajanus indicus), which are cooked by two married women. The food is then offered to Mailar. Next, the three suribhaktas take 101 cotton threads, fasten them together, and tie seven knots in them. The bride and bridegroom are given cloths which have been partly immersed in water coloured with turmeric and chunam (lime), and the suribhaktas are fed with the rice and dhāl cooked in the pots. The couple are then taken round [195]the village in procession, and, on their return, the knotted cotton threads are tied round the bride’s neck instead of a tāli.

Some Perikes style themselves Sāthu vāndlu, meaning a company of merchants or travellers.

Perike Muggula is the name of a class of Telugu mendicants and exorcists.

Periya (big).—Periya or Periyanān has been recorded as a sub-division of Kāralan, Kunnuvan, Ōcchan, and Pattanavan. The equivalent Peru or Perum occurs as a sub-division of the Malayālam Kollans and Vannāns and Perim of Kānikars. Periya illom is the name of an exogamous illom of Kānikars in Travancore.

Perugadannāya (bandicoot rat sept).—An exogamous sept of Bant.

Perum Tāli (big tāli).—A sub-division of Idaiyan, and of Kaikōlans, whose women wear a big tāli (marriage badge).

Perumāl.—Perumāl is a synonym of Vishnu, and the name is taken by some Pallis who are staunch Vaishnavites. A class of mendicants, who travel about exhibiting performing bulls in the southern part of the Madras Presidency, is known as Perumāl Mādukkāran or Perumāl Erudukkāran. Perumalathillom, meaning apparently big mountain house, is an exogamous sept or illom of the Kānikars of Travancore.

Pesala (seeds of Phaseolus Mungo: green gram).—An exogamous sept of Jōgi.

Pēta (street).—A sub-division of Balija.

Pettigeyavāru (box).—A sub-division of Gangadikāra Vakkaliga.

Pichiga (sparrow).—An exogamous sept of Bōya and Dēvānga. The equivalent Pital occurs as a sept of Māla. [196]

Pichigunta.—The name Pichigunta means literally an assembly of beggars, who are described97 as being, in the Telugu country, a class of mendicants, who are herbalists, and physic people for fever, stomach-ache, and other ailments. They beat the village drums, relate stories and legends, and supply the place of a Herald’s Office, as they have a reputation for being learned in family histories, and manufacture pedigrees and gōtras (house names) for Kāpus, Kammas, Gollas, and others.

The Picchai or Pinchikuntar are described in the Salem Manual as “servants to the Kudiānavars or cultivators—a name commonly assumed by Vellālas and Pallis. The story goes that a certain Vellāla had a hundred and two children, of whom only one was a female. Of the males, one was lame, and his hundred brothers made a rule that one would provide him with one kolagam of grain and one fanam (a coin) each year. They got him married to a Telugu woman of a different caste, and the musicians who attended the ceremony were paid nothing, the brothers alleging that, as the bridegroom was a cripple, the musicians should officiate from charitable motives. The descendants of this married pair, having no caste of their own, became known as Picchi or Pinchikuntars (beggars, or lame). They are treated as kudipinnai (inferior) by Vellālas, and to the present day receive their prescribed miras (fee) from the Vellāla descendants of the hundred brothers, to whom, on marriage and other festivals, they do service by relating the genealogies of such Vellālas as they are acquainted with. Some serve the Vellālas in the fields, and others live by begging.”97 [197]

The caste beggars of the Tottiyans are known as Pichiga-vādu.

Pidakala (cow-dung cakes or bratties).—An exogamous sept of Dēvānga. Dried cow-dung cakes are largely used by natives as fuel, and may be seen stuck on to the walls of houses.

Pidāran.—A section of Ambalavāsis, who, according to Mr. Logan98 “drink liquor, exorcise devils, and are worshippers of Bhadrakāli or of Sakti. The name is also applied to snake-catchers, and it was probably conferred on the caste owing to the snake being an emblem of the human passion embodied in the deities they worship.”

Pilapalli.—The Pilapallis are a small caste or community in Travancore, concerning which Mr. S. Subramanya Aiyar writes as follows.99 “The following sketch will show what trifling circumstances are sufficient in this land of Parasurāma to call a new caste into existence. The word Pilapally is supposed to be a corruption of Belāl Thalli, meaning forcibly ejected. It therefore contains, as though in a nutshell, the history of the origin of this little community, which it is used to designate. In the palmy days of the Chempakasseri Rājas, about the year 858 M.E., there lived at the court of the then ruling Prince at Ambalappuzha a Nambūri Brāhman who stood high in the Prince’s favour, and who therefore became an eye-sore to all his fellow courtiers. The envy and hatred of the latter grew to such a degree that one day they put their heads together to devise a plan which should at once strip him of all influence at court, and humble him in the eyes of the public. The device hit upon was a strange one, and characteristic of that dim and distant [198]past. The Nambūri was the custodian of all presents made to the Prince, and as such it was a part of his daily work to arrange the articles presented in their proper places. It was arranged that one day a dead fish, beautifully tied up and covered, should be placed among the presents laid before the Prince. The victim of the plot, little suspecting there was treachery in the air, removed all the presents as usual with his own hand. His enemies at court, who were but waiting for an opportunity of humbling him to the dust, thereupon caused the bundle to be examined before the Prince, when it became evident that it contained a dead fish. Now, for a Nambūri to handle a dead fish was, according to custom, sufficient to make him lose caste. On the strength of this argument, the Prince, who was himself a Brāhmin, was easily prevailed upon to put the Nambūri out of the pale of caste, and the court favourite was immediately excommunicated. There is another and a slightly different version of the story, according to which the Nambūri in question was the hereditary priest of the royal house, to whom fell the duty of removing and preserving the gifts. In course of time he grew so arrogant that the Prince himself wanted to get rid of him, but, the office of the priest being hereditary, he did not find an easy way of accomplishing his cherished object, and, after long deliberation with those at court in whom he could confide, came at last to the solution narrated above. It is this forcible ejection that the expression Belāl Thalli (afterwards changed into Pilapally) is said to import.... It appears that the unfortunate Nambūri had two wives, both of whom elected to share his fate. Accordingly, the family repaired to Paravūr, a village near Kallarkode, where their royal patron made them a gift of land. Although they quitted Ambalapuzha [199]for good, they seem to have long owned there a madathummuri (a room in a series, in which Brāhmins from abroad once lived and traded), and are said to be still entitled daily to a measure of pālpayasom from the temple, a sweet pudding of milk, rice and sugar, celebrated all over Malabar for its excellence. The progeny of the family now count in all about ninety members, who live in eight or nine different houses.”

Pillai.—Pillai, meaning child, is in the Tamil country primarily the title of Vellālas, but has, at recent times of census, been returned as the title of a number of classes, which include Agamudaiyan, Ambalakāran, Golla, Idaiyan, Nāyar, Nōkkan, Panisavan, Panikkan, Paraiyan, Saiyakkāran, Sembadavan and Sēnaikkudaiyāns. Pilla is further used as the title of the male offspring of Dēva-dāsis. Many Paraiyan butlers of Europeans have assumed the title Pillai as an honorific suffix to their name. So, too, have some criminal Koravas, who pose as Vellālas.

Pillaikūttam.—Recorded, in the Manual of the North Arcot district, as a bastard branch of Vāniyan.

Pillaiyarpatti (Ganēsa village).—An exogamous section or kōvil of Nāttukōttai Chetti.

Pilli (cat).—An exogamous sept of Chembadi, Māla, and Mēdara.

Pindāri.—In the Madras Census Report, 1901, fifty-nine Pindāris are returned as a Bombay caste of personal servants. They are more numerous in the Mysore province, where more than two thousand were returned in the same year as being engaged in agriculture and Government service. The Pindāris were formerly celebrated as a notorious class of freebooters, who, in the seventeenth century, attached themselves to the Marāthas in their revolt against Aurangzīb, and for a long [200]time afterwards, committed raids in all directions, extending their operations to Southern India. It is on record that “in a raid made upon the coast extending from Masulipatam northward, the Pindāris in ten days plundered 339 villages, burning many, killing and wounding 682 persons, torturing 3,600, and carrying off or destroying property to the amount of £250,000.”100 They were finally suppressed, in Central India, during the Viceroyalty of the Marquis of Hastings, in 1817.

Pindi (flour).—An exogamous sept of Māla.

Pinjāri (cotton-cleaner).—A synonym for Dūdēkula. Pinjala (cotton) occurs as an exogamous sept of Dēvānga.

Pippala (pepper: Piper longum).—An exogamous sept or gōtra of Gamalla and Kōmati.

Pishārati.—The Pishāratis or Pishārodis are summed up in the Madras Census Report, 1901, as being a sub-caste of Ambalavāsis, which makes flower garlands, and does menial service in the temples. As regards their origin, the legend runs to the effect that a Swāmiyar, or Brāhman ascetic, once had a disciple of the same caste, who wished to become a Sanyāsi or anchorite. All the ceremonies prior to shaving the head of the novice were completed, when, alarmed at the prospect of a cheerless life and the severe austerities incidental thereto, he made himself scarce. Pishāra denotes a Sanyāsi’s pupil, and as he, after running away, was called Pishārōdi, the children born to him of a Parasava woman by a subsequent marriage were called Pishāratis. In his ‘Early Sovereigns of Travancore,’ Mr. Sundaram Pillay says that the Pishārati’s “puzzling position among the Malabar castes, half monk and half layman, is far from being accounted for by the silly and fanciful modern derivation [201]of Pishārakal plus Odi, Pishārakal being more mysterious than Pishārati itself.” It is suggested by him that Pishārati is a corruption of Bhattāraka-tiruvadi. According to the Jati-nirnaya, the Bhattārakas are a community degraded from the Brāhmans during the Trētā Yūga. As far as we are able to gather from mediæval Travancore inscriptions, an officer known as Pidara-tiruvadi was attached to every temple. It is known that he used to receive large perquisites for temple service, and that extensive rice-lands were given to the Bhattakara of Nelliyur. It is noted, in the Gazetteer of Malabar, that “the traditional etymology of the name Pishārodi refers it to a Sanyāsi novice, who, deterred by the prospects of the hardship of life on which he was about to enter, ran away (odi) at the last moment, after he had been divested of the pūnūl (thread), but before he had performed the final ceremony of plunging thrice in a tank (pond), and of plucking out, one at each plunge, the last three hairs of his kudumi (the rest of which had been shaved off). But the termination ‘Odi’ is found in other caste titles such as Adiyōdi and Vallōdi, and the definition is obviously fanciful, while it does not explain the meaning of Pishār.”

The houses of Pishāratis are called pishāram. Their primary occupation is to prepare garlands of flowers for Vaishnava temples, but they frequently undertake the talikazhakam or sweeping service in temples. Being learned men, and good Sanskrit scholars, they are employed as Sanskrit and Malayālam tutors in the families of those of high rank, and, in consequence, make free use of the title Asan. They are strict Vaishnavites, and the ashtākshara, or eight letters relating to Vishnu, as opposed to the panchākshara or five letters relating to Siva, forms their daily hymn of [202]prayer. They act as their own caste priests, but for the punyāha or purificatory ceremony and the initiation into the ashtākshara, which are necessary on special occasions, the services of Brāhmans are engaged.

The Pishāratis celebrate the tāli-kettu ceremony before the girl reaches puberty. The most important item therein is the joining of the hands of the bride and bridegroom. The planting of a jasmine shoot is observed as an indispensable preliminary rite. The events between this and the joining of hands are the same as with other Ambalavāsis. The bride and bridegroom bathe, and wear clothes touched by each other. The girl’s mother then gives her a wedding garland and a mirror, with which she sits, her face covered with a cloth. The cherutāli, or marriage ornament, is tied by the bridegroom round the girl’s neck. If this husband dies, the tāli has to be removed, and the widow observes pollution. Her sons have to make oblations of cooked rice, and, for all social and religious purposes, the woman is regarded as a widow, though she is not debarred from contracting a sambandham (alliance) with a man of her own caste, or a Brāhman. If the wife dies, the husband has, in like manner, to observe pollution, and make oblations of cooked rice. There are cases in which the tāli-kettu is performed by a Pishārati, and sambandham contracted with a Brāhman. If the tāli-tier becomes the husband, no separate cloth-giving ceremony need be gone through by him after the girl has reached puberty.

Inheritance is in the female line, so much so that a wife and children are not entitled to compensation for the performance of a man’s funeral rites.

No particular month is fixed for the name-giving rite, as it suffices if this is performed before the annaprasana [203]ceremony. The maternal uncle first names the child. When it is four or six months old, it is taken out to see the sun. On the occasion of the annaprasana, which usually takes place in the sixth month, the maternal uncle gives the first mouthful of cooked rice to the child by means of a golden ring. The Yatrakali serves as the night’s entertainment for the assembled guests. Nambūtiris are invited to perform the purificatory ceremony known as punyāha, but the consecrated water is only sprinkled over the roof of the house. The inmates thereof protrude their heads beneath the eaves so as to get purified, as the Brāhmans do not pour the water over them. The chaula or tonsure takes place at the third year of a child’s life. The maternal uncle first touches the boy’s head with a razor, and afterwards the Mārān and barber do the same. The initiation into the ashtākshara takes place at the age of sixteen. On an auspicious day, a Brāhman brings a pot of water, consecrated in a temple, to the pishāram, and pours its contents on the head of the lad who is to be initiated. The ceremony is called kalasam-ozhuk-kua, or letting a pot of water flow. After the teaching of the ashtākshara, the youth, dressed in religious garb, makes a ceremonial pretence of proceeding on a pilgrimage to Benares, as a Brāhman does at the termination of the Brāhmacharya stage of life. It is only after this that a Pishārati is allowed to chew betel leaf, and perform other acts, which constitute the privileges of a Grihastha.

The funeral rites of the Pishāratis are very peculiar. The corpse is seated on the ground, and a nephew recites the ashtākshara, and prostrates himself before it. The body is bathed, and dressed. A grave, nine feet deep and three feet square, is dug in a corner of the grounds, and salt and ashes, representing all the Panchabhūtas, [204]are spread. The corpse is placed in the grave in a sitting posture. As in the case of a Sanyāsi, who is a Jivanmukta, or one liberated from the bondage of the flesh though alive in body, so a dead Pishārati is believed to have no suitable body requiring to be entertained with any post-mortem offerings. A few memorial rites are, however, performed. On the eleventh day, a ceremony corresponding to the ekoddishta srādh of the Brāhman is carried out. A knotted piece of kusa grass, representing the soul of the deceased, is taken to a neighbouring temple, where a lighted lamp, symbolical of Maha Vishnu is worshipped, and prayers are offered. This ceremony is repeated at the end of the first year.101

Some Pishāratis are large land-owners of considerable wealth and influence.102

Pīsu Perike.—Perikes who weave gunny-bags.

Pītakālu (dais, on which a priest sits).—An exogamous sept of Oddē.

Pittalavādu.—A Telugu name for Kuruvikkārans.

Podapōtula.—A class of mendicants, who beg from Gollas.

Podara Vannān.—The Podara, Podarayan or Pothora Vannāns are washermen of inferior social status, who wash clothes for Pallans, Paraiyans, and other low classes.

Podhāno.—Recorded, at times of census, as a title of Bolāsi, Gaudo, Kālingi, Kudumo, and Sāmantiya. The Sāmantiyas also frequently give it as the name of their caste.

Poduvāl.—Defined by Mr. Wigram103 as one of the Ambalavāsi castes, the members of which are as a rule employed as temple watchmen. Writing concerning [205]the Mūssads or Mūttatus, Mr. N. Subramani Aiyar states that they are known as Mūttatus or Mūssatus in Travancore and Cochin, and Potuvāls (or Poduvāls) or Akapotuvāls in North Malabar. Potuvāl means a common person, i.e., the representative of a committee, and a Mūttatu’s right to this name accrues from the fact that, in the absence of the Nambūtiri managers of a temple, he becomes their agent, and is invested with authority to exercise all their functions. The work of an Akapotuvāl always lies within the inner wall of the shrine, while that of the Purappotuvāl, or Potuvāl proper, lies outside. From Travancore, Poduvān or Potuvān is recorded as a synonym or sub-division of Mārāns, who are employed at funerals by various castes.

It is recorded, in the Gazetteer of Malabar, that “Pura Pothuvāls are of two classes, Chenda Pothuvāls or drum Pothuvāls, and Māla Pothuvāls or garland Pothuvāls, the names of course referring to the nature of the service which they have to render in the temple. The Chenda Pothuvāls would appear to be closely connected with the Mārārs or Mārayārs, who are also drummers. Māla Pothuvāls follow marumakkattāyam (inheritance in the female line), their women having sambandham (alliance) with men of their own caste or with Brāhmans, while the men can have sambandham in their own caste, or with Nāyar women of any of the sub-divisions below Kiriyattil. Their women are called Pothuvārassiar or Pothuvāttimar.” It is further recorded104 that, in some cases, for instance among Māla Pothuvāls and Mārārs in South Malabar, a fictitious consummation is an incident of the tāli-kettu ; the girl and manavālan (bridegroom) [206]being made to lie on a bed together, and left there alone for a few moments. Amongst the Māla Pothuvals this is done twice, once on the first and once on the last day, and they apparently also spend the three nights of the ceremony in the same bed-chamber, but not alone, an Enangatti sleeping there as chaperone. In these two castes, as in most if not all others, the ceremony also entails the pollution of the girl and her bridegroom. Amongst the Mārārs, they are purified by a Nambūdiri after they leave their quasi-nuptial couch. Amongst the Māla Pothuvals, they are not allowed to bathe or to touch others during the wedding till the fourth day, when they are given māttu (change of cloths) by the Veluttedan.”

Podala occurs as a Canarese form of Poduvāl.

Pōgandan.—A synonym of Pōndan.

Pōkanāti.—Pōkanāti or Pakanāti is a sub-division of Kāpu.

Poladava.—A synonym of Gatti.

Poligar (feudal chief).—A synonym of Pālayakkāran. According to Yule and Burnell,105 the Poligars “were properly subordinate feudal chiefs, occupying tracts more or less wild, and generally of predatory habits in former days. They are now much the same as Zemindars (land-owners) in the highest use of that term. The Southern Poligars gave much trouble about a hundred years ago, and the ‘Poligar wars’ were somewhat serious affairs. In various assaults on Pānjālamkurichi, one of their forts in Tinnevelly, between 1799 and 1801, there fell fifteen British officers.” The name Poligar was further used for the predatory classes, which served under the chiefs. Thus, in Munro’s ‘Narrative [207]of Military Operations’ (1780–84), it is stated that “the matchlock men are generally accompanied by Poligars, a set of fellows that are almost savages, and make use of no other weapon than a pointed bamboo spear, 18 or 20 feet long.”

The name Poligar is given to a South Indian breed of greyhound-like dogs in the Tinnevelly district.

Pombada.—A small class of Canarese devil-dancers, who are said,106 in South Canara, to resemble the Nalkes, but hold a somewhat higher position, and in devil-dances to represent a better class of demons. Unlike the Nalkes and Paravas, they follow the aliya santāna system of inheritance. They speak Tulu, and, in their customs, follow those of the Billavas. There are two sections among the Pombadas, viz., Bailu, who are mainly cultivators, and Padarti, who are chiefly engaged in devil-dancing. The Pombadas are not, like the Nalkes and Paravas, a polluting class, and are socially a little inferior to the Billavas. They do not wear the disguises of the bhūthas (devils) Nicha, Varte, and Kamberlu, who are considered low, but wear those of Jumadi, Panjurli, Jarandaya, Mahisandeya, and Kodamanithaya. Ullaya or Dharmadēvata is regarded as a superior bhūtha, and the special bhūtha of the Pombadas, who do not allow Nalkes or Paravas to assume his disguise. During the Jumadi Kōla (festival), the Pombada who represents the bhūtha Jumadi is seated on a cart, and dragged in procession through the streets. (See Nalke.)

Pon Chetti (gold merchant).—A synonym of Malayālam Kammālan goldsmiths.

Pon (gold) Illam.—A section of Mukkuvans. [208]

Pōndan.—“There are,” Mr. H. A. Stuart writes,107 “only twenty-eight persons of this caste in Malabar, and they are all in Calicut. These are the palanquin-bearers of the Zamorin. They are in dress, manners, customs, and language entirely Tamilians, and, while the Zamorin is polluted by the touch of any ordinary Tamilian, these Pōndans enjoy the privilege of bearing him in a palanquin to and from the temple every day. Now there is a sub-division of the Tamil Idaiyans by name Pogondan, and I understand that these Pogondans are the palanquin-bearers of the Idaiyan caste. It seems probable that the founder, or some early member of the Zamorin, obtained palanquin-bearers of his own (cowherd) caste and granted them privileges which no other Tamilians now enjoy.”

Pondra.—Pondra, or Ponara, is a sub-division of Māli.

Ponganādu.—Ponganādu and Ponguvān have been recorded, at times of census, as a sub-division of Kāpu. A corrupt form of Pakanāti.

Ponnambalaththar.—A class of mendicants, who have attached themselves to the Kaikōlans.

Ponnara.—Recorded, in the Travancore Census Report, 1901, as a sub-division of Nāyar.

Poruvannurkāran.—A class of carpenters in Malabar.

Poroja.—The Porojas or Parjās are hill cultivators found in the Agency tracts of Ganjam and Vizagapatam. Concerning them, it is noted, in the Madras Census Report, 1871, that “there are held to be seven classes of these Parjās, which differ from each other in points of language, customs, and traditions. The term Parjā is, as Mr. Carmichael has pointed out, merely a corruption [209]of a Sanskrit term signifying a subject, and it is understood as such by the people themselves, who use it in contradistinction to a free hill-man. ‘Formerly,’ says a tradition that runs through the whole tribe, ‘Rājas and Parjās were brothers, but the Rājas took to riding horses (or, as the Barenja Parjās put it, sitting still) and we became carriers of burdens and Parjās.’ It is quite certain, in fact, that the term Parjā is not a tribal denomination, but a class denomination, and it may be fitly rendered by the familiar epithet of ryot (cultivator). I have laid stress on this, because all native officials, and every one that has written about the country (with the above exception), always talk of the term Parjā as if it signified a caste. There is no doubt, however, that by far the greater number of these Parjās are akin to the Khonds of the Ganjam Māliahs. They are thrifty, hard-working cultivators, undisturbed by the intestine broils which their cousins in the north engage in, and they bear in their breasts an inalienable reverence for their soil, the value of which they are rapidly becoming acquainted with. The Parjā bhūmi (land) is contained almost entirely in the upper level. Parts to the south held under Pāchipenta and Mādugulu (Mādgole) are not Parjā bhūmi, nor, indeed, are some villages to the north in the possession of the Khonds. Their ancient rights to these lands are acknowledged by colonists from among the Aryans, and, when a dispute arises concerning the boundaries of a field possessed by recent arrivals, a Parjā is usually called in to point out the ancient land-marks.”

The name Poroja seems to be derived from the Oriya, Po, son, and Rāja, i.e., sons of Rājas. There is a tradition that, at the time when the Rājas of Jeypore rose into prominence at Nandapur, the country was occupied by a number of tribes, who, in return for the protection [210]promised to them, surrendered their rights to the soil, which they had hitherto occupied absolutely. I am informed that the Porojas, when asked what their caste is, use ryot and Poroja as synonymous, saying we are Porojas; we are ryot people.

The Parjī language is stated by Mr. G. A. Grierson108 to have “hitherto been considered as identical with Bhatrī. Bhatrī has now become a form of Oriyā. Parjī, on the other hand, is still a dialect of Gōndi.” The Bhatrās are a tribe inhabiting the state of Bastar in the Central Provinces.

The Porojas are not a compact caste, but rather a conglomerate, made up of several endogamous sections, and speaking a language, which varies according to locality. These sections, according to Mr. C. Hayavadana Rao, to whom I am indebted for much of the present note, are—

(1) Bārang Jhodia, who eat beef and speak Oriya.

(2) Pengu Poroja, subdivided into those who eat the flesh of the buffalo, and those who do not. They speak a language, which is said to bear a close resemblance to Kondhs.

(3) Khōndi or Kōndi Poroja, who are a section of the Kondhs, eat beef and the flesh of buffaloes, and speak Kōdu or Kondh.

(4) Parengi Poroja, who are a section of the Gadabas. They are subdivided into those who eat and do not eat the flesh of buffaloes, and speak a Gadaba dialect.

(5) Bonda, Būnda, or Nanga Poroja, who are likewise a section of the Gadabas, call themselves Bonda Gadaba, and speak a dialect of Gadaba. [211]

(6) Tagara Poroja, who are a section of the Kōyas or Kōyis, and speak Kōya, or, in some places, Telugu.

(7) Dūr Poroja, also, it is said, known as Didāyi Poroja, who speak Oriya.

Among the Bārang Jhōdias, the gidda (vulture), bāgh (tiger), and nāg (cobra) are regarded as totems. Among the Pengu, Kōndhi and Dūr divisions, the two last are apparently regarded as such, and, in addition to them, the Bonda Porojas have mandi (cow).

In the Bārang Jhodia, Pengu, and Kōndhi divisions, it is customary for a man to marry his paternal aunt’s daughter, but he cannot claim her as a matter of right, for the principle of free love is recognised among them. The dhangada and dhangadi basa system, according to which bachelors and unmarried girls sleep in separate quarters in a village, is in force among the Porojas.

When a marriage is contemplated among the Bārang Jhodias, the parents of the young man carry two pots of liquor and some rice to the parents of the girl, who accept the present, if they are favourable to the match. If it is accepted, the future bridegroom’s party renew the proposal a year later by bringing five kunchams of rice, a new female cloth, seven uddas of liquor, and a sum of money ranging from fifteen to fifty rupees. On the following evening, the bride, accompanied by her relations, goes to the village of the bridegroom. Outside his house two poles have been set up, and joined together at the top by a string, from which a gourd (Cucurbita maxima) is suspended. As soon as the contracting couple come before the house, a tall man cuts the gourd with his tangi (axe) and it falls to the ground. The pair then enter the house, and the bride is presented with a new cloth by the parents of the bridegroom. Opposite the bridegroom’s house is a [212]square fence, forming an enclosure, from which the bride’s party watch the proceedings. They are joined by the bride and bridegroom, and the parents of the latter distribute rāgi (Eleusine Corocana) liquor and ippa (Bassia) liquor. A dance, in which both males and females take part, is kept up till the small hours, and, on the following day, a feast is held. About midday, the bride is formally handed over to the bridegroom, in the presence of the Janni and Mudili (caste elders). She remains a week at her new home, and then, even though she has reached puberty, returns to her father’s house, where she remains for a year, before finally joining her husband. In another form of marriage among the Bārang Jhodias, the bride is brought to the house of the bridegroom, in front of which a pandal (booth), made of six poles, is set up. The central pole is cut from the nērēdi chettu (Eugenia Jambolana). At the auspicious moment, which is fixed by the Disāri, the maternal uncle of the bridegroom sits with the bridegroom on his lap, and the bride at his feet. Castor-oil is then applied by the bridegroom’s father, first to the bridegroom, and then to the bride. A feast follows, at which fowls and liquor are consumed. On the following day, the newly-married couple bathe, and the ceremonies are at an end.

I am informed by Mr. H. C. Daniel that there is a custom among the Porojas, and other classes in Vizagapatam (e.g., Gadabas, Ghāsis, and Mālis), according to which a man gives his services as a goti for a specified time to another, in return for a small original loan. His master has to keep him supplied with food, and to pay him about two rupees at the Dussera festival, as well as making him a present of a cloth and a pair of sandals. The servant must do whatever he is told, and is [213]practically a slave until the specified time is over. A man may give his son as a goti, instead of himself. It is also fairly common to find a man serving his prospective father-in-law for a specified time, in order to secure his daughter. Men from the plains, usually of the Kōmati caste, who have come to the hills for the purpose of trade, go by the local name of Sundi. They are the chief upholders of the goti system, by which they get labour cheap. Mr. Daniel has never heard of a goti refusing to do his work, the contract being by both sides considered quite inviolable. But a case was recently tried in a Munsiff’s Court, in which a goti absconded from his original master, and took service with another, thereby securing a fresh loan. The original master sued him for the balance of labour due.

The language of the Bonda Porojas, as already indicated, connects them closely with the Gadabas, but any such connection is stoutly denied by them. The names Bonda and Nanga mean naked, and bear reference to the fact that the only clothing of the women is a strip of cloth made from sētukudi or ankudi chettu, or kareng fibre. In a note on the Bhondas of Jaipūr, Mr. J. A. May informs us109 that the female attire “consists of just a piece of cloth, either made of kerong bark and manufactured by themselves, or purchased from the weavers, about a foot square, and only sufficient to cover a part of one hip. It is attached to their waists by a string, on which it runs, and can be shifted round to any side. A most ludicrous sight has often been presented to me by a stampede among a number of these women, when I have happened to enter a village unexpectedly. On my approach, one and all hurried to their respective [214]dwellings, and, as they ran in all directions, endeavoured to shift this rag round to the part most likely to be exposed to me.” The Bonda women have glass bead and brass ornaments hung round their necks, and covering their bosoms. The legend, which accounts for the scanty clothing of the Bondas, runs to the effect that, when Sīta, the wife of Rāma, was bathing in a river, she was seen by women of this tribe, who laughed at and mocked her. Thereon, she cursed them, and ordained that, in future, all the women should shave their heads, and wear no clothing except a small covering for decency’s sake. There is a further tradition that, if the Bonda women were to abandon their primitive costume, the whole tribe would be destroyed by tigers. The shaving of the women’s heads is carried out, with a knife lent by the village Komāro (blacksmith), by a member of the tribe. Round the head, the women wear a piece of bamboo tied behind with strings.

In one form of marriage, as carried out by the Bondas, a young man, with some of his friends, goes to the sleeping apartment of the maidens, where each of them selects a maid for himself. The young men and maidens then indulge in a singing contest, in which impromptu allusions to physical attributes, and bantering and repartee take place. If a girl decides to accept a young man as her suitor, he takes a burning stick from the night fire, and touches her breast with it. He then withdraws, and sends one of his friends to the girl with a brass bangle, which, after some questioning as to who sent it, she accepts. Some months later, the man’s parents go to the girl’s home, and ask for her hand on behalf of their son. A feast follows, and the girl, with a couple of girls of about her own age, goes with the man’s parents to their home. They send five kunchams [215]of rice to the parents of the girl, and present the two girls with a similar quantity. The three girls then return to their homes. Again several months elapse, and then the man’s parents go to fetch the bride, and a feast and dance take place. The pair are then man and wife.

In another account of the marriage customs of the Nanga Porojas, it is stated that pits are dug in the ground, in which, during the cold season, the children are put at night, to keep them warm. The pit is about nine feet in diameter. In the spring, all the marriageable girls of a settlement are put into one pit, and a young man, who has really selected his bride with the consent of his parents, comes and proposes to her. If she refuses him, he tries one after another till he is accepted. On one occasion, a leopard jumped into the pit, and killed some of the maidens. In a note on Bhonda marriage, Mr. May writes110 that “a number of youths, candidates for matrimony, start off to a village, where they hope to find a corresponding number of young women, and make known their wishes to the elders, who receive them with all due ceremony. The juice of the salop (sago palm) in a fermented state is in great requisition, as nothing can be done without the exhilarating effects of their favourite beverage. They then proceed to excavate an underground chamber (if one is not already prepared), having an aperture at the top, admitting of the entrance of one at a time. Into this the young gentlemen, with a corresponding number of young girls, are introduced, when they grope about and make their selection, after which they ascend out of it, each holding the young lady of his choice by the [216]forefinger of one of her hands. Bracelets (the equivalent of the wedding ring) are now put on her arms by the elders, and two of the young men stand as sponsors for each bridegroom. The couples are then led to their respective parents, who approve and give their consent. After another application of salop and sundry greetings, the bridegroom is permitted to take his bride home, where she lives with him for a week, and then, returning to her parents, is not allowed to see her husband for a period of one year, at the expiration of which she is finally made over to him.” In a still further account of marriage among the Bondas, I am informed that a young man and a maid retire to the jungle, and light a fire. Then the maid, taking a burning stick, applies it to the man’s gluteal region. If he cries out Am! Am! Am! he is unworthy of her, and she remains a maid. If he does not, the marriage is at once consummated. The application of the brand is probably light or severe according to the girl’s feelings towards the young man. According to another version, the girl goes off to the jungle with several men, and the scene has been described as being like a figure in the cotillion, as they come up to be switched with the brand.

Widow remarriage is permitted among all the divisions of the Porojas, and a younger brother usually marries his elder brother’s widow.

The Jhodia, Pengu, and Kondhi divisions worship Bhūmi Dēvata (the earth goddess), who is also known as Jākar Dēvata, once in three years. Each village offers a cow, goat, pig, and pigeon to her as a sacrifice. She is represented by a stone under a tree outside the village. A casteman acts as pūjāri (priest), and all the villagers, including the Janni and Mūdili, are present at the festival, which winds up with a feast and drink. [217]The Bondas worship Tākurāni in the months of Chaitra and Māgho, and the festival includes the sacrifice of animals. “Their religious ceremonies,” Mr. May writes, “consist in offerings to some nameless deity, or to the memory of deceased relations. At each of the principal villages, the Bhondas congregate once a year in some spot conveniently situated for their orgies, when a chicken, a few eggs, and a pig or goat are offered, after which they retire to their houses, and next day assemble again, when the salop juice is freely imbibed till the intoxicating effects have thoroughly roused their pugnacity. The process of cudgelling one another with the branches of the salop now begins, and they apply them indiscriminately without the smallest regard for each other’s feelings. This, with the attendant drums and shrieks, would give one the impression of a host of maniacs suddenly set at liberty. This amusement is continued till bruises, contusions, and bleeding heads and backs have reduced them to a comparatively sober state, and, I imagine, old scores are paid off, when they return to their several houses.”

The dead are, as a rule, burnt. By some of the Jhodia Porojas, the ashes are subsequently buried in a pit a few feet deep, near the burning-ground, and the grave is marked by a heap of stones. A pole is set up in this heap, and water poured on it for twelve days. On the fourth day, cooked rice and fish are set on the way leading to the spot where the corpse was burned. The celebrants of the death rite then take mango bark, paint it with cow-dung, and sprinkle themselves with it. The ceremony concludes with a bath, feast, and drink. Among the Bonda Porojas, some of the jewelry of the deceased person is burnt with the corpse, and the remainder given to the daughter or daughter-in-law. [218]They observe pollution for three days, during which they do not enter their fields. On the fourth day, they anoint themselves with castor-oil and turmeric, and bathe.

Mr. G. F. Paddison informs me that he once gave medicine to the Porojas during an epidemic of cholera in a village. They all took it eagerly, but, as he was going away, asked whether it would not be quicker cure to put the witch in the next village, who had brought on the cholera, into jail.

A Bonda Poroja dance is said to be very humourous. The young men tie a string of bells round their legs, and do the active part of the dance. The women stand in a cluster, with faces to the middle, clap their hands, and scream at intervals, while the men hop and stamp, and whirl round them on their own axes. The following account of a dance by the Jhōdia Poroja girls of the Koraput and Nandapuram country is given by Mr. W. Francis.111 “Picturesque in the extreme,” he writes, “is a dancing party of these cheery maidens, dressed all exactly alike in clean white cloths with cerise borders or checks, reaching barely half way to the knee; great rings on their fingers; brass bells on their toes; their substantial but shapely arms and legs tattooed from wrist to shoulder, and from ankle to knee; their left forearms hidden under a score of heavy brass bangles; and their feet loaded with chased brass anklets weighing perhaps a dozen pounds. The orchestra, which consists solely of drums of assorted shapes and sizes, dashes into an overture, and the girls quickly group themselves into a couple of corps de ballet, each under the leadership of a première danseuse, who marks the [219]time with a long baton of peacock’s feathers. Suddenly, the drums drop to a muffled beat, and each group strings out into a long line, headed by the leader with the feathers, each maiden passing her right hand behind the next girl’s back, and grasping the left elbow of the next but one. Thus linked, and in time with the drums (which now break into allegro crescendo), the long chain of girls—dancing in perfect step, following the leader with her swaying baton, marking the time by clinking their anklets (right, left, right, clink; left, clink; right, left, right, clink; and so da capo), chanting the while (quite tunefully) in unison a refrain in a minor key ending on a sustained falling note—weave themselves into sinuous lines, curves, spirals, figures-of-eight, and back into lines again; wind in and out like some brightly-coloured snake; never halting for a moment, now backwards, now forwards, first slowly and decorously, then, as the drums quicken, faster and faster, with more and more abandon, and longer and longer steps, until suddenly some one gets out of step, and the chain snaps amid peals of breathless laughter.”

For the following supplementary note on the Bonda Porojas, I am indebted to Mr. C. A. Henderson.

These people live in the western portion of Malkanagiri tāluk, along the edge of the hills, probably penetrating some distance into them. The elder men are not in any way distinguishable from their neighbours. Young unmarried men, however, tie a strip of palmyra leaf round their heads in the same way as the women of their own tribe, or of the Gadabas. The women are very distinctly dressed. They all shave their heads once a month or so, and fasten a little fillet, made of beads or plaited grass, round them. The neck and chest are covered with a mass of ornaments, by which [220]the breasts are almost concealed. These consist, for the most part, of bead necklaces, but they have also one or more very heavy brass necklaces of various designs, some being merely collections of rings on a connecting circlet, some massive hinged devices tied together at the end with string. They wear also small ear-studs of lead. Apart from these ornaments, they are naked to the waist. Round the loins, a small thick cloth is worn. This is woven from the fibre of the ringa (Oriya sītkodai gotsho). This cloth measures about two feet by eight inches, and is of thick texture like gunny, and variously coloured. Owing to its exiguity, its wearers are compelled, for decency’s sake, to sit on their heels with their knees together, instead of squatting in the ordinary native posture. This little cloth is supported round the waist by a thread, or light chain of tin and beads, but not totally confined thereby. The upper edge of the cloth behind is free from the chain, and bulges out, exposing the upper portion of the buttocks, the thread or chain lying in the small of the back. It is noted by Mr. Sandell that “the cloth at present used is of comparatively recent introduction, and seems to be a slight infringement of the tabu. The original cloth and supporting string were undoubtedly made of jungle fibre, and the modern colouring is brought about with cotton thread. Similarly, the Bonda Poroja necklaces of cheap beads, blue and white, must be modern, and most obviously so the fragments of tin that they work into their chains. The women are said to wear cloths in their houses, but to leave them off when they go outside. It seems that the tabu is directed against appearing in public fully clothed, and not against wearing decent sized cloths, as such. The party I saw were mostly unmarried girls, but one of them had been [221]married for a year. When not posing for the camera, or dancing, she tied a small piece of cloth round her neck, so as to hang over the shoulders. This, as far as I could make out, was not because she was married, but simply because she was more shy than the rest.

“Two houses are kept in the village, for the unmarried girls and young men respectively. Apparently marriages are matters of inclination, the parents having no say in the matter. The young couple having contracted friendship (by word of mouth, and not by deed, as it was explained to me), inform their parents of it. The young man goes to make his demand of the girl’s parents, apparently without at the time making any presents to them, contrary to the custom of the Kondhs and others. Then there seem to be a series of promises on the part of the parents to give the girl. But the witnesses were rather confused on the point. I gather that the sort of final betrothal takes place in Dyali (the month after Dusserah), and the marriage in Magha. At the time of marriage, the girl’s parents are presented with a pair of bulls, a cloth, and a pot of landa (sago-palm toddy). But no return is made for them. The father gives the girl some ornaments. The married woman, whom I saw, had been given a bracelet by her husband, but it was not a conspicuously valuable one, and in no way indicative of her status.” In connection with marriage, Mr. Sandell adds that “a youth of one village does not marry a maiden of the same village, as they are regarded as brother and sister. The marriage pit is still in use, and may last all through the cold weather. A number of small villages will club together, and have one big pit.” In the case observed by Mr. Sandell, three of the local [222]maidens were shut up in the pit at night, and five stranger youths admitted. The pit may be twelve feet across, and is covered with tatties (mats) and earth, a trap-door being left.

“After childbirth, the mother is unclean for some days. The time is, I gather, reckoned by the dropping of the navel-string, and is given as eight to sixteen days. During that period, the woman is not allowed to cook, or even touch her meals.

“These people say that they have no pūja (worship). But at the time of sowing seed, they sacrifice one egg (for the whole village) to Matēra Hundi, the goddess of harvest, who is represented by a branch of the kusi or jāmo (guava) tree planted in the village. The people have no pūjāris, and, in this case, the priest was a Mattia by caste. He plants the branch, and performs the sacrifice. At the time of Nua Khāu (new eating; first fruits) a sacrifice of an animal of some kind is also made to Matēra Hundi. Her aid is, they say, sought against the perils of the jungle, but primarily she is wanted to give them a good crop. The Bonda Porojas are quite ready to tell the old story of Sīta (whom they call Mahā Lakshmi), and her curse upon their women, whereby they shave their heads, and may not wear cloths. It is stated by Mr. May that a Government Agent once insisted on a young woman being properly clothed, and she survived the change only three days. I understand that this case has been somewhat misrepresented. The cloth is believed not to have been forced upon the girl, but offered to, and greatly appreciated by her. Her death shortly afterwards was apparently not the result of violation of the tabu, but accidental, and due, it is believed, to small-pox. The people whom I saw had not heard of this episode, but said that a [223]woman who wore a cloth out of doors would fall sick, not die. But the possibility of any woman of theirs wearing a cloth obviously seemed to them very remote. The Bonda Porojas have a sort of belief in ghosts—not altogether devils apparently, but the spirits of the departed (sayirē). These may appear in dreams, influence life and health, and vaguely exercise a helpful influence over the crops. I did not find out if they were propitiated in any way.

“A dead body is washed, tied to a tatty (mat) hurdle, taken outside the village, and burnt. After eight days (said to be four in the case of rich men), the corpse-bearers, and the family, sit down to a funeral feast, at which drinking is not allowed. A pig, fowl, or goat, according to the circumstances of the family, forms the meal. This is done in some way for the sake of the departed, but how is not quite clear.

“The Bonda Porojas live by cultivation, keep cattle, pigs, etc., and eat beef, and even the domestic pig. They pride themselves, as against their Hindu neighbours, in that their women eat with the men, and not of their leavings, and do not leave their village. The women, however, go to shandies (markets).”

Pothoria.—Pothoria or Pothriya, meaning stone, is the name of a small class of Oriya stone-cutters in Ganjam, who are addicted to snaring antelopes by means of tame bucks, which they keep for the purpose of decoying the wild ones. They employ Brāhmans as purōhits. Marriage is infant, and remarriage of widows is permitted. The females wear glass bangles.

Pōthu.—Pōthu or Pōthula, meaning male, occurs as an exogamous sept of Dēvānga, Mēdara, and Padma Sālē; and Pōthula, in the sense of a male buffalo, as a sept of Mādiga. [224]

Potia.—Recorded, in the Madras Census Report, 1901, as Oriya mat-makers. They are said to be immigrants from Potia in Orissa, who call themselves Doluvas. The Doluvas, however, do not recognise them, and neither eat nor intermarry with them.

Potta (abdomen).—An exogamous sept of Bōya.

Potti (Tamil, worshipful).—Stated, in the Travancore Census Report, 1901, to be the name applied to all Kērala Brāhmans, who do not come under the specific designation of Nambūtiris.

Pouzu (quail).—An exogamous sept of Dēvānga.

Powāku (tobacco).—An exogamous sept of Māla.

Poyilethānnāya (one who removes the evil eye).—An exogamous sept of Bant.

Pradhāno (chief).—A title of Aruva, Benāiyto, Odia, Kālingi, Kēvuto, and Sāmantiya.

Prānōpakāri (one who helps souls).—A name for barbers in Travancore. In the early settlement records, Pranu occurs as a corruption thereof.

Prathamasākha.—It is recorded,112 in connection with the village of Kōiltirumālam or Tiru-ambamahālam, that “a new temple has been recently built, and richly endowed by Nāttukōttai Chettis. There is, however, an old story connected with the place, which is enacted at the largely attended festival here, and in many popular dramas. This relates that the god of the Tiruvālūr temple was entreated by a pūjāri (priest) of this place to be present in the village at a sacrifice in his (the god’s) honour. The deity consented at length, but gave warning that he would come in a very unwelcome shape. He appeared as a Paraiyan with beef on his back and followed by the four Vēdas in the form of dogs, and took [225]his part in the sacrifice thus accoutred and attended. All the Brāhmans who were present ran away, and the god was so incensed that he condemned them to be Paraiyans for one hour in the day, from noon till 1 P.M. ever afterwards. There is a class of Brāhmans called Midday Brāhmans, who are found in several districts, and a colony of whom reside at Sēdanipuram, five miles west of Nannilam. It is believed throughout the Tanjore district that the Midday Paraiyans are the descendants of the Brāhmans thus cursed by the god. They are supposed to expiate their defilement by staying outside their houses for an hour and a half every day at midday, and to bathe afterwards; and, if they do this, they are much respected. Few of them, however, observe this rule, and orthodox persons will not eat with them, because of this omission to remove the defilement. They call themselves the Prathamasākha.”

Prithvi (earth).—An exogamous sept of Dēvānga.

Puchcha.—Puccha or Puchcha Kāya (fruit of Citrullus Colocynthis) is the name of a gōtra or sept of Bōyas, Kōmatis, and Vīramushtis, who are a class of mendicants attached to the Kōmatis. The same name, or picchi kāya, denoting the water-melon Citrullus vulgaris, occurs as a sept or house-name of Panta Reddis and Sēniyans (Dēvāngas), the members of which may not eat the fruit. The name Desimarada has been recently substituted by the Sēniyans for picchi kāya.

Pudamuri (pudaya, a woman’s cloth; muri, cuttings).—Defined by Mr. Wigram as a so-called ‘marriage’ ceremony performed among the Nāyars in North Malabar. (See Nāyar.)

Pudu Nāttān (new country).—A sub-division of Idaiyan.

Pū Islām.—See Pūtiya Islām. [226]

Pūjāri.—Pūjāri is an occupational title, meaning priest, or performer of pūja (worship). It is described by Mr. H. A. Stuart113 as “a name applied to a class of priests, who mostly preside in the temples of the female deities—the Grāma Dēvatas or Ūr Ammas—and not in those of Vishnu or Siva. They do not wear the sacred thread, except on solemn occasions.” Pūjāri has been recorded as a title of Billavas as they officiate as priests at bhūtasthānas (devil shrines), and of Halēpaiks, and Pūjāli as a title of some Irulas. Some families of Kusavans (potters), who manufacture clay idols, are also known as pūjāri. Pūja occurs as a sub-division of the Gollas. Some criminal Koravas travel in the guise of Pūjāris, and style themselves Korava Pūjāris.

Pula.—A sub-division of Cheruman.

Pūla (flowers).—An exogamous sept of Bōya, Padma Sālē and Yerukala.

Pūlān.—Barbers of Tamil origin, who have settled in Travancore.

Pulavar.—A title of Ōcchan and Panisavan.

Pulayan.—See Cheruman and Thanda Pulayan.

Puli (tiger).—Recorded as an exogamous sept or gōtra of Balija, Golla, Kamma, and Mēdara. The equivalent Puliattanāya occurs as an exogamous sept of Bant.

Puliakōdan.—A class of carpenters in Malabar, whose traditional occupation is to construct oil mills.

Pūliāsāri.—A division of Malabar Kammālans, the members of which do mason’s work (pūli, earth). Paravas who are engaged in a similar calling are, in like manner, called Pūli Kollan.

Pulikkal.—Recorded, in the Travancore Census Report, 1901, as a sub-division of Nāyar. [227]

Puliyan.—A sub-division of Nāyar.

Puliyattu.—Recorded, in the Travancore Census Report, 1901, as synonymous with Pulikkappanikkan, a sub-division of Nāyar.

Pullakūra (pot-herbs).—An exogamous sept of Īdiga.

Pulluvan.—The Pulluvans of Malabar are astrologers, medicine-men, priests and singers in snake groves. The name is fancifully derived from pullu, a hawk, because the Pulluvan is clever in curing the disorders which pregnant women and babies suffer from through the evil influence of these birds. The Pulluvans are sometimes called Vaidyans (physicians).

As regards the origin of the caste, the following tradition is narrated.114 Agni, the fire god, had made several desperate but vain efforts to destroy the great primeval forest of Gāndava. The eight serpents which had their home in the forest were the chosen friends of Indra, who sent down a deluge, and destroyed, every time, the fire which Agni kindled in order to burn down the forest. Eventually Agni resorted to a stratagem, and, appearing before Arjunan in the guise of a Brāhman, contrived to exact a promise to do him any favour he might desire. Agni then sought the help of Arjunan in destroying the forest, and the latter created a wonderful bow and arrows, which cut off every drop of rain sent by Indra for the preservation of the forest. The birds, beasts, and other creatures which lived therein, fled in terror, but most of them were overtaken by the flames, and were burnt to cinders. Several of the serpents also were overtaken and destroyed, but one of them was rescued by the maid-servant of a Brāhman, who secured [228]the sacred reptile in a pot, which she deposited in a jasmine bower. When the Brāhman came to hear of this, he had the serpent removed, and turned the maid-servant adrift, expelling at the same time a man-servant, so that the woman might not be alone and friendless. The two exiles prospered under the protection of the serpent, which the woman had rescued from the flames, and became the founders of the Pulluvans. According to another story, when the great Gāndava forest was in conflagration, the snakes therein were destroyed in the flames. A large five-hooded snake, scorched and burnt by the fire, flew away in agony, and alighted at Kuttanād, which is said to have been on the site of the modern town of Alleppey. Two women were at the time on their way to draw water from a well. The snake asked them to pour seven potfuls of water over him, to alleviate his pain, and to turn the pot sideways, so that he could get into it. His request was complied with, and, having entered the pot, he would not leave it. He then desired one of the women to take him home, and place him in a room on the west side of the house. This she refused to do for fear of the snake, and she was advised to cover the mouth of the pot with a cloth. The room, in which the snake was placed, was ordered to be closed for a week. The woman’s husband, who did not know what had occurred, tried to open the door, and only succeeded by exerting all his strength. On entering the room, to his surprise he found an ant-hill, and disturbed it. Thereon the snake issued forth from it, and bit him. As the result of the bite, the man died, and his widow was left without means of support. The snake consoled her, and devised a plan, by which she could maintain herself. She was to go from house to house, and cry out “Give me alms, and be saved from [229]snake poisoning.” The inmates would give, and the snakes, which were troubling their houses, would cease from annoying them. For this reason, a Pulluvan and his wife, when they go with their pulluva kudam (pot-drum) to a house, are asked to sing, and given money.

