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Superintendent, Madras Government Museum ; Correspondant Etranger, 

Soci^t6 d'Anthropologie de Paris; Socio Corrispondante, 

Societa Romana di Anthropologia. 



of the Madras Government Museum. 








( NOV 17 1966 I 



^TT^v^ABBERA.— The Kabberas are a caste of 
i (§^ Canarese fishermen and cultivators. "They 
are," Mr. W. Francis writes,* " grouped into 
two divisions, the Gaurimakkalu or sons of Gauri 
(Parvati) and the Gangimakkalu or sons of Ganga, 
the goddess of water, and they do not intermarry, 
but will dine together. Each has its bedagus (ex- 
ogamous septs), and these seem to be different in 
the two sub-divisions. The Gaurimakkalu are scarce 
in Bellary, and belong chiefly to Mysore. They seem 
to be higher in the social scale (as such things are 
measured among Hindus) than the Gangimakkalu, 
as they employ Brahmans as priests instead of men of 
their own caste, burn their dead instead of burying them, 
hold annual ceremonies in memory of them, and prohibit 
the remarriage of widows. The Gangimakkalu were 
apparently engaged originally in all the pursuits con- 
nected with water, such as propelling boats, catching 
fish, and so forth, and they are especially numerous in 
villages along the banks of the Tungabhadra." Coracles 
are still used on various South Indian rivers, e.o-., the 
Cauvery, Bhavani, and Tungabhadra. Tavernier, on 

* Gazetteer of the Bellarv district. 


his way to Golgonda, wrote that " the boats employed 
in crossing the river are like large baskets, covered out- 
side with ox-hides, at the bottom of which some faggots 
are placed, upon which carpets are spread to put the 
baggage and goods upon, for fear they should get wet." 
Bishop Whitehead has recently * placed on record his 
experiences of coracles as a means of conveyance. 
" We embarked," he writes, " in a boat (at Hampi on the 
Tungabhadra) which exactly corresponds to my idea of 
the coracle of the ancient Britons. It consists of a very 
large, round wicker basket, about eight or nine feet in 
diameter, covered over with leather, and propelled by 
paddles. As a rule, it spins round and round, but the 
boatmen can keep it fairly straight, when exhorted to 
do so, as they were on this occasion. Some straw had 
been placed in the bottom of the coracle, and we were 
also allowed the luxury of chairs to sit upon, but it is 
safer to sit on the straw, as a chair in a coracle is 
generally in a state of unstable equilibrium. I remem- 
ber once crossing a river in the Trichinopoly district in 
a coracle, to take a confirmation at a village on the 
other side. It was thought more suitable to the dignity 
of the occasion that I should sit upon a chair in the 
middle of the coracle, and I weakly consented to do so. 
All the villagers were assembled to meet us on the 
opposite bank ; four policemen were drawn up as a 
guard of honour, and a brass band, brought from 
Tanjore, stood ready in the background. As we came 
to the shore, the villagers salaamed, the guard of honour 
saluted, the band struck up a tune faintly resembling 
' See the conquering hero comes,' the coracle bumped 
heavily against the shelving bank, my chair tipped up, 

* Madras Diocesan Magazine, June, 1906. 


and I was deposited, heels up, on my back in the straw ! 
. . . . We were rowed for about two miles down 
the stream. The current was very swift, and there were 
rapids at frequent intervals. Darkness overtook us, 
and it was not altogether a pleasant sensation being 
whirled swiftly over the rapids in our frail-looking boat, 
with ugly rocks jutting out of the stream on either side. 
But the boatmen seemed to know the river perfectly, 
and were extraordinarily expert in steering the coracle 
with their paddles." The arrival in 1847 of the American 
Missionary, John Eddy Chandler at Madura, when the 
Vaigai river was in flood, has been described as follows.* 
" Coolies swimming the river brought bread and notes 
from the brethren and sisters in the city. At last, after 
three days of waiting, the new Missionaries safely 
reached the mission premises in Madura. Messrs. 
Rendall and Cherry managed to cross to them, and they 
all recrossed into the city by a large basket boat, eight 
or ten feet in diameter, with a bamboo pole tied across 
the top for them to hold on to. The outside was 
covered with leather. Ropes attached to all sides were 
held by a dozen coolies as they dragged it across, 
walking and swimming." In recent years, a coracle 
has been kept at the traveller's bungalow at Paikara on 
the Nilgiris for the use of anglers in the Paikara river. 

" The Kabberas," Mr. Francis continues, " are at 
present engaged in a number of callings, and, perhaps 
in consequence, several occupational sub-divisions have 
arisen, the members of which are more often known by 
their occupational title than as either Gangimakkalu or 
Kabberas. The Barikes, for example, are a class of 
village servants who keep the village chavadi (caste 

* John S. Chandler, a Madura Missionary, Boston. 
III-i B 


meeting house) clean, look after the wants of officials 
halting in the village, and do other similar duties. The 
Jalakaras are washers of gold-dust ; the Madderu are 
dyers, who use the root of the maddi {Morinda citri- 
folia) tree ; and apparently (the point is one which I 
have not had time to clear up) the Besthas, who have 
often been treated as a separate caste, are really a 
sub-division of the Gangimakkalu, who were originally 
palanquin-bearers, but, now that these vehicles have 
gone out of fashion, are employed in divers other ways. 
The betrothal is formally evidenced by the partaking of 
betel-leaf in the girl's house, in the manner followed by 
the Kurubas. As among the Madigas, the marriage is 
not consummated for three months after its celebration. 
The caste follow the Kuruba ceremony of calling back 
the dead." Consummation is, as among the Kurubas 
and Madigas, postponed for three months, as it is con- 
sidered unlucky to have three heads of a family in a 
household during the first year of marriage. By the 
delay, the birth of a child should take place only in the 
second year, so that, during the first year, there will be 
only two heads, husband and wife. In the ceremony of 
calling back the dead, referred to by Mr. Francis, a pot 
of water is worshipped in the house on the eleventh day 
after a funeral, and taken next morning to some lonely 
place, where it is emptied. 

For the following note on the Kabberas of the Bel- 
lary district, I am indebted to Mr. Kothandram Naidu. 
The caste is sometimes called Ambiga. Breaches 
of caste rules and customs are enquired into by a 
panchayat presided over by a headman called Katte- 
maniavaru. If the fine inflicted on the offender is a 
heavy one, half goes to the headman, and half to the 
caste people, who spend it in drink. In serious cases, 


the offender has to be purified by shaving and drinking 
holy water (thirtam) given to him by the headman. 
Both infant and adult marriage are practiced. Sexual 
license previous to marriage is tolerated, but, before 
that takes place, the contracting couple have to pay a 
fine to the headman. At the marriage ceremony, the 
tali is tied on the bride's neck by a Brahman. Married 
women carry painted new pots with lights, bathe the 
bride and bridegroom, etc. Widows are remarried with 
a ceremonial called Udiki, which is performed at night 
in a temple by widows, one of whom ties the tali. No 
married men or women may be present, and music is 
not allowed. Divorce is said to be not permitted. In 
religion the Kabberas are Vaishnavites, and worship 
various village deities. The dead are buried. Cloths 
and food are offered to ancestors during the Dasara 
festival, excepting those who have died a violent death. 
Some unmarried girls are dedicated to the goddess 
Hulugamma as Basavis (dedicated prostitutes). 

Concerning an agricultural ceremony in the Bellary 
district, in which the Kabberas take part, I gather that 
" on the first full-moon day in the month of Bhadrapada 
(September), the agricultural population celebrate a 
feast called Jokumara, to appease the rain-god. The 
Barikas (women), who are a sub-division of the Kabbera 
caste belonging to the Gaurimakkalu section, go round 
the town or village in which they live, with a basket on 
their heads containing margosa {Me Ha Azadirachtd) 
leaves, flowers of various kinds, and holy ashes. They 
beg alms, especially of the cultivating classes (Kapus), 
and, in return for the alms bestowed (usually grain and 
food), they give some of the margosa leaves, flowers, and 
ashes. The Kapus, or cultivators, take the margosa 
leaves, flowers, and ashes to their fields, prepare cholum 


[Andropog07i Sorghum) kanji, mix these with it. and 
sprinkle this kanji, or gruel, all round their fields. After 
this, the Kapu proceeds to the potter's kiln in the village 
or town, fetches ashes from it, and makes a figure of a 
human being. This figure is placed prominently in 
some convenient spot in the field, and is called Joku- 
mara, or rain-god. It is supposed to have the power of 
bringing down the rain in proper time. The figure is 
sometimes small, and sometimes big." * 

Kabbili.— Kabbili or Kabliga, recorded as a sub- 
division of Bestha, is probably a variant of Kabbera. 

Kadacchil (knife-grinder or cutler). — A sub-division 
of Kollan. 

Kadaiyan.— The name, Kadaiyan, meaning last or 
lowest, occurs as a sub-division of the Pallans. The 
Kadaiyans are described f as being lime (shell) gather- 
ers and burners of Ramesvaram and the neighbourhood, 
from whose ranks the pearl-divers are in part recruited 
at the present day. On the coasts of Madura and 
Tinnevelly they are mainly Christians, and are said, like 
the Paravas, to have been converted through the work of 
St. Francis Xavier.J 

Kadaperi.— A sub-division of Kannadiyan. 

Kadavala (pots). — An exogamous sept of Padma 

Kadi (blade of grass). — A g5tra of Kurni. 

Kadir.-^The Kadirs or Kadans inhabit the Anai- 
malai or elephant hills, and the great mountain range 
which extends thence southward into Travancore, A 
night journey by rail to Coimbatore, and forty miles by 

* Madras Mail, November, 1905. 

+ J. Hornell. Report on the Indian Pearl Fisheries of the Gulf of Manaar, 

4 Madras Diocesan Mag., 1906, 


road at the mercy of a typically obstinate jutka pony, 
which landed me in a dense patch of prickly-pear 
{Optmiia Dillenii), brought me to the foot of the hills 
at Sethumadai, where I came under the kindly hospitality 
of Mr. H. A. Gass, Conservator of Forests, to whom 
I am indebted for much information on forest and tribal 
matters gathered during our camp life at Mount Stuart, 
situated 2,350 feet above sea-level, in the midst of a 
dense bamboo jungle, and playfully named after Sir 
Mountstuart Grant Duff, who visited the spot during 
his quinquennium as Governor of Madras. 

At Sethumadai I made the acquaintance of my first 
Kadir, not dressed, as I hoped, in a primitive garb of 
leaves, but wearing a coloured turban and the cast-off 
red coat of a British soldier, who had come down the 
hill to carry up my camp bath, which acted as an excel- 
lent umbrella, to protect him from the driving monsoon 
showers. Very glad was I of his services in helping to 
convey my clothed, and consequently helpless self, across 
the mountain torrents, swollen by a recent burst of 
monsoon rain. 

The Kadir forest guards, of whom there are sev- 
eral in Government service, looked, except for their 
noses, very unjungle-like by contrast with their fellow- 
tribesmen, being smartly dressed in regulation Norfolk 
jacket, knickerbockers, pattis (leggings), buttons, and 

On arrival at the forest depot, with its comfortable 
bungalows and Kadir settlement, I was told by a native 
servant that his master was away, as an "elephant done 
tumble in a fit." My memory went back to the occasion 
many years ago, when, as a medical student, I took part 
in the autopsy of an elephant, which died in convulsions 
at the London Zoological Gardens. It transpired later 


in the day that a young and grown-up cow elephant had 
tumbled, not in a fit, but into a pit made with hands for 
the express purpose of catching elephants. The story 
has a philological significance, and illustrates the difficulty 
which the Tamulian experiences in dealing with the letter 
F. An incident is still cherished at Mount Stuart in 
connection with a sporting globe-trotter, who was accre- 
dited to the Conservator of Forests for the purpose of 
putting him on to "bison" (the gaur, Bos gaurus), and 
other big game. On arrival at the depot, he was in- 
formed that his host had gone to see the " ellipence." 
Incapable of translating the pigeon-English of the native 
butler, and, concluding that a financial reckoning was 
being suggested, he ordered the servant to pay the 
baggage coolies their elli-pence, and send them away. 
To a crusted Anglo-Indian it is clear that ellipence 
could only mean elephants. Sir M. E. Grant Duff 
tells * the following story of a man, who was shooting 
on the Anaimalais. In his camp was an elephant, who, 
in the middle of the night, began to eat the thatch 
of the hut, in which he was sleeping. His servant in 
alarm rushed in and awoke him, saying " Elephant, 
Sahib, must, must (mad)." The sleeper, half-waking and 
rolling over, replied " Oh, bother the elephant. Tell 
him he mustn't." 

The salient characteristics of the Kadirs may be 
briefly summed up as follows : short stature, dark skin, 
platyrhine. Men and women have the teeth chipped. 
Women wear a bamboo comb in the back-hair. Those 
whom I met spoke a Tamil patois, running up the scale 
in talking, and finishing, like a Suffolker, on a higher 
note than they commenced on. But I am told that some 

* Notes from a Diary, 1SS1-S6. 


of them speak a mixture of debased Tamil and Mala- 
yalam. I am informed by Mr. Vincent that the Kadirs 
have a peculiar word Ali, denoting apparently a fellow 
or thing, which they apply as a suffix to names, e.g., 
Karaman Ali, black fellow ; Mudi Ali, hairy fellow 
Kutti Ali, man with a knife ; Puv Ali, man with a flower. 
Among nicknames, the following occur : white mother, 
white flower, beauty, tiger, milk, virgin, love, breasts. 
The Kadirs are excellent mimics, and give a clever imi- 
tation of the mode of speech of the Muduvans, Malasars, 
and other hill tribes. 

The Kadirs afford a typical example of happiness 
without culture. Unspoiled, by education, the advancing 
wave of which has not yet engulfed them, they still retain 
many of their simple " manners and customs." Quite 
refreshing was it to hear the hearty shrieks of laughter 
of the nude curly-haired children, wholly illiterate, and 
happy in their ignorance, as they played at funerals, or 
indulged in the amusement of making mud pies, and 
scampered off to their huts on my appearance. The 
uncultured Kadir, living a hardy out-door life, and capa- 
ble of appreciating to the full the enjoyment of an 
" apathetic rest " as perfect bliss, has, I am convinced, 
in many ways, the advantage over the poor under-fed 
student with a small-paid appointment under Government 
as the narrow goal to which the laborious passing of 
examination tests leads. 

Living an isolated existence, confined within the 
thinly-populated jungle, where Nature furnishes the 
means of obtaining all the necessaries of life, the Kadir 
possesses little, if any, knowledge of cultivation, and 
objects to doing work with a mamuti, the instrument 
which serves the gardener in the triple capacity of spade, 
rake, and hoe. But armed with a keen-edged bill-hook 


he is immense. As Mr. O. H. Bensley says : * "The 
axiom that the less civilised men are, the more they are 
able to do every thing for themselves, is well illustrated 
by the hill-man, who is full of resource. Give him a 
simple bill-hook, and what wonders he will perform. 
He will build houses out of etah, so neat and comfort- 
able as to be positively luxurious. He will bridge a 
stream with canes and branches. He will make a raft 
out of bamboo, a carving knife out of etah, a comb out 
of bamboo, a fishing-line out of fibre, and fire from dry 
wood. He will find food for you where you think you 
must starve, and show you the branch which, if cut, will 
give you drink. He will set traps for beasts and birds, 
which are more effective than some of the most elabor- 
ate products of machinery." A European, overtaken 
by night in the jungle, unable to light fire by friction or 
to climb trees to gather fruits, ignorant of the edible 
roots and berries, and afraid of wild beasts, would, in 
the absence of comforts, be quite as unhappy and ill- 
at-ease as a Kadir surrounded by plenty at an official 
dinner party. 

At the forest depot the Kadir settlement consists of 
neatly constructed huts, made of bamboo deftly split 
with a bill-hook in their long axis, thatched with leaves of 
the teak tree ( Tcctona grandis) and bamboo ( Ochlandra 
travancoricd), and divided off into verandah and compart- 
ments by means of bamboo partitions. But the Kadirs 
are essentially nomad in habit,, living in small communities, 
and shifting from place to place in the jungle, whence 
they suddenly re-appear as casually as if they had only 
returned from a morning stroll instead of a long camping 
expedition. When wandering in the jungle, the Kadirs 

* Lecture delivered at Trivandrum, MS. 


1 1 KADIR 

make a rouoh lean-to shed covered over with leaves, and 
keep a small fire burning through the night, to keep off 
bears, elephants, tigers, and leopards. They are, I am 
told, fond of dogs, which they keep chiefly as a protection 
against wild beasts at night. The camp fire is lighted 
by means of a flint and the floss of the silk-cotton tree 
(Boiubax malabaricunt), over which powdered charcoal 
has been rubbed. Like the Kurumbas, the Kadirs are 
not, in a general way, afraid of elephants, but are careful 
to get out of the way of a cow with young, or a solitary 
rover, which may mean mischief. On the day following 
my descent from Mount Stuart, an Odde cooly woman 
was killed on the ghat road by a solitary tusker. Fami- 
liarity with wild beasts, and comparative immunity from 
accident, have bred contempt for them, and the Kadirs 
will go where the European, fresh to elephant land, fears 
to tread, or conjures every creak of a bamboo into the 
approach of a charging tusker. As an example of pluck 
worthy of a place in Kipling's 'Jungle-book,' I may cite 
the case of a hill-man and his wife, who, overtaken by 
night in the jungle, decided to pass it on a rock. As 
they slept, a tiger carried off the woman. Hearing her 
shrieks, the sleeping man awoke, and followed in pursuit 
in the vain hope of saving his wife. Coming on the 
beast in possession of the mangled corpse, he killed it 
at close quarters with a spear. Yet he was wholly uncon- 
scious that he had performed an act of heroism worthy 
of the bronze cross 'for valour.' 

The Kadirs carry loads strapped on the back over the 
shoulders by means of fibre, instead of on the head in the 
manner customary among coolies in the plains ; and 
women on the march may be seen carrying the cooking 
utensils on their backs, and often have a child strapped 
on the top of their household goods. The dorsal position 


of the babies, huddled up In a dirty cloth, with the ends 
slung over the shoulders and held in the hands over the 
chest, at once caught my eye, as it is contrary to the 
usual native habit of straddling the infants across the 
loins as a saddle. 

Mr. Vincent informs me that " when the planters 
first came to the hills, the Kadirs were found practically 
without clothes of any description, with very few orna- 
ments, and looking very lean and emaciated. All this, 
however, changed with the advent of the European, as 
the Kadirs then got advances in hard cash, clothes, and 
grain, to induce them to work. For a few years they 
tried to work hard, but were failures, and now I do not 
suppose that a dozen men are employed on the estates 
on the hills. They would not touch manure owing to 
caste scruples ; they could not learn to prune ; and with 
a mamoti (spade) they always promptly proceeded to 
chop their feet about in their efforts to dig pits." The 
Kadirs have never claimed, like the Todas, and do not 
possess any land on the hills. But the Government has 
declared the absolute right of the hill tribes to collect all 
the minor forest produce, and to sell it to the Government 
through the medium of a contractor, whose tender has 
been previously accepted. The contractor pays for the 
produce in coin at a fair market rate, and the Kadirs 
barter the money so obtained for articles of food with 
contractors appointed by Government to supply them 
with their requirements at a fixed rate, which will leave 
a fair, but not exorbitant margin of profit to the vendor. 
The principal articles of minor forest produce of the 
Anaimalai hills are wax, honey, cardamoms, myrabolams, 
ginger, dammer, turmeric, deer horns, elephant tusks, 
and rattans. And of these, cardamoms, wax, honey, and 
rattans are the most important. Honey and wax are 







collected at all seasons, and cardamoms from September 
to November. The total value of the minor produce 
collected, in 1897-98, in the South Coimbatore division 
(which includes the Anaimalais) was Rs. 7,886. This sum 
was exceptionally high owing to a good cardamom crop. 
An average year would yield a revenue of Rs. 4,000— 
5,000, of which the Kadirs receive approximately 50 per 
cent. They work for the Forest Department on a system 
of short advances for a daily wage of 4 annas. And, at 
the present day, the interests of the Forest Department 
and planters, who have acquired land on the Anaimalais, 
both anxious to secure hill men for labour, have come 
into mild collision. 

Some Kadirs are good trackers, and a few are good 
shikaris. A zoological friend, who had nicknamed his 
small child his " little shikari " ( = little sportsman) was 
quite upset because I, hailing from India, did not recog- 
nise the word with his misplaced accent. One Kadir, 
named Viapoori Muppan, is still held in the memory of 
Europeans, who made a good living, in days gone by, by 
shooting tuskers, and had one arm blown off by the 
bursting of a gun. He is reputed to have been a much 
married man, greatly addicted to strong drinks, and to 
have flourished on the proceeds of his tusks. At the 
present day, if a Kadir finds tusks, he must declare the 
find as treasure-trove, and hand it over to Government, 
who rewards him at the rate of Rs. 15 to Rs. 25 per 
maund of 25 lb. according to the quality. Government 
makes a good profit on the transaction, as exceptionally 
good tusks have been known to sell for Rs. 5 per lb. If 
the find is not declared, and discovered, the possessor 
thereof is punished for theft according to the Act. By an 
elastic use of the word cattle, it is, for the purposes of the 
Madras Forest Act, made to include such a heterogeneous 


zoological collection of animals as elephants, sheep, pigs, 
goats, camels, buffaloes, horses — and asses. This classi- 
fication recalls to mind the occasion on which the 
Flying-fox or Fox-bat was included in an official list of 
the insectivorous birds of the Presidency ; and, further, 
a report on the wild animals of a certain district, which 
was triumphantly headed with the "wild tattu," the 
long-suffering, but pig-headed country pony. 

I gather, from an account of the process by one who 
had considerable knowledge of the Kadirs, that "they 
will only remove the hives of bees during dark nights, 
and never in the daytime or on moonlight nights. In 
removing them from cliffs, they use a chain made of 
bamboo or rattan, fixed to a stake or a tree on the top. 
The man, going down this fragile ladder, will only do so 
while his wife, or son watches above to prevent any foul 
play. They have a superstition that they should always 
return by the way they go down, and decline to get to 
the bottom of the cliff, although the distance may be 
less, and the work of re-climbing avoided. For hives 
on trees, they tie one or more long bamboos to reach up 
to the branch required, and then climb up. They then 
crawl along the branch until the hive is reached. They 
devour the bee-bread and the bee-maggots or larvae, 
swallowing the wax as well." In a note on a shooting 
expedition in Travancore, ■'■ Mr. J. D. Rees, describing 
the collection of honey by the Kadirs of the southern 
hills, says that they " descend giddy precipices at night, 
torch in hand, to smoke out the bees, and take away 
their honey. A stout creeper is suspended over the 
abyss, and it is established law of the jungle that no 
brother shall assist in holding it. But it is more 

* Nineteenth Century, 1898. 


interesting to see them run a ladder a hundred feet up 
the perpendicular stem of a tree, than to watch them 
disappearing over a precipice. Axe in hand, the honey- 
picker makes a hole in the bark for a little peg, standing 
on which he inserts a second peg higher up, ties a long- 
cane from one to the other, and by night — for the dark- 
ness gives confidence — he will ascend the tallest trees, 
and bring down honey without any accident." I have 
been told, with how much of truth I know not, that, 
when a Kadir goes down the face of a rock or precipice 
in search of honey, he sometimes takes with him, as a 
precautionary measure, and guarantee of his safety, the 
wife of the man who is holding the ladder above. 

Often, when out on the tramp with the late Government 
Botanist, Mr. M. A. Lawson, I have heard him lament 
that it is impossible to train arboreal monkeys to collect 
specimens of the fruit and flowers of lofty forest trees, 
which are inaccessible to the ordinary man. Far superior 
to any trained Simian is the Kadir, who, by means of 
pegs or notches, climbs even the tallest masts of trees 
with an agility which recalls to memory the celebrated 
picture in " Punch," representing Darwin's ' Habit of 
climbing plants.' For the ascent of comparatively low 
trees, notches are made with a bill-hook, alternately 
right and left, at intervals of about thirty inches. To 
this method the Kadir will not have recourse in wet 
weather, as the notches are damp and slippery, and there 
is the danger of an insecure foot-hold. 

An important ethnographic fact, and one which is 
significant, is that the detailed description of tree-climbing 
by the Dyaks of Borneo, as given by Wallace,'- might 
have been written on the Anaimalai hills, and would 

Malay Archipelago. 


apply equally well in every detail to the Kadir. " They 
drove in," Wallace writes, "a peg very firmly at about 
three feet from the ground, and, bringing one of the long 
bamboos, stood it upright close to the tree, and bound 
it firmly to the two first pegs by means of a bark cord 
and small notches near the head of each peg. One 
of the Dyaks now stood on the first peg and drove in a 
third about level with his face, to which he tied the 
bamboo in the same way, and then mounted another step, 
standing on one foot, and holding by the bamboo at the 
peg immediately above him, while he drove in the next 
one. In this manner he ascended about twenty feet, 
when the upright bamboo became thin ; another was 
handed up by his companion, and this was joined on by 
tying both bamboos to three or four of the pegs. When 
this was also neeirly ended, a third was added, and shortly 
after the lowest branch of the tree was reached, along 
which the young Dyak scrambled. The ladder was 
perfectly safe, since, if any one peg were loose or faulty, 
the strain would be thrown on several others above 
and below it. I now understood the use of the line of 
bamboo pegs sticking in trees, which I had often seen." 
In their search for produce in the evergreen forests 
of the higher ranges, with their heavy rainfall, the Kadirs 
became unpleasantly familiar with leeches and blue 
bottle flies, which flourish in the moist climate. And it 
is recorded that a Kadir, who had been gored and 
wounded by a bull ' bison,' was placed in a position of 
safety while a friend ran to the village to summon help. 
He was not away for more than an hour, but, In that 
short time, flies had deposited thousands of maggots 
in the wounds, and, when the man was brought into 
camp, they had already begun burrowing into the flesh, 
and were with difficulty extracted. On another occasion, 


17 kAdir 

the eye-witness of the previous unappetising incident 
was out alone in the forest, and shot a tiger two miles 
or so from his camp. Thither he went to collect coolies 
to carry in the carcase, and was away for about two 
hours, during which the flies had, like the child in the 
story, 'not been idle,' the skin being a mass of maggots 
and totally ruined. I have it on authority that, like the 
Kotas of the Nilgiris, the Kadirs will eat the putrid and 
fly-blown flesh of carcases of wild beasts, which they 
come across in their wanderings. To a dietary which 
includes succulent roots, which they upturn with a digging 
stick, bamboo seed, sheep, fowls, rock-snakes (python), 
deer, porcupines, rats (field, not house), wild pigs, 
monkeys, etc., they do credit by displaying a hard, well- 
nourished body. The mealy portion of the seeds of the 
Cycas tree, which flourishes on the lower slopes of the 
Anaimalais, forms a considerable addition to the menu. 
In its raw state the fruit is said to be poisonous, but it is 
evidently wholesome when cut into slices, thoroughly 
soaked in running water, dried, and ground into flour 
for making cakes, or baked in hot ashes. Mr. Vincent 
writes that, " during March, April, and May, the Kadirs 
have a glorious time. They usually manage to find 
some wild sago palms, called by them koondtha panai, 
of the proper age, which they cut down close to the 
ground. They are then cut into lengths of about i J feet, 
and split lengthways. The sections are then beaten 
very hard and for a long time with mallets, and 
become separated into fibre and powder. The powder is 
thoroughly wetted, tied in cloths and well beaten with 
sticks. Every now and then, between the beatings, the 
bag of powder is dipped in water, and well strained. It 
is then all put into water, when the powder sinks, and 
the water is poured off. The residue is well boiled, 


with constant stirring, and, when it is of the consistency 
of rubber, and of a reddish brown colour, it is allowed to 
cool, and then cut in pieces to be distributed. This food 
stuff is palatable enough, but very tough." The Kadir 
is said to prefer roasting and eating the flesh of animals 
with the skin on. For catching rats, jungle-fowl, etc., 
he resorts to cunningly devised snares and traps made of 
bamboo and fibre, as a substitute for a gun. Porcupines 
are caught by setting fire to the scrub jungle round 
them as they lie asleep, and thus smoking and burning 
them to death. 

When a Kadir youth's thoughts turn towards 
matrimony, he is said to go to the village of his bride- 
elect, and give her a dowry by working there for a year. 
On the wedding day a feast of rice, sheep, fowls, 
and other luxuries is given by the parents of the 
bridegroom, to w^hich the Kadir community is invited. 
The bride and bridegroom stand beneath a pandal 
(arch) decorated with flowers, w^hich is erected outside 
the home of the bridegroom, while men and women 
dance separately to the music of drum and fife. The 
bridegroom's mother or sister ties the tali (marriage 
badge) of gold or silver round the bride's neck, and her 
father puts a turban on the head of the bridegroom. 
The contracting parties link together the little fingers 
of their right hands as a token of their union, and walk 
in procession round the pandal. Then, sitting on a reed 
mat of Kadir manufacture, they exchange betel. The 
marriage tie can be dissolved for incompatibility of 
temper, disobedience on the part of the wife, adultery, 
etc., without appeal to any higher authority than a 
council of elders, who pronounce judgment on the 
evidence. As an illustration of the manner in which 
such a council of hill-men disposes of cases, Mr. Bensley 

19 kAdir 

cites the case of a man who was made to carry forty 
basket loads of sand to the house of the person against 
whom he had offended. He points out how absolute is 
the control exercised by the council. Disobedience 
would be followed by excommunication, and this would 
mean being turned out into the jungle, to obtain a 
living in the best way one could. 

By one Kadir informant I was assured, as he 
squatted on the floor of my bungalow at "question 
time," that it is essential that a wife should be a good 
cook, in accordance with a maxim that the way to the 
heart is through the mouth. How many men in civilised 
western society, who suffer from marrying a wife wholly 
incompetent, like the first Mrs. David Copperfield, to 
conduct the housekeeping, might well be envious of 
the system of marriage as a civil contract to be sealed 
or unloosed according to the cookery results ! Polygyny 
is indulged in by the Kadirs, who agree with Benedick 
that " the world must be peopled," and hold more 
especially that the numerical strength of their own tribe 
must be maintained. The plurality of wives seems 
to be mainly with the desire for offspring, and the father- 
in-law of one of the forest-guards informed me that he 
had four wives living. The first two wives producing 
no offspring, he married a third, who bore him a solitary 
male child. Considering the result to be an insufficient 
contribution to the tribe, he married a fourth, who, more 
prolific than her colleagues, gave birth to three girls and 
a boy, with which he remained content. In the code of 
polygynous etiquette, the first wife takes precedence over 
the others, and each wife has her own cooking utensils. 

Special huts are maintained for women during 
menstruation and parturition. Mr. Vincent informs me 
that, when a girl reaches puberty, the friends of the 

III-2 B 


family gather together, and a great feast is prepared. 
All her friends and relations give her a small present of 
money, according to their means. The girl is decorated 
with the family jewelry, and made to look as smart 
as possible. For the first menstrual period, a special 
hut, called mutthu salai or ripe house, is constructed for 
the girl to live in during the period of pollution ; but at 
subsequent periods, the ordinary menstruation hut, or 
unclean house, is used. All girls are said to change 
their names when they reach puberty. For three 
months after the birth of a child, the woman is considered 
unclean. When the infant is a month old, it is named 
without any elaborate ceremonial, though the female 
friends of the family collect together. Sexual inter- 
course ceases on the establishment of pregnancy, and 
the husband indulges in promiscuity. Widows are 
not allowed to re-marry, but may live in a state of 
concubinage. Women are said to suckle their children 
till they are two or three years old, and a mother has 
been seen putting a lighted cigarette to the lips of a 
year old baby immediately after suckling it. If this is 
done with the intention of administering a sedative, it 
is less baneful than the pellet of opium administered by 
ayahs (nurses) to Anglo-Indian babies rendered fractious 
by troubles climatic, dental, and other. The Kadir men 
are said to consume large quantities of opium, which 
is sold to them illicitly. They will not allow the 
women or children to eat it, and have a belief that 
the consumption thereof by women renders them 
barren. The women chew tobacco. The men smoke 
the coarse tobacco as sold in the bazars, and showed 
a marked appreciation of Spencer's Torpedo cheroots, 
which I distributed among them for the purposes of 
bribery and conciliation. 

21 kAdir 

The religion of the Kadirs is a crude polytheism, 
and vague worship of stone images or invisible gods. 
It is, as Mr. Bensley expresses it, an ejaculatory reli- 
gion, finding vent in uttering the names of the gods and 
demons. The gods, as enumerated and described to 
me, were as follows : — 

(i) Paikutlatha, a projecting rock overhanging 
a slab of rock, on which are two stones set up on end. 
Two miles east of Mount Stuart. 

(2) Athuvisariamma, a stone enclosure, ten to 
fifteen feet square, almost level with the ground. It is 
believed that the walls were originally ten feet high, and 
that the mountain has grown up round it. Within the 
enclosure there is a representation of the god. Eight 
miles north of Mount Stuart. 

(3) Vanathavathi. Has no shrine, but is worship- 
ped anywhere as an invisible god. 

(4) lyappaswami, a stone set up beneath a teak 
tree, and worshipped as a protector against various 
forms of sickness and disease. In the act of worship- 
ping, a mark is made on the stone with ashes. Two 
miles and a half from Mount Stuart, on the ghat road to 

(5) Masanyatha, a female recumbent figure in stone 
on a masonry wall in an open plain near the village of 
Anaimalai, before which trial by ordeal is carried out. 
The goddess has a high repute for her power of detecting 
thieves or rogues. Chillies are thrown into a fire in her 
name, and the guilty person suffers from vomiting and 

According to Mr. L. K. Anantha Krishna Iyer,* the 
Kadirs are " worshippers of Kali. On the occasion of 

* Monograph. Ethnog : Survey of Cochin, No. 9, 1906, 


the offering to Kali, a number of virgins are asked to 
bathe as a preliminary to the preparation of the offering, 
which consists of rice and some vegetables cooked in 
honey, and made into a sweet pudding. The rice for 
this preparation is unhusked by these girls. The offer- 
ing is considered to be sacred, and is partaken of by all 
men, women, and children assembled." 

When Kadirs fall sick, they worship the gods by 
saluting them with their hands to the face, burning 
camphor, and offering up fruits, cocoanuts, and betel. 
Mr. Vincent tells me that they have a horror of cattle, 
and will not touch the ordure, or other products of the 
cow. Yet they believe that their gods occasionally reside 
in the body of a " bison," and have been known to do 
puja (worship) when a bull has been shot by a sportsman. 
It is noted by Mr. Anantha Krishna Iyer that wild 
elephants are held in veneration by them, but tame ones 
are believed to have lost the divine element. 

The Kadirs are said, during the Hindu Vishu festival, 
to visit the plains, and, on their way, pray to any image 
which they chance to come across. They are believers 
in witchcraft, and attribute all diseases to the miraculous 
workings thereof. They arc good exorcists, and trade 
in mantravadam or magic. Mr. Logan mentions * that 
" the family of famous trackers, whose services in the 
jungles were retained for H.R.H. the Prince of Wales' 
(now King Edward) projected sporting tour in the 
Anamalai mountains, dropped off most mysteriously, one 
by one, shortly afterwards, stricken down by an unseen 
hand, and all of them expressing beforehand their con- 
viction that they were under a certain individual's spell, 
and were doomed to certain death at an early date. They 

* Malabar Manual. 


were probably poisoned, but how it was managed remains 
a mystery, although the family was under the protection 
of a European gentleman, who would at once have 
brought to light any ostensible foul play." 

The Kadir dead are buried in a grave, or, if death 
occurs in the depths of the jungles, with a paucity of 
hands available for digging, the corpse is placed in a 
crevice between the rocks, and covered over with stones. 
The grave is dug from four to five feet deep. There is 
no special burial-ground, but some spot in the jungle, 
not far from the scene of death, is selected. A band of 
music, consisting of drum and fife, plays weird dirges 
outside the hut of the deceased, and whistles are blown 
when it is carried away therefrom. The old clothes of 
the deceased are spread under the corpse, and a new 
cloth is put on it. It is tied up in a mat, which com- 
pletely covers it, and carried to the burial-ground on a 
bamboo stretcher. As it leaves the hut, rice is thrown 
over it. The funeral ceremony is simple in the extreme. 
The corpse is laid in the grave on a mat in the recumbent 
posture, with the head towards the east, and with split 
bamboo and leaves placed all round it, so that not a 
particle of earth can touch it. No stone, or sepulchral 
monument of any kind, is set up to mark the spot. The 
Kadir believes that the dead go to heaven, which is in 
the sky, but has no views as to what sort of place it is. 
The story that the Kadirs eat their dead originated with 
Europeans, the origin of it being that no one had ever 
seen a dead Kadir, a grave, or sign of a burial-place. 
The Kadirs themselves are reticent as to their method of 
disposing of the dead, and the story, which was started 
as a joke, became more or less believed. Mr. Vincent 
tells me that a well-to-do Kadir family will perform the 
final death ceremonies eight days after death, but poorer 


folk have to wait a year or more, till they have collected 
sufficient money for the expenses thereof. At cock-crow 
on the morning of the ceremonies, rice, called polli chor, 
is cooked, and piled up on leaves in the centre of the hut 
of the deceased. Cooked rice, called tullagu chor, is then 
placed in each of the four corners of the hut, to propi- 
tiate the gods, and to serve as food for them and the spirit 
of the dead person. At a short distance from the hut, 
rice, called kanal chor, is cooked for all Kadirs who 
have died, and been buried. The relations and friends 
of the deceased commence to cry, and make lamentations, 
and proclaim his good qualities, most of which are 
fictitious. After an hour or so, they adjourn to the hut 
of the deceased, where the oldest man present invokes 
the gods, and prays to them and to the heaped up food. 
A pinch from each of the heaps is thrown into the air as 
a gift of food to the gods, and those present fall to, and 
eat heartily, being careful to partake of each of the food- 
stuffs, consisting of rice, meat, and vegetables, which 
have been prepared. 

On a certain Monday in the months of Adi and 
Avani, the Kadirs observe a festival called nombu, during 
which a feast is held, after they have bathed and 
anointed themselves with oil. It was, they say, observed 
by their ancestors, but they have no definite tradition as 
to its origin or significance. It is noted by Mr. Anantha 
Krishna Iyer that, at the Onam festival, presents in the 
shape of rice, cloths, coats, turbans, caps, ear-rings, 
tobacco, opium, salt, oil and cocoanuts are distributed 
among the Kadirs by the Forest Department. 

According to Mr. Bensley, " the Kadir has an air of 
calm dignity, which leads one to suppose that he had 
some reason for having a more exalted opinion of himself 
than that entertained for him by the outside world. A 

25 kAdir 

forest officer of a philanthropic turn had a very high 
opinion of the sturdy independence and blunt honesty of 
the Kadir, but he once came unexpectedly round a corner, 
to find two of them exploring the contents of his port- 
manteau, from which they had abstracted a pair of 
scissors, a comb, and a looking glass." " The Kadirs," 
Mr. (now Sir F. A.) Nicholson writes,* " are, as a rule, 
rather short in stature, and deep-chested, like most 
mountaineers ; and, like many true mountaineers, they 
rarely walk with a straight leg. Hence their thigh 
muscles are often abnormally developed at the expense 
of those of the calf Hence, too, in part, their dislike to 
walking long distances on level ground, though their 
objection, mentioned by Colonel Douglas Hamilton, to 
carrying loads on the plains, is deeper-rooted than that 
arising from mere physical disability. This objection is 
mainly because they are rather a timid race, and never 
feel safe out of the forests. They have also affirmed that 
the low-country air is very trying to them." As a matter 
of fact, they very rarely go down to the plains, even as 
far as the village of Anaimalai, only fifteen miles distant 
from Mount Stuart. One woman, whom I saw, had 
been as far as Palghat by railway from Coimbatore, and 
had returned very much up-to-date in the matter of 
jewelry and the latest barbarity in imported piece-good 

With the chest-girth of the Kadirs, as well as 
their general muscular development, I was very much 
impressed. Their hardiness, Mr. Conner writes, f has 
given rise to the observation among their neighbours 
that the Kadir and Kad Anai (wild elephant) are much 
the same sort of animal. 

* Manual of the Coimbatore district. 
t Madras Joiun. Lit. Science, I. 1833. 

kAdir 26 

Perhaps the most interesting custom of the Kadirs is 
that of chipping all or some of the incisor teeth, both 
upper and lower, into the form of a sharp-pointed, but 
not serrated cone. The operation, which is performed 
with a chisel or bill-hook and file by members of the 
tribe skilled therein, on boys and girls, has been thus 
described. The girl to be operated on lies down, and 
places her head against a female friend, who holds her 
head firmly. A woman takes a sharpened bill-hook, and 
chips away the teeth till they are shaded to a point, the 
girl operated on writhing and groaning with the pain. 
After the operation she appears dazed, and in a very few 
hours the face begins to swell. Swelling and pain last 
for a day or two, accompanied by severe headache. 
The Kadirs say that chipped teeth make an ugly man or 
woman handsome, and that a person, whose teeth have 
not been thus operated on, has teeth and eats like a cow. 
Whether this practice is one which the Kadir, and Mala 
Vedar of Travancore, have hit on spontaneously in 
comparatively recent times, or whether it is a relic of a 
custom resorted to by their ancestors of long ago, 
which remains as a stray survival of a custom once more 
widely practiced by the remote inhabitants of Southern 
India, cannot be definitely asserted, but I incline to the 
latter view. 

A friendly old woman, with huge discs in the widely 
dilated lobes of the ears, and a bamboo five-pronged 
comb in her back-hair, who acted as spokesman on the 
occasion of a visit to a charmingly situated settlement in 
a jungle of magnificent bamboos by the side of a moun- 
tain stream, pointed out to me, with conscious pride, 
that the huts were largely constructed by the females, 
while the men worked for the sircar (Government). 
The females also carry water from the streams, collect 


27 kAdir 

firewood, dig up edible roots, and carry out the sundry 
household duties of a housewife. Both men and women 
are clever at plaiting" bamboo baskets, necklets, etc. 
I was told one morning by a Kadir man, whom I met on 
the road, as an important item of news, that the women 
in his settlement were very busy dressing to come and 
see me — an event as important to them as the dressing 
of a debutante for presentation at the Court of St. 
James'. They eventually turned up without their hus- 
bands, and evidently regarded my methods as a huge 
joke organised for the amusement of themselves and 
their children. The hair was neatly parted, anointed 
with a liberal application of cocoanut oil, and decked 
with wild flowers. Beauty spots and lines had been 
painted with coal-tar dyes on the forehead, and turmeric 
powder freely sprinkled over the top of the heads of the 
married women. Some had even discarded the racrg^ed 
and dirty cotton cloth of every-day life in favour of a 
colour-printed imported sari. One bright, good-looking 
young woman, who had already been through the 
measuring ordeal, acted as an efficient lady-help in 
coaching the novices in the assumption of the correct 
positions. She very readily grasped the situation, and 
was manifestly proud of her temporary elevation to the 
rank of standard-bearer to Government. 

Dr. K. T. Preuss has drawn my attention to an 
article in Globus, 1899, entitled 'Die Zauberbilder 
Schriften der Negrito in Malaka,' wherein he describes 
in detail the designs on the bamboo combs worn by the 
Negritos of Malacca, and compares them with the 
strikingly similar design on the combs worn by the Kadir 
women. Dr. Preuss works out in detail the theory that 
the design is not, as I have elsewhere called it, a geome- 
trical pattern, but consists of a series of hieroglyphics. 


The collection of Kadir combs in the Madras Museum 
shows very clearly that the patterns thereon are con- 
ventional designs. The bamboo combs worn by the 
Semang women are stated* to serve as talismans, to 
protect them against diseases which are prevalent, or 
most dreaded by them. Mr. Vincent informs me that, 
so far as he knows, the Kadir combs are not looked 
on as charms, and the markings thereon have no mystic 
significance. A Kadir man should always make a comb, 
and present it to his intended wife just before marriage, 
or at the conclusion of the marriage ceremony, and the 
young men vie with each other as to who can make the 
nicest comb. Sometimes they represent strange articles 
on the combs. Mr. Vincent has, for example, seen 
a comb with a very good imitation of the face of a clock 
scratched on it. 

It is sometimes difficult to distinguish adolescent 
Kadir youths with curly fringe, chests covered by a 
cotton cloth, and wearing necklets made of plaited grass 
or glass and brass beads, from girls. And I was myself 
several times caught in an erroneous diagnosis of sex. 
Many of the infants have a charm tied round the neck, 
which takes the form of a dried tortoise foot ; the tooth 
of a crocodile mimicking a phallus, and supposed to ward 
off attacks from a mythical water elephant which lives in 
the mountain streams ; or wooden imitations of tiger's 
claws. One baby wore a necklet made of the seeds 
of Coix Lachryina-Jobi (Job's tears). Males have the 
lobes of the ears adorned with brass ornaments, and 
the nostril pierced, and plugged with wood. The ear- 
lobes of the females are widely dilated with palm-leaf 
rolls or huge wooden discs, and they wear ear-rings, 

* W. W. Skeat and C. O. Blagden. Pagan Races of the Malay Peninsula, 






29 kAdukuttukiravar 

brass or steel bangles and finger-rings, and bead 

It is recorded by Mr. Anantha Krishna Iyer that the 
Kadirs are attached to the Raja of Cochin "by the 
strongest ties of personal affection and regard. When- 
ever His Highness tours in the forests, they follow him, 
carry him from place to place in manjals or palanquins, 
carry saman (luggage), and in fact do everything for 
him. His Highness in return is much attached to them, 
feeds them, gives them cloths, ornaments, combs, and 

The Kadirs will not eat with Malasars, who are beef- 
eaters, and will not carry boots made of cow-hide, except 
under protest. 

Average stature 1577 cm,; cephalic index 72-9; 
nasal index 89. 

Kadle.— Kadle, Kalle, and Kadale meaning Bengal 
gram [Cicer arietiiiimi) have been recorded as exoga- 
mous septs or gotras of Kurubas and Kurnis. 

Kadu.— Kadu or Kattu, meaning wild or jungle, 
has been recorded as a division of Golla, Irula, 
Korava, Kurumba, and Tottiyan. Kadu also occurs 
as an exogamous sept or gotra of the Kurnis. Kadu 
Konkani is stated, in the Madras Census Report, 
1 90 1, to mean the bastard Konkanis, as opposed to 
the God or pure Konkanis. Kattu Marathi is a 
synonym for the bird-catching Kuruvikarans. In the 
Malabar Wynaad, the jungle Kurumbas are known as 
Kattu Nayakan. 

Kadukuttukiravar. — A synonym, meaning one who 
bores a hole in the ear, for Koravas who perform the 
operation of piercing the lobes of the ears for various 


Kaduppattan.— The Kadupattans are said,* accord- 
ing to the traditional account of their origin, to have 
been Pattar Brahmans of Kadu gramam, who became 
degraded owing to their supporting the introduction of 
Buddhism. "The members of this caste are," Mr. H. A. 
Stuart writes.t "at present mostly palanquin-bearers, and 
carriers of salt, oil, etc. The educated among them 
follow the profession of teaching, and are called Ezhut- 
tacchan, i.e., master of learning. Both titles are used 
in the same family. In the Native State of Cochin, the 
Kaduppattan is a salt-worker. In British Malabar he 
is not known to have followed that profession for some 
generations past, but it may be that, salt manufac- 
ture having long ago been stopped in South Malabar, 
he has taken to other professions, one of which is the 
carriage of salt. In manners and customs Kaduppattans 
resemble Nayars, but their inheritance follows the male 
line." The Kaduppattans are described % by Mr. Logan 
as " a caste hardly to be distinguished from the Nayars. 
They follow a modified makkatayam system of inheritance, 
in which the property descends from father to son, but 
not from father to daughter. The girls are married 
before attaining pubert}% and the bridegroom, who is to 
be the girl's real husband in after life, arranges the 
dowry and other matters by means of mediators (enangan). 
The tali is tied round the girl's neck by the bridegroom's 
sister or a female relative. At the funeral ceremonies 
of this class, the barber caste perform priestly functions, 
giving directions and preparing oblation rice. A widow 
without male issue is removed on the twelfth day after 
her husband's death from his house to that of her own 
parents. And this is done even if she has female issue. 

* Gazetteer of the Malabar district. f Madras Census Beport, 1891. 

X Manual of Malabar. 


But, on the contrary, if she has borne sons to the 
deceased, she is not only entitled to remain at her 
husband's house, but she continues to have, in virtue of 
her sons, a joint right over his property." 

Kahar. — In the Madras Census Report, 1901, the 
Kahars are returned as a Bengal caste of boatmen and 
fishermen. In the Mysore Census Report, it is noted 
that Kahar means in Hindustani a blacksmith, and that 
those censused were immigrants from the Bombay 

Kaikatti (one who shows the hand). — A division of 
the Kanakkans (accountants). The name has its origin 
in a custom, according to which a married woman is 
never allowed to communicate with her mother-in-law 
except by signs.* 

KaikOlan.— The Kaikolans are a large caste of 
Tamil weavers found in all the southern districts, who 
also are found in considerable numbers in the Telugu 
country, where they have adopted the Telugu language. 
A legend is current that the Nayakkan kings of Madura 
were not satisfied with the workmanship of the Kaikolans, 
and sent for foreign weavers from the north (Patnul- 
karans), whose descendants now far out-number the 
Tamil weavers. The word Kaikolan is the Tamil 
equivalent of the Sanskrit Virabahu, a mythological hero, 
from whom both the Kaikolans and a section of the 
Paraiyans claim descent. The Kaikolans are also called 
Sengundar (red dagger) in connection with the following 
legend. " The people of the earth, being harassed by 
certain demons, applied to Siva for help. Siva was 
enraged against the giants, and sent forth six sparks of 
fire from his eyes. His wife, Parvati, was frightened, 

* Manual of the North Arcot district. 


and retired to her chamber, and, in so doing, dropped 
nine beads from her anklets. Siva converted the beads 
into as many females, to each of whom was born a hero 
with full-grown moustaches and a dagger. These nine 
heroes, with Subramanya at their head, marched in 
command of a large force, and destroyed the demons. 
The Kaikolans or Sengundar are said to be the descend- 
ants of Virabahu, one of these heroes. After killing 
the demon, the warriors were told by Siva that they 
should become musicians, and adopt a profession, which 
would not involve the destruction or injury of any living 
creature, and, weaving being such a profession, they 
were trained in it." * According to another version, 
Siva told Parvati that the world would be enveloped in 
darkness if he should close his eyes. Impelled by 
curiosity, Parvati closed her husband's eyes with her 
hands. Being terrified by the darkness, Parvati ran to 
her chamber, and, on the way thither, nine precious 
stones fell from her anklets, and turned into nine fair 
maidens, with whom Siva became enamoured and 
embraced them. Seeing later on that they were pregnant, 
Parvati uttered a curse that they should not bring forth 
children formed in their wombs. One Padmasura was 
troubling the people in this world, and, on their praying 
to Siva to help them, he told Subramanya to kill the Asura. 
Parvati requested Siva not to send Subramanya by 
himself, and he suggested the withdrawal of her curse. 
Accordingly, the damsels gave birth to nine heroes, who, 
carrying red daggers, and headed by Subramanya, went 
in search of the Asura, and killed him. The word kaikol 
is said to refer to the ratnavel or precious dagger carried 
by Subramanya. The Kaikolans, on the Sura Samharam 

* Madras Census Report, 1891. 


day during the festival of Subramanya, dress themselves 
up to represent the nine warriors, and join in the 

The name Kaikolan is further derived from kai 
(hand), and kol (shuttle). The Kaikolans consider the 
different parts of the loom to represent various Devatas 
and Rishis, The thread is said to have been originally 
obtained from the lotus stalk rising from Vishnu's navel. 
Several Devas formed the threads, which make the 
warp; Narada became the woof; and Vedamuni the 
treadle. Brahma transformed himself into the plank 
(padamaram), and Adisesha into the main rope. 

In some places, the following sub-divisions of the 
caste are recognised : — Sozhia ; Rattu ; Siru-tali (small 
marriage badge) ; Peru-tali (big marriage badge) ; 
Sirpadam, and Sevaghavritti. The women of the Siru 
and Peru-tali divisions wear a small and large tali 

In religion, most of the Kaikolans are Saivites, and 
some have taken to wearing the lingam, but a few are 

The hereditary headman of the caste is called Peri- 
danakaran or Pattakaran, and is, as a rule, assisted by 
two subordinates entitled Sengili or Gramani, and Oral. 
But, if the settlement is a large one, the headman may 
have as many as nine assistants. 

According to Mr. H. A. Stuart,* " the Kaikolans 
acknowledge the authority of a headman, or Mahanattan, 
who resides at Conjeeveram, but itinerates among their 
villages, receiving presents, and settling caste disputes. 
Where his decision is not accepted without demur, he 
imposes upon the refractory weavers the expense of a 

* Manual of the North Arcot district, 



curious ceremony, in which the planting of a bamboo 
post takes part. From the top of this pole the Maha- 
nattan pronounces his decision, which must be acquiesced 
in on pain of excommunication." From information 
gathered at Conjeeveram, I learn that there is attached to 
the Kaikolans a class of mendicants called Nattukattada 
Nayanmar. The name means the Nayanmar who do 
not plant, in reference to the fact that, when performing, 
they fix their bamboo pole to the gopuram of a temple, 
instead of planting it in the ground. They are expected 
to travel about the country, and, if a caste dispute 
requires settlement, a council meeting is convened, at 
which they must be present as the representatives of 
the Mahanadu, a chief Kaikolan head-quarters at Con- 
jeeveram. If the dispute is a complicated one, the 
Nattukattada Nayanmar goes to all the Kaikolan houses, 
and makes a red mark with laterite * on the cloth in the 
loom, saying " Andvaranai," as signifying that it is done 
by order of the headman. The Kaikolans may, after 
this, not go on with their work until the dispute is settled, 
for the trial of which a day is fixed. The Nattukattada 
Nayanmars set up on a gopuram their pole, which should 
have seventy-two internodes, and measure at least as 
many feet. The number of internodes corresponds to 
that of the nadus into which the Kaikolan community is 
divided. Kamatchiamma is worshipped, and the Nattu- 
kattada Nayanmars climb up the pole, and perform 
various feats. Finally, the principal actor balances a 
young child in a tray on a bamboo, and, letting go of the 
bamboo, catches the falling child. The origin of the 
performance is said to have been as follows. The demon 
Suran was troubling the Devas and men, and was 

* A reddish formation found all over Southern India. 

35 kaikOlan 

advised by Karthikeya (Subramanya) and Virabahu to 
desist from so doing. He paid no Keed, and a fight 
ensued. The demon sent his son Vajrabahu to meet the 
enemy, and he was slain by Virabahu, who displayed the 
different parts of his body in the following manner. The 
vertebral column was made to represent a pole, round 
which the other bones were placed, and the guts tightly 
wound round them. The connective tissues were used 
as ropes to support the pole. The skull was used as a 
jaya-mani (conquest bell), and the skin hoisted as a flag. 
The trident of Virabahu was fixed to the top of the pole, 
and, standing over it, he announced his victory over the 
world. The Nattukattada Nayanmars claim to be the 
descendants of Virabahu. Their head-quarters are at 
Conjeeveram. They are regarded as slightly inferior to 
the Kaikolans, with whom ordinarily they do not inter- 
marry. The Kaikolans have to pay them as alms a 
minimum fee of four annas per loom annually. Another 
class of mendicant, called Ponnambalaththar, which is 
said to have sprung up recently, poses as true caste 
beggars attached to the Kaikolans, from whom, as they 
travel about the country, they solicit alms. Some 
Kaikolans gave Ontipuli as the name of their caste 
beggars. The Ontipulis, however, are Nokkans attached 
to the Pallis. 

The Kaikolan community is, as already indicated, 
divided into seventy-two nadus or desams, viz., forty- 
four mel (western) and twenty-eight kil (eastern) nadus. 
Intermarriages take place between members of seventy- 
one of these nadus. The great Tamil poet Ottaikuththar 
is said to have belonged to the Kaikolan caste and to 
have sung the praises of all castes except his own. 
Being angry on this account, the Kaikolans urged him 
to sing in praise of them. This he consented to do, 
ni-3 B 


provided that he received 1,008 human heads. Seventy- 
one nadus sent the first-born sons for the sacrifice, but one 
nadu (Tirumarudhal) refused to send any. This refusal 
led to their isolation from the rest of the community. 
All the nadus are subject to the authority of four thisai 
nadus, and these in turn arc controlled by the mahanadu 
at Conjeeveram, which is the residence of the patron 
deity Kamatchiamman. The thisai nadus are (i) 
Sivapuram (Walajabad), east of Conjeeveram, where 
Kamatchiamman is said to have placed Nandi as a 
guard ; (2) Thondipuram, where Thondi Vinayakar was 
stationed ; (3) Virinjipuram to the west, guarded by 
Subramanya ; (4) Sholingipuram to the south, watched 
over by Bairava. Each of the seventy-one nadus is 
sub-divided into kilai gramams (branch villages), perur 
(big) and sithur (little) gramams. In Tamil works relat- 
ing to the Sengundar caste, Conjeeveram is said to be 
the mahanadu, and those belonging thereto are spoken 
of as the nineteen hundred, who are entitled to respect 
from other Kaikolans. Another name for Kaikolans of 
the mahanadu seems to be Andavar ; but in practice this 
name is confined to the headman of the mahanadu, and 
members of his family. They have the privilege of 
sitting at council meetings with their backs supported 
by pillows, and consequently bear the title Thindusarndan 
(resting on pillows). At present there are two sections 
of Kaikolans at Conjeeveram, one living at Ayyam- 
pettai, and the other at Pillaipalayam. The former claim 
Ayyampettai as the mahanadu, and refuse to recognise 
Pillaipalayam, which is in the heart of Conjeeveram, as 
the mahanadu. Disputes arose, and recourse was had 
to the Vellore Court in 1904, where it was decided that 
Ayyampettai possesses no claim to be called the 


Many Kaikolan families have now abandoned their 
hereditary employment as weavers in favour of agricul- 
ture and trade, and some of the poorer members of the 
caste work as cart-drivers and coolies. At Coimbatore 
some hereditary weavers have become cart-drivers, and 
some cart-drivers have become weavers de necessitd in 
the local jail. 

In every Kaikolan family, at least one girl should be set 
apart for, and dedicated to temple service. And the rule 
seems to be that, so long as this girl or her descendants, 
born to her or adopted, continue to live, another girl is 
not dedicated. But, when the line becomes extinct, 
another girl must be dedicated. All the Kaikolans deny 
their connection with the Deva-dasi (dancing-girl) caste. 
But Kaikolans freely take meals in Dasi houses on 
ceremonial occasions, and it would not be difficult to cite 
cases of genuine Dasis who have relationship with rich 

Kaikolan girls are made Dasis either by regular 
dedication to a temple, or by the headman tying the tali 
(nattu pottu). The latter method is at the present day 
adopted because it is considered a sin to dedicate a girl 
to the god after she has reached puberty, and because 
the securing of the requisite official certificate for a girl 
to become a Dasi involves considerable trouble. 

"It is said," Mr. Stuart writes,* "that, where the 
head of a house dies, leaving only female issue, one of 
the girls is made a Dasi in order to allow of her working 
like a man at the loom, for no woman not dedicated in 
this manner may do so." 

Of the orthodox form of ceremonial in connection 
with a girl's initiation as a Dasi, the following account 

* op. cit. 


was given by the Kaikolans of Coimbatore. The girl 
is taught music and dancing. The dancing master or 
Nattuvan, belongs to the Kaikolan caste, but she may 
be instructed in music by Brahman Bhagavathans. At 
the tah-tying ceremony, which should take place after 
the girl has reached pubert)^ she is decorated with 
jewels, and made to stand on a heap of paddy (unhusked 
rice). A folded cloth is held before her by two Dasis, 
who also stand on heaps of paddy. The girl catches 
hold of the cloth, and her dancing master, who is seated 
behind her, grasping her legs, moves them up and down 
in time with the music, which is played. In the course 
of the day, relations and friends are entertained, and, in 
the evening, the girl, seated astride a pony, is taken 
to the temple, where a new cloth for the idol, the tali, 
and various articles required for doing puja, have been 
got ready. The girl is seated facing the idol, and the 
officiating Brahman gives sandal and flowers to her, and 
ties the tali, which has been lying at the feet of the idol, 
round her neck. The tali consists of a eolden disc and 
black beads. Betel and flowers are then distributed 
among those present, and the girl is taken home through 
the principal streets. She continues to learn music and 
dancing, and eventually goes through a form of nuptial 
ceremony. The relations are invited for an auspicious 
day, and the maternal uncle, or his representative, ties 
a gold band on the girl's forehead, and, carrying her, 
places her on a plank before the assembled guests. A 
Brahman priest recites the mantrams, and prepares the 
sacred fire (homam). The uncle is presented with new 
cloths by the girl's mother. For the actual nuptials 
a rich Brahman, if possible, and, if not, a Brahman of 
more lowly status is invited. A Brahman is called in, 
as he is next in importance to, and the representative of 


the idol. It is said that, when the man who is to receive 
her first favours, joins the girl, a sword must be placed, 
at least for a few minutes, by her side. When a Dasi 
dies, her body is covered with a new cloth removed 
from the idol, and flowers are supplied from the temple, 
to which she belonged. No puja is performed in the 
temple till the body is disposed of, as the idol, being her 
husband, has to observe pollution. 

Writing a century ago (1807) concerning the 
Kaikolan Dasis, Buchanan says * that " these dancing 
women, and their musicians, now form a separate kind 
of caste ; and a certain number of them are attached 
to every temple of any consequence. The allowances 
which the musicians receive for their public duty is very 
small, yet, morning and evening, they are bound to 
attend at the temple to perform before the image. They 
must also receive every person travelling on account of 
the Government, meet him at some distance from the 
town, and conduct him to his quarters with music and 
dancing. All the handsome girls are instructed to dance 
and sing, and are all prostitutes, at least to the Brahmans. 
In ordinary sets they are quite common ; but, under 
the Company's government, those attached to temples 
of extraordinary sanctity are reserved entirely for the 
use of the native officers, who are all Brahmans, and 
who would turn out from the set any girl that profaned 
herself by communication with persons of low caste, or 
of no caste at all, such as Christians or Mussulmans. 
Indeed, almost every one of these girls theit is tolerably 
sightly is taken by some officer of revenue for his own 
special use, and is seldom permitted to go to the temple, 
except in his presence. Most of these officers have 

Journey through Mysore, Canara, and Malabar. 


more than one wife, and the women of the Brahmans 
are very beautiful ; but the insipidity of their conduct, 
from a total want of education or accomplishment, makes 
the dancing women to be sought after by all natives 
with great avidity. The Mussulman officers in particular 
were exceedingly attached to this kind of company, and 
lavished away on these women a great part of their 
incomes. The women very much regret their loss, as 
the Mussulmans paid liberally, and the Brahmans durst 
not presume to hinder any girl who chose, from amusing 
an Asoph, or any of his friends. The Brahmans are 
not near so lavish of their money, especially where it 
is secured by the Company's government, but trust to 
their authority for obtaining the favour of the dancers. 
To my taste, nothing can be more silly and unanimated 
than the dancing of the women, nor more harsh and 
barbarous than their music. Some Europeans, however, 
from long habit, I suppose, have taken a liking to it, 
and have even been captivated by the women. Most of 
them I have had an opportunity of seeing have been very 
ordinary in their looks, very inelegant in their dress, 
and very dirty in their persons ; a large proportion of 
them have the itch, and a still larger proportion are most 
severely diseased." 

Though the Kaikolans are considered to belong to 
the left-hand faction, Dasis, except those who are 
specially engaged by the Beri Chettis and Kammalans, 
are placed in the right-hand faction. Kaikolan Dasis, 
when passing through a Kammalan street, stop dancing, 
and they will not salute Kammalans or Beri Chettis. 

A peculiar method of selecting a bride, called siru 
tali kattu (tying the small tali), is said to be in vogue 
among some Kaikolans. A man, who wishes to marry 
his maternal uncle's or paternal aunt's daughter, has to 

41 kaikolan 

tie a tali, or simply a bit of cloth torn from her clothing, 
round her neck, and report the fact to his parents and 
the headman. If the girl eludes him, he cannot claim 
her, but, should he succeed, she belongs to him. In 
some places, the consent of the maternal uncle to a 
marriage is signified by his carrying the bride in his 
arms to the marriage pandal (booth). The milk-post is 
made of Erythrina indica. After the tali has been tied, 
the bridegroom lifts the bride's left leg, and places it 
on a grinding-stone. Widows are stated by Mr. Stuart 
to be " allowed to remarry if they have no issue, but 
not otherwise ; and, if the prevalent idea that a Kai- 
kola woman is never barren be true, this must seldom 
take place." 

On the final day of the death ceremonies, a small 
hut is erected, and inside it stones, brought by the 
barber, are set up, and offerings made to them. 

The following proverbs are current about or among 
the Kaikolans : — 

Narrate stories in villages where there are no 

Why should a weaver have a monkey .'* 

This, it has been suggested,* implies that a monkey 
would only damage the work. 

On examining the various occupations, weaving 
will be found to be the best. 

A peep outside will cut out eight threads. 

The person who was too lazy to weave went to the 

The Chetti (money-lender) decreases the money, 
and the weaver the thread. 

The titles of the Kaikolans are Mudali and Nayanar. 

* Rev, H. Jensen. Classified Collection of Tamil Froveibs, 1S97. 


Among the Kaikolan musicians, I have seen every 
gradation of colour and type, from leptorhine men with 
fair skin and chiselled features, to men very dark and 
platyrhine, with nasal index exceeding 90. 

The Kaikolans take part in the annual festival at 
Tirupati in honour of the goddess Gangamma. " It is," 
Mr. Stuart writes,* "distinguished from the majority of 
similar festivals by a custom, which requires the people 
to appear in a different disguise (vesham) every morning 
and evening. The Matangi vesham of Sunday morning 
deserves special mention. The devotee who consents to 
undergo this ceremony dances in front of an image or 
representation of the goddess, and, when he is worked 
up to the proper pitch of frenzy, a metal wire is passed 
through the middle of his tongue. It is believed that 
this operation causes no pain, or even bleeding, and the 
only remedy adopted is the chewing of a few margosa 
{Melia Azadirachta) leaves, and some kunkumam (red 
powder) of the goddess. This vesham is undertaken 
only by a Kaikolan (weaver), and is performed only in 
two places — the house of a certain Brahman and 
the Mahant's math. The concluding' disg-uise is that 
known as the perantalu vesham, Perantalu signifies the 
deceased married women of a family who have died before 
their husbands, or, more particularly, the most distin- 
guished of such women. This vesham is accordingly 
represented by a Kaikolan disguised as a female, who 
rides round the town on a horse, and distributes to the 
respectable inhabitants of the place the kunkumam, 
saffron paste, and flowers of the goddess." 

For the following account of a ceremony, which took 
place at Conjeeveram in August, 1908, I am indebted 

* Manual of the North Arcot district. 


to the Rev. J. H. Maclean. "On a small and very 
lightly built car, about eight feet high, and running on 
four little wheels, an image of Kali was placed. It was 
then dragged by about thirty men, attached to it by cords 
passed through the flesh of their backs. I saw one of 
the young men two days later. Two cords had been 
drawn through his flesh, about twelve inches apart. The 
wounds were covered over with white stuff, said to be 
vibuthi (sacred ashes). The festival was organised by a 
class of weavers calling themselves Sankunram (Sen- 
gundar) Mudaliars, the inhabitants of seven streets in the 
part of Conjeeveram known as Pillaipalyam. The total 
amount spent is said to have been Rs. 500. The people 
were far from clear in their account of the meanino- of the 
ceremony. One said it was a preventive of small-pox, 
but this view did not receive general support. Most said 
it was simply an old custom : what good it did they could 
not say. Thirty years had elapsed since the last festival. 
One man said that Kali had given no commands on the 
subject, and that it was simply a device to make money 
circulate. The festival is called Punter (flower car)." 

In September, 1908, an ofificial notification was issued 
in the Fort St. George Gazette to the following effect. 
" Whereas it appears that hook- swinging, dragging of 
cars by men harnessed to them by hooks which pierce 
their sides, and similar acts are performed during the 
Mariyamman festival at Samayapuram and other places 
in the Trichinopoly division, Trichinopoly district, and 
whereas such acts are dangerous to human life, the 
Governor in Council is pleased, under section 144, sub- 
section (5), of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, to 
direct that the order of the Sub-divisional Magistrate, 
dated the 7th August, 1908, prohibiting such acts, shall 
remain in force until further orders." 


It is noted by Mr. F. R. Hemingway * that, at 
Ratnagiri, in the Trichinopoly district, the Kaikolans, 
in performance of a vow, thrust a spear through 
the muscles of the abdomen in honour of their god 

Kaila (measuring grain in the threshing-floor). — An 
exogamous sept of Mala. 

Kaimal.— A title of Nayars, derived from kai, hand, 
signifying power. 

Kaipuda. — A sub-division of Holeya. 

Kaivarta.— A sub-division of Kevuto. 

Kaka (crow). — The legend relating to the Kaka 
people is narrated in the article on Koyis. The equiva- 
lent Kaki occurs as a sept of Malas, and Kako as a sept 
of Kondras. 

Kakara or Kakarla {Momoi-dka Charantio). — An 
exogamous sept of Kamma and Muka Dora. 

Kakirekka-vandlu (crows' feather people). — 
Mendicants who beg from Mutrachas, and derive their 
name from the fact that, when begging, they tie round 
their waists strings on which crows', paddy birds' (heron) 
feathers, etc., are tied, 

Kakka Kuravan. — A division of Kuravas of 

Kakkalan.— The Kakkalans or Kakkans are a 
vagrant tribe met with in north and central Travancore, 
who are identical with the Kakka Kuravans of south 
Travancore. There are among them four endogamous 
divisions called Kavitiyan, Manipparayan, Meluttan, 
and Chattaparayan, of which the two first are the 
most important. The Kavitiyans are further sub-divided 
into Kollak Kavitiyan residing in central Travancore, 

* Gazetteer of the Trichinopoly district. 


Malayalam Kavitiyan, and Pandi Kavitiyan or immi- 
grants from the Pandyan country. 

The Kakkakns have a legend concerning their origin 
to the effect that Siva was once going about begging as 
a Kapaladharin, and arrived at a Brahman street, from 
which the inhabitants drove him away. The offended 
god immediately reduced the village to ashes, and the 
guilty villagers begged his pardon, but were reduced to 
the position of the Kakkalans, and made to earn their 
livelihood by begging. 

The women wear iron and silver bangles, and a 
palunka mala or necklace of variously coloured beads. 
They are tattooed, and tattooing members of other castes 
is one of their occupations, which include the following : — 

Katukuttu, or boring the lobes of the ears. 

Katuvaippu, or plastic operations on the ear, which 
Nayar women and others who wear heavy pendant ear 
ornaments often require. 

Kainokku or palmistry, in which the women are 
more proficient than the men. 

Kompuvaippu, or placing the twig of a plant on any 
swelling of the body, and dissipating it by blowing on it. 

Taiyyal, or tailoring. 

Pampatam or snake dance, in which the Kakkalans 
are unrivalled. 

Fortune telling. 
The chief object of worship by the Kakkalans is the 
rising sun, to which boiled rice is offered on Sunday. 
They have no temples of their own, but stand at some 
distance from Hindu temples, and worship the gods 
thereof. Though leading a wandering life, they try to 
be at home for the Malabar new year, on which occasion 
they wear new clothes, and hold a feast. They do not 
observe the national Onam and Vishu festivals. 

kakkE 46 

The Kakkalans are conspicuously polygamous, and 
some have as many as twelve wives, who are easily 
supported, as they earn money by their professional 
engagements. A first marriage must be celebrated on 
Sunday, and the festivities last from Saturday to Monday. 
Subsequent marriages may also be celebrated on 
Thursday. On the night of the day before the wedding, 
a brother, or other near relation of the bridegroom, 
places the sambandham (alliance) by bringing a fanam 
(coin), material for chewing, and cooked rice to the 
marriage pandal (booth). Fruit and other things are 
flung at him by the bride's people. On the following 
day the bridegroom arrives at the pandal, and, after 
raising the tali (marriage badge) three times towards 
heaven, and, invoking a blessing from on high, ties it 
round the bride's neck. When a girl reaches puberty, a 
merry celebration is kept up for a week. The dead are 
buried. Inheritance is from father to son. A childless 
widow is a coparcener with the brothers of the deceased, 
and forfeits this right if she remarries. 

Though in the presence of other castes the Kakka- 
lans speak Malayalam, they have a peculiar language 
which is used among themselves, and is not understood 
by others.* 

Kakke (Indian laburnum : Cassia fistula). — A gotra 
of Kurni. 

Kala.— Recorded, in the Travancore Census Report, 
1 90 1, as a sub-division of Nayar. 

Kalaikuttadi (pole-dancer). — A Tamil synonym of 

Kalal.— A Hindustani synonym of Gamalla. 

* For this note I am indebted to Mr. N. Subramani Aiyar. 

47 kAlingi and kalinji 

Kalamkotti (potter). — An occupational title of 

Kalasi.— A name given to Vada fishermen by Oriya 

Kalava (channel or ditch). — An exogamous sept of 
Padma Sale. 

Kalavant.— The Kalavants are dancers and singers, 
who, like o-ther dancing-girls, are courtesans. The name 
occurs not only in South Canara, but also in the Telugu 

Kalinga.— A sub-division of Komatis, who "were 
formerly the inhabitants of the ancient Kalinga country. 
They are considered inferior to the other sub-divisions, 
on account of their eating flesh. Their titles are 
Subaddhi, Patro, and Chaudari." * In the Ganjam 
Manual, they are described as " traders and shopkeepers, 
principally prevalent in the Chicacole division. The 
name Kling or Kaling is applied, in the Malay countries, 
including the Straits Settlements, to the people of penin- 
sular India, who trade thither, or are settled in those 
regions." It is recorded by Dr. N. Annandale that the 
phrase Orang Kling Islam {i.e., a Muhammadan from 
the Madras coast) occurs in Patani Malay. 

Kalingi and Kalinji. — There has been some con- 
fusion, in recorded accounts, between these two classes. 
In the Ganjam Manual, the Kalinjis are described as 
agriculturists in that district, and, in the Vizagapatam 
Manual, the Kalingas or Kalingulu are stated to be 
cultivators in the Vizagapatam district, and a caste of 
Paiks or fighting men in Jeypore. In the Census 
Report, 189 1, the Kalingis are said to be " most numer- 
ous in Ganjam, but there is a considerable number of 

* Madras Census Report, 1891. 


them in Vizagapatam also. The word means a native of 
KaHnga, the name of the sea-board of the Telugu country; 
the word Telugu itself is supposed by Dr. Caldwell to 
be a corruption of Tri-Kalinga. The three large sub- 
divisions of the caste are Buragam, Kintala, and Odiya. 
In the Kintala sub-division, a widow may remarry if she 
has no male issue, but the remarriage of widows is not 
allowed in other sub-divisions. The use of flesh and 
alcoholic liquor is permitted. Naidu and Chaudari are 
their titles." Further, in the Census Report, 1901, the 
Kalingis are described as follows : " A caste of temple 
priests and cultivators, found mainly in Ganjam and 
Vizagapatam, whither they are supposed to have been 
brought by the KaHnga kings to do service in the Hindu 
temples, before the advent of the Brahmans. They speak 
either Oriya or Telugu. They have two sub-divisions, 
the Kintali Kalingas, who live south of the Langulya 
river, and the Buragam Kalingis, who reside to the north 
of it, and the customs of the two differ a great deal. There 
is also a third section, called Pandiri or Bevarani, which 
is composed of outcastes from the other two. Except the 
Kalingis of Mokhalingam in Vizagapatam,* they have 
headmen called Nayakabalis or Santos. They also 
have priests called Kularazus, each of whom sees to the 
spiritual needs of a definite group of villages. They are 
divided into several exogamous gotras, each comprising 
a number of families or vamsas, some of which, such as 
Arudra, a lady-bird, and Revi-chettu, the Ficus religiosa 
tree, are of totemistic origin. Each section is said to 
worship its totem. Marriage before puberty is the rule, 
and the caste is remarkable for the proportion of its girls 
under twelve years of age who are married or widowed. 

• Mokhalingam is in Ganjam, not Vizagapatam. 

49 kAlingi and kAlinji 

Widow marriage is not recognised by the Buragam 
Kalingis, but the KintaHs freely allow it. As usual, the 
ceremonies at the wedding of a widow differ from those 
at the marriage of a maid. Some turmeric paste is 
placed on a new cloth, which is then put over a pot of 
water, and the ceremony takes place near this. The 
binding portion of it is the tying of a saffron-coloured 
string to the woman's wrist. The Kalingis pay special 
reverence to Sri Radha Krishna and Chaitanya. Some 
of the caste officiate in temples, wear the sacred thread, 
and call themselves Brahmans, but they are not received 
on terms of equality by other Brahmans. All Kalingis 
bury their dead, but sraddhas (memorial services) are 
performed only by the Kintali sub-division. The Bura- 
gam Kalingis do not shave their heads in front. Kalingi 
women wear heavy bangles of brass, silver bell-metal 
and glass, extending from the wrist to the elbow. The 
titles of the castes are Naidu, Nayarlu, Chowdari, Bissoyi, 
Podhano, Jenna, Swayi, and Naiko." 

In the foregoing account, the Oriya-speaking Kalinjis, 
and Telugu-speaking Kalingis, are both referred to. 
The confusion seems to have arisen from the fact that 
the Kalinjis are sometimes called Kalingis by other 
castes. The Kalingis are essentially Telugus, and are 
found mainly on the borderland between the districts 
of Ganjam and Vizagapatam. The Kalinjis are, on 
the other hand, Oriyas, and seem to be closely allied 
to the agricultural castes, Doluva, Alia, Bosantiya, 
etc., like which they are mainly agriculturists. The 
Kalinjis can be easily distinguished from the Kalingis, 
as the latter wear the sacred thread. The following 
story is told in connection with the origin of the 
Kalinji caste. A band of robbers was once upon a 
time staying in a fort near Bhattu Kunnarade, and 
1 1 1-4 


molesting the people, who invited the king of Puri to 
come and drive the robbers away. Among the warriors 
who were recruited for this purpose, was a member 
of the Khondaito caste, who, with the permission of 
the king, succeeded in expelling the robbers. He 
was named by the people Bodo-Kalinja, or one having 
a stout heart. He and his followers remained in the 
Ganjam country, and the Kalinjis are their descend- 
ants. The caste is widespread in the northern part 

There do not seem to be any sub-divisions among the 
Kalinjis, but there is a small endogamous group, called 
Mohiri Kalinji. Mohiri is a well-known division in 
Ganjam, and Kalinjis who dwell therein intermarry with 
others, and do not form a separate community. It has 
been suggested that the Mohiri Kalinjis are Telugu 
Kalingis, who have settled in the Oriya country. Like 
other Oriya castes, the Kalinjis have gotras, e.g., bano 
(sun), sukro (star), sanko (conch-shell), bhago (tiger) 
and nago (cobra). There is a good deal of confusion 
regarding the gotras in their connection with marriage. 
The same gotra, e.g., sukro, is exogamous in some places, 
and not so in others. Many titles occur among the 
Kalinjis, e.g., Borado, Bissoyi, Bariko, Behara, Dolei, 
Gaudo, Jenna, Moliko, Naiko, Patro, Podhano, Pulleyi, 
Ravuto, Santo, Savu, Swayi, Guru. In some places, the 
titles are taken as representing bamsams (or vamsams), 
and, as such, are exogamous. Families as a rule refrain 
from marrying Into families bearing the same title. For 
example, a Dolei man will not marry a Dolei girl, 
especially If their gotras are the same. But a Dolei may 
marry a Pullel, even if they have the same gotra. 

The headman of the Kalinjis Is styled Santo, and he 
is assisted by a Patro. There is also a caste messenger, 


called Bhollobhaya. For the whole community there 
are said to be four Santos and four Patros, residing at 
Attagada, Chinna Kimedi, Pedda Kimedi, and Mohiri. 
A man who is suffering from a wound or sore infested by 
maggots is said to be excommunicated, and, when he has 
recovered, to submit himself before the caste-council 
before he is received back into the community. 

Girls are generally married before puberty, and, if 
a real husband is not forthcoming, a maid goes through a 
mock marriage ceremony with her elder sister's husband, 
or some elder of the community. A bachelor must 
be married to the sado (yStrebhts asper) tree before 
he can marry a widow. The remarriage of widows 
(thuvathuvvi) is freely allowed. A widow, who has a 
brother-in-law, may not marry anyone else, until she has 
obtained a deed of separation (tsado patro) from him. 
The marriage ceremonies conform to the standard Oriya 
type. In some places, the little fingers of the contract- 
ing couple are linked, instead of their hands being tied 
together with thread. On the fourth day, a Bhondari 
(barber) places on the marriage dais some beaten rice 
and sugar-candy, which the bride and bridegroom sell 
to relations for money and grain. The proceeds of 
the sale are the perquisite of the Bhondari. On the 
seventh day, the bridegroom breaks a pot on the dais, 
and, as he and the bride go away, the brother of 
the latter throws brinjal {Solammz Melongend) fruits 
at him. 

The dead are as a rule cremated. On the day 
after death, food, made bitter by the addition of mar- 
gosa [Melia Azadirachta) leaves, is offered. A piece 
of bone is carried away from the burning-ground, and 
buried under a pipal i^Ficus religiosd) tree. Daily, until 
the tenth day, water is poured seven times over the spot 
ni-4 B 


where the bone is buried. On the tenth day, if the 
deceased was an elder of the community, the jola-jola 
handi ceremony is performed with a pot riddled with 
holes. {See Bhondari.) 

Kalkatta.— An occupation name for stone-masons 
in South Canara. 

Kalkatti. — Kalkatti, denoting, it has been suggested, 
those who wear glass beads, is a sub-division of Idaiyan. 
The Lingayats among Badagas of the Nilgiri hills are 
called Kalkatti, because they hang a stone (the lingam) 
from their necks in a casket. Some Irulas of the same 
hills are also said to go by the name Kalkatti. 

Kalla.^Recorded as a sub-di\asion of Shanan, 
and of Idaiyans in localities where Kalians are most 

Kalladi.^The title of a Cheruman who performs 
important duties, and becomes possessed by the spirit 
of the deceased, at a Cheruman funeral. 

Kalladi Mangan. — A synonym of Mondi. 

Kalladi Siddhan. — The name, meaning a beggar 
who beats himself with a stone, of a class of Telugu 
mendicants, who are very clamorous and persistent in 
their demands for alms. The name is applied as a term 
of contempt for any obstinate and troublesome individual. 
These beggars carry with them a gourd, have tortoise 
and cowry shells tied on their elbows, and carry an iron 
rod, with which they beat an iron ring worn on the hand. 
They present a very revolting spectacle, as they smear 
their bodies with rice done up so as to resemble vomit, 
and with the juice of the prickly-pear {Opuntia Dillenii), 
to make people believe that it is blood oozing from 
cuts made with a knife. They are said to be very 
fond of eating crows, which they catch with nets. {See 


Kallamu (threshing-floor). — An exogamous sept of 
Panta Reddi. 

Kalian. — Of the Kalians of the Madura district in 
the early part of the last century, an excellent account 
was written by Mr. T. Turnbull (1817), from which the 
following extract has been taken. " The Cullaries are 
said to be in general a brave people, expert in the use 
of the lance and in throwing the curved stick called 
vullaree taddee. This weapon is invariably in use 
among the generality of this tribe ; it is about 30 inches 
in curvature. The w^ord Cullar is used to express a thief 
of any caste, sect or country, but it will be necessary to 
trace their progress to that characteristic distinction 
by which this race is designated both a thief, and an 
inhabitant of a certain Naud, which was not altogether 
exempted from paying tribute to the sovereign of Madura. 
This race appears to have become hereditary occupiers, 
and appropriated to themselves various Nauds in differ- 
ent parts of the southern countries ; in each of these 
territories they have a chief among them, whose orders 
and directions they all must obey. They still possess 
one common character, and in general are such thieves 
that the name is very justly applied to them, for they 
seldom allow any merchandize to pass through their 
hands without extorting something from the owners, if 
they do not rob them altogether, and in fact travellers, 
pilgrims, and Brahmans are attacked and stript of 
everything they possess, and they even make no scruple 
to kill any caste of people, save only the latter. In case 
a Brahman happens to be killed in their attempt to 
plunder, when the fact is made known to the chief, 
severe corporal punishment is inflicted on the crimi- 
nals and fines levied, besides exclusion from society 
for a period of six months. The Maloor Vellaloor and 


Serrugoody Nauds are denominated the Keelnaud, whose 
inhabitants of the Cullar race are designated by the 
appellation of Amblacaurs. 

" The women are inflexibly vindictive and furious 
on the least injury, even on suspicion, which prompts 
them to the most violent revenge without any regard to 
consequences. A horrible custom exists among the 
females of the Colleries when a quarrel or dissension 
arises between them. The insulted woman brings her 
child to the house of the aggressor, and kills it at her 
door to avenge herself Although her vengeance is 
attended with the most cruel barbarity, she immediately 
thereafter proceeds to a neighbouring village with all 
her goods, etc. In this attempt she is opposed by her 
neighbours, which gives rise to clamour and outrage. 
The complaint is then carried to the head Amblacaur, 
who lays it before the elders of the village, and solicits 
their interference to terminate the quarrel. In the 
course of this investigation, if the husband finds that 
sufficient evidence has been brought against his wife, 
that she had given cause for provocation and aggression, 
then he proceeds unobserved by the assembly to his 
house, and brings one of his children, and, in the 
presence of witness, kills his child at the door of the 
woman who had first killed her child at his. By this mode 
of proceeding he considers that he has saved himself 
much trouble and expense, which would otherwise have 
devolved on him. This circumstance is soon brought 
to the notice of the tribunal, who proclaim that the 
offence committed is sufficiently avenged. But, should 
this voluntary retribution of revenge not be executed 
by the convicted person, the tribunal is prorogued to a 
limited time, fifteen days generally. Before the expira- 
tion of that period, one of the children of that convicted 


person must be killed. At the same time he is to bear 
all expenses for providing food, etc., for the assembly 
during those days. 

" A remarkable custom prevails both among the 
males and females in these Nauds to have their ears 
bored and stretched by hanging heavy rings made of 
lead so as to expand their ear-laps (lobes) down to their 
shoulders. Besides this singular idea of beauty attached 
by them to pendant ears, a circumstance still more 
remarkable is that, when merchants or travellers pass 
through these Nauds, they generally take the precaution 
to insure a safe transit through these territories by 
counting the friendship of some individual of the Naud 
by payment of a certain fee, for which he deputes 
a young girl to conduct the travellers safe through the 
limits. This sacred guide conducts them along with her 
finger to her ear. On observing this sign, no Cullary 
will dare to plunder the persons so conducted. It some- 
times happens, in spite of this precaution, that attempts 
are made to attack the traveller. The girl in such cases 
immediately tears one of her ear-laps, and returns to 
spread the report, upon which the complaint is carried 
before the chief and elders of the Naud, who forthwith 
convene a meeting in consequence at the Mundoopoolee.* 
If the violators are convicted, vindictive retaliation 
ensues. The assembly condemns the offenders to have 
both their ear-laps torn in expiation of their crime, 
and, if otherwise capable, they are punished by fines or 
absolved by money. By this means travellers generally 
obtain a safe passage through these territories. [Even 
at the present day, in quarrels between women of the 
lower castes, long ears form a favourite object of 

* Place of meeting, which is a large tamarind tree, under which councils are 



attack, and lobe-tearing cases figure frequently in police 

" The Maloor Naud was originally inhabited and 
cultivated by Vellaulers. At a certain period some 
Cullaries belonging to Vella Naud in the Conjeeveram 
district proceeded thence on a hunting excursion with 
weapons consisting of short hand pikes, cudgels, 
bludgeons, and curved sticks for throwing, and dogs. 
While engaged in their sport, they observed a peacock 
resist and attack one of their hounds. The sportsmen, 
not a little astonished at the sight, declared that this 
appeared to be a fortunate country, and its native 
inhabitants and every living creature naturally possessed 
courage and bravery. Preferring such a country to their 
Naud in Conjeeveram, they were desirous of establishing 
themselves here as cultivators. To effect this, they 
insinuated themselves into the favour of the Vellaulers, 
and, engaging as their servants, were permitted to remain 
in these parts, whither they in course of time invited 
their relations and friends, and to appearance conducted 
themselves faithfully and obediently to the entire satis- 
faction of the Vellaulers, and were rewarded for their 
labour. Some time afterwards, the Vellaulers, exercis- 
ing an arbitrary sway over the Cullaries, began to inflict 
condign punishment for ofl^ences and misdemeanours 
committed in their service. This stirred up the wrath 
of the Cullaries, who gradually acquired the superiority 
over their masters, and by coercive measures impelled 
them to a strict observance of the following rules : — 

is^. — That, if a Culler was struck by his master in 
such a manner as to deprive him of a tooth, he was to pay 
a fine of ten cully chuckrums (money) for the offence. 

* Gazetteer of the Madura district. 


27id. — That, if a Culler happened to have one of 
his ear-laps torn, the Vellauler was to pay a fine of six 

3^^. — That if a Culler had his skull fractured, the 
Vellauler was to pay thirty chuckrums, unless he preferred 
to have his skull fractured in return. 

\th. — That, if a Culler had his arm or leg broke, he 
was then to be considered but half a man. In such case 
the offender was required to grant the Culler one cullum 
of nunjah seed land (wet cultivation), and two koorkums 
of punjah (dry cultivation), to be held and enjoyed in 
perpetuity, exclusive of which the Vellauler was required 
to give the Culler a doopettah (cloth) and a cloth for his 
wife, twenty cullums of paddy or any other grain, and 
twenty chuckrums in money for expenses. 

^th. — That, if a Culler was killed, the offender was 
required to pay either a fine of a hundred chuckrums, or 
be subject to the vengeance of the injured party. Until 
either of these alternatives was agreed to, and satisfaction 
afforded, the party injured was at liberty to plunder the 
offender's property, never to be restored. 

" By this hostile mode of conduct imposed on their 
masters, together with their extravagant demands, the 
Vellaulers were reduced to that dread of the Cullers as 
to court their favour, and became submissive to their will 
and pleasure, so that in process of time the Cullers not 
only reduced them to poverty, but also induced them to 
abandon their villages and hereditary possessions, and to 
emigrate to foreign countries. Many were even mur- 
dered in total disregard of their former solemn promises 
of fidelity and attachment. Having thus implacably got 
rid of their original masters and expelled them from their 
Naud, they became the rulers of it, and denominated 
it by the singular appellation of Tun Arrasa Naud, 


signifying a forest only known to its possessors [or tan- 
arasu-nad, i.e., the country governed by themselves].* In 
short, these Colleries became so formidable at length 
as to evince a considerable ambition, and to set the then 
Government at defiance. Allagar Swamy they regarded 
as the God of their immediate devotion, and, whenever 
their enterprizes were attended with success, they never 
failed to be liberal in the performance of certain religious 
ceremonies to Allagar. To this day they invoke the 
name of Allagar in all what they do, and they make no 
objection in contributing whatever they can when the 
Stalaters come to their villages to collect money or grain 
for the support of the temple, or any extraordinary 
ceremonies of the God. The Cullers of this Naud, in 
the line of the Kurtaukles, once robbed and drove away 
a large herd of cows belonging to the Prince, who, on 
being informed of the robbery, and that the calves were 
highly distressed for want of nourishment, ordered them 
to be drove out of and left with the cows, wherever they 
were found. The Cullers were so exceedingly pleased 
with this instance of the Kurtaukle's goodness and crreat- 
ness of mind that they immediately collected a thousand 
cows (at one cow from every house) in the Naud as a 
retribution, and drove them along with the plundered 
cattle to Madura. Whenever a quarrel or dispute hap- 
pens among them, the parties arrest each other in the 
name of the respective Amblacaurs, whom they regard 
as most sacred, and they will only pay their homage to 
those persons convened as arbitrators or punjayems to 
settle their disputes. 

" During the feudal system that prevailed among 
these Colleries for a long time, they would on no 

* Gazetteer of the Madura district. 


consideration permit the then Government to have any 
control or authority over them. When tribute was 
demanded, the Cullers would answer with contempt : 
' The heavens supply the earth with rain, our cattle 
plough, and we labour to improve and cultivate the 
land. While such is the case, we alone ought to enjoy 
the fruits thereof. What reason is there that we should 
be obedient, and pay tribute to our equal ? ' 

" During the reign of Vizia Ragoonada Saitooputty* 
a party of Colleries, having proceeded on a plundering 
excursion into the Ramnad district, carried off two 
thousand of the Raja's own bullocks. The Raja was 
so exasperated that he caused forts to be erected at five 
different places in the Shevagunga and Ramnad districts, 
and, on pretext of establishing a good understanding 
with these Nauttams, he artfully invited the principal 
men among them, and, having encouraged them by 
repeatedly conferring marks of his favour, caused a 
great number to be slain, and a number of their women 
to be transported to Ramiserum, where they were 
branded with the marks of the pagoda, and made Deva 
Dassies or dancing girls and slaves of the temple. The 
present dancing girls in that celebrated island are said to 
be the descendants of these women of the Culler tribe." 
In the eighteenth century a certain Captain Rumley was 
sent with troops to check the turbulent Colleries. " He 
became the terror of the Collerie Naud, and was highly 
respected and revered by the designation of Rumley 
Swamy, under which appellation the Colleries afterwards 
distinguished him." It is on record that, during the 
Trichinopoly war, the horses of Clive and Stringer 
Lawrence were stolen by two Kalian brothers. 

* Sstupali, or lord of the bridge. The title of the Kajas of Kaninad. 


Tradition says that one of the rooms in Tirumala 
Nayakkan's palace at Madura "was Tirumala's sleeping 
apartment, and that his cot hung by long chains from 
hooks in the roof. One night, says a favourite story, a 
Kalian made a hole in the roof, swarmed down the 
chains, and stole the royal jewels. The king promised 
a jaghir (grant of land) to anyone who would bring him 
the thief, and the Kalian then gave himself up and 
claimed the reward. The king gave him the jaghir, and 
then promptly had him beheaded."* 

By Mr. H. A. Stuart f the Kalians are said to be "a 
middle-sized dark-skinned tribe found chiefly in the dis- 
tricts of Tanjore, Trichinopoly and Madura, and in the 
Pudukota territory. The name Kalian is commonly 
derived from Tamil kallam, which means theft. Mr. 
Nelson J expresses some doubts as to the correctness of 
this derivation, but Dr. Oppert accepts it, and no other 
has been suggested. The original home of the Kalians 
appears to have been Tondamandalam or the Pal lava 
country, and the head of the class, the Raja of Puduk5ta, 
is to this day called the Tondaman. There are good 
grounds for believino^ that the Kalians are a branch of the 
Kurumbas, who, when they found their regular occupation 
as soldiers gone, ' took to maraudering, and made them- 
selves so obnoxious by their thefts and robberies, that the 
term kalian, thief, was applied, and stuck to them as a tribal 
appellation.' § The Rev. W. Taylor, the compiler of the 
Catalogue Raisonne of Oriental Manuscripts, also iden- 
tifies the Kalians with the Kurumbas, and Mr. Nelson ac- 
cepts this conclusion. In the census returns, Kurumban is 
returned as one of the sub-divisions of the Kalian caste.' 

* Gazetteer of the Madura district. t Madras Census Report, 1891. 

X Manual of the Madura district. 

§ G. Oppert. Madras Journ. Lit. Science, 188S-9, 

6 1 K ALL AN 

"The Chola country, or Tanjore," Mr. W. Francis 
writes,* " seems to have been the original abode of the 
Kalians before their migration to the Pandya kingdom 
after its conquest by the Cholas about the eleventh 
century A.D. But in Tanjore they have been greatly 
influenced by the numerous Brahmans there, and have 
taken to shaving their heads and employing Brahmans as 
priests. At their weddings also the bridegroom ties the 
tali himself, while elsewhere his sister does it. Their 
brethren across the border in Madura continue to merely 
tie their hair in a knot, and employ their own folk to 
officiate as their priests. This advance of one section 
will doubtless in time enhance the social estimation of 
the caste as a whole." 

It is further noted, in the Gazetteer of the Tanjore 
district, that the ambitions of the Kalians have been 
assisted " by their own readiness, especially in the more 
advanced portions of the district, to imitate the practices 
of Brahmans and Vellalans. Great variations thus occur 
in their customs in different localities, and a wide gap 
exists between the Kalians of this district as a whole and 
those of Madura." 

In the Manual of the Tanjore district, it is stated that 
" profitable agriculture, coupled with security of property 
in land, has converted the great bulk of the Kallar and 
Padeiyachi classes into a contented and industrious 
population. They are now too fully occupied with agri- 
culture, and the incidental litigation, to think of their 
old lawless pursuits, even if they had an inclination to 
follow them. The bulk of the ryotwari proprietors in 
that richly cultivated part of the Cauvery delta which 
constituted the greater part of the old taluk of Tiruvadi 

* Madras Census Report, 1901. 


are Kallars, and, as a rule, they are a wealthy and well- 
to-do class. The Kallar ryots, who inhabit the villages 
along the banks of the Cauvery, in their dress and 
appearance generally look quite like Vellalas. Some of 
the less romantic and inoffensive characteristics of the 
Kallars in Madura and Tinnevelly are found among the 
recent immigrants from the south, who are distinguished 
from the older Kallar colonies by the general term 
Terkattiyar, literally southerns, which includes emigrants 
of other castes from the south. The Terkattiyars are 
found chiefly in the parts of the district which border on 
Pudukota. Kallars of this group grow their hair long 
all over the head exactly like women, and both men and 
women enlarge the holes in the lobes of their ears to 
an extraordinary size by inserting rolls of palm-leaf 
into them." The term Terkattiyar is applied to Kalian, 
Maravan, Agamudaiyan, and other immigrants into the 
Tanjore district. At Mayaveram, for example, it is 
applied to Kalians, Agamudaiyans, and Valaiyans. It is 
noted, in the Census Report, 1891, that Agamudaiyan 
and Kalian were returned as sub-divisions of Maravans 
by a comparatively large number of persons. " Mara- 
van is also found among the sub-divisions of Kalian, 
and there can be little doubt that there is a very 
close connection between Kalians, Maravans, and Aga- 
mudaiyans." " The origin of the Kallar caste," Mr. 
F. S. Mullaly writes,* "as also that of the Maravars 
and Ahambadayars, is mythologically traced to Indra 
and Aghalia, the wife of Rishi Gautama. The legend 
is that Indra and Rishi Gautama were, among others, 
rival suitors for the hand of Aghalia. Rishi Gautama 
was the successful one. This so incensed Indra that he 

* Notes on Criminal Classes of the Madras Presidency. 


determined to win Aghalia at all hazards, and, by means 
of a cleverly devised ruse, succeeded, and Aghalia bore 
him three sons, who respectively took the names Kalla, 
Marava, and Ahambadya. The three castes have the 
agnomen Theva or god, and claim to be descendants 
of Thevan (Indra)." According to another version of 
the legend " once upon a time Rishi Gautama left his 
house to go abroad on business. Devendra, taking 
advantage of his absence, debauched his wife, and three 
children were the result. When the Rishi returned, one 
of the three hid himself behind a door, and, as he thus 
acted like a thief, he was henceforward called Kalian. 
Another got up a tree, and was therefore called Mara- 
van from maram, a tree, whilst the third brazened it out 
and stood his ground, thus earning for himself the name 
of Ahamudeiyan, or the possessor of pride. This name 
was corrupted into Ahambadiyan."* There is a Tamil 
proverb that a Kalian may come to be a Maravan. By 
respectability he may develop into an Agamudaiyan, and, 
by slow and small degrees, become a Vellala, from which 
he may rise to be a Mudaliar. 