The Pulluvar females, Mr. T. K. Gopal Panikkar writes,115 “take a pretty large pitcher, and close its opening by means of a small circular piece of thin leather, which is fastened on to the vessel by means of strings strongly tied round its neck. Another string is adjusted to the leather cover, which, when played on by means of the fingers, produces a hoarse note, which is said to please the gods’ ears, pacify their anger, and lull them to sleep.” In the Malabar Gazetteer, this instrument is thus described. “It consists of an earthenware chatty with its bottom removed, and entirely covered, except the mouth, with leather. The portion of the leather which is stretched over the bottom of the vessel thus forms a sort of drum, to the centre of which a string is attached. The other end of the string is fixed in the cleft of a stick. The performer sits cross-legged, holding the chatty mouth downwards with his right hand, on his right knee. The stick is held firmly under the right foot, resting on the left leg. The performer strums on the string, which is thus stretched tight, with a rude plectrum of horn, or other substance. The vibrations communicated by the string to the tympanum produce a curious sonorous note, the pitch of which can be varied by increasing or relaxing the tension of the string.” This musical instrument is carried from house to house in the daytime by these Pulluvar [230]females; and, placing the vessel in a particular position on the ground, and sitting in a particular fashion in relation to the vessel, they play on the string, which then produces a very pleasant musical note. Then they sing ballads to the accompaniment of these notes. After continuing this for some time, they stop, and, getting their customary dues from the family, go their own way. It is believed that the music, and the ballads, are peculiarly pleasing to the serpent gods, who bless those for whose sakes the music has been rendered.” The Pulluvans also play on a lute with snakes painted on the reptile skin, which is used in lieu of parchment. The skin, in a specimen at the Madras Museum, is apparently that of the big lizard Varanus bengalensis. The lute is played with a bow, to which a metal bell is attached.

The dwelling-houses of the Pulluvans are like those of the Izhuvans or Cherumas. They are generally mud huts, with thatched roof, and a verandah in front.

When a girl attains maturity, she is placed apart in a room. On the seventh day, she is anointed by seven young women, who give an offering to the demons, if she is possessed by any. This consists of the bark of a plantain tree made into the form of a triangle, on which small bits of tender cocoanuts and little torches are fixed. This is waved round the girl’s head, and floated away on water. As regards marriage, the Pulluvans observe both tāli-kettu and sambandham. In the vicinity of Palghat, members of the caste in the same village intermarry, and have a prejudice against contracting alliances outside it. Thus, the Pulluvans of Palghat do not intermarry with those of Mundūr and Kanghat, which are four and ten miles distant. It is said that, in former days, intercourse between brother and sister was [231]permitted. But, when questioned on this point, the Pulluvans absolutely deny it. It is, however, possible that something of the kind was once the case, for, when a man belonging to another caste is suspected of incest, it is said that he is like the Pulluvans. Should the parents of a married woman have no objection to her being divorced, they give her husband a piece of cloth called murikotukkuka. This signifies that the cloth which he gave is returned, and divorce is effected.

Pulluvan casting out devils.

Pulluvan casting out devils.

The Pulluvans follow the makkathāyam law of inheritance (from father to son). But they seldom have any property to leave, except their hut and a few earthen pots. They have their caste assemblies (parichas), which adjudicate on adultery, theft, and other offences.

They believe firmly in magic and sorcery, and every kind of sickness is attributed to the influence of some demon. Abortion, death of a new-born baby, prolonged labour, or the death of the woman, fever, want of milk in the breasts, and other misfortunes, are attributed to malignant influences. When pregnant women, or even children, walk out alone at midday, they are possessed by them, and may fall in convulsions. Any slight dereliction, or indifference with regard to the offering of sacrifices, is attended by domestic calamities, and sacrifices of goats and fowls are requisite. More sacrifices are promised, if the demons will help them in the achievement of an object, or in the destruction of an enemy. In some cases the village astrologer is consulted, and he, by means of his calculations, divines the cause of an illness, and suggests that a particular disease or calamity is due to the provocation of the family or other god, to whom sacrifices or offerings have not been made. Under these circumstances, a Velichapād, or oracle, is consulted. After bathing, and dressing [232]himself in a new mundu (cloth), he enters on the scene with a sword in his hand, and his legs girt with small bells. Standing in front of the deity in pious meditation, he advances with slow steps and rolling eyes, and makes a few frantic cuts on his forehead. He is already in convulsive shivers, and works himself up to a state of frenzied possession, and utters certain disconnected sentences, which are believed to be the utterances of the gods. Believing them to be the means of cure or relief from calamity, those affected reverentially bow before the Velichapād, and obey his commands. Sometimes they resort to a curious method of calculating beforehand the result of a project, in which they are engaged, by placing before the god two bouquets of flowers, one red, the other white, of which a child picks out one with its eyes closed. Selection of the white bouquet predicts auspicious results, of the red the reverse. A man, who wishes to bring a demon under his control, must bathe in the early morning for forty-one days, and cook his own meals. He should have no association with his wife, and be free from all pollution. Every night, after 10 o’clock, he should bathe in a tank (pond) or river, and stand naked up to the loins in the water, while praying to the god, whom he wishes to propitiate, in the words “I offer thee my prayers, so that thou mayst bless me with what I want.” These, with his thoughts concentrated on the deity, he should utter 101, 1,001, and 100,001 times during the period. Should he do this, in spite of all obstacles and intimidation by the demons, the god will grant his desires. It is said to be best for a man to be trained and guided by a guru (preceptor), as, if proper precautions are not adopted, the result of his labours will be that he goes mad. [233]

A Pulluvan and his wife preside at the ceremony called Pāmban Tullal to propitiate the snake gods of the nāgāttān kāvus, or serpent shrines. For this, a pandal (booth) is erected by driving four posts into the ground, and putting over them a silk or cotton canopy. A hideous figure of a huge snake is made on the floor with powders of five colours. Five colours are essential, as they are visible on the necks of snakes. Rice is scattered over the floor. Worship is performed to Ganēsa, and cocoanuts and rice are offered. Incense is burnt, and a lamp placed on a plate. The members of the family go round the booth, and the woman, from whom the devil has to be cast out, bathes, and takes her seat on the western side, holding a bunch of palm flowers. The Pulluvan and his wife begin the music, vocal and instrumental, the woman keeping time with the pot-drum by striking on a metal vessel. As they sing songs in honour of the snake deity, the young female members of the family, who have been purified by a bath, and are seated, begin to quiver, sway their heads to and fro in time with the music, and the tresses of their hair are let loose. In their state of excitement, they beat upon the floor, and rub out the figure of the snake with palm flowers. This done, they proceed to the snake-grove, and prostrate themselves before the stone images of snakes, and recover consciousness. They take milk, water from a tender cocoanut, and plantains. The Pulluvan stops singing, and the ceremony is over. “Sometimes,” Mr. Gopal Panikkar writes, “the gods appear in the bodies of all these females, and sometimes only in those of a select few, or none at all. The refusal of the gods to enter into such persons is symbolical of some want of cleanliness in them: which contingency is looked upon as a source of anxiety to the individual.

Pulluvan with pot-drum.

Pulluvan with pot-drum.


It may also suggest the displeasure of these gods towards the family, in respect of which the ceremony is performed. In either case, such refusal on the part of the gods is an index of their ill-will or dissatisfaction. In cases where the gods refuse to appear in any one of those seated for the purpose, the ceremony is prolonged until the gods are so properly propitiated as to constrain them to manifest themselves. Then, after the lapse of the number of days fixed for the ceremony, and, after the will of the serpent gods is duly expressed, the ceremonies close.” Sometimes, it is said, it may be considered necessary to rub away the figure as many as 101 times, in which case the ceremony is prolonged over several weeks. Each time that the snake design is destroyed, one or two men, with torches in their hands, perform a dance, keeping step to the Pulluvan’s music. The family may eventually erect a small platform or shrine in a corner of their grounds, and worship at it annually. The snake deity will not, it is believed, manifest himself if any of the persons, or articles required for the ceremony, are impure, e.g., if the pot-drum has been polluted by the touch of a menstruating female. The Pulluvan, from whom a drum was purchased for the Madras Museum, was very reluctant to part with it, lest it should be touched by an impure woman.

The Pulluvans worship the gods of the Brāhmanical temples, from a distance, and believe in spirits of all sorts and conditions. They worship Velayuthan, Ayyappa, Rāhu, Mūni, Chāthan, Mukkan, Karinkutti, Parakutti, and others. Mūni is a well-disposed deity, to whom, once a year, rice, plantains, and cocoanuts are offered. To Mukkan, Karinkutti, and others, sheep and fowls are offered. A floral device (padmam) is drawn [235]on the floor with nine divisions in rice-flour, on each of which a piece of tender cocoanut leaf, and a lighted wick dipped in cocoanut oil, are placed. Parched rice, boiled beans, jaggery (crude sugar), cakes, plantains, and toddy are offered, and camphor and incense burnt. If a sheep has to be sacrificed, boiled rice is offered, and water sprinkled over the head of the sheep before it is killed. If it shakes itself, so that it frees itself from the water, it is considered as a favourable omen. On every new-moon day, offerings of mutton, fowls, rice-balls, toddy, and other things, served up on a plantain leaf, are made to the souls of the departed. The celebrants, who have bathed and cooked their own food on the previous day, prostrate themselves, and say “Ye dead ancestors, we offer what we can afford. May you take the gifts, and be pleased to protect us.”

The Pulluvans bury their dead. The place of burial is near a river, or in a secluded spot near the dwelling of the deceased. The corpse is covered with a cloth, and a cocoanut placed with it. Offerings of rice-balls are made by the son daily for fifteen days, when pollution ceases, and a feast is held.

At the present day, some Pulluvans work at various forms of labour, such as sowing, ploughing, reaping, fencing, and cutting timber, for which they are paid in money or kind. They are, in fact, day-labourers, living in huts built on the waste land of some landlord, for which they pay a nominal ground-rent. They will take food prepared by Brāhmans, Nāyars, Kammālans, and Izhuvas, but not that prepared by a Mannān or Kaniyan. Carpenters and Izhuvas bathe when a Pulluvan has touched them. But the Pulluvans are polluted by Cherumas, Pulayas, Paraiyans, Ullādans, and others. The women wear the kacha, like Izhuva women, folded [236]twice, and worn round the loins, and are seldom seen with an upper body-cloth.116

Puluvan.—The Puluvans have been described117 as “a small tribe of cultivators found in the district of Coimbatore. Puluvans are the learned men among the Coimbatore Vellālas, and are supposed to be the depositaries of the poet Kamban’s works. One authority from Coimbatore writes that the traditional occupation of this caste is military service, and derives the word from bhū, earth, and valavan, a ruler; while another thinks that the correct word is Pūruvan, aborigines. Their girls are married usually after they attain maturity. In the disposal of the dead, both cremation and burial are in vogue, the tendency being towards the former. They are flesh-eaters. Their customs generally resemble those of the Konga Vellālas.”

The Puluvans call themselves Puluva Vellālas.

Pūnamalli.—The name of a division of Vellālas derived from Poonamallee, an old military station near Madras.

Pūni.—A sub-division of Golla.

Punjala (cock, or male).—An exogamous sept of Dēvānga.

Pūppalli.—See Unni.

Puragiri Kshatriya.—A name assumed by some Perikes.

Puramalai, Puramalainādu or Piramalainādu.—A territorial sub-division of Kallan.

Puranadi.—Barbers and priests of the Vēlans of Travancore, who are also called Vēlakkuruppu. [237]

Purattu Charna.—A sub-division of Nāyar.

Purusha.—See Jōgi Purusha.

Pūsa (beads).—A sub-division of Balija. A sub-division of the Yerukalas is known as Pūsalavādu, or sellers of glass beads.

Pūsāli.—A title of Ōcchans, or pūjāris (priests) at temples of Grāma Dēvatas (village deities).

Pūsapāti.—The family name of the Mahārājahs of Vizianagram. From the Kshatriyas in Rājputāna people of four gōtrams are said to have come to the Northern Circars several centuries ago, having the Pūsapāti family at their head.118 The name of the present Mahārāja is Mirza Rājah Srī Pūsapāti Viziarāma Gajapati Rāj Manya Sultān Bahādur Gāru.

Pūshpakan.—A class of Ambalavāsis in Malabar and Travancore. “As their name (pushpam, a flower) implies, they are employed in bringing flowers and garlands to the temples.”119 See Unni.

Puthukka Nāttār (people of the new country).—A sub-division of Idaiyan.

Pūtiya Islām.—Pu Islām or Pūtiya Islām is the name returned mostly by Mukkuvans, in reference to their new conversion to the Muhammadan faith.

Putta (ant-hill).—An exogamous sept of Kamma, Kuruba, Māla, Mēdara, and Padma Sālē. ‘White-ant’ (Termites) hills are frequently worshipped as being the abode of snakes.

Puttiya.—A sub-division of Rōna.

Puttūr.—Recorded, in the Travancore Census Report, 1901, as a sub-division of Nāyar.

Puzhi Tacchan (sand carpenter).—The name of a small section of Malabar Kammālans.

1 Manual of the North Arcot district.

2 Pulikēsin II, the Chālukyan King of Bādāmi.

3 Manual of the Madura district.

4 South Indian Inscriptions, III, 31, page 82.

5 In the Oriental Manuscripts Library, Madras.

6 J. Burgess. Archæological Survey. Tamil and Sanskrit Inscriptions, No. 11, p. 150.

7 Ibid. No. 12, p. 152.

8 History of the Military Transactions of the British Nation in Indostan, 1861.

9 Geographical, statistical, and historical description of Hindostan and the adjacent countries, 1820.

10 Ceylon, 1860.

11 South Indian Inscriptions, 1, 86–7, 105, 136, and III, I, 121, 123.

12 Madras Census Report, 1891.

13 Madras Census Report, 1901.

14 Vannikula Vilakkam.

15 Gazetteer of the South Arcot district.

16 Gazetteer of the South Arcot district.

17 Vannikula Vilakkam.

18 Gazetteer of the Tanjore district.

19 Manual of the Salem district.

20 Journey through Mysore, Canara, and Malabar.

21 Manual of the North Arcot district.

22 Gazetteer of the Tanjore district.

23 Gazetteer of the Tanjore district.

24 Manual of the North Arcot district.

25 Madras Mail, 1906.

26 Malabar and its Folk, 1900.

27 Manual of Malabar.

28 Madras Mus. Bull., III, 3, 1901.

29 Monograph, Eth. Survey of Cochin.

30 A. Chatterton. Monograph on Tanning and Working in Leather, 1904.

31 Journey through Mysore, etc., 1807.

32 How we teach the Paraiya, 3rd ed., Madras, 1906.

33 Manual of the North Arcot district.

34 Works, 1, 225, foot-note.

35 History of Mysore.

36 Op. cit.

37 Madras Census Report, 1891.

38 Madras Journ. Lit. and Science, XI, 1840.

39 Native Life in Travancore.

40 Yule and Burnell. Hobson-Jobson.

41 Madras Census Report, 1901.

42 Madras Census Report, 1901.

43 Manual of the North Arcot district; Madras Census Report, 1891.

44 Report on the Methods of Capture and Supply of Fish in the Rivers of the Nilgiri district, 1907.

45 Gazetteer of the Malabar district.

46 Gazetteer of Malabar.

47 Madras Census Report, 1881.

48 Madras Mus. Bull., V, 2, 1906.

49 Madras Census Report, 1891.

50 Madras Census Report, 1901.

51 Voyage to the East Indies, 1774 and 1781.

52 Loc. cit.

53 Ind. Ant., III, 1874.

54 The name Black Town was changed to Georgetown to commemorate the visit of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales to Madras in 1906.

55 Gazetteer of the South Arcot district.

56 Gazetteer of the South Arcot district.

57 Ind. Ant. II, 1873.

58 Gazetteer of the South Arcot district.

59 Gazetteer of the South Arcot district.

60 Gazetteer of the South Arcot district.

61 Manual of the North Arcot district.

62 A. P. Smith. Malabar Quart. Review, 1904.

63 Gazetteer of the South Arcot district.

64 Classified Collection of Tamil Proverbs, 1897.

65 Manual of the North Arcot district.

66 Op. cit.

67 Gazetteer of the South Arcot district.

68 Madras Census Report, 1871.

69 Monograph Eth. Survey. Cochin.

70 Malabar and its Folk, 1900.

71 Journ. Roy. As. Soc., XVI.

72 C.M. Record, 1850.

73 Origin and History of the Paravas. Simon Casie Chitty. Journ. Roy. As. Soc., IV, 1837.

74 Occasional Essays on Native South Indian Life, 1901.

75 A description of ye East India Coasts of Malabar and Coromandel, 1703.

76 History of Tinnevelly.

77 Report on the Indian Pearl Fisheries in the Gulf of Manaar, 1905.

78 Shell of the gastropod mollusc, Turbinella rapa.

79 “This,” Mr. Hornell writes, “is most improbable. They are more probably the descendants of Naga fishermen settled in the district prior to the immigration of Tamil invaders.”

80 The Zamorin of Calicut.

81 Madras Mail, 1907.

82 Risley. Tribes and Castes of Bengal.

83 Gazetteer of the Malabar district.

84 Manual of the North Arcot district.

85 Madras Mail, 1907.

86 By the Saurāshtra Literary Societies of Madura and Madras, 1891.

87 Gazetteer of the Madura district.

88 A reddish geological formation, found all over Southern India.

89 Manual of the South Canara district.

90 Letters from Madras. By a Lady, 1843.

91 My Indian Journal, 1864.

92 Our Viceregal Life in India, 1889.

93 Roe and Fryer. Travels in India in the seventeenth century.

94 See Civil Suit No. 102 of 1880.

95 Manual of the South Canara district.

96 Madras Census Report, 1901.

97 Manuals of Nellore and Kurnool.

98 Manual of Malabar.

99 Malabar Quarterly Review. V, 4, 1907.

100 Yule and Burnell. Hobson-Jobson.

101 This note is from an account by Mr. N. Subramani Aiyar.

102 Gazetteer of the Malabar district.

103 Malabar Law and Custom.

104 Ibid.

105 Hobson-Jobson.

106 Manual of the South Canara district.

107 Madras Census Report, 1891.

108 Linguistic Survey of India, IV, 1906.

109 Ind. Ant., II, 1873.

110 Loc. cit.

111 Gazetteer of the Vizagapatam district.

112 Gazetteer of the Tanjore district.

113 Manual of the North Arcot district.

114 Men and Women of India, February 1906.

115 Malabar and its Folk, 1900.

116 This account is mainly based on a note by Mr. L. K. Anantha Krishna Aiyar.

117 Madras Census Report, 1891.

118 Manual of the Vizagapatam district.

119 Manual of Malabar.



Rācha (= Rāja).—Rācha or Rāchu, signifying regal, occurs as the title of various Telugu classes, for example, Balija, Golla, Kāpu, Konda Dora, Koya, Majjulu, and Velama. Some Perikes, who claim to be Kshatriyas, call themselves Rācha Perikes. Rācha is further given as an abbreviated form of Mutrācha.

Rāchevar.—It is noted, in the Mysore Census Report, 1901, that “there are three broad distinctions founded on the traditional occupation, but there are two main exclusive divisions of Telugu and Kannada Rāchevars. One set, called Ranagare, are military, and most of them are found employed in His Highness the Maharāja’s Rāchevar and Bale forces. The second, consisting of the Chitragāras or Bannagāras, make good paintings, decorations, and lacquered ware and toys. The last consists of the Sarigē, or gold lace makers. These people claim to be Kshatriyas—a pretension not generally acquiesced in by the other castes. They trace their origin to a passage in Brahmānda Purāna, wherein it is said that, for an injury done to a Brāhman, they were condemned to follow mechanical occupations.” In connection with recent Dasara festivities at Mysore, I read that there were wrestling matches, acrobatic feats, dumb-bell and figure exercises by Rāchevars.

In the Tanjore Manual it is noted that the Rāchevars are “descendants of immigrants from the Telugu country, who apparently followed the Nāyak viceroys of the Vijayanagar empire in the sixteenth century. They are more or less jealous of the purity of their caste. Their language is Telugu. They wear the sacred thread.”

In the city of Madras, and in other places in Tamil country, the Rāchevars are called Rāzus or Mucchis, who must not be confused with the Mucchis of Mysore [239]and the Ceded districts, who are shoe-makers, and speak Marāthi. In the Telugu country, there are two distinct sections of Rāchevars, viz., Saivite and Vaishnavite. The Saivite Rāchevars in the Kistna district style themselves Ārya Kshatriyalu, but they are commonly called Nakāsh-vāndlu, which is a Hindustani synonym of Chitrakāra or Jīnigiri-vāndlu. The Vaishnavites are known as Jīnigiri-vāndlu, and are said not to intermarry with the Saivites.

Rāfizī.—A term, meaning a forsaker, used by Sunni Muhammadans for any sect of Shiahs. The name appears, in the Madras Census Report, 1901, as Rābjee.

Rāgala (rāgi: Eleusine Coracana).—An exogamous sept of Chembadi, Korava and Mādiga. The equivalent Rāgithannaya occurs as an exogamous sept of Bant. Rāgi grain constitutes the staple diet of the poorer classes, who cannot afford rice, and of prisoners in jails, for whom it is ground into flour, and boiled into a pudding about the consistency of blanc-mange. The name is derived from rāga, red, in reference to the red colour of the grain.

Rāghindala (pīpal: Ficus religiosa).—A gōtra of Gollas, the members of which are not allowed to use the leaves of this tree as food-plates.

Rājakan.—A Sanskrit equivalent of Vannān (washerman).

Rājamāhendram.—The name, in reference to the town of Rājahmundry in the Godāvari district, of a sub-division of Balija.

Rājāmakan.—A Tamil synonym for the Telugu Rāzu.

Rājavāsal.—The name, denoting those who are servants of Rājas, of a sub-division of Agamudaiyans, which has been transformed into Rājavamsu, meaning [240]those of kingly parentage. The equivalent Rājavamsam is recorded, in the Census Report, 1901, as being returned by some Maravans in Madura and Kurumbans in Trichinopoly. Rājakulam, Rājabāsha, or Rājaboga occurs as a sub-division of Agamudaiyan.

Rājpinde.—See Arasu.

Rājpuri.—The Rājpuris, or Rājāpuris, are a Konkani-speaking caste of traders and cultivators in South Canara. Concerning them, Mr. H. A. Stuart writes as follows.1 “The Rājāpuris, also called Bālōlikars, were originally traders, and perhaps have some claim to be considered Vaisyas. In social status they admit themselves to be inferior only to Brāhmans. They wear the sacred thread, profess the Saiva faith, and employ Karādi Brāhmans as priests in all their ceremonies. Their girls should be married before the age of puberty, and marriage of widows is not permitted. The marriage ceremony chiefly consists in the hands of the bride and bridegroom being united together, and held by the bride’s father while her mother pours water over them. The water should first fall on the bride’s hands, and then flow on to those of the bridegroom. This takes place at the bride’s house. A curious feature in the ceremony is that for four days either the bride or bridegroom should occupy the marriage bed; it must never be allowed to become vacant. [This ceremony is called pajamadmai, or mat marriage.] On the fourth day, the couple go to the bridegroom’s house, where a similar ‘sitting’ on the marriage bed takes place. They are mostly vegetarians, rice being their chief food, but some use fish, and rear fowls and goats for sale as food. Many are now cultivators.” [241]

It may be noted that, among the Shivalli Brāhmans, the mat is taken to a tank in procession. The bride and bridegroom make a pretence of catching fish, and, with linked hands, touch their foreheads.

In the Madras Census Report, 1891, Rājāpuri Konkanasta is given as a synonym of the Rājapuris, who are said to be one of the sixty-six classes of Konkanasta people, who inhabited the sixty-six villages of the Konkan. In the Census Report, 1901, Kudāldēshkara and Kūdlukāra are returned as sub-divisions of Rājāpuri. The Kūdlukāras are Konkani-speaking confectioners, who follow the Brāhmanical customs.

Rājput.—The Rājputs (Sanskrit, rāja-putra, son of a king) have been defined2 as “the warrior and land-owning race of Northern India, who are also known as Thākur, lord, or Chhatri, the modern representative of the ancient Kshatriya.” At the Madras census, 1891 and 1901, the number of individuals, who returned themselves as Rājputs, was 13,754 and 15,273. “It needs,” Mr. H. A. Stuart writes,3 “but a cursory examination of the sub-divisions returned under the head Rājput to show that many of these individuals have no claim whatever to the title of Rājput. The number of pure Rājputs in this Presidency must be very small indeed, and I only mention the caste in order to explain that the number of persons returning it is far in excess of the actual number of Rājputs.” Mr. Stuart writes further4 concerning the Rājputs of the North Arcot district that “there are but few of this caste in the district, and they chiefly reside in Vellore; a few families are also found in Chittoor and Tirupati. They assert that they are true Kshatriyas who came from Rājputāna [242]with the Muhammadan armies, and they, more than any other claimants to a Kshatriya descent, have maintained their fondness for military service. Almost all are sepoys or military pensioners. Their names always end with Singh, and in many of their customs they resemble the Muhammadans, speaking Hindustani, and invariably keeping their wives gosha. They are often erroneously spoken of by the people as Bondilis, a term which is applicable only to the Vaisya and Sūdra immigrants from Northern India; but doubtless many of these lower classes have taken the title Singh, and called themselves Rājputs. Members of the caste are, therefore, very suspicious of strangers professing to be Rājputs. Their cooking apartment, called chowka, is kept most religiously private, and a line is drawn round it, beyond which none but members of the family itself may pass. At marriages and feasts, for the same reason, cooked food is never offered to the guests, but raw grain is distributed, which each cooks in a separate and private place.”

It is noted,5 in connection with the battle of Padmanābham in the Vizagapatam district, in 1794, that “no correct list of the wounded was ever procured, but no less than three hundred and nine were killed. Of these two hundred and eight were Rājputs, and the bodies of forty Rājputs, of the first rank in the country, formed a rampart round the corpse of Viziarāma Rāzu. Padmanābham will long be remembered as the Flodden of the Rājputs of Vizianagram.”

Rākshasa (a mythological giant).—An exogamous sept of Toreya.

Rālla (precious stones).—A sub-division of Balijas who cut, polish, and trade in precious stones. A further [243]sub-division into Mutiāla (pearl) and Kempulu (rubies) is said to exist.

Rāmadōsa (Cucumis Melo: sweet melon).—A sept of Vīramushti.

Rāma Kshatri.—A synonym of Sērvēgāra.

Rāmānuja.—Sātānis style themselves people of the Rāmānuja Matham (religious sect) in reference to Rāmānuja, the Tamil Brāhman, who founded the form of Vaishnavism which prevails in Southern India.

Rānaratōd.—An exogamous sept of the Kuruvikkārans, who call themselves Rātōdi.

Ranavīran.—A name, meaning a brave warrior, returned by some Chakkiliyans.

Rāndām Parisha (second party).—A section of Elayad.

Rangāri.—The Rangāris are summed up, in the Madras Census Report, 1891, as being “a caste of dyers and tailors found in almost all the Telugu districts. They are of Marātha origin, and still speak that language. They worship the goddess Ambābhavāni. The dead are either burned or buried. Their title is Rao.”

In an account of the Rangāris of the North Arcot district, Mr. H. A. Stuart writes that “Rangāri is a caste of dyers, chiefly found in Wālājāpet. They claim to be Kshatriyas, who accompanied Rāma in his conquest of Ceylon, from which fact one of their names, Langāri (lanka, the island, i.e., Ceylon), is said to be derived. Rāma, for some reason or other, became incensed against, and persecuted them. Most were destroyed, but a respectable Kshatriya lady saved her two sons by taking off their sacred threads and causing one to pretend that he was a tailor sewing, and the other that he was a dyer, colouring his thread with the red betel nut and leaf, which she hurriedly supplied out [244]of her mouth. The boys became the progenitors of the caste, the members of which now wear the thread. The descendants of the one brother are tailors, and of the other, the most numerous, dyers. Their chief feasts are the Dassara and Kāman, the former celebrated in honour of the goddess Tuljabhavani and the latter of Manmada, the Indian Cupid, fabled to have been destroyed by the flame of Siva’s third eye. During the Kāman feast, fires of combustible materials are lighted, round which the votaries gather, and, beating their mouths, exclaim ‘laba, laba’, lamenting the death of Cupid. In this feast Rājputs, Mahrāttas, Bondilis, and Guzerātis also join. The Rangāris speak Marāthi, which they write in the northern character, and name Poona and Sholāpur as the places in which they originally resided. In appearance they do not at all resemble the other claimants to Kshatriya descent, the Rāzus and Rājputs, for they are poorly developed and by no means handsome. Widow remarriage is permitted where children have not been born, but remarried widows are prohibited from taking part in religious processions, which seems a sign that the concession has been reluctantly permitted. In most of their customs they differ but little from the Rāzus, eating meat and drinking spirits, but not keeping their women gosha.”

All the Rangāris examined by me at Adoni in the Bellary district were tailors. Like other Marātha classes they had a high cephalic index (av. 79; max. 92), and it was noticeable that the breadth of the head exceeded 15 cm. in nine out of thirty individuals.

In the Madras Census Report, 1901, Bahusāgara, Malla or Mulla, and Nāmdēv are given as synonyms, and Chimpiga (tailor) and Unupulavādu (dyer) as sub-castes of Rangāri. [245]

Rāniyava.—The Rāniyavas are Canarese-speaking Holeyas, who are found near Kāp, Karkal, Mudibidri, and Mulki in South Canara. They consider themselves to be superior to the Tulu-speaking Holeyas, such as the Mari and Mundala Holeyas.

The Rāniyavas regard Vīrabadra Swāmi as their tribal deity, and also worship Māri, to whom they sacrifice a buffalo periodically. The bhūta (devil), which is most commonly worshipped, is Varthē. They profess to be Saivites, because they are the disciples of the Lingayat priest at Gurupūr.

Marriage is, as a rule, infant, though the marriage of adult girls is not prohibited. The marriage rites are celebrated beneath a pandal (booth) supported by twelve pillars. As among the Tulu castes, the chief item in the marriage ceremony is the pouring of water over the united hands of the bridal couple, who are not, like the Canarese Holeyas in Mysore, separated by a screen.

Women who are found guilty of adultery, or of illicit intercourse before marriage, are not allowed to wear bangles, nose-screw, or black bead necklaces, and are treated like widows. Men who have been proved guilty of seduction are not allowed to take part in the caste council meetings.

On the occasion of the first menstrual period, a girl is under pollution for twelve days. Eleven girls pour water over her head daily. On the thirteenth day, the castemen are fed, and, if the girl is married, consummation takes place.

Married men and women are cremated, and unmarried persons buried. On the day of death, toddy must be given to those who assemble. Cooked meat and food are offered to the deceased on the third, seventh, and [246]thirteenth days, and, on the seventh day, toddy must be freely given.

Rao.—The title of Dēsastha Brāhmans, and various Marātha classes, Jains, and Sērvēgāras. Some Perikes, who claim Kshatriya origin, have also assumed Rao (=Rāya, king) instead of the more humble Anna or Ayya as a title.

Rarakkar.—The Rarakkars or Vicharakkars are exorcisers for the Kuravans of Travancore.

Rāti (stone).—A sub-division of Oddē.

Ratna (precious stones).—An exogamous sept of Kuruba. The equivalent Ratnāla is a synonym of Rālla Balijas, who deal in precious stones.

Rattu.—A sub-division of Kaikōlan.

Rāvāri.—Recorded, in the Madras Census Report, 1901, as a trading section of the Nāyars. The word is said to be a corruption of Vyāpāri, meaning trader. The equivalent Rāvēri occurs as a class inhabiting the Laccadive islands.

Rāvi Chettu (pīpal tree: Ficus religiosa).—An exogamous sept of Kālingi. The pīpal or aswatha tree may be seen, in many South Indian villages, with a raised platform round it, before which Hindus remove their shoes, and bow down. On the platform, village council meetings are often held. It is believed that male offspring will be given to childless couples, if they celebrate a marriage of the pīpal with the nīm tree (Melia Azadirachta).

Rāvulo.—It is recorded, in the Madras Census Report, 1901, that “there are three castes of temple servants among the Oriyas, the Rāvulos, the Mālis and the Mūnis. The Rāvulos blow conches (shells of Turbinella rapa) in the Saivite temples and at Brāhmans’ weddings, sell flowers, and regard themselves as [247]superior to the other two. The Mālis do service in Saivite or Vaishnavite temples and sell flowers, but the Mūnis are employed only in the temples of the village goddesses. Among the Rāvulos, infant marriage is compulsory, but widow marriage is allowed, and also divorce in certain cases. A curious account is given of the punishment sometimes inflicted by the caste panchāyat (council) on a man who ill-treats and deserts his wife. He is made to sit under one of the bamboo coops with which fish are caught, and his wife sits on the top of it. Five pots of water are then poured over the pair of them in imitation of the caste custom of pouring five pots of water over a dead body before it is taken to the burning-ground, the ceremony taking place in the part of the house where a corpse would be washed. The wife then throws away a ladle, and breaks a cooking-pot just as she would have done had her husband really been dead, and further breaks her bangles and tears off her necklace, just as would have been done if she was really a widow. Having thus signified that her husband is dead to her, she goes straight off to her parents’ house, and is free to marry again. Some Rāvulos wear the sacred thread. They employ Brāhmans as priests for religious and ceremonial purposes. They eat fish and meat, though not beef or fowls, but do not drink alcohol. Nowadays many of them are earth-workers, cart-drivers, bricklayers, carpenters and day labourers.” It is further noted, in the Census Report, that Māli is “an Oriya caste of vegetable growers and sellers, and cultivators. Also a caste belonging to Bengal and Orissa, the people of which are garland makers and temple servants. The statistics confuse the two.” In an account of the Rāvulos, as given to me, Rāvulos, Mūnis, and Mālis are not three castes, but one caste. [248]The Mūnis are said to worship, among others, Mūnis or Rishis, Sakti, Siva, and Ganēsa. A Mūni, named Sārala Doss, was the author of the most popular Oriya version of the Mahābhārata, and he is known as Sūdra Mūni, the Sūdra saint.

Rāvulo occurs further as a title of Kurumos who officiate as priests in Siva temples in Ganjam, and Mūni as a title of the Sipiti temple servants.

Rāvutan.—Rāvutan, or Rowthan, is a title used by Labbai, Marakkāyar, and Jōnagan Muhammadans. The equivalent Rāvut or Raut has been recorded as a sub-caste of Balija, and a title of Kannadiyan.

Rāya Rāuturu.—The name of certain chunam [lime] burners in Mysore.

Rāyan.—A title assumed by some Pallis or Vanniyans, who wear the sacred thread, and claim to be Kshatriyas.

Rāyi (stone).—An exogamous sept of Māla.

Rāzu.—The Rāzus, or Rājus, are stated, in the Madras Census Report, 1901, to be “perhaps descendants of the military section of the Kāpu, Kamma, and Velama castes. At their weddings they worship a sword, which is a ceremony which usually denotes a soldier caste. They say they are Kshatriyas, and at marriages use a string made of cotton and wool, the combination peculiar to Kshatriyas, to tie the wrist of the happy couple. But they eat fowls, which a strict Kshatriya would not do, and their claims are not universally admitted by other Hindus. They have three endogamous sub-divisions, viz., Murikināti, Nandimandalam, and Sūryavamsam, of which the first two are territorial.” According to another version, the sub-divisions are Sūrya (sun), Chandra (moon), and Nandimandalam. In a note on the Rāzus of the Godāvari district, the [249]Rev. J. Cain sub-divides them into Sūryavamsapu, Chandravamsapu, Velivēyabadina, or descendants of excommunicated Sūryavamsapu and Rāzulu. It may be noted that some Konda Doras call themselves Rāja (= Rāzu) Kāpus or Reddis, and Sūryavamsam (of the solar race). “In the Godāvari delta,” Mr. Cain writes, “there are several families called Basava Rāzulu, in consequence, it is said, of their ancestors having accidentally killed a basava or sacred bull. As a penalty for this crime, before a marriage takes place in these families, they are bound to select a young bull and young cow, and cause these two to be duly married first, and then they are at liberty to proceed with their own ceremony.”

Rāzu bridegroom.

Rāzu bridegroom.

Of the Rāzus, Mr. H. A. Stuart writes6 that “this is a Telugu caste, though represented by small bodies in some of the Tamil districts. They are most numerous in Cuddapah and North Arcot, to which districts they came with the Vijayanagar armies. It is evident that Rāzu has been returned by a number of individuals who, in reality, belong to other castes, but claim to be Kshatriyas. The true Rāzus also make this claim, but it is, of course, baseless, unless Kshatriya is taken to mean the military class without any reference to Aryan origin. In religion they are mostly Vaishnavites, and their priests are Brāhmans. They wear the sacred thread, and in most respects copy the marriage and other customs of the Brāhmans.” The Rāzus, Mr. Stuart writes further,7 are “the most numerous class of those who claim to be Kshatriyas in North Arcot. They are found almost entirely in the Karvetnagar estate, the zemindar being the head of the caste. As a class they are the handsomest and best developed men [250]in the country, and differ so much in feature and build from other Hindus that they may usually be distinguished at a glance. They seem to have entirely abandoned the military inclinations of their ancestors, never enlist in the native army, and almost wholly occupy themselves in agriculture. Their vernacular is Telugu, since they are immigrants from the Northern Circars, from whence most of them followed the ancestors of the Karvetnagar zamindar within the last two centuries. In religion they are mostly Vaishnavites, though a few follow Siva, and the worship of village deities forms a part of the belief of all. Their peculiar goddess is called Nimishāmba who would seem to represent Parvati. She is so called because in an instant (nimisham) she once appeared at the prayer of certain rishis, and destroyed some rākshasas or giants who were persecuting them. Claiming to be Kshatriyas, the Rāzus of course assume the sacred thread, and are very proud and particular in their conduct, though flesh-eating is allowed. In all the more well-to-do families the females are kept in strict seclusion.”

In the Vizagapatam district Rāzus are recognised as belonging to two classes, called Konda (hill) and Bhū (plains) Rāzu. The former are further divided into the following sections, to which various zamindars belong:—Konda, Kōdu, Gaita, Mūka, Yēnāti. The Konda Rāzus are believed to be hill chiefs, who have, in comparatively recent times, adopted the title of Rāzu.

For the following note on the Rāzus of the Godāvari district, I am indebted to Mr. F. R. Hemingway. “They say they are Kshatriyas, wear the sacred thread, have Brāhmanical gōtras, decline to eat with other non-Brāhmans, and are divided into the three classes, Sūrya [251](sun), Chandra (moon), and Machi (fish). Of these, the first claim to be descended from the kings of Oudh, and to be of the same lineage as Rāma; the second, from the kings of Hastināpura, of the same line as the Pāndavas; and the third, from Hanumān (the monkey god) and a mermaid. Their women observe a very strict rule of gōsha, and this is said to be carried so far that a man may not see his younger brother’s wife, even if she is living in the same house, without violating the gōsha rule. The betrothal ceremony is called nirnaya bhōjanam, or meal of settlement. Written contracts of marriage (subha rēka) are exchanged. The wedding is performed at the bride’s house. At the pradānam ceremony, no bonthu (turmeric thread) is tied round the bride’s neck. The bridegroom has to wear a sword throughout the marriage ceremonies, and he is paraded round the village with it before they begin. The gōsha rule prevents his womenfolk from attending the marriage, and the bride has to wear a veil. The ceremonies, unlike those of other castes, are attended with burnt offerings of rice, etc. Among other castes, the turmeric-dyed thread (kankanam), which is tied round the wrists of the contracting couple, is of cotton; among the Rāzus it is of wool and cotton. The Rāzus are chiefly employed in cultivation. Some of them are said to attain no small proficiency in Telugu and Sanskrit scholarship. Zamindars of this caste regard Kāli as their patron deity. The Rāzus of Amalāpuram specially adore Lakshmi. Some peculiarities in their personal appearance may be noted. Their turbans are made to bunch out at the left side above the ear, and one end hangs down behind. They do not shave any part of their heads, and allow long locks to hang down in front of the ears.” [252]

A colony of Rāzus is settled at, and around Rājāpālaiyam in the Tinnevelly district. They are said to have migrated thither four or five centuries ago with a younger brother of the King of Vizianagram, who belonged to the Pūsapāti exogamous sept. To members of this and the Gottimukkula sept special respect is paid on ceremonial occasions. The descendants of the original emigrants are said to have served under southern chieftains, especially Tirumala Naick. Concerning the origin of the village Rājāpālaiyam the following legend is narrated. One Chinna Rāju, a lineal descendant of the Kings of Vizianagram, settled there with others of his caste, and went out hunting with a pack of hounds. When they reached the neighbouring hill Sanjīviparvatham, they felt thirsty, but could find no water. They accordingly prayed to Krishna, who at once created a spring on the top of the hill. After quenching their thirst thereat, they proceeded westward to the valley, and the god informed them that there was water there, with which they might again quench their thirst, and that their dogs would there be attacked by hares. At this spot, which they were to consider sacred ground, they were to settle down. The present tank to the westward of Rājāpālaiyam, and the chāvadi (caste meeting-place) belonging to the Pūsapātis are said to indicate the spot where they originally settled.

The Rājāpālaiyam Rāzus have four gōtras, named after Rishis, i.e., Dhananjayā, Kasyapa, Kaundinya and Vasishta, which are each sub-divided into a number of exogamous septs, named after villages, etc. They are all Vadagalai or Tengalai Vaishnavites, but also worship Ayanar, and send kāvadi (portable canopy) to Palni in performance of vows. Their family priests are Brāhmans. [253]

The betrothal ceremony of the Rāzus of Rājāpālaiyam is generally carried out at the house of the girl. On a raised platform within a pandal (booth), seven plates filled with plantain fruits, betel, turmeric, cocoanuts, and flowers are placed. A plate containing twenty-five rupees, and a rāvike (female cloth), is carried by a Brāhman woman, and set in front of the girl. All the articles are then placed in her lap, and the ceremony is consequently called odi or madi ninchadam (lap-filling).

The girl’s hair is decked with flowers, and she is smeared with sandal and turmeric. A certain quantity of paddy (unhusked rice) and beans of Phaseolus Mungo are given to the Brāhman woman, a portion of which is set apart as sacred, some of the paddy being added to that which is stored in the granary. The remainder of the paddy is husked in a corner of the pandal, and the beans are ground in a mill. On the marriage morning, the bride’s party, accompanied by musicians, carry to the house of the bridegroom a number of baskets containing cocoanuts, plantains, betel, and a turban. The bridegroom goes with a purōhit (priest), and men and women of his caste, to a well, close to which are placed some milk and the nose-screw of a woman closely related to him. All the women sprinkle some of the milk over his head, and some of them draw water from the well. The bridegroom bathes, and dresses up. Just before their departure from the well, rice which has been dipped therein is distributed among the women. At the bridegroom’s house the milk-post, usually made from a branch of the vekkali (Anogeissus latifolia) tree, is tied to a pillar supporting the roof of the marriage dais. To the top of the milk-post a cross-bar is fixed, to one arm of which a cloth bundle [254]containing a cocoanut, betel and turmeric, is tied. The post is surmounted by leafy mango twigs. Just before the milk-post is set up, cocoanuts are offered to it, and a pearl and piece of coral are placed in a hole scooped out at its lower end. The bundle becomes the perquisite of the carpenter who has made the post. Only Brāhmans, Rāzus and the barber musicians are allowed to sit on the dais. After the distribution of betel, the bridegroom and his party proceed to the house of the bride, where, in like manner, the milk-post is set up. They then return to his house, and the bridegroom has his face and head shaved, and nails pared by a barber, who receives as his fee two annas and the clothes which the bridegroom is wearing. After a bath, the bridegroom is conducted to the chāvadi, where a gaudy turban is put on his head, and he is decorated with jewels and garlands. In the course of the morning, the purōhit, holding the right little finger of the bridegroom, conducts him to the dais, close to which rice, rice stained yellow, rice husk, jaggery (crude sugar), wheat bran, and cotton seed are placed. The Brāhmanical rites of punyāhavāachanam (purification), jātakarma (birth ceremony), nāmakaranam (name ceremony), chaulam (tonsure), and upanayanam (thread ceremony) are performed. But, instead of Vēdic chants, the purōhit recites slōkas specially prepared for non-Brāhman castes. At the conclusion of these rites, the bridegroom goes into the house, and eats a small portion of sweet cakes and other articles, of which the remainder is finished off by boys and girls. This ceremony is called pūbanthī. The Kāsiyātra (mock flight to Benares) or Snāthakavritham is then performed. Towards evening the bridegroom, seated in a palanquin, goes to the bride’s house, taking with him a tray containing an expensive woman’s cloth, the tāli tied to [255]gold thread, and a pair of gold bracelets. When they reach the house, the women who have accompanied the bridegroom throw paddy over those who have collected at the entrance thereto, by whom the compliment is returned. The bridegroom takes his seat on the dais, and the bride is conducted thither by her brothers. A wide-meshed green curtain is thrown over her shoulders, and her hands are pressed over her eyes, and held there by one of her brothers, so that she cannot see. Generally two brothers sit by her side, and, when one is tired, the other relieves him. The purōhit invests the bridegroom with a second thread as a sign of marriage. Damp rice is scattered from a basket all round the contracting couple, and the tāli, after it has been blessed by Brāhmans, is tied round the neck of the bride by the bridegroom and her brothers. At the moment when the tāli is tied, the bride’s hands are removed from her face, and she is permitted to see her husband. The pair then go round the dais, and the bride places her right foot thrice on a grindstone. Their little fingers are linked, and their cloths tied together. Thus united, they are conducted to a room, in which fifty pots, painted white and with various designs on them, are arranged in rows. In front of them, two pots, filled with water, are placed, and, in front of the two pots, seven lamps. Round the necks of these pots, bits of turmeric are tied. They are called avareti kundalu or avireni kundalu, and are made to represent minor deities. The pots are worshipped by the bridal couple, and betel is distributed among the Brāhmans and Rāzus, of whom members of the Pūsapāti and Gottimukkala septs take precedence over the others. On the following day, the purōhit teaches the sandyavandhanam (morning and evening ablutions), which is, however, quite different from the Brāhmanical rite. On [256]the morning of the third or nāgavali day, a quantity of castor-oil seed is sent by the bride’s people to the bridegroom’s house, and returned. The bride and bridegroom go, in a closed and open palanquin, respectively, to the house of the former. They take their seats on the dais, and the bride is once more blindfolded. In front of them, five pots filled with water are arranged in the form of a quincunx. Lighted lamps are placed by the side of each of the corner pots. On the lids of the pots five cocoanuts, plantains, pieces of turmeric, and betel are arranged, and yellow thread is wound seven times round the corner pots. The pots are then worshipped, and the bridegroom places on the neck of the bride a black bead necklace, which is tied by the Brāhman woman. In front of the bridegroom some salt, and in front of the bride some paddy is heaped up. An altercation arises between the bridegroom and the brother of the bride as to the relative values of the two heaps, and it is finally decided that they are of equal value. The bridal pair then enter the room, in which the avireni pots are kept, and throw their rings into one of the pots which is full of water. The bridegroom has to pick out therefrom, at three dips, his own ring, and his brother-in-law that of the bride. The purōhit sprinkles water over the heads of the pair, and their wrist-threads (kankanam) are removed. They then sit in a swing on the pandal for a short time, and the ceremonies conclude with the customary waving of coloured water (ārati) and distribution of betel. During the marriage ceremony, Rāzu women are not allowed to sit in the pandal. The wives of the more well-to-do members of the community remain gōsha within their houses, and, strictly speaking, a woman should not see her husband during the daytime. Many of the women, however, go freely about the town [257]during the day, and go to the wells to fetch water for domestic purposes.

The Rāzus of Rājāpālaiyam have Rāzu as the agnomen, and, like other Telugu classes, take the gōtra for the first name, e.g., Yaraguntala Mudduswāmi Rāzu, Gottimukkala Krishna Rāzu. The women adhere with tenacity to the old forms of Telugu jewelry. The Rāzus, in some villages, seem to object to the construction of a pial in front of their houses. The pial, or raised platform, is the lounging place by day, where visitors are received. The Rāzus, as has been already stated, claim to be Kshatriyas, so other castes should not sit in their presence. If pials were constructed, such people might sit thereon, and so commit a breach of etiquette.

In the Madras Census Report, 1901, Rājāmakan is given as a Tamil synonym for Rāzu, and Rāzu is returned as a title of the Bagata fishermen of Vizagapatam. Rāzu is, further, a general name of the Bhatrāzus.

Reddi.—See Kāpu.

Reddi Bhūmi (Reddi earth).—A sub-division of Māla, Mangala, and Tsākala.

Rēla (fig. Ficus, sp.).—A gōtra of Mēdara.

Relli.—See Haddi.

Rendeddu.—A sub-division of Gānigas or Gāndlas, who use two bullocks for their oil-pressing mill.

Rokkam (ready money).—An exogamous sept of Kōmati.

Rōlan.—Rōlan, or Rōli Cheruman, is a sub-division of Cheruman.

Rona.—The Ronas are a class of Oriya-speaking hill cultivators, who are said8 to “hold a position superior in the social scale to the Parjas (Porojas), from whom, by [258]compulsion and cajolery, they have gotten unto themselves estates. They are not of very long standing (in Jeypore). Every Parja village head is still able to point out the fields that have been taken from him to form the Rona hamlet; and, if he is in antagonism with a neighbouring Parjā village on the subject of boundaries, he will include the fields occupied by the Rona as belonging de jure to his demesne.” In the Madras Census Report, 1891, it is noted that “the Ronas are supposed to be the descendants of Ranjit, the great warrior of Orissa. In social status they are said to be a little inferior to the so-called Kshatriyas. Some of them serve as armed retainers and soldiers of the native chiefs, and some are engaged in trade and cultivation.”

For the following note I am indebted to Mr. C. Hayavadana Rao. The word rona means battle. According to a tradition current among the Ronas, their ancestors, who were seven brothers, came many generations ago to Nundapūr, the former capital of the Rājas of Jeypore, and made their first settlement in Borra.

The caste is divided into four endogamous divisions, viz.:—

  • (1) Rona Paiko.
  • (2) Odiya Paiko, said to rank a little higher than the preceding.
  • (3) Kottiya Paiko, the descendants of Rona Paikos and women of hill tribes.
  • (4) Pattiya Paik, the descendants of Kottiya Paikos and women of hill tribes.

As examples of septs among the Ronas, the following may be cited:—Kōra (sun), Bhāg (tiger), Nāg (cobra), Khinbudi (bear), and Matsya (fish).

When a girl reaches puberty, she is placed apart in a portion of the house where she cannot be seen by males, [259]even of the household, and sits in a space enclosed by seven arrows connected together by a thread. On the seventh day she bathes, and is presented with a new cloth. It is customary for a man to marry his paternal uncle’s daughter. At the time of marriage, the bridegroom’s party repair to the house of the bride with a sheep, goat, rice, and a female cloth with a rupee placed on it, and four quarter-anna bits inserted within its fold. The cloth and money are taken by the bride’s mother, and the animals and rice are used for a feast. On the following day, the bride goes to the house of the bridegroom, in front of which a pandal (booth), made out of nine poles of the nērēdu tree (Eugenia Jambolana) has been set up. At the auspicious hour, which has been fixed by the Dēsāri who officiates, in the absence of a Brāhman, at the marriage rites, the bride and bridegroom take their seats in the pandal with a curtain between them. The Dēsāri joins their hands together, and ties to the ends of their cloths a new cloth to which a quarter-anna piece is attached, betel leaves and nuts, and seven grains of rice. The curtain is then removed, and the pair enter the house. The knotted new cloth is removed, and kept in the house during the next two days, being untied and re-tied every morning. On the third day, the couple again come within the pandal, and the new cloth is again tied to them. They are bathed together in turmeric water, and the cloth is then untied for the last time. The rice is examined to see if it is in a good state of preservation, and its condition is regarded as an omen for good or evil. The remarriage of widows is permitted, and a younger brother usually marries the widow of his elder brother.

There is for all the Ronas a headman of their caste, called Bhatho Nāyako, at Nundapūr, who decides [260]offences, such as eating in the house of a man of inferior caste, and performs the ceremonial cleansing of a man who has been beaten with a shoe. Divorce and civil suits are settled by a caste council.

The Ronas worship the deity Tākurāni. They wear the sacred thread, and are said to have bought the right to do so from a former Rāja of Jeypore. They also wear a necklace of tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) beads. The necklace is first tied on by Oriya Brāhmans from Orissa, or Vaishnava Brāhmans from Srikūrmam in Ganjam, who pay periodic visits to the community, and receive presents of money and food. Rona Paikos will eat at the hands of Brāhmans only, whereas Puttiya Paikos will eat in the houses of Koronos, Mālis, Kummāras, and Gaudos. All eat animal food, beef and pork excepted.

Some Ronas are still the armed retainers of the Jeypore Rājas, and their forefathers were versed in the use of the matchlock. Some Ronas at the present day use bows and arrows. The caste title is Nāyako.

Ronguni.—The Rongunis are Oriya dyers and weavers. The caste name is derived from rangu, dye. A noticeable fact is that they do not eat flesh of any kind, but are vegetarians, pure and simple. They have various titles, e.g., Bēhara, Dāso, Prushti, and Sāhu, of which some practically constitute exogamous septs.

Rottala (bread).—An exogamous sept of Bōya.

Rowthan.—See Rāvutan.

Rūdra.—One of the various names of Siva. A sub-division of Palli.

Rūdrākshala (the drupe of Elæocarpus Ganitrus).—An exogamous sept of Karna Sālēs. The drupes are polished, and worn as a rosary or necklet by Saivite Brāhmans, Pandārams, Nāttukōttai Chettis, and others. [261]They are supposed to be the tears of ecstasy which Siva (Rūdra) once shed, and are consequently sacred to him. They have a number of lobes (or faces), varying from one to six, divided externally by deep furrows. Those with five lobes are the most common, but those with one (eka mukha) or six (shan mukha) are very rare, and have been known to be sold for a thousand rupees. One form of the drupe is called Gauri shanka, and is worn in a golden receptacle by Dīkshitar Brāhmans at Chidambaram, and by some Pandārams who are managers of matams (religious institutions). The plate represents a Telugu Saivite Vaidiki Brāhman clad in a coat of rudrāksha beads, wearing a head-dress of the same, and holding in his hand wooden castanets, which are played as an accompaniment to his songs. Until he became too old to bear the weight, he wore also a loin-cloth made of these beads.

Telugu Brāhman with Rudrāksha coat.

Telugu Brāhman with Rudrāksha coat.

Runzu.—Runzu, Runza, or Runja is the name of a class of Telugu mendicants, who beat a drum called runjalu, and beg only from Kamsalas (q.v.).

1 Manual of the South Canara district.

2 W. Crooke. Tribes and Castes of the North-Western Provinces and Oudh.

3 Madras Census Report, 1891.

4 Manual of the North Arcot district.

5 Gazetteer of the Vizagapatam district.

6 Madras Census Report, 1891.

7 Manual of the North Arcot district.

8 Madras Census Report, 1871.


Sachchari.—A synonym of Relli. Another form of the word Chachchadi.

Sādaru.—A sub-division of Lingāyats, found mainly in the Bellary and Anantapur districts, where they are largely engaged in cultivation. Some Bēdars or Bōyas, who live amidst these Lingāyats, call themselves Sādaru. It is noted in the Mysore Census Reports that the Sadas are “cultivators and traders in grain. A section of these Sadas has embraced Lingāyatism, while the others are still within the pale of Hinduism.” [262]

Saddikūdu (cold rice or food).—An exogamous sept of Golla.

Sādhana Sūrulu.—Sādhanasūra is recorded, in the Madras Census Report, 1901, as a synonym of Samayamuvādu. In a note on this class of itinerant mendicants, Mr. C. Hayavadana Rao states that, unlike the Samayamuvāru, they are attached only to the Padma Sālē section of the Sālē caste. “They say,” he writes, “that their name is an abbreviated form of Rēnukā Sakthini Sādhinchinavāru, i.e., those who conquered Rēnukā Sakthi. According to tradition, Rēnukā was the mother of Parasurāma, one of the avatars of Vishnu, and is identified with the goddess Yellammā, whom the Padma Sālēs revere. The Sādhana Sūrulu are her votaries. Ages ago, it is said, they prayed to her on behalf of the Padma Sālēs, and made her grant boons to them. Since that time they have been treated with marked respect by the Padma Sālēs, who pay them annually four annas, and see to their marriages.”

Sādhu (meek or quiet).—A sub-division or exogamous sept of Gāniga and Padma Sālē. The equivalent Sādhumatam has been recorded, at times of census, by Janappans. The name Sādhu is applied to ascetics or Bairāgis.

Sagarakula.—A synonym of the Upparas, who claim descent from a king Sagara Chakravarthi of the Mahābhārata.

Sahavāsi.—The Sahavāsis are described, in the Mysore Census Report, 1891, as “immigrants like the Chitpāvanās. Sahavāsi means co-tenant or associate, and the name is said to have been earned by the community in the following manner. In remote times a certain Brāhman came upon hidden treasure, but, to his [263]amazement, the contents appeared in his eye to be all live scorpions. Out of curiosity, he hung one of them outside his house. A little while after, a woman of inferior caste, who was passing by the house, noticed it to be gold, and, upon her questioning him about it, the Brāhman espoused her, and by her means was able to enjoy the treasure. He gave a feast in honour of his acquisition of wealth. He was subsequently outcasted for his mésalliance with the low caste female, while those that ate with him were put under a ban, and thus acquired the nickname.”

Sāhu.—A title of Bolāsis, Gōdiyas, and other Oriya castes.

Sāindla (belonging to the death-house).—A sub-division of Māla.

Sajjana (good men).—A synonym of Lingāyat Gānigas.

Sajje (millet: Setaria italica).—An exogamous sept of Dēvānga.

Sākala.—See Tsākala.

Sakkereya.—Some Upparas style themselves Mēl (western) Sakkereya-vāru. Their explanation is that they used to work in salt, which is more essential than sugar, and that Mēl Sakkare means superior sugar.

Sakuna Pakshi.—For the following note on the Sakuna Pakshi (prophetic bird) mendicant caste of Vizagapatam, I am indebted to Mr. C. Hayavadana Rao. The name of the caste is due to the fact that the members of the caste wear on their heads a plume composed of the feathers of a bird called pālagumma, which is probably Coracias indica, the Indian roller, or “blue jay” of Europeans. This is one of the birds called sakuna pakshi, because they are supposed to possess the power of foretelling events, and on their movements many omens [264]depend. Concerning the roller, Jerdon writes1 that “it is sacred to Siva, who assumed its form, and, at the feast of the Dasserah at Nagpore, one or more used to be liberated by the Rājah, amidst the firing of cannon and musketry, at a grand parade attended by all the officers of the station. Buchanan Hamilton also states that, before the Durga Puja, the Hindus of Calcutta purchase one of these birds, and, at the time when they throw the image of Durga into the river, set it at liberty. It is considered propitious to see it on this day, and those who cannot afford to buy one discharge their matchlocks to put it on the wing.”

According to their own account, the Sakuna Pakshis are Telagas who emigrated to Vizagapatam from Peddāpuram in the Godāvari district.

A member of the caste, before proceeding on a begging expedition, rises early, and has a cold meal. He then puts the Tengalai Vaishnava nāmam mark on his forehead, slings on his left shoulder a deer-skin pouch for the reception of the rice and other grain which will be given him as alms, and takes up his little drum (gilaka or damaraka) made of frog’s skin. It is essential for a successful day’s begging that he should first visit a Māla house or two, after which he begs from other castes, going from house to house.

The members combine with begging the professions of devil-dancer, sorcerer, and quack doctor. Their remedy for scorpion sting is well-known. It is the root of a plant called thēlla visari (scorpion antidote), which the Sakuna Pakshis carry about with them on their rounds. The root should be collected on a new-moon day which falls on a Sunday. On that day, the Sakuna Pakshi [265]bathes, cuts off his loin-string, and goes stark naked to a selected spot, where he gathers the roots. If a supply thereof is required, and the necessary combination of moon and day is not forthcoming, the roots should be collected on a Sunday or Wednesday.

Salangukāran.—In the Madras Census Report, 1901, Salangaikāran is returned as a synonym of Karaiyān or Sembadavan fishermen. The word salangu or slangu is used for pearl fisheries, and Salangukāran is, I imagine, a name applied to pearl divers.

Sālāpu.—The Sālāpus are a small caste of Telugu weavers in Vizagapatam, for the following note on whom I am indebted to Mr. C. Hayavadana Rao. The name Sālāpu seems to be a corruption of Saluppan, a caste which formerly engaged in the manufacture of gunny-bags and coarse cloths. The Sālāpus at the present day make such cloths, commonly called gāmanchālu. Like some other weaving castes, they claim descent from Markandēya rishi, who was remarkable for his austerities and great age, and is also known as Dīrghāyus. The Sālāpus will not eat, or intermarry with Sālēs. The caste is governed by a headman called Sēnāpati. He decides disputes, and, on occasions of marriage, receives the first share of betel and sandal, and is the first to touch the sathamānam (marriage badge) when it is passed round to be blessed by those assembled. He is, at marriages, further presented with a rupee. At caste feasts, it is his privilege to partake of food first.

Like other Telugu castes, the Sālāpus have intipērulu, or exogamous septs. Girls are generally married before puberty. The custom of mēnarikam, by which a man should marry his maternal uncle’s daughter, is in force. The turmeric ceremony takes place some months before marriage. Some male and female relations of [266]the future bridegroom repair to the house of the girl, taking with them a few rupees as the bride-price (vōli). The girl bathes, and daubs herself with turmeric paste. A solid silver bangle is then put on her right wrist. The remarriage of widows and divorce are permitted.

The Sālāpus are divided into Lingavantas and Vaishnavas, who intermarry. The former bury their dead in a sitting posture, and the latter practice cremation. Jangams officiate for the Lingavantas, and Sātānis for Vaishnavas. Both sections observe the chinna (little) and pedda rōzu (big day) death ceremonies.

The caste title is generally Ayya.

Sālāpu.—A form of Sārāpu, an occupational term for those who deal in coins, jewelry, coral, etc.

Sālē.—The Sālēs are the great weaver class among the Telugus, for the following note on whom I am indebted to Mr. C. Hayavadana Rao.

The name is derived from Sanskrit, Sālika, a weaver. The Sālēs call themselves Sēnāpati (commander-in-chief), and this is further the title of the caste headman. They are divided into two main endogamous sections, Padma or lotus, and Pattu or silk. Between them there are three well-marked points of difference, viz., (1) the Pattu Sālēs wear the sacred thread, whereas the Padma Sālēs do not; (2) the Pattu Sālēs do not take food or water at the hands of any except Brāhmans, whereas the Padma Sālēs will eat in Kāpu, Golla, Telaga, Gavara, etc., houses; (3) the Pattu Sālēs weave superfine cloths, and, in some places, work in silk, whereas Padma Sālēs weave only coarse cloths. Each section is divided into a number of exogamous septs or intipērulu. Both speak Telugu, and are divided into Vaishnavites and Saivites. These religious distinctions are no bar to intermarriage and interdining. [267]

It is recorded, in the Gazetteer of the Vizagapatam district (1907), that “on the plains, cotton cloths are woven in hundreds of villages by Sālēs, Padma Sālēs, Pattu Sālēs, Dēvāngas, and Sālāpus. The ryots often spin their own cotton into thread, and then hand it over to the weavers to be made into cloths, but large quantities of machine-made yarn are used. In the south, the chief weaving centres are Nakkapalli and Pāyakaraopēta in Sarvasiddhi tāluk, the Pattu Sālēs in the latter of which turn out fabrics of fine thread, enriched with much gold and silver ‘lace,’ which are in great demand in the Godāvari and Ganjam districts. At Rāzām, coloured cloths for women are the chief product, and in the country round this place the white garments so universal everywhere give place to coloured dress. The cloths are sold locally, and also sent in large quantities to Berhampur, Cuttack, and even Calcutta. Most of the weaving is in the hands of Dēvāngas, but the dyeing of the thread is done with imported aniline and alizarine colours by the Balijas of Sigadam in Chīpurupalle tāluk and Balijapēta in Bobbili. In Siripuram and Pondūru, the Pattu Sālēs make delicate fabrics from especially fine thread, called Pattu Sālē nūlu, or silk-weaver’s thread, which the women of their caste spin for them, and which is as fine as imported 1508. These are much valued by well-to-do natives for their softness and durability. The weaving industry is on the decline throughout the district, except perhaps in Rāzām, and the weaver castes are taking to other means of livelihood. Round Chīpurupalle, for example, the Pattu Sālēs have become experts in tobacco-curing, and have made such profits that they are able to monopolise much of the trade and money-lending of the locality.” [268]

Concerning the origin of the Sālē caste, it is stated, in the Āndhrapada Pārijātamu, that it is the result of an union between a Kamsala man and a potter woman. According to a current legend, the celestials (dēvatas), being desirous of securing clothing for themselves and their dependents, asked Markandēya Rishi to supply them with it. He went to Vishnu, and prayed to him. The god directed him to make a sacrificial offering to Indra, the celestial king. Markandēya accordingly performed a great sacrifice, and from the fire issued Bhāvana Rishi, with a ball of thread in his hands, which he had manufactured, under Vishnu’s direction, from the fibre of the lotus which sprang from the god’s navel. With this ball of thread he proceeded to make cloths for the celestials. He subsequently married Bhadravāthi, the daughter of Sūrya (the sun), who bore him a hundred and one sons, of whom a hundred became the ancestors of the Padma Sālēs, while the remaining man was the ancestor of the Pattu Sālēs.

The caste worships Bhāvana Rishi. At the close of the year, the caste occupation is stopped before the Sankramanam for ten days. Before they start work again, the Pattu Sālēs meet at an appointed spot, where they burn camphor, and wave it before a ball of thread, which represents Bhāvana Rishi. A more elaborate rite is performed by the Padma Sālēs. They set apart a special day for the worship of the deified ancestor, and hold a caste feast. A special booth is erected, in which a ball of thread is placed. A caste-man acts as pūjāri (priest), and fruits, flowers, camphor, etc., are offered to the thread.

The Telugu Padma Sālēs, and Marāthi-speaking Sukūn and Suka Sālēs, are, as will be seen from the [269]following table, short of stature, with high cephalic index:—

Stature. cm. Cephalic index.
Padma Sālē 159.9 78.7
Suka Sālē 161.1 81.8
Sukūn Sālē 160.3 82.2

The Padma and Karna Sālēs are dealt with in special articles.

Writing in the eighteenth century, Sonnerat remarks that the weaver fixes his loom under a tree before his house in the morning, and at night takes it home. And this observation holds good at the present day. Weaving operations, as they may be seen going on at weaving centres in many parts of Southern India, are thus described by Mr. H. A. Stuart.2 “The process of weaving is very simple. The thread is first turned off upon a hand-spindle, and then the warp is formed. Bamboo sticks, 120 in number, are fixed upright in the ground, generally in the shade of a tope or grove, at a distance of a cubit from one another, and ten women or children, carrying rātnams (spindles) in their hands, walk up and down this line, one behind the other, intertwining the thread between the bamboos, until 1,920 threads of various colours, according to the pattern desired, are thus arranged. For this work each gets half an anna—a small remuneration for walking four miles. To form a warp sufficient for eight women’s cloths, forty miles have thus to be traversed. In weaving silk cloths or the finer fabrics, the length of the warp is less than sixty yards. As soon as the threads have been arranged, the bamboos are plucked up, and rolled together with the [270]threads upon them. Trestles are then set out in the tope, and upon them the warp with the bamboos is stretched horizontally, and sized by means of large long brushes with rāgi starch, and carried along by two men. This having dried, the whole is rolled up, and placed in the loom in the weaver’s house. The weaving room is a long, narrow, dark chamber, lighted by one small window close to where the workman sits. The loom is constructed on the simplest principles, and can be taken to pieces in a few minutes, forming a light load for a man. The alternate threads of the warp are raised and depressed, to receive the woof in the following manner. Two pairs of bamboos are joined together by thin twine loops, and, being suspended from the roof, are also joined to two pedals near the floor. Through the joining loops of one pair of bamboos run half the threads, and through those of the other run the other half. Thus, by depressing one pedal with the foot and raising the other, one set of threads is depressed, and the other raised so as to admit of the woof thread being shot across. This thread is forced home by a light beam suspended from the roof, and then, the position of the pedals being reversed, the woof thread is shot back again between the reversed threads of the warp. In this way about three yards can be woven in a day.” Further Mr. J. D. Rees writes as follows.3 “As you enter a weaver’s grove, it appears at first sight as if those occupied in this industry were engaged in a pretty game. Rows of women walk up and down the shady aisles, each holding aloft in the left hand a spindle, and in the right a bamboo wand, through a hook at the end of which the thread is passed. Alongside are split bamboos [271]reaching as high as their hips, and, as they pass, they unwind the thread from the spindle by means of the wand, and pass it over each alternate upright. The threads, thus separated, are subsequently lifted with their bamboo uprights from the ground, and, while extended from tree to tree in a horizontal position, are washed with rice-water, and carefully brushed. The threads are now ready to be made into cloth, and the actual weaving is carried on by means of primitive hand looms inside the houses.”

Weavers, like many other classes in Southern India, are eminently conservative. Even so trifling an innovation as the introduction of a new arrangement for maintaining tension in the warp during the process of weaving gave rise a short time ago to a temporary strike among the hand-loom weavers at the Madras School of Arts.

For the following note on the weaving industry, I am indebted to Mr. A. Chatterton. “The hand-weavers may be divided into two great classes—(1) plain weavers, who weave cloths or fabrics with a single shuttle, which carries the weft from selvage to selvage; (2) bordered cloth weavers, who weave cloths in which the threads of the weft of the portion of the fabric forming the borders are distinct from the threads of the weft of the main body of the cloth. To manufacture these cloths, three shuttles are employed, and as yet no successful attempt has been made to imitate them on the power loom. The bordered cloth weavers do not suffer from the direct competition of machine-made piece-goods, and the depression in their branch of the industry is due to changes in the tastes of the people.4 In the [272]manufacture of a cloth from the raw material there are three distinct processes: spinning, warping, and weaving. Modern machinery has absolutely and completely ousted hand-spinning; the primitive native methods of warping have been to a large extent replaced by improved hand-machines, and power looms have displaced hand looms to some extent; but there is still an enormous hand-loom industry, some branches of which are in by no means an unsatisfactory condition. In our efforts to place the hand-weaving industry on a better footing, we are endeavouring to improve the primitive methods of indigenous weavers both in regard to warping and weaving. In respect to weaving we have met with considerable success, as we have demonstrated that the output of the fly-shuttle loom is fully double that of the native hand loom, and it is in consequence slowly making its way in the weaving centres of Southern India. In respect to warping, no definite solution has yet been effected, and we are still experimenting. The problem is complicated by the fact that the output of a warping mill must necessarily be sufficient to keep at least a hundred hand looms at work, and at the present time the hand-weaving industry is not organised on any basis, which gives promise of development into co-operative working on so large a scale as would give employment to this number of looms. In Madura, Coimbatore, Madras and Salem, attempts are being made to establish organised hand-loom weaving factories, and these represent the direction in which future development must take place. At present all these factories are running with fly-shuttle looms, and various modifications of the old types of hand-warping machinery. The only experiments in warping and sizing are now being conducted, at Government expense, in the Government [273]weaving factory at Salem, and in a small factory established privately at Tondiarpet (Madras). A warping machinery, suited to Indian requirements, has been specially designed for us in England, and there is no doubt but that it will provide a solution to the warping question, but whether it will be satisfactory or not depends upon the efficiency of hank sizing. The superiority of native cloths is commonly attributed to the fact that they are made in hand looms, but in reality it is largely due to the methods of sizing employed by native weavers, and it is still doubtful whether we can attain the same results by any process which involves the production of continuous warps of indefinite length. The ordinary native warp is short, and it is stretched out to its full length in the street, and the size carefully and thoroughly brushed into it. The warps which our machines will produce may be thousands of yards in length, and, if they are successful, will almost entirely do away with the enormous waste of time involved in putting new warps into a loom at frequent intervals. That they will be successful in a sense there is no reasonable doubt, but whether the goods produced in our hand-weaving factories will be what are now known as hand-woven goods, or whether they will partake more of the nature of the power-loom productions, remains to be seen. With the cheap labour available in Southern India, there is probably a future for hand-weaving factories, but it will depend almost entirely upon the successful training of the weavers, and experience shows that they are not easily amenable to discipline, and have very rigid objections to anything approaching a factory system.”

In a speech delivered at Salem in 1906, Sir Arthur Lawley, Governor of Madras, spoke as follows. “I [274]know something of the prosperity of the weaving industry in days gone by, and I regret exceedingly to learn that it is not in so flourishing a condition as at one time it well claimed to be. Now, we have all of us heard a good deal of Swadēshi, and the Government is being constantly urged, from time to time, to do something to foster the industries of this country. We made a beginning here by setting up a Weaving Institute. We believed that by doing so we should put within the knowledge of the weavers of this district methods whereby their output of cloth would be greater, while the cost was reduced, and that thus their material prosperity would be considerably advanced. Now it is somewhat of a surprise, and considerable disappointment to me to learn that this effort which we have made is regarded with suspicion, if not with hostility. I am afraid our motives have been misunderstood, because I need hardly assure you that the idea that the Government should enter into competition with any of the industries of the country never suggested itself to us. We desired simply and solely to infuse some fresh spirit into an industry which was languishing.”

In a note on the weaving industry, Mr. E. B. Havell writes thus.5 “The principle of the Danish co-operative system as applied to dairy-farming is the combination of a number of small proprietors for sending their products to a central factory, in which each of them has a share proportionate to the quantity of his contributions. In the management of the factory, each member has an absolutely equal voice, irrespective of his holdings. Adapting such a system to the Indian [275]weaving industry, each weaving community would have a central establishment under its own control, which would arrange the purchase of material at wholesale rates, prepare warps for the weavers’ looms, and organise the sale of the finished products. The actual weaving would be carried on as at present in the weavers’ houses by the master weavers and their apprentices. If a system of this kind would retain the economic advantages of the factory system, and eliminate its many evils, it is obvious that a factory, owned and controlled by the weavers themselves, and worked only for their advantage, is a very different thing to a factory controlled by capitalists only for the purpose of exploiting the labour of their employees.”

As bearing on the general condition of the weaving community, the following extract from the Report of the Famine in the Madras Presidency, 1896–97, may be quoted. “Among the people who felt the distress at the beginning were the weavers. It is a well-known fact that the people of the weaver castes, as well as Mussalman weavers, are generally improvident, and consequently poor. In favourable times, the weavers generally earn fair wages. They, however, spend all they earn without caring to lay by anything, so that very few of their caste are in well-to-do circumstances. The same is the case with the Mussalman weavers. All these weavers are entirely in the hands of the sowcars (money-lenders), who make advances to them, and get cloths in return. The cloths thus obtained by the sowcars are exported to other parts of the country. It may be taken as a general fact that most of the professional weavers are indebted to the sowcars, and are bound to weave for them. So long as the seasons are favourable, and sowcars get indents for cloths from their customers, they continue [276]their advances to their dependent weavers. But when, owing to any cause, the demand decreases, the sowcars curtail their advances proportionately, and the weavers are at once put to difficulty. According to the fineness and kind of fabrics turned out by the weavers, they may be divided into fine cloth weavers and silk weavers, and weavers of coarse cloths. It is the coarse cloth weavers that would be affected with the first appearance of distress. The consumers of their manufactures are the poorer classes, and, with the appearance of scarcity and high prices, the demand for the coarser kinds of cloths would cease. Such was actually the case at the beginning of the recent distress. The weavers are, as a class, not accustomed to hard manual labour, nor are they able to work exposed to heat and sun. If such people are put on earth-work, they would certainly fail to turn out the prescribed task, and consequently earn insufficient wages. They would thus be, as it were, punished for no fault of theirs. This state of things would last at least for some time, until the weavers got accustomed to earth-work. Again, these people have, by constant work at their own craft, attained to a certain degree of skill and delicacy, and, if compelled to do earth-work during the temporary unfavourable season, they would certainly lose, to some extent, their skill and delicacy of hand, and would become unfit, in that degree, for their accustomed work when favourable season returns. They would thus be put to inconvenience doubly. During the first part of the distress, their skill of hand, and delicacy of constitution would stand in their way, and, after the return of good season, the loss of manual skill and delicacy would place them at a disadvantage. It can be easily seen that giving relief to the weavers in [277]their own calling is the most economical form of relief. In this form of special relief, Government advances materials to the weavers to be woven into different kinds of cloths. Government has no doubt to incur a large initial expenditure in the shape of value of materials, and wages for weavers for making these materials into cloths. But all the materials are returned woven into cloths, so that, at the close of the operations, Government has a stock of cloths, which can be disposed of without difficulty on the return of favourable times, and the cost incurred recovered. In this way, Government not only administers relief to a pretty large section of its poor subjects, but keeps up, with little or no cost to itself, the industrial skill of this section of the people.”

Of proverbs relating to the weaver, one runs to the effect that, “if you want to narrow the breadth of a river, you should plant reeds on its margin; and, if you desire to destroy the sanitation of a village, you should bring weavers to it, and settle them there.” When the dyes have to be fixed, and the dyed twist has to be washed, the weavers generally resort to running water, and pollute it. The several processes of twisting and untwisting threads, preparing skeins, etc., make combined labour a necessity in the weaving industry; and, wherever one finds a weaver settlement, he must find there a large number of these people, as is explained by the proverb that “the Chetti (merchant) lost by partnership, while the weaver came to grief by isolation.” When plying shuttles in the weaving process, the weavers always use their feet in shifting the warp, by treading on a press. Thus, if a weaver unfortunately happens to have a sore on his foot, it means loss to him; or, as the proverb says, “If a dog gets a sore on its head, it never [278]recovers from it; and even so a weaver who gets a sore on his foot.”6

Salige (wire).—A gōtra of Kurni.

Sāliyan.—The Sāliyan weavers of Kornād and Ayyampet, in the Tanjore district, are a Tamil-speaking class, who must not be confused with the Telugu Sālēs. They afford an interesting example of how a limited number of families, following the same occupation, can crystallise into a separate caste. They claim to have a Purānam relating to their origin, which is said to be found in the Sthalapurānam of the Nallādai temple. They believe that they are the descendants of one Sāliya Mahā Rishi, a low-caste man, who did service for one Visākar, who was doing penance near Nallādai. Through the grace of the rishi Visākar, Sāliya became a rishi, and married two wives. The Sāliyans are said to be descended from the offspring of the first wife, and the Mottai Sāliyans from the offspring of the second.

The Sāliyans have taken to wearing the sacred thread, engage Brāhman purōhits, and are guided by Brāhman priests. They are said to have had their own caste priests until a Brāhman from Sendangudi, near Mayāvaram, accepted the office of priest. It is reported that, in former days, the Sāliyans were not allowed to sell their goods except in a fixed spot called māmaraththumēdu, where they set out their cloths on bamboos. High-caste people never touched the cloths, except with a stick. At the present day the Sāliyans occupy a good position in the social scale, and employ Brāhman cooks, though no other castes will eat in their houses.

A curious feature in connection with the Sāliyans is that, contrary to the usual rule among Tamil castes, [279]they have exogamous septs or vīdu (house), of which the following are examples:—

  • Mandhi, black monkey.
  • Kottāngkachchi, cocoanut shell.
  • Thuniyan, cloth.
  • Kachchandhi, gunny-bag.
  • Vellai parangi, white vegetable marrow.
  • Ettadiyan, eight feet.
  • Thadiyan, stout.
  • Kazhudhai, donkey.
  • Thavalai, frog.
  • Sappaikālan, crooked-legged.
  • Malaiyan, hill.
  • Kāththan, an attendant on Aiyanar.
  • Ozhakkan, a measure.
  • Thondhi, belly.
  • Mungināzhi, bamboo measure.
  • Ōdakkazhinjan, one who defæcated when running.
  • Kamban, the Tamil poet.
  • Ōttuvīdu, tiled house.
  • Kalli, Euphorbia Tirucalli.
  • Sirandhān, a noble person.
  • Thambirān, master or lord.
  • Kollai, backyard.
  • Mādīvīdu, storeyed house.
  • Murugan, name of a person.

The Sāliyans have further acquired gōtras named after rishis, and, when questioned as to their gōtra, refer to the Brāhman purōhits.

The Sāliyan weavers of silk Kornād women’s cloths, who have settled at Mayāvaram in the Tanjore district, neither intermarry nor interdine with the Sāliyans of the Tinnevelly district, though they belong to the same linguistic division. The Tinnevelly Sāliyans closely follow the Kaikōlans in their various ceremonials, and in their social organisation, and interdine with them. Sāliya women wear three armlets on the upper arm, whereas Kaikōla women only wear a single armlet. The Sāliyans may not marry a second wife during the lifetime of the first wife, even if she does not bear children. They may, however, adopt children. Some of the Tinnevelly Sāliyans have taken to trade and agriculture, while others weave coarse cotton cloths, and dye cotton yarn. [280]

In the Census Report, 1901, Ataviyar is recorded as “a synonym for, or rather title of the Tinnevelly Sālēs.” Further, Pattāriyar is described as a Tamil corruption of Pattu Sāliyan, returned by some of the Tinnevelly Sālēs. The Adaviyar or Pattalia Settis are Tamilians, probably an offshoot of the Kaikōlans, and have no connection with the Telugu Pattu Sālēs, who, like the Padma Sālēs, retain their mother-tongue wherever they settle. It is recorded7 in connection with the Sāliyar of the Chingleput district, many of whom are Kaikōlans, that “a story is current of their persecution by one Salva Naik (said to have been a Brāhman). The result of this was that large bodies of them were forced to flee from Conjeeveram to Madura, Tanjore, and Tinnevelly, where their representatives are still to be found.”

The Adaviyars follow the Tamil Purānic type of marriage ceremonies, and have a sirutāli (small tāli) as a marriage badge. The caste deity is Mukthākshiamman. The dead are always cremated.

Saluppan.—The Tamil equivalent of the Telugu Janappan, which is derived from janapa, the sunn hemp (Crotolaria juncea).

Samagāra.—The Samagāras have been described8 as “the principal class of leather-workers in the South Canara district. They are divided into two endogamous groups, the Canarese Samagāras and the Ārya Samagāras. The latter speak Marāthi. Though the Samagāras are in the general estimation as low a caste as the Holeyas, and do not materially differ from them in their religious and other ceremonies and customs, they are, as a rule, of much fairer complexion, and the women are often very handsome. The tanning industry [281]is chiefly carried on by the Samagāras, and their modus operandi is as follows. The hides are soaked for a period of one month in large earthen vats containing water, to which chunam is added at the rate of two seers per hide. After the expiry of the above period, they are soaked in fresh water for three days, in view to the chunam being removed. They are then put into an earthen vessel filled with water and the leaves of Phyllanthus Emblica, in which they remain for twelve days. After this, they are removed and squeezed, and replaced in the same vessel, where they are allowed to remain for about a month, after which period they are again removed, washed and squeezed. They are then sewn up and stuffed with the bark of cashew, daddala, and neralē trees, and hung up for a day. After this, the stitching is removed, and the hides are washed and exposed to the sun to dry for a day, when they become fit for making sandals. Some of the hides rot in this process to such an extent as to become utterly unfit for use.”

The badge of the Ārē Samagāra at Conjeeveram is said9 to be the insignia of the Mochis (or Mucchis), a boy’s kite.

Sāmantan.—“This,” the Census Superintendent, 1891, writes, “may be called the caste of Malayālam Rājahs and chieftains, but it is hardly a separate caste at all, at any rate at present, for those Nāyars and others who have at any time been petty chieftains in the country, call themselves Sāmantas. The primary meaning of the word Sāmanta is given by Dr. Gundert10 as the chief of a district.” The number of people who returned themselves as Sāmantas (including a few Sāmantan Brāhmans) [282]at the Census, 1881, was 1,611, and in 1901 they increased to 4,351.

In a suit brought against the Collector of Malabar (Mr. Logan) some years ago by one Nilambūr Thachara Kōvil Mana Vikrama, alias Elaya Tirumalpād, the plaintiff entered an objection to his being said by the Collector to be of “a caste (Nāyar), who are permitted to eat fish and flesh, except of course beef.” He stated in court that he was “a Sāmantan by caste, and a Sāmantan is neither a Brāhman, nor a Kshatriya, nor a Vaisya, nor a Sūdra.” Sāmantan, according to him, is a corruption of Sāmantran, which, he stated, meant one who performs ceremonies without mantrams. He said that his caste observes all the ceremonies that Brāhmans do, but without mantrams. And he gave the following as the main points in which his caste differs from that of the Nāyars. Brāhmans can take their food in the houses of members of his caste, while they cannot do so in those of Nāyars. At the performance of srādhs in his caste, Brāhmans are fed, while this is not done in the case of Nāyars. Brāhmans can prepare water for the purpose of purification in his house, but not in that of a Nāyar. If a Nāyar touches a Sāmantan, he has to bathe in the same way as a Brāhman would have to do. For the performance of marriages and other ceremonies in his caste, Malabar Brāhmans are absolutely necessary. At marriages the tāli is tied by Kshatriyas. A Sāmantan has fourteen days’ pollution, while a Nāyar has fifteen. He can only eat what a Brāhman can eat. He added that he was of the same caste as the Zamorin of Calicut. A number of witnesses, including the author of the Kēralavakhsha Kramam, were examined in support of his assertions. It was noted by the District Judge that no documentary evidence was produced, or reference to [283]public records or works of authority made in support of the theory as to the existence of a caste of Sāmantas who are not Nāyars, and are classed under Kshatriyas, and above the Vaisyas. The following account is given by the author of the Kēralavakhsha Kramam of the origin of the Sāmantas. Some Kshatriyas who, being afraid of Parasu Rāma, were wandering in foreign parts, and not observing caste rules, came to Malabar, visited Chēraman Perumāl, and asked for his protection. On this Chēraman Perumāl, with the sanction of the Brāhmans, and in pursuance of the rules laid down by the Maharājas who had preceded him, classed these people as members of the Sāmantra caste. “That this book,” the Judge observed, “can be looked on as being in any way an authority on difficult and obscure historical questions, or that the story can be classed as more than a myth, there are no grounds for supposing.” No linguistic work of recognised authority was produced in support of the derivation of the word Sāmantan from Sāmantran, meaning without mantrams.

One exhibit in the case above referred to was an extract from the report of a commission appointed to inspect the state and condition of the province of Malabar. It is dated 11th October, 1793, and in it allusion is made to the ‘Tichera Tiroopaar’ who is described as a chief Nāyar of Nilambūr in the southern division of the country. Evidence was given to show that Tichera Tiroopaar is the Nilambūr Tirumulpād. And, in a letter from the Supervisor of Malabar, dated 15th November, 1793, allusion is made to Tichera Tiroopaar as a Nāyar. Two extracts from Buchanan’s well-known work on Mysore, Canara and Malabar, were also filed as exhibits. In one Buchanan relates what was told him by the Brāhmans of the history of ‘Malayāla’. [284]Among other things, he mentions that Chēraman Perumāl, having come to the resolution of retiring to Mecca, went to Calicut. “He was there met by a Nāyar who was a gallant chief, but who, having been absent at the division, had obtained no share of his master’s dominions. Chēraman Perumāl thereupon gave him his sword, and desired him to keep all that he could conquer. From this person’s sisters are descended the Tamuri Rajahs or Zamorins.” In the second extract, Buchanan sums up the result of enquiries that he had made concerning the Zamorin and his family. He states that the head of the family is the Tamuri Rajah, called by Europeans the Zamorin, and adds: “The Tamuri pretends to be of a higher rank than the Brāhmans, and to be inferior only to the invisible gods, a pretension that was acknowledged by his subjects, but which is held as absurd and abominable by the Brāhmans, by whom he is only treated as a Sūdra.”

An important witness said that he knew the plaintiff, and that he was a Sūdra. He stated that he had lived for two years in the Zamorin’s kōvilagom, and knew the customs of his family. According to him there was no difference between his own caste customs and those of the Zamorin. He said that Sāmantan means a petty chieftain, and drew attention to the ‘Sukra Niti,’ edited by Dr. Oppert, where a Sāmantan is said to be “he who gets annually a revenue of from one to three lakhs karshom from his subjects without oppressing them.” There are, according to him, some Nāyars who call themselves Sāmantas, and he added that when, in 1887, the Collector of Malabar called for lists of all stanom-holders11 in the district, he examined these lists, and found that some of the Nāyar chiefs called themselves Sāmantan. [285]

“A consideration of all the evidence,” the Judge writes, “appears to me to prove conclusively that the plaintiff is a Nāyar by caste.... What appears to me, from a consideration of the evidence, to be the safe inference to draw is that the members of the plaintiff’s family, and also the descendants of certain other of the old Nāyar chieftains, have for some time called themselves, and been called by others, Sāmantas, but that there is no distinctive caste of that name, and that the plaintiff is, as the defendant has described him, a Nāyar by caste.”12

The Sāmantans are summed up as follows in the Gazetteer of Malabar. “Sāmantan is the generic name of the group of castes forming the aristocracy of Malabar, and it includes the following divisions:—Nambiyār, Unnitiri, Adiyōdi, all belonging to North Malabar; and Nedungādi, Vallōdi, Ērādi, and Tirumulpād, all belonging to South Malabar. There are also Nāyars with the title of Nambiyar and Adiyōdi. Nedungādi, Vallōdi and Ērādi, are territorial names applied to the Sāmantans indigenous to Ērnād, Walavanād, and Nedunganād respectively; or perhaps it may be more correct to say that the tracts in question take their names from the ruling classes, who formerly bore sway there. Ērādi is the caste to which belongs the Zāmorin Rāja of Calicut. It is also the name of a section of Kiriyattil Nāyars. The Rāja of Walavanād is a Vallōdi. Tirumulpād is the title of a class of Sāmantans, to which belong a number of petty chieftains, such as the Karnamulpād of Manjeri and the Tirumulpād of Nilambūr. The ladies of this class are called Kolpāds or Koilammāhs. Many Nambiyārs in North Malabar claim to belong to [286]the Sāmantan caste, but there is at least reason to suppose that they are properly Nāyars, and that the claim to the higher rank is of recent date. That such recruitment is going on is indicated by the difference between the number of persons returned as Sāmantans in the censuses of 1901 and 1891 (4,351 and 1,225 respectively), which is far above the normal percentage of increase of population. Kshatriyas wear the pūnūl (thread); Sāmantans as a rule do not. Most Kshatriyas eat with Brāhmans, and have a pollution period of eleven nights, indicating that their position in the caste hierarchy lies between the Brāhmans with ten days and the Ambalavāsis proper with twelve. Sāmantans as a rule observe fifteen days’ pollution, and may not eat with Brāhmans. Both follow marumakkatāyam (inheritance in the female line), and their women as a rule have sambandham (alliance) only with Brāhmans or Kshatriyas. Those who belong to the old Royal families are styled Rāja or Tamburān (lord), their ladies Tamburāttis, and their houses Kōvilagams or palaces. Some Sāmantans have the caste titles of Kartāvu and Kaimal. But it does not appear that there are really any material differences between the various classes of Sāmantans, other than purely social differences due to their relative wealth and influence.”

“Tradition,” writes the Travancore Census Superintendent (1901), “traces the Sāmantas to the prudent Kshatriyas, who cast off the holy thread, to escape detection and slaughter by Parasu Rāma. They are believed to have then fled to uninhabited forests till they forgot the Sandhyāvandana prayers, and became in certain respects no better than Sūdras. Thus they came, it is said, to be called Amantrakas, Sāmantrakas, Sāmantas, or having no mantra at all. Referring to this, [287]Mr. Stuart says13 ‘Neither philology, nor anything else, supports this fable.’ From the word Sāmantra, Sāmanta can, no doubt, be conveniently derived, but, if they could not repeat mantras, they should have been called Amantras and not Sāmantras. In the Kērala Māhatmya we read that the Perumāls appointed Sāmantas to rule over portions of their kingdom. Taking the Sanskrit word Sāmanta, we may understand it to mean a petty chief or ruler. It is supposed that the Perumāls who came to Malabar contracted matrimonial alliances with high class Nāyar women, and that the issue of such unions were given chiefships over various extents of territories. Changes in their manners and customs were, it is said, made subsequently, by way of approximation to the Kshatriyas proper. Though the sacred thread, and the Gāyatri hymn were never taken up, less vital changes, as, for instance, that of the wearing of the ornaments of the Kshatriya women, or of consorting only with Nambūtiri husbands, were adopted. Those who lived in Ernāt formed themselves by connections and alliances into one large caste, and called themselves Erātis. Those who lived in Valluvanāt became Vallōtis. The unification could not assume a more cosmopolitan character as the several families rose to importance at different times, and, in all probability, from different sections of the Nāyars.”

In the Travancore Census Report (1901) the chief divisions of the Sāmantas are said to be Atiyōti, Unyātiri, Pantāla, Erāti, Vallōti, and Netungāti. “The Unyātiris,” the Travancore Census Superintendent writes further, “look upon themselves as a higher class than the rest of the Sāmantas, as they have an Āryapattar to tie the tāli of their girls, the other five castes employing only [288]Kshatriyas (Tirumulpāts) for that duty. The word Atiyōti has sometimes been derived from Atiyān, a slave or vassal, the tradition being that the Kattanat Rāja, having once been ousted from his kingdom by the Zamorin of Calicut, sought the assistance of the Rāja of Chirakkal. The latter is believed to have made the Kattanat Rāja his vassal as a condition for his territory being restored. The Unnittiris are not found in Travancore, their place being taken by the Unyātiris, who do not differ from them materially in any of their manners and customs. The word Unnittiri means the venerable boy, and is merely a title of dignity. The word Pantāla comes from Bhandārattil, meaning ‘in or belonging to the royal treasury’. They appear to have been once the ruling chiefs of small territories. Their women are known as Kōvilammamār, i.e., the ladies of palaces or rānis. The Erāti, the Vallōti, and Netungāti are British Malabar castes, and receive their names from the localities, to which they may have been indigenous—Ernāt, Valluvanāt, and Netungānāt. The Zamorin of Calicut is an Erāti by caste. [In 1792, the Joint Commissioners wrote that ‘the Cartinaad and Samoory (the principal families in point of extent of dominion) are of the Samanth or Euree (cowherd) caste.’]14 Some of these Erātis, such as the Rāja of Nilambūr, are called Tirumulpāts. The only peculiarity with these Tirumulpāts is that they may tie the tāli of their women, and need not call other Tirumulpāts for the purpose, as the rest of the Sāmantas have to do. A title that several Sāmantas often take is Kartāvu (agent or doer), their females being called Koilpāts, meaning literally those who live in palaces. The Sāmantas of Manchēry and [289]Amarampalam in Malabar are also called Tirumulpāts. The Sāmantas of Chuntampattai and Cherupulāssēri are called Kartāvus. Both Kartas and Tirumulpāts are called by the Sūdra castes Tampurān or prince. The caste government of the Sāmantas rests with the Nampūtiri Vaidikas, and their priesthood is undertaken by the Nampūtiris. They follow the marumakkathayam law of inheritance (through the female line), and observe both the forms of marriage in vogue in the country, namely, tāli-kettu and sambandham. Women wear the three special ornaments of the Kshatriyas, viz., the mittil or cherutāli, entram, and kuzhal. The chief of these is the mittil, which is used as the wedding ornament. It has the appearance of Rāma’s parasu or battle-axe. The houses of those Sāmantas, who are or were till recently rulers of territories, are known as kottārams or palaces, while those of the commonalty are merely called mathams, a name given to the houses of Brāhmans not indigenous to Malabar. The occupations, which the Sāmantas pursue, are chiefly personal attendance on the male and female members of Royal families. Others are landlords, and a few have taken to the learned professions.” In the Cochin Census Report, 1901, it is stated that “Sāmantas and Ambalavāsis do not interdine. At public feasts they sit together for meals. Brāhmans, Kshatriyas, Nampidis, and most of the Ambalavāsi castes, do not take water from them. Birth and death pollution last for eleven days.”

In the Madras Civil List of titles and title-holders, the Zamorin of Calicut, and the Valiya Rājas of Chirakkal, Kadattanād, Palghāt, and Waluvanād, are returned as Sāmantas.

Sāmanthi (Chrysanthemum indicum).—An exogamous sept of Kuruba and Togata. The flowers of the [290]chrysanthemum are largely used for garlands, etc., in temple worship.

Sāmantiya.—The Sāmantiyas are an Oriya caste of agricultural labourers and firewood sellers. It has been suggested that the caste name is derived from samantiba, which denotes sauntering to pick up scattered things. The Sāmantiyas are one of the castes, whose touch is supposed to convey pollution, and they consequently live apart in separate quarters.

All the Sāmantiyas are said to belong to the nāgasa (cobra) gōtra. The headman is called Bēhara, and he is assisted by an official called Poricha. There is also a caste servant entitled Dogara. The caste title is Podhāno, which is also frequently given out as being the name of the caste.

Sāmantiya women will not eat food prepared by Brāhmans or members of other castes, and they apparently object to cooking in open places when travelling, and leave this work for the men to perform. An Oriya Brāhman purōhit officiates at the marriage ceremonies, which, with slight variations, conform to the standard Oriya type. The marriage pandal (booth) is generally covered with cocoanut leaves and leafy twigs of Eugenia Jambolana and Zizyphus Jujuba. Four lights, and a vessel of water, are kept on the dais throughout the marriage ceremonies. The knot, with which the cloths of the bride and bridegroom are tied together, is untied on the evening of the bibha (wedding) day, instead of on the seventh day as among many other castes.

Sāmanto.—A title of Jātapus, and other Oriya castes.

Samaya.—In his ‘Inscriptions at Sravana Belgola’ in Mysore, Mr. Lewis Rice refers to the Samaya as “Dāsaris or Vaishnava religious mendicants, invested [291]with authority as censors of morals. No religious ceremony or marriage could be undertaken without gaining their consent by the payment of fees, etc. Under the former Rājas the office was farmed out in all the large towns, and credited in the public accounts as samayāchāra. An important part of the profits arose either from the sale of women accused of incontinency, or from fines imposed on them for the same reason. The unfortunate women were popularly known as Sarkar (Government) wives.” “The rules of the system,” Wilks writes,15 “varied according to the caste of the accused. Among Brāhmans and Kōmatis, females were not sold, but expelled from their caste, and branded on the arm as prostitutes. They then paid to the ijārdār (or contractor) an annual sum as long as they lived, and, when they died, all their property became his. Females of other Hindu castes were sold without any compunction by the ijārdār, unless some relative stepped forward to satisfy his demand. These sales were not, as might be supposed, conducted by stealth, nor confined to places remote from general observation; for, in the large town of Bangalore, under the very eyes of the European inhabitants, a large building was appropriated to the accommodation of these unfortunate women, and, so late as 1833, a distinct proclamation of the Commissioners was necessary to enforce the abolition of this detestable traffic.”

Samayamuvāru.—An itinerant class of mendicants attached to the Sālē caste. From a note by Mr. C. Hayavadana Rao, I gather that they say that the name is an abbreviation of Rānasamayamuvāru, or men of the day of battle. According to a legend, when Bhāvana [292]Rishi, the patron saint of the caste, was challenged to battle by Kālavasīna, a rākshasa, these people were created, and, with their assistance, the rākshasa was conquered. In recognition of their services, Bhāvana Rishi made the Sālēs maintain them. They wander from place to place in single families, and, when they reach a halting-place, dress up, and visit the house of the Pedda Sēnāpati (headman), who feeds them for the day, and gives a chit (note) showing the amount paid by him. At their visits to Sālē houses, Bhāvana Rishi is praised. They marry in the presence of, and with the aid of the Sālēs.