"The Kalians," Mr. H. A. Stuart writes,! "will eat 
flesh, excepting beef, and have no scruples regard- 
ing the use of intoxicating liquor. They are usually 
farmers or field-labourers, but many of them are em- 
ployed as village or other watchmen, and not a few 
depend for their subsistence upon the proceeds of thefts 
and robberies. In Trichinopoly town, householders are 
obliged to keep a member of the Kalian caste in their 
service as a protection against the depredations of these 
thieves, and any refusal to give in to this custom 
invariably results in loss of property. On the other 

* Madras Review, 1899. f Madras Census Report, 1S91. 


hand, if a theft should, by any chance, be committed in 
a house where a Kalian is employed, the articles stolen 
will be recovered, and returned to the owner. In 
Madura town, I am informed, a tax of four annas per 
annum is levied on houses in certain streets by the head 
of the Kalian caste in return for protection against 
theft." In the Census Report, 1901, Mr. Francis records 
that " the Kalians, Mara vans, and Agamudaiyans are 
responsible for a share of the crime of the southern 
districts, which is out of all proportion to their strength 
in them. In 1897, the Inspector-General of Prisons 
reported that nearly 42 per cent, of the convicts in the 
Madura jail, and 30 per cent, of those in the Palamcot- 
tah jail in Tinnevelly, belonged to one or other of these 
three castes. In Tinnevelly, in 1894, 131 cattle thefts 
were committed by men of these three castes against 47 
by members of others, which is one theft to 1,497 of the 
population of the three bodies against one to 37,8t,o of 
the other castes. The statistics of their criminality in 
Trichinopoly and Madura were also bad. The Kalians 
had until recently a regular system of blackmail, called 
kudikaval, under which each village paid certain fees to 
be exempt from theft. The consequences of being in 
arrears with their payments quickly followed in the shape 
of cattle thefts and 'accidental' fires in houses. In 
Madura the villagers recently struck against this extor- 
tion. The agitation was started by a man of the Idaiyan or 
shepherd caste, which naturally suffered greatly by the 
system, and continued from 1893 to 1896." The origin of 
the agitation is said * to have been the anger of certain 
of the Idaiyans with a Kalian Lothario, who enticed away 
a woman of their caste, and afterwards her daughter, and 

* Gazetteer of the Madura district. 


kept both women simultaneously under his protection. 
The story of this anti- Kalian agitation is told as follows 
in the Police Administration Report, 1896. " Many of 
the Kalians are the kavalgars of the villages under the 
kaval system. Under that system the kavalgars receive 
fees, and in some cases rent-free land for undertaking to 
protect the property of the villagers against theft, or 
to restore an equivalent in value for anything lost. The 
people who suffer most at the hands of the Kallars are 
the shepherds (Konans or Idaiyans). Their sheep and 
goats form a convenient subject for the Kallar's raids. 
They are taken for kaval fees alleged to be overdue, and 
also stolen, again to be restored on the payment of black- 
mail. The anti-Kallar movement was started by a man 
of the shepherd caste, and rapidly spread. Meetings of 
villagers were held, at which thousands attended. They 
took oath on their ploughs to dispense with the services 
of the Kallars ; they formed funds to compensate such 
of them as lost their cattle, or whose houses were burnt ; 
they arranged for watchmen among themselves to patrol 
the villages at night ; they provided horns to be sounded 
to carry the alarm in cases of theft from village to 
village, and prescribed a regular scale of fines to be 
paid by those villagers who failed to turn out on the 
sound of the alarm. The Kalians in the north in many 
cases sold their lands, and left their villages, but in some 
places they showed fight. For six months crime is said 
to have ceased absolutely, and, as one deponent put it, 
people even left their buckets at the wells. In one or 
two places the Kalians gathered in large bodies in view 
to overawe the villagers, and riots followed. In one 
village there were three murders, and the Kallar quarter 
was destroyed by fire, but whether the fire was the work 
of Konans or Kallars has never been discovered. In 


Auorust, larore numbers of vlllao-ers attacked the Kallars 
in two villages in the Dindigul division, and burnt the 
Kallar quarters." 

" The crimes," Mr. F. S. Mullaly writes,* " that 
Kallars are addicted to are dacoity in houses or on high- 
ways, robbery, house-breaking and cattle-stealing. They 
are usually armed with vellari thadis or clubs (the so- 
called boomerangs) and occasionally with knives similar 
to those worn by the inhabitants of the western coast. 
Their method of house-breaking is to make the breach 
in the wall under the door. A lad of diminutive size then 
creeps in, and opens the door for the elders. Jewels worn 
by sleepers are seldom touched. The stolen property is 
hidden in convenient places, in drains, wells, or straw 
stacks, and is sometimes returned to the owner on receipt 
of blackmail from him called tuppu-kuli or clue hire. The 
women seldom join in crimes, but assist the men in their 
dealings (for disposal of the stolen property) with the 
Chettis." It is noted by the Abbd Dubois that the 
Kallars " regard a robber's occupation as discreditable 
neither to themselves, nor to their fellow castemen, for 
the simple reason that they consider robbery a duty, and 
a right sanctioned by descent. If one were to ask of a 
Kallar to what people he belonged, he would coolly 
answer, I am a robber." 

It is recorded, in the Gazetteer of the Madura 
district, that " dacoity of travellers at night used to be 
the favourite pastime of the Kalians, and their favourite 
haunts the various roads leading out of Madura, and 
that from Ammayanayakkanur to Periyakulam. The 
method adopted consisted in threatening the driver of 
the cart, and then turning the vehicle into the ditch so 

* op. cit. 

6; K ALL AN 

that it upset. The unfortunate travellers were then 
forced by some of the gang to sit at the side of the road, 
with their backs to the cart and their faces to the 
ground, while their baggage was searched for valuables 
by the remainder. The gangs which frequented these 
roads have now broken up, and the caste has practically 
quitted road dacoity for the simpler, more paying, and 
less risky business of stealing officials' office-boxes and 
ryots' cattle. Cattle-theft is now the most popular calling 
among them. They are clever at handling animals, and 
probably the popularity of the jallikats {see Maravan) has 
its origin in the demands of a life, which always included 
much cattle-lifting. The stolen animals are driven great 
distances (as much as 20 or 30 miles) on the night of 
the theft, and are then hidden for the day either in a 
friend's house, or among hills and jungles. The next 
night they are taken still further, and again hidden. 
Pursuit is by this time hopeless, as the owner has no idea 
even in which direction to search. He, therefore, pro- 
ceeds to the nearest go-between (these individuals are 
well-known to every one), and offers him a reward if he 
will bring back the cattle. This reward is called tuppu- 
kuli, or payment for clues, and is very usually as much 
as half the value of the animals stolen. The Kalian 
undertakes to search for the lost bullocks, returns soon, 
and states that he has found them, receives his tuppu- 
kuli, and then tells the owner of the property that, if he 
will go to a spot named, which is usually in some lonely 
neighbourhood, he will find his cattle tied up there. 
This information is always correct. If, on the other 
hand, the owner reports the theft to the police, no Kalian 
will help him to recover his animals, and these are 
eventually sold in other districts or Travancore, or even 
sent across from Tuticorin to Ceylon. Consequently, 

HI-5 B 


hardly any cattle-thefts are ever reported to the police. 
Where the Kalians are most numerous, the fear of 
incendiarism induces people to try to afford a tiled or 
terraced roof, instead of being content with thatch. The 
cattle are always tied up in the houses at night. Fear 
of the Kalians prev^ents them from being left in the fields, 
and they may be seen coming into the villages every 
evening in scores, choking every one with the dust they 
kick up, and polluting the village site (instead of manur- 
ing the land) for twelve hours out of every twenty-four. 
Buffaloes are tied up outside the houses. Kalians do 
not care to steal them, as they are of little value, are 
very troublesome when a stranger tries to handle them, 
and cannot travel fast or far enough to be out of reach 
of detection by daybreak. The Kalians' inveterate 
addiction to dacoity and theft render the caste to this 
day a thorn in the flesh of the authorities. A very large 
proportion of the thefts committed in the district are 
attributable to them. Nor are they ashamed of the fact. 
One of them defended his class by urging that every 
other class stole, the official by taking bribes, the vakil 
(law pleader) by fostering animosities, and so pocketing 
fees, the merchant by watering the arrack (spirit) and 
sanding the sugar, and so on, and that the Kalians 
differed from these only in the directness of their methods. 
Round about Melur, the people of the caste are taking 
energetically to wet cultivation, to the exclusion of cattle- 
lifting, with the Periyar water, which has lately been 
brought there. In some of the villages to the south 
of that town, they have drawn up a formal agree- 
ment (which has been solemnly registered, and is most 
rigorously enforced by the headmen), forbidding theft, 
recalling all the women who have emigrated to Ceylon 
and elsewhere, and, with an enlightenment which puts 


other communities to shame, prohibiting several other 
unwise practices which are only too common, such as 
the removal from the fields of cow-dung for fuel, and 
the pollution of drinking-water tanks (ponds) by step- 
ping into them. Hard things have been said about the 
Kalians, but points to their credit are the chastity of 
their women, the cleanliness they observe in and around 
their villages, and their marked sobriety. A toddy-shop 
in a Kalian village is seldom a financial success." 

From a recent note,* I gather the following additional 
information concerning tuppu-kuli. "The Kalians are 
largely guilty of cattle-thefts. In many cases, they 
return the cattle on receiving tuppu-kuli. The official 
returns do not show many of these cases. No cattle- 
owner thinks of reporting the loss of any of his cattle. 
Naturally his first instinct is that it might have strayed 
away, being live property. The tuppu-kuli system 
generally helps the owner to recover his lost cattle. He 
has only to pay half of its real value, and, when he 
recovers his animal, he goes home with the belief that 
he has really made a profitable bargain. There is no 
matter for complaint, but, on the other hand, he is glad 
that he got back his animal for use, often at the most 
opportune time. Cattle are indispensable to the agri- 
culturist at all times of the year. Perhaps, sometimes, 
when the rains fail, he may not use them. But if, after 
a long drought, there is a shower, immediately every 
agriculturist runs to his field with his plough and cattle, 
and tills it. If, at such a time, his cattle be stolen, he 
considers as though he were beaten on his belly, and his 
means of livelihood gone. No cattle will be available 
then for hire. There is nothing that he will not part 

* IllubliaLed Criminal InvesligalioQ and Law Digest, I, 3, 190S, Vellore. 



with, to get back his cattle. There is then the nefarious 
system of tuppu-kuli offering itself, and he freely resorts 
to it, and succeeds in getting back his lost cattle sooner 
or later. On the other hand, if a complaint is made 
to the Village Magistrate or Police, recovery by this 
channel is impossible. The tuppu-kuli agents have their 
spies or informants everywhere, dogging the footsteps 
of the owner of the stolen cattle, and of those who are 
likely to help him in recovering it. As soon as they 
know the case is recorded in the Police station, they 
determine not to let the animal go back to its owner at 
any risk, unless some mutual friend intervenes, and works 
mightily for the recovery, in which case the restoration 
is generally through the pound. Such a restoration 
is, prima facie, cattle-straying, for only stray cattle are 
taken to the pound. This, too, is done after a good 
deal of hard swearing on both sides not to hand over 
the offender to the authorities." 

In connection with the ' vellari thadi ' referred to 
above, Dr. Oppert writes * that " boomerangs are used 
by the Tamil Maravans and Kalians when hunting deer. 
The Madras Museum collection contains three (two ivory, 
one wooden) from the Tanjore armoury. In the arsenal 
of the Pudukkottai Raja a stock of wooden boomerangs 
is always kept. Their name in Tamil is valai tadi (bent 
stick)." Concerning these boomerangs, the Dewan of 
Pudukkottai writes to me as follows. "The valari or 
valai tadi is a short weapon, generally made of some 
hard-ofrained wood. It is also sometimes made of iron. 


It is crescent-shaped, one end being heavier than the 
other, and the outer edge is sharpened. Men trained in 
the use of the weapon hold it by the lighter end, whirl 

* Madras Journ. Lit. Science, XXV. 


it a few times over their shoulders to give it impetus, 
and then hurl it with great force against the object aimed 
at. It is said that there were experts in the art of 
throwing the valari, who could at one stroke despatch 
small game, and even man. No such experts are now 
forthcoming in the State, though the instrument is 
reported to be occasionally used in hunting hares, jungle 
fowl, etc. Its days, however, must be counted as past. 
Tradition states that the instrument played a consider- 
able part in the Poligar wars of the last century. But it 
now reposes peacefully in the households of the descend- 
ants of the rude Kalian and Maravan warriors, who 
plied it with such deadly effect in the last century, pre- 
served as a sacred relic of a chivalric past along with 
other old family weapons in their puja room, brought out 
and scraped and cleaned on occasions like the Ayudha 
puja day (when worship is paid to weapons and imple- 
ments of industry), and restored to its place of rest 
immediately afterwards." 

The sub-divisions of the Kalians, which were returned 
in greatest numbers at the census, 1 89 1, were Isanganadu 
(or Visangu-nadu), Kungiliyan, Menadu, Nattu, Pira- 
malainadu, and Sirukudi. In the Census Report, 1901, 
it is recorded that " in Madura the Kalians are divided 
into ten main endogamous divisions * which are territorial 
in origin. These are (i) Mel-nadu, (2) Sirukudi-nadu, 
(3) Vellur-nadu, (4) Malla-kottai nadu, (5) Pakaneri, (6) 
Kandramanikkam or Kunnan-kottai nadu, (7) Kanda- 
devi, (8) Puramalai-nadu, (9) Tennilai-nadu, and (10) 
Palaya-nadu. The headman of the Puramalai-nadu 
section is said to be installed by Idaiyans (herdsmen), 
but what the connection between the two castes may be 

* I am informed thai only Mel-nadu, Sirukudi, Mella-kottai, and Puramalai 
are endogamous. 


is not clear. The termination nadu means a country. 
These sections are further divided into exogamous 
sections called vaguppus. The Mel-nadu Kalians have 
three sections called terus or streets, namely, Vadakku- 
teru (north street), Kilakku-teru (east street), and 
Terku-teru (south street). The Sirukudi Kalians have 
vaguppus named after the gods specially worshipped by 
each, such as Andi, Mandai, Aiyanar, and Viramangali. 
Among the Vellur-nadu Kalians the names of these 
sections seem merely fanciful. Some of them are Vengai 
puli (cruel-handed tiger), Vekkali puli (cruel-legged 
tiger), Sami puli (holy tiger), Sem puli (red tiger), Sam- 
matti makkal (hammer men), Tiruman (holy deer), and 
Sayumpadai tangi (supporter of the vanquished army). 
A section of the Tanjore Kalians names its sections 
from sundry high-sounding titles meaning King of the 
Pallavas, King of Tanjore, conqueror of the south, 
mighty ruler, and so on." 

Portions of the Madura and Tanjore districts are 
divided into areas known as nadus, a name which, as 
observed by Mr. Nelson, is specially applicable to 
Kalian tracts. In each nadu a certain caste, called the 
Nattan, is the predominant factor in the settlement of 
social questions which arise among the various castes 
livinof within the nadu. Round about Devakotta in the 
Sivaganga zamindari there are fourteen nadus, repre- 
sentatives of which meet once a year at Kandadevi, to 
arrange for the annual festival at the temple dedicated 
to Swarnamurthi Swami. The four nadus Unjanai, 
Sembonmari, Iravaseri, and Tennilai in the same zamin- 
dari constitute a group, of which the last is considered 
the chief nadu, whereat caste questions must come up 
for settlement. For marriage purposes these four nadus 
constitute an endogamous section, which is sub-divided 



into septs or karais. Among^ the Vallambans these 
karais are exogamous, and run in the male Hne. But, 
among the Kalians, the karai is recognised only in 
connection with property. A certain tract of land is the 
property of a particular karai, and the legal owners 
thereof are members of the same karai. When the land 
has to be disposed of, this can only be effected with the 
consent of representatives of the karai. The Nattar 
Kalians of Sivaganga have exogamous septs called kilai 
or branches, which, as among the Maravans, run in the 
female line, i.e., a child belongs to the mother's, not the 
father's, sept. In some castes, and even among Brah- 
mans, though contrary to strict rule, it is permissible 
for a man to marry his sister's daughter. This is not 
possible among the Kalians who have kilais such as 
those referred to, because the maternal uncle of a girl, 
the girl, and her mother all belong to the same sept. 
But the children of a brother and sister may marry, 
because they belong to different kilais, i.e., those of their 
respective mothers. 

Subban = Pachchai 

(Kurivili kIlai). (Arasiya kIlai). 

Karuppan, son 
(Arasiya kilai) 

(Pesadan kilai) 

Ellamma, daughter 
(Arasiya kilai) 


(Arasiya kilai) 

In the above example, the girl Minachi may not 
marry Karuppan, as both are members of the same kilai. 
But she ought, though he be a mere boy, to marry 
Raman, who belongs to a different sept. 


It is noted* that, among the Sivaganga Kalians, 
" when a member of a certain kilai dies, a piece of new 
cloth should be given to the other male member of the 
same kilai by the heir of the deceased. The cloth thus 
obtained should be given to the sister of the person 
obtaining it. If her brother fails to do so, her husband 
will consider himself degraded, and consequently will 
divorce her." Round about Pudukkottai and Tanjore, 
the Visangu-nadu Kalians have exogamous septs called 
pattaperu, and they adopt the sept name as a title, e.g., 
Muthu Udaiyan, Karuppa Tondaman, etc. It is noted, 
in the Gazetteer of the Tanjore district, that the sub- 
divisions of the Kalians are split into groups, e.g., Onaiyan 
(wolfish), Singattan (lion-like), etc. 

It is a curious fact that the Puramalai-nadu Kalians 
practice the rite of circumcision. The origin of this 
custom is uncertain, but it has been suggested t that it is 
a survival of a forcible conversion to Muhammadanism of 
a section of the Kurumbas who fled northwards on the 
downfall of their kingdom. At the time appointed for 
the initiatory ceremony, the Kalian youth is carried on 
the shoulders of his maternal uncle to a grove or plain 
outside the village, where betel is distributed among those 
who have assembled, and the operation is performed by 
a barber-surgeon. En 7'OtUe to the selected site, and 
throughout the ceremony, the conch shell (musical instru- 
ment) is blown. The youth is presented with new cloths. 
It is noted, in the Gazetteer of the Madura district, that 
" every Kalian boy has a right to claim the hand of his 
paternal aunt's daughter in marriage. This aunt bears 
the expenses connected with his circumcision. Similarly, 
the maternal uncle pays the costs of the rites which are 

* Madras Census Report, 1891. t Manual of the Madura district. 


observed when a girl attains maturity, for he has a claim 
on the girl as a bride for his son. The two ceremonies 
are performed at one time for large batches of boys and 
girls. On an auspicious day, the young people are all 
feasted, and dressed in their best, and repair to a river or 
tank (pond). The mothers of the girls make lamps of 
plantain leaves, and float them on the water, and the boys 
are operated on by the local barber." It is stated, in the 
Census Report, 1901, that the Sirukudi Kalians use a tali, 
on which the Muhammadan badge of a crescent and star 
is engraved. 

In connection with marriage among the Kalians, it 
is noted by Mr. S. M. Natesa Sastri * that "at the 
Mattupongal feast, towards evening, festoons of aloe fibre 
and cloths containing coins are tied to the horns of bullocks 
and cows, and the animals are driven through the streets 
with tom-tom and music. In the villages, especially those 
inhabited by the Kalians in Madura and Tinnevelly, the 
maiden chooses as her husband him who has safely un- 
tied and brought to her the cloth tied to the horn of the 
fiercest bull. The animals are let loose with their 
horns containing valuables, amidst the din of tom-tom and 
harsh music, which terrifies and bewilders them. They 
run madly about, and are purposely excited by the 
crowd. A young Kalla will declare that he will run 
after such and such a bull — and this is sometimes a risky 
pursuit — and recover the valuables tied to its horn. 
The Kalian considers it a great disgrace to be injured 
while chasing the bull." 

A poet of the early years of the present era, quoted 
by Mr. Kanakasabhai Pillai,t describes this custom as 
practiced by the shepherd castes in those days. " A 

* Hindu Feasts, Fasts, and Ceremonies, 1903. 
t The Tamils eighteen hundred years ago, 1904. 


large area of ground Is enclosed with palisades and 
strong fences. Into the enclosure are brought ferocious 
bulls with sharpened horns. On a spacious loft, over- 
looking the enclosure, stand the shepherd girls, whom 
they intend to give away in marriage. The shepherd 
youths, prepared for the fight, first pray to their gods, 
whose images are placed under old banian or peepul 
trees, or at watering places. They then deck themselves 
with garlands made of the bright red flowers of the 
kanthal, and the purple flowers of the kaya. At a signal 
given by the beating of drums, the youths leap into the 
enclosure, and try to seize the bulls, which, frightened 
by the noise of the drums, are now ready to charge 
anyone who approaches them. Each youth approaches 
a bull, which he chooses to capture. But the bulls rush 
furiously, with tails raised, heads bent down, and horns 
levelled at their assailants. Some of the youths face 
the bulls boldly, and seize their horns. Some jump 
aside, and take hold of their tails. The more wary young 
men cling to the animals till they force them to fall on 
the ground. Many a luckless youth is now thrown down. 
Some escape without a scratch, while others are trampled 
upon or gored by the bulls. Some, though wounded 
and bleeding, again spring on the bulls. A few, who suc- 
ceed in capturing the animals, are declared the victors of 
that day's fight. The elders then announce that the bull- 
fight is over. The wounded are carried out of the enclo- 
sure, and attended to immediately, while the victors and 
the brides-elect repair to an adjoining grove, and there, 
forming into groups, dance joyously before preparing for 
their marriage." 

In an account of marriage among the Kalians, Mr. 
Nelson writes that " the most proper alliance in the 
opinion of a Kalian is one between a man and the 


daughter of his father's sister, and, if an individual have 
such a cousin, he must marry her, whatever disparity 
there may be between their respective ages. A boy of 
fifteen must marry such a cousin, even if she be thirty 
or forty years old, if her father insists upon his so doing. 
Failing a cousin of this sort, he must marry his aunt or 
his niece, or any near relative. If his father's brother has 
a daughter, and insists upon him marrying her he cannot 
refuse ; and this whatever may be the woman's age. 
One of the customs of the western Kalians is specially 
curious. It constantly happens that a woman is the wife 
of ten, eight, six, or two husbands, who are held to be the 
fathers jointly and severally of any children that may be 
born of her body, and, still more curiously, when the 
children grow up they, for some unknown reason, 
invariably style themselves the children not of ten, eight 
or six fathers as the case may be, but of eight and two, 
six and two, or four and two fathers. When a wedding- 
takes place, the sister of the bridegroom goes to the 
house of the parents of the bride, and presents them with 
twenty-one Kali fanams (coins) and a cloth, and, at the 
same time, ties some horse-hair round the bride's neck. 
She then brings her and her relatives to the house of 
the bridegroom, where a feast is prepared. 

Sheep are killed, and stores of liquor kept ready, 
and all partake of the good cheer provided. After this 
the bride and bridegroom are conducted to the house of 
the latter, and the ceremony of an exchange between 
them of vallari thadis or boomerangs is solemnly per- 
formed. Another feast is then given in the bride's 
house, and the bride is presented by her parents with 
one markal of rice and a hen. She then goes with her 
husband to his house. Durinor the first twelve months 
after marriage, it is customary for the wife's parents to 


invite the pair to stay with them a day or two on the 
occasion of any feast, and to present them on their 
departure with a markal of rice and a cock. At the 
time of the first Pongal feast after the marriage, the 
presents customarily given to the son-in-law are five 
markals of rice, five loads of pots and pans, five bunches 
of plantains, five cocoanuts, and five lumps of jaggery 
(crude sugar). A divorce is easily obtained on either 
side. A husband dissatisfied with his wife can send her 
away if he be willing at the same time to give her half 
of his property, and a wife can leave her husband at will 
upon forfeiture of forty-two Kali fanams. A widow may 
marry any man she fancies, if she can induce him to 
make her a present often fanams." 

In connection with the foregoing account, I am 
informed that, among the Nattar Kalians, the brother of 
a married woman must give her annually at Pongal a 
present of rice, a goat, and a cloth until her death. The 
custom of exchanging boomerangs appears to be fast 
becoming a tradition. But, there is a common saying 
still current " Send the valari tadi, and bring the bride." 
As regards the horse-hair, which is mentioned as being 
tied round the bride's neck, I gather that, as a rule, the 
tali is suspended from a cotton thread, and the horse- 
hair necklet may be worn by girls prior to puberty and 
marriage, and by widows. This form of necklet is also 
worn by females of other castes, such as Maravans, 
Valaiyans, and Morasa Paraiyans. Puramalai Kalian 
women can be distinguished by the triangular ornament, 
which is attached to the tali string. It is stated, in the 
Gazetteer of the Madura district, that " when a girl has 
attained maturity, she puts away the necklace of coloured 
beads she wore as a child, and dons the horse-hair neck- 
let, which is characteristic of the Kalian woman. This 


she retains till death, even if she becomes a widow. 
The richer Kalians substitute for the horse-hair a 
necklace of many strands of fine silver wire. In Tiru- 
mangalam, the women often hang- round their necks a 
most curious brass and silver pendant, six or eight inches 
long, and elaborately worked." 

It is noted in the Census Report, 1891, that as a 
token of divorce "a Kalian gives his wife a piece of 
straw in the presence of his caste people. In Tamil the 
expression ' to give a straw ' means to divorce, and ' to 
take a straw ' means to accept divorce." 

In their marriage customs, some Kalians have 
adopted the Puranic form of rite owing to the influence 
of Brahman purohits, and, though adult marriage is the 
rule, some Brahmanised Kalians have introduced infant 
marriage. To this the Puramalai section has a strong 
objection, as, from the time of marriage, they have to 
give annually till the birth of the first child a present 
of fowls, rice, a goat, jaggery, plantains, betel, turmeric, 
and condiments. By adult marriage the time during 
which this present has to be made is shortened, and 
less expenditure thereon is incurred. In connection 
with the marriage ceremonies as carried out by some 
Kalians, I gather that the consent of the maternal 
uncle of a girl to her marriage is essential. For the 
betrothal ceremony, the father and maternal uncle 
of the future bridegroom proceed to the girl's house, 
where a feast is held, and the date fixed for the 
wedding written on two rolls of palm leaf dyed with 
turmeric or red paper, which are exchanged between the 
maternal uncles. On the wedding day, the sister of the 
bridegroom goes to the house of the bride, accompanied 
by women, some of whom carry flowers, cocoanuts, betel 
leaves, turmeric, leafy twigs of Sesbania grandiflora. 


paddy (unhusked rice), milk, and gh! (clarified butter). 
A basket containing a female cloth, and the tali string 
wrapped up in a red cloth borrowed from a washerman, 
is given to a sister of the bridegroom or to a woman 
belonging to his sept. On the way to the bride's house, 
two ofthe women blow chank shells (musical instrument). 
The bride's people question the bridegroom's party as to 
his sept, and they ought to say that he belongs to Indra 
kulam, Thalavala nadu, and Ahalya gotra. The bride- 
groom's sister, taking up the tali, passes it round to be 
touched by all present, and ties the string, which is 
decorated with flowers, tightly round the bride's neck 
amid the blowino- of the conch shell. The bride is then 
conducted to the home of the bridegroom, whence they 
return to her house on the following day. The newly 
married couple sit on a plank, and coloured rice-balls or 
coloured water are waved, while women yell out " killa, 
ilia, ilia ; killa, ilia, ilia." This ceremony is called kulavi 
idal, and is sometimes performed by Kalian women 
during the tali-tying. 

The following details relating to the marriage cere- 
monies are recorded in the Gazetteer of the Tanjore 
district. " The arrival of the bridegroom has been 
described as being sometimes especially ceremonious. 
Mounted on a horse, and attended by his maternal uncle, 
he is met by a youth from the bride's house, also mounted, 
who conducts the visitors to the marriage booth. Here 
he is given betel leaves, areca nuts, and a rupee by the 
bride's father, and his feet are washed in milk and 
water, and adorned with toe-rings by the bride's mother. 
The tali is suspended from a necklet of gold or silver 
instead of cotton thread, but this is afterwards changed 
to cotton for fear of offending the god Karuppan. A 
lamp is often held by the bridegroom's sister, or some 



married woman, while the tali is being tied. This is left 
unlighted by the Kalians for fear it should go out, and 
thus cause an evil omen. The marriage tie is in some 
localities very loose. Even a woman who has borne 
her husband many children may leave him if she likes, 
to seek a second husband, on condition that she pays 
him her marriage expenses. In this case (as also when 
widows are remarried), the children are left in the late 
husband's house. The freedom of the Kalian women 
in these matters is noticed in the proverb that, " though 
there may be no thread in the spinning-rod, there will 
always be a (tali) thread on the neck of a Kalian 
woman," or that " though other threads fail, the thread 
of a Kalian woman will never do so." 

By some Kalians pollution is, on the occasion of the 
first menstrual period, observed for seven or nine days. 
On the sixteenth day, the maternal uncle of the girl 
brings a sheep or goat, and rice. She is bathed and 
decorated, and sits on a plank while a vessel of water, 
coloured rice, and a measure filled with paddy with a 
style bearing a betel leaf struck on it, are waved before 
her. Her head, knees, and shoulders are touched with 
cakes, which are then thrown away. A woman, con- 
ducting the girl round the plank, pours water from a 
vessel on to a betel leaf held in her hand, so that it falls 
on the ground at the four cardinal points of the compass, 
which the girl salutes. 

A ceremony is generally celebrated in the seventh 
month of pregnancy, for which the husband's sister pre- 
pares pongal (cooked rice). The pregnant woman sits 
on a plank, and the rice is waved before her. She then 
stands up, and bends down while her sister-in-law pours 
milk from a betel or pipal [Fiats religiosa) leaf on her 
back. A feast brings the ceremony to a close. Among 


the Vellur-nadu Kalians patterns are said * to be drawn 
on the back of the pregnant woman with rice-flour, and 
milk is poured over them. The husband's sister deco- 
rates a grindstone in the same way, invokes a blessing 
on the woman, and expresses a hope that she may have 
a male child as strong as a stone. 

When a child is born in a family, the entire family 
observes pollution for thirty days, during which entrance 
into a temple is forbidden. Among the Nattar Kalians, 
children are said to be named at any time after they are 
a month old. But, among the Puramalai Kalians, a first- 
born female child is named on the seventh day, after 
the ear-boring ceremony has been performed. " All 
Kalians," Mr. Francis writes,* "put on sacred ashes, 
the usual mark of a Saivite, on festive occasions, but 
they are nevertheless generally Vaishnavites. The dead 
are usually buried, and it is said that, at funerals, cheroots 
are handed round, which those present smoke while the 
ceremony proceeds." Some Kalians are said,t when a 
death occurs in a family, to 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. 

It is recorded, in the Gazetteer of the Madura district, 
that "the Kilnad Kalians usually bury their dead. 
Lamps are periodically lighted on the tomb, and it is 
whitewashed annually. The Piramalainad division 
usually burn the dead. If a woman dies when with child, 
the baby is taken out, and placed alongside her on the 
pyre. This, it may be noted, is the rule with most castes 
in this district, and, in some communities, the relations 
afterwards put up a stone burden-rest by the side of a 

* Madras Census Report, 1901. + Gazetteer of the Tanjore district. 


road, the idea bein^ that the woman died with her burden, 
and so her spirit rejoices to see others lightened of 
theirs. Tradition says that the caste came originally 
from the north. The dead are buried with their faces 
laid in that direction ; and, when puja is done to Karup- 
panaswami, the caste god, the worshippers turn to the 

According to Mr. H. A. Stuart* "the Kalians are 
nominally Saivites, but in reality the essence of their 
religious belief is devil-worship. Their chief deity is 
Alagarswami, the god of the great Alagar Kovil twelve 
miles to the north of the town of Madura. To this 
temple they make large offerings, and the Swami, called 
Kalla Alagar, has always been regarded as their own 
peculiar deity." The Kalians are said by Mr. Mullaly 
to observe omens, and consult their household gods 
before starting on depredations. " Two flowers, the one 
red and the other white, are placed before the idol, a 
symbol of their god Kalla Alagar. The white flower is 
the emblem of success. A child of tender years is told 
to pluck a petal of one of the two flowers, and the 
undertaking rests upon the choice made by the child." 
In like manner, when a marriage is contemplated among 
the Idaiyans, the parents of the prospective bride and 
bridegroom go to the temple, and throw before the idol 
a red and white flower, each wrapped in a betel leaf. A 
small child is then told to pick up one of the leaves. 
If the one selected contains the white flower, it is con- 
sidered auspicious, and the marriage will take place. 

In connection with the Alagar Kovil, I gather t 
that, when oaths are to be taken, the person who is to 
swear is asked to worship Kallar Alagar, and, with. 

* Madras Census Report, 1891. f Madras Mail, 1908, 

ni-6 B 


a parivattam (cloth worn as a mark of respect in the 
presence of the god) on his head, and a garland round 
his neck, should stand on the eighteenth step of the 
eighteen steps of Karuppanaswami, and say : " I swear 
before Kallar Alagar and Karuppannaswami that I 
have acted rightly, and so on. If the person swears 
falsely, he dies on the third day ; if truly the other 
person meets witb the same fate." 

It was noted by Mr. M. J. Walhouse,* that " at the 
bull games (jellikattu) at Dindigul, the Kalians can alone 
officiate as priests, and consult the presiding deity. On 
this occasion they hold quite a Saturnalia of lordship 
and arrogance over the Brahmans." It is recorded, in 
the Gazetteer of the Madura district, that '' the keen- 
ness of the more virile sections of the community 
(especially the Kalians), in this game, is extraordinary, 
and, in many villages, cattle are bred and reared specially 
for it. The best jallikats are to be seen in the Kalian 
country in Tirumangalam, and next come those in Melur 
and Madura taluks." [See also Maravan.) 

It is recorded, in the Gazetteer of the Madura district, 
that Karuppan is *' essentially the god of the Kalians, 
especially of the Kalians of the Melur side. In those 
parts, his shrine is usually the Kalians' chavadi (assembly 
place). His priests are usually Kalians or Kusavans. 
Alagarswami (the beautiful god) is held in special 
veneration by the Kalians, and is often popularly called 
the Kallar Alagar. The men of this caste have the 
right to drag his car at the car festival, and, when he 
goes (from Alagar Kovil) on his visit to Madura, he is 
dressed as a Kalian, exhibits the long ears characteristic 
of that caste, and carries the boomerang and club, which 

* Ind. Ant,, III., 1S74. 


were of their old favourite weapons. It is whispered that 
Kalian dacoits invoke his aid when they are setting out 
on marauding expeditions, and, if they are successful 
therein, put part of their ill-gotten gains into the 
offertory (undial) box, which is kept at his shrine." 

For the following note I am indebted to the Rev. 
J. Sharrock. " The chief temple of the Kalians is about 
ten miles west of Madura, and is dedicated to Alagar- 
swami, said to be an incarnation of Vishnu, but also said 
to be the brother of Minatchi (the fish-eyed or beautiful 
daughter of the Pandya king of Madura). Now Minatchi 
has been married by the Brahmans to Siva, and so we 
see Hinduism wedded to Dravidianism, and the spirit 
of compromise, the chief method of conversion adopted 
by the Brahmans, carried to its utmost limit. At the 
great annual festival, the idol of Alagarswami is 
carried, in the month of Chittra (April-May), to the 
temple of Minatchi, and the banks of the river Vaiga 
swarm with two to three lakhs * of worshippers, a large 
proportion of whom are Kalians. At this festival, the 
Kalians have the right of dragging with a rope the 
car of Alagarswami, though other people may join in 
later on. As Alagarswami is a vegetarian, no blood 
sacrifice is offered to him. This is probably due to 
the influence of Brahmanism, for, in their ordinary 
ceremonies, the Kalians invariably slaughter sheep as 
sacrifices to propitiate their deities. True to their 
bold and thievish instincts, the Kalians do not hesitate 
to steal a god, if they think he will be of use to them in 
their predatory excursions,! and are not afraid to dig 
up the coins or jewels that are generally buried under 
an idol. Though they entertain little dread of their 

* A lakh = a hundred thousand. 

t Compare the theft of Laban's teraphim by Rachel. Genesis, XXXI, 19. 


own village gods, they are often afraid of others that 
they meet far from home, or in the jungles when they are 
engaged in one of their stealing expeditions. As regards 
their own village gods, there is a sort of understanding 
that, if they help them in their thefts, they are to have 
a fair share of the spoil, and, on the principle of honesty 
among thieves, the bargain is always kept. At the 
annual festival for the village deities, each family sacri- 
fices a sheep, and the head of the victim is given to the 
pujari (priest), while the body is taken home by the 
donor, and partaken of as a communion feast. Two 
at least of the elements of totem worship appear here : 
there is the shedding of the sacrificial blood of an innocent 
victim to appease the wrath of the totem god, and 
the common feasting together which follows it. The 
Brahmans sometimes join in these sacrifices, but of 
course take no part of the victim, the whole being the 
perquisite of the pujari, and there is no common partici- 
pation in the meal. When strange deities are met with 
by the Kalians on their thieving expeditions, it is usual 
to make a vow that, if the adventure turns out well, part 
of the spoil shall next day be left at the shrine of the 
god, or be handed over to the pujari of that particular 
deity. They are afraid that, if this precaution be not 
taken, the god may make them blind, or cause them to 
be discovered, or may go so far as to knock them down, 
and leave them to bleed to death. If they have seen 
the deity, or been particularly frightened or otherwise 
specially affected by these unknown gods, instead of 
leaving a part of the body, they adopt a more thorough 
method of satisfying the same. After a few days they 
return at midnight to make a special sacrifice, which 
of course is conducted by the particular pujari, whose 
god is to be appeased. They bring a sheep with rice, 


curry-stuffs and liquors, and, after the sacrifice, give a 
considerable share of these dainties, together with 
the animal's head, to the pujari, as well as a sum of 
money for making the puja (worship) for them. Some 
of the ceremonies are worth recording. First the idol 
is washed in water, and a sandal spot is put on the 
forehead in the case of male deities, and a kunkuma 
spot in the case of females. Garlands are placed round 
the neck, and the bell is rung, while lamps are lighted 
all about. Then the deity's name is repeatedly invoked, 
accompanied by beating on the udukku. This is a 
small drum which tapers to a narrow waist in the 
middle, and is held in the left hand of the pujari with 
one end close to his left ear, while he taps on it with 
the fingers of his right hand. Not only is this primitive 
music pleasing to the ears of his barbarous audience, 
but, what is more important, it conveys the oracular 
communications of the god himself By means of the 
end of the drum placed close to his ear, the pujari is 
enabled to hear what the god has to say of the predatory 
excursion which has taken place, and the pujari (who, 
like a clever gypsy, has taken care previously to get as 
much information of what has happened as possible) 
retails all that has occurred during the exploit to his 
wondering devotees. In case his information is incom- 
plete, he is easily able to find out, by a few leading 
questions and a little cross-examination of these ignorant 
people, all that he needs to impress them with the idea 
that the god knows all about their transactions, having 
been present at their plundering bout. At all such 
sacrifices, it is a common custom to pour a little water 
over the sheep, to see if it will shake itself, this being 
invariably a sign of the deity's acceptance of the animal 
offered. In some sacrifices, if the sheep does not shake 


itself, it is rejected, and another substituted for it ; and, 
in some cases (be it whispered, when the pujari thinks 
the sheep too thin and scraggy), he pours over it only 
a little water, and so demands another animal. If, 
however, the pujari, as the god's representative, is satis- 
fied, he goes on pouring more and more water till the 
half-drenched animal has to shake itself, and so signs 
its own death-warrant. All who have ventured forth in 
the night to take part in the sacrifice then join together 
in the communal meal. An illustration of the value of 
sacrifices may here be quoted, to show how little value 
may be attached to an oath made in the presence of a 
god. Some pannaikarans (servants) of a Kalian land- 
owner one day stole a sheep, for which they were 
brought up before the village munsif When they 
denied the theft, the munsif took them to their village 
god, Karuppan (the black brother), and made them 
swear in its presence. They perjured themselves again, 
and were let off. Their master quietly questioned them 
afterwards, asking them how they dared swear so falsely 
before their own god, and to this they replied ' While 
we were swearing, we were mentally offering a sacrifice 
to him of a sheep ' (which they subsequently carried 
out), to pacify him for the double crime of stealing and 

As a typical example of devil worship, the practice 
of the Valaiyans and Kalians of Orattanadu in the 
Tanjore district is described by Mr. F. R. Hemingway.* 
" Valaiyan houses have generally an odiyan (Odma 
Wodier) tree in the backyard, wherein the devils are 
believed to live, and among Kalians every street has 
a tree for their accommodation. They are propitiated 

* Gazetteer of the Tanjore district. 


at least once a year, the more virulent under the tree 
itself, and the rest in the house, generally on a Friday 
or Monday. Kalians attach importance to Friday in Adi 
(July and August), the cattle Pongal day in Tai (January 
and February), and Kartigai day in the month Kartigai 
(November and December). A man, with his mouth 
covered with a cloth to indicate silence and purity, 
cooks rice in the backyard, and pours it out in front of 
the tree, mixed with milk and jaggery (crude sugar). 
Cocoanuts and toddy are also placed there. These are 
offered to the devils, represented in the form of bricks 
or mud images placed at the foot of the tree, and 
camphor is set alight. A sheep is then brought and 
slaughtered, and the devils are supposed to spring one 
after another from the tree into one of the bystanders. 
This man then becomes filled with the divine afflatus, 
works himself up into a kind of frenzy, becomes the 
mouthpiece of the spirits, pronounces their satisfac- 
tion or the reverse at the offerings, and gives utterance 
to cryptic phrases, which are held to foretell good or 
evil fortune to those in answer to whom they are 
made. When all the devils in turn have spoken and 
vanished, the man recovers his senses. The devils are 
worshipped in the same way in the houses, except that 
no blood is shed. All alike are propitiated by animal 

The Kalians are stated by Mr. Hemingway to be 
very fond of bull-baiting. This is of two kinds. The 
first resembles the game played by other castes, except 
that the Kalians train their animals for the sport, and 
have regular meetings, at which all the villagers congre- 
gate. These begin at Pongal, and go on till the end of 
May. The sport is called tolu madu (byre bull). The 
best animals for it are the Pulikkolam bulls from the 


Madura district. The other game is called pachal 
madu (leaping bull). In this, the animals are tethered 
to a long rope, and the object of the competition is to 
throw the animal, and keep it down. A bull which is 
good at the game, and difficult to throw, fetches a very- 
high price. 

It is noted in the Gazetteer of the Tanjore district, 
that " the Kalians have village caste panchayats 
(councils) of the usual kind, but in some places they 
are discontinuino^ these in imitation of the Vellalans. 
According to the account given at Orattanadu, the 
members of Ambalakaran families sit by hereditary right 
as Karyastans or advisers to the headman in each village. 
One of these households is considered superior to the 
others, and one of its members is the headman (Ambala- 
karan) proper. The headmen of the panchayats of 
villages which adjoin meet to form a further panchayat 
to decide on matters common to them generally. In 
Kalian villages, the Kalian headman often decides dis- 
putes between members of other lower castes, and inflicts 
fines on the party at fault." 

In the Gazetteer, of the Madura district, it is recorded 
that " the organization of the Kilnad Kalians differs from 
that of their brethren beyond the hills. Among the 
former, an hereditary headman, called the Ambalakaran, 
rules in almost every village. He receives small fees 
at domestic ceremonies, is entitled to the first betel 
and nut, and settles caste disputes. Fines inflicted are 
credited to the caste fund. The western Kalians are 
under a more monarchial rule, an hereditary headman 
called Tirumala Pinnai Tevan decidino" most caste 
matters. He is said to get this hereditary name from 
the fact that his ancestor was appointed (with three 
co-adjutors) by King Tirumala Nayakkan, and given 


many insignia of office including a state palanquin. If 
any one declines to abide by his decision, excommu- 
nication is pronounced by the ceremony of ' placing 
the thorn,' which consists in laying a thorny branch 
across the threshold of the recalcitrant party's house, 
to signify that, for his contumacy, his property will go 
to ruin and be overrun with jungle. The removal of 
the thorn, and the restitution of the sinner to Kalian 
society can only be procured by abject apologies to 
Pinnai Tevan." 

The usual title of the Kalians is Ambalakaran 
(president of an assembly), but some, like the Maravans 
and Agamudaiyans, style themselves Tevan (god) or 
Servaikkaran (commander).* 

Kallankanadoru (stone). — A sub-division of 
Komati, said to be descended from those who sat on the 
stone (kallu) mantapa outside the Penukonda Kanya- 
kamma temple, when the question whether to enter the 
fire-pits or not was being discussed by the caste elders. 

Kalian Muppan. — In the Madras Census Report, 
1901, Kalian Muppan is returned as "a sub-caste of the 
Malabar Kammalans, the members of which are stone- 
workers." A correspondent writes to me that, " while 
the Kammalans are a polluting and polyandrous class, 
the Kalian Muppans are allowed to enter the outside 
enclosure of temples. They do not remarry their 
widows, and are strictly monogamous. Their purohits 
are Tamil barbers, who officiate at their marriages. The 
barber shaves the bridegroom before the wedding 
ceremony. The purohit has also to blow the conch- 
shell all the way from the bridegroom's house to that of 
the bride." 

* Madras Census Report, 1891. 


The names Kalian and Kalkotti are also those by 
which the Malabar stone-masons are known. 

Kallangi. — Kallangi and Kallaveli (Kalian's fence) 
are fanciful names, returned by Pallis at times of census. 

Kallasari (stone-workers). — The occupational name 
of a sub-division of Malayalam Kammalans. 

Kallatakurup. — A sub-division of Ambalavasis, 
who sing in Bhagavati temples. They play on a 
stringed instrument, called nandurini, with two strings 
and a number of wooden stops glued on to the long 
handle, and a wooden plectrum. 

Kallu (stone). — A sub-division of Ganiga and Odde. 
Kallukoti (stone-mason) is a sub-division of Malabar 
Kammalans, who work in stone. 

Kallukatti. — It is noted, in the Gazetteer of the 
South Canara district, that " a grinding stone made of 
granite is an article peculiar to South Canara. It is a 
semicircular, oval-shaped block with a flat bottom, and a 
round hole in the middle of the surface. It has another 
oval-shaped block, thin and long, with one end so shaped 
as to fit into the hole in the larger block. These two 
tOQ^ether make what is known as the ocrindinCT-stone of 
the district, which is used for grinding curry-stuff, rice, 
wheat, etc. Mill-stones for pounding grain are also 
made of granite. Formerly, a class of people called 
Kallukattis used to make such articles, but the industry 
is now taken up by other castes as well. Mile-stones, 
slabs for temple door-frames, idols and other figures for 
temple purposes are also made of granite." 

Kallur.— Recorded, in the Travancore Census 
Report, 1 90 1, as a name for the Pulikkappanikkan 
sub-division of Nayar. 

Kalluri (stone village). — An exogamous sept of 


Kal Tacchan (stone-mason). — A sub-division of 

Kalti (expunged). — A degraded Paraiyan is known 
as a Kalti. Amongst the Paraiyans of Madras, Chingle- 
put and North Arcot, the rule Is that a man who does 
not abide by the customs of the caste is formally excom- 
municated by a caste council. He then joins "those at 
Vinnamangalam " near Vellore, i.e., those who have, like 
himself, been driven out of the caste. 

Kalugunadu (eagle's country). — An exogamous 
sept of Tamil goldsmiths in the Madura district. 

Kaluthai (possessors of donkeys). — A sub-division 
of Odde. 

Kalyanakulam (marriage people). — A fanciful name 
returned by some Mangalas at times of census, as they 
officiate as musicians at marriages. 

Kamadi (tortoise). — A gotra of Kurni. 

Kamakshiamma. — Recorded, in the North Arcot 
Manual, as a sub-division of Vaniyan. Kamakshiamma 
is the chief goddess worshipped at Conjeeveram. She 
and Minakshi Amma of Madura are two well-known 
goddesses worshipped by Saivites. Both names are 
synonyms of Parvati, the wife of Siva. 

Kamati (foolish). — A name sometimes applied to 
carpenters, and also of a sub-division of Okkiliyans, who 
are said to have abandoned their original occupation of 
cultivating land, and become bricklayers. 

Kambalam.— The name Kambalam is applied to a 
group of nine castes (Tottiyan, Annappan, Kappiliyan, 
Chakkiliyan, etc.), because at their council meetings a 
blanket (kambli) is spread, on which is placed a brass 
vessel (kalasam) filled with water, and decorated with 
flowers. iySee Tottiyan.) 

Kambalattan.— A synonym of Tottiyan. 


Kamban.— A title of the Occhans, to which caste 
the great Tamil epic poet Kamban is reputed to have 

Kambha.^Kambha or Kambhapu, meaning a pillar 
or post, has been recorded as an exogamous sept of 
Madiga and Komati. 

Kamma.-^Writing collectively concerning the Kam- 
mas, Kapus or Reddis, Velamas, and Telagas, Mr. W. 
Francis states * that " all four of these large castes closely 
resemble one another in appearance and customs, and 
seem to have branched off from one and the same 
Dravidian stock. Originally soldiers by profession, they 
are now mainly agriculturists and traders, and some of 
them in the north are zamindars (land-owners). The 
Razus, who now claim to be Kshatriyas, were probably 
descended from Kapus, Kammas, and Velamas. The 
Kammas and Kapus of the Madura and Tinnevelly 
districts seem to have followed the Vijayanagar army 
south, and settled in these districts when the Nayak 
Governors were established there. Their women are less 
strict in their deportment than those of the same castes 
further north, the latter of whom are very careful of their 
reputations, and, in the case of one section of the 
Kammas, are actually gosha (kept in seclusion) like 

Various stories are current, which point to the 
common ancestry of the Kammas, Kapus, and Velamas. 
The word Kamma in Telugu means the ear-ornament, 
such as is worn by women. According to one legend 
"the Rishis, being troubled by Rakshasas, applied to 
Vishnu for protection, and he referred them to Lakshmi. 
The goddess gave them a casket containing one of her 

* Madras Census Report, 1901. 


ear ornaments (kamma), and enjoined them to worship 
it for a hundred years. At the expiry of that period, a 
band of five hundred armed warriors sprang up from 
the casket, who, at the request of the Rishis, attacked 
and destroyed the giants. After this they were directed 
to engage in agriculture, being promised extensive 
estates, and the consideration paid to Kshatriyas. They 
accordingly became possessed of large territories, 
such as Amravati and others in the Kistna, Nellore and 
other districts, and have always been most successful 

Some Kammas, when questioned by Mr. F. R. 
Hemingway in the Godavari district, stated that they 
were originally Kshatriyas, but were long ago persecuted 
by a king of the family of Parikshat, because one of them 
called him a bastard. They sought refuge with the 
Kapus, who took them in, and they adopted the customs 
of their protectors. According to another legend, a 
valuable ear ornament, belonging to Raja Pratapa Rudra, 
fell into the hands of an enemy, whom a section of the 
Kapus boldly attacked, and recovered the jewel. This 
feat earned for them and their descendants the title 
Kamma. Some of the Kapus ran away, and they are 
reputed to be the ancestors of the Velamas (veli, away). 
At the time when the Kammas and Velamas formed a 
single caste, they observed the Muhammadan gosha 
system, whereby the women are kept in seclusion. 
This was, however, found to be very inconvenient for 
their agricultural pursuits. They accordingly determined 
to abandon it, and an agreement was drawn up on a 
palm-leaf scroll. Those who signed it are said to have 
become Kammas, and those who declined to do so 

* Manual of the North Arcot district. 


Velamas, or outsiders. One meaning of the word kamma 
is the palm-leaf roll, such as is used to produce dilatation 
of the lobes of the ears. According to another story, 
there once lived a king, Belthi Reddi by name, who had 
a large number of wives, the favourite among whom he 
appointed Rani. The other wives, being jealous, induced 
their sons to steal all the jewels of the Rani, but they were 
caught in the act by the king, who on the following day 
asked his wife for her jewels, which she could not produce. 
Some of the sons ran away, and gave origin to the 
Velamas ; others restored the kamma, and became 
Kammas. Yet one more story. Pratapa Rudra's wife 
lost her ear ornament, and four of the king's captains 
were sent in search of it. Of these, one restored the 
jewel, and his descendants became Kammas ; the second 
attacked the thieves, and gave origin to the Velamas ; 
the third ran away, and so his children became the 
ancestors of the Pakanatis ; and the fourth disappeared. 

According to the Census Report, 1891, the main sub- 
divisions of the Kammas are Gampa, Illuvellani, Godajati, 
Kavali, Vaduga, Pedda, and Bangaru. It would seem 
that there are two main endogamous sections, Gampa 
(basket) Chatu, and Goda (wall) Chatu. Chatu is said 
to mean a screen or hiding place. Concerning the origin 
of these sections, the following story is told. Two 
sisters were bathing in a tank (pond), when a king 
happened to pass by. To hide themselves, one of the 
girls hid behind a basket, and the other behind a wall. 
The descendants of the two sisters became the Gampa 
and Goda Chatu Kammas, who may not intermarry by 
reason of their original close relationship. According 
to another legend, after a desperate battle, some members 
of the caste escaped by hiding behind baskets, others 
behind a wall. The terms Illuvellani and Pedda seem to 


be synonymous with Godachatu. The women of this 
section were gosha, and not allowed to appear in public, 
and even at the present day they do not go out and work 
freely in the fields. The name Illuvellani indicates those 
who do not go (vellani) out of the house (illu). The 
name Pedda (great) refers to the superiority of the section. 
Vaduga simply means Telugu, and is probably a name 
given by Tamilians to the Kammas who live amongst 
them. The name Bangaru is said to refer to the custom 
of the women of this sub-division wearing only gold nose 
ornaments (bangaramu). The Godajati sub-division is 
said to be most numerously represented in North Arcot 
and Chingleput, the Illuvellani in Kistna, Nellore and 
Anantapur. The Kavali sub-division is practically 
confined to the Godavari, and the Pedda to the Kistna 
district. The Vaduga Kammas are found chiefly in 

In his note on the Kammas of the Godavari district, 
Mr. Hemingway writes that " in this district they are 
divided into Kavitis, Eredis, Gampas or Gudas, Uggams, 
and Rachas. These names are, according to local 
accounts, derived from curious household customs, gener- 
ally from traditional methods of carrying water. Thus, 
the Kavitis will not ordinarily carry water except in 
pots on a kavidi, the Eredis except on a pack-bullock, 
the Uggams except in pots held in the hand, and not on 
the hip or head, the Rachas except in a pot carried by 
two persons. The Gampa women, when they first go to 
their husbands' houses, take the customary presents in 
a basket. It is said that these practices are generally 
observed at the present day." 

Writing concerning the Iluvedalani (Illuvellani) 
Kammas, the editor of the Kurnool Manual (1886) states 
that " a few families only exist in the district. The 
1 1 1-7 


women are kept in strict gosha. They consider it 
beneath them to spin thread, or to do other work. A 
sub-division of this caste Hves in Pullalcheruvu, whose 
families, also gosha, work at the spindles, like other 
women of the country. Another class of indoor Kammas 
resides about Owk. They are apparently descendants 
of the Kammas, who followed the Naiks from Guntur to 
Gandikota in the sixteenth century. They are now 
reduced, and the females work, like Kapus, in the field. 
The Gampas are distinguished from the indoor Kammas 
by their women wearing the cloth over the right, instead 
of the left shoulder." 

As with other Telugu castes, there are, among the 
Kammas, a number of exogamous septs or intiperu, of 
which the following are examples : — 

Palakala, planks. 
Kasturi, musk. 
Baththala, rice. 
Karnam, accountant. 
Irpina, combs. 
Gali, wind. 
Dhaniala, coriander. 

Anumollu, Dolichos Lablab. 

Tsanda, tax or subscription, 

Jasthi, too much. 

Mallela, jasmine. 

Lanka, island. 

Thota kijra, Amarantus gangeticiis, 

Komma, horn, or branch of a tree. 

Cheni, dry field. 

The Kammas also have gotras such as Chittipoola, 
Kurunollu, Kulakala, Uppala, Cheruku (sugar-cane), 
Vallotla, and Yenamalla. 

When matters affecting the community have to be 
decided, a council of the leading members thereof assem- 
bles. But, in some places, there is a permanent headman, 
called Mannemantri or Chaudri. 

The Kammas will work as coolies in the fields, but 
will, on no account, engage themselves as domestic 
servants. " They are," the Rev. J. Cain writes,* " as a 
rule a fine well-built class of cultivators, very proud and 

Ind. Ant., VIII, 1879. 


exclusive, and have a great aversion to town life. Many 
of them never allow their wives to leave their compounds, 
and it is said that many never do field work on Sundays, 
but confine themselves on that day to their house-work." 
" If," a correspondent writes from the Kistna district, 
" you ask in a village whether so-and-so is a Brahman, 
and they say * No. He is an asami (ordinary man),' he 
will be a Kamma or Kapu. If you ask how many pay 
income-tax in a village, they may tell you two Baniyas 
(merchants), and two Samsari-vallu, i.e., two prosperous 
Kamma ryots." 

The Kammas are stated by Mr. H. A. Stuart* to be 
" most industrious and intelligent cultivators, who, now 
that gosha has been generally abandoned, beat all rivals 
out of the field — a fact which is recognised by several 
proverbs, such as Kamma vani chetulu kattina nilavadu 
(though you tie a Kamma's hands, he will not be quiet) ; 
Kamma vandlu cherite kadama jatula vellunu (if Kammas 
come in, other castes go out) ; Kamma variki bhumi 
bhayapadu tunnadi (the earth fears the Kammas), and 
many others to the same effect. In addition to being 
industrious and well-to-do they are very proud, an 
instance of which occurred in the Kistna district, when 
the Revenue Settlement Officer offered them pattas, 
in which they were simply called Naidu without the 
honorific ending garu. They refused on this account to 
accept them, and finally the desired alteration was made, 
as they proved that all of their caste were considered 
entitled to the distinction. In North Arcot, however, 
they are not so particular, though some refuse to have 
their head shaved, because they scruple to bow down 
before a barber. Besides Vishnu the Kammas worship 

* Manual of the North Arcot district. 
III-7 B 


Ganga, because they say that long ago they fled from 
Northern India, to avoid the anger of a certain Raja, who 
had been refused a bride from among them. They were 
pursued, but their women, on reaching the Mahanadi, 
prayed for a passage to Ganga, who opened a dry path 
for them through the river. Crossing, they all hid 
themselves in a dholl [Cajanus iiidicus) field, and thus 
escaped from their pursuers. For this reason, at their 
marriages, they tie a bunch of dholl leaves to the north- 
eastern post of the wedding booth, and worship Ganga 
before tying the tali." 

Among the Kammas of the Tamil country, the bride- 
groom is said to be sometimes much younger than the 
bride, and a case is on record of a wife of twenty-two 
years of age, who used to carry her boy-husband on her 
hip, as a mother carries her child.* A parallel is to be 
found in Russia, where not very long ago grown-up 
women were to be seen carrying about boys of six, to 
whom they were betrothed. t Widow remarriage is not 
permitted. Widows of the Goda chatu section wear 
white, and those of the Gampa chatu section coloured 

Prior to the betrothal ceremony, female ancestors, 
Vigneswara, and the Grama Devata (village deities) are 
worshipped. A near relation of the future bridegroom 
proceeds, with a party, to the home of the future bride. 
On their way thither, they look for omens, such as the 
crossing of birds in an auspicious direction. Imme- 
diately on the occurrence of a favourable omen, they 
burn camphor, and break a cocoanut, which must split 
in two with clean ed^es. One half is sent to the 
would-be bridegroom, and the other taken to the 

* Madras Census Report, 1891. 

t Hutchinson. Marriage Customs in many lands, 1897. 


bride's house. If the first cocoanut does not split 
properly, others are broken till the wished-for result 
is obtained. When the girl's house is reached, she 
demands the sagunam (omen) cocoanut. Her lap is 
filled with flowers, cocoanuts, turmeric, plantains, betel 
leaves and areca nuts, combs, sandal paste, and coloured 
powder (kunkumam). The wedding day is then fixed. 
Marriage is generally celebrated at the house of the 
bridegroom, but, if it is a case of kannikadhanam 
(presenting the girl without claiming the bride's price), 
at the house of the bride. The bride-price is highest in 
the Gampa section. On the first day of the marriage 
rites, the petta mugada sangyam, or box-lid ceremony is 
performed. The new cloths for the bridal couple, five 
plantains, nuts, and pieces of turmeric, one or two combs, 
four rupees, and the bride-price in money or jewels, are 
placed in a box, which is placed near the parents of the 
contracting couple. The contents of the box are then 
laid out on the lid, and examined by the sammandhis 
(new relations by marriage). The bride's father gives 
betel leaves and areca nuts to the father of the bride- 
groom, saying " The girl is yours, and the money mine." 
The bridegroom's father hands them back, saying 
" The girl is mine, and the money yours." This is 
repeated three times. The officiating purohit (priest) 
then announces that the man's daughter is to be 
given in marriage to so-and-so, and the promise is 
made before the assembled Deva Brahmanas, and in 
the presence of light, Agni, and the Devatas. This 
ceremony is binding, and, should the bridegroom per- 
chance die before the bottu (marriage badge) is tied, 
she becomes, and remains a widow. The milk-post is 
next set up, the marriage pots are arranged, and the 
nalagu ceremony is performed. This consists of the 

KAMMA 102 

annointing of the bridal couple with oil, and smearing 
the shoulders with turmeric flour, or Acacia Concinna 
paste. A barber pares the nails of the bridegroom, and 
simply touches those of the bride with a mango leaf 
dipped in milk. In some places this rite is omitted by 
the Gampa section. A small wooden framework, called 
dhornam, with cotton threads wound round it, is generally 
tied to the marriage pandal (booth) by a Tsakali (washer- 
man) not only at a marriage among the Kammas, but 
also among the Balijas, Kapus, and Yelamas. After the 
return of the bridal couple from bathing, the bridegroom 
is decorated, and taken to a specially prepared place 
within or outside the house, to perform Vira-gudi- 
mokkadam, or worship of heroes in their temple. At 
the spot selected a pandal has been erected, and beneath 
it three or five bricks, representing the heroes (viralu), are 
set up. The bricks are smeared with turmeric paste, and 
painted with red dots. In front of the bricks an equal 
number of pots are placed, and they are worshipped by 
breaking a cocoanut, and burning camphor and incense. 
The bridegroom then prostrates himself before the bricks, 
and, taking up a sword, cuts some lime fruits, and touches 
the pots three times. In former days, a goat or sheep 
was sacrificed. The hero worship, as performed by the 
Goda section, differs from the above rite as practiced by 
the Gampa section. Instead of erecting a pandal, the 
G5das go to a pipal (Ficiis religiosa) tree, near which 
one or more daggers are placed. A yellow cotton thread 
is wound three or five times round the tree, which is 
worshipped. As a substitute for animal sacrifice, lime 
fruits are cut. The hero worship concluded, the wrist- 
threads of cotton and wool (kankanam) are tied on the 
bride and bridegroom, who is taken to the temple after 
he has bathed and dressed himself in new clothes. On 

103 KAMMA 

his return to the booth, the purohit lights the sacred fire, 
and the contracting couple sit side by side on a plank. 
They then stand, with a screen spread between them, and 
the bridegroom, with his right big toe on that of the bride, 
ties the bottu round her neck. They then go three times 
round the dais, with the ends of their cloths knotted 
together. The bottu of the Gampas is a concave disc of 
gold, that of the Godas a larger fiat disc. On the follow- 
ing day, the usual nagavali, or sacrifice to the Devas is 
offered, and a nagavali bottu (small gold disc) tied. All 
the relations make presents to the bridal pair, who indulge 
in a mock representation of domestic life. On the third 
day, pongal (rice) is offered to the pots, and the wrist- 
threads are removed. Like the Palli bridegroom, the 
Kamma bridegroom performs a mimic ploughing cere- 
mony, but at the house instead of at a tank (pond). He 
goes to a basket filled with earth, carrying the iron bar 
of a ploughshare, an ox-goad, and rope, accompanied by 
the bride carrying in her lap seeds or seedlings. While 
he pretends to be ploughing, his sister stops him, and will 
not let him continue till he has promised to give his first- 
born daughter to her son in marriage. The marriage pots 
are presented to the sisters of the bridegroom. During 
the marriage celebration, meat must not be cooked. 

Among the Kammas, consummation does not take 
place till three months after the marriage ceremony, as it 
is considered unlucky to have three heads of a family in 
a household during the first year of marriage. By the 
delay, the birth of a child should take place only in the 
second year, so that, during the first year, there will be 
only two heads, husband and wife. In like manner, it is 
noted by Mr. Francis * that, among the Gangimakkulu 

Gazetteer of the Bellary district. 

KAMMA 104 

and Madigas, the marriage is not consummated till three 
months after its celebration. 

When a pregnant woman is delivered, twigs of 
Balanites Roxburghii are placed round the house. 

The dead are usually cremated. As the moment of 
death approaches, a cocoanut is broken, and camphor 
burnt. The thumbs and great toes of the corpse are tied 
together. A woman, who is left a widow, exchanges 
betel with her dead husband, and the women put rice into 
his mouth. The corpse is carried to the burning-ground 
on a bier, with the head towards the house. When it 
approaches a spot called Arichandra's temple, the bier is 
placed on the ground, and food is placed at the four 
corners. Then a Paraiyan or Mala repeats the formula 
" I am the first born {i.e., the representative of the oldest 
caste). I wore the sacred thread at the outset. I am 
Sangu Paraiyan (or Reddi-Mala). I was the patron of 
Arichandra. Lift the corpse, and turn it round with its 
head towards the smasanam (burning-ground), and feet 
towards the house." When the corpse has been laid on 
the pyre, the relations throw rice over it, and the chief 
mourner goes three times round the pyre, carrying on his 
shoulder a pot of water, in which a barber makes holes. 
During the third turn he lights the pyre, and throwing 
down the pot, goes off to bathe. On the following day, 
a stone is placed on the spot where the deceased breathed 
his last, and his clothes are put close to it. The women 
pour milk over the stone, and offer milk, cocoanuts, cooked 
rice, betel, etc., to it. These are taken by the males 
to the burning-ground. When Arichandra's temple is 
reached, they place there a small quantity of food on a 
leaf. At the burning-ground, the fire is extinguished, 
and the charred bones are collected, and placed on a 
plantain leaf. Out of the ashes they make an effigy on 


the ground, to which food is offered on four leaves, 
one of which is placed on the abdomen of the figure, and 
the other three are set by the side of it. The first of 
these is taken by the Paraiyan, and the others are given 
to a barber, washerman, and Panisavan (a mendicant 
caste). The final death ceremonies (karmandhiram) are 
performed on the sixteenth day. They commence with 
the punyaham, or purificatory ceremony, and the giving 
of presents to Brahmans. Inside the house, the dead 
person's clothes are worshipped by the women. The 
widow is taken to a tank or well, where her nagavali 
bottu is removed. This usually wears out in a very short 
time, so a new one is worn for the purpose of the death 
ceremony. The males proceed to a tank, and make an 
effigy on the ground, near which three small stones are 
set up. On these libations of water are poured, and 
cooked rice, vegetables, etc., are offered. The chief 
mourner then goes into the water, carrying the effigy, 
which is thrown in, and dives as many times as there have 
been days between the funeral and the karmandhiram. 
The ceremony closes with the making of presents to the 
Brahmans and agnates. Towards evening, the widow sits 
on a small quantity of rice on the ground, and her marriage 
bottu is removed. The Kammas perform a first annual 
ceremony, but not a regular sradh afterwards.* 

As regards their religion, some Kammas are Saivites, 
others Vaishnavites. Most of the Saivites are disciples 
of Aradhya Brahmans, and the Vaishnavites of Vaishnava 
Brahmans or Satanis. The Gampas reverence Draupadi, 
Mannarsami, Gangamma, Ankamma, and Padavetiamma; 
the Godas Poleramma, Veikandla Thalli (the thousand- 
eyed goddess) and Padavetiamma. 

* Gazetteer of the Ananlapur district. 


Kamma (ear ornament). — An exogamous sept of 
Motati Kapu. 

Kammalan (Tamil). — The original form of the name 
Kammalan appears to have been Kannalan or Kannalar, 
both of which occur in Tamil poems, e.g., Thondamandala 
Satakam and Er Ezhuvathu, attributed to the celebrated 
poet Kamban. Kannalan denotes one who rules the 
eye, or one who gives the eye. When an image is made, 
its consecration takes place at the temple. Towards 
the close of the ceremonial, the Kammalan who made it 
comes forward, and carves out the eyes of the image. 
The name is said also to refer to those who make 
articles, and open the eyes of the people, i.e., who make 
articles pleasing to the eyes. 

A very interesting account of the netra mangalya, or 
ceremony of painting the eyes of images, as performed by 
craftsmen in Ceylon, has been published by Mr. A. K. 
Coomaraswamy.* Therein he writes that '' by far the 
most important ceremony connected with the building 
and decoration of a vihara (temple), or with its renovation, 
was the actual netj^a mangalya or eye ceremonial. The 
ceremony had to be performed in the case of any image, 
whether set up in a vihara or not. Even in the case of 
flat paintings it was necessary. D. S. Muhandiram, when 
making for me a book of drawings of gods according 
to the Rupavaliya, left the eyes to be subsequently 
inserted on a suitable auspicious occasion, with some 
simpler form of the ceremony described. 

" Knox has a reference to the subject as follows. 
' Some, being devoutly disposed, will make the image 
of this god (Buddha) at their own charge. For the 
making whereof they must bountifully reward the 

* Mediaeval Sinhalese Art. 


Founder. Before the eyes are made, it is not accounted a 
god, but a lump of ordinary metal, and thrown about the 
shop with no more regard than anything else. But, when 
the eyes are to be made, the artificer is to have a good 
gratification, besides the first agreed upon reward. 
The eyes being formed, it is thenceforward a god. And 
then, being brought with honour from the workman's 
shop, it is dedicated by solemnities and sacrifices, and 
carried with great state into its shrine or little house, 
which is before built and prepared for it.' " The pupils 
of the eyes of a series of clay votive offerings, which 
were specially made for me, were not painted at the 
potter's house, but in the verandah of the traveller's 
bungalow where I was staying. 

The Tamil Kammalans are divided into three 
endogamous territorial groups, Pandya, Sozia (or Chola), 
and Kongan. The Pandyas live principally in the 
Madura and Tinnevelly districts, and the Sozias in the 
Trichinopoly, Tanjore, Chingleput, North and South 
Arcot districts, and Madras. The Koneas are found 
chiefly in the Salem and Coimbatore districts. In some 
places, there are still further sub-divisions of territorial 
origin. Thus, the Pandya Tattans are divided into 
Karakattar, Vambanattar, Pennaikku-akkarayar (those 
on the other side of the Pennaiyar river), Munnuru- 
vittukarar (those of the three hundred families), and so 
forth. They are further divided into exogamous septs, 
the names of which are derived from places, e.g., 
Perugumani, Musiri, Oryanadu, Thiruchendurai, and 

The Kammalans are made up of five occupational 
sections, viz., Tattan (goldsmith), Kannan (brass-smith), 
Tac'chan (carpenter), Kal-Tac'chan (stone-mason), and 
Kollan or Karuman (blacksmith). The name Panchala, 


which is sometimes used by the Tamil as well as the 
Canarese artisan classes, has reference to the fivefold 
occupations. The various sections intermarry, but the 
goldsmiths have, especially in towns, ceased to intermarry 
with the blacksmiths. The Kammalans, claiming, as 
will be seen later on, to be Brahmans, have adopted 
Brahmanical g5tras, and the five sections have five 
g5tras called Visvagu, Janagha, Ahima, Janardana, and 
Ubhendra, after certain Rishis (sages). Each of these 
gotras, it is said, has twenty-five subordinate gotras 
attached to it. The names of these, however, are not 
forthcoming, and indeed, except some individuals who 
act as priests for the Kammalans, few seem to have 
any knowledge of them. In their marriages the Kam- 
malans closely imitate the Brahmanical ceremonial, and 
the ceremonies last for three or five days according to 
the ineans of the parties. The parisam, or bride's 
money, is paid, as among other non-Brahmanical castes. 
Widows are allowed the use of ordinary jewelry and 
betel, which is not the case among Brahmans, and they 
are not compelled to make the usual fasts, or observe 
the feasts commonly observed by Brahmans. 

The Kammalan caste is highly organised, and its 
oroanisation is one of its most interesting!' features. Each 
of the five divisions has at its head a Nattamaikkaran or 
headman, and a Karyasthan, or chief executive officer, 
under him, who are elected by members of the particular 
division. Over them is the Anjivittu Nattamaikkaran 
(also known as Ainduvittu Periyathanakkaran or Anji- 
jati Nattamaikkaran), who is elected by lot by representa- 
tives chosen from among the five sub-divisions. Each 
of these chooses ten persons to represent it at the 
election. These ten again select one of their number, 
who is the local Nattamaikkaran, or one who is likely to 


109 K AM M ALAN 

become so. The five men thus selected meet on an 
appointed day, with the castemen, at the temple of 
the caste goddess Kamakshi Amman. The names of 
the five men are written on five slips of paper, which, 
together with some blank slips, are thrown before the 
shrine of the goddess. A child, taken at random from 
the assembled crowd, is made to pick up the slips, and 
he whose name first turns up is proclaimed as Anjivlttu 
Nattamaikkaran, and a big turban is tied on his head by 
the caste priest. This is called Uruma Kattaradu, and 
is symbolic of his having been appointed the general head 
of the caste. Lots are then drawn, to decide which of 
the remaining four shall be the Anjivittu Karyasthan 
of the newly-elected chief. At the conclusion of the 
ceremony, betel leaf and areca nut are given first to 
the new officers, then to the local officers, and finally to 
the assembled spectators. With this, the installation 
ceremony, which is called pattam-kattaradu, comes to 
an end. The money for the expenses thereof is, if 
necessary, taken from the funds of the temple, but a 
special collection is generally made for the occasion, 
and is, it is said, responded to with alacrity. The 
Anjivittu Nattamaikkaran is theoretically invested with 
full powers over the caste, and all members thereof are 
expected to obey his orders. He is the final adjudicator 
of civil and matrimonial causes. The divisional heads 
have power to decide such causes, and they report their 
decisions to the Anjivittu Nattamaikkaran, who generally 
confirms them. If, for any reason, the parties concerned 
do not agree to abide by the decision, they are advised 
to take their cause to one of the established courts. The 
Anjivittu Nattamaikkaran has at times to nominate, and 
always the right to confirm or not, the selection of the 
divisional heads. In conjunction with the Karyasthan 

kammAlan iio 

and the local heads, he may appoint Nattamaikkarans 
and Karyasthans to particular places, and delegate his 
powers to them. This is done in places where the caste 
is represented in considerable numbers, as at Sholavandan 
and Vattalagundu in the Madura district. In this con- 
nection, a quaint custom may be noted. The Pallans, 
who are known as " the sons of the caste " in villages of 
the Madura and Tinnevelly districts, are called together, 
and informed that a particular village is about to be con- 
verted into a local Anjivlttu Nattanmai, and that they 
must possess a Nattamaikkaran and Karyasthan for them- 
selves. These are nominated in practice by the Pallans, 
and the nomination is confirmed by the Anjivlttu 
Nattamaikkaran. From that day, they have a right to get 
new ploughs from the Kalians free of charge, and give 
them in return a portion of the produce of the land. 
The local Nattamaikkarans are practically under the 
control of the Karyasthan of the Anjivlttu Nattamaik- 
karan, and, as the phrase goes, they are " bound down 
to " the words of this official, who possesses great power 
and influence with the community. The local officials 
may be removed from office by the Anjivlttu Natta,maik- 
karan or his Karyasthan, but this is rarely done, and only 
when, for any valid reason, the sub-divisions insist on it. 
The mode of resigning office is for the Nattamaikkaran 
or Karyasthan to bring betel leaf and areca nut, lay them 
before the Anjivlttu Nattamaikkaran, or his Karyasthan, 
and prostrate himself in front of him. There is a 
tendency for the various offices to become hereditary, 
provided those succeeding to them are rich and respected 
by the community. The Anjivlttu Nattamaikkaran is 
entitled to the first betel at caste weddings, even outside 
his own jurisdiction. His powers are in striking contrast 
with those of the caste Guru, who resides in Tinnevelly, 

Ill kammAlan 

and occasionally travels northwards. He purifies, it is 
said, those who are charged with drinking intoxicating 
liquor, eating flesh, or crossing the sea, if such persons 
subject themselves to his jurisdiction. If they do not, he 
does not even exercise the power of excommunication, 
which he nominally possesses. He is not a Sanyasi, but 
a Grihastha or householder. He marries his daughters 
to castemen, though he refrains from eating in their 

The dead are, as a rule, buried in a sitting posture, 
but, at the present day, cremation is sometimes resorted 
to. Death pollution, as among some other non-Brah- 
manical castes, lasts for sixteen days. It is usual for a 
Pandaram to officiate at the death ceremonies. On the 
first day, the corpse Is anointed with oil, and given 
a soap-nut bath. On the third day, five lingams are made 
with mud, of which four are placed in the four corners at 
the spot where the corpse was burled, and the fifth is 
placed in the centre. Food Is distributed on the fifth day 
to Pandarams and the castemen. Sradh (annual death 
ceremony) is not as a rule performed, except in some of 
the larger towns. 

The Kammalans profess the Saiva form of the 
Brahman religion, and reverence greatly Pillalyar, the 
favourite son of Siva. A few have come under the 
Lingayat influence. The caste, however, has its own 
special goddess Kamakshi Amma, who Is commonly 
spoken of as VrlththI Daivam. She is worshipped by 
all the sub-divisions, and female children are frequently 
named after her. She is represented by the firepot and 
bellows-fire at which the castemen work, and presides 
over them. On all auspicious occasions, the first betel 
and dakshina (present of money) are set apart in her name, 
and sent to the pujari (priest) of the local temple dedicated 


to her. Oaths are taken In her name, and disputes 
affecting the caste are settled before her temple. There 
also elections to caste offices are held. The exact con- 
nection of the goddess Kamakshi with the caste is not 
known. There is, however, a vague tradition that she 
was one of the virgins who committed suicide by throw- 
ing herself into a fire, and was in consequence deified. 
Various village goddesses (grama devata) are also 
worshipped, and, though the Kammiilans profess to be 
vegetarians, animal sacrifices are offered to them. Among 
these deities are the Saptha Kannimar or seven virgins, 
Kochade Periyandavan, and Periya Nayanar. Those 
who worship the Saptha Kannimar are known by the 
name of Madavaguppu, or the division that worships the 
mothers. Those who revere the other two deities men- 
tioned are called Nadlka Vamsathal, or those descended 
from men who, through the seven virgins, attained 
eternal bliss. Kochade Periyandavan is said to be a 
corruption of Or Jate Periya Pandyan, meaning the great 
Pandya with the single lock. He is regarded as Vishnu, 
and Periya Nayanar is held to be a manifestation of Siva. 
The former is said to have been the person who invited 
the Tattans (who called themselves Pandya Tattans) to 
settle in his kingdom. It is traditionally stated that they 
emigrated from the north, and settled in the Madura and 
Tinnevelly districts. An annual festival in honour of 
Kochade Periyandavan is held in these districts, for the 
expenses in connection with which a subscription is 
raised among the five sub-divisions. The festival lasts 
over three days. On the first day, the image of the 
deified king is anointed with water, and a mixture of the 
juices of the mango, jak {^Artocarpus integrifolid), and 
plantain, called muppala pujai. On the second day, rice 
is boiled, and offered to the god, and, on the last day, 


a healthy ram is sacrificed to him. This festival is said 
to be held, in order to secure the caste as a whole against 
evils that might overtake it. Tac'chans (carpenters) 
usually kill, or cut the ear of a ram or sheep, whenever 
they commence the woodwork of a new house, and smear 
the blood of the animal on a pillar or wall of the house. 

The Kammalans claim to be descended from Visva- 
karma, the architect of the gods, and, in some places, 
claim to be superior to Brahmans, calling the latter 
Go-Brahmans, and themselves Visva Brahmans. Visva- 
karma is said to have had five sons, named Manu, Maya, 
Silpa, Tvashtra, and Daivagna. These five sons were 
the originators of the five crafts, which their descendants 
severally follow. Accordingly, some engage in smithy 
work, and are called Manus ; others, in their turn, devote 
their attention to carpentry. These are named Mayas. 
Others again, who work at stone-carving, are known as 
Silpis. Those who do metal work are Tvashtras, and 
those who are engaged in making jewelry are known as 
Visvagnas or Daivagnas. According to one story of the 
origin of the Kammalans, they are the descendants of 
the issue of a Brahman and a Beri Chetti woman. Hence 
the proverb that the Kammalans and the Beri Chettis 
are one. Another story, recorded in the Mackenzie 
manuscripts, which is current all over the Tamil country, 
is briefly as follows. In the town of Mandapuri, the 
Kammalans of the five divisions formerly lived closely 
united together. They were employed by all sorts of 
people, as there were no other artificers in the country, 
and charged very high rates for their wares. They 
feared and respected no king. This offended the kings 
of the country, who combined against them. As the fort 
in which the Kammalans concealed themselves, called 
Kantakkottai, was entirely constructed of loadstone, all 


the weapons were drawn away by it. The king then 
promised a big reward to anyone who would burn down 
the fort, and at length the Deva-dasis (courtesans) of 
a temple undertook to do this, and took betel and nut 
in signification of their promise. The king built a fort 
for them opposite Kantakk5ttai, and they attracted the 
Kammalans by their singing, and had children by them. 
One of the Deva-dasis at length succeeded in extracting 
from a young Kammalan the secret that, if the fort was 
surrounded with varaghu straw and set on fire, it would 
be destroyed. The king ordered that this should be done, 
and, in attempting to escape from the sudden conflagra- 
tion, some of the Kammalans lost their lives. Others 
reached the ships, and escaped by sea, or were captured 
and put to death. In consequence of this, artificers 
ceased to exist in the country. One pregnant Kammalan 
woman, however, took refuge in the house of a Beri 
Chetti, and escaped decapitation by being passed off as 
his daughter. The country was sorely troubled owing to 
the want of artificers, and agriculture, manufactures, and 
weaving suffered a great deal. One of the kings wanted 
to know if any Kammalan escaped the general destruction, 
and sent round his kingdom a piece of coral possessing 
a tortuous aperture running through it, and a piece 
of thread. A big reward was promised to anyone who 
should succeed in passing the thread through the coral. 
At last, the boy born of the Kammalan woman in the 
Chetti's house undertook to do it. He placed the coral 
over the mouth of an ant-hole, and, having steeped the 
thread in sugar, laid it down at some distance from the 
hole. The ants took the thread, and drew it through 
the coral. The king, being pleased with the boy, sent 
him presents, and gave him more work to do. This he 
performed with the assistance of his mother, and satisfied 

115 kammAlan 

the king. The king, however, grew suspicious, and, 
having sent for the Chetti, enquired concerning the 
boy's parentage. The Chetti thereon detailed the story 
of his birth. The king provided him with the means 
for making ploughshares on a large scale, and got him 
married to the daughter of a Chetti, and made gifts of 
land for the maintenance of the couple. The Chetti 
woman bore him five sons, who followed the five 
branches of work now carried out by the Kammalan 
caste. The king gave them the title of Panchayudhat- 
tar, or those of the five kinds of weapons. They now 
intermarry with each other, and, as children of the 
Chetti caste, wear the sacred thread. The members of 
the caste who fled by sea are said to have gone to 
China, or, according to another version, to Chingala- 
dvlpam, or Ceylon, where Kammalans are found at the 
present day. In connection with the above story, it may 
be noted that, though ordinarily two different castes do 
not live in the same house, yet Beri Chettis and Kam- 
malans so live together. There is a close connection 
between the Kammalans and Acharapakam Chettis, 
who are a section of the Beri Chetti caste. Kammalans 
and Acharapakam Chettis interdine ; both bury their 
dead in a sitting posture ; and the tali (marriage badge) 
used by both is alike in size and make, and unlike that 
used by the generality of the Beri Chetti caste. The 
Acharapakam Chettis are known as Malighe Chettis, 
and are considered to be the descendants of those Beri 
Chettis who brought up the Kammalan children, and 
intermarried with them. Even now, in the city of 
Madras, when the Beri Chettis assemble for the trans- 
action of caste business, the notice summoning the 
meeting excludes the Malighe Chettis, who can neither 
vote nor receive votes at elections, meetings, etc., of the 


Kandasami temple, which every other Beri Chetti has a 
right to. 

It may be noted that the Deva-dasis, whose treachery 
is said to have led to the destruction of the Kammalan 
caste, were Kaikolans by caste, and that their illegitimate 
children, like their progenitors, became weavers. The 
weavers of South India, according to old Tamil poems, 
were formerly included in the Kammiyan or Kammalan 
caste. "^ Several inscriptions show that, as late as 1013 
A.D., the Kammalans were treated as an inferior caste, 
and, in consequence, were confined to particular parts of 
villages. t A later inscription gives an order of one of 
the Chola kings that they should be permitted to blow 
conches, and beat drums at their weddings and funerals, 
wear sandals, and plaster their houses. J " It is not 
difficult," Mr. H. A. Stuart writes, § " to account for the 
low position held by the Kammalans, for it must be 
remembered that, in those early times, the military castes 
in India, as elsewhere, looked down upon all engaged in 
labour, whether skilled or otherwise. With the decline 
of the military power, however, it was natural that a use- 
ful caste like the Kammalans should generally improve 
its position, and the reaction from their long oppression 
has led them to make the exaggerated claims described 
above, which are ridiculed by every other caste, high 
or low." The claims here referred to are that they are 
descended from Visvakarma, the architect of the gods, 
and are Brahmans. 

From a note by Mr. F. R. Hemingway, I gather 
that the friendship between the Muhammadans and 
Kammalans, who call each other mani (paternal uncle) 

* Maduraikanchi, Line 521. 

t E. HuUzsch. South Indian Inscriptions, II, i, 44, 46, 1891. 

X Ibid. Ill, i, 47, 1899. § Madras Census Report, 1S91. 


" originated in the fact that a holy Muhammadan, named 
Ibrahim Nabi, was brought up in the house of a Kam- 
malan, because his father was afraid that he would be 
killed by a Hindu king named Namaduta, who had been 
advised by his soothsayers that he would thus avoid a 
disaster, which was about to befall his kingdom. The 
Kammalan grave his dauohter to the father of Ibrahim in 
exchange. Another story (only told by Kammalans) is 
to the effect that the Kammalans were once living in a 
magnetic castle, called Kanda Kottai, which could only 
be destroyed by burning it with varagu straw ; and that 
the Musalmans captured it by sending Musalman pros- 
titutes into the town, to wheedle the secret out of the 
Kammalans. The friendship, according to the story, 
sprang up because the Kammalans consorted with the 
Musalman women." 

The Kammalans belong to the left hand, as opposed 
to the rioht hand faction. The orioin of this distinction 
of castes is lost in obscurity, but, according to one 
version, it arose out of a dispute between the Kammalans 
and Vellalas. The latter claimed the former as their Jati- 
pillaigal or caste dependents, while the former claimed 
the latter as their own dependents. The fight grew 
so fierce that the Chola king of Conjeeveram ranged 
these two castes and their followers on opposite sides, 
and enquired into their claims. The Kammalans, and 
those who sided with them, stood on the left of the 
king, and the Vellalas and their allies on the right. 
The king is said to have decided the case against the 
Kammalans, who then dispersed in different directions. 
According to another legend, a Kammalan who had two 
sons, one by a Balija woman, and the other by his 
Kammalan wife, was unjustly slain by a king of Conjee- 
veram, and was avenged by his two sons, who killed the 


king and divided his body. The Kammalan son took 
his head and used it as a weighing pan, while the Balija 
son made a pedler's carpet out of the skin, and threads 
out of the sinews for stringing bangles. A quarrel arose, 
because each thought the other had got the best of 
the division, and all the other castes joined in, and took 
the side of either the Kammalan or the Balija. Right 
and left hand dancing-girls, temples, and mandapams, 
are still in existence at Conjeeveram, and elsewhere in 
the Tamil country. Thus, at Tanjore, there are the 
Kammala Tevadiyals, or dancing-girls. As the Kam- 
malans belong to the left-hand section, dancing-girls of 
the right-hand section will not perform before them, or 
at their houses. Similarly, musicians of the right-hand 
section will not play in Kammalan houses. In olden 
days, Kammalans were not allowed to ride in palan- 
quins through the streets of the right hands. If they 
did, a riot was the result. Such riots were common 
during the eighteenth century. Thus, Fryer refers to 
one of these which occurred at Masulipatam, when 
the contumacy of the Kamsalas (Telugu artisans) led to 
their being put down by the other castes with the aid of 
the Moors. 

The Kammalans call themselves Achari and Paththar, 
which are equivalent to the Brahman titles Acharya 
and Bhatta, and claim a knowledge of the Vedas. Their 
own priests officiate at marriages, funerals, and on other 
ceremonial occasions. They wear the sacred thread, 
which they usually don on the Upakarmam day, though 
some observe the regular thread investiture ceremony. 
Most of them claim to be vegetarians. Non-Brahmans 
do not treat them as Brahmans. and do not salute them 
with the namaskaram (obeisance). Their women, unlike 
those of other castes, throw the end of their body-cloth 


over the right shoulder, and are conspicuous by the nose 
ornament known as the nattu. 

In connection with the professional calling of the 
Kammalans, Surgeon-Major W. R. Cornish writes as 
follows.* "The artisans, who are smiths or carpenters, 
usually bring up their children to the same pursuits. It 
might have been supposed that the hereditary influence 
in the course of generations would have tended to excel- 
lence in the several pursuits, but it has not been so. 
Ordinary native work in metal, stone, and wood, is 
coarse and rough, and the designs are of the stereotyped 
form. The improvement in handicraft work ot late years 
has been entirely due to European influence. The 
constructors of railways have been great educators of 
artisans. The quality of stone-masonry, brick-work, 
carpentry, and smith-work has vastly improved within 
the last twenty years, and especially in districts where 
railway works have been in progress. The gold and 
silver smiths of Southern India are a numerous body. 
Their chief employment consists in setting and making 
native jewellery. Some of their designs are ingenious, 
but here again the ordinary work for native customers 
is often noticeable for a want of finish, and, with the 
exception of a few articles made for the European 
markets, there is no evidence of progressive improve- 
ment in design or execution. That the native artists 
are capable of improvement as a class is evident from 
their skill and ingenuity in copying designs set before 
them, and from the excellent finish of their work under 
European supervision ; but there must be a demand for 
highly finished work before the goldsmiths will have 
generally improved. The wearers of jewellery in India 

* Madras Census Report, 1S71. 


look more to the intrinsic value of an article, than to the 
excellence of the design or workmanship. So that there 
is very little encouragement for artistic display." The 
collection of silver jewelry at the Madras Museum, 
which was made in connection with the Colonial and 
Indian Exhibition, London, 1886, bears testimony to the 
artistic skill of the silversmiths. Recently, Colonel 
Townshend, Superintendent of the Madras Gun Carriage 
Factory, has expressed his opinion* that "good as the 
Bombay smiths are, the blacksmiths of Southern India 
are the best in Hindustan, and the pick of them run 
English smiths very close, not only in skill, but in speed 
of outturn." 

Anyone who has seen the celebrated temples of 
Southern India, for example, the Madura and Tanjore 
temples, and the carving on temple cars, can form some 
idea of the skill of South Indian stone-masons and 
carpenters. The following note on idols and idol-makers 
is taken from a recent article. f " The idol-maker's 
craft, like most of the other callings in this country, is a 
hereditary one, and a workman who has earned some 
reputation for himself, or has had an ancestor of renown, 
is a made man. The Sthapathi, as he is called in 
Sanskrit, claims high social rank among the represent- 
atives of the artisan castes. Of course he wears a 
heavy sacred thread, and affects Brahman ways of living. 
He does not touch flesh, and liquor rarely passes down 
his throat, as he recognises that a clear eye and steady 
hand are the first essentials of success in his calling. 
There are two sorts of idols in every temple, mula- 
vigrahas or stone idols which are fixed to the ground, 
and utsavavigrahas or metal idols used in processions. 

• New Asiatic Review, Jan. 1907. 
t Madras Mail, 1907. 

121 KAMMx\LAN 

In the worst equipped pagoda there are at least a dozen 
idols of every variety. They do duty for generations, 
for, though they become black and begrimed with oil 
and ashes, they are rarely replaced, as age and dirt but 
add to their sanctity. But now and then they get 
desecrated for some reason, and fresh ones have to be 
installed in their stead ; or it may be that extensions are 
made in the temple, and godlings in the Hindu Pantheon, 
not accommodated within its precincts till then, have to 
be carved and consecrated. It is on such occasions that 
the hands of the local Sthapathi are full of work, and 
his workshop is as busy as a bee-hive. In the larger 
temples, such as the one at Madura, the idols in which 
are to be counted by the score, there are Sthapathis on 
the establishment receiving fixed emoluments. Despite 
the smallness of the annual salary, the office of temple 
Sthapathi is an eagerly coveted one, for, among other privi- 
leges, the fortunate individual enjoys that of having his 
workshop located in the temple premises, and thereby 
secures an advertisement that is not to be despised. 
Besides, he is not debarred from adding to his pecuniary 
resources by doing outside work when his hands are 
idle. Among- stone imagoes, the larcrest demand is for 
representations of Ganapati or Vignesvara (the elephant 
god), whose popularity extends throughout India. 
Every hamlet has at least one little temple devoted to 
his exclusive worship, and his shrines are found in the 
most unlikely places. Travellers who have had occasion 
to pass along the sandy roads of the Tanjore district 
must be familiar with the idols of the o-od of the 
protuberant paunch, which they pass every half mile or 
so, reposing under the shade of avenue trees with an air 
of self-satisfaction suffusing their elephantine features. 
Among other idols called into being for the purpose of 


wayside installation in Southern India, may be mentioned 
those of Viran, the Madura godling, who requires 
offerings of liquor, Mariamma, the small-pox goddess, 
and the evil spirit Sangili Karappan. Representations 
are also carved of nagas or serpents, and installed by 
the dozen round the village asvatha tree {Fiats reli- 
giosa). Almost every week, the mail steamer to Rangoon 
takes a heavy consignment of stone and metal idols 
commissioned by the South Indian settlers in Burma 
for purposes of domestic and public worship. The 
usual posture of mulavigrahas is a standing one, the 
figure of Vishnu in the Srirangam temple, which repre- 
sents the deity as lying down at full length, being an 
exception to this rule. The normal height is less than 
four feet, some idols, however, being of gigantic propor- 
tions. Considering the very crude material on which 
he works, and the primitive methods of stone-carving 
which he continues to favour, the expert craftsman 
achieves quite a surprising degree of smoothness and 
polish. It takes him several weeks of unremitting 
toil to produce a vigraha that absolutely satisfies his 
critical eye. I have seen him engaged for hours at a 
stretch on the trunk of Vignesvara or the matted tuft 
of a Rishi. The casting of utsavavigrahas involves a 
greater variety of process than the carving of stone 
figures. The substance usually employed is a com- 
pound of brass, copper and lead, small quantities of silver 
and gold being added, means permitting. The required 
fio-ure is first moulded in some plastic substance, such as 
wax or tallow, and coated with a thin layer of soft wet 
clay, in which one or two openings are left. When the 
clay is dry, the figure is placed in a kiln, and the red-hot 
liquid metal is poured into the hollow created by the 
running out of the melted wax. The furnace is then 


extinguished, the metal left to cool and solidify, and the 
clay coating removed. A crude approximation to the 
image required is thus obtained, which is improved upon 
with file and chisel, till the finished product is a far 
more artistic article than the figure that was enclosed 
within the clay. It is thus seen that every idol is made 
in one piece, but spare hands and feet are supplied, if 
desired. Whenever necessary, the Archaka (temple 
priest) conceals the limbs with cloth and flowers, and, 
inserting at the proper places little pieces of wood which 
are held in position by numerous bits of string, screws on 
the spare parts, so as to fit in with the posture that the 
idol is to assume during any particular procession." 

An association, called the Visvakarma Kulabhimana 
Sabha, was established in the city of Madras by the 
Kammalans in 1903. The objects thereof were the 
advancement of the community as a whole on intellectual 
and industrial lines, the provision of practical measures 
in guarding the interests, welfare and prospects of the 
community, and the improvement of the arts and sciences 
peculiar to them by opening industrial schools and 
workshops, etc. 

Of proverbs relating to the artisan classes, the 
following may be noted : — 

The goldsmith who has a thousand persons to 
answer. This in reference to the delay in finishing a 
job, owing to his taking more orders than he can 
accomplish in a given time. 

The goldsmith knows what ornaments are of fine 
gold, i.e., knows who are the rich men of a place. 

It must either be with the goldsmith, or in the pot 
in which he melts gold, i.e., it will be found somewhere 
in the house. Said to one who is in search of something 
that cannot be found. 

kammAlan 124 

Goldsmiths put inferior gold into the refining-pot. 

If, successful, pour it into a mould; if not, pour it 
into the melting pot. The Rev. H. Jensen explains* 
that the goldsmith examines the gold after melting it. 
If it is free from dross, he pours it into the mould ; if it 
is still impure, it goes back into the pot. 

The goldsmith will steal a quarter of the gold of 
even his own mother. 

Stolen gold may be either with the goldsmith, or 
in his fire-pot. 

If the ear of the cow of a Kammalan is cut and 
examined, some wax will be found in it. It is said that 
the Kammalan is in the habit of substituting sealing- 
wax for gold, and thus cheating people. The proverb 
warns them not to accept even a cow from a Kamma- 
lan. Or, according to another explanation, a Kamma- 
lan made a figure of a cow, which was so lifelike that a 
Brahman purchased it as a live animal with his hard- 
earned money, and, discovering his mistake, went mad. 
Since that time, people were warned to examine an 
animal offered for sale by Kammalans by cutting off" 
its ears. A variant of the proverb is that, though you 
buy a Kammalan's cow only after cutting its ears, he 
will have put red wax in its ears (so that, if they are cut 
into, they will look like red fiesh). 

What has a dog to do in a blacksmith's shop ? 
Said of a man who attempts to do work he is not 
fitted for. 

When the blacksmith sees that the iron is soft, 
he will raise himself to the stroke. 

Will the blacksmith be alarmed at the sound of a 
hammer ? 

* Classified Collection of Tamil Proverbs, 1897, from which some of the 
proverbs quoted are taken. 


When a child is born in a blacksmith's family, 
sugar must be dealt out in the street of the dancing- 
girls. This has reference to the legendary relation of 
the Kammalans and Kaik5lans. 

A blacksmith's shop, and the place in which 
donkeys roll themselves, are alike. 

The carpenters and blacksmiths are to be 
relegated, i.e., to the part of the village called the 

What if the carpenter's wife has become a widow } 
This would seem to refer to the former practice of 
widow remarriage. 

The carpenter wants (his wood) too long, and the 
blacksmith wants (his iron) too short, i.e., a carpenter 
can easily shorten a piece of wood, and a blacksmith can 
easily hammer out a piece of iron. 

When a Kammalan buys cloth, the stuff he buys 
is so thin that it does not hide the hair on his legs. 

Kammalan (Malayalam). — " The Kammalans of 
Malabar," Mr. Francis writes,* "are artisans, like those 
referred to immediately above, but they take a lower 
position than the Kammalans and Kamsalas of the 
other coast, or the Panchalas of the Canarese country. 
They do not claim to be Brahmans or wear the sacred 
thread, and they accept the position of a polluting caste, 
not being allowed into the temples or into Brahman 
houses. The highest sub-division is Asari, the men of 
which are carpenters, and wear the thread at certain 
ceremonies connected with house-buildino." 

According to Mr. F. Fawcett " the orthodox number 
of classes of Kammalans is five. But the artisans do 
not admit that the workers in leather belong to the 

• Madras Census Report, 1901. 


guild, and say that there are only four classes. According 
to them, the fifth class was composed of coppersmiths, 
who, after the exodus, remained in Izhuva land, and did 
not return thence with them to Malabar.* Nevertheless, 
they always speak of themselves as the Ayen Kudi 
or five-house Kammalans. The carpenters say that 
eighteen families of their community remained behind in 
Izhuva land. Some of these returned long afterwards, 
but they were not allowed to rejoin the caste. They 
are known as Puzhi Tachan or sand carpenters, and 
Pathinettanmar or the eighteen people. There are 
four families of this class now living at or near Parpan 
gadi. They are carpenters, but the Asaris treat them 
as outcastes." 

For the following note on Malabar Kammalans I am 
indebted to Mr. S. Appadorai Iyer. The five artisan 
classes, or Ayinkudi Kammalans, are made up of the 
following : — 

Asari, carpenters. 
Musari, braziers. 
Tattan, goldsmiths. 

Karuman, blacksmiths. 
Chembotti or Chempotti, 

The name Chembotti is derived from chembu, 
copper, and kotti, he who beats. They are, according 
to Mr. Francis, " coppersmiths in Malabar, who are 
distinct from the Malabar Kammalans. They are sup- 
posed to be descendants of men who made copper idols 
for temples, and so rank above the Kammalans in social 
position, and about equally with the lower sections of 
the Nayars." 

The Kammalans will not condescend to eat food at 
the hands of Kurups, Tolkollans, Pulluvans, Mannans, 
or Tandans. But a Tandan thinks it equally beneath 

See the legendary story narrated in the article on Tiyans, 


his dio-nity to accept food from a Kammalan. The 
Kammalans believe themselves to be indigenous in 
Malabar, and boast that their system of polyandry is the 
result of the sojourn of the exiled Pandavas, with their 
common wife Panchali, and their mother Kunthi, in 
the forest of the Walluvanad division. They say that 
the destruction of the Pandavas was attempted in the 
Arakkuparamba amsam of this division, and that the 
Tac'chans (artisans) were given as a reward by the Kurus 
the enjoyment of Tacchanattukara amsam. They state 
further that the Pandus lived for some time at the village 
of Bhimanad, and went to the Attapadi valley, where 
they deposited their cooking utensils at the spot where 
the water falls from a height of several hundred feet. 
This portion of the river is called Kuntipuzha, and the 
noise of the water, said to be falling on the upset utensils, 
is heard at a great distance. 

The Kammalans, male and female, dress like Nayars, 
and their ornaments are almost similar to those of the 
Nayars, with this difference, that the female Tattan 
wears a single chittu or ring in the right ear only. 

In the building of a house, the services of the Asari 
are required throughout. He it is who draws the plan 
of the building. And, when a door is fixed or beam 
raised, he receives his perquisite. The completion of a 
house is signified as a rule by a kutti-poosa, For this 
ceremony, the owner of the house has to supply the 
workmen with at least four goats to be sacrificed at the 
four corners thereof, a number of fowls to be killed so 
that the blood may be smeared on the walls and ceiling, 
and an ample meal with liquor. The feast concluded, 
the workmen receive presents of rings, gold ear-rings, 
silk and other cloths, of which the Moothasari or chief 
carpenter receives the lion's share. " The village 


carpenter," Mr. Gopal Panikkar writes, * " has to do 
everything connected with our architecture, such as 
fixing poles or wickets at the exact spot where buildings 
are to be erected, and clearing newly erected buildings 
of all devils and demons that may be haunting them. 
This he does by means of pujas (worship) performed 
after the completion of the building. But people have 
begun to break through the village traditions, and to 
entrust architectural work to competent hands, when the 
village carpenter is found incompetent for the same." 

It is noted by Canter Visscher t that " in commencing 
the building of a house, the first prop must be put up 
on the east side. The carpenters open three or four 
cocoanuts, spilling the juice as little as possible, and put 
some tips of betel leaves into them ; and, from the way 
these float in the liquid, they foretell whether the house 
will be lucky or unlucky, whether it will stand for a 
long or short period, and whether another will ever be 
erected on its site. I have been told that the heathens 
say that the destruction of fort Paponetti by our arms 
was foretold by the builders from these auguries." 

The blacksmith is employed in the manufacture of 
locks and keys, and ornamental iron and brasswork for 
the houses of the rich. The smithy is near the dwelling 
hut, and the wife blows the bellows. The smith makes 
tyres for wheels, spades, choppers, knives, sickles, iron 
spoons, ploughshares, shoes for cattle and horses, etc. 
These he takes to the nearest market, and sells there. 
In some places there are clever smiths, who make 
excellent chellams (betel boxes) of brass, and there is 
one man at Walluvanad who even makes stylographic 

* Malabar and its Folk, 1900. f Letters from Malabar. 

129 K AM M ALAN 

The Musari works in bell-metal, and makes all kinds 
of household utensils, and large vessels for cooking 
purposes. He is an adept at making such articles with 
the proper proportions of copper, lead and brass. In 
some of the houses of the wealthier classes there are 
cooking utensils, which cost nearly a thousand rupees. 
Excellent bell-metal articles are made at Cherpalcheri, 
and Kunhimangalam in North Malabar is celebrated 
for its bell-metal lamps. The importation of enamelled 
and aluminium vessels, and lamps made in Europe, has 
made such inroads into the metal industry of the district 
that the brazier and blacksmith find their occupation 

The o'oldsmith makes all kinds of Sfold ornaments 
worn by Malaialis. His lot is better than that of the 
other artisan classes. 

It is noted in the Malabar Marriage Commission's 
report that " among carpenters and blacksmiths in the 
Calicut, Walluvanad and Ponnani taluks, several brothers 
have one wife between them, although the son succeeds 
the father amongst them." Polyandry of the fraternal 
type is said to be most prevalent among the blacksmiths, 
who lead the most precarious existence, and have to 
observe the strictest economy. As with the Nayars, the 
tali-kettu kalyanam has to be celebrated. For this the 
parents of the child have to find a suitable manavalan 
or bridegroom by the consultation of horoscopes. An 
auspicious day is fixed, and new cloths are presented 
to the manavalan. The girl bathes, and puts on new 
clothes. She and the manavalan are conducted to a 
pandal (booth), where the tali-tying ceremony takes 
place. This concluded, the manavalan takes a thread 
from the new cloth, and breaks it in two, saying that his 
union with the girl has ceased. He then walks away 


without looking" back. When a Kammalan contemplates 
matrimony, his parents look out for a suitable bride. 
They are received by the girl's parents, and enquiries are 
made concerning her. The visit is twice repeated, and, 
when an arrangement has been arrived at, the village 
astrologer is summoned, and the horoscopes of the 
contracting parties are consulted. It is sufficient if the 
horoscope of one of the sons agrees with that of the girl. 
The parents of the sons deposit as earnest money, or 
achcharapanam, four, eight, twelve, or twenty-one fanams 
according to their means, in the presence of the artisans of 
the village ; and a new cloth (kacha) is presented to the 
bride, who thus becomes the wife of all the sons. There 
are instances in which the girl, after the achcharam 
marriage, is immediately taken to the husband's house. 
All the brother-husbands, dressed in new clothes and 
decorated with ornaments, with a new palmyra leaf 
umbrella in the hand, come in procession to the bride's 
house, where they are received by her parents and 
friends, and escorted to the marriage pandal. The bride 
and bridegrooms sit in a row, and the girl's parents give 
them fruits and sugar. This ceremony is called mathu- 
ram kotukkal. The party then adjourns to the house 
of the bridegrooms where a feast is held, in the course 
of which a ceremony called pal kotukkal is performed. 
The priest of the Kammalans takes some milk in a vessel, 
and pours it into the mouths of the bride and bride- 
grooms, who are seated, the eldest on the right, the others 
in ord-er of seniority, and lastly the bride. During the 
nuptials the parents of the bride have to present a 
water-vessel, lamp, eating dish, cooking vessel, spittoon, 
and a vessel for drawing water from the well. The 
eldest brother cohabits with the bride on the wedding 
day, and special days are set apart for each brother. 


There seems to be a belief among the Kammalan women 
that, the more husbands they have, the greater will be 
their happiness. If one of the brothers, on the ground 
of incompatibility of temper, brings a new wife, she 
is privileged to cohabit with the other brothers. In 
some cases, a girl will have brothers ranging in age 
from twenty-five to five, whom she has to regard as 
her husband, so that by the time the youngest reaches 
puberty she may be well over thirty, and a young man 
has to perform the duties of a husband with a woman 
who is twice his age. 

If a w^oman becomes pregnant before the achchara 
kalyanam has been performed, her parents are obliged 
to satisfy the community that her condition was caused 
by a man of their own caste, and he has to marry the 
girl. If the paternity cannot be traced, a council is 
held, and the woman is turned out of the caste. In the 
sixth or eighth month of pregnancy, the woman is taken 
to her mother's house, where the first confinement takes 
place. During her stay there the pulikudi ceremony is 
performed. The husbands come, and present their wife 
with a new cloth. A branch of a tamarind tree is 
planted in the yard of the house, and, in the presence of 
the relations, the brother of the pregnant woman gives 
her conji (rice gruel) mixed with the juices of the 
tamarind, Spondias mangife^'a and Hibiscus^ to drink. 
The customary feast then takes place. A barber 
woman (Mannathi) acts as midwife. On the fourteenth 
day after childbirth, the Thali-kurup sprinkles water 
over the woman, and the Mannathi gives her a newly- 
washed cloth to wear. Purification concludes with a 
bath on the fifteenth day. On the twenty-eighth day 
the child-naming ceremony takes place. The infant 
is placed in its father's lap, and in front of it are set a 
111-9 B 


measure of rice and paddy (unhusked rice) on a plantain 
leaf. A brass lamp is raised, and a cocoanut broken. 
The worship of Ganesa takes place, and the child is 
named after its grandfather or grandmother. In the 
sixth month the choronu or rice-giving ceremony takes 
place. In the first year of the life of a boy the ears are 
pierced, and gold ear-rings inserted. In the case of a 
girl, the ear-boring ceremony takes place in the sixth or 
seventh year. The right nostril of girls is also bored, 
and mukkuthi worn therein. 

It is recorded, in the Gazetteer of Malabar, that, 
"amongst Kammalans, the betrothal ceremony is 
similar to that of the Tiyans. If more than one brother 
is to be married, to the same girl, her mother asks 
how many bridegrooms there are, and replies that 
there are mats and planks for so many. Cohabitation 
sometimes begins from the night of the betrothal, the 
eldest brother having the priority, and the rest in 
order of seniority on introduction by the bride's brother. 
If the girl becomes pregnant, the formal marriage 
must be celebrated before the pregnancy has advanced 
six months. At the formal marriage, the bridegrooms 
are received by the bride's mother and brothers ; two 
planks are placed before a lighted lamp, before which 
the bridegrooms and the bride's brothers prostrate 
themselves. The bride is dressed in a new cloth, and 
brought down by the bridegroom's sister and fed with 

" Next day all the bridegroom's party visit the 
Tandan of the bride's desam (village), who has to give 
them arrack (liquor) and meat, receiving in his turn a 
present of two fanams (money). The next day the bride 
is again feasted in her house by the bridegrooms, and 
is given her dowry consisting of four metal plates, one 


spittoon, one kindi (metal vessel), and a bell-metal lamp. 
The whole party then goes to the bridegroom's house, 
where the Tandan proclaims the titles of the parties and 
their desam. All the brothers who are to share in the 
marriage sit in a row on a mat with the bride on the 
extreme left, and all drink cocoanut milk. The presence 
of all the bridegrooms is essential at this final ceremony, 
though for the preceding formalities it is sufficient if the 
eldest is present." 

The Kammalans burn the corpses of adults, and 
bury the young. Fifteen days' pollution is observed, 
and at the expiration thereof the Thai kiirup pours 
water, and purification takes place. On the third day 
the bones of the cremated corpse are collected, and 
placed in a new earthen pot, which is buried in the 
grounds of the house of the deceased. One of the sons 
performs beli (makes offerings), and observes diksha 
(hair-growing) for a year. The bones are then carried to 
Tirunavaya in Ponnani, Tiruvilamala in Cochin territory, 
Perur in Coimbatore, or Tirunelli in the Wynad, and 
thrown into the river. A final beli is performed, and 
the sradh memorial ceremony is celebrated. If the 
deceased was skilled in sorcery, or his death was due 
thereto, his ghost is believed to haunt the house, and 
trouble the inmates. To appease it, the village washer- 
man (Mannan) is brought with his drums, and, by 
means of his songs, forces the devil into one of the 
members of the household, who is made to say what 
murthi or evil spirit possesses him, and how it should 
be satisfied. It is then appeased with the sacrifice of 
a fowl, and drinking the juice of tender cocoanuts. A 
further demand is that it must have a place consigned 
to it in the house or grounds, and be worshipped once 
a year. Accordingly, seven days later, a small stool 


representing the deceased is placed in a corner of one of 
the rooms, and there worshipped annually with offerings 
of cocoanuts, toddy, arrack, and fowls. In the grounds 
of some houses small shrines, erected to the memory of 
the dead, may be seen. These are opened once a year, 
and offerings made to them. 

The Kammalans worship various minor deities, such 
as Thikutti, Parakutti, Kala Bairavan, and others. 
Some only worship stone images erected under trees 
annually. They have barbers of their own, of whom 
the Mannan shaves the men, and the Mannathi the 
women. These individuals are not admitted into the 
Mannan caste, which follows the more honourable 
profession of washing clothes. 

In the Madras Census Report, 1901, the following 
sub-castes of Malabar Kammalans are recorded : — 
Kalian Muppanand Kallukkotti (stone-workers), Kotton 
(brass-smith), Pon Chetti (gold merchant), and Puli- 
asari (masons). In the Cochin Census Report, 1901, it 
is stated that " the Kammalans are divided into six 
sub-castes, viz., Marasari (carpenter), Kallasari (mason), 
Musari (brazier), Kollan (blacksmith), Tattan (gold- 
smith), and Tolkollan (leather-worker). Of these six, 
the first five interdine, and intermarry. The Tolkollan 
is considered a degraded caste, probably on account 
of his working in leather, which in its earlier stages is 
an unholy substance. The other sub-castes do not 
allow the Tolkollans even to touch them. Among 
the Marasaris are included the Marasaris proper and 
Tacchans. The Tacchans are looked upon by other 
castes in the group as a separate caste, and are not 
allowed to touch them. All the sub-castes generally 
follow the makkathayam law of inheritance, but there are 
some vestiges of marumakkathayam also among them. 


There is a sub-caste called Kuruppu, who are their 
barbers and priests. They officiate as priest at marriage 
and funeral ceremonies. When they enter the interior 
shrine of temples for work in connection with the image 
of a god, or with the temple flagstaff, the Asari and 
Musari temporarily wear a sacred thread, which is a rare 
privilege. Their approach within a radius of twenty- 
four feet pollutes Brahmans. On the completion of a 
building, the Marasari, Kallasari and Kollan perform 
certain pujas, and sacrifice a fowl or sheep to drive 
out the demons and devils which are supposed to have 
haunted the house till then." 

For the following note on the Kammalans of 
Travancore, I am indebted to Mr. N. Subramania Aiyar. 
" The titles of the Malayalam Kammalans are Panikkan 
and Kanakkan. The word Panikkan means a worker, and 
Kanakkan is the title given to a few old and respect- 
able Kammalas in every village, who superintend the 
work of others, and receive the- highest remuneration. 
It is their business to sketch the plan of a building, and 
preside at the vastubali rite. Many Tamil Kammalans 
have naturalised themselves on the west coast, and 
speak Malayalam. Between them and the Malayalam 
Kammalans neither intermarriage nor interdining obtains. 
The latter are divided into five classes, viz., Asari or 
Marapanikkan (workers in wood), Kalian or Kallasari 
(workers in stone), Musari (braziers and coppersmiths), 
Tattan (goldsmiths), and Kollan (workers in iron). To 
these the Jatinirnaya and Keralaviseshamahatmya add 
a sixth class, the Tacchan or Irchchakollan, whose 
occupation is to fell trees and saw timber. The 
Tacchans are also known as Villasans (bowmen), as they 
were formerly required to supply bows and arrows for 
the Travancore army. 


Epigraphic records point to the existence of the five 
classes of Kammalans in Malabar at least as early as 
the beginning of the ninth century A.D., as a Syrian 
Christian grant refers to them as Aimvazhi Kammalas. 
There is a tradition that they were brought to Kerala 
by Parasu Rama, but left in a body for Ceylon on being 
pressed by one of the early Perumal satraps of Cranga- 
nur to marry into the washerman caste, after they had 
by a special arrangement of the marriage shed trapped 
to death a large number of that obnoxious community. 
The King of Ceylon was requested, as an act of 
international courtesy, to send back some of the Kamma- 
lans. As, however, they were loth to return to their 
former persecutor, they were sent in charge of some 
Izhavas, who formed the military caste of the island. 
The legend is given in detail by Canter Visscher, who 
writes as follows. "In the time of Cheramperoumal, a 
woman belonging to the caste of the washermen, whose 
house adjoined that of an Ajari (the carpenter caste), 
being occupied as usual in washing a cloth in water 
mixed with ashes (which is here used for soap), and 
having no one at hand to hold the other end of it, called 
to a young daughter of the Ajari, who was alone in the 
house, to assist her. The child, not knowing that this 
was an infringement of the laws of her caste, did as 
she was requested, and then went home. The washer- 
woman was emboldened by this affair to enter the Ajari's 
house a few days afterwards ; and, upon the latter 
demanding angrily how she dared to cross his threshold, 
the woman answered scornfully that he belonged now to 
the same caste as she did, since his daughter had helped 
to hold her cloth. The Ajari, learning the disgrace that 
had befallen him, killed the washerwoman. Upon this, 
her friends complained to Cheramperoumal, who espoused 


their cause, and threatened the carpenters ; whereupon 
the latter combined together to take refuge in Ceylon, 
where they were favourably received by the King of 
Candy, for whom the Malabars have great veneration. 
Cheramperoumal was placed in great embarrassment 
by their departure, having no one in his dominions who 
could build a house or make a spoon, and begged the 
King of Candy to send them back, promising to do them 
no injury. The Ajaris would not place entire confidence 
in these promises, but asked the king to send them 
with two Chegos (Chogans) and their wives, to witness 
Cheramperoumal's conduct towards them, and to protect 
them. The king granted their request, with the stipula- 
tion that on all high occasions, such as weddings and 
deaths and other ceremonies, the Ajaris should bestow 
three measures of rice on each of these Chegos and 
their descendants as a tribute for their protection ; a 
custom which still exists. If the Ajari is too poor to 
afford the outlay, he is still obliged to present the 
requisite quantity of rice, which is then given back 
to him again ; the privilege of the Chegos being thus 

" The Kammalans are to some extent educated, and 
a few of them have a certain knowledge of Sanskrit, in 
which language several works on architecture are to be 
found. Their houses, generally known as kottil, are only 
low thatched sheds. They eat fish and flesh, and drink 
intoxicating liquors. Their jewelry is like that of the 
Nayars, from whom, however, they are distinguished by 
not wearing the nose ornaments mukkutti and gnattu. 
Some in Central Travancore wear silver mukkuttis. 
Tattooing, once very common, is going out of fashion. 

" In timber work the Asaris excel, but the Tamil 
Kammalans have outstripped the Tattans in gold and 


silver work. The house-building of the Asari has a 
^uasi-reWglous aspect. When a temple is built, there is 
a preliminary rite known as anujgna, when the temple 
priest transfers spiritual force from the image, after 
which a cow and calf are taken thrice round the temple, 
and the Kanakkan is invited to enter within for the 
purposes of work. The cow and calf are let loose in 
front of the carpenter, who advances, and commences 
the work. On the completion of a building, an offering 
known as vastubali is made. Vastu is believed to 
represent the deity who presides over the house, and 
the spirits inhabiting the trees which were felled for the 
purpose of building it. To appease these supernatural 
powers, the figure of a demon is drawn with powders, 
and the Kanakkan, after worshipping his tutelary deity 
Bhadrakali, offers animal sacrifices to him in non- 
Brahmanical houses, and vegetable sacrifices in Brahman 
shrines and homes. An old and decrepit carpenter 
enters within the new building, and all the doors thereof 
are closed. The Kanakkan from without asks whether 
he has inspected everything, and is prepared to hold 
himself responsible for any architectural or structural 
shortcomings, and he replies in the affirmative. A 
jubilant cry is then raised by all the assembled Asaris. 
Few carpenters are willing to undertake this dangerous 
errand, as it is supposed that the dissatisfied demons 
are sure to make short work of the man who accepts 
the responsibility. The figure is next effaced, and no 
one enters the house until the auspicious hour of 

'* Vilkuruppu or Vilkollakkuruppu, who used formerly 
to supply bows and arrows for the Malabar army, are 
the recognised priests and barbers of the Kammalans. 
They still make and present bows and arrows at the 


Onam festival. In some places the Kammalans have 
trained members of their own caste to perform the 
priestly offices. The Malayala Kammalans, unlike the 
Tamils, are not a thread-wearing class, but sometimes 
put on a thread when they work in temples or at 
images. They worship Kali, Matan, and other divinities. 
Unlike the Tamil Kammalans, they are a polluting class, 
but, when they have their working tools with them, they 
are less objectionable. In some places, as in South 
Travancore, they are generally regarded as higher in 
rank than the Izhavas, though this is not universal. 

" The tali-kettu ceremony is cancelled by a cere- 
mony called vazhippu, by which all connection between 
the tali-tier and the girl is extinguished. The wedding 
ornament is exactly the same as that of the Izhavas, and 
is known as the minnu (that which shines). The system 
of inheritance is makkathayam. It is naturally curious 
that, among a makkathayam community, paternal poly- 
andry should have been the rule till lately. ' The custom,' 
says Mateer, ' of one woman having several husbands 
is sometimes practiced by carpenters, stone-masons, and 
individuals of other castes. Several brothers living 
together are unable to support a single wife for 
each, and take one, who resides with them all. The 
children are reckoned to belong to each brother in 
succession in the order of seniority.' But this, after all, 
admits of explanation. If only the marumakkathayam 
system of inheritance is taken, as it should be, as a 
necessary institution in a society living in troublous 
times, and among a community whose male members 
had duties and risks which would not ordinarily permit 
of the family being perpetuated solely through the male 
line, and not indicating any paternal uncertainty as some 
theorists would have it ; and if polyandry, which is much 


more recent than the marumakkathayam system of 
inheritance, is recognised to be the deplorable result of 
indigence, individual and national, and not of sexual 
bestiality, there is no difficulty in understanding how a 
makkathayam community can be polyandrous. Further, 
the manners of the Kammalars lend a negative support 
to the origin just indicated by the marumakkathayam 
system of inheritance even among the Nayars. The 
work of the Kammalars was within doors and at home, 
not even in a large factory where power-appliances may 
lend an element of risk, for which reason they found it 
quite possible to keep up lineage in the paternal line, 
which the fighting Nayars could not possibly do. And 
the fact that the marumakkathayam system was ordained 
only for the Kshatriyas, and for the fighting races, and 
not for the religious and industrial classes, deserves to 
be specially noted in this connection." 

Kammara. — The Kammaras are the blacksmith 
section of the Telugu Kamsalas, whose services are in 
great demand by the cultivator, whose agricultural imple- 
ments have to be made, and constantly repaired. It 
is noted, in the Bellary Gazetteer, that "until recently 
the manufacture of the huge shallow iron pans, in which 
the sugar-cane is boiled, was a considerable industry at 
Kamalapuram. The iron was brought by pack bullocks 
from Jambunath Konda, the dome-shaped hill at the 
Hospet end of the Sandur range, and was smelted and 
worked by men of the Kammara caste. Of late years, 
the cheaper English iron has completely ousted the 
country product, the smelting industry is dead, and the 
Kammaras confine themselves to making and mending 
the boilers with English material. They have a temple 
of their own, dedicated to Kali, in the village, where the 
worship is conducted by one of themselves." The name 


Baita Kammara, meaning outside blacksmiths, is applied 
to Kamsala blacksmiths, who occupy a lowly position, 
and work in the open air or outside a village.* 

Kammiyan. — A Tamil name for blacksmiths. 

Kampa (bush of thorns). — An exogamous sept of 

Kampo. — In the Manual of the Ganjam district, 
the Kampos are described as Oriya agriculturists. In 
the Madras Census Report, 1901, the name is taken 
as an Oriya form of Kapu. Kampu is the name for 
Savaras, who have adopted the customs of the Hindu 

Kamsala. — The Kamsalas, or, as they are some- 
times called, Kamsaras, are the Telugu equivalent of the 
Tamil Kammalans. They are found northward as far 
as Berhampore in Ganjam. According to tradition, as 
narrated In the note on Kammalans, they emigrated to 
the districts in which they now live on the disruption 
of their caste by a certain king. The Kamsalas of 
Vizagapatam, where they are numerically strong, say 
that, during the reign of a Chola king, their ancestors 
claimed equality with Brahmans. This offended the 
king, and he ordered their destruction. The Kamsalas 
fled northward, and some escaped death by taking shelter 
with people of the Ozu caste. As an acknowledgment 
of their gratitude to their protectors, some of them have 
Ozu added to their house-names, e.g., Lakkozu, Kattozu, 
Patozu, etc. 

The Kamsalas have territorial sub-divisions, such as 
Murikinadu, Pakinadu, Dravida, etc. Like the Kamma- 
lans, they have five occupational sections, called Kamsali 
(goldsmiths), Kanchari or Musari (brass-smiths), Vadrangi 

• Madras Census Report, 1901. 


(carpenters), and KasI or Silpi (stone-masons). In a 
note on the Kamsalas of the Godavari district, Mr. 
F. R. Hemingway writes that " they recognise two 
main divisions, called Desayi (indigenous) and Turpu- 
sakas (easterns) or immigrants from Vizagapatam. They 
sometimes speak of their occupational sub-divisions 
as gotras. Thus, Sanathana is the iron, Sanaga, the 
wooden, Abhonasa, the brass, Prathanasa, the stone, and 
Suparnasa, the gold gotra." Intermarriage takes place 
between members of the different sections, but the gold- 
smiths affect a higher social status than the blacksmiths, 
and do not care to interdine or intermarry with them. 
They have taken to calling themselves Brahmans, have 
adopted Brahmanical gotras, and the Brahmanical form 
of marriage rites. They quote a number of well-known 
verses of the Telugu poet Vemana, who satirised the 
Brahmans for their shortcomings, and refer to the 
Sanskrit Mulastambam and Silpasastram, which are 
treatises on architecture. They trace their descent from 
Visvakarma, the architect of the gods. Visvakarma is 
said to have had five sons, of whom the first was Kam- 
maracharya. His wife was Surelavathi, the daughter 
of Vasishta. The second was Vadlacharyudu. The 
third was Rudra or Kamcharacharya of the Abha- 
vansa gotra, whose wife was Jalavathi, the daughter 
of Paulasthya Brahma. The fourth was Kasacharyudu 
of the Prasnasa gotra. His wife was Gunavati, the 
daughter of Visvavasa. The fifth was Agasalacharya or 
Chandra of the Suvarnasa gotra, whose wife was Saunati, 
the daughter of Bhrigumahamuni. Visvakarma had 
also five daughters, of whom Sarasvathi was married 
to Brahma, Sachi Devi to Indra, Mando Dari to Ravana, 
and Ahalya to Gautama. Since they were married 
to the devatas, their descendants acquired the title of 


Acharya. The use of the umbrella, sacred thread, 
golden staff, the insignia of Garuda, and the playing of 
the bheri were also allowed to them. It is recorded 
by the Rev, J. Cain* that "the so-called right-hand 
castes object most strongly to the Kamsalilu being 
carried in a palki (palanquin), and three years ago some 
of them threatened to get up a little riot on the occasion 
of a marriage in the Kamsali caste. They were deprived 
of this opportunity, for the palki was a borrowed one, 
and its owner, more anxious for the safety of his 
property than the dignity of the Kamsali caste, recalled 
the loan on the third day. A ringleader of the dis- 
contented was a Madras Pariah. The Kamsalilu were 
formerly forbidden to whitewash the outside of their 
houses, but municipal law has proved stronger in this 
respect than Brahmanical prejudice." The Kamsalas of 
Ganjam and Vizagapatam do not make such a vigorous 
claim to be Brahmans, as do those further south. They 
rear poultry, partake of animal food, do not prohibit 
the use of alcoholic liquor, and have no gotras. They 
also have sub-divisions among them, which do not wear 
the sacred thread, and work outside the village limits. 
Thus, the Karamalas are a section of blacksmiths, who 
do not wear the sacred thread. Similarly, the Baita 
Kammaras are another section of blacksmiths, who do 
not w^ear the thread, and, as their name implies, work 
outside the village. In Vizagapatam, almost the only 
castes which will consent to receive food at the hands of 
Kamsalas are the humble Malas and Rellis. Even the 
Tsakalas and Yatas will not do so. There is a popular 
saying that the Kamsalas are of all castes seven visses 
(viss, a measure of weight) less. 

* Ind. Ant., VIII, 1879. 


In 1885, a criminal revision case came before the 
High Court of Madras, in which a goldsmith performed 
abishekam by pouring cocoanut-water over a lingam. In 
his judgment, one of the Judges recorded that " the facts 
found are that ist accused, a goldsmith by caste, on the 
night of the last Mahasivaratri, entered a Siva temple 
at Vizagapatam, and performed abishekam, i.e., poured 
cocoanut-water over the lingam, the 2nd and 3rd accused 
(Brahmans) reciting mantrams (sacred formulae) while 
he did so. Another Brahman who was there expostu- 
lated with I St accused, telling him that he, a goldsmith, 
had no right to perform abishekam himself, upon which 
I St accused said that it was he who made the idol, and 
he was fit to perform abishekam. An outcry being 
raised, some other Brahmans came up, and objected to 
I St accused performing abishekam, and he was turned 
out, and some ten rupees spent in ceremonies for the 
purification of the idol. The 2nd-class Magistrate con- 
victed the I St accused under sections 295 and 296, Indian 
Penal Code, and the 2nd and 3rd accused of abetment. 
All these convictions were reversed on appeal by the 
District Magistrate. There was certainly no evidence 
that any of the accused voluntarily caused disturbance 
to an assembly engaged in the performance of religious 
worship or religious ceremonies, and therefore a convic- 
tion under section 296 could not be supported. In order 
to support a conviction under section 295, it would be 
necessary for the prosecution to prove (i) that the 
accused ' defiled ' the lingam, and (2) that he did so, 
knowing that a class of persons, viz., the Brahmans, 
would consider such defilement as an insult to their 
religion. It may be noted that the ist accused is a 
person of the same religion as the Brahmans, and, 
therefore, if the act be an insult at all, it was an insult to 


his own religion. The act of defilement alleged was the 
performance of abishekam, or the pouring of cocoanut- 
water over the lingam. In itself, the act is regarded 
as an act of worship and meritorious, and I understand 
that the defilement is alleged to consist in the fact that 
the ist accused was not a proper person — not being 
a Brahman — to perform such a ceremony, but that he 
ought to have got some Brahman to perform it for him." 
The other Judge (Sir T. Muttusami Aiyar) recorded 
that " in many temples in this Presidency, it is not usual 
for worshippers generally to touch the idol or pour 
cocoanut-water upon it, except through persons who are 
specially appointed to do so, and enjoined to observe 
special rules of cleanliness. If the accused knew that 
the temple, in the case before us, is one of those 
temples, and if he did the act imputed to him to ridicule 
openly the established rule in regard to the purity of 
the lingam as an object of worship, it might then be 
reasonably inferred that he did the act wantonly, and 
with the intention of insultins: the reliofious notions of 
the general body of worshippers. The Sub-Magistrate 
refers to no specific evidence in regard to the accused's 
knowledge of the usage. I may also observe that, 
in certain temples attended by the lower classes, the 
slaughtering of sheep is an act of worship. But, 
if the same act is done in other temples to which 
other classes resort as places of public worship, it is 
generally regarded as a gross outrage or defilement." 
The High Court upheld the decision of the District 

Each occupational sub-division of the Kamsalas has 
a headman styled Kulampedda, and occasionally the five 
headmen assemble for the settlement of some important 
question of general interest to the community. 

Ill- 10 


A Kamsala may, according to the custom called 
menarikam, claim his maternal uncle's daughter in 
marriage. The following account of the wedding rites 
is given in the Nellore Manual. " The relations of the 
bridegroom first go to the bride's parents or guardians, 
and ask their consent to the proposed union. If consent 
is given, a day is fixed, on which relations of the bride- 
groom go to the bride's house, where all her relations 
are present with cocoanuts, a cloth for the bride, betel, 
turmeric, etc. On the same occasion, the amount of 
the dower is settled. The bride bathes, and is adorned 
with flowers, turmeric, etc., and puts on the new cloth 
brought for her, and she receives the articles which the 
bridegroom's party have brought. On the auspicious 
day appointed for the marriage, the relations of the 
bride go to the bridegroom's house, and fetch him in a 
palanquin. A Brahman is sent for, who performs the 
ceremonies near the dais on which the bride and bride- 
groom are seated. After the recital of the mantras 
(hymns) before the young couple, he sends for their 
uncles, and blesses them. The bridegroom then ties a 
pilgrim's cloth upon him, places a brass water-pot on his 
head, holds a torn umbrella in his hands, and starts out 
from the pandal (booth), and says he is going on a 
pilgrimage to Benares, when the bride's brother runs 
after him, and promises that he will give his sister in 
marriage, swearing thrice to this effect. The bride- 
groom, satisfied with this promise, abandons his pretended 
journey, takes off his pilgrim cloths, and gives them, 
with the umbrella, to the Brahman. The couple seat 
themselves on the dais, and the Brahman, having 
repeated some mantras, gives a sacred thread to the bride- 
groom to place over his shoulders. He then blesses 
the mangalasutram (marriage badge corresponding to 


the Tamil tali), and hands it to the bridegroom, who 
ties it round the bride's neck, his sister or other 
elderly matron seeing that it is properly tied. The 
bride's father comes forward, and, placing his daughter's 
right hand in the bridegroom's right, pours water on 
them. The other ceremonies are exactly similar to 
those practiced by the Brahmans." Girls are invariably 
married before puberty. Widows are not allowed to 
remarry, and divorce is not recognised. 

The Kamsalas are either Madhvas, Saivites, or 
Lingayats. All revere the caste goddess Kamakshi 
Amma, who is represented by each sub-division in a 
special manner. Thus the Kanchara represents her by 
the stone on which he beats his metal work, the orold- 
smith by one of his implements, and the blacksmith 
by his bellows. On the eighteenth day of the Dasara 
festival, an annual festival is celebrated in honour of the 

The dead are buried in a seated posture, but, in 
recent years, some Kamsalas have taken to cremation. 
The death rites closely follow the Brahmanical form. 
Death pollution is observed for twelve days. 

In the Vizagapatam district, some artisans are 
engaged in the ivory-carving industry. They " manu- 
facture for European clients fancy articles, such as chess- 
boards, photograph frames, card-cases, trinket boxes, 
and so on, from tortoise-shell, horn, porcupine quills, 
and ivory. The industry is in a flourishing state, and 
has won many medals at exhibitions. It is stated to 
have been introduced by Mr. Fane, who was Collector 
of the district from 1859 to 1862, and to have then been 
developed by the Kamsalis, and men of other castes 
who eventually took it up. The foundation of the fancy 
articles is usually sandal-wood, which is imported from 
ni-io B 


Bombay. Over this are laid porcupine quills split in 
half and placed side by side, or thin slices of 'bison,' 
buffalo, or stag horn, tortoise-shell, or ivory. The ivory 
is sometimes laid over the horn or shell, and is always 
either cut into geometrical patterns with a small key- 
hole saw, or etched with designs representing gods and 
flowers. The etching is done with a small V tool, and 
then black wax is melted into the design with a tool 
like a soldering iron, any excess being scraped off with 
a chisel, and the result is polished with a leaf of Fictis 
asperrima (the leaves of which are very rough, and used 
as a substitute for sand-paper). This gives a black 
design (sgraffito) on a white ground. The horn and 
porcupine quills are obtained from the Agency, and the 
tortoise-shell and ivory mainly from Bombay through 
the local Marvaris. The designs employed both in the 
etching and fret-work are stiff, and suited rather to work 
in metal than in ivory ; and the chief merit of this 
Vizagapatam work perhaps lies in its careful finish — a 
rare quality in Indian objects of art. The ivory is rarely 
carved now, but, in the Calcutta Museum and elsewhere, 
may be seen samples of the older Vizagapatam work, 
which often contained ivory panels covered with scenes 
from holy writ, executed in considerable relief."* 

The caste title of the Kamsalas is usually Ayya, 
but, in recent times, a good many have taken the title 

The two begging castes Panasa and Runja are stated 
by Mr. Hemingway to be exclusively devoted to the 
Kamsalas. " The former," he writes, " are said to be 
out-castes from the Komati sub-division of that name. 
Formerly in the service of the Nizam, it is said they 

* Gazetteer of the Vizagapatam district. 


were disgraced by him, and driven to accept food of 
a degradinsf nature from a Kamsala. The Kamsalas 
accordingly took them under their protection. The 
Runjas are said to have been specially created by Siva. 
Siva had killed a giant named Ravundasura, and the 
giant's dying request was that his limbs might be turned 
into musical instruments, and a special caste created to 
play them at the celebration of Siva's marriage. The 
Runjas were the caste created. The god ordered 
Viswakarma, the ancestor of the Kamsalas, to support 
them, and the Kamsalas say that they have inherited 
the obligation." 

It is recorded, in the Kurnool Manual, that " the 
story goes that in Golkonda a tribe of Komatis named 
Bacheluvaru were imprisoned for non-payment of arrears 
of revenue. Finding certain men of the artificer caste, 
who passed by in the street, spit chewed betel-nut, they 
got it into their mouths, and begged the artificers to 
get them released. The artificers pitied 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." 

Kamukham (areca-nut : Ai^eca Catechu). — A tree 
or kothu of Kondaiyamkottai Maravan. 

Kamunchia.— Recorded, in the Madras Census 
Report, 1 90 1, as a very small class of Oriya cultivators. 

Kanagu {Pongamia glabra). — An exogamous sept 
of Koravas and Thumati Gollas. The latter may not 
use the oil obtained from the seeds of this tree. The 
equivalent Kanagala occurs as an exogamous sept of 

Kanaka.— An exogamous sept of Badagas of the 


Kanakkan.— Kanakkan is a Tamil accountant caste, 
corresponding to the Oriya Korono. In an account 
thereof, in the North Arcot Manual, Mr. H. A. Stuart 
writes that they are " found chiefly in the districts of 
North Arcot, South Arcot, and Chingleput. The name 
is derived from the Tamil word kanakku, which means 
an account. They were employed as village account- 
ants by the ancient kings. In the inscriptions the word 
Karanam or Kanakkan occurs very often, and their title is 
invariably given as Velan, which is possibly a contracted 
form of Vellalan. These accountants of the Tamil 
districts seem to be quite distinct from those of Ganjam 
and other Telugu provinces (see Korono), some of whom 
claim to be Kshatriyas, or even Brahmans. It is true 
that the Karnams themselves claim to be the sons of 
Brahma, but others maintain that they are the offspring 
of a Sudra woman by a Vaisya. The caste is said to 
have four divisions, Sir (Sri), Sarattu, Kaikatti, and 
Solia. The Sir Karnams are considered of highest 
rank, and are generally the most intelligent accountants, 
though they are sadly deficient when compared with the 
Brahmans who perform the duty of keeping the village 
accounts above the ghats. The Kai-katti Karnams (or 
Karnams who show the hand) derive their name from 
a peculiar custom existing among them, by which a 
daughter-in-law is never allowed to speak to her mother- 
in-law except by signs. The reason may perhaps be 
surmised. The members of the four divisions can- 
not intermarry. In their customs the caste is some- 
what peculiar. They wear the thread, disallow liquor- 
drinking, flesh-eating, and widow remarriage. Most 
of them worship Siva, but there are some who are 
Vaishnavites, and a very few are Lingayats." Their title 
is Pillai. In the records relating to the Tamil country, 


Conicopoly, Conicoply, Canacappel, and other variants 
appear as a corrupt form of Kanakka Pillai. For 
example, in the records of Fort St. George, 1680, it 
is noted that " the Governour, accompanyed with the 
Councell and several persons of the factory, attended 
by six files of soldyers, the Company's Peons, 300 of 
the Washers, the Pedda Naigue, the Cancoply of the 
Towne and of the grounds, went the circuit of Madras 
ground, which was described by the Cancoply of 
the grounds." It is recorded by Baldaeus (1672) that 
Xaverius set everywhere teachers called Canacappels.* 
The title Conicopillay is still applied to the examiner 
of accounts by the Corporation of Madras. 

It is laid down in the Village Officers' Manual that 
" the Karnam, who is entrusted with the keeping of village 
accounts, is subordinate to the Head of the villao-e. He 
should help and advise the Head of the village in every 
way. He is the clerk of the Head of the village in his 
capacity of village munsif and magistrate. He has to 
prepare reports, accounts, statements, etc., which it is 
necessary to put in writing." When sudden or un- 
natural death takes place within the limits of a village, 
the Karnam takes down in writing the evidence of 
persons who are examined, and frames a report of the 
whole proceedings. He keeps the register of those who 
are confined, or placed in the stocks by the Head of the 
village for offences of a trivial nature, such as using 
abusive language, or petty assaults or affrays. It is the 
Karnam who keeps the revenue accounts, and registers 
of the price of all kinds of grain, strangers passing 
or re-passing through the village, births and deaths, and 
cattle mortality when cattle disease, e.g., anthrax or 

Yule and Burnell, Hobson-Jobson. 


rinderpest, exists. Further, it is the duty of the Karnam 
to take proper care of Government survey instruments, 
and, when revenue survey is being carried out, to satisfy 
himself that the village and field boundary marks are 
properly erected. 

In their marriage and death ceremonies, the Kanak- 
kans closely follow the Tamil Puranic type as observed 
by Vellalas. The Kaikatti section, however, has one 
peculiar custom. After the marriage ceremony, the girl 
is kept inside the house, and not allowed to move about 
freely, for at least two or three days. She is considered 
to be under some kind of pollution. It is said that, in 
former times, she was confined in the house for forty 
days, and, as occupation, had to separate dhal (peas) and 
rice, which had been mixed together. 

The following proverbs are not complimentary to 
the Kanakkan, who, as an influential village official, is 
not always a popular individual : — 

Though babies are sold for a pie each, we do not 
want a Kanakka baby. 

Wherever you meet with a Kanakka child or with 
a crow's young one, put out its eyes. 

In Travancore, Kanakkan is a name by which 
Kammalans are addressed, and a prefix to the name of 
Todupuzha Vellalas. It further occurs, on the west 
coast, as a sub-division of Cheruman or Pulayan. 

For the following note on the Kanakkans o f the 
Cochin State, I am indebted to Mr. L. K. Anantha 
Krishna Aiyar.* 

The Kanakkans belong to the slave castes, and are 
even now attached to some landlords. In the taluks 
of Trichur, Mukandapuram, and Cranganur, where I 

* Monograph, Eth. Survey of Cochin, No. 4, 1905. 


obtained all my information about them, I learnt that 
they are the Atiyars (slaves) of Chittur Manakkal 
Nambudiripad at Perumanom near Trichur, and they 
owe him a kind of allegiance. The Nambudiri landlord 
told me that the members of the caste, not only from 
almost all parts of the State, but also from the British 
taluks of Ponnani, Chowghat, and even from Calicut, 
come to him with a Thirumulkazhcha, i.e., a few annas in 
token of their allegiance. This fact was also confirmed 
by a Kanakkanar (headman) at Cranganur, who told me 
that he and his castemen were the slaves of the same 
landlord, though, in disputes connected with the caste, 
they abide by the decision of the local Raja. In the 
event of illness or calamity in the family of a Kanakkan, 
an astrologer (Kaniyan), who is consulted as to the 
cause and remedy, sometimes reminds the members 
thereof of the negligence in their allegiance to the 
landlord, and suggests the advisability of paying respects 
to him (Nambikuru) with a few annas. On the Puyam 
day in Makaram (January- February), these people from 
various parts of the State present themselves in a body 
with a few annas each, to own their allegiance to him. 
The following story is mentioned by him. One of his 
ancestors chanced to pay his respects to one of the 
rulers of the State, when the residence of the Royal 
Family was in Cochin. On arriving near the town, 
the boat capsised in a storm, but was luckily saved by 
the bravery of a few rowers of this caste. The Raja, 
who witnessed the incident from a window of his 
palace, admired their valour, and desired to enlist 
some Kanakkans into his service. 

There are four endogamous sub-divisions among 
the Kanakkans, viz., Patunna, the members of which 
formerly worked in salt-pans, Vettuva, Chavala, and 


Parattu. Each of these is further sub-divided into clans 
(kiriyam), which are exogamous. 

A young man may marry the daughter of his maternal 
uncle, but this is not permissible in some places. 
Marriage is both infant and adult, and may be celebrated 
by Patunna Kanakkans at any time between the tenth 
and thirteenth years of a girl, while the Vettuva Kanak- 
kans may celebrate it only after girls attain puberty. 
They often choose the bridegroom beforehand, with the 
intention of performing the ceremony after puberty. 

When a girl attains maturity, she is kept apart in a 
part of the house on the score of pollution, which lasts 
for seven days. She bathes on the fourth day. On the 
morning of the seventh day seven girls are invited, and 
they accompany the girl to a tank (pond) or a river. 
They all have an oil bath, after which they return home. 
The eirl, dressed and adorned in her best, is seated on a 
plank in a conspicuous part of the hut, or in a pandal 
(booth) put up for the time in front of it. A small 
vessel full of paddy * (nerapara), a cocoanut, and a 
lighted lamp, are placed in front of her. Her Enangan 
begins his musical tunes, and continues for an hour or 
two, after which he takes for himself the above things, 
while his wife, who has purified the girl by sprinkling 
cow-dung water, gets a few annas for her service. It is 
now, at the lucky moment, that the girl's mother ties the 
tali round her neck. The seven girls are fed, and given 
an anna each. The relations, and other castemen who are 
invited, are treated to a sumptuous dinner. The guests 
as they depart give a few annas each to the chief host, 
to meet the expenses of the ceremony and the feast. 
This old custom of mutual help prevails largely among 

* Unhusked rice. 


the Pulayas also. The girl is now privileged to enter 
the kitchen, and discharge her domestic duties. The 
parents of the bridegroom contribute to the ceremony a 
small packet of jaggery (crude sugar), a muri (piece of 
cloth), some oil and incha {Acacia Intsia), the soft fibre 
of which is used as soap. This contribution is called 
bhendu nyayam. If the girl is married before puberty, 
and she attains her maturity during her stay with her 
husband, the ceremony is performed in his hut, and the 
expenses are met by the parents of the bridegroom, 
while those of the bride contribute a share. 

When a Vettuva Kanakka girl comes of age, the 
headman (Vatikaran) of the caste is informed. He 
comes, along with his wife, to help the girl's parents 
in the performance of the ceremony. Seven girls are 
invited. Each of them breaks a cocoanut, and pours the 
water on the girl's head. Water is also poured over her. 
As soon as she is thus bathed, she is allowed to remain 
in a room, or in a part of the hut. Near her are placed 
a mirror made of metal, a vessel of paddy, a pot full of 
water, and a lighted lamp. The young man who has 
been chosen as her husband is invited. He has to 
climb a cocoanut tree to pluck a tender cocoanut for the 
girl, and a cluster of flowers. He then takes a meal in 
the girl's hut, and departs. The same proceedings are 
repeated on the fourth day, and, on the seventh day, he 
takes the cluster of flowers, and throws it on water. 

As soon as a young man is sufficiently old, his 
parents look out for a girl as his wife. When she is 
chosen, the negociations leading to marriage are opened 
by the father of the bridegroom, who, along with his 
brother-in-law and Enangan (relations by marriage), 
goes to the house of the bride-elect, where, in the 
midst of relations and friends previously assembled. 


the formal arrangements are made, and a portion of the 
bride's money is also paid. The auspicious day for the 
wedding is settled, and the number of guests to be 
invited is fixed. There is also an entertainment for 
those that are assembled. A similar one is also held at 
the hut of the bridegroom-elect. These people are too 
poor to consult the local Kaniyan (astrologer) ; but, if it 
is known that the couple were born on the day of the 
same constellation, the match is at once rejected. On 
the day chosen for the celebration of the marriage, the 
bridegroom, neatly dressed, and with a knife and stylus, 
sets out from his hut, accompanied by his parents, 
uncles, other relatives, and men of his village, to the 
hut of the bride, where they are welcomed, and seated 
on mats in a pandal (booth) put up for the occasion. 
The bride, somewhat veiled, is taken to the pandal and 
seated alono- with the brideorroom, and to both of them 
a sweet preparation of milk, sugar and plantain fruits 
is given, to establish the fact that they have become 
husband and wife. There is no tali-tying then. The 
guests are treated to a sumptuous dinner. As they take 
leave of the chief host, each of them pays a few annas 
to meet the expenses of the ceremony. The bride- 
groom, with the bride and those who have accompanied 
him, returns to his hut, where some ceremonies are gone 
through, and the guests are well fed. The bridegroom 
and bride are seated together, and a sweet preparation 
is given, after which the parents and the maternal uncle 
of the former, touching the heads of both, says " My 
son, my daughter, my nephew, my niece," meaning that 
the bride has become a member of their family. They 
throw rice on their heads as a token of their blessings 
on them. After this, the couple live together as man and 
wife. In some places, marriage is performed by proxy. 


A young Vettuva Kanakkan cannot marry by proxy. 
Neither can the tali-tying ceremony be dispensed with. 

If a woman has abandoned herself to a member of 
a lower caste, she is put out of caste, and becomes a 
Christian or Muhammadan. Adultery is regarded with 
abhorrence. All minor offences are dealt with by the 
headman, whose privileges are embodied in a Thituram 
(royal order), according to which he may preside at 
marriage, funeral, and other ceremonies, and obtain 
a small fee as remuneration for his services. He may 
use a stick, a stylus, and a knife lined with gold. He 
may wear a white coat, turban and ear-rings, and use an 
umbrella. He may also construct a shed with six posts 
for marriage ceremonies. He has to pay a tax of ten 
annas to the Sirkar (Government). Chittur Manakkal 
Nambudiripad in the taluk of Talapilly, the Cranganur 
Raja in the taluk of Cranganur, and His Highness the 
Maharaja exercise absolute powers in the settlement of 
disputes connected with this and other castes. 

The Kanakkans believe in magic, sorcery, and 
witchcraft. Persons who practice the art are very rare 
among them. They go to a Panan, Velan, or Parayan, 
whenever they require his services. They profess 
Hinduism, and worship Siva, Vishnu, Ganapathi, and 
Subramania, Mukkan, Chathan, Kandakaranan, and the 
spirits of their ancestors are also adored. Vettuva 
Kanakkans do homage to Kappiri and Virabhadran also. 
Chathan cannot be worshipped at Cranganur, as he is 
opposed to the local deity. Wooden or brass images of 
their ancestors are kept in their huts, to whom regular 
sacrifices are oftered on Karkadagom, Thulam, and 
Makaram Sankranthis. In their compounds is often 
seen a raised platform beneath a tree, on which are 
placed a few stones representing the images of the 


demons whom they much fear and respect. Sacrifices 
are offered to them on leaves. 

Patunna Kanakkans invariably bury their dead. 
The funeral rites are similar to those observed by other 
low castes. Death pollution lasts for fifteen days. On 
the sixteenth morning, the hut and compound are 
swept and cow-dunged. The relatives and castemen 
are invited, and bring some rice and curry stuffs for a 
feast. Along with the chief mourner (the son of the 
deceased) and his brothers, they go to the nearest tank 
or river to bathe. The Enangan of the family purifies 
them by the sprinkling of cow-dung water. They return 
home, and those assembled are treated to a grand 
dinner. The son observes the diksha (mourning) either 
for forty-one days, or for a whole year, after which a 
grand feast called Masam is celebrated. 

The Kanakkans are employed in fishing in the 
backwaters, cutting timber and floating it on bamboo 
rafts down rivers flooded during the monsoon, boating, 
pumping out water from rice fields by means of water- 
wheels, and all kinds of agricultural labour. They 
were at one time solely engaged in the manufacture 
of salt from the backwaters. Women are engaged 
in making coir (cocoanut fibre) and in agricultural 
labour. \^ettuva Kanakkans are engaged in cocoanut 
cultivating, and making lime out of shells. They are 
very skilful in climbing cocoanut trees for plucking 

The Kanakkans take food prepared by members of 
the higher castes, and by Kammalans, Izhuvas, and 
Mappillas. They have a strong objection to eating 
at the hands of Veluthedans (washermen), Velakka- 
thalavans (barbers), Panans. Velans, and Kaniyans. 
Pulayas, Ulladans, and Nayadis have to stand far away 


from them. They themselves have to keep at a distance 
of 48 feet from high caste Hindus. They pollute 
Izhuvas by touch, and Kammalans and Valans at a 
short distance. They cannot approach the temples of 
the higher castes, but take part in the festivals of 
temples in rural parts. At Cranganur, they can come 
as far as the kozhikallu, which is a stone outside the 
temple at a short distance from it, on which fowls are 
offered by low caste people. 

Kanakku.^A prefix to the name of Nayars, e.g., 
Kanakku Raman Krishnan, and also adopted as a prefix 
by the Todupuzha Vellalas of Travancore. 

Kancharan.— A Malabar caste, the occupation of 
which is the manufacture of brass vessels. 

Kanchera.— Kanchera and Kanchari are names of 
the Telugu section of metal-workers. 

Kanchimandalam Vellala. — A name assumed by 
Malaiyalis of the Salem hills, who claim to be Vellalas 
who emigrated from Conjeeveram (Kanchipuram). 

Kanchu (bell-metal). — An exogamous sept of 
Kuruba. Kansukejje (bronze bell) occurs as a sub- 
division of Toreya. 

Kanchugara. — In the Madras and Mysore Census 
Reports, Kanchugara is recorded as a sub-division of 
Panchala, the members of which are workers in brass, 
copper, and bell-metal. The Kanchugaras of South 
Canara are described by Mr. H. A. Stuart* as "a 
Canarese caste of brass- workers. They are Hindus of 
the Vaishnava sect, and pay special reverence to Ven- 
katramana of Tirupati. Their spiritual guru is the head 
of the Ramachandrapuram math. A man cannot marry 
within his own gotra or family. They have the ordinary 

Manual of the South Canara district. 


system of Inheritance through males. Girls must be 
married before puberty, and the dhare form of marriage 
(see Bant) is used. The marriage of widows is not 
permitted, and divorce is allowed only in the case of 
women who have proved unchaste. The dead are 
either cremated, or buried in a recumbent posture. 
Brahmans officiate as their priests. The use of spiritu- 
ous liquors, and flesh and fish is permitted. Bell-metal 
is largely used for making household utensils, such as 
lamps, goglets, basins, jugs, etc. The process of manu- 
facturing these articles is as follows. The moulds are 
made of clay, dried and coated with wax to the thickness 
of the articles required, and left to dry again, a hole 
being made in them so as to allow the wax to flow 
out when heated. After this has been done, the molten 
metal is poured in. The moulds are then broken, and 
the articles taken out and polished." 

Kandappan. — A sub-division of Occhan. 

Kandulu (dal : Cajamis indices). — An exogamous 
sept of Yerukala. Kandikattu (dal soup) occurs as an 
exogamous sept of Medara. 

Kangara. — The word Kangara means servant, 
and the Kangaras (or Khongars) were orginally village 
watchmen in the Vizagapatam Agency tracts, correspond- 
ing to the Kavalgars of the Tamil country. They are 
described as follows by Lieutenant J. Macdonald Smith, 
who was Assistant Agent to the Governor in Jeypore 
in the sixties of the last century. " A Khongar, it 
seems, is nothing but a Kavilgar or village watchman. 
That these people, in many parts of India, are little 
better than a community of thieves, is pretty well known, 
and what was the true nature of the system in Jeypore 
was very clearly brought to light in a case which was 
committed to my Court. It was simply this. Before 


we entered the country, the entire police and magis- 
terial authority of a taluk was lodged in the revenue 
ameen or renter. Whenever a theft occurred, and the 
property was of sufficient importance to warrant the 
trouble and expense, the traveller or householder, as 
the case might be, resorted at once to the ameen, who 
(if sufficiently feed by the complainant) forthwith sent 
for the Head Khongar of the quarter, and desired him 
to recover the goods, whatever they might be. The 
Khongar generally knows very well where to lay his 
hand on the property, and would come back with such 
portion of it as the urgency of the ameen's order seemed 
to require, while the zeal of that functionary of course 
varied in each case, according to the extent of the 
gratification the complainant seemed disposed to give. 
This is the Khongar system of Jeypore in its length and 
breadth, as proved at the trial referred to. Wherever 
a taluk is taken up by the Police, the system of course 
falls down of itself. As for the Khongars, they willingly 
enlist in our village constabulary, and are proving 
themselves both intelligent and fearless." The Meriah 
Officers {1845-61) remarked that the former Rajas of 
Jeypore, and their subordinate chiefs, retained in their 
service great numbers of professional robbers, called 
Khongars, whom they employed within the Jeypore 
country, and in the plains, on expeditions of rapine and 

The Khongars were generally Paidis by caste, and 
their descendants are even now the most notorious 
among the dacoits of the Vizagapatam district. Their 
methods are thus described in the Gazetteer of the 
Vizagapatam district (1907). " Like the Konda Doras, 
they have induced some of the people to employ watch- 
men of their caste as the price of immunity from theft. 



They are connected with the Dombus of the Rayagada 
and Gunupur taluks, who are even worse. These 
people dacoit houses at night in armed gangs of fifty or 
more, with their faces blackened to prevent recognition. 
Terrifying the villagers into staying quiet in their huts, 
they 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. 
Their favourite method of extracting information regard- 
ing concealed property is to sprinkle the house-owner 
with boiling oil." 

Kangayan.— A division of Idaiyans settled in 

Kaniala (land-owners). — A sub-division of Vellala. 

Kanigiri (a hill in the Nellore district). — An 
exogamous sept of Medara. 

Kanikar. — The Kanikars, who are commonly known 
as Kanis, are a jungle tribe inhabiting the mountains of 
South Travancore. Till recently they were in the habit 
of sending all their women into the seclusion of the 
dense jungle on the arrival of a stranger near their 
settlements. But this is now seldom done, and some 
Kanikars have in modern times settled in the vicinity of 
towns, and become domesticated. The primitive short, 
dark-skinned and platyrhine type, though surviving, has 
become changed as the result of contact metamorphosis, 
and many leptorhine or mesorhine individuals above 
middle height are to be met with. 

r_* Money-lender. 

1 63 



Nasal index. 







Jungle ... 












90- 5 


The Kanikars are said to be characterised by a high 
standard of honour, and to be straightforward, honest 
and truthful. They are good trackers and fond of sport, 
and in clearing forest paths they have hardly any equals. 
Their help and guidance are sought by, and willingly 
given to any person who may have to travel through 
the forests. 

The jungle Kanikars have no permanent abode, but 
shift about from one part of the forest to another. Their 
settlements, composed of lowly huts built of bamboo 
and reeds, are abandoned when they suffer from fever, 
or are harassed by wild beasts, or when the soil ceases 
to be productive. The settlements are generally situated, 
away from the tracks of elephants, on steep hill slopes, 
which are terraced and planted with useful trees. In 
their system of cultivation the Kanikars first clear a 
patch of forest, and then set fire to it. The ground is 
sown with hardly any previous tillage. When, after two 
or three years, the land diminishes in productiveness, 
they move onto another part of the forest, and follow the 
same rough and ready method of cultivation. Thus one 
patch of ground after another is used for agricultural 
purposes, until a whole tract of forest is cleared. But 
the Kanikars have now to a large extent abandoned this 
kind of migratory cultivation, because, according to the 
forest rules, forests may not be set fire to or trees felled 
at the unrestricted pleasure of individuals. They culti- 
vate various kinds of cereals and pulses, as well as tapioca 



{Manikot utilissima), sweet potatoes {IpomcEa batatas), 
ganja (Indian hemp), and tobacco. Each settlement 
now has a forest block assigned to it for cultivation, with 
which other tribes are not allowed to interfere, and 
wherein the Kanikars are allowed to fell, clear, and 
grow their crops. They do not pay anything in the 
way of tax to the Government. Once a year they go 
in a group to visit the Maharaja at Trivandrum, and 
he " always receives them most kindly, accepting the 
nuzzur they offer in the shape of the bamboo plantain 
with large though few fruits, a parcel of Muttucheri hill 
rice, bamboo joints containing different varieties of honey, 
and virukachattam or a parcel of civet. The customary 
modes of court address, and the prescribed court etiquette 
are alike unknown to them, and the Maharaja, pleased 
with their simplicity and unaffected homage, rewards 
them with presents of cloth, money, salt, and tobacco, 
with which they return satisfied to their jungle home." 
The Rev. S. Mateer notes that he had difficulty in 
persuading the Kanikars to part with a sucker of the 
bamboo plantain, as they fancied it must be reserved for 
the use of the Maharaja alone. 

Some Kanikars are engaged as coolies on planters' 
estates, or in felling timber and cutting bamboos for 
contractors, others in the manufacture of bows and 
arrows with blunt or barbed iron heads. Heated arrows 
are used by them, for hitting elephants which invade 
their sugar-cane or other crop, from the safe protection 
of a hut built on a platform of sticks in tall trees of 
branches or bamboo covered with leaves of Ochlandra 
Travanco7Hca or other large leaves. In connection with 
these huts, which are called anamadam (elephant huts), 
it has been said that " the hills abound with game. 
' Bison ' {Bosga2irtts), bears, and sambar [Ce7'vus zmicolor) 


are frequently met with, while elephants and tigers 
are so numerous that the Kanikars are in some parts 
compelled to build their houses high up in trees. These 
primitive houses are quickly and easily constructed. 
The walls are made of bamboo, and the roof is thatched 
with jungle leaves. They are generally built about fifty 
feet above the ground, and are securely fastened to the 
branches of a substantial tree, and a crude ladder of 
bamboo connects them with the ground. When all the 
inmates are safely housed for the night, the ladder 
is removed aloft out of the reach of elephants, who, 
mischievously inclined, might remove the obstruction, 
and leave the Kanikars to regain terra firma the best 
way they could." Sometimes a single bamboo, with the 
shoots on the sides cut short, does duty for a ladder. 
It has been said that, when the crops are ripening, the 
Kanikar watchmen are always at home in their arboreal 
houses, with their bows and arrows, and chanting their 
wild songs. Sometimes the blunt end of an arrow is 
used as a twirling stick in making fire by friction, for 
which purpose sticks made of Grewia tili^folia, etc., 
are also used. In making fire, the Kanikars " procure 
two pieces of wood, one of which is soft, and contains a 
small hole or hollow about half an inch deep to receive 
the end of the other, which is a hard round stick about 
eighteen inches long, and as thick as an ordinary ruler. 
The Kanikar takes this stick between the palms of his 
hands, keeping it in a vertical position, with the end of 
it in the hollow referred to, and produces a quick rotary 
and reverse motion, and with slight pressure causes the 
friction necessary to produce a quantity of fluff, w^hich 
soon ignites." 

The Kanikars are employed by the Government to 
collect honey, wax, ginger, cardamoms, dammar, and 

kAnikar i66 

elephant tusks, in return for a small remuneration known 
as kutivaram. Other occupations are trapping, capturing 
or killing elephants, tigers, and wild pigs, and making 
wicker-work articles of bamboo or rattan. The Rev. S. 
Mateer mentions having seen a wicker bridge, perhaps 
a hundred feet long, over which a pony could pass. A 
tiger trap is said to be a huge affair made of strong 
wooden bars, with a partition at one end for a live goat 
as bait. The timbers thereof are supported by a spring, 
which, on a wild beast entering, lets fall a crushing 
weight on it. 

The Kanikars wander all over the hills in search of 
honey, and a resident in Travancore writes that " I have 
seen a high rugged rock, only accessible on one side, 
the other side being a sheer precipice of several hun- 
dred feet, and in its deep crevices scores of bees' nests. 
Some of them have been there for generations, and the 
Kanikars perform periodically most daring feats in 
endeavouring to secure at least a portion of the honey. 
On this precipice I have seen overhanging and fluttering 
in the breeze a rattan rope, made in rings and strongly 
linked together, the whole forming a rope ladder several 
hundred feet long, and securely fastened to a tree at the 
top of the precipice. Only a short time ago these 
people made one of their usual raids on the ' honey 
rock.' One of the tribe descended the rope ladder for a 
considerable distance, with a basket fastened to his back 
to receive the honey, and carrying with him torch-wood 
with which to smoke the bees out of the nests. Having 
arrived at his goal two hundred feet from the top, and 
over three hundred feet from the ground below, he 
ignited the torch, and, after the usual smoking process, 
which took some little time to perform, the bees made a 
hurried exit from the nests, and the Kanikar began the 


work of destruction, and with every movement the man 
and the ladder swayed to and fro, as if the whole thing 
would collapse at any moment. However, all was safe, 
and, after securing as much honey as he could con- 
veniently carry, he began the return journey. Hand 
and foot he went up ring after ring until he reached 
the top in safety, performing the ascent with an air of 
nonchalant ease, which would have done credit to any 
steeple jack." The honey is brought for sale in hollow 
bamboo joints. 

Sometimes Kanikars come into Trivandrum, bringing 
with them live animals for the zoological gardens. 

The word Kanikaran means a hereditary proprietor 
of land. There is a tradition that there were once two 
hill kings, Sri Rangan and Virappan, whose descendants 
emigrated from the Pandyan territories beyond Agastya- 
kutam under pressure from a superior force, and never 
returned to the low country. The following legend is 
current among the Kanikars. " The sea originally 
covered everything, but God caused the water to roll 
back, and leave bare all the hills. Then Parameswara 
and Parvati made a man and woman, whose descendants 
were divided into fifty-six races, and multiplied exceed- 
ingly, so that a sore famine invaded the land. In those 
days men were hunters, and lived by snaring animals 
and plucking wild fruits off the trees. There was no 
corn, for men did not know how to sow rice, and cultivate 
it. The cry of the famine-stricken reached Parameswara 
and Parvati, and they visited the earth in the form of a 
pair of hamsam (the bird which carries Brahma), and 
alighted on a kanjiram tree. While seated there, the 
god and goddess noticed a pair of dragon-flies, which 
paired together, and they too, their hearts swelling with 
love, embraced each other, and, taking pity on mankind, 

kAnikar i68 

willed that a field of rice should sprout on the low-lying 
land near the sea-shore. The Paraiyans and Pulayans, 
who witnessed the rice growing, were the first to taste 
of the crop, and became prosperous. This was in 
Malabar, or the far north of Travancore. The Maharaja, 
hearing of the new grain, sent seven green parrots to go 
on a journey of discovery, and they returned with seven 
ears of rice. These the Maharaja placed in a granary, 
and gave some to the Paraiyans to sow, and the grain 
miraculously increased. But the Maharaja wanted to 
know how it was to be cooked. The parrots were 
accordingly once more brought into requisition, and 
they flew away, and brought back eighteen varieties of 
cooked rice which a Paraiyan's wife had prepared. Then 
the Maharaja, having got some rice prepared by his 
cooks, fell to and eat heartily. After eating, he went 
into the yard to wash his hands, and, before drying them 
on a cloth, wrung his right hand to get the last drops 
of water off. A valuable gold ring with three stones fell 
therefrom, and, burying itself in the dust, was never 
recovered. The Maharaja was sore distressed by his 
loss, but, Parameswara, as some recompense, caused to 
grow from the ground where the ring fell three trees 
which are very valuable in Travancore, and which, by 
the sale of their produce, would make the Maharaja 
wealthy and prosperous. The trees were the dammar 
tree, the resinous gum of which is useful in religious 
ceremonies, the sandal-wood tree so widely used for its 
perfume, and lastly the bamboo, which is so useful and 
necessary to the well-being of the Kanikars." 

The sub-divisions among the Kanikars are known as 
illams or families, of which five are said to be endo- 
gamous, and five exogamous. The former are called 
Machchampi or brother-in-law illams, and the latter 



Annantampi or brother illams. They are named after 
mountains {e.g., Palamala, Talamala), places {e.g., Vella- 
nat), etc. The Kanikars who live south of the Kodayar 
river cannot marry those living north of it, the river 
forming a marital boundary. 

Among the names of Kanikars are Parapan (broad- 
faced), Chanthiran (moon), Marthandan (sun), Muntan 
(dwarf), Kaliyan (little Kali), Madan (a deity), Nili 
(blue) and Karumpi (black). The first name is some- 
times that of the settlement in which they live. For 
example, the various Mullans are known as Kuzhumbi 
Mullan, Anaimalai Mullan, Chembilakayam Mullan, etc. 

The Kanikars live together in small communities 
under a Muttakani or headman, who wields considerable 
influence over them, and enjoys various perquisites. He 
presides over tribal council meetings, at which all social 
questions are discussed and settled, and fixes the time 
for clearing the jungle, sowing the seed, gathering the 
harvest, worshipping the gods, etc. Fines which are 
inflicted are spent in propitiating the gods. 

The language of the Kanikars is a dialect of Mala- 
yalam, with a large admixture of Tamil, which they call 
Malampashai or language of the hills. 

The system of inheritance among those who live in 
the hills is makkathayam (from father to son). But a 
moiety of the personal property goes to the nephews. 
With those who live in the plains, an equal distribution 
of their self-acquired property is made between the sons 
and nephews. If there are no sons, the nephews inherit 
the property, the widow being entitled to maintenance. 

The chief object of worship is said to be Sasthan, a 
forest god. But the Kanikars also make offerings to 
a variety of deities, including Amman, Poothathan, 
Vetikad Pootham, Vadamala Poothathan, and Amcala. 

kAnikar 170 

They have, it has been said, " certain spots, trees 
or rocks, where their relations or friends have met 
with some unusual good luck or calamity, where they 
generally offer their prayers. Here they periodically 
assemble, and pray that the catastrophe that had befallen 
a comrade may not fall on them, or that the blessings 
which another had received may be showered on them." 
Generally in February a festival called kodai is held, 
whereat the Kanikars assemble. Goats and fowls are 
sacrificed, and the pujari (priest) offers boiled rice and 
meat to the sylvan deities in a consecrated place. The 
festival, to which many come from the low country, 
winds up with drinking and dancing. The Kanikar 
musical instruments include a reed flute or clarionet, 
and men dance to the music, while the women clap their 
hands in time with it. The Kanikars worship their 
gods twice a year, in the months of Minam and Kanni. 
On the morning of the celebration, every family takes 
rice and plantains to the dwelling of the headman. 
With the exception of a small quantity which is set 
aside, the rice is husked and ground to Hour by boys or 
men, after bathing and washing their hands and feet. 
The rice is taken to a clearing in the fields, whither a 
Kanikar who knows how to invoke the deity comes 
after bathing. He lays out a row of plantain leaves, 
and spreads on each leaf a little rice, on which plantains 
are laid. These are covered over with a plantain leaf, 
on which rice is sprinkled. The officiating Kanikar 
then burns incense, carries it round the trophy, and 
places it in front thereof. All do obeisance by raising 
their hands to their foreheads, and pray for a fruitful 
harvest. Sometimes the officiating Kanikar becomes 
inspired like a Velichapad, and gives expression to 
oracular utterances. At the close of the ceremony, a 


distribution of the rice and plantains takes place. When 
the land is to be cleared for cultivation, the headman 
is invited to attend, and some rice and cocoanuts are 
presented to him, which he offers up, and clears a small 
portion with his own hand. On the first appearance of 
the ears of grain, the Kanikars spend two nights in 
drumming, singing, and repeating mantrams at the field, 
and put up a tattu or platform on four sticks as a shrine 
for the spirits, to whom they offer raw rice, tender 
cocoanuts, flowers, etc. At harvest time rice, plantains, 
sweetmeats, and flowers are offered to the various hill 
demons, Purcha Mallan Pey, the cat giant, Athirakodi 
Pey, the boundary flag demon, and others. 

For the following note on a Kanikar harvest festival 
I am indebted to an article by Mr. A. P. Smith.* It 
was performed in propitiation of the Baradevata, or 
household gods of a house in the neighbourhood, the 
presiding deity being Madan. The ceremony is com- 
monly called the feeding ceremony, and should be carried 
out just before the harvesting of the grain commences. 
" The officiating Kani is generally an elderly and 
influential man, who professes inspiration and knowledge 
obtained when asleep. The articles necessary to perform 
the ceremony are called Paduka or sacrifice, and Ashta- 
mangalyam. Paduka is for the adult gods or manes, 
male or female, called Chava, and Ashtamangalyam 
is for the virgins who have died, called Kanyakas. 
A temporary pavilion or pandal had been erected in 
front of the house, and from the canopy long streamers 
of tender cocoanut leaves, bunches of plantains, and 
tender cocoanuts, with their husk on, were hung. 
Branches of areca nuts and flowers adorned the posts 

* Malabar Quarterly Review, 1905. 

kAnikar 172 

and pillars. Small heaps, consisting of boiled rice, 
paddy, a tender cocoanut, a sprig of areca flowers, and 
betel were placed on plantain leaves in seven definite 
spots. The officiating Kanikar, after formally getting 
the permission of the assembled spectators, and 
especially of one who subsequently appeared on the 
scene as the chief dancer, began a monotonous chant 
in what appeared to be a mixed language. It was 
understood to be a history of the beginning of earthly 
kings, a record of the life and doings of departed souls, 
whose protection was prayed for, and a prayer for the 
souls of those persons for whose benefit the ceremony 
of propitiation was in progress. Now and again the 
feelings of the narrator or singer would overcome him, 
and he would indulge in a shout or in emphatic 
gesticulations. This went on for about three or four 
hours, punctuated at intervals by the firing of petards 
or old smooth-bore guns, and the shrill cries of the 
women. Before the chanting terminated, a large heap 
of the red flowers of Ixora coccinea (thetti pu), about a 
yard square at the base, had been raised in the centre 
of the pandal, and it was prettily picked out with areca 
flowers in artistic designs. The horrible sound of a 
human voice roaring like a wild beast aroused every one 
to a sense of activity. From behind the hut came the 
man already mentioned, very primitively clothed, his 
hair hanging loose, his eyes staring, and what appeared 
like foam at his mouth. He would stand, run short 
distances, leap, sit, agitate his body, and dance, keeping 
step to the rhythmic and muflled beating of the drum. 
This he did for ten minutes or so. Suddenly, with a 
shout, he dived into the hut specially set apart as the 
feeding place of the god Madan, and presently appeared 
with two long sticks adorned at their ends with bells, 


which emitted a jingling sound. The frenzy of motion, 
ecstatic, unregulated and ungovernable, was apparently 
infectious, for a young man, hitherto a silent spectator 
of the scene, gave a shout, and began to dance wildly, 
throwing up his arms, and stepping out quite actively. 
This encouragement stimulated the original performer, 
and he caught a man standing near by the neck, thrust 
the stick with the bells into his hand, and he thereupon 
started dancing as well. In about ten minutes there 
were some half a dozen wild dancing dervishes, shout- 
ing, gesticulating, revolving, and most certainly in an 
abnormal state of excitement. A dying but still glowing 
heap of fire and ashes became the centre of attraction, 
for the chief dancer danced over the fire, and sent the 
sparks flying, and scattered the wood, and evoked the 
admiration and eulogies of the crowd. Streaming with 
perspiration, spotted with ashes, wild, dishevelled and 
exhausted, the chief dancing demoniac stepped under 
the pandal, and finally sat himself before the heap of red 
flowers, and tossed the blossoms over his head in a kind 
of shower bath. He was assisted in this by the old 
Kanikar and other bystanders. A little boy was brought 
before him, and he called the lad by a name. This was 
his christening ceremony, for the lad assumed the name 
from that time. The chief dancer then stood up, and 
appeared to be still in a possessed state. A fine old 
rooster was brought, and its throat cut. It was then 
handed to the dancer, who applied his lips to the gaping 
wound, and drained the blood, swallowing the fluid 
audibly. Before relinquishing his hold of the bird, he 
swayed and fell on the ground in what seemed to be 
a swoon. This indicated that the sacrifice had been 
acceptable, that the propitiation was perfected, and that 
all the wishes of the persons interested in them would 


be granted. The crowd then set to eating and druiking 
the sacrificial elements, and dispersed." 

Both adult and infant marriage are practiced. Those 
who had married ' infants,' on being questioned, stated 
that this is the safest course, as grown-up brides some- 
times run away to their parents' house, whereas younger 
girls get accustomed to their husbands' home. On a 
fixed day, within a month of the marriage ceremony, 
four Kanikars, accompanied by a boy carrying betel 
leaves and areca nuts, go to the home of the future bride, 
and present them to the families of the settlement. On 
the wedding morning, all assemble at a pandal (booth), 
and the bridegroom distributes pan-supari (betel leaf and 
areca nuts). His sister then brings forward the bride, 
and the bridegroom presents her with a cloth, which she 
puts on. Bride, bridegroom, and a young boy, then 
stand on a mat beneath the pandal, and the bridegroom 
ties the minnu (marriage badge) round the neck of the 
bride if she is an infant. If she is an adult, he places 
the minnu in front of her neck, on which it is tied by his 
sister. A plantain leaf is then placed in front of the 
bridal couple, and curry and rice served thereon by their 
mothers. The two women then take hold of the bride's 
head, and press it seven times towards her husband's 
shoulders. This ceremony concluded, the young boy 
takes a small quantity of the curry and rice, and puts 
it in the mouth of the bridegroom seven times. The 
bridegroom's younger brother then gives a morsel to 
the bride. The ceremonial terminates with a feast. 
The dowry includes billhooks, brass vessels, choppers, 
grain, and pulses. The headman, according to Mateer, 
offers some advice to the husband concerning the 
management of his wife. The heads of his discourse 
are arranged under the following heads : — teaching by 

175 kAnikar 

words, pinching, and blows, and casting the woman 
away at last, if she is not obedient. In the remarriage of 
widows, the bridegroom simply gives the woman a pair 
of cloths, and, with the consent of the male members of 
her family, takes her to his home. 

During the seventh month of pregnancy, a woman 
has to perform a ceremony called vaguthu pongal. 
Seven pots are placed on seven hearths, and, when the 
rice placed therein has boiled, the woman salutes it, and 
all present partake thereof. According to Mateer " the 
ceremony practised on the occasion of pregnancy is 
called vayaru pongal, when boiled rice is offered to 
the sun. First they mould an image of Ganesha, and, 
setting it in a suitable place, boil the rice. To this they 
add for an offering aval or flattened rice, parched rice, 
cakes, plantain fruits, young cocoanuts, and tender 
leaves of the same palm, with the flowers of the areca 
palm. The headman then commences dancing, and 
repeating mantrams. He waves the offerings to the 
sun. On first giving rice to a child, a feast is held, and 
an offering presented to the jungle demons." 

Concerning the death ceremonies, Mateer writes 
that " when any one is taken ill, the headman is at once 
consulted. He visits the sick person, and orders two 
drumming and singing ceremonies to be performed. A 
whole night is spent in dancing, singing, drumming, and 
prayers for the recovery of the patient. The offerings 
consist of tapioca, flour and cocoanuts, and other articles. 
After some time the headman, with manifestations of 
demoniac possession, reveals whether the sufferer will 
die or not. If the former, he repeats a mantram (kudumi 
vettu mantram, or formula on cutting off the top-knot), 
and cuts off the sick man's kudumi. This being a sign 
of approaching death, the relatives and others pay their 


last visits to the sick. After death, a mixture of ganja 
(Indian hemp), raw rice, and cocoanut, is put into the 
mouth of the corpse by the son and nephews, and it is 
buried at some distance from their abode, mantrams 
being repeated over it. Occasionally the corpse is 
cremated. The relatives bathe before returning home, 
and cannot take any of the produce of their lands till 
the death pollution is removed, fearing that wild beasts 
will attack them or destroy their crops. To this end a 
small shed is built outside their clearing on the third 
day. Three measures of rice are boiled, and placed in 
a cup or on a plantain leaf inside the shed. Then all 
bathe, and return home. On the seventh day all this is 
repeated, the old shed being pulled down, and a new 
one put up. On returning to their dwelling, they 
sprinkle cow-dung on their houses and in the yard, which 
finally removes the defilement. People in better circum- 
stances make a feast of curry and rice for all present." 
The cow-dung is sprinkled with leafy twigs of the mango 
or jak tree, or flower stalks of the areca palm. The 
ashes, after cremation, are said to be collected in a pot 
or leaf, and thrown into the nearest stream or river. An 
annual ceremony, in commemoration of ancestors, is 
held, at which rice is boiled and offered up. 

The Kanikars, like the Irulas and Yanadis of the 
Tamil and Telugu countries, do not belong to the pol- 
luting classes. Pulayans, Kuruvans, and Vedans are 
not allowed to approach them. 

The dietary of the jungle Kanikars includes wild 
pigs, deer, porcupines, hares, monkeys, fowls, sheep and 
goats, parakeets, doves, tortoises, fish, crabs, peacocks, 
tigers (said to taste like black monkey), owls, squirrels and 
field rats, in addition to many vegetable products of the 
forest. They will not eat beef or the flesh of ' bison.' 



Some Kanikars are tattooed on the forehead with a 
crescent and dot, or a vertical stripe. The Kanikars say- 
that their ancestors wore a garment made of jungle fibre, 
which has been replaced by a cotton loin-cloth. " Both 
men and women," Mr. M. Ratnaswami Aiyar writes, 
" wear on the neck numerous strings of red beads and 
rings made of shells, which hang down to the abdomen 
in the case of the women. The men wear ear-rings of 
brass or silver. The women wear bangles of brass and 
iron, and a number of brass rings on the fingers. The 
men bear suspended from one of their shoulders a cloth 
bag containing two or more partitions, in which they 
keep their vilangupetti or box containing betel, tobacco, 
and chunam. They carry, too, suspended from the 
shoulder, a cane basket wherein they place their day's 
crop of grain or roots, or any other food obtained by 
them. They attach to their waist-string or cloth a 
billhook and knife, and carry their bows and arrows 
slung on their shoulders. Whenever the Kanikars from 
the different kanis or settlements have to be gathered 
together for a common meeting, or for going together 
elsewhere on a common purpose, a messenger amongst 
them carries from one kani to another the message with 
a knot of fibres of creepers, which serves as a symbol of 
call. The knotted fibre is passed on from one kani to 
another till the required assembly is secured. It is thus 
that I secured my Kanikars to present them to their 
Excellencies Lord and Lady Curzon." 

For most of the information contained in this article 
I am indebted to Mateer's ' Native Life in Travancore,' 
an article by Mr, Ratnaswami Aiyar,* and notes by 
Mr. N. Subrahmani Aiyar. 

* Indian Review, III, 1902. 


Kani Kuruppu. — Barbers of the Kaniyans. 

Kani Razu. — A name, denoting fortune-telling 
Razus, sometimes used as a synonym by Bhatrazus, in 
whose songs it occurs. The name Kani-vandlu, or 
fortune-tellers, occurs as a synonym ofYerukala. 

Kaniyan.— Kaniyan, spelt and pronounced Kanisan 
in Malabar, is a Malayalam corruption of the Sanskrit 
Ganika, meaning an astrologer. The word was origi- 
nally Kani, in which form it invariably appears in Mala- 
yalam works and Tamil documents. The honorific suffix 
' an ' has been added subsequently. 

The two titles, generally applied to Kaniyans, are 
Panikkar and Asan. The former is said to be a common 
title in Malabar, but in Travancore it seems to be 
restricted to the north. The word Panikkar comes from 
pani, or work, viz., that of military training. The fact 
that most of the families, who own this title at present, 
were once teachers of bodily exercises, is evident not 
only from the name kalari, literally a military school, by 
which their houses are usually known, but also from the 
Keralolpatti, which assigns military training as a duty 
of the caste. Asan, a corruption of the Sanskrit Acharya, 
is a common title among Kaniyans in South Travancore. 
Special titles, such as Anantapadmanabham, Sivasan- 
karan, and Sankili, are said to be possessed by certain 
families in the south, having been conferred on them by 
kings in olden times. Some Kaniyans in the north enjoy 
the surname of Nampikuruppu. 

Kaniyans are divided into two endogamous sections, 
viz., Kaniyar and Tinta (or polluting). The occupations 
of the latter are umbrella-making and spirit-exorcising, 
while the others remain astrologers, pure and simple. 
A few families, living at Alengad, are called Vattakan 
Kaniyans, and are believed to have come there on the 


eve of Tipu Sultan's invasion. The women of the Kani- 
yans proper do not eat with them. According to 
tradition, eight sub-septs are said to have existed among 
the Kaniyans, four of which were known as kiriyams, 
and four as illams. The names of the former are Anna- 
vikkannam, Karivattam, Kutappilla, and Nanna ; of the 
latter Pampara, Tachchazham, Netumkanam, and Ayyar- 
kala. These divisions were once endogamous, but this 
distinction has now disappeared. 

In a note on the Kaniyans of the Cochin State,* Mr. 
L. K. Anantha Krishna Iyer writes that " there is some 
difference in the social status between the Kaniyans of the 
southern, and the Kalari Panikkans of the northern parts 
of the State. The latter profess a kind of superiority in 
status, on the ground that the former have no kalaris. It 
is also said by the latter that the occupation of the former 
was once that of umbrella-making, and that astrology as 
a profession has been recently adopted by them. There 
is at present neither intermarriage, nor interdining 
between them. The Kaniyans pollute the Kalari Panik- 
kans by touch." In connection with the old village 
organisation in Malabar, Cochin, and Travancore, Mr. 
Anantha Krishna Iyer writes further that " every tara 
or kara (village) consisted of all castemen below Brah- 
mans, especially the Nayars of all classes, more or less 
living in a community, the Kammalans, Izhuvans, Panans, 
Mannans, and other castemen living further apart. For 
every such village in the northern part of the State, there 
was also a Kalari Panikkan, with a kalari (gymnastic 
or military school), where the young men of the village, 
chiefly the Nayars, were trained in all kinds of athletic 
feats, and in arms. The institution of the kalaris has 

* Monograph, Ethnog. Survey, Cochin. 

in-i2 B 


now disappeared, though the building remains in some 
places, and the Panikkans are now mainly astrologers 
and village schoolmasters. According to their own 
statement, Parasurama, the great coloniser of Kerala, 
established kalaris throughout the kingdom, and ap- 
pointed them as the masters to train Sudra young men 
in all kinds of feats (one thousand and eight in number), 
for the protection of the country against foreign invaders. 
The Nayars, who then formed the fighting race, were 
mostly trained by the Panikkans. In memory of this, 
the Kalari Panikkans of the northern portions of the 
State, and of South Malabar, profess even now a pre- 
ceptorship to the Nayars, and the Nayars show them 
some respect, being present at their marriages and other 
ceremonies. The Pannikkans say that the Nayars 
obtained their kalaris from them. There are still a few 
among the Panikkans, here and there, fit to teach young 
men various feats. The following are the names of 
some of them : — 

(i) Pitichu Kali. Two persons play on their 
drums (chenda), while a third person, well dressed in a 
kacha, and with a turban on his head, and provided with 
a sword and shield, performs various feats in harmony 
with the drum beating. It is a kind of sword-dance. 

(2) Parishathalam Kali. A large pandal (booth) 
is erected in front of the house where the performance 
is to take place, and the boys below sixteen, who have 
been previously trained for it, are brought there. The 
performance takes place at night. The chenda, maddha- 
1am, chengala, and elathalam (circular bell-metal plates 
slightly concave in the middle) are the instruments used 
in the performance. After the performance, the boys, 
whom the Asan has trained, present themselves before 
him, and remunerate him with whatever they can afford. 


Parties are organised to give this performance on all 
auspicious occasions in rural districts. 

(3) Kolati. Around a lighted lamp, a number of 
persons stand in a circle, each with a stick a foot in 
length, and as thick as a thumb, in each hand. They 
begin to sing, first in slow time, and gradually in rapid 
measure. The time is marked by each one hitting his 
neisrhbours' sticks with his own on both sides. Much 
dexterity and precision are required, as also experience 
in combined action and movements, lest the amateur 
should be hit by his neighbours as the measure is 
accelerated. The songs are invariably in praise of God 
or man." 

The Kaniyans, according to one tradition, are Brah- 
man astrologers, who gradually lost their position, as 
their predictions became less and less accurate. Concern- 
ing their legendary history, Mr. Anantha Krishna Iyer 
writes as follows. " Once, says one of these legends, 
when the god Subrahmanya, son of Siva, and his friend 
were learning astrology, they knew that the sound of 
a lizard close by foreboded some evil to the mother of the 
former. The friend practiced some magical rite, which 
averted the evil. His mother, who had been in a state 
of unconsciousness, suddenly woke up as if from slumber, 
and asked the son * Kany-ar,' i.e., who it was that she 
looked at. To which the son replied that she was look- 
ing at a Kaniyan (astrologer). The Kaniyans still believe 
that the umbrella, the stick, the holy ashes, and the 
purse of cowries, which form the paraphernalia of a 
Kaniyan nowadays, were given by Subramanya. The 
following is another tradition regarding the origin of 
the caste. In ancient times, it is said, Panans, Velans, 
and Kaniyans were practicing magic, but astrology as a 
profession was practiced exclusively by the Brahmans. 


There lived a famous astrologer, Thalakkaleth Bhatta- 
thiripad, who was the most renowned of the astrologers 
of the time. He had a son whose horoscope he cast, and 
from it he concluded that his son would live long. 
Unfortunately he proved to be mistaken, for his son 
died. Unable to find out the error in his calculation 
and prediction, he took the horoscope to an equally 
famous astrologer of the Chola kingdom, who, awate of 
the cause of his advent, directed him to adore some 
deity that might aid him in the working out of his 
predictions. Accordingly he came to the Trichur temple, 
where, as directed, he spent some days in devotion to 
the deity. Thereafter he worked wonders in astrology, 
and became so well known in Malabar, Cochin, and 
Travancore, that he commanded the respect and admira- 
tion of the rulers, who invited him to cast horoscopes, 
and make predictions. For so doing he was liberally 
rewarded. One day a Brahman, hearing that his guru 
at Benares was seriously ill, consulted the Bhattathiripad 
whether and how he would be able to see him before 
his death. The Brahman astrologer directed him to 
go to the southern side of the Trichur temple, where he 
would see two persons coming towards him, who might 
gratify his desire to see his preceptor. These persons 
were reaily the servants of Yama (the god of death). 
They asked him to touch them, and he at once found 
himself at the side of his teacher. The Brahman was 
asked who had directed him to them, and, when he told 
them that it was the renowned Brahman astrologer, 
they cursed him, saying that he would become an out- 
caste. This fate came as no surprise to the astrologer, 
for he had already perceived from an evil conjunction of 
the planets that disgrace and danger were impending. 
To try to avoid the sad fate which he foresaw, he left 


his home and friends, and set out on a boating excursion 
in a river close by Pazhur. The night was dark, and it 
was midnight when he reached the middle of the stream. 
A severe storm, accompanied by rain, had come on, and 
the river was in flood. He was swept away to an 
unknown region, and scrambled ashore in torrents of 
rain and in darkness, when he saw a light in a house 
near where he landed, and he made for it in an 
exhausted condition. On reaching it, he lay down in 
the verandah at the gate of the house, musing on the 
untoward events of the night, and on his affectionate 
family whom he had left. The hut belonged to the 
family of a Kaniyan,* who, as it happened, had had a 
quarrel with his wife that day, and had left his hut. 
Anxiously expecting her husband's return, the wife 
opened the door about midnight, and, seeing a man 
lying in the verandah, mistook him for her husband. 
The man was so wrapt in his thoughts of his home that 
he in turn mistook her for his wife. When the Brahman 
woke up from his slumber, he found her to be a Kaniya 
woman. On looking at the star in the heavens to 
calculate the precise time, he saw that the prediction 
that he would become an outcaste had been fulfilled. 
He accepted the degradation, and lived the rest of his 
days with the Kaniya woman. She bore him several 
sons, whom in due course he educated in the lore of 
his profession, and for whom, by his influence, he ob- 
tained an important place in the Hindu social system as 
astrologers (Ganikans). It is said that, according to his 
instruction, his body, after his death, was placed in a coffin, 
and buried in the courtyard of the house. The spot 
is still shown, and an elevated platform is constructed, 

* According Lo another version of the legend, it was the liut of a Tiyan, 


with a thatched roof over it. A Hghted lamp is placed 
at all times on the platform, and in front of it astro- 
logical calculations and predictions are made, for it is 
believed that those who made such calculations there 
will have the aid of the spirit of their dead Brahman 
ancestor, who was so learned in the science that he could 
tell of events long past, and predict even future birth. 
As an instance of the last, the following incident may be 
CTiven. Once the orreat Brahman ascetic Vilwaman- 
galath Swamiyar was suffering severely from pains in 
the stomach, when he prayed to the divine Krishna for 
relief Finding no remedy, he turned to a Brahman 
friend, a Yogi, who gave him some holy ashes, which 
he took, and which relieved him of the pains. He 
mentioned the fact to his beloved god Krishna, who, by 
the pious adoration of the ascetic, appeared before him, 
when he said that he would have three births in the 
world instead of one which was destined for him. With 
an eager desire to know what they would be, he consulted 
the Bhattathiripad, who said that he would be born first 
as a rat-snake (Zamenis mucosus), then as an ox, and 
thirdly as a tulsi plant [Ocimum sanctuiii), and that he 
would be along with him in these births. With great 
pleasure he returned home. It is also said that the 
astrologer himself was born as an ox, and was in this 
form afterwards supported by the members of his family. 
The incident is said to have taken place at Pazhur, 
eio-hteen miles east of Ernakulam. The members of the 
family are called Pazhur Kaniyans, and are w^ell known 
throughout Malabar, Cochin and Travancore, for their 
predictions in astrology, and all classes of people even 
now resort to them for aid in predictions. The Kalari 
Panikkans in the northern parts of the Cochin State 
have a different account of the origin of the caste. 


Once, they say, a sage and astrologer, named a Ganikan, 
was making prediction to a Sudra regarding his future 
destiny. As this was done by him when in an uncleanly 
state, he was cursed by the Saptharishis (seven sages). 
The Panikkans who are reputed to be his descendants 
are ordained to be teachers and astrologers of all castes 
below Brahmans." 

According to another legendary account, there were 
Kaniyans before the time of Bhattatiri, but their astro- 
logical attainments are connected with him. Talaku- 
lattu Bhattatiri was one of the earliest astrologers of 
renown, being the author of Muhurtapadavi, and lived 
in the fourth century A.D. There is a tradition, 
believed by the Kaniyans south of Neyyattenkara, that 
their ancestor was descended from the union of a 
Gandharva woman with Kani, a Brahman saint, who 
lived in the western ghats. Their grandson propitiated 
the god Subrahmanya presiding over astronomy, and 
acquired the surname Nalika from his never-ceasing 
truthfulness. Some of the southern Kaniyans even at 
the present day call themselves Nali. According to 
another legend, Parameswara and his wife Parvati were 
living happily together, when Agni fell desperately in 
love with the latter. Eventually, Parameswara caught 
them together, and, to save Agni, Parvati suggested 
that he should hide himself inside her body. On 
Agni doing this, Parvati became very indisposed, and 
Parameswara, distressed at seeing his wife rolling in 
agony, shed tears, one of which fell on the ground, 
and became turned into a man, who, being divinely 
born, detected the cause of Parvati's indisposition, and, 
asking for some incense, sprinkled it over a blazing 
torch. Agni, seeing his opportunity, escaped in the 
smoke, and Parvati had instant relief. For this service, 


Parameswara blessed the man, and appointed him and 
his descendants to cure diseases, exorcise demons, and 
foretell events. 

The Kaniyans of Malabar have been connected by 
tradition with the Valluvans of the Tamil country, who 
are the priests, doctors, and astrologers of the Pallans 
and Paraiyans. According to this tradition, the modern 
Kaniyans are traced to the Valluvans brought from the 
east by a Perumal who ruled over Kerala in 350 M.E. 
The latter are believed to have become Kaniyans proper, 
while the old Kaniyans of the west coast descended to 
the rank of Tinta Kaniyans. The chief of the Valluvans 
so brought was a Yogi or ascetic, who, being asked by a 
Nambutiri concerning a missing article at Pazhur, replied 
correctly that the lost ring had been placed in a hole 
in the bank of the Nambutiri's tank (pond), and was 
consequently invited to settle there permanently. 

The Kaniyans are easily recognised by their punc- 
tilious cleanness of person and clothing, the iron style 
and knife tucked into the waist, the palm umbrella with 
its ribs holding numbers of horoscopes, their low artistic 
bow, and their deliberate answers to questions put to 
them. Most of them are intelligent, and well versed 
in Malayalam and Sanskrit. They are, however, not a 
flourishing community, being averse to manual labour, 
and depending for their living on their hereditary 
profession. There are no more conservative people in 
Travancore, and none of them have taken kindly to 
western education. In their clothing they follow the 
orthodox Malabar fashion. The dress of the males 
seldom hangs loose, being tucked in in token of humility. 
The Kaniyan, when wanted in his professional capacity, 
presents himself with triple ash marks of Siva on his 
chest, arms, and forehead. The woman's ornaments 


resemble those of the Izhuvans. Fish and flesh are not 
forbidden as food, but there are many families, as those of 
Pazhur and Onakkuru, which strictly abstain from meat. 
Marriage between families which eat and abstain from 
flesh is not absolutely forbidden. But a wife must give 
up eating flesh immediately on entering the house of her 
vegetarian husband. The profession of the Kaniyans is 
astrology. Marco Polo, writing as early as the thirteenth 
century about Travancore, says that it was even then 
pre-eminently the land of astrologers. Barbosa, at the 
beginning of the sixteenth century, has a detailed refer- 
ence to the Kaniyans, of whom he writes that " they 
learn letters and astronomy, and some of them are 
great astrologers, and foretell many future things, and 
form judgments upon the births of men. Kings and 
great persons send to call them, and come out of their 
palaces to gardens and pleasure-grounds to see them, 
and ask them what they desire to know ; and these 
people form judgment upon these things in a few days, 
and return to those that asked of them, but they may 
not enter the palaces ; nor may they approach the king's 
person on account of being low people. And the king 
is then alone with him. They are great diviners, and 
pay great attention to times and places of good and bad 
luck, which they cause to be observed by those kings 
and great men, and by the merchants also ; and they 
take care to do their business at the time which these 
astrologers advise them, and they do the same in their 
voyages and marriages. And by these means these men 
gain a great deal." Buchanan, three centuries later, 
alludes in the same glowing terms to the prosperity of 
the Kaniyans. He notes that they are of very low caste, 
a Nambutiri coming within twenty-four feet of one being 
obliged to purify himself by prayer and ablution. " The 


Kaniyans," he writes, " possess almanacks, by which 
they inform people as to the proper time for performing 
ceremonies or sowing their seeds, and the hours which 
are fortunate or unfortunate for any undertaking. When 
persons are sick or in trouble, the Cunishun, by perform- 
ing certain ceremonies in a magical square of 12 places, 
discovers what spirit is the cause of the evil, and also 
how it may be appeased. Some Cunishuns possess 
mantrams, with which they pretend to cast out devils." 
Captain Conner notes twenty years later that " Kan- 
neans derive the appellation from the science of divina- 
tion, which some of their sect profess. The Kannean 
fixes the propitious moment for every undertaking, all 
hysterical affections being supposed to be the visitation 
of some troublesome spirit. His incantations are 
believed alone able to subdue it." 

The Kaniyans are practically the guiding spirits in 
all the social and domestic concerns of Travancoreans, 
and even Muhammadans and Christians do not fail to 
profit by their wisdom. From the moment of the birth 
of an infant, which is noted by the Kaniyan for the pur- 
pose of casting its horoscope, to the moment of death, 
the services of the village astrologer are constantly in 
requisition. He is invariably consulted as to the cause 
of all calamities, and the cautious answers that he gives 
satisfy the people. " Putro na putri," which may either 
mean no son but a daughter, or no daughter but a son, 
is jocosely referred to as the type of a Kaniyans answer, 
when questioned about the sex of a child in utero. " It 
would be difficult," Mr. Logan writes,* "to describe a 
single important occasion in everyday life when the 
Kanisan is not at hand as a guiding spirit, foretelling 

* Malabar Manual. 


aucky days and hours, casting horoscopes, explaining the 
cause of calamities, prescribing remedies for untoward 
events, and physicians (not physic) for sick persons. 
Seed cannot be sown, or trees planted, unless the 
Kanisan has been consulted beforehand. He is even 
asked to consult his shastras to find lucky days and 
moments for setting out on a journey, commencing an 
enterprise, giving a loan, executing a deed, or shaving 
the head. For such Important occasions as births, 
marriages, tonsure, investiture with the sacred thread, 
and beginning the A, B, C, the Kanisan is of course 
Indispensable. His work In short mixes him up with the 
gravest as well as the most trivial of the domestic events 
of the people, and his influence and position are corre- 
spondingly great. The astrologer's finding, as one will 
solemnly assert with all due reverence, Is the oracle of 
God himself, with the justice of which everyone ought to 
be satisfied, and the poorer classes follow his dictates 
unhesitatingly. There is no prescribed scale of fees 
for his services, and in this respect he Is like the native 
physician and teacher. Those who consult him, however, 
rarely come empty-handed, and the gift is proportioned 
to the means of the party, and the time spent in serving 
him. If no fee is given, the Kanisan does not exact it, 
as it is one of his professional characteristics, and a 
matter of personal etiquette, that the astrologer should 
be unselfish, and not greedy of gain. On public occa- 
sions, however, and on important domestic events, a 
fixed scale of fees is usually adhered to. The astrologer's 
most busy time is from January to July, the period of 
harvest and of marriages, but in the other six months of 
the year his is far from being an idle life. His most 
lucrative business lies in casting horoscopes, recording 
the events of a man's life from birth to death, pointing 


out dangerous periods of life, and prescribing rules and 
ceremonies to be observed by individuals for the purpose 
of propitiating the gods and planets, and so averting the 
calamities of dangerous times. He also shows favourable 
junctures for the commencement of undertakings, and the 
grantham or book, written on palmyra leaf, sets forth in 
considerable detail the person's disposition and mental 
qualities, as affected by the position of the planets in 
the zodiac at the moment of birth. All this is a work of 
labour, and of time. There are few members of respect- 
able families who are not thus provided, and nobody 
grudges the five to twenty-five rupees usually paid for a 
horoscope according to the position and reputation of the 
astrologer. Two things are essential to the astrologer, 
namely, a bag of cowry shells {^Cyprcea moneta), and an 
almanac. When any one comes to consult him, he quietly 
sits down, facing the sun, on a plank seat or mat, mur- 
muring some mantrams or sacred verses, opens his bag 
of cowries, and pours them on the floor. With his right 
hand he moves them slowly round and round, solemnly 
reciting meanwhile a stanza or two in praise of his 
guru or teacher, and of his deity, invoking their help. 
He then stops, and explains what he has been doing, at 
the same time taking a handful of cowries from the heap, 
and placing them on one side. In front is a diagram 
drawn with chalk on the floor, and consisting of twelve 
compartments (rasis) one for each month in the year. 
Before commencing operations with the diagram, he 
selects three or five of the cowries highest up in the 
heap, and places them in a line on the right-hand side. 
[In an account before me, three cowries and two glass 
bottle-stoppers are mentioned as being placed on this 
side.] These represent Ganapati (the belly god, the 
remover of difficulties), the sun, the planet Jupiter, 


Sarasvati (the goddess of speech), and his own guru or 
preceptor. To all of these the astrologer gives due 
obeisance, touching his ears and the ground three times 
with both hands. The cowries are next arranged in the 
compartments of the diagram, and are moved about from 
compartment to compartment by the astrologer, who 
quotes meanwhile the authority on which he makes the 
moves. Finally he explains the result, and ends with 
again worshipping the deified cowries, who were witness- 
ing the operation as spectators." According to another 
account,* the astrologer "pours his cowries on the 
ground, and, after rolling them in the palm of his right 
hand, while repeating mantrams (consecrated formulae), 
he selects the largest, and places them in a row outside 
the diagram at its right hand top corner. They repre- 
sent the first seven planets, and he does obeisance to 
them, touching his forehead and the ground three times 
with both hands. The relative position of the nine 
planets is then worked out, and illustrated with cowries 
in the diagram." 