Sāmban.—Sāmban, meaning Sāmba or Siva, has been recorded as a sub-division of Idaiyan and Paraiyan. At times of census, Sāmbuni Kāpu has been returned as the caste name by some Palle fishermen in Nellore.

Sambandham.—Sambandham, meaning literally connexion, is “the term used by the Nāyars [and other castes] of South Malabar to denote that a man and woman are united by a quasi-matrimonial bond.”16 In Act IV of 1896, Madras, sambandham is defined as “an alliance between a man and a woman, by reason of which they, in accordance with the custom of the community, to which they belong, or either of them belongs, cohabit or intend to cohabit as husband and wife.”

Sāmē (millet: Panicum miliare).—An exogamous sept of Kuruba.

Sāmi Puli (holy tiger).—An exogamous sept of Kallan.

Sammathi Makkal (hammer-men).—An exogamous section of Kallan. [293]

Sammērāya.—A name for Telugu beggars employed as servants and messengers by the heads of Lingāyat mutts (religious institutions). It is derived from sammē, denoting confederacy or league, and denotes those who are bound to the rules laid down by Lingāyats.

Sāmolo.—A title of Doluva.

Sampigē.—Sampigē and Sampangi (champac: Michelia Champaca) have been recorded as an exogamous sept of Kurni and Oddē. Champac flowers are used in the manufacture of temple garlands.

Samudra.—Samudra, Samudram, or Samudrala, meaning the ocean, has been recorded as an exogamous sept of Telugu Brāhmans, Koravas, Kurubas, Balijas, and Mālas. The equivalent Tamudri occurs as the title of the Zamorin, who is the sea-king or ruler of Calicut.

Sāni.—The Sānivāllu, who are a Telugu dancing-girl caste, are described, in the Vizagapatam Manual, as women who have not entered into matrimony, gain money by prostitution, and acting as dancers at feasts. Sāni is also a title of the Oriya Doluvas in Ganjam, who are said to be descended from Puri Rājas by their concubines. The streets occupied by Sānis are, in Ganjam, known as Sāni vīdhi. I have heard of missionaries, who, in consequence of this name, insist on their wives being addressed as Ammāgaru instead of by the customary name Dorasāni.

In a note on the Sānis of the Godāvari district, Mr. F. R. Hemingway writes as follows. “In this district, dancing-girls and prostitutes are made up of six perfectly distinct castes, which are in danger of being confused. These are the Sānis proper, Bōgams, Dommara Sānis, Turaka Sānis, Mangala Bōgams, and Mādiga Bōgams. Of these, the Bōgams claim to be superior, and will not dance in the presence of, or after [294]a performance by any of the others. The Sānis do not admit this claim, but they do not mind dancing after the Bōgams, or in their presence. All the other classes are admittedly inferior to the Sānis and the Bōgams. The Sānis would scorn to eat with any of the other dancing castes. The Sāni women are not exclusively devoted to their traditional profession. Some of them marry male members of the caste, and live respectably with them. The men do not, as among the dancing castes of the south, assist in the dancing, or by playing the accompaniments or forming a chorus, but are cultivators and petty traders. Like the dancing-girls of the south, the Sānis keep up their numbers by the adoption of girls of other castes. They do service in the temples, but they are not required to be formally dedicated or married to the god, as in the Tamil country. Those of them who are to become prostitutes are usually married to a sword on attaining puberty.”

Sāni, meaning apparently cow-dung, occurs as a sub-division of the Tamil Agamudaiyans.

Sanjōgi.—The Sanjōgis are an Oriya class of religious mendicants, who wear the sacred thread, and act as priests for Pānos and other lowly people. The name indicates connection, and that they are the connecting link between ordinary people and those who have given up earthly pleasures (Sanyāsis). The Sanjōgis follow the ordinary as well as the ascetic life. Mr. G. Ramamurti Pantulu informs me that they are believed to be the offspring of ascetics who have violated their vow of celibacy, and women with whom they have lived. They make and sell bead rosaries of the sacred tulsi or basil (Ocimum sanctum) which are worn by various Oriya castes. Some are cultivators, while others are beggars. A Sanjōgi beggar goes about with a bell [295]on the thigh, and a coloured pot on the left shoulder. A few are employed at Oriya maths (religious institutions), where it is their duty to invite Bairāgis and ascetics to a dinner party, and afterwards to remove the leaf platters, and eat the food which is left.

Sankāti (rāgi or millet pudding).—An exogamous sept of Bōya. Rāgi is the staple dietary of many of the lower classes, who cannot afford rice.

Sanku.—Sanku, the conch or chank (Turbinella rapa) has been recorded as a sub-division of Dāsaris, Koppala Velamas, and Paraiyans who act as conch-blowers at funerals, and as an exogamous sept of Kuruba. Sankukatti, or those who tie the chank, occurs as a sub-division of Idaiyan. The chank shell, which is regularly collected by divers off Tuticorin in the Tinnevelly district, is highly prized by Hindus, and used for offering libations, and as a musical instrument at temple services, marriages, and other ceremonials. Vaishnavites and Mādhvas are branded with the emblems of the chank and chakram. The rare right-handed chank shell is specially valued, and purchased for large sums. A legend, recorded by Baldæus, runs to the effect that “Garroude (Garuda) flew in all haste to Brahma, and brought to Kistna the chianko or kinkhorn twisted to the right”. Such a shell appears on the coat-of-arms of the Rāja of Cochin and on the coins of Travancore.

Sanno (little).—A sub-division of Bottada, Omanaito, Pentiya, and Sondi.

Sanror.—A synonym of Shānāns, who claim that Shānān is derived from Sānrōr, meaning the learned or noble.

Santārasi.—An exogamous sept of Dandāsi. The members thereof may not use mats made of the sedge of this name. [296]

Santha (a fair).—An exogamous sept of Dēvānga and Oddē.

Sānto.—A sub-division of Oriya Brāhmans and Bhāyipuos.

Sanyāsi.—“A Sanyāsi is literally a man who has forsaken all, and who has renounced the world and leads a life of celibacy, devoting himself to religious meditation and abstraction, and to the study of holy books. He is considered to have attained a state of exalted piety that places him above most of the restrictions of caste and ceremony. His is the fourth Āsrama or final stage of life recommended for the three higher orders. [“Having performed religious acts in a forest during the third portion of his life, let him become a Sanyāsi, for the fourth portion of it, abandoning all sensual affection.”17] The number of Brāhman Sanyāsis is very small; they are chiefly the Gurus or High Priests of the different sects. These are, as a rule, men of learning, and heads of monasteries, where they have a number of disciples under instruction and training for religious discussion. They are supported entirely by endowments and the contributions of their disciples. They undertake periodical tours for the purpose of receiving the offerings of their followers. Since the Sanyāsi is considered to be above all sin, and to have acquired sufficient merit for salvation, no srādha is performed by the children born to him before he became an anchorite. [The skull of a Sanyāsi is broken after death, as a guarantee of his passage to eternal bliss. Cf. Gōsāyi.] The corpse of a Sanyāsi is buried, and never burnt, or thrown into the river.

“The majority of the Sanyāsis found, and generally known as such, are a class of Sūdra devotees, who live [297]by begging, and pretend to powers of divination. They wear garments coloured with red ochre, and allow the hair to grow unshorn. They often have settled abodes, but itinerate. Many are married, and their descendants keep up the sect, and follow the same calling.”18

Sapiri.—A synonym of Relli.

Sappaliga.—It is noted, in the Madras Census Report, 1901, that “in some tāluks of South Canara they are said to be identical with, or a sub-caste of Gāniga.” The Gānigas are a Canarese caste, of which the traditional occupation is oil-pressing. In the Manual of the South Canara district, it is recorded that “Sappaligs appear to be identical with the Dēvādigas (temple musicians) in North Canara, though they are regarded as distinct castes in South Canara. The Sappaligs are, as the name sappal (noise) implies, a class of musicians in temples, but a number of them are cultivators.” Sappaliga is an occupational term. The musicians among the Tulu Mogēr fishing caste are called Sappaligas, in the same way that those Mogērs who are engaged as oil-pressers are called Gānigas, both being occupational names.

Sara (thread).—A gōtra of Kurni.

Saragu (dried or withered leaves).—A sub-division of Valaiyan.

Sarangulu.—Recorded, in the Nellore district, as being sailors. The name is doubtless equivalent to Serang, which has been defined19 as meaning “a native boatswain, or chief of a lascar crew; the skipper of a small native vessel.”

Sarattu (sacred thread).—A sub-division of Kanakkan, members of which wear the sacred thread. [298]

Sārāyi (alcoholic liquor).—A sub-division of Balija.

Sārigē (lace).—The name of a class of gold-lace makers in Mysore, and of an exogamous sept of Kuruba.

Sāstri.—In the Madras Census Report, 1901, Sāstri (one learned in the shāstras) is described as “unrecognizable. The word is used as a title by Smarta Brāhmans in the Madras Presidency, but the persons returning it came from Bombay, and were not Brāhmans.” Sāstri is recorded in my notes as a title of Dēvāngas.

Sātāni.—The Sātānis are described in the Madras Census Report, 1891, as “a class of temple servants very much like the Mālis of Bengal. The word Sātāni is a corrupt form of Sāttādavan, which, literally means one who does not wear (the sacred thread and tuft of hair). For temple services Rāmānuja classed Vaishnavites into Sāttinavan and Sāttādavan. The former are invariably Brāhmans, and the latter Sūdras. Hence Sātāni is the professional name given to a group of the Vaishnava creed. It is sometimes stated that the Sātānis of the Madras Presidency are the disciples of the famous Bengāli reformer Chaitanya (15th century), from whom, they say, the term Sātāni took its origin. But, so far as I can ascertain, this supposition rests on no better foundation than the similarity in sound of the two names, and it seems to me more than doubtful. There is no evidence of Chaitanya having ever preached in the Dravidian country, and the tenets of the Sātānis of this Presidency differ widely from those of the followers of Chaitanya. The former worship only Krishna, while the latter venerate Vishnu in the form of Nārāyana also. The Sātānis, too, have as much reverence for Rāmānuja as the followers of Chaitanya have towards their guru, who is said to be an incarnation of Krishna. With [299]regard to their religion, it will suffice to say that they are Tengalai Vaishnavites. They shave their heads completely, and tie their lower cloth like a Brāhman bachelor. In their ceremonies they more or less follow the Brāhmans, but the sacred thread is not worn by them. Though the consumption of alcoholic liquor and animal food is strictly prohibited, they practice both to a considerable extent on all festive occasions, and at srādhs. Drinking and other excesses are common. Some Sātānis bury the dead, and others burn them. The principal occupations of Sātānis are making garlands, carrying the torches during the god’s procession, and sweeping the temple floor. They also make umbrellas, flower baskets and boxes of palmyra leaves, and prepare the sacred balls of white clay (for making the Vaishnavite sectarian mark), and saffron powder. Their usual agnomen is Aiya.”

In the Madras Census Report, 1901, the Sātānis are summed up as being “a Telugu caste of temple servants supposed to have come into existence in the time of the great Vaishnavite reformer Srī Rāmānujāchārya (A.D. 1100). The principal endogamous sub-divisions of this caste are (1) Ekākshari, (2) Chaturākshari, (3) Ashtākshari, and (4) Kulasēkhara. The Ekāksharis (ēka, one, and akshara, syllable) hope to get salvation by reciting the one mystic syllable Ōm; the Chaturāksharis believe in the religious efficacy of the four syllables Rā-mā-nu-jā; the Ashtāksharis hold that the recitation of the eight syllables Ōm-na-mō-nā-rā-ya-nā-ya (Ōm! salutation to Nārāyana) will ensure them eternal bliss; and the Kulasēkharas, who wear the sacred thread, claim to be the descendants of the Vaishnava saint Kulasēkhara Ālvār, formerly a king of the Kērala country. The first two sections make umbrellas, flower garlands, etc., and [300]are also priests to Balijas and other Sūdra castes of the Vaishnava sects, while the members of the other two have taken to temple service. In their social and religious customs, all the sub-divisions closely imitate the Tengalai Vaishnava Brāhmans. The marriage of girls after puberty, and the remarriage of widows, are strictly prohibited. Most of them employ Brāhman purōhits, but latterly they have taken to getting priests from their own caste. They attach no importance to the Sanskrit Vēdas, or to the ritual sanctioned therein, but revere the sacred hymns of the twelve Vaishnava saints or Ālvārs, called Nālāyira Prabandham (book of the four thousand songs), which is in Tamil. From this their purōhits recite verses during marriages and other ceremonies.” At the census, 1901, Rāmānuja was returned as a sub-caste of Sātāni. In the Manual of the North Arcot district, Mr. H. A. Stuart describes the Sātānis as “a mixed religious sect, recruited from time to time from other castes, excepting Paraiyans, leather-workers, and Muhammadans. All the Sātānis are Vaishnavites, but principally revere Bāshyakār (another name for Rāmānuja), whom they assert to have been an incarnation of Vishnu. The Sātānis are almost entirely confined to the large towns. Their legitimate occupations are performing menial services in Vishnu temples, begging, tending flower gardens, selling flower garlands, making fans, grinding sandalwood into powder, and selling perfumes. They are the priests of some Sūdra castes, and in this character correspond to the Saivite Pandārams.”

In the Census Report, 1871, the Sātānis are described as being “frequently religious mendicants, priests of inferior temples, minstrels, sellers of flowers used as offerings, etc., and have probably recruited their numbers [301]by the admission into their ranks of individuals who have been excommunicated from higher castes. As a matter of fact, many prostitutes join this sect, which has a recognised position among the Hindus. This can easily be done by the payment of certain fees, and by eating in company with their co-religionists. And they thus secure for themselves decent burial with the ceremonial observances necessary to ensure rest to the soul.”

In the Mysore Census Report, 1891, it is noted that Sātānis are also styled Khādri Vaishnavas, Sāttādavāl, Chātāli, Kulasēkhara, and Samērāya. These names, however, seem to have pricked their amour propre in the late census, and they took considerable pains not only to cast them off, but also to enrol themselves as Prapanna Vaishnavās, Nambi, Venkatapura Vaishnavās, etc. The idea of being tabulated as Sūdras was so hateful to them that, in a few places, the enumerators, who had so noted down their caste according to precedent, were prosecuted by them for defamation. The cases were of course thrown out. Further, the Mysore Census Superintendent, 1901, writes that “the sub-divisions of the Sātānis are Khadri Vaishnavās, Natacharamurti, Prathama Vaishnava, Sameraya or Samogi, Sankara, Suri, Sattādhava, Telugu Sātāni, and Venkatapurada. Some are employed in agriculture, but as a rule they are engaged in the service of Vishnu temples, and are flower-gatherers, torch-bearers, and strolling minstrels.”

The Sātānis are also called Dāsa Nambis. They are flesh-eaters, but some have now become pure vegetarians. There are, for example, at Srivilliputtūr in the Tinnevelly district, a large number who have abandoned a meat dietary. They are connected with the temple of Āndāl, and supply flowers and tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) leaves [302]for worship, carry torches before the goddess during processions, and watch the gate of the temple during the night. The small income which they derive from the temple is supplemented by the manufacture and sale of palmyra leaf baskets, and umbrellas made from Pandanus leaves. As a class, the Sātānis are given to liquor, and all important ceremonial occasions are made the excuse for copious potations. This weakness is so well known that, in the north of the Presidency, the term Rāmānuja Matham is used to denote the consumption of meat and drink at death or srādh ceremonies, just as Saivam signifies vegetarianism. The Sātāni mendicant can be recognised by the peculiar flat gourd-shaped brass pot and palm leaf fan which he carries. The Sātānis claim to have sprung from the sweat of Virāt Purusha (lord of the universe). The following legend is told, as accounting for the removal of the kudumi (tuft of hair on the head), and wearing the cloth without a fold behind. In the time of Rāmānuja, the Sātānis enjoyed certain privileges in the temples, but, not satisfied with these, they claimed to take rank next to Brāhmans. This privilege was accorded, and, when flowers and other things used in the worship of the god were to be distributed, they were handed over to the Sātānis. They, however, were unable to decide who should be deputed to represent the community, each person decrying the others as being of low caste. Rāmānuja accordingly directed that they should shave their heads, and wear their loin-cloths with a fold in front only.

In addition to other occupations already noted, Sātānis sell turmeric, coloured powders, and sacred balls of white clay used by Vaishnavites. Some act as priests to Balijas and Kōmatis, at whose death ceremonies the presence of a Sātāni is essential. Immediately after [303]death, the Sātāni is summoned, and he puts sect marks on the corpse. At the grave, cooked food is offered, and eaten by the Sātāni and members of the family of the deceased. On the last day of the death ceremonies (karmāndiram), the Sātāni comes to the house of the dead person late in the evening, bringing with him certain idols, which are worshipped with offerings of cooked rice, flesh, and liquor in jars. The food is distributed among those present, and the liquor is doled out from a spoon called parikam, or a broom dipped in the liquor, which is drunk as it drips therefrom.

Sātāni women dress just like Vaishnava Brāhman women, from whom it is difficult to distinguish them. In former days, the Sātānis used to observe a festival called ravikala (bodice) utchavam, which now goes by the name of gandapodi (sandal powder) utchavam. The festival, as originally carried out, was a very obscene rite. After the worship of the god by throwing sandal powder, etc., the Sātānis returned home, and indulged in copious libations of liquor. The women threw their bodices into vessel, and they were picked out at random by the men. The woman whose bodice was thus secured became the partner of the man for the day.

For the following note on Sātānis in the Vizagapatam district, I am indebted to Mr. C. Hayavadana Rao. Sātāni is said to be the shortened form of Saththādavan, the uncovered man. They are prohibited from covering three different parts of their bodies, viz., the head with the usual tuft of hair, the body with the sacred thread, and the waist with the customary strip of cloth. All devout Sātānis shave their heads completely. [There is a proverb “Tie a knot on the Sātāni’s tuft of hair, and on the ascetic’s holy thread.” The Sātānis shave the [304]whole head, and the Sanyāsis have no sacred thread.]20 The caste is divided into exogamous septs, or intipērulu. The custom of mēnarikam, according to which a man marries his maternal uncle’s daughter, is observed. The remarriage of widows and divorce are not allowed. Attempts have been made by some members of the caste, in other parts of the Madras Presidency, to connect themselves with Chaitanya. But, so far as the Vizagapatam district is concerned, this is repudiated. They are Rāmānuja Vaishnavas of the Tenkalai persuasion. Their gurus are known as Paravasthuvāru—a corruption of Paravāsu Dēva, whose figure is on the vimāna of the Srīrangam temple, and who must be visited before entering the principal sanctuary. They live at Gūmsūr in Ganjam, and have Sadachārulu, or ever-devout followers, who act as their agents in Vizagapatam. They brand the shoulders of Sātānis with the Vaishnavite emblems, the sankha and chakra, and initiate them into the mysteries of the Vaishnava religion by whispering into their ears the word Rāmānuja. The Sātāni learns by heart various songs in eulogy of Srīrangam and its deity, by means of which he earns his living. He rises in the early morning, and, after a bath, adorns his forehead and body with the Vaishnavite nāmam, ties round his clean-shaved head a string of tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) beads known as thirupavithram, puts a tulsi garland round his neck, and takes a fan called gajakarnam, or elephant’s ear, in his right hand. In his left hand he carries a copper gourd-shaped vessel. He is generally accompanied by another Sātāni similarly got up. When begging, they sing the songs referred to above, and collect the rice which is given to them in their vessels. [305]At the end of their round they return home, and their wives clean the rice, bow down before it, and cook it. No portion of the rice obtained by begging should be sold for money. The Sātānis play an important part in the social life of the Vaishnavites of the district, and are the gurus of some of the cultivating and other classes. They preside at the final death ceremonies of the non-Brāhman Vaishnavite castes. They burn their dead, and perform the chinna (little) and pedda rōzu (big day) death ceremonies.

Sāthu.—A synonym, meaning a company of merchants or travellers, of Perike and Janappan.

Saurāshtra.—A synonym of the Patnūlkārans, derived from the Saurāshtra country, whence they came southward. They also style themselves Saurāshtra Brāhmans.

Savalaikkāran.—A Tamil name for fishermen, who fish in the sea. Savalai or saval thadi is the flattened paddle used for rowing boats. The Savalaikkārans are more akin to the Pallis or Vanniyans than to the Sembadavans. Though a large number are agriculturists, some play on the nāgasaram (reed instrument). In the Tinnevelly district, where Mēlakkārans are scarce, the temple musicians are either Savalaikkārans or Panisavans. The agricultural Savalaikkārans use the title Padayāchi, and the musicians the title Annāvi. Their marriages last three days, and the milk-post is made of teak-wood. Widow remarriage is prohibited. The dead are always buried. Socially they are on a par with the Maravans, with whom they interdine.

Sāvali.—A synonym of Budubudike.

Sāvantiya.—A synonym of Sāmantiya.

Savara.—The Savaras, Sawaras, or Saoras, are an important hill-tribe in Ganjam and Vizagapatam.The [306]name is derived by General Cunningham from the Scythian sagar, an axe, in reference to the axe which they carry in their hands. In Sanskrit, sabara or savara means a mountaineer, barbarian, or savage. The tribe has been identified by various authorities with the Suari of Pliny and Sabarai of Ptolemy. “Towards the Ganges,” the latter writes, “are the Sabarai, in whose country the diamond is found in great abundance.” This diamond-producing country is located by Cunningham near Sambalpūr in the Central Provinces. In one of his grants, Nandivarma Pallavamalla, a Pallava king, claims to have released the hostile king of the Sābaras, Udayana by name, and captured his mirror-banner made of peacock’s feathers. The Rev. T. Foulkes21 identifies the Sābaras of this copper-plate grant with the Savaras of the eastern ghāts. But Dr. E. Hultzsch, who has re-edited the grant,22 is of opinion that these Sābaras cannot be identified with the Savaras. The Aitareya Brāhmana of the Rig-vēda makes the Savaras the descendants of the sons of Visvāmitra, who were cursed to become impure by their father for an act of disobedience, while the Rāmayana describes them as having emanated from the body of Vasishta’s cow to fight against the sage Visvāmitra.

The language of the Savaras is included by Mr. G. A. Grierson23 in the Mundā family. It has, he writes, “been largely influenced by Telugu, and is no longer an unmixed form of speech. It is most closely related to Khariā and Juāng, but in some characteristics differs from them, and agrees with the various dialects of the language which has in this (linguistic) survey been described under the denomination of Kherwāri.” [307]

The Savaras are described by Mr. F. Fawcett24 as being much more industrious than the Khonds. “Many a time,” he writes, “have I tried to find a place for an extra paddy (rice) field might be made, but never with success. It is not too much to say that paddy is grown on every available foot of arable ground, all the hill streams being utilized for this purpose. From almost the very tops of the hills, in fact from wherever the springs are, there are paddy fields; at the top of every small area a few square yards, the front perpendicular revetment [of large masses of stones] sometimes as large in area as the area of the field; and larger and larger, down the hillside, taking every advantage of every available foot of ground there are fields below fields to the bottoms of the valleys. The Saoras show remarkable engineering skill in constructing their paddy fields, and I wish I could do it justice. They seem to construct them in the most impossible places, and certainly at the expense of great labour. Yet, with all their superior activity and industry, the Saoras are decidedly physically inferior to the Khonds. It seems hard the Saoras should not be allowed to reap the benefit of their industry, but must give half of it to the parasitic Bissoyis and their retainers. The greater part of the Saoras’ hills have been denuded of forest owing to the persistent hacking down of trees for the purpose of growing dry crops, so much so that, in places, the hills look almost bare in the dry weather. Nearly all the jungle (mostly sāl, Shorea robusta) is cut down every few years. When the Saoras want to work a piece of new ground, where the jungle has been allowed to grow for a few years, the trees are cut down, and, when dry, burned, and the [308]ground is grubbed up by the women with a kind of hoe. The hoe is used on the steep hill sides, where the ground is very stony and rocky, and the stumps of the felled trees are numerous, and the plough cannot be used. In the paddy fields, or on any flat ground, they use ploughs of lighter and simpler make than those used in the plains. They use cattle for ploughing.” It is noted by Mr. G. V. Ramamurti Pantulu, in an article on the Savaras, that “in some cases the Bissoyi, who was originally a feudatory chief under the authority of the zemindar, and in other cases the zemindar claims a fixed rent in kind or cash, or both. Subject to the rents payable to the Bissoyis, the Savaras under them are said to exercise their right to sell or mortgage their lands. Below the ghāts, in the plains, the Savara has lost his right, and the mustajars or the renters to whom the Savara villages are farmed out take half of whatever crops are raised by the Savaras.” Mr. Ramamurti states further that a new-comer should obtain the permission of the Gōmongo (headman) and the Bōya before he can reclaim any jungle land, and that, at the time of sale or mortgage, the village elders should be present, and partake of the flesh of the pig sacrificed on the occasion. In some places, the Savaras are said to be entirely in the power of Paidi settlers from the plains, who seize their entire produce on the plea of debts contracted at a usurious rate of interests. In recent years, some Savaras emigrated to Assam to work in the tea-gardens. But emigration has now stopped by edict.

The sub-divisions among the Savaras, which, so far as I can gather, are recognised, are as follows:—

A.—Hill Savaras.

(1) Savara, Jāti Savara (Savaras par excellence), or Māliah Savara. They regard themselves as superior [309]to the other divisions. They will eat the flesh of the buffalo, but not of the cow.

(2) Arsi, Arisi, or Lombo Lanjiya. Arsi means monkey, and Lombo Lanjiya, indicating long-tailed, is the name by which members of this section are called, in reference to the long piece of cloth, which the males allow to hang down. The occupation is said to be weaving the coarse cloths worn by members of the tribe, as well as agriculture.

(3) Luāra or Mūli. Workers in iron, who make arrow heads, and other articles.

(4) Kindal. Basket-makers, who manufacture rough baskets for holding grain.

(5) Jādu. Said to be a name among the Savaras for the hill country beyond Kollakota and Puttāsingi.

(6) Kumbi. Potters who make earthen pots. “These pots,” Mr. Fawcett writes, “are made in a few villages in the Saora hills. Earthen vessels are used for cooking, or for hanging up in houses as fetishes of ancestral spirits or certain deities.”

B.—Savaras of the low country.

(7) Kāpu (denoting cultivator), or Pallapu.

(8) Suddho (good).

It has been noted that the pure Savara tribes have restricted themselves to the tracts of hill and jungle-covered valleys. But, as the plains are approached, traces of amalgamation become apparent, resulting in a hybrid race, whose appearance and manners differ but little from those of the ordinary denizens of the low country. The Kāpu Savaras are said to retain many of the Savara customs, whereas the Suddho Savaras have adopted the language and customs of the Oriya castes. The Kāpu section is sometimes called Kudunga or Baseng, and the latter name is said by Mr. Ramamurti [310]to be derived from the Savara word basi, salt. It is, he states, applied to the plains below the ghāts, as, in the fairs held there, salt is purchased by the Savaras of the hills, and the name is used to designate the Savaras living there. A class name Kampu is referred to by Mr. Ramamurti, who says that the name “implies that the Savaras of this class have adopted the customs of the Hindu Kampus (Oriya for Kāpu). Kudumba is another name by which they are known, but it is reported that there is a sub-division of them called by this name.” He further refers to Bobbili and Bhīma as the names of distinct sub-divisions. Bobbili is a town in the Vizagapatam district, and Bhīma was the second of the five Pāndava brothers.

In an account of the Māliya Savarulu, published in the ‘Catalogue Raisonné of Oriental Manuscripts,’25 it is recorded that “they build houses over mountain torrents, previously throwing trees across the chasms; and these houses are in the midst of forests of fifty or more miles in extent. The reason of choosing such situations is stated to be in order that they may more readily escape by passing underneath their houses, and through the defile, in the event of any disagreement and hostile attack in reference to other rulers or neighbours. They cultivate independently, and pay tax or tribute to no one. If the zemindar of the neighbourhood troubles them for tribute, they go in a body to his house by night, set it on fire, plunder, and kill; and then retreat, with their entire households, into the wilds and fastnesses. They do in like manner with any of the zemindar’s subordinates, if troublesome to them. If they are courted, and a compact is made with them, [311]they will then abstain from any wrong or disturbance. If the zemindar, unable to bear with them, raise troops and proceed to destroy their houses, they escape underneath by a private way, as above mentioned. The invaders usually burn the houses, and retire. If the zemindar forego his demands, and make an agreement with them, they rebuild their houses in the same situations, and then render assistance to him.”

The modern Savara settlement is described by Mr. Fawcett as having two rows of huts parallel and facing each other. “Huts,” he writes, “are generally built of upright pieces of wood stuck in the ground, 6 or 8 inches apart, and the intervals filled in with stones and mud laid alternately, and the whole plastered over with red mud. Huts are invariably built a few feet above the level of the ground, often, when the ground is very uneven, 5 feet above the ground in front. Roofs are always thatched with grass. There is usually but one door, near one end wall; no windows or ventilators, every chink being filled up. In front of the doorway there is room for six or eight people to stand, and there is a loft, made by cross-beams, about 5 feet from the floor, on which grain is stored in baskets, and under which the inmates crawl to do their cooking. Bits of sun-dried buffalo meat and bones, not smelling over-sweet, are suspended from the rafters, or here and there stuck in between the rafters and the thatch; knives, a tangi (battle-axe), a sword, and bows and arrows may also be seen stuck in somewhere under the thatch. Agricultural implements may be seen, too, small ones stuck under the roof or on the loft, and larger ones against the wall. As in Ireland, the pig is of sufficient importance to have a room in the house. There is generally merely a low wall between the pig’s room and [312]the rest of the house, and a separate door, so that it may go in and out without going through that part of the house occupied by the family. Rude drawings are very common in Saora houses. They are invariably, if not always, in some way that I could never clearly apprehend, connected with one of the fetishes in the house.” “When,” Mr. Ramamurti writes, “a tiger enters a cottage and carries away an inmate, the villages are deserted, and sacrifices are offered to some spirits by all the inhabitants. The prevalence of small-pox in a village requires its abandonment. A succession of calamities leads to the same result. If a Savara has a number of wives, each of them sometimes requires a separate house, and the house sites are frequently shifted according to the caprice of the women. The death or disease of cattle is occasionally followed by the desertion of the house.”

When selecting a site for a new dwelling hut, the Māliah Savaras place on the proposed site as many grains of rice in pairs as there are married members in the family, and cover them over with a cocoanut shell. They are examined on the following day, and, if they are all there, the site is considered auspicious. Among the Kāpu Savaras, the grains of rice are folded up in leaflets of the bael tree (Ægle Marmelos), and placed in split bamboo.

It is recorded by Mr. Fawcett, in connection with the use of the duodecimal system by the Savaras that, “on asking a Gōmango how he reckoned when selling produce to the Pānos, he began to count on his fingers. In order to count 20, he began on the left foot (he was squatting), and counted 5; then with the left hand 5 more; then with the two first fingers of the right hand he made 2 more, i.e., 12 altogether; then with the thumb of the [313]right hand and the other two fingers of the same, and the toes of the right foot he made 8 more. And so it was always. They have names for numerals up to 12 only, and to count 20 always count first twelve and then eight in the manner described, except that they may begin on either hand or foot. To count 50 or 60, they count by twenties, and put down a stone or some mark for each twenty. There is a Saora story accounting for their numerals being limited to 12. One day, long ago, some Saoras were measuring grain in a field, and, when they had measured 12 measures of some kind, a tiger pounced in on them and devoured them. So, ever after, they dare not have a numeral above 12, for fear of a tiger repeating the performance.”



The Savaras are described by Mr. Fawcett as “below the middle height; face rather flat; lips thick; nose broad and flat; cheek bones high; eyes slightly oblique. They are as fair as the Uriyas, and fairer than the Telugus of the plains. Not only is the Saora shorter and fairer than other hill people, but his face is distinctly Mongolian, the obliquity of the eyes being sometimes very marked, and the inner corners of the eyes are generally very oblique. [The Mongolian type is clearly brought out in the illustration.] The Saora’s endurance in going up and down hill, whether carrying heavy loads or not, is wonderful. Four Saoras have been known to carry a 10-stone man in a chair straight up a 3,800 feet hill without relief, and without rest. Usually, the Saora’s dress (his full dress) consists of a large bunch of feathers (generally white) stuck in his hair on the crown of his head, a coloured cloth round his head as a turban, and worn much on the back of the head, and folded tightly, so as to be a good protection to the head. When feathers are not worn, the hair is tied on the top [314]of the head, or a little at the side of it. A piece of flat brass is another head ornament. It is stuck in the hair, which is tied in a knot at the crown of the head, at an angle of about 40° from the perpendicular, and its waving up and down motion as a man walks has a curious effect. Another head ornament is a piece of wood, about 8 or 9 inches in length and ¾ inch in diameter, with a flat button about 2 inches in diameter on the top, all covered with hair or coloured thread, and worn in the same position as the flat piece of brass. A peacock’s feather, or one or two of the tail feathers of the jungle cock, may be often seen stuck in the knot of hair on the top of the head. A cheroot or two, perhaps half smoked, may often be seen sticking in the hair of a man or woman, to be used again when wanted. They also smoke pipes, and the old women seem particularly fond of them. Round the Saora’s neck are brass and bead necklaces. A man will wear as many as thirty necklaces at a time, or rather necklaces of various lengths passed as many as thirty times round his neck. Round the Saora’s waist, and under his fork, is tied a cloth with coloured ends hanging in front and behind. When a cloth on the body is worn, it is usually worn crossed in front. The women wear necklaces like the men. Their hair is tied at the back of the head, and is sometimes confined with a fillet. They wear only one cloth, tied round the waist. During feasts, or when dancing, they generally wear a cloth over the shoulders. Every male wears a small ring, generally of silver, in the right nostril, and every female wears a similar ring in each nostril, and in the septum. As I have been told, these rings are put in the nose on the eighth or tenth day after birth. Bangles are often worn by men and women. Anklets, too, are sometimes worn [315]by the women. Brass necklets and many other ornaments are made in Saora hills by the Gangsis, a low tribe of workers in brass. The Saora’s weapons are the bow, sometimes ornamented with peacock’s feathers, sword, dagger, and tangi. The bow used by the Saoras is much smaller than the bow used by any of the other hill people. It is generally about 3½ feet long, and the arrows from 18 to 21 inches. The bow is always made of bamboo, and so is the string. The arrows are reeds tipped with iron, and leathered on two sides only. A blunt-headed arrow is used for shooting birds. Every Saora can use the bow from boyhood, and can shoot straight up to 25 or 30 yards.”



As regards the marriage customs of the Savaras, Mr. Fawcett writes that “a Saora may marry a woman of his own or of any other village. A man may have as many as three wives, or, if he is a man of importance, such as Gōmango of a large village, he may have four. Not that there is any law in the matter, but it is considered that three, or at most four, are as many as a man can manage. For his first marriage, a man chooses a young woman he fancies; his other wives are perhaps her sisters, or other women who have come to him. A woman may leave her husband whenever she pleases. Her husband cannot prevent her. When a woman leaves her husband to join herself to another, the other pays the husband she has left a buffalo and a pig. Formerly, it is said, if he did not pay up, the man she left would kill the man to whom she went. Now arbitration comes into play. I believe a man usually takes a second wife after his first has had a child; if he did so before, the first wife would say he was impotent. As the getting of the first wife is more troublesome and expensive than getting the others, she is treated the [316]best. In some places, all a man’s wives are said to live together peaceably. It is not the custom in the Kolakotta villages. Knowing the wives would fight if together, domestic felicity is maintained by keeping up different establishments. A man’s wives will visit one another in the daytime, but one wife will never spend the night in the house of another. An exception to this is that the first wife may invite one of the other wives to sleep in her house with the husband. As each wife has her separate house, so has she her separate piece of ground on the hill-side to cultivate. The wives will not co-operate in working each other’s cultivation, but they will work together, with the husband, in the paddy fields. Each wife keeps the produce of the ground she cultivates in her own house. Produce of the paddy fields is divided into equal shares among the wives. If a wife will not work properly, or if she gives away anything belonging to her husband, she may be divorced. Any man may marry a divorced woman, but she must pay to her former husband a buffalo and a pig. If a man catches his wife in adultery (he must see her in the act), he thinks he has a right to kill her, and her lover too. But this is now generally (but not always) settled by arbitration, and the lover pays up. A wife caught in adultery will never be retained as a wife. As any man may have as many as three wives, illicit attachments are common. During large feasts, when the Saoras give themselves up to sensuality, there is no doubt a great deal of promiscuous intercourse. A widow is considered bound to marry her husband’s brother, or his brother’s sons if he has no younger brothers. A number of Saoras once came to me to settle a dispute. They were in their full dress, with feathers and weapons. The dispute was this. A young woman’s husband was dead, and his younger [317]brother was almost of an age to take her to wife. She had fixed her affections on a man of another village, and made up her mind to have him and no one else. Her village people wanted compensation in the shape of a buffalo, and also wanted her ornaments. The men of the other village said no, they could not give a buffalo. Well, they should give a pig at least—no, they had no pig. Then they must give some equivalent. They would give one rupee. That was not enough—at least three rupees. They were trying to carry the young woman off by force to make her marry her brother-in-law, but were induced to accept the rupee, and have the matter settled by their respective Bissoyis. The young woman was most obstinate, and insisted on having her own choice, and keeping her ornaments. Her village people had no objection to her choice, provided the usual compensation was paid.

“In one far out-of-the-way village the marriage ceremony consists in this. The bride’s father is plied with liquor two or three times; a feast is made in the bridegroom’s house, to which the bride comes with her father; and after the feast she remains in the man’s house as his wife. They know nothing of capture. In the Kolakotta valley, below this village, a different custom prevails. The following is an account of a Saora marriage as given by the Gōmango of one of the Kolakotta villages, and it may be taken as representative of the purest Saora marriage ceremony. ‘I wished to marry a certain girl, and, with my brother and his son, went to her house. I carried a pot of liquor, and arrow, and one brass bangle for the girl’s mother. Arrived at the house, I put the liquor and the arrow on the floor. I and the two with me drank the liquor—no one else had any. The father of the girl said [318]‘Why have you brought the liquor?’ I said ‘Because I want your daughter.’ He said ‘Bring a big pot of liquor, and we will talk about it.’ I took the arrow I brought with me, and stuck it in the thatch of the roof just above the wall, took up the empty pot, and went home with those who came with me. Four days afterwards, with the same two and three others of my village, I went to the girl’s father’s house with a big pot of liquor. About fifteen or twenty people of the village were present. The father said he would not give the girl, and, saying so, he smashed the pot of liquor, and, with those of his village, beat us so that we ran back to our village. I was glad of the beating, as I know by it I was pretty sure of success. About ten days afterwards, ten or twenty of my village people went with me again, carrying five pots of liquor, which we put in the girl’s father’s house. I carried an arrow, which I stuck in the thatch beside the first one. The father and the girl’s nearest male relative each took one of the arrows I had put in the thatch, and, holding them in their left hands, drank some of the liquor. I now felt sure of success. I then put two more arrows in the father’s left hand, holding them in his hand with both of my hands over his, and asked him to drink. Two fresh arrows were likewise placed in the left hands of all the girl’s male relatives, while I asked them to drink. To each female relative of the girl I gave a brass bangle, which I put on their right wrists while I asked them to drink. The five pots of liquor were drunk by the girl’s male and female relations, and the villagers. When the liquor was all drunk, the girl’s father said ‘Come again in a month, and bring more liquor.’ In a month I went again, with all the people of my village, men, women and children, dancing as we went (to music of course), taking [319]with us thirty pots of liquor, and a little rice and a cloth for the girl’s mother; also some hill dholl (pulse), which we put in the father’s house. The liquor was set down in the middle of the village, and the villagers, and those who came with me, drank the liquor and danced. The girl did not join in this; she was in the house. When the liquor was finished, my village people went home, but I remained in the father’s house. For three days I stayed, and helped him to work in his fields. I did not sleep with the girl; the father and I slept in one part of the house, and the girl and her mother in another. At the end of the three days I went home. About ten days afterwards, I, with about ten men of my village, went to watch for the girl going to the stream for water. When we saw her, we caught her, and ran away with her. She cried out and the people of her village came after us, and fought with us. We got her off to my village, and she remained with me as my wife. After she became my wife, her mother gave her a cloth and a bangle.” The same individual said that, if a man wants a girl, and cannot afford to give the liquor, etc., to her people, he takes her off by force. If she likes him, she remains, but, if not, she runs home. He will carry her off three times, but not oftener; and, if after the third time she again runs away, he leaves her. The Saoras themselves say that formerly every one took his wife by force. In a case which occurred a few years ago, a bridegroom did not comply with the usual custom of giving a feast to the bride’s people, and the bride’s mother objected to the marriage on that account. The bridegroom’s party, however, managed to carry off the bride. Her mother raised an alarm, whereon a number of people ran up, and tried to stop the bridegroom’s party. They were outnumbered, and one was knocked down, and died from rupture of the spleen. [320]

A further account of the Saora marriage customs is given by Mr. Ramamurti Pantulu, who writes as follows. “When the parents of a young man consider it time to seek a bride for him, they make enquiries and even consult their relatives and friends as to a suitable girl for him. The girl’s parents are informally apprised of their selection. On a certain day, the male relatives of the youth go to the girl’s house to make a proposal of marriage. Her parents, having received previous notice of the visit, have the door of the house open or closed, according as they approve or disapprove of the match. On arrival at the house, the visitors knock at the door, and, if it is open, enter without further ceremony. Sometimes the door is broken open. If the girl’s parents object to the match, they remain silent, and will not touch the liquor brought by the visitors, and they go away. Should, however, they regard it with favour, they charge the visitors with intruding, shower abuse on them, and beat them, it may be, so severely that wounds are inflicted, and blood is shed. This ill-treatment is borne cheerfully, and without resistance, as it is a sign that the girl’s hand will be bestowed on the young man. The liquor is then placed on the floor, and, after more abuse, all present partake thereof. If the girl’s parents refuse to give her in marriage after the performance of this ceremony, they have to pay a penalty to the parents of the disappointed suitor. Two or three days later, the young man’s relatives go a second time to the girl’s house, taking with them three pots of liquor, and a bundle composed of as many arrows as there are male members in the girl’s family. The liquor is drunk, and the arrows are presented, one to each male. After an interval of some days, a third visit is paid, and three pots of liquor smeared with turmeric paste, and a quantity [321]of turmeric, are taken to the house. The liquor is drunk, and the turmeric paste is smeared over the back and haunches of the girl’s relatives. Some time afterwards, the marriage ceremony takes place. The bridegroom’s party proceed to the house of the bride, dancing and singing to the accompaniment of all the musical instruments except the drum, which is only played at funerals. With them they take twenty big pots of liquor, a pair of brass bangles and a cloth for the bride’s mother, and head cloths for the father, brothers, and other male relatives. When everything is ready, the priest is called in. One of the twenty pots is decorated, and an arrow is fixed in the ground at its side. The priest then repeats prayers to the invisible spirits and ancestors, and pours some of the liquor into leaf-cups prepared in the names of the ancestors [Jojonji and Yoyonji, male and female], and the chiefs of the village. This liquor is considered very sacred, and is sprinkled from a leaf over the shoulders and feet of the elders present. The father of the bride, addressing the priest, says ‘Bōya, I have drunk the liquor brought by the bridegroom’s father, and thereby have accepted his proposal for a marriage between his son and my daughter. I do not know whether the girl will afterwards agree to go to her husband, or not. Therefore it is well that you should ask her openly to speak out her mind.’ The priest accordingly asks the girl if she has any objection, and she replies ‘My father and mother, and all my relatives have drunk the bridegroom’s liquor. I am a Savara, and he is a Savara. Why then should I not marry him?’ Then all the people assembled proclaim that the pair are husband and wife. This done, the big pot of liquor, which has been set apart from the rest, is taken into the bride’s house. This pot, with [322]another pot of liquor purchased at the expense of the bride’s father, is given to the bridegroom’s party when it retires. Every house-holder receives the bridegroom and his party at his house, and offers them liquor, rice, and flesh, which they cannot refuse to partake of without giving offence.”



“Whoever,” Mr. Ramamurti continues, “marries a widow, whether it is her husband’s younger brother or some one of her own choice, must perform a religious ceremony, during which a pig is sacrificed. The flesh, with some liquor, is offered to the ghost of the widow’s deceased husband, and prayers are addressed by the Bōyas to propitiate the ghost, so that it may not torment the woman and her second husband. ‘Oh! man,’ says the priest, addressing the deceased by name, ‘Here is an animal sacrificed to you, and with this all connection between this woman and you ceases. She has taken with her no property belonging to you or your children. So do not torment her within the house or outside the house, in the jungle or on the hill, when she is asleep or when she wakes. Do not send sickness on her children. Her second husband has done no harm to you. She chose him for her husband, and he consented. Oh! man, be appeased; Oh! unseen ones; Oh! ancestors, be you witnesses.’ The animal sacrificed on this occasion is called long danda (inside fine), or fine paid to the spirit of a dead person inside the earth. The animal offered up, when a man marries a divorced woman, is called bayar danda (outside fine), or fine paid as compensation to a man living outside the earth. The moment that a divorcée marries another man, her former husband pounces upon him, shoots his buffalo or pig dead with an arrow, and takes it to his village, where its flesh is served up at a feast. The Bōya invokes the unseen [323]spirits, that they may not be angry with the man who has married the woman, as he has paid the penalty prescribed by the elders according to the immemorial custom of the Savaras.

From a still further account of the ceremonial observances in connection with marriage, with variations, I gather that the liquor is the fermented juice of the salop or sago palm (Caryota urens), and is called ara-sāl. On arrival at the girl’s house, on the first occasion, the young man’s party sit at the door thereof, and, making three cups from the leaves kiredol (Uncaria Gambier) or jāk (Artocarpus integrifolia), pour the liquor into them, and lay them on the ground. As the liquor is being poured into the cups, certain names, which seem to be those of the ancestors, are called out. The liquor is then drunk, and an arrow (ām) is stuck in the roof, and a brass bangle (khadu) left, before the visitors take their departure. If the match is unacceptable to the girl’s family, the arrow and bangle are returned. The second visit is called pank-sāl, or sang-sang-dal-sol, because the liquor pots are smeared with turmeric paste. Sometimes it is called nyanga-dal-sol, because the future bridegroom carries a small pot of liquor on a stick borne on the shoulder; or pojang, because the arrow, which has been stuck in the roof, is set up in the ground close to one of the pots of liquor. In some places, several visits take place subsequent to the first visit, at one of which, called rodai-sāl, a quarrel arises.

It is noted by Mr. Ramamurti Pantulu that, among the Savaras who have settled in the low country, some differences have arisen in the marriage rites “owing to the introduction of Hindu custom, i.e., those obtaining among the Sūdra castes. Some of the Savaras who are more Hinduised than others consult their medicine men [324]as to what day would be most auspicious for a marriage, erect pandals (booths), dispense with the use of liquor, substituting for it thick jaggery (crude sugar) water, and hold a festival for two or three days. But even the most Hinduised Savara has not yet fallen directly into the hands of the Brāhman priest.” At the marriage ceremony of some Kāpu Savaras, the bride and bridegroom sit side by side at the auspicious moment, and partake of boiled rice (korra) from green leaf-cups, the pair exchanging cups. Before the bridegroom and his party proceed to their village with the bride, they present the males and females of her village with a rupee, which is called janjul naglipu, or money paid for taking away the girl. In another form of Kāpu Savara marriage, the would-be bridegroom and his party proceed, on an auspicious day, to the house of the selected girl, and offer betel and tobacco, the acceptance of which is a sign that the match is agreeable to her parents. On a subsequent day, a small sum of money is paid as the bride-price. On the wedding day the bride is conducted to the home of the bridegroom, where the contracting couple are lifted up by two people, who dance about with them. If the bride attempts to enter the house, she is caught hold of, and made to pay a small sum of money before she is permitted to do so. Inside the house, the officiating Dēsāri ties the ends of the cloths of the bride and bridegroom together, after the ancestors and invisible spirits have been worshipped.

Of the marriage customs of the Kāpu Savaras, the following account is given in the Gazetteer of the Vizagapatam district. “The Kāpu Savaras are taking to mēnarikam (marriage with the maternal uncle’s daughter), although the hill custom requires a man to marry outside his village. Their wedding ceremonies [325]bear a distant resemblance to those among the hill Savaras. Among the Kāpu Savaras, the preliminary arrow and liquor are similarly presented, but the bridegroom goes at length on an auspicious day with a large party to the bride’s house, and the marriage is marked by his eating out of the same platter with her, and by much drinking, feasting, and dancing.”

Children are named after the day of the week on which they were born, and nicknames are frequently substituted for the birth name. Mr. Fawcett records, for example, that a man was called Gylo because, when a child, he was fond of breaking nuts called gylo, and smearing himself with their black juice. Another was called Dallo because, in his youthful days, he was fond of playing about with a basket (dalli) on his head.

Concerning the death rites, Mr. Fawcett writes as follows. “As soon as a man, woman, or child dies in a house, a gun, loaded with powder only, is fired off at the door, or, if plenty of powder is available, several shots are fired, to frighten away the Kulba (spirit). The gun used is the ordinary Telugu or Uriya matchlock. Water is poured over the body while in the house. It is then carried away to the family burning-ground, which is situated from 30 to 80 yards from the cluster of houses occupied by the family, and there it is burned. [It is stated by Mr. S. P. Rice26 that “the dead man’s hands and feet are tied together, and a bamboo is passed through them. Two men then carry the corpse, slung in this fashion, to the burning-ground. When it is reached, two posts are stuck up, and the bamboo, with the corpse tied to it, is placed crosswise on the posts. Then below the corpse a fire is lighted. The Savara man is always burnt in [326]the portion of the ground—one cannot call it a field—which he last cultivated.”] The only wood used for the pyre is that of the mango, and of Pongamia glabra. Fresh, green branches are cut and used. No dry wood is used, except a few twigs to light the fire. Were any one to ask those carrying a body to the burning-ground the name of the deceased or anything about him, they would be very angry. Guns are fired while the body is being carried. Everything a man has, his bows and arrows, his tangi, his dagger, his necklaces, his reaping-hook for cutting paddy, his axe, some paddy and rice, etc., are burnt with his body. I have been told in Kolakotta that all a man’s money too is burned, but it is doubtful if it really ever is—a little may be. A Kolakotta Gōmango told me “If we do not burn these things with the body, the Kulba will come and ask us for them, and trouble us.” The body is burned the day a man dies. The next day, the people of the family go to the burning-place with water, which they pour over the embers. The fragments of the bones are then picked out, and buried about two feet in the ground, and covered over with a miniature hut, or merely with some thatching grass kept on the place by a few logs of wood, or in the floor of a small hut (thatched roof without walls) kept specially for the Kulba at the burning-place. An empty egg-shell (domestic hen’s) is broken under foot, and buried with the bones. It is not uncommon to send pieces of bone, after burning, to relations at a distance, to allow them also to perform the funeral rites. The first sacrificial feast, called the Limma, is usually made about three or four days after the body has been burnt. In some places, it is said to be made after a longer interval. For the Limma a fowl is killed at the burning-place, some rice or other grain is cooked, and, with the fowl, eaten by the [327]people of the family, with the usual consumption of liquor. Of course, the Kudang (who is the medium of communication between the spirits of the dead and the living) is on the spot, and communicates with the Kulba. If the deceased left debts, he, through the Kudang, tells how they should be settled. Perhaps the Kulba asks for tobacco and liquor, and these are given to the Kudang, who keeps the tobacco, and drinks the liquor. After the Limma, a miniature hut is built for the Kulba over the spot where the bones are buried. But this is not done in places like Kolakotta, where there is a special hut set apart for the Kulba. In some parts of the Saora country, a few logs with grass on the top of them, logs again on the top to keep the grass in its place, are laid over the buried fragments of bones, it is said to be for keeping rain off, or dogs from disturbing the bones. In the evening previous to the Limma, bitter food—the fruits or leaves of the margosa tree (Melia Azadirachta)—are eaten. They do not like this bitter food, and partake of it at no other time. [The same custom, called pithapona, or bitter food, obtains among the Oriya inhabitants of the plains.] After the Limma, the Kulba returns to the house of the deceased, but it is not supposed to remain there always. The second feast to the dead, also sacrificial, is called the Guar. For this, a buffalo, a large quantity of grain, and all the necessary elements and accompaniments of a feast are required. It is a much larger affair than the Limma, and all the relations, and perhaps the villagers, join in. The evening before the Guar, there is a small feast in the house for the purpose of calling together all the previously deceased members of the family, to be ready for the Guar on the following day. The great feature of the Guar is the erection of a stone in memory of the deceased. [328]From 50 to 100 yards (sometimes a little more) from the houses occupied by a family may be seen clusters of stones standing upright in the ground, nearly always under a tree. Every one of the stones has been put up at one of these Guar feasts. There is a great deal of drinking and dancing. The men, armed with all their weapons, with their feathers in their hair, and adorned with coloured cloths, accompanied by the women, all dancing as they go, leave the house for the place where the stones are. Music always accompanies the dancing. At Kolakotta there is another thatched hut for the Kulba at the stones. The stone is put up in the deceased’s name at about 11 A.M., and at about 2 P.M. a buffalo is killed close to it. The head is cut off with an axe, and blood is put on the stone. The stones one sees are generally from 1½ to 4 feet high. There is no connection between the size of the stone and the importance of the deceased person. As much of the buffalo meat as is required for the feast is cooked, and eaten at the spot where the stones are. The uneaten remains are taken away by the relatives. In the evening the people return to the village, dancing as they go. The Kolakotta people told me they put up the stones under trees, so that they can have all their feasting in the shade. Relations exchange compliments by presenting one another with a buffalo for the Guar feast, and receive one in return on a future occasion. The Guar is supposed to give the Kulba considerable satisfaction, and it does not injure people as it did before. But, as the Guar does not quite satisfy the Kulba, there is the great biennial feast to the dead. Every second year (I am still speaking of Kolakotta) is performed the Karja or biennial feast to the dead, in February or March, after the crops are cut. All the Kolakotta Saoras join [329]in this feast, and keep up drinking and dancing for twelve days. During these days, the Kudangs eat only after sunset. Guns are continually fired off, and the people give themselves up to sensuality. On the last day, there is a great slaughter of buffaloes. In front of every house in which there has been a death in the previous two years, at least one buffalo, and sometimes two or three, are killed. Last year (1886) there were said to be at least a thousand buffaloes killed in Kolakotta on the occasion of the Karja. The buffaloes are killed in the afternoon. Some grain is cooked in the houses, and, with some liquor, is given to the Kudangs, who go through a performance of offering the food to the Kulbas, and a man’s or a woman’s cloth, according as the deceased is a male or female, is at this time given to the Kudang for the Kulba of each deceased person, and of course the Kudang keeps the offerings. The Kudang then tells the Kulba to begone, and trouble the inmates no more. The house people, too, sometimes say to the Kulba ‘We have now done quite enough for you: we have given you buffaloes, liquor, food, and cloths; now you must go’. At about 8 P.M., the house is set fire to, and burnt. Every house, in which there has been a death within the last two years, is on this occasion burnt. After this, the Kulba gives no more trouble, and does not come to reside in the new hut that is built on the site of the burnt one. It never hurts grown people, but may cause some infantile diseases, and is easily driven away by a small sacrifice. In other parts of the Saora country, the funeral rites and ceremonies are somewhat different to what they are in Kolakotta. The burning of bodies, and burning of the fragments of the bones, is the same everywhere in the Saora country. In one village the Saoras said the bones were buried until [330]another person died, when the first man’s bones were dug up and thrown away, and the last person’s bones put in their place. Perhaps they did not correctly convey what they meant. I once saw a gaily ornamented hut, evidently quite new, near a burning-place. Rude figures of birds and red rags were tied to five bamboos, which were sticking up in the air about 8 feet above the hut, one at each corner, and one in the centre, and the bamboos were split, and notched for ornament. The hut was about 4½ feet square, on a platform three feet high. There were no walls, but only four pillars, one at each corner, and inside a loft just as in a Saora’s hut. A very communicative Saora said he built the hut for his brother after he had performed the Limma, and had buried the bones in the raised platform in the centre of the hut. He readily went inside, and showed what he kept there for the use of his dead brother’s Kulba. On the loft were baskets of grain, a bottle of oil for his body, a brush to sweep the hut; in fact everything the Kulba wanted. Generally, where it is the custom to have a hut for the Kulba, such hut is furnished with food, tobacco, and liquor. The Kulba is still a Saora, though a spiritual one. In a village two miles from that in which I saw the gaily ornamented hut, no hut of any kind is built for the Kulba; the bones are merely covered with grass. Weapons, ornaments, etc., are rarely burned with a body outside the Kolakotta villages. In some places, perhaps one weapon, or a few ornaments will be burned with it. In some places the Limma and Guar feasts are combined, and in other places (and this is most common) the Guar and Karja are combined, but there is no burning of houses. In some places this is performed if crops are good. One often sees, placed against the upright stones to the dead, pieces of ploughs for male Kulbas, and [331]baskets for sifting grain for female Kulbas. I once came across some hundreds of Saoras performing the Guar Karja. Dancing, with music, fantastically dressed, and brandishing their weapons, they returned from putting up the stones to the village, and proceeded to hack to pieces with their axes the buffaloes that had been slaughtered—a disgusting sight. After dark, many of the feasters passed my camp on their way home, some carrying legs and other large pieces of the sacrificed buffaloes, others trying to dance in a drunken way, swinging their weapons. During my last visit to Kolakotta, I witnessed a kind of combination of the Limma and Guar (an uncommon arrangement there) made owing to peculiar circumstances. A deceased Saora left no family, and his relatives thought it advisable to get through his Limma and Guar without delay, so as to run no risk of the non-performance of these feasts. He had been dead about a month. The Limma was performed one day, the feast calling together the deceased ancestors the same evening; and the Guar on the following day. Part of the Limma was performed in a house. Three men, and a female Kudang sat in a row; in front of them there was an inverted pot on the ground, and around it were small leaf cups containing portions of food. All chanted together, keeping excellent time. Some food in a little leaf cup was held near the earthen pot, and now and then, as they sang, passed round it. Some liquor was poured on the food in the leaf cup, and put on one side for the Kulba. The men drank liquor from the leaf cups which had been passed round the earthen pot. After some silence there was a long chant, to call together all spirits of ancestors who had died violent deaths, and request them to receive the spirit of the deceased among them; and portions of food and liquor [332]were put aside for them. Then came another long chant, calling on the Kulbas of all ancestors to come, and receive the deceased and not to be angry with him.”

It is stated27 that, in the east of Gunupur, the Savaras commit much cattle theft, partly, it is said, because custom enjoins big periodical sacrifices of cattle to their deceased ancestors. In connection with the Guar festival, Mr. Ramamurti Pantulu writes that well-to-do individuals offer each one or two animals, while, among the poorer members of the community, four or five subscribe small sums for the purchase of a buffalo, and a goat. “There are,” he continues, “special portions of the sacrificed animals, which should, according to custom, be presented to those that carried the dead bodies to the grave, as well as to the Bōya and Gōmong. If a man is hanged, a string is suspended in the house on the occasion of the Guar, so that the spirit may descend along it. If a man dies of wounds caused by a knife or iron weapon, a piece of iron or an arrow is thrust into a rice-pot to represent the deceased.” I gather further that, when a Savara dies after a protracted illness, a pot is suspended by a string from the roof of the house. On the ground is placed a pot, supported on three stones. The pots are smeared with turmeric paste, and contain a brass box, chillies, rice, onions, and salt. They are regarded as very sacred, and it is believed that the ancestors sometimes visit them.

Concerning the religion of the Savaras, Mr. Fawcett notes that their name for deity is Sonnum or Sunnam, and describes the following:—

(1) Jalia. In some places thought to be male, and in others female. The most widely known, very [333]malevolent, always going about from one Saora village to another causing illness or death; in some places said to eat people. Almost every illness that ends in death in three or four days is attributed to Jalia’s malevolence. When mangoes ripen, and before they are eaten cooked (though they may be eaten raw), a sacrifice of goats, with the usual drinking and dancing, is made to this deity. In some villages, in the present year (1887), there were built for the first time, temples—square thatched places without walls—in the villages. The reason given for building in the villages was that Jalia had come into them. Usually erections are outside villages, and sacrifice is made there, in order that Jalia may be there appeased, and go away. But sometimes he will come to a village, and, if he does, it is advisable to make him comfortable. One of these newly built temples was about four feet square, thatched on the top, with no walls, just like the hut for departed spirits. A Saora went inside, and showed us the articles kept for Jalia’s use and amusement. There were two new cloths in a bamboo box, two brushes of feathers to be held in the hand when dancing, oil for the body, a small looking-glass, a bell, and a lamp. On the posts were some red spots. Goats are killed close by the temple, and the blood is poured on the floor of the platform thereof. There are a few villages, in or near which there are no Jalia erections, the people saying that Jalia does not trouble them, or that they do not know him. In one village where there was none, the Saoras said there had been one, but they got tired of Jalia, and made a large sacrifice with numerous goats and fowls, burnt his temple, and drove him out. Jalia is fond of tobacco. Near one village is an upright stone in front of a little Jalia temple, by a path-side, for passers-by to leave the ends of their cheroots on for Jalia. [334]

(2) Kitung. In some parts there is a story that this deity produced all the Saoras in Orissa, and brought them with all the animals of the jungles to the Saora country. In some places, a stone outside the village represents this deity, and on it sacrifices are made on certain occasions to appease this deity. The stone is not worshipped. There are also groves sacred to this deity. The Uriyas in the Saora hills also have certain sacred groves, in which the axe is never used.

(3) Rathu. Gives pains in the neck.

(4) Dharma Boja, Lānkan (above), Ayungang (the sun). The first name is, I think, of Uriya origin, and the last the real Saora name. There is an idea in the Kolakotta country that it causes all births. This deity is not altogether beneficent, and causes sickness, and may be driven away by sacrifices. In some villages, this deity is almost the only one known. A Saora once told me, on my pointing to Venus and asking what it was, that the stars are the children of the sun and moon, and one day the sun said he would eat them all up. Woman-like, the moon protested against the destruction of her progeny, but was obliged to give in. She, however, managed to hide Venus while the others were being devoured. Venus was the only planet he knew. In some parts, the sun is not a deity.

(5) Kanni. Very malevolent. Lives in big trees, so they are never cut in groves which this deity is supposed to haunt. I frequently saw a Saora youth of about 20, who was supposed to be possessed by this deity. He was an idiot, who had fits. Numerous buffaloes had been sacrificed to Kanni, to induce that deity to leave the youth, but to no purpose.

“There are many hill deities known in certain localities—Dērēmā, supposed to be on the Deodangar [335]hill, the highest in the neighbourhood, Khistu, Kinchinyung, Ilda, Lobo, Kondho, Balu, Baradong, etc. These deities of the hills are little removed from the spirits of the deceased Saoras. [Mr. Ramamurti Pantulu refers to two hills, one at Gayaba called Jum-tang Baru, or eat cow hill, and the other about eight miles from Parlakimedi, called Media Baru. At the former, a cow or bull is sacrificed, because a Kuttung once ate the flesh of a cow there; at the latter the spirits require only milk and liquor. This is peculiar, as the Savaras generally hold milk in abhorrence.]”

“There is invariably one fetish, and generally there are several fetishes in every Saora house. In some villages, where the sun is the chief deity (and causes most mischief), there are fetishes of the sun god; in another village, fetishes of Jalia, Kitung, etc. I once saw six Jalia fetishes, and three other fetishes in one house. There are also, especially about Kolakotta, Kulba fetishes in houses. The fetish is generally an empty earthen pot, about nine inches in diameter, slung from the roof. The Kudang slings it up. On certain occasions, offerings are made to the deity or Kulba represented by the fetish on the floor underneath it. Rude pictures, too, are sometimes fetishes. The fetish to the sun is generally ornamented with a rude pattern daubed in white on the outside. In the village of Bori in the Vizagapatam Agency, offerings are made to the sun fetish when a member of the household gets pains in the legs or arms, and the fetish is said on such occasion to descend of itself to the floor. Sacrifices are sometimes made inside houses, under the fetishes, sometimes at the door, and blood put on the ground underneath the fetish.”

It is noted by Mr. Ramamurti Pantulu that “the Kittungs are ten in number, and are said to be all [336]brothers. Their names are Bhīma, Rāma, Jodepulu, Pēda, Rung-rung, Tumanna, Garsada, Jaganta, Mutta, and Tete. On some occasions, ten figures of men, representing the Kittungs, are drawn on the walls of a house. Figures of horses and elephants, the sun, moon and stars, are also drawn below them. The Bōya is also represented. When a woman is childless, or when her children die frequently, she takes a vow that the Kittungpurpur ceremony shall be celebrated, if a child is born to her, and grows in a healthy state. If this comes to pass, a young pig is purchased, and marked for sacrifice. It is fattened, and allowed to grow till the child reaches the age of twelve, when the ceremony is performed.

The Madras Museum possesses a series of wooden votive offerings which were found stacked in a structure, which has been described to me as resembling a pigeon-cot. The offerings consisted of a lizard (Varanus), paroquet, monkey, peacock, human figures, dagger, gun, sword, pick-axe, and musical horn. The Savaras would not sell them to the district officer, but parted with them on the understanding that they would be worshipped by the Government.

I gather that, at the sale or transfer of land, the spirits are invoked by the Bōya, and, after the distribution of liquor, the seller or mortgager holds a pīpal (Ficus religiosa) leaf with a lighted wick in it in his hand, while the purchaser or mortgagee holds another leaf without a wick. The latter covers the palm of the former with his leaf, and the terms of the transaction are then announced.

Concerning the performance of sacrifices, Mr. Fawcett writes that “the Saoras say they never practiced human sacrifice. Most Saora sacrifices, which are also feasts, are made to appease deities or Kulbas that have [337]done mischief. I will first notice the few which do not come in this category. (a) The feast to Jalia when mangoes ripen, already mentioned, is one. In a village where the sun, and not Jalia, is the chief deity, this feast is made to the sun. Jalia does not trouble the village, as the Kudung meets him outside it now and then, and sends him away by means of a sacrifice. [Sacrifices and offerings of pigs or fowls, rice, and liquor, are also made at the mahua, hill grain, and red gram festivals.] (b) A small sacrifice, or an offering of food, is made in some places before a child is born. About Kolakotta, when a child is born, a fowl or a pound or so of rice, and a quart of liquor provided by the people of the house, will be taken by the Kudang to the jungle, and the fowl sacrificed to Kanni. Blood, liquor, and rice are left in leaf cups for Kanni, and the rest is eaten. In every paddy field in Kolakotta, when the paddy is sprouting, a sacrifice is made to Sattīra for good crops. A stick of the tree called in Uriya kendhu, about five or six feet long, is stuck in the ground. The upper end is sharpened to a point, on which is impaled a live young pig or a live fowl, and over it an inverted earthen pot daubed over with white rings. If this sacrifice is not made, good crops cannot be expected. [It may be noted that the impaling of live pigs is practiced in the Telugu country.]28 When crops ripen, and before the grain is eaten, sacrifice is made to Lobo (the earth). Lobo Sonnum is the earth deity. If they eat the grain without performing this sacrifice, it will disagree with them, and will not germinate properly when sown again. If crops are good, a goat is killed, if not good, a pig or a fowl. A Kolakotta Saora told me of another [338]sacrifice, which is partly of a propitiatory nature. If a tiger or panther kills a person, the Kudang is called, and he, on the following Sunday, goes through a performance, to prevent a similar fate overtaking others. Two pigs are killed outside the village, and every man, woman, and child is made to walk over the ground whereon the pig’s blood is spilled, and the Kudang gives to each individual some kind of tiger medicine as a charm. The Kudang communicates with the Kulba of the deceased, and learns the whole story of how he met his death. In another part of the Saora country, the above sacrifice is unknown; and, when a person is killed by a tiger or panther, a buffalo is sacrificed to the Kulba of the deceased three months afterwards. The feast is begun before dark, and the buffalo is killed the next morning. No medicine is used. Of sacrifices after injury is felt, and in order to get rid of it, that for rain may be noticed first. The Gōmango, another important man in the village, and the Kudang officiate. A pig and a goat are killed outside the village to Kitung. The blood must flow on the stone. Then liquor and grain are set forth, and a feast is made. About Kolakotta the belief in the active malevolence of Kulbas is more noticeable than in other parts, where deities cause nearly all mischief. Sickness and death are caused by deities or Kulbas, and it is the Kudang who ascertains which particular spirit is in possession of, or has hold of any sick person, and informs him what is to be done in order to drive it away. He divines in this way usually. He places a small earthen saucer, with a little oil and lighted wick in it, in the patient’s hand. With his left hand he holds the patient’s wrist, and with his right drops from a leaf cup grains of rice on to the flame. As each grain drops, he calls out the name of different deities, and Kulbas, and, [339]whichever spirit is being named as a grain catches fire, is that causing the sickness. The Kudang is at once in communication with the deity or Kulba, who informs him what must be done for him, what sacrifice made before he will go away. There is, in some parts of the Saora country, another method by which a Kudang divines the cause of sickness. He holds the patient’s hand for a quarter of an hour or so, and goes off in a trance, in which the deity or Kulba causing the sickness communicates with the Kudang, and says what must be done to appease him. The Kudang is generally, if not always, fasting when engaged in divination. If a deity or Kulba refuses to go away from a sick person, another more powerful deity or Kulba can be induced to turn him out.

A long account of a big sacrifice is given by Mr. Fawcett, of which the following is a summary. The Kudang was a lean individual of about 40 or 45, with a grizzled beard a couple of inches in length. He had a large bunch of feathers in his hair, and the ordinary Saora waist-cloth with a tail before and behind. There were tom-toms with the party. A buffalo was tied up in front of the house, and was to be sacrificed to a deity who had seized on a young boy, and was giving him fever. The boy’s mother came out with some grain, and other necessaries for a feed, in a basket on her head. All started, the father of the boy carrying him, a man dragging the buffalo along, and the Kudang driving it from behind. As they started, the Kudang shouted out some gibberish, apparently addressed to the deity, to whom the sacrifice was to be made. The party halted in the shade of some big trees. They said that the sacrifice was to the road god, who would go away by the path after the sacrifice. Having arrived at the place, the [340]woman set down her basket, the men laid down their axes and the tom-toms, and a fire was lighted. The buffalo was tied up 20 yards off on the path, and began to graze. After a quarter of an hour, the father took the boy in his lap as he sat on the path, and the Kudang’s assistant sat on his left with a tom-tom before him. The Kudang stood before the father on the path, holding a small new earthen pot in his hand. The assistant beat the tom-tom at the rate of 150 beats to the minute. The Kudang held the earthen pot to his mouth, and, looking up to the sun (it was 9 A.M.), shouted some gibberish into it, and then danced round and round without leaving his place, throwing up the pot an inch or so, and catching it with both hands, in perfect time with the tom-tom, while he chanted gibberish for a quarter of an hour. Occasionally, he held the pot up to the sun, as if saluting it, shouted into it, and passed it round the father’s head and then round the boy’s head, every motion in time with the tom-tom. The chant over, he put down the pot, and took up a toy-like bow and arrow. The bow was about two feet long, through which was fixed an arrow with a large head, so that it could be pulled only to a certain extent. The arrow was fastened to the string, so that it could not be detached from the bow. He then stuck a small wax ball on to the point of the arrow head, and, dancing as before, went on with his chant accompanied by the tom-tom. Looking up at the sun, he took aim with the bow, and fired the wax ball at it. He then fired balls of wax, and afterwards other small balls, which the Uriyas present said were medicine of some kind, at the boy’s head, stomach, and legs. As each ball struck him, he cried. The Kudang, still chanting, then went to the buffalo, and fired a wax ball at its head. He came back [341]to where the father was sitting, and, putting down the bow, took up two thin pieces of wood a foot long, an inch wide, and blackened at the ends. The chant ceased for a few moments while he was changing the bow for the pieces of wood, but, when he had them in his hands, he went on again with it, dancing round as before, and striking the two pieces of wood together in time. This lasted about five minutes, and, in the middle of the dance, he put an umbrella-like shade on his head. The dance over, he went to the buffalo, and stroked it all over with the two pieces of wood, first on the head, then on the body and rump, and the chant ceased. He then sat in front of the boy, put a handful of common herbs into the earthen pot, and poured some water into it. Chanting, he bathed the boy’s head with the herbs and water, the father’s head, the boy’s head again, and then the buffalo’s head, smearing them with the herbs. He blew into one ear of the boy, and then into the other. The chant ceased, and he sat on the path. The boy’s father got up, and, carrying the boy, seated him on the ground. Then, with an axe, which was touched by the sick boy, he went up to the buffalo, and with a blow almost buried the head of the axe in the buffalo’s neck. He screwed the axe about until he disengaged it, and dealt a second and a third blow in the same place, and the buffalo fell on its side. When it fell, the boy’s father walked away. As the first blow was given, the Kudang started up very excited as if suddenly much overcome, holding his arms slightly raised before him, and staggered about. His assistant rushed at him, and held him round the body, while he struggled violently as if striving to get to the bleeding buffalo. He continued struggling while the boy’s father made his three blows on the buffalo’s neck. The father brought [342]him some of the blood in a leaf cup, which he greedily drank, and was at once quiet. Some water was then given him, and he seemed to be all right. After a minute or so, he sat on the path with the tom-tom before him, and, beating it, chanted as before. The boy’s father returned to the buffalo, and, with a few more whacks at it, stopped its struggles. Some two or three men joined him, and, with their axes and swords, soon had the buffalo in pieces. All present, except the Kudang, had a good feed, during which the tom-tom ceased. After the feed, Kudang went at it again, and kept it up at intervals for a couple of hours. He once went for 25 minutes at 156 beats to the minute without ceasing.

A variant of the ceremonial here described has been given to me by Mr. G. F. Paddison from the Gunapur hills. A buffalo is tied up to the door of the house, where the sick person resides. Herbs and rice in small platters, and a little brass vessel containing toddy, balls of rice, flowers, and medicine, are brought with a bow and arrow. The arrow is thicker at the basal end than towards the tip. The narrow part goes, when shot, through a hole in the bow, too small to allow of passage of the rest of the arrow. The Bēju (wise woman) pours toddy over the herbs and rice, and daubs the sick person over the forehead, breasts, stomach, and back. She croons out a long incantation to the goddess, stopping at intervals to call out “Daru,” to attract her attention. She then takes the bow and arrow, and shoots into the air. She then stands behind the kneeling patient, and shoots balls of medicine stuck on the tip of the arrow at her. The construction of the arrow is such that the balls are dislodged from the tip of the arrow. The patient is thus shot at all over the body, which is bruised by the [343]impact of the balls. Afterwards the Bēju shoots one or two balls at the buffalo, which is taken to a path forming the village boundary, and killed with a tangi (axe). The patient is then daubed with blood of the buffalo, rice and toddy. A feast concludes the ceremonial.

The following account of a sacrifice to Rathu, who had given fever to the sister of the celebrant Kudang, is given by Mr. Fawcett. “The Kudang was squatting, facing west, his fingers in his ears, and chanting gibberish with continued side-shaking of his head. About two feet in front of him was an apparatus made of split bamboo. A young pig had been killed over it, so that the blood was received in a little leaf cup, and sprinkled over the bamboo work. The Kudang never ceased his chant for an hour and a half. While he was chanting, some eight Saoras were cooking the pig with some grain, and having a good feed. Between the bamboo structure and the Kudang were three little leaf cups, containing portions of the food for Rathu. A share of the food was kept for the Kudang, who when he had finished his chant, got up and ate it. Another performance, for which some dried meat of a buffalo that had been sacrificed a month previously was used, I saw on the same day. Three men, a boy, and a baby, were sitting in the jungle. The men were preparing food, and said that they were about to do some reverence to the sun, who had caused fever to some one. Portions of the food were to be set out in leaf cups for the sun deity.”

It is recorded by Mr. Ramamurti Pantulu that, when children are seriously ill and become emaciated, offerings are made to monkeys and blood-suckers (lizards), not in the belief that illness is caused by them, but because the sick child, in its emaciated state, resembles an attenuated figure of these animals. Accordingly, a blood-sucker is [344]captured, small toy arrows are tied round its body, and a piece of cloth is tied on its head. Some drops of liquor are then poured into its mouth, and it is set at liberty. In negotiating with a monkey, some rice and other articles of food are placed in small baskets, called tanurjal, which are suspended from branches of trees in the jungle. The Savaras frequently attend the markets or fairs held in the plains at the foot of the ghāts to purchase salt and other luxuries. If a Savara is taken ill at the market or on his return thence, he attributes the illness to a spirit of the market called Biradi Sonum. The bulls, which carry the goods of the Hindu merchants to the market, are supposed to convey this spirit. In propitiating it, the Savara makes an image of a bull in straw, and, taking it out of his village, leaves it on the foot-path after a pig has been sacrificed to it.

“Each group of Savaras,” Mr. Ramamurti writes, “is under the government of two chiefs, one of whom is the Gōmong (or great man) and the other, his colleague in council, is the Bōya, who not only discharges, in conjunction with the Gōmong, the duties of magistrate, but also holds the office of high priest. The offices of these two functionaries are hereditary, and the rule of primogeniture regulates succession, subject to the principle that incapable individuals should be excluded. The presence of these two officers is absolutely necessary on occasions of marriages and funerals, as well as at harvest festivals. Sales and mortgages of land and liquor-yielding trees, partition and other dispositions of property, and divorces are effected in the council of village elders, presided over by the Gōmong and Bōya, by means of long and tedious proceedings involving various religious ceremonies. All cases of a civil and criminal nature are heard and disposed of by them. Fines are imposed as [345]a punishment for all sorts of offences. These invariably consist of liquor and cattle, the quantity of liquor and the number of animals varying according to the nature of the offence. The murder of a woman is considered more heinous than the murder of a man, as woman, being capable of multiplying the race, is the more useful. A thief, while in the act of stealing, may be shot dead. It is always the man, and not the woman, that is punished for adultery. Oaths are administered, and ordeals prescribed. Until forty or fifty years ago, it is said that the Savara magistrate had jurisdiction in murder cases. He was the highest tribunal in the village, the only arbitrator in all transactions among the villagers. And, if any differences arose between his men and the inhabitants of a neighbouring village, for settling which it was necessary that a battle should be fought, the Gōmong became the commander, and, leading his men, contested the cause with all his might. These officers, though discharging such onerous and responsible duties, are regarded as in no special degree superior to others in social position. They enjoy no special privileges, and receive no fees from the suitors who come up to their court. Except on occasions of public festivals, over which they preside, they are content to hold equal rank with the other elders of the village. Each cultivates his field, and builds his house. His wife brings home fuel and water, and cooks for his family; his son watches his cattle and crops. The English officials and the Bissoyis have, however, accorded to these Savara officers some distinction. When the Governor’s Agent, during his annual tour, invites the Savara elders to bhēti (visit), they make presents of a fowl, sheep, eggs, or a basket of rice, and receive cloths, necklaces, etc. The Bissoyis exempt them from personal [346]service, which is demanded from all others.” At the Sankaranthi festival, the Savaras bring loads of firewood, yams (Dioscorea tubers), pumpkins, etc., as presents for the Bissoyi, and receive presents from him in return.

Besides cultivating, the Savaras collect Bauhinia leaves, and sell them to traders for making leaf platters. The leaves of the jel-adda tree (Bauhinia purpurea) are believed to be particularly appreciated by the Savara spirits, and offerings made to them should be placed in cups made thereof. The Savaras also collect various articles of minor forest produce, honey and wax. They know how to distil liquor from the flowers of the mahua (Bassia latifolia). The process of distillation has been thus described.29 “The flowers are soaked in water for three or four days, and are then boiled with water in an earthenware chatty. Over the top of this is placed another chatty, mouth downwards, the join between the two being made air-tight by being tied round with a bit of cloth, and luted with clay. From a hole made in the upper chatty, a hollow bamboo leads to a third pot, specially made for the purpose, which is globular, and has no opening except that into which the bamboo pipe leads. This last is kept cool by pouring water constantly over it, and the distillate is forced into it through the bamboo, and there condenses.”

In a report on his tour through the Savara country in 1863, the Agent to the Governor of Madras reported as follows. “At Gunapur I heard great complaints of the thievish habits of the Soura tribes on the hills dividing Gunapur from Pedda Kimedy. They are not dacoits, but very expert burglers, if the term can be applied to digging a hole in the night through a mud wall. If [347]discovered and hard pressed, they do not hesitate to discharge their arrows, which they do with unerring aim, and always with fatal result. Three or four murders have been perpetrated by these people in this way since the country has been under our management. I arranged with the Superintendent of Police to station a party of the Armed Reserve in the ghaut leading to Soura country. One or two cases of seizure and conviction will suffice to put a check to the crime.”

It is recorded, in the Gazetteer of the Vizagapatam district, that “in 1864 trouble occurred with the Savaras. One of their headmen having been improperly arrested by the police of Pottasingi, they effected a rescue, killed the Inspector and four constables, and burnt down the station-house. The Rāja of Jeypore was requested to use his influence to procure the arrest of the offenders, and eventually twenty-four were captured, of whom nine were transported for life, and five were sentenced to death, and hanged at Jaltēru, at the foot of the ghāt to Pottasingi. Government presented the Rāja with a rifle and other gifts in acknowledgment of his assistance. The country did not immediately calm down, however, and, in 1865, a body of police, who were sent to establish a post in the hills, were attacked, and forced to beat a retreat down the ghāt. A large force was then assembled, and, after a brief but harassing campaign, the post was firmly occupied in January, 1866. Three of the ringleaders of this rising were transported for life. The hill Savaras remained timid and suspicious for some years afterwards, and, as late as 1874, the reports mention it as a notable fact that they were beginning to frequent markets on the plains, and that the low-country people no longer feared to trust themselves above the ghāts.” [348]

In 1905, Government approved the following proposals for the improvement of education among the Savaras and other hill tribes in the Ganjam and Vizagapatam Agencies, so far as Government schools are concerned:—

(1) That instruction to the hill tribes should be given orally through the medium of their own mother tongue, and that, when a Savara knows both Uriya and Telugu, it would be advantageous to educate him in Uriya;

(2) That evening classes be opened whenever possible, the buildings in which they are held being also used for night schools for adults who should receive oral instruction, and that magic-lantern exhibitions might be arranged for occasionally, to make the classes attractive;

(3) That concessions, if any, in the matter of grants admissible to Savaras, Khonds, etc., under the Grant-in-aid Code, be extended to the pupils of the above communities that attend schools in the plains;

(4) That an itinerating agency, who could go round and look after the work of the agency schools, be established and that, in the selection of hill school establishments, preference be given to men educated in the hill schools;

(5) That some suitable form of manual occupation be introduced, wherever possible, into the day’s work, and the schools be supplied with the requisite tools, and that increased grants be given for anything original.

Savara.—A name, denoting hill-men, adopted by Malē Kudiyas.

Sāvu (death).—A sub-division of Māla.

Sāyakkāran.—An occupational term, meaning a dyer, returned, at times of census, by Tamil dyers. [349]

Sāyumpadai Tāngi.—The name, meaning supporter of the vanquished army, of a section of Kallans.

Sēdan.—A synonym of Dēvānga. At times of census, Sēda Dāsi has been returned by Dēvānga dancing-girls in the Madura district. The following legend of Savadamma, the goddess of the weaver caste in Coimbatore, is narrated by Bishop Whitehead.30 “Once upon a time, when there was fierce conflict between the men and the rākshasas, the men, who were getting defeated, applied for help to the god Siva, who sent his wife Parvati as an avatar or incarnation into the world to help them. The avatar enabled them to defeat the rākshasas, and, as the weaver caste were in the forefront of the battle, she became the goddess of the weavers, and was known in consequence as Savadamman, a corruption of Sēdar Amman, Sēdan being a title of the weavers. It is said that her original home was in the north of India, near the Himalayas.”

Segidi.—The Segidis are a Telugu caste of toddy sellers and distillers of arrack, who are found mainly in Ganjam and Vizagapatam.

For the purposes of the Madras Abkāri Act, toddy means fermented or unfermented juice drawn from a cocoanut, palmyra, date, or any other kind of palm-tree. It is laid down, in the Madras Excise Manual, that “unfermented toddy is not subject to any taxation, but it must be drawn in pots freshly coated internally with lime. Lime is prescribed as the substance with which the interior of pots or other receptacles in which sweet toddy is drawn should be coated, as it checks the fermentation of the toddy coming in contact with it; but this effect cannot be secured unless the internal lime [350]coating of the toddy pot or vessel is thorough, and is renewed every time that the pot is emptied of its contents.” It is noted by Bishop Caldwell31 that “it is the unfermented juice of the palmyra (and other palms) which is used as food. When allowed to ferment, which it will do before midday, if left to itself, it is changed into a sweet intoxicating drink called kal or toddy.” Pietro Della Valle records32 that he stayed on board till nightfall, “entertaining with conversation and drinking tari, a liquor which is drawn from the cocoanut trees, of a whitish colour, a little turbid, and of a somewhat rough taste, though with a blending in sweetness, and not unpalatable, something like one of our vini piccanti. It will also intoxicate, like wine, if drunk over freely.” Writing in 1673, Fryer33 describes the Natives as “singing and roaring all night long; being drunk with toddy, the wine of the Cocoe.”

Arrack is a spirituous liquor distilled from the fermented sap of various palms. In some parts of the Madras Presidency, arrack vendors consider it unlucky to set their measures upside down. Some time ago, the Excise Commissioner informs me, the Excise department had some aluminium measures made for measuring arrack in liquor shops. It was found that the arrack corroded the aluminium, and the measures soon leaked. The shopkeepers were told to turn their measures upside down, in order that they might drain. This they refused to do, as it would bring bad luck to their shop. New measures with round bottoms were evolved, which would not stand up. But the shopkeepers began to use rings of india-rubber from soda-water bottles, to make them stand. An endeavour has since been made to induce [351]them to keep their measures inverted by hanging them on pegs, so that they will drain without being turned upside down. The case illustrates well how important a knowledge of the superstitions of the people is in the administration of their affairs.

The Segidis do not draw the liquor from the palm-tree themselves, but purchase it from the toddy-drawing castes, the Yātas and Gamallas.

They have a caste headman, called Kulampedda, who settles disputes with the assistance of a council. Like other Telugu castes, they have intipērulu or house names, which are strictly exogamous. Girls are married either before or after puberty. The custom of mēnarikam is practiced, in accordance with which a man marries his maternal aunt’s daughter. A Brāhman officiates at marriages, except the remarriage of widows. When a widow is remarried, the caste-men assemble, and the Kulampedda ties the sathamānam (marriage badge) on the bride’s neck.

The dead are usually cremated, and the washerman of the village assists the chief mourner in igniting the pyre. A Sātāni conducts the funeral ceremonies.

The Segidis worship various village deities, and pērantālammas, or women who killed themselves during their husbands’ lives or on their death.

The more well-to-do members of the caste take the title Anna.

Sekkān (oil-man).—A synonym of Vāniyan.

Sembadavan.—The Sembadavans are the fishermen of the Tamil country, who carry on their calling in freshwater tanks (ponds), lakes and rivers, and never in the sea. Some of them are ferrymen, and the name has been derived from sem (good), padavan (boatmen). A legend runs to the effect that the goddess [352]Ankalamman, whom they worship with offerings of sheep, pigs, fowls, rice, etc., was a Sembadava girl, of whom Siva became enamoured, and Sembadavan is accordingly derived from Sambu (Siva) or a corruption of Sivan padavan (Siva’s boatmen). Some members of the caste in the Telugu country returned themselves, at the census, 1901, as Sambuni Reddi or Kāpu. According to another legend, the name is derived from sembu padavor or copper boatmen. Parvatha Rāja, disguised as a boatman, when sailing in a copper boat, threw out his net to catch fish. Four Vēdas were transformed into nets, with which to catch the rākshasas, who assumed the form of fishes. Within the nets a rishi was also caught, and, getting angry, asked the boatman concerning his pedigree. On learning it, he cursed him, and ordained that his descendants should earn their living by fishing. Hence the Sembadavans call themselves Parvatha Rājavamsam. Yet another legend states that the founder of the caste, while worshipping God, was tried thus. God caused a large fish to appear in the water near the spot at which he was worshipping. Forgetting all about his prayers, he stopped to catch the fish, and was cursed with the occupation of catching fish for ever. According to yet another account of the origin of the Sembadavans, Siva was much pleased with their ancestors’ devotion to him when they lived upon the sea-shore by catching a few fish with difficulty, and in recognition of their piety furnished them with a net, and directed various other castes to become fish-eaters, so that the Sembadavar might live comfortably.

Of the Sembadavans of the North Arcot district, Mr. H. A. Stuart writes34 that they “act as boatmen [353]and fishers. They have little opportunity of exercising the former profession, but during heavy freshes in big rivers they ferry people from bank to bank in round leather-covered basket coracles, which they push along, swimming or wading by the side, or assist the timid to ford by holding their hands. At such times they make considerable hauls. During the rest of the year they subsist by fishing in the tanks.”

“The Sembadavans of the South Arcot district,” Mr. Francis writes,35 “are fresh-water fishermen and boatmen. Both their occupations being of a restricted character, they have now in some cases taken to agriculture, weaving, and the hawking of salted sea-fish, but almost all of them are poor. They make their own nets, and, when they have to walk any distance for any purpose, they often spin the thread as they go along. Their domestic priests are Panchāngi Brāhmans, and these tie the tāli at weddings, and perform the purificatory ceremonies on the sixteenth day after deaths.”

The Sembadavans consider themselves to be superior to Pattanavans, who are sea-fishermen. They usually take the title Nāttan, Kavandan, Maniyakkāran, Paguththar, or Pillai. Some have assumed the title Guha Vellāla, to connect themselves with Guha, who rowed the boat of Rāma to Ceylon. At the census, 1901, Savalakkāran (q.v.) was returned as a sub-caste. Savalalai or saval thadi is the flattened paddle for rowing boats. A large number call themselves Pūjāri, (priest), and wear the lingam enclosed in a silver casket or pink cloth, and the sacred thread. It is the pūjāri who officiates at the temple services to village deities. At Malayanūr, in the South Arcot district, all [354]the Sembadavans call themselves pūjāri, and seem to belong to a single sept called Mukkāli (three-legged).

Most of the Sembadavans call themselves Saivites, but a few, e.g., at Kuppam in North Arcot, and other places, say that they are Vaishnavites, and belong to Vishnu gōtram. Even among those who claimed to be Vaishnavites, a few were seen with a sandal paste (Saivite) mark on the forehead. Their explanation was that they were returning from the fields, where they had eaten their food. This they must not do without wearing a religious emblem, and they had not with them the mirror, red powder, water, etc., necessary for making the Vaishnavite nāmam mark. They asserted that they never take a girl in marriage from Saivite families without burning her tongue with a piece of gold, and purifying her by punyāvāchanam.

The Sembadavans at Chidambaram are all Saivites, and point out with pride their connection with the temple. It appears that, on a particular day, they are deputed to carry the idol in procession through the streets, and their services are paid for with a modest fee and a ball of cooked rice for each person. Some respect is shown to them by the temple authorities, as the goddess, when being carried in procession, is detained for some time in their quarters, and they make presents of female cloths to the idol.

The Sembadavans have exogamous septs, named after various heroes, etc. The office of Nāttan or Nāttamaikkāran (headman) is confined to a particular sept, and is hereditary. In some places he is assisted by officers called Sangathikkar or Sangathipillai, through whom, at a council, the headman should be addressed. At their council meetings, representatives of the seven nādus (villages), into which the Sembadavans of various [355]localities are divided, are present. At Malayanūr these nādus are replaced by seven exogamous septs, viz., Dēvar, Seppiliyan, Ethīnāyakan, Sangili, Māyakundali, Pattam, and Panikkan. If a man under trial pleads not guilty to the charge brought against him, he has to bear the expenses of the members of council. Sometimes, as a punishment, a man is made to carry a basket of rubbish, with tamarind twigs as the emblem of flogging, and a knife to denote cutting of the tongue. Women are said to be punished by having to carry a basket of rubbish and a broom round the village.

Sembadavans who are ferrymen by profession do special worship to Ganga, the goddess of water, to whom pongal (rice) and goats are offered. It is believed that their immunity from death by drowning, caused by the upsetting of their leather coracles, is due to the protection of the goddess.

The ceremonial when a girl reaches puberty corresponds to that of various other Tamil castes. Meat is forbidden, but eggs are allowed to be eaten. To ward off devils twigs of Vitex Negundo, margosa (Melia Azadirachta), and Eugenia Jambolana are stuck in the roof. Sometimes a piece of iron is given to the girl to keep. During the marriage ceremonies, a branch of Erythrina indica is cut, and tied, with sprays of the pīpal (Ficus religiosa) and a piece of a green bamboo culm, to one of the twelve posts, which support the marriage pandal (booth). A number of sumangalis (married women) bring sand, and spread it on the floor near the marriage dais, with pots, two of which are filled with water, over it. The bride and bridegroom go through a ceremony called sige kazhippu, with the object of warding off the evil eye, which consists in pouring a few drops of milk on their foreheads from a [356]fig or betel leaf. To their foreheads are tied small gold or silver plates, called pattam, of which the most conspicuous are those tied by the maternal uncles. The plate for the bridegroom is V-shaped like a nāmam, and that for the bride like a pīpal leaf. The bride and bridegroom go through a mock ceremony representative of domestic life, and pot-searching. Seven rings are dropped into a pot. If the girl picks up three of these, her first-born will be a girl. If the bridegroom picks up five, it will be a boy. Married women go in procession to an ant-hill, and bring to the marriage booth a basket-load of the earth, which they heap up round the posts. Offerings of balls of rice, cooked vegetables, etc., are then made. After the wrist-threads (kankanam) have been removed, the bride and bridegroom go to a tank, and go through a mock ploughing ceremony. In some places, the purōhits give the bridegroom a sacred thread, which is finally thrown into a tank or well.

By some Sembadavans a ceremony, called muthugunir kuththal (pouring water on the back) is performed in the seventh month of pregnancy. The woman stands on the marriage dais, and red-coloured water, and lights are waved. Bending down, she places her hands on two big pots, and milk is poured over her back from a betel leaf by all her relations.

The Vaishnava Sembadavans burn, and the Saivites bury their dead in a sitting posture. Fire is carried to the burial-ground by the barber. In cases of burial the face is covered over by a cloth, in which a slit is made, so that the top of the head and a portion of the forehead are exposed. A figure representing Ganēsa is made on the head with ashes. All present throw sacred ashes, and a pie (copper coin) into the grave, which is then filled in. While this is being done, a [357]bamboo stick is placed upright on the head of the corpse. On the surface of the filled-in grave an oblong space is cleared, with the bamboo in the centre. The bamboo is then removed, and water poured through the hole left by it, and a lingam made, and placed over the opening.

Sembadavan Mayana Kollai.

Sembadavan Mayana Kollai.

At Malayanūr a ceremony called mayāna or smasāna kollai (looting the burning-ground) is performed. The village of Malayanūr is famous for its Ankalamman temple, and, during the festival which takes place immediately after the Sivarātri, some thousands of people congregate at the temple, which is near the burning-ground. In front of the stone idol is a large ant-hill, on which two copper idols are placed, and a brass vessel, called korakkūdai, is placed at the base of the hill, to receive the various votive offerings. Early in the day, the pūjāri (a Sembadavan) goes to a tank, and brings a decorated pot, called pūngkaragam, to the temple. Offerings are made to a new pot, and, after a sheep has been sacrificed, the pot is filled with water, and carried on the head of the pūjāri, who shows signs of possession by the deity, through the streets of the village to the temple, dancing wildly, and never touching the pot with his hands. It is believed that the pot remains on the head, without falling, through the influence of the goddess. When the temple is reached, another pūjāri takes up a framework, to which are tied a head made of rice flour, with three faces coloured white, black and red, representing the head of Brahma which was cut off by Siva, and a pot with three faces on it. The eyes of the flour figure are represented by hen’s eggs. The pot is placed beneath the head. Carrying the framework, and accompanied by music, the pūjāri goes in procession to the burning-ground, and, after [358]offerings of a sheep, arrack, betel and fruits have been made to the head of Brahma, it is thrown away. Close to the spot where corpses are burnt, the pūjāris place on the ground five conical heaps (representing Ganēsa), made of the ashes of a corpse. To these are offered the various articles brought by those who have made vows, which include cooked pulses, bangles, betel, parts of the human body modelled in rice flour, etc. The offerings are piled up in a heap, which is said to reach ten or twelve feet in height. Soon afterwards, the people assembled fall on the heap, and carry off whatever they can secure. Hundreds of persons are said to become possessed, eat the ashes of the corpses, and bite any human bones, which they may come across. The ashes and earth are much prized, as they are supposed to drive away evil spirits, and secure offspring to barren women. Some persons make a vow that they will disguise themselves as Siva, for which purpose they smear their faces with ashes, put on a cap decorated with feathers of the crow, egret, and peacock, and carry in one hand a brass vessel called Brahma kapālam. Round their waist they tie a number of strings, to which are attached rags and feathers. Instead of the cap, Paraiyans and Valluvans wear a crown. The brass vessel, cap, and strings are said to be kept by the pūjāri, and hired out for a rupee or two per head. The festival is said to be based on the following legend. Siva and Brahma had the same number of faces. During the swayamvaram, Parvati, the wife of Siva, found it difficult to recognise her husband, so Siva cut off Brahma’s head. The head stuck on to Siva’s hand, and he could not get rid of it. To get rid of the skull, and throw off the crime of murder, Siva wandered far and wide, and came to the burning-ground at Malayanūr, where various bhūthas (devils) were busy [359]eating the remains of corpses. Parvati also arrived there, and failed to recognise Siva. Thereon the skull laughed, and fell to the ground. The bhūthas were so delighted that they put various kinds of herbs into a big vessel, and made of them a sweet liquor, by drinking which Siva was absolved from his crime. For this reason arrack is offered to him at the festival. A very similar rite is carried out at Walajapet. A huge figure, representing the goddess, is made at the burning-ground out of the ashes of burnt bodies mixed with water, the eyes being made of hen’s eggs painted black in the centre to represent the pupils. It is covered over with a yellow cloth, and a sweet-smelling powder (kadampam) is sprinkled over it. The following articles, which are required by a married woman, are placed on it:—a comb, pot containing colour-powder, glass bangles, rolls of palm leaf for dilating the ear-lobes, and a string of black beads. Devotees present as offerings limes, plantains, arrack, toddy, sugar-cane, and various kinds of cooked grains, and other eatables. The goddess is taken in procession from her shrine to the burning-ground, and placed in front of the figure. The pūjāri (fisherman), who wears a special dress for the occasion, walks in front of the idol, carrying in one hand a brass cup representing the skull which Siva carried in his hand, and in the other a piece of human skull bone, which he bites and chews as the procession moves onward. When the burning-ground is reached, he performs pūja by breaking a cocoanut, and going round the figure with lighted camphor in his hand. Goats and fowls are sacrificed. A woman, possessed by a devil, seats herself at the feet of the figure, and becomes wild and agitated. The pūja completed, the assembled multitude fall on the figure, and carry off whatever they can grab of the articles placed on it, which [360]are believed to possess healing and other virtues. They also smear their bodies with the ashes. The pūjāri, and some of the devotees, then become possessed, and run about the burning-ground, seizing and gnawing partly burnt bones. Tradition runs to the effect that, in olden times, they used to eat the dead bodies, if they came across any. And the people are so afraid of their doing this that, if a death should occur, the corpse is not taken to the burning-ground till the festival is over. “In some cases,” Herbert Spencer writes,36 “parts of the dead are swallowed by the living, who seek thus to inspire themselves with the good qualities of the dead; and we saw that the dead are supposed to be honoured by this act.”

Sembunādu.—The name, meaning the Pāndya country, of a sub-division of Maravan.