At the chal (furrow) ceremony in Malabar, on the eve 
of the new agricultural year, " every Hindu house in the 
district is visited by the Kanisans of the respective 
desams, who, for a modest present of rice, vegetables 
and oils, makes a forecast of the season's prospects, 
which is engrossed on a cadjan (palm leaf). This is 
called the Vishu phalam, which is obtained by comparing 
the nativity with the equinox. Special mention is made 
therein as to the probable rainfall from the position 
of the planets — highly prized information in a district 
where there are no irrigation works or large reservoirs 
for water." t 

* Gazetteer of the Malabar district. 

t C. Karunakara Menon. Madras Mus. Bull., V, 2, 1906. 


The science of astrology is studied and practiced 
by other castes, but the Kani house of Pazhur is the 
most celebrated. Numerous stories are related of the 
astrological skill of the Pazhur Kaniyans, of which one 
relates to the planets Mercury and Venus, who, arriving 
at the house of one of the Kaniyans, were asked by him 
to wait at the gate. He then jumped into a neighbour- 
ing well, to conduct some prayers with a view to keeping 
them there permanently. In this task he succeeded, and 
even today a prophecy made at that out-house is believed 
to be certain of turning out true. 

In addition to astrology, the Kaniyans practice 
sorcery and exorcism, which are strictly the occupation 
of the Tinta Kaniyans. The process by which devils 
are driven out is known as kolamtullal (a peculiar 
dance). A troupe of Kaniyans, on being invited to a 
house where a person is suspected of being possessed 
by a devil, go there wearing masques representing 
Gandharva, Yakshi, Bhairava, Raktesvari, and other 
demons, and dressed up in tender cocoanut leaves. 
Accompanied by music and songs, they rush towards 
the affected person, who is seated in the midst of the 
assembly, and frighten away the evil spirit. For the 
cure of disease, which is considered as incurable by 
ordinary methods of treatment, a form of exorcism called 
kalapasamtikkuka, or the removal of the rope or evil 
influence, is resorted to. In this, two Kaniyans take 
the stage, and play the parts of Siva and Yama, while 
a third recites in song the story of the immortal 

"The Pannikar's astrology," Mr. F. Fawcett writes,* 
" he will tell you, is divided into three parts : — 

• Madras Mus. Bull., II, 3, igoi. 


(i) Ganita, which treats of the constellations. 

(2) Sankita, which explains the origin of the 
constellations, comets, falling- stars, and earthquakes. 

(3) Hora, by which the fate of man is explained. 
" The Panikkar, who follows in the footsteps of 

his forefathers, should have a thorough knowledge of 
astrology and mathematics, and be learned in the Vedas. 
He should be sound in mind and body, truthful, and 
patient. He should look well after his family, and 
should worship regularly the nine planets : — Suryan, 
the sun ; Chandran, moon ; Chovva, Mars ; Budhan, 
Mercury ; Vyazham, Guru, or Brihaspati, Jupiter ; 
Sukran, Venus ; Sani, Saturn ; Rahu ; and Ketu. The 
two last, though not visible, are, oddly enough, classed 
as planets by the Panikkar. They are said to be two 
parts of an Asura who was cut in two by Vishnu. The 
Panikkars also dabble in magic, and I have in my 
possession a number of yantrams presented to me by a 
Panikkar. They should be written on a thin gold, silver, 
or copper plate, and worn on the person. A yantram 
written on gold is the most effective. As a rule, the 
yantram is placed in a little cylinder-case made of silver, 
fastened to a string tied round the waist. Many of 
these are often worn by the same person. The yantram 
is sometimes written on cadjan (palm leaf), or paper. I 
have one of this kind in my collection, taken from the 
neck of a goat. It is common to see them worn on the 
arm, around the neck." 

The following examples of yantrams are given by 
Mr. Fawcett : — 

Aksharamdla. — Fifty-one letters. Used in con- 
nection with every other yantram. Each letter has its 
own meaning, and does not represent any word. In 
itself this yantram is powerless, but it gives life to all 


others. It must be written on the same plate as the 
other yantram. 

Sulini. — For protection against sorcery or devils, 
and to secure the aid of the goddess. 

Mdha Sulini. — To prevent all kinds of harm 
through the devils, chief of whom is Pulatini, he who 
eats infants. Women wear it to avert miscarriage. 

Ganapati. — To increase knowledge, and put away 
fear and shyness. 

Sarasvati. — To enable its possessor to please his 
listeners, and increase his knowledge. 

Santdna gopalam. — As a whole it represents Sri 
Krishna. Used by barren women, so that they may bear 
children. It may be traced on a metal plate and worn 
in the usual way, or on a slab of butter, which is eaten. 
When the latter method is adopted, it is repeated on 
forty-one consecutive days, during which the woman, as 
well as the Panikkar, may not have sexual connection. 

Navva. — Drawn in ashes of cow-dung on a new 
cloth, and tied round the waist. It relieves a woman in 

Asvarudha (to climb a horse). — A person wearing 
it is able to cover long distances easily on horseback, 
and he can make the most refractory horse amenable by 
tying it round its neck. It will also help to cure cattle. 
"The charms," Mr. Fawcett explains, "are entirely 
inoperative, unless accompanied in the first place with 
the mystic rite, which is the secret of the Panikkar." 

Many Kaniyans used formerly to be village school- 
masters, but, with the abolition of the old methods of 
teaching, their number is steadily decreasing. Some of 
them are clever physicians. Those who have no preten- 
sion to learning live by making palm-leaf umbrellas, 
which gives occupation to the women. But the industry 


is fast declining before the competition of umbrellas 
imported from foreign countries. 

The Kaniyans worship the sun, the planets, the 
moon, Ganesa and Subramanya, Vishnu, Siva, and 
Baghavati. On each day of the week, the planet, which 
is believed to preside over it, is specially worshipped 
by an elaborate process, which is compulsorily gone 
through for at least three weeks after a Kaniyan has 
become proficient in astrology, and able to make calcu- 
lations for himself 

It is generally believed that the supreme authority in 
all social matters affecting the Kaniyan rests in British 
Malabar with the Yogi already referred to, in Cochin 
and North Travancore with the head of the Pazhur 
house, and in South Travancore with the eldest member 
of a house at Manakkad in Trivandrum, known by the 
name of Sankili. Practically, however, the spiritual 
headmen, called Kannalmas, are independent. These 
Kannalmas are much respected, and well paid on festive 
occasions by every Kaniyan house. They and other 
elders sit in judgment on persons guilty of adultery, 
commensality with lower castes, and other offences, and 
inflict punishments. 

The Kaniyans observe both the tali-kettu ceremony 
before puberty, and sambandham after that event. 
Inheritance is through the father, and the eldest male of 
a family has the management of the ancestral estate. 
Fraternal polyandry is said to have been common in 
olden times, and Mr. Logan observes that, " like the 
Pandava brothers, as they proudly point out, the Kani- 
sans used formerly to have one wife in common among 
several brothers, and this custom is still observed by 
some of them." There is no restriction to the marriage 
of widows. 

ni-13 B 


Concerning polyandry, Mr. Anantha Krishna Iyer 
states that ** among the Kaniyans, as well as among 
Panikkans, polyandry largely prevails. If the young 
woman is intended to be the wife of several brothers, the 
eldest brother goes to the bride's house, and gives her 
the cloth, and takes her home the next day along with 
her parents and relations, who are all well entertained. 
The young woman and the brothers are seated together, 
and a sweet preparation is given to them, which signifies 
that she has become the common wife of all. The 
Kalari Muppan (Nayar headman of the village) also 
declares her to be such. The guests depart, and the 
bridegroom (the eldest brother) and the bride are invited 
to what they call virunnu-oon (sumptuous meal) in 
the house of the latter, where they stay for a few days. 
The bridegroom then returns home with the wife. The 
other brothers, one after another, are similarly enter- 
tained along with the bride at her house. The brothers 
cannot afford to live together for a long time, and they 
go from place to place, earning their livelihood by astrol- 
ogy. Each brother is at home only for a few days in 
each month ; hence practically the woman has only one 
husband at a time. If several of them happen to be at 
home together for a few weeks, each in turn associates 
with the woman, in accordance with the directions given 
by their mother." 

The Kaniyans follow high-caste Hindus as regards 
many of their ceremonies. They have their name- 
bestowing, food-giving and tuft-making ceremonies, and 
also a superstitious rite called ittaluzhiyuka, or exorcism 
in child-birth on the seventh or ninth day after the birth 
of a child. A Kaniyan's education begins in his seventh 
year. In the sixteenth year a ceremony, corresponding 
to the upanayana of the higher castes, is performed. 


For forty-one days after, the Kannalma initiates the 
young Kaniyc'n into the mysteries of astrology and 
witchcraft. He is obliged to worship Subramanya, the 
tutelary god of the caste, and abstains from meat and 
liquor. This may be taken as the close of his Brahma- 
charya stage or Samavartana, as marriage cannot take 
place before the observance of this ceremony. 

On the subject of religion, Mr. Anantha Krishna Iyer 
writes that " the Kalari Panikkans and the Kaniyans are 
generally Saivite worshippers, but are not disinclined to 
the worship of Vishnu also. It is said that their kalaris 
are forty-two feet long, and contain the images of forty- 
two deities. The following are the most important of 
them : — Subrahmanya, Sastha, Ganapati, Virabhadran, 
Narasimha, Ashtabairavas, Hanuman, and Bhadrakali. 
Some of their kalaris, which were seen by me, contained 
stone and metal images of these gods. Every night a 
lamp is lighted in front of them for their worship. 
During the Mandalam (forty days) from the first of 
Vrischikam to the tenth of Dhanu (14th November to 
25th December), the senior member of the Panikkans 
family bathes early in the morning, and performs his 
pujas to all the gods, making offerings of boiled rice, 
plantains and cocoanuts. On the fortieth day, i.e.^ the 
last day of the Mandalam, a grand puja is performed 
individually to every one of the deities in the kalari, 
and this lasts for twenty-four hours, from sunrise to sun- 
rise, when offerings of boiled rice, parched rice, sheep 
and fowls are also given. This is the grand puja per- 
formed once in the course of the year. Besides this, 
some of their deities command their special reverence. 
For instance, Subrahmanya is adored for the sake of 
astrology, Sastha for wealth and offspring. They are 
also worshippers of Sakti in any of her following 


manifestations, namely, Bala, Thripura, Mathangi, 
Ambika, Durga, Bhadrakali, the object of which is to 
secure accuracy in their astrological predictions. Further, 
every member of the caste proficient in astrology daily 
offers, after an early bath, his prayers to the seven 
planets. Among the minor deities whom they worship, 
are also Mallan, Mundian, Muni and Ayutha Vadukan, 
the first three of which they worship for the prosperity 
of their cattle, and the last four for their success in the 
training of young men in athletic feats. These deities 
are represented by stones placed at the root of some 
shady tree in their compounds. They also worship the 
spirits of their ancestors, on the new-moon nights in 
Karkadakam (July-August), Thulam (October-Novem- 
ber), and Makaram (December-January). The Kalari 
Panikkans celebrate a kind of feast to the spirits of their 
female ancestors. This is generally done a few days 
before the celebration of a wedding in their houses, and 
is probably intended to obtain their blessings for the 
happy married life of the bride. This corresponds to 
the performance of Sumangalia Prarthana (feast for the 
spirits of departed virgins and married women) per- 
formed by Brahmans in their families. At times when 
small-pox, cholera, and other pestilential diseases prevail 
in a village, special pujas are offered to Mariamma (the 
small-pox demon) and Bhadrakali, who should be propi- 
tiated. On these occasions, their priest turns Velichapad 
(oracle), and speaks to the village men as if by inspiration, 
tellinor them when and how the maladies will subside." 

Kaniyans were formerly buried, but are now, excepting 
young children, cremated in a portion of the grounds of 
the habitation, or in a spot adjacent thereto. The ashes 
are collected on the fourth day, and deposited under 
water. In memory of the deceased, an annual offering 


of food is made, and an oblation of water offered on 
every new moon. 

The Potuvans or Kani Kuruppus are the barbers 
of the Kaniyans, and have the privilege of being in 
attendance during marriages and funerals. It is only 
after they have sprinkled water in the houses of polluted 
Kaniyans that they again become pure. In fact, the 
Potuvans stand in the same relation to the Kaniyans 
as the Marans to the Nayars. The Potuvans are not 
expected to shave the Tlnta Kaniyans. 

The Kaniyans are said to keep at a distance of 
twenty-four feet from a Brahman or Kshatriya, and half 
that distance from a Sudra. The corresponding dis- 
tances for a Tinta Kaniyan are thirty-six and eighteen 
feet. This restriction is not fully observed in Trivan- 
drum, and south of it. It is noted by Mr. Anantha 
Krishna Iyer that, on marriage occasions, a Nayar gives 
a gift of a few annas and betel leaves to the astrologer, 
standing close beside him, and yet there is no pollution. 
The Malayalam proverb " On marriage occasions the 
Nayars give dakshina (gift), almost touching the hand," 
refers to this fact. The Kaniyans cannot enter Brahman- 
ical temples. They will not receive food from Izhavans, 
except in a few villages in central Travancore, but this 
is a regular practice with the Tinta Kaniyans. It is 
believed that the Kaniyans proper have no objection to 
receiving sweetmeats from Kammalans. 

The Kaniyans have been summed up as a law-abiding 
people, who not infrequently add agriculture to their 
avocations of village doctor, prophet, or demon-driver, 
and are popular with Christians and Muhammadans as 
well as with Hindus.* 

This account is mainly from an article by Mr. N. Subramani Aiyar. 


The late Mr. Pogson, when Government astronomer, 
used to say that his principal native assistant was an 
astronomer from lo a.m. to 5 p.m. and an astrologer from 
5 P.M. to 10 A.M. 

Kannada. — Kannada (Kanarese) has, at recent 
times of census, been returned as a linguistic or terri- 
torial division of various classes, e.g., Agasa, Bedar, 
Devanga, Holeya, Koracha, Kumbara, Samagara, 
Rachewar, and Uppiliyan. 

Kanna Pulayan. — Described by the Rev. W. J. 
Richards * as Pulayans of Travancore, who wear rather 
better and more artistically made aprons than the Thanda 
Pulayan women. 

Kannaku. — A prefix to the name of Nanchinat 
Vellalas in Travancore. 

Kannan.— A sub-division of Kammalans, the mem- 
bers of which do braziers' work. 

Kannadiyan. — The Kannadiyans have been summed 
up t as "immigrants from the province of Mysore. 
Their traditional occupation is said to have been military 
service, although they follow, at the present day, different 
pursuits in different districts. They are usually cattle- 
breeders and cultivators in North and South Arcot and 
Chingleput, and traders in the southern districts. Most 
of them are Lingayats, but a few are Vaishnavites." 
"They are," it is stated,| " in the Mysore State known 
as Gaulis. At their weddings, five married women are 
selected, who are required to bathe as each of the most 
important of the marriage ceremonies is performed, and 
are alone allowed to cook for, or to touch the happy 
couple. Weddings last eight days, during which time 
the bride and bridegroom must not sit on anything but 

* Ind. Ant., IX, 1880. t Manual of the North Arcot district. 

X Madras Census Report, 190 1. 


woollen blankets." Some Kannadiyans in the Tanjore 
district are said to be weavers. For the following 
account of the Kannadiyans of the Chingleput district I 
am indebted to Mr. C. Hayavadana Rao. 

About twenty miles from the city of Madras is a big 
tank (lake) named after the village of Chembrambakam, 
which is close by. The fertile land surrounding this 
tank is occupied, among others, by a colony of Lingayats, 
of whom each household, as a rule, owns several acres of 
land. With the cultivation thereof, they have the further 
occupation of cattle grazing. They utilize the products 
of the cow in various ways, and it supplies them with 
milk, butter and curds, in the last two of which they 
carry on a lucrative trade in the city of Madras. The 
curds sold by them are very highly appreciated by 
Madras Brahmans, as they have a sour taste caused by 
keeping them till fermentation has set in. So great is 
the demand for their curds that advances of money are 
made to them, and regular delivery is thus secured. 
Their price is higher than that of the local Madras curds, 
and if a Lingayat buys the latter and sells them at the 
higher rate, he is decisively stigmatised as being a 
" local." They will not even touch sheep and goats, and 
believe that even the smell of these animals will make 
cows and buffaloes barren. 

Though the chief settlement of the Lingayats is 
at Chembrambakam, they are also to be found in the 
adjacent villages and in the Conjeeveram taluk, and, in 
all, they number, in the Chingleput district, about four 

The Lingayats have no idea how their forefathers 
came to the Chingleput district. Questioned whether 
they have any relatives in Mysore, many answered in 
the affirmative, and one even pointed to one in a high 


official position as a close relation. Another said that 
the Gurukkal or Jangam (priest) is one and the same man 
for the Mysore Lingayats and themselves. A third told 
me of his grandfather's wanderings in Mysore, Bellary, 
and other places of importance to the Lingayats. I 
have also heard the story that, on the Chembrambakam 
Lingayats being divided into two factions through 
disputes among the local caste-men, a Lingayat priest 
came from Mysore, and brought about their union. 
These few facts suffice to show that the Lingayats are 
emigrants from Mysore, and not converts from the 
indigenous populations of the district. But what as to 
the date of their immigration ? The earliest date which 
can, with any show of reason, be ascribed thereto seems 
to be towards the end of the seventeenth century, when 
Chikka Deva Raja ruled over Mysore. He adopted 
violent repressive measures against the Lingayats 
for quelling a widespread insurrection, which they 
had fomented against him throughout the State. His 
measures of financial reform deprived the Lingayat 
priesthood of its local leadership and much of its 
pecuniary profit. What followed may best be stated 
in the words of Colonel Wilks,* the Mysore historian. 
" Everywhere the inverted plough, suspended from the 
tree at the gate of the village, whose shade forms a 
place of assembly for its inhabitants, announced a state 
of insurrection. Having determined not to till the land, 
the husbandmen deserted their villages, and assembled 
in some places like fugitives seeking a distant settle- 
ment ; in others as rebels breathing revenge. Chikka 
Deva Raja, however, was too prompt in his measures 
to admit of any very formidable combination. Before 

* Historical Sketches, Mysore. 


proceeding to measures of open violence, he adopted 
a plan of perfidy and horror, yielding to nothing which 
we find recorded in the annals of the most sanguinary 
people. An invitation was sent to all the Jangam 
priests to meet the Raja at the great temple of Nunjen- 
god, ostensibly to converse with him on the subject of 
the refractory conduct of their followers. Treachery 
was apprehended, and the number which assembled was 
estimated at about four hundred only. A large pit 
had been previously prepared in a walled enclosure, 
connected by a series of squares composed of tent walls 
with the canopy of audience, at which they were received 
one at a time, and, after making their obeisance, were 
desired to retire to a place where, according to custom, 
they expected to find refreshments prepared at the 
expense of the Raja. Expert executioners were in 
waiting in the square, and every individual in succession 
was so skilfully beheaded and tumbled into the pit 
as to give no alarm to those who followed, and the 
business of the public audience went on without 
interruption or suspicion. Circular orders had been 
sent for the destruction on the same day of all the 
Jangam Mutts (places of residence and worship) in his 
dominions, and the number reported to have been 
destroyed was upwards of seven hundred .... 
This notable achievement was followed by the operations 
of the troops, chiefly cavalry. The orders were dis- 
tinct and simple — to charge without parley into the 
midst of the mob ; to cut down every man wearing an 
orange-coloured robe (the peculiar garb of the Jangam 

How far the husbandmen carried out their threat of 
seeking a distant settlement it is impossible, at this 
distance of time, to determine. If the theory of religious 


persecution as the cause of their emigration has not an 
air of certainty about it, it is at least plausible. 

If the beginning of the eighteenth century is the 
earliest, the end of that century is the latest date that 
can be set down for the Lingayat emigration. That 
century was perhaps the most troublous one in the 
modern history of India. Armies were passing and 
repassing the ghats, and I have heard from some old 
gentlemen that the Chingleput Lingayats, who are 
mostly shepherds, accompanied the troops in the humble 
capacity of purveyors of milk and butter. 

Whatever the causes of their emigration, we find 
them in the Chingleput district ordinarily reckoning the 
Mysore, Salem and Bellary Lingayats as of their own 
stock. They freely mix with each other, and I hear 
contract marital alliances with one another. They speak 
the Kannada (Kanarese) language — the language of 
Mysore and Bellary. They call themselves by the name 
of Kannadiyans or Kannadiyars, after the language they 
speak, and the part of the village they inhabit — Kanna- 
dipauliem, or village of the Kannadiyars. In parts of 
Madras they are known as Kavadi and Kavadiga 
(=bearers of head-loads). 

Both men and women are possessed of great stamina. 
Almost every other day they walk to and fro, in all 
seasons, more than twenty miles by road to sell their 
butter and curds in Madras. While so journeying, they 
carry on their heads a curd pot in a rattan basket 
containing three or four Madras measures of curds, 
besides another pot containing a measure or so of 
butter. Some of the men are Qrood acrobats and 
gymnasts, and I have seen a very old man successively 
break in two four cocoanuts, each placed on three or 
four crystals of common salt, leaving the crystals almost 


intact. And I have heard that there are men who can 
so break fifty cocoanuts — perhaps an exaggeration for a 
considerable number. In general the women may be 
termed beautiful, and, in Mysore, the Lingayat women 
are, by common consent, regarded as models of feminine 

These Lingayats are divided into two classes, viz., 
Gauliyars of Damara village, and Kadaperi or Kanna- 
diyars proper, of Chembrambakam and other places. 
The Gauliyars carry their curd pots in rattan baskets ; 
the Kannadiyars in bamboo baskets. Each class has its 
own beat in the city of Madras, and, while the majority 
of the rattan basket men traffic mainly in Triplicane, the 
bamboo basket men carry on their business in George- 
town and other localities. The two classes worship the 
same gods, feed together, but do not intermarry. The 
rattan is considered superior to the bamboo section. 
Both sections are sub-divided into a large number of 
exogamous septs or bedagagulu, of which the meaning, 
with a few exceptions, e.g., split cane, bear, and fruit 
of Ettgenia Jambolana, is not clear. 

Monogamy appears to be the general rule among 
them, but polygamy to the extent of having two wives, 
the second to counteract the sterility of the first, is not 
rare. Marriage before puberty is the rule, which must 
not be transgressed. And it is a common thing to see 
small boys grazing the cattle, who are married to babies 
hardly more than a year old. Marriages are arranged 
by the parents, or through intermediaries, with the tacit 
approval of the community as a whole. The marriage 
ceremony generally lasts about nine or ten days, and, 
to lessen the expenses for the individual, several fami- 
lies club together and celebrate their marriages simul- 
taneously. All the preliminaries such as inviting the 


wedding guests, etc., are attended to by the agent of the 
community, who is called Chaudri. The appointment 
of agent is hereditary. 

The first day of the marriage ceremony is employed 
in the erection of the booth or pandal. On the following 
day, the bodice-wearing ceremony is performed. The 
bride and bridegroom are presented with new clothes, 
which they put on amid general merriment. In connec- 
tion with this ceremony, the following Mysore story may 
not be out of place. When Tipu Sultan once saw 
a Lingayat woman selling curds in the street without 
a body cloth, he ordered the cutting off of her breasts. 
Since then the wearing of long garments has come into 
use among the whole female population of Mysore. 

The third day is the most important, as it is on that 
day that the Muhurtham, or tali-tying ceremony, takes 
place, and an incident of quite an exceptional character 
comes off amid general laughter. A Brahman (generally 
a Saivite) is formally invited to attend, and pretends 
that he is unable to do so. But he is, with mock gravity, 
pressed hard to do so, and, after repeated guarantees of 
good faith, he finally consents with great reluctance and 
misgivings. On his arrival at the marriage booth, the 
headman of the family in which the marriage is taking 
place seizes him roughly by the head, and ties as tightly 
as possible five cocoanuts to the kudumi, or lock of 
hair at the back of the head, amidst the loud, though 
not real, protestations of the victim. All those present, 
with all seriousness, pacify him, and he is cheered by 
the sight of five rupees, which are presented to him. 
This gift he readily accepts, together with a pair of new 
cloths and pan-supari (betel leaves and areca nuts). 
Meanwhile the young folk have been making sport of 
him by throwing at his new and old clothes big empty 


brinjal fruits [Solantim Melongena) filled with turmeric 
powder and chunam (lime). He goes for the boys, who 
dodge him, and at last the elders beat off the youngsters 
with the remark that " after all he is a Brahman, and 
ought not to be trifled with in this way." The Brahman 
then takes leave, and is heard of no more in connection 
with the wedding rites. The whole ceremony has a 
decided ring of mockery about it, and leads one to the 
conclusion that it is celebrated more in derision than in 
honour of the Brahmans. It is a notorious fact that the 
Lingayats will not even accept water from a Brahman's 
hands, and do not, like many other castes, require his 
services in connection with marriage or funeral cere- 
monies. The practice of tying cocoanuts to the hair of 
the Brahman seems to be confined to the bamboo section. 
But an equally curious custom is observed by the rattan 
section. The villao^e barber is invited to the weddino- 
and the infant bride and bridegroom are seated naked 
before him. He is provided with some ghl (clarified 
butter) in a cocoanut shell, and has to sprinkle some of 
it on the head of the couple with a grass or reed. He 
is, however, prevented from doing so by a somewhat 
cruel contrivance. A big stone (representing the linga) 
is suspended from his neck by a rope, and he is kept 
nodding to and fro by another rope which is pulled by 
young lads behind him. Eventually they leave off, and 
he sprinkles the ghl, and is dismissed with a few annas, 
pan-supari, and the remains of the ghi. By means of 
the stone the barber is for the moment turned into a 

The officiating priest at the marriage ceremony is 
a man of their own sect, and is known as the Gurukkal. 
They address him as Ayyanavaru, a title generally 
reserved for Brahmans in Kannada-speaking districts. 


The main items of expenditure at a wedding are the 
musician, presents of clothes, and pan-supari, especially 
the areca nuts. One man, who was not rich, told me 
that it cost him, for a marriage, three maunds of nuts, 
and that guests come more for them than for the meals, 
which he characterised as not fit for dogs. 

Widow remarriage is permitted. But it is essential 
that the contracting parties should be widower and 
widow. For such a marriage no pandal is erected, but 
all the elders countenance it by their presence. Such a 
marriage is known as naduvittu tali, because the tali is 
tied in the mid-house. It is usually a simple affair, and 
finished in a short time after sunset instead of in the day 
time. The offspring of such marriages are considered 
as legitimate, and can inherit. But remarried couples 
are disqualified from performing certain acts, e.g., the 
distribution of pan-supari at weddings, partaking in the 
harathi ceremony, etc. The disqualifications attaching 
to remarried people are, by a curious analogy, extended 
to deformed persons, who are, in some cases, considered 
to be widowers and widows. 

Among the ordinary names of males are Basappa^ 
Linganna, Devanna, Ellappa, Naganna ; and of females 
Ellamma, Lingi and Nagamma. It is said that all are 
entitled to the honorific Saudri ; but the title is specially 
reserved for the agent of their sect. Among common 
nicknames are Chikka and Dodda Thamma (younger 
and elder brother), Andi (beggar), Karapi (black woman), 
Guni (hunch back). In the Mysore Province the most 
becoming method of addressing a Lingayat is to call 
him Sivane. Their usual titles are Ravut, Appa, Anna, 
and Saudri. 

The child-naming ceremony is a very important one. 
Five swords with limes fixed to their edges are set in 



a line with equi-distant spaces between them. By each 
sword are placed two plantain fruits, a cocoanut, four 
dried dates, two cocoanut cups, pan-supari, and karamani 
[Vigna Catiang) cakes. In front of the swords are also 
placed rice-balls mixed with turmeric powder, various 
kinds of vegetables and fruits, curds and milk. Opposite 
each sword five leaves are spread out, and in front of 
each leaf a near relation of the family sits. The chief 
woman of the house then brings five pots full of water, 
and gives to each man a potful for the worship of the 
jangama linga which he wears. She also brings con- 
secrated cow-dung ashes. The men pour the water 
over the linga, holding it in the left hand, and smear 
both the linga and their faces with the ashes. The 
woman then retires, and the guests partake of a hearty 
meal, at the conclusion of which the woman reappears 
with five vessels full of water, with which they wash 
their hands. The vessels are then broken, and thrown 
on a dung-heap. After partaking of pan-supari and 
chunam (lime), each of the men ties up some of the 
food in a towel, takes one of the swords in his hand, and 
leaves the house without turning back. The headman 
of the family then removes the limes from the swords, 
and puts them back in their scabbards. The same 
evening the child is named. Sometimes this ceremony, 
which is costly, is held even after the child is a 
year old. 

When a death takes place, information is sent round 
to the relations and castemen by two boys carrying 
little sticks in their hands. Under the instructions 
of a priest, the inmates of the house begin to make 
arrangements for the funeral. The corpse is washed, 
and the priest's feet are also washed, and the refuse- 
water on the ground is poured over the corpse or into 


its mouth. Among certain sections of Lingayats it is 
customary, contrary to the usual Hindu practice, to 
invite the friends and relations, who have come for the 
funeral, to a banquet, at which the priest is a guest. 
It is said that the priest, after partaking of food, vomits 
a portion of it, which is shared by the members of the 
family. These practices do not seem to be followed by 
the Chingleput Lingayats. A second bath is given to 
the corpse, and then the nine orifices of the body are 
closed with cotton or cloth. The corpse is then dressed 
as in life, and, if it be that of a priest, is robed in the 
characteristic orange tawny dress. Before clothing it, 
the consecrated cow-duno- ashes are smeared over the 
forehead, arms, chest, and abdomen. The bier is made 
like a car, such as is seen in temple processions on the 
occasion of car festivals. To each of its four bamboo 
posts are attached a plantain tree and a cocoanut, and it 
is decorated with bright flowers. In the middle of the 
bier is a wooden plank, on vvhich the corpse is set in a sit- 
ting position. The priest touches the dead body three 
or four times with his right leg, and the funeral cortege, 
accompanied by weird village music, proceeds to the 
burial-ground. The corpse, after removal from the bier, 
is placed in the grave in a sitting posture, facing south, 
with the linga, which the man had worn during life, in 
the mouth. Salt, according to the means of the family, 
is thrown into the grave by friends and relations, and it 
is considered that a man's life would be wasted if he did 
not do this small service for a dead fellow-casteman. 
They quote the proverb ** Did he go unserviceable 
even for a handful of mud ? " The grave is filled in, 
and four lights are placed at the corners. The priest, 
standing over the head of the corpse, faces the lamps, 
with branches of Leucas aspera and Vitex Negundo at 


his feet. A cocoanut is broken and camphor burnt, and 
the priest says " Lingannah (or whatever the name of 
the dead man may be), leaving Nara Loka, you have 
gone to Bhu Loka," which is a Httle incongruous, for 
Nara Loka and Bhu Loka arc identical. Perhaps the 
latter is a mistake for Swarga Loka, the abode of bliss 
of Brahmanical theology. Possibly, Swarga Loka is not 
mentioned, because it signifies the abode of Vishnu. 
Then the priest calls out Oogay ! Oogay ! and the funeral 
ceremony is at an end. On their return home the 
corpse-bearers, priest, and sons of the deceased, take 
buttermilk, and apply it with the right hand to the left 
side of the back. A Nandi (the sacred bull) is made 
of mud, or bricks and mortar, and set up over the 
grave. Unmarried girls and boys are buried in a lying 
position. From enquiries made among the Lingayats 
of Chembarambakam, it appears that, when a death has 
occurred, pollution is observed by the near relatives ; 
and, even if they are living at such distant places as 
Bellary or Bangalore, pollution must be observed, and 
dissolved by a bath. 

Basava attached no importance to pilgrimages. The 
Chingleput Lingayats, however, perform what they call 
Jatray {i.e., pilgrimage), of which the principal cele- 
bration takes place in Chittra-Vyasi (April-May), and 
is called Virabhadra Jatray, The bamboo Lingayats of 
Chembarambakam send word, with some raw rice, to the 
rattan Lingayats of Kadaperi to come to the festival on 
a fixed day with the image of their god Virabhadra. 
The Gauliyars of Kadaperi and other villages accord- 
ingly proceed to a tank on the confines of the village 
of Chembrambakam, and send word that they have 
responded to the call of their brethren. The chief men 
of the village, accompanied by a crowd, and the village 


musicians, start for the tank, and bring in the Kadaperi 
guests. After a feast all retire for the night, and get up 
at 3 A.M. for the celebration of the festival. Swords are 
unsheathed from their scabbards, and there is a deafening 
noise from trumpets and pipes. The images of Vira- 
bhadra are taken in procession to a tank, and, on the 
way thither, the idol bearers and others pretend that they 
are inspired, and bawl out the various names of the god. 
Sometimes they become so frenzied that the people 
break cocoanuts on their foreheads, or pierce their neck 
and wrists with a big needle, such as is used in stitching 
gunny bags. Under this treatment the inspired ones 
calm down. All along the route cocoanuts are broken, 
and may amount to as many as four hundred, which 
become the perquisite of the village washerman. When 
the tank is reached, pan-supari and kadalai [Cicer 
arietimim) are distributed among the crowd. On the 
return journey, the village washerman has to spread 
dupatis (cloths) for the procession to walk over. At 
about noon a hearty meal is partaken of, and the cere- 
mony is at an end. After a few days, a return celebration 
takes place at Kadaperi. The Virabhadra images of the 
two sections, it may be noted, are regarded as brothers. 
Other ceremonial pilgrimages are also made to Tirutani, 
Tiruvallur and Mylapore, and they go to Tiruvallur on 
new moon days, bathe in the tank, and make offerings 
to Vira Raghava, a Vaishnava deity. They do not 
observe the feast of Pongal, which is so widely celebrated 
throughout Southern India. It is said that the cele- 
bration thereof was stopped, because, on one occasion, 
the cattle bolted, and the men who went in pursuit of 
them never returned. The Ugadi, or new year feast, is 
observed by them as a day of general mourning. They 
also observe the Kama festival with great eclat, and one 


of their national songs relates to the burning of Kama. 
When singing it during their journeys with the curd-pots, 
they are said to lose themselves, and arrive at their 
destination without knowing the distance that they have 

In addition to the grand Virabhadra festival, which 
is celebrated annually, the Ariservai festival is also 
observed as a great occasion. This is no doubt a Tamil 
rendering of the Sanskrit Hariservai, which means the 
service of Hari or worship of Vishnu. It is strange 
that Lingayats should have this formal worship of 
Vishnu, and it must be a result of their environment, as 
they are surrounded on all sides by Vaishnavite temples. 
More than six months before the festival a meeting of 
elders is convened, and it is decided that an assessment 
of three pies per basket shall be levied, and the Saudri 
is made honorary treasurer of the fund. If a house has 
two or more baskets, i.e., persons using baskets in their 
trade, it must contribute a corresponding number of 
three pies. In other words, the basket, and not the 
family, is the unit in their communal finance. An invita- 
tion, accompanied by pan-supari, is sent to the Thadans 
(Vaishnavite dramatists) near Conjeeveram, asking them 
to attend the festival on the last Saturday of Paratasi, 
the four Saturdays of which month are consecrated to 
Vishnu, The Thadans arrive in due course at Chem- 
brambakam, the centre of the bamboo section of the 
Lingayats, and make arrangements for the festival. 
Invitations are sent to five persons of the Lingayat 
community, who fast from morning till evening. About 
8 or 9 P.M., these five guests, who perhaps represent 
priests for the occasion, arrive at the pandal (booth), and 
leaves are spread out before them, and a meal of rice, 
dhal {CajantLs indicus) water, cakes, broken cocoanuts. 


etc., is served to them. But, instead of partaking 
thereof, they sit looking towards a lighted lamp, and 
close their eyes in meditation. They then quietly retire 
to their homes, where they take the evening meal. 
After a torchlight procession with torches fed with ghi 
(clarified butter) the village washermen come to the 
pandal, and collect together the leaves and food, which 
have been left there. About 11 r.M, the villagers repair 
to the spot where a dramatic performance of Hiranya 
Kasyapa Natakam, or the Prahallada Charitram, is held 
during five alternate nights. The latter play is based on a 
favourite story in the Bhagavatha, and it is strange that 
it should be got up and witnessed by a community of Sai- 
vites, some of whom (Vira Saivas) are such extremists 
that they would not tolerate the sight of a Vaishnavite at 
a distance. 

The Chembrambakam Lingayats appear to join the 
other villagers in the performance of the annual puja 
(worship) to the village deity, Namamdamma, who is 
worshipped in order to ward off cholera and cattle 
disease. One mode of propitiating her is by sacrificing 
a goat, collecting its entrails and placing them in a pot, 
with its mouth covered with goat skin, which is taken 
round the village, and buried in a corner. The pot is 
called Bali Setti, and he who comes in front of it while 
it is being carried through the streets, is supposed to be 
sure to suffer from serious illness, or even die. The 
sacrifice, filling of the pot, and its carriage through 
the streets, are all performed by low class Occhans 
and Vettiyans. The Chembrambakam Lingayats assert 
that the cholera goddess has given a promise that she 
will not attack any of their community, and keeps it 
faithfully, and none of them die even during the worst 
cholera epidemics. 

215 kAppiliyan 

Kanni (rope). — A gotra of Kurni. 

Kapata. — A name for rag-wearing Koragas. 

Kappala (frog). — An exogamous sept of Madiga, 
and sub-division of Yanadis, who are said to be frog- 
eaters. It is also a gotra of Janappans, who have a 
legend that, when some of their family were fishing, they 
caught a haul of big frogs instead offish. Consequently, 
members of this gotra will not injure frogs. I have 
seen frogs hanging up for sale in the Cochin bazar. 

Kappiliyan. — The Kappiliyans, or Karumpurath- 
thals, as they are sometimes called, are Canarese-speaking 
farmers, who are found chiefly in Madura and Tinne- 
velly. It is noted, in the Manual of the Madura district, 
that "a few of the original Poligars were Canarese ; and 
it is to be presumed that the Kappiliyans immigrated 
under their auspices. They are a decent and respect- 
able class of farmers. Their most common ao-nomen is 
Koundan (or Kavandan)." 

Some Kappiliyans say that they came south six or 
seven generations ago, along with the Urumikkarans, 
from the banks of the Tungabhadra river, because the 
Tottiyans tried to ravish their women. According to 
another tradition, similar to that current amono- the 
Tottiyans, " the caste was oppressed by the Musalmans 
of the north, fled across the Tungabhadra, and was saved 
by two pongu {Pongavtia glabi^d) trees bridging an 
unfordable stream, which blocked their escape. They 
travelled, says the legend, through Mysore to Conjee- 
veram, thence to Coimbatore, and thence to the Madura 
district. The stay at Conjeeveram is always emphasised, 
and is supported by the fact that the caste has shrines 
dedicated to Kanchi Varadaraja Perumal."* 

* Gazetteer of the Madura district. 


The Kappiliyans are one of the nine Kambalam 
castes, who are so called because, at their caste council 
meetings, a kambli (blanket) is spread, on which is 
placed a kalasam (brass vessel) filled with water, and 
decorated with flowers. Its mouth is closed by mango 
leaves and a cocoanut. According" to the Gazetteer of 
the Madura district, they are "split into two endoga- 
mous sub-divisions, namely the Dharmakattu, so called 
because, out of charity, they allow widows to marry one 
more husband, and the Munukattu, who permit a woman 
to have three husbands in succession." They are also 
said to recognise, among themselves, four sub-divisions, 
Vokkiliyan (cultivator), Muru Balayanoru (three bangle 
people), Bottu Kattoru (bottu tying people), Vokkulo- 
thoru, to the last of which the following notes mainly 

They have a large number of exogamous septs, 
which are further divided into exogamous sub-septs, of 
which the following are examples : — 

Sept. Sub-sept. 

r Hennu (female) Basiri. 

B^si"y°'^^ iGandu (male) Basiri. 

f Loddu. 
Palingi Loddu. 
Kolingi Loddu. 
Uddudhoru ( Phaseolus Mimgo, var. 

Huniseyoru (tamarind people). 
Manaloru, sand people. 

One exogamous sept is called Ane (elephant), and 
as names of sub-septs, named after animate or inanimate 
objects, I may mention Hatti (hamlet), Arane (lizard) 
and Puli (tiger). 



The affairs of the caste are regulated by a headman 
called Gauda, assisted by the Saundari. In some places, 
the assistance of a Pallan or Maravan called Jadipillai, 
is sought. 

Marriage is, as a rule, adult, and the common emblem 
of married life — the tali or bottu — is dispensed with. 
On the first day of the marriage ceremonies, the bride 
and bridegroom are conducted, towards evening, to the 
houses of their maternal uncles. There the nalagu 
ceremony, or smearing the body with Phaseolus Mttngo, 
sandal and turmeric paste, is performed, and the uncles 
place toe-rings on the feet of the contracting couple. 
On the following day, the bride's price is paid, and betel 
is distributed, in the presence of a Kummara, Urumik- 
karan, and washerman, to the villagers in a special order 
of precedence. On the third day, the bridegroom goes 
in procession to the house of the bride, and their 
fingers are linked together by the maternal uncle or 
uncles. For this reason, the day is called Kai Kudu- 
kahodina, or hand-locking day. 

It is noted, in the Gazetteer of the Madura district, 
that " the binding portions of the marriage ceremony 
are the donning by the bride of a turmeric-coloured cloth 
sent her by bridegroom, and of black glass bangles 
(unmarried girls may only wear bangles made of lac), 
and the linking of the couple's little fingers. A man's 
right to marry his paternal aunt's daughter is so 
rigorously insisted upon that, as among the Tottiyans, 
ill-assorted matches are common. A woman, whose 
husband is too young to fulfil the duties of his position, 
is allowed to consort with his near relations, and the 
children so begotten are treated as his. [It is said that 
a woman does not suffer in reputation, if she cohabits 
with her brothers-in-law.] Adultery outside the caste is 


punished by expulsion, and, to show that the woman is 
thenceforward as good as dead, funeral ceremonies are 
solemnly performed to some trinket of hers, and this is 
afterwards burnt." 

At the first menstrual period, a girl remains under 
pollution for thirteen days, in a corner of the house or 
outside it in the village common land (mandai). If she 
remains within, her maternal uncle makes a screen, and, 
if outside, a temporary hut, and, in return for his services, 
receives a hearty meal. On the thirteenth day the girl 
bathes in a tank (pond), and, as she enters the house, 
has to pass over a pestle and a cake. Near the entrance, 
some food is placed, which a dog is allowed to eat. 
While so doing, it receives a severe beating. The more 
noise it makes, the better is the omen for a large family 
of children. If the poor brute does not howl, it is 
supposed that the girl will bear no children. A cotton 
thread, dyed with turmeric, is tied round her neck by a 
married woman, and, if she herself is married, she puts 
on glass bangles. The hut is burnt down and the pots 
she used are broken to atoms. 

The caste deities are said to be Lakkamma and 
Vira Lakkamma, but they also worship other deities, 
such as Chenraya, Thimmappa, and Siranga Perumal. 
Certain septs seem to have particular deities, whom 
they worship. Thus Thimmaraya is reverenced by the 
Dasiriyoru, and Malamma by the Hattiy5ru. 

The dead are as a rule cremated, but children, those 
who have died of cholera, and pregnant women, are 
buried. In the case of the last, the child is, before 
burial, removed from the mother's body. The funeral 
ceremonies are carried out very much on the lines of 
those of the Tottiyans. Fire is carried to the burning 
ground by a Chakkiliyan. On the last day of the death 


ceremonies (karmandiram) cooked food, fruits of Sola- 
num xantkocarpimi, and leaves of Leucas aspera are 
placed on a tray, by the side of which a bit of a culm 
of Saccharum arundinaceum, with leaves of Cynodon 
Dactylon twined round it, is deposited. The tray is 
taken to a stream, on the bank of which an effigy is 
made, to which the various articles are offered. A 
small quantity thereof is placed on arka {Calotropis 
giganted) leaves, to be eaten by crows. On the return 
journey to the house, three men, the brother-in-law or 
father-in-law of the deceased, and two sapindas (agnates) 
stand in a row at 'a certain spot. A cloth is stretched 
before them as a screen, over which they place their 
right hands. These a washerman touches thrice with 
Cynodon leaves dipped in milk, cow's urine, and turmeric 
water. The washerman then washes the hands with 
water. All the agnates place new turbans on their 
heads, and go back in procession to the village, accom- 
panied by a Urimikkaran and washerman, who must be 
present throughout the ceremony. 

For the following note on the Kappiliyans of the 
Kambam valley, in the Madura district, I am indebted 
to Mr. C. Hayavadana Rao. According to a tradition 
which is current among them, they migrated from their 
original home in search of new grazing ground for their 
cattle. The herd, which they brought with them, still 
lives in its descendants in the valley, which are small, 
active animals, well known for their trotting powers. 
It is about a hundred and fifty strong, and is called devaru 
avu in Canarese, and thambiran madu in Tamil, both 
meaning the sacred herd. The cows are never milked, 
and their calves, when they grow up, are not used for 
any purpose, except breeding. When the cattle die, 
they are buried deep in the ground, and not handed 


over to Chakkiliyans (leather-workers). One of the 
bulls goes by the name of pattada avu, or the king bull. 
It is selected from the herd by a quaint ceremonial. On 
an auspicious day, the castemen assemble, and offer 
incense, camphor, cocoanuts, plantains, and betel to the 
herd. Meanwhile, a bundle of sugar-cane is placed in 
front thereof, and the spectators eagerly watch to see 
which of the bulls will reach it first. The animal which 
does so is caught hold of, daubed with turmeric, and 
decorated with flow^ers, and installed as the king bull. 
It is styled Nanda Gopala, or Venugopalaswami, after 
Krishna, the divine cattle-grazer, and is an object of 
adoration by the caste. To meet the expenses of the 
ceremony, which amount to about two hundred rupees, 
a subscription is raised among them. The king bull 
has a special attendant, or driver, whose duties are to 
graze and worship it. He belongs to the Maragala 
section of the Endar sub-division of the caste. When 
he dies, a successor is appointed in the following 
manner. Before the assembled castemen, puja (worship) 
is offered to the sacred herd, and a young boy, " upon 
whom the god comes," points out a man from among 
the Maragalas, who becomes the next driver. He enjoys 
the inams, and Is the custodian of the jewels presented 
to the king bull in former days, and of the copper plates, 
whereon grants made in its name are engraved. As 
many as nine of these copper grants were entrusted to 
the keeping of a youthful driver, about sixteen years 
old, in 1905. Most of them record grants from unknown 
kings. One Ponnum Pandyan, a king of Gudalur, is 
recorded as having made grants of land, and other 
presents to the bull. Others record gifts of land from 
Ballala Raya and Rama Rayar. Only the names of the 
years are recorded. None of the plates contain the saka 


dates. Before the annual migration of the herd to the 
hills during the summer, a ceremony is carried out, to 
determine whether the king bull is in favour of its going. 
Two plates, one containing milk, and the other sugar, 
are placed before the herd. Unless, or until the bull 
has come up to them, and gone back, the migration 
does not take place. The driver, or some one deputed 
to represent him, goes with the herd, which is accom- 
panied by most of the cattle of the neighbouring villages. 
The driver is said to carry a pot of fresh-drawn milk 
within a kavadi (shrine). On the day on which the 
return journey to the valley is commenced, the pot is 
opened, and the milk is said to be found in a hardened 
state. A slice thereof is cut off, and given to each 
person who accompanied the herd to the hills. It is 
believed that the milk would not remain in good condi- 
tion, if the sacred herd had been in any way injuriously 
affected during its sojourn there. The sacred herd is 
recruited by certain calves dedicated as members thereof 
by people of other castes in the neighbourhood of the 
valley. These calves, born on the ist of the month 
Thai (January-February), are dedicated to the god 
Nandagopala, and are known as sanni pasuvu. They 
are branded on the legs or buttocks, and their ears are 
slightly torn. They are not used for ploughing or 
milking, and cannot be sold. They are added to the 
sacred herd, but the male calves are kept distinct from 
the male calves thereof. Many miracles are attributed 
to the successive king bulls. During the fight between 
the Tottiyans and Kappiliyans at Dindigul, a king bull 
left on the rock the permanent imprint of its hoof, which 
is still believed to be visible. At a subsequent quarrel 
between the same castes, at Dombacheri, a king bull 
made the sun turn back in its course, and the shadow 

KAPU 222 

is still pointed under a tamarind tree beneath which 
arbitration took place. For the assistance rendered by 
the bull on this occasion, the Maragalas will not use the 
wood of the tamarind tree, or of the vela tree, to which 
the bull was tied, either for fuel or for house-building. 
The Kappiliyans have recently (1906) raised Rs. 11,000 
by taxing all members of the caste in the Periyakulam 
taluk for three years, and have spent this sum in building 
roomy masonry quarters at Kambam for the sacred herd. 
Their chief grievance at present is that the same grazing 
fees are levied on their animals as on mere ordinary 
cattle, which, they urge, is equivalent to treating gods as 
equals of men. In the settlement of caste affairs, oaths 
are taken within the enclosure for the sacred herd. 

" Local tradition at Kambam (where a large propor- 
tion of the people are Kappiliyans) says that the 
Anuppans, another Canarese caste, were in great 
strength here in olden days, and that quarrels arose 
between the two bodies, in the course of which the chief 
of the Kappiliyans, Ramachcha Kavundan, was killed. 
With his dying breath he cursed the Anuppans, and 
thenceforth they never prospered, and now not one of 
them is left in the town. A fig tree to the east of the 
village is shown as marking the place where Ramach- 
cha's body was burned ; near it is the tank, the 
Ramachchankulam ; and under the bank of this is his 
math, where his ashes were deposited." * 

Kapu.— The Kapus or Reddis are the largest caste 
in the Madras Presidency, numbering more than two 
millions, and are the great caste of cultivators, farmers, 
and squireens in the Telugu country. In the Gazetteer 
of Anantapur they are described as being the great 

* Gazetteer of the Madura district. 

223 KAPU 

land-holding" body in the Telugu districts, who are held 
in much respect as substantial, steady-going yeomen, and 
next to the Brahmans are the leaders of Hindu Society. 
In the Salem Manual it is stated that "the Reddis are 
provident. They spend their money on the land, but are 
not parsimonious. They are always well dressed, if they 
can afford it. The gold ornaments worn by the women 
or the men are of the finest kind of gold. Their houses 
are always neat and well built, and the Reddis give the 
idea of good substantial ryots. They live chiefly on ragi 
(grain : Eleusine Coracana), and are a fine, powerful 
race." Of proverbs relating to the hereditary occupation 
of the Reddis, the following may be quoted. " Only a 
Reddi can cultivate the land, even though he has to 
drink for every clod turned over." " Those are Reddis 
who get their living by cultivating the earth," " The 
Reddi who grows arika [Paspalum strobiculatuvi) can 
have but one cloth for man and wife." 

" The term Kapu," Mr. H. A. Stuart writes,* " means 
a watchman, and Reddi means a king. The Kapus or 
Reddis (Ratti) appear to have been a powerful Dravidian 
tribe in the early centuries of the Christian era, for they 
have left traces of their presence at various places in 
almost every part of India. Though their power has 
been put down from time to time by the Chalukyas, the 
Pallavas, and the Bellalas, several families of zamindars 
came into existence after the captivity of Pratapa Rudra 
of Warrangal in A. D. 1323 by the Muhammadan emperor 
Ghiyas-ud-din Toghluk." 

Writing in the Manual of the Salem district concern- 
ing the Kongu kingdom, the Rev. T. Foulkes states 
that "the Kongu kingdom claims to have existed from 

♦^Madras Census Report, 1891. 

KAPU 224 

about the commencement of the Christian era, and to 
have continued under its own independent kings down 
to nearly the end of the ninth century A.D., when it 
was conquered by the Chola kings of Tanjore, and 
annexed to their dominions. The earliest portion of 
the Kongu Chronicle (one of the manuscripts of the 
Mackenzie collection) gives a series of short notices of 
the reigns of twenty-eight kings who ruled the country 
previous to its conquest by the Cholas. These kings 
belonged to two distinct dynasties : the earlier line was 
of the solar race, and the later line of the Gano-a race. 
The earlier dynasty had a succession of seven kings 
of the Ratti tribe, a tribe very extensively distributed, 
which has at various periods left its mark throughout 
almost every part of India. This is probably the earliest 
reference to them as a ruling power, and it is the most 
southern situation in which they ever held dominion. 
They disappear in these parts about the end of the 
second century A.D. ; and, in the next historical references 
to them, we find them high up in the Northern Dakkan, 
amongst the kingdoms conquered by the Chalukyas 
about the fourth century A.D. soon after they first 
crossed the Nerbudda. In the Kongu Chronicle they 
are stated to be of the solar race : and the genealogies 
of this tribe accordingly trace them up to Kusha, the 
second son of Rama, the hero of the great solar epic of 
the Hindus ; but their claim to this descent is not 
undisputed. They are, however, sometimes said to 
be of the lunar race, and of the Yadava tribe, though 
this latter statement is sometimes confined to the 
later Rathors." According to the Rev. T. Foulkes, the 
name Ratti is found under various forms, e.g., Irattu, 
Iretti, Radda, Rahtor, Rathaur, Rashtra-kuta, Ratta, 
Reddi, etc. 


225 kApu 

In a note on the Rashtrakutas, Mr. J. F. Fleet 
writes * that " we find that, from the first appearance of 
the Chalukyas in this part of the country, in the fifth 
century A.D., the Kanarese districts of the Bombay 
Presidency were held by them, with short periods of 
interruption of their power caused by the invasions of 
the Pallavas and other kings, down to about the early 
part or the middle of the eighth century A.D. Their 
sway over this part of the country then ceased entirely 
for a time. This was due to an invasion by the Rashtra- 
kuta kings, who, like their predecessors, came from the 
north .... It is difficult to say when there was 
first a Rashtrakuta kingdom. The earliest notices that 
we have of the family are contained in the western 
Chalukya inscriptions. Thus, the Miraj plates tell us 
that Jayasimha I, restored the fortunes of the Chalukya 
dynasty by defeating, among others, one Indra of the 
Rashtrakuta family, who was the son of Krishna, and 
who possessed an army of eight hundred elephants ; and 
there is little doubt that Appayika-Govinda, who, as 
we are told in the Aihole Meguti inscription, came from 
the north and invaded the Chalukya kingdom with his 
troops of elephants, and was repulsed by Pulikesi II, also 
belonged to this same dynasty. It is plain, therefore, 
that in the fifth and sixth centuries A.D. the Rashtrakuta 
dynasty was one of considerable importance in central or 
in northern India. The later inscriptions state that the 
Rashtrakutas were of the Somavamsa or lunar race, and 
were descendants of Yadu. Dr. Burnell seems inclined 
to look upon the family as of Dravidian origin, as he 
gives ' Rashtra ' as an instance of the Sanskritising of 
Dravidian names, and considers it to be a mythological 

* Dynasties of the Kanarese Districts of the Bombay Presidency. 

KAPU 226 

perversion for * Ratta ,' which is the same as the Kanarese 
and Telugu * Reddi.' Dr. Biihler is unable to record 
any opinion as to 'whether the Rashtrakutas were an 
Aryan Kshatriya, i.e., Rajput race, which immigrated 
into the Dekkan from the north like the Chalukyas, or 
a Dravidian family which was received into the Aryan 
community after the conquest of the Dekkan. The 
earliest inscriptions, at any rate, show them as coming 
from the north, and, whatever may be their origin, as the 
word Rashtrakuta is used in many inscriptions of other 
dynasties as the equivalent of Rashtrapati, i.e., as an 
official word meaning 'the headman or governor of a 
country or district,' it appears to me that the selection 
of it as a dynastic name implies that, prior to attaining 
independent sovereignty, the Rashtrakutas were feudal 
chiefs under some previous dynasty, of which they have 
not preserved any record." 

It is a common saying among the Kapus that they 
can easily enumerate all the varieties of rice, but it is 
impossible to give the names of all the sections into 
which the caste is split up. Some say that there are 
only fourteen of these, and use the phrase Panta padna- 
lagu kulalu, or Panta and fourteen sections. 

The following sub-divisions are recorded by Mr. 
Stuart * as being the most important : — 

Ayodhya, or Oudh, where Rama is reputed to 
have lived. The sub-division is found in Madura and 
Tinnevelly. They are very proud of their supposed 
connection with Oudh. At the commencement of the 
marriage ceremony, the bride's party asks the bride- 
groom's who they are, and the answer is that they are 
Ayodhya Reddis. A similar question is then asked by 

* Loc. cit., and Manual of the North Arcot district. 

227 kApu 

the bridegroom's party, and the bride's friends reply that 
they are Mithila Reddis. 

Balija. The chief Tel ugu trading caste. Many of 
the Balijas are now engaged in cultivation, and this 
accounts for so many having returned Kapu as their 
main caste, for Kapu is a common Telugu word for a 
ryot or cultivator. It is not improbable that there was 
once a closer connection than now between the Kapus 
and Balijas. 

Bhumanchi (good earth). 

Desur. Possibly residents originally of a place 
called Desur, though some derive the word from deha, 
body, and sura, valour, saying that they were renowned 
for their courage. 

Gandi Kottai. Found in Madura and Tinnevelly. 
Named after Gandi Kota in the Ceded districts, whence 
they are said to have emigrated southward. 

Gazula (glass bangle makers). A sub-division of 
the Balijas. They are said to have two sections, called 
Naga (cobra) and Tabelu (tortoise), and, in some places, 
to keep their women gosha. 

Kammapuri. These seem to be Kammas, who, 
in some places, pass as Kapus. Some Kammas, for 
example, who have settled in the city of Madras, call 
themselves Kapu or Reddi. 

Morasa. A sub-division of the Vakkaligas. The 
Verala icche Kapulu, or Kapus who give the fingers, 
have a custom which requires that, when a grandchild is 
born in a family, the wife of the eldest son of the grand- 
father must have the last two joints of the third and 
fourth fingers of her right hand amputated at a temple 
of Bhairava. 

Nerati, Nervati, or Neradu. Most numerous in 
Kurnool, and the Ceded districts. 

III-15 B 

kApu 228 

Oraganti. Said to have formerly worked in the 
salt-pans. The name is possibly a corruption of 
Warangal, capital of the Pratapa Rudra. 

Pakanati. Those who come from the eastern 
country (prak nadu). 

Palle. In some places, the Pallis who have settled 
in the Telugu country call themselves Palle Kapulu, and 
give as their gotra Jambumaha Rishi, which is the gotra 
of the Pallis. Though they do not intermarry with the 
Kapus, the Palle Kapulu may intcrdine with them. 

Panta (Panta, a crop). The largest sub-division 
of all. 

Pedaganti or Pedakanti. By some said to be 
named after a place called Pedagallu. By others the 
word is said to be derived from peda, turned aside, and 
kamma eye, indicating one who turns his eyes away 
from the person who speaks to him. Another sugges- 
tion is that it means stiff-necked. The Pedakantis are 
said to be known by their arrogance. 

The following legend is narrated in the Baramahal 
Records.* " On a time, the Guru or Patriarch came 
near a village, and put up in a neighbouring grove until 
he sent in a Dasari to apprize his sectaries of his 
approach. The Dasari called at the house of one of 
them, and announced the arrival of the Guru, but the 
master of the house took no notice of him, and, to avoid 
the Guru, he ran away through the back door of the 
house, which is called peradu, and by chance came to 
the grove, and was obliged to pay his respects to the 
Guru, who asked if he had seen his Dasari, and he 
answered that he had been all day from home. On 
which, the Guru sent for the Dasari, and demanded the 

* Section III, Inhabitants, Madras Government Press, 1907. 

2 29 KAPU 

reason of his staying away so long, when he saw the 
master of the house was not in it. The Dasari replied 
that the person was at home when he went there, but 
that, on seeing him, he fled through the back door, 
which the Guru finding true, he surnamed him the 
Peratiguntavaru or the runaway through the back door, 
now corruptly called Perdagantuwaru, and said that he 
would never honour him with another visit, and that he 
and his descendants should henceforth have no Guru or 

Pokanadu (poka, areca palm : Areca Cateclm). 

Velanati. Kapus from a foreign (veli) country. 

" The last division," Mr. Stuart writes. " are the 
most peculiar of all, and are partly of Brahmanical 
descent. The story goes that a Brahman girl named 
Yerlamma, not having been married by her parents in 
childhood, as she should have been, was for that reason 
turned out of her caste. A Kapu, or some say a Besta 
man, took compassion on her, and to him she bore many 
children, the ancestors of the Yerlam Kapu caste. In 
consequence of the harsh treatment of Yerlamma by 
her parents and caste people, all her descendants hate 
Brahmans with a deadly hatred, and look down upon 
them, affecting also to be superior to every other caste. 
They are most exclusive, refusing to eat with any caste 
whatever, or even to take chunam (lime for chewing 
with betel) from any but their own people, whereas 
Brahmans will take lime from a Sudra, provided a little 
curd be mixed with it. The Yerlam Kapus do not 
employ priests of the Brahman or other religious classes 
even for their marriages. At these no homam (sacred 
fire) ceremony is performed, and no worship offered to 
Vigneswara, but they simply ascertain a fortunate day 

kApu 230 

and hour, and get an old matron (sumangali) to tie the 
tali to the bride's neck, after which there is feasting and 

The Panta Kapus are said to be divided into two 
tegas or endogamous divisions, viz., Perama Reddi or 
Muduru Kapu (ripe or old Kapu) ; and Katama Reddi 
or Letha Kapu (young or unripe Kapus). A sub- 
division called Konda (hill) Kapus is mentioned by the 
Rev. J. Cain * as being engaged in cultivation and the 
timber trade in the eastern ghats near the Godavari 
river {see Konda Dora). Akula (betel-leaf seller) was 
returned at the census, 1901, as a sub-caste of Kapus. 

In the Census Report, 1891, Kapu (indicating culti- 
vator), is given as a sub-division of Chakkiliyans, 
Dommaras, Gadabas, Savaras and Telis. It further 
occurs as a sub-division of Mangala. Some Maratha 
cultivators in the Telugu country are known as Are 
Kapu. The Konda Doras are also called Konda Kapus. 
In the Census Report, 1901, Pandu is returned as a 
Tamil synonym, and Kampo as an Oriya form of Kapu. 

Reddi is the usual title of the Kapus, and is the title 
by which the village munsiff is called in the Telugu 
country, regardless of the caste to which he may belong. 
Reddi also occurs as a sub-division of cultivating Linga 
Balijas, Telugu Vadukans or Vadugans in the Tamil 
country, Velamas, and Yanadis. It is further given as 
a name for Kavarais engaged in agriculture, and as a 
title of the Kallangi sub-division of Pallis, and Sadars. 
The name Sambuni Reddi is adopted by some Palles 
engaged as fishermen. 

As examples of exogamous septs among the Kapus, 
the following may be cited : — 

• Ind. Ant., VIII, 1879. 

Avula, cow. 
Alia, grain. 
Bandi, cart. 
Barrelu, buffaloes. 
Dandu, army. 
Gorre, sheep. 
Gudise, hut. 
Guntaka, harrow. 
Kodla, fowl. 

231 kapu 

Mekala, goats. 

Kanugala, Ponganiia glabra. 

Mungaru, woman's skirt. 

Nagali, plough. 

Tangedu, Cassia auriculata. 

Udumala, Varanus bengalensis. 

Varige, Setaria italica. 

Yeddulu, bulls. 

Yenuga, elephant. 

At Conjeeveram, some Panta Reddis have true 
totemistic septs, of which the following are examples : — 

Magili {Pandamis jascicularis). Women do not, like women of 
other castes, use the flower-bracts for the purpose of adorning them- 
selves. A man has been known to refuse to purchase some bamboo 
mats, because they were tied with the fibre of this tree. 

Ippi {Bassia longifolia). The tree, and its products, must not 
be touched. 

Mancham (cot). They avoid sleeping on cots. 

Arigala {Paspalum scrobiculatum). The grain is not used as 

Chintaginjalu (tamarind seeds). The seeds may not be touched, 
or used. 

Puccha {Citriillus vulgaris; water melon). The fruit may not be 

The Pichigunta vandlu, a class of mendicants who 
beg chiefly from Kapus and Gollas, manufacture pedi- 
grees and gotras for these castes and the Kammas. 

Concerning the origin of the Kapus, the following 
legend is current. During the reign of Pratapa Rudra, 
the wife of one Belthi Reddi secured by severe penance 
a brilliant ear ornament (kamma) from the sun. This was 
stolen by the King's minister, as the King was very 
anxious to secure it for his wife. Belthi Reddi's wife 
told her sons to recover it, but her eldest son refused 
to have anything to do with the matter, as the King 
was involved in it. The second son likewise refused, 

KAPU 232 

and used foul language. The third son promised to 
secure it, and, hearing this, one of his brothers ran away. 
Finally the ornament was recovered by the youngest 
son. The Panta Kapus are said to be descended from 
the eldest son, the Pakanatis from the second, the 
Velamas from the son who ran away, and the Kammas 
from the son who secured the jewel. 

The Kapus are said to have originally dwelt in 
Ayodhya. During the reign of Bharata, one Pillala 
Mari Belthi Reddi and his sons deceived the King by 
appropriating all the grain to themselves, and giving him 
the straw. The fraud was detected by Rama when he 
assumed charge of the kingdom, and, as a punishment, 
he ordered the Kapus to bring Cucurbita (pumpkin) 
fruits for the sradh (death ceremony) of Dasaratha. 
They accordingly cultivated the plant, but, before the 
ceremony took place, all the plants were uprooted by 
Hanuman, and no fruits were forthcoming. In lieu 
thereof, they promised to offer gold equal in weight 
to that of the pumpkin, and brought all of which they 
were possessed. This they placed in the scales, but it 
was not sufficient to counterbalance a pumpkin against 
which it was weighed. To make up the deficiency in 
weight, the Kapu women removed their bottus (marriage 
badges), and placed them in the scales. Since that time 
women of the Motati and Pedakanti sections have sub- 
stituted a cotton string dyed with turmeric for the bottu. 
It is worthy of notice that a similar legend is current 
among the Vakkaligas (cultivators) of Mysore, who, 
instead of giving up the bottu, seem to have abandoned 
the cultivation of the Cucurbita plant. The exposure 
of the fraud led Belthi Reddi to leave Ayodhya with one 
of his wives and seventy-seven children, leaving behind 
thirteen wives. In the course of their journey, they had 


233 KAPU 

to cross the Silanadi (petrifying river), and, if they passed 
through the water, they would have become petrified. 
So they went to a place called Dhonakonda, and, after 
worshipping Ganga, the head of the idol was cut off, and 
brought to the river bank. The waters, like those of the 
Red Sea in the time of Pharaoh, were divided, and the 
Kapus crossed on dry ground. In commemoration of 
this event, the Kapus still worship Ganga during their 
marriage ceremonies. After crossing the river, the tra- 
vellers came to the temple of Mallikarjuna, and helped 
the Jangams in the duties of looking after it. Some time 
afterwards the Jangams left the place for a time, and placed 
the temple in charge of the Kapus. On their return, the 
Kapus refused to hand over charge to them, and it was 
decided that whoever should go to Nagalokam (the abode 
of snakes), and bring back Naga Malligai (jasmine from 
snake-land), should be considered the rightful owner of 
the temple. The Jangams, who were skilled in the art 
of transformation, leaving their mortal frames, went in 
search of the flower in the guise of spirits. Taking 
advantage of this, the Kapus burnt the bodies of the 
Jangams, and, when the spirits returned, there were no 
bodies for them to enter. Thereon the god of the 
temple became angry, and transformed the Jangams into 
crows, which attacked the Kapus, who fled to the country 
of Oraganti Pratapa Rudra. As this King was a Sakti 
worshipper, the crows ceased to harass the Kapus, who 
settled down as cultivators. Of the produce of the land, 
nine-tenths were to be given to the King, and the Kapus 
were to keep a tithe. At this time the wife of Belthi 
Reddi was pregnant, and she asked her sons what they 
would give to the son who was about to be born. They 
all promised to give him half their earnings. The child 
grew into a learned man and poet, and one day carried 

KAPU 234 

water to the field where his brothers were at work. The 
vessel containing the water was only a small one, and 
there was not enough water for all. But he prayed to 
Sarasvati, with whose aid the vessel was always filled 
up. Towards evening, the grain collected during the 
day was heaped together, with a view to setting apart 
the share for the King. But a dispute arose among the 
brothers, and it was decided that only a tithe should be 
given to him. The King, being annoyed with the Kapus 
for not giving him his proper share, waited for an oppor- 
tunity to bring disgrace on Belthi Reddi, and sought 
the assistance of a Jangam, who managed to become 
the servant of Belthi Reddi's wife. After some time, he 
picked up her kamma when it fell off while she was 
asleep, and handed it over to Pratapa Rudra, who caused 
it to be proclaimed that he had secured the ornament as 
a preliminary to securing the person of its owner. The 
eldest son of Belthi Reddi, however, recovered the 
kamma in a fight with the King, during which he car- 
ried his youngest brother on his back. From him the 
Kammas are descended. The Velamas are descended 
from the sons who ran away, and the Kapus from those 
who would neither fight nor run away. 

Pollution at the first menstrual ceremony lasts, I am 
informed, for sixteen days. Every day, both morning 
and evening, a dose of gingelly (Sesamum) oil is admin- 
istered to the girl, and, if it produces much purging, she 
is treated with buffalo ghi (clarified butter). On alter- 
nate days water is poured over her head, and from the 
neck downwards. The cloth which she wears, whether 
new or old, becomes the property of the washerwoman. 
On the first day the meals consist of milk and dhal {Caj- 
amts indicus), but on subsequent days cakes, etc., are 

235 KAPU 

In their marriage ceremonial, the Panta Reddis of 
the South Arcot and Salem districts appear to follow the 
Brahmanical form. In the Telugu country, however, it 
is as follows. On the pradhanam or betrothal day, the 
party of the bridegroom-elect go in procession under 
a canopy (ulladam), attended by musicians, and matrons 
carrying betel, cocoanuts, date and plantain fruits, and 
turmeric on plates. As soon as they have arrived at 
the courtyard of the future bride's house, she seats 
herself on a plank. A Brahman purohit moulds a 
little turmeric paste into a conical mass representing 
Vigneswara (the elephant god), and it is worshipped 
by the girl, in front of whom the trays brought by the 
women are placed. She is presented with a new cloth, 
which she puts on, and a near female relation gives her 
three handfuls of areca nuts, a few betel leaves, and the 
bride-price and jewels tied up in a turmeric-dyed cloth. 
All these things the girl deposits in her lap. The 
fathers of the contracting couple then exchange betel, 
with the customary formula. " The girl is yours, and 
the money mine " and " The money is yours, and the 
girl mine." Early on the wedding morning the bride- 
groom's party, accompanied by a purohit and washerman 
(Tsakala), go to fetch the bride from her house. The 
milk-post is set up, and is usually made of a branch of 
Mimusops hexandra or, in the Tamil country, Odina 
Wodier. On the conclusion of the marriage rites, the 
Odina post is planted in the backyard, and, if it takes 
root and flourishes, it is regarded as a happy omen for 
the newly married couple. A small party of Kapus, 
taking with them some food and gingelly (Sesamtim) 
oil, proceed in procession beneath a canopy to the 
house of a washerman (Tsakala), in order to obtain froni 
him a framework made of bamboo or sticks over which 

KAPU 236 

cotton threads are wound (dhornam), and the Ganga 
idol, which ii kept in his custody. The food is presented 
to him, and some rice poured into his cloth. Receiving 
these things, he says that he cannot find the dhornam 
and idol without a torch-light, and demands gingelly 
oil. This is given to him, and the Kapus return with 
the washerman carrying the dhornam and idol to the 
marriage house. When they arrive at the entrance 
thereto, red coloured food, coloured water (arathi) and 
incense are waved before the idol, which is taken into a 
room, and placed on a settle of rice. The washerman is 
then asked to tie the dhornam to the pandal (marriage 
booth) or roof of the house, and he demands some paddy, 
which is heaped up on the ground. Standing thereon, 
he ties the dhornam. The people next proceed to the 
houses of the goldsmith and potter, and bring back 
the bottu (marriage badge) and thirteen marriage pots, 
on which threads (kankanam) are tied before they are 
removed. A Brahman purohit ties the thread round 
one pot, and the Kapus round the rest. The pots are 
placed in the room along with the Ganga idol. The 
bottu is tied round the neck of a married woman who 
is closely related to the bridegroom. The contracting 
couple are seated with the ends of their clothes tied 
together. A barber comes with a cup of water, and a 
tray containing rice dyed with turmeric is placed on the 
floor. A number of men and women then scatter rice 
over the heads of the bride and bridegroom, and, after 
waving a silver or copper coin in front of them, throw 
it into the barber's cup. The barber then pares the 
finger and toe nails of the bridegroom, and touches the 
toe nails of the bride with his razor. They then go 
through the nalagu ceremony, being smeared with oil 
and Phaseolus Mungo paste, and bathe. After the bath 

237 KAPU 

the bridegroom, dressed in his wedding finery, proceeds 
to the temple. As he leaves the house, a Madiga hands 
him a pair of shoes, which he puts on. The Madiga is 
given food placed in a basket on eleven leaves. At the 
temple worship is performed, and a Bhatrazu (bard and 
panegyrist), who has accompanied the bridegroom, ties 
a bashingham (chaplet) on his forehead. From this 
moment the Bhatrazu must remain with the bridegroom, 
as his personal attendant, painting the sectarian marks 
on his forehead, and carrying out other functions. In 
like manner, a Bhogam woman (dedicated prostitute) 
waits on the bride. "The tradition," Mr. Stuart writes, 
" is that the Bhatrazus were a northern caste, which 
was first invited south by king Pratapa Rudra of the 
Kshatriya dynasty of Warrangal (i 295-1 323 A.D.). 
After the downfall of that kingdom they seem to have 
become court bards and panegyrists under the Reddi 
and Velama feudal chiefs." From the temple the bride- 
groom and his party come to the marriage pandal, and, 
after food and other things have been waved to avert 
the evil eye, he enters the house. On the threshold his 
brother-in-law washes his feet, and sits thereon till he 
has extracted some money or a cow as a present. The 
bridegroom then goes to the marriage dais, whither the 
bride is conducted, and stands facing him, with a screen 
interposed between them. Vigneswara is worshipped, 
and the wrist threads (kankanam) are tied on, the bride- 
groom placing his right foot on the left foot of the bride. 
The bottu is removed from the neck of the married woman, 
passed round to be blessed, and tied by the bridegroom 
on the bride's neck. The bride is lifted up by her 
maternal uncle, and the couple sprinkle each other 
with rice. The screen is removed, and they sit side by 
side with the ends of their cloths tied together. Rice is 

KAPU 238 

thrown over them by those assembled, and they are 
made to gaze at the pole star (Arundati). The pro- 
ceedings terminate by the pair searching for a finger- 
ring and pap-bowl in one of the pots filled with water. 
On the second day there is feasting, and the nalagu 
ceremony is again performed. On the following day, 
the bridegroom and his party pretend to take offence 
at some thing which is done by the bride's people, 
who follow them with presents, and a reconciliation is 
speedily effected. Towards evening, a ceremony called 
nagavali, or sacrifice to the Devatas, is performed. The 
bridal pair, with the Bhatrazu and Bhogam woman, 
occupy the dais. The Brahman purohit places on a 
tray ajconical mass of turmeric representing Vigneswara, 
to whom puja (worship) is done. He then places a 
brass vessel (kalasam) filled with water, and with its 
mouth closed by a cocoanut, on a settle of rice spread 
on a tray. The kalasam is worshipped as representing 
the Devatas. The Brahman invokes the blessing of all 
the Gods and Devatas, saying " Let Siva bless the pair," 
" Let Indra bless the pair," etc. A near relative of the 
bridegroom sits by the side of the purohit with plenty of 
betel leaves and areca nuts. After each God or Devata 
has been mentioned, he throws some of the nuts and 
leaves into a tray, and, as these are the perquisites of the 
purohit, he may repeat the same name three or four 
times. The Kapu then makes playful remarks about the 
greed of the purohit, and, amid much laughter, refuses to 
put any more leaves or nuts in the tray. This ceremonial 
concluded, the near relations of the bridegroom stand in 
front of him, and, with hands crossed, hold over his head 
two brass plates, into which a small quantity of milk 
is poured. Fruit, betel leaves and areca nuts (pan- 
supari) are next distributed in a recognised order of 

239 KAPU 

precedence. The first presentation is made to the house 
god, the second to the family priest, and the third to the 
Brahman purohit. If a Pakanati Kapu is present, he 
must receive his share immediately after the Brahman, 
and before other Kapus, Kammas, and others. Before 
it is presented to each person, the leaves and nuts are 
touched by the bridegroom, and the hand of the bride 
is placed on them by the Bhogam woman. At a Panta 
Kapu wedding, the Ganga idol, together with a goat and 
a kavadi (bamboo pole with baskets of rice, cakes, betel 
leaves and areca nuts), is carried in procession to a pond 
or temple. The washerman, dressed up as a woman, 
heads the procession, and keeps on dancing and singing 
till the destination is reached. The idol is placed inside 
a rude triangular hut made of three sheaves of straw, 
and the articles brought in the baskets are spread before 
it. On the heap of rice small lumps of flour paste are 
placed, and these are made into lights by scooping out 
cavities, and feeding the wicks with ghi (clarified butter). 
One of the ears of the goat is then cut, and it is brought 
near the food. This done, the lights are extinguished, 
and the assembly returns home without the least noise. 
The washerman takes charge of the idol, and goes his 
way. If the wedding is spread over five days, the Ganga 
idol is removed on the fourth day, and the customary 
mock-ploughing ceremony performed on the fifth. The 
marriaee ceremonies close with the removal of the threads 
from the wrists of the newly married couple. Among 
the Panta Redd is of the Tamil country, the Ganga idol 
is taken in procession by the washerman two or three 
days before the marriage, and he goes to every Reddi 
house, and receives a present of money. The idol is 
then set up in the verandah, and worshipped daily till 
the conclusion of the marriage ceremonies. " Among 

KAPU 240 

the Reddis of TInnevelly," Dr. J. Shortt writes, " a 
young woman of sixteen or twenty years of age is 
frequently married to a boy of five or six years, or even 
of a more tender age. After marriage she, the wife, 
lives with some other man, a near relative on the 
maternal side, frequently an uncle, and sometimes with 
the boy -husband's own father. The progeny so begotten 
are affiliated on the boy-husband. When he comes of 
age, he finds his wife an old woman, and perhaps past 
child-bearing. So he, in his turn, contracts a liaison 
with some other boy's wife, and procreates children." 
The custom has doubtless been adopted in imitation of 
the Maravans, Kalians, Agamudaiyans, and other castes, 
among whom the Reddis have settled. In an account of 
the Ayodhya Reddis of Tinnevelly, Mr. Stuart writes 
that it is stated that " the tali is peculiar, consisting of 
a number of cotton threads besmeared with turmeric, 
without any gold ornament. They have a proverb that 
he who went forth to procure a tali and a cloth never 
returned." This proverb is based on the following 
legend. In days of yore a Reddi chief was about to be 
married, and he accordingly sent for a goldsmith, and, 
desiring him to make a splendid tali, gave him the price 
of it in advance. The smith was a drunkard, and 
neglected his work. The day for the celebration of the 
marriage arrived, but there was no tali. Whereupon 
the old chief, plucking a few threads from his garment, 
twisted them into a cord, and tied it round the neck of 
the bride, and this became a custom.* 

In the Census Report, 1891, Mr. Stuart states that 
he was informed that polyandry of the fraternal type 
exists among the Panta Kapus, but the statement 

♦ J. F. Kearns. Kalyana shatanku. 

241 KAPU 

requires verification. I am unable to discover any trace 
of this custom, and it appears that Reddi Yanadis are 
employed by Panta Reddis as domestic servants. If 
a Reddi Yanadi's husband dies, abandons, or divorces 
his wife, she may marry his brother. And, in the case 
of separation or divorce, the two brothers will live on 
friendly terms with each other. 

In the Indian Law Reports* it is noted that the 
custom of illatom,t or affiliation of a son-in-law, obtains 
among the Motati Kapus in Bellary and Kurnool, and 
the Pedda Kapus in Nellore. He who has at the time 
no son, although he may have more than one daughter, 
and whether or no he is hopeless of having male issue, 
may exercise the right of taking an illatom son-in-law. 
For the purposes of succession this son-in-law stands in 
the place of a son, and, in competition with natural-born 
sons, takes an equal share. J 

According to the Kurnool Manual (1886), "the 
Pakanadus of Pattikonda and Ramallakota taluks allow 
a widow to take a second husband from among the 
caste-men. She can wear no signs of marriage, such as 
the tali, glass bangles, and the like, but she as well as 
her husband is allowed to associate with the other caste- 
men on equal terms. Their progeny inherit their father's 
property equally with children born in regular wedlock, 
but they generally intermarry with persons similarly 
circumstanced. Their marriage with the issue of a 
regularly married couple is, however, not prohibited. It 
is matter for regret that this privilege of remarrying is 

* Madras Series, IV, 1882 ; VI, 1883. 

t lUatakaru, a bride's father having no son, and adopting his son-in-law. 

J See further C. Ramachendrier. Collection of Decisions of High Courts 
and the Privy Council applicable to dancing-girls, illatom affiliation, etc., Madras, 


kApu 242 

much abused, as among the Linga Balijas. Not unl're- 
quently it extends to pregnant widows also, and so 
widows live in adultery with a caste-man without fear 
of excommunication, encouraged by the hope of getting 
herself united to him or some other caste-man in the 
event of pregnancy. In many cases, caste-men are 
hired for the purpose of going through the forms of 
marriage simply to relieve such widows from the penalty 
of excommunication from caste. The man so hired 
plays the part of husband for a few days, and then goes 
away in accordance with his secret contract." The 
abuse of widow marriage here referred to is said to be 
uncommon, though it is sometimes practiced among 
Kapus and other castes in out-of-the-way villages. It 
is further noted in the Kurnool Manual that Pedakanti 
Kapu women do not wear the tali, or a bodice (ravika) 
to cover their breasts. And the tight-fitting bodice is 
said* to be "far less universal in Anantapur than 
Bellary, and, among some castes {e.g., certain sub- 
divisions of the Kapus and Idigas), it is not worn after 
the first confinement." 

In the disposal of their dead, the rites among the 
Kapus of the Telugu country are very similar to those 
of the Kammas and Balijas. The Panta Reddis of the 
Tamil country, however, follow the ceremonial in vogue 
amonor various Tamil castes. The news of a death in the 
community is conveyed by a Paraiyan T5ti (sweeper). 
The dead man's son receives a measure contaaning 
a light from a barber, and goes three times round the 
corpse. At the burning-ground the barber, instead of 
the son, goes thrice round the corpse, carrying a pot 
containing water, and followed by the son, who makes 

Gazetteer of the Anantapur district. 

243 kApu 

holes therein. The stream of water which trickles out 
is sprinkled over the corpse. The barber then breaks 
the pot Into very small fragments. If the fragments 
were large, water might collect In them, and be drunk 
by birds, which would bring sickness (pakshidhosham) 
on children, over whose heads they might pass. On 
the day after the funeral, a Panisavan or barber extin- 
guishes the fire, and collects the ashes together. A 
washerman brings a basket containing various articles 
required for worship, and, after puja has been performed, 
a plant of Leucas aspej'a Is placed on the ashes. The 
bones are collected in a new pot, and thrown into a river, 
or consigned by parcel-post to an agent at Benares, and 
thrown Into the Ganges. 

By religion the Kapus are both Vaishnavltes and 
Saivites, and they worship a variety of deities, such 
as Thallamma, Nagarapamma, Putlamma, Ankamma, 
Muneswara, Poleramma, Desamma. To Muneswara and 
Desamma pongal (cooked rice) is offered, and buffa- 
loes are sacrificed to Poleramma. Even Matano-I, the 
goddess of the Madigas, Is worshipped by some Kapus. 
At purificatory ceremonies a Madlga Basavi woman, 
called MatangI, Is sent for, and cleanses the house or 
Its inmates from pollution by sprinkling and spitting 
out toddy. 

From an interesting note * on agricultural ceremonies 
In the Bellary district, the following extract Is taken. 
" On the first full-moon day In the month of Bhadra- 
pada (September), the agricultural population celebrate a 
feast called the Jokumara feast, to appease the rain-god. 
The Barikas (women), who are a sub-division of the 
Kabbera caste belonging to the Gaurlmakkalu section, 

* Madras Mail, Nov. 1905. 

KAPU 244 

go round the town or village in which they live, with 
a basket on their heads containing margosa [Melia 
Azadirachta) leaves, flowers of various kinds, and holy 
ashes. They beg alms, especially of the cultivating 
classes (Kapus), and, in return for the alms bestowed 
(usually grain and food), they give some of the margosa 
leaves, flowers, and ashes. The Kapus take these to 
their fields, prepare cholam (millet : Sorghum) gruel, mix 
them with it, and sprinkle the kanji or gruel all round 
their fields. After this, the Kapu proceeds to the potter's 
kiln, fetches ashes from it, and makes a figure of a human 
being. This figure is placed prominently in some con- 
venient spot in the field, and is called Jokumara or 
rain-god. It is supposed to have the power of bringing 
down the rain in proper time. The figure is sometimes 
small, and sometimes big. A second kind of Jokumara 
worship is called muddam, or outlining of rude representa- 
tions of human figures with powdered charcoal. These 
representations are made in the early morning, before 
the bustle of the day commences, on the ground at cross- 
roads and along thoroughfares. The Barikas who draw 
these figures are paid a small remuneration in money 
or in kind. The figure represents Jokumara, who will 
bring down rain when insulted by people treading on 
him. Another kind of Jokumara worship also prevails 
in this district. When rain fails, the Kapu females 
model a figure of a naked human being of small size. 
They place this figure in an open mock palanquin, and 
go from door to door singing indecent songs, and col- 
lecting alms. They continue this procession for three 
or four days, and then abandon the figure in a field 
adjacent to the village. The Malas then take possession 
of this abandoned Jokumara, and in their turn go about 
sineinof indecent songs and collecting alms for three or 

245 KAPU 

four days, and then throw it away in some jungle. This 
form of Jokumara worship is also believed to bring down 
plenty of rain. There is another simple superstition 
among these Kapu females. When rain fails, the Kapu 
females catch hold of a frog, and tie it alive to a new 
winnowing fan made of bamboo. On this fan, leaving 
the frog visible, they spread a few margosa leaves, and 
go singing from door to door * Lady frog must have her 
bath. Oh ! rain-god, give a little water for her at least.' 
This means that the drought has reached such a stage 
that there is not even a drop of water for the frogs. 
When the Kapu woman sings this song, the woman of 
the house brings a little water in a vessel, pours it over 
the frog which is left on the fan outside the door, and 
gives some alms. The woman of the house is satisfied 
that such an action will soon bring down rain in torrents." 

In the Kapu community, women play an important 
part, except in matters connected with agriculture. This 
is accounted for by a story to the effect that, when they 
came from Ayodhya, the Kapus brought no women with 
them, and sought the assistance of the gods in providing 
them with wives. They were told to marry women who 
were the illegitimate issue of Pandavas, and the women 
consented on the understanding that they were to be 
given the upper hand, and that menial service, such 
as husking paddy (rice), cleaning vessels, and carrying 
water, should be done for them. They accordingly 
employ Gollas and Gamallas, and, in the Tamil country, 
Pallis as domestic servants. Malas and Madigas freely 
enter Kapu houses for the purpose of husking paddy, 
but are not allowed into the kitchen, or room in which 
the household gods are worshipped. 

In some Kapu houses, bundles of ears of paddy may 
be seen hung up as food for sparrows, which are held 

KApU 246 

in esteem. The hopping of sparrows is said to resemble 
the gait of a person confined in fetters, and there is a 
legend that the Kapus were once in chains, and the 
sparrows set them at liberty, and took the bondage on 

It has been noted * by Mr. C. K. Subbha Rao, of 
the Agricultural Department, that the Reddis and others, 
who migrated southward from the Telugu country, 
" occupy the major portion of the black cotton soil of the 
Tamil country. There is a strange affinity between the 
Telugu cultivators and black cotton soil ; so much so 
that, if a census was taken of the owners of such soil 
in the Tamil districts of Coimbatore, Trichinopoly, 
Madura, and Tinnevelly, ninety per cent, would no doubt 
prove to be Vadugars (northerners), or the descendants 
of Telugu immigrants. So great is the attachment of 
the Vadugan to the black cotton soil that the Tamilians 
mock him by saying that, when god offered paradise to 
the Vadugan, the latter hesitated, and enquired whether 
there was black cotton soil there." 

In a note on the Pongala or Pokanati and Panta 
Reddis of the Trichinopoly district, Mr. F. R. Heming- 
way writes as follows. " Both speak Telugu, but they 
differ from each other in their customs, live in separate 
parts of the country, and will neither intermarry nor 
interdine. The Reddis will not eat on equal terms with 
any other Sudra caste, and will accept separate meals 
only from the vegetarian section of the Vellalas. They 
are generally cultivators, but they had formerly rather a 
bad reputation for crime, and it is said that some of them 
are receivers of stolen property. Like various other 
castes, they have beggars, called Bavani Nayakkans, 

* Madras Mail, 1905, 

247 KApU 

attached to them, who beg from no other caste, and 
whose presence is necessary when they worship their 
caste goddess. The Chakkiliyans are also attached to 
them, and play a prominent part in the marriages of 
the Panta sub-division. Formerly, a Chakkiliyan was 
deputed to ascertain the status of the other party before 
the match was arranged, and his dreams were considered 
as omens of its desirability. He was also honoured at the 
marriage by being given the first betel and nuts. Nowa- 
days he precedes the bridegroom's party with a basket 
of fruit, to announce its coming. A Chakkiliyan is also 
often deputed to accompany a woman on a journey. 
The caste goddess of the Reddis is Yellamma, whose 
temple is at Esanai in Perambalur, and she is reverenced 
by both Pantas and Pongalas. The latter observe rather 
gruesome rites, including the drinking of a kid's blood. 
The Pantas also worship Rengayiamman and Polayam- 
man with peculiar ceremonies. The women are the 
principal worshippers, and, on one of the nights after 
Pongal, they unite to do reverence to these goddesses, 
a part of the ritual consisting in exposing their persons. 
With this may be compared the Sevvaipillayar rite 
celebrated in honour of Ganesa by Vellala woman 
{see Vellala). Both divisions of Reddis wear the sacred 
thread at funerals. Neither of them allow divorcees or 
widows to marry again. The women of the two divisions 
can be easily distinguished by their appearance. The 
Panta Reddis wear a characteristic gold ear-ornament 
called kammal, a flat nose-ring studded with inferior 
rubies, and a golden wire round the neck, on which both 
the tali and the pottu are tied. They are of fairer com- 
plexion than the Pongala women. The Panta women 
are allowed a great deal of freedom, which is usually 
ascribed to their dancing-girl origin, and are said to rule 

KApU 248 

their husbands in a manner rare in other castes. They 
are often called devadiya (dancing-girl) Reddis, and it is 
said that, though the men of the caste receive hospitality 
from the Reddis of the north country, their women are 
not invited. Their chastity is said to be frail, and their 
lapses easily condoned by their husbands. The Pongalas 
are equally lax about their wives, but are said to rigor- 
ously expel girls or widows who misconduct themselves, 
and their seducers as well. However, the Panta men 
and women treat each other with a courtesy that is prob- 
ably to be found in no other caste, rising and saluting 
each other, whatever their respective ages, whenever 
they meet. The purification ceremony for a house defiled 
by the unchastity of a maid or widow is rather an ela- 
borate affair. Formerly a Kolakkaran (huntsman), a 
Tottiyan, a priest of the village goddess, a Chakkiliyan, 
and a Bavani Nayakkan had to be present. The Totti- 
yan is now sometimes dispensed with. The Kolakkaran 
and the Bavani Nayakkan burn some kamacchi grass 
{Andropogon Sckcenanihns), and put the ashes in three 
pots of water. The Tottiyan then worships Pillayar 
(Ganesa) in the form of some turmeric, and pours the 
turmeric into the water. The members of the polluted 
household then sit in a circle, while the Chakkiliyan 
carries a black kid round the circle. He is pursued by 
the Bavani Nayakkan, and both together cut off the 
animal's head, and bury it. The guilty parties have then 
to tread on the place where the head is buried, and the 
turmeric and ash water is poured over them. This cere- 
mony rather resembles the one performed by the Oralis. 
The Pantas are said to have no caste panchayats 
(council), whereas the Pongalas recognise the authority 
of officers called Kambalakkarans and Kottukkarans 
who uphold discipline." 


The following are some of the proverbs relating to 
the Kapus : — 

The Kapu protects all. 

The Kapu's difficulties are known only to god. 

The Kapu dies from even the want of food. 

The Kapu knows not the distinction between daugh- 
ter and daughter-in-law {i.e., both must work for him). 

The Karnam (village accountant) is the cause of the 
Kapu's death. 

The Kapu goes not to the fort {i.e., into the presence 
of the Raja). A modern variant is that the Kapu goes 
not to the court (of law). 

While the Kapu was sluggishly ploughing, thieves 
stole the rope collars. 

The year the Kapu came in, the famine came too. 

The Reddis are those who will break open the soil to 
fill their bellies. 

When the unpracticed Reddi got into a palanquin, it 
swung from side to side. 

The Reddi who had never mounted a horse sat with 
his face to the tail. 

The Reddi fed his dog like a horse, and barked himself. 

Karadhi. — A name sometimes given to Mari 

Karadi (bear). — An exogamous sept of Tottiyan. 

Karaikkat. — Karaikkat, Karaikkatar, or Kar- 
katta, meaning those who waited for rain, or, according 
to another version, those who saved or protected the 
clouds, is an endogamous division of Vellala. Some 
Tamil Malayalis, who claim to be Vellalas who emigrated 
to the hills from Conjeeveram, have, at times of census, 
returned themselves as Karaikkat Vellalas. 

Karaiturai (sea-coast) Vellala. — A name assumed 
by some Pattanavans. 

karaiyAlan 250 

Karaiyalan (ruler of the coast). — A title of Mara- 
vans, also taken by some Idaiyans. 

Karaiyan.— A name for Tamil sea-fishermen, who 
live on the coast (karai). The fishing section of the 
Palles is known as Palle Kariyalu. See Pattanavan. 

Karalan. — In the Census Report, 1891, the Karalans 
(rulers of clouds) are returned as a tribe of hunters and 
cultivators found in the hills of Salem and South Arcot. 
In the Report, 1901, Karalan is given as a synonym 
for Vellala in Malabar, and also as a name for Malayalis. 
At the census, 1901, many of the Malayalis of the Sheva- 
roy hills in the Salem district returned themselves as 
Vellalas and Karalans. And the divisions returned by 
the Karalans, e.g., Kolli, Pacchai, Periya, and Perianan, 
connect them with these Malayalis {q.v.). 

Karepaku.— Karepaku or Karuvepilai is a name for 
Koravas, who hawk for sale leaves of the curry-leaf plant 
{^Murray a Kcenigii). 

Karichcha. — Recorded, in the Travancore Census 
Report, 1 901, as a sub-division of Nayar. 

Karimbarabannaya (sugar-cane sept). — An exoga- 
mous sept of Kelasi. 

Karimpalan.— The Karimpalans are a small hunt- 
ing and cultivating forest tribe in Malabar. They are 
" punam (shifting) cultivators, hewers of wood, and 
collectors of wild pepper, and are found in all the foot 
hills north of the Camel's H ump. They wear the kudumi 
(hair knot), and are said to follow the marumakkatayam 
system of inheritance in the female line, but they do not 
perform the tali kettu ceremony. They are supposed 
to have the power of exorcising the demon Karuvilli, 
possession by whom takes the form of fever." * 

* Gazetteer of the Malabar district. 


Kariya.— A sub-division of Kudubi. 

Karkadabannaya (scorpion sept). — An exogamous 
sept of Bant. 

Karkatta. — A synonym of Karaikattu Vellala. 

Karna.— A sub-division of Golla, and an exogamous 
sept of Mala. 

Karnabattu. — The Karnabattus, or Karnabhatus, 
are a Telugu weaving caste, found chiefly in the Godavari 
district. The story goes that there once lived a king, who 
ruled over a portion of the country now included in this 
district, and was worried by a couple of demons, who 
carried off some of his subjects for their daily food. The 
king prayed Siva for deliverance from them, and the god, 
being gratified at his devotion to him, produced nine 
persons from his ears, and ordered them to slay the 
demons. This they did, and their descendants are the 
Karnabhatus, or ear soldiers. By religion, the Karna- 
battus are either ordinary Saivites or Lingayats. When 
a girl reaches maturity, she remains under a pollution for 
sixteen days. Early marriage is the rule, and a Brahman 
officiates at weddings. The dead, as among other Lin- 
gayats, are buried in a sitting posture. The caste is 
organised in the same manner as the Sales, and, at each 
place, there is a headman called Kulampedda or Jati- 
pedda, corresponding to the Senapathi of the Sales. 
They weave coarse cloths, which are inferior in texture 
to those manufactured by Patta Sales and Silevantas. 

In a note on the Karnabattus, Mr. F. R. Hemingway 
writes that " though a low caste, they forbid the remar- 
riage of widows. But the remark in the Census Report 
(1901) that they abstain from meat is not true of the 
Karnabattus questioned, who admitted that they would 
eat even pork. Their special deity is Somesvara, whom 
they unite to worship on the new-moon day of Pushyam 


(January-February). The god is represented by a mud 
idol made for the occasion. The pujari (priest) throws 
flowers over it in token of adoration, and sits before it 
with his hands outstretched and his mouth closed until 
one of the flowers falls into his hands." 

The Karnabattus have no regular caste titles, but 
sometimes the elders add Ayya or Anna as a suffix to 
their name. 

Karna Sale. — The Kama Sales are a caste of 
Telugu weavers, who are called Seniyans in the Tamil 
country, <?.,^., at Madura and Tanjore. They seem to 
have no tradition as to their origin, but the name Karna 
would seem to have its origin in the legend relating to 
the Karnabattus. These are, in the community, both 
Saivites and Vaishnavites, and all members of the 
Illabatbthini sept are Vaishnavites. They are said to 
have only one gotra, Kasi (Benares), and numerous 
exogamous septs, of which the following are examples: — 

Vasthrala, cloth. 
Rudrakshala, seeds of Ehco- 

carpus Ganitriis. 
Mandha, village common or 


Kodavili, sickle. 
Thadla, rope. 

Thatichettu, palmyra palm. 
Dhoddi, court-yard. 
Thippa, rubbish-heap. 

In some places, the office of headman, who is called 
Setti, is hereditary. He is assisted by a Pedda Kapu, 
and Nela Setti, of whom the latter is selected monthly, 
and derives his name from the Telugu nela (month). 
In their marriage ceremonial, the Karna Sales closely 
follow the Padma Sales, but they have no upanayanam 
(sacred thread rite), or Kasiyathre (mock pilgrimage 
to Benares), have twelve pots brought for worship, and 
no pot-searching. 

As among other Telugu castes, when a girl reaches 
puberty, twigs of Strychnos Nux-vomica are placed in the 


special hut erected for the occasion. On the third or 
fifth day, the girl's relations come to her house under a 
cloth canopy (ulladam), carrying rice soaked in jaggery 
(crude sugar) water. This rice is called dhadibiyam 
(wet rice), and is placed in a heap, and, after the waving 
of coloured water, distributed, with pan-supari (betel 
leaves and areca nuts), among those present. 

The dead are carried to the burial-ground in a car, 
and buried, after the manner of Lingayats, in a sitting 
posture. Jangams officiate at funerals. 

The caste deity is Somesvara. Some Kama Sales 
wear the lingam, but are not particular about keeping it 
on their person, leaving it in the house, and wearing it 
when at meals, and on important occasions. Concerning 
the Lingayat section of the community, Mr. H. A. Stuart 
writes, as follows.* " The Lingayats resemble the 
Linga Balijas in all their customs, in all respects, except 
that they recognise sutakam, or pollution, and bathe to 
remove it. They freely eat in the houses of all Linga 
Balijas, but the latter will not eat with them. They 
entirely disregard the spiritual authority of the Brahmans, 
recognising priests among the Linga Balijas, Jangams, 
or Pandarams. In the exercise of their trade, they are 
distinguished from the Kaikolans in that they sometimes 
weave in silk, which the Kaikolans never do." Like the 
Padma Sales, the Kama Sales usually only weave coarse 
cotton cloths. 

Karnam. — See Korono. 

Karnam (accountant). — An exogamous sept of 

Karnataka.— 'The territorial name of a sub-division 
of Handichikka and Uppara. It is also the name of a 

* Manual of the North Arcot district. 

kAro panikkar 254 

sub-division of Madhva and Smarta Brahmans who speak 
the Kanarese language, as opposed to the Desastha 
Brahmans, who are immigrants into Southern India from 
the Maratha country. 

Karo Panikkar.— A class of temple servants in 
Malabar. " The Karo Panikkar is said to be descended 
from the union of Vettakorumagan (the God of hunting) 
and a Kiriyattil Nayar woman. His occupation is to act 
as Vellichapad or oracle in temples dedicated to his 
divine ancestor." * 

Karpura Chetti. — A synonym of Uppiliyans, who 
used to manufacture camphor (karpura). 

Karta.— Kartaand Kartavu, meaning agent or doer, 
is an honorific title of Nayars and Samantas. It is also 
the name for the chief mourner at funerals of Nayars and 
other castes on the west coast. Kartakkal, denoting, 
it is said, governors, has been returned, at times of census 
by Balijas claiming to be descendants of the Nayak 
kings of Madura and Tanjore. 

Karukku-pattayar (those of the sharp sword). — 
A sub-division of Shanan. In the Census Report, 1891, 
the division Karukku-mattai (petiole of the palmyra leaf 
with serrated edges) was returned. Some Shanans are 
said to have assumed the name of Karukku-mattai 

Karumala (black mountain). — An exogamous sept 
of Kanikar. 

Karuman. — A sub-division of Kammalans, who do 
blacksmith's work. 

Karumpuraththal. — A synonym for the caste name 
adopted by some Kappiliyans. 

* Gazetteer of the Malabar district. 

255 KASI 

Karumpurattan. — It is recorded, in the Madras 
Census Report, 1901, that " the term Karumpurattan is 
said to be a corruption of Karu-aruttar, which means the 
Annihilators, and to have been given to the caste because 
they are the descendants of a garrison of Chola Vellalas, 
who treacherously allowed an enemy to enter the Tanjore 
fort, and annihilate the Raja and his family. Winslow, 
however, says * that Karumpuram is a palmyra tree,t 
and Karumpurattan may thus mean a palmyra man, that 
is, a toddy-drawer. In the enumeration schedules, the 
name was often written Karumpuran. If this etymology 
is correct, this caste must originally have been Shanans 
or Iluvans. It is said to have come from the village of 
Tiruvadamarudur in Tanjore, and settled in the north- 
eastern part of Madura. The caste has seven sub-castes, 
called after seven nadus or villages in Madura, in which 
it originally settled. In its ceremonies, etc., it closely 
follows the Ilamagams. Its title is Pillai." 

Karutta (dark-coloured). — Recorded, at the Madras 
census, 1891, as a sub-division of Idaiyans, who have 
also returned Karuttakkadu, meaning black cotton soil 
or regur. 

Karuva Haddi.— A name for the scavenging section 
of Haddis. 

Karuvan. — A corrupt form of Karuman. 

Karuvelam.— Recorded in the Travancore Census 
Report, 1 90 1, as a sub-division of Nayar. 

Kasayi (butcher). — A Muhammadan occupational 

Kasi (Benares). — A gotra of Medara and Kama Sale. 

• Tamil and English Dictionary, 1862. 

+ The word, in this sense, is said to occur in a Tamil work named Pingala 
Nikandu. Karuku is Tamil for the serrated margin of the leaf — petiole of the 
palmyra palm. 

KASI 256 

Kasi.— A name for the stone-mason section of 

Kasturi (musk). — An exogamous sept of Badaga, 
Kamma, Okkiliyan, and Vakkaliga. Indian musk is 
obtained from the musk glands of the Himalayan musk- 
deer, Moschiis moschiferus. 

Kasuba (workmen). — A section of Irulas of the 
Nilgiris, who have abandoned jungle life in favour of 
working on planters' estates or elsewhere. 

Kasukkar.— The name, derived from kas, cash, of a 
sub-division of Chetti. 

Kasula (copper coins). — An exogamous sept of 
Padma Sale. 

Kasyapa.— A Brahmanical g5tra adopted by Bhat- 
razus, Khatris, and Tontis. Kasyapa was one of the 
seven important Rishis, and the priest of Parasu Rama. 

Katakam (crab). — An exogamous sept of K5mati. 

Katal Arayan. — See Valan. 

Katari (dagger : katar). — An exogamous sept of 
Golla, Mutracha, and Yerukala. The dagger or poig- 
nard, called katar, has " a solid blade of diamond section, 
the handle of which consists of two parallel bars with a 
cross-piece joining them. The hand grips the cross- 
piece, and the bars pass along each side of the wrist."* 

Katasan.— Recorded t as " a small caste of basket- 
makers and lime-burners in the Tinnevelly district. It 
has at least two endogamous sub-divisions, namely, Pat- 
tankatti and Nittarasan. Widows are allowed to remarry. 
The dead are buried. The social position of the caste 
is above that of the Vettuvans, and they consider them- 
selves polluted if they eat food prepared by a Shanan. 
But they are not allowed to enter Hindu temples, 

♦ Yule and Burnell. Hobson-Jobson. 
t Madras Census Report, 190 1. 

257 kaththiravAndlu 

they worship devils, and they have separate washermen 
and barbers of their own, all of which are signs of 
inferiority. Their title is Pattamkatti, and Kottan is 
also used." 

Kaththavaraya. — A synonym for Vannan, derived 
from Kaththavaraya, the deified son of Kali, from whom 
the Vannans trace their descent. 

Kaththe (donkey). — An exogamous sept of Madiga. 

Kaththi (knife). — An exogamous sept of Devanga 
and Madiga. 

Kaththiri (scissors). — An exogamous sept of 
Devanga, and sub-division of Gadaba. 

Kaththiravandlu (scissors people). — Concerning 
this section of the criminal classes, Mr. F. S. Mullaly 
writes to me as follows. " This is purely a Nellore 
name for this class of professional pick-pockets. The 
appellation seems to have been given to them from 
the fact that they frequent fairs and festivals, and busy 
railway platforms, offering knives and scissors for sale. 
And, when an opportunity presents itself, they are used 
for cutting strings of beads, ripping open bags, etc. 
Several of these light-fingered gentry have been found 
with small scissors in their mouths. Most of them wear 
shoes of a peculiar shape, and these form a convenient 
receptacle for the scissors. Bits of broken glass (to act 
as knives) are frequently found in their mouths. In 
different districts they are known by different appella- 
tions, such as Donga Dasaris in North Arcot and parts 
of Cuddapah ; Golla Woddars, Donga Woddars, and 
Muheri Kalas in Cuddapah, Bellary, and Kurnool ; 
Pachupus in Kistna and Godavari ; Alagiris, Ena or 
Thogamalai Koravas in the southern districts. Indivi- 
duals belonging to this class of thieves have been traced, 
since the opening of the East Coast Railway, as far as 


Midnapore. An important way of identifying them is 
the fact that everyone of them, male and female, is 
branded at the corners of the eyebrows and between the 
eyes in childhood, as a safeguard against convulsions." 

For the following additional information I am in- 
debted to an official of the Police department. " I am 
not aware of these people using any particular shoes. 
They use sandals such as are generally worn by ryots 
and the lower classes. These they get by stealing. 
They pick them up from houses during the daytime, 
when they go from house to house on the pretence of 
begging, or they steal them at nights along with other 
property. These sandals are made in different fashions 
in different districts, and so those possessed by Kathiras 
are generally of different kinds, being stolen from various 
parts of the country. They have no shoes of any pecu- 
liar make, nor do they get any made at all. Kathiras do 
not generally wear any shoes. They walk and run faster 
with bare feet. They wear shoes when walking through 
the jungle, and entrust them to one of their comrades 
when walking through the open country. They some- 
times throw them off when closely pursued, and run 
away. In 1899, when we arrested one on the highroad, 
he had with him five or six pairs of shoes of different 
kinds and sizes, and he did not account satisfactorily for 
being in possession of so many. I subsequently learnt 
that some supernumeraries were hiding in the jungle 
close to the place where he was arrested. 

" About marks of branding on the face, it is not only 
Kathiras, but almost all nomadic tribes who have these 
marks. As the gangs move on exposed to changes of 
weather, the children sometimes get a disease called 
sandukatlu or palakurkura. They generally get this 
disease from the latter part of the first year up to the 


fifth year. The symptoms are similar to those which 
children sometimes have at the time of teething. It is 
when children get this disease that they are branded on 
the face between the eyebrows, on the outer corners of 
the eyes, and sometimes on the belly. The brand-marks 
on the face and corners of the eyes are circular, and those 
on the belly generally horizontal. The circular brand- 
marks are made with a long piece of turmeric, one end 
of which is burnt for the purpose, or with an indigo- 
coloured cloth rolled like a pencil and burnt at one end. 
The horizontal marks are made with a hot needle. 
Similar brand-marks are made by some caste Hindus on 
their children." 

To Mr. P. B. Thomas I am indebted for specimens of 
the chaplet, made of strips of rolled pith, worn by Kath- 
thira women when begging, and of the cotton bags, full 
of false pockets, regularly carried by both men and 
women, in which they secrete the little sharp knife and 
other articles constituting their usual equipment. 

In his " History of Railway thieves," Mr. M. Paupa 
Rao Naidu, writing about the pick-pockets or Thetakars, 
says that " most of them wear shoes called chadavs, 
and, if the articles stolen are very small, they put them 
at once into their shoes, which form very convenient 
receptacles from their peculiar shape ; and, therefore, 
when a pick-pocket with such a shoe on is suspected of 
having stolen a jewel, the shoes must be searched first, 
then the mouth and the other parts of the body." 

Kaththula (sword). — An exogamous sept of Yanadi. 

Katige (collyrium). — A gotra of Kurni. 

Katikala (collyrium). — An exogamous sept of 

Katike.— The Katike or Katikilu are butchers in the 
Telugu country, concerning whom it is noted, in the 
111-17 B 


Kurnool Manual, that " some are called Sultani butchers, 
or Hindus forcibly circumcised by the late Nabob of 
Kurnool. They observe both Mussalman and Hindu 
customs." A correspondent in the Kurnool district 
informs me that the butchers of Kurnool belong to three 
classes, one selling beef, and the others mutton. Of 
these, the first are Muhammadans, and are called Gayi 
Khasayi, as they deal in beef. The other two are called 
respectively Sultanis and Surasus, i.e., the circumcised 
and uncircumcised. Both claim to be the descendants 
of two brothers, and have the following tradition 
concerning their origin. Tipu Sultan is said not to have 
relished the idea of taking mutton at the hands of 
Hindus, as they would not perform Bismallah at the 
time of slaughtering the sheep. He accordingly ordered 
both the brothers to appear before him. Being the 
manager of the family, the elder went, and was forcibly 
circumcised. On hearing the news, the younger brother 
absconded. The descendants of the former are Muham- 
madans, and of the latter Hindus. As he was made 
a Muhammadan by force, the elder brother and his 
descendants did not adopt all the Muhammadan 
manners and customs. Till recently they did not even 
allow their beards to grow. At the present day, they go 
to mosques, dress like Muhammadans, shave their heads, 
and grow beards, but do not intermarry with the true 
Muhammadans. The descendants of the younger 
brother still call themselves Ari-katikelu, or Maratha 
butchers, profess the Hindu religion, and follow Hindu 
manners and customs. Though they do not eat with 
Muhammadans or Sultanis, their Hindu brethren shun 
them because of their profession, and their intimacy 
with Sultanis. I am informed that, at Nandyal in the 
Kurnool district, some Maratha butchers, who observe 


purely Hindu customs, are called by Muhammadan 
names. The Tahsildar of the Sirvel taluk in the same 
district states that, prior to the reign of the father of 
Ghulam Rasul Khan, the dethroned Nawab of Kur- 
nool, the butcher's profession was solely in the hands 
of the Marathas, some of whom were, as stated in the 
Manual, forcibly circumcised, and became a separate 
butcher caste, called Sultani. There are two sections 
among these Sultani butchers, viz., Bakra (mutton) and 
Gai Kasai (beef butcher). Similar stories of forcible 
conversion to the Muhammadan religion are prevalent 
in the Bellary district, where the Kasayis are mostly 
converted Hindus, who dress in the Hindu style, but 
possess Muhammadan names with Hindu terminations, 
e.g., Hussainappa. 

In connection with butchers, I may quote the 
following extract from a petition to the Governor of 
Madras on the subject of a strike among the Madras 
butchers in 1907. " We, the residents of Madras, beg 
respectfully to bring to your Excellency's notice the 
inconvenience and hardship we are suffering owing to 
the strike of the butchers in the city. The total failure 
of the supply of mutton, which is an important item in 
the diet of non-Brahmin Hindus, Muhammadans, Indian 
Christians, Parsis, Eurasians and Europeans, causes a 
deprivation not merely of something to which people 
have become accustomed, but of an article of food by 
which the health of many is sustained, and the want of 
which is calculated to impair their health, and expose 
them to diseases, against which they have hitherto 
successfully contended." 

Katorauto. — A name for the offspring of maid 
servants in the harems of Oriya Zamindars, who are said 
to claim to be Kshatriyas. 

KATTA 262 

Katta. — Katta or Katte, meaning a bund, dam, or 
embankment, has been recorded as an exogamous sept 
or gotra of Devanga and Kurni. 

Kattelu (sticks or faggots). — An exogamous sept 
of Boya. 

Kattira.— A sub-division of Gadaba. 

Kattu. — See Kadu. 

Kattukudugirajati. — The name, meaning the caste 
which allows living together after marriage of an 
informal kind, recorded * as the caste name of Turuvalars 
(Vfedars) of Salem, derived from a custom among them, 
which authorises temporary matrimonial arrangements. 

Kattu Kapari (dweller in the forest). — Said to be 
a name for Irulas or Villiyans. The equivalent Kattu 
Kapu is, in like manner, said to be a name for Jogis. 

Kattu Marathi. — A synonym of Kuruvikaran. 

Kaudikiaru.— Kaudikiaru or Gaudikiaru is a title 
of Kurubas. 

Kavadi. — In the Madras Census Report, 1901, 
Kabadi is returned as the name of a class of Telugu 
wood-cutters. Kavadi is the name of a division of 
Koravas, who carry offerings to Perumalswami at 
Tirupati on a pole (kavadi). Kavadi or Kavadiga is 
further the name given to Kannadiyan curd-sellers in 
Madras, who carry the curds in pots as head-loads. 

Kavalgar (watchman). — Recorded, at times of 
census, as a sub-division of Ambalakaran, and title of 
Nattaman, Malaiman, and Sudarman. The equivalent 
Kavali is recorded as a sub-division of the Kammas. 
The Kavalis, or watchers, in the Telugu country, are 
said to be generally Lingayat Boyas.f The Telugu 
Mutrachas are also called Kavalgar. The village kaval 

* Manual of the Salem district. f Madras Census Report, 1901. 


system in the southern districts is discussed in the note 
on Mara vans. 

Kavandan.— At the census, 1901, more than nine 
thousand people returned themselves as Kavandan or 
Kaundan, which is a title of Konga Vellalas, and many 
other castes, such as Anappan, Kappiliyan, Palli, Sem- 
badavan, Urali, and Vettuvan. The name corresponds 
to the Canarese Gauda or Gaunda. 

Kaundinya (a sage). — A Brahmanical gotra adopted 
by Razus and Bhatrazus. 

Kavane (sling). — An exogamous sept of Gangadi- 
kara Holeyas. 

Kavarai.^Kavarai is the name for Balijas (Telugu 
trading caste), who have settled in the Tamil country. 
The name is said to be a corrupt form of Kauravar or 
Gauravar, descendants of Kuroo of the Mahabaratha, or 
to be the equivalent of Gauravalu, sons of Gauri, the 
wife of Siva. Other suggested derivatives are : (a) a 
corrupt form of the Sanskrit Kvaryku, badness or 
reproach, and Arya, i.e., deteriorated Aryans ; (d) Sans- 
krit Kavara, mixed, or Kavaraha, a braid of hair, i.e., 
a mixed class, as many of the Telugu professional 
prostitutes belong to this caste ; (c) Kavarai or Gavaras, 
buyers or dealers in cattle. 

The Kavarais call themselves Balijas, and derive the 
name from bali, fire, jaha sprung, i.e., men sprung from 
fire. Like other Telugu castes, they have exogamous 
septs, e.£:, tupaki (gun), jetti (wrestler), pagadala (coral), 
bandi (cart), simaneli, etc. 

The Kavarais of Srivilliputtur, in the Tinnevelly 
district, are believed to be the descendants of a few 
families, which emigrated thither from Manjakuppam 
(Cuddalore) along with one Dora Krishnamma Nayudu. 
About the time of Tirumal Nayak, one Ramaswami 


Raju, who had five sons, of whom the youngest was 
Dora Krishnamma, was reigning near Manjakuppam. 
Dora Krishnamma, who was of wandering habits, having 
received some money from his mother, went to Trichi- 
nopoly, and, when he was seated in the main bazar, an 
elephant rushed into the street. The beast was stopped 
in its career, and tamed by Dora Krishnamma, to escort 
whom to his palace Vijayaranga Chokkappa sent his 
retinue and ministers. While they were engaged in 
conversation, news arrived that some chiefs in the 
Tinnevelly district refused to pay their taxes, and Dora 
Krishnamma volunteered to s^o and subdue them. Near 
Srivilliputtur he passed a ruined temple dedicated to 
Krishna, which he thought of rebuilding if he should 
succeed in subduing the chiefs. When he reached Tinne- 
velly, they, without raising any objection, paid their dues, 
and Dora Krishnamma returned to Srivilliputtur, and 
settled there. 

Their marriage ceremonies are based on the type 
common to many Telugu castes, but those who belong 
to the Simaneli sept, and believe themselves to be direct 
descendants of Krishnamma, have two special forms of 
ceremonial, viz., Krishnamma perantalu, and the carrying 
of pots (gurigelu) on the heads of the bride and bride- 
groom when they go to the temple before the Kasiyatra 
ceremony. The Krishnamma perantalu is performed on 
the day prior to the muhurtam (tali-tying), and consists in 
the worship of the soul of Krishnamma, a married woman. 
A new cloth is purchased and presented to a married 
woman, together with money, betel, etc., and she is fed 
before the rest. It is practically a form of sradh cere- 
mony, and all the formalities of the sradh, except the 
homam (sacred fire) and repeating of mantras from 
the Vedas, are gone through. This is very commonly 


observed by Brahmans, and a few castes which engage 
a Brahman priest for their ceremonies. The main idea 
is the propitiation of the soul of the dead married woman. 
If such a woman dies in a family, every ceremony of 
an auspicious nature must be preceded by sumangali- 
prarthana, or worship of this married woman (sumangali). 
Orthodox females think that, if the ceremony is not per- 
formed, she will do them some harm. Another custom, 
now dying out, is the tying of a dagger to the waist of 
the bridegroom. 

In the Madura district, the Kavarais are described * 
as being " most commonly manufacturers and sellers of 
bangles made of a particular kind of earth, found only 
in one or two parts of the district. Those engaged in 
this traffic usually call themselves Chettis or merchants. 
When otherwise employed as spinners, dyers, painters, 
and the like, they take the title of Nayakkan. It is 
customary with these, as with other Nayakkans, to 
wear the sacred thread : but the descendants of the 
Nayakkan kings, who are now living at Vellei-kuricchi, 
do not conform to this usage, on the ground that 
they are at present in a state of impurity and degra- 
dation, and consequently ought not to wear the sacred 

The bulk of the Kavarais in Tanjore are said f "to 
bear the title Nayak. Some that are engaged in trade, 
more especially those who sell glass bangles, are called 
Settis, and those who originally settled in agriculture 
are called Reddis. The title of Nayak, like Pillai, 
Mudali, and Setti, is generally sought after. As a rule, 
men of the Palli or cooly class, when they enter the 
Government service, and shepherds, when they grow 

Manual of the Madura district. f Manual of the Tanjore district. 


rich in trade or otherwise, assume this title, wear the 
namam (the trident mark on the forehead emblematic 
of the Vaishnava persuasion), and call themselves Kava- 
rais or Vadugars, though they cannot speak Telugu, 
much less point to any part of the Telugu country as 
the seat of their forefathers." 

One of the largest sub-divisions of the Kavarais is 
Valaiyal, the Tamil equivalent of Gazula, both words 
meaning a glass or lac bangle.* 

Kavuthiyan. — The Kavuthiyans are described as 
follows in the Gazetteer of Malabar. " They are barbers 
who serve the Tiyans and lower castes ; they are also 
sometimes given the title Kurup. Their females act 
as midwives. There seem to be several sections, 
distinguished by the affix of the name of the castes 
which they serve, as for instance Tacchakavuthiyan or 
Tacchakurup, and Kanisakavuthiyan, appropriated to 
the service of the Asaris and Kanisans respectively ; 
while the barbers who serve the Izhuvans are known 
both as Aduttons, Vattis, or Izhuva Kavuthiyans. But 
whether all these should be regarded as offshoots of 
one main barber caste, or as degraded sections of the 
castes which they serve, the Kavuthiyans proper being 
only barbers to the Tiyans, it is difficult to determine. 
The fact that the Naviyan or Kavuthiyan section of the 
Veluttedans, as well as the Kavuthiyan section of the 
Mukkuvans, are admittedly but degraded sections of 
these castes, makes the second the more probable view. 
It is also to be noticed that the Kavuthiyans, in the north 
at least, follow marumakkattayam (inheritance in the 
female line), while the Taccha and Kanisa Kavuthiyans 
follow the other principle of descent." 

* Madras Census Report, 1S91. 

26; kAyasth 

Kayalan.— The Kayalans are Tamil-speaking 
Muhammadans, closely allied to the Marakkayars and 
living at Kayalpatnam in Tinnevelly. Many of them 
have settled as merchants in Madras, and sell glass 
beads, cowry shells, dolls from Tirupati, toys, etc. 
Some are money-lenders to the lower classes, and others 
travel about from village to village selling, for cash or 
credit rates, cloths, brass vessels, and other articles. 
They are sometimes called Arumasaththukadankarar, 
or six months' debt people, as this is the time usually 
allowed for payment. At Kayalpatnam, a Kayalan 
husband is expected to live in his father-in-law's house, 
and, in connection with this custom, the following legend 
is narrated. The chiefman of the town gave his daughter 
in marriage to a man living in an adjacent village. One 
evening, she went to fetch water from a tank, and, on her 
way back, trod on a cobra. She could not move her foot, 
lest she should be bitten, so she stood where she was, 
with her water-pot on her head, till she was discovered 
by her father on the following morning. He killed the 
snake with the kitti (tweezers) and knife which he had 
with him, and told the girl to go with him to his house. 
She, however, refused to do so, and went to her husband's 
house, from which she was subsequently taken to that 
of her father. The kitti is an instrument of torture, 
consisting of two sticks tied together at one end, between 
which the fingers were placed as in a lemon squeezer. 
With this instrument, the fingers were gradually bent 
backwards towards the back of the hand, until the 
sufi"erer, no longer able to endure the excruciating pain, 
yielded to the demands made on him to make confession 
of guilt. 

Kayasth.— Kayasth or Kayastha is the writer-caste 
of Bengal. See Risley, Tribes and Castes of Bengal. 


Kayerthannaya {St7ycknos Nux-vomica sept). — 
An exogamous sept of the Bants and Shivalli Brahmans 
in South Canara. 

Kayila (unripe fruit). — An exogamous sept of 
Orugunta Kapu. 

Keimal (kei, hand, as an emblem of power). — A 
sub-division of Nayar. 

Kela.— A small class of Oriya jugglers and mounte- 
banks, whose women, like the Dommara females, are 
often prostitutes. The name is derived from keli, 
dancing, or khel to play. 

Kelasi. — For the following account of the Kelasi or 
barber caste of South Canara, I am indebted to a note 
on the barbers of Tuluva by Mr. M. Bapu Rao.* The 
caste name is derived from kelasa, work. In like 
manner, the Canarese barbers of Bellary and Dharwar 
call themselves Kashta Madovaru, or those who perform 
the difficult task. 

The barbers of South Canara are of different castes 
or sub-castes according to the language they speak, 
or the people for whom they operate. Thus there are 
(i) the Tulu Kelsi (Kutchidaye, man of the hair) or 
Bhandari ; (2) the Konkani Kelsi or Mhallo, who must 
have migrated from the north ; (3) the Hindustani Kelsi 
or Hajams ; (4) the Lingayat Kelsi or Hadapavada (man 
of the wallet) ; (5) the Mappilla (Moplah) barber Vasa ; 
(6) the Malayali barber Kavudiyan ; and even Telugu 
and Tamil barbers imported by the sepoy regiments 
until recently stationed at Mangalore. Naturally the 
Tulus form the bulk of the class in Tuluva. There is 
among them a section known as Maddele, employed by 
palm-tappers, and hence considered socially inferior to 

* Madras Christ. Coll, Mag., 1894. 


the Bhandari, who is employed by the higher classes. 
[The Billava barbers are called Parel Madiali or Pare! 
Madivala.] If a high caste barber operates for a man of 
lower caste, he loses his caste thereby, and has to pay 
a fine, or in some other way expiate his offence before 
he gains re-admission into his community. Pariahs in 
these parts have no separate caste of barbers, but any- 
one among themselves may try his skill on any head. 
Mappilla barbers are employed only by the Muham- 
madans. Even in their own community, however, they 
do not live in commensality with other Mappillas; though 
gradations of caste are not recognised by their religion. 

The barber is not ambitious enough to claim equality 
of rank with the Bant, the potter, the piper, the weaver, 
or the oilmonger ; but he shows a decided disposition to 
regard himself as above the level of the fisherman or 
the palanquin-bearer. The latter often disclaim any such 
inferiority, and refer to the circumstance that they dis- 
charge the functions of carrying the huge umbrella 
in marriage processions, and shouldering the gods in 
religious processions. They argue that their rivals 
perform an operation, the defilement of which can 
only be wiped off by bathing the head with a solution of 
sacred earth taken from besides the roots of the tulsi 
plant (yOcimum sanctum). In justice to the barber, how- 
ever, it must be mentioned that he has to perform 
certain priestly duties for most Sudras. His presence is 
essential at two of the ceremonies observed by castes 
professing to be superior to his. At the name-giving 
ceremony a Tulu barber has to tie a thread round the 
waist of the child, and name it, among Sudras of a higher 
caste than himself. [At the present day, the Bhandari is 
said to receive his fee for tying the thread, though he does 
not actually perform the act.] Again, on the death of a 


high caste Sudra, the barber has to carry the fire to the 
cremation ground, though the funeral pyre is lighted 
by the relations of the deceased. He also has to assist 
at certain other rites connected with funeral obsequies, 
such as purifying the house. 

[The collection of fragments of bones from the ashes, 
heaping up the ashes, and cleaning the spot where the 
corpse was burnt, are the business of the Kelasi. These 
duties he performs for Morlis, Bants, Gattis, and 
Vodaris. The Bhandari or Kelasi is an object of intense 
hatred to Konkani women, who call them by abusive 
names, such as fellow with a burnt face, miserable wretch, 
widow-maker, etc.] 

The barber in South Canara has invented several 
stories concerning the origin of his first progenitor. At 
a time when the barber had not yet been created, Siva 
was a bachelor, spending his time in austere devotions, 
and allowing his hair to grow into long matted locks. 
A time came when he became bent on matrimony, and 
he thouo^ht that the hirsute condition of his face would 
not be appreciated by his bride, the young daughter of 
the king of the mountains. It was at this juncture that 
the barber was created to make Siva a good-looking 
bridegroom, and the Brahman to officiate at the marriage 
ceremony. According to another legend, a Gandharva- 
born woman was on one occasion cast into the sea 
by irate Brahma, and doomed to be turned into a rock. 
Moved by her piteous entreaties, however, Brahma 
relented, and ordained that she should be restored to 
human form when Parasurama should happen to set 
his foot upon the rock. This came to pass when Para- 
surama thrust back the waters of the western sea in 
order to create the western coast. The re-humanised 
woman thereupon offered her thanksgivings in such 


winning words that the great Brahman hero asked 
her to beg any boon she wished. She begged a son, 
who should in some way remind generations to come 
of the great Brahman who had reclaimed her from 
her inanimate state. The boon was thereupon granted 
that she should give birth to sons, who would not 
indeed be Brahmans, but who would perform functions 
analogous to those performed by Brahmans. The 
barber thus discharges certain priestly duties for Sudras, 
and cleanses the body even as the Brahman cleanses the 
soul ; and the defilement caused by the razor can be 
removed only by the smearing of mud and water, because 
the barber's female progenitor was a rock recovered out 
of water. 

The primary occupation of the barber does not 
always bring in a sufficient income, while it leaves him 
a large amount of leisure. This he spends, if possible, 
in agricultural labour, in which he is materially assisted 
by his female relations. Barbers residing in towns hold 
no land to fall back upon, but their average monthly 
earnings range from five to seven rupees. Their 
brethren in the villages are not so busy plying the razor, 
so they cultivate land as tenants. One of the blessino-s 
conferred by Parasurama is that the barber shall never 

When a child is born, a male member of the family 
has to tie a thread round its waist, and give it a name. 
The choice of a name often depends upon the day of the 
week on which the child was born. If it is born on a 
Sunday it is called, if a boy, Aitha (Auditya, sun), or, if 
a girl, Aithe ; if on a Monday, Some or Somu ; if on a 
Tuesday, Angara or Angare ; if on a Wednesday, 
Budara or Budare, changed among Pariahs into Mudara 
or Mudaru ; if on a Thursday, Guruva or Guruvu ; if on 


a Friday, Tukra (Shukra) or Tukru ; If on a Saturday, 
Taniya (Sanlya) or Tanlyaru. Other names which are 
common are Lakkana (Lakshmana), Krishna, Subba, 
and Korapulu (Koraga woman). Those who can afford 
to do so often employ a Brahman priest to ascertain 
whether the child is born lucky or unlucky ; and, in the 
latter case, the barber is advised to offer something to 
the tutelary deity or the nine planets, or to propitiate 
the village deity, if it is found that the child is born 
under its evil eye. No lullaby should be sung while the 
child is being rocked for the first time in a cradle, 
perhaps because, if the very first rocking is done with a 
show of rejoicing, some evil spirit may be envious of the 
human joy, and mar the happiness. 

The initiation of a boy into the mysteries of his 
hereditary profession takes place between the tenth and 
the fourteenth year. In very rare cases, nowadays, a 
boy is sent to school between the sixth and eighth year. 
These occasions are marked by offerings of cocoanuts 
and plantains to the village deity. 

With boys marriage takes place between the sixteenth 
and twenty-fifth year, with girls before or after puberty. 
Matches are made by selection on the part of the parents. 
Lads are sometimes allowed to choose their own brides, 
but their choice is subject to the approval of the parents, 
as it must necessarily be in a joint family. Bridegrooms 
have to pay for their brides a dowry varying from twenty 
to fifty rupees, and sometimes as much as a hundred 
rupees. Deformed girls, however, fetch no price ; on the 
other hand, they have to pay some pecuniary inducement 
to the bridegroom. Widows are allowed, and, when 
young, encouraged to remarry. The most essential con- 
dition of a valid marriage is that the contracting parties 
should belong to different baris or balis (exogamous 


septs). As examples of the names of these balls, the 
following may be cited : Bangaru (gold), Salia (weaver), 
Uppa (salt), Kombara (cap made of areca palm leaf), 
Karimbara (sugar-cane). Horoscopes are not consulted 
for the suitability or future prosperity of a match, but the 
day and hour, or lagnam of a marriage are always fixed 
by a Brahman priest with reference to the conjunction of 
stars. The marriage lasts for three days, and takes place 
in the house of the bridegroom. This is in accordance 
with the primitive conception of marriage as a bringing 
away by force or procuring a bride from her parents, 
rather than with the current Brahman idea that the 
bridegroom should be invited, and the girl given away as 
a present, and committed to his custody and protection. 
The marriage ceremony takes place in a pandal (booth) 
on a raised or conspicuous place adorned with various 
figures or mandala. The pair are made to sit on a bench, 
and rice is sprinkled on their heads. A barber then shaves 
the chin and forehead of the bridegroom, the hair border 
being in the form of a broken pointed arch converging 
upwards. He also touches the bride's cheeks with the 
razor, with the object of removing what is called monetha 
kale, the stain on the face. The full import of this cere- 
mony is not clear, but the barbers look upon the act as 
purificatory. If a girl has not come of age at the time 
of marriage, it is done on the occasion of the nuptials. 
If she has, the barber, in addition to touching the cheeks 
with the razor, goes to her house, sprinkles some water 
over her with a betel leaf, and makes her touch the pot 
in which rice is to be cooked in her husband's house. At 
the bridegroom's house, before the assembled guests, 
elders, and headman of the caste, the man and the girl are 
linked together in the marriage bond by having water 
(dhare) poured on their joined hands. Next, the right 


hands of the pair being joined (kaipattavane), the 
bridegroom leads the bride to her future home. 

Soon after a death occurs, a barber is summoned, who 
sprinkles water on the corpse, and touches it with a razor 
if it be of a male. In every ceremony performed by him, 
the barber must have recourse to his razor, even as the 
Brahman priest cannot do without his kusa grass. The 
rich burn their dead, and the poor bury them. Persons 
dying of infectious diseases are always buried. Prior to 
the removal of the corpse to the cremation or burial 
ground, all the clothes on and about it, with the exception 
of one cloth to cover it from head to foot, are removed 
and distributed to Pariahs, who have prepared the pyre 
or dug the grave. Before the mourners return from the 
cemetery, they light four lamps in halves of cocoanuts, 
and leave them burning on the spot. Coming home, the 
chief mourner places in the hands of the Gurukara 
or headman of the caste a jewel or other valuable article 
as a security that he will duly perform all the funeral 
rites. This is termed savuotti dipuna. The Gurukara, 
in the presence of the relations and friends assembled, 
returns the same, enjoining its recipient to be prepared 
to perform the requisite rites, even with the proceeds of 
the sale of the pledged article if necessary. The eleventh 
day is the savu or principal mourning day, on which the 
headman and elders of the caste, as well as the friends 
and relations of the deceased ought to be present. On 
the spot where the deceased expired, or as near thereto 
as possible, an ornamental square scaffolding is erected, 
and covered with cloth coloured with turmeric. The 
ground below the scaffolding is covered with various 
figures, and flowers and green leaves are strewn on it. 
Each mourner throws on this spot handfuls of cooked 
rice, coloured yellow and red, and cries out " Oh ! uncle, 


I cry murrio," or "Oh! father, I cry murrio," and so on, 
accordino" to the relationship in which the deceased stood 
to the mourner. This ceremony is called murrio korpuna, 
or crying alas. In well-to-do families it is usual to 
accompany this with devil-dancing. On the twelfth day, 
rice is offered to crows, the original belief apparently 
being that the spirits of the deceased enter into birds or 
beasts, so that food given to these may happen to reach 
and propitiate them. On the night of the thirteenth 
day, the relations of the deceased set apart a plantain 
leaf for the spirit of the departed, serve cooked rice on 
it, and, joining their hands, pray that the soul may be 
gathered unto its ancestors, and rest in peace. The 
anniversary of the death, called agel, is celebrated by 
placing cooked rice on two plantain leaves placed over 
sacrificial twigs, and burning incense and waving lamps 
before it. This is called soma dipuna. 

The family god of the barber is Krishna of Udipi, and 
the high-priest to whom he pays homage is the Saniyasi 
(religious ascetic), who for the time being worships that 
god. The same high-priest is also the final court of 
appeal from the decisions of the village council of the 
barbers in matters relating to caste and religion. The 
powers which are ever present to the barber's mind, and 
which he always dreads and tries to propitiate, are the 
village demons, and the departed spirits of members of 
his own family. If a child falls ill, he hastens to the 
Brahman seer, to learn who is offended, and how the 
spirit should be appeased. If his cow does not eat hay, 
he anxiously enquires to which demon he should carry 
a cock. If the rain fails or the crops are poor, he hies 
to the nearest deity with cocoanuts, plantains, and the 
tender spikes of areca. In case of serious illness, he 
undertakes a vow to beg from door to door on certain 
ni-i8 B 


days, and convey the money thus accumulated to Tirupati. 
In his house, he keeps a small closed box with a slit in 
the lid, through which he drops a coin at every pinch of 
misfortune, and the contents are eventually sent to that 
holy place. 

The affairs of the community are regulated by a council 
of elders. In every village, or for every group of houses, 
there is an hereditary Gurukara or headman of the 
barbers, who is assisted by four Moktesars. If any of 
these five authorities receives a complaint, he gives notice 
to the others, and a meeting is arranged to take place 
in some house. When there is a difference of opinion, 
the opinion of the majority decides the issue. When a 
decision cannot be arrived at, the question is referred to the 
council of another village. If this does not settle the 
point at issue, the final appeal lies to the Swami of the 
the Udipi temple. The council inquires into alleged 
offences against caste, and punishes them. It declares 
what marriages are valid, and what not. It not only 
preserves discipline within the community itself, but 
takes notice of external affairs affecting the well-being 
of the community. Thus, if the pipers refuse to make 
music at their marriage processions, the council resolves 
that no barber shall shave a piper. Disputes concerning 
civil rights were once submitted to these councils, but, 
as their decisions are not now binding, aggrieved parties 
seek justice from courts of law. 

Punishments consist of compensation for minor 
offences affecting individuals, and of fine or excommuni- 
cation if the offence affects the whole community. If the 
accused does not attend the trial, he may be excom- 
municated for contempt of authority. If the person 
seeks re-admission into the caste, he has to pay a fine, 
which goes to the treasury of the temple at Udipi. The 

2 77 KELASI 

presiding Swami at the shrine accepts the fine, and 
issues a writ authorising the re-admission of the penitent 
offender. The headman collects the fine to be for- 
warded to the Swami, and, if he is guilty of any mal- 
practice, the whole community, generally called the ten, 
may take cognisance of the offence. Offences against 
marriage relations, shaving low caste people, and such 
like, are all visited with fine, which is remitted to the 
Swami, from whom purification is obtained. The power 
of the village councils, however, has greatly declined in 
recent years, as the class of cases in which their decision 
can be enforced is practically very small. 

The Tulu barbers, like many other castes on the west- 
ern coast, follow the aliya santana system of inheritance 
(in the female line). The tradition in South Canara 
is that this, and a number of other customs, were im- 
posed upon certain castes by Bhutala Pandya. The 
story relates that Deva Pandya, a merchant of the 
Pandya kingdom, once had some new ships built, but 
before they put to sea, the demon Kundodara demanded 
a human sacrifice. The merchant asked his wife to 
spare one of her seven sons for the purpose, but she 
refused to be a party to the sacrifice, and went away with 
her sons to her father's house. The merchant's sister 
thereupon offered her son. Kundodara, however, was 
so very pleased with the appearance of this son that 
he spared his life, and made him a king, whose sway 
extended over Tuluva. This king was called Bhutala 
Pandya, and he, being directed by Kundodara, imposed 
upon the people the system of nephew inheritance. 

The barber is changing with the times. He now 
seldom uses the old unfoldable wooden-handled razor 
forged by the village blacksmith, but has gone in for 
what he calls Raja sri (royal fortune ; corruption of 

KEN 278 

Rodgers) razors. He believes that he is polluted by the 
operation which it is his lot to perform, and, on his 
return home from his morning round, he must bathe and 
put on washed clothes. 

Ken.— Ken (red) and Kenja (red ant) have both 
been recorded as gotras of Kurni. 

Kenna.— A division of Toda. 

Kepumari. — It is noted, in the Gazetteer of South 
Arcot, that " the Kepumaris are one of the several 
foreign communities from other districts, who help to 
swell the total of the criminal classes in South Arcot. 
Their head-quarters is at Tiruvallur in the Chingleput 
district, but there is a settlement of them at Mariyan- 
kuppam (not far from Porto Novo), and another large 
detachment at Kunisampet in French territory. They 
commit much the same class of crime as the Donga Da- 
saris, frequenting railway trains and crowded gatherings, 
and they avert suspicion by their respectable appear- 
ance and pleasant manners. Their house-language is 
Telugu. They call themselves Alagiri Kepumaris. The 
etymology of the second of these two words is not free 
from doubt, but the first of them is said to be derived 
from Alagar, the god of the Kalians, whose temple at 
the foot of the hills about twelve miles north of Madura 
town is a well-known place of pilgrimage, and to whom 
these people, and other criminal fraternities annually offer 
a share of their ill-gotten gains." Information concerning 
the criminal methods of these people, under the name 
Capemari, will be found in Mr. F. S. Mullaly's ' Notes 
on Criminal Classes of the Madras Presidency.' 

Kerala.— Defined by Mr. Wigram* as "the western 
coast from Gokarnam to Cape Comorin, comprising 

Malabar Law and Custom. 


Travancore, Cochin, Malabar, and part of South 

Kere (tank). — A gotra of Kurni. 

Kesari (lion). — A gotra of Kurni. 

Kethaki {Pandanus fascicularis). — An exogamous 
sept of Stanika. 

Kethri. — See Khatri. 

Kevuto.— It is recorded, in the Madras Census 
Report, 1 89 1, that " the Kevutas are the fisherman caste 
of Ganjam, and they are said to be the descendants of 
the Kaibartas, a fishing caste of Bengal. Besides fishing 
in rivers, canals and lakes, they ply boats and cata- 
marans, and some are also traders. Uriya Brahmans 
and Bairagis are their priests. From the fifth day after 
child-birth till the twenty-first, the Uriya Brahmans read 
the Bhagavata Purana in the house, and on the last day 
they give a name to the child. The married girls and 
widows put a veil over their faces whenever they go out 
of doors." 

The Kevutos are low in the social scale, but not a 
polluting caste. They apparently recognise the fol- 
lowing endogamous sub-divisions : — Bhettiya, Bilva, 
Jonka, Khottia, Koibarto or Dasa, Liyari, Chuditiya, 
and Thossa. Of these the Thossas are cultivators, the 
Liyaris make a preparation of fried rice (liya), and 
the Chudityas are engaged in parching grain (chuda, 
parched rice). By reason of their change of oocupation, 
the Liyaris and Chudityas have practically become 
distinct castes, and some deny that there is any con- 
nection between them and the Kevutos. Telugu people 
sometimes call the Chuditiyas Neyyalu, and I am told 
that there is a street in Parlakimedi almost wholly 
inhabited by Kevutos, who say that they are of the 
Neyyalu caste. 

KHADI 280 

Of gotras which occur among the Kevutos, nago 
(cobra), bhago (tiger), and kochipo (tortoise) are the 
most common. They also have exogamous septs or 
bamsams, among which are gogudiya (bells) and nolini 
(bamboo carrier). The titles which occur in the caste 
are Behara, Sitto, Torei, Jalli, Bejjo, and Paiko. 

The marriage rite is performed at night, and the 
bride's father ties a gold bead (konti) on the neck of the 
bridegroom. The Kevutos worship especially Dasaraj 
and Gangadevi. The latter is worshipped at the Dasara 
festival, and, in some places, fowls and goats are sacri- 
ficed in her honour. In the neighbourhood of the 
Chilka lake, the goats are not sacrificed, but set at 
liberty, and allowed to graze on the Kalikadevi hill. 
There is a belief that animals thus devoted to Gangadevi 
do not putrify when they die, but dry up. 

In the Vizagapatam Agency tracts, the Kevutos are 
said to be notorious for their proficiency in magic and 

Khadi. — A sub-division of Telli. 

Khadiya.— A name, said to be derived from 
ghatiyal, meaning a person possessed, and used as a 
term of reproach for Kudumis of Travancore. 

Khajjaya (cake). — An exogamous sept of Vakkaliga. 

Kharvi.— The Kharvis are described, in the South 
Canara Manual, as " Marathi fishermen, who migrated 
to this district from the Bombay Presidency. The 
name Kharvi is said to be a corrupt form of the Sanskrit 
kshar, salt. They are hardworking but thriftless, and 
much given to drink, chiefly toddy. They are sea- 
fishermen and good sailors, and also work as domestic 
servants and labourers. They employ Havik Brahmans 
to perform their marriage and other ceremonies. The 
head of the Sringeri Math is their spiritual teacher." 

28 1 KHARVI 

The Kharvis are Konkani-speaking fishermen and 
cultivators, found in the Kundapur taluk of South 
Canara. Those who are not engaged in fishing always 
wear the sacred thread, whereas the fishermen wear it 
for seven days from the Sravana Hunnami, or full-moon 
day of the month Sravana (August-September), and 
then remove it. All are Saivites, and disciples of the 
Sringeri mutt. Ajai Masti and Nagu Masti are the 
deities specially worshipped by them. They follow the 
makkala santana law of inheritance (from father to son). 
Their headmen are called Saranga or Patel, and these 
names are used as titles by members of the families 
of the headmen. The assistant to the headman is 
styled Naik or Naicker. 

For the performance of the marriage ceremonial, 
Shivalli or Kota Brahmans are engaged. The dhare 
form of marriage [see Bant) is observed, but there are a 
few points of detail, which may be noted. Five women 
decorate the bride inside her house just before she 
comes to the marriage pandal (booth), and tie on her 
neck a gold bead (dhare mani) and black beads. At the 
pandal she stands in front of the bridegroom, separated 
from him by a screen, which is stretched between them. 
Garlands of tulsi (^Ocimum sanctum) are exchanged, 
and the screen is removed. Bashingams (chaplets) are 
tied on the foreheads of the bridal pair at the outset of 
the ceremonial, and are worn for five days. 

The dead are cremated, and, in most cases, the 
ashes are thrown into a river. But, among the orthodox, 
they are taken to Gokarna, and thrown into the river 
at that place. On the eleventh day, presents are 
made to Brahmans after purification. On the following 
day, food is offered on two leaves to the soul of the 

KHASA 282 

One of the leaves is thrown into water, and the 
other given to a cow or bull. 

Khasa.^It is noted by the Rev. J. Cain * that 
" members of this caste are found chiefly in attendance 
on zamindars and other rich people, and report says 
that they are not unfrequently their illegitimate children." 
Khasa is synonymous with Adapapa {q.v.). 

Khasgi. — Marathas, of whom a few families con- 
stitute the aristocracy in the Sandur State. 

Khatri. — The Khatris are described by Mr. Lewis 
Rice t as " silk weavers, who in manners, customs, 
and language are akin to Patvegars, but they do not 
intermarry with them, although the two castes eat 
together. The Katris claim to be Kshatriyas, and quote 
Renuka Purana as their authority. The legend is that, 
during the general massacre of the Kshatriyas by Parasu 
Rama, five women, each of whom was big with child, 
escaped, and took refuge in a temple dedicated to Kali. 
When the children came of age, their marriages were 
celebrated, and their mothers prayed to Kali to point 
out some means of livelihood. In answer to their 
supplications, the goddess gave them looms, and taught 
them weaving and dyeing. The Katris claim descent 
from these refugees, and follow the same trades." 

The following note relates to the Khatris of Con- 
jeeveram, where most of them trade in silk thread, silk 
sasbss, and dye-stuffs. Some deal in human hair, which 
is used by native females as a chignon. By reason of 
their connection with the silk industry, the Khatris are 
called Patnulkaran by other castes. The true Patnul- 
karans are called Koshta by the Khatris. The Khatris 
give Bhuja Raja Kshatriya as their caste name, and 

* Ind. Ant., VIII, 1879. t Mysore and Coorg Gazetteer. 



some say that they are the descendants of one Karta 
Virya Arjuna of the human race. Their tribal deity is 
Renukamba, the mother of Parasu Rama, to whom 
pongal (boiled rice) is offered, and a goat sacrificed in 
the month of Thai (January-February). They have 
exogamous septs, such as Sulegar, Powar, Mudugal, 
Sonappa, Bojagiri, etc., and have adopted the same 
Brahmanical gotras as the Bhats or Bhatrazus, e.g., 
Gautama, Kasyapa, Vasishta, and Bharadwaja. At- 
tached to them is a caste beggar, called Bhat, who 
comes round at long intervals. He is said to keep the 
genealogies of the Khatri families. He ties a flag to a 
post of the house at which he intends to claim a meal, 
and, after partaking thereof, he receives information 
concerning the births and marriages, which have taken 
place in the family since his last visit. Girls are 
married both before and after puberty, and infant 
marriage is fashionable at the present day. The 
remarriage of widows is permitted, but a divorced woman 
may not marry again so long as her husband is alive. 
A man may not marry the widow of his brother, or of 
an agnate. The custom of menarikam, by which a 
man may marry his maternal uncle's daughter, is pro- 
hibited. Families belonging to one sept may give their 
daughters in marriage to men of another sept, from 
which, however, they are not allowed to receive girls 
as wives for their sons. For example, a man of a 
Sulegar sept may give his daughters in marriage to 
men of the Powar sept, but may not take Powar 
girls as wives for his sons. But a certain elasticity in 
the rule is allowed, and the prohibition ceases after a 
certain number of generations by arrangement with the 
Bhat. The marriage ceremonies last over seven days. 
On the first day, the deity Bharkodev, who is represented 


by seven quartz pebbles placed in a row on plantain 
leaves, is worshipped with offerings of fruit, etc., and a 
goat is sacrificed. The blood which flows from its cut 
neck is poured into a vessel containing cooked rice, 
of which seven balls are made, and offered to the 
pebbles. Towards evening some of the rice is thrown 
to the four cardinal points of the compass, in order to 
conciliate evil spirits. On the second day, the house is 
thoroughly cleansed with cow-dung water, and the walls 
are whitewashed. The eating of meat is forbidden 
until the marriaofe ceremonies are concluded. The third 
day is devoted to the erection of the marriage pandal 
(booth) and milk-post, and the worship of female 
ancestors (savasne). Seven married women are selected, 
and presented with white ravikes (bodices) dyed with 
turmeric. After bathing, they are sumptuously fed. 
Before the feast, the bridegroom's and sometimes the 
bride's mother, goes to a well, tank (pond) or river, 
carrying on a tray a new woman's cloth, on which a 
silver plate with a female figure embossed on it is 
placed. Another silver plate of the same kind, newly 
made, is brought by a goldsmith, and the two are 
worshipped, and then taken to the house, where they 
are kept in a box. The bridegroom and his party go in 
procession through the streets in which their fellow 
castemen live. When they reach the house of the bride, 
her mother comes out and waves coloured water to avert 
the evil eye, washes the bridegroom's eyes with water, 
and presents him with betel and a vessel filled with 
milk. The bride is then conducted to the bridegroom's 
house, where she takes her seat on a decorated plank, 
and a gold or silver ornament called sari or kanti is 
placed on her neck. She is further presented with a 
new cloth. A Brahman purohit then writes the names 


of the contracting parties, and the date of their marriage, 
on two pieces of palm leaf or paper, which he hands 
over to their fathers. The day closes with the per- 
formance of gondala puja, for which a device (muggu) 
is made on the ground with yellow, red, and white 
powders. A brass vessel is set in the centre thereof, 
and four earthen pots are placed at the corners. Puja 
(worship) is done, and certain stanzas are recited amid 
the beating of a pair of large cymbals. On the fourth 
day, the bridal couple bathe, and the bridegroom is 
invested with the sacred thread. They then go to the 
place where the metal plates representing the ancestors 
are kept, with a cloth thrown over the head like a hood, 
and some milk and cooked rice are placed near the plates. 
On their way back they, in order to avert the evil eye, 
place their right feet on a pair of small earthen plates tied 
together, and placed near the threshold. The bride's 
mother gives the bridegroom some cakes and milk, after 
partaking of which he goes in procession through the 
streets, and a further ceremony for averting the evil eye 
is performed in front of the bride's house. This over, 
he goes to the pandal, where his feet are washed by his 
father-in-law, who places in his hands a piece of plantain 
fruit, over which his mother-in-law pours some milk. 
The bride and bridegroom then go into the house, where 
the latter ties the tali on the neck of the former. During 
the tying ceremony, the couple are separated by a cloth 
screen, of which the lower end is lifted up. The screen 
is removed, and they sit facing each other with their 
bashingams (forehead chaplets) in contact, and rice is 
thrown over their heads by their relations. The 
Brahman hands the contracting couple the wrist-threads 
(kankanams), which they tie on. These threads are, 
among most castes, tied at an earlier stage in the 


marriage ceremonies. On the fifth day, seven betel nuts 
are placed in a row on a plank within the pandal, round 
which the bride and bridegroom go seven times. At the 
end of each round, the latter lifts the right foot of the 
former, and sweeps off one of the nuts. For every 
marriage, a fee of Rs. 12-5-0 must be paid to the head- 
man of the caste, and the money thus accumulated is 
spent on matters such as the celebration of festivals, 
which affect the entire community. If the fee is not paid, 
the bride and bridegroom are not permitted to go round 
the plank the seventh time. On the sixth day, the 
bride receives presents from her family, and there is a 
procession at night. On the last day of the ceremonies, 
the bride is handed over to her mother-in-law by her 
mother, who says " I am giving you a melon and a 
knife. Deal with them as you please." The bride is 
taken inside the house by the mother-in-law and shown 
some pots containing rice into which she dips her 
right hand, saying that they are full. The mother-in-law 
then presents her with a gold finger-ring, and the two 
eat together as a sign of their new relationship. 

The dead are cremated, and, when a married man 
dies, his corpse is carried on a palanquin to the burning- 
ground, followed by the widow. Near the pyre it is 
laid on the ground, and the widow places her jewelry 
and glass bangles on the chest. The corpse should 
be carried by the sons-in-law if possible, and the 
nomination of the bearers is indicated by the eldest son 
of the deceased person making a mark on their shoulders 
with ashes. On the third day after death, the milk 
ceremony takes place. Three balls of wheat-flour, 
mixed with honey and milk, are prepared, and placed 
respectively on the spot where the deceased breathed 
his last, where the bier was laid on the ground, and at 


the place where the corpse was burnt, over which milk 
is poured. The final death ceremonies (karmandhiram) 
are observed on the seventh or tenth day, till which 
time the eating of flesh is forbidden. 

The headman of the Khatris, who is called Gramani, 
is elected once a month, and he has an assistant called 
Vanja, who is appointed annually. 

The Khatris are Saivites, and wear the sacred thread, 
but also worship various grama devatas (village deities). 
They speak a dialect of Marathi. The caste title is Sa, 
e.g., Dharma Sa. 

Kethree is described, in the Vizagapatam Manual, as 
"the caste of the Zamindar's family in Jeypore. It is 
divided into sixteen classes. They wear the paieta 
(sacred thread), and the Zamindar used formerly to sell 
the privilege of wearing it to any one who could afford 
to pay him twelve rupees. Pariahs were excluded from 
purchasing the privilege." 

The Khatri agriculturists of the Jeypore Agency 
tracts in Vizagapatam are, Mr. C. Hayavadana Rao 
informs me, entirely distinct from the weaving Khatris 
of the south. They are divided into four septs, viz., 
Surya (Sun), Bhag (tiger), Kochchimo (tortoise), and 
Nag (cobra). Girls are married before puberty, and an 
Oriya Brahman officiates at their marriages, instead of 
the customary Desari. They do not, like other castes 
in the Agency tracts, give fermented liquor (madho) as 
part of the jholla tonka or bride-price, which consists of 
rice, a goat, cloths, etc. The marriage ceremonies are 
performed at the bride's house. These Khatris put on 
the sacred thread for the first time when they are 
married, and renew it from time to time throughout life. 
They are fair skinned, and speak the Oriya language. 
Their usual title is Patro. 


Khinbudi (bear). — A sept of Rona. 

Khodalo.—- vS^^ Bavuri. 

Khodikaro. — A name for Pandltos, derived from 
the stone (khodi), with which they write figures on the 
floor, when making astrological calculations. 

Khodura. — The name is derived from khodu, bangle. 
The Khoduras, Mr. Francis writes,* are " manufac- 
turers of the brass and bell-metal bangfles and rines 
ordinarily worn by the lower class Odiyas. Their 
headman is called Nahako Sahu, and under him there 
are deputies called Dhoyi Nahako and Behara. There 
is a fourth functionary styled Aghopotina, whose peculiar 
duty is said to be to join in the first meal taken by 
those who have been excommunicated, and subsequently 
readmitted into the caste by the caste panchayat (council). 
A quaint custom exists, by which honorific titles like 
Senapati, Mahapatro, Subuddhi, etc., are sold by the 
panchayat to any man of the caste who covets them, and 
the proceeds sent to Puri and Pratabpur for the benefit 
of the temples there. It is said that the original home 
of the caste was Orissa, and that it came to Ganjam 
with Purushottam Deva, the Maharaja of Puri. In 
its general customs it resembles the Badhoyis." I am 
informed that the name of the fourth functionary should 
be Aghopotiria, or first leaf man, i.e., the man who is 
served first at a public dinner. 

Khoira. — Recorded, in the Madras Census Report, 
1901, as a low caste of Oriya cultivators. 

Khoja.^In the Madras Census Report, 1901, eleven 
Khojas are recorded as belonging to a Mussalman tribe 
of traders from Bombay. 

* Madras Census Report, igoi. 

289 KHOJA 

For the following note on the Khojas of Southern 
India, I am indebted to an article by Dr. J. Shortt.* 
"The true Kojahs, or eunuchs, are not numerous in 
Southern India. They are chiefly to be seen in the 
houses of wealthy Mussalman nobles, by whom they 
are placed at the head of their zenanas or harems. 
The Kojahs are properly divided into two classes : (i) 
Kojahs; (2) Hijras. Sometimes Hindus, Sudras, and 
Brahmans subject themselves to the operation (of cas- 
tration), of their own accord from a religious impression. 
Others, finding themselves naturally impotent, consider 
it necessary to undergo the operation, to avoid being 
born again at a future birth in the same helpless 
state. The operation of castration is generally performed 
by a class of barbers, sometimes by some of the more 
intelligent of the eunuchs themselves, in the following 
manner. The patient is made to sit on an upturned 
new earthen pot, being previously well drugged with 
opium or bhang. The entire genitals being seized by 
the left hand, an assistant, who has a bamboo lath slit 
in the centre, runs it down quite close to the pubis, 
the slit firmly embracing the whole of the genitals at 
the root, when the operator, with a sharp razor, runs 
it down along the face of the lath, and removes penis, 
testicles and scrotum in one swoop, leaving a large 
clean open wound behind, in which boiling gingelly 
{Sesamum indicum) oil is poured to staunch the bleeding, 
and the wound covered over with a soft rag steeped in 
warm oil. This is the only dressing applied to the 
wound, which is renewed daily, while the patient is 
confined in a supine position to his bed, and lightly fed 
with conjee (rice gruel), milk, etc. During the operation, 

* Journ. Anthrop. Inst., II, 1873. 

KHOJA 290 

the patient is urged to cry out ' Din ' (the faith in 
Mahomet) three times. 

" Of the two classes, the Kojahs are the artificially- 
created eunuchs, in contradistinction to the Hijras 
(impotents) or natural eunuchs. Some years ago there 
were three Kojahs at the head of the State prison or 
Royal Mahal at Vellore, in charge of some of the 
wives, descendants, and other female connections of 
Tippoo Sultan. These men were highly respected, 
held charges of considerable trust, and were Muham- 
madans by birth. Tales were often repeated that the 
zenana women (slaves and adopted girls) were in the 
habit of stripping them naked, and poking fun at 
their helplessness. There were two Kojahs in the 
employ of the late Nabob of the Carnatic. They were 
both Africans. On the death of the Nabob, the 
Government allowed one of them a pension of fifteen 
rupees a month. 

"The second class, Hijras or natural eunuchs as they 
arc termed, are not so, strictly speaking, but are said to 
be impotent. While some are naturally so from birth, 
others are impressed with a belief in childhood, and are 
dressed up in women's clothes, taught to ape their 
speech and manners, whilst a few adopt it as a profession 
in after-life. They are chiefly Mussalmans. The hair 
of the head is put up as in women, well oiled, combed, 
and thrown back, tied into a knot, and shelved to the 
left side, sometimes plaited, ornamented, and allowed to 
hang down the back. They wear the choice or short 
jacket, the saree or petticoat, and put on abundance of 
nose, ear, finger, and toe rings. They cultivate singing, 
play the dhol (a drum), and attitudinise. They go about 
the bazaars in groups of half a dozen or more, singing 
songs with the hope of receiving a trifle. [Such a group 

291 KHOJA 

I saw at Sandur, who, on hearing that I wished to 
photograph them, made tracks for another place. — E. 7".] 
They are not only persistent, but impudent beggars, 
singing filthy, obscene, and abusive songs, to compel the 
bazaarmen to give them something. Should they not 
succeed, they would create a fire and throw in a lot of 
chillies, the suffocating and irritative smoke producing 
violent coughing, etc., so that the bazaarmen are com- 
pelled to yield to their importunity, and give them a 
trifle to get rid of their annoyance. While such were 
the pursuits in the day, at nightfall they resorted to 
debauchery and low practices by hiring themselves out 
to a dissipated set of Moslems, who are in the habit of 
resorting to these people for the purpose, whilst they 
intoxicate themselves with a preparation termed majoon, 
being a confection of opium, and a drink termed boja, 
a species of country beer manufactured from ragi 
[Eleitsine Cor ac and), which also contains bhang (Indian 
hemp). In addition to this, they smoke bhang. The 
Hijras are met with in most of the towns of Southern 
India, more especially where a large proportion of 
Mussalmans is found." 

In Hyderabad, castration used to be performed at 
about the age of sixteen. A pit, 31 feet deep, was dug 
in the ground, and filled with ashes. After the opera- 
tion, the patient had to sit on the ashes, with crossed 
legs, for three days. The operation was performed, 
under the influence of narcotics, by a Pir — the head of 
the Khoja community. 

I am informed by Mr. G. T. Paddison that, at the 
annual festival of the Gadabas of Vizagapatam, thorns 
are set on a swing outside the shrine of the goddess. 
On these the priest or priestess sits without harm. If 
the priest is masculine, he has been made neuter. But, 
in-19 B 

KHOND 292 

if the village is not fortunate enough to possess a eunuch, 
a woman performs the ceremony. 

The following notes were recorded by me on the 
occasion of an interview with some eunuchs living in the 
city of Madras : — 

Hindu, aged about 30. Generative organs feebly 
developed. Is a natural eunuch. Speaks and behaves 
like a female. Keeps a stall, at which he sells cakes. 
Goes out singing and dancing with four other eunuchs, 
and earns from ten annas to a rupee in a night. There 
are, in Madras, about thirty eunuchs, who go about 
dancing. Others keep shops, or are employed as 
domestic servants. 

One well acquainted with the Hindu eunuchs of 
Madras stated that, when a boy is born with ill-developed 
genitalia, his unnatural condition is a source of anxiety 
to his parents. As he grows up he feels shy, and is 
made fun of by his companions. Such boys run away 
from home, and join the eunuchs. They are taught to 
sing and dance, and carry on abominable practices. 
They are employed by dancing-girls, to decoy paramours 
to them. For this purpose, they dress up as dancing- 
girls, and go about the streets. At times of census, 
they return themselves as males engaged in singing and 

Khond.^^"^^ Kondh. 

Khongar. — See Kangara. 

Kichagara. — A small class of Canarese basket- 
makers and beggars. The name is said to be derived 
from kichaku, meaning an imitative sound, in reference 
to the incessant noise which the Kichagaras make when 

Kidaran (copper boiler). — A synonym for Mala- 
y^lam artisans. 


Kilakku Teru (east street). — A section of Kalian. 

Killavar.—- A sub-division of Tottiyan. 

Killekyata.— The Killekyatas are a Marathi-speak- 
ing people, who amuse villagers with their marionette 
shows in the Telugu and Canarese countries. " They 
travel round the villages, and give a performance wher- 
ever they can secure sufficient patronage. Contributions 
take the form of money, or oil for the foot-lights."* 
"Their profession," Mr. S. M. Natesa Sastri writes,! 
" is enacting religious dramas before the village public 
(whence their name, meaning buffoon). The black 
kambli (blanket) is their screen, and any mandapa or 
village chavadi, or open house is their stage. Night is 
the time for giving the performance. They carry with 
them pictures painted in colours on deer skins, which 
are well tanned, and made fine like parchment. The 
several parts of the picture representing the human or 
animal body are attached to each other by thin iron 
wires, and the parts are made to move by the assistance 
of thin bamboo splits, and thus the several actions and 
emotions are represented to the public, to the accom- 
paniment of songs. Their pictures are in most cases 
very fairly painted, with variety and choice of colours. 
The stories chosen for representation are generally from 
the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, which they how- 
ever call Ravanyakatha and Pandavakatha — the stories 
of Ravana and the Pandavas." The dead are buried in 
a seated posture. 

Some of the women are engaged as professional 

Kimedi.— A local name for Koronos who live at 

♦ Gazetteer of the Anantapur district. f Indian Review, VII, 1906. 


Kindal (basket-maker). — A sub-division of Savara. 

Kinkila (the koel or cuckoo). — A gotra of Kurni. 
Tiie cuckoo, named Eudynainis konorata, is the bird, 
whose crescendo cry, ku-il, ku-il, is trying to the nerves 
during the hot season. 

Kinthali. — A sub-division of the Telugu Kalingis. 

Kira (parrot). — A sept of Gadaba. Kira also 
occurs as a sub-division of Sondi. 

Kiraikkaran.-^Kiraikkaran is an occupational 
name, denoting those who cultivate kirai {Ainarantics). 
The Kiraikkarans are stated, in the Census Report, 
1 90 1, to be usually Agamudaiyans in Coimbatore. I 
gathered, however, that the name is given by Tamil- 
speaking people to the Kempati Okkiliyans of Coim- 
batore, a Canarese people who migrated thither from 
Kempati in Mysore. The majority of them cultivate 
kirai and other edible vegetables, but some are petty 
traders or fishermen. Some of their marriage divisions 
are named after deities, e.g., Masani and Viramashti, and 
one division is called Jogi. 

Kirata (hunter). — A name assumed by Bedars, 
Ekaris, and other classes. 

Kirganiga. — Kirganiga or Kiruganiga is the name 
of a sub-division of Ganigas, who express oils in wooden 

Kiriyam. — A sub-division of Nayar. Also the 
Malayalam word for house name or sept. 

Kiriyattil. — A sub-division of Nayar. 

Kizhakathi. — Recorded, in the Madras Census 
Report, 1 89 1, as a sub-division of Paraiyan. The word 
means easterner, and a Paraiyan of North or South 
Arcot would call a Paraiyan of Madras by this name. 

Koalaka (arrow). — An exogamous sept of Jatapu. 


Kobbiriya.— A sub-division of Domb. 

Kochattabannaya. — Kochattabannaya or Kojja- 
rannaya (jak tree, Artocarpus integrifolia, sept) is an 
exogamous sept of Bant. 

Kochimo (tortoise). — A sept of Oriya Gaudo, Bo- 
santiya, Bottada, Konda Dora, Mattiya, and Omanaito. 

Kochuvalan. — Recorded, in the Travancore Census 
Report, 1901, as a name for Ulladans. 

Kodaketti (umbrella tying). — A sub-division of 

Kodavili (sickle). — An exogamous sept of Kama 

Kodekal Hata-kararu (cloth- weavers). — A sub- 
division of Devanga. 

Kodi (cock). — An exogamous sept of Kapu. Tho- 
rika occurs as a sept of Jatapus, who are said to revere 
a species of fowl called thorika kodi, and Kodi Kandla 
(fowl's eyes) as a sept of Boya. 

Kodikkal. — Kodikkal, Kodikkar, or Kodikkalkaran, 
meaning betel vine man, is the occupational name of a 
sub-division of Vellalas, and of Labbai Muhammadans 
who cultivate the betel vine. In the Census Report, 
1 90 1, it is noted that those who gave this as the name 
of their caste returned their parent tongue as Tamil, and 
their title as Nayakkan, and were therefore clubbed with 
Pallis. Kodikkal is further a sub-division of the Sha- 
nans, who derive the name from kodi, a flag, and give 
flag-bearer as its significance. Other castes, however, 
make it to mean a betel garden, in reference to Shanans 
who were betel vine growers. Kodikkal Pillaimar is a 
synonym of the Senaikkudaiyans, indicating Pillaimars 
who cultivate the betel vine. 

Kodiyal. — A sub-division of Kudubi. 

KODLA 296 

Kodla.— Kodla (fowl) has been recorded as an 
exogamous sept of Tsakala, and Kodla bochchu (fowl's 
feathers) as an exogamous sept of Kapu. 

Kodu. — A form of Kondh. Also a sub-division of 
Konda Razu. 

Kohoro. — A form of Kahar. 

Koi.— ^^^ Koya. 

Koibarto. — A sub-division of Kevuto. 

Koil Pandala (keeper of the royal treasury). — One 
of the divisions of Kshatriyas in Travancore. 

Koil Tampuran.— The following note is extracted 
from the Travancore Census Report, 1901. The Koil 
Tampurans form a small community, made up of the 
descendants of the immigrant Kshatriya families from 
certain parts of Malabar lying to the north of Travancore 
and Cochin. They are also known as Koil Pantalas. 
In early records, the term Koviladhikarikal appears 
to have been used. Immemorial tradition connects the 
Koil Tampurans with Cheraman Perumal, and goes to 
say that their original settlement was Beypore. About 
300 M.E. a few male members were invited to settle in 
Travancore, and form marital alliances with the ladies 
of the Travancore Royal House, known then as the 
Venat Svarupam. Houses were built for them at 
Kilimanur, six miles from Attingal, where all the female 
members of the Royal Family resided. In M.E. 963, 
eight persons — three males and five females — from the 
family of Aliakk5tu, oppressed by the invasion of Tipu 
Sultan, sought shelter in Travancore. Maharaja Rama 
Varma received them kindly, and gave them the palace 
of the Tekkumkur Raja, who had been subjugated by 
Rama lyen Dalawah. This site in Changanachery is 
still recognised as Nirazhikkottaram. In 975 M.E. one 
of the five ladies removed to Kirtipuram near Kantiyur 


(Mavelikara taluk), and thence to a village called Gramam 
in the same taluk. Another shifted to Pallam in the 
Kottayam taluk, a third to Paliyakkara in Tiruvalla, and 
a fourth, having no issue, continued to live at Changana- 
chery with the fifth lady who was the youngest in the 
family. Raja Raja Varma Koil Tampuran, who married 
Rani Lakshmi Bai, sovereign of Travancore from 985 
to 990 M.E. was the eldest son of the lady that stayed 
at Changanachery. Their present house at that place, 
known as Lakshmipuram Kottaram, was named after 
the Koil Tampuran's royal consort. Raja Raja Varma's 
sister gave birth to three daughters and two sons. The 
eldest daughter and sons removed to Kartikapalli in 
1040, and thence, in 1046, to Anantapuram in Haripad. 
In 1 04 1, the second daughter and issue removed to 
Chemprol in Tiruvalla, while the third continued to live 
at Changanachery. Thus there came into existence 
seven families of Koil Tampurans, namely those of 
Kilimanur, Changanachery, Anantapuram, Pallam, 
Chemprol, Gramam, and Paliyakkare. Some time after 
1040 M.E. (A.D. 1856), three more families, viz., those 
of Cherukol, Karamma, and Vatakkematham, immigrated 
from North Malabar. 

The Koil Tampurans are all regarded as blood 
relations, and observe birth and death pollutions like 
Dayadis among Brahmans. They follow the matriarchal 
system of inheritance. Nambutiri Brahmans marry their 
ladies. Their religious ceremonies are the same as 
those of Nambutiris, whom they resemble in the matter 
of food and drink. Their caste government is in the 
hands of the Nambutiri Vaidikans. 

Their ceremonies are the usual Brahmanical 
Samskaras — Gatakarma, Namakarana, Annaprasana, 
etc. Regarding the Namakarana, or naming, the only 


noteworthy fact is that the first-born male always goes 
by the name of Raja Raja Varma. The Upanayana, 
or investiture with the sacred thread, takes place in the 
sixteenth year of age. On the morning of the Upa- 
nayana, Chaula or the tonsure ceremony is performed. 
It is formally done by the Nambutiri priest in the capa- 
city of Guru, just as the father does to his son among 
Brahmans, and afterwards left to be completed by the 
Maran. The priest invests the boy with the thread, 
and, with the sacrificial fire as lord and witness, initiates 
him in the Gayatri prayer. The Koil Tampurans are to 
repeat this prayer morning, noon and evening, like the 
Brahmans, but are to do so only ten times on each 
occasion. On the fourth day, the boy listens to a few 
Vedic hymns recited by the priest. There is not the 
prolonged course of severe discipline of the Brahmani- 
cal Brahmachari, which the Nambutiris so religiously 
observe. The Samavartana, or pupilage stage, is 
performed on the fifteenth day. The ceremony of pro- 
ceeding to Benares is then gone through. Just as in 
the case of the Brahmans, a would-be father-in-law 
intercedes, and requests the Snataka (past Brahmachari) 
to bless his daughter, and settle in life as a Grihastha. 
The Nambutiri priest then steps in to remind the boy of 
his dharma (duty) as a Kshatriya, and gives him a sword 
symbolic of his pre-ordained function in society. 

The marriage of a Koil Tampuran does not present 
many peculiar features. One item in the programme, 
called Dikshavirippu, may be referred to. During all 
the four days of the marriage, the bride is confined to a 
special room, where a white cloth with a carpet over it is 
spread on the fioor, and a lamp burns day and night. 
The ceremonial bridegroom is either an Aryappattar or 
a Nambutiri, now generally a Nambutiri. Of course, 


the marriage is a mere ceremonial, and the bridegroom 
at the ceremony is not necessarily the spouse of actual 
life. His death deprives her of the right to wear 
the tali, and makes her an Amangali (an inauspicious 
person) for all socio-religious purposes. At sraddhas 
(memorial service for the dead), the Tampuratti with 
her married husband alive faces the east, and one that 
has lost him has to look in the direction of Yamaloka 

Mr. Ravi Varma, the celebrated artist, who died 
recently, was a Koil Tampuran of Kilimanur, an exten- 
sive village assio^ned to his ancestors rent-free for the 
military services they had rendered to the State in times 
of trouble.* 

Kokala (woman's cloth). — An exogamous sept of 

Kokkara.— Recorded, in the Travancore Census 
Report, as a sub-division of Nayar. 

Kokkundia. — See Kukkundi. 

Kola (ear of corn). — An exogamous sept of 

Kolari. — See Kolayan. 

Kolalo (arrack-seller). — A name of Sondis. 

Kolata Gudiya.— A name for Gudiyas engaged in 

Kolayan. — It is recorded, in the Madras Census 
Report, 1901, that "the caste is found chiefly in the 
Kasaragod taluk of South Canara, and in the northern 
part of Malabar. In South Malabar, it is called Urali. 
Its traditional occupation is herding cows, and it claims 
the privilege of supplying milk and ghee to certain 
Hindu temples, but at present most of its members are 

* See Ravi Varma, the Indian Artist. Indian Press, Allahabad. 


masons. It has two endogamous sections, Ayan or 
Kol-Ayan, and Mariyan or Eruman " (Eruma, a cow- 
buffalo). It is further noted, in the same report under 
the heading Eruman, that " the people of the caste were 
originally buffalo drivers and keepers, and still follow 
their traditional occupation in the Kasaragod taluk of 
South Canara. In North Malabar, they are masons and 
bricklayers." The masonry work of temples is done by 

The name Kolayan has been said to be derived from 
Golla and Ayan, meaning cowherd. Golla is, however, 
a Telugu word not used in the Malayalam country. 

Members of the tw^o sections, Kolayan and Eruman 
(or Eruvan), are said not to intermarry. Women of both 
sections may affect sambandham (alliance) with Nayars. 
Children born of such unions are regarded as somewhat 
inferior to those born of Kolayan parents, and are not 
allowed to worship at the temples. The priests of the 
Kolayans are called Muthavan or Poduvan, and are 
usually elected by Rajas. 

Kolayan girls go through the mangalam or tali-kettu 
ceremony before they reach puberty. On an auspicious 
day fixed by the Kanisan (astrologer), the girl sits on a 
plank in the middle room of the house, and four lamps 
are placed near her. Her father throws rice and flowers 
over her head, and ties the tali (marriage emblem) on 
her neck. The girl, four women, and four girls, are fed 
in the middle room. On the following day, a priest 
(Vathiyan) places rice, paddy (unhusked rice), tender 
cocoanut, betel leaves and areca nuts, before the girl. 
Men and women of the priest's family wave rice, cocoa- 
nuts, etc., in front of her both in the morning and 
afternoon. Finally, towards evening, a Vathiyan woman 
waves the rice and other articles thrice, calling out 


" Kolachi, Kolachi, Kolachi." The girl may then leave 
the middle room. 

At the first menstrual period, a girl is under pollution 
for three days. On the first day, a cloth (mattu) is given 
to her by a washerwoman, and on the fourth day she 
receives one from a Malayan woman. 

The dead are usually cremated. Daily, until the 
twelfth day of the death ceremonies, food is offered to 
the spirit of the deceased, on a dais set up outside 
the house, by the relatives. On the fifth day, all the 
agnates are purified by the Vathiyan sprinkling water 
over them. On the twelfth day, the Vathiyan draws 
the image of a man with vibuthi (sacred ashes) on the 
spot where the deceased breathed his last. Near the 
figure, cooked rice, vegetables, etc., are placed. The 
chief mourner offers these to the dead person, and makes 
a bundle of them in his cloth. Going outside the house, 
he kicks the dais already referred to with his foot, while 
the Vathiyan holds one hand, and his relations the other 
hand or arm. He then bathes in a tank (pond) or river, 
while his hands are held in like manner. 

Koli. — In the Madras Census Report, 1901, the K5lis 
are described as being " a Bombay caste of fishermen 
and boatmen in South Canara ; also a low class of 
Bengal weavers found in Ganjam." The Kolis who 
were investigated in Ganjam are an Oriya-speaking 
class, who are apparently Telugu people who have 
settled in the Oriya country as weavers of coarse 
cloths, traders, and agriculturists. They have Oriya 
titles such as Behara. They worship village deities 
(Takuranis), are Saivites, and none of them have been 
converted to the Paramartho form of Vishnavism. The 
caste council, puberty and death ceremonies, are based 
on the common Oriya type, but the marriage rites are 


an interesting blend of the Oriya and Telugu types of 
ceremonial. Thus the usual Telugu marriage post, but 
made of Streblus asper wood, is set up, and nine kinds 
of grain are placed near it. A bottu (marriage badge) 
is tied on the neck of the bride by the bridegroom, and 
the hands of the contracting couple are united (hastha- 
gonthi) as among the Oriyas. 

Koliyan.— The Koliyans are summed up, in the 
Madras Census Report, 1901, as " a weaver caste, the 
members of which were originally Paraiyans, but now do 
not eat or intermarry with that caste." They are largely 
found in the Tanjore and Madura districts, and are 
divided into various nadus (territories) and kuppams 
(settlements). Those at Pattukottai, for example, belong 
to Ambu Nadu, and are sub-divided into five kuppams. 
Many of the Koliyans are engaged in weaving coarse 
white cloths, while some work as field labourers. As 
some Paraiyans have Samban (Siva) as their title, so the 
title of the Koliyans is Isan (god). At times of marriage, 
the names of persons must not be mentioned without 
this title, e.g., one who is, in everyday life, called Ponnan 
is addressed as Isa Ponnan. 

An interesting point in connection with the first 
puberty ceremonial of a girl is that, on the sixteenth 
day, when she bathes, a withe of a creeper (Dalbergia, 
sp.) made into a loop, is passed round her body by a 
barber from head to foot thrice, without touching her. 
If this is not done, it is believed that the girl is not free 
from pollution. 

There are two forms of marriage ceremony, called 
chinna (little) and periya (big) kalyanam. The former 
is resorted to by those who cannot afford the more 
elaborate ceremonial. The sister of the bridegroom is 
sent to the house of the bride on an auspicious day. 


She there ties the tali (marriage badge) on the bride's 
neck, and conducts her to the house of the bridegroom. 
Women who are thus married may not take part in the 
marriage of their children. More especially, they may 
not decorate them with garlands and flowers, unless 
they have themselves performed the sadangu rite. In 
this, which is usually carried out a day or two before 
the child's marriage, the husband and wife sit on planks, 
and, after being decorated, and the performance of wave 
offerings (arathi), the former ties the tali on his wife's 

In the periya kalyanam, the bridegroom goes on a 
horse to the bride's house, where he is met by her 
brother, who is also on horseback. They exchange 
garlands, and proceed to the marriage pandal (booth). 
The bridesrroom receives from the bride's father a 
cocoanut, and the bride seats herself on a bench. The 
bridegroom g-ives her the cocoanut, and ties the tali on 
her neck. They then exchange garlands, and their 
fingers are linked together. All these items must be 
performed as quickly as possible, in accordance with a 
saying that the tali should be tied without dismounting 
from the horse, which one is riding. Before the tali is 
tied, the contracting couple go through the sadangu 
ceremony, in which a loop of cotton thread is passed 
over them from head to foot, without touching them. 
Then the kankanams, or wrist threads, are tied on their 
wrists. The milk-post and marriage pots are set up 
within the pandal, and the bride and bridegroom prostrate 
themselves before them, and salute their maternal uncles, 
parents and relations, and lastly the musicians. The 
day's proceedings terminate with a feast, at the conclu- 
sion of which hands are washed within the house. For 
six days the bride and bridegroom pay visits to each 


Other alternately, and, on the seventh day, the wrist- 
threads, marriage pots, and milk-post are removed. 
During marriage and other auspicious ceremonies, 
coloured water, into which leaves of Bauhinia variegata 
are thrown, are waved (arathi). 

On ceremonial occasions, and at times of worship, 
the Koliyans put on Saivite sect marks. Among other 
deities, they worship Aiyanar, Pattavanswami, and 

The dead are burnt, and the body is placed in a 
seated posture with fingers and toes tied together. On 
the way to the burning-ground, a widow goes round the 
corpse, and breaks a pot containing water. On the day 
after the funeral, the calcined bones are collected, and 
arranged so as to represent a human figure, to which 
food is offered. The final death ceremonies (karman- 
dhiram) are performed on the sixteenth day. A mass of 
cooked rice, vegetables, and meat, is placed within an 
enclosure, round which the relations go in tears. 

Kollakar. — There are about seven hundred members 
of this community at Cochin, to which place the Kolla- 
kars, or people of Kollam, are said to have come from 
Ouilon (Kollam) in Travancore one or two centuries ago. 
The majority of the men work as coolies on board 
steamers, and a few as fishermen. The women of the 
poorer classes twist rope and sell fish, while the others 
make lace. A few hold appointments under the Govern- 
ment, and, in 1907, two had passed the Matriculation 
examination of the Madras University. They are 
Roman Catholics, and are said to have been converted 
to Christianity by the Portuguese. They marry among 
themselves. The Kollakars are also found at Calicut, 
Cannanore, Mahe, and Tellicherry, and are mainly occu- 
pied in fishing, rope-making, and making fishing-nets. 


A few at Tellicherry are employed as carpenters, tailors, 
and petty shopkeepers. 

Kolla Kurup. — The Kolla Kurups of Malabar are 
described, in the Gazetteer of Malabar, as a sub-caste of, 
or a caste allied to, the Kammalans. " They combine 
two professions, which at first sight seem strangely 
incongruous, shampooing or massage, and the construc- 
tion of the characteristic leather shields of Malabar. But 
the two arts are intimately connected with the system of 
combined physical training, as we should now call it, and 
exercise in arms, which formed the curriculum of the kalari 
(gymnasium), and the title Kurup is proper to castes 
connected with that institution." Among Kolla Kurups, 
the following symbolical ceremony is necessary to con- 
stitute a valid divorce. " The husband and the wife's 
brother stand east and west respectively of a lighted 
lamp placed in the yard of the woman's original home. 
The husband pulls a thread from his cloth, and approaches 
the lamp, and breaks the thread saying ' Here is your 
sister's accharam.' " 

KoUan.— "The blacksmiths are iron-workers among 
the Malayalam Kammalans. " These Malabar Kollans," 
Mr. H. A. Stuart writes,* "are said to practice fraternal 
polyandry to a greater extent even than the rest of the 
Malabar artizan castes. Kollans are divided into (i) Ti 
(fire) Kollan, (2) Perum (big) Kollan, (3) Tiperum 
Kollan, (4) Irumbu (iron) Kollan. There are also 
Kadacchil Kollan (knife-grinders) and Tol Kollan 
(leather-workers). These are of inferior status, on 
account of the nature of their professions." 

Kollar.-"A section of Tottiyan, the full name of 
which is Yerrakollavaru or Yerrakolla Tottiyar. Kollar 

* Madras Census Report, 1891. 

KOLLI 306 

is a corrupt Tamil form of GoIIa, to which caste the 
Tottiyans trace their descent. 

Kolli (fire-brand). — A sub-division of Kadu 

Kolli (a hill-range, the Kollimalais). — A sub-division 
of Malayalis. 

Komali (buffoon). — An exogamous sept of Odde. 

Komanandi. — A sub-division of Andis, who go 
about naked, except for a small loin cloth (komanam). 

Komaro. — Oriya blacksmiths. See Badhoyi. 

Komati. — The Komatis form the great trading caste 
of the Madras Presidency, and are found in almost all 
the districts thereof. They are further found in the 
Mysore State, Bombay Presidency, Berar, Central 
Provinces, and as far north-west as Baroda. Their 
wide distribution accounts for the great variety which 
prevails in the minor details of the religious and social 

The name Komati has been derived in many different 
ways. By some it is said to be from ko-mati, meaning 
fox-minded. This has reference to the cunning of the 
Komatis in business, and is undoubtedly the outcome of 
their unpopularity with their customers. The phrase 
Komatiguttu (the secrecy of a Komati) is said to be 
a common one. Others say that it is from go-mati, 
meaning the possessor of cows, one of the ordained 
duties of Vaisyas being the protecting of cows. Others, 
ao"ain, say that it is from go-mati, meaning cow-minded. 
A modern redaction of the Kanyaka Purana, the sacred 
book of the Komatis, gives this derivation. According 
to this work, the Komatis did severe penance, and were 
consequently invited to live in heaven. Their continued 
absence from this world gave rise to serious trouble, 
and Vishnu accordingly asked them to return thither for 


the good of mankind. They, however, refused to do 
so. Vishnu then called for Siva, and asked him to 
induce them to return. Siva brought a cow, and directed 
all the Komatis to get into its right ear. From there 
they saw gloriously decorated towns, with magnificent 
temples, pleasure gardens, etc., and begged permission 
to live in them. Siva assented, and they speedily began 
to march off to their new abodes. But, almost imme- 
diately, a huge conflagration came In view, and began 
to overwhelm them. Terror-stricken, they cried out to 
Siva to help them in their trouble. He consented on 
condition that they would return to the mortal world. 
This they accordingly did. Siva gave them the name 
of Gomati, because they exhibited as much fear at the 
conflagration as a cow would when anything untoward 
happened. Yet another derivation of KomatI is go-mati, 
meaning sprung from the cow In accordance with the 
above legend, or cow-gored In reference to the story 
that the ancestors of the Komatis commingled In a 
cow-shed, where a pregnant woman was gored by a 
cow. The derivation ku-mati, meaning evil-minded. Is 
grammatically impossible. The Komatis are said to 
have originally lived, and still live in large numbers on 
the banks of the Godavarl river. One of the local 
names thereof is Gomati or Gomtl, and the Sanskrit 
Gomati would, in Telugu, become corrupted into 

The Komatis everywhere speak Telugu, and are 
devoted to their mother-tongue. There is a common 
proverb among them, "Telugu theta, Aravam adhvanam," 
meaning that Telugu Is easy (has an easy flow), and 
Tamil is wretched. " Of all Dravidlan languages," 
Mr. Henry Morris writes, " Telugu Is the sweetest and 
most musical. It Is exceedingly mellifluous, and sounds 

III-20 B 



harmonious even in the mouth of the most vulgar and 
illiterate. It has justly been called the Italian of the 
East." Komatis are clever at learning languages other 
than their own. In the Tamil and Canarese districts, 
they are conversant with the languages thereof, and in 
Bombay they speak Marathi. In the Ganjam and 
Vizagapatam Agencies, they speak the Kondh and 
Savara languages very fluently. 

As a commercial caste, the Komatis have a secret 
trade language of their own, which is substantially the 
same all over the country. It will be seen from the 
tables given how complete their numerical tables are, 
ranging, as they do, from one pie to a thousand 
rupees. It will be observed that the rupee is repre- 
sented by the word thelupu, which means white. Some 
Tamil trading castes in like manner call the rupee velle 
(white) : — 

I. Pie table. 



Nakili batu 


Rayam batu 

... 4 

Ke batu ... 


Rayam nakili batu 

••• 5 

Kevu nakili batu 

.-. 3 

2. Anni 

I table. 



Thfpi kamanalu 

... i 

Uddulam analu 

• 3 

Nakili ana 

... * 

Uddulam nakili analu.. 

. 3i 

Kev ana 


Kungidu analu 

• 4 

Kevan nakili ana 

... li 

Sulalu analu ... 

. 12 

Rayam analu ... 


The word sulalu is connected with trisiilam, the 
trident emblem of Siva, and sometimes used to denote 
three annas. 



3. Rupee table. 

Thapi thelupu 
Nakili ,, 

Rayam ,, 
Uddulam thelupu 

Do. nakili thelupu. 
Panam thelupu 
Mulam ,, 
Thipam ,, 
Maram ,, 
Thamam ,, 
Navaram ,, 
Galam ,, 
Rayam galalu 
Uddulam galalu 
Panam „ 













Mulam galalu ... 
Thipanam galalu 
Maram galalu ... 
Thamam ,, 
Navaram galalu 
Ke savalu 
Rayam savalu ... 
Uddulam savalu 
Panam ,, 

Mulam ,, 

Thipanam ,, 
Maram ,, 

Thamam „ 
Navaram „ 
Galam ,, 

Ke makaram 
Rayam makaram 
Uddulam ,, 
Panam „ 

4. Varaham {pagoda) table. 

Thipanam makaram 
Maram ,, 

Thamam „ 

Navaram ,, 



















A common saying is that, if you commence at galam, 
it will be settled at mulam, or, in plain language, begin 
at ten varahams, and the bargain will be closed at five. 
When one man says to another " Dotu " or " Dotra," 
it means strike the bargain. If a Komati is the purchaser, 
and another says to him " Dot ko," it means take it. 

The Komatis are a highly organised caste. In each 
place where they are settled there is a Pedda Setti, who, 
among the Kalinga Komatis, is known as Puri Setti or 
Senapathi. Among the latter, there is also a headman 
for several villages, who is styled Kularaju or Vaisyaraju. 
Each Pedda Setti is assisted by a Mummadi Setti, who 


assembles the castemen for the settlement of important 
questions, by fines, excommunication, etc. There is 
further a caste guru Bhaskaracharya, whose duties are 
more religious than social. Komatis have recourse to 
the established Courts of Justice only as a last resort. 
They are consulted by other castes in the settlement of 
their disputes, and it must be said to their credit that 
their decisions are usually sound, and bear ample testi- 
mony to the confidence which is placed in them. 

The Komatis are, broadly speaking, divided into two 
great sections, called Gavara and Kalinga. The former 
live as far north of Vizianagram, and are then replaced 
by the latter. The Gavaras or Gauras are said to be so 
called because, by following the caste goddess Kanya- 
kamma into the fire-pits, they maintained the gaura- 
vam or social status of the caste. According to another 
version, they are so called because they revere Gauri 
(Parvati), the consort of Siva, whose incarnation was the 
goddess Kanyakamma. The Kalinga Komatis are those 
who live in the old Kalinga or Kling country, which 
extended roughly from Vizagapatam to Orissa. They 
are forbidden to settle beyond Ramatirtham, a place of 
pilgrimage close to Vizianagram. The story goes that 
their ancestors lived at Padmanabham, the hill close to 
Bimlipatam, well known from the battle which took 
place close to it in 1 794, and there sustained great losses. 
Hence the place was deserted, and has ever since been 
regarded as inauspicious. The Komatis have since that 
time not resided at any place from which the hill can 
be seen. In fact, they make their first appearance at 
Chipurupalli, and increase in numbers as we go north- 
eastward. The Kalinga Komatis believe themselves to 
be Gavara Komatis, who became separated from the 
main stock owing to their emigration from their original 


home. Their meat-eating habit has, they say, widened 
the breach which separates the two divisions. 

While the Kalinga Komatis form a fairly compact 
division by themselves, the Gavaras have become more 
and more sub-divided. Their sub-divisions are either 
territorial, occupational, or religious in character. Thus 
there are Penukonda and Veginadu Komatis, of whom 
the former belong to the town of Penukonda in the 
Godavari district, and the latter to the Vegi or Vengi 
country, the former name of part of the modern Kistna 
district. Again, there are Trinikas or Traivarnikas 
(third caste people), who are invariably Vaishnavas, and 
to which section a good many of the Komatis in the city 
of Madras belong. Lingadhari Komatis are found 
mostly in the Vizagapatam, Godavari, Guntur and Kistna 
districts. They wear the lingam in a gold or silver 
casket. Besides these, there are the Siva, Vaishnava, 
and Madhva Komatis, of which the last are mostly found 
in the Bellary district. Of occupational sub-divisions, 
the following may be noted : — Nune (oil) ; Nethi (ghi, 
clarified butter) ; Dudi (cotton) ; Uppu (salt) ; Gone 
(gunny-bag) ; Gantha (torn cloth). Lastly, there are 
other divisions, of which the origin dates back to the 
time of Kanyakamma, the caste goddess. Thus, there 
are those who entered the fire-pits with Kanyakamma, 
and those who did not. The former are known as 
Vegina, and the latter as Beri, which is said to be a 
corruption of Bedari, meaning those who fled through 
fear. All Gavara K5matis are said to be descended from 
those who entered the hre-pits. The majority of the 
Komatis of the Sandur State, in the Bellary district, 
belong to the Kallankanadavaru section, which is said 
to be descended from those who sat on the stone (kallu) 
mantapa outside the Penukonda Kanyakamma temple, 


when the question whether to enter the fire-pits or not 
was being discussed by the caste elders. 

The mutual relations between the various sub- 
divisions vary much. Broadly speaking, Gavaras and 
Kalingas do not intermarry, and the objection to 
intermarriage is due to several causes. The former, 
according to the caste Purana, gave their lives to their 
goddess, while the latter did not. Moreover, the former 
do not partake of animal food and spirituous drinks, 
whereas the latter do. Lingadharis and ordinary Saivites 
intermarry, as also do Saivites and Madhvas. Gavaras 
and Traivarnikas occasionally intermarry, but such 
marriages are looked down upon. The Traivarnikas, 
like the Kalingas, eat animal food. The occupational 
sub-divisions neither intermarry nor interdine. Socially, 
the Gavaras are held in the highest esteem, while the 
Beris are regarded as the lowest in the social scale. 

The sub-divisions are split up into septs, which are 
of a strictly exogamous character. That these origi- 
nated in totemistic belief seems to be supported by what 
remains of these beliefs at the present day. All the 
sub-divisions contain such septs, which are very numer- 
ous, the names of as many as a hundred and twenty 
having been collected. The tendency for a long time 
past has been to reduce the number to a hundred and 
two, to represent the number of families which followed 
Kanyakamma to the fire-pits. It would be tedious to 
enumerate the names of all these septs, from which the 
following, with the corresponding totems, are selected : — 

(fl) Plants. 
Munikula ... ... Kg2^%\ {^Sesbania grandiflora). 

Amalaka or Usiri ... Amalaka or Usiri {Phyllanthiis Emblica). 
Anupa or Anupala ... Knu^^la. {Dolichos Lablab). 
Tulasi or Tulashishta. Tulasi {Ociminn sancium). 


(a) Plants — cont. 

Chinta, Chinty 

a, or 

Chinta {Tatnarindus indica). 



. Vakkalu {Areca Catechii). 


. Puchcha i^Citrullus Colocynihis). 

Padma-sista ... 

, Padma (red lotus). 


, Kamalam (white lotus). 


Arati {Afusa sapientuni : plantain). 


Thotakura {Atnaraiitiis, sp.). 



Uththareni {Achyranthes aspera). 



Mamadikaya {Mangifera indica). 


Drakshapandu (grapes). 


Vankaya {Solanum Melo?tgena : brinjal). 


, Samanthi {Chiysanthejnum indiaim). 
{b) Animals. 

GosTla, Sathya 



and Uthama GosTla. 













Bhramada or 



{c) Heavenly bodies. 

Arka or Surya 

Chandra, Chandra 
Sishta, Suchandra, 
or Vannavamsam. 


It may be observed that the totems are variously 
termed gotram, vamsam, and kulam. The first of these 
is in imitation of the Brahman gotras. Vamsam is the 
bams of the Agency tracts of Ganjam, Vizagapatam, and 
the Godavari districts. The name means bamboo, and 
denotes a family, whose branches are as countless as 
those of a bamboo. Kulam is used as the equivalent of 


group or family. The totem objects are revered in the 
usual way, and no secret is made of the reverence shown 
to them. In regard to plant totems, it is stated that, if 
the totem objects are not strictly treated as tabu, delin- 
quents will be born as insects for seven generations. 
But an exception is allowed. A person who wishes to 
eat the forbidden plant may do so by annually performing 
the funeral ceremonies of the totem ancestor at Gaya, 
the great Hindu place of pilgrimage where obsequial 
ceremonies to ancestors are performed. 

In recent times, the Komatis have claimed to be the 
Vaisyas mentioned in the Vedic Purusha-sukta. Accord- 
ingly, the totems have been arranged under the different 
Brahmanical gotras, whose pravaras have been appro- 
priated. Thus, Munikula and four others are grouped 
under Madgalya Rishi gotra, whose pravara is given 
for all the five. Similarly, Vakkala kula and another 
kula come under Vayavya Rishi ; Ghonta kula under 
Goupaka Rishi ; Arati, Arisishta and a few others under 
Atri Rishi ; Anupa kula under Agasthya Rishi, and so on. 
It is said that the totem names are secret names (sanketa 
namamulu) given by Kanyakamma, in order that the 
bearers thereof may be distinguished from those who did 
not take up her cause. All sub-divisions of the caste, 
however, have these septs in common. 

In the northern parts of the Madras Presidency, the 
sept is further sub-divided into sections called intiperulu 
(house names). These are either named after some 
distinguished ancestor, or the place where the family 
once lived before emigrating to their present abode. 
These intiperulu are purely exogamous. 