Semmadi.—A Telugu form of Sembadavan.

Semmān.—The Semmāns are described, in the Madras Census Report, 1891, as “an insignificant caste of Tamil leather-workers, found only in the districts of Madura and Tinnevelly (and in the Pudukōttaī State). Though they have returned tailor and lime-burner as their occupations, the original occupation was undoubtedly leather-work. In the Tamil dictionaries Semmān is explained as a leather-worker, and a few of them, living in out-of-the way villages, have returned shoe-making as their occupation. The Semmāns are, in fact, a sub-division of the Paraiyans, and they must have been the original leather-workers of the Tamil tribes. The immigrant Chakkiliyans have, however, now taken their place.” The Semmāns are described, in the Madura Manual, as burning and selling lime for building [361]purposes. In the Census Report, 1901, the caste is said to have “two hypergamous sub-divisions, Tondamān and Tōlmēstri, and men of the former take wives from the latter, but men of the latter may not marry girls of the former.”

Girls are married after puberty, and divorce and remarriage are freely allowed. As the caste is a polluting one, the members thereof are not allowed to use village wells, or enter caste Hindu temples. The caste title is Mēstri.

Sem Puli (red tiger).—A section of Kallan.

Sēnaikkudaiyān.—The Sēnaikkudaiyāns are betel vine (Piper Betel) cultivators and betel leaf sellers, who are found in large numbers in the Tinnevelly district, and to a smaller extent in other parts of the Tamil country. The original name of the caste is said to have been Elai (leaf) Vāniyan, for which the more high-sounding Sēnaikkudaiyān (owner of an army) or Sēnaittalavan (chief of an army) has been substituted. They also called themselves Kodikkāl Pillaimar, or Pillaimars who cultivate betel gardens, and have adopted the title Pillai. The titles Muppan and Chetti are also borne by members of the caste.

It is recorded, in the Madras Census Report, 1901, that “the priests of the Sēnaikkudaiyāns are Vellālas, and occasionally Brāhmans. They do not wear the sacred thread. They burn their dead, and perform annual srāddhas (memorial services). In 1891, following the Tanjore Manual, they were wrongly classed with Vāniyans or oil-mongers, but they are superior to these in social position, and are even said to rank above Nāttukōttai Chettis. Yet it is stated that, in Tanjore, Paraiyans will not enter the Sēnaikkudaiyāns’ houses to carry away dead cattle, and ordinary barbers will not [362]serve them, and food prepared by them will not be accepted even by barbers or washermen. Somewhat similar anomalies occur in the case of the Kammālas, and the explanation may be that these two castes belonged to the old left-hand faction, while the Pariyans, and the barbers and washermen belonged to the right-hand. Paraiyans similarly will not eat in the houses of Bēri Chettis, who were of the left-hand faction.”

Sēnapati.—A title, denoting commander-in-chief, said to be sold to Khōduras, and also occurring as a title of other Oriya castes, e.g., Kurumo and Ronguni. Among the Rongunis, the title is practically an exogamous sept. Sēnapati is further a name for Sālēs (Telugu weavers), the headman among whom is called Pedda (big) Sēnapati. The headman of the Sālāpu weavers, who do not intermarry with the Sālēs, is also styled Sēnapati. It is also a title of the Rāja of Sandūr.

Sendalai (red-headed man).—Returned as a sub-division of Konga Vellālas at times of census.

Sengundam (red dagger).—A synonym, connected with a caste legend, of Kaikōlan.

Seniga (Bengal gram: Cicer arietinum).—An exogamous sept of Mēdara and Pedakanti Kāpu.

Sēniyan.—The name Sēniyan is generally used to denote the Karna Sālē weavers, but at Conjeeveram it is applied to Canarese Dēvāngas. Elsewhere Canarese Dēvāngas belong to the left-hand section, but at Conjeeveram they are classed with the right-hand section. Like other Dēvāngas, the Conjeeveram Sēniyans have exogamous house-names and gōtras, which are interesting inasmuch as new names have been, in recent times, substituted for the original ones, e.g., Chandrasēkhara rishi, Nīlakanta rishi, Markandēya rishi. The Dēvāngas claim Markandēya as their ancestor. The [363]old house-name Picchi Kaya (water-melon: Citrullus vulgaris) has been changed to Desimarada, and eating the melon is tabu. A list of the house-names and gōtras is kept by the headman for reference. The Conjeeveram Sēniyans are Lingāyats, but are not so strict as the Canarese Lingāyats. Jangams are respected, but rank after their own stone lingams. In the observance of death rites, a staunch Lingāyat should not bathe, and must partake of the food offered to the corpse. These customs are not observed by the Sēniyans. Until quite recently, a man might tie a tāli (marriage badge) secretly on a girl’s neck, with the consent of the headman and his relatives, and the girl could then be given in marriage to no other man. This custom is said to have been very common, especially in the case of a man’s maternal uncle’s or paternal aunt’s daughter. At Conjeeveram it was extended to girls not so related, and a caste council was held, at which an agreement was drawn up that the secret tāli-tying was forbidden, and, if performed, was not to be regarded as binding. The priest of the Conjeeveram Sēniyans is a Vellāla Pandāram, who is the head of the Tirugnāna Sambanda Murti mutt (religious institution) at Conjeeveram.

Sērvai.—Sērvai, meaning service, has been recorded as the title of Agamudaiyans and Valaiyans. Sērvaikāran or Sērvaigāran (captain or commander) is the title of Agamudaiyan, Ambalakāran, Kallan, Maravan, and Parivāram. It further occurs as the name for a headman among the Vallambans, and it has been adopted as a false caste name by some criminal Koravas in the south.

Servēgāra.—The Servēgāras are a caste found in South Canara, and to a small extent in Bellary. “They are said to be a branch of the Konkan Marāthis of Goa, [364]from whence they were invited by the Lingāyat kings of Nagara to serve as soldiers and to defend their forts (kōtē), whence the alternative name of Kōtēyava (or Kōtēgāra). Another name for them is Rāmakshatri. The mother-tongue of the Servēgāras of South Canara is Canarese, while their brethren in the north speak Konkani. They have now taken to cultivation, but some are employed in the Revenue and Police departments as peons (orderlies) and constables, and a few are shopkeepers. The name Servēgāra is derived from the Canarese servē, an army. In religion they are Hindus, and, like most West Coast castes, are equally partial to the worship of Siva and Vishnu. They wear the sacred thread. Karādi Brāhmans are their priests, and they owe allegiance to the head of the Sringēri mutt. Their girls are married before puberty, and the remarriage of widows is neither allowed nor practiced. Divorce is permitted only on the ground of the unchastity of the wife. The body of a child under three years is buried, and that of any person exceeding that age is cremated. They eat flesh, but do not drink. Their titles are Nāyak, Aiya, Rao, and Sheregar.”37 In the Census Report, 1901, Bomman Vālēkāra is returned as a synonym, and Vīlayakāra as a sub-caste of Servēgāra.

Setti.—See Chetti.

Settukkāran.—A castle title, meaning economical people, sometimes used by Dēvāngas instead of Setti or Chetti.

Sevagha Vritti.—A sub-division of Kaikōlan.

Sēvala (service).—An exogamous sept of Golla.

Shānān.—The great toddy-drawing caste of the Tamil country, which, a few years ago, came into special [365]prominence owing to the Tinnevelly riots in 1899. “These were,” the Inspector-General of Police writes,38 “due to the pretensions of the Shānāns to a much higher position in the religio-social scale than the other castes are willing to allow. Among other things, they claimed admission to Hindu temples, and the manager of the Visvanathēswara temple at Sivakāsi decided to close it. This partial victory of the Shānāns was keenly resented by their opponents, of whom the most active were the Maravans. Organised attacks were made on a number of the Shānān villages; the inhabitants were assailed; houses were burnt; and property was looted. The most serious occurrence was the attack on Sivakāsi by a body of over five thousand Maravans. Twenty-three murders, 102 dacoities, and many cases of arson were registered in connection with the riots in Sivakāsi, Chinniapuram, and other places. Of 1,958 persons arrested, 552 were convicted, 7 being sentenced to death. One of the ring-leaders hurried by train to distant Madras, and made a clever attempt to prove an alibi by signing his name in the Museum visitor’s book. During the disturbance some of the Shānāns are said to have gone into the Muhammadan fold. The men shaved their heads, and grew beards; and the women had to make sundry changes in their dress. And, in the case of boys, the operation of circumcision was performed.”

The immediate bone of contention at the time of the Tinnevelly riots was, the Census Superintendent, 1901, writes, “the claim of the Shānāns to enter the Hindu temples, in spite of the rules in the Agama Shāstras that toddy-drawers are not to be allowed into them; but the pretensions of the community date back [366]from 1858, when a riot occurred in Travancore, because female Christian converts belonging to it gave up the caste practice of going about without an upper cloth.” On this point Mr. G. T. Mackenzie informs us39 that “in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, the female converts to Christianity in the extreme south ventured, contrary to the old rules for the lower castes, to clothe themselves above the waist. This innovation was made the occasion for threats, violence, and series of disturbances. Similar disturbances arose from the same cause nearly thirty years later, and, in 1859, Sir Charles Trevelyan, Governor of Madras, interfered, and granted permission to the women of the lower castes to wear a cloth over the breasts and shoulders. The following proclamation was issued by the Mahārāja of Travancore:—We hereby proclaim that there is no objection to Shānān women either putting on a jacket like the Christian Shānān women, or to Shānān women of all creeds dressing in coarse cloth, and tying themselves round with it as the Mukkavattigal (fisherwomen) do, or to their covering their bosoms in any manner whatever, but not like women of high castes.” “Shortly after 1858, pamphlets began to be written and published by people of the caste, setting out their claims to be Kshatriyas. In 1874 they endeavoured to establish a right to enter the great Mīnākshi temple at Madura, but failed, and they have since claimed to be allowed to wear the sacred thread, and to have palanquins at their weddings. They say they are descended from the Chēra, Chōla and Pāndya kings; they have styled themselves Kshatriyas in legal papers; labelled their schools Kshatriya academy; got Brāhmans of the less particular [367]kind to do purōhit’s work for them; had poems composed on their kingly origin; gone through a sort of incomplete parody of the ceremony of investiture with the sacred thread; talked much but ignorantly of their gōtras; and induced needy persons to sign documents agreeing to carry them in palanquins on festive occasions.” [During my stay at Nazareth in Tinnevelly, for the purpose of taking measurements of the Shānāns, I received a visit from some elders of the community from Kuttam, who arrived in palanquins, and bearing weapons of old device.] Their boldest stroke was to aver that the coins commonly known as Shānāns’ cash were struck by sovereign ancestors of the caste. The author of a pamphlet entitled ‘Bishop Caldwell and the Tinnevelly Shānārs’ states that he had met with men of all castes who say that they have seen the true Shānār coin with their own eyes, and that a Eurasian gentleman from Bangalore testified to his having seen a true Shānār coin at Bangalore forty years ago. The coin referred to is the gold Venetian sequin, which is still found in considerable numbers in the south, and bears the names of the Doges (Paul Rainer, Aloy Mocen, Ludov Manin, etc.) and a cross, which the Natives mistake for a toddy palm. “If,” Mr. Fawcett writes,40 “one asks the ordinary Malayāli (native of Malabar) what persons are represented on the sequin, one gets for answer that they are Rāma and Sīta: between them a cocoanut tree. Every Malayāli knows what an Āmâda is; it is a real or imitation Venetian sequin. I have never heard any explanation of the word Āmâda in Malabar. The following comes from Tinnevelly. Āmâda was the consort of Bhagavati, and he suddenly appeared one day [368]before a Shānār, and demanded food. The Shānār said he was a poor man with nothing to offer but toddy, which he gave in a palmyra leaf. Āmâda drank the toddy, and performing a mantram (consecrated formula) over the leaf, it turned into gold coins, which bore on one side the pictures of Āmâda, the Shānār, and the tree, and these he gave to the Shānār as a reward for his willingness to assist him.”

In a petition to myself from certain Shānāns of Nazareth, signed by a very large number of the community, and bearing the title “Short account of the Cantras or Tamil Xātrās, the original but down-trodden royal race of Southern India,” they write as follows. “We humbly beg to say that we are the descendants of the Pāndya or Dravida Xatra race, who, shortly after the universal deluge of Noah, first disafforested and colonized this land of South India under the guidance of Agastya Muni. The whole world was destroyed by flood about B.C. 3100 (Dr. Hale’s calculation), when Noah, otherwise called Vaivasvata-manu or Satyavrata, was saved with his family of seven persons in an ark or covered ship, which rested upon the highest mountain of the Āryāvarta country. Hence the whole earth was rapidly replenished by his descendants. One of his grandsons (nine great Prajāpatis) was Atri, whose son Candra was the ancestor of the noblest class of the Xatras ranked above the Brahmans, and the first illustrious monarch of the post-diluvian world.”

“Apparently,” the Census Superintendent continues, “judging from the Shānān’s own published statements of their case, they rest their claims chiefly upon etymological derivations of their caste name Shānān, and of Nādān and Grāmani, their two usual titles. Caste titles and names are, however, of recent origin, and little [369]can be inferred from them, whatever their meaning may be shown to be. Brāhmans, for example, appear to have borne the titles of Pillai and Mudali, which are now only used by Sūdras, and the Nāyak kings, on the other hand, called themselves Aiyar, which is now exclusively the title of Saivite Brāhmans. To this day the cultivating Vellālas, the weaving Kaikōlars, and the semi-civilised hill tribe of the Jātapus use equally the title of Mudali, and the Balijas and Telagas call themselves Rao, which is properly the title of Mahrātta Brāhmans. Regarding the derivation of the words Shānān, Nādān and Grāmani, much ingenuity has been exercised. Shānān is not found in the earlier Tamil literature at all. In the inscriptions of Rājarāja Chōla (A. D. 984–1013) toddy-drawers are referred to as Īluvans. According to Pingalandai, a dictionary of the 10th or 11th century, the names of the toddy-drawer castes are Palaiyar, Tuvasar, and Paduvar. To these the Chūdāmani Nikandu, a Tamil dictionary of the 16th century, adds Saundigar. Apparently, therefore, the Sanskrit word Saundigar must have been introduced (probably by the Brāhmans) between the 11th and 16th centuries, and is a Sanskrit rendering of the word Īluvan. From Saundigar to Shānān is not a long step in the corruption of words. The Shānāns say that Shānān is derived from the Tamil word Sānrār or Sānrōr, which means the learned or the noble. But it does not appear that the Shānāns were ever called Sānrār or Sānrōr in any of the Tamil works. The two words Nādān and Grāmani mean the same thing, namely, ruler of a country or of a village, the former being a Tamil, and the latter a Sanskrit word. Nādān, on the other hand, means a man who lives in the country, as opposed to Ūrān, the man who resides in a village. The title of the caste is [370]Nādān, and it seems most probable that it refers to the fact that the Īluvan ancestors of the caste lived outside the villages. (South Indian Inscriptions, vol. II, part 1.) But, even if Nādān and Grāmani both mean rulers, it does not give those who bear these titles any claim to be Kshatriyas. If it did, all the descendants of the many South Indian Poligars, or petty chiefs, would be Kshatriyas.”

The Census Superintendent, 1891, states that the “Shānāns are in social position usually placed only a little above the Pallas and the Paraiyans, and are considered to be one of the polluting castes, but of late many of them have put forward a claim to be considered Kshatriyas, and at least 24,000 of them appear as Kshatriyas in the caste tables. This is, of course, absurd, as there is no such thing as a Dravidian Kshatriya. But it is by no means certain that the Shānāns were not at one time a warlike tribe, for we find traces of a military occupation among several toddy-drawing castes of the south, such as the Billavas (bowmen), Halēpaik (old foot soldiers), Kumārapaik (junior foot). Even the Kadamba kings of Mysore are said to have been toddy-drawers. ‘The Kadamba tree appears to be one of the palms, from which toddy is extracted. Toddy-drawing is the special occupation of the several primitive tribes spread over the south-west of India, and bearing different names in various parts. They were employed by former rulers as foot-soldiers and bodyguards, being noted for their fidelity.41’ The word Shānān is ordinarily derived from Tamil sāru, meaning toddy; but a learned missionary derives it from sān (a span) and nār (fibre or string), that is the noose, one span in length, used [371]by the Shānāns in climbing palm-trees.” The latter derivation is also given by Vellālas.

It is worthy of note that the Tiyans, or Malabar toddy-drawers, address one another, and are addressed by the lower classes as Shēnēr, which is probably another form of Shānār.42

The whole story of the claims and pretensions of the Shānāns is set out at length in the judgment in the Kamudi temple case (1898) which was heard on appeal before the High Court of Madras. And I may appropriately quote from the judgment. “There is no sort of proof, nothing, we may say, that even suggests a probability that the Shānārs are descendants from the Kshatriya or warrior castes of Hindus, or from the Pandiya, Chola or Chera race of kings. Nor is there any distinction to be drawn between the Nādars and the Shānārs. Shānār is the general name of the caste, just as Vellāla and Maravar designate castes. ‘Nādar’ is a mere title, more or less honorific, assumed by certain members or families of the caste, just as Brāhmins are called Aiyars, Aiyangars, and Raos. All ‘Nādars’ are Shānārs by caste, unless indeed they have abandoned caste, as many of them have by becoming Christians. The Shānārs have, as a class, from time immemorial, been devoted to the cultivation of the palmyra palm, and to the collection of the juice, and manufacture of liquor from it. There are no grounds whatever for regarding them as of Aryan origin. Their worship was a form of demonology, and their position in general social estimation appears to have been just above that of Pallas, Pariahs, and Chucklies (Chakkiliyans), who are on all hands regarded as unclean, and prohibited from the use [372]of the Hindu temples, and below that of Vellālas, Maravans, and other classes admittedly free to worship in the Hindu temples. In process of time, many of the Shānārs took to cultivating, trade, and money-lending, and to-day there is a numerous and prosperous body of Shānārs, who have no immediate concern with the immemorial calling of their caste. In many villages they own much of the land, and monopolise the bulk of the trade and wealth. With the increase of wealth they have, not unnaturally, sought for social recognition, and to be treated on a footing of equality in religious matters. The conclusion of the Sub-Judge is that, according to the Agama Shastras which are received as authoritative by worshippers of Siva in the Madura district, entry into a temple, where the ritual prescribed by these Shāstras is observed, is prohibited to all those whose profession is the manufacture of intoxicating liquor, and the climbing of palmyra and cocoanut trees. No argument was addressed to us to show that this finding is incorrect, and we see no reason to think that it is so.... No doubt many of the Shānārs have abandoned their hereditary occupation, and have won for themselves by education, industry and frugality, respectable positions as traders and merchants, and even as vakils (law pleaders) and clerks; and it is natural to feel sympathy for their efforts to obtain social recognition, and to rise to what is regarded as a higher form of religious worship; but such sympathy will not be increased by unreasonable and unfounded pretensions, and, in the effort to rise, the Shānārs must not invade the established rights of other castes. They have temples of their own, and are numerous enough, and strong enough in wealth and education, to rise along their own lines, and without appropriating the institutions or infringing the rights of others, and in [373]so doing they will have the sympathy of all right-minded men, and, if necessary, the protection of the Courts.”

In a note on the Shānāns, the Rev. J. Sharrock writes43 that they “have risen enormously in the social scale by their eagerness for education, by their large adoption of the freedom of Christianity, and by their thrifty habits. Many of them have forced themselves ahead of the Maravars by sheer force of character. They have still to learn that the progress of a nation, or a caste, does not depend upon the interpretation of words, or the assumption of a title, but on the character of the individuals that compose it. Evolutions are hindered rather than advanced by such unwise pretensions resulting in violence; but evolutions resulting from intellectual and social development are quite irresistible, if any caste will continue to advance by its own efforts in the path of freedom and progress.”

Writing in 1875, Bishop Caldwell remarks44 that “the great majority of the Shānārs who remain heathen wear their hair long; and, if they are not allowed to enter the temples, the restriction to which they are subject is not owing to their long hair, but to their caste, for those few members of the caste, continuing heathens, who have adopted the kudumi—generally the wealthiest of the caste—are as much precluded from entering the temples as those who retain their long hairs. A large majority of the Christian Shānārs have adopted the kudumi together with Christianity.”

By Regulation XI, 1816, it was enacted that heads of villages have, in cases of a trivial nature, such as abusive language and inconsiderable assaults or affrays, power to confine the offending members in the village [374]choultry (lock-up) for a time not exceeding twelve hours; or, if the offending parties are of the lower castes of the people, on whom it may not be improper to inflict so degrading a punishment, to order them to be put in the stocks for a time not exceeding six hours. In a case which came before the High Court it was ruled that by “lower castes” were probably intended those castes which, prior to the introduction of British rule, were regarded as servile. In a case which came up on appeal before the High Court in 1903, it was ruled that the Shānārs belong to the lower classes, who may be punished by confinement in the stocks.

With the physique of the Shānāns, whom I examined at Nazareth and Sawyerpūram in Tinnevelly, and their skill in physical exercises I was very much impressed. The programme of sports, which were organised in my honour, included the following events:—

  • Fencing and figure exercises with long sticks of iron-wood (Mesua ferrea).
  • Figure exercises with sticks bearing flaming rags at each end.
  • Various acrobatic tricks.
  • Feats with heavy weights, rice-pounders, and pounding stones.
  • Long jump.
  • Breaking cocoanuts with the thrust of a knife or the closed fist.
  • Crunching whiskey-bottle glass with the teeth.
  • Running up, and butting against the chest, back, and shoulders.
  • Swallowing a long silver chain.
  • Cutting a cucumber balanced on a man’s neck in two with a sword.
  • Falconry.


One of the good qualities of Sir Thomas Munro, formerly Governor of Madras, was that, like Rāma and Rob Roy, his arms reached to his knees, or, in other words, he possessed the kingly quality of an Ajānubāhu, which is the heritage of kings, or those who have blue blood in them. This particular anatomical character I have met with myself only once, in a Shānān, whose height was 173 cm. and span of the arms 194 cm. (+ 21 cm.). Rob Roy, it will be remembered, could, without stooping, tie his garters, which were placed two inches below the knee.

For a detailed account of demonolatry among the Shānāns, I would refer the reader to the Rev. R. (afterwards Bishop) Caldwell’s now scarce ‘Tinnevelly Shanans’ (1849), written when he was a young and impulsive missionary, and the publication of which I believe that the learned and kind-hearted divine lived to regret.

Those Shānāns who are engaged in the palmyra (Borassus flabellifer) forests in extracting the juice of the palm-tree climb with marvellous activity and dexterity. There is a proverb that, if you desire to climb trees, you must be born a Shānān. A palmyra climber will, it has been calculated, go up from forty to fifty trees, each forty to fifty feet high, three times a day. The story is told by Bishop Caldwell of a man who was sitting upon a leaf-stalk at the top of a palmyra palm in a high wind, when the stalk gave way, and he came down to the ground safely and quietly, sitting on the leaf, which served the purpose of a natural parachute. Woodpeckers are called Shānāra kurivi by birdcatchers, because they climb trees like Shānārs. “The Hindus,” the Rev. (afterwards Canon) A. Margöschis writes,45 [376]“observe a special day at the commencement of the palmyra season, when the jaggery season begins. Bishop Caldwell adopted the custom, and a solemn service in church was held, when one set of all the implements used in the occupation of palmyra-climbing was brought to the church, and presented at the altar. Only the day was changed from that observed by the Hindus. The perils of the palmyra-climber are great, and there are many fatal accidents by falling from trees forty to sixty feet high, so that a religious service of the kind was particularly acceptable, and peculiarly appropriate to our people.” The conversion of a Hindu into a Christian ceremonial rite, in connection with the dedication of ex votos, is not devoid of interest. In a note46 on the Pariah caste in Travancore, the Rev. S. Mateer narrates a legend that the Shānāns are descended from Adi, the daughter of a Pariah woman at Karuvur, who taught them to climb the palm tree, and prepared a medicine which would protect them from falling from the high trees. The squirrels also ate some of it, and enjoy a similar immunity.

It is recorded, in the Gazetteer of the Madura district, that Shānān toddy-drawers “employ Pallans, Paraiyans, and other low castes to help them transport the liquor, but Musalmans and Brāhmans have, in several cases, sufficiently set aside the scruples enjoined by their respective faiths against dealings in potent liquor to own retail shops, and (in the case of some Musalmans at least) to serve their customers with their own hands.” In a recent note,47 it has been stated that “L.M.S. Shānār Christians have, in many cases, given up tapping the palmyra palm for jaggery and toddy as a [377]profession beneath them; and their example is spreading, so that a real economic impasse is manifesting itself. The writer knows of one village at least, which had to send across the border (of Travancore) into Tinnevelly to procure professional tree-tappers. Consequent on this want of professional men, the palm trees are being cut down, and this, if done to any large extent, will impoverish the country.”

In the palmyra forests of Attitondu, in Tinnevelly, I came across a troop of stalwart Shānān men and boys, marching out towards sunset, to guard the ripening chōlum crop through the night, each with a trained dog, with leash made of fibre passed through a ring on the neck-collar. The leash would be slipped directly the dog scented a wild pig, or other nocturnal marauder. Several of the dogs bore the marks of encounters with pigs. One of the party carried a musical instrument made of a ‘bison’ horn picked up in the neighbouring jungle.

The Shānāns have a great objection to being called either Shānān or Maramēri (tree-climber), and much prefer Nādān. By the Shānāns of Tinnevelly, whom I visited, the following five sub-divisions were returned:—

1. Karukku-pattayar (those of the sharp sword), which is considered to be superior to the rest. In the Census Report, 1891, the division Karukku-mattai (petiole of the palmyra leaf with serrated edges) was returned. Some Shānāns are said to have assumed the name of Karukku-mattai Vellālas.

2. Kalla. Said to be the original servants of the Karukku-pattayar, doing menial work in their houses, and serving as palanquin-bearers.

3. Nattāti. Settled at the village of Nattāti near Sawyerpūram. [378]

4. Kodikkāl. Derived from kodi, a flag. Standard-bearers of the fighting men. According to another version, the word means a betel garden, in reference to those who were betel cultivators.

5. Mēl-nātar (mēl, west). Those who live in the western part of Tinnevelly and in Travancore.

At the census, 1891, Konga (territorial) and Madurai were returned as sub-divisions. The latter apparently receives its name, not from the town of Madura, but from a word meaning sweet juice. At the census, 1901, Tollakkādan (man with a big hole in his ears) was taken as being a sub-caste of Shānān, as the people who returned it, and sell husked rice in Madras, used the title Nādān. Madura and Tinnevelly are eminently the homes of dilated ear-lobes. Some Tamil traders in these two districts, who returned themselves as Pāndyan, were classified as Shānāns, as Nādān was entered as their title. In Coimbatore, some Shānāns, engaged as shop-keepers, have been known to adopt the name of Chetti. In Coimbatore, too, the title Mūppan occurs. This title, meaning headman or elder, is also used by the Ambalakāran, Valayan, Sudarmān, Sēnaikkudaiyān, and other castes. In the Tanjore Manual, the Shānāns are divided into Tennam, Panam, and Ichcham, according as they tap the cocoanut, palmyra, or wild date (Phœnix sylvestris). The name Enādi for Shānāns is derived from Enādi Nayanar, a Saivite saint. But it also means a barber.

The community has, among its members, land-owners, and graduates in theology, law, medicine, and the arts. Nine-tenths of the Native clergy in Tinnevelly are said to be converted Shānāns, and Tinnevelly claims Native missionaries working in Madagascar, Natal, Mauritius, and the Straits. The occupations [379]of those whom I saw at Nazareth were merchant, cultivator, teacher, village munsif, organist, cart-driver, and cooly.

The Shānāns have established a school, called Kshatriya Vidyasala, at Virudupati in Tinnevelly. This is a free school, for attendance at which no fee is levied on the pupils, for the benefit of the Shānān community, but boys of other castes are freely admitted to it. It is maintained by Shānāns from their mahimai fund, and the teachers are Brāhmans, Shānāns, etc. The word mahimai means greatness, glory, or respectability.

Shānbōg.—The Māgane Shānbōg takes the place, in South Canara, of the village Karnam or accountant. There are also temple Shānbōgs, who are employed at the more important temples. When social disputes come up for decision at caste council meetings, the Shānbōg appointed by the caste records the evidence, and the Moktessor or Mukhtesar (chief man) of the caste decides upon the facts. In some places in South Canara Shānbōg is used as a synonym for Sārasvat Brāhman. In Mysore, the Shānbōg is said48 to be “the village accountant, with hardly an exception of the Brāhman caste. The office is hereditary. In some places they hold land free of rent, and in others on light assessment. In some few places a fixed money allowance is given. In all instances there are certain fixed fees payable to them in money or kind by the ryots.”

It is noted by Mr. W. Robinson, in a report on the Laccadive islands (1869), that “the Monegar has the assistance of one of the islanders as a Karany, to take down depositions, and to read them, for the character used is the Arabic. In addition to these duties, the [380]Karany has those of the Shanbogue. He keeps the accounts of the trees, and the coir (cocoanut fibre) in the islands, and makes out and delivers the accounts of coir brought to the coast.”

Shikāri.—Shikāri, meaning a sportsman or hunter, occurs as a synonym of Irula, and a sub-division of Korava. The name shikāri is also applied to a Native who “accompanies European sportsmen as a guide and aid, and to the European sportsman himself.”49

Shōlaga.—In his account of the Shōlagas or Sōlagas, early in the last century, Buchanan50 writes that they “speak a bad or old dialect of the Karnāta language, have scarcely any clothing, and sleep round a fire, lying on a few plantain leaves, and covering themselves with others. They live chiefly on the summits of mountains, where the tigers do not frequent, but where their naked bodies are exposed to a disagreeable cold. Their huts are most wretched, and consist of bamboos with both ends stuck into the ground, so as to form an arch, which is covered with plantain leaves.” The up-to-date Shōlaga, who inhabits the jungles of Coimbatore between Dimbhum and Kollegal near the Mysore frontier, is clad in a cotton loin-cloth, supplemented by a coat of English pattern with regimental buttons, and smears himself freely on special occasions, such as a visit to the Government anthropologist, with sacred ashes in mimicry of the Lingāyats.

I gather from a correspondent that the following tradition concerning their origin is current. In days of yore there lived two brothers in the Geddesala hills, by name Kārayan and Billaya or Mādhēswara. The Uralis and Shōlagas are descended from Kārayan, and the [381]Sivachāris (Lingāyats) from Mādhēswara. The two brothers fell into the hands of a terrible Rākshasha (demon), by name Savanan, who made Kārayan a shepherd, but imprisoned Mādhēswara for not paying him sufficient respect, and extracted all kinds of menial work from him. Last of all he ordered him to make a pair of shoes, whereupon Mādhēswara asked for his liberty for a few days, to enable him to have the shoes well made. His request being granted, Mādhēswara betook himself to the god Krishnamurti, and asked him for his help in his troubles. The god was only too happy to assist, and suggested that the shoes should be made of wax. Helped by Krishnamurti, Mādhēswara made a very beautiful-looking pair of shoes. Krishnamurti then ordered him to pile up and light a huge bonfire on a bare rocky hill east of Geddesala, so as to make it nearly red-hot. The ashes were then cleared away, so as to leave no trace of their plot. Mādhēswara then took the shoes, and presented them to Savanan, who was much pleased with them, and willingly acceded to Mādhēswara’s request that he would put them on, and walk along the rock. But, as soon as he stepped upon it, the shoes melted, and Savanan fell heavily on the rock, clutching hold of Mādhēswara as he fell, and trying to strangle him. Krishnamurti had assembled all the gods to witness the carrying out of the plot, and, telling each of them to pile a stone on Savanan’s head, himself rescued Mādhēswara from his clutches, and all jumped upon the Rākshasha till no trace of him was left. While this was going on, Kārayan was tending Savanan’s herds in the forest, and, when he came to hear about it, was angry with his brother for not consulting him before destroying Savanan. Flying from Kārayan, who was armed with a knife, Mādhēswara implored Krishnamurti’s [382]help, by which he was able to leap from Kotriboli to the hill called Urugamalai, a distance of some ten miles. The force of the leap caused the hill to bend—hence its name meaning the bending hill. Finding that the hill was bending, and being still hotly pursued by his brother, knife in hand, Mādhēswara again appealed to Krishnamurti, and was enabled to make another leap of about five miles to a hill called Eggaraimalai, which immediately began to subside. Hence its name, meaning the subsiding hill. Thence he fled to Munikanal, and concealed himself under a rock, closely followed by Kārayan, who slashed the rock with his knife, and left marks which are visible to this day. From Munikanal he fled to the hill now known as Mādhēswaranamalai, and hid in a rat hole. Kārayan, not being able to unearth him, sent for a lot of shepherds, and made them pen their sheep and cattle over the hole. The effluvium became too strong for the fugitive, so he surrendered himself to his brother, who pardoned him on the understanding that, on deification, Kārayan should have prior claim to all votive offerings. To this Mādhēswara agreed, and to this day Sivachāris, when doing pūja, first make their offerings to Kārayan and afterwards to Mādhēswara. In connection with this legend, any one proceeding to the top of Kotriboli hill at the present day is expected to place a stone upon the rock, with the result that there are many piles of stones there. Even Europeans are asked to do this.

The Shōlagas are said to call themselves men of five kulams, or exogamous septs, among which are Chalikiri, Tēneru, Belleri, Surya (the sun), and Aleru. By members of the twelve kulam class, everything is done by twelves. For example, on the twelfth day after a birth, twelve elders are invited to the house to bless the child. [383]At a marriage, twelve of the bridegroom’s relations go and fetch the bride, and the wedding pandal (booth) has twelve posts. The parents of the bridegroom pay twelve rupees to the bride’s father, and a tāli (marriage badge) worth twelve annas is tied round the bride’s neck. In case of death, the body is borne on a stretcher made of twelve bamboos, and mourning lasts for twelve days.

Tribal disputes, e.g., quarrelling and adultery, are decided by the Yejamāna, assisted by a Pattagara and a few leading men of the community. Under the orders of the two former is the Chalavāthi or village servant. The Yejamāna, Pattagara, and Chalavāthi must belong respectively to the Chalikiri, Teneri, and Surya septs.

When a girl reaches puberty, she occupies a separate hut for five days, and then returns home after a bath. The maternal uncle should present her with a new cloth, betel leaves and areca nuts, and plantain fruits. In the formal marriage ceremony, the tāli is tied by the bridegroom inside a booth; the maternal uncle, if he can afford it, presents a new cloth to the bride, and a feast is held. Sometimes even this simple rite is dispensed with, and the couple, without any formality, live together as man and wife, on the understanding that, at some time, a feast must be given to a few of the community. I am told that the Shōlagas of the Burghur hills have a very extraordinary way of treating expectant mothers. A few days before the event is expected to take place, the husband takes his wife right away into the jungle, and leaves her there alone with three days’ supply of food. There she has to stay, and do the best she can for herself. If she does not come back at the end of the three days, the husband goes out and takes her more food. But she may not return to her village till the baby is born. When one of these unfortunate creatures comes back [384]safely, there is a great celebration in her honour, with beating of tom-tom, etc.

The dead are buried with the body lying on its left side, and the head to the south. On their return home from a funeral, those who have been present thereat salute a lighted lamp. On the spot where the dead person breathed his last, a little rāgi (Eleusine Coracana) paste and water are placed, and here, on the fourth day, a goat is sacrificed, and offered up to the soul of the departed. After this the son proceeds to the burial ground, carrying a stone, and followed by men selected from each of the exogamous septs. Arrived near the grave, they sit down, while the son places the stone on the ground, and they then lift it in succession. The last man to do so is said to fall into a trance. On his recovery, leaves (plantain, teak, etc.) corresponding in number to the exogamous septs, are arranged round the stone, and, on each leaf, different kinds of food are placed. The men partake of the food, each from the leaf allotted to his sept. The meal concluded, the son holds the stone in his hands, while his companions pour rāgi and water over it, and then carries it away to the gopamane (burial-ground) of his sept, and sets it up there.

On the occasion of a death in a Mala Vellāla village, the Shōlagas come in crowds, with clarionets and drums, and bells on their legs, and dance in front of the house. And the corpse is borne, in musical procession, to the burning-ground.

The staple food of the Shōlagas is rāgi paste and yams (Dioscorea), which, like the Urālis, they supplement by sundry jungle animals and birds. Paroquets they will not eat, as they regard them as their children.

Their main occupation is to collect minor forest produce, myrabolams, vembadam bark (Ventilago [385]madraspatana), avaram bark (Cassia auriculata), deers’ horns, tamarinds, gum, honey, soap-nuts, sheekoy (Acacia Concinna),etc. The forests have been divided into blocks, and a certain place within each block has been selected for the forest depôt. To this place the collecting agents, mostly Shōlagas and Urālis, bring the produce, and there it is sorted and paid for by special supervisors appointed for the work.



In the Coimbatore district the Shōlagas are said to collect honey from rocky crevices. The combs are much larger than those found on trees, and are supposed to contain twice as much wax in proportion to the honey. On the Nilgiri hills honey-combs are collected by Jēn Kurumbas and Shōlagas. The supply of honey varies according to the nature of the season, and is especially plentiful and of good quality when Strobilanthes Wightianus, S. Kunthiana, and other species are in flower.

It has been said that even wild beasts will scent a Shōlaga, and flee before the aroma.

The Shōlagas, who were examined by Dr. Rivers and myself, came to the conclusion that the object of our enquiry was to settle them in a certain place near London, and that the wools of different colours (used for testing colour vision) given to them for selection, were for tying them captive with. Others said that they could not understand why the different organs of their bodies were measured; perhaps to reduce or increase the size of their body to suit the different works, which they were expected to do near London. It has been pointed out to me, as an interesting fact, that a similarity of idea concerning the modification of different organs to suit men for the doing of special work has been arrived at by the jungle folk, and by Mr. Wells in his book, [386]‘The first men in the moon,’ where the lunar inhabitants are described as carrying on the practice.

Of the experiences of a Shōlaga when out with a European on a shooting expedition, the following account has recently been given.51 “My husband was after a bear, and tracked Bruin to his cave. He had torches made, and these he ordered to be thrust into the cave in the hope of smoking the bear out, but, as nothing happened, he went into the cave, accompanied by a Sholigar carrying a torch. As soon as they got used to the light, they saw a small aperture leading into an inner cave, and the Sholigar was told to put the torch in there. Hardly was this done, when out rushed a large bear, knocking over the Sholigar, and extinguishing the torch. My husband could not get his gun up in time to fire, as the bear rushed through the cave into the jungle. Just as the Sholigar was picking himself up, out rushed another bear. This time my husband was ready, and fired. To the Sholigar’s horror, Bruin sank down wounded at the entrance to the outer cave, thus blocking the exit, and keeping both tracker and my husband prisoners. The Sholigar began whimpering, saying he was the father of a large family, and did not wish to leave the children fatherless. Soon the bear, though very badly wounded, managed to get to its feet, and crawl away into the jungle, so liberating the prisoners.”

Concerning the Shōlagas of the Mysore Province,52 I gather that they “inhabit the depths of the forests clothing the foot and slopes of the Biligirirangam hills. They cultivate with the hoe small patches of jungle clearings. Their chief god is Biligiri Rangasvāmi, but they also worship Kāraiyya, their tribal tutelary deity. Their [387]principal food is the rāgi, which they grow, supplemented by wild forest produce. They are partial to the flesh of deer, antelope, pigs, sheep and goats. A few of them have, in recent years, come to own lands. Like the Jēnu Kurumbas, they are perfect trackers of wild animals. Three kinds of marriage prevail among them. The first is affected by the more well-to-do, who perform the ceremony with much éclat under a shed with twelve pillars (bamboo posts), accompanied by music and festivities, which continue for three days. The second is more common, and seems to be a modified form of concubinage. The poorer members resort to the third kind, which consists in the couple eloping to a distant jungle, and returning home only after the bride has become a mother. They speak a patois, allied to old Canarese or Halē Kannada.”53

Shōla Naiker.—A synonym of Jēn Kurumbas in the Wynād.

Sibbi Dhompti (brass vessel offering).—A subdivision of Mādigas, who, at marriages, offer food to the god in brass vessels.

Siddaru.—A synonym of Jōgi mendicants.

Sika (kudumi or hair-knot).—An exogamous sept of Dēvānga.

Sīkili (broom).—An exogamous sept of Mādiga.

Sikligar.—In the Madras Census Report, 1901, eleven individuals are returned as belonging to an Upper India caste of knife-grinders (Sikligar). In the Madura Manual, Sikilkārars are described as knife-grinders, who wander about in quest of work from village to village.

Sila (stone).—An exogamous sept of Omanaito.

Sīlam (good conduct).—An exogamous sept of Māla. [388]

Sīlavant.—In the Madras Census Report, 1901, Sīlavant is recorded as meaning the virtuous, and as being a sub-sect of Lingāyats. In the Mysore Census Report, Sīlavanta is given as a name for Lingāyat Nayindas. For the following note on the Sīlavantalu or Sīlēvantalu of Vizagapatam, I am indebted to Mr. C. Hayavadana Rao.

They are a sect of Lingāyats, who, though they do not admit it, appear to be an offshoot of Pattu Sālēs, who became converts to the Lingāyat religion. They are engaged in the manufacture of fine cloths for males and females. The religious observances which secured them their name, meaning those who practice or possess particular religious customs, have been thus described. In the seventh month of pregnancy, at the time of quickening, a small stone linga is enclosed in black lac, wrapped in a piece of silk cloth, and tied to the thread of the linga which is on the woman’s neck. The child is thus invested with the linga while still in utero. When it is about a year old, and weaned, the linga is taken off the mother’s neck, and replaced by a silver locket. The linga is tied on the neck of the child. At the beginning of the twelfth year in the case of boys, and just before the marriage of girls, this linga is taken off, and a fresh one suspended round the neck by a guru.

The Sīlavantalu are divided into exogamous septs, or intipērulu. The custom of mēnarikam, whereby a man marries his maternal uncle’s daughter, is the rule. But, if the maternal uncle has no daughter, he must find a suitable bride for his nephew. Girls are married before puberty, and a Jangam, known as Mahēsvara, officiates at weddings.

The dead are buried in a sitting posture, facing north. The linga is suspended round the neck of the [389]corpse, and buried with it. Six small copper plates are made, each containing a syllable of the invocation Ōm na ma Si va ya. Two of these are placed on the thighs of the corpse, one on the head, one on the navel, and two on the shoulders, and stuck on with guggilam paste. The corpse is then tied up in a sack. The relatives offer flowers to it, and burn camphor before it. The grave is dug several feet deep, and a cavity or cell is made on the southern side of it, and lined with bamboo matting. The corpse is placed within the cell, and salt thrown into the grave before it is filled in. A Jangam officiates at the funeral. Monthly and annual death ceremonies are performed. A samāthi or monument is erected over the grave. Such a monument may be either in the form of a square mound (brindavan) with niches for lights and a hole in the top, in which a tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) is planted, or in the form of a small chamber. Relations go occasionally to the grave, whereon they deposit flowers, and place lights in the niches or chamber.

The Sīlavantalu are strict vegetarians and total abstainers. Their titles are Ayya and Lingam.

Silpa (artisan).—A sub-division of the Kammālans, Panchālas or Kamsalas, whose hereditary occupation is that of stone-masons. In the Silpa Sāstra, the measurements necessary in sculpture, the duties of a Silpi, etc., are laid down. I am informed that the carver of a stone idol has to select a male or female stone, according as the idol is to be a god or goddess, and that the sex of a stone can be determined by its ring when struck.

Sindhu.—The Sindhuvāllu (drummers) are Mādigas, who go about acting scenes from the Rāmayana or Mahābhāratha, and the story of Ankamma. Sindhu also occurs as a gōtra of Kurni. The beating of the drum called sindhu is, I gather, sometimes a nuisance, for a [390]missionary writes to the paper enquiring whether there is any order of Government against it, as the practice “causes much crime, and creates extra work for police and magistrates. Village officials believe they have no authority to suppress it, but there are some who assert that it is nominally forbidden.”

Singamu-vāru.—Singam is described, in the Madras Census Report, 1901, as a class of beggars, who beg only from Sālēs. They are, however, described by Mr. C. Hayavadana Rao as a class of itinerant mendicants attached to the Dēvāngas. “The name,” he writes, “is a variant of Simhamu-vāru, or lion-men, i.e., as valourous as a lion. They are paid a small sum annually by each Dēvānga village for various services which they render, such as carrying fire before a Dēvānga corpse to the burial-ground, acting as caste messengers, and cleaning the weaving instruments.”

Sinnata (gold).—An exogamous sept of Kuruba.

Sīolo.—A small class of Oriya toddy-drawers, whose touch conveys pollution. The Sondis, who are an Oriya caste of toddy-sellers, purchase their liquor from the Sīolos.

Sipiti.—The Sipitis are described, in the Madras Census Report, 1901, as “Oriya temple priests and drummers; a sub-caste of Rāvulo.” In an account of them as given to me, they are stated to be Smartas, and temple priests of village deities, who wear the sacred thread, but do not employ Brāhmans as purōhits, and are regarded as somewhat lower in the social scale than the Rāvulos. Some of their females are said to have been unrecognised prostitutes, but the custom is dying out. The caste title is Mūni. (See Rāvulo.)

Sir.—A sub-division of Kanakkan.

Sirpādam.—A sub-division of Kaikōlan. [391]

Sirukudi.—A nādu or territorial division of Kallan.

Siru Tāli.—The name, indicating those who wear a small tāli (marriage badge), of a sub-division of Kaikōlan and Maravan.

Sītikan.—Recorded, in the Travancore Census Report, 1901, as an occupational sub-division of Mārān.

Sitra.—See Pāno.

Siva Brāhmana.—Recorded as a synonym of Stānika.

Sivachāra.—It is noted, in the Mysore Census Report, 1901, that the Lingāyats call themselves “Vīra Saivas, Sivabhaktas, or Sivachars. The Vīrasaiva religion consists of numerous castes. It is a religion consisting of representatives from almost every caste in Hindu society. People of all castes, from the highest to the lowest, have embraced the religion. There are Sivachar Brāhmins, Sivachar Kshatriyas, Sivachar Vaisyas, Sivachar carpenters, Sivachar weavers, Sivachar goldsmiths, Sivachar potters, Sivachar washermen, and Sivachar barbers, and other low castes who have all followed the popular religion in large numbers.”

Sivadvija.—The name, denoting Saivite Brāhman, by which Mūssads like to be called. Also recorded as a synonym of Stānika.

Sivarātri.—An exogamous sept of Oddē, named after the annual Mahāsivarātri festival in honour of Siva. Holy ashes, sacred to Siva, prepared by Smartas on this day, are considered to be very pure.

Sivarchaka.—The word means those who do pūja (worship) to Siva. Priests at the temple of village deities are ordinarily known as Pūjāri, Pūsāli, Ōcchan, etc., but nowadays prefer the title of Ūmarchaka or Sivarchaka. The name Sivala occurs in the Madras Census Report, 1901. [392]

Siviyar.—Siviyar means literally a palanquin-bearer, and is an occupational name applied to those employed in that capacity. For this reason a sub-division of the Idaiyans is called Siviyar. The Siviyars of Coimbatore say that they have no connection with either Idaiyans or Toreyas, but are Besthas who emigrated from Mysore during the troublous times of the Muhammadan usurpation. The name Siviyar is stated to have been given to them by the Tamils, as they were palanquin-bearers to officers on circuit and others in the pre-railway days. They claim origin, on the authority of a book called Parvatharāja Charithum, from Parvatharāja. Their main occupations at the present day are tank and river fishing, but some are petty traders, physicians, peons, etc. Their language is Canarese, and their title Naickan. They have eighteen marriage divisions or gōtras, named after persons from whom the various gōtras are said to have been descended. On occasions of marriage, when betel leaf is distributed, it must be given to members of the different gōtras in their order of precedence. In cases of adultery, the guilty parties are tied to a post, and beaten with tamarind switches. When a grown-up but unmarried person dies, the corpse is made to go through a mock marriage with a human figure cut out of a palm leaf.

Sōdabisiya.—A sub-division of Dōmb.

Soi.—A title of Doluva. It is a form of Sui or Swayi.

Sōlaga.—See Shōlaga.

Sōliyan.—Sōliyan or Sōliya is a territorial name, meaning an inhabitant of the Chōla country, recorded as a sub-division of Karnam, Idaiyan, Pallan, and Vellāla. The equivalent Sōlangal occurs as an exogamous sept of Vallamban, and Sōliya illam (Malayālam, house) as [393]an exogamous sept of Panikkans in the Tamil country. Some Pallis style themselves Sōlakanar (descendants of Chōla kings), or Sōlakula Kshatriya. (See Sōzhia.)

Sōmakshatri.—A name sometimes adopted by Canarese Gānigas in South Canara.

Sōmara.—Recorded, in the Madras Census Report, 1901, as a small class of potters in the Vizagapatam hills.

Sōmari (idler).—A division of Yānādis, who do scavenging work, and eat the refuse food thrown away by people from the leaf plate after a meal.

Sōma Vārada (Sunday).—The name of Kurubas who worship their god on Sundays.

Sōnagan.—See Jōnagan.

Sonar.—The Sonars or Sonagāras of South Canara are described by Mr. H. A. Stuart54 as a goldsmith caste, who “speak Konkani, which is a dialect of Marāthi, and are believed to have come from Goa. The community at each station has one or two Mukhtēsars or headmen, who enquire into, and settle the caste affairs. Serious offences are reported to the swāmy of Sode, who has authority to excommunicate, or to inflict heavy fines. They wear the sacred thread. Marriages within the same gōtra are strictly prohibited. Most of them are Vaishnavites, but a few follow Siva. The dead are burned, and the ashes are thrown into a river. They eat fish, but not flesh. Their title is Setti.” They consider it derogatory to work in metals other than gold and silver.

In the Madras Census Report, 1901, the Sunnāri (or Sonnāri) are described as Oriya goldsmiths (see Risley, Tribes and Castes of Bengal, Sonar). These goldsmiths, [394]in the Oriya portion of the Madras Presidency, are, I am informed, Kamsalas from the Telugu country. Unlike the Oriyas, and like other Telugu classes, they invariably have a house-name, and their mother tongue is Telugu. They are Saivites, bury their dead, claim to be descendants of Viswakarma, and call themselves Viswa Brāhmans. They do not eat meals prepared by Brāhmans, or drink water at the hands of Brāhmans.

In former times, goldsmiths held the post of Nottakāran (tester) or village shroff (money-changer). His function was to test the rupees tendered when the land revenue was being gathered in, and see that they were not counterfeit. There is a proverb, uncomplimentary to the goldsmiths, to the effect that a goldsmith cannot make an ornament even for his wife, without first secreting some of the gold or silver given him for working upon.

It has been noted55 that “in Madras, an exceedingly poor country, there is one male goldsmith to every 408 of the total population; in England, a very rich country, there is only one goldsmith to every 1,200 inhabitants. In Europe, jewellery is primarily for ornament, and is a luxury. In India it is primarily an investment, its ornamental purpose being an incident.”

The South Indian goldsmith at work has been well described as follows.56 “A hollow, scooped out in the middle of the mud floor (of a room or verandah), does duty for the fireplace, while, close by, there is raised a miniature embankment, semi-circular in shape, with a hole in the middle of the base for the insertion of the bellows. Crucibles of clay or cow-dung, baked hard in the sun, tongs and hammers, potsherds of charcoal, dirty [395]tins of water, and little packets of sal-ammoniac, resin, or other similar substances, all lie scattered about the floor in picturesque confusion. Sitting, or rather crouching on their haunches, are a couple of the Pānchāla workmen. One of them is blowing a pan of charcoal into flame through an iron tube some eighteen inches long by one in diameter, and stirring up the loose charcoal. Another is hammering at a piece of silver wire on a little anvil before him. With his miserable tools the Hindu goldsmith turns out work that well might, and often deservedly does, rank with the greatest triumphs of the jeweller’s art.”

Sondi.—The Sondis or Sundis are summed up in the Madras Census Report, 1901, as “Oriya toddy-selling caste. They do not draw toddy themselves, but buy it from Siolos, and sell it. They also distill arrack.” The word arrack or arak, it may be noted en passant, means properly “perspiration, and then, first the exudation of sap drawn from the date-palm; secondly, any strong drink, distilled spirit, etc.”57 A corruption of the word is rack, which occurs, e.g., in rack punch.

According to a Sanskrit work, entitled Parāsarapaddati, Soundikas (toddy-drawers and distillers of arrack) are the offspring of a Kaivarata male and a Gaudike female. Both these castes are pratiloma (mixed) castes. In the Matsya Purāna, the Soundikas are said to have been born to Siva of seven Apsara women on the bank of the river Son. Manu refers to the Soundikas, and says that a Snātaka58 may not accept food from trainers of hunting dogs, Soundikas, a washerman, a dyer, pitiless man, and a man in whose house lives a paramour of his wife. [396]

In a note on the allied Sunris or Sundis of Bengal, Mr. Risley writes59 that “according to Hindu ideas, distillers and sellers of strong drink rank among the most degraded castes, and a curious story in the Vaivarta Purāna keeps alive the memory of their degradation. It is said that when Sani, the Hindu Saturn, failed to adapt an elephant’s head to the mutilated trunk of Ganēsa, who had been accidentally beheaded by Siva, Viswakarma, the celestial artificer, was sent for, and by careful dissection and manipulation he fitted the incongruous parts together, and made a man called Kedāra Sena from the slices cut off in fashioning his work. This Kedāra Sena was ordered to fetch a drink of water for Bhagavati, weary and athirst. Finding on the river’s bank a shell full of water, he presented it to her, without noticing that a few grains of rice left in it by a parrot had fermented and formed an intoxicating liquid. Bhagavati, as soon as she had drunk, became aware of the fact, and in her anger condemned the offender to the vile and servile occupation of making spirituous liquor for mankind. Another story traces their origin to a certain Bhāskar or Bhāskar Muni, who was created by Krishna’s brother, Balarām, to minister to his desire for strong drink. A different version of the same legend gives them for ancestor Niranjan, a boy found by Bhāskar floating down a river in a pot full of country liquor, and brought up by him as a distiller.”

For the following note on the Sondis of Vizagapatam, I am indebted to Mr. C. Hayavadana Rao. According to a current tradition, there was, in days of old, a Brāhman, who was celebrated for his magical powers. The king, his patron, asked him if he could make the [397]water in a tank (pond) burn, and he replied in the affirmative. He was, however, in reality disconsolate, because he did not know how to do it. By chance he met a distiller, who asked him why he looked so troubled, and, on learning his difficulty, promised to help him on condition that he gave him his daughter in marriage. To this the Brāhman consented. The distiller gave him a quantity of liquor to pour into the tank, and told him to set it alight in the presence of the king. The Brāhman kept his word, and the Sondis are the descendants of the offspring of his daughter and the distiller. The caste is divided into several endogamous divisions, viz., Bodo Odiya, Madhya kūla, and Sanno kūla. The last is said to be made up of illegitimate descendants of the two first divisions.

The Sondis distil liquor from the ippa (Bassia) flower, rice, and jaggery (crude sugar). There is a tradition that Brahma created the world, and pinched up from a point between his eyebrows a little mud, from which he made a figure, and endowed it with life. Thus Suka Muni was created, and authorised to distil spirit from the ippa flowers, which had hitherto been eaten by birds.

When a girl reaches puberty, she is set apart in a room within a square enclosure made with four arrows connected together by a thread. Turmeric and oil are rubbed over her daily, and, on the seventh day, she visits the local shrine.

Girls are married before puberty. Some days before a wedding, a sāl (Shorea robusta) or neredu (Eugenia Jambolana) post is set up in front of the bridegroom’s house, and a pandal (booth) erected round it. On the appointed day, a caste feast is held, and a procession of males proceeds to the bride’s house, carrying with them [398]finger rings, silver and glass bangles, and fifty rupees as the jholla tonka (bride price). On the following day, the bride goes to the house of the bridegroom. On the marriage day, the contracting couple go seven times round the central post of the pandal, and their hands are joined by the presiding Oriya Brāhman. They then sit down, and the sacred fire is raised. The females belonging to the bridegroom’s party sprinkle them with turmeric and rice. On the following day, a Bhondāri (barber) cleans the pandal, and draws patterns in it with rice flour. A mat is spread, and the couple play with cowry shells. These are five in number, and the bridegroom holds them tightly in his right hand, while the bride tries to wrest them from him. If she succeeds in so doing, her brothers beat the bridegroom, and make fun of him; if she fails, the bridegroom’s sisters beat and make fun of her. The bride then takes hold of the cowries, and the same performance is gone through. A basket of rice is brought, and some of it poured into a vessel. The bridegroom holds a portion of it in his hand, and the bride asks him to put it back. This, after a little coaxing, he consents to do. These ceremonies are repeated during the next five days. On the seventh day, small quantities of food are placed on twelve leaves, and twelve Brāhmans, who receive a present of money, sit down, and partake thereof. The marriage of widows is permitted, and a younger brother may marry the widow of an elder brother.

The dead are burned, and death pollution lasts for ten days. Daily, during this period, cooked food is strewed on the way leading to the burning-ground. On the eleventh day, those under pollution bathe, and the sacred fire (hōmam) is raised by a Brāhman. As at a wedding, twelve Brāhmans receive food and money. [399]Towards midnight, a new pot is brought, and holes are bored in it. A lighted lamp and food are placed in it, and it is taken towards the burning-ground and set down on the ground. The dead man’s name is then called out three times. He is informed that food is ready, and asked to come.

Men, but not women, eat animal food. The women will not partake of the remnants of their husbands’ meal on days on which they eat meat, because, according to the legend, their female ancestor was a Brāhman woman.

Among the Sondis of Ganjam, if a girl does not secure a husband before she reaches maturity, she goes through a form of marriage with an old man of the caste, or with her elder sister’s husband, and may not marry until the man with whom she has performed this ceremony dies. On the wedding day, the bridegroom is shaved, and his old waist-thread is replaced by a new one. The ceremonies commence with the worship of Ganēsa, and agree in the main with those of many other Oriya castes. The remarriage of widows is permitted. If a widow was the wife of the first-born or eldest son in a family, she may not, after his death, marry one of his younger brothers. She may, however, do so if she was married in the first instance to a second son.

It is noted by Mr. C. F. MacCartie, in the Madras Census Report, 1881, that “a good deal of land has been sold by Khond proprietors to other castes. It was in this way that much territory was found some years ago to be passing into the hands of the Sundis or professional liquor distillers. As soon as these facts were brought to the notice of Government, no time was lost in the adoption of repressive measures, which have been completely successful, as the recent census shows a great [400]reduction in the numbers of these Sundis, who, now that their unscrupulous trade is abolished, have emigrated largely to Boad and other tracts. This is the only case to my knowledge in which a special trade has decayed, and with the best results, as, had it not been so, there is no doubt that the Khond population would very soon have degenerated into pure adscripti glebæ, and the Sundis become the landlords.”

It is recorded, in the Gazetteer of the Vizagapatam district, that “besides ippa (liquor distilled from the blossom of Bassia latifolia), the hill people brew beer from rice, sāmai (the millet Panicum miliare), and rāgi (Eleusine Coracana). They mash the grain in the ordinary manner, add some more water to it, mix a small quantity of ferment with it, leave it to ferment three or four days, and then strain off the grain. The beer so obtained is often highly intoxicating, and different kinds of it go by different names, such as londa, pandiyam, and maddikallu. The ferment which is used is called the sāraiya-mandu (spirit drug) or Sondi-mandu (Sondi’s drug), and can be bought in the weekly market. There are numerous recipes for making it, but the ingredients are always jungle roots and barks.60 It is sold made up into small balls with rice. The actual shop-keepers and still-owners in the hills, especially in the Parvatipur and Pālkonda agencies, are usually immigrants of the Sondi caste, a wily class who know exactly how to take advantage of the sin which doth so easily beset the hill man, and to wheedle from him, in exchange for the strong drink which he cannot do without, his ready money, his little possessions, his crops, and finally his land itself. [401]

“The Sondis are gradually getting much of the best land into their hands, and many of the guileless hill ryots into their power. Mr. Taylor stated in 1892 that ‘the rate of interest on loans extorted by these Sondis is 100 per cent. and, if this is not cleared off in the first year, compound interest at 100 per cent. is charged on the balance. The result is that, in many instances, the cultivators are unable to pay in cash or kind, and become the gōtis or serfs of the sowcars, for whom they have to work in return for mere batta (subsistence allowance), whilst the latter take care to manipulate their accounts in such a manner that the debt is never paid off. A remarkable instance of this tyranny was brought to my notice a few days since. A ryot some fifty years ago borrowed Rs. 20; he paid back Rs. 50 at intervals, and worked for the whole of his life, and died in harness. For the same debt the sowcar (money-lender) claimed the services of his son, and he too died in bondage, leaving two small sons aged 13 and 9, whose services were also claimed for an alleged arrear of Rs. 30 on a debt of Rs. 20 borrowed 50 years back, for which Rs. 50 in cash had been repaid in addition to the perpetual labour of a man for a similar period.’ This custom of gōti is firmly established, and, in a recent case, an elder brother claimed to be able to pledge for his own debts the services of his younger brother, and even those of the latter’s wife. Debts due by persons of respectability are often collected by the Sondis by an exasperating method, which has led to at least one case of homicide. They send Ghāsis, who are one of the lowest of all castes, and contact with whom is utter defilement entailing severe caste penalties, to haunt the house of the debtor who will not pay, insult and annoy him and his family, and threaten to drag him forcibly before the [402]Sondi.” A friend was, on one occasion, out after big game in the Jeypore hills, and shot a tiger. He asked his shikāri (tracker) what reward he should give him for putting him on to the beast. The shikāri replied that he would be quite satisfied with twenty-five rupees, as he wanted to get his younger brother out of pledge. Asked what he meant, he replied that, two years previously, he had purchased as his wife a woman who belonged to a caste higher than his own for a hundred rupees. He obtained the money by pledging his younger brother to a sowcar, and had paid it all back except twenty-five rupees. Meanwhile his brother was the bondsman of the sowcar, and cultivating his land in return for simple food.

It is further recorded, in the Gazetteer of the Vizagapatam district, that Dombu (or Dōmb) dacoits “force their way into the house of some wealthy person (for choice the local Sondi liquor-seller and sowcar—usually the only man worth looting in an Agency village, and a shark who gets little pity from his neighbours when forced to disgorge), tie up the men, rape the women, and go off with everything of value.”

The titles of the Ganjam Sondis are Bēhara, Chowdri, Podhāno, and Sāhu. In the Vizagapatam agency tracts, their title is said to be Bissōyi.

Sonkari.—The Sonkaris are a small class of Oriya lac bangle (sonka) makers in Ganjam and Vizagapatam, who should not be confused with the Telugu Sunkaris. The men are engaged in agriculture, and the women manufacture the bangles, chains, chāmaras (fly-flappers), kolātam sticks (for stick play), and fans ornamented with devices in paddy (unhusked rice) grains, which are mainly sold to Europeans as curios. [403]

Sonkari girls are married before puberty. A man should marry his paternal aunt’s daughter, but at the present day this custom is frequently disregarded. Brāhmans officiate at their marriages. The dead are cremated. The caste title is Pātro.

Sonkuva.—A sub-division of Māli.

Sonti (dried ginger).—An exogamous sept of Asili.

Soppu (leaf).—The name for Koragas, who wear leafy garments.

Sōzhia.—A territorial name of sub-divisions of various Tamil classes who are settled in what was formerly the Chōla country, e.g., Brāhman, Chetti, Kaikōlan, Kammālan, Pallan, and Vellāla.

Srishti Karnam.—A sub-division of Karnam. The name is variously spelt, e.g., Sristi, Sishta, Sishti. The name Sishti Karanamalu is said to have been assumed by Oddilu, who have raised themselves in life.61

Stala (a place).—Lingāyats sometimes use the word Staladavāru, or natives of a place, to distinguish them from recent settlers.

Stānika.—The Stānikas are summed up, in the Madras Census Report, 1901, as being “Canarese temple servants. They claim to be Brāhmans, though other Brāhmans do not admit the claim; and, as the total of the caste has declined from 4,650 in 1891 to 1,469, they have apparently returned themselves as Brāhmans in considerable numbers.” The Stānikas are, in the South Canara Manual, said to be “the descendants of Brāhmins by Brāhmin widows and outcast Brāhmin women, corresponding with Manu’s Golaka. They however now claim to be Siva Brāhmins, forcibly dispossessed of authority by the Mādhvas, and state that [404]the name Stānika is not that of a separate caste, but indicates their profession as managers of temples, with the title of Dēva Stānika. This claim is not generally conceded, and as a matter of fact the duties in which Stānikas are employed are clearly those of temple servants, namely, collecting flowers, sweeping the interiors of temples, looking after the lamps, cleaning the temple vessels, ringing bells, and the like. Many of them, however, are landowners and farmers. They are generally Sivites, and wear the sacred thread. Their special deities are Venkatrāmana and Ganapati. Drāvida Brāhmins officiate as their priests, but of late some educated men of the caste have assumed the priestly office. The caste has two sub-divisions, viz., Subramania and Kumbla. Girls must be married in infancy, i.e., before they attain puberty. Widow remarriage is neither permitted nor practiced. Their other customs are almost the same as those of the Kōta Brāhmans. They neither eat flesh nor drink liquor.” It is stated in the Manual that the Stānikas are called Shānbōgs and Mukhtesars. But I am informed that at an inquest or a search the Moktessors or Mukhtesars (chief men) of a village are assembled, and sign the inquest report or search list. The Moktessors of any caste can be summoned together. Some of the Moktessors of a temple may be Stānikas. In the case of social disputes decided at caste meetings, the Shānbōg (writer or accountant) appointed by the caste would record the evidence, and the Moktessor would decide upon the facts.

Of the two sections Subramanya and Kumbla, the former claim superiority, and there is no intermarriage between them. The members of the Subramanya section state that they belong to Rig Sāka (Rig Vēda) and have [405]gōtras, such as Viswamitra, Angirasa, and Bāradwaja, and twelve exogamous septs. Of these septs, the following are examples:—

Arli (Ficus religiosa). Konde, tassel or hair-knot.
Aththi (Ficus glomerata). Adhikāri.
Bandi, cart. Pandita.
Kēthaki (Pandanus fascicularis). Heggade.

The famous temple of Subramanya is said to have been in charge of the Subramanya Stānikas, till it was wrested from them by the Shivalli Brāhmans. In former times, the privilege of sticking a golden ladle into a heap of food piled up in the temple, on the Shasti day or sixth day after the new moon in December, is said to have belonged to the Stānikas. They also brought earth from an ant-hill on the previous day. Food from the heap and earth are received as sacred articles by devotees who visit the sacred shrine. A large number of Stānikas are still attached to temples, where they perform the duties of cleaning the vessels, washing rice, placing cooked food on the bali pitam (altar stone), etc. The food placed on the stone is eaten by Stānikas, but not by Brāhmans. In the Mysore province, a Brāhman woman who partakes of this food loses her caste, and becomes a prostitute.

At times of census, Sivadvija and Siva Brāhman have been given as synonyms of Stānika.

Sthāvara.—Recorded, at times of census, as a sub-division of Jangam. The lingam, which Lingāyats carry on some part of the body, is called the jangama lingam or moveable lingam, to distinguish it from the sthāvara or fixed lingam of temples.

Subuddhi.—A title, meaning one having good sense, among several Oriya castes.

Sudarmān.—See Udaiyān. [406]

Suddho.—Two distinct castes go by this name, viz., the Savaras who have settled in the plains, and a small class of agriculturists and paiks (servants) in the low country of Ganjam. The Suddhos who live in the hills eat fowls and drink liquor, which those in the plains abstain from. The caste name Suddho means pure, and is said to have its origin in the fact that Suddho paiks used to tie the turbans of the kings of Gumsūr. Like other Oriya castes, the Suddhos have Podhāno, Bissōyi, Bēhara, etc., as titles. The caste has apparently come into existence in recent times.

Sūdra.—The fourth of the traditional castes of Manu. The Sūdra Nāyars supply the female servants in the houses of Nambūtiris.

Sūdra Kāvutiyān.—A name adopted by barbers who shave Nāyars, to distinguish them from other barbers.

Sudugādusiddha.—The name is derived from sudugādu, a burning-ground. In the Mysore Census Report, 1901, they are described as being “mendicants like the Jōgis, like whom they itinerate. They were once lords of burning-grounds, to whom the Kulavādi (see Holeya), who takes the cloth of the deceased and a fee for every dead body burned, paid something as acknowledging their overlordship.” These people are described by Mr. J. S. F. Mackenzie,62 under the name Sudgudu Siddha, or lords of the burning-ground, as agents who originally belonged to the Gangadikāra Vakkaliga caste, and have become a separate caste, called after their head Sudgudu Siddharu. They intermarry among themselves, and the office of agent is hereditary. They have particular tracts of country assigned to them, [407]when on tour collecting burial fees. They can be recognised by the wooden bell in addition to the usual metal one, which they always carry about. Without this no one would acknowledge the agent’s right to collect the fees.

Sugāli.—Sugāli and Sukāli are synonyms of Lambādi.

Sugamanchi Balija.—A name said to mean the best of Balijas, and used as a synonym for Gāzula Balija.

Sukka (star).—An exogamous sept of Yerukala. The equivalent Sūkra occurs as a gōtra of Oriya Kālinjis.

Sūlē.—A Canarese name for professional prostitutes. Temple dancing-girls object to the name, as being low. They call themselves Vēsyas or Bēsyas, Naiksāni, or Naikini (Naik females).

Sullokondia.—The highest sub-division of the Gaudos, from whose hands Oriya Brāhmans will accept water.

Sunar.—See Sonar. <b>Sundarattān.—A sub-division of Nāttukōttai Chetti.

Sundi.—See Sondi.

Sunkari.—The Sunkari or Sunkara-vāndlu are cultivators, fishermen, and raftsmen in the Godāvari district. According to the Rev. J. Cain63 they come from some part of the Central Provinces, and are not regarded as outcasts, as stated in the Central Provinces Gazetteer.

Sunna Akki (thin rice).—A family name or bedagu of Donga Dāsari.

Sunnambukkāran (lime man).—An occupational name for Paravas, Paraiyans, and other classes, who are employed as lime (chunam) burners. Sunnapu, meaning [408]shell or quick-lime, occurs as an exogamous sept of Balija.

Sunnata.—A sub-division of Kurumbas, who are said to make only white blankets.

Sūrakkudi.—A section or kōvil (temple) of Nāttukōttai Chetti.

Sūrti.—The name for domestic servants of Europeans in Bombay, who come from Surat.

Sūrya (the sun).—Recorded as a sept of Dōmb, Kuruba, and Pentiya, and a sub-division of Ambalakkāran. The equivalent Sūryavamsam (people of the solar race) occurs as a sub-division of Rāzu, and as a synonym of the Konda Doras or Konda Kāpus, some of whom style themselves Raja (= Rāzu) Kāpus or Reddis.

Sūtakulam.—A name by which the Besthas call themselves. They claim descent from the Rishi Sūta Mahamuni. It has been suggested64 as probable that the Besthas gained the name from their superiority in the culinary art, sūta meaning cook.

Sūtarlu.—Recorded by the Rev. J. Cain65 as bricklayers and masons in the Godāvari district.

Sūthala (needle).—An exogamous sept of Kamma.

Svārūpam.—Svārūpam has been defined66 as “a dynasty, usually confined to the four principal dynasties, termed the Kōla, Nāyaririppu, Perimbadappu, and Trippa Svarupam, represented by the Kōlatiri or Chirakal Rājah, the Zamorin, and the Cochin and Travancore Rājahs.” Svārūpakkar or Svarūpathil, meaning servants of Svārūpams or kingly houses, is an occupational sub-division of Nāyar.

Swāyi.—A title of Alia, Aruva, Kālinji, and other Oriya classes. [409]

Swetāmbara (clad in white).—One of the two main divisions of the Jains.

Syrian Christian.—The following note, containing a summary of the history of a community in connection with which the literature is considerable, is mainly abstracted from the Cochin Census Report, 1901, with additions.

St. Thomas cross, Kōttayam.

St. Thomas cross, Kōttayam.

The Syrian Christians have “sometimes been called the Christians of the Serra (a Portuguese word, meaning mountains). This arose from the fact of their living at the foot of the ghauts.”67 The glory of the introduction of the teachings of Christ to India is, by time-honoured tradition, ascribed to the apostle Saint Thomas. According to this tradition so dearly cherished by the Christians of this coast, about 52 A.D. the apostle landed at Malankara, or, more correctly, at Maliankara near Cranganūr (Kodungallūr), the Mouziris of the Greeks, or Muyirikode of the Jewish copper plates. Mouziris was a port near the mouth of a branch of the Alwaye river, much frequented in their early voyages by the Phœnician and European traders for the pepper and spices of this coast, and for the purpose of taking in fresh water and provisions. The story goes that Saint Thomas founded seven churches in different stations in Cochin and Travancore, and converted, among others, many Brāhmans, notably the Cally, Calliankara, Sankarapuri, and Pakalomattam Nambūdri families, the members of the last claiming the rare distinction of having been ordained as priests by the apostle himself. He then extended his labours to the Coromandel coast, where, after making many converts, he is said to have been pierced with a lance by some Brāhmans, and to have been buried in the church of [410]St. Thomé, in Mylapore, a suburb of the town of Madras. Writing concerning the prevalence of elephantiasis in Malabar, Captain Hamilton records68 that “the old Romish Legendaries impute the cause of those great swell’d legs to a curse Saint Thomas laid upon his murderers and their posterity, and that was the odious mark they should be distinguished by.” “Pretty early tradition associates Thomas with Parthia,69 Philip with Phrygia, Andrew with Syria, and Bartholomew with India, but later traditions make the apostles divide the various countries between them by lot.”70 Even if the former supposition be accepted, there is nothing very improbable in Saint Thomas having extended his work from Parthia to India. Others argue that, even if there be any truth in the tradition of the arrival of Saint Thomas in India, this comprised the countries in the north-west of India, or at most the India of Alexander the Great, and not the southern portion of the peninsula, where the seeds of Christianity are said to have been first sown, because the voyage to this part of India, then hardly known, was fraught with the greatest difficulties and dangers, not to speak of its tediousness. It may, however, be observed that the close proximity of Alexandria to Palestine, and its importance at the time as the emporium of the trade between the East and West, afforded sufficient facilities for a passage to India. If the Roman line of traffic viâ Alexandria and the Red Sea was long and tedious, the route viâ the Persian Gulf was comparatively easy.

When we come to the second century, we read of Demetrius of Alexandria receiving a message from some [411]natives of India, earnestly begging for a teacher to instruct them in the doctrines of Christianity. Hearing this, Pantænus, Principal of the Christian College of Alexandria, an Athenian stoic, an eminent preacher and “a very great gnosticus, who had penetrated most profoundly into the spirit of scripture,” sailed from Berenice for Malabar between 180 and 190 A.D. He found his arrival “anticipated by some who were acquainted with the Gospel of Mathew, to whom Bartholomew, one of the apostles, had preached, and had left them the same Gospel in Hebrew, which also was preserved until this time. Returning to Alexandria, he presided over the College of Catechumens.” Early in the third century, St. Hippolytus, Bishop of Portus, also assigns the conversion of India to the apostle Bartholomew. To Thomas he ascribes Persia and the countries of Central Asia, although he mentions Calamina, “a city of India,” as the place where Thomas suffered death. The Rev. J. Hough71 observes that “it is indeed highly problematical that Saint Bartholomew was ever in India.” It may be remarked that there are no local traditions associating the event with his name, and, if Saint Bartholomew laboured at all on this coast, there is no reason why the earliest converts of Malabar should have preferred the name of Thomas to that of Bartholomew. Though Mr. Hough and Sir W. W. Hunter,72 among others, discredit the mission of St. Thomas in the first century, they both accept the story of the mission of Pantænus. Mr. Hough says that “it is probable that these Indians (who appealed to Demetrius) were converts or children of former converts to [412]Christianity.” If, in the second century, there could be children of former converts in India, it is not clear why the introduction of Christianity to India in the first century, and that by St. Thomas, should be so seriously questioned and set aside as being a myth, especially in view of the weight of the subjoined testimony, associating the work with the name of the apostle.

In the Asiatic Journal (Vol. VI), Mr. Whish refutes the assertions made by Mr. Wrede in the Asiatic Researches (Vol. VII) that the Christians of Malabar settled in that country “during the violent persecution of the sect of Nestorius under Theodosius II, or some time after,” and says, with reference to the date of the Jewish colonies in India, that the Christians of the country were settled long anterior to the period mentioned by Mr. Wrede. Referring to the acts and journeyings of the apostles, Dorotheus, Bishop of Tyre (254–313 A.D.), says “the Apostle Thomas, after having preached the Gospel to the Parthians, Medes, Persians, Germanians, Bactrians, and Magi, suffered martyrdom at Calamina, a town of India.” It is said that, at the Council of Nice held in 325 A.D., India was represented by Johannes, Bishop of India Maxima and Persia. St. Gregory of Nazianzen (370–392 A.D.), in answering the reproach of his being a stranger, asks “Were not the apostles strangers? Granting that Judæa was the country of Peter, what had Paul in common with the Gentiles, Luke with Achaia, Andrew with Epirus, John with Ephesus, Thomas with India, Mark with Italy”? St. Jerome (390 A.D.) testifies to the general belief in the mission of St. Thomas to India. He too mentions Calamina as the town where the apostle met with his death. Baronius thinks that, when Theodoret, the Church historian (430–458 A.D.), speaks of the apostles, he evidently associates the work [413]in India with the name of St. Thomas. St. Gregory of Torus relates that “in that place in India, where the body of Thomas lay before it was transferred to Edessa, there is a monastery and temple of great size.” Florentius asserts that “nothing with more certainty I find in the works of the Holy Fathers than that St. Thomas preached the Gospel in India.” Rufinus, who stayed twenty-five years in Syria, says that the remains of St. Thomas were brought from India to Edessa. Two Arabian travellers of the ninth century, referred to by Renaudot, assert that St. Thomas died at Mailapur.

Coming to modern times, we have several authorities, who testify to the apostolic origin of the Indian Church, regarded as apocryphal by Mr. Milne Rae, Sir W. W. Hunter, and others. The historian of the ‘Indian Empire,’ while rejecting some of the strongest arguments advanced by Mr. Milne Rae, accepts his conclusions in regard to the apostolic origin. The Romanist Portuguese in their enthusiasm coloured the legends to such an extent as to make them appear incredible, and the Protestant writers of modern times, while distrusting the Portuguese version, are not agreed as to the rare personage that introduced Christianity to India. Mr. Wrede asserts that the Christians of Malabar settled in that country during the violent persecution of the sect of Nestorius under Theodosius II, or some time after. Dr. Burnell traces the origin to the Manichæan Thomas, who flourished towards the end of the third century. Mr. Milne Rae brings the occurrence of the event down to the sixth century of the Christian era. Sir William Hunter, without associating the foundation of the Malabar Church with the name of any particular person, states the event to have taken place some time in the second century, long before the advent of Thomas the [414]Manichæan, but considers that the name St. Thomas Christians was adopted by the Christians in the eighth century. He observes that “the early legend of the Manichæan Thomas in the third century and the later labours of the Armenian Thomas, the rebuilder of the Malabar Church in the eighth century, endeared that name to the Christians of Southern India.” [It has recently been stated, with reference to the tradition that it was St. Thomas the apostle who first evangelised Southern India, that, “though this tradition is no more capable of disproof than of proof, those authorities seem to be on safer ground, who are content to hold that Christianity was first imported into India by Nestorian or Chaldæan missionaries from Persia and Mesopotamia, whose apostolic zeal between the sixth and twelfth centuries ranged all over Asia, even into Tibet and Tartary. The seat of the Nestorian Patriarchate of Babylon was at Bagdad, and, as it claimed to be par excellence the Church of St. Thomas, this might well account for the fact that the proselytes it won over in India were in the habit of calling themselves Christians of St. Thomas. It is, to say the least, a remarkable coincidence that one of the three ancient stone crosses preserved in India bears an inscription and devices, which are stated to resemble those on the cross discovered near Singanfu in China, recording the appearance of Nestorian missionaries in Shenshi in the early part of the seventh century.”]

As already said, there are those who attribute the introduction of the Gospel to a certain Thomas, a disciple of Manes, who is supposed to have come to India in 277 A.D., finding in this an explanation of the origin of the Manigrāmakars (inhabitants of the village of Manes) of Kayenkulam near Quilon. Coming to the middle of the [415]fourth century, we read of a Thomas Cana, an Aramæan or Syrian merchant, or a divine, as some would have it, who, having in his travels seen the neglected conditions of the flock of Christ on the Malabar coast, returned to his native land, sought the assistance of the Catholics of Bagdad, came back with a train of clergymen and a pretty large number of Syrians, and worked vigorously to better their spiritual condition. He is said to have married two Indian ladies, the disputes of succession between whose children appear, according to some writers, to have given rise to the two names of Northerners (Vadakkumbagar) and Southerners (Thekkumbagar)—a distinction which is still jealously kept up. The authorities are, however, divided as to the date of his arrival, for, while some assign 345 A.D., others give 745 A.D. It is just possible that this legend but records the advent of two waves of colonists from Syria at different times, and their settlement in different stations; and Thomas Cana was perhaps the leader of the first migration. The Syrian tradition explains the origin of the names in a different way, for, according to it, the foreigners or colonists from Syria lived in the southern street of Cranganūr or Kodungallūr, and the native converts in the northern street. After their dispersion from Cranganūr, the Southerners kept up their pride and prestige by refusing to intermarry, while the name of Northerners came to be applied to all Native Christians other than the Southerners. At their wedding feasts, the Southerners sing songs commemorating their colonization at Kodungallūr, their dispersion from there, and settlement in different places. They still retain some foreign tribe names, to which the original colony is said to have belonged. A few of these names are Baji, Kojah, Kujalik, and Majamuth. [416]Their leader Thomas Cana is said to have visited the last of the Perumāls and to have obtained several privileges for the benefit of the Christians. He is supposed to have built a church at Mahādēvarpattanam, or more correctly Mahodayapūram, near Kodungallūr in the Cochin State, the capital of the Perumāls or Viceroys of Kērala, and, in their documents, the Syrian Christians now and again designate themselves as being inhabitants of Mahādēvarpattanam.

In the Syrian seminary at Kōttayam are preserved two copper-plate charters, one granted by Vīra Rāghava Chakravarthi,and the other by Sthānu Ravi Gupta, supposed to be dated 774 A.D. and 824 A.D. Specialists, who have attempted to fix approximately the dates of the grants, however, differ, as will be seen from a discussion of the subject by Mr. V. Venkayya in the Epigraphia Indica.73

Concerning the plate of Vīra Rāghava, Mr. Venkayya there writes as follows. “The subjoined inscription is engraved on both sides of a single copper-plate, which is in the possession of the Syrian Christians at Kōttayam. The plate has no seal, but, instead, a conch is engraved about the middle of the left margin of the second side. This inscription has been previously translated by Dr. Gundert.74 Mr. Kookel Keloo Nair has also attempted a version of the grant.75 In the translation I have mainly followed Dr. Gundert.”


Hari! Prosperity! Adoration to the great Ganapati! On the day of (the Nakshatra) Rōhini, a Saturday [417]after the expiration of the twenty-first (day) of the solar month Mina (of the year during which) Jupiter (was) in Makara, while the glorious Vīra-Rāghava-Chakravartin,—(of the race) that has been wielding the sceptre for several hundred thousands of years in regular succession from the glorious king of kings, the glorious Vīra-Kērala-Chakravartin—was ruling prosperously:—

While (we were) pleased to reside in the great palace, we conferred the title of Manigrāmam on Iravikorttan, alias Sēramānlōka-pperun-jetti of Magōdaiyarpattinam.

We (also) gave (him the right of) festive clothing, house pillars, the income that accrues, the export trade (?), monopoly of trade, (the right of) proclamation, forerunners, the five musical instruments, a conch, a lamp in day-time, a cloth spread (in front to walk on), a palanquin, the royal parasol, the Telugu (?) drum, a gateway with an ornamental arch, and monopoly of trade in the four quarters.

We (also) gave the oilmongers and the five (classes of) artisans as (his) slaves.

We (also) gave, with a libation of water—having (caused it to be) written on a copper-plate—to Iravikorttan, who is the lord of the city, the brokerage on (articles) that may be measured with the para, weighed by the balance or measured with the tape, that may be counted or weighed, and on all other (articles) that are intermediate—including salt, sugar, musk (and) lamp oil—and also the customs levied on these (articles) between the river mouth of Kodungallūr and the gate (gōpura)—chiefly between the four temples (tali) and the village adjacent to (each) temple. [418]

We gave (this) as property to Sêramân-lôka-pperun-jetti, alias Iravikorttan, and to his children’s children in due succession.

(The witnesses) who know this (are):—We gave (it) with the knowledge of the villagers of Panniyûr and the villagers of Sôgiram. We gave (it) with the knowledge (of the authorities) of Vênâdu and Odunâdu. We gave (it) with the knowledge (of the authorities) of Ēranâdu and Valluvanâdu. We gave (it) for the time that the moon and the sun shall exist.

The hand-writing of Sêramân-lôka-pperun-dattān Nambi Sadeyan, who wrote (this) copper-plate with the knowledge of these (witnesses).

Mr. Venkayya adds that “it was supposed by Dr. Burnell76 that the plate of Vîra-Râghava created the principality of Manigrāmam, and the Cochin plates that of Anjuvannam.77 The Cochin plates did not create Anjuvannam, but conferred the honours and privileges connected therewith to a Jew named Rabbân. Similarly, the rights and honours associated with the other corporation, Manigrâmam, were bestowed at a later period on Ravikkorran. It is just possible that Ravikkorran was a Christian by religion. But his name and title give no clue in this direction, and there is nothing Christian in the document, except its possession by the present owners. On this name, Dr. Gundert first said78 ‘Iravi Corttan must be a Nasrani name, though none of the Syrian priests whom I saw could explain it, or had ever heard of it.’ Subsequently he added: ‘I had indeed been startled by the Iravi Corttan, which does not look at all like the appellation of a Syrian Christian; still I thought myself justified in calling Manigrâmam a [419]Christian principality—whatever their Christianity may have consisted in—on the ground that, from Menezes’ time, these grants had been regarded as given to the Syrian colonists.’ Mr. Kookel Keloo Nair considered Iravikkorran a mere title, in which no shadow of a Syrian name is to be traced.”

Nestorius, a native of Germanicia, was educated at Antioch, where, as Presbyter, he became celebrated, while yet very young, for his asceticism, orthodoxy, and eloquence. On the death of Sisinnius, Patriarch of Constantinople, this distinguished preacher of Antioch was appointed to the vacant See by the Emperor Theodosius II, and was consecrated as Patriarch in 428 A.D. The doctrine of a God-man respecting Christ, and the mode of union of the human and the divine nature in Him left undefined by the early teachers, who contented themselves with speaking of Him and regarding Him as “born and unborn, God in flesh, life in death, born of Mary, and born of God,” had, long before the time of Nestorius, begun to tax the genius of churchmen, and the controversies in respect of this double nature of Christ had led to the growth and spread of important heretical doctrines. Two of the great heresies of the church before that of Nestorius are associated with the names of Arius and Apollinaris. Arius “admitted both the divine and the human nature of Christ, but, by making Him subordinate to God, denied His divinity in the highest sense.” Apollinaris, undermining the doctrine of the example and atonement of Christ, argued that “in Jesus the Logos supplied the place of the reasonable soul.” As early as 325 A.D. the first Œcumenical Council of Nice had defined against the Arians, and decreed that “the Son was not only of like essence, but of the same essence with the Father, and [420]the human nature, maimed and misinterpreted by the Apollinarians, had been restored to the person of Christ at the Council of Constantinople in 381.” Nestorius, finding the Arians and Apollinarians, condemned strongly though they were, still strong in numbers and influence at Constantinople, expressed in his first sermon as Patriarch his determination to put down these and other heretical sects, and exhorted the Emperor to help him in this difficult task. But, while vigorously engaged in the effectual extinction of all heresies, he incurred the displeasure of the orthodox party by boldly declaring, though in the most sincerely orthodox form, against the use of the term Theotokos, that is, Mother of God, which, as applied to the Virgin Mary, had then grown into popular favour, especially amongst the clergy at Constantinople and Rome. While he himself revered the Blessed Virgin as the Mother of Christ, he declaimed against the use of the expression Mother of God in respect of her, as being alike “unknown to the Apostles, and unauthorised by the Church,” besides its being inherently absurd to suppose that the Godhead can be born or suffer. Moreover, in his endeavour to avoid the extreme positions taken up by Arians and Apollinarians, he denied, while speaking of the two natures in Christ, that there was any communication of attributes. But he was understood on this point to have maintained a mechanical rather than a supernatural union of the two natures, and also to have rent Christ asunder, and divided Him into two persons. Explaining his position, Nestorius said “I distinguish the natures, but I unite my adoration.” But this explanation did not satisfy the orthodox, who understood him to have “preached a Christ less than divine.” The clergy and laity of Constantinople, amongst whom Nestorius had thus grown [421]unpopular, and was talked of as a heretic, appealed to Cyril, Bishop of the rival See of Alexandria, to interfere on their behalf. Cyril, supported by the authority of the Pope, arrived on the scene, and, at the Council of Ephesus, hastily and informally called up, condemned Nestorius as a heretic, and excommunicated him. After Nestorianism had been rooted out of the Roman Empire in the time of Justinian, it flourished “in the East,” especially in Persia and the countries adjoining it, where the churches, since their foundation, had been following the Syrian ritual, discipline, and doctrine, and where a strong party, among them the Patriarch of Seleucia or Babylon, and his suffragan the Metropolitan of Persia, with their large following, revered Nestorius as a martyr, and faithfully and formally accepted his teachings at the Synod of Seleucia in 448 A.D. His doctrines seem to have spread as far east as China, so that, in 551, Nestorian monks who had long resided in that country are said to have brought the eggs of the silkworm to Constantinople. Cosmos, surnamed Indicopleustes, the Indian traveller, who, in 522 A.D., visited Male, “the country where the pepper grows,” has referred to the existence of a fully organised church in Malabar, with the Bishops consecrated in Persia. His reference, while it traces the origin of the Indian church to the earlier centuries, also testifies to the fact that, at the time of his visit, the church was Nestorian in its creed “from the circumstance of its dependence upon the Primate of Persia, who then unquestionably held the Nestorian doctrines.”

The next heresy was that of Eutyches, a zealous adherent of Cyril in opposition to Nestorius at the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. But Eutyches, in opposing the doctrine of Nestorius, went beyond Cyril and [422]others, and affirmed that, after the union of the two natures, the human and the divine, Christ had only one nature the divine, His humanity being absorbed in His divinity. After several years of controversy, the question was finally decided at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, when it was declared, in opposition to the doctrine of Eutyches, that the two natures were united in Christ, but “without any alteration, absorption, or confusion”; or, in other words, in the person of Christ there were two natures, the human and the divine, each perfect in itself, but there was only one person. Eutyches was excommunicated, and died in exile. Those who would not subscribe to the doctrines declared at Chalcedon were condemned as heretics; they then seceded, and afterwards gathered themselves around different centres, which were Syria, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, Cyprus and Palestine, Armenia, Egypt, and Abyssinia. The Armenians embraced the Eutychian theory of divinity being the sole nature in Christ, the humanity being absorbed, while the Egyptians and Abyssinians held in the monophysite doctrine of the divinity and humanity being one compound nature in Christ. The West Syrians, or natives of Syria proper, to whom the Syrians of this coast trace their origin, adopted, after having renounced the doctrines of Nestorius, the Eutychian tenet. Through the influence of Severus, Patriarch of Antioch, they gradually became Monophysites. The Monophysite sect was for a time suppressed by the Emperors, but in the sixth century there took place the great Jacobite revival of the monophysite doctrine under James Bardæus, better known as Jacobus Zanzalus, who united the various divisions, into which the Monophysites had separated themselves, into one church, which at the present day exists under the name of the Jacobite [423]church. The head of the Jacobite church claims the rank and prerogative of the Patriarch of Antioch—a title claimed by no less than three church dignitaries. Leaving it to subtle theologians to settle the disputes, we may briefly define the position of the Jacobites in Malabar in respect of the above controversies. While they accept the qualifying epithets pronounced by the decree passed at the Council of Chalcedon in regard to the union of the two natures in Christ, they object to the use of the word two in referring to the same. So far they are practically at one with the Armenians, for they also condemn the Eutychian doctrine; and a Jacobite candidate for holy orders in the Syrian church has, among other things, to take an oath denouncing Eutyches and his teachers.

We have digressed a little in order to show briefly the position of the Malabar church in its relation to Eastern Patriarchs in the early, mediæval, and modern times. To resume the thread of our story, from about the middle of the fourth century until the arrival of the Portuguese, the Christians of Malabar in their spiritual distress generally applied for Bishops indiscriminately to one of the Eastern Patriarchs, who were either Nestorian or Jacobite; for, as observed by Sir W. W. Hunter, “for nearly a thousand years from the 5th to the 15th century, the Jacobite sect dwelt in the middle of the Nestorians in the Central Asia,” so that, in response to the requests from Malabar, both Nestorian and Jacobite Bishops appear to have visited Malabar occasionally, and the natives seem to have indiscriminately followed the teachings of both. We may here observe that the simple folk of Malabar, imbued but with the primitive form of Christianity, were neither conversant with nor ever troubled themselves [424]about the subtle disputations and doctrinal differences that divided their co-religionists in Europe and Asia Minor, and were, therefore, not in a position to distinguish between Nestorian or any other form of Christianity. Persia also having subsequently neglected the outlying Indian church, the Christians of Malabar seem to have sent their applications to the Patriarch of Babylon, but, as both prelates then followed the Nestorian creed, there was little or no change in the rituals and dogmas of the church. Dr. Day79 refers to the arrival of a Jacobite Bishop in India in 696 A.D. About the year 823 A.D., two Nestorian Bishops, Mar Sapor and Mar Aprot, appear to have arrived in Malabar under the command of the Nestorian Patriarch of Babylon. They are said to have interviewed the native rulers, travelled through the country, built churches, and looked after the religious affairs of the Syrians.

We know but little of the history of the Malabar Church for nearly six centuries prior to the arrival of the Portuguese in India. We have, however, the story of the pilgrimage of the Bishop of Sherborne to the shrine of St. Thomas in India about 883 A.D., in the reign of Alfred the Great; and the reference made to the prevalence of Nestorianism among the St. Thomas’ Christians of Malabar by Marco Polo, the Venetian traveller.

The Christian community seem to have been in the zenith of their glory and prosperity between the 9th and 14th centuries, as, according to their tradition, they were then permitted to have a king of their own, with Villiarvattam near Udayamperūr (Diamper) as his capital. According to another version, the king of [425]Villiarvattam was a convert to Christianity. The dynasty seems to have become extinct about the 14th century, and it is said that, on the arrival of the Portuguese, the crown and sceptre of the last Christian king were presented to Vasco da Gama in 1502. We have already referred to the high position occupied by the Christians under the early kings, as is seen from the rare privileges granted to them, most probably in return for military services rendered by them. The king seems to have enjoyed, among other things, the right of punishing offences committed by the Christian community, who practically followed his lead. A more reasonable view of the story of a Christian king appears to be that a Christian chief of Udayamperūr enjoyed a sort of socio-territorial jurisdiction over his followers, which, in later times, seems to have been so magnified as to invest him with territorial sovereignty. We see, in the copper-plate charters of the Jews, that their chief was also invested with some such powers.

Mention is made of two Latin Missions in the 14th century, with Quilon as head-quarters, but their labours were ineffectual, and their triumphs but short-lived. Towards the end of the 15th, and throughout the whole of the 16th century, the Nestorian Patriarch of Mesopotamia seems to have exercised some authority over the Malabar Christians, as is borne out by the occasional references to the arrival of Nestorian Bishops to preside over the churches.

Until the arrival of the Portuguese, the Malabar church was following unmolested, in its ritual, practice and communion, a creed of the Syro-Chaldæan church of the East. When they set out on their voyages, conquest and conversion were no less dear to the heart of Portuguese than enterprise and commerce. Though, in the [426]first moments, the Syrians, in their neglected spiritual condition, were gratified at the advent of their co-religionists, the Romanist Portuguese, and the Portuguese in their turn expected the most beneficial results from an alliance with their Christian brethren on this coast, “the conformity of the Syrians to the faith and practice of the 5th century soon disappointed the prejudices of the Papist apologists. It was the first care of the Portuguese to intercept all correspondence with the Eastern Patriarchs, and several of their Bishops expired in the prisons of their Holy Office.” The Franciscan and Dominican Friars, and the Jesuit Fathers, worked vigorously to win the Malabar Christians over to the Roman Communion. Towards the beginning of the last quarter of the 16th century, the Jesuits built a church at Vaippacotta near Cranganūr, and founded a college for the education of Christian youths. In 1584, a seminary was established for the purpose of instructing the Syrians in theology, and teaching them the Latin, Portuguese and Syriac languages. The dignitaries who presided over the churches, however, refused to ordain the students trained in the seminary. This, and other causes of quarrel between the Jesuits and the native clergy, culminated in an open rupture, which was proclaimed by Archdeacon George in a Synod at Angamāli. When Alexes de Menezes, Archbishop of Goa, heard of this, he himself undertook a visitation of the Syrian churches. The bold and energetic Menezes carried all before him. Nor is his success to be wondered at. He was invested with the spiritual authority of the Pope, and armed with the terrors of the Inquisition. He was encouraged in his efforts by the Portuguese King, whose Governors on this coast ably backed him up. Though the ruling chiefs at first discountenanced the exercise of [427]coercive measures over their subjects, they were soon won over by the stratagems of the subtle Archbishop. Thus supported, he commenced his visitation of the churches, and reduced them in A.D. 1599 by the decrees of the Synod of Diamper (Udayamperūr), a village about ten miles to the south-east of the town of Cochin. The decrees passed by the Synod were reluctantly subscribed to by Archdeacon George and a large number of Kathanars, as the native priests are called; and this practically converted the Malabar Church into a branch of the Roman Church. Literature sustained a very great loss at the hands of Menezes, “for this blind and enthusiastic inquisitor destroyed, like a second Omar, all the books written in the Syrian or Chaldæan language, which could be collected, not only at the Synod of Diamper, but especially during his subsequent circuit; for, as soon as he had entered into a Syrian Church, he ordered all their books and records to be laid before him, which, a few indifferent ones excepted, he committed to the flames, so that at present neither books nor manuscripts are any more to be found amongst the St. Thomé Christians.”80

Immediately after the Synod of Diamper, a Jesuit Father, Franciscus Roz, a Spaniard by birth, was appointed Bishop of Angamāli by Pope Clement VIII. The title was soon after changed to that of Archbishop of Cranganūr. By this time, the rule of the Jesuits had become so intolerable to the Syrians that they resolved to have a Bishop from the East, and applied to Babylon, Antioch, Alexandria, and other ecclesiastical head-quarters for a Bishop, as if the ecclesiastical heads who presided over these places professed the same creed. [428]The request of the Malabar Christians for a Bishop was readily responded to from Antioch, and Ahattala, otherwise known as Mar Ignatius, was forthwith sent. Authorities, however, differ on this point, for, according to some, this Ahattala was a Nestorian, or a protégé of the Patriarch of the Copts. Whatever Ahattala’s religious creed might have been, the Syrians appear to have believed that he was sent by the Jacobite Patriarch of Antioch. The Portuguese, however, intercepted him, and took him prisoner. The story goes that he was drowned in the Cochin harbour, or condemned to the flames of the Inquisition at Goa in 1653. This cruel deed so infuriated the Syrians that thousands of them met in solemn conclave at the Coonen Cross at Mattāncheri in Cochin, and, with one voice, renounced their allegiance to the Church of Rome. This incident marks an important epoch in the history of the Malabar Church, for, with the defection at the Coonen Cross, the Malabar Christians split themselves up into two distinct parties, the Romo-Syrians who adhered to the Church of Rome, and the Jacobite Syrians, who, severing their connection with it, placed themselves under the spiritual supremacy of the Patriarch of Antioch. The following passage explains the exact position of the two parties that came into existence then, as also the origin of the names since applied to them. “The Pazheia Kūttukar, or old church, owed its foundation to Archbishop Menezes and the Synod of Diamper in 1599, and its reconciliation, after revolt, to the Carmelite Bishop, Joseph of St. Mary, in 1656. It retains in its services the Syrian language, and in part the Syrian ritual. But it acknowledges the supremacy of the Pope and his Vicars Apostolic. Its members are now known as Catholics of the Syrian rite, to distinguish them from the converts made direct from [429]heathenism to the Latin Church by the Roman missionaries. The other section of the Syrian Christians of Malabar is called the Puttan Kūttukar, or new church. It adheres to the Jacobite tenets introduced by its first Jacobite Bishop, Mar Gregory, in 1665.”81 We have at this time, and ever after, to deal with a third party, that came into existence after the advent of the Portuguese. These are the Catholics of the Latin rite, and consist almost exclusively of the large number of converts gained by the Portuguese from amongst the different castes of the Hindus. To avoid confusion, we shall follow the fortunes of each sect separately.