A Komati can claim his maternal uncle's daughter 
in marriage, in accordance with the custom of menarikam. 
The rigidity with which this right is exercised is testified 


by the sacred book of the caste — the Kanyaka Purana. 
On their descent from heaven, it is said, the Komatis 
settled in eighteen towns (ashta dasapuramulu), which 
had been built by Visvakarma under the orders of Siva. 
These towns are said to be situated in a tract of country 
sixty-four yojanas in extent, and bounded on the east by 
the Gautami (Godavari), on the south by the sea, on the 
west by the Gostani, and on the north by the Ganges. 
Of these, Penukonda, in the modern Godavari district, 
was the capital. In it are the temples of Nagariswara- 
swami (dedicated to Siva), and Janardhanaswami (dedi- 
cated to Vishnu). Its Pedda Setti was Kusama Sreshti, 
and his wife was Kusamamba. He performed Putra 
Kameshti sacrifice, and was blessed with a son and 
daughter. The former was named Virupaksha, and 
the latter Vasavambika (Vasavakanya, Kanyakamma, 
or Kanyaka Parameswari). The girl was possessed 
of indescribable beauty. Vishnu Vardhana, the son of 
Vijayarka of the lineage of the moon, who had his capital 
at Rajamundry, while on a pleasure tour round his 
dominions, halted at Penugonda, on learning that it was 
ruled by Setti Rajas, who paid no tribute to him. 
Being informed of his arrival by their boys, the caste 
elders, headed by Kusuma Setti, welcomed him, and 
took him in procession through the town. Then the 
women of the place waved arathi before him. Among 
them was the beautiful Vasavambika, with whom the 
king instantly fell in love. He proposed to her father 
that he should give her in marriage to himself, and in 
return obtain the gift of half of his kingdom. Kusuma 
Sreshti protested, and said that the sastras were against 
such a union. The king, through his minister, threat- 
ened that he would plunder his town, take him prisoner, 
and, with the riches of the place, carry off his daughter, 


and marry her. The Setti chief and his compatriots 
prayed for time to think over the matter, and retired. 
The chief then called a meeting of the castemen, at 
which it was decided that they should make a false 
promise to the king that they would give the girl in 
marriage to him, and send him off with a dinner, to 
return to Penugonda for the marriage after the lapse of a 
couple of months. Meanw^hile, the boys of the town 
assembled, and resolved that the dinner ought not to be 
given. They informed their elders of this resolution, and 
were commissioned to induce the king to leave the town 
without it. This they did, with the ambiguous promise 
that, if they did not give the girl in marriage to him, they 
would kill themselves. On this, the king went off towards 
his capital, and Kusuma Setti called a caste meeting of the 
eighteen towns, at which various proposals were made. 
One proposed that the girl should not be given in 
marriage, and that, if the king came to claim her hand, 
he should be driven off. Another proposed that they 
should give the girl to the king, and save themselves 
from ruin. Others suggested that it would be best to 
marry the king to a substituted girl, to secrete the 
coveted girl, or to bribe the ministers to induce the king 
to abandon his intention of marrying her. The last of 
these proposals was adopted, and a few elders were sent 
to Rajamundry, to negociate the affair. They first 
argued that, though they promised to give the girl in 
marriage, the promise was made through fear of the 
king's anger, and they could not give the girl in contra- 
vention of the rule of menarikam. The king, in his fury, 
ordered that the troops should immediately besiege the 
eighteen towns, imprison the inhabitants in dark dun- 
geons, and carry off the girl in a palanquin. On this, the 
envoys heavily bribed the ministers, and begged them 


not to march the army on their towns. But the king 
would not yield, and sent his troops on Penugonda. 
The envoys returned home, and narrated their sad tale. 
A further meeting of the castemen was called at the 
instance of Bhaskaracharya, the caste guru, and it was 
resolved that all who wished to maintain the caste rule of 
menarikam should prepare to kill themselves in burning 
fire-pits. The majority fled rather than comply with the 
resolution. Those, however, who determined to sacrifice 
themselves in the fire-pits were 102 gotras in number, 
and they assembled in council, and asked Kusuma 
Sreshti to induce his daughter (who was only seven 
years old) to die with them. To this she consented, and 
showed herself in her true form of Paramesvari, the wife 
of Siva. On this, the Setti chief returned to his caste- 
men, who asked him to get 103 fire-pits ready in the 
western portion of the town before the arrival of the 
king. These were accordingly dug, and decorated with 
festoons and plantain trunks at the four corners. Then 
the heads of the 102 gotras assembled, with their wives, 
in the courtyard of the temple of Nagaresvaraswami, 
where Vasavambika was symbolically married to the 
god. The headmen then tied on vira kankanams 
(heroes' wrist-threads), and marched in a body, with 
Vasavambika, to the fire-pits. There they gave counsel 
to their children that they should not ask voli (bride- 
price) for the marriage of their daughters, or communi- 
cate their secrets to females, or allow karnams (village 
accountants), rulers, unbelievers, or those universally 
abused into their homes. They further counselled them 
to give their daughters in marriage to the sons of their 
paternal aunts, even though they should be black- 
skinned, plain, blind of one eye, senseless, or of vicious 
habits, and though their horoscopes did not agree, and 

KOMATI 3 1 8 

the omens were inauspicious. They were warned that, 
if they failed in so doing, they would lose their riches, 
and misfortune would fall on their families. Moreover, 
full power was given to the castemen to excommunicate 
the delinquents, and put them outside the town limits. 
If the transgressors subsequently repented, they w^ere, 
after the lapse of six months, to be sent to Kasi (Bena- 
res), bathe in the Ganges, and return to their home. 
There they were to openly express their regret for their 
past conduct, fast the whole day, feed Brahmans, and 
present them with three hundred cows, and hear the 
Mahabharatha during the night. On the following day, 
they were again to fast, present two hundred cows to 
Brahmans and feast them, and hear the Ramayana 
during the night. On the third day, they were once 
more to fast, present a hundred cows, and hear the 
Bhagavatam during the night. On the fourth day, they 
were again to feast Brahmans, and worship Nagaresvara- 
swami of Penugonda, and thus purge themselves from 
the sin of contravening the rule of menarikam. But 
they were not bound to follow the rule, if the paternal 
aunt's son was totally blind, deaf, insane, stricken with 
disease, a eunuch, thief, idiot, leper, dwarf, or immoral, 
or if an old man or younger than the girl. The children 
were further advised to respect, at the time of their 
marriage, the families whose heads went as envoys to 
the king at Rajamundry, and the boys who made false 
promises to the king, and induced him to withdraw to 
his capital. The heads of the families then made various 
gifts to Brahmans, and asked Vasavambika to enter the 
pit. In her true form of Paramesvari, she blessed those 
gotras which had resolved to follow her, and announced 
that those who had fled would be nameless and without 
caste. She then declared that, immediately Vishnu 


Vardhana entered Penugonda, his head would fall severed 
from his neck. Finally, she invoked Brahma not to 
create thenceforth beautiful girls in the caste in which she 
was born, and prayed that in future they should be short 
of stature, with gaping mouth, disproportionate legs, 
broad ears, crooked hands, red hair, sunken eyes, dilated 
eye-balls, insane looks, broad noses and wide nostrils, 
hairy body, black skin, and protruding teeth. She then 
jumped into her pit, and immediately afterwards the 
heads of the 102 gotras, with their wives, fell into their 
respective pits, and were reduced to ashes. On the 
morrow, Vishnu Vardhana started on his journey from 
Rajamundry to Penugonda. Brahmans portended evil, 
and a voice from heaven said that he would lose his 
life. An evil spirit obstructed him, and it rained blood. 
Liehtnine struck men, and numerous other signs of im- 
pending evil occurred. Arrived at Penugonda, Vishnu 
Vardhana was informed that the castemen and Vasa- 
vambika had been burnt in the fire-pits. Stunned by 
the news, he fell from his elephant, and his head was 
severed from his body, and broke into a thousand pieces. 
His broken head and body were carried by his follow- 
ers to Rajamundry, and cremated by his son Raja 
Raja Narendra. Then the latter pacified the citizens 
of Penugonda, and appointed Virupaksha, the son of 
Kusuma Sreshti, Pedda Setti of the towns. The 102 
families performed funeral rites for their dead parents, 
visited Kasi and Ramesvaram, and built a temple in 
honour of Vasavambika at Penugonda, in which they 
placed an image in her name, and worshipped it ever 

Popular versions of the story here related from the 
Purana are told all over Southern India, where Komatis 
live. One of the most singular of these is narrated by 


Bishop Whitehead.* " The story," he writes, " goes 
that, in ancient days, there was a bitter hatred between 
the Komatis, who claim to belong to the Vaisya caste, 
and the Mlechas or barbarians. When the Komatis 
were getting worsted in the struggle for supremacy, they 
requested Parvati, the wife of Siva, to come and deliver 
them. It so happened that about that time Parvati 
was incarnate as a girl of the Komati caste, who was 
exceedingly beautiful. The Mlechas demanded that she 
should be given in marriage to one of their own people, 
and the refusal of the Komatis led to severe fiehtinof, in 
which the Komatis, owing to the presence of the avatar 
of Siva among them, were completely victorious, and 
almost exterminated their enemies. After their victory, 
the Komatis entertained doubts as to the chastity of the 
girl, and compelled her to purify herself by passing 
through fire. This she did, and disappeared in the fire, 
resuming her real shape as Parvati, and taking her place 
beside Siva in heaven. Her last words were a com- 
mand to the Komatis to worship her, if they wished 
their caste to prosper." 

It is impossible to identify with certainty the Vishnu 
Vardhana of the Purana. There are as many as eleven 
individuals of that name known in Eastern Chalukyan 
history. The Purana refers to Vishnu Vardhana, the 
son of Vijayarka, who had his capital at Rajamundry. 
His son, according to the same authority, was Raja 
Raja Narendra. According to the Mackenzie manu- 
scripts, the town of Rajamundry was founded by a king 
named Vijayaditya Mahendra, who has not been identi- 
fied. Dr. Fleet is of opinion that Vishnu Vardhana VI, 
who ruled between 918 and 925 A.D., was the first to 

* Madras Museum Bull., V. 3, 1907. 


32 1 KOMATI 

occupy, and re-name it. He, therefore, called himself 
Rajamahendra. Amma II, who ruled between 945 and 
970 A.D., bore the same tide. His brother and succes- 
sor was Danarnaya (970 — "jz A.D.). Passing over the 
hiatus of thirty years, when the country was in the hands 
of the Cholas, we come to the reign of Saktivarman, 
the eldest son of Danarnaya, If we are to believe the 
Kanyaka Purana, then we must identify this Saktivarman 
with its Vijayarka. Saktivarman's successor, according 
to inscriptions, was Vimaladitya, who must be identified 
with the Vishnu Vardhana of the Purana. Vimaladitya's 
son, according to inscriptions, was Raja Raja I, surnamed 
Vishnu Vardhana VIII. He has been identified with 
the Raja Raja Narendra of current tradition in the 
Telugu country, to whom Nannayya Bhatta dedicated 
his translation of the Mahabharatha. He must also 
be the Raja Raja Narendra of the Purana. If that is 
so, we must set down the cardinal incidents mentioned 
in it to the first quarter of the nth century A.D. The 
actual spots where the principal events of the tragedy 
were enacted are still pointed out at Penugonda. 
Thus, the garden in which king Vishnu Vardhana 
halted is said to be the site on which the hamlet 
of Vanampalli (meaning village of gardens) stands at 
present. The spot where the huge fire-pit for Kanya- 
kamma was dug is pointed out as having been in field 
Nos. 63/3 and 63/4 to the north of the now non-existent 
Nagarasamudram tank. The 102 other pits were, it 
is said, in the fields round the bund (embankment) of 
this tank. The tank is now under cultivation, but faint 
traces of the bund are said to be still visible. It is 
about two furlongs to the north-west of the temple of 
Nagaresvaraswami. It is locally believed that Kanya- 
kamma's fire-pit was, on the morning following her tragic 


kOmati 322 

end, found to contain, among the ashes, a golden likeness 
of herself, which was placed by the side of the image of 
Nagareswara, to whom she had been married. Long 
afterwards, the golden image was removed, and one in 
stone substituted for it, in accordance, it is said, with the 
direction of Kanyakamma, who appeared to one of the 
townsmen in a dream. 

The temple of Nagaresvaraswami has several inscrip- 
tions on slabs, built into its prakara, and elsewhere. 
One of these is on the gateway inside the prakara walls. 
It opens with a glowing description of the powers of 
Nagaresvaraswami in giving blessings and gifts, and 
refers to Penugonda as one of the eighteen towns built 
by Visvakarma, and presented by Siva to the Komatis 
as a place of residence. The object of the inscription 
appears to be to record the restoration by one Kotha- 
linga, a Komati whose genealogy is given, of the great 
town (Penugonda), which had been burnt to ashes by a 
Gajapathi king. He is also stated to have made grants 
of tanks, wells, and pleasure gardens, for the benefit of 
Nagaresvaraswami, for whose daily offerings and the 
celebration of festivals he provided by the grants of the 
villages of Mummadi, Ninagepudi, Varanasi, Kalkaveru, 
and Mathampudi, all included in the town of Penugonda. 
Various inscriptions show that, from so early a time as 
1488 A.D., if not from still earlier times, the temple had 
become popular with the Komatis, and got intertwined 
with the statements now found in the Purana. Rai 
Bahadur V. Venkayya, Government Epigraphist, writes 
to say that the Teki plates found in the Ramachandra- 
puram taluk of the Godavari district, and published by 
Dr. E. Hultzsch,* may refer to some Komatis. The 

* Epigraphia Indica, VI, 1900-1901. 


edict contained in it was, according to Dr. Hultzsch, 
probably issued about 1086 A.D., and records the grant 
of certain honorary privileges on the descendants of a 
family of merchants belonging to the Teliki family. 

That about the end of the 14th century A.D., the 
story of Kanyakamma was popular is obvious from the 
Telugu version of the Markandeya Purana, which was 
composed by the poet Marana, the disciple of Tikkana, 
the part author of the Telugu Bharata. In this Purana, 
the following episode, which bears a close resemblance 
to the story narrated in the Kanyaka Purana, is intro- 
duced. A king, named Vrushadha, while on a hunting 
expedition, killed a cow, mistaking it for a " bison." 
He was cursed by Bhabhravya, the son of a Rishi, who 
was in charge of it, and in consequence became a Sudra, 
by name Anaghakara. He had seven sons, a descendant 
of one of whom was Nabhaga, who fell in love with a 
Komati girl, and asked her parents to give her in mar- 
riage to him. The Komatis replied much in the same 
manner as Kusuma Sreshti and his friends did to the 
ministers of Vishnu Vardhana in the Kanyaka Purana. 
Their answer will be found in canto VH, 223, of the 
Markandeya Purana, which contains the earliest authen- 
tic literary reference to the name Komati. In effect 
they said " Thou art the ruler of the whole of this 
universe. Oh ! King ; we are but poor Komatis living 
by service. Say, then, how can we contract such a 
marriage ? " The king was further dissuaded by his 
father and the Brahmans. But all to no purpose. He 
carried oft" the girl, and married her in the rakshasa form 
(by forcible abduction), and, in consequence, in accord- 
ance with the law of Manu, became a Komati. He then 
performed penance, and again became a Kshatriya. It 
would seem that this episode, which is not found in the 

III-21 B 


Sanskrit Markandeya Purana, is undoubtedly based on 
the incident recorded in the Kanyaka Purana. 

There remain only three arguments to adduce in 
support of the suggestion that the chief event narrated 
in the Kanyaka Purana is worthy of credence. In the 
marriage ceremonies as performed by the Komatis, some 
prominence is given to certain of the incidents alleged 
to have taken place in setting at naught the demands 
of king Vishnu Vardhana. Such, for instance, is the 
respect shown to the bala nagaram boys, which is 
referred to later on. Secondly, there are certain castes 
which beg only from Komatis, in return for services 
rendered during this critical period of their history. 
These are the Mailaris and Viramushtis. The former 
still carry round the villages an image of Kanyakamma, 
sing her story, and beg alms of devotees. The Vira- 
mushtis are wrestlers, who, by acrobatic performances, 
delayed, by previous arrangement, the second advance 
of Vishnu Vardhana, before the Komatis committed 
themselves to the flames. Allied to these castes are the 
Bukka Komatis. Originally, it is explained, the Bukkas 
belonged to the Komati caste. When Kanyakamma 
threw herself into the fire-pit, they, instead of follow- 
ing her example, presented bukka powder, saffron, and 
kunkumum prepared by them to her. She directed 
that they should live apart from the faithful Komatis, 
and live by selling the articles which they offered to her. 
The Kalinora Komatis also have a begro-ar caste attached 
to them, called Jakkali-vandlu, who have nothing to do 
with the Gavara Komati beggar castes. Thirdly, if we 
may place any faith in the stories told by other castes, 
e.g., the Jains of South Arcot, the Tottiyans, Kappili- 
yans, and Beri Chettis, the persecution of their subjects 
by their kings, in the manner indicated in the Kanyaka 


Purana, seems to have been widely practiced all over 
the country. And the method adopted by the Komatis 
to evade the king, and maintain the menarikam rule, 
has its counterpart in the popular ballad known as 
Lakshmammapata, still sung all over the Northern 
Circars, which gives a graphic description of the murder 
of his wife by a husband, who would not agree to giving 
their daughter away from his own sister's son. Even 
now, the sentiment on this subject is so strong that a 
man who goes against the rule of menarikam, not only 
among the Komatis, but among all castes observing it, 
is looked down on. It is usually described as bending 
the twig from its natural course, and, as the twig would 
waste away and die in consequence, so would parties to 
such marriages not prosper. In 1839, according to the 
Asiatic Journal, a case was taken before the Supreme 
Court of Madras, in which the plaintiff brought an 
action against his uncle for giving his daughter away in 
marriage, without making him an offer of her hand. The 
Judges were anxious that the matter should be settled 
out of Court, but the parties disagreed so entirely that 
nothing less than a public trial would satisfy them. It 
has not been possible to trace the decision of the Court. 
The Komatis have for a long time been alleged to 
be connected with the Madigas in a variety of ways. 
"The Komatis," Mr. F. R. Hemingway writes, "do 
not as a rule deny the fact of this connection. The 
Madigas are, indeed, apparently under the protection 
of the Komatis, apply to them for help when in trouble, 
and obtain loans and other assistance. Some Komatis 
explain the connection with the Madigas by a story 
that either Vishnu Vardhana, or his successor Rajaraja 
Narendra persecuted the Komatis, and that they had to 
fly for refuge to the Madigas. The Madigas took them 


in, and hid them, and they say that the present favour 
shown to that caste is only in gratitude for the kindness 
shown to themselves in the past. The Komatis them- 
selves do not admit the title Mid-day Madigas (ap- 
plied to them by other castes), but explain it by a story 
that long ago a KSmati killed and ate a cow-buffalo, 
which was really no cow-buffalo, but the wife of a 
great sage who had transformed her into that shape in 
order that she might be safe when he was in contem- 
plation. The saint accordingly cursed the caste, and 
said that they should be Mid-day Madigas for ever more." 
It is possible that the connection between the KSmatis 
and Madigas was originally such as that of the Kam- 
m&lans, Ambattans, and other castes, with Paraiyans, 
Vettiyans, and other depressed classes, and that, in later 
times, weird stories were invented by fertile brains to 
explain them away. One of these undoubtedly is that 
which makes the Komatis the descendants of the issue 
of a plain Brahman and a handsome Madiga woman. 
It is said that their children managed a sweetmeat 
bazar, which the Brahman kept in a much frequented 
forest, and, in his absence, pointed with a stick (kol) 
to the plates, and thereby told their prices, without 
polluting the articles with the touch. Hence arose 
the name K5lmutti (those who pointed with the stick), 
which became softened down to Komutti. Another 
story runs to the effect that the Madiga woman, when 
she was pregnant with her first child, was gored by a 
cow, and gave birth to it in the cow-shed. Hence arises 
the name Go-mutti, or cow-gored. In days gone by, it 
was incumbent on the Komatis to bear the marriage 
expenses of the Madiga families attached to their village, 
much in the same way that the Chakkiliyan is treated 
in the Madura district by the Tottiyan caste in return 


for the services he renders when a Tottiyan girl is under 
pollution on reaching maturity. In later times, this 
custom dwindled in some places * to the payment of the 
expenses of the marriage of two Madigas, and even this 
was abandoned in favour of inviting the Madigas to 
their weddings. In the city of Madras, it would appear 
to have been customary, in the eighteenth century, for 
the Komatis to get the mangalyam or sathamanam 
(marriage badge) blessed by an aged Madiga before it 
was tied on the bride's neck. Further, it would appear 
to have then been customary to give the sacred fire, 
used at marriages for the performance of hOmam, to a 
Madiga, and receive it back from him. 

These, and similar customs, traces of which still 
exist in some places {e.^., North Arcot), show that the 
Madiga has some claim on the Komatis. What that 
claim is is not clear. However, it is reported that, if the 
Madiga is not satisfied, he can effectually put a stop to a 
marriage by coming to the house at which it is to be 
celebrated, chopping away the plantain trunks which 
decorate the marriage booth, and carrying them off. 
Similarly, Kammalans invite Vettiyans (or Paraiyans) to 
their marriage, and, if this is not done, there is the same 
right to cut down the plantain trunks. It would seem 
that the right thus exercised has reference to the right 
to the soil on which the booth stands. The cutting away 
of the plantain shows that their right to stand there 
is not recognised. The invitation to the Madiga or 
Vettiyan would thus refer to the recognition by the 
Komatis and Kammalans to the lordship of the soil held 
in bygone days by these now depressed castes. Writing 
in 1869 and 1879, respectively, Sir Walter Elliot and 

* Rev. J. Cain, Ind. Ant., VIII, 1879. 


Major J. S. F. Mackenzie of the Mysore Commission 
refer * to the presentation of betel and nuts by the Komatis 
to the Madigas, thereby inviting them to be present at 
their marriages. Dr. G. Oppert also refers to the same 
custom. t Having risen in the social scale, the Komatis 
would naturally wish to give this invitation covertly. 
Major Mackenzie says that the Komatis in Mysore, in 
order to covertly invite the Madigas to the wedding, 
went to the back of their houses at a time when they 
were not likely to be seen, and whispered into an iron 
vessel, such as is commonly used for measuring grain, an 
invitation in the following words : — " In the house of the 
small ones {i.e., Komatis) a marriage is going to take 
place. The members of the big house {i.e., Madigas) 
are to come." The Madigas look on such a secret invi- 
tation as an insult, and would, if they saw the inviters, 
handle them roughly. It is noted, in the Madras Census 
Report, 1 90 1, that " now-a-days the presentation (of 
betel leaf and nuts) is sometimes veiled by the Komati 
concerned sending his shoes to be mended by the Madiga 
a few days before the wedding, deferring payment till the 
wedding day, and then handing the Madiga the leaf and 
nut with the amount of his bill." According to another 
account, the Komati of set purpose unbinds the toe-ring 
of his native shoes (cherupu), and summons the Madiga, 
whose function it is to make and repair these articles of 
attire. The Madiga quietly accepts the job, and is paid 
more amply than is perhaps necessary in the shape of 
pan-supari, flowers, and money. On the acceptance by 
the Madiga of the betel and nuts, the Komati asks 
" Cherinda, cherinda" ? i.e., has it reached you, and the 
Madiga replies " Cherindi, cherindi", i.e., it has reached. 

* Trans. Ethnolog. Soc, London, 1869 ; Ind. Ant., VIII, 1S79. 
f Original Inhabitants of Bharathavarsha. 


Until he replies thus, the mangalyam cannot, it is said, be 
tied on the bride's neck. In the Bellary district, betel 
leaf and nuts are usually left at night behind the Madiga's 
house, in token of the invitation to the wedding. In the 
Godavari district, according to Mr. Hemingway, the 
Komati gives an order for a Madiga for palmyra leaf 
baskets before the marriage, and presents him with betel 
and nut when he brings the baskets. Still another 
account says that some of the Komatis, just before a 
marriage, leave in the backyard of Madiga houses a few 
pice and betel close to the cattle-pen, and that it is 
whispered that some Komatis use chuckler's (leather- 
worker's) tools, made in silver, for worship. It is also 
reported that chuckler's work is pretended to be gone 
through by some Komatis, after the completion of 
the marriage ceremonies, in the backyard of the house 
at dead of night, in the presence of caste-people only, 
and by preference under a danimma chettu (^Pimica 
Granatum : pomegranate). This is known as kula- 
charam, kuladharmam, or gotra puja (custom of the 
caste, or worship of the gotras). The figure of a cow is 
made of flour, and into its stomach they put a mixture of 
turmeric, lime, and water, called wokali. This, it has 
been suggested, is meant to represent blood. After the 
cow has been worshipped in due form, it is cut up with 
instruments made of flour, and intended to represent 
those used by cobblers. To each family is secretly sent 
that portion of the cow, which, according to custom, they 
are entitled to receive. Thus, the Kommala-varu receive 
the horns, the Gontula the neck, the Karakapala the 
hands and temples, the Thonti the hump, the Danta the 
teeth, the Veligollu the white nails, and so on. Major 
Mackenzie testified to the performance of this ceremony 
by the caste in Mysore in 1879, and it is recorded from 


different parts of the Madras Presidency. The flour, 
which is thus distributed, is known as nepasani mudda 
or nepasani unta. The ceremony is still performed in 
the city of Madras, on the night of the fifth day if the 
marriage lasts over seven days, or on the night of the 
third day if it lasts over five days. If the wedding 
ceremonies are completed in one day, the ceremony is 
performed even during the day time. The following 
details are performed. A brass vessel (kalasam) and a 
cocoanut are set up in the house, and the bride and 
bridegroom's parties arrange themselves on each side of 
it. The vessel is decorated, and the cocoanut is made to 
represent the face of a woman, with eyes, nose, mouth, 
etc., and adorned with jewelry, flowers, anilin and tur- 
meric powder marks. A young man of the bridegroom's 
party worships the feet of all present. The flour cow 
is then made, cut up, and distributed. Cocoanuts are 
broken, and camphor is set on fire, and waved before the 
vessel. Mr. Muhammad Ibrahim states that families are 
known by the names of the various organs of the cow in 
the Godavari district. There is, he says, a story to the 
effect that some Komatis killed a cow-buffalo, which 
went about as such by day, but became transformed into 
a beautiful woman under the miraculous influence of a 
pious Brahman. As a redemption for their sin, these 
Komatis were ordered by the Brahman to take their 
names after the various parts of the animal, and as, by 
killing the animal, they proved worse than Madigas, 
they were ordered to show respect to these people. In 
the Kumbum taluk of the Kurnool district, a flour buffalo 
is substituted for the cow. In the Markapur taluk of the 
same district, two elephants are made of mud, and the 
bride and bridegroom sit beside them. Presentations of 
cloths and jewels are then made to them. The officiating 


purohit (priest) worships the elephants, and the bride 
and bridegroom go round them. 

Two further points of connection between the Ko- 
matis and Madigas are referred to by Major Mackenzie. 
" I find," he writes, "that it is the custom to obtain 
the fire for burning Kama, the Indian Cupid, at the 
end of the HoH feast from a Madiga's house. The 
Madigas do not object to giving the fire, in fact they are 
paid for it." This appears to be a purely local custom, 
and no trace of its existence has been found in various 
parts of the Madras Presidency. The other point refers 
to the identification of the goddess Matangi of the 
Madigas with the Komati goddess Kanyaka Amma. " I 
cannot," Major Mackenzie writes, " discover the connec- 
tion between two such different castes as the Komatis 
and Madigas, who belong to different divisions. The 
Komatis belong to the lo pana division, while the 
Madigas are members of the 9 pana.* One reason has 
been suggested. The caste goddess of the Komatis is 
the virgin Kannika Amma, who destroyed herself rather 
than marry a prince, because he was of another caste. 
She is usually represented by a vessel full of water, and, 
before the marriagfe ceremonies are commenced, she is 
brought in state from the temple, and placed in the seat 
of honour in the house. The Madigas claim Kannika as 
their goddess, worship her under the name of Matangi 
and object to the Komatis taking their goddess." The 
Komatis stoutly deny that there is any connection 
between Matangi and Kanyaka Amma, and it would 
seem that they are independent goddesses. 

Marriage is always infant. A Brahman purohit 
officiates. Each purohit has a number of houses attached 

* The panas have reference lo the division of South Indian castes into the 
right- and left-hand factions. 


to his circle, and his sons usually divide the circle among 
themselves on partition, like any other property. Poly- 
gamy is permitted, but only if the first wife produces no 
offspring. The taking of a second wife is assented to 
by the first wife, who, in some cases, believes that, as 
the result of the second marriage, she herself will 
beget children. Two forms of marriage ceremonial are 
recognised, one called puranoktha, according to long 
established custom, and the other called vedoktha, which 
follows the Vedic ritual of Brahmans. In Madras, on the 
first day of a marriage, the contracting couple have an 
oil bath, and the bridegroom goes through the upanayana 
(sacred thread investiture) ceremony. He then pretends 
to go off to Kasi (Benares), and is met by the bride's 
party, who take him to the bride's house, where the 
mangalyam is tied by the bridegroom before the homam 
(sacrificial fire). On the second day, homam is con- 
tinued, and a caste dinner is given. On the third day, 
the gotra puja is performed. On the fourth day, homam 
is repeated, and, on the following day, the pair are seated 
on a swing, and rocked to and fro. Presents, called 
katnam, are made to the bridegroom, but no voli (bride- 
price) is paid. In the mofussil,* where the puranoktha 
form of ceremonial is more common, ancestors are 
invoked on the first day. On the second day, the 
ashtavarga is observed, and the bride and bridegroom 
worship eight of the principal gods of the Hindu 
Pantheon. On this day, the pandal (marriage booth) 
is erected. On the third day, the mangalyam is tied, 
sometimes by the officiating Brahman purohit, and some- 
times by the bridegroom. On the fourth day, the Brah- 
mans of the place are honoured, and, on the following 

* The mofussil indicates up-country stations and districts, as contra-distin- 
guished from the " Presidency " (Madras City). 


day, in most places, a festival is held in honour of the 
goddess Kanyaka Parameswari. The bride and bride- 
groom's mothers go to a tank (pond) or river with copper 
vessels, and bring back water at the head of a procession. 
The vessels are placed in a special pandal, and worship- 
ped with flowers, anilin and turmeric powders. Finally, 
cocoanuts are broken before them. On the next day, 
or on the same day if the marriage ceremonies con- 
clude thereon, the festival in honour of the Balanagaram 
boys, or those who helped the Komatis of Penugonda in 
their trouble with Vishnu Vardhana, is held. Five boys 
and girls are bathed, decked with jewelry, and taken 
in procession to the local temple, whence they are con- 
ducted to the bride's house, where they are fed. 
On the following day, the ceremony called thotlu 
puja is performed. A doll is placed in a cradle con- 
nected with two poles, and rocked to and fro. The 
bridegroom gives the doll into the hands of the bride, 
saying that he has to go on a commercial trip. The 
bride hands it back to him, with the remark that she 
has to attend to her kitchen work. On the following 
day, the bridal couple are taken in procession, and, in 
the Bellary district, a further day is devoted to the 
surgi ceremony. The bride and bridegroom bathe 
together, go to the local temple, and return. Then five 
girls bathe, the five posts of the marriage pandal are 
worshipped, and the kankanams (wrist-threads) are 
removed from the wrists of the newly-married couple. 

Kalinga Komatis, who live in the northern part 
of Ganjam, and have forgotten their mother-tongue, 
have practically adopted the Oriya customs, as they 
have to depend mainly on Oriya Brahmans. At 
their marriages, however, they use the Telugu bottu or 

KOmati 334 

Widow remarriage is not permitted among any 
sections of the caste, which is very strict in the observance 
of this rule. Except among the Saivites, a widow is not 
compelled to have her head shaved, or give up wearing 
jewelry, or the use of betel. In the south of the Madras 
Presidency, if a little girl becomes a widow, her mangal- 
yam is not removed, and her head is not shaved till she 
reaches maturity. Vaishnava widows always retain 
their hair. 

Concerning a form of marriage between the living 
and the dead, performed by members of this caste if a 
man and woman have been living together, and the man 
dies, Mr. Hutchinson writes as follows.* "The sad 
intelligence of her man's death is communicated to her 
neighbours, a guru or priest is summoned, and the 
ceremony takes place. According to a writer who once 
witnessed such a proceeding, the dead body of the man 
was placed against the outer wall of the verandah of the 
house in a sitting posture, attired like a bridegroom, and 
the face and hands besmeared with turmeric. The 
woman was clothed like a bride, and adorned with the 
usual tinsel ornament over the face, which, as well as the 
arms, was daubed over with yellow. She sat opposite 
the dead body, and spoke to it in light unmeaning words, 
and then chewed bits of dry cocoanuts, and squirted 
them on the face of the dead man. This continued for 
hours, and not till near sunset was the ceremony brought 
to a close. Then the head of the corpse was bathed, 
and covered with a cloth of silk, the face rubbed over 
with some red powder, and betel leaves placed in 
the mouth. Now she might consider herself married, 
and the funeral procession started." This refers to 

* Marriage Customs in Many Lands, 1897. 


the Vira Saiva or Lingayat Komatis of the Northern 

In the Northern Circars, and part of the Ceded 
Districts, the Vedoktha form of marriage now prevails, 
and its usage is spreading into the southern districts of 
Mysore. Further, the Komatis perform most of their 
ceremonies in the same form. This, it is contended, is a 
latter day development by some of the more conservative 
members of the caste, but it is stated by those who 
follow it that it is allowed to them by the Hindu sastras 
(law books), as they are Vaisyas. During recent years, 
the latter view has obtained a great impetus through the 
writings and influence of several of the more prominent 
members of the caste, between whom and their oppo- 
nents a war of pamphlets has taken place. It is not 
possible here to go into details of the dispute, but the 
main point seems to be as follows. On the one hand, it 
is denied that there are any true Vaisyas in the Kaliyuga 
(iron age). And so, though the Komatis are accorded 
the status of Vaisyas in recognition of their being traders, 
yet they cannot follow the Vedic form of ceremonial, 
which is the exclusive right of Brahmans ; and, even if 
they ever followed it, they forfeited it after the break-up 
of the caste on the death of Kanyakamma. On the 
other hand, it is stated that the Komatis are Dwijas 
(twice born), and that they are consequently entitled to 
follow the Vedic ritual, and that those who forfeited the 
Vedic rights are those who did not follow Kanyakamma 
to the fire-pits, and do not therefore belong to the 102 
gotras. The dispute is an old standing one, and nearly 
a century ago was taken for adjudication as far as the 
Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The question 
whether the Komatis are entitled to perform their subah 
and asubah (auspicious, like marriage, and inauspicious. 


like death) ceremonies according to the Vedic form, was 
raised by the Brahmans of Masulipatam in 1817, and 
adjudicated upon.* Disputes had occurred between the 
Brahmans and Komatis for a long time, and disturbances 
constantly took place. The Magistrate of Masulipatam 
prohibited the Komatis from performing one of the 
ceremonies, until they had established their right to do 
so in a Civil Court. The appellants thereon sued the 
defendants in damages for impediments made against 
their attending to the rites prescribed by the Vedas, and 
prayed for permission to perform them in conformity 
with the Vedas. The defendants denied the right of 
the Komatis to perform, and the fact of their ever 
having performed the ceremonies appointed by the 
Vedas. They admitted the intervention of the Magis- 
trate, and stated that " upwards of two thousand years 
ago, the Komatis adopted the customs of the Soodra 
caste, and some of them became Byri Komatis, and 
Bookha caste people, etc. The rest of them, amounting 
to a hundred and two gotras, fabricated false gotrams 
for themselves, and called themselves Nagaram Komatis. 
They fabricated a book called Canniaca Puranam, named 
the Bashcara Puntulu Varu their priest, conformed to 
that book, performed the sign of the upanayana ceremony 
in a loose manner, and in the language of the Puranas ; 
at the time of marriage, made marriage ceremony in 
seven days contrary to the custom of all castes whatever, 
erected prolu posts, made lumps of dough with flour, 
and got the same divided among them according to their 
spurious gotrams, at midnight fetched the pot of water 
called arivany, and observed the ceremonies for ten 
days on the occurrence of a birth, and fifteen days on 

• Moore. Indian Appeal Cases, Vol. Ill, 359 — 82. 


the occurrence of a death. In this manner, the fore- 
fathers of the plaintiffs, the other merchants, and the 
plaintiffs themselves, had got all ceremonies conducted 
for upwards of two thousand years past." They cited 
instances, in which the plaintiffs, or some of them, had 
failed in previous attempts to sustain the right now 
claimed, and objected to the form of the plaint as not 
sufficiently setting forth the particulars and nature of the 
obstruction for which the plaintiffs claimed compensation. 
The plaintiffs, in their reply, did not negative or rebut 
the specific statements of the defendants, but insisted 
generally on their right to the performance of the 
ceremonies in question. The point at issue being not 
clear from the pleadings, the parties were questioned in 
open Court as to the precise object of the action, and the 
ground on which it was maintained. The plaintiffs 
stated that their object was the establishment of their 
right to have the whole of the subha and asubha cere- 
monies performed in their houses by Brahmans in the 
language of the Vedas, and that they claimed this right 
on the ground of the Sastras. On this, the Zilla Judge 
framed a hypothetical statement of facts and law based 
on the defendant's answer for the opinion of the Pandit 
of the Court, and, upon his opinion, declared the plaint- 
iffs entitled to have the ceremonies performed for them 
by Brahmans. Upon appeal, the Provincial Court for 
the northern division remitted the suit to the Zilla Court 
to take evidence, and, upon such opinions of the Pandits 
which the Provincial Court took upon the same statement 
as the Zilla, they affirmed the decree, but without costs. 
The Pandits consulted by them were those of the 
Provincial Courts of the northern, centre, southern and 
western divisions. They all agreed that " the Brahmans 
ought not to perform the ceremonies in the language of 



the Vadas for the Vaisyas." Three of them further 
added that, in their opinion, the Judges ought to pass a 
decision, awarding that the Komatis are to continue to 
perform reHgious rites according to the rules laid down 
in the book called Puranam {i.e., in the Puranoktha 
form), as are at present observed by the corrupt or 
degenerate Vaisyas or Komatis and others. On appeal, 
the Sudder Dewani Adawlut reversed the decisions 
of the lower Courts, " having maturely weighed the 
evidence produced, and considered the unbiassed and 
concurring opinions of the four law officers of the 
Provincial Courts." On further appeal to the Privy 
Council, Lord Brougham, in delivering judgment, ob- 
served that "the plaintiffs, not having, in their opinion, 
alleged any case of injury done to them by the defendants 
upon which they were entitled to go into evidence, and 
not having therefore established any case for damages 
in their suit against the defendants, no question remained 
but of a mere declaration of a right to perform certain 
religious ceremonies ; that, if the Courts had jurisdiction 
to proceed to the determination of that question in this 
suit (upon which their Lordships guard themselves in 
their judgment), the plaintiffs have not produced suffi- 
cient evidence to establish such a right ; that, under 
these circumstances, all the decrees therefore ought to 
be reversed, and the plaint dismissed (the reversal of 
the Sudder Court amounts in fact to a dismissal of the 
plaint) ; but it is not, as it ought to be, a dismissal 
without costs ; and that this decision should be without 
prejudice to the existence or non-existence of the right 
claimed by the appellants, in any other suit, in which 
such a question may be properly raised." 

The Komatis wear the sacred thread, and utter the 
Gayatri and other sacred mantras. A number of them, 


at Adoni in the Bellary district, refused to be measured 
by me in the afternoon, as they would not have time to 
bathe, and remove the pollution by evening. In Telugu 
dictionaries, the Komatis are given the alternative names 
of Mudava Kolamuvaru (those of the third caste), 
Vaisyalu, and Nallanayya Todabiddalu (those who were 
begotten from the thighs of Vishnu). As already stated, 
there are among the Komatis ordinary Saivites, who 
daub themselves with ashes ; Lingayats or Vira Saivas, 
who wear the linga in a silver casket ; Ramanuja Vaishna- 
vites ; Chaitanya Vaishnavas, who are confined to the 
Kalinga section ; and Madhvas, who put on the sect 
marks of Madhva Brahmans. The Traivarnikas are a 
special class among the Vaishnavas. They imitate the 
Vaishnava Brahmans more closely than the rest. They, 
and their females, tie their cloths like Brahmans, and the 
men shave moustaches. Unlike the Saivites and Linga- 
yats, they eat flesh and fish, and drink spirituous liquors. 
They will eat in the houses of Satanis, whereas other 
Komatis do not eat in any but Brahman houses. But 
it may be observed that Velamas, Balijas, Kammalans, 
Ambattans, Vannans, and many other castes, will take 
neither water nor food from Komatis. This, however, 
does not prevent them from purchasing the cakes 
prepared in ghl or oil, which the Komatis sell in petty 

Writing early in the nineteenth century, Buchanan 
refers * to a dispute at Gubbi in the Mysore State 
between the Komatis and Banajigas, which arose from 
the former building a temple to their goddess Kanya- 
kamma. Purnia, the Prime-minister, divided the town 
by a wall, thus separating the two parties. The Komatis 

* Journey through Mysore, Canara and Malabar. 
ni-22 B 

kOmati 340 

claimed that it had been the custom for all parties to live 
together, and that it would be an infringement of the 
rules of caste for them to be forced into a separate 
quarter. The chief of the Komatis entered the town in 
procession, on horseback with an umbrella held over his 
head. This assumption of rank was regarded by the 
Banajigas with the utmost indignation. To such a pitch 
did the quarrel reach that, at the time of Buchanan's 
visit, there was a rumour current as to the necessity 
of killing a jack-ass in the street, which would cause 
the immediate desolation of the place. " There is," he 
writes, "not a Hindu in Karnata, that would remain 
another night in it, unless by compulsion. Even 
the adversaries of the party would think themselves 
bound in honour to fly. This singular custom seems 
to be one of the resources upon which the natives 
have fallen to resist arbitrary oppression, and may be 
had recourse to whenever the Government infringes, 
or is considered to have infringed upon the custom 
of any caste. It is of no avail against any other kind of 

A brief reference may be made to the part which the 
Komatis took, in bygone days, in the faction fights 
known as right and left-hand caste disputes. Some of 
the South Indian castes, including the Komatis, belong 
to the former, and others to the latter. Those belonging 
to the left-hand would not let those belonging to the 
right-hand pass through their streets with their marriage 
and other processions. The right-hand section was 
equally jealous of the left. The Komatis, who were 
among the early settlers in the town of Madras in the 
seventeenth century, were involved in faction disputes on 
two recorded occasions, once, in 1652 A.D., during the 
Governorship of Aaron Baker, and later on during that 


of William Pitt,* in 1 707. When a wedding procession 
of members of one section passed through the streets of 
the other section, Pitt summoned twelve of the heads 
of each section, and locked them up in a room together, 
until the dispute should be adjusted. An agreement 
was speedily arrived at, according to which the right- 
hand settled on the west side of the town, now known 
as Pedda Naikan Pettah, and the left-hand on the east 
side, in what is at present called Mutialu Pettah. The 
Komatis accordingly are now mainly found in the 
western part of the city of Madras. 

All over the country, the Komatis venerate the 
deified virgin Kannika Parameswari, to whom, in most 
places, they have erected temples. One of these, at 
Tadpatri in the Anantapur district, which was in course 
of construction in 1904, is of more than ordinary interest. 
It was being built at the expense of the local Komatis, 
who had raised a subscription among themselves for the 
purpose. The design was original, and even arches 
entered into its construction. The sculpture, with which 
it is decorated, is quite excellent in design and finish. 
Much of it is copied from the two beautiful temples, 
which have existed at the place since the days of the 
Vijianagar dynasty. Other notable temples are those at 
Penukonda, Vizianagram in Vizagapatam, and Berham- 
pur in Ganjam. Fines collected from erring castemen 
in the Godavari, Guntur and Kistna districts, are still 
sent to the temple at Penukonda. The Komatis worship 
various goddesses, in addition to Kanyaka Parameswari. 
Those who live in Vizagapatam "relax their faith in 
favour of the celebrated Muhammadan saint, who lies 
buried by the Durga on the top of the hill which overlooks 

* See Talboys Wheeler, Madias in the Olden Time, II, 49— Sg. 


the harbour. Every vessel, passing the harbour inwards 
and outwards, salutes him by hoisting and lowering 
its flag three times. He is considered all potent over 
the elements in the Bay of Bengal, and many a silver 
dhoney (boat) is presented at his shrine by Hindu 
ship-owners after a successful voyage. We remember 
a suit between a K5mati, the owner of a dhoney, and his 
Muhammadan captain, who was also the super-cargo, 
for settlement of accounts. In a storm off the coast of 
Arakan, the skipper stated that he had vowed a mudupu 
or purse of rupees to the Durga, and had duly presented 
it on his return. This sum, among other sets-off, he 
charged to the owner of the vessel, the plaintiff, whose 
sole contention was that the vow had never been dis- 
charged ; the propriety of conciliating the old Fakir in 
a hurricane he submissively allowed." Ev^en now, the 
Komatis, though no longer boat-owners, revere the 
saint, and make vows to him for the success of civil suits, 
and recovery from all sorts of maladies. 

The Komatis employ Brahmans for the performance 
of their ceremonial rites, and recognise a Brahman as 
their guru. He is commonly called Bhaskaracharya, 
after the individual of that name who lived at Penukonda 
prior to the sixteenth century A.D., and translated the 
Sanskrit Kanyaka Purana into a Telugu poem. He made 
certain regulations for the daily conduct of the Komatis, 
and made the 102 gotras submit to them. A copy of 
an inscription on a copper plate, in the possession of 
one Kotta Appaya, the Archaka or priest of the Naga- 
reswaraswami temple at Penukonda, is given in the 
Mackenzie manuscripts. It records a grant (of unknown 
date) to Bhaskaracharya, the guru of the Vaisyas, by the 
102 gotrams, according to which each family agreed for 
ever afterwards to give half a rupee for every marriage. 


and a quarter of a rupee for each year. Such doles are 
common even at the present day to his successors. 
These, Hke the original Bhaskaracharya, who is consi- 
dered to be an incarnation of Brahma, are house-holders, 
and not Sanyasis (religious ascetics). There are several 
of them, in different parts of the country, one for 
example being at Penukonda, and another near Hospet, 
who makes periodical tours in state, with drums, silver 
maces, and belted peons, and is received with every 
mark of respect. He settles disputes, levies fines, and 
collects subscriptions towards the upkeep of his mutt 
(religious institution), which is also supported by inam 
(rent-free) lands. 

The Komati dead, except children and Lingayats, 
are cremated. Lingayat Komatis, like other Lingayats, 
bury their dead in a sitting posture. The death cere- 
monies among the Gavaras closely resemble those of 
Brahmans. The period of death pollution is sixteen 
days, during which sweets are taboo. 

The Komatis are best known as merchants, grocers, 
and money-lenders. In the city of Madras, they are the 
principal vendors of all sorts of imported articles. The 
row of shops in the China bazar, between Pachaiyappa's 
College and Popham's Broadway, is almost entirely main- 
tained by them. Many Komatis are cloth merchants, 
and Traivarnikas are almost entirely engaged in the 
o-lassware trade. In the Northern Circars, some earn 
a living as petty dealers in opium and ganja (Indian 
hemp). In the Ganjam, Vizagapatam and Godavari 
districts they are found in the hills, acting as middle-men 
between the hill tribes and the people of the plains. 
Most of the Komatis are literate, and this helps them in 
their dealings with their constituents. They are prover- 
bially shrewd, industrious, and thrifty, and are often rich. 


If a Komati fails in business, his compatriots will come 
to his rescue, and give him a fresh start. Organised 
charity is well known among them. Each temple of 
Kanyaka Parameswari is a centre for charity. In the 
city of Madras the Kanyaka Parameswari charities, 
among other good objects, promote the development of 
female education. In 1905, the Komatis established a 
Southern India Vysia Association, with the object of 
encouraging "the intellectual, moral, religious, social, 
industrial and commercial advancement of the Vysia 
community." Among the means employed for so doing, 
are the helping of deserving students with scholarships 
for the prosecution of the study of the English and 
vernacular languages, and organised relief of poor and 
distressed members of the community by founding 
orphanages, and so forth. The affairs of the association 
are managed by an executive committee made up of 
prominent members of the caste, including merchants, 
lawyers, and contractors. 

Many stories and proverbs have reference to the 
wealth, ready wit, thrift, and other qualities of the 
Komatis.* Of these, the following are selected from a 
large repertoire : — 

The Blind Komati and Vishnu. 

A blind Komati prayed to Vishnu for the restoration 
of his eyesight, and at last the god appeared before him, 
and asked him what he wanted. " Oh ! God," he replied, 
" I want to see from above the seventh storey of my 
mansion my great-grandsons playing in the streets, and 
eating their cakes from golden vessels." 

Vishnu was so astonished at the request of the blind 
man, which combined riches, issue, and the restoration 

♦ See Tales of Komati Wit and Wisdom. C. Hayavadana Rao, Madras, 1907. 


of his eyesight in one demand, that he granted all his 

The Komati and the Thief. 

An old Komati observed a thief at dead of nioht 
lurking under a pomegranate tree, and cried out to his 
wife to bring him a low stool. On this he seated him- 
self in front of the thief, and bawled out for hot water, 
which his wife brought him. Pretending that he was 
suffering from severe tooth-ache, he gargled the water, 
and spat it out continuously at the wondering thief. 
This went on till daybreak, when he called out his 
neighbours, who captured the thief, and handed him 
over to the police. 

The Komati and his Cakes. 

A Komati was on his way to the weekly market, with 
his plate of cakes to sell there. A couple of thieves 
met him when he was half way there, and, after giving 
him a severe thrashing, walked off with the cakes. The 
discomfited Komati, on his way back home with the 
empty plate, was met by another Komati going to 
market with his cakes. The latter asked how the 
demand for cakes was at the market, and the former 
replied " Why go to the market, when half-way people 
come and demand your cakes ? " and passed on. The 
unsuspecting Komati went on, and, like the other, 
was the recipient of a sound thrashing at the hands of 
the thieves. 

The Komati and the Scorpion. 

A number of Komatis went one day to a temple. 
One of them put one of his fingers into the navel of the 
image of Vinayakan (the elephant god) at the gateway, 
when a scorpion, which was inside it, stung him. Put- 
ting his finger to his nose, the Komati remarked "What 


a fine smell ! I have never experienced the like." This 
induced another man to put his finger in, and he too was 
stung, and made similar pretence. All of them were 
thus stung in succession, and then consoled each other. 

The Koniati and the Milk Tax. 

Once upon a time, a great king levied a tax upon 
milk, and all his subjects were sorely tried by it. The 
Komatis, who kept cows, found the tax specially in- 
convenient. They, therefore, bribed the minister, and 
mustered in strength before the king, to whom they 
spoke concerning the oppressive nature of the tax. The 
king asked what their profit from the milk was. "A 
pie for a pie " said they to a man, and the king, thinking 
that persons who profit only a pie ought not to be 
troubled, forthwith passed orders for the abolition of 
the tax. 

The Koinati and the Pdndyan King. 

Once upon a time, a Pandyan King had a silver 
vessel of enormous size made for the use of the palace, 
and superstitiously believed that its first contents should 
not be of an ordinary kind. So he ordered his minister 
to publish abroad that all his subjects were to put into 
the vessel a chembu-full of milk from each house. The 
frugal Komatis, hearing of this, thought, each to himself, 
that, as the king had ordered such a large quantity, and 
others would bring milk, it would suffice if they took a 
chembu-full of water, as a little water poured into such 
a large quantity of milk would not change its colour, and 
it would not be known that they only contributed water. 
All the Komatis accordingly each brought a chembu-full 
of water, and none of them told the others of the trick 
he was about to play. But it so happened that the 
Komatis were the first to enter the palace, while they 


thought that the people of other castes had come and 
gone. The vessel was placed behind a screen, so that 
no one might cast the evil eye on it, and the Komatis 
were let in one by one. This they did in all haste, and 
left with great joy at the success of their trick. Thus 
there was nothing but water in the vessel. Now it had 
been arranged that the king was to be the first person 
to see the contents of his new vessel, and he was thunder- 
struck to find that it contained only water. He ordered 
his minister to punish the Komatis severely. But the 
ready-witted Komatis came forward, and said " Oh ! 
gracious King, appease thy anger, and kindly listen to 
what we have to say. We each brought a chembu-full 
of water, to find out how much the precious vessel will 
hold. Now that we have taken the measurement, we 
will forthwith fetch the quantity of milk required." The 
king was exceedingly pleased, and sent them away. 

A story is told to the effect that, when a Komati was 
asked to identify a horse about which a Muhammadan 
and Hindu were quarrelling, he said that the fore-part 
looked like the Muhammadan's, and the hind-part like 
the Hindu's. Another story is told of a Komati, who 
when asked by a Judge what he knew about a fight 
between two men, deposed that he saw them standing 
in front of each other and speaking in angry tones when 
a dust-storm arose. He shut his eyes, and the sound 
of blows reached his ears, but he could not say which 
of the men beat the other. 

Of proverbs relating to the Komatis, the following 
may be noted : — 

A Brahman will learn if he suffers, and a K5mati 
will learn if he is ruined. 

If I ask whether you have salt, you say that you 
have dhol (a kind of pulse). 


Like the burning of a Komati's house, which would 
mean a heavy loss. 

When two Komatis whisper on the other side of 
the lake, you will hear them on this side. This has 
reference to the harsh voice of the Komatis. In native 
theatricals, the Komati is a general favourite with the 
audience, and he is usually represented as short of stature, 
obese, and with a raucous voice. 

The Komati that suits the stake. This has refer- 
ence to a story in which a Komati's stoutness, brought on 
by want of exercise and sedentary habits, is said to have 
shown that he was the proper person to be impaled on 
a stake. According to the Rev. H. Jensen,* the pro- 
verb refers to an incident that took place in 'the city of 
injustice.' A certain man was to be impaled for a crime, 
but, at the last moment he pointed out that a certain 
fat merchant (Komati) would be better suited for the 
instrument of punishment, and so escaped. The pro- 
verb is now used of a person who is forced to suffer for 
the faults of others. 

The Komatis are satirically named Dhaniyala jati, 
or coriander caste, because, as the coriander seed has to 
be crushed before it is sown, so the Komati is supposed 
to come to terms only by rough treatment. 

The Komatis have the title Setti or Chetti, which 
is said to be a contracted form of Sreshti, meaning a 
precious person. In recent times, some of them have 
assumed the title Ayya. 

Kombara.— The name, meaning a cap made of the 
spathe of the areca palm {Areca Catechti) of an exoga- 
mous sept of Kelasi. Such caps are worn by various 
classes in South Canara, e.g., the Holeyas and Koragas. 

* Classified Collection of Tamil Proverbs, 1897. .S'^f also C. Hayavadana 
Rao, op. ci(., and Ind. Ant., XX, 78, 1891. 


Kombu (stick). — An exogamous sept of Kuruba. 

Komma.^Komma (a musical horn) or Kommula 
has been recorded as an exogamous sept of Kamma 
and Mala. Kommula is further a professional title for 
horn-blowers, mainly Mala. Madiga, and Panisavan, who 
perform at festivals and funerals. 

Kommi.^A gotra of Gollas, the members of which 
may not use kommi fuel. 

Kompala (houses). — An exogamous sept of 

Konan.—- Konan or Konar is a title of Idaiyans. 
Some Gollas call themselves Konanulu. 

Konangi (buffoon). — An exogamous sept of 

Konda (mountain). — An exogamous sept of Devanga 
and Medara, and a synonym for Konda Dora. 

Konda Dora. — The Konda Doras are a caste of hill 
cultivators, found chiefly in Vizagapatam. Concerning 
them Surgeon-Major W. R. Cornish writes as follows.* 
** Contrasting strangely with the energetic, patriarchal, 
and land-reverencing Parja (Poroja), are the neighbour- 
ing indigenous tribes found along the slopes of the 
eastern ghauts. They are known as Konda Doras, 
Konda Kapus, and Ojas. From what has been ascer- 
tained of their languages, it seems certain that, divested 
of the differences which have been engrafted upon them 
by the fact of the one being influenced by Uriya and 
the other by Telugu, they are substantially of the same 
origin as the Parja language and the Khond language. 
But the people themselves seem to have entirely lost all 
those rights to the soil, which are now characteristic of 
the more northern tribes. They are completely at the 

Madras Census Report, 1871, 


mercy of late immigrants, so much so that, though they 
call themselves Konda Doras, they are called by the 
Bhaktas, their immediate superiors, Konda Kapus. If 
they are found living in a village with no Telugu 
superior, they are known as Doras. If, on the other 
hand, such a man is at the head of the village affairs, 
they are to him as adscripti gleba;, and are denominated 
Kapus or ryots (cultivators). It is apparent that the 
comparatively degraded position that this particular soil- 
folk holds is due to the influence of the Telugu colonists ; 
and the reason why they have been subjected to a 
greater extent than the cognate tribes further inland is 
possibly that the Telugu colonization is of more ancient 
date than the Uriya colonization. It may further be 
surmised that, from the comparative proximity of the 
Telugu districts, the occupation of the crests of these 
ghats partook rather of the character of a conquest than 
that of mere settlings in the land. But, however it came 
about, the result is most disastrous. Some parts of 
Pachipenta, Hill Madugulu, and Kondakamberu, which 
have been occupied by Telugu-speaking folk, are far 
inferior in agricultural prosperity to the inland parts, 
where the Uriyas have assumed the lead in the direction 
of affairs." 

In the Census Report, 1891, Mr. H. A. Stuart writes 
that "these people all speak Telugu, and the majority 
of them have returned that as their parent-tongue. But 
a large number returned their caste name in the parent- 
tongue column. I have since received a vocabulary, 
which is said to be taken from the dialect of the Konda 
Doras ; and, if this is correct, then the real speech of 
these people is a dialect of Khond." One Durgi Patro, 
the head of a mutta (division of a Zemindari) informed 
Mr. G. F. Paddison that Konda Doras and Khonds are 


identical. In the Census Report, 1901, Mr. W. Francis 
states that the Konda Doras "seem to be a section of 
the Khonds, which has largely taken to speaking 
Telugu, has adopted some of the Telugu customs, and 
is in the transitional stage between Animism and 
Hinduism. They call themselves Hindus, and worship 
the Pandavas and a goddess called Talupulamma. 
They drink alcohol, and eat pork, mutton, etc., and will 
dine with Kapus." At times of census, Pandavakulam 
(or Pandava caste) has been returned as a title of the 
Konda Doras. 

For the following note I am indebted to Mr. C. Haya- 
vadana Rao. There are, among the Konda Doras, two 
well-defined divisions, called Pedda (big) and Chinna 
(little) Kondalu. Of these, the former have remained 
in their old semi-independent position, while the latter 
have come under Telugu domination. The Chinna 
Kondalu, who have been living in contact with the 
Bhaktha caste, have adopted the Telugu system of 
intiperulu, as exogamous septs, whereas the Pedda 
Kondalu have retained the totem divisions, which occur 
among other hill castes, e.g., Naga (cobra), Bhag (tiger), 
and Kochchimo (tortoise). Among the Chinna Kondalu, 
the custom of menarikam, according to which a man 
marries his maternal uncle's daughter, is observed, and 
may further marry his own sister's daughter. The 
Chinna Kondalu women wear glass bangles and beads, 
like women of the plains. Men of the Chinna Kondalu 
section serve as bearers and Government employees, 
whereas those of the Pedda Kondalu section are engaged 
in cultivation. The former have personal names corre- 
sponding to those of the inhabitants of the plains, 
e.g., Linganna, Gangamma, while the names of the 
latter are taken from the day of the week on which 


they were born, e.g., Bhudra (Wednesday), Sukra 

Among the Chinna Kondalu, a girl is married before 
or after puberty. When a marriage is decided on, the 
girl's parents receive a present (voli) of four rupees and 
a female cloth. On an auspicious day fixed by the 
Chukkamusti (star-gazer), the bride is conducted to the 
home of the bridegroom. The contracting couple are 
bathed in turmeric-water, put on new cloths presented 
by their fathers-in-law, and wrist-threads are tied on their 
wrists. On the same day, or the following morning, at 
a time settled by the Chukkamusti, the bridegroom, 
under the direction of a caste elder, ties the sathamanam 
(marriage badge) on the bride's neck. On the follow- 
ing day, the wrist-threads are removed, and the newly 
married couple bathe. 

Among the Pedda, as among the Chinna Kondalu, a 
girl is married before or after puberty. When a man 
contemplates taking a wife, his parents carry three pots 
of liquor to the home of the girl whose hand he seeks. 
The acceptance of these by her father is a sign that the 
match is agreeable to him, and a jholla tonka (bride- 
price) of five rupees is paid to him. The future bride- 
groom's party has to give three feasts to that of the 
bride-elect, for each of which a pig is killed. The girl 
is conducted to the house of the bridegroom, and, if 
she has reached puberty, remains there. Otherwise 
she returns home, and joins her husband later on, the 
occasion being celebrated by a further feast of pork. 

Both sections allow the remarriage of widows. Among 
the Pedda Kondalu, a younger brother may marry the 
widow of his elder brother. By both sections divorce is 
permitted. Among the Chinna Kondalus, a man who mar- 
ries a divorcee has to pay her first husband twenty-four 


rupees, of which half is divided among the neighbouring 
caste villages in certain recognised proportions. 

The dead are usually burnt by both sections. The 
Pedda Kondalu kill a pig on the third day, and hold 
a feast, at which much liquor is disposed of. By the 
Chinna Kondalu the chinna rozu (little day) ceremony 
is observed, as it is by other castes dwelling in the 

The Chinna Kondalu bear the titles Anna or Ayya 
when they are merely cultivators under Bhaktha land- 
lords, and Dora under other circumstances. The Pedda 
Kondalu usually have no title. 

A riot took place, in 1900, at the village of Kor- 
ravanivalasa in the Vizagapatam district, under the 
following strange circumstances. " A Konda Dora of 
this place, named Korra Mallayya, pretended that he was 
inspired, and gradually gathered round him a camp 
of four or five thousand people from various parts of the 
agency. At first his proceedings were harmless enough, 
but in April he gave out that he was a re-incarnation 
of one of the five Pandava brothers ; that his infant 
son was the god Krishna ; that he would drive out the 
English and rule the country himself ; and that, to effect 
this, he would arm his followers with bamboos, which 
should be turned by magic into guns, and would change 
the weapons of the authorities into water. Bamboos 
were cut, and rudely fashioned to resemble guns, and 
armed with these, the camp was drilled by the Swami 
(god), as Mallayya had come to be called. The assembly 
next sent word that they were going to loot Pachi- 
penta, and when, on the ist May, two constables came 
to see how matters stood, the fanatics fell upon them, 
and beat them to death. The local police endeavoured 
to recover the bodies, but, owing to the threatening 


attitude of the Swami's followers, had to abandon the 
attempt. The District Magistrate then went to the place 
in person, collected reserve police from Vizagapatam, 
Parvatipur, and Jeypore, and at dawn on the 7th May 
rushed the camp to arrest the Swami and the other 
leaders of the movement. The police were resisted by 
the mob, and obliged to fire. Eleven of the rioters were 
killed, others wounded or arrested, and the rest dispersed. 
Sixty of them were tried for rioting, and three, including 
the Swami, for murdering the constables. Of the latter, 
the Swami died in jail, and the other two were hanged. 
The Swami's infant son, the god Krishna, also died, and 
all trouble ended at once and completely." 

Concerning the Konda Kapus or Konda Reddis of 
the Godavari district, Mr. F. R. Hemingway writes as 
follows.* " The hill Reddis, or Konda Reddis, are a 
caste of jungle men, having some characteristics in 
common with the Koyas. They usually talk a rough 
Telugu, clipping their words so that it is often difficult to 
understand them ; but it is said that some of them speak 
Koya. They are of slighter build than the Koyas, and 
their villages are even smaller. They will not eat in the 
house of a Koya. They call themselves by various high- 
sounding titles, such as Pandava Reddis, Raja Reddis, 
and Reddis of the solar race (Suryavamsa), and do not 
like the plain name of Konda Reddi. They recognize no 
endogamous sub-divisions, but have exogamous septs. 
In character they resemble the Koyas, but are less 
simple and stupid, and in former years were much given 
to crime. They live by shifting cultivation. They do 
not touch beef, but will eat pork. They profess to be 
both Saivites and V^aishnavites, and occasionally employ 

* Gazetteer of the Godavari district. 


Brahman priests at their funerals ; and yet they worship 
the Pandavas, the spirits of the hills (or, as they call 
them, the sons of Racha), their ancestors including 
women who have died before their husbands, and the 
deity Muthyalamma and her brother Poturazu, Sara- 
lamma, and Unamalamma. The last three are found in 
nearly every village. Other deities are Doddiganga, 
who is the protector of cattle, and is worshipped when 
the herds are driven into the forests to graze, and Desa- 
ganga (or Paraganga), who takes the place of the 
Maridamma of the plains, and the Muthyalamma of the 
Koyas as goddess of cholera and small-pox. The shrine 
of Saralamma of Pedakonda, eight miles east of Reka- 
palle, is a place of pilgrimage, and so is Bison Hill 
(Papikonda), where an important Reddi festival is held 
every seven or eight years in honour of the Pandava 
brothers, and a huge fat pig, fattened for the occasion, 
is killed and eaten. The Reddis, like the Koyas, also 
observe the harvest festivals. They are very supersti- 
tious, believing firmly in sorcery, and calling in wizards 
in time of illness, l^heir villages are formed into groups 
like those of the Koyas, and the hereditary headmen 
over these are called by different names, such as Dora, 
Muttadar, Varnapedda, and Kulapatradu. Headmen 
of villages are known as Pettadars. They recognise, 
though they do not frequently practice, marriage by 
capture. If a parent wishes to show his dislike for a 
match, he absents himself when the suitor's party calls, 
and sends a bundle of cold rice after them when they have 
departed. Children are buried. Vaishnavite Reddis 
burn their adult dead, while the Saivites bury them. 
Satanis officiate as priests to the former, and Jangams to 
the latter. The pyre is kindled by the eldest male of 
the family, and a feast is held on the fifth day after the 
ni-23 B 


funeral. The dead are believed to be born again into 
their former families." 

Kondaikatti.— The name of a sub-division of Vel- 
lalas, meaning those who tie the whole mass of hair 
of the head (kondai) in a knot on the top of the head, as 
opposed to the kudumi or knot at the back of the partially 
shaved head. 

Kondaita.— A sub-division of Doluva. 

Kondaiyamkottai. — A sub-division of Mara van. 

Kondalar. — Recorded, in the Madras Census Re- 
port, 1 90 1, as a sub-caste of Vellala. Kondalam means 
women's hair or a kind of dance, and it is possible that 
the name was returned by people of the Deva-dasi caste, 
who are rising in the social scale, and becoming absorbed 
in the Vellala caste. Kondali, of doubtful meaning, has 
been returned by cultivators and agricultural labourers 
in North Arcot. 

Kondh.— In the Administration Report of the 
Ganjam Agency, 1902-3, Mr. C. B. Cotterell writes 
that Kondh is an exact transliteration from the verna- 
cular, and he knows of no reason, either sentimental or 
etymological, for keeping such spelling as Khond. 

It is noted, in the Madras Census Report, 1891, that 
" the Khonds inhabit the hill tracts of Ganjam and parts 
of Vizagapatam, and are found also in Bengal and the 
Central Provinces. They call themselves Kui, a name 
identical with the Koi or Koya of the Godavari agency 
and the south of the Jeypore Zemindari. The Telugu 
people call them Kotuvandlu. The origin of the name 
Khond is doubtful, but Macpherson is, I think, right in 
deriving it from Telugu Konda, a hill. There is a tribe 
in Vizagapatam called Konda Dora or Konda Kapu, and 
these people are also frequently called Kotuvandlu. All 
these names are derivatives of the root k6 or ku, a 

357 KONDH 

mountain. The number of sub-divisions returned is 58. 
The list includes many names of other castes, a fact 
which must be in part ascribed to the impossibility of 
distinguishing the true Khonds from persons returned 
as Kondavandlu, Kondalu, Kotuvandlu, etc., terms which 
mean simply highlanders, and are applicable to all the 
hill tribes. For example, 12,164 Panos have returned 
their main caste as Khond." 

In a note on the Kui, Kandhi, or Khond language, 
Mr. G. A. Grierson writes as follows.* " The Kandhs or 
Khonds are a Dravidian tribe in the Ihills of Orissa and 
neighbouring districts. The tribe is commonly known 
under the name of Khond. The Oriyas call them 
Kandhs, and the Telugu people Gonds or Kods. The 
name which they use themselves is Ku, and their lan- 
guage should accordingly be denominated Kui. The 
word Ku is probably related to Koi, one of the names by 
which the Gonds used to denote themselves. The Koi 
dialect of Gondi is, however, quite different from Kui. 
The Khonds live in the midst of the Oriya territory. 
Their habitat is the hills separating the districts of 
Ganjam and Vizagapatam in the Madras Presidency, 
and continuing northwards into the Orissa Tributary 
States, Bod, Daspalla, and Nayagarh, and, crossing the 
Mahanadi, into Angul and the Khondmals. The Khond 
area further extends into the Central Provinces, covering 
the northern part Kalahandi, and the south of Patna. 
Kui is surrounded on all sides by Oriya. Towards the 
south it extends towards the confines of the Telugu 
territory. The language varies locally, all over this area. 
The differences are not, however, great, though a man 
from one part of the country often experiences difficulty 

* Linguistic Survey of India, IV, 1906. 

KONDH 358 

in understanding the Kui spoken in other parts. There 
are two principal dialects, one eastern, spoken in Gumsur 
and the adjoining parts of Bengal, and one western, 
spoken in Chinna Kimedi. In the north, Kui has come 
under the influence of the neighbouring Aryan forms of 
speech, and a specimen forwarded from the Patna State 
was written in Oriya with a slight admixture of Chattis- 
garhl. The number of Kandhs returned at the census 
of 1 89 1 was 627,388. The language returns, however, 
give a much smaller figure. The reason is that many 
Kandhs have abandoned their native speech." 

It has been noted that "the character of the Khonds 
varies as much as their language. Where there has been 
much contact with the plains, it is not as favourable as 
elsewhere. As a rule, they may be taken to be a bold, 
and fitfully laborious mountain peasantry of simple, but 
not undignified manners ; upright in their conduct ; 
sincere in their superstitions ; proud of their position as 
landholders ; and tenacious of their rights. The Line- 
pada Khonds affect manners like Uriyas, and, among 
other things, will not eat pork (the flesh of wild pigs 
excepted). The Khond villages have quite the appear- 
ance of Uriya villages, the houses are built with mud 
walls, a thing unknown with Khonds in other parts of the 
Maliahs ; and there is also much neat garden cultivation, 
which is rare elsewhere, probably because the produce 
thereof would be appropriated by the Uriyas. In 1902, 
the Linepada Muttah (settlement) presented the unusual 
spectacle of a Khond ruler as Dolabehara, as well as 
Moliko, with the Uriya Paiks really at his beck and call. 
In some places, the most valuable portions of the land 
have passed into the possession of Sondis and low- 
country sowcars (money-lenders), who have pandered 
to the Khonds by advancing them money, the greater 

359 KONDH 

portion of which has been expended in drink, the repay- 
ment being exacted in land. Except in the Goomsur 
MaHahs, paddy (rice) cultivation is not extensively carried 
on by the Khonds ; elsewhere it is chiefly in the hands 
of the Uriyas. The Khonds take little trouble in raising 
their crops. The result is that, except in the Goomsur 
Maliahs, where they grow crops to sell in the market for 
profit, we find a poverty-stricken race, possessing hardly 
any agricultural stock, and no signs of affluence. In 
Kimedi, however, they are beginning to follow the 
example of Goomsur, and doubtless their material pros- 
perity would much increase if some check could be 
devised to save them from the Uriyas and Sondis, who 
are steadily acquiring all the wet land, and utilising the 
Khonds merely as cultivators." 

It is noted by Mr. F. Fawcett (1902)* that "up to 
within fifteen years ago, the Khonds of the Ganjam hills 
would not engage in any ordinary labour. They would 
not, for example, carry even the smallest article of the 
district officer's luggage. Elephants were accordingly 
provided by Government for carriage of tents and all 
camp luggage. But there has come a change, and, 
within the last ten years or so, the Khonds have taken 
to work in the ordinary way. Within the last few years, 
for the first time, the Khonds have been emigrating to 
Assam, to work in the tea-gardens. Accurate figures 
are not available, but the estimate of the best authority 
gives the number as about 3,000. This emigration 
is now stopped by edict. Of course, they do not set 
out, and go of their own accord. They are taken. 
The strange thing is that they go willingly." It was 
enacted, in an order of Government, in i90i,t that "in 

* Man. March 1902. t G.O., No. 1020, Public, Slh October 1901. 

KONDH 360 

exercise of the power conferred by section 3 of the 
Assam Labour and Emigration Act, 1901, and with the 
previous sanction of the Governor-General in Council, 
the Governor in Council is pleased to prohibit absolutely- 
all persons from recruiting, engaging, inducing, or assist- 
ing any Native of India to emigrate from the tracts 
known as the scheduled districts in the district of Ganjam 
to any labour district of Assam." 

In 1908, the Madras Government approved of certain 
proposals made by the Collector of Ganjam for utilising 
the services of the Kondhs in the conservancy of the 
forests in the Pondakhol Agency. The following is a 
summary of these proposals.* The chief difficulty to 
be contended against In Pondakhol is podu cultivation. 
This cultivation is not only devastating the hill tops 
and upper slopes, which should be kept well covered to 
preserve water for the upper reaches of the Rushikulya 
river, the chief source of irrigation in Ganjam, but is 
also the origin of most of the forest fires that rage 
throughout Pondakhol in the hot weather. The District 
Forest Officer, in discussing matters with the Kondhs, 
was told by some of the villagers that they would forego 
poduing if they had cattle to plough the lands in the 
plains and valleys. The supply of buffaloes would form 
the compensation for a right relinquished. The next 
aim should be to give the people work in the non- 
cultivation season, which is from the middle of January 
to the middle of July. This luckily coincides with the 
fire season. There is an abundance of useful work 
that the Kondhs can be engaged in, e.g., rendering 
the demarcation lines permanent, making fire lines, 
constructing roads, and building inspection sheds. The 

* G.O., No. 3005, Revenue, 3rd November ic 

361 KONDH 

question'arises as to' how the Khonds should be repaid 
for their^labour. Money is of little use to them in this 
out-of-the-way part of the country, and, if they got it, 
they would probably go to Surada to get drunk on it. 
It would be better to pay them in food-grain and cloths, 
and for this purpose departmental shops, and a regular 
system of accounts, such as are in force among the 
Chenchus in Kurnool, would be necessary. 

In the course of a lament over the change which has 
come over the Kondhs who live in the range of hills 
near Berhampore, Mr. S. P. Rice writes as follows.* 
" Here they live in seclusion and in freedom, but also in 
the lowest depths of squalor and poverty. Once they 
loved gay colours. True Khond dresses, both male and 
female, are full of stripes and patterns, in blue, yellow, 
and red. Where has gone the love of colour ? Instead 
of the long waistcloth ending in tails of blue and red, 
the man binds about him a wretched rag that can hardly 
be called a garment. Once the women took a delight 
in decking themselves with flowers, and a pride in the 
silver ornaments that jangled on their naked breasts. 
Where are now the grasses that adorned them, and the 
innocence that allowed them to go clothed only to the 
waist ? Gone ! withered by the blast of the breath of a 
'superior civilization.' Gone are the hairpins of sambur 
bone — an inestimable treasure in the eyes of the true 
hill Khond. Gone are the floral decorations, and the 
fantastic head-dresses, which are the pride of the moun- 
tain tribes. In dull, unromantic squalor our Khond 
lives, moves, and has his being ; and, aver as he moves, 
is heard the clanking upon his wrists of the fetters of 
his debt. Yet for all that he is happy." The hairpins 

* Occasional Essays on Native South Indian Life, X901. 

KONDH 362 

referred to above are made from sambur (deer : Cervus 
unicolor) bones, and stuck in the hair of male Kondhs. 
Porcupine quills are sometimes used by them as 

The following brief, but interesting summary of the 
Kondhs of Ganjam is given by Mr. C. F. MacCartie.* 
" The staple food of the Oriyas is rice, and of the Khond 
also during the two or three months that succeed the 
harvest. In February, they gather the crop of hill dholl, 
which, eked out with dry mohwa [Bassia) fruit, fresh 
mangoes, and mango stones ground to a sort of flour, 
pull them through the hot weather, with the help of 
various yams and edible roots that are plentiful in the 
jungles. When the south-west monsoon sets in, dry 
crops, consisting of millets, hill paddy, and Indian corn, 
are sown, which ripen from August on, and thus afford 
plentiful means of subsistence. The hot weather is 
generally called the sukki kalo, or hungry season, as 
the people are rather pinched just then. Turmeric is 
perhaps the most valuable crop which the Khonds raise, 
as it is the most laborious, in consequence of the time it 
takes to mature — two full years, and the constant field- 
work thus entailed, first in sheltering the young plants 
from the sun by artificial shade, and afterwards in digging, 
boiling, and burnishing the root for market. Tobacco 
is raised much as in the low country. It is generally 
grown in back-yards, as elsewhere, and a good deal of 
care is devoted to its cultivation, as the Khonds are 
inveterate smokers. Among the products of the jungles 
may be included myrabolams {Terminalia fruits), tassar 
silk, cocoons, and dammar, all of which are bartered by 
the finders to trading Panos in small quantities, generally 

Madras Census Report, 1881. 

363 KONDH 

for salt. [Honey and wax are said to be collected by 
the Kondhs and Benias, who are expert climbers of 
precipitous rocks and lofty trees. The Kondhs recognise 
four different kinds of bees, known by the following 
Oriya names : — (a) bhaga mohu, a large-sized bee {Apis 
dorsata) ; {b) sattapuri mohu, building its comb in seven 
layers {Apis indicd) ; {c) binchina mohu, with a comb 
like a fan ; {d) nikiti mohu, a very small bee.] * Wet 
paddy is, of course, grown in the valleys and low-lying 
bottoms, where water is available, and much ingenuity 
is exercised in the formation of bunds (embankments) 
to retain the natural supply of moisture. The Khond 
has a dead eye for a natural level ; it is surprising how 
speedily a seemingly impracticable tract of jungle will be 
converted into paddy fields by a laborious process of 
levelling by means of a flat board attached to a pair of 
buffaloes. The chief feature of the dry cultivation is the 
destructive practice of kumeri. A strip of forest, prime- 
val, if possible, as being more fertile, is burnt, cultivated, 
and then deserted for a term of years, which may vary 
from three to thirty, according to the density or other- 
wise of the population. The Kutiah Khonds are the 
chief offenders in respect of kumeri, to which they con- 
fine themselves, as they have no ploughs or agricultural 
cattle. In the rare instances when they grow a little rice, 
the fields are prepared by manual and pedal labour, as 
men, women, and children, assemble in the field, and 
puddle the mud and water until it assumes the desired 
consistency for the reception of the seed. 

" The hair is worn long during childhood, but tied 
into a club when maturity is reached, and turbans are 
seldom worn. A narrow cloth is bound round the loins, 

* Agricul : Ledger Series, Calcutta. No. 7, 1904. 

KONDH 364 

with Tartan ends which hang down in front and behind, 
and a coarse long-cloth is wrapped round the figure 
when the weather is cold. The war dress of the Khonds 
is elaborate, and consists of a leather cuirass in front, 
and a flowing red cloak, which, with an arrangement of 
' bison ' horns and peacock's feathers, is supposed to strike 
awe into the beholder's mind. Khond women wear a 
red or parti-coloured skirt reaching the knee, the neck 
and bosom being left bare. Pano females generally wear 
an upper cloth. All tattoo their faces. [Tattooing is 
said to be performed, concurrently with ear-boring, when 
girls are about ten years old. The tattoo marks are said 
to represent the implement used in tilling the soil for 
cultivation, moustache, beard, etc.] Ornaments of beads 
and brass bangles are worn, but the usage of diverse 
muttas (settlements) varies very much. In some parts 
of the Goomsur Maliahs, the use of glass and brass beads 
is confined to married women, virgins being restricted to 
decorations composed of plaited grass. Matrons wear 
ten or twelve ear-rings of different patterns, but, in many 
parts, young girls substitute pieces of broom, which are 
worn till the wedding day, and then discarded for brazen 
rings. Anklets are indispensable in the dance on account 
of the jingling noise they make, and gold or silver nose- 
rings are very commonly worn. [The Kondh of the 
Ganjam Maliahs has been described as follows.* " He 
centres his great love of decoration in his hair. This he 
tends, combs and oils, with infinite care, and twists into 
a large loose knot, which is caught with curiously shaped 
pins of sambur bone, gaily coloured combs and bronze 
hairpins with curiously ornamented designs, and it is 
then gracefully pinned over the left eyebrow. This 

* Madras Mail, 1894. 

365 KONDH 

knot he decorates according to his fancy with the blue 
feathers of the jay (Indian roller, Coracias indica), or the 
white feathers of the crane and stork, or the feathers of 
the more gorgeous peacock. Two feathers generally 
wave in front, while many more float behind. This knot, 
in the simple economy of his life, also does duty as a 
pocket or pincushion, for into it he stuffs his knife, his 
half-smoked cigarette of home-grown tobacco rolled in 
a sal {Shorea robustd) leaf, or even his snuff wrapped in 
another leaf pinned together with a thorn. Round his 
waist he wraps a white cloth, bordered with a curious 
design in blue and red, of excellent home manufacture, 
and over his shoulder is borne his almost inseparable 
companion, the tanghi, of many curious shapes, consisting 
of an iron blade with a long wooden handle ornamented 
with brass wire. In certain places, he very frequently 
carries a bow and arrows, the former made of bent 
bamboo, the string of a long strip of bark, and the 
handle ornamented with stripes of the white quills of 
the peacock.] 

" The Khonds are very keen in the pursuit of game, 
for which the hot weather is the appointed time, and, 
during this period, a sambar or ' bison ' has but little 
chance of escape if once wounded by an arrow, as they 
stick to the trail like sleuth hounds, and appear insensi- 
ble to distance or fatigue. The arms they carry are the 
bow, arrows, and tangi, a species of light battle-axe that 
inflicts a serious wound. The women are not addicted 
to drink, but the males are universally attached to liquor, 
especially during the hot weather, when the sago palm 
(solopo : Caryota tirens) is in full flow. They often run 
up sheds in the jungle, near especially good trees, and 
drink for days together. A great many deaths occur at 
this season by falls from trees when tapping the liquor. 

KONDH 300 

Feasts and sacrifices are occasions for drinking to excess, 
and the latter especially are often scenes of wild intoxi- 
cation, the liquor used being either mohwa, or a species 
of strong beer brewed from rice or koeri. Khond women, 
when once married, appear to keep pretty straight, but 
there is a good deal of quiet immorality among the 
young men and girls, especially during the commence- 
ment of the hot weather, when parties are made up for 
fishing or the collection of mohwa fruit and other jungle 
berries. At the same time, a certain sense of shame 
exists, as instances are not at all uncommon of double 
suicide, when a pair of too ardent lovers are blown upon, 
and their liaison is discovered. 

''The generality of Khond and Pano houses are 
constructed of broad sal logs hewn out with the axe, and 
thatched with jungle grass, which is impervious to white- 
ants. In bamboo jungles, bamboo is substituted for sal. 
The Khond houses are substantially built but very low, 
the pitch of the roof never exceeding 8 feet, and the eaves 
being only about 4 feet from the ground, the object being 
to ensure resistance to the violent storms that prevail 
during the monsoons. 

" Intermarriage between Khonds, Panos, and Uriyas 
is not recognised, but cases do occur when a Pano 
induces a Khond woman to go off with him. She may 
live with him as his wife, but no ceremony takes place. 
If a Pano 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, a rupee, and a cavady 
(shoulder-pole) load of pots. If the adulterer is a Khond, 
he gets off with payment of the buffalo, which is 
slaughtered for the entertainment of the village. The 
husband retains his wife in this case, as also if he finds 


her pregnant when first she comes to him ; this is not 
an uncommon incident. Divorce of the wife on the 
husband's part is thus very rare, if it occurs at all, but 
cases are not unknown where the wife divorces her 
husband, and adopts a fresh alliance. When this takes 
place, her father has to return the whole of the gifts 
known as gontis, which the bridegroom paid for his wife 
when the marriage was originally arranged." 

In a note on the tribes of the Agency tracts of the 
Vizagapatam district, Mr. VV. Francis writes as follows.* 
" Of these, by far the most numerous are the Khonds, 
who are about 150,000 strong. An overwhelming 
majority of this number, however, are not the wild 
barbarous Khonds regarding whom there is such a con- 
siderable literature, and who are so prominent in Ganjam, 
but a series of communities descended from them, which 
exhibit infinite degrees of difference from their more inter- 
esting progenitors, according to the grade of civilisation 
to which they have attained. The only really primitive 
Khonds in Vizagapatam are the Dongria (jungle) Khonds 
of the north of Bissamkatak taluk, the Dcsya Khonds 
who live just south-west of them in and around the 
Nimgiris, and the Kuttiya (hill) Khonds of the hills 
in the north-east of the Gunupur taluk. The Kuttiya 
Khond men wear ample necklets of white beads and 
prominent brass earrings, but otherwise they dress like 
any other hill people. Their women, however, have a 
distinctive garb, putting on a kind of turban on state 
occasions, wearing nothing above the waist except masses 
of white bead necklaces which almost cover their breasts, 
and carrying a series of heavy brass bracelets half way 
up their forearms. The dhangadi basa system (separate 

* Gazetteer of the Vizagapatam district. 

KONDH 368 

hut for unmarried girls to sleep in) prevails among them 
in its simplest form, and girls have opportunities for the 
most intimate acquaintance before they need inform their 
parents they wish to marry. Special ceremonies are 
practiced to prevent the spirits of the dead (especially of 
those killed by tigers) from returning to molest the living. 
Except totemistic septs, they have apparently no 
sub-divisions.* The dress of the civilised Khonds of 
both sexes is ordinary and uninteresting. These civilised 
Khonds worship all degrees of deities, from their own 
tribal Jakara down to the orthodox Hindu gods ; follow 
every gradation of marriage and funeral customs from 
those of their primitive forefathers to those of the low- 
country Telugu ; speak dialects which range from good 
Khond through bastard patois down to corrupt Telugu ; 
and allow their totemistic septs to be degraded down to, 
or divided into, the intiperulu of the plains." 

There is a tradition that, in olden days, four Kondhs, 
named Kasi, Mendora, Bolti, and Bolo, with eyes the 
size of brass pots, teeth like axe-heads, and ears like 
elephant's ears, brought their ancestor Mandia Patro 
from Jorasingi in Boad, and gave him and his children 
authority all over the country now comprised in Maha- 
singi, and in Kurtilli Barakhumma, Bodogodo, Balliguda, 
and Pussangia, on condition of settling their disputes, 
and aiding them in their rights. The following legend- 
ary account of the origin of the Kondhs is given by 
Mr. A. B. Jayaram Moodallar. Once upon a time, the 
ground was all wet, and there were only two females on 
the earth, named Karaboodi and Tharthaboodi, each of 
whom was blessed with a single male child. The names 

* A very interesting note on Totemism among the Khonds by Mr. J. E. 
Friend-Pcreira has been published in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, 
LXXIII, 1905. 

369 KONDH 

of the children were Kasarodi and Singarodi. All these 
individuals sprang from the interior of the earth, together 
with two small plants called nangakoocha and badokoocha, 
on which they depended for subsistence. One day, when 
Karaboodi was cutting these plants for cooking, she acci- 
dentally cut the little finger of her left hand, and the blood 
dropped on the ground. Instantly, the wet soft earth 
on which it fell became dry and hard. The woman 
then cooked the food, and gave some of it to her son, 
who asked her why it tasted so much sweeter than usual. 
She replied that she might have a dream that night, 
and, if so, would let him know. Next morning, the 
woman told him that, if he would act on her advice, he 
would prosper in this world, that he was not to think 
of her as his mother, and was to cut away the flesh of her 
back, dig several holes in the ground, bury the flesh, and 
cover the holes with stones. This her son did, and the 
rest of the body was cremated. The wet soil dried up 
and became hard, and all kinds of animals and trees 
came into existence. A partridge scratched the ground 
with its feet, and ragi (millet), maize, dhal (pea), and rice 
sprung forth from it. The two brothers argued that, 
as the sacrifice of their mother brought forth such 
abundance, they must sacrifice their brothers, sisters, 
and others, once a year in future. A god, by name 
Boora Panoo, came, with his wife and children, toThartha- 
boodi and the two young men, to whom Boora Panoo's 
daughters were married. They begat children, who were 
divided equally between Boora Panoo the grandfather and 
their fathers. Tharthaboodi objected to this division on 
the grounds that Boora Panoo's son would stand in the 
relation of Mamoo to the children of Kasarodi and 
Singarodi ; that, if the child was a female, when she got 
married, she would have to give a rupee to her Mamoo ; 

KONDH 370 

and that, if it was a male that Boora Panoo's daughter 
brought forth, the boy when he grew up would have to 
give the head of any animal he shot to Mamoo (Boora 
Panoo's son). Then Boora Panoo built a house, and 
Kasarodi and Singarodi built two houses. All lived 
happily for two years. Then Karaboodi appeared in a 
dream, and told Kasarodi and Singarodi that, if they 
offered another human victim, their lands would be very 
fertile, and their cattle could flourish. In the absence of 
a suitable being, they sacrificed a monkey. Then Kara- 
boodi appeared once more, and said that she was not 
pleased with the substitution of the monkey, and that 
a human being must be sacrificed. The two men, with 
their eight children, sought for a victim for twelve years. 
At the end of that time, they found a poor man, who had 
a son four years old, and found him, his wife and child 
good food, clothing, and shelter for a year. They then 
asked permission to sacrifice the son in return for their 
kindness, and the father gave his assent. The boy was 
fettered and handcuffed to prevent his running away, and 
taken good care of. Liquor was prepared from grains, and 
a bamboo, with a flag hoisted on it, planted in the ground. 
Next day, a pig was sacrificed near this post, and a feast 
was held. It was proclaimed that the boy would be tied 
to a post on the following day, and sacrificed on the third 
day. On the night previous to the sacrifice, the Janni 
(priest) took a reed, and poked it into the ground in 
several places. When it entered to a depth of about 
eight inches, it was believed that the god and goddess 
Tadapanoo and Dasapanoo were there. Round this 
spot, seven pieces of wood were arranged lengthways 
and crossways, and an egg was placed in the centre of 
the structure. The Khonds arrived from the various 
villages, and indulged in drink. The boy was teased, 

37^^ KONDH 

and told that he had been sold to them, that his sorrow 
would affect his parents only, and that he was to be 
sacrificed for the prosperity of the people. He was 
conducted to the spot where the god and goddess had 
been found, tied with ropes, and held fast by the 
Khonds. He was made to lie on his stomach on the 
wooden structure, and held there. Pieces of flesh were 
removed from his back, arms and legs, and portions 
thereof buried at the Khond's place of worship. Por- 
tions were also set up near a well of drinking water, 
and placed around the villages. The remainder of the 
sacrificed corpse was cremated on a pyre set alight with 
fire produced by the h'iction of two pieces of wood. On 
the following day, a buffalo was sacrificed, and a feast 
partaken of. Next day, the bamboo post was removed 
outside the village, and a fowl and eggs were offered to 
the deity. The following stanza is still recited by the 
Janni at the buffalo sacrifice, which has been substituted 
for that of a human victim : — Oh ! come, male slave ; 
come, female slave. What do you say ? What do you 
call out for ? You have been brought, ensnared by the 
Haddi. You have been called, ensnared by the Domba. 
What can I do, even if you are my child ? You are sold 
for a pot of food. 

The ethnological section of the Madras Museum 
received a few years ago a very interesting relic in the 
shape of a human (Meriah) sacrifice post from Baligudu 
in Ganjam. This post, which was fast being reduced to 
a mere shell by white-ants, is, I believe, the only one 
now in existence. It was brought by Colonel Pickance, 
who was Assistant Superintendent of Police, and set up 
in the ground near the gate of the reserve Police barracks. 
The veteran members of a party of Kondhs, who were 
brought to Madras for the purpose of performing before 

KONDH 372 

the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1906, became wildly 
excited when they came across this relic of their former 
barbarous custom. 

" The best known case," Mr. Frazer writes,* " of 
human sacrifices systematically offered to ensure good 
crops is supplied by the Khonds or Kandhs. Our knowl- 
edge of them is derived from the accounts written by 
British officers, who, forty or fifty years ago, were 
engaged in putting them down. The sacrifices were 
offered to the earth goddess, Tari Pennu or Bera Pennu, 
and were believed to ensure good crops, and immunity 
from all diseases and accidents. In particular, they were 
considered necessary in the cultivation of turmeric, the 
Khonds arguing that the turmeric could not have a deep 
red colour without the shedding of blood. The victim, 
a Meriah, was acceptable to the goddess only if he had 
been purchased, or had been born a victim, that is the 
son of a victim father, or had been devoted as a child by 
his father or guardian." 

In 1837, Mr. Russell, in a report on the districts 
entrusted to his control, wrote as follows.! "The cere- 
monies attending the barbarous rite, and still more the 
mode of destroying life, vary in different parts of the 
country. In the Maliahs of Goomsur, the sacrifice is 
offered annually to Thadha Pennoo (the earth) under the 
effigy of a bird intended to represent a peacock, with the 
view of propitiating the deity to grant favourable seasons 
and crops. The ceremony is performed at the expense 
of, and in rotation by, certain mootahs (settlements) 
composing a community, and connected together from 
local circumstances. Besides these periodical sacrifices, 

* The Golden Bough, 1900. 

t Selections from the Records, Government of India, No. V, Human Sacrifice 
and Infanticide, 1854. 

2>72> KONDH 

others are made by single mootahs, and even by indivi- 
duals, to avert any threatening calamity from sickness, 
murrain, or other cause. Grown men are the most 
esteemed (as victims), because the most costly. Children 
are purchased, and reared for years with the family of the 
person who ultimately devotes them to a cruel death, 
when circumstances are supposed to demand a sacrifice 
at his hands. They seem to be treated with kindness, 
and, if young, are kept under no constraint ; but, when old 
enough to be sensible of the fate which awaits them, they 
are placed in fetters and guarded. Most of those who 
were rescued had been sold by their parents or nearest 
relations, a practice which, from all we could learn, is 
very common. Persons of riper age are kidnapped by 
wretches who trade in human flesh. The victim must 
always be purchased. Criminals, or prisoners captured 
in war, are not considered fitting subjects. The price is 
paid indifferently in brass utensils, cattle or corn. The 
Zanee (or priest), who may be of any caste, officiates at 
the sacrifice, but he performs the poojah (offering of 
flowers, incense, etc.) to the idol through the medium of 
the Toomba, who must be a Khond child under seven 
years of age. This child is fed and clothed at the public 
expense, eats with no other person, and is subjected to no 
act deemed impure. For a month prior to the sacrifice, 
there is much feasting and intoxication, and dancing 
round the Meriah, who is adorned with garlands, etc., 
and, on the day before the performance of the barbarous 
rite, is stupefied with toddy, and made to sit, or, if 
necessary, is bound at the bottom of a post bearing the 
effigy above described. The assembled multitude then 
dance around to music, and addressing the earth, say : 
' Oh ! God, we offer the sacrifice to you. Give us good 
crops, seasons, and health.' After which they address 

KONDH 374 

the victim, ' We bought you with a price, and did not 
seize you. Now we sacrifice you according to custom, 
and no sin rests with us.' On the following day, the 
victim being again intoxicated and anointed with oil, 
each individual present touches the anointed part, and 
wipes the oil on his own head. All then proceed in 
procession around the village and its boundaries, preceded 
by music, bearing the victim and a pole, to the top of 
which is attached a tuft of peacock's feathers. On 
returning to the post, which is always placed near the 
village deity called Zakaree Pennoo, and represented by 
three stones, near which the brass effigy in the shape of 
a peacock is buried, they kill a hog in sacrifice and, 
having allowed the blood to How into a pit prepared 
for the purpose, the victim, who, if it has been found 
possible, has been previously made senseless from intoxi- 
cation, is seized and thrown in, and his face pressed 
down until he is suffocated in the bloody mire amid the 
noise of instruments. The Zanee then cuts a piece of 
flesh from the body, and buries it with ceremony near 
the effigy and village idol, as an offering to the earth. 
All the rest afterwards go through the same form, 
and carry the bloody prize to their villages, where the 
same rites are performed, part being interred near the 
village idol, and little bits on the boundaries. The head 
and face remain untouched, and the bones, when bare, 
are buried with them in the pit. After this horrid 
ceremony has been completed, a buffalo calf is brought 
in front of the post, and, his forefeet having been cut off, 
is left there till the following day. Women, dressed in 
male attire and armed as men, then drink, dance and 
sing round the spot, the calf is killed and eaten, and 
the Zanee is dismissed with a present of rice and a hog 
or calf," 

375 KONDH 

In the same year, Mr. Arbuthnot, Collector of 
Vizao^apatam, reported as follows. " Of the hill tribe 
Codooloo, there are said to be two distinct classes, the 
Cotia Codooloo and Jathapoo Codooloo. The former 
class is that which is in the habit of offering human 
sacrifices to the god called Jenkery, with a view to secure 
o-ood crops. This ceremony is generally performed on 
the Sunday preceding or following the Pongal feast. 
The victim is seldom carried by force, but procured by 
purchase, and there is a fixed price for each person, 
which consists of forty articles such as a bullock, a male 
buffalo, a cow, a goat, a piece of cloth, a silk cloth, a 
brass pot, a large plate, a bunch of plantains, etc. The 
man who is destined for the sacrifice is carried before 
the god, and a small quantity of rice coloured with saffron 
(turmeric) is put upon his head. The influence of this 
is said to prevent his attempting to escape, even though 
set at liberty. It would appear, however, that, from the 
moment of his seizure till he is sacrificed, he is kept in 
a continued state of stupefaction or intoxication. He is 
allowed to wander about the village, to eat and drink 
anything he may take a fancy to, and even to have 
connection with any of the women whom he may meet. 
On the morning set apart for the sacrifice, he is carried 
before the idol in a state of intoxication. One of the 
villagers acts as priest, who cuts a small hole in the 
stomach of the victim, and with the blood that flows 
from the wound the idol is smeared. Then the crowds 
from the neighbouring villages rush forward, and he is 
literally cut into pieces. Each person who is so fortunate 
as to procure it carries away a morsel of the flesh, and 
presents it to the idol of his own village." 

Concerning a method of sacrifice, which is illustrated 
by the post preserved in the Madras Museum, Colonel 

KONDH 376 

Campbell records* that "one of the most common ways 
of offering the sacrifice in Chinna Kimedi is to the effigy 
of an elephant (hatti mundo or elephant's head) rudely 
carved in wood, fixed on the top of a stout post, on which 
it is made to revolve. After the performance of the 
usual ceremonies, the intended victim is fastened to the 
proboscis of the elephant, and, amidst the shouts and yells 
of the excited multitude of Khonds, is rapidly whirled 
round, when, at a given signal by the officiating Zanee 
or priest, the crowd rush in, seize the Meriah, and with 
their knives cut the flesh off the shrieking wretch as 
long as life remains. He is then cut down, the skeleton 
burnt, and the horrid orgies are over. In several villages 
I counted as many as fourteen effigies of elephants, which 
had been used in former sacrifices. These I caused to 
be overthrown by the baggage elephants attached to 
my camp in the presence of the assembled Khonds, to 
show them that these venerated objects had no power 
against the living animal, and to remove all vestiges of 
their bloody superstition." In another report, Colonel 
Campbell describes how the miserable victim is dragged 
along the fields, surrounded by a crowd of half intoxi- 
cated Khonds, who, shouting and screaming, rush upon 
him, and with their knives cut the flesh piecemeal from 
the bones, avoiding the head and bowels, till the living 
skeleton, dying from loss of blood, is relieved from torture, 
when its remains are burnt, and the ashes mixed with the 
new grain to preserve it from insects." Yet again, he 
describes a sacrifice which was peculiar to the Khonds 
of Jeypore. " It is," he writes, " always succeeded by 
the sacrifice of three human beings, two to the sun to 
the east and west of the village, and one in the centre, 

* Personal Narrative of Service among the Wild Tribes of Khondistan. 



with the usual barbarities of the Meriah. A stout 
wooden post about six feet long is firmly fixed in the 
ground, at the foot of it a narrow grave is dug, and to 
the top of the post the victim is firmly fastened by the 
long hair of his head. Four assistants hold his out- 
stretched arms and legs, the body being suspended 
horizontally over the grave, with the face towards the 
earth. The officiating Junna or priest, standing on the 
right side, repeats the following invocation, at intervals 
hacking with his sacrificial knife the back part of the 
shrieking victim's neck. ' O ! mighty Manicksoro, this 
is your festal day. To the Khonds the offering is Meriah, 
to kings Junna. On account of this sacrifice, you have 
given to kings kingdoms, guns and swords. The sacrifice 
we now offer you must eat, and we pray that our battle- 
axes may be converted into swords, our bows and arrows 
into gunpowder and balls ; and, if we have any quarrels 
with other tribes, give us the victory. Preserve us from 
the tyranny of kings and their officers.' Then, addressing 
the victim : — ' That we may enjoy prosperity, we offer 
you a sacrifice to our God Manicksoro, who will imme- 
diately eat you, so be not grieved at our slaying you. 
Your parents were aware, when we purchased you from 
them for sixty rupees, that we did so with intent to 
sacrifice you. There is, therefore, no sin on our heads, but 
on your parents. After you are dead, we shall perform 
your obsequies.' The victim is then decapitated, the 
body thrown into the grave, and the head left suspended 
from the post till devoured by wild beasts. The knife 
remains fastened to the post till the three sacrifices have 
been performed, when it is removed with much ceremony. 
In an account by Captain Mac Viccar of the sacrifice as 
carried out at Eaji Deso, it is stated that on the day of 
sacrifice the Meriah is surrounded by the Khonds, who 


beat him violently on the head with the heavy metal 
bangles which they purchase at the fairs, and wear on 
these occasions. If this inhuman smashing does not 
immediately destroy the victim's life, an end is put to his 
sufferings by strangulation, a slit bamboo being used for 
the purpose. Strips of flesh are then cut off the back, and 
each recipient of the precious treasure carries his portion 
to the stream which waters his fields, and there suspends 
it on a pole. The remains of the mangled corpse are then 
buried, and funeral obsequies are performed seven days 
subsequently, and repeated one year afterwards." 