When the Portuguese first came to India, the Indian trade was chiefly in the hands of the Moors, who had no particular liking for the Hindus or Christians, and the arrival of the Portuguese was therefore welcome alike to the Hindus and Christians, who eagerly sought their assistance. The Portuguese likewise accepted their offers of friendship very gladly, as an alliance, especially with the former, gave them splendid opportunities for advancing their religious mission, while, from a friendly intercourse with the latter, they expected not only to further their religious interests, but also their commercial prosperity. In the work of conversion they were successful, more especially among the lower orders, the Illuvans, Mukkuvans, Pulayans, etc. The labours of Miguel Vaz, afterwards Vicar-General of Goa, and of Father Vincent, in this direction were continued with admirable success by St. Francis Xavier.

We have seen how the strict and rigid discipline of the Jesuit Archbishops, their pride and exclusiveness, and the capture and murder of Ahattala brought about [430]the outburst at the Coonen Cross. Seeing that the Jesuits had failed, Pope Alexander VII had recourse to the Carmelite Fathers, who were specially instructed to do their best to remove the schism, and to bring about a reconciliation; but, because the Portuguese claimed absolute possession of the Indian Missions, and as the Pope had despatched the Carmelite Fathers without the approval of the King of Portugal, the first batch of these missionaries could not reach the destined field of their labours. Another body of Carmelites, who had taken a different route, however, succeeded in reaching Malabar in 1656, and they met Archdeacon Thomas who had succeeded Archdeacon George. While expressing their willingness to submit to Rome, the Syrians declined to place themselves under Archbishop Garcia, S.J., who had succeeded Archbishop Roz, S.J. The Syrians insisted on their being given a non-Jesuit Bishop, and, in 1659, Father Joseph was appointed Vicar Apostolic of the “Sierra of Malabar” without the knowledge of the King of Portugal. He came out to India in 1661, and worked vigorously for two years in reconciling the Syrian Christians to the Church of Rome. But he was not allowed to continue his work unmolested, because, when the Dutch, who were competing with the Portuguese for supremacy in the Eastern seas, took the port of Cochin in 1663, Bishop Joseph was ordered to leave the coast forthwith. When he left Cochin, he consecrated Chandy Parambil, otherwise known as Alexander de Campo.

By their learning, and their skill in adapting themselves to circumstances, the Carmelite Fathers had continued to secure the good-will of the Dutch, and, returning to Cochin, assisted Alexander de Campo in his work. Father Mathew, one of their number, was allowed to build a church at Chatiath near Ernakulam. [431]Another church was built at Varapuzha (Verapoly) on land given rent-free by the Rāja of Cochin. Since this time, Varapuzha, now in Travancore, has continued to be the residence of a Vicar Apostolic.

The history of a quarter of a century subsequent to this is uneventful, except for the little quarrels between the Carmelite Fathers and the native clergy. In 1700, however, the Archbishop of Goa declined to consecrate a Carmelite Father nominated by the Pope to the Vicariate Apostolic. But Father Anjelus, the Vicar Apostolic elect, got himself consecrated by one Mar Simon, who was supposed to be in communion with Rome. The Dutch Government having declined admission to Archbishop Ribeiro, S.J., the nominee of the Portuguese King to their dominions, Anjelus was invested with jurisdiction over Cochin and Cranganūr. Thereupon, the Jesuit Fathers sought shelter in Travancore, and in the territories of the Zamorin. With the capture of Cranganūr by the Dutch, which struck the death-blow to Portuguese supremacy in the East, the last vestige of the church, seminary and college founded by the Jesuits disappeared. As the Dutch hated the Jesuits as bigoted Papists and uncompromising schismatics, several of the Jesuit Fathers, who were appointed Archbishops of Cranganūr, never set foot within their diocese, and such of them as accepted the responsibility confined themselves to the territories of the Rāja of Travancore. It was only after the establishment of British supremacy that the Jesuit Fathers were able to re-enter the scene of their early labours. An almost unbroken line of Carmelite Fathers appointed by the Pope filled the Vicariate till 1875, though the Archbishop of Goa and the Bishop of Cochin now and then declined to consecrate the nominee, and thus made [432]feeble attempts on behalf of their Faithful King to recover their lost position.

Salvador, S.J., Archbishop of Cranganūr, died in 1777. Five years after this, the King of Portugal appointed Joseph Cariatil and Thomas Paramakal, two native Christians, who had been educated at the Propaganda College at Rome, as Archbishop and Vicar-General, respectively, of the diocese of Cranganūr.

The native clergy at the time were mostly ignorant, and the discipline amongst them was rather lax. The Propaganda attempted reforms in this direction, which led to a rupture between the Latin and the native clergy. The Carmelite Fathers, like the Jesuits, had grown overbearing and haughty, and an attempt at innovation made by the Pope through them became altogether distasteful to the natives. Serious charges against the Carmelites were, therefore, formally laid before the Pope and the Rāja of Travancore by the Syrians. They also insisted that Thomas should be consecrated Bishop. At this time, the Dutch were all-powerful at the courts of native rulers, and, though the Carmelite missionaries who had ingratiated themselves into the good graces of the Dutch tried their best to thwart the Syrians in their endeavours, Thomas was permitted to be consecrated Bishop, and the Syrians were allowed the enjoyment of certain rare privileges. It is remarkable that, at this time and even in much earlier times, the disputes between the foreign and the native clergy, or between the various factions following the lead of the native clergy, were often decided by the Hindu kings, and the Christians accepted and abided by the decisions of their temporal heads.

In 1838, Pope Gregory XVI issued a Bull abolishing the Sees of Cranganūr and Cochin, and transferring the [433]jurisdiction to the Vicar Apostolic of Varapuzha. But the King of Portugal questioned the right of the Pope, and this led to serious disputes. The abolition of the smaller seminaries by Archbishop Bernardin of Varapuzha, and his refusal to ordain candidates for Holy Orders trained in these seminaries by the Malpans or teacher-priests, caused much discontent among the Syrian Christians, and, in 1856, a large section of the Syrians applied to the Catholic Chaldæan Patriarch of Babylon for a Chaldæan Bishop. This was readily responded to by the Patriarch, who, though under the Pope, thought that he had a prescriptive right to supremacy over the Malabar Christians. Bishop Roccos was sent out to Malabar in 1861, and though, owing to the charm of novelty, a large section of the Christians at once joined him, a strong minority questioned his authority, and referred the matter to the Pope. Bishop Roccos was recalled, and the Patriarch was warned by the Pope against further interference.

Subsequently, the Patriarch, again acting on the notion that he had independent jurisdiction over the Chaldæan Syrian church of Malabar, sent out Bishop Mellus to Cochin. The arrival of this Bishop in 1874 created a distinct split among the Christians of Trichūr, one faction acknowledging the supremacy of the Pope, and the other following the lead of Bishop Mellus. This open rupture had involved the two factions in a costly litigation. The adherents of Bishop Mellus contend that their church, ever since its foundation in 1810 or 1812, has followed the practice, ritual, and communion of the Chaldæan church of Babylon, without having ever been in communion with Rome. The matter is sub judice. They are now known by the name of Chaldæan Syrians. The Pope, in the meanwhile, excommunicated [434]Bishop Mellus, but he continued to exercise spiritual authority over his adherents independently of Rome. In 1887 the Patriarch having made peace with the Pope, Bishop Mellus left India, and submitted to Rome in 1889. On the departure of Bishop Mellus, the Chaldæan Syrians chose Anthony Kathanar, otherwise known as Mar Abdeso, as their Archbishop. He is said to have been a Rome Syrian priest under the Archbishop of Varapuzha. It is also said that he visited Syria and Palestine, and received ordination from the anti-Roman Patriarch of Babylon. Before his death in 1900, he ordained Mar Augustine, who, under the title of Chorepiscopus, had assisted him in the government of the Chaldæan church, and he now presides over the Chaldæan Syrian churches in the State.

In 1868, Bishop Marcellinus was appointed Coadjutor to the Vicar Apostolic of Varapuzha, and entrusted with the spiritual concerns of the Romo-Syrians. On his death in 1892, the Romo-Syrians were placed under the care of two European Vicars Apostolic. We have seen how the Jesuits had made themselves odious to the native Christians, and how reluctantly the latter had submitted to their rigid discipline. We have seen, too, how the Carmelites who replaced them, in spite of their worldly wisdom and conciliatory policy, had their own occasional quarrels and disputes with the native clergy and their congregations. From the time of the revolt at the Coonen Cross, and ever afterwards, the Christians had longed for Bishops of their own nationality, and made repeated requests for the same. For some reason or other, compliance with these requisitions was deferred for years. Experience showed that the direct rule of foreign Bishops had failed to secure the unanimous sympathy and hearty co-operation of the people. The [435]Pope was, however, convinced of the spiritual adherence of the native clergy and congregation to Rome. In these circumstances, it was thought advisable to give the native clergy a fair trial in the matter of local supremacy. Bishops Medlycott and Lavigne, S.J., who were the Vicars Apostolic of Trichūr and Kottayam, were therefore withdrawn, and, in 1896, three native Syrian priests, Father John Menacheri, Father Aloysius Pareparambil, and Father Mathew Mackil, were consecrated by the Papal Delegate as the Vicars Apostolic of Trichūr, Ernākulam, and Chenganacheri.

The monopoly of the Indian missions claimed by the Portuguese, and the frequent disputes which disturbed the peace of the Malabar church, were ended in 1886 by the Concordat entered into between Pope Leo XIII and the King of Portugal. The Archbishop of Goa was by this recognised as the Patriarch of the East Indies with the Bishop of Cochin as a suffragan, whose diocese in the Cochin State is confined to the seaboard tāluk of Cochin. The rest of the Latin Catholics of this State, except a small section in the Chittūr tāluk under the Bishop of Coimbatore, are under the Archbishop of Varapuzha.

Since the revolt of the Syrians at the Coonen Cross in 1653, the Jacobite Syrians have been governed by native Bishops consecrated by Bishops sent by the Patriarch of Antioch, or at least always received and recognised as such. In exigent circumstances, the native Bishops themselves, before their death, consecrated their successors by the imposition of hands. Immediately after the defection, they chose Archdeacon Thomas as their spiritual leader. He was thus the first Metran or native Bishop, having been formally ordained after twelve years of independent rule by Mar Gregory from Antioch, with whose name the revival of Jacobitism in [436]Malabar is associated. The Metran assumed the title of Mar Thomas I. He belonged to the family that traced its descent from the Pakalomattom family, held in high respect and great veneration as one of the Brāhman families, the members of which are supposed to have been converted and ordained as priests by the apostle himself. Members of the same family continued to hold the Metranship till about the year 1815, when the family is supposed to have become extinct. This hereditary succession is supposed by some to be a relic of the Nestorian practice. It may, however, be explained in another way. The earliest converts were high-caste Hindus, amongst whom an Anandravan (brother or nephew) succeeded to the family estates and titles in pursuance of the joint family system as current in Malabar. The succession of a brother or a nephew might, therefore, be quite as much a relic of the Hindu custom. The Metrans possessed properties. They were, therefore, interested in securing the succession of their Anandravans, so that their properties might not pass to a different family. Mar Thomas I was succeeded by his brother Mar Thomas II, on whose death his nephew became Metran under the title of Mar Thomas III. He held office only for ten days. Mar Thomas IV, who succeeded him, presided over the church till 1728. Thomas III and IV are said to have been consecrated by Bishop John, a scholar of great repute, who, with one Bishop Basil, came from Antioch in 1685. During the régime of Mar Thomas IV, and of his nephew Thomas V, Mar Gabriel, a Nestorian Bishop, appeared on the scene in 1708. He seems to have been a man without any definite creed, as he proclaimed himself a Nestorian, a Jacobite, or a Romanist, according as one or the other best suited his interests. He had his own friends and [437]admirers among the Syrians, with whose support he ruled over a few churches in the north till 1731. The consecration of Mar Thomas V by Mar Thomas IV was felt to be invalid, and, to remedy the defect, the assistance of the Dutch was sought; but, being disappointed, the Christians had recourse to a Jewish merchant named Ezekiel, who undertook to convey their message to the Patriarch of Antioch. He brought from Bassorah one Mar Ivanius, who was a man of fiery temper. He interfered with the images in the churches. This led to quarrels with the Metran, and he had forthwith to quit the State. Through the Dutch authorities at Cochin, a fresh requisition was sent to the Patriarch of Antioch, who sent out three Bishops named Basil, John, and Gregory. Their arrival caused fresh troubles, owing to the difficulty of paying the large sum claimed by them as passage money. In 1761, Mar Thomas V, supposed to have died in 1765, consecrated his nephew Mar Thomas VI. About this time, Gregory consecrated one Kurilos, the leader of a faction that resisted the rule of Thomas VI. The disputes and quarrels which followed were ended with the flight of Kurilos, who founded the See of Anjoor in the north of Cochin and became the first Bishop of Tholiyur. Through the kind intercession of the Maharāja of Travancore, Thomas VI underwent formal consecration at the hands of the Bishops from Antioch, and took the title of Dionysius I, known also as Dionysius the Great. In 1775, the great Carmelite father Paoli visited Mar Dionysius, and tried to persuade him to submit to Rome. It is said that he agreed to the proposal, on condition of his being recognised as Metropolitan of all the Syrians in Malabar, but nothing came of it. A few years after this, the struggle for [438]supremacy between the Dutch and the English had ended in the triumph of the latter, who evinced a good deal of interest in the Syrian Christians, and, in 1805, the Madras Government deputed Dr. Kerr to study the history of the Malabar Church. In 1809, Dr. Buchanan visited Mar Dionysius, and broached the question of a union of the Syrian Church with the Church of England. The proposal, however, did not find favour with the Metropolitan, or his congregation. Mar Dionysius died in 1808. Before his death, he had consecrated Thomas Kathanar as Thomas VIII. He died in 1816. His successor, Thomas IX, was weak and old, and he was displaced by Ittoop Ramban, known as Pulikōt Dionysius or Dionysius II. He enjoyed the confidence and good-will of Colonel Munro, the British Resident, through whose good offices a seminary had been built at Kottayam in 1813 for the education of Syrian youths. He died in 1818. Philixenos, who had succeeded Kurilos as Bishop of Tholiyur, now consecrated Punnathara Dionysius, or Dionysius III.

We have now to refer to an important incident in the history of the Jacobite Syrians. Through the influence of the British Resident, and in the hope of effecting the union proposed by Dr. Buchanan, the Church Mission Society commenced their labours in 1816. The English Missionaries began their work under favourable circumstances, and the most cordial relations existed between the Syrians and the missionaries for some years, so much so that the latter frequently visited the Syrian churches, and even preached sermons. On the death of Dionysius III in 1825, or as some say 1827, Cheppat Dionysius consecrated by Mar Philixenos again, succeeded as Metropolitan under the title of Dionysius IV. During his régime, there grew up among the Syrians a party, [439]who suspected that the missionaries were using their influence with the Metropolitan, and secretly endeavouring to bring the Syrians under the Protestant Church. The conservative party of Syrians stoutly opposed the movement. They petitioned the Patriarch of Antioch, who at once sent out a Bishop named Athanasius. On arrival in 1825, a large number of Syrians flocked to him. He even went to the length of threatening Mar Dionysius with excommunication. But the Protestant missionaries and the British Resident came to the rescue of the Metropolitan, and exercised their influence with the ruler of Travancore, who forthwith deported Athanasius. The deportation of Athanasius strengthened the position of the missionaries. The British Resident, and through his influence the native ruler, often rendered them the most unqualified support. The missionaries who superintended the education of the Syrian students in the seminary, having begun to teach them doctrines contrary to those of the Jacobite Church, the cordiality and friendship that had existed between the missionaries and the Metropolitan gradually gave place to distrust and suspicion. The party that clung to the time-honoured traditions and practices of their church soon fanned the flame of discord, and snapped asunder the ties of friendship that had bound the Metropolitan to the missionaries. Bishop Wilson of Calcutta proceeded to Travancore to see if a reconciliation could be effected. But his attempts in this direction proved fruitless, because the Syrians could not accept his proposal to adopt important changes affecting their spiritual and temporal concerns, such as doing away with prayers for the dead, the revision of their liturgy, the management of church funds, etc., and the Syrians finally parted company with the missionaries in 1838. [440]Soon after this, disputes arose in regard to the funds and endowments of the seminary, but they were soon settled by arbitration in 1840, and the properties were divided between the Metropolitan and the missionaries. The missionaries had friends among the Jacobites, some of whom became members of the Church of England.

Mar Dionysius.

Mar Dionysius.

The Syrians were rather distressed, because they thought that the consecration of their Metropolitan by Mar Philixenos was insufficient. They therefore memorialised the Patriarch of Antioch. There grew up also a party hostile to the Metropolitan, and they sent to Antioch a Syrian Christian named Mathew. His arrival at Antioch was most opportune. The Patriarch was looking out for a proper man. Mathew was therefore welcomed, and treated very kindly. He was consecrated as Metropolitan by the Patriarch himself in 1842, and sent out with the necessary credentials. He arrived in 1843 as Metropolitan of Malankara under the title of Mathew Anastatius, and advanced his claims to the headship of the Church, but Mar Dionysius resisted him, and sent an appeal to the Patriarch of Antioch, in which he denounced Mathew as one who had enlisted his sympathies with the Protestant missionaries. Upon this, the Patriarch sent out one Cyril with power to expel Mathew, and, with the connivance of Mar Dionysius, Cyril cut the gordian knot by appointing himself as Metropolitan of Malabar. Disputes arising, a committee was appointed to examine the claims of Athanasius and Cyril. The credentials of Cyril were proved to be forged, whereupon Athanasius was duly installed in his office in 1862, and Cyril fled the country. Cyril having failed, the Patriarch sent another Bishop named Stephanos, who contributed his mite towards widening the breach, and, on the British Resident having [441]ordered the Bishop to quit the country, an appeal was preferred to the Court of Directors, who insisted on a policy of non-interference. This bestirred Mar Cyril, who reappeared on the scene, and fanned the flame of discord. Being ordered to leave Mar Athanasius unmolested, he and his friends sent one Joseph to Antioch, who returned with fresh credentials in 1866, assumed the title of Dionysius V, claimed the office of Metropolitan, and applied to the Travancore Government for assistance. Adopting a policy of non-interference, the darbar referred him to the Law Courts, in case he could not come to terms with Mar Athanasius. The Patriarch of Antioch himself visited Cochin and Travancore in 1874, and presided over a Synod which met at Mulanthurutha in the Cochin State. Resolutions affirming the supremacy of Antioch, recognising Mar Dionysius as the accredited Metropolitan of Malabar, and condemning Mathew Athanasius as a schismatic, were passed by the members of the assembly, and the Patriarch returned to Mardin in 1876. This, however, did not mend matters, and the two parties launched themselves into a protracted law suit in 1879, which ended in favour of Mar Dionysius in 1889. Mar Athanasius, who had taken up an independent position, died in 1875, and his cousin, whom he had consecrated, succeeded as Metropolitan under the title of Mar Thomas Anastatius. He died in 1893, and Titus Mar Thoma, consecrated likewise by his predecessor, presides over the Reformed Party of Jacobite Syrians, who prefer to be called St. Thomas’ Syrians. We have thus traced the history of the Jacobite Syrians from 1653, and shown how they separated themselves into two parties, now represented by the Jacobite Syrians under Mar Dionysius, owing allegiance to the Patriarch of Antioch, and [442]the Reformed Syrians or St. Thomas’ Syrians owning Titus Mar Thoma as their supreme spiritual head. Thus, while the Jacobite Syrians have accepted and acknowledged the ecclesiastical supremacy of the Patriarch of Antioch, the St. Thomas’ Syrians, maintaining that the Jacobite creed was introduced into Malabar only in the seventeenth century after a section of the church had shaken off the Roman supremacy, uphold the ecclesiastical autonomy of the church, whereby the supreme control of the spiritual and temporal affairs of the church is declared to be in the hands of the Metropolitan of Malabar. The St. Thomas’ Syrians hold that the consecration of a Bishop by, or with the sanction of the Patriarch of Babylon, Alexandria or Antioch, gives no more validity or sanctity to that office than consecration by the Metropolitan of Malabar, the supreme head of the church in Malabar, inasmuch as this church is as ancient and apostolic as any other, being founded by the apostle St. Thomas; while the Jacobites hold that the consecration of a Bishop is not valid, unless it be done with the sanction of their Patriarch. The St. Thomas’ Syrians have, however, no objection to receiving consecration from the head of any other episcopal apostolic church, but they consider that such consecrations do not in any way subject their church to the supremacy of that prelate or church.

Both the Latins and the Romo-Syrians use the liturgy of the Church of Rome, the former using the Latin, and the latter the Syriac language. It is believed by some that the Christians of St. Thomas formerly used the liturgy of St. Adæus, East Syrian, Edessa, but that it was almost completely assimilated to the Roman liturgy by Portuguese Jesuits at the Synod of Diamper [443]in 1599. The Chaldæan Syrians also use the Roman liturgy, with the following points of difference in practice, communicated to me by their present ecclesiastical head:—(1) They perform marriage ceremonies on Sundays, instead of week days as the Romo-Syrians do. (2) While reading the Gospel, their priests turn to the congregation, whereas the Romo-Syrian priests turn to the altar. (3) Their priests bless the congregation in the middle of the mass, a practice not in vogue among the Romo-Syrians. (4) They use two kinds of consecrated oil in baptism, which does away with the necessity of confirmation. The Romo-Syrians, on the other hand, use only one kind of oil, and hence they have to be subsequently confirmed by one of their Bishops.

The liturgy used by the Jacobite Syrians and the St. Thomas’ Syrians is the same, viz., that of St. James. The St. Thomas’ Syrians have, however, made some changes by deleting certain passages from it. [A recent writer observes that “a service which I attended at the quaint old Syrian church at Kōttayam, which glories in the possession of one of the three ancient stone crosses in India, closely resembled, as far as my memory serves me, one which I attended many years ago at Antioch, except that the non-sacramental portions of the mass were read in Malayālam instead of in Arabic, the sacramental words alone being in both cases spoken in the ancient Syriac tongue.] In regard to doctrine and practice, the following points may be noted:—(1) While the Jacobite Syrians look upon the Holy Bible as the main authority in matters of doctrine, practice, and ritual, they do not allow the Bible to be interpreted except with the help of the traditions of the church, the writings of the early Fathers, and the decrees of the Holy Synods [444]of the undivided Christian period; but the St. Thomas’ Syrians believe that the Holy Bible is unique and supreme in such matters. (2) While the Jacobites have faith in the efficacy and necessity of prayers, charities, etc., for the benefit of departed souls, of the invocation of the Virgin Mary and the Saints in divine worship, of pilgrimages, and of confessing sins to, and obtaining absolution from priests, the St. Thomas’ Syrians regard these and similar practices as unscriptural, tending not to the edification of believers, but to the drawing away of the minds of believers from the vital and real spiritual truths of the Christian Revelation. (3) While the Jacobites administer the Lord’s Supper to the laity and the non-celebrating clergy in the form of consecrated bread dipped in consecrated wine, and regard it a sin to administer the elements separately after having united them in token of Christ’s resurrection, the St. Thomas’ Syrians admit the laity to both the elements after the act of uniting them. (4) While the Jacobite Syrians allow marriage ceremonies on Sundays, on the plea that, being of the nature of a sacrament, they ought to be celebrated on Sundays, and that Christ himself had taken part in a marriage festival on the Sabbath day, the St. Thomas’ Syrians prohibit such celebrations on Sundays as unscriptural, the Sabbath being set apart for rest and religious exercises. (5) While the Jacobites believe that the mass is as much a memorial of Christ’s oblation on the cross as it is an unbloody sacrifice offered for the remission of the sins of the living and of the faithful dead, the St. Thomas’ Syrians observe it as a commemoration of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. (6) The Jacobites venerate the cross and the relics of Saints, while the St. Thomas’ Syrians regard the practice as idolatry. (7) The Jacobites perform mass for the dead, while the [445]St. Thomas’ Syrians regard it as unscriptural. (8) With the Jacobites, remarriage, marriage of widows, and marriage after admission to full priesthood, reduce a priest to the status of a layman, and one united in any such marriage is not permitted to perform priestly functions, whereas priests of the St. Thomas’ Syrian party are allowed to contract such marriages without forfeiture of their priestly rights. (9) The Jacobite Syrians believe in the efficacy of infant baptism, and acknowledge baptismal regeneration, while the St. Thomas’ Syrians, who also baptise infants, deny the doctrine of regeneration in baptism, and regard the ceremony as a mere external sign of admission to church communion. (10) The Jacobites observe special fasts, and abstain from certain articles of food during such fasts, while the St. Thomas’ Syrians regard the practice as superstitious.

The Jacobite Syrian priests are not paid any fixed salary, but are supported by voluntary contributions in the shape of fees for baptism, marriages, funerals, etc. The Romo-Syrian and Latin priests are paid fixed salaries, besides the above perquisites. The Syrian priests are called Kathanars, while the Latin priests go by the name of Pādres. For the Jacobite Syrians, the morone or holy oil required for baptism, consecration of churches, ordination of priests, etc., has to be obtained from Antioch. The churches under Rome get it from Rome. Unlike the Catholic clergy, the Jacobite clergy, except their Metropolitan and the Rambans, are allowed to marry.

The generality of Syrians of the present day trace their descent from the higher orders of the Hindu society, and the observance by many of them of certain customs prevalent more or less among high-caste Hindus bears out this fact. It is no doubt very curious that, in spite [446]of their having been Christians for centuries together, they still retain the traditions of their Hindu forefathers. It may sound very strange, but it is none the less true, that caste prejudices which influence their Hindu brethren in all social and domestic relations obtain to some extent among some sections of the Syrian Christians, but, with the spread of a better knowledge of the teachings of Christ, the progress of English education, and contact with European Christians, caste observances are gradually dying out. The following relics of old customs may, however, be noted:—

(1) Some Christians make offerings to Hindu temples with as much reverence as they do in their own churches.

Some non-Brāhman Hindus likewise make offerings to Christian churches.

(2) Some sections of Syrians have faith in horoscopes, and get them cast for new-born babies, just as Hindus do.

(3) On the wedding day, the bridegroom ties round the neck of the bride a tāli (small ornament made of gold). This custom is prevalent among all classes of Native Christians. On the death of their husbands, some even remove the tāli to indicate widowhood, as is the custom among the Brāhmans.

(4) When a person dies, his or her children, if any, and near relatives, observe pula (death pollution) for a period ranging from ten to fifteen days. The observance imposes abstinence from animal food. The pula ends with a religious ceremony in the church, with feasting friends and relatives in the house, and feeding the poor, according to one’s means. Srādha, or anniversary ceremony for the soul of the dead, is performed with services in the church and feasts in the house. [447]

(5) In rural parts especially, the Ōnam festival of the Malayāli Hindus is celebrated with great éclat, with feasting, making presents of cloths to children and relatives, out-door and in-door games, etc.

(6) Vishu, or new-year’s day, is likewise a gala day, when presents of small coins are made to children, relatives, and the poor.

(7) The ceremony of first feeding a child with rice (annaprāsanam or chōrūnu of the Hindus) is celebrated generally in the sixth month after birth. Parents often make vows to have the ceremony done in a particular church, as Hindu parents take their children to particular temples in fulfilment of special vows.

(8) The Syrians do not admit within their premises low-castes, e.g., Pulayans, Paraiyans, etc., even after the conversion of the latter to Christianity. They enforce even distance pollution, though not quite to the same extent as Malayāli Hindus do. Iluvans are allowed admission to their houses, but are not allowed to cook their meals. In some parts, they are not even allowed to enter the houses of Syrians.

There are no intermarriages between Syrians of the various denominations and Latin Catholics. Under very exceptional circumstances, a Romo-Syrian contracts a marriage with one of Latin rite, and vice versâ, but this entails many difficulties and disabilities on the issues. Among the Latins themselves, there are, again, no intermarriages between the communities of the seven hundred, the five hundred, and the three hundred. The difference of cult and creed has led to the prohibition of marriages between the Romo-Syrians and Jacobite Syrians. The Jacobite Syrians properly so called, St. Thomas’ Syrians, and the Syro-Protestants do, however, intermarry. The Southerners and Northerners do not [448]intermarry; any conjugal ties effected between them subject the former to some kind of social excommunication. This exclusiveness, as we have already said, is claimed on the score of their descent from the early colonists from Syria. The Syrians in general, and the Jacobite Syrians in particular, are greater stricklers to customs than other classes of Native Christians.

We have already referred to the privileges granted to the Syrians by the Hindu kings in early times. They not only occupied a very high position in the social scale, but also enjoyed at different times the rare distinction of forming a section of the body-guard of the king and the militia of the country. Education has of late made great progress among them. The public service has now been thrown open to them, so that those who have had the benefit of higher education now hold some of the important posts in the State. In enterprises of all kinds, they are considerably ahead of their Hindu and Musalman brethren, so that we see them take very kindly to commerce, manufacture, agriculture, etc.; in fact, in every walk of life, they are making their mark by their industry and enterprise.82

The following additional information is contained in the Gazetteer of Malabar. “The men are to be distinguished by the small cross worn round the neck, and the [449]women by their tāli, which has 21 beads on it, set in the form of a cross. Their churches are ugly rectangular buildings with flat or arched wooden roofs and whitewashed facades. They have no spire, but the chancel, which is at the east end, is usually somewhat higher than the nave. Between the chancel and the body of the church is a curtain, which is drawn while the priest consecrates the elements at the mass. Right and left of the chancel are two rooms, the vestry and the sacristy. At the west end is a gallery, in which the unmarried priests sometimes live. Most churches contain three altars, one in the chancel, and the other two at its western ends on each side. There are no images in Jacobite or Reformed churches, but there are sometimes pictures. Crucifixes are placed on the altars, and in other parts of the churches. The clergy and men of influence are buried in the nave just outside the chancel. The Syrian Bishops are called Metrāns. They are celibates, and live on the contributions of their churches. They wear purple robes and black silk cowls figured with golden crosses, a big gold cross round the neck, and a ring on the fourth finger of the right hand. Bishops are nominated by their predecessors from the body of Rambans, who are men selected by priests and elders in advance to fill the Episcopate. Metrāns are buried in their robes in a sitting posture. Their priests are called Cattanars. They should strictly pass through the seven offices of ostiary, reader, exorcist, acolyte, sub-deacon and deacon before becoming priests; but the first three offices practically no longer exist. The priestly office is often hereditary, descending by the marumakkattāyam system (inheritance in the female line). Jacobite and St. Thomas’ Syrian priests are paid by contributions from their parishioners, fees at weddings, and the like. Their [450]ordinary dress consists of white trousers, and a kind of long white shirt with short sleeves and a flap hanging down behind, supposed to be in the form of a cross. Over this the Jacobites now wear a black coat. Priests are allowed to marry, except in the Romo-Syrian community; but, among the Jacobites, a priest may not marry after he has once been ordained, nor may he re-marry or marry a widow. Malpans, or teachers, are the heads of the religious colleges, where priests are trained. Jacobites also now shave clean, while other Syrian priests wear the tonsure. Every church has not more than four Kaikkars or churchwardens, who are elected from the body of parishioners. They are the trustees of the church property, and, with the priest, constitute a disciplinary body, which exercises considerable powers in religious and social matters over the members of the congregation. The Romo-Syrians follow the doctrines and ritual of the Roman Catholics, but they use a Syriac version83 of the Latin liturgy. Jacobites and St. Thomas’ Christians use the Syriac liturgy of St. James. Few even of the priests understand Syriac, and, in the Reformed Syrian churches, a Malayālam translation of the Syriac liturgy has now been generally adopted. The Jacobites say masses for the dead, but do not believe in purgatory; they invoke the Virgin Mary, venerate the cross and relics of saints; they recognise only three sacraments, baptism, marriage (which they always celebrate on Sundays) and the mass; they prescribe auricular confession before mass, and at the mass administer the bread dipped in the wine; they recite the Eastern form of the Nicene Creed, and discourage laymen from studying the Bible. The Reformed Syrians differ from them in [451]most of these points. The Jacobites observe the ordinary festivals of the church; the day of the patron saint of each church is celebrated with special pomp, and on the offerings made on that day the priests largely depend for their income. They keep Lent, which they call the fifty days’ fast, strictly from the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, abjuring all meat, fish, ghee, and toddy; and on Maundy Thursday they eat a special kind of unsweetened cake marked with a cross, in the centre of which the karnavan of the family should drive a nail, and drink a kanji of rice and cocoanut-milk (the meal is said to symbolize the Passover and the Last Supper, and the nail is supposed to be driven into the eye of Judas Iscariot).

Syrian Christian bride.

Syrian Christian bride.

“Amongst the Syrian Christians, as amongst the Māppillas, there are many survivals of Hindu customs and superstitions, and caste prejudices have by no means disappeared amongst the various sections of the community. Southerners and Northerners will not intermarry, and families who trace their descent from Brāhmans and Nāyars will, in many cases, not admit lower classes to their houses, much less allow them to cook for them or touch them. Most of the Syrians observe the Ōnam and Vishnu festivals; the astrologer is frequently consulted to cast horoscopes and tell omens; while it is a common custom for persons suffering from diseases to seek a cure by buying silver or tin images of the diseased limb, which their priest has blessed. Similar survivals are to be noticed in their social ceremonies. A Pulikudi ceremony, similar to that of the Hindus, was commonly performed till recently, though it has now fallen into disuse. Immediately on the birth of a child, three drops of honey in which gold has been rubbed are poured into its mouth by its father, and the mother is considered to be under pollution till the tenth day. Baptism takes place on the [452]fourteenth day amongst the Southern Jacobites, and amongst other divisions on the fifty-sixth day. A rice-giving ceremony similar to the Hindu Chōrunnu is still sometimes performed in the fifth or sixth month, when the child is presented by the mother with a gold cross, if a boy, or a small gold coin or talūvam if a girl, to be worn round the neck.

“Among the Jacobites early marriage was the rule until comparatively recently, boys being married at ten or twelve years of age, and girls at six or seven. Now the more usual age for marriage is sixteen in the case of boys, and twelve in the case of girls. Weddings take place on Sundays, and, amongst the Northerners, may be celebrated in either the bride’s or the bridegroom’s parish church. On the two Sundays before the wedding, the banns have to be called in the two churches, and the marriage agreements concluded in the presence of the parish priests (Ottu kalyānam). The dowry, which is an essential feature of Syrian weddings, is usually paid on the Sunday before the wedding. It should consist of an odd number of rupees, and should be tied up in a cloth. On the Thursday before the wedding day, the house is decorated with rice flour, and on the Saturday the marriage pandal (booth), is built. The first ceremonial takes place on Saturday night when bride and bridegroom both bathe, and the latter is shaved. Next morning both bride and bridegroom attend the ordinary mass, the bridegroom being careful to enter the church before the bride. Now-a-days both are often dressed more or less in European fashion, and it is essential that the bride should wear as many jewels as she has got, or can borrow for the occasion. Before leaving his house, the bridegroom is blessed by his guru to whom he gives a present (dakshina) of [453]clothes and money. He is accompanied by a bestman, usually his sister’s husband, who brings the tāli. After mass, a tithe (pathuvaram) of the bride’s dowry is paid to the church as the marriage fee, a further fee to the priest (kaikasturi), and a fee called kaimuttupanam for the bishop. The marriage service is then read, and, at its conclusion, the bridegroom ties the tāli round the bride’s neck with threads taken from her veil, making a special kind of knot, while the priest holds the tāli in front. The priest and the bridegroom then put a veil (mantravadi) over the bride’s head. The tāli should not be removed so long as the girl is married, and should be buried with her. The veil should also be kept for her funeral. The bridal party returns home in state, special umbrellas being held over the bride and bridegroom. At the gate they are met by the bride’s sister carrying a lighted lamp, and she washes the bridegroom’s feet. The married couple then go to the pandal, where they are ceremonially fed with sweets and plantains by the priest and by representatives of their two families, to the accompaniment of the women’s kurava (cry), and in the presence of the guests, who are seated in order of precedence, the chief persons having seats of honour covered with black rugs and white cloths (vellayum karimbadavum), traditionally a regal honour. The bride and bridegroom are then led into the house by the bestman and bride’s uncle, the bride being careful to enter it right foot first; and the guests are feasted in order of rank. It is a peculiar custom of the Syrian Christians at these feasts to double up the ends of the plantain leaves which serve them as plates, and is supposed to be symbolical of the royal privilege of eating off a double plate. Until the following Wednesday, the bestman sleeps with the bridegroom in the bridal chamber, the bride occupying [454]another room. On Wednesday evening comes the ceremony called nālām kuli, or fourth day bath. The bridegroom and the bestman, who are in the bridal chamber, lock the door; the bride’s mother knocks and begs the bridegroom to come out, which he at last does after she has sung a song (vathilturapattu) celebrating the attractions and virtues of the bride. The bridegroom and bride then bathe, dress in new clothes, and go to the pandal, where they perform paradakshinams round a lighted lamp, and the bridegroom gives cloths to the bride’s uncle, mother, and grand-parents. The married couple are then escorted to the bridal chamber, which has in the interval been cleaned and prepared for them. The next morning they have to go to the bridegroom’s or bride’s house as the case may be, and there eat together and go through a ceremonial similar to that which they performed on the wedding day in the other house. This concludes the marriage ceremonies, but on Sunday the bridegroom and bride should attend mass together in the bride’s parish church if they were married in the bridegroom’s, and vice versâ. Amongst the Southern Jacobites, the ceremonies are very similar, but the dowry is not paid till the marriage day, or till the girl’s first confinement. Half the pathuvaram is paid to the priest instead of a kaikasturi, and the bridegroom puts a ring on the bride’s finger during the marriage service. After the church service, the couple go to the bridegroom’s house, where they are fed ceremonially by the bride’s mother, and the subsequent feast is at the expense of the bride’s people. On Monday morning, the bridegroom is ceremonially fed by the bride’s mother in the bridal chamber (manavālan chōru), and in the evening there is a ceremony called manavālan tazhukkal, in which the bride and bridegroom are embraced in [455]turn by their respective parents and relations, after which there is a feast with singing of hymns. Before the couple leave for the bride’s house on Thursday, there is a big feast, called kudivirunnu, given by the bridegroom to the bride’s people, followed by a ceremony called vilakku toduga, in which men and women sing hymns and dance round a lighted lamp, which they touch at intervals. Amongst the Romo-Syrians and the Reformed sect, the marriage ceremonies have less trace of Hindu ritual; they do not celebrate weddings on Sundays, and have no nālām kuli ceremony, but a tāli is usually tied in addition to the giving of a ring.

“At funerals (except amongst the Reformed sect) it is usual for each of the dead man’s connections to bring a cloth to serve as a shroud. Before the body is lowered into the grave, holy oil is poured into the eyes, nostrils and ears. The mourners are under pollution, and fast till the day of the second funeral or pula kuli (purification), and till then masses should be said daily for the dead. The pula kuli is celebrated usually on the 11th day, but may be deferred till the 15th, 17th or 21st, or sometimes to the 41st. The mourners are incensed, while hymns are sung and prayers offered. Each then gives a contribution of money to the priest, and receives in return a pinch of cummin. A feast is then given to the neighbours and the poor. On the 40th day there is another feast, at which meat is eaten by the mourners for the first time. A requiem mass should be said each month on the day of death for twelve months, and on the first anniversary the mourning concludes with a feast.”

To the foregoing account of the Syrian Christians, a few stray notes may be added. [456]

It is recorded by Sir M. E. Grant Duff, formerly Governor of Madras,84 that “the interesting body known as the Syrian Christians or Christians of St. Thomas is divided into several groups much opposed to each other. In an excellent address presented to me they said that this was the occasion which, for the first time after ages of separation, witnessed the spectacle of all the different sects of their community, following divergent articles of faith, sinking for once their religious differences to do honour to their friend.”

Some years ago, the wife of a District Judge of Calicut asked the pupils of a school how long they had been Christians. “We were,” came the crushing reply, “Christians when you English were worshipping Druids, and stained with woad.” More recently, the master at a college in Madras called on all Native Christians in his class to stand up. Noticing that one boy remained seated, he called on him for an explanation, when the youth explained that he was a Syrian Christian, and not a Native Christian.

It is noted by the Rev. W. J. Richards that “at the very time that our King John was pulling out Jews’ teeth to make them surrender their treasures, Hindu princes were protecting Jewish and Christian subjects, whose ancestors had been honoured by Royal grants for hundreds of years.”

The Southerners say that they can be distinguished from the Northerners by the red tinge of their hair. A man with reddish moustache, and a dark-skinned baby with brilliant red hair, whose father had red whiskers, were produced before me in support of the claim. [457]

As examples of Old and New Testament names occurring, in a changed form, among Syrian Christians, the following may be cited:—

  • Abraham, Abragam.
  • Joshua, Kōshi.
  • Peter, Puthrōs, Ittiyerah, Itte.
  • Paul, Powlos.
  • John, Yohan, Sonanan, Chōna.
  • Titus, Tetōs.
  • Matthew, Mathai, Māthen.
  • Philip, Philippos, Papi, Eippe, Eapen.
  • Thomas, Thōma, Thommi, Thommen.
  • Joseph, Ouseph.
  • Jacob, Yacob, Chāko
  • Alexander, Chandi.
  • Samuel, Chamuel.
  • Mary, Maria, Mariam.
  • Sarah, Sāra.
  • Susannah, Sosā.
  • Rebecca, Rābka, Rācā.
  • Elizabeth, Elspeth, Elia, Elachā.
  • Rachael, Rāchi, Rāghael, Chācha.

Syrian Christians take the name of their father, their own name, and that of their residence. Whence arise such names as Edazayhikkal Mathoo Philippos, Kunnampuram Thommen Chāndi, and Chandakadayil Joseph Chommi.

I have seen some Syrian Christian men tattooed with a cross on the upper arm, and a cross and their initials on the forearm.

In conclusion, I may, for the sake of comparison, place on record the averages of the more important physical measurements of Northerner and Southerner Syrian Christians and Nāyars. [458]

30 Syrian Christians. 40 Nāyars.
Northerner. Southerner.
Stature 165.3 164.8 165.2
Cephalic length 18.7 18.9 18.7
Cephalic breadth 14.3 14.1 13.9
Cephalic index 76.3 74.8 74.4
Nasal height 4.9 4.9 4.9
Nasal breadth 3.5 3.5 3.5
Nasal index 72.3 71.6 71.1

It may be noted that, in his ‘Letters from Malabar,’ Canter Visscher, in the middle of the eighteenth century, writes that the St. Thomas’ Christians “keep very strict genealogical records, and they will neither marry nor in any way intermingle with the new low-caste Christians, being themselves mostly Castade Naiross, that is, nobility of the Nāyar caste, in token of which they generally carry a sword in the hand, as a mark of dignity.”

It is stated by E. Petersen and F. V. Luschan85 that “probably a single people originally occupied the greater part of Asia Minor. They are still represented as a compact group by the Armenians. The type resembles the Dissentis type of His and Rütimeyer; the head extremely short and high, stature moderate, skin dark, eyes dark, and hair dark and smooth. It extends through the S. half of Asia Minor, N.E. to the Caucasus, and E. to the Upper Euphrates. The Tachtadschy people, a hill people living without serious mixture with other peoples, give measurements closely like the Armenians.” [The cephalic index of Armenians is given by E. Chantre86 as 85–86.] [459]

In the following table, the averages of some of the more important measurements of the Syrian Christians and Tachtadschy people are recorded:—

Stature, cm. Cephalic length, cm. Cephalic breadth, cm. Cephalic, index.
Syrian Christians, Northerner 165.3 18.7 14.3 76.3
Syrian Christians, Southerner 164.8 18.9 14.1 74.8
Tachtadschy 168. 17.9 15.3 85.7

1 Birds of India.

2 Manual of the North Arcot district.

3 Twelfth Tour of Lord Connemara, 1890.

4 See Thurston. Monograph on the Cotton Industry of the Madras Presidency, 1897.

5 East and West, VI, 70, 1907.

6 Madras Mail, 1904.

7 Manual of the Chingleput district.

8 Manual of the South Canara district.

9 Ind. Ant., IV, 1875.

10 Malayalam and English Dictionary.

11 Sthanam = a station, rank or dignity. Moore: Malabar Law and Custom.

12 Original Suit No. 31, 1887, Court of Calicut. Appeal No. 202, 1888, High Court of Madras.

13 Madras Census Report, 1891.

14 See Malabar Quart. Review, II, 4, 1903.

15 Historical Sketches of the South of India: Mysore.

16 Moore: Malabar Law and Custom, 1905.

17 Manu.

18 Mysore Census Report, 1891, 1901.

19 Yule and Burnell. Hobson-Jobson.

20 Rev. H. Jensen. Classified Collection of Tamil Proverbs, 1897.

21 Ind. Ant., VIII, 1879.

22 South Indian Inscriptions, II, Part III, 1895.

23 Linguistic Survey of India, IV, 1906.

24 Journ. Anthrop. Soc., Bombay, 1, 1901.

25 The Rev. W. Taylor, Vol. III, 1862.

26 Occasional Essays on Native South Indian Life, 1901.

27 Gazetteer of the Vizagapatam district.

28 See Bishop Whitehead. Madras Museum Bull., Vol. 3, 136, 1907.

29 Gazetteer of Vizagapatam district.

30 Madras Museum Bulletin, V, 3, 1907.

31 Lectures on Tinnevelly Missions, 1857.

32 Viaggi, 1614–26.

33 A New Account of East India and Persia, 1698.

34 Manual of the North Arcot district.

35 Gazetteer of the South Arcot district.

36 Principles of Sociology.

37 Manual of the South Canara district.

38 Administration Report, 1899.

39 Christianity in Travancore, 1901.

40 Madras Museum Bull., III, 3, 1901.

41 Rice. Mysore Inscriptions, p. 33.

42 Madras Census Report, 1901.

43 Madras Mail, 1901.

44 Ind. Ant., IV, 1875.

45 Christianity and Caste, 1893.

46 Journ. Roy. As. Soc., XVI.

47 Madras Mail, 1907.

48 L. Rice, Mysore and Coorg Gazetteer.

49 Yule and Burnell. Hobson-Jobson.

50 Journey through Mysore, Canara, and Malabar, 1807.

51 Madras Mail, 1907.

52 Mysore Census Report, 1891.

53 Mysore Census Report, 1891.

54 Manual of the South Canara district.

55 Madras Census Report, 1881.

56 A Native. Pen-and-ink Sketches of Native Life in Southern India, 1880.

57 Yule and Burnell. Hobson-Jobson.

58 A Snātaka is a Brāhman, who has just finished his student’s career.

59 Tribes and Castes of Bengal.

60 A very complicated recipe is given in the Manual of the Vizagapatam district, 1869, p. 264.

61 Rev. J. Cain, Ind. Ant., VIII, 1879.

62 Ind. Ant. II, 1873.

63 Ind. Ant. VIII, 1879.

64 Manual of the North Arcot district.

65 Ind. Ant. VIII, 1879.

66 Wigram, Malabar Law and Customs.

67 Rev. W. J. Richards. The Indian Christians of Saint Thomas.

68 A New Account of the East Indies, 1744.

69 Vide G. Milne Rae. The Syrian Church in India, 1892.

70 Encyclopædia Britannica, 9th ed.

71 See Hough, the History of Christianity in India from the commencement of the Christian Era.

72 Indian Empire, 3rd edition.

73 IV. 290–97, 1896–7.

74 Madras Journ. Lit. and Science, XIII, part, 118. Dr. Gundert’s translation is reprinted in Mr. Logan’s Malabar, Vol. II, Appendix XII.

75 Madras Journ. Lit. and Science, XXI, 35–38.

76 Ind. Ant., III, 1874.

77 See article on the Jews of Cochin.

78 Loc. cit.

79 Land of the Perumauls: Cochin past and present, 1863.

80 F. Wrede. Asiatic Researches, VII, 181. Account of the St. Thomé Christians.

81 Hunter. Indian Empire.

82 In the preparation of the above sketch, the following authorities, among others, were consulted: Sir W. W. Hunter, Indian Empire and History of British India; J. Hough, History of Christianity in India; T. Whitehouse, Lingerings of Light in a Dark Land; G. T. Mackenzie, Christianity in Travancore; F. Day, Land of the Perumauls; T. Logan, Manual of Malabar; Christian College Magazine, Madras, Vol. VI; and Judgments of the Civil Courts of Travancore and Cochin. To the bibliography relating to the Syrian Christians may also be added L. M. Agur, Church History of Travancore, the Rev. G. Milne Rae, the Syrian Church in India, and the Rev. W. J. Richards, the Indian Christians of St. Thomas. The Malabar Quarterly Review, VI, 1 and 2, 1907, may also be consulted.

83 The Syriac is not a modern Syriac dialect, but is very like the ancient Aramaic.

84 Notes from a Diary, 1881–86.

85 Recherches Anthropologiques dans le Caucase, IV, 1887.

86 Reisen in Lykien, Melyas, und Kibyratis, II, 1889.

Madras: Printed by The Superintendent, Government Press.


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