The Kondhs of Bara Mootah promised to relinquish 
the rite on condition, znie7' alia, that they should be at 
liberty to sacrifice buffaloes, monkeys, goats, etc., to their 
deities with all the solemnities observed on occasions of 
human sacrifice ; and that they should beat liberty, upon 
all occasions, to denounce to their gods the Government, 
and some of its servants in particular, as the cause of 
their having relinquished the great rite. 

The last recorded Meriah sacrifice in the Ganjam 
Maliahs occurred in 1852, and there are still Kondhs 
alive, who were present at it. Twenty-five descendants 
of persons who were reserved for sacrifice, but were 
rescued by Government officers, returned themselves as 
Meriah at the census, 1901. The Kondhs have now 
substituted a buffalo for a human being. The animal is 
hewn to pieces while alive, and the villagers rush home 
to their villages, to bury the flesh in the soil, and so 
secure prosperous crops. The sacrifice is not unaccom- 
panied by risk to the performers, as the buffalo, before 
dying, frequently kills one or more of its tormenters. 
This was the case near Baliguda in 1899, when a buffalo 
killed the sacrificer. In the previous year, the desire 
of a village to intercept the bearer of the flesh for a 

379 KONDH 

neighbouring village led to a fight, in which two men 
were killed. 

It was the practice, a few years ago, at every Dassara 
festival in Jeypore, Vizagapatam, to select a specially fine 
ram, wash it, shave its head, affix thereto red and white 
bottu and namam (sect marks) between the eyes and 
down the nose, and gird it with a new white cloth after 
the manner of a human being. The animal being then 
fastened in a sitting posture, certain puja (worship) was 
performed by a Brahman priest, and it was decapitated. 
The substitution of animals for human victims is indi- 
cated by various religious legends. Thus, a hind was 
substituted for Iphigenia, and a ram for Isaac. 

It was stated by the officers of the Meriah Agency 
that there was reason to believe that the Raja of 
Jeypore, when he was installed on his father's death in 
1 860-6 1, sacrificed a girl thirteen years of age at the 
shrine of the goddess Durga in the town of Jeypore.* 
It is noted, in the Gazetteer of the Vizagapatam district 
(1907), that " goats and buffaloes now-a-days take the 
place of human Meriah victims, but the belief in the 
superior efficacy of the latter dies hard, and every now and 
again revives. When the Rampa rebellion of 1879-80 
spread in this district, several cases of human sacrifice 
occurred in the disturbed tracts. In 1880, two persons 
were convicted of attempting a Meriah sacrifice near 
Ambadala in Bissamkatak. In 1883, a man (a beggar 
and a stranger) was found at daybreak murdered in one 
of the temples in Jeypore, in circumstances which pointed 
to his having been slain as a Meriah ; and, as late as 
1886, a formal enquiry showed that there were ample 
grounds for the suspicion that the kidnapping of victims 

* Manual of the Visagapalam district. 

KONDH 380 

still went on in Bastar." As recently as 1902, a petition 
was presented to the District Magistrate of Ganjam, ask- 
ing him to sanction the performance of a human sacrifice. 
The memory of the abandoned practice is kept green 
by one of the Kondh songs, for a translation of which we 
are indebted to Mr. J. E. Friend- Pereira.* 

" At the time of the great Kiabon (Campbell) Sahib's 
coming, the country was in darkness ; it was enveloped 
in mist. 

Having sent paiks to collect the people of the land, 
they, having surrounded them, caught the Meriah 

Having caught the Meriah sacrificers, they brought 
them, and again they went and seized the evil councillors. 

Having seen the chains and shackles, the people were 
afraid ; murder and bloodshed were quelled. 

Then the land became beautiful, and a certain 
Mokodella (Macpherson) Sahib came. 

He destroyed the lairs of the tigers and bears in the 
hills and rocks, and taught wisdom to the people. 

After the lapse of a month, he built bungalows and 
schools ; and he advised them to learn reading aod law. 

They learnt wisdom and reading ; they acquired silver 
and gold. Then all the people became wealthy." 

Human sacrifice was not practiced in the Kurtilli 
Muttah of the Ganjam Maliahs. The reason of this is 
assigned to the fact that the first attempt was made with 
a crooked knife, and the sacrificers made such a bad busi- 
ness of it that they gave it up. Colonel Campbell gives 
another tradition, that, through humanity, one of the 
Kurtilli Patros (head of a group of villages) threatened 
to leave the muttah if the practice was carried out. 

* Journ. Asiat. Soc, Bengal, 1898. 

381 KONDH 

Of a substituted sacrifice, which was carried out in the 
Ganjam Maliahs in 1894,* the following graphic account 
has been given. " Suddenly we came upon a number of 
K bonds carrying an immensely long bamboo, about fifty 
feet in length, surmounted by a gorgeous sort of balloon 
made of red and white cloth stretched on a bamboo frame. 
Attached to this were dried strips of pig's flesh, and the 
whole of the extraordinary structure was surmounted by 
a huge plume of peacock's feathers that waved gaily in 
the breeze. Along with this was carried another bamboo, 
not so long, slung all over with iron bells. We found 
that the men had been worshipping, and presenting these 
structures to a sylvan deity close by, and were now 
hastening to the small Khond village of Dhuttiegaum, 
the scene of the present Meriah sacrifice. Half a mile 
broueht us to this hamlet, situated among-st a dense 
grove of trees, in the midst of which was tied to a curi- 
ously fluted and carved wooden post the sacrificial 
buffalo, a placid animal, with its body glistening with the 
oil of many anointings. The huge bamboo pole, with its 
crown of red and white cloth and peacock's feathers, and 
incongruous shreds of dried pig's flesh, was now erected 
in the centre of the village. The comparative quiet in 
the village did not last long, for on a sudden the air was 
rent with a succession of shrieks. With the sound of the 
beating of Maliah drums, and the blowing of buffalo 
horns, a party of Khonds came madly dancing and 
rushing down a steep hillside from some neighbouring 
village. They dashed up to the buffalo, and began 
frantically dancing with the villagers already assembled 
round and round the animal. Each man carried a green 
bough of some tree, a sharp knife, and a tanghi. They 

* Madras Mail, 1894. 

KONDH 382 

were all adorned in holiday attire, their hair combed and 
knotted on the forehead, and profusely decorated with 
waving feathers. All of them were more or less intoxi- 
cated. Various other villagers now began to arrive, 
thick and fast, in the same manner, with wavings of green 
boughs, flourishing of knives, and hideous yells. Each 
party was led by the headman or Moliko of the village. 
The dancing now became more general, and faster and 
more furious, as more and more joined the human 
' merry go round,' circling about the unfortunate buffalo. 
The women, who had followed their lords and masters 
at a discreet distance, stood sedately by in a group, 
and took no part whatever in the revels. They were 
for the most part fine buxom girls, well groomed and 
oiled, and stood demurely watching everything with 
their sharp black eyes. The hitherto quiet buffalo, who 
for nearly two days had been without food and water, 
now began to get excited, and, straining at its tether, 
plunged and butted at the dancers, catching one man 
neatly on the nose so that the blood flowed copiously. 
However, the Khonds were too excited to care, and 
circled round and round the poor maddened brute, singing 
and blowing horns into its ears, beating drums, and 
every now and then offering it cakes brought with them 
from their villages, and then laying them on the top of 
the post as offerings. As they thus madly careered 
about, we had ample time to note their extraordinary 
costumes. One man had somehow got hold of an old 
blue Police overcoat, which he had put on inside out, and 
round his waist he had gathered what seemed to be a 
number of striped tent carpets, forming a stiff ballet 
skirt or kilt. He was one of the most athletic in spinning 
round the buffalo, flourishing a kitchen chopper. Another 
man's costume consisted of almost nothing at all. He 

3^3 KONDH 

had, however, profusely daubed his body with white and 
black spots, and on his head he had centred all his 
decorative genius. The head in question was swathed in 
yards of cloth, terminating at the back in a perfect cas- 
cade of cock's feathers. He excitedly waved over this 
erection an ancient and very rusty umbrella, with many 
ventilations, with streamers of white cloth attached to 
the top. Others had tied on to their heads with bands 
of cloth the horns of buffaloes, or brass horns made in 
imitation of those of the spotted deer. Their long, black 
and curly hair hung in masses from beneath this strange 
erection, giving them a most startling appearance. The 
dancing round the buffalo lasted quite two hours, as 
they were waiting for the arrival of the Patro, before 
concluding the final ceremonies, and the great man 
was fashionably late. To incite their jaded energies 
to further terpsichorean efforts, from time to time the 
dancers drank copious draughts of a kind of beer, used 
specially on these occasions, and made from kukuri, a 
species of grain. At last, the long expected Patro 
arrived with the usual uproar of many deafening sounds, 
both artificial and natural, and with the waving of green 
boughs. On this occasion he walked last, while the 
whole of his retinue preceded him dancing, headed by an 
ancient and withered hag, carrying on her shoulders a 
Maliah drum of cow-hide stretched tightly over a hoop 
of iron, and vigorously beaten from behind her by a 
Khond with stiff thongs of dried leather. The great 
man himself walked sedately, followed by his ' charger,' a 
broken-kneed tat (pony), extraordinarily caparisoned, 
and led by a youth of tender years, whose sole garment 
consisted of a faded red drummer's coat of antiquated 
cut. As soon as the Patro had seated himself comfortably 
on a log near the dancers, a change came over the scene. 

KONDH 384 

The hitherto shouting and madly revolving throng 
stopped their gyrations round the stupefied beast, too 
much exhausted and frightened to offer any resistance, 
and. falling on its neck and body, began to smother it 
with caresses and endearments, and, to a low plaintive 
air, crooned and wailed over it, the following dirge, of 
which I append a rude translation. Tradition says that 
they used to sing it, with slight variations, over their 
human victims before the sacrifice : — 

Blame us not, O buffalo ! 

Thus for sacrificing thee, 
For our fathers have ordained 

This ancient mystery. 

We have bought thee with a price, 

Have paid for thee all thy worth. 
What blame can rest upon us, 

Who save our land from dearth ? 

Famine stares us in the face, 

Parched are our fields, and dry, 
Death looks in at ev'ry door. 

For food our young ones cry. 

Thadi Pennoo veils her face, 

Propitiate me, she cries, 
Give to me of flesh and blood, 

A willing sacrifice. 

That where'er its blood is shed, 

On land, or field, or hill. 
There the gen'rous grain may spring, 

So ye may eat your fill. 

Then be glad, O buffalo ! 

Willing sacrifice to be. 
Soon in Thadi's meadows green, 

Thou shalt brouse eternally. 

After the Khonds had been chanting this sacrificial 
hymn for some time, the buffalo was untied from the carved 

3^5 KONDH 

post, and led, with singing, dancing and shouting, and 
with the noise of many musical instruments, to a sacred 
grove a few hundred yards off, and there tied to a stake. 
As soon as it had been firmly tied, the Khonds threw 
off all their superfluous clothing to the large crowd of 
womankind waiting near, and stood round the animal, 
each man with his hand uplifted, and holding a sharp 
knife ready to strike at a moment's notice, as soon as the 
priest or Janni had given the word of command. The 
Janni, who did not differ outwardly from the others, now 
gave the buffalo a slight tap on the head with a small 
axe. An indescribable scene followed. The Khonds 
in a body fell on the animal, and, in an amazingly short 
time, literally tore the living victim to shreds with their 
knives, leaving nothing but the head, bones, and stomach. 
Death must, mercifully, have been almost instantaneous. 
Every particle of flesh and skin had been stripped off 
during the few minutes they fought and struggled over 
the buffalo, eagerly grasping for every atom of flesh. 
As soon as a man had secured a piece of flesh, he rushed 
away with the gory mass, as fast as he could, to his fields, 
to bury it therein according to ancient custom, before the 
sun had set. As some of them had to do good distances to 
effect this, it was imperative that they should run very fast. 
A curious scene now took place, for which we could obtain 
no explanation. As the men ran, all the women flung 
after them clods of earth, some of them taking very good 
effect. The sacred grove was cleared of people, save a few 
that guarded the remnants left of the buffalo, which were 
taken, and burnt with ceremony at the foot of the stake." 
I pass on to the subject of infanticide among the 
Kondhs. It is stated, in the Manual of the Vizagapatam 
district, that female infanticide used to be very common 
all over the Jeypore country, and the Rajah is said to 

KONDH 386 

have made money out of it in one large taluk (division). 
The custom was to consult the Dasari (priest) when a 
child was born as to its fate. If it was to be killed, the 
parents had to pay the Amin of the taluk a fee for the 
privilege of killing it ; and the Amin used to pay the 
Rajah three hundred rupees a year for renting the 
privilege of giving the license and pocketing the fees. 
The practice of female infanticide was formerly very 
prevalent among the Kondhs of Ganjam, and, in 1841, 
Lieutenant Macpherson was deputed to carry into effect 
the measures which had been proposed by Lord Elphin- 
stone for the suppression of the Meriah sacrifices and 
infanticide. The custom was ascribed to various beliefs, 
viz., (i) that it was an injunction by god, as one woman 
made the whole world suffer ; (2) that it conduces to 
male offspring ; (3) that woman, being a mischief-maker, 
is better out of the world than in it ; (4) that the diffi- 
culty, owing to poverty, in providing marriage portions 
was an objection to rearing females. From Macpherson's 
well known report * the following extracts are taken. 
" The portion of the Khond country, in which the 
practice of female infanticide is known to prevail, is 
roughly estimated at 2,400 square miles, its population 
at 60,000, and the number of infants destroyed annually 
at 1,200 to 1,500. The tribes (who practice infanticide) 
belong to the division of the Khond people which does 
not offer human sacrifices. The usage of infanticide has 
existed amongst them from time immemorial. It owes 
its origin and its maintenance partly to religious opinions, 
partly to ideas from which certain very important 
features of Khond manners arise. The Khonds believe 
that the supreme deity, the sun god, created all things 

* Selections from the Records of the Government of India (Home Depart- 
ment), v., 1845. 

3^7 KONDH 

good ; that the earth goddess Introduced evil into the 
world ; and that these two powers have since conflicted. 
The non-sacrificing tribes make the supreme deity the 
great object of their adoration, neglecting the earth god- 
dess. The sacrificing tribes, on the other hand, believe 
the propitiation of the latter power to be the most neces- 
sary worship. Now the tribes which practice female 
infanticide hold that the sun god, in contemplating the 
deplorable effects produced by the creation of feminine 
nature, charged men to bring up only as many females as 
they could restrain from producing evil to society. This 
is the first idea upon which the usage is founded. Again, 
the Khonds believe that souls almost invariably return 
to animate human forms in the families in which they 
have been first born and received. But the reception 
of the soul of an infant into a family is completed only 
on the performance of the ceremony of naming upon the 
seventh day after its birth. The death of a female infant, 
therefore, before that ceremonial of reception, is believed 
to exclude its soul from the circle of family spirits, dimi- 
nishing by one the chance of future female births in the 
family. And, as the first aspiration of every Khond is 
to have male children, this belief is a powerful incentive 
to infanticide." Macpherson, during his campaign, 
came across many villages of about a hundred houses, 
in which there was not a single female child. In like 
manner, in 1S55, Captain Frye found many Baro Bori 
Khond villao-es without a sinorle female child in them. 

In savage societies, it has been said, sexual unions 
were generally effected by the violent capture of the 
woman. By degrees these captures have become 
friendly ones, and have ended in a peaceful exogamy, 
retaining the ancient custom only in the ceremonial form. 
Whereof an excellent example is afforded by the Kondhs, 
ni-25 B 


concerning whom the author of the Ganjam Manual 
writes as follows. " The parents arrange the marriages 
of their children. The bride is looked upon as a com- 
mercial 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. The usual 
price, however, paid by the bridegroom's father for the 
bride, is twenty or thirty gontis. A Khond finds his 
wife from among the women of any mutah (village) than 
his own. On the day fixed for the bride being taken 
home to her husband's house, the pieces of broom in her 
ears are removed, and are replaced by brass rings. The 
bride is covered over with a red blanket, and carried 
astride on her uncle's back towards the husband's village, 
accompanied by the young women of her own village. 
Music is played, and in the rear are carried brass play- 
things, such as horses, etc., for the bridegroom, and 
cloths and brass pins as presents for the bridegroom 
from the bride's father. On the road, at the village 
boundary, the procession is met by the bridegroom and 
the young men of his village, with their heads and bodies 
wrapped up in blankets and cloths. Each is armed with 
a bundle of long thin bamboo sticks. The young women 
of the bride's village at once attack the bridegroom's 
party with sticks, stones, and clods of earth, which the 
young men ward off with the bamboo sticks. A running- 
fight is in this manner kept up until the village is reached, 
when the stone-throwing invariably ceases, and the 
bridegroom's uncle, snatching up the bride, carries her 
off to her husband's house. This fighting is by no means 
child's play, and the men are sometimes seriously injured. 
The whole party is then entertained by the bridegroom 

389 KONDH 

as lavishly as his means will permit. On the day after 
the bride's arrival, a buffalo and a pig are slaughtered 
and eaten, and, upon the bride's attendants returning 
home on the evening of the second day, a male and 
female buffalo, or some less valuable present, is given to 
them. On the third day, all the Khonds of the village 
have a grand dance or tamasha (festivity), and on the 
fourth day there is another grand assembly at the house 
of the bridesfi'oom. The bride and brideoroom are then 
made to sit down on a cot, and the bridegroom's brother, 
pointing upwards to the roof of the house, says : " As 
long as this girl stays with us, may her children be as 
men and tigers ; but, if she goes astray, may her children 
be as snakes and monkeys, and die and be destroyed ! " 
In his report upon the Kondhs (1842), Macpherson tells 
us that "they hold a feast at the bride's house. Far 
into the night the principals in the scene are raised by 
an uncle of each upon his shoulders, and borne through 
the dance. The burdens are suddenly exchanged, and 
the uncle of the youth disappears with the bride. The 
assembly divides itself into two parties. The friends of 
the bride endeavour to arrest, those of the bridegroom to 
cover her flight, and men, women, and children mingle 
in mock conflict. I saw a man bearing away upon his 
back something enveloped in an ample covering of scarlet 
cloth. He was surrounded by twenty or thirty young 
fellows, and by them protected from the desperate 
attacks made upon him by a party of young women. The 
man was just married, and the burden was his blooming 
bride, whom he was conveying to his own village. Her 
youthful friends were, according to custom, seeking to 
regain possession of her, and hurled stones and bamboos 
at the head of the devoted bridegroom, until he reached 
the confines of his own village. Then the tables were 

kONDH 390 

turned, and the bride was fairly won ; and off her young 
friends scampered, screaming and laughing, but not 
relaxing their speed till they reached their own village." 
Among the Kondhs of Gumsur, the friends and relations 
of the bride and bridegroom collect at an appointed 
spot. The people of the female convoy call out to the 
others to come and take the bride, and then a mock 
fight with stones and thorny brambles is begun by the 
female convoy against the parties composing the other 
one. In the midst of the tumult the assaulted party 
takes possession of the bride, and all tiie furniture brought 
with her, and carry all off together.* According to 
another account, the bride, as s<oon as she enters the 
bridegroom's house, has two enormous bracelets, or 
rather handcuffs of brass, each weighing from twenty to 
thirty pounds, attached to each wrist. The unfortunate 
girl has to sit with her two wrists resting on her 
shoulders, so as to support these enormous weights. 
This is to prevent her from running away to her old 
home. On the third day the bangles are removed, as it 
is supposed that by then the girl has become reconciled 
to her fate. These marriage bangles are made on the 
hills, and are curiously carved in fluted and zigzag lines, 
and kept as heirlooms in the family, to be used at the 
next marriage in the house. According to a still more 
recent account of marriage among the Kondhs t an 
old woman suddenly rushes forward, seizes the bride, 
flings her on her back, and carries her off A man 
comes to the front, catches the groom, and places him 
astride on his shoulder. The human horses neigh and 
prance about like the live quadruped, and finally rush 
away to the outskirts of the village. This is a signal for 

* J. A. R. Stevenson. Madras Jonrn : Lit. Science, VI, 1837. 
t J. E. Friend-Pereira. Journ : Asiat : Soc. Bengal, LXXI, 1902. 


the bride's girl friends to chase the couple, and pelt them 
with clods of earth, stones, mud, covvdung, and rice. 
When the mock assault is at an end, the older people 
come up, and all accompany the bridal pair to the 
groom's village. A correspondent informs me that he 
once saw a Kondh bride going to her new home, riding 
on her uncle's shoulders, and wrapped in a red blanket. 
She was followed by a bevy of girls and relations, and 
preceded by drums and horns. He was told that the 
uncle had to carry her the whole way, and that, if he 
had to put her down, a fine of a buffalo was inflicted, 
the animal being killed and eaten. It is recorded that 
a European magistrate once mistook a Kondh marriage 
for a riot, but, on enquiry, discovered his mistake. 

Reference has been made above to certain brass 
playthings, which are carried in the bridal procession. 
The figures include peacocks, chamaeleons, cobras, crabs, 
horses, deer, tigers, cocks, elephants, human beings, 
musicians, etc. They are cast by the cire perdue process. 
The core of the figure is roughly shaped in clay, accord- 
ing to the usual practice, but, instead of laying on the 
wax in an even thickness, thin wax threads are first 
made, and arranged over the core so as to form a 
network, or placed in parallel lines or diagonally, 
according as the form of the figure or fancy of the work- 
man dictates. The head, arms, and feet are modelled in 
the ordinary way. The wax threads are made by means 
of a bamboo tube, into the end of which a moveable 
brass plate is fitted. The wax, being made sufficiently 
soft by heat, is pressed through the perforation at the 
end of the tube, and comes out in the form of long 
threads, which must be used by the workmen before they 
become hard and brittle. The chief place where these 
figures are made is Belugunta, near Russellkonda in 

KONDH 392 

Ganjam. It is noted by Mr. J. A. R. Stevenson * that 
the Kondhs of Gumsur, to represent their deities Jara 
Pennu, the Linga Devata, or Petri Devata, keep in their 
houses brass figures of elephants, peacocks, dolls, fishes, 
etc. If affliction happens to any one belonging to the 
household, or if the country skin eruption breaks out on 
any of them, they put rice into milk, and, mixing 
turmeric with it, sprinkle the mixture on the figures, and, 
killing fowls and sheep, cause worship to be made by the 
Jani, and, making baji, eat. 

At a marriage among the Kondhs of Baliguda, after the 
heads of the bride and bridegroom have been brought 
together, an arrow is discharged from a bow by the 
younger brother of the bridegroom into the grass roof of 
the hut. At the betrothal ceremony of some Kondhs, 
a buffalo and pig are killed, and some of the viscera 
eaten. Various parts are distributed according to an 
abiding rule, viz., the head to the bridegroom's maternal 
uncle, the flesh of the sides to his sisters, and of the back 
among other relations and friends. Some Kondh boys 
of ten or twelve years of age are said to be married to 
girls of fifteen or sixteen. At Shubernagiri, in the 
Ganjam Maliahs, are two trysting trees, consisting of a 
jak {Artocarpus integrifolia) and mango growing close 
together. The custom was for a Kondh, who was unable 
to pay the marriage fees to the Patro (headman), to meet 
his love here by night and plight his troth, and then for 
the two to retire into the jungle for three days and 
nights before returning to the village. Afterwards, they 
were considered to be man and wife. 

It is noted by Mr. Friend-Pereira t that, at the 
ceremonial for settling the preliminaries of a Kondh 

Madras Journ : Lit. & Science, VI, 1S37. + Loc. cit. 



marriage, a knotted string is put into the hands of the 
seridahpa gataru (searchers for the bride), and a similar 
string is kept by the girl's people. The reckoning of 
the date of the betrothal ceremony is kept by undoing 
a knot in the string every morning. 

Some years ago, a young Kondh was betrothed to 
the daughter of another Kondh, 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 
Pano 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 meeting, which decided in favour of the Pano. 

Of birth ceremonies, the following account is given by 
Mr. Jayaram Moodaliar. The woman is attended in her 
confinement by an elderly Kondh midwife, w^ho sham- 
pooes her abdomen with castor-oil. The umbilical cord 
is cut by the mother of the infant. For this purpose, 
the right thigh of the baby is flexed towards its abdomen, 
and a piece of cooled charcoal placed on its right knee. 
The cord is placed on the charcoal, and divided with the 
sharp edge of an arrow. The placenta is buried close to 
the house near a wall. After the cord has been severed, 
the mother daubs the region of the infant's navel with 
her saliva, over which she smears castor-oil. She then 
warms her hands at a fire, and applies them to the 
infant's body. [It is stated, in the Ganjam Manual, that 
the infant is held before a hot fire, and half roasted.] 
The warming is repeated several times daily for four or 
five days. When the umbilical cord has sloughed off, a 
spider is burnt to ashes over a fire, placed in a cocoanut 
shell, mixed with castor-oil, and applied by means of a 


fowl's feather to the navel. The Infant's head is shaved, 
except over the anterior fontanelle, the hair from which 
is removed after about a month. Its body is smeared all 
over daily with castor-oil and tumeric paste until it is a 
month old. The mother then goes with her baby and 
husband to her brother's house, where the infant is 
presented with a fowl, which is taken home, and eaten 
by her husband. The appropriation of the fowl varies 
according to the locality. In some places, the infant's 
father, and other relations, except the mother, may eat 
it, and, in others, both its parents, and relations living in 
the house, may do so. In still other places, the father, 
paternal grandfather and grandmother, and paternal 
uncle, may partake of it. 

The naming ceremony among the Kondhs of Gumsur 
is thus described by Mr. J. A. R. Stevenson. " Six months 
after birth, on a fixed day, they make gaduthuva (the 
ceremony of naming the child). On that day, killing a 
dog, and procuring liquor, they make baji. They wash 
the feet of the child. The Jani being come, he ties a 
cord from the haft to the point of a sickle, and they 
divine by means of it. Having assembled the petrilu 
(literally ancestors, but here denoting household images 
or gods), they put rice on the sickle. As the names (of 
the ancestors or family ?) are repeated in order, each 
time the rice is put on, that name is chosen on the 
mention of which the sickle moves, and is given to the 
child. They then drink liquor, and eat baji. They give 
rice and flesh to the Jani." 

Of death ceremonies, the following account is given in 
the manual of the Ganjam district. " Immediately after 
death, a cloth is wrapped round the corpse, but no cloths 
or valuables are removed. A portion of paddy (unhusked 
rice), and all the cooking utensils of the deceased are 

395 icoNDii 

given to the village Sitra. [The Sitras manufacture the 
brass rings and bangles worn by the Kondhs.] The 
body is then burnt. On the following day, a little rice is 
cooked, put on a dish, and laid on the spot where the 
corpse was burnt. An incantation is then pronounced, 
requesting the spirit of the deceased person to eat the 
rice and enjoy itself, and not to change itself into a 
devil or tiger, and come bothering the survivors in the 
village. Three days after death, the madda ceremony is 
performed. An effigy of the deceased is prepared of 
straw, which is stuck up in front of or on the roof of the 
house, and the relations and friends assemble, lament, 
and eat at the expense of the people of the deceased's 
house. Each person brings a present of some kind or 
other, and, on his departure on the next day, receives 
something of slightly higher value. The death of a man 
in a village requires a purification, which is made by the 
sacrifice of a buffalo on the seventh day after death. If 
a man is killed by a tiger, the purification is made by the 
sacrifice of a pig, the head of which, cut off with a tangi 
(axe) by a Pano, is passed between the legs of the men 
in the village, who stand in a line astraddle. It is a bad 
omen for him if the head touches any man's legs. If the 
Patro attends a funeral, he gfets a fee of a sfoat for firino- his 
gun, to drive away the dead man's ghost." According 
to Mr. Jayaram Moodaliar, if a person is killed by a 
tiger, the head of the decapitated pig is placed in a 
stream, and, as it floats down, it has to pass between the 
legs of the villagers. If it touches the legs of any of 
them, it forebodes that he will be killed by a tiger. 

In a note on the death ceremonies in Gumsur, Mr. 
J. A. R. Stevenson writes as follows. " On life ceasing, 
they tie a sheep to the foot of the corpse. They carry 
the clothes, brass eating-dish, brass drinking-vessel, 

KONDH 396 

ornaments, grain in store, and the said sheep to the 
burning-ground. Having burned the body, and gone 
around about the pile, they leave all those things there, 
and, beating drums, return home. The garments the 
Panos take away. They procure liquor, and drink it. 
They then go to their respective houses, and eat. On 
the next day, they kill a she-buffalo, and get together 
a great quantity of liquor. The whole of the tribe (near 
and distant relations) being assembled, they make baji, 
and eat. They beat drums. If the deceased were of 
any consequence, dancers come and dance to the sound 
of the drums, to whom some animal is given, which they 
take, and go away. Subsequently, on the twelfth day, 
they carry a hog to the spot where the body was burned, 
and, after perambulating the site of the pyre, return 
to their home, where they kill a hog in the place set 
apart for their household gods, and, procuring liquor, 
make baji, the members of the tribe eating together. 
Should a tiger carry off any one, they throw out of 
doors all the (preserved) flesh belonging to him, and all 
the people of the village, not excepting children, quit 
their homes. The Jani, being come with two rods of 
the tummeca tree {Acacia arabicd), he plants these in 
the earth, and then, bring-ino' one rod of the conda- 
tamara tree {Smilax macrophylla), he places it trans- 
versely across the other two. The Jani, performing some 
incantation, sprinkles water on them. Beginning with 
the children, as these and the people pass through the 
passage so formed, the Jani sprinkles water on them all. 
Afterwards, the whole of them go to their houses, without 
looking behind them." 

In connection with customs observed in the event of 
death, Mr. Jayaram Moodaliar writes that " if a woman's 
husband dies, she removes the beads from her neck, the 

397 KONDH 

metal finger rings, ankle and wrist ornaments, and the 
ornament worn in the lobe of one ear, that worn in the 
lobe of the other ear being retained. These are thrown on 
the chest of the corpse, before it is cremated. The widow 
does not remove the ornaments worn in the helices of the 
ears, and in the alae and septum of the nose. When a 
Khond dies, his body is cremated. The people in the 
house of the deceased are not allowed to cook their food on 
that or the next day, but are fed by their relations and 
friends in the village. On the day after death, rice and a 
fowl are cooked separately, put in big leaf cups, and placed 
on the spot where the corpse was burnt. The spirit of the 
deceased is invited to eat the meal, and asked not to do 
them any harm. On the third day, the relations bathe, 
and smear their heads with clay. An effigy of the 
deceased is made, and stuck up on the roof of the house. 
The practice of making an image of the deceased obtains 
amono- the Goomsur Khonds, but, in some other places, 
is considered inauspicious. On the seventh day, a puri- 
ficatory ceremony is gone through, and a buffalo killed, 
with which, and the indispensable liquor, the guests are 
entertained. At a village two miles from Baliguda, 
a boy, about sixteen years old, died. His gold ear-rings 
and silver bracelets were not removed, but burnt. His 
cloths were thrown on the pyre. Ragi and other grains, 
paddy, etc., were placed near the funeral pyre, but not 
in the fire. The food-stuffs, and " buffalo, were divided 
among the Haddis, who are the servants of the headman 
(Patro) of the muttah. They also took the remains of 
the jewels, recovered from the ashes after cremation." 

It is recorded by Mr. F. Fawcett * that " once after 
death, a propitiatory sacrifice is made of animals of the 

* Journ. Anthrop. Soc, Bombay, II, 249. 

KONDH 398 

deceased to the Pidari Pitta (ancestor) for the sake of 
the deceased's spirit, which, after this festive introduction 
to the shades, must take its chance. A curious cere- 
mony, which I do not remember seeing noted anywhere, 
is performed the day after death. Some boiled rice and 
a small fowl are taken to the burning place. The fowl 
is split down the breast, and placed on the spot ; it is 
afterwards eaten, and the soul is invoked to enter a new- 
born child." 

The following note on a Kondh funeral dance in the 
Ganjam Maliahs is from the pen of an eye-witness.* 
" The dead Patro is, as usual, a hill Uriya, of ancient 
lineage, no less than that of the great totem of nola 
bompsa or the ancestral wood-pigeon that laid its eggs 
in the hollow of a bamboo, from which this family 
sprang. Various and most interesting are the totems of 
the Maliahs. In passing, I may mention another curious 
totem, that of the pea-fowl, two eggs of which a man 
brought home to his wife, who laid them in an earthen 
pot, and from them sprang a man-child, the progenitor 
of a famous family. But to return to the Patro. Before 
sunset, mourned by his two wives, the younger and 
favourite one carrying a young child of light bamboo 
colour, he had been burnt, without much ceremony, in 
an open grassy spot, his ashes scattered to the four 
winds of heaven, and the spot marked by wooden posts 
driven deep into the soil. Not now would be celebrated 
the funeral obsequies, but a month hence on the acces- 
sion of his eldest son, the future Patro, a fair lad of 
eighteen years. As the day for the obsequies drew 
near, an unusual bustle filled the air. Potters from the 
low country arrived, and hundreds upon hundreds of 

* Madras Mail, 1896. 

399 KONDH 

earthen pots of all sizes and shapes were turned, and 
piled in great heaps near the village. Huge buffaloes, 
unconscious of their approaching fate, lay tethered near, 
or wallowing in bovine luxury in a swamp hard by. 
Messengers had been sent far and near to all the Patros, 
Molikos, and Bissoyis. Even the Kuttiya Khonds were 
not left out. The auspicious morning at length dawned, 
when a distinguished company began to arrive, each 
chief with his followers, and in many cases his wives 
and little children, all dressed in their best, and bent 
on enjoying everything to the utmost. I noticed fine 
stalwart men from Udiagiri on the edge of the ghauts, 
together with Khonds from more civilised Baliguda, and 
Khonds from cold and breezy Daringabadi, cheerful in 
spite of the numbers of their relatives that had found a 
horrid tomb inside a man-eating tiger that since 1886 
(together with another ally lately started) had carried 
off more than four hundred of their kith and kin. 
Distinguished amongst even that wild horde for savagery 
were the Khonds from the Kuttiya country, who live on 
tops of hills, and whose women are seldom, if ever, seen. 
These are remarkable for their enormous quantities of 
frizzly hair tied in huge chignons over the right brow, 
and decorated with feathers of every hue — the jay, the 
parrot, the peacock and the white quills of the paddy- 
bird predominating. Their short, sturdy limbs are hung 
in every direction with necklaces and curious blue beads 
and cut agates, said to be dug out of ancient burial 
places and cromlechs in Central India. Certain it is 
that almost no inducement will prevail on a Khond to 
voluntarily part with these precious heirlooms. As each 
fresh detachment arrived, their first occupation was to 
go to a neighbouring tank (pond), and, after a wash and 
decoration of head and hair with either the orthodox 

KONDH 400 

feathers, or, prettier still, with wreaths of wild flowers, 
to repair to the late chief's house, and, presenting them- 
selves at the door, condole, with much vigour of lungs, 
with the now less disconsolate widows on their recent 
loss. This ceremony over, they tendered their allegiance 
to the young son of the dead Patro, permitted by 
Government to take his place, and each man received 
from him an earthen cooking-pot, and each circle of 
villages a buffalo. The Khond is a beef eater, but a 
curious custom prevails in some parts, that a married 
woman must abstain from the flesh of a cow. These 
preliminary ceremonies over, the crowd adjourned, with 
great noise of shouting, blowing of buffalo horns, and 
beating of drums, to the open grassy spot marked by 
posts, where the late Patro had been burned, and 
where a recently killed buffalo, weltering in its gore, 
now lay. Among the throng of men, women and 
children, most of the former more than slightly elevated 
by drinking copious draughts of a kind of beer made 
from the kuhari grain, were three Khond s carrying long 
poles surmounted by huge bunches of peacock feathers 
that blazed in the sunlight like emeralds and sapphires. 
The funeral dance now commenced. The dance itself 
is simple in the extreme, for, when the right spot was 
reached, old men and young began gyrating round and 
round in a large circle, a perfect human merry-go-round. 
The old grey-beards, plodding slowly round the ring, 
and stamping on the soil with their aged feet, presented 
a great contrast to the younger and wilder men, who 
capered and pranced about, sometimes outside the circle, 
waving their tanghis in the air, and every now and then 
leaping up to the slain buffalo, and dipping their axes 
into its blood, and then back again, dancing more wildly 
than ever, round and round from west to east, till the 


eye ached to behold the perpetual motion of this animated 
wheel. In the centre revolved the three men with 
the huge bunches of peacock feathers afore-mentioned. 
When any dropped out of the circle to rest there were 
many eager and willing to take their places, and so, 'vith 
relays of fresh dancers, this human circle revolved on 
for three whole days, only ceasing at nightfall, when by 
large fires the various tribes cooked in the earthen pots 
provided the buffaloes presented by the new Patro. In 
olden days, an animal was given to each village, but on 
this occasion only to a circle of villages, occasioning 
thereby certain grumblings among the wiseacres for the 
good old days of the past, when not only buffaloes in 
plenty, but Meriah human victims as well were lavishly 
provided and sacrificed. * Ichabod,' said they in Khond, 
'the glory of the Maliahs hath departed.' On the after- 
noon of the third day, the Patros, Molikas, Bissoyis, and 
others of the great men began to depart with their 
retainers for their distant homes in the jungles, having 
had a thoroughly good time. The women, who had 
been very shy at first, fled at my approach, now, after 
three days' familiarity with a white face, began to show 
symptoms of friendliness, so that they allowed me to go 
quite near to them to examine their pretty necklaces of 
coloured grasses, silver coins, and curious beads, and to 
count the numbers of small sticks (generally about twelve 
or fifteen) of broom that were arranged in the shape of 
a crescent round the outer edges of the pierced ears of 
each unmarried village belle, and to observe at close 
quarters the strange tattooed patterns in blue of zig- 
zag and curve that to my eyes disfigured their other- 
wise comely faces. As to beauty of figure, I think 
very few can compare with a young and well-grown 
Khond maiden, with her straight back and handsome 

KONDH 402 

proportions. It was, therefore, without much difficulty 
that I persuaded some of them to dance before me. Six 
buxom girls stepped out, all of them the respectable 
daughters of well-to-do Khonds, prepared to dance 
the famous peacock dance. Round their supple but 
massive waists was twisted the strip of national 
Khond cloth of blue, red and white, and for bodices 
what could be more becoming than their glossy brown 
skins of nature's millinery, gracefully wreathed with 
garlands of coloured grasses and strings of gay beads. 
The polished jet black hair, neatly tied in a knot at the 
back, and decorated with pretty lacquered and silver 
combs, or with forest flowers, added yet more to their 
picturesque appearance. Each girl now took a long strip 
of white cloth, and, winding it round her waist, allowed 
one end to trail at the back in the fashion of a Liberty 
sash. This was supposed to represent the tail of the 
peacock. Three of the girls then faced the three others, 
and, with their left hands resting on their hips, and 
their elbows sticking out (to represent the wings), and 
the right arms extended in froot with the fingers out- 
stretched to simulate the neck and beak, began to dance 
to the ear-piercing shrieks of cracked trumpet, and to 
the deep beatings of a Maliah drum marking excellent 
time. On and on they danced, advancing and retiring, 
and now and then crossing over (not unlike the first 
figure of the quadrille), while their tinkling feet, ' like 
little mice, stole in and out,' the heels alternately clash- 
ing against each other, in exact time to the music, 
and the lips gracefully waving from side to side as 
they advanced or retired. There was perfect grace of 
movements combined with extreme modesty, the large 
expressive eyes veiled by the long lashes never once 
being raised, and the whole demeanour utterly oblivious 

403 KONDH 

to the crowd of enthusiastic admirers that surrounded 
them on all sides. But for the wild scene around, the 
noise and shrieking of instruments, and the fantastic 
dresses of the Khonds (many of whom had buffalo horns 
tied on to their painted faces, or had decorated their 
heads with immense wigs of long black hair), one might 
easily have supposed these shrinking damsels to have 
been the pick of a Mission School specially selected for 
propriety to dance the South Indian kummi before, say, 
an itinerant Bishop of ascetic tendencies and aesthetic 
temperament. When their heaving, panting bodies 
showed that exhausted nature claimed them for her own, 
the man with the trumpet or the drum would rush up, 
and blow or beat it almost under their drooping heads, 
urging them with shouts and gesticulations to further 
energy, till at length the shades of night crept over the 
hills, and, with one accord, the dancing and the deafen- 
ing music ceased, while the six girls stole quietly back 
and were soon lost in the crowd." 

Of superstitions among the Kondhs, the following 
are recorded by Mr. Jayaram Moodaliar : — 

" When a Kondh starts out on a shooting expedi- 
tion, if he first meets an adult female, married or 
unmarried, he will return home, and ask a child to tell 
the females to keep out of his way. He will then make 
a fresh start, and, if he meets a female, will wave his 
hand to her as a sign that she must keep clear of 
him. Before a party start out for shooting, they warn 
the females not to come in their way. The Kondh 
believes that, if he sees a female, he will not come 
across animals in the jungle to shoot. If a woman is 
in her menses, her husband, brothers, and sons living 
under the same roof, will not go out shooting for the 
same reason. 

III-26 B 

KONDH 404 

A Kondh will not leave his village when a jathra 
(festival) is being celebrated, lest the god Pennu should 
visit his wrath on him. 

They will not cut trees, which yield products 
suitable for human consumption, such as the mango, jak, 
jambul {Eugenia Jambolana), or iluppai {Bassia) from 
which they distil a spirituous liquor. Even though these 
trees prevent the growth of a crop in the fields, they 
will not cut them down. 

If an owl hoots over the roof of a house, or on a 
tree close thereto, it is considered unlucky, as foreboding 
a death in the family at an early date. If an owl hoots 
close to a village, but outside it, the death of one of the 
villagers will follow. For this reason, the bird is pelted 
with stones, and driven off. 

They will not kill a crow, as this would be a sin 
amounting to the killing of a friend. According to their 
legend, soon after the creation of the world there was a 
family consisting of an aged man and woman, and four 
children, who died one after the other in quick succes- 
sion. Their parents were too aged to take the necessary 
steps for their cremation, so they threw the bodies away 
on the ground, at some distance from their home. God 
appeared to them in their dreams one night, and pro- 
mised that he would create the crow, so that it might 
devour the dead bodies. 

They do not consider it a sin to kill a Brahminy 
kite {Haliasttcr Indus : Garuda pakshi), which is held in 
veneration throughout Southern India. A Kondh will 
kill it for so slight an offence as carrying off his chickens. 

They will not cut the crops with a sickle with a 
serrated edge, such as is used by the Oriyas, but use a 
straight-edged knife. The crops, after they have been 
cut, are removed to the village, and threshed by hand, 

405 KONDH 

and not with the help of cattle. While this is being 
done, strangers (Kondh or others) may not look on the 
crop, or speak to them, lest their evil eye should be 
cast on them. If a stranger is seen approaching near the 
threshing-floor, the Kondhs keep him off by signalling 
to him with their hands, without speaking. The serrated 
sickle is not used, because it produces a sound like that 
of cattle grazing, which would be unpropitious. If cattle 
were used in threshing the crop, it is believed that the 
earth god would feel insulted by the dung and urine of 
the animals. 

They believe that they can transform themselves 
into tigers or snakes, half the soul leaving the body and 
becoming changed into one of these animals, either to 
kill an enemy, or satisfy hunger by having a good feed 
on cattle in the jungle. During this period, they are 
believed to feel dull and listless, and disinclined for 
work, and, if a tiger is killed in the forest, they will 
die synchronously. Mr. Fawcett informs me that the 
Kondhs believe that the soul wanders during sleep. On 
one occasion, a dispute arose owing to a man discover- 
ing that another Kondh, whose spirit used to wander 
about in the guise of a tiger, ate up his spirit, and he 
became ill. 

When cholera breaks out in a village, all males 
and females smear their bodies from head to foot with 
pig's fat liquefied by heat, and continue to do so until 
a few days after the disappearance of the dread disease. 
During this time, they do not bathe, lest the smell of the 
fat should be washed away." 

The Kondhs are said * to prevent the approach of 
the goddess of small-pox by barricading the paths with 

* Macpherson. Memorials of Service in India. 

KONDH 406 

thorns and ditches, and boiling caldrons of stinking oil. 
The leopard is looked upon in some way as a sacred 
beast by the Kondhs of the northern Maliahs. They 
object to a dead leopard being carried through their 
villages, and oaths are taken on a leopard's skin. 

Referring to elf stones, or stones of the dead in 
European countries, to which needles, buttons, milk, 
eggs, etc., are offered, Mr. F. Fawcett describes * a 
Kondh ceremony, in which the ground under a tree was 
cleared in the form of a square, within which were 
circles of saffron (turmeric), charcoal, rice, and some 
yellow powder, as well as an egg or a small chicken. 
A certain Kondh had fever caused by an evil spirit, and 
the ceremony was an invitation to it to come out, and 
go to another village. 

The following account of a cow-shed sacrifice is given 
by Mr. Fawcett. t " A special liquor is brewed from 
grain for the ceremony, on the first day of which there is 
a general fast, a pig is bought by general subscription, 
and dragged to the place where it is to be sacrificed by 
a rope ' through its belly.' The pig is stoned to death, 
but, ere it dies, each Khond cuts off some of the hair 
and a little piece of the ear, which are treasured. The 
meat is divided among them, and cooked with rice. The 
priest goes from house to house, and performs the 
ceremony of the cow-shed. The ropes of the cattle 
(chiefly buffaloes) which are out grazing are tied to the 
central point in the cow-shed, and the other ends are 
laid on the ground across the shed. These ropes are 
the visible objects, to which sacrifice is made. The 
head of a chicken is buried near the ends tied to the 
post, and near it are ranged leaves, on which are placed 

* Journ., Anlh. Soe., Bombay, II, 1890. t ^^i<^- 

407 KONDH 

rice, flesh of the pig, and a bit of its ear. A little in front 
of these is buried a rotten egg. The chicken, whose 
head is buried, is boiled, and eaten by children who 
have not yet donned a cloth. The Khond puts the rice, 
piece of the ear, and the hair of the pig, under the roof. 
In the evening the cattle come home, and are tied by 
the ropes used in the ceremony. Then the women 
break their fast — they musl eat then. Drinking and 
dancing occupy the two following days, during which no 
manure is removed from the cow-shed. On the third 
day, the Khonds come out with a lump of it in the hand, 
and throw it in one place, forming a heap, on which the 
priest pours liquor and rice." 

The following example of a Kondh oath is given by 
Mr. J. A. R. Stevenson. " The subject of the circum- 
stance is first repeated by the swearing party, and a 
basket containing the following things is held before 
him : — 

A blood-sucker (lizard). 

A bit of tiger's skin. 

A peacock's feather. 

Earth from a ' white-ant ' hill. 

Rice mixed with fowl's blood. 

A lighted lamp. 

He proceeds with his oath, touching each object in 
the basket at that part of the oath which refers to that 
object. ' Oh ! father (god), I swear, and, if I swear 
falsely, then, Oh ! father, may I become shrivelled and 
dry like a blood-sucker, and thus die. May I be killed 
by a tiger. May I crumble to dust like this white-ant's 
hill. May I be blown about like this feather. May I 
be extinguished like this lamp.' In saying the last words, 
he puts a few grains of rice in his mouth, and blows out 
the lamp, and the basket with its contents is made to 
touch the top of his head." 

KONDH 408 

In 1904, a case illustrating the prevailing belief in 
witchcraft occurred in the Vizagapatam hill tracts. The 
youngest of three brothers died of fever, and, when the 
body was cremated, the fire failed to consume the upper 
portion. The brothers concluded that death must have 
been caused by the witchcraft of a certain Kondh. They 
accordingly attacked him, and killed him. After death, 
the brothers cut the body in half, and dragged the upper 
half to their own village, where they attempted to nail 
it up on the spot where their deceased brother's body 
failed to burn. The accused were arrested on the spot, 
with the fragment of the Kondh's corpse. They were 
sentenced to death, and the sentence was confirmed by 
the High Court.* 

In 1906, a Kondh, suspecting a Pano girl of having 
stolen some cloths and a silver ornament from him, went 
to the dhengada house in Sollagodo, where the girl slept 
with other unmarried girls, and took her to his village, 
where he confined her in his house. On the following 
day, he took her to an Oriya trader, who thrashed her, 
in order to make her confess to the theft. Subsequently, 
some of the villagers collected to see her undergo the 
ordeal of boiling water. A pot nearly full of water 
was boiled, some cow-dung and sacred rice added, and a 
rupee placed in the pot. The girl was ordered to take 
out the rupee. This she did three times, but, on the 
fourth occasion, the water scalded her hand and forearm. 
She was then ordered to pay as a fine her ear-ring, 
which was worth one rupee. This she did, as it was the 
custom for an unsuccessful person to hand over some 
property. Her right hand was practically destroyed as 
the result of the scalding. An elderly Patro (headman) 

* Madras Police Report, 1904, 

409 KONDH 

deposed that the ordinary practice in trials of this sort 
is to place two pots of water, one boiling and the other 
cold. In the boiling water a rupee and some rice are 
placed, and the suspected person has to take out the 
rupee once, and should then dip his hand in the cold 
water. If the hand is then scalded, the person is consi- 
dered guilty, and has to pay a fine to the caste. 

In trial by immersion in water, the disputants dive 
into a pool, and he who can keep under water the longest 
is considered to be in the right. On one occasion, some 
years ago, when two villages were disputing the right of 
possession of a certain piece of land, the Magistrate 
resorted to a novel method to settle the dispute. He 
instituted a tug-of-water between an equal number of 
representatives of the contending parties. The side 
which won took possession of the disputed property, to 
the satisfaction of all.* 

In connection with sacred rice, which has been 
referred to above, reference may be made to the custom 
of Mahaprasad Songatho. "It is prevalent among the 
Khonds and other hill tribes of Ganjam and Orissa, and 
is found among the Oriyas. Sangatho means union or 
friendship. Mahaprasad Songatho is friendship sworn 
by mahaprasad, i.e., cooked rice consecrated to god 
Jagannath of Puri. The remains of the offering are 
dried and preserved. All pilgrims visiting Puri invari- 
ably get a quantity of this mahaprasad, and freely 
distribute it to those who ask for it. It is regarded as 
a sacred thing, endowed with supreme powers of for- 
giving the sins and wrongs of men by mere touch. It 
is not only holy itself, but also sanctifies everything 
done in its presence. It is believed that one dare not 

* Madras Mail, 1894. 

KONDH 410 

commit a foul deed, utter a falsehood, or even entertain 
an evil thought, when it is held in the hands. On 
account of such beliefs, witnesses in law suits (especially 
Oriyas) are asked to swear by it when giving evidence. 
Mahaprasad Songatho is sworn friendship between two 
individuals of the same sex. Instances are on record of 
friendship contracted between a wealthy and cultured 
townsman and a poor village rustic, or between a Brahmin 
woman of high family and a Sudra servant. Songatho 
is solemnised with some ceremonies. On an auspicious 
day fixed for the purpose, the parties to the Songatho, 
with their relatives, friends and well-wishers, go to a 
temple in procession to the festive music of flutes and 
drum. There, in that consecrated place, the would-be 
friends take a solemn oath, with the god before them, 
mahaprasad in their hands, and the assemblage to 
witness that they w^ill be lifelong friends, in spite of any 
changes that might come over them or their families. 
The ceremony closing, there will be dinners, gifts 
and presents on both sides, and the day is all mirth and 
merriment. Thus bound by inseparable ties of friend- 
ship, they live to the end of their lives on terms of 
extreme intimacy and affection. They seize every 
opportunity of meeting, and living in each other's 
company. They allow no festival to pass without an 
exchange of new cloths, and other valuable presents. 
No important ceremony is gone through in any one's 
house without the other being invited. Throughout 
the year, they will send each other the various fruits 
and vegetables in their respective seasons. If one dies, 
his or her family does not consider the bond as having 
been snapped, but continues to look upon the other 
more or less in the same manner as did the deceased. 
The survivor, if in need of help, is sure to receive 

411 KONDH 

assistance and sympathy from the family of the deceased 
friend. This is how the institution is maintained by the 
less civilised Oriyas of the rural parts. The romance 
of the Songatho increases with the barbarity of the 
tribe. The Khonds, and other hill tribes, furnish us 
with an example of Songatho, which retains all its 
primitive simplicity. Among them, Songatho is ideal 
friendship, and examples of Damon and Pythias are not 
rare. A Khond has been known to ruin himself for the 
sake of his friend. He willingly sacrifices all that he 
has, and even his life, to protect the interests of his 
friend. The friends have nothing but affection for 
each other." * 

It is noted, in the Gazetteer of the Vizagapatam 
district, that " the Khonds steal cattle, especially those 
belonging to Brinjari gangs, in an open manner, for the 
sake of their fiesh. In 1898, at Veppiguda near Gudari 
a party of them attacked four constables who were 
patrolling the country to check these thefts, thrashed 
them, and carried off all their property and uniforms. 
Efforts to arrest these men resulted in the inhabitants 
of their village fleeing to the hills, and, for a time, it 
looked as if there was danger of others joining them, 
and of the Khonds going out. In 1882, the Khonds of 
Kalahandi State rose against the Uriyas, and murdered 
some hundreds of them. Luckily the invitation to join 
them, conveyed by the circulation of the head, fingers, 
hair, etc., of an early victim, was not accepted by the 
Khonds of this district." The news of the rising was 
conveyed to Mr. H. G. Prendergast, Assistant Superin- 
tendent of Police, by a Domb disguised as a fakir, who 
carried the report concealed in his languti (cloth). He 

* Madras Mail, 190S. 

KONDH 412 

was rewarded with a silver bangle. At a meeting held 
at the village of Balwarpur, it was decided that the 
Kultas should all be killed and swept out of the country. 
As a sign of this, the Kondhs carried brooms about. 
At Asurgarh the police found four headless corpses, and 
learnt from the widows all that they had to say about 
the atrocities. The murders had been committed in the 
most brutal way. All the victims were scalped while 
still alive, and one had an arm and a leg cut off before 
being scalped. As each victim died, his death was 
announced by three taps on a drum given slowly, 
followed by shouting and dancing. The unfortunate 
men were dragged out of their houses, and killed before 
their women and children. Neither here nor anywhere 
else were the women outraged, though they were 
threatened with death to make them give up buried 
treasure. One woman was in this way made to dig 
up a thousand rupees. On a tamarind tree near the 
village of Billat, affixed to it as a trophy, there was the 
scalped head of a Kulta, hacked about in the most 
horrible way.* 

The fact is noted by Mr. Jayaram Moodaliar that the 
Kondh system of notation is duodecimal. Thirteen is 
twelve and one, forty three twelves and four, and so 

Kondh Bibliography. 

Aborigines of the Eastern Ghats. Journ. Asiat. 
Soc. Bengal, XXV, 39-52, 1856. 

Caldwell, R. Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian 
or South Indian Family of Languages, 2nd edn., 
appendix, 516-17, 1875. 

• Se0 G.O., Judicial, 14th August 1882, No. 952, Khond Rising. 

413 KONDH 

Campbell, G. Specimens of Languages of India, 
including those of the Aboriginal Tribes of Bengal, the 
Central Provinces and the Eastern Frontier, 95-107, 
1904, Calcutta. 

Campbell, Major-General. Personal Narrative of 
Service amongst the Wild Tribes of Khondistan, 1864. 

Dalton, E. T. Descriptive Ethnology of Bengal, 
285-301, 1872. 

Duff, Rev. A. The First Series of Government 
Measures for the Abolition of Human Sacrifices among 
the Khonds. Selections from the Calcutta Review, 

i94-257» 1845-6. 

Fawcett, F. Miscellaneous Notes. Journ., Anthrop. 
Soc, Bombay, II, 247-51. 

Francis, W. Gazetteer of the Vizagapatam District, 
Vol. I, 1907. 

Friend-Pereira, J. E. Marriage Customs of the 
Khonds. Journ., Asiat. Soc. Bengal, LXXI, part III, 
18-28, 1903. 

Friend-Pereira, J. E. Totemism among the Khonds. 
Journ., Asiat. Soc, Bengal, LXXI 1 1, Part III, 39-56, 

Frye, Captain, Dialogues and Sentences in the 
Kondh Language, with an English translation, 185 1, 

Frye, Captain. Fables in the Kondh Language, 
with an English translation, 1851, Cuttack. 

Frye, Captain. Fables in the Kondh Language, 
with an Oriya translation, 185 1, Cuttack. 

Frye, Captain. The History of Joseph in the Kui 
or Kondh Language, 1851, Cuttack. 

Frye, Captain. Primer and Progressive Reading 
Lessons in the Kondh Language, with an Oriya trans- 
lation, 1 85 1, Cuttack. 

KONDH 414 

Frye, Lieut. J. P. On the Uriya and Kondh Popu- 
lation of Orissa. Journ., Roy. Asiat. Soc. of Great 
Britain and Ireland, XVII, 1-38, i860. 

Grierson, G. A. Linguistic Survey of India, IV, 
457-71, 1906. 

History of the Rise and Progress of the Operations 
for the Suppression of Human Sacrifice and Female 
Infanticide in the Hill tracts of Orissa. Selections from 
the Records of the Government of India (Home Depart- 
ment) No. V, 1854, Calcutta. 

Hunter, W. W. Orissa II, 67-100, 1872. 

Huttmann, G. H. Lieut. Macpherson's Report upon 
the Khonds of the Districts of Ganjam and Cuttack. 
Calcutta Review, VIII, 1-51, 1847. 

Huttmann, G. H. Captain Macpherson's Report 
upon the Khonds of the Districts of Ganjam and 
Cuttack. Calcutta Review, X, 273-341, 1848. 

Lingum Letchmajee. Introduction to the Grammar 
of the Kui or Kondh Language, 2nd edn., 1902, 

Macpherson, Captain S. C. An account of the Reli- 
gious Opinions and Observances of the Khonds of 
Goomsur and Boad. Journ., Roy. Asiat. Soc. of Great 
Britain and Ireland, VII, 172-99, 1843. 

Macpherson, Captain S. C. An account of the Reli- 
gion of the Khonds in Orissa. Journ., Roy. Asiat. Soc. 
of Great Britain and Ireland, XIII, 216-74, 1852. 

Macpherson, Lieut. Report upon the Khonds of 
the Districts of Ganjam and Cuttack, 1863, Madras. 

Maltby, T. J. Ganjam District Manual, 65-87, 1882. 

Rice, S. P. Occasional Essays on Native South 
Indian Life, 97-102, 1901. 

Risley, H. H. The Tribes and Castes of Bengal, 
I 397-413.I1891. 


Smith, Major J. McD. Practical Handbook of the 
Khond Language, 1876, Cuttack. 

Taylor, Rev. W. On the Language, Manners, and 
Rites of the Khonds or Khoi Jati of the Goomsur 
Mountains from documents furnished by J. A. R. 
Stevenson. Madras Journ. Lit. and Science, VI, 17-46, 


Taylor, Rev. W. Some Additional Notes on the 

Hill Inhabitants of the Goomsur Mountains. Madras 

Journ., Lit. and Science, VII, 89-104, 1838. 

Kondra. — The Kondras or Kondoras are a fishing 

caste in Ganjam, who fish in ponds, lakes, rivers, and 

backwaters, but are never engaged in sea-fishing. It has 

been suggested that the name is derived from konkoda, 

a crab, as they catch crabs in the Chilka lake, and sell 

them. The Kondras rank very low in the social scale, 

and even the Haddis refuse to beat drums for them, and 

will not accept partially boiled rice, which they have 

touched. In some places, the members of the caste call 

themselves Dasa Divaro, and claim descent from the 

boatmen who rowed the boat when King Bharatha went to 

Chithrakutam, to inform Rama of the death of Dasaratha. 

Apparently the caste is divided into two endogamous 

sections, viz., Macha Kondras, who follow the traditional 

occupation of fishing, and Dandasi Khondras, who have 

taken to the duties of village watchmen. As examples 

of septs or bamsams, the following may be cited : — 

kako (crow), bilva (jackal), gaya (cow), kukkiriya (dogs), 

ghasia (grass), bholia (wild dog), sanguna (vulture). A 

few said that reverence is paid to the animals after which 

the bamsam is named before the marriage ceremonies, 

but this was denied by others. The headman of the 

caste is styled Behara, and he is assisted by the 

Dolobehara and Bhollobaya. There is also a caste 


messenger called Chattia. The Behara receives a fee 
of a rupee on occasions of marriage, and one anna for 
death ceremonies. 

Girls are married either before or after puberty. 
Sometimes a girl is married in performance of a vow to 
the sahada [Strebltis asper) tree. The ground round the 
tree is cleaned, a new cloth is then tied round the trunk, 
and a bow and arrow are rested against it. The Behara 
officiates as priest, and on behalf of the girl, places near 
the tree twelve handfuls or measures of rice and twelve 
of dal (peas : Cajanus indicus), and twelve pieces of 
string on a leaf, as provisions for the bridegroom. If 
the girl has not reached maturity, she must remain 
seven days near the tree ; otherwise she remains four 
days. On the last day, the Behara, sitting close to the 
tree, says : " We have given you provisions for twelve 
years. Give us a tsado-patra (deed of separation)." 
This is written on a palmyra leaf, and thrown down 
near the tree. 

The dead are cremated, and the corpses of both men 
and women are said to be placed face downwards on the 
pyre. Among many other castes, only those of women 
are placed in this position. The death ceremonies are 
similar to those observed by many Oriya castes. A bit 
of bone is removed from the burning-ground, and food 
offered to it daily until the tenth day, when all the 
agnates, as well as the brothers-in-law and sons-in-law 
of the deceased, are shaved. The sons of the sister of 
the dead person are also expected to be shaved if they 
are fatherless ; but, if their father is alive, they are 
shaved on the following day. 

The Kondras regard Ganga-devi as their caste deity, 
but worship also other deities, e.g., Chamunda, Buddhi, 
and Kalika. 


Konga.— Konga or Kongu Is a territorial term, 
meaning inhabitant of the Kongu country. It has, at 
recent times of census, been returned as a division of a 
large number of classes, mostly Tamil, which include 
Ambattan, Kaikolan, Kammalan, Kuravan, Kusavan, 
Malayan, Odde, Fallen, Paraiyan, Shanan, Uppara, and 
Vellala. It is used as a term of abuse among the 
Badagas of the Nilgiri hills. Those, for example, who 
made mistakes in matching Holmgren's wools, were 
scornfully called Konga by the onlookers. Similarly, in 
parts of the Tamil country, a tall, lean and stupid 
individual is called a Kongan. 

Konga Vellala.— For the following note on the 
Konga Vellalas of the Trichinopoly district, I am in- 
debted to Mr. F. R. Hemingway. They seem to have 
little in common with the other Vellalas, except their 
name, and appear to hold a lower position in society, for 
Reddis will not cat with them, and they will dine with 
Tottlyans and others of the lower non- Brahman castes. 
They live in compact communities, generally in hamlets. 
Their dwellings are generally thatched huts, containing 
only one room. They are cultivators, but not well off. 
Their men can generally be recognized by the number 
of large gold rings which they wear in the lobes of the 
cars, and the pendant (murugu), which hangs from the 
upper part of the ears. Their women have a character- 
istic tali (marriage badge) of large size, strung on to 
a number of cotton threads, which are not, as among 
other castes, twisted together. They also seem always 
to wear an ornament called tayittu, rather like the 
common cylindrical talisman, on the lelt arm. 

The Konga Vellalas are split into two endogamous 
divisions, viz., the Konga Vellalas proper, and the Tondan 
or Ilakanban-kuttam (servant or Inferior sub-division). 


The latter are admittedly the offspring of illegitimate 
intercourse with outsiders by girls and widows of the 
caste, who have been expelled in consequence of their 
breach of caste rules. 

The Kongas proper have an elaborate caste organi- 
sation. Their country is divided into twenty-four nadus, 
each comprising a certain number of villages, and 
possessing recognised head-quarters, which are arranged 
into four groups under the villages of Palayakottai, 
Kangayam, Pudur and Kadayur, all in the Coimbatorc 
district. Each village is under a Kottukkaran, each 
nadu under a Nattu-kavundan or Periyatanakkaran, and 
each group under a Pattakkaran. The last is treated 
with considerable respect. He wears gold toe-rings, is 
not allowed to see a corpse, and is always saluted with 
clasped hands. He is only occasionally called in to 
settle caste disputes, small matters being settled by the 
Kottukkarans, and matrimonial questions by the Nattu- 
kavundan. Both the Kongas proper, and the Tondans 
have a large number of exogamous septs, the names of 
which generally denote some article, the use of which is 
taboo, e.g., kadai (quail), pannai {Ce/osia aj'gentea, a pot- 
herb). The most desirable match for a boy is his 
maternal uncle's daughter. To such an extent is the 
preference for such unions carried out, that a young boy 
is often married to a grown-up woman, and it is admitted 
that, in such cases, the boy's father takes upon himself 
the duties of a husband until his son has reached 
maturity, and that the wife is allowed to consort with 
any one belonging to the caste whom she may fancy, 
provided that she continues to live in her husband's 
house. With widows, who are not allowed to remarry, 
the rules are more strict. A man convicted of undue 
intimacy with a widow is expelled from the caste, unless 


she consents to his leaving her and going back to the 
caste, and he provides her with adequate means to Hve 
separately. The form of consent is for the woman to say 
that she is only a mud vessel, and has been broken 
because polluted, whereas the man is of bell-metal, 
and cannot be utterly polluted. The erring man is 
readmitted to the caste by being taken to the village 
common, where he is beaten with an erukkan (arka : 
Calotropis gigantea) stick, and by providing a black 
sheep for a feast to his relatives. 

At weddings and funerals, the Konga Vellalas employ 
priests of their own caste, called Arumaikkarans and 
Arumaikkaris. These must be married people, who 
have had children. The first stage, so far as a wife is 
concerned, is to become an clutingalkari (woman of seven 
Mondays), without which she cannot wear a red mark on 
her forehead, or get any of her children married. This 
is effected, after the birth of at least one child, by 
observing a ceremonial at her father's house. A pandal 
(booth) of green leaves is erected in the house, and a 
fillet of pungam [Pongamia glabra) and tamarind twigs 
is placed round her head. She is then presented with 
a new cloth, prepares some food and eats it, and steps 
over a mortar. A married couple wait until one of their 
children is married, and then undergo the ceremony 
called arumaimanam at the hands of ten Arumaikkarans 
and some Pulavans (bards among the Kaikolans), who 
touch the pair with some green grass dipped in sandal and 
water, oil, etc. The man then becomes an Arumaikkaran, 
and his wife an Arumaikkari. All people of arumai rank 
are treated with great respect, and, when one of them dies, 
a drum is beaten by a man standing on another man's 
shoulders, who receives as a present seven measures of 
grain measured, and an equal quantity unmeasured. 
in-27 B 


The betrothal ceremony takes place at the house of the 
future bride, in the presence of both the maternal uncles, 
and consists in tying fruit and betel leaf in the girl's 
cloth. On the wedding day, the bridegroom is shaved, 
and an Arumaikkari pours water over him. If he has 
a sister, the ceremony of betrothing his prospective 
daughter to her son, is performed. He then goes on 
horseback, carr^^ing some fruit and a pestle, to a stone 
planted for the occasion, and called the nattukal, which 
he worships. The stone is supposed to represent the 
Kongu king, and the pestle the villagers, and the whole 
ceremony is said to be a relic of a custom of the ancient 
Kongu people, to which the caste formerly belonged, 
which required them to obtain the sanction of the king 
for every marriage. On his return from the nattukal, 
balls of white and coloured rice are taken round the 
bridegroom, to ward off the evil eye. His mother then 
ofives him three mouthfuls of food, and eats the remainder 
herself, to indicate that henceforth she will not provide 
him with meals. A barber then blesses him, and he 
repairs on horseback to the bride's house, where he is 
received by one of her party similarly mounted. His 
ear-rings are put in the bride's ears, and the pair are 
carried on the shoulders of their maternal uncles to the 
nattukal. On their return thence, they are touched by 
an Arumaikkaran with a betel leaf dipped in oil, milk and 
water. The tali (marriage badge) is worshipped and 
blessed, and the Arumaikkaran ties it on her neck. The 
barber then pronounces an elaborate blessing, which runs 
as follows : " Live as long as the sun and moon may 
endure, or Pasupatisvarar (Siva) at Karur. May your 
branches spread like the banyan tree, and your roots 
like grass, and may you flourish like the bamboo. May 
ye twain be like the flower and the thread, which 

42 1 ICONlCA^Nl 

together form the garland and cleave together, like water 
and the reed growing in it." If a Pulavan is present, he 
adds a further blessing, and the little fingers of the con- 
tracting- couple are linked together, anointed with milk, 
and then separated. 

The death ceremonies are not peculiar, except that the 
torch for the pyre is carried by a Paraiyan, and not, as 
among most castes, by the chief mourner, and that no cere- 
monies are performed after the third day. The custom 
is to collect the bones on that day and throw them into 
water. The barber then pours a mixture of milk and 
ghi (clarified butter) over a green tree, crying poll, poli. 

The caste has its own beggars, called Mudavandi 

Kongara (crane). — An exogamous sept of Padma 
Sale, and Kamma. 

Konhoro. — A title of Bolasi. 

Konkani. — Defined, in the Madras Census Report, 
1901, as a territorial or linguistic term, meaning a 
dweller in the Konkan country (Canara), or a person 
speaking the Konkani dialect of Marathi. Kadu Kon- 
kani (bastard Konkani) is a name opposed to the God 
or pure Konkanis. In South Canara, " the Konkani 
Brahmans are the trading and shop-keeping class, and, 
in the most out-of-the-w^ay spots, the Konkani village 
shop is to be found." * 

The following note on Konkanis is extracted from 
the Travancore Census Report, 1901. " The Konkanis 
include the Brahman, Kshatriya, and Vaisya castes of 
the Sarasvata section of the Cauda Brahmans. l^hc 
Brahmans of this community differ, however, from the 
Konkanastha Maharashtra Brahmans belonging to the 

* Manual of the South Canara district. 

kONKANI 422 

Dravida group. The Konkani Sudras who have settled 
on this coast are known by a different name, Kudumikkar. 
The Konkanis' original habitation is the bank of the 
Sarasvati, a river well known in early Sanskrit works, 
but said to have lost itself in the sands of the deserts 
north of Rajputana. According to the Sahyadrikanda, 
a branch of these Sarasvatas lived in Tirhut in Bengal, 
whence ten families were brought over by Parasurama 
to Gomantaka, the modern Goa, Panchakrosi, and 
Kusasthali. Attracted by the richness and beauty of the 
new country, others followed, and the whole population 
settled themselves in sixty villages and ninety-six 
hamlets in and around Goa, the settlers in the former 
being called Shashtis (Sanskrit for sixty), and those in 
the latter being called Shannavis or Shenavis (Sanskrit 
for ninety-six). The history of those Sarasvatas was one 
of uninterrupted general and commercial prosperity until 
about twenty years after the advent of the Portuguese. 
When King Emanuel died and King John succeeded 
him, the policy of the Goanese Government is believed 
to have changed in favour of religious persecution. A 
larcfe efflux to the Canarese and Tulu countries was the 
result. Thence the Konkanis appear to have migrated 
to Travancore and Cochin, and found a safe haven under 
the rule of their Hindu sovereigns. In their last homes, 
the Konkanis extended and developed their commerce, 
built temples, and endowed them so magnificently that 
the religious institutions of that community, especially at 
Cochin and Alleppey, continue to this day almost the 
richest in all Malabar. 

" Canter Visscher writes* that 'the Canarese who 
are permanently settled in Malabar are the race best 

* Letters from Malabar. Translation. Madras, 1862. 

4^3 KONSARl 

known to the Europeans, not only because the East 
India Company trade with them and appoint one of 
their members to be their merchant, giving him the 
attendance of two Dutch soldiers : but also because from 
the shops of these people in town we obtain all our 
necessaries, except animal food. Some sell rice, others 
fruits, others various kinds of linen, and some again 
are money-changers, so that there is hardly one who 
is not engaged in trade.' The occupation of the Kon- 
kanis has been commerce ever since the advent of the 
Portuguese in India. Some of them make papatams * 
(popadams) which is a condiment of almost universal 
consumption in Malabar. Till recently, the Konkanis 
in Travancore knew nothing else than trade. But 
now, following the example of their kinsmen in Bombay 
and South Canara, they are gradually taking to other 

" Having settled themselves in the Canarese districts, 
most of the Konkanis came under the influence of 
Madhavacharya, unlike the Shenavis, who still continue 
to be Smartas. The worship of Venkataramana, the 
presiding deity of the Tirupati shrine, is held in great 
importance. Every Konkani temple is called Tirumala 
Devasmam, as the divinity that resides on the sacred hill 
(Tirumala) is represented in each." 

Konsari. — The Konsaris derive their name from 
konsa, a bell-metal dish. They are Oriya workers in 
bell-metal, and manufacture dishes, cups and plates. 
Brahmans are employed by them as purohits (priests) 
and gurus (preceptors). They eat fish and mutton, but 

* Fine cakes made of gram flour and a fine species of alkali, which gives them 
an agreeable taste, and serves the purpose of making them rise and become very 
crisp when fried. 


not fowls or beef, and drink liquor. Marriage is infant. 
Remarriage of widows and divorct^cs is permitted, 

Koonapilli vandlu. — Beggars attached to Padma 

Koppala. — A section ofVelamas, who tie the hair 
in a knot (koppu) on the top of the head, and an 
exogamous sept of Mutrachas, whose females do up 
their hair in a knot when they reach puberty. 

Kora (sun). — A sept of Gadaba, Muka Dora, and 

Koracha. — See Korava. 

Koraga. — The Koragas are summed up, in the 
Madras Census Report, 1901, as being a wild tribe of 
basket-makers and labourers, chiefly found in Mudbidrl, 
and in Puttur in the Uppinangadi taluk of South Canara. 
They are, Mr. M. T. Walhouse writes,* "a very quiet 
and inoffensive race ; small and slight, the men seldom 
exceeding five feet six inches ; black-skinned, like most 
Indian aborigines, thick-lipped, noses broad and llat, and 
hair rough and bushy. Their principal occupation is 
basket-making, and they must labour for their masters. 
They live on the outskirts of villages, and may not 
dwell in houses of clay Or mud, but in huts of leaves, 
called koppus. Like many of the wild tribes of India, 
they are distinguished by unswerving truthfulness. The 
word of a Koragar is proverbial." 

The Koragas rank below the Holeyas. In some 
towns, they are employed by the sanitary department 
as scavengers. They remove the hide, horns, and bones 
of cattle and buffaloes, which die in the villages, and sell 
them mainly to Mappilla merchants. They accept food, 
which is left over after feasts held by various castes. 

* Journ. Anthrop, Inst,, IV., 1875. 


Some arc skilful in the manufacture of cradles, baskets, 
cylinders to hold paddy, winnowing and sowinor baskets, 
scale-pans, boxes, rice-water strainers, ring-stands for 
supporting pots, coir (cocoanut fibre) rope, brushes for 
washing cattle, etc. They also manufacture various 
domestic utensils from soapstone, which they sell at 
a very cheap rate to shopkeepers in the bazar. 

"Numerous slave-castes," Mr. Walhousc continues, 
" exist throughout India, not of course recognised by 
law— indeed formally emancipated by an Act of Govern- 
ment in 1843— but still, though improved in condition, 
virtually slaves. Their origin and status are thus 
described. After the four principal classes, who sprang 
from Brahma, came six Anuloma castes, which arose 
from the intercourse of Briihrnans and Kshatriyas with 
women of the classes below them respectively. The 
term Anuloma denotes straight and regular hair, which 
in India characterises the Aryan stock. After these 
came six Pratiloma castes, originating in reverse order 
from Brahman and Kshatriya women by fathers of the 
inferior classes. The third among these was the Chan- 
dala, the offspring of Shudra fathers by Brahman women. 
The Chandalas, or slaves, were sub-divided into fifteen 
classes, none of which might intermarry, a rule still 
strictly observed. The two last, and lowest of the 
fifteen classes, are the Kapata or rag-wearing, and the 
Soppu or leaf-wearing Koragas. Such is the account 
given by Brahman chroniclers ; but the probability is that 
these lowest slave-castes are the descendants of that 
primitive population which the Aryan invaders from the 
north found occupying the soil, and, after a struggle of 
ages, gradually dispossessed, driving some to the hills 
and jungles, and reducing others to the condition of 
slaves. All these races are regarded by their Hindu 


masters with boundless contempt, and held unspeakably- 
unclean. This feeling seems the result and witness of 
times when the despised races were powerful, and to be 
approached as lords by their now haughty masters, and 
was probably intensified by struggles and uprisings, and 
the memory of humiliations inflicted on the ultimately 
successful conquerors. Evidences for this may be inferred 
from many curious rights and privileges, which the 
despised castes possess and tenaciously retain. More- 
over, the contempt and loathing in which they are 
ordinarily held are curiously tinctured with superstitious 
fear, for they are believed to possess secret powers of 
magic and witchcraft, and influence with the old malignant 
deities of the soil, who can direct good or evil fortune. 
As an instance, if a Brahman mother's children die off 
when young, she calls a Koragar woman, gives her some 
oil, rice, and copper money, and places the surviving 
child in her arms. The out-caste woman, who may not 
at other times be touched, gives the child suck, puts on 
it her iron bracelets, and, if a boy, names it Koragar, if 
a girl, Korapulu. She then returns it to the mother. 
This is believed to give a new lease of life. Again, 
when a man is dangerously ill, or perhaps unfortunate, 
he pours oil into an earthen vessel, worships it in 
the same way as the family god, looks at his face 
reflected in the oil, and puts into it a hair from his 
head and a nail paring from his toe. The oil is then 
presented to the Koragars, and the hostile gods or 
stars are believed to be propitiated." According to 
Mr. Ullal Raghvendra Rao,* old superstitious Hindus 
never venture to utter the word Koraga during the 

• Madras Christ. Coll. Mag. Ill, 1SS5-6. 

42 7 KORAGA 

It is noted in the Manual of the South Canara district, 
that " all traditions unite in attributing the introduction 
of the Tulu Brahmins of the present day to Mayur 
Varma (of the Kadamba dynasty), but they vary in details 
connected with the manner in which they obtained a firm 
footing in the land. One account says that Habashika, 
chief of the Koragas, drove out Mayur Varma, but was 
in turn expelled by Mayur Varma's son, or son-in-law, 
L5kaditya of Gokarnam, who brought Brahmins from 
Ahi-kshetra, and settled them in thirty-two villages." 
Concerning the power, and eventual degradation of the 
Koragas, the following version of the tradition is cited by 
Mr. Walhouse. " When Lokadiraya, whose date is fixed 
by Wilks about 1450 B.C., was king of Bhanvarshe in 
North Canara (a place noted by Ptolemy), an invader, 
by name Habashika, brought an army from above the 
ghauts, consisting of all the present Chandala or slave- 
castes, overwhelmed that part of the country, and 
marched southward to Mangalore, the present capital of 
South Canara. The invading host was scourged with 
small-pox, and greatly annoyed by ants, so Habashika 
moved on to Manjeshwar, a place of ancient repute, twelve 
miles to the south, subdued the local ruler Angarawarma, 
son of Virawarma, and reigned there in conjunction with 
his nephew ; but after twelve years both died — one 
legend says through enchantments devised by Angara- 
warma ; another that a neighbouring ruler treacherously 
proposed a marriage between his sister and Habashika, 
and, on the bridegroom and his caste-men attending for 
the nuptials, a wholesale massacre of them all was effected. 
Angarawarma, then returning, drove the invading army 
into the jungles, where they were reduced to such 
extremity that they consented to become slaves, and 
were apportioned amongst the Brahmans and original 


landholders. Some were set to watch the crops and 
cattle, some to cultivate, others to various drudgeries, 
which are still allotted to the existing slave-castes, but 
the Koragars, who had been raised by Habashika to the 
highest posts under his government, were stripped and 
driven towards the sea-shore, there to be hanged, but, 
being ashamed of their naked condition, they gathered 
the leaves of the nicki bush (Vitex Negundo), which 
grows abundantly in waste places, and made small 
coverings for themselves in front. On this the execu- 
tioners took })ity on them and let them go, but condemned 
them to be the lowest of the low, and wear no other 
covering but leaves. The Koragas are now the lowest 
of the slave divisions, and regarded with such intense 
loathing and hatred that up to quite recent times one 
section of them, called Ande or pot Koragars, continually 
wore a pot suspended from their necks, into which 
they were compelled to spit, being so utterly unclean as 
to be prohibited from even spitting on the highway ; 
and to this day their women continue to show in their 
leafy aprons a memorial of the abject degradation to 
which their whole race was doomed." It is said that in 
pre- British days an Ande Koraga had to take out a 
licence to come into the towns and villages by day. At 
night mere approach thereto was forbidden, as his 
presence would cause terrible calamity. The Koragas 
of those days could cook their food only in broken vessels. 
The name Yastra, by which one class of Koragas is 
called, has reference to their wearing vastra, or clothes, 
such as were used to shroud a dead body, and given to 
them in the shape of charity, the use of a new cloth 
beino- prohibited. According to another account the 
three divisions of the Koragas are (i) Kappada, those 
who wear clothes, (2) Tippi, who wear ornaments made 



of the cocoanut shell, and (3) Vanti, who wear a peculiar 
kind of large ear-ring. These three clans may eat 
together, but not intermarry. Each clan is divided into 
exogamous septs called balls, and it may be noted that 
some of the Koraga balls, such as Haledennaya and 
Kumerdennaya, are also found among the Mari and 
Mundala Holeyas. 

On the subject of Koraga dress, Mr. Ullat Ragh- 
vendra Rao informs us that " while the males gird a 
piece of cloth round their loins, the females cover their 
waist with leaves of the forest woven together. Various 
reasons are assigned for this custom. According to a 
tradition, at the time when the Koragars had reigned, 
now far distant, one of these ' blacklegged ' (this is 
usually the expression by which they are referred to 
during the night) demanded a girl of high birth in 
marriage. Being enraged at this, the upper class with- 
held, after the overthrow of the Koragas, every kind of 
dress from Koraga women, who, to protect themselves 
from disgrace, have since had recourse to the leaves of 
the forest, conceiving in the meantime that god had 
decreed this kind of covering." Mr. Walhouse writes* 
further that the Koragas wear an " apron of twigs and 
leaves over the buttocks. Once this was the only 
covering allowed them, and a mark of their deep degra- 
dation. But now, when no longer compulsory, and of 
no use, as it is worn over the clothes, the women still 
retain it, believing its disuse would be unlucky." " The 
Koragas," Mr. H. A. Stuart tells us,t "cover the lower 
part of their body with a black cloth and the upper part 
with a white one, and their head-dress is a cap made 
of the areca-nut spathe, like that worn by the Holeyas. 

* Ind. Ant. X, 1881. f Manual of the South Canara district. 


Their ornaments consist of brass ear-rings, an iron 
bracelet, and beads of bone strung on a thread and tied 
around their waist." The waist-belt of a Koraga, whom 
I saw at Udipi, was made of owl bones. 

"It may," Mr. Walhouse states,"^ "be noted that, 
according to the traditional accounts, when the invading 
hosts under Habashika were in their turn overthrown 
and subjected, they accepted slavery under certain 
conditions that preserved to them some shadow of right. 
Whilst it was declared that they should be for ever in a 
state of servitude, and be allowed a meal daily, but never 
the means of providing for the next day's meal. Each 
slave was ascripted to his master under the following 
forms, which have come down to our days, and were 
observed in the purchase or transfer of slaves within 
living memory. The slave having washed, anointed 
himself with oil, and put on a new cloth, his future owner 
took a metal plate, filled it with water, and dropped in 
a gold coin, which the slave appropriated after drinking 
up the water. The slave then took some earth from his 
future master's estate, and threw it on the spot he chose 
for his hut, which was given over to him with all the trees 
thereon. When land was transferred, the slaves went 
with it, and might also be sold separately. Occasionally 
they were presented to a temple for the service of the 
deity. This was done publicly by the master approach- 
ing the temple, putting some earth from before its 
entrance into the slave's mouth, and declaring that he 
abjured his rights, and transferred them to the deity 
within. Rules were laid down, with the Hindoo passion 
for regulating small matters, not only detailing what 
work the slaves should do, but what allowances of food 

* Journ. Anthrop. Inst. IV, 1875. 


they should receive, and what presents on certain festival 
occasions they should obtain from, or make to the 
master. On marriages among themselves, they pros- 
trated themselves before the master and obtained his 
consent, which was accompanied with a small present 
of money and rice. The marriage over, they again 
came before the master, who gave them betel nuts, and 
poured some oil on the bride's head. On the master's 
death, his head slave immediately shaved his hair and 
moustache. There was also a list of offences for 
which masters might punish slaves, amongst which the 
employment of witchcraft, or sending out evil spirits 
against others, expressly figures ; and the punishments 
with which each offence might be visited are specified, 
the worst of which are branding and flogging with 
switches. There was no power of life and death, and in 
cases of withholding the usual allowance, or of punish- 
ments severer than prescribed, slaves might complain to 
the authorities." 

On the subject of Koraga slavery, Mr. Ullal Ragh- 
vendra Rao writes that " although these slaves are in a 
degraded condition, yet they by no means appear to be 
dejected or unhappy. A male slave gets three hanis of 
paddy (unhusked rice) or a hani and a half of rice daily, 
besides a small quantity of salt. The female slave 
gets two hanis of paddy, and, if they be man and wife, 
they can easily sell a portion of the rice to procure other 
necessaries of life. They are also allowed one cloth 
each every year, and, besides, when transferred from one 
master to another, they get a cocoanut, a jack tree 
(Artocarpzcs integrifolia), and a piece of land where 
they can sow ten or twenty seers of rice. The greater 
number of slaves belong to the Alia Santanam castes 
(inheritance in the female line), and among these people 


a male slave is sold for three pagodas (fourteen rupees) 
and a female slave for five pagodas ; whereas the few 
slaves who belong to the Makkala Santanam castes 
(inheritance in the male line) fetch five pagodas for the 
man slave, and three pagodas for the female. This is 
because the children of the latter go to the husband's 
master, while those of the former go to the mother's 
master, who has the benefit of the husband's services 
also. He has, however, to pay the expenses of their 
marriage, which amount to a pagoda and a half; and, in 
like manner, the master of the Makkala Santana slave 
pays two pagodas for his marriage, and gets possession 
of the female slave and her children. The master has 
the power of hiring out his slave, for whose services he 
receives annually about a mura of rice, or forty seers. 
They are also mortgaged for three or four pagodas:" 

For the marriages of the Koragas, Mr. Walhouse 
informs us that " Sunday is an auspicious day, though 
Monday is for the other slave castes. The bridegroom 
and bride, after bathing in cold water, sit on a mat in 
the former's house, with a handful of rice placed before 
them. An old man presides, takes a few grains of rice 
and sprinkles on their heads, as do the others present, 
first the males and then the females. The bridegroom 
then presents two silver coins to his wife, and must 
afterwards give six feasts to the community." At these 
feasts every Koraga is said to vie with his neighbour 
in eating and drinking. " Though amongst the other 
slave castes divorce is allowed by consent of the com- 
munity, often simply on grounds of disagreement, and 
the women may marry again, with the Koragars marriage 
is indissoluble, but a widow is entitled to re-marriage, 
and a man may have a second, and even third wife, all 
living with him." 


Concerning the ceremonies observed on the birth of 
a child, Mr. Ullal Raghvendra Rao writes that " after 
a child is born, the mother (as among Hindoos) is unholy, 
and cannot be touched or approached. The inmates 
take leave of the koppu for five nights, and depend on 
the hospitality of their friends, placing the mother under 
the sole charge of a nurse or midwife. On the sixth 
night the master of the koppu calls his neighbours, who 
can hardly refuse to oblige him with their presence. 
The mother and the child are then given a tepid bath, 
and this makes them holy. Members of each house bring 
with them a seer of rice, half a seer of cocoanut oil, and 
a cocoanut. The woman with the baby is seated on a 
mat — her neighbour's presents before her in a flat basket. 
The oldest man present consults with his comrades as 
to what name will best suit the child. A black string is 
then tied round the waist of the baby. The rice, which 
comes in heaps from the neighbours, is used for dinner 
on the occasion, and the cocoanuts are split Into two 
pieces, the lower half being given to the mother of the 
child, and the upper half the owner. This is the custom 
followed when the baby Is a male one ; in case of a female 
child, the owner receives the upper half, leaving the 
lower half for the mother. Koragars were originally 
worshippers of the sun, and they are still called after the 
names of the days of the week — as Alta (a corruption 
of Aditya, or the sun) ; Toma (Soma, or the moon) ; 
Angara (Mangala) ; Gurva (Jupiter) ; Tanya (Shani, or 
Saturn) ; Tukra (Shukra, or Venus). They have no 
separate temples for their God, but a place beneath 
a kasaracana tree [Strycknos Nux-vonticd) is consecrated 
for the worship of the deity which is exclusively their 
own, and is called Kata. Worship in honour of this deity 
is usually performed in the months of May, July, or 


October. Two plantain leaves are placed on the spot, 
with a heap of boiled rice mixed with turmeric. As is 
usual in every ceremony observed by a Koragar, the 
senior in age takes the lead, and prays to the deity to 
accept the offering and be satisfied. But now they have, 
by following the example of Bants and Sudras, exchanged 
their original object of worship for that of Bhutas 

On the subject of the religion of the Koragas, Mr. 
Walhouse states that " like all the slave castes and lower 
races, the Koragars worship Mari Amma, the goddess 
presiding over small-pox, the most dreadful form of Par- 
vati, the wife of Siva. She is the most popular deity in 
Canara, represented under the most frightful form, and 
worshipped with bloody rites. Goats, buffaloes, pigs, 
fowls, etc., are slaughtered at a single blow by an Asadi, 
one of the slave tribes from above the ghauts. Although 
the Koragars, in common with all slaves, are looked upon 
as exconimunicated and unfit to approach any Brahminical 
temple or deity, they have adopted the popular Hindoo 
festivals of the Gokalastami or Krishna's birthday, and 
the Chowti. In the latter, the preliminaries and prayers 
must be performed by a virgin." Concerning these 
festivals, Mr. Ullal Raghvendra Rao gives the following 
details. " The Koragars have no fixed feasts exclusively 
of their own, but for a long time they have been observ- 
ing those of the Hindus. Of these two are Important. 
One is Gokula Ashtami, or the birthday of Krishna, and 
the other is the Chowti or Pooliyar feast. The latter is 
of greater importance than the former. The former 
is a holy day of abstinence and temperance, while the 
latter is associated with feasting and merry-making, and 
looks more like a gala-day set apart for anything but 
religious performance. On the Ashtami some cakes of 


black gram are made in addition to the usual dainties. 
The services of Bacchus are called in aid, and the 
master of the koppu invites his relatives and friends. A 
regular feasting commences, when the master takes the 
lead, and enjoys the company of his guests by seating 
himself in their midst. They are made to sit on the floor 
crosswise with a little space intervening between every 
guest, who pays strict regard to all the rules of decency 
and rank. To keep up the distinction of sexes, females 
are seated in an opposite row. The host calls upon some 
of his intimates or friends to serve on the occasion. 
The first dish is curry, the second rice ; and cakes and 
dainties come in next. The butler Koragar serves out 
to the company the food for the banquet, while the guests 
eat it heartily. If one of them lets so much as a grain of 
rice fall on his neighbour's plate, the whole company 
ceases eating. The offender is at once brought before 
the guests, and charged with having spoiled the dinner. 
He is tried there and then, and sentenced to pay a fine 
that will cover the expenses of another banquet. In 
case of resistance to the authority of the tribunal, he is 
excommunicated and abandoned by his wife, children 
and relatives. No one dare touch or speak to him. A 
plea of poverty of course receives a kind consideration. 
The offender is made to pay a small sum as a fine, which 
is paid for him by a well-to-do Koragar. To crown the 
feast, a large quantity of toddy finds its way into the 
midst of the company, A small piece of dry areca leaf 
sewed together covers the head of a Koragar, and forms 
for him his hat. This hat he uses as a cup, which 
contains a pretty large quantity of liquid. A sufficient 
quantity is poured into their cup, and if, in pouring, a 
drop finds its way to the ground, the butler is sure to 
undergo the same penalty that attaches itself to any 
111-28 B 


irregularity in the dinner as described above. After the 
banquet, some male members of the group join in a 
dance to the pipe and drum, while others are stimulated 
by the intoxicating drink into frisking and jumping about. 
To turn to the other festival. The inmates of the house 
are required to fast the previous night — one and all 
of them — and on the previous day flesh or drink is not 
allowed. The next morning before sunrise, a virgin 
bathes, and smears cowdung over a part of the house. 
The place having been consecrated, a new basket, 
specially made for the occasion, is placed on that spot. It 
contains a handful of beaten rice, two plantains, and two 
pieces of sugar-cane. The basket is then said to contain 
the god of the day, whom the sugar-cane represents, and 
the spot is too holy to be approached by man or woman. 
A common belief which they hold, that the prayers 
made by a virgin are duly responded to on account of 
her virgin purity, does not admit of the worship being 
conducted by any one else. The girl adorns the basket 
with flowers of the forest, and prays for the choicest 
blessings on the inmates of the house all the year round. 
A Koraga woman, when found guilty of adultery, is 
said to be treated in the following extraordinary way. 
If her paramour is of low caste similar to herself, he has 
to marry her. But, in order to purify her for the 
ceremony, he has to build a hut, and put the woman 
inside. It is then set on fire, and the woman escapes as 
best she can to another place where the same performance 
is gone through, and so on until she has been burnt out 
seven times. She is then considered once more an honest 
woman, and fit to be again married. According to 
Mr. Walhouse, " a row of seven small huts is built on a 
river-bank, set fire to, and the offender made to run over 
the burning sticks and ashes as a penance." A similar 


form of ordeal has been described as occurring among 
the Bakutas of South Canara by Mr. Stuart. " When a 
man is excommunicated, he must perform a ceremony 
called yelu halli sudodu, which means burning seven 
villages, in order to re-enter the caste. For this ceremony, 
seven small booths are built, and bundles of grass are 
piled against them. The excommunicated man has then 
to pass through these huts one after the other, and, as he 
does so, the headman sets fire to the grass " (cf. Koyi). 
It is suggested by Mr. R. E. Enthoven that the idea 
seems to be "a rapid representation of seven existences, 
the outcast regaining his status after seven generations 
have passed without further transgression. The parallel 
suggested is the law of Manu that seven generations are 
necessary to efface a lapse from the law of endogamous 

Of death ceremonies Mr. Walhouse tells us that "on 
death the bodies of all the slave castes used to be burnt, 
except in cases of death from small-pox. This may have 
been to obviate the pollution of the soil by their carcases 
when their degradation was deepest, but now, and from 
long past, burial is universal. The master's permission 
is still asked, and, after burial, four balls of cooked rice 
are placed on the grave, possibly a trace of the ancient 
notion of supplying food to the ghost of the deceased." 
A handful is said * to be " removed from the grave on the 
sixteenth day after burial, and buried in a pit. A stone 
is erected over it, on which some rice and toddy are 
placed as a last offering to the departed soul which is 
then asked to join its ancestors." 

" It may," Mr. Walhouse writes, " be noted that the 
Koragars alone of all the slave or other castes eat the 

Manual of Ihe Soulh Canara dislricl. 

JcORAmA 43^ 

flesh of alligators (crocodiles), and they share with one 
or two other divisions of the slaves a curious scruple or 
prejudice against carrying any four-legged animal, dead 
or alive. This extends to anything with four legs, such 
as chairs, tables, cots, etc., which they cannot be prevailed 
upon to lift unless one leg be removed. As they work 
as coolies, this sometimes produces inconvenience. A 
somewhat similar scruple obtains among the Bygas of 
Central India, whose women are not allowed to sit or lie 
on any four-legged bed or stool." Like the Koragas, the 
Bakudas of South Canara " will not carry a bedstead 
unless the legs are first taken off, and it is said that this 
objection rests upon a sui3posed resemblance between the 
four-lcijcrcd cot and the four-lesfored ox." * 

Of the language spoken by the Koragars, Mr. Ullal 
Raghvendra Rao states that " it is a common belief that 
the Koragar has a peculiar dialect generally spoken by 
him at his koj)pu. He may be induced to give an account 
of his feasts, his gods, his family, but a word about his 
dialect will frighten him out of his wits. Generally polite 
and well-behaved, he becomes impolite and unmannerly 
when questioned about his dialect." " All the Hindoos," 
Mr. Walhouse writes, " believe that the Koragars have 
a language of their own. understood only by themselves, 
but it seems doubtful whether this is anvthin^ more than 
an idiom, or slang." A vocabulary of the Koraga dialect 
is contained in the South Canara Manual (1895). 

Korama. — See Korava. 

Korava. — Members of this nomad tribe, which 
permeates the length of the Indian peninsula, through 
countries where many languages and dialects are spoken, 
are likely to be known by different names in different 

* Manual of the South Canara district. 


localities, and this is the case. They are known as 
Korava from the extreme south to the north of the 
North Arcot district, where they are called Koracha or 
Korcha, and in the Ceded Districts they become Yeru- 
kala or Ycrakala. In Calcutta they have been traced 
practising as quack doctors, and assuming Maratha 
names, or adding terminations to their own, which 
suggest that they belong to a caste in the south higher 
in the social scale than they really do. Some Koravas 
pass for Vellalas, calling themselves Agambadiar V^ella- 
las with the title Pillai. Others call themselves Palli, 
Kavarai, Idaiyan, Reddi, etc.'"^ As railways spread over 
the country, they readily adapted themselves to travel- 
ling by them, and the opportunities afforded for going 
quickly far from the scene of a recently committed crime, 
or for stealing from sleeping passengers, were soon 
availed of. In 1899, the Superintendent of Government 
Railways reported that "the large organization of 
thieves, commonly called Kepmari Koravas (though 
they never call themselves so), use the railway to travel 
far. Some of them are now settled at Cuttack, where 
they have set up as native doctors, whose speciality is 
curing piles. Some are at Midnapur, and are going on 
to Calcutta, and there were some at Puri some time ago. 
It is said that a gang of them has gone recently to 
Tinnevelly, and taken up their abode near Sermadevi, 
calling themselves Servaikars. One morning, in Tinne- 
velly, while the butler in a missionary's house was 
attending to his duties, an individual turned up with a 
fine fowl for sale. The butler, finding that he could 
purchase it for about half the real price, bought it, and 
showed it to his wife with no small pride in his ability in 

M. Paupa Rao Naidu. History of Railway Thieves. 


making a bargain. But he was distinctly crestfallen 
when his wife pointed out that it was his own bird, which 
had been lost on the previous night. The seller was a 

In 1903, a gang of Koravas, travelling in the guise 
of pujaris, was arrested at Puri. The Police discovered 
that a warrant remained unexecuted against one of them, 
who had been concerned in a dacoity case in North 
Arcot many years previously. The report of the case 
states that "cognate with the Kepmaries is a class of 
Korava pujaris (as they call themselves in their own 
village), who, emanating from one small hamlet in the 
Tanjore district, are spread more or less all over India. 
There are, or were until the other day, and probably 
are still some of them in Cuttack, Balasore, Midnapur, 
Ahmedabad, Patna, Bombay, Secunderabad, and other 
places. One of them attained a high position in 
Bombay. Their ostensible profession is that of curing 
piles and fistulas, but it is noticeable that, sooner or 
later after their taking up their abode at any place, the 
Kepmaries are to be found somewhere near, and the 
impression, which is not quite a certainty but very nearly 
so, is that they play the convenient role of receivers 
of property stolen by the Kepmaries." Kepmari is 
regarded as a very strong term of abuse, indicating, as 
it does, a rogue of the worst character. In the southern 
districts, the Kasukkar Chettis and Shanans are said to 
be very much trusted by the Koravas in the disposal of 

It is noted by Mr. H. A. Stuart * that the Koravas 
or Yerukalas are a vagrant tribe found throughout the 
Presidency, and in many parts of India. In the Telugu 

Madras Census Report, 1891. 

'^>*^ ' J^' - 



country they are called Yerukalavandlu or Koracha- 
vandlu, but they always speak of themselves as Kurru, 
and there is not the slightest room for the doubt that 
has been expressed regarding the identity of the Koravas 
and Yerukalas. Several derivations of Yerukala have 
been proposed by Wilson and others. It has been 
suggested, for example, that yeru is connected with erra, 
meaning red. In Telugu Yerukalavandlu would mean 
fortune-tellers, and Dr. Oppert suggests that this is the 
origin of the name Yerukala. He says* "it is highly 
probable that the name and the occupation of the 
fortune-telline Kuruvandlu or Kuluvandlu induced the 
Telugu people to call this tribe Yerukulavandlu. Dr. 
Oppert further connects Kurru with the root ku, a 
mountam ; and, in a Tamil work of the ninth century,t 
Kurru or Kura (Kuramagal) is given as the name of a 
hill tribe." A strone argument in favour of the caste 
name being connected with the profession of fortune- 
telling is afforded by the fact that women go about 
the streets, calling out " Yeruko, amma, yeruku," i.e., 
prophecies, mother, prophecies. The Kuravas are, Mr. 
Francis writes,| '* a gipsy tribe found all over the Tamil 
country, but chiefly in Kurnool, Salem, Coimbatore and 
South Arcot. Kuravas have usually been treated as 
being the same as the Yerukalas. Both castes are 


wandering gipsies, both live by basket-making and 
fortune-telling, both speak a corrupt Tamil, and both 
may have sprung from one original stock. It is note- 
w^orthy in this connection that the Yerukalas are said to 
call one another Kurru or Kura. But their names are 
not used as interchangeable in the districts where each 
is found, and there seem to be no real differences between 

* Madras Journ. Lit : and Science, 1888-89. t Tirumurukairuppadai. 

X Madras Census Report, 1901. 


the two bodies. They do not intermarry, or eat to- 
gether. The Kuravas are said to tie a piece of thread 
soaked in turmeric water round the bride's neck at 
weddings, while Yerukalas use a necklace of black beads. 
The Yerukalas have a tradition that those who went to 
fetch the tali and pipe never returned, and they conse- 
quently use black beads as a substitute for the tali, and 
a bell for the pipe. The Kuravas worship Subramanya, 
the son of Siva, while the Yerukalas worship Vishnu in 
the form of Venkateswara and his wife Lakshmi. It 
may be noted that, in a very early Sanskrit drama, the 
Brahman thief mocks Subramanya as being the patron 
saint of thieves. The Kuravas treat the gentler sex in 
a very casual manner, mortgaging or selling their wives 
without compunction, but the Yerukalas are particular 
about the reputation of their womankind, and consider 
it a serious matter if any of them return home without 
an escort after sunset. The statistics of this year 
accordingly show Yerukalas separately from Koravas. 
The reports from the various districts, however, give 
such discrepant accounts of both castes, that the matter 
is clearly in need of further enquiry." There is no 
district in the Madras Presidency or elsewhere, where 
both Koravas and Yerukalas live, unless it be the 
smallest possible corner of the Coimbatore district bor- 
dering on the south-east of Mysore, for the name Korcha 
intervenes ; and, for a wide strip of country including 
the north of the North Arcot district and south of the 
Cuddapah district, the Korava is known as a Korcha, 
and the Census Superintendent, in common with other 
authorities, has admitted these names to be synonymous. 
It is in the north of the Cuddapah district that the 
Yerukalas first appear in co-existence with the Korcha. 
The Korcha being admitted on all sides to be the same 


as the Korava, our doubt regarding the Identity of the 
Korava with the Ycrukala will be disposed of if we can 
establish the fact that the Korcha and the Yerukala 
are the same. The Rev. J. Cain, writing* about the 
Yerukalas of the Godavari district, states that "among 
themselves they call each other Kuluvaru, but the Telugu 
people call them Erakavaru or Erakalavaru, and this 
name has been derived from the Telugu word eruka, 
which means knowledge or acquaintance, as they are 
great fortune-tellers." 

According to Balfour,! the Koravas, or a certain 
section of them, i.e., the Kunchi Koravas, were known 
as Yerkal Koravar, and they called the language they 
spoke Yerkal. The same authority, writing of the 
Yerkalwadu, alludes to them as Kurshiwanloo, and goes 
on to say that they style themselves Yerkal, and give 
the same appellation to the language in which they hold 
communication. The word Yerkal here undoubtedly 
stands for Ycrukala, and Kurshi for Korcha. It is 
evident from this, supported by authorities such as 
Wilson, Campbell, Brown and Shortt, that the doubt 
mentioned by the Census Superintendent in regard to 
the identity of the Yerukala and Korava had not arisen 
when the Cyclopaedia of India was published, and it is 
the subsequent reports of later investigators that are 
responsible for it. The divergencies of practices reported 
must be reckoned with, and accounted for. They may 
be due to local customs existing in widely separated 
areas. It is contended that the Koravas and Yerukalas 
do not intermarry or eat together. A Korava, who has 
made a permanent home in a village in the south, if 
asked whether he would marry a Yerukala, would most 

* Indian Antiquity, IX, 1880. f Cyclopaedia of India. 


certainly answer in the negative, probably having never 
heard of such a person. A circular letter, submitted 
to a number of Police Inspectors in several districts, 
produced the same sort of discrepant information com- 
plained of by the Census Superintendent. But one 
Inspector extracted from his notes the information that, 
in 1895, marriages took place between the southern 
Koravas of a gang from the Madura district and the 
Yerukalas of the Cuddapah district ; and, further, that 
the son of one of a gang of Yerukalas in the Anantapur 
district married a Korcha girl from a gang belonging 
to the Mysore State. The consensus of opinion also 
goes to prove that they will eat together. Yerukalas 
undoubtedly place a string of black beads as a tali round 
the bride's neck on marriage occasions, and the same is 
used by the Koravas. Information concerning the use 
of a turmeric-dyed string came from only one source, 
namely, Hosur in the Salem district, and it was necessary 
even here for the string to be furnished with a round 
bottu, which might be a bead. A plain turmeric-soaked 
thread appears to be more the exception than the rule. 
Yerukalas are both Vaishnavites and Saivites, and a god 
worshipped by any one gang cannot be taken as a repre- 
sentative god for the whole class. Yerukalas may treat 
their womankind better than the southern Koravas, but 
this is only a matter of degree, as the morals of both 
are slack. The Yerukalas, occupying, as they do, the 
parched centre of the peninsula, more frequently devas- 
tated by famine than the localities occupied by the 
Koravas, may have learnt in a hard school the necessity 
of taking care of their wives ; for, if they allowed them 
to pass to another man, and a drought ruined his crop 
and killed the cattle, he would find it hard to procure 
another, the probability being that the price of wives 


rises in a common ratio with other commodities in a time 
of scarcity. 

From the accounts given by them, it appears that the 
Koravas claim to have originated in mythological ages. 
The account varies slightly according to the locality, 
but the general outlines agree more or less with the 
story related in the Bhagavatham. The purohits, or 
priests, are the safest guides, and it was one of them 
who told the following story, culled, as he admitted, from 
the Sastras and the Ramayana. When the great Venudu, 
son of Agneswathu, who was directly descended from 
Brahma, ruled over the universe, he was unable to 
procure a son and heir to the throne, and, when he died, 
his death was looked on as an irreparable misfortune. 
His body was preserved. The seven ruling planets sat 
in solemn conclave, and consulted as to what they should 
do. Finally they agreed to create a being from the 
right thigh of the deceased Venudu, and they accordingly 
fashioned and gave life to Nishudu. But their work 
was not successful, for Nishudu turned out to be not 
only deformed in body, but repulsively ugly in face. It 
was agreed at another meeting of the planets that he 
was not a fit person to be placed on the throne. So 
they set to work again, and created a being from the 
right shoulder of Venudu, and their second effort was 
crowned with success. They called the second creation 
Proothu Chakravarthi, and, as he gave general satisfac- 
tion, he was placed on the throne. This supersession 
naturally caused the first-born Nishudu to be dis- 
contented, and he sought a lonely place, in which he 
communed with the o;ods, besfoingf of them the reason 
why they had created him if he was not to rule. The 
gods explained that he could not now be placed on the 
throne, as Chakravarthi had already been installed, but 


that he should be a ruler over forests. In this capacity 
Nishudu begat the Boyas, Chenchus, Yanadis, and 
Koravas. The Boyas were his legitimate children, but 
the others were all illegitimate. It is because Nishudu 
watched in solemn silence to know his creator that some 
of his offspring called themselves Yerukalas (yeruka, 
to know). Another story explains the name Korava. 
When the princes Dharmaraja and Duryodana were at 
variance, the former, to avoid strife, went into voluntary 
exile. .A. woman who loved him set out in search of him, 
but, through fear of being identified, disguised herself 
as a fortune-teller. In this manner she found him, and 
their offspring became known as Koravas, from kuru, 

The appellation Koracha or Korcha appears to be of 
later date than Korava, and is said to be derived from 
the Hindustani kori (sly), korri nigga (sly look) becoming 
corrupted into Korcha. Whenever this name was applied 
to them, they had evidently learnt their calling thoroughly, 
and the whole family, in whatever direction its branches 
spread, established a reputation for cunning in snaring 
animals or birds, or purloining other peoples' goods, 
until to-day their names are used for the purpose of 
insulting abuse in the course of a quarrel. Thus a 
belligerant might call the other a thieving Yerukala, or 
ask, in tones other than polite, if he belongs to a gang of 
Korchas. In the Tamil country, a man is said to kura- 
kenju, or cringe like a Korava, and another allusion to 
their dishonesty is kurapasangu, to cheat like a Korava. 
The proverb " Kuruvan's justice is the ruin of the family " 
refers to the endless nature of their quarrels, the decision 
of which will often occupy the headmen for weeks together. 

In communicating among themselves, the Koravas and 
Yerukalas speak a corrupt polyglot, in which the words 




derived from several languages bear little resemblance 
to the original. Their words appear to be taken chiefly 
from Tamil, Telugu, and Canarese. A short vocabu- 
lary of the Yerukala language has been published by the 
Rev. J. Cain.* The Yerukalas call this language Oodra, 
which seems to stand for gibberish or thieves' slang, 
or, as they explain, something very hard to understand. 
Oriya or Oodra is the language of the districts of Ganjam 
and Orissa. The word Oriya means north, and the fact 
that the Yerukalas call their language Oodra would 
seem to confirm their belief that they are a northern 
tribe. The wanderers always know more than one lan- 
guage colloquially, and are able to make themselves 
understood by the people of the country through which 
they may be passing. Those who have settled in villages 
invariably speak the language of the locality. When 
talking among themselves, they call a Brahman Thanniko 
Koravan, or the bathing Korava. They consider the 
Brahmans to be more cunning than themselves, and, as 
they are fond of bathing to remove pollution, they have 
given them this nickname. 

A detailed account of the Korava slang and patois 
has been published by Mr. F. Fawcett, Deputy In- 
spector-General of Police, t from whose note thereon the 
following examples are taken : — 



Red-headed man. 

Head constable. 


The man who rides on 
an ass. 

Taking bribe ... 


Eating ragi food. 


Uggu perumalu 

White water, or good 



Fowls ... 

Rendukal Naidu. 

The Naidu of two legs. 



Those who have cut 

* Loc. cit. 


Note on Koravas, 1908. 


Pariah ... ... Utharalu keenjalu. The man that pipes. 

Butcher's knife ... Elamayarathe botta- That for striking those 

rathu. that graze leaves. 

Rupees ... ... Palakanna. Milk eyes. 

Ollakelluka. White pebbles. 

Korava society is purely patriarchal, and, in whatever 
division or sept of the caste a Korava may be born, he 
has to subordinate himself to the will of his elders or the 
leaders of his particular gang. The head of a gang is 
called the Peru Manusan or Beriya Manasan (big man). 
He is selected principally because of his age, intelligence, 
and the influence he commands amongst the members of 
the gang. It is a post which carries with it no remuner- 
ation whatever, but the holder presides at all consulta- 
tions, and is given the position of honour at all social 

Concerning the caste government, Mr. Fawcett writes 
that "the kulam or caste assembly adjudicates claims, 
inflicts penalties, ejects individuals from the caste, or 
readmits them thereto. Free drinking of toddy at the 
expense of one of the parties accompanies every caste 
assembly. It is the aggrieved party who gives notice 
for assembly of the kulam. The disputants join hands, 
thereby indicating to the kulam that their dispute 
should be decided by them. Each pays one rupee. The 
kulam may decide the dispute at once, or adjourn for 
further consideration at any time. The next meeting 
is called the second joining of hands, when each pays 
one rupee, as before, to be spent in toddy. A man who 
fails to attend when the kulam has been convened loses 
his caste absolutely. If there is a third adjournment, 
that is a third joining of hands, each side pays Rs. 3|- 
for toddy, to keep the kulam in good spirits. As this is 
always the final adjournment, the decision is sometimes 


arrived at by means of an ordeal. An equal quantity of 
rice is placed in two pots of equal weight having a quan- 
tity of water, and there is an equal quantity of firewood. 
The judges satisfy themselves most carefully as to 
quantity, weights, and so on. The water is boiled, and 
the man whose rice boils first is declared to be the 
winner of the dispute. The loser is to recoup the winner 
all his expenses. It sometimes happens that both pots 
boil at the same time ; then a coin is to be picked 
out of a pot containing boiling oil. There is yet 
another method of settling disputes about money. The 
amount claimed is brought by one party, and placed 
beside an idol. The claimant is then asked to take 
it, and, should nothing unpleasant happen to him or 
to his family afterwards, he is declared to have made 
out his claim. The kulam has nothing whatever to do 
with planning the execution of offences, but is sometimes 
called upon to decide about the division of plunder, as, 
for instance, when any member of a criminal expedition 
improperly secretes something for himself. But they 
engage vakils (pleaders) for defending members of the 
gang who are charged with a criminal oftence, whether 
they have been concerned in it or not." 

There are a great many classes of Koravas, most of 
them obtaining their names from the particular occupa- 
tions they have followed as an ostensible means of liveli- 
hood for many generations. But, whatever they may 
call themselves, they all, according to Mr. Mainwaring, 
fall within three divisions, viz. : — 

1. Sakai, Sampathi, Sathupadi. 

2. Kavadi or Gujjula. 

3. Devarakonda, Mendrakutti, or Menapadi. 

The members of the first two divisions are pure 
Koravas, the legitimate descendants of Koravas who 


have never married outside the caste, whereas the third 
division represents and includes the mixed marriages, 
and the offspring thereof. The Koravas receive into 
their ranks members of castes other than Paraiyans 
(including Malas and Madigas), Yanadis, Mangalas, and 
Tsakalas. The ceremony of introduction into the Korava 
community consists in burning the tongue with a piece 
of gold. The Koravas have a strong objection to taking 
food touched by Medaras, because, in their professional 
occupation of doing wicker-work, they use an awl which 
resembles the tool used by Madigas in shoe-making. 
The Koravas are said to be divided into two large 
families, which they call Pothu and Penti, meaning male 
and female. All the families included in the first division 
noted above are Pothu, and those in the second Penti. 
The families in the third division, being the product of 
mixed marriages, and the position of females being a 
lowly one, they are also considered to be Penti. The 
Pothu section is said to have arisen from men going in 
search of brides for themselves, and the Pent is from men 
going in search of husbands for their daughters. When 
a Korava, male or female, wishes to marry, a partner 
must be sought in a division other than their own. For 
example, a Korava of the first division is bound to marry 
a female belonging to the second or third division, who, 
after marriage, belongs to her husband's division. This 
may be a little hard on the women of the first division, 
because they are bound to descend in the social scale. 
However, their daughters can rise by marrying into the 
first division. For the purpose of religious ceremonies, 
each division has fixed duties. The members of the 
first division have the right of decorating the god, and 
dressing him in his festival attire. Those of the second 
division carry the god and the regalia inizprocession, and 

45 1 KORAVA 

burn incense, and those of the third drag the temple car, 
and sing and shout during its progress. For this reason, 
it is said, they are sometimes called Bandi (cart). 

" The major divisions," Mr. Paupa Rao Naidu writes, 
" are four in number, and according to their gradation 
they are Sathepati, Kavadi, Manapati, Mendragutti. 
They are all corrupted Tamil words. 

" I. Sathepati is a corruption of Sathupadi, which 
means adorning a Hindu deity with flowers, jewels and 

" 2. Kavadi, meaning a pole carried on the shoulders 
with two baskets pendant from its ends, in which are 
contained offerings for a deity or temple. 

" 3. Manapati is a corruption of Manpadi, which 
means singing in praise of god, when He is worshipped 
in a temple. 

" 4. Mendragutti is a corruption of Menrikutti, 
which means stitching a pair of shoes, and presenting 
them to the temple — a custom still prevalent at Tirupati 
and other important shrines. 

" Of these four divisions, the first two are, or rather 
were, considered superior to the other two, a Kavadi 
man being styled Pothuvadu (man), and a Sathepati man 
Penti (female)." 

A still further classification of divisions and sub- 
divisions is given by Mr. F. S. Mullaly.* I am informed 
by Mr. C. Hayavadana Rao that, in the Vizagapatam 
district, the Yerukalas are divided into Pattapu or Odde, 
and Thurpu (eastern). Of these, the former, when they 
are prosperous, live in tiled houses, while the latter live 
in huts. Pattapu women wear brass bangles on both 
wrists, and Thurpu women brass bangles on the right 

» Notes on Criminal Classes of the Madras Presidency. 
in-29 B 


wrist, and glass bangles on the left. The former throw 
the end of their cloth over the left shoulder, and the 
latter over the right. 

It is recorded, in the Gazetteer of the Trichinopoly 
district, that "the Kuravans are divided into a number 
of endogamous sections, of which the Ina Kuravans 
and the Kavalkaran Kuravans are the most criminal, 
especially the latter. The latter are also called the 
Marasa, Mondu, and Kadukutti Kuravans. In dress 
and appearance the Namakkal Kuravans are said to be 
superior to those of Karur, and to look like well-dressed 
Vellalans or Pallis. They are peculiar in wearing long 
ear-rings. They are also said to be much better thieves 
than the others, and to dislike having a Karur Kuravan 
when breaking into a house, for fear he might wake the 
household by his clumsiness." 

As examples of intiperu, or exogamous septs, the 
following, which were given by Uppu Yerukalas, may be 
cited : — 

Mogili {Pandanusfascicuiaris) , 

Uyyala, swing. 

Ragala, ragi grain. 

Pula, flowers. 

Katari, dagger. 

Ambojala, lotus. 

Samudrala, sea. 

Venkatagiri, a town. 

Dasari, Vaishnavite mendi 

Sukka, star. 

Kampa, bush of thorns. 
Avula, cows. 
Thoka, tail. 

Kanaga {Pongamia glabra). 
Bandi, cart. 
Gajjala, small bell. 

"A knowledge," Mr. Fawcett writes, "of these house 
or sept names may be useful in order to establish a 
man's identity, as a Koravar, who is generally untruthful 
as to his own name, is seldom if ever so as regards his 
house or sept name, and his father's name. He con- 
siders it shameful to lie about his parentage, 'to be 
born to one, and yet to give out the name of another.' 


Totemism of some kind evidently exists, but it is rather 
odd that it has not always any apparent connection with 
the sept or house name. Thus, the totem of persons of 
the Koneti sept is horse-gram (kollu in Tamil), which 
they hold in veneration, and will not touch, eat, or use in 
any way. The totem of the Samudrala sept is the conch 
shell, which likewise will not be used by those of the 
sept in any manner. It may be noted that persons of 
the Rameswari sept will not eat tortoises, while those 
of the Koneti sept are in some manner obliged to do so 
on certain occasions." 

As regards names for specific occupations among the 
Koravas, the Bidar or nomad Koravas originally carried 
merchandise in the form of salt, tamarinds, jaggery (crude 
sugar or molasses), leaves of the curry leaf plant {^Murray a 
Kcenigii) from place to place on pack-bullocks or donkeys. 
The leaves were in great demand, and those who brought 
them round for sale were called in Tamil Karuvaipillai, 
and in Telugu Karepaku, after the commodity which 
they carried. This is a common custom in India, and 
when driving through the bazar, one may hear, for 
example, an old woman carrying a bundle of wood 
addressed as firewood. " Kavadi " will be screamed 
at a man carrying a pole (kavadi) with baskets, etc., 
suspended from it, who got in the way of another. The 
section of Koravas who carried salt inland from the coast 
became knowm as Uppu (salt) Koravas. Another large 
class are the Thubba, Dhubbai, or Dhabbai (split bamboo) 
Koravas, who restrict their wanderings to the foot of hill 
ranges, where bamboos are obtainable. With these 
they make baskets for the storage of grain, for carrying 
manure at the bottom of carts, and various fancy articles. 
In the Kurnool district, the Yerukalas will only cut 
bamboos at the time of the new moon, as they are then 


supposed to be free from attacks by boring weevils, and 
they do certain puja (worship) to the goddess Malalamma, 
who presides over the bamboos. In the Nallamalai 
forests, the Yerukalas do not spHt the bamboo into 
pieces and remove the whole, but take off only a very 
thin strip consisting of the outer rind. The strips are 
made up into long bundles, which can be removed by 
donkeys. There is extreme danger of fire, because the 
inner portions of the bamboos, left all over the forest, 
are most inflammable.* Instead of splitting the bamboos 
in the forest, and leaving behind a lot of combustible 
material, the Yerukalas now have to purchase whole 
bamboos, and take them outside the forest to split them. 
The members of a gang of these Yerukalas, who came 
before me at Nandyal, were each carrying a long s|)lit 
bamboo wand as an occupational insigne. A further 
important section is that of the Kunchu or Kunchil 
Koravas, who gather roots in the jungle, and make them 
into long brushes which are used by weavers. The Kora- 
vas have a monopoly in their manufacture, and take 
pride in making good brushes. These Kunchu Koravas 
are excellent shikaris (hunters), and snare antelope, 
partridges, duck, quail, and other game with great skill. 
For the purpose of shooting antelopes, or of getting 
close enough to the young ones to catch them after a 
short run, they use a kind of shield made of dried twigs 
ragged at the edges, which looks like an enormous 
wind-blown bundle of grass. When they come in sight 
of a herd of antelopes, they rest one edge of the shield 
on the ground, and, sitting on their heels behind it, 
move it slowly forward towards the herd until they get 
sufficiently close to dash at the young ones, or shoot the 

* Forest Inspection Report, 1896. 


grown-up animals. The antelopes are supposed to 
mistake the shield for a bush, and to fail to notice its 
gradual approach. They capture duck and teal largely 
at night, and go to the rice fields below a tank (pond or 
lake), in which the crop is young, and the ground 
consequently not entirely obscured. This would be a 
likely feeding-ground, or traces of duck having fed there 
on the previous night might be noticed. They peg a 
creeper from one bund (mud embankment) to another, 
parallel to the tank bund, four inches above the water in 
the field. From this they suspend a number of running 
loops made of sinews drawn from the legs of sheep or 
ooats or from the hind-lesfs of hares, the lower ends of 
the loops touching the mud under water. If the duck 
or teal come to feed, they are sure to be caught, and fall 
victims to the slip noose. "The Kuntsu (Kunchu) 
Korachas," Mr. Francis tells us,* " catch small birds by 
limine twisfs or an arrangement of bits of bamboo with 
a worm hung inside it, or by setting horse-hair nooses 
round the nests. Quails they capture by freely snaring 
a piece of ground, and then putting a quail in a cage in 
the middle of it, to lure the birds towards the snare. 
They also catch them, and partridges too, by driving the 
bevy towards a collapsible net. To do this, they cover 
themselves with a dark blanket, conceal their heads 
in a kind of big hat made of hair, feathers and grass, and 
stalk the birds from a bullock trained to the work, very 
gradually driving them into the net. They also occa- 
sionally capture black-buck (antelope) by sending a tame 
buck with nooses on his horns to fight with a wild one. 
The latter speedily gets his horns entangled in the 
nooses, and is easily secured." Sometimes the Kunchu 

* Gazetteer of the Bellary district. 

kORAVA 456 

Korava begs in villages, dragging about with him a 
monkey, while the females earn a livelihood by tattooing, 
which occupation, known as pricking with green, has 
gained for them the name of Pacchai (green) Kutti. The 
patterns used in tattooing by a Korava woman, whom I 
interviewed, were drawn in a note-book, and consisted of 
fishes, scorpions, a fortress, five-storeyed house, conven- 
tional designs, etc. The patterns were drawn on the 
skin, with great dexterity and skill in freehand drawing, 
by means of a blunt stick dipped in a mixture of a 
lamp-black, lamp-oil, and turmeric contained in a half 
cocoanut shell. The pattern is pricked in with a bundle 
of four or five needles tied together. The needles 
and drawing-stick were kept in a hollow bamboo, and 
the tattooing mixture in the scooped out fruits of 
the bael [yEgle Marmelos) and palmyra palm i^Borasstis 
flabellifer). For tattooing an entire upper extremity, 
at several sittings, the Korava woman would be paid 
from eight to twelve annas, or receive food-grains in 
lieu of money. The hot weather is said to be more 
favourable for the operation than the cold season, as 
the swelling after it is less. To check this, lamp-oil, 
turmeric, and leaves of the avarai plant {Dolichos Lablab) 
are applied. 

Concerning the Pacchaikuttis, or, as they are also 
called, Gadde (soothsayers), Mr. Paupa Rao Naidu 
writes that '* the women start with a basket and a 
winnowing basket or tray into a village, proclaiming 
their ostensible profession of tattooing and soothsaying, 
which they do for grain or money. When unfortunate 
village women, who always lose children or who often 
fall ill, see these Gadde women moving about, they call 
them into their houses, make them sit, and, pouring 
some grain into their baskets, ask them about their past 


misery and future lot. These women, who are suffi- 
ciently trained to speak in suitable language, are clever 
enough to give out some yarns in equivocal terms, so that 
the anxious women, who hope for better futurity, under- 
stand them in the light uppermost in their own minds. 
The Korava women will be rewarded duly, and doubly 
too, for they never fail to study the nature of the house 
all the time, to see if it offers a fair field for booty to 
their men." 

At Srungavarapukota in the Vizagapatam district 
** the local goddess, Yerakamma, is a deification of a 
woman who committed sati. Ballads are sung about 
her, which say that she was the child of Dasari parents, 
and that her birth was foretold by a Yerukala woman 
(whence her name) who prophesied that she would have 
the gift of second sight. She eventually married, and 
one day she begged her husband not to go to his field, 
as she was sure he would be killed by a tiger if he did. 
Her husband went notwithstanding, and was slain as she 
had foreseen. She committed sati on the spot where her 
shrine still stands."* 

The Or or village Koravas have given up their 
nomad life, and settled in villages of their own, or 
together with other communities. Many of them have 
attended pial schools, and can read and write to some 
extent. Some of them are employed in the police and 
salt departments, as jail warders, etc. The Or Korava 
is fast losing his individuality, and assimilating, in dress, 
manners and customs, the ryots among whom he dwells. 
In the Salem district there is a village called Koravur, 
which is inhabited entirely by Koravas, who say that they 
were originally Uppu Koravas, but now cultivate their 

Gazetteer of the Vizagapatam district. 


own lands, or work as agricultural labourers for the land- 
owners. They say further that they pay an occasional 
visit to Madras for the purpose of replenishing their 
stock of coral and beads, which they sell at local shandis 
(markets). Some Koravas are said to buy gilded beads 
at Madura, and cheat unsuspecting villagers by selling 
them as gold. Though the Or Koravas are becoming 
civilised, they have not yet lost their desire for other 
men's goods, and are reported to be the curse of the 
Anantapur, Cuddapah, and Bellary districts, where they 
commit robbery, house-breaking, and theft, especially of 
sheep and cattle. A particularly bold sheep theft by 
them a few years ago is worthy of mention. The village 
of Singanamalla in the Anantapur district lies a few 
miles off the railway. It is bordered on two sides by 
Government forest reserves, into which the villagers 
regularly drove their sheep and goats to graze, in charge 
of small boys, in the frequent absences of the forest 
watcher, or when the watcher was well disposed towards 
them. An arrangement was made between the Koravas 
and a meat-supplier at Bangalore to deliver on his behalf 
a large number of sheep at a wayside station near 
Dharmavaram, to receive which trucks had to be ready, 
and the transaction was purely cash. One morning, 
when more than a hundred sheep had been driven far 
into the reserve by their youthful charges, who kept 
more or less close together for the sake of company, 
a number of Koravas turned up, and represented them- 
selves as forest watchers, captured the small boys, gagged 
them and tied them to trees, and drove off all the avail- 
able sheep. The boys were not discovered till late at 
night, and the police did not get to work till the 
following morning, by which time the sheep were safely 
entrained for Bangalore. 


It is noted, in the Madras Police Report, 1905-1906, 
that "a lar^e number of members of the notorious 
Rudrapad Koracha gangs have recently been released 
from His Highness the Nizam's prisons, and their 
return will add appreciably to the difficulties of the 
Bellary Police." 

A small class of Koravas is named Pamula (snake), 
as they follow the calling of snake-charmers. In the 
Census Report, 1901, Pusalavadu (seller of glass beads) 
and Utlavadu (makers of utlams) are given as sub-castes 
of Yerukala. An utlam is a hanging receptacle for pots, 
etc., made of palmyra fibre. In the same report, Kadu- 
kuttukiravar (those who bore a hole in the ear) and 
Valli Ammai Kuttam (followers of the goddess Valli 
Ammai) are returned as synonyms of Koravas. They 
claim that Valli Ammai, the wife of the god Subrahmanya, 
was a Korava woman. Old Tamil books refer to the 
Koravas as fortune-tellers to kings and queens, and 
priests to Subrahmanya. Some Koravas have, at times 
of census, returned themselves as Kudaikatti (basket- 
making) Vanniyans. Balfour refers to VValaja Koravas, 
and states that they are musicians. They are probably 
identical with the Wooyaloo Koravas,* whose duty it 
is to swing incense, and sing before the god during 
a religious celebration. The same writer speaks of 
Bajantri or Sonai Kolawaru and Kolla and Soli 
Korawars, and states that they inhabit the Southern 
Maratha country. These names, like Thogamallai for 
Koravas who come from the village of that name in the 
Trichinopoly district, are probably purely local. Further, 
the Abb6 Dubois states that " the third species of 
Kuravers is generally known under the name of Kalla 

* F. S, MuUaly. Op. cit. 

KORAvA 460 

Bantru, or robbers. The last Muhammadan prince who 
reigned over Mysore is said to have employed a regular 
battalion of these men in time of war, not for the purpose 
of fighting, but to infest the enemy's camp in the night, 
stealing away the horses and other necessaries of the 
officers, and acting as spies. They were awarded in 
proportion to the dexterity they displayed in these 
achievements, and, in time of peace, they were despatched 
into the various States of neighbouring princes, to rob 
for the benefit of their masters." It is possible that the 
Kaikadis of the Central Provinces arc identical with 
Koravas, who have migrated thither. 

A section of Koravas, called Koot (dancing) or 
Kothcc (monkey) Kaikaries, is referred to by Mr. Pau])a 
Rao Naidu as "obtaining their living by prostitution. 
They also kidnap or sell children for this purpose. 
Some of the women of this class are thrivino- well in 
the Madras Presidency as experts in dancing. They 
are kept by rich people, and are called in the Telugu 
country Erukala Bogamvaru, in Tamil Korava Thevidia. 
They also train monkeys, and show them to the public." 

The household god of the Korava, which is as a rule 
very rudely carved, may be a representation of either 
Vishnu or Siva. As already noted, it is stated in the 
Census Report, 1901, that the Koravas worship Subrah- 
manya, the son of Siva, while the Yerukalas worship 
Vishnu in the form of Venkateswara and his wife 
Lakshmi. They worship, in addition to these, Kola- 
puriamma, Perumalaswami, and other appropriate 
deities, prior to proceeding on a depredatory expedition. 
Kolapuriamma is the goddess of Kolhapur, the chief 
town of the Native State of that name in the Bombay 
Presidency, who is famous in Southern India, Perumal- 
swami, or Venkateswara, is the god of Tirupati, the 


great place of pilgrimage in the North Arcot district. 
The signs of a recent performance of worship by 
Koravas may prove an indication to the PoHce that they 
have been concerned in a dacoity, and act as a clue to 
detection thereof. They sacrifice sheep or goats once a 
year to their particular god on a Sunday or Tuesday, 
while those who worship Venkateswara honour him on 
a Saturday, and break cocoanuts as an offering. All 
offerings presented to the gods are divided among those 
present, after the ceremonies have been completed. 
Venkateswara is said to be sometimes represented, for 
the purpose of worship, by a brass vessel (kalasam) 
decorated with flowers, and bearing on it the Vaishnavite 
namam (sect mark). Its mouth is closed by a cocoanut, 
beneath which mango or betel leaves are placed. On 
the day appointed for the religious service, everything 
within the hut is thrown outside, and the floor is purified 
with cow-dung, and devices are drawn thereon. The brass 
vessel is set up, and offerings of large quantities of food 
are made to it. Some of this dedicated food (prasadam) 
must be given to all the inhabitants of the settlement. 
A lump of clay, squeezed into a conical shape, with a 
tuft of margosa {Melia Azadirachta) leaves does duty 
for Poleramma. In front thereof, three stones are 
placed. Poleramma may be worshipped close to, but 
not within, the hut. To her offerings of boiled rice 
(pongal) are made by fasting women. The manner in 
which the boiling food bubbles over from the cooking- 
pot is eagerly watched, and accepted as an omen for 
good or evil. In a note on the Coorroo, Balfour states * 
that " they told me that, when they pray, they construct 
a small pyramid of clay, which they term Mariamma, 

• Madras Journ, Lit, Science, XVII, 1853. 


and worship it. The women had small gold and silver 
ornaments suspended from cords round their necks, 
which they said had been supplied to them by a gold- 
smith, from whom they had ordered figures of Mariamma. 
The form represented is that of the goddess Kali, 
lliey mentioned that they had been told by their 
forefathers that, when a good man dies, his spirit enters 
the body of some of the better animals, as that of a 
horse or cow, and that a bad man's spirit gives life to 
the form of a dog or jackal, but they did not seem to 
believe in it. They believe firmly, however, in the 
existence and constant presence of a principle of evil, 
who, they say, frequently appears, my informant having 
himself often seen it in the dusk of the evening assuming 
various forms, at times a cat, anon a goat, and then 
a dog, taking these shapes that it might approach to 
injure him." 

The domestic god of the Koravas, in the southern 
districts, is said to be Sathavu, for whom a day of 
worship is set apart once in three or four years. The 
Koravas assemble, and, in an open place to the west of 
the village, a mud platform is erected, on which small 
bricks are spread. In front of the platform are placed a 
sickle, sticks, and arrack (liquor). Cocoanuts, plantain 
fruits, and rice are offered, and sheep sacrificed. 
Sandal and turmeric are poured over the bricks, and 
camphor is burnt. The proceedings terminate with 
a feast. 

The presiding goddess of the criminal profession of 
the Koravas is stated by Mr. M. Paupa Rao Naidu* to 
be Moothevi, the goddess of sleep, whom they dread 
and worship more than any other god or goddess of the 

* History of Railway Thieves. Madras, 1904. 


Hindu Pantheon. The object of this worship is twofold, 
one being to keep themselves vigilant, and the other to 
throw their victims off their guard. Moothevi is invoked 
in their prayers to keep them sleepless while on their 
nefarious purpose bent, but withal to make their victims 
sufficiently sleepy over their property. This goddess is 
worshipped especially by females, who perform strange 
orgies periodically, to propitiate her. A secluded spot 
is preferred for performing these orgies, at which animal 
sacrifices are made, and there is distribution of liquor in 
honour of the goddess. The Edayapatti gang worship 
in addition the deity Ratnasabhapathy at Ayyamala. 
When prosecuted for a crime, the Koravan invokes his 
favourite deity to let him off with a whipping in the 
words ' If the punishment of whipping be inflicted I 
shall adore the goddess.' 

The following account of a peculiar form of human 
sacrifice by the Koravas in former days was given to 
Mr. C. Hayavadana Rao by an old inhabitant of the 
village of Asur near Walajabad in the Chingleput district. 
A big gang settled at the meeting point of the three 
villages of Asur, Melputtur, and Avalur, on an elevated 
spot commanding the surrounding country. They had 
with them their pack-bullocks, each headman of the 
gang owning about two hundred head. The cow-dung 
which accumulated daily attracted a good many of the 
villagers, on one of whom the headmen fixed as their 
intended victim. They made themselves intimate with 
him, plied him with drink and tobacco, and gave him 
the monopoly of the cow-dung. Thus a week or ten 
days passed away, and the Koravas then fixed a day for 
the sacrifice. They invited the victim to visit them at 
dusk, and witness a great festival in honour of their 
caste goddess. At the appointed hour, the man went 


to the settlement, and was induced to drink freely. 
Meanwhile, a pit, large enough for a man to stand 
upright in it, had been prepared. At about midnight, 
the victim was seized, and forced to stand in the pit, 
which was filled in up to his neck. This done, the 
women and children of the gang made off with their 
belongings. As soon as the last of them had quitted 
the settlement, the headmen brought a large quantity of 
fresh cow-dung, and placed a ball of it on the head of 
the victim. The ball served as a support for an earthen 
lamp, which was lighted. The man was by this time 
nearly dead, and the cattle were made to pass over his 
head. The headmen then made off, and, by daybreak, 
the whole gang had disappeared. The murdered man 
was found by the villagers, who have, since that time, 
scrupulously avoided the Koravas. The victim is said 
to have turned into a Munisvara, and for a long time 
troubled those who happened to go near the spot at 
noon or midnight. The Koravas are said to have 
performed the sacrifice so as to insure their cattle 
against death from disease. The ground, on which 
they encamped, and on which they offered the human 
sacrifice, is stated to have been barren prior thereto, 
and, as the result thereof, to have become very fertile. 

It is said that Korava women invoke the village 
goddesses when they are telling fortunes. They use a 
winnowing fan and grains of rice in doing this, and 
prophesy good or evil, according to the number of 
grains found on the fan.* They carry a basket, winnow, 
stick, and a wicker tray in which cowry shells are 
imbedded in a mixture of cow-dung and turmeric. The 
basket represents Kolapuriamma, and the cowries 

* Madras^Census Report, 1901. 


I— I 


Poleramma. When telling fortunes, the Korava woman 
places on the basket the winnow, rice, betel leaves and 
areca nuts, and the wicker tray. Holding her client's 
hand over the winnow, and moving it about, she com- 
mences to chant, and name all sorts of deities. From 
time to time she touches the hand of the person whose 
fortune is being told with the stick. The Korava women 
are very clever in extracting information concerning the 
aftairs of a client before they proceed to tell her fortune. 
Brahmans fix the auspicious hour for marriage, and 
Chettis are invited to act as priests at the purification 
ceremony for re-admission into caste of a man or woman 
who has cohabited with a Paraiyan or Muhammadan, 
or been beaten with a shoe, etc. For the purpose of 
re-admission, a panchayat (council) assembles, at which 
the headman presides. Enquiries are made into the 
conduct of the accused, and a fine of two rupees levied. 
Of this sum the Chetti receives eight annas, with some 
betel and tobacco. The balance is spent in liquor for 
those who are assembled. After the Chetti has received 
his fee, he smears the foreheads of the guilty person 
and the company with sacred ashes. The impure 
person goes to a stream or well, and bathes. He then 
again comes before the council, and is purified by the 
Chetti again marking his forehead. The proceedings 
wind up with a feast. In former days, at a trial before 
a council, the legs of the complainant and accused were 
tied together. In 1907, a Koracha was excommuni- 
cated for having illicit intercourse with a widow. The 
ceremony of excommunication usually consists of shav- 
ing the head and moustache of the guilty person, 
and making him ride a donkey, wearing a necklace of 
bones. In the case under reference, a donkey could not 
be procured, so a temporary shed was made of sajja 


{Setaria italica) stalks, which were set on fire after the 
man had passed through it. He was to be re-admitted 
into the caste by standing a feast to all the members of 
five gangs of Korachas. 

It is said* that " a curious custom of the Kuravans 
prohibits them from committing crime on new-moon or 
full-moon days. Once started on an expedition, they 
are very determined and persistent. There is a case 
on record where one of a band of Kuravans out on 
an expedition was drowned in crossing the Cauvery. 
Nothing daunted by the loss or the omen, they 
attempted a burglary, and failed. They then tried 
another house, where they also failed ; and it was not 
till they had met with these three mishaps that their 
determination weakened, and they went home." 

The Koravas are extremely superstitious, and take 
careful notice of good or bad omens before they 
start on a criminal expedition. They hold a feast, at 
which the assistance of the goddess Kolapuriamma 
or Perumal is sought. A young goat, with coloured 
thread attached to its horns, and a garland of margosa 
leaves with a piece of turmeric round its neck, is taken 
to an out-of-the-way shrine. Here it is placed before 
the deity, and cocoanuts are broken. The god is asked 
whether the expedition will be successful. If the body 
of the animal quivers, it is regarded as an answer in 
the affirmative ; if it does not, the expedition will be 
abandoned. If in addition to quivering, the animal 
urinates, no better sign could be hoped for. The 
Koravas make it a point of honour to pay for the goat 
used for this religious purpose. It was information of 
this ceremony having been performed which led to the 

* Gazetteer of the Trichinopoly district. 

^(i'] KORAVA 

detection of a torchlight dacoity in the Cuddapah district 
in 1896. The expedition was in the first instance suc- 
cessful, for the Koravas broke into a Komati's house 
in the middle of a village, and carried off a quantity of 
jewels. The Komati's arm was broken, and he and other 
inmates of the house were badly burnt by lighted torches 
thrust against their faces and bodies. Among- other 
methods of consulting the omens is to sacrifice a fowl 
at a shrine, and sit in front thereof listening for the 
direction whence the chirping of lizards issues. If the 
omens are auspicious, the members of the expedition 
start off, armed as a rule with latis (sticks) and axes. If 
they attack a cart, they commence by throwing stones 
at it, to ascertain if the occupant has fire-arms with him. 
Houses are generally broken into by means of a hole 
made in the wall near the door-latch. In the Ceded 
Districts, where the houses are as a rule substantially 
built of rough stone, and have flat roofs of salt earth, an 
opening is frequently effected through the roof. The 
Koravas are often extremely cruel in the methods which 
they adopt to extort information from inhabitants of 
houses as to where their valuables are concealed. In 
common with other Hindus, they avoid the shadow of 
the thandra tree {Terniinalia dc/erica), in which the 
spirit of Saneswaradu is believed to reside. In this 
connection the following legend is recited.* In the 
city of Bimanapuram there ruled a king named Bimaraju, 
who had a beautiful daughter named Damayanti, with 
whom the gods, including Nalamaharaju, fell in love. 
Damayanti had never seen Nalamaharaju, but loved him 
on account of the stories which reached her of the justice 
with which he governed his kingdom, and his chastity. 

♦ This story is based on well-known episode of Nalacharilra in the Aranya Parva 
of the Mahabharatha. 

ni-30 B 


To avoid being charged with partiality in disposing of 
his daughter's hand, Bimaraju determined to invite all 
the gods to his house, and the one to whom Damayanti 
should throw a garland of flowers should claim her as 
his wife. The day fixed on arrived, and all the gods 
assembled, except Saneswaradu, who appears to have 
been unavoidably detained. The gods were seated in 
a circle, and a fly guided Damayanti to Nalamaharaju, 
on whose neck she threw the garland. Nalamaharaju 
at once claimed her as his wife, and started off with her 
to his kingdom. On the way they met Saneswaradu, 
who demanded an explanation of their being in each 
other's company. He was told, and was very angry 
because the matter had been settled in his absence, and 
swore a mighty oath that they should be separated. To 
this end, he caused all sorts of difficulties to come in 
their way. Under his spell, Nalamaharaju took to 
gambling, and lost all his property. He was separated 
from Damayanti, and lived in poverty for years. The 
spell of Saneswaradu could, however, only last for a 
certain number of years, and, when the time expired 
Nalamaharaju set out for Bimanapuram, to find Dama- 
yanti who had returned to her father's house. On the 
way, under a thandra tree, he met Saneswaradu, who 
confessed that he was the cause of all the troubles that 
had befallen him, and begged that he would look 
leniently on his fault. Nalamaharaju would not forgive 
him, but, after cursing him, ordained that he should live 
for ever in the thandra tree, so that the area over which 
he could do wrong should be limited. It is for this 
reason that all wandering tribes avoid pitching a camp 
within the shadow of this tree. A tree {Terminalia 
Catappd) belonging to the same genus as the thandra 
is regarded as a lucky one to camp beneath, as it was 


under one of these trees that Rama made a bower when 
he lived with Sita and Lakshmana after his banishment 
to the forest of Dandaka. 

In connection with omens and superstitions, Mr. 
Fawcett writes as follows. " Koravas, being highly 
superstitious, are constantly on the look-out for omens, 
especially before starting out on an excursion when the 
objective is dacoity or housebreaking. The household 
deity, represented by a brick picked up at random, is 
worshipped, and a sheep or fowl is sacrificed. Water is 
first poured over the animal, and, if it shakes its body, 
the omen is good, while, if it stands perfectly still, there 
is misfortune ahead. It is unfortunate, when starting, to 
see widows, pots of milk, dogs urinating, a man leading 
a bull, or a bull bellowing. On the other hand, it is 
downright lucky when a bull bellows at the scene of the 
criminal operation. To see a man goading a bull is 
a good omen when starting, and a bad one at the scene. 
Sprinkling urine over doors and walls of a house facilitates 
breaking into it. The failure of an expedition is generally 
attributed to the evil eye, or the evil tongue, whose bad 
effects are evinced in many ways. If the excursion has 
been for housebreaking, the housebreaking implement 
is often soldered at its sharp end with panchalokam 
(five metals), to counteract the eff^ect of the evil eye. 
The evil tongue is a frequent cause of failure. It consists 
in talking evil of others, or harping on probable mis- 
fortunes. There are various ways of removing its unhappy 
effects. A mud figure of a man is made on the ground, 
and thorns are placed over the mouth. This is the man 
with the evil tongue. Those who have suffered walk 
round it, crying out and beating their mouths ; the greater 
the noise, the better the effect. Cutting the neck of a fowl 
half through and allowing it to flutter about, or inserting 


a red hot spHnterjn its anus to madden it with pain, are 
considered to be effective, while, if a cock should crow- 
after its neck has been cut, calamities are averted. The 
fowl is a sort of adjunct to the Koravar's life. In early- 
childhood, the first experiments in his career consist 
in stealing fowls ; in manhood he feasts on them when 
he is well off, and he uses them, as we have seen, with 
abominable cruelty for divination or averting misfortune. 
The number seven is considered ominous, and an 
expedition never consists of seven men. The word for 
the number seven in Telugu resembles the word for wee[)- 
ing, and is considered to be unlucky. A man who has 
returned from jail, or who has been newly married, is 
not as a rule taken on an expedition. In the case of the 
former, the rule may be set aside by bringing a lamb 
from a neighbouring flock. A man who forgets to bring 
his stick, or to equip or arm himself properly, is always 
left behind. As in the case of dacoities, seven is an 
unlucky number to start out for housebreaking, but, 
should it be unavoidable, a fiction is indulged in of making- 
the housebreaking implement the eighth member of the 
gang. When there are dogs about a house, they are 
soon kept quiet with powdered gajjakai or ganja leaves 
mixed with cooked rice, which they eat greedily. 
Detached parties In the jungle or elsewhere are able to 
unite by making sounds like the howling of jackals or 
hooting of owls. The direction taken on a road, or in 
the forest, is Indicated by throwing the leaves of the 
tangedu [Cassia auriczdala) along the road. At cross- 
roads, the road taken Is Indicated by the thick end of 
a twig of the tangedu placed under a stone. Rows of 
stones, one piled over the other, are also used to point 
out the route taken when crossing hills. The women 
resort to divination, but not accompanied by cruelty, 


when their husbands are long enough absent to arouse 
apprehension of danger. A long piece is pulled out of a 
broom, and to one end of It are tied several small pieces 
dipped in oil. If the stick floats in water, all is well ; 
but, should it sink, two of the women start out at once 
to find the men. They generally know as a matter of 
pre-arrangement whereabouts to find them, and proceed 
thither, pretending to sell karipak (curry leaves). The 
eighteenth day of the Tamil month Avani is the luckiest 
day of all for committing crimes. A successful criminal 
exploit on this day ensures good luck throughout the 
year. Sundays, which are auspicious for weddings, are 
inauspicious for crimes. Mondays, Wednesdays and 
Saturdays are unlucky until noon for starting out from 
home. So, too, is the day after new moon. Fridays 
are unsuitable for breaking into the houses of Brahmans 
or Komatis, as they may be engaged in worshipping 
Ankalamma, to whom the day is sacred." 

Many Koravas examined by Mr. Mainwaring were 
injured in one way or another. One man had his left 
nostril split, and explained that it was the result of a bite 
by another Korava in the course of a drunken brawl at 
a toddy-shop. Another had lost some of his teeth in a 
similar quarrel, and a third was minus the lobe of his 
right ear. 

A characteristic of the Koravas, which is well marked, 
is their hairlessness. They have plenty of straight hair 
on the head, but their bodies are particularly smooth. 
Even the pubic hairs are scanty, and the abdominal 
hairs are abundant only in a few instances. The 
Korava is not, in appearance, the typical criminal of 
one's imagination, of the Bill Sykes type. That even 
the innocent looking individuals are criminal by nature, 
the following figures establish. In 1902, there were 


739 Koravas, or Korchas as they are called In the 
Anantapur district, on the police registers as members 
of wandering gangs or ordinary suspects. Of these, no 
less than 215, or 29 per cent., had at least one conviction 
recorded against them. In the Nellore district, in 1903, 
there were 54 adult males on the register, of whom no 
less than 24, or 44 per cent., had convictions against 
them. In the Salem district, in the same year, there 
were 118 adult male Koravas registered, against 38, or 
32*2 per cent, of whom convictions stood. There are, 
of course, hundreds who escape active surveillance by 
assuming an ostensible means of livelihood, and allow- 
ances must be made for the possibility of numbers 
escaping conviction for offences they may have committed. 
The women are equally criminal with the men, but are 
less frequently caught. They have no hesitation in 
concealing small articles by passing them into the 
vagina. The best way of ascertaining whether this has 
been done is said to be to make them jump. In this 
way. at a certain feast, a gold jewel was recovered from 
a woman, and she was convicted.* This expedient is, 
however, not always effectual. A case came under 
notice, in 1901, at the Kolar gold fields, in which a 
woman had a small packet of stolen gold amalgam passed 
to her during the search of the house by her husband, 
who was suspected. She begged permission to leave 
the house to urinate. 7'he request was granted, and 
a constable who went with her on her return reported 
her conduct as suspicious. A female searcher was pro- 
cured, and the parcel found jammed transversely in the 
vagina, and required manipulation to dislodge it. Small 
jewels, which the Koravas manage to steal, are at once 

* M. Paupa Rao Naidu. Op. cit. 


concealed in the mouth, and even swallowed. When 
swallowed, the jewel is next day recovered with the 
help of a purgative. In this way a half sovereign was 
recovered a few years ago.* Male Koravas sometimes 
conceal stolen articles in the rectum. In the Tanjore 
district a Korava Kepmari, who was suspected of having 
resorted to this dodge, was examined by a medical officer, 
and two thin gold chains, each about 14 inches long, 
were extracted. The females take an important part in 
resisting an attempt to arrest the males, I am informed 
that, "when a raid is made on an encampment, the 
males make off, while the females, stripping themselves, 
dance in a state of nudity, hoping thereby to attract the 
constables to them, while the males get clear away. 
Should, however, these manoeuvres fail to attain their 
object, the females proceed to lacerate the pudenda, from 
which blood flows profusely. They then lie down as if 
dead. The unfortunate constables, though proof against 
amorous advances, must perforce assist them in their 
distress. If it comes to searching Korava huts, the 
females take a leading part in attacking the intruders, 
and will not hesitate to stone them, or break chatties 
(earthen pots) on their heads." 

It is recorded, in the Cuddapah Manual, that "a 
Yerukala came to a village, and, under the pretence of 
begging, ascertained which women wore jewels, and 
whether the husbands of any such were employed 
at night in the fields. In the night he returned, and, 
going to the house he had previously marked, suddenly 
snatched up the sleeping woman by the massive kamma 
(gold ear-ring) she wore, sometimes with such violence 
as to lift up the woman, and always in such a way as to 

* Ibid. 


wrench off the lobe of the ear. This trick he repeated 

in three different hamlets of the same village on one 

night, and in one house on two women. In one case, 

the woman had been lifted so high that, when the ear 

gave way, she fell to the ground, and severely injured 

her head." A new form of house robbery is said to have 

been started by the Koravas in recent years. They 

mark down the residence of a woman, whose jewels are 

worth stealing, and lurk outside the house before dawn. 

Then, when the woman comes out, as is the custom, 

before the men are stirring, they snatch her ear-rings and 

other ornaments, and are gone before an alarm can be 

raised.* Another favourite method of securing jewelry 

is for the Korava to beg for rice, from door to door, on 

a dark night, crying " Sandi bichcham, Amma, Sandi 

bichcham" (night alms, mother, night alms). Arrived 

at the house of his victim, he cries out, and the lady 

of the house brings out a handful of rice, and puts it 

in his pot. As she does so, he makes a grab at her tali 

or other neck ornament, and makes off with the spoil. 

" Stolen property ", Mr. Mullaly writes,! " is disposed 
of, as soon as they can get a suitable remuneration. The 
general bargain is Re. i for a rupee's weight of gold. 
They do not, however, as a rule, lose much over their 
transactions, and invariably convert their surplus into 
sovereigns. In searching a Koravar encampment on one 
occasion, the writer had the good fortune to discover a 
number of sovereigns which, for safe keeping, were 
stitched in the folds of their pack saddles. Undisposed 
of property, which had been buried, is brought to the 
encampment at nightfall, and taken back and re-buried 
before dawn. The ground round the pegs, to which 

• I'olice Report, 1902. t Op. cit. 


their asses are tethered, in heaps of ashes or filth, are 
favourite places for burying plunder." 

The Koravas disguise themselves as Kepmaris, 
Alagiris or pujaris. The terms Kepmari, Alagiri, 
Kathirivandlu, etc., are applied to certain persons who 
adopt particular methods in committing crime, all of 
which are adopted by the Koravas. The Tamil equiva- 
lent of Kepmari is Talapa Mathi, or one who changes 
his head-dress. Alagiris are thieves who worship at the 
temple of Kalla Alagar near Madura, and vow that a 
percentage of their ill-gotten gains will be given as an 
offering to his temple. Kathirivandlu (scissors people) 
are those who operate with knives or scissors, snipping 
off chains, cutting the strings of purses, and ripping 
open bags or pockets. 

The Koravas are not nice as regards the selection 
of some of their food. Cats, fowls, fish, pigs, the black- 
faced monkey known in Telugu as kondamuchu, jackals, 
field rats, deer, antelope, goats and sheep serve as 
articles of dietary. There is a Tamil proverb " Give 
an elephant to a pandit, and a cat to a Kuravan." They 
will not eat cattle or buffaloes, and will not take food 
in company with Muhammadans, barbers, washermen, 
carpenters, goldsmiths, blacksmiths, Paraiyans or Chak- 
kiliyans. The Boyas seem to be the lowest class with 
whom they will eat. They drink heavily when funds are 
available, or at social gatherings, when free drinks 
are forthcoming. At council meetings liquor must be 
supplied by the disputants, and there is a proverb, 
" With dry mouths nothing can be uttered." 

Most Koravas possess knives, and a kind of bill- 
hook, called koduval, which is a sort of compromise 
between a sword and a sickle. The back of the blade is 
heavy, and renders it capable of dealing a very severe 


blow. With this implement animals are slaughtered, 
murders committed, and bamboos split. 

For the purpose of committing burglaries, the 
Koravas are said by Mr. Mujjaly to use an iron instru- 
ment pointed at either end, called gadi kolu or sillu 
kolu, which is offered, before a gang sets out, to Peru- 
mal, whose aid in the success of the undertaking is 

The Koravas as a class are industrious, and generally 
doing something. One may see the men on the march 
twisting threads into stout cord. Others will be making 
fine nets for fishing, or coarse ones, in which to suspend 
household pots or utensils ; straw pads, on which the 
round-bottomed chatties invariably stand ; or a design 
with red thread and cowry shells, wherewith to decorate 
the head of a bull or a money-bag. It is when hawk- 
ing these articles from door to door that the Koravas 
are said to gain information as to property which may 
be worth stealing. The following is a free translation 
of a song representing Koracha characteristics, in a 
l)lay by Mr. D. Krishnamacharlu, a well-known amateur 
dramatist of Bellary :— 

Hurrah ! Our Koracha caste is a very fine caste, 
The best of castes, Hurrah ! 

When a temple feast is proceeding, 
We beg, and commit thefts surprising. 
Don't we ? Care we for aught ? 
Don't we slip off uncaught ? 


Cutting trinkets off, 

From the necks of babes in their mothers' arms. 

Who could suspect us ? Cannot we hoodwink them all ? 

Cannot we get away ? 



When those eternal watchmen catch us, 
After endless search take life out of us. 
Do we blurt out ? Do we confess ? 
Don't we enquire what is our offence ? 


In the south, the Koravas are frequently employed 
by villagers as watchmen (kavalgars) on the principle 
of setting a thief to keep . other thieves off. They are 
paid in grain. The villagers are more than half afraid 
of them, and, if the remuneration stipulated upon is not 
promptly paid to the watchmen, a house-breaking will 
certainly occur in the village. If a crime happens 
to take place in a village where a Korava has been 
appointed watchman, he frequently manages to get back 
the stolen property if the theft is the work of another 
Korava, but only on condition that the police are not 
called in to investigate the offence. 

The dwellings in which the Koravas live are made 
with low mud walls and thatched. The wanderers erect 
a temporary hut called gudise, with mats or cocoanut or 
palmyra palm leaves, not more than 4 feet high. It is 
constructed of crossed bamboos tied together, and con- 
nected by another bamboo, which serves as a ridge, over 
which they fasten the mats. 

Marriages are arranged by the elders. The father 
of a youth who is of a marriageable age calls together 
some of the elders of his division, and proceeds in quest 
of a suitable bride. If the family visited consents to the 
match, the headman is sent for, and a move is made to 
the toddy-shop. Here the father of the future bride- 
groom fills a small earthen vessel, called in Telugu 
muntha, and offers it to the father of the bride-elect, 
asking him. Do you know why I give you this toddy ? 
The recipient replies, It is because I have given you 


my daughter, and I drink to her heahh. The vessel Is 
refilled and offered to the headman, who takes it, and 
enquires of the father of the girl why he is to drink. 
The reply is, Because I have given my daughter to 

's son ; drink to her health. The questions and 

answers are repeated while every one present, according 
to rank, has a drink. Those who have so drunk at this 
betrothal ceremony are looked upon as witnesses to the 
contract. After the drinking ceremony, an adjournment 
is made to the girl's house, where a feast is partaken of. 
At the conclusion thereof, the future bridegroom's 
people enquire if the girl has a maternal uncle, to whom 
the purchase money should be paid. The purchase 
money is loi madas (a mada = two rupees), and is 
always the same for both well-to-do and poor. But, as 
a matter of f^ict, the whole of it is never paid. A few 
instalments are sometimes handed over, but generally 
the money is the cause of endless quarrels. When, 
however, the families, are on good terms, and the 
husband enjoys the hospitality of his wife's maternal 
uncle, or vice versa, it is a common thing for one to say 
to the other after a drink. Sec, brother-in-law, I have 
paid you two madas to-day, so deduct this from the 
voli (purchase money). After the marriage has been 
arranged, and the maternal uncle has paid four annas as 
an earnest of the transaction, the party disperses until 
such time as the principals are in a position to perform 
the wedding. They might be infants, or the girl 
immature, or the intended husband be away. After the 
betrothal ceremony, the parents of the girl should on no 
account break off the match. If this were done, the 
party of the husband-elect would summon those who 
were present at the drinking ceremony to a meeting, 
and he who partook of the second drink (the headman) 


would demand from the fether of the girl an explanation 
of the breach of contract. No explanation is likely to 
be satisfactory, and the father is fined three hundred 
varahas.* This sum, like the purchase money, is seldom 
paid, but the award of it places the party from whom it 
is due in a somewhat inferior position to the party to 
whom it is payable. They occupy thenceforth the posi- 
tion of creditor to debtor. On the occasion of quarrels, 
no delicate sense of refinement restrains the former from 
alluding" to the debt, and the position would be retained 
through several generations. There is a Tamil proverb 
that the quarrels of a Korava and an Idaiyan are not 
easily settled. If the contracting parties are ready to 
fulfil their engagement, the maternal uncle of the girl is 
paid five varahas as the first instalment of the purchase 
money, and a Brahman purohit is asked to fix an auspi- 
cious time for the marriage ceremony. At the appointed 
time, the wedding party assembles at the home of the 
bride, and the first day is spent in eating and drinking, 
the bride and bridegroom being arrayed in new clothes 
purchased at the expense of the bride's father. On the 
following day, they again feast. The contracting couple 
are seated on a kambli (blanket), on which some grains 
of rice have been previously sprinkled. The guests form 
a circle round them, and, at the auspicious moment, 
the bridegroom ties a string of black beads round the 
bride's neck. When the string has been tied, the 
married women present, with hands crossed, throw rice 
over the heads of the pair. This rice has been previ- 
ously prepared, and consists of five seers of rice with 
five pieces of turmeric, dried cocoanut, dried date fruit 
and jaggery (crude sugar), and five silver or copper 

A varaha or pagoda was worth Rs. 3-S-0. 


coins. While the rice-throwing is proceeding, a mon- 
otonous song is crooned, of which the following is a 
free translation : — 

Procure five white bulls. 

Get five white goats. 

Obtain a seer * of silver. 

Get a seer of gold. 

Always love your father 

And live happy for ever. 

Look after your mother always, 

Your father and mother-in-law. 

Do not heed what folk say. 

Look after your relations, 

And the God above will keep you happy. 

Five sons and four daughters 

Shall compose your family. 

A predominance of sons is always considered desir- 
able, and, with five sons and four daughters, the mystic 
number nine is reached. 

No widows, women who have remarried, or girls 
dedicated as prostitutes, are allowed to join the wed- 
ding circle, as they would be of evil omen to the bride. 
Widows and remarried women must have lost a 
husband, and the prostitute never knows the God to 
whose service she is dedicated. On the third day, the 
rice-throwing ceremony is repeated, but on this occasion 
the bride and bridegroom pour some of the rice over 
each other's heads before the women officiate. This ends 
the marriage ceremony, but, as among some other'classes, 
consummation is prohibited for at least three months, as 
a very strong superstition exists that three heads should 
not enter a door within one year. The bride and bride- 
ofroom are the first two heads to enter the new home, 

* A seer is an Indian measure of weight, varying in different parts of the 


and the birth of a child within the year would constitute 
the third. This undesirable event is rendered less likely 
by a postponement of consummation. After the pre- 
scribed time has lapsed, the bride, with feigned reluctance, 
is escorted by her female relations to her husband's hut. 
On the way obscene pleasantries, which evoke much merri- 
ment, are indulged in. The bride's pretended reluctance 
necessitates a certain amount of compulsion, and she is 
given an occasional shove. Finally, she is thrust into 
the door of the hut, and the attendant women take their 

The following details in another form of the marriage 
rites may be noted. The bridegroom proceeds on a 
Saturday to the settlement of the bride, where a hut has 
been set up for him close to that of the bride. Both the 
huts should face the east. On the following day, the head- 
man, or an elder, brings a tray containing betel, flowers 
and kankanams (wrist-threads). He ties the threads 
round the wrists of the bride and bridegroom, and also 
round a pestle and mortar and a crowbar. A distri- 
bution of rice to all present, including infants, follows, 
and pork and mutton are also distributed. Towards 
evening, married women go, with music produced by 
beating on a brass tray, to a well or tank, with three 
pots beneath a canopy (ulladam). The pots are filled 
with water, and placed near the marriage milk-post. 
The bride takes her seat on a plank, and the bridegroom 
is carried on the shoulders of his brother-in-law, and 
conducted to another plank. Three married women, and 
some old men, then pour rice over the heads of the pair, 
while the following formula is repeated : "Try to secure 
four pairs of donkeys, a few pigs and cattle ; live well 
and amicably ; feed your guests well ; grow wise and 
live." The couple are then taken to the bride's hut, the 


entrance to which is guarded by several married women, 
who will not allow them to enter till the bridegroom has 
given out the name of the bride. Within the hut, the 
pair exchange food three times, and what remains after 
they have eaten is finished off by some married men and 
women. That night the pair sleep in the bride's hut, 
together with the best man and bridesmaid. On the 
following day, a feast is held, at which every house 
must be represented by at least one married woman. 
Towards evening, the bridegroom takes the bride 
to his hut, and, just before they start, her mother ties 
up some rice in her cloth. At the entrance to the 
hut, a basket, called Kolapuriamma's basket, is placed. 
Depositing a winnowing tray thereon, the bride pours 
the rice which has been given to her on it. The rice 
is then transferred by the bridegroom to the mortar, and 
he and the bride pound it with the pestle and crowbar. 
The tali is then tied by the bridegroom round the 
bride's neck. 

In connection with marriage, Mr. Fawcett writes as 
follows. " A girl's mother's brother's son has the right to 
have her to wife, and, if his right is abrogated by giving 
her to another, he (or his father ?) receives a penalty 
from the man to whom she is given. The girl's 
maternal uncle disposes of the girl. In the Coimbatore 
district, however, it is the father who is said to do so ; 
indeed it is said that the father can even take a girl 
away from her husband, and give her to another for 
a higher bride-price. Prior to marriage proper, there 
is the betrothal, accompanied by presentation of betel 
leaves and draughts of toddy, when the maternal uncle 
or father repeats a regular formula which is answered 
word for word by the girl's party, in which he agrees to 
hand over the girl for such a price, at the same time 


requiring that she shall receive no bodily injury or have 
her hair cut, and, if she is returned damaged physically, 
payment shall be made according to a fixed rate. It 
should be said that the betrothal sometimes takes place 
at a tavern, the favourite haunt of the Koravas, where 
the bridegroom's party offers a pail of toddy to the 
father of the girl and his party. The emptying of this 
pail seals the marriage contract, and involves the father 
of the girl into payment of the bride-price as a fine, 
together with a fine of Rs, 2 for every male child, and 
Rs. 4 for every female child that may be born. This 
penalty, which is known as ranku, is not, as a rule, 
pressed at once, but only after some children have been 
born. The day of marriage, generally a Sunday, is fixed 
by a Brahman, who receives betel nuts, cocoanuts, one 
rupee, or even less. He selects an auspicious day and 
hour for the event. The hour selected is rather early in 
the evening, so that the marriage may be consummated 
the same night. A few days before the appointed day, 
two unmarried lads cut a branch of the naval tree 
{^Eugenia Janibolana), and throw it into a tank (pond) 
or river, where it is left until the wedding day, when the 
same two lads bring it back, and plant it in the ground 
near the dwelling of the bride, and on either side of it is 
placed a pot of water (brought from the tank or river 
where the branch had been left to soak) carried thither 
by two married women under a canopy. The mouth of 
each pot is closed by placing on top an earthen vessel 
on which is a lamp. The bride and bridegroom sit on 
donkey saddles spread on the ground, and undergo 
the nalugu ceremony, in which their hands and feet 
are rubbed nine times with saffron (turmeric) coloured 
red with chunam (lime). The elders bless the couple, 
throwing rice over their heads with crossed hands, and 


all the while the women chant monotonously a song 
such as this : — 

Galianame Baipokame Sobaname, 

Oh, Marriage giver of happiness and prosperity ! 

The best oil of Madanapalle is this nalugu ; 

The best soap seed of Silakat is for this nalugu ; 

Paint yourselves, Oh sisters, with the best of colours ; 

Stain your cloth. Oh brother, with the best of dyes ; 

Bring, Oh brother, the greenest of snakes ; 

Adorn with it our Basavayya's neck ; 

Bring, Oh brother, the flowers without leaves ; 

Adorn with them the hair of the bride. 

Then the bridegroom ties the bride's tali, a string 
coloured yellow with saffron (turmeric), or a string of 
small black beads. Every married woman must wear a 
necklet of black beads, and glass bangles on her wrists ; 
when she becomes a widow, she must remove them. 
A feature of the ceremony not to be overlooked is 
the wedding meal (pendlikudu). After undergoing the 
nalugu, the bridegroom marks with a crowbar the spot 
where this meal, consisting of rice, milk, green gram, 
and jaggery (sugar), is to be cooked in a pot called 
bhupalakunda. A trench is dug at the spot, and over it 
the cooking is done. When the food is ready, the bride 
and bridegroom take of it each three handfuls, and then 
the boys and girls snatch the pot away from them. 
After this, the couple proceed to the bridegroom's hut, 
where they find a light burning. The elders sprinkle 
them with water coloured yellow with saffron (turmeric) 
as they enter." 

For the following note on marriage among the 
Yerukalas of the Vizagapatam district, I am indebted to 
Mr. Hayavadana Rao. A man may marry the daughter 
of his paternal aunt or maternal uncle. The father of 
the would-be husband of a girl goes with ten rupees, 


called sullaponnu, to her home, and pays the money to 
one of several elders who are brought together. Towards 
evening, the ground in front of the girl's hut is swept, 
and a wooden plank and stone are set side by side. The 
bridegroom sits on the former, and the bride on the 
latter. Two pots of water are placed before them, and 
connected together by a thread tied round their necks. 
The pots are lifted up, and the water is poured over 
them. Contrary to the custom prevailing among many 
castes, new cloths are not given to them after this 
bath. Resuming their seats, the couple sprinkle each 
other with rice. An intelligent member of the caste 
then personates a Brahman priest, mutters sundry man- 
trams (prayers), and shows a string (karugu) with a piece 
of turmeric tied to it to those assembled. It is touched 
by them in token of a blessing, and tied by the bride- 
groom on the neck of the bride. A feast, with a liberal 
supply of liquor, is held, the expenses of which are met 
from the ten rupees already referred to. The younger 
brother may marry the widow of an elder brother, and 
vice versa. A widow is married in front of her mother's 
hut. The marriage string is tied round her neck, but 
without the ceremonial observed at the marriaee of a 
maid. If a husband wishes to secure a divorce, he asks 
his wife to break a twig in two before a caste council. 
If a woman wishes for a divorce, she elopes with a man, 
who pays a small fine, called ponnu, to the husband, 
and asks him to break a twig. 

The following story is current among the Koramas, 
to account for the tali or bottu being replaced by a string 
of black beads. Once upon a time, a bridegroom forgot 
to bring the tali, and he was told off to procure the 
necessary piece of gold from a goldsmith. The parties 
waited and waited, but the young man did not return. 


Since then, the string of beads has been used as a 
marriage badge. According to another story, the tali 
was prepared, and kept on the bank of a river, but 
disappeared when it was going to be picked up. A 
man was sent to procure another, but did not come back. 

I am informed that the Yerukaias of the Kistna 
district are divided into two classes — sheep and goats 
practically. Of these, the latter are the bastard offspring 
of the former. Illegitimate must, in the first instance, 
marry illegitimate. The offspring thereof is ipso facto 
whitewashed, and becomes legitimate, and must marry 
a legitimate. 

A custom is stated by Dr. Shortt * to prevail among 
the Yerukaias, by which the first two daughters of a 
family may be claimed by the maternal uncle as wives 
for his sons. " The value of a wife is fixed at twenty 
pagodas. The maternal uncle's right to the first two 
daughters is valued at eight out of twenty pagodas, and 
is carried out thus. If he urges his preferential claim, 
and marries his own sons to his nieces, he pays for each 
only twelve pagodas ; and similarly if he, from not having 
sons, or any other cause, foregoes his claim, he receives 
eight pagodas of the twenty paid to the girl's parents 
by anybody else who may marry them." The price of 
a wife apparently differs in different localities. For 
example, it is noted, in the Census report, 1901, that, 
among the Kongu sub-division of the Koravas, a man 
can marry his sister's daughter, and, when he gives his 
sister in marriage, he expects her to produce a bride 
for him. His sister's husband accordingly pays Rs. 
7-8-0 out of the Rs. 60 of which the bride price consists, 
at the wedding itself, and Rs. 2-8-0 more each year 

Trans. Eth. Sec. N.S., VII. 

4 8; KORAVA 

until the woman bears a daughter. Some Koravas seem 
to be even more previous than fathers who enter their 
infant sons for a popular house at a public school. For 
their children are said to be espoused even before they 
are born. Two men, who wish their children to marry, 
say to one another: " If your wife should have a girl 
and mine a boy (or vice versa), they must marry." And, 
to bind themselves to this, they exchange tobacco, and 
the potential bridegroom's father stands a drink to the 
future bride's relations. But if, after the children are 
grown up, a Brahman should pronounce the omens 
unpropitious, the marriage does not take place, and the 
bride's father pays back the cost of the liquor consumed 
at the betrothal. If the marriage is arranged, a pot of 
water is placed before the couple, and a grass (Cymodon 
Dactylon) put into the water. This is equal to a binding 
oath between them.* Of this grass It is said In the 
Atharwana Veda : " May this grass, which rose from the 
water of life, which has a hundred roots and a hundred 
stems, efface a hundred of my sins, and prolong my 
existence on earth for a hundred years." It Is noted by 
the Rev. J. Calnf that "at the birth of a daughter, the 
father of an unmarried little boy often brings a rupee, 
and ties it in the cloth of the father of the newly born 
girl. When the girl is grown up, he can claim her for 
his son. For twenty-five rupees he can claim her much 

In North Arcot, the Koravas are said J to "mortgage 
their unmarried daughters, who become the absolute 
property of the mortgagee till the debt is discharged. 
The same practice exists In Chingleput and Tanjore. 
In Madras, the Koravars sell their wives outright when 

* J. F. Kearns, Kalyfina Shatanku, 1868. t Ir^d. Ant., III., 1S74. 

X Madras Census Report, 1871. 


they want money, for a sum equal to fifty rupees. In 
Nellore and other districts, they all purchase their wives, 
the price varying from thirty to seventy rupees, but 
money rarely passes on such occasions, the consideration 
being paid in asses or cattle." In a recent case in the 
Madras High Court, a Korava stated that he had sold 
one of his wives for twenty-one rupees.* It is stated by 
Dr. Pope that the Koravas do not " scruple to pawn 
their wives for debt. If the wife who is in pledge dies a 
natural death, the debt is discharged. If she should die 
from hard usage, the creditor must not only cancel the 
debt, but must defray the expenses of a second marriage 
for his debtor. If the woman lives till the debt is dis- 
charged, and if she has children by the creditor, the 
boys remain with him, the girls go back with her to 
her husband." The conditions of the country suggest a 
reason for the pawning of wives. A wife would be pawned 
in times of stress, and redeemed after seasons of plenty. 
The man who can afford to accept her in pledge in a 
time of famine would, in periods of plenty, require men 
for agricultural purposes. H e, therefore, retains the male 
issue, who in time will be useful to him. Some years ago, 
some Koravas were convicted of stealing the despatch- 
box of the Collector of a certain district from his tent. 
It came out, in the course of the trial, that the head of 
the gang had taken the money contained therein as his 
share, and with it acquired a wife. The Collector humor- 
ously claimed that the woman, having been obtained with 
his money, was, according to a section of the Criminal 
Procedure Code, his property. 

A woman who marries seven men successively one 
after the other, either after the death of her husbands or 

* Madras Census Report, 1901. 


after divorce, is said by Mr. Paupa Rao Naidu to be 
considered to be a respectable lady, and is called Pedda 
Boyisani. She takes the lead in marriages and other 
religious ceremonies. 

It is noted, in the Census Report, 1891, that "if a 
man is sent to jail, his wife will form a connection with 
some other man of the gang, but on the release of her 
husband, she will return to him with any children born to 
her in the interval. The Korava women are accustomed 
to honour their lords and husbands with the dignified 
title of cocks." On one occasion, a Korava got into 
trouble in company with a friend, and was sentenced to 
three years imprisonment, while his friend got two years. 
The latter, at the termination of his period of enforced 
seclusion, proceeded to live with the wife of the former, 
settling down in his friend's abode. The former escaped 
from jail, and, turning up at his home, claimed his 
wife. His friend journeyed to the place where the jail 
was located, and reported to the authorities his ability 
to find the escaped convict, who was recaptured, while 
his friend regained possession of his wife, and pocketed 
twenty-five rupees for giving the information which led 
to his rearrest. 

The remarriage of widows is permitted. The man 
who wishes to marry a widow purchases new cloths for 
himself and his bride. He invites a number of friends, 
and, in their presence, presents his bride with the cloths. 
The simple ceremony is known as chirakattu-koradam, 
or desiring the cloth-tying ceremony. 

As a general rule, the Korava wife is faithful to her 
husband, but, in the event of incompatibility, man and 
wife will announce their intention of separating to their 
gang. This is considered equivalent to a divorce, and 
the husband can demand back the four annas, which 


were paid as earnest money to his wife's maternal uncle. 
This is said to be done, whether the separation is due 
to the fault either of the husband or the wife. Amono- 
other castes, the woman has to return the money only 
if she is divorced owing to her own fault. Divorce is 
said to be rare, and, even after it has taken place, the 
divorced parties may make up their differences, and 
continue to keep house together. In cases of abduc- 
tion, the father of the girl summons a council meeting, 
at which the offender is fined. A girl who has been 
abducted cannot be married as a spinster, even if she 
was recovered before sexual connection had taken place. 
The man who carried her off should marry her, and the 
ceremony of widow marriage is performed. In the event 
of his refusing to marry her, he is fined in the same 
amount as the parents of a girl who fail to keep the con- 
tract to marry her to a particular person. The fact of a 
man who abducts a girl having a wife already would be no 
bar to his marrying her, as polygamy is freely permitted. 
In former days, an adulterer who was unable to pay the 
fine imposed was tied to a tree, and shaved by a barber, 
who used the urine of the guilty woman in lieu of water. 
In connection with birth ceremonies, Mr. Fawcett 
writes as follows. " Difficulty in parturition is thought 
to be due to an ungratified desire of the woman before 
she is confined. This is generally something to eat, but 
it is sometimes ungratified lust. In cases of the latter 
kind, the Koravar midwife induces the woman to mention 
her paramour's name, and, as the name is mentioned, 
the midwife puts a pinch of earth into the woman's 
mouth with the idea of accelerating delivery. The 
woman is confined in an outlying hut, where she is tabu to 
all, with the exception of the midwife, for about ten days. 
As soon as the child is born, incense is burnt in front 


of this hut, and there is an offering of jaggery (crude 
sugar) to the spirits of the departed elders, who are 
invoked in the following words in the Korava dialect : — 

* Ye spirits of our elders ! Descend on us, give us 
help, and increase our cattle and wealth. Save us from 
the Sircar (Government), and shut the mouth of the 
police. We shall worship you for ever and ever.' The 
jaggery is then distributed to all present, and the new- 
born infant is cleaned with cow-dung and washed. A 
Brahman is sometimes consulted, but it is the maternal 
uncle upon whom the responsibility falls of naming the 
child. This he does on the ninth day after confinement, 
when the mother and child are bathed. Having named 

■ the child, he ties a string of thread or cotton round its 
waist. This string signifies the entry of the child into the 
Koravar community, and it, or its substitute, is worn 
until the termination of married life. The name gfiven 
on this occasion is not usually the name by which an 
individual is known by his fellows, as persons are 
generally called after some physical trait or characteristic 
thus : — Nallavadu, black man ; Pottigadu, short man ; 
Nettakaladu, long-legged man ; Kuntadu, lame man ; 
Boggagadu, fat man ; Juttuvadu, man with a large tuft 
of hair ; Gunadu, hunch-backed man ; Mugadu, dumb 
man ; and so on. In a few cases, children are genuinely 
named after the household deities. Those so named 
are called Ramudu, Lachigadu, Venkatigadu, Gengadu, 
Chengadu, Subbadu, Ankaligadu, and so on. An old 
custom was to brand the children on the shoulders with 
a piece of red-hot iron. Marks of such branding are 
called the cattle mark, for it seems that children should 
be branded on the shoulders before undertaking the 

* sacred duty ' of tending cattle. They explain the 
custom by saying that Krishna, the God of the shepherds, 

in-32 B 


allowed boys of his own caste, and of no other, to 
perform the sacred duty, after the boy dedicated thereto 
had undergone the branding ceremony. This ceremony 
is seldom observed nowadays, as it leads to identi- 
fication. Birth of a child on a new-moon night, when 
the weather is strong, is believed to augur a notori- 
ous thieving future for the infant. Such children are 
commonly named Venkatigadu after the God at Tirupati. 
The birth of a child having the umbilical cord twisted 
round its neck portends the death of the father or 
maternal uncle. This unpleasant effect is warded off by 
the uncle or the father killing a fowl, and wearing its 
entrails round his neck, and afterwards burying them 
along with the umbilical cord." 

The practice of the couvade, or custom in accordance 
with which the father takes to bed, and is doctored when 
a baby is born, is referred to by Alberuni * (about A.D. 
1030), who says that, when a child is born, people show 
particular attention to the man, not to the woman. 
There is a Tamil proverb that, if a Korati is brought 
to bed, her husband takes the prescribed stimulant. 
Writing about the Yerukalas,t the Rev. J. Cain tells us 
that "directly the woman feels the birth pains, she 
informs her husband, who immediately takes some of her 
clothes, puts them on, places on his forehead the mark 
which the women usually place on theirs, retires into a 
dark room where there is only a very dim lamp, and lies 
down on the bed, covering himself up with a long cloth. 
When the child is born, it is washed, and placed on the 
cot beside the father. Asafoetida, jaggery, and other 
articles are then given, not to the mother, but to the 
father. He is not allowed to leave his bed, but has 

* India. Triibner. Oriental Series. + Ind. Ant., Ill, 1874. 


everything needful brought to him." Among the Kura- 
vars, or basket-makers of Malabar, " as soon as the pains 
of delivery come upon a pregnant woman, she is taken 
to an outlying shed, and left alone to live or die as the 
event may turn out. No help is given her for twenty- 
eight days. Even medicines are thrown to her from a 
distance ; and the only assistance rendered is to place 
a jar of warm water close by her just before the child is 
born. Pollution from birth is held as worse than that 
from death. At the end of the twenty-eight days, the 
hut in which she was confined is burnt down. The 
father, too, is polluted for fourteen days, and, at the end 
of that time, he is purified, not like other castes by the 
barber, but by holy water obtained from Brahmans at 
temples or elsewhere." To Mr. G. Krishna Rao, Super- 
intendent of Police in the Shimoga district of Mysore, 
I am indebted for the following note on the couvade 
as practiced among the Koramas. '* Mr. Rice, in the 
Mysore Gazetteer, says that among the Koravars it is 
said that, when a woman is confined, her husband takes 
medicine for her. At the instance of the British 
Resident I made enquiries, and learned that the Kukke 
(basket-making) Koramas, living at Gopala village near 
Shimoga, had this custom among them. The husband 
learns from his wife the probable time of her confine- 
ment, and keeps at home awaiting the delivery. As 
soon as she is confined, he goes to bed for three days, 
and takes medicine consisting of chicken and mutton 
broth spiced with ginger, pepper, onions, garlic, etc. 
He drinks arrack, and eats as good food as he can 
afford, while his wife is given boiled rice with a very 
small quantity of salt, for fear that a larger quantity 
may induce thirst. There is generally a Korama mid- 
wife to help the wife, and the husband does nothing but 


eat, drink, and sleep. The clothes of the husband, the 
wife, and the midwife are given to a washerman to be 
washed on the fourth day, and the persons themselves 
have a wash. After this purification, the family gives 
a dinner to the caste people. One of the men examined 
by me explained that the man's life was more valuable 
than that of the woman, and that the husband, being 
a more important factor in the birth than the wife, 
deserves to be better looked after." The following 
legend is current among the Koramas, to explain the 
practice of the couvade among them. One day a 
donkey, belonging to a Korama camp, pitched outside 
a village, wandered into a Brahman's field, and did 
considerable damage to the crop. The Brahman was 
naturally angry, and ordered his coolies to pull down the 
hut of the owner of the donkey. The Korama, casting 
himself at the feet of the Brahman, for want of a better 
excuse, said that he was not aware of what his animal 
was doing, as at the time he was taking medicine for his 
wife, and could not look after it. According to another 
version of the story, the Brahman ordered his servants to 
remove the hut from his land or beat'the Korava, so that 
Koravas have since that time taken to bed and shared 
the pollution of their wives, to escape being beaten. 

In connection with the couvade, Mr. Fawcett writes 
that " it has been observed in the bird-catching Kora- 
vars, and the custom has been admitted by others. 
Directly a woman is brought to bed, she is given 
asafcetida rolled in betel leaf. She is then given a 
stimulant composed of asafcetida and other drugs. 
The husband partakes of a portion of this before it 
is given to the woman. This custom is one of those 
which the Koravar is generally at pains to conceal, 
denying its existence absolutely. The proverb * When 


the Koravar woman is confined, the Koravar man takes 
asafoetida ' is, however, well known. Very soon after a 
woman is confined, attention is paid exclusively to her 
husband, who wraps himself in his wife's cloth, and lies 
down in his wife's place beside the new-born infant. 
He stays there for at least some minutes, and then 
makes room for his wife. The writer of this note was 
informed by Koravars that any one who refused to go 
through this ceremony would undergo the severest 
penalties, indeed, he would be turned out of the commu- 
nity. Nothing annoys a Koravar so much as to mention 
the word asafoetida in his presence, for he takes it to be 
an insulting reference to the couvade. The worst insult 
to a Koravar woman lies in the words 'Will you give 
asafoetida ' } which are understood by her to mean an 
improper overture." 

Some Koravas are said to believe that the pangs of 
labour are largely allayed by drinking small doses of a 
mixture of the dung of a male donkey and water. A 
few years ago, when a camp of Koravas was visited 
in the Salem district by the Superintendent of Police, 
two men of the gang, who had petitioned for the remo- 
val of the constables who were escorting the gang, 
dragged a woman in the throes of childbirth by the 
armpits from the hut. This was done to show that they 
could not move their camp, with a woman in such a 
condition. Nevertheless, long before daylight on the 
following day, the camp had been moved, and they were 
found at a spot fifteen miles distant. When they were 
asked about the woman, a hut slightly apart from the 
rest was pointed out, in front of which she was suckling 
the newly-born infant. She had done the journey 
immediately after delivery partly on foot, and partly on a 


The Korava child's technical education commences 
early. From infancy, the Koravas teach their children 
to answer " I do not know " to questions put to them. 
They are taught the different methods of stealing, and 
the easiest way of getting into various kinds of houses. 
One must be entered through the roof, another by a hole 
in the wall, a third by making a hole near the bolt of the 
door. Before letting himself down from a roof, the 
Korava must make sure that he does not alight on brass 
vessels or crockery. He generally sprinkles fine sand 
in small quantities, so that the noise made thereby may 
give him an idea of the situation. The methods to be 
adopted during the day, when hawking wares, must be 
learnt. When a child is caught red-handed, he will 
never reveal his identity by giving the name of his 
parents, or of the gang to which he belongs. A girl 
about twelve or thirteen years old was captured a few 
years ago in the Mysore State at the Oregam weekly 
market, and, on being searched, w^as found to have a 
small knife in her cheek. She declared that she was an 
orphan with neither friends nor relations, but was identi- 
fied by the police. The Koravas are adepts at assuming 
aliases. But the system of finger-print records, which 
has been introduced in recent years, renders the conceal- 
ment of their identity more difficult than it used to 
be. " Both men and women," Mr. Paupa Rao writes, 
" have tattoo marks on their foreheads and forearms. 
When they are once convicted, they enlarge or alter 
in some way the tattoo marks on their forearms, so 
that they might differ from the previous descriptive 
marks of identification entered by the police in their 
search books and other records. During festivals, they 
put red stuff (kunkuma) over the tattoo marks on their 


Their conduct is regulated by certain well-defined 
rules. They should not enter a house by the front door, 
unless this is unavoidable, and, if they must so enter it, 
they must not leave by the same way. If they enter by 
the back door, they depart by the front door, which they 
leave wide open. They should not commit robbery in a 
house, in which they have partaken of rice and curds. 
Curds always require salt, and eating salt is equivalent 
to taking the oath of fealty according to their code of 
honour. They ease themselves in the house in which 
they have committed a theft, in order, it is said, to render 
the pursuit of them unsuccessful. 

In a note on the initiation of Yerukala girls into the 
profession of fortune-telling in Vizagapatam, Mr. Haya- 
vadana Rao writes that it is carried out on a Sunday 
succeeding the first puberty ceremony. A caste feast, 
with plenty of strong drink, is held, but the girl herself 
fasts. The feast over, she is taken to a spot at a little 
distance from the settlement called Yerukonda. This is 
said to be the name of a place on the trunk road between 
Vizianagram and Chicacole, to which girls were taken 
in former times to be initiated. The girl is blindfolded 
with a cloth. Boiled rice and green gram are mixed 
with the blood of a black fowl, black pig, and black goat, 
which are killed. Of this mixture she must take at 
least three morsels, and, if she does not vomit, it is taken 
as a sign that she will become a good Yeruka or fortune- 
teller. Vomiting would indicate that she would be a 
false prophetess. 

When a wandering Korava dies, he is buried as 
quickly as possible, with head to the north, and feet to 
the south. If possible, a new cloth is obtained to wrap 
the corpse in. The grave is covered with the last hut 
which the deceased occupied. The Koravas immediately 


leave a camp, in which a death has occurred. The nomad 
Koravas are said by Dr. Pope to bury their dead at 
night, no one knows where. Thence originates the 
common saying in regard to anything which has vanished, 
leaving no trace behind, that it has gone to the dancing- 
room of the wandering actors. Another proverb runs to 
the effect that no one has seen a dead monkey, or the 
burning-ground of a Korava. 

In Vizagapatam, the Yerukala dead are stated by 
Mr. Hayavadana Rao to be burnt in a state of nudity. 
A tulsi plant {Ocimum sanctiirii) is usually planted on 
the spot where the corpse was burnt. The relations 
cannot follow their regular occupation until a caste feast 
has been held, and some cooked food thrown on the spot 
where cremation took place. 

In a note on the death rites of the Koravas of the 
southern districts, Mr. F. A. Hamilton writes that, when 
one of the communitv dies, the news of the death is 
conveyed by a Paraiyan or Chakkiliyan. At the burning- 
ground, whither the corpse is accompanied with music, 
it is laid on dried cow-dung, which has been spread on 
the ground. The son of the deceased goes thrice round 
the corpse, and breaks a new water-pot which he has 
brought with him near the head. He also hands over 
a piece of burning sandalwood for lighting the pyre, and 
goes straight home without seeing the corpse again. 
On the third day, the son and other relations go to the 
burning-ground, heap up the ashes, plant either tulsi 
[Ocimzim sanctum), perandai {Vitis quadrangularis), 
or kathalai {Agave Americana), and pour milk. On 
the sixteenth day, or at some later time, a ceremony 
called karumathi is performed. The relatives assemble 
at the burning-ground, and a stone is set up, and 
washed with water, honey, milk, etc. On the following 


day, all the relatives take an oil-bath, and new 
cloths are presented to the host. Sheep are killed, 
and a feast, with a liberal supply of liquor, is held. 
Till this ceremony is performed, the son remains in 

Concerning death ceremonies, Mr. Fawcett writes 
as follows. " A Tamil proverb likens the death of a 
Koravar to that of a monkey, for no one ever sees the 
dead body of either. Just as the monkey is thought to 
be immortal, the other monkeys removing the carcass 
instantly, so the corpse of the Koravar is made away 
with and disposed of with all possible speed. There is 
very little wailing, and preparations are made at once. 
If the deceased was married, the bier on which he is 
carried is practically a ladder ; if unmarried, it is a single 
bamboo with pieces of stick placed transversely. The 
winding-sheet is always a piece of new cloth, in one 
corner of which is tied a half anna-piece (which is after- 
wards taken by one of the corpse-bearers). Only two of 
these are under pollution, which lasts the whole of the 
day, during which they must remain in their huts. Next 
day, after bathing, they give the crows food and milk. 
A line is drawn on the body from head to foot with milk, 
the thick end of a piece of grass being used as a brush ; 
then they bathe. Pollution of the chief mourner lasts 
for five days. Half-yearly and annual ceremonies to the 
deceased are compulsory. A figure of the deceased is 
drawn with charcoal on a piece of new cloth spread on 
the floor of the hut. On either side of the figure is 
placed cooked rice and vegetables served on castor leaves. 
After some time, the food is placed on a new winnow, 
which is hung suspended from the roof of the hut the 
whole night. Next morning, the relations assemble, 
and partake of the food." 


From a note on the Yerukalas of the Nellore district, 
I gather that, as a rule, the dead are buried, though 
respected elders of the community are cremated. 
Married individuals are carried to the grave on a bier, 
those who die unmarried wrapped in a mat. On the 
second day, some cooked food, and a fowl, are placed 
near the grave, to be eaten by crows, A pot of water is 
carried thrice round the grave, and then thrown down. 
On the ninth day, food is once more offered for the crows. 
The final death ceremonies are generally performed after 
two or three months. Cooked food, onions, brinjals 
(fruits of Solanuni Melongena), Phaseohts pulse, squash 
gourd {Cucurbita maxima), pork, and mutton are placed 
on a number of castor i^Ricinus) leaves spread on the floor, 
and offered to the soul of the deceased, which is repre- 
sented by a human figure drawn on a new cloth. At the 
conclusion of the worship, the food is placed on new 
winnowing trays provided for the purpose, and given to 
the relations, who place the winnows on the roof of 
the house till the following day, when the food is eaten. 

By some Koravas, a ceremony in honour of the 
departed ancestors is performed at the time of the 
November new moon. A well-polished brass vessel, 
W'ith red and white marks on it, is placed in the corner 
of a room, which has previously been swept, and purified 
with cow-dung. In front of the pot is placed a leaf 
plate, on which cooked rice and other edibles are set. 
Incense is burned, and the eldest son of the house 
partakes of the food in the hope that he, in due course, 
will be honoured by his offspring. 

The Koramas of Mysore are said to experience 
considerable difficulty in finding men to undertake the 
work of carrying the corpse to the grave. Should the 
dead Korama be a man who has left a young widow, it is 


customary for some one to propose to marry her the 
same day, and, by so doing, to engage to carry out the 
principal part of the work connected with the burial. A 
shallow grave, barely two feet deep, is dug, and the 
corpse laid therein. When the soil has been loosely 
piled in, a pot of fire, carried by the chief mourner in a 
split bamboo, is broken, and a pot of water placed on the 
raised mound. Should the spot be visited during the 
night by a pack of jackals, and the water drunk by them 
to slake their thirst after feasting on the dead Korama, 
the omen is accepted as proof that the liberated spirit 
has fled away to the realms of the dead, and will never 
trouble man, woman, child, or cattle. On the sixth day, 
the chief mourner must kill a fowl, and mix its blood with 
rice. This he places, with some betel leaves and nuts, 
near the grave. If it is carried off by crows, everything 
is considered to have been settled satisfactorily. 

As regards the dress of the Koravas, Mr. Mullaly 
writes as follows. " The women wear necklaces of 
shells and cowries interspersed with beads of all colours 
in several rows, hanging low down on the bosom ; brass 
bangles from the wrist to the elbow ; brass, lead, and 
silver rings, very roughly made, on all their fingers 
except the middle one. The cloth peculiar to Koravar 
women is a coarse black one ; but they are, as a rule, 
not particular as to this, and wear stolen cloths after 
removing the borders and all marks of identification. 
They also wear the chola, which is fastened across the 
bosom, and not, like the Lambadis, at the back. The 
men are dirty, unkempt-looking objects, wear their hair 
long, and usually tied in a knot on the top of the head, 
and indulge in little finery. A joochi (gochi), or cloth 
round the loins, and a bag called vadi sanchi, made of 
striped cloth, complete their toilet." 


" In 1884, Mr. Stevenson, who was then the District 
Superintendent of PoHce, North Arcot, devised a scheme 
for the regeneration of the Koravas of that district. He 
obtained for the tribe a tract of Government land near 
Gudiyattam, free of assessment for ten years, and also 
a grant of Rs. 200 for sinking wells. Licenses were 
also issued to the settlers to cut firewood at specially 
favourable rates. He also prevailed upon the Zemindar 
of Karvetnegar to grant twenty-five cawnies of land in 
Tiruttani for ten years for another settlement, as well as 
some building materials. Unfortunately the impecuni- 
ous condition of the Zemindar precluded the Tiruttani 
settlement from deriving any further privileges which 
were necessary to keep the colony going, and its 
existence was, therefore, cut short. The Gudiyattam 
colony, on the other hand, exhibited some vitality for 
two or three years, but, in 1887, it, too, went the way 
of the Tiruttani colony."* I gather, from the Police 
Administration Report, 1906, that a scheme is being 
worked out, the object of which is to give a well-known 
wandering criminal gang some cultivable land, and so 
enable the members of it to settle down to an honest 

At the census, 1891, Korava was returned as a sub- 
division of Paraiyans, and the name is also applied to 
Jogis employed as scavengers. f 

The following note on the Koravas of the west coast 
is interesting as showing that Malabar is one of the 
homes of the now popular game of Diavolo, which has 
become epidemic in some European countries. " In 
Malabar, there is a class of people called Koravas, who 

* Madras Mail, 1907. 

t For this account of the Koravas, I am largely indebted to a report by 
Mr. N. E. Q. Mainwaring, Superintendent of Police. 


have, from time immemorial, played this game almost 
in the same manner as its Western devotees do at the 
present time. These people are met with mostly in 
the southern parts of Malabar, Cochin and Travancore, 
and they speak the Malayalam language with a sing- 
song accent, which easily distinguishes them from other 
people. They are of wandering habits. The men are 
clever acrobats and rope-dancers, but those of more 
settled habits are engaged in agriculture and other 
industries. The beautiful grass mats, known as Palghat 
mats, are woven by these people. Their women are 
fortune-tellers and ballad singers. Their services are 
also in demand for boring the ears of girls. The rope- 
dancers perform many wonderful feats while balancing 
themselves on the rope, among them being the playing 
of diabolo while walking to and fro on a tight rope. 
The Korava acrobat spins the wooden spool on a string 
attached to the ends of two bamboo sticks, and throws it 
up to the height of a cocoanut tree, and, when it comes 
down, he receives it on the string, to be again thrown 
up. There are experts among them who can receive 
the spool on the string without even looking at it. 
There is no noteworthy difference in the structure and 
shape of the spool used by the Koravas, and those of 
Europe, except that the Malabar apparatus is a solid 
wooden thing a little larger and heavier than the West- 
ern toy. It has not yet emerged from the crude stage of 
the village carpenter's skill, and cannot boast of rubber 
tyres and other embellishments which adorn the im- 
ported article ; but it is heavy enough to cause a nasty 
injury should it hit the performer while falling. The 
Koravas are a very primitive people, but as acrobats 
and ropedancers they have continued their profession for 
generations past, and there is no doubt that they have 


been expert diabolo players for many years.'"* It may 
be noted that Lieutenant Cameron, when journeying 
from Zanzibar to Benguela, was detained near Lake 
Tanganyika by a native chief. He relates as follows. 
" Sometimes a slave of Djonmah would amuse us by 
his dexterity. With two sticks about a foot long 
connected by a string of 1 certain length, he spun a 
piece of wood cut in the b.:ape of an hour-glass, throw- 
ing it before and behind him, pitching it up into the 
air like a cricket-ball, and catching it again, while it 
continued to spin." 

• Madras Mail, 190S. 


Madras : Printed by The Soperintendknt, Governmkxt Press. 

DS Thurston, Edgar 

/v.3C Castes and tribs of southern 

T6 India 




DS Thurston, Edgar 

/^3C Castes and tribes of southern 

T6 